Cyberterrorism wasn’t Emily Prentiss’ first choice. It hadn’t even been on the list until the incident with her mother. Prentiss is supposed to be with Interpol right now, but instead she’s picking up Python, and wondering if one of the older languages, like ALGOL, might not be a bad thing to learn too.
She’s surprisingly good at it. If it hadn’t been for her forced transfer, she would’ve never known that: the way code can flow, the way she can get lost in a problem, the way she gets when she’s the one in control of this digital world.
“Prentiss,” Lynch calls her over to his monitor with a wave of a bedoughnutted hand.
She pulls up a chair and peers at the screen.
“Oracle struck again. Bank of America’s mortgage records. We still don’t know the extent of the damage, but it looks bad,” Lynch explains.
“Why mortgages?” she asks, mostly to herself. Lynch just shrugs, and goes back to staring at the monitor. Lynch is the best they have on the tech end, though she’s almost as proficient as he is now, and if he keeps teaching her all of his tricks, she’s going to pass him by soon. She, however, is the one who can think like these hackers, figure out what they’re going to do before they do it.
They stay there all night, her and Lynch and Oracle’s trail of breadcrumbs, and by the morning, Prentiss thinks she might have a name: Penelope Garcia.
“I like it,” Lynch declares, “Penelope, I mean. It’s a nice name.”
“Penelope, however, is not a nice girl,” Prentiss says, remembering the photos of Nick Allen’s corpse. Every undercover agent knows its possible, but being outed as FBI is one of the fastest ways to die in that world, and no one likes to dwell on it.
“Her code is pristine, though. Beautiful, even,” Lynch says, pointing to particularly efficient code block like it is poetry. He’s not wrong.
A week later, Prentiss is in Seattle, and her name is Amelia Stark. Amelia is younger than Emily, kicked out of the University of Washington for hacking into the school’s student record after an altercation with her girlfriend. She rides a bike everywhere, speaks Java like its her first language, and has never used a credit card in her own name. Other people’s, however, funded her move back to Seattle, and her current laptop.
Amelia dresses in Carharts and a flannel over a X-Files t-shirt, like it is still the nineties, and goes and sits in a Mexican restaurant to meet her idol. She’s got her laptop in her messenger bag, just in case there is hacking to do, but mostly she just fidgets with a bar napkin until Oracle slides onto the seat next to her. Emily is good at turning off just the right parts of herself to make someone new.
She knows its Oracle, because she’s wearing a Batgirl t-shirt. T-shirts had been the agreed upon signal, the easiest way to identify someone only met through text. Otherwise, she might have thought Oracle was an art student, working her way through school. Stressed out due to the combination of working too much and the academic reality of art school.
“My favorite moon of Jupiter,” Oracle says, declining to attempt to pronounce Amelia’s handle, Aoede, which is in fact, a moon of Jupiter, as well as being one of the original three Greek muses. She and Lynch had worked long and hard on that one, finding just the right handle to go with the identity they had created.
“You can call me Amelia,” she says.
Oracle smiles, and it lights up her whole face. “Call me Barbara.”
She smiles at the joke. Oracle’s secret identity is Barbara Gordon, of course.
They talk for almost two hours, starting in code and hacking, going on to science fiction and the latest geeky television, and ending in the personal details. Penelope Garcia has lived a hard life, enough to make Prentiss wish for do-overs and time machines. How is it that the stupid mistakes we make as scared teenagers define our lives, she wonders as Penelope talks about her parents.
By the time Penelope is making her excuses, Prentiss has decided to let her go. Not because she feels sorry for the woman, though she does a little, when she's not seeing Nick Allen’s body, but because they don’t yet have enough evidence for a conviction to stick.
Oracle promises to be in touch, and then she is gone, and so is Emily, back on a plane to D.C. two nights later. No one knows where Oracle has gone, but she skipped Seattle before Emily had even made it to report in that night.
“Morning,” Lynch calls, and pushes a maple frosted doughnut her way, on her first day back in the office. She declines, and flops down at her desk, giving the mouse a shake to wake up her computer.
“Fuck,” she says loud enough that Lynch comes running. They both stare at the screen together.
“Thought I should know as much about you as you know about me, dear Emily. Love, Oracle,” the text scrolling across the screen says. Underneath, Emily’s personnel files cascade down the screen.
“Well, shit,” Lynch says finally. “She got in here without triggering a single one of my alarms.”
“I’m a bit more worried that she knows my address, and my name, and the grade I made in first grade spelling,” Prentiss admits. Oracle isn’t linked to any personal violence, that is true, but she’s sold out FBI Agents before.
“Best way to stop her is to arrest her,” Lynch points out.
Emily nods, “Let’s get on that.”