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Still Waters

Chapter Text

August 21, 2016, 14:47


It was raining, but it was one of the brief sunshowers that happened down here. Sizable thunderstorms would roll through just about every night, but the daytime never seemed to get rain for longer than thirty minutes. Frustrating when you wanted to stay dry, but never enough that it felt worth bringing an umbrella. It made the humidity hell though, and Aiden had learned to never trust a thermometer down here. They only told half the story.

He was only a couple streets over from the water, watching a man on his usual lunch date. Franklin Schmidt, owner and operator of a couple businesses throughout the bay area—businesses which had profits a little too high for the amount of customers they’d been getting. Aiden had been looking into them over the last week and watching his movements. After Chicago, he hadn’t thought Blume would be able to sell ctOS to any other cities. He’d been wrong.

They could tout their upgrades and fixed systems all they liked—Blume had enemies, and they were the kind to plaster their access up for everyone to see. Aiden had to admit, the DedSec cells that were cropping up in the wake of Nemec’s arrest were awfully convenient; no more smoke and daggers, no more informants and back alley meetings for updated code. Just an app, an IRC, and a cause, waiting for someone to use it.

He wasn’t sure about the cause, but the IRC and the app were useful enough, especially once he’d made sure that his phone couldn’t be used as a resource. And Tampa had a bright and shiny new ctOS 2.0.12 system, firmware updated and cameras all reinforced for the adverse weather… or some kids who’d otherwise think to pull them down. It meant tracking Schmidt had been a matter of finding the right access point and then waiting, and now things were going to pay off.

Schmidt had a very particular schedule he followed: breakfast at home with his wife, work for seven hours, lunch at two-thirty in the afternoon precisely, work for another four hours, and then home again to a just-cooked meal with his wife, made by a young woman who didn’t exist in Blume’s records and never seemed to leave the house. He never visited the same business two days in a row, and Aiden hadn’t been able to get a look at his schedule, so the lunch date was his best chance at getting access to Schmidt’s phone. And it was a date, with one of three women, all very lovely and all very expensive. Always at the same restaurant, an Italian joint attached to a mall—the less expensive mall, though Aiden wasn’t sure if that was a bug or a feature. Always for exactly forty-five minutes, and Schmidt picked up the tab every time.

It was twenty minutes past the beginning of Schmidt’s lunch, and Aiden decided to make his move.

He leaned against the metal railing around the patio, scrolling through his phone like half the other people around him, a half-smoked cigarette dangling between two fingers. The Chinese restaurant behind him seemed to be a popular lunch spot, and there were clusters of people on their phones everywhere. One man in a baseball cap wouldn’t arouse any suspicion. Schmidt’s date had a phone with less encryption, but nothing good on it—it was a burner, probably issued by whatever escort company she worked with, and not meant to serve as anything other than a contact point. He bugged it anyways, just in case.

Franklin was a paranoid guy. With every reason, if he was the one Aiden had stumbled across a reference to while hacking his way through an online auction. His phone was loaded up with security, tight enough to give even a seasoned hacker pause. But Aiden had been doing this for a while now, and he knew the types of encryption these guys tended to favor. Once you knew the pattern, it was just a matter of brute forcing the bits that you hadn’t memorized yet.

Ten minutes to break into his phone. Fifteen minutes left. Aiden started a download, grabbing everything—he never knew when something that looked innocuous was going to yield a goldmine of information. Schmidt hadn’t noticed anything, was too busy flirting with the escort to care. The rain had stopped three minutes ago, the light drizzle giving up entirely, and now Aiden’s shirt was beginning to dry out, the sun filtering through the muggy air.

Seven minutes left. The download was at eighty-three percent. He kept his breathing slow and even, scanning the parking lot and restaurant at regular intervals, unwilling to be caught off guard. No room for errors here. Ninety-two percent.

A flash of white caught his eye, some asshole in a suit in ninety-degree weather. An asshole he recognized after a moment, eyes widening. What the hell was Jordi doing down here?

For a moment, everything was almost too still, Jordi’s suit blindingly bright in the sunlight as he turned a corner on the sidewalk and walked out of sight. His phone dinged, very softly, to let him know the download was done. Schmidt and his date were cleaning up, getting ready to pay and leave. Aiden wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there, but he needed to move, so he pushed up and away from the railing and headed inside the mall, where there was air conditioning. He wasn’t sure why seeing Jordi had unsettled him so much.

Then again, the last time they’d met face to face, Jordi had tried to kill him. That particular contract wasn’t out on him still, but Aiden knew there were others. In the last three years, the Vigilante had lost a lot of his public appeal, especially in the wake of DedSec’s grab for attention, but it would never be enough. Not for the scum he hunted. There was always the possibility that someone else would put a big enough price on his head and Aiden didn’t even have the dubious protection of his own contract with Jordi for now.

No point in worrying about it. He’d keep an eye out, but it wasn’t likely that he’d run into the other fixer again. Tampa was big enough for two of them.