Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Viggo and Nyssa are on the run from the law. She's got a surprise planned.
To know more, read Chapter 14.2.
It was a Thursday. No particular reason for Viggo to know that. It wasn’t like days of the week mattered that much to him. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, it was pretty much always the same thing. But he felt it in his bones whenever a Thursday rolled on and, every time, he remembered a pale Nyssa Malik and thick security glass between them.
It was a Thursday and he woke up early to the absence of her on the pillow next to his. It was five in the morning. He couldn’t imagine where she had gone. Curious, he slipped out of bed and padded out the bedroom.
Sleeping with Nyssa – and it really was only sleeping because heavy petting was the extent of their carnal knowledge of each other – came with some drawbacks. She couldn’t handle skin to skin contact, so he had to wear a tee-shirt and boxers to bed. In exchange, she dealt with his claustrophobia – the window stayed open all night. It worked for them.
But she wasn’t a restless sleeper.
He tiptoed down the stairs and smiled when a thunder of typing reached his ears. He found Nyssa sitting cross-legged in the living-room, her computer in her lap, a thermos of coffee within arm’s reach and a manic look on her face.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Viggo stared, bemused. One curt dismissal and she had plunged right back in, completely oblivious to him. Now, call him vain, but he was used to grabbing people’s attention. He towered over most of the population and he’d had his face slashed open.
But clearly, there was something more interesting on that screen. He squatted down behind Nyssa to peer at it over her shoulder. She had a few windows open, but none looked like anything he recognized. She was typing as fast as she could, additional lines kept popping on screen. Her jaw clenched and unclenched. She groaned, sighed and even let out small whoops of joy.
He had no idea what was going on. In between refilling her jug of coffee and letting the dog out, he sprawled on the sofa with a book, faintly bored and impatient. As far as mornings went, it sucked. What the hell was she doing? Why had she shut him out – again? What kind of crazy scheme had she contrived, this time?
He jumped when Nyssa slammed her laptop shut and let out an insane bark of laughter.
“What the hell?”
She pumped her fists and yelled, “I did it!”
“What did you…?”
Her mouth interrupted Viggo mid- question. She had already jumped to her feet and, from there, right in his lap. It was a rather crude kiss, all teeth and glee on one hand, all lips and bewilderment on the other, but he didn’t particularly care. Nyssa was very, very rarely that demonstrative.
“I did it,” she repeated, somewhat calmer, grinning.
The last time he had seen that look on her face had been in their other life. He could almost hear her voice, You, big grouch…Permission to enter?…I loved him…Here, it’s awesome, right? His heart clenched, and he understood the odd look she got on her face whenever they talked about the past.
It’s not all gone, he acknowledged.
“Awesome,” he said.
“I did it,” she repeated, broken record style.
He groaned and kissed her.
“What did you do?” he asked.
She beamed. “I erased us.”
He had no idea what she meant but it seemed to put her in good spirits. “You did?” He pinched what little fat there was on her arm and she squealed. “You feel pretty real to me.”
“It’s not what I mean,” she said, settling more comfortably in his lap. She didn’t stay put fifty seconds before she started squirming again, causing him renewed discomfort. “Can you turn on the TV? Or maybe we could buy the paper. Oh, no, it won’t be in the paper yet. Tomorrow, maybe? We’ll have to buy it.”
He put his arms around her waist, tucked her head under his chin and breathed her in. Mint, honey, citrus and home. “Look who is ODing on caffeine…How long have you been up, Salander?”
Nyssa looked up, forest green eyes wide, nose wrinkled, pretty mouth gaping. “Was that a very bad hacker reference?”
“I don’t think it’s that bad. Lisbeth rocks.”
Her laughter sounded a bit too hysterical to be a chuckle – definitely too much coffee. “You’re a sad, sad man, Viggo, with perverse tastes in women. Lisbeth would cut off your balls and serve them fried.”
“And you’re so sweet…”
“I am, am I not?”
He thought about the way she touched him, at once shy and hungry, about the way she gave herself over to his loving. “Yes, you are,” he said, kissing her ear.
Her lips pressed together in a sly pout – the one she always denied existed. “Turn on the TV. Please, please, please, pretty please.”
“An all-news channel, please.”
He complied but the reports were pretty boring. A terrorist attack in the Middle East, bla bla, a flood in Asia, bla bla, kinky pictures of a presidential candidate, bla bla. He didn’t realize it immediately when Nyssa fell asleep curled up against him. He shifted her weight to cradle her in one arm while he thumbed through his book. He was still wide-awake two hours later when the first newsflash hit. Except for the hacker aspect, it didn’t seem related to Nyssa’s exhilaration.
The anchorwoman came on screen and cheerfully announced that twenty-nine of the fifty largest companies in the world had been hacked. Allianz, Apple, BP, Microsoft, Samsung, Total, Volkswagen, Walmart, their websites had all gone off-line. Visitors got redirected to a page charging those companies with holding personal data hostage and leaving it unprotected. The hacktivists described themselves as modern Robin Hood figures protecting the innocent from the big bad capitalists. They signed Lockit. Their emblem, a horned mask, was clearly an obscure reference to the trickster god Loki.
“What have you been doing?” Viggo muttered under his breath.
Nyssa just nuzzled against his neck. He didn’t wake her up. He didn’t think it was over.
He was right.
The media went into a frenzy when they realized they were Lockit’s next target. It wasn’t a simple DoS attack, this time. ABC, CBS, Forbes, Fox, the Boston Globe, the Huffington Post, the New York Times and, incongruously, Disney found themselves shut out of the Internet, their contents purged and replaced with links to Wikileaks and other shady websites. There was a message signed Lockit too – this time signed with a cigar-smoking gentleman in a high hat. It accused the mainstream media of “colluding with a tyranny of one-percenters that preys on the weak and makes the poor poorer”.
Poets they were not, but clearly there was something to their hacking skills, because the TV was literally buzzing with speculation about Lockit’s next target.
“Cheroot is awesome,” Nyssa mumbled sleepily.
“One of your friends?”
“Sort of. Never met him. I’m not even sure he’s a he, actually.”
She yawned, and her head came to rest in the crook of his elbow again. He surprised a smile on his lips. He had a feeling that this slip of a woman had masterminded the entire epic smack-down.
“So, tell me. What’s next?” he asked.
She gave him her angelic smile. “How would I know?”
She wouldn’t be budged. He tried to tickle her into providing answers. All she did was laugh – delightful, rejuvenating laughter. Laughter and a straight answer would have been better. “Come on, honey. Tell me something. Give me a crumb, or I’ll keep torturing you.”
A naughty look flickered over her face, that told him that she wasn’t averse to the idea of torture. His pants became uncomfortably tight again. Fortunately – or unfortunately, she changed her mind and dropped, “Fourth wave. That’s me. I’m part of the fourth wave.”
“How many waves will there be?”
“Hm hm.” She shook her head. “My lips are sealed.”
She was a temptation too, with her face so close to his, and her mouth twitching with contained laughter.
“Are they?” He checked and found them…pliant enough. “I think they’re working properly.”
“How about improperly?”
“Mm…Let me check.”
She was right. Improper was better.
“So?” she asked when he put a halt to fucking her mouth.
It took his one functioning neuron a while to kick-start the rest of his brain and produce a coherent thought. “Oh, that mouth is working only too well.”
“It’s eager to be put to use too. Got a suggestion for it?”
How could she look like an angel when she was baiting him?
He bit. “I suggest fooling around.”
“I don’t care, as long as you leave the TV on.”
He stared at her, speechless, and she seemed to realize how anticlimactic it sounded. They burst out laughing at the same time. He laughed until his stomach ached. It was silly. He hadn’t laughed that hard in all his adult years. As a kid, yes, he remembered having the giggles. There had been one time, especially. His father in law had operated on his wisdom teeth right before Summer break and Christian had lost it because he couldn’t seem to say “eels” around his swollen mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Nyssa apologized, eyes bright, cheeks flushed with happiness.
“You’re basking in your perfect plan, I get it.”
“Not perfect,” she replied gravely. “Initially, it was supposed to be grander. More targets, more complicated attacks. But it didn’t suit my purpose so I…”
“Provided guidance to your friends?” he supplied.
Nyssa was a pro at providing guidance. Of course, other people would have called it manipulating but it was such a black and white view.
“Yeah. It’s a fine line between cyberterrorism and hacktivism – not that the government always sees it,” she added disapprovingly. “We just wanted to do relatively harmless stuff on a wide scale and within a narrow time-frame.”
“‘We’,” he repeated. “What did you want?”
“Me? I was all about the fourth wave, but I didn’t want people to look too closely at what I was doing. So, I hid my needle in a needle stack.”
Viggo still had no idea what the fourth wave was but he figured he would find out soon enough. He focused on the screen and, soon after the avalanche of furious statements from various news-sites, the anchorwoman reported DoS attacks against governmental websites: HealthCare.gov, IRS.gov, SSA.gov, Whitehouse.gov, FL.us, NY.gov and CA.gov.
This time, Lockit accused the government of playing Big Brother with personal data and signed with a big cat on the prowl. “That’s Cheetah,” Nyssa told him.
Viggo recognized her tone. “You don’t like him.”
“Her. I don’t like her. She’s careless. I’m glad I’m not in her squad.”
“The man who coordinated it all – Chervil – he’s awesome, extremely organized. Once we determined our targets, he assigned us to five squ…Damn! I shouldn’t have told you that.”
He mock-frowned at her. “Why, you chatterbox…”
She rolled her eyes. “Each squad decided on a leader.”
“You’re leader of the fourth squad, aren’t you?”
“I’m wonderful that way,” she confirmed, tongue in cheek.
Playful Nyssa was a rare Nyssa, indeed. Highly kissable too. He stroked a thumb down the side of her face. “How long until the fourth wave hit, Miss Fawkes?” he asked.
She twisted her lithe, little body around to straddle him. He used his hand to brace her.
“Bad conspiracy references, now?”
“My lady is picky.”
“No.” She grinned, kissed him. “Your lady is eager to fool around.” She tugged on his shirt. “Take that off, pretty boy.” He was in such a hurry to obey that his shirt practically evaporated. “They’ll be embarrassed, they’ll try to keep it under wraps, so I’d say we’ve got a good hour to…hm…kill.”
Her fingers were soft and caressing. It was such a special sensation. Every touch still felt new. They had been friends and partners for a long time, but they were only getting to know each other as lovers.
Nyssa was different from the women he had been with before, different from Angela, less worldly, full of mischief. She drove him crazy, her caresses teased and enticed, then turned innocent, she kissed him like she wanted to inhale him before retreating behind a demure mask. He supposed he was a different man himself. Never before had he stopped in the middle of sex just to enjoy a touch, just to bask in the intimacy.
He ended up sprawled on the sofa, Nyssa sitting astride him, hands flat on his chest. He was sweaty, mostly naked and way spent.
“You’re still fully clothed,” he groaned. “I feel so used.”
She flopped down on top of him. “I bet you resent that too.”
“I resent it as hell,” he lied.
She rested her chin on his chest, peering into his eyes the way she sometimes did, like she was scrying them for small glimpses of the future. She normally looked happy after bringing him to his knees but, now, there was a grim shadow in her.
“Gipsy,” he mumbled, both in admonition and in assurance.
She smiled sadly. “Do you resent not having sex? That I…can’t?”
“How do you call what we just did?”
“‘Fooling around’?” she offered.
“Such an innocent.” He touched her mouth and her smile widened against his fingers. “I thought I’d die never having touched a woman again, let alone…” His Adam’s apple cartwheeled in his throat. “…you.”
Their hands found each other, and their fingers laced together.
“I never thought we’d be together like that,” she confessed. “We were friends.”
“Were we? If I could go back in time, go back to the night of my birthday party, you know what I’d do?”
She frowned, remembering, unhappy. “Warn Helen?”
Emotion tightened his throat, his mouth went dry. Voice hoarse, he told her, “I would take you and run like hell.”
She let out a breath that was almost a whimper, like she was about to fall apart. She managed not to.
“And I would meekly comply?” she jested.
“One can always hope,” he drawled.
She settled against him, her ear pressed to his chest, drawing circles on the skin inside his arms.
“Hey, Red Leader?” he called softly when another news-flash came on.
“Star Wars, now?” she yawned. “Careful, your inner geek’s showing.”
“You’re one to talk. But look, something’s happening.”
Her lashes fluttered against his chest. He turned the sound back on.
“As some of the largest companies in the world are still scrambling to bring their websites back online, a new player has just appeared in the Lockit galaxy.”
“Galaxy, really?” Nyssa snorted.
“With no confirmation from official authorities, a rumor is spreading on the Internet. Several federal databases, belonging to the IRS, the FBI and ICE among others, may have been hacked. Apparently, when accessing those databases, federal employees see this video. Watch it.” The anchorwoman winked. “It’s highly unorthodox.”
A Betty Boop look-alike filled the screen, in tiny leather shorts and a tiny scarlet bustier. Her hips swayed, she took a step forward, smiling like a cock-teaser and swinging a whip. It snapped loudly, once, twice, and she waved a finger at the audience, “You’ve been a bad, bad boy.”
She had the gravelly voice of a long-time smoker. As her image faded away, a message appeared on screen. Again, it was a charge of endangering personal data. It was signed Lockit and sealed with a minimalist depiction of a cherry.
Nyssa chuckled. “The boys in my squad call her ‘Mistress Whippy Boot.”
“Hey, Whippy gets the point across. Without compromising the data. I’m not fond of excessive data collection, especially when it’s shoddily protected, but I wo…I’ve worked with cops for a long time. I figured Whippy Boot was enough.”
“Whatever works. What kind of databases did you get into that you were afraid to mess with their data?”
“For the most well-known,” she replied almost nervously. “Hm, CODIS, IAFIS, the Crime Data Warehouse…?”
“Depends.” Her expression was caught midway between wary and teasing. “You’re asking as a cop or as a fugitive?”
“Those bases are supposed to be secure!”
His reaction seemed to please her, she flashed him a cocky grin. “What can I say?” She shrugged. “I’m that good. And the people I work with?” She lowered her voice to a tone of confidence, “They’re the best.”
She winked. He frowned. “Who are they, exactly? Cyber-terrorists?”
“Kinda,” she conceded. “But they’re also geniuses. Especially Chervil. He’s got some kind of training. I know nothing about him, except that he’s good, really good. He recruited me directly. He dared me, I dared him, we…we sparred and…Think of it as of a courtship. And, boy, he’s good.”
Viggo frowned, the word ‘courtship’ leaving a bad taste in his mouth. “So, you trust him?”
“Of course not!” Nyssa replied hotly, looking at him like he was a moron. “I’m not stupid. Our goals just happened to coincide. That I admire him is incidental.”
“And what was your goal?”
“I wanted to erase our fingerprints and DNA profiles from the system.”
“You can’t do that! Nobody can. You can’t just hack into criminal databases and erase people!”
“True,” she told him. “For most people. But don’t forget what I used to do. I’ve had access to those databases for a decade. I had all the time in the world to plan and prepare.”
“The minute they see they don’t have biometrics on us anymore…”
“I wasn’t that unprofessional! I replaced our profiles, I didn’t erase them.”
He hesitated, not ready to believe it yet. “What about physical evidence?”
“Don’t you know? Physical evidence in the Defoe case was destroyed years ago. Human error.”
Human error? She had been hatching this plan for years! Why did he feel betrayed? Why did he hate the idea of her puttering around her lab, going down to Evidence, all for the sake of throwing off the justice system?
“And what about your case?” he asked in a barely controlled voice.
“Well. There is a new guy at the lab. Damian Zolovitch. A real charmer. You’re lucky you never met him. Thick as thieves with Russ. As you can imagine, I saw lots of him.”
He didn’t want to imagine but he nodded.
“He plays the ponies,” Nyssa said in a tone of distaste. “He’s always in debt to someone, he’s been doing favors for Russ for a price. So, I approached him anonymously and, a week ago, he earned eight hundred making all the evidence in my murder case disappear. There will be an investigation, but it’ll lead back to Russ – Russ’s friend, Russ’s money. And since Russ had a professional service clean up the house a few days after my disappearance…”
The expression on her face sent drum-rolls thundering under his skull. She was right. It could work. Russ had no doubt gotten rid of anything belonging to Nyssa by now – he had a temper – and Viggo’s cell in Saint-Paul was buried under the rubble.
“My old stuff?” he asked.
“Your mother auctioned everything off when your house was sold.”
It probably wasn’t a conscious gesture on Nyssa’s part, but she smoothed out his hair, as if to soothe the emotional pain. He was more surprised than he was hurt. He had long made his peace with his family disowning him. “You kept in touch with my mother?”
She blushed. “Not really. She…” She looked away. “She…asked me to prepare everything for the auction. Someone had to pack your stuff and Angela wasn’t up to it. I also visited a couple of months ago. I wanted…” The blush deepened. “It’s going to sound creepy.”
He tugged on her earlobe. “I already know exactly how devious you can be.”
She laughed. “I lifted her locket.”
“The one with Simon’s…?” His mother always wore the expensive cameo she had inherited from her own mother. It now held a lock of his brother’s hair. “Ah. You extracted my brother’s DNA, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I swapped yours for it. It was the most efficient, thorough way to cover our tracks. I made sure the locket found its way back to your mother,” she added gently.
She had thought that through. He tried the words out for size, “You erased us.”
His voice was hushed. Maybe it was shock.
“I did.” Hesitantly, Nyssa raised a hand to his face. “Are you angry?”
Was he? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t make sense of his feelings. He sat up. Taking her cue from him, she sat cross-legged on the sofa.
“Why didn’t tell me about all this before?”
“It was far-fetched, I couldn’t be sure it would work. I didn’t tell you about all the plans I made that fell through.” She paused. “Peter, are we good?”
“Yes, of course,” he lied. She spotted his dishonesty from a mile away. He stood up. As much as he didn’t like worrying her, it was still preferable to whatever was boiling in him. “I’m going out for a run.”
He was grateful that, as always, she didn’t badger him. He was almost at the door before he changed his mind and traced back his steps. Nyssa was still in the sofa, watching TV.
“Hey. Just a question. What about the fifth wave?”
She looked at him over her shoulder, unsmiling. “Cheerio’s doing. He’s been taking on the banks.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“I’ll be going now.”
“See you, then.”
It felt wrong to walk away.
It had been a rainy morning. The sand was wet and spongy, but Viggo didn’t feel like running. Scruffy had snuck out after him, hopping on three legs. They walked together for a while, with Viggo trying to decide why the Lockit thing was such a big deal. Fingerprints? DNA? For all intents and purposes, Nyssa had just made it harder to cage him again. So why did he hate it so much?
They stopped and sat on the beach. His pants went damp. Maybe it reminded Scruffy of the heap of garbage it had crawled out from because the beast hopped in Viggo’s lap.
“I used to want a pet, you know? A big friendly dog. A Labrador, maybe. Something sleek and pedigreed Angela would have liked. Never in a million years would I have taken in an ugly mutt like you.” He buried his face in his hands. “What am I doing? I can’t believe I’m sleeping with her. I can’t believe I’m a prison escapee. I’m disappearing. Little by little, I’m disappearing. She’ll take our faces, next, our names. What’s going to be left of me when she’s done?” At the ocean, he screamed, “What’s going to be left of me?!” Scruffy’s head popped in his line of sight, brown eyes huge with adoration. The dog didn’t care who he was, he loved unconditionally. “What do you care, hm?” He scratched the dog behind one floppy ear. “As long as there is food on the table…Or under it.”
What’s going to be left of me?
To know more about how those two ended up on the run, read Chapter 15.2.