It was about five a.m. Sunday morning a few hours after the dream. Neither of them could sleep and they were having a semi heated discussion about what had happened and what to do next.

“But Jay, we have broken several laws in the last 24 hours. Neither of which I think we will get off with just a slap on the wrist for!”

Jay chewed a nail; incarceration was one of his biggest fears, even more so than death. He couldn’t stand the thought of being locked up in a room all day for years.

“We will find someone to trust somewhere soon, we have to,” he said firmly. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to have done. Removal from A-NET was an act of self-defense; we simply can’t afford to get caught. You’re right, the kinds of people who are after us could probably lock us in a room in a place no one has ever heard of for the rest of our lives.”

“Wow, thanks for cheering me up a little more,” she said sarcastically. She made a show of opening a page to read on her e-pad and ignoring him just as Dupie turned up.

Dupie was very out of shape and hated elevators, so the walk up to Kate’s POD had clearly hit him bad. He stood at the door panting. Jay couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. He stuffed a beer into Dupie’s fat hand and waited for him to catch his breath. It was coffee time for most people but for Dupie it was always beer time. Jay probably ought to have a body like Dupie’s, since he didn’t work out, he sat in front of computers or went out partying but Abby always said it was nervous energy.

“OK, first thing’s first,” Dupie said, handing back the E-pad that Max had delivered.

“There is some very serious code in this thing. This is way beyond anything I have seen your average amateur hacker put together. I took a sample and de-personalized it so I could run it through some contacts. Sorry I’m late, by the way.”

Dupie paused and wiped some sweat from his brow; his rasping for air had finally subsided.

“And,” Jay prompted, “did you get any hits?”

“And some. This is top-of-the-line government- or military-based code, my boy. Whoever wanted to hack your house and life, works extremely high up in one of those two lines of industry. There is no way I can trace it back, but I could figure out enough to know that they got nothing off your lab machines or Chameleon.”

“Thanks. More beer?” Jay said. He was relieved at the news they didn’t get everything. Dupie wasn’t lying to him, that much Jay was sure of, and Dupie was good at what he did.

Dupie just nodded. The first beer hadn’t lasted long, and probably didn’t even dent the big man’s thirst. Abby came over and handed them beers and then backed off again—she knew that Dupie was very nervous about his privacy. Jay smiled his thanks at her.

“OK, so you know you’re in serious trouble,” Dupie said, “for disconnecting from A-NET. I believe you had to do it, but you have some very powerful people looking for you, my friend. I am not sure I am going to be able to help you much. I gotta watch my back with all those cops watching over my digital shoulder the whole time anyway.” Dupie was a suspect in three or four global viral attacks on major corporations over the last five years.

“I understand,” Jay said. “And I am not asking you to get involved. You have done more than enough already.” Jay was being kind. He figured Dupie could use the ego stroking, and frankly he needed Dupie’s help. “All I need to do is buy some hardware and software off you, and you’re out, I promise.”

“OK, dude. Anything to help a friend and stick a middle finger to those assholes in the process is good with me.”

Jay handed Dupie a handwritten list of things most of which he knew Dupie could get ahold of; he watched and waited for his reaction to the rest of them.

Dupie shook his head. “This shouldn’t be a problem. To be honest, the software you want is all written by me, so consider it a parting gift. I don’t want to bump into you again soon. But this hardware is going to cost you some big credit, man. An armored hopper that can’t be tracked? You have been watching too much sci-fi. But I’ll see what I can do. I can definitely get the portable rig for Chameleon and all the lightweight upgrade parts.”

“I’m good for the money,” Jay said. “Dupie, I need this by like, yesterday, as in, a few hours from now. I’ll get in touch when we’re ready to meet, I know your schedule is tight and loose at the same time but if you could try and meet us close to when I need you to? The timing may be important so just bring what you have. If the armored hopper won’t come through, then just bring one that’s been hacked to be as untraceable as possible, if you can. I’ll need the software tonight.” A plan was coming together in his mind, but he didn’t know if it had a chance of succeeding.

Jay paced again while Dupie walked over to Chameleon, and popped open the cover. He slid something out of his pocket that Jay could not see and worked inside Chameleon for a while. Jay had interacted with Dupie long enough to trust he wasn’t doing Chameleon any real harm but he wished he could see what was going on. He chewed a nail. His mind was racing at light speed and he felt way out of control. He knew he needed time, but everyone seemed to be conspiring against that. He wanted to talk to his parents so he was formulating a plan to get to his mother at least. Talking to Xavier right now would probably be impossible as he worked for ISEC. Jay couldn’t go to anyone in any authority until he knew exactly who was after him and why, but he needed allies, he knew that much. Marcus was a stalking horse at this juncture, there was no way for Jay to know if he could somehow leverage him. Max, Abby and Dupie were friends, but they were not going to be enough to take this on alone. His whole life had changed in the space of 24 hours and it wasn’t for the better.

Dupie walked back over and eyed Jay suspiciously. He was sweating again so more beer was applied.

“Chameleon.” Dupie said. “Reinsert yourself into A-NET at 5:01am exactly using the atomic pulse. Run all those programs I just preloaded simultaneously. Wait for the programs to run, then make sure you come off-line to let them install. They won’t catch you if you time it exactly.” To Jay he said, “This’ll make it so you can go onto the nets for periods of ten minutes at a time. Any longer than that and you’re screwed; they will break the route and pinpoint you. Also, you can only use it once an hour.” He drained his beer and waddled out of the room without another word, 4:59am.

Chameleon executed the code from Dupie two minutes later and tested it quickly by checking mail.

“There is an email I managed to scrape into quarantine during my code test, I think you should hear it.” Chameleon was rarely wrong about what Jay thought was important.

“Ok, shoot”

“It’s from a Detective Foley, who was assigned your case and has been at the scene by the sounds of things. The email self-wiped after I read and per Foley’s instructions I then MagDumped it immediately.”

“Ok, what’s it say?”

“She is suspicious of why you are being investigated and is offering to help, at least with one safe meeting.”

“Really where? The police station?” He half laughed.

“No, her house.” Chameleon didn’t need to try and be dead pan with his delivery.

“Jay that sounds like a trap.” Abby pulled his arm for attention.

“Yeah, no shit Sherlock.”

“What will you do?” Abby’s face was creviced with worry.

“Right now, nothing, I think to take all the pieces together when I have time to think.”

Jay wrote two more handwritten notes, one to his mother and one to Max. Both of which were a little theatrical or even over emotional but that’s how he was feeling. Like he was about to tip off the top of a very high cliff.

“Abby, I need a favor, can you order two postal delivery drones to deliver these notes? One to Mum and Dad and one to Max? I need complete separation from any electronic delivery method for these notes.” Jay asked. She seemed like she needed some distraction.

“Sure,” she said taking the notes, but no sooner had she sat down to order the bots than she dropped into one of her daydreams. Jay glanced over and noticed but decided not to interrupt, there was a good possibility she was getting another download from her visitors.

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