Hackers with(out) Remorse - (Book 4 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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6 - What's Up, Danger

Hacker Rule #16: Leave yourself a 10-minute buffer. Could save your life.

“Holy hell! Can you slow down?!”

“You don’t get car sick, do you?” Jason asked, maneuvering the gears as he sped down the highway.

“Um! I do when going 200 miles per hour!” Tiana blurted. She held her face in her hands, trying not to throw up.

“Don’t worry, babe. We’re already here.” Jason spun the car in a circle before hitting the breaks.

Tiana jerked forward as he abruptly stopped. She leaned on the dashboard, breathing heavily. “You’re fucking crazy,” she said, covering her mouth.

“You should see me in bed,” he winked. He hopped out of the car and slammed the door shut. Tiana looked for him before he appeared on the other side, making her scream.

“Shit!” she said startled.

“You scare easily, don’t you?” he smirked, leaning into the car. “Good to know...”

“Where are you going?” she asked, opening the door. “You can’t just leave me in here.”

“I can and I will,” he said, pushing her back down. He leaned over her, tightening her seat belt. “I’ll be back in just a second. Do me a favor and be a good girl. Don’t move. Stay hidden. And don’t leave this car,” he said.

“Seriously?!” she said, watching him walk away. “Jason!” But Jason had already slipped into the building through a hidden door. She huffed in frustration as she leaned back in her seat. Running her fingers along the lining, she analyzed his dashboard. She checked all the analogs before opening the glove box to find tons of tools and a box of magnum condoms. She scoffed as she closed it back and crossed her arms over her chest, feeling annoyed. She couldn’t believe that asshole actually left her in his stupid car.

She looked up through the windshield at the tall, copper building and squinted her eyes. “Why does this building look so familiar?” she asked herself. She leaned back again, furrowing her brow and trying to figure out just why this building seemed so prominent in her mind. Taking out her phone, she scrolled through the gallery of her Facetime snapshots. She landed on a snapshot of Dante playfully flipping her off and standing in front of the same building. “What the hell?” she said, zooming in.

She looked from her camera screen up at the building. “What were you doing here, Dante...?” She bit her lip as she reached for the handle only to find that it was locked. “Dammit,” she groaned. She looked up to see the sunroof was slightly open. She tried to push it further open, but it wouldn’t budge. Looking at his dashboard again, she could see there was a keypad with numbers. She checked to see that the numbers 4,6,8, and 2 were the most worn down and that the code was only 4 digits long.

“4 numbers for a 4-digit code. There are about... 24 different possibilities,” she said as she started trying different patterns. She kept punching numbers until she heard a beep and the dashboard flickered to a digital screen. “Booyah!” she said, looking at his digital screen. She checked to see the options for the sunroof and clicked as it started to pull back. She stood on her feet and shimmied her body out through the sunroof until she was on top of the car. She slid down until she landed on the ground and ducked as she ran towards the building.

“Orion Studios?” she said, reading the signage at the top. She pulled on a rusty door until it opened and sneaked inside.

~

“I thought I was the fuck up,” Jason snickered as he dropped the unconscious man he had just choked out to the floor.

“Shut up,” Tyler said. “Can you handle this or not?”

Jason stepped over the unconscious bodies and looked at the dented computer mainframe. “Maybe... I need to get a look at the underbelly. I thought you guys had this handled.”

“We did... but someone grabbed the wrong drive,” Tyler said, glaring at Owen who rolled his eyes.

“Not this shit again, Ty,” Owen said. “What else the fuck do you want me to say?”

“You need to get your head in the game, Owen. Ever since we snatched up your little girlfriend, you’ve been fucking up. She’s in your damn head. You’re not thinking straig-”

“I’m fine!” Owen snapped at him. “She has nothing to do with this. It was just a mistake.”

“Sure,” Tyler muttered. “A risky fucking mistake.”

Owen ran his hand over his face when he suddenly looked at Jason. “You brought her back to base right?”

“She’s in the car,” Jason said, flipping through the wires.

“What do you mean she’s in the car?!” Owen blurted. “You brought her with you?!”

“Darren said it was an emergency,” Jason shrugged.

“You could have left her at school!” Owen snarled.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Jason chuckled. “Don’t worry. I code-locked her inside.”

“Motherfucker...” Tyler groaned.

~

Tiana slipped down the hallway making sure not to be seen. She saw different plaques on the wall with names she didn’t recognize until she came to a picture with Dante shaking hands with the man standing next to him. She took out her phone and snapped a picture. She suddenly heard steps down the hallway and quickly turned the corner. She felt someone grab her waist and wrap their hand around her mouth. She screamed into their hand and tried to fight them off.

“Tiana! T, calm down! It’s me!” Owen said, trying to calm her.

She looked at him wide-eyed as he let her go. “Owen!” she said.

“What the fuck?!” Tyler blurted.

“Oh, shit...” Jason muttered, peeking out from underneath the mainframe.

“What the hell are you doing here, T?!” Owen asked, frantically.

“Better question: how the hell did you escape Jason’s car?” Tyler demanded.

“It really wasn’t that hard. Your key numbers were pretty faded from constant use and there were only 4 digits for the code,” she said. “It just came down to the process of elimination.”

“Process of elimi- damn that’s hot,” Jason smirked.

“Jason, shut up and finish what you’re doing,” Tyler said before turning to Owen. “You need to get her out of here. She’s a fucking liability.”

“I know,” Owen sighed as he turned to her. “You shouldn’t be here, T. You were told to wait in the car.”

“First of all, nobody tells me what to do,” she said. “And secondly, I came because I recognized this building from a facetime session I did with Dante.” Owen’s jaw tightened as he quickly avoided her gaze. “Seriously, Owen?! You’re keeping more shit from me?!” she snapped.

“I would have explained to you after,” Owen said.

“We don’t have time for this shit. We still need to finish acquiring what we came here for,” Tyler said impatiently. “Jason, are you done?!”

“No,” Jason sighed. “This is going to take more time than we have, and we still need to download their security footage. Our best shot is to extract the data they have and blow their mainframe to shit. Forego the security footage. The data is the most important right now.”

“That’s not an option,” Tyler protested. “We need both. I refuse to do a half-assed job with half-ass info.”

“We can’t do both,” Owen said. “This place has security sweeps every 45 minutes. The next one is in less than 20.”

Tiana walked over to the mainframe and stood behind Jason, watching him clip a few wires. “This is an XI V3 mainframe,” she said. “I’ve seen Dante work on one like it before.”

“And?” Tyler said impatiently.

“And?” she scoffed. “I can do it. I can get the data you need while you guys go get whatever security footage you’re talking about.”

“Absolutely not,” Owen said. “Did you forget the part where this place will be swarming with security in less than 20 minutes?”

“I can do it, Owen,” she insisted. “If this is about Dante, then I want to help. Please.”

Owen swallowed hard as he looked at her. He glanced at Tyler who shook his head in protest. “Alright...” Owen said.

“Of fucking course!” Tyler said, throwing his hands in the air.

“Calm down, Ty. I’ll stay with her while you guys retrieve the security footage,” Owen said.

Tyler abruptly grabbed his brother’s bicep and pulled him to the side. “Listen, Owen,” Tyler said lowly. “I love you more than anything in this world. You’re a goddamn genius. But you don’t think straight when she’s around. I don’t know what the fuck this girl has over you, but you don’t act like yourself when you’re around her.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Owen said, pushing him off.

“We’re doing this for Dante! You forgot the most important device because you were too focused on her! Tell me I’m wrong,” Tyler said tightly.

Owen looked at his brother in frustration before he set his eyes on Tiana who was already working on the mainframe with Jason. “Then you stay with her,” Owen said.

“What?!” Tyler blurted.

“Jason needs to cover for security camera breaching. One of us has to stay with her. You’re giving me shit, so then you stay with her,” Owen snapped.

Tyler ran his hand over his face in frustration. “Fine.”

Owen grabbed Tyler by his shirt before he could walk away. “Protect her with your life, Ty.”

“I got it, shit,” Tyler said, pulling Owen’s hand off.

“You sure you got this?” Jason asked. He moved to the side to let Tiana take his place.

“Please. I’m probably better than you,” she said snidely.

“Well, excuse the fuck out of me,” Jason smirked.

“Let’s go,” Owen said to Jason. “This entire area is a dead zone. So, until you’re near the exit, we can’t reach each other via radio waves. Just messaging. Remember you guys have 14 minutes now. Meet us back outside in the corner lot in 20.”

Tiana quickly looked at Owen and hesitated. “...Owen..?”

“You’ll be fine, T,” Owen said, giving her a quick reassuring smile. He pulled his mask over his face and ran out with Jason.

~

Tyler leaned back against the wall and checked his watch. “Are you done yet?” he asked, impatiently.

“See, that? That shit right there doesn’t help,” she said, keeping her eyes on the mainframe in front of her.

Tyler rolled his eyes as he walked up to the mainframe on the other side of her and latched on a device. “We’ve got 8 minutes,” he said, tying two wires together.

“Tell me again? I didn’t hear you the last 55 times,” she muttered. She tapped away on the screen, letting the file download.

Tyler got a beep on his phone and checked to see an activity alert. “Shit,” he said. He ran to the door and ripped a piece of metal from one of the other computers before shoving it into the handle to keep it blocked. “Tiana, we have to go!” he said, running towards her.

“I’m almost done,” she said.

“NO! NOW!” he demanded.

Tiana could hear banging on the door behind them. “Come on, come on, come on,” she said, impatiently. Tyler grabbed her arm and pulled her away just as it finished downloading. She pulled out the drive and followed him as they ran down the hall. She could hear the door burst open just as they rounded the corner. “Which way?” she asked, frantically.

“This way!” Tyler said. They ran down another hallway until they came to an abandoned elevator shaft with no lift.

“Oh, hell no!” she blurted.

“The other exits are blocked. There’s a ledge we can jump down to that leads to the lot,” he said, kneeling on the ground to check how far they could go.

“You are seriously out of your mind!” she said.

Tyler rolled his eyes as he pointed. “Use these handles to climb your way down to the bottom.” He flipped into the elevator shaft, gripping tight.

“There’s no freaking way!” she said before she heard yelling.

“We don’t have a choice! Come on!” he snapped at her. Tiana groaned as she followed after him. She said a small prayer as she took her time climbing down the shaft. Tyler jumped down onto the ledge and could feel the cool breeze from outside. They were almost there. “Tiana, come down,” he said, looking up at her.

“I’m actually terrified of heights. So, I’m just gonna chill here,” she said with her eyes closed. She regretted getting up this morning.

“You have like 3 more steps,” he said. “Just come on!” She could hear people running above them and took a deep breath as she continued to climb down. She slipped and scraped her knee along the metal ledge, tearing her pants, and slicing her skin. Tyler quickly grabbed her arm before she fell further. “Give me your other hand!” he shouted at her. She looked down to see the file drive on the edge of one of the ledges. She strained, trying to reach for it. “TIANA! Fucking leave it and give me your fucking hand!” he growled at her.

“I’ve almost got it,” she said, reaching with her fingers. There was no way she was going to let the next biggest step to finding out about her brother slip away after everything she did to get it. She quickly grabbed it just as Tyler yanked her up. He stumbled backward, falling to the ground with her on top of him.

Tiana breathed heavily, trying to catch her breath. She started to come to terms with the fact that she too had lost her mind like the rest of these whackos. She looked down to see Tyler underneath her. His deep chestnut brown eyes were slightly curtained by his short dark brown hair. His jawline was distinct and slightly dimpled. She felt his fingers tighten around her waist before a scowl crossed his face and he shoved her off of him. “GODDAMMIT! YOU’RE SO FUCKING STUBBORN!” he shouted at her.

“Excuse me?!” she snapped at him. “I was trying to help you, you fucking asshole!”

“It’s not worth your damn life! Are you crazy?! Next time I tell you to do something, just fucking do it! Shit!” he shouted at her.

“Fuck you!” she said, shoving him. “I don’t have to do a damn thing!”

“What the hell is going on over there?” Tyler heard Darren in his earpiece. “Droid?”

Tyler grumbled as he spoke into his mic. “We’re fine. We’re on our way out.” Tyler climbed towards the exit and went to reach for Tiana.

“I can get out myself!” she said angrily, slapping his hand away. Tyler squeezed the bridge of his nose, trying to control his anger as he watched her climb out.

~*~

Tiana sat on the lid of the toilet seat of the large bathroom as she watched Owen carefully inspect the tear in her jeans. “How in the hell did you hurt yourself like this?” he asked, opening the torn flap of her jeans.

“By trying to be James Bond,” she sighed.

Owen shook his head in frustration. “Alright, well, Imma need you to take off your pants,” he said, reaching for a towel. Tiana sighed as she stood to her feet and unbuttoned her jeans. Owen heard her plop her jeans to the floor and turned to face her when he felt his throat dry up. She sat down on the lid and her thick dark thighs enlarged in the way he loved. He almost hated that she was so comfortable being half-naked around him. But he had seen her in her underwear hundreds of times. This was nothing new to either of them.

He grabbed the bottle of rubbing alcohol and a few bandages before crouching down in front of her. “I hate your brother,” she said abruptly. He soaked the cotton balls and dabbed them on her wound. “Like actually hate him. And I know he hates me too. We might end up killing each other.”

Owen chuckled. “He doesn’t hate you. He just... takes some getting used to. He’s a pretty good guy once you get to know him.”

“I don’t wanna get to know him,” she said. “He’s such an asshole.”

“You thought I was an asshole at one point,” Owen smirked.

“Yea, cause you shut me down,” she laughed before she caught herself. “I mean... my gaydar was way off. At first, I thought you hurt my pride,” she chuckled nervously.

“Oh, is that what that was?” Owen smirked, cleaning off the blood. He internally cringed still thinking about how he had turned Tiana down when she first told him how she felt about him. Lying to her that he wasn’t interested in her like that was one of the hardest things he had to do. He feared it would hurt their friendship and his ability to keep his promise to Dante. Tiana seemed to take it like a champ as she laughed it off. But Owen knew her too well. He hated the implication that he had hurt her.

Tiana rolled her eyes as she playfully tugged on Owen’s ear. “I feel like he’s just angry all the time,” she said. “Is there a reason why he has to act like a 24/7 grouch?”

Owen sighed. “He still hasn’t really coped with what happened to Dante. The two of them were really close.”

“So what?” she said. “I was his sister. How does he think I feel?”

“You’re right,” Owen shrugged. “But for my brother, well... it’s layered. We all have our demons, T... He’s still trying to deal with his.”

Tiana didn’t really care what demons the jerk was dealing with. As long as she didn’t have to be around him. She felt goosebumps form on her skin from the way Owen touched her. How his fingers gently caressed her skin each time he applied the ointment to her wound. She desperately tried to think of something else to discuss to get her mind off of how he was making her feel. “So... this little mission you guys went on,” she said. “It had to do with Dante?”

Owen was silent for a moment. He rubbed the excess ointment off before he spoke. “Yea,” he said. “We’ve been trying to piece things together. Figure out what Dante may have been working on that we didn’t know about that may have led to... his death.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked. “I thought the whole point of you crazy asses kidnapping me was because you wanted my help.”

“To be honest, T. I had you taken because I wanted to keep you safe. And I feel more comfortable when you’re with me than when you’re not. But that doesn’t mean I want you going on these dangerous assignments with us.”

“Well, from the looks of that prior debacle, it seemed like your sorry asses needed me,” she said, quirking a brow.

Owen looked up at her suddenly and smirked. “I swear you’re such a fucking smart ass.”

“Okay, but you been knew this though,” she laughed.

Owen grinned as he stood to his feet. “I’m done. You can put your pants back on.”

Tiana got up and bent down to pick her pants up off the floor. “If I’m going to stay here, I need to pick up more of my clothes from home or something,” she said, turning around to face him. She furrowed her brow when she noticed the flushed look on his face. “Are you okay?” she asked him.

He looked up at her startled. “Yea. Course. Shit, um... I guess we can stop by your place at some point and pick some stuff up.”

Tiana rolled her eyes. “I’m still not happy with how you guys are basically treating me like a prisoner.”

“It’s for your own good, T,” Owen said.

“Yea, yea, yea. How many times do I have to hear that line? You’re starting to sound like a freaking Avenger,” she muttered as she pulled on her pants. She eyed the tear in her pants and sighed. “I look homeless.”

“You look fine. Let’s go,” he said. He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the bathroom.

~

The entire group of RaVage had gathered in the main area of their warehouse home to go over the details of their next assignment. Joey Patel, a young handsome Middle Eastern man with long black hair and a short goatee, also known as The Voice, paced the floor as he questioned their plan with skepticism.

“So, let me get this straight,” Joey said, walking across the metal floorboard. “This Reaper guy used to collaborate with Dante on making propaganda videos for lyrical artists? That hardly seems relevant to anything we’re doing right now.”

“Well, it’s less about what they were doing and more why he was doing it,” Darren said, scrolling on his laptop. “The Reaper is well known in grunge culture. Working with him would bring a lot of attention.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Anna said exasperated, kicking her feet up on the large desk. “Dante’s not an attention seeker. Especially with the kind of work we do. Besides, I had already asked him about The Reaper.”

They all looked at her. “And?” Joey asked. “What did he say?”

“Yo no se. He dicked me down before I got an answer,” she shrugged.

“Come on, Anna, the fuck. We don’t wanna hear that shit,” Joey groaned.

“Oh, cállate, puta! I always have to hear you motherfuckers banging some side piece you pick up off the streets,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“They’re not ‘side pieces’. They’re connects,” Joey smirked.

“Oh ya. A connect for your dick, you man-whore,” she said, sucking her teeth.

“Can we stay focused for a second,” Tyler said impatiently as he leaned back against the wall. “Darren, can you run a diagnostic on how many projects they worked on together and then pinpoint who else may have been involved in each of those projects?”

“Sure,” Darren said, typing away. Tyler glanced to the side to see Owen and Tiana enter their common space.

“Oh hey! It’s Dante’s little sister,” Joey smirked. “My name’s Joey. I’m the beauty and talent of this whole operation.”

“Bitch, please,” Owen chortled.

“Her name is Tiana, you loser,” Anna said, rolling her eyes as she approached Tiana. “Hey, chica. Heard you saved these blanquitos’ asses.”

“Who the fuck said that?” Tyler scoffed.

“Well, it’s kinda true,” Darren said.

“It’s definitely true,” Jason said. He jumped down from the top railing in only a pair of sweats and car-oil stains all over his firm, muscular and tattooed chest.

“Coño! Would you put on some clothes?” Anna protested. “We’re in the middle of a debrief.”

“Why? Do I make you uncomfortable, Anita,” Jason teased.

“You’re about to be real uncomfortable when I shove my foot up your ass,” Anna threatened him.

“Not the kind of kink I’m into, but I’ll try anything once,” Jason joked.

“I’m done,” Anna said, throwing her hands in the air. “Darren, did you finish?”

Darren looked at her startled. “Uh, yea. There’s a few matches here. The Reaper and Dante collaborated on about 13 projects together. There’s a few other people they worked with, but they’re in stark contrast to each other with only one thing in common: they’re all involved in gambling in some way. Half of them are involved in casino gambling, the other half in street racing.”

“Any of them currently active?” Joey asked.

“There’s two casino owners running an event on the upper west side in three days’ time, but there’s a street racing event going on tonight in the southeast of Jersey,” Darren said.

“Alright. Anna and Joey, research up on this casino event happening at the end of the week. Get all your touchpoints from Darren. Jason and I will stop by the street-racing event tonight,” Tyler said, signaling to Jason as he headed towards the stairs.

Owen blocked Tyler and waited for Anna and Joey to walk by. “What are you doing?” Owen snarled.

“My job,” Tyler said, pushing past him.

Owen grabbed his brother’s shoulder and shoved him back. “You need me on both of those assignments and you know it,” Owen said.

“We’ll handle it,” Tyler said, pushing his arms off. “You can babysit the Disney princess over here,” he said snidely.

“I know that’s not a dig at me,” Tiana said, cocking her head to the side. “Cause last I checked, I saved your asses. So, tell me who’s really the Disney princess?”

“This entire conversation is kinda sexist,” Darren said, pushing up his glasses. “Moana was a princess and she didn’t need saving.”

“Neither did Mulan,” Jason shrugged.

“Technically she wasn’t a princess until after she married Shang,” Darren said, tapping his chin. “Unless you-”

“Not the fucking point, Darren!” Tyler snapped.

“I’m going,” Owen said, catching Tyler’s attention.

“Then who’s going to watch her?” Tyler groaned.

“Excuse me!” Tiana said, getting fed up. “I’m not a fucking child. I don’t need anybody to watch me because I’m going too.”

“Like hell you are!” Tyler blurted.

“If it has to do with my brother, then I deserve to know,” she said, looking directly at Owen.

Owen sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair. “She has a point,” Owen said.

“FUCK NO!” Tyler growled. “Her ass is staying here!”

“I’m trying to figure out at what point you became the damn boss of me,” she said, getting in Tyler’s face.

“Alright, calm down,” Owen said, maneuvering between them. “Ty, she’s coming.”

“She’s a fucking distraction! Between you getting random amnesia and Jason salivating every 5 fucking seconds, we won’t get shit done with her around,” Tyler protested.

“Hey, come on,” Jason said with his hands up. “Give me the benefit of the doubt. I last at least 30 seconds.”

“Something’s wrong with you,” Darren said to Jason who laughed out loud.

“She can stay on the side,” Owen insisted. “Watch from the car. Stay in the crowd. She’ll blend right in.”

“She barely blends in here!” Tyler fumed.

Owen’s jaw tensed as he glanced at Tiana who looked like she was about to jump Tyler. “Jason, Darren, go prep Tiana. Make sure she knows all of our rules,” Owen said.

“Let’s go, thickness,” Jason said, pushing himself off the wall and heading towards the stairs.

“You are not calling me that,” Tiana protested as she followed after him.

Tyler cussed under his breath as he watched them walk away. “Hey,” Owen said, getting his brother’s attention again. “You and me gotta talk.”

~*~

“Joey and Anna are our most public members outside of Owen,” Darren explained. He sat next to Tiana in the garage, tapping away at his laptop. “Owen’s work for the New York Times gives us a foothold in the world of journalism. But Anna and Joey allow us inside the world of corporate America and pop culture. Anna comes from money. In addition to being a multi-million dollar family that made their millions off of remote-powered cookware, the Sanchez’s know everyone in Hollywood. So, Anna is most disassociated from RaVage to protect her identity.”

Tiana watched a shirtless Jason lean over the open hood of his car to work on the engine. “So, why is she doing this?” Tiana asked Darren.

Darren smiled fondly as he stopped typing. “Cause she’s a rebel. Just like the rest of us. She sees the error of capitalism and wants a world that’s more fair and just. Her family nearly disowned her for being so public on television and ‘soiling’ their family name. But she’s brave and smart and truly a force to be reckoned with. Remarkable in every way.”

Tiana noticed the way Darren’s eyes shimmered as he thought about Anna. “You sound like... you kinda like her...”

Darren looked at Tiana startled and immediately flushed over. He adjusted his glasses and looked back at his screen. “I just really admire her,” he said quickly. “She and Dante made a really great team. Excuse me a minute while I figure out the logistics for tonight.”

Tiana hopped off of the ledge and walked over to Jason. She crossed her arms and leaned back against the car. She couldn’t help her eyes wandering over his tight abs that were lightly smeared with car oil and glistening with sweat. “See something you like, beauty?”

Tiana shook startled and glanced at Jason peeking over the hood at her with a grin on his face. “These nicknames have got to stop,” she said, rolling her eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Adding nitrous to my engine. We’ve got a race tonight,” he said, wiping his hands on a towel.

“I thought nitrous in cars was a myth,” she said.

“Not the way I make it,” he smirked. “See this here?” Tiana leaned over and analyzed the details of the engine to see a bright blue light lining the sides. “I mixed the nitrous with a special alloy that Tyler and Dante helped me create. Allows the engine to run at a rate 5x the average.”

“Won’t it burn up and melt the metal?” she asked.

Jason shook his head. “Smart girl, but no. Feel this.” Jason grabbed Tiana’s hand and glided it along a smooth aluminum coating on the outside of the engine.

“It’s cold?” she said confused.

“It counterbalances with concentrated carbon dioxide or otherwise known as-”

“Dry ice!” she said bewildered. “Damn, that’s clever.”

“Yup,” Jason said, closing the hood. “This baby has never lost a race.”

“So, you’re actually going to race?” Tiana asked.

“Obviously.”

“I thought you guys were just going to scope out Dante’s potential partners?”

“It’s called multitasking, babe. One of my best traits,” Jason grinned.

“Seems dangerous,” she sighed. “This lifestyle you live. But I’m starting to figure out why you like the things you do.”

Jason smirked as his light blue eyes slowly raked over her body. “There are a few other things I’d like to do...”

Tiana rolled her eyes. “You’re really trying hard to get into my pants, aren’t you?”

“I’m not trying to. I’m going to,” he grinned.

“Wow! You’ve really got some big ass balls on you,” she scoffed.

“Actually, yea I do,” he said, pushing himself off of the car. “But let’s put a pause on the foreplay for now. I’m supposed to be preparing you.” Tiana took a step back as Jason walked up to her. He couldn’t help but smirk at her hesitation. “One of these days you won’t want to pull away from me.”

“In an alternate universe, maybe,” she mocked.

He grinned as he grabbed her waist and pulled her forward. Tiana tried to control her breathing and instinctively put her hands against his chest to push him away. “Relax...” he said, raising his hand to her face. She flinched as he pushed something into her ear. “Earpiece, so you can hear what’s going on both on-site and off-site from folks like Darren,” he said.

His hand grazed down her chest, reaching the first button of her shirt before she quickly grabbed his wrist. “You’re being a perverted asshole right now,” she said irritably. She heard a clip and looked down to see a tiny mic on her shirt.

“There,” he said, pulling back from her. “The perverted asshole has just mic’d you up.”

She eyed the small device on her shirt. “I’ve never seen one this small.”

“That’s because one that small didn’t exist until Tyler and I created it.”

Tiana looked up at him. “You guys create all your own devices?”

“No other way to live,” he said proudly.

“I don’t get it,” she said, shaking her head. “You guys could be making millions off of stuff like this. Why the hell are you doing this shit?”

Jason lost his grin as his face took on an uncharacteristically darker tone. “Because there’s a bigger picture here.”

Tiana looked at him confused. “You guys seem really close... the three of you...”

“I’ve known Ty and Owen since we were 8,” Jason said, pulling on his shirt. “We grew up together. Did everything with each other. After their mom was taken away from them, they lived with me, my sister, and my old man for a while.”

Tiana looked at him startled. “Why was their mom taken?”

Jason frowned as he averted his baby blues. “Not really my place to say, babe.”

She went to speak until she heard the door slam. “What’s your progress?” Owen asked, jumping off the ledge followed by Tyler.

“We’re good to go,” Jason said. “She has our equipment.”

“She knows the rules,” Darren added. “Just needs a handle.”

“We can call her Silos for now,” Owen said, walking over to Jason’s car.

“Seriously, Owen? You’re giving her Dante’s handle?!” Tyler said irritably.

“What did we just talk about, Ty?!” Owen said exasperated. Tyler rolled his eyes as he grumbled to himself.

“You guys use handles?” she asked.

“It’s just a precaution,” Owen said. He walked over to his motorcycle as Tyler mounted his own bike. “T, who do you want to ride with?”

Tiana quirked a brow. “Hmm, let’s see... the mean one, the nasty one, or my best friend. Tough call,” she said sarcastically.

~*~

Tiana pressed her face against Owen’s back, holding onto his torso for dear life as he sped down the freeway. She heard honking and glanced next to them to see Jason in his car winking at her before he sped off. Glancing behind her, she saw Tyler swerving from lane to lane. She could feel Owen’s body moving and realized that he was laughing.

In seconds, they were next to Jason again. It was then that she realized they were actually playing with each other. She felt her heart leap into her chest as Owen revved the engine, and the bike tilted up as they sped past Jason. Tiana stifled her scream into Owen’s back as she completely regretted tagging along.

Owen slowed down as Tyler sped past them. Her eyes nearly bulged out of its head as she saw Tyler’s bike tilt all the way forward as if he were about to flip and spun in a circle. “They’re fucking crazy!” she said to herself. “They’re all literally crazy!” She prayed to God that Owen wouldn’t try to pull off his own trick while she was still hanging on behind him.

~

Tiana was practically kissing the ground by the time they got to their destination. “I almost had you on that last turn, Evans,” Jason grinned as he jumped out of his car.

“Bullshit!” Tyler laughed.

“T, you alright?” Owen said, helping Tiana off of his bike.

“Pretty sure my liver fell out through my butt a few miles back. But other than that I’m fine,” she said, covering her mouth.

She stumbled off of his bike and nearly fell before he caught her in his arms. Owen chuckled. “May take some getting used to,” he said.

“Everyone mic’d up?” Tyler asked. “Cyber, do you copy?”

“Copy, Droid,” came Darren’s voice on the other end. “Do you spot your target?”

Tyler looked across the road where several people were gathered until he saw a man with a skull tattoo on his face surrounded by tons of other people. “Target in view,” Tyler said. “Berserker, you hit the front line. Cyclops will infiltrate. I’ll scout out hostiles.”

Jason hopped in his car and headed towards the rest of the race cars. Tiana grabbed Owen’s arm. “What do you want me to do?” she asked.

“Stay with the crowd. Try to blend in,” Owen said, gesturing with his chin.

Tiana followed his gaze to a group of girls in short miniskirts, crop tops, and high heels screaming and jumping up and down. “You want me to act like a fucking groupie?!” she scoffed.

“No, no. I was pointing to the taco truck,” Owen chuckled.

Tiana rolled her eyes. “I’ll just observe. Watch you work until you need me.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid, okay?” Owen said.

“Take your own advice, loser,” she smirked as she playfully shoved him. Owen grinned at her as he hopped back on his bike and followed after Jason.

Tiana looked around, taking in the scenery. It was definitely grunge. There were several trash cans on fire scattered around a road that was crowded with race cars and multiple people. The air was thick with the smell of smoke and fuel oil. “Is this really the kind of people Dante hung out with?” she muttered to herself. “Looks like a crossbreed between a MAGA crowd and the purge...”

“You know we can all hear you,” she suddenly heard Darren’s voice in her earpiece.

“Oh shit. Sorry, forgot,” she said quickly. She could hear a deep sigh that could only come from Tyler. She walked over to a less crowded area and kept her eyes on Owen and Jason. They were already placing bets and talking to a group of guys like they had known them all their lives. She felt nervous when she saw their target known as The Reaper approach Owen. But Owen slapped his hand on the man’s shoulder as they both started laughing. She was amazed at how seamless Owen was able to fit in. She had never seen him do this kind of work before. She often wished she had the same appeal he did.

“Think your sexy ass is wearing too many clothes to be a groupie,” she heard a voice behind her. She jumped startled and turned around to see a tall, slim man with a snake tattoo on his face grinning down at her.

“Because I’m not a groupie. Fuck off,” she said, turning back around.

“Then what the hell are you doing here? Cause you sure as hell aren’t racing,” he said, grabbing her shoulder.

“Silos, what’s going on?” she heard Darren’s voice on the other end.

“I told you to stay out of sight!” she heard Owen’s voice.

“I am! I mean I was-” she said into her mic.

“Bitch, I’m talking to you,” the man sapped. He reached for her before he cringed in pain and fell to his knee. She looked behind him to see Tyler twisting the man’s arm behind his back.

“There are plenty of other broads here. Go find some other chick to fuck,” Tyler sneered in the man’s ear before dropping his arm.

The man turned around to protest when he noticed that Tyler was at least twice his size. “Bitch wasn’t even cute,” he muttered before sauntering off.

Tiana sucked her teeth. “Oh, NOW I’m not cute?!”

“You’re bad at this,” Tyler said to her.

Tiana rolled her eyes. “Go fly a kite, Tyler!”

“Handles!” she heard Darren say in her earpiece.

“Point made,” Tyler said smugly.

“Droid, we need eyes on The Reaper and his crew. Berserker is about to race,” Owen’s voice came through.

“Copy,” Tyler said. He went to walk away when he stopped himself and glanced at Tiana. “Guess I’m on babysitting duty.”

“Bitch-” she started.

“PLAY NICE!” Owen’s voice came again.

Tyler muttered. “Just keep up, Silos Jr., and don’t get in the way.”

Tiana took a deep breath trying to calm her nerves. This was going to be a long night.

~*~

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