Chapter 1 - The Bus
“Hey, Matt, wake up the bell already rang,” Jacob was standing at the edge of my desk looking down at me in bewilderment. I snapped back into the present and reached down to the left of my desk for my computer bag and I quickly thrust my laptop inside. I stood and we headed to the door of the classroom a few steps behind the rest of the class.
“What were you so focused on anyway,” Jacob asked, the edge from earlier was gone from his voice and he was back to his usual light hearted self, as we eased into the sea of bodies that flowed through narrow hallway.
“I’m not really even sure,” I replied, it wasn’t entirely a lie, while I knew I had been daydreaming about Emily, I wasn’t sure why. Emily and I had been friends since our days at Fiske Elementary School. We had never been more than that, and yet during our last project together I had noticed an electricity between us that hadn’t been there before. I had convinced myself that it was all simply in my mind, however, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from thinking about her during my free time lately.
“It’s ok dude, I understand, it’s hard for me to stay focused in Mrs. Williams English class too. That woman still teaches like it’s the early two thousands. I thought I was going to fall asleep while she just listened to herself talk.” He rolled his eyes.
We had just reached the doors to the exterior of the building facing a row of buses that were lined up to take us on our final senior field trip when Emily caught up with us. She was wearing jeans and a white form fitting t-shirt and her brown curls glistened in the sunlight that was pouring through the huge glass doors.
“You guys trying to sneak off without me?” She winked and playfully gave my arm a shove.
“Dang it, Matt I told you we needed to go faster,” Jacob volleyed, while I tried to settle my heart back into a normal rhythm.
I chuckled and shrugged my shoulders at him like it was beyond my control. But my head was still spinning, what was wrong with me? I knew if I kept this up and she had any indication of how I felt it would ruin our friendship, and I cherished that above all else. She was one of the few people in the world I could really confide in. She always listened and gave sound advice without judgment, and we had both been there for one another through a lot of really hard stuff. I shoved any thoughts of romance down into a neat box and locked it up strengthening my resolve to keep our relationship platonic, the thought of possibly losing her altogether was simply unbearable.
We stepped out of the doors and into the warm spring air. We followed the line of buses to the end and got on the one that had the least amount of people. Emily and I sat in a seat together toward the back and Jacob sat in front of us. It had been awhile since I had ridden on a bus and it brought back memories of riding just like this in elementary and middle school.
I had been driving us back and forth from school together every day for the past two years, I loved the freedom that having my own license and car in high school meant. I was the rare exception, most parents would not let their children drive until they were eighteen. Today we were not allowed to drive cars to the field trip though, we going to where mine and Jacobs fathers worked, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I knew the school like the back of my hand, having visited with my father more times than I could count, however, they were always working on some new project or exciting endeavor there and the place just had the feel of innovation, plus it meant a break from classes for the day so we were all excited to be going.
I pulled my phone from my back pocket and quickly scanned my messages, e-mails and twitter to make sure I hadn’t missed anything during the time I was at school. The only message I had was from Rose telling me to enjoy my day complete with a pink heart emoji. Rose was our house keeper and had been my nanny since I was a baby. She had two kids of her own, and she treated me just like one of them. She often remembered the important things in my life, birthday’s, field trips, games, and would make sure I knew I was remembered. It made me feel good that she cared enough, unlike my own mother who could remember the birthdate of everyone on the board of our golf club where she was an active member, but she barely knew I was alive. Do to my dads high position with the W3C organization she had never had to put her Bachelor of Arts to use for anything other than heading charities, socializing, planning parties, and she claimed being a homemaker though it was really Rose who made our house a home.
I put my phone back in my pocket and noticed that Emily was frantically typing on hers. “Someone important texting?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual.
“Huh, mmm yea I guess,” she replied obviously to engrossed in what she was doing to give me a full answer.
This made my stomach twist in an unpleasant way as my thoughts tried to race through who she could be conversing with so intently. “Stop it” I scolded myself internally. I knew it was no good to go down that rabbit trail again and stress myself out for no reason, we were and are nothing but friends. I leaned over the seat to see what Jacob was doing. He seemed to be playing a game of some sort. I gave up on trying to converse with anyone and just stared out the window at the passing country side. We were already nearing Boston and I knew we would be taking exit 18 shortly. Sure enough the bus started slowing as we exited and pulled into the left lane to pay the toll. I heard Emily mutter something not very nice under her breath and she rolled her eyes and typed with more intensity. I felt the knots loosen in my stomach at least she didn’t seem to happy with whom ever she was talking to at the moment. She must have felt me looking at her, she finally glanced up and gave me a weak smile.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know what I’m doing,” she said with enough conviction that I believed her.
“Please do not tell me you are getting into trouble again” I whispered looking around covertly to make sure no one was paying attention.
“Not exactly,” she replied without much heart.
“Emily!” I tried to whisper but my irritation was making it hard. “You were almost kicked out of school last year for being places you shouldn’t on the internet, you swore to me you were going to stop hacking.”
“I know, I know,” she said trying to placate me without much effect, “I haven’t been hacking, per se,” she said trying a different angle to settle me down.
“I’ve just been monitoring certain sites to keep an eye on whats going on.”
“Oh so now your trying to play good cop, you really should just stay out of places like that, if you were caught having been in one of those room again you would be kicked out of school. Then you would not graduate with us, or get into a good school.”
“Listen I won’t get caught,” she tried to reassure me. “I’ve been much more careful about not leaving anyway for anyone to trace me. Anyway it’s not the school I’m worried about finding out right now, it’s actually a group of hackers I’m on to that I’m a little afraid of”.
Hearing her say the word afraid was not comforting, she was not your typical girl, having grown up without a mother and raised by her hardworking father and two younger brothers, she was pretty brave when it came to everything, especially the cyber world. My interest and fear were definitely peaked.
“What are they doing that has you afraid?” I asked.
“I’m not one hundred percent sure yet, that’s what so frustrating,” she said half sighing and her eyes turned back to her phone. I little crease formed between them as she thought about what she was seeing on there, which looked little more than a mess of numbers and letters to me.
“They are being VERY careful that they are not followed, what ever they are planning though seems big, and like it might be very bad for a lot of people. They are connected with a group that are basically the equivalent of cyber terrorist.”
“Maybe you should just not worry about it,” Jacob piped in drawn in by our conversation. “I’m sure they have people at MIT and even at our dad’s offices in the W3C who are already on top of the situation and will shut them down. Every few years a group with try to plan something big like shutting down the internet for a company or funneling money into another account. They are always caught.”
“I know but these people are trying to do something on an even grander scale I think, I just want to figure out what it is, so we can report it to the right people and they can shut them down,” she replied defiance entering her voice. She and Jacob, both being stubborn often got into disagreements and I was usually the mediator that had to cool them both down, seeing their feathers ruffling I jumped in for the rescue.