0's and 1's: Book 1 CBDT (Cyber-Bullying Defense Team)
(Hunter Douglas, Code Name: Verne)
Kevin spent the entire weekend with me, usually just sitting there or cuddling up to me at night to make sure I slept. We never had sex, not even a hand job like Jeremy had initiated. Part of me wished he would have done something, but that kiss had said all I needed to know about his feelings for me. I was, and am still somewhat depressed; I'm off the ledge, but I can't say the thought of joining Ryan in Heaven or Hell hasn't crossed my mind a few times. Kevin has made it a little easier with his constant combative urging. Benji came by a few times to see how I was doing and give status reports about the internet traffic, including some rather offensive and detailed things from Mason Cameron, the asshole homophobic 17 year old senior. Benji thought he probably is getting information from Jen Elvis, an IT clerk working for a very conservative judge, who we suspected was part of the fundamentalist group attacking us and a chief architect of the information stolen on Jeremy along with other infected guys.
They're both great friends. Kevin especially has really stepped up for me personally and I...I can't accept him. I know a part of me wants to accept him and wants to fill this void left by Ryan. That's not fair to him; I don't want to be in a relationship where Kevin is merely an emotional crutch. He deserves more than I can offer him, but he continues to offer me unconditional love and devotion. The sad truth is, if I never met Ryan; he probably could have been the love of my life despite all our differences, his heart knew mine so well, but I did find my soulmate in Ryan. Kevin should not be my karmic consolation prize.
Beyond the complication in our friendship, Kevin was right about what needs to happen now; I fell apart last week, because I did not know how far my opponents would go. An expansion of our group is necessary and I've had the candidates in the back of my mind for weeks. We will need to rally them; we will need a call to arms. Right now with Jeremy's situation being the focal point of local media's attention and his sexual trysts causing havoc across multiple areas of the city, I need to step up. I didn't want to take this position; I didn't want to be a figurehead, but the situation needs a person to step into the light to fight misinformation. Ryan was a more eloquent speaker than me, a more logic-based connection. I have always been more analytical and more technical; I have used my understanding of emotions and human nature for personal gain and arguments, but never to rally or set people on new paths. Now, I must do both.
Sunday night, I went out for the first time with Kevin in tow. I wanted to see Jeremy before I went back to school to make a stand. I wanted to talk to him. It was also the first time I saw mom again. She was happy to see that I was still alive and winked at Kevin.
I knew what she thought, so I corrected her quickly, "We did not have sex."
She giggled and hugged me tightly, "I know, you didn't. Kevin loves you too much to hurt you just like Ryan did not..."
"Mom, I've got a lot to deal with, I don't need to hear relationship advice from you, especially with Kevin a few feet away."
Kevin didn't appear hurt at what I said, but I knew he was holding back, I quickly changed the subject. "Mom I need to talk to Jeremy privately. Is there a way you can have the cameras and monitoring equipment in his room turned off for 5 minutes."
She looked at me like I had grown a second head, "You know that is against policy and I can't authorize..."
"I need to say some things to him, you can be there too, since you've guessed some of what I am about to tell him. If I recall correctly, as long as a physician is on hand during a deposition of a sensitive matter, it is permitted under law to depose a victim."
She looked at me, "Yes, but you're not a police officer."
"I have been acting as an agent of the police, so there is legal wiggle room for a technicality in this case. I really need to speak with him."
Legally, it wouldn't work in a court of law if I were to present evidence from Jeremy as a police witness, because I lacked the authorization from an actual police officer, who should also be present. American legal concepts are extremely weird and counter-intuitive to most laymen, which luckily my mom was despite her medical expertise and high intelligence.
Myrlin wasn't happy to be dragged back into this again, but he acquiesced very quickly. I think Benji was right; he is a soft teddy bear, when it comes to things that matter to him like gay teenagers being attacked. Myrlin was efficient, he cut off the video feed with a playback record and kept the actual recording equipment and other communication devices tied up or locked in a maintenance mode.
When I saw Jeremy, I was shocked by his weakening body and sad disposition. I had assumed his mother would be around, but mom had told me she had to go back to her second job, which they needed desperately to pay for the medical bills and legal fees. Jeremy's mother would not accept my help or even mom's help; I guess she did not want other people to suffer with her issues.
"Jeremy, how are you doing?"
He looked up at us and sneered, "Fine Hunter, aren't you glad I didn't go all the way with you?"
Kevin spoke up first, "Jeremy, stop acting like such a big drama queen, we get it, you hate the fucking world and you want us out of here, but fuck, we're your friends and we don't give a damn what anyone else thinks."
Woah, I guess the weekend around me has really hardened him, but cleaning my ass and holding onto a constant hard on probably would do that. Kevin was always a bit out there; he was fierce on the soccer field and could swear like a sailor when we first met. It had seemed weird for me at first; most highly gifted people aren't so bombastic. His IQ is about 146, which is 7 points below me and 4 points below Benji, but we're all part of the same general bracket in the WISC-IV scale. As for EQ, I never knew his rating. Now I wish I had paid more attention to that aspect of him.
Jeremy softened up after Kevin's tirade, "Why are you here anyway?"
I went to his bedside and mom had closed the door behind her, "I wanted to tell you I am sorry."
Jeremy looked at me dumbfounded, "Sorry for what, I took the drugs; I slept with all those guys, who slept with more guys and probably a few chicks too."
I knelt down to bed level, "I know you wouldn't have taken hard drugs like cocaine without someone introducing it into your system. I knew there was a group out to attack you just like they attacked Ryan and the others. I knew they had money, influence, and power. What I didn't know was this was their end game. It's their master plan; use the same forces that allowed us to progress so far as a community to destroy us externally and internally."
Jeremy looked at me in shock, anger, and awe, "Why me? Why the fuck did they choose me? Why not choose Ne-Yo or someone already famous?"
"We are a test case, big enough to have a macro-effect on a wide area. They wanted to prove their ideas that the LGBT community can be shattered and broken back down to individuals if the right elements were removed and introduced in a series of stages. A coordinated attack serves multiple objectives and has multiple outlying effects. The current rumors are spreading that I am infected too, which I bet was their intention as you and I were close friends; with Ryan gone, I'd be emotionally receptive. They didn't know the depth of my love for him, nor the person my sexual preferences and inclinations were towards Kev...were not towards anyone except Ryan," I paused to adjust slightly, "There is even worse rumor mongering that expands into other walks of life. The way the internet and social networks transmit information is you start with a set of details, then supposition, and then outright lies. What they have done is the lies can now be substantiated as suppositions or truth through their actions. You heard about what happened at this hospital."
Jeremy nodded, "I was being played by them. I got a shot of something a few weeks ago, it sent me on a new high, but I also got into a new low. I knew it was probably cocaine and tried to avoid it, but every party I went to, there was just another prick, another...oh my god, they fucking planned everything."
Kevin looked over to me, "Mason could have been their inside man. He's been getting all that data from them and they would never have access to Jeremy if it wasn't another teenager. I'll tear that fucker a new asshole."
My mom stepped in to calm Kevin down, "I know you are upset Kevin, but you should hold your anger until we can find proof."
I turned my head towards her, "We've tried that and all we did was slow them down. Sure, we caught one of their group members and now deny them access into hospital databases and school records, but they still have people in all areas of life and government. I didn't even identify Mason as one of the people attacking Ryan, because he doesn't have an IT background or affiliation with this group. I should have thought harder and drew more links; all of this is my..."
Kevin punched my shoulder, "Don't, I am not going to let you go back there again. You had nothing to do with this and tried to do all you could to stop them."
Jeremy whimpered out a response, "He finally told you huh..."
I should have known Jeremy knew about Kevin's feelings for me, "I don't want to talk about that right now. I want to talk to you about what comes next. The other guys are going through radical anti-retroviral treatments, but you have full blown AIDS and there is..." I stammered, "No cure. I want to make sure you have the best last days you can, but I know with the legal and social problems that won't happen."
Jeremy took my hand and squeezed it tight, "Forget about me, do what you need to do. These bastards won't just settle for a small victory against a second tier teenage rock star. They'll go for something bigger soon. I've made myself vulnerable and let my stupidity hurt a lot of innocent gay guys, even Evan didn't deserve this, don't let it happen again."
I cried out "Never again!"
Kevin responded "Never again!"
(Ben Jie Long, Code Name: Wells)
Kevin and Hunter had quite a weekend, but I wasn't sleeping on the job either. I knew Monday would be an important day for all of us, when Hunter had asked for an emergency mandatory assembly of the entire high school in our auditorium. Principal Trevor Rush obliged quickly as he was planning the same thing after he heard the many rumors that had circled the prior week. I knew the outlines of the plan were for Hunter to do a speech and try to stem the bleeding, since we spoke in school briefly. Hunter, being the most well-known gay teenager at our high school, let alone the city itself, was given the stage to speak on the subject of what was happening. I noticed several news reporters, plus a CNN crew in the back.
Despite press conferences and some great presentations, Hunter was not really a speech giver. He did better with demonstrative speaking, which is traditionally not what oratory or rhetorical speeches of this kind are known for. Demonstrating a new technology, a new product, or new ideas are radically different in comparison to a social and political speech that would be heard by thousands if not millions if this hits national outlets in sound bites. Public speaking and debate were more Ryan's specialty; he loved big ideas and big picture solutions, while Hunter was more on the technical and detail side. Beyond his inexperience, Hunter just came off a depressive episode, probably a psychological breakdown based on what Kevin told me. A speech would add more stress to his already fragile psyche; it could lead to another breakdown on national TV. This could go really badly or be a joke for late night comedians.
As Hunter took the stage, the audience went silent. This was it, he began. "I am not going to give a speech," a stream of whispers flowed through the crowd like tsunami. As it stopped he started again, "I am not a great public speaker. I don't know how to stress my words in the right places or make the right ideas come out without some kind of PowerPoint presentation. I know what I should tell you are simple. I don't have HIV and neither do many of my friends, except for the most unfortunate ones. No, I think I will leave the words to someone better, to someone who is uniquely capable of speaking to our problems today and in the future. I give this podium to my best friend Kevin Driscoll, who might be a 16 year old junior, but has far more ability in this area than I possess at the moment."
I could tell Hunter was nearing his limit on stress, but Kevin took the stage quickly to relieve him. Kevin held his trademarked Harry Potter look, which obscures his actual bombastic nature, "Hunter is much smarter than me and he's a year younger than me. That's just how the world works, I am smart compared to people in my own age group, but I don't go around making press releases or shit like that," a sudden roar came out from the audience, "Sorry, I speak rather plainly or as some of you may say in a 'crass' manner. In that department, Hunter has always been the most polite gentleman I know, except this circumstance has forced us all to be here today and forced him to choose me to speak to you. It takes a special kind of man, a special kind of leader, to step down and let someone speak for him. He asked me to speak, because I won't ameliorate nor devalue the stench of bigotry, fear, and general asshole behavior that many people here and across the city have engaged in. Look at yourselves, look at your friends. What has changed? Did they lie to you? Did they attack you? Did they harm your family in anyway? No! Christ, they've been the same people as they have always been. Why are you now so judgmental to each other? Sure, we've seen the stuff coming out of twitter and Facebook, but who is sending these things and making accusations. Look at the messages and the tweets, follow them back to their groups and the founder of each group was none other than Mason Cameron, a simple homophobic classmate with a chip on his shoulder. Don't you think you're overreacting to words and a few documents from some guy who is flunking his high school English class? It was people like that, who were behind the cyber-bullying of many gay teens recently, including my lost friend Ryan Thatcher. How bad is our sources that we must rely on some fucking homophobe for information that is obviously bias?"
Going after Mason was smart, we couldn't reveal the entire truth without more proof and Mason was their "front" for the data releases, which wasn't hidden well. I had already checked him out; he's a certified homophobic asshole, but he's not part of any Christian fundamentalist agenda. Despite what Kevin thought, Mason could never have attended one of Jeremy's parties, he'd be too recognizable by people at the party, who hated his guts. However, he probably could have known when and where Jeremy's parties were held and he might even have given those tainted "shots" to someone as a middleman. Whether he thought it was just cocaine or knew more is a different issue. That's supposition on our part, but I do have enough evidence to show he was tracking Jeremy's party tweets.
Going after him won't change the dynamics of the battlefield, but it will give a simple answer to a very complicated problem. We're facing an enemy that hides its tracks near perfectly. Focusing on a known factor might help them hide their identities better, but it also gives us what we need right now, unity of purpose.
"Are people stupid to be trolled into being enemies out of fear? No, Mason made convincing points by applying knowledge into good storytelling. There are a lot of people like that in the world; they're not as obvious as fundamentalist Christians who hold marches and deny marriage licenses, they're normal everyday people, who use their minds and keyboards to do more damage. They use portions of the truth to make their case more riveting and more passable as a fact, I am here to correct the fucked up record," Kevin paused to let his expletive sink in, "Jeremy Langford is my friend, he's Hunter's friend, and he's your friend as well if you still want him to be. I am not here to debate his choices in life that have been exploited to the worst affect. I am here to ask for common sense. The CDC is still investigating how he got infected by a rare type of HIV that was only detected in West African female gorillas. I don't know about you, but based on Jeremy's interest, I doubt he'd be going to Africa to sleep with a female gorilla." A sharp laugh echoed the auditorium, he was winning the crowd at least, "There is more to his story, but we will have to wait to hear it from investigators, who are tracking its origins; perhaps Mason could elucidate them, since he is such an expert in HIV infection based on his Facebook entries," Kevin knows just how to stick it to people, "Above the medical facts, there are human realities. We've seen this disease before. We've been on this same path 30 years ago. The same fear that existed then has come back, because we are still human beings and capable of fear. Yet, we cannot, no, we will not let fear control us as it did then. As a gay teenager in 2015, I want to mark this point in history as the point where we take our stand for 2045 to 3015 and beyond. There is no going back. There is no returning to the past. The mistakes that we made can never be fixed, nor should we ignore them and repeat history. We either come together today or we divide and destroy everything that we fought so hard to create as a community. I am not just talking to my gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered friends, when I say 'community' I mean every last fucking person who has a LGBT family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even liked Hunters' tablets. We can go further as a team with common goals and common vision than we can alone and isolated in fear of rumors. Let's declare in one voice, 'Never Again' will we let fear push us to take actions our friends and loved ones. 'Never again!' can we allow bigotry to dominate the voices of conversation whether it is in our halls or online in chat rooms. Never again! will we let another teenager be intimidated to the point of self-destruction. We have to start a new era, a new window into the core of what makes us human."
The slogan "Never Again!" has not been referenced much in recent times, but its power has never faded in the minds and imagination of people. Hunter and Kevin timed the speech well and closed strongly; evocating the past, present, and future throughout. A call to fight cyber-attacks will only go so far, but it is a start, a counter-strike in a war that has been declared.
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