0's and 1's: Book 1 CBDT (Cyber-Bullying Defense Team)
(Kevin Driscoll, Code Name Shelley)
Hunter surprised me again, but I should have anticipated that he couldn't do a speech so soon after what he had been through on Friday. Damn, I never gave a speech before and I think I got bleeped a dozen times on network TV. Those reporters were beet red, when I finished, but they gave me a standing ovation. Principal Rush had some private words with Hunter, but it wasn't anything negative. I could tell by his smile. I so wanted to kiss him again, but it was the wrong place and time to express my feelings. When I got home, my parents did two things: grounded me for swearing so many times in front of 10 million viewers and rising, and then gave me hugs for being so brutally honest.
Mason Cameron was suspended from school after the revelations about his Facebook groups and the source of the data releases. He claimed ignorance and only said he got the information from an outside party. He also said he did not know the cocaine was laced with HIV, although, he did confess that he did pass it along to some people at the parties. In exchange for the confession, he got an immunity deal pending a future investigation into these "outside" parties, whose email addresses and mailing addresses were untraceable. Chief Wayne was angry at the situation and believed Mason knew more than he let on, but the FBI and District Attorney's office took over the case. They also asked Judge Thatcher to tell our team privately to not be involved any further, which infuriated both Judge Thatcher and Chief Wayne. We had built the basis of their investigation. However, Hunter pointed out to Judge Thatcher they could not prevent us from helping Chief Wayne under local jurisdiction. Even so, it seemed like our team would be exposed by the FBI's "official" case and could not operate anymore under any meaningful level of secrecy.
By Friday, things had returned to normal; at least as normal as life could be under the circumstance. My grounding was lifted and I visited Hunter at his "lab". He had spent most of the week at home with his parents, which seemed to have calmed him a lot and helped him focus his thoughts. This weekend his father went to a special conference for forensic banking regulations in Washington DC and his mom had additional shifts due to the high volume of cancer complications from the AIDS outbreak, like Kaposi Sarcoma. Benji joined us right around sunset to complete our group of 3.
Hunter walked to the back of the room and the lights flickered, then he spoke. "I turned on the "blackout" machine, so we can speak privately."
I kind of knew he wouldn't take no for an answer from the FBI, "So what's the game plan?"
Hunter sat on the floor with us, "We made a lot of mistakes in our first investigation. We succeeded only because they did not expect secret investigations so soon. Now, after they played their cards, we can expect a lot more protection and multiple layers of separation just like Mason."
Benji looked down at the floor, "I am sorry for not noticing Jesse."
I patted Benji on the back, "It's not your fault."
Hunter nodded, "Right now, Jesse is the least of our concerns. The FBI's official cases have started and believe me they have little real experience with this kind of investigation. Their hate crimes unit was primarily developed under standard investigative techniques, not a massive conspiracy conducted through Dark net chat rooms that only appear at random intervals. The only group in their arsenal that could operate an investigation of this size would be the anti-terror unit."
I shook my head, "They have our list of the people, who attacked Ryan and the other gay teens, so investigating them would be normal for them."
Hunter countered, "Not if we found merely one cell of a bigger network. I've been thinking about this for the last few days. The way they operated was so deep and so methodical, it couldn't have been just 12 people with a loose affiliation to C.I.S.S. There must be more cells, and I think the FBI has been compromised."
Benji stared at Hunter dumbfounded, "How can you know?"
Hunter began his explanation with a wink at me, "Mason Cameron should never have gotten an immunity deal for what he did and what he could offer the FBI. Then, there was the abrupt move to remove us from investigating things further, while we have a better proven track record. Judge Thatcher luckily did not reveal all of our data collection or our personal information to the FBI. All the FBI knows is that a private group of gay activists are combing for information on a group that has launched coordinated attacks against gay teens."
"How can they not know it's us? Like I've been on CNN for a week now with soundbites?"
Hunter smirked, "We're too public about fighting Cyber-attacks. The most obvious culprits are usually the least likely suspects. Another reason why I wanted you to speak for me was that you don't carry around your intelligence like I do. You are extremely smart Kevin, but people underestimate you based on how you speak and how you act. They saw a gay activist, maybe a future politician in training, who they could deal with easily not an existential threat."
Benji glared at both of us, which I knew was merely out of jest, "What about me? I am smart and lack any attention."
"Like, Benji, you're Asian; I bet they assume that's your natural state of being."
Hunter laughed, boy do I love to see his smile. "In any case, we're not their most likely suspects. Secrecy in terms of our identities is still maintained at least temporarily. As for secrecy between us, I think we're pretty open, right Shelley and Wells?"
I had to ask him this one, "Why the hell did you name me after a 19th century female writer? I get she wrote Frankenstein, but why did I have the "honor" to be the mother of science fiction? Hell, I'm not even fem."
Benji rolled over in laughter, followed closely by Hunter, who tried to regain his composure, "Well...You are the first person I knew and while we've drifted off over time, you were always a great source of ideas just like Shelley's story is still inspiring people, today. Shelley, Verne, and Wells followed a logical progression for our code names as each one helped build the case for a new brand of speculative fiction, Science Fiction was born. That's one thing I thought we should keep in the revamped network I am building. We should create small teams of 3 people each, which will help spread out the risk and separate key functions of research, investigation, and data protection."
We spent most of the night talking about strategy and planning. We knew there was a lot to change after our first investigation. It wasn't a victory or defeat on either side; we uncovered their database mining efforts and they spread a deadly HIV virus across a wide segment of the population, both gay and straight. However, my speech and the subsequent revelations of Mason's involvement at the heart of the data releases negated long term issues of fear and subversive campaign. It was a tactical draw.
Around midnight, we all got a bit sleepy. I led Benji into the bedroom, and then came out to grab Hunter.
"Hunter, like this is your bedroom, come to bed."
Hunter looked over at me like I had grown another head, "Uh, Benji is in there right...Oh I see, no I don't think I am ready to..."
Man, he's got a gutter brain, "No, we're not going to have sex together. Like three gay guys can be in the same room and sleep in an extra-big king size bed without fucking one another. I know I want you bad..." Fuck that sounded horrible!"...I just want to keep you company, and Benji does too"
I heard Benji sighing and loudly proclaiming, "Kevin, stop using me as an excuse to get Hunter into the same bed as you."
Both of us turned beet red, I could tell Hunter was still uncomfortable with my feelings for him, but he wasn't shooing me away either. I've known him long enough to understand he is debating the options of a relationship. Yeah, I am still more open in terms of wanting to be with other guys; honestly, I have a crush on Hunter, but I also want to have fun too. I know my feelings are running deep for him and if he does want me to go...monogamous... If that's the caveat to a relationship, I'd be in trouble as I don't know if I can commit. Sure, I might follow the path of most gay couples, just keep Anal and some other forms of sex between us, but I don't know if I want to keep it that way.
Damn it, it was so much easier last week, when all I needed to do was wipe his ass and lather him up in the shower. I would still do that in a heartbeat for him and much more, because I love him, but how deep is my love for him? I'm willing to go to extreme lengths, but does that mean I want to be married to him in spirit and body like Ryan was? This isn't one of those gay fictional romances, where both guys fall in love suddenly and madly after they share an emotional connection; I wish I can just have sex with Hunter, but I know that if we get together right now, it wouldn't just be sex. Part of me wants to commit to him, but another part still wants to fool around with Benji and some other guys. Fuck it, Nifty and Gay Authors didn't prepare me for this!
As we both looked into each other's eyes, pondering the possibilities, a loud knock came at Hunter's door.
We both screamed, "Who's there?"
The familiar voice of Judge Thatcher returned an urgent reply, "A bomb went off on your front porch, Hunter. No one was hurt though. The Chief and I want you to go to a safe house for protective custody along with your friends. We got two uniforms we trust to keep you guys safe."
That escalation was unwarranted, unless they really did know it was Hunter after all. Fuck, we're now in deep shit if bombs are going off.
(Hunter Douglas, Code Name: Verne)
How can this happen? Bombs are totally outside their normal attack pattern; it would be too much publicity and too much outrage for a group like these guys. Based on their Modus Operandi, their actions were meant to be completely different than the extremist of the last 30 years that failed to gain traction. Instead of overt attacks, they went around with subversive actions and front people like Mason. Sure, other extremists could have gone lone wolf to come after me, but that would not add up either as there has been no threats against me. Kevin on the other hand has gotten a few online on his Facebook account, but they're mostly harmless southern rednecks and teenage trolls from Europe. A bombing here and now would also force the FBI to send in the T team (anti-Terror unit) after their group, which would be exactly what they would not want.
Kevin and Benji were both silent for most of our stay in the safe house, except for a string of chat messages that we set up with each other's chrome smart phones. A simple daisy chain chat was more than enough to suffice for secrecy and security, since we were so close.
Verne: This can't be their attack
Shelley: Do you think they know about us?
Wells: Could this be the work of another group or maybe another cell, which we have not identified yet
Verne: I doubt it
Verne: This would cause the FBI to investigate the leads with Anti-Terror unit instead of hate crime
Verne: It would cause them more problems than good
Shelley: If they have a guy at the FBI why would they send the Anti-Terror team?
Verne: A bombing at a prominent gay person's home is bad, but along with the issues we faced recently, it points to domestic terrorism
Verne: Even if their inside man is the director of the FBI, he would be forced to send in his anti-terror unit and they operate independently of the normal hierarchy after an investigation starts for them
Verne: They also work in conjunction with homeland security, which further complicates things as every federal and state department would be involved
Shelley: Shit, this going to be bad for them!
Wells: Could they have made a big mistake
Wells: I assume that they are human after all and probably couldn't resist
Verne: Unlikely, based on their normal operations, this attack is a flagrant deviation
Shelley: Well, we are safe for now unless the cops guarding us are actually hired assassins
Wells: Too many spy novels for you
Shelley: Honestly, we could be in trash bags very soon
Just then, the door knob began to turn, we put away our smartphones immediately.
A tall well-dressed man entered. He shared a few familiar features with someone I knew. "I am ATF Deputy Director of field operations, Robert Langford. You must be the three boys who have caused so much paperwork for Paul and his boys."
Jeremy's father was a professional; he had worked his way up from major crimes to a special agent at the ATF, based on what I was told by Jeremy. Of course, he seemed much less scary and offensive than Jeremy had described him. I knew he wasn't anti-gay or anything like that from Mrs. Langford. She described him as being quite supportive when Jeremy came out at 12, but he wasn't a big fan of Jeremy's choices in life or his sexual partners.
I took the first stab, "What happened? I just heard my house got bombed. Is it still there and where's my mom? Did someone tell my dad? He's at the Sheraton near..."
Director Langford raised a hand and I stopped, "The bomb took out most of your front porch and several windows. Exterior damages seemed to be extensive, but not detrimental to the home's structural integrity. Your mother is safe and she will be coming here along with an adult member of all your families. Your father has been notified and will return tomorrow."
A thought crossed my mind, why was ATF involved? "Mr. Langford, if I am not mistaken, I thought local police usually handle this kind of stuff, why are you here? I know you haven't seen Jeremy yet. I have checked the hospital's visitor log."
His face turned pale, when I mentioned Jeremy, then surprisingly he smiled, "I heard you were smart and quite capable from Paul. Did you know he was my Lieutenant and boss, when I worked under him here as a detective in the narcotics unit. I owe him my life and he has told me that you guys are his top priority for protection, so I had to check out the guests of honor." He then became more serious. "I think there is a link between this attack and Jeremy's infection. While he has done many shameless things, probably to get back at me, I know that's just teenage rebellion. He would not have started Cocaine on his own, so I am betting it was planned. Along with the cyber-attacks and the bombing today, the FBI has transferred the case from hate crimes to suspected terrorist activity. I head ATF field operations in this region and I am taking overall command of the joint task force. No one hurts my son or his friends."
I was tempted to just give him the real story right there, but Kevin jumped in, "You should visit Jeremy. He would rather you see him than doing what you have done for most of his life. He doesn't have much more time for you to be on the job."
Kevin is astute in his assessments and he did not hold back. Mr. Langford raised an eyebrow. "I will see him, but I want to bring these people to justice first."
Now I see why Jeremy had issues with him, duty before love. "Sir, if I may, why are you putting your duty to us above being a good father to Jeremy? I know we're the focal point of a recent attack, but I think speaking with your son would be more important. Despite your issues with each other, I think he actually does love you and respect you. We will still be here, but Jeremy's time is limited and fragile. Before there is a country, there are people and families. Your family needs you more than us right now."
Mr. Langford nodded, "I came here wanting to confirm that you boys were not playing a twisted game with us, planting the bomb yourselves to get media attention for the gay rights' cause. By what you have said to me and what you want me to do, I can honestly remove that potential. However, I am not sure if he wants to see me or if he is willing to let me be his father again."
I nodded, "Jeremy is a good friend, who helped me figure things out and I think of him as an older brother. I hope you will visit him, but I cannot push you to do it."
As Mr. Langford left the room; a realization came over me. When he was gone, I looked around my friends and we took out our smartphones again. I only had four words to describe this revelation.
Verne: Jesse Heron did it
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