About the Author
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Copyright 2016 © James Caulfield
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This story is entirely a work of fiction.
No character in this story is taken from real life. Any resemblance to any person or persons living or dead is accidental and unintentional.
The author, their agents and publishers cannot be held responsible for any claim otherwise and take no responsibility for any such coincidence.
It was the morning after a long campaign. The general election results had finally come in and it was clear who had won. Candidates had given their speeches, thanking their supporters. No-one knew the secret behind the landslide win that had happened – not only in this electorate – but also nationwide.
In Sydney, a large-framed man in an executive suit stepped out of his limo and entered the foyer of the DataLink building. It was early, but there was already another man waiting.
“What hour do you call this?” demanded the big man.
“Election day, Gunther,” replied the younger man.
“Ah, well cut to the chase then. I’m busy,” demanded The Gunther.
The younger man gave a deep stare before replying; “My client knows what you did …” he began.
“Did what?” interrupted The Gunther, “You, and I bet your client also, know there is no proof that I did anything. Nothing you can do about it anyway, so there is no point threatening me mate.” They stared each other down for almost a minute before Gunther finished; “Leave the premises before I call security.”
It was a week later when former Member of Parliament Wenda Brewer stood outside the apartment of Dennis Fitzroy. She knocked.
“Come in,” came a muffled voice.
She pushed the door open and looked into the grubby studio apartment. Inside was a mess of clothes, empty food packets and computer parts. Lying on the barely-visible bed was a tall, unwashed and unshaven man.
“Mmm …” he moaned, “what do you want?”
“Mr Fitzroy,” Wenda began, “I am Wenda Brewer, former MP for the electorate of Hume.”
Dennis seemed to stir for a moment at the mention of her name. “So?” he demanded.
“Have you heard of DataLink?” Wenda asked.
“Who hasn’t?” he replied.
“Have you heard of Gunther Garnet?” she continued.
“The CEO of DataLink,” Dennis grumbled. “Cut the crap. A disgraced MP doesn’t go into people’s houses just to quiz them on the biggest software company since Microsoft. What do you want?”
Wenda seemed to be somehow both frustrated and pleased at the same time. “Mr Fitzroy, you have no less than three cases of hacking crimes, possibly six, on your criminal record, and have been fired from over ten jobs in the IT sector,” Wenda stated.
Dennis looked up. “What do you want?” he repeated, but now lacking the hostility from before.
“During my election campaign I made mistakes …” Wenda began.
“You were having an affair,” interrupted Dennis.
“Do you want me to continue?” she demanded. Dennis said nothing. “As I said, I made mistakes – mistakes that were heavily publicised. Yet no-one knows about the mistakes my opponent made.”
“What kind of mistakes?” Dennis asked.
“Bribery. And it’s no secret either,” she grumbled.
“Then why do’‘t we know anything about it?” Dennis questioned.
“I asked you about Gunther Garnet, the man who effectively controls the World Wide Web. The man who owes the government almost a billion in tax evasion. Had I been re-elected, I would have pushed for legislation to make it harder for large transnationals to get away with tax evasion. He obviously felt threatened and made every effort to tarnish my reputation.”
Dennis sat still for a moment before asking, “So where do I come into this?”
“I want you to get revenge for me. However you do that is fair game; expose the bribery, hack his offshore bank accounts, anything,” Wenda demanded.
“And what’s in it for me?” Dennis immediately replied.
Wenda smiled briefly, for the first time since she entered the apartment. “Enough money to start a new life, with aid from ASIO …”
“ASIO?” interrupted Dennis. “Why would they help?”
“Like I said, he owes too much and wields too much influence,” came Wenda’s reply.
“Okay. You’ve sold me on moral grounds. You’ve sold me on importance grounds. But on a personal ground, why should I help you?”
Wenda and Dennis stared eye to eye for a minute before she spoke again. When she did, it was with a professional air that could not be matched;
“Because I’ve read the psychological evaluation done by the police. You’re probably one of the best hackers who isn’t hiding out in an embassy in London, even though you have been caught for all your crimes. You know what I think? I think you enjoy it. I think you like the attention, even if it is police attention for hacking the Bureau of Statistics, or ASIO,” Wenda said with an icy tone. “And here I am offering the opportunity to commit the greatest hacking crime the world will ever see and get away with it.”
Dennis sat still for well over a minute before speaking, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
A day later Dennis waited on the corner of an out of the way street in Canberra. He watched the road with careful intent, scanning every vehicle that went past. After almost an hour, a silver car pulled up right in front of him.
“Mr Fitzroy?” asked the driver.
“Who wants to know?” Dennis replied.
“Wenda Brewer, I believe,” said the driver.
Without hesitation Dennis climbed into the car. During the trip nothing was said. They drove for nearly an hour, taking extremely roundabout routes through the Canberra suburbs until they arrived at a small one storey house, that in all honesty, wasn’t that far from where Dennis was picked up.
“Here we go,” announced the driver.
Cautiously, Dennis walked over and knocked on the door. It opened; “Come in,” came a voice from inside.
Dennis entered and found a hacker’s dream. Inside the small house was a collection of the best computers money could buy, along with an ASIO agent.
“Here’s the set up,” announced Wenda. “Do what you have to.”
Dennis let his hacker instincts take command. He began by checking that the VPNs were active and the security software was online. “I wouldn’t hold your breath,” stated Dennis. “It’ll be ages before anything worth noting happens.”
After almost two hours Wenda was starting to get impatient.
“It isn’t like in the movies,” stated Dennis. “A lot of hacking is pretty dull. You might want to go have lunch or something. We’ll still be here by dinner unless something amazing happens.”
“Is that the best you can do?” asked the tall, lean agent.
“Hacking is an exact science,” replied Dennis.
“Well is there anything I can do to help?” asked the agent.
“Yes, go get take-away.”
It was around the one am mark when Dennis managed to hit the DataLink website’s code. At the very same moment in the bowels of the CIA building in Washington, a late night operative was watching YouTube when an alert flashed up on his computer. Pausing to read it, he reached for the phone;
“Sir, we have a problem.”
Back in Canberra, Dennis was grinning;
“There,” he declared.
“There what?” asked Wenda.
“There,” Dennis said again, this time gesturing at the screen dramatically. “The DataLink website.”
“So?” asked the ASIO agent.
Dennis sighed. “So, we have total access to all their databases, work logs, the search histories of all DataLink’s users,” he explained.
“So, everything,” repeated the ASIO agent.
“Exactly. What do you want to see?” finished Dennis.
In less than a second Wenda answered. “Accounts.”
Gunther was sitting in his office when he received the call;
“What’s wrong?” he barked.
“We think it’s a lone hacker; they have accessed the DataLink Intranet. He or she is accessing your accounts as I speak,” replied a deeply American voice. “While the hacker is VPN protected, there are actions we can take.”
Gunther thought for a moment before he spoke. “What are they?”
Wenda looked at the screen and couldn’t believe what she saw. Billions of dollars invested in black economies and tax havens. Funding from DataLink heading in all directions, to government organisations, criminal and terrorist organisations.
“Is this all of it?” she had to ask.
“Far from,” answered Dennis. “This is what my current decryption gets. With more work I could uncover more …”
“I think we have more than enough for the moment,” stated the ASIO agent. “I need to make a call,” he finished.
Outside, the agent pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled a number. “I have him.”
Gunther put the phone down and looked at the CIA agent standing before him. “You heard that. Carry out your orders,” he instructed.
He waited for the guard to leave before he gave a deep sigh. This wasn’t the first time such measures had been taken, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. But he knew he was playing a very dangerous game, and he had to protect himself. Besides, murders were a CIA thing. He had made very sure that there was no link between him and the bullet.
Wenda continued to scroll through the page. She still couldn’t believe what she saw. She had been trying to bring Gunther down for ages and now … She was a quick screenshot and email away from having him arrested. Just one screenshot away … But before she knew what was happening, the computer screen exploded in her face, destroying all she had worked to find. Wenda turned and caught a glimpse of her assailant before there was a second bang.
Dennis liked star-gazing, so it was no surprise that the ASIO agent found him outside.
“So what are your plans, once this is done?” asked the agent.
“Why?” Dennis queried.
“I’m just making conversation.”
Dennis sighed and thought for a minute. “I really have no idea, my life is just a big mess,” he began. “I can’t keep a job, I have no family or friends, I have a criminal record that will haunt me to the end of days. As if that wasn’t enough, I fall into the most hated category in the country; the homosexual category.”
The agent sighed as well. “Well, fortunately Dennis, it will all be over soon.”
Inside there was a bang. Dennis spun around to see where it came from. In his peripheral vision he could see the agent now had a gun drawn.
“I’m almost sorry to do this, that speech was so warming,” the agent announced. “But, you know, we have to clean up the loose ends.”
Dennis could hear someone approaching.
“I think Wenda has been dealt with,” muttered the agent. “Shame.”
“I’m more worried about what’s going to happen to me right now,” snapped Dennis.
The agent chuckled. “It’s a pity about you, you’re something special, hacking DataLink and all.”
Dennis heard a click.
There was a bang.
It all went black.
About the Author
James Caulfield loves books. His parents were reading him classics such as Harry Potter and the Deltora Quest series well before he could even read. Big names such as Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett share his bookshelf with George Orwell and Harper Lee. As well as having a soft spot for Sci-Fi, James particularly enjoys big ideas and the exploration of bold concepts.
James lives in country New South Wales, Australia with his family. Their home is a pair of converted railway carriages and here they spend their time caring for injured wildlife. James’ first published book, Dark Web, simultaneously won the young adult and adult prizes in the 2016 Goulburn Spyfest short story competition and was written while completing Year 10 at Goulburn High School.
“You're probably one of the best hackers who isn't hiding out in an embassy in London.” Little more than a day after the national election, convicted cyber-criminal Dennis Fitzroy finds himself approached by disgraced MP Wenda Brewer on behalf of ASIO. What she asks is risky – breathtakingly so. To challenge the company, globally acknowledged as the dominant force behind the internet, would be playing with fire in the most dangerous way. How could he resist? James Caulfield's 'Dark Web' is the Winner of the 2016 Goulburn SPYfest short story competition.