In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts for thousands of dollars just for the hell of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move cities every couple of years, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep on living like a machine, all gears and wires.
Then two things come along to shatter his
carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, preppy girl who insists on
looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror
reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s
reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for
something – washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings,
swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.
And when it pulls Brandon through the
looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills
to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who
he’s become. Otherwise he’s going to be stuck in a digital hell until
he’s old and grey, and Emma and his parents won't even know he's gone.
Whoever’s pulling this prank on me is going to regret it.
Okay, so maybe what I’m trying to do is
slightly illegal. Felony illegal. That’s no reason for my laptop to grow
a conscience. After dozens of jobs together, now every time I type
“zoomfish,” the codename for my latest homemade hacking bot, the thing
types back an insult. It’s supposed to run the bot and fill my thumb
drive with five hundred fresh account numbers from BankPueblo.com, whose
fledgling security system is about to get a nasty reality check.
Instead there’s GET SOME SUNSHINE, LOSER and ONLY COWARDS STEAL FROM
THOSE WHO CAN’T FIGHT BACK all over my screen.
It’s extremely annoying.
not worried Bank Pueblo’s added extra security the last three weeks
while I’ve been … distracted … because if they had, the bot would at
least attempt to run, then tell me it failed. Someone jacked into my
computer. Someone hacked me. And whenever I type the name of the bot, it’s taking me for a loop.
Scowling, I type “zoomfis” and pause with
one finger over the H key and my pinkie over the Enter. Then I hit both
as fast as I can, but somehow, somehow in that millisecond between H and
Enter, “zoomfish” changes to PLAY A SPORT IF YOU WANT EXERCISE and I
slam my fist on the desk.
When I find who did this, when I find who’s standing between me and the hundred grand I can get selling these accounts—
My computer starts typing.
YOU SHOULD FIND A DIFFERENT HOBBY.
I clench the desk and look at the keyboard.
Not that there’s anything to see, because if there’s a virus hacking my
machine, it doesn’t need the keyboard to type. Which gets me wondering
what else it’s doing while it’s distracting me with this stupid insult
script. If it got past my government-level antivirus, it could have
access to everything. My hacking bots. My password for the hacker
forums. The list of sites I’m planning to hit after I clean out Bank
I’m just now realizing how screwed I might be.
reboot. I’ll clear out the virus and wipe everything if I have to. I
hit the shortcut keys to restart, but it types at me again, the letters
blinding white against the black screen.
YOU WEREN’T VERY NICE TO EMMA.
My blood changes direction. I grip the desk so hard my fingers sting, but I can’t let go, can’t stop shaking my head no no no no because it can’t know about that. It can’t.
That happened fifteen minutes ago, maybe twenty, and it would take
longer than that to hack through the firewalls on my computer. Which
means this is more than a virus someone uploaded and forgot about.
Someone has a live feed to my room.
I eye the camera lens on my laptop and jerk open the desk drawer to find something to cover it.
I THINK YOU REGRET WHAT YOU SAID TO HER.