A Luminations Story
Start at the beginning of the Luminations series
Moved in. Parents gone (Free at last! Thank Gawd or Higher Power of Choice!). Dorm room is closet-sized, but the view is nice and the internet works so it's all cool. Steph showed up about an hour after I got here. She's a total sweetheart in person, just like in her emails, so I'm breathing a big sigh of relief about the whole roommate experience.
She figures she'll pretty much be living in the library when she's not at crew practice. 'All good. I'll try to post updates when I can, but don't expect too much first semester. I might be living at the library too.
Peace out, all.
So, my floor is, like totally geeky.
Did I just write "like totally"? *smacks self upside the head*
Okay. Back now. Here's the quickie rundown.
There's Kim in the first room. She's our RA. Senior. Limnology. That's the study of lakes (but you knew that, right). She goes out collecting eel larvae with one of her profs. Very cool. There for us when we need her. Good common sense. Hosts late-night horror movie parties.
Jan & Mellie. Second room. Otaku. Finish each other's sentences. Most likely to elope to Massachusetts. Hell, they already sometimes bicker like an old married couple and we've only been at UNH for like three weeks.
Third room. Me! Short spunky redhead (hey, everyone keeps labeling me that way). Steph. Tall spunky pre-vet major and rower. Total sweetheart. Lives in the library.
Fourth. Rachael. Resident tavern wench. LARPer. Roommateless. Her roomie transferred to UMass to be with a boyfriend. Her loss.
Fifth. Cathryn. Electrical engineer. Carries a digital multimeter around. And Kelsie. Kelsie's the quiet one (*scary music*). She's nice, actually. Stays in her room plugged into her iPod a lot, tho.
So that's us! Geek girlz of 6A rule! Peace out, yo.
Wow. Really need to update this thing more. Stress.
Did something kinda crazy today. Drove down to Framingham to help someone out. Sorry, can't give details. Everything's cool. Just a little jumpy. I'm on AIM if you wanna chat. Probably can't tell you much more there either, but could use the company.
Bad shit happened. No, can't talk about it. Not anything at school, tho. Things are good here. It's just. Damn. Sorry, I can't. Not here. Love ya all. Peace out.
THIS BLOG WAS HACKED. IF YOU READ MY POST FROM LAST NIGHT IT WAS A HOAX. I DID NOT POST IT.
Okay. I think only a couple of you saw it. Don't look for the post. I deleted it. I'm really sorry if anyone else got scared, but I have no idea who did that or what kind of sick joke was going on.
But I will find out. I'm good at finding things out. And I'm pissed off. Son of a bitch has no idea who he's messing with.
Kelsie's boyfriend has a work-study job with the UNH Information Systems Department, where he babysits a bunch of servers all night. Greg has time on his hands and he's the best hacker I could find on short notice. He's also in my criminology class, and he plays with Rachael's LARP group. Which makes him pretty close to family around Hallway 6A.
I was still taking a chance. I've made enemies, serious ones. They've never come looking for trouble. I'm small-time as far as any of them know, and it's fine with me if they've got better things to do with their time than track down a college freshman who used to have a job handling paperwork for a private investigator.
I still do a little investigating of various things these days, but I've always kept my new friends at UNH out of that mess. That may not be the case anymore. But I've hit a wall, and I can't find out the things I need to without some help.
I knocked on the door to the server room, quietly, then louder when I noticed Greg had his earbuds in. He finally stood up, clicked the mouse a couple of times, and came over to the door and let me in.
"Heya Katy!" Greg towered over me. He was a beanpole topped with what Steph had dubbed a Chia-head. The 'fro added another four or five inches to his height and gave him a totally absurd appearance that he reveled in.
I hugged him, not one of my pounce-tackle-hugs, but the gentle one that let him know I wasn't in a silly mood. He picked up on it immediately. People have this stereotype about geeky guys being oblivious when it comes to emotion, but Greg's not like that. He can even read Kelsie, something the rest of us in 6A find damn near impossible.
"Lemme make some tea." He didn't wait for me to accept. He just swung a chair out from behind a desk for me. I heard running water and then a microwave hummed to life from within the doorway Greg had disappeared into.
"Earl Grey?" Greg's long stride brought him across the room in a couple of steps, and I took the warm mug with the UNH Wildcat silhouetted in blue into my hands. I sipped the tea and burned the tip of my tongue.
"So, what's up?" Greg had seated himself beside me and was opening up his laptop.
I got right to the point. "I want your help finding out who hacked my blog."
He nodded. He'd expected this. "Got the entry on you?"
I dug my flash drive out of my purse and passed it over to him.
He let the drive load on the laptop and then opened up the file. He spun in his chair so that we could read it together.
Don't know if this is on the news yet. We're in lockdown. Shooting on campus. It came over the emergency text network the school set up and on the school email.
We're okay. Jan, Mellie, Rachael, Elizabeth, Cathryn all here in my room. Kim went down to check with the RA one floor down. We sent Steph with her. Kelsie's in Durham. We texted. She's staying away til it's over.
I'm armed. We'll be okay.
Kim on my cell. Gotta go.
"Campus shooting hoax. That's bad shit. I'm gonna start with the IP and we'll go from there. Can I ask you a couple of questions while we go? I mean you've probably thought all this stuff through, but I wanna see if we're on the same page."
I nodded. He clicked a couple of times.
I nodded. That had been my first question too. "No idea. The rest of the names he lifted from an earlier post. Why would he add one?"
"Sorry. That was sloppy of me. Yeah, could be anyone."
"We can consider the male pronoun to be generic for purposes of the conversation. Oh, and I traced the IP. Not much help, though. All I can say is it came from the school's network."
Greg looked up from the screen. "You have anyone who'd want to fuck with your head, Katy?"
I had plenty. But I didn't know Greg well enough to go there. "None here at UNH."
"So maybe it's random. If it is, it's a pretty poor hoax. You've got what? Like, six people on your list of friends? And you caught it a few hours after it posted. How many people actually saw it?"
I took another sip of tea. The temperature was tolerable now, and I swallowed a warm gulp of it. "Three. Steph, Mellie, and a friend from out of town. They all called or texted. I had the entry down within a couple of minutes of getting the first call."
I shook my head. "No, not exactly. I changed the setting to make it a hidden entry. I can't even see it unless I go into my control panel and toggle invisible entries. I figured I might need to keep it as evidence in case we figured out who did it and I wanted to take legal action or follow up with the blog hosting company."
"But you haven't brought it to their attention yet."
"Nope. No credible evidence that I didn't post it myself. That's what I want you to find. Can you pull it out of server records?"
"Maybe. I'll need some time."
I stood and put down the mug. I moved to hug Greg again, but he held his hand up.
"And I've going to want a favor in return."
"Oh, really?" I grinned. "Would Kelsie approve?"
He smiled a little bit. "This favor is all business, Katy. I need your help for some detective work."
"That is the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life!" I was looking over Steph's shoulder at her homework. She'd placed out of Intro Chem thanks to a 5 on her AP exam and she'd landed in second-semester Orgo.
"Actually, it is pretty horrible, Katy. It's a chlorofluorocarbon. These little guys are eating up the ozone layer and making the big bucks for the companies that sell all that SPF-50 we all wear to the beach these days." Steph was copying the structural formula into her notes line for line.
"Hey, speak for yourself! SPF five zillion wouldn't keep my Irish ass from turning red as a lobster! I've got my own SPF factor. It's called staying indoors. Or jeans and a long-sleeved shirt when option one isn't possible."
My cell rang, or rather blasted, the opening notes of "Who Are You?".
"Hey, it's Kelsie's boyfriend!" Steph spent so much time out of the gossip loop that it was fun to confuse her when the chance came up.
"Hey, babe!" I suppressed a giggle at Steph's reaction. I hadn't spoken to Greg in a couple of days. I had a paper due, so I hadn't been thinking about the blog entry very much, and I wasn't sure how long Greg needed to look into things on his end.
"Hi Katy." He sounded serious, so I settled down and sat at my desk. "Okay, I think I have something on where that entry was posted from, but there's another angle on this that I need you to think about. How secure is your password on that blog?"
"As secure as I could make it." I'd learned a bit about network security working for Chester Hall's private investigation firm. I was pretty up on the do's and don't of firewalls and passwords.
"Okay. And you've changed the password since the hacking, right?"
"Okay. About the old password. Did you reveal it to anyone? I mean anyone at all. Best friends? Roommate? Family?"
"Ever send it in an email or a text or an IM? Even to yourself?"
"No. Definitely not." I couldn't help a quick glance over at Steph. She'd buried herself in her work again, her curly blonde hair just brushing her textbook as she stared down at her chemical equations.
"You use virus protection, I assume?"
"Yeah. Supposedly the best money can buy. Where are you going with this, Greg?"
He paused a second and then told me. "I'm concerned your laptop is infected with a keystroke logger virus. It's one common way of extracting passwords."
I turned the idea over in my mind for a second.
"It's possible," I admitted. "The hackers are always trying to stay a step ahead of the security companies, right? But I'm pretty good about keeping everything updated."
"Which is why I'm concerned that it got placed there by someone with direct access to your computer."
I looked at Steph again, longer this time. She still didn't notice.
"All right. I need to think about that a bit, okay?" Actually, what I was trying to tell Greg was that I didn't want to think about it. I would, though.
Greg didn't push the issue, but he wasn't done. "Katy, can you meet me tonight around ten? I can switch with Stevie to get off work early."
"Sure." I said. "Is this about your mystery or mine?"
"It's about both." But that's all he was willing to tell me on the phone.
"In here." Greg fumbled with a key. The entranceway was lit only by the faint glow from one of the blue lights on one of the campus police emergency phones just outside of the narrow driveway. A sign marked the building as part of the University of New Hampshire's Earth Science Department.
Greg got the door open and held it for me while he fished a flashlight out of his backpack. There were two vans in the garage, and a jumble of ropes and nets hanging from every wall.
Greg closed the door behind us.
"These are Kim's keys," Greg explained. "She's been helping me."
"Helping you with what?" I glanced at the array of dip-nets and seines. "Ice fishing?"
"Investigating. Look, Katy, only a couple of people know about this. Kelsie doesn't even know all the details. But you trusted me to help you with this thing you got into. Now I'd like to trust you with something of mine. If you don't want anything to do with it, just say so any time, okay?"
"Okay." He took a deep breath. "You know my brother?"
"Not much. Never met him. He graduated here a year or two ago, right?"
Greg nodded. "Year before last. Ben went into the Marine Corps and he's manning a checkpoint in the Green Zone now. But when he was here he ran into some trouble with some bad people. They were passing out GHB to punks looking to get lucky at parties. When he went to the administration, they tried to drug up his girlfriend and rape her. She was smart enough to keep that from happening, but five of them jumped Ben a week later and beat the hell out of him. They laid low after that. The administration got a couple on a drug raid, and Ben healed up, got his degree, and headed for Paris Island."
"And most of the jerks are still here, huh?"
Greg nodded. "Yeah. They're like fuckin' cockroaches."
"Who are these guys? I asked. "Frat boys?"
"No way. Like Bush and Kerry at Yale?"
"Yeah. Sorta. Two more things you should know. First, word is they've got some hackers in the crew who have backdoor passwords to the school network."
"You think they were involved in hacking my blog?"
"They could have. I can't back that up, but they would have been capable of it."
"Okay," I said. "What else?"
"They've got a secret meeting tonight in their subterranean lair."
I grinned. "No way."
"Way." Greg smiled back. "The story goes that they meet in a buried tomb under the little historic burial ground that's fenced off over by the football field. Now, the idea that there is really a hidden tomb under there is ridiculous, but the drainage tunnel under the library points right in that direction, right?"
"Okay, I'm up for a look, at least. So what are we doing hanging around in the Limnology garage?"
Greg smiled and shined the flashlight at a pile of what looked like rubber boots and rain slickers in a corner. "Hip-waders."
There was a metal grate over the tunnel, like the bars you'd see in some old-time TV western jail cell. We got into the water and ducked under it where some of the bars were bent back. It might have been by the action of ice and water, but somehow I doubted it. College campuses are riddled with secret places, and none of them are really all that secret.
Greg had a bit more trouble getting through than I did, and he ended up with some icy water soaking his shirt, but he whispered that he'd be fine.
We were going in blind. It was better than alerting anyone inside by coming in with flashlights.
I reached over to Greg and held onto his hand. It was cold, bony. We started sloshing through the water. It was up to our knees, a little deeper in some places. We moved slowly. There was a faint bit of light behind us from another one of those ubiquitous emergency call boxes that are supposed to light the way home for girls who have partied a bit too hard. It was lighting the way straight into trouble for us, but even that light would fade another hundred yards in, sooner if the tunnel turned at all.
Suddenly there were voices ahead. Stage-whispers. Another few steps and we realized they weren't speaking English. A few more steps still, and I recognized the language: Latin. Rumors of its death had apparently been exaggerated. It occurred to me that I should save that one for Nancy. She'd appreciate that bit of humor.
While I was thinking about jokes, Greg was pulling out a flashlight and a camera. I didn't realize what he was doing before he'd lit up the place and started shooting video. We'd never discussed what we were going to if we found anything. I'd assumed we'd watch quietly. Greg apparently had different ideas.
People were scattering in front of us. One came at me. Greg's light just showed a black hoodie covering most of the guy's face and he shoved me into the wall. I kicked out and got him in the kneecap, and he took a header in the water.
But now I could see Greg grappling with another guy. I went to help Greg, and hit a deep spot in the water and stumbled. I saw Greg get knocked down, but the second guy turned and ran before I got back up. We were alone by the time I got to Greg, who was okay aside from a split lip.
"That was stupid." He said it so I didn't have to.
He shone the light around. The room was some kind of pump station fitted out with a folding table and some chairs. It wasn't exactly the secret lair we've been envisioning, but the two objects on the table looked like they bore further investigation.
One was some kind of knife.
The other was a cloth bag. A cloth bag that was moving.
I went for the bag. And got bit.
"Ow! Damn it!"
Greg just started laughing. And reached down and picked up the grey kitten that had occupied the bag by the scruff of the neck.
"I'm on ur altar, bein ur sacrifice…" He broke into even more laughter.
"Cute," I snarled. "You realize I might have to get a rabies shot for this, right?"
That just amused Greg even more. The kitten, of course, was curled up and purring in his hands.
"Fine. So what about the other thing?" I picked up the knife.
"Oh, that?" Greg said. "It's a tanto. A Japanese dagger. Hey, it might be an antique or something."
But I'd already found the seam on the hilt and started unscrewing it. I turned to face Greg and held it up to show him the USB plug sticking out of where I'd removed the end of the dagger's pommel. Greg's eyes widened.
"Somehow, I don't think it's an antique. In fact, I'd go so far as to call this… a clue."
By then we were both laughing.
Story and image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2008