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Story: Recruitment by Hannah

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  • Story: Recruitment by Hannah

    BEEP. BEEP. BEEEEEEEP.

    Anthony groaned and slapped the hotel alarm clock off the table. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, realizing that he wasn’t even under the covers. His shoelaces were untied, but only one shoe had made it off his foot. Yesterday’s jeans were twisted uncomfortably around his legs and he stood up to straighten them out. It was when he staggered into his unpacked suitcase and nearly tripped that he remembered why he was in such a state of disarray.

    He had taken the red eye from Severn, Marylans to Las Vegas, the cheapest flight he could find. DEF CON 19 was starting that day, but judging by the ghostly pale face that stared back at him from under tousled black hair through the mirror above the desk, he needed a bit more sleep before setting off. Anthony checked his watch and almost cried. 9:47 AM. That gave him negative 40 minutes to get food and leave. Then he did a double take at the sun barely clearing the windowsill and lifted the digital hotel radio off the floor. 6:46 AM. “Stupid time zones,” he moaned and plopped back onto the bed. “Just a few more minutes,” he reasoned out loud, and pulled the sheets over his eyes.

    ***

    The sun on his eyelids woke Anthony up about a half hour later. “93,000,000 miles away and still perfect aim,” he complained to the empty room as he threw a dirty look in the general direction of the window. He untangled himself from the sheets and rested his elbows on his knees, trying his best to shake off his exhaustion. He glanced up to the mirror and froze as the blood drained from his face and his eyes widened in surprise. There on the mirror was an envelope addressed to Anthony Lee, tucked into the corner of the overly ornate Las Vegas hotel frame. He got up gingerly from the bed and checked behind the curtains and the closet door. No one was there.

    Anthony was stumped. There was no way someone could have gotten into his hotel room without him noticing, was there? He didn't remember the envelope being there before...

    He decided that he must have been too tired earlier to notice it and that the hotel staff had left him breakfast coupons or his bill. Hopefully the former, he thought as his stomach rumbled. He reached up and plucked the envelopes from the mirror frame and opened it. A cloud of perfume drifted out as he pulled out the enclosed note. He squinted his still blurry eyes and read the curly writing.

    Mr. Lee,
    Please excuse the dramatic manner in which I am contacting you, but I hope you will understand the need for privacy.
    I need for you to find a very specific piece of information for me today at DEF CON 19. My employer is very keen to get his hands on this information, and you will be well compensated if you $uceed.
    I cannot tell you what this information is, for fear of our search being disclosed to our competitors, but if you follow these instructions carefully, I believe you will find it a very rewarding experience.
    $unfl0wer

    Anthony flipped the letter over but could find no trace of any instructions. He stared at the name at the end: $unfl0wer. Between the flower imagery and the perfume, he was pretty sure his secret messenger pigeon was a chick. "But," he reasoned as he shook his head to clear it from the perfume, "there's no proof this is real anyway." He ripped the note in half and tossed it in the trash. "Just some weirdo playing jokes." He went to rip the envelope as well but stopped when he saw something glinting on the inside. Anthony carefully turned the envelope upside down and a coin slid out.

    It took him a few moments to realize what he was seeing. When he finally recognized it as a regular game token - the kind used in video game arcades all around the country- he scoffed and ripped the envelope, dropping it into the trash on his way to the bathroom. After a quick shower, he threw on some jeans and was almost out the door when he remembered the game token. Not really knowing why, he snagged it from the fake mahogany desk and slipped it into his pocket. He struggled with the tangled straps of his back pack and almost forgot his room key, but within minutes he was out the door in search of breakfast and a shuttle to the Rio.

    ***

    Anthony stepped off the shuttle, still munching on his bagel. A blast of cold air hit him full in the face as he stepped out of the revolving door into the lobby. He followed the signs for DEF CON 19 registration and had almost arrived at the check in desk when flashing lights caught his eye. He turned to his left and saw a claw machine game like the ones he used to play as a kid in the pizza place. Anthony smiled, remembering how much fun he had as a kid with those machines, when he felt the game token in his pocket. He pulled it out and stared at it. After a few moments of consideration, he walked over to the machine. He enjoyed synchronicities.

    Anthony inserted the token and the claw sputtered into action. He took hold of the joystick and surveyed the contents of the machine. All the stuffed toys were too small to be held by the giant claw. Of course, he thought as he rolled his eyes. Classic carnival trick. He was about to try anyway when he noticed one toy in the corner that was much bigger than the others. He maneuvered the claw to pick it up, surprising himself with how much of this talent he had retained over the years. The claw dropped the stuffed toy into the basket and Anthony knelt to pull it out.

    It was a sheep. Anthony didn't particularly want a stuffed sheep, so he handed it to the cute chick with the green hair at registration in return for his badge.

    Anthony meandered around the rooms of the con, watching competitions and staking out the talks he would want to attend later. He looked at the program he had received at check in and scanned it for something interesting to do. His eyes raced over the page, touching on "Wall of Sheep" and moving on before his brain registered the words. When he made the connection to the stuffed sheep from the claw machine, he immediately set off for that room. An odd adrenaline was starting to pound through him. "So this is a scavenger hunt, huh?" he asked himself. "Bring it on, mystery perfume chick."

    He entered the room where the Wall of Sheep was running on a giant screen. Anthony saw a few of his coworkers leaving and waved at them, declining with a shake of his head their invitation to join them. He turned his attention back to the Wall and caught a username on the bottom: $unfl0wer. His eyes widened and he pulled out his phone to copy the visible digits of the password: 134. The username and password scrolled to the top of the screen and vanished. Anthony stared at the three numbers on his phone and threw his imagination into all directions searching for the significance. After minutes of attempting to decipher the number, he had nothing but more confusion. Shaking his head in frustration, he left the room, opening his program for something to take his mind of the puzzle. He found the map and located the food court. Room 140. He set off in search of a snack, following the numbers on plaques outside of the rooms. Room 131 came up on his right and he stopped as a light bulb exploded in his mind. The password was a room number.

    Anthony picked up his speed and found Room 134. A man was closing the door as he arrived. "Hey man, what's in here?" he asked.

    The man turned around and Anthony immediately recognized him. Chris Hadnagy, Human Hacker. "Social Engineering Capture the Flag. Second ever at DEF CON. Come on in, we have a last-minute replacement about to go." Hadnagy ushered him into a seat and sat at the bench at the front of the room. An Asian man was seated in a glass box at the front of the room wearing head phones and an overly confident grin. By talking to the people around him, Anthony gathered that this guy had to call a company and elicit as much information as possible in 20 minutes. The Asian man in the box was a last-minute stand-in for a guy who couldn't make it. The call began and Anthony listened to the man try to convince the lady on the phone that he was having trouble getting his new restaurant started, City Wok.

    The call ended and Anthony got up, really craving lunch now. Asian food was sounding pretty good. He put on his backpack and was on his way out when the lights started flickering. The people in the room stared at the standard fluorescent lights on the ceiling, inexplicably turning on and off.

    Anthony was staring at the lights along with the rest of the room when someone bumped into him and almost knocked him over a chair. He angrily turned and saw the Asian man from the glass box. The man put his finger over his lips and with his other hand slipped a small envelope into Anthony's jacket pocket. Anthony nearly slapped himself on the chest in his haste to feel the envelope. The contents were singular, a small, hard rectangle with an appendage on one side. He immediately identified it as a flash drive. The lights stopped flickering, but instead of remaining on, they stayed dark. By the time Chris Hadnagy made his way to the light switch, the Asian man was gone and Anthony was left with the envelope and an empty, growling stomach.

    Back in the hallway, Anthony decided to get lunch. He consulted his map and decided on an Asian restaurant in the hotel. He left the DEF CON section of the hotel and scouted out the Asian restaurant. He groaned as he spotted the line snaking its way around the corner of the restaurant. Anthony went up to the hostess at the front, and she asked him, "Name?"

    He replied, "Lee."

    She consulted her screen and said, "Right this way, sir. Patty," she addressed one of the waitresses, "take this gentleman to 29.

    "Wait," Anthony said, confused. "What about that line?"

    The hostess raised her eyebrows at him. "The other half of your party is here, sir."

    Anthony considered arguing with her, but his stomach urged him to go just play long. "Oh yeah," he backtracked lamely. "I forgot." The hostess didn't seem convinced, but she handed the waitress Patty a menu and gestured for Anthony to follow her.

    They headed for the back room of the restaurant, and Anthony caught a glimpse of the back of a head of blonde hair alone at a booth for two. "Here you are," Patty murmured as she waved him back to the booth.

    Anthony approached the booth and said hesitantly, "Hello?"

    A musical voice replied softly, "I've been expecting you."

    "Well, that’s nice, I guess." Anthony looked around scratching his head, realizing that there were no other customers in the back room. Actually, now that he thought about it, it seemed a little odd considering the long line outside. He took another look around and noticed that the decor of this room didn't seem to match the rest of the restaurant. He saw Patty disappear through a very heavy-looking door and heard an ominous click as she shut it behind her. The pit of his stomach dropped through the floor as he turned to finally look at his mystery lunch date.

    Grey, rotten skin and one eyeball greeted him from under platinum blonde hair. The zombie smiled, displaying her three teeth and dark grey gums. "It's been fun, Anthony," she purred as she hefted what appeared to be a very heavy aluminum briefcase. He just stared as she grabbed the handle tightly and giggled, "Night night." He saw her swing it towards his head, and then the world went black.

    ***

    "Operation Room X, Caesar's Palace, is a go." Anthony put down his walkie talkie and slid his card through the lock on the hotel door. He slipped into the room and slid an envelope silently out of his jacket pocket. He stuck the envelope into the frame of the mirror with his rotten grey fingers and left just as quickly as he had entered.

    "Operation Room X, Caesar's Palace, is complete," he whispered into his walkie talkie. "On to Operation Room Y, Caesar's Palace." Anthony silently opened the window at the end of the hall, scaled the edifice to the next floor, and continued planting his envelopes for the few unlucky souls at DEF CON 20.
    Last edited by Nikita; June 4, 2012, 02:29. Reason: (added Story Title)
    "Haters, gonna hate"
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