Raider received the email from Grubby the day after his release from prison. The very man he’d spent those two years dreaming revenge on, whose testimony had put him there.
He stared at the screen. If Grubby thought he could get out of this with a “Sorry ‘bout that!” email... perhaps this would inspire him on just how he was going to fleece his former partner. After checking the email for those deadly but nearly undetectable viruses that he’d once taught to Grubby himself, he opened it and read.
I know, I blew it. But one of us had to go down. Going to make it up to you. We’re going to fix the 2020 election. Big money. Meet me at Starbucks, 8PM. -Grubby
Raider put aside his first thought—Die, Grubby, slowly and painfully—as curiosity took over. The election. Heather versus McDowell. At one time he would have preached a Democratic sermon. Now he really didn’t care. Or did he? He still referred to Heather Rita Clay by her first name, President Jim McDowell by his last.
He’d met Grubby years ago at a local meeting of Democrats. Both of them were from the extreme environmentalist and anti-business wing, the kind that often starts out in the Democratic Party and ends up following Ralph Nader. The problem with Democrats was that the only group worse than them at winning big elections are the Naderites and their perennial presidential candidate. He’d met a few Naderites in prison, the ones who’d carried their protests too far. He thought they were pretty kooky.
At 8:10 PM, Raider entered Starbucks for the first time in two years. How he loved this place! Rich blends of coffee embraced him; the pure aroma of the House Blend on table one, the walnuty scent of Columbia Narino Supremo on table two, the herbs and pepper of Rift Valley on table three. And the pungent odor of spoiled cheese and garlic from the occupant of table four, drowning out whatever he was drinking. Grubby.
Had he taken a shower these past two years? Grubby looked up. “Raider! It’s—”
“Shut up.” Raider sat down opposite Grubby, who was nibbling on one of the endless supply of carrots he kept in his bib pockets. He definitely hadn’t showered, shaved or changed clothes in a while. Raider was clean shaven, hair in a neat buzz cut care of prison life, with jeans and Star Wars tee shirt.
Grubby wore the same bib overalls he always wore, hanging loosely on his tall, skinny frame, half a foot taller than Raider’s near six feet. Grubby had a thin nose on a pumpkin-colored face, which Raider thought came from eating too many carrots. Both lived in Montgomery County, north of Washington DC, but Raider lived alone; Grubby was thirty, ten years younger than Raider, and he still lived with his parents.
“What do you mean, ‘fix the election’?” Raider asked. “And why shouldn’t I go after you?” Grubby’s face went pale; he knew what Raider was capable of. Destroy the files on his computer? Empty his bank account? Put him on the National Sexual Predators’ listing? All of the above?
Grubby and Raider were rebel programmers. Back when they were partners, they had campaigned for Democrats by day, while Raider taught Grubby the finer points of the business by night: Trojan Horses, spyware, worms, macro viruses, logic bombs, and all the other viral programs used for gaming (fun) and defrauding (profit) major corporations. Together they had made a fortune while laughing their heads off at the major corporations.
“I’m going to make it up to you—”
“I said shut up. Let me order.” Raider got up again, gave his order at the counter (Caffé Verona, full and creamy) and returned. “Okay, talk.”
“Why the new name? ‘Raider,’ kind of boring, don’t you think?” He leaned forward, way too close for Raider’s nose. Grubby’s pungent odor flowed over him.
“Just something I picked up in prison. You want to know more, maybe you should have joined me there?” Grubby leaned back again, to Raider’s nose’s relief, and fixed his eyes on the table, steepling his fingers.
“Any chance we could get you involved with the Democrats again?”
“Not a chance.” He’d had enough losing, and the Democrats too often lost the big elections. At first, that had absolutely crushed him; he hated to lose. After he became numbed to it, it became merely painful; finally, just irritating. Eventually he concluded that Democrats really weren’t that much different than the Republicans. When who won or lost stopped meaning anything to him, he and Grubby had their falling out, although they continued as partners in computer crime.
With politics, you had little control; it’s a lot easier changing a line of code than changing an idiot’s mind about who to vote for. He much preferred computer crime.
“You’ve been following the election?” Grubby asked.
“A little,” Raider lied. He’d been following it closely. The election was months away, but he knew it was going -- [End of Preview.]