Endgame invites you to play a game of chess. I swallow, oblivious to the lukewarm puddle of coffee slowly inching towards my feet. In a brief few moments, I have lost all sense of who I am. The rebellious teen? The smart-ass hacker? The juvenile delinquent? All just facades. All just identities that I wanted to be mine.
I got hacked. It still won't sink in. Maybe it never will. After all, what have they done? Stolen my bank details, deleted my life's work, sold me to the FBI? No. Just sent a taunting little message and maybe, just maybe, made me realise that I'm not who I thought I was.
Don't expect me to play into your hands, Endgame. StringedWings might've done, might've taken it as a battle of pride and accepted your challenge. But StringedWings never got hacked. Stringed was a legend on Sanctuary, an icon, one of only a handful that never got hacked themselves. He'll live on like that. I am the one that got hacked. Me. Raph. There's no-one else to blame anymore.
I can't minimise the message, but I can move it to the corner of the screen and access the windows behind it. I do that, pushing it as far to the edge as possible. Out of sight and out of mind, if just for a little while. I stare at the computer for a minute before rising from my chair. It's not out of mind at all. I switch the kettle on and grab a broom from a nearby cupboard. As I finish sweeping the mug shards into a pile, I hear the front door close downstairs. My mother must have gone out somewhere. I...could go out, too. I prop the broom against the wall and pour myself a fresh coffee, avoiding the puddle on my way to my desk. I don't own a mop. It's not as though it'll damage the laminate anyway.
Most of those posting on Sanctuary seem outraged by Endgame. Looks like he sent a mass message. Doesn't look like he hacked anyone else, though. Why me, then? Probably because Stringed's well known on Sanctuary. I don't know anybody in real life well enough for them to hold a grudge. So chances are that he doesn't live nearby. Even if he does, I doubt he dislikes me enough to attempt to physically hurt me. You can't hate someone if you don't even know them, right?
Everybody on Sanctuary is suspicious, by nature. I know this even as I write the message. It's just another part of being a hacker. A job requirement, if you like. But a part of me hopes that some of them are still willing to be human behind their avatars. A small part of me is clinging to the hope that some of them will live nearby. One or two in particular are at the forefront of my mind as I type.
Of course, the part of me that was Stringed answers sarcastically. Not only will they turn out to be a hacker with a heart of gold, they'll also turn out to be a beautiful girl living nearby. Together, you'll defeat the evil Endgame and then run off into the sunset for a happy ever after. Snap back to reality, Raph. I ignore him. If there's one thing I'm better at as Raph than as StringedWings, it's hoping. I send the message, slip on a coat, and head outside. Besides, girls are way too complicated for me.
Hey. I'm fairly sure that some of you will have tracked down my IP by now, probably know roughly where I live. There's a massive park nearby. If any of you want to talk, I'll be waiting by the statue there.
I replay the message in my head as I walk. This is totally the stupidest thing I've ever done.