When the bus arrived Elias had to concentrate to stop his hands from shaking as he passed over his fare. He made his way quickly to the back of the bus and sat there, recounting the steps he had taken, trying to remember whether there was a single point in which he might have slipped up. No, it was impossible. Everything had been perfect, as it always was. The phones were old and second-hand with fresh SIMs sent to an anonymous PO box registered in a fake name. When he’d called he had disguised his voice, managed to get his call passed around the office so it looked like an internal call. The connection to their network was equally perfect and untraceable. Even with those erased logs he was invisible.
Except... these people, the ones behind the letter. They’d found him, they got into his house unnoticed and past all his paranoid measures of detecting if his room had been disturbed. If they could trace him back, get this far, well, so could someone else. He was so sure though, so certain that he’d taken every precaution possible, made every bluff and double-bluff, laid every false trail for the impossible eventuality of someone actually being able to even start a trace. They couldn’t have found him.
At the next stop Elias got off the bus and walked the rest of the way back home. He peered in through the windows and could see the snoozing form of his grandfather, sleeping quietly in his chair. Silently, he let himself back in. Creeping back up to his room, he took out a toolkit from beneath his bed and began dismantling his computer. In took him only a few minutes to find, but he knew what to look for. Inside, someone had rigged a tiny device onto his network card. From it trailed cables to other parts of his system. It must have been some kind of computer by itself, taking in the output of his graphics card, his keyboard, his network connection and piggybacking them on his own Internet connection to destinations unknown. With this, anyone could have seen what he was doing, watching play by play, as he broke his way into the servers of the CTC and had his wicked way with them. They’d have his passwords, they’d know what servers he had connected to; all his secret hideaways on the Internet. How long had this been here? He had no way of knowing. He wanted to tear the thing out and stamp on it, crush it into a million pieces. How dare someone come in here, into his inner sanctum and violate him so thoroughly and completely!
No, instead he carefully rebuilt his machine and turned it on. As it booted into his custom distro of Linux, he took out another, older computer from under his bed, a last generation laptop with a PCMCIA network card. He booted that up and put it in promiscuous mode, allowing him to analyse all the traffic on his network, whether it was meant for his laptop or not. This way, he’d be able to pick up where the bug was sending all the information and track these people down. Elias Heikkinen wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Adrenaline pumped through him, making time seem to slow down as he watched the packet stream for information. Naturally, the data was encrypted but it couldn’t hide the IP address. He did a search for it and found to his horror it was a TOR entry node, a computer part of a vast, public, encrypted and heavily anonymised network of computers that allowed people to anonymously connect to other machines across the Internet. There was no way he could ever find out the real destination. He slammed the lid of the laptop down in frustration.
Just then, the doorbell rang. He heard his grandfather downstairs wake up with a start and fumble with the door, then heard the mumbling of voices too quiet to make out.
Damn it! Elias thought.
“Elias! I know you’re up there! It’s the police, they want to talk to you!”
Panicking, Elias quickly grabbed the letter, the logs and shoved them into his shredder. He pulled the plug on his computer, slid off the sidepanel and quickly unscrewed the harddrives, slamming them into his homemade scrubbers, USB docking stations modified to overwrite disks with random garbage over and over again, so that no-one could find what had been on them. He did the same to his laptop, running a program on it to wipe it clean and then headed down stairs, confident that there was nothing on him they could use.
An officer was waiting by the front door, talking quietly to his grandfather, when Elias came down, he looked up.
“Shouldn’t you be at school right now?”
“Yes, sir. I, I forgot something, I needed to come back and get it.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Heikkinen, this isn’t about that, it’s not the police’s job to make sure kids stay at school. In fact, it is lucky you didn’t, there was an incident with the bus. There was an accident.”
The blood drained out of Elias’ face. “An.. accident?”
“The driver lost control of the bus and flipped it over, luckily no-one was badly injured but we’ve been checking into things to make sure. You were seen leaving the bus just before the accident, is that correct?”
“What? Are you saying this might have been deliberate?”
“I’m not saying anything at this point Mr. Heikkinen, I’m just asking some routine questions. Your Student ID card was found at the scene of the incident, not being present there was concern you may have been injured and wandered off. Now, could you answer the question. Did you exit the bus before the Kamppi stop?”
“Umm, yes, I did.”
“Okay, that’s all. Here’s your card.” The policeman said, handing it over. “Thank you both for your time.”
Elias smiled weakly and closed the door. He looked at the card, he must have dropped it on the bus, the card slipping out of his books from it’s customary position as a second bookmark. He couldn’t help but feel like somebody was out to get him. After all, it would make sense. The spying, the threat, the list of people. They said it was a game. Would it be that much of a stretch to imagine that his name might be on a list somewhere, that someone might have decided to play and that he could be their first target? Before he could worry further his grandfather clipped him on the back of the head.
“Forgotten something, hmm?” His grandfather said, eyeing Elias suspiciously. “Why don’t you tell me what you were really doing?”