The Other Hacker

Astrid and Zack reached Sky's office door with three minutes spared, and Astrid banged on the doors. “Madison! Can you open the doors?”

A muffled, faint voice called back, “Astrid? Astrid, you're there?”

Sky's voice rang out, “Madison, get back!”

“Get down!” Zack grabbed Astrid, and shoved her aside, before striking the door with his fist. A blast of fire, and there was a molten hole through the metal doors.

“I knew it,” Sky sighed, as he leaned against his desk.

“I didn't expect someone to break in at the last moment,” said Blackray's voice, and Astrid and Zack saw him on a large screen behind Sky that was framed into the wall.

“You're the guy who did this?” said Astrid, stepping forward to glare at the face. Zack hurried over to Sky, anxious.

“No need to get angry, little lady. I was wondering where you went, and told my men to keep an eye out for you, but looking at the stats of your Gladiator skills, I misjudged your strength. Except maybe against Sawyer.”

“I wonder,” said Sky, getting out of his seat with Zack's help. “You even have the Dragon Knight with you on your side.”

“Of course.” Blackray's voice became more smug.

“So that's really true?” Astrid demanded. “You had the Dragon Knight join you people?”

“Does that make the Synchron Organization jealous?”

At that moment, Weston arrived, jumping through the door. “What happened?”

“It's okay,” Sky said to him. "No one's hurt. Just that the door was blown."

“Have you decided, then, Director?” said Blackray. “It's close to one minute now. I'd like you to decide on this very carefully, and I'm sure you can make a good decision for us. The Core's destruction, or Euphoria's acceptance.”

Sky hesitated.

“It's the last minute,” said Blackray after a moment.

Then the screen buzzed, even startling Blackray himself.

“What?” He sat up, startled. “A hacker tryng to save this company on the last minute? That's foolish!”

His fingers reached for his keyboards. Then all lights all over the Synchron Organization flashed on. On the ground floor, the doors clicked open and the people trapped inside were able to pushed them open.

Sawyer glanced up at the ceiling in surprise as the lights on the floor he and Mikey were sparring in turned on, too.

Mikey stopped and frowned. “Did he accept it?” he muttered.

Carter scowled. “If he did, I'm disappointed.”

Mikey noticed him, then yelped. “Whoa, you were there all along? Since when? I thought you went with the other three!”

“No, I decided to watch you, Cross,” Carter shrugged.

The sound of smashing glass turned their attention back to Sawyer - just as the saw him falling backwards out the window.

"Hey, wait a sec!" Mikey yelled, giving chase, but when he looked out the window, Sawyer was gone.

Back in Sky's office, Zack, sitting in Sky's chair, fingers hovering over the keyboard, looked up at the large screen, splitting it in half to show a new window. Then he spoke in a steely cold tone that turned everyone's attention to him. “Everard Gaynor, eighteen years old, known as the malicious hacker Blackray, in the underground. You've hogged a lot of funding for the EAS, an organization of people who admire Gladiators. But for your goals, you've broken into the Synchron Organization with your talent in hacking?”

The new window showed the profile of a new face; one of a young man with cold eyes who frowned at the camera. Beside that, a name and several details appeared in a row.

“Who are you?” asked Everard Gaynor, staring at Zack.

Who slowly smiled, despite his exhaustive state.

“Zachariah Kagan,” said Zack. “Another hacker.” He placed his holotop, which was connected to Sky's computer, onto the table. “I've taken over the control of the Synchron Organization. You can no longer control the building, and the Core is functioning normally.”

“A counter-attack?” Everard Gaynor continued to stare at the screen, but they still couldn't see his face. “So you know my face now.” He reached up and remove the mask. The same face, but he was grinning, as if he still had something up his sleeve.

Sky stepped forward. “Zack, I've reached my decision.”

“Okay, go ahead,” said Zack.

Looking at the screen and at Everard Gaynor, Sky said, “We accept your terms.”

“What?!” gasped Weston.

“Wait – is-is that okay?” gasped Madison.

“We will not pretend anything, and we will accept the EAS as a sponsor for the Gladiator Games,” said Sky. “In three hours, it will be announced.” He looked at Blackray firmly. “So in the meantime, I'd like you to not cause too much trouble.

“Is that so?” said Blackray. “Then I'll remind you that if you break your promise, we will make sure you get a suitable punishment.”

“Well, you heard him,” said Zack. “See ya.”

He punched a button, and then the screen blacked out.

Zack slumped against the desk, heaving a deep breath.

The End

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