The room was dark but that was just the way I liked it. I made sure that all of the windows were covered by the blinds before lowering myself on to my seat, much like I did every night. I brushed the hair from my face slowly, feeling the individual strands through my fingers.
I reached out and my finger found a button. I pushed softly and in a moment I was bathed in the light of the monitor. As that screen burst into life, I reached around and repeated the process with three other screens that formed a ring around me. I sat motionless, letting the artificial life flood my every sense. My skin soaked up the glow and I felt empowered by it very much like a plant must feel when the sun is out.
I began to complete a series of menial tasks such as checking a variety of email accounts as I waited for everything else to warm up. Normally I would sit and smile as the data flashed across the screen but that evening I decided to approach the nearest window and looked out onto the Tokyo skyline. I looked across the buildings and grinned. It looked beautiful but there was definitely something wrong. I could see the sky darkle and I immediately knew; something was happening.
I heard my computers beep and shut the light out again. I looked at the closest screen.
winterfox: You're late...
I smiled at myself and let my fingers fly over the keyboard.
quoththeraven: You're early...
I swivelled on the seat and started typing on the furthest computer. I manoeuvred my way through the system and found myself following the data trail from winterfox's account to her country of origin in seconds. I brought up the census for Norway and sifted through the list to try to find them.
quoththeraven: Fancy a little warm-up?
winterfox: What for?
quoththeraven: Our little competition. Remember?
My computer beeped. It was there. I turned and smiled as a photo loaded up on the screen. I could see winterfox now and I knew from that moment that I had yet another reason to believe that I had the upper hand.
winterfox: You're on.
quoththeraven: Find the DyingOak system. They say that it's one of the best.
winterfox: No problem. Ready?
I made sure that one of my computers was loaded with her main screen and could tell me what she was doing before starting our race. The aim was to get to the deepest part of the system and to get through all of the defences before the other person. I watched as she worked rapidly, much as she always did. I brought up the system on my own computer and started to work, easing my way in much faster than her; I admired her use of force but it didn't stand up to my delicate touch.
I found myself nearing completion when I stopped to check up on her again. She was far enough behind for me to put my plan in action. I left her a little surprise before continuing to do what I did best.
winterfox: Not a chance.
I had been talking with her for a while now - it must have been a few months at least - and I felt like I knew her reasonably well despite the fact that she hadn't told me a single thing about who she was; the only personal details I knew came from my own investigations. I scratched my nose before finishing the job. I brought up a document and typed in my message. I left the file in the heart of the system before leaving and waiting for her to get there.
She avoided my trap like a professional. That impressed me - maybe she was a worthy competitor. I watched her break down the final few walls with a smile on my face. She found the file and opened it up.
"Hey you! Took you long enough! Sure you still want to take me on? I suppose maybe you'll do better next time, eh Annika? Yours, you know who."
winterfox: How do you know my name?
quoththeraven: If you need to ask, you don't deserve the answer.
She signed off just like she always did when I got to her. Maybe finding out who she was was a step too far but it always amused me to find out how long her tantrums would go on for. I activated the timer on my computer and signed off, leaving only a communications channel between the two of us open just in case she decided to talk to me again. I set the timer up to stop when she did so I could go out for a quick walk.
I left my apartment and took in a deep breath of air. I knew that it wouldn't take me too long to make it to the mountains from my place so I set off, feeling the wind rush through my hair. I looked up again at the gloomy sky above me. I put it down to paranoia and set off only to feel my phone vibrate. It was a message from her. She had my mobile number; I was very impressed.
"No worries Sora - I figured it out."
She was good. Not good enough though.