Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue.
Alistair kept the same thought through his head over and over as he sat perfectly still, his eyes fixated on the locked door just a few feet away. He had been waiting for too long, and he was beginning to doubt that anything was going to happen. He wondered how far into the firewalls August had managed to get, though that was assuming he’d managed to get through at all. It seemed that August had the capability to be a good hacker, but given that he had legitimate work, Alistair doubted how much time the Portland native actually spent hacking. Likely not much.
But August was still skilled, as Alistair’s quick research had gathered. And since last night, he was certain that August could get through all of his firewalls, given the time.
There was still a lingering bit of doubt in his mind that his hopes for August were real. What if this was just a horrible coincidence? Or even if they had some relation, could it be possible that August didn’t have magic like Alistair did? It was a similar gamble of two siblings having the same hair or eye color – there could be similarities, but that wasn’t to say they were the exact same.
Well, assuming that any of Alistair’s guesses about August were right, it wouldn’t really matter if he had a talent for magic or not. Given everything else that he would have to give his attention to, the detail of magic wasn’t too important for the time being. He had plenty of more pressing matters to give his attention to for the time being – getting out of here, figuring out Sanders’ game and how he’d known about both of them, possibly finding August, and of course, he still had to steal Sanders’ laptop for the job he’d been hired to do.
At this point, finishing the job wasn’t something Alistair really cared about, especially given how boring the whole thing had been to begin with. But it had still been a well-paying job, and Alistair would receive no payment, not even partial payment, until he had finished the job.
While not entirely pleased with the option, Alistair was planning on stealing Sanders’ laptop anyway. It was clear that Sanders had quite a bit of information on both August and himself, and seeing as how Alistair had not come across any of that information while hacking office computers, he assumed that any and all of what Sanders had would be on his personal laptop. So all Alistair had to do was steal the laptop, again, and get out.
And why didn’t he just go get it now? He had to remind himself yet again to be patient. The virus he’d implanted in the system was a few firewalls in, but it would be the perfect distraction to aid in his escape. It would also be the truest test to prove whether or not August was Alistair suspected him to be. Identical twins might still have different fingerprints, but their DNA could be nearly the same. The DNA Identification system in the security here was relatively basic (as it was a rather expensive alternative to fingerprint scanners), and that put the chances of August’s DNA being recognized as Alistair’s to nearly 100%.
It was this reaction that Alistair was waiting to see.
Regardless of the virus being activated or no, August would still be required to put a sample of his DNA into the system in order to work to the firewalls deeper in the system. If the virus embedded in recognized the DNA as Alistair instead, the virus would automatically activate, wiping the entire system – everything from security footage to an invoice on paperclips – clean.
But how long was he going to have to wait? It had been hours, and what little patience Alistair had was wearing very thin. And considering that he had hardly any sleep through the night, he was very, very irritable, and patience was quite honestly, the last thing on his mind.
Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe the virus couldn’t be triggered by August. Maybe he was wasting his time waiting around. If only he could know what progress, or lack of, August had made. Alistair immediately thought of one of the guards that had been so kind as to keep him from getting much sleep through the night. That particular guard was rather chatty, and took great pleasure in taunting Alistair, though he often let valuable information slip through his lips at the same time.
Maybe Alistair could find out some information that way…
“Hello?” he called out, knowing that there would be someone in the security room (which he knew was somewhere on this floor) would be listening. “I get that you’re all taking the whole ‘prisoner’ thing pretty seriously,” Alistair said absently as he sat up a bit in the chair, sighing tiredly and sounding a bit pleading. “But could I be entitled to one or two privileges at least? Otherwise, I’m not going to be responsible for cleaning anything in here.”
That was a message like was likely to not be ignored, as far as things he could have said to get someone’s attention. He kept his head down as he waited for any guard to come, though he hoped it was the one that liked to talk.
It was only a few minutes before Alistair heard the electronic lock on the door open, and it was quickly followed by the manual lock. The door swung open quickly, and in walked the guard that he had been hoping for. The guard’s name, from what Alistair had gathered since last night, was Aaron Hiller. He was a shorter man with a strong build, and though Alistair would have been surprised if he’d ever gone to college, Hiller certainly wasn’t stupid, aside from running his mouth too much.
Hiller gave Alistair a rather annoyed glare. “You can’t just be good and stay quiet like you were?” he asked irritably as he closed the door behind him quickly, and Alistair faintly heard the manual lock click into place.
He gave Hiller a cheeky smirk. “But wouldn’t that be too boring for you?” he asked back smoothly. “Besides, it’s not like I can control nature’s call…”
Hiller stepped away from the door, leaning his hands against the edge of the table opposite Alistair. “Well you’ll just have to hold it, I’m afraid. We’re nearly done getting through all your firewalls.”
Alistair raised his eyebrows slightly. “Is that so?”
Hiller gave a cocky smile and leaned forward a little more. “Yeah,” he grinned. “You know, you think you’re so skilled and clever, but here you are – handcuffed and having your work undone. You’re just pathetic.”
Alistair remained silent, holding Hiller’s gaze calmly. He was used to being called a variety of things in his life, most of which were far worse than being called pathetic. He knew this guard’s only intent was to brag and aggravate him, and Alistair, though rather uncaring towards the conversation, wasn’t willing to give him the satisfaction.
“How far has your man gotten then?” he inquired, his low voice kept in a conversational tone, though his eyes gave a cold glare.
Hiller smirked again. “Down to the last three,” he answered with a sneer. “And he’s sorted through the messes you’ve made between each of your firewalls.”
“Well good for him,” Alistair murmured, doing his best to keep from smiling. If August had managed to get through four firewalls in as many hours, then he was definitely a skilled hacker, and Alistair was rather confident in thinking that magic was somehow involved.
And then there was the matter of the firewalls again. If August was down to the last three, then that meant he was likely to come across the passcode and DNA Identification that Alistair had embedded into the system. It had been a bit of tricky business to get the virus in the proper place, but he’d done a well enough job that his virus blended in with the security codes well enough that it couldn’t be detected, and unless the right DNA was admitted and all hell broke loose, no one would ever know there even was a virus.
So now it was all up to August. Would the system recognize his DNA as Alistair’s, or would it go unnoticed? Assuming it worked, it would likely only be a few more minutes before his perfect opportunity to escape came, and Alistair was willing (though not entirely thrilled) to keep Hiller busy for just a little longer. He would need the man’s key to get out when the time came.
“I may be ‘confined’ here, but what does that say about you all here?” he inquired with a soft chuckle.
Hiller gave a slightly confused look. “What do you mean?”
Alistair grinned slightly. “You’ve had to hire someone from out of state to come fix what I’ve done, because clearly no one here knows what they’re doing. And even then, your boss hasn’t turned me over to the police because he wants my help in other ways.” He smirked coolly at Hiller. “So between the two of us, I’m clearly the more valued person. Someone like you, who’s still just taking orders? That is pathetic.”
As was expected, Hiller didn’t take kindly to that remark, and his eyes grew livid with anger as he clenched his fist. “You listen here, you son of a-“
The lights in the room suddenly flickered, becoming steady for a moment. Both Alistair and Hiller watched as the lights began to flicker again, and then the power went out. The room was plunged into complete darkness, at which point Alistair leapt up from his chair.
It was only seconds before the emergency lights came on, giving the room an eerie blue glow. With the room’s small size, there were only two emergency lights – one by the door and one on the opposing wall – which kept the room much darker than it should have been.
Hiller seemed to be momentarily dazed by the sudden blackout, his eyes taking more time to adjust to the darkness and then dim light. Alistair, on the other hand, had little trouble with his vision, and quickly charged towards the door. Hiller got in his way, throwing his fist in a punch, though his aim was horribly off. Still in handcuffs, Alistair threw up his arms to block Hiller’s punch, quickly thrusting his elbow into the shorter man’s face. Hiller stumble back a step towards the wall, and hands clasped together, Alistair quickly caught the man across the face, hitting hard enough to daze him. Stumbling back and falling to the ground, Hiller was on the verge of slipping into unconsciousness.
A rather uncomfortable pain in his wrist from hitting Hiller from a rather unsuitable angle, Alistair grimaced the pain and quickly checked to make sure he hadn’t done any sever damage. Fortunately, he could still move his arm, wrist, and hand normally, but with some pain. He’d likely just strained it a bit as he’d turned his wrists. Alistair stepped over to Hiller quickly, crouching down and reaching for his phone and the keys that the guard had clipped to one of the loops on his belt. The first key he took was a small one that went to the handcuffs.
Free and gripping his hurt wrist slightly, Alistair took the rest of Hiller’s keys, selecting the one of the five silver keys and trying it on the door. With the power out, the emergency lights would be the only electricity in the entire building. All electronic locks, such as the one that was on this door, were by default switched unlock whenever the power went out – a safety precaution, and one that was certainly working to Alistair’s advantage.
After trying three different keys, he managed to unlock the door and pulled it open quickly, slipping into the darkened hall. There wasn’t a soul in sight on the ultimately abandoned floor. Likely, the rest of the floors wouldn’t be in too much of a panic. Power outages, while uncommon, weren’t too much of a concern unless there was some other sort of disruption as well. And until the power came back on, no one would even know that all the files in the system were gone.
Aside from wiping the entire system clean, Alistair had designed the virus to shut down everything as a backup plan. Even with a system wiped of its memory, certain commands in a given amount of time could restore at least some of the lost files, but there was no guaranteeing what would be saved and what would be lost. Security information was one of the things on the top of the list to be saved, and that was what Alistair needed to not be recovered at all. He’d set a time limit to the virus’s shutdown, so once it would become almost impossible for the data to be recovered, the power would come back on.
It was a similar concept to when a person would restart a personal computer. While the entire system would shut down, the “restart” option was designed to automatically turn back on after so many seconds or minutes. Alistair’s virus did the same thing with the entire build’s power, turning things on in sequence, starting with basic things like lights, elevators, and electronic locks gaining power in ten to twenty minutes after the initial shut down. Everything else would turn back on in the next few hours, long after Alistair Knight was long gone.
After relocking the door to the holding room, Alistair walked quickly down the hall to the stair well. While August might be somewhere on this floor as well, Sanders’ office was up three floors, and getting his laptop was top of the list on Alistair’s agenda. He could worry about finding August once that was done.
Three flights of stairs was hardly any trouble, especially after climbing all twenty the previous night. As he weaved his way down the familiar hall back to Sanders’ office, he wondered what his plan should be if Sanders happened to be in his office right now. Cell phones, while likely having dropped calls at the moment the power went out, should have regained their signals by now, and landline phones still worked. He could cause some sort of distraction if needed.
As eager as Alistair was to get his hands on Sanders’ laptop, he kept his pace calm and steady as he walked. Everyone here, whiles struggling to continue their work with the power out and no computer access, were all within the realm of normal calmness. It would be more out of place for Alistair to dash frantically down the hall than to walk slowly and act like nothing was wrong.
Nearing the designated office, Alistair caught sight of Sanders’ secretary sitting at her desk across the hall, angrily pressing the keyboard and trying to restart the computer. Middle aged but still retaining a look of youth, the secretary, whose nameplate read “Dianna,” hardly noticed Alistair as he approached, glancing in through the door window of Sanders’ office, though he still couldn’t see if the man was in there or not.
Dianna sighed, frustrated, as she relented nearly beating her keyboard, taking off her glasses and rubbing her forehead slightly.
Alistair glanced over to her casually. “Is something wrong, ma’am?” he inquired gently, hoping that he wouldn’t startle her.
Dianna looked up to Alistair quickly, a little surprised to see a man that looked exactly like the man her boss had met with this morning. Her eyes were wide, her lips slightly parted, but no words forming.
Alistair raised his eyebrows slightly. “Is something wrong?” he asked again.
At last Dianna snapped to attention, though there was still a bit of surprise in her eyes. “Oh…sorry, you just look almost exactly like someone I saw this morning…” her voice trailed off as she blushed slightly, glancing back to her dark computer screen and sighing irritable. “Though this power outage certainly couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
“Oh?” Alistair inquired. “Things to do, I’m guessing?”
Dianna gave him an unamused glance. “There’s always something I’m having to do here,” she replied, sighing again. “It’s just that my boss needed some things sent out to a client ASAP, and I had everything typed up and ready to send just as the power went out.”
Alistair gave an understanding nod. “Isn’t that how it always goes?” he glanced towards Sanders’ dark office. “Your boss wouldn’t happen to be in right now, would he?”
Dianna shook her head slightly. “He went out about an hour ago,” she answered as she glanced to her watch. “And I don’t believe he’ll be back for at least forty-five minutes. Did you need him for something?”
Alistair shook his head. “Not exactly. You see, my brother – the one you said looked like me – had a meeting here earlier, though he left his laptop here and I was volunteered to retrieve it. Would it be alright if I just went in to grab it? It’ll only take a minute.”
Dianna paused, unsure for a moment if she should allow him to. Technically, she shouldn’t let him go in, but one confident smile from this seemingly charming young man, despite the piercings and tattoo, was enough to sway her. “I suppose, if you do it fast,” she said with a slight nod. “The door is unlocked.”
Alistair smiled again as he took a step towards the office. “Thanks,” he said, reaching for the handle and opening the door. Just as Dianna had said, the office was empty. Relieved, Alistair walked towards the desk, where he saw Sanders’ laptop sitting next to the two mysterious files. Alistair took all three items quickly, tucking them under his arm as he turned back towards the door. The files would certainly be an interesting read later on.
He paused as he approached the door, noticing that on the coat rack in the corner of the room was the messenger bag that had been confiscated from him last night. He took the bag off the rack quickly and slid the laptop and files inside, shrugging the strap diagonally over his shoulder as he stepped out of the office. He paused again and smiled to Dianna. “And it seems he left this there too,” he motioned towards the black bag and rolled his eyes. “Thanks again, ma’am,” he said with a slight wave of his hand.
Dianna gave a slight nod in reply, and Alistair walked quickly back down the hall to the stair well. The power was still out, though if his virus had worked as planned, it should only be a few more minutes before things started turning on again.
Alistair’s plans might have worked like a dream, but August’s life was fast becoming a horrible nightmare. What was he supposed to do now? How would explain to Sanders what had happened? The chances of Sanders believing that this had all been orchestrated by Alistair were about the same as him believing August was fully responsible. While well aware of Alistair’s skill, Sanders was still a bit of a paranoid man, as August had been informed prior to coming. Tucker himself had said that August was likely the best hacker aside from Alistair Knight.
And Tucker…August groaned again. Regardless of what happened from here, the report that would go back to Cascade Security was not going to be in August’s favor. Even a report saying something like “August Hudson restored files lost in a system wipe that he caused” would be bad for him. He would be lucky if Tucker didn’t fire him for screwing this up, and assuming that he would still have a job when he returned to Seattle, there would a very long lecture awaiting him.
But…would he even make it back to Seattle?
It might have been a bit of a paranoid thought, but if Sanders did decide that this was August’s fault, then he could possibly press charges. Aside from EVERYTHING being gone, countless confidential files had been lost. Sanders could sue both Cascade Security and August, not to mention the possibility of criminal charges.
August was in an absolute panic right now. What was he going to do?
There was only one thought in his head for the moment – get out. While that was likely the worst thing he could do, it was the only thing that was making sense to him. But leaving would only make him look guilty, and he wasn’t! He took a deep breath as he rubbed his eyes. He needed some fresh air to help clear his head. Would it be so bad for him to go downstairs and outside for a few minutes? He couldn’t do anything to fix what had happened until the power came back anyway, and there was no telling how long that would take.
Standing slowly, August grabbed his jacket and messenger bag and turned towards the door. He knew he wasn’t responsible for this mess, but why did he feel so guilty about it? As he walked down the hall, he ran his fingers through his hair, thinking about what sort of an explanation he could give to Sanders. He would tell the truth, but he couldn’t stumble and ramble on. He needed to be precise, but his thoughts were still a jumbled mess.
Just as he reached the end of the hall and neared the elevators, the power came back on. The emergency lights went off as the normal building lights lit up the floor again, and August could hear the elevator working again. He faintly heard the sound of a door opening and closing quickly, and it seemed to have come from around the corner.
With the power back on, August wondered if maybe he should go back to the computers and see what could be done. Even with a total system wipe, there was still a chance that some things could be recovered. He had no guarantee that he could do it, but wouldn’t trying mean something at least? But just as August was about to turn and walk back down the hall, he became aware of someone walking towards him, and as he looked up, he froze.
Going down three flights of stairs was certainly easier than going up three, much less twenty. And with an absolutely empty stairwell, Alistair had no reason to go any slower than he deemed was necessary. Despite his wanting to find August, he really just wanted to get out of the building at this point. And finding August, while likely easier when the two were in the same building, was something that could be done at another time. If there was one thing Alistair was good at in his spare time, it was finding people.
Just as he reached the landing of the 17th floor, the emergency lights in the stairwell flickered as the power came back on. Alistair paused, listening closely to hear the elevators begin to work again. He glanced over the edge of the railing, staring down at flight after flight of stairs he would have to go down. Was that really necessary though? He could just as easily take the elevator now. While the power might have come back on, none of the security cameras would be running yet, and Hiller had been the only one to monitor his confinement. The guard was likely still out of it, and even if he wasn’t, no one would know that Alistair had escaped for a while yet. No one else really knew what Alistair looked like, and Sanders was currently away. So why go through the trouble of taking the stairs?
Realizing he was already overthinking this, Alistair pushed open the door to the stairwell quickly, emerging back on the 17th floor. He let the door shut behind him as he rounded the corner to the elevators, not expecting to see anyone there. His eyes grew wide when he realized he was wrong.
There, standing right in front of the elevator, was August Hudson.
He looked exactly like the photos that Alistair had seen – tall, lean, a mess of blonde curls and blue eyes. It had been unsettling enough seeing the picture of August last night, but actually seeing him here right now was even more so. Alistair didn’t know what he should do, and that was something that almost never happened. This was his perfect opportunity. He couldn’t let it slip by.
He walked towards the elevators at a quick but calm pace, his eyes set determined on his fair haired look alike.
August, who had yet to notice Alistair’s presence, appeared shaken and nervous. He seemed torn between leaving the floor and going back to the security room, which was where he’d just been, by Alistair’s guess. Just as he was about to turn away from the elevators, he heard Alistair’s steps on the carpeted floor, and glanced back quickly. His eyes grew wide as he got a good look at Alistair, and he was stunned.
August knew that this was Alistair Knight. He was the same man that Hiller had been monitoring while he’d been working. But this was the first time that August got a good look at Alistair, as well as it being the first time he saw his face. Alistair was the same height as him, and roughly had the same lean build. His hair was black though, and August noticed his lip ring and tattoo.
But it was Alistair’s eyes…his eyes, his nose, and just his face as a whole that was identical to his own. August was certainly not the kind of guy to spend hours looking in a mirror, but he knew his reflection when he saw it, and Alistair was like a living version of his reflection.
Just one look at August told Alistair that this was going to take quite of explaining to get the look of pure shock off of his face. He could tell that August’s mind was trying to process all of this, and as soon as thoughts began to connect things, he would be presented with a slew of questions. Alistair could handle that, but now would not be the time to play twenty questions about his past.
He walked quickly towards August, who was still gawking. Before the blonde man had the chance to say anything though, Alistair hit the call button on the elevator, and as the doors slid open a second later, Alistair grabbed hold of August’s jacket and threw him into the elevator before calmly stepping in after and selecting the lobby floor.
August stumbled in and caught himself on the wall. The sudden jolt seemed to bring him back to reality, and he looked to Alistair quickly. “What are you-“
Alistair, who by now had a horrible headache from lack of sleep and caffeine deprivation, gave August a harsh glare as he turned to him abruptly. “Don’t ask questions, alright? You and I have a lot of ground to cover, but for the time being the only thing of importance is getting out of this building,” he snarled. “So keep your mouth shut until we get out of here, and I won’t do anything to keep you quiet for good. Understand?”
Utterly lost and still panicking about what he was going to do regarding Sanders, August could now only manage a slight, stunned nod in reply.