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The Serpent

by Emma Mankowski 7 months ago in Short Story
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A short story

Credit: Wikimedia

A real vigilante is hunting down the elite for their crimes against the poor. You are an experienced hacker working under private contract. The vigilante is very much aware of your skills, he tracks you down and asks you to join his cause. You agree.

There is a hacker called the Serpent. She has exposed the dirtiest political secrets, crippled corporations, destroyed sex-trafficking rings, and taken down small governments. What are her motivations or affiliations? No one can be sure. All that is known is that she is unstoppable.

The Serpent does not work well with others. Her work is best done in solitude, in the depths of night. She’s rarely in the same location for more than a few months. Not that she’s running from anything. But some research is best done in person, and her work takes her all over the world. She tried, once, to cooperate with another truth-seeker, but it ended in chaos and she risked revealing her identity. She vowed to never again pair with another individual… until now.

I am the Serpent. I am the one who topples governments. I rely on no one but myself, and succeed at every endeavor. But tonight I am engaging in a secret meeting.

See, it never occurred to me that I would do this again. But this mission is important enough for me to take risks.

I sit in a cross-legged position on my bed. I haven’t washed my sheets in weeks, but that’s the furthest thing from my mind. There’s much more important work to be done. I’m in a basement flat in Edinburgh, and it’s dark outside, even though it’s only 4pm. The floor is littered with clothes and food wrappers. I haven’t ventured outside in three days. A cat mews at the window, seeking a retreat from the cold.

I’m furiously typing on my laptop, pausing only to brush my greasy black hair away from my face. I check the dim display light on my nightstand, reminding myself of the time. The meeting is approaching. In a few minutes I hear a light tread in the hall. A single knock. A turn of the door handle, before he realizes it is locked. I stand, approach the door, and peer through the miniature hole filled with blurred glass. A slide of the deadbolt, a flick of the lock, and he is inside.

Christian Dassault, I say.

He sizes me up. You’re smaller than I expected, he says.

What were you expecting, I ask.

Something… more akin to your reputation.

And what would that be?

He hesitates. A force of destruction, he decides.

I rather think of my work as a force that paves the way for change, I say, but you can call it what you like. Anyway, you’re not here to talk about me. I want the information you promised.

He lifts his hands in defense. Woah, he says, I thought we were working together on this one.

This is exactly what I wanted to avoid. But I thought it might be difficult to exclude.

Teamwork isn’t exactly my style, I explain.

Bad experience?

No, I lie. Just better experience working on my own.

Hmm, he says, nodding. And what is your political goal?

Politics aren’t really my thing.

I mean like, what’s your mission statement? Why do you do what you do?

You mean, do you have a goal?

Sure, I say. Complete and total destruction of governments.

He smiles. Anarchism.

If you want to call it that. I don’t really do labels.

How far does that extend?

Explain.

Is everything in your life without labels?

Maybe. It’s hardly your business.

I’m just curious. He lifts his hands again, shaking his head and smirking.

Can we start?

Yeah, of course. I just thought we could get to know each other a bit first. I’ve heard a lot about you.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen, I think. I don’t know exactly what he’s heard, but it’s clear that he’s either into me or intimidated by me. Or both, which would be exceedingly unfortunate. I make my stance wider to assert my ground. This is your operation, I say. I’ve decided to contribute. Don’t make me regret it.

Christian’s gray-blue eyes widen. Look, I’m not going to be a nuisance here. I have something of value to add. Just trust me.

How do I know you won’t betray me?

Because this mission is bigger than you, or me, or any of us.

Agreed, I say.

There, he says. We’ve found common ground. Are you in?

Of course I’m in. If you can ever stop talking.

Then let’s begin.

I clear the desk of papers and library-bound documents. Christian and I sit our laptops on the glass surface. He opens multiple encrypted documents on his computer, and turns it to face me. My tattooed arms reach for the laptop, and my deep blue eyes scan the pages rapidly. This is good, I say. This is… a lot.

So you’re impressed, Dassault says hopefully.

I didn’t say that.

I’m not a hacker like you, he explains. I don’t have access to private servers. But I found what I could.

It’s a good start, I say. For a vigilante.

Do you have something against vigilantes?

They’re… sloppy, I say after a pause.

You’re never sloppy?

Never, I say sharply. Precision is the only way I can do my job. I question him: How do you think I got to where I am?

Ok, sorry I asked. He seems to regret trying to open me up again. Can I just give you a basic rundown? The briefing I sent you wasn’t exhaustive.

Start from the beginning, I say.

Magnus Nilsson, Christian explained, is running for Prime Minister of Sweden, as you no doubt know. He’s at the forefront of the campaign and his polls are at a record high- better than any candidate in decades. He’s promising change. Nilsson is running on the newly revived Socialistiska partiet ticket. He wants to turn the government inside out, and people are willing to gamble on him. Whether he’s actually going to follow through on these claims, we have no way of knowing just yet. But there is something about him I know for sure.

Dödsbrev, I say.

He nods in affirmation. Dödsbrev. An elite, highly secretive organization rumored to have ties with the Russian mafia. Drug smuggling, crime rings, prostitution, off-the-grid assassinations. If it’s shady, Dödsbrev has a foothold in it. And my source tells me that Nilsson isn’t just passively involved in the organization. He’s their leader.

How do you know this? I ask. You told me you don’t have access to private servers.

Well to start… Christian Dassault is just a code name.

No shit.

I have… ties to Nilsson. Close ties. I have access to his inner circle.

Explain, I urge him. If this is real, then it’s serious. If I’m going to work with you, I need to know that I can trust you. Who is your source?

I am the source, Dassault says. Magnus Nilsson is my father.

Short Story

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Emma Mankowski

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