It started as a regular day for Paul. He got his morning coffee and went to work in the morning. Paul worked at computer store where he fixed customers' computers. At the shop, he would either have to remove viruses, install some drivers, or even retrieve lost files. His shift went by fairly quickly. He didn't have many customers today. As he was getting ready to lock up the store—they usually close up at four on Sundays—a middle-aged man walked up carrying a laptop case. Paul opened the door and let him in. He would later regret that decision.
"Hello sir, how can I help you?" asked Paul. The man stayed looking around for a minute. He placed his laptop on the counter.
"There is something wrong with it," He spoke in a soft monotone voice. "What exactly is the problem," Paul asked as he turned around the laptop to face him and opened it up.
"It started having things pop up on it that I didn't download. Programs, videos, and text files," He looked down at his watch. "Hey can I just leave it here? I know you're fixing to close up shop. I can pick it up on Tuesday."
Paul looked up at the man. "Yeah sure, let me just get your name," Paul turned around to grab a customer sheet when the heard the chime go off when the door opens. "I'm sorry but we are closed for the day, I'm just helping the last customer." Paul announced. When he heard no answer, he turned around and the man that brought the laptop was gone. Paul looked back down the laptop and tried to turn it on, but it was dead. He looked around and realized that the man didn't leave a power cord for it. He checked which kind he needed and looked in the supply closet. They didn't have the one he needed there, and didn't have one for sale in store, either. He knew he had one at his house, so he decided to take it home and take a look at it there. He packed up the laptop in his bag and proceeded to lock up the store.
As he was driving home, he stopped by the drive thru to pick up a quick bite to eat. He had been craving the new wraps they have a Subway so he got him self the Southwest Steak Wrap, three cookies, a bag of Doritos, and a Coke. He pulled up into driveway a few moments later, grabbed the bag and food, and headed inside. He put the laptop down on his table and left to grab the cord. When he brought it back, he plugged it in and turned it on. He grabbed his food and ate while the laptop opened. Luckily for him, there was no password. It came up straight to the desktop. Everything looked "normal" to him at first, then he noticed a folder named "I DON'T WANT THESE FILES." He opened it and saw three files. One was an executable program, the next one was a video file, the the last was text file. They were named 1, 2, and 3. He took a bite of his wrap and figured what the hell and opened the one marked one. A red screen popped up for a few seconds, then closed. He thought maybe it crashed, so he opened it again. An error window popped up saying, "This program is already in use, cannot open." He opened up the task manager window to see what was running. He didn't see anything that wasn't supposed to be running. He shrugged it off and opened the video. After all, he was off the clock and it wasn't his laptop. The video opened up and what he saw was pretty shocking. It was a video of the man that dropped off the laptop. He appeared to be in a small room with brick walls. He was staring right at the camera. "If you're watching this video, then you have saved my life," the man smiled at this. "But in doing so, you've also put your own life in grave danger. I can't explain it here in the video, but the text file will explain everything. God bless your soul." The video shut off.
Paul didn't know what to think. He just started at the screen with his wrap in his hand. He put it down and took a drink of his Coke. He didn't know if he should even open the text file. He reached to close the laptop, but before he could, the file opened. It opened to a blank page. Paul was relieved to see that. Then text started to appear.
"Hello Paul, enjoying that wrap?" Paul's eyes widened. He reached out and closed the window. It just opened right back up. "Now now, Paul, you shouldn't do that." Paul reached out and closed the laptop. He took a deep breath. He had no idea what was going on. His phone vibrated on the table. It was a text from an unknown number. His heart stopped for second. He opened the message.
"The first one was free, that second one will cost you." He dropped his phone on the table and got up from table. This had to be a joke. Someone had to be messing with him. He started walking around the house. He was a nervous wreck. He heard his phone go off on the table. He turned around and looked toward the kitchen. He hesitantly walked back towards the phone. There was another message from an unknown number. He opened it.
"I am feeling pretty generous. I'll give you another chance, but if I was you, I'd open the laptop back up and open the file."
Paul did just that. When he opened the file, there was now more text than before. He started reading it when he realized what was written there was the text that he received. He just stared at the screen, dumbfounded. More words started to appear.
"OK, now that I have your attention here, the real fun can start." Paul was now terrified. He didn't know what to do. He just sat there waiting for the next text to show up. As he was waiting, he let out a yawn. He looked back at the screen and saw new words being typed in. "Don't be falling asleep on me yet now, Paul. It is going to be a long night. Now, go ahead and finish that last bit of your wrap."
He looked down at the wrap. How did they know about the wrap? He asked himself.
"We know all and see all, Paul," Paul looked at the top of laptop and saw the webcam. He grabbed some duct tape and covered it. "What did I tell you about giving you one last chance, Paul? Time to pay for that." Paul freaked out and ran to the front of the house. He grabbed his keys and ran outside. He got in his car and drove away.
He had no idea where he was going. He just drove. He noticed he needed gas. He tried to make it as far as he could, but couldn't risk it any longer. He pulled up to a gas station and got out and started fueling up. He swiped his card and began to fuel the car. He watched the little advertisements they play on the screen at the pump when his turned off. All of a sudden, the screen was showing snow; the kind that plays when a TV isn't picking up a signal of a channel. He heard a voice on the screen.
"Now now, Paul. There is no escaping us," the voice was no voice he had ever heard before. "Listen very carefully, Paul. Normally, we tell our victims they have one week to pass on the laptop to someone and have them run the files. You can get them to run them any way you want to. However, you must hand over the laptop to them yourself. And since you have been so bad, Paul, we are only giving you 24 hours. We really don't like the way you treated us. Goodbye." The ad appeared back on screen as if nothing had happened.
"What the hell!?" Paul said aloud. He looked around, but no one was at the other pumps. He holstered the pump back in holder and sped back home.
When he arrived at home, he had realized he never shut the door when he left. He saw a man coming out as he pulled up. He ran out to chase him, but the man was too fast. Paul walked into his house to see his TV, Blu-ray player, surround sound system all gone. Also gone was the laptop. In the back of his mind, he thought he was off the hook. Someone else has it. Just then, he got a text and he knew exactly who it was from. He looked at phone and, sure enough: "You have to physically give it away. Being stolen does not count. Go find it."
"What the fuck do you want me to do!" Paul screamed out.
A new message came. "No need to get mouthy, Paul. Find the laptop. You have 23 hours remaining."
"Screw this. I am done. You can't do anything to me from wherever you are. You're just some crazy hacker." Paul said as he went over and sat on couch, ready to call police to report the robbery. The last message Paul would ever read came up on phone.
"If you insist."
He heard a strange noise in front of him. Right in mid-air, a drone of some sort slowly appeared in front of him. It was as if it was using some sort of cloaking mechanism. He noticed there was a barrel attached to it. It looked to be a gun barrel of sorts. Before he could get up, a shot went off, splitting Paul's head in two. The drone flew off, going back into camouflage as it did.