36

“I can’t thank you enough for this,” Madison said to Cindy as they drove out of the city, toward the warehouse.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Cindy replied. “This is so cool! I can’t believe I get to help you on one of your stories. Frankly, I didn’t think you even knew I existed.”

Madison glanced at her. “Why do you say that?”

“Nobody knows I exist,” Cindy said. “It’s cool though. I’m used to it. I’m not sure I’d want the plastic existence I see on everyone’s feeds anyway. I think most people are just pretending to be happy.”

“Well now I feel like an asshole. I’m sorry,” Madison said.

“What? No! That’s not anything against you. It’s just… it’s just high school. Everyone has their little cliques and group chats, and if you don’t happen to fit in, you’re on your own. It leaves me with a lot of time on my hands, though.”

“Is that how you got into computers?”

“Totally. I got a Raspberry Pi kit when I was like eight. Learned Linux and stuff.”

Madison glanced at her again. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Cindy laughed. “Nobody ever knows what I’m talking about. I’m used to it.”

“So what are you thinking?” Madison asked as they turned onto the rural highway leading to the warehouse. “Are we going to need to sneak in to do this?”

“No way to know. I have to figure out what we’re dealing with first. Is there a place where we can get close without being seen?”

“Totally,” Madison said. “When I was here before, I ended up walking the whole perimeter. If we go past the place and then pull way off the road, there’s a spot we can walk to outside the fence that has a lot of trees for cover. Or do you mean like closer than that?”

“Let’s start with that. Maybe we’ll get lucky,” Cindy said.

The two drove in silence a few minutes, and then the warehouse appeared in the distance. It was dark outside, but the facility was well illuminated. Madison sped past the entry drive, and then she pulled off the road. Cindy gathered her backpack from the back seat of Madison’s car and the two girls hiked through the grass and into a stand of trees. They were only a few feet from the perimeter fence.

“Okay, let’s try it from here,” Cindy said.

“What can I do?” Madison asked.

“Watch and learn,” Cindy replied with a little laugh. She took out her phone, started an app, and held the device in front of her.

“What’s that do?”

“It’s a spectrum scanner,” Cindy explained. “It finds Wi-Fi networks. I don’t see any though.” She slipped her phone into her pocket and went back to the bag. She pulled out what looked like a can of Pringles.

“What’s that?” Madison asked.

“It’s a can of Pringles,” Cindy said.

“Oh,” Madison laughed. “That’s what I thought it was, but well. Yeah, never mind.”

Cindy opened the can, removed the foil top and dumped the chips on the ground. Then she took out a pocketknife and removed the metal from the other end of the canister using the screwdriver. She closed the screwdriver and opened a small ruler.

“That’s a cool knife,” Madison said. “It has everything.”

“Never leave home without it,” Cindy said. “Do you have a pencil?”

Madison searched her pockets. “Will a pen work?”

“Sure,” Cindy replied. She took the pen and marked a spot that she measured from the end of the can. Then she folded away the ruler and opened an awl. She pressed a hole into the can at the spot she had marked. She then fished some wire from her backpack, along with some metal hardware. After a few choice swear words, she handed the can to Madison. “Point that right at the main office,” she said. “The end with the wire should be near you.”

Madison did as she was instructed, while Cindy attached the other end of the cable to a card sticking out of her laptop. “Bingo,” Cindy said.

“What?” Madison asked. “What’s bingo mean?”

“It means they have a Wi-Fi network, and they didn’t bother putting a password on it. Idiots don’t realize you can access a network from a mile away if you have the right hardware.”

“The right hardware being a Pringles can?” Madison asked.

Cindy laughed. “It’s the best. I mean, you can buy a long range antenna for a few hundred bucks, but they don’t come with chips.” She picked up one of the chips from the pile on the ground and popped it in her mouth.

Madison watched as Cindy typed on the laptop perched on her crossed legs. “These guys are total amateurs,” she said. “Left the default password on their router.”

After another minute, Cindy closed the laptop and popped to her feet. “Okay, we’re done.”

Madison looked at her. “Done?”

“Yeah. They have a fixed IP address, and I opened a port on the firewall in their router. Anything we need to do, we can do from my couch at home now,” Cindy explained.

“Oh, like over the internet?”

“Yup. It’s kind of disappointing, actually. I thought this might be harder,” Cindy said.

“Yeah, total bummer,” Madison joked.

When Cindy had finished packing up her things, the two girls walked back to the car. Madison did a U-turn and the two were soon on their way to Cindy’s house.

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