2011 07 02: Never Talk to Strangers

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Mission report found.

Mission Name: Never talk to strangers
Date of Mission: July 2, 2011
Locale: Jack's place

Jack lectures Alex about inviting strangers over. He should have taken his own advice, instead.


Alex Jack

Terminal — bash — 80x24.

A command is sent into the small white window:

ssh 79.129.84.54

And the following message is displayed:

The authenticity of host ' 79.129.84.54 (79.129.84.54) ' can't be established. RSA key fingerprint is ec:11:16:71:fb:d2:a3:c1:cd:0f:48:29:7a:92:d4:4e. Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

There's a moment of hesitation coming from the individual sitting in front of the Terminal window. "Yeaaah, no. Sorry old man, but I'm way in over my head to think that I can get you involved without having their snipers pointed at you too," Jack mutters to himself, changing his mind. "What the hell was I thinking?"

He rubs the lower side of his face with his hand, then types: no.

Host key verification failed.

With the one guy he can truly trust out of the equation, Jack idly stands from his place at the computer and makes his way over to the tiny barred window by his bed. The black SUV is still parked outside, but he's fairly confident that whoever is in there won't be getting out of the driver's seat until sunrise. Two of his 'guards' are out on a complicated errand/scavenger hunt, and the one person who's supposed to be watching him had his drink saturated with Temazepam.

His arms are crossed in front of him, and he decides to wait for Alex to arrive instead; baby blue eyes suffused with indecision at the prospect of having to tell her the truth. It's in the back of his mind, but it's really not preferable at the moment. Jack said he would email her this physical address and he did; hoping that she would come. And when she confirmed that she would be here, he was both glad and grim at the same time — if such a feeling could exist.

Alex might actually understand the glad-grim feeling better than most. Dropped off around the corner, out of sight, it's just the teen herself that Jack will see walking towards his apartment, pausing at the stoop outside to double-check the address against a piece of paper and then heading up to deal with the buzzer or knock on the door — depending on what this particular building requires. She pauses just before going into the building, however, indeed making note of the SUV. But when there seems no immediate sign of trouble, she turns back to continue heading inside, pulling out the earbuds of her iPod as she goes, tucking them away inside a pocket.

If Alex had a chance to spot Jack by the small barricaded window, he's now gone. It's nary a minute before he arrives down to the entrance of his apartment building, if it could even be called as such. Tonight, the streets aren't littered with heroin addicts and other unsavory types, though there's the occasional bum wandering down the street.

"Andie," Jack's muffled voice is heard as he opens the scratched up door. "Hey, I'm so glad you're here. C'mon in." He sounds apologetic as he says this, holding it out for her so that she can make her way in.

"Did you make it out here fine? You didn't get harassed or anything, did you?" With one eyebrow raised, he starts to lead her upstairs towards his loft. "I mean, if you're uncomfortable, we can always go someplace else."

"Hey Jack," Alex greets with a friendly grin, her casual-but-chic outfit not exactly blending in with the urban jungle, but then, it wasn't chosen to fill such a role. She slips in through the open door, casting one last glance back over her shoulder before turning her full attention to him. "No, I'm fine. It's fine. Really," she assures him in an easy tone, following him up towards the loft. She still has her purse, so the trip here couldn't have been that eventful. "Just part of living in the big city, right?" She gives a shrug, glancing around the apartment building as they climb, getting a feel for the lay of the land, just in case.

The loft inside his building is probably the only decent thing around, even though this place appears to be decrepit and falling apart. And to make matters worse, it's dead silent. Those who might call themselves Jack's neighbors are probably passed out from all the drugs and booze.

"Yeah, I guess so," the hacker agrees with a smile, as his gaze alights upon Alex. As he leads her to the doorway of his room, there's something peculiar about the entryway. The post and lintel were replaced by brand new wood not too long ago, along with the locks. They stand out oddly in contrast to the rest of the walls, which are yellowing with age. It's pretty bright inside; there's no need to switch on any artificial lighting because it's already on, though his area is a mess. CDs are lying all over the floor and there are empty V8 bottles covering his desk, but for some weird reason all of his laptops are put away. The only glaring thing that's standing out against his old desk is a silver Mac Pro computer, hooked up to a power strip. He didn't make any effort to clean up, because he thought that this would scare her away from him. He's half-hoping it will.

Of course, being scared away isn't exactly an option within her mission parameters. Alex glances around at the room, taking in these details as she slips inside. "It's, uh. Well, I can see you've been busy," she says with a grin, trying to find some way to put a positive spin on it being a bit of a mess. "Don't tell me you've been living on V8 though. I mean, you have actually been eating too, right?" Even knowing what she knows, there is some genuine concern to that question — perhaps even more so considering what she does know. Stepping carefully to avoid breaking any of his CDs or jewel cases, she moves a little further into the room.

Jack pushes all of these articles to the side so that Alex has room to walk. Near the far end of the wall is his twin-sized bed, and beside it are a stack of dictionary-sized used books, most of them hardcovers. "No, I've been living on wheat grass shots and protein smoothies," the youth jokes, as he sets the handful of CDs on his bed. There's a very tiny bathroom adjacent to his desk, along with a small kitchen. The door to the bathroom is closed. Cozy doesn't even begin to describe this loft of his.

"But yeah, I eat when I can." He just leaves it at that, offering Alex the office chair in front of his computer. "So." Jack pauses awkwardly, then adds, "It would have been nice to finish breakfast with you, otherwise I wouldn't have to invite you over." If he's embarrassed, he's hiding it well. "Did you want anything to drink? I have some blood-orange juice and sparkling mineral water; even tea, if you'd like. Not sure you'll go for the V8, unless you're a fan of tomatoes."

Alex finds herself a spot to perch on the edge of his desk, unless he shoos her away from there. She makes it look like she's just trying to stay out of the way and not crush anything valuable, but there's little chance that ended her up where she ends up. "Oh, whatever you're having it fine," she replies with a grin. "I'm really not all that picky." She keeps her purse held close, maybe still on edge from the bad neighborhood? "Anyway, don't worry about the breakfast thing. I knew you were all crazy busy when I suggested it, so it was kind of my own fault," she points out wryly. "But I'm glad you invited me back in return."

"Um, you sure you're comfortable there?" Jack asks politely, pointing at the desk she's sitting on. His blue eyes flash with just the barest hint of concern, and he's holding out the office chair for her still. "That is, you're my guest, so please feel free to do whatever, but you're more than welcome to sit in my chair." The boy then moves over to his kitchen to open the small refrigerator stationed by the sink. He pulls out a bottle of ice-cold Pellegrino and the juice, as described. If he's not spending money on his rent, it's very likely he's splurging on high-quality food, and it doesn't take very long for him to fix her up a drink while he also makes one for himself. "Here," he offers her the juice/soda combination, "And honestly, I'm surprised. I thought you'd run away from me screaming once you saw the front of my apartment building."

Alex can detect his concern about her desk perching, and so she begins to stand up slowly, moving over to the chair instead. "All right, thanks," she replies easily, taking advantage of the moment his back is turned to fix drinks in order to unwrap a stick of not-gum and carefully adhere it underneath his desk, leaning in to stick it far enough back that the hopes the small transmitter will avoid notice. It only takes a moment, so he'll likely catch her just straightening back up to sit properly in the desk chair as he returns with the drinks. "And thank you again," she comments with a quiet laugh, taking the drink. "The way I see it, it's not your fault your neighborhood isn't so great." She gives a little shrug with that.

"Oh, man. I forgot to add the slices of lemon to garnish our drinks," Jack remembers suddenly, setting his glass down upon the computer desk. He makes an abrupt turn to return to the kitchen, and opens up the fridge again. "It's not like me to be this forgetful," he remarks absently, digging through the plastic drawers inside his fridge. "Hey Andie, would you kill me if I couldn't find you any," the hacker quips, even going so far as to open up the small freezer above his refrigerator. "I do have ice cream, if it's any consolation to you."

Alex doubts she'll get so good an opening again, and so, with some feeling of regret, she slips a vial out of her purse while Jack is rummaging in the fridge, and deftly dumps the contents into his drink, stuffing the now-empty vial back into her purse when all is said and done. She's practiced the move a few times, which allows for a certain ease despite her bad feelings about dosing him. "I think I can live without lemon," she assures him with a smile that's almost a little too gentle considering he was only joking about killing him. "I know you have a lot on your mind right now. But, um, ice cream is always good."

"Okay. The ice cream's pretty hard right now, so let me leave it out to soften," the teen remarks, leveling an irate stare at their soon-to-be-dessert. He sets it against his counter, and walks away from it to get his drink. Jack takes a quick sip. "Mind if I ask you something?"

"Yeah, wouldn't want to bend all your spoons," Alex agrees with a little grin, watching him as he returns toward the drink — but she manages not to watch too avidly when he actually takes a sip. Instead, her eyebrows go up and she gives him a curious look at his question. "Sure. I mean, I don't mind. You can ask me pretty much anything." She may or may not lie about the answer, but he can certainly ask.

Jack takes another gulp from his glass, considering a few things before he decides to question her. "I don't really need to state the obvious, but you're gorgeous. So I'm a little amazed by the fact that you'd — I dunno. Want to hang out with me? After just two meetings?" The third drink he takes from his tumbler is much longer.

After that bit is asked, he moves over to the edge of his bed and takes a seat. "What if I'm a serial killer or something?"

Jack? Serial Killer? Not likely — but he doesn't waste any more time trying to make his point across. "I know this is really none of my business, but it's probably not a good idea for you to be inviting strangers over to your apartment next time, even though they're trying to be helpful." There's something awfully ironic about all of this.

Alex gives an almost self-conscious smile as he calls her gorgeous, and she looks down into her own drink for a moment, considering her response to this. "You're hanging out with me too," she points out, as she looks back up. "At some point I guess you just have to make the decision to trust someone." And between the two of them, he's the one who's kind of chosen wrong, but she can't exactly go around pointing that out, even if the whole thing is almost at an end. So instead, she just gives a nod, and offers him a tight smile. "I'll try to be more careful next time. I'm sort of glad I took a chance on you, though. You really shouldn't be so surprised that I want to hang out with you, Jack. You seem like a good guy."

Whatever Alex had said before is totally lost on Jack as he tries to keep his focus on her, but the room is spinning.

He suddenly leans sideways and collapses against his bed, clutching his stomach. The glass tumbler he was holding goes too, crashing against the floor and spilling its contents all over the place.

"C…ant….my…..sp……in…"

Doesn't take long for his eyes to close shut. He's left inert, one arm stretched across the flat blanket cover while the other is draped along his abdomen. It appears that the contents Alex slipped in his drink were fast-acting, because he's completely knocked out — much like the guy who's sitting inside the black SUV outside.

Alex looks as though she does feel really bad about this, though that's probably cold comfort to the now-unconscious Jack. Once he's down, she rises from the chair, moving over to his side to make sure he's really and truly down but isn't about to fall off the bed or anything. "I am sorry about that," she tells him, watching him for just a moment before she turns away to radio Birkhoff with an update. He'll wake up with a sore jaw and several more bugs hidden about his apartment, but no Andie in sight.


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