Holey Black zipped his laptop bag shut and moved out of the room without uttering a word.

Just then Steve Bloomer uttered, “What’s the big announcement Xabber?” The room was dead silent for a few minutes. Xabber Notch finally spoke, “What’s the use of an organization which is illegal, makes no profit and pays taxes to the underworld?” The other five bodies in the room were stone faced. Xabber continued, “The new bill has been approved. Our nightmare is real. We should split. We no longer stand a chance in front of the Demento Clan. The government is monitoring every packet. Yet, they’re faster than them. DC is faster than us. More informed, knowledgeable and dangerous than we are. Also, according to my sources, the police has started nabbing suspects. Anyone who is or has any record of carding or other related cyber-crimes will be held captive. Regardless of whether they have caused more damage than they themselves expected or not, they will be questioned. Even the wanna-be criminals are getting picked off. Even script-kiddies won’t go untouched. Cartels making huge profits won’t be spared. Not just this city, but this whole country isn’t safe for anyone like us.” None of them could utter a word. The silence in the room was dense like frozen butter. Xabber spoke in a low tone, “I would advise you all to find a new and effective skill for making money in some distant land. Your new identities, your passports and visas for Phookland have already been given to you. From there you can go to any different place, anywhere but here. Live anywhere but in Berment City. If one of us gets caught and talks, none of us will be safe. Sooner or later we will get spotted and jailed. We’ll have to keep low profiles. Being your employer and as a good friend, this is all I can do. I cannot get you a new job, but I can enable you to find one. You were more than just employees to me. To me, you were my family. But, unfortunately, I have to break up our clan.” Just as he finished this statement the room started getting damp. The ceiling started leaking. Kriss’s bald head started getting wet with drops of water. Krishnakant ‘Kriss’ Sahlberg, sans hair, and sharp eyesight, wearing dark framed spectacles was all work and no play. He was a serious hacker in his late 20’s and a professional systems administrator before he joined Prudentech Consulting Pvt. Ltd – the company lead by Xabber. The company was on paper a white collared IT consulting firm but in actuality was involved in nothing but Black Ops. The dripping water drops slowly united on his forehead and then fell to the floor. The floor was covered with a thick 10-inched layer of white sand. Sitting on the floor were CAT5-E OptiLink white cables and 3 Hubs covered in a green plastic box. This clan with Baystack equipment got a Baywatch-babe skirt-hacking feeling when they were breaking into corporate networks. The water continued dropping from the ceiling. The artificial bed of thirsty sand was experiencing its first rainfall. The amount of water leaking gradually increased. It was almost raining now from the ceiling. Rayman, the second youngest of the group ran upstairs to check what was wrong. The notorious alcohol addict, Abrar Khan, staying above their room had forgotten to switch off the water in the bathroom sink. Khan’s reputation was more tarnished than the Thai hooker whom he banged every fortnight. Xabber and his team mostly operated out of this motel called ‘Isparta son ihtişamını’ which means ‘The Final Grandeur of Isparta’ in Turkish. The construction was cheap enough to pass a light through the walls. The rent for rooms was cheaper than the behavior of the receptionist. You could check in as an Anthony and check out as an Anonymous. The place was perfect for downloading track details of the magnetic strips of debit and credit cards, for cloning new RFID cards and for collecting PINS and passwords from phished accounts. Rayman switched off the tap and started moving out of the room. Then he discovered Abrar Khan was shot dead. He had a DVD in his hand. Rayman lay down on the bed. Rayman didn’t look much affected by this scene. Rayman was a road-side music/movie pirate and a gamer with rookie hacking skills before he joined Indigo Vision Pvt. Ltd. headed by Xabber Notch. He was known for stealing virtual currency from fellow gamers and was a known name for buying and selling weapons, goods, etc., in the MMORP Games. Rayman was used to operations with raids both in the real and in the virtual worlds. Enemies attack both worlds. Some raids made him lose DVDs and others made him lose e-currency and gaming accounts. He was unaffected by all forms of chaotic situations in both worlds. He went back to the bathroom, this time with his shoes kept out of Abrar’s room. He wiped away his fingerprints from the door knob and the water tap with his handkerchief. He took the DVD with him and went back to the room in the cheap motel. “There’s a serious problem upstairs, and we can’t even call the police. But I’m sure they might be on their way,” said Rayman. He handed over the DVD. “What is it?” the group asked him. “Too much to explain. Grab a laptop and come with me upstairs,” said Rayman. Rayman risked the foolish act and took the other five people upstairs. “DNA traces. Leave your shoes outside!” exclaimed Rayman. They checked the scene and decided to check what was inside the DVD before informing anyone. “We should not watch it in here,” said Kriss. “Relax, the Khan won’t mind,” said Chag Mison. The DVD started to play. A blurred, unfocussed picture of an old man who was wearing a white coat, with white short hair and a white beard appeared. It was brought in focus and he started speaking, “This dead man is a traitor. Anybody who tries to cheat us, expose us, or any of our members who tries to backstab us will soon get a DVD like the one you found in Abrar’s hands. Check for my message on Channel 9 at twelve noon…” he took a long pause before continuing, “…daily. For one week. We do not forgive. We do not forget. We might not be Legion, but putting bullets in your head is like playing with Lego blocks for us. So don’t cross our path! Expect us!” “What is all this Rayman?” asked Ariel, “Is this one of your new practical jokes, Ray?” “Yeah, the man kind of looks like you. Is he your grandfather?” mocked Chag. “Does this dead body look like a clown to you?” said Rayman rhetorically. “I always thought Abrar was involved with a drug cartel. But the MLE info he gave us was quite good. I think his chief was the one on the DVD,” said Chag. “Bloomer, do you remember recently how I told you about the North Korean Hackers? How one of their money making channels was through plain extortion?” said Xabber. Bloomer responded, “Yes, I do remember.” “This man onscreen is Gayaquddin Qutub, also known as GQ. He is the head of VCG, the Vicious Circle Generator, and the founder, establisher, and chief of the North Korean Hackers. He was a software engineer by profession decades back in Korea. Being a very greedy and ambitious person, he found illegal activities more profitable than a 9-to-5 job. E-xtortion, smuggling of electronic goods, export of microchips to third world countries in stolen laptops, PDAs, microprocessors for super-computers (used in controlling high-range missiles) and much more became his main profession. He got quick rich. We both worked together in North Korea writing boring programs. We are almost the same age. Sixty. Quite old for real world crimes. That’s why he has re-entered Berment City’s CyberZone and is using the Internet as a means to get richer. His people are now feared by banks and various financial organizations. Wire transfers are no longer safe if he is around. Every time he needs to raise money, GQ secretly hires or blackmails new, young and talented hackers to attack a target’s bank account. Most of them are students in their late teens. If that proves to be too tough, then he makes the hackers encrypt the target’s data and extorts them for money. His past targets have included: banks, software companies, rich local users and every profitable computer node. Failing to comply to Gayaquddin Qutub’s terms results in the loss of both data and lives. In the past he used to execute electronic extortions from giant corporations, sometimes by stealing confidential information and extorting the companies and other time by threatening a DDoS. To date there have been hundreds of Fortune 500 companies who have been trapped by them.” Xabber paused and then continued, “Including news channels. They extort everybody. Everybody from banks, the cloud, domain name and web space providers to people who run porn websites. One guy from VCG was the tax collector for us. And we had to pay him. He knew what we did. He had evidence which could implicate each one of us.” Mison interrupted, “How does he make the banks and news channels pay?” Xabber continued, “He implants dangerous worms into the target’s software system which encrypts the user’s entire data and leaves the programmers helpless. Now this infected firm has to pay him or they don’t get the secret key to decrypt and unlock their files, which is actually a 1024-bit AES encryption according to GQ.” “But Xabber, if it’s a web hosting company, then how does it make a difference? Every hosting company has at least one backup per day and redundant data servers as well?” asked Kriss. “In that case VCG’s work becomes easier. They just ring up the owners and ask for money. If they refuse, the company’s key system administrators are kidnapped and killed by an outsourced agency hired by VCG.” “We can all feel the presence of the Underworld gods, the UGG, Underworld Gory-Goon Government. VCG men are very smart and intelligent. Gayaquddin Qutub hires those fresh young men who can do more than those system administrators whose servers he wants to crack. Cyberpunks, cryptanalysts, code crackers, firewall firmware coders,…everyone is in VCG. Whether they like it or not. Whether they’re doing it of their own free will or are forced to. The end effect is that Gayaquddin Qutub makes an impact on our lives, on our money, and on our freedom,” said Xabber. “So if he is so dangerous and active why haven’t we heard of him before? In all these years did anyone hear this name?” asked Rayman. “You haven’t heard his name. But you have heard a few of his many aliases. Do you remember the Nodacell Telecom Blackout? When no GSM phone would pick up any network signals for 20 miles!? It was GQ. The Great Eastern Online Bank Heist? GQ. The Joogle DNS cache poisoning incident, the biggest one of last year?” exclaimed Xabber. “That was a kid from India!” said Rayman. “No. The kid was a puppet. They hijacked his system to launch the attack,” said Xabber. He continued, “Downtime is a reputation destroyer. Do not forget the DDoS attacks setup by VCG zombies…” Bloomer suddenly interrupted, “Which means this dead body was either a spy or worked for VCG.” “Yes. He definitely worked for VCG but has been killed because he sold us the information about the MLE contract. GQ wanted that one for VCG. Abrar leaked GQ’s bitcoin code to us for nine hundred dinars, but it cost him his life. We have a potential threat here. We need to pack up and leave this hotel before we get spotted or blamed for his death. Selling 0-Day exploits is a deadly business in such times. Hacking for money isn’t, but we are on the mafia’s hit list. We were falling apart as it is. Now we have even more reasons to break the group up and not be caught together. Each man will be on his own. You guys better use your skills for something constructive from now on. Get in some white-collar organizations and keep your profiles low,” said Xabber. “But Xabber, if we are going white, why can’t we all work together? We’ll stay clean. Let’s create a new Software Solution Company and do something legal and safe,” said Ariel, the kid. “Hahaha…legal and safe! Haha!” laughed Chag. “You all may be grey hats, but I am a black hat by nature. When it comes to programming, all I can think about is network coding, security exploits, password transportable stealth worms, kernel locks and exploits. Nothing excites me more than what we were doing, up until today. Neither would I be able to lead you, nor would I be able to get into a monotonous life of business software development,” said Xabber. “How about using our experiences with TCP flaws and building a unique, strong firewall which we can sell for an exorbitant price. Legally,” said Ariel looking at Chag. “That you can do, but without me. Remember our names are out! We are all Carbon Listed now. You should consider yourself lucky if you can pocket a good job, but when it comes to selling, no company will even buy a peanut from you, never mind a firewall which they’ll suspect has a backdoor since it’s coming from you, the infamous Chag,” said Xabber. “So before the cops arrive and discover us we need to evacuate this room and split up,” said Xabber. “He’s right, and he has been saying this for ten minutes,” said Rayman. “Yeah, and Rayman, undo what you did. Let the ceiling leak,” said Xabber. The group unanimously decided to place the DVD back where it was. They collected all their equipment and hardware including their switches, hubs, cables, and storage media in a giant bag and handed it to Xabber and checked out of the hotel. Rayman returned quickly and the water started dripping again. The sand embraced the water as the door closed.