Lexel ran the nodes, driven by more than just her typical enthusiasm. Normally it was just fun and games; an entertaining past time to challenge her while allowing her to appease her curiosity. But this was different, this time it was important to her. As she dove deeper and deeper to isolate the necessary nodes that formed the slumbering network Lexel slowly sharpened her focus.
The faintly shimmering strands of subtle signals that connected the various digital points were obvious to her trained eyes. To the casual observer or a security crawler for that matter they would appear as just more background static. But not to Lexel who already knew what to look for, not for someone who had been there before. For her it was like following a waiting trail of breadcrumbs to lead her home.
Waiting for her like whispering white snowflakes upon the gentle wind was the familiar source point, still silent. Even though her last visit wasn’t that long ago it felt like she hadn’t been here in quite some time. The gamble had paid off by proving to lead her to getting Zero entered into the games. Perhaps her luck would still prove favorable using the little node once again.
As swift as she could Lexel set herself to weaving her little waiting wonder and placing a keyed trigger to awaken it. This time though Lexel made sure not to alert anyone to her presence. If everything went well her little modification would remain harmless enough that no one need ever know about it. And if she had to use it, well, something told her that NaN most likely had other avenues to take advantage of. There was no way the secretive underground group had staying active this long without their fair share of contingency plans.
Satisfied with her little deft display of digital legerdemain Lexel quickly retraced her steps back out. There wasn’t time to waste to pause and appreciate her work; she had an important call to make. Lexel had barely removed the jack from its slot before her vision had completely cleared to view the screen still setting in front of her. She pushed the lingering disorientation of rushing back out to reality so fast and reached to reopen the communication channel.
“It’s times like this that I should say that my mother always taught me that it isn’t polite to keep someone waiting on the line, but ironically I don’t think she ever mentioned the matter. In fact, I think she would approve,” Lexel admitted with amusement. “Let’s take a call then, shall we; catch up with our dear old friend Mr. Graystone.”
The screen lit back up to display the still shaken image of Xeph who startled at the sudden signal of Lexel’s returned call. She had to cut her friend off immediately, poor Xeph was terrified beyond reason and right now she needed every ounce of nerve for the task at hand. “Put sinister Suzy on Xeph,” Lexel demanded as she watched her friends’ eyes go wide with fright. “What are you,” Xeph tried to mutter but panic imprisoned her voice to silence her.
Replacing her scared scarlet haired sister Mr. Graystone stepped into view, pushing Xeph aside with a rather rough shove. Lexel figured it was just another show of contempt, a deliberate attempt to try and keep reinforcing his displayed dominance of the situation. “So which is it going to be, have you decided to see reason or are going to throw these two to the wolves?” Graystone dangled the question like it was bait with a smile and waived his bandaged stump for effect.
“Hope that nasty wound isn’t bothering you too terribly, because I think I might have some disappointing news for you. And I would just feel horrible if I just made your mood even worse,” Lexel answered and watched Graystone’s face to gauge his reaction. By the growing twitch and slightly increased pulsing veins in his forehead it seemed fairly obvious that she was getting under the man’s skin.
“I will take door number three gray-pants; no surrender, no come and get me. Instead I am going to offer you a one time simple as can be offer. You let them go and agree to leave us in peace and I will refrain from releasing every scrap of data about your precious project. Make one move against up or harm a hair on their heads and soon find everything blasted all over every node in every network.”
Lexel allowed herself a brief pause to let the full measure of her threat sink in. “And I am going to need an answer immediately. I am afraid I am not quite as patient when my finger is on a trigger as some folks. So what is it going to be then, huh?”
Mr. Graystone’s face filled with a frightening fury as he began to snarl a vicious response but something seemed to restrain him. It was almost like he had to turn his attention to a conversation Lexel couldn’t hear and whatever was being said seemed to be just as upsetting to him.
“Fine,” Graystone finally answered grimly. However don’t think that this is the end of this! Remember that this all began with your illegal access to our node and as such we have evidence detailing your nefarious node-running activities. One step by you or that problematic prototype anywhere near your friends here or anything resembling the authorities and you will find yourself blamed for all manner of things with plenty of evidence to see yourself hunted by the law as well. Try to burn us or return to your regular life and find yourself exposed for the criminal child you are. If the price of this silence is so much then consider yourself a shadow of the streets!”
“I would rather think of us as Neon Knights actually,” Lexel countered and clicked the channel closed. Her bravado faded and tears began to form as the understanding that she could never go home sunk in. But just before the sobs could start Lexel found her in the firm grasp of a pair of mighty muscled arms. Soon even the Professor joined in and Zero leaned in close as well to form a crude group hug.
Perhaps she could make her own life and her own little family here on the streets, Lexel thought to herself. “Cute name,” Tyrn declared with a proud grin on his face. Lexel couldn’t resist bursting into giggles at the comment she discovered and let herself laugh. “I suppose it is,” she agreed as she wiped tears from her face. “Every champion needs a fighting title right; The Neon Knights is a nice fit for us I’d say.”
“Agreed,” Zero seconded and just like that they all began to celebrate. They were a newly born team now, and things would never be easy for them. But they had faced every challenge and succeeded so far; who knows what the future could hold for them? “Anybody want to play a game,” Zero asked his friends and fresh laughter erupted to fill the room. He was definitely going to look forward to the challenges ahead.