As we continue our exploration into the perspectives of the five Hout students in the computer lab during their after-school study on that Monday in December, we must now choose from the three remaining kids. We have snuck into the spreadsheet lesson, have seen the red cheeks and touched hands and poor concentration of Harlan and Audre, at the start of something much more than a project organizing a vinyl collection. What, exactly, that something will be, only the future will reveal.
So let us now visit the two remaining FOSOA boys.
They, too, had settled into a carrel. Ward had stroked in his password and logged in, and he and Tristan had gone on a little adventure of their own.
Ward had been eager to show Tristan a blog he had discovered, by an anonymous hacker, presumably a guy though that was open to debate, who used the name Mota Hari. He called it his nom de guerre. The foreign sound of this added another level of intrigue to the mysterious character.
The predilections of the two boys were beyond the sophistication of many of their peers. They had, almost as much as Harlan, voracious appetites for learning about the adult world, the world of power. For all three of them, the more knowledge they acquired, the easier it would be for them to obtain some of that power.
It was as if their kiddie naïveté had caught fire and they had run from it. Their innocent and incessant curiosity had made them charming children in the eyes of adults. But with their adolescent awakening, the naïveté was openly dissed by their comrades, and they collectively attempted to expel that form of charm from their behavioral repertoires.
Ward, while surfing the net one day, had stumbled upon a picture, from decades before, maybe the 1980s, called “Poodle with a Mohawk.” He printed it and tacked it to his wall. His new trajectory of rebellion was validated one day when his father brought to his room some library books Ward had left on the dining room table. The dad saw the punk-rock poodle. A spark of recognition opened up his weary eyes and his inner wheels seemed to stop turning, if only for a few seconds. “I remember that. Still funny. Yeah. That’s a good one. Find it online?”
“Good. Good. Yeah, that’s still good.”
The young men had run from their naïveté. As they did, they each looked like a bantam rooster with tail feathers aflame. And, like that young cock, they not only took the fire with them, but fanned the blaze in their attempts to escape it.
The way this worked with Mota Hari was that, in their haste to grab onto this hip, insider blogger, this hacker with the red-hot advice on how to get into and monkey-wrench systems, they did not bother to learn what Mota meant, or who Mata Hari was, either.
It took Ward a few tries to get into Mota Hari’s site. It appeared that the site itself had been hacked into. Was it Hoplonik Systems? A few days before, MH, as he or she was called, had given out an alternative URL for his or her disciples to use to get into the site. Meanwhile, it seemed, the main site just happened to have crashed.
Neither did Ward nor Tristan know what nom de guerre meant. They both studied German for their foreign language. Even there, these two science-boys bit into the requirements with savage intensity and then forgot a great deal of what was learned once the high grades were bagged.
It would have been good if Ward or Tristan knew the translation of nom de guerre, so they could get some idea of the gravity of what they were attempting. Harlan would later tell them what that phrase meant. He was of greater language retention than the other two, and he had taken French and made a point of committing to memory those phrases most commonly used by non-French-fluent English speakers. He could not yet incorporate je ne sais quoi or bête noir or tout de suite in his own speech. But he recognized these phrases and he knew what they meant.
Harlan’s knowledge would have been particularly helpful to Tristan and Ward in studying Mota Hari’s blog. But Harlan was otherly occupied. Without his input, his friends did not know they were associating with someone who thought of himself (or herself) as a warrior. Either that, or was mordantly tongue-in-cheek.
MH had a new post today. It was about taking on the establishment under the aegis of the Occupy Movement. “Monkey-wrench the mother fuckers,” urged MH.
Ward and Tristan looked at each other as if they were two ten-year-old boys who had discovered “Star Wars” for the first time. This was because, their rooster feathers aflame, they were crowing over how smart they were and how much smarter they were becoming by the minute.
Ward jumped up and clapped his hands together. “Yes!”
Mr. Murphy looked at him sternly over his reading glasses. The look he shot at Ward was not unlike a little figurine of Mrs. Santa with a rolling pin that Ward had seen after his mother had returned from the KPFA crafts fair and unloaded her bounty on the dining room table. Mr. Murphy wore a mustache, a shirt instead of an apron and a stern grimace instead of a benign smile, but the round, soft body, the pink face and the wire-rimmed glasses were a match.
Ward sat back down. But before he did, he caught a glimpse over the carrel wall to the one butted up against theirs. Regina was quietly mousing and clicking and maybe listening to everything they said.
“See,” said T-Boggs, “MH is into Hoplonik, too. Or they’re into him. He’s trying to figure out how to create a shield that keeps them from hacking him back when he invades a system. This dude is mega-cool.”
The two FOSOA on active duty churned as Tristan clicked and moused his way through the blog. We will rise above the technical details that were the core of their conversation and look instead into the minds of the two boys becoming dangerous men.
Ward was jacked up on the vapors of power. Until very recently, he had seen himself as an underdog in nearly everything he did. Though he was super bright, the relegation to social insignificance over the years had pigeonholed him, not only in the society of his school classes, and not only among the super bright peers he cavorted with, but in his own mind, too.
He had, in a word, developed a strategy of social reserve, concealing his brightness and presenting his social deficits in place of a more vibrant personality. As those of you who have paid attention are aware, this approach was going through a shift. No more innocent recluse. Get ready for the new Ward Dixon. Here he comes. Kind of.
These changes never happen as quickly as we can imagine them happening. The world of the hacker, the idea of becoming a peer with Mota Hari, was a means of fronting some of that new power. And he had this very cool peer tutor to guide him.
Ward bounced with joy at the prospects that awaited him.
For Tristan, something new was happening, too. He was a tutor for the first time. His brains, his learning, his risk-taking were all desired by these new friends. He had never before met one, not to mention two, bright, ambitious guys who were not also cowardly, obedient geeks, and three years behind everyone else in all ways but grade-bagging. He had never told a fellow student at Mt. Corvée about his hacking. Nothing more than an occasional hint to test the waters, and those waters had always felt too icy and uninviting to explore.
Not so with the FOSOA. He had recently found himself grinning ear-to-ear upon the realization that Ward had a talent and that he, Tristan, had been the one to hatch it. Tristan’s memory of such an involuntary grin breaking open his usual dour countenance went back to maybe his toddler days, before he realized how betrayed he felt by his dad’s serial broken promises. This was new. This was fresh. Yes!
Regina is the last of the five we shall revisit before we leave these students to work on their studies without our further invasive presence.
One would expect the girl-jock to be forlorn, the odd person out while the other four are paired up, one pair conspiring to acts of love, the other pair to acts of war.
But Regina is not forlorn. She had, over her many years as an athlete, heard a piece of wisdom so many times, from coaches and the veteran players who were her captains on the fields of sport, that she had inculcated it into her marrow. It was so much a habit of her thinking that it had become part of her being, her programming. No longer was it an act of will to bring it into play, but an act of will for her not to bring it into play.
It was wisdom based on fact: There is a lot of game left; we may be behind but it is only the first half. Yeah, they have scored on us but they will soon ache with the weight of fatigue from these early exertions. Stay tough, girls, stay in the game, see if we can catch them before this thing’s done.
Hoplonik. Her parents had bandied this name about the last several weeks. She was sure that was the name of that firm they had just contracted with on some security software project. The name was odd. Maybe the founder was born somewhere else and it was his or her name, but for whatever reason it stood out.
The boys were talking about it. She did not know what they were doing on the other side of the carrel wall, but she did recognize that name, Hoplonik.
She sat in her carrel occupied by her desultory mousing and clicking but she did not feel alone. She smothered a grin. She thought she might be able to get hold of that something that Ward would find very interesting.
There is a lot of game left, girl, just you watch and see what happens.
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