Yeah, this part of backstory is gonna be longer than I anticipated, since I’m looking at at least another 6-8k to finish Jesse’s part. So it goes! Fine, I’ll get those three star reviews, TOO MUCH BACKSTORY BORING WHERE IS THE ROMANCE WHY AREN’T THEY TOGETHER ON EVERY PAGE FIGHTING THEIR ATTRACTION. And I’ll live with it! This isn’t just character development, it’s plot development, so it all comes together, trust me :) On the bright side, this will probably be my longest novel ever, given, yes, how much more story there is still to tell after the backstory.
This is not all of Jesse’s backstory, because, well, to give you all of it would ruin the surprises. But I’m feeling this need to share it, maybe just to get some validation and approval and encouragement (yeah, definitely for that). So, here you go :)
The knock on Jesse’s dorm room door was correct – three short knocks, three long, and three more short ones. S.O.S., in Morse Code. But the time was wrong. Office hours had ended five minutes ago, and he had already cracked his Particle Physics textbook. Also, even office hours required an appointment, so whoever was there was violating two rules.
The knocks became more insistent, random, violations of The Code. Jesse stormed to the door and flung it open.
Outside was a gangly group of his fellow MIT freshmen, easily startled by his dramatic gesture. It was obvious what they’d come for.
“Who sent you?”
“I’m not doing tutoring any more.”
The dorkiest one spoke up. “We’re not here for tutoring, we’re…um…”
“If he told you I could help you, with anything, he’s wrong.”
Jesse slammed the door. Tom Mankiewicz was now on his shit list. Jesse’s rules were clear. He was never to be seen directly by the customer. His product was to be routed to them, and the money from them, via a trusted source. Tom had just lost that status, and the commissions that went with it.
Fucking overprivileged little fucks, Jesse thought, sitting back down at his desk. Every rule can be broken, for them.
He did have a twinge of regret – there were four of the little bastards, and at $250 a pop, that would have been a thousand bucks in his pocket. But if Ma Winchester had taught her son anything, it was discretion.
Two seconds looking at the freshmen and Jesse knew the type, all too well. Yes, Jesse Winchester’s fake IDs would stand up to most any scrutiny, short of being run by the cops. But if…if something went wrong and those kids got busted, they would sob and immediately finger The Bad Man who made it all possible. If there was at least one degree of separation, Jesse would have time to erase his tracks.
He wasn’t broke, by any means, but he could have used the money. Life at MIT wasn’t cheap, even with the package of bank loans and grants he and Ma had put together. Well, he smiled, it was cheap in that the loans were taken out under the credit histories of families who didn’t exist, or had died. Someday of course it would all come crashing down, after Jesse had graduated, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t as if he was going to go to work somewhere on the books, where the IRS or anyone else could track him down for repayment.
“Jesse honey,” Ma had said to him when he got the acceptance letter to MIT. “We could do this legit, you know. Somehow. Then you could, you know…”
He already had that trademark raised eyebrow. “What, get a degree and go to work in an office somewhere? Write code for…banking software?”
She laughed. He had his mother’s eyes, smart and sparkly with mischief. “Sure. You go in under deep cover, baby, then we can bring down the house. Abscond to Andorra with millions.”
Andorra was their private joke, a postage-stamp-sized European country with no extradition treaty in place with the U.S.
She sobered. Her face was smooth that day, her makeup high-end and professional, her Anne Taylor suit fitted just so. She had her blond hair blown out just enough to be sexy without being tarty. Carlene Winchester, aka…well, too many other names to list, was in her late thirties, and today she was Mary Dolan, real estate agent, and she was showing a large house.
She was good. Really good. Just from a series of casual questions to the prospective buyers, she’d be able to gather enough financial data from them to give Jesse a good start on stealing their identities. You had to be subtle with rich people –you couldn’t just open a shitload of credit cards on their SSNs. No, the best scam was to get their info in January, quickly file a tax return in their name, and be long gone with their “refund” by the time their tax guy got the real return filed in April.
“I don’t want you to have to live like this forever, baby. It’s a lot of stress. A lot of danger. I want…” She bit her lip, reached out and caressed his cheek. “You’re so smart, baby. So fucking brilliant. You could be a billionaire. Legit.”
Jesse smiled, pulled his Ma in and hugged her. They were a great team; they always had been. They’d been doing this since Jesse was ten – ever since Jesse’s dad had taken off with his secretary, and Ma had lost her job as a fraud control specialist.
The irony, right? But once they were living in their car, it had taken little prompting for Mrs. Winchester to decide to take her skills to the Dark Side, if it put a roof over their heads again. That was when she become “Ma,” their little joke, as if she was now Ma Barker or some other notorious gangster. She of all people, with her background on the “right” side of the law, knew how to do these things, in the ways that would escape detection, that would make the most money.
“I know, Ma. Thanks. I’m gonna grow up to be a white hat hacker, I promise.”
She laughed, and straightened her suit. “You better.”
Jesse thought of that now, as his flip phone rang. Tom. At least he still had the sense to call and not text, and leave a paper trail.
“You’re fired,” he said.
“Dude, I did not send them, I swear to fucking God.”
Jesse had spent his entire life on the grift. While other bright young men applied their new found computer skills to earning ribbons in school science projects, Jesse’s first proud accomplishment had been learning how to clone debit cards. He had been around dishonest people all his life, and knew the accent, the vocabulary, the grammar, all the finer nuances of the universal language of Bullshit. People who swore to fucking God were fluent speakers.
“And how did they get to my door, then?”
“I don’t know man, but you know, maybe you gotta rep now…”
Jesse froze. “What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s common knowledge that there’s a guy on campus who can make a perfect ID. Nobody knows it’s you, but…”
“Not anymore,” Jesse said, hanging up.
He drove his beat-up little pickup to his storage locker, where he passed the night manager a healthy amount of money not to notice how much time Jesse spent inside it, or what lights and sounds might creep out under the rolling door. Drugs weren’t involved, nothing would blow up, so whatever Jesse did was all good with the poor underpaid bastard.
He loaded all the equipment in the back and drove it to an industrial site under renovation, where he had (unauthorized) access to an industrial shredder. It all went in to its grinding maw: the holographic paper, the PVC blanks, the Fargo printer, the mag strip encoder, the laptop with the templates… It had all been “free,” bartered in exchange for other services long ago, but it still killed Jesse to see it go. He could have resold some of it, traded it out, but…no.
Like a burner phone or a Saturday Night Special, “scorched earth” was the way that Ma had taught him to avoid capture. As long as his name was out there, even vaguely associated with “the fake ID guy,” there was a chance that any minute, they could come down on him and link him to this stuff. The amount of time it would take him to reach out to old connections and get it all sold…no. Not worth the risk. The fake ID business was over.
He came back to his dorm room and fell on the bed, exhausted. Through a hack that even MIT’s veteran hackers and pranksters would admire, he’d managed to get a two bed dorm room to himself by tricking the residential software system. Of course like any good hack, there was the social engineering component that had to be done as well: he’d decorated the other half of the room with random posters, half made bedding, and an assortment of student tchotchkes and textbooks that implied to the casual observer that there was, of course, a second person living there. Since he was a loner with his door shut all the time, a very respectable type at MIT, nobody else in the dorm was aware that there wasn’t a second resident.
Jesse was three months into his first semester at MIT, and he had discovered that he was one of Them, the Chosen Ones. The kids everyone else hated, had always hated throughout history – he was the type who flipped through a textbook, passed on invitations to join study groups, went out drinking till the bars closed, and then sauntered into class and not only aced the test, but finished it first and then left class to play Frisbee in the park.
Only Jesse wasn’t one of “Them,” exactly. He would burn through the test, sure, but then he’d sit there, pretending to still be working on it, as he waited for someone else to turn their test in first, to be the object of attention, envy, anger. To be second was to be invisible, to keep a low profile, to fly under the radar. Nobody envied the second guy to finish.
“Reputations are for convicts,” Ma always said. Before he got to MIT, Jesse had grown his hair out into an unruly poof, built up a scraggly bushy beard, and picked up a pair of clear-lens 70s silver aviator glasses to go with his Dockers, his Hush Puppies and his assortment of pocket t-shirts.
Ma sighed when she saw him on his last day at home, his new identity complete. “You were so beautiful, baby. And now you look like shit.” They laughed, of course, but by then it was second nature to both to do whatever it took to blend in, to “pass.”
He was pissed now. He’d been careless! He should never have used other students as routers to still other students. If he’d wanted to make money on fake IDs, he could have tapped into Boston’s underground economy, could have done work for the Irish Mafia or…
But that had been the point, to get away from all that. From Ma’s world, from the world of straight grift and cons and the obligations that connecting to the underworld put you into…
He’d fooled himself, he realized. He couldn’t keep feet in both worlds. This world, MIT, that he’d somehow managed to get into, not through a hack or a scam, but through legitimate applications and testing and screening (setting aside the financial components), was the apotheosis of “legit.” People came out of here ready to run the planet.
Flying under the radar had meant that Ma never blew conspicuous wads of cash, no matter how big the score. So he didn’t need the money from the IDs. It had been something he’d done because he could, easy cash from something he’d done so long he could punch them out in his sleep. That was the nature of the grift though – the lure of easy money, even when you had enough.
“What now?” he asked the ceiling. Was there something else here for him, was there something…more, maybe, than just finding another way to game the system?
If not, then fuck it. There was no point in staying here. He would just be sucking up a space in the MIT student body that some little striver out there was dying to take from him.
I’ll give it the rest of the semester, he said. Then I’ll…move on.
To what that might be, he had no idea.
He had more time to think now that he’d wound up his criminal enterprise. For the first time, he looked at all the extracurricular activities that MIT had to offer, all the clubs and organizations and even social opportunities, albeit the kind of social opportunities custom-engineered for the antisocial.
Chess club, hmm. He’d been a really good chess player when he was young, but…to be too good was to attract too much attention. If he’d joined a school club, if he’d gone to tournaments and won? That would invite those into his life who took an interest in smart talented young men. And then what? His picture in the paper, let’s get your mom in the shot. No, no, no, that would not do at all.
Besides, they needed to keep moving from one place to the next; motion was the essence of grift. Bodies at rest are more clearly visible than bodies in motion. And what could he do, play for one school and then another and then there would be the passive-aggressive statement-questions, you sure do move around a lot.
But wasn’t now if ever the time for things like than, now that he was finally at rest and not in motion?
Yeah, he thought with a smile. But I didn’t get to this point just so I could play fucking chess. I need something…exciting. Maybe even dangerous.
He sighed. He was his mother’s son, after all – he needed action, adventure. But what could there be, that was exciting, and dangerous, that wasn’t just another petty scam, another grift?
The problem of what to do next was solved for him a few days later. He came home to his dorm room and froze just inside the doorway. The shell identity with which he’d covered the unoccupied side of the room was gone. No more Ferrari poster, no more Shins poster, no more MIT banner declaring to the weak-minded that someone must surely live there with him.
Instead, a young man was reclining on the bed, reading. Jesse’s eyes traveled first to the title of the book before they took in anything else. He recognized Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture,” a book about copyright and intellectual property. Then he took in the rest of his visitor.
He was handsome, Jesse supposed, in that blond, floppy-haired, preppy way. He looked fit, but there was a softness to his skin, a hint of slack in his face, signs of a body that had been put through a thoroughbred’s paces, but had never been tried by real physical hardship or deprivation.
“Ah,” the young man said, turning his sharp blue eyes on Jesse. “You must be Jesse.”
“I am. And this is my room.”
He nodded. “Mine, too.”
“I’m afraid there’s been some mistake,” Jesse said, recovering his wits and instinctively scanning his desk for anything that shouldn’t be in public view.
The young man got up, stretched lazily, and Jesse had to admire the mass of his arms as they forced up the caps of his Polo shirt. He had a smile that Jesse didn’t like, the look that people got when they thought they had something on you.
“Yes, there was a mistake, in the residential system. I fixed it. I’m now the roomie you hacked yourself out of.”
Now that the secret was out, the stranger’s smile wasn’t so dangerous. After all, if Jesse had tweaked the system to get himself a room alone, this guy had also broken school rules to hack in and get himself placed here. So they each had something on the other, which was a good thing.
“Why?” Jesse asked, cutting to the chase. How dare you, I don’t know what you’re talking about, blah blah, he could already tell that was a waste of time with this one. This guy was good.
He stood up, extended his hand. “I’m Chip. Because you’re the guy, Jesse Winchester. And I need the guy. And trust me. What I have to propose? You’ve been waiting for this all your life.”
Chip suggested they go to the Muddy Charles Pub, the legendary MIT campus bar. Its very obviousness appealed to Jesse – what better place for two students to hunch close together, earnestly whispering secret plans for world domination? They would be no different than any other pair in there. And of course Chip had a fake ID as good as Jesse’s.
Chip did not look the part of a MIT student, Jesse thought, watching him knock back a good third of his pint at once. Too…Abercrombie. Too Polo Ralph Lauren. Too Finance Guy. But then, he thought, in its own way, wasn’t that the best cover for a hacker? To look like a dreary boring finance dude, someone who could walk in and out of any business without attracting attention?
Jesse picked apart Chip’s looks, trying to decide what his appeal was. Because he definitely had an appeal. Jesse was no virgin, but sex had been a small part of his life up till now – relationships were of course not going to happen when you moved around a lot, running scams and faking personas. Sex was an outlet, a release, but so far he hadn’t found it to be any more satisfying than wanking off.
He cataloged the fundamentals, the leading indicators of a normal middle to upper-middle class childhood. Yeah, the straight teeth, the height and mass that came from never having gone hungry, the clear skin, the glossy, corn-silky blond hair. And of course the eyes, clear and clean.
And the body. Yeah, the body. Chip was fit and he knew it. He had the most amazing ass, Jesse thought, having watched it in his khakis as he leaned over the bar to order his drink. Jesse had felt the first stirrings in his groin then, the line between Chip’s ass cheeks like a compass needle pointing true North. The direction that Jesse’s dick was pointing now, too.
The appeal, though, the real appeal, was in his eyes. They should have been smug, complacent, to fit the rest of him, but they weren’t. They were hard, glittering…angry. There was a rage in him that Jesse could see, and he wanted to know more, wanted to know what fueled it and why.
“So,” Jesse said. “You found me. You chose me for your mysterious Project X. How? Why?”
Chip nodded. Time for him to prove his own bona fides. “It started with the rumors, of course, the guy who knows a guy who can create a fake ID you could use to do anything short of getting on a plane. No offense, but there’s nothing that remarkable about someone from MIT who can make money on the sly.”
Jesse nodded. Like everyone at MIT, he was familiar with the legends, the blackjack players and lightning traders who’d taken their mathematical and analytical facilities and used them to make money in semi-legitimate ways.
“But,” Chip said. “I found out it was you, and I looked you up. I saw your picture. And, you know, come on,” Chip grinned.
Jesse had to laugh. He knew what Chip meant, but he waited for him to say it. “Come on, what?”
“The unkempt hair. The bushy beard. The death-pale skin. The fucking aviator glasses. Yeah, it makes you fit in here so well, like some Mole Man who never leaves the basement computer lab. But Mole Men don’t create fake IDs like that. Mole Men live on ramen and Red Bull and don’t give a shit about money, not small time money, anyway. No, I knew it was a front. Your IDs were too good, they were the product of too much experience. So, I looked into you some more.”
Jesse should have felt a twinge of fear. It was what his Ma had trained him to feel when anyone got too close to the truth. When people learned shit like this, started to get suspicious, it was time to leave town. But instead he was fascinated, listening to Chip unpack him.
“I found your school records, how you moved from town to town. It’s interesting that you were always registered under the same name, your real name. All along it was your plan to do something else, wasn’t it? To do this, to be legit. I assume your family are gypsies or Irish travelers or something, running scams and moving on, and thus all the moves.”
“My mother was a realtor,” Jesse said, “and we moved from place to place depending on the market.”
“Right. Nice. Of course, your grades stumbled each time you moved. For a while.”
Jesse blinked. And regretted it. He knew that the best poker players wore sunglasses for one reason – even the best poker face couldn’t hide the dilation of the pupils when you were surprised by a great hand (or a terrible one). Blinking had been Jesse’s tell, had let Chip know he’d hit home.
Chip nodded. “But that’s to be expected, right? You’re a kid, moving is hard, new kids are mean, they all have their little cliques, don’t they? Which they reinforce by picking on the new kid.”
Jesse kept his face still, but this time it had been his turn to learn something about Chip. A bit of his own experience talking there.
“Anyway. Somehow, you managed to overcome all that. To check off the boxes and pass the right tests and now, here you are at MIT. Congratulations,” Chip said, hoisting his nearly-empty pint.
Jesse lifted his barely touched glass as well, waiting for the punch line.
“So,” Chip continued. “I’m thinking, why? Why did you come here? If you wanted to keep running…whatever games you’ve been running all this time, what do you need MIT for?”
Chip leaned in, his eyes bright, hypnotic. Jesse knew what he was going to say, and wanted to hear it, wanted it to be true with all his heart.
“Because it’s not enough for you. You want something more. You need excitement, but if you just wanted to be a criminal, you wouldn’t have come here. You want more, but you don’t know what. You want to be part of something big, hard, complex, fascinating…but also dangerous. Not for you the life of a research scientist toiling away on the same commute to the same lab for ever and ever and ever.”
It was true, all of it. Chip had read into Jesse deeper than Jesse had ever read into himself. He had somehow fixated on coming to MIT, and he had got in, well, because he could. But why, and what now? He had spent every day here so far going through the motions, keeping his cover intact, and only now did he realize that he’d been waiting for something.
“What are you proposing?” Jesse asked.
Chip smiled. “Bringing down two of the richest men in America, and all their minions in the United States Senate.”
Chip was smart. Very smart, Jesse thought. Not just intellectually but…criminally. He didn’t write a thing down, not even on a napkin. He had it all in his head, and expected Jesse to see it, understand it, and keep it in his head too.
Jesse had never paid attention to politics. All politicians were liars; the most able of them were the greatest cons. They promised a new era of good feelings, don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow, hope and change, and on the most fundamental levels, nothing really changed at all. He knew about the Kroms, vaguely, in the way that any undergraduate would, surrounded all the time by more politically aware and vocally upset students. But then, students were always upset by something political, he thought – it was kind of a hobby for them.
When Chip laid out the story, though, Jesse found himself following it eagerly – as a challenge, a puzzle, if nothing else.
The Krom Brothers, like most billionaires, always wanted more. One more nickel, one more penny, and if they had to burn the world, to destroy the environment, abolish the minimum wage, destroy the social safety net, well then, fine, good. All their billions would never be enough, because it was never what they had that counted…all that would ever matter was what they didn’t have yet.
And yet, like most men that rich, though they would still kill a man for a penny, the “hit” that money gave them had lost its zest. One more penny, hell, one more billion was no longer enough to satisfy the dark vacuum in their souls. Now the only hit, the only thrill still to be had, was power. The power to alter the laws, the lives, of all the people in the nation, the world. To bend history itself to their will. It was done in the name of one more penny, but really it was the power itself that was the thrill now, the most addictive substance Man had ever found, one on which no man had ever believed he could overdose.
There was no surprise in what Chip laid out at first, the “dark money” that the Kroms channeled through various tax exempt organizations to pay for electioneering by “their” candidates – men who would help them get that extra penny. But there was more.
“One of the ways the NSA spies on foreign companies and governments? And us, for that matter?” Chip looked around before he whispered again. “All the Internet backbones, the routers and hardware, everything, don’t go from Cisco or whoever to the customer. It goes to the NSA first. And they unwrap it, unbox it, and insert backdoor software that lets them see everything that goes over that part of the Internet. Then they repackage it factory fresh and then it goes out to the unwitting customer.”
“So the NSA knows everything, I’m not surprised,” Jesse shrugged. This was a few years before the Edward Snowden revelations, but for most tech savvy people, those were more “confirmations” than revelations.
“So here’s the deal. If the NSA has a tap on all that data…then the tap exists. Someone else can access that tap. Without hacking into the NSA or alerting the authorities. Just…listening in on what they’re hearing.”
“So what does that have to do with the Kroms?”
Chip smiled. “What if I were to tell you that the Kroms were enabling intellectual property theft by, and selling key national security information to, the People’s Liberation Army?”
“The Chinese government.”
“Yes. Part of it. One of the most powerful parts.”
“Why would they do that? Why would they risk that?”
“Because there’s more money to be made. Because it gives them power and influence in China, it gives them opportunities for expansion there that no other company would have. And because it gives them access to secrets they can use here at home, against their enemies, against any politician who stands in their way. Because,” Chip said, “there are United States Senators who are traitors to our country, who are complicit in the whole thing. Who are letting the Kroms piggyback on the NSA feeds, capturing that information for their own benefit, and who are being rewarded by the Chinese for their complicity.”
“And you can prove all this?”
“With your help, yes.”
“And then what? Go to the media?”
“Yeah. But not the New York Times or some establishment organ that’ll ask the government if it’s okay if they reveal it. No, we go to Wikileaks, or make our own Wikileaks. We bring them down. The Kroms, the politicians, even the NSA.”
Jesse thought about it. Ma had always taught him to weigh the risks before any grift. To err on the side of caution, to skip any opportunity that presented more risk than reward.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Chip said. “You’re a criminal, they’re criminals, so what. It all goes on forever anyway, only the names change, right?”
Jesse laughed. “Pretty much.”
“Think about it. Who do the Kroms support, politically?”
“Right wing nutjobs. Anti gay, anti science, anti women, morons who say the ‘science is still out’ on whether or not the earth is only six thousand years old.”
“What if you could undo all they’ve done? What if you could unthrone the biggest nutjobs in the country? What if you could do to the Republican party and its religious kooks what Watergate did? Totally destroy it for a decade or more.”
Seeing that wasn’t enough, Chip pressed on. “You would be like Alan Turing. You’d be the one who created the Enigma machine, who cracked the code these men are using. You’d be the one to expose the Red Chinese Fucking Army’s influence at the highest levels of the United States Government, the ways that NSA tech is secretly altered to allow the PLA to steal American IP, government secrets. You’d be the greatest hacker in the history of everything ever. Hell, they’d have to give you a medal.”
Chip reached across the table and took Jesse’s hand. The shock of the contact shattered Jesse’s complacency. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d touched another human being. He and Ma hugged, of course, there there, pat pat, nothing deep, stay cool. The feel of Chip’s soft warm skin was an intrusion into his system, and he felt his firewall crumbling, just like that. It was soothing all his doubts, misgivings, silencing all the alarms.
Chip looked into his eyes, not letting go. “What do you want to do with your life? With your amazing gifts? How much money do you have now?”
Jesse had to think about it. Money had never been the object of the game, he realized now. The money was easy. It was doing something clever, something you’d get away with, something only a smart person could do. The grift itself had been the goal, the game – the rewards were just proof that you did it, you won.
It was a lot, he knew. All in cash, or bearer bonds, or gold, anything that holds value and is portable. Upwards of a million bucks, he thought, stunned, really counting it up in his head for the first time.
“Do you want to keep grifting till you get caught? What you’re doing now, you know it’s a matter of time. You’re good at it, you’re not gonna get in trouble, but then… Some day someone is going to run a stop light, literally or figuratively, and crash into you, and you’re gonna have fake IDs on you or something, and then it’ll all unravel.”
Chip squeezed Jesse’s hand and Jesse squeezed back. “What do you want to do with the rest of your life? The same old fucking thing, or something wonderful?”
This was wrong, he knew. Wrong to let something as stupid as hormones direct any part of his decision making process.
He pulled his hand away. “I need time. And to be honest, I need to dig into you too. You’re so fucking sterling, so… You’re like the old WASPs they used to recruit straight into the CIA when ‘good breeding’ was the only qualification. You look like a fucking 1950s CIA agent, all over.”
Chip laughed. “Yeah, I know. Why ever should you think I’m not exactly what I seem? Go on, hack me. Find out. Hell, I’ll give you the keys.”
There was something about the look in Chip’s face, the challenge, that suddenly gave Jesse an erection. This young man was taunting him, daring him. There was something Chip wasn’t telling him, every grifter bone in his body told him so. Jesse wanted to win this challenge. He wanted to defeat Chip. To push him down and torture his secrets out of him.
“Come and get me, huh?” Jesse whispers, and Chip’s eyes dilate.
“Yeah. Catch me if you can.”
They didn’t need any more words. They were silent on the way back to the dorm room. Jesse’s blood was pounding in his head and he didn’t trust his voice not to crack if he said a word.
He locked the door behind them and faced Chip, defiant, smirking….mocking him! As if daring him to do something about it.
He put his hands on Chip’s shoulders, to push him to his knees. Chip’s hands flew out, and grabbed Jesse’s wrists. Chip was heavier, stronger, and he slammed Jesse up against the door. Jesse’s eyes widened with shock. He had been so sure that Chip would be fumbling at Jesse’s zipper by now.
“You’re not strong enough,” Chip said, a challenge on every level. Not strong enough to fuck me, not strong enough to take on this challenge.
Jesse didn’t say anything. Self defense had been part of his childhood, Ma had seen to that. Krav Maga, Israeli Army self defense – no respect for the enemy, no dancing, no honor among warriors. Stop your attacker, permanently, the end. You couldn’t be a grifter and not be prepared for what might happen when shit went south.
Jesse didn’t push back against Chip’s grip. Instead he stuck a foot between Chip’s and pivoted sharply, his hips throwing his body weight against Chip’s, pushing him off balance. Jesse was slim but the speed at which he threw that weight was what mattered. Chip was off his feet and on his back in a moment.
Jesse was on top of him, the tables turned, straddling Chip’s chest. Chip’s hands flailed and Jesse knew, he wasn’t a fighter, not really. He was the muscle boy who’d throw a haymaker in a bar and maybe connect with some part of another man’s body, once. Jesse had him pinned now like an insect on a board. He grabbed Chip’s wrists and slammed his arms down to the ground, hard, his grip as crushing as he could make it.
And Chip knew it. Jesse felt it, felt the fight go out of Chip, but he didn’t let go, not yet. Faking surrender was the last refuge of the inexperienced. It wasn’t until the eyes changed that you knew for sure.
But Chip’s eyes weren’t that of a dying animal now. No. More like an animal in heat. “You win,” Chip whispered.
“Not yet,” Jesse growled. He shifted himself up Chip’s torso until his crotch was in Chip’s face. The ultimate sign of dominance.
If Chip flinched, made a face, Jesse would have stopped. But every skin cell on his body told him Chip wouldn’t. That Chip would do exactly what he did now – that his eyes would flutter and his lips would part as his own body invited Jesse’s cock to mark its new territory.
He changed his grip so that only one hand kept Chip’s hands pinned to the floor, and used the other to undo his belt, his button, his zipper. Two hands against one, Chip could have broken free…if he wanted to. Jesse shifted himself to free his cock, and grinned when it popped loose.
This was his favorite part of sex, so far, anyway. Watching their eyes when IT came out. Long and hard and thick, thicker at the base, straight and perfect and plump and ripe… All out of proportion to his body, really, in any classical definition.
“It’s always the skinny ones,” Chip said. “Who have the monster cocks.”
Jesse laughed. “Oh yeah?”’
Chip nodded, parting his lips, waiting, asking….
“What?” Jesse demanded.
“I want it. Please.”
Jesse inched closer to Chip’s mouth, teasing him with the head. Chip’s tongue reached out and Jesse pulled back. “No.”
The frustration on Chip’s face, the anger, the longing, the…need did something to Jesse. He felt his dick leaking, the surge of some strange energy in his body squeezing his prostate, tensing his balls. To be in command, in control, to withhold, to punish, to torment…
He thought Chip would cry when he saw the clear drop form at the slit in Jesse’s head. Like a dying man in the desert, he wanted it like water.
Jesse let go of Chip’s hands – no need for that now; his cock alone would keep Chip in place. He took his dick in one hand and put the other behind Chip’s head. He lifted Chip’s skull forward, watched with a pleasure he’d thought impossible as Chip’s eyes closed and he received the tip of Jesse’s cock like a sacrament.
He watched with fascination, as the taste of Jesse, his skin, his salt, registered on Chip’s face the way the taste of a prize truffle would play across that of a gourmand. Jesse had never imagined in all his young life that he had so much power…
He wanted more. He grabbed Chip’s ears roughly, like a pair of jug handles, and shifted himself up so he could plunge his cock down into Chip’s throat. Chip gasped, but it wasn’t a gasp Jesse had ever heard before from a hurt man. Something was wired differently in Chip, something about the pain made his hips arch, as if he’d been electroshocked, a firestorm in his brain.
And instinctively, Jesse knew he could go farther. He pushed his cock, hard, down Chip’s throat. Chip choked, instinctively, but Jesse felt his head pop past the barrier and down into Chip’s insanely tight wet warm throat.
When Chip choked the first time, he pulled out. Then Jesse heard his breathing, still steady, and realized it was just a reflex. He shoved himself down in there again deeper this time, ignoring the gags, ten seconds of exquisite thrusting in that vise grip, before he pulled out so Chip could gasp for air, once, twice, and then back in again. Chip’s hands flew up to Jesse’s body, but not to fight him…his hands ran over Jesse’s torso, his back, down to his ass, to encourage Jesse, more, harder…
It became a game. How long could Chip go, how long could he take it without gasping for air? Finally he choked, really choked for air, and Jesse rolled off him. He watched Chip’s red face, his glassy eyes, and saw the delirium there – the sheer ecstasy of having walked along some dangerous cliff and survived. Jesse was a stranger, about whom he knew nothing, really – he could have skullfucked Chip until he turned blue and died.
They both knew it. It was about power, Jesse could see, but also about trust. “How far will you go?” was the question the dominant partner asked. “How far can you take me?” was the challenge in reply.
Jesse put on some music. He was going to pound the shit out of Chip’s ass, and he wanted to cover up any noises Chip was about to make. Kings of Leon was already cued up on his stereo, and “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” were just about the most perfect soundtrack to what he had planned that he could imagine.
Chip had already stripped while Jesse chose the music, and thrown himself onto his bed, on his back, legs spread. Jesse looked at him and laughed, darkly. “Turn over.”
Chip grinned and nearly somersaulted onto his stomach. Jesse let Chip hear it, even over the music – the sound of his black leather belt, flap flapping out of the loops of his pants. He watched Chip’s hands grip the pillow tight, watched him squeeze his eyes shut, and raise his ass in the air like a white flag.
He wanted that ass. He wanted to lick it and stick it, he wanted to tongue it and pound it, but first, first he wanted to submit it. To make sure Chip knew from the outset that it was Jesse’s. He wanted to leave a mark on it. A mark Chip would see for days and remember who put it there. He doubled the belt over, snapping it a few time so that Chip would know what he was doing, what was coming.
He shocked them both with the power of the first lash. Had Chip expected a tentative, exploratory smack? Yeah, he had, Jesse could see. But almost immediately he could also see that the shock turned to pleasure, that just as quickly as Chip had instinctively driven his hips into the bed to avoid the next lash, he raised his ass again for the next.
“You fucking love it,” Jesse hissed. “You need your ass beat.”
Jesse saw red, the blood rushed so hard to his face. “Sir.” He loved it. A single syllable that condensed the dynamic, an absolute submission to a chain of command.
He craved it. Beautiful Chip, with his perfect fucking teeth and his happy little middle class childhood, living in his little house and never moving from town to town… Jesse wanted to beat him, for all he’d had that Jesse hadn’t. And Chip wanted him to – wanted to be punished for having it. Both of them were angry, and both of them wanted this outlet.
Jesse could only beat his ass a few more times before it was too much. He yanked open his bedside table and grabbed the condoms and lube he’d installed there when he’d moved in, as an emergency kit more than anything. Who knew, he thought darkly, where that ass has been. Who knew how many dark alleys he’d loitered in, dropping his pants….
FUCK. He rolled the condom on, and jammed lubed fingers into Chip’s asshole, hurting him, watching him flinch, but always, always arching that ass back up for more…
“Do it,” Chip hissed. “Fucking pound me.”
Later, other days, once he had more sophistication and patience and care for the psychological pleasures of the game, Jesse would have stopped there, outraged that this pathetic little sub had dared to command him. But not today.
He fell on top of Chip, and put a hand over his mouth. Then he rammed his cock into Chip’s ass, forcing all of himself into Chip’s ass. Chip screamed blue murder, but didn’t struggle. Jesse held it there for a moment, then took his hand off Chip’s mouth.
“O fuck that hurts,” Chip groaned.
“I can pull out. But you’ll never get it back in there again.”
“No. Fuck no. Oh shit. Just give me a minute to…”
Jesse didn’t. He started to fuck Chip, measuring his resistance. If Chip had struggled like a wild animal, flailing for his life, Jesse would have stopped. But he didn’t. His resistance was that of an animal to its mate, not to a predator.
It felt good, so good, to fuck. To really fuck a man, to cut loose and let go of all the caution of a lifetime. All the days and years of treading lightly, of watching for signs of danger, of never connecting, never stopping to connect.
“Fucking pound you,” Jesse whispered in his ear.
“Fucking pound me,” Chip confirmed.
He wrapped his arms around Chip’s torso, the animal passion giving way to something else…the human kind, the need to touch, to hold, to be held, and Chip’s hands grabbed his and held him tight, wanting it too, the thundering desire for love beneath all that lust and hurt and rage. Their upper bodies held tight and still and close even as Jesse’s lower body ravaged Chip’s insides.
It had never hit him before, the damage this life had done to him. He’d gone along, a survivor like Ma, from one thing to the next, intimacy and trust the most dangerous game of all. He wanted to stop moving. He wanted to find a place, a person, a goal. He wanted to stand still for once in his life.
Everything, all of it, was something he could fuck out of his body, right now, hard, harder, and Chip would take it. Chip would let Jesse pour it all into him, surrender, acceptance….love.
Jesse came with a shout. He came and came and his insides hurt, he was coming so long and hard, that he whimpered at the end, the storm inside him was so unbearably unstoppably strong.
They lay there, both gasping. Then Chip took Jesse’s hand and guided it down to his own dick, and the soaked sheets where Jesse had fucked the cum out of him.
“You did that,” Chip whispered.
“Yeah, I did,” Jesse said, kissing Chip on the neck. “You know, though, that wasn’t a yes.”
He saw Chip’s face in profile, watched the raised eyebrow and the lazy smile. “Not to my other plan anyway.”
“But I fell for one of your plans already, then, didn’t I?”
“So far so good.”
“That was pretty kinky,” Jesse said, and he was astonished when Chip laughed at him.
“You think that was kinky? That was the fucking pre-algebra version, dude.” His hand reached around and lazily stroked Jesse’s ass cheeks, sending the blood back to Jesse’s cock again.
“Stick with me. I’ll show you kinky.”
Hacking Chip’s personal history was a piece of cake. After all, Chip had given him all the information that he needed – DOB, SSN, schools attended, addresses lived at. It was the kind of info that Jesse was used to finding other ways, of course. Recycling programs had become God’s (or the devil’s) gift to grifters. Those lovely blue cans meant that all the discarded, unshredded power bills, charge card statements and check stubs were no longer mixed in with the rotten eggs and leftovers.
And, the dumbasses, they put their cans out at night, to boot, instead of first thing in the morning. People, it seemed, were practically inviting folks like the Winchesters to come along at 3 am and steal their identity.
The picture of Chip that emerged was slightly different than the one Jesse expected. Jesse had become familiar with a certain type in his various high schools – the “striver,” a child of the lower middle class who had the intelligence to vault himself out of it, if only he Always Followed The Instructions and Colored Within the Lines. As someone who’d played The System all his life, Jesse knew who The System rewarded and how.
Chip had done what he was supposed to do, for the most part. All his extracurricular activities displayed both Ingenuity and Compassion For Others, as well as Diversity Of Experience. His science fair projects were dedicated to cleaner water and solar power for “the developing world,” as his can-do poster boards would optimistically call the more godforsaken parts of the planet.
But there were bumps in the road. Bumps that, Jesse found, were smoothed over if you only looked at the public record. Jesse had a word for those who never deviated from the path set out for them – Transcriptarians, which sounded like a religion because it was. These were kids who’d never smoke pot in a dorm room for fear that one of the other kids would rat them out when they ran for President, the kids who’d never take a difficult subject with a difficult teacher if they didn’t have to, if there was any risk whatsoever that they would get an A minus in the class and ruin their GPA.
But Chip had blasphemed against The Transcript. Sealed juvenile records weren’t easy to get into, but Jesse could triangulate certain events, using arrest notices in local media referring to “a juvenile” who had been caught doing things few people could do – like hack school records, or teachers’ Facebook profiles. Enough to send most Transcriptarians straight to the eternal Hell of state college and middle management, but not Chip…
Chip had a good lawyer, it appeared. All of it had been smothered. There wasn’t even any mention of it in his high school records (an effortless hack for Jesse, as local government salaries were never enough to pay for anyone who was any good at cybersecurity).
Chip had been raised by a single mother, a secretary who had suddenly become a stay-at-home mom around the time Chip went to high school. Their house in Lawrence, Kansas had been valued at about $200k – not a palace nor a slum, so it wasn’t like she’d won the lottery. Perversely enough, that was when Chip had started hacking, pranking, acting out…
Suddenly his mom didn’t have to work, and suddenly Chip was a rebel. Something didn’t parse there, Jesse frowned. There’d never been a father in the picture, as far as Jesse could tell – not legally, anyway. So where did the money come from? He was reluctant to hack Chip’s mom’s bank account info. At least, for now. Chip had invited him to invade his own privacy, but not his family’s, and Jesse decided that he’d hold off on that.
But his greatest worry was assuaged, that Chip had been one of those kids he called COAs – Cry On Arrest. They were all rebels and thrillseekers and dope takers and small time criminals until they got arrested. Then they’d burst into tears, revert to helpless children…and point the finger at The Bad Man who’d Made It All Possible, knowing that Daddy’s wealth would send their dealer/fence/whatever to prison and they’d waltz, having Learned An Important Lesson.
But overall Chip seemed to be a solidly middle class kid, who’d developed a righteous anger against injustice. Which, Jesse has to admit, was very attractive… He thought of that look on Chip’s face, the fury, the intensity, and it made his cock swell.
When he was done profiling Chip, he took a long walk. He trusted his internal processes, the decisions that his instincts made. And as he walked the old streets, the memorials and monuments to all the Sons of Liberty who had died for a free country, an open government, he wasn’t unaware of how much things had changed in America since then…
His intellect was already turning over what Chip had told him. How could you unravel the trail, the strings of payments and contracts and third party vendors, paid to insert NSA’s shit into hardware, but who also add a little something extra for the People’s Liberation Army…and the Kroms.
And how could you reveal who had the power to do that, to cover for the ones doing it, to pull all the threads, to get the proof, indisputable proof…it would be like Enigma. For anyone to get away with it, it would have to be the most discrete, subtle, complex trail of favors and debts and blackmail and payments… If Chip was right, it was the greatest grift the world had ever seen.
Jesse realized he was in. If only for the pure intellectual challenge. He could give a shit about the politics. What, anymore, what was the difference between a PLA General and a Senator from Georgia? At least the PLA were atheists, he thought, and didn’t blame the gays for everything, but other than that, what was the difference? Both were evil, corrupt, power mad, willing to say and do anything for more power and money, to send others to fight and die in wars, to subvert their own stated philosophies, to engage in rampant nepotism and favoritism…
But. There was Chip. Chip who he wanted to fuck again. And again. To learn more about what Chip knew sexually. What he could teach Jesse. And could he really avoid being part of Chip’s campaign, and still pound the shit out of him every night?
Of course not. It was yes to all of it, or none of it. And if he said no, then what lay ahead? The rest of school, and then what? A dreary job in some cubicle, writing one tiny slice of code for a gaming engine? Joining a startup whose idea of a “disruptive” app was one that made more people buy more useless shit?
He bought a burner phone and called his Ma.
“Hey honey,” she said, answering her own “one-time pad,” a burner she’d get rid of right after this call.
“Hey Ma. No worries,” he said, their code that everything was fine, he wasn’t under duress.
“Good, good. How’s school?”
“It’s good. A little boring.”
She laughed, her low smoker’s rumble. “Yeah, I bet. You staying out of trouble, then, eh?”
“Afraid so. For the most part. I just finished an extracurricular project.” I just ran a grift.
“Did you get an A?” Did you shut it down completely, no trail?
“Yeah, I did.”
“That’s my boy.”
“I met someone.”
“Really? You’re dating?”
“Yeah. It’s like he always knew me.”
“Hmm. Be careful. Do you need some textbook money, honey?” Do you want me to look into him?
“No, I got it handled, Ma, it’s okay.”
“Hmm. Well, if he breaks my boy’s heart, you know I’ll kill him for you.”
“Yeah, Ma, I know. How’s things with you?”
“Quiet. I’m still enjoying some ‘me time.’” I still have enough money, I don’t need to run any grifts.
“Okay. Well, I just wanted to check in with you. I love you.”
“I love you too, baby. You let me know if you need anything.”
“I will, Ma.”
They both hung up, and Jesse waited until a bus was rolling down the street behind him. With a flick of his hand, he threw the phone into the gutter, and the wheels of the bus did their job on it.
He’d needed to know that, he realized. That Ma was okay, more than okay, before he did…what he was obviously about to do. To take this risk. To go on an adventure with Chip.
An adventure in more ways than one, he thought with a grin, his cock stiffening at the very thought of it.