Chapter 5:Bad Kitty Meets Google


Good​ ​god:​ ​that​ ​self-satisfied​ ​voice,​ ​going​ ​on​ ​and​ ​on:

“The​ ​extraordinary​ ​mirror​ ​relationships​ ​of​ ​hacking​ ​itself​ ​and anti-hacking–or​ ​hacker-hunting–programs​ ​form​ ​a​ ​prism​ ​where​ ​every angle​ ​essentially​ ​reflects​ ​the​ ​same​ ​exact​ ​structures…”​

​Andrew​ ​hadn’t stopped​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​his​ ​work​ ​since​ ​she​ ​had​ ​been​ ​introduced.​ ​

That​ ​old​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​leave,​ ​to​ ​close​ ​up​ ​an​ ​old​Samsonite suitcase​ ​and​ ​just​ ​take​ ​a​ ​powder,​ ​but​ ​she​ ​couldn’t–​ ​only​ ​five minutes​ ​ago they had​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​Joan’s​ ​nephew​ ​for​ ​lunch.​ ​​ ​He’d​ ​been​ ​waiting​ ​in front​ ​of​ ​his​ ​corporate​ ​headquarters,​ ​which,​ ​like​ ​a​ ​sudden​ ​huge​ ​toadstool, had​ ​taken​ ​over​ ​a​ ​solid​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City​ ​block.​

She​ ​had​ ​mentioned​ ​to​ ​Joan,​ ​her​ ​old​ ​friend,​ ​that​ ​she’d​ ​been​ ​pining​ ​for Mexican​ ​and​ ​knew​ ​of​ ​an​ ​excellent​ ​place​ ​just​ ​around​ ​the​ ​corner​ ​and​ ​Joan as​ ​always​ ​had​ ​been​ ​agreeable,​ ​but​ ​Andrew​ ​said​ ​he’d​ ​made​ ​a​ ​reservation at​ ​a​ ​“brilliant”​ ​Japanese​ ​place​ ​(on​ ​his​ ​famous​ ​aunt’s​ ​dime,​ ​of​ ​course​).​ ​​ ​Andrew​ ​didn’t​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​Joan saying​ ​that​ ​her​ ​friend​ ​had​ ​just​ ​returned​ ​from​ ​Japan​ ​and​ ​might​ ​like​ ​a change,​ ​but​ ​Bad​ ​Kitty​ ​waved​ ​her​ ​hand,​ ​dismissing​ ​it​ ​as​ ​an​ ​issue.

​Andrew​ ​only​ ​grew​ ​more​ ​technical​ ​after​ ​they​ ​were​ ​seated.​ ​​ ​She​ ​didn’t need​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​menu​ ​to​ ​know​ ​what​ ​she​ ​wanted​ ​or​ ​how​ ​costly​ ​this whole​ ​meal​ ​would​ ​be,​ ​and​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​tune​ ​out​ ​his​ ​bragging​ ​about​ ​the​ ​huge breakthrough​ ​the company​ ​(with​ ​​his​ ​​help)​ ​was​ ​making​ ​in​ ​the field​ ​of​ ​anti-hacking​ ​programs.​ ​​ ​

“It’s​ ​literally​ ​a​ ​quantum​ ​leap:​ ​no​ ​one’s ready​ ​for​ ​it—we’ll​ ​have​ ​the​ ​element​ ​of​ ​surprise.​ ​​ ​I​ ​wouldn’t​ ​even​ ​be telling​ ​you,”​ ​he​ ​snickered​ ​at​ ​his​ ​aunt,​ ​“if​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​you​ ​hardly​ ​know what​ ​I’m​ ​talking​ ​about.

It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​long​ ​lunch.

But,​ ​sitting​ ​there,​ ​she​ ​had​ ​a​ ​breakthrough​ ​of​ ​her​ ​own,​ ​involving​ ​her old​ ​cellphone​ ​(which​ ​she​ ​only​ ​had​ ​with​ ​her​ ​because​ ​she’d​ ​imagined—before​ ​actually​ ​meeting​ ​him—that​ ​as​ ​always​ ​with​ ​the​ ​young,​ ​she’d take​ ​advantage​ ​of​ ​their​ ​ease​ ​with​ ​such​ ​things​ ​and​ ​​that​ ​Joan’s geeky​ ​tech​ ​nephew​ ​might​ ​wipe​ ​it​ ​clean​ ​for​ ​her​ ​while​ ​they​ ​ate​ ​lunch​ ​so she​ ​could​ ​donate​ ​it​ ​to​ ​a​ ​shelter).​ ​​ ​And​ ​suddenly​ ​she​ ​echoed​ ​Joan’s excitement​ ​about​ ​a​ ​tour​ ​of​ ​Andrew’s​ ​offices.

​ ​Yes,​ ​as​ ​he​ ​preened​ ​himself​ ​more​ ​and​ ​more​ ​on​ ​their​ ​“breakthrough,” she​ ​had​ ​an​ ​idea​ ​and​ ​she’d​ ​popped​ ​that​ ​idea​ ​into​ ​her​ ​mental perambulator​ ​and,​ ​though​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​listening​ ​to​ ​Andrew,​ ​she​ ​nodded smiling​ ​at​ ​him​ ​every​ ​so​ ​often​ ​which​ ​was​ ​all​ ​that​ ​he​ ​required​ ​by​ ​way​ ​of​ ​a conversational​ ​partner–​ ​she​ ​was​ ​walking​ ​that​ ​baby​ ​off​ ​into​ ​a​ ​leafy, happy,​ ​profitable​ ​mental​ ​park….

“It ​ ​is​ ​rare​ ​that​ ​we​ ​get​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​anyone​ ​in​ ​but​ ​I​ ​told​ ​Ian​ ​you​ ​were​ ​here for​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​in​ ​years​ ​Aunt​ ​Joan–and​​ ​​Ian​ ​of​ ​course​ ​knows​ ​who​ ​you are​ ​but​ ​also​ ​he’s​ ​really​ ​making​ ​an​ ​exception​ ​cause​ ​he​ ​knows​​ ​​you​ ​helped put​ ​me​ ​through​ ​MIT…”

​ ​​​She​ ​felt​ ​the​ ​pain​ ​of​ ​some​ ​boss​ ​knowing​ ​who​ ​Joan​ ​was,​ ​but​ ​the schlemeil​ ​not​ ​knowing​ ​his​ ​aunt​ ​at​ ​all.​ ​​ ​

Joan​ ​paid​ ​for​ ​lunch​ ​(hundreds​ ​of​ ​dollars),​ ​but​ ​Andrew​ ​did​ ​not thank​ ​her​; he​ ​kept​ ​talking​ ​all​ ​the​ ​way​ ​back​ ​to​ ​his​ ​building,​ stopping only when​ ​the​ ​ladies​ ​had​ ​their​ ​pictures​ ​taken​ ​at​ ​the​ ​security​ ​desk​ ​for​ ​large visitor​ ​tags.​ ​

​ ​“Now​ ​remember:​ ​no​ ​photos,​ ​no​ ​notes–that​ ​is​ ​really​ ​​verboten.”

Ian​ ​didn’t​ ​seem​ ​so​ ​bad–in​ ​fact​ ​he​ ​had​ ​a​ ​full​ ​head​ ​of​ ​hair,​ ​​he​ ​wasn’t wearing​ ​glasses, ​was​ ​much​ ​less​ ​awkward​ ​than​ ​she​ ​had​ ​expected​ ​and better​ ​looking​ ​too:​ ​tall,​ ​and​ ​in​ ​a​ ​way​ ​quite​ ​handsome.​ ​

She​ ​reflected​ ​on her​ ​prejudices.

​ Ian​ ​was​ ​beaming​ ​at​ ​Joan,​ ​saying​ ​he’d​ ​like​ ​to​ ​talk with​ ​her​ ​when​ ​she’d​ ​seen​​ ​everything​.

Andrew ​ ​took​ ​them​ ​on​ ​a​ ​short,​ ​guided​ ​tour​ ​and​ ​then​ ​left​ ​them​ ​at​ ​his work​ ​station​ ​and​ ​went​ ​to​ ​the​ ​bathroom.​ ​Sinking​ ​into​ ​her​ ​nephew’s​ ​chair, Joan​ ​looked​ ​worn​ ​out,​ ​but​ ​tried​ ​to​ ​disguise​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​by​ ​attending​ ​to​ ​a​ ​text that​ ​pinged​ ​in​ ​on​ ​her​ ​phone.​ ​​ ​And​ ​Bad​ ​Kitty​ ​whipped​ ​out​ ​that​ ​old cellphone​ ​and​ ​quickly​ ​took​ ​several​ ​pictures​ ​of​ ​two​ ​large​ ​whiteboards scrawled​ ​with​ ​formulas​ ​in​ ​bright​ ​markers.​ ​ Tucking​ ​that​ ​away,​ ​she​ ​was holding​ ​up​ ​her​ ​current​ ​iPhone​ ​just​ ​as​ ​Joan​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​her,​ ​snapping​ ​a​ ​few pictures​ ​of​ ​her​ ​beautiful​ ​friend.

Then Andrew​ ​walked​ ​in​ ​and​ ​was​ ​horrified.

​ ​​ ​ “​WHAT​ ​are​ ​you​ ​doing!??”

​ ​​He​ ​actually​ ​screeched​ ​at​ ​her.​ ​

​ ​​ ​​“Nothing,”​ ​she​ ​said,​ ​turning​ ​her​ ​astonished​ ​face​ ​to​ ​Ian​ ​who’d​ ​just walked​ ​in​ ​as​ ​well​ ​and​ ​stood​ ​behind​ ​Andrew.

​Internally​ ​she​ ​felt​ ​the​ ​comforting​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​fortunate​ ​that​ ​none of​ ​her​ ​three​ ​nephews​ ​screeched.​ ​​ ​Without​ ​having​ ​anything​ ​to​ ​do​ ​with​ ​it, living​ ​halfway​ ​across​ ​the​ ​country,​ ​she​ ​felt​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​that.

“Have​ ​you​ ​forgotten:​ ​there​ ​are​ ​absolutely​ ​no​ ​photos​ ​allowed–“​ ​and​ ​as Andrew​ ​peremptorily​ ​held​ ​out​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​for​ ​her​ ​phone,​ ​Ian​ ​nodded.

“But​ ​it’s​ ​just​ ​your​ ​aunt!​ ​ She’s​ ​so​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​you…”

And​ ​then,​ ​looking​ ​hurt,​ ​she​ ​handed​ ​over​ ​the​ ​new​ ​iPhone.​ ​

Aggressively​ ​yet​ ​obsequiously,​ ​glancing​ ​at​ ​Ian,​ ​Andrew​ ​flicked​ ​his wrist,​ ​playing​ ​back​ ​the​ ​photos:​ ​he​ ​was​ ​turned​ ​carefully​ ​so​ ​whatever​ ​he saw​ ​was​ ​also​ ​displayed​ ​to​ ​Ian.​ ​He​ ​swiped​ ​past​ ​the​ ​ones​ ​of​ ​his​ ​aunt at​ ​his​ ​desk,​ ​looking​ ​at​ ​the​ ​last​ ​few​ ​days​ ​and​ ​even​ ​a​ ​rainbow​ ​from​ ​last weekend,​ ​and​ ​then​ ​slowly​ ​swiped​ ​forward​ ​again​ ​with​ ​that​ ​white forefinger​ ​white​ ​as​ ​only​ ​a​ ​white​ ​computer​ ​geek​ ​boy’s​ ​finger​ ​could​ ​be.​ ​ He frowned​ ​as​ ​he​ ​hit​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​last​ ​photos,​ ​of​ ​his​ ​aunt,​ ​shrugged,​ ​and​ ​then deleted​ ​them​ ​one​ ​by​ ​one,​ ​as​ ​if​ ​squashing​ ​ants–and​ ​​aunts,​​ ​it​ ​occurred​ ​to her–saying,​ ​“Sorry…sorry…sorry…sorry.”

​ ​​Andrew​ ​handed​ ​her​ ​back​ ​the​ ​phone.

​​“Such​ ​a​ ​sweet​ ​visit!​ ​“ Joan​ ​piped​ ​up​ ​brightly:​ ​“ ​But​ ​we​ ​should​ ​be toddling​ ​off—“

Ian,​ ​clapping​ ​Andrew​ ​on​ ​the​ ​shoulder,​ ​apologized​ ​for​ ​the cautiousness,​ ​assuring​ ​the​ ​ladies​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​walk​ ​them​ ​out​ ​and​ ​take a​ ​group​ ​snap​ ​with​ ​the​ ​great​ ​background​ ​of​ ​the​ ​corporation​ ​logo.​ ​

​ ​​ ​​​As​ ​soon​ ​as​ ​they​ ​were​ ​alone,​ ​Joan​ ​put​ ​her​ ​hand​ ​on​ ​Bad Kitty’s arm​ ​looking​ ​at her​ ​as​ ​if​ ​to​ ​say,​ ​​let’s​ ​forbear​ comment​ ​and​ ​when​ ​she​ ​smiled​ ​back,​ ​Joan got​ ​chatty.

​ ​​​”Oh,​ ​I​ ​​know​​ ​that​ ​was​ ​not​ ​very​ ​polite,​ ​Andrew​ ​checking​ ​your​ ​phone, and​ ​erasing​ ​those​ ​sweet​ ​pictures​ ​of​ ​me,​ ​and​ ​all​ ​that,​ ​but​ ​you​ ​know​ ​he can’t​ ​help​ ​it.​ ​ He’s​ ​a​ ​little​ ​Asbergian.​ ​ A​ ​sort​ ​of​ ​idiot​ ​savant…”

And​ ​Bad​ ​Kitty​ ​thought:​ ​syndromes​ ​are by​ ​their​ ​nature​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​make​ ​anyone​ ​tired–and​ ​yes​ ​Joan​ ​looked exhausted.

​ ​​She​ ​proposed​ ​a​ ​ ​quick​ ​Pick​ ​Me​ ​Up,​ ​and​ ​sitting in​ ​their​ ​booth​ ​at​ ​the​ ​El​ ​Quijote,​ ​they​ ​were​ ​both,​ ​in​ ​their​ ​own​ ​ways,​ ​quite happy.

Quite​ ​a​ ​pretty​ ​penny​ ​could​ ​come​ ​from​ ​Ian’s​ ​breakthrough,​ ​she​ ​knew. Chatting​ ​away​ ​with​ ​Joan​,​ ​a​ ​suitcase​ ​of​ ​cash​ ​from​ ​a start-up​ ​revolved​ ​​in​ ​her​ ​brain​ ​along​ ​with​ ​a​ ​Chinese​ ​connection of​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​of​ ​hers…But​ ​Bad​ ​Kitty​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​put​ ​all​ ​that​ ​out​ ​of​ ​her​ ​mind until​ ​she​ ​got​ ​back​ ​from​ ​her​ ​favorite​ ​country​ ​house​ ​in the​ ​world​ ​that​ ​old​ ​friends​ ​had​ ​on​ ​the​ ​most​ ​beautiful​ ​river—clean,​ ​partly a​ ​national​ ​park—where​ ​she’d​ ​be​ ​the​ ​next​ ​week.

And​ ​there,​ ​lolling​ ​on​ ​the​ ​front​ ​porch,​ ​it​ ​came​ ​to​ ​her​ ​how​ ​Andrew​ ​only reminded​ ​her​ ​of​ ​Harry’s​ ​awful​ ​daughter​ ​Celia​ ​the​ ​least​ ​little​ ​bit,​ ​despite the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​they​ ​were​ ​both​ ​“geniuses​ ​of technology”.

Tedious,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​different​ ​key​ ​from​ ​Andrew​ ​(his​ ​all​ ​bragidaccio;​ ​hers​ ​all sulky​ ​silent​ ​superiority),​ ​Celia​ ​was​ ​a​ ​mousy​ ​contrary​ ​little girl​ ​before​ ​she​ ​had​ ​blossomed​ ​into​ a ​full-on​ ​politically extra-right​ ​ratty​ ​thing:​ ​scornful​ ​but​ ​vain​ ​about​ ​Stanford, referencing​ ​it​ ​almost​ ​as​ ​often​ ​as​ ​Andrew​ ​mentioned​ ​MIT.​ ​​ ​Celia​ ​also explained​ ​overmuch​ ​about​ ​“code”:​ ​she​ ​was​ ​the​ ​IT​ ​specialist​ ​for​ ​a militant​ ​splinter​ ​branch​ ​of​ ​Green​ ​Peace.​ ​

​With fluorescent​ ​green​ ​hair​ ​and​ ​Bernie​ ​t-shirt,​ ​Celia​ ​ ​expounded her​ ​vegan​ ​philosophies​ ​alongside​ ​a​ ​screed​ ​about​ ​the​ ​coding​ ​of​ ​cells​ ​as well​ ​as​ ​screeds​ ​about​ ​the​ ​evils​ ​of​ ​other​ ​creatures’​ ​blood​ ​cells​ ​being absorbed​ ​by​ ​non​ ​vegans—

Celia​ ​had​ ​never​ ​learned​ ​that​ ​the​ ​more​ ​she​ ​talked​ ​the​ ​less​ ​people listened.​ ​​​Celia’s​ ​teenage tirades​ ​had​ ​been​ ​so​ ​collegiate​ ​and​ ​so​ ​tedious​ ​that​ ​Bad Kitty had​ ​for​ ​years avoided​ ​Harry’s​ ​house​ ​when​ ​Celia​ ​was​ ​in​ ​town.​ ​

And​ ​when​ ​she​ ​remembered,​ ​amazed,​ ​lolling​ ​there,​ ​so​ ​happily​ ​with​ ​the hummingbirds,​ ​that​ ​Harry​ ​too​ ​had​ ​made​ ​the​ ​exact​ ​same​ ​“idiot​ ​savant” excuse,​ ​again​ ​she​ ​thought,​ ​pulling​ ​herself​ ​up​ ​off​ ​the​ ​couch​ ​for​ ​a​ ​swim: the​ ​important​ ​part​ ​of​ ​that​ ​phrase​ ​is​ ​​idiot.

And​ ​in​ ​the​ ​river,​ ​she​ ​was​ ​blissfully​ ​floating​ ​downstream.

First,​ ​she​ ​had​ ​struggled,​ ​walking​ ​upstream​ ​with​ ​the​ ​water​ ​up​ ​to​ ​her chest:​ ​​ ​a​ ​noisy​ ​struggle; ​now​ ​she​ ​was​ ​gliding​ ​back​ ​in​ ​the​ ​quiet​ ​flow.

The​ ​easy​ ​part.​ ​ And​ ​she​ ​knew​ ​just​ ​what​ ​to do​ ​next​ ​with​ ​those white-board-formula​ ​photos.​ ​

A​ ​few​ ​days​ ​later,​ ​after​ ​many​ ​swims,​ ​driving​ ​back​ ​down​ ​to​ ​the​ ​city she​ ​stopped​ ​in​ ​a​ ​town​ ​about​ ​an​ ​hour​ ​south​ ​of​ ​the​ ​river​ ​house,​ ​found​ ​the little​ ​town​ ​library,​ ​borrowed​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​public​ ​computers,​ ​and​ ​mailed herself​ ​the​ ​white​ ​board​ ​full​ ​of​ ​formulas​ ​photos:​ ​she​ ​dragged​ ​them​ ​out​ ​of her​ ​gmail​ ​and​ ​then​ ​onto​ ​the​ ​library​ ​desktop.​ ​ And,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​very​ ​short​ ​​Note from​ ​a​ ​Friend​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Earth,​​ ​explaining​ ​that​ ​these​ ​were​ ​advance​ ​anti-hacking​ ​codes,​ ​she​ ​sent​ ​the​ ​pictures​ ​to​ ​Celia.

The​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​she​ ​hadn’t​ ​seen​ ​Celia​ ​in​ ​a​ ​few​ ​years​ ​and​ ​that​ ​they​ ​didn’t​ ​like one​ ​another​ ​made​ ​this​ ​perfect,​ ​possibly.​ In any​ ​case,​ ​erasing​ ​all​ ​she​ ​could​ ​from​ ​the​ ​library​ ​computer,​ ​she​ ​smiled.​

And​ ​not​ ​even​ ​a​ ​month​ ​later​ ​she​ ​was​ ​smiling​ ​every​ ​morning​ ​as​ ​she opened​ ​the​ ​paper.​ ​

The​ ​EPA​ ​chief​ ​was​ ​under​ ​indictment​ ​and​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​upper​ ​echelon​ ​of​ ​the department​ ​had​ ​left​ ​in​ ​disgrace,​ ​some​ ​pending​ ​trial​ ​for​ ​corruption, influence-peddling,​ ​and​ ​embezzlement.​ ​  Every​ ​day​ ​brought​ ​new scandals.​ ​ Polluters​ ​and​ ​lobbyists​ ​alike​ ​were​ ​flushed​ ​out​ ​like rats​ ​from​ ​a​ ​sewer.​ ​Bank​ ​deposits,​ ​illegal​ ​transactions,​ ​kickbacks,​ ​the works​ ​–​ ​all​ ​the​ ​hacked​ ​leaks​ ​were​ ​credited​ ​to​ ​​an​ ​anonymous​ ​friend​ ​of​ ​the Earth​.​ ​

Celia​ ​had​ ​liked​ ​that​ ​moniker.

As​ ​the​ ​scandals ​piled​ ​up,​ ​burying​ ​the​ ​corrupt​ ​chief​ ​of​ ​the​ ​EPA​ ​himself,​ ​that self-styled​ ​“clean​ ​businessman”​ ​so​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​raping​ ​federal​ ​lands,​ ​and​ ​as convictions​ ​of​ ​several​ ​staffers​ resulted in ​both​ ​civil​ ​penalties​ ​and​ ​jail​ ​time,​ ​she felt​ ​just​ ​proud.​ ​​​ ​All​ ​this ​was​ ​further paving​ ​the road​ ​to​ ​the​ ​total​ ​disgrace​ ​of​ ​the​ ​worst​ ​president​ ​in​ ​history (though,​ ​she​ ​knew,​ ​since​ ​he​ ​knows​ ​no​ ​history​ ​this​ ​may​ ​not​ ​trouble​ ​him).

And​ ​that​ ​Celia, she​ ​ha​s ​some​ ​good​ ​points​–​no​ ​matter​ ​how irritating​ ​she​ can ​be​ ​about​ ​leather​ ​shoes​ ​and​          ​handbags…                                                                                         –BKE