Nadia, a story by Miquel Morales.
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Nadia got to the address her sister had mentioned way before noon. Not because she cared about punctuality or anything like that. She hadn’t been able to sleep after the call, and there was only so much walking around to be done in a small town like Coventry. Plus, she needed to survey the area before the meeting. If the events of the past few days have told her anything, that was to always be prepared for the worse. Her sister must have thought that was a safe place to hide from the kidnappers. Nadia wouldn’t be doing her any service if she got spotted out of pure recklessness.
In any case, there she was, hiding behind some bushes like a sloppy burglar. That was, of course, assuming her sister meant 246 Reinford Lane, Coventry and not 246 Reinford Lane, London or some other city. Hopefully not.
It was a small house, one of those narrow and tall townhouses with a small, elevated staircase that connects the front door with the street. The curtains were closed shut on all windows, so there was not much that Nadia could make out from across the street. She examined what seemed to be the door to the basement, a rusty door at the street level with no handle or windows. A side alley led to the back of the property.
After making sure no one besides her was lurking behind a bush, Nadia walked across the street and went into the alley. It ended abruptly on a wooden fence crowned by overflowing vegetation. Nadia went back a few steps and made a run for it. After a couple failed attempts, she managed to push herself over the fence and fell in the middle of a jungle of a garden. Plants were sprouting from literally everywhere, to the point that it was hard to distinguish the flat stones that served as the floor. The house’s back wall was covered in vines. So were the windows.
Nadia fought her way through the greenery all the way to what seemed to be the door into the house. She tore off the vines covering it and tried pushing the handle. To her surprise, the door opened with a tiny squeak. Shhh!
A rancid smell hanged in the air. For all she could see in the pale light coming through the open door, she was in the basement she had seen earlier. A staircase led upstairs, probably to the rest of the house. Nadia stood still and listened for a while. No sounds were coming from upstairs. She started making her way up, slowly but steady, one step at a time. The wood cracked under her feet with every step, making her cringe. But Nadia hadn’t made it half the way up when a fluorescent light turned on behind her.
Nadia gave a jump and turned around with a racing heart. There was her sister, sitting on a worn-out leather armchair by the door.
“You really are that easy to predict, aren’t you?” The smirk on her sister’s face brought Nadia back to her childhood days and the not-so-nice version of her sister. She had changed so much over the past years. Nadia hadn’t seen that mocking smile in a long time. Something was off. “Classic Nadia, always one step ahead, or at least happily thinking so. Well, this time I was the one ahead, wasn’t I?”
“Ahead of what? Seriously, can you tell me what’s going on with this whole thing? How did you free yourself? Where were they keeping you?”
“Free myself? You really don’t get it, do you? It beats you to think someone could outsmart you or want you harm. It always has.”
“Alright, you are freaking me out, siss,” said Nadia. “Spill it. What’s going on.”
“Why don’t you take a seat?”
“As you wish,” said her sister crossing one leg on top of the other and resting her back against the armchair. “Do you recognise this?” she said holding up a card. Nadia did recognise it right away. It was the invite card that Tom had given her to get into the party. It was hard to believe only two days had passed since then. And it felt like ages ago.
“How did you get that?”
“Oh, it’s easy. I made it myself. You see, there’s just so much you can squeeze into such a thin material these days. Recording the data was the easy part, I just needed you to have the card with you while you were in the holovisor cabin.”
“Yep. He was acting on my behalf. Don’t blame him. Let’s just say he wasn’t too keen on me letting the police know about his boyfriend’s little magic tricks with his taxes. A pity he decided to make it up to you and ended up shot for it.”
Nadia’s blood was boiling, her head spinning between confusion and sheer disbelief.
“Because it needed to be done. You had it coming all along. Since we were kids, I’ve had to deal with your oh-so-perfect aura. You know, it wasn’t that fun seeing everybody praise every little step you took while I failed at every major goal I set out to achieve. You were the one who was good with numbers, the one that made it into the good schools. Don’t you get it? I wanted to be you, have your career, your life, not have to depend on a miserable admin salary. Well, now it’s my turn.
As much as it hurt, Nadia wasn’t entirely surprised by her sister’s revelations. She had exhibited that kind of attitude for most of their childhood. But Nadia thought they had left those years behind, grown into adults who got along just fine. Heck, she thought they had even become friendly to a certain degree. Her birthday gift sort of sealed that conception. Her sister, reaching back to one of the few things they had in common growing up: Ziza.
She understood all of a sudden.
“Exactly. See? You are not that stupid after all. It wasn’t too complicated to install a backdoor into the AI before giving it to you. I must admit I had quite some fun telling you what to do.”
“But everything that EVE, I mean that you told me to do was petty stuff. You couldn’t have retrieved the Duplo data through that.”
“Agreed. But it was enough to open little wholes within the system, right where I needed them, so that I could start transferring information to the card. Worked pretty well.”
Nadia felt so stupid. It was a very simple trick in reality. One of the world’s most protected systems, breached through carelessness and personal deceit. The wailing sound of sirens could be heard approaching in the distance.
“I took the liberty of calling some friends,” said her sister. “They should be here any minute.”
“What did you do with the data?”
“Why, sell it, of course. I am now what they technically call filthy rich.”
“I’ll tell them everything.” The sirens grew louder and louder.
“Good luck making them believe this crazy story,” said her sister with a chuckle. “Goodbye siss, enjoy your prison cell. It will be your home for many years.”
With that, her sister stood up and walk out into the garden. Nadia heard a crashing boom as the special operations team busted through the house’s main door.
Discover another story: Edna’s Garden – Chapter 1
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