1 Calm night?


...Five years into the future...

The year 2023

~ Los Angeles, the Cliffside Villa ~

Sarah is in the underground room, facing her two sisters: JoAnna and Sophia.

"We know that both Lebedev and Voronin families are after us.", Sarah's expression was grave. "We are too big of a threat for them to leave us alone."

"Lebedevs would not leave us alone even if we are not a threat. We knew this is coming. They made their move and it was only a matter of time. What do you have in mind?", Sophia's shaky voice betrayed how anxious she is.

"Lebedev family, as our maternal family, is more interested in having us join. I will use that and take over." Sarah reluctantly looked at both of her sisters. "I can't do this alone. I hope that you will take this risk and join me."

JoAnna and Sophia glanced at each other and faced Sarah.

"You can count on us.", they responded confidently in unison.

Sarah looked at them gratefully. "We need to remove elders from power and take command of their forces. This will be extremely dangerous. Talk about this with your husbands before making the decision."

"We will talk with them." JoAnna confirmed. "I'm confident that they will want to be part of this. The fact is that we are all in the same danger. With six of us working together, we are unbeatable."

Sarah lowered her head and pressed her lips into a line firmly, to suppress her chin from trembling while her gaze rested on the black ring on her left ring finger.

JoAnna realized that she said too much. It can't be six of them when one is missing.

"Any news of Aiden?", Sophia asked in a quiet voice. She knew that Sarah returned from a meeting, and she hoped that there is something. Anything.

Sarah shook her head in response and took a deep breath, trying to compose herself before facing her sisters again with eyes full of determination. "Make the calls you need, and let's start. I'm sure that we will find out something about Aiden soon. I swear, whoever is behind this... I will make them burn."

***The end of prologue***

~ Fairfield, USA ~

The year 2018

It is a calm winter night. Light wind is rustling bare branches on the campus of Tesla Technical University.

Students are in their rooms, getting ready to sleep. The evenings on campus are usually lively due to some gathering or a party, but not tonight. Exams are approaching, and that is why students are focusing on studying or resting in order to score well during exams.

On the third floor of the girl's dormitory, under a dim light, three computer screens are filled with code, flickering occasionally. Sarah Hill is focused on the screens while her fingers are flying over the keyboard.

Sarah is a top student at the University. Since elementary school, she is skipping grades and acing exams. Her professors at the university and the professionals in software development field who looked at her work call her a prodigy and have high expectations for her in the future.

But Sarah also has a different side of her: when no one is watching, she becomes the world-famous hacker which operates under the alias Sigma.

Earlier that day, Sarah found out that TargetSecurity company completed their new encryption and is offering a monetary prize for finding vulnerabilities in their product.

Of course, Sarah is going for the top prize. Her confidence is high, and she has a stellar track record to support it.

Sarah's excitement is rising as she is stripping off layer after layer of encryption and she can almost feel her goal of breaking through it completely.

Sarah's phone started ringing, and she glanced at it. 'Oh, no, dad… what a timing…', Sarah sighed when she saw that the caller ID says: Edward.

'He probably wants to wish me goodnight. When I don't answer, he will give up on calling and send me a text message…', she thought. 

The Hill family's fortune started with a company Orion Enterprise, which Edward founded with his wife (and Sarah's mother) Stella.

Edward believes that if people are capable, they will be able to provide for themselves, and he wants his children to be capable. That is why Edward covers basic expenses related to Sarah's education and living, and if she needs more than that, she can earn it herself.

Sarah is not happy about the timing of Edward's call. She is so close to snatching the main prize. But the phone is relentlessly ringing, and she knows that if he didn't give up so far, he thinks that she is in some kind of trouble. Well, it would not be the first time.

With a frown, she stopped her typing and picked up her phone: "Yes?"

"Hello, sweetie pie, how are you?" Edward's voice is cheerful. He does not seem bothered that it took her so long to pick up.

Sarah tried to hide irritation in her voice. Can he get to the point? "I'm fine, why are you calling?"

"Hey, why do you sound unhappy? Can't I call my baby girl to hear how you are doing?"

Sarah plastered a fake smile, forgetting that he can't see her. "You never call just to hear how I'm doing. Can you get to the point? I'm busy right now."

"Fine! I want to remind you that the exams are starting next week. Are you keeping this in mind? Are you ready?"

Sarah paused for a second. 'Is it that time already?' She forgot! But she does not have time to dwell on it, her father is listening, and she needs to snap out of it. "Of course, I know that! And I'm getting ready!"

"You don't sound very convincing." The doubt in Edward's voice is obvious. "Are you sure? You remember that last semester you skipped on exams because you were gaming few days straight? I'm concerned that this will happen again."

Sarah rolled her eyes, does he need to bring that up again? "Dad! I'm telling you that I remember. That is why I said I'm busy. I'm studying!"

"OK. If you say so..." He is not convinced.

Sarah remembered that she was in the middle of the hacking. She needs to end the call quickly and focus on the event. "Anything else?"

Edward sighed. "Nothing else. Have a good night..."

"Good night." Sarah ended the call abruptly and focused on the screens in front of her.

Huh, Sarah forgot about the exams, it's a good thing that he called to remind her.

Sarah never had a problem to prepare for the exams. She has a nearly-photographic memory and her analytical skills are amazing.

Sarah set a reminder for the morning, so that she registers for the exams.

Now she is free to go back to cracking that encryption.

In the next moment, Sarah saw a notification that contributor Omega found a crucial flaw and will be getting the top prize. There was a thank you message for all current participants and the event ended.

Sarah is looking at her screen in disbelief. 'How is this possible? I was so close to cracking this and getting the top prize!'

This was one of the top prizes in the last few months, and who knows when the next event will be open to earn such a hefty amount! Of course, it's not only about the money, it's bragging rights as well. No one knows that it's Sarah operating under alias Sigma, but she knows. And she enjoys when Sigma stands proudly on the top at every event she participates in, when online forums buzz discussing the results and have wild guesses who the person behind that alias is.

'Uh, Omega! Who are you? I will find you and teach you a lesson for snatching this prize from me!', she exhaled in frustration. But can she blame Omega for the timing of Edward's phone call?

She is familiar with Omega whose skills are undeniable. However, Omega was inactive for some time. Why did he show up at this event? There must be some secret behind it, and there is nothing that excites Sarah more than revealing secrets… things that no one should know.

The calm winter night was not so calm anymore, at least not from Sarah's perspective. Her emotions stirred and she started her search for information on the mysterious Omega person. Her initial search yielded no results, at least nothing that she didn't know already… which is not a lot.

She turned off her computer and went to her bed, trying to calm down and get some sleep with a thought that the morning is always smarter than the evening.

~Tesla Technical University, men's dorm~

The room on the fourth floor is dimly lit with the light from the screen of a laptop. A young man, in early 20-ies, is looking at the screen with a smug smile on his face.

His long black hair is reaching halfway down his back, framing his perfect face and dark eyes that can easily attract the attention of any female. His long and slender fingers are suspended above keyboard without moving, while he reads the message:

'To: Omega.

Thank you for your contribution in this event. The amount of $10.000,00 will be transferred to your account within the next 3 hours. We hope to have more opportunities for collaboration in the future. With respect, the management of TargetSecurity'.

He took a minute to enjoy reading the message before dismissing the dialog.

"Not bad for my first day back on campus…", he murmured before closing his laptop, revealing its silver case with black symbol 'Ω'. He paused for a second and traced the black symbol with his index finger, before keeping the laptop in the drawer, away from any prying eyes.

He lifted his arms above his head and stretched. 'Now to get some rest, and in the morning I will start my search for that computer whiz Jeff wants to recruit…'

He is not aware that on the same campus, Sarah noticed his online presence and is coming up with plans to find out who he is. And he also does not know that she is the person he is looking for.


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