A Steel Town - Chloe Barlow


“A.J., get over here and sit on my lap,” Trey urged, turning from his computer so he could reach a hand out to his girlfriend.

“There you go, ordering me around again,” she teased from her spot on the lone twin bed in his dorm room.

He’d spent one sleepless night during his freshman year infiltrating Stanford’s housing protocols to get himself assigned to a single room for his sophomore year. That effort was really paying off, because privacy was turning out to be vital.

“That’s right,” he answered. “And I’ll be even more demanding if you don’t get that cute ass of yours over here…now.”

“Oh yeah? Well, maybe I want to keep saying ‘no,’ then I’ll see how far I can push you before you break…”

“You’ve already broken me, so now I just want you near me. Come here. Look at what we were able to get.”

She unfolded her long legs, and quickly made her way across the room to stand next to him.

“Holy hell, Trey, it worked! Look at all this data.”

“It’s not just information. Our plan to get control over the whole university mainframe and its servers worked, too — all that power is right here at our fingertips. And there’s no tracing it to us because we’ve perfectly mimicked the system.”

“Wow! All this with just our little program?”

“Little? I think it’s pretty big,” Trey corrected.

“Not as big as I’d hoped, but I guess you’re right.”

“That’s because I reined it in some.”

Frustration streaked across her face, hardening her voice when she blurted out, “What the hell, Trey? I thought we were doing this together?”

“We are. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I made this change. But this is just for fun, right? To see if we can do it?”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just…I want it to be amazing, like what you told me you’d done when you were in high school.”

“What I did was too amazing. The hardest thing with a virus like this is containing it. We don’t want it to get away from us. It’s how shit gets out of hand.”

“I know…” Her voice was distant, fading off as her eyes began darting quickly around the room and back to the glowing screen in front of Trey. He could almost feel the nervous energy emanating from her.

“A.J., calm down.” He grabbed her wrist and dragged her on top of him, letting his hand slide up her arm, then down her shapely torso, settling finally at her waist. She giggled in response, relaxing against him.

“Sorry. It’s hard not to be excited. I’ve never done anything like this before. I spent all my days before I met you doing the right thing. It never even occurred to me to try something like this. If I hadn’t been partnered with you for this project, I would’ve kept on living my boring life, doing the actual assignment, creating antivirus software. But making a super virus? This is so much more fun!”

“I definitely enjoyed corrupting you, A.J. — both your brain and your body.”

A.J. met his eyes, then pulled Trey’s arms around her waist and said, “I enjoyed it, too. You were very good at bringing me to the dark side.” She kissed him quickly, smiling against his mouth, before turning back to the screen. “What else should we do with it?”

“What do you mean?”

“It seems like such a waste to use it as just a little school prank. Why can’t we do more?”

“Like what?” he queried slowly, concern spreading through him.

“Whatever we want. If we’re always scared of what bad thing might happen down the road, we’ll never find out what we can really do,” she persuaded.

“We have to be careful, A.J.,” he warned. “If Stanford gets wind of what we did with our ‘little’ sophomore year project…”

“We’ll get expelled?”

“No. We won’t just get kicked out of school. We’ll go to jail. Trust me, I know how much you want to take the credit…how you want to prove yourself…but I also know what it’s like to get picked up by the cops.”

“You were only fourteen.”

“Exactly, and they’ll be much less forgiving this time.”

“But your dad owns most of Silicon Valley. There maybe wouldn’t even be a Silicon Valley as we know it without him. He can get you out of anything.”

“I’m not asking that of him again. I gave him my ‘word,’ as he called it — swore I wouldn’t let shit get away from me like I did before.”

Trey made sure to keep his voice gentle, because disappointing her actually physically