Sarah is in the secret underground room, facing her two sisters: JoAnna and Sophia.
"It is confirmed 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. 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 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 bit her lip.
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.
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."
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. Usually evenings are 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 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. Professors at the University and few professionals in software development field who looked at her work call her a prodigy and have high expectations for her in the future.
But that is not all. Sarah has a different side of her. When no one is watching and she is in front of a computer, she becomes world famous hacker Sigma.
Earlier that day, Sarah found out that TargetSecurity company completed their new encryption and is offering monetary prize for finding vulnerabilities in that encryption.
Of course, as usually, Sarah is going for the top prize. Her confidence is high, and she has an amazing 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. It's her father, Edward Hill.
Hill family fortune started with a company which Edward founded with his wife Stella: Orion Enterprise.
Edward believes that if people are capable, they will be able to provide for themselves, and if they are not capable, they will be only wasting money, no matter how much they have. That is why, no matter how much wealth they accumulated over the years, Edward provides Sarah with funds to cover basic expenses related to education and living, and if she needs more than that, she can earn it herself. If she is capable.
Sarah is not happy about the timing of Edward's call. She is so close to snatch her prize. But the phone is relentlessly ringing, and she knows that her father will not give up easily because her not picking up will probably make him think 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. "I'm fine, why are you calling?"
"Hey, why you sound unhappy? Can't I call my baby girl to hear how are you 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 next week exams are starting. Are you keeping this in mind? Are you getting 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. "Ohhh.... hmmm... Of course, I know that! And I'm getting ready!"
"You don't sound very convincing." Sarah could hear doubt in her father's voice. "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, happy that her father can't see her. "Dad! Do you need to remind me of that again? I'm telling you that I remember, and I'm preparing to ace my exams, as usual. That is why I said I'm busy!"
"OK. If you say so..." He didn't sound 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, he noticed that Sarah wants to end the call. "Nothing else. Have a good night. Talk to you soon..."
"Good night." Sarah ended the call and focused back on the screens in front of her.
Huh, Sarah did forget about the exams, good thing he called to remind her. It's not a problem to prepare for exams with only few days' notice since she has an excellent memory and is a very fast reader. Her analytical skills are also amazing, and all that makes it a great set of skills to pass the exams with top scores. Sarah set a reminder for herself, so that she does not forget (again) to go and check location and schedule for exams she plans to take.
Now she is free to go back to cracking that encryption.
At 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 note 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 last few months, and who knows when 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 her 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 is familiar with Omega whose skills are undeniable. But Omega was inactive for some time. Why did he show up now, at this event?
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 this 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~
Window on fourth floor is dimly lit with only light from a screen of a laptop. Young man, in early 20-ies, with long black hair, was looking at the screen with a content smile on his face. His long black hair is reaching halfway down his back, framing his perfect masculine face and dark eyes. His long and slender fingers are suspended above keyboard without moving, while he read the message:
Thank you for your contribution in this event. Amount of $10.000,00 will be transferred to your account within next 3 hours. We hope to have more opportunities for collaboration in the future. With respect, management of TargetSecurity'.
He took a minute to enjoy reading the message few times before dismissing the dialog.
Young man closed 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 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.
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