Hey guys!

Really sorry for the period of no updates, real life and the end of the school year tests/projects are really pressing in!

I've been writing in what little free time I have and I plan to finish off "A Friend in Need" with two more chapters, then update Inner Wolf, Inner Warrior.

Until those are finished I've got a one shot for you, its a mix of angst and one-sided romance. I've been writing it and tweaking it for a while, so I'm not sure how good it is, but I hope you enjoy!

...

Put one laptop in her hands, and she could change the world.

She was changing the world by illegally hacking into the computers of rich people, but she was changing it.

She was a modern day Robin Hood, able to hack into the computers of the rich. The top one percent that was considered untouchable, able to abuse their wealth and power in any way they saw fit while the masses starved and suffered.

However in the age of the smartphone and the computer, she was the queen. She exposed them, the rich, the corrupt, the men who abused their wives, the women who belittled other women and girls… hidden behind mountains of lawyers and well-rehearsed lies. She was stronger than them all.

It was almost funny to her, with a few types of code and a few mouse clicks… she could expose emails, cause scandals, empty bank accounts, and bring the corrupt down.

That was what she was doing now, running a program that would navigate firewalls, adapt to any anti-viral software, and it would sniff out money… and then steal it.

Her program was currently being uploaded into the home of a millionaire accused, but never convicted, of taking charity donations for his own personal fortune. She'd find evidence, steal the money, and she'd get it to the organizations that needed it.

Her long fingers danced over the keys, clicking and clacking as she typed in the computer address where her program would strike.

She smiled as she hurriedly typed in the last bit, then tapped the enter key and stood up to take a well-deserved shower.

She had long closed the bathroom door, when her computer flashed informing her that the program's connection was established.

…..

However, her haste had caused her to mistype one vital piece of code and as such the program left her computer and traveled in the opposite direction from the millionaire's mansion, instead ending up in the computer of a different house.

His apartment door opened slowly, and he walked in, dragging his guitar case behind him. It was another relatively successful day on the street. His songs were drawing bigger crowds and he'd made a good thirty dollars, not a bad haul.

He placed his guitar down and sat down on his couch, flicking on the television as his dog leapt onto his lap. He stroked the black fur idly, watching the news through half lidded eyes, before he stood up to check his email.

However his computer glowed with an image that he'd seen on the news, but never thought he'd seen in real life.

The image of a female face, completely made of blue pixels, stared at him.

The face of Expose.

He had read about her in the papers and the media had devoted its time to blasting her on behalf of the rich, but he disagreed with the popular opinion.

The question was, why was she in his computer? He had about one thousand dollars in his bank account, everything else was in a jar. He wasn't rich, or powerful, and he hadn't done anything corrupt. Why was she targeting him?

…..

She walked over to her computer and sat down, accessing her program and quivering with excitement. How much money was she going to take today?

The screen lit up with the total amount of money… one thousand dollars.

Her nose crinkled in confusion and she reran the program, this guy had to have more money than that. She stared at the screen for a while, before deciding to look through the program's eyes and see this millionaire for herself.

Her computer screen lit up to show a live feed of the room her program was in, but instead of seeing a large, lavished, really well furnished room she saw what looked like a small apartment living room.

Frantic she retraced her steps, back to typing in the address, and let out a light curse as her mistake became known to her.

Her eyes returned to the live feed and she noticed a man was sitting in a chair, watching her program.

She grabbed the microphone that would enable her to speak through her program and switched it on. However instead of her usual taunts as she drained the money of her targets away, she was instead speaking in a low voice.

"Hello… my name is Expose." She started, attempting to work out how to admit her mistake and leave his computer without getting herself in more trouble with the law.

"I know" he interrupted. "You're all over the news… too bad they don't speak the truth. You're doing the right thing, and I admire that."

He sat up and stared at the pixelated face that was on his screen. "You might be doing the wrong thing, but you're doing it for the right reason. I see the statistics and numbers that the news doesn't, how much money you give to charity, how many bad people and corporations you've exposed, the people you've helped… I don't know why you're here but at least I got to say that everyone isn't like the media. You're a hero."

She froze, hand on her microphone, and digested his words. Every single time she ran her program she was subjected to verbal taunts from the celebrities that she stole from, and then again by the media. She was always the object of hate mail on social media, and the newspapers degraded her, sometimes inappropriately.

Now here a person was, telling her what she did mattered… that he understood. By all rights he should be afraid, he should have picked up his phone and called the police, he should have been exactly like the social norm of the society he lived in. So why was he simply staring at her, waiting for her response?

Her voice quivered a bit as she spoke, "Thank you sir… thank you for talking to me."

He chuckled, as if he had known her his entire life, before smiling "So why is a hacker in my computer… last I checked, making let's plays and covers isn't a crime. You here to expose my search history?"

She also chuckled, despite herself, and her pixel face shook its head. "No, no… I was hacking into the home of a millionaire, but I mistyped the code and my program went to you."

He nodded in understanding, no anger behind his eyes, and she marveled as she stared into the brown orbs. They were full of trust, and she had never seen that much trust in any man who didn't know her beforehand.

Despite themselves they both talked for a long while, longer than two strangers who met online should… and when she had to leave they both wore the disappointment on their faces.

….

As the program fizzled out she smiled, this guy wasn't half bad. He understood her completely and she had no fear about exposing herself to him. She'd been in his computer for a long time, long enough for any rookie cyber officer to track her down, all he had to do was make one phone call to the police. Then they wouldn't have to follow a breadcrumb trail, they'd have stumbled upon the whole loaf!

Still she didn't have any fear that he would betray her. Something about his face… there was something she could trust behind it.

….

He jumped as the news launched into another report about Expose, and the reward money that was promised for her capture. He tuned it out and sat, staring at his computer screen. The temptation to call law enforcement, or even one of the millionaires who hadn't yet been swindled by her was burning in his gut.

Still for some reason he decided not to. There was something about the person he had spoke to even though they were faceless… he felt as though he could trust the person behind the pixels.

Besides, he doubted he'd ever see her again.

….

It was four weeks before she caved.

She'd made a vow to herself that she would stay away from his computer. She'd treat him just like another target, someone she interacted with briefly, then stayed away from.

However when the media made its usual attack on her, it hurt more than she expected. When the millionaires she'd exposed and swindled screamed curses at her from their jail cells, it was more painful. She'd developed a thick skin over the years, but this time it seemed something had ripped it off of her… leaving her exposed, leaving her needy, needy for comfort. That comfort had to come from him.

She finally hacked into his computer, this time on purpose, and waited for him to return. Her program allowed her to see in the room. His apartment was clean, cleaner than she expected, and she found herself examining the room. There was a guitar in the corner, a stack of notepads on the desk, and a pile of movies sitting by the television… it was all simple, but she found herself inspecting every detail all the same.

She scrolled through his browsing history, attempting to determine what kind of person he was. It was a bit odd for her to be on someone's computer without looking for a way to swindle or discredit them, but she made it work. Aside from a strange amount of funny cat videos, he seemed like a typical guy.

The door suddenly opened and she closed all other tabs, eagerly grabbing the microphone.

"Hey"

He saw the familiar program on his computer and smiled despite himself. He shouldn't be feeling like this, he was cavorting with a known criminal, and that probably was illegal. Still he walked over to the computer and sat down.

"Hey, you're back."

…..

They talked for about 3 hours, about anything and everything that came to their minds, and they each found themselves getting more comfortable with one another.

She left his computer once they had finished their conversation and exhaled a bit, reflecting over what she'd said to him. They had talked about a great many things during their conversation… had it really been hours?

She'd told him more than she'd ever told most people, and he'd listened. He'd listened to her problems, to the reasons she became a hacker, and to whatever else she wanted to talk about. He didn't judge, didn't cringe… in fact his face didn't change. It stayed interested throughout the entire conversation.

She smiled to herself, finally here was someone who could be a friend.

…..

Over the next few weeks their conversations happened more and more frequently, and lasted longer. He found himself eager to finish work, eager to finish his musical performances, eager to get back to his computer to see if she was there.

The eagerness didn't fade, however. Contact with her was like a drug, and the effects got stronger with each and every dose. He found himself reflecting on their conversations and feeling a jolt of happiness when her face appeared on her screen.

His heart ached when she told him about her problems, leapt for joy when she was happy, and twisted when she asked him for advice.

The feelings grew over each conversation until he reached one conclusion, equal parts terrifying and thrilling.

He was in love with her.

The idea was so ludicrous that he dismissed it at first, but over time it began to make sense. The way he cared about her, the way his heart sped up when they were chatting about the most trivial things. The way he analyzed her, trying to become the type of man she could depend on.

Then reality set in.

She was a program, a faceless, nameless, algorithm being driven by a person he knew nothing about. That person might be crafting a web of lies, maybe to get money.

Besides whoever was behind the program probably had their own life, their own friends, maybe even a crush… or they could be married for all he knew. Plus that person was a criminal, getting to know the person behind the program was too dangerous, for either of them.

Because he knew that no matter what, he'd never want to put that person in danger.

So he decided to hide his feelings for that person, even if that person even was a girl like she claimed. Besides, it was no different than loving an inanimate object anyways. How hard could resisting feelings be?

…..

She smiled to herself as she walked to her computer, checking her watch as she did so. It was almost time for him to return home… then they could talk more!

A giddy feeling filled her stomach as she tapped her fingers on the keyboard. Waiting for him was always the hardest part. She really anticipated their daily meetings, a chance to really be herself. It amazing her that they could spend hours upon hours talking about nothing, and neither of them would show any signs of losing interest.

Her heart broke when he told her about his problems, sped up when he would grab his guitar and sing for her, and beat irregularly when she analyzed his every compliment to her, trying to discover if she was the type of woman he could care for.

Suddenly a notification blinked onto her screen, it was a warning system for her program, and it warned that the police were closing in on her computer.

It happened occasionally, the police would hire some consultant or other, who would find a way around her program and eventually trace it back to her. She could disappear faster than the trace, she knew that… but her program was in his computer, and they could hurt him…

She had to leave his computer and never come back, but she owed him more than that. He was her friend, and he deserved that.

So she put a plan into motion.

He walked into his house with a sweaty head and a pounding heart and noticed that his computer was blank, only with a loading symbol providing any indication it was on.

It loaded up and he was confronted, not with the face of the program, but with the face of a woman.

The video started with the girl blushing and smiling, and she looked up at the screen with a trusting face.

"Hey, it's the girl behind the program…"

He watched the video with shock across his face as she explained she had to leave, the police were tracking her, and the end of the video it would wipe his system of any trace of her program.

He memorized her face, listened to the sweet sound of her voice, and found himself staring into her eyes more than once. He watched her like she was a famous movie star and he was her stylist, trying to make sure every piece of hair was in place and every speck of skin was flawless. The details were simple, but he analyzed them anyway. She was wearing a blue shirt and jeans, her blond hair was in a ponytail, and she was wearing a light layer of makeup… it was all simple, but he found himself inspecting every detail all the same.

The ten minute long video seemed like it lasted two minutes, and before he knew it she was gone and his computer was rebooting.

Once her face faded from the screen, he watched the whole process of the reboot, his mind a million miles away… to wherever she was.

He still could see her face in his mind, and he knew that if it were possible to fall in love with someone in the space of ten minutes, he had done it. He loved her, crazy at it sounded, even before he had seen her face. She'd trusted him, all because he was nice to her… all because he understood why she did what she did.

His head still flashed with one traitorous thought, She's just a face behind a program… you'll get over her.

He shook his head to knock that thought away, she was a person… and she might be gone, but she would never be forgotten.

...

Well I hope you enjoyed this one-shot story, please let me know if you enjoyed it... I'm not as confident in this story as some of my others, so any good or constructive reviews will help!

Thank you for reading this story and I hope you keep up with some more of my updates! Sci-fi, romance, and fantasy action are all ahead!

Please leave a review, feel free to check out my other works, and have a wonderful day! :D