How do we stop him? We beat him at his own game.
Painted Wolf: Mysterious activist blogger and strategist from China. Faces off against dangerous online terrorists in an attempt to free her father from prison.
Tunde: Fourteen-year-old engineering genius. Liberated his Nigerian village from a vicious warlord only to discover a much more dangerous threat.
Rex: Sixteen-year-old Mexican-American programmer and hacker. Bands together with his friends and long lost brother to stop a mastermind from destroying the internet.
The Revolution: Outwit evil organizations. Expose the truth. Rescue their families. Save the world.
If we work together, we can change the world.
“Genius is exciting, provocative, fresh, innovative, and smart, smart, smart. Please don’t wait until Genius is a cult classic to read it.” James Patterson on Genius: The Game
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6 DAYS UNTIL SHIVA
Three hours after we landed in Beijing, I located my father.
He was at the Municipal Number 23 detention center. Thankfully, he hadn't been transferred to a prison yet. No doubt Interpol's involvement in his case kept him from being sent directly to one of the overcrowded jails. Given the seriousness of the charges against him, though, that was likely to change. After the interrogation was finished, the odds were high that he would be sent straight to a maximum-security prison. If that happened, we'd likely never get him out.
Now that we had found him, it was time to do my thing.
The Painted Wolf thing.
Even if my father wasn't in prison, getting him out of a detention center wasn't going to be an easy feat. I'd have to rely on a lot of the same skills I'd used when we busted Rex out in New York but without the advanced gear. I'd have to use the art of talk and bluster.
Pretending to be a lawyer in the States was relatively easy; I used my accent for one. Getting away with something like that in my home country, however, was going to be trickier. I'd played the underground journalist, the stone-faced security agent, and the concerned business partner, but now I needed to create someone new. Someone more believable than all the others combined. This was going to require more research and more time — the one thing we didn't have.
We all rode in a cab together on the way to the detention facility.
I sat up front with the driver, an older man from Nankin, while Rex, Tunde, and Teo squeezed into the backseat. They had their bags piled on their laps and were going through whatever tech they had readily available — cell phones, my pin cameras, scattered surveillance tech like earbud mics and wires.
The second I realized where my father was being held, I bought some new clothes — slacks, a blouse, and sleek shoes. I aged myself up with some subtle makeup effects; I wanted to appear as professional and intimidating as possible.
As the cab slowly made its way through the late-afternoon traffic, I went online to figure out my angle. Though the detention center didn't have an active website, several of its employees did. Using their social media accounts — reading up on their colleagues, their families, and their friends — I was able to get a good sense of the corporate structure of the center. I knew the various departments, who was in charge, and was even able to piece together several current schedules. These tiny nuggets of innocuous information were like treasure chests.
Fifteen minutes from our arrival time, I made the first call. Rex had taken a few minutes to spoof my cell number to make it look like I was calling from the discipline commission, several layers of bureaucracy above the jails and prisons. One of the security guards I'd found online answered the call. She was very businesslike.
"This is Liu Xiansheng."
"Good afternoon! I'm Mrs. Huang, the coordinator for the department of facilities management, badge number six-five-two-zero. I'm on my way now and should be there in twenty minutes to do my inspection of the facility."
I could hear Liu Xiansheng swallow hard over the phone.
"I — I don't have this appointment on my calendar —"
"What do you mean?" I asked assertively. "It has been scheduled for weeks. I was told I'd have access to the entire facility. I have a list of prisoners that I'll be meeting with as well as center staff. Are you telling me you don't know about this?" Liu Xiansheng scrambled. "No," she said, "I just —"
"Maybe I should contact your superior to clarify the situation here —"
"Oh look, here it is. Yes. I do have you scheduled," Liu lied. "We will have everything ready for you when you arrive. I will have a list of staff and prisoners available, and you can choose whom you would like to meet with. We look forward to seeing you soon."
"Excellent," I said, then hung up.
I spent most of the rest of the drive online creating a fake ID. A lot of IDs were digital now, and with the right tweaking I knew I could pull off something fairly convincing. In our final few minutes on the road, I refreshed my makeup and pulled back my hair in a tight, professional bun.
Two blocks from the municipal detention center, I had the cab pull over so the boys could get out. I did not get out with them. Teo had already used mapping software to scout out a rooftop on a nearby building where he could provide surveillance, while Rex and Tunde hacked into the detention center's closed-circuit-TV camera system. They had just upgraded to a new wireless system, which meant we could have eyes inside the building as well as outside.
"You guys know the plan?" I asked the boys.
"We're on it," Rex said.
The cab dropped me off alone, and Liu Xiansheng met me in the lobby.
She was young and full of smiles.
"Your ID, please," she said, her lips barely moving. "And your cell."
I pulled out my cell and showed her the ID. She looked it over, glancing from the screen to my face and back again several times. I was wearing a pair of reading glasses but she didn't bat an eye, which was good, because these reading glasses were outfitted with multiple 360-degree surveillance cameras and spot microphones. (The boys had done some quick tweaks to the frames we'd picked up when I went clothes shopping.) Finally, Liu nodded her approval.
"I'm afraid I will need to keep your cellular phone here," Liu said.
I handed it to her.
It worked. I was in. As Liu went to a desk to grab some paperwork and drop off my cell phone, I whispered to the tiny earpiece I was wearing, hoping Rex would hear me clearly.
"I'm in," I said.
"Looking good," Rex replied. "On your right."
I glanced up at the corner to my right and saw a camera mounted there. I gave a flash of a smile to Rex before Liu returned with a file folder.
Before she could even open her mouth to say a word, I said: "First, I'm going to need to interview several of the prisoners, then the staff, and finally I'll need a tour of the premises so I can confirm my findings for myself."
Nodding, Liu handed me a list of men at the detention center.
I scanned it and pointed to three names. My father's was first.
Liu looked at the sheet and nodded in agreement.
"Right this way, please," she said.
I walked down the corridor, flanked by Liu and two armed guards. None of them seemed particularly suspicious. If anything, they acted as though this was just another visit, just another part of a long day. That gave me some confidence, but I also knew things could change in a matter of microseconds. One false word, one misstep, and they wouldn't hesitate to toss me into a cell alongside my father.
I needed to be focused.
"I'm almost in the room," I whispered.
Rex said, through the earpiece: "I can see your dad on the CCTV cameras. He's sitting at the back of the room. There is one guard in the room with him."
I let the conference room door close behind me as I stepped inside. The room was large — there were four tables, empty save for one. My father sat there, arms on the tabletop in front of him. A guard stood on the opposite side of the room, eyeing me coldly. I crossed the room slowly, confidently.
My heart was racing so fast I worried it would bruise my ribs.
Reaching the back of the room, I sat down across from my father. He looked exhausted. Not just from sleep deprivation but from emotional fatigue as well. The crimes my father was charged with carried serious weight, and there were so many people — Chinese authorities, Interpol, FBI, and Mossad — who wanted answers. Answers that my father didn't have.
Just like in Nigeria, my father recognized me right away. I didn't have to say a word, didn't even remove my glasses. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. I could hear his shackles clank under the table and my heart sank. The thought of my father in chains, it was nearly too much to bear.
"Hello," I said as Liu and the guards walked away. "My name is Mrs. Huang. I'm with the department of facilities management. I'd like to ask you a few questions about your time here at the detention center."
The door closed behind me. Liu and the guards were gone, and as soon as they were out of earshot, my father leaned in, his eyes wide.
"Cai," my father whispered, "what are you doing?" "I'm here to get you out."
"There are cameras on every wall," my father said.
"We're in control of the cameras. The plan is simple. I'm going to interview you and you're going to complain and then I'll act very upset. I'll tell the woman from the office here that I need to speak to management, that you've been mistreated and need to be moved to a hospital. We'll have an ambulance come, and security at the hospital will be much lighter. That's the first part. Second —"
My father shook his head. "I'm sorry, Cai. It will not work."
"Why? It seems like it will work just fine. I've done this before."
My father raised an eyebrow at that.
"Well," I said, "I mean I've done ... Look, it doesn't matter. We have to get you out of here and this is our only chance, okay?"
My father spoke urgently. "They are expecting you."
I stopped breathing for a second.
In my earpiece, Rex said, "Hang on, what did he just say?"
"They've been asking me about a team of young people," my father continued. "A Mexican or American boy, a Nigerian boy, and a Chinese girl. After meeting your American and Nigerian friends last week, I knew the Chinese girl was you."
In my earpiece, Rex said, "Cai, you need to get out now...."
"Who were these people?" I asked my father.
He shook his head. "I don't know, but I do know that they'll be watching me here. If you try to remove me, they'll hear about it and things will only get worse. They're using me as a pawn. I can't leave here unless the charges are dropped."
I drew in a deep breath, mind racing, searching for any way to make our original plan work. But my father was right. Without knowing who was watching us, any action could just make things worse. Reluctantly, I nodded to him.
"I will get you out of here, Father. Count on it."
Then, into my earpiece, I said, "Rex, go ahead and restart the cameras and make the call in about thirty seconds."
I stood and thanked my father as professionally as I could. Even with my stomach doing somersaults and my eyes threatening to tear up, I kept my composure. The guards stepped into the room the moment I stood; one held the door open for me as I crossed the vast expanse of dull gray carpet as slowly as I could. I needed to give Rex time to make his call.
Sure enough, it worked.
Liu appeared in the doorway, looking quite concerned.
"I just received an important call," she said. "You are to call Deputy Minister Yang immediately. Here is your phone back."
Liu handed me my cell. I dialed up Rex and tried to act as serious and concerned as possible as he said, "We're packing up. See you down on the street in a few minutes." I hung up my cell and pocketed it.
"Unfortunately, there has been an emergency," I told Liu. "I'll have to reschedule the rest of the inspection. I'm not convinced that this facility is meeting every standard. I will be coming back. Soon."
As I walked out of the building, Rex whispered into my earpiece.
"Damn, that was cold," he said.
"I need them to take care of my father," I replied as I walked through the front gates of the detention center to the street. "And I'm not going to give up."
Tunde, Teo, and Rex had a cab pick me up in front of the detention center.
It took me a few blocks away where they were waiting.
Each of them had a duffel bag tossed over their shoulders, loaded high with gear, and we walked as quickly as possible through the crowds that frequented the markets at the end of Tiantan East Road. As we walked, Tunde seemed distracted, staring off into the crowds as though he was looking for something or someone in particular. He paused several times.
"What's up?" I asked him as we rounded a corner.
"It just looked like there were some people following us."
"Who?" I glanced into the throng behind us.
"A group of young people. Maybe I am mistaken," Tunde said.
I took Tunde's hunch seriously and stealthily glanced around. The streets were incredibly crowded. A storm was about to break overhead, and all of the pedestrians were trying to get their shopping done before the downpour. I didn't see anyone unusual in the crowd; most of the people milling about appeared to be tourists.
"I don't see anyone," I told Tunde.
"Perhaps I was mistaken," he replied.
"So," Rex asked me, getting back to plans, "what're you thinking?"
"There's a microblogger I've worked with in the past. She's got some insane deep-web connections and owes me a few favors. I don't want to pull her into anything too dangerous, but she might be able to find a way to get my father's record wiped clean. What do you guys think?"
We pushed through the shoppers, past men hawking umbrellas and women pushing carts filled with fruits and vegetables. I noticed a stand of spices like fennel and star anise and thought about my mother. I wanted desperately to call her and check in but knew I couldn't.
Teo was first to answer. "Sounds risky. How can we trust her?"
"She's a friend."
Teo shrugged. "I have a lot of friends. I don't trust any of them."
Rex said, "Well, maybe that's 'cause of your bad attitude."
"I trust her," I said. "That should be enough."
"And I trust whoever Cai trusts," Tunde added.
"That's good and all," Teo said. "But every time we reach out, every time we make a connection, that links us to other people — people who we might endanger or who could endanger us. I didn't spend the last few years living under a rock just to have everything blow up in my face now."
"Cai knows what she's doing," Rex said. "Cai is the smartest, most selfless person I've ever met," he continued, pulling Teo to the side. "We wouldn't be here if it weren't for her. Truth is, Cai's the only one who can stop Kiran. You've been trying for years. ... It's time to let someone else take charge. Cai can do it."
I wanted to hug him then and there, but it started to pour.
I motioned for everyone to follow me down a narrow alleyway between two gaudily lit cell phone stores. In Beijing, cell phone stores are nearly as common as noodle houses. We stopped beneath an awning to get out of the rain.
"I'll be back in two minutes," I told the guys.
Darting into one of the cell phone stores, I asked the young woman with spiky hair working the counter for a cheap, prepaid cell. Nothing smart. Nothing touchscreen. She handed me a Nokia knockoff the size of a small notebook. It came with an access code she scribbled out on a piece of paper and enough minutes to make a quick call. I paid and made my way back to the boys.
"My friend is called Rodger Dodger. She's somewhat of an activist, somewhat of a journalist. What she does is very dangerous. I can't guarantee she'll be willing to help us out, but she's helped me before."
Teo narrowed his eyes, suspicious.
"I need you to trust me on this," I told him.
Rex elbowed his brother.
"Fine," Teo said. "Make the call."
Getting to Rodger Dodger meant calling through a series of numbers. She'd cloaked her location through a Beijing bank that instantly forwarded the call to a bakery in Nanjing that pushed the call through a call center in Suzhou before a young man's voice answered the phone in English. "Hello?" "Painted Wolf calling for Rodger Dodger," I said.
There was a series of clicks before the line picked up again. I realized at that moment that I'd never actually talked to Rodger Dodger. All of our communication had been by text or encrypted e-mail. I knew a few vague details about her — young, female, educated — but could not put a face or a voice to the name. And it was an odd name. Where on Earth would she have come up with Rodger Dodger?
"Painted Wolf," she said. "You're back in China."
"Yes," I said, "and I need some help."
"I noticed a lot of chatter on the feeds. Someone picked up a still of you on the street in Beijing earlier today; lot of rumors going around. Hope you're keeping your head low like usual."
"I'm trying," I said, "but it's not easy."
"Tell me about it. So what do you need?"
"Can't say over the phone. Any chance we can meet?"
"Sure," Rodger Dodger said. "There's a dumpling place a few blocks east of where you're standing right now. I'll meet you there in an hour."
I couldn't help but look out, past Rex, Teo, and Tunde, into the crowds passing by. Even though I knew Rodger Dodger had likely just pinpointed my location using pings from a cell tower or some sort of tracking program via the line, there was something spooky about the fact that she knew exactly where I was.
"Okay," I said. "See you then."
I hung up and pulled the cell's SIM card.
Then I crushed it under my shoe before tossing the cell into a storm drain.
"So," I asked the boys, "who's up for dumplings?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Genius: The Revolution"
Copyright © 2018 Leopoldo Gout.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Time Lapse,
Part Two: Into the Future,
Part Three: Fall Like Rome,
About the Author,