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DIY for the Criminal Mind

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AgeofTheGeek is a youtube account with over 7,000,000 subscribers. Which is pretty impressive for an channel that mostly shows DIY videos, weird paintings made from metal pigments and food-dye, and the occasional maybe-probably-not-sentient robot.

The host, who just goes by Hardison, explains at the start of each video that his guides are meant to be used by 'everyone'. “You know,” he says, “Bring some art and creativity into y'alls lives, find a use for those broken old phones and cds...”

His subscribers have tried to explain that most people don't find it either useful or possible to create tiny computers from their phones, and also that 189 step guides aren't actually “short and convenient”. But the complaints seem to fall on deaf ears, and no one actually minds that much; most viewers come back for the videos with explosives, or the eerily accurate paintings of modern politicians in strange situations, not because they actually intend to mimic his ideas.

Hardison likes to chat while he works, so everyone knows that his job is with computers even though he refuses to show any coding examples or projects explicitly related to that work. “It's like, a trademark thing. Private. Do you ask writers to write for you? Do ya'll ask writers to write about the recent crimes they committed so you can analyze their style and compare it to samples from recent police files? Right, of course you don't. Ya'll don't need to see my codes.”

Today he's making a mock-manuscipt which he says will look, and test, like it was actually made in the 1600s. “Now, if I'm talking to the criminal part of youtube, remember to put some individuality into your manuscript.” He smiles like he's joking. “I ain't taking the credit if ya'll are caught for reproducing the exact same book as me. Also, remember; smell is key to a good forgery. That, and the ability to fool carbon dating processes.”

Carefully setting a few pages onto his long, shining desk – Hardison only shows glimpses of his house, but those brief looks show a place that's ridiculously opulent – he says, “I'm just going to wait for the ink to dry, now, and check a few comments from the last video. Some of you ain't nice, you know that? I will block you. And I can find you. That's not a threat except how it kinda is.”

On-screen, Hardison scrolls through a few comments.

“I am absolutely still planning to do that Death-Star model out of toothpicks,” Hardison says. “You notice they trick you into buying those things in bulk? What am I gonna do with 10,000 toothpicks, seriously guys, of course I'm making a Death-Star.” He keeps scrolling. “And... oh, okay. I've got eight of you asking if I can help some other dude with his tech problems on here, is he that bad? I'm gonna have to check this out.”

A minute later finds Hardison both horrified and engrossed with his laptop, manuscript forgotten. “This is, this is just sad,” he says. “Like, who is this guy, is he a hundred or something? How did he not catch this in editing? I – okay, I don't think he does edit. He keeps talking about lamb and all I can see is a weird angle of his arms.” Hardison pauses to look toward his own camera. “They're nice arms,” he clarifies. “But this is supposed to be a cooking channel, right? Yeah, I might actually have to talk to this guy, these videos are painful.”

(A few commenters argue with Hardison, later, that the bad cameras angles are half the reason the guy has so many subscribers).

“This video is only darkness. Just. He's describing a cooking process and no one can see it. Why did ya'll show me this, I am in physical pain.”


 

KnivesNotGuns is mostly known for his cheap, delicious recipes (alternating occasionally into dazzling gourmet arrangements that are just... occasionally ridiculous). He is almost as well-known for the video where a dude breaks into his house during dinner and the camera gets blurry half-images of the host, Eliot, bashing an intruder's head against the wall and then leaving him on the floor while narrating about how he's going to salvage his burnt Italian pasta. But ultimately the internet's love for violence is never quite as strong as the love college-students have for a good meal.

He is often asked to post pictures of his meals, which he does while complaining, “I just put up a fifty-minute video showing ya how to make it, stop being so damn lazy,” and seeming somehow unaware his videos are almost completely impossible to use.

Until one day he says, “I got a message from this guy, Hardison? He wants to help with my videos, not sure why. But when I asked what kind of cooking he does he said all he can make is toast and ramen noodles - “ Eliot's face contorts like he's trying not to look disgusted, “So I'm not really sure I should have him around my kitchen, but... toast and ramen noodles,” he repeats. Clearly a situation in need of dire help.

He tells his viewers that they're scheduled to meet in two weeks.


 

IamAliceWhite likes to tell viewers things like, “Haha, and the Alice in Wonderland comment was funny, since, you know, my name is also Alice.” Then she looks very long and intently at the screen. “Alice White. Alice White. Not anything else. My name is definitely Alice."

-She also calls herself 'Parker' at least twice each episode, but she never seems to notice, and no one is sure if that's a first or last name.

It's not hard to imagine why Parker wants anonymity online. Her videos don't have a theme, exactly. Though there are a few common elements. She has four different videos that just consist of watching sleeping squirrels for a few hours straight, a large number where she wears a camera and leaps off of giant, mysteriously-accessed buildings (the one with the police alarms in the background while she falls from what seems to be Big Ben is a web favorite), and even more videos where she steals something. Or multiple somethings. Occasionally people try to categorize her as a 'shoplifting channel', except that her thievery extends far beyond petty shoplifting and is so common, so casual, that people often debate whether she is even aware of what the law is. Other people claim that she must be lying about the thefts, and accuse everyone else of being 'gullible sheep'.

“Someone told me yesterday that I'm a bad thief because only cyber-crime matters these days.” Parker looks affronted even as she makes odd adjustments to what seems to be a black harness. Today she's sitting on the roof of an unknown building; the background looks suspiciously like Manhattan. “Which is silly, I've definitely stolen computers before. But I thought maybe I should do some investigation myself, so I'm going to steal a hacker, which is definitely better than stealing computer-numbers, because keeping people is hard.” She nods firmly to herself. Pauses. “...If anyone knows a good hacker, let me know.”


 

“Do you see how the angle is? This is why tri-pods exist, man.”

“I don't see what was wrong with the other videos,” Eliot grumps.

It's probably the first time his viewers have seen Eliot in his entirety through a single, unmoving shot. The room is well-lit and the camera clearly shows both the row of his neatly-arranged ingredients and the stove. Eliot does not seem pleased about any of this.

“Do you actually watch your own videos?”

“Why would I do that?”

“Why would you - “ Hardison double-takes, looks behind him, looks at the camera. Like he has no idea how to respond to this question. “So you know what the viewers are seeing, man. I don't understand how ya'll have any followers.”

“I don't understand how you still have fingers,” says Eliot pleasantly, “if this is how you typically act in someone else's house.”

“You got a laptop?”

“Desktop.”

“Of course you do. Here, okay, I'll show you the videos once I load up this dinosaur -

Eliot chops peppers aggressively while Hardison mutters at the computer. A few minutes later there's a dial-up noise - “I'm having flashbacks,” Hardison mutters – and then, finally, he pulls up youtube.

“Here, okay come look at this - “

“I've got to stir the sauce,” says Eliot flatly.

“You look like you're trying to kill it.”

“This ain't how you hold a spoon when you're killing someone.”

But a few seconds later he seems satisfied the sauce is stable, and joins Hardison on a computer that's almost out-of-shot. The viewers can't see what video they're watching.

Not that it really matters.

“...What's this supposed to be,” says Eliot finally.

“This is your video. Your voice is a little muffled but it comes through okay, it's just literally everything else that's a problem. Also I think your camera died halfway through that Christmas one.”

“This ain't my video.”

“Have you literally ever looked at your viewer comments? Like, has no one complained?”

“...People complain about everything.”

Hardison throws his hands in the air, but his rebuttal is cut off by a sharp cracking noise. Eliot curses and returns to the stove.

“I think we gotta lot of work to do,” Hardison tells the camera mournfully. He glances around. “...Wow, are you using actual lemons? I got this lemon-flavor thing that would work way better - “

“Stop talking,” Eliot commands.

There's a brief cut. The next scene shows Eliot and Hardison both eating at a suggestively lit table.

“...Hey, this is pretty good,” Hardison says.

“Thanks.”

“You should come by my place sometime, I found this bagged tomato soup that...“

Eliot actually winces.


 

The camera zips around at a few odd angles before finally settling onto Hardison's face. Or, half his face. One of his eyes and most of his mouth is visible, both closed in sleep. The screen slowly draws back, revealing Parker with her face right next to the man's sleeping head.

“Some of you said that I should 'check out' Hardison, who has the youtube account AgeofTheGeek,” Parker whispers. “So I did. His house security is pretty lax. Cameras at every entrance and some lasers in the front room, but they weren't hard to avoid. Simple keypad for his three safes. Hacker passwords are always terrible, but his were princessleia3, the first four letters of the Fibonacci sequence repeated, and the made-up birthday of the one character he likes to talk about, Asimov or something? - A lot of these nerd types act like he existed.” Parker pauses to give a small, awkward laugh, like this is funny to her. “I'll have to check and see if those are his online passwords too.”

On the bed Hardison starts to stir. Parker pauses, eyeing him warily, until he rolls over.

“I'm still debating how to steal him,” Parker narrates above the snoring hacker. She reaches out gingerly and pokes his cheek to no response. “I brought some chloroform, and also some warm milk, because someone told me it helps you sleep - “

A rectangle of light swings into frame as the door to Hardison's room opens. Parker jumps to her feet, dropping the camera, and the angle from the ground just shows two sets of feet darting back and forth before Parker's face is pushed down to the floor.

The screen catches her eyes darting wildly back and forth.

“Who the hell are you?” a voice snarls.

“...I am definitely Alice White,” Parker replies. “My youtube even says so.”

“Youtu – are you Hardison's girlfriend or something?”

“Yes! That! Alice White is Hardison's girlfriend!”

“...You ain't a good liar,” the voice tells her flatly. “What – goddamit, Hardison, how are you still sleeping?”

There's a brief shuffling, and then a high-pitched yelp. “Eliot, man, what the... why are you manhandling some chick in my bedroom?”

“Good question.” Parker disappears from the camera-shot, which now shows three pairs of feet. “Wanna answer?”

“I was going to steal him,” says Parker grudgingly. “I didn't know hackers were so hard to steal.”

A pause. Then, “You're Parker.”

“Who?” asks Hardison.

“Parker. Craziest damn thief in the world. She probably could have stolen you.”

“Okay, when you say 'stole' - “

“This is why I said you need better security.” A pause. “Is that camera still going?”

“Like you would know,” says Hardison, and then the camera is lifted, showing a tense standoff between three well-known faces before the screen goes black.


 

Hardison's next video features a blond-haired woman quickly spinning her chair in the background while Eliot stands glaring into an refrigerator. The fridge is filled left-to-right with orange soda, butter, and cheap strawberry jam.

“So, hey, a lot of you might know Eliot and Parker,” Hardison says cheerily. “I'd like to say thanks to ya'll who suggested we meet up, 'cause we, uh, have a lot more in common than we thought.”

“Can we steal the bank now?” Parker mumbles, and Eliot answers, “No,” while peering at empty butter-containers in disgust.

“Except for anyone who gave Parker tips on how to steal a person,” Hardison says. “If that was you, you're on a watchlist now. And you deserve it.”

“Most of those tips were bad anyway,” Eliot mutters, slamming the fridge shut. “It's not hard to kidnap someone.”

“Right, right,” says Hardison. “Anyway. We're going to do videos together now! Showing exciting things like how to steal a wedding, and how to steal from mob-bosses, and - “

“Dammit, don't give away stuff we ain't finished yet,” Eliot warns.

“Sure, sure. But in a minute I'll be posting our first collective video where we ruined some asshole who was stealing money from a children's hospital. Allegedly.”

Eliot turns to give Hardison a Look.

“..because I'm very good at manipulating pictures,” Hardison continues. “So, ya know, none of you have proof. Technically speaking.”

...Pause.

“...although we might keep posting our own stuff too. So, if you want to help us find more amazing, uh, people who commit dubiously moral acts...”

“Like Sophie Devereux,” Parker volunteers. “With the terrible acting channel.”

“Like Sophie – you know Sophie Devereux?”

Eliot has gone off screen, but a voice calls, “Hardison, do you have any meat that isn't inside a hot-pocket?”

“Uh... and that's it for today! See ya'll next week.”

A brief crash. “Hardison!”