What is an Endling? (research for Crash Into Pieces)

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Note: This is a blog post diving into parts of the research for my new thriller, Crash Into Pieces. I’ve done my best to avoid MAJOR spoilers, but if you haven’t read the book and want to go in fresh, you might want to bookmark this one.

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There’s a hacker in Crash Into Pieces—someone running around causing all sorts of trouble—who calls himself “the Endling.” Well, what the hell is an endling?

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An endling is the last of a species—the only remaining animal left before extinction. I can’t remember where I first heard the term, but I as soon as I heard it, I knew I had to work it into a story somehow.

For Crash Into Pieces, it fit perfectly with Anthony Feist—someone with an ego that stretches right through the roof, someone who would be fine in declaring that he is the first and last of his own kind. The character of Anthony was created—as the best characters are—from a collection of different personalities I’ve met in my years in real life, specifically in the startup world. He’s not taken from one person in particular, but pieces of a few people that have jumped out at me as smart, but definitely a bit off their rocker.

Anyway, back to endlings.

Hackers sometimes leave calling cards, believe it or not, after they successfully make it into a system. It helps build their brand throughout the community, but can also be their downfall. Here’s a story about a hacker that was caught by leaving a calling card that mistakenly included a geotag in the image.

Anthony leaves calling cards with many of his hacks—but not pictures of his girlfriend. He leaves pictures of famous endlings.

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From Crash Into Pieces:

The boy sat on the edge of a stool at a nearby blackjack table as security ran in one direction and guests ran in the other, people swirling all around him. Looking behind the table, he could see a single computer screen at the center of the pit, one of the few that had been missed. It was still plugged in and displaying a “Welcome to the Xasis Casino” desktop background.

Suddenly, the screen blinked and went dead, then the hotel logo was quickly replaced by a new picture—a black and white sketch on a stark white background. The boy stood and walked to the other side of the table, grasping both sides of the monitor as he looked at the image staring back at him.

The sketch showed a bird—a picture of a pigeon, maybe—sitting peacefully on a diagonal wire. The gray and white details highlighted the ripples and valleys of its feathered wing; the single dull, black eye stared off into the distance.

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Here are a few of the endlings that I used as calling cards in the book:


Martha, the Last Carrier Pigeon

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Died September, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Wikipedia entry


Lonesome George, The Last Pinta Island Tortoise

Died 2012

Wikipedia entry


And a few others that didn’t make it into the final edit:


To see this and other real-world hacks in action, check out the page-turning books in the Haylie Black series, now available on Amazon.

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Crash Alive

Haylie Black: Book One
Can you Crack the Code?

The award-winning tech thriller that introduces Haylie Black, a 17-year-old hacker with a chip on her shoulder. When her brother vanishes trying to solve a legendary Internet puzzle, Haylie knows that she’s the only one who can track him down. As she begins to reveal the mysteries behind each clue, she’s pulled deeper and deeper into a secret world she never could have imagined.

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Crash Into Pieces

Haylie Black: Book Two
Only Trust the Government as Much as the Government Trusts You.

Haylie Black, a now-infamous teenage hacker, is struggling to live a normal life. When a mysterious hacker known as the Endling emerges, she must use her skills to solve the enigma behind the man. As the hunt unfolds, she discovers secrets bigger than she ever imagined, and will be forced to make a choice that will change her life forever.

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