Mary was glad Claire couldn’t see her face or at least all of it to see the blush that flushed her cheeks upon her small statement. It was nice having someone that believed in her, especially a stranger. Mary knew she could do some pretty cool things. Things that in different circumstances could amaze people. She’d seen it first hand. People were always amazed at some of the simple things one could do with computers. Although some people took it for granted and Mary was left without knowing what would impress them. But most of the time Mary didn’t have that sense of motivation in her own minds. She always doubted her talents because that was better than trying and then failing. Again, it was nice to hear Claire’s interest in what she was saying. Far too many times she bored people with what she said. So much so that she had gotten used to shutting herself up and apologizing repeatedly for her own dumb existence. She merely turned to smile at Claire. “Sorry, not that many people are open to talks about computers. Most people are scared of them, to be honest. Even people as young as you and me. It’s like they’re some mystery when really they’re not. I mean we created them! How can we have it so that we can’t understand them?”
As the computer then loaded the desktop, Mary looked back at Claire. “Well, usually blue screens pop up whenever the program is used or upon start up as we did just now. The fact that it actually went to the log-in menu itself was a big plus.” She then moved to open PROTECT’s main database search after everything had loaded. The software seemed to be on it’s way to starting up and no blue screen. “Alright… I actually think we’re in the clear now.” She smiled wider. It was nice to see a job done well. At least she had hoped so. Nothing seemed to go wrong. There was no blue screen or anything. Mary hoped she had done a good job. She wouldn’t have minded continuing to see what was wrong, but she would have felt bad to give Claire a fake diagnosis on the computer. “Was that it or did you have problems with anything else?”
Claire knew what it was to be taken for granted, or to be shoved into a role that wasn’t for her. How many times had that happened since Odessa? How many times did people make her out to be the one who needed to be saved; to be the princess locked in the tower? Hadn’t people realized by now that by assigning someone a role and giving them no chance to agree or disagree with it, they were bound to breed resentment? Claire hoped that Mary didn’t have to deal with it so much, but a woman computer tech? She probably put up with some shit. It wasn’t right-she was good at what she did, and doing it was her choice. What else mattered? People could be such idiots. Despite those thoughts, Claire smiled a bit-she was able to share a moment of agreement with Mary on similar matters, and that was something nice. It didn’t happen every day. “Yeah, or they say that computers are going to be the downfall of humanity. It’s like that have no idea what medical innovation has done for the world, or how technology has connected us on a global level and allowed so much more exchange and communication between people. But because it’s different, it’s wrong.” She shook her head. “People can be crazy.”
When Mary had the computer running again and the main screen pulled up, Claire’s eyes darted between the screen and Mary. She smiled and listened to what the other blonde was saying, taking mental note so that she could remember for the future. “Good to know. Hopefully I can remember that.” Claire laughed a bit-sure, it would be good to remember, but she didn’t want to make Mary feel like her work and presence weren’t appreciated. “Thank you for all this, and for talking about how these things work, and about you, too. It’s nice to get to hear what brings people here.” A grin flicked across her face. “Great! All thanks to your help. I definitely owe you for this. That was all I was having problems with.” Claire stood up and waved to the door with one of her hands. “I have to run downstairs again, so I’ll walk down with you. And if you’d like, we can get some coffee, my treat.” Claire walked Mary out of her office and shut the door with a smile-hopefully, she made a few friend in the process of getting things fixed up.
Claire’s answer wasn’t exactly what she had been expecting, but she rather liked it anyway, partly for what it revealed about the other woman’s character and partly because she had been itching to do exactly what was suggested for quite a long time indeed. Well, she had been pushing Paivi a little, but that was more nudging manipulation than anything else, and it hadn’t been with any clear goal in mind. “I intend to, but carefully, and it seemed fair enough to ask before I got ahead of myself.” She replied, biting her tongue in thought for a moment while she tried to encapsulate Paivi in one stream of consciousness blurb. “Oh, of course. I trust you with them, more than I’d trust most others. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here.” Gemma shifted in her seat a little, she had slipped into half-slouch without thinking and the arm of the chair had been digging into her side. “She’s young, thirty at a guess, but most of the Rogues aren’t much older than that. Naive, idealistic, the perfect little foot soldier if you can get her to fall for the rhetoric. And they did, for a little while.” She paused, letting lose a sigh that had been building at the back of her throat. “Paivi was on the jury for Christopher Pegg’s trial, that’s how I met her. And since then, she’s been growing disenchanted with what the Rogues want of her. Mostly out of fear, I’m not sure exactly what they asked her to do, but she looked like a deer in the headlights the last time that I spoke with her.”
Claire nodded some with Gemma’s answer, though she couldn’t help but wonder why she was seeking approval about it. Sure, there was something to be said for a second opinion, but Claire wasn’t nearly an expert on these sorts of matters. Gemma said she trusted Claire with this, but why? Was it really a matter of trust, or was it a matter of having someone with Claire’s title on her side just in case things went south on this? She didn’t like thinking the worst of the situation, but she had to be prepared for it. That’s what life had told her. Claire paid close attention to the description that Gemma gave of the woman in question. That sounded like the pinnacle Rogue (an uncorrupted one)-very different from the Horsemen, whom Claire had gotten to know through firsthand experience. “There’s a lot more than just the rhetoric when it comes to the Rogues.” And still, there were days where their ideals didn’t sound half bad. Why cower? Why sit back and wait for peace to come, instead of attempting to forge it? But what lines would get crossed there, and when? “Päivi? I’ve met her a couple times.” She was a Rogue? Claire’s eyebrows raised a bit before she sat up. “So she’s getting disenchanted with what the Rogues offer. Does that mean she’s looking to fall into place with us, do you think? Or is she going to fall into her own place?”
Really? What’s happened to it? [He squints.] Does it open onto another dimension, now?
I’d tell you, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Bruce got the contract three days before he sprang into action— that was the way it tended to work on jobs like this. He needed time to do whatever research he could on the target before really getting anything done.
But, he hated to leave it for any longer than necessary, for a few reasons: Getting the job done quicker meant getting paid quicker, and who knew what the person had done to deserve having a contract out on them with a high enough price tag to attract Bruce’s attention? Bruce had a strict rule about not asking, but regardless it was probably better to have them off of the streets.
Luckily, Alfred Brown was what Bruce liked to call an easy mark.
The bounty hunter had been nursing a beer and keeping an eye on his target for about two hours, flirting with the bar tender to pass the time (well, trying to flirt with both of them, but it didn’t seem the burlier balding gentleman was up for playing around as much, so eventually he stopped tossing compliments in that direction). It was obvious that good ol’ Al was already drunk off his ass— the possibility that Bruce wouldn’t even have to do anything to take care of this one was getting increasingly high.
Not quite high enough— Bruce smiled ruefully as the man finally stumbled his way out the door. He waited a good thirty seconds as a courtesy and a caution, before regretfully saying goodbye to his new friend and slipping out the door after his prey. Well, not too regretfully— it was finally reaching the good part of the night, after all. The hunt. When it became the chase.
"Hey, Al!" Bruce called out as soon as he saw the man start to cross the entrance to the alleyway that he’d parked at the other side of, and jogged to catch up, clapping a hand on Alfred’s shoulder, "Is it alright if I call you Al? I think you dropped something back at the bar."
As she followed Alfred down the street, Claire found herself eagerly anticipating the oncoming confrontation. There was something almost satisfying (she hated to admit it) about getting to catch a bad guy and leave him, or her, to be found by the police. It had nothing at all to do with getting chained up when she was taken by the Rogues. At least now, she’d come to terms with what happened. Right after the kidnapping, her after-dark work had been sloppy; mediocre at best. She was no Batman now, but at least she was learning and getting better.
The irony of taking on work of bagging and tagging wasn’t lost on her.
Claire was ready to jump forth and get busy when she saw Alfred almost stumble, but she hesitated-that was either a big mistake, or a lifesaver. In the next moment, some giant of a man came forth and clasped Alfred on the shoulder, like they were old pals. That wasn’t a big problem-she’d fought more than one guy at a time before. But when he turned his head, Claire felt her heart get stuck in her throat-Bruce? She should have known a time like this would come-she should have expected to face these sorts of consequences when she first took to vigilantism.
She stayed back in the shadows as she tried to figure out what to do-having a second person arrive had been a minor setback, but knowing this person had changed everything entirely. They were right by an alleyway. It was convenient-almost too convenient. Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked between the two men, and suddenly she found herself wondering if they really were friends. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, Claire knew she had to take action, and take action fast to get Alfred ready for being turned in.
Confronting Bruce wasn’t something she wanted to do, but she had to be ready for it. For now, trying to distract him and get him away from Alfred was the best idea she had. Claire clenched her fist, then grinned a bit-maybe the best thing to do was be so obvious, it would be the perfect cover. She took a few steps back and glanced around to find something to throw. There was a small rock on the side of the road, left over from recent construction-perfect. She picked it up, took aim-please please please don’t hit Bruce by accident-and threw it. Her aim had been for his legs, but she hit his back; it was enough, at least, to get his attention. When he turned around, she retreated into the darkest shadow she was close to and waited.
What? No offers? Oh, must be that you didn’t give anyone the chance t’ ask ya what with you becomin’ some workaholic. She laughs. Well, still, I’m sure someone thinks it woulda been really nice t’ spend an evenin’ with you and maybe wine and dine ya a bit. But spendin’ time with your boss is equally pleasant as bein’ wine and dined, I’m sure.
Oh yeah, that must be it. Claire laughs with Riley and grins. What can I say? There just aren’t enough hours in the day! Thank you. It is. He’s my uncle, and we’re really close, so it’ll be good for both of us to have some time to unwind, just like it will be for you and Rae.
Well, HQ looks just about the same…
Wait until you get upstairs.
“Oh, five would be perfect. Maybe even ten, if you can abide my greed.” Gemma replied quickly, flashing a smile that she didn’t quite feel. She took the chair in front of Claire’s desk gratefully, mind burdened with words that she was trying to shuffle into the right order, one that would make her look like less of a soft-hearted idiot. It was a longer pause than she perhaps should have allowed, but at the end of it, she looked up at Claire with a pensive expression on her face, careful to make eye contact to convey that she wasn’t, in fact, lying about any of the crazy that was going to come out of her mouth. “Say you met someone, not quite an informant, not quite a friend, and they opened up to you more than you might have wanted to under the circumstances. So you’re involved now, you can’t quite brush them away. And say that this person was a Rogue, a dissatisfied Rogue that’s teetering on the edge of betrayal of her group because she didn’t know what she was in for when she joined.” Gemma brushed a strand of hair behind one ear, taking a breath before she continued to explain. “Half an inch from the edge, maybe. Riddled with guilt and potentially very, very easy to push towards spilling everything she might know about them. What would you do, Claire?” There was a time and a place for beating around the bush, but this, in Gemma’s opinion, wasn’t it, and certainly not when she would potentially need a monumental favor out of this conversation.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Claire offered a quick, joking smile before she let the expression slip from her face into one more thoughtful. There was something a little off-balance in the way that Gemma was acting; it felt different from her usual. Then again, differing and adapting to any given situation was Gemma’s specialty. Claire always had a hard time with that-she was a little too straightforward for that herself. She listened attentively to what Gemma said, and kept eye contact going when Gemma made it. When Gemma was finished, Claire had to look away while she digested all the information and thought on the question posted: what, exactly, would she do in that situation? When the answer came to her, she couldn’t help but smile ruefully at herself. When she first met Peter, she thought she’d met someone just like her-someone she could strive to be like. But, the more time had gone on, the more she learned that she couldn’t be everything he was. He had told her to stay innocent, but it was his heart that was filled with a lot more gold than hers was. She had too much Noah in her-she had a ruthless edge Peter never had (and she hoped never would have). “I’d push.” Claire looked back to Gemma and moved her chair closer to the desk, too invested in the conversation now to appear anything less than interested. “Can I ask for details about her?”
How about I make it up to you and take you out to a half celebratory half forgive my absence dinner sometime when you’re free. It’s the least I can do. [He purses his lips and shrugs when leaving the offer up to claire. If there was anyone that Maxwell knew understood his situation and the pain he held inside it was Claire and that mutual bond made it more like working with a friend rather than a co-worker. The man re focused on the case, however, when she asked about it.] Twas a shit show indeed, I’ve got stacks upon stacks of papers that agree. But, frustratingly, I have very little more than speculation about this character — these power addicted freaks with annoying aliases were always my favorites. [Maxwell sighs with a siarcastic tone before taking another sip of his coffee]
That’s not necessary, really. It’s fine. But if it happens, that’d be nice. [She smiles a bit before going ahead and taking a seat opposite him. If she’s going to be listening to him and asking about the case, she may as well engage in a conversation instead of keeping it distant.] Tell me about it. [She can’t help but scoff a bit-there’s one of those power-addicted freaks among their ranks; a wolf in sheep’s clothing that Claire was more familiar with than she’d ever care to be.] As if three parties going at it isn’t enough, we get this outsider either trying to drive us farther apart or make us work together in extreme circumstances. Who the hell needs to do that to feel like they’re in charge of things?
Of course you didn’t. Why would you even bother?
I wouldn’t. Why, are you saying you would?
"Oh. That’s probably not the issue then, because you wouldn’t have been able to use it if something was wrong with it." Well, at least that took one of the possibilities away, which was a good thing. She continued until both programs had been uninstalled. She glanced over some of the programs currently on the computer and couldn’t see any that might have been the cause of the issue and so she hoped either one of them might be the case and uninstalling and restarting then reinstalling would be fine. "Alright, here goes nothing.." She then restarted the computer and turned back to Claire with a smile. If this didn’t fix her problems then Mary might as well just quit and find some other job because something as simple as a blue screen caused by software issues should have been easy to fix.
"There’s a law for that, you know. Moore’s law, it says that computer processors double in complexity every eighteen or so months. Of course there’s some people who say the law is coming to an end, but that’s debatable—sorry I don’t wanna bore you with that stuff." She turned to the computer screen which was close to starting back up again before she looked back at Claire. "Oh, um, my dad once bought a computer, although he had difficulty with it to begin with and kind of gave up on it. I was curious and bored," a half-truth, of course she’d be bored being left home all the time. "And so I tried it. It was confusing, but I liked it when I got the hang of it. Then the interest in using a computer turned into me just wanting to know how it works because they’re pretty amazing, right?" She beamed at that, just when the computer chimed upon arriving to its start screen. She scooted back so Claire could log back into her computer.
“That’s a relief.” Claire smiled and almost let out a big sigh. She’d been worried that this was somehow her doing; it was an old mindset that had been proven valid more often than not. Even now, she sometimes looked out the window at PROTECT and wondered just how different things would be if she hadn’t jumped off the ferris wheel. Maybe she would have stayed more innocent. She sucked her lower lip into her mouth with that thought before looking back to watch Mary at work. At least one of the blondes in the room seemed to have a handle on things. A small smile tugged at Claire’s lips. “I’m sure you’ve got it.” From what Claire knew of Mary, she was good at what she did-very good. Claire knew that this issue was in the right hands, no matter how big or small the problem ended up being. She just hoped she wasn’t wasting Mary’s time with it.
“Moore’s law?” Claire put her chin in her hands-it wasn’t something she’d heard of, but from what she gathered, there were a lot of similar principles across a variety of fields. It was true to science, at least; it wasn’t exact, and chances were, there was no knowing everything and no true catching up. “Seems right. Maybe it’s something more exponential than anything?” She laughed. “I don’t really know. It isn’t obvious or anything, right?” Claire looked towards Mary and gave a smile. “It isn’t boring, though. Just so you know. It’s pretty interesting, actually.” After asking the question about how Mary got into computers, Claire was really glad she’d asked-it was nice to hear about Mary’s life, and how she’d gotten into the field which had somehow brought her to PROTECT. It seemed like a very positive story as well-a bigger plus, in a workplace where tragedy seemed to lurk around every corner. “That’s pretty awesome. At least it’s worked out for you-I hope it has, at least. They are pretty amazing.” She looked to the computer when it chimed, and then did as prompted by entering her login info. “How do we know if it worked?”