The chair felt weird when mixed with her wet jeans. Nora had slipped when she had left the house she was staying in. and landed butt first on a freshly watered lawn. It was uncomfortable, and hadn't gotten better as it dried. At the time, she considered going back in and changing but decided against it. She was regretting that decision now. Earl, the receptionist, kept eyeing her strangely from across the counter, but that was to be expected. The security guard, one Alfred Renstolf according to their short conversation, had begun staring as well. They had been so nice, introducing themselves and explaining their job, but now they seemed to find it difficult to avert their gaze. It probably
had to do with her power. She had made herself seem almost identical to Siberian, in everything but skin tone. Instead of the Siberian’s white and black stripes, Nora was a pale, more human tone. She was also stark naked, from their perspective. There was a good chance that was related."How much longer do you think this is gonna take? The director is not that busy is he?"
She asked, her voice pitched higher, sounding slightly impatient. Honestly, Nora didn't mind the wait. She was kind of nervous, having rehearsed what she was gonna say many times before coming here. "Oh and tell Decoy I don't mind if he has the swat team armed and ready, I understand perfectly the need. He might even know me by now."
The thick clothing she was wearing was very visible on the security cameras, and would serve to only further obfuscate the information.
She was wearing a bandana around her mouth, with another covering her forehead. Only her eyes, and the sides of her face were visible. A thick padded jacket covered the rest of her upper body, the fluffy hood resting on her head neatly. Her hands were gloved, thin fibrous gloves that could hardly be used for warmth. She smiled at the security guard, a sly expression only visible to him. It was almost predatory, but not in a threatening way. Maybe sexually threatening.
A familiar sight to most people that came into the building, one way or the other, was Jackson: who came strolling into the lobby leisurely. His usual attire of a rather faded looking gray suit with three buttons in the front over a white dress shirt matched his dress pants. The only thing that stood out was his tie that had distinctive hotwheel-reminiscent flames all over it."Let's see here, Null was it? A little overdressed for the occasion are we? No matter, if you'll come along with me we can have a nice chat and then see about you meeting the director. After all, he's a very busy man you know."
Jackson said with a chuckle and turned away, walking back the way he came, expecting her to follow. Given that she did she'd be lead into one of the fairly standard interrogation room. Quite plain really: two chairs, one table, one pane of one-way glass. "Now then, what did you want to talk about again? Oh and you can call me Jackson."
A dramatic over emphasized sigh escaped her lips as she stood up. She moved forward, giving a small wave at the security guard as she passed. Partway down the hallway she glanced back just in time to see him quickly look away. She giggled quietly to herself, muffling the noise with her hand halfway through. She almost skipped as she entered the room, sitting down in the chair opposite the new man. Quickly, she responded, her voice barely showing how awkward she felt. "Well, mister, um. . . Jackson. . . May I know your last name! I don't want to call you Jackson, after all you are my superior!"
Her voice was normally pitched, though it went up a bit the more she said in one breath. Which was most thing. For a few seconds Nora considered using her power on the man, but decided against it. She didn’t want to get arrested so soon, after all.
This wasn't quite everyday Nora. Though she did feel awkward, she was instead going for a certain look. A person who recently gained powers, and didn't know what to do with them.
Jackson smiled in amusement at her response. "Well aren't you polite. I'm not much of a superior to anyone though, so just Jackson is fine. Relax a little, we're all friends here, or at least I hope we can be: if that's alright with you?"
Jackson asked in an endearing fashion. Not in the creepy hitting on you way, more in the 'aww that dude is super nice' way.
A frown crossed Nora's lips, creasing her brow slightly, though that would be almost impossible to see. Her soft blue eyes darted up to look at the security camera in the corner, before returning to Jackson's. She took a small breath before speaking, not big enough to warrant her following his recommendation to calm down. "Well Mr. Jackson, I'd like to talk to the director about some illicit activities. Not mine, no um. They aren't his. I guess his lack of? Not in a bad context, more in a-it's hard to explain. The director is good man, and it's very important that we discuss bribes. I don't want to give him any, I don't have the money anyways, but-"
She took a deep breath, thinking to herself as she sat there, as if trying to rephrase it in her head.
Jackson laughed again at Null's awkward attempts to explain herself. "Alright alright, let's calm down a little there youngster. You want to talk about someone getting bribed and I'm guessing you want the PRT to do something about it."
Instantly she shook her head. "No, I'm only talking about Jackson. He doesn't take bribes. He's a good man, and we all know that. But I want to talk to him about how he doesn't take bribes, and the function of bribes in a political system, I think he knows, but I want to help reinforce it a bit, the role it plays."
The glasses he was wearing were starting to annoy her. He couldn't see her eyes, so she couldn't manipulate her appearance at all. If she could just get a glimpse then this would be a lot easier. "Am I supposed to mention if I'm a parahuman or not by the way? I'm not legally obligated, right, regardless of my 'parahuman status'? I don't know how most of this works. Oh you probably have thinkers or tinkers that detect that! Never mind."
She said the last part quietly, sounding interested, before embarrassed as she corrected herself.
Jackson could only listen to the women in bafflement as she proceeded to attempt to explain herself further. "That's... nice. You don't have to tell us you're a parahuman at the moment. If you want perhaps getting a piece of paper and something to write with would make this easier?"
Despite Jackson's utter bewilderment at what was going on he was still cordial.
She looked equally, if not more baffled. "What do I need paper for?"
She asked, sounding almost insulted."Well you'll pardon my candor but you seem to have some trouble expressing your ideas concisely."
A long breath escaped Nora's lips, and she took the opportunity to stand. She removed her hand from her pocket, the motion completed with her hand rested on the table, empty, as she thought to herself. "I'll say it once more. I want to talk to the director about the role of bribes in a political environment. Concise enough for you?"
The question had the slightest bit of venom, as it seemed she had been at least a little offended. "I was much more prepared to talk to the director. I memorized a speech, and everything. I should've expected this honestly, it's not your fault."
She paced back and forth behind the chair, her hands crossed to clutch her biceps in a way that spoke of discomfort.
Jackson tilted his head slightly in confusion, mostly oblivious to her attempt to draw his eye, literally. "And is there a particular reason you have to give it to the director?""Well he is the most important person to bribe. I feel it wouldn't have as much of an impact coming from an inferior. In the hierarchical sense, not literally. I don't know if I'm a peer, in the direct sense, then again.
She spoke, thinking to herself, It was clear she was dead set on talking to the director, for better or worse. It was also clear she had not considered the possibility of his lack of interest. Her voice was more muffled through the bandana this time, and she adjusted it, pulling it up to rest higher on her nose. The wet pants were annoying her less now that she was standing."Hm I can certainly see your point but wouldn't it be possible to record your message or simply email it instead?""Not to the same effect, no.""Well it seems to be very important to you so I suppose we can give you a brief visit. I'm sure your speech will be very nice."
Jackson said respectfully and stood up, opening the door and leading Null to a door. "Go ahead."
Upon Upon entering the room she'd be faced with the man
himself, a strict looking fellow who gave her a critical examination upon her entry. He gave off the air of someone very serious and very busy. "Jackson says you need to give me a speech. Speak." He said curtly. The room was fairly spartan, there was a desk in the center and the wall behind it was made of glass, the walls were covered in filing cabinets and nothing else. The only furnishings besides the desk were the two chairs closer to Null and the one Kens was sitting in. On the desk was nothing besdies the computer and associated wiring.
Despite her delusion of meeting the director, she was at least a bit surprised that he had given in when he had. He led her through the building, before opening a door that lead directly to the director. It was more than a bit of a rush for the young girl as she entered the room. The second her eyes met the director's her shard gave a denial. No eye contact made. Nora frowned a bit underneath her mask, sitting down across from the man. She decided to keep up the ruse, however. What game were they playing? Did they think her game was over? "Pardon my attire, director. I've come to clear up a misconception you may have about bribes. Bribes are abhorrent things, and I personally know you have never taken any. You're a good man, however, that is to your disadvantage in every sense."
She paused, gathering herself and watching his reaction.
Kens waited, merely raising an eyebrow at her pause."Being a respectable, honest man is only an appearance. One that most can adopt, however that doesn't matter as much as someone good like you actually being in office. If someone else who accepts bribes works against you, then your honor means nothing, That person has an advantage and you do not, the game's sum being plus one for them, or more accurately, minus one for yourself. This goes for all maleficent deeds performed to gain an advantage, The optics need not matter if you lose regardless."
She paused, rethinking phrasing it seemed. This time it she wasn't waiting for a response, and so she kept talking. "You might think it undermines your morals, you might think it undermines your authority and makes you a hypocrite. That doesn't matter as much as you having the power you do. Is it more wrong for some evil individual to have this position, or for you to have it after having committed evil while still being able to do good?""Is that all?"
The question was like the splash of cold water, threatening to drown her, causing her already striking blue eyes to widen significantly. "I was more here to discuss what I just said, than to actually say it. The information is important, but my presence was needed solely for the step after saying what I just said."
Her voice was strained, again sounding vaguely offended, but not including a direct accusation. Her eyes read his face, trying to absorb any hint about his thoughts."I was told you came here for a speech not a discussion. Much less a discussion you can have anywhere with anyone. I'll be blunt."
No surprise there. "What do you want from me?"
Kens leaned forward with his elbows on the table and his steepled hands just in front of his mouth as he stared at her with a slight frown. It was easy to see where the lines on his face came from. He seemed to have... No interest in her."I wanted a reason to not invest in the other guys. Truly, a reason to keep believing. You're not that, it seems."
At that, her affect on all of the people in the building disappeared, the nodes in her mind representing each person disappearing. That was how she thought of it at least. Her expression hadn't changed, but she was honestly kind of surprised by his question. A direct inquisition to her intent, he was indeed as blunt as they say.
A short sigh of exasperation. "I apologize if I somehow failed to meet your expectations but my job is not to sell myself to every teenager with a dream. Given that I suspect you are a parahuman, the PRT has a vested interest in making sure that you're either with us or remain a rogue but I can not force you to do either. It is better for me to have done evil and continue doing good then for an evil person to continue doing evil. Is that sufficient?""I can't tell if you believe it, but it doesn't actually matter. This was all for appearances too. There's a power gap in Denver, caused by the Bravta leaving, and the various vigilantes. Jaunt has disappeared, and in his place your new teleporter has greatly assisted in taking down other crime syndicates. The rockers can't fill this void, so you better know what you're dealing with. You're gonna need ample resources to combat all of these things. I'll get out of your hair, so you can fix the problem you probably already knew about."
She stood and turned away from him in a flourish, opening the door for herself, before leaving him with parting words that weren't as grand as she'd like. "Tell Decoy he shouldn't relay information he's not sure of. He doesn't even know if I'm a Parahuman.
Jackson was waiting for her, cheery as ever. "So, how'd your speech go?"
She smiled despite herself at his question, her eyes reflecting that in the way they crinkled at the edges. They were expressive enough in-it-of-themselves it seemed. The best part of the meeting, Nora reasoned as she began following his lead to the lobby, was that she had gotten the dramatic last word. Despite that, these things never went as well as she hoped they would. Well, it's time to put some actual plans together. Shame I had to shore up my enemies defenses, but it's no fun if they break too easily.
Nora thought, tucking away a lock of red hair back under the do-rag covering the top of her head. Nora answered the question posed to her as they approached the security guard. Strangely, he was nowhere near as interested in her as before. "It went better than expected. Nice to meet you all!"
She said, moving towards the exit. A small lie, the first part."Be safe young lady. And if you ever want to help out we're always hiring."
Jackson said, his lightheartedness present as always, though he didn't seem to expect his offer to be taken up, not now at least. Just another day working for the PRT. Jackson thought to himself as began walking back towards his office.
Exiting the building, Nora grabbed hold of the man standing outside. A large man, tattoos adorning his features. He had been waiting patiently, and now he smiled at her, though he still looked nervous. "We can go now! I'd like to get changed, but you can doublecheck I don't have a wire during that process."
She said, grabbing his hand and leading the way deeper into the ciuty.