2011 06 13: New Dog, New Tricks

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Mission Name: New Dog, New Tricks
Date of Mission: June 13, 2011
Locale: Division - Training Lab

Birkhoff stumbles upon Alex practicing her computer skills. The two almost get along for a second, before Birkhoff ruins everything.

Alex Birkhoff

For a girl so bad with computers, Alex sure does log a lot of time in the lab. Maybe she genuinely wants to improve despite her bad attitude during lessons? It's possible, right? As it is, she's seated at one of the stations in the back, typing away on the keys, presumably on some boring repetitive exercise she's been given. Seemingly alone, she's left the overhead lights off, using just the small lamp on her own individual work station to give her enough illumination to work from.

Birkhoff is never far away when he senses that computers are being used. He quietly makes an entrance through one of the doors, placing himself at the back of the room as he eats a glazed donut that the cooks down in the caf probably didn't make. He's incredibly silent for a long moment, simply watching the recruit. Finally he breaks his silence and moves over to her, standing away from the machinery. God forbid he get donut glaze on it or crumbs near them. "Are you somehow taunting me or are you actually practicing? I hope this is actual practice, because if you screw up again like you did yesterday, things are going to be really bleak looking for you soon."

Alex deftly navigates a few windows before she rotates in her stool to calmly face the new arrival, offering him a smile too sweet to be sincere. "Always looking out for me," she replies with a wry edge to her tone that would almost imply the opposite. "But it's hard to taunt you when I don't know you're here." Which could mean she actually was practicing? The donut is noticed — it's hard not to notice outside food after being cooped up, even if it's only been a month or so — but Alex just regards it a moment before looking back to Birkhoff with a complacent look. "It's just, you know, this stuff's all so hard."

"It isn't hard, Alex." Of course he means 'it's not hard for me'. He finishes off the donut and wipes his hands on his jeans, pulling a seat up beside her. "Look. I can't really give you direct help without making it seem like I'm playing favorites or helping someone when I shouldn't be. If you really want to get better at this, click out of that program and open Dodger.exe." It's the second program that all recruits have had to get past before they could advance. "You missed something important in it and I want to see if you can catch it." Birkhoff pauses before shaking his head. "The technologically inept baffle me."

Alex gives him an almost suspicious look as he seems actually… helpful. But with an eyebrow-arch-eyeroll-combo, she swings herself laboriously back around on her stool to face the keyboard, closing out the program and clicking on Dodger.exe to bring it up as instructed. "Do I at least get extra credit?" she asks, though the excess sarcasm has been dropped for now, replaced by dry joking. She gives him a sidelong look for his last comment. "Yeah, I bet a lot of things do," she mutters under her breath as she looks back to the screen and, with a sigh, begins working her way through the opening steps of the program. Type-type-click-click. She is certainly faster than she was in class, but still not exactly blazing through it.

Birkhoff gets a look on his face like he might pinch Alex when he hears his comment about lots of things baffling him. He pushes his glasses up on his nose and clucks his tongue. "Not after that comment, young lady. But if you can spot the easter egg, I'll consider putting in a good word for you with Percy. He might not listen, but…" He trails off and watches her, his attention focused completely on the screen now. He doesn't nod or shake his head; he just gets eerily quiet as he watches.

"Oh come on. You walked right into that one," Alex implores, unable to suppress her smirk and look appropriately chastened. But as he goes quiet, she realizes she's not exactly furthering her own cause — and also that he seems to be in the zone now. So the teen goes quiet herself, putting her focus back on the screen. She picks up the pace a little too, moving through the early steps with more ease. Maybe some of his lessons really are starting to sink into that thick, stubborn skull of hers.

Birkhoff gives a nod of approval once as a large red shield appears on the screen in front of Alex. "That's the easter egg. The hard part is solving it. Exit the program. You did better this time. I guess you weren't just making a mockery out of my teaching skills after all." He half-smiles at the young woman, not moving to stand up from his seat. "Maybe if you practice more, you can try to solve it. Remember the basics, Alex. You're not nearly as bad at this as Thom was. How long has been here, anyway? Three years?"

Praise from Birkhoff? Alex tries to enjoy the moment and not let her smart mouth ruin things. It is a challenge. "Me? Never," she replies with just a hint of her own smile, when it comes to hurting his teaching rep. A few more clicks, and she's exited the program back to the empty desktop. "Thom? About a year. He's.. He tried to help me," she points out, a little defensive of the older recruit who's been trying so hard to look out for her. "I'm way worse than him."

"Yeah, I know he's tried to help you. You do realize that his kind of help is strictly verbotten, right?" Birkhoff asks Alex with a raised brow. The man may be less than skilled with most social graces, but he's certainly not stupid. Or blind. "You're not way worse than him. A year is a long time for a recruit to… be a recruit. Thom is a special case. I think they must be saving him for something more than I can understand. He's kind of taken it upon himself to be a mentor to some of the recruits. Wonder how the higher-ups feel about that," Birkhoff muses with some amount of amusement.

Alex raises her eyebrows right back at him, staring without blinking or looking away. "I don't know what you're talking about," she replies rather pointedly. "He's just being nice. I wouldn't expect you to understand." She looks back to the computer for a moment, but there's nothing there to hold her interest. "From how I understand it, if they had a problem with him, he'd know it by the bullet in his brain by now," she points out, still a bit touchy and defensive, since poor Thom is the closest thing she has to a friend in the place.

Birkhoff just looks at Alex. There's no sort of emotion written all over his face. It's just… blank. "I'm not here to be nice, Alex. I'm here to train society's drop outs to be something that most of them are not and never can be. I'm here to protect this organization. But I am not here to be nice." Birkhoff quirks a brow at her defensiveness, smirking. "You like him. Don't worry, I won't tell. I'm sure they know anyway. And yes - to answer your question… a bullet in the brain is how Division sees fit to take care of most of their problem recruits. They like Thom for some reason. Lucky for you, hmm?"

"He's a friend," Alex replies in a tone that has a harder edge to it as she sits back on her stool, one foot hooked up around the lower rung. She gives him a long look, almost sullen, but seems to have remembered her place and opts for silent looks of contempt rather than trying to argue her case. It's like yelling into the wind. "I wouldn't expect you to understand that either." Yep, she'll play the loner nerd card. Crossing her arms over her chest, she rests her upper arm against the edge of the desk, propping herself up since the stool lacks a back and gets uncomfortable after awhile. "But good job protecting the organization."

The computer instructor seems to shrug off the younger woman's jabs at him. "Just keep playing the petulant child, Alex. That never works well around here. Either you put your big girl panties on and learn to take it, or you curl up and die. And trust me, it's not as pain-free as that." He stands up and pushes the chair in, looking at Alex for a long moment. "You're going to have to rein in that mouth of yours. It doesn't get you very far around here. Believe me. I know." He starts to make for the door which he came in, looking over his shoulder fleetingly. "I'll see you at the same time as always. Remember what I told you."

Alex tosses off a sarcastic salute, not seeming nearly as worried as she should be by his warnings. "You've got no idea what I can and can't take," she points out simply, rolling her shoulders in a shrug as she watches him stand. His comment about knowing how far a smart mouth will get her does earn a smirk, but hey, she keeps her mouth shut, maybe taking his words to heart. Or not wanting to end up like him. "Can't wait," she replies with an utter lack of excitement in her dull tone.

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