2011 06 20: Practice Makes Perfect

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Mission Name: Practice Makes Perfect
Date of Mission: June 20 2011
Locale: Training Lab — Division HQ

Alex and Mickey log some hours in the training lab. Birkhoff joins later and is actually helpful.

Alex Birkhoff Mickey

The training lab is deserted at this time of night save for a single glowing face with some modicum of room light providing a sort of latent surrealism, a tense ambiance that is probably designed to promote abstract thinking while providing a pressure. There are no extraneous lights beyond Mickey, casting him in a sort of ghost-light, a spot-light where he drills through a typing program designed for children in middle school. Even mid-sentence he ends up stretching his hands and reminding himself to use all of his fingers, not just the two and resumes, finding the 'home row' a new piece of vocabulary for the big teenager, his face twisting with concentration.

Changed and showered after a bout of working out, Alex walks into the computer lab in the middle of putting her slightly damp hair up into a ponytail. In the dark and otherwise empty room, it isn't hard for her to spot Mickey, and though his being here throws a slight wrench in her plans, she hesitates only ever so slightly in her step, before continuing right on in and offering the fellow recruit a smile. "Extra credit?" she guesses as she heads for a nearby workstation, like she was intended to do that all along.

"No, just trying not to suck so hard at using this stupid piece of shit," Mickey replies a bit sourly. He realizes how surly he sounds about three seconds after he speaks and turns in place to say towards the brunette, "Sorry Alex, you're awesome, I don't mean to snap. I've just been doing this thing all day and I'm barely getting above uh," he pauses to look at the small counter on the screen, "Fifteen words per minute. My wrists actually hurt. Do you know the last time my wrists hurt? I punch through a steel security door for Christ's sake," he mutters, feeling a bit sorry for himself. A sigh then as he tries to regain some focus, "I'll get this."

Though Alex is a little surprised by his tone, she's quick to shrug off the apology. "Don't worry about it. This place has a way of getting to you," she says with some understanding as she easily boots up her own machine and opens up a far more advanced training module than a simple typing exercise. "To be honest?" she offers, eyebrows lifting as she leans in slightly, like confiding a secret. "I never really liked these things either. But you know — necessary evil." Despite her words, she still grimaces slightly at his WPM, promptly hiding it between a reassuring smile. "You just have to keep at it. It's all muscle memory, and I know you're good at that," she points out with a touch of wryness.

Focusing his attention on the screen, he nods and his fingers slowly continue their progress over the keyboard. Even as he types, as he often does, he is able to split his attention to a degree, and so says, "I feel like a caveman, they should just give me a club and drop me off in the stone age." Turning his head towards her he smiles and cross his eyes at her before shaking one of his wrists out and continuing, "The flying fox devoured the deviled eggs," he reads aloud. Those strange sentences they always have in such programs sounding all to absurd. "Just keep at it," he agrees softly and continues to slowly rattle keys, picking up some of the strokes with muscle memory, but still having quite a ways to go before he can really start rattling the keyboard. "Is Alex short for Alexandra?" he asks.

Alex gives a grin to his analogy, tucking a loose strand of hair back behind her ear as she begins absently navigating through the opening part of her own training module. "It's gonna suck for awhile, but then it'll get easier," she promises, glancing askance at his screen to watch his progress without making an overt show of it. "It'll still suck, but, you know … more easily." She pauses to type in a few commands, but her fingers slow to a stop at his question. "Just Alex," she replies, her smile a tiny bit tighter as she shakes her head. No Alexandra here.

"I don't mind the suck, the suck is what we deal with to get better, I just don't like how slow I am at getting this, it feels like everyone has one foot ahead of me on this one. I don't like playing catch up," Mickey admits ruefully and getting up, he comes over and slaps his head down on the far end of her desk, his forehead on the table. He isn't even trying to look at her program, it'd just make him more depressed. "If you could do me a favor, maybe you could just drop a few elbows on my spine and end it for me?" he questions, being his regular fun-loving self, as he looks up a moment later with a big smile and returns to his station. "Just Alex. I can dig it. I hate it when people call me by my full name too."

"Yeah, I get it," Alex assures him with some sympathy, watching as he comes over to rest his head on her workstation, hitting a few keystrokes in the process. She props a foot up on the edge of her stool, knee up against her chest, and seems ready to take a break at that point, twining her hands together around her shin. "There's no easy way out. You're just going to have to stick with it, I'm afraid," she replies to his request to end it all. "The typing exercises are probably the worst part, though. So, I mean, just get through those and you'll be okay." She casts a brief glance back over to his screen and then looks to him. "Then I won't even ask what your full name is," she decides.

He laughs. "Mickey is my full name, I was going to make a stupid joke," Mickey admits and turning his chair, rests one arm up under his head, watching her for a moment as he thinks to himself. "So," he begins again, as if it were a different conversation and stares off into space, "How do you think your mission is going to work out? Feeling good about it? I heard from some of the other recruits that if you're successful that they reward you with stuff, like, cd players and whatnot."

"If Mickey is your full name, then it's going to be a lot harder not to call you that," Alex concedes with a grin, before turning her gaze back to her screen, eyeing it thoughtfully while she either fails to — or pretends to — notice him watching her. Grey eyes shift back to him once he speaks again, however. She draws in a deep breath, considering his question. "It'll be fine. It's pretty easy. I mean, considering," she points out with a one-shouldered shrug. "How about you? Hear anything more about yours?"

A grin and Mickey is glad she is able to anticipate his incredibly dumb joke. Turning back towards his own screen, he resumes typing, pushing as high as a daring seventeen words per minute at times. "Anything new? Not really, Crewe is exactly how you guys said she would be. She doesn't seem to like to plan things, she's more of a doer, her game plan is, 'execute' not, 'steps one through nineteen. Maybe that's the job, just figuring it out on the go, but it doesn't seem, I don't know, smart," he tells her aside. "Not that I'm a rocket scientist or anything."

"I think…" Alex pauses, considering her words for a moment while disguising it as needing to focus on her program. "I think there are different ways of getting things done. But it's not a bad idea to have a plan." She looks back over at him and shrugs. "She's the agent in charge, but that doesn't mean you can't have a few ideas up your sleeve, just in case." She frowns slightly, her brow furrowing. "It's not an execution mission, is it?"

"Nope," Mickey replies, being frank for the first time. "I don't know how ready I am for that sort of thing," he tells her and looks down for a second before he stops talking about that. He then makes a motion towards his lips and makes a zipper motion across them. "Nevermind. You know, have you noticed that everyone around here, except maybe me, looks like they could be in an ad for the GAP? Or Teen Beat or Seventeen magazine?"

Alex gives a nod of understanding as he zips his lips, her expression serious though her tone remains somewhat light. "I think they work up to that, don't worry." Because killing is easy as long as you get to dip your toe in the water first. His question causes her to give him a look, before she shrugs her shoulders. "I hadn't really noticed. I guess it makes the whole … seduction thing easier." The word 'seduction' is said with a slight edge of disdain.

"Seduction. I wonder if there are some old widows I'll have to woo," Mickey laughs and clearly enjoys the idea of some old lady trying to pinch his cheeks or whatever it is that sprung into his mind. "Oh, my god, that's creepy," he suddenly decides as some other thought crosses his mind. It's interesting to watch the play of ideas across his face as he types, not really losing a lot of speed. A steady seventeen words per minute now. "The tigers tail twitched in the tepid, wa-Ter," he repeats each word aloud, focusing on those t-sounds.

Alex, seated at the workstation next to Mickey, is working on a far more advanced module than the typing test, though she's only paying it half of her attention, the rest watching Mickey's progress out of the corner of her eye. Her eyebrow arches as he talks about seducing old ladies, but thankfully he realizes the level of creepiness before she has to comment upon it. Instead, she just gives a little laugh and pulls a face. "Yeah. Creepy." She lapses into silence for a few moments, clicking her way around the module. "So, I take it there's no seduction in your current mission? Widows or otherwise?" she teases lightly.

"If things go sideways, maybe I'll have a chance to use my limited charms," Mickey admits, his Boston accent thick in his words. "But I'm not exactly built for the James Bond sort of spy work, I'm like a broadsword, not a scalpel. You're like a scalpel," he compliments her in his own way. Typing a few more words, he continues to work the keyboard and admits, "This right hand shift key doesn't like how I move my pinky, it's too narrow," and he ends up wrenching his hand around to make it work a bit better. But now isn't typing correctly.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Alex replies, shifting slightly as he compliments her surgery-like skills. "We're all here to learn. They're going to teach you what you need to know." She lets out a deep breath, dropping her foot back down from the edge of her stool, and then sitting forward more to eye her program. It's only when Mickey mentions the shift key that she looks back over at him. "I … don't think that's going to help you go any faster. Try the left shift instead?" she suggests.

Birkhoff enters through a side door with a few cans of Red Bull in his hand. He seems surprised to see the two that are in the lab, his brows raising. "Hi. I see you two are studying or something." He puts enough emphasis on the 'or something' to get his point across; he doesn't think they're studying. Not that anyone gives a crap what Birkhoff thinks. He moves toward one of the free terminals and sits down, popping a can of Red Bull. "Well, don't mind old Birkhoff. I just needed to check a few things… but I guess if you have any questions, I'm free."

"But then how do I type a shift Z A or Q?" Mickey inquires of Alex and continues to try to find some way to contort his right hand to sit just right and allow him to use that right shift key when he needs to. He is in the midst of asking something, something beginning, "Do they make.." and then he pauses and looks up at Birkhoff, looks at the clock, then back at Birkhoff. Standing up at his station he asks, "Do they make keyboards for people who don't have hands like a tween?" and leands forward a little to look towards the nerd of nerds.

"Use the right one for those and the left the rest of the time?" Alex suggests with a shrug, leaning over slightly to get a better look at his keyboard — or more specifically at how he's got his hands sitting on it. "And try not to reach so far for it. You don't need to hit it very hard." She turns casually as Birkhoff makes his presence known, arching an eyebow as she catches the insinuation in that 'or something' — but other than giving him that skeptical look, she doesn't feel the need to defend herself.

"No. There are no special keyboards here. There is only the standard which you see before you." Birkhoff says, putting away most of a can of Red Bull in one fell swoop. The brown-haired man plugs away at the keyboard in front of him with the ease of someone who probably had a large part in designing most of the systems here. He doesn't seem to be doing anything important on the computer but his attention is primarily focused there. "I'm glad to see that you're working on it though." He seems to be talking more to Mickey than to Alex at this point, but he does add to the girl. "You have a good point. Brutalizing the keyboard isn't going to make it work any better, no matter how much better it makes you feel."

Mickey does seem to be doing some sort of motion that is probably destroying the small clips that provide the 'recoil' on the keys, not exactly gentle. He nods at Alex first and then towards Birkhoff and settles back in front of his keyboard. He seems to be trying to touch them as lightly as possible now, his keyboard going from sounding like an ancient type-writer to something a bit less jarring. "The possum prayed the proverbs piously," he sounds out each word as he types, under his breath at times and there can be heard the sounds of each key being depressed as he checks between what is being read, his keyboard (which he has to look at) and the output. "So, how is your exercise going?" he asks as an aside.

Alex glances back over at Birkhoff, craning slightly like she's trying to get some look at what he's doing without being too obvious about it. Turning back to Mickey's work in the next moment, she gives a nod. "That's better," she offers in an encouraging tone, now that he's treating the keyboard a little less like a slab of meat in need of tenderizing. After watching him progress, she looks to her own screen again, using a few keystrokes to pull up a dialogue box and input the commands she's been taught. She's not really very focussed on it, however. "Exercise? Fine, I guess. Gets easier every day."

Birkhoff is for all intents and purposes, browsing Reddit.com. It would figure that he would be a Redditor. He quickly closes that screen when he notices Alex craning her neck, opening up a word processing sheet that looks like it's filled with the names of his students and progress reports. Uh oh. Is it report card time at Division? He doesn't seem to take offense at Mickey sounding all of the words he has to type out, instead sneaking peeks at the way that the younger man holds his fingers. He nods with approval when Mickey stops banging them so hard.

A pause as Mickey thinks about Alex's response and he realizes the easy confusion, "I mean your module, the exercise you're working on right now." Indicating her screen with a nod of his head before he goes back to his own work, his hands moving a small amount faster, though he still finds himself looking at the keys far more often than he should. It might take him another month to get really proficient, most people don't pick up the skill in a day, but at least there is some progress there. He doesn't notice that the other two are spying, he is oblivious, his mind almost entirely on the exercise.

Alex gives Birkhoff another eyebrow arch as she catches him swapping programs, but perhaps because she noticed that report card, she wisely keeps her mouth shut and turns back around to face front. "Oh, uh. Yeah, it's fine," she replies to Mickey as she comprehends his actual question. It reminds her to put more attention back on said module. "Not so hard after all." That bit almost seems to be for Birkhoff's benefit. To back up her words, she goes quiet for a moment, making some actual headway in the program before she lets her attention drift back to Mickey's own progress.

"Mickey, if you don't stop looking at the keys, I'm going to blindfold you the way that the gunsmen do the recruits." Birkhoff says to the boy in a playful yet somewhat serious tone, glancing over to him. "People actually usually make more mistakes when they look at them. Keep your eyes on the screen and focus on the letters appearing, not what your fingers are doing. ..Or else I'll really go the old school way and put a piece of paper over your hands. Man, that was like the cone of shame for kids back in school…" Birkhoff muses, nostalgia clearly getting the better of him as he finishes off his Red Bull, glancing to alex briefly. "I'm glad that your SpyPod worked well for you, by the way. Don't worry, I didn't listen much… once you've been on a few, you learn to listen for the really important things." Not talk about ink cartridges, unless they're a code word.

"Yes sir, I'll try not to look," Mickey confirms and at Birkhoff's recommendation, he focuses on the screen and there proceeds a series of error beeps in that low sound that the program forces through the CPU's internal speaker. That said, his WPM does actually jump about three points when he starts to use his backspace quickly. He knows that key rather intimately by now. Twenty whole words per minute. That said, he still has to peek occasionally when he forgets where the Y is, or the B. After the exchange about the Spypod, he pipes up again. "Hey sir, is there some sort of GQ quotient they figure out when they recruit people? I was telling Alex here that everyone here looks like they belong in a GAP ad," he asks, being social and well, light-hearted.

Alex winces slightly as Mickey gets the computer to start beeping so angrily, but with Birkhoff here now, she resists the urge to keep offering such blatant help. She makes a few more clicks within her own program before turning again to regard the head tech. "I didn't say anything I wouldn't want you to hear anyway. I mean — what would I say?" she points out with an almost, but not quite sarcastic smile. "I guess I'm going to need to borrow an apartment for the next part," she adds, in case he didn't catch that bit in his eavesdropping.

Birkhoff starts to nod at Mickey before he hears the beeping. There's a brief eye roll from the computer instructor before he pops open another can of Red Bull and stands, moving over to the boy's side in order to monitor him. He doesn't take into consideration the fact that most people don't like hovered over and that it could potentially make poor Mickey a little nervous. "Hang on, stop typing for a second. Let's close the program out and get a fresh file started…" Birkhoff is being somewhat nicer to his special computer student. Maybe he just wants the beeping to stop. "Yeah, well. If there is some kind of GQ factor that's figured out, they missed it totally with me." He glances to Alex as he waits for Mickey to stop typing and exit the program. "No, you don't want to save the file," he says pre-emptively to the young man. "I did miss that you needed an apartment. You can use mine. I'll have to go clean it up first."

In fact, Mickey has absolutely no negative reaction to being hovered over, he has been instructed all of his life, in one way or another, and Birkhoff is just another person teaching him something he needs to know. When he is told to close the program, he pulls his hands away from the computer, shakes out his wrists and then starts to close it out, caught only the last second by Birkhoff's pre-empting. "You have special skills, special skills are like the get out of jail free pass, it seems," he points out, and may not just be referring to Birkhoff when he says that. He himself probably would have been cleaned if not for that one area of expertise which sets him so far apart, in his own way. "You get an apartment? Awesome," he says towards Alex as he waits for further instruction from Birkhoff, opening a clean file as directed.

"Yeah, if I'd known it was that easy…" Alex replies dryly, smirking faintly as she watches Birkhoff come hover over poor Mickey, even if the recruit doesn't seem to mind it. "He offered to come over and help me with my printer," she explains levelly, more to Birkhoff than Mickey. "It seemed a good way to establish some trust." If she has any plans for establishing trust by going further than just flirting, she certainly makes no indication.

"Special skills are definitely a get out of jail free pass around here." Birkhoff looks down at Mickey and back to Alex before gently taking the mouse from Mickey's hand and changing files altogether. "Let's start you on this next and see how you do." Even if he can't make a hacker out of Mickey, he'll at least train the boy to do the oodles of electronic paperwork that are assigned to agents. He backs away from Mickey and takes a drink of his Red Bull, glancing back to Alex. "Wonderful, I have a printer. It is that easy. I'll get my clothes out of there and spruce up. It's not that nice, but it doesn't have to be. I'll even change my bed sheets for you." Birkhoff hardly ever seems to leave HQ, so there's no telling how much use they actually get.

"Alex Bond, licensed to invite guys over," Mickey jokes and smiles over towards Alex between following instructions obediently like a good lab slave. He moves his hands out of the way, waits for Birkhoff to finish and then moves into position behind the computer again and starts typing away yet again, mumbling to himself as he types, "Oh, this one has number keys and more punctuation," he comments as he types, stopping to look at the punctuation keys a few times before he resumes.

Alex makes a face at the idea of Birkhoff's bed sheets — whether because of what that insinuates or just the idea of, well, Birkhoff's old sheets. "Great, thanks," she replies dryly, rather than denying a need for the fresh bed linens. "Just make sure the printer is low on ink. I'm sure that can't be too complicated." She offers Mickey a brief smile for his joke, though it's not quite as bright as the ones before, like she's distracted by her thoughts of this mission. "No, it doesn't need to be that nice," she confirms belatedly.

Birkhoff considers something for a long moment before nodding. "Easy enough." He watches Mickey briefly before he returns to his seat and looks at the grading chart again, biting his lower lip as he tries to return his focus to giving marks. "Before you start getting snappy over there young lady, I'll have you know that the bed wasn't cheap. It's a good mattress. Much better than the ones we have around here. You can thank me for that later. Not to mention the fact that there's a computer you can use, a TV, DVDs…" It's Birkhoff's unsubtle way of telling her that he's being quite generous right now. He adds a note in his file while saying to Mickey, "Just remember to keep your eyes on the screen. You're doing better. Soft strokes. You don't have to beat the keyboard like it owes you money."

"Maybe he can put up some Britney Spears posters for you," Mickey throws a quick verbal poke at Alex, quiet. In fact, he practically just mouths it at her, looking supportive of the idea and then he is back at his typing. He does his best not to look at the keys, but when he can't find a bracket or pipe, he does find himself stopping to figure out where on the keyboard they've hidden the key. "Thanks sir," he replies to the compliment and continues his lesson in relative silence. "So, is it me, or were you wearing a bit more make-up today than normal? Was that Amanda's doing?" he asks of the girl sitting five feet away.

Alex nods as Birkhoff finds little challenging in emptying an ink cartridge. She can't help but roll her eyes a little at the 'young lady' comment, though she's careful to keep her face angled slightly away, like she's engrossed in her screen. "Don't give him ideas," she replies in an undertone to her fellow recruit. "You're going to let me touch your computer?" she asks with some genuine surprise, looking back over at the tech with her eyebrows raised. "Amanda likes to play dress-up with live dolls," she goes on, answering Mickey. "You should count yourself lucky … unless she does that to you guys too. But you're still spared hair and make-up."

"Yeah. I don't have anything to hide. It's just a MacBook anyway." Correction: Birkhoff won't have anything to hide after he goes to 'pick up his clothes and change the sheets'. He says nothing about the Britney Spears posters, simply smirking in amusement. He leans back and listens to Alex with some mild interest when Mickey mentions more makeup than usual. He nods in agreement with Alex's summary of the Amanda situation. "For the men, she usually just combs your hair and puts you in a suit. Makes you eat with her. I was too nervous to actually eat the first few times. She can be really persuasive though." It doesn't sound like a pleasant sort of persuasiveness either.

"You'd touch his keyboard?" Mickey jokes again, he is a sly one. Out of curiosity, he flashes her two quick motions with his hand, when he sees no recognition, he goes on. "Yeah, she does groom us, she has me using a pore cleanser and this whole head shaving experiment is because she thought I'd been combing it poorly for so wrong that I'd messed up the follicles, or something, she was a little vague. At first I thought she was going to put electrodes on my head, but hell, I'm still here," he explains and points at the buzzed hair atop his head. Sitting up a little, he continues to type, and has to pause and stand up, walking away from the computer he stretches out his wrists repeatedly, doing the same exercises one would do at a dayjob. Bending his wrists back, he actually leans over and presses his palms to the floor and then, without any sort of indication that he's doing it to show off, in fact, he's well behind Alex's line of sight, he does a handstand and a few pushups from that position. Just stretching out his forearms, he folds back over and rises to his feet, never really bending his knees. Freak of nature that he is. "So, I guess we're all just being shaped. Sir, when you were being trained, how many missions and training exercises did you go out on before they made you an agent?" Even as he walks and talks, he takes a seat behind his screen again and resumes the exercise.

"Good point," Alex asides to Mickey without missing a beat, though she keeps her voice down, almost a mutter. She doesn't really want to rile Birkhoff up so much he makes life more difficult for her. "Persuasive. That's one word for it," she adds dryly, looking hard at her computer screen as she navigates a legitimately tricky bit of the program. All Mickey gets for his gesture is an arched eyebrow, but she makes a sympathetic face when he explains the head shaving. "But no electrodes? I guess that's a plus. I really wouldn't be surprised if she did…" Alex trails off vaguely, watching Mickey wander away from his keys, but missing at least some of his show of prowess as she goes back to her own program again, listening for Birkhoff's answer even though she doesn't look over.

Birkhoff pauses, caught off guard by Mickey's question to him. "I don't know. It was a long time ago…" A silence falls over Birkhoff as he remembers 'the good old days'. After a moment he shakes off his silent reverie. "You get a few chances before you get canceled. Don't worry. They usually set you up in areas you're the best at…" Meaning that Mickey is probably going to be someone's muscle when that time comes. He saves his file and picks his Red Bull up, clutching it to his chest like a frightened old lady would clutch her purse. "For the record, my keyboard is clean. That's gross even for me." He adjusts his glasses briefly. "Well, you two keep practicing. Alex, swing by the lab tomorrow and I'll give you the keys." He turns on his heel to exit.

"Thanks for helping sir!" Mickey calls after the departing Birkhoff and then looks over at Alex and laughs a little lightly. "He's a nice guy behind that urge to out cool people," he shares his feelings on Birkhoff without really any judgment behind it, just his observation of the departed super-geek. "Anyway, yeah, no electrodes. Though there is always next time," he adds swiftly and with a deep breath pushes his keyboard away from him. "Want to hit the cafeteria? See if we can get something this late? I'm feeling a Jones for something fruity," he tells Alex.

Alex frowns a little at the mention of being set up where their strengths are used, but perhaps it's just that she's having some trouble with her program, despite having moved through it nearly to the end at this point. "Yeah. Thanks," she chimes in as Birkhoff readies to go, looking up from her screen to give him a little nod. "I'll come by tomorrow then." She makes a mental note about that and refrains from commenting further on the state of his keyboard. Looking back to her own module, she considers Mickey's offer for a moment and then nods. "Yeah, sure. I guess that's enough practice for one night," she agrees, closing out the windows before she rises from her stool.

Walking backwards down the aisle between the stations, Mickey interlaces his hands into his belt behind him and sort of slowly plods along, waiting for Alex to catch up. "Do you think they'll have any extra gray stuff for me, or should I just settle on hoping for brown stuff and fruit?" he asks rhetorically.

"I don't know, Mickey. I guess it can't hurt to ask," Alex replies as she moves out from behind her machine to catch up with him. "Doesn't seem like 'grey stuff' would have been super-popular, but what do I know." It's hard to say what people will and won't eat around here. "I try to stick to the stuff I can actually recognize."

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