War of Attrition

It wasn't always a war.

The night Nata Wong left, she had made sure that everything was about as normal as possible. Which mean their last date night had been two weeks ago (no last-minute cramming as much fun and love into twenty-four hours that would have likely aroused suspicion), she hadn't cleaned her corner of the room other than packing away the belongings she was taking with her (which she'd slowly done over the course of a month, one object at a time to prevent concern at "missing" items), and she did go to bed with Trinn and Ari, already tucked in under the covers before both of them like she always was on days when she wasn't assigned to the evening shift on her security job. At some point in the night her eyes snapped open, and she slid out, making sure that she shifted just enough to rouse Ari with the bouncing of the bed. At least he'd see her one last time, that way.

"Nata?" Ari had asked in a sleepy-drowsy-groggy voice.

"I want McDonald's," she replied, and Ari had laughed softly because she'd done this so many times already, getting out of bed at three in the morning and walking down two blocks to get chicken nuggets and a strawberry shake. This was nothing new.

"Ge' me fries, gree'y ass," Trinn had added from the other side of the bed, not at all moving.

Her change of clothes was already thrown in the passenger's seat of her car, and all it took was to drag jeans over her shorts and pull her leather jacket on to look presentable enough for leaving the house. She didn't bother with the socks and new shirt yet, her toes jammed into the high-tops with the tongue of the shoes folded under them in her laziness haste, this time. She hopped back out of the car once she was sure she looked okay enough, and started the walk down the block.

A six piece chicken nuggets and small strawberry shake later, she started her walk back down to the house. She made a quick list in her head to make sure she has everything in the right place.

  • Her wallet was left on the kitchen bar counter, moved only to pull out a twenty.
  • The car keys were still thrown on the coffee table too (moved around since she did need to use the fob to unlock the doors from inside the house), so once she was back she needed to lock the car doors with the lock button on the inside of the driver's side door.
  • Her backpack was on the floor of the back seat, hidden from view from any thieves.

Nata wished she had bought some fries for Trinn, but getting back into the house would have served an issue. She'd rather they thought she'd gone missing during her way back, rather than after that.

It was three AM. Nobody trusted the police. Even if they didn't write her off, they weren't good enough to track down a new Foundation employee making her way to her first day on the job, anyway.

They still aren't.

She doesn't take any photos with her. It hurts enough to know she's done something irreparably damaging to two people who don't fucking deserve it. Hell, her parents don't deserve it either, but she cares less for them and doesn't mind having their complaining about not keeping in touch be met with the news that she's just gone completely.

At least now she really doesn't have to talk to them anymore, right?

Her job here is shockingly similar to her old job (she wonders if her job will call her phone when she doesn't show up that morning and rouse Trinn and Ari awake, sending them both into a panic), standing guard around the site in front of Very Important Doors. There's more to it than that, of course, like making sure every person who wanders up is there for a reason and not actually wandering, and knowing what's inside the Very Important Door, and what to do if any of the Very Important Objects somehow get outside the Very Important Door in a method other than carried by the hands of an approved person.

She's hanging around "safe" class objects for now. Which is good, because apparently for the most part those are the objects that don't sprout legs and scuttle around the room, and rather only do something when someone pokes them. The job itself makes sense; Nata thinks that it's probably not going to be the most difficult part of the job.

A few guards from site security invite her to sit with them in the cafeteria at dinner. Its beef stroganoff today, and for a moment Nata considers what else the cafeteria has that's kosher for Trinn before realizing she doesn't have to worry about food for anyone other than herself.

One of the guards is tall, broad, and has incredibly heavily bleached hair. How she manages to maintain it, Nata has no idea, but it looks pretty cool. She's been considering putting some violet in it to make it look whiter, she says, but that's just more to have to maintain.

"But Hazard, you only ever keep it in a ponytail," one of the other security guards says.

"Standard procedure, idiot."

"Off-duty, I mean."

"I like it up like this," the first guard says. "And the bangs. It's a good look."

It really is. Nata doesn't really participate in the conversation, just listens while the others start fawning over Hazard Bhatia's hair.

Standard housing for on-site personnel is… well, it looks like an apartment. Some of the higher-ups have ones that look more like houses, nicer than the houses that lines the street that Nata used to live on. They look a bit like the houses she remembers from her childhood neighborhood, except with more consistency.

These apartments are clearly meant for single living, maybe for two. The ones who live with family probably get bigger housing, hopefully. Nata notes how much like her old apartment this one looks, even the little bar that splits the kitchen from the living room. There's a bedroom and a bathroom off past the hallway that branches from the foyer.

Her belongings have already been dropped off, the boxes stacked by the door in the foyer. Right now, the apartment looks dead; it exists, no traces of it having been lived in for a while, maybe ever. Nata takes off her ID lanyard and lays that on the little circular table along with her apartment key and name tag. She walks over to the couch and flops back onto it, eyeing the table.

The room looks a little less dead with something lying haphazardly around. Maybe she'll start throwing her clothes on the floor.

Two years later, Nata is approached by Ethics Committee.

Annual personnel psychological evaluation is an annoyance to slog through (no matter how interested the junior psychologist reading off questions attempts to look, although it's hard to tell if it's because they're trying to look engaged or just think Nata is pretty), but it's even worse when you're told to wait at the end as if you've done something wrong. How does one do the exam wrong, anyway? But the junior psych gets up out of their chair, telling Nata to stay put if she would please, and exchanges places with an an older man, probably in his sixties or so, possibly older what with every single hair on his head being white. His prosthetic leg makes a clearly audible clang as it collides with the table's metal leg when he sits down.

The member introduces himself as Robert Bronstein, a former researcher and current Ethics Committee member, and Nata realizes that she's seen him before. Mostly in passing in the halls, and suddenly her internal questioning as to exactly what the hell he even does at Site 89 is answered at this revelation.

"So you do have a job here, huh," she says, and Dr. Bronstein smiles.

"Just barely. I was too good for the Foundation, so they cut my leg off. But then I just stopped walking and was still too good. So they gave me this job."

Exactly how literally he means that is unclear to Nata, but she keeps the joke about him joining Ethics Committee to prevent further unethical limb amputations to other hapless employees to herself.

"I imagine someone filed a report against me?"

"About, not against. You're not in trouble. You do well preventing trouble. Ethics Committee likes that. How do you feel about working for Ethics Committee?

"I've only been here for two years. I don't think Ethics Committee would want me around yet." Or ever, Nata hopes, because she really doesn't want to work in Ethics Committee. What the hell.

"What Ethics Committee wants is good, hardworking employees. I promise that this isn't a boring job either."

"Paper-pushing is absolutely a boring job, sorry."

"Oh, not that. You're thinking of my job on paper. I'm talking about my de facto job."

Dr. Bronstein pulls a folded-up piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and unfolds it, sliding it across the table to Nata. The creases are heavy and the paper is starting to tear a little at the edges. Nata stares at it.

"You've never heard of Observers. It would be a problem if you had," he says before she can ask him what the Sam Hill he's handing her.

"…you're looking for a bunch of narcs, then."

"Excuse me?"

"Ooooooooh boy," Nata replies, and stretches her arms above her head with a grin. "So you want me to tattle on people when they take things too far?"

"Tattling and narcs. You don't think this is a necessary job."

"I'm being sarcastic, this is a fantastic job."

Dr. Bronstein watches her face for a moment.

"You are allowed to decline it."

"I'm not. Gimme the job, doc, I'll be a great bean-spiller."

He smiles as if chastising her internally, then motions for the paper back. Nata hands it over, and Dr. Bronstein refolds it before putting it back into his pocket.

"Orientation is soon. You'll be informed of when and where to go," he says.

It's only three years later that she discovers a familiar name in the Foundation personnel database.

Oh she'd love to strangle him, she really would, because "what in god's name is wrong with you" feels woefully inadequate in this sense but she thinks strangling a researcher is probably a really, really bad idea and that anyone who doesn't know why she's strangling him would think it's terrible (and is it even appropriate even if it was? does she have a right to?) and then she'd have to explain herself to several people.

She doesn't mind explaining herself, or the entire situation. It's just that other people might have that thought of "well I did the same thing and I don't assault fellow Foundation personnel for doing what I did now don't I so just be sad about it like the rest of us instead of being a crazy person" and think she's overreacting. Also, she'll definitely still get in trouble for strangling Researcher Rosner.

Fucking Senior Researcher Rosner.

She thought he was a good person. She thought he was the type not to leave others behind! This she'd expect out of herself (and it did happen, she did go the route of 'the greater good' over the good of her poor abandoned beloved) but never out of him! And he'd had the nerve to yell at her when he was supposed to be the one still around to help Ari out of the inevitable depression that would have followed Nata's closureless departure. Maybe Rosner had missed her too, who knows, but she'd rather he have been pissed off because that's what would have been the proper reaction. So really, this is actually the ideal.


It wasn't always a war. It isn't a war anymore.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License