2007-04-22: A Job Interview


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Summary: Natalie gets called in for a job interview at Primatech Paper.

Date It Happened: April 22, 2007

I Can Haz Job?

Primatech Paper, New York

The lobby has a reception desk. Upon arrival Miss Foster will find that she is indeed expected and handed a visitor's pass to clip to her shirt. While the function of the building is vague and seems to contain offices from various companies, one called Primatech seems to dominate. It may also be the highest security paper company ever, as a security guard is dispatched upon Natalie's arrival to escort her to her interview. There is a security checkpoint before the elevators, then somewhere past the 30th floor the guard leads the way to an entirely mundane looking office that takes up most of the floor. There is a wide reception area with a large Primatech sign behind the friendly receptionist, who very shortly passes along the message that 'Mr. Bennet will see you now'.

Being an interview, of course, Natalie's done up in a business suit, hair done professionally. She walks along with the guard to the office, and steps inside. A nod and a quick "Thank you" to the receptionist, and then she sits, trying to calm the interview jitters in her stomach. She's not sure what a paper company needs with a linguist, but hey…it's a job offer, and it's the first serious one she's had.

The room indicated seems like a fairly unexceptional high powered office. The man behind the desk, presumably Mr. Bennet, rises to his feet with a friendly smile, indicating a leather covered chair in front of him. There are paintings on the wall, and a soft grey carpet on the floor. Behind the desk is a magnificient view of the city. The room itself is in meticulous order, with only a few pictures of a family and what must be daddy's little girl on the desk and walls. The camera trained on the room is well hidden, and is as much for keeping a close eye on Bennet as it is for security. The bookcase also gives no indication that it leads to a small room, where the Haitian sits in his imposed silence, quietly protecting his partner. "Miss Foster, have a seat. I'm Mr. Bennet." He offers his hand to shake, and sits when she does. "I imagine you have a lot of questions, given your background."

Natalie steps into the room, and gives a smile, and a handshake to Noah as she comes in, and sits when invited. "Thank you. I admit to being curious. The phone call was a bit vague." Which, given her background, has her wondering if this might not be a cover op for the Agency in some fashion…but domestic? "But I'm interested in all the details of the position."

"You may have guessed that this is more than just a paper company," Noah says, settling comfortably into his chair. "Though it is that, as well. I've reviewed your file, very impressive," Mr. Bennet says, tapping a few buttons on the laptop in front of him. "Top scores in your fields, high aptitude with computers, and a certain—gift for languages. I'm surprised your former agency risked putting you in the field. Is that where your interests lie?"

She hesitates a moment before answering that. "I don't know about that any more, sir." That he knows what he knows and has access to her file is enough for her to know that Primatech is very Spooky indeed, in the intel sense. "There was a time where I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Now…I'm not so sure. I think it was boredom that pushed me into the field last time. The work that a junior analyst gets…" Junior due to her lack of seniority, not her ability. "Let's just say it's not thrilling work. I don't find routine cryptography and signals analysis to be much of an intellectual challenge. I thought field service might be the answer, but I might have been wrong there."

"If you do end up joining our little organization here, it may be part of your tasks," Noah says, leaning forward. "I say may be. The way we operate here is somewhat unique in the field, with many of our employees filling various tasks. Flexibility is an asset, and is necessary. We have a large number of entry level employees, but a small number of specialists. This is a choice," Noah explains, "Not a lack of resources, for reasons that will become clear with time. Keeping things on a smaller scale affords us some flexibility as well that a larger organization doesn't have. Tight restraints on promotion, seniority and such. Merit, ability and experience are the scales we measure on, not years of service. So, if field service wasn't the answer," Noah says, leaning back in his chair, "what is? What do you think would excite you?"

Natalie nods. "Well, honestly sir…I'm just looking for something that will challenge me. Higher-level computer or analysis work might be that, or, it's just as possible that field service could be the answer too. I think I'm recovered from the issues that caused my leave." She knows that has to be a huge black mark on her record, and she's fairly certain they attributed it to her cracking under stress and torture.

"You certainly don't seem to be aphasic," Mr. Bennet says with a slight nod and a smile. He clasps his hands together on his desk, leaning closer. "We're working on problems here that no one else in the world is dealing with, or even really knows exists. "What do you know about Doctor Chandra Suresh?"

Natalie blinks. That catches her out of left field. She's read the theories, but she didn't think the agency was tracking her computer usage. "That…he has some unusual theories on evolution. Not considered mainstream by the scientific community. Passed away last year." She gives the "political" answer, not wanting to let on anything about her own odd condition that might stop her from getting a job.

"I'll be straightforward, because I can afford to be and because I think it will be most productive," Noah prefaces. "Doctor Suresh's work was some of the most important work for humankind in the world today. Because we know, for a fact, that he was on the right track." Noah slowly gets to his feet. "There are people, all over the world, with very special gifts. They can do incredible things."

Natalie's eyes widen out some. Well, that means that the Agency…or whatever project this is, knows, not only about the research she was doing, but why she was doing it. Or at least they have a good idea. "I see." she says, recovering after a momentary pause. "And this organization is relating to that work, sir?"

"Exclusively," Noah confirms with a nod. "What happens, Natalie, to a world where a man can enter your mind, and make you do, literally, anything he wants?" Noah is looking out towards the city now, at the large windows that go from knee level to the ceiling. "Or a person that can detonate with the force of a nuclear bomb?"

The blonde woman looks at Noah. She wants to not believe it. But yet, what she can do herself tends to lend credence to at least the possibility. "I would say that it presents a clear and present danger, sir." Her mind is already rolling on possibilities. Solutions. Tactics. Countermeasures, identification, legal ramifications….but there's no exterior sign.

Noah turns his head enough to glance over his shoulder, and gives a brief nod and a rueful smile. "It changes everything," Noah says. "And all the rules are out the window. Most of these people are just that, people. They live normal lives, or something close to it. But some…" Noah turns around, abruptly taking his seat again. "Our primary goal is information. Locating and documenting the existence and capabilities of as many of these people as possible. Intervention only when necessary. And of course, cleaning up the messes. The world isn't ready to know about such things."

Natalie nods. She'd already come to that conclusion herself, but it's worth it to confirm. "I understand. Am I to understand that you'd want me to be involved with this project, sir?" It's the logical assumption. "If so, might I ask in what capacity?" Dr. Suresh's work was medical, and she's no medical person. Logic says that means either field agent, computers/signals…or because of her own talent.

"A variety of tasks," Noah says, turning to his computer again. "You'd have a great deal of independence, with minor supervision. You'll be trained to look for the signs of these people. News stories that are incomplete, such as the recent tragedy at Yankee stadium. I've had the thought of a computer program to look through news stories online and even journals, and highlight those that might be indications of special individuals. And yes, potentially some fieldwork. Just how many languages do you speak, Miss Foster?"

Natalie nods. "Nine spoken, plus braille and a number of computer languages, sir." She's already thinking up the software possibilities. In essence, something similar to the sorting algorithm the NSA uses on telecommunications to flag important words, only for news feeds based on conditions. "I think I'd be very interested, sir."

"There is another matter," Noah says, leaning back in his chair. "A few unexplained details, of your last field assignment." Noah gives Natalie a long look, sitting still in his chair and waiting expectantly.

Natalie is sort of on the spot there. But it's going to be relevant to this. "I…believe I might be one of the people Dr. Suresh theorized about, sir." Pause. "Actually, that's dissembling. I am such a person. It seems to have focused on my ability with languages."

"I appreciate your candor, Miss Foster," Noah says with a nod. They had their suspicions, certainly. "Communication is an important facet of everything we do here. What exactly is your ability with language?"

Natalie explains "To the best of my understanding, I have the ability to…rewrite the language center of a person's brain. To borrow a bit from computer terminology, if a person has four files in their mind, each one representing a different language, I can replace any of those four with any of the ones in my mind. I can also delete any of them selectively or comprehensively. It seems fairly flexible; I have the ability to alter written or spoken centers, both perceptively and projecturally…that is to say, either what they hear and read, or what they say and write."

"…cool," Noah says, with some guarded enthusiasm. A somewhat mischevious smile crosses his face. "Show me," he says, leaning forward to press a button on his phone and pick up the handset. "Miss Pearson, could I speak to you for a moment? Thank you. Miss Pearson," Noah explains as he hangs up, "Is one of our receptionists. As far as she knows, this is a Paper sales and distribution company, and nothing else. Very capable at her job, but doesn't speak or understand a word of, say…Japanese?" Noah nods to the door as it opens, and a young woman in her mid-twenties opens it and enters. "Yes Mr. Bennet?"

The blonde woman looks over to the receptionist. She takes a moment, and concentrates. She finds the woman's language center with her mind, and does a global "find and replace", changing English for Japanese. She hopes that Mr. Bennet picked that because he speaks it. She offers the woman a smile and a faint wave. «Hello, Ms. Pearson. My name is Natalie Foster. It's very nice to meet you.» It's in fluent Japanese, of course.

"«Oh, nice to meet you,»" Miss Pearson answers, a bit hesitant but with no pause in her conversation. "«Yes, Miss Pearson, I'd like you find out what offices are available on this floor, and as soon as he's available have Suresh call me.»" Noah also seems to speak the language with no difficulty. "That's the son of the one you are familiar with," Noah says in English to Natalie, but watches Miss Pearson to see if she can understand it.

Which she can't, of course. Natalie's power is deletive or replacive…but not additive. At least, not yet. The blonde smiles, and offers her own commentary to Noah, knowing it won't be understood. "She won't be able to follow it. I replaced her former language with this one."

"Interesting. Change it back," he says with a nod. "«That will be all, Miss Pearson»" Noah says, watching Natalie to make sure the alteration is made. He waits until the receptionist has left before continuing. "We may want to test the full range of your abilities at some point, and see if we can't increase them, but for now, tell me: is it only languages you already know? Could you make Miss Pearson, for example, speak understand English, Japanese and Spanish all at once?"

Natalie nods once. She concentrates again, and rewrites the file with its original data. "As of yet, yes, sir. I have to know the language I'm…writing to the disk. And I can overwrite an existing file. If she were trilingual, I could replace three of her languages with three that I know…but if all she speaks is English, I couldn't just add French. It's…" She frowns. "There really isn't good terminology to explain it." Which is frustrating for a linguist. "It's like I can see that there's more there, but I can't access it. It's like an unformatted partition on a hard drive." Best analogy she can give.

"Give it time," Noah reassures with a pleased nod. "These abilities are constantly growing and evolving, sometimes in very unexpected ways. What about modification?" Noah asks, and takes his cellphone from his waist. He starts writing a text message on it. "I speak some basic French, for example. Could you make me fluent?"

Natalie nods. "Yes, sir. As long as there's an open slot for me to work with, I can overwrite it with my own knowledge, which means the person becomes as fluent in it as I am."

"Do it," Noah says, a terse order. The bookcase on the left side of the room starts to swing open on silent hinges. The Haitian is behind it, putting a blanket of protection over Mr. Bennet. Both watch Natalie with open curiosity.

She nods. Her power really isn't that different from the Haitian's memory ability. Maybe 15 degrees off, as it were. She frowns, though, as she encounters that layer of protection. "I…." She focuses harder, and there's definitely a bit of mental on mental action, but she doesn't have the experience to -hope- to find a way around it. "I can't see it. It's like I don't have access to it at all." She's puzzled…it's the first time she's encountered anything like it.

"A little experiment, for our own personal curiosity," Noah says, and nods to the corner of the room with the silent Haitian. The bookcase has closed behind him, not leaving any clues as to where or how he entered. "My friend here is special too, and part of what he can do is block others like you. You may be working together in the future at some points."

Natalie looks over, and she nods once to the Haitian. "A pleasure to meet you, sir." Though she's already running through the possibilities. The fact that her own ability isn't an absolute is a new twist. She almost starts to reach out mentally, just to see if she can access -his-…but then stops herself. There are three possibilities. Either she can't…no good. Or she can, but he'd know it…also no good. Or it might work. With only a 1 in 3 chance of success, she refrains.

"I'll admit, I'm excited," Noah says with a smile. He does seem to be sincere on that front. "There will be more interviews with various upper level management. We'll do some basic orientation and training. Provide you with a cover job, which will include learning more than you ever wanted to know about paper. And if you're amenable, I'd very much like to start testing your ability," Noah says, tilting his head downward. "The possibilities are intriguing. How much does a person have to know before you can fill them in on the rest of a language, for example. We'll also pay for further education in different languages, with a bonus for each new one that you learn."

Natalie nods. "I understand. I'm definitely interested, sir. Should I head home and wait to be called back for these subsequent interviews?" She's not sure if she has the job or not.

"I think so, yes," Noah says, rising to his feet and extending his hand. "Not to worry, Natalie. I get the feeling that you'll be joining our little operation here in no time at all. How are you doing, financially speaking?" Noah asks with some concern. "Are you getting any sort of compensation from the agency?"

Natalie doesn't beat around the bush on it. "Disability payment, sir." Given her "medical leave". "It handles the necessities, but barely. I was probably going to ask my parents for some help if I hadn't found steady work in the next few weeks." She shakes the offered hand, standing.

"It won't come to that," Noah says, leaning back to sit on the corner of his desk. "You'll be hearing from us again tomorrow. In the meantime I have a little personal project I want you to give some thought to, see what you can come up with. By our very nature we are covert. It would be extremely useful if every one of our agents could not only speak, but understand and even think in a language that was entirely unique to our company."

Natalie blinks. She hadn't ever considered using her power on a created language. But she certainly has the background. "I'll…give it some consideration, sir. I do warn that it may take some time. It took a decade for Dr. Zamenhof to come up with Esperanto." But it's an exciting challenge…something that WOULD finally be a challenge.

"Just think about it," Noah says with a nod, and gets up to open the door. "I'll walk you to the elevator, then you can just head straight out. See what you can come up with. But if you feel the need to experiment, make sure you change everything back when you're done," Noah says. "We operate below the radar."

Natalie nods. "Of course." She walks with Noah towards the elevator, and on reaching it, will give another handshake. "Thank you for the opportunity, sir."

"Thank you, Natalie," Noah says at the elevator, returning her handshake. "I think you'll do very well here." He steps away when the elevator arrives, and waits until the doors finally close before returning to his office.

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