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Auditions (IC)

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Date: October 22nd, 2010 (Friday)

On a sunny day in Hanover, Miss A touched down outside the large pyramidal building that housed ArcheTech's Freedom City headquarters. She looked around for a moment, a confident smile on her face, and then seemed to lose focus for a moment. Halfway across the city, in the basement of a normal house in a nice neighborhood, Gina took a deep breath and tried to calm her own jitters. It was a risk going into the job interview this way, but a calculated one. She wanted to know if she could do it, for one thing. Her research told her that the security systems wouldn't block her radio transmissions, and it wouldn't be too hard to fool the X-ray machines and metal detectors at the door. She should at least make it to the interview with no problems.

It wasn't as though she thought she could go undetected forever, anyway. She didn't even want to, really. The robot was her finest achievement, and it and her double handful of patents were her only resume. If Doctor Archeville never noticed the robot body, he'd be missing her best work, and she'd be rather disappointed. Maybe that made it an audition for him too, in a way. She would know by the end of the interview whether he was someone she wanted to work for. In any case, it was game time, and she had to get back on the ball.

With barely a flicker, Miss A straightened her shoulders and walked into the building, her red, white and blue costume replaced for today with a maroon and navy business suit and skirt, with white pearls at her throat and ears. She gave the guards a dazzling smile as she walked in, then continued on to the reception desk with the air of someone who is sure there's no reason to detain her.

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A young and very perky blonde woman at the reception desk wave her over.

"Hello, Ms. Americana!," the receptionist said in a voice as perky as her appearance. "Doktor Archeville is expecting you, in his office on the twelfth floor. Here," she continued, holding out a VISITORS ID badge attached to a blue lanyard, "you'll need this to get around."

Gina briefly wondered which had a higher percentage of plastic, the ID badge or the receptionist's chest.

"There's an elevator right down that hallway," she went on, pointing to the largest of the hallways behind her. "Have a super day!"


Elsewhere, on another floor, Doktor Archeville was going over some test results from one of ArcheTech's latest experiments, a new version of their blood substitute.

Ohhh, we are so close now! If this works, it will not only be a boon to those who need transfusions, like those in battlefields, but also for those poor 'vampires'!

"This is good, very good, ja, but those clotting factors are still troubling me. If we could get that section of the protein to fold the other way, then-" A silent alarm from reception alerted him of the arrival of the young (and attractive) genius. "Ladies, gentlemen, please excuse me," he said with a short bow before leaving, "I have been reminded of another appointment."

New people! Yay! Oh, no, wait, she is not new, we met at the Brainiac Brunch. Still... yay!

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Miss Americana thanked the receptionist graciously and pinned the badge to her lapel as she headed for the elevator. The twelfth floor was the top floor, she'd counted from outside, so she was probably going to meet him in his office, or somewhere nearby. Anyone who would build an entire building to showcase his monogram was going to have a top-floor office. She scanned the badge where the blue light indicated, and rode the fast elevator alone, which was fine with her. She took one more deep breath and smiled in preparation as the doors opened and deposited her at the designated spot.

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The elevator did not open directly to an office, but to a carpeted hallway. When Miss Americana stepped out, small arrows of light appeared on the walls, pointing down a certain path. Her own radio senses detected the signals coming from her visitor's badge, interacting with the building's systems to escort her to her destination.

The arrows lead her to a set of dark wood double doors, with large As in gold on them. Before she got within five feet of them, they silently swung open, revealing the large office beyond. Doktor Archeville sat in a high-backed chair at a large glass-topped table, in front of which were two smaller, leather chairs. On one side of the room was a bank of monitors showing stock updates, news (local and global), and advertisements for ArcheTech's latest products. At the other was a small bar flanked by neatly ordered bookcases, a few comfy chairs and sofas, and some small tables.

That is a sharp suit!

"Ah, Miss Americana! Welcome!" He rose as she entered, and walked around to the front of his desk to shake her hand. "No problems finding the place, I trust?" he asked with a slight chuckle.

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Miss A gave his hand a firm shake, her grip nuanced enough to be solid but not at all painful, despite her super-strength. Her hand was warm and dry, and surprisingly uncalloused, but that could easily be a function of her tough skin. "Of course not, Doctor. Everyone worth knowing in Freedom City knows where ArcheTech's headquarters are. And it's certainly distinctive enough to find by air. I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. I've been following your company's work for some time now, and it's all very exciting."

As she spoke, she took in the office with a glance. It was certainly spacious, and well-equipped, but it seemed to a practiced eye as though the cleaning crew probably spent more time in it than the good doctor. Perhaps he was more the hands on type, who preferred the lab to sitting behind a desk. She could respect that. "Ever since the brunch you put on, I've been looking forward to a chance to speak with you again."

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Archeville smiled and sat at one of the seats in front of his desk, and gestured to Miss Americana to join him. "Actually, I was referring to the guidance system within ArcheTech itself. The little glowing arrows which lead you here. No detours or anything? I upgraded the security here a few months ago, and there have been a few... issues with the integration."

Oh! She might be thinking 'what sort of place is this to have an improperly functioning security system?'! Better change the topic, quick!

He shifted slightly in his chair, "Always glad to hear we have fans, though. And I do mean 'we', because everyone here at ArcheTech has contributed much to the whole, something I strive to make sure is never overlooked. Ah, tell me, though," he shifted again, crossing one leg over the other, "what is it that brings you here? A follow-up to some of our discussions at the Brunch? Or," he chuckled, "have you come seeking employment?"

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Miss Americana sat down in the seat next to him, folding her long legs demurely and smoothing down her skirt over her thighs. It was a perfectly innocuous gesture on a perfectly modest outfit that nonetheless couldn't help but bring attention to her legs. "Some of both," she admitted with a smile, "though perhaps mostly the latter. I'm comfortable financially at the moment, but I'm sure you know what it's like to want fresh challenges. I can't pass up the opportunity to try and work with the one man in Freedom City who may have a keener scientific mind than my own. And, of course," she chuckled, "I'm desperately envious of your facilities."

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"I try to employ the best, and give them the best to work with," he said, smiling.

She is a smart one! Best be on my toes to make a good impression... especially if she is going to work here!

He appeared unphazed by her show of leg, focusing on her eyes and the rest of her face as they talked. "What sort of position were you looking for? Any particular field you wished to work in? We are always hiring, in all sorts of areas. Ah," he folded his hands in front of him, "I do not suppose you have a resume on you, do you? Or some examples of devices you have created?"

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"My resume is short," she admitted with a smile, "but I have one available for you." She reached into her pocket and drew out a memory card and a reader, sliding the card into the slot. A projector popped up, beaming a holographic image of a sheet of paper about six inches above the reader, clear and easy to read as if she'd brought in a hard copy. "This is one of my devices, too," she added. "It's more impressive with videos, but it works for documents as well. Holds a charge for hours, too."

The resume was simple and unembellished, but the most striking part was that it was for Miss Americana's secret identity. Gina Evans did not list a home address, but her educational history and work accomplishments were all neatly laid out. She had a high school diploma that, assuming she graduated in a timely fashion, put her at about 22 now, but no college degree listed. Instead of a degree, there was a list of just over three dozen patents issued to her over the past four years, mostly for software innovations, but some graphical interface upgrades and other technology-related innovations. Some of them had really caught on, and it was hard to doubt that she was indeed comfortable financially as the inventor.

"Of course," Miss A said, looking at the doctor intently, "outside of my intellect, my main talent of interest is that I'm a functional cyberkinetic. I can inhabit any mechanical device and examine or operate it from the inside. As long as I can make radio contact, I can make machines do just about anything I'd like. It comes in handy."

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A Metahuman, too! Oh, boy!

"I bet that ability has been of great help in your inventing," he said as he skimmed the holo-resume, and then over the holographic emitter. "Being able to put yourself inside a device as you work on it, able to feel how it works and better intuit how it should work or could work... I can only imagine what that must feel like!"

He turned, and met her intent glare with a questioning one of his own. Mentally he was reviewing everything he knew of her, both as presented here and from the Brainiac Brunch.

Waaaiiitasec... she is a cyberkinetic, and a amazingly intelligent and gifted inventor... and she looks like that? I wonder...

"Ah, Miss Americana, at the risk of violating certain HR policies..." he began, leaning forward a bit, "I must say that your appearance does not match what one would expect from your resume and what you have told me. The few cyberkinetics I know, and most of the inventive geniuses of your caliber that I have had the pleasure to work with, are... a rather plain and unassuming bunch. You, on the other hand, not only look like a model, but you carry yourself as one, too. Which is a bit confounding."

Oh, I am so conflicted! On the one hand, my fantastic mind can analyze and dissect the most circumstantial evidence surrounding a person's appearance, behavior, apparent resources, and powers, and then correlate that information with the myriad other pieces of information stored in my immense memory... but should I? I do not want to invade her privacy... and I would never use ArcheTech's resources to verify my theories, as that is too steep and too slippery a slope... but it is almost a reflexive action!

He unclasped his hands and tapped his chin with one finger, "how long have you had your Metahuman abilities? Did they manifest after some particular trauma, or exposure to some mutagenic agent?"

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Miss Americana regarded him levelly, cocking her head to one side and giving him a slow smile. "I guess it just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover," she replied enigmatically. "Personal appearance and poise was always very important in my household, so I've had plenty of training." She brushed her hair back behind one ear, and everything about the gesture seemed perfectly natural.

"As for my abilities, I've had them for about five years now." she told him easily, with no apparent reticence. "No particular trauma, really, it was more what you might call a personal setback. It took me quite some time to learn to harness my new powers, so I've really only been putting them to use for the past three years or so. I feel like I've just started to hit my stride, and perhaps come to the limit of what I can accomplish on my own. Coming to ArcheTech, as well as the hero work I've been doing, will let me broaden my horizons."

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Well, that would appear to rule out her being a fashion model who was disfigured in some horrible accident which also granted her her abilities. Maybe she really is what she appears to be; if so, she is a lucky one!

Archeville nodded and smiled, "well, the entire purpose of ArcheTech is to broaden horizons -- in a safe and socially conscious way, of course -- and you certainly seem to have the technical qualifications. And you seem a fine fit to the psychological ones as well; anyone specializing in medical prostheses is bound to have a compassionate streak. How well do you work in a collaborative setting?"

The Doktor withdrew a slender wand-like device from his coat pocket -- his famed Electromagnetic Screwdriver -- and pointed it at the desk in front of them. A life-sized hologram projected from it, out to the middle of the room, showing an assortment of laboratories filled with busy scientists and technicians.

"You would be allowed some time for solo projects, but there would be some collaborative components to what you do here, too, aside from the numerous interns we have from FCU and HIT. The default set-up here is to work on projects with others, to foster camaraderie and a general spirit of cooperation; many projects here are worked on by people from a variety of fields, since many problems can only be tackled with an interdisciplinary approach. Since medical prostheses is itself an such a field, crossing anatomy and biology with cybernetics and robotics, I cannot imagine that aspect would bother you, but would you be able to work well with others?"

ArcheTech could certainly use someone like you, Freedom seems to be getting an influx of cyborgs lately. Not to mention all the people Circuits Maximus kidnaps and forcibly converts into killing machines for their 'games'. Oh, perhaps she could even help with my own nanite enhancement projects!

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Miss A was more interested for a moment in the electromagnetic screwdriver than in the image it displayed, the typical curse of the engineer. She refocused her attention quickly and hoped he wouldn't notice the lapse. "I can work with others she assured him blithely. In this body, it wasn't too hard to secure cooperation from most people, she'd noticed quickly. "I am looking for a substantial degree of autonomy and creative control, however," she told him. "I certainly don't mind helping out on other peoples' projects, or collaborating on companywide initiatives, but I'm not interested in being told what to invent. I'm sure you'll find," she added with another smile, "that I'm far more useful when given freedom to work. I have plenty of ideas already."

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I can tell by the way she is looking at the Screwdriver that she has the heart of an engineer. Promising!

Archeville's smile broadened, "well, as long as you are not opposed to occasionally being asked to direct your inventiveness in certain directions, I believe you would do quite well here. As I said, we do permit some time for solo and personal projects," he clicked the Screwdriver again, and the holograms switched to showing scenes of a lone scientist, or a scientist directing a handful of interns, "and we encourage staff -- to the extent our insurance and HR policies allows -- to take initiative and push boundaries."

"There is one other caveat for you working here," he clicked off the image and twirled the Screwdriver in his fingers for a moment before returning it to his pocket. He fixed her with a steely gaze, "and that is that you must submit to a physical. It is something we have all Metahuman staff undergo, partly to make sure there are no potential problems with your abilities interacting with some of the more delicate equipment and sensors we have here, and partly to further our own understanding of metahuman physiology."

I hope this is not a deal-breaker!

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"Mmm," Miss A pursed her lips, tapping one fingertip against them lightly. "I have no problem whatsoever with your first reason, so long as my privacy is guaranteed. I'd certainly like to know ahead of time if anything in your facility is going to disrupt or be disrupted by my working here, and I'm willing to take whatever tests are necessary to ensure that doesn't happen." She straightened in her chair and looked at him levelly. "As far as my metahuman physiology, Doctor, that is not on the bargaining table. I'm sure that you can further your understanding with any number of other willing volunteers, especially in Freedom City."

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I can work with that!

Archeville's smile fell, though he did not let it go completely. "Your privacy would of course be guarded, any data on you kept on highly secure servers. You are even free to submit a resume and receive your paycheque in the name of Miss Americana, keeping your identity to yourself; such practices are good enough for the courts, and are acceptable to ArcheTech. But tests would need to be done to insure that nothing here interferes with the functioning your abilities, and vice versa. I believe a simple -- and non-invasive -- scan of the particular frequencies and wavelengths your cyberkinetic abilities operate on would suffice; I could even run such a scan here and now," he opened his coat enough to reveal the tip of his Screwdriver poking out of the pocket, "if you would allow."

Please say yes!

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"Go ahead," Miss Americana told him easily. "I actually have no problem with holding my paychecks and records in my own name. I trust your security." She'd checked it out herself, though only passively, and found it adequate for her purposes, which meant it was fantastic against the average technological attack. "Really, the less curious people are about me, the happier I'll be. It's the easiest way to hide something obvious in plain sight."

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Hooray!

Archeville's smile came back in full force as he removed his Screwdriver and began adjusting it, "thank you. For permitting this, and the compliment on my security. Now, if you could use your cyberkinesis to manipulate the-," he waved the techno-wand near her head, "... oh. Oh, now that is interesting."

She is using her powers now?! Could it be...?!

"It appears you are already using your abilities," he said, obviously curious at this, "for I am detecting a very potent -- and very encrypted -- radio transmission coming off of you. Which again makes me wonder if, given your focus on computer software and medical prostheses, the body I see before me is not a very advanced gynoid which you are 'piloting' from afar via your cyberkinesis."

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Miss Americana laughed. "I believe I mentioned once before, Doctor, that you can't judge a book by its cover. My resume is thin, so I thought it might be prudent to bring in my latest and best example of my work. I'm sure you understand, however, that I don't want this information to be released to anyone. I find that exchanging my entire body is a much more effective way of keeping up a secret identity than merely donning a costume."

She brushed her hair back again, then examined her hand as though checking a tool for imperfections. "And I imagine I could manipulate your device there, but it would be rude. It's not my toy, after all," she pointed out with a brilliant smile.

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Oh boy! Robots are neat!

Archeville's smile broke into a laugh. "Well, that cinches it -- you are hired right now!"

He looked to his Screwdriver, then to her, then back to his Screwdriver, then back to her. "I would of course love to see your inner workings, but also fully respect your desire for privacy. And I know you have been eying my little gadget... I think I know a way we can both satisfy our curiosity."

Hooray, compromise!

"I will allow you to take control of -- or inhabit, I suppose is a better term -- my Electromagnetic Screwdriver," he waggled the device in front of her, "for... one minute, if, in doing so, you will set it to whatever sensors you would be comfortable with me using to scan you. You will find it can be quite a versatile little gadget."

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"That will be more than enough time," Miss A assured him. It was quite a good deal, in Gina's mind. She'd been willing to let him examine the robot anyway, and this way she got a look at the doctor's fascinating little gadget as well. And since he didn't seem terribly interested in the squishy meat body behind the perfected robot, things seemed to be going very well indeed! "Just give me a moment to concentrate..."

Gina made the robot fold its hands and close its eyes, bowing its head as though praying or meditating. Satisfied that it would hold that position for a minute, and that the automated systems would keep up the appearance of breathing, she hopped out of the robot and straight into the electromagnetic screwdriver. What an amazing little toy! Immediately she coveted it. Even as she examined it, a part of her mind was creating and discarding ideas for how to make something similar of her own. To never be caught without the necessary tool or sensor, wouldn't that be something!

The screwdriver blinked, beeped and whirred in the doctor's hands as the cyberkinetic played with it, though it didn't actively exhibit any of its flashier functions. After fifty-nine and one-half seconds, Miss A opened her eyes and lifted her head. "I set it to a full analysis mode," she told him. "You can look at anything you like. And I want one of those," she added, chuckling.

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Archeville's attention was split between his possessed Screwdriver and the very lifelike gynoid seated next to him.

Amazing! She is breathing! Is that purely 'decorative', or does it maintain thermal control of her internal systems? Can she function in vacuum? Oh, and there is a pulse! Lubrication delivery system? Micro-hydraulic power regulation? So many questions!

The Doktor chuckled at her words when she returned to her body. "Given your clearly superb technical skills, I am surprised you have not incorporated something like this into her. Does she have any, ah, 'optional extras'? Wait, no, let me see what you allowed my scanners to pick up! Hrrmm... bioplast sheeting skin... non-conductive polymer composites... a number of very interesting alloys in the spinal column... she must be quite strong, and durable. Ah, and a very impressive storage capacity and computational speed! Which she would need, in order to house your mind in such a way for you to operate her as you do. Truly astounding!"

The Doktor was like a kid in a candy store looking over the readings.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Must not forget, there is a living mind in there! She is not a project to be studied and examined, she is a person!

After a moment he put the Screwdriver down, though it was clear it took him some effort to do so. "Yes, truly astounding, but we can go into more technical details later. Would you care for a tour of the place, see where you would be working?"

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"For this model, I was concentrating on getting the superpowers built in, as well as simply making sure that all the basic equipment was there to allow me to pilot it," Miss A explained to him. "Now that I've had a chance to pick up more ideas and make a few runs with it while doing hero work, I have plenty of ideas for upgrades. As you can imagine, though, it's quite difficult to make a life-size and lifelike robot that contains all the parts I need to make it work. I'm going to be exploring further into miniaturization, hoping to ameliorate some of those concerns. And I would love a tour," she told him, rising from her seat with a smile.

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Thoughts of giving Miss Americana a tour left Archeville's mind as she discussed her past and present projects, and the workings of her abilities. "Is there a minimum amount of complexity a system must have before you can interact with it? I have always wondered that about cyberkinetics," he continued as he rose and headed towards the double doors. "It is the only Metahuman ability that requires completely man-made items to work. For all we know there could have been hundreds of cyberkinetics running around in the Dark Ages, but they had no electronic to interface with!"

Picking up random electromagnetic spikes in the radio frequency and interpreting it as 'voices'? Real reason behind certain forms of schizophrenia? Must investigate further!

The doors opened silently as they approached. The halls were empty, so the way to the elevator was clear. "Speaking of miniaturization, do you have much experience with nanotechnology? It is a field I myself am focused on at the moment. Is there a size limit to the type of machine you can inhabit?"

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"I haven't done a lot of experiments with miniaturization, beyond what I've needed to create prostheses and... other projects," she told him as they walked. "I simply haven't had the equipment available to me, though I've done some theoretical work. As far as my own abilities, I think the simplest machine I've been able to inhabit was a toaster with a timer and burn sensor, and the smallest was a digital multifunction watch. It's not so much a question of size or complexity so much a versatility," she explained, using her hands to describe the sizes of things as she spoke. Even while she was talking, her eyes were moving, taking in the rooms they passed, the layout of the building, what she could see of the security and information systems. It was a very impressive setup.

"If something has a lot of possible uses, or a lot of free processing power, I can do a whole lot more with it than if it's designed to make toast pop up or not. It's just not particularly rewarding to tie most of my mental faculties up in burning toast," she added with a laugh. "How many people do you have working in your main facility right now?" she asked as they stepped into the elevator.

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