I stare at my computer, trying to figure out what the hell I was even planning on doing. I could’ve sworn there was another video or something I wanted to watch, but I can’t find it (either in an open tab or written down anywhere), and I have no idea what it was about. I also kind of don’t want to watch any more videos, but hey.
My computer starts yelling at me and I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Hey, Fox,” Ash says, tugging at a necklace I haven’t seen before. “Got time for a rant?”
“Always,” I say, “can you step back a sec?”
Ash laughs, spinning around for me, so I can take in his jean jacket and cargo pants. “So, I don’t know how much you’ve been following agency politics?”
I make a face. “As little as I possibly can.”
“Just your tower, then?” He shrugs expansively. “More’s the pity.”
“God, not even that if I can help it,” I grumble, “why?”
He scowls. “Okay, basically, this is going to be a bunch of people you don’t actually know, so maybe ignore the names for the most part, yeah?”
“Okay,” he says, and takes a deep breath, closing his eyes. “Paragon’s pretty much sulking and refusing to do any work, because he’s convinced people are stealing his credit and Hunch is distinctly not helping with that by, basically, he keeps doing this thing where he’s, like, trying to prank us or something, but in this way that isn’t funny, because he thinks people know when he’s being sarcastic but he always talks completely deadpan,
“and Wizard wants the whole team reorganized, because he’s obsessed with not being on a team with an actual magic user, and consistently tries to one-up him during, I don’t know, meetings and even when they run into each other in the hall, not just practices, meanwhile Teke is being such a fucking asshole about not being team lead when Guardian’s been at it a decade longer because she’s convinced they brought him in just to keep from promoting her,
“and he keeps making fun of her for it, which is not helping anyone’s opinion of how this actually went down, because goddamn I hate Teke, but this guy is a whole nother level and let’s not even get into the sexual harassment thing right now – he’s constantly saying that this isn’t how they do it in Agapolis and we have to change everything, which, like, yeah, here works exactly like there, and Smoke keeps demanding all these special rituals and stuff,
“none of which we have any convenient way of handling, and he won’t even tell us which of them actual need to happen and which of them are just, like, superstitions or weird stuff that he does but we don’t have to, and he always insists that Techie can’t be in the room because their energy messes up, whatever, everything, which obviously pisses them off
“and I already feel really bad for Techie because Teke keeps going on about how great it is to have another woman on the team, which, like, fuck, and how awesome it is that their names are almost the same or some shit, I don’t know, it’s a really lame attempt at bonding, so I’m trying not to be mad at them because they don’t deserve that but god damn I cannot fucking handle any more dirty looks
“and Brawn won’t turn in literally any of his paperwork. And I need to have these guys camera-ready in less than two weeks, and how much do they listen to me? None. None is how much. It doesn’t even matter how I dress, and honestly, I’ve tried that every fucking which way, but no, they are not giving me the slightest smidge of attention and it will be a miracle if any of them even wait their turns to talk we’re going to have to replace the entire team with body doubles.”
“Wow,” I say, my eyes sticking straight out of my head like a horrified cartoon, with some sort of little dancing animations swirling around me. And maybe sound effects.
Ash laughs and runs a hand through his hair, fidgeting with his necklace again. “Yeah, sorry, people you don’t know doing things you don’t care about.”
“Hey, at least it’s mask division, this time,” I say, “could be harder to follow.”
He groans and falls out of camera range with a quiet thunking sound. “How many of those do you have over there? You’re picturing the entirely wrong people, I’m sure.”
“Well, we don’t have a Wizard,” I say, “although it’s kind of made up for by the fact that I’m in fairly consistent contact with two wildly different Paragons.”
He pops back up. “I thought you didn’t have a Teke, either? Oh, wait, no, new guy.”
“Uh, yeah,” I say, “do you really have a magic user out there in the boondocks?”
Ash starts cackling into his fist.
“Ashley,” I say. Or maybe kind of growl.
He laughs harder, jabbing a finger at the side of the screen, and moving to adjust his own computer. With a sigh, I toggle my secure connection crap on, too, which takes me a minute, because I forget the fucking password, why can people not just call me at work?
“You’re Teke, aren’t you?” he says, still laughing.
I sigh harder. “Yes, Ashley, I’m Teke, I thought everyone knew this already.”
He shakes his head. “Oh my god, you have no idea how much funnier that makes the rumors I’ve heard about you.”
“You really have nothing better to do out there in the land of every extranormal already belongs to the agency, do you?” I ask. “Fine, do your worst. Whatever. I don’t even care.”
He stops laughing abruptly, and his eyes widen. “Hey, are you okay?”
I raise an eyebrow.
“You ran into, uh, bad news, I heard.” He frowns.
“You can say ‘Klepto’,” I tell him, “preferably not talk about it that much, but, sure, I’m fine, relatively speaking. I was barely injured. And I’m healed now.”
“Well, as long as your ducklings made it back alright,” he says. “Right?”
I nod. “All the little assholes accounted for.”
Ash grins again. “Not getting along with the brats?”
I wave a hand. “As well as can be expected, I guess. Do you remember the tiny horrible racist?”
Ash makes a face. “What, Gatling?”
“Well, he grew up into a larger horrible racist, now with even more sexism and homophobia,” I tell him, “and he won’t listen to a word I say.”
“Like, says okay and then doesn’t do it, or like ‘la la la I’m not listening’ kind of won’t do what you say?” Ash asks.
I shake my head. “Like actively tells me he won’t. To the point where he’s suggested, multiple times since I’ve been put in charge, that I’m going to physically or sexually assault him.”
Ashley’s eyes widen. “Wow. That’s.”
“And by physically assault, I do mean he specified I would shoot him,” I add.
“Hon,” Ash asks, “are you sure you’re okay?”
I roll my eyes. “Got a refill on the night-night pills, anyway, but, no, I’ve just had a bad week, it’s fine. You sound like you’re dealing with a lot more assholes than I am, anyway.”
“Mm,” he says, “that reminds me, Red’s heading up to visit sometime, so, uh, look out for that.”
“Yeah,” I say, “that already happened, but thanks for the heads up.”
“Wow, sorry,” Ash says, shaking his head. “You really have had a rough week.”