The lack of a hangover the morning after was the best feeling in the world. Riley woke a little later than usual, due to being out so late at the party the night before. Even after coming back into consciousness, she laid there in her bed for another hour or so, too lazy to actually get up. It wasn't even until her bladder was about ready to burst did she get up from bed and begrudgingly wander over to the bathroom.
After relieving herself and tying her hair up to get it out of her face, Riley made her way to the kitchen. Pants was sleeping on the counter, and the brunette narrowed her eyes at the cat. He jerked awake when she picked him up. Ignoring his outraged meow, she cuddled him to her chest and transported him to the couch in the living room. He stood and stretched his back, arching it upwards. His eyes blinked wearily up at her in accusation, but she'd already returned to the kitchen to make herself some food.
One grilled cheese sandwich and some crackers later, Riley was feeling full and bored. Blowing air through her lips, the brunette stood in the middle of the living room and just looked around. What now? Her Saturdays were almost never planned in advance. Riley made great pains to leave her weekends open so she could do nothing all day. But sometimes that was more of a hindrance than helpful. Sometimes she just didn't know what she wanted to do.
Riley's eyes finally wandered down to her Star Wars pajama pants, and shrugged. A Star Wars movie marathon it was, then. Grabbing her boxed set of the series, Riley turned on her DVD player and popped it in. While the opening previews rolled, she returned to her room and dragged several blankets and pillows to the couch to begin building her nest for the day.
Riley shut the blinds and turned off the lights, relishing in the darkness of her living room. The only proper way to enjoy movies was in the dark. She hated tv glare, and it immersed her more into the story anyway. Having prepared the room to her satisfaction, she hit play on the remote and snuggled into her blanket fort, getting comfortable. Pants joined her after a few minutes, kneading a spot for himself by her feet to lay down and sleep.
She began with the sequels because, even if they were universally disliked by the die-hard trilogy fans, it still set the scene for the rest of the series. Plus, Riley didn't think they were all that bad, mainly thanks to Ewan McGregor and the way he portrayed a young Obi Wan Kenobi. That man was a darling.
By the time she finished the second prequel, Riley was feeling hungry again. Maybe it wasn't the healthiest choice, but she popped two bags of kettle popcorn and dumped it into the biggest plastic bowl she owned. Then, after pouring a giant glass of milk to accompany it, Riley returned to the couch and started on the third movie.
Having this time to herself was so relaxing and much-needed. It was about damn time she got some Riley-time. She smiled, watching in childish awe at the CGI of the fighter ship dogfighting in space of the opening scenes. She always liked watching the space battles between the ships the most.
Having seen these movies a hundred times before, Riley couldn't help but zone out a little during the slower, duller parts of the story. She started daydreaming, envisioning herself as a Jedi, then wondered what her last name would be. No Jedi had the last name Clarke. It just wasn't cool enough. And obviously it couldn't be Skywalker. That would be too self-insertish for her tastes.
Rislo? Tekra? Maybe Alron? Damn, this decision was harder than she thought. Then it drifted to other things. What color lightsaber would she have? She couldn't exactly have a red lightsaber and be a Jedi at the same time, but red was her favorite color. Damn, so many choices…
She briefly played with the thought of what Wrench would be: Jedi or Sith? He certainly had the interests of his friends in mind all the time, but could a Jedi truly justify such a…destructive behavior? Over the past few days of having the DedSec comm earpiece, she'd overhead some of his explosive and destructive visions during ops. Surely, a Jedi wouldn't want to leave that much collateral damage…right?
Then again, he wasn't really exactly Sith material. Wrench was too dorky to have a dark side that dark. Riley frowned, finally shaking her head, realizing she was way further into the movie than previously. Her thoughts had kept her daydreaming for far longer than she expected.
Eventually the third movie ended, so Riley got up to change the disc and take a quick bathroom break. She checked her phone for any messages while doing so, surprised to see it was nearly 7:30 in the evening. How time flew when you were having fun. It was almost time for another meal too, if her growling stomach had anything to say about it.
Riley reached for the fridge handle, when her phone began to vibrate in her pocket. Without looking at the screen, she answered it and held it to her ear. "Hello?" Her eyes were too busy raking the shelves for something to satisfy her hunger.
"Hi there, Riley. It's Bill." A stern male's voice replied. She stopped, surprised to be hearing from her boss.
"Oh, hi Bill." She straightened, a feeling of concern instantly overtaking her. Why was her boss calling out of the blue? It was even past business hours at the office. All employees should be home. Including him.
And Bill wasn't one to make unnecessary, social calls either. "What can I do for you?" She finally asked, forcing her voice to come out normal-sounding.
He sighed. Ok, definitely not a good sign. "I've, uh, got some bad news. I didn't want to be the one to tell you, but better to hear it directly from me than someone else."
"What is it?" Riley let go of the fridge and wrapped her free arm around herself. It was a defense mechanism, preparing herself to hear whatever terrible thing he was about to say. Suddenly her throat was dry and she had trouble swallowing.
"We're cutting the funding for your assignment."
Riley froze, eyes widening slightly. "You cut…" She trailed off, not wanting to verbalize her fears.
"I've been looking over your progress so far, and…well, there's no easy way to say this but I'm ending your investigation, Riley. We've got other things we'd like you to work on."
"I'm sorry, Riley. I of all people know how much this investigation meant to you. "
Her blood ran cold, and she couldn't help but realize her hands were shaking when she switched the phone to the other ear. Perhaps she just hadn't heard him correctly. "You're just abandoning the whole thing?"
"It's a lot more complicated than that."
Riley, normally one to follow rules and directions from her superiors, found herself defensive and fighting back. Even with her anger, she made sure to keep her voice reasonable and calm. "Then please try explaining it to me in a way that makes sense, because I'm really not understanding why the company decided to drop an investigation I've been working on for over a year now."
The sigh he offered then was more out of irritation than sympathy. "Riley, we just need to be on the look out for more current news. From a business standpoint, I need to have the resources available to me in the places I think we could be most beneficial."
The brunette was shaking her head vigorously even before he finished speaking. "I'm sorry if this is way out of line, Bill, but I honestly think that's bullshit. The current news is right here in San Fransisco! The goldmine I'm standing over is there. I know it." She let out a humorless huff. "Hell, DedSec is exposing new scandals left and right on an almost daily basis."
"DedSec is part of the reason why we're pulling out." Bill admitted, and she grew silent so he could explain. "The name DedSec brings with it a lot of suspicion and distrust. I don't want that influence seeping into my business."
Riley frowned, not seeing the connection. "But how would it-"
"Anything affiliated with them could result in one of two things, the way I see it. One: If we start posting information about anything DedSec is interested in, I don't wanna be on the receiving end of one of their hacks. Who knows who they would stoop to targeting to get their hands on information?"
Riley mutely rolled her eyes in a mixture of outrage and a quick flash of amusement. She may just sick a DedSec hack on him purely out of spite at this point. Even if the others were opposed, she was willing to bet Wrench wouldn't mind.
"And two: someone might get the idea that we're in support of that troublesome group, and then accuse us of doing so. Imagine the public reception of that. We're supposed to be an unbiased news station. Having rumors tie us to them would be terrible for business. It's a lose-lose situation here, Riley. You've gotta be smart enough to understand that."
She was silent, pinching the bridge of her nose and shaking her head. She was beyond angry and frustrated, both at herself and with Bill. How the fuck could he justify this? Well, fairly easily, apparently. he'd spelled it out pretty plain and simple. DedSec scared him. He wanted nothing to do with the group, and San Fransisco was obviously their turf. Maybe if she hadn't personally gotten to know DedSec and it's members, she would be a bit more unbiased about his reasoning, but there was still the fact that they were pulling her out entirely. Now probably wouldn't be a good time to admit she'd 'unofficially' joined their ranks. No need to give him more reason to shut down her assignment.
At the same time, she couldn't help but wonder if he were just trying to make her feel better, and it had been her performance this whole time. Was she that much of a failure? Her first big story, and they drop it entirely? A year of her life, wasted on a project that would never be published. Her mood was quickly descending into something closer to self-deprecation.
"I just don't understand…" She sighed in defeat, knowing that no matter how much she argued for it, it was ultimately Bill's decision in the end. And when he set his mind on something, no amount of persuasion would change it. "I know it's been slow going but I've done everything I can to-"
"Riley!" Bill interrupted, in the way a disappointed father might have. She went quiet instantly, having a hard time hiding the fact that her lip trembled from the outflowing of negative emotion that welled up inside her.
"Riley," he said with a sigh in a gentler tone, "it's not about your work performance. We're not questioning your value to the company or as an investigator. In fact, I'd love to put you on another assignment as soon as you return from San Fransisco."
Despite his attempts at reassuring her, she couldn't help but feel like a failure. That squeezing sensation behind her eyes indicated she was close to tears, but for the sake of her pride, she refused to break down and cry to her boss. Riley was supposed to be stronger than that.
"When would you like me back in the office?" Riley asked in a monotone. She couldn't bring herself to even pretend she was ok with this. It was too painful. Her chest was seized with disappointment in herself and in the stupid decisions of her management team and boss.
"I'd like you back as soon as possible, but I know you're currently living there. Take the rest of the month to make arrangements with your apartment, your workplace, and anywhere else you need to. I'd like you working your next case by the middle of next month, if possible."
They both said their goodbyes, and she hung up. Her phone was held loosely in her hand, and all she could do was stare down at it. This was all sorts of fucked up. All sorts of backwards and sideways and wrong. This assignment was supposed to be her first big success. The first step towards doing something that mattered. What was she to do now?
Her vision blurred, and the tears Riley had held back up to that point flowed past her lids and down her cheeks steadily. She didn't even really cry, just…numbly let the tears fall with a blank expression. Anything more would have required too much effort.
Time passed in a blur. Had it been a minute? An hour? Had days gone by? She wasn't paying attention nor did she care. So many thoughts were swirling and mixing together in her brain, one was almost indistinguishable from another. What was she supposed to feel?
Pants must have sensed her distress from the living room, because she felt his furry body brush up against her leg softly. She glanced at the clock and idly thought that it was way past his dinner time. However, strangely enough, he didn't meow like crazy when he sought her out. Instead, he circled between her legs over and over, purring loudly in an effort to get her attention.
She finally looked down at Pants, and his eyes were wide, staring up at her. When she made eye contact, he gave a single meow, nuzzling her leg with his nose. Riley smiled thinly, realizing for once he wasn't being an asshole, but must have been trying to comfort her in his own way.
She set the phone down on the counter and stooped to pick him up. He was heavy, and she grunted with the weight, but he finally was resting in her arms against her chest. Closing her eyes, Riley held him close, letting her tears call into his furry body.
"I messed everything up, Pants." She whispered with a disgusting sniff of her nose, letting the sadness slowly roll over her in waves and holding him close as a sort of comfort.
Riley could only stand being sad about the matter of her assignment being dropped for so long. A half hour tops. And then it slowly gave way to the ever-growing volcano of anger right behind it. She was tired of sitting around in the house, and she just had to…to do something. To be moving. To hit something. Scream. Shout. Whatever, she just wanted out of the house.
It was nearly 8:30 now, and the sun had probably already set. Riley didn't care though, thinking it would mean less people around for her to bump into. She just wanted to be alone right now.
A quick trip to her bedroom and she changed into something she could run around in. Some yoga pants and a tank top, and her ratty pair of tennis shoes. Grabbing her phone, headphones, and pair of keys—she forwent her purse, not wanting all that much to carry—Riley was out the door and into the night.
The cooler night air felt good against her face, which was puffy and probably still red from her crying earlier. Her eyes itched a little, but it was wind pulled at her hair and swished it every which way. Multiple times she had to pull strands of it out of her mouth. It was annoying.
Her thoughts raced, and she couldn't keep still, even at intersections to wait for cars to go by. Her feet were constantly moving, and the music in her ears was turned up way past what was healthy on her eardrums. The pulsing vibrations and slight pain helped her focus though.
Fuck the company. Fuck the management committee for even considering pulling her investigation. Fuck the company again for not believing in her. As bad as she felt about saying it, because he honestly was a nice man, fuck Bill. Fuck Bill, and fuck everyone else who worked there. They could all go to hell.
Riley ran further and further into the night, letting the street lamps along the road guide her way. Who knew how long she was actually running for, until she finally found herself in an unfamiliar part of the city. The modern, metal buildings slowly changed into construction sites and concrete structures. The roads weren't as busy, and not every inch of available space was taken up by buildings. Grassy hills trailed either side of the road, and she had a view of the bay.
Even still, she kept running, wishing it would somehow fix all this mess. Riley had invested so much of her time and passion into this investigation, and for what? She'd worked for Tri-Valley Herald for awhile, and she considered herself a loyal and valuable employee. Some dedication they had for their employees, huh?
Riley grew out of breath and had to slow down, simply because her lungs were killing her. She grimaced, huffing breaths in and out with difficulty. God, she was not really in shape. But exercise sucked. She walked for a ways until she came across a bench next to the sidewalk, then sat and held her head in her hands.
The longer she thought about it, the worse her anger and disappointment grew. And the worst part? her boss decided to call on a Saturday of all days to tell her this. Saturdays were supposed to be spent relaxing and enjoying yourself. That was almost more insulting than the news itself. Hands tightening into fists, Riley grit her teeth and felt like tearing her own hair out. This was too much for her to handle all at once.
In the midst of her panting, she felt the earpiece vibrate. Someone was trying to call her, and she didn't much care who it was. A part of her felt like ignoring it, but if DedSec had information for her, she still wanted to hear about it. So she pressed the button and wiped at the sweat on her forehead. "Yeah?" She said shortly, trying not to let her exhaustion seep through.
"Woah, you sound out of breath. I'm not interrupting anything of a…compromising nature, am I?" Wrench's typically amused and joking voice asked, almost failing to hold back his laugh.
Riley lacked the energy to crack a smile. "No…went for a run."
He hummed, accepting the answer, before continuing. "Well, just thought I'd check in. The others are still going through that data you gave us. It's taking a bit longer than we expected. There's a lot to get through."
"And you?" She asked, noticing he'd excluded himself from the rest of the group.
"Oh, just cruising around in search of computer parts. Most of the pawn shops restock on the weekend, and I like to get first dibs." There was a pause, mostly because she didn't know how to respond, but he continued anyway. "So, what does the average Riley do on a Saturday, anyway?"
The brunette had to debate with herself if she could muster up enough enthusiasm to really talk to Wrench at that moment. She'd gotten used to his seemingly random calls on the earpiece the past week or so, but today had been such a rollercoaster right at the end there, she wasn't really in the mood for anything.
She decided that maybe he would help her calm down a little. Conversation might be just what she needed, if not what she wanted. "Marathon Star Wars and eat ungodly amounts of junk food. Maybe even do nothing all day and stare at my laptop."
"Then why the hell are you exercising? That is not in your listed Saturday activities." He mused, confusion evident. Obviously, nothing in the world to him trumped marathoning Star Wars and eating food. Priorities were important, after all.
She couldn't hold back the heavy sigh that escaped her lips, and she rubbed at her temples to try getting rid of the headache. "It's complicated…"
"…Don't know if you want to talk about it but something obviously happened. Care to fill me in?" He asked, some of the cheer fading from his voice. he sounded serious now. She appreciated the fact that he knew when the jokes weren't appreciated, and felt the corner of her mouth twitch.
Riley didn't even know where to begin, and shook her head slowly. "Got a call from work today, and they were kind enough to inform me that they're cutting all the funding for my investigation. I'm supposed to just pack up and abandon everything by the end of the month."
"The fuck for?"
"I don't even fucking know," Riley normally didn't swear so easily, but it slipped out, "he couldn't give me a solid answer."
Thankfully, Wrench didn't seem to take her cursing as being directed at him. In fact, he sounded just as upset about all this as she was. It was nice to have someone on her side. "Sounds to me like someone needs a little convincing on the matter. I'm sure we could persuade him without too much trouble…" He implied, and she shook her head.
"No, don't. I might be pissed as all hell right now, but it doesn't mean I hate him." She sighed, having to verbally admit that she wasn't seeing this from both perspectives. "He's just doing what he thinks is best for his business."
"So what? Not everything has to be about other people, Riley. This shit affects you more than it does him. You should have a say in it."
Riley agreed, but knew better. "That's the thing, though. Even if I wanted to argue it, it's out of my hands."
Wrench must have hit something, because she heard a loud metallic bang through the earpiece. "Man, this is the type of shit I hate the most. Someone else with a bigger paycheck is making all the decisions, and gives a bit 'fuck you' to the rest of the world in the process."
"I know, it's stupid…" She said, not knowing what else to say. She agreed with Wrench, but knew there wasn't much she could do about it. Bill's decision would dictate whether her investigation was published, and he wouldn't be swayed by an emotional appeal. She was stuck. Helpless. She hated feeling like there wasn't anything she could do.
"God, I just want to punch something." She growled, hitting her fist against the bench she sat on. The hard wood hurt her hand in the process, but it was better than the emotional pain.
"…" Wrench was oddly quiet for a moment, before he cleared his throat. "I might have an idea, if you wanted to let off some steam."
"Honestly, I'd be up for anything right about now."
Though muted in comparison to before, some of his enthusiasm and joking came back. "Sweet, stay where you are and I'll come get you."
Riley frowned. "Don't you need to know where I am to-"
"No need!" He said in a sing song tone. "I can track you from anywhere with that earpiece."
"That's not creepy at all." Riley said with sarcasm. She scoffed out in a laugh, a small smile marking her lips. "But alright. I'll sit tight. Just don't take forever."
Wrench laughed, and ended their communication, leaving Riley to herself and her thoughts. her chest was still swirling with anger, but some of it had receded. But Riley's focus was on something else entirely now. What the hell did Wrench have in mind?ns 184.108.40.206da2