The weight of uncertainty grew heavier throughout the week as Riley tried unsuccessfully to find an answer to the problem that was her mother. Riley was never very good with big decisions like this. She'd written countless pros and cons lists, rolled dice, and hell, even flipped a coin to try making a decision. But the brunette honestly didn't know what to do. Nor did she want to bring it up with anyone from DedSec. Her mother was a dirty secret that Riley wanted to keep swept under the rug if at all possible. Well…it wasn't as if they didn't know about her already. They were hackers for fuck's sake. They'd probably known about her since day one.
She hadn't even told Wrench what was going on. Maybe she should have, but…this relationship was still new. And she didn't want to come off as needy or a burden. The last thing their relationship needed was Riley dumping her family issues into it for him to deal with. Plus, she wanted to be able to solve this by herself. It was her mother. It was her decision.
So, she'd used the large data mine that was the Galilei satellites to distract herself enough around Wrench that he wouldn't notice she had other things on her mind. Not that this was too difficult of a task. There was a lot to go through anyway, and Riley was able to focus on helping Wrench gather data on Tidis, leaving him none the wiser.
To be fair, he was also rather distracted by what they found. He was so excited to target them, it was adorable. Half the time, Wrench was nearly bouncing up and down in his seat as he read through the robotic plans and schematics. Like a kid in a candy shop. At one point the brunette was convinced that the happy expression was now permanent. It hadn't changed from his joyful emoticon in days.
She'd noticed a rapidly-growing pile of papers on one of his tables in the garage. She'd walked by one the day before, and saw blueprints for something electronic. It was much too complicated to interpret for herself, but she knew Wrench was probably out to steal all of their creative property. At least, the stuff they'd funneled through the satellite link. She was sure there were more classified and top secret projects on the local servers. Wrench would probably want to go there and hack them once he'd skimmed off what he could through the satellites. Not a big surprise there.
Riley enjoyed the time they spent just hanging out together. Wrench had thrown himself headfirst into this project and, knowing him, there was no getting out of it until it was finished. This meant they hadn't been very intimate with each other since first forming the relationship. Riley didn't mind, though. The few brushes of a kiss they shared on the few occasions his mask was off were enough for her. He still seemed rather shy about the whole thing, but slowly, Riley saw he was beginning to open up and get used to her always being around.
The rest of the group were off investigating the other companies that had funneled their data through the satellite back bone. There were more than just the six of them could all manage without stress. This left barely any time for relaxation, let alone socializing. They still kept in contact over the comm channels of the earpieces, mostly to discuss information they'd uncovered, but they hadn't gathered back in the hackerspace for several days. She was beginning to miss them more and more as the week dragged on.
Riley was impressed with DedSec's endurance and determination. This was the first time seeing them in action for such a prolonged amount of time. It was inspiring, watching them dig through thousand of lines of code, documents, pictures, names, addresses, locations, and all sorts of information to further their mission. It made her want to try her best too.
But even with her desire to contribute as much as the others were, that nagging question at the back of her mind kept her slightly out of focus. As if her mind was shifted just a few inches to the left, making her mostly there, but not entirely. It was a strange feeling.
Wrench had caught her staring off in the distance a few times head tilted and lips slightly parted. When he asked if she were alright, Riley would laugh and dismiss his concern, throwing herself right back into the job at hand. After the first few times, however, he seemed to check on her every so often just to be sure nothing was wrong. Riley tried her best to avoid concern, but he was observant and smart. She could only pretend for so long.
"You sure you're alright?" He'd asked the day before, setting his laptop down and leaning in closer to inspect her face. "You haven't been all…'there.'"
"Yeah, sorry. I'm a bit tired is all." She gave him a smile, hoping he wouldn't ask further. His head cocked to the side, and his expression returned to Xs.
"Ok…you just seem worried about something."
Riley let out a breath, wishing he wasn't as perceptive as he was. She wasn't ready to make a decision yet. Brain scrambling for an excuse, she blurted out the first thing she could think of. "I mean…I guess I'm just putting off calling my boss and turning in my two weeks."
Wrench's mask switched to question marks. "Why? You're not seriously considering staying with his company." His tone left the distinct impression that if the answer was yes, he'd be fully prepared to sit her down and give her a long lecture on why that wasn't a good idea.
"No, no!" She rushed to deny, holding up her hands. "Nothing like that. I just don't know how I'm gonna say what I want to say without cursing him out. Or, I don't know, getting my point across."
"Why would that worry you?"
Riley rolled her eyes. "I don't want to leave in an unprofessional manner. I don't like burning bridges."
"You didn't hold back with ProviBlue." He remarked offhandedly, then stiffened as his eyes switched to exclamation points. The brunette's eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms, a slow smile spreading across her lips.
"…I didn't tell anyone about that."
Oops. He'd let it slip out by accident. "Uh…" Wrench's mask changed into a sideways glance, and he looked around for an answer. "…lucky guess?"
"Heh…I knew I saw those cameras move. You were watching me." She accused in amusement, and he tossed his head side to side, as if it wasn't a big deal. "You know, most people would find that creepy."
"Luckily DedSec doesn't work with 'most people.'" He quoted in the air with his fingers, his mask mimicking the gesture. It was followed up with a quick wink, and she tried her hardest not to smile at the sight. Though, the corner of her mouth was probably up-tilted if she were being honest.
"Uh huh." Riley wasn't actually upset. In fact, it was rather touching that he'd wanted to make sure things didn't get out of hand while she took care of business. But she couldn't resist teasing him about it.
"I…just thought I'd keep an eye out in case they tried starting arresting you or anything. Luckily they didn't have enough evidence to actually prosecute though so…all is well?"
Riley elected to stare intently at him for several more seconds, before being unable to keep up the charade any longer. She laughed and shook her head. "You're off the hook. This time, at least."
Wrench pretended to sigh in relief, then his happy expression returned. She smiled up at him and he suddenly stood from his seat. "You hungry? I could go for lunch right about now."
Her stomach chose that moment to grumble loudly, and she nodded enthusiastically. "Definitely." So saying, she followed Wrench to the car as he hit the button to open the garage. It rose to the top then ground to a halt. Both hackers piled into the car, with Wrench driving as usual.
"What are you feeling? Pizza, greasy burgers-"
"Chinese." Was her automatic response. She clicked her seatbelt into place, knowing he could drive a little reckless when he wanted to.
He turned two equals signs onto her, hand on the shifter to switch gears. "Seriously. You say that every time."
Riley met his gaze with a small frown. "So?"
"Are you ever not in the mood for Chinese?"
"Nope." Was her confident response, greeting his stare with a wide grin. "The day I don't want Chinese is the day I die."
They held their stare for several seconds before Wrench finally gave up with a sigh, throwing the car into drive. "Are you sure you're not actually Asian and just don't know it?"
Riley laughed as they shot forward out of the garage, pulling into traffic with ease.
Later that day while pacing her living room, Riley finally grabbed her phone and stared at the screen. Bill's contact displayed on the front, her finger hovered over the call button.
Despite having no reservations about calling to put in her 2 weeks, it was still somewhat difficult to press the call button. She'd worked for so long at this job, and this was all it came to? What a joke. Riley had spent sleepless nights in college studying for her degree, had worried her ass off in preparation for the interview. Her first real job. Her first step into enacting her revenge or…whatever she was seeking now. It was her first real step into the adult world on her own. No being a student or relying on the knowledge of others to guide her.
She stared at the screen, finally taking a slow breath to prepare herself. Now, she supposed, the only challenge would be not taking out all of her anger on Bill. The worst part about the whole thing is that she could see what he'd been going for by accepting Blume's bribe. She could understand that from a business—and safety— perspective, it was the best route Bill could see. This only made her feel worse, because Riley felt compelled to sympathize with him. She wanted to retain her anger, to feel like it was justifiable. Curse her desire to see everything from another perspective.
Eventually her phone screen dimmed after she hadn't touched it in awhile. Riley instinctively pressed on the screen to bring it back to full brightness, all the while hitting the call button in doing so. She went to cancel the call but resisted the urge. Better to just get this all over with.
The other line rang for several seconds. Part of her wondered if it would be easier to leave a message rather than talk in person. Was that too unprofessional? Shit, Riley wasn't ever good with leaving voicemails. They always sounded so stiff and formal, like she was reading from a script. Ugh, this was the worst.
The dialing tone finally stopped, and Bill's voice tore through her inner turmoil. She tensed, feeling her fingers tighten around the edge of her phone. "Riley?"
The question seemed so guarded and cautious. Like he couldn't be sure it was her. Huh, did he think her dead? Interesting. "Hi Bill."
"God, it's…it's great to hear from you. How are you?" He asked out of breath. The brunette could only imagine he was struggling to stay standing, gripping a banister or counter to keep himself up either from fear or relief at hearing she was still alive.
"I'm fine," she said neutrally, then decided that she was tired of the niceties, "at least, as fine as I can be given the circumstance."
"What do you mean?" The uncertainty returned to his voice.
"Well," she took a deep breath, knowing she had to be careful to keep her cool here, "this isn't exactly a social visit, Bill. I'm quitting."
"You're-what? You're quitting?"
"Yeah. Consider this my 2 weeks notice. After everything that's happened, I just can't bring myself to work for you or your company anymore."
"I understand you're frustrated. If this is about the new assignment, Riley, I did all I could to-"
"Bill, just listen to me."
He was silent, allowing her to continue unimpeded.
She closed her eyes, beginning to pace the floor. "A few weeks ago I was attacked in my own home by the Russian gang, kidnapped and taken to some remote location, and then interrogated about my investigation. I had to spend a week in the hospital because I nearly died."
"Jesus…Riley, I…that's…" Bill obviously couldn't figure out what he wanted to say or if he should admit any of his secrets. It seemed keeping the secrets won out. He finally settled with, "Are you ok?"
"Like I said. As ok as I can be."
Bill must have started to catch onto the underlying bitterness in her tone, because he sighed. "I don't want to sound cruel or unsympathetic, but you were aware there are risks going into the job. You signed a paper saying you knew you could be put in dangerous situations. I even asked you to stop investigating."
Riley silently shook her head, pissed off by what he'd said. He continued before she could respond.
"I feel terrible that all of that happened to you, but you know what sort of profession you work in, Riley. I never want to see my employees hurt. So maybe that's a sign to return back here and take on a less dangerous assignment. You don't have to quit."
"Yeah I do." She retorted, scowling at the floor. Pants walked into the room, beginning his usual ritual of meowing for his dinner. In a few minutes he'd be too obnoxious to hear the phone properly. Riley wandered back into the living room to give her some space from Pants.
"Why?" He asked quietly, and Riley lost the desire to retrain her anger any longer.
"You wanna know why?" She asked, letting some of the nastiness seep into her tone. "Because why should I work for someone who's just going to sell me out to the highest bidder? Why would I work for someone who cares less about doing the right thing and more about what sort of profit he'll make from it? Why would I want anything to do with someone who'd take a bribe and then lie to my face about it? Especially when it pertains to my safety!
"I could have died!" She spit vehemently, gesturing to herself even though Bill couldn't see it. "And you know what the bigger slap in the face is? You didn't even try to warn me that I was in danger. You left me to my own devices when I didn't know I was at risk."
He tried saying something but she wasn't having it. "Riley-"
"I've wasted over a year of my life working for you when I could have done anything else more worthwhile. The worst part is that I used to look up to you. I used to think you cared about the job and not the profit. I thought you were genuine. You were like a father to me for a time. But I'm done being used as a pawn, I'm tired of feeling like I have no control, and I'm sick of having to wonder just how valuable I am as a human being rather than an asset to you. I'm done, Bill. I'm just…done."
It felt immensely relieving to have said that all out loud. A heavy weigh had lifted from her shoulders. All her frustrations and anger from this whole situation was out in the open now. She didn't have to try hiding it any longer. It was…freeing.
There was a thick silence over the line. Bill didn't know what to say, but Riley wanted to hear what he finally decided on saying anyway. She'd said her part. What did he have to say about it?
"I…never meant…" There was a despair, a defeat, to his tone.
Riley felt it want to tug at her heart, but she forced the feeling back and remained unswayed. Wanting him to feel better about all of this would only undo any justification she had for feeling the way she did. This time, Riley wouldn't apologize for feeling slighted.
A sigh, followed by a sniff, and then he spoke again. "You know?"
She decided not to mention DedSec, even though it probably wouldn't make a difference at this point if he knew who she'd associated herself with. "I've got my own sources down here. It wasn't that hard to figure out."
"Riley, please understand, I…" He choked back a sob, and the brunette steeled herself yet again. Tears wouldn't sway her now. "Trust me, I never wanted anything to happen to you. They came to me and said they'd prosecute you if I didn't cooperate. They would ruin your life. I thought taking the money would fix everything. I didn't think you'd still continue to investigate…"
"I wasn't being pulled from my job without doing as much as I could to finish it out." She said bluntly, and he gave a humorless huff.
"Yeah, maybe I should have figured that…but then he told me that they would take care of it their own way, that I had lost my chance to do it civilly. I didn't know what to do…"
"You were too much of a coward to admit you'd sold me out, even if it meant protecting me." Was her accusation. He said nothing in return besides giving another sniff of regret. "So just take this conversation as my two weeks. I won't be leaving San Francisco, and you can toss out anything I still have lying around in the office. I don't need them."
"I'm so sorry. Please believe me when I say I never wanted this to happen." He pleaded.
"I do believe you, Bill. But even if you had good intentions, you still lied to me. You still knowingly allowed me to get hurt. And you didn't even send a get well card while I was in the hospital." She added as a joking after thought. Funny how she could add a bit of humor to this, but it was honestly kind of funny to her now. "I'll anticipate my last check by the end of the month, but please don't ever contact me again."
At least he wasn't begging for her not to go. Maybe he wasn't as big of an asshole as she kept wanting to see him as. He knew her reasons for leaving were justifiable, and he had no defense against it. At least he allowed her to leave with dignity.
"Riley…" He paused, as if he had something he wanted to say but didn't know if it was appropriate now, then sighed. "…I wish you the best."
The brunette hung up the phone and tossed it onto the couch beside her. Now that it was done, she sank down and sat on the carpet, staring in one spot for several moments. For the life of her she couldn't tear her eyes away. Staring at it intently, Riley felt both satisfied and strangely disappointed.ns 18.104.22.168da2