Today, things were going to change. Laine was not very good with change.
There had been a lot of changes, lately. There was an absence that hadn't been there before, from a presence that hadn't been there before that. She hadn't been dealing with that change very well, and then the Breach had happened, and that had been entirely too much change. Laine's paperwork said that she had not handled that well at all, but Laine didn't know if she agreed with that. Circumstantially speaking, she thought she had done about as well as she could within the parameters of possible outcomes. Some of the possible outcomes had been distinctly untidy.
She hadn't been a problem, or at least, she hadn't been a problem that required attention. There had been many anomalies that had Breached and required a great deal of attention to get them back where they were supposed to be. Laine had been quiet during all this. She had been very quiet. Unresponsive, the files said, which Laine found acceptable. There had been too much change for her to deal with. It had been better just to sit quietly and wait until things settled down.
After about six months of that, some of the interns had figured out that she would fill in their paperwork if they left it near her. Laine liked paperwork. It was a list of things that were supposed to be done in order, and it felt meaningful to do them. She had still been quiet for a while, but she'd done paperwork. It had been a little change, a small change - something she could handle, and work towards other changes. Laine was considered stable now, which seemed to mean she would talk to people again. Laine still preferred not to, as she was not very good with people.
But it got easier.
The Foundation was still very busy. There weren't enough people, which was one of the changes that had happened during the Breach, and one of the reasons Laine had been able to be just quiet for a long time: Even if someone had wanted to do something about that, there weren't people to be spared. That was why today was going to be a change - because starting today, Laine was going to be one of those people. Anomalies were allowed to work in the Foundation, as long as they were stable.
The Foundation needed people to make sure another Breach like that didn't happen again, which aligned with Laine's own interests as well. It was best for all of them, this change. This did not make it easy, it only made it right. Laine was going into Security, which had generally been met with "Are you sure?" Laine did not think she had a record of being particularly uncertain, and thought this question was not the one that they really wanted to ask. The question they really wanted to ask was "Are you sure you don't want to go into research, after all your work with-?"
But they wouldn't finish that question, and it was probably not a good idea to do it, so they just asked if she was sure. Laine was, in fact, quite certain about her answer.
Someone had said that Hania drew the short straw, but that would be disrespectful to the amount of consideration that went into his selection for this orientation.
If anything he had a very long list of short-straws that somehow combined into the shortest straw in L-14. 833’s last handler had been a strong-willed, independent female researcher whose name was now better unsaid due to the nature of ACF-833. Hania had been thoroughly briefed on her security measures. Even the filler “A.B.C.” or “ACF-390-A” was to be avoided in 833’s company, because they didn’t need her to become unresponsive mid-orientation or, later, on duty.
833 was not to be trained on armed hall security, at least at first; her responsibilities would lie in maintenance and security measures, and she was not to interact with breaches until she had been properly screened, shy of an emergency. Maintenance worked very closely with research, and there was an overlap in the paperwork they could do. Hania was, for all intents and purposes, a glorified and particularly buff maintenance operator, familiar with most of the technology on-site within his security clearance. Alterations in security came in increments outside of a breach of containment, and he was always one of the first to know about security alterations. Finally, they’d wanted someone levelheaded with some hall training to make sure 833 could eventually get the proper certifications.
There were, of course, rumors that they might circulate ACF-833 between Handlers, but Hania knew as well as any security personnel that rumors were only good for ensuring the truth stayed within its security clearance. He was currently cleared to work with ACF-833 – Ms. Cantrille – for three months, after which they would both be reviewed for progress and observed for anomalous connection and result. Should the anomalous connection be noticeable, they would be separated for a period of time, at which point another security agent would take over for Agent Hania in Ms. Cantrille’s continued training.
Hania knew all of these details, as well as inconsistencies to notice in his own psychological profile. He would be visiting with Dr. Kacey once a week, and Dr. Eisenberg once a month, for review and observation updates. Ms. Cantrille would continue with standard anomalous psychological evaluations with various Class-C personnel until they found one that worked “well enough,” which was to say that didn’t remind Anchor of her previous Handler.
That, he knew, was the main reason he’d been given the “short straw” of teaching a research-oriented anomalous person the functions of security. He was not at all like her previous handler, while not being a member of security actively hostile to the idea of the use of anomalous assets. And he agreed that that was for the best.
The whole situation was very well-ordered.
Hania was punctual in his arrival at CU-14-833. He arrived a minute early, but waited to knock until that minute passed - 0700, half an hour before his rounds for the day were to begin, which would give them time for preparation. He then disabled the containment measures himself. The knock was never for invitation – always just announcement.
Agent Zane Hania stepped through the door, a tallish man with most of his features hidden under helmet, armor, and glove, with only his face visible under his helmet. Small firearm at his right side, large firearm across his back, combat knife at his left side. Most Class-C Security And Maintenance Personnel weren’t quite so well-armed, but he worked with an uncomfortable number of open doors at L-14. Most were harmless. The ones that weren’t were why he was allowed to remain armed.
"Good morning, Cantrille." It was another announcement, rather than a well-wishing or declaration. A remnant just in case she had begun to become unresponsive again.
Good morning. It was polite to say good morning. Laine appreciated politeness. Good morning was the beginning of a social interaction, part of a script. Laine liked scripts: they were easy to follow. She had once had different feelings about good morning, but she had learned to appreciate the statement for its consistency if not for its accuracy.
Cantrille was something that she was less certain about. It sounded strange to her, but she couldn't quite determine why. It was, after all, entirely part of her name, but no one really called her that. It was always just Laine or ACF-833. Laine did not mind being a number. It kept things organized, and numbers were easier to understand than people.
"Good morning, Agent." That was the next line of the script, of course. "You are very prompt." This was a compliment. Laine appreciated punctuality. There wasn't a clock in the room, but Laine's internal time sense was very accurate. "And courteous. You were sixty-seven seconds early." Of course she had known when he had arrived, since they were supposed to be together today. Her eyes shifted over the Agent, never quite meeting his own; rather taking in the armor and weaponry he carried with him with a somewhat considering air.
"If I require neutralization, I would not recommend conventional firearms." It seemed like a polite thing to point out, after all. Security was very important, with anomalies.
Agent Hania nodded once. He did not go out of his way to smile, but his expression was not unfriendly. She took him in as a whole first, after her compliments to his behavior. In fact, she took him in as a threat. He decided that was a good thing, because she did not address the issue with aggression. It was a nice change to have a clinical intern to teach this to. Most of the others were either nervous or still outgrowing childish habits.
"Your file agrees." She had not been given his file, in return, and so he offered a gloved hand to her. His shake would be firm and confident, a single bounce. "I am Agent Zane Hania, callsign Jericho. You may call me Agent Hania, or just Hania. I am a member of the Security and Maintenance sub-branch of Foundation Agency. Typically we do not carry weapons at all, but my focus is on consistent maintenance of anomalous containment units. They are a deterrent but can be used in self-defense."
He began walking back to the doorway. "If you are ready, we will begin by taking you to the armory, where you'll be fitted for appropriate protective measures. Your file indicates that while your previous handler took you from here on guided tours of the facility, you did not receive any combat or firearms training. Is this correct?"
Handler, her file said, was okay. She might become distant, but a Handler had distance from a name. A handler couldn't belong to an anomaly, even if they were hers. This had been practiced and reviewed in the briefing; and he would give her time, if need be. Adjustments to security were best done in increments, after all.
Laine looked at the outstretched hand, considering it. "Initiating physical contact with anomalies is often inadvisable," she pointed out. That was listed in some of the preparatory materials, which Laine had read. It was further noted that in some cases it could be acceptable, so long as this was not likely to result in untidy experiences with the anomaly.
Laine did not strive for untidy experiences, yet: "Also, I don't like it." That was more truthful. Some anomalies were not truthful, but Laine did not think she would be any good at lying. It felt wrong, somehow. Having made her feelings known on the matter, she determinedly declined the handshake. The Agent's name was Zane Hania, callsign Jericho, and she could call him Agent Hania or just Hania, but not Jericho. Laine could respect that. Jericho felt like something that would have gotten appended somewhat permanently.
Agent Hania returned to the doorway, and Laine followed along, a precisely measured two steps behind and a bit to the left, which she knew was the correct distance to keep so that he would be able to draw and use the larger weapon across his back, should that be required. Laine didn't know very much about security yet, but she was very good at measurement, and that seemed to be the way that they fit together best.
"That is correct," she answered the question. It was a good question, with many specifics. It was not the sort of question that was going to get confused as to meaning something other than it did. Agent Hania was carefully avoiding talking about...
Laine frowned slightly, more to herself than at him. "A security agent is not going to be effective if they are sidetracked by the mention of certain past individuals or events. The handbooks recommend desensitization therapy. Or amnestics, but those do not always work on anomalies, or have the intended effect."
Hania had taken his hand back without any issue, just another solid nod. Her honesty was impressive - most human assets would have been too embarrassed to admit they didn't like physical contact. And unlike most researchers, he didn't argue his intention or purpose. Excuses, security learned early, were a waste of breath. He just respected her decision. Then the conversation carried on as normal, with only a small pause for Cantrille to consider her previous handler.
"Correct. Typically, desensitization therapy would be the recommended option for anomalous assets unless Research is sure amnestics work, or there is an anomalous alternative that works. However, that kind of therapy takes time, and is best left in the hands of Drs. Eisenberg and Kasey. My focus during training will be to ensure you remain functional until that kind of therapy can be properly administered. So we'll refer to your previous handler as exactly that. For brevity this is the part where many agents would say 'not my department.' It's a useful phrase."
Researchers, in his experience, never actually said something wasn't their department. They'd instead cross-reference reports and give an in-depth explanation of how it affected their department, and then recommend you go talk to someone else about it. Again, a waste of breath and time that could be spent problem-solving rather than problem-explaining.
"In terms of firearms training, I can get you the appropriate certifications to start on that under supervision from someone qualified in the armory. Every agent is required to have minimum proficiency with a handgun and rifle, as well as basic hand-to-hand combat and self-defense. Once you have those covered, you can choose to learn more later if you want to."
She'd likely already know that, having read the handbook - he'd been told she'd read every handbook she could get in preparation for this - but saying it out loud was not a waste of breath. That was covering bases and opening the conversation to objections or curiosity questions. While that would be discouraged later, now was the time to get it all out of the newbies' systems.
"I am currently functional." Laine believed it was good to be clear about these things, just as she appreciated his clarity about there being a time and place for certain things, and this not being it. She also appreciated his willingness to admit that this was not his decision to make. Sometimes Research was particularly enthusiastic about certain things when perhaps they should not be. That could lead to problems, and to not being functional.
She also considered the phrase not my department, which Agent Hania used so easily. It felt strange - a negation, an othering. Laine wasn't sure how to use it correctly, or if she should at all. "I think maybe I should not say whether or not something is my department," Laine stated calmly. It didn't feel right to claim something like that. It felt like one of those things that was going to get stuck, like names or sometimes people who weren't there any more, but there was still a place where they had been.
Agent Hania moved on to training and certification, which was acceptable. Laine liked certifications. Certifications were just another form of paperwork: a proper record that something had been done to an acceptable degree. "Combat sounds untidy." It also sounded like it would be too much going on all at once. Laine did not like the idea of combat, but she was a security intern now. "I will complete my certifications. But I will attempt to avoid combat."
Hania really appreciated how aware Cantrille was of her own abilities, and how willing she was to share them. Unlike many of their anomalous assets, Cantrille had been with the Foundation for most of her life by now, and so that should only make sense. He had enough experience with anohumans to know that they did not usually like it when the Foundation knew the extent of their abilities. Preferences like that weren’t his department, but it did make his job easier when they just told him.
"Understood." Hania addressed both points in a word, and then focused on the relevant one. "Maintenance security agents are advised to avoid combat except in emergency situations, such as a severe breach of containment or unexpected aggressive action during routine containment unit maintenance. Your file has made me aware that your anomalous ability may be useful in such situations, but you should not rely exclusively on that."
Interaction between anomalies was for Research, not Security. Until it was settled on how Cantrille’s anomaly worked in conjunction with the others, she was to function as a standard security agent when it came to contained anomalies. Which was why Hania was training her.
There would be exceptions to “normalcy”, of course. "Today you will be given lightweight training armor, but they will take your measurements for your personal set. Once you have your fitted armor, you may use your anchoring ability to secure it." That had already been approved, although it had not been approved for her weapons once they were issued. "In units where your previous handler has already studied your interaction with other anomalies, you’ve been approved to use your discretion as to the use of ACF-833. In units where such research has not taken place, you will behave as a standard A-Class-B as primarily an observer."
He paused, and then turned his head over his left shoulder to look at her, gauged her responsiveness, and then turned ahead again.
"Do you have any questions before we arrive at the armory?"
Laine nodded at Agent Hania's information. Avoiding combat was preferable. "I will try to behave as a standard A-Class-B or observer," she echoed. "Should I feel that is not possible, I will attempt to alert Foundation personnel in order of relevant location and rank. Should that not be possible, I will do what I can to mitigate the situation." A hint of an expression crossed her face, muted, something of slight concern. "I am not always very good at knowing what will happen."
Sometimes Laine had a fairly good idea of what her ability would do, or at least a fairly good idea that it was about to do something. Information was valuable and could be used to plot data points for future analysis, but the initial response could sometimes provide difficulty. Many times, Laine simply didn't know what she did or how she did it - her anomaly was natural to her. It simply was, and it was often a challenge to try to explain it to someone who didn't function that way.
That stated, though, Laine was going to function as an intern, because that was what she needed to be right now. She would have armor, which she would not like, but maybe once it was her own she would like it better. Perhaps armor was just an extra bit of security, like having her own quiet room. It helped if she thought of it that way, but she still did not think it would be comfortable. It was hard to picture herself wearing it, and the sense of not fitting was strong.
"I don't like pants. They feel strange." This was not a question, it was a statement. Laine was very particular about her attire. "I don't have any questions." She was not a research intern.
Hania listened to Cantrille again. She had come to a decision, and while she seemed to know her anomaly well and understand standard parameters, there was something in her final statement that reminded Hania of her psychological profile. A note from her previous handler - that ACF-833 would become passive if she believed it was best to keep a situation tidy. While this was only a suspicion at this time, Hania knew that it would have to be addressed. The sooner, the better.
"ACF-833," he chose to use Cantrille's anomalous designation, "I have to request that you do not placate me. This period is for learning. Questions are an important part of that process. You do not currently have the briefings and background information with regard to many of the anomalous entities we will be encountering, nor do you yet have full education on practical maintenance or procedures. The handbooks are the ideal guideline. You need to be prepared for things when they become disorganized. You will not be able to ask questions then. If you believe there are questions that should be asked in the place of briefing, feel free to ask that at any time."
He turned down from the containment hall toward the personnel living area; the armory was located between the two, and the personnel living quarters could be locked down for evacuation in the case of a severe breach. He was not angry with Cantrille. His tone hardly changed between statements and orders. Despite his concern for placation, however, she did have objections. He addressed them next.
"That being said, unfortunately we only have one model of armor at this time, which you will be required to wear any time you are on duty. The training issued armor will be uncomfortable, but the final design will be fitted to maximize mobility and minimize distraction. It will not be comfortable, but it will be more comfortable than the training armor and fit those parameters, as well as the specifics of your body shape."
"I understand." Sometimes, Laine did not understand things. This time, Agent Hania had put it very clearly. She did not like it, but she understood it. An expectation was being set, and she was required to meet it, whether or not she liked it. Sometimes, things were like that. Laine was quiet again for a while - not retreated, merely quiet. There was a difference, though whether Agent Hania had been briefed enough to know it wasn't certain.
Laine did not like uncertainty. That was a fact, but that was also why she was going into security. Uncertainty was something that could be mitigated, controlled. Secured. Uncertainty was where are you? and why aren't you here?. Uncertainty was questions without answers, or questions with the wrong sorts of answers. Things that were unclear. Things that were untidy.
"How do you feel about the rules, Laine?" Rules were important. Rules kept things safe. Laine would follow the rules.
"When will I have access to the requisite briefings and background information?" Information was important. Information was answers, or at the very least it was a set of data points that could be indicative of an answer. More than that, information was usually presented in a way that was easy for Laine to understand, at least within the Foundation. The manuals and handbooks that she had read were very factual and precise. They were easier to understand than people.
"At rank A-Class-B your briefings will be need-to-know. You may review the containment files of any anomaly you encounter in a controlled setting, but research reports will often not include all the necessary information on technical maintenance or the most recent alterations in behavior. I am briefed when there is an alteration in behavior, and you will attend those briefings with me."
It was a good thing that Cantrille understood, but he would have to closely monitor her behavior to ensure it didn't revert. She had grown quiet, but Hania had a good sense for that sort of thing, and as per his briefing had given her space. She continued to follow, and did finally break out of the quiet. That was when he answered her question. A good question, safe and solid. She followed directions well, even if he could feel her distaste for this particular direction.
Another turn. They were nearly to the armory. He did not alter his pace.
"If it would make you more comfortable, I believe it would be acceptable to see any information I provide to you as a personalized briefing, which would leave the need-to-know requisite to the discretion of your overseeing Class-C security agent."
"'The object of training is not to make personnel comfortable, it is to make them effective.'" This was a direct quote. Laine was very good at retaining information. They were following the rules, and the rules were not about comfort. "However, such briefings may serve to make me more effective. So yes. I would like that."
They had almost reached the place where they were supposed to be. Laine had not been there before, but it seemed apparent as they neared it. She thought that she probably could have found her way there, if it were required of her, and was not sure if this was anomalous or not. Agent Hania seemed to know where he was going, so perhaps this was normal after all.
"How long does it take the Foundation to customize equipment for various Agents?"
"Comfortable personnel display significant differences in productivity than those under stress, usually positive." That was not in a handbook Cantrille would have read, but it was spoken in the cadence of someone who had been trained in training. It only reaffirmed her point, but if her sole purpose was to maximize effectiveness, it was also a suitable warning.
"On average, Foundation personnel receive personalized armor and arms within three months. Here at L-14, with a reduced influx of new recruits, especially in the security sector, Smith may have yours ready within two weeks, so long as there are no complications."
All Security personnel took such complications into account, of course. The most obvious were breaches of containment, but there were others. Supplies delayed. Injury to the location armorer. Various delays and mishaps. They happened, and they could not be accounted for precisely, so the general assumption of "as long as nothing happens" was as common as the words "not my department." Cantrille would get used to them, eventually.
The Armory had a door much like those of the containment units, thick and blast-proof. Unlike the containment units, it was not clearly labeled. If someone needed to access this room, they would already know where it was. And if they didn't belong in this room and they found it by accident, Smith would make sure they didn't come back.
She was there, as the security identification badge was scanned and the alarm buzzed. The room was rigged much like a containment unit as well. It was best for security, and Smith was one of the best security recontainment personnel at L-14. A-Class-D, largely built and muscular, although her body type was mostly hidden under armor thicker than what Hania wore or what Cantrille would be provided. She had no helmet, but it was nearby on a bench beside her. Her face had far fewer scars than most would think of a woman in her position. That was just credit to the Foundation's standards for physical protection. Her eyes, as they looked up, were hard brown like packed earth, and her close-cut hair was dyed a shade of green.
This part of the armory had a combination of mannequins wearing various sizes and shapes of armor, and standard-issue non-lethal firearms for rushed recontainment measures. There were more lethal weapons and rounds in the room to the back of this one, although it was inaccessible from here. Smith sat at a workbench with various pieces of ceramic and Kevlar, organized in half-finished concepts of design. Smith wasn't a designer, but she did like to ensure new armor was structurally sound, and knew how to run measurement and movement simulations on the provided computer that sat near her as she measured out the bits of ceramic she'd apparently deconstructed. She glanced up as the pair entered. She looked Hania over first, or at least his visible armor, then gave Cantrille a scan of appraisal.
"Smith," Hania acknowledged.
"Jericho," Smith responded.
As if following a script, Hania gestured to Cantrille. "This is Laine Cantrille, rank A-Class-B. Anomalous designation ACF-833. Temporary callsign Anchor."
"Ah, your newbie." Smith nodded like all her questions were answered, but there was a little disapproval in her face for certain points of posture and attire in Anchor she didn't like. She grunted in either acknowledgement or to voice that disapproval. Which it was... wasn't Hania's department. She'd voice it eventually.
"Affirmative." He then turned to Cantrille. "Cantrille, this is Helena Smith, rank A-Class-D, full callsign 'Blacksmith.' Callsign often abbreviated to 'Smith.' She will be taking your measurements and ensuring your armor suits your mobility preferences and abilities, as well as issuing your temporary armor."
"I understand. Thank you." A range of two weeks to three months was fairly wide, but Laine appreciated having all of the information. Having a standard of three months seemed like a long time, but proper equipment took time to manufacture, and Laine appreciated that attention to detail was being seen to here. The shortening of the time frame was indicative of the Foundation's current lack of personnel, perhaps more so than anything else. This was concerning. Laine felt that Agent Hania would have said the situation was not my department, but all departments were the Foundation, and the Foundation was all situations. Additional personnel were needed, but not present. This would result in a loosening of regulations concerning which personnel would be considered appropriate candidates by necessity, which would mean that the upcoming years would involve working with a number of individuals who would not ordinarily have passed the initial screening process.
It was very likely that Laine was one of these individuals. She was not always good with people, but she had the distinct feeling that Agent Smith thought this was the case, given her reception. Laine found that comforting. It was good that security had concerns about her inclusion. Laine shared them.
She was interested by the fact that the location's armorer bore the surname Smith. This seemed to be somewhat anomalously coincidental at first. Of course, on thinking about it, it was not a question of the probability of the location having an armorer with the surname of Smith. The location had an armorer, that was a given, and therefore the probability factor was only relevant inasmuch as that armorer should be a Smith. Smith was the most common name in this geographical region. It was, in fact, more likely that the armorer would be named 'Smith' than than she should be named any other specific name, though it was less likely that she should be named Smith than a name that was not Smith.
It was also entirely possible that she had changed her name to Smith at some point to maintain anonymity, which was not entirely unknown amongst Foundation personnel.
"Good morning, Agent Smith." They were all following the script, which made things simpler. Formality was proper here, both as a sign of respect to a class-D and to avoid any unfortunate sticking points about things like names.
"I like measurements." Measurements were very precise. Laine appreciated that. "Precision is very important to ensure a proper fit. Your hair is very unnatural. But it is not unfitting."
"Anchor," Smith said, shortly, by way of greeting. She scratched the back of her head as the anomalous asset commented on her hair, but she did smile a little. Not all Agency personnel were made of stone. "Thank you. Most of the time you can’t see it under the helmet but I think it’s a good look."
She got up from her seat and crossed the room with a single wave for Jericho to give them privacy. He nodded to her, nodded to his newbie, and then stepped out toward the hall. Smith then took Anchor by the arm and led her a short way into the armory. Her grip wasn’t hard, but she had strong hands and the attitude of someone who would not be told no.
"We'll get to measurements in a minute. First, I recommend you lose the schoolgirl look. Or at least the vest. And the skirt offers minimal protection off-duty, but that’s not my department I guess. For on-duty hours, you’re going to want comfortable pants to wear under your armor to prevent chafing - most opt for sweatpants or durable leggings. I have some here in the back but those knee-highs aren’t going to cut it, believe me. Your shirt collar’s going to be real uncomfortable too, I’ve got some long-sleeves for you to try on."
The fitting room was about the size of an anohumanoid containment unit, but had considerably more privacy, without any visible cameras. There were drawers all along the walls marked with sizes and vague descriptions - "Shirt longsleeve, W, M", "Leggings, B, XL", etc. Smith let go of Anchor’s arm, then marched over to an area along the wall and quickly scanned it. She opened a drawer, then walked to a different place on a different wall. By the time she was done half a dozen drawers were open, and Smith returned to the doorway.
"I’m going to get some tools and a few sizes of armor to try on. Find what’s comfortable for you."
And before an objection could be made, she disappeared back out the door, which closed behind her, leaving Anchor alone with her options.
Laine did not like being grabbed by the arm. She almost told Agent Smith to stop, but she was an intern and it was not proper to do that with senior agents. It was undoubtedly uncomfortable for both of them, with an undeniable aura of is this really something you should be touching? - something more felt than spoken, a question that seemed to ask itself. A discomfort, the same on that Laine felt. A certain researcher had once described it as a bit like your whole body sort of goes 'yuck,' isn't it? Laine thought there was merit to that analysis.
She followed along with Agent Smith anyway, because that was what she was supposed to do, but she felt much better when she was released. The Agent's analysis of Laine's attire prompted her to look down at herself in consideration and then state, with some confusion: "But this is what I look like." It had always been what she looked like. She had grown, because for a time she was supposed to have been growing, but she had stopped that now and her appearance seemed somewhat static. Her choice of clothing was part of her, and Laine had trouble imagining anything else.
That phrase was there again, though, not my department. Laine decided that in this case it meant that she was allowed to ignore the Agent's recommendation. It was fortunate that the discussion shifted to more professional topics. The room was very organized, with neat labels on the drawers. Laine appreciated accurate labels. Agent Smith opened a few of the drawers, choosing them based on some unspoken analysis of Laine's approximate size. That was acceptable. The agent left her there alone, in a quiet room with many labels.
Acceptable. Laine approached the drawers, considering the contents, carefully taking things out and contemplating them. Sweat pants were definitely not an option, as she didn't care for the feeling of the waistband. Leggings were better, though some of the options had too much in the way of prominent seams. Laine didn't like that. She found some that were acceptable, however, in a basic Foundation gray - the same as most of the things here. Shirts were easier, in a way - a simple long-sleeved cotton crew neck, without much fuss, also in Foundation gray. Sizing was easy, because Laine knew exactly what size she was, and she was certain that if clothing was hers, it would fit her perfectly.
It occurred to her to wonder if she actually needed to be fitted for armor, or if the armor would simply fit, but this was not a question that she knew the answer to, and she supposed it was best just to let Agent Smith do her job, since people seemed to appreciate being able to do their jobs. It was important to people to feel required, she had learned.
When Smith returned, she had a toolbox in one hand, and three separate bundles under the other arm. They might not fit properly, but she had others - this was just how many she could carry at once, and this was two more than most other personnel could manage one-handed.
She nodded her approval of Anchor's change of attire. "Nicely done." It suited her - didn't just fit, but felt correct. Smith wasn't fully briefed on ACF-833; she just accepted that Anchor had known what she wanted, and found it. Her objection to that being "what she looked like" seemed to mean less to her than listening, and she'd made it work well. Smith couldn't help but note how it brought out the grey in her eyes. She'd always had an eye for that, even - maybe especially - now that aesthetic meant less to her than protection. It'd taken an embarrassingly long time for this to be trained out of her, however.
"Here. This one should be closest, but it might be too tight around the joints. I have a slightly bigger and slightly smaller one here just in case."
"Yes, this one is closest," Laine agreed. She didn't need to try them on to tell, she just knew by considering it. "I think the joints will be acceptable for interrim purposes." Agent Hania had made it clear that Laine was still very much in training, and was not expected to be at her full capacity yet.
She reached out and accepted the armor, pausing for a moment to think about it. "This is like a puzzle, but people shaped." The pieces fit together, but with a person inside. Laine was good with puzzles, so she put it on without much difficulty, different parts of the armor sliding into position under her guidance. She didn't really struggle into it as some did, but rather seemed to know where the parts all went and just assume that they were going to be there.
Armor was strange. It was heavier than she wanted it to be, which she did not like, but it was also close, which she did. The joints were a little more restrictive than she would have liked them to be, and a twist of her arm confirmed this, though her range of motion was still within acceptable parameters. "Do you like finding the right pieces?"
Smith had, as usual, been right: it was a little tight in the joints, but closer than either of the others had been. It was hardly fashionable, but more than make it work - Anchor could make it fit. Literally could, as Smith was learning, but also the greys, the black Kevlar, the white pieces of overarmor, all suited each other well. Putting her in the absolute correct measurements would be a sight for sore eyes in a place like this.
"I guess it is a bit like a puzzle," she admitted. "Most of the fitting together's done through computer simulations that use the measurements I add as input, though. And most Agents are fully capable of dressing themselves. But I'm here to make sure the bigger picture is as close to perfect as we can manage. Keeps personnel safe and, hopefully when training is done, comfortable enough to get their jobs done."
It wasn't a very good answer, but it was the official one. Her heart was never in those words, which kept people guessing against her will. The full answer wasn't relevant, she'd decided. There was nothing wrong with agents looking good in the armor they wore, after all, just most agents might let it go to their heads if she told them that part wasn't just the natural fit.
Her tools were for mass in kg and measurements in cm, as well as various other bits of a former trade that let her gauge body fat, muscle index, and overall mobility. She could usually guess those offhand and be fairly accurate, but fairly accurate wasn't as close to perfect as she could manage, and usually wasn't good enough for the computers anyhow. Mobility simulations and ideal fittings were both important to the agents who came to her, and to herself. So it would be with a professional's hand that she guided Anchor out of pieces of the armor and then took what she needed before letting the agent strap them back on, keeping up with any questions that didn't get too deep in to her personal life.
Smith kept her history close, because she would never, ever hear the end of it if someone caught wind she'd been in the civilian fashion industry before this. The rumor mill could do whatever it wanted with the little slips and the precision she worked with, and while Anchor didn't seem like the kind of person to engage with the rumor mill, Smith still had an image to maintain around newbies before they heard any of that. She was a security agent more than capable of holding her own in the case of a breach - even in case of a Breach. And she didn't just know armor, she was more than familiar with the dozens of weapon models that lined the racks in the next room. If she fiddled with the armor on the side to ensure everything fit well and didn't just, well, fit, she wasn't going to let anyone complain about or mock her for it.