Stef had her nose pushed to the window of the observation window that looked down on the surgical suite – though no surgery was taking place. Below, Ryan observed as he walked around the curved path towards his daughter, the Parkers were going through a complete medical workup with Austin Reilly.
In other parts of the observation area, there were small clusters of Tech recruits, each holding some device to take notes – from a humble notebook, to a tablet. Occasionally, one of them would ask a question, or make a point, and below, one of the Parkers would nod.
She looked up, her eyes wide in a way that meant she had been crying, or wanted to cry – her logic, apparently, was that the dryer her eyes were, the more of her tears would dry up before they could be cried out.
Ryan looked around the waiting room – it was an affectation that most Directors had. It was an affectation that even Reynolds had bowed to.
Ryan was careful to ignore the looks of some of his recruits as the pirate followed him back to his office. The stares weren’t impolite, just…incredulous. The sight was strange, to be sure, but in the Agency, strange sights were to be expected.
Hook, for his part, said nothing to exacerbate the situation – he made no flourishes with his sword towards the recruits, nor any piratical comments.
Ryan looked to his office door. There had been a knock. His HUD told him it was Stef outside – and she had knocked, instead of shifting in – a sign to be a little worried for her. She went through strange cycles of this – on good days, she would shift straight in, on days when she felt less good about herself – and therefore feeling undeserving of his affection – she would loiter in the hall outside his office, or insist on knocking.
He had insisted, gently but often, that she was always welcome.
Stef shuffled nervously back and forth across the Hyde lobby. Ryan had told her when he would be shifting in, and even worldwide shifting didn’t take more than a few seconds, but it had felt nice to be early. It gave her the appearance of being organised – even if he loved her for who she was, there was no harm in attempting to change for the better.
Her uniform was clean, she’d brushed her hair. She looked, all the world, at least like a sensible recruit, if not a sensible agent.
The spare chair was already waiting for her.
Stef slid into the leather chair – the first piece of furniture she’d ever sat on in the Agency. The first constant of her new life.