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Mischief. Mayhem. Soap.

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Birkoff was in the middle of the last stage of Final Fantasy 7, utterly kicking the ass of the boss, when his intercom beeped. Briefly, he considered throwing the controller at it and then, thinking better of that one, he grabbed a rolled up pair of dirty socks and threw those instead. He was getting sick of trying to explain to Madeline how he’d wrecked yet another controller anyway and he suspected she knew exactly how controllers two, four, five, and seven had died.

By the second time it beeped he’d paused the game and was searching for his remote control to it. Sparing a thought that he either needed to let the maid service – and Section had the best maid service ever – back into his room one of these days or learn to clean up after himself, he gave up his search. He even tossed the fourth discarded shirt towards the general area of his closet before he dragged himself up from the floor and over to the intercom.

It’d just beeped the third time when he pressed in the little ‘out’ button and mumbled ‘Yeah?’ at it. It only took a second before he wished he hadn’t and he winced a little as Operations voice came blaring through the intercom, “requesting” his presence immediately unless he had “something more important to do.” Most people didn’t know exactly how well Operations could do sarcasm but, boy, there was nothing unsarcastic about that. Definitely wince worthy too and he dropped his hand onto the intercom to answer, stumbling over an apology in there as he said he’d be right over.

Well, as soon as he put on some pants, but he sort of didn’t mention that part.


“This is Evgeniy Maksimov. He is the current leader of a subsection of the Higher Ground terrorist group out of Moscow. We’ve recently come into –“ Blahblahblah. Briefings were so boring. Oh, sure, they led to really cool stuff, like live action video games, but, geez, all the talking that went into it.

He tapped his fingers against the top of the briefing table quickly, before Madeline gave him a sharp, scolding look and Birkoff drew his fingers to his mouth instead, chewing at his nails. She hated that but since it wasn’t disruptive she wouldn’t do anything about it and the sometimes bloody results were more than worth watching her twitch a little bit. She was just so hard to get to, unlike Operations or Walter, or Grantson, or best of all Wallford, who’d totally turn an interesting shade of purple if you made faces at her and then stopped right when she turned towards you so it was only ever obvious in her peripheral vision.

Cold ops like that were always the best to mess with because they so knew that you were the only thing standing between them and an “accident” half of the time and, plus, Madeline and Operations liked him better. So there. He was way more valuable than a random cold ops agent who couldn’t even figure out the difference between an analog process and a –

Oh, shit, that was his cue, the way Operations turned his head just a little, the lines of his face tightening.

“Right. So, the intel we got was through a hack in a secondary server of the Higher Ground operation, which means that it’s going to be a little bit shaky,” he added, just like he’d been prompted to do before the briefing.

They liked him to add a little something here or there, fuck knew why. Madeline said it was to get him exposure with the cold ops, show them that he knew what he was doing despite his age.

That’s how she put it, ‘despite his age,’ which was lame because no one said that about Walter, who was great but absolutely ancient and being younger just meant your brain moved faster anyway. Birkoff never wanted to get old.

Plus, if not for people like him and Walter they’d be dead anyway, totally dead. Who disabled the security systems for them and gave them the best weapons? Duh.

He didn’t say that because, wow, would Operations kill him for that sort of thing, he’d totally be grounded or, worse, banned from his workstation outside of his hours or a crisis if he said something like that out loud. Instead, trying to sound as “adult” as possible, whatever that meant, he added a little more information about how the two team op was going to be split between team a – recon – and team b – neutralization.

Then, finally – finally, because the op wasn’t going out for six hours anyway and Birkoff had that boss to get back to – Operations started wrapping things up, telling the teams to come to him for their exact assignments and then closing the briefing. Which, the whole explaining thing would take all of an hour and then he could go back to what he had been doing.

Maybe a little longer if he stopped in at Walter’s, which he should do because he owed the man money. But, geez, who knew Michael was going to get through the whole Simone thing without being cancelled? It’d been a suckers’ bet when he made it but, hey, maybe he’d underestimated the guy.

Or maybe it had a little something to do with the hot piece of ass that was Michael’s new training assignment. Nikita. Even her name was hot. Definitely someone worth sticking around for, far as one Seymour Birkoff was concerned, and the way Michael’d been making the Michael version of moony eyes at his new trainee. Well. He didn’t think he was the only one having that thought, if you got what he meant.

Even Walter – and, ew, who knew people that old could have sex? Next thing he knew he was going to find out Operations had sex and how disturbing was that. Even Walter’d been looking ‘cause under that slouch and the ratty clothes, and for the record Birkoff liked the clothes, it was totally obvious how h-o-t hot she was.

And anyway, anyone that got Michael to tone down the loom-and-stare he’d perfected over the last couple of years, even a little? Was A-OK in Birkoff’s file. It was like a public service even.

“What’cha grinnin’ at, Birkoff?”

He grinned a little wider, then dropped it off his face all the way, the way Madeline’d taught him back when he was younger, way younger. Then he adjusted his glasses for good measure as he said, “Nothing. Nothing. Hey, about the money – Can I owe you?”

Walter snorted, flicking his ponytail over his shoulder as he shifted to hunch over his latest toy. Motion tracking infra-red cameras capable of being imbedded in something as thin as a sheet, if Birkoff remembered right and with a brain like his it wasn’t as if he ever forgot anything.

“Yeah, sure, kid. I don’t bet anyway,” he was told in a gravely low, amused tone of voice and his own smile peaked up again a little.

Walter was cool, probably the coolest person in all of Section One, and, plus, he always had time for a visit. He wasn’t like the cold ops agents or the other techs or the medical people that totally blew Birkoff off because who wanted a kid hanging around, right? Best yet, he’d been in Section forever, absolutely forever, since before Birkoff’s earliest memories, just like Operations and Madeline, and so he wasn’t going anywhere. They’d never cancel Walter or send him to The Farm. He, like Birkoff himself, was way too valuable for that; who else lasted sixteen whole years in Section?

“Birkoff!” Operations’s voice boomed over the intercom system in the weapons’ shop.

Both of them, both Walter and himself, winced as it resonated, way louder than normal sounds should ever be and this coming from someone that’d modded his stereo to play at twice the volume it should.

“Crap,” he muttered, glancing up to see Walter’s sympathetic twist of the lips, and then he skittered back behind him, going to see what Operations wanted.

If he was lucky, it’d be something quick but, geez, when’d he ever been that lucky?


Later, when he was dragging himself in from the round of briefings from hell and wondering why he had to go to these things if he was just going to be told the information separately anyway, three hours before the briefing, he noticed that at some point during the time he was gone his game, along with everything else in his room, had reset itself. Or been reset.

"Damn it!" This was so revenge for the fingernail biting. Stupid Madeline.