2019-09-20 - A mutual vetting process.


Veronica & Nadia talk about additional funding for G.I.R.L, various bits of science talk and the possibility of Nadia joining RESCUE.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Fri Sep 20 11:37:14 2019
Location: RP Room 3

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Theme Song



Sitting just far enough outside New York for the science and retail parks but within walking distance for the train the G.I.R.L building looks fairly unremarkable from the outside. Moderately sized the building has the insect winged logo above double glass doors that lead into a little reception area that's currently empty and has a single sturdy looking double internal door leading out.

Both the outer reception door and the inner door are unlocked to allow walk in visits. Although there's obvious security cameras in place to discourage anyone from trying to steal anything.

The inside is perhaps unlike any science lab most people typically imagine. Two floors of open plan space with the logo proudly painted on the far back wall. Each side wall is lined with college dorm style bedrooms. The nearby corners have a break area with couches and a big tv plus a little kitchen that has an empty box that used to contain donuts and a hastily cobbled together coffee machine made almost entirely out of things from a chemistry lab.

But it's the middle that looks the most impressive. A huge scifi doorway dominates the middle of the room. While a dozen workbenches are covered in various projects ranging from biotech to robotics.

There are plenty of people, almost entirely young women, hard at work on the projects. Although of Nadia herself there's no sign. Unless you count a note posted up on a side door saying 'High energy laser experiments in progress - Do not enter without protective eyewear!' that's been decorated with some glitter and heart shaped stickers.

Having heard of G.I.R.L. and the great work Nadia is doing with it, Dr. Veronica Kelsey has decided to drop by for a visit prior to - potentially, at least - approving a new line item in the RESCUE budget to help support the program. And hey! If these ladies are as bright as Toni suggested they might be, perhaps they should be a regular candidate pool for internships and employment opportunities at RESCUE? But first things first: meet, and see for herself.

Roni does not arrive by train, but instead by RESCUE-labeled white cargo van. She pulls up into an available parking space and then activates her on-board lidar mapping, checking to make sure she will have room to deploy her chair lift safely. That confirmed, she unlatches the locks on her wheelchair wheels and chair frame, then rolls back out of the driving spot and goes the length of the van before tapping the control to switch off the lidar, and activate the chair lift.

There's soft beeping as the rear doors swing open. and then the steel mesh grate lowers ninety degrees and stops. Veronica rolls herself out onto that grate and taps the next control, as it then lowers down to sidewalk level. Then she rolls off and taps the reset control, watching as the grate lifts back up to van level, then folds back up, and then the doors close behind it. Another tap and the whole van triple-beeps, arming not just the locks and alarm system, but wheel locks as well. Then finally the good doctor turns her chair around and heads for the front door, pleased to find a power-actuated handicapped access button to the right of the outside door.

A tap and the door swings out of the way, allowing her to roll through without fighting it in the process. She waits for the door to close behind her before rolling to the double doors and tapping that handicapped access button as well. Seeing no one manning that reception desk, she rolls through at a slow pace, looking around, and stops just inside to take in the place without risking interfering with anyone overmuch before she has the lay of the lab - and the land.

The lab is a little chaotic but overall things seem to be running smoothly. Each project is run by a different member, but members consult with each other if they need help, advice, support and sometimes even just for a fresh viewpoint. As Veronica comes through the door a big person sized display screen version of Nadia springs into life.

"Hello guest! I'm virtual Nadia and I'm here to greet visitors. Is there anything I can help you with?" the screen states. The message is subtitled in English, then repeats in different languages in order of how commonly spoken they are.

Veronica looks at the screen as it lights up with a rendering of the woman she's been told she's here to see. She smiles at this, still taking in the room a bit, and pauses before answering. "Good afternoon, Virtual Nadia. I am Veronica Kelsey. I am here to look around, and possibly to meet real Nadia, if she happens to be about. Is it OK if I roll around and take a look, while you pass her a message to let her know I'm here?"

Yes. Roni deals with the virtual construct as if she were almost a person. She does this not because she consciously anthropomorphizes the program, but because she's guessing those kinds of answers come closest to pattern-matching the natural language processing that's been coded into it. In short: she's figuring she's more likely to be successful and get what she wants out of the interaction.

The image pauses, offering a smile as it does so, before resuming talking "You wish an appointment with my organic counterpart? I shall let her know. Until then feel free to take a look around."

The members are generally used to drop in visitors by now and will smile and wave at Roni if she comes past. And give a brief overview of any projects she specifically asks about.

After twenty minutes someone will come over with a pair of protective eyewear and offer them to Roni. Asking if she's comfortable having her meeting in the laser lab.

"Yes, please. Thank you, Virtual Nadia." Veronica offers. Then she rolls backwards slightly and turns to head down the length of the room, carefully inspecting each lab station in turn. When given a chance, she asks questions about their projects, including the space-folding portal, the communicative plants, and the robotic exoskeleton transformative buggy. To that particular young scientist Veronica has quite an animated discussion about the biophysics of the exoframe, and the transformation process, proving herself quite knowledgeable on that front, and very supportive.

When one of the young ladies arrives with polarized safety glasses and asks if she would be willing to meet with Nadia in the laser lab, Roni smiles her assent, and tests to be sure the safety glasses will fit over her own (smart) glasses. Then she rolls after the young scientist, asking questions not about her science project, but about how she found G.I.R.L., how she liked it, and what being part of it has made possible for her that she felt she lacked otherwise.

Once they enter the laser lab, Veronica again stops and scans the area visually before proceeding, having found such intentional situational and area awareness key to her successful function, especially given her reliance on her wheelchair.

Every member has a different reason for joining up. For some it's the sense of community while others are here for the resources. But no matter the reason it's clear everyone is here because they love the science they're doing.

Of course the cronuts and iced coffee are big plus points.

When Roni eventually heads into the laser lab Nadia is busy making adjustments to one of a pair of wrist mounted energy blasters (while the other is clearly strapped to her wrist). A series of firing range style targets have been set up at the far end of the room. Stuck up with spray glue to thick steel plates.

"Hey there," Nadia calls out as the door opens, not actually looking up from her project. "I'm Nadia it's nice to meet you…"

"Thank you for your time, Taina. I hope to talk more, later." Veronica comments to the teen working on the exoframe buggy.

"Hello, Ms. van Dyne." Veronica offers patiently, not allowing herself to feel slighted or insulted by Nadia not looking at her while speaking; she has done much the same to others when she was in the midst of something in her own labs. "You met with my partner, Toni Ho. When I heard of you and the work you are doing here, I decided to come see it for myself." She doesn't bother to name herself, assuming that Virtual Nadia has already done so.

"Ahh Doctor Kelsey? Yes I've heard a lot about you," Nadia replies cheerfully. "And done a little background research. I hope your wait wasn't too boring? We've been a little quiet lately with people going off for college. But once people get more settled down with course schedules I'm sure that'll ease up."

She finishes her adjustments and slips the blaster on her other arm.

"I'd have been out sooner, but I can't really leave the equipment for my Wasp suit in an inoperable state." She points her arm at the targets and there's a pulse of light that leaves a smoking hole in the bullseye. "Thankfully it wasn't a very complex repair. Just an alignment issue in the targeting system."

"The wait was not boring at all. I enjoyed meeting some of the ladies working out there, and seeing what they are getting into." About Roni's only significant concern was the open plan labs without containment, but everyone seemed to be handling that well thus far. "I especially enjoyed getting to talk with Taina."

Veronica doesn't widely or openly publicize that she is the pilot of the Augmenta armor, but it is nota closely held secret identity, either. Given that her business partner is publicly known to be the Iron Patriot, it would not be hard to guess. But Augmenta is also not a big name. "Quite alright, Ms. van Dyne. I would not want you to walk away from a project in an unsafe condition just to coddle me. I'm a working scientist; I get it."

"That being said, I am as interested in what you're working on here as Toni was when she saw. And we're considering helping to underwrite your program, here, because we believe that firmly in what this stands for and wanting to see it succeed." Roni offers. It's her first chance to see Nadia in person, and she takes in the other woman with close inspection and no little amount of curiosity. It is subtle, but Nadia might be able to spot the tiny flickers of light around the corners of her glasses, muted by the polarized lens safety goggles, as information is fed to her glases presumably by her phone or another onboard computer.

"It's not that the project would have been unsafe," Nadia clarifies, her accent having a very distinct hint of Russian to it. "I mean it wouldn't be safe if I was put in a situation I needed it unexpectedly. You never know when duty will call after all." She shrugs. "Not that I really go out hunting for trouble or anything! But… well we have a lot of important research work going on here and every now and again there are threats."

"But I've designed a pretty top of the line security system. We've got anti-espionage baffles that would make the Department of Defense green with envy. The basement level has all our secure labs, for confidential or hazardous work. While the roof contains renewable energy and rain-water treatment. We try ensure as much of our work is sustainable and produces minimal environmental impact."

Depending on the tech Veronica is using she might find outside connections tricky. Although standard cellphone traffic isn't impeded.

"Since I met with your collegue Toni I've done a little background investigation myself. So far I can't see anything that would put me off accepting an offer of funding. There is after all a lot more we could do. Once this site is established I hope to create virtual learning centers, then start rolling out new G.I.R.L sites in major cities around the world. Although that's very long term."

"All of that sounds quite good." Veronica responds, as she listens to what Nadia has to say about security, systems, and her own research on Toni and herself and Nadia's future plans. "I think we'd probably wnat to find a few partners before trying to underwrite a worldwide operation, but I agree totally with the sentiment and the goal." And honestly, it's just that simple. If necessary Toni and Roni will pay for this out of their own pockets, but they're going to make it a business expense. Together they have the power to push that through even if their investors disagree.

And they had better not.

"For now, what we'd like to do is start sponsoring G.I.R.L. here, underwriting your operations costs. I think our only request in return would be the opportunity to put up a bulletin here, on the website, maybe included in various communications, mentioning job opportunities and internships at RESCUE we think the ladies here might be interested in. No obligations, not aiming to be excessive. But the ladies here are an amazing resource, and we'd be fools not to try to tap into that resource for our own benefit and growth, especially when it may benefit them just as much." Altruist doesn't have to mean stupid, after all. Veronica smiles.

"We might want to arrange tours for the ladies here to visit RESCUE, at least for those interested. Let them see some of what we are working on, just as we get a chance to see what they are working on. Spark more curiosity and interest." Veronica amends.

"You'd be amazed at how self sufficient some of our work turns out to be," Nadia says brightly, pulling a chair over and perching on it. "Grants, donations, academic prizes all add up. Plus most of my own patent income goes into the projects… And I guess it also covers living expenses. As you may have noticed there is accomodation on site. For those times when you simply can't leave your work until morning."

She frowns and drums her fingers against the desk. "I'm okay with putting links to internships or jobs on our site, but I'd hope those offers would be made after members finished college? It could send mixed messages if we're trying to get people educated in STEM fields but they never actually complete any qualifications." She shrugs. "Part time work however is totally okay. Everyone here is free to take up whatever employment they like. Although we do have a no weapons research policy." She gives her wrist blasters a glance and grins wryly. "These are intended for engineering work you see. When targeting a person the blasts are distracting and painful, but entirely non-lethal."

"I approve of self-sufficient, but more resources means things can be improved. I know well how quickly a science project can take up more resources without ever giving any back. And I still want them to be able to pursue those ideas." Roni mentions with a light shrug.

"I want them to know what's available, and that we're interested. I completely agree that they need to finish their education; I have four degrees myself, after all. But I want to help be an inspiration to these ladies, and let them know that those opportunities exist out there, by folks who know what they can do and will respect their contributions and efforts." Because, to be blunt, both Roni and Toni have had to fight that uphill battle themselves, and she's sure they are not the only ones.

"We do not do any lethal weapons research at RESCUE, so we can absolutely support that ideal. We do some non- and less-lethal work. I won't kibbitz about that. But neither of us are in favor of outright weapons work. There's more than enough of that in the world; no one needs us to do it." Veronica comments. She won't say she doesn't respect those who do it; maybe it is necessary and should be done. She can't just assume her ideals are those the whole world should follow. But she will remain loyal to them herself, and expect her company, and those she supports, to do similarly. Sounds like that won't be a problem here.

"Oh we rarely turn down funding unless it breaches our ethics policy or we suspect it's from the proceeds of crime," Nadia admits with a grin, unbuckling the wrist mounted blasters now she knows they both work fine. It does after all send a slightly mixed message about non-violence when she's effectively sitting around heavily armed. "Perhaps you and Toni would consider doing some guest lectures? We could record them and put them up online for members unable to attend in person. I've also been considering trying to do some school visits too."

"I know it can be hard to find the time between work, research and fun but it feels… Well the sooner people get to know these chances exist the better, right? So it's important we make the time." She taps something on each of the blasters and inexplicably they vanish. Or seem to anyway. A slow motion replay will show them shrinking impossibly small. Then with a practised motion she tucks them away safely in her pocket.

"I think Toni and I would be only too pleased to contribute some guest lectures or other events. We both believe quite firmly in the power and purpose of education, and in inspiring the next generation." They certainly could have used more of that in their own lives. The wheelchair-bound woman shrugs and smiles. "And I think some school visits, or perhaps sponsored science fairs, would be a great addition to what I know of your program."

"Toni and I both know how hard it can be to make time … and how important it is to do so anyway. We can't always succeed. But we have to always try." Veronica comments. She watches the blasters seemingly disappear, and tilts her head to the side. Nadia might be able to make out flickers of light within the lenses of Roni's glasses that are unlikely to be coming from the other light sources around the room. "Interesting. Not that I am particle physicist enough to even begin to evaluate that sort of thing."

"That one is something of a trade secret," Nadia admits with an apologetic shrug. "Otherwise I'd be happy to share… Although I can explain the basic concept. I'm changing the distance between molecules. But then I suspect you probably had an idea about that from the account your friend Posse will have provided after the hostage rescue we were both involved in."

She offers a smile and nods enthusiastically at the idea of running science fairs. "That could be a great way to attract interest. I think I'd like for some of our current work to be a little further on first, not everything is quite ready for use around the public." She nods to herself "But I'm sure everyone will make quicker progress with additional resources."

"Do you have any ongoing projects over at RESCUE right now? I'd love to hear more about the work everyone is upto."

Veronica chuckles at that, and nods towards Nadia. "That would seem to explain what I picked up. Neat. But as I said, I've no concept how one would do that. I guess, though, that's part of the point." She winks at Nadia. "Just like I don't explain to just anyone how it is we manage the person-machine interface of our cyberlimbs and other assistive technologies." See? Fair is fair. She gets it.

"We have many projects open at RESCUE. Our highest profile active project right now is our ongoing support for Overwatch, a field operations team expressly suited to assisting in crisis intervention, from natural disasters to, admittedly, some less than natural situations." Dr. Kelsey doesn't name Posse, but she's definitely thinking of her. "I am working, personally, to perfect several new additions to our lineups of assistive tech, including compensation for visual impairment, auditory impairment, and speech impairment."

But then Roni smiles, and taps a few toggles on her wheelchair. Straps tighten around her hips and legs, and then the chair transforms, as Veronica stands up, the chair becoming an assistive exoframe that enables a paraplegic to stand, and walk around. Which she does.

"If you ever want to explore biological compliments to your research, genetic treatments perhaps, then let me know and I'd be happy to consult," Nadia offers with a grin, idly leaning on the edge of her desk to get a better look at Veronica's transforming chair. "I can also do incredibly fine detail surgical work if you ever consider any implanted cybernetics. It's much easier to integrate something into the nervous system when you're at a similar scale."

There's a pause as Nadia does some rough calculations in her head, trying to gauge the capabilities of Roni's exoframe system. "Is it mainly intended to replace lost functionality? Or is the goal to exceed what's normally possible for a person?"

"I'm sure you could do wonders for our limited nanotech operations." Veronica responds to Nadia, smiling. She doesn't quite tap-dance, but she does spin about quite agilely in demonstration. It's nowhere near superhuman agility, but she could positively compare with the average person well enough. "I'm definitely interested in what can be done. And if we did that, I would insist that we hire you on, in addition to your work here at GIRL. Toni and I will discuss it and get back to you."

Roni watches those mental calculations, and she shrugs her shoulders easily enough. "This exoframe was intended just to replace lost functionality. But we have used expansions of the same tech to build much more powerful components, things that exceed human specifications and vy towards metahuman capabilities. Hopefully you will eventually meet Augmenta, and Posse, two prime examples of those efforts."

"I could see an exosuit armour, in the style of Iron Man, being very possible using that sort of technology," Nadia muses. "Although I must admit I've never been a huge fan of that sort of system. May as well build a pilotless drone and remote operate it. Safer for the pilot and the team, at least providing you can make sure it's as unhackable as possible." She nods to herself. "Actually even if it gets hacked a pilot-free system has the advantage that your allies can disable it without worrying about harming the occupant."

"I don't actually own any nano-technolgy myself. I can just… become it in a way. Prevents any of those pesky 'grey goo' nightmare scenarios!"

Veronica nods to Nadia. "Absolutely true, on all fronts. Augmenta is a suit like that. Not Stark tech, but aiming towards a similar concept from a very different foundation. It started out as a testbed for our assistive technologies and integration, but quickly became something vastly more." All true, without ever mentioning just who the pilot of that suit really is.

"We are very careful with our use of nanotechnology. But, not having your benefits, we've had to use it to make our person-machine interface systems integrate to the best ouf our abilities." Yet another reason Veronica is interested in the possibility of using Nadia to help with that kind of work.

"It certainly makes sense," Nadia agrees. "Assistive systems of various forms presumably all need a lot of the same sort of person-interface connections. Although I suppose an exosuit can be much less invasive than implanted cybernetics. Does this particular system actually plug into your nerves to pick up instructions? Or are you reading the commands directly from a brain scan?"

She blinks a few times then quickly adds "If that's not too personal a question that is! I do find I get carried away when it comes to science talk. And when I get carried away my tact suffers."

Veronica smiles and shrugs. "That is a failing that Toni and I share with you, Nadia. It's OK." Granted, Roni is the older, more mature one, with better control and better developed empathy and social skills. But they all share the instinct involved, at a minimum. "I try not to take offense."

Roni considers Nadia's words of curiosity, and grins. "One could say 'both', or 'neither'. The technology borrows from both concepts, yet in the end is not exactly either. And I promise, if you end up signing with RESCUE, you will absolutely be read in on the details of the technology."

Nadia Van Dyne oooos. "It's increasingly sounding like signing up will be worthwhile just for the fun bedtime reading," she notes, possibly just for her own benefit. "Very little of my own work involves computers for the processing. But I've had to work on some cybernetics problems when I was growing up. Mostly organ and limb replacements.. Often iterative upgrades to existing designs although none I'd care to instal in anyone."

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