Disclaimers: I own nothing; I just like writing about it. This is my version of how and why Diane came to the NSA, and the nanite program. Backstory for Diane's character, and it's dedicated to a guy named Steve, and to all the other unfortuante guys like him, and like Charlie.
Please: Enjoy, as I have enjoyed all the other Jake fics (among others), R&R -- I'm behind on my reviewing, and I've been out of the publishing realm for a while, so I'm a bit rusty and would dearly love to hear feedback, as I have much more to share with you if you like this ... :)
Diane tried not to fidget as she waited. She took several deep breaths to steady herself, and tried to think about the reasons why she was here. Calling to mind the techniques she had learned in martial arts training, she tried to relax her mind, but it was difficult – unlike other opportunities she had available, this interview was important on so many different levels.
She pondered the many reasons why she was so adamant about securing this position; inevitably, the conversation with Bill came to the forefront of her mind. Although she had been preparing for this position and gearing up for it for years, it had taken on a new importance after what had happened to Charlie just a few weeks prior.
When she got the message, she'd immediately returned home to Bar Harbor. She had shown up at the house, visiting with several members of her family for a while, but her oldest brother had been noticeably absent.
"He's out in the barn," her mother had said, in response to the questioning look on Diane's face.
Diane had walked out to the barn, and slowly opened the door. Bill was busy on the lathe, working on smoothing some small hockey sticks. He was concentrating heavily on the task; she waited until he looked up. The big blond man smiled at her and stopped the machine.
"Hey there, Smarty-pants Sis," he said, as he walked over to her.
"Hey, Bigger Brother," she replied warmly, as they embraced. Bill hugged her fiercely tight; she could feel hidden sobs in him, and she tried to hug them out of him.
"I'm so sorry about Charlie."
Bill nodded silently. He stepped back and smiled at her, blinking back tears.
"I was just working on some sticks for the local pee-wee league. Keeps my mind busy."
"Want some help?"
"You still remember how to wrap 'em?"
"Hey, I learned from the best equipment manager in the league, didn't I?"
"That you did, ma'am; that you did," he grinned broadly at her as she took up her old spot on the stool on the far side of the bench.
She began the wrapping on the sticks, slowly, carefully, and they worked together for a while in silence, each gaining some comfort in the tasks at hand. Diane knew Bill would speak when he was ready – if he felt like talking.
"Charlie told me something before it happened. Something you should know."
She looked up at him.
Bill looked at his sister. "Diane, I know you're thinking about going to work for the NSA. I know you've been thinking about it ever since your trouble with the professor."
Diane said nothing; it wasn't an experience they had ever discussed, she wasn't planning to start now, and she didn't think that was why he mentioned it.
"There's another reason for you to go now."
She looked at him questioningly.
Bill stopped the machine and rested his arms on the workbench.
"When Charlie came back, he wasn't himself; you know that. But in the last week or so, he had picked up a fair bit. In retrospect, I guess he had it planned for a while, and he was just setting things straight before he went," Bill said thoughtfully.
"Last week, he comes up here, and starts helping me with sticks, just like you're doing now, and he suddenly says 'Y'know, Bill, the NSA actually has a program that could have helped guys like me.'"
"So I ask him what he's talking about, and he says 'I'm not supposed to tell you about it, but I know Diane is considering going there, and it's exactly the kind of thing that would work really well for her.'"
"I say 'Charlie, why the heck didn't they help you if they could?' and he says 'It's not there yet. They've got a ways to go, but I heard about it and I know it'll be great some day, and if Diane's in there, I know it'll be even better.'"
"Then he looks at me and he says 'You'll be sure to tell her, right Bill? Cross your heart and hope to die?' and I say-"
"Stick a needle in my eye," Diane chimed in with her brother on the old childhood phrase; they chuckled slightly at the memory. Bill sighed, and looked down.
"I should have known the way he was talking that something was going to happen."
Diane reached over and put one of her hands over his.
"Bill, you couldn't know. Charlie was never the same; in truth, he never really made it all the way back. Only part of him ever got here."
A tear trickled down his cheek, landing unceremoniously in the sawdust. Diane squeezed her brother's hand reassuringly, and said nothing, waiting for him to regain his composure. When she sensed his anguish had subsided somewhat, she asked the obvious question.
"What was he on about, Bill?"
Bill cleared his throat, and looked up.
"Nano-technology, Sis. They're working on tiny computers which would help soldiers in the field heal faster by taking over where the damaged cells couldn't do the work."
Diane's mouth inadvertently fell open.
"Was he serious?"
"Serious as a heart attack. You know he worked for the NSA; it could be true."
"But why would he tell you about it? Don't they have confidentiality agreements about that stuff?"
He shrugged slightly. "Like I said, in hindsight, I expect he was putting things right before he took himself out of the world."
"Would you do this for me, Diane? Would you go to the NSA and pick up wherever this got left off?"
She hesitated only for a moment, and squeezed his hand again.
"You know I will."
Bill smiled at her, and returned the gentle, manual embrace.
Diane was drawn out of her reverie, as Deputy Director Beckett strode down the hall towards her.
Diane stood up, and smoothed her suit. "Yes."
"Please, come this way," the short, efficient woman led her to an expansive office, and shut the door behind her. She strode around behind the desk, and sat down in the leather armchair heavily, sighing. She gestured at the chair across from her.
"Please, have a seat."
Diane sat down; she concentrated on the small, champagne bottle top chair on the desk, to keep her thoughts straight.
Louise moved some folders around on her desk, and pulled one out, opening it and reviewing the papers inside.
"Doctor Hughes, your credentials are outstanding, but I must tell you, the other information in your background does concern me."
Diane steadied herself. "I'm sure it does, Director Beckett; I'm well aware of the requirements for the NSA and their preference for no involvement in any kind of legal matters, but if I might point out, I was the victim in that case, and I did the right thing, and followed all of the legal procedures to the letter. Don't you think that alone indicates my belief in the strength of our legal system and its surrounding support systems?"
Louise looked up, surprised. She'd expected some sort of defense, but Diane's logic was forceful, confident.
Diane sensed she'd made it under the radar; she leaned forward, and launched into her practiced speech.
"Furthermore, Director Beckett, my intention for coming to the NSA is indeed based in part on that experience – thanks to that period of time, I can empathize completely with victims of terror, and I want to put my talents to work with the one agency in the world that is actively seeking to root out terrorism in our society and around the world."
Louise studied her. She felt a slight sense of shame as she realized she was expecting someone who acted like the victim that Diane had been; the confident manner in which the diminutive brunette conducted herself had eradicated that expectation.
She looked down at the file again, a little more closely; now she was intrigued; Diane didn't need to work at the NSA. There were plenty of places she could go and practice medicine; she truly wanted to be there.
"Is that all, Doctor Hughes?"
Diane looked directly at her, and then reached into the slim organizer on her lap. She withdrew the first of two pictures and placed it on the desk. The deputy director tried not to register shock given her immediate recognition of the smiling, handsome young man in the center of the photo.
"This is Charlie. He was my brother's best friend. This is a picture of them when they were on the high school hockey team together."
Diane withdrew the second picture from her organizer, as she continued.
"He worked here until he was injured in the Middle East by a roadside bomb – I'm sure I don't have to tell you that. This is what he looked like when he came back," she said, as she placed the second photo next to the first one. Now Louise's reaction was one of intense sadness; this, too, she tried desperately to hide.
"I'm also certain you already know that he killed himself a couple of weeks ago."
Louise stared at the pictures, pretending to look at them as she mentally prepared herself for what might happen next. Charlie's had been one of those cases that just reminded everyone of the true fragility of life; and they had held their breath at the NSA regarding what he might have divulged before he shot himself. They always had the plausible deniability approach that they could take if someone came forward with any information he had given them, but it was difficult to root out the conspiracy theorists when they invoked that fib.
"What you might not know, Director Beckett, is that I'm fairly certain Charlie broke his confidentiality agreement, by telling my brother about the nano-technology program here, the goal of which is to develop nanobot technology that can aide soldiers in healing from their wounds. He asked my brother to promise he would tell me about it, because he was confident that the program would make better progress if I were involved."
Diane leaned forward on the desk now.
"I need to be a part of this effort, Director Beckett; I need to be a part of it for my brother, for Charlie, for every red-blooded American kid that ever fought as directed by our country and came back in a body bag, or, like Charlie, only made it back in bits and pieces."
Diane took a breath and continued.
"I need to be a part of it for myself, for my government and country, and for everyone who's ever had to thrive beyond a tragic, life-altering experience." Her eyes never left the deputy director's face.
Louise was impressed by the earnestness that Diane displayed; a small voice reminded her that such earnestness was usually deflated by heartache in this line of work eventually.
The deputy director knew that Charlie had been smart about people, and if he had violated his confidentiality agreement for the sake of this girl, then there was a very good chance that she would indeed be a good addition to the experiment team. She looked at Diane, carefully choosing what she said next.
"Dr. Hughes, if you worked here, what would you tell your brother about what Charlie said?"
Diane gazed steadily at her.
"Clearly, Charlie was not in his right mind; tragically, I don't know if he ever was after the accident. It's not unusual for patients with terminal diseases or those who've suffered like he did to make up stories to help them deal with the daily consequences of their disease or injury."
"It wouldn't bother you to say those types of things to your family?"
"Off the record?"
"If you prefer; this is just an interview."
Diane leaned forward again.
"Charlie believed in doing the right thing, by whatever means necessary, not necessarily doing things right. Working here would be an honor to his memory; I want to work here by whatever means necessary to accomplish that objective."
Louise gazed at the young woman for a moment, toying with her options: Invoke the standard denial of knowledge drilled into all NSA employees, painting the usual picture of Charlie as a tragic consequence of his own actions, or hire this girl.
She stood up and smiled, as she extended her hand across the desk to her new employee
"Welcome to the NSA, Dr.Hughes."
Part 2 and others coming SOON ... I really hope you liked reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it ... :)