AN: I really just love exploring the idea of Wammy's House...I always imagine it being sort of a darkish Orson Scott Card's Battle School meets Bruce Coville's AI Gang with a dash of Hogwarts thrown in. While writing Sins of the Father I mentally planned out a lot of things that were happening outside of Roger's view, and that really didn't add anything to the point of the story, but I thought were kind of fun. So this will be sort of a collection of very, very loosely related shorty stories compatible with SotF, centered around the House and all the goings-on there. Not in any sort of order, and probably gradually introducing some (ok, a lot of) OCs.
ETA: Ultimately this morphed into sort of a chronologically parallel but plot-dependent "sequel" of Sins of the Father, so I recommend reading that first if you haven't already.
All the kids in the House are geniuses, but they're all different flavors of genius, and anyone would be an idiot not to take advantage of living in the middle of such a circus of talent. A white-grey-black market thrives at Wammy's, which the staff is only partially aware of. Things get slipped under doors, emailed on secure connections, passed at the dining hall tables, exchanged at night while dodging the watchful eyes of the matron and her aides. Program code, handmade or upgraded gadgets, consultations, help on homework, loyalty in social and academic and political spats—and of course, the universal currencies, money and cigarettes.
The medium of exchange that gets the most traffic, however, is information. In a place where everyone is scrambling to climb over everyone else, where even the slightest edge can tip the balance, information is gold.
That's why Linda is knocking on Matt's door at 3:00 am two days after Mello runs away.
It comes as no surprise to Matt, who's had several such visitors over the last thirty hours. Everyone knows that he and Qarri are the only ones whose bugs weren't knocked out when Roger upgraded the jammer, and Concord, who also probably could have hacked it, isn't around anymore. She was way too nice for this place, Matt often thinks; she'd share information for pretty damn cheap if she thought it was important enough. M and Q aren't above wringing people out for it. Fresh information, right from the headmaster's office, hot off the presses. Everyone knows that something happened in Roger's office, and Near isn't talking. Literally. Already Sember, Xie, Hopper, Echo, and Paolo have stopped by to buy the gossip; and Isabel made an attempt (stupidly) to wheedle it out under the pretense of comforting him, assuming (incorrectly) that Matt would be vulnerable in the sudden absence of his friend. All in all, Matt stands to make a nice stack in terms of cash and favors off of this unexpected ordeal.
After a moment of waiting, four different locks click, and the door swings open to reveal the hacker. "You want that bite, da?" he mutters, waving her in and snicking the door shut. Dealing in the hall would be stupid; Marta is severe about the curfew, and other students might overhear.
"Da," she confirms, picking carefully around tangles of cords that crisscross the floor in the screenlit darkness. Most of the kids sneak outside or at least open the windows to smoke, since Roger and the matron frown heavily on it, but the recent stress is apparently enough that Matt doesn't care; the room reeks of cigarettes. Screensavers play over three separate monitors and a heavy club mix thrums quietly on the speakers.
"Just a listen, or the clip?" he asks, rifling through the piles of clutter on his desk. He doesn't even have to ask which sound bite she wants. The whole House has been buzzing with furtive speculation, and anyone who can afford it is trying to get it out of someone.
"Clip." It will cost more, but Linda would far rather have her own copy of Matt's recording of Mello and Near's final conversation with Roger, to analyze without anyone observing her reactions. "What's the rate?"
Matt looks at her appraisingly. Linda assumes he does, anyway. He's started wearing those odd mirrored goggles lately (Linda has no idea how he can see in the dark in those things) and so she can see herself, reflected back in the huge round lenses, but not his eyes.
"Draw me a picture."
"…You want a drawing?" Linda repeats, extremely skeptical and just a tad touched, and wondering what, if anything, this request means.
"Don' get all fuzzy on me," says Matt, allowing the barest shade of scorn to color his voice. Not enough to make her mad enough to give up and go to another supplier, but enough to dispel whatever silly romantic notions he figures are cooking up in her head. "Nobody here gonna be anything short of ridiculously successful out there with the wormbait. Ten years and the scribbles in the margins of you math notes gonna be worth a fortune. Sketch me up something that'll tug on the purse strings of little old ladies with a shit ton of money and I get you a copy of that clip. Hao ba?"
"You sure can compliment a girl," she says flatly. So Matt's given up on the succession, it seems. Linda has a sickening feeling she knows exactly what she's going to hear on that clip.
"Tuh. Come back with double D's and we see about compliments," Matt mutters, rolling his eyes and hunting through the boxes of spare computer parts and hardware that line the walls for the desk lamp he uses to work on circuit boards. "I got pencils around here somewhere…." A heap of junk gets shoved off a table to clatter on the floor, the cord of a gaming system unplugged and the lamp cord plugged in. Linda winces at the sudden flare of yellowish light that pools over the table.
She's still a little miffed, but she just has to know what's happened between the top two and really, given the sort of price he could ask, this is a steal. Linda sits down and starts drawing while Matt finds a clean disk and sets about copying the file. It doesn't take either of them long.
"Make sure you sign and date it," Matt tells her as he clicks the disk into a case and tosses it on the table, then stops dead upon seeing what she's drawn. "…That just low."
"In ten years' time s'not gonna be a security issue," Linda says coolly, swiping up the clip before he decides not to let her have it after all.
Matt snorts. "Whatever. Out." The hacker practically shoves her into the hall, and the four locks slot closed again.
"Thanks," she tells the door drily, then hurries back to her room to finally know for sure what the hell is going on around here, why the foundations of the world seem to be crumbling silently beneath their feet.
Meanwhile, Matt lights a cigarette and stares sidelong down at Linda's drawing, golden in the lamplight. A much younger Mello dashes full tilt on the football pitch, one foot swung back in preparation to smash into the ball, and the vague shadows of other players and the treeline are scribbled in behind him. Somehow in a few quick pencil strokes Linda has captured that fierce animal energy, the clench-jawed battle madness in his focused expression and the falcon-dive swoop of his arms.
Yeah, that'll bring in some cash, Matt thinks, and yanks out power cord of that warm yellow light, letting the dim icy glow of the computer monitors reclaim the room.
da - (Russian) yes
hao ba - (Chinese) How's that sound?/Is that suggestion good?