AN: Hello! It's me again here, with my newest experimentation in writing.
This story is obviously AU, for all our beloved characters obviously aren't in the tech industry, and don't live in modern day. It's set in Sydney, Australia... because it's the city I'm most familiar with. I could have set this in many other places in the world, really, but Sydney is one of the loves of my life. Besides, I found it really hard to write about a city I've never been to without feeling like I would never be able to do it justice.
As I started writing, I realized how many technical terms, landmarks, and slangs I would have to explain for this to totally make sense for all my readers. Thus I'd copied some other authors' idea of having a footnote/glossary at the end explaining terms and places. Let me know if you think it's not really working; I can basically do it another way and integrate the definitions into the story.
Anyway, enjoy! Do tell me one thing, though: YAY or NAY. I'm curious of what people think about the concept. It's pretty much a fresh work in progress, and thus many things can be changed for the future.
Disclaimer: THG Trilogy and its characters belong to Suzanne Collins. I'm just borrowing our beloved characters to tell this little story I have in mind, of what would happen had they all been geeks/tech company workers. Apologies to all the parties offended by my decision of taking the characters into this AU :).
Today is the day.
... well, today is supposed to be the day, but from the way it looks now, it might not be the day at all.
Let's get started on how we got here. Alright. Firstly, there're Finnick and Gale. My... well, I guess my best mates, if you can call it so. It started with going to the same college up in California in the States, and bonded through being the only people who understood 'drongo'(1), 'happy little vegemites'(2), and 'chucking the meat on the barbie'(3), though we were in different years. And ended back here in Australia, where we all hailed from. We've just made a communal decision to move back from the States, after our few-year-stint working there. And apply for jobs at the Sydney branch of Mockingjay Tech, one of the world's biggest web tech companies, which we all got.
Thus here we are in Sydney. Finnick's hometown, which is way bigger and more metropolitan than mine and Gale's quaint, lovely RAdelaide (well, Adelaide, but we all call it RAdelaide because it's RAD). Arrived after five hours of delay on Saturday night. Straight away headed to Finnick's awesome grandma Mags' place in Chatswood(4), which was twenty minutes by train from the Sydney Central Business District, up north. Spent the entire Sunday conked out from jet lag and sleeping it through to Monday morning, until Gale woke up and woke the rest of us up with his Nerf water gun.
If everything went to plan, we would've been sitting at the reception of Mockingjay Tech's Sydney office right now, with five minutes to spare before our New Employee Induction starts. Gale has timed it to the seconds, being the Drill Sergeant he is. Seven thirty-six train from Chatswood, arriving seven fifty-nine at Town Hall station. From Town Hall, five minutes walk to Darling Harbour(5), where Mockingjay Tech is. There is supposed to be a coffee place at the bottom, and there would have been fifteen minutes for us to enjoy some before facing the day. Well, luck - a really bad luck, I must say - has it.
Cityrail - or Cityfail, as Finnick calls it - fails.
Our train stopped at Milson's Point(6). Power failure, they said. We stood there at the station for ten minutes, with perhaps a thousand or so others, before Drill Sergeant took initiative and paved our way out through the crowd. Ten more excruciating minutes in the taxi queue, and off we went. To the city. Over the Harbour Bridge - or Coathanger, as Finnick openly calls it. In the morning peak hour.
Needless to say, the plan is now history. Five minutes to the start of our training, and we are still running through Sydney Central Business District, in our dress pants and dress shirts.
"Sorry! I'm really sorry!"
That was Finnick, nearly colliding heads-on with a woman with four coffees in hand.
The pedestrian crossing light begins flashing a red man as soon as I reach it. Great. Add one more minute to the remaining travel time. Across the road, Gale and Finnick are already dashing through the next block of skyscrapers. Damn taller mates and their longer legs.
The light turns green for me. And so my journey continues. Two more blocks. That's all that it takes.
My light isn't actually green at that next crossing, but, whatever. There's no one around anyway. I don't know whether they fine people for jaywalking here, but, screw it. I just need to get to work right now. I really need to get to work.
445. 447. 449. And surely there it is - number 451. The building.
"G'day," the security guard greets, as I step my foot into the skyscraper housing Mockingjay Tech. I try to reply with a smile, though my heart's thundering in my chest. One more minute till the start, if my smartphone's correct. Hell knows how long it would take to get up there to level twelve.
"Where were you?!" Gale demands, as soon as I join him and Finnick in the long lift queue.
"Captured by the red light," I try to joke, just to calm myself - and Gale - down. Obviously it doesn't quite work, for I'm still panicking and he's still scowling. Way to go, Mellark.
"Guess how many lifts are operating," Finnick says, turning to face both of us.
"One?" I guess jokingly.
Oh, well. One minute's an impossible goal now.
Gale mutters something which sounds like profanity. As usual, he never enjoys his frustration, though. A second later, he's already looking around. Obviously trying to find a new way up.
"The fire escape's just there," he then hiss, pointing to our left with his eyes. "Let's go."
I was expecting a stampede of people following us - or at least some curious looks - as we broke apart from the queue, but, no. No single head turned, as everyone bows and bows over their smartphones. Technology addiction is also a problem in this part of the world, seemingly.
The fire escape's unlocked. As we push through it, I can see grey concrete and stairs. Lots of them, crisscrossing above our heads. All the way to thirteen, the topmost level. And we're going to twelve. Which means twelve flights of stairs, as we're currently at ground.
I guess we can all say bye to dry, nice-smelling shirts now.
Twelve flights of stairs, and, bingo! We're standing in front of a locked door, without that little white badge to swipe on that little black sensor. Turns out luck hasn't been ours.
"Fuck," Finnick swears openly, laughing in desperation. "We're late now."
"Yeah," I agree, chuckling along. Well, at least we tried. We can always explain to Mr. Abernathy later.
Gale scowls at us. I know too well how much he's appreciating this, being late and getting beaten by the systems and all. Raised as what people in the States would call "military brat", being late is never a question for him. I can see how pissed he is now.
"Screw this," he says, after a few seconds of scowls.
Then, just like that, he starts banging his fists on the door.
We watch with idiotic grins, as a few seconds passed and nothing happens. Then, someone opens the door from the other side. And nearly ran into Gale's fist.
Needless to say, Finnick and I both burst out laughing.
"Anything I can help with?" the red-haired woman on the door asks, once she's gotten over the shock of having three weirdos on her fire door.
"We're going to Mockingjay Tech," Gale answers, plain and hostile. "We need to get there now."
"Are you visitors?" the woman drills further.
"No," Finnick chimes in, with that voice I can best describe as his flirting voice. "We work there."
"Starting today," I add, just to avoid a further confusion. The woman's already shocked as, judging that look in her eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaims, her eyes flashing a bit in realization. "I see! Do you have your confirmation letters with you?"
I pull out mine, and I can see both my friends pulling out theirs. That's not all of it, though. Next question was,
And even after we pull out our Photo IDs, it's still not enough.
"Have you guys all cut your hair?"
I don't even know who's answering, or if anyone answers at all, for I'm too busy restraining my laughter.
That seems to be the last question, though, for she lets us in afterwards.
And so here we are, standing in the middle of Mockingjay Tech's reception, which is a stark contrast from the gray staircases in its forest green glory. Definitely not late, for there also stands four other new employees, gathering in a group close to where we stand.
"Alright, guys!" the redhead - who turns out to be the receptionist - calls happily, at ten minutes to nine. "Come collect your new badges here!"
We line up for our badges. There's this immense happiness in me when I receive mine. And, an immense regret. When they asked me to send over a headshot which best represents me, I'd never thought that they would end up using it as my badge photo. Had I known about that, I would've put on something more respectable than that old, paint-stained Coldplay T-shirt.
Well, it could have been worse. Take Finnick, for example.
"Finnick, the badging team said sorry about this, but they've had to photoshop a shirt onto your picture. Some of our colleagues here find bare chests offensive."
"Even mine?" Finnick asks, clearly a bit hurt from the treatment.
The receptionist - Lavinia, from what I can read on her badge - just ignores him and calls the next person in line.
Thankfully, I don't have to deal too long with Finnick's bruised ego. As soon as the last person has their badge, out appears the man himself. Haymitch Abernathy. Technical Site Lead(7) for Mockingjay Tech Australia. Or, to put it in layperson's term, The Big Boss of This Office.
"Well," he says - I don't know to whom, but most likely to himself -, "don't we have such strapping Lads here today?"
And that's true, actually. There are seven new employees here. And zero females.
"Welcome to Mockingjay Tech! And congratulations for making it here. Such a long journey, I bet, for some of you. I know none of you got in here the first try."
Seems like the boss's a very honest person. And yes, I didn't get in the first time - and neither did Finnick or Gale. Apparently, less than ten first applicants get an offer from Mockingjay Tech, each year. That's just how life works here, in this company which apparently holds ten percent of the traffic in the world wide web.
No one responds to that, so he just turns around on his heels and starts walking back into the open door. Being the front of the line, as of currently, I just start following him hesitantly. Turns out that this was the right thing to do, though, for he says nothing.
We are led through rows and rows of desks. Each with two monitors, and a person in jeans and T-shirt staring at them. With our dress pants and shirts, we easily look plain of out place here. Even the boss himself wears jeans, as I slowly realised. Black jeans, but, still jeans.
We halt, when he stops in front of a door and peers in from the little strip of clear glass between the door and the wall.
"This is supposed to be our room for this morning," he announces, with a little bit of a smirk. "But it's eight fifty eight now, and thus we can't yet have our claim of it."
"Aren't we supposed to start at eight thirty?" Gale asks, half scowling and half frowning.
The boss snorts at this.
"That's on paper," he then answers, with this clever smirk on his face. "The practice is, it starts at nine. And no one questions this, so let's just wait."
Even though I didn't turn aside to see Gale's face, I can already feel his faith in the company decreasing. A little bit.
Five minutes later, and we're still standing. Looks like whoever is in the room isn't going to finish.
"Alright, alright," the boss mumbles to himself, throwing one last dirty look inside the room. "Time to oust Little Miss Jo there."
Then, just like that, without any knocks or warning, he yanks the door open.
The room, which was red all over, contains no one but a spiky-haired, small female sitting on the table with her laptop. She turns to the door upon hearing the commotion, and returns the boss's snarl with a near identical manner.
"Sup, Boss?" she asks him, crossing one of her frayed-jeans clad legs over another.
"Come out of there, won't you?" the boss responds, snarling back. "Your time's up. Learn to live with that."
The woman sighs and rolls her eyes.
"Fine, Haymitch," she says, as she jumps down on her feet. "All yours now."
With that, she folds her laptop's screen and walks out. I can't help but noticing the way her wide-set eyes examines each of us as she walks past. She's sizing us up.
"That's Johanna," the boss explains voluntarily, as we all pile in into the room. "One of our lead Infrastructure Engineers(8). Never use the 'how many tries' argument to challenge her. She got in here her first try. You can, however, use the height argument. She's five foot three or something like that, if I see it correctly."
Some of my fellow newbies start chuckling, Gale and Finnick included. I don't see the point in laughing over it, though, so I just stay quiet.
"Alright," Haymitch says, looking amused at himself, as everyone settles down. "Who among you all is Peeta Mellark?"
"I am, Sir," I say, without too much thinking.
"Very well," Haymitch responds, his head turned to me. "Though I would rather you drop the 'Sir', though. The last time I checked, I haven't been Knighted by The Queen."
Everyone laughs again. And this time, I play along. This one seems funny, after all.
"Look, Kid," Haymitch continues, once we all quiet down again. "I have to be honest that I don't know what to do with you. In history, the Sydney Office has never had a new Product Manager(9) before. We've only had transfers."
All eyes are on me now. This is getting really awkward.
"But anyway," the boss continues, pulling out a ten-times folded, crumply paper from his pocket. "I've called my old buddy Chaff up in New York, and here's the checklist he gave me. Hopefully I'll get this right."
And so, begins my first day in the office.
The training itself lasts until just before lunch. It's full of technicalities and pretty much boring, and quickly gets really blokey with our crass boss and seven of us boys there. Now, don't get me wrong. Blokey's good, most of the times. It does get ugly at times, though, such as that one time where one of those four boys I haven't yet known makes this joke about the dating policy. Or that one time where another one makes that comment about "time of the month" and its unfairness towards innocent men.
I might have had my fair share of dating and messing around, but I definitely wasn't brought up to think that way about girls. Really.
Lunchtime feels like a refreshing breeze, to me. Gale and Finnick seem to share my opinion about that gang of four we were stuck with, so the three of us made our own way to one of those cafes lacing the street down there. In retrospect, I should have prepared a sandwich or so, but this morning, I was too busy anticipating to be able to think about lunch. Perhaps, tomorrow.
"Let's go there," Finnick decides, pointing at a small-ish cafe at the corner of the block. "Bits for bites. A techy cafe, for techy people, I guess."
Well, I don't think Finnick's way of deciding where to eat is the best of all, but it looks interesting enough that I just leave it up to him. I don't feel like debating about eateries with him today. As usual, Gale just follows through with what we decide. He's never fussed about food - one other thing his military upbringing brought, I guess.
The cafe's pretty jam-packed, but there are still empty spaces on it. Finnick goes first and places his order quickly. Without even looking at him, I know where he's going. It's no secret he likes sitting near girls, in the hope of chatting up one or two. He's truly a casanova, though not a jerk.
He's already sitting at the corner table, though - and sulking a bit - when I finish ordering. Looks like he's just gotten his first rejection of the day.
"No luck?" I ask him, just to get him happy again. Once he's all vented out, he's usually back into his happy chappy self.
"Luck's not mine today," he answers, leaning over the table to be closer to my ear. "See that table behind you? I know a girl there, but apparently they're having their Mockingjay Female Engineers weekly catchup or something like that."
Now, that is interesting. I've never heard of such society before. Which is shameful, for I like the sound of it. Even though I'm not a woman, I know enough female classmates to be able to tell how hard it is to be one in tech.
Behind Finnick is a mirrored wall, which helps me looking at the table he's just pointed at. There are probably seven or eight women there - some young, and some middle-aged. That Johanna girl from this morning is there, sitting at the head of the table slamming her fist fiercely on it. Looks like she's somewhat of a leader there. On her left side, sits another young woman, green-eyed and approachable-looking. Judging the way Finnick's currently eyeing her, that is definitely the one he knows.
"Remember Annie?" Finnick asks me.
Of course, I remember 'Annie'. How could I not remember her, if everything Finnick ever talks about when pissed drunk was Annie? Well, more exactly, not her, but his fantasies and thoughts about her.
"That's the girl."
I take another look at her, on the mirror. The girl's quite pretty, actually, true to Finnick's taste of women. I don't get to see the rest of her friends, though, for Gale's approaching. Not our table, but their table. I watch from the mirror, as he goes straight to a woman sitting across the Annie girl. The one who sits with her back to the mirror, her dark hair in a single braid down her back.
"Well done," Finnick comments, as our friend finally joins us on our table. "Looks like you're already picking up."
Gale just snorts at his remark.
"Dude," he says, looking at Finnick. "That's the cousin."
And then, just then, the dark haired girl turns around.
Gale's cousin. Katniss Everdeen.
The girl who was, for those last two years of my high school life, my secret, unattainable crush.
I don't know why Gale hasn't yet told us she works at Mockingjay Tech too.
to be continued...
1 An insult meaning 'really really stupid'
2 Line from the famous jingle for Vegemite, a yeast extract spread signature of Australia
3 barbie = barbeque
4 Chatswood is one of the suburbs at the Northwest of Sydney city. It's popular with families, and is one of the major suburbs.
5 A waterfront precinct in Sydney city. Not where the Opera House and Harbour Bridge is. It's south of that, and it's where the Star Casino is.
6 The Sydney Harbour Bridge connects Sydney city and North Sydney, another Central Business District across the water. Milson's Point is the last stop before the bridge, if you're travelling from the north into the city.
7 Basically, Technical Site Lead is the boss of all the software engineers in the office.
8 Infrastructure Engineer is one of the terms used to refer to software engineers whose main responsibility is to keep a website up and running. They do the capacity planning, monitor for breakages, and perform first aid on a failing system. They are the backbone of a web company.
9 A Product Manager is basically the bridge between the Software Engineers and the employees handling the business side of the tech company. They discuss strategies with both the engineers and the other employees, and is responsible for making sure a project goes well, from conception until launch. They communicate with people and do extensive research on user satisfaction and requirements. They need to have some programming skills to, for they need to be able to communicate with the Software Engineers.
Okay. So we've gotten here.
... YAY or NAY? Do let me know, for I'm curious :).