Maybe a Little 1984

March 24, 2017:

Sloane Albright gets the personal attention of one Phil Coulson. Is he trying to comfort her, or is he trying to advance SHIELD's agenda with her? A little from Column A, a little from Column B…

The Triskelion

Buy one bag over your head, get one free!


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Melinda May


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The first few hours were something of an oxymoron: Events felt like a speed-rushed blur, but all the same, it felt like it was an eternity. A few pokes and prods, questions about when she ate, how much she ate, when she slept, the last thing she remembered, does she know her own name, would she like to take a shower, could she consent to a few blood tests— just as one would expect, she was fairly exhausted by the end of it.

Then, she slept for damn near a day. You would think months inside a cocoon would make her rested enough.

All things being equal, Sloane looks much better today. Showered and slime-free, dressed in a SHIELD-branded t-shirt a size too large for her frame and matching sweatpants, she sits on the bed looking tired still— not physically, but certainly emotionally, her hair worn loose and a distressingly bland dinner tray sitting half-finished, just out of reach. In front of her is a tablet, locked to visitor access only, letting her read the news and catch up on everything she's missed in the past few months.

Occasionally, she rubs her thumb across the scales on her forearm and the back of her wrist, still not used to the feeling.

Every so often, she glances up, looking not just at the heart monitor keeping track of her vitals, but at the doctors, nurses, and lab technicians that occasionally steal glances at her. She knows what they're doing, that they only have her best interests at heart, but it still makes her feel like she's on display… or put under the microscope.

"This sucks," she mutters to herself, rocking to lay back on the bed and folding her hands behind her head.


"Nobody tried to feed you the fish sticks right?"

The voice belongs to a man who could benefit from a good tailor. His suit is proper enough, but doesn't exactly fit in a sharp, snappy way. He looks a bit like a meandering, ambling bureaucrat or accountant who just sort of wandered in here. A slight, fatherly smile tugs at his forgettable face; laugh lines deepen around kindly eyes.

"Because if they did, wow is someone ever going to have to take some sort of sensitivity course."

He waves a hand, all but shooing various doctors, nurses, and lab technicians with her best interests at heart away from her. He comes to stand beside her bedside.

In his hand he holds something other than hospital food. He holds a bag that comes from a local burger place, and it smells hot and cheesy and great. "Everything's better with cheeseburgers," he offers sympathetically, in a way that indicates he maybe heard the comment about how bad this sucks. "This is all for you. The last time I was in the hospital I think I lost 30 pounds because I just couldn't stomach the food. One of the most advanced organizations in the world, and somehow we still can't nail hospital fare. Really, someone ought to get R&D working on that one."


She should call her family. She really, really should. She should let them know she's alive, and with the authorities. She should tell them, and she should just treat this like a band-aid, and then deal with it. She should not just be sitting here doing nothing, and—

'Nobody tried to feed you the fish sticks, right?'

— then she sits up. Sloane looks a little surprised, like this suit just popped up out of nowhere like a damn ninja. The question leaves her looking a little dismayed, perhaps not quite expecting that particular joke before she shakes her head, and …

The smell. The mouth-watering smell. The salt, the sauce, the onions and cheese and tomatoes and— the bun, and /the grease/. Taking the bag, unearthing the cheeseburger and peeling back the wrapper, the Inhuman takes a big bite (complete with slightly sharper-than-normal incisors) and has that /look/ on her face. The kind where the food is more than just good, it's… nourishing.

Even in the grease. It's filling, and hot, and god damn delicious.

After the chew and swallow, Sloane sucks in a deep breath before looking up at the Agent with fiery orange eyes filled with relief. "Thank you. So, so much. I… I didn't even realize how much I needed that."

Bite number two, devoured like she's trying to inhale it.

"An' def'n'ly, I f'nk the p'tatos'r like, powd'r."


Phil pulls up a seat, that slight smile still playing about his face as she opines on the potatoes. He seems pleased that the cheeseburger is going over well. "I'm Agent Phil Coulson," he says, just introducing himself conversationally, casually. He settles into the seat and studies Sloane, but just in a very low-key sort of way. It's not the same sort of studiousness that the staff was giving her.

In fact, he seems completely content to just hang out there, being companionable while Sloane eats her cheeseburger. At last, though, he says, "You seem to be handling all of this very well, Sloane. Externally anyway. But I know it's a really big adjustment, and none of this is easy." He tilts his head to one side. "What are your thoughts about what you'd like to do when all of these tests and evaluations are over with, when we're sure you're healthy and have all of your abilities reasonably under control?" They might not have mentioned that last part to her yet, of course… but it's kind of par for the course as to what SHIELD is doing when they bring in the Inhumans they find. Uncontrolled powers are just as dangerous as misapplied powers.


He's Phil Coulson. "Sloane Albright," she replies, entirely out of courtesy— she's fully aware that he likely knows her name, if he's talking to her.

There's a lot of worry and fear in her face, but she's doing her best to try to hide it behind the food being slammed into her mouth and keeping her eyes evasive, focused on her food rather than the man. Externally, she's handling it pretty well. Internally, she's just a kid— nineteen. It's easy for Phil to see:

She's fucking terrified.

And now, what does she want to do?

Stopping, her tongue pushes to the inside of her cheek, eyes narrowing while she looks lost, back up to the SHIELD agent. "I don't know. My parents are gonna freak, and… I don't know what I'm gonna do about school. 'Hi, sorry I was gone for like five months, it turns out I'm like, a mutant or something?'"

The ginger girl's jaw shifts to one side. "I mean, I thought that kind of thing was supposed to happen when you were younger," she says, sounding confused even about her own situation. "I never heard of … like… going into a … thing… and coming out, like…"

Sloane looks down, only partially at herself. "… a thing…"


The Agent listens carefully, then says, "You are not, technically, a mutant, though I suppose it's all a matter of semantics." He waits for her to soak that in, then says, "Months ago a substance called Terigen Gas was released into the atmosphere. It impacts people with the right genetic markers in a certain way. Ages ago an alien race tampered with human DNA to try to turn humans into weapons for their war. The mists activate these genetic markers and create unpredictable changes. That's why you were in a cocoon, and that's why you never showed signs of manifesting any powers or any deviations from baseline until now."

He adjusts the way he sits, his mien serious yet somehow still sympathetic.

"I can, if you wish, arrange to have someone go and speak to your parents on your behalf, cushion the blow and ensure that you don't have to deal with their first reaction. You would not be the first mists victim to request that sort of support, and you won't be the last. We're happy to do it for you."

His voice gentles, and he puts a hand on her hospital bed. "You're not a thing. You're still Sloane Albright, a talented musician and highly intelligent young lady. You have a unique look, to be sure, but you're a person. Don't ever refer to yourself as anything else. Don't ever think of yourself as anything else. You might even find someday that your very uniqueness allows you to help people in ways you never could have before. It might all turn into a good thing, if you'll remain open to that possibility. But for now, it's enough that you remember that your appearance is the least part of you. And it's not even close to thing-like."


She's not a mutant. That weird mist was a gas. Her DNA is … what?

The cheeseburger lowers, the paper wrapper crinkling as she starts trying to fit all of this together in her mind. She's … does this mean she's not human? Is she some kind of alien? There's no way to fix this?

Sloane's mouth opens, but she can't quite figure out what she wants to say, even while Phil continues— they'll talk to her family, and prepare them for what's coming. Her vitals blip a bit, giving the quite literal visual representation of the emotional rollercoaster she's taking a ride on right now. Her lips press together, then she frowns, then she leads off into a small nod. A little bit of water drips from the air around her— not from the ceiling or leaky vents, but droplets that just form in the air.

Folding her arms in close, her fingers again absently glide across the smooth, irridescent blue scales. The words admittedly feel like they ring a bit hollow, even if his heart /is/ in the right place; to her, it's easy enough to say she's not a 'thing' when he looks totally normal. She bites down on her lower lip, silent for a long moment while she rubs at her eyes with the back of her hand.

She's not a thing. She even repeats it, like a mantra, mouthing the words with nary a whisper to be heard, even if she's having a hard time believing it.

Clearing her throat, voice hoarse, she sounds like she's trying to get a handle on herself… or possibly just stuff all of it in a bottle and forget about it for now. "So I… wh-what do I do next, then? Do I have to sign something, or…" Or is she getting locked up in a box, or…


Phil reaches out to pop one of those little bubbles, his expression thoughtful. But he leaves off. He can see he's given her too much, too fast. Normally, he has a bit of a defter touch, but there's a lot going on.

She asks if she's going to get locked in a box and his gaze turns compassionate and sad. "No, Sloane, of course we're not going to lock you in a box. We are going to ask you to work with us long enough to learn the extent of your powers, and to gain total control over them. I'd prefer it if you stayed with us during that time. But you're not a prisoner. You haven't done anything wrong. And we're only asking that for both your safety, and the safety of others."

He leans back, the lines in his face still deep with gentle concern for her. "I'm sorry. That this has happened to you. That this is frightening you. That we've frightened you enough to make you think that. But I assure you that you're safe here. You're among friends here. I don't ask that you trust me…but I hope I can alleviate some of your fears nevertheless."


While curiosity seizes Phil, the droplets hang in the air briefly before dropping to the floor. Sloane's head lifts, realizing that 'it' happened again; the burger drops to her lap while she looks briefly panicked by a few drops of indoor rain caused in her presence. "Shit," she says, fingers fanning out and clenching back up as she tries to get her head together.

Inhaling deep and exhaling hard, the ginger-haired girl looks up at Coulson, bringing her head up from deep hang to shallow angle. She's not a prisoner. She doesn't have to stay here if she doesn't want to. They want to help. They want to make sure that she's safe. All of these things are good things, even if she's terrified of each and every single one of them. She has powers, she … has scales, now, and this is just the kind of life that she has to adapt to.

"No, I… Sorry, … I-I mean, I get it. If I freak out I might cause a flood or something in the street. And then someone calls the cops and then I have to go to like, superjail or something. I don't want to cause any problems and I want to just … I want to try to get my life back, Mister Couslon. I'm just scared it won't be there when I get back to it."

Sloane finally looks back up at the Agent, brow creased. "So … what am I supposed to do now?"


"How about we get you out of this hospital bed and give you an actual room? We've got a couple. You can pick," Agent Coulson says, with that same gentle candor. "As far as I can tell you're in good mental and physical health. I'm going to requisition some equipment that will help you practice. Commit to a schedule…say, 8 AM till lunchtime. I'll assign you some trainers who can help walk you through various exercises. The afternoons are yours."

His hazel eyes are gentle as she expresses her fears that she won't have a life to get back to. "I won't lie to you, there's validity to those fears," he says. "We can make arrangements with your school to put you on medical leave. I suggest calling family members and friends, or allowing us to reach out to your family for you. You may find that some people don't deserve to be in your life, because some will turn their back on you, Sloane. That's just the way things go, whenever anything like this happens. Some will be steadfast, friends or loved ones for life. And you'll meet new friends too, some of them in the same boat you are in. There's actually one young lady I wouldn't mind introducing you to, come to think of it…someone who is as lost as you are, as uncertain as you are, though for different reasons."

He smiles faintly. "I think we can make arrangements to get your instruments here, too. It would really be a shame if you stopped playing and practicing."


Get a room. Get a schedule. Get a training regiment. Learn how to control this. She can leave at any time. That's the most important part— the thing that Sloane keeps repeating to herself. She can bail whenever she needs to. She can get the hell out of here and not have to worry about it. She has places she can go, right?

… right?

'Get you out of this hospital bed and into an actual room.' It soundds good on the surface, and Sloane could certainly live with not having the heart monitor and other devices hooked up to her all day, all night, but she's got the nattering feeling that 'a room' might end up being more like 'a cell.' But he said she can walk at any point.

For the young Inhuman, it's her new mantra to stay calm.

The issue as to her family— her friends— brings some weight back to her shoulders, fingers crinkling the paper wrapper as she wanes between wanting to finish off the cheeseburger or not. The situation's definitely one that would give her an excuse to no longer have an appetite. Then, after a few moments of consideration, she starts stuffing the food in her mouth anyway.

It gives her time to think.

Taking the paper napkin from the tray and wiping the corners of her mouth and getting the residual grease from her hands, Sloane drops both wrapper and napkin on the tray, taking a deep breath and searching for her words. Maybe she could call Sally— but she doesn't even know if that weird-ass motorhead is still in the city. A lot can change in five months…

"That'd be fine, I guess. Who knows, maybe I'll hold a concert," the ginger girl adds, throwing her hands up with a wry smirk.

Still pretty awful at this 'hiding her feelings' crap.

"So where do I need to go, like… is this like, an apartment complex or a basement dungeon or something, or … like, do I have to have a bag on my head…"


Phil looks at her with amusement. "Come on," he says, reaching out to gently pluck the IV from her arm. "I'll show you. I mean. I can put the bag over your head if you want, but I always find they're really annoying. Difficult to breathe through, really hot…just super sucky stuff."

He leads her to an elevator. She might be gratified to see he pushes the 'up' button. "It's just a dorm," he says mildly, as they wait for said elevator. "We don't have a lot of these rooms, but. Occasionally we do have the need to offer this kind of assistance. It happens on a case-by-case basis. I am going to assign you a SHIELD case worker besides myself as I can't be here all the time. Clarinda will be responsible for helping you transition out, as well as with getting you ID cards and such, but I'll also be giving you a way to get in touch with me as well."

He looks over at her and says, "If you manage to make it all the way through the control of your abilities then I see no reason why you'd need much monitoring after that, though we'll always be here to help you. You seem interested in doing the right thing right away, and seem to understand the reason for all this. That's not true for everyone. Ah, here we are."

The elevator doors slide open. Phil hits the button for the sixteenth floor. That's not the highest floor. It's just a non-descript floor.


Sloane winces with the IV being removed, fingers pressing at the site. Getting the heart monitor and BP monitor off her is a little easier— a few wires pulled, adhesive pads tugged out from under her shirt, and the velcro tug of the cuff. She's just as eager to get out of here as Agent Coulson is, apparently— and someone else can handle turning off the machines, she doesn't want to break any of that.

Her feet hit the floor— and the pattern of scales seems to swath down over most of the top of her foot, stopping at the joints of her toes. Tugging on a set of plain, cheap slip-on boat shoes with rubber soles as hard as a brick, her hands slip into the pockets of the sweatpants, snagging a matching zip-up to sling over her shoulder.

Hoodie, pants, t-shirt— all she needs now is a coffee mug with a pen, pencil topper, and a balloon.

Silent as he goes over the details of her case, Sloane looks a little distant, not quite able to meet her own gaze in the dull reflection in the elevator doors. "I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. I just… I don't wanna, like, …"

Become a target. Turn into a supervillain. Make her own life impossibly hard. Break things with her (sort of) ridiculous strength. Cause a localized flood that would send a gaggle of newborn mothers and their babies in their big old-school strollers swept off in the current.

Saved by the *bong*. Stepping onto the elevator, the Inhuman follows his actions pretty closely; the button pushed, a glance around as though it'll give her better insight into her surroundings. No escape, either.

Then, after a long and awkward pause, she looks up at the Agent with eyes half-lidded and only half-serious. Maybe half. Or more. "I'm not gonna get, like, lo-jacked or anything, right?"


"Do you feel you need to be lo-jacked?" Phil asks, turning the question back on her. He arches his eyebrows at her. "In this situation, there are those who would want to have some sort of RFID tracker to make sure that they could get assistance should they need it. It's like suddenly waking up to find that you've got an incredibly valuable weapon of mass distruction tethered to your chest. So. What's your comfort level with that?"

The doors slide open. The hallway is very…SHIELD motifed, right down to the grey carpets. But the doors are numbered. They just don't have keys. They have keycard readers. Phil bonks his own keycard reader on 1602. This opens onto a…perfectly normal studio apartment with a nice bathroom and decent furniture. A TV. A computer, though it should be noted that some sites are firewalled on said computer. He pulls out a keycard programmer and sets about working up an access card for Sloane. "We have a cafeteria, I'm setting you up with a commissary account so you can get whatever food items, tolietries, and personal items you might want. The card won't work for any area where you're not supposed to go. It's…kind of like college, only I bet you're going to make one doozy of a mess with the Olympic pool at least once."

He touches the wall and pulls up a map, highlighting parts of the campus, showing her where she'll be training and eating, where she can go for medical assistance that's a bit more low-key than what the hospital provides, where the commissary is. He lights them up with simple taps of his fingers.


The young Inhuman keeps looking down, slipping on the hoodie. "… I don't know. I'm just… worried."

Oh God, they actually /do/ have trackers. But the way he puts it doesn't sound so bad. Her head tilts, peering at the Agent through coppery bangs. "Kinna like a panic button?"

Following the agent into the hall, the drab colors and decor do speak entirely of an organization running on a budget— or perhaps more accurately, a budget where they don't spend frivilously on things they don't actually need. Even if it isn't, the halls remind her of that industrial, sterile smell of a hospital, or a dorm hallway the day before students actually arrive.

Almost instinctively, her fingertips brush across the wall as she walks after him.

Suck it, The Man, she's rebelling against your authority.

At least, until they make it into the room. This is definitely a little bigger than the single-occupant dorm rooms. Her eyes drift to and fro, taking in the space and still not quite sure if she should actually touch anything regardless of the room being functionally 'her own' for now or not.

TV, computer, and— her own keycard.

Food, supplies… this is a lot that she didn't expect. Especially when Agent Coulson touches /the wall/ and causes a /map/ to pop up, giving her a quick run-down of the SHIELD campus and it's facilities. Suddenly looking a little nervous, she looks up at Phil with a bit of worry on her face. "H-Hey, uhm… I mean, is there gonna be a bill after all this is over? I don't even know how much money I have right now."


"Yes. We could outfit you one with a combination tracker and panic button. I'd prefer it, to be honest, if you're going to be roaming the city." Phil looks at her with deep concern. "But…it is your choice. It's just…if someone decides they want to kidnap you and turn you on innocent citizens…"

His frown furrows, deepens, as he trails off.

She asks about a bill and he smiles, very faintly. "No. This is covered by our budget. It is basically in the world's interests to help people with new powers adjust quickly and safely, in ways that don't endanger the general public. We have a variety of tools for those situations. Some of them nicer than others, but…they're all covered by the same line items. Obviously if you decide to flood Central Park or set up a grand new career as a super-criminal the tools we'd employ would change."

But he turns a sad, kindly smile on her. "But for right now, you're a college student, Sloane. You're scared. You've been changed against your will, a crime that those who are responsible for this will never be able to adequately answer for in my opinion."

His mouth tightens. "It's akin to knocking people on the head and performing medical procedures on them against their will. Its worse. So think of this as your personal…victim assistance program. Not that I want you to think of yourself as a victim, because that's disempowering." His eyes narrow as he stares grimly at the room, not really looking at it, but looking somewhere beyond it.

"The point is, your human rights have not been suspended here. And nobody expects you or wants you to handle all of this alone."


"That'd be … yeah, I guess. Maybe a little 1984, but…"

In explaining the situation a little better, it does give her some visible relief that she isn't going to be paying off the government's kindness until she's in her fifties. He also makes sure it's clear that none of this is her fault. Her fingers curl up into the blankets a little bit, adding it to the list of things to repeat to herself to stay steady and calm right now.

She has her human rights. She has help. She has allies.

She has a chance to get everything back. Maybe.

Sloane stands up from the bed, hesitant at first, but then extending her hand to the agent. "Um. … Thank you, Mister Coulson. You and… M-May? I think her name was…? I don't know where I'd be if you all hadn't found me."

If he takes her hand, it'll be pretty easy to see that the young Inhuman is watching very carefully to make sure she doesn't apply bone-crunching pressure. The scales on her hands are generally small and fine, making it easier for her wrist and digits to move— but on the whole they feel cool to the touch and smooth.

"I think I might go check out the pool in a little bit. Not much else to do until I see Mom and Dad. … And meet with Cla.. Clarinda? And get the whole, uh, training montage thing going…"


Of course he takes the hand. He shakes it, and if he's concerned that she might accidentally break it he gives zero signs of it at all. "Clarinda," he agrees quietly. "I'll have her set you up with a panic button. Let's make sure that happens before you go out on the town, okay? There are some areas of high-concentration anti-meta activity you should probably steer clear of when you go, too. I'll make sure you get the appropriate briefings."

Hopefully the pool will serve as a source of solace for her. Phil pulls out a card and offers it to her. "I'm not always easy to get in touch with," he says apologetically. "But I have an e-mail address like anyone else. If you need anything that you don't feel comfortable going to your caseworker for, then please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Even if you just need someone to listen. I'll make time. Maybe not the moment you contact me, but nevertheless, I will."

He pat pats her hand, then steps back. "It's going to be okay, Sloane," he says. "I promise. Let me or Clarinda know if you want one of us to go up and talk to them for you, after all."


Clarinda. And Phil. Mr. Coulson— Agent Coulson, and Agent May. Sloane looks up with a brief flit of worry when he specifically says there's areas of anti-meta activity, and the fact that they are 'high concentration' is doubly worrying. No— no. Stop thinking like that. Focus on the card, the safety SHIELD is providing her.

She steps back as he does, sitting back down on the edge of the bed while reading the card and keeping it held between two fingers as he steps back. He'll be there to talk to her if she needs it. Sloane is worried, but now she at least looks like she's at some level of ease: She has four walls, a secure door, and people that are willing to help her out through this.

"I'll do that." — Reach out, if she needs it. All things being equal, Sloane undoubtedly will, even if it sounds like she's just being polite right now. "Thanks. For the room, and— everything."

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