The Illusion of Normal

April 29, 2017:

Trainee Sloane spends some time to herself in a secluded area of the Triskelion only for a mysterious stranger to play her own guitar and offer advice.

Triskelion, New York

A grassy field on the outskirts of the compound.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Isa Reichert, Phil Coulson, Rusalka Stojespal

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Though the grounds of the Triskelion are imposing and business-like, there are still plenty of open-air areas for someone to jog the perimeter, get some fresh air, or even park in a shady spot on a grassy patch in the middle of New York City and play guitar. Or, to go further even, continue training even without the strict tutelage and presence of SHIELD agents.

Hair tied back, her hoodie thrown over a bench and soft guitar case propped up against one side, and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, Sloane sits on the ground in front of a bucket of water, squinting her fiery orange eyes at it and starting to focus very hard— and then harder. Maybe a little harder.

It's actually getting easier. What is…?

The water lifts up from the bucket in a bit of a stream, slithering up into the air in a narrow, bending column. Then, it lowers— but doesn't fall and splash, instead forming a continuously-flowing corkscrew. It splits, bends out in two separate directions, and wiggles around and waves.

Lowering the water back down into the bucket, Sloane takes a break; her elbow rests on her knee, supporting the weight of her head and chin. Her cheeks puff out, her brow scrunches, and the ginger girl almost looks put-upon by her own endeavors.

Maybe if she plays for a bit, it'll make her feel a little better about all this.

What they never tell you about stakeouts is how mind numbingly boring affairs they are.

Day and night, just sitting and watching for something that supposedly might happen. Couple that with the fact that Grymalkin is very easily bored and he has been doing whatever he can to entertain himself while he scouts the periphery of New York's most secure building.
Of course, the Triskelion is filled with any number of modern marvels. Just the other day he rather enjoyed perusing all of their wonderful flying vehicles and getting that angry red-head into a spot of trouble.

Now, however? He happens upon what seems to be an aspiring young cadet. He thinks he's seen her around once or twice but usually too far into the depths of the Triskelion to risk approach. But as opportunity presents itself he finds curiosity getting the better of him yet again.

As the water returns to the bucket from whence it came, a sound begins to fill the air a short distance behind her. Why, it's the sound of a guitar. Her guitar as it so happens.
A young man is lounging on the end of the bench where the guitar case had rested, now opened. Wearing a rather fancy outfit that looks something like a British suit, the young man is absently fiddling with the tuning of the strings. Gold and blue eyes carefully watching his measurements as he plucks the string with his thumbs, checking for tune. His legs are leisurely crossed with the same air of relaxation as she.
He absolutely was not there mere moments ago.
"Aaaaah. Now how did that go.. Lets see.."

Definitely a sight around campus, and one that you don't often forget. She does wear a sHIELD lanyard, but it's often times a bit weird— she moves with no class, few friends, and no superior officers. There's no real overhanging sense of duty or responsiblity, other than the burdens that seem to come with once being human, and now…

… now, with weird ears, eyes, and a body covered in swaths of scale.

Notes strike the air, and decidedly closer than the Inhuman would like. Her neck cranes, orange eyes blinking owlishly at the young man that strums away at her guitar, twisting the screws and messing up the tuning. Rising to her full height— admittedly not that impressive— the girl with the irridescent blue scales does her best to loom over the mysterious young man.

No lanyard. Nice suit. /Her guitar/.

"Hey, you should, like. You know… /ask/ before you start messing with someone's gear."

The fellow seems more concerned about the frets than he is about the growing shadow falling over him as the guitar's owner voices her opinion. Instead he tuts quietly, heterochromatic eyes roaming the strings as he muses with the faintest of British accents, "Hmmm. So strange these metal strings.." Trying to play a decidedly Spanish flamenco-esque melody but it's clear he's rather rusty. He frowns slightly as he changes the current subject as he muses, "I did not know the Atlanteans were sending candidates to this Shield business. I also thought you were? blue? Sometimes?" His gaze then lazily moves up to the scaled one as his lips curl into a bright smile.
"You're rather far from home." Very clearly taking stock of her alien seemings beyond the broiling outrage as he punctuates the statement with a flurry of dancing notes.

"That's why you use a pick. … But like I said, that's my stuff."

Sloane doesn't move on the mysterious young man— though she looks a bit put off by this. There's a small part of her that's just worried about trying to rip the guitar out of his hands and ripping the instrument in half, or just hurting him in the process.

The subject shifts— from the instrument to her.

"Atlant— what? No!" Sloane exclaims, her hands settling on her hips. "I'm from Boston. Jeez, I thought you SHIELD guys talked to each other."

Wait, he said 'this SHIELD business.'

Eyes narrowing, Sloane's mouth pulls into a line. "And no, I am not blue." There's a hesitant pause, for a moment forgetting the scales that twine their way down her arms and legs, curling in under her eyes. " … I mean, my scales are. But I'm not."

"… You're supposed to be here, right?"

In truth, this strange man is being very careful with the guitar. Treating the instrument delicately even if he's wrecked the tuning. While his skill with it is clearly rusty he is not without some mild talent in what sounds like old Spanish music.
As the piscan youth loudly corrects him he seems genuinely surprised. His eyebrows lift a moment as he frowns with brief confusion, nodding afterwhich as he accepts the correction wordlessly.
He focuses on improving his music as memory strikes him, puzzling out the modern instrument compared to its forebears the sound not quite agreeing with memory, neither muscle nor audio. As she begins to question his being here he adds after a moment of music-laced pause, "Oh yes. Of course."
The suited man reaches into his suit to withdraw what appears to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. lanyard with proper identification. His picture with double thumbs up and a goofy smile right on the front with the name 'GRYMALKIN' in bold lettering. 'Permitted To Be Here' written in black and white right underneath.
He then puts the ID back into his suit quickly after as he looks to her, squinting at her own identification, "So if you're not from the Ocean you must be one of those mutants I've heard about, yes? Shouldn't you be at that school.. Ah, what was it called.. Ahm.." Snapping the fingers of his free hand as he squints in remembrance, "I think it started with a Z .. ah.. Hm."

'Grymalkin'— it's a weird name, but she's heard weirder since having her lineage awakened. The 'Permitted to Be Here' subtitle leads the young woman's eyes to narrow to near-slits, shifting ever-so slightly to look at the young man, then the card, then the young man again. "Dude. If that were any more sketchy, like, it'd be some art student's homework."
Sidetracked, albeit briefly, again.

"What? No— it's not like that. It's …"

'You're descended from a lineage of people whose genes were modified by aliens to be used as living weapons, activated after exposure to a gaseous catalyst to awaken those genes.'

"… it's complicated. But if you're not supposed to be here, you could get in a /ton/ of trouble for just like, hanging out here. They get pretty intense about that kind of thing, y'know? I mean I'm not starting any crap, but like, this isn't the kind of place you want to hang out at just because you want to hang out."

It seems this Grymalkin is the king of sidetracking. Though she rightfully points out the lacking quality of the lanyard he clearly did not manufacture seconds before she asked about his permission to be here he moves on to far more relevant and important topics.

"Complicated hm? Well you haven't been transfigured I noticed so it must be something along the lines of the sciences." Musing mostly to himself really, looking upon her as a puzzle. A curiosity in a citadel of wonders. He goes back to strumming the guitar leisurely as he continues his train of thought, completely unconcerned about 'tons of trouble' or 'pretty intense crap'.
"You are certainly an impressive piece of work. I haven't seen hydromancy .. Or whatever you call such scientific talents as that, I believe they end those words with 'kinetic'. Hydrokinetic then? Yes. Well."
Another dancing strum of harmony breaking up his rambling.
"Impressive indeed. You must be rather expensive or there would be more of you I'd think. I've actually visited this Boston briefly and I think I'd have noticed others of your stripe there. Hm.. How do you pronounce that name?" Squinting at her own lanyard another moment.

"Hydrokinetic," Sloane says, allowing the young man to continue on his train of thought… at least for the moment. "That's right." There's no need to try to hide that much, he's seen what she can do and he's … still, even if super sketch, likely seen some of what she can do in the past as well as here on the SHIELD campus at the Triskelion. The juicy details, however, stay pretty close to her chest. She does fire a quick glance back at the bucket— just in case she needs to use that water to her advantage while talking to this weird young man.

"'Expensive?' Like— what? That's not how this all works, with them," the Inhuman replies, making a vague gesture toward the building. "I think you're getting a ton of wrong ideas, here. Like, have you tried going inside to talk with the secretary about a tour or some kind of public information brochure? "

How do you pronounce that name?

"Sloane."

This Grymalkin doesn't seem particularly threatening. Certainly he's odd and quite probably trespassing but he's hardly well-muscled or loaded with weapons. One good punch from the trainee would likely knock his lights out.
He again pauses in his awkward relearning of the instrument as he rests his arm across the strings, palm spread over the surface as he looks back up to her with a smile, "Is that so? Well, please tell me. You have the look of an incredible story. Will you really be so selfish as to keep it to yourself?" Leaning over to pat in the direction of the other end of the bench he sits upon.
As she mentions the front desk he sits back yet again, once again working with the frets absently as he mentions, "Oh I've been in there. Brochures hardly do this place justice don't you think? Now unless you're so very impressive that you have your own secretary I must speak with first, why don't you tell me your tale Miss Sloane?"

This Grymalkin doesn't seem particularly threatening. Certainly he's odd and quite probably trespassing but he's hardly well-muscled or loaded with weapons. One good punch from the trainee would likely knock his lights out.
He again pauses in his awkward relearning of the instrument as he rests his arm across the strings, palm spread over the surface as he looks back up to her with a smile, "Is that so? Well, please tell me. You have the look of an incredible story. Will you really be so selfish as to keep it to yourself?" Leaning over to pat in the direction of the other end of the bench he sits upon.
As she mentions the front desk he sits back yet again, once again working with the frets absently as he mentions, "Oh I've been in there. Brochures hardly do this place justice don't you think? Now unless you're so very impressive that you have your own secretary I must speak with first, why don't you tell me your tale Miss Sloane?"

Threatening, perhaps not— at least on the surface. Trespassing, definitely. The fact that SHIELD has not come running to do something about the strange young man is unnerving enough; she glances in the directions that she thought cameras were normally paying attention to the Triskelion's grounds while keeping that bucket of water within a few paces— she doesn't actually *need* to be that close to control it, but it's something of a personal perception of safety and security that she craves.

It's her element, now, quite literally.

"I don't— I don't have a secretary," Sloane says, expression flat. "Ugh… I grew up in Boston. I moved here for school. Stuff happened. I ended up like this. So … like … I guess I'm like a weird, I dunno, mermaid musician thing. The rest is filed away in the Secret Sorority of None Of Your Business."

As she says that, her hands settle on her hips. Her expression is a little more serious— if only because she is still kind of cross this weird young man is messing still with her guitar. She's also hoping, even just the tiniest bit, that this guy really isn't some kind of high-ranking SHIELD official with some kind of gag lanyard because holy shit she'll be in so much trouble with her case worker and Agent Coulson.

The Triskelion is a big place. It's true the grounds are monitored day and night but it's not like they have unique eyes on every location at every moment. And even still, for all of Grymalkin's strangeness his clothing is reasonable enough to not warrant suspicion at a glance for a mostly bored security officer gazing over hundreds of different images.

Of course if a fight should break out or anything particularly ominous occur the story would be much different. If Sloane started screaming for help.. Security would be here in very, very short order. There's a certain stealth in quiet smoothness. Sometimes just acting like you belong is most of actual belonging.

As she points out herself, perhaps Grymalkin really DOES belong here and this is some kind of test. He would not be the oddest member of the esteemed division if he was part of it.
As she explains her history in a hurried staccato, the well-dressed fellow strums her guitar awkwardly adding music to her story as a neophyte bard might. Listening politely as she explains, his mismatched eyes on his fingers as he plays.

Once finished he adds, "Huh. A shorter story than your appearance suggests." He then begins to play more earnestly now, seemingly gotten hang of an old talent again as the Spanish melody takes shape, "Mermaids have tails by the way. They also sing. Do you sing?" Eyes turn in her direction as he quickly muses, "Mmmm probably not."

At a certain point he pauses, fingers pressing on the strings to silence them as he exhales, "I'm sorry to hear you don't take much pride in your origin." He points out, quickly reaching over for the open case still beside the bench as he carefully returns the guitar where he found it, "Really you should own up to it more. Thousands.." A pause, "Millions? Billions of people now? Yes. Billions would give anything to have powers like yours."

Shit. He's good. — But that's not the important part. He's a stranger prying into her life, a little weird, and probably shouldn't be here. Maybe. She's got a pretty strong feeling about it, anyway.

Sloane's brow creases, the scales along her forehead and even under her eyes shifting with the movement. Mermaids have tails. Does she sing? No, probably not, he says.

"I can sing fine. I was going to start a band when I got out of college. Dad would've rather I was a concert pianist or something."

His accusation that she doesn't take much pride in her origin stings a little bit, leading the redheaded girl to look both down and away, the corner of her mouth curling while the guitar is being set back into the soft case. Own up to it, eh?

"I didn't ask for it. I didn't /want/ it. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to live my life without worrying I'm going to freak out in the middle of the night and cause a flood. I didn't want /any/ of this. SHIELD, or these powers, or … or any of it. I just want to go home."

"… And now I can't even do that."

"Let me tell you a secret." Grymalkin replies in the wake of her self-deprecating commentary. Having returned the guitar to precisely how he found it, minus tuning, he settles back into the bench to face her fully. Pressing his fingertips together as one leg remains crossed over the other. His smile remains devious but not insincere as he offers, "No one is normal."
He furthers after a moment to let that sink in, "Normal is a word humans aspire or avoid as if they had the foggiest idea what it actually is. If they think they have it, they really don't. If they want to have it, they really don't need it. The idea of normality is a pipe dream conjured by those desperate to measure themselves when there's really no point."
He then waggles a finger in her direction, white gloves cover his fingers that weren't there moments ago when he worked with the guitar, "All children leave their old home for a new one eventually. Yours is just.. Wetter." Spreading his hands.

"A lot of people tell me that."

What's normal— or the perceived lack of normal, that is.

A word 'humans' use. Does that mean he's not human, either? Or one of those metahumans? Mutant? Whichever it is— she's still digging into the unusual, unique variant that she is apparently descended from. Maybe he's just trying to speak in broad strokes. The sudden appearance of gloves on his hands— something that doesn't quite register to Sloane at the moment— could lend to the theory of him not being 'Normal.'

The philosophy is a little awkward, on her. It makes her feel uncomfortable. And maybe that's the point— or maybe it's a good thing, forcing her to think harder about her situation. There's a lot on her plate, from her future being a toss-up while suddenly being taken under the wing of Agent Reichert to Sally, taking internship meetings with big-name companies and the dangling fish of recruitment being waved in front of her.

(The fish is not Sloane, in this case.)

Closing the guitar case with a tug of the zipper, Sloane settles the strap across her chest and lets the familiar weight hang against her back. The hoodie's picked up, too, while she moves on to collect her bucket.

The Inhuman hesitates, glancing over her shoulder while she stands there as though her legs were suddenly made of lead weights.

"I just don't know where my new home is, yet."

"A lot of people are right." The man's voice offers her as she glances away.

However, by the time she looks back .. The man is gone. No sign whatsoever that a well-dressed fellow was seated at the end of the bench at any point. No blades of grass are bent beyond the one's she's responsible for.

It seems this chance encounter is over. This Grymalkin apparently felt no need to explain himself or interrogate her further, it seems he learned whatever it was he wanted to learn. Whatever that may have been.

He's … gone.

Sloane turns a little faster, eyes scanning the immediate area with lips parted in an expression of mild alarm. Where did he—

— but he was /just/—

He couldn't have just vanished. A-And this certainly wasn't just something that was in her head. So where did he go? Who was he?

Mouth pressing into a flat line while her brow scrunches, Sloane tips the bucket across the grass, pouring the water out on the ground before heading back to the front entrance of the Triskelion. One tap of her keycard against the scanner later, she moves on with a cloud of doubt and worry hanging over her head.

She's gonna have to report this to her case worker.

Staring at her distorted reflection in the elevator doors, she can't help but think back on what he said:

Is normal really an illusion…?

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