Free Choice
Roleplaying Log: Free Choice
IC Details

Sloane finally has that encounter with Warren she has been dreading — and finds it is not so bad(?).

Other Characters Referenced: Rachel Summers, Jean Grey, Daisy Johnson, Sharon Carter, Phil Coulson
IC Date: March 03, 2019
IC Location: Xavier Institute, Westchester
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 03 Mar 2019 06:42
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The Institute has a guest.

Finally shoved into a room of her own until the epoymous 'they' can figure out what to do, Sloane L. Albright feels like she's right back in college — though the big difference between here and Columbia is the latter had something of a dearth of metahumans and superhuman abilities.

Things seem to have finally settled down a bit for her; according to reports, those first few nights she slept excessively long hours and ate like a horse, keeping mostly to herself other than a few residents of the Institute that knew her already, one way or another.

And lately, she's become a little bit of a fixture in the most comfortable room in the building: The music room.

Dressed casually, rather than nice dresses or a sharp SHIELD agent-style suit, her t-shirt is a strange shade of blue with block print 'POLICE BOX' across the chest. Large can headphones that somewhat uncomfortably pin those large ears of hers back to the sides of her head, plugged into an amp that is plugged into the sickest bass guitar in the building. (Meggan said it /actually/ belonged to someone named Dupe, or D-loop…?)

Most importantly, with her head tipped forward with the music being pumped straight into her ears, she has her back to the door.

And the windows. And — everything, really.

It's a metaphor(?).

It also means she's not paying attention to her surroundings, in a fit of willful ignorance.

To be quite honest the primary person who needs to figure out what to do is, in the end, Sloane L. Albright herself. The soul-searching is hers; the people around her are simply 'present to help' with her ultimate decisions. To be sure, around a place like this, there's always a nebulous sense of an amorphous 'They,' to whose authority all must defer, but really — the Institute has always, first and foremost, been a safe space for powered young people, and Sloane is nothing if not a powered young person in need of some safe space right about now.

Well — for given values of 'safe.'

Very large wingbeats draw nearer to the Institute. Sloane will not hear them. They pass by over the window of the music room, and she still won't hear them. There is a brief pause in their cadence, and then they double back, and a man appears framed in the window, hovering, peering in through the glass at Sloane. Still doubtful she will notice.

The man turns in the air and disappears again with a twist of his wings.

About five minutes pass.

Sloane might slowly become cognizant of a feeling of being watched. This feeling is followed, very shortly afterwards, by a familiar figure sauntering across her field of vision and installing himself in one of the music room's squashy armchairs, as her sole and attentive audience. Warren Worthington, dressed fairly casually in a white oxford with dark-wash jeans, crosses his ankle over his knee and drapes his wings neatly over the arms of the chair.

His head tilts slightly, in the universal 'am I interrupting?' gesture.

The deep whumpf of wings beating in the air is something that everyone could and should hear; what good are those big ears of hers if she can't hear something like /that/? But no — as predicted, she is in the zone, fingers strumming the strings without the use of a pick. Occasionally she takes a momentary break, enough to just roll her wrist and feel muscles and tendons through her hand and wrist and forearm pull over healing bone.

She's still not quite sure how it was done.

Suddenly, there is a very pretty man walking into her field of view, and then sitting right down in front of her. It isn't the kind of captive audience that she's had with Meggan or others or the kind of crowd she's played to at the Shakedown, it's /Warren Worthington/.

Her face seems to speak volumes, with large orange eyes looking up from the guitar and taking on something of an owlish quality. "Oh. Um—"

The amp is turned off, the guitar likewise turned down until it lets a 'click' out of the solid body. Pulling the headphones down around her neck, a quick toss of her hair loosens things up around her neck, and her ears finally have a chance to pop back out to their usual angle.

"Hi. … I'm guessing we should talk."

Sloane says it with eyes half-lidded, a squint like she's preparing to face down with the principal.

"And I should've called first. … I mean technically I did — but —"

Her hand lifts from the guitar, her gesture vague and nebulous, struggling to find the words. Something to explain her intentions, or to give her some footing, or to give Warren an explanation as to her presence. Instead, two years of espionage agency instincts kick in and the best she can manage is a weak, "You have very nice guest rooms."

"Thank you," is Warren's gracious answer to that weak remark on the guest rooms, mindfully taking up her stuttering conversation and translating it effortlessly into comfortable small talk. His accompanying smile is a thoughtlessly lovely thing, poised and ultimately meaningless as anything but a social gesture, flashed like the flare of a lady's fan. "They were built to the specifications of the Professor's father, and then further appointed to the specifications of the Professor himself. There's quite a bit of history to them. In the past few years, I've made a few adjustments, so I will claim to that much."

There is a brief pause, as Warren assesses Sloane's expression.

"You're very good, Miss Albright," is his opening salvo, after that. His smile turns a few shades more genuine. "I'm pleased to see the equipment finally being put to a use that doesn't drive me out onto the grounds."

His wings rustle, restless, pinions fanning as he considers her. The way she's looking at him is making him feel his age. How did he come to feel so… administrative? "There's no real need," he finally says, of her assumption that they 'should talk.' "Not in terms of why you are here, anyway. Rachel explained that, in broad strokes. SHIELD used your image… and you were attacked for it by the Brotherhood." That last word carries the vague sigh of long familiarity, and his wings stretch unconsciously.

His gaze turns off her — Warren is mindful of not staring directly at people too long, it makes many people uncomfortable — and regards the grounds outside the window. "'Agent Merrow,' given this development, I confess some concern as to our nascent 'cooperation' with SHIELD. I'm sure you recall the discussion. You've been 'questioning things going on there.' Do you have details?" A pause. "Beyond the obvious."

"Thank you. I started playing when I was five. That, and … a lot of other instruments," Sloane says, shifting somewhat nervously in her seat. Picking up the guitar by the neck, she's careful to set it to the side of the chair, laying it flat on an open case.

Rachel explained the broad strokes. "Oh, good." The rest of it, however… that leads her to the troubled sigh, as though old worries were falling to rest on her shoulders. At least now she's rested, healing far better than she had been. At least now she feels more ready to tackle things head-on. Leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees, she absently picks at a few bits of the gauze on her hand.

Does she have details?

"Yes," she replies. "Christ, where do I start. … I mean … there are good people in SHIELD. Really, there are."

"You know I've been trying to speak out against registration internally. I was actually about to go around with a petition to get as many people on-board as possible and confronting my superiors with it, and seeing how far I could take it up the food chain. Which … I got talked down on it by Agent 13. She wants it to fail, but she wants to choke it to death."

"The higher-ups seem to be completely gung-ho on it. Like, guns blazing, flags waving, /want/ it to happen. And yeah, we got a breather 'cause of the deadline delay, but that's not going to fix everything. I'm registered, but believe me, it's not 'cause I wanted to be. It also sounds like they're pulling people at random from the rank and file Agents and having them tested for metagenes, too, it doesn't matter if they can pass or not," Sloane adds, hands lifting in a helpless gesture.

"And then Captain Marvel goes and puts me in a video where the only way to take the optics is that I'm all cool with registration and I end up with three feet of re-bar put through my side," the Inhuman finishes, pointing at the right side of her abdomen, "and thrown at the Triskelion like a fastball."

She frowns, hesitant. "Video got out on the 'net, too."

'I've seen it,' she doesn't need to actually say.

I started playing when I was five. Warren's brows lift. "Did you aspire to be a musician?" he inquires, though he does not seem invested in prying too far if the topic is uncomfortable. He knows well enough how many young mutants' stories are tales which end in lost dreams when the powers start coming in.

That, and the matter of SHIELD is certainly more pressing. Sloane's offered information is listened to quietly. "The Brotherhood have always been very extreme with their opinions," is his dry, summarizing remark on that aspect.

"From whisperings I've heard, it wouldn't have been safe for you to do something like that, anyway. Perhaps even less safe than it already was," he goes on to say. "Agent 13 was correct to stop you." Much as it seems to pain him to say that, in particular. "There may be good people in the organization, but they seem vastly outnumbered at the moment by those in power who are fully behind registration — and certain elements who appear to have no one's best interests at heart."

He leans his elbow against the arm of the chair, resting the line of his jaw on his knuckles, forefinger and middle finger stretched up along the arch of his cheekbone. It is a pensive gesture. Her remark that agents are now being tested at random narrows his blue eyes.

"Do you intend to go back?" is his eventual question. "It wasn't evident whether you have decided to quit or are merely on a… temporary separation, so to speak. I would be surprised if they're not keeping tabs on you, even if you're on a medical leave. Are they?"

A long pause.

"Do you want the video taken down?"

"Yeah. I was studying music at Columbia. Theory, composition, singing, playing the classics. My parents wanted me to be a concert player, but I wanted to start a band." Sloane flashes Warren a small grin, looking up at him through a few stray strands of ginger hair.

Those 'certain elements' tick her eyebrow, knowing — at least in broad strokes — what that means. Dani's likely been filling in the X-Men. Why wouldn't she?

Sloane straightens up a bit, easing back into her seat as she gives Warren's words some thought. She's only a little stiff, moving far better than the implied injury that she had, and those that she didn't talk about. "13 was worried about me tanking my career. … Prolly my credibility, too."

"I want to say that 'I don't know.' Like, I want to sound like I have everything figured out. Like I've got a plan, crossed the Ts and dotted the Is, but I just don't. And it sucks. SHIELD is going down a path I don't feel comfortable following. People have gotten hurt or died because of their lies. I'm not stupid, I know that's something I signed up for, but like… People died, and now they're not dead. I've heard some disturbing shit about how one meta got recruited, and it scares me."

Sloane lifts a hand to her forehead, eyes closing. "I don't think I want to go back," she finally says. "But, I don't think I can just walk in and say 'I quit.' I know it doesn't work like that. That meta I mentioned— she managed to find me when I was hiding out at one of Tony Stark's safehouses. I'm probably gonna get in a lot of shit for it. And yeah — odds are, they have a pretty good idea of where I went. Rach got me out of the city, and it wasn't a secret how I felt. I'm not Captain America, but I get press 'cause of, y'know."

A gesture at her cheek, with one of those slashes of color and scale meeting with pale skin.

Her eyes squint. "Wait, you can do that?"

"Columbia," Warren repeats, looking absently impressed. "Good school. Long way from there to SHIELD — though, well, perhaps not. Long way from Columbia Music to SHIELD." Her glance up at him, when she angles it his way, will find him attentive and warm, now that she is not illicitly crashing into pools and scaring the students. He and Jean were always the personable ones of the original team; Scott Summers was not even on the board, there.

Of course, there is still some element of risk to hinting to a known SHIELD agent how much the X-Men do know about the goings-on at SHIELD… but on the other hand, Rachel has assuredly already vetted the girl as clean, and — well — it would be a very elaborate setup indeed, if this were to be a setup. Elaborate and unnecessary, when there are far easier ways to gather information.

She's offering quite a bit herself, too. Warren's head tilts at 'disturbing shit about one meta's recruitment.' "How so?"

Regardless of the answer, his head lifts from his hand as Sloane says she doesn't want to go back — but she's not sure she can just quit. The mention of Stark's name draws his gaze more directly with obvious recognition, but he doesn't interrupt. "Well," he says afer she has finished, his voice tilting humored, "If you were to quit, I would recommend you quit from a distance, certainly. What gives you the impression you are unable to quit? If SHIELD has devolved to a point where an individual can't leave employment with them based off an ideological difference…" The sentence doesn't really need finishing.

Wait, you can do that?

Every so often, hints of Warren's immensely arrogant youth still peek through even in this older, more tempered version of him. A sliver of it shows in the half-smile that pulls at the corner of his mouth. "It's faster for me to list things I can't do," he says, his gaze averting as he flips his phone out of his pocket and starts a message. "It'll be off anything I own by the evening," he says absently. "YouTube once we kick them in the balls hard enough."

"I probably don't even need to explain it t'you, but suffice to say, the last three years after I changed have been really weird," Sloane replies, pulling her face from her hand for that moment — and giving him another mild grin in the process, trying to hit a good balance between relaxed and attentive.

'How so?'

"I … got to admit that I don't know everything about her." Sloane looks uneasy, frowning, looking down and away from Warren. "She's around my age. Her powers manifested all of the sudden, and she freaked out, so … y'know, it made it worse. I've done what I could for people in that situation in the past, 'cause I've been there, too. And then she tells me she gets tranqued way more than anyone needs to be and gets 'hard sold,' in cuffs, in an interrogation room."

"That kind of shit scares me. That's not what I signed on for. I /get/ that sometimes we have to make hard calls. I /get/ that we need to sometimes get someone contained if they can't control their powers, but … I've done everything I could to /help/ those people, not /threaten/ them. That's not how I roll."

Sloane looks back up at Warren. "That's not how my team rolled."

"And… I don't know. I don't know, but I've worked there long enough that I feel paranoid. I felt paranoid that I was being followed to the safehouse— and hell, I was— and I felt paranoid that I'd be tracked here. I'm a meta, public, in SHIELD. If they aren't keeping tabs on me, I bet someone else is," the scaly inhuman says, frowning. "I at least want to talk to my S.O. — my supervising officer. He really is one of the good ones."

He'll handle the video. There's some visible relief in her posture, from the way she seems to finally /relax/, more than simple gestures or her attempts to remain semi-formal show. "I… thanks, Mister Worthington."

"No," says Warren, when she wryly says she probably doesn't need to explain how weird things have been since she Changed. "You don't. Living through it once was enough for me. All well and good when you change in a way that is invisible, but — " White wings fan out, sixteen feet from tip to tip. "When it's like this, it's hard." He nods towards her. "Harder for you. At least I could bind these down under clothing." He doesn't mention how painful it was to do so.

Instead, he prises a little deeper into the can of worms that is SHIELD. What he hears thins his mouth. "I'm both surprised and unsurprised," he admits. "SHIELD's a spy agency, and any org that secretive is secretive because it's got ugly secrets to keep. But, well, that's not what they're printing on the brochures, are they? Especially when it comes to registration." He lifts his brows at Sloane. "It's probably best to be a bit paranoid, in this day and age. It may keep you alive."

He sighs out a breath. "Trust actions, not words. Whatever they say out loud, this is what they're actually doing in back rooms." A pause. "Where is this girl now?"

Sloane mentions, then, that she wants to at least talk to her S.O., who is 'one of the good ones. "If you're certain he is," Warren says, a bit grimly. A beat, and his demeanor gentles a little. "Regardless, you should think of this place as a safe haven, not a holding pen, nor as the politicized seat of — well, anything in particular. A safe place for education was what the Professor always intended it to be, and that is what it will continue to be. No one will keep you here if you want or need to leave — to go back to the city, or otherwise."

As for the video? Maybe the little dash of kindness is triggered by Warren empathizing with the discomfort Sloane evinced, when she spoke of her vulnerability being blasted out on public channels (something with which he is certainly WELL familiar). Whatever the case, he promises to take care of it. "It's nothing," he says, to her thanks, one hand drifting absently in a wave as the other finishes his message. It literally is, to someone like him. "I like locking horns with Google once in a while. Keeps me sharp."

He glances up at her. "At the least, we should have some control over these images of ourselves." If she should choose to make it a part of the argument against registration, it should be just that — a choice.

She can't help but follow the span of his wings as he flares them out to their full extent; their reach both massive and impressive. The mental image of Warren trying to hide those under a jacket flashes briefly through her mind, though the extremes of how that works don't quite cross her mind.

Paranoia keeps her alive; a thought that she's had pretty regularly. "Yeah. … Yeah."

"She's still there. They slapped a tracking device on her that she can't take off, like a fancier, higher-tech lo-jack, so they can check her position at any time. She still can't quite control her powers, but they gave her some tech to help regulate it." Sloane says, weaving her fingers together.

"He is," Sloane confirms. Reassurances that this is a safe place and not a prison bring a small, soft smile. "I appreciate that. Ha, I … gotta admit, Rachel's been trying to get me to come out here, like, /for real/, for a long time. 'Cause of my work, and … I dunno, I guess she saw what was coming, and I just didn't want to believe it. I've wanted to check it out — I mean, sans goat crashing — but … I guess this was the push over the edge. She really helped me out."

They need to control their image. That's a fair enough idea, one shown by the slant of her head and the raising eyebrows as she considers the point. "I can't imagine what it's like to headbutt a search engine," Sloane replies, trying to keep the laugh down. "Unless you're like, flying in and declaring things off-limits, haha."

They put a tracking device on her that she can't take off, Sloane says. Something that can check her position at any time. And a power regulator…

The instinctive revulsion Warren feels at the idea wars with an uncomfortable thought: how different is that than some of the things Xavier had to do, over time? Nonetheless — "If they don't intend to ever teach her how to manage her powers," he says curtly, "she would do a lot better sent here, instead of being kept chipped and regulated."

His wings bridle a little visibly at the thought, feathers lifting in agitation. Primarily at his inability to simply reach out and DO something about this, as he's able to simply DO things about most other things in life. It's plainly one of the few things on that earlier category of 'things he cannot do,' and Warren never did take kindly to being told no about anything.

At the least, there's Sloane, and he can do something about Sloane. The offer of the Institute in its purest form, as a refuge for people like themselves, is a return to basics so elemental as to be soothing. "Well," Warren says wryly, "You are welcome — without the goat-crashing. Rachel seems to have faith in you, and that is enough for the rest of us."

As far as fighting a search engine? "It's much more boring than that," he admits. Sloane might push down her laugh, but Warren doesn't restrain his. He laughs often enough, though one gets the impression that most of them are automatic masks for show. "Mostly it's just pressure, applied in the right way, on the right people. A lot of yelling about SEO. The most excitement there'll be is if I have to get involved, and even then it's still just — a lot of phone calls."

Rather abruptly, he snaps his wings shut and makes to rise. "To speak of that, I have a call I must take on the hour, in fact. Ask if there is anything you need. I think the only thing we ask is a mention if you choose to leave."

Sloane frowns at the thought. What would it have been like for her if she had been found instead by the Institute?

No, stop — don't go down that rabbit hole.

Instead, a nod and a look on her face that is nothing but appreciation and the warm fuzzies. "Thank you, Mister Worthington. I swear, I won't betray Rachel's trust."

After he explains the way it /really/ works with the great big laugh, Sloane looks a little disappointed, looking to jab in with a little more fun — even prodding at the air. "Aw, you can't even jazz up the story? Poke more in their ribs? Make it sound all cool and dramatic."

He rises. Not so fast to follow suit, Sloane instead picks up the guitar and starts clicking dials and knobs back to life. "Yessir. I'll make sure someone knows when I head out."

Easing back down into the seat, she waits for Warren to leave — but god, she waits for him to start walking before sending him off with an absolutely diabolical grin and a quickly-strummed bassline: Hail to the Chief.

Sloane … really likes it here.

Sloane promises she will not betray Rachel's trust. "If you did," Warren says, amused, "I'd pray for your mortal soul. But I don't think that you will."

With that, he rises, with a few parting words — and an unfortunate bubble-burst on Sloane's ideas of what it might be like for corporations to do battle. "If I need to cage fight with Larry Page," Warren says dryly, "then I'll let you know so that you may be entertained. More likely it will be a very boring lunch while I pretend to care about Alphabet — and push him on some issues more relevant to us all."

There is one courtesy he does ask of her, however, as a guest to the Institute. Her agreement draws a nod. "Then I leave you to it," he says, before he turns to leave.

Her accompaniment for his exit doesn't turn his head, because he was born dramatic and so such things are utterly taken for granted, but he does flick some of his disarrayed feathers straight in a distinct preen.

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