Under the Eye of Bastet
Roleplaying Log: Under the Eye of Bastet
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Phil Coulson recruits an unlikely asset.

Other Characters Referenced: Brann Driver, Daisy Johnson
IC Date: September 03, 2019
IC Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 04 Sep 2019 04:06
Rating & Warnings: G
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Brooklyn. Like many other places in New York, it's not perfect, but it's home.

And since it's home, Khalid should know this area like the back of his hand. Recent circumstances have told him otherwise yet he doesn't let that bother him too much. There are bigger things to worry about, things like school and his personal life and his other personal life regarding the strange magical side he's still getting used to.

He understands he's somehow juggling it all without breaking a sweat. Yet he's currently wondering why he hasn't broken down by now.

Which is why he finds himself far from the medical school campus he frequents and within the walls of the Brooklyn Museum's collections. It's a weird way to clear his head, being in the place where his magical journey was first foisted upon him. Everything in the Egyptian hall is as it always is, either safe behind glass cases or standing in silent pride among the small clusters of people wandering on through. But Khalid stands there, in front of the statue of Bastet with an expression that appears to read 'in deep thought.'

* * *

Phil Coulson has a habit that alarms some people. He tends to just…appear.

The unassuming gentleman appears now, in a suit that is neither too good nor too off-rack. He's got his hands in his pockets as he studies the statue before him, and then says: "As I understand it, she began as the goddess of lions. But the rat problem in Egypt got so bad that little cats ultimately became revered. You can't teach a lion to mouse, after all."

Most people would leave a man to his thoughts, but not Phil, apparently.

* * *

Khalid's brow lifts — a reaction that comes from as a delayed response while Coulson speaks. He turns enough to give the man his attention, but his face now speaks volumes of both confusion upon sudden appearance and the dawning realization that he is the audience for this particular lesson.

"Yeah, I think- that's how it worked out," he answers, betraying even more of that puzzlement as he gathers his thoughts together. Does this count as humoring Coulson? "Both sides benefited from it, at least."

* * *

Whether it counts as humoring Coulson or not, he pulls out a card. "Agent Phil Coulson, SHIELD. I'm sorry to interrupt you while you're enjoying the exhibit, but there are only so many safe places we can talk, Mr. Nassour. I am hoping to secure your help with an ongoing project. Are you open to hearing about it?"

After all, there's only so many places small talk will take a man, and Khalid seems less inclined to it than most. He also gets out the thrust of the upcoming conversation quickly, lest Khalid spook and think he is on the verge of getting arrested or some such.

* * *

Khalid…takes a moment.

There's a business card. There's an 'Agent' in the man's name. And there's an entire spiel that sounds like it could have been practiced but it comes out so naturally to his ears, professional while maintaining that comfortable level of two random strangers talking amongst themselves and the Egyptian artifacts on display.

Khalid does not show any drastic change on his outward facade, but his eyes have widened a few millimeters. He still feels his mouth dry up. After a few beats and fighting the urge to still choose the 'run' option, he stiffly takes the card that's offered, nodding like nothing is wrong with those sentences Coulson drops on him.

He tries to reply. "…You know…my name…"

How.

The med student clears his throat, trying again. Sounding a little more sure of himself this time. His palms feel clammy, but he doesn't put the card away just yet.

"Well. You're not exactly interrupting. I was just…y'know." Here. Thinking about how life used to be. And maybe a cat, but that's irrelevant. Mention of an 'ongoing project' breaks the tightlipped smile, allowing his facial muscles to relax. "So…what's up?"

Play it cool. Surely this is a trap. It doesn't seem like it, but arrest isn't far from his mind.

* * *

"I do paperwork and I know things," Phil quips, a slight smile flickering over his features. "I may have retrieved, pulled, and watched, some footage of your recent heroics before DPS or NYPD could get to it. Like a certain YMCA rescue that the media made complete dog's meat out of. You've got a good heart. Your technique could use a little work sometimes, but that just takes practice. And a certain comfort in your own skin."

He smiles a little, putting his hands up, showing his palms. "I know this is an alarming conversation, and I'm very sorry. I promise you, you're not in any trouble. Not with me."

* * *

"Um." Khalid is mildly bewildered, but it makes sense for an agent (of SHIELD, in this case) to know what he needs to know. Informative, but it's kind of like Doctor Strange slapping down some lessons for the whole mentoring portion of his 'heroic' life. "Okay."

The card he still holds onto lightly taps against his palm, but he can't deny anything that the man has claimed. And it shows. "You sure?" He's trying not to disbelieve. "I mean, with everything that's been going on and the stuff about the media…" There's another pause and a breath before he adds, "I'll be up front. I had to study. I wasn't supposed to be there."

* * *

"But you stayed there," Coulson says, lifting his eyebrows. "And that's part of why I've chosen you."

But he doesn't wait around to hear more protests. The agent slides his hands into his pockets, and studies Bastet. "I have two undercover agents working in an area where teenagers are a much more common sight than adults. I need someone who can keep an eye on them, someone who they can signal somehow if they get into trouble and can't reach out any other way."

Khalid isn't a mutant and his powers mostly seem to work with that helm on so sending him in undercover isn't an option. But the need for a watcher is very real.

It's a job that poses some dangers," he adds quietly. "But very few, as you'd just be a watcher, and perhaps in a position to intervene if and only if it makes sense to do so. More likely, you'll be alerting me, so I can."

* * *

He did, didn't he? Khalid bites his tongue, looking down at his hands, brow knitting now that this has been presented as fact.

He's listening, however, his posture straightening once the offer and objective is spoken without hesitation. He then casts a sidelong glance Coulson's way, arching a brow because he's been pegged as someone who can blend in with teenagers.

"SHIELD doesn't have any young-ish agents for the job?" he asks, not sarcastic in the least. Well, maybe just a tiny bit sarcastic, but it's a reasonable question. "Danger is usually the downside to anything related to current events, but how active is this scene if you have two agents present already?"

* * *

Well, to Coulson anyone under 25 counts as a 'teenager.' He says, "We have a few. One of them is undercover, right now. But you might also recall that the Brotherhood blew up the Triskelion. They couldn't have done that without someone on the inside. And since the place in question is a recruiting ground for the Brotherhood, I can not easily turn to people in my own organization. Or with known ties to any organization."

He shakes his head and says, "And that's a harder profile to nail down than you might think. It's a hell of a Venn diagram to draw: trustworthy, unaffiliated, youngish, unregistered, a relative unknown. And someone the Brotherhood won't think to recruit, but also won't think to suspect, because you fit every legal definition of an unregistered meta."

* * *

"Oh." Khalid's reply is quiet. He recalls those breaking news reports the night it happened. His parents gave concerned commentary in between that, the message from the Brotherhood, and the commercials that then blared over the television to hastily quell the panic anyone would have felt in that moment. Who can forget?

Still, his brow tics upward again, as far as it can with the description Agent Coulson rolls out. And he frowns. "I dunno if I should be offended or not, but that's…eerily accurate?" He's not one to think about himself in those exact words, anyway. Or anything he would think if he had to describe himself, for that matter.

But there is another frown. This one is turned toward the statue, a brief reflection of knowing how metas feel with the registration laws and how much it sucks to have that label branding them.

One more question lingers in his mind, switching places with the other thoughts that clutter. As it's said, he glances over at Coulson. "How often do your guys hang out over there? Daily?"

* * *

"I don't know," Coulson admits. "If I got close enough to find out, they'd end up made and they'd end up killed. It's a neighborhood in Metropolis, and most of the activity is taking place around a certain nightclub. Indeed, in the beginning it would be crazy useful just for you to show up at the club and gather that very bit of information, long before I make you known to them. You might also be the first person to notice if recruitment efforts move away from that club, which will be important to know. And my agents might not be able to get that information to me very fast."

He makes no comment on his accuracy, other than a faint, Cheshire Cat's smile. He does say: "And while I suspect you are selfless enough to consider this without asking for compensation, I can and will see too it that you are compensated as you require, whether that's a direct salary…or a sudden bank error that pays all your past student loans and a sudden scholarship that ensures you have no future ones. I hear med school is brutal in that regard."

* * *

A nightclub. It begins to make more sense. "Yeah, that wouldn't go over very well," Khalid offers with a mild grimace. "I can see why this is falling to me as one of your main choices…"

Just as he returns to studying the Bastet statue, he starts, almost falling forward but catching himself with a stuttering step. Those eyes do a doubletake toward Coulson.

He really wishes there was a railing to lean against.

"It is!" Khalid breathes, keeping his voice to a harsh whisper. "And it would help a lot! But my parents will have a ton of questions if that particular sequence of events plays out."

* * *

Coulson considers the parental angle, and he says, "Perhaps just the scholarship for now then. There's not much that can be questioned there, I don't think. You just tell them you applied for one and let them be proud. We'll worry about your loans later. We can at least stop the massive bleed for now. It's better in one regard anyway."

He has to rock back on his heels a little as he says: "It raises fewer questions who anyone who might go digging into your background, too. I don't think anyone will have any cause to. You're just another young man at the club. But if someone does…probably best if there isn't too much good fortune raining down on you from above."

And underestimating their enemies is a good way to get any of these young people working on this killed.

* * *

Khalid nods, agreeing with the scholarship more than the sudden error of disappearing student loans. "Yeah. Y-you don't even have to do that, either. We're still handling it the best we can."

Although it would help his dad. Less stress in trying to taxi people on crowded streets would be a plus in that regard. But later. He can think about this later.

Coulson brings up a good point. While it sounds like the usual information anyone gets for undercover missions in films, there's this sense of openness to the agent's words. Not many people are up front about details like that, letting them know what they may be getting into and what can be connected to it. "No, that's pretty solid. The less conspicuous, the better."

Potentially getting killed is usually a deal breaker in any case, but Khalid doesn't bring that up at all. He considers it, but he seems to silently (and somewhat reluctantly) accept these terms.

* * *

And with Khalid's tacit acceptance, Coulson brings out a pair of photos. "This is Daisy Johnson. She's the first agent, and the one who is in the deepest. She had the least time to prepare because she saw an opportunity to get in, and she took it. If push comes to shove, she can create earthquakes, and that might help you develop an exit strategy if contacting me won't work."

And then the photo of the red-haired young man with the god-awful fashion sense. "This is Brann Driver. He's trying to work his way into the organization. He's a pyromancer. He's impetuous, so if you do end up on point for a rescue, you're going to have to keep that in mind. He works precisely because he is the exact opposite of anyone we'd send undercover, but he isn't easy to manage. If you need to, remind him he's got his sibs to get back to. He practically raises them, and they're his whole world. That can center and focus him when he's about to do something stupid."

* * *

The med student lets his gaze drop to study the photos Coulson seemingly pulls out of thin air. His mouth forms a thin line, albeit brief, as both profiles concisely go over their circumstances and the powers they have at their disposal.

"Good to know they're on different sides of the spectrum," Khalid comments, finally pocketing the card so that he can fold his arms over his chest. "I'm assuming Daisy is much more experienced over Brann, but they both have lethal abilities."

* * *

"You assume correctly," Phil says quietly. "Brann isn't an agent. We in fact kept him from coming into SHIELD because of his psych profile, but that made him perfect for this. He's a good man though. Daisy's a trained agent and an experienced hacker. She's the one who is in the most danger, but Brann is the one most likely to slip up and get himself made."

Coulson looks at him seriously. "I don't expect you to keep an eye on them every minute. You can't. You have to live your own life and even if you were working for me 24/7 it's not possible. We might lose them regardless of these efforts, and it absolutely will not be your fault if we do. But by doing this, you are giving them that much more of a chance to make it out of there alive."

* * *

Khalid's gaze stays on the photos, only to meet Coulson's when the latter summarizes the possibilities of things going wrong no matter what is done. He says nothing; his throat swallows at the beginnings of a forming lump of worry, mentally reasoning that he's already gotten himself involved indirectly.

That's the thing, isn't it? Success or failure can easily occur depending on the tip of the scale. Their fates can be sealed in a heartbeat. Daisy and Brann aren't helpless. But they will need another option if it all goes south.

A chance to change that fate.

"…I'm not saying it'll be a piece of cake," Khalid finally replies, letting his shoulders go slack as he leans back on his heels, "but if I can carve out some time from my schedule, I think I'd be able to do it."

* * *

"Good," Coulson says quietly. "The number on that card is a private, secured number. Text me with 'don't forget, ten AM lunch meeting' if you need me for any non-emergency reason. If you need me for an emergency reason, tell me you want to move our meeting up to breakfast."

While he is well known for going "old school" in his spy craft, he is not adverse to using newer tactics and techniques. And in this case, if Khalid needs to get ahold of him, it's something Khalid has to do fast.

He gives Khalid a look full of compassion and respect before tucking the photos away and asking: "Do you have any questions for me?"

* * *

Code phrases? Now that's something Khalid doesn't get to do everyday and it shows on his face. "Okay," is all that's said in regard to it, but the memorization is simple enough.

As for questions, he pauses. "Not right now. But I feel like they'll come up as I go."

* * *

"That's what the first code is for, so you're all set. Look for that scholarship within the week. And Khalid? Thank you."

Phil Coulson cannot afford to linger long in a space where he has just recruited an asset. Especially one that is in the sort of delicate position that Khalid Nassour is in. One that was chosen for that very position.

So just as suddenly as he's come, he's turned into the museum crowd and is gone, melting away as if he really were the Cheshire Cat he so often resembles.

* * *

And just like that, the chance meeting ends. Acquaintances become strangers once again, letting invisible social barriers fall back into place.

"Yeah," Khalid nods, giving the agent a halfhearted, hidden wave as he leaves. "No problem."

The moment his arms drop back down to his sides, he finds himself alone at the foot of Bastet. Like nothing ever happened

Except it kind of has. What just happened, he can't pretend it never did. Yet he has to. Another weight has been added to the scales.

Khalid looks at Bastet's face one last time, his hand drawing up to grip onto the strap of his worn and burdened backpack.

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