152/Paved with good intentions.

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Paved with good intentions.
Date of Scene: 27 February 2020
Location: Main Foyer: Triskelion
Synopsis: Miss Natasha conducts an interview quite out of the ordinary to discuss Sam's recent behavior...
Cast of Characters: Samuel Morgan, Natasha Romanoff

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    In the early afternoon, exactly fifteen minutes before the scheduled time, probationary level one agent Techno comes in through the front doors. He even uses his pass, the one that has 'Provisional' written in large block letters across the entire face, given that this is the only door that it will open. Technically he doesn't need a pass at all, of course, but decorum is required today.

    Today is Sam's mandatory scheduled check in day, to evaluate his progress and talk about issues SHIELD may be having about his behavior. The teenager is in no doubt that today isn't going to be as routine as the last few check-ins....

    By his side, the German Shepherd Bear trots with his head held high, wearing the hi-vis jacket denoting him as a service animal, preceding his human to a chair. And there the pair will wait to see what fate has in store. Sam idly hopes, against better judgment, that they'll just send him to see the usual functionary. If it's anyone else... that's probably a bad sign.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    It's someone else, and it is a bad sign. I mean, objectively it is a bad sign, but the bad sign comes in the form of a very pretty redheaded lady with a warm, friendly smile, a black buttoned up blouse, matching skirt, dark nylons and short-heeled shoes with a pair of spectacles perched on the bridge of her nose. She resembles nothing so much as an unusually pretty secretary.
    Depending on your view of the world, this would either come off as a disarming relief, or be seen as the alarming sign that it is.
    "Mister Morgan?" she calls out in a gentle voice, glancing briefly from you, to the clipboard in her hand, and back again. "My name is Natasha. Thank you so much for coming in." She inclines her head subtly and her smile broadens, "And your friend, of course."

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    There are bad signs, and then there is this. Noticing someone on course for his position, Sam glances over and sees that, no, this is not going to be the usual tick box exercise. You don't send someone that looks so inoffensive and takes such great care to come across as friendly to deal with someone like Sam. Or, so his mind supplies a split second later, you /would/, if you didn't want to make it obvious to the rest of the lobby what your intentions are. There is the familiar and unwelcome stab of paranoia... Bear notices the change in Sam's heart rate, the change in his /smell/, and leans over to press his large head against the teen's legs. A hand comes down between the Shepherd's ears almost automatically. "Good boy... Let's... let's do this."

    And so he stands, a smile on his face that most assuredly does not reach his eyes, hands behind his back to stand at parade rest. "Yes Ma'am. His name is Bear." Hearing his own name, Bear sits up to attention as well, tail wagging furiously. For a breed often thought to be vicious and fierce, he looks about as dangerous as a marshmallow.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha grins brightly and nods her head once with apparent charmed bemusement. "Mister Bear, then~." She concludes, and turns her gaze back up to Sam. "The office is just this way. Please follow me."
    All pleasantness and composure, the no doubt entirely humble and legitimate beaurucrat leads you through two or three turns through winding hallways, almost assuredly meant to disorient a sudden escape attempt as she finally picks a door and pushes and holds it open for you, looking back at you. "Here we go. Sorry for the trip, things are a little hectic today."

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    As far as tricks go, it's a pretty good one. Of course, it's one that is in Sam's own play book. Were he to orient himself entirely by visual cues, he'd be well and truly lost. As it is, he can feel reference points around him that are likely not showing up on most people's senses, and he suspects that nobody has gone through the trouble of spoofing power signatures just to make sure he doesn't run. Not that it's an option at any rate... he has nowhere to run to.

    Bear is the first in the office, making a quick circuit, and Sam doesn't go in until his furry friend has made a full tour of the space. And even then, he only goes as far as the visitor's chair, standing for now until he's being told he can sit. "No problems Ma'am. A place like this is always busy, even if it doesn't look like it."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha seems briefly delighted by Bear's quick scout work, and then follows Samuel inside, gently shutting the door behind them.
    "Too true. Please, have a seat." She says as she walks past him and sits down in a chair on the other side of the desk from him, pulling open a drawer and retrieving a folder full of papers which she immediately opens to a specific page and lays flat on the table, taking hold of a pen in one slender hand. "This shouldn't take long, Mister Morgan, if you'll just bear with me for a moment." She says, glancing at Bear and giving a brief, cheeky little widening of her smile, seemingly taking a dorky moment of enjoyment from her unintended pun. She clicks the pen twice, electing to leave the business end inside the chamber as she traces it under various lines of the reports to keep her place.
    "We've been very pleased with your progress so faaaar..." she says distractedly as she reads, "Full compliance with our terms, no muss, no fuss..." she sighs and knits her brow with rueful sympathy, tapping her pen once on the wooden table for reach word as she says, "... until - just - recently."
    She presses her lips together in a flat line, giving every indication of trying to approach this sensitively and kindly. "Can you tell us why you chose to engage in the last two incidents in your reports, Mister Morgan? The attempted hijacking and the..." Natasha leans closer to the paper and adjusts her glasses and affecting a hint of bewilderment as she says, "... *dinosaurs...?*" she raises her eyesbrows as if to say 'wow' and then looks to you again expectently.

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    It always feels strange to sit down in these kinds of situations. At least, and for this Sam is grateful, they didn't expect him to sit with his back to the door, and there are enough reflecting surfaces that he can see most angles with little difficulty. In his previous line of work, paranoia was very much a survival trait. And, after all, they /are/ still out to get him. He hasn't forgotten that in the end both he and Doctor Eissen were betrayed by spies probably in this very building.

    Although he also suspects that those specific ones are no longer an issue.

    Looking over at Natasha, the phrase 'smiling assassin' springs unbidden to Sam's mind, lowering his hand for the warm fuzzy head he knows is going to be there right next to him. Bear gives a happy doggy grin back at Natasha, as if he understood the entire pun. It's likely that he did. Which makes the next bit a little bit... not easier, perhaps, but possibly less egregious.

    Yes, Sam did kick a Velociraptor in the face.

    "Both cases, my decision to get involved was based on the same trigger, ma'am. They nearly killed Bear."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha seems dilligent, if a little out of her depth. She seems friendly and sympathetic. She almost certainly has a sidearm taped to the underside of this table, and likely more hidden besides.
    She nods once, thoughtfully, and replies, "We understand, Mister Morgan, and we'd never ask you to allow yourself or," Natasha gestures and briefly smiles softly, "Mister Bear to come to harm. Your actions in that respect are completely understandable."
    Her brow lowers. Not a lot, but very slightly, and her voice becomes softer. "What they're not clear on is what came afterward. Can you explain why you didn't flee to safety after defending yourself?" There's a brief pause, "Can you explain why you fought, and interacted with Metahumans?"

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    Ah yes. That is a question with not just a sting in its tail, but a whole set of barbs to impale himself on. Sam gives the obligatory smile when the compassion turns onto Bear, and gives the friendly Shepherd a good scritch between the ears. But it's the question that starts to tip him off. This is not a regular interview.

    He's in a room with a shark.

    That means he considers his answer very carefully, while starting to mentally rehearse the defensive actions that would be required should a snatch team come through the door. He's still projecting an air of calm, with a hint of slight bewilderment, his voice as steady as can be expected under the circumstances. "In the case of the dinosaur attack, that was exactly what I was doing, Ma'am. Granted, across the roofs of a row of parked cars, but at the time there were three velociraptors trying to eat Bear and I. I didn't decide to investigate further until I noticed the laser blast from the bank. I... felt I would be remiss in my duty to society if I had just run." It's an example of rather professional dissembling. Most of it is true. Some of it must not be. But which bit? "I was not aware that I was in the presence of a Metahuman until I saw the Green Lantern box up the bank robbers. In my defense, my actions shut down the technology that was creating the dinosaurs, and likely prevented serious loss of life."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha nods along sympathetically. "That's very noble, Mister Morgan, and I don't want to downplay the good you've certainly done."
    Natasha looks down and presses her lips into a flat line, drawing in a slow breath through her nose, as if it pains her to say what comes next. She leans forward and steeples her fingers, resting them on the desk. But not far from the edge of the desk. No, never very far.
    Softly, but pointedly, she says, "But that's not your job right now." She tilts her head very slightly, "Your job - the agreement you've made with us, Mister Morgan - is to stay under the radar. Avoid notice, and avoid standing out, at..." Natasha shakes her head a little and sighs, "... at all costs, I'm afraid. When you don't... well. You endanger yourself, Mister Morgan. And you endanger the Agents who risk their lives to keep you safe. And should you expose yourself and be apprehended by your... former employers... my superiors believe a substantial amount of harm could be done to us as well."
    Natasha's glasses glint in the light as she resumes a proper upright position. "My employers want you to appreciate the situation we're... *all* in, Mister Morgan."

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    When those hands move, Sam's eyes flick to the edge of the desk. He knows there's no panic button there... he'd have certainly sensed that. But then again, if his guess is correct, this isn't a case in which the interviewer will be panicking. There are so many ways to deal with problems. At least six different effective calibers at this range that can be effectively silenced, for one. Sam tenses, visibly tenses for someone who knows to look for the right signs, seemingly on the verge of taking action.

    And then the hands move away.

    Message received.

    Bear doesn't know why his human's fingers are compulsively stroking through his fur, but he can smell the tension. Silly humans. It takes long moments for Sam to compose himself after that particular show of hidden force.

    "Please understand, it wasn't my intention to become involved in these situations." A blatant lie, at least on the second incident, and it's surprising that a professional would even try that ruse. "But I do feel that I have... a debt to repay. To society, certainly, but also to my current..." hmmm. How to name them? "... benefactors. I could promise you that I will stop assisting in these situations, but it would be a lie. For one it wouldn't be in my power to predict, for another the instinct to act is almost overwhelming. Naturally I don't want any harm" a slight stress on that word "to come to anyone. Least of all the agents who are risking their lives for mine. How might we resolve such a seemingly insurmountable juxtaposition, Miss Natasha?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's pleasant expression doesn't change. Nothing about her changes. Which puts a certain uncanny emphasis as she bypasses your explanation to simply say:
    "Your debt is to us, Mister Morgan. And all we require is your compliance."
    That rigidity vanishes and Natasha seems more like a person again. "We want you to understand that the information you give us *will* be an aid to society. There's no further action needed on your part." She folds her hands on top of each other. "We're not unsympathetic, Mister Morgan, but please understand... nothing is set in stone, not around here. Everything could change if my employers think you're not a man of your word." She smiles kindly, "You're very young. And very passionate. And I'm *sure* that my employers understand your intentions... But you must understand... we don't trade in intentions. And we all make sacrifices."

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    There is a nod. A slow nod, a nod of certain understanding.

    "I will of course honor my word. There need be no confusion or doubt about that."

    Having said what he knew he had to say, Sam tries to relax. It's nearly impossible, but Bear helps by placing his large head on the teen's lap, absolutely demanding attention. So for the first time since this interview began, Sam has to look away from Natasha and leave her in a blind spot, so he can look down at his companion and give him the attention he deserves.

    It does seem to take the edge of his tension, and when he looks back, after a brief glance to make sure those hands are still relatively where they were before, his smile is almost entirely genuine. "I suppose my other skills won't be in need. I'm sure your organisation has plenty of people who can do what I do." A very brief knowing look. "And at least I'm far less likely to get in trouble while I'm at Happy Harbor school. I'm doing the placement tests tomorrow, did you know?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha nods once and says: "We did. We're all rooting for you here, Mister Morgan." with a warm smile. "And please know that when such time comes that you've fulfilled your arrangement with us, we'll be more than willing to look into other avenues for us to help each other."
    Natasha adjusts her glasses again and flips back and forth between a page or two of the file, slowly saying, "That... should... be... eveything..." she looks back up at you, "Unless you have any questions for me, I'd say you're off the hook for this update, Mister Morgan."

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    "I would certainly like to explore other avenues of mutual assistance, should opportunity arise, and I have been deemed sufficiently redeemed." Sam smiles pleasantly. He can look quite inoffensive and project that friendly school boy air. He's also someone who killed their way through a third of a HYDRA facility on his way out the door. And yet despite that, he absolutely does not feel like he has the upper hand. Quite the contrary.

    Curiosity is often a flaw in the young.

    "Just the one, really. Have you worked here long, Miss Natasha? I can't help but notice you didn't ask me to sign the usual forms."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha doesn't miss a beat, grinning and waving a hand dismissively. "Ohhhh, I'm an old nag around here by now, or so they tell me. I figure I'll still have a job as long as papers need filing." She says pleasantly, and with enough breezyness that she could 'just' be kidding.

Samuel Morgan has posed:
    "Seems they will always need someone to do the things nobody else likes doing, don't they?" Sam smiles back, just as pleasantly. How much does he suspect and how much does he know? "But I will leave you to the paperwork, Miss Natasha, I need to catch the bus over to Happy Harbor soon. Ehm... could you show me the way out? I'm afraid I'm quite lost."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha nods once and smiles, "Of course!" she says, and stands, walking past you and holding the door open for you until you leave. She guides you back through the halls - you could swear there's a different number of turns this time - and in sight of the exit. "There you are, Mister Morgan, free as a bird. I hope you have a good rest of the day!" She says, then smiles at Bear and waggles her fingers, mouthing the words 'bye bye!'

Samuel Morgan has posed:

    There has only been one time when Sam had been so happy to see an exit. Turns out that he had been wrong about his position in the building after all... he quite literally would have gotten lost on the way out. Did they change the walls and corridors while he was in the office? Was the office itself moved?! Another reason not to underestimate his new 'employers'. "Enjoy your day too, Miss Natasha."

    He pats his legs and gives a quick whistle to Bear, the universal 'follow' sign. And then he's out in the fresh air. Alive. And glad for it.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    When Samuel leaves, Natasha takes a very deep breath, and lets it out as a sigh as she removes the spectacles from her face, punctuating the gesture with a soft utterance of: "Kids..."