2019-09-30 - A snag in recruitment


Captain America examines a new possible recruit, Ryan

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Sep 30 20:27:48 2019
Location: Triskelion

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Theme Song



A group of potential recruits are being evaluated. They come from various stripes: there are some technical people, some policemen, military. There's some from various EMT and fire rescue teams. It varies. Three SHIELD agents are running the tests, which started with some very long written ones. They are inspecting them and scoring, while some other tests are run.
"He claims he can't enter the MRI," one of the agents is saying to the other two. Another frowns, looking at the forms. "That's procedure. We won't skip it. Cut him loose?" The others consider. "No explanation?"
A shrug follows: they didn't ask. There's a lot of recruits, and this is a long day for the agents, it's easier to just exclude people than to deal with special cases or claustrophobia.


Every once and a while, to share the load (and to alleviate the need to be doing something in his state of being monitored), Steve steps in to aid in the recruitment process. It raises moral as a whole within the agents selected to work the recruits through the process and too within the recruits themselves.

It also causes a subtle amount of positive stress. Harder, better, faster, stronger — the recruits tend to show off their best when they're aware the Captain is watching. He enters the room in time to hear the commentary about a recruit refusing to enter the MRI tube in particular as part of the medical process.

"Might be some sort of medical device." Without needing prompting, Steve is handed the particular form. He sips at his mug of coffee as he frowns at the paperwork. In a button-down of steel-grey and black slacks, he's office-formal today. "Lemme touch base with the recruit, we'll see if he forgot to fill in a bubble or there's something else going on." A lift of the paperwork leaves the agents to their review while Steve walks down the hallway and takes a left, headed towards the public meeting rooms. Of course, there's the room with the collection of recruits. All glance up when Steve walks by — the Captain nods curtly in greeting outside of the glass wall facing the hallway.

Then there's the odd one out, a young gentleman by the name of… Steve glances down at the form again. Ryan Locke.

"Mister Locke," he says as he enters the room with its single occupant at the meeting table big enough for six. "Agent Rogers, nice to meet you. Had a question about your recruitment form." Steve pulls up a chair across the rectangular table from Ryan and gives him a professional smile.

"No MRI?" A simple enough question from Captain America.


Ryan wasn't playing on his phone; when Steve entered he was just sitting there with the phone on the table in front of him, face down. The expression on the heavy-set, large man was narrowed and intense, eyes down at the table, as if he were trying to make an extremely difficult decision. Or perhaps it had already been made, and this was the aftermath of what that was.

Ryan looks up when the door opens, automatically, and the emotion switches very quickly. Surprise and confusion, entering into an overwhelmed look of shock. Ryan just doesn't know what to do with this. It can't be an unusual reaction for Steve to need to weather, but it does make Ryan's side of this conversation stilted.

"Um. Yes. Hello," Ryan says, getting through it with a glance towards the door as if looking for the 'YO PUNKED!' camera, and then back to Steve.

Things changed very rapidly from probably being denied continuation on a recruitment sequence to now sitting across from a LEGEND at a table.

And it means he's listening but not listening. "No MRI?" Ryan echoes, clearly disoriented by the situation, but probably not the question. There's a gap of time where he tries to understand what Steve could possibly be talking about. The world turned very rapidly just now, he's not caught up. "The test?"

Ryan flinches. Yes, Ryan, the test. "Ah, no." Very eloquent, Ryan. Good. Impressive.


"Right, the test." If Steve's at all amused by the surprise he's managed to create by his arrival, he hides it well. His expression remains professional and interested as he glances down at the paperwork set before him on the table.

A fingertip taptaps lightly on it to highlight his next question. "Medical evaluation requires you go through an MRI. You listed no reason for abstaining from it. 'm in here because otherwise, you're fit as a fiddle. No reason to turn you away if it's something simple as a pacemaker, for example." The Captain's hands interlace at his belt and he looks at Ryan patiently.


Ryan went quiet, listening to Steve's evaluation of the form and paperwork. Having the paperwork to look at helps a large amount. Ryan recovers, sitting up a little more, his arms lifted now to rest of the table. He sets his elbows on the surface, crossing his arms, picking a little at the sleeve of one shirt at the bicep. There's some creaking to the table, but nothing that Ryan's mass wouldn't explain. He's big and heavy looking.

"I went near it… I can't do it," Ryan gives. That IS true, he chose to abstain when he got in proximity, not before that, which made the question of claustrophobia come up with the other agents.

"It, um, I'm not afraid of it," Ryan says. This is like torture, in front of Captain America, of all people. But it's already bad, why not just dig the hole? He moves one hand to pass it over his face. "I think it's the big magnetic field. It makes me feel really sick. I can try though." Because how on earth can he actually deny doing it to Captain America?

"I have some things … going on. I just… I don't want them on my permanent record. I want to earn this on my own merit."




With a minor tilt to his head, the Captain eyes the young man across the table from him. He watches for tells of a lie, something he was schooled on long ago in the Army, even if Bucky was his chief interrogator — man knew how to get answers. Ryan appears to be hesitant, but not untruthful from what Steve can tell. His thumbs bounce off his belt-buckle in an abstract pattern, near-silent.

"Hard part about this process is we need to know what we're bringing to the teams when we recruit. If it's not a pacemaker 'nd not claustrophobia, there're a few options left, but they're more interesting," Steve says, curious despite himself. There's never truly a dull moment, not even in reviewing paperwork for potential agents. "You feel comfortable sharing with me what you're referencing with not going into the MRI? No reason for me to go around repeating it. I doubt anybody's going to find it worth their time after there's pen and an answer put to the form."


Ryan moves his hands again, cupping one over the other on the table, looking at them some. There isn't a lie to Ryan, but there's some clear avoidance here in the way thick hands move against one another, as if he could think better if he slowly wrings life into each digit of the other hand. It looks like it's his way of thinking, or maybe making decisions.

His blue eyes lift, taking in Captain America for a few moments. Some of the tells for lying come with watching breathing patterns, but Ryan's weird: he's not breathing for the whole of thinking about his answer, but starts again after a time.

"I'm sorry. This is a little surreal for me, sir," Ryan admits, with a palm pressing on the table softly, eyes dropping to his own hand. He draws it back, thoughtful.

"Heh, worst case is I leave, which is what's happening anyway," Ryan says, with a rueful little smile. He's talking himself into it. He rolls his shoulders upwards, an unconscious posturing: making himself look stronger, more dominant. It's pretty successful, visually, compared to the other behavior. He's clearly not an interrogator, and probably never will be one: that much can be put on the form!

"I've got some physical abnormalities. And I'll try the MRI, sir, respectfully. I shouldn't have complained."


"No need to apologize," says Steve levelly. He recognizes the shiftings in posture for what they are and makes mental notes about it. "Though 'physical abnormality' is a broad sort of statement that'll make many of us get pushy about a better explanation." His eyes travel over what he can see of Ryan with a professional distancing, weighing and measuring and calculating, maybe wondering precisely what this explanation will be.

"Let's get the MRI out of the way. You can talk while we walk," the Captain then suggests as he rises to his feet, gathering the paperwork as well as his mug of coffee. His chair scoots back with a near silent scuff before he walks to the meeting room's door. A glance over his shoulder at Ryan checks to see if the young man is following.

"We've got a few agents with physical abnormalities," the super-soldier continues. "Say I'd count for one of 'em. Not as uncommon or odd as you'd think." Coffee is sipped.


Ryan is following. He pushes up from the table with some care of his chair. Ryan entirely lacks the 'perfect' physique of America's Hero; he has a lot of mass comparitively. He wears it pretty evenly on the whole, but there's extra around the center. He ends up moving in a way that makes it obvious: he's not light on his feet.

Ryan picks up his phone from where he left it, putting it in a jacket pocket and coming along. There's a brief expression of a man walking to his doom; Ryan doesn't police his expressions very well: or at least, isn't trying to do so in Steve's presence.

"I know at job interviews it's best to sell yourself. This just doesn't …sell well," Ryan says, but smiles anyway. "Unless you want to do it underwater. Then, hey," Ryan says, though his tone is self-deprecating.


Ryan's footsteps can be heard as they join him in the hallway. Steve pauses to shut the door and off they go, traveling towards the medical ward rather than towards the collection of offices and agents flipping through completed recruitment forms.

With a deadpan amusement, the Captain glances at Ryan's form and then over at him. "Never had anybody list underwater basket weaving on their hobbies list before."

Of course, this is not listed. It's the Captain attempting to ease the discomfit of the entire situation.


"I might have left that off my resume," Ryan answers, his smile sad, hooked to one side. "And I don't think I could weave a basket above /or/ under water at any reasonable pace. If you gave me a few hours, I'd give it a try, though." Ryan doesn't really know, but like the MRI… there's no success without trying.

"I guess I could say I'd be good in some bad situations. Water. The dark. Burning buildings." His sheet does say fireman. "But not MRI machines, it looks like." A quick attempt at a smile shows. "But I'll do it." It's become like he's reminding himself it will be fine.

Ryan looks around as they pass towards medical, with an alert quality to his gaze. He's aware of what's around him, naturally checking things out; it would probably be no surprise that he'd know exactly how to exit the building.

"I try to look at it like I've been gifted with tools to help others in emergencies. Drowning. Burning." Ryan says. His tone is weary. "So, yes. I do okay with water. I'm sturdy. But yeah. It's because I have gills and I'm fat. So." So there it is.




Having glanced over to make sure his light-hearted pun simply landed instead of smarted, Steve allows himself, in turn, a knowing little smile in passing. Did he look the same when being escorted to Erskine's machine? Something to muse over later. Regardless, he opines to the young man as they walk, "Nothing bad'll come of it."

The habit of checking escape routes is also noted — a good thing to have in an agent, awareness of one's surroundings. Natasha too exhibits this same methodical noting though in a far less visible manner; so too does Clint. Steve still reads through the top page of information in his hand again, if only to keep Ryan from feeling as if he's being observed too heavily.

Revelations have him pausing outside of medical, though it might appear to be to allow another pair of agents to leave — regular physicals for them. Steve lifts his eyebrows. "You'd be handy in a dozen situations off the top of my head if that's the case. Gills," he echoes, his eyes falling briefly to the stereotypical placement of the neck. "Something about the MRI going to hurt this physiology?"


Ryan doesn't have anything on his neck, his neck appears wide open. Which means if he didn't lie, they're easy to hide. That's probably more useful than not. Ryan doesn't guard his neck, but he does fold his arms, in a somewhat natural defensive movement. He's touchy about them, even if he pretended to joke just then.

"I hope not," Ryan answers. "I was standing in line for my turn, and something about it made me really need to leave the area. But I'll bear with it." He's seemed to have found his footing now: meeting Captain America really made the kid lose his cool, but he's evening out now, and gives a firm, professional little nod, easing back into his own emergency training. Handle things.


Seeing the shift into a mode of tolerance, Steve nods to Ryan, silently communicating approval of his actions. "Shouldn't take too long. I usually test my memory while I'm in it, when necessary. Had other agents try and recite poems to themselves, run the alphabet backwards, translate things into other languages — lots of ways to keep the mind from minding too much."

They enter medical and after speaking briefly to the receptionist, he too surprised to see Senior Agent Rogers leading this particular recruit around, both men are ushered to the MRI room. Steve will be in the observation room with the tech, no doubt, which leaves Ryan to follow procedure.

"You need out, let us know." It's Steve's voice over the two-way communications system, himself a half-visible silhouette behind the glass.


Ryan looks at the machine with a narrow look that reads of a sort of anger. Like the machine personally did something to Ryan in his past and it's not forgivable, but that also could just be the expression Ryan makes when he's actively stressed. He submits to things, though, following instructions. Ryan turns very terse, but lays in it.

When inside, Ryan answers that he's okay, follows instructions. When the machine starts up, his brain looks okay: no massive tumors or anything like that, then immediately shows to show climbing stress, and a lot of very heavy activity in the back, near where vision is processed. Ryan's silent, though.


"Sir, look at the increase in activity in the occipital lobe." The tech touches the rubber eraser end of his pencil against one of the screens. Steve leans in and peers before looking up through the glass again.

"Wonder if he's seeing something we're not with the machine. How much longer?" the Captain asks.

"Another minute." Fingers fly across the keyboard and the ball-style cursor highlights sections of the screen, capturing images for later inspection. Flipping through the rest of the recruitment papers now that his empty mug is set to one side, Steve glances up again at the machine. Interesting.

Ryan is instructed to exit the MRI after the aforementioned minute and once the room is clear, Steve emerges again. "Well done, Locke. Not too bad, was it?"

There's still a subtle lilt of questioning as he looks between Ryan's eyes. After all, he saw the upkick in neural energy on the screens.


Otherwise, Ryan's brain is pretty normal, other than a lot of extra activity in the sides, just above the ear. There isn't a lot the technicians can make of that, it might be some abnormality, but it doesn't look problematic for Ryan. All the stress response is in the back, and then coming up from the brainstem.

Ryan answers questions in yes-no monotone, and when it's over, he has his eyes shut: meeting his gaze isn't possible.

"I need to use the restroom, please," Ryan says, without moving at all at first. He snares the side and starts to try to get up, but he looks like he's trying to get off a spinning carnival ride. He's very, very pale.


The super-soldier's lips go thin. "This's my hand on your elbow," he says by way of warning before he walks Ryan as carefully as he can manage over towards the all-access restroom. It's full of support bars firmly bolted to the walls for just this sort of thing — what appears to be some form of dizziness.

Once Ryan's within, he walks back into the observation room to borrow a pen. A few words are exchanged with the tech, who's no doubt seen some very weird things in her time here at the Triskelion running the machine and interpreting results.

Patience is his forte in situations requiring it, and as such, the Captain is still lingering by the cracked observation room's door, his gaze somewhere in the middling distance. No doubt he heard if Ryan succumbed to his inner ear's complaining like those poor slobs exiting the zero-G machines elsewhere on the Triskelion's site.


Once he's alone in the bathroom, Ryan talks to himself a little bit. It's along the line of 'Don't throw up,' and 'Keep it together' and 'keep it down', in variations on that. He clearly doesn't know he might be observed: usually bathrooms, particularly empty ones, are safe places. He does end up having to spend about ten minutes there, and there's some minor sounds that suggest he did some gagging, but eventually he flushes, puts water on his face, washes, up, and comes out.

Ryan does, though, get lost in the hallway, standing near the bathroom door, entirely disoriented. He's still pale, but there's more presence to his gaze. He decides to wait there, rather than wander the medical of the Triskelion.


Hearing the door open, the Captain looks up from his note-taking. He's got a manila file folder with the print-outs of the MRI results now tucked behind Ryan's recruitment forms as well as the top layer of a purloined sheet of graph paper from somewhere within the observation room. Click — the pen is tucked in the pocket of his button-down and he walks around the corner to look down the hallway.

"Y'know, the best of us can't handle certain machines around here. If we all could, it'd be an exploitable weakness," he comments on his approach, making his tone casual. "I can only take the zero-G machine to a certain point, though I still hold the record for non-supernatural 'nd alien agents. This's why we find out about these things now instead of later, in a situation. 'm thinking too this's something you can overcome with some grumption." Standing before Ryan now, Steve waits to see if another palm beneath an elbow is warranted; it's offered if so.

The question to follow isn't trite; if anything, it's markedly pragmatic by tone. "You've got grit, son. Think you've got what it takes to be an agent of SHIELD?"


"The zero-G machine sounds fun, sir," Ryan says, a little forced, but talking normally is hopefully going to give the impression he is fine now. He's got one palm on the wall, to locate where the wall is.

"I think I've missed the rest of my test," Ryan says when asked if he'd have what it takes, looking aside, then back to Steve, meeting his gaze. Ryan's realistic about it; the issue with the machine, the sitting in the wait area, the test taking a while, all of it adds up. Even if he could continue, what state would he be in for the rest of the physical tests?

If they need to go somewhere, Ryan will accept the elbow, but if they aren't, he can use the wall to hold himself straight.

"But if you're asking if I'll re-take it given a chance, I will. Maybe with less" Ryan pauses, and then moves his hand in a spinning motion, "dizzy machine."


Ryan looks directly towards the far wall, which leads in the same direction of 'dizzy machine'. He doesn't know where he is in the hallway, but somehow he knew exactly where THAT was.


It's with intrigue that Steve follows the dizzy young man's shift in attention towards the wall in question; it leads back to the MRI machine, and when the Captain looks back again, he's sporting a vague smile, as if impressed and still somewhat dubious about what he thinks could be going on here with unverified abilities in the firefighter.

"Given we're looking to get baseline information for now, it'd skew the testing if you continued on. Gonna lead you back to the meeting room 'nd let you sit for a bit. The other agents will come get you in about half an hour or so for the rest of it." Now the hand returns to Ryan's elbow with a quiet warning and he's escorted out of medical back towards the room Steve collected him from initially.

"If I have to make notes about what I've observed, any ideas about what conclusions I might draw?" the Captain asks almost idly, as if he seeing what answers he can fish in the moment.


Ryan doesn't look happy about the question. There's a crushed quality to him, as he goes through the events of the day and the tests. "I don't know how I did on the written tests. But guessing on the last hour —-'Best suited to continue in current line of work, despite interest'?" Ryan asks, with dismay. He knows this didn't look good. How could it?

"I know my chances weren't good; the army rejected based on my physical things. I suspected that would happen here, too, but I wasn't sure."

"I like my current job, don't get me wrong on that. But there's only so many times we respond to aliens tearing up a street or erupting magical volcanoes or - last week, flying drone frizbees attacking bystanders - to feel like, maybe with training I could do more than just hope heroes show up soon. I know I'm not a hero-hero, I drew a bad lot on 'powers', but I hoped my draw wouldn't block me from training with SHIELD."


Steve opens the meeting room door and then releases Ryan's elbow, likely hoping the young man's vision has cleared enough to recognize the semi-comfortable chairs around the table. He lingers, keeping the door propped open by dint of it resting against the side of his shoe.

"Took me five tries in five cities before a scientist thought he saw something more in me. Didn't even get a second look at a few places. Sometimes, all somebody needs is a chance. Plus…" He glances down at the paperwork spread before him when he opens the manila folder again.

"Figure you might have something going on with sensing electromagnetic waves, which'll come in handy in a pinch if that's the case — can think of a handful of situations where it'd've given us an edge." Closing the manila folder, Steve again gives the young man a faint smile. "You've got the potential to be more'n just an emergency responder. Show 'em your grit 'nd I'll see you again at the first induction meeting. They like to trot me out to sugar-coat it all," he jokes particularly drily. Still, the dimples show briefly.


While Ryan is dizzy, he doesn't seem actually blind. He takes in the chairs and surroundings, and didn't act surprised or have vision problems. It's more like nausea reaction, that's adjusted his ability to react to the things he does see. Ryan happily takes the chair again, making it make a dismayed creak at his sudden weight dumped on it.

"Sense them? Maybe. I can sense a lot. Useless 'magic' tricks like knowing you had blueberry pancakes and a banana earlier, probably before the coffee. I don't know about electromagnets, though. I'm not sure how an MRI works, to be honest."

Ryan's eyes move to the folder, as if wondering what horrors it might contain, but he doesn't ask, those questions are held back. It won't help him here to be nosy about that. He'll just assume the worst.

"I'll just have to make up for this on the physical tests. I'll do my best to be there at introduction. However much of it is up to me."


The report as to his hasty breakfast (second breakfast, in light of suddenly needing 5,000 calories daily rather than 3,000) has Steve's eyebrows lifting. Magic indeed; he was certain there were no crumbs anywhere on his person after he finished wolfing down the muffin and fruit.

Coming to some conclusion, the super-soldier pulls the pen from his shirt pocket and clicks it once. This is handed off to Ryan along with a spare sheet of the graphing paper taken from the MRI observation room.

"Do me a personal favor 'nd write down what you'd consider to be any 'powers' of note. Hand it off to the agents who come to collect you. I'll let them know it's for my eyes only for now." He's sure to note that if necessary, others will be looking over the information. "This's going back to the review team," and Steve gestures with the manila folder.

A beat and then, over his shoulder as the Captain leaves for his next meeting, he adds, "Your best is all we can ask of you. I have faith you'll show it."


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