Portrait Of A Genius



With NPCs by:

Scene Title Portrait Of A Genius
Synopsis Sable trips the 'involuntary Registration' wire.
Date September 16, 2010

Financial District — NYPD Headquarters

The New York Police Department Head Quarters is an old stone building, rennovated many times over the years. The plaster walls are not as cracked and in need of repair as the various Precinct buildings around the city. The fluorescent lights give the room a rather sterile glow. Old posters, civic reminders, duty rosters and newspaper clippings are tacked up on the walls, rustling every time one of the doors opens. A high, wooden desk sits on the north wall, manned by two clerks, who records all visitors and arrests.

The way out to the street lies to the south, while doors to the offices of the Head Quarters lie to the northwest.

Considering she'd had to train for this particular detail for a month, handling voluntary Registration has been quite a letdown. Boring. Nobody has come in with a bomb strapped to them, never mind anybody who is a bomb, and Penelope James has been doing this for two months already. She knows she ought to feel lucky, but for Christ's sake. She got herself into peak physical condition, pulled at least three all-nighters that last week for the exam, used the corrective lenses at night just in case a plastikinetic showed up, husband's insistence.

It isn't even six o' clock yet and she's hungry.

The officer sits wearily at her post, the appropriate desk marked in the main room of NYPD headquarters. She has her chin propped up on one hand, pink fingernails curled up against her dark cheek, scrolls absently through the list of hit results for vow renewals on Google, wonders for the nth time what little Shenae is going to manifest when she does. The sunlight is bleeding copper through the blinds, makes her squint, but she can't work up the gumption to go over there and close them.

Someone is arguing passionately in the corner with a telephone, and a bail-jumper the size of a young bull is being steered in by a disproportionately slight bounty hunter, the latter of the duo marked Evolved by the number of curious-to-distasteful glances cast his way. She wishes whoever has that curry open would fucking close it. It smells like flies in here.

For every action a reaction. For every weight a balancing one. And so, as literary symmetry would have it, for every massive bail-jumper and slight escort, a tiny captive and a towering captor. In through the outer doors a single officer, looking beleaguered and strained, escorts a dark haired young woman heads shorter than he. Despite her size, considerably inconsiderable, handcuffs were apparently deemed necessary, though whether the fuming crease of her brow indicates a cause or a result of said cuffing, it's hard to say. Justified, though, a long time cop can tell. This kid just screams 'flight risk'. The way her eyes, a weird yellow color, keep cutting to anything that even vaguely resembles an exit, make that loud and clear.

And if the eyes weren't clue enough, the fact that this newly arrived pair is heading straight for Officer James' desk makes the inversion complete. Her escorting officer is just garden variety homo sapiens sapiens, but their trajectory indicates that his pint-sized perp is not. They halt in front of Penelope's desk and the visiting officer gives a nod in weary greeting.

"This one tried to sneak past the checkpoint to Roosevelt Island. No papers, and her ID is fake, so we took her to the Public Safety center. Guess what? Her test came out positive, so…" he pulls out his keychain and neatly undoes the cuffs, "she's all yours now. Enjoy."

The little miscreant gives the man a venomous look. "Hands off, pig!" she growls, pulling her hands in front of her and rubbing her skinny wrists. Penelope gets a glower, but no invectives, at least not yet.

Penny— oh, no, she's Officer James now, sits up to attention eagerly, her eyes looking the diminutive girl curiously. Older than 'Nae. That doesn't say much. The spark of maniaaa in Sable's eye says a great deal more, but she can tell that the girl isn't holding herself like a fuckin' ninja, or even anyone accustomed to permitting proximity only if and when she's carrying a blade.

Something less or something more. "Sit down," she says, and she makes a welcoming gesture at the chair across the desk from her, though her other hand is momentarily occupied with shutting down the browser window. Pleasant Oaks chapel implodes into a nondescript blue background and neatly columned desktop icons. "You guys, too, if you want," and she nods her head over at the two chairs propped up against the wall a few yards behind Sable's shiny new throne. Near enough to intervene if she tries anything, not close enough to contribute to the conversation.

"I'm Officer James," she says, taking a pen out of her tidy green plastic holder. She already has a blank form laid out fresh! to receive Sable's details, too. Not that she'd been waiting hours for something of this like to happen, of course. Her words are plastically stencilled, but the lilt of her contralto and squint of her eyes is genuinely curious. "I'm going to be registering your Evolved status with the Department of Evolved Affairs today. It isn't a very complicated process. The amount of information we need from you is pretty minimal, and the system we use to categorize Evolved is very simple. We'll talk about it in a moment.

"What's your name?"

The chair is viewed with an arbitrary distrust that suggests no specific concerns beyond just that it's a goddamn cop chair and thus not to be trusted. Still, standing while the officer sit suggests the wrong power dynamic as well - a student called before the principle, a low level employee being summoned for brick termination. So the young woman swings into the chair, sliding down into it with a lazy lean exactly calculated to maximize her insolence. Practice makes perfect. Her arms hang limply out and over the rests, and she examines the tips of her battered shoes for a while before bothering to look up at Penny.

"Sable," is that person's answer, and the look she throws in after it approximates an unsaid 'and what are you gonna do about it, huh?'.

There's a brief pause during which she looks upwards, examining the particle board of the ceiling, at those innumerable little holes drilled thinly. Her mouth hangs open loosely, then snaps closed, before she gives a grunt. "How much they pay you, eh?" asking without looking at Penny.

"Less'n I'd like," the officer answers, tapping the pen against the paper once, twice, before actually pushing the nib out with a thumb on the button. No! She hadn't really expected Sable to give her name. "Legal name, the one they either put on your birth certificate or the name change you applied to afterward. Date of birth and Social Security number would be good, too, if you have it. C'mon." Cajoling. 'Sable' goes in under 'Known Aliases,' at least. "The sooner we get through this part, the sooner we get to figuring out what you can do.

"Which is the fun part. Y'know." Attempted familiarity wavers slightly as her black brows glide together around a slight knot of consternation. "Defining your superpower. I'm also under obligation to remind you that you may be arrested and fined for noncompliance, but you're a smart girl. I'm sure you already figured that part out. C'mon, citizen." Tak-tak-tak, the squash-button end of Officer James' pen raps the page, and she smiles down (a matter of altitude) at Sable. "It's time to make your mark."

Sable apparently finds a spot where her cargo pants have worn thin infinitely interesting at the moment. She picks at it, thumbnail plucking the top layer of strands. The transparent performativity of her inattention might be more or less irritating depending on your viewpoint. She's purposefully being a pain in the ass, but at very least she's only pretending not to listen. As her answer, eventual, attests.

"Don' have any of that shit," she says, giving a shrug to indicate her non-knowledge is accompanied by a complimentary non-caring. "Parents were, like, hippies. Little camp down in Maryland. Off the grid. 'til yer people came and, like, took 'em away," she recites this story with a terminally bored affect, now fiddling with the velcro of one of her pockets, but her eyes do sneak up to Penelope long enough to try and gauge the effect this tall tale has. "Been on m' own f'r… I'd say 'bout four years now."

She tugs herself up in her chair a bit and leans forward, finally meeting Penny's eyes and offering her a lopsided grin. "C'n save you th' trouble, though, babe. I know what I c'n do. I c'n just tell y'."

The officer's brows lift momentarily, almost disbelieving, successfully repelled by the girl's studied nonchalance. Hippies? She doesn't look old enough to have been he product of proper hippies, after all, and Maryland is too far away for this particular dedicated New Yorker to guess as to the probability of there being tiny outposts of that culture in the boonies. Are you fucking with me? Is that mutually exclusive from the truth?

"What were your parents' names then?" she asks, finally, allowing Sable a brittle margin of the benefit of doubt. She slides her writing hand down the page a few inches and checks a box marked Yes. The main question attached to it unravels a lot of chilly clinical verbiage about whether or not the subject knew that they were Evolved. She tries not to grimace. That'll be a Hell of a fine. "Did you become aware of your Evolved status through them, or did you discover your ability later?"

"SkyFather and EarthMother," Sable answers, no beats missed. She's dropped boredom and adopted, in its place, a bland smile and slightly lifted eyebrows, "'course, everyone's kids was everyone's kid, y' know how it is. How it was, I guess."

One hand lifts to cup her chin as Sable gives a small yank, turning her head and cracking her neck. She winces, then shakes her head, quick, like a dog drying itself. "I dunno what all this is 'bout Evolved status 'r whatever, but I figured out I was born somethin' special when I first picked up a guitar. Y' see, I got th' same, like, mutant power as, like, Beethoven," she lifts a finger and taps the side of her nose, "incredible musical genius."

Sable leans forward and around, trying to sneak a look at Penny's monitor screen. "C'n y' look up mebbe where they put my folks? 'r mebbe where they're buried? I kinda figured they didn't get th', like, proper last rights 'f the Wintercrone, and, y' know, it'd do my heart some good t' get t' do that f'r 'em."

Officer James looks slightly owlish from across the table— but when the diminutive mutant leans over to look at her monitor, there's a belated yyyoink of the edge of the screen, swiveling away the— "Please don't do that," she says, remembering to blink now that her corneas are stiffening from getting dry. She glances down at the form she was filling in and debates white-outing the one 'Yes' and checking 'No' instead but, like the Census Bureau, they are under certain obligation to go with whatever their subjects say.

"We can try to look up your parents, sure," she says, doubtfully. "If you have the address of the, um, commune that you were raised in, and know when they passed— if they passed, it's pretty likely that there are records. Otherwise, when we run your prints, something could turn up.

"Speaking of which, we," latching on inspiration, the woman brightens slightly. "Could do that right now." A steel drawer comes rattling open, ink kit, the divided sheet, a small bottle of what is apparently lube. It's that bottle that goes out, uncapped first, an instructive flick of her fingers by way of request. "We just need a little of this on your fingers to make the ridges stand out." A beat. Suspicion rekindling, catalyzed reflexively by a touch of sympathy. "You never knew your Momma and Dad?"

"You get that down, arright?" Sable says, keeping ahold of the ground she gained, even though the screen is out of her line of sight now. One arm is resting on the edge of Penny's desk, and the young woman's cranes her neck to get a look at the form that's being filled out. She does see her genius recorded. "I toldja what I c'n do, so get it down." She starts to reach out, possibly making a play for the form.

Then the ink kit comes back, and Sable retreats as if from a flame. "Aw, no way!" she exclaims, "y' ain't takin' my prints. No way. Naw, none of that. Y' ain't pullin' that shit, I know my rights!" Does she now? Knowledge or no, rights or not, Sable takes no chances, sticking her hands promptly in her armpits and clamping her arms down, keeping her fingertips safely within their havens as she shakes her head, emphasizing the negative she's already stated verbally several times in and several forms.

The cop stares at the woman. Annoyance and hysterical amusement tangle in her brows. She opens her mouth, clears her throat, and then moves the lubrication bottle insistently at the young woman. "You're going to be Registered, miss," he reminds her. "That does mean you're going to start showing up on database crawls and things. I know there's a lot of bad tabloid stuff about what people do exploiting that information, but at least you'll never have to worry about anything like your parents. If you get in trouble, your friends will be able to find you.

"Maybe you'll find you've got some other family." Cajoling. Better than penning the little lady up with, um, no instruments, surely. "We already have your blood in storage," she points out, further. Not entirely relevant, given how limited the government's resources are as far as analyzing the genetic signatures of random delinquent throwback goes, but it was the damning evidence. "Compared to that, this is a formality. And Federal law.

"We don't have any other information for you," excuse her, "besides your self-reported ability, so we need to do this."

"Y'all okay with this?" Sable inquires, hands still firmly locked under her arms, "smackin' folks with th' mark of Cain? Puttin' them int' this whole, like, system?" If this is the first time Officer James has been heckled in this way, it sure as hell won't be the last. Of course, like each and every soul attempting revelation through guilt, Sable makes it sound like she's hitting Penny with some really deep notions that she can't have possibly ever asked herself before. And, of course, she doesn't stop there. Truth bombs away! "Y'all wanna think real hard 'bout that, mebbe. Mebbe think on what it is y'all might really be, like, involved in."

Sable follows this profound, life changing speech with an appropriately ominous look. And then she sticks her hands out, arms extended, like she's offering to get cuffed again. "On yer head be it, lady. Hope you sleep good at night."

Humor is as inappropriate as irritation, under the circumstances, and the cop is hard-pressed to quell hers. Breathe in, breathe out. The lubricant comes out with a squeak of a captured air bubble and uneven squeeze, smears onto the girl's fingertips, and there's something peculiarly motherly about the Registration officer's hands as she steers Sable's extremities through the motions. Once her 'ridges' are prepared, it's a matter of rolling each digit carefully across the moist mat of black pigment, and each one thereafter within the printed boxes.

Mapping Sable's identity out in nondescript but unique terms. No zebra has the same stripes, but who the fuck cares about telling one zebra from the next? Zoologists. Not even poachers. "When'd you discover you were a musical genius?" she asks, slightly absent from the task literally at hand. "We have a room for demonstrating powers, but the only instrument we have in their is a really cheap little keyboard thing. I don't think Mozart was the keyboarding type."

The whole process gets a leery gaze from Sable, who looks like she suspects this might turn into some sort of gom jabbar type experience, not that she would ever couch it in those terms. She's not a dork. The clear reference to (which to Sable means official confirmation of, since a cop says it) her alleged musical brilliance immediately brightens her demeanor, however, and she goes so far as to smile. "That'll work. Better with th' guitar, so don't expect nothin' too mind blowin'. But I'll play y' somethin' t' promote a little peace 'n' love," she arches a brow and adds, 'non-chalantely', "y'all got recordin' equipment? Like, f'r yer files 'r whatever?" If yes, she's going to see if she can snag a copy. Sable thinks it would be just wicked to have a track that was recorded while she was in trouble with the law. How badass would that be?

More badass than the NYPD headquarters has made provisions for, regrettably. :( "Well if you have a cellphone with a camera in it and you're willing to sign a release, I might be able to help you out," she answers, unable quite to quell an answering smile. Once Sable's fingers have set down their dense, black sausage-shaped markings, there's handwash with alcohol reeking gently of artificial gardenias, Kleenex, and Officer James does it, then.

Scratches down those two ludicrously incriminating words, and doesn't even whirl a question-mark in after it. "If you have a good reason for failing to have Registered earlier, I may be able to get the fine waived," she says, lifting a quizzical brow. "You'll definitely be a Tier 0."

"Whassat mean?" Sable inquires, narrowing her eyes at Penny. The way she says 'definitely' doesn't sound impressed enough for 'Tier 0' to mean anything awesome enough. 'Zero' is a word, in and of itself, that Sable had no interest in associating with her talent, immense as it is. Did she not make herself clear? She said incredible, right? She mentioned the genius part, didn't she?

And what's this about a fine? Sable wasn't counting on that. Penny has to understand, Sable needs that money to buy illegal drugs! She does some quick mental gymnastics, the processes of which is visible on her features, though it looks more just like a toothache and then: "Y'all called in Victor Wooten yet? Got him t' register 'n' all? How 'bout Pete Townshend? Guess he's not American, so he's off th' hook, eh? Y'all askin' th' other fuckin' greats 'f rock 'n' roll t' line up 'n' get their fingers pricked? Or am I just special?"

"Nope. You, miss, are the beginning of a new era," the officer assures Sable, a little resignedly. Oh, to be young, and. A. Musical genius. No bills to pay, funds set aside instead for illegal drugs. It may occur to those behind the fourth wall that it's better that Penelope doesn't understand. "What's your mailing address and phone number?" These two fields, however, the officer gracefully permits Sable to fill in herself, setting pen down atop paper and pushing both across. "Current occupation too, please, and if you really want that inquiry about what happened to your folks looked up—"

Hesitation. Split-second of it. "Those Post-its, there. Address of the commune, any dates or details you remember— when you were dropped off, who took care of you while you were there, that kind of thing."

She's straightening as she does so, like all that was a furtive aside. The lithe woman brings herself up to a full height that's only a few inches superior to the young woman opposite. "Hey, you guys can go grab coffee or whatever," she pitches her voice over the black porcupine roof of Sable's head, and motions at the girl with her hand. "She just needs to finish up the writing exercise, and we're going to do the ability demonstration."

Sable reaches over into Penny's workspace to snag a pen, continuing to show a disregard for boundaries. Implement acquired, she reads the form over deliberately, pulling off the pen's cap with her teeth and sticking it onto the other end of the pen. Or at least she tries. She ends up poking herself in the cheek first, causing a wince and a quick back and forth 'no one saw that, right' sweep of the eyes. The second time she succeeds however, though she takes her gaze off the form and watches the pen as she guides it carefully into the recess of the cap. This terribly sensitive procedure completed, she returns her attention to the form.

She writes the following:

Address: the streets
Current Occupation: musician sage next big thing
Phone Number: (718) 824-5036

An arm is lifted to shield whatever Sable writes on the Post-it notes. She stacks the notes so that the top one hides the bottom - the top one is blank. Sort of private about her made-up family life, huh? This done, she shoves the form back Penny's way, arms crossed, watching her expectantly.

Ah, persons experiencing homelessness. The precincthouse does get a couple of those, sometimes, and they are notoriously challenging to catalogue properly. Of course, Sable looks far too neatly-groomed to pass for that. "We need a real address for you," Officer James says, somewhat gloomily, but she takes the yellow pad back, peels off the uppermost two layers and glances briefly in under the first to check that, you know, it isn't a smiling penis drawn on the second. "Anywhere you'd consider a main or frequent residence.

"If there's a shelter you go to pick up messages, that'll work." There is certain expectation in the woman's brow. Probably not expectation of total victory! on behalf of the Man and his anal retentive information-gathering techniques, but you know, Penny's going to do her job and what will be will be. She quashes the urge to reach across and prod the reddened dimple that the pen made in Sable's face. "Please try to be honest. It's more fines if we discover that you wilfully withheld information on any of those items. The drums and the cellphone camera capture are only one answer away."

At least Penny will be able to say she did her best. They'd need a far better case to drag a proper ability demonstration otu of her, certainly, never mind squeeze a real address out if she claims she doesn't have one. At least the prints are filed away, as well as the glorious answers inscribed in a mixture of her hand and Sable's, handed off in a manila envelope to a woman who comes by when she notices the Registration officer about to haul anchor and head off to the testing room. The Post-its, on the other hand, are disappeared somewhere with sleight of hand that's probably better-suited to someone on the other side of the fence.

"This way, Miss Sable," she says, good-naturedly, all things considered. They have to rove past a group of neurotic-looking women waiting on gray plastic chairs, a gentleman hurling through with a giant pink box of donuts held overhead, and a man gone purple with wrath with his ear flattened against a cellphone, the knife-creased lines of his suit only exaggerating the anger that hums livewire in his broad-shouldered frame.

Unconcerned, the woman leads the way to a large room with thick, unmistakably soundproofed walls, one-way windows, and a cavalcade of gym equipment, a high-definition projector mounted on a table, a box of junk that might have been pulled out of a psychologist's Wechsler testing kit. It's to the musty little keyboard huddling in the corner that the officer goes, however, stooping only to plug it in, before a rattle of wheels has it out for Sable to stand beside.

"This a good height?" she inquires, crossing her arms loosely over her chest, a smirk playing at the corner of her mouth.

At least Sable is in a better mood. The irony, of course, being that her perceived 'victory' over the System has her, finally, cooperating. Not that her resistances, deflections and deceptions were to any real purpose or conceivable aim. Not meaningfully effective. She resists just to resist. The day's entertainment. And now she's in their database so, the win does to the Man. Damn but if that isn't exactly how He gets ya.

Oh, N.B. - if Penny were ever possessed the number on the Post-it, she'd best be ready to have a chat with the delightful Amadeus Deckard. Like hell Sable is giving her number to a cop.

Sable pauses midway through cracking her knuckles to give Penny a very cool look. Cracks about her height however subtle and clever and gildedly witty are not appreciated. The gaze, already tinged with a certain 'really, now?' disdain, takes a turn for the imperious as she cracks her chin up to 'haughty'. Her fingers part, wiggling like a cartoon maestro's, and she begins to play.

She plays, and sings, an all piano rendition of 'Getting Better'. The matter of her genius is arguable. But she's pretty good. And she obviously cares about what she's doing. Her smugness, recalcitrance and the rest of her more irritating qualities shift to the back of her personality as she plays.

James decides that she wouldn't pay five hundred dollars to listen this, never mind to play it, but — hey. To each their own. She watches and listens with no small amount of amusement carefully dammed up behind dusky features and loosely postured arms, watching the enthusiasm of small fingers darting across the vivid black-and-white keys. 'Nae is going to get piano lessons, eventually, unless she'd rather learn the clarinet or the flute. Penny likes how clarinets sound. Though Sable did have a point. Guitars are classic.

Perhaps if she figures out how to work in the cautionary tale of the tiny delinquent who got fined to the moon and back. "I can see how you figured out your ability," she offers, when the last strains of the song jangle to a fade. The tips her head forward, and the black of her ponytail collides with the back of her neck. It takes her a moment to glance up at the girl's odd, yellow eyes again. "I think your fine's going to end up at around six hundred dollars.

"You can pay it here now, or within the next two months. I'll get you a slip, so you know what you're dealing with," her eyes go slightly crescent-shaped, "in the unlikely case you find yourself unable to pay."

See, this is the problem, this is why it's so hard to make it as a musician, as an artist of any kind. Damn the Man, man. Like Sable's got six hundred dollars lying around. But Sable, who has not the slightest intention of paying this fine if she can possibly avoid it, just shrugs. "May need a little time t' scrounge that up," she says, unconcerned, "y'all snag that slip f'r me, arright?"

"Oh!" Sable adds, turning back from the keys, pointing both her finger at Penelope - bang bang, "Reason I'm here. Goin' t' see someone on Roosevelt Island. Now I got slapped on th' wrist 'n' had a bar code tattooed on m' ass 'n' everythin'… mind hookin' me up with those papers, say I c'n pass on through?" Her smile is wide and hopeful. It would be a shame to see it fade, wouldn't it?

"You'll have to wait a week or two while we try and find your full name," Penny says, in her best most regretful voice, leading the young woman back out with a click of the door unlocking. She holds it open, like a gentlewoman— which maybe she is, and extends an arm to show Sable the way back out into the main room. "It's going to be awhile before we try and get enough information together to complete your Registration, since you don't know it.

"I'll see if we can drop your materials off at the Sisters of Saint Dominic, and you'll definitely get a phonecall once we have your results in. Here's where you get your photo taken," she adds, nodding her head toward the miniature booth set up, with a ghastly sterile white backdrop, a stool, camera fastened to a table that carries a desktop tower, lamp, and mountainous shelves on it like a fortress. "Have a seat, look at the lens, you know the drill.

"Say 'cheese.'"

That isn't the answer Sable wanted. She had pretty much planned to walk out of here with a card that officially declared her the next Hendrix, and the papers she needed to coast through that checkpoint and get where she was going before the fucking law had to get involved. The shelter she has no plans to visit, and the only thing the number she wrote down will get them is fresh New York style pizza - and they probably don't even deliver to this location. Sable is rapidly looking like she's going to be hoisted by her own petard. Whoops.

But those are bridges to cross when the time comes. She's got ways around this. Sort of. And in for a penny…

The yellow eyed girl plops down on the stool. She gives the camera a dull look for a moment, shoulders slouched, then all of a sudden she straightens her back and lifts two fingers in a 'V'.

"Cheese and Love, baby."

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