What You Aren't


julie_icon.gif robyn_icon.gif

Scene Title What You Aren't
Synopsis Robyn turns to an expert regarding questions about her lost ability.
Date July 12, 2018

Elmhurst Hospital

Sitting quiet, headphones in as music plays is a typical way of spending an afternoon for Robyn. Usually on the couch, or in her spare room with headphones plugged into the AUX out of her record player. Her usual instinct is to hum and even sing along with whatever she's picked out for the moment, regardless of artist or genre.

Rarely, though, is it something she indulges in out in public. Which might have something to do with the multiple pairs of eyes on her, some questioning and some annoyed, as she sits in a waiting room at Elmhurst Hospital and hums to herself without much thought or realisation paid to the fact that she is doing such a thing. Some habits are hard to kill no matter how hard you try.

She'd been putting off making this appointment until her vacation, but even that hadn't really worked out quite the way she had wanted it to, so here she is now. It's been years since she's been to a doctor, and longer before that - outside of physicals for SESA, she rarely sees the need.

Today, she hopes, is different. Today, she hopes, would be special. Today, she hopes, would be worth the pain and the anxiety.

Today, she hopes, she will have some answers.

Elmhurst is busy, all hours of the day and every day of the week. As the only operational hospital in the Safe Zone, it is a hub of activity and the overworked staff are often pushed to their limits day in and day out. It’s the sight of a nurse in pink scrubs catches Robyn’s attention, draws her away from contemplation on the overcrowding in the waiting room, and the nurse’s bobbing ponytail of blonde hair and hauntingly familiar face immediately reminds the agent of the tragedy of the Cambridge Massacre. Julie Fournier-Raith sets a touch-screen tablet down beside the young man at the front desk, quietly talking to him before scanning the room for waiting patients. That she has her right arm in a cast and sling doesn't seem to be stopping her from doing her job, perhaps out of sheer temerity, perhaps because there's already a shortage of medical staff in the Safe Zone.

Spotting Robyn, Julie makes her way over, unclipping her badge and stuffing it into a pocket. When she approaches, there’s silence and tension, and it’s clear she’s reminded of the past with as much texture as Robyn is. “My break just started,” is an unusual way to begin a scheduled exam, “walk with me.” And with that, Julie starts for sliding doors.

Pulled out of her musically tinged ruminations, Robyn blinks when she looks up at the younger woman. For her, Julie is one of those people that, even almost seven years later, she still sees as the younger girl she helped escape through an Institute and Government onslaught - to the point that it takes her a moment to fully recognise the woman speaking to her now.

She keeps that to herself, though. She knows she would hate it if all someone could think of was who she once was.

With a small smile, she rises up to her feet, regarding Julie with an apologetic smile. "Thank you for making the time to speak with me," she offers in a low voice. "I didn't mean to take your break from you." But she's certainly not going to argue with this. Retrieving her purse, she turns to follow after the nurse. Someone paying close attention might notice the slight bit of hesitation in her movements, the way she lags just behind the nurse.

“It's nothing,” Julie says without looking back, making for the sliding doors as she retrieves something from her pocket. With Robyn in tow, Julie heads out the door and around the front of the building, across the ER parking lot and around to the side alley that divides the primary hospital from the parking garage. “I figure you might want to keep this off the books, just in case. If you need something signed, I can do that after the fact.” Julie finally comes to stop in the shadow of the buildings, the overcast sky above doing little to brighten it up.

“So, what exactly do you need from me?” Julie asks as she opens the pack of cigarettes she'd taken from her pocket and slides one out, pinched between two fingers, then holds the pack out to Robyn in offering with a brow raised.

Off the record. Robyn had been considering what her approach to this would be, given her status as a government official these days - this is certainly something she would prefer to keep private as possible for the time being though. An appreciative nod is given to Julie as she reaches over and accepts the proffered cigarette. It would go well with the still lingering taste of coffee in her mouth. "It's complicated." This is something she still believes, even though Colette made it sound so simple. "Need a favour, and I’m… glad for your willingness to keep this between us."

The request, the favour, doesn't come immediately. Instead, Robyn suddenly finds herself short on words, unable to find a way to approach this. There's a pair of false starts marked by the beginning of gestures and the first sounds of a half formed words, but each time she stops before any fully formed thoughts escape her lips. For some reason, this is a bit harder than she thought it would be.

Taking a deep breath, she settles on the shortest version. "I thought I lost my… ability. My photokinesis," she admits quietly, eye closing and head hanging slightly. "Permanently damaged my eyes. But… I've been told that's not the case. But I can't… I can't do what I used to. At least not the same way." She looks plaintively over at Julie. "Was hoping you could help me figure me out." She feels bad coming to see the other woman just for her ability, and it probably shows just a slight bit in the forever uncertain and apologetic look in her eyes, the slight downwards curl of her lips.

The look that Julie levels on Robyn is a long and silent squint. After a moment she looks away, fishes out a lighter from her pocket and lights her cigarette, then hands the lighter over to Robyn. “First of all,” she says before taking a drag, “you can't lose your ability.” As she says that, smoke wafts out of her mouth.

“Outside of weird circumstances like ability manipulation powers, genetic modification, it doesn't just… go away.” Taking another drag, Julie furrows her brows and leans up against the alley wall. “Not one like you say you had. Which…” Julie’s brows raise slowly, “I suppose is the other half of the problem. You might have been incorrectly classified.” Blue eyes settle on Robyn, and for a long moment Julie is silent again.

Then, as she blows smoke out of her nose, Julie finally looks away and up to the sky. “I don't think you know what you really are,” she says with a tilt of her head, inclined toward Robyn. “Do you want me to find out?”

"Excuse me?" Despite the choice of phrase, Robyn doesn't sound incredulous or angry - dumbfounded and confused more likely. She blinks once, her head tilting slightly to the side as she processes what Julie's just said to her. "I d- I don't know wha- I mean I- all I ever knew how to do, I-I was taught by friends. I-" She stops her stammering there, brow stitching together. I don't think you know what you really are echoes again in her mind.

"I- didn't know what else to think," she offers in the way of a meager defence at her thought that she'd lost her ability. "Never studied these topics. Just… did what I could do." What always seemed to work. Eye flicks off to the side before she finally looks back away from the nurse, out and down at hand, held a bit in front of her. Her fingers flex out and then curl in, what used to be the sure sign she was using her ability. "And I was fine with that for quite a while." It's a very matter of fact statement, one commonly tacked on when she discusses this.

"But not anymore," is a more forceful, resolute statement, fingers curling all the way in and forming a fist. "I know now that I'm still capable of more than I thought. I want to be that person again." She wants to know who she is, and her ability defined that for several years of her adult life. "So yes. Please. Whatever you can tell me, I will appreciate."

At the consent, Julie turns to regard Robyn with an unblinking stare. It is a noticeable effort on her part, a focused concentration that remains unbroken as she stares into the older woman’s eyes. Her cigarette remains forgotten for the moment, smoking away where it's delicately held between two fingers. Julie’s pupils dilate, threaten to consume her entire iris, then narrow down to tiny points before returning to normal at the same she finally allows herself to blink.

“Misclassified,” Julie states with confidence. “You weren't ever just a photokinetic, which is why you might have caused irreparable brain damage doing what it is you did. I'd need to see an MRI to be certain.” Now Julie takes a drag off of her cigarette, her ‘bedside manner’ clinical and impersonal, as if she were discussing a lab rat.

“You don't manipulate external photonics, what I'm seeing is…” Julie waves her cigarette around like a wand at Robyn. “You can generate and absorb photons. You're on the light-manipulation spectrum, so to speak, but trying to do what a regular photokinetic does is like… trying to do power lifting with your mouth. You're going to fucking hurt yourself. And you did.”

But then, as Julie takes another drag off of her cigarette a worse prognosis is delivered. “Whatever exertion you did to cause your monochromacy isn't vision-based damage. It's likely cerebral, probably something with your vision receptors.” Julie’s head tilts to the side. “We briefly had a photokinetic in the arcology and I was able to…” she shuts her eyes, grows quiet, and shakes her head. “You need an MRI, which— good luck getting on the waiting list for that here.” She motions to the building with a roll of her eyes.

Despite herself, Robyn looks just the slightest bit unnerved by Julie's display. Usually she's not, but - maybe predictably - it's always eye distortions and effects that always make her a bit uncomfortable. When Julie says "Misclassified", her expression only becomes more confused, silent as she lets Julie continue uninterrupted.

And then silent a bit longer.

"I-" Another false start, and immediately her lips seal tight again. She looks off to the side as a small frown forms. "I knew I could generate," she states in a low voice. "A friend of mine, a photokinetic… I remember her being so surprised. I think… I think she told me I was doing the whole process wrong." A moment that had begun her initial learnings into the supposed deeper nature of her abilities, complete with textbooks like a school course.

"But absorb?" That comes out a bit more thoughtfully. As she looks down at her hands, a stormy look begins to form on the agent's face. "That's new to me," she admits quietly. It all makes sense, but she can't make proper sense of it. A deep breath, a look back towards the building. "They burned when I blew out my ability." Her eyes, which she motions to for clarification afterwards. She stares at the building, considering a few things.

"Well. I suppose I try, then." To get on the list. "Done well for myself so far." But that thought doesn't clear up the obvious conflict in her, as she continues to stare at the building.

“Since it’s not a life-threatening examination, it could be a while.” Julie admits as she taps ash off of the tip of her cigarette. “But if what it looks like you can do is true, you’re lucky you didn’t kill yourself by pushing too hard.” That is followed by silence, as Julie leans off of the wall and paces thorugh the alley. After a moment she looks up to Robyn, brows furrowed.

“What were you trying to do when you burned your ability out?” Julie’s question elicits a flash of horrific memories, of screams and the smell of burning flesh, of shambling bodies and tubes filled with glowing blue fluid. “Because I can probably extrapolate something from that, and give you an indication of what risks you’re at from over-exertion.”

The question causes Robyn to freeze in place, eye widening slightly. Those memories haunt her to this day, and more time passes than she realises before she finally snaps out of that stupor and swallows audibly. "Trying to save my friends," is a near whisper, choosing not to look back at Julie. "At the Arcology." Since it had already come up.

She hangs her head a bit, eye half lidded. "In the labs. We- we wanted to help someone there. Save him and his sister." She shakes her head. "It was like something out a horror movie. Dozens of… husks running for us. I did the first thing that came to mind." She takes a deep breath, a rueful smile forming on her lips.

She holds one of her hands out again, flexing fingers in ant out one after another rhythmically. "Two augmentors. One hitting the other, who hit me. Gathered as much light as I could, and then…" Fingers curl in except for her pointer, which she raises up and points out like a gun. A mimic of firing follows, before she lets her arm fall back to her side. "It was a month before I even began to remember it happened."

If she seems flippant about such a horrible thing, it's because she has to be to keep from crying.

At the mention of the labs, Julie flinches. Blue eyes flick away for a moment, the cigarette comes back up to her lips, and she exhales a breath of smoke with a slow, purposefully uncomfortable breath. The hot smoke stings the back of her throat and stings her eyes. “Kravid…” but then Julie clams up and shakes her head.

“You gathered light,” Julie restarts and tremples over her other abortive start. “Augmentors are dangerous,” she hops from topic to topic, scattered. “Most of them, like Childs and Case, are effectively like an adrenaline shot. They adjust brain chemistry to overdrive parts of the mind that govern SLC-Expressive abilities. Augmentation isn’t without consequence, it can kill people.”

Sucking down another breath of her cigarette, Julie blows it out through her nose and then drops the rest of it to the ground and scrubs it out with her heel. “As a photon-manipulator, you gathered the light when you should have been generating. But your body knew it needed to generate, even as you were collecting. Imagine you had a bucket,” Julie makes a hoop with her arms, “and you’re filling it with a hose from the mouth, but also it’s connected to a faucet. It’s going to overflow. Now switch out the garden hose for a firehose.”

“You’re lucky you’re still alive.” Julie doesn’t mince words about that. “Edward Ray was put in a coma from over-augmentation and never regained full use of his body. Other people have literally exploded.” Julie only now looks up from the ground to Robyn. “But without rounds of tests, proper lab equipment, and…” she waves one hand flippantly. “I can’t really help you.”

Her eye flicks over to Julie at the mention of the name Kravid. She knows that name, it's impossible at this point for her not to. Her instructional imperative should be to move from talking about herself to that, to see if Julie by happenstance knows anything that could be useful.

Instead, she lets it slip away, likely to be forgotten by the end of the day. She's not here for work.

Instead, she lets out a slightly forced chuckle. "Funny," she replies in her feigned amusement. "It was Gillian Childs, one of them." She shakes her head. "And Tyler was there too, but not-" Augmenting. He could do that? That wasn't how Robyn remembered, and she's pretty confident not the case. Memory is a tricky thing sometimes, though.

She waves a band back and forth, signaling the end of that tangent. She angles her gaze back down at the floor, reaching up and running a hand through her hair. "Then I suppose there's not much to be done for now besides be thankful," she laments. "But you have helped. I understand better how I got where I am." And by extension, a bit better of who and what she is now. Or, it appears - always has been.

Julie offers a noncommittal shrug. “Just be careful around photokinetics with different ability variation. Yours might interact weirdly due to your ability to absorb light, it could negate their ability or… I don't know, have side effects. Just be thoughtful.”

“My break’s over,” is how Julie chooses to end the conversation. She doesn't wait for a farewell, instead turning down the alley and headed back to work. She's done all she can here.

Now, all that's left is for Robyn to figure out what this new sense of identity means.

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