Abandoned Instincts


bella_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif

Scene Title Abandoned Instincts
Synopsis Survival, maternal, etc. - the degree to which we overcome our animal instincts is the degree to which we can call ourselves human. Right?
Date June 17, 2011

The airwaves between Jamaica Bay and the Upper East Side

The way they shoot someone making a phone call on the lam, the shallow angle, complimenting the lowering of head behind parapet of hooked, guarding arm. In a phone booth, because that way it's untraceable. 'I can't talk for long, they may be listening'.

It is not done from a cellphone, ever. They might triangulate the signals, or use the satellite tracker or etc. And you certainly don't call from your safehouse. Not by the window you read at when the sunlight peeks in just so.

But apparently these things are safe, you just have to toss them. Disposable phones, something Bella figured would be the sign of civilization's true decadence, are a reality, and one that she holds in her hand, twinned with her own, deactivated phone as she transcribes a number, number by number, from the latter to the former.

Whether or not she is going to make this call hangs on the edge of doubt even as she reaches the final four digits, but her thumbs retain their momentum. And, mirroring each other, they both pause - with matching tremors - over the send button. But only one thumb presses down as she lifts the disposable phone to her ear. The ring - all at once accumulative, deferent and relentless - peals tinnily.



Hunkered down as he is on his crappy couch wound in a crappy blanket with Ingrid fitted warm to his side in the dark, Calvin is slow to notice the buzz of his cell phone at his side. He has to set the bowl of popcorn aside to reach after it, apologies for the interruption tonight's DVD screening of Enchanted murmered while he tries to place the number reflected white across the gleam of his glasses.

Unknown numbers are less of a common occurance in his life than one might expect. Everyone labled and classified nice and neat, enemy and friend alike.

Quite a lot more of the former than the latter, lately.

He's already double-apologizing and shaking his head no don't worry about it to offers to pause when he sets to sidling awkwardly sideways out've the blanket nest and answers, "Hullo," drowsy-and-confused-like on the last ring. Popcorn is recollected off a stack of boxes and handed down to Ingrid. Then he's padding for the front door (and the assumption of privacy) on bare feet, blue jeans tugged up against hip bone and shirt pulled down as he goes.

No answer for a period of dilated time in which Bella regrets absolutely this choice and considers hanging up. He does not yet know it is her. If she doesn't speak, he'll never know. If she just hands up- now. Now. Maybe now.

It doesn't happen. She's still on the line. And while she's waited for far less than she feels like she has, she feels again that it's still time to much. In in end it's pride makes her speak.

"Don't hang up," is meant to sound like a request, if a firm one, "it's not in your best interest," bargaining, right off the bat, "I wanted to talk. While there's still a chance." Bella blanches as she double reads her own words as a threat or a plea, not wanting either, not sure what they actually are.

Amendment, just in case. "Do me that courtesy? Please?"

Recognition of voice is instant in the way it tends to be with mothers, after Calvin's glanced at the face of his phone to check that it's still connected. He pauses in the gloom of the entryway, clear eyes roved self-consciously back to Ingrid and her movie ("Good morning, Robert! I hope you had wonderful dreams!") but she isn't looking and neither should he. Be.

So his, "…Alright," is reasonable after he's collected himself with a scrub at his brow and reached to open the door for himself, squinty in the hallway light. No concept of what time it is, or whether it's light out. He meanders for the elevator regardless, grey-bottomed feet over worn carpet and once-black PRIMAL t-shirt gradually fading towards a similar shade with frequent washing.

Said t-shirt is fidgeted with again when he realizes the butt of his gun is up under the tail at the back while he waits.

Bella stares out of the window at the blue-grey wolfshide bristle of the surrounding high grasses, leached of color by the lack of light, as they shiver minutely in the breeze. "I guess I'd like to know why."

Her vision latches onto a flutter of night-greyed-white. Some tiny pennant flying from the chimney pipes. Wait- is that a sock? Is that her sock? An escapee from her laundry line.

"And I thought you might actually want to explain, to someone." She watches the kick and swish of the cotton fabric in the wind that comes off the bay. "I'd want to, in your position."

"Because it needs to be done." Garbage needs to be taken out, dishes need to be cleaned. Calvin steps through the parted gate of the elevator and tabs the buttons roofwards, chin scuffed and attention craned idly back after the cables weighted stiff over his head. "And everyone else's just sort've pussyfooting around. 'Influencing,' or. Hoping."


Pushing the button again fails to make the car go any faster, but he's there quick enough anyway. Not far to go. Locked doors present very little resistance; he sweeps through on dusty pathways already marred clean by the passage of his feet. All the way up a last set of stairs to the roof, where the first rush of wind sandpapers static across the line. Overhead, the city sky is domed an off shade of dirty violet, with a full moon near the horizon but few stars.

"Why the sudden resurgence of interest?"

Bella's humanism is more deeply rooted than her misanthropy, at the end of the day. Her love of humanity - really her love of culture, aesthetics, love of what she loves - may be a function of her vanity, but still- she wants to come to mankind's defense. Platitudes rise in her throat, but she swallows them because she's assuming he's given this a great deal of thought and at this point such a speech would achieve little but a duly earned silence. What's done is done.

"Because one or both of us will probably be dead very soon," which, she trusts, is reason enough - mentioning that, further, she may be in some part complicit in the attempt on his life, should the Ferry squeeze her shoes, doesn't seem necessary, "as will a large portion of the world's population, so-

"I suppose I'm also wondering what I could have possibly done to a child, to make them do something like this." While we're on the topic.



With one hand still pressed flat to the open door, Calvin soaks in the threshold for as long as it takes him to reconsider the openness of all of New York. Then he turns back inside, letting the door ease shut behind him on its spring and hinge until a muffled click snips off orange light and seashore traffic sounds alike.

The space he's left with is cramped and grey and littered with cobwebs and decade-old beer cans and stairs at both ends, but it is private. And familiar, once his eyes've had time to adjust.

On Bella's end it's silence all around, the absence of that sudden wind unremarked upon while he considers the plainness of her words. And also openings she's invited upon herself for berating. However — when he does speak again, it's simply to say, "We didn't spend much time together."

As the ludicrousness of his accent may attest.

"Which means what? Was maternal abandonment the pretext for your profound antipathy, or does my absence clear me from blame?" Bella's eyes briefly chart the clambering path someone would have to take to get ahold of that sock. Someone more limber and less frightened of accident than she. "At least let me learn from my mistakes."

This sentiment is profoundly optimistic, all things considered. It presumes she's got time to put such lessons to use. Plus how often is it that we find out about our missteps beforehand?

Then again, how often is it that foreknowledge really changes our choices?

"I can accept an answer in the form of abuse, if that's any easier." The tense resignation in her voice is a well worn trap, designed to defuse what it purports to invite.

With sensory intake muffled to a minimum by his isolation, Calvin is left to coil himself warily back into a tripwire kind of quiet while he listens in the absence of distraction. It's a tangible, mistrustful, touchy quiet, raccoon or monkey hands pawing with twitchy little fingers. Turning her words over.

"No," he decides, at length, irritation bit taut along either side of his voice box. "A blanket 'no.' Anyway. You could live forever and you still wouldn't opt into a baby, short've another fucking mishap." Mild derision furrowed through his brow could be worse.

It could be heavy derision, for example. Or contempt. "You shouldn't have to learn these things, besides. Even apes have instincts."

It's about now that Bella would flare into temper. Comment that, on the ascription of mishap, they evidently see eye to eye. That he has anything of hers, the favor he did was as much a favor to himself.

But she doesn't, not this time. She feels her inner boat rock, but she keeps her rudder steady

"Survival instincts are something even a trilobite possesses," Bella says, voice mostly filtered free of vitriol, "but you seem to have abandoned yours in favor of doing what you've decided is necessary. They'll put you up against the wall, you know that. 'Your kind' - they'll show you as little mercy as the old, scared heads of state." Not that he's doing it for the gratitude.

"Apes don't suicide, much less commit mass murder."

"Well I should hope so," says Calvin, who grins at his own expense such that a show of his teeth is audible in his voice for all that it's not particularly intense or long lasting, as an expression. There and gone again in the time it takes his back to find the wall so he can sink down into a crouch and then a sit.

Somewhere little mice talons scuffle scuff away in a hurry. His gun's drawn out've the small of his back and dropped on the floor after poking him in the spine one time too many. Clack.

"I'd hate to think I've cleared the way for a band of holocaust apologists."

"And then what?" It's hard to say on what grounds - maternal or otherwise - Bella sees fit to interrogate Calvin, but it's the province of the intelligentsia to berate and op. ed., given half the chance.

"When six billions bodies start to rot, the bacteria they harbor won't be as picky as your engineered special. Are there enough SLC positive nuclear engineers to prevent dozens of meltdowns? The radiation won't give a shit about most of your genetic makeups."

And more to the point, considering Calvin's own presence here. "What about the surviving time travelers who will hop back to prevent this from ever happening? This isn't bold. It's morally lazy. It's a fucking waste."

Silence, on the line.

He'd done some thinking on the diseased corpses lying around everywhere problem and even a bit on resources and the realities of a greatly depleted population, for all that no one else has really. Tried to wrench any answers from him re: contingencies.

He did not think about other time travellers fucking things up.


"Well," he says. Again. Finally. A procrastinatory, put off well. One that fails to provide any real impression that he knows what he's talking about. Or wants to be talking about it. "If they were going to they would've done it already. And maybe they have — on every other timeline, in every other…parallel universe." A stick figure etched uhappily into the dusty floor at his side goes nowhere. "As for being morally lazy, can't imagine where I got that from."

Maybe this is what it feels like when a father is finally beaten by his son in some competitive feat of physical strength. As far as moral laziness goes, Calvin has well exceeded the modest, junkie-plucking limits of the elder Sheridan's own ethical missteps. Bravo, really. Bra-fucking-vo.

"So you get to be the hated usher of yet another graveyard reality," she can only assume there is an ever-increasing stock of these, "well done. Quite the legacy we've built. And henceforth they'll always remember these fateful days," with bitterness, (and liturgical pronunciation) "Adventus Sheridani."

The tense break in her chatter, the taut line of Bella's mouth, betrays to him and to the rodents in her own rafters the sudden intrusion of emotion beyond her capacity to sufficiently vocalize. She gropes around within herself for an affect she can put proper words to.

Snideness works.

"Spilt milk though. At least for you. But I'm left to wonder: how fucked must your timeline have been, if your solution is to kill most of the people in this one?"

"Maybe all've them," Calvin reminds, slash acknowledges. Sullenly.

This is something like admitting that he might have made a mistake, for all that he can't quite go all the way.

Ingrid's probably wondering where he's gone off to by this point, but he's in no hurry to extricate himself from the grim little cave he has going for himself now that his mood's gone all wet cake and cigarette butts.

It takes a little time for it to become clear that he does not intend to answer her question.

It takes as much time for Bella to feel just a little bit badly about what she's said. Silence provides ample space for her to imagine what goes unsaid - how fucked indeed. Badly fucked, one imagines. And if not, then to have fucked up this timeline even worse? She knows enough of regret, enough of things that can't be taken back, to make some small guess at the quality, if not the magnitude, of what Calvin may be feeling. May risk feeling, given opportunity.

Quiet stretches on the line between them as it tends to during dramatic, confrontational phone calls of this ilk. It gathers weight, placing strain upon the connection, until she of the nervous verbosity breaks it.

"I may be asked to help them - the people who'll come after you," and what a thing to resume with, the euphemism 'come after' one she can't imagine fools anyone with neighboring IQ, "I doubt this will involve pulling the trigger or loading the gun, but I may be asked to take some part.

"Assuming a sudden increase in moral fortitude on my part, what do you imagine I ought to do in that case?"

What a conversation to be having. Surreal even accounting for setting and circumstance, really. Enough so that Calvin's able to remove himself somewhat, with effort, longer pauses and a distant stare that is reluctant to veer back into focus when Bella poses still another uncomfortable question.

There's no air conditioning up in this bend and after a while he's found himself lying prone and flat on the cool of the floor, face turned aside to accomodate the phone and glasses off to accomodate — his face. Any associated scuffling goes verbally unexplained. Another, less exciting mystery for her to decipher.

"Help them, I reckon."

The heat's no less where she's standing, and and even if Bella were to crack open the window the air she'd lets in would be heavy and humid. Too self-conscious to engage in any similarly odd methods of self cooling, she sweats in her tanktop and once and in while she tugs at her hair, which is getting too thick and too long, especially for this weather. Maybe she should cut it. Really cut it. Go to town.

Maybe she's changing the topic on herself.

"So long as you understand."

Words spoken with recognition, if not resolve. And the next quiet that comes is, if not final, then penultimate.

He should be feeling more combative, probably.

Ingrid has a tendency to take it out of him, he thinks. Reflects. Also he's better rested and the hard part is arguably mostly done, leaving only the terrible consequences to play out in the wake of decisions made and strings pulled. Now comes the part where everyone realizes the scope of what he's done and makes plans to kill him or whatever.

His hair is likewise long, but shorter than it was. Sharper and more kempt. More pragmatically unusual than unapologetically ridiculous.

"Yeh," he tells her. And the floor, eyes sparked and honed dead blue for a second or two on their way to dimming out again.

Bella briefly engages in a fantasy of Calvin, younger. She skips over infancy, period of pupal uselessness, in favor of imagining Calvin as toddler, scribbling misspellings into a blank book. Calvin as boy, studiously observing a legionary line of ants, armored in lorica segmentata of chitin, his magnifier not a weapon but a tool. Calvin as adolescent, inheriting the sense of superiority that had carried his mother through her chubby-cheeked years. Calvin as young man, coming into command of a surliness that is his paternal due.

This only underlines her ignorance, reminds her of what she does not know. By when did he have that accent? By when was his hair done as she last remembers seeing it? Who in God's name introduced him to eyeliner?

Now would be the time to ask, wouldn't it?

Another mystery she'll just have to live with.

She's still standing when she ends the call. Knees bend soon after, lowering her to the ground, sitting her beneath the window, whose panes rattle ever so slightly as her shoulders meet the wall behind her. The phone remains in her hand, but her grip is loose, limp. Pre-empting further encroaching darkness, she closes her eyes.

Calvin as an adult is not too mature to engage in a (small) breakdown in the dark while no one's around to see.

Which is to say, some minutes after the screen of his phone's faded black, he cries on the floor.

A bit.

He does it without thinking and without specific sadness. One of those quiet, aimless, blank leaks that has to do with everything and nothing and he cuts it off before his nose can start to get stuffy, right hand lifted pragmatically to push lingering damp out from the sink of his eye socket.

Eventually, a roll onto his side spares him direct contact with the evidence. There he can lie there with his head on the crook of his elbow until he dulls uncomfortably off to sleep rather than slink back into Ingrid's company and the comfort of his apartment.

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