Blood From A Stone


abby4_icon.gif francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Blood From A Stone.
Synopsis Teo, Abigail and a company agent venture back into the city for an experiment that turns out to be quite surprising and leaves hope.
Date November 29, 2009

Ryazan, Russia — Francois's temporary resting place.

Hours have passed, and Ryazan's average tour program holds that it's time to go bar-hopping, explore the nightlife or perhaps see a ballet, but none of Russia's anti-Vanguard unit are available for doing so. Well.

Maybe Ethan.

The intersection on the edge of the low-income area is surveilled, or more specifically, the Frenchman petrified in the stance and contorsion of his horror in it. Stitches and anesthesia and cc's of blood are being applied to the operatives who need them. The Sicilian eventually gets home.

He doesn't stop back in his own body long, which means his body is going to feel even more like a stretched out out condom for the mess of slithering, unstable energy that constitutes his consciousness the next time he does. He tries not to think about that, as he wriggles his big toe, then his fingers one by one, finds enough of his coordination to jot down what he'd lifted out of Anya's secondhand experiences, so that Cat can read it when she's ready.

He asked for Abigail after, and Katarina had to caution her not to run— in her state. Quick checks. To see if the girl is stable enough, if she'd be willing to carry him. Teo knows, out of all of them, she'll want to see Francois again; to hear, if anything, whether or not the man that once resided within is gone.

The departure of daylight leaves the neighborhood colder in more ways than one. The populace is under the best of circumstances wont to keep to itself for its own good; precious few had bothered to fulfill Elisabeth's earlier request and dial the cops. Abigail's Company escort is a grizzled older gent who asks, in transit and in a voice rough but not gruff, at what time she needs to take her next round of pain medication. He doesn't say much else, but it seems an unnecessary token kindness. He alights the vehicle briskly and pulls Abby's van door open for her, too.

I'll know pretty quick if there's just no one home, Teo's tiny voice pipes in her ear, barely distinct from the whirl and rush and myriad tributaries of her own thoughts. It'll take me longer to try and speak to him if he is.

Few more hours, she'll need to take something for her arm, another little white pill for her anxiety, maybe even a glass of Vodka if Teo makes her drink it or attempts to pour it down her gullet or hide it in some tea. White gauze strapped to and taped along her arm and neat row of stitching beneath. The company issue sedative long worn off leaving just a red eye'd, pink haired young woman coming out of the van who's running on autopilot right now. There's going to be no running because that will just draw attention to them, to Francois and bring the authorities down upon their head.

Every single strand of pink is tucked away, hidden and maybe in a few days, it'll be a different color if she can get Teo to find some hair dye. They know she's got pink hair. She'll be a target. What do you need me to do? The voice she talks to Teo with in her head as quiet, forlorn as if she'd spoken out loud. Francois dominates her thoughts and worry tops her emotions. "Thank you. Two more hours" She verbally relays to the Company Russian.

The only visible authority is the old man who lumbers at her side, ungloved hands deep in his woollen pockets and a tuque pulled down over the points of his ears. His breath expels white from his stubbled lip, and when he turns his eyes to flick a glance over the carefully capped roof of Abigail's head, his corneas coruscate an odd shimmer of orange, like a hawk's, the inverse and opposite of Deckard's.

As they move past the road crossing, a younger man, some stranger, strays too near. The agent grunts. Scatters the civilian away. Either with the noise, or because of the gleam of reflection off something in a momentary flare of lapel, under his coat.

I need you to touch him. Teo bobs and slides inside Abigail's mind, a goldfish in a ricebowl. Squints through her ears and listens to the unsteady throb of traffic through her ears. It feels cold, but he is incapable of registering precisely how unpleasantly so. Francois is gray behind the wasp-yellow stripes of his warning barricade. Don't let go until you hear me ask you to.

Okay. Her company is silent, as much as Abigail remains so. The gleam of orange in his eyes given very little consideration or wonder whereas she normally would have been asking him questions. Beneath the yellow tape with it's written cyrillic that she can't read but likley understands regardless, she ducks. Different jacket that she swims in till someone can run her to a store to get a new one or she has the focus of mind to repair the bullet ripped line in her old on.

She brings her hand up, teeth nipping at the ends of her red wool gloves and releasing them from the warm confines to expose them to the cold air. Eye's rime in salt water as she comes to a stand in front of the horrified expression on the statues face. You ready? God, please let this not be.. not be… Bad. Terrible. Horrible. Let there be hope as she reaches over and settles a palm around the back of his neck and standing close. Close enough to rest her head on his solid shoulder, cold cheek to stone.

Like wires connecting into a dead electrical appliance, there is a physical kind of connection Teo achieves, but nothing happens. No lights, no flashes, no words, sure enough. About as cold and lifeless in here as it is outside, with Abby leaning close to rain-spattered granite. The eyes see nothing, ears hear nothing, and he certainly cannot feel Abby smaller frame huddling close. People are going to start staring soon, and soon, they will have to admit that this was a fool's errand, to talk to statues.

But it happens before Teo can withdraw. He goes noticed.

It's the desperate grip of a drowning man, claws into an arm or the front of a shirt, or a tug of a fish unknown beneath murky water to vibrate the line. Qu— A voice like a lightning flash, start-stop. Likely a good thing, because panic drawn inwards, blind and clawing, without the abilities to breathe and sweat it out, might just reel him in. el

French bits and pieces, cluster to form the most of a sentence. "«— happen— ng— me?»"

Oh. Shock dawns on Teo like cold water upended in a bucket over a head he is no longer chambered within, a wash down skin that no longer defines his person. This thing in darkness. Total darkness, of sight, sound, touch— it is like squashing one's toes through mud to find a seed pearl caught unannounced between one's toes, or sliding one's fingers over the silken flat of fabric skein only to trip one's finger-nails over a hidden seam. It is unexpected. It explains everything. Holy fuck.

It occurs to Teo that he wouldn't want to be inside Francois' head.

It's Teodoro. It's Italy. Abigail is with me— your body is safe. Your body is safe! Are you— It's frustrating, that he can't tell. Are you in pain?

Teo pages: abby will prbly suddenly notice teo is not in her head anymore = touchdown
Abigail waits, looking off at stone wall, at citizens who wander by and look at her with raised brows. Teo rattling around in her head like some very tangible presence until-

He isn't present there and she pulls her head back. It's remembrance at the last minute to not pull her hands back lest something dire happen and she stares at the frozen face of the Frenchman baffled.

More static silence, like dead feed on the radio. One wonders how much Francois is 'hearing', compared to how much he is communicating. Merde— But eventually, and even in English, which might be encouraging; N— pain. No— ain. Noth— Nothing. Teo can feel that much, too. There are a few more words like that, flashes of broken syllables that communicate nothing at all, not even an emotion, really, save for the frantic confusion that could convey something of the expression etched on granite features.

Like scattered puzzle pieces, Teo can put them together. Am— At least there's no true whitenoise in between each stammer. Dead?

That's a hard question to answer. If Teo had a face, it would have gone blank in contemplation. In the end, the biological definition yields to the subjective understanding of final demise: Teodoro is determined to believe that there is nothing final about this state of nothing.

No. You're turned to stone. Anya Orlova, she turned your body to stone. It was an ambush; Zhukovsky and Orlova used their abilities. Everyone is alive. We are working on how to fix you. There has to be a way. It's promising, he adds, before pausing to study his choice of words with an internal flinch that, fortunately, doesn't quite carry to where Francois can perceive it. Ce demontre des possibilites, vous esprit vivre. Your mind.

Your soul— you're alive, he finishes, wishing he had a head to turn, crane over his shoulder to look at Abigail. You're alive.

His mind lives. There's too many pauses for Teo to be able to pick one and deem it cynical. Oth— ar— This is getting annoying, and not only for the Sicilian who has to endure it, this awful reception, and he can tell it's no better on the other side when snatches of words become, quite obviously, a litany of French cursing that batters at Teo's consciousness like rain on a tin roof.

Silence. And then, it seems to have helped. Others— injured? Are the others —live?

Tiktik, salaud, and rattle. Teo can't summon even the subtlest, grainiest dregs of laughter to answer that hail of curses. He feels very sorry, only sorry, and that's all. Yes, he answers, and repeats it again, a half-dozen times, carefully, clinging at the tenuous thread of communication, willing it to strengthen, or at least to hold. Yes, alive. Hurt, but alive. There's a beat's pause, frail from hesitation, maybe a figment's shame. Abby's here.

Abigail is here too. Abby. Should I tell her anything?

Across the taped perimeter, the Company agent stoops and waves to get the girl's attention. His voice registers at the same gravelly baritone as it had before, thickly accented: "How is it?" he asks. It's always difficult to tell with his kind, whether his curiosity is caring or somewhat more tactical, academic, or pragmatic, but his gaze holds in earnest for the moment before he's scanning the block again.

How is he? Abigail turns her face to the Russian, salty fluids drying on her cheek, clinging cold as she breathes out a pent up breath, licking at her lips. "He's not in my head. Means.. means there's something" There's a blue eye'd glance back to the statue and the one hand not anchored to the back of it's neck, the one still wrapped in red wool brushes at the still'd hair as if she could wipe away the water that's stained and pooled.

"He's alive"

Only the most dedicated and skill of sculptures would bother or find a way to define every eyelash of a statue, as much as single strands of hair are unyielding to touch, texture of skin smoothed to coldness and lacking in true detail. For all the kinetic energy of synapse firings, halting thoughts going on beneath still blankness and dripping cold. Someone is going to be mad about that, when he comes to.

Abigail? The name comes across crystal clear, all three syllables, as much as his voice is a gnat's buzz in Teo's head. Thankfully for Francois, this line of communication doesn't really involve feelings. They aren't flattering ones, either, for anyone.

Sorry Teo, I'm going through a tunnel. The silence doesn't offer explanation, but it carries on for a while, nudged and battered though it may be by the Sicilian's urging. Tell her wh— I told you an— what you told m— e. Truth, if not actually comfort. Ar— you leavi— ? If there were a grip to tighten, he'd be doing it; that much Teo can tell.

If Teo had a grip, he'd give a haphazard squeeze in return. No feelings, only a certain frequency of thought. Is comparable to crouching desperately over a shitty little radio, fingers turning sore and numb around a lumpy adjustment knob. I will— need to, at least to tell them you're in here.

To talk to Abby. To talk to Abby. Tell her she's liked, that Francois knows she likes him, and that they both want her to be happy and proud of whatever decision she bases off that information with or without acknowledgment of the fact that they might all very well be running~ out of~ time.

It's absurd, that this is the first time Teodoro finds himself impressed by the complexity and difficulty of choosing to do the honorable thing, ever since he made the decision to try, with the ghost and Baby Spice, the dream he'd had at the morgue. Really. Going to Russia on behest of a mad seeress to stop the world from imploding nuclear was a relatively easy and straightforward task. I can come back. I can wait with you. Can, will, would, at least unless or until some horrible sinking despair forces him and the rest of the unit to move on.

Another spark and sheen of orange through the Company agent's narrowed gaze. He nods his head, pulls a cellphone out of his pocket to thumb a text to a superior. "I have a handkerchief," he adds, glancing up to study the small hand she has fastened determinedly to the statue's arched neck, then the telltale glimmer and streaking on Abigail's face. "When you are done."

"I have my own hankie. What are you telling them?" She can see the phone, and he's a Company agent. She can put two and two plainly together. "He hasn't come back yet, he said I'd know when he was back not to let go. Means that Francois is somewhere inside there. They need, they need to find someone who can undo this"

Maybe Francois should come up with last requests. About how he'd like to be placed in a nice garden if all things go wrong, or tipped into the bottom of the ocean, or jackhammered into a million fragments on the off-chance it'd kill him. None of that, though, buzzing silence, uncertainty. Then—

Merci. Soon, s— vous plait.

There are no hands to let go of anything, but maybe Teo can feel it. The release, withdraw, the silence gone a more telling brand of mute, as if bracing himself for impending loneliness. Au revoir. If bitterness can be achieved—

You don't have to have been alive for so very long, to know what it is to have to brace yourself for impending loneliness. One sympathizes.

You can try to go to sleep, Teo suggests, finally. Try. He doesn't have to mention raptors, or the ablutionary powers of conscious and subconscious retreat; leaves Francois the possibility of confronting a deeper nightmare, finding shelter, or never waking up. It's a terrible thing.

Two opposite forces tugging Abigail's mind, then. Teo's return, tickling with tiny songbird feathers and a piping voice of salutation. The Russian answering at the same time, more than he has to, but less than he would have if he felt obliged to truly explain. "There are scales for these kinds of things. Like the Glasgow Coma Scale. It means we have other ways to get him out, even without the body. If we need to." If we're willing, is doubtless the more appropriate determinant.

"Do it please. Do whatever you have to. Even if it means selling my soul. Find a way to undo this or give him back a life if he's still in there or at least off the street before some stupid kids graffitti him" Little Russian gang symbols all over him, she can only just imagine. Abigail opens her mouth to say something else but only ends up twisting her head to the left and then the right as if adjusting to something, eyes closing. "H..He's back" stuttered and choked out, still grasping the statue that is her friend. "Can I let go?"

Confirmation comes monosyllabic, staticky as Teo tilts and grasps for purchase. Yes.

He's alive. Blind, deaf, numb, but alive. After I finish my debrief about Anya, I think I'm going to try and go back before long; keep him company awhile. He… Teo falls into a brief silence, peering through her slightly watery vision at the look that the Russian's giving her. He can't tell what it means, exactly, but he doesn't like it. Pity, or something equally supercilious but less kind. Neither the young medic nor the Sicilian can really know that the Russian is wondering how it is these people can think a soul is so valuable.

He wanted you to know he likes you, Deckard or no. And he wishes you the best. A beat. I didn't ask him anything tactical, Teo admits without particular remorse.

A soul is as valuable as the value you put on it. Expensive, cheap, the price varies. Will you need me to stay touching it while you're in there, or will you just need me to go sit in a coffee shop for a bit. Or leave and come back a day later, something. Abigail lets go of the statue, a last touch to the shoulder and a rise onto her toes to kiss the forehead like he'd done a few days earlier behind a throne of snow. After that, it's head hung and a slow trudge back to the van with her arm kept close. "We need to stop at a drug store, or wherever i can get some hair dye" She'd go to a salon but she wasn't going to subject Teo to staying in her head that long.

I'd appreciate it if you could come back in a few hours. Maybe tomorrow morning. You can just leave me, it'll be fine; I can get home on my own. Just might take me awhile. It would be sooner, but there are pragmatic concerns, the sort of good manners that come from paramilitary lifestyle and a compulsion to being thorough when it comes to saving the world from nuclear warheads. He also wanted you to know I didn't like that very much, but…

Not knowing how to finish that with the humility that he means to, Teodoro dwindles helplessly into quiet, is momentarily replaced by the clash of a car's horn. The Company agent lifts up the tape with one hand, ushers the girl underneath it with a smile that shows yellow against his face from the sodium lamp light. He signals the driver with a nod. The cellphone is gone from his hand, and his hands stow again into his jacket pockets as he moves toward the van, its mirror-glass windows and tires settled in cheerful defiance to the painted stripes still visible on the asphalt despite the snow. Hair dye it is.

Red? Teodoro inquires instead. Brunette?

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