Codename Vidar


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Scene Title Codename Vidar
Synopsis Francois meets Carlisle at Ryzan State University's library after the former assassin experiences an apparent change of heart and decides to divulge more information to Team Charlie about Kazimir Volken's final solution.
Date December 12, 2009

Ryazan, Russia — Ryazan State University Library

Foolish is as foolish does, but there seems a stark difference between looking up the details of fairytales, and taking risks. It's an academic library, which doesn't mean Francois wouldn't be able to find something to read - he'd be able to find plenty, from the leather worn books on history, on religion, on science, through the glossier modern text books on subjects he wouldn't have guessed would be worth academic mention. A fiction section, too, huddled small and out of sight but readily picked apart by students with some free time on their hands.

Francois isn't reading, and as much as his attention wanders along the shelves and shelves of books, texts dating back fifty years cosying up next to their far more recent siblings, he's alert.

Faded afternoon light comes in through the windows, drowned out by the pristine electric illumination that makes an effort not to gleam too harshly off white pages and computer screens. There's a subtle drone of foot steps, muttered voices, the turn of a page, and he moves slowly as if stalking something, hands pushed into the pockets of his jacket, a generous scarf looped loose around his neck, and a gun tucked away somewhere hidden, a quick afterthought. More to feel less like a hypocrite rather than true expectation to use it.

Fifteen or sixteen years ago, even an academic library would not have provided Francois protection against the Vanguard — but in the time that's passed since he was run off the road and left for dead in the sopping Louisiana summer, the tiger that was once Carlisle Dreyfus has lost its teeth and claws. Like a zoo exhibit living out its last years gumming the bars of its cage, he's grayed, put on weight and grown visibly weary of his confinement here in Ryazan, and if it weren't for the visit he paid Francois at the Spektor's home, his old enemy might have trouble identifying him in his dark slacks and the woolen sweater he wears over his dress shirt and tie.

A pair of reading glasses perched on the bridge of a nose that's still too large for the rest of his face allows him to work through the stack of term papers sitting loose on the table in front of him, red ballpoint pen dangling idly from his fingers in between the occasional flick across paper. An error here, grammatical correction there, cramped comments squeezed into margins in both English and the Cyrillic alphabet.

He does not look up at Francois' approach, and for once this isn't because he's trying to be careful not to let on that he's seen him — he's just that out of practice.

The pistol is cold where it presses skin through and under fabric, and a heavy weight that is both reassuring as well as uncomfortable, made more so when Francois finally does spy the man he's come to meet. An ungloved hand curls around the edge of shelving, leaning there and huddling smaller when a couple of students try to steer past him and into the aisle. He toys with the concept of seeing how long he can remain before being spotted, but a few seconds is all it takes to know it's an old game, as much as it doesn't seem as old to him.

Taking a breath, the Frenchman pushes away from the shelves and moves for the table, taking in their surroundings more than his goal. Students, and teachers, and librarians. A hand hovers towards a chair opposite the aging professor, and irrational neurosis has him refraining from pulling it out and inviting himself to the table.

To Carlisle's credit, he does not tense under the fabric of his clothes or startle when he finally catches sight of Francois' reflection in his glasses. Instead, he removes them from his face, folds the bows and tucks them into the front pocket of his sweater. The gradebook that had been open at his elbow is flipped shut and the pen laid down on its cover.

His eyes lift, seeking not Francois' face but the space directly over his shoulder as if expecting Ethan Holden or one of Team Charlie's other operatives to loom into view — only when he's certain that he and his companion are alone does his attention shift to the hand suspended over the back of the empty chair. "You can sit," he says, and there's a sliver of something wry in his voice when he does, his somewhat scornful tone made deeper and all the more rich by its rough quality.

If he avoided leaping across a dinner spread with a butter knife in hand, surely Francois can stop himself from opening fire in a library. In reality, the twinge of resentment for the man's tone is only that, and he pulls the chair out sharply in response, wooden feet scraping muffled against carpet. He seats himself, stiff legged, stiff spined, hands coming to rest against the edges of the table and scouring over what he can see of the work in front of Dreyfus. "Forgive me. It is difficult to know how to be around someone who tried, and failed, to kill you."

His voice hasn't a trace of wryness, as sincere as the smile lines that deepen along with it, as much as he's watching the man as one might regard that aging tiger - due respect to what it once was and uncertainty about how much danger has truly faded. "I was improvising at dinner."

"You usually do." There's a winter coat hung over the back of Carlisle's chair, heavy enough to conceal any number of weapons, though it seems unlikely that he'd be so bold as to bring a handgun onto campus as Francois has. The library is more than just a neutral location chosen for convenience's sake — it's also his place of work. "I want to keep this brief," he says. "Zhukovsky does not know that I'm in contact with you, and as you so aptly pointed out the last time we met, it is probably best for safety of my family if the situation remains that way. Are you familiar with the name Mikhail Wagner?"

Winter doing little to give colour to pale European flesh, there's still a subtle draining that takes on a greyer note around his eyes as he sits a little further back in his chair. Pleasant smile of conversational amicability remains all the while, frostier than before by necessity, and though Francois had already scouted the larger library for anything suspicious, he sharply breaks his gaze from Carlisle's to trail over desks, shelves, windows. Elbows come to rest against the desk; hands clasp uneasily. "I knew his father," he says, words coming out brittle, "better than he, but I am familiar. Oui."

If Carlisle didn't have Francois utter attention before, he does not, green-blue eyes slicing back over towards the once assassin with rapt focus.

The corners of Carlisle's mouth crease with mirth. "Codename Vidar. Adopted by Heinrich, as it happens — the product of a selective breeding experiment run by the Nazis, but I digress. Before he was killed in America, Volken arranged for five of the Vanguard's cell leaders to participate in a plan he engineered to take effect in the result of his death. Of these five, only Wagner in Germany was trusted with any real information pertaining to the plan's execution."

The wooden legs of the former assassin's chair creak as he shifts his weight in his seat, leaning forward with his hands resting on the edge of the table, fingers interlaced. "Zhukovsky attempted to dissuade Wagner from following through with Volken's last wishes as soon as we received word about his death," he says, "but Wagner did not listen. We were in the middle of negotiating with a member of Wagner's cell called Skoll when the compound in Berlin was raided and the nuclear bomb Hugin recovered by the United Nations. To my knowledge, only Wagner and Skoll were able to escape. Had we more time, Zhukovsky's plan was to have Skoll assassinate Wagner and return to Moscow with Hugin and the coordinates to Munin's location. Unfortunately—"

Carlisle lifts a hand, waves it a vaguely dismissive gesture. C'est la vie. "It's my belief that Wagner is currently in possession of the remaining bomb, and that he intends to use it to re-start civilization with the Vanguard at its helm. The only reason you and your team are still alive is because Zhukovsky wants Munin for himself so he can sell it on the international market and turn a profit. Your lives have value in his eyes."

An eyebrow ticks up at the mention of Mikhail's true lineage— of course— before Francois settles his chin on his folded hands to listen, as avid as any devoted student to the old professor's words. Reactions, urges to interrupt, these things are soundly shelved in favour of letting Carlisle speak, which is all well and good. The Frenchman isn't entirely sure what there is to say except for litanies of cussing in his own language. There's a soft snort for Zhukovsky and his ambitions, taking his weight back off his elbows.

"And he believes we would find it quicker? And that we would so easily let it go, through bribery or threats?" These are rhetorical questions, proudly and quickly spoken and designed to mask the way his mind reels around with information, connecting old information with the new. "I suppose Wagner's location is as mysterious as Munin's? If what you theorise is correct."

"Wagner has a tanker ship at his command," Carlisle says, shaking his head. "The Verano. He could be anywhere. Zhukovsky has most of his cell searching for him in case he's attempted to make contact with one of the other leaders, but none of his men can get into Madagascar to speak with Rasoul, and the operative we sent to Argentina was apprehended in Buenos Aires before he could even set foot outside the airport."

He runs his thumb along the spine of his gradebook, lowering his eyes from Francois' face to his discarded pen and reflection of the overhead lights glancing off its plastic casing. "Volken made it difficult for individual cells to communicate outside official channels that he personally had control over. If any one operative knew the full extent of his plans, they would have turned on him quicker than the French can say we surrender." There's a pause, perhaps in which Carlisle remembers who he's talking to, but rather than apologize he forces a slow smile and raises his eyes to Francois' again. "Zhukovsky is under the impression that your people may know more than he does, which is why he's planted a mole in your operation."

There's a slow blink there, subtle, designed to communicate bite me when Carlisle pauses, which comes quickly after the flat doubt in his face at the notion of any Vanguard doing the noble thing. Francois has already sunk back into thought by the time those last few words catch him, sieving information until this notion rattles around like pebbles among sand. He snaps his gaze back up at Carlisle, full of unbridled doubt and distrust, but there's no flurry of words yet.

In fact, there are no words at all. Silence sometimes acts as the most open and useful of questions, pinning an expectant stare across at the former Vanguard.

"No," Carlisle says, his voice taking on a softer, slightly more subdued note at that look. It isn't gentle so much as it is tired. The tiger doesn't even have enough energy left to curl its lip. "If I knew who, I would have told you. What I do know is that you're working closely with the man Volken recruited to replace me. Fenrir. Be careful and choose wisely what you decide to trust him with."

"Oui," is guarded sounding, more an acknowledgment to the warning than true agreement, smoothing his expression back into neutrality as he shifts in his chair. The pistol nudges in its holster, and Francois stills as if urged to. "I am always careful," he adds, with a grim twist of a smile as he settles his hands back onto the edge of the desk. "Last we spoke, monsieur, Munin was not your problem."

"Last we spoke," Carlisle echoes, rising from his seat at the table, "I believed it was no longer a threat. Whatever Volken's plan, it requires the use of both Munin and Hugin. Wagner is loyal to Kazimir's vision, but I do not feel he is the type of man to execute his final orders unless he is relatively certain his actions will succeed. I am, however," because there's always a however, "willing to entertain Dr. Chesterfield's theories if only so you and your team will leave."

That gets a twist of mirth, a crooked smile for as long as Francois allows himself to tilt a look up at Carlisle. Quick, however, to get to his feet in turn - there are some angles when age, softness, weariness, can't disguise history. "They are very eager to return to their homes," Francois states, delicately, but whatever sly implication hides flickering in his words isn't touched on any more than that, lowering his gaze for a moment before dragging it back up again. "Thank you, monsieur, for your tidings. If you have any details of the Verano, they would be helpful. You could leave them with Ivan if you desired."

Carlisle gathers his belongings — gradebook, pen, stack of partially-graded papers and packs them into the leather shoulder bag that until a few moments ago had sat propped against one of the legs of his chair. "I'll see what I can do," he says, weathered hands working the buckles of the bag with callused fingers that have grown both fat and brittle in the years since he wrote Francois off his list. "It had a sister ship, the Invierno, which was captained by a man named Mattias D'Almedia. We do not know what has become of it either, but I suspect it sunk when Volken did."

Hands go out, with just as much youth in them as the last time Carlisle had them grip desperate and bloody onto his sleeves. Now, they're clean, and the clasp that goes warm around his wrists is not a cling, but a hold. It could translate as respect, or gratitude, affirmation — any one of those things that don't quite read in Francois' face as he reaches across the table. "You will not regret contacting me."

The tiger in its rusted cage tenses on instinct at the touch, a breath sharp enough to be audible sucked in through Carlisle's nose. It's not fear that manifests in the dark of his eyes but rather something like resentment, and in the next instant he's pulling away with the speed and ferocity of a man half his age, his movements swift, potent, more becoming of the hunter he used to be than the exhausted creature he's become in Francois' absence.

He shows the Frenchman his back — something he'd never have done before Ryazan — and allows a series of long but brisk strides to carry him away from the table, between the stacks and out of Francois' field of vision.

Perhaps he shouldn't be making promises that he can't keep. It's possible Carlisle regrets it already.

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