Many Questions


odessa5_icon.gif valentin_icon.gif

Scene Title Many Questions
Synopsis In the wake of the riots in Eltingville, Odessa has many questions to answer.
Date November 12, 2011

A Safe Harbour?

Three hours since her phone call. The rain is coming down. The power has gone out. Robots patrol quiet streets, quiet enough that streets over, the occasional roar of an engine, a pleading shriek of an Eltingville denizen coming under arrest, or the shattering of glass seems to carry from one end of the broken neighbourhood to the other.

But Odessa's world, temporarily, has become much smaller. The two FRONTLINE operatives that sit across from her in the unmarked van are imposing figures, identities completely obscured behind shining black masks save for their designation printed at their breasts: OS-01, and OS-03. When she'd received final instruction in facilitating her extraction — that is, to trust him, now — the presence of FRONTLINE-OS, Colonel Heller's personal armored attack dogs, must have come as a shock, particularly in that escorting her from the agreed upon location, into the van, was almost entirely indistinguishable from any of the arrests breaking out across the neighbourhood, save for one big difference: no effort was made to stifle her ability.

They do not drive for long, but long enough that Odessa's best guess is that they are beyond the bounds of Eltingville Block by the time the brakes whine.

OS-03 reaches to open the sliding door at the back. The smell of ocean and rain water greets her, the sound of waves breaking. The rain is cold. Neither FRONTLINE operative move to get out with her, simply waiting for her to do so, unceremoniously.

Outside, the nighttime shrouds visibility, but the stretch of land she's been brought to is entirely unpopulated. The ground is a loose-gravel road, slouching off into coastal terrain that slouches into restless ocean. To the other side is woodlands. The only place to go, truly, is where a boat is tied off at what look to be docks fallen into long disuse. A sizeable, sheltered boat, its gleaming white stark and managing to pick up what little light is available. There, she sees a figure — familiar in stature and movement — step up off the side of it to jump onto creaky, damp wooden slats.

The figure raises a hand as she hears the van's door close behind her.

She'd feigned the part of the prisoner until she'd been concealed by the van, shouting curses and pleas for them to let go of her. After all, she's got a part to sell. They hadn't tried to negate her - thankfully - and why would they, if she was their target? As far as anybody knows, Odessa Price no longer has an ability.

The fear drained away the moments the doors closed, but slowly crawled its way back into her throat as the ride stretched on. Grew because he wasn't there to meet her. The helmets remind her of the man who stole her ability from her in the first place, and it leaves her feeling uneasy. But she can play the game of stony silence as well as anybody, and is perfectly adept at looking at anything but her captors/rescuers without it looking like anything but polite indifference.

When they stop, and the doors open, she has a fleeting moment of wondering if she'll step out and receive a bullet to the back of the skull. Odessa doesn't glance back as she climbs out of the van. There's only a moment spared to get her bearings before she spots the rendezvous point and the man she trusted to get her this far.

Two swift steps betray her urge to run to him and confirm that her damned nightmare is over. Instead, she manages to keep herself level until she joins him. Only then does she spare him a smile, bittersweet on that perfect face of hers.

The scars are gone — well, most of them. She still retains the line along one side of her forehead that's mostly hidden by blonde (not white) bangs, and the most wicked one across her throat. She has others, of course, but none of them are visible through her clothing.

"Hello, Michal." She lets him see the uncertainty in her eyes - both of them. She also lets him see the anger that flickers there like faint candlelight. He knows her well enough by now to recognize when her anger isn't for him, and this is one of those times. "Thank you."

Michal Valentin looks well. Wet, now, but dressed for the weather in wool-lined leather, gloves, boots. He wears a flat cap, rain sloping down off the brim at a steady trickle, and an expression that does not convey as much information as a recipient might prefer. Eyebrows up, smile mild, and eyes fixed in penetrating study as he reads more from her than she will of him.

"No trouble," he says, slavic drawl raised over the sound of driving rain, "if you forgive the dramatics."

He moves to board the boat once more, reaching back to help her onto the deck. They are not alone, a non-descript man clearly under Valentin's employ ready to cast off as Valentin leads his guest into the sheltered interior of the boat. It is cramped quarters, but not truly uncomfortable, with a place to sit at a table, low light, and dry warmth immediately hitting her.

Once inside, he takes off his cap, flapping it free of some damp before tossing it aside. His greying hair is darker from damp, finger combed backwards. He speaks as he enters and moves, exuberant. "Now, you have such stories for me. The world has changed in only a day, and you have had front row view. How will you take your vodka?"

"Not at all," Odessa responds easily. "I thought it was rather appropriate, given the circumstances. I appreciate the care shown for my cover." The dramatics were no trouble, as he so nicely put it.

She grasps his hand with a grateful nod, and climbs on board. Frost creeps into her expression at the sight of the other man, chillier than the rain that dampens her hair, pale skin, and the black wool of her coat. It takes an effort not to openly eye him warily as she retreats to the warmer interior of the boat.

Slender fingers - no longer crooked from old breaks - work to unfasten the buttons of her coat so she can shed it and hang it to dry. He's playing friendly, and it coils a knot in her stomach worse than it would have if he'd been cold and demanding. "Double," she says of how she'd like her vodka right about now.

Now her fingers rake through her hair, brushing through tangles obtained during her token struggle and matted slightly by the rain. "Where would you like me to begin? The Commonwealth Arcology, as you've doubtless heard by now, is little more than a crater upon the surface of Cambridge." Odessa smiles a little wistfully, careful to keep the caution off her face when she turns back to him. "Decades of research gone in moments. I wish I could claim the credit for that, but…" She sure didn't do anything to stop it, at any rate. "But that isn't what you're really dying to ask me, is it?"

"I have many questions."

Vodka is poured into whiskey glasses, making do. A generous amount for them both, with nothing to cut through its sharp, poisonous taste. The bottle is set aside within easy reach, and Valentin sits down, sliding glass to her, keeping his own. "Some of them I am not dying to ask, but business is business, you know. We shall see to that first. Get professionalism out of the way before we celebrate."


"We start with the neighourhood, so we can leave it behind."

Odessa settles into her seat, letting her lips curl into a smile when he tells her they can celebrate. She doesn't believe him for even a moment, but she wants to, desperately. Trust issues are a bitch.

"You saw the place, didn't you?" Then again, he didn't see to her extraction personally, so perhaps… No, he said she had the front row seat. Odessa wraps her fingers around her glass and leans toward him, a light in her eyes now that's genuine. "It was magnificent, Michal. Those machines." — Are utterly terrifying to her in a way they would not have been a mere week ago, yes. But also a marvel of science and engineering. "I didn't see much of the rioting itself, I'm afraid, only the effects of it." She kept her cover treating the wounded, after all. "And then, of course, the ultimate means of dispersal."

Now is when she brings the glass to her lips, but hesitates, thinking of something else. She sets it back down on the table surface. "I believe I owe you an apology. I didn't mean to yell at you like that…" On the phone, she means. Dark blue gaze slants off to one side, almost demurely. "I'm used to watching chaos from a, shall we say, more clinical distance? I will try to do better, next time."

And she is pledging herself to work with him a next time. Unreservedly.

"It looked like the soldiers were doing their jobs when I left, but…" She smiles then, a flash of perfect white teeth. It's easy to forget what kind of trouble she might be facing when she can paint a target on someone else instead. "I can give you names."

Talk of machines does not inspire awe in him, his expression hollow but receptive of information, until she then offers her apology. There, a smile, not the dazzling smile of a man who is wearing a mask. This one seems genuine, thin, cut through his face and wry. "I liked it," he says, dismissing demure aside, now reaching into his jacket pocket to pull out his phone. "You pick up the phone," wags the phone, before turning his attention to it, thumbing in some commands, "it is someone asking you a favour, or a wrong number, or more logistical nonsense. Never exciting."

He sets the phone down between them, the little screen indicating that he is now recording them. "You witnessed activity in Eltingville Blocks, and have offered names. We seek those who have acted in defiance of," he waves his hand, "order being re-introduced since those silly demonstrations begun. This can include active agitators, or those who attempted to mount defense against official government presence, or organisers of any colour.

"Your name, for record, please," he adds, as if just remembering to say so.

Odessa holds Valentin's gaze for a long moment as he pulls his phone out. This is a game of chicken she's playing, in a way. If she's apprehensive, it's only because he's asking her to attribute her name to her testimony, and that may come back to bite her in the ass someday.

"Odessa Price."

She won't blink. Metaphorically speaking, because she does blink, her attention turned to the phone when her eyes open again. Business first.

"Raquelle Cambria."

The revulsion follows immediately on the heels of careful enunciation, but Odessa's had years to perfect her poker face even as bile stings the back of her throat. Raquelle has always been nothing but nice to her. When Abby decided to help Odessa celebrate her birthday for the very first time, it was Raquelle who cheerfully assisted, providing friendship. And she risked her life for his daughters.

But survival is the name of the game, and Odessa wants to continue surviving.

"He's the nucleus that hold the whole cell together." Again, she looks across the table to Valentin. "And there was a DHS agent. Cooper. Someone might want to have a chat with him." He's not one of Them (Us), but he didn't mind flashing his badge around, so she expects he can handle some consequences.

Besides, she's prepared to offer up any other name she can think of in order to keep Daphne Millbrook off that list. She could have offered up Sasha Kozlow. He might even be safe, given their previous collaborations. She doesn't know. But in the chance that he isn't? Odessa can't do that to Tania.

Apprehension is forgiveable, after all is said and done. Those who are not suspicious of things that deserve suspicion are the most suspicious of all, anyway. Michal leans back, next fishing out a pack of smokes, lighting up, acting a little like the real interview is being conducted without him, like this is between Odessa and whatever powers that be will later listen to her recording. There is a flick of a grey gaze at mention of Cooper, interest sparking.

Traitors are almost as delicious as the enemy. He breathes out a sigh of smoke, and then slides pack and lighter across the table towards her.

"Good," he says, after a sufficient amount of silence has passed. "There will be questions."

There won't be questions.

"Testimonies, we may require your input further."

They won't.

"But unless there is more you wish to add—"

Odessa slides the pack of cigarettes the rest of the way toward her and shakes one loose. She marvels that her fingers don't tremble as she brings the thing to her lips and the flame doesn't quiver when she lights it. "Nothing at this time. I'll be sure to let you know if that changes."

It's the smoke that finally gives her away. The exhale through lips drawn thin, a juddering stream that fails to flow away from her smoothly. The next drag is held for a moment, then exhaled through her nose. It burns in her throat and her nasal passages and it feels good.

Whatever test this just was, she hopes she passed it. Or she's just given him more power over her than he already had.

The smokes are slid back again, the thank you a silent tilt of her chin. The phone is stared at like she might be watching it count down, waiting for it to explode. Finally, she looks back up to her partner (such as he is), gaze expectant.

As her hand withdraws, Valentin captures it under his own, a gentle hold that circles her wrist as he places his cigarette between his teeth and uses his free hand to finish the recording. That hand then joins his other, easing her hand back towards himself as he then skims a work-rough thumb across her knuckles.

"That is now taken care of," he says, some loose ash fluttering off the end of his cigarette as it weaves between his teeth from his words. "In the morning, in the coming days, Eltingville will succeed or it will fail. How we handle their kind will change. Mercy, and leniency, or being hunted as wild dogs in the woods."

He sounds like he's talking about next weekend's weather.

"But, you know, no one ever asks them what they want for themselves."

Truly, he is a man after her own heart. He discusses topics so heavy with the breeziness she used to, back in her Company days. In the days before she'd seen the stars. Before she'd seen the grime on the world. Before she'd gotten blood under her fingernails that she can never quite scrub away.

There's a split second decision to be made, and Odessa ultimately decides to make a display of relaxing when his hand captures hers. She's done so before, so this should be no different. But she cannot keep the hair on the back of her neck from standing up. She can't help but feel like cold water runs through her veins. Because they haven't addressed the biggest issue yet. He hasn't even asked.

"It's simple. They want what everybody else wants." The exhale of smoke is steady this time. Like she's finally able to relax now that the recording has ceased. Now that business may be concluded. "They want to live."


One hand lets go so as better to take the cigarette from his mouth and also lift his drink, tipping it back to drink it down. "That is the problem," Valentin says. "To live is to be at war with all else that wishes to live. Nature is claws and teeth, most times, and a slow death, the rest of the times."

Tsk, he then says. Such a shame.

Outside, the rain continues to patter against the outside of the boat, which rocks over uneasy oceans as their pilot guides them away from the docks, and into whatever unknown is awaiting them. Better than Eltingville, at least, although Valentin is certainly someone who lives in chaos as a habit.

"Now you must tell me," he says, "whatever happened to your lovely fingers? Your lovely face."

Now she can finally relax. The muscles in her shoulders and her neck finally start to unwind. The cigarette is taken in the vee of fingers in her free hand so she can grasp her drink between her thumb, ring and pinky, then bring it to her lips to drain it half down in one smooth gulp.

"I told you I suffered damage." The glass and cigarette are circle-waved in the vicinity of her face to indicate her nearly unblemished countenance.

The anger that sets the muscles in her jaw tight isn't feigned. "Someone decided to take it up on themselves to undo what had been done to me." Odessa smiles unkindly, leaning in toward Valentin now with a sparkle in her eyes. "I killed him."

It's even true, after a fashion. She hadn't meant to, except that she did absolutely mean to. Part of her knew exactly what was happening and took everything that Darren Stevens was with the intention of making sure he could do to no one else what he had just done for her. To her.

"I understand," she says tersely, perhaps explaining some of her anger beyond the simple lack of consent that went into her miraculous recovery, "that eventually it will all come back to catch up with me. I will relive every moment of it."

What has happened to Odessa Price was not a kindness.

Valentin's study is disarmingly vivid, and though his hand holds hers with the gentleness of someone holding a bird, the amiable softness of his face has firmed with his focus. He doesn't respond to her anger; he studies it. He doesn't smile back when she smiles; he studies her smile. The boat rocks them both in a way some feel as soothing, others as sickening, and cigarette smoke is quick to become a haze in the air, swathing them both.

He is also focusing on her word choice.

"This mutant," he says, after allowing a little silence to transpire, studying the newly straightened lengths of her fingers in his hand, "what is, was, his name?"

"Does it matter what the bastard's name was?" She doesn't leave the question to hang long, because she knows he doesn't ask questions he does not seek answers to. "Darren Stevens." The very man responsible for her life and those scars in the first place. "An Institute tool. Whatever's left of him," which isn't much, "is buried beneath tons of concrete and steel." Which is to say that suits her just fine.

"I hate what he did to me." And that is possibly one of the most honest things Odessa has ever said in her life. "I was perfect the way I was." The singing in her bones, the embrace of her ability, whispers otherwise and she drains the last of the vodka to drown it out. The glass is settled back on the table with an audible thunk! and the cigarette is stubbed out so she can lay her hand over his.

"Michal…" Her voice is soft, her thumb brushes over the back if his knuckles now and she stares at where they're joined together. The motion of the boat is almost hypnotic.

"Odessa from Odessa."

There had been just a minor amount of pressure to the hold of his hand between her dismissing his question and then answering it, but gentles out immediately. Now, as he says that, what constitutes as endearment, his familiar and slightly crooked smile, the kind that comes so easily.

Perhaps, whatever series of tests — or traps — he'd laid out in front of her, visible and invisible, have been conquered. "Perfect or no, you are no longer a tool of the Company, or the Institute, and perhaps, once the dust has finished falling," he means settling, "there will be no more Department of Evolved Affairs trying make sense of the savage garden. I would think it calls for celebration. So.

"«Would you like another drink,»" he says, slipping into Russian, like it's one last test, of an old nostalgic kind, "«or would you like to fuck?»" Maybe not so nostalgic. That jackal smile, again.

And where will that leave them? Well, she can figure it out in a few… hours. Her hands extract themselves from his then so she can sweep aside everything. — Save the vodka, the neck of which is captured in her hand and it's left to set in the seat she once occupied. She boosts herself up to sit on her side of the now empty table, swings her legs around so she can face him and leaves one settled on either either side of his body. She chuckles then, a dark sound.


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