Panoply And Shield


abby_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Panoply And Shield
Synopsis Jetlag and insomnia bring two of the dedicated good guys out to cultivate colds, anti-terror research, and crippling nostalgia.
Date November 23, 2009 (November 24, 2009 in Russia)

Russia, Ryazan — Spektor Home

Erected at the turn of the century, the Spektor home is a two-story dwelling on the outskirts of Ryazan city. Camouflaged by trees, its brown brickwork exterior gives the house a dated appearance befitting of region; at one time, it might have belonged to the descendants of Russian nobility with a fondness for Art Nouveau, but today it's owned by a university professor and his wife, a retired cellist who once played with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. Although there is no attached garage or carport to shelter vehicles from the elements, a long driveway of paved rock leads up to the front of the estate, its entryway covered by a stone archway decorated with potted flowers and plants, some in bloom, others brittle, but all tended to with loving care by the lady of the house.

Inside, the front doors open into a foyer with hardwood floors and an ornate staircase that leads up to the second level where the guest bedrooms and bathrooms are located. The downstairs living area is compromised of several small sitting rooms, a sizable kitchen off-limits to visitors and a dining room for entertaining those same visitors, complete with a glass table large enough to seat eight. While the floors are in good condition for being so old, the house's owners have made an effort to keep it from getting anymore scratched and scuffed than it already is by scattering silk and woolen throw rugs throughout both the first floor and the second. It's clear that they've done their job; not one is as vibrant or resplendent as it was when it was first woven back in Iran, Iraq, India or wherever else it originated from, though much of the colour still shows through.

The first quarter shows its smiling curvature overhead, barely visible through the narrow rift in clouds. It's stopped snowing for an hour, thus far, leaving the pages that Teo killed half a forest to print available to read without having to worry eventually about meltwater, runny ink and then sticking and then tearing. The flashlight in Teo's teeth steadily tracks through small words, frayed print, monochromed photography.

Behind him, both levels of the Spektor home are inert and darked out, breathing quietly through central heating grilles and the lungs of what one would imagine— or hope— are deep sleepers at four AM in the morning. Two neat boot-prints sit stencilled below the bench: he had picked up his feet and crossed his legs on the bench after about twenty minutes, ignoring the dirt encrustrations nudged onto his pants.

Sure, it's four AM here. But in New York, it's only what, 8 pm? 9 pm? Something like that. Teo's not the only one awake though. Up to get some more ibuprofen , boots, parka, sweater, pink flannel PJ's, she's tip toed out the back door, around the house and oblivious to Teo on the bench. The parka's set down with a crinkle in the fresh snow and soon enough, Abigail's laid on her back on top of her parka, legs flush with the snow and staring up at the night sky as her breath curls up into the air and eventually dissipates with every exhale. "Oh sweet blessed lord" Murmured.

Noise draws Teo's attention, the old-fashioned way with a turn of his head on the stack of his spine instead of using his superpowers. The beam of flashlight fuzzes across the snowed ground, needling through darkness, diffusing as it races along, moves further out, and ghosts a vague cloud of brightness around Abigail's seated figure. Pages crinkle in his hands, shuffle, fold at the midline of one thumb as he pinches a forefinger against the side of his neck.

Squeezing once, twice, wincing with his molars bared around the device's tiny handle. A beat. "Mmmhgh," he says, before reaching to tug it out of his mouth, held up at a somewhat more helpful trajectory. It is hard to make her out from here, she's flattened out horizontal. "Abby?"

"It's the ghost of Christmas Past" Comes southern and honey'd from the snow. No movement made to scurry away from the yellow light cast from the flashlight.

No, but that's definitely a girl-voice, not an androgynous-voice, and all of the light invested in the Spektor yard is from Teo's flashlight and not the numinous head planted on top of a phantasmic robe. He squints, forcibly adjusts his eyes to the darkness beyond his private point of illumination. "You're a little early, signorina," he points out. "Jetlag?" You'd think the seasonal spirits, if any, would be thrown off by disruptions in timezone.

"Jetlag" She confirms for her former roommate. "Too sore and liz was talking in her sleep. I'd rather bunk down with you, leave her to her nightmares alone, but.." But the matron katarina has put a firm foot down on that. "You? Regular stuff?" Teo never sleeps, till he's bone exhausted and even then. "How are you doing?"

These days, the readier excuse is that Ghost's psychic ability and its fundamental incompatibility with his non-Evolved brain's REM sleep dream functions makes sleeping too difficult. Or. Something. Science, science, science. Fortunately, he had printouts to keep him company in the interim between awakening too early and Abigail's timely exit to the outdoors.

He's pleased to see her, cracking a brief grin at the notion of bunking together though the intimation of Elisabeth's nightmares troubles him slightly. "Francois dreams pretty fucking loudly, too," he answers, his brow in a furrow as ambiguous as his memory of the snatches he'd seen. "I'm good. Looking up… Grigori Zhukovsky, the illusionist guy who used to be local. And his family. The dynasty was a big deal around here. Makes you wonder what gets a person into the whole anti-Evolved apocalypse gig.

"We missed church," he adds, blankly, almost appropos of nothing.

"I know. Something tells me there's not a Baptist church anywhere near here" She still stares up at the sky, eyes intent on staring a the stars which you can never see when you're in New York. Out here they seem too sharp, too real, too fake and as if they belong on some television screen. She knows they'll only get more sharper if they make it out into the woods proper and away from any civilization.

"Probably the same thing that gets a person into a crusade like Phoenix, or Pariah. Something, an event, a death, a purpose that is the catalyst" The words are offered up from the pink haired woman as the cold seeps into her knee's soothing away what ibuprofen can't.

"What does Francois dream about?"

Finally, a crunch of man-sized weight on snow, behind her. Teo is approaching, his shadow and light both carried along with and by him in the battery-operated thing in his fingers. He has gloves, which appears initially like forethought, as long as you don't know he'd actually remembered about halfway down the stairs and ended up monkeying back up them flinching and squinting with the agonizing effort of maintaining the closest thing to silence in the Spektor's old, old home. The papers are bundled under his arm.

"Dinosaurs," Teo answers, his voice dark with conspiracy. He drops into a crouch near her head, skittering a yellow wash of light out into the street some yards 'below' her feet. "Velociraptors maneuvering through man-made architecture, more specifically. Jurassic Park was a ground-breaking film."

"You would have had him watch Jurassic Park. So cruel. We need to have him watch something else, so that he stops dreaming of them" She murmurs out and above. She didn't give a hoot to creeping silent. She's better at being quiet in the woods, than in a creepy old russian house.

"I"m homesick" Two days in Russia, and she's homesick. "I don't know what they're saying in the city, they look at my hair like i'm strange, i'm in over my head Teo. I can't hunt down people with Nuclear weapons. I can server a really mean screwdriver, recite verse and quote from heart about the bible and Francois says my stitching is beautiful and that I have a light touch. What am I supposed to do, hunt them with a shotgun?"

Blue eyes, darker in the lack of light beyond the moon somewhere above them, looks up and over to Teo."I miss him" Teo knows who him is. "Do you miss him?" Teo knows who the other Him is as well.

God, maybe. Deckard, probably. Probably not quite Leonard, though they both miss him, more easily, and it would be easier to talk about because, unlike the other two, he chose to leave. Makes things amicable. "We're here to investigate, not conduct indiscriminate assassinations. You're a medic, not yet licensed,but a medic. Sew us up, apply buckshot to those who try to stitch us up, read and make deductions, blink those pretty blue eyes.

"The Vanguard doesn't stand a fucking chance, and those conservative old bitches in the market square know what they've missed out on." He's teasing her, a little. Grins, broad enough that his nose wrinkles up the middle of his face, before sobriety chases it smooth again. His eyes glint twinned accents as he shifts them away, making an inscrutable examination the street and. Theeee. Fact that it has nothing on it, no one at all. "In Francois' dreams, he's the hero. He defeats the dinosaurs. For lack of dragons."

"I can sew you up" She can sew people up. Maybe he's placating her. "I'm also the girl who killed Volken. That's gotta count for putting some fear of god into them right? They can't possibly know that I don't exactly got the stuff that I had to kill him with. Ohh fear! Abby the volken smiter is here! hand over the nukes before she touches us!!" Now it's her turn to joke. Hands are planted in the snow and she twists, pushing herself up so she can sit on her parka and make room for Teo.

"I killed his dragon. So it's no wonder he only has dinosaurs to kill. He feels a little like them"

Volken's smiter. Teo winces at the thought, immediately thinks but doesn't want to say that that would make her bait, a lure, a target to incense and draw fire if anything.

His skin goes cold at the thought, and he finds himself glancing back down at the laddered newsprint, describing the Zhukovsky's handsome holdings, the iron works, the art collection, businesses still in full swing, all of it legitimized by serifed font. Like the rest of the little blue world spinning on its axis through space, blithely unaware of the terrorist hive in its midst. "Dame Abigail.

"That's what they're supposed to refer to female knights by, I think. Instead of 'sir.'" His butt lands on the parka with a scraping rasp of hardened rubber on ice crystals. He seesaws side to side twice, making himself comfortable without— hopefully without squashing the garment unnecessarily. "Good to see the shopping trip met success. Is Liz feeling better, night terrors aside?"

"Never a Knight. I don't deserve anything for doing what I did" She doesn't talk often, if at all, about what she did on the bridge. Recounting it for Cat and Homeland security has always been enough for her. "Yeah, she got to talk to Richard, and she's not freezing or wearing some of my clothes. She's worried she's going to get arrested when this is all over and we head home. I told her probably not. I didn't think she would."

But this is the company and while Abby may get along with it on the periphery of her life, even she's not so naive about what might and will happen when they go back to their lives again. Her head takes up it's customary spot on his shoulder, her own breath now mingling with his in the cold air.

It would be sort of nice to say that because Tamara sent them, Teo thinks they will be okay. Still, Tamara had been instrumental to Volken getting his hands on the supervirus that nearly annihilated them all, once. He seriously doubts she'd be above discarding a few more tender lives to spare the majority of the planet the costs of nuclear holocaust. It leaves little terrain for sincere hatred to gain foothold on.

It is, he imagines, the sort of thing that excused him from the resentment and criticism from people like Deckard, before. You can't blame a man for doing the right thing, until you can. He sets his cheek on her hair, closes his eyes.

Squeezes them, before reopening, and switching off the flashlight in the same brusque click of motion. "I'll try not to let that happen to Elisabeth. I used to have an elaborate contingency set up for her— teleportation with Anne's GPS, face-shifts with Sala's ability, this whole retirement plan. We'll come up with something else. She always knew what this shit could cost her." Teo pulls his knees up closer, scrunches a noise of dry paper between stomach and thigh. "Hey.

"What was your event? Or death. Catalyst— for joining PARIAH or whatever, back in the day? Two lifetimes, and I still don't know."

"God is my catalyst, Teo."

Spoken like it's something that makes sense to everyone, that it's a given. And it is. "It's always been god. It will always be god. It is god. God, Teo, is my catalyst." She takes a deep breath, inviting cold air into her lungs and letting it stay in there till it's released slowly.

That makes sense. Teo's smile squints cynical for a staccato beat. He who will lead them out of the valley of the shadow of death being the One who leads them into it, yeah, yeah. Conscience would be the death of them, someday. "He's an ironworks artist, you know.

"Or was. He makes art. Zhokovsky— headed up Russia the way Ethan did New York City. He was good enough to warrant his own fucking exhibition over at a renowned museum in Moscow, and his family— what they're famous for? Restoration of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, with enough panoplies to beat up the Chinese Terra Cotta army and multiple throne rooms.

"And the Grand Church. I don't get it. I mean, no offense to the Bennatis, but we've always been… kind of crazy porn actress bee-keeper-in-the-woods psychotic mathematician weirdos. But this guy's whole family and legacy is about making beautiful things. For public consumption, for God's worship. It's fucked up," he says, exhumign a long sigh out of his lungs.

"Panoply?" She should have read up more on Russia. She really should have."So he went from making things of beauty, to .. destruction? Maybe you want to look for when he stopped doing that which he apparently loved. There you'll find your catalyst likely. Oen doesn't just stop making beauty, things used for worship without good reason"

Abigail glances down towards the crinkling of paper, determined at some point to liberate it from Teo and read it all for herself. "Would you tell me, if I asked, what I was like, what I did, in your second lifetime?"

There's an odd silence at that, considering. Teo turns it over in his head for a few seconds, eventually discards the other notion, that the megalomaniac asshole had been— like whatever Amato had, somehow hybridizing religion with a mad ideology of hatred. "Suits of armor, like you see in like, Scooby Doo and those other palaces. Maybe you're right," he adds, after a stilted moment. "The factory's still running, but the art stopped."

Two things to look into. Once they're done with all the reading. Once he's recovered from the spine-cracking burden of history both recent and future, too, perhaps. Teo's evening wakefulness can not entirely be attributed to constructive consumption of the literature. His breath fogs into hers. It's a good question, Teodoro thinks. He skips a chapter to find the dog-eared page he's looking for. "You married this guy, anoter EMT like you were. Had two kids. He died: an accident. Few years later," he squares his shoulders slightly, a fond nudge at her chin, "things evened out.

"You got back in touch with Flint, and… and you guys were good. I mean, you stayed good. I still think so even if you and I had… a strong disagreement in the end about what the future held and what to do about it."

It's something to look into, find out if timelines match. The cold is starting to get to her, gone beyond seeping in and relieving aches and bruised skin, turning into frostbite, or frost nip cold enough that jumping right into bed with liz will likely scare the other woman. But she got married, she had kids, he died. That brings her brows down a bit, mourning the loss of some man that she'd married in some other lifetime. Teo can feel it, see it. But she and Flint.

"This isn't that time. And, the future…" Abigail glances towards where the sun will inevitably rise. "A far more glorious dawn awaits. And a busy one I'm sure. There's no fighting here and now. We should probably go in, see if we can make something hot to drink to warm ourselves up and try to sleep, somewhat. The couches look comfy in the livingroom, we could sleep there. Surely our hostess won't scream off with our heads"

Instead of answering, Teo crabs and seesaws and stands up, offering one hand to help her up and the other to swat encrusted snow off the side of her pant leg as she peels her parka off the snow. The stack of papers skew where they're pinned under his arm, but none of the leaves come loose enough to fall out into the snowy darkness. He isn't sure he'll be able to fall asleep, but it's worth a try.

And probably works as a team-building exercise, napping together, in proximity to the reading. Maybe they'll absorb some of the information through osmosis, that classical pre-exam cramming tactic, or Abigail will take over in the morning in the event that exhaustion finally registers in defiance to his memory.

"Flint and I— drift apart 'n that timeline, too," he remarks.

Teo cranes his head back at the house, in time to catch glimpse of the ghostly sway of a curtain shutting upstairs. Someone checking on them. Perhaps their kindly hostess, perhaps her husband with an ulterior motive or else a comrade, concerned, in an off-handed brusque British way or fraught in search of reassurance after another nightmare about dying crippled in a basement. Teo could check and see who it is, but he doesn't bother.

Blanked out in uniform opacity, now, the windows smile down bleak with cold conspiracy. When Teo lumps an arm around her shoulders, she feels the pistol nudging gently against her bicep. He matches her stride back to the house.

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