Seek Higher Ground


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Scene Title Seek Higher Ground
Synopsis In which some deeply regretted errors make Alexander get monstrous and Teo more determined not to be, and possibly other things but the scene is not yet finished.
Date December 10, 2008


It is past midnight by the time Teo gets enough of his shit done to catch his second meal of the day, another dose of Advil, and go to Eileen's. Which probably says something absurd about the shit he has to do, that she had somehow inched down the time-pressured priorities to lower than rank one.

Exchanging salutations with the Ferryman two doors in, he then tromps down the stairwell, taking the steps two by two until he lands on the basement floor in a boot-shaped tread of swift-melting water with enough impact to remind him he kind of fucked up his knee the other night. Fortunately, he's young or stupid enough to walk it off. He does so. Three strides and it's forgotten; he rounds the corner expecting to find Eileen awake and the hallway empty.

The hallway is not empty. Al is lurking there, on guard duty, with the expectation that he not mess with the prisoner. He has promised, but he's wearing the grumpy look of a pit bull charged with guarding the meat locker. He's smoking, as he does all too often these days - it smells sweetly of spice, however, as he lazily paces the length of the hallway, tread surprisingly quiet. "Hey, T," he says, softly. "She's asleep right now."

As ever, Teo's instantly delighted to find his roommate— best friend— comrade— person around, though after the instant passes the picket fence grin dims slightly with the remembrance of where they are. Where Al probably shouldn't be, based on the performance overview of his recentmost visits.

Teo's frown is slight. His footsteps commensurately quiet as he lopes over to peer through the observation window himself, find Munin's form silent, prone, motionless but for the flux of air through her thin shoulders. Unthinkingly — and without looking, his expectations blind as they are presumptions, he sticks an arm out and back to snag and borrow the smoke from Alexander's mouth in passing.

Alexander hands it over in a smooth and seamless motion, as if his power were mild precognition or else telepathy. It's a clove, of course. "No, I didn't do nothin' to her," he says, as if to an unspoken accusation. "I got my orders, I ain't gonna freelance. Though I'm thinking of making her a big ol' fried chicken dinner," he says. He's got his pistol slung around to the front of a hip, in a rather cowboyish fashion, but no shoulder arms. He's weary enough, but not so much as to slouch. "What's the news, brother?"

When Teo wants to smoke too much, he doesn't. The psychological inculcation of Catholic repression has some practical uses. He takes a drag, staring down on the cot, the splash of Eileen's small dark shape on the linens, until he inevitably finds his own behavior disturbing enough that he turns his head away. Locates Alexander over his shoulder with a rueful half a smile visible against his profile.

Alexander's familiar enough with him that he knows the expression doesn't go all the way around his head. "Jessica didn't call," he rasps. "But it turns out Elisabeth — the new operative, knows her personally. We've moved her to a safehouse, but I think there's an open line of communication there. I think Abby's going to get to wait, in light of Cat and Danielle.

"And the Ferrymen had a thing today, but it's fixed." News, itemized updates, all emotional and superfluous details excised, comes as easily as turning pages of newsprint. It's different when he mentions, afterward, "You didn't want to hurt her before." Without bothering to disambiguinate her, he turns on a foot and heads to the bench against the opposite wall.

"She tried to gut you like a catfish. People tryin' to kill m' friends tends to put my dander up," Al says, simply. "I know that means I'm a big ol' bleeding-heart faggot, but that's how it works. Good to know they ain't doin' too bad." He glances past Teo into the darkened room. 'Not to mention I don't know what we think would be accomplished by taking her, but now she knows everyone's name and face and likely powerset, 'cause god only knows what Flap-His-Lips Brian has told her," he opines, pulling out a Zippo and starting to play with it, clinking the lid rhythmically as if playing the spoons. "And we can cavil about holding the moral high ground all we want. We ain't PARIAH. But I half wonder if I shouldn't've gone with them, tried to keep them to a saner course. Because the gloves do have to come off sometime, and I can't think of what these motherfuckers she works with could do that's -worse-. They kill innocents, murder children and cops. I mean, shit, you gotta have balls of iron to both blow up a high school like this is Baghdad and to murder a fucking Fed in cold blood. Talk about getting a fatwa put on your ass."

That's probably more consecutive words than Teo has ever heard from his friend in — ever. Since their first real conversation in the park, and despite all the war room meetings in between. Things he'd known; things he hadn't thought about; things he'd tried not to.

Digs a well of silence into the space afterward while the Sicilian picks his way through his thoughts in a fashion far more labored than the feckless ease with which he'd tackled the stairs on slippery shoes. He ends up studying the floor. Good to know: you were directly responsible for the torture of a girl; and right, about that, the Fed, Teo… can't talk about that.

"I shouldn't have gotten so fucking close," he says, after a moment. When in doubt, retreat to familiar territory. Self-rancor works. Practicality, also. He is seated on the bench, now, dragging his feet on the floor. "It's too late now, anyway." For what? His brain fuzzes into static before the missing half of that sentence produces itself. "I think she'll help us to help herself. You heard her. There's no love lost for Volken or anything they do."

"I don't believe her. She wouldn't stick so far along to suddenly have our asses show up and sing Kum Ba Yah to change her mind," Al opines. There are more cigarettes where that came from, and he produces another, light it, hand cupping reflexively even though the hall is quite still. "She's lying. Or even if she believes it, she'll cave when we hand her back. And….what're the chances they'll let her live? They seem to think she's fairly disposable now. It ain't your fault Brian's a dumb ass. No one here is as paranoid as they need to be," He exhales a cloud of smoke, and leans himself against the wall. Apparently he took more away from Iraq than a few physical scars. He grunts, and swings away from the wall to pace more, and it's the caged lion tread of someone who's used to duty on his feet.

Squiksquiksquik. Teo grinds the sole of his shoe into the floor, wiggling his ankle, to listen to the frictive noise between wet rubber and linoleum. He forgets, conveniently, to think of the Ferryman who is going to have to clean it up, and watches Alexander prowl. It's easier — less disorienting — than the war room last night; he's had more sleep, less stangulation, in the intervening day.

"They seem to think she's worth Catherine and Danielle," the bullfrog reminds in his steadfast croak. "She has steel in her. And I'm not a complete mental deficit, I swear: I get some insurance, or the thing won't go. It'll take some faith," he acknowledges with a grimace. He taps ash off the end of the clove, notices with a touch of consternation that Al fired up another one.

"But I'll try to minimize the amount. For the sake of your skeptic's sensibilities." Religious humor. It's classy, sort of. He wonders how much caffeine Alexander consumed today.

Alexander snorts at that, but doesn't comment. He's a cynical ex-Baptist, and not inclined to trust in justice, mercy, or faith. "Fact of the matter is….we can't win against 'em," He sounds not despairing or angry, but flat. "They are willing to do what we won't. They have the advantage. We need to get the cops on to them. Start spying, get 'em on the run. We can't fight a two front war - we need our enemies to be one against the other, not us."

"We're not hunting Ethan or his friends," Teo answers steadily. "They aren't the point. We can concede her that. Volken is the point. The size of this thing, Al. The money Wireless hacked came from all over the fucking globe, and she's found mentions of him everywhere. At the very least, he's more than Wireless has seen in a long damn time. The only weakness I can tell is the structure of the hierarchy.

"Pyramid— one brilliant leader who controls everything. That's the organizational structure we don't have because we can't fucking afford to. We need her to do this. Even if we took New York City, that stronzo would still be out there and we wouldn't even have this to go on. The only thing worse than one hundred dead kids is another. We need to hold ground, and see where this goes."

There's something stubborn in the set of Teo's jaw as the light down the hall limns it. Bristly now. He looks at Alexander in the fashion of a young man who doesn't understand that he's looking at an impossible battle: changing his friend's mind.

December 10th: Two to Tango
December 10th: Critiques on the Art of Negotiation
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