Swimming With Sharks


hana_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Swimming With Sharks
Synopsis Teo does. The shark does a lot of circling, but doesn't bite. Today.
Date December 30, 2008

Primatech Paper Facility

Evening finds the charred and abandoned facility as much of a dark and neglected wreck as it has been ever since the fire. Anyone looking on would be certain it's empty, save perhaps for some rats, stray cats, or even a vagrant or two; no light can be seen from outside… because the only lights on are below ground level. But those who have been here before know that's where Hana would be; the trail of interior illumination leads into what was once and still is a gymnasium, along the way passing by a few discreetly placed sensors. No booby-traps, though… at least, not while Hana's actually present.

And present she is, tied-back hair and sweats dampened by sweat to the point that all of them stick to the woman's skin wherever they touch it, suggesting she's been here for a while. In the middle of the cleared floor, she glides through a sequence of smooth motions that could just as easily be some form of dance, or a set of stretching exercises, or a slowed-down version of some martial arts pattern.

Been here before, but not invited much further past the black-on-black chaos of desiccated and wind-frozen lawn and vines. Teo finds his way through easily enough, making sense of architecture with obvious intent— foyer, no doubt watched, long hallway, bypassing the subtle rectangle of maintenance door and the dust-choked huddle of an abandoned secretary desk. Stairs, doorway, light, gymnasium. Gymnasium? There's unaccountable surprise at that.

Figured Hana was like that naturally.

He wipes that expression off his face before his figure shows around the frame of the door and instantly regrets not having walked softer if he had had to come here at all. As it is, he instantly feels like an interruption; wants a do-over, immediately, considers stepping backward and up the stairs, and repeat his entrance because this moment — her stance wide, balance centered, lean frame articulating a pattern that resonates with a memory that isn't book-learned or intellectual — is perfect.

He doesn't run away and come back, of course. That would be stupid. Hana doesn't like stupid things; it's miracle enough she tolerates him around as much as she does. Framed by the doorway, he looks down at his boots, then back over his shoulder; refrains from coughing, and waits a moment before his peripheral swivels back, and he deigns to let himself watch.

Some of it is natural — but it's a 'natural' which has arisen from eleven years' worth of military, secret ops, and renegade agent experiences. Not truly the same thing at all. Teo's appearance in the doorway comes as no surprise to Hana, who had been monitoring his approach; she doesn't deign to acknowledge his interruption until after the final pose has been attained, held, and ultimately dropped.

The Israeli woman hooks a towel pendant on the nearest piece of equipment and rubs it briefly over her face, then slings it idly about her shoulders, between her hair and her neck. "Teo," the woman greets, in her accustomed minimalistic fashion. "Why are you here?" The choice of phrasing borders on challenging; the tone of the words doesn't quite reach that timbre.

"Hana," the young man answers, reciprocating automatically before habit adds to it: "Buona sera." His eyes smile. He'd go in, but he isn't sure he wants to take off his shoes. Doesn't. Teo's head stoops fractionally, looking through the gym's inanimate contents, any equipment, a cooler for hydration, whatever there is besides light and six walls. He might be remiss in assuming she needs more than that, but there's a towel. Still, he doesn't shift from business, conversationally. Business first. "Wanted to talk to you about Rickham and Edward.

"I don't know if you've met them yet or how much you've heard. Rickham still seems out of it, but recovering. Edward— the physics professor who brought the photos from the future. I think he's Evolved— something to do with probabilities. He's making a plan; us against Volken's, calculations with abilities, and so on. But he threw up in the hallway at the sight of blood, so…

"I don't know about all the faith he's been installed with and I haven't told him about the others who might be willing to fight. Was wondering what you thought." His weight lists across his feet, shoulder against the doorway.

"I haven't met them," Hana replies, as she walks over so Teo doesn't have to call halfway across the gym to reach her ears. Some of the gym's equipment looks like it was here during the fire — not burned, but older, worn, a bit darker than they should be. Others are newer, possibly added since. By Hana? She's not saying; doesn't give Teo's survey of the room much attention at all, in fact.

"Edward. Cat uploaded some information on him. It checks out." There's a bite to her tone, however, a suspicion that admits Edward passes technopathic scrutiny only with the greatest of reluctance. "Probability. As if life is that simple. The human factor is the reason military intelligence can't just use supercomputers to predict their opponents' actions."

It makes sense, that the first piece of personal residence that Teo would find her in would be a gym. It was either that and a computer laboratory of some sort, and that might be laying it on a little too thick. He stops looking at the backdrop, turns his head back to Hana instead. His brow furrows slightly at her finds — not because it's discouraging news, because it really isn't, but because the way she conveys it is alarming. Her grudging admission doesn't exactly seed great sparkling flowers of relief and reassurance.

"Evolved abilities simplify things, sometimes. Not that much," he agrees. His shoe grates on the floor; he tilts his neck fractionally, squeezing a crick out of the muscle and bone at the base. "Do you think he's an utter fucking waste of time, or would you mind — sitting with him while he makes plans? I'm not sure who else would be qualified to inform his decisions." Not that they trust to do so at this point, at any rate. He doesn't have to say that aloud. "Diego, maybe. I don't think he's had that much tactical experience specifically with Evolved, though." And so many of them are.

"The best person…" It's an admission just as grudging as her acceptance of Edward's identity, which might seem odd to anyone who doesn't know the history the Ferrymen's leaders share. "…might be Bennet. But I doubt he'll do it." Hana slings the towel off, a flick of her wrist wrapping it around the frame of another bit of machinery, where she leaves it behind.

Bare feet whisper softly against the gym floor as she paces amongst the equipment, following no particularly set course. "I will if you want me to." If she were a lioness, that last statement would have been a growl; unwilling acknowledgment of and unhappy consent to what is likely a necessary evil. "I suppose," the technopath continues after a beat of silence, "it would be for the best." If someone sat in. If someone knew what he intended. That's the only way to arrive at a fallback plan which might be actually useful.

A fallback plan seems like a great idea, if largely because falling seems like a painfully realistic possibility. The lioness paces, and the rawhide mouse in the corner of her cage watches out of blank bead eyes. "I would. I'll see what Hel thinks, too.

"It seems like a minor precaution, although I'm sorry about… asking you to sacrifice the time." She has about a zillion things going on at any given time, he gathers, without being certain that a zillion and one is beyond her. The perception and potential for more than any mortal has time in the day to do. He's gathered that from recollection and rumination. The crawl of her voice in mentioning Bennet is, however, refers to a point beyond the circumscription of his personal experience. "Why wouldn't signor Bennet?"

It's a distant echo to the real question, of course. What's wrong with Bennet?

Hana shrugs, makes no apparent recognition of his apology. "It's easier for me to do," she replies. "I don't always have to be somewhere to be there." It's a bald statement of the truth that doesn't mean anything. Does absolutely nothing to answer the question of what's wrong. "And I can dump him a verbatim transcript if his input is needed." He can't. So many things a technopath can do. But she doesn't cease her restless motion, doesn't relax. Because there are also so many things she can't. "When do you want to do this?" Now she stops, spinning on the balls of her feet to face Teo, the tail end of her bound-back hair whipping with the motion.

There's something wrong, though, and Teo isn't dumb enough to miss that much even if he doesn't feel right in pursuing the question yet— or at least not from this angle. He's been fucked up in the head just enough to know that most people's major hangups hang together, and while he has no way of knowing to what extent or how trivial Bennet's issue is, he could say much the same for any part of the historical mystery that's culminated in an ex-Mossad operative running a refugee operation out of New York City beside a bespectacled man she hates, but whom is also somehow not dead.

He finds himself taking off his shoes before he actually decides to take off his shoes, socks doffed with them, and he's stepped onto the smooth floor. Not far; just in enough that the doorframe isn't perpetually threatening to take Hana out of sight. "I think that's more dependent on your schedule than mine. After New Year's would be smart, I think; make sure Edward's in the headset. I'm sure you will be." There's a smile at the corner of his eye, empty of mirth. She looks so angry. Through some clumsy coincidence of notions and neurons, he foregoes all personal questions in favor of one that might simply be interpreted as stupid.

"Are you all right, Hana?"

Is she all right. She's stuck here. Training. Teaching. Advising. Helping Matt Parkman, who might as well be Company himself. Next best thing to it, for certain. Letting Phoenix do the hunting instead. It's almost exactly why she left Mossad. Why she followed Bennet virtually halfway around the world coccooned in a web of believeable lies.

The one lesson we learn from history is that we are all doomed to repeat it.

"I'm fine." Stated in the forceful tone that any ear can translate as meaning the exact opposite, even as it also means I don't want to talk about it. Hana looks at Teo for a moment longer, then turns away. Two steps, three, transforming smoothly into a roundhouse kick that causes the punching bag that is its target to careen wildly upon its chain. It's a valid target. Teo hasn't crossed that line yet. So when Hana segues into another well-practiced series of moves, they're all centered around the swinging bright red stuffed cylinder. If the kick was an outlet for anger, these are its ground — controlled rather than explosive, honing a focus that is already sharp enough to cut the wind.

Never did figure out why it was the Ferrymen that Hana was leading instead of— fuck. A mob of former black ops specialists who go around editing status quo with big fucking guns. Teo stands still and watches her tear at the equipment with such vicious accuracy that even he can tell, that its thick red shape represents more than just one face or crumpling torso, and finds it's harder to breathe, some sentiment beating in his chest under the dense clothes and the discreet cross, that familiar despair of total awe. Though violence tends to imply subhuman to those a little more easily horrified, Teo would be one of Manhattan's many who think otherwise.

He's pretty sure he should go away, because she shouldn't be alone but Wireless never really is. Thus, he says: "No." She isn't. 'Fine.' Unless that's a euphemism for not; he blinks, remembers his feet, and clears his throat despite that his voice was fine. Even, quiet, eternally apologetic. "You were moving different to this earlier. What was that?"

Hana pauses at Teo's contradictory statement; as she steps away from the punching bag, her expression is more controlled, anger's heat banked. Not all the way to its normal quiescence, but reined in. She will not let it loose — and neither will she let it go. There's a hint of angle in the way she holds her head, a touch of question in the arch of one slender, dark brow. No?

She doesn't press, doesn't insist she's right and he's wrong. Hana lets it pass, in favor of the non-controversial conversational subject. The one that doesn't pick at old scars and unhealed resentments… at least, not so readily. She breathes only a little more heavily than normal; it does nothing to impede the woman's speech. "I learned a little bit of Aikido… not from Bennet, but under his direction." She manages to keep her expression nearly level as she says it; that part of her life isn't one she likes to admit, however useful its lessons may have been. Hana nods towards the punching bag. "Krav Maga is what Mossad teaches."

This subject may not pick at old scars, but it drags a nail dangerously close. "I guess you didn't join him to kill terrorists, signora." The guess lacks the weight of an insinuation and accompanied by a look that would have implied he was searching. If she wants to talk about it. She'd spoken of her purpose in joining the Mossad easily enough, once upon the lawn, maybe twenty feet above his head right now and over to the left a little. He tries not to look too closely at the arch of that eyebrow; it reminds him somewhat of the cobra poised on National Geographic.

"I've heard of them. They have less in common than hitting things would make a kid believe. Why practice both?" His eyes linger on the punching bag instead, trying to pick out the slow-flattening dents where her feet and hands had made contact with it before, before he does turn to look at her, compelled by politeness or curiosity, perhaps both and equally sincere.

Dangerously close. Hana's nostrils flare slightly, but she doesn't want to talk about it… and she doesn't need to justify herself to him.

Does she?

Teo's gaze wanders the room; hers remains intent upon him. Not hostile, precisely, but a feline visage would have narrowed eyes and laid-back ears, the expression that suggests I could swat you. But she doesn't. Exactly. "It's your business why?" the woman snaps. Yet though that statement could stand alone… it doesn't.

Hana doesn't do anything so normal as run a hand through her hair, but there's a slight shift in her posture, a redirection of her attention past Teo. Into the distance, rather than on a new focus; off the man who seems determined to draw blood today, perhaps both metaphorical and literal. "Because I know them both." The words are clipped and stiff, but the question is answered. She doesn't elaborate beyond that point, allowing Teo to infer additional reasons on his own — or tempt fate by asking after specifics.

Swimming with sharks, shadowing lionesses. Teo's wont to make bad decisions sometimes, but he has decency and awareness of his circumstances enough to do them in private, at least. In the sea, under ground. A bedroom, in similar context. There's a grin then, sheepish, teeth white and eyes slipping low, brief, failing to invite reciprocation. "I don't think I've ever hated anything as much as you hate terrorists and the Company. I think that might make me a little self-absorbed. It isn't." His business, that is. He knows. Swatted with claws out or sheathed? Flat ears, flaring eyes, lashing tail; better the wrath of a cat where you can see it than to be stalked in long grass. Better no wrath at all.

But Hana isn't a cat. Not really. Her hands make fists, her ears have sweat-slicked hair webbed across the cartilage, and she wouldn't need sawgrass to catch him by surprise; there's nothing between her and him but flat floorboards and uncomfortable speculation. His hands hang inside his sleeves. "Hel said you were going to train us. Fighting. Which one would that be?"

She regards Teo for a long moment, still, tension coiled in her lean frame — and then, as is the wont of the felines she's been likened to, Hana breaks away. The conversation seems set and determined to dance all about the pressure points, tapping a button and then circling away, around; perhaps luck, graced with a willingness to accept more from Teo than she does… well, Bennet.

"You're lucky," is Hana's verdict. The towel is reclaimed, but not for use; it's an excuse for motion, for doing something with that tension. "Krav," the woman replies at Teo's prompting. "It's more appropriate for the situations you'll wind up in."

Some point in the near future, Teo will probably ask the questions that currently seem to hang in probability adjacent to certain death. He'd probably ask them now, actually, but there's ulterior intent meandering along this line of query, woven around, almost hesitant, certainly not coy, advancing indirectly as he keeps pausing for study. He doesn't hesitate long.

When he finally asks, it's probably obvious why he'd hesitated at all. "Would you please teach me Aikido?" If his hands were laced behind his back and his feet perhaps an inch closer together, he'd look like a schoolboy in the headmistress' room, penitent about an earlier misstep even as he requests a new favor or leeway for it. Teo knows he's lucky, but he isn't really counting on that now. He hopes that she's as disinterested in hearing justification as she is giving it. He isn't sure what he'd say.

Contrary little schoolboy. The hesitation resolves into another question, but one that has nothing to do with history and scars. Hana tilts her head just slightly, studying Teo, her dark eyes blinking just once. What she's looking for, what conclusion her assessment reaches, the Israeli woman doesn't convey. Only the consequence of that conclusion, expressed by the dip of her chin. "Very well." The Sicilian's hope appears to be borne out; if she's curious as to the why of his request, it's been shelved for later. At present, a finger jabs the air, summoning Teo to a point deeper into the room. Lesson starts now.

Prompt from obedience, the schoolboy goes where commanded, his bare feet squeaking once out of the concatenation of strides that takes him there. He begins to shrug off his clothes as he goes. No matter how unappealing the cold, there is the call of higher purpose. Like learning how to— Teo hadn't even known exactly what he was watching when he'd seen that, the dance, the flow of combat slowed down until the balance of meaning resonated a deeper note in the art part of martial art. Jacket drops to the ground with a grating clitter of zipper along varnish, and one sweater follows it.

Cold helps him stay awake. Remain focused, rather; sleep isn't the threat to his safety or sanity, these days. "Thank you." It feels belated though it isn't, time distorted oddly in the moment he shunts his other concerns under the carpet.

The thanks is treated as they often are — it slides off the wall of Hana's focus, mode shifting from the embers of old anger and distrust to clear and clean intent that leaves little room for such frivolities. She steps around Teo, a slide of her foot pushing the discarded garments a little farther away from whatever imaginary space her mind has marked out on the floor. The Israeli woman finally stops in line with the Sicilian, setting her feet with deliberate care. Not that she needs to, but to draw his attention to her stance. "Left foot forward, straight. Right turned out. Keep your joints loose; don't let them lock. Hands — here."

Old is frivolous; here is now. Teo could probably take that lesson on a deeper level, but at the insistence of humanity, he can live with following instructions on how to stand. Always helps him to do something with his hands. Particularly if it's something he knows he wants to do — farther and fewer between than one might otherwise think. He looks at her with a certain stillness behind his face, bold eyebrows drawn closer under the strandy shadow of his hair.

He arranges his feet, adjusts his knee a few degrees seeing hers, and relaxes faintly. He's been fighting long enough to develop his own habits, good and bad, but the fact that this exists a little outside or above that category for him, mentally, helps more than a little. He mirrors her instead of falling into customary slouch and taut tension, doesn't have to fight down an automatic guard. Krav Maga would be both harder and easier.

Seeing Teo settle in, Hana steps out; she makes no indication for her student to follow, but walks around him again, studying his stance. A tap to shift the length of his arm but a hair, the touch itself perhaps disconcertingly light; the brush of butterfly's wings, the diametric opposite of earlier displays. Then and only then does the woman nod, returning to her original place, falling back into the basic posture as naturally as though she knew no other way to stand. Three steps are demonstrated next, stating each before the corresponding posture change — diagonal, side, diagonal and turn; each is held for a beat before Hana glides into the next step, so Teo can see the forms.

Then she gets to critique his mimicry thereof.

Generally, copying a stationary is easier than tracking the arc of limbs and joints through movements, but Teo isn't very good at standing still anyway. Particularly not when being cattleprodded by infinitessimal touches from a woman trained out of spontaneous tactility by years of self-discipline if not self-deprivation.

That's a little jarring, mostly when he realizes he can't recall ever having come closer than five inches of her before, with the exception of the comforting grasp he'd almost set on her shoulder in the library garret weeks ago. He makes his way through the partial rotations; forgets momentarily, relaxes his hand, cranes his head to see her foot and gauge any shift of her balance.

A contrast to Hana in that; she's very good at standing still. Having demonstrated once, she doesn't do so again; instead, she turns to fully face Teo. "Back to the beginning," the woman directs, the words accompanied by a small gesture. Whereupon she has him move to each pose in turn, pausing after each individual step for the Israeli to again adjust the angles of his limbs, point out the details of posture Teo failed to completely grasp. Or at least hang on to.

Whatever rule exists in Hana's normal life regarding no contact clearly isn't operating in full force here. It might also seem evident that she will spend the entire night walking Teo through each step if that's what the instruction takes.

She might have to do exactly that. Teo is a quick learner, but not a particularly thorough one; gets a lot on first pass, but everything after that requires close attention and wearing repetition. There are enough errors for her to correct. He'll make some of them more than once, but not before committing the wrong move or angle to muscle memory, certainly.

It'll take longer for him than a night to have it encoded to that degree of physical availability anyway. He goes back to the beginning. Looks grim as a funeral, all concentration and earnest, probably not quite what its original practitioners had meant to do with mind, body, and Omoto-kyo, but they might have found some vague gratification in the fact that he isn't just fucking around. Young men don't have that look when they're fucking around. Slowly but unmistakably, focus begets tension, livewire, restless. She's as good at moving slowly as she is standing still. Thus far, he's mastered neither.

After correcting Teo's execution of the three steps, at least to the point where he'll be closer to getting them right, Hana returns to her original position at his side. This time, there's no verbal prompt, just the follow-through in tandem, the deliberate and wearying repeat of the same three forms. The student is watched all the while to be sure he's more or less not making the same errors.

This time, from the third step, the Israeli segues into another sequence of three — forward and push; reach back over the shoulder; forward step and circle the front hand to rest palm-up. These are performed more slowly for Teo's benefit, complete with momentary freeze-frame upon each intermediate pose. "Those are the first six steps," Hana remarks upon conclusion. "That's as far as we'll go for now." Which is to say, they shall be repeated over and over and over until the taskmistress deems the student's execution is sufficiently close to perfect. There's a moment's pause; the summoning up of a memory she hasn't exercised in many years. "The whole sequence is called Tegatana no Kata."

Perfection will require more time. Teo knows it. If he'd been hoping for something that would pass the minutes faster, that came easier or was otherwise more familiar to him, he would have asked the questions that would have cost him his health, instead of making this request. He doesn't argue with her judgment, either about how much lesson one ought to encapsulate or how long it must go on before she will permit it to conclude. He watches her move through the steps, diverge from the ones she had established and find a new pattern.

And follows it, with as much care and precision as a lifetime of poorly-excused physicality enables him to. He nods even as his hand completes its cycle to finish, flat of palm parallel to the stretch of ceiling. He doesn't think about how this would translate to imaginary opponents or practical implementation. Her verbal caption surprises him all the more. He knows just enough Japanese to assemble the meaning of that phrase from its constituent parts.

Hand blade.

There is neither need nor any point in overthinking that, of course. It's just a name. Words. "Is there a kind of situation that this is more appropriate for?" he asks, falling back into the starting stance. One foot forward. Hands.

Hana abandons the last pose to pace a curve around Teo yet again, choosing another angle from which to observe. She gives no indication that questions were expected; the one that is asked is accepted with perfect equanimity. It relates to the task at hand and doesn't tread on all those hazardous things. "This is the foundation," the woman supplies in answer. "Everything else builds on it." You could say it's appropriate to all situations, in that sense. Or, just as equally true, to not a single one. After which Hana nods to Teo, prompting him into another run.

December 30th: Batten Upon Lambs
December 30th: The Shape of Things to Come
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