The Handshake


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Scene Title The Handshake
Synopsis Sarisa Kershner comes to Russia to deliver a message to Cat, and Team Charlie discusses their mission.
Date November 25, 2009

Spektor Home, Ryazan, Russia

Late night at the Spektor Home is typically a quiet affair once the excitement of dinner has settled down. Outside, the snow blows hard against the dark of the windows, yet the warm golden light inside of this old and comfortable estate seems to fend the bitter chill of Russian winters off as if it were warding against some deathly cold and vengeful spirits.

Normally by this hour, Ivan and Katerina have retired upstairs, leaving Felix to curl up on one of the sofas downstairs and others to retire to their rooms once the fancy strikes them. However, on this particular night the ritual has been altered. Not long after Ivan had retired upstairs, the patriarch of the Spektor home comes clomping down the stairs at a leisurely pace. He makes no mention to the guests of his return, but the kitchen for a late night snack is not his destination.

By the time Ivan makes his way to the front doors, there's the creak of that entrance opening and distantly murmured apologies, and the sounds of new footsteps coming in to the home. Too quiet niceties in Russian are afforded back and forth, before the tail ends of American spoken by a woman is more clear to the residents of the house on the ground floor. "…would have given you more warning, but this is a very tight schedule. Please, don't wake your wife, I won't be here for very…"

Their footfalls wind their way away from the front door, and Ivan's footsteps can be heard hesitantly making his way back upstairs as lighter but booted footsteps bring their way through the foyer towards one of the sitting rooms. Unexpected callers at late night, bringing auspicious word.

The panmnesiac isn't asleep when this occurs. She's in one of the living rooms, alone. Well, not entirely alone. With her in this particular area are Katarina's cello, Cat's guitar, and her newly acquired balalaika. The brunette, just a matter of weeks past her twenty-seventh birthday, is tempted to play the cello but holds that urge down as she lacks consent from the owner. The guitar, likewise, is not in hands. That leaves the balalaika as her focus. It's across her lap, and in one hand is reading material concerning how to tune, care for, and play the instrument. All in Russian, with Cyrillic lettering.

Being night, with Spektor and wife having retired, she isn't playing and won't be unless Elisabeth should happen along with her cone of silence.

"Looks like I'm in luck…" comes the voice from one of the many doorways leading in to the sitting room. There, standing in the threshold Sarisa Kershner looks like she may have walked all the way from America to Russia across the Bering strait. Her black woolen coat is decked with snow, even if most of it is now puddling on the floor as she unshoulders her jacket and unwinds the brick red scarf from around her neck. "Miss Chesterfield," she states with a slight nod, bringing her coat up to hang on the rack near the entrance, leaving the scarf loosely draped over her shoulders. "I believe you already know me indirectly, but I feel proper introductions may be in order."

Walking across the floor towards where Cat is seated, Sarisa removes her fitted leather gloves and offers a hand out in greeting. "Agent Sarisa Kershner, CIA Special Activities Division. It's a pleasure to finally meet you face to face."

The voice prompts a raising of her head, the instrument and reading material being set aside afterward, as memories are triggered by the face when Cat sights it. Places and times she's sighted this woman flash through her brain, among them the Frontline Ball which turned into a battle scene after Minea Dahl attempted to arrest Emile Danko.

Cat will not comment upon that directly. "It's good to meet you," she replies smoothly as she rises and extends her own right hand to shake once and release. For the perceptive her grip is neither crushing nor weak; the skin is warm, smooth, and soft save for calluses near fingertips. "Of course, if we're to be formal, Doctor Chesterfield is the more proper title." A mild smile is offered.

"I've just gotten out of a meeting with the President's cabinet, so I think I'm full-up for formal for the evening." Sarisa notes with a good-natured smile, rubbing her forefingers and thumb together after the handshake. She eyes one of the high-backed upholstered armchairs nearby and walks over, easing herself down to sit.

"I wasn't sure who would be awake at this hour, and my attendant that brought me here is scheduled back in DC in roughly an hour and a half, so this won't be as long of a meeting as I'd initially hoped. But I wanted to make the jump here to get the chance to talk to you and the rest of your team directly since you were already deployed by the time the others were gathered…" Hesitantly, Sarisa folds her hands in her lap. "Did you get the opportunity to see the stream for the debriefing aboard the USS George Washington?"

The sounds of the door roused the not-asleep blonde NYPD officer from a doze, and she listened in shamelessly. Now she comes down the stairs, wrapped in a fleece long-sleeved top and warm pajama bottoms, her feet encased in socks. Her blonde hair is tousled from lying on the pillow. The stranger in the room with Cat draws her up short and she watches warily. "We got the tape," she says mildly as she walks toward Cat to stand near the brunette. She's not showing any dislike — she doesn't know this woman — but she's clearly wary.

"It was interesting," Cat replies as she remains on her feet in speaking with Sarisa until she sits. Eyes shift to Elisabeth as she walks in, then return to the agent. "And well enough, I'm rarely one to insist on formality. Cat will do nicely."

Moments later she's back in the chair occupied when Sarisa entered, the reading material still set aside but balalaika in her lap.

"Detective Harrison." Sarisa notes with a nod of her head, blue eyes alight to the other blonde with a curious brow raised. "It's good to see you made it here safe and sound, when I heard about how you were invited I can assure you that words were had." Maybe they were, maybe they weren't, but it's wonderful conversational lubrication.

"I had intended on proposing Phoenix's involvement in this operation personally, elements of the government have been keeping a relatively close eye on your organization for a while now, and keeping DHS from moving on them when opportunities were had. I spoke to an extent about the lack of communication between government branches regarding the events of February last year, and I intend to make good on my promises. Had the Moab facility not met with such a mysterious end, I would have had Dean and the others extracted from that prison immediately."

Yeah, about that. There's suddenly a presence in the doorway. Fel's too skinny a bastard to really be described as looming, but that dry skepticism in his face doesn't bode well for anyone. He smells of smoke, as he has more or less constantly since he arrived here. Back in the USSR, you don't know how lucky you are, boy. Fel's not in bedclothes - it's like he didn't bring any on this trip, but jeans and a sweater instead. He slants Sarisa a look as he props himself against the doorframe and polishes his glasses with lazy fingers.

With a purse of her lips, Elisabeth says dryly, "Easy enough assertion to make when there's little to either support or denounce the assertion, Agent Kershner." Yes, she was listening from upstairs when the name was given. When Felix shows up in the doorway behind her, Liz actually backs up a couple of steps to stand near the Fed, as if the moral support is helpful. She doesn't bother to deny her involvement in Phoenix. "I suppose it remains to be seen whether I'll survive long enough to see you actually pardon me…. for whatever the hell I'm supposed to be arrested for at this point." No charges were ever given her, nor would anyone even discuss it. But hey…

She has her balalaika, but it isn't ringing out as eyes move from person to person while they speak. Cat listens, her features neutral to not let on whether she believes Sarisa or just thinks the agent is kissing their asses. For all she knows, it could be both. "Sometimes operations find the people they need just the same," Cat replies. "Information about what's afoot has been landing on me for some months in trickles I couldn't figure out exactly what to do with. People paint about it, one in particular wrote and sang part of it. Then a French man brought me some nine hundred pages of information. From those nine hundred pages, I can identify if the weapon in question is the sort which has defenses against being disarmed."

She pauses for a moment, when speaking resumes the topic is different. "Moab," she muses, "of course you would have, Sarisa. And you're a fine upstanding patriot who supports the US Constitution, so I'm certain you'd also have arranged for fair trials and/or civil court commitment proceedings for anyone who actually deserved to be there."

"You do realize, I hope, the lack of communication between branches also involved Agent Parkman. He was advised of what we'd learned last December."

"Provided everything goes according to plan, all of you will be allowed to return to your normal lives." Sarisa tips her head down into a nod towards Felix, offering him a faint smile before her focus comes to Cat again, "or, well… as normal as they were." Her eyes alight to the ceiling for a moment, hands folded in her lap, and then looks back down to Elisabeth, then over to Cat once more.

"It may not surprise you, Cat, that your mother was chief among contacts with the Company that insisted on your involvement in this assignment. Arrangements were already being made by the time you lifted off from American soil. Right now, I want to clarify the offer I made to the others aboard the carrier. I know there are more members of Phoenix that are not present on this assignment, and I'd like to extend the offer of amnesty to the remainder of them as well. Any and all Phoenix operatives that were detained in Moab will have their names cleared and be allowed to return to their lives without fear of apprehension by the government. Those who aren't registered will be given doctored registration documentation so as to keep your anonymity."

Only once she's said her peace regarding that situation, does she pinch at the bridge of her nose and exhale a slow, tired breath. "Parkman's information couldn't be verified. He was DHS's liaison to the CIA and everyone was running around like headless chickens trying to figure out how much of the intel was legitimate and if any of it was a smokescreen by subversive organizations like PARIAH. It was, to be frank, a clusterfuck, and if you here weren't around to have stopped it none of us would be having this conversation right now."

"That, in part, is why I've been putting forward the offer of good faith to put everyone on an even footing. However, I and the people who share my sentiments in the government are the minority, and no one has enough pull to truly bring Phoenix into a favorable light in the government's eyes. There's just too many scared old men who refuse to make heroes out of," and she even uses her fingers to make air-quotes, "'terrorists.'" A cluck of Sarisa's tongue comes with her reclining back into the chair and folding her hands in her lap again.

"However, they can't prevent us from legitimizing you." One dark brow rises. "The CIA Special Activities agency is the government's black-ops branch of the CIA. We perform operations abroad that go outside of the legal spectrum. If members of Phoenix are interested, I could make arrangements to have any number of you recruited into government operations performing activities much like you're doing here, now. Operating outside the bounds of legal jurisdiction, with some oversight, to prevent incidents like this from happening again. Now, this is conjecture at the moment, I haven't received approval from the President, but I think I may… have his ear."

"You're Waffen CIA, eh?" Feliz says, skeptically. "You gonna give alla them medals, too?" he adds, tone arch. "This isn't conjecture, this is bullshit talespinning because you think you have them all over a barrel." He settles a hand on Liz's shoulder, comfortably.

Elisabeth simply lets it be. She puts a hand up absently to rest it on Felix's and studies the agent. "Why don't you tell us what we need to know to actually accomplish what we were sent here to do?" she says mildly. Whether she believes Sarisa or not, it doesn't really matter in the end. Time will tell. In the meantime, there's a job to be done. "We're starting to put together some of it, but a good briefing would help."

"I won't pretend to agree on every point we might discuss, Sarisa," Cat states quietly, "and I think you'd be insulted if I tried. It is also, to be honest, a distressing thing Mother chose to join Company ranks again knowing that organization's dirty history, including having created the very pathogen Kazimir Volken had modified to depopulate the globe. In many cases, knowing the Company was involved would have me moving well away from it, but some things transcend that aversion. The task," she admits, "of supporting and defending the US Constitution and countering general threats to our minority group among the population, "becomes rather more difficult if the Vanguard or anyone like them have their way."

Lapsing to silence then, she nods toward the detective, but adds "We can share what we've learned afterward."

There's a quiet sigh from Sarisa and a nod of her head as she takes a moment to collect her thoughts. "Unfortunately, you may know more than we do about this situation at the moment. Everything the United States Government knows about the Vanguard is from interrogations of Vanguard officers that we arrested in Berlin earlier this year. You heard as much on the briefing recording." Sarisa exhales a slow breath and tilts her head to the side, running fingers through her snow-dampened hair. "One of the men we sent with you on this assignment, Ethan Holden, as you know is a former Vanguard operative. Russia was one of his theaters of expertise during his tenure with them. He should know more about this area and its agents than anyone."

Tapping one finger on her chin, Sarisa looks from Cat to Elisabeth, then to Felix. "We know the least about the Russian Vanguard cell, and little about its operations. Whatever Volken was doing here, he was doing it for years and there may be more than one central facility. We know nothing, not even their headquarters designation. This may be the Niflheim facility, which means Munin would be here, but we have no proof… How has your investigation gone so far?"

"Has the FSB just been sitting around with their thumbs up their collective asses on this matter?" Felix demands, incredulous. "Or did they just refuse to share their toys with you? Nothing from them, no - they even looking for the nuke, too?" This is Wonderland levels of topsy-turvy. Clearly, his ears are pricked for the sound of the oncoming bus.

Elisabeth reaches up to rub her forehead, looking …. less than thrilled. She glances at Cat and murmurs, "We've got a couple of leads that may pan out. I wish I could read fucking Russian… that would help a lot. I've got about a hundred questions, and being as investigation is what I do, it's going to be on your head to find the answers. I'm just… muscle, as far as I can tell."

As others speak, her eyes settle on the faces in turn, and she absorbs the information. "It wouldn't be good to get spotted overtly using cameras on the street, we never know when a Vanguard operative might spot us doing so, but I've found the iPhone takes decent images and can be used without seeming obvious. One might just as easily be working through tracks on a playlist or using one of many features, the camera function also doesn't need a flash. Take photos of Russian signs and the like, Felix and I can translate."

"Sarisa may agree, or disagree, maybe she'll neither confirm nor deny," Cat muses, "but the FSB could be compromised. In the early nineties, after the USSR dissolved, it was likely a prime chance to recruit people who'd been with the KGB and were suddenly out of work, who later were drawn into FSB. Perhaps also, Felix, you and I can work to helping the others understand Russian when we have downtime. Thankfully," she remarks with a brief smile, "your native language goes from left to right. Tongues that go right to left play with my head. I detest them."

Then to address the group as a whole. "Francois and I went to the Ryazan State University. We looked through newspapers and came across one item, about the girlfriend of a local doctor with an SLC ability being kidnapped, and a body later being found near the Ironworks. I suspect the doctor, not the girlfriend was the real target, and if it was a Vanguard action experience tells me they wanted something from him and didn't get it, or they did and killed her anyway just for fun." Her eyes flash with dark emotions in speaking of this, which underscore her claim of experience. "Later, as we were leaving the library, we came across an office door with the name Carlisle Dreyfus. Inside, we found some things of interest which were photographed, then we left taking care not to have disturbed anything or left prints. There were no cameras in the area that I could see."

"Carlisle Dreyfus," Cat adds, "is a man Francois claims Kazimir once sent to kill him." With that, she pulls out her iPhone and pulls up the photos for viewing one by one. Among them is a map with pins in it marking places in Russia, China, Madagascar, Argentina, and New York.

"The Russian government is not in communication with us. We did not inform them of this operation, nor did we request access to their assets on the matter. The fact remains that Russia, for a long time, was Volken's back yard. There's no way for us to be assured that elements of the FSB aren't reporting back to Vanguard sympathizers within the country. There's no way for us to know whether or not the entire Russian government hasn't been compromised like Madagascar's…" Sarisa rubs her forehead with one hand slowly. "Which means we're in the dark on their local intel unless you can manage a covert way to recover any."

"As it stands, the FSB may be keeping an eye on all of you here in the country, simply by merit of the fact that they don't know why you're here. It's going to stay that way as well, and I'd recommend against attempting any meetings with them. America was, presumably, the one place Volken didn't have agents in the government, which means foreign governments are suspect at best in their cooperation. If it was anything other than a nuclear weapon… we might try to play ball. But right now, this is a one-sided game."

"Actually, Elisabeth," she foregoes the use of detective for now, "you may be in some luck with that." Reaching in to her back pocket, Sarisa removes something about the size and shape of an elongated blackberry. "This is a SatCom device that was given to the other team leaders. It communicates primarily with operations command on the USS George Washington and myself, but it has some other uses. One of them is a photographic text translation software." The device is held out towards Elisabeth. "Just take a photograph with it and select the language from the drop-down menu that pops up, and it will do its best to translate. It's not perfect by any stretch, civilian apps are actually in production for the iPhone as well, so if any of you brought on you might be able to get a similar software. Just bear in mind there's a margin of translation error, and it also depends on the size and quality of the text and photograph."

Then, realizing that something Cat said doesn't track, Sarisa looks over to her with one eyebrow raised. "Francois?" Blue eyes narrow, "I'm… not sure I know who that is."

Fel's silent at that, grim and lynx-eyed. He gives Cat a nod, listening. "I vote we don't fuck with them until we must. I'm….glad they don't know I'm here," he says, grudgingly. Ah, Felix, bundle of good cheer. "Not to mention I'm sure they'd be delighted to arrest us as foreign spies. They also made a policy of abducting and experimenting on the Evolved, at least back when they were the KGB. That's why I'm an American," he adds, perhaps not entirely sequitur.

She listens intently to the agent's words and raises a single blonde brow when the phone is offered to her. Although Elisabeth steps forward to take the phone from Sarisa, she steps immediately back into range of Felix's hands and merely watches the interaction between the agent and Cat for the moment. Francois's involvement in all this might not have been a good thing to expose, but …. Abby herself was expected. And that actually brings to mind the question of "Why us? This specific group?" She pauses. "The criteria for your skills choices seems… inscrutable."

"You weren't told of Francois Allegre being with us, Sarisa?" Cat's own eyebrows lift slightly at this, she seems mildly surprised. "I'd thought his presence was known, when we were met at Sheremetyevo by name, he was greeted in the same fashion and brought here with us. He's a man who in the distant past had brushes with the Vanguard, as evidenced by the stated attempt to kill him by Carlisle Dreyfus." She hadn't believed mentioning his name constituted any sort of exposure.

"Interesting." Sarisa notes about Francois' addition to the team. "No… No I'm afraid I don't even know who Francois Allegre is. If you could forward his information to me via that device I'll run a background check just to… be on the safe side. I'll let you know if anything suspect comes up. But, it's more than likely that he was a last-minute addition from Spektor's side of things. As I said, I don't know much about the local situation. Ivan is, and will be, your single best asset here in Russia."

Then, shrugging her shoulders she adds, "As far as why the teams were put together the way they were, it was not my choice, actually. The President and members of his Anti-Vanguard task force assigned the teams, along with assistance from the Company. You may wish to talk to Ivan Spektor in more depth about that, actually. But I think some of you can ascertain why, admittedly. I can surmise Holden is here because of prior experience, same with Ivanov in knowing the lay of the land. Harrison likely for her connection to Felix and investigative skills, and I imagine you were brought here, Cat, because of your prior cooperation with Ivanov and Harrison. That's my best educated guess."

Great. Just great. It's mostly his fault. Felix looks positively lugubrious - it's like they made him check any flicker of American optimism when he boarded the plane, and now he's left with fatalism. He volunteers nothing whatsoever about Francois, though that's a puzzle that still has him confused. Not even able to muster sarcasm.

Elisabeth doesn't volunteer anything at all about Francois. To her mind, it's more likely that he was Edward Ray's addition. But she'll deal with that intel when the agent is gone. "The power sets on each of the teams, one would assume, are the ones required — in someone's estimation — to accomplish the goals for which we were set here. In this case, locating and possibly securing the original Vanguard stronghold. Francois is … secure, Agent Kershner. His experience with Volken is, in my estimation, invaluable. We'll just leave it at that for now."

"Ivan is our best asset on the ground here," Cat echoes. "I'll be sure to remember that." It's cryptic, perhaps, a test to see what the agent knows of what she does, or if she'll let on about that in one direction or the other. "I think interviewing Doctor Koslow will be a good idea, to learn circumstances around the taking of his girlfriend, and we may desire to also approach Carlisle Dreyfus, but that would take extreme caution. We'd not want him to alert others of interest, and his disappearance could also raise alarms." She pauses there, collecting her thoughts, before addressing Sarisa again.

"I'm certain the warning is unneeded," Cat offers on resuming, "but the Vanguard thinks in global terms. They may have just one nuclear weapon which in itself wouldn't cause an event rivaling what Kazimir was trying to do, so there must be some wider plan in conjunction with it. Stopping whatever that plan is will likely involve battles which cause damage, noticeable damage. It was unintended, and ultimately unavoidable, that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge fell in that operation, along with the rolling blackouts caused by the destruction of a power station. We can't guarantee there won't be similar consequences to all this."

"The United States Government is prepared for those eventualities. This is part of the reason this is a CIA Special Activities Division operation, because Operation Apollo does not exist and was never performed." There's a reluctant nod of her head when Sarisa mentions that, and she rises slowly from her chair. "Unfortunately, I think I've spent all the time I can here. My teleporter will be waiting for me outside in a few moments," said as her eyes drift to her wristwatch, "and I'm due for a status report to General Autumn."

Looking between Felix, Elisabeth and Cat, Sarisa offers a hesitant smile. "I wish the lot of you good hunting, and hopefully you can extend my heartfelt thanks for participation in this operation to the others I wasn't able to meet today. Once we're finished and this dreadful business is behind us, I think we'll be well on our way to cutting a path to a brighter future for all of us."

Felix's stare is baleful, as he watches Sarisa. And as clearly as if Stan Lee had inscribed it above his head in a thought bubble, what's on his mind is obvious. He doesn't trust the CIA agent as far as he can throw her - the FBI lending him to that agency is all too equivalent to the Cat Nation making Agent Fluffy an envoy to Dogland. Someone isn't coming home in one piece.

Watching the agent gain her feet, Elisabeth shakes her head slightly. She could comment to the CIA woman about the 'bright future' and under whose control that's in, but…. you know what? Better no one know what she knows about all that. "I'll send our reports through the phone," she tells Kershner mildly. Although who knows what reports she'll actually send.

"Safe travel," Cat offers to the agent, holding back her desire to ask just which Nathan is the one in the Oval Office now. It would, she judges, not be helpful to ask at this point. Doesn't mean this will always be the case. She is silent now, waiting until after Sarisa has teleported away to speak with the others.

One last quiet look is afforded across the three gathered in the sitting room before Sarisa begins winding her scarf around her neck and making her way over to where her coat is hung. Shouldering it back on, she pauses and offers a faint smile. "Give my regards to the Spektors as well, and I apologize for waking them up so late…" With that said, the blonde CIA operative dips her head into a nod one last time, and makes her way out into the hall, and then with a creak of the door and the rush of cold air from the snow falling outside, she's gone out into the night to rendezvous with her way home, leaving Team Charlie alone to discuss her unexpected appearance…

"They're going to throw the lot of us under the bus. I haven't seen such a load of bullshit since the last time I visited Grandpa Mikhail out on the collective farm," Felix says, voice flatter than a tanktread. "We need a backup plan. A way for all of us to get out of this, and away from them, once we've done what we need to do."

With a soft sigh, Elisabeth says quietly, "Let's worry about surviving first. The retirement plan for this job's always been shitty." She looks up at her erstwhile lover and smiles faintly as she quips, "A pension and a cheap gold watch, man. And that's the best we hope for."

"It isn't lost on me," Cat states, "that last time we fought the Vanguard DHS swooped in just after the battle to arrest and imprison people without trial for the shocking crime of saving billions from viral death. So I won't be surprised if they have a similar plan here. The eventualities they say they're prepared for… it's true their plan may be to blame all the collaterality on us. But even that is still better than dying in nuclear fire and whatever adjunct the Vanguard has in mind."

"Sarisa talks a good game, though. And I believe we have the answer on where Tamara got the tickets she brought to us. It wouldn't surprise me if Mother bought them. Or Robert Bishop."

"In any case, the information needed to spot which nukes are disarm-defended is in my head, assuming the French agent's info is complete and accurate. Mr. Redbird has it, too."

Felix shoots Liz an amused look, and offers a gallows chuckle. "This is a fucking penal legion, is what. And yeah. It's going to be …I can't say worse than Moab, never been. But my mother was willing to risk death to keep me out of the KGB's hands. But you're right. Whatever they intend, we've got to deal with the nukes."

Elisabeth looks at Cat and says calmly into a silence bubble that contains only the three of them in the room, "I'm pretty sure Edward Ray's involved in this somewhere. Neither of his bodies were ever located, and we've been working off some of the intel he left behind for quite a while now. It's how we ID'd Norman White so quickly. How I got the information I needed off the police computers before it was gone — I knew what I was looking for before they could wipe it." She shrugs a little. "They're playing the odds…. hoping that we can manage to stop the Vanguard because the alternative is too horrible to be considered."

"The major reason I know what I already do," Cat shares, "is precogs. Eve had some paintings, Else Kjelstrom wrote her songs mentioning Munin, and things started tying together. Hokuto's tarot cards, which she claims are just cards, predicted a travel opportunity when I asked about finding Munin, and here I am."

"I have to wonder which Nathan Petrelli is using the Oval Office now," she muses as a semi-afterthought.

"They're all bad ones," says Agent Eeyore, in his best bullfrog's croak. Oh, no, it's been twenty minutes since he had a cardboard cigarette, Feewix is getting cranky.

Elisabeth slants a glance at Cat and comments very dryly indeed, "Hokuto's tarot cards predicted several things for me — some of which are true and some of which are not. And I'm pretty sure you really don't want to know the answer to that." She crosses her arms and says, "There are any number of sources of intel. Let's get ourselves pulled together and start figuring out where the fuck we're supposed to be so we can kick some Vanguard ass."

"Don't want to know the answer to what?" Cat inquires as her hands take up the balalaika again and eyes settle on the documentation to it. "Cone of silence, please?" She perhaps intends to resume learning the instrument while they discuss and seeks to have Elisabethan Soundproofing while she does so and they discuss. "We should convene Abby, Francois, and Ethan too, then see about picking Ivan's brain."

"And Laudani, he's just along as the catamite for this bunch? Comfort boy?" Fel replies, lifting a brow, and patting his pockets down for those horrible papirosas. "He's too blonde for us to plan with him? Where is he, anyhow?"

"Never mind," Elisabeth says. "The silence field is up, but I'm going back to bed so it won't be there long." She eyes Felix and says, "If you don't stop smoking those things, I will seriously kick your ass. And then call your mama."

"Should I have someone FedEx you some cartons of Marlboros, Felix?" Cat offers.

"We're facing nuclear apocalypse and you all are bitching about my unfiltered cigarettes. You'd deny me the right to die with actual chesthair," Felix laments. "These are good. These are real cigarettes, not those crappy things made out of daisies and hay that they make in America."

"I am not kidding, Feeb," Elisabeth tsks. "Richard's started back up, and now you. That's it. I'm putting my foot down. No more people smoking around me. I don't want to die of lung cancer, I'd rather get nuked," she says in an aggrieved tone.

She's silent now, choosing to take advantage of Elisabeth's Cone Of Silence while she's here, thinking of interviewing Doctor Koslow, and briefing the whole group too. Fingers work over the balalaika's strings, she experiments with the sounds they produce to start.

Felix pulls a face at Liz, utterly unrepenant. "I'll only smoke outside," he says, as if that might mollify the waifu. But he tucks the papirosa behind his ear, and leaves it at that for now, before eyeing Cat a little bemusedly. A balaika. For srs. He shakes his head.

Elisabeth grumbles under her breath. "So… we're following up on the good doctor, and we're following up on the foundry, and what the fuck else? Do we have any names from the old Vanguard? What was their original charter, by the way?"

"We should ask Ethan," Cat replies, "and/or Francois. We also need to speak with Ivan Spektor and ask what he knows, since Sarisa says he's our best asset on the ground. Then we coordinate and compare info. Has Abby plugged that laptop in, can she plug it in, for that matter?" Thus far she hasn't checked to see if it can be adapted to 220/240 volt power, or whatever Russia has.

"What Doctor?" Abigail's at the doorway to the room, peering her pink haired head in, cheeks red from being outside with Teo doing who knows what that only the two of them would know. And anyone else that the owners of the house sicc'd on them to spy. The rest of her comes into the room proper, a lanky tall italian behind her.

Felix has pulled a coin from his pocket - local currency- and begun to walk it over his knuckles, back and forth. It flickers in the room's lighting, as he listens. No comment, not yet.

Elisabeth glances toward the door and expands the bubble just a bit to make sure the man behind Abby is also inside it. "We're just getting everyone up to speed on what intel we have and what leads we need to follow up on at this point. Making a list for investigation purposes. The CIA was just here."

"Aleksandr Koslow," Cat provides, "he's openly Evolved. A few days ago his girlfriend was kidnapped, and after that there was a body found near the Ironworks. It smells to me like Vanguard grabbed her, wanting something from him, which he didn't give. It's possible also he did give whatever they were after, and they killed her anyway for fun. If, that is, the body is hers."

By 'lanky,' Abigail obviously means that Teo is— attractively broad-shouldered and blonde but also available for 'planning,' though he's similarly out of loop. He sidles in, popping the button at his jacket collar with a thumb and pulling lapels free from the separating teeth of the zip. He's probably inflated to an extra third his actual size, with all the layers he has on in fierce discrimination against the cold.

He looks a little tired, not quite morose, in spite the perfectly reasonable hour and the general lack of excitement that has pervaded their vacation thus far; it takes him a few eye-blinks to remember more of what he'd read since their visit to the ironworks. "Faina?" he asks. "And her murder, all that shit? The guy we met was her fella?" 'Her fella.' He only slips into English slang when his head's too sloppy to retain its fluent grasp of Ameringlish.

"Oh! Him!" Like, you know, that Doctor. "Good guy? Bad guy? Cause if he's a good guy, I'll go see him. Since I'm the one that didn't offend him with the 3rd degree" That was his girl. The same mournful look that Teo had seen on her face the other early morning is back. "He walked to the factory, we didn't see a car anywhere, so he probably lives near the factory, what's his ability?" Since the man is openly evolved.

Felix opines, drily, "It said it was from the CIA. I think it smelled of brimstone," even as he flicks the coin up into the air with a thumb, as if answering some question by a cointoss. The kopek omens are good, apparently - he swings a look at Teo as he comes in, but offers no greeting.
"Well, to my mind….. we have on hand two experts of the Vanguard, and one Ivan Spektor who is supposed to be an amazing asset on the ground. I suggest we use the morning," because it's now almost midnight local time and Elisabeth is dressed in fleecy warm jammies and socks, dammit!!, "to start interrogating our 'assets.' We need to know what Ivan Spektor knows about the Russian Vanguard, what Francois knows about any names that might have been linked back then, and what Ethan might know about names that might be linked NOW. The doctor…. I dunno. It's a reach that this one dead body is all tied into the Vanguard, but we can't leave any stone unturned. Hell, the doctor might be a great resource into things. But ultimately, all I'm hearing that we have right now are a bunch of unconnected little factoids. We need some connections or we're not going to get anywhere fast."

"I don't know that the man you met is the doctor," Cat replies, "there wasn't a photo of him I could find. He is, though, a healer. The girlfriend who died is Faina Mezentseva, twenty-two, a ballerina. I have his address, and I saw a map so the streets of Ryazan are in my head securely. I plan to speak with him since, if I'm right, he and I have both been there and done that with Vanguard people." Then there's a quiet space.

Which Cat breaks by asking "Abby, is your laptop adaptable to Russian power outlets?" Plug sockets will be different than home, voltage too.

By now, the Spektor home registers are precisely that— a home, as opposed to safehouse, momentary shelter, etc., and the distinction however subtle (or overstated, what with all of the domestic ceremony Teo had paid to Katarina) is enough to have Teodoro pulling his boots off, one by one, and aligning them neatly at the side of the door. "'Least in terms of fucking proximity, the connection is Ryazan Ironworks," he says, without turning his head from his new course: the kitchen.

Coffee and the artificial semblence of awakeness draws him like a fly to poop. "Faina had a memorial outside its gates, and the man had walked a long way to see it there. The ironworks are owned by Grigori Zhokovsky, former Russian cell leader. Big damn guard dog outside, surveilled, and apparently still operational— the only valid address still associated with him." His voice is flattened out by the intervening layers of walls as he shovels together some caffeinated beverage thing. "You can borrow mine if you want."

And there's the link that Elisabeth was wondering about — because that's the first she's heard of the entirety of the intel that Teo's had. "Zhokovsky is the one that Abby mentioned….. used to create artwork and then suddenly shifted only to making servicable items? That usually comes with a major crisis of faith and/or a death in the family. So… it brought up the question of whether the Vanguard was originally intended to be an anti-Evo group or something — cuz I never know what their actual charter or intent was. Volken's motivations were always a little murky to me, aside from the whole world domination thing." She shoves a hand through her hair and moves to sit so she can listen to people talk while she holds the silence bubble.

Oh, Cat's going to go see him. That the guy is an out and out honest to god openly involved healer has sparked Abigail's interest. "Yup. Not a point to bringing it if you can't use it. I got all the adaptors and such. I have my curling iron too if you need it. I woulda thought you would have brought yours Cat" Because, curling irons need adaptors too. "I'd bet my momma's best dress that the man at the memorial was this Doctor" Abigail fishes for her phone out of her pocket before pulling out her cell phone and flipping through the ones taken. There was one taken from the car, of the man kneeling and his face. She's turning it outwards, so that people can see the admittedly poor quality picture, but picture none the less of the man at the foundry. "This was the man. Felix was peppering him and teo sorta, got a look from him. I got stared at when I said a prayer for Faina.

"It's not a religious country, as you understand it, Abigail," Felix says, and there's suddenly a lot less acid in his voice. "Atheist for many years, and the Orthodox are a lot less demonstrative and more formal in their faith than what you're used to. I'm not telling you how to act, but actions of that sort….it comes off very odd."

"I'm going to use it to make a version of the Catabase specific to this operation," Cat asserts calmly. "I'd thought to simply buy a machine here, but we have Abby's to work with, so… My hope is as we explore and learn things we all enter what we learn there so each of us can consult it independently and be up to speed. I advise doing so each day before leaving the house, with changes added as promptly as possible. It's the best way to make sure we all stay on the same page."

Her eyes track in on the photos Abby shows, so now she can hopefully recognize the man on sight. Then she pulls out her iPhone and shows around the photos taken at the University, including the map with pins in several countries and black pins marking spots in Russia, Madagascar, New York, China, and Argentina. "These were taken in the office of Carlisle Dreyfus, a professor. Francois says Kazimir sent the man to kill him. We were careful not to disturb anything, left no prints, and I saw no cameras in the area."

Teodoro Laudani proves unwilling to speculate further into the life and times of the Russian illusionist, mostly because he is guzzling down coffee. Black, but sugared. His socked feet make no noise as he comes trampling back to the kitchen doorway, his shoulder nudged up against the frame and eyes pale above the curve of the ceramic rim. He blinks with bovine serenity at the tiny monitor that the lawyeress holds up, though it takes him another moment to peel upright and stilt forward to have a cogent closer look.

Cat wants her computer. Might be provident to remove the Flint Deckard porn.

Not really. As if. "If you like, just don't… change too much that I don't know how to work things"

Felix is regarded with a raised brow at the not so unknown revelation that they're not publicly religious here. "Agent Ivanov, that's not really different from back home. Pink hair isn't that common two. Guess i'm a right proper spectacle" There's a grin on her face as she turns from him to Teo. Then the coffee. Two. Coffee.

"Yes, you are," Fel's voice is fond, rather than censorious. Cupcake hath charms to soothe the savage bitch, even when he can't have his nicotine.

"Yes, you are," Fel's voice is fond, rather than censorious. Cupcake hath charms to soothe the savage bitch, even when he can't have his nicotine. He takes a slow, deliberate breath, looks at Cat and the image she shows. "They are, as the phrase goes, on to us? Or we're on to them. And if you want to go see him again, I'll go along, if the conversation gets to the point where it needs translation."

"Carlisle Dreyfus wasn't in the office when we visited," Cat shares, "and we took care to leave no trace of anyone being there with the goal of it not being known anyone is interested in him. It may be a good idea to approach him and have a chat about things, if we can do so without him afterward alerting anyone about that, or his absence raising flags. Francois suggested it might be good for him to make contact alone, possibly distracting the Vanguard from us by their focus on him. This map with the pins tells me he knows things about our quarry."

"The one I want to speak with personally is Doctor Koslow."

"Thanks, Abby. It won't be changed much, I plan to simply add a database to put all our info to. Photos, descriptions, opinions, observations. As we come and go we may miss each other, maybe even not all be in the same place at once unless sleeping is afoot, so we need a central collection. Thank you. If you like, of course, I can just buy a machine."

Oh. Teo pops his posture upright, his line of sight switching its trajectory up at Abigail, then down at the coffee attached to his snout, then back at Abby. He pulls his mug away from his face and hazards a 'right with you' motion with a long forefinger. Hitches his long frame back into the kitchen to make another cup, calling back: "If you give me an hour's notice, I can try to work up a trance—" it's hard to tell whether he said that with a straight face, given they can't see him, but it sounds serious enough, "and ride along with you guys to see Koslow. Or check out the Ironworks again, if someone can drop my astral projection off on the site. My range is a few hundred yards, but you've all probably noticed: Ryazan isn't nearly as dense as New York."

Cupboards click and thump. A moment later, there is a cup o' joe for the pink-haired medic, the handle held out to her. As of late, Teo's fingers are so laddered up with calluses and bony-ridged breaks that the heat doesn't bother him.

"No use in wasting money cat on a machine you'll only use here" Abby's computer is offered up, albeit not physically. "I can drive you Teo where you need to go while Cat goes to see the Healer. If he's on the good side, let me know, I might go see how much he'll be to get rid of my hurts" Coffee is accepted with a grateful look, hands carefully handled as she holds the cup close to her face. Unfreeze her cheeks.

Well, that one just made Felix's brain give him the Blue Screen of Death. His gaze sliiiiiiides to Teo, and he confesses, in that tone mild as milk, "I didn't know you were Evolved." He doesn't sound terribly -upset- by this revelation, not exactly. But definitely surprised - he regards the Sicilian as if the terrorist had just transformed into a beeeeeyooootiful butterfly of an unknown species, right before his eyes.

Abby gets a nod, and Teo gets Cat's eyes resting on him for an extended stretch while she develops a speculative expression. The mental wheels are definitely turning. Eventually she speaks. "I think, Teo," she begins, "we can maybe avoid direct contact with Dreyfus and still get info from him. He's a University professor, so he has a class schedule. Learn his schedule, we'll know where he's likely to be at certain times. You can get close and ride his body, then at a preappointed time synched with that class schedule, one of us can be at the University for you to hop back." She waits and watches then to see how this idea sits with Il Siciliano.

There are only about two hundred and three morbidly grisly ways that could go wrong, and the threat of nuclear holocaust, millions dead, the implosion of society as they know it, etc., etc. outweighs at least two hundred and one of those. The one item that might not be adequate recompense for is probably the one fomenting behind Felix's stare of chilling curiosity. Teo's initial answer stalls out open-mouthed for a moment, eyeing the Russian eyeing him, before he clicks his teeth shut and nods at Catherine, who is taking this development admirably in stride, as usual.

It's probably less astonishing, all around, than any nasty surprise Kazimir Volken could come up with. "If Abigail could drop me off there, that should be no problem either. Someone give me the 411 on Dreyfus?"

Felix's expression is polished smooth. He shrugs, and looks away. "I think Chesterfield there might have the right idea," he says, "If you're willing."

"If we interrogated him directly," Cat muses, "he likely refuses to answer, and that brings up the issue of alarm being raised anyway. But if you ride his body, you witness his life during that time. He may go places, meet with people, etc, which lead us in fruitful directions and his class schedule in keeping with his cover as a professor makes it likely he returns to the University at a selected time so you can hop out and be brought back to your body. It does have risks," she admits. Perhaps she's speaking for the benefit of others present, most certainly Il Siciliano knows the mechanics of his own power, but speaking she is. "But I think it's worth them. This method has the added advantage of no one outside us knowing he's being scoped. But before it's tried, we need info. He's a professor at Ryazan State, teaching courses associated with English, and according to Francois was sent to kill him by Volken in 1994. Beyond that, I know nothing. He may, or may not, have an SLC ability. Not all Vanguardites lack them. So as soon as we left his office I set out to rectify that problem. I asked for a background check. A complete one. When it comes in, I'll share."

"It's late," she states next, and the Spectors are asleep. We can talk later of Sarisa Kershner's visit and her promises. She's CIA, works with Autumn, and at least talks a good game. But it all goes into the I'll believe it when I see it file."

Teo gives a thumbs-up for the background check, though his hand slows in the air when Doctor Chesterfield moves on to explain about the presence of the CIA here. That's different to Ivanov showing up out of nowhere because Ivanov is all kinds of sketch, grunt-level and authority that rarely manages to achieve tangible effect, at least not before he sells his soul at DC. Sarisa Kershner and General Autumn would appear to function on a whole other plane of bureaucracy, and one that is much too high up to acknowledge the little people except as bristly zit tops to be popped once they're done plaguing the bad guys on their nuclear prom night.

Or something. "She say anything about the rest of the Vanguard remnant?" he asks, finally.

Sip the coffee. That's Abigail's job right this moment. FBI, CIA, KGB, the acronyms fly but she understands these ones at least. "Maybe, I might come with you to see the Doctor Cat? If it's the person we met at the foundry…"

A soul no doubt soon to be put on said auction block, if he lives through this. "It is late," Felix agrees, and all the lines of his face suddenly rearrange themselves into sheer weariness. That mask is slipping, time to seek out his not so comfy chair.

"She didn't," Cat replies for Teo's question in a somber voice, "but we can ask. Elisabeth has a satellite phone she provided. Kershner claimed to have been looking out for us, keeping DHS at bay, said if she'd known she'd have had our friends pulled from Moab immediately. Basically the same things that were in the recorded briefing on the carrier. Ivan Spektor is our best asset on the ground here, also. Other than that, she didn't have any light to shed on things." She rises then, her eyes shifting to the woman with the rozovyye volosy, saying "Of course, Abby. Glad to have you." The balalaika is picked up, then the reading material on that instrument and last her guitar; the cello remains untouched. Urge to play it successfully clamped down absent consent from Katarina. Cat seems ready to retire for the night.

So is Teo. Or, you know, at least ready to pretend to make attempt number one for the evening before inevitably popping up at zombie o' clock to troll the Internet for clues, or trivia, or pornographic materials ideally starring actors other than Flint Deckard. Things to pass the time.

Leonard had told him that war consisted of a lot of sitting around and waiting, but time seems to move more sluggishly here than it did in winter of New York City or Tel Aviv with Hana. He rubs his face and nods, stops his mind before it chokes trying to regurgitate what was on the carrier debriefing. That had been a lot of information, and he does remember names being named— practically everyone they knew, but no one at Russia, no team named out of them. "Sure. I'll see you guys tomorrow, and let you know what I find out about Dreyfus."

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