The Moment Of Truth


elisabeth2_icon.gif felix2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Moment of Truth
Synopsis Exodus from a life.
Date Apr 2, 2011

On the road

All hell started breaking loose out on the escort run.

"Ivanov, you're with me. Ops, we'll be boots on the ground."

As they get off the grounds of the base with one of the military Jeeps, both wearing Horizon armor without the exoskeleton attached, Elisabeth fires off a fast text and then hands her cell phone and a small pouch to Felix. "Take this," she tells him. "Turn off your phone and at the next intersection pitch it out into traffic so it gets destroyed. Pop my sim card and use the lighter in the bag to melt it to slag. The phone itself is the last one I got from Wireless, encrypted to hell and gone. There's a new sim card in there to put in the phone. Came from a prepaid cell." Her blue eyes are cautious on the mirrors as she races in the direction of the boats that would take them across to Miller Airfield. If that was where they were going.

Instead, she pulls into a small parking lot several blocks from there and shuts the engine off. "Leave the helmets, we know they can track those. The exoskeletons can be tracked as well. I don't know about the armor, but we're going to hide it up under the bridge pylons, and we'll see if anyone comes for them. If not… well, it'll be a little armor for us later. Shuck off — you get to climb," she tells the speedster with a strained smile.

Dear God, she can't believe she's doing this.

Once upon a time, Felix Ivanov fled for his life from the KGB. What the Soviets did with their known Evolved doesn't bear thinking about, and it makes the current policies in place here in the US look like Medicare. Admittedly, he was eleven at the time. But his eyes are agleam with an unholy excitement, like this is all the world's biggest and best game of tag. Now, he's It. "Right," he says, with a calm in his voice belied by that manic glitter, as he deftly does as ordered. He's sweating, though, despite the cool of the air. He's out of his armor in moments, clad in the appropriate bodysuit beneath, until he modestly changes into perfectly ordinary civilian clothes. He eyes the armor left discarded on the asphalt with a rueful air, kisses his fingertips, and presses them tenderly to the Felix the Cat decal on the pauldron. "I won't forget you, baby," he says, sounding regretful. "I'll hide 'em."

Elisabeth strips out of hers as well, showing no modesty. She looks exhausted but the adrenaline right now is carrying her through. She hands him the uniform so that he can hide both sets high up in the bridge's latticework, and while the speedster does his speedy thing, she slips into a pair of durable cargo pants, tucks them into her boots, and a black pullover along with a heavy black fleece and a denim jacket. Now it's merely a matter of waiting for their pick-up. She's praying in a soft whisper under her breath. Please, God… please, let this be the right move. It's too late now for anything but prayers.

Not only is he the Flash, he's Spiderman. Fel uses his speed to scramble up under the bridge, where he stows the armor, carefully wrapped to prevent weather and stray pigeons from crapping their way into the ruination of a hundred million taxpayer dollars. He pauses, while he's up there, to peer back at the shining city beyond the bridge, expression momentarily mournful. The adrenaline glitter fades from his face….and as he clings up beyond Liz's ordinary range, he whispers, "Dosvidanya."

There is a flicker of lights not far from the parking lot, getting stronger as the vehicle gets closer. Just before the parking lot, they start to turn and then go off. The rattling rumble of an old truck reaches their ears even before it rolls up to them. It comes to a stop, before the engine cuts out leaving only the click click click of a cooling engine.

It takes a good shoulder into the door before it swings with a squeal of hinges allowing a familiar fedora topped figure to slide out of the truck. Boots scrape over asphalt as he moves around the door of the truck.

"Harrison." Benjamin Ryans' offers politely in greeting, even as blue eyes hidden by the brim of his fedora turn to Felix next.

The blonde on the ground is sliding a pistol into the front of her pants, the innerpants holster an old friend. Extra clips in her jacket pockets. As the truck rolls up, she pulls her jacket down over the butt of the gun. For just a split second, the fedora has her heart in her throat… and probably her eyes as well. It's quickly smothered; it wouldn't be the shadow anyway. She shoves her hands in her pockets and stands still until Ben Ryans is out of the truck and then walks toward him. "Ryans," she greets quietly. "This is Ivanov."

Fel is neatly swinging down from the bridge with an adolescent's abandon, as if all of this were still some great lark. Perhaps, to him, it is. The last act of a long game. He's in a plain t-shirt, dark fatigue pants, face flushed with the climb up and down, as he drops to the paving under the bridge. Fel eyes him narrowly, though his expression is not unfriendly. "Pleased to meet you," he says, the Brooklyn accent stronger than usual.

"Felix Ivanov." Ryans sounds a touch surprised to see him there. "I remember him." Barely, but he remembers the Fed…. or he was a Fed when Ben was Company. "Good to see you. Interesting to see you here though."

He doesn't linger on it, turning his attention to refocus on Elisabeth, "You ready to go? We don't want to stick to one spot too long." He glances back the way he came from. "Last thing we want is you to get caught on my watch."

"Yeah…. we're ready. Francois and Teo are expecting us." Elisabeth glances back, looking in the direction of Staten Island and then down the coast toward their factory. Worry clouds her eyes and she hopes that the two team members she sent out there are okay. "Let's go," she says softly, turning back to look at the older man. The strain of the past several days is showing in her face.

Fel's lips twitch. He tries really damned hard for the pokerface, and fails….there's that absurd, too-broad vulpine grin. "Fuck," he says, with an expressive shrug. "I knew the superhero gig couldn't last. If Liz is gonna jump ship, what'm I gonna do? Stay behind and get left holding the bag? They'd put me in one of those basement rooms and start asking some real personal questions. Besides. I got my paychecks in some swiss bank accounts." And that's all he says on that front, hefting his dufflebag.

The former fed's smile actually manages to get a bit of an upward twitch of Benjamin's mouth. Then he's giving Liz a firm nod of his head and he motions to the truck, before Ryans starts to back up towards it. "Loyalty." He sounds impressed, that look angled towards Liz.

Gripping the door he swings in behind it, "I was never a fan of those suits of armor anyhow." Ryans has been on the receiving end too many times. "You both look better without it." It's a light comment, tho' it comes out a little flat.

Felix retorts, "I don't know. I always thought the bodysuit flattered my ass. I am pushing forty, you know."

Her blue eyes meet Ryans's gaze and Elisabeth simply inclines her chin a bit. Loyalty indeed. She walks to the truck and slips into the center seat, letting the men flank her on either side. For the first time in days, she actually relaxes just a little. Not enough that the delicate, almost inaudible vibration field around her goes away. Her anxiety has been manifest since she made this decision. But at least it's only a low-level hum against the skin. She forgets to warn Ryans of it, it's so unconscious for her.

Felix settles by Liz, shoulder to shoulder, hand on her thigh. Well, that might explain some of the loyalty. Bad Felix, fucking his boss. That's another reason to quit while he's ahead. "Shit was heavy," he agrees. "Even the superlight they engineered for me. I looked like a gimp, anyway."

Felix's comment has the older man pausing, leaning where he can glance past Liz, but Ben doesn't say anything. He leans back in his seat again, removes the fedora and sets it on the dash of the old truck. With a twist of his wrist the old truck rumbles to life. He doesn't turn on the lights until they turn onto the road, old shocks making the cab bounce a bit.

"It's a nuisance for the rest of us." Ryans rumbles softly, with a small smile. "Been up against that armor too often. Speaking of…"

As the drive, Ben glances to the pair next to them. "I have a favor to ask, Liz. When you have time and get settled in. I need what information you might have on Heller. Not tonight… but… " soon.

Elisabeth just seems to take Felix's comment in stride. He's always like this, don't mind him. She leans her head on the man's shoulder and says to Ryans as they drive. "Christ… that man is public enemy number one. I've got Endgame after him, ex-Messiah people after him, FRONTLINE people after him, and now all of you too." She shakes her head slightly. "Yeah," she says wearily. "I'll tell you what I have. For all the fucking good it will do anyone at this point. Before you make a move on his ass, though, I think you should be aware that he was, so far as I know, the next in line to take over my job. And you'll make a fucking martyr of him if you kill him. Just give those Humanis assholes more leverage."

Humanis. Felix looks literally queasy - his lips tighten into that slash of distress. He's silent, now, watching the lights of the city pass by, with an oddly haughty expression.

There is a grunt from Benjamin, "I know. I don't think we'll be moving anytime soon, but…." He takes a deep breath as he drifts into a turn lane, flicking the signal on. "However, it's hard to ignore the man, when he infected my people with the virus." There is a tightening of his jaw as he watches the traffic light, with glances to the rear view mirror.

"I guess right now, I need a better idea of the man that's trying to kill us." He sounds rather matter of fact. "We've lost a lot of our people… kids included." Ryans looks over at them as he delivers that, but then the light turns red and his eyes go to the road.

Christ. Christ. Elisabeth closes her eyes and that inaudible brush of air vibrating across skin becomes more pronounced. The blonde is suffering some pretty severe anxiety anyway. "I'm sorry," she tells Ryans quietly. "I stayed as long as I did in the hopes that I was doing some good." She sounds saddened. "I'm not sure I did any." And there's a bitterness to the words, an undercurrent of hurt that runs deep. "Hell, at this point, I'm not even sure I can do any," she admits.

Felix's hand creeps over to twine its fingers with Liz. "You did what you could," he assures her, suddenly gruff. "And now we fight from the side we must. We are who we are, Liz. Don't be looking back."

Brows furrow and he glances where his arm touches Liz and then to the woman herself. "You're fine." Ryans points out softly, "You did what you can and now you just power on." He should know really. A hand reaches over to grip her shoulder briefly. A comforting gesture.

"We haven't exactly broadcast what happened. Still arn't, but I wanted you to know that I am asking for a good reason." Ryans rests a wrists on the top of the wheel as the coast along. "But we know all too well we are up against a scary individual."

Elisabeth glances at Ryans and forces a smile. "I hope everyone out there gets out alive. I can't…… I can't promise. But the people out there are good people, and they'll do their best." Whatever that best is. She turns her eyes back out the windscreen of the rattling old truck. And she goes quiet aside from the low vibration that continues to roll off her, as if she can't stop it.

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

The brownstone home, number 57 on West 11th Street, is three floors tall, all old brown brickwork as the name implies. A curving stepped stoop leads up to the door, wrought iron barring it off from its neighbours, with the building's number in brass nailed into the painted wood without any glass inset to give a glimpse of the space within.

Once inside, the immediate hardwood foyer offers space to hang up coats and set aside shoes, with a wooden, open flight of stairs curving up into the second floor. The first opens up into three designated areas — a spacious livingroom with a rug of earthern tones thrown in the centre, a generous hearth set into the wall with traditional log-burning capabilities. The walls are exposed brickwork, lined with shelving of a slowly growing book collection. Next to it is a dining area defined as such by an oval dining table, generous and able to expand to sit up to eight people, and usually littered with too many things to be good to eat at until cleared. The kitchen is barred off from the rest with a counter, all stainless steel appliances and a sliding door that leads into a modest backyard. Tucked away to the right is a laundry, cramped but sufficient.

The second floor has more walls, closed off areas — a master bedroom with a connecting bathroom, a hallway that slides between the stairwell and said bathroom, into unfurnished open space that provides linen closets and such storage. The third floor is similar, if reversed, and almost designed to be its own separate apartment, with a bedroom and bathroom at the back of the house, an open social space with a squat coffeetable, and an open, unfurnished space with a balcony hanging off it, street-side. The stairwell spirals all the way up into rooftop access.

There hadn't been much talking during the rest of the trip, their minds elsewhere with their people. Benjamin tense, often checking his mirror as if expecting a tail. It's part of his reason for being there. To protect Liz and her companion.

The lights of the truck finally flash across the front of the garage, lighting up the interior. Only then does Benjamin seem to relax a little, relieved to see that it was open and waiting for them. The old truck growls loudly as he pulls in the sound bounce around and back at them. Once he's well inside the garage, the truck shuts off and the old man is out of the truck.

Ryans doesn't say a word as he moves to shut the garage door again, trusting that the man waiting for them, will hear their arrival.

The man in question is in the doorway, arms crossed, one lean shoulder against the frame. He's bigger than the Sicilian that Felix has been carousing with, in terms of breadth, weight, muscle-mass, but he looks the same age for all of that, the lines around his eyes very faint and characteristic of laughter, big long nose, eyes pale as ice inset below his brows. His hair is rather unruly, lightening now as the season invokes greater hours of sunlight.

"Welcome to the casa de Eurotrash," he offers, in a conversatoinal voice, as soon as the garage door finishes clanking and groaning down. The world outside is shut away, the noise of traffic and — perhaps even some of the buzzy terror of discovery blanked out, erased, silenced with it.

The brownstone above them stands with dignity, promises privacy, if not perfect sanctuary. As they'd pulled up, it had been clear: the place remains well-maintained, despite Francois' lack of a proper job, and the probability that the Sicilian triplet #2 can't hold one either. Someone even trimmed the trees as the seasons turned over, so that the shy outreach of new growth doesn't shag over with the intermediate layer of frozen stems and uneven browning, frost-killed foliage.

Fel's face….despite his attempts at impassivity, there's an evident pang at the sight of Teo. This isn't -his- Teo, and abruptly he wants his own Sicilian very much. This is going to be a problem. So there's no witty retort, merely murmured thanks, as he snags his bag from the seat, and looks back to wait for Liz.

Elisabeth waits for Felix to climb out and then climbs out behind him into the garage, glancing toward the lowering door. The interior lights aren't on, and she grips the speedster's arm tightly for the few moments between the door shutting and the lights coming on courtesy of Teo. The cargo pants and black leather jacket look… good on her. The blonde looks up at the baby terrorist, and she lets go of Felix's arm to walk toward him. And then her arms wrap around the Sicilian's waist and she buries her face in his shoulder to hide the fact that she just erupted for what seems like the hundred millionth time in three days into tears.

Turning toward the figure in the doorway, Benjamin doesn't say anything, tho' he does feel sympathy for Elisabeth. He continues to be silent as he moves back to the truck and reaches through the window to snag the fedora off the dash. It doesn't go on his head, but he's not about to leave it behind.

As the woman cries, Ben stays standing by the door of the old truck, eyes cast down to the cement floor as if to give her some privacy. He is only able to give her a few moments before he asks, the Sicilian "Any word?"

Uncharacteristically, the Sicilian stiffens when Liz touches him, but the next moment— he relaxes. Visibly, palpably, his arms going around her shoulders gently.

He cuts Felix a slightly odd look over the top of her tousled blond head, either because he notices the subtle wrongness of the Russian's expression or because he's pretending not to notice the hot drops of water streaking down Elisabeth's cheek and onto his sweater. A rough palm tousles the rumpled blond locks over her shoulders briefly, smoothing the fabric of her jacket, a relatively discreet gesture for all of that.

He looks at Ryan last, but with a smile that's two parts polite, but not insincere in the slightest. He saves sharp looks and wordless hugs for friends. Maybe that'll be him and the old ex-Company agent someday, but for now, they're associates mostly by proxy. "No. Thought you might have heard something."

Felix looks down. Suddenly, the toes of his boots are really interesting. And this has all ceased to be another round of spy games. Maybe he can run to Canada when all this is done. Or Mexico. He's tiredof snow.

And as Teo has, in the past, pointed out….. Elisabeth's good at the compartmentalization required of this life. A few tears where they're required, and then a hard yank on her bootstraps to get her back on track. She steps back from Teo and reaches up to wipe her face… not discreet, but making no big dramatic thing about it either. A wet sniffle and she looks up. "Thank you." She never thought she'd be here, like this. But that he and Francois are the ones who would take her in, at least temporarily, is… a blessing. The blonde glances toward the other two men. "We should be getting word soon, I hope. The attack had just begun when I texted you," she tells Ryans. "So … 30 minutes, total?" Maybe. "Give them a couple hours. To regroup. Make sure they're clear. I'm sure someone'll call in."

There is a small shake of his head in negative. "Nothing so far." Ryans feels odd being there instead of there with his partner and the rest. It was his own choice to make sure the former FRONTLINERs got there safe. He wouldn't have felt right leaving it to someone else.

The reassurance from Elisabeth doesn't help ease any of the worry that's gnawing away at Ryans stomach. He's surely going to end up with an ulcer one day. He just knows it.

"We have antacids, food, and beds made up upstairs," Teo says, the easy joke. He hasn't been in the industry as long as Ryans has, maybe not even if you add all his lifetimes together, but he knows something about worrying about his comrades in the field. There are a lot of comrades, but fewer of them every year, after all. Ulcers ain't a new thing.

"This way." He pushes the door aside with his hip, gesturing with a long arm. There's a smile for Elisabeth, a thinner, slightly quizzical one for Felix, and then he shifts his eyes over at Ryans with at ouch of curiosity. He half expects the older man to bail out on a jetpack to rejoin the fray. Behind him, the living room is lit, a slightly absurd plate of cookies sitting in the middle of the table, bizarre domesticity in the midst of it all. "And beer," he adds, after a moment. "Red wine, too. If you like."

"I'd just like to go to bed," says Felix, bluntly. There's that childish weariness, that droop in his shoulders. At least he didn't add 'with you'. Cognitive dissonance ahoy.

Elisabeth looks at Felix, and there's a bit of a grimace to her face. One of regret. She dragged him into this. "Go ahead, Felix," she says softly. "I'll let you know what happens." She won't sleep until word comes in anyway. Hell…. she might not sleep anyway, worrying about whether or not Redbird is going to be raided as a result of her actions. Maybe when Francois gets home she'll ask him to text a shadow and let him know that she's at least safe. He doesn't want to talk to her, but… She sighs. "A glass of wine would be … lovely, Teo. Thank you." She shoves a hand through her blonde hair tiredly, and looks at Ryans. "And thank you. For everything." The glass of wine is likely to put her to sleep right on the couch, but so be it. Elisabeth looks, in the brighter lights of the house, as if she probably hasn't slept all week so it's not as if it will hurt her. She pads to the couch to sink into the corner of it and curl up there.

No jet pack sadly. Only an old truck, which Teo will find Ryans looking at. Fingers tap on the brim of his fedora. The fedora is slowly replaced on his head. "If it's alright. I think I'll pass on the beer." He looks at the others, focusing on Teo in the end. "Another time maybe.

"I'm going to go see what I can do." Even if it's only helping with the wounded, Ben wants to be there. "Keep them safe for us." A small twitch of a smirk tugs at the corner of his lip.

"And make sure she gets some sleep, before she collapses." It sounds more fatherly, then Ben probably meant… but there you have it.

"And you just closed that garage door two seconds ago," Teo volleys back playfully, but he isn't stopping Ryans. Far from it. He stands aside to allow Elisabeth to stumble inward along with the Russian, not apparently put out by the fact that he's left to eat his comfort food and imbibe his alcohol alone. Not even a little. Perhaps he's just sympathetic to their obvious exhaustion and emotional straits.

Perhaps he finds cops annoying, period, and grew out of such infatuations even if one of his analogues has not. "I'll get her a blanket," he promises. "And carry her up if she doesn't get up to move by midnight. Happy hunting, Ryans. Appreciate it if you'd get Francois to give me a call." He tips his hand into a salute at his brow, smiling.

He waits until the car's lights have swept away into the cold.

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