The Valkyries Call, Part IV


chester_icon.gif sarisa_icon.gif

Scene Title The Valkyries Call, Part IV
Synopsis She doesn't promise he'll be a hero, but simply leaves the notion behind in her wake. The imagination does wonders.
Date July 1, 2009

Los Angeles, California — Downtown

The weather is gray like somewhere else today, deeply uncharacteristic for Los Angeles. Chester can't tell if it means rain, hasn't experienced enough rain between here and the Middle East to do more than guess with vague discomfort at its sullen probability. It's packing the air in oppressive fish-fat gray humidity underneath it, turning the Californian summer into a broken pressure steamer of mildewy moisture, stagnant wind and the erroneous implication of less distance between traffic knots and walking bodies than there might otherwise be.

That was no particular excuse for the cab-driver to rear-end the SUV in front of it, of course. It's a fucking SUV. How do you miss that?

Chester's out of the passenger's seat before he realizes he's opening the door. It claps shut behind him with a shove of one big, dark hand, and he wads its digits up before thrusting it into the pocket of his suit jacket. Breathe in, breathe out. He begins to walk. The driver's yelling something at him, but they're only a block away from his home and he hadn't called the driver out of his route. There's manila jammed underneath the bulk of his arm and spot stains thukking away under the military clip of his shoes.

Which only veils, for so long, the sharper click-click-click of women's heels in calm and patient pursuit. There's no dignity in running, especially not in these shoes, and there's no cause for rush. Her golden hair is done up in a clip to keep it off the back of her neck, an artful solution to the sticky weather of a cramped California day, strands of metallic blonde gathered up from her face only just touched with makeup. A single chain of necklace dances around her throat.
Sarisa Kershner has been all across America. Her feet find sand, sink heels into forest ground, or whisper down the hallway approaching an apartment door. Now, they take her in pursuit of Chester Wade, her hands full of a slim leather wallet and a slender briefcase of the same material perhaps marking her as someone with authority, if her steely eyes and demeanor don't flag that on their own.

Soldiers walk differently. They carry weight in their shoulders, like ex-cons carry it in their gut, and ex-ballerinas pulley their feet on loose tendons. It isn't quite defensive, the way that Chester holds himself as he stomps the pavement, but it's top-heavy in a way that has more to do with the knot of tension seated on the crown of his head than the muscled size of his shoulders. He hears her before long, though, despite whatever preoccupations had driven him out of the cab, away from the interview. And whatever.

Fashionably professional white woman with rifle-muzzle heels, seven o' clock. He slows his pace without even thinking of it, grows rigid underneath the rectangled cut of his suit, his assumptions troubled with realism. He reassures himself that he has his Registration card on himself, and waits for her to pass.

She never does. Eyes the colour of slate lock on him and a frozen smile cracks at the corners of her mouth. Subtle crow-feet touches at her eyes are warm, however, and human. "Wade." Sarisa's voice comes across sharp, as if she could pin him in place with his name like a pin through a butterfly. Still, it comes out of a smile. "Chester Wade." If it's not enough to halt him, it won't matter by the time her long legs are briskly catching up with his slow pace, materialising beside him, ahead of him, shoulder angling as she turns on a heel to corner him into conversation.

There's a smattering of pale freckles on what can be seen of her chest, framed as it is by the collar of her deep teal blouse, and slightly shinier than her face is, sweat from humidity brushed away with expert applications of makeup. "My name is Special Agent Kershner, and I was hoping to steal a moment of your time."

Chester's brow inclines slightly, but the motion is almost imperceptible compared to the relative drama of his relative height being jarred to a full stop by the force of no more than a single word and a girl's relatively miniscule weight. But stop he does, jacket lapels burping a brief flare through by the wind of movement— or its cessation, his tie giving a hapless bob and flip at his chest, corkscrews slightly and ends up half-twisted, a dead snake. He stares at her, the whites of his eyes in stiffened, chalky relief against the dark of his complexion and irises, both. Surprise.

Not the good kind.

Most people say borrow. Most people make it a question. "Good afternoon, Special Agent Kershner. You couldn't have written." That's not a question, either, and carefully fashioned to avoid defensiveness, but the intricacy of the fashioning in and of itself implies a little hackling.

"No," Sarisa agrees. "I like to do my work in person." The wind blows electrical through the street, kicks up hair strands, the edges of clothing; an ever-present crackling energy that characterises the mildly unpleasant Los Angeles day. Clamminess, dim skies, and its own claustrophobic restlessness as if maybe the entire city were one big enclosed space. Her smile widens, and she takes a step back, as if to allow him passage.

But she'll be going with him. "I can talk and walk at the same time. I have an offer to make, regarding your future." It sounds both pamphlety and utterly serious from her mouth, with the same fixed Mona Lisa smile and grey stare that's no better than then the overcast dome of sky above them.

White chick looks plastic. Chester doesn't even have it in him to feel a spike of guilt at this. He looks at the sidewalk down, a little past where Sarisa's standing on her dagger heels, his dark features darkening a few more ticks of mood before the inevitable curiosity sets in, spinning and clicking as physically predictable as clockwork. She's read his file. She knows he's had a long history of overachievement that just barely missed the bar.

And Sarisa Kershner looks nothing if not important. "I regard my future with enough interest to listen to your offer," he says, finally, taking a step forward on the concrete. And then another, falling into even, steady strides. The wind shimmers briefly through the double-loop of his laces.

"It's of interest to us as well." Us. The American government is one big happy family, who knew? Sarisa keeps up with his longer strides with all the ease of a woman used to keeping up with the long gait of important men, neither seeming rushed nor intentional. Her heels keep the beat of her pace as efficiently as a metronome.

"Lieutenant Michael Spalding is heading Unit One, FRONTLINE."

A slice of a sidelong glance is used to confirm whether or not— "I'm sure you know what I'm talking about when I say that name. I'll be up front. We'd like to add your name to the list of Evolved men and women— " and women— "who will be first in line in making history, Corporal."

You're allowed to look surprised when a government spook drops a fat package of flattering career advancement on your lap. It's respectful. And realistic, given the folder under Chester's arm and the taxi ride he'd just aborted held its intended destination at a high school of some relatively negligible repute. When he got up this morning and poured out his Cheerios, he probably hadn't expected…

He knows what she's talking about when she says that name. All of America would know what she's talking about when she says that name, but there are only a select few citizens who'd be privileged to the association, eh? "Spalding sounds familiar," he notes, cautiously. "But I don't think I've heard of him before."

There are lines at Sarisa's eyes, subtle ones that she smooths with cream ev-er-y morning in an unconscious, precuse ritual. For now, they deepen a little when her smile becomes a rueful kind of genuine, a throaty sound that's a lot like a chuckle coming up in acknowledgment that Spalding sounds familiar. Doesn't it just. A strand of golden hair, loose of her clasp, sticks a loop against her brow, brushed away.

"Then he'll have the opportunity to make a decent first impression when you meet him," she notes, and now she watches him, or at least his profile, as they navigate the side walk. "There aren't many people like those that make up FRONTLINE's ranks," she states. Evolved. Military. Sane.

She smiles prettily. "I've read your file. You've given yourself a second chance at something more. Consider this conversation a means of paving the way."

Has he? Chester's grin is reflexive, instantaneous, the emotional knee's-jerk of a soldier bright enough~ to be bitter. He gave himself the chance. That's an odd choice of words, insofar as they're flattering also. He thinks her smile is pretty, too. Women haven't smiled at him a lot, recently. Every single one that does reminds him, faintly, of the one who had left him in the months before she chose to do so.

Evolved. Military. Sane? "If you read my file," he says, at lenght, "you know why I'm surprised." Two pinafored girls playing hookey sweep past them, cellphones twittering and quizzical glances at both the stuffy old suits tracking down the pavement. There's a television store at her shoulder, a dozen screens monitoring the crashing, burning state of the world in varying definition, and traffic unspools slowly in the gulf of street at her other.

"I don't see why," Sarisa says, just breezily enough to be confident, just sedately enough not to be dismissive. Her gaze is steady. "We have it on good authority that whatever made you unfit for service is no longer a concern." Is that true? The question is not asked, only communicated in intent study, although perhaps if the veneer was further lifted, a better question would be: Would you like that to be true?

She offers a plain square of white, a card with no details on it save for a pen scrawled etching of numbers for a cellphone. On the flip side, a time. A date. Other details that, out of context, make no sense, until she cues in that frame of thought with— "I have a plane to catch tomorrow, 10 o'clock. New York City. I'll have a ticket waiting for you, unless you change your mind."

Because obviously, his mind is made up now. According to Sarisa Kershner. How could it possibly be any other way?

It couldn't. Men don't balk away from beaten path or flee the yellow cabs that were about to take them down that way once they've reached the crossroads because they're about to refuse to take the other. You know the one. Skeletal black branches creaking canopy overhead, wolves in the shadows and glory posted at the end of a hard, bitter journey. "That wasn't a no," Chester answers, after a stilted moment that isn't comprised entirely of hesitation. "That was a yes." His sentence doesn't fall correctly, answering something she hadn't actually phrased aloud. The stale, ashy wind pulls his tie out of alignment, creases it upside-down, corkscrewed, makes an awkward secretary out of him.

Next week, next week— he'll be back in uniform.

He takes the card from her, looks at it before pushing it back into the lining of his suit. He could ask about pay-grade. Instead, he asks, "What will my rank be?"

Sarisa's head tilts a little on her long neck, and takes a step back with the beginnings of a pivot. "Corporal Chester Wade, FRONTLINE Unit One Medic." It's clunky in places, but correct. But his. It's not 'Mister'. "I'll see you tomorrow evening." She turns, then, less sinuously than the twist of his tie but almost as fluid, and she's beating distance between them with the authority of a job well done, the flicking curl of her pinned up blonde hair bobbing along with her stride.

There will be much to discuss on the plane, over champagne, possibly, hurtling however fast across the country. She doesn't promise he'll be a hero, but simply leaves the notion behind in her wake. The imagination does wonders.

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