United Front


francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif veronica_icon.gif

Scene Title United Front
Synopsis Diplomatic exchanges of Frenchmen almost go awry due to revelations and language barriers that have little to do with ESL.
Date November 20, 2009

Somewhere In Queens

The overpass is still hissing and grinding with traffic, trucks changing gears and the occasional spoiled brat's sportscar pulling a more sibilant hiss across the asphalt. It's a classically dingy place to meet. Chainlink huddled around the concrete columns to their left, sodium light flickering ominously over the jagged mountainscape of derelict tarps and shattered storage boxes someone left over the other side.

Teo drove. He doesn't own the vehicle, coincidentally, but at least he's taken to carrying his own driver's license again; a vast if somewhat untimely improvement in the honesty department. The Hyundai rests inert, matte-black with a wink-shaped, mustard-colored curlicue of bird shit smudged on the windshield. Inside, Teodoro has resisted the neurotic impulse to check his gun repeatedly, which is awesome, but his fingers are curled instead around the cellphone in his pocket, tension flattening and bunching in his knuckles.

He keeps waiting for Len to gopher unaccountably out of a sewage manhole, RPG over massive arm. He's staring absently into the blurry lamp-bronzed line of a freight train moving toward Roosevelt Island, pallid eyes disfocused, watchful elsewhere and through other means.

The gray sedan Agent Sawyer pulls up in is both aesthetically refined and non-descript at the same time. No doubt the glass is bullet-proof; no doubt there is a camera recording anything that takes place in front of it. The agent within skims the area of the underpass, looking for anything out of the ordinary — other than the fact she's meeting people she doesn't know to help recruit, or accept a volunteer, into a mission she only knows a little bit about. But then, such extraordinary happens are the ordinary in the Company life.

Fortunately for Teodoro, Len hasn't told Veronica about him, or there might be an RPG lobbed out of the window. Instead, the door opens, slowly; a black boot followed by a jean-clad leg, and finally the rest of the brunette agent slips out. She stands behind the ajar door, waiting for the men to exit the other car.

Francois doesn't quite glance to Teo for permission. Mostly to see if this is in fact the car and the woman they are supposed to be meeting before he's pressing open the door and stepping out into the early evening air. Unlike the other European, Francois isn't armed, for the fact he doesn't need to be, and that even the clothes on his back are the fruits of charity. Unremarkable in jeans, a sweater, a jacket, and comfortable boots that have been marked over the week from Staten Island rural hikes. He could do with a haircut, and a shave.

But he is well, and curious as he looks on over towards Veronica and rounds around the Hyundai more or less on Teo's cue. This all seems surreal and unnecessary to him, but most importantly, utterly foreign.

Teo pulls himself out of the driver's side of the car, looking somewhat more rumpled than even the slightly reckless drive over would have warranted. He's better-dressed, insofar as that he has a pea coat and shoes that aren't fraying as badly as his old set were wont to, but manages to look peculiarly scruffy despite it.

It's the stubble, probably. He could use some more sleep, a little extra peace of mind, and a cigarette, but he doesn't have enough composure to recognize the jitters, or tell them apart from permeating anxiety or the rub and leaden weight of fatigue.

Still, he looks reasonably alert when he scrapes out onto the asphalt, and remembers to produce a smile of reasonable sincerity, and make introductions with a gesture of a long-fingere hand between the female agent and his companion. "Mr. Allegre. I hope you're the one that Ms. Dalton sent, or this is going to be awkward."

A dimpled smile at the joke is offered to both, and she nods. "Agent Sawyer," she offers, eyes taking in first Teo and then Francois. "Mr. Allegre. I've been told you might be interested in helping us out in Russia. Can you tell me what you know about the situation, and how it is you might be of help?" she says. "We'd like to confirm, of course, that you are who you say you are, but we'll start with the easy stuff first." As if the answer to those questions are all that easy. "Also, are you willingly helping us, or is there any coercion going on?" With this, her dark eyes flicker from Allegre to Teo and back again. Not that the Company truly cares if it's voluntary, of course.

No, none of this is easy. Francois comes to a halt and glances to Teo, before angling that attention back to Veronica as he looks her up and down. "I am willing," he responds, his posture about as straight and proud as any Frenchman's could be. His accent is certainly American, in a generic kind of way, but French still makes it lilt, lurking in the background of vowels and consonants. "I have made Volken my business for a long time, and I am willing to share it with those who would end his. I know nothing of the situation in Russia as it is today, but I know its beginnings.

"What confirmation do you require, Agent Sawyer?" There is suspicion, then, lacing through articulate politeness. None of this is expected, to Francois, but this addition jars him enough to ask.

Agent Sawyer. In a bulletproof vehicle. Teo bends his mouth around a smile of his own, acknowledges the woman's title with a slight tilt of his hand before she moves smoothly forward to the various creepy intimations and sinistra that constitute her questions.

He wonders if it's a Company thing, that every sentence out of their mouths seems to encircle back in on itself like a malestrom or a noose. Noah Bennet still resonantes with it. Talking to Hana is like picking one's way across a minefield. The Sicilian glances at Francois, doesn't waste his facial muscles or Francois' better nature on a facetious effort to appear reassuring. It is what it is. "He has no legal identity," Teodoro adds, after a moment. It's a concern.

"His 'legal identity' is not what a matter of concern," Veronica says with a half shrug, glancing from one man to the other. "What we're more concerned with is if he's," and her eyes move back to the Frenchman's, "you're the same Francois Allegre that we have information on." She steps slowly away from the car, holding up her hands so that the men can see that they are empty, once she slips teh keys into her coat pocket. "I've been asked to get confirmation that you are the same man we have on file. Dare I ask how you're the same man we have on file? You sort of dropped in out of nowhere, from the looks of things."

After asking the questions, she adds, "A bit of blood is all we need for DNA matching. If it's not too much to ask. We would like to be certain that we're dealing with who we think we're dealing with… you understand."

Surprise registers faintly in Teo's posture and features, a disconcerted shift of his tall axis. Unified front. Unified front means that Laudani is perfectly within his rights to observe, in a voice so dry that it's practically sucking the humidity out of the air that it passes through: "Dalton failed to mention that you had already done work on Francois Allegre before.

"Or did you seize Volken's materials some point over the last decade?" He studies Veronica's face so closely there's almost a physical pressure against the small muscles of her eyes.

"It shouldn't surprise you that we have files on most people working in any sort of organized manner, underground or otherwise," Veronica says with a shrug. "Look, I'm not high up on the chain of command. I don't have that much information. I've been told to come meet you, find out what you know, or what you can offer to the big dance, and confirm you are who you say you are. Since I don't personally know you, and because there are plenty of resources as far as disguising one person to appear to be another, the best way I know is a blood test." Of course, the isotope is being tracked to the location they stand at, but part of the operation is to make sure the isotope they think believes to Francois Allegre in fact does belong to Francois Allegre. "If you're squeamish — I suppose we could take a cheek swab and a lock of hair to go, with a set of fingerprints on the side?"

Accusations— or at least, suggestions of squeamishness are enough to make Francois near bridle, physically taking a step back. "«That is not— »" French quits out even as it began, his arms coming to fold as much as he isn't trotting up to her for blood samples, or the array of DNA substitutes listed out like a Happy Meal. Finally, that united front is broken as he swivels to confront Teo, shoulders squared.

Being all of 5'10", what Francois lacks in physical height, he makes up for with— well— attitude. "«What is she talking about? These files— I have never associated with what she describes, not until now. Unless they have Volken's records, or information dating back to Dachau— »" Which, is perhaps the focus of his suspicion, the veiled aggression in his polite phrasing and soldier stances.

He doesn't know. Teo doesn't know. It seems like a pervasive theme with him these days, whether in matters involving Abby's wifebeaten romance or the logic behind the absurdity of his recent urges to ask Leonard to marry him before he takes off to hunt terrorists. Really, tugging Francois Allegre to the Company on a string called Honor is the sanest of his thoughts and decisions as of late, and even now, that seems to be exploding a slow-motion mushroom in his face.

He doesn't know who he should be protecting in this instance. The traumatized Frenchman, or the cold and impatient interests of the Company and the amorphous other survivalist organizations that continue to hover over the situation. His lips whiten. A moment, and then there's a hand alighting on Francois' arm, an attempt at tactile comfort.

"Was it a bag and tag? Please just — tell us," Teo squares pale eyes on Veronica, weary and hopeful.

Veronica's eyes, deepset and dark, turn sorrowful at the few words she understands in the string of French — she herself speaks English and Spanish, but Dachau is Dachau in any language. Brows furrow and she gives a headshake of impatience at herself. She should have been gentler. This man has been through more than she can imagine.

"I'm sorry," she says softly. "I didn't mean to scare you, or offend you. I won't lie — yes, we know of some of your history and your ability. And that maybe you know something that could help. We're on the same side — none of us wants to lose this fight. I … I have friends, loved ones, who are Evolved, even if I'm not. I'm not working against the Evolved, even if I started out that way. And if you can help — if you are willing to offer your help, we're happy — honored, really — to have it. We'd be stupid to refuse. The more weapons we have, the better our chance in tearing down theirs."

She doesn't answer directly the question Teo poses to her — but she does not deny it either.

The combination of Teo reaching out a hand and Veronica's easy switch into a more favourable bedside manner work in tandem for Francois to collect himself. More out of a need for self-discipline than allowing for hackles to smoothed back, but it amounts to the same - he doesn't stalk off back towards the car and steal it if Teo refuses to drive. Instead, Francois stands in place and listens distrustfully.

Traffic hums in the background to underscore Francois' own thoughtful silence, before he says, "I am here because a man who can bend time and space brought me, before I could die. Fifteen years ago, to now. As I told Teo, I desire to dismantle the rest of what Volken has put together, and I did not like your organisation before anyway when he described it to me."

That could accompany a hair toss, but he manages not to. "But in this, oui, we are on the same side." A glance, now, to Teo, as if to ask if that still stands.

Teodoro can't quite bring himself to be sorry that he'd been— quite so honest with his description of the Company, but he can't imagine that Special Agent Sawyer isn't used to sustaining that sort of criticism anyway. "It's him," he says, finally. "Francois Allegre. Your gut tells you that much, even if you know better than to trust your eyes and ears with the mutants we live with.

"There's nothing that blood test would show you that would elucidate the value he can bring to the overseas operation, and God knows it isn't your life on the line in Moscow if any of that has been a lie. We'd appreciate your help making this good with immigration, and whoever else is going to be watching us make our way over.

"I take it you already have photographs." Teo stops palpitating answering glances at the Frenchman, levelling his stare on the woman's face. He can hope that's it; that it'll be enough.

"I'll be honest — there are times I do not like my organization either," Veronica says in a rare bout of frankness, in response to Francois' words. "But this — this is something I do believe in. I hope that being brought forward in time wasn't a disappointment, especially knowing that you can help us fight his sick legacy." No need to say who he is. She steps closer, looking up at him with some wonder. It's not that often she meets people who should have died fifteen years ago who have jaunted through time and space to stand beside her now. "If you would prefer, I can arrange a meeting with whomever is heading the Russian mission, if you don't want to give me your blood sample. You'd have to meet anyway."

She glances at Teo. "I assume in exchange for his service, papers will be handled. Like I said, identity won't be an issue. As far as my life being on the line, I may not be going to Russia, but I will be working elsewhere. If he's not on our side, I don't trust geographical limitations to keep me safe." She shrugs. "But you're right. I do believe you two — it's a matter of my employers."

It's either flattery or the honour talk that Teo built up beforehand that has Francois stepping forward. Or, less cynically, he wouldn't be standing here if he wasn't going to agree, no matter how many hoops he's asked to jump. "Trust for trust, oui? I will come with you, willingly," to coin the word she'd used before, as if he were attempting to speak the same language outside of French vs. English. "If you need a blood sample, I will give it to you - that isn't what frightens me. But in return, I only require honesty, and respect, if that is what your organisation is capable of."

As opposed to what Dachau had been capable of, for example. No more need to confirm with Teo — he's going, he's going. Fixing his jacket around himself, he makes for Veronica's car.

Teo turns a pale eye to follow the Frenchman, relief making faint adjustment to the worry lines in his brow and around his mouth. He says nothing for a long moment; a thank you at the man's departing back seems somewhat cheap, even if he's always been a fan of the power of seemingly throwaway courtesy.

"Grazie," he says, to Veronica instead. If nothing else, then for confirming that the Company is well aware of the strange little contingent making its way toward Moscow.

He doesn't speak again until she's turning, disrupts the cadence of Veronica's gait with a sudden, almost peripheral request. "The Vanguard remnant. If your superiors would, I'd appreciate it any information they could supply on their — wellbeing."

He looks at Veronica again. Has to blink twice and give himself a sharp internal rebuke to waylay the unsettling sense that Minea Dahl is staring at him out of her dark eyes, constructing those words, defining her loyalties in terms of approval as if that ought to way in his esteem despite that it doesn't in the actions she's willing to take. He suspects more than a little cunningly choreographed deja-vu was at play in Sabra Dalton's choice of Company agents to meet them in the tarry armpit of Queens in the dingiest part of the night.

"I'll wait out here."

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