What Goes Up



Scene Title What Goes Up…
Synopsis Richard Cardinal crosses the border to the United States, with the help of an old, dead friend.
Date November 15, 2011

Somewhere on the Canadian-US Border, British Columbia

A shower of dirt covers the raised letters of a license plate, the edge of a steel-toed boot kicking it until it’s fully covered before the sole comes down to flatten it. The hatchback that it was pried off of sits nearby, half-concealed in a ditch off the road - someone will eventually spot it, even on this out-of-the-way road, but the lack of a license plate means it’ll take longer for the authorities to locate the source of the vehicle and where it was stolen from.

By then, with hope and a bit (or a lot) of luck, Richard Cardinal will be long gone.

Autumn leaves kissed by frost and snow crunch beneath the man’s feet as he works his way through the woods, ducking beneath a branch here or pushing one out of the way here. There was a trail here once upon a time, lost to the undergrowth, but he follows it as best he can. After an hour of walking, grimacing from the cold in the shadow of that fur-lined hood he’s wearing, finally daylight breaks through the trees ahead.

“Thank god, I thought I had the coordinates wrong,” he mutters under his breath, shoving aside a sapling and striding into the tall grass past the treeline. It has been a few years since he’d been given a list of places like this, after all, and he could have had it wrong. The clearing spreads out in either direction to prove to him that he’d remembered correctly, the tall grasses and lingering frost not-quite-concealing the gravel spread out to the north and south.

As he starts to cross the clearing, hands tucked into the pockets of his coat, a sound made him freeze - a canine bark, echoing out through the clearing, a rustling of grasses heading towards him. He drops back a step, a pistol pulled from inside his coat, thumb sliding off the safety as he braced for an attack.

He knows all too well what a wild dog attack can do to someone.

In this particular case, he’s pleasantly surprised as the dog that emerges from the grasses has its tail high and wagging, tongue lolling in a happy canine grin. All the animal’s body language screams ‘happy to see someone’ so he relaxes, sliding the pistol back under his jacket and crouching down, hand offered palm up. The dog sniffs at his hand and then licks at it, and with the first smile he’s had in awhile Richard scratches under the dog’s chin and over his scruff, offering warm affection to the beast. No collar - it’d either come off at some point, or he’d escaped someone while not wearing it.

After a minute or two - at which point the dog had rolled over for belly-rubs - the animal rolls back to its feet with a happy bark and started running, loping down the broad gravel ‘path’ that filled the rectangular clearing. Pushing himself up to his full height, Richard strode after the animal as if following a guide, shifting the pack on his shoulder.

The end of the clearing terminated in a canopy painted in camo hues, tree-branches stretching over it and snow clinging to the fabric, nearly impossible to see from the air. It was more obvious from the ground, with barrels lined up along one section of the shelter, a tall tool-box standing beside a metal-topped table, hoses and pumps and everything that one would need to maintain and fuel a small plane carefully protected from too much exposure to the elements.

The dog bounds back and forth beside a drapery of camouflage netting and wags his tail as Cardinal approaches, barking excitedly.

“You must’ve belonged to the last person who kept up this site, boy,” Richard comments, reaching up to grab a hold of the netting and starting to pull it down, more and more of it coming down as he walks around it until the old Cessna stands revealed to view. There isn’t a Chicago Air logo on the side, since this isn’t exactly a legal airstrip, but he knows exactly who this plane belongs to. “Thank you, Fedor,” he mutters, “Now let’s hope this old girl still runs.”

Four hours of refueling, replacing oil, and general maintenance later, Richard still wasn’t sure if she’d run, but as daylight was rapidly running out, there was only one sure way to find out.

“See you around, Fido-r,” Richard calls down to the dog that’s been keeping him company as he climbs into the cockpit, some of his remaining rations left in the animal’s bowl to reward him for the company. A happy bark, and the dog bounds away from the airplane, tail wagging as he watches from a distance - clearly knowing to stay away from the vehicle as it comes on.

Just like riding a bicycle, Richard, he tells himself as he looks over the dash, memories from years ago of his flying lessons and practice bleeding through the tragedies and conspiracies since then. Just like riding a bicycle…

Throttle open, propeller clear. Master switch on. Fuel pump switch on. Mixture full rich… It's not his voice that he hears in his head.

Going through the startup procedures one step at a time, he could almost hear the immortal behind him reciting them as he flicked switches and monitored gauges. Walking him patiently through it, step by step, teaching his student how to fly. Ignition switch… start.

The engine kicks to life with a coughing road, the propeller beginning to spin at the nose, and Richard Cardinal grins broadly. “Fuck, yes,” he crows. He might still pull this off yet.
Gloved hands push the throttle forward, and the plane rumbles out of the smuggler’s hangar and onto the gravel runway, picking up speed. “Power available,” Richard declares, his radio distinctly off, “Airspeed alive… and…”

The yoke slowly was pulled back, and the Cessna lifted into the air, slipped free rom the surly bonds of Earth.

The dog watched from the side of the runway, the wagging of his tail slowing and finally stopping before he turned to pad back towards the food left behind once the plane was just a dot in the sky.

Well I started out down a dirty road

Started out all alone

And the sun went down as I crossed the hill

And the town lit up, the world got still

The seat beside him covered in an unfolded map with numerous hand-written corrections and arrows, Richard Cardinal flew low to the treetops and along unusual routes - old smuggler’s tricks and directions followed to the letter to cross the Canadian border and into the United States.

He could have followed along with the others, used the Ferry’s routes to cross the border. It would’ve been safer. Maybe even faster.

But he needed the time alone, to mourn the heart-deep loss of November 8th. And maybe to remind himself that Aria was right when she said that his ability wasn’t the limit of what he could do. To recover some semblance of confidence in himself and his abilities, which he couldn't do leaning on the others.

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings

Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return

And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

A few hours in the air, Richard is feeling confident about flying again. It really is like riding a bike, he tells himself, glancing down at the map, then out the window. Okay. I’m over the border now, just need to find a place to land… there, that looks good.

How hard can landing be?

Well some say life will beat you down

Break your heart, steal your crown

So I've started out for God knows where

I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds

But what goes up must come down

Some hours later…

Richard Cardinal steps over the threshold of the cheap road-side motel he’d bought a room in, and immediately starts stripping down out of soaked layers of clothes, dropping them into a pile and limping for the shower. Everything was cold and everything ached, and a very hot, very long shower was called for.

At least the lake had softened the impact, but the Cessna was just an interesting new duplex apartment building for fish now.

Maybe he should’ve gotten more practice landing with Fedor’s guidance, back in the day. But like they say, any landing you can walk away from…

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