Yes, Higher


fedor_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Yes, Higher
Synopsis Fedor is older than she looks; Teo always behaves younger than he is. They have stuff to blow up, and a number of other things to avoid talking about, besides.
Date March 13, 2009

The Sky

Viewed from inside a fighter jet.

There was just a time and place, some obscure waiting room inside Chicago Air's little building. Theres a doctor, who acts doctorly questions before seeing Teo to a fitting room. There are flight overalls to fit, a G-suit to wear and then of course helmet fitting. After this is done, theres a short ride on a little golf cart from the office building to the Hangar. Here, the Mig-21 sits out in the open with a trio of technicians rushing hurriedly around it. "Hello sir, let me get you plugged in. "Chimes one of them, before leading Teo to the little ladder and seeing him safely into the cockpit. Then theres straps and cords and airhoses which are connected in a flurry of activity. As soon as the canopy comes down, the ground crew scatters and that big jet engine below starts.

Its a funny feeling really, at first it seems like a car engine trying to start but it doesnt really smooth out it just gets faster and faster until the sound sort've devolves into this low humm. Vibrations come, but as soon as the engine approaches idle those vanish and things get quiet again.

"Good evening Teo, The mig cant be bugged. We're safer here to talk, you understand?"The voice was soft and velvety, and very certainly not masculine in any way.

The mig rolls foreward with a steady learch finally, as distantly Fedor's voice rambles on piloty things at the control tower. Its small inside of course, the Mig has never been accused of being big. Dials and guages, map readouts and all manner of switches and buttons seem set everywhere with little reguard for reason. As soon as the mig slips up to the runway, the guages dim low. Just a delicate glow.

"So, is this your first flight?"

"Only for a machine like this." Teo's reply comes thinned out by cabin pressure, at least to his own hearing. He pushes his fingtips into the joints of his jaw to try and alleviate the mountaing illusion of deafness wadded upside the bowl of his skull. Ahhh. Christ. Why isn't the entire universe rolling-pinned conveniently down to sea-level? He likes the sea. "'M generally safe from bugs," he says, squinting uncomfortably inside his helmet.

After a moment's effort, he cracks his eyelids open. Slivers of lucent blue iris show, pupil widening and then constricting around the color and shapes inside the aircraft's small hull. Expelling a breath, he leans his elbow on his armrest, cranes his head at the window. "Beautiful bird, though."

"Thankyou, she was a very troubled bird."She pauses, leaning over to glance back at her passenger for a moment. "By the way, I'm going by Ingrid right now."before some more garbled voices from upfront bring fourth a surge foreward. "So, I trust you saw to Abby? I would have liked to avoid an injury, but sometimes these things cannot be helped."The Mig picks up speed, well quite slowly really. Some trucks have more getup and go, but this is a steady surge.

Faster and faster, until the Mig leans back just a touch and the lights on the ground below immediately fall away. The Gear lift with a low whine, followed by a loud bang. "And we are airborne, the sky at altitude is really magnificent tonight. I got the notion you were a nautical sort, am I correct?"

Though Teo's experience with metamorphs is somewhat limited, the fact that he's actually dating one means he's done enough wondering about it that the name preference goes without too much blinking and questioning. It is rude to get into intensive discussions about the ins and outs of people's powers sometimes. Like asking after the price and brand name or sake bin date of somebody's furniture.

"Yeah, I saw Abby. Thank you for minimizing casualties— I know sometimes they can't be helped." Teo would probably say more if someone had elaborated on the fact that the shrapnel had come from the chopper's machineguns but that, for now, remains safely closeted away in his ignorance. She wanted to talk to the cops, so I took her to see the cops. She wants to get her name stricken from the Registry and some other shit.

"None if it will backwash on you, I promise." Granted, Teo hadn't heard any concerns, but he tends to pre-emptively field those kinds of concerns these days. Good cops are far and few between. He curls his mouth around a smile, and stares out into the sky. "Si. Water's more my element."

"I deserve a little backwash, I'm fairly certain it was a ricochet from my door gunner. "She wasn't certain, she hadn't seen the shrapnel but she had a feeling. "Mixture of inexperience and differential training."The city lights fade underneath, as the slender MiG banks gently to one side to begin its lazy turn.

"I don't think it was anyone's fault, but we can hardly call it a perfect operation."Which she thought anyway was a rather gracious offering on her part. She wouldn't admit it was her fault, because frankly she didn't believe it was, and She wouldn't take credit for an operation that wasn't quite as sly as she had hoped."Too many new people, I had a feeling something was going to happen."

Teo being angry is about as obvious as Teo being anything else whenever he isn't outright deceiving. Generally, his poker face is strictly reserved for poker face. A scowl etches lines of unwonted severity into his boyish features. "Zuleyka." It isn't a question; it's almost an accusation. The girl is better categorized as one of Fedor's own than anyone else Teo had asked to join the raid.

There's a curt instant's silence as he either struggles to manage his temper or else figures out what else he's feeling to talk around. When his voice does reemerge, there's no color or shade of anger apparent. "I hope less of that inexperience and differential training gets in the way, if you'd still like to help us tackle Homeland Security. Door's still open for that."

"Probable, but its not a sure thing. Your people failed to follow the plan, so she had to use her machinegun closer to the prisoners than we planned for."Fedor, rather Ingrid's voice is as calm as calm could be. "Your people were at fault, and so she had to do something beyond her experience. Everyone screwed up, so the outcome is nobodies fault. This is just what happens when we try to do something very dangerous at the last minute with no practice."She wasn't going to let Zu get zapped mind you, she was running the operation and she told Zu to fite.

The mig ascends into the clouds, and for a moment the world vanishes into black. Then, as the mig lifts its nose a touch more. Then in a single moment, all the world falls away to expose an expanse as white and virginal as newly fallen snow on some endless desert. Above, there isnt even the smallest whisp of cloud. Just stars and the moon in such incredibly clear relief that only the sky in the dead of the ocean can ever possibly compare. Only the MIG doesn't settle off, it continues to rise. Every thousand feet or so, more and more stars come into view.

"But hey, I'm still open to helping. I'm always open Teo, your a good person with a good heart being asked to do a very hard job. Your requests carry great weight with me Teo, I cannot promise I will agree but I hope you realize you can ask me anything at this point."

There's a grunt of something that sounds like disbelief, but Teodoro doesn't bother to contradict aloud.

As far as he's concerned, there aren't a lot of plans that could have circumvented use of a helicopter-borne machinegun on a warehouse full of prisoners if the helicopter was bearing a machinegun with any anticipation of its use. "Water, bridge. The outcome is everybody's fault. Far as I'm concerned, we're off the hook because the outcome didn't suck too hard, and that's it. Can't happen again, that's all.

"I do have people I answer to." The statement falls with the uncomfortable weight of conviction. "I don't know where you, your godson or whomever else get off with the idea that I'm the fucking leader of this little troupe. I'd take it as flattery, but I'm sure it would say nothing good about me being that fucking stupidly obvious." More like a disgruntled child than a furtive criminal, Teo squirms down in his chair, shoulders squaring up under his ears. He watches the landscape swoop away, stares as it's replaced by the slow swing of stars.

Up here, the celestial order seems to make promises about the terrestrial chaos they have left behind. Teo knows better than to believe in those sorts of promises, or to think that he has any real place anywhere else. It's beautiful, though. He exhales uncomfortably in the density of the jet's atmosphere.

"Neither of us are happy, so lets just look to tomorrow."Theres a glance backward "If you don't pull your mask on, your going to get a migrane and then your going to pass out."She lets it fall wherever it may, she was all about letting Teo say whatever he was going to say.

"So why dont you tell me about how I can help you Teo, I'm very curious now. I don't have anything planned in the immediate future, beyond our little trip. So why don't you relax, its not healthy to bring stress into the playground of angels."

That's true enough to turn up the corner of Teo's mouth: he isn't really in the habit of being happy. It accomplishes nothing. He complies with pushing his mask up, securing it the way that the ground personnel had shown him to. Breathing comes more difficult for a moment, and then easier the next.

Bringing stress anywhere probably isn't healthy, but there are worse things. His eyes blink quartz-pale through the window. "Moab Federal Penitentiary. It's a prison facility in Utah built to hold Evolved captive. More than a few of those prisoners are being held there illegally. You know our mission statement— the place is of interest to us for the obvious reasons," which is a politely circuitous way of delaying actual explanation of their final objective, but hey. It's early yet. "You mentioned your surveillance capabilities before, and I was wondering if you'd be able to do some there.

"We already have a few satellite photographs of the area, but a lot of distances and other schematic details are pretty hard to judge from those." A gloved hand curls against the pane, measuring the stretch between stars between his fingertips. He squints.

Forty thousand feet,and the stars are brighter and clearer than anywhere on the ground. Not that the MiG is done climbing yet mind you.

"I was planning on an airstrike, a high precision air strike. Something suitable for specific portions of a facility, but that was for another operation. If you really want me to help you, why dont I destroy the guard towers and one wall with a single pass high speed low altitude air strike?"She inhaled deeply, pure oxygen tasted a little off but it always made her feel so very at ease. It made you smarter too, if you believed the propaganda.

It's supposed to age you faster, too, which may not be something that Fedor — sorry — Ingrid has to worry about, but Teo might, eventually, when he remembers to be vain. For now, he's busy watching the sky sing by and the silver light limn the flat protrusion of a wing out of the windowframe. "That sounds like something you'd have a lot of fun doing," he acknowledges, in a voice that seems kind of airy around the edges with laughter.

Life gets so fucking strange.

"But for now, we just need recon. I don't know if the plan is to level the whole fucking facility or just get some people out of it." His gaze swivels around at the cockpit. "Would it be too much to ask for both, signora?"

"I will…well."She pauses, pulling back the stick some and throttling up. The mig rockets beyond fifty thousand feet, before leveling off just under sixty thousand. Thick rolls of airy white contrail stream from the wingtips whenever she rocks the wings too or fro.
"I will, do this. I will provide recon, and I will advise you. If I feel an air strike is possible, which it may or may not be we'll move ahead with that. If not, I'll offer to fly the escape craft."She inhales hard, Ingrid that is. "I will need some information in return, not yet though. I'd rather not talk about it, until I'm certain I can secure the aircraft. I know where all the hangars are in cuba, but we'll see. I need to figure out some logistics. Does this sound fair, action for intelligence?"She smiles, thinly behind her mask. Rolling the Mig slightly to one side as she throttles up."Want to hear a story, about a woman?"

Free help from a bored old gentleman with an adventure-ridden life. Who is Teo to say no? "I'll see about what Phoenix can do for what you need," he replies.

"That sounds a lot fucking better than 'fair,' signora, but 'm pretty sure you knew that." There's nothing snide about his saying so. If anything, he's mildly embarrassed. Though Teodoro has never been under any illusions about Phoenix's self-sufficiency, between air strikes and Abigail's freedom, Fedor's generosity has been more — and more visible — than most of the burning bird's strange and sundry benefactors have offered for so litle in return.

"Yes. I love stories."

"The first time I fought American aircraft, was in Vietnam. I built a little air wing to test the Mig-21 against the American F-4 phantom. One of the Vietnamese I trained, was a woman. She was brilliant Teo, I mean at distance she was average at best but once she started talking or she looked at you?"There was a pause, as Ingrid dipped a wing. Peering down at the moon's reflection glittering against the ocean.

"I have lived a very long time Teo, but she was the most beautiful person I have ever known. She was also, easily the most intelligent. To be fair, she didnt have quite the level of aggression she needed but the Mig-21 like we're in now was really space age back then. I mean the comrades I was working with, most had never seen an electric light or knew how to read."Her accent begins to drift, that polished english giving way to that sort've comfortable accent you found in western russia even now.

"She had read poetry, she wrote children's books, gave her paychecks to her village and she sold paintings on the side. She read and understood the Mig-21's flight manual in two weeks, most Russian pilots can take six to eight months. She was incredibly, so she was my flight lead. She had never made a kill of her own, but thats alright. Her job was to protect me, whilst I killed every last son of a bitch in the air." Was that the first time she cursed infront of Teo, no wait it was the second. She was slowly, letting down the armor she shielded herself with. Feeling comfortable enough to depart from polite conversation.

Inside the mirror surface of his mask, Teo looks at the woman. Toward her, anyway. Pensive lines darken his brow as he listens, and he glances away halfway through the story, back out of the craft and into the vacuous region of sky.

Tries to imagine what this woman would have seen, looking out through this very same portal. It's too difficult. He's never been Vietnamese, female, or committed enough to any given village or its children to do most of that which Ingrid is detailing in such fond care.

Five different people look out into the sky and see five different things. "You mind me asking—" he remembers to pause, awkwardly, jarred back into his sense of propriety by the clumsy recognition that swearing is one level of intimacy. His question, pending, is another. "How'd she… —did she die?"

"We got into it one day, with a flight of skyhawks. They were these little navy planes, and were really only there to attack ground targets. Normally, there were F-4s escorting them and thats who we wanted. The Skyhawks were just the bait, and we took it. We took the skyhawks apart, a single pass and then we went high in search of their protectors. There were three of us, and eight of them. The Radar on the MiG-21 back then, was very bad so we never knew how many there were until we'd already merged with them."She inhales deeply, peering almost longfully at the particularly modern radar set she'd sourced through the Czech republic for this MiG.

"I knew it was bad immediately, I could just feel it on the first pass. The F-4 was not a good plane, but it was far from bad and the two American flight leads were aces from Korea and then again in Vietnam, very good aviators who knew the limits of their machine. We couldnt break and run immediately, the phantoms would surely kill us. So we fought, and there was a serious fur ball. I zeroed in on their flight leads, and shot both of them down. Then another Phantom, so I'd killed three of the eight. She killed two, which was an amazing feat. Our third flight, however he made a mistake. He was shot down, and died before he could eject. So now it was life or death, two on three."

There was a pause there, time for a few moments to pass. "She ran out of ammunition first, so being the good aviator she was she found a phantom and she just glued herself to it. You see if your too close, the enemy wont fire on you for fear of shooting down their comrade. I was then, very proud of her and turned to deal with the two Phantoms who were with me. I wasn't able to shoot another one down, but I made them use their missiles and back then they didn't have gun so it was a draw. I turned away towards home, and called for her but there was no response."

"I never saw the ninth phantom, until it was too late. He'd broken away from a whole other flight, against orders to take revenge against me. He found her first, and tore her apart with his missiles. He hit me too, I saw it coming so I avoided a direct hit but it wasn't good. It ripped the cockpit apart, tore my face apart. I ducked down into the trees, and was able to make an escape. I had lost a lot of blood though, and so I passed out about a hundred foot above the trees. It should have been my end, right?" Another pause, as she shifts the interior lights low. Going black as it was, save for what the moon illuminates.

"I felt her hand on my cheek, felt her wash the blood from my face. Her breath against my ear, whispering how it was going to be ok but that I needed to wake up. She was there with me, sitting on the wing beside my cockpit. She was radiant, an angel. When I woke up, I was on landing approach. I'd made a sixty mile flight, unconscious. My face had been wiped clean of blood. I left for Moscow later that week. They gave me a medal, and told me she wasnt important."

The frame missing from the old shifter's recollection measures exactly against the gap in Teo's capacity to deduce. All the same, the impressionistic, oil-pant dab and slash of sensory images bleed through into the palette of thought and speculation. "Last time you ever saw her," he says, blankly. "That's the last—

"That's fucking incredible." Those are the wrong words to have said, Teo is pretty sure. The right ones seem unavailable to his wisdom or creativity. Sounds like something you'd read about. Sounds impossible, except that he knows far better than that in this day and age. "Fff." A whuff of warm static blows through the inside of his helmet and through the electronic transliteration of soundwaves. "Wow. I—

"She never came back? Not to the children? The village?" He sounds like he doesn't think so. A romantic, Teo is not. There are no happy endings; just endings. Doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy a good flight of narrative, however. Doesn't mean he doesn't hope so. There are increments of happiness. Maybe—

"The MiG is still listed as missing, we found the crash site of every other plane that went down that day. "She shrugs, shaking her head "Nobody knows where she went, I like to think that she found enlightenment and decided that she was done with all of this."

Was it incredible, she didnt know. Its too close for her to gain the perspective she needs. "The KGB was convinced at the time, that she had defected or got scared or something. The Americans never took a defector in that war, and the KGB men said her village starved and everyone eventually died. She just, vanished into thin air." Its not good or bad, but then again real stories are never moral.

Or it was the report of an adrenalized, psychotic burst of neurochemistry, the delusion of a confused and structurally compromised brain. Teo mutters something indistinct. Little doubt, he'd disagree if they had assigned words to it. The real stories are always moral, if not morally simple. "Were you in love with her?" In instant retrospect, the question sounds trite. It probably is.

He doesn't take it back, though. The real stories have no need to pretend toward prepossession either.

Was she in love with her, god how does she even begin to answer that. "ye…"she stops short, exhaling sharply over that intercom as she searches for the words. "I loved her, but I never had the chance to. I mean, Teo I'm a monster. I knew what I was by then, nobody can really love me for what I am. Its human nature, I'm not just evolved. I mean, ok."She exhales sharply again.

"When I, change everything changes. Blood, DNA, neurochemistry. I dont just change my face, and I dont become someone else. I become something new every time, not man not woman. I mean, if you ask me. Did I want to be romantically involved with her, certainly. I've wanted to be, involved with many over the years. Men, women but its always the same."She sighs, just soft enough that thankfully the microphone doesnt pick it up. "I'm not evolved, I'm something else. Something older, like something different. It never works."

When it comes, Teo's objection is not fraught with fire or verbose denial. He doesn't think so, though. Can't, for now. He's too idealistic for that, and the margins of his ignorance leave far too much room for him to remain that way unscathed by the texture of harsher realities than this one. "No one knows how Evolved abilities work.

"I mean, how does somebody get from nucleic acid to moving shit with their mind? How's the blood test that proves for that ability show the same positive for somebody who can dead-lift cars with their bare hands?

"It's…" He exhales audibly, the exasperation of a young man fully acknowledging that he's somewhat missing the point, tripping past the core of the story in search of an argument. "You're a metamorph and a soldier, si? So you've killed people. Discriminately. Or whatever passes for that. Changed shapes. Doesn't make you a monster. Women— and men have fallen for a lot less." He flattens his knuckles along the level surface of double-layered glass and frowns over the slats of his fingers.

"I'm a Pilot and a socialist, I gave up on being human well before I knew I was different."She was getting frusterated, there was so much tied in knots inside she couldnt really accurate describe. "So, do you feel less worried about flying yet? Why dont you just ask me about the aircraft from now on, I'm not interested in discussing my romantic situation with a man your age."because you know, there were so many 90 year old out there who could give better advice.

Teo would be no quicker to withdraw from the subject of conversation if he had been actually snagged by the scruff and scolded. "Mi dispiace." There's a shift of the Sicilian's tall frame inside the contours of the chair, and he clicks his fingers haphazardly across the buckle parts of his seatbelt. "I'm never — worried about flying while I'm flying. Or not really.

"I just don't have an affinity for it, I guess. As a means of getting from point A to B, it works better than anything else," he acknowledges easily. "I don't know. Maybe I just don't like putting my life in somebody else's hands so… obviously. I don't know," he repeats. "Does that make sense?"

"Put your hand on the stick, the pedals below in the footwell are your rudders. Throttle is the big stick on your left side, now take the controls and just fly us nice and easy. I'll take over, if you do anything dangerous."Her voice comes softer, in a dare I say motherly tone? It was soft as down and reassuring. "At this speed, air is like water. Imagine we're a boat, or a submarine. Dont think about how high up we are, or how fast we're going. So fly us, like you pilot a boat. Smoothly."

That sounds a lot easier than it probably is! Teo is aware of this. Also, that having survived for ninety years probably does not predispose a man — woman — human toward thinking that they're all done with life, either. His hesitation stretches over a profound several minutes' silence, spent looking between the mechanical parts that Ingrid had described to him. Throttle. Footwell. Rudders. What in the name of God?

The concave sky yawns down at him, glassy and luminous. He breathes into the mask, audibly. Might be fear. If it is, though, it's purged with the air out of his lungs. The next moment, he's holding the controls.

"Gently, push the stick foreward and back. Then rock it to either side, but listen first. Your flying a fighter jet, the controls are very sensetive so use very small motions. Very small, and very smooth. Leave the throttle there, and I think you understand how the rudder works so indeed. Just use small inputs, my hands on the stick too so I'll stop you if you do anything queer."Ingrid's voice is as smooth as ever, as if this wasn't putting Teo at the controls of a mach 2 former soviet interceptor. Yaknow, whatever right?

To Teo's undying (hopefully) credit, he does listen first. Fighter jet; the controls are very sensitive. Small motions. Stick forward, then rock. Fff. There are worse times to die. At least he wrote Catherine and Brian that letter, eh? Names, plans, everything. Well, all right. Not everything.

Arguably, enough. "That word bears different meaning in this country, signora," he says with surprising aplomb. The stick shifts forward, careful, easy as you like, then once to either side, syncopated to the pressure in Ingrid's own palm. Teo's grip adjusts on the controls and his teeth dent his lip, a grins harpening the corners of his mouth, bright as a jackal. Lack of affinity very rarely actually provides a locus of reference for any of his decisions. He wasn't a born killer, schoolteacher, or poet, either.

Maybe a quarter inch, and the plane in time points down then up before rocking back and fourth. The stick controls the rate these actions happen rather. Hold the stick a hint to one side, and the MiG will slowly roll on its axis. "Your doing fine, but we're getting low on fuel. Why dont you get one or two other people, phoenix people. I'll take a couple days off, and I'll give you all some very basic flying lessons. It can be a useful skill, and phoenix or not I earned my callsign. Now, hang on. We're going to break the sound barrier on the way back, because we can. Sound alright?"

Theres no pause of course, no consideration if Teo may voice some caution. The throttle is firewalled, as as the stick goes over and then back. Rolling to the right before pulling hard into a tight turn, loading up those G's until the MiG rolls from its turn and rockets fourth back with wings nice and level. FWOOOOmmmmmmmm, goes the soundbarrier as its shattered like a fine wineglass. "Be quiet, and don't talk. If you talk while flying supersonic you could die."

Fedor never jokes. Fedor, is all business. No funny business, at any time ever in any situation. That's Fedor though, and this is Ingrid.

"You've already asked me to take three days off," Teo reminds, lightly. "I'm afraid I'm pretty sure I don't have that many days in me."

He cedes control — insofar as it's taken from him; the throttle slams back, the sky flushes right up against the windows. And Teo might just be uneasy enough to believe it. If you talk while flying supersonic, you could die. It's possible. Remotely. If you talk while flying supersonic with somebody who doesn't want you to talk, you could die; she could probably figure out how to kill you, if she felt like it.

Never one for discourtesy, Teodoro doesn't talk. Instead, his voice emerges in a different register, throbbing, juddering, rattling through the comm system between the frequencies of sucking silence of air and the internalized roar of adrenaline: Ingrid hears laughter.

March 13th: Matters of Trust
March 13th: Probability Drive
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