Already Divided


cardinal_icon.gif melissa_icon.gif perry_icon.gif

Scene Title Already Divided
Synopsis A trio of clandestine operators convene.
Date January 9, 2010


"Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

That is the sign that rests just above the double doors that lead from the small foyer into the club proper. Once through the doors the music is all-encompassing, the heavy bass beat filling the room and senses of the club-goers. The decor is all dark, the walls painted black, the bar a sleek dark wood. The lights all have a reddish tinge to them, with the bar and DJ booth being the only places in the club proper that have more normal white light.

There are high tables with equally tall chairs circling a large dance floor, and booths set along two of the walls. But while socializing is a big part of the club, the dancing is the priority. People, some Goths, some punks, and some just people who like to dance are all packed on the dance floor. Weaving through the sea of people are servers, men and women both, dressed in black pants or skirts, and tee-shirts that have "Tartarus" written across the chest in red lettering. Likewise there are security people at the door and mixed through the club, in similar outfits, only their shirts have "SECURITY" on the back.

A curious phone call has led to a more curious trio converging at Tartarus. Not out in the club itself, no, though there are a few people there, despite it being Sunday. Instead the two visitors have found themselves back in the small but neat office, and offered a seat on the sofa there. "I'd ask if you guys want something to drink, but I'd rather get to the point of this meeting. I'm sure you both can agree," Melissa says, from where she sits behind the desk, leaned back, studying Cardinal more than Perry.

"I would've asked you to my place, but I have the DoEA breathing down my neck right now," Cardinal admits as he sweeps his fedora off - after having appeared from the shadows, as is his wont, dressed in a black pinstripe suit covered with a dark trenchcoat showing a bit of wear around the edges - and drops it down to rest on the arm of the sofa, shrugging out of the coat as well. "Couldn't take the chance that the building's being watched at the moment."

Hard to cut a clearer contrast between Cardinal and Perry. More and more, between Warren and Cardinal, Mr. Jones is getting the sense that there is some sort of dress code that he's failing to meet. Suits, trench coats, black gloves… fedoras now? It may be the tiniest bit of resentment that makes Perry wonder if perhaps style is here replacing substance. A funny thought, when directed towards a man made of shadows.

Shabby as almost always, Perry wears a simple black t-shirt with a print out of what looks like some sort of technical drawings. Close inspection and intense nerdery would reveal them to be the Chernobyl reactor plans. A reminder to all engineers of the dangers of failure in their work. His hands are laced in his lap, and he peers at Cardinal from behind his thick rimmed glasses, muddy brown eyes thoughtful if slightly uncertain.

"The- uh- the heat is up on- uh- a lot of us," Perry concedes, "which, yes, means we have to be careful. But- uh- also means we can't afford to be- uh- divided, hm?"

Head tilting, Melissa asks, "Why is DoEA looking at you? I thought you were the golden boy of security. No one seemed to question you stepping in at d'Sarthe's party anyway." She glances at Perry, nods slightly, then looks back to shadow man. "What's up though? Don't tell me the Institute is making another move so soon. Or that Rupert isn't dead or something like that."

"One of my operatives got sloppy," Cardinal says with a slight shake of his head as he eases himself down to the sofa, leaning back in it and folding both gloved hands over his chest; legs stretching out, one ankle resting over the other, he looks between the pair over the edge of his shades with a tired expression, "It's being cleaned up, but they have an investigator nosing around - nobody who's clued in to the real deal as far as I know, though. I just need to keep my shoes polished until they lose interest."

A vague, dismissive wave of one hand, "Anyway. We're already divided, Jones. More than we ever were before. The Ferry's gone its own way, and not one I think is wise in my opinion. Phoenix has been effectively gone for some time now. And you— well. I'm not really sure what you red-scarfs have been up to."

Perry dips his head in sympathy for Cardinal's troubles, for all that the other man seems non-chalante about it. Sloppiness is never a good thing when even tight ships are sinking. "Well- yes, yes, but that's precisely the point," Perry says, leaning forward, "that we are divided isn't that we ought to be. I've- uh- been in contact with the Ferrymen and they are in a poor state. It- uh- it doesn't matter so much the direction any more. We are- uh- we are made by a common struggle and I- I don't think we can possibly afford to stay so disunited. Not now."

Adamance enters his voice, as he holds forth on a matter clearly very important to him. "Mutual trust is paramount. This isn't many separate battles, its one war and we may have different generals, different tactics, but the goal is common and the stakes universal. And I want you to know, out trust is conditional only on your own in turn."

This doesn't however, fill Cardinal in on what, in fact, the erstwhile red-scarfs have been up to. "Our forces are too diminished and our resources too few for serious operations, and our intelligence is woefully lacking," Perry admits, "our immediate plans involve establishing ties with sister organizations and increasing our cash flow. We… also have some personal matters to settle with an individual named Colonel Heller, but I imagine we're not the only such group."

"None of which gets to the point of why you needed to talk to us," Melissa says pointedly. "Unless it's what we're up to that's your concern," she says, grabbing a flask out of one of her desk draws and sipping from it. And she doesn't even offer any to either of them. How rude!

"If I didn't trust you, Jones," Cardinal points out with a slight shake of his head, "I wouldn't be here. The lot of you were… well, put into a bad position to say the least. I had friends in Messiah." There's a quietness in that last statement, stressing the word had - not to disclude them from that label, but to lay the weight of those words more heavily on the dead.

"But you had the right motives beyond what that bastard implanted in your heads," he admits, gloved hands spreading slightly, "We all have the same goal, I'll agree with that. The trick is not tripping over each other's feet while we're reaching for it."

A pause, "Heller… well. I'd rather see Heller exposed than dead. Dead, he's a martyr. Exposed, he can only help us. I've already put Griffin in touch with some other individuals investigating the Colonel."

Perry gives Melissa a grateful look. Keeping them on task, valuable, since Perry is prone to spinning off into abstraction. He doesn't seem to mind not being offered a drink, though the slightest of frowns alights on his brow for a moment after Mel takes her swig.

"Griffin has- uh- recommended you and your organization highly," Perry says, nodding his head at the mention of Mr. Mihangle, "and I am glad that you have been helping him with this matter. It- uh- goes without saying that it is most personal of all for him. But the rest of us are committed to help as best we can. Heller is a common enemy, that much is clear. If you need our force or- uh- or guile, what of it we have, we can lend it.

"But- uh- I would like to know more about your organizations central- uh- philosophical tenants," Perry admits, "what- uh- what separates you from thoughtless, knee-jerk reactions to our troubled times."

"We all had friends in Messiah," Melissa murmurs softly. "What do you know about Heller though? Anything concrete? As for exposing him…If the choice comes between letting him go free or killing him, which would you choose, I wonder?"

"It's questions like that," Cardinal says with a tip of his hand towards Melissa, one finger extended, "That're at the heart of your question there, Jones. Given the choice between letting him go free and killing him, which would I choose?"

There's a pause, "I'd let him go free. Not because I'm against killing, because shit, I've got enough blood on my hands to keep me up nights, but because if he's killed before exposure by the Evolved, then we'll only have worse problems."

He leans forward slightly, his gaze serious as it sweeps between the pair, "Colonel Heller is the head of FRONTLINE-OS. Officially, they're the FRONTLINE squad that sits on Staten Island. That's not actually what it is, but what it actually is doesn't matter for the purpose've this discussion. So the head of a FRONTLINE squad is murdered by the Evolved. The highers-up decide that this is a problem. That they need to put someone in charge who'll head off the problems at their source. So they dig up someone like Emile Danko or someone even worse, and we're in the same goddamn boat only now they've got the law fully behind them as they rip their way through our families and loved ones on the way to find us all."

Leaning back, he cocks his head slightly, "On the other hand, if we expose him for the monster he is… then he gets stripped of his rank, his supporters are discredited, and my contacts in the government can manuever someone more… reasonable to replace him."

A twitch of his lips, "Then he can quietly disappear one night, but that goes without saying."

Perry's brow furrows. Diplomacy is not something he's had any experience with, but he's gotten socially apt enough to know that quibbling and contradiction do not get you anywhere in a discussion. He may, and does, disagree about that question being quite the heart of his own. And it does worry him. But he'll draw what clues he can from Cardinals words, trying to get a measure of the man and his guiding principles.

So far, Perry is not totally comforted. And his sense of what is philosophically relevant, on the most practical level, has more to do with his next question:

"What do you mean by reasonable?" Perry asks, "that- uh- that pause before suggests you are being- uh- being euphemistic. Who would you want to replace him?"

"I do see a problem with the whole exposing him as a monster thing," Melissa says, exchanging flask for cigarette and lighting up. "We're under martial law, which means that they can do anything they want, basically. He's hardly the only monster out there, in Frontline or otherwise. On the eighth, I saw soldiers line up innocent people, including a mother with an infant, and just execute them, for no reason. They didn't try to resist or anything. But the same people who think that we're all monsters would just applaud those people, because we're evolved. We deserve it, right?"

She shrugs and shifts slightly, propping her leg up on something beneath the desk. "Not saying it's a bad idea, not by any means. I think people do need to see the truth, I'm just not certain that this will work as you want it to."

"I could've had his job, if I'd agreed to it," admits Cardinal with a slight shake of his head, "I wasn't willing to put on the leash that it would've required, but… maybe I should've taken it. What we need are… people in these positions that are sympathic to the cause. Who won't line women and children up in a row and shoot them when ordered." He rubs gloved fingers against his lower lip, saying quietly, "There's a difference between legal and acceptable, Melissa. The only way this war is going to be won is in the court of public opinion. So long as people are willing to support this insanity, it'll keep going."

A breath's taken in, exhaled in a sigh, his head shaking, "It's not going to be a quick win. It's not going to be an easy win, either. It's not anything that can be solved by just… shooting Nathan in the head and being done with it. We need to use a scalpel. Not an axe."

"If- if I may," Perry says, a brow lifting, "but that seems-" a beat, "I don't know if I'd call that- uh- enough. Sympathy. I- uh- I think Praeger seems like a very sympathetic man, but- but this isn't a situation where we can rely on- on soft political action. I- I don't mean to stride too fast but- but the emergence of the Evolved I think- I think it marks a epochal change. The insanity you speak of- it's not just a reaction, not something that can be- can be smoothed over. It's the system in place straining under a weight that it- that it can't carry. We need more than sympathy, Mr. Cardinal. We need- well, I think we need revolution.

"Any- any lesser goal and we will at best win ourselves pet places in the new world."

"I'm not saying that I disagree with you, Richard," Melissa says, shaking her head. "I know it isn't acceptable. But we're not trying to convince ourselves. And I don't think that everyone will see what's done to us as unacceptable until they start seeing us as people." She shrugs a little. "Maybe that can be done, or at least begun by exposing Heller, but we have a lot to overcome. Past events that we have to make them see past. As you said, it won't be quick or easy."

She glances to Perry, then back to Cardinal, nodding slightly. "Definitely a worthy goal though. However it's reached. If it can be reached. Though I have serious doubts that anyone sitting here will see it happen."

"I'm sure that whoever was building the concentration camps in Germany seemed terribly sympathetic too," says Cardinal in dry tones, "I don't trust Praeger as far as I can throw him. They might as well rename Roosevelt Island to Dachau as far as I'm concerned, because that's what it's going to turn into if we're not careful."

He steeples his fingers, resting them against his face for a moment as he considers how to reply to Perry. Finally he speaks, quietly, "Revolution is not an option. At least not violent revolution. I'm not relying on… soft political action, Jones, but neither'm I going to let this turn into an all-out race war. There's a middle path that needs to be followed."

"That is- uh- is precisely my point," Perry says, a curiously sour expression appearing on his face at the mention of the sins of the NSDAP, "that sympathy is in- uh- insufficient. And I- I understand your aversion to the terrible bloodshed such- uh- such a conflict would produce, too, but- but we must keep in mind that- that the terms of this conflict will be set by them if they aren't set by us." His gaze shifts over to Melissa, addressing her too, "I'm worried simple acknowledgment won't be enough either. There is a reason they- they want to register us. To regulate us. They want things to remain the same. All they are doing… it's an effort to regain something totally lost. We need some vision of- of what's to come, a world we make. Because the future they are building is- it's simply untenable."

"Again, I don't disagree with you. I've likened this to the holocaust a number of times myself," Melissa says in the same dry tone. "And I don't think any of us want an all out war. Violence by itself doesn't solve anything, it just creates more problems. But did you come here just to debate this with us, Richard, or is there something in particular you want from us? Or to learn from us?"

"What I have planned is much more than… acknowledgement," Cardinal says with a shake of his head, his gaze just a bit haunted as he rubs a hand against the side of his face, "I agree with you, to a point. I'm not… I'm not the one to plan a new future, though, Jones. It's been more more than obvious to me that I'm not suited for that. All I can do is make certain the future that they have planned doesn't come to be. That's what I do. I murder futures."

A tilt of his hand points at them, "And I'm here for the same reason that Jones said earlier, Melissa. We need to keep organized. I don't want to have to set up shop around another Humanis attack and find Messiah setting up shop in the same place again; it's a waste of resources, and it endangers all of us."

"Then- uh- what do you have planned?" Perry asks, the questioned becoming rather pointed, "I- uh- I know I am new to this field. I have been- uh- been relying heavily on Melissa's experience to guide me, but I'd like to find my own legs, best- uh- best I can. I agree, absolutely, that we need to- uh- to coordinate. But that means we need to share more than just- than just timetables. Even if we disagree on some- uh- some central issues, better to know from the start."

"Agreed, which means that both sides need to agree to keep the other informed, like Perry said. Not only so we avoid wasting resources, but so we can put the best people for a particular job in place," Melissa says, head tilting. "Like I can't think of anyone better for stealth work than you, but we've got the best person to send to put out a fire. Just as an example."

"The president has been replaced by another version of himself from an alternate future," Cardinal states abruptly, "The Commonwealth Institute is run by a disembodied mind from a different alternate future that's trying to make certain that his rather horrific history comes true, and they're employing a man to create a machine that can send messages to the past in order to warp the timeline at will into whatever particular pretzel they feel like on any given day. The Vice President's trying to put us all in concentration camps in order to line his own goddamn pockets with cash…"

He shakes his head tightly, "The world is completely fucked up right now. You have no idea how many different factions and interests are tangled up in things. What am I going to do, Jones?" He regards the man seriously, "I'm going to reveal everything they've done. Project Icarus, Coyote Sands, the Company, the Institute… all of it. I'm going to get every record and bit of evidence I can lay my hands on, and get it into the hands of everyone who has a voice in this country."

Perry nods at Melissa's note. "Resource allocation is a central issue," he agrees, "hopefully we can work out a method of information sharing that will not- uh- compromise the security of either of our operations." Cardinal's explanation is received with interest. Perry doesn't look shocked or alarmed, only very serious. "History- history has always been a contested space," he says, "just never so- uh- never so literally." He nods, "How and when?"

Listening to Cardinal outline all the things wrong with the world, Melissa's brows lift. "Our president isn't our President? Incidentally, don't you think the world should know that he's evolved? And I know someone on the inside of the Institute. On our side, I mean. I can probably get some information from them, if they can get access to it, anyway."

"Care to tell us more about these people from alternate futures though? Although the past thing pisses me off. We just got done dealing with some other assholes who liked fucking with the timeline. And I am not doing anymore time travel. Ever again."

"Who do you know on the inside?" Cardinal lifts one brow slightly, "I have my own people in the Institute, of course, but he knows. Of course, I know that he knows, it's… a long game we've been playing." Dry, the last, "Longer than either of us know, more than likely. As for when, it depends on when I get everything together. As for how, well… a man needs a few secrets. You'll know it when you see it."

He grimaces at Melissa's last, then, "We don't have all day, and that's how long it'd take. There's been a lot of time travel going on, let's just say, in both directions."

"Someone I trust who had no choice and who's been doing what they can to help and warn people when the Institute is moving," is all Melissa seems willing to say on the subject of her contact's identity. "But it seems to me like you prefer your secrets. Don't you think we'll make better allies if we're not stumbling around in the dark?"

"Quite," Cardinal admits with a shake of his head, hands spreading, "But I literally don't have the time to bring you all completely up to speed on this, Melissa. I've got a fucking file cabinet full of information on this. I've had to start to learn how to build a string theory map just to make sense of it all, and I'm not exactly the best teacher in the world to explain how that even works. If you want to know something, ask, because telling you everything would take days."

"Then maybe a more regular meeting should be set up," Perry suggests, parting his hands in a gesture suggesting equity, or meant to suggest it at least, "to give us the time we need. You can- uh- prioritize certain information by relevance, and we'll do the same but in- uh- in time we may eventually end up if not- uh- if not on the same page than in the same chapter?"

That has Melissa pausing for a moment and considering, before asking, "Who or what do you think is the biggest threat right now? The Institute? Heller? Nathan? Humanis First? There are so many threats out there, and you seem to know a hell of a lot more about them than I do." Then she's nodding to Perry. "And that's not a bad idea either. Hell, Peyton works for you, right? I like her. Send her over if you can't."

"That depends, Melissa," Cardinal says with a slight shake of his head, "A threat to what? To who? Right now, your biggest problem is Heller, who's doing his damndest to hunt Messiah down using everything he has at his disposal. If you mean the biggest threat to the cause of Evolved equality and freedom… that'd be the Institute."

He smiles tightly, "And I'll be cutting their legs out from under them as soon as I have enough to release. If you want to help against that… then get me the evidence. I need videos, documents, testimonies, I need — everything that I can get my hands on."

Perry nods, slowly, thoughtfully. "I will admit- uh- openly, that our means are very limited. But we have able bodies and willing hearts. We need- uh- we need to go our own way, follow our own principles, but it is much, much better to do something rather than nothing. If there are loose ends, tasks you find seem maybe just beyond your reach, let us know and we will do what we can to help accomplish our common goals."

"A lot of our people died because of Rupert and what happened on the eighth," Melissa says flatly with a glance to Perry. "But we're not dumb or incompetent." She looks back to Cardinal and nods. "I'll get you what I can. I just can't promise how much that'll be. Right now it's more useful to have someone on the inside who can keep others out of harms way and feed us info, than to risk trying to get a slightly larger chunk of data."

"If you were dumb or incompetent, you'd be dead," Cardinal states firmly, "I wouldn't be here if I thought you were either. It isn't the Institute you should be looking at, keep your source safe there — if you're looking for data and evidence… it's the government. They must have records of what they've done. Their dealings with the Company… Coyote Sands, Project Icarus. Mitchell's dealings with Carmichael. Someone gave the orders to have those locations that you hit under Rupert's lead evacuated before you arrived - so there's records of those orders. There's people who took them, people who were told to evacuate ahead of the attack."

"These records won't be easy to get ahold of," Perry says, stating the obvious, but needing to get the simple fact out there, "and without our guardian Technopath, mining that information is beyond our current means. I- I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Cardinal. I can rig an explosive, I can fire a weapon, I can plan an operation, but I need to know what to demolish, who to shoot and where and when to carry out a plan." Note, no mention of any Evolved ability coming into play, not that Perry supplies further details. Sore spot for him, that.

While Perry's busy going over the obvious, Melissa is falling silent and thoughtful. "I do have a contact in the government…" she says hesitantly. "It's my uncle. Jason Pierce. DHS. I might, might be able to get some of that from him, but I can't guarantee it. He seems to have been pretty well brainwashed into thinking what he's doing is noble, but he does love me…"

"You're thinking two-dimensionally, Jones," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head as he pushes himself up to his feet, reaching over to collect his fedora. A bit of dust is bruhed off the edge, "They expect technopaths now. They expect telepaths… what they don't expect is someone getting off his ass and doing some goddamn good old fashioned legwork. This sort've thing doesn't come on digital. It comes in paper and file. And you'll need to find it before any of you can clear your names."

He swirls the trenchcoat around his shoulders, "Pierce might give you a good lead. Somewhere to start. Until then, if I need muscle, I'll call you. And if you need information, well, you know where to find me."

Perry doesn't much like being called two-dimensional, especially since depth and quote philosophical rigor /quote is exactly what he prides himself on. But starting an argument over petty things like that, especially with a man who, whatever his conduct, appears to be willing to help them, would be pretty titanically dumb. Demonstrative of incompetence.

There is maybe a little wince at the swirl of the trenchcoat. Does Perry need to work on his theatrics? That's really not his scene. He gets to his feet, offers his hand to shake. "Thank you for your time, Cardinal," he says, dropping the honorary since the man himself doesn't seem to care for using them, "we will be in- uh- in touch."

"Consider us for more than just muscle, Richard, but yes, let us know if you need help," Melissa says, nodding and putting out her cigarette. But that seems to be all that she's willing to say at the moment.

"Anytime, Jones," Cardinal offers a tired smile to the pair, "If nothing else, I've always been a strong proponent of keeping lines of communication open… whatever our disagreements, we all want things to work out for our people in the end."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License