Being And Time


perry_icon.gif samuel_icon.gif

Scene Title Being And Time
Synopsis Samuel sells a difficult prospect to an unlikely recruit. Or maybe the likeliest one yet.
Date September 10, 2010

Some weird little cafe

The giant spray-painted face of Castro Fidel watches with brickwork blank eyes over the settled patrons of the little cafe, the outback area something of a small paradise with its open sky and paved ground, heaters currently not in use, not for a good month and a half, hanging blankly from the corners. Probably the oldest patron here has been here for a good half an hour, rapping his fingers against the knife and pen scratched surface of a wooden table. The staff have written FOR SHARING on the wooden frames in permanent marker.

He bears his own grafitti, fingernails chipped and filled in with similar black marker, smeared into opacity on a middle finger. A home-rolled cigarette is pinched between ring and middle knuckle, burned to a stub, and he doesn't pretend to read. Simply tips his half-filled, silver metal teapot to refill a squat porcelain cup of deep red.

Samuel cuts a distinct character in this setting, even if this small, Manhattan cafe probably sees a few distinct characters. A light white shirt is rolled past his wrists, and a waistcoat of houndstooth patterns hangs open over it, jeans faded and worn at the knees. At his elbow sits a fedora of a different pattern of tweed, too old to be gentlemanly. There is an aura of dirtiness to him, even if one couldn't spot any identifiable dirt on his person, and he watchfully keeps to himself as he waits for a familiar face to come by.

There's a good chance Perry comes here just so he can give the great bearded apparition a necessary glare every time he enters its line of sight. Communists. He is required to hate them on principle. The reasons why are never so clear as he'd like, but he knows that there is a fine line between ideologies, and keeping true to one's own means detracting fiercely from all others. Or such is his sense. The world is war, if not on one plane, then another.

And so he steps into its view and looks up into the once-revolutionary, now retired dictator's painted face. Perry scowls, has his five seconds of hate. Try to abolish private property, will you? Perry thinks not, he thinks not.

It would be fair to say that Fidel is the only person in this cafe, however, that receives Perry's attention. Once he is done staring down the dirty socialist, other individuals, however dirty themselves, do not catch his eye. The world shrinks around him, or rather focuses, as he makes his way to a table, his route looking well worn, as he doesn't even stop to consider other tables. He unslings a messenger bag from his shoulder and begins to pull out a number of books, all looking used in a way that suggests many of them are older than him. Yellowing, like the skin on the fingers of a chain smoker. Or their teeth.

He doesn't react, actually, when what had been the unfamiliar scape of the stranger's face patterned in ink on the slope of a highly attractive woman's back, becomes familiar. Samuel is a decent performer when he wants to be, even if his currently performance is a skimming of faint interest over the younger man's face, looking him over, before focusing on the stub of nicotine and paper gone sticky at pinched end now ready for stubbing out. The terrakinetic does this, making it into a smear on the bottom of glass tray.

Getting up a moment later, in a well-timed imitation of vacating the premises when his ciggy is finished. Instead, as Samuel picks up his hat, he also picks up his teacup, leaving the rest of the set on the octagon table, stepping spryly over bench as he heads, now, for Perry's table.

He had allowed for the kid to get a page into his reading before sitting down at an adjacent chair. "I was considering," he says, now, in a tone that implies the middle of conversation rather than introduction, a faint smile creasing at the corners of Samuel's mouth, "what to call you. A young man such as yourself, with a name like yours, surely must have somethin' a little more familiar on hand. But I'm happy to call you Pericles."

The page Perry reads in the space of time he is allowed is, in fact, the first page in book three of Plato's Republic. Watching Perry read is a sight unto itself. He looks serene in places, eyes coasting along the text, but at certain moments his eyes will pause and backtrack, overshadowed by suddenly lowered brows, concentration appearing like puzzlement. At times he will even mouth the words he is reading, trying to tease out their meaning, their implication. It looks like work, honestly, but one undertaken with the seriousness of a theologian.

And there is a reason monks seek solitude. Not that Perry is monastic in any real way, but he certain is unprepared for a man to join him and, easy as anything, introduce himself in such a familiar manner. Even though Samuel has pointedly joined him, and even though he has been addressed by name, he at first doesn't think it possible that he could possibly be addressing him. The man in the fedora gets a blank stare for a moment, before finally two syllables fall out of his mouth, an offering made in confusion that just happen to be a reply of some relevance.

"Perry," that one says, "I'm called Perry, mostly," it's really just his mother that calls him by his full name. There is a considerable pause after this as Perry first tries to identify the man, pull him out of some backroom memory, then, this failing, checks to see if he is wearing a red scarf. That's the only sort of person he's known to address him by name without him knowing who they are first. But no… no scarf. Which means he can't be at ease. Not that he would anyways, poor shy boy. His arms lower and he scoops his books towards him, a gesture that is meant both hospitably (here, have some space on the table) and defensively (as he erects a barrier of books, of personal labor, around himself). Books, many of them, all with names larger than titles. Hegel. Nietzsche. Hobbes. Locke. Bentham. Aristotle. Heidegger.

"Can I… uh… can I help you?"

"I've been told you can." The hat is laid down on table once more, a hand scuffing through the thinned, dark hair, and beneath the table, Samuel's knee is only an inch shy of jostling Perry's as he crosses legs in the loose way men tend to, ankle nearer to opposite knee than the other, calf balanced like something that measures. "I have a friend, a lady. Her name's Lydia — she's someone I've been able to call family for the past several years now. Near and dear to my heart, and she's got an ability."

He takes an unrushed sip of tea from its porcelain container, still warm from where it had been sitting in hot silver. "Her gift is finding what a man is looking for. My name is Samuel, by the way.

"I won't be interruptin' anythin' if I take a few moments to talk to you, now will I?" He sounds like an Irishman whose traveled through Scotland and settled in America for a good several years, or maybe some other combination. It's impossible to pintpoint, but his accent is well travelled.

The way Messiah paints it, being Evolved isn't something you can wear on your sleeve safely. The sheer casualness of this man paradoxically puts Perry on edge, brings out a spark of paranoia. He's not registered. Is this some sort of snare? It's not insane, after all, to imagine official agencies taking notice of him.

Of course, nothing about Samuel even whispers 'official', at least not in a badge/gun sort of way. Perry keeps his arms out, an additional layer of protection should his wall of old dead white guys fail. "I was reading," he says, sounding cagier than he intends, the realization of which brings a swift apology, "I'm sorry, I'm not…" what? He's not registered. He's not sure what the hell is going on. And he's not so good with people. And the talking to them. At least, he doesn't think so.

"I can spare a little while, sure," Perry finally settles on, easing back juuust a little in his chair, looking less like a man cornered.

Restless, Samuel shifts to sit more opposite the other man as opposed to directly next to him, allowing space and some measure of equality now that he's captured the younger man's attention, thanks expressed in an opening up of lined palm, hands clean save for that marks of black on his nails, the product of boredom. "Long before the bomb of 2006," he starts, and though it's the beginning of a story, he doesn't let his tone dawdle, a decent enough salesman to keep the pace moving, "I had a family. A group, if you will, of people like me and Lydia. Of people like yourself." A small, apologetic smile.

Homework's been done. Impossible research. "We lived together to protect ourselves from what we knew the world would become, if they found out about us. Hunted. Feared, loathed. It's only going to get worse, y'know. The Registry, the jails, alla that is nothin', compared to what it could be. They ran us out— the government, that is— back in the earlier days. When they still weren't quite sure what to do wit' us.

"I'd hope that one day, I'd be able to rebuild, but it's going to take a sight more change than that. But what I want to know is that if you had the power to change everythin' around you for the better, would you do it?" There's a note to Sam's question, like he knows the answer.

Even if Perry doesn't.

Suspicion produces another blank look meant to cover Perry's reaction to being called out as someone 'like himself'. This is one young man who should not try to make a living at poker. He understands the inference, of course, which only furthers his affective paralysis. "I don't know- I am not-" again with what he's not, words delivered with an absence of tone that still leaves the audible shape of the emotion emptied out of it - he's entirely on edge, inches from scared.

But, while no card player is Perry, Samuel seems to be playing his own hand right. The recollection of the sins of the current state apparatus is one he's heard before, one he's repeated to himself in order to keep the ghosts of the men he's so recently been killing safely exorcised. It's a narrative he doesn't just find convincing, it's one that is conviction.

Perry does know the answer. With a low but clear note of defiance, of declaration, running under his words, he answers: "It would be my ethical duty. It would be an imperative."

"Aye." Samuel's tone holds a similar current of emphasis and meaning, and there is also sympathy in the lines of his eyes that go deeper and darker when he smiles. Like maybe he feels sorry for Perry, for his fear at being found out, or maybe for the fact that on his own, there's nothing he can do, Messiah aside. The pad of Samuel's thumb slopes down his own jaw in thoughtful gesture, dark eyes casting down and then aside, skimming over the painted face of Castro, towards the black-clothed waitress pouring coffee for the only other two people in the courtyard.

He restlessly taps nails against the wooden surface of the table. "I knew you'd be a good man. Lydia's ability is not a vague one, you know. She shows you exactly what it is you need — if you'd like, I could introduce you. In time, I'd like to introduce everyone, but there's work to be done. I do that have that ability, y'see. Not myself, personally, but another one of mine — his name's Arnold. He can send you," and he gestures, with pointed index finger, from some invisible point A to point B, "back and forth in time.

"And through Lydia's power, we can see what needs changing, to redesign the focus of the world. Little things, mind. And I know this is scary," he adds, with a flash of self-awareness. "Maybe difficult to get y'head around. But it was Arnold's power that saved my life, when I got gunned down during the Homeland Security raid. Realigned my lucky stars, if you will."

Perry was right with Samuel for a moment there. His buttons had been effectively pushed, and he was even considering bringing up the question of ethics, and maybe even the transvalution of morals as the basis for just such a change for the better. Only wait, what?

Time travel?

This throws Perry for a very clear loop, his reaction being quite obvious shock at this point, and momentary incredulity. He has his reasons - temporality, Sein und Zeit, are objects of great interest to him, but no theory he knows of accounts for time as malleable in such a matter of fact way. But such is the nature of true epochal change - the rules shift. New potentialities emerge. And of course, of course it's the Evolved who permit that shift. Interest alone pulls Perry back into Samuel's rhetorical orbit. He's listening.

"You're suggesting alterations in the past, echoing into the future? Actually… actually changing how the die is cast?" he's referencing the Rubicon, but really, whom but the nerds care? "what kind of changes? And why me? I… I'm interested. In hearing you out at least. B- but, well, yes. I am not afraid of deep, deep fundamental changes. But only if they are made appropriately. I would need- I would have to understand just what you were after. There is a way to go about this… and it can't be done lightly. Without thought."

"That may be something you and I will need to negotiate between ourselves," Samuel says, with a shake of his head. "You're a smart man, and I don't need an empath to tell me that. There are things you may want to change about the present yourself, and ideas and notions that I think would be just as valuable to me as your own two hands will be as well. But first, it's a thing I believe I should be showing you in practice.


Samuel dips a hand into his pocket, knuckles rustling past a bag of loose leaf tobacco, before he can bring out a crumpled newspaper snippet that he lays down on the table, spreads out. The ink has been smudged but not obscured, and it's an old headline — not very old, in that it was written several months ago. It's a murder of a young woman, and it goes on to speak of her profession as a prostitute, of the torturously slow way she was slain, and the serial nature of the killing. "I've seen the face of the murderer of this poor woman in Lydia's tattoos. I'm not asking you to feel sympathy for his victims, but it's just a thing I uncovered when I was gettin' to know who it is she showed me.

"Name's Flint Deckard. Bit of a criminal record to his name, though he never did get caught for any of this. I think if we unravel him, even more will unravel along with him. A lot of badness. If you could go back, and look into him— then you and I will have more to talk about. What do you think?"

You can tell Perry's actually reading the snippet carefully, because his expression takes on the cast of concentration it did on particularly tough lines of Plato. Not that complex ideas are in play within the text, far from it. It couldn't be more horribly simple. But the implications… that's what Perry's working out.

It's not that Perry doesn't feel sympathy for the victims. It's that he considers issues of sympathy irrelevant (or must, in the name of ethics). He asks himself a series of questions, drawing from the very model of the book he was reading (if applied in an inferior way), and he is left with one central question. Okay, two. But one follows the other.

"Are you asking me to kill this man?" Perry inquires, nothing in his voice suggesting reproach, just a certain room for doubt, in case Samuel would like to try and whitewash his proposition, "And, not that it wouldn't do good in… sort of blasé, banal, reducing suffering way, but how much badness is 'a lot'? Will this lead to real… real change?"

"It's a thread in a tapestry, I'll be the first to admit that to you," Samuel says, without hesitation, and keeping his gaze even and reassuring. "It's the people he knows, the people he's directly helped, and that he turns out to be somethin' of a psychopath is what moves me to say that aye, I'd like you to kill this man. I won't offer you money, but I can offer you change, and insight. I think I can help you as much as you could help me — that is, if you're willin'."

He picks up the clipping, folds it over and tucks it into a satin-lined pocket of his waistcoat. Rather than reeking of the smoke of cigarettes, there is an ashier scent instead, metallic and mineral. "If you'd like time to think about it, you have that much. History doesn't sneak up on you. If you'd like to meet Lydia, you may come to understand the compass that guides my choices."

Something is the same, but something is very, very different. The last time he was so approached, he was no one at all. A thinker, yes, but doing nothing. Sitting and waiting for a Cause to join him, unsatisfied too deeply with any he'd seen so far. He had (and has) qualms yet about the rigor of Messiah, not the lengths to which they'd go so much as the reason for going so far. Yet despite these misgiving, the simple fact remains that they gave him an opportunity to turn theory into praxis, a leap Perry deep inside feared he might never make, might even lack the courage to. So when they called, he had no real choice but to answer.

But that was then. This is now. And this time, there is a choice, explicitly offered and implicitly understood. They need him. Perry can decide to deem their cause worthy or not. The judgment, he feels, is in his hands.

Which, of course, is the perfect way to get him to invest. Flattery will get you everywhere.

"Yes. Yes, I'd like to meet her. And I'd like to hear more of what you have in mind. I… have standards," Perry states, flexing his perceived advantage, "and if I am part of this, I want to be part of it. I want a say. But I will do it. I won't flinch from it, if- if it's-" a moment of lost steam, a slight derailing - how to put this? "if it's- operative."

Samuel's smile is brighter, and he picks up his hat. "Oh, it's plenty of that. When you're ready, phone through to Ichihara bookstore — it's on Roosevelt Island, so you may need a little of my help t'get there unless you got yourself one of those fancy cards they make everyone carry about. Ask for Lydia. Tell her Samuel thinks it'd be worth you two meetin'." The houndstooth fedora is gestured with in some kind of adieu, before it's placed lightly down for it to sit as low as the tops of his ears, casting a shadow from its stiff rim down his lined face.

"I do hope to be hearin' from you, Perry. But I'll understand if you need t'walk away too." And with that, he steps over the bench at the table, and leaves behind only thoughts and an empty teacup.

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