Cliff Notes


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Scene Title Cliff Notes
Synopsis Melissa pays a visit to Messiah's tactician, and things don't go quite how she expects.
Date June 17, 2010

Carmichael Manor

To say that the Carmichael family is wealthy would be like saying the surface of the Sun is warm.

When Melissa Pierce arranged through Messiah's phone network for a meeting with the organization's tactician there was no way of telling just what she would be expecting, until the limousine actually pulled up in front of her run down house in Staten Island's Port Ivory and drove her all the way to the upper west side of Manhattan. On the way through the gate at the entrance to the Carmichael Manor, it's clear that Rupert Carmichael is where Messiah is receiving the lion's share of its funding.

Delivery to Rupert's estate ends with Melissa's door being opened from the outside by the limousine's driver, who offers a tip of his head and a genial smile to the eccentrically dressed young woman and a smile that implies he gets paid more than enough money not to mind her clothing. That there's another limo waiting out front doesn't seem unusual, up until the front door of the estate is opening and a slickly dressed businessman who is assuredly not Rupert is coming down the steps.

Easily in his late fifties, the face of Daniel Warrington Knight isn't one Melissa Pierce is likely to recognize, but the bespectacled Board Chairman of The Maxwell Corporation does offer the blonde a passing nod of his head on the way down the stairs from the manor, headed to the other awaiting limousine. It seems that Melissa isn't the only person Rupert was expecting this evening.

Up the stairs and standing in the doorway of the manor, a blonde haired woman in a crisp black suit waits with her hands folded behind her back and chin tilted up, darkly shadowed eyes halfway lidded in a lethargic looking expression, staring down to Melissa before stepping aside and motioning for her to come up the steps and into the house wordlessly.

She certainly didn't dress for this.

Most people wouldn't mind a limo showing up in front of their house to take them somewhere. Some people would even love it. Melissa, on the other hand, seems almost embarrassed and a little irritated by it. It's not the clothes, though her skirt and corset are certainly not limo material, but it's so blatant. Regardless, she climbs in and then out when the time comes, nodding to Knight when he passes by her. So far so good, yeah?

The woman who appears next has Mel's lips curving ever so slightly as she climbs up the stairs to follow, studying both the woman and the front of the house intently. No, she's certainly not dressed for this, but Mel isn't the type to really care. So it's into the manor, with her head held high, and an amused look on her face.

This meeting should certainly be interesting.

"I apologize for Rupert," the blonde woman states in a monotone voice, moving with mechanical precision as she pushes the door to the manor shut and flicks cold gray eyes up to Melissa, and then begins treading across the expansive foyer beneath the glow of a chandelier's light towards a closed pair of double doors, "he has always had a penchant for displaying his wealth flagrantly." Pulling one side of the double doors open, the immaculately dressed woman dips down into a bow and motions for Melissa to make her way into the dimly lit sitting room.

It's through this doorway that the subtle sounds of soft piano playing carries out in the glow of shaded lamps. With night having fallen outside, the few lights glowing in the warmly decorated study seem to give it a quaint and relaxed feeling. Rupert sits facing the door behind a baby grand piano, a fedora cocked jauntily atop his head and eyes shut, obscured from the shoulders down by the back of the piano.

"Rupert," the blonde calls louder — though still monotone — across the room. There's a pause of his music, bearded chin tilts up, and Rupert jostles up from his seat and reaches up to pull off his fedora and let it sit atop the piano. "Melissa, Melissa, it's excellent to see you here. Come on in, come on in. Christa, can you get me a bottle of Merlot and two glasses?"

There's a flash of a smile across Rupert's face and a bow of Christa's head as she steps back and away from the door while Rupert watches Melissa framed by it. He waves a hand, beckoning her in, and motions to one of a pair of high backed lounge chairs flanking a small round glass table with a lamp situated on it.

Melissa looks surprised, then amused at the apology from the woman, and she shrugs. "Don't worry about it. Guys are like that. If it makes 'em feel good and keeps 'em out of trouble, I don't see any point in minding," she explains.

She steps into the other room, and her lips twitch as she watches Rupert at the piano. However she expected to find him, this certainly wasn't it. "Not just good, but excellent? My, you sure know how to make a girl feel welcome," she says, moving further into the room, then settling into one of the chairs offered to her.

"Hope I'm not interrupting anything. Saw your guest leaving, and that," she says, nodding towards the piano, "but figured it was time that we met. Actually met, I mean, not just see each other. Or hear about each other," she says, the smile reforming on her lips.

"Oh, no no you're not interrupting anything at all, I'm glad you wanted to talk…" Rupert ducks his head down and offers a smile, settling into his chair and crossing one thin leg over the other, hands folding in his lap. "I like to give the members of our group time to consider talking to me on their own, let it be their choice. We have a lot of… well, people who're concerned — and rightfully so — for their own personal security…"

Grimacing playfully, Rupert's brows raise. "I don't like to use the word… paranoid, but it's out there on the table." There's some shuffling motions with his hands at that comment and the flash of a grin. "So, aside from us not having been properly introduced, what brings you up here?" On that, Rupert leans a little out of his chair and offers his hand, "Rupert Carmichael, since proper introductions lacked at our meeting."

Laughing, Melissa shakes her head. "You may not like to use the word, but paranoid is a very appropriate word. And really, why shouldn't we be? We're an illegal group intending to do illegal things for a greater good. If we don't have the right to be at least a little paranoid, I don't know who does."

Smiling, Mel leans forward to take the offered hand for a moment, before starting to lean back and relax. "As for why I asked to meet with you…There are a couple of reasons. One, I like to know the people I'm working with. Two, I really like to know the person who is apparently in charge of making the battle plans, so to speak. Three, I'm very curious about you, and the group as a whole. And four…well, I met with another member today, who suggested I talk to you. That it might help both of us. So I could be more comfortable with you, and you could learn more of my strengths and weaknesses before trying to work me into any plans you may be forming," she explains, absently picking at her skirt, getting it to lie just so, now that she's seated and comfortable.

Smiling through Melissa's explanation, Rupert bobs his head in a repeated nod and slouches back into his seat, fingers lacing together and hands laying in his lap as he regards her thoughtfully. "You know I'm very glad that Peter requested to bring you aboard, Melissa. You're every bit as sharp as he said you were, and it's the Ferrymen's loss for letting you go." With that piece of information out in the open, Rupert offers up the notion that he very much keeps up to date on current events.

"I'm not much to look at, all things considered. I used to be a financial backer for the group PARIAH, back in the day. I was sort've a silent partner, because I — like you — couldn't stand what the government was doing to our kind. I was one of the first people who found out about the tier three classification of Evolved, and that's what truly set me on this course."

Looking askance to the piano, Rupert seems to be briefly lost in thought, but even though he's no longer looking over at Melissa, he continues the conversation. "PARIAH failed, because it was destroyed from the inside out. A mole in the organization leaked sensitive information to the police, thinking that they'd arrest the members and it would be peaceful. In the end, several hundred members of our organization died, and one of our leaders committed suicide. It was tragic, and it didn't have to happen that way."

When Rupert's eyes track back to Melissa, his brows furrow together. "For a while I wasn't sure how to continue, I considered approaching Phoenix and the Ferrymen, but I didn't think our personal styles meshed well. I'm— I'm not much of an activist." There's a flash of a smile, humble, as Rupert ducks his head down.

"I tried going it on my own for a while, some of the Messiah members are holdovers from the little group I had going. But things were too dangerous, I didn't have the right people. I didn't have people like Peter and Rebel. Now…" Rupert nods a few times in silence, then spreads his hands apart. "Now I like to think that there's something we can do, together. As for who I am? Just a history professor…"

Mention of the Ferry has Melissa's smile dimming, then shrugging. "They didn't let me go. They screwed me over, big time, and I left." And clearly it's still a bit of a sore point, despite it having been a few months back. "But yeah, their loss, your gain."

"Tier three…" She shakes her head. "Tier three pisses me off big time. You get rated as tier three, and you get tossed in a cell just because of what you could do if you were the type of person to do it," she says, bitterness dripping from every word. "I think I'd fight just over that, even if I didn't have the other reasons to throw in against the government."

Her lips curve again, then, and she shakes her head. "You're no more just a history professor than I'm just the manager of a club, Rupert. No one in Messiah is just anything. Not anymore. And given that you put this little group together, you should know that better than I do," she chides lightly. "But how does a history professor end up becoming a revolutionary, and a tactician for a group like this? If I'd thought about it, I would've figured someone with military experience or something would be holding that job."

There's a brief pause, then a small nod. "The Ferry is more reactive than proactive. They're useful, and do good in their own way, but they do more damage control than stopping the damage from being done in the first place. Things would be a lot harder for a lot of evolved without them around, so while they're not a solution to the problem, I'm still happy that they're around."

"I'll be honest with you…" Rupert starts to explain before the doors to his study open and Christa steps in. There's an awkward hushing from the professor as his brows knit and his eyes avert from the young woman. As she strides in, carrying a bottle of Merlot in an ice bucket and two wine glasses, they're each set down on the table between Melissa and Rupert, then the bottle between the glasses. Her expression is a blank, listless one, eyes halfway lidded and focused on Rupert. He nods his head, approvingly, and she turns with precision and walks out of the study, turning around the draw the doors closed with a click.

The noise has Rupert's shoulders slouching and a smile trying to hide the look of guilt that was there for just a moment. "I… started this because of Christa," he finally says in the confidence of just Melissa's ears. "Years ago, Christa and my brother Jonathan were engaged to be married and… I was a jealous sort." Rupert reaches up to take the already uncorked bottle, pouring a glass of the dark red wine. "I started… flirting with Christa, we hit things off well. I…" tipping the bottle up, Rupert breathes in deeply then exhales a sigh. "I didn't know I was evolved, back then, I didn't even know what the term was. All I knew is that Christa went from being a beautiful, charming and vivacious young woman to…"

There's a look out to the doors, then back to Melissa. "I ruined her mind, unintentionally, her deteriorating mental health drove a wedge between she and Jonathan until it came clear that they were separating. After Jonathan was severely wounded in Afghanistan during the war, I took legal guardianship of Christa when it became clear she was not fit to care for herself. She… she can't do much without being told to, it's… unfortunate."

Quietly pouring the second glass, Rupert's brows furrow together. "I used to be a powerful man, influential. My ability was persuasion, the power to bend others will to my own, but it came with a price after repeated exposures. I… I thought she loved me, but in truth I was damaging her mind with every suggestion I whole-heartedly made. Jonathan never… never knew entirely."

Taking up his glass, Rupert's brows furrow. "The government got wind of what I did, but not how, and they came for me. I turned them around and found out who was signing the orders, and I turned them around too. That was the solution for people like me, lock them up and throw away the key. I couldn't stand for it. I used my ability, grew influence, power… expanded my family's fortune. I probably could have won this war by now had I not lost my ability…"

With that, as if he can somehow end the story there, Rupert takes a sip of wine from his glass.

The look on Rupert's face has Melissa watching Christa carefully, curiously, while the wine and glasses are set down, and until she's out of the room. When she looks back to the man across from her, her head tilts slightly, but luckily she's saved from answering immediately by his own explanation.

She listens, nodding slightly here and there, her face thoughtful, brow furrowed slightly. "I understand hurting her unintentionally," she says, voice soft with those words. "Did Peter tell you what my ability is?" She pauses, frowns again. "Or at least as much as he knew?" She hasn't gotten a chance to update him lately, since it's been one thing after another with them. So she switches the subject.

Mel leans forward to take her glass, sipping at it before asking, "How did you lose your ability? I know of a few others who have in the past, with different reasons for them all." Of course she wasn't going to let him end it that quick.

There's a hesitant smile on Rupert's lips behind the rim of his wine glass. "Pain Manipulation, I actually read your Moab dossier. Rebel found them for those of our members who were in the penitentiary, they had a relatively thorough explanation of your pain output. Peter… didn't quite go into detail." Sipping again at his glass, Rupert's brows furrow and he sets it down on the table, considering finally Melissa's more pointed question.

"I know rumors about who he was, the ah… the man who took my ability. It was last summer, around this time actually. He showed up at my door, just prior to midnight. I heard later that his name might've been Tyler Case. He had someone else with him, didn't get a good look, but he hit me with this… funny red bolt of lightning. Knocked me across the lobby, whacked my head pretty solidly, too."

One brow lifting, Rupert cocks his head to the side. "When I woke up, it took me a while to realize what had changed. I don't even test positive for the Suresh Linkage Complex, everything's negative. I think the only reason I'm allowed to be in Messiah is that I'm sort've an honorary Evolved now…" there's a flash of a smile from Rupert at that.

"I'm sorry I don't really know more, but if you know anything more about the man who did that to me I'd be very interested to find out where he might be. I'd like to ask him myself what he did to me…" Picking up his glass again, Rupert slouches back into his chair, bringing it to his lips and sipping again, thoughtfully.

Melissa shakes her head. "Moab only knew part of what I could do. Hell, I didn't even know all of it until a few months ago. 'Course, it's not that much good in a fight, the other part, I mean, but it's still useful." She smiles faintly. "What I can give, I can also take away. Just as temporarily. So pain manipulation still works as an explanation."

"Can't say I've heard of Tyler Case though, or at least the name doesn't ring a bell," she says, shaking her head. "Didn't know that Messiah was evolved only either. I figured it was just pro-evolved people, and it was just coincidence I'd only spoken to the evolved members so far. Makes sense though. We're better equipped to fight in a lot of ways than the non-evolved are. Not always, but often."

Another sip is taken before lips curve. "And perhaps you don't know more about who took your ability, but I can't imagine anyone knows more about Messiah than you and Peter. And what was said at the meeting is pretty much all I've heard so far, so I would like to hear more. I'm in either way, but they do say knowledge is power," she says, echoing Huruma's words of several hours ago. "And you do want all of us to be powerful little soldiers, right?" she adds, smile warming a touch.

"Smarter rather than stronger, certainly…" Rupert notes with an austere smile, wringing his hands together as he settles back into his chair, recrossing his legs. "As for what Messiah does, I think you heard the long and short of it at the meeting. We're a fist for our people who can't fight, we're willing to make the moral compromises when it becomes necessary. There's a certain element of people in the government, the kind who'd lock us all away, or the one's who'd design viruses to attack us, or the ones who would just as soon see us all lined up against a wall and shot… How do people who fight only with words expect to win them over?"

Shaking his head, Rupert rubs at his right temple with two fingers. "The Allied forces didn't fight Germany until it was a broken shell because they didn't think to try diplomacy. Diplomacy simply doesn't work against some parties. People like Howard Lemay, people like the ones in charge of the Institute. We have to be ready to bring the fight to them, before we lose any more of our own."

Furrowing his brows, Rupert shakes his head slowly and glances to the bucket that the wine bottle is sitting in. "I don't know if that makes much sense, it's the best examples I can think to give. We're going after the worst of the worst, the people who're turning this nation into a police state."

"The Institute? The Company? Other branches of the government I haven't heard of yet?" Melissa asks, though she's nodding. "Speaking of the Institute, do you have any specific plans there? Because I've been looking for information, and having it given, and I gotta say…what I've been hearing scares the shit out of me."

"I'm sure you've heard the storm, the blizzard, that it was the Institute's doing? And possibly the 510? I even heard that they're most likely the cause of all the visions that people had last week. No idea how, but…They do have an evolved who can amplify powers. Or at least the general consensus is that she's with the Institute."

Frowning, Melissa drains her glass dry, and leans forward to refill her glass, then silently offers to do the same for his, despite the fact that he's the host and she the guest. "Just going on the information that I've heard, I'd say that the Institute is one of, if not the biggest issue for us right now."

"They're our primary threat, and…" Rupert cracks a smile, "I can tell you were staring at Peter more than you were paying attention at the meeting, the Institute did create the H5N10 virus, that's one of the reasons we're going after them, after their vaccination trucks, after everything they're doing to try and systematically murder our kind. Trust me, we're working in states. By next week you'll have your first assignment, and I've given you this time to try and acclimate yourself to the group, to everyone you'll be working with. But come next week, it's pass or fail time, your life and the lives of others will be put on the line."

Shifting his weight in his chair, Rupert steeples his fingers and furrows his brows, eyes averting down to his lap for a moment. "You'll forgive me if I don't lay out the whole plan at once, part of Messiah's success comes from keeping everything on a need to know basis. That way if one member is compromised, we don't lose everything or risk moles like the Ferrymen have…"

The comment about her staring more than listening has Melissa's eyes narrowing slightly. Probably because it's partially true. No one likes hearing the truth. "Were you aware of the others? The blizzard? The visions? And no, I didn't expect you to give me the whole plan at once. Especially not know. Peter may have mentioned me to you, but it's not the same as meeting someone. You've no more reason to trust me than anyone else."

Her head tilts back against the chair and she studies him for a long moment. "You ever heard of the Shanti virus?"

"Strike two," Rupert playfully notes, "I mentioned Shanti at the meeting too, maybe I should start putting together… cliff notes?" His brows come up and a laugh croaks at the back of his throat as he waves a hand dismissively. "We know that the Shanti Virus was a base for the engineered H5N10 virus, yes. That's how the H5N10 has its very specific properties. As for the blizzard and the visions? Well, we're still working out the latter… I've heard rumors, but no proof. Peter told me about his friend Gillian, and… I would very much like to have Messiah help rescue her."

Shifting his weight in his seat to the other side, Rupert recrosses his legs again. "Gillian's a very strong person, and she could be a great deal of help to us. Beyond that, I can't sit idly by and just allow someone to be held captive… as soon as we figure out where she is, you can be sure that we'll be right there rescuing her."

Melissa rolls her eyes. "I listened," she mutters. "And I'm not talking about Gillian right now. I'm talking about those holding her. The Shanti doesn't look like the 510 from what I've been told, but the Shanti virus is likely what killed Dr. Luis's daughter. He then took two children, Julie and Liette, and claimed them as his children. Children who can take abilities from others. Multiple abilities all at once, for months at a time."

She leans forward, putting her glass down and resting her arms on her knees. "And it gets worse. The Suresh Center, or maybe just Mohinder Suresh, may be working with Dr. Luis for the Company. And with the Department of Defense." A pause. "I guess I am talking about Gillian. Because it couldn't hurt to start looking in places Suresh might be, in order to find Luis and those the Institute has taken. Or to at least have Rebel start looking for links between them. We might find something that leads right to them."

There's a mild smile that Rupert affords Melissa, leaning forward in his chair with his fingers laced together. "Well, I'll certainly keep an eye out. It's unfortunate that we didn't get the chance to talk to Liette, and now that so much time has passed the intelligence she has is likely out of date too… we could've saved a lot of lives, but that's how it is in the line of work we're in. We win some," Rupert's hands spread apart slowly, "and we lose some."

Reclining back in his chair, Rupert offers an askance look to the clock on the bookshelf behind the chairs and hisses under his breath, slowly rising up to his feet. "I unfortunately have a 7am breakfast with the Dean of Admissions at Columbia, which means it's time for this little historian to… turn in."

Flashing a smile, Rupert looks down to Melissa, then over to the double doors. "If you'd like to stay for the evening I'd be more than welcome to put you up for the night, or I can have Olsen drive you back home. Whichever you'd prefer."

"Unfortunately she didn't know where home was, even when I talked to her. But yes, I imagine she could've given us some information," Melissa agrees, rising to her feet. "And while the offer is nice, I think I'll go home." She smiles. "But before I go, I should let you know…I'm gonna be keeping an eye out too. You see, I work at the Suresh Center part-time now." And isn't that handy?

"Be careful…" is Rupert's gently worded warning as he steps over to Melissa, offering her a concerned furrow of his brows and a dopey half-smile. "I'd hate to see something unfortunate happen to you, because I think there's great things for you in the future with us…" and with that, Rupert leans in and gently rests his hands on Melissa's shoulders, doing that trendy Euro air-kissing at either side of her cheeks, though he lingers at the right side of her head for too long, long enough to whisper something to her.

It sounds like a whisper, a sibilant hiss that slithers from Rupert's mouth like the noise of a snake in quality, but Melissa doesn't even so much as notice it. The brief words he whispers to her might as well have never happened, and the two minutes she spends in his trance seem to pass in the blink of an eye to her, but the insidious nature of Rupert Carmichael's ability has, by then, already implanted a seed of something in the back of her mind.

Leaning back, Rupert's smile and a squeeze of her shoulders snaps her out of the hypnotic trance, and a pat to one shoulder comes with a nod of his head to the doors. "Come on then, I'll have the car pulled around and we'll get you home safe and sound…"

"…I'm really glad you came."

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