Exodus 21.23-24


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Scene Title Exodus 21.23-24
Synopsis Eileen Ruskin of the network's organizational council calls a meeting to address the Ferrymen's Special Activities division regarding possible retaliatory measures against the U.S. government.
Date April 8, 2011

Pollepel Island: Bannerman's Castle

The sky is still dark when the door to the room chosen as the meeting place swings shut not with a bang but an unassuming click. A solitary gas lantern placed at the center of a long, heavy wooden table that takes up most of the floorspace provides the room with the light that the sun's ambient silver glow cannot as it begins to peak through the trees, visible in the warped glass window as a halo of white obscured by the early morning fog.

There are chairs for those who prefer to sit around the table rather than stand, but not enough to accommodate the number of people packed inside — a good dozen and a half or more, though it's difficult to get an accurate headcount when the room is so small and there's so little variation in colour when it comes to the drab shades most of the Ferrymen living on Pollepel Island have adapted to wearing. Gray, camel and navy blue all appear as versions of the same colour in the room's dim, flickering light, which illuminates the faces closest to its source but wildly exaggerates the features of those who are further away, including the young woman standing at the head of the table with pale eyes gleaming with unsettling intensity in spite of the shadows carved out under them.

A map of the greater New York area has been spread out across the table and marked up in red and black ink. Those with knowledge of the network's patrol routes, both before and after the ambush that brought sickness and death to Bannerman Castle's front door, will recognize the paths weaving through the surrounding forest and the landscape's towering ridges. Red dots indicate areas of conflict: the site of the ambush and hanging, Breakneck Road, and the bridge where Special Activities took on a train and came away with enough vaccine to save the lives of almost everyone on the island not yet sick.

"You heard me when I called for restructure," Eileen says once the door is closed and she can be sure that her voice, quiet and hard though it is, will not be leaking out into the corridor for anyone who passes by to hear. "I ask only that you hear me again now, and decide whether or not you want to extend your trust after I've said what there is to say.

"Pollepel Island will fall if we do not change how we approach the position the military has put us in. Eventually, Colonel Heller will find us, and when he does, Bannerman will burn along with everyone inside it. Fortunately, we've another option." The tip of one finger skims across the map, following the curve of the river fifty miles downstream. It stops at Staten Island, and she punctuates her meaning with a rap of her nail against the paper. "Last week, Special Activities destroyed the fuel station at Miller Airfield. While it's being rebuilt, we have a window of opportunity to draw Heller's focus away from Pollepel and place it squarely at his front door."

She motions to a southern section of the island blocked off in a black-and-red grid pattern. "This is the Eltingville resettlement project. It's bordered by rail to the north, parkland to the southwest, military barracks to the east, and the ocean to the south. If we can disrupt military traffic between Miller Airfield and other parts of the island not inside the Reclaimed Zone, there's a good chance that the Department of Evolved Affairs will order him to withdraw troops from the north and place them around Eltingville, but it's only going to work if we can convince both Praeger and Heller that our presence on Staten Island poses a direct threat to the DoEA's work without claiming responsibility by name.

"A diversionary measure."

Seated quiet and perhaps not intending to talk, Benji might well be the odd man out in those that have come to discuss the proposal being laid out for them all. But his ears are keen and gaze sharp, even if he's stolen away a chair to nestle it towards the corner of the room, seated more like observor than participant. At this hour, the air is cold, his clothing reflecting defense against it. His feet are shoved into pragmatic boots, the hems of denim disappearing inside of it, and draped over dark jeans is grey wool in spreading pleats, a kilt-like skirt or a skirt-like kilt of some description belted around skinny waist. Black wool for a sweater, the sleeves long and up to his knuckles, and he gnaws front teeth against the edge of a thumb nail as he listens.

He's been watching the door, until it was shut, judging who was entering through it, and now, he mostly watches the ground as he listens, lacking the visual vantage that people seated closer to the table or otherwise standing might have.

Neither late nor early, seeing no value in not filing in with the rest of the crowd, Francois opts to stand — mostly because the movement of standing and sitting is one he lacks desire for. Leather pulled over sweater, navy denim, scuffed boots, he doesn't stand apart from the people crowded into the room that will soon start to smell of them. Having been among those that knock over vaccine transportations and failed rescue missions, he is probably not a shocking addition, with his older scars in the form of missing piece of ear and neck scratches, and more recent bruises still marring dark on his face.

He opts not to speak this time either, but he does step closer to view the map for himself. "Is there any Ferry presence on the island still?" he asks. Tactics, rather than questioning the worth of the meeting and the things she's said in it so far.

Like Fracois, Jensen Raith is standing and poised over the map and table, sunglasses on and cigar in hand. This is probably the closest thing to a war room he's had the privilege of occupying since he left the Vanguard. And just as he's in a war room, he's ready for war.

"Just a small presence," the ex-spy says in response to the Frenchman's question. "There was a safe house there, operated by Sable Diego and Colette Nichols after November eighth. Alert condition went up, so it was abandoned. Diego's living in Eltingville with Delilah Trafford at the moment. No one's heard from Nichols for some time, so while it's safe to occupy again, it doesn't have an operator right now. Small stumbling block.

"Council member David McRae is supposed to be on Staten as well, with some of his people, but they've been hard to get in contact with. Odds are they're either at the house they were operating prior to November eighth, or they've moved to a new one. Intel hasn't been able to confirm yet."

Normally Rue Lancaster would stand out in a Spider-Man hoodie of bright red and a mess of red curls in a dissimilar shade, still having a supply of her own wardrobe brought over from her home in New York. And while today comic heroes are still the theme, it's a black sweatshirt with the faded and grey skull image synonymous with The Punisher emblemised across her chest. And her hair is just as inky, if with a shine that has yet to fade, being still fresh from the mainland.

She stands, not because she doesn't particularly want to sit. She does. Rue spent too much time last night in pointe shoes, like a fool. But there are others who didn't bring their aches and pains on themselves who deserve those spots more than she. And with her height of six feet in her sloppily laced boots, she can afford to stand on the outskirts where she can still keep a view. She stands where she can see Raith's face, admiration clear in her features. Mister Raith is very cool — for a soldier.

"Delia Ryans is living on Staten Island, too," Rue supplies quietly, unsure if it's truly relevant to the matter at hand. She knows they aren't supposed to talk network business with her now, but the young woman clearly doesn't think this excludes Delia from their Ferry family. Her tongue darts past her lips and she speaks up again, this time with more confidence in both her expression and her tone. "Ms Spurling… How do you mean? We want them to suspect its us without directly saying it's us?"

Normally, when Barbara Zimmerman attends meeting amongst the Ferry, she chooses to sit among her peers. But this time, she stands a bit off to the side, gaze angled down at the map that lies across the table. She's somewhat lost in thought, a hand rubbing at her chin as she looks around the room, eyes moving from person to person, listening to each word she hears, thinking on it as she considers. She is alrgely willing to remain quiet, listen, assess, before she concretes her thoughts and makes them known.

But that doesn't mean she's not going tochime in where she feels it appropriate. Nodding at Rue, she turns her gaze back ahead. "Delia Ryans is living with staying with someone, while not directly affiliated with the Ferry has proven an ally in the past, for the moment. I believe this and her relocation were the reasons why her access to Ferry information were, for the time being, limited." That's all she can think of, as far as additional information for that Arms cross, fingers curl into her sweatshirt.

She also doesn't mind speaking her mind on one thing as she looks to Eileen with a bit of a frown - a question that has been on hers and other's minds. "My first question, Eileen, is where the resources for these measures would come from. We're spread thin, and while I understand the need to do something, are we prepared for something like this?" She's careful whens he speaks - she has no intention of being confrontational or overtly disagreeable. She's mostly trying to get all the facts she can.

You're as much a part of them as much as they are a part of you- a simple little string of words that means more to Huruma as time passes; it could be assumed she'd be here from the start, not a terribly farfetched idea. She was, of course, pinning herself into one of the seats at the back and waiting patiently with hands folded on her knee for the room to fill. Even after it does, the dark woman sits in silence to listen to Eileen start. Her eyes are roaming around over the maps, however, seemingly distracted from the others.

"I'ave run some things on Staten…" Clearly not as many as she could have, judging by her vague tone in between people taking turns to speak. Huruma lifts her eyes up to the other women that mention Delia and her situation. It puts a small frown on her lips that doesn't quite reach onto her cheeks. "She is right-" Pale eyes flick over to Barbara, and though there is still some dissonance about the twin to Sanders- well- beggars can't be choosers. "-a small army is one thing, flattening our hood out is another."

The corner of Eileen's mouth hooks up around a cynical sort of half-smile at Barbara's question, though it's Rue she opts to address first. "I don't think it's in the network's best interest to frame its activities as a public statement," she says. "That was Messiah's philosophy, and Pariah's before that. We don't want to be loud — we want to be quick and efficient. Right now, our goal is not to raise awareness.

"It's survival." The subject of what resources the Ferry has available is not quite as straightforward; the Englishwoman's lashes eclipse the gray of her irises as Huruma speaks and she lifts her chin, exposing the petite wood thrush perched at her collar, one delicately-boned wing fanned out. "I'm not suggesting that we engage in a full-scale assault on the area surrounding Miller Airfield. Guerilla tactics, rather — we have an advantage in that we know the greenbelt and the neighborhoods north of the Reclaimed Zone better than Heller does. There are bridges and roads that can be destroyed, supply lines we can sabotage, patrols to ambush. There are resources enough for that.

"Let us be an apparition."

One of those standing is Benjamin Ryans, silent as stone and equally still with arms crossed over his chest, as he listens to the questions and answers. His head is tilted down as he listens, hair brushing along his forehead, eyes on the floor.

"Small strikes, rather then something big like transport ambush. Quick in and out. Definitely our best bet. So far everything I had seen were big operations. Time to switch it up." His voices is loud in the room even though he speaks softly, agreeing. "We will most likely be pointed at either way, but as long as we don't leave a calling card or take credit…" They can't prove anything. "They might end up looking at it as small resistences, rather than one big group."

"Too close quarters for fire…" Huruma half-remarks to herself, as if reminiscing about something else entirely. It passes, and she quiets again, watching the small bird at Eileen's neck before she does the same for the girl. The older woman shifts, rolling her shoulder and growing that cat-in-the-cream look that she wears so well. "You know I am good for guerilla tactics." Her voice is somewhere near teasing, though not quite- it turns into a mock sternness. "I was raised on them."

Most of them, in some form or another, know it from offhand experience. Huruma does somber up though, in time to finish smoothly. "I was an apparition b'fore some of you were born." She can do it. Maybe teach a thing or two for those currently lacking the skills. "What timeframe are you courting…? Tomorrow? Weeks from now?"

"They're looking for us right now," Raith begins in response to Huruma's inquiry. He pauses to draw from his cigar, but continues after a few moments. "The longer they look, the more likely they are to find us. We'd be looking to move within the next couple weeks, the exact time depending on how long it takes to conduct recon, pick targets and assemble personnel and resources." There is a brief pause- likely, as always, for effect- before the ex-spy adds more. "This is a high-risk assignment. We can't rush into it."

Rue nods to Eileen's response, meeting her gaze even if it's an unseeing one. "Is there something those of us with less combata-" She hesitates on the word, tripping over the T's. Colour flushes in her cheeks. She'd been trying so hard to make sure she's taken seriously here. "Less combat-heavy backgrounds," she rewords, "could be doing to help? I mean, I can drop a backpack chock full of explosives off somewhere as well as the next person, sure. And I know my way around a rifle, but I'm used to shooting pheasants and ducks. I'm not sure how well I do against things that shoot back."

She looks flustered again for a moment, realising she's just highlighted some key reasons why she shouldn't be included in these sorts of things. "But I want to help," Rue insists. "If the meeting we had about securing those vaccines was any indication, people willing to stick their necks out for the network is a limited resource here, right?" A look is cast then to Barbara. Resources. An attempt to tie the subjects together neatly. "I'll work on my target practise, but if there's a way I can be helpful through subtlety," and at that, she can't quite keep herself from glancing to Raith before flitting her eyes between Barbara and Eileen again, "that's maybe where some of us could be stronger assets."

A look is angled towards Ryans, giving a nod of acknowledgement. "While I am more open to the idea idea of smaller strikes, that is my chief concern, and the concern of others not present," Barbara replies in a voice loud enough to carry through the room as she stands straight, taking as much of a step forward as she can, given the cramped space.

"Chances are, with the lack of activity from Messiah, we'll get the finger pointed at us. And even if we don't… the worry of starting a pushing contest with the likes of Heller, among everyone else, is something that doesn't exactly… sit well." Barbara shakes her head again, looking down at the map. "Small strikes might work better. But while it distracts them away from us here, it has a chance of making things harder for everyone else." A sympathetic look is offered to Eileen, then over to Ryans and Raith. "It's a tough line to walk, and I know I may not be the best one to speak on matters such as this," she remarks with a hand motioning towards the map. "But I want to make sure we're thinking everything through before we move forward with this." There's a distinct undertone that, maybe she doens't entirely agree with this plan of action, but has nothing to offer up as an alternative.

The map has been regarded once, care taken to cover all portions of it and relevant data marked thereon. Ears have taken in the various speakers and their positions, the questions and answers, without Cat having elected to give commentary, until now. "Elisabeth Harrison has been publicly exposed," she states, "and with that, likelihood is Colonel Heller will be named her successor in general command of Frontline in New York. His resources will expand."

She takes a brief pause, no more than a few beats duration.

"With that expansion, our need to keep him busy and looking in the wrong direction becomes more urgent." While speaking, her eyes come to settle upon the dark-haired one offering her assistance. "We've all been in the position of inexperience at one time, everyone starts from the same place in such affairs. And we do have means to get in and out quickly, doing such things as planting surveillance devices."

"There are many jobs," Francois says, and his focus is both for the room, but intended for Rue and in response to her words, "in tasks like these. Intelligence scouts on the ground, not just in the air," and a head tip towards Eileen to indicate and acknowledge what he means. "Message carriers, perhaps, for those Ferry still out there. I think, if are to engage in these tactics, we must know exactly where McRae stands and what his situation is. Other things, such as refugee homes and hide outs around the area, outside of the Reclaimed Zone. These are the spaces that the military will look at."

His arms fold, a slow and careful settling of posture, and he glances up and back at the crowded room, then towards Barbara. "That is part of the 'everything' you speak of, I feel. And as for resources, I would encourage us to strike now while we still have them. We have a burial ground devoted to the resources that keep being taken from us by the government."

Murmurs in the group is what pricks Benji's ears, where he sits quiet and watchful in the corner. These meetings can break into fights, and the young man seems interested in picking out the divisions in the room. He laces his hands together on a knee, and remains silent.

The small figure of Nora Rosenthal has also been a quiet one, but she raises a hand and waits for eyes to fall on her before speaking. "Along those lines of looking in the wrong direction," she says, dark eyes moving to nod toward Cat, " aside from the actual hits and attacks, I can deliberately throw some radio signals to make it look like Ferry's in that area — number stations kinda things, you know? Code, so it looks legit," she suggests. "And of course screw with their signals when we are attacking so they can't communicate or so they hear the wrong things."

She glances back to Rue, before looking to Raith and Ryans. "And I can shoot at — and hit — something that shoots back, so count me in on anything more offensive, for sure," the teen says, eyes sparkling just a little, before thinking to add, "I'm 18 now, so you don't have to worry about using me for child labor or anything." There's a slight smirk but a lift of her chin to show Nora is also altogether serious.

Blue eyes lift from scrutiny of the map, to the red headed council woman. There are no emotions showing, his voice continues calm and quiet, even if it carried. "Things are already spiraling down the toilet. I don't think the strikes will change much more." Ryans glances at the others. "But keeping our heads down hasn't worked, the more things happen around here," his finger points to the map and everything that's happened near it, "the more they will notice.

"For the sake of the network, we need to get this man looking elsewhere." And the network is important. Ryans shakes his head, folding arms again and sighing. "I just don't see another way, without abandoning this island when we start noticing them closing in and… that's simply not an option." It's the best defense they have.

"Benjamin's right, mostly," Raith says plainly, although he sees fit to expand on what he means a bit. "Even if we notice them closing in, abandoning the island's not an option. We've got too many damn people to move quickly, and no place to move them to. We lose Pollepel and we lose." Another draw from his cigar. Could use a little whiskey. "Game over."

Rue pulls the uneven teardrop of her lower lip in between her teeth, chewing at it thoughtfully for the space of several moments. "So there's no other choice then," she surmises on the heels of Ryans' assessment and Raith's agreement. "We fight them, and distract them, or they're going to find us, and we're going to die." Perhaps stated a touch dramatically, but anybody who's come to know Rue should by now realise that that's just sort of her thing.

Barbara's expression is nonplussed as she looks between the other eyes in the rooms. Her arms cross again, and she exhales slowly, closing her eyes. "It's no secret that I'm not fond of this, but you're right. We need to keep this place as safe and isolated as possible. As long as small, distracting strikes to draw attention don't turn into anger and retaliation that's only going to draw eyes on us more, then I'll set my objections aside." She turns, looking to Nora. "The radio signals are good idea. But I think direct links to the Ferry are unwise. If you can make them seem like random chatter… random groups chattering, that may be better. If worse comes to worse, we could use that to convince them there's something like… I don't know. An Evolved take on Humanis First running around out there."

"Ryans and Raith will prepare a plan of attack based on the resources that Special Activities has available with the assistance of Allegre and Huruma," Eileen says when no one speaks up in the long, uncomfortable moments of silence that elapse after Barbara has spoken. Retaliation is the sole reason that many of the men in the room came here, though none of them are willing to admit it in her presence. There are whispers — Eileen continues above them.

"Their experience in the field is invaluable to this division." She looks to the two co-heads, and so does her bird, its black eyes like obsidian. "You have one week, gentlemen.

"Then you bring it before the council."

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