Knowledge And Power


joseph_icon.gif f_niles_icon.gif

Scene Title Knowledge and Power
Synopsis Niles comes to discuss the dangers of both with a man who disagrees. For a while.
Date May 5, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

It wasn't very hard to find 'the church with the pastor who tells the future.' It wouldn't have taken much time, even if Aria hadn't told Niles the name of the church itself. This prophecy has made a mess of them ruining the future. And it seems appropriate that he's come to a church to make sense of the direction things are trying to take.

Lots of men find religion in prison. He was one of them. But in the space of two years, he was born again and then died out of the faith. Religion didn't stick. The only thing that stuck was incarceration. Until now.

He's dressed in a simple white dress shirt with dark blue jeans and the same three quarter length jacket he wore to the theatre. There's a faint halo of cold cigarette smoke around him. He's seated in the very front, not far from the altar, body bent, elbows on knees. He turns a coin around in his fingers as he stares up at the cross.

For some, it yields answers. For many people, it's two pieces of wood nailed together. It doesn't have Joseph's attention when he enters the worship hall, emerging from somewhere towards the more shadowy back and his foot steps possibly falling too soft on carpet to be detected by those deep in thought. His has a book in his hand - not the Book, the pastor's well aware of other reading material, thankyouverymuch - and glasses on his face, and these he peers over when the hunched figure of the man towards the front gets more than just his fleeting attention.

He thumbs a page corner to fold to mark his place, and starts his way up the aisle, free hand resting in the pocket of beige, pleated slacks, his own white dress shirt tucked into the waist and buttoned high, the sleeves rolled up a few inches below the elbow, wrist bearing a simple brown-strapped watch. A wedding ring wraps around the appropriate finger that clasps the paperback in tandem with the others, and by now, foot falls come clear.

"I used to think that if I stared hard enough, the answers would come eventually."

The words are quietly, almost unobtrusive, as if expecting to go ignored - at the will of the younger man, anyway. Joseph pauses a couple of rows behind him. "I wouldn't say I was wrong in that either. Not necessarily."

Niles's head twitches like an attentive cat's at the sound of footsteps. He cocks his head, registers the shape of Joseph outside of his peripheral vision. He sits up and turns his body partway towards the other man.

"Answers don't come by waiting for them and staring at a spot on the wall. We have to go out and make our own change. Isn't that how it goes? Helping those who help themselves?" He turns fully now, arm hooking over the back of the pew.

"Isn't that why God would give a pastor visions? So that people can affect their own change?" His eyebrows arch, his head tilts as he searches the face of the other man.

Joseph's hand comes up to adjust his reading glasses a little, mouth hooking into a half-smile and eyebrows going up. "Well. I wouldn't dismiss the power of prayer either. Everyone needs some guidance from time to time." A few more steps carry him further forward, although he doesn't invite himself to sit, just rests his free hand casually on the corner of the pew's back, fingers curling over it. "But you're absolutely right. Life happens outside the church, on your own two feet. I'm a fan've people making their own fates," he adds, with a fuller smile.

Niles can't quite stop a full smile from appearing at Joseph's words. Or in his case, re-making their own fates. "I heard you've got some unique ideas about the Evolved and their place in the…" he waves a hand towards the altar, "…grand plan. That is, if you are the man that I've heard about. The man with the visions."

He cocks his head and rubs a hand over the stubble of his jaw. "It's all very interesting. Many religious men I've met seem to consider the abilities to be a grave threat, or a trial that people must pass through. Or a temptation, like the apple in the garden."

Joseph nods once, a jerky sort of birdlike motion, hand up to rid himself of reading glasses now that he's been hooked into conversation— or the other way around— and his trek to go make tea and read some more has been diverted.

"My name's Pastor Sumter," he confirms. "I'm not sure how unique my views are— more uncommon, I guess." And he takes a seat on the pew, a polite distance away, letting an arm hook back and rest on it, a glance towards the cross and then back to the stranger. "I believe 'em to be gifts. The nature of what I can do— well, I give visions to others more'n get them myself, not sure if I could if I wanted to— don't feel like any kind of punishment to me. I think we have 'em for a reason, just like any other talent." His smile thins a little, and he adds, "Which is a trial in its own way. Most things are."

"A trial implies some kind of fairness." Like the one Niles didn't get before he was uncerimoniously locked away. "And you must admit that some abilities seem to stack the deck against the people who have found themselves with them. Some abilities corrupt the mind, change personalities, cause one to lose oneself. How can you go through a trial if you are no longer the person you used to be? Who is the one who is being challenged? The altered person, or the one who no longer exists?"

He looks away from Joseph and tugs gently at the joints of his fingers. They pop. "It's a question I've struggled with. That and the nature of the movement of time. If life is predetermined, then what part do prophecies play? To cause or avoid certain outcomes?"

Joseph is already shaking his head, with that same smile as if it were a kind of impenetrable armor. In a way, it is. "See, that's the kind of thinking that get's everyone so scared of people like me. Us. Abilities are dangerous, sure, some've 'em are. Hands can be dangerous. Guns, knives. Bombs. Certain kinds of thinking. It's not what you wield, it's how, and that makes the difference. It's down to the person, what they choose to do with it. That's the only danger I see. Never heard of a gift— changin' someone. It's up to them if they wanna be changed, don't you think?"

There's friendly conviction in his voice, but then again, this is all new to him too. He's never met someone like Niles before. But a teacher, a leader, has to be certain. His gaze shifts to the front of the church. "As for time… time isn't godly. It's ours, and ours alone, and what we make of the future shifts according to what we do in the present. Little thing called free will. That don't mean it's not God's plan all the same.

"Prophecies— I've heard 'em be called road signs, and it's not a bad idea. Shows you what's to come, where you'll be headed, and what to do with the time given to you."

"If not the person, then an ability can easily change the course of one's life. Send you down roads you never would have gone otherwise. Dangerous, terrible roads. Roads to corruption." A beat, "Do you believe that some of us are marked for it, meant to be the darker forces to balance out the world? To offer the pious and the good at heart the opportunity to overcome darkness? Light and dark cannot exist separately."

Niles isn't looking at that armoured smile. Instead he's staring forward, towards the front of the church, eys unfocused. "Do you accept responsibility for the effects your prophecies have on the people you give them to?"

Smile falters, but mostly out of uncertainty. There's some silence, and Joseph says, "Lots of things change the course of a person's life, my friend. Abilities can be one of 'em. Sometimes it's a test, somethin' to— to make you stronger, or help you. I— " Damnit, stammering. Conversations in the church are usually so linear.

He studies the man's profile. "I don't see 'em as my visions. I see 'em as a way for others to see God's will, and people're entitled to that without my judgment interferin'. And no. People aren't— marked for it. I believe in free will, and that we're all God's children." A pause, and his next words come out a little slower, as if trying to appeal to the other man. "Even when we've done bad things."

"Perhaps the God and the Devil are the same. And that what you say is true. But some of us are born to be the dark to balance the light." Niles cants his head in such a way that he can see Joseph without turning his head fully to face him.

"Do you take responsibility for what might come of your willingness to give others visions, Pastor? Or do you feel you are merely an agent, and that your free will does not exist in this matter?"

There's a slight huff of a breath from Joseph in mild disbelief, but whatever argument he could stammer out doesn't come, as to these concepts of light and dark, although there's something like sympathy in dark eyes. Sympathy that frosts over as Niles makes his pointed, carefully constructed question. Semantics, debates - Joseph has spent enough time in academia to know it when he hears it, the constricting coil of words to stifle, to squeeze truth or at least the appropriate answers.

And it's not bad. His chin lifts a little, glancing towards the front of the church if only because Niles is. "Put it that way, then— they're my actions. And I take responsibility for 'em when necessary."

There's a slight huff of a breath from Joseph in mild disbelief, but whatever argument he could stammer out doesn't come, as to these concepts of light and dark, although there's something like sympathy in dark eyes. Sympathy that frosts over as Niles makes his pointed, carefully constructed question. Semantics, debates - Joseph has spent enough time in academia to know it when he hears it, the constricting coil of words to stifle, to squeeze truth or at least the appropriate answers.

And it's not bad. His chin lifts a little, glancing towards the front of the church if only because Niles is. "Put it that way, then— they're my actions. And I take responsibility for 'em when necessary."

"What if I told you that one of your visions has injured me, has altered my path? Would you apologise? Would you re-think who you give these visions to? Or would you continue to blindly believe that God wants you to use that gift of yours?" Niles' eyes are dark, hooded. There's some simmering anger there, something beyond the polite veneer of a well dressed man with a watered down British accent.

"Your power is a great one, sir." His voice drops to dangerous tones. "…with the power to change the current of time itself. To distribute these visions unthinkingly is to be an agent of chaos. You give advice you do not understand, nor see. And people will die as a result of your visions."

His back has gone rigid throughout Niles' spiel, opening his mouth to interrupt but words never quite making it, eyes narrowing. There's the slightest flinch at this last statement, Joseph starting to shake his head in denial. "My power," he starts, slowly, as if to stop himself from stammering, "gives people the choice to act on what they see. I'm sorry that someone's made the wrong choices and— hurt you. I truly am. But I couldn't possibly— "

And Joseph's mouth forms a line, regret of some description obvious, but offense more so. Underneath the sheer amount of flustered. "You're— you're makin' some pretty bold accusations. And if I'm givin' advice that I don't see or understand, there'll be a special spot for me in hell."

Niles cants his head. He folds down the collar of his jacket, then tugs up the side of his shirt. Bandages. Ones that need to be changed and that seep with blood. The spots are dark red and the job of bandaging is amateur.

"It's easy to continue what you're doing and assume that you'll be punished if you were wrong, at some mystical point in the afterlife. But then, so much about belief is about what's easy. It's about pushing responsibility away from the self and claiming it was all in the plan of a higher deity. Meanwhile people on Earth are suffering because of your faith."

He lets go of the edge of the shirt. "So do you blame God for my injuries, or do you accept your part in it?"

That bristling indignance breaks down a little at the sight of the bandages so messily applied, eyes widening as his gaze narrows in on the blossoms of red. Some part of him holds true to his argument, but there's not much you can say to a bleeding man. Joseph's body jerks as if he were about to get up, but thinks better of it, posed stiffly on the pew, a hand gripping the back of it tensely, as he's wont to do. Enough so his knuckles are white.

The man is insulting faith, beliefs, and calling into question Joseph's actions, but he's the one who's hurt. Pride wilts, and Joseph's gaze finds the floor when the bandages are hidden again. "Well— yes, I— couldn't know— " he stammers out, quits while he's ahead. His jaw sets.

Then, Joseph nods, and quietly, reluctantly admits, "I gave a vision to a stranger, without knowin' what they might do with that knowledge. That's my part in it."

Niles stands now, though it's clear as he does that he's in some pain. A hand clutches at his side. "I suggest you think before you give someone another vision, Pastor. Carefully consider where your actions might lead and who they might hurt. Human beings are fallable. We read into visions what we want. There is a reason that God does not give us bold signs. Humans often misinterpret them."

He tries to straighten himself, to hold some form of dignity. "I would reconsider whether what you can do is truly from God, Pastor. A little knowledge is a dangerous, dangerous thing in the hands of us mere mortals."

Chin up, body as straight as he can make it, the man from the future starts down the aisle, towards the towering exit of the church.

Joseph almost lets him go. There's nothing there he can simply clap his hands over his ears to and pretend were never said. He doesn't look at Niles as the man passes him by upon his destination towards the aisle, save for a fleeting glance to notice the cautious way the man carries him. Joseph's fingernails unconsciously dig into the grooves of the pew, until he finally can't help but twist his body enough to direct something towards the retreating figure of the Englishman.

"People're dangerous," he says, voice echoing when he raises it for the man's ears. He finally gets to his feet, but doesn't follow. His expression is rueful, brow furrowed into concern, even as he makes his point. "An' what they choose to do with that knowledge is dangerous."

Joseph takes a breath, let's it out. "But ignorance is worse still." Quieter, he adds, "I'm sorry. About what happened to you."

Niles had intended to punish this man, to take him out. But he doesn't know much about the vision, and he doesn't know anything else about the time travelers. The damage Joseph has done cannot be undone by harming him. It would only make him a martyr and send more cops on his trail.

So he'll settle for making the man question his beliefs.

He stops partway down the aisle and looks at Joseph over his shoulder. "Ignorance of the future is a defining trait of humanity, Pastor. To meddle in that is to meddle in dark things."

Then he continues his pained, but purposeful walk towards the exit.

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