Peaceful Change


savannah_icon.gif ygraine2_icon.gif

Scene Title Peaceful Change
Synopsis A chance encounter leads to some surprising results
Date March 10 2011

Castle's Books and Erica's Coffee Shop

Castle's is just one among the array of second-hand and antiquarian book-sellers in the city, but it's one that that long since met with Ygraine FitzRoy's approval as a result of the collection of antique prints of old fortifications with which the owner has decorated the few bare patches of wall between and above the shelves. Prominent among them is a fine one of Edinburgh Castle, and the widely-travelled cyclist has visited a few of the others.

Today, however, Ygraine dropped in to do more than share tales of journeys made in her former life - and after a short discussion, she's engaged in carefully putting up a poster on Castle's notice board. Along with the adverts for local bands, the shop's book club, freelance editors, and creative writing classes, a starkly simple image is being added: a line drawing, simple but instantly recognisable, of Lady Liberty. But rather than standing proudly aloft, the torch hangs down by one side, and she gazes down at her tablet of stone, her expression sorrowfully pensive. Beneath the image, the script simply states LIBERTY.NET

The process of putting it up is, however, taking longer than might normally be expected. The woman doing so has a decidedly Gothic or Romantic style to her: black hair, the lowest portion dyed a brilliant blue, flows over her back and on past her waist, while her pale features are highlighted by slight touches of eyeliner and dark red lipstick. She is clad in what might be considered suitable garb for a highwayman or gentleman pirate - over-the-knee leather boots, tight breeches, an elaborate waistcoat (cut to show off a generous figure), a fancy shirt, and accoutrements including leather gloves and a silk cravat. But with all the finery, a very sturdy-looking sling immobilises one arm, leaving the Gothically-clad woman engaged in the careful process of putting up the poster one-handed. Her expression, as might be expected, is one of rather intense concentration and determination.

Bibliophiles are drawn to places like this. Savannah's incredibly fond of books, but today, in particular, she's decided to purchase one for her nearest and dearest. Really, it's just as much a gift to her watching him read from the old hardcovered books with the yellowed pages with that decidedly distinct smell. As the blonde makes her way inside, she almost doesn't notice the highwaywoman and her flyer, as her gaze is transfixed on a beautiful red-covered copy of Wuthering Heights. Would Kam enjoy some Bronte, perhaps, or would he rather Dickens?

Her gaze shifts, however, just enough and the figure comes into view and causes the author to stop in her tracks. She peers at Ygraine for a long moment in silence before she clears her throat. "Please tell me you're a real person, for as delightful as it would be to have characters from books come to life right here in front of me, I should like to know I've still got a grasp on my sanity."

It actually takes a moment or two for Ygraine's mind - busy as it is with the mechanics of getting this ruddy bit of paper up without taking the easy option and just cheating with her ability - to process those words and then to register that they're directed at her. Then she looks around, flashing the stranger a swift and somewhat sheepish smile.

"If I am not real", she responds, her voice crisply British and educated, "then I fear that I shall have to have exceedingly stern words with my author. My life has been rather excessively full of interest, and I would like to suggest a few changes in plot-emphasis."

"Oh, dear. I suppose I am glad you're not one of mine then. I don't feel like having a tongue wagging simply because a muse came and whispered in my ear," Savannah seems relieved, leaning against a bookcase, once she's certain it's not the type to fall with a slight shift of her weight. "Were I your author, then, I would wish you a blissfully boring lifetime."

Ygraine laughs again, glancing down at herself, then back up at Savannah. "While I would doubtless have been a good deal more normal had my life been less interesting, I would still have hoped to avoid boredom", she says with a grin.

A moment's dithering, then she concludes that she really isn't going to free up her hand any time soon like this - and she simply pushes the poster flat against the board, where it settles smoothly as if lying on the ground. Two pins are put into place, then Ygraine turns away and offers the stranger another smile, this one apologetic. "Minor though my ability is, compared to many, I'm trying to get out of the habit of casually using it in public", she explains ruefully.

"You fear what someone would think of you, seeing your ability?" Savannah questions with a slight frown, arms folded casually across her chest. "Perhaps you're more akin to one of my characters than I would have thought." She purses her lips. "I wouldn't advise hiding who you are but… discretion is always a useful quality to have."

Ygraine laughs softly, offering a carefully one-shouldered shrug, before glancing down at her arm. "Getting shot while negotiating for people to have access to food stores was actually not the most traumatic thing about my time in the Dome", she says quietly - before offering her available hand.

"Ygraine FitzRoy. It's an honour to meet you."

"Ah, I will suppress my curiosity… I actually haven't gotten to talk to anyone who was trapped in the Dome, but fresh wounds are not something I care to stir up, especially since my motives would be selfish and literary," Savannah says, offering forth her own hand to shake Ygraine's. "Savannah Burton."

"I considered calling you 'Miss Rowling', but I wasn't sure how you'd take it", Ygraine admits with a grin. "And… if you want to know? I can trade you. I'll trade you stories of what I saw, in there, in return for being able to bend your ear about something. Ask you for help. No commitment to help - just to hear me out."

There's a slight grin. "I don't have movies yet, Miss FitzRoy. Yet." Savannah says, though an eyebrow is raised for the exchange. "Alright. I am always open for such exchanges, although you do realize that all you'll be doing is a lot of talking… exchanging stories you'd tell for a willing ear is twice the burden. But I'll hear you out, whatever you'd have me hear. Did you want some coffee? I know a place a block down."

"Erica's?", Ygraine asks happily. "You have excellent taste. Though it has a somewhat 'interesting' history itself, in some ways…. And I suspect that the movies are merely a matter of time."

As she talks, she moves to collect a heavy overcoat from her friend behind the counter, using a little twitch of her ability to help to swing it one-handedly onto her shoulders. Then she bows extravagantly, and gestures to the door. "Shall we, Miss Burton?", she asks, while offering her arm.

"I like to think I have impeccable taste. I know the best coffee shops and cafes in New York. Hazards of the occupation, I think… or perhaps prerequisites." Savannah glances back to Ygraine, noting the offered arm. She accepts it, but not without a wry grin. "You'll make me feel guilty taking up your good arm."

"It leaves you obliged to handle all the doors", Ygraine points out with a playful wink. "I'm not wholly a gentleman, after all. And… yes. I was rather fond of the Elephant House in Edinburgh before it became famous as 'the place where JK wrote Potter'. Now… it's a little over-priced, and often crammed with tourists, but still worth a visit. I suppose I'll be able to claim the same about some of your haunts, one day. Though the views here don't quite compare with those from the Elephant House, on the whole…"

Savannah snorts. "The views in New York are splendid. You just have to know which nooks and crannies to crawl into to find them. And you have to be willing to sacrifice British views for American. Entirely different style, there." She does as obligated, opening the door for them as she moves to head in the direction of caffeinated beverages. "I certainly hope I frequent enough places that they don't all get packed with tourists or I'll never find a place to sit and write."

"The Elephant House has a view of Edinburgh Castle, of part of the Old Town, and of the school I attended - which is supposed to be the inspiration for the physical form of Hogwarts", Ygraine says with a wry smile. "I was horrendously spoiled, growing up around the World Heritage Sites of Edinburgh. New York… I still frankly find rather intimidating at times, but I've put a good bit of effort into finding interesting views. I used to scale buildings a fair amount - though I probably shouldn't admit that to a stranger. It quite possibly counts as an odd form of trespass…."

"I prefer the views of people, myself. Not physical views, mind you, but… just the type of people you can find. I like to watch people and see the quirks, the fragility, the strength… just by watching, before I even find out anything about them. Sometimes I never even get to find out anything about them, just what I see, sitting and drinking coffee like I'm one of them." Savannah looks back over. "Edinburgh Castle might set the mood… but New York's people set the characters. And I might be strange, but I'm not a stranger. You know who I am, you know my name, and I've not got secrets."

Ygraine laughs softly, and rather self-consciously. "I'm a paranoid loon", she says dryly, voice quiet. "Without the mask and armour of a public persona to hide behind, I doubt I would have the courage to speak to you at all. And… I know something about the personality that produces those books. An author's voice is by no means always the same as that of the person behind the writer. Many write for effect… but I have the impression - and I very much hope that it's a correct one - that the voice of the books is yours. In which case you're someone whom I can admire for a good deal more than their skill in crafting tales."

"I don't let them tell me what to write and what not to write. I write the stories that need to be told, and Kam wouldn't let my words go butchered by the editors," Savannah explains, moving to push open the door to the coffee shop so they can both step inside out of the cold. "I suppose there's always a public persona, even for someone without secrets. My secrets are out in the open where people can see them… but they're secrets for a reason. You look too close you might see something you knew was there but wasn't prepared for. I think I tend to be that way." She looks to Ygraine. "Being a little paranoid these days doesn't hurt."

A low chuckle, and Ygraine gratefully ducks her head to her companion. "I'm… trying to keep it down to just a little paranoia. But hey - it is, by definition, a reasoned fear of others doing you harm. So long as I can avoid having my perceptions of the world warped, it should do me a fair bit of good. Certainly while I'm still recovering."

"So… do you want to start with the stories of misery and woe, of fire and flood and horror? Or to have me bend your ear first, and get that out of the way?"

"I'll leave the telling up to the teller's discretion. I don't mind the order," Savannah insists, moving to snag a table, pulling a chair out for Ygraine. "Take a seat," she insists, moving to slide into a chair of her own. "Get whatever you like. My treat. I tend to do so for people who tell me tales. Got to find my inspiration somewhere."

In response to the chair being pulled out for her, Ygraine offers a playful curtsey, before carefully removing her coat, folding it onto another seat and then settling onto her own. "I'm quite hopelessly addicted to the hot chocolate here. And… hmmm. I'll go for the Death by Chocolate cake as well. I'm still putting back on the weight I lost in there, so I can pretend that it's for medicinal purposes."

She flashes a smile at Savannah, but there's a definite tightness around her eyes. "If I happen to give you material for a best-seller, do feel free to give me a cut of the royalties. Right now, I'm not exactly managing to do much work - at least not of the paid variety. But… it gives me time to try to help Liberty."

Glancing down, she frowns in mild confusion, then sighs. "Damn. Left my satchel at Castle's. Guess I was a bit star-struck. It'll be safe there, at least. In any case… Liberty is a campaign I'm helping to promote. An attempt to do an end-run around the obstacles that are in the way of conventional civil rights efforts, drawing on inspiration from overseas. And I would very much like to ask you to help."

Savannah flags a waitress over, ordering Irish breakfast tea and a danish, her gaze settling on Ygraine once more. "Well, Miss FitzRoy… I'm afraid you're a little late on that aspect. You see, you aren't the only one who's told me about Liberty before. Just the first on a more official capacity. I was told I might be interested in helping." There's a wry smile. "I just don't know exactly what kind of help I can offer."

"Call me Ygraine, please", the Briton says, after delivering her own order to the waitress - the warm smile directed at the woman suggesting that she really does frequent the place. "And… who on Earth pointed you to us? Our first efforts at publicity seemed to pretty much just disappear into the constant storm of advertising with which we're all swamped."

"It wasn't a very public venue. Her name was Lynette." Savannah says, simply. "I made sure to help her with a bunch of copies of my books for some… young friends of hers, I believe." There's a gentle, knowing smile. "She mentioned Liberty, thought I might be able to do something. So here I am. What sort of support do you need?"

Ygraine looks surprised, then chuckles softly, gaze dropping to the table. "I'm… touched. I had no idea. And I'm glad that you helped out. I'm afraid that the books I've provided for them were rather less fondly received."

Looking up, she quirks a smile. "Text books. But… you? Good grief. What couldn't you do, depending on how far out you were willing to stick your neck? Have you had a look at the site? The simplest thing would be to pledge ten bucks, that'll only be taken from your account should a case ever be heard by the Supreme Court. Or you could pledge more. Or you could make a donation to Liberty, which is legally a wholly separate entity to the trust fund for the court costs - we cannot touch that money, nor can it be harmed by anything we do. As a result, Liberty has a grand total of no full time stuff, and run wholly with volunteers and kindness. Or you could write for us, either openly or under a nom de plume. Or you could let us wheel you in front of a camera when the time comes for a press conference. Have you ever sung? Written lyrics or poetry? We're working on an album. Would you consider wearing a badge? I'm looking at merchandise as an option for raising money. I… there are so many things we would welcome help with, from anyone. Let alone from someone of your standing."

"I'll have to send them some of the new ones. They're due out in a month. I think they'll find the characters a little closer to their age and therefore more relatable," Savannah says, though she seems rather thoughtful. "My new book… it's about these two childhood friends who are just manifesting their abilities. They have to flee, the government's hunting down people with abilities, keeping them secret, taking away rights." She taps her chin. "Considering the thematic similarities… I could very much have a small portion of each book sale donated to Liberty. I can't catch the publishers before the book itself is printed, but I can put a small paper insert included with the book letting them know that their book purchase is helping to benefit Liberty."

Ygraine was gently nodding along, having read some of the pre-publicity. But now her eyes are distinctly wide. "You… wow." She swallows. "That… well. Especially if we could combine that with an announcement, a press conference, when the books hit the shelves. Wow. I… don't know what to - well, thank you, come to think of it, would probably be a good start. I… I feel a bit guilty directly tapping someone's livelihood. Makes me feel a bit like a taxman! But… thank you. That would be hugely generous."

There's a small laugh from Savannah. "I can't promise it'll be a lot from each sale, and I promise you… since I started living with my boyfriend, funds are a lot easier to come by. You'd be surprised at how much rent you'd save." She looks back to Ygraine. "Don't feel so guilty. I'll have multiple printings and new box sets when the whole trilogy is released. This just guarantees you a stream of income. I don't think I could sit idly by and not help, mostly because I can see just how important something like Liberty is."

Ygraine inclines her head, still looking decidedly (and very happily) grateful. "The… next question would be to check that you're sure you want the funds to go to us, rather than the trust fund for legal costs? I admit that I'm hoping that we can move to having at least one person working full-time, but… we're not the important bit. Or at least I hope not. All this is to some extent dependent on the Supreme Court delivering one of its more sane decisions. Its history is rather… chequered. But it seems to be our best bet for a peaceful change of course."

"Ygraine, you seem like an honest person. I trust that you would know where to best use the money, and sometimes you'll need to have a hot meal for hard workers. Where's that money to come from? I trust you'll see that the money gets to where the money needs to be… legal costs or otherwise." Savannah says, her gaze flickering only momentarily away towards the window. "I am all for a peaceful change."

Managing to look both bashful and delighted, Ygraine ducks her head and laughs softly. "I… hardly know what to say. Other than to babble thanks at you. I… am deeply grateful. But I suppose that I should probably be being a good little recruiter and promptly pressuring you to do more for us. Would… would you be willing to possibly consider public statements at some point in future? Either in writing or in person, as suits you. If not, I quite understand. You… you are already being remarkably generous."

"I'd consider public statements," Savannah says after a moment. "And if I'm questioned on it due to the donation, I'll happily answer. Statements, though, I think, will entirely depend on the public's approval of me at the moment. Kam wouldn't be particularly happy if I were to get any more fans warning me of visions where I die…"

Once again, Ygraine finds herself nodding along - only to wind up looking thoroughly startled. "You…? A… a clairvoyant?", she asks hopefully. Non-clairvoyants with that sort of vision are probably rather more immediately dangerous than helpful.

Savannah can't help but laugh. "Well, she said her friend was. Considering the fact that there was Humanis First activity at d'Sarthe's on Christmas Eve… I'm inclined to say that the vision was accurate."

Ygraine winces, then nods worriedly, hunching just a touch around her sling. "I… suppose it does make sense that they'd… object to your work. And their methods of resolving disputes are… less than polite. I'm so sorry. I hope that whoever was targetting you is among those to have been picked up or… otherwise persuaded to change their minds."

"Well, I don't know that it was certainly me as a target, but I was warned that I was supposed to die in the attack at the charity Christmas party. The attack occurred even without me being there, so it may have just been a coincidence. Still, it was enough to worry Kam and he doesn't need any extra grey hairs. He'll look gentlemanly and distinguished with them, but he needs quite a few more years first." Savannah laughs a little, her smile genuine. "And I got to have a lovely trip abroad to Prague for Christmas and New Years, so… I can't say it was a losing situation."

"Prague? Oooh. Lovely city. I raced there a few times… back in what feels like another life now, I admit", Ygraine says with a rueful laugh. "But it's a gorgeous place. And slightly trumps my own trip to Toronto for the New Year."

Savannah grins. "Vacations are fantastic, regardless of where." She looks back over at Ygraine, then up as the waitress arrives with their order. "Prague was wonderful, and I was in good company, so I can say it was well worth it."

Ygraine falls silent for a few moments, smiling appreciatively and then thanking the waitress, before sighing gratefully as she takes up her mug of hot chocolate. "Mmmm. That was… a very good holiday indeed", she murmurs, a flicker of tension briefly appearing around her eyes, before she offers a warmer - if slightly wistful - smile. "So… do you want to ask me about the Dome, while I have comfort food ready to hand?"

"Really, I'm curious how it was personally… I know what the news has said about the incident, but… what was it like being trapped in there? Did you ever lose hope of getting out?" Savannah carefully moves to add some sugar, then cream to her tea, stirring the cup while watching Ygraine. "I sort of imagine it to be something like a post-apocalyptic world in there."

"Entirely lose hope? No", Ygraine says quietly, taking a very careful, slow sip of her drink. "But… I know that I wasn't alone in making contingency plans for a… last-ditch fall-back, should things continue to get even worse, and it all go entirely to Hell. I… was one of the few who might have been able to hide out. Wait for… the violence to fully end."

Lowering her head, she takes a long, shuddering breath, then peeps up, offering a distinctly bleak smile. "Which sounds absolutely atrocious, but… I was deep into PTSD even before I got shot. I… you're aware that the Eastview apartment buildings were bombed? A firebomb took out the top two stories, then a blast bomb went off internally to wreck the lift shaft and stairwell. Both of those as a follow-up to Humanis First having done a… a sweep of the building. Weeding out those they deemed fit to live from those they left behind to be burned alive. I… was crouched on a windowsill, the floor below the firebomb, when it went off. Until… until I couldn't breathe any more, I was diving in and out, getting people outside. I still have nightmares about not having cleared the lower floors. And about what it was like in there by the end. And the… the top two floors. I never even tried rescuing anyone there…."

"And then there's the massacre outside. When I'd retched up enough smoke I could think again, I… I found I was staring at a severed hand lying in the road. Just lying there, in a pool of blood. It had been cut clean off, with part of the forearm. Someone had been driven over. Bodies scattered all over the place….. And the fire where the Chapel had been. We'd used that as a bunkhouse and secondary infirmary. They blew it up. And the refugees staggering through the dark and the smoke…."

"The fact that they could get away with all of that," Savannah breathes out, her mouth set in a thin line, expression serious. "Did they catch any of them? The ones who did it?" She takes a sip of her tea, blowing on the surface lightly.

"Oh, the massacre outside? That was staged by… another group", Ygraine says wearily. "So far as I can tell, there were at least one or two Evolved vigilantes in there. Some of the locals had guns, of course. And some of the Humanis died to gunfire. But… I think that the guy cutting off hands was Evolved. And there were… there was a situation, I found out about not long after it happened."

Sighing, she closes her eyes. "People on Queens had seen the fires and heard the explosions. They tried to defend themselves - stop the violence reaching them. Someone apparently decided that anyone holding a gun and getting in their way had to be Humanis - and… well. You can guess how well that went for the poor bastards just trying to protect their homes and families. And afterwards? You had people telling you that they definitely had been Humanis. Absolutely certainly. Even though someone who witnessed it in person said that one of the poor schmucks who survived it even wound up helping the refugees from the Island…."

"It all sounds brutal," Savannah says, voice almost a whisper. "I don't know that I would have been able to deal with all of that. It honestly sounds like there was certainly the worst humanity had to offer in there… being trapped like that. I can imagine it would make people do things they didn't know they were capable of. I can imagine it would be terrifying."
ORDER: It is now your pose.

"The…." Ygraine sets down her drink, closing her eyes, hunching further around her sling while her free hand pinches at the bridge of her nose. "There were efforts to hold back the dark", she murmurs hoarsely. "I was involved in some of the most successful. But I'm not just blowing my own trumpet. We lost so many people, and… we were fighting a losing struggle. We knew that."

"The thing was… it was a plan. You know that a boat blew up, a few days in? That was the Stillwater vessel. After that, the only sizable vessel left was in the hands of someone who turned out to be Humanis. And… Christ. If i tell you much more they might really want to make you a target. But it's bad."

"Humanis was behind it, then…" Savannah shakes her head. "It's… it's unfathomable. I hate that people will just be so… callous, unkind, merciless.." She looks down. "You don't have to tell me any more. I just wanted to know what the experience was like."

It takes a few moments, but Ygraine does open her eyes again - offering Savannah a decidedly haunted look. "I can give you the full story, if you want. But… somewhere that we don't upset the public might be wise", she murmurs, lips twisting into a bitterly wry smile. "From my request for a civil authority to be appointed - we never even got a response to that - to Humanis taking out the Stillwater vessel and stirring up trouble on Queens, to their slaughter of the few Stillwater troops left behind on Roosevelt after the main body had crossed over, to their… use of the power they felt they had when they were the only major armed group on the Island. And what they kicked off. And the efforts to hold the line afterwards, and… having field surgery done on a filthy sofa in a war zone, because some bastard shot me while I was trying to negotiate for food for people in our care, once things had really started to go wrong. And then… the last few days. And…"

"I can imagine." Savannah murmurs. "It's a lot to take in. I'm sorry for bringing it up, I just haven't talked to anyone trapped inside there. I can understand that it was terribly traumatic." She sips her tea, moving to cut into her danish. "Have you gone to see someone about the PTSD? They have people, groups and things, that can help."

Ygraine laughs softly, mustering a wan smile. "Oh, I've been seeing shrinks since I got nuked here in oh-six. I'm afraid that I wasn't exactly considered perfectly balanced even before the Dome. But… I'm just about holding it together. The… the ah, offer to tell you all about it is serious. If you want to know more than… flashes of what pushes its way into my mind, then I'm certainly willing. Likewise, what I know of the real truth of what went on."

Savannah purses her lips. "I think just scratching the surface is enough for me. I'd prefer not to be traumatized by someone's experiences." She pauses, taking a bite of her danish and swallowing before her gaze rests seriously on Ygraine. "But you didn't answer my question. You mentioned seeing shrinks before… but what about things now? How are you working through this?"

Ygraine twitches a slight nod. "I'm… trying, yes. I was… down to just monthly meetings, for a time. I've requested that they be made somewhat more frequent at present. But if you just want the summary? The slow despair was the worst. There was the initial terror - I personally confirmed not only that all the power and gas lines had been cut, along with the sewers and water and everything else, but also… confirmed that it was a sphere. It was curving back around, down at the level of the subway line running under the Hudson. And… I knew that things would get worse, the longer we were in there. The initial response from people was good - a lot of cooperation and help. But… with no central organisation and no help at all from outside, people factionalised. And the trouble-makers came out of the wood work. And… Humanis actively recruited. Both clueless goons they could sell a line to, and more seriously - people willing to as far as they were asked to…"

The Briton shakes her head once more. "There was a hydrokinetic in there, who could purify water. That… saved a lot of people. But we'd got almost no power, the food supplies were finite and going off day by day - or being hoarded by those who'd managed to grab and defend them. The… the more fear there was, the less cooperation took place, and the more violence. A number of us set up a base for the refugees. Tried to keep things going. Myself and the hydrokinetic were running people to and fro to the Island to forage for supplies. But there were just two of us, and… too many people. And we knew that every day, things got worse. And amidst it all, you'd got people hunting for the poor bastard whose power had been used to put it up. All the signs were he'd been given drugs to… overload. It didn't behave like any normal power-use. But… some people thought that if they killed whoever did it, they'd bring it down, or just get revenge for their suffering, or…"

"It reminds me of the psychological experiments done, to see how far people would go in certain situations, if told to do something horrible…" Savannah murmurs. "I'm glad, at least, you're getting the help you need. That sort of stuff is not something that should be dealt with alone. It's a shame it has to happen at all, but… having proper help is key, I feel."

Taking a long sip of her drink, Ygraine closes her eyes once more. "People are… painfully predictable, in situations of conflict and fear. There are very few who choose not to follow their instincts, and instead look to avoid violence, cooperate, try to build something that is genuinely inclusive. There were some very good people in there… but it's always easier for the bad to tear down whatever's built in a situation like that. And no matter how good our efforts were, things were always getting worse."

Looking up, Ygraine offers Savannah a sad little smile. "That was part of what was so… frustrating. We were utterly helpless. Unless some way was found to pierce or take down the Dome, we were stuck there. No matter how hard we tried, no matter what we did, it wouldn't be enough in the end. Our lives were in someone else's hands, and all we could do was try to ensure that as many people as possible survived as well as possible until things changed and we were freed. Until and unless that happened, we were just living on death row - a post-apocalyptic version of it, as you said earlier, where there were no effective wardens and there were killers on the loose."

Ducking her head, she sets down her mug and reaches for her cake. "Sorry. I've been… trying not to dump even the sanitised version of what happened onto people. Especially not nice strangers."

"It seems at least as bad as I imagined, although worse on top of that. I wouldn't even want to think up those things…" Savannah murmurs, another bite of her danish taken. "I can understand, but clearly you're dumping because you need to. Hence why I was asking if you were getting help. I wouldn't be surprised if they've got some sort of 'survivors of the Dome' support group."
ORDER: It is now your pose.

"It looks rather like a concentration camp, right now", Ygraine murmurs dryly. "The facilities on Roosevelt were wrecked - all lines of all kinds cut, quite apart from the looting and… other activities. But the survivors whose homes were on the Island, they've now been relocated. And are living under armed guard, surrounded by wire. My home is out here, so I'm not there, but…. I'm trying to stay in touch with the people in there. Make sure they have at least one ear - and voice - on the outside, that isn't filtered through the 'official channels' that did so little for them while they were in there."

Savannah shakes her head. "This is sick. It's the reason I write these books… trying to open up people's eyes to what is going on around them. The fact that the government doesn't necessarily want to help all people. The concept of understanding the other point of view, that extremism on whatever side you're on only costs lives, the lives of innocent people most of all…"

"Rather my point of view", Ygraine murmurs. "But… when people are frightened? It's oh so easy to talk them into starting down a path that leads to something they don't want. At least not when they begin to follow it. I'm quite sure that many of the people involved with Humanis in there were sure they were being reasonable. Just help these guys find the freak responsible - deal with him and it all ends. Everyone else goes home. But with the real core of committed Humanis people intent on wiping out the Stillwater pickets and then staging a massacre, the people who were there to be 'reasonable' and just 'deal with' the individual responsible… they found themselves accessories to horror. And then, at least in some cases, victims of it as well."

Stirring her cocoa with a teaspoon, Ygraine purses her lips. "And when I stood up at a meeting of the refugees and said that the hydrokinetic and myself wouldn't help anyone who preyed upon others - that the resources we brought back from the Island, his clean water, the contacts with the outside world we could provide because we could power phones - when I said that we wouldn't provide those to predators, I was publicly accused of "witholding supplies from those in need". Because, I presume, the 'good guys' had a right to whatever they needed…."

The blonde looks into her teacup, sipping lightly. "I see. I suppose, though, that was a stupid thing to say either way. By saying that, you're making sure there are sides to the conflict. You were adding fuel to the fire."

Ygraine lifts an eyebrow. "We were offering resources no one else could. I was hoping that by making it clear that predation would lose people access to those resources, we'd cut it out. At least from one large section of the people in there. I had no desire to help to prop up people who were acting as bandits. If we'd fed supplies into the hands of predators, we'd just have made them stronger and increased their ability to harm others. Rule it out, and we could hope to keep the levels of violence down. If seizing things by force becomes the less tempting option, we can hope that fewer and fewer people will take it."

"But you aren't looking at it from the perspective of someone else. By only offering supplies to those who aren't 'predators', you're setting yourself into a place of power. You deem who is a predator and who isn't. You've instantly created hostility, I'm afraid, just by doing that." Savannah shakes her head. "There was no right choice in that case, really, but by announcing that you guaranteed that you'd have enemies."

Ygraine laughs quietly. "Then let them focus on me rather than those with resources they might otherwise attempt to take by force. If people resent my stance, but refrain from harming others because of it - so be it. There had already been violence directed in error at people who were perceived as 'in the way'. I wasn't knowingly going to supply any further occurrences of that, especially not when that brutality was already being dressed up by some as having been taken against individuals who were unquestionably 'Humanis First'. Far better to have people angry with me but hurting no one than to have them feel free to take what we provided and also to force others to part with what little they had. As far as I was concerned, the people of Roosevelt had no more right to live than those of Queens, and if I could stop it turning into a battle of predatory might then I was quite willing to have people grumble about me."

Savannah sighs, staring into her teacup. "That's an awfully noble stance to take, but I didn't mean that it would necessarily keep them from refraining in harming others. For all intents and purposes, that may have entirely backfired and set them upon you. If I was set on destroying whomever it was that created the Dome because I honestly thought it was the only way out… and I was denied food, I might feel resentful, yes, but more than that I might feel hostile. You clearly were injured while in there. I don't think that there was any right way to act in this situation… there were consequences no matter what you could have done. Grumbling is not exactly the reaction I would have in terms of being denied food while starving. It's a noble attempt, to be sure, and very self-sacrificing potentially, but I think if I were in the same position, I would have done things differently. Treaded a little more cautiously. People are still people, regardless of whose side they're on."

Ygraine offers a carefully one-sided shrug. "To not speak up would be to tacitly agree to supply those who had already announced by their actions that they'd kill first and comfort themselves with untruths later. I was shot while attempting to negotiate a trade of food for the clean water our hydrokinetic could create. That was in the closing days. And it sparked off a riot of the kind I'd hoped to avoid. The… supermarket got stormed, its defenders massacred, and most of the goods inside destroyed - while I was undergoing the delights of that field surgery on a filthy sofa."

"For a time, we held the line. I doubt very much that all of the hundreds we were attempting to protect behaved honestly, but there were no major clashes with the locals… and by holding a group of hundreds together, we had safety in numbers. And provided visible proof that cooperation could work. We were trying to run… networks. Have groups of people cooperating with friends and family outside to spread word, so that people could get messages to loved ones without all needing a phone of their own. Have people keep an eye on each other in groups that lived together, for disease or habits that'd spread it. It was all make-shift and made-up on the spot, but we built a village, of sorts, and kept its inhabitants at least moderately safe for a time. And that's why I've got people to talk to, behind the wire on Staten. If we hadn't held it together… the anarchy would have hit harder and earlier, and there'd be a lot fewer survivors."

Savannah sighs again, a pair of fingers pressed to her temple. "There's no need to get defensive. Like I said, there was no right answer. I wasn't suggesting that someone shoots a bunch of people and then comes right up to you and demands your food that you are to give it to him, I was saying that I felt it unwise to blatantly state that you weren't going to give them food, no questions asked. You prevented any civility, if it were possible in that crisis, from those who were being hostile. I do not doubt that you did the best you could."

"I figured that civility had already rather gone out of the window when the locals were attacked", Ygraine says gently, tone placatory. "With it being bruited about that the victims of that were 'definitely' Humanis, I felt that things had to be stopped there and then or they could rapidly descend into mass violence, with any local who resisted robbery being claimed afterwards to be a Humanis supporter. And… it seemed to work. Perhaps the reason that I'm not aware of any of the Roosevelt refugees starting something is that they hid it from me. That certainly occurred to me at the time. And I never did get a firm identity for whoever had started the attack on the locals. But… I reasoned that feeding someone with a track-record of killing who had then put it on hold so that he could get food was better than not trying to stop those activities at all."

Another carefully off-balance shrug. "We weren't setting ourselves up to investigate crimes, or to punish people for what had already happened. That mindset… I was terrified it'd just lead to lynch-mobs working their way through 'suspects' or 'wrong-doers'. There was so much anger, and so much readiness for violence. I… wanted to put an end to it. And we hoped that we could hold it together long enough for the Dome to be cracked. We just about did, by the skin of our teeth. Things were bad by the end, but… our people hadn't started killing each other over resources, we didn't have an epidemic underway, and no one had tried to kidnap us as the golden geese that could meet their needs. All of those were stages I expected to hit if it went on long enough. But… did I do a perfect job? The fact that I'm half-crazed and got a hole drilled clean through me suggests rather conclusively that I didn't. There are a lot of things I regret or wish had gone differently, believe me."

Closing her eyes, Ygraine takes a carefully precise mouthful of the cake, the flavour prompting a small, tired smile. "You should try this, if you haven't already. Include it in your next novel, as one of the good things in life."

"I've tried it before, yes. But I don't think I could ever make food sound quite decadent enough. Only writer I've ever seen with that gift was Brian Jacques. He could make the strangest of dishes sound sumptuous. Fit for humans as well as woodland creatures," Savannah says, another sip of her tea taken.

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