Road To Damascus


lynette2_icon.gif marjorie_icon.gif melissa4_icon.gif nadira_icon.gif perry_icon.gif

Scene Title Road to Damascus
Synopsis Some of Messiah's remaining members meet to discuss what to do next.
Date November 20, 2010

Church of the Incarnation

The ruins of Midtown are one of those few spaces left that can be relied upon to be inadequately policed. Shattered, irradiated, thick with the dust of the dead and the destroyed, only the desperate and the lost venture too far past the first cracks in the city's foundation. Under night's shroud, only so dark due to the cloud cover that reflects the city's riots of light back upon itself, some handful of those whose desperation and loss may be more than just mourning and melancholia have picked their way to the gutted remains of the Church of the Incarnation.

It is tragic and elegant as all ruined remnants of the ecclesiastic are. Half the ceiling has caved in, burying over a dozen pews under shattered and blackened masonry. The windows hold no more stained glass, only the vague and skeletal frames that one held saints and saviors. The lacquered wood of the lectern is pockmarked and run through with cracks. The cross that once oversaw the congregation here hangs, crooked, from its place on the wall.

The effect, all in all, may be somewhat more dramatic than when a vested priest spoke from the podium. For the best. It's no congregant of faithful that have gathered here, and no divinely appointed minister is Pericles Jones, for all that he may stand in the place of that man - now dead or fled. Still, the quiet in the church is as complete as it would have been in the hours after mass. Just the most distant murmur of the city, if that, and the sound of footfalls.

Perry is dressed in a white dress shirt, a black jacket and black slacks, looking not un-ministerial. His dark, thick rimmed glasses are perched low on his nose as he peruses the sheets of paper he has before him, set where the Good Book once rested during recitations. Muttering to himself, he refreshes his memory while he waits for those who can come to come.

Walking in, sans baby for the first time in a week, is Melissa. She's dressed in her usual assassin chick of black on black on black, complete with trench coat and hat, but she also looks absolutely exhausted. Pale face, bags under her eyes, and a yawn forcing its way out. But she heads into the church and around the rubble until she can half collapse on the nearest flat surface to Perry.

A shadow has been there for the better part of an hour. The shadow sits in the corner. It's a woman, and she's wearing a long coat. Marjorie has a bucket-style hat pulled down low, obscuring her ears and part of her face. Her hair must be tucked up in it. She is on her knees in the pews, hands pressed to her head, rosery between her hands. She appears to be praying - not something that is very surprising after all that's gone on. A lot of people are probably praying more these days. A bible sits on the seat beside her.

While Nadira's been sleeping a little more than most, she's still got the aura of tiredness about her from worry and stress. Entering, the Egyptian woman frowns slightly at the almost dark image of the church around them. It was appropriate, in some ways, even if it was a bit dramatic. She slips in, out of the way, a quick scan of the occupants doing little to alleviate the frown.

Lynette enters quietly, her steps soft and rather careful as her leg is still on the mend. Much better now, but she's not one used to carrying wounds. Tired seems to be a theme, and Lynette is neck deep in it. It's hard to say if she ever got a proper night's sleep since the Eighth, but it doesn't seem likely. She didn't wear her scarf today, which is a little out of the ordinary for a Messiah meeting, but is sits in the bag she has slung across her shoulder. "You'd think church was actually in session," she says with a crooks smile, "for all the solemn faces."

Perry's scarfless himself. He saw no reason to draw attention to himself as a terrorist off to his terror meeting. Messiah's symbols and significance have been tied up with all sorts of dark work and deep regrets, and without a name-appropriate total redemption, the red of their organization is a little too close to the red of the blood they have spilled. At least, such is Perry's position.

The gathered have gathered, and thus they have a gathering. There's some temptation to wait, to hope that more of their numbers will arrive. But his optimism isn't so great. You would think church is in session. Perry's face is as solemn as they come. He doesn't greet any member of the assembled individually yet. Bad leadership or no, he views them as a collective in this instant. So it's to all equally that he says:

"Thank you," Perry's voice lifts, projecting through the derelict space, out to the various dark figures in deeper dark, "you took no small risk to be here. I have- um-" he glances down at his sheets of paper, "I have prepared a speech but- uh-" there is the sound of shuffling leaves as he adjusts the printed pages, "but- uh- um- I think- well- in the interests of time I'll- uh- maybe abridge a little, um-" Dammit…

Perry gives a short cough, glancing around with a nervousness he hopes can't be detected, before beginning.

"I've been thinking… thinking about our name. 'Messiah'. What it means for us. What it meant for us. I have - from the start - had reservations about how well thought out our intentions and goals were. We took orders, all of us, ignorant of the larger picture. A picture that, had we know its true form, would have made us reconsider our actions, if not our convictions. We have been lied to, deceived, shattered, beaten and blamed. We have been, in a word, tested. But I don't yet know what the conclusion of that test really is.

"I- um- Isaiah called the messiah 'the ruler and commander to the peoples'. But the 'peoples' he refers to are not the people at large, but the peoples of Israel. If we Evolved are to be seen in this way - as their own nation - then it is the duty of their Messiah to see that nation come to be. To be sovereign, rather than second class. For second class we are, living as outsiders within a land we thought was our own. We see that now more than ever. For out benefit, Habeus Corpus was suspended. For our benefit, Posse Comitatus was suspended. For our benefit, martial law was enforced.

"But if the eighth of November has taught us anything it is that those that seek to rule us no longer quite know how. They are afraid, unable to control us without resort to open violence. Before now there was violence, yes, but a violence veiled and hidden. Black bag operations and engineered viruses. The eighth has forced their violence into public view. As they feel us slip from their grasp, so they grip all the tighter. The ruling powers demonstrate their weakness by insisting on their strength. They are at their limit, and - for all his sins - Carmichael's one contribution has been to make them to reveal this fact.

"This is not the time for us to disperse. This is not the time to retreat or relinquish our role in the struggles to come. The Bible always insists upon the victory of Good in the final battle, because God is Almighty. But we have no common God. This is not a foregone conclusion. If we are to succeed, then we must act. And should we now fail or flounder, then the annihilation and subjugation of our people will be on our heads. We must uphold our covenant with our people and with history, or we will have failed to live up to our name.

"If we can all agree that we must fight, that leaves but one question:"

Perry looks up from his pages, out upon the handful of people who are left, who have come. "How?"

As the man speaks, Marjorie lifts her head. Respectfully she slides back in her seat so that she's sitting on her rear end. Her hands fold lightly in her lap, and from undeneath her hat, she glances out. She's looking for familiar face - for a familiar face. She's terrified to find it, terrified to see it missing. What does that mean? What shoudl she do? She was never really brought into Messiah before the whole world started falling apart. At least they're asking each other the same question she's asking herself. Lips painted red, pursing, she sits and listens.

The words keep Nadira quiet. She fixes her gaze on a pew in front of her, alone, her lips curved downward into a frown. She's entirely still, shutting her eyes for a moment in prayer, or perhaps just thought, a murmur under her breath in Arabic.

"Oh good, we're jumping right into it. Alright," Lynette doesn't exactly take a seat, but she doesn't come up to the front, either. She just shifts her weight over onto her uninjured leg, her hands wrapped around the strap of her bag. "Personally, I didn't get into this with some grand evolved agenda. I'm not here to put us on top or off to ourselves or whathaveyou. I'm here because of the Institute, plan and simple. What they've done, what they're doing… Someone has to stop it. I told you all at the last meeting. We have a chance to start fresh and make this organization about something that matters. About doing the right thing and righting the wrongs that the government is clearly not going to do for us."

"Before we get to the how, there's something you should all know," Melissa says, voice soft and weary. "On the eighth, I went to Staten Island. The why isn't important. While I was there, Knox and Oleander and several members of the Ferry arrived to get various wounds tended to. A group of soldiers walked in and without a word, killed Knox and Oleander, then lined up five of the Ferry, including a mother with a baby, and executed them. There was no violence, just people there to get fixed up. The baby's with me."

She takes in a deep breath. "Earlier that day, when I was trying to leave Roosevelt, the cops were keeping people from leaving. There was a speaker set up, was supposed to make this godawful sound to get people away. Then someone played a recording of Rupert and all hell broke loose. People were shot, went flying off bridges, arrested. Wasn't fun."

She looks back to Perry. "As for the How. I'm all for helping. I really am. But I'm tired of all the violence. I get enough of it in my normal life. If you can call it normal. And really, what did all the explosions and death do but give the evolved a worse name than we already have?" She nods to Lynette. "She's got a point though. The Institute is wrong. But if we continue going the way Messiah's been going, are we really any better than them?"

She shrugs a little, rubbing at the side of her face. "Personally…I kinda want to take more of a legal role mixed with a bit of watchman type deal. But if that's not the way Messiah wants to go, I understand." Beat. "Though I would suggest a name change. Messiah, to the world, are just terrorists."

Perry's muddy brown eyes move from speaker to speaker, his brow furrowing as new information and intentions come to light. He makes another pointless adjustment to his now-finished-speech notes, like maybe a comprehensive answer or opinion can be found within. Good luck. The parts he left out are filled with more questions than answers. Musings he saw fit to omit, being of little interest to such women of action.

"I'd like," Perry says, gaze flicking to the quiet ones, to Nadira and Marjorie, "to go about this in a- um- systematic manner and get ev- er- everyone's thoughts. And I'd like t- um to take it point by point so… first, what are our goals going to be? Melissa, you um-, you want us to pursue a legal direction? Do you mean- acting to change the laws, or just acting within the laws? Lynette, I- um- I understand that the Commonwealth Institute is the greatest singular threat to us in this country, but I must suggest that, while we may not have a Grand Evolved Agenda, they do. And we need, at least, to answer that…

"But first, what do we think we have to accomplish? What is the purpose of this group, whatever name we give it?" Perry's attention moves directly onto Marjorie. Looking to her for her voice.

Marjorie is slow to rise. It's not that she is shy, but she's very deliberate in her movements. She coughs a little, clearing her throat. Well manicured hands reach the pew in front of her and help her to rise. Her stature is tall and slender and easy - she is wearing a nice tailored dress. She's something out of the 1940s. When she speaks, her voice is smooth but firm enough to be heard with ease. "Whatever name is selected, and whatever route is selected, we stand no chance of real change if we make enemies of everyone. If we really want fair treatment for the Evolved, if we really want things to change, even the Evolved and Evolved-sympathizers must be with us in spirit at least." She turns, dark brown eyes scanning the small collection of people. "Acts of violence - wanton violence - will not do this for us. Everyone is a mother or a father or a sister, brother, son or daughter. Evolved, Non-Evolved, evil or angelic, there is always an innocent party who will suffer. And while it might be fair given how we have been treated in the past - if we really want things to get better, our actions have to limit human casulties and have to be calculated so as to be justifiable to the general public. In blogs or in videos, we need to be faces to the hearts and minds we want to change. Otherwise…we're just a dark shadow to be feared." Her peice said, Marjorie nods a little, and moves to sit back down.

Nadira listens to Perry, his insistence that they all have a voice, a say. And as he turns to Marjorie and the woman speaks, the Egyptian woman listens, hardly a ripple stirring her calm demeanor. When Marjorie sits after speaking her piece, she smoothly gets to her feet. She rests her hands on the pew in front of her, gripping it lightly before she speaks.

"I think we should stop being hypocrites. I do not care what we call ourselves, and our ultimate purpose is not clear, but what is clear to me is this—if our group is to be anything, we have to be united. And I do not think we are. I know we are not."

Nadira turns to Marjorie, and her fingers grip the pew tighter. "You are no exception, Marjorie Mihangle. For all you spout on how we should how everyone is mother or father, you alienated your own brother and deeply wounded him by snatching his only son from him. You took his son from him selfishly and now he might be dead. You are a hypocrite, just like I am even now, yelling at you and encouraging unity in the same breath."

She sighs, deeply, moving to sit. "The point is, we have to be united. We have to be the examples that others will follow, because people will be looking for someone to be their hope and salvation, they will be looking for someone to look up to in these times and if we want to make a difference in this world no matter what it is, unity is key."

"Okay, let's not turn this into a daytime drama ladies," Lynette says toward Nadira and Marjorie. "Personal issues need to be discussed at some other meeting."

With a nod toward Melissa, the blonde goes on, "I think the Eighth has turned everyone off of violence. But some of us don't have the option of legal battles or being the face to the Evolved cause. But I agree that subtler methods than those we've employed previously are needed. I wouldn't mind a new name, either. Anything that separates us from Rupert's methods and deeds is a plus in my book. As for the Institutes' plans. I don't know what they are, or how widespread they are. So finding out whatever we can about them and their agenda might be a good starting place."

"Both. Within the law and changing the law. We lobby for laws to change. We go on the Advocate and speak our piece, get it out there, get people thinking. Get them wondering, hey, is the government really doing what's right? We protect, we educate, we don't terrorize," Melissa says, letting her hand drop and reach for one of her pockets, to pop a pill out of a bottle and dry swallow it.

"Lynette's right too. In fact, that might be a good purpose for the group all on it's own. Saving people from the Institute. We've all seen what they're about. Kidnapping and experiments and monsters. With us as guinea pigs." Seems she's ignoring the more dramatic of the group for now.

"But there's no reason why we can't fight the Institute and try legal methods." She inclines her head to Lynette. "I know that some of us can't work so openly for various reasons. Some of us are wanted by various officials, or have too much to lose if they decide to shut us up. But unless someone stands up and shouts no, it won't stop. Bombing and shooting won't get the country to change its mind. Facts and people will."

It wouldn't be a Messiah meeting without someone going after someone else's throat. It's been said before, whatever else may have changed or been corrupted, some traditions and ideals remain. Some better than others.

"Contradiction," Perry interposes between Nadira and Marjorie, "can be fruitful. It can help us locate a position of dialectical strength, locate the real issues at hand. What I- uh- what I gather is that we need to live the unity that we espouse. And so, let's- um- let's understand that outside of our lives, outside of our personal struggles, there is a universal that is our shared traits. Our manifestation." That there is contradiction even in Perry's saying this, not himself certain even if he has manifested, is not a further level he feels like digging down to.

"And while- uh- while unity is absolutely necessary," Perry's words gain a sudden resonance as he steps past doubt and conflict and speaks with his whole heart - and with a little more, "I agree with Melissa. We need to act from both sides of the matter. We must win ourselves places of power and security within the establishment while it remains intact, but we must also fight those elements that will not be swayed by good behavior. The people who view as us less than human, as instruments. Those who would deny us being.

"On this last point I can't be more clear. Violence is necessary," a deadly emphasis on this assertion, boomingly stated, "I- uh- I will not insist on the participation in acts that deviate from each of our- um- categorical imperatives but, for my own part, I know that our conversation with power must come with muzzle flares and the smell of cordite. I, at least, will participate in the necessary violence. Because make no mistake - our enemies have already proven that simple being Evolved is, to them, a violent act. An upset of their tidy world. What Melissa told us about Staten Island drives this point home.

"So- so we have another contradiction. We need to redeem our image and work within the system, but we must continue the hard task of fighting those who control the system on the field of conflict they insist on opening with us. We need unity, but a single group of people cannot both run for office and lobby for law changes while, at the same time, doing battle with the cronies of the Commonwealth Institute.

"What can we do to resolve this tension?"

No interposition between Marjorie and Nadira is needed, as Marjorie does not respond to Nadira. She doesn't even look at the woman. Instead she turns her eyes back, watching and listening as though nothing had happened. At least, that's how it looks. Her hat hides her face from the crowd, which was her intent when she got here. She says no more.

Nadira shoots a glance towards Lynette for a moment before her eyes flicker to Marjorie in her silence, and finally they come back to rest on Perry. "He is right. Defense is an action." She rubs her neck. "I do not necessarily agree with the straight out lobbying. That might do for an individual goal, but as a whole we need to be… a bit like Robin Hood. Instead of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, we are standing up to the oppressors and defending the oppressed. We need to find a way to be out there. We need to be vocal. When we do something, we make it known. If the government is going to paint everyone as terrorists, then we need the people to trust us, and that will work best through action, followed by words."

"Yes, well… I suppose," Lynette says, although with a bit of a frown. "But I still say we need a change from Rupert's way. However, if this is violence against the Institute, you can pretty much count me in." There's a pause for a moment when she looks around the room, but then looks back to Perry. "Is this all we have left? Us here?"

If Melissa disagrees with any particular point of Perry's, she's remaining quiet about it. "Without lobbying the rest won't matter. The lobbying is how we can be vocal. How we can make people see us as human. How we can make them see that we're not terrorists. How can we do that without getting out there and not just skulking in the shadows? But if we're going to just be like Rupert? Do things his way?" She shakes her head. "I don't want any part of that." There's a pause. "I can't get a hold of Peter and Ling…Ling's dead. I think Alex is alright. I don't know about anyone else."

"As of right now, yes, Lynette," Perry says, nodding to the blonde, "we are all that is left. But after the eighth, there must be plenty ripe for recruiting."

Now, Perry is not so wholly democratic as he'd like to appear. He's considered the many paths this meeting might take, and the many suggestions as to their future they may have made. He's opened the floor, but with no concrete solution as to the violence/vote gathering issue offered… he has his own ideas.

"Are you familiar with the Irish political resistance group known as Sinn Fein?" Perry says, "while I obviously have some issues with their goals and motivations - they were Marxists, many of them," he uses this word with no hidden disgust, "their tactics might teach us something. They had a legitimate, politically active party branch, but operating in tandem was a violent resistance group that worked against the British occupation of North Ireland. The two vectors are purported to have been in communication, but no confirmable link was established. They covered their tracks. If we want to have it both ways… let's have it both ways.

"Please," Perry adds, "I'm not endorsing Carmichael's methods by any means. I want, going forward, to have total transparency. No secret plans, not unless we agree that such a thing is necessary to protect those of us working in legitimated political spheres. No hierarchies. We are equals, and we can't act any other way. We all have gifts. All our gifts must be used in the cause.

"So," Perry continues, "those of us who will not partake in violent action, even against the Institute - all those who wish to be the face and voice of the Evolved in the intra-political forum… lift your hand."

Perry's own hand remains lowered.

Marjorie still refuses to turn and look at the others - mostly because of Nadira. But her own hand, gloved with dainty driving gloves, raises into the air. Unashamed, unabashed, but at the same time not at all displaying too much enthusiasm. She is comfortable in her vote. Still, nothing gets said. The only other movement that has been made is that there is a bible set upon her lap, the one that before was beside her. The other driving-glove-clad hand is resting on it, the rosary beads slipping through her fingers. Inside, she is in prayer.

Nadira frowns for a moment, her hand staying where it is resting at her sides. She falls into silence, letting out a heavy breath, brows furrowed in thought. Her gaze shifts around the room to see where people are interested in casting their lot.

Lynette's hand doesn't go up there. After all, her face is known to at least the Institute and Lord only knows what organizations have her name and her connection to the Ferry, at least. The political and public forums are not for her.

"I'm not saying I won't fight, though I'd prefer a lack of fighting," Melissa says, lifting a hand. "But I'm not wanted and already have a rep for charity type shit. But I think that there shouldn't be any secrets if we're all equal. That was Rupert's game."

Perry nods. "Then it's decided. Melissa, Marjorie, you will step into the light and do what you can in the short term, fixing what can be fixed in this imperfect system we live within," he says, implicitly demonstrating his feelings on the government (on democracy?), but not going into any further detail, "Nadira, Lynette and myself will work towards combatting the Commonwealth Institute wherever they rear their head, ensuring our long term survival and attempting to destabilize the system's inherent flaws. What is common for us is the need to find new recruits, and new allies."

A pause here, a consideration. "I have been approached by a man named Warren Ray. A factory owner who is working to improve the image of the Evolved in the city. I… do not trust his philosophical rigor. He says 'Utopia' yet offers no systemic critique. Still, he has resources. Melissa, Marjorie, his association may be useful to your aims.

"I am also aware that there are other clandestine groups operating in this city," Perry says, tone not disguising his wariness about things he doesn't know enough about, "The Ferrymen, I believe, were mentioned and called upon for the attack on Carmichael. If we still have connections to this group, they might be of use to us as well. There are too few of us, with too few resources. Our first order of business must be to gain enough strength to lend our actions any sort of impact. Warren Ray is the only contact I have made. I ask for the rest of you to come forward, should you have associations or connections of your own to offer."

Marjorie nods. For her own part, the meeting seems to be done. OR she's calling it done. She has an assignment, some way to help, and some way to put herself out into the light. She rises to her feet, clasping the bible lightly between her hands. Heels make loud, pointed sounds on the floor as she turns out of the pew and walks up the wall-aisle toward the exit, without a word to anyone else."

Nadira remains silent, her gaze on the pew in front of her. She had a connection. A useful connection, but now she's not entirely sure she can call in that favor anymore. Burned bridges will do that. She lets out a slow breath, but says nothing.

"I don't play the recruiting poster, darling," Lynette says as she leans a hip against a pew, her smile crooked. "And The Ferrymen will be a little busy for a while trying to rebuild and simultaneously sink further under the radar. However, we do have some connections there to tap when the time comes." Why does she looks so amused? She looks pretty amused there.

"Multiple Ferry connections, yeah. I was part of 'em for long enough. A few of them trust me. Like Eileen." At least she showed up for Rupe Hunt '10 when Melissa asked. "There's Richard Cardinal's group too, though I don't know them well. We should find any other surviving members of Messiah though. I know we've lost a lot of people the past month, but we can't be all that's left."

"Eileen," Perry echoes, "-Ruskin, yes? I remember that name. I think I recall mention of this Richard Cardinal as well. I'd like to speak with representatives from both of these groups as soon as possible. Members as high in the rankings as is possible to manage, given the circumstances. Just a meeting. I can go to them. And I trust you can vouch for my trustworthiness." Of course! "We can't waste time. The others can rejoin us as contact is reestablished, but we need as much information and support as can be gathered.

"And, I suppose, we will need a new name."

"I can't say I am much good at naming things, so unfortunately there will be no help from me on that aspect." Nadira shifts uncomfortably in her pew, leaning forward against the one in front of her, resting her chin on her arms. She's still thinking.

Lynette looks over at Melissa, her head tilting before she notes, "I'm not sure what happened to Griffin, but whatever it was, it was because he was helping me. Peter… I think he needs some space from the organization for a bit. But I've been out of the city since the Eighth. Pretty much everyone else is a mystery." She glances back over to Perry, her hand on her hip. "I'm not good with names, either. I'm not sure there's something that embodies the duality of methodology we seem to have set up in this meeting. But for the meetings, I can get you something with the Ferry as soon as they've settled some."

Melissa tilts her head and studies Perry for a long moment, frowning a little. It's only when Lynette speaks that Mel does, looking at the other woman in surprise. "You've seen…" She cuts off the words and shakes her head. "No need to pick a name now. It wouldn't mean as much if we didn't stop and think about it," she says, tone duller than it was a few minutes ago.

"If one isn't coming to us in revelation, like Saul of Tarsus," Perry says, finding what might be the worst possible way to introduce a simple agreement, "then I suppose we can wait on it. Perhaps it's better to go nameless. I mean… we know what we are. At root, the most important thing we share is just that. We're Evolved. That, for better or for worse, now defines our lives. And defines our struggle."

"I haven't heard from Griffin," Nadira says, quietly, her gaze shifting from Lynette to Perry. "A name's the kind of thing one should have a sleep on. It would be best to dwell on it for a while.

There's a nod for Melissa, for the cut off question, but Lynette looks back to Perry after a moment. "I'm sure something will come up. I will miss the whole red scarf, cut from the same cloth analogy, though. Ah, alas. Is there anything else on the docket for tonight?"

"That's- uh- that's all I had in mind," Perry says, stammer returning the instant they're moving to practical (or social) matters, "we should- um- we should have ways to contact each other safely, I guess. At least know where we can find each other. So we don't get scattered to the winds. And so if anyone one of us disappears, the others can know, and act."

"You guys are welcome to leave messages at Tartarus. I mean hell, me and Nadira both work there, so it works as well as anything else," Melissa says, shrugging. "I'm living on Roosevelt, so not really accessible there."

"If your nightclub is safe" Perry says, nodding to Melissa, "then we may want to start meeting there. This," he motions to the church, "Is hardly practicable." Perry gathers his papers and steps down from the lectern.

"I adjourn this meeting," he states, plainly, "please, everyone - stay alive."

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