Sufficient Grace


bella_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Sufficient Grace
Synopsis Bella goes to Joseph for information and meets resistance.
Date February 11, 2010

Refrain Research Facility

Something is up.

Way up.

First there was the construction, the day Joseph narrowly dodged being made to run the new test in the new room. Then, the following day, something unexpected, something unplanned, must have happened, because there was shouting, running, flashes of light, and finally /gunshots/ inside the facility. Tests were suspended, and Dema was entirely silent on the subject when asked, though that could hardly be seen as surprising. While this gave Joseph a chance for rest, it also left him on a bare-bones ration of Refrain, just enough to keep the worst of the shakes away, not enough to give him any real relief. Any relief he might get comes from the possibility, however veiled in dreams, that someone is coming. That it may only be a matter of time before this whole place gets what's coming to it.

Insubstantial comfort when you so badly need a fix, but a better thing to hope for than he's been given before.

Things have continued to get weird, including a dimming of all the lights, followed by a reactivation, followed by a total blackout. Knowing what Joseph knows, conclusions may be drawn as to /who/ these events involve. The substance and significance, however, is much more difficult to ascertain. Suffice it to say, there is a sense of things coming to a head, of pressure, and even Dema's usual stoicism is not enough to anchor the feeling. For Joseph, things have been normalized intensely. No more tests to break the monotony, no leaving his cell at all. Just meals and a morsel of Refrain. It's /outside/ his cell that things are changing.

Until now.

There is no knock, the minimal gesture of politeness, some quasi concession about the space being Joseph's own. The door unlocks and swings open, and the black veiled director is there, and not with Dema this time. Instead it's a man he's never seen before, a man in ballistics armor, with a veritable personal arsenal, including an assault rifle slung around his body. The director has her limp back, as well as her cane, the one she used to bludgeon him with. Invisible though her features may be, her poise bears unmistakeable signs of tension. This is not a routine call. This conversation is not likely to be like the ones they have had before. This one promises to be somewhat less… civil.

Worrying about Colette gives him something to think about. That it triggers a less physical sense of longing and anxiety than a craving makes him feel about as small as a man can be, but that's just how it is right now, and no one can say it's his fault. Not God, not anyone. Also a reassuring kind of mantra, sliced short when the lights do their thing, a tiny frission of hope that cracks open into fear around when his door is being pushed open.

He's already standing when that happens, and when he sees that no, it's not Kaylee, or even Flint Deckard or Teodoro Laudani or one of the likelier able bodies he's already considered are risking their necks, or Dema with a plate of food or a promising syringe, Joseph moves to the side, leg bumping against his cot. Twin hopes dashed. There's no escape route, but it's an automatic response. Where he sleeps feels like the safest spot in the room right now.

He focuses on the man with the rifle a long time, before taking in Bella's appearance, or at least, her demeanor. He hesitates, then doesn't speak at all, not yet.

Two gloved fingers take a dark pulse.

"Joseph," the director says, "I'm wondering if there is anything you should be telling me. Anything you may not have mentioned. Lies of omission, so to speak." She gestures towards the cot, then depresses the switch. "Please, have a seat. I'd like to resolve this amicably. You have one chance to come clean with me, Joseph." No consequence is specified should he not, opening up a variety of unpleasant options, as many as his imagination cares to torment him with.

Joseph doesn't sit down, not quite a willing act of defiance so much as he can't bring himself to obey, tension coiling tighter as seen in the set of his shoulders and jaw, hands curled. His voice echoes in the room and feels kind of like someone else is talking instead, dark eyes flicking down to her cane then back up where her eyes should be. "No," sounds hollow, managing to inject a little curiousity and confusion in there too, which isn't far off the mark in terms of how honest his response is.

The project director sighs, and this time there is no distortion. It's the sigh of a woman, a flesh and blood person who sounds like she's already having a bad day, and that this is making things worse. She lifts one hand and gestures at Joseph, which motion causes the armed man to step around the director and cross the small room. He reaches out and grips the pastor's shoulder, pressing down with unrelenting force until knees give out and Joseph is driven onto the cot. The armed man stays there, hand still at Joseph's shoulder, ready to interrupt any other signs of defiance. The director crosses over to stand in front of Joseph, both hands resting on top of the cane. One hand lifts, and she speaks again through the mediation of distortion.

"There are a lot of very, very unpleasant things I can do to coerce you. I don't want to do any of them, and neither do you want me to do any of them. That is why we make that first agreement, the agreement by which you consented to cooperate. But you've gone and broken contract. So… again, I'm left with many, many options. Please, don't make me list them. It's incredibly tedious. I'm sure you can think up enough on your own to make you reconsider pulling this bullshit with me. Agree to cooperate, and I will be more than happy to continue in a civilized manner."

The only protest the action gets is an irritated sound at the back of Joseph's throat, but he knows better than to fight an armed man. After initial resistance, he sits, and manages to fight back the temptation to drive the side of a fist against the arm holding him there. Both hands come to clasp in his lap instead, mouth in a line as he listens, eyes dark and bright in dimmed lights. "I dunno what you're talkin' about," he states, voice quiet. "I've been behaved for the last goddamn two months when I had no other choice, and I ain't done nothin' since. Why?" A glance up at the armed guard, mostly to indicate him as opposed to include him in the dialogue, back to Bella. He tries not to let his voice quaver, but inevitably, it tags at the edges of his words. "What's happening?"

The director rubs her brow, head dipped slightly, communicating fatigue, impatience. Someone with not a lot of time and a great deal to accomplish. Maybe someone who's willing to cut corners, or skip pleasantries, or deal with her problems with less… delicacy.

"You're going to make me do this? Explain to you what you already know? Fine: we have an associate of yours in custody," the director says, "She has, without urging, informed us that there are people who are looking for you, want to arrange for your escape, as well as bring this project to an abrupt end. But they are, first and foremost, here for you. Which leaves me asking: how do they know you are here? This I would like to know. Any insights, Joseph?"

A temper isn't particularly godly, and to be honest, Joseph isn't inclined to have one. That anger seems almost to warm him beneath the guard's hand probably still isn't a shock, an exhale of disbelief following, a brisk shake of his head. "You're unbelievable," he says, even as some small part of him frantically tries to keep himself in check. Can't. Nerves frayed, patience gone from the driving need that twists his stomach in knots.

"Maybe you're not that great at coverin' your tracks, ma'am. Maybe it's like I said the first day you people dragged me here — I got friends who would notice. Who'd care. My insight is that you brought this on your own head and I ain't telling you a thing, even if I had anythin' to tell."

"Maybe the Refrain has damaged your attention centers, or your creative functions," the director says, "But did you miss the part where I said we have an associate of yours in custody? Are you not thinking of what I might do to this associate of yours in the process of extracting useful information, or perhaps out of pure malice? Assess your situation, Joseph. If these people are looking for you, I can easily arrange for them to find you, you and your associate. And the condition they find you in is entirely up to me. I have tried to operate this facility with a certain minimum regard for the lives of my subjects. That has been a choice. I can choose to behave otherwise."

Not the first time, Bella's words needle under skin and find their mark, Joseph raising a hand to rub his brow, the tremor visible. The Madame is fully aware about how much he's being administered, and how often, and will know that he's had enough to stave off the true signs of withdrawal. This is different, and the hitching breath in, loud in this small room, is down the same lines. Oh, Colette. "I don't know anything I want to tell you," he says, eventually, hand back down as he stares at the floor instead of her. "You think you're powerful here, because you can do what you want with me. With any of us. Now you're scared and passin' that off to me, but all it tells me is that you're in danger too. I ain't pullin' you out of it."

"Please, don't psychologize me," the director says, brusquely, "And don't bother with speeches about power and fear. I'm here for practical reasons, Joseph. I'm looking for an option that doesn't end with your corpses found in a dirty ally, dead of a self-administered Refrain overdose, and me relocating the project somewhere else. That's a headache for me and much worse than a headache for you and your associates. Right now, though, it's looking like the easiest option. Give me more to work with, and I'll work with it. I'm in no hurry to kill either of you. But I will, if that's the most practical course of action."

"I'm about done helpin' you work," Joseph says, harshly, temper flaring back up and catching alight. "You shoulda cut me loose a long time ago. You want my advice? Give Colette back before you damage her completely and maybe you'll get off lightly. And if you do that, maybe— maybe I'll be willin' to tell you somethin'." And she can see he's lying, the minor quirks that give it away, but there's a desperation behind it, almost tipping over into that kind of territory after actually saying her name out loud.

Tension will go up the guard's arm when Joseph abruptly surges up to stand, a step forward to try and crowd in on the director. "You've ruined my life, let her go."

The guard is under specific instructions to keep Joseph under control, and he applies considerable pressure keeping Joseph fixed on the cot, preventing him from getting into the director's grill. It's gratifying, at least, to see the director shift back a bit, halfway between a step back and a flinch.

The director pauses for a long moment. It's difficult to imagine anything Joseph's said is being considered as a genuine alternative. Let her go? They'll still come for him. Whatever she's thinking about, however, she's taking her time. When she finally speaks, it's slowly, deliberately. "You obviously need more time to consider your options. I shouldn't have rushed you. It was unfair of me," she motions to the guard, who eases up on Joseph, stepping away from him. "You're right, I'm frustrated and running a bit scared, and I got carried away trying to establish a sense of control by intimidating you. Pathological. Unprofessional. I sincerely apologize."

"Then get out," Joseph says, voice shaking now, but he doesn't get up from when he'd been forced to sit. "Get out so I got time to figure out exactly how much I ain't gonna breathe a word to you if you do a thing to Colette, I swear on all that is holy. Go on, go." Hands clasping, fingers lacing together, his forehead comes to rest against it, elbows on his knees — hardly praying, however, trying to rein control on his own breathing, the flooding anger and the dismay over what might happen to him if he's like this. What may happen to his Refrain.

"I'll give you time to think things through," the director says, nodding, then turning to go. She pauses at the door, however, and adds, "But I want you clear headed. No drugs. Tell Dema when you've given it a good, level headed think." And she's gone, out the door, followed by her guard.

Good guess, Joseph.

The click of the door is followed by a small, choked sound of that same dismay, fear. "But he said to me," Joseph breathes out in the silence of the room left in Bella and her guard's wake, "'my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


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