The Lord's Purpose


cardinal_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title The Lord's Purpose
Synopsis A man seeks to know his future. What he finds is that there's always blood.
Date June 23, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

There is no mistaking this building as anything but a church, with its arching glass windows and concrete cross fixed to the edge of the pointed roof. Curving stone steps lead up from the pavement to a set of black double doors, often kept closed during the colder weather, but unlocked during the allocated hours written on a blue sign fix to the brick wall. In white, formal letting, it reads GUIDING LIGHT BAPTIST CHURCH and lists its hours of worship.

Through the doors, you first step into an open, nondescript foyer, with access to an unobtrusive staircase headed upwards, and a second hallway leading off somewhere less public also. Mainly, this room opens straight out to the much more spacious worship hall, with immovable rows and rows of pews. A small church, it only seats an absolute maximum of around one hundred and fifty people at a time. It has a high ceiling and is warmly lit, simple and reverent in design, colours light and earthy. The stage before the pews is wide open, with seats off to the side for other pastors and guest speakers, and there is a podium placed off center. On the other side, there is a small organ with music sheets kept nearby.

Generally, Joseph tries to leave lonely melancholy brooding until after hours. But perhaps it's progress that he should get it out of the way during when daylight is still streaming in through the high windows, both stained with colour and not, even late afternoon haziness like this where it comes in at the wrong angle.

Besides, he's not even brooding! He is thinking, about ferrymen and charity and what comes next. Nothing he can truly articulate aloud to anyone, and so he doesn't. Seated on the second row from the front, Joseph has his arms resting on the bench in front of him, hands clasped not in prayer but in absent comfort, dressed slightly down in that his tie and jacket are stashed in his office, leaving behind a pale-blue shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, and beige slacks, brown leather shoes.

And there is a bear beside him, in the form of a large, shaggy, black furred Newfoundland, whose massive head twists around at the sound of someone, footsteps Joseph can't quite detect, but he can watch as the large dog climbs to her mop-feet and goes trotting out into the aisle like a Shetland pony. "Alicia," he says, in his Warning Voice, but she doesn't listen, headed for where the door will open. Joseph whistles, once, to call her back, and gets ignored.

As the shaggy hound trots along towards that door, it's pushed open by the one good hand of the man on the other side. Richard Cardinal's had a recent shower, at least, and found some nice pants and a button-down shirt so he doesn't look entirely like some sort of vagrant or low-life. In other words, he's in disguise.

The door's edge is taken by that hand and pushed closed behind him, though he stops at the sight of the approaching canine, managing a tired sort of smile for the beast. "'Afternoon, Pastor Sumter," he calls out, his right arm lifting to brush some hair from his brow with the bandage-wrapped stump where his wrist ends, "Sorry for interrupting your thoughts, but I was wondering if I might steal a bit of your time."

It might surprise Cardinal to know the amount of lowlifes that come around these parts - he's probably familiar with a couple. Joseph isn't one of them, but the man knows his name. The pastor gets to his feet, moves to extract himself from the narrow corridor of pews at first to pull the dog back from where she's sniffing at Cardinal's pants and then, perhaps a relief, his shoes— and then to respond to the wave and the greeting thrown his way.

"Not at all," he dismisses, dark eyes trailing on down to where Cardinal's hand was severed at the wrist, then back up to his face, a flickering look of sympathy there. It's automatic. "I wasn't doing anything important— Alicia, come here— sorry, I sometimes bring my dog around durin' the day so she doesn't pine." At least now she's backing up, tail wagging lazily. "What can I do for you?"

It might surprise some to learn that Cardinal's actually rather fond of animals; he crouches down a bit to let the dog snuffle at him while Joseph works to extract himself from the pew, offering his hand palm-up to be sniffed at unthreateningly. An attempt to ruffle the dog's ears, and then he pushes himself up to his full height again, exhaling a quiet chuckle. "No problem."

That said, he moves down the aisle to meet the other man half way, offering, "I'm a friend of Abigail's. Catholic, m'afraid, you'll have to forgive me there."

Alicia's tongue hangs out the side of her mouth in dopey dog happiness when her attention is rewarded, otherwise moving off to find some corner to settle into, romping over the church as if it were her home with her tail swinging to and fro. The corner of Joseph's mouth goes up at the man's words. "I'm sure we still got a lot in common," he assures, a touch wryly, and offers out a hand to shake. It's the one that requires Cardinal's intact hand, at least. That would have been embarrassing otherwise. "It's nice to meet you; Abigail's a big help around the church."

The proffered handshake is accepted, Cardinal's hand gripping the other man's with a firm but brief clasp before it falls back to rest at his side, thumb curling loosely through a belt-loop. "Oh, you're afraid of nuns too?" Tongue firmly in cheek as he makes the joke, lips twitching in a wry little smile, "And I'm sure she is— she's a good woman, been through a hell've a lot and still thinks the best of folk."

A slight wider smile at the joke, as much as it goes uncommented on, Joseph's hands returning to the pockets of his slacks. "That's true," he agrees, on the subject of Miss Beauchamp. "She's here every Sunday, every Wednesday, 'bout as constant as the weather." Except for sometimes, but even he took sick leave at one point. "And you are?" The leading of that question isn't about religious denomination; it's been covered!

"Richard," is the name offered with a tilt of his chin up to the pastor, smile fading to just the ghost of one, "I'm the one who found her, when she was lost." An enigmatic enough statement, and one that only someone who knows something of Abby's recent life might understand. "I was here during that… big speech you gave, 'bout the Evolved, and all."

"The sermon?" That seems to take Joseph off guard, veering him from the dawning realisation of what Cardinal might mean to Abigail, such realisation that doesn't actually show on his face - just a solid kind of understanding as knowledge comes together. Certainly, he doesn't know enough, and he never tried to pry. Just tried to exist for when she was ready to leave it behind.

For now, though. "That sure did draw attention, didn't it?" he says, voice uncertain but— optimistic! If he's a friend of Abigail's, and all.

"That it did…" Cardinal gives his head a slight shake, "You should be careful about that, especially— well, shit, I doubt I need to warn you about the fuckin' humanists out there." His good hand lifts, scratching to the side and back of his neck as he clears his throat, "Anyway. Ah. I didn't really care about the whole… future thing, then, but— well— I think I could use some guidance, these days." He looks vaguely embarassed. He's always been awkward around religious figures. Blame the nuns.

Joseph sort of has a smile for any emotion, and this one is slightly rueful and knowing, nodding once at the mention of Humanist First! and their particular ideals. He doesn't respond, really, to the notion of needing to be careful, save for that one nod. Cardinal's right, apparently, he knows.

And yet here he is, not being very careful. That smile turns sympathetic. "Well, Richard, I can give you that," he assures. "It takes no more'n a few minutes, typically. I take your hand and you'll see— well, it varies. Some people seem to understand the visions as literal, some see symbols. The more open your mind is, the more prepared you are, the more sense it's gonna make. Think of 'em as warning signs to act on as you want, or— preparation for what's to come."

With that said, more warning than Joseph ever gave people before he had a taste of his own medicine, he offers out his hand again. This time not to shake.

"You'd be surprised how open my mind is," Cardinal says quietly, regarding the hand in silence for a long moment as it's held out, in the fashion that one would regard a viper slithering atop a particularly valuable object. The future's a box that's dangerous to open, as he knows well. A breath's taken—

—and he reaches out to clasp the offered hand. No time like the present. Pun intended.

Joseph's other hand comes around to secure Cardinal's in a steady, comradely clasp. "It helps— most times, to close your eyes," is his advice. And when Cardinal shuts his eyes, he only opens the ones that can see into the future. God's plans. Or someone else's machinations of a different design.

A storefront, the window of which is dark and the signage of which seems to evade his notice as unimportant. Within it, beyond the glass, a handless clock watches him, but it seems to be ticking anyway— no. Not ticking. But there's the steady sound that goes like…

click — click — click — click — click

…just behind him. He turns with such easy movement that it's almost reminiscent of the dreamlike glide of his shadow form, when he had one, to look across the street from where he stands on the pavement. There are no cars, there are no people, save for him and Edward Ray on the other side, who is crouched and putting in place parts of what appears to be…

A blue river of plastic. In an elaborate curving pattern too large for Cardinal to properly understand, shining plastic dominoes are all lined up meticulously, stretching out and out, too many to comprehend, impossible to conceive of lining up. But perhaps if there is one person you'd trust to do it, it would be Edward Ray, who remains crouched as he carefully, carefully, places the remaining pieces on the road, before stepping back and smiling over at Cardinal, accomplished.

"Some futures are forged from blood, collateral damage, bullets," he says, voice gentle and yet easily heard across the road. "I prefer to forge mine with change." He gestures with his hands, to the left, to the right. Tyler Case stands on one end, brings up a hand, waves, and on the other side of the pattern of dominoes, the older John Doe, who looks directly towards Cardinal in something like recognition. "Blood comes later," Edward states, before his hands drop.

Both Tylers crouch down, and in the same movement, use their index fingers to push over a singular domino. It starts as the sound of thunder in the distance, the plastic colliding with plastic as the minute tiles begin to tip inwards from either side, before becoming louder and louder. On either side, as Cardinal watches them tip, he'll see that bright plastic blue is only one side, and on the other, the side that faces the vaguely grey sky as they fall-

Bright red.

They sound like war drums as they keep continually inwards, towards where Cardinal and Edward are standing, before finally they come to meet in the middle with an exaggeratedly loud boom. The thunderous vibrations take a little while to ease, before Ray is picking his way towards the center, and Cardinal is too in those too-easy motions. He'll see it, in the middle, where it's all come to stop - two dominoes lean in on each other, and between them, one domino remains upright. This, Edward carefully plucks out, and solemnly hands it to Cardinal, looking him in the eye.

While Cardinal's hands feel nothing but empty air and Joseph's clasp, he will at least see himself take the plastic tab. The bright blue on one side is blank, and as he turns it towards the red, he reads a number in fine black print: 245,001.

"But there's always blood in the end."

The voice has changed, and Cardinal looks up to see the hauntingly familiar face of Arthur Petrelli scowling at him where Edward once stood. Cardinal sees and hears more than feels himself lash out, a knife in his hand, aiming for Arthur's throat where it sinks in— but it's not a knife after all. The needle sticks out from the old man's neck, quivering, his eyes going wide as he staggers back and falls, flailing limbs making a mess of the fallen dominoes as his very flesh seems to slide from his face, as his body crumples beneath his suit, oozing blood and gore. Arthur Petrelli is melting.

Quite suddenly, Cardinal is yanked up off the road as if flying, away from the twin Cases on either side of the street, away from the smirking Edward Ray, and the gruesome death of Arthur Petrelli, up and up until he can see and see with clarity…

…the fallen dominoes have aligned themselves in a giant half-helix that paints itself red along the street.

It's gone in the next moment, Cardinal staring only at the backs of his eyelids, Joseph's hold on his hand still patient and anchoring, awaiting a sign that it's over for the Catholic.

As the vision releases its hold, so too do the muscles that hold Cardinal up. The solid thump of his knees hitting the floor jars him loose from the shocking reverie of the images and sounds that assailed his mind mere moments ago, his good hand pulling free of the pastor's to slap against the floor before he actually collapses. He's breathing somewhat heavily as he stares at the floor, swallowing once, hard, before whispering roughly under his breath in muttered echo of the vision-Edward, "There's always blood in the end."

Joseph jerks back as the man seems to collapse, back down to earth in many senses of the idea— but at least remains on his knees, rather than keels, or introduces whatever he had for lunch onto the church floor, and other such things that Joseph knows can happen. In hindsight, he should also get people to sit down.

"Richard?" he asks, gently, and moves to kneel on one knee in front of the man. The words, the ones about blood, had come muttered, spoken downwards and mostly unheeded. "You alright? Sometimes they're— they can be rough."

A slow breath is drawn into Cardinal's lungs, and then exhaled with just a hint of a tremor to it. "You have no idea, Father," he manages to get out, gathering himself and lifting his head once more, the faintest of smiles holding a bitterness to it, "There're always sacrifices to be made. Hopefully— hopefully I can live with that." He closes his eyes, murmuring more quietly, "Thanks."

In this corner of New York, Pinehearst and its schemes and the machinations of Edward Ray may as well not exist, aside from the appearance of a couple of key players. Which perhaps is a benefit for Cardinal. Joseph trades bitterness for sympathy, and doesn't pry - he rarely does. Getting to his feet, he offers a hand up. "No problem. What you saw— consider it between you and God. Catholics have more middlemen— " and nuns! "— but I'm just a conduit for people that need to look ahead."

The offered hand is clasped without a word, and Cardinal shoves himself up to his feet, having regained some composure since those first shocking moments. He takes a breath, then another. Two-hundred forty-five thousand and one. Can he live with that number, writ upon red, if it means what he thinks it does? Perhaps, though he might never forgive himself afterwards. So be it.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails," quotes the thief with a smile that isn't reflected in darker eyes, "I hope that's true, Father."

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