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Wired*Nun 23rd of May, 2008 00:47

Paul Hunting
S'good thing that I met up with Dave. If those cops at the checkpoint looked into the trunk it might have gotten sticky.

Paul looks over to Dave, "After our day off 0400's going to come awfully early. Good night."

He makes his way inside and to his awaiting room. As he's prepping for bed,

Lilith? I've been thinking about this for awhile now. Letting you out today and then locking you back seems cruel. I want you to know that I trust you completely now, and that I do not object if you want to stay awake while I sleep.

Maybe staggering a bit would be good. I'd have four hours or so of privacy a day, and you'd have the same. I'm pretty sure that at this point my body will take it--slumber being more of an emotional, mental, and spiritual exerise at this point.

Maybe...maybe this way this situation wouldn't weigh on us both as much.

Wired*Nun 31st of May, 2008 03:41

Actually the fates are conspiring to solve the problem, I believe. Please telephone Joann first thing in the morning, would you? She should be awake at that time. I expect she will have some news tomorrow.

Paul wakes up at around 0425, expecting the usual alarm. He slips into his running gear and takes a quick pee.


Oh, yeah. That's right.

He phones Spann, and she picks right up on her personal cell number.

"Paul Hunting? Good morning, and how are you?"

May I?

"It's Lilith, Joanne," Paul hears himself vocalize. His own voice sounds strange to himself, especially as he's not controlling it. "I believe you have a candidate?"

"Yes, actually I have. A tragic case of drug overdose. She was a runaway, a Jane Doe. I have been evaluating her for any signs of a re-emergent soul or consciousness, but I believe Thanosiel has claimed her, despite the physicians' heroic efforts to reanimate her body. It is possible her family will show up, but I am making arrangements to have her declared DNR. If there is any trouble, I may have to request Anton assist in placating them. I am sure you will be able to persuade him to help." He can hear the amusement in Spann's voice.

"When should we arrange for the transfer, then?" He can hear - feel - the eagerness leaking through.

Spann pauses. "Hmmmmm...I believe the sooner the better. The longer she stays in this state, the more questions there will be. I will have her transferred under my authority. We can do the procedure at Stillewald. Shall we say noon today? If Anton is avaliable."

"I believe that can be arranged," he/she says dryly.

"Until that time, then." The connection closes.

I am sorry if this is too sudden, Paul. The lines of fate converged suddenly, and this is a godsend for me. The emotions leaking through to him are powerful, distilled, rich in longing for freedom and lust for life. I hope you are still willing to take the risk. I will do all I can to make it successful for both of us.

TreyKincaide 31st of May, 2008 04:06

Oh, of...of course. Anything I can do. It might be our only shot, so it has to count for the young woman's sake if not our own.

Paul tries not to get swallowed by Lilith's enthusiasm yet attempts to smother resurfacing mixed emotion.

She's become part of who am I. Will I be able to... Damn it. Man up. Trust your Gift to heal what's taken, and what happens, happens. Remember why you helped her out in the first place. Don't retreat into selfishness now. Besides, all this was fated to happen. Losing your new found faith in yourself will only leave you where you were before.

Let's find Anton.

Paul leaves his room looking for the Eldest.

Wired*Nun 31st of May, 2008 04:15

Yes. Let's. He's probably up by now, looking in on the arrangements for the new training. Ash is somewhere nearby - you may need to persuade him.

Ash is, indeed, waiting just outside Paul's door.

"Good morning. It is fortunate we won't be having morning formation, else you'd be late." The bland smile feels a bit condescending to Paul, though this may just be the result of his feeling of being...on edge. Eager. Bleedover from Lilith, perhaps.

TreyKincaide 31st of May, 2008 04:28

Maybe I'm just not destined to like this guy. Now that my course is set, I'm not about to let anything get in my way--me included.

"Yeah, I was on the phone with Dr. Spann. She...she found someone. Lilith and I don't have long and we'll need Anton's help. I have to finish what I started...even if that means washing out."

Wired*Nun 31st of May, 2008 04:49

Ash stares at Paul a moment, processing.

"Very well. This is obviously a decision he must make. I will take you to him."

He pads out the door and across the still-moonlit parking lot. As he follows, Paul wonders how he manages to do without shoes on every surface.

Inside the lodge, Ash goes to an unfamiliar section, apparently consisting of residential suites. He doesn't bother to knock, but opens the door immediately.

Inside is an elegantly-appointed room in the motif of the rest of the lodge - knotty pine, a few stuffed animals, high-beamed ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows for the view. Mesmer stands up from behind a heavy desk, where he was looking at a computer screen. He's dressed in a formal silk robe, vaguely Chinese in design. It is black, and in a nearby full-length mirror, Paul can see the back is embroidered with a crimson-red dragon in the oriental style.

"Mister Hunting and a lady of your acquaintance requested an appointment," Ash says wryly, and withdraws from the room, closing the door behind him.

Mesmer steps out from behind the desk and places his hands behind him in an attitude of waiting.

TreyKincaide 31st of May, 2008 07:47

Not for the first time Paul is thankful for the mental dampening Mesmer put in place. Yet standing before the Elder face to face awash with Lilith's anticipation and excitement causes him to hesitate.

"Um..." he takes a deep breath so he doesn't blurt out everything at once like a teenage school girl. Paul forces himself to maintain eye contact despite feeling suddenly small, "Anton..." he shakes his head, "Mesmer, when we last met with Joan we asked her to help us deal with the untenable situation that we find ourselves in.

"She promised Lilith to help find a suitable host so that we try to separate lest we be stuck like this forever if it's not already to late. I...we..." fucking pronouns "just spoke to Joan on the phone and there's a young woman, a Jane Doe runaway, who overdosed that's 'been taken by Thanosiel' which I take to be clinically dead.

"Despite my reservations about the ethically of what has been proposed, I promised Lilith I'd try to do everything I could to help her. I don't know if that means that because it'll interrupt my training, I'll wash out. If that's the case, so be it. I have to finish what I started," Paul finishes firmly trying to convince himself to overcome all of his unstated doubts.

"Joan and Lilith would like you there. Will you help us?"

Wired*Nun 3rd of June, 2008 02:44

"I must." The man walks slowly over to stand at arms length from Paul. "My Gifts will help manage the process. More importantly, I will help you survive it."

He reaches out to grasp Paul's shoulder. "It's very likely you will die. You will be presented with the choice again - to meet your judgment in the afterlife, or return to this present one. But unlike mere physical death, the shock to your soul will be such that you may choose the easier path, to go onward. You will probably be miserable and depressed, left empty and alone..." He trails off, looking into the middle distance for a moment.

"You need to decide now. Today. That you will commit to this life. You have already profoundly affected the fate of many, by bringing Lilith back to consciousness. I believe there is more for you to accomplish, here."

He squeezes Paul's shoulder. "Will you make that vow, now?"

TreyKincaide 3rd of June, 2008 07:03

Paul flinches involuntarily under Mesmer's grasp.

That's right. I can suppress my body's ability to heal so I can will myself to die. Suppose that means that I'm not cursed to wander until the end of time and can move on when I'm ready.

Betraying notes of false bravado, "Simply being a living incubator would be a shitty destiny, I agree." He shrugs, "As long as I'm with Gale I'm not alone. This might be bad, but my first choice without her was pure hell.

"So, yeah. I'll come back. How many people can say they're thrice lived? Let's just hope that it doesn't piss off Thanosiel."

Can I do it? Can I willingly go to my death so someone else has a remote chance to live?

Wired*Nun 4th of June, 2008 00:20

"If you give up now, then that will be your legacy. For even that, I will always be grateful...and my gratitude is no small thing. But when you are faced with that choice, you must hold on to yourself and your commitments. Your love for your wife can be a powerful thing, if you remember to remember it. It is not the reality, but your perception at that moment that concerns me. Terrible wounds can make for terrible choices."

He steps away and turns around, placing his fists together behind his back again, below the embroidered dragon. The image seems to ripple slightly, and Paul has the distinct impression the dragon is looking at him. This one, however, has nothing in common with Puff.

"And you need have no fear of Death. Not being mortal, you are beyond his authority. You may Return many times, each time making the same choice. Eventually, most of us decide to leave hold of corporeal life and move on to what comes next."

TreyKincaide 4th of June, 2008 01:27

Paul folds his arms and stares at the bannered dragon losing himself in its austere eyes as he puzzles out Mesmer's words.

Everyone has the ability to Return, but it is limited by their will and their Healing gifts. Most Younglings lack the ability to regenerate in time to their will so they generally cross over. Elders have both and Return except in rare cases such as Lilith.

Finalling causes trauma upon the victim sometimes provoking a terrible will allowing those to Return that would not otherwise do so. These creatures twisted by hatred and revenge, further infuriated by their state, become the spirits of despair shown before.

He snaps to relaxing into his stance and nodding firmly, "I believe I understand. The trauma upon me will result in a direct tearing of my soul. Because it will not be a reflection of pain endured of flesh but one of spirit, I might react instinctively or not even understand when the choice is presented. Do you propose to anchor me somehow then?"

Wired*Nun 4th of June, 2008 03:00

He turns around, fixing Paul with a passionate, burning stare. He feels pinned, flayed, sand-blasted by the dry heat of the man's will. He feels like a man naked in the desert, helpless against the rays of the sun above.

"The Creator Being that caused this universe established freedom of choice as a principle even higher than service to the Good. Thus It allows poor choices, even evil ones, and all the horrible things that result - for to interfere with those choices unduly is to interfere with the highest principle, to make automatons of us all. Without choice, there is no Good nor Evil, no love nor apathy, there is only blind, stupid causality." He spits out the words as if they offend him personally.

"When the choice is presented to you, you will understand very, very well. You will be confronted with a painful rehabilitation with no certainty of success - or the welcoming and acceptance into the brightness of Eternity, a new and higher order of existence. Presented with that choice, your instinct will be to run from pain to relief. You have to be fundamentally convinced and committed to coming back before the pain overwhelms you. Like a soldier on an impossible mission, you have to be willing to endure much and risk everything for a result that may be of no personal benefit - only service to a higher cause."

His expressson softens, bringing with it a wave of relief, like rain upon parched skin.

"You see, I can manipulate your emotions - in fact, my Gifts are so much a part of me that I have difficulty not doing so - but I can't manipulate you without I become the very thing I despise. Thus I am trying to convince you, implore you, to decide now, that your decision will be that much easier to make later. I will do all I can to blunt the pain and remind you of your own intention - but I can no more anchor you here than I could stop a locomotive with my bare hands."

TreyKincaide 4th of June, 2008 05:10

Paul reactively struggles against the feeling much as he did Justin Orabono's emotional meddling only easing as Mesmer blistering heat subsides. Any bravado burns away leaving his underlying fear exposed, "I...I can give no affirmation that will convince you that I will come back. That's not the point, though.

"Charity, they say is a virtue. It has left me dead twice over.

"I'd be a fool not to be scared. Even though I've been through this before, now I walk forward knowing without doubt that I will die.

"Like Lilith, whose enthusiasm for freedom cuts like a knife, I find myself very much wanting to live. Although I have no clue what to expect, I remember how I suffered during our brief separation. It frightens me how wretched I might just become.

"I'm doing the best I can with what I've been Given. Perhaps I wasn't before, but that doesn't matter. I have enough left undone that I will Return. I do as must, because I must. That is so much a part of me that I have difficulty not doing so.

"The first time I came back was curiosity. Now, I'll just have to be too stubborn to stay dead."

Wired*Nun 5th of June, 2008 03:14

A smile breaks through Mesmer's intense visage, filling him with hope and the warmth of approval, like a father's love.

"Good man. Good man. I know you can do it. I just didn't know that you knew."

"You can't do this on hope. You have to do it on faith. Faith is the essence and evidence of unknown things. It's proof of the unprovable. Faith is what separates us from animals - the ability to see and think and believe beyond our own experience - because something must be. For me, I always had faith that Lilith would come back to me. For you, it's faith that what you do is vital to the struggle against the evil, and that those on the side of good need you."

TreyKincaide 5th of June, 2008 08:58

Paul can't help himself from smiling in response to the Elder's praise, "I've never had it put that way, but you're right. Before the Change I struggled against ignorance, apathy, and sloth. Maybe I'm not so different now except that I've been Given what I need to make a change for the better. I once heard that people don't really change, but rather choose to become what they are meant to be."

Orabono. Night. They both in their own way recognized something that I couldn't. That I'm special. It's a rare man who sacrifices his life for another, and someone the Light can ill afford to do with out. That's what makes Even without Lilith's strength, my own will see me whole again.

"I'm ready."

Wired*Nun 6th of June, 2008 05:36

"People change all the time, but it's usually very slowly, or very suddenly, and it's seldom of their own volition. Of the sudden kind, there has to be some kind of life-changing event." His eye twitches in what might have been a wink.

"I think dying counts."


"I'm ready."
"Then so am I...except for one or two small things. I will have the helicopter me on the pad in five minutes?"

He shows Paul to the door.

A moment later, Paul can hear the APU's whine as it spins the helo turbines to operational speed.

TreyKincaide 6th of June, 2008 06:43

Arriving with no personal effects of consequence, Paul sojourns quietly and thoughtfully to the awaiting flight pad.

He stands there waiting.

Would you to talk to Gale while I'm gone? If you can, I mean? I don't intend for you to try to explain all this to her, but while I recover, I think she deserves something more than a 'training accident' line.

Wired*Nun 6th of June, 2008 22:55

Of course. I'll take her under my wing, assuming my wings work. I really don't know what state I'll be in. This kind of thing is very rare. I've only heard of two cases where naked Nephil have been able to peacefully reoccupy bodies...two cases in over ten thousand years.

The pilot waves Paul over. A moment later, mesmer, dressed in a black Nehru outfit reminding Paul of movies from the 60s, joins him. As soon as they snap their seatbelts, the bird lifts off like a fast elevator.

The cabin is remarkably well soundproofed, reducing the noise to the level of a typical airline cabin.

Mesmer slouches back in his seat, crossing his arms and letting his chin fall to his chest, looking at Paul from under hooded eyelids. He suddenly seems twenty, instead of timeless.

"What do you think of the training thus far?"

TreyKincaide 6th of June, 2008 23:33

Paul stares out of the window as the chopper makes its ascent. He glances over at Mesmer's question and rises an eyebrow, "So far, with a few added exceptions, it seems what I think most specialized military training would be like. The emphasis hasn't been so much to follow orders without thinking like Basic, but rather be able to react quickly on one's feet. A distinction, I believe, to be motivated as much by practicality of solo operative tactics as ideology.

"The rest? I don't know what to make of it except I've been dreading it for the last month. It's the next step in the dehumanizing process, and, at least it my case appears to be working. When I Return I won't fear death, and will likely become used to pain, so won't hesitate to throw myself in harm's way. Further, it'll be pain I willingly subjected myself to rather than inflicted on me leaving me with no one to resent. It's almost as if this event was planned or Fated to coincide with this step of my development," he quirks a smile from the side of his mouth.

"Maybe both."

A shrug of his shoulders, "I guess time precludes the last logical step where we use our newfound abilities in tandem. Fortunately, the need for massive organized strikes are rare, no? Perhaps, there'll be time for it later at some point"

Wired*Nun 6th of June, 2008 23:46

Mesmer raises an eyebrow, Spocklike, without coming out of his slouch.

"Dehumanizing? 'Greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friend.' The greatest, most human acts in history have always been acts of sacrifice. Do you feel more, or less, human today, than you did before Vicki Drexel tried to end your existence?"

TreyKincaide 7th of June, 2008 00:17

"Asks the man who has walked the Earth for untold millennia. If mortality defines human, then yes I am less human than I was before. There is a difference between Faith and Knowing there is life after death. The latter undermines the former.

"Most armed training by nature and design is dehumanizing for no act separates man greater than taking the life of another.

"I used the term before to speak to the notion of training to consistently unlearn motor reflexes to pain, react faster than the eye can see yet to do so with precision and control beyond human capability, altering reality with a song, although songs can and do change the world, or simply living apart when everyone's forgotten you because you want them to."

Paul pauses thoughtfully, "Okay, point taken. My argument unravels when I recognize that in many cases Gifts are extensions of what is humanly possible."

"Still, Lilith, Ash, Joan, and you seem alien and all too human at the same time."

Wired*Nun 7th of June, 2008 01:06

"We're just a lot older. We've developed eccentricities. We've eliminated many of our own weaknesses, but not all, for sure. And knowing more just makes me know what I don't know even more. One thing I think I do know, though, is that while mortality is of the body, humanity is a thing of the spirit. On that score, you have nothing to fear of dehumanization."

He shrugs. "Any sufficiently arcane magic acts like technology...that's why Gifts are not magic. Gifts may or may not be consistent, or reliable. They are fuelled by faith, confidence, and the will. They interact with other gifts in unpredictable ways. It's best to always leave yourself with a lot of reserve capacity, to cover that unpredictability."

He sighs. "Forgive me, I lapse easily into lecture. But I hope to lead you to certain understandings."

He pauses for a moment, blinking slowly at Paul, as if formulating his next sentence.

"From where do you think human decisions proceed? Colloquially - where do they come from?"

TreyKincaide 7th of June, 2008 01:29

Paul blinks and stops himself from lapsing into prompting factors or models of decision making. He pauses and glances back out the window, "I suppose, by your definition human choice is a Gift motivated by will, faith, confidence. Free will. The ability to chose at all. Equally semi-reliable and unpredictable as anything we can do."

Wired*Nun 9th of June, 2008 23:39

"Hmmm. Epiphanies are hard to transfer. Even harder when they were gradual. But let me throw this out to you as something to think about. It's something of which I have become convinced, but that doesn't make it true. It's not provable."

"If we are simply sums of causality, of the overwhelming interaction of factors in an infinitely complex system, we must - must! - come to the conclusion that we do not choose anything. And if we do not choose, we can no more be responsible for our goods or evils than a stone rolling down a mountainside, or a decaying isotope."

"Therefore, if we are to talk about ethics, or morals, or good or evil in any form, we must intrinsically acknowledge at least one factor independent - non-dependent, that is - on these natural factors. Something within people that makes them contingent beings - beings who can make an original decision that flows from a first cause of some form. Something that truly exists independent of natural control. Subject to influence, of course, but not control."

"That makes you and me and every human being, mortal or otherwise, a unique and irreplaceable thing. It makes us absolute marvels, transcendent above and beyond the causal natural universe. It places us on another plane of reality altogether. In your heart - in your guts, if you will, you know this, that you and I are of an order impossibly superior to the machine, be it mechanical or organic."

"I believe it is this, and this alone, that makes us unique, and in any way of value - that we are, intrincially, first causes."

TreyKincaide 10th of June, 2008 06:38

"Sure. The spark of divinity argument," Paul nods. "I still fail to understand how that leads to what you're trying to impart. At this point I have--we are the same because we can choose but that doesn't explain our difference. I guess I missed something."

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