Neutral Grounds and Sanctuaries (Flowerdene Arc)

“Short on sleep, but who isn’t, these days?” Siobhan laughs ruefully. Her gaze darts around the room. “Could I speak to you? Privately?” There’s a beseeching look in her eyes, and her face is anxious.

“Sure, dear.”

The Professor looks at the man waiting for her. “Just a minute, please? It will be a good opportunty for you to think in your answer. You can get something to eat there.” She shows a door in front of her.

She takes Siobhan to a small bedroom, that she would use when cases kept her from going back home. A white snake regards the two women lazily. “Saint Michael, could you please take care of your guest and make sure he will not spy on this door?”

The snake slithers out of the room silently. The Professor checks the windows for outsied spies and pats on the uncomfortable-looking bed: “There, now you can talk.”

[[OOC: It’s the second post of mine that ends eaten. I’ve just discovered why. I used The Forbidden Word.]]

Siobhan sits down, staring at her hands. At last, she takes the jump to entrusting the Professor with the secret. “I’m afraid that Eli’s enemies might target me to hurt him, to break his spirit. Especially now.” She turns a ring over and over on her finger. “…I don’t know how long this chaos is going to last, but if it goes on much longer, it’s going to be obvious. Eli’s going to be a father.” She gives Strix a haunted, unhappy look. “Unless they do something.”

“Oh, dear.”

The Professor is not very good at physical proximity, but she takes Siobhan’s hands in solidarity.

“It is a tragedy that such a happy moment has to be marred by all this.” She says. “I can help to keep you safe. That is what sanctuaries are for. It will not be easy, of course, but it is feasible.” She taps her chin. “Naturally, I understand that it is not your sole concern. You are worried for your husband, of course. This is trickier. I will tell you what, I do not think that he should be killed. But he did put himself in a very difficult position. Blood cries for blood. The only way to stop it is to make one of the sides concede.” She grimaces. “I find it very difficult. It is a pity. I like that Mr Lowe took so much care of the poorest and more vulnerable people, but when I saw that he chose to turn it all into a war, I knew his cause was lost.”

She looks at Siobhan sadly: “You love him. You know him. I might be mistaken. Do you think that Mr Lowe wants to be saved? Do you think that he would stop whatever he was doing if the toll in human lives became too high, even if it was a blow in his pride?”

Siobhan’s eyes are filled with tears. There’s more she wants to confide, but some things aren’t her secrets to give. At last, she says shakily, “He didn’t turn this into a war. He just brought it out in the open so people could see it.” She straightens a bit, some of her old determination returning. “It was a war already, but one done by inches, by laws, by blind eyes turned to pain.”

Her shoulders slump again. “But Eli… I don’t know. He wants to make this better. And he wants to be there to see the face of our child. The rest, though? I don’t know. All I know is what history says - that the high and mighty don’t care if you give in, except that it makes you easier to step on.”

The Professor doesn’t say what she has in mind, because it’s not a time for lectures on long-term revolutions. There is a young woman to help.

“I asked that because I really, trully, want to help. I know I can do something for you and the baby, and I really wished I could do something for Mr Lowe, too. I am an incorrigible romantic, I do not wish your family to fall apart before even starting. But it all comes down to his choices. I mean, is there any true way for him to ‘win’ his insurgence?”

She stops herself and shakes her head, sadly. “Forget about that. If he wants my help to save his life, he will have to ask for it himself and I will do it. Right now, he is not here, is he? What about you? Do you seek sanctuary? Or is there something else I can do?”

With a long, shaky exhale, Siobhan nods. “If it comes to it, I need somewhere I can run to. If this lasts longer… just somewhere my child can survive. There are a lot of risks I can take, but not that.”

The Professor understands. “You can run to any of my lodgings, if need be. These are the addresses. At any moment, you can send me a bat, if you need to be escorted here. Naturally, I cannot guarantee safety once you are under my guard. About your child, I promise you that: if you put them under my care, I will protect them as if they are my own. Leave me informed, and do not take unnecessary risks.”

“Thank you.” The hug’s a bit awkward, but definitely sincere, and what else can one do when someone’s promised to guard one’s child like their own? Siobhan stands, wiping her face. “…I should get back to Flowerdene, before I’m missed.”

“Be safe, my dear.”

The Professor helps Siobhan to compose herself and gives another look outside before letting her go. It’s time to deal with her other guest.

“Well, Mr Annonymous, your time. Let’s hear what you have to say.”

“Yes. Go ahead.”

She answers as a reflex, to earn some time as she puts her ideas in place. ‘Was part of one named Drake Dynamo’? What did it mean? Weird. Was this man something like Ezekiel, the sentient fungus?

“I remember the name. Mr Dynamo sent me some letters inviting me for an expedition. I never met him in person, though.” She makes an note to herself to send a letter to him, wherever he is. Things are getting silly. “You should drink something with it, too. There is tea and there is coffee. Now, about your proposition, this is better. At this point, I am focused in getting as much intelligence as we can. Who is going in and out of Flowerdene? Who is meeting in secret to fight them? Why now? Which bouts of violence are random, which one are caused by those powers clashing? If we want to avoid bloodshed, we need to coach them into finding a middle ground. But we can only do that by understanding what is going on. If we cannot stop them, having a better picture will at least help us to protect innocents.” Like Siobhan’s child. She had to work on that. “If you can get some intel, it will help. I have just a little, by now, most suspicions. Speaking of which, do you even have a place to stay?”

Ezekiel lowers itself carefully down from the roof and into the highest window. “Professor! Professor!”

The being calls out for Strix, anxiety evident even in it’s garbled chirps. It bears it’s normal rain-jacket and mask ensemble, but lacks the ratting piece that is normally slung over its back.

“Oh, right.” She sighs and scratches her head. “Hmmmm… I am evacuating the children in my school to a lair in the Marshes, and that house will become empty until it is needed. I will show you they way. You can rest there. Assuming you need to rest.”

A copy? Weirder and weirder. That man was all wrong, of course. Not human enough. She felt a little like her Mahogany Hall days, in which she had to teach oblivious clay men and louche devils to act human. If he really wanted to be a spy, she would have to at least teach him some basics.

Lesson number one: table manners. Despite what detractors would say, she really had decent table manners, and maybe it was time to share them.

[quote=The Absurd Rogue]Ezekiel lowers itself carefully down from the roof and into the highest window. &quotProfessor! Professor!&quot

The being calls out for Strix, anxiety evident even in it’s garbled chirps. It bears it’s normal rain-jacket and mask ensemble, but lacks the ratting piece that is normally slung over its back.[/quote]

Just before she can go out with her newer guest, she almost dies of cardiac arrest. &quotYes, Mr Fungus?&quot

“Master has assigned me to service of professor until fighting is conclusively over. Am to answer to Professor until fighting is conclusively over. Conclusively. Yes.”

It’s mostly making sense, but it seems to have gotten more erratic since Strix last saw it. The Corpse Pupeteer performs a clumsy court bow and awaits orders.

“Oh dear.” She breathes deeply. THIS could be a problem. Or not. She needed some time to think. So, to buy her some time, she asks Ezekiel, politely:

“I was going to show this gentleman the place he will stay until he… has his own lodgings, I presume. He said he want to help me, too. Right now, it would be really sweet if you can take him to my school in Spite. It is really hard to miss. It is a big house in Blythenhale, called ‘Saint Martin Board School’. The children are most likely out at this point, but my employees might be moving some furniture. I would like to make sure there are no nasty surprises during that.” She hoped Derek was already with the children, that troublesome lad. “I am asking it as a favour, not as an order, really. I have some unexpected difficultes to take into account before making any further plans and I just need a calm half an hour to make sure everything is alright.”

“Uuuurrgh. Please just stick to orders, makes epicentre hurt otherwise.” Ezekiel brutishly gestures for the shade to follow it. “Da, know the place. Will return when task is finished.”

Ezekiel bristles uneasily. “Eugh, now This One understands how all others feel when This One entertains salon. Just go and keep knife inside.”

Ezekiel and knock-off Ezekiel leave the building, relinquishing an air of tranquility with their departure. How long will it last? At least half an hour, depending on traffic.

With both guests out, the Professor sits to assess the situation. She had already taken care of the most imediate problems. Her companions were already fortifying her lodgings with traps and public attention. Her newspaper was strictly academic, but she had contacts in Doubt Street and in University. If something happened to one of her lodgings, London would know far and wide. Now, she had to account for the Siobhan situation. If she was really going to shelter people of such strategic importance, she would need at least a good bodyguard in each sanctuary and a contingency plan (or a dozen). Fortunately, she was already an expert in moving discreetly between her lodgings.

That was the easy (hah!) part. She could find friends to act as bodyguards and, if needed, she could pull some strings and even pay people to be there for her. She was not rich, but she was far from poor.

Her other problems were what to do with her two charges. Mr Drake’s ‘copy’ (mem. she had to find a name for him, since he kept not giving her one) was willing to help, but why? Probably to help with his quest to kill that wretched scoundrel. If he was such a simple creature, he could be useful, but she would have to keep a close eye on him. She whistled for a bat and instructed one to follow the man and report to her, so she could make a better picture of him. Now, Ezekiel. There were just two reasons for Mr Lowe to put Ezekiel under her services: one, to keep an eye on whatever she was doing and keep himself on her good graces; two, protecting Ezekiel. The possibility was not lost to her. That made finding orders for Ezekiel tricky. He wasn’t a weakling, far from it, but Mr Lowe’s enemies would target him anyway. Hmmm… Before things heat up too much, she would probably keep him as a caretaker for whoever needed one and eventual injured people. But maybe… Yes, she would have to wait and see.

Now that the symptoms were taken care of, she had to work on the cause. The only way to avoid a massacre worse than ever before would be attacking what was causing the conflict. She had some intel on both sides, but not much. She knew that there was a group calling themselves something like ‘the bazaarine pact’ (she couldn’t pinpoint the right name), and another that was derived from the so-called Flowerdene Initiative. The Pact wanted to curb whatever was going on Flowerdene. If her contacts in Spite were to be believed, Flowedene was going to reject the authority of London and the Bazaar and try for independency.

Both sides were mad. The fact that this ‘Pact’ was so secret, instead of a public operation of the Constables, showed that they were willing to resort to extreme (and possibly non-legal) means. This was like throwing hydrogen to put out a fire. Those people were imploring for care, stomping them would just made them more desperate and more dangerous.

About Flowerdene, they had their sympathy, in the sense that she knew their pain almost in a personal level. It’s true that she was never so poor, but she used to prowl all kinds of neighbourhoods when she had to look for… hm… donors every night. She watched people at their most vulnerable, and she galvanized on her the idea that poverty was simply unacceptable in a society that dared to call itself ‘Christian’. Christ would never approve of his followers letting people starve at their doors. But, at the same time, she knew that people were always looking for excuses to not help the poor. For the ones making an insurgence, it surely would look like they were making their voices heard, confronting the powers-to-be, etc, etc, but, in reality, they were simply making neglect easier. The rich would just point at them and say ‘those people are unpredictable and violent, they have declared us as enemies, they have to be contained by all means necessary’. Revolting was actually a way to work FOR oppression, not AGAINST it.

Naturally, she didn’t expect both sides to see it. They were too far into the ‘war’ mentality. Now, she had to work on damage control mode. Prevent the insurgence to degenerate into a full-blown civil war was top priority. This meant that she would have to work to curb the most violent actions of both sides (if she could discover them before they happened), to prevent misinformation and to undermine allegiances from both sides, until the conflict was not much bigger than a gang war.

She sighed. It was too much to be done alone. She would need lots of allies to pull that off, or some kind of master plan that she didn’t have at the moment. Until then, she would devote herself to solve the immediate concerns of how to keep her sanctuaries safe. That, she could do.

A knock on the professor’s door.A young women with bright blue eyes older then the rest of her face. A infernal rifle slung over her shoulder shows she’s all business.
edited by Shadowcthuhlu on 8/17/2016