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The Only Rules That Matter: Bloodlines (Corsair&Madam Mim)

TheCorsair

[is a roomba]
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
The burly man stared at May for a long moment, long enough to make Jack tense up. Buncha Southern crackers, he decided, eyeing the odds and not liking them. I'm bout to hear how some little white lady shouldn't be seen with no nigger, ain't I? It was going to be bad, he knew it. And he wasn't sure how much use most of the assembled faithful would be in a fight. Jesse walked like he could handle himself, but the others? Well, maybe he'd just grab a chair and start busting heads right now.

The man lept to his feet, gesturing for the other two at the table to do likewise. "Not at all, ma'am," he said with a smile. "We're not using it, and it looks like you all got yourselves a big crew.

"Sure do," said one of the other men. "Don't look like you all are from around here, either. What brings you to Nashville?"

"Just passing through," Jack said, stepping forward. "On our way from Maryland to Texas."

"Texas, huh?" The burly man looked him up and down. "You sure sound like a Texan, but the lady here..?" He shook his head. "Rest of your crew sound Yankee, mostly."

Jack shrugged. "Yeah, well, you don't get to choose where you're born. And not everyone's lucky enough to be from Texas, right?"

The burly man laughed. "Hell, yeah. Nor from Tennessee, either." He looked around the room, then stepped close enough that Jack could smell the barbecue on his breath. "You might wanna be careful, boy. Most folk around here are decent, live and let live folk. But further south." He glanced at May. "Well, I ain't gotta tell you how most folk ain't so... understanding."

Fighting down his irritation at being called 'boy', Jack let himself nod. "I get that, sir. I really do."
 
OP
Madam Mim

Madam Mim

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Joined
May 30, 2013
May grinned at the man's manners. It seemed she had picked the right person to ask as he stood up and gestured for his friends to as well. He wasn't perfect, of course; she squeezed Jack's hand gently when he called him "boy." But he at least seemed a decent sort, open-minded enough not only to let them have the chair but also to warn Jack in a friendly manner about the dangers of going around with a white girl.

"Jack here can take care of himself just fine," she assured the burly man with a smile. "And me. So you guys from Nashville then?"

He shook his head. "Nah, Sevierville, just outside of Knoxville. We're on our way home from a club meet."

May's eyes flicked over them again. Vests. Patches. She shifted her weight and jerked her thumb towards the door. "Those your hogs out there?" At the affirmative she nodded. "I knew y'all were angels as soon as I saw you! Doesn't really matter where from, does it?" She gestured with her head over to the tables the others had pushed together. "Come eat with us," she invited. "You've been so nice, least we can do is share what we've got with you. I'm May, by the way."

"Pete." The biker's smile was friendly as he gestured to his companions. "This here's Randy, and Pops." Pops was, ironically, the youngest-looking of them. She supposed there was probably some sort of story behind the name. The bikers glanced at their food, which they'd only managed a few bites of before May had interrupted them, then shrugged and dragged their chairs over as well as the empty ones at their table.

May introduced the three to Jesse and Nate, and while Pete and Randy chatted genially with those around them, Jesse monopolized Pops's attention. They spoke in low tones, with their heads together, for nearly twenty minutes while everyone ate. May paid it no mind; Jesse had his reasons, and had their best interests at heart. Maybe the All had called to Pops already and they were talking about membership in the Church. Maybe he was just proselytizing. It wasn't her place to question an Ascender's motives. When the meal was done, however, and they began to put the tables back and filter out, May looked at their new acquaintances.

"You could come with us to Texas, if you'd like," she offered. "It'd be a hard ride; we're going overnight. But the more the merrier."
 

TheCorsair

[is a roomba]
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
“Texas? Hm...”. Pete scratched at his chin, fingers moving through his barbecue-stained beard. “Haven’t been to Texas, before.”

“I have,” Randy volunteered. “Spent a couple of years there, before I had to make myself scarce. Wouldn’t mind going back, though.” He eyed Ravyn speculatively. “Not at all.”

“Course,” Pete continued, “that ain’t up to us. Pops there, he calls the shots for the club.”

“That I do,” Pops agreed cheerfully, finally looking up from his conversation with Jesse. He took a long pull from his beer, then clunked the bottle down on the table. “And my man here has made us an offer to do that very thing.” He clapped Jesse on the shoulder. “And me, I’m inclined to say we should go.”

“All the way to Texas?” Pete asked, sounding a little surprised.

“Yep,” Pops agreed, taking another swig of his beer. “These here God-fearing folk...”

“We don’t fear the Universal...” Ravyn began to protest.

“Figure of speech,” Pops tossed out, waving off her protests. “These fine people are doing the Lord’s work, and it seems they really could use a few angels on their side.” He leaned forward. “Maybe even after they get to their paradise, you dig?”

“So, uhm,” Jack said carefully. “You’re... joining up?”

“Nah, probably not,” Pops chuckled. “Maybe just... hanging around. Helping out.” He downed his beer. “I know some people out there, people who can, well, get you what you need.”

Trying not to frown, Jack squeezed May’s hand. “Great,” he muttered. “Just great.”
 
OP
Madam Mim

Madam Mim

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Joined
May 30, 2013
May grinned, bouncing on her toes as Pops agreed to join them on the ride to Texas. She squeezed Jack's hand back before letting go briefly to hug the bikers. The All provides. Max had always maintained that, and he hadn't been proven wrong yet.

"Well, you're always welcome if you change your minds," she assured them, "but until then we could certainly use some help setting up and getting supplies until we're self sufficient." She inclined her head toward the door, where night had fallen completely. "We're pushing hard to Texas, we should really get a move-on if we wanna get there relatively early tomorrow."

The congregation took it in shifts to drive the buses, now with Hell's Angels riding between them or sometimes alongside them on long stretches when no one else was on the road. At one of the gas stations where they stopped for snacks and a bathroom break, the bikers could be seen huddled together, sniffing with allergies and blinking hard from sleep. Jesse stood nearby, watching them with interest. The bus was quiet most of the night, with the rumble of the engine drowning out the occasional snores and seatmates leaning on each other, sometimes with pillows and blankets, in an effort to get some fitful upright sleep. The sun was only barely starting to show on the distant horizon when they passed a sign that most of them missed, reading Welcome To Texas.

It was nearly lunch time and there were starting to be questions of stopping to eat, but Jesse continually promised that they were almost there. Twenty minutes of "almost there" later, they really were. There was an old tin sign marking the boundary of Buffalo Gap, and the buses and bikes slowed as they drove down the main street. There wasn't much; a seedy-looking video rental store, a corner grocery, a dollar shop, a library, a post office attached to a cop shop, a greasy spoon diner, and a K-12 school interspersed with a few houses. Mostly it was fields. Being early June, the cotton had gotten as tall as it was going to but hadn't yet blossomed into fluffy tufts, and the corn wasn't yet ripe. Certainly there must have been more hidden elsewhere, but growing up in a Baltimore suburb then living in the city itself May had never seen such a sparse main street in her entire life. It was...quaint. Even if folks were staring at them from the sidewalk. The view as they exited the other end of Main Street was even more peaceful, with nothing but wilderness and empty sky for miles around. Eventually they turned onto a dirt road, bouncing and lurching and at some point not entirely certain they were even on a road at all, until finally they bounced to a stop.

"Welcome home, Family," Jesse announced as he stood from the driver's seat. He grinned and pulled the lever to open the door, leading the way out to where Max stood in front of a tent to greet them.

"Welcome," Max called, "to the Beginning of the World." He stretched out his arms to indicate the land behind them.

There was a pause as the congregation took in their new surroundings. A few murmurs.

"Max it's perfect!" May ran forward, throwing herself into his arms and laughing as he caught her and spun her around before setting her back on her feet and kissing her thoroughly. She looked out to the land, then to the faithful. "We can make our home here," she insisted. "We've seen the fields; it's fertile land. This is a place where the sun will bless us with warmth and life, where honest rain falls without carrying the toxins from the city. We can live in harmony with the land and the rhythms of nature, bringing ourselves ever closer to the blessings of the All." She looked at the congregation expectantly, where there were a few more murmurs and, eventually, assent. Turning to Max again she kissed him warmly. "I've missed you, High Ascender."

"And I you, All-Goddess," he murmured back, leaning his forehead against hers and sliding his hand to her stomach. "You did so well, showing our family the way to the God-Soul's will. We've got 47 acres here and it's going to be a beautiful life." He grinned and kissed her forehead before turning her around and swatting her on the butt. "Now why don't you go help unpack while I catch up with the other Ascenders, hm? And uh...our new guests." He eyed the bikers curiously before stepping over to Nate and Jesse.

May did as she was told, attaching herself to Jack again as they formed a fire line to help unpack the bus. "Isn't it wonderful?" She looked up at Jack expectantly as she handed over a duffel bag.
 

TheCorsair

[is a roomba]
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
“It’s, well, it’s sure something,” Jack answered, grabbing the duffel bag and passing it to the next person in line. “Not a bad looking but of land, honestly. Do we have a well, or are we trucking water in?”

“What?” Ravyn grunted the word as she took the bag and slung it over. “Trucking water in?”

“We’re too far out for city water,” Jack explained, accepting a milk crate full of clothes and passing it along. “And I don’t see a creek or anything. So, if we don’t have a well, we’re hauling water in until we get one dug. Assuming we have a good spot for one.”

“We’ve got a well,” Jesse said, taking a bag from Jack’s hands and slinging it over his shoulder. “The All provides, after all.” He turned to head back over towards Max and the bikers, but stopped as Jack asked a question.

“Hey, man. Them bikers hanging around?”

“That’s what we’re hoping.” Jesse shrugged. “As the All wills.”
 
OP
Madam Mim

Madam Mim

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Joined
May 30, 2013
There was, indeed, a well and Max said something about a creek a few acres mesa-wards for bathing or if the well ran dry. Right now, though, shelter was their first priority. After a quick lunch of beans and rice cooked over a campfire, the church spent the remainder of the afternoon constructing shelters from large, waterproofed canvas tarps and whatever supports they could find or had thought to bring. By nightfall, ten shelters had been erected for the church's 41 members, plus three Hell's angels. Wire was wrapped between saplings and the chickens were released into the enclosure before a makeshift roof was set on top to provide a little protection against predators. Exhausted, there was little talking or singing around the fire as they prepared and passed around dinner, yet another serving of rice and beans. The smell of weed was strong as several joints and pipes were passed around.

"Tomorrow, half of us will begin planting," Max instructed, "and the other half will start building shelters."

"I didn't see a hardware store or a lumber yard in town," one of the newer members--Ben?--pointed out.

Max smiled and shook his head. "Doesn't matter," he said. "That's a Disconnected way of thinking. We're here to live in harmony with the land, just as the Indians did before us. And so, like the Indians, we'll build with adobe: mud and grass bricks, put together wet and baked by the sun. Nothing stronger."

May leaned in to whisper to Jack. " You grew up close to here, right? Near the res? Is that true?" She had always thought that adobe was more common somewhere like New Mexico, but what did she know?

"After that, we'll build our place of worship," Max continued. He waited for excited chatter to die down. "Then we can focus on the real work: spreading the message of the Universal God-Soul, first to the good folks of Buffalo Gap, then hopefully to the world beyond." More excited chatter. He grinned. "But tonight we rest. You all worked hard, and I'm so proud of all of you. Four to a shelter, a few of us will have five. I don't want any shelter to be without a person-mover, though," he added sternly. Of the 41 church members, 18 were women. "While I've been waiting for you, I've been communing with the All. And the God-Soul has told me that now is the time to grow our church, both from without and within. We'll continue to preach the world to the Disconnected, but we must also take care to raise up the next generation in the word of truth. Beginning with the All-Goddess." He stood and walked behind May, where he laid his hands on her shoulders and squeezed gently. "Even now, she carries the Hidden Buddha, son of the High Ascender, the Prophet of the Lotus."

Excited chatter broke out once more. May blushed and looked down, mumbling embarrassed thanks as her found family crowded forward to take turns embracing, kissing, congratulating, blessing her or touching her tummy. There was a certain quality to Max's paternalistic smile as he looked down on them, still holding May by the shoulders. Was it smugness? Victory? Difficult to say. Finally, he motioned for everyone to return to their seats and quiet again.

" The All has told me that it isn't good for a child to be alone, and that the Hidden Buddha must have a flock of his own just as I have shepherded you to the World's Beginning." Pause for dramatic effect. "Therefore, going forward when you seekers unburden yourselves to a person-mover, you must unburden yourself to her entirely. Not one drop of your yang must fall upon the ground. And while we know that this new...pill," there was a hint of disgust, "poisons women's bodies and are an affront to the will of the All, other methods are also against the will of the All. Condoms, spermicides, diaphragms, none of these are to be used ever again. Is that clear?" A hand went up. "Yes, Sister Celene?"

"Why now?" she asked. "All of this was allowed before, what's changed the God-Soul's mind?"

Celeste was new.

Max chuckled and shook his head. "That isn't how it works," he explained gently. "The Universal God-Soul is eternal, never-changing; only our understanding of it. In the city, we were surrounded constantly by the Disconnected and all of that negative energy and karma interfered with our connection with the All. I admit, even my connection." He nodded solemnly. "But out here, in nature, in the creation of the Universe? Everything has become so much clearer! Including the future of our family, and the place of the divine person-movers within it." He knelt behind May, sliding his hands possessively from her shoulders, over her breasts, down to her stomach. "For what is a family without children? Without mothers and fathers bonded not only by love but by blood?" Slowly he pressed a warm kiss to her neck. "All these methods of so-called birth control? It's people control is what it is. Out here, it's become so much clearer to me that all birth control is strictly an invention of the Disconnected. I mean, does any other animal on the planet practice birth control?" There were murmurs and shaking heads. "So what sense does it make for us? Humans as a species wouldn't have survived if we did then the crap we do now. I mean, take The Pill for instance: cancer, blood clots, strokes, birth defects, permanent reproductive damage...and all for what?" He shook his head. "Childbearing is the closest we can come with our ancestral roots. It's a blessed and holy thing, sisters," here he gave May a little squeeze and she smiled with embarrassment, "and what a disservice it would be to deny the holiness of woman."

Celeste pressed her palms together in a prayer sort of position and bent at the waist, a gesture Max quite liked, really, and returned though he didn't bow as low as she had. "Thank you, High Ascender. It all makes sense."

After announcing that those tents with five people must have two person-movers, since there was enough for nearly every shelter to have two, Max let May go and encouraged everyone to eat up. May looked sideways at Jack and smiled.

"See?" she teased. "I told you I was pregnant." She giggled. "Maybe soon you'll give the baby a little brother or sister not too much younger, hm?" She nudged Jack gently, then tilted her head. "What's wrong?" she asked quietly. "Your spirit's been...disquieted since before we left Baltimore." Gently she put her hand on Jack's cheek and turned his face toward her, the concern in her eyes visible in the firelight. "Unburdening isn't only a physical process, Jack. Tell me what's on your soul."
 

TheCorsair

[is a roomba]
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Jack took May's hand and glanced at her, then back into the campfire. "I... don't know, really," he said slowly, sounding distracted. "There's just something... something off about all of this. I mean, I get the move out here. I don't know that middle of nowhere, Texas is really the best place to try and build the movement, but I get wanting to have a permanent place to build from. And that old warehouse in Baltimore wasn't it. But... something feels, well, wrong."

Drawing a deep breath, he shifted a little on the milk crate he was using as a seat. "I mean, why was Max so excited to get those bikers out here with us? They clearly aren't interested in any of this, beyond the Person-Movers themselves. It was a lark for them, a lark and a chance to get laid. But Max is acting like they're the answer to his prayers. Why?"

He fell silent for a moment, listening to the distant sounds of the scrubland. "It seems like we need more people like that guy that financed this, May. More converts from the middle and upper classes, if we want to get the word spreading. Not, well, not bikers. That's the kind of bad news that gets us branded as outsiders and extremists, not as people genuinely devoted to peace and love."

Sighing, he fell silent agan. "And there's another thing," he added after a while. "We're really in the middle of nowhere, May. The middle of nowhere, and now he's saying he wants a whole crop of kids. How does that work?" He chuckled. "I mean, yeah. Sure. I get how it works in terms of having the babies. But what if something goes wrong? Nearest hospital's a solid hour's drive from here. A lady could die, or lose the baby, or both by the time we got there if something happens. And the kids'll need checkups and shots and the like, and schools. Nothing like that around here."

Sighing again, he turned to look at May. "Why are we out here?"
 
OP
Madam Mim

Madam Mim

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Joined
May 30, 2013
Jack admitted that he didn't understand why they were in the middle of nowhere, specifically, and she smiled. "The All led Max here. We don't choose the land, the land chooses us," she explained patiently with an air of unconcern. But then he questioned the presence of the Hell's Angels and May shrugged and shook her head. "Maybe they were?" she suggested. "I don't know what a holy man prays on, and the All isn't always direct in its answers. We won't know til we know, y'know?" She smiled again encouragingly.

The smile faded when Jack suggested that they needed more men like Thomas. Certainly it would be a blessing to convert more people like Thomas, people who were more deeply entrenched in the World and in the most desperate need of Connection. May's hand slid from his cheek, over his shoulder, down his arm to where she loosely held his hand. She forgot sometimes how large his hands were compared to hers, he had always been so gentle with them.

"We've tried," she said sadly. "You weren't here in the early days of the Church, Jack. Max used to get legit speaking engagements at conferences and stuff. He'd go to community gatherings and fundraisers and preach the Word, but for the longest time there was no one: just Max, Jesse, Nate, and me. Well...and Esther." She looked away guiltily for a moment even at the mention of her name. "Disconnected are too comfortable being disconnected from the All, Jack. That's the problem." She gave him a small, sad smile. "Did Jesus build his church with rich folks and people who benefited from the status-quo? Or did he build it with the poor, the outcast, the persecuted?" She tilted her head a little. "He was branded as an extremist too, an enemy of the state. But look at Christianity now."

A silence fell between them, not wholly comfortable, while Jack mulled over his thoughts. Finally he pointed out that they were in the middle of nowhere, when the Person-Movers were going to be having babies. When she would be having a baby. She shook her head at the mention of hospitals and difficult births and schools.

"That's a Disconnected way of thinking," she admonished gently. Of course May wasn't going to accuse him, the High Holy Seeker, of actually being Disconnected. But every savior had doubts and stumbling blocks, didn't they? "The All provides, Jack. Women have been having babies without hospitals or shots or checkups for thousands of years. The land provides food and medicine, and what it doesn't provide I saw a GP clinic when we passed through town. As for school, we've got a few folks who used to be teachers, or were in college to be teachers." She gestured to the group. "And we'll be giving them a more practical education, anyway. I dunno about you, but I've never used a chemistry equation in my entire life that wasn't in school." She smiled a little, trying to encourage him, but it didn't seem to work.

Sighing again, Jack turned to look at her. "Why are we out here?"

She shrugged. "Like I said, the All isn't always straightforward. It led Max here, and Max led us here. So this is where the world begins anew, and we just have to have faith that it'll all work out." She ran her nails gently along his scalp, through a thin layer of natural hair that was beginning to grow out from its severe military cut, in a fond gesture. "In the meantime, we'll work hard to make it work out."
 

TheCorsair

[is a roomba]
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
“Just have faith, huh?” Jack made a snorting noise. “Dunno how much faith I have, May. But, yeah. I can get behind working hard for it.” His arm slid around her shoulders, pulling her into a comfortable embrace. “Gramma Jackie always said that there’s only two rules that really matter. That’s what you can do, and what you can’t do. And I know I can work hard.”

He sat for a few minutes, staring out across the scrubland. “And, hell. Not like we’d be the first people to make a go of it out here, with enough hard work. And we won’t be the last, either.”

Finally, he chuckled and levered himself to his feet. “Now,” he said, offering May a hand, “I heard that there’s meals to be had. Let’s go get some. After all, you’re eating for two now.”

-*-

“You’re sure this is the place, Max?”

Cross-legged in his tent, Max looked up from the hash bowl he was packing. “You’re the last person I’d expect doubts from, Jesse.”

“Not doubt,” Jesse replied, ducking into the tent and taking a seat. “But… the desert? The Scarlet Woman preferred the water. The sea.”

Max tamped the bowl down. “Sounds like doubt, man.”

“No.” The single word was flat and hard. “You know better, Max. Just… help me understand.”

After a moment’s silence, Max nodded. “All right. The God-Soul doesn’t speak to me, not the way as to Her, at least. But… I saw this place, Jesse. As surely as I see you.” He fiddled with the pipe, turning it in his fingers. “More, maybe. This is… the yin and the yang. The God-Soul will work a miracle through us, Jesse. Bringing the soft yang energies into this hard yin land.”

Jesse nodded, realization beginning to dawn. “”The vision the Scarlet Woman spoke of..?”

“Yes.” Max smiled, then lit the hash and puffed. “The first step in washing the taint of the Disconnected and their Slaver God away.”

Jesse felt his breath catch. “Then… the Great Mother..?”

“She will rise,” Max nodded. “If we are faithful here, Jesse, then… then we will see the rise of the Great Mother.”
 
OP
Madam Mim

Madam Mim

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Joined
May 30, 2013
Jack had said that he was willing to work for their shot at a new world, and work he did. They all did. Most of the men were put to work building adobe huts. That lasted all of two days before a heavy spring rain turned it all to mud, despite Max's insistence that this was how the Indians had lived off of the land before they moved out to the reservations. A day or two after the major setback, in which time Max had disappeared into the desert, he came back dirty and sunburned and manic with his own brilliance. The mesas which were on the land he had purchased were made of sandstone. Sandstone brick would be harder to work with and more susceptible to the elements, but it was sturdier than mud at any rate. So the men and one or two of the sturdier women were split into groups, carving out the stone, shaping bricks, and building.

May had been forbidden from helping with building shelters because of the baby. Despite insisting that she could help, getting sick several times a day said otherwise and she was sent to work with the other women. She and Nate led the others in cultivating the surprisingly loamy soil, creating makeshift hand plows from scrubby tree branches and stones to dig furrows and plant seeds, passing their two buckets along a pair of fire lines from the well to water them. They had enough dry goods to tide them over until the first crops, but they would be eating lean until then unless they went into town. Max had made it clear that they were only to go into town if things got desperate; they had come out here to purify themselves from all that was Disconnected, not to deal with them. Proselytizing could come later; the children of the Universal God Soul had to be pure of spirit before they could make the world anew.

The first seedlings were beginning to show their leaves and the first building was nearing completion when a stranger came to their holy land.

The truck had stopped at the "No Trespassing" sign, and the lanky man with dull ginger hair had hopped out and walked the rest of the quarter mile to the settlement proper. Max had caught out of the corner of his eye the dust cloud created by the truck, and narrowed his eyes as soon as he saw what the man was wearing.

"'Scuse me?" The man cautiously approached Jack and May with a hesitant smile. They had been taking a water break and May, at least, eyed him with suspicion. "Just uh...just wanted to welcome y'all to town. Caused a bit of a fuss when ya came through couple weeks back."

May shrugged. "Folks don't trust what they don't know," she said airily. "Look, sorry Father--"

"Oh no, pastor," he corrected, his smile unfaltering. "Todd Beckett, Buffalo Gap Baptist. Most folks just call me Pastor Todd."

"Right. Pastor Todd." She nodded. "No offense, but we've already got a church." She gestured around, and Pastor Todd nodded.

"Of course, of course." He didn't seem deterred. "I just wanted to, y'know, offer some help. Building, planting, whatever you need. Me'n my flock, we've been here our whole lives; we know this land like the backs of our hands." He looked to Jack. "There's not many of us, but we figured it'd be the neighborly thing t'do."

"And how much does your help cost?" Max came striding up, putting a hand on May's shoulder. She had smiled and opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again and seemed to shrink under his touch. "Just our souls?" His smile didn't reach his eyes as he took the measure of the priest.
 
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