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Location, Location, Location (IC)

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Stesha's Home, Sanctuary

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Carson flopped down on the incredibly comfortable couch with a smile, while Sonya had the poise to more gracefully sit down on his right side. She too was smiling, though there was also a look of amazement in her eyes. After all, this was her first time on this slowly-transforming planet, and in this amazing home.

"With two wonderful healers here, I should be set if I get a papercut later. Ow, what was that for?"

"Teasing our host."

"Hey, it's rare I get to joke about papercuts here. Usually I'm either on semi-official business, or bleeding out on the floor. It's a nice change of pace. It's my prerogative to have a little fun today."

Sonya just looked at Stesha and rolled her eyes.


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Stesha chuckled as she set down a plate of crackers, cheese and vegetables, cut into whimsical shapes with the help of a cookie cutter. "I was going to say it's a novelty having Carson arrive conscious on my doorstep for once. You're clearly a good influence on him, Sonya." With wine poured in the glasses, the green-haired plant controller took a seat in a comfortable wingback chair opposite the couch. She automatically looked towards the corner where Amaryllis usually played, but for this evening the baby was tucked up in the village with a sitter. It made the house seem quiet!

Picking up her glass, Stesha selected a slice of pepperjack and nibbled the edge. "Carson tells me you're a medical agent with UNISON?" she asked Sonya conversationally. "That must be very exciting work."

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"I object to the idea I need good influences in my life."

"Your feet are on the coffee table."

In just a moment they were tucked up against the couch, and Carson's face was a bit red as he grabbed a handful of appetizers.

"Much better."

"Yes dear."

The Russian woman delicately sipped at the wine before making a small "sandwich" with the items in front of her. She nibbled at it as she spoke.

"Yes. I actually am a leader of one of our medical units. Mostly emergency response in the field; I probably will look to get surgical training one of these days, but for now I know my talents lend themselves to field work.

Of course, being assigned her to Freedom City, it is, how do you say it...Ah. It's about three quarters waiting and paperwork, and one quarter gut-clenching adrenaline rushes. Even being assigned as one of our liaisons to the Freedom League doesn't detract from my battlefield responsibilities. And now that that reality warping boy is stationed here permanently, well...Suffice to say these are interesting times."

Her eyes twinkle a bit as she finishes her snack in hand and continues.

"Not that I don't mind interesting. After all, I'm still spending time with the Irish lunk because he's interesting. That, and his voice. Certainly not for his brains."

"Hey! I'm right here!"

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"I'm so glad you were both finally able to make it out here for a social occasion," Stesha told them. "I think I caught a glimpse of you, Sonya, during the Gorgon evacuation, but everything was so busy then, there was no time at all to talk. Sanctuary is much nicer on a normal week, I assure you." Despite the easy availability of the appetizers, the pleasant aroma coming from the kitchen Stesha had expanded during the winter warned that filling up before supper might be a mistake.

"Derrick was hoping he'd be able to make it tonight, but the negotiations he's observing somewhere out in the Regulus Cluster have stalled again." She shrugged, her smile rueful. "That's the way it goes, I guess. How are things on Prime? I haven't had a chance to spend much time there lately, but I've been worried how people are recovering from the powers eruptions last month."

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"It's possible. Before we settled on the Freedom College campus to set up our triage MASH, I was helping some of the evacuation procedures. I was too busy to notice much of the scenery, though."

She shrugged and elbowed Carson as he started to stack several pieces of cheese up on a cracker.

"Try not to make a mess. Anyways, the plus side is that despite almost getting mobbed, I met this fine example of the male species. Got to see him take on a demon head on."

"It's not as exciting when you've done it a few times."

"...How many times is "a few times"?"

"Uh...probably a dozen or more by this point? I'd run into that succubus once or twice before, too. She was a bit of a thorn in my side over in Southside."

Suddenly, Carson turned and sniffed the air a bit. A curious look crossed his face.

"That smells incredible. What's cooking, Stesha?"

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"it's my busy-day favorite, pot roast and vegetables," Stesha told him. "Cook it in the crockpot here, and I don't have to go back to Earth Prime to use the oven. The salad's from the garden here, and then there's chocolate mousse for dessert. Everything should be just about ready, if you're hungry enough," she added with a quick smile.

The dinner table was small and square, just room enough to accommodate its four chairs, one of which stood empty tonight. There was also a high chair tucked away in the corner with a colorful cloth bib tossed onto the tray for when Ammy was trying out the whole business of eating. Stesha served up the food in pretty ceramic bowls, with a platter for the bread that she told them was crafted right here on Sanctuary. The emphasis on local products might have made the honey served with the bread a bit suspect, but it seemed entirely innocuous. "Dig in," Stesha invited. "I probably made too much, but that's better than not enough!"

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"Mmm, pot roast."

"Handy way to cook when you're busy, too."

"Hungry enough? Yes, just a bit!"

As much as it was said in jest, considering that Carson's body was a living generator and battery for huge amounts of sonic energy, it made sense he'd have to consume more than a non-powered person. Sonya herself looked rather ready to eat; healing might not be quite as intensive as huge fights, but it too required more energy than average. Still, even Carson managed to sit and eat politely.

"Considering his appetite, I wouldn't bet too much on it. Anyways, that power epidemic was rather frightful. Painful, too. Still, it was interesting having a slightly twisted copy of Carson's powers."

"Meanwhile the only advantage I had is I didn't need a healer. I forgot how big the city is! I had to run or jump everywhere!"

"That's not true. I carried you a couple of times."

"That was awkward in and of itself...Stesha, this stuff is GREAT."

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Conversation was easy and pleasant over dinner, touching on favorite recipes, the work all of them were doing lately, and other easy topics that didn't get too much in the way of enjoying a good meal. The sun finished setting outside while they ate, so that the light from the lamps glowed brighter off the green leafy walls. It was like having a meal inside a very large, beautifully constructed treehouse, without ever leaving the ground. As Stesha pushed the dirty dishes into a giant tulip, she looked over at Carson again. "You mentioned you had something specific you wanted to talk about this evening?"

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Gabriel's expression became a bit more serious as he nodded.

"I did. It's really something I've been thinking about for a couple of months now. It started as a bit of a selfish thing."

He sighs and settles down in his chair, looking at the wall but really just staring into space.

"I get beat up. A lot. And even with a few people around who are really good at healing wounds, sometimes I'm just tired. And with Southside making some positive improvements, and more heroes on the streets than ever, I have a bit less demand to always "be on the streets". And while I often find myself helping other heroes, or in the midst of some sort of crisis or another, those are actually pretty rare. I mean, I'm not on a formal team with regular duties or anything.

So I got to thinking a sort of "personal retreat" would be nice. And, well, I knew you had this nice little corner of the multiverse, and that Gaian Knight had himself a flying castle already. Why not a modest little place for me to get away from it all, maybe work on my powers now and again?"

He gave a rueful smile.

"Wasn't long before my idea got...bigger. See, you've got all these people here on Sanctuary. You're doing your best to help them, no mistake. But you're one person, one person with a baby to care for.

What if I could get you a few dozen people to come help these folks, people who can help provide food and medical care and knowledge? Who can not only provide, but teach."

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Stesha cocked her head thoughtfully as she brought the mousse to the table. "You mean you want to start a school?" she asked. "That's a very interesting idea, I've thought about trying to arrange something like that, but I wouldn't know where to start." She smiled ruefully. "I'm afraid I'm a little bit out of my depth here. I can organize the flowers for any event you please, but I didn't learn much at the florist shop about setting up a new world. What sort of people are you thinking about recruiting? And do you have a way to get here and back to Prime on your own? I'd think that would be important just for the sake of logistics, or in an emergency." It didn't seem to occur to her that his welcome might be in question; Sanctuary was plenty big enough for new residents, especially friends.

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Carson blinked, then looked a bit embarrassed.

"Yes, but no. In my talks with them, a school would be part of the plan. But, well..."

Sonya rolled her eyes.

"Either ask her, or I will."

"I'm talking about a monastery. Specifically one run by a group of Cisterians. They're famous for producing foodstuffs and the like. A couple of the prospective travelers have medical training, and one of them has a PhD. Some do have degrees in education, too. Basically, the group's set up almost like a colonization effort, with a lot of different skills. The idea is that they could provide some extra care, food, and so forth in the short term, and in the long term teach the people to be self sufficient.

But, well. I wasn't sure if you'd like the idea. What with them being, you know, monks."

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Stesha blinked at that revelation. "Well, I don't know very much about monks," she admitted. "Most of what I've seen on TV and read in books is about medieval monks, and I'm fairly sure they aren't quite the same anymore. It sounds like they have a lot of good skills, and they could be a real asset if they could settle in happily here." She took a helping of mousse, then, since they were all friends here, added a generous squirt of whipped cream from a can as well. "But recolonizing an abandoned Earth and being far away from everything they love for long periods may not be exactly what they signed up for." She took a delicate bite, then added, equally delicately, "And the issue of how much religion they'd want to teach would also be a concern on my mind."

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"Well, they typically have indoor plumbing these days."

He flashes Stesha a cheeky grin before growing serious again.

"Of course, you have to keep in mind there are several monastic orders just within the Roman Catholic Church, and each has a different approach. I can try to get you some of the modern writings about the Cisterians, but in short, they're hardworking, inventive, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and usually quiet. Though...heh. Several of these gentlemen joined later in life, and are chatty. For Cisterians, anyways. That's why I think they'd be a good fit."

He nibbled at dessert, still engaged in explaining the idea.

"As for being away from what they love...not really. I mean, some have family, but they live in a monastery anyways. They visit only rarely, and apparently the Vatican could take care of setting up transport to and fro, for supplies and occasional trips between. Beyond family, anything they consider personal belongings can easily go with them. Not like they own a house in Maoi and 3 cars, you know? Really, seclusion is kind of what they signed up for anyways.

They wouldn't make conversion a requirement for their services. They understand the potentially delicate situation. Their educational offerings would be top-notch. And consider the Catholic Church is fairly open-armed to the scientific community, really. Some parts of the greater Body have occasional disagreements in some areas, but that's less of an issue for many of us."

He set his spoon down and gave Stesha a level look.

"But they won't hide what they believe. If asked, they will speak of their beliefs. Their services will be open to any who wish it. They won't deny their belief in a Creator in any of their lessons, though that is not the focus outside of, well, theology classes.

I will not lie to you and say they do not see this place as a potential mission field. But they also see it equally as a field for service. If it makes you feel better, they don't engage in boisterous "street preaching". All the Cisterians I've met are more introspective, and do much witnessing via their actions. But they also are unafraid to speak their minds and their beliefs.

If that is too much a problem, we will respect your wishes."

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Stesha tapped her fingers against her lips as she thought for a moment. "The teaching setup sounds attractive," she told him, "and the people who live here are adults and can make their own decisions about what they believe. As long as conversion or church services or whatever isn't mandatory for receiving help, I don't have a problem with the brothers talking about whatever they want." As a woman with a background in biological sciences herself, Stesha wasn't entirely sure of the church's embrace of science, but that didn't seem like too much of a hurdle in the current situation, where the classes would all be practical and vocational.

She dipped her spoon into the mousse again. "There are logistics to consider, though. Electricity, water, how you're going to build a structure big enough with no equipment on-world... have you talked to Tarrant yet? "

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"No, no obligations. Help is offered with no strings attached. That's how we do things, Stesha. We're not the Inquisition, after all."

A slightly bitter smile graces his face at that statement; he'd seen how bad an Inquisition could be. He shook it off and continued.

"Tarrant? Oh. OH. Um. No, I haven't, not yet. I was hoping to, after I talked to you. The whole place is kind of your "project", so I didn't want to assume about this. I was hoping he could help with at least most of the construction; they've had plans drawn up that work with stone construction and so forth. Beyond that, the Church has a lot of resources for situations like this. It's just that it takes time to get permission to go set up a large monastery that's not already establish. We make people skittish or something, I guess. But power and the like, they've got materials for wind and solar power, as well as some new-fangled generators from up in Scandinavia. There will be a few extra folks around who are good with construction, who can help install everything that's needed. If we can get Ga-er, Tarrant's help for the big stuff, the little stuff isn't much of a problem."

His nervous reaction made it clear Carson hadn't known Gaian Knight's secret identity before now. It also meant Sonya was giving him an odd look, but he shook his head such that she decided to leave it be for now.

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"When would you want to start?" Stesha asked. "The seasons are a little rougher here, though I do what I can to keep things smoother inside the bubble. We're moving into the warmer months now, so time is going to be an important factor if you want to move on the idea this year." She smiled, a little ruefully. "You haven't seen winter till you've seen a winter storm on Sanctuary where there aren't thousands of trees controlling the wind and keeping the ground together. Of course, you'll be in the bubble, or I can expand it around you, so that's not so bad. Do you think you can get something set up before autumn?"

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"We'd like to start as soon as we can. Since you're on board, the only other hurdle is getting Tarrant's help, which shouldn't be too hard. Hopefully if we can get his help within a month or so, the project can start."

He smiled a bit as he relaxed some, the slight tension of the earlier questions all but visibly bleeding off of him.

"I mean, it won't be just the permanent staff helping with the construction; there are some discrete contractors the Church knows. Including some people who can set up a dimensional gate that lets them travel to and from Earth and here, once they're given the coordinates. It's not super-cheap, but that's fine. Setting up a new place to help people who need it is worth it to us.

So, with that all said...I think the goal would be to finish by autumn. The building should be sturdy enough to hold against winter pretty well.

As for the bubble, we'll try to work with what we've got. I'll probably bring a surveyor or two with me when I meet Tarrant, so we can pick the best spot. If we need to expand it a bit, I'll try to pass the word along."

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"A surveyor?" Stesha's lips curved at that idea. "Well, we've never had one of those before. I wonder what they'll make of the place." Rising, she fetched a pot of coffee from the kitchen, bringing it to the table with a serving set and mugs. "You'll understand that people who don't intend to make this place home can't be privy to all the information about it," she advised. "I'd appreciate if you would keep them away from my home, and from the village." The smile returned, widened. "You may want to steer clear of the Bee Meadow as well. The bees wouldn't mind a few visitors on the ground, but your surveyors might not feel the same way."

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"Yeah. Gotta plot out all the angles and such. Even with Tarrant's help, they want to do this like professionals."

He shrugged at the mention of limited information.

"Very very few know about this right now. We'd be sure to keep them from totally understanding where they are, or more importantly bringing along scanners that can trace their route. I'll make sure security and secrecy are taken as seriously as possible.

As for placement, I'd imagined trying to put the facility in an unused section. Probably closest, relatively speaking, to the village. Bees...yes, we'll give them plenty of space."

He managed to control the shiver that ran through his body, though Sonya noticed and only just managed not to laugh.

"At any rate, it sounds like we have a very workable plan set up."

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