He took his cues from Alcoholics Anonymous. That's the only rational explanation for why there are pamphlets on the same table as stale donuts, lukewarm almost-coffee, and raisin bagels that probably should have been discarded. Off of the main corridor, Alan spent an hour or so organizing chairs in neat rows, all facing each other, save for a wide gap, into which he has placed a homemade lectern crafted from milk crates and decorated with hand-painted cardboard. It asks a question.
Are you fire code compliant?
The white t-shirt he wears asks the same question, with the same color of paint involved.
Are you fire code compliant?
It seems to have captured his imagination. Dressed in just the t-shirt and a pair of battered sweatpants, he smiles as more people arrive, directing them to a seat, and he has rigged up a borrowed megaphone to use as a sound system. A couple of stuffed figures made from straw reside in chairs next to a can of gasoline. What he's got planned, it's anyone's guess. Alan is not one for small choices. "Hi. I am Alan, Alan Carver," he begins, "I am fire code compliant." That's when he raises up a fire extinguisher, gesturing to it. "I have some things to say and I want to listen." Then he goes silent.
After arriving from back to the Sanitarium after an outing to the city, Phoenix heard a bit of a commotion going on upstairs. Easily becoming curious, she followed the sound of Alan's voice until she came across the set up he had going on in the room. A brow rose as she wasn't quite sure what to make of how he had organized everything. Her head tilted slightly to the side as she studied over everything as she stepped further into the room. How the chairs were set up, the table with pamphlets, food, and drinks. Eventually, she looked back over toward Alan. "I am curious to hear what you have to say... but I'm also curious why you've set all this up?" she wondered, taking a few steps in his direction.
Uncon has made his way back to the Sanitarium as well. He's dressed in drab clothes, but he's still wearing his laboratory ID lanyard around his neck, indicating that he's been working. On whatever it is he does. He, too, hears the noise upstairs and his curios nature takes hold. He heads up.
As he enters, his dark eyes dart around inquisitively. He's intrigued. As he steps furtheri nto the room, he spots Phoenix. He moves towards her, speaking in that nondescript, sterile voice of his, "What is happening?" As he approaches, he scoops up a pamphlet and flips it over in his hands, skimming it, and then looks towards Alan. Speaking to Phoenix, he asks, "Who are they?"
Ashe follows too, because of the noise upstairs. Slowly walking in with his backpack empty, and wearing a short-sleeved, grey T-shirt and blue jeans, also a brown-wide brimmed hat, glancing around at the set-up, then nodding and stating, "I'm listening", leaning back against a wall, taking off his hat and holding it in his right arm. He nods to Phoenix, Alan, and Uncon, before asking "So, what's on the agenda?"
Alan went all out and built a miniature Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He's also staffed it with two straw dummies seated on either side of a can of gasoline as he stands behind a milk crate lectern, addressing Uncon, Phoenix, and Ashe through a homemade public address system crafted from a borrowed megaphone. Both his shirt and the hand-painted cardboard sign on his lectern ask the same question: Are you fire code compliant?
"Watching people," Alan begins, "Is how I spend my time. When I am at work, I monitor the people of the firehouse and when I am checking for compliance, I watch the residents and employees of the buildings I inspect." He's a rarity in that he's gainfully employed as well as one of the Created. "When someone, a normal person, falls into alcoholism or drug abuse or sexual addiction or gambling problems, they go to a room like this one." One with row upon row of mysteriously-sourced folding chairs. "There are donuts, coffee, bagels, and pamphlets." Exactly as he has laid out on a card table to the side of the door.
"I am addicted to humanity," he says with pride, "They are wonderful, terrible, amazing, and boring, and I can not live without them." Then he grips the top of the lectern with one hand, pointing to his shirt with the other. "I am fire code compliant. After reading my book on my way to work, someone shouted 'Well, are you?' in my face and ran away. They were drunk, I think, yet I had just read this line." He points to his shirt again. "My book has guided me and kept me safe. I want to share it with everyone. That way, we can all be.." Again, pointing to his shirt.
"That is Alan," Phoenix answered Uncon at the question asked. "I think you would like speaking to him at length sometime." When the food was officially offered by the Ulgan, she made her way over toward the table. As she'd never had a donut before, one was picked up. A pause in thought before she grabbed one more as well. A pamphlet was picked up, then she made her way back to Uncon's side, offering one of the donuts to him. Whether or not he accepted the offer, she moved to sit down in one of the front row seats soon after. Dark eyes rested on Alan as she gave him her full attention, though occasionally taking a bite from her donut. "Humans are strange things. Our connection, or lack there of, is also strange. How long has this book of yours kept you safe?"
Uncon watches Alan curiously as he speaks. He finds himself asking, "What makes one compliant?" At the talk of humanity, he nods slowly and glances towards Phoenix. His expression is mixed - it seems to hold a question, but not a question. Skepticism, perhaps? Is this guy for real?
Yet he has a flicker of a smile on his lips when he looks back towards Alan. He speaks in that bland, but honest, voice of his, "We understand the sentiment, for humanity possesses much which we could learn from. We also appreciate the value of safety. We cannot learn to live if we cease to live. We also appreciate the sharing of knowledge and we thank you."
He glances at Phoenix once more as she introduces them (or at least Alan) and looks back at Alan. "We are Uncon. We are pleased to meet you and learn of fire compliance." A pause, a nod at Phoenix's words, and he adds, "What book?"
Uncon does, in fact, take the donut, and eats it absently as his attention focuses on Alan.
Ashe raises an eyebrow. "So you have a book that tells you the ultimate rules? So....like the Bible, or the Torah?" Ashe frowns but nods. "Humanity is....something amazing. So, what have you got on them?", as he pulls a seat towards him to take a seat.
"There is no ultimate rule book," Alan says with a resigned sigh, "I checked. Twice. Nobody had any idea of what it was that I meant the first time that I asked. The second time.." Then he reaches into the lectern and dumps out a pile of books onto the floor with a series of thuds. "Everyone had a different idea." Then he points to a chair. "All of us had a choice in our chairs. No one forced us to sit in one. Each chair, it will serve as well as the next. Fire code compliance is exactly like that." He picks up one of the books, not caring as to what it is. "This is a chair chosen for the soul. It is equal to every other chair for the soul." Then he drops the book dramatically.
"To be fire code compliant," he continues, walking from the lectern, holding up a new book, a much slimmer volume. "Is to follow the doctrines within this book. 'Fire is everyone's fight'. 'What to say and how to say it'. 'Community outreach'. 'Core messages'." Then he holds it up even higher. "..'Resources'. Each of these facets address a space within us, and it can guide us to truths. Like the chairs, the truths are undeniable. Like the chairs, they are a choice. Like the chairs, they serve a function." He has beaten that metaphor to death.
"This is my chair. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without me, my chair is nothing. Without my chair, I am nothing."
When did Honeybunny slip in? She sits in the back, eating a plate of nachos with chopsticks - natch! - and playing around on her phone with her free hand, the nachos on her lap.
Uncon shakes his head and looks at Alan with those dark, inquisitive eyes. There's a faint smile and he replies, "There is no book, but there are many books. It is called science. It explains everything, although we have yet documented everything. So we suppose it explains most things. It is... the ultimate rule book, we think." He offers a little shrug and then falls silent as the conversation continues forward.
"Fire safety is important, but we feel you are... forcing it? Why not take your passion for it and apply it to something more suited?" A pause, and he adds, "Not that we think you are unsuited, but it seems like there is something else more important than fire safety in your mind."
He pauses again as Honeybunner speaks. He considers her words, then turns and looks at the newcomer, dark eyes curious. "Does ownership determine reality? Or is it a dependence mentality? Without being needed we are nothing, without needing we are nothing, or something along those lines? We are curious, however, as to how you know that chair even exists."
The dumped books were eyed briefly, though as Alan spoke once more he easily recaptured her attention. Her head tilted slightly to the side as she continued to listen to him, her brows furrowing just slightly as she took in his words. When Honeybunny appeared and spoke up, she glanced over her shoulder toward the Galatea, and rose her brow slightly. "It's just a chair. If my existence is dependent on a chair..." A small frown touched her lips, obviously not getting that it was a reference. Thinking creatively and metaphors weren't exactly a strong point for her either. Then her dark eyes turned back to the Ulgan. "Do you have more copies of this book?" she questioned, arching a brow. "What about these tenants are so important and worth following?"
Uncon's words draw Alan's attention. "Fire code compliance is not in contradiction to nor the enemy of science," he says, "The physics of fire are discussed at length in the book itself. That is not religious imagery per se, it is a cautionary tale about dryer vents and improperly stored flammable chemicals." He then gives a sage nod. Looking to Phoenix, he gestures with the book in his hand, replying with, "Yes, I have multiple copies. The state of Maine freely distributes them and I was able to reproduce the annotations which are in my copy. Every version is the same now." There's a pregnant pause. "I asked if defacing the book would be criminal and they did not immediately reply. When they did, they said 'It's your fucking books'." This does not seem to set him at ease. "The tenets of fire code compliance give lessons in living a safe, connected life. How to live with others, to get to know them, understand their concerns, and how to address common problems. Also, how to change the batteries on a smoke alarm and how to build an emergency supply kit, or a 'go bag'." This is followed by a solemn nod.
"Jarhead," says Honeybunny between nachos. "It's a movie. It was a quote from that. Basically, these guys are Marines, and all Marines are riflemen first and foremost, so they're supposed to form a bond with their rifle and, like, see it as a part of them. A part of their identity." She jabs chopsticks Alanwards. "He's a firemandude, and Aurum, like me, so he's relating to humanity through being a firedudebro. So yeah, it's all, like, a metaphor, but he might also be more literal about it."
Ashe nods to Uncon. "My thoughts exactly. It seems like you're forcing it. Just as there are many books, there are many truths. But I see your concerns....establishing a sense of self, especially for our kind, is paramount for what we are to achieve." He frowns again. "While a safe life is important, it doesn't equate with a happy life. It also doesn't mean there's a set outcome towards specific problems. Sure, I'll give you that some problems tend to go to certain answers, but sometimes, instead of A giving you B, it gives you C, or X, or question mark, and you have to deal with that according to the situation. There isn't a planned answer to every problem." Then to Honeybunny, "A fireman? So, keeping the public safe ?"
Uncon watches Alan, his curiosity growing. "We are implying neither, only that your enthusiasm is a delight and could be directed towards even larger safety concerns." There's a pause, and then he continues, dark eyes locked on Alan. "Water contamination, for example. Millions of humans die every year because fo water contamination." A passion versus a passion. Both of them passionate, for their own reasons.
He falls silent as the conversation shifts, but he continues to watch the others intently. His gaze shifts to Honey for a moment, as she's the other one he's never met before and he's curious, and doesn't see anything wrong with staring, but then he's drawn back by Ashe's words. He blinks, and there's a hint of a smile, "We agreed on something. We knew it would happen."
"Safety," Alan says, "Is job one. Both our own and that of our community. We should not forget what we do, it leaves a footprint of some sort." He holds up the slim tome in his hand, reaching it over his head. "I can not address water purity and contamination issues. If I could do so, I would incorporate that into fire code compliance, as it sounds important." Undeterred, he continues. "The lessons that I have learned, my successes, I have recorded as notes in my copy of this book. Reproduced, those observations that succeeded in challenges are now a demonstrable doctrine. It is no longer a question of faith nor of mimicry. I have learned." The word 'learned' is something he says with pride and distinction. "Sharing what I know feels important. It also falls into one of the tenets of the book: 'Resources'. Each of the five chapters convey some intrinsic challenge, knowledge, and questions, and while I do not have the full suite of answers, I have left room enough for all to share their observations, demonstrations, and personal truths. Fire code compliance is about uniting beneath one ideal until value is found." He nods solemnly, then steps from the lectern to begin handing out copies of the book: Gospels According to the Great State of Maine, also known as Fire Is Everyone's Fight.
Maybe a bit more eagerly than one might expect from her, Phoenix was quick to accept one of the books that were handed out. The cover was studied over for a few long moments, a thoughtful expression betraying that her mind was straying elsewhere briefly. Returning to the now, she flipped through a few of the pages to give a quick scan of what was inside. A pause passed as social etiquette took a few moments to kick in. "Thank you," she stated to Alan with a small nod of her head. "I believe I will have questions after reading through this. I have questions already, but, I know that I should read first before asking them. The book could hold most, if not all, of the answers to them," she stated. "I suppose one I could ask now, though, what is the most important thing you've learned from this?" she asked, glancing back to Alan and holding her copy of the book up.
Honeybunny has opinions, but this is Alan's show, and for now she just listens and munches nachos. With chopsticks. As you do.
Uncon studies Alan as the other Created speaks. His eyes are dark, but sharply intelligent, questioning. He nods slowly, his expression that of a man whose had one of his questions answered. He replies, "We appreciate that you are focused and determined, but do you not think it wise to always learn, always listen, and always help in areas that are not your forte? Do you not strive to know /everything/? Because they, humanity, know little bits of everything, not just one thing."
He shrugs that little shrug and falls silent again. He even folks the pamphlet and tucks it into his pocket, for later use. As reading material or tinder, who knows?
When Phoenix speaks, he looks over at her. He can't help but to smile a little smile, but it fades as he listens to her, his curiosity taking over. He doesn't interrupt - he simply watches her and her excitement.
At the sound of some munching, he glances towards Honeybunny. She's a little closer now. He doesn't have to yell. So he says, "We are Uncon. Who are you? Is this normal?" He doesn't know Alan, and he doesn't know Honey, so he seems to assume they know each other.
Ashe somewhat reluctantly takes the book, and flips through the pages, nodding and shaking his head at various parts, then closing the book, but not saying anything about it. Though to Uncon, he says "Well shit. We did agree, didn't we?" and he smiles a straight, normal smile-no crookedness or anything! "But yes, while do have our fortes, eventually, we must come to at least learn a bit of everything. The Book seems narrow." Then looking to Honeybunny for introductions, and Phoenix and Alan for reaction and answer.
When the books are handed out, Alan reclaims his spot at the lectern, holding it in both hands, smiling placidly to the other Created. "All that is Uncon, that is Honeybunny," he says, gesturing from first Uncon to the aforementioned fellow Aurum. "Honeybunny, they are Uncon." His nimble grasp of the pronoun game is proof he's a sharp fella. "The book addresses a way of thinking, not simply topics. It is narrow as is my life, thus far. Were I as old as some of the Founders, the book would be a much thicker version, with much more detailed annotations." He sounds saddened by this turn of events. "What I know, I have recorded, to better share it. Inside of each copy, I have included a few entries which relate to life in the sanitarium. Also, I would like to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms." Alan: nonstop fun.
"I could help you install those things. I am learning how create things with my hands, I already have some knowledge of repair work. I think that learning how to install objects would help in my education," Phoenix explained with her offer of assistance.
"I'm Honeybunny," says Honeybunny. "And normal for who? Him? Those who follow Aurum? That's kinda a vague question, Tee-Bee-Aich. Yeah, he's kinda like this most of the time. Lotsa Goldies are. We're eclectic. Humanity is pretty, like, all over the place and random or whatever, and so are we."
Uncon glances at Ashe, shrugs, and nods. There's a hint of a smile, but then he's looking back at Alan. He catches the pronoun difference, frowning slightly - not in displease, but in thought. He's never caught anyone catching it before. It's something to think about. He listens, although there's a skepticism in Uncon's dark eyes. It's not disbelief, exactly, but leeriness to believe.
"If the book is written by one, it may contain valuable information but it often contains bias as well. Do you believe that we are capable of bias? That you are capable of bias? Have we progressed far enough to do so?" He glances down at the book in his hands, then tucks into into a jacket pocket. "We shall make a determination after reading it. We are leery of your passion but we believe you may have good ideas."
He glances at Phoenix as she speaks, and there's a small but genuine smile, and then he's looking towards Honey. He stares at her a long moment. He replies simply, "Fair."
Dropping to the floor, Alan then grabs the two straw dummies, hooking his fingers into their heads, dragging them up to the lectern. As he speaks, he douses them in gasoline. "We are absolutely capable of bias," he says, looking from Uncon to Honeybunny. "Sometimes, we can conquer it. Other times, it is what conquers us." Then he steps back, looking to all assembled, producing a thirty-foot length of barricade tape, rapidly sticking it to the back of the front row chairs. "Stand clear. This serves a purpose." Then he looks to the pair of straw dummies, his hand curling into a fist, a thin line of dust raining from between his fingers as something dissolves in his grasp.
Both of the faux human forms burst into flames, rapidly consumed by the brilliant, almost heat-free flames, reducing them to ashes and dust. "I created them. They were my responsibilities. I did not fail them. They lived up to their expectations." Then he turns to the others assembled. "As easily as I burned them, I could have dressed them in finer clothes, painted them to look as people, or pretended I was their father. Instead, I burned them to ash. Why?" Then he produces his copy of the book. "Page thirty-one: filing a burn permit, recreational and or religious observation. It is permitted." Then he puts his chest out with pride.
"I am fire code compliant."
Here endeth the sermon.
Moving to her feet when Alan warned them to step back, Phoenix rose her brow slightly as she watched him. When the straw creations were set on fire, she cautiously moved back, a bit of a wary expression flickering in her darkened eyes. There was a slight tug at the Torment within her as she watched the flames before they disappeared into ash and dust. "That was a very... interesting presentation, Alan. I have always enjoyed listening to you speak of your views. They are different in most ways, similar in a few." She gave a small nod of her head. "Let me know if you require or want assistance with the fire alarms."
Seated much further back, Honeybunny's more amused than freaked out by the sudden conflagration. "Burn them! Burn the witches!" Nachos are munched. "Thanks for the talk, Alan. Groovy stuff!"
Uncon watches the display with curiosity. He acknowledges, "This is why the strongest buildings are those built of brick or stone, which cannot spread fire. It can also be cooler in warm climates. It is silly to build of flammable materials, when droughts and lightning strikes make up such a high percentages of fires." He nods, in agreement and in closure.
He glances at Phoenix and a small smile flickers over his mostly faceless features. "We hope to see you again soon. Come to the house we showed you. There is someone we wish you to meet." Another mouse? A creation? He's vague. He glances back at Alan, but speaks to Phoenix, "We like them. They are passionate."
There's a glance towards Honey as well. More than a glance - he stares at her a moment. "We would like to learn from you. You act as if one of them, but in the extreme. We think your advice, taken in with moderation, could be enlightening." And then he's shruging, "But not now. We are late for the dissection."
He glances once more at Phoenix, smiles that small smile, and then he's heading off.
"I knew you would like him," Phoenix replied to Uncon with a nod. Then she gave the other Tammuz a curious look. "I will return to the house soon to meet whatever new guest is there. Travel safe until we meet again," she told him. Dark eyes followed him as he headed out, then once he disappeared, she glanced back over to the others that were still gathered.