A Light in the Darkness, Part III


brian_icon.gif carla_icon.gif cat_icon.gif helena_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title A Light in the Darkness, Part III
Synopsis While some protest and others celebrate, one small group subjects the director of the Suresh Center to every pointed question they can imagine. Or almost every one.
Date August 9, 2009

Suresh Center

Several groups split out for tours of the facility; these will be going for hours, allowing (hopefully) at least most of those who want them to get a chance to see the building in full. Carla has her first group, and they begin with the ground floor, where the reception is starting to move along — with no large audience hall to collect everyone in, the gathering is more scattered, more personal in its fashion.

That also means the tour groups have to dodge the small knots of people lingering around trays of food and chatting with one another, but that's not too difficult — particularly on the back side of the building. Also, the ground floor has relatively little to tour.

There's only so much that can be said about classrooms and auditoria, even if the Foundation did everything they could to make them really good facilities.

Helena is apparently throwing caution to the wind. She worms her way to the front of the group, and seems carefully eager to engage Carla in conversation. "Ms. Dove?" She presents the image of Eager Prospective Volunteer quite well. "I was wondering, will you be establishing a program particularly targeted at Evolved youth? And if people are coming to the center for learning to control their abilities — given how unique and various they seem to be, how to you intend to adapt to accomodate?"

The act is underway as the tour begins, Cat acts as if she's never seen Helena, Teo, or Brian before. In her mind it wouldn't be good for them to be connected in the eyes of others so publicly. No obstacle is presented to Helena advancing to the fore and speaking with Carla. She contents herself with letting eyes wander over all that can be seen briefly, then settles them on the guide and Helena. A pen is drawn from a pocket and notes taken. If she has questions, they'll come later.

At the back of the group, Teodoro Laudani is walking himself along, angling his eyes through quiescent, unlit windows, studying projectors and ceiling lights, ventilation systems, counting the number of footfalls it takes him to measure the walls and studying the world and the security personnel through the eyes of— the security personnel, then a glimpse through the eyes of Carla herself. He doesn't recognize the redhead she's speaking to. Stuffing his drink under his arm, he then pops one hand up, stretching his fingers up nearly to the level of his oddly bearded jaw. He has a question, next.

Pushing his aviators tightly against his nose, Brian goes to lean against the wall. His lips curl back at Helena's pushing through the small group. Folding his arms over his chest he watches quietly for now. His glance is briefly distracted by Teo but then returns to Carla and affixiates on her, awaiting the answer.

Carla doesn't so much as break stride at the woman's question, looking back to offer her a pleasant smile. "We hope to work with Evolved of all ages," she replies. "Though we recognize that youth are a particularly key group. We do intend to work in a program specifically for young adults, but that will take time yet." She directs the small group into a elevator, where they can move on to the second floor — and get away from the background noise of the reception, the better to converse.

"Adaptation is not something we can predict," the woman continues. "After all, you adapt to circumstances that weren't expected in the first place. But we have a wide variety of Evolved on staff, some of whom have expressed interest in sharing their experiences with others, in teaching what they have learned about their own abilities; some of these lessons are specific to a power, and some seem to be more universal. We also hope to invite Evolved from the community to do the same, and perhaps in time we will have enough popular support and volunteers to begin a mentoring program. But that, too, is something for the future."

Helena is like a relentless pitbull with her questions, Carla may well get sick of her. "Are you advocating Registration? Will Evolved who want to take advantage of your services be required to register before being permitted to do so?" She keeps up with Carla's stride, and if she's thinking about whether or not this brings her to unwanted attention — well, at the moment, she doesn't. She knows there are familiar faces in the tour crowd and she trusts them to have her back.

Teo doesn't particularly mind that the mysterious redhead (who he is rapidly beginning to suspect is not so mysterious, and possibly not even a redhead, judging from the razor-edged windmilling of this particular line of questioning) is chewing away at QA. He keeps his hand where it is uplifted, fakes a little disconcertment with a wrinkle between his brows, the nerves of a timid stranger too polite to clear his throat. Continues to follow apace the others.

Her own questions are held in still, with Helena continuing to ask others and Teo having indicated he has something to ask. The Brian with them is given a passing glance along with others in their group, with Cat also taking notes of what Carla replied. She seems very studious in this activity.

Mouth opening, it is quickly slapped shut as Helena continues her pitbull frenzy. Brian casts a look at Cat, giving a little shrug before continuing to tail the group.

It's not that much of a crowd — a small group, really, because there are many staff giving tours and plenty of evening to give them in. She waits as they file into the elevator, presses the button for the second floor and waits for the doors to close, smiling at the 'redhead' Helena. "That's a common question," Carla replies. "Quite simply, it is not our responsibility to enforce the laws — just as it is not the responsibility of, say, an ER doctor to determine if a patient has health insurance. We will not ask if an Evolved is Registered. We will not, in fact, even ask if a person is Evolved, unless it has immediate bearing on our ability to aid them."

Green eyes shift to Teo, and Carla nods to him as the elevator chimes. "Yes?"

Helena has the grace to look sheepish, and lets herself fade a little back into the small group, offering quick glances to those around her in silent apology as she listens to the other questions fielded.

Continuing to take notes, Cat remains silent and lets Teo have the floor.

One foot after another, Teo files into the elevator's boxy chamber, his hand still wafting around by his bespectacled head— until he abruptly has Carla's attention. Oh. Folding his fingers down, he drops his arm back down to his side, the Gatorade bottle rolling slightly against the edge of his turtlenecked torso. "Right, yes," he says, clearing his throat, alotting himself the staggered pause of someone who'd gotten distracted in the interim, shifts his eyes haphazardly between women. "Ah. The Evolved have been public for— a mere… not even three years, now, but according to the published dates of his work, Dr. Suresh had studied them for much longer before. I'm wondering how it is you've created this program.

"Did…" pauses choreographed in, beats of hesitation, the earmarks of a slow but thorough thinker. Which Teodoro tends not to be, not when he's speaking aloud, but that works just as well under this alias. "Dr. Suresh's family contribute more than the rights to his name? Has the government been heavily involved in research, funding, or donations? Who figured out how to… make this place safe? This is a Hell of a project to have accomplished in only three years."

The Foundation director smiles. Sets a finger against the door open button, so the elevator can't be inconveniently called away while they're talking in it. "Most of our funding comes from private sources. Large companies, private investors, who see the writing on the wall — what would it mean for business travel if they could hire a teleporter for a meeting in China, or construction to hire a telekinetic? Software designers a technopath?"

The rest of the question is answered with equal aplomb. "Dr. Suresh's son does have some affiliation with our facility — he will be giving a seminar on his father's history and research early next month, in fact. But time is not in fact as much of a hurdle as you suggest — even for something which is non-profit and private, as we are." Which is to say, not federal. "Not when you make the right pitches to the right people, on something that has as much potential as this."

Carla gestures for them to exit the elevator, tacit conclusion of her answer.

Helena remains thoughtfully silent at this point, stepping into the elevator when indicated to do so. Everything here is ideal and it's — well. She's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Out of the elevator she walks, having seen the buttons and the other features inside it, thus memorizing how many floors it goes to, and if there are any panels with locks which might conceal things. Carla's answers thus far, and the seeming openness of the floor now prompts Cat to speak up and make some observations. "It's wise of you not to ask about a person's nature, Miss Dove," Cat begins, "since this frees you somewhat from legal entanglements. DHS can't subpoena records you don't have, and can't level charges over questions you don't know the answer to, after all. Because they will try."

"It is, however, curious you didn't address the gentleman's question about safety. Sadly, the center will be a target for Humanis First, who've forgotten we're all human. Perhaps… perhaps a better term than Evolved would be Enhanced." The guide's reaction to this is watched, Cat's eyes resting on her face.

"And you're also saying, I believe, corporate America is behind this for pragmatic reasons, a thing behind so much progress. Profit."

Except that the word 'non-profit' was tossed out like chum a moment ago. Teo stays out of that bit of bloody water, choosing instead to bob his head and show a grin that's all teeth and satisfaction. He steps out of the elevator after the women, tugging out his Gatorade bottle to study its label with a briefly downcast eye. Hey, there's salt in Gatorade. Who knew?

Departing the elevator herself, Carla chuckles at Cat's swift pounce. The blood in the air is purely illusion. "One can only answer so many things at once," she points out. "We are well aware of the Center's status as a probable target. That is one reason its entire concept was not made public until just this past week. There are measures in place. You saw the perimeter fence; you've seen some of the security system in the form of keypads, as well as the guards outside. They were not all here simply for the ceremony. We can be accurately accused of idealism, miss. However, we endeavor to be intelligent about it."

They don't make it very far away from the elevators; why wander around the level when they're busy talking? The rooms and equipment will still be there after the questions are through. "Corporate America only gets behind anything for the reason of profit," Carla replies. "As you said, it is behind a great deal of the things we consider progress; if not profit, then military advantage. We live in the same reality as everyone else; money is necessary, philanthropy comes only at a price. But we, the Foundation, the Center — our interest is the future of our people, our society.

"Money is the short-term. But corporations, investors, they also live in this world, where too many other countries have descended into chaos, and at times it seems America may be on the road to the same. Civil unrest, economic recession — these are not good for business, worse for families, their own children and grandchildren; they understand that supporting our efforts will ultimately benefit them."

"Are the majority of your corporate sponsors choosing to remain anonymous, or will their information be accessible to the public?" Helena inquires, and leaves her question down to one with deliberate effort.

The answer she was given seems to satisfy Cat for the moment, she sticks to silence and writes more notes as her eyes begin to wander, perhaps seeking to let the absence of queries enable being shown what this floor holds to discover.

"We choose for our sponsors to remain anonymous," Carla replies. "Just as this Center is a target for retaliation, so is anyone who visibly supports its existence. This was demonstrated by PARIAH, in the bombing of CitySoft, Inc., other events of the past two years — not to mention innumerable scenarios throughout history. We're prepared to deal with the consequences of our goals. Many of our investors, corporations and individuals alike, are not in such a position."

As the tour goes on, Cat takes her notes and listens intently, her curiosities about the ward growing. But rather than ask right now, she opts to hold her questions and seek to address them when the place is in larger operation. To see if people will be allowed to visit, or if they try to clamp down a wall of secrecy as the Company or DHS would. And to learn if it becomes a place where those thought dangerous can be committed by a court under due process entirely in the open.

She'll be here at the Center to observe a number of things and offer seminars, perhaps, with her eyes open all the while.

And she'll also be hoping to find a trustworthy biochemist.

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