Be Better


peyton2_icon.gif russo_icon.gif

Scene Title Be Better
Synopsis The Advocate gives an appeal and settles in for a one-on-one interview.
Date November 28, 2010

Set of The Advocate at Studio K

The theme for the Advocate plays over the television as the set comes into focus on the screen. In recent weeks past there's been no studio audience, no temperamental clapping or random laugh track to fill the void. Today is just the same, yet even then the set has undergone yet another transformation. While the New York skyline (or some approximation) is seen in the 'window,' Russo's desk is missing altogether. Instead, he's standing in front of a coffee table with purple easy chairs on either side— he'd wanted black (he's pretty sure Kristen got purple just to get him… that or the set guys are playing some form of joke on the host).

Russo's black Hugo Boss suit is wrinkle free, complete with a purple (that matches the chairs… are they trying to make him a chameleon?) shirt and black tie. "Good evening folks! Welcome to The Advocate! I'm delighted that you're joining us tonight. It's always a privilege to be welcome in your homes on any given night."

Absently Brad chews his bottom lip before glancing up at the production box. He flashes them a smile, silently hoping that Kristen doesn't cut the more personal parts of his monologue. "Speaking of nights! I've been having the worst sleeps lately," he whistles. "I tell ya, I have this thing about dreams. I'm having these very //very/… unusual dreams. And I recognize that sometimes a dream is just a dream, but sometimes it's kismet. You know? I mean, there's something substantial in it. Like someone is prodding you to do something. Or not do something— whatever the case may be," the smile fades as Brad's eyebrows furrow into a solid v. "Regardless, I need to ask you, my wonderful, capable viewers to do me a favour. I'm looking for someone." He smirks now, "Okay, before you single ladies get your panties in a knot, it's not like that. This is a totally different circumstance. And a personal— or a business— or a personal matter." His lips twitch into a small smile. "There's a redheaded woman who I know that I've been dreaming about. I haven't seen her since before the riots, and she's… well, I want to know she's okay. So. If you've seen a mysterious redhead walking through your dreams, email us, call us, contact me. Honestly, get ahold of us. Like I said… perso— business matter."

His cheeks flush a little as he changes tracks and takes a step towards the camera. "We've got a real treat for you tonight," he rubs his hands together before flashing the camera a winning, albeit mischievous smile. "You know, sometimes I think I should go into the morning show business. I swear the things the TODAY Show does astound me. If I were on a morning news program I could make breakfast on air. I'm not sure I've ever shared this with our audience, but I looooove— " his hands spread apart like he intends to hug 'cooking' if it were an object to be hugged, "I mean love to cook. Also I love gardening. Do you see how these two things go together? You want top-notch ingredients in order to make the absolute best food on the face of the planet. That's the case for me. I want awesome food. Of awesome. But I live in an apartment," even if he owns a garden at his mother's house, "so gardening isn't always on the menu. What is on the menu? The Farmer's Market!" Russo lifts a hand as he glances towards his guest's apparent security, who he met at the Farmer's Market; Smedley is quickly shot a charming smile before the host's gaze returns to the camera.

"I actually met today's guest at a Farmer's Market and she is charming and eloquent and I believe you will learn much from our one-on-one today. I'm sure you're familiar with her in a different capacity, but our guest is someone who puts her earned fame to good use." While there's no audience, Russo can't help himself when he says, "Please put your hands together for the brilliant, Ms. Peyton Whitney!"

This is a first — she'd agreed to do the show, then postponed due to the craziness of the first week of November, and couldn't really bow out of of this one-on-one, despite wanting to. She's never been a guest on a television program. She's only been a soundbite on red carpet premiere shows or a story on such programs like TMZ. The video of her reading Humanis First's request with a gun to her head was splashed on the news, but she had said no to any one-on-one interviews back then.

So it is with nervousness that Peyton walks across the stage, cheeks flushed a little under the artfully and professionally applied make-up to shake Russo's hand. She's dressed modestly in a russet-hued sweater dress on top of leggings and knee-high boots.

Peyton glances at the camera and smiles a little shyly, before nodding back toward the seat as if to say "Here?" and sitting down, making sure she doesn't cause a wardrobe malfunction in the process. She crosses her ankles carefully, and plants her hands in her lap and waits for Russo to speak.

When Peyton sits so does Brad. "It's a pleasure to have you here, Ms. Whitney. Did you ever try one of those peaches at the Farmer's Market?" he turns back to the camera for a moment, "Seriously. Go to the farmers market and buy peaches. In October." His gaze shifts. "Next year. I realize I'm late on this, but I swear those peaches were to die for! Like… nothing in the world could be as good." Except whiskey.

His posture changes as he straightens in his seat. "So, we're delighted you could come. I recognize things have been a little crazy lately and with everything going on in New York, I'm glad you could make it here today." His lips press together, whitening underneath the pressure, "Ms. Whitney, a few weeks ago— I realize that seems like a lifetime after what happened in New York— you were part of a group of business owners protesting curfew? Would you like to share with our viewers what that was about?"

This is why she's here, Peyton reminds herself, as she focuses on Russo rather than the camera, smiling at his peach tangents while trying to prepare an answer that sounds at least a little coherent. "Right. Well, many of your viewers might not be aware, but I'm actually a business owner myself, these days. I'm the CFO for Redbird Security Solutions over in Battery Park. There was a rally of business owners trying to get the city to change the curfew, since it's so damaging to so many of our city's businesspeople to have to close their doors at 9 p.m."

She lifts a hand to tuck a piece of hair behind one ear. "My business isn't the most affected, but it was to show solidarity with the rest of New York's businesses. The curfew is hurting our city, and people are simply going to go elsewhere to do business, and move elsewhere if they have to. Eventually there won't be any businesses left. Our economy is weak as it is without having to compete with other cities."

She frowns and shakes her head, growing more somber as she peeks at the camera. "And the events on the 8th should show that bad things can happen at any time, and anywhere. An arbitrary time doesn't stop bad things from happening, and if the city needs to pick an arbitrary time, they can pick one that's less damaging to the people's livelihoods."

With the conversation rolling, the host adjusts in his seat, leaning back comfortably while glancing at the coffee table, wondering where his mug went. Or why he forgot it. His elbows rest on the arms of the chair while his fingers lace together and rest in his lap. "Redbird Security Solutions— what kinds of security services do you provide? I suspect there's high demand for that kind of service these days." The twinkle in his eye is noticeable yet indiscernible, but at his core, Russo is a business man, even if he dresses it up in celebrity clothing.

"It's been argued that curfew actually enables businesses to keep tighter hours and warrant employees more time off, therefore increasing productivity, but you're suggesting that this argument doesn't hold up? Have many New York businesses lost money because of curfew? And if they have, what kinds of businesses do you think have been most effected— I recognize you came into this protest as an act of solidarity, but I imagine your connection to this protest gives you extra insight."

Dark brows arch at his question regarding services, but then he's moving on to the businesses and she shakes her head. "This is supposed to be the Big Apple, a city that never sleeps. Theaters have to begin their last shows at what, five, six o'clock. They can't do a matinee and an evening show in that time. Your bagel shops might not have a problem being closed early, but coffee shops where people stay up and talk past midnight, your night clubs, your bars — anything that relies on a night life to survive — those businesses are losing out to their counterparts in other cities," Peyton comments, then tips her head.

"I mean, New Jersey now has a cooler scene than New York. How sad is that?" she quips, before sobering again. "This is a city that has always thrived on tourism — granted, after November 8, no one's going to want to come hang out here, but even before that — there will always be some people who want to visit this city, even with all its scars and radiation, but that percentage is getting smaller and smaller."

The clairvoyant shrugs. "If the government wants New York to recover from the horrible events that keep happening to it, closing down the businesses is not the way to get around it. If it doesn't want New York City to recover? Well, by all means. Continue."

Russo nods slowly as Peyton talks, his blue eyes watching her carefully with every point she emphasizes. "I recognize how tourism could be particularly challenging to business owners, but the riots and recent violence in New York, as you've just said, can't be helping those efforts. I love this city. I've loved this city for ages, but even now, if I'd moved away, I think I would struggle to come back even just for a visit. And I suspect that this is true for many people."

Longingly he glances at the coffee table and then back to the camera before redirecting his attention to Peyton, "What would you say to those that believe curfew is actually keeping the streets safer? There seems to be this absent villain that we're made to trust exists— like somehow life would be far more violent if random citizens were allowed to walk the streets at night— yet, aside from the events that happened on November 8 in the daylight… there doesn't seem to be much evidence suggesting existence…"

"Well, I agree, that November 8 changed the game a little. Remember, I took part in that before the riots. I certainly wouldn't wander around in the dark by myself right now, I admit," Peyton says thoughtfully, glancing down at her hands in her lap, twisting a ring around a finger absentmindedly. "It's not safe, but that's because everyone has been made to fear one another. If you're told the boogeyman exists and that every noise you hear is a monster, you're going to jump at every noise you hear, and possibly act out aggressively to protect yourself, right? That's the kind of mindset we're put in now, and it is dangerous. But it doesn't have to be."

She looks up, dark eyes flitting to the camera and then back to Russo. "What would I say to those who say it's safer? I … I don't know. That danger doesn't know what time it is. That you're just as likely to get mugged or raped or kidnapped at 9 as you are at 11. Whatever arbitrary time the city sets — an hour or so before that time, things are going to start shutting down, people are going to go in their houses, the streets are going to get more vacant, et cetera. I guess resource wise, it's easier to patrol mostly empty streets, but having more people out on the streets would also make them safer at the same time, I think."

She smiles a little bashfully, and shrugs. "I'm not a criminal justice major or anything of the sort, mind you. I just know that I never felt unsafe in this city when I was out at 2 a.m. because everyone else was out and awake, too."

"I can't say I'd be wandering the streets in the dark either," Russo admits with a small frown. "And I enjoyed my 2 a.m. wanderings. While grandma always said nothing good happens after 2 a.m." or more specifically 11 p.m. "I never bought into the idea. In fact, I think the more interesting parts of life happen when most people are sleeping." He shrugs, almost forgetting about the camera, and letting his countenance sink some. With a small sigh, he tugs his lips back into a tight smile.

"The world changed again. And you've brought up a good point, New Yorkers have been told to live in fear, when the rioting started it was almost like a pressure cooker. It was just adding more pressure to the pot— " he pauses as his lips turn upwards into an apologetic toothy grin, "Sorry. Cooking metaphor— couldn't help myself." He shrugs as he allows the smile to melt away.

"Regardless, pressure cooker or perfect storm, what's happened can't be ignored. New Yorkers want to be safer. Evolved, non-evolveds, it doesn't matter. The truth is, hatred and fear are negotiating the ways in which people interact with each other. I realize you're not a poli-sci person, but I think the more perspectives we hear on how to fix this situation, the better— how do you think things can be improved?"

She chuckles at the cooking metaphor, sitting back a little in her chair, a little less nervous as he seems to agree with her. That is until he asks how things can be improved, and she frowns, looking down at her hands again, before splaying them, palm up on her lap.

"I'm going to sound incredibly naive and like a Miss America contestant probably," Peyton says with a self-deprecating smile. "But really, I think it just comes down to not being so afraid of what we can't understand, and to look at the similarities between people rather than for the differences. Once upon a time it was okay to hate people because they were different colors or came from a different country, or whatever. It was okay to degrade people based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, race. In this day and age, most people would agree it's not okay to do any of that. And yet now we have people treating one another differently because of a gene, or genetic marker, or whatever," she says, glancing back up at Russo.

"People will say color of skin or sexual orientation isn't dangerous, I'm sure, that it's different because someone who's SLC Expressive could blow them up with a blink of an eye or take away their memories or whatever. But you know, there are people out there who aren't SLC Expressive who are a lot more dangerous than any of my friends who are. So I call that a bad argument."

"I don't think that's naive, Ms. Whitney, I think that's hopeful," Brad clarifies with a small smile before taking a glance at Peyton's security guard again, which only causes the smile to fade slightly. "The human race has had a history of hatred resulting in fear, prejudice, and often war. People have had entire wars over less than what happened on November 8. The point being I think people can come back from this. I think New York can come back from this. But I guess the question is, and honestly I don't think anyone can really approximate an answer, how can people stop being afraid? Education has been postulated as the solution, yet…" he frowns slightly, "education programs don't seem to be cutting it. Children are growing up in prejudice and fear. Incidents like the riots don't exactly accommodate the breaking of barriers. They only breed more fear."

"Individuals with more extreme views," Brad forces a tight smile as he turns to face the camera while shifting in his seat to get more comfortable, "have suggested SLC suppression is the solution. But asking someone to be something they aren't seems primitive. How many times did colonial states try to tame the 'savages' they found in the New World with little to no success? And what will happen if evolveds out-evolved suppressive substances? I don't think the solutions are easy here."

"It takes time," Peyton says, but she then gives a vehement shake of her head. "But we don't have it. And here's the thing. There have been Evolved among us much longer than we've known about them. When it was a secret — before the bomb… how many people thought life was good then? There were SLC-Expressive people then, but you didn't know about them, because they are just like everyone else if they're allowed to be. Are there people who use their abilities for bad? Sure. Just like there are math geniuses who cheat the banks or great fighters who use their hands and feet to hurt people, people who are good with guns who shoot people," she says. "But they lived among us, among you, and you thought life was good. Ignorance is bliss, right? We can't go back to that — probably shouldn't go back to that — but just because you're suddenly aware of something doesn't mean it wasn't always there."

Peyton's brows furrow as she searches for an apt analogy. "Once when I was a little kid," she begins, glancing at Russo, then the camera, "I was on my tricycle in the summer. I had bare feet. And at some point I looked down and found that I must have run over my own toe or stubbed it and not felt it — it was bleeding, the nail torn. It hadn't hurt a moment before, but suddenly, looking at it, I started to cry and scream bloody murder."

Her cheeks color and she smirks a little, shaking her head. "It's a bad metaphor or whatever you call it but really, it wasn't that bad and I didn't even realize it until I saw it and then I overreacted." She holds up a hand as if someone will argue with her. "I'm not saying the bomb wasn't a big deal. But what I'm getting at is that most of the people with abilities aren't that dangerous — we're making them out to be more than they are, where if we didn't know they existed, they would never even cause a problem."

"While ignorance is bliss, information is power," Brad notes as he combs his fingers through his hair. "A person who has information to share wields that information like a sword. They choose when and how to share what they know," like a certain President divulging the existence of the evolved. "It's important that the public knows what's going on. While not all Evolveds are dangerous, information keeps people, theoretically, safer."

Quietly, Russo sucks on the inside of his cheek, considering the metaphor before shaking his head, "No. It's not bad. There is something to say about that overreaction, but I think it's important to recognize the ways in which the overreaction occurs, who sparks it, and what the source was in the first place. How can this process of education and reaffirmation be sped up without the use of SLC suppressors? I just don't believe it's wise to allow people to medicate anyone else… historically that's only ever led to problems…"

"I think for every instance of violence caused by Evolved abilities, there is probably one more more instances of an Evolved ability doing good, probably saving people in ways that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. That wouldn't be possible with negation," the clairvoyant says, setting her nervous hands on the arms of the chair she sits in.

"And what's more, you can bet that those in power won't be using the negation drugs. FRONTLINE, people in the Institute, people in Homeland or the Department of Evolved Affairs? You think they're doing to take the drugs? I can guarantee you they won't be negating their powers, and they'll use safety as an excuse. That we're safer if they can have their telepaths and their empaths and their whatever elses in power. So what is that? Fascism I think? I only have a high school diploma, so don't quote me on that," Peyton adds with a half smile.

"Totalitarianism, certainly. Fascism? Likely," Russo agrees as he shifts in his seat again. "The proposed solutions are far from democratic. Stopping anyone from being who they are makes little sense. En masse sterilizations happened for similar reasons with some of the handicapable in the past. If people want peace, they need to work for it, plain and simple," Peyton is issued another grin now as the host crosses his arms over his chest. It's not defiant, really, more comfortable.

"I guess the average citizen could be home wondering what they can do to change this world and transform the ways in which fear is enacted within it… I think the first thing is to actually listen to what the politicians are saying and think. Every news program— this one included— tends to have some bias in the reporting. Think through the issues with that in mind. It's key. And I also think our viewers need to vote when the time comes." He turns to Petyon and arches an eyebrow, "What do you think viewers can do to make a difference?"

The former socialite frowns at the question thoughtfully, glancing at the camera, then back at Russo. "Care," she says with a shrug. "The 'average' viewer is probably not SLC-expressive, since those of us who are are in the minority. But you may suddenly find yourself caring, because you suddenly are — there are such things as false negatives — or a loved one is. A child. A friend."

Her lip is bitten for a moment while she brings her hands back to her lap, wringing them for a moment. "I was selfish. I didn't care how the Evolved were treated before I knew I was one of them," she confesses. "And then suddenly I was. And then I was kidnapped because of it. And I've seen people hurt and killed for being Evolved." She swallows, looking up at the ceiling for a moment to blink back tears. "Have compassion. It's okay to be a little afraid. There are people with powerful abilities. It'd be dumb not to be a little afraid sometimes. But what if that person was your best friend or your uncle or your son or daughter or husband or wife? They probably are as afraid as you are — even more so, now."

She reaches up to wipe her eyes, chuckling just a little. "I'm sorry," she mutters to Russo, glancing down and away.

Russo forces a smile before looking up towards the production booth. It's an expression that Kristen would know a mile away, and within moments the music kicks in, indicating that this episode is a wrap. The host manages another soft smile, this one directed at the camera rather than his guest. His eyebrows furrow as he opens his mouth to speak, only to shut it moments later. Finally he manages to find words. "Compassion," his tongue runs over his lips, "is the true solution here. I realize I don't…" he swallows hard, "…I don't always say an opinion here. But Ms. Whitney is right. We have a choice. While fear isn't a choice, giving into that fear and living in hatred is. You have a choice."

His lips press together into a solid straight line. "I urge you, choose compassion. Live better. Be better. What happened on November 8th… that happened because people made a choice. People— Evolved and non-Evolved— PEOPLE rioted. They pillaged. They hurt each other. You can choose to be better. New York, I urge you to be better."

He too chews on his bottom lip for a moment. "That's all our show for today. Until next time… B-Rad, America. And be better. Have a good night."

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