Career Night


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Featuring "The Kids"

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Scene Title Career Night
Synopsis Winslow Crawford opens its doors for a Career expo, but it's the children who truly shine.
Date November 5, 2020

Winslow Crawford Academy for the Gifted, Roosevelt Island

For those who aren’t students or parents, the Community Night at the Winslow-Crawford Academy’s new campus is their first chance to see the reconstruction efforts on Roosevelt Island up close. The modern buildings are a far cry from the old, red-brick building at Brooklyn College. At night, illuminated, everything seems to gleam with the promise of streamlined, futuristic efficiency.

The large atrium that leads into the auditorium has been repurposed for the evening. Seated at rows of tables are community members representing a multitude of occupations spanning almost all fields imaginable (that are appropriate for school children). Their tables are laden with brochures, pens, buttons, tote bags, and other swag and they talk amiably with the children and parents.

At the end of the atrium, double doors open into a state-of-the-art auditorium, where a panel discussion is slated to “start in a few minutes,” according to the cheerful voice making announcements now and then. “Be sure to buy your 50-50 raffle before it starts! We’ll announce a winner at the end of the discussion.”

Even in as beautiful a facility as the Winslow Crawford Academy, the fundraising never stops.

Peyton Whitney stands near the auditorium doors, watching the hustle and bustle of the fair, greeting those she knows by name and smiling warmly at those she knows and those she doesn’t.

“I still don’t know why I couldn’t ask Uncle Warren to come talk about all the cool things he does,” Carl says, only mildly pouty about it.

Kaylee gives a small sigh of patience, before turning to look at the boy, “Because, this is for parents to talk about their jobs. Uncle Warren doesn’t have any kids.” Of course, even as she says that she knows it isn’t completely true… there had been one. Also it wasn’t the best excuse, as there were possibly panelists that weren’t parents… she just didn’t want Warren to bring something risky. “Plus, he’s busy inventing things to make the world better.”

Carl’s face shows his disappointment and it’s his turn to sigh as he asks, “So why aren’t you up there, mom? You run Raytech and a policewoman. You could talk about SCOUT!” He quiets down when Kaylee rests a hand on his shoulder. “You know I’m technically not right now, plus, I don’t know a whole lot about the tech and science part of the company. I always ran the business stuff.”

Giving his hand a squeeze, Kaylee leans down a bit and says in a half whisper, “Now let’s buy some raffle tickets and get seated.”

At his place at a table, Richard looks down at the notepad that he’s brought with him. There’s only one page of notes, and at the top the header reads ‘THINGS YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT’. The list is extensive. It’s not in his handwriting, but rather in multiple other peoples’ handwriting. There are little numbers on the sides to show which things are ‘illegal’, ‘scary for children’, ‘would get arrested for violating information security act’, and further subdivisions.

“Okay,” he murmurs, adjusting his tie and flashing a smile over to where his kids are in the crowd, near Kaylee.

“HI DADDY,” Ricky calls out, at which point Lili puts her small hand over his mouth, “SHH! Daddy’s busy!”

The bellow is followed quickly by another small voice that points out, "Ricky, you can't go shoutin' at Daddy!" Not like everyone else isn't kinda shouting cuz well, it's loud in here. Aurora Harrison eyes her brother even as she and Mummy join the other three. "It's interesting, at least," Elisabeth comments as she releases Aura's hand to let her join her siblings.

Leaning to peer over her husband's shoulder, Liz has to stifle giggles at the list he's perusing. "Good Lord. Way to go, love… they clearly believe that you know everything and all the things that are not allowed to be known." It's a long list! She murmurs, "Aura was showing me where her newest hidey holes are" to him. For their youngest, it's important to have them. "She said she wanted you to show off her SpotBot," the one Alia had her make from scratch as therapy, literally. "I made her leave it at home, though."

Spotting her sister-in-law in the crush, she does grin wickedly. "Wonder if I can convince Kaylee to take my place and talk about the PD." Almost as soon as Peyton announced this thing, Liz was roped into speaking.

A voice speaks up from behind Kaylee Thatcher, as if someone was eavesdropping without actually meaning to. Or perhaps he had meant to. Joel Burke might be new to town, recently transferred, but even he recognized Kaylee Thatcher, “You’d be surprised how much the business side of things might be important to future careers. Though I suppose people would think it more boring.” He wasn’t dressed up for the evening, nor was he in uniform, but the dark haired young girl at his side looked up at him, and then past him to Carl, who gets a small shy wave.

Carl might recognize her as a new student, recently moved from Missouri, with her father, a SCOUT Detective from out west who had recently transferred— Tru, as she is named adds a soft, “Hi,” to Carl, before looking up at the stage again. “I hope I get to ask something.”

“You’ll get to ask all the questions you want, kiddo, even if I have to sit you on my shoulders. Don’t worry.” the tall dad says with a grin, patting her on the head.

Wright pivots as Ames’s small hand points from her perch high on her mother’s back and makes a grabbing motion. “This one?” Wright asks her daughter. Wright looks to the young man seated behind the last in the line of tables advertising capitalism to children. Before he can begin his sales pitch, she says, “One of your finest pen, please.”

Marthe, standing beside her wife and their daughter, looks lovingly amused. The man looks confused until he sees Ames’s current treasure trove: four pens stamped with the names and contact information of the businesses which have met her exacting, yet mysterious, requirements. “Would you like one of these?” The man asks, offering up a pen which Ames grabs without thanks. She inspects it carefully.

“We don’t know how she makes her decisions,” Wright says, “We are merely here to facilifwah—” her sentence is aborted when Ames transfers the pen to the winner’s bundle, accidentally snagging the clicker under her mother’s lip. “Thank you Boog, that was delicious.”

Ames gives a quiet giggle and a thumbs up. Wright, still maintaining her stony seriousness, tells the hapless vendor, “You have been blessed by the Pen Witch. Good day, sir.” Marthe lets out a laugh that’s half a yip, half a reflexive snort, and covers her mouth and nose with her hands to hold more laughs in. She waves politely to the man as they leave him to his business.

"I don't know why they expect us to know what we're doing now." Wisdom from a nine- - ten- - year old. "I mean I know there's the what-do-you-wanna-be- -" Walter Trafford's conversational partner is his mother, the two of them peering into a pamphlet from the front door to the event. He's getting tall enough now that his limbs are edging into the need to catch up; spending the summer more or less at ease did him good, and Delilah expected with the expressive changes that a growth spurt was due. Stop getting so big, kiddo.

"Don't need to tell me that," Delilah rests an arm around her son's shoulders, hand on the far one while she looks at the program with him. "I can't even… remember what mine was. Probably something you always hear people say, like doctors. Or a billionaire." She laughs in his ear, which gets him laughing back, nose crinkling in an echo of her expressions.

"Maybe I should get into accounting if people wanna be billionaires."
"Do you really want to do rich people's taxes?"

"…Nah." No thank you, Mom. Walter shakes his head rather adamantly, the gesture letting his gaze easily wander. "Maybe radio…?" Ooh. "Can I get a raffle ticket?" Brows up and grin and everything. He's been good lately. Mostly. More often than not. 50/50, incidentally.

The lights in the atrium flicker to indicate the panel discussion within the auditorium is beginning. As Wright, Marthe and Ames head past her, Peyton grins at the trio, then reaches into her blazer pocket to pull out a pen with the Winslow-Crawford name and a tiny coat of arms printed along its side.

“I see you are a connoisseur of writing implements, Miss Ames,” she says warmly to one of this year’s new students.

Carl and Walter each get the offer of a knuckle bump from the Winslow Crawford dean as they pass by, while their mothers are gifted with quick hugs and kisses to the cheeks. “Thank you so much for coming,” Peyton says to Kaylee and Delilah in turn. Joel receives a more professional handshake, and Tru a small high five, if she’s not too shy to return it.

Once most people have entered the auditorium and settled in, Peyton strides to the stage. The panel members are given a warm look of gratitude as she passes by, taking her seat amongst them in the middle. A teenager, the school president, takes a seat beside her. There’s no passing of microphones at the dais; small table-top microphones are set up there for their use, though a few of the older students stand ready in the aisles with microphones to hand to students.

“Thank you all for coming to our first Career Night at our new facility,” Peytonbegins. “And a very special thanks to those who have agreed to speak to us tonight about their very exciting careers. I know some of you have amazing questions for them all, but let’s start with an easy one from one of our kindergarteners.” Peyton’s dark eyes scan the audience for the child. “Jamila, can you start us off?”

A tiny girl with a cloud of black curls pops out of an aisle seat and is handed a microphone.

“What’s your name and what job do you have?” she asks. “I’m five,” she adds, because that’s important for everyone to know.

Kaylee would have never missed the event, Peyton knows it. Plus Carl would have never allowed her to forget it. As everyone starts to settle in, Kaylee encourages Carl to show Tru the best place to sit so that they can ask questions, he does so with enthusiasm taking her to where the group Ray kids are sitting. So that she can meet his cousins and make more friends. He gives an enthusiastic wave at the stage at his aunt and uncle.

Meanwhile, Kaylee points out a pair of seats in the quickly filling auditorium. It’s only once her and Joel are seated does she lean over to offer a hand and whispers a quiet, “Kaylee Thatcher. And that’s Carl. Don’t worry, your daughter is in good hands.” Of course she is in more ways than one. Raytech bodyguards are hanging around against the walls. One of them, as always, is Bob. Though he is dressed a bit more casually so as to not stand out.

Though by the look of the young girl clinging to his leg and refusing to sit with her mother and siblings, he might be here as a parent, too.

Miss Peyton’s pen is held in higher esteem than Ames’s previous trophies. This pen is from a real place, not a meaningless jumble of words on a table banner that she has yet to associate with a place in the physical world. It is accepted with a stage-whispered, “Thank you,” close enough to her mother’s ear to make Wright wince.

Wright takes the opportunity to lower her daughter to the floor, and both she and Marthe thank the dean as they enter the gymnasium. Ames offers all of her loot but the Academy pen to her mother Marthe, who reaches to accept and hold on to them only to have them immediately retracted. This earns her daughter a crook of the eyebrow, and Marthe opens and holds out her purse for Ames to deposit the pens herself. That settled, the trio set about finding a seat.

Hurrying up the aisle for the last seat on the dais comes Finn Shepherd, and after dodging little Jamila, he takes the stairs to the stage two at a time with ease, thanks to his long legs. “Sorry I’m late!” he says, flopping into the chair on the end. Coincidentally next to Richard.


He doesn’t answer Jamila Lou Who’s question, yet, though, but looks down the line to see who will.

"Glad to be here, Pey." Delilah's response is of course warm and heartening, and she laughs a little at the bump of hands the dean offers Walter in passing. School authority is less intimidating this way, and she is glad for that too.

For the sake of keeping her own boy from wandering far, Delilah takes them to where they can sit nearer to familiar faces; the other kids might officially be 'younger' to Walter, in his words(the bane of getting to double digits soon) but actions speak louder and it doesn't take long for the ginger-haired boy to lean forward between seats, heedless of occupants, whispering down,

"Pssst, Ricky- -" Hey, hey, listen- - "Did your dad bring anything cool?"

Delilah, legs crossed and face flat, fixes a Look at the back of her son's head; he's not being loud, just yet. Kids will always murmur and whisper during presentations, and her off-hand is within clothes-grabbing distance should she need to corral.

The tall man watches as his daughter is escorted away by the young blond boy, but doesn’t look overly protective or anything about it, probably because she’s suddenly cheerful and smiles and seems to like this turn of events, because. “I’d been worried she wouldn’t make a lot of friends moving so suddenly again, but glad to see she has at least one,” the man says, with a smile as he follows the lead to find a seat next to the fellow parent, whom he definitely recognized. “Joel Burke— ma’am. It’s nice to meet you,” Joel says, offering a hand to shake, while sitting down.

His accent is very middle American, that hint of south that isn’t quite south, but is still definitely other. It reminded her of the time she’d spent down in the bunker, when she’d come out and talked to the locals. Only not quite as thick. “Recently moved here from Missouri. Tru’s taking it better than I thought she would. I’d promised we wouldn’t move too much more after the war, but— I owed someone a favor.” Whatever that meant. A favor that would cause him to relocate across the country? He keeps his voice down, so as not to interrupt the panel too much, looking up to listen, recognizing many of those on it.

“And this school is becoming world famous already, so I think it’s a good opportunity for her, anyway. She seems to like it.”

“Yeah, they… certainly do.” Richard quickly flips over the note before his wife realizes it’s mostly handwriting from Kaylee, Valerie, and Alia. He grins, but there’s no more time for banter because there are children asking questions already!

“Too late,” he murmurs teasingly to Elisabeth before straightening up, hands folding on the table. Finn gets an affable nod, the man luckily not recognized.

The question asked brings a broad smile, “Well, hi there, Jamila. I’m Richard Ray, and I’m the C E O— “ He takes his time spelling it out, “— of Raytech Industries, which means I make most of the big decisions at Raytech. You might have seen our Spot robots before.”

Ricky turns around to eagerly answer Walter, at which point Lily has her hand over his mouth before. She shoots a look of her own back at Delilah’s son, waggling one finger scoldingly. “Daddy’s talking,” she stage-whispers.

Dropping a kiss on Ricky's head — cuz he's likely to be henpecked to death before the night's out — she shoos the children to sit before taking her own place. She has every faith that Delilah's Mom Look is just as powerful as anything she herself could levy on troublemakers.

Glancing at the others on the panel, she grins a bit. "Do we have any kind of order going on?" There's a bit of a shrug and Liz offers to Jamila Lou Who (thank for that, Finn!), "It's great to meet you, Jamila! I'm Elisabeth Harrison, and I help run part of the police department. I have a special team that uses not just their police training but also their E— SLC-E abilities to solve crimes."

She passes it off to the next person, which appears to now be Finn.

“That sounds awesome,” Finn says with wide eyes, looking over at Liz and giving her an impressed look, then turning back to the audience, smiling at Jamila. “I’m Finn Shepherd and I fly a helicopter and help put out fires and rescue people. It’s called helitack, or at least the firefighting part of it is,” he explains to the little girl, before glancing down the line to anyone else who hasn’t answered.

There’s a fashion designer followed by a chef, and then the teenager speaks. “What a great, diverse bunch of people we have here today — and all parents of students here at Winslow-Crawford. We definitely have some talented families here, which isn’t a surprise, since we have the best student body in the world!”

She’s very peppy, all smiles as the students and parents applaud her sentiments. “My name’s Gemma Diaz and I’m the student body president, for those of you who don’t know me. Let’s have another question — let’s see.” She reaches into a bowl with slips of paper in it, pulling out a name. “Walter Trafford! Would you like to ask your question?”

One of the students in the aisles searches for the redheaded boy and heads that way with a microphone, passing it to the person on the end of the row to get it to Walter.

While the intros are being made up on the stage, Carl delivers Tru to where his cousin’s and Walter are sitting. Sitting down next toe Ricky. “Hey guys, remember Tru? She’s new,” His voice is at the volume of a stage whisper. “Her dad is a cop like mom and Aunt Liz.” Or that’s what he remembers hearing. He then turns to the girl and introduces the pack. “This is Ricky and Lily. They’re twins. And Aurora. They're my cousins.” Then he motions over his shoulder at the boy sitting behind them. “That’s Walter. Our parents are all friends. Same with Jonah.”

Of course, when he sees the mic coming their way he gets quiet.

Back where Kaylee and Joel sit, there is a bit of a grimace at being called ma’am, but she lets it go for now and even shakes his hand. Kaylee glances at Joel out of the corner of her eye thoughtfully, “Welcome to the Safe Zone. Kentucky girl myself, though after the war my family settled in Detroit then moved here.” He might know that tho… “I don’t think you’ll regret it, you moved here about the right time.” Mostly.

Keeping her voice low, she continues, “And, Carl is a people person. If your daughter hangs around him, she’ll get to know everyone and probably get pulled into who knows what.” There is an amused smirk at the idea, watching Carl quietly point out people and tell Tru about them. The mention of a promise is noted, but she does comment just yet. “It’s a good school, I’ve known Peyton a very long time and the kids just love her.”

Wright and Marthe have their daughter penned in between them, though she is fidgeting much less than they anticipated. For now she seems content to cycle through her trophy pens one at a time to test them in a small spiral-bound notepad. One seems to fail a test, being unhappily discarded before being scooped back up by Wright to place in her jacket pocket.

Ames’s attention is occasionally engaged by the speakers, particularly Lieutenant Harrison. “Is that the police you work with?” she asks, mercifully closer to a whisper than her last attempt.

“That is one of the police who I have worked with, yes,” Wright whispers in reply. Ames nods, thoughtfully.

Naturally, Walter makes himself easy to find, popping up from his seat as the row passes the mic down. He gives the older kid at the aisle a wave before he looks back at his mom; she looks expectant, a little curious about what he's apparently thought of between then and now.

When the boy lifts the mic to his mouth, however, there is a massive squealing of feedback that filters out of the sound system; lots of cringing, at least until Walter holds the mic at length, wincing as he does. He blinks himself back into the moment, focusing again on the panel of adults up ahead. Walter pauses long enough to feel the awkwardness; he bleats out a moment later, eyes landing on Elisabeth in a moment that may remind her greatly of Teodoro's same mannerism. All in all, it's a quick few seconds for them.

"Um, oh," Blue eyes take in the whole panel this time, Walter's brow pinching under the tousle of his hair. "What're you all proudest of? Out've stuff you've done for your job." Cause Career Day, you know.

Taking a moment to reflect on her answer, Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "Out of the things I do for my job, a lot of which is paperwork," she grins at Walter, "I think the thing I'm proudest of is making sure that as we rebuild the police department, we're trying real hard to do it right so that nobody's ever afraid to call the police when they need them." Maybe that's not the most exciting answer, but it is the thing that is important to her. She looks just a little uncomfortable for a moment, as if worried she's said the wrong thing, and then she shrugs slightly and shoots her kids a quick smile.

Richard flashes over a quick smile to his wife, then looks back over across the crowds to the child speaking. “Hey, Walter,” he says - his hand twitching slightly where it holds the pen, a brief moment’s memory of his peculiar relationship with the child in question stirring before he catches it, “I’d have to say that so far — I’m proudest of the Raytech-Yamagato Greenhouse. It wasn’t so long ago that we were having food shortages in the Safe Zone, but now that it’s been completed, we don’t have to worry about that happening again, and nobody needs to starve.”

Ricky mutters, “The Spots are way cooler than the greenhouse.” Aurora hisses back, "Nuh uh! Food is cooler!" She glares at him — she's been hungry. She never wants to do it again. Lili gives both of them a warning look, and they shut up again.

Jonah hears his name and swivels around to locate Carl, grinning and waving. He does the same to all the kids he recognizes, as if they don’t see each other every day at school. There’s something magical about seeing them at night, at least for the children who don’t board at the academy. He manages to turn back and settle in his seat before his mom can catch him not listening to the grown-ups talking. Just in time, too, as Peyton’s dark eyes fall on the little boy’s face and he manages to look innocent of any squirming.

The fashion designer speaks about designing for one of the royal family member’s in Spain and the chef’s proudest moment was creating a menu at his own restaurant, which he plugs a little shamelessly before Finn finds himself the last to answer.

“Being able to save lives and keep people safe,” he says simply. “When you get to be as old as me and the rest of these folks up here, you’ll probably have made a few mistakes in your life that you’re hoping to balance out with the good, and I’m working on that. Oh, and we saved a puppy caught in a river last week, so, you know, that’s one for the books.”

Gemma beams and turns to Walter. “What a great question! Next up is Carl Sumter!” One of the teens in the aisles looks for Carl, moving that way when she spots him.

Soulful blue eyes widen as Carl’s name is called, but then he pops up enthusiastically to take the mic. “Hi, Uncle Richard and Aunt Liz!” There is even an enthusiastic wave, Kaylee in the background has to smother a laugh behind a hand. “Oh and Mr. Shepard… just so you know, you got a super cool job!” A comment from the mic bearer has Carl ducking his head, but a smile not unlike his mother’s touches his lips. “Sorry,” is heard just off mic.

Turning far more serious, the little boy looks over the group of panelists, “Okay. So… We know what you do. Did you want to be that as a kid? Or.. al-tern-at-ly” Carl looks uncertain about the word, but doesn’t let it stop him. “What made you decide to be what y'all are?”

Kaylee is truly a proud mom, though something about her seems relieved, letting out the breath she’d been holding. Maybe an earlier conversation with her son about what he can’t ask. This.. this was a harmless question.

Laughing softly at her nephew, Elisabeth waves at him. "Good question. Uhm… no, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things. A lawyer Cuz that's what my parents were, a teacher, a singer." The blonde winks at her husband at that one and slants him a grin. She adds to Carl, "And I actually was a teacher for a while. But … a lot of things happened," like a bunch of her kids were killed but they don't need to hear that, "and I needed to help people. This was the way I decided to do it."

Aurora murmurs to Walter in that stage whisper that only small kids can do so loud, "She was a singer for a long time!"

Ames holds her pen above her notepad and leans closer to Marthe to ask a question. “How do you spell murder?” she whispers.

Do not ask about murder!” Marthe whispers back with wide eyes and an anxious clutch of her fists. Wright clamps her mouth shut and vibrates with a strangled laugh. Ames looks disappointed and sighs, and taps her pen against the paper before scribbling something out and turning the page. She turns her attention back to the panel as she considers another route of interrogation.

Lili flashes her cousin an encouraging smile at the word he’s unsure about, her head bobbing as if to confirm that he’s right. She’s always been the bright one.

Richard can’t help a smile at the greeting, and he brings one hand up to wave to his nephew, “Hey kiddo.” He considers for a moment, head tilting back before he decides, “So, I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, because who doesn’t want to be an astronaut? Why I decided to start my company, though…”

He spreads his hands, “We saw a lot of scary things made by scientists during the war. I wanted to show people that science can be used for good things too, and I think that we’re succeeding there.”

Finn’s grin is broad and proud when he’s told his job is super cool, and he nods enthusiastically, but waits for others to answer the new question before he responds.

“It’s super cool but so is science and helping people. I’m not as smart as some of the folks up here, but I think the thing is we all have talents and skills that can help the world be a better place, if we apply them the right way. For me, though, I always knew I wanted to fly because my dad was a helicopter pilot too, so I learned real young. I didn’t always do it to be a nice guy — sometimes I did it just because it’s fun and I liked it,” he says with a grin, but then he shrugs. “Eventually it became a way to help people, too, so you can have your cake and eat it too.”

A little girl in the front row says loudly “Why would you have cake and not eat it?”

Finn points to her, then to his nose. “Exactly.”

A couple of questions are asked of the fashion designer and the chef, then Gemma announces the next question is coming from Kindergartener Ames. A teenage boy with a mic heads to where the little girl sits with her parents to hand the microphone off. Jonah turns around to give her an encouraging thumbs up, having decided he’s the child’s personal mentor at the school, having met her before she began. There was dinosaur bonding, after all.

Ames returns Jonah’s thumbs-up with a serious expression. As the microphone is brought to her, she leans away from her mother, pressing her notepad against herself to hide whatever is written on it. “Hi,” she says into the microphone, turning to her mothers with the novelty of hearing her own voice echo around the room. She doesn’t explain who her question is addressed to, but she is looking at Elizabeth when she asks it.

“What,” she begins, supplying her own short but dramatic pause, “Is your favorite crime?” Wright’s strangled laugh escapes, carried across the auditorium without the assistance of the microphone. There’s a tussle as Ames tries to keep the microphone away from both Marthe and the master of ceremonies. Marthe holds her by the sleeve and whispers something into her ear. Ames leans her head back a bit in an understanding, “Ohh,” turning back to the microphone to ask, “What is your favorite mystery that you solved?”

Wright reaches around Marthe to give Ames a high-five.

Carl looks all proud of himself as he sits having asked a ‘good’ question, even glancing back to where his mom sits with Tru’s dad. Kaylee gives him a wink, before turning back to listen to the next questions which… makes her glad she isn’t drinking something. Instead, her breath just catches in surprise. A hand reaches for a necklace that wasn’t there any longer, instead curling on nothing.

To others that might be a question to laugh at as silly - if fact, when Kaylee underlined a few notes of caution, she thought she was probably overreacting or being ridiculously over cautious. Yet, here they were. Kaylee shoots a warning look at her brother. Staring at Richard with that look of don’t you dare. This was going to be a fun dance around all the things the Ray family had done. It was a lot, even though she's slipped up now and then.

Of course, Kaylee trusts Liz to keep him in check.

Walter seems to be contented with the results of his question, the hints of further thoughts in his eyes as he sits back down and tips his head to Aurora's whispering; she gets a grin from the ginger boy.

Delilah seems more amused than Walter does as the little Q&A goes on, though both of them get hit with a laugh when Ames poses her oh so innocent question, Dee the one who is mortified a little for the parents. All in all, she is enjoying the show, but at Marthe's fix of her girl's question, Delilah leans forward to put a hand on the woman's shoulder and give her an aside.

"Don't worry, everyone here's that precocious too." Stifling a more obvious laugh, it comes out in the form of bowed lips and the sound of Walter just behind her snorting. Puh-lease mom. "Including that one." Dee tosses a look over her shoulder to her son. Yes, you are.

Aurora leans around Walter to look at Ames with wide eyes. "Other people have a favorite crime??" she blurts out. "Mine's stealin'. Cuz sometimes—" Oh wait. Maybe she shouldn't talk about that.

Which, of course, makes her mother have to stifle a giggle, casting a glance at Richard. Your daughter.

Clearing her throat as she grins at Ames, Elisabeth says, "Hi, Ames. That's an interesting question. Uhm…. my favorite mysteries to solve are the ones where you find something or someone that's important to a person. Like they've had a necklace that belonged to their mom stolen and I help them get it back or someone they know has left and no one knows where they are, so I get to help find that person and let their friends know they're safe." Her phrasing sounds so much better than talking about kidnapping and theft. But they're also crimes that sometimes have happy endings, too. Unlike the more gruesome answer the girl is probably looking for — Ames is the right age for fascination with icky.

Richard’s brows lift a little at the first question, and he can’t help but grin - but then it’s ‘revised’ and he breathes out a chuckle, glancing to see what the other people are answering. He picks up the notepad in front of him, reviewing the list of ‘things he’s not allowed to discuss’, then notices multiple sets of eyes on him and multiple heads slowly shaking ‘no’.

They never let him have any fun. At least his daughter’s growing up right. He stifles a grin of his own.

Once his wife finishes up, he smiles brightly, “Is this just for Liz, or for all of us? I mean, I’m not a detective like my wife here, but I do investigate mysteries sometimes. I’d have to say that the favorite mystery that I solved was finding my family. I grew up without them, but after a lot of years I managed to find the children of my godfather - the man who was originally supposed to raise me - and they accepted me as their brother. It was a pretty tricky mystery to work through, but despite all of the other amazing things I’ve found out over the years - I think that has to be my favorite one.”

The school president shoots Peyton a look, before covering the microphone in front of her. “See, this is why I said we should just have pulled index card questions!” she says, loud enough for the panel and the front couple of rows to hear her. The dean looks amused, dark eyes sparkling, and she murmurs, “It’s fine, Gemma,” calmly.

Finn bends his head to studiously take apart one of the free pens but looks relieved when the question is changed. He turns his head to watch the others answer first. After the answers from Liz and Richard, the fashion designer talks about the “mystery” of figuring out the right fabric for the right design and the chef discusses pairing interesting flavors for new combinations. Eventually it’s Finn’s turn.

“Well, my job right now is usually about either fighting fires or search and rescue, so there’s some problem solving involved. I never really thought of it as solving a mystery, though, but I guess it kinda can be,” he says. “Sometimes other mysteries happen, like this time a weird time bubble appeared out in the woods and we went in to figure out what that was…”

He stops short when he sees at least one of the SESA agents in the audience shooting him a look. “Oh, that might have been a dream,” he amends. “Never mind.”

Gemma reaches into the bowl for the next name in a hurry. “Next we have Tru Burke!” she calls out in an overly cheerful voice. One of the students in the aisles makes his way to Tru’s row to pass the microphone to the girl.

“That’s my girl!” Burke can’t help but say from the audience next to Kaylee. He’d quieted down after the students started asking questions, even if he would have liked to have continued a conversation with Ms. Thatcher, but the last thing he had wanted was stink-eyes from another parent. But he figured one cheer right before her question wouldn’t be a problem. He’s proud of his young lady, after all.

Tru looks over in the direction of her father, as if he was the child for a moment, and then back at the panel, specifically, to Richard Ray, because as she starts, her question seems to be for him. “Mister Ray, my question is for you, mostly. Dad and I used to listen to your station when I was growing up.” The dark haired girl does talk with that hint of a mid-western accent. “Did you enjoy running a radio station? Why did you do it?”

Burke grins at the question, leaning toward Kaylee to add, “She had a crush on that one DJ that he had. I forget his name. She loved his voice. I didn’t even know five year olds got crushes.”

There is a narrowing of Kaylee’s eyes as Finn speaks up, but the question from Tru gets a look of surprise from Kaylee and then it’s turned on her father. There is a soft ‘Huh’ under the telepath’s breath. After a moment, she says quietly, “You know, I don’t often hear people talk about the radio station. Always surprises me when I hear it mentioned.” She doesn’t know if her siblings heard about it more, but not her.

“And I think you are talking about Raquelle, he was one of our DJs,” Kaylee offers while watching the stage. “He runs a hair salon now, and I imagine he’d be completely ecstatic to hear about a fan,” she says glancing at Joel out of the corner of her eye. “Especially a young fan like Tru.”

Finn's answer draws skeptical looks from some of the other parents and panel members, but Elisabeth's blue eyes sharpen on him. As in 'yeah, I believe what you're saying and WTF?' She may have to search him out later. The headshake from the SESA agent, though she doesn't recognize the agent, gives her a bit of a clue too. She catches her husband's eyes, conveying thoughtful curiosity and a faint shrug. They'll have to talk later.

Tru's question makes her grin though. The radio station is an interesting conversation! She sits back to listen to that answer.

Richard’s head cants a bit to one side as Finn speaks, watching the man with a sudden interest whereas he’d dismissed him entirely before. He’s still considering him when fortuitously he’s distracted by his name being spoken - turning back to look at Tru, straightening up to pay attention.

A genuine smile curves to his lips at the question, his head bobbing a bit in a nod. “I did,” he admits, “I… knew that people were out there, people fighting and people scared, and they needed to know they weren’t alone. I knew we had the power to reach them, so I made use of that, simple as that. There’s nothing more powerful in this world than having each other - never forget that.”

Richard finds himself receiving a grateful smile for his answer from Peyton, who’s about to reply as Gemma stirs the jar for another question. But suddenly a man grabs the microphone from Tru, and jumps up to speak into it.

“You evolved folks all talk a lot about living together as one and getting along, but here you have a school where your children are being treated like they are the elite, like they are superior to the rest of the world, more deserving of all of this,” he gestures to the state-of-the-art auditorium with its walls of glass and its technology. “My kid? There are walls that still have scorch marks on it from the war, while you sit here in your ivory tower with STEM and art and parents who are CEOs and government agents. How is that fair? How is that just?”

Peyton’s dark eyes widen and she touches her ear to murmur into a comm, hailing the school’s security. The two security guards who are already in the auditorium step forward, but she gestures to them to hold off for the moment.

Everyone was screened for weapons, at least.

“We do have slots for non SLC-E students, though they do have a heavier screening process. This is not due to elitism, but for the security of our students, sir,” she says. “I’d be happy to get you an application.” One that will certainly be denied, given his clear dislike for the SLC-E community.

When the atmosphere of the event suddenly changes, Ames shows it by shrinking back into her chair. She takes Marthe’s hand and looks up to her, then around her to Wright. Marthe squeezes her hand reassuringly.

Wright’s first reaction is to stand, go to the man, and relieve him of the microphone. She catches herself with enough time to make her sudden lurch upright look like she’s simply adjusting her posture. She sees the security staff move in, hold fast, and she relaxes. She looks down to Ames with a silent hey and a smile.

She hasn’t ruled out a body tackle. But since she doesn’t work here, and since Marthe’s expression reads Don’t you goddamned dare, she’s content to let someone else handle the heckler.

Sitting with her siblings and cousin, Aurora Harrison's hazel eyes go wide and frightened. She shrinks in on herself, trying to become invisible, and tugs at Carl and Lili. Ricky's on the far side of Lili, by Walter, and out of her reach. She hisses to all of them in an urgent whisper, "Keep low. I gotta hidey hole! If it gets loud, grab hands and we'll head there. Daddy'll find us when it's safe!" Sliding off her chair, she crouches low to get as small as she can and peers under chairs between feet back toward where the man is.

Though Elisabeth's blue eyes flicker in the direction of the children just to assure herself that they're okay, the blonde moves with easy steps toward Peyton to back her up silently, her badge on her belt. She won't get involved unless or until things go sideways — but it can't hurt if people know the NYPD isn't going to tolerate rabble-rousing in schools.

Delilah has already had one too many encounters with these kinds of people in recent months; against her desire to do otherwise, she forces herself to stay seated and quiet, brown eyes moving between Peyton and the audience member. It takes some significant focus for her, and even Walter notices it; used to seeing his mother stand up and kick soap-boxes, the reaction coaxes out a puzzled expression. Breath moves out through Lilah's nose at the look, signaling the universal 'don't ask questions'.

It doesn't stop Walter from leaning up and perching on a folded leg in his seat, peering over heads in the process of getting a look at the guy heckling. Fortunately it also means he can hear Aurora better from a few inches higher, able to see her crouch down and go peeking around under the row.

" 'Ror what're you doing…? It's fine, he's just being an- -" While the ginger boy is being very calm about whispering his reassurances to the younger girl, he pauses under parental scrutiny, eyes squinting. "- - butt…head."


As the man speaks up in ugly, angry tones, the twins immediately look ill-at-ease, glancing to each other with worried uncertainty and then up forward towards their parents for guidance. That guidance comes not from them, though, but from their sister - who they know has more experience in situations like this than them! Down they go with her, ducking down and out of sight.

At the confusion from their ginger-topped friend, Lili looks up at him and hisses, "Walter Tray-ford you get down here with us right this in-sant!"

Richard's hands are flat on the table, and for a moment it seems like he's about to get up… but Elisabeth's doing that, and the man isn't brandishing a weapon. So he eases a bit, leaning forward and adjusting the mic and clearing his throat before speaking, gaze on the man holding the microphone.

"I'll answer that. It's not," he says steadily, "You’re right, actually - it's not fair, and it's not just, but it’s not for the reasons you think. Let's talk here for a moment, just— father to father, alright? What's your name, sir? You know mine."

Unlike the others, Carl doesn’t duck down, he’s riveted on the man talking. Brows furrowed in deep thought, looking a bit more like his father. “I don’t feel elite,” he suddenly says out loud, getting to his feet when the others hide, which has Kaylee’s attention snapping to her son. She had been staring daggers at the man speaking up. Like any parent she wants to protect her son from the bad in the world.

The boy tosses an apologetic look at his Uncle, before continuing, “They sure don’t treat me like I’m elite. I still have to do a lot of homework - I have a history report and a book report due in a few days - and the cafeteria food isn’t that great,” he looks at the woman that founded the school, with a sheepish look. “Sorry, Ms. Peyton.” He is.

“But I know a lot of kids that won’t ever have powers who are a lot more superior than me.” Carl says that with a widening of his eyes and aura of jealousy. He points at another kid in the audience. “Mason is so smart at science, I feel really dumb at it. He’s so good at it, I bet he grows up to be a scientist that cures cancer.”

Kaylee is pale and tense, feeling a sense of pride at her son, while also fearing the target he could be putting on his back. Her attention is back on the man, while her son continues.

Carl scratches at the side of his face and now manages to look downtrodden, “I’m sorry if something happened to make you think we’re bad.” He shrugs, he knows people sometimes think of them as monsters. “But I promise I’m just a kid, sir. I like dragons and art. I don’t want to be a super villain when I grow up, I want to help everyone, like my family does.”

Like Carl, Tru doesn’t duck down or look afraid at the hostile man, but she looks a little upset at the interruption, as if she had some responses she wanted to make on her questions about the radio station! But it’s when Carl starts to talk that she looks over and watches him instead, that curious interest that girls can sometimes get for boys when they say things that surprise them.

If her dad notices the interest, he doesn’t seem to mind. At least this crush would be age appropriate and not on a voice of an older man on the radio. “Brave kid you got there,” Joel says to Kaylee, trying to reassure her. “Don’t worry, the school had a good screening process before admission. He shouldn’t have a weapon. And based on his opinions he’s not going to start shooting lasers anytime soon.” Even as Burke speaks, though, he’s not taking his eyes off the man who spoke up, as if wondering if he needs to intervene. He expects Harrison will if need be, though.

The man lift’s his hands slightly as if to placate Liz — and the other parents who half rise out of their seats. Finn is one of those, his usually jovial expression hardened into a glare. Peyton glances at Richard when he tries to reason with the man, then up at Liz to offer her a flickering smile of thanks.

It’s Carl’s little speech that makes her draw a shaky breath that exits in a soft, sighed “Oh.” Her eyes well up with tears, and she laughs and shakes her head at the mention of the cafeteria food, one hand lifting to shake lightly in a ‘don’t worry’ about it gesture when he apologizes to her.

Out of the mouths of babes.

The security officers wait, not given the okay to haul the guy out. Perhaps it’s a moment for understanding.

Before the man answers Richard’s question, Jonah pipes up.

“I like dinosaurs and I want to be a archaeologist but I’m worried there might not be any dinosaur bones left to find, so I’m also thinking I might be an engineer. I don’t like regular history that much but we still have to learn it because it’s important.” His tone says I guess but he doesn’t add it.

A couple of other kids pipe up with what they like and don’t like about the school. This is clearly show-and-tell now.

“I don’t like that we have to keep using broken crayons because they still work and we can’t get new ones unless they’re too little to use,” one first grader opines.

“I like the pizza but don’t like the spaghetti because they sneak in spinach,” says a third grader.

“I like waffles!” Ames shouts.

“It’s really fun to work in the garden but then we have to clean up everything and put it away and that’s boring,” says a fourth grader. And so forth.

The man takes a step back, but finds Richard’s gaze again. “Doug.”

"Hi, Doug. Look, I get where you're coming from - you want what's best for your kid. So do I. See, I grew up in an orphanage here in the City, back when it was the City. The high school I went to had bullet holes in the windows, so… I know the kind of place you're talking about," Richard says frankly, arms folding on the table as he leans forward, "This isn't about SLC-positive versus SLC-negative though. We both know there are schools as good if not better than this that your kid could go to - if you could afford it, if you could relocate closer. This is an issue of money, and you're right, it's not right, or fair, or just that money can get my kids a better start than yours. But I’m going to use whatever I can to make sure my kids don’t grow up like I did."

He shakes his head, "I want a better life than that for you and your kids too— hell, we built the greenhouse so that you wouldn't have any more food shortages like the ones a few years back, but I can only do so much. I don't control the government purse strings for public schooling, but I'll tell you what— if you wait around for after this, I can get your information and put you in contact with some advocacy groups, maybe we can work together to push to improve the public schools in the 'Zone."

The order given to get down there with the siblings is received with an awkward look to Delilah, who has already leant forward in her seat to find the little culprits. Against common sense, Walter slides onto the floor just for them, demeanor unconvinced.

"Kids, please." A whisper, not angry, just a sigh from Dee. "I know he sounds mad, but it's alright." It had better be, given her recent experiences.

"It sounds like he's a douchebag." Walter interjects from his seat on the floor, only half-listening to what Richard is saying to Doug, the 'bag in question. "He knows we all went to those too right?"

Delilah simmers, "What did I tell you about talking like that?"

Walter narrows his eyes and slowly slides further down with the other kids, ears red. "…'Don't'?"

Aurora squats under her chair, knees to nose as she peers underneath through the sea of shoes. She giggles a little at Walter's use of douchebag. She's listening very intently to what's going on. "Miss 'Lilah?" A couple of half-grown-in adult teeth are giving her a bit of a lisp. "Is Daddy gonna be able to make him stop hatin' us?" She's uncertain whether to follow the instructions to get back up in her seat or not, but she's real proud of her daddy for what he's doing.

Despite the man's tone, Elisabeth can sympathize with him, and her expression reveals that sympathy. Since the kids all seem to have defused a little and Richard has the conversation in hand, the blond doesn't do anything except remain where she is. Her eyes seek out faces in the crowd just so she knows where people are.

With the tension mostly broken, Ames relaxes, though she stands to maneuver into Wright’s lap, her legs stretched over Marthe’s. Wright wraps her arms around her daughter and plants several fast kisses on Ames’s temple.

When all the other kids start to speak, Carl sits down and lets them have their moment, side-eyeing that look from Tru, cause she was looking at him weird. Instead of dwelling on that, he glances at his cousins and Walter, he leans down and whispers, “It’s okay guys. I don’t think he’s one of them, just sad his kid can’t come here and their school has war damage.” He holds a hand out to Aurora to help her up, “It’s okay. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Kaylee has to brush at the corner of her eyes before tears start falling, cause she’s just so damn proud. “Yeah, he’s almost too brave sometimes. He really believes that most monsters are misunderstood.” She offers Joel a watery smile. “At the same time, that outlook on life might save a life one day.”

“Scaring people isn’t going to help your kid with anything, Mister!” Tru says firmly, one hand on a hip as she gives him a too old for her own good stare. That’s what happened to an entire generation of kids who grew up during the war. They either fell behind, or grew up way too fast. And didn’t learn to edit probably. Which seems true for a lot of the kids present as it was. “For the record, I like barbeque!” She exclaims, then hands off the mic finally so that an adult can shut everything down like they no doubt plan to.

Meanwhile, Joel shakes his head and laughs. “Kid’s a spitfire.”

But he definitely seems to love her from the way the smile touches his eyes, then he nods over at Kaylee, sharing in her thoughts. “I think this next generation is looking to be better than the ones that came before.”

At the center of the dais, Peyton wipes tears from her eyes as the children declare what they like or don’t like, her gaze lingering on Jonah for a long, proud moment. She then looks to Kaylee to give her a small nod. Their boys are sweet, smart, brave souls, and there’s a camaraderie born of that.

The man at the center of attention shrugs, anger tempered by the children and by the acknowledgement that things aren’t fair. There’s still a low simmer, because that injustice is still burning, but it has no target at the moment, stifled a little by the community Doug feels coming together in the room. A community he feels he lacks.

He nods, though, to Richard’s offer to meet with him, then turns away to find his seat again.

The teenager grins at Tru as she hands over the mic again, turning it off with a flick of his thumbnail, before looking up to the dais for the next name and question.

“If that didn’t prove these kids are gifted and talented without any extra advantage from their abilities, I don’t know what does,” Peyton says. “I think we can end on that note. Our school is a gift, and we are very grateful for it; hopefully there will be more renovation projects like this. However, when you meet with Mr. Ray after, I’d like to also personally give you a check for your school to use for improvements.”

She tips her head one way, then the other, to look down the panel on either side of her. “I’d like to thank our wonderful volunteers for taking the time out of their extremely busy schedule to come talk to us about their very important jobs. I’m sure you’ve been an inspiration to many in our audience. And of course, my heartfelt thanks fo all our students and their families for coming. Have a wonderful night.”

Even in the wake of Delilah's scolding, Aurora laughing at Walter's language makes it sting less for him, because if it's one thing kids know, it's that when people laugh, they like whatever it was you did. That's a cardinal rule, you know.

"Not in one day, honey. But god knows he's gonna try his best." Delilah gestures for the gaggle to come up off the floor, to which Walter pops up like a weasel and takes Aurora's hand. Rising to her feet with a calm grin, Dee claps once, "I bet there are still some snacks left from before. You kids wanna go foraging?"

“Hey, Tru,” Carl turns to the new girl with a grin, not really knowing what he helped do today. “You wanna go say hi to Jonah?” Hopping to his feet he motions her to follow him, while shouting through the milling crowd. “Jonah! Wait up!

Back where their parents sit, Kaylee glances at Joel much like his daughter did Carl. She gives a soft huffed laugh of surprise and turns back to watch as Carl drags Tru towards his friend, whatever he’s chattering about to her is lost in the swell of voices. “I actually agree with you, Mr. Burke.”

Elisabeth lets out a silent breath that she's been holding, relaxing visibly. Blue eyes shift from the potential threat to her husband with a grateful smile that conveys just how much she loves him and what he just did. As she turns back toward the audience, she watches Walter help Aura to her feet, the twins already making like Jack-in-the-boxes as they stand, and she tips her head slightly watching all of them. She's very proud of what all of them did today, and she sends Carl and Jonah a wink of approval. The words "Great job, you guys" whisper past all of them.

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