When a Leader Speaks


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Scene Title When a Leader Speaks
Synopsis Company agents and inquiring minds go to hear the wise words of Wiley Schnook — and some find themselves convinced, despite their better reason.
Date July 26, 2010


A giant white pavilion covers most of the empty lot, making the meeting easy to find. In case skeptics had any doubt they were in the right place, someone has scrawled in fluorescent-orange spray paint, “Go Home Cultists!” on one side of the large tent. It doesn’t seem to have much of a dissuading effect, however, as large throngs of people continually make their way inside.

Within, the tent is held together by a sturdy metal framework, with box fans attached to the “rafters” to keep air circulating. It’s still by no means cool inside the structure; the humidity of the summer along with the crowd of what looks to be three hundred or more people will make for a sticky meeting, and bring to mind the revival meetings of the Bible belt shown in old movies for some. Cheap white folding chairs have been set up in a semi-circle, facing a wooden platform with a lectern at the front. A microphone leads to large speakers, to help project the words of whomever is speaking.

Standing on the ground by the steps on the side of the raised platform, the diminutive Wiley Schnook, dressed in a gray suit with a lavender tie, watches as his congregation, both loyal and new, gather before him. He looks a bit nervous, gaze flitting here and there and then down to his watch now and then. One foot taps an erratic tattoo before his gray eyes dart to his watch again. A few minutes to go. Now and then, someone will move forward to shake his hand or murmur something. He grasps the hands in both of his or clasps a shoulder, always smiling broadly, laughing or nodding at their words. Then, it’s back to waiting, checking his watch, watching the congregation.

Populism is the backbone of any meaningful revolution. Mobilization of the masses, the condensation of complete theoretical consideration into clear imperative, exhortations, directions that make the People (capital P) rise up and take action that thinking men (women, too, sometimes) cannot achieve on their own.

Perry obviously has some lofty expectations of this gathering. He arrives here as sort of a radical-political critic, considering himself effective an observer, gauging what he considers to be the legitimacy of this meeting in the promotion of real systemic overthrow/change. If there are any telepaths around, they likely get a bad taste on their brains from scanning this particular example of aloofness. He does hold out hope, though. He wants this to meet his standards.

But the revival vibe and smiley-ness of Mr. Schnook do not reassure Mr. Jones much. He doesn't see enough… anger. Or any at all. This, of all things, is what troubles him.

A tall figure moves silently through the crowd, dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a pale blue dress shirt. The Company's assistant-director watches the people as they pass. The fedora and the jacket is left behind in the car, which means his weapons are tucked away as well, mostly cause he doesn't know what would happen. When they decided to do this, Benjamin Ryans set himself up as the control subject for this little trip.

Leaders need to be willing to take the risks themselves.

Dark brown leather shoes, shuffle along as Ryans moves with the crowd, moving to locate a seat. He doesn't look at his companions, his sharp blue gaze is on the man in the gray suit.

Curiosity draws Lydia here, and where there are people gathered, there's always a chance of finding someone from her family. Quietly she hangs in the back, milling about the people for any trace of a familiar face. It seems unlikely, but not wholly impossible. Her long sandy coloured hair hangs mid-back, wavy and pushed out of her eyes by nothing more than a pair of sunglasses she wears atop her forehead. Her blue sleeveless jersey dress, falls just above her knees and swishes lightly when she steps in her bronze-coloured ballet flat shoes.

Arms cross over her chest as she cuts around the edges, watching the seats for traces of anyone she may know, focusing to feel for them, to draw them out, but she continues to hang in the back, away from the chairs, a kind of determined hopefulness still alive in her dark eyes.

Having arrived early, Corbin Ayers sits in a seat near the front, so he has a good view, with a coat drapped over the seat next to him to keep anyone else from sitting. Persumably for his photographer, as he's come under the guise of a freelance reporter looking to sell the story to a magazine or newspaper. The photographer is around, somewhere, taking a few pictures. It's not just for journalism, though, but for record, for files. For the Company.

And the empty seat next to Corbin is actually left open for a dead woman who sits in a red sundress, kicking ruby shoes up into the air slightly, with gold eyes watching the stage like a child anticipating a show. Not that anyone except him knows she's there— or so he'd hope.

A notepad sits in his lap, for note-taking, but there's also a recorder going.

What motivates Evan to be here today is not any sort of genuine expectation of meeting like-minded people, nor well-prepared reconaissance on behalf of any other organized group, nor a simple lack of anything better to do with his time. It's entirely personal - he wants to know just who or what was motivating that girl on the bus that (sort of) got him shot the other day - no less because she turned out to be one of his old students (it was a large enough class that he didn't get to know many of them personally). Well, he's not entirely certain that this is the group she was 'collecting donations' for, but it's the most likely choice he's heard about. He lounges near the back, equipped with a smartphone for notes and a pad of paper in case there's anything worth sketching.

And there's Isabella, seated as well with a nice Nikon digital around her neck, trying to school her distinctly unhappy expression back. After all, it's hot, and sticky, and there are people, and she doesn't really like proselityzers on the best of days; and an Evolved proselytizer? Accused of rape? Scum list. Even if he looks nice enough. Regardless, the small woman in her business attire of a white blouse and black pants and heels keeps her expression as flat as she can, watching Schnook.

A man — recognizable to Corbin Ayers and the other Company agents present as Bruce Maddx, Schnook’s right hand man — makes his way up one of the aisles. He is dressed in a hunter green polo shirt, the words (r)Evo-lutionaries emblazoned on the left chest. At the bottom of the stairs, he shields Wiley from the crowd, passing off something small and white to the other man as he leans in to murmur in Schnook’s ear, hand patting the smaller man’s shoulder as if to give him reassurance. The two men laugh and Maddox moves away, standing at the rear of the tent, facing the platform.

Schnook takes a few minutes — the small white item actually a stack of index cards that he reads through swiftly, lips moving as he reads silently for a few moments. Finally, the small man strides up the steps, and immediately his believers begin to applaud. He gives a little bow, cheeks coloring as if embarrassed by the unasked for greeting. Moving to the lectern, he turns on the microphone, which gives a squawk of feedback as it’s adjusted. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he mutters, and most of the crowd laughs.

“Welcome. I am pleased to see many familiar faces, our friends and family of the Fellowship. We are one big family here, and we’re always open to new members! I’m even more excited to see many strangers among us. Often, people are afraid of the unknown, but here, there is no reason to fear it. The unknown means our message is getting out, that people want to come and listen to words of love and equality and liberty. The more strangers I see, the more I know we are making a difference! We even have the press here, so I know we're making a difference.”

Despite the optimism in his words, his voice has a quavery, querulous tone, tinged by a little bit of a New Jersey accent. He glances around and then drops his eyes to look at the first index card. “Speaking of making a difference, what I’m going to talk about today is very important. I need you all to listen with open minds and open hearts. We all need to give a little more of ourselves to make change happen.” He looks up, making eye contact with those in the closest rows. “Are you ready to do that?” His voice lifts up, like a coach trying to pep talk a team of players.

Most of the crowd responds immediately in the affirmative. There is no unison cry of ‘Yes,’ but a variety of answers that are garbled together: “Hell yeah!” shouts one punk boy nearby, while a little old lady calls out, “You bet!” There are “Yeahs!” and “Yes’s” and whoops and whistles and claps, but on the whole, most of the crowd seems in agreement. Maddox doesn’t speak but nods his head, his eyes never leaving Schnook’s face.

Perry's brow furrows as he hangs by the edge of the tent. The hand in his pocket fiddles with his cellphone as the feedback ripples through the air, followed by the tremulous tones of the diminutive speaker. His mouth bunches in what looks like displeasure as Schnook's words ring out. Perry's thoughts go like this: Weak - Impressive - Demagogue. He feels a certain emotive tug, feels that rush of hearing a rousing speech, but he has never cared for this kind of rhetoric. His scowl is one of confusion, cognitive dissonance.

He's listening, though.

Settled into a seat, not too far from Corbin, a row or two back and down a bit, Ryans watches the charismatic man with curiosity. Settling back in his seat, his attention is fully on Wiley. He finds himself nodding his head slowly in agreement with the rest of them, before he glances to the people around him, curious to see their reactions

Of course, the senior agent will listen, change does need to happen after all.

The word and idea of family is enough to peak Lydia's attention. Finally her eyes stop scanning the crowd and zero in on the speaker. Her cheeks redden. Family. It's a simple idea but means far more when you lose it. Her arms tug tighter around her body. At Schnook's words, she feels a need to actually listen rather than explore for members of her family. Quietly, carefully, she slides into one of the chairs, and gives a flickered smile to those beside her.

Biting her bottom lip, her head tilts and her gaze stays on Schnook.

There's a little tug in the back of Corbin's mind, but the hypnosis seems to do what it was supposed to do, and allow him to shake it off and notice how the crowd is reacting, more than react himself. The pen moves across the pad of paper, making some quick notes, as he glances toward the back and deeper into the audience, before going back up to the stage. He only looks away to make sure his scribbles aren't running off the page and onto his pants. And that they're English.

Evan waits patiently through the opening spiel, glancing down from time to time to tap in a keyword, before deciding to stick with the paper instead - things are going a little quicker than the tiny keyboard can keep up with. 'Love', 'equality', 'liberty', 'change', with straight lines separating them so he can build up a picture of where the real emphasis lies. Nothing obviously objectionable so far; it's not impossible that the co-ed just went overboard on her own. Or with chemical assistance.

Isabella feels the tickle at the back of her brain and lifts a hand to scratch the back of her head, as if that will help. Thank god for Richards. Either way, she catches everyone's agreement, and nods as well, lifting her camera to snap a picture of him (no flash).

Wiley looks surprised, his brows rising up at the nearly unanimous approval of his words, and he grins. "I knew I could count on you guys! You are the best!" he exclaims, before glancing down at the cards again. His brows furrow for a moment, and then he nods, looking back up, skimming the crowd with his eyes. "We're going to do great things together because we're the people who are willing to look beyond our differences and unify. The government doesn't want us to be united — Evolved and non-Evolved, Democrat and Republican, Registered and Unregistered. The government wants us to be separate and not equal. The only way to fight that is with love, education, and charity." He pauses, as if to let the words sink in.

"Say 'Yes!' if you are willing to give up your past life and follow me into a new age, where every man, woman and child is treated with equality and respect!" He waits for the inevitable unison choir of "Yes!"

"Say 'Yes!' if you are willing to donate your resources, your time and your talent and your pocket change, to make this happen!" Again, a pause for the 'Yes!' from the crowd. "Dig into your pockets and give whatever you feel you are able to give, and we can make this happen!"

And with that, Maddox opens the flap of the tent, and volunteers in khaki pants and navy blue t-shirts begin to make the rounds, moving up and down the aisle with collection baskets on long poles.

What about force? What about seizing the state apparatus? Perry feels himself knot up inside in an indignation that has been festering inside of him, from several emotional fronts. He scowls through the tangle of his responses, then winces slightly as he feels that rush again, the force of Wiley's imperative. Perry strives for certainty, but that very fact is a guarantee of his essential doubt. And the word 'charity' rings an unfamiliar bell for Perry. That isn't something he's ever considered important to the struggle. What he imagines is his struggle.

So this must be some other struggle. And not a bad one. Not considering their goals. Who… who wouldn't support equality? Who doesn't want that kind of change? The means… well, the means can be different in each different case. So this is not his fight. This is a site for fellow travelers.

With a sort of confused conviction, Perry fishes out his wallet and starts to count out bills. What does he feel able to give?

To the right cause, everything. And this… A certain hesitation sets in. This is so… unrigorous. No argument has been made. His thumb folds down a few of the counted bills. When the collection goes by he drops three tens into the basket, brow furrowed, looking more confused than exultant.

"Yes." The word is out of Ryans mouth both times without even thinking about it. He sits up a little straighter in his seat as he says it. His training doesn't seem to hold up to whatever this man is saying. He's not even allowing himself to think about it. It seems clear that he should agree and so he does.

When asked to give, Ryans is leaning to tug out his wallet, so that he can dig out what little money he allowed himself to bring. A mere twenty dollars is stuck into the collection basket. He is very much going to need some un-wiring after this, which will mean a trip to Allison… she'll probably enjoy that irony.

Lydia isn't emphatic in her words, but she finds herself saying a rather firm, "Yes," to the first question and a second, equally firm, "Yes," to the second. They're not yelled, they're not overly enthusiastic, but there's a kind of agreement in her with the ideas. Her hand reaches into her pocket and extracts a ten dollar bill, all of the cash she's carrying today, and puts it in the basket. Hands are then returned to her lap as her expression turns more thoughtful.

Oh, boyo, you're in big trouble now… Corbin thinks to himself, looking over at the woman sitting in the empty chair next to him. To blend in, his hand goes into his wallet and he pick out some cash to drop into the bucket, before he scribbles down a few more important words. "We'll have to see how Ryans fairs," he whispers to the woman next to him, though he may as well be talking to himself. "I hope I don't have to keep him from giving his daughters over to the cult as concubines, or something." He's joking.


It's only the speaker's relative restraint that keeps Evan from going more overboard himself than he actually does. 'What you are able to give.' He's only got a couple of tens in his wallet - and he needs one of those to get back to his place, unless he wants to bum another ride from someone else in the department, and that depends on being able to reach them - and so the other one lands in the basket as it passes by. It'll eventually strike him as having been out of place, but in the moment, it goes by unnoticed.

Oh, what bullshit. Isabella can't help her mouth pressing into a distasteful line, not offering any yes's or agreement this time around. Rather than let her temper get the better of her, though, she just lifts her camera and funnels her aggression into another picture, the shutter snapping with impotent frustration. And when the collection plate comes, she looks flatly up to the man holding it for a long moment before remembering she's supposed to keep her cover. The expression she replaces on her face might be possibly construed as a smile in some alternate dimension, perhaps; but not in this one. Perhaps she has indigestion.

At any rate, she tucks into her purse and drops a single nickel in. No explanation, no apology. Just a nickel that drops into the plate, with its descent and impact muffled by the bills generously offered by far more… magnanimous followers. That indigestion is paired with a challenging stare . You going to ask for more, bucko? Move along.

One young girl sits, arms cross, furrow-browed as she scowls. Paige Haster, a Columbia student and one of Evan's students at that, a known friend of Josie Perry, shakes her head. She jumps up, having had enough, grabbing a handful of money and flinging it at the people in her row who donated before her. "Keep your money! This man is a charlatan! You're being had!" Another hand goes into the collection basket, and she flings it at the row behind her. "He's a registered Persuader, and you're all being … schookered." Oh, no, she didn't!

Maddox, meanwhile, is hurrying up the aisle to stop the girl's tirade, his gaze off of Wiley who stands aghast, mouth agape, up on the platform. The crowd begins to turn toward him, anger in their eyes, rising from their seats.

"No, I'm not using my power," he says, shaking his head adamantly. Maddox's head snaps to the man, making eye contact with Wiley and widening his eyes just slightly. "I'm not using my power. I gave that up years ago. I promise. I'm not using my power!" Wiley says.

And those who have started to rise sit back down. "Obviously, he's not using his power," one man calls out, giving voice to his support of the leader. "I mean, we'd know, right?"

"He's a good guy. He's never lied to us! Why would he have to?" Another yells.

Meanwhile, Paige Haster rolls her eyes and shakes off the hands of the volunteers, stalking for the exit.

"Gosh, guys, I'm really sorry about that," Wiley says, running a nervous hand through his hair.

There is another stomach roll as Perry feels the shift in his stomach, a roller coaster ride of first incredulity and expectation - waiting for Schnook to deny being a persuader at all - surprise as Schnook denies only using persuasion - confusion over whether or not, ethically speaking, he should or shouldn't be allowed to use his power to further his cause - which is maybe a step other people skip - and then that rush of affirmation. Of certainty that Wiley has really been abstaining.

This does leave Perry with confusion to spare, though. He isn't using his power? That's a betrayal of his gift, a refusal of inner greatness. It's a sheep tactic. Mr. Jones starts to feel sick. As Ms. Haster makes for the door, Perry follows what is really more a hunch than anything else. He pushes his way through the crowd, toward the exit, after her.

Something is wrong, but from where and in what way he can't seem to straighten out.

The interruption has Ryans stilling in his seat, blue eyes settle on the woman accusing Wiley of using his power. Brows furrow and looks at the wallet in his hands thoughtfully. What the woman says kinda clicks with him. Maybe she was right… the thought is banished quickly by the next persuasive words out of the speakers mouth.

No… of course not, this man obviously turned over a new leaf. The company agent nods slowly to himself, and folds the well worn wallet slowly, before tucking it back in his pocket. He will surely regret agreeing to be control for this, later.

There's no obvious anger written across Lydia's face, even at the information about Schnook's ability, but her attention changes some as her eyes scan the crowd again, looking for familiar faces, remembering her primary goal at this moment. She twitches as he claims not to be using his gift. Eyes narrow and nose wrinkles while her hands clutch the sides of the chair almost grounding her there. Her ankles cross and she leans back. There's little denying that she's intrigued.

While Corbin is paying attention to things, he stands up and moves toward the back of the fence, not noticing the young woman hopping after him, making a comment in the back of his head. That business man is sure close with his buddy. But he brings his notebook along, as he exits the tent. "Excuse me, miss, I believe you. But if you could stop, I'd like to ask you a few questions." He doesn't reach out to grab her, but he does move to get close, so she doesn't run away too quickly, even if this takes him out of the tent. Hopefully Isabelle will make sure Ryans doesn't hand over his badge and guns as a sign of respect, or something. "Why do you think he's using persuasion?"

Equally intrigued by the outburst - he remembers Paige just fine, it's hard to forget that many buttons - Evan rises to his feet, stuffing the (…curiously empty) notepad in his pocket and following after her from a different direction. Arriving a little later than Corbin, he merely waves and waits his turn to pipe up, meanwhile mulling over the evidence thus far.

His gut tells him that Wiley is telling the truth. What sort of rational man would admit to having such an ability, then trust in that ability to fool everyone into thinking he wasn't using it? It would only take one failure with a grudge to mess up his life something awful. Maybe the assistant is pulling something, hoping to use Wiley as a scapegoat…

Isabella looks back at the interruption, eyes zeroing in on Paige before lifting the camera. Click! Then she looks back at Schnook. Click! And at Maddox. Click! And at the crowd. Click! And there goes Corbin… Click! And Ryans' face. This'll be priceless. Click! And then with a sigh she settles in and tries to keep her naturally sour disposition off her face. Hmph.

Outside of the tent, Paige turns as she hears Corbin's voice. She was about to stalk off and go home. "My power is immunity to mental shit like that," she says angrily, jabbing a finger toward the tent. "Oh hi, Professor Langford," she says, dark eyes flashing and cheeks coloring a little as she sees her teacher. "I can't be persuaded or mind read or anything like that. I came here like two months ago with Josie, and then she held up a bus. I came to see why, and now I get it! He's making them think they have to do everything they can possibly do to help out with all his noble ideas!"

"You. You gave money, I saw you. You should demand it back," she adds, pointing to Perry. "I looked him up. He's registered and he apparently used his powers like some mental roofie or something, with three women. But they won't believe me!" She stamps her foot angrily.

Inside, Wiley shuffles his cards, finding his place. "I am sorry about the interruption, ladies and gentlemen, my revolutionary minds! Let's all calm down, and let me talk to you again," he says, a shaking hand holding the note cards. "Let me tell you about peace."

Maddox glances out the tent at the muffled words coming from Paige, but he turns to stare at the leader on the platform once more.

"Peace comes with change. You are the change. How can we change? You need to believe in something, and you need to do everything you can to make it happen. Join us. Join me. Join hands now, with your neighbors, and we will have a moment of empowering silence. Feel the energy of the person next to you. Believe in them. Believe in me. We together can be the change you want in this world."

Looks like Perry got out just in time.

He's looking for Paige, the woman who cast aspersions on the inspiring, and uneasy-making, Wiley Schnook. When the air outside the tent hits him, mobile, and cooler for the space, he takes a deep breath, fighting off the almost physical feeling of distress he had built up. That was… too weird. His buttons were being pushed in strange ways. But he's enough of himself to perk up when Paige speaks, and he's already looking at her when she addresses him. He takes a few steps closer, a hand going for his wallet as if reminding himself that it's there, and of what just happened.

"I… don't think I'd like to go in there again," Perry says, "If… uh… thirty dollars is the price of the exit ticket, I'll, um, I'll pay it." He glances back at the tent's entrance. "You're serious? You can prove he's registered?" Perry actually winces at himself. "I'm sorry. That… that's validating an egregious practice. But you're telling the truth? That he's a… persuader?"

This is completely and totally against what Ryans would normally do, he even hesitates, glancing at the people next to him. Still his hands reach out, as a hand is offered on each side of him… and curls fingers around them. It seems so wrong and yet, here he is doing it.

Ryans does notice Corbin stand up and move to follow the girl in question. There is a look of approval from the older man. Good! The company agent settles back with that thought, content. Maybe Corbin can talk some sense into the girl. Wiley seems harmless to him.

Did he just think that?

It's a little warm out for a black leather jacket, but Emile Danko's never really been the type to be deterred by a spell of uncooperative weather. His only concession to the summer comes in the form of small, dark rectangular-lensed sunglasses — the kind that make people look like assholes. Aptly, in this case.

For those who don't know, he's a short son of a bitch, wiry and sunken in about the face. Pale. Buzzed off just this side of 5'7" with a thinning military burr and attitude to spare.

And today, he makes a mistake: he doesn't spend nearly as much time as he should eavesdropping between Paige and Perry before he gives them both a skeptical up-and-down and shoulders his way in sideways to get a better look at the dirty hippie love circle going on just inside.

There's no hesitation, no reluctance on Lydia's part. Her lips curl into a tight-lipped smile as she reaches for each of her neighbours' hands. Her eyes close gently, almost serenely as she does so. There's something blissful about being in the company of 'family' and holding hands, just like special occasions back in the day.

Her exterior is at peace, even as she relaxes her grip on the people around her. Her ankles uncross and she leans forward just a little, eyes still closed.

It's difficult for him to talk to the young woman with everyone having followed after her as well, so Corbin looks from one man to the next, before focusing on the young lady. He'll just have to be discrete. And use his cover. "Do you mind if I get your name and number? Are you registered as well?" Cause if that's her registered ability, it's another piece of proof. But he immediately gives his reason, showing his notepad. "I'm writing an article on him, and I need to ask you a few questions— I do believe you, so you know." It's said with a smile on his face, trying to show he's understanding. And apparently there's at least two others who do too.

"Hello, Ms. Haster," Evan replies, waving to Paige as she acknowledges him. "That was the first question I was going to ask, actually… I was on that bus, as a matter of fact." He pulls up his shirt on one side, just far enough to reveal some gauze still wrapped around his midsection. There's no blood any more, at least, but it's still recent enough to hurt. "The thing is, though - and I get that you believe what you're saying - if you're right, then isn't he taking an insane risk, going after this big a crowd all at once?"

The logical conclusion, of course, is that he is insane - but Evan hasn't quite made that mental leap yet. He really should move a little further away from the tent.

Holding … hands? Isabella looks on either side of her at the proffered hands, and takes a deep breath, wiping her hands on her pants reflexively. Does she have hand sanitizer in her purse? She can't even remember. Gingerly, she slowly lowers her hands into their's, and does her best to hide her revulsion. The things she does for the Company…

"I'm registered, yeah," the college girl tells the three men all throwing questions at her outside. "My name is Paige Haster. I live in the dorms at Columbia. I've got immunity to mental abilities. Doesn't do me a lot of good, but it wasn't until Josie did the stupid thing she did that I realized she musta been persuaded by that scam artist. I'm going home. See ya, Professor," Paige mutters with disgust, then rattles off a phone number to Corbin before striding away angrily toward the nearest subway station, unless one of the men stops her.

Inside the tent, Danko's hand is tugged and taken by the sticky hand of a redheaded eight-year-old, whose whole family appears to be taking up the row like a swarm of Weasleys that the hunter finds himself standing near.

"Listen to the breathing and the feel the pulses and the lifeblood of your neighbor. They are your brother, your sister, be they black or white or Evolved or not, heterosexual or homosexual, old or young, rich or poor, ill or well. They are worth changing for. They are worth becoming better people for. They are worth finding peace for and ending war for. Believe in them. Believe in yourself. Join us and be the change," Wiley says, his querulous voice rising to a quavery crescendo. "Feel the love. And before you go, ask yourself if you've given all you can. We can only reach out to more people, we can only educate others on tolerance and love and equality, if we have the money and your wholehearted dedication. Go in peace."

Once more, the collection basket volunteers appear, this time standing by each section, to collect any donations on the way out.

Perry needs to get well away of this. That he could be swayed by things that did not fall in line with his (he thought) deeply held, well thought out beliefs frightens him. That he felt a moment like a scared non-Evo, alarmed, disgusted, to learn he had somehow been victimized, alarms him. That he didn't react quite as the others… this gives him a strange, uncertain, almost excited feeling.

This requires thought. This… he needs time with. He makes his dazed way to where he parked his truck. Putting space between himself and that strange crucible.

Yup, Ryans is feeling the love, even if he isn't exactly showing it. His eyes close as he listens to Wiley's words, head nodding in agreement of his words, a small ghost of a smile starts threaten the corner of his mouth. But the event is ending and the Company man takes his hands back and starts to stand.

He is moving to leave as the rest of the congregation, slipping through the crowd. Ryans spots Isabella and offers her a wave of his hand in greeting. At this point, he's of the opinion that nothings really happened. A part of himself really does know better, but it's not as loud as that part of his manipulated brain matter that seems to be screaming 'Trust Wiley'.

At this point, Ryans kinda likes the guy. Oh boy.

Seeing as terrorists and children go together about as well as — terrorists and children, Danko's reflex reaction to a blur of underage gingerminge snapping translucent claws after his right hand takes the form of a hair-trigger recoil that nearly lifts little Raggedy Anne awkwardly off her freckly feet, depending on exactly what kind of ginger pittbull grip she's packing down there.

It's the kind of thing that might draw attention in a crowd that isn't currently neck deep in the throes of pre-determined peace and love.

After an uneasy beat, not yet having had a chance to pay enough attention to really absorb what he's hearing and incurring all manner of blue-screen error messages in the course of what he does receive, Emile flings the speckled brat a little carelessly, distractedly down at Ryan's feet. Knees. Knees and feet. To swivel his head blearily after the source of the warm and fuzzy feeling somewhere around the region a heart belongs.

Giving her neighbours' hands a quick squeeze, Lydia releases them slowly. Serenely, she rises from her chair, very distanced from her original mission. After smoothing her dress and then her hair, the sunglasses are pulled over her eyes as she steps back to the entrance, no longer looking for her family, particularly if everyone is now family.

Her steps become longer and more purposeful, she needs to be the change. Yup, she drank the kool-aid.

Corbin makes no move to stop the young woman, scrawling her name down as legiably as possible, becaus ethat's a number he's going to be looking up for later questioning. It confirms some fears, even if it doesn't quite make sense. "You should get back inside, you're missing it!" a voice says at the corner of his senses, unheard to anyone else. Glancing over, he smiles at the dark haired lady in red and walks over, glancing into the room again, as he folds the notebook under his arm, looking past the crowd toward Wiley. The dark haired woman leans closer to him, and whispers in his ear: "Follow the money~"

And Evan does likewise, bringing out his phone afterward to copy it there-… that's what it was designed for, after all, first and foremost. He may not have Paige's flat-out immunity, but he's been outside long enough - and he was far enough back to begin with - that the rose-colored haze is at least starting to clear. Now he just has to brave another round of smog and body odor on the way back to his apartment.

As soon as she can, Isabella wrests her hands from the cloying followers on either side, again wiping them on her pants. Ewww, hippie sweat. But she picks up her camera againdelicately, because her hands must be infected with hippie cooties nowand starts snapping more pictures. Everything she can get. And the last one is of Schnook. Flash on, this time, as revenge for this miserable meeting. Take that, Schnookums. With that, she catches Ryans' eye and lifts a brow, waving back. Gee, he seems mighty unperturbed. At any rate, she makes her way towards him, waving her camera a little. "How you feeling, boss?" she asks warily.

The red headed child starts to bawl — warm fuzzy feelings don't inoculate one against physical pain, and her hands and knees are now scuffed and bloody, thanks to Danko. The little gap-toothed girl peers up at Ryans and sobs, eyes narrowed as if he were the enemy, not the balding man nearby.

Wiley stands on the platform, staring with a worried countenance at the tent flap as people exit, a hand coming up to rake through his dark blond hair. "I'm not using my power," he mutters to himself, peering around just as that flash catches his distraught face. He gives a sad smile to Isabella, waving his hand before he moves toward the steps, trudging down, staring at his feet. People clamor around him, and he smiles and shakes hands, just as he did before, but he keeps glancing at the tent exit.

Maddox, meanwhile, has rounded up all the collection basket volunteers at the side of the platform, where they are stuffing the donations into a duffel bag. Aside from coins and bills, there are watches and jewelry, gift cards and even some traveller's checks among the gifts.

"I feel like myself…" Ryans offers in a soft rumbling voice to Isabella when she reaches him. "Tho' I'm wondering if we even really need to be…" The tall agent about trips over the young red haired girl when she's thrown into his legs. His gaze drops to the little girl and his brows tip upwards.

Slowly, the old man crouches down to make himself seem not so opposing, his mask falls away into a friendly smile. "Are you alright, young lady? Come on, lets get you on your feet before someone steps on you." He offers her a hand to help her up, his words calm. Ryans glaces up to search the crowd for parents or the person to do that to her.

Thoroughly discombobulated as he is, Danko doesn't linger for long. With little more than a disconcerted glance down for the minor mess he's made, he backs it up, rankles his nose and casts himself out into the open again before the batter in his brain can soften anything essential into cake.

"…Yeeeah, okay, he got to you. C'mon boss, leave the girl. Her red-headed gaggle of relatives is right over there." Isabella points in the general direction of the Weasley-esque horde, and then takes his arm and points to the exit. "Come on, bossman." Irritated? Yes. Concerned? Not really. Wanting to get out? Hell yes.
Danko has partially disconnected.

Making sure the small child is on her way, Ryans straightens slowly. The mask falls back into place and he eyes Isabella. A sigh escapes through his nose after a moment and he moves forward, slipping his arm out of her hands. "I'm not so far gone that I can't find my way." He growls out, sounding clearly irritated that he has been duped, cause he doesn't feel that way.

"I do think a visit to Richards is in order…" He admits, his tone a flat as month old soda. "Then I need to figure out what to do next, after I've been detoxed."

As Danko and Ryans join Perry and Evan in leaving confused and bemused, as Isabella and Corbin leave untouched thanks to Allison Richard's ability, as Lydia joins the throng of the happy and united, Wiley Schnook watches from his place in front of his platform, his face contorted by worry. He turns to glance at the jingling of change as Maddox counts money, giving a shake of his head as he sees how much the young men and women collected in those baskets. Pulling from his pocket the index cards handed to him before his speech, he reads the words again before throwing them on the ground.

"Clean 'er up 'til Friday," he tells the volunteers, before pushing through the crowd to make his own way out of the too-warm tent, in search of fresh air.

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