Who Doesn't Need Warm Fuzzies


corbin_icon.gif maddox_icon.gif wiley_icon.gif

Scene Title Who Doesn't Need Warm Fuzzies
Synopsis Corbin investigates the offices and members of the (r)Evo-lutionaries Fellowship.
Date July 23, 2010

Brooklyn Apartment Building

The red-brick building that Corbin Ayers pulls up to in Brooklyn hardly looks like the home of a cult. The tree-lined, residential street is cheerful enough in a family-oriented neighborhood. Kids ride their bikes and play basketball in a small "park" made up of four basketball courts and a playground for smaller children. Flower boxes of red and pink geraniums line every window of the building, and an American flag hangs above the cheery blue-painted door that leads to the lobby.

The lower level of the building includes the lobby, mailboxes of the residents, and several offices. It is here that the freckle-faced receptionist of the main desk has greeted Corbin Ayers, freelance journalist, who has made an appointment with the leader of the (r)Evo-lutionaries Fellowship. The receptionist is no native New Yorker — a southern accent tinges her words as she says, "Just a moment!" and then punches a couple of numbers on the phone. "Mister Schnook? That reporter guy's here to see ya," she says cheerfully, flashing a bright smile at the man waiting. "All righty, I'll tell 'em!" To Corbin, she gives a nod. "He'll be right with ya. You can wait if you like." She gestures to the tastefully decorated lobby waiting room.

A minute ticks by, audibly, thanks to a loud wall clock stating the time as 1:15 p.m. Perhaps Schnook is just finishing his lunch. As the minute hand lurches to the 16th marker, a door opens to the left, and out steps a thin, short man that Corbin will recognize from the mug shots of Schnook from his dossier. Better times make for some improvements, but he's still a little nervous looking as he nears Corbin.

"Mister Ayers? So pleased to meet you, sir. What can I do you for today?" Wiley asks, his tone a little querulous in tone despite the friendly words. Watery gray eyes meet Corbin's, and his mouth twitches into a sort of smile. He's dressed professionally but casually — a navy blue polo shirt with Fellowship in script on the left side of the chest, khaki pants, brown loafers.

"It's nice to meet you, Mister Schnook," Corbin says, moving forward with all of his main supplies hanging from a bag on his shoulder. A hand is offered out, to be shook, as he motions to a man standing not too far back, with a camera. "As I said when I called, I'm going to be writing a freelance article on your group. I'm going to aim to sell it to a magazine, so it should be a fairly big article. Because of that, I hope you don't mind if my photographer takes a few photographs of you and the building, and some of your members."

Any publicity is good publicity? Sometimes…

"It's not often that people come out with Pro-Evolved ideals, especially publicly accepting, and this is a topic I'm sure many people would be interested to learn about. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? And I'll be recording your answers too, if that's okay. So I don't missquote."

And so the Company can run the recording through all their machines to check for subliminal messages, and the like… but he wouldn't advertise that part.

"Oh, sure, sure! I'm pretty sure everyone here is an open book, though I do ask that you respect anyone's privacy if they ask not to be interviewed. Obviously, the nature of our organization, being as open as we are, puts us in some danger, and while we don't want to live afraid, I respect anyone's right to try to lay lower in profile than I might want to," Wiley says, amiably.

"Do you want to go into my office, or stay out here where people might come in and out, so you can chat at other people as they come through?" He motions to the mailboxes on one side of the wall and the door to the street. "We'll be trying to expand, eventually, maybe buy a school for the kids. Right now we just have this building and an empty lot a block away where we have our meetings. There's no space big enough in this building. I might try to buy a building eventually, but right now it's hard to find a space big enough. We have maybe 300 people at our meetings! To think, we started with like … five of us back in the day."

"We can go to your office to start, then I can interview some of the ones who agree to it on the way out," Corbin says, knowing that the Company will want some information on how people see Schnook in general as well, but for the moment, he's the primary person being interviewed, so a little privacy would be easier for them both.

As he moves to follow, he pulls out the recorder and turns it on, to take notes while he can't use his hands as easily. "You gained quite a following in a short time, why do you think so many people have come here?" He could pepper the question and lead him, but leaving it open seems to be the style he's going with today.

"Right this way, sir!" Wiley says with a goodnatured grin, his hand gesturing with a flourish to the door he came from moments before. Once inside, it leads to a hallway, a few small offices here and there. At the end of the hall are two larger offices, one with Schnook's name on the door, the other the name Bruce Maddox.

Opening the door that bears his name, Wiley allows Corbin to step in. It's not overly large, nor ornately decorated. One wall is covered with a bulletin board, flyers and calendars and phone numbers stuck everywhere. The other has several collage frames of what seem to be group events: picnics and trust walks and people hugging, the like.

"Please sit," Wiley says, moving quickly and nervously to a seat in front of the desk to rid it of a pile of newspapers, before he moves around to his own seat — both simple task chairs like one might find at Office Max for $50.

"I think," he says, easing back in his chair and crossing one ankle over the other knee, "that people just need a place to be themselves and belong, and they've found that here. I've got about 250 people living here right now, and it's a big happy family. It's hard to find that many people who accept you for who you are, you know?"

The photographer stays back, taking pictures, as Corbin joins Schnook in the office, settling down and leaving his recorder where it will better pick up the man's voice, as he pulls out his notebook. "Without getting into anyone's privacy, is there any group of people you think are in the most need of having a place where they can be themselves and belong without judgement?" That question is a little more leading.

Wiley quirks one brow, tapping his desk for a moment. "Well, anyone I guess that's been unloved and underappreciated. Kids from bad backgrounds, anyone who's been a victim of intolerance or hate. All types are welcome here, as long as they come with open minds and open arms for the rest of us. The title suggests pro-Evolved, I've had that question before, but it's not 'pro' Evolved so much as accepting of the Evolved. I don't advocate anyone being better than anyone else. Evolved are not better or superior to non-Evolved, nor is the reverse true." His words are said with a passion, but his tone makes it sound questioning, uncertain of himself. Josie DeVries-Perry said he was dynamic — maybe it's different when he's in front of the congregation, but the nervous, rabbitish energy of Wiley Schnook makes it hard to imagine.

It certainly makes him unassuming. Corbin pulls out his notebook and begins to take notes, on things that the recordings can't pick up. Like that 'unassuming' nature that he has, the way he looks like a nervous rabbit, the kind that can't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time for fear of predators— even the ones that sleep with their eyes open. "In the basic background checks, I noticed that you yourself are Evolved. Since your ability is part of the public record, it will no doubt come up if I don't ask this question…" He's almost sounding like he's apologizing for asking it… "Do you use your ability very often?"

The drumming fingers lose their tempo, speeding up just a little before slowing to a stop. "I, er, I knew you'd ask. I mean, what kinda reporter would you be if you didn't?" He raises both brows at Corbin, then laughs a little, a shake of his head to accompany the nervous chuckle. "Not a good one, right?" The fingers begin tapping again.

"I'm not proud of my past but I don't hide it, either. Most of my longtermers know what I did and how I did it, because how can I ask them to believe what I say if they can't trust me? It's not a secret, and even the newer people learn quickly enough. I'm not proud of what my ability did in the past. I didn't know I was Evolved, and I didn't realize I was using it. I don't even know, really, to this day if I was using it, but they say I was, so I'll take ownership of that." His words tumble out of his mouth, not rehearsed rhetoric.

"Anyway, once I knew what I was, I learned how to use it. And I learned how not to use it. I don't use it at all. Once I knew how to control it, I vowed never to use it again. It's been," he glances at the calendar on the bulletin board, "Three years and two months and 14 days that I've been 'clean.'"

That would not be the answer that Corbin expected. From the surprised blink, that might be obvious in his expression. "That's impressive, really— not many people seem to take that stance, once they realize what they can do." In fact, he can't think of many people in his past with the Company who would be able to do such a thing, but the inconsitsancy remains. The man sitting before him is not the same as the man Josie described… "Do you encourage other Evolved to avoid using their abilities?"

"Oh, no," Wiley says with a shake of his head that sends a lock of brownish-blond hair into his eyes. His hand moves to shove it back. "On both counts. Not impressive. Just what was right for me. Not necessarily anyone else. I mean, someone could use my power for great things, maybe. I'm not sure what I would consider good enough of a reason to make someone do something they don't want to, personally. Maybe hostage negotiation, though. You know, 'Put the gun down,' that sort of thing? I don't have the … what do you call it, constitution for that, though! I'd be eating Tagamet like it was candy, if I was on SWAT!" Wiley laughs, a nervous titter.

"And no, no. I don't think all powers are bad, and it wouldn't be very tolerant to tell people not to use their gifts. Powers are a gift. I just got one that I would return, if I could." He grins at his little pun.

"Yes, hostage negotation would probably be one of the better ones, perhaps keep wars from breaking out, too," Corbin says with a smile, though there's something else behind his eyes, considering. There's so much in this interview that's unexpected, but he doesn't feel compelled by anything either. And he doesn't think that's because of his sessions with hypnosis… He can't help but glance to the side for a moment, as if looking for someone, before he looks back at the rabbit-y man. "This morning the deadline for registration of Non-Evolved was announced. I'm curious what you think of that, and I'm sure the readers would like to know too." And, if he were actually selling the article, it would make it more timely.

There's a glance at the newspaper on the desk and the leader of the Fellowship nods in a quick, twitchy motion. "I was just reading that. It's worrisome news. I want to believe the best, that when they say it's for the Evolved people's best interest, that they mean it, but those words have been said before, haven't they? I want to believe it, though. But I don't know. And even if that's the intent, well, you know what they say about intentions and paving and H-E-double-hockey-sticks," he says, fingers tapping again nervously. "Man, that sounds dumb, doesn't it? I mean, man, am I even quotable? I've only been in a couple of little newspapers, nothing as big news as anything in New York, so I'm a bit nervous!" He titters again, cheeks flushing.

"It's fine, though I may want to come to one of your meetings to see you in action, too," Corbin says, offering a kind, puppy-like smile. No wonder he's the best choice for this kind of interview. Not only is he actually a reporter, or was, but he's also rather… unassuming. "Do you know of a public meeting that I could attend? Possibly with my photographer again."

"Oh, sure!" Wiley says, eagerly leaning forward, leaning his arms on the desk. "We kinda have a rotating schedule to try to allow for various schedules. You just missed one last night, but," He turns to look at the calendar again. "Monday and Saturday next week, so this Monday's the next one, if you can make it! You're totally invited. No need to RSVP or anything. There's a big white tent set up at the end of this block," he gives a wave of his hand toward the south, then frowns. "Wait, no, that way," and waves to the north. "I… think. Anyway, you can't miss it."

"I'll be there, definitely," Corbin says, writing down the date and making a mental note to try to go, even if he has to convince someone else to carry the camera this time around. Maybe he can make Ryans his camera man— he's tall, so he can get shots over most crowds— it seems like a good idea to him. "I do have a few more questions— where did you get the money for this building? You mentioned it was hard to get big enough areas— do you have people do odd jobs, or do you run strictly on charity?"

"Oh, money," Wiley says with a sigh and a wrinkle of his nose that suggests he doesn't like to think about it. "I had a pretty good job before I was in jail and I had good investments, so I had some money, but not a lot. Enough to start up the Fellowship, but the money, that's Bruce's job. He's my partner. Great guy — he was actually the guy who registered me, a former Homeland guy. He believed me and more importantly, believed in me. If it weren't for him, none of this would be possible. He helped get me out on good behavior, talked at my parole hearing and everything. He's like my brother, you know?"

There's a lot in that answer that the rabbity man may not notice himself. Corbin scribbles something across his notebook, a small quick scrawl. Former HomeSec. Bruce. Registered WS. Partner. $-man. All of these things are important notes. "I may have to try and get an interview with him, if he's available. He sounds like a very interesting man. Do you happen to know if he's around today?"

Wiley jumps up from his seat at that. "Sure, he should be in his office crunching numbers. It's all donations, by the way, to answer the rest. I don't deal with it, you know? Money makes me itchy, like I'm a televangelist or something. But we need it to do the things we need to do. Open a school, maybe, or maybe something like Doctors Without Borders, I'm not sure. Right this way!" He hurries around the side of his desk, heading to the door and to the door across the hall.

He raps on the door, short-short-long-short. "Come in!" a low male voice calls, and Wiley glances back to see if Corbin's followed, then opens the door. The man sitting at the desk inside is dressed similarly to Wiley, though his polo shirt is tan and his pants are navy blue. Fortyish, his hair is already a salt-and-pepper. He glances up at the two men and rises slightly, offering a hand even as Wiley makes the introductions.

"Bruce Maddox, Corbin Ayers. Mr. Ayers is doing a freelance article on our little shindig here. I told him you're the boring money guy, but for some reason, he still wanted to meet you!" Wiley says with a broad grin, nothing but fondness for the money man.

"Mr. Ayers," Maddox says with a smile and a nod. "How can I help you?"

"It's nice to meet you, Mister Maddox," Corbin says as he moves to stand up, so he can politely offer the man his free hand. The tape recorder continues to record, and he twists the notebook so that it's hidden against his coat out of the way. "The money part is rather boring, yes, but if I want to tag a donation thing at the bottom, assuming the magazine or newspaper I sale it to allows, it would be nice to have information of where to send any donations. But that can be faxed to me later, I'm sure." But that doesn't mean he has nothing to ask the man, no sir…

"But Mister Schnook mentioned that you were the man who Registered him, and you used to be Homeland Security. Now that is a story that I'm sure readers would want to hear more about. What did you used to do for Homeland Security?"

And someone's file is getting pulled.

"Oh, that's easy," Bruce says amiably, picking up one of his cards, stating his name with no title. "The back of the card has the non-profit status, address, all that noise." He hands the card to Ayers and nods, steepling his hands and resting his chin at the point. Wiley leans against a file cabinet, crossing his arms, as if content to listen, to let Maddox speak.

"Oh, boring stuff. I was a cop first, but I got in a car accident, and earned the illustrious title of 'desk jockey.' After the bomb, I moved over to DHS to help with registration paperwork and such. I wasn't a field agent or anything so //exciting," Maddox says.

"He's like the army potato peeler, I think," Wiley says helpfully.

"Gomer Pyle, indeed. Anyway, I handled Wiley's paperwork, and he just seemed like this pure soul, you know what I mean? And I followed his case. I kept in touch with him in jail, kept track of how he was doing, helped get him stuff like books the jail library didn't have when he wanted to better his mind, that sort of thing. Basically, we became best friends. I mean, it's not really much of a story… but I'm sure glad it happened." He offers a broad smile.

"See what I mean?" Wiley says, shaking his head, his cheeks a little red. "He's just a tremendous guy. Not many people would have cared."

"Actually I think that's a very inspiring story. I'm sure there's hundreds of Evolved out there who wished they'd had someone like you as their case worker," Corbin says, genuine for the moment, but also suspicious at the same time, as he puts the card into his notepad. "It wouldn't be a complete story if I didn't include your part in the foundation of it— it sounds like it never would have gotten this big without your friendship."

And… as he'd said in the meeting. Follow the money. The money is the key… But digging too much right now might get him thrown out, so he stays the tough questions.

"I do need to interview a few of your followers still, but I may try to see the two of you for a follow up interview after I see your meeting in action— I intend to come to the gathering on Monday."

Wiley nods. "Sure. Let me show you around and let the Count work," he says, smirking a bit. "See ya later, Maddog." Wiley sounds like the dorky child trying to speak the cool kids' lingo a bit.

"Great, we'll look forward to seeing you there!" Maddox says, with a wave as Wiley leads Corbin out of the small office. Once back in the hallway, the man introduces Corbin to anyone and everyone in the offices, where Corbin gets basically the same story: Wiley Schnook came along and made them feel like they had a family, like they were important and mattered in the grand scheme of things. Their lives before were mundane and pointless, and now they feel they are doing something that really matters, spreading his word. For his part, Wiley stands to the side and blushes at such praise, shaking his head and denying it from time to time.

"You just wait," says an elderly secretary named Edith Pfieffer, jabbing Corbin in the chest playfully. "You will come on Monday and you will keep on coming back. It's just that sort of thing. Warm fuzzies, that's what he gives us. And who doesn't need warm fuzzies in this crazy time? I certainly need it. You do too. You just got that look about you."

"You're right there," Corbin says, as he takes notes and makes sure the woman's voice is on the recorder. There's a shift of something in the corner of his vision, and he glances over to look at— nothing. Or that's what it looks like to everyone else.

"I think everyone needs warm fuzzies right now. I look forward to being there."

And he may have to ask Allison for another hypnotic session before Monday, too. Just in case.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License