Author Topic: Not Just A Pretty Face  (Read 483 times)

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Offline Satyr

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Not Just A Pretty Face
« on: November 05, 2019, 10:02:07 AM »
There was a big space beside Ben's campaign tent, enough to park a car in. Half an hour after it got dark, a Warden walked in front of a burbling turquoise 1967 Chevy Impala, getting the crowds to part while the muscle car slowly drove in. It attracted attention and those who looked into the car would either see that the driver was a young blonde man or that the passenger was a muscular fellow in his thirties. There were many who would recognise the ex-Luminary Kerr Galvin because of his many successful years at the helm of the Oligarchy. Many others would recognise Ben Samson from either the campaign posters or ads around the place, or from the opening of the Academy for Supernaturals earlier in the year.

Ben had practiced driving slowly into the carnival grounds behind a walking person just once before - Kerr had been the marker then, but it was very different with a crowd of people on both sides of the car staring in. He was trying to smile at them but he was too nervous about where he was going so he stared out the windscreen instead. Owen walked him to the parking area beside Ben's tent and moved the temporary bollards that were to stop people from dawdling in that space. Ben pulled into it and switched the car off, hearing the excited chatter of the crowd around him once the engine died.

He was dressed with a light blue suit jacket over a white shirt, black tie, black trouser pants and black socks and shoes. Kerr was dressed similarly except he had a black suit jacket for the full effect and a light blue tie to match Ben's jacket. He and Kerr stepped out of the car together and were greeted with a roar of cheers and applause, whistles and people calling his name, plus flashes going off as camera phones took pictures.

It was super, super weird.

He knew they were all happy because he was hosting a free carnival and giving away millions of dollars of food and merchandise (which was even all Kerr's idea), yet he was still overwhelmed by the peculiar celebrity status it gave him. He didn't think they would all necessarily translate into votes for him, but it was nice to think that maybe those good feelings about him would remain for some time. He'd been spat on the street for the first few weeks after the Oligarchy had fallen, which was why he'd mostly retreated. Now Jake was the pariah because he'd invaded the West before backing out with an apology. Surprisingly, he'd come out of that pretty unscathed with everyone but the demon population.

Unfortunate. Ben would have to keep reminding them, but subtly.

He waved and smiled and was stuck in place until Kerr took his hand and led him into the tent that was his. Owen had moved to the tent door and opened the flap for Kerr and Ben to walk in before letting it fall closed behind them. Ben's gaze found Cain before he went in. His pet was handing out campaign brochures. They locked eyes and Ben smiled at him, still dazed by the reaction of the crowd.

Inside the tent were a few large rugs with some plastic chairs positioned on them. They faced another couple of plastic chairs, and there was a podium to one side. A place to speak to groups. A place to speak one on one. A couple of pamphlet displays and cardboard boxes with more pamphlets were out of the way against the tent wall behind the chairs, off to one side of the tent doorway so nobody would trip on them.

"That was crazy," Ben said to Kerr, his smile wide but the emotions he shared with Kerr were a mixture of excitement and anxiousness.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2019, 10:58:06 AM »
Kerr was smiling indulgently at Ben, his eyes shining with pride and approval. "It really was!" he agreed, laughter burbling out of him unfettered. The excitement in the air was contagious, electrifying everything.

Kerr took both of Ben's hands in his, squaring up to him and looking into his eyes. He wasn't going to be a great deal of help once the flap was lifted and the people were welcomed in but he could do one thing for his fledgeling. He scanned him mentally, doing his best to siphon out Ben's anxiety, leaving the excitement behind. Ben was always cool under pressure, he had every confidence that he'd excel at focussing for himself but a little boost never hurt.

"Are you ready for them to come in?" he smiled, glancing at Owen, standing guard at the tent entrance. The whole side would be peeled back to allow easy access - congestion at a narrow flap would just cause frustration and turn people away. That was the last thing they wanted.

Owen was also grinning from his position by the entry. He felt like a personal bodyguard to a movie star; the thin line between Ben Samson and his fans. He hoped they were all fans, anyway. He'd be hanging around, just in case - even as the thought occurred to him, someone pushed through the tent flap and barged in. Owen tensed, his heart leaping as he anticipated trouble but then he saw who it was and relaxed with a laugh. "Hey Captain," he greeted.

Xiamara barely spared a glance for Owen, she was busy scanning the tent. Her face lightened when she spied Ben and Kerr at the centre of it. "Evening, Owen," she remarked without looking at him. "Good to see you again." It sounded like a dig.

She walked up to the couple of the hour, her gaze on Ben. "Nice entrance. No casualties, always a good start. Need anything?" she asked brusquely, looking the shorter man over, silently appreciating his pretty plumage. Her radio crackled to life with two wardens confirming a lost child had been reunited with its parents. Her shoulders relaxed a little.

Kerr giggled at her commentary and let go of Ben's hands so he was free to talk. It had begun.

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2019, 11:07:51 AM »
"Yes." Ben gave Owen a thumbs up before his gaze was diverted to Captain Hadar. He watched her stride up and was intimidated by her manner and authority, as he usually was. He admired her and still felt ashamed for his outburst in her office. Strangely, it felt like she'd treated him with more respect after that.

"Thank you," he said about the entrance. It was about as showy as he could stand. "Um, no, I'm just going to take it as it comes. I'll wander around the carnival between the two meet and greets," Ben said, but the Captain already knew this. "Glad you found the kid."

He hadn't even considered lost children. Good thing Kerr had hired an events manager to help him and they'd suggested a first aid tent, a lost and found tent and an information kiosk that was mostly a help desk and a place to make announcements from because it had a PA system atop its roof.

"It's really busy," Ben said with wonder. He'd initially been worried that nobody would turn up, but the attractant of free stuff was obviously strong.

"Okay, I'm ready," he said, which was moot because the tent wall was being rolled in to let the crowd come anyway, He didn't really feel ready but figured he never would. He was thrumming with nervous energy instead of debilitating anxiety thanks to Kerr's tweaking. Before the tent wall had finished opening up, he turned hurriedly to Kerr for a quick kiss on the lips.

People wooed and he pulled away, feeling squirrelly and embarrassed.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2019, 02:40:04 PM »
Some fooled themselves otherwise, but as far as Dana had observed, the only classes that existed in the city were royalty and peasants. She'd never been allowed to forget which she was. Even as she stood near the tent entrance, one hand wrapped around the strap of her bulging canvas messenger bag and the other jammed into her coat pocket, empty space formed around her as if she were oil dribbled into a bowl of water.

A surreptitious glance confirmed her suspicions: the prettiest and most expensively dressed of the bunch clamoring to meet the man of the hour had their faces scrunched up like they smelled something foul. Her lips quirked in brief amusement. They'd caught the scent of the lowest of peasants. They knew she was a werewolf. If she'd played her part as they expected, she would've scurried away to the back of the crowd, but she squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and stood where she goddamn well pleased.

Before anyone could gather themselves to correct her, the entire front section of tent was pulled, revealing its contents to those who stood closest – Dana amongst them.

There was a brief moment when everyone paused to acknowledge the intimate moment between Mr. Samson and Mr. Galvin, where most cooed and swooned over the power couple at the center of it all. Dana, on the other hand, whipped out a small spiral notebook and pencil to scribble a note to herself. She continued scribbling, eyes darting to and fro, as she noted people, their expressions, the words exchanged, and the energy that buzzed throughout the tent.

Hands were shaken, smiles were passed, and Dana's eyebrows went up when she realized no one was turned away. Everyone received a handshake. Everyone a smile. She closed her notebook, slid her pencil through its wired spiral, but stopped short of putting it away. Instead, she kept it in her non-dominant hand so she could step forward and present the press badge that hung from a nondescript lanyard, starting with a swarthy woman who eyed her hawkishly and ending with Mr. Samson himself.

“Dana Fields, sir, with Werewolf Monthly. I've some questions for you if I may?”

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2019, 05:29:26 PM »
Ben saw a blur of faces, smelt a wide range of scents of different types of species, from fae to demons to other vampires, humans, and the unrecogniseable. The demons were the most pungent and also the most interesting because of it, in a way. It was like their world-plane stayed on them. He wondered if, as a vampire, if he smelt to them like old blood and earth. He would have to ask someone sometime when it wasn't going to be wildly inappropriate.

He got talked at a lot. He'd thought people would ask him what he intended to do but instead he got a lot of opinions about what he should do and it was usually a ridiculous request - like preventing all crime - or so trivial that he couldn't possibly determine how to measure something like it - such as creating a fixed time period for neighbours borrowing items from one another. He managed to agree with a few people - that the different District Leaders laws were confusing and that there should be a forum of some kind for the public to meet with all of them at once. The biggest amount of people he talked to weren't really interested in talking politics so much as meeting him and thanking him for the carnival or just staring at him. He tended to get rid of them by saying 'thanks for coming' and moving on.

When he finally got to Dana, he looked from her to her press badge and the writing implements in her other hand, recognised the tabloid because he'd giggled over the name several years ago, and addressed her.

"Nice to meet you, Ms Fields. I'm happy to. Did you want to ask them now or after my meet and greet is over?" he asked, finally shifting into gear. He would've shaken her outstretched hand except she was showing him her badge in it. A reporter made sense to him. Random public asking random questions was extremely baffling and throwing him off.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 08:59:09 AM »
Dana had already waited over thirty minutes for him to show up in his mechanical carriage. The idea of waiting any longer when she had at least a half a dozen other interviews lined up made her antsy. She was mainly after anecdotes that she could put in her upcoming article profiling the hopeful Central District candidate, but how many other times would she have access to so many different demographics in the same place?

“Now is fine,” she said, dropping her badge. After it fell to rest on the sliver of light gray t-shirt left exposed by her unzipped and well-worn leather coat, she flipped open her messenger bag and exchanged her spiral notebook for a slim black recorder, fiddled with some of its settings, then held it between them.

Naturally, as she readied herself to question him, her gaze met and held Ben's well beyond her first cursory glance. She blinked and settled back onto the heels of her dingy boots. While their eyes were both blue, his were something else entirely. Luminous. Sparkling. Like someone had ground up the wings of a butterfly and sprinkled it all into his irises. They were beautiful, really, just like the rest of his face. He wasn't alone, though. All the people in the room she suspected were vampires based upon their pallor and way they held themselves were unquestioningly beautiful.

Not for the first time, she wondered if they had all been born that way, or if they'd been given some sort of supernatural Maybelline.

Someone cleared their throat near Dana, forcing her to remember herself and what she was there for. She managed to stop gawking long enough to close her mouth, breathe, and focus on the task at hand.

“Right, so.” She turned her recorder on. “My first question has to do with werewolves--” she paused long enough to flash a smile and chuckle, “-- like you might've guessed. The Brazilian Quarter was already known to have more than its fair share of violence, drugs, and homicides. Rumors of a werewolf gang setting up shop there has coincided with an uptick in crime. If you were elected, what would you do to make it safe again?”

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2019, 11:24:09 AM »
The reporter's stare was intense. He could see that she was thinking thoughts while she looked at him unlike some who seemed dead behind the eyes. He had time to wonder if maybe all the preparation he'd done for 'spontaneous interviews' was in vain; that he could never hope to think of what he might be asked and then look stupid floundering for an answer.

The work that Kerr had put in him to remove his anxiety was unravelled the moment she took out a recording device. His discomfort felt obvious to him. He hoped she wasn't super perceptive to know how unsettled he was. Being a supernatural herself and also a reporter meant there was a good chance that she would know he was feeling awkward about it. Or maybe she just assumed everyone felt awkward about it.

Ben nodded when she mentioned werewolves. Considering the magazine she worked for and the smell that her species carried with them, he'd already identified what she was. He took a moment to pull in breath, told himself not to say 'um' and then opened his mouth to answer.

"Um-" Fuck. "There's two parts to that question. Crime prevention and crime control. As a private citizen, I've already tried to assist in crime prevention by offering the werewolf community free secure rooms during the height of the lunar cycle. It's disappointing that the Luminary is the only official place in the city for werewolves to get themselves off the streets and keep themselves and others safe. There's no other location in the city I know of that have advertised. Maybe now that we're in the middle of an election, something will be done. Um, the other side is crime control. I'm currently in the middle of negotiations to donate a high-cost resource to help the Wardens when they patrol the Quarter. I've also had a chat with the new mayor of the city to install a special task-force team who are in the know. It means a select group of city police can back up our Wardens while keeping supernatural activity on the down-low. This is something I can only do as a District Leader. I'm also hoping to assemble a council of advisors to support my time as a District Leader, and I would definitely want a werewolf on there to better advise me on werewolf requirements."

Ben realised he'd attracted a small group of lookers-on who were listening to his answers to Dana's questions.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2019, 04:34:02 PM »
While Dana didn't possess the same heightened senses she did while she was transformed (fat lot of good it did her even then, since she didn't have control of herself the duration of the full moon), she was quick to pick up on Ben's unease. It was in his voice and the very word that first exited his mouth, but it wasn't unusual. This was his first real outing after announcing his desire to run for District Leader, and even seasoned politicians stumbled through the start of an interview on occasion.

She tried her best to maintain an open, encouraging expression in hopes he'd find it easier to talk as he went on. Most people did. They'd forget the voice recorder, the crowds. It was just him and her, discussing the clusterfuck that was the Brazilian Quarter.

As she suspected, a trickling stream turned into a deluge of words, revealing a plan that she involuntarily nodded in agreement to until she caught herself. One of her undergrad professors had beaten it into them from day one, "Don't nod. Don't shake your head. Don't taint the interview."

She didn’t imagine he’d pictured any of his students in her current position. She was a werewolf -- a cursed problem that needed to be solved -- asking questions of a man who might elevate himself to make things better or much, much worse for her kind. Ben had made her optimistic that it was the former, but the only way to determine for both herself and her readers if it was the latter was to ask more questions.

 “Aside from Mr. McCloud, who agreed to your challenge, all the District Leaders seem to consider their positions permanent, and they've got the lifespans and means to make it happen. Not only that, but every other District Leader was either self-appointed or voted in by their fellow District Leaders. The people had no real say in it.” She held her hand out, palm up, and gestured to the small crowd that gathered around them. ”Yet here we are, not long before the first District election that's ever been open to the public. Which leads me to my next question... How do you feel about term limits? Regular, democratically held elections not only in the Central District, but all the rest, too?"

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2019, 06:43:40 AM »
As he listened to the leadup of her next question, Ben was very aware that a minefield was about to be thrown his way. His opinion differed greatly from the current District Leaders and he didn't want them reading about his true opinion in the papers because they might decide the devil they knew was better than the storm Ben was willing to bring.

There was also the matter of power. He had no power over what other District Leaders did and the last thing he was going to do was interfere and mess up yet another political structure until he knew better. If he went in gung-ho with ideas about democracy and voting in every district, they were never going to listen to him. He was going to have to wrangle this over the space of years. Being impatient would only fuck it up.

"How do I feel about term limits?" Ben said, repeating the question back for a minor stall before he replied. "I know I'm not going to want the responsibility of Central District for eternity, that's for sure. I don't think anybody wants to be doing one job for the rest of their lives. As for the other part of your question, the other District Leaders have only been in the role for a couple of years so far."

He wondered if she would push for his opinion on the other districts since he'd avoided the question by stating a fact. He'd kept the same posture as when he'd answered her first question; relaxed and mostly still, but his response this time around was a lot less passionately spoken.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2019, 02:47:24 PM »
Her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed, briefly revealing the beginnings of crow’s feet and frown lines. He was being evasive. Ben might’ve been new to the political scene, but he knew his way out of a question well enough. There was now no doubt in her mind that he’d been coached in some fashion, even if it was only to be told which topics to avoid giving a committal response to. It was unfortunate that it was the one thing she’d wanted to know most about both candidates: Would or wouldn’t they continue to give voice to the people in the Central District if they won?

No system was perfect, but so far they’d had the Oligarchy (where they’d apparently felt no shame whatsoever in naming themselves that), and now a divided city with a bunch of megalomaniacs in charge. Most ruled with iron fists, and if a law of theirs was broken, punishment was at their discretion. If she were to accidentally shift on the full moon without being contained in the North District, she’d see a different punishment than if she’d accidentally shifted in the South. One place she’d get a slap on the wrist, another she’d be put to death. There was no rhyme nor reason to it and no one had any say except those who’d forced their way to the very top. Whether they did anything about complaints was again left entirely to their discretion.

So what recourse did normal people have?

Dana inhaled deeply through her nose and let it all out in a controlled sigh, at the same time unclenching the fist she’d made of her free hand. Popcorn. She could smell popcorn. The buttery notes combined with the sweet scent of — was that funnel cake? Yes, yes it was. Now that she thought about it, she could remember passing a food stand with a giant vat of hot, crackling oil just waiting for thick batter to be spiraled into it. Right next to it had been a vegan stand advertising hummus and pita, just past a stall that offered face painting and balloon animals for the youngest of attendees. They'd showed up, too. She didn’t have to listen for long to hear their happy shrieks. Children. Families had brought their children because they trusted the advertising that promised no blood-drinking would occur on carnival grounds.

He’d taken everyone into consideration, tried to make the carnival safe and enjoyable for them all. Was she to believe he’d be willing to forsake them if he won the election? That it’d all been an elaborate charade? Their first and last election? Her initial attempt to discover if she was looking at yet another District Dictator had gone abso-fucking-lutely nowhere, but she wasn't ready to give up yet.

"Alright," she said. "I’ll be more specific. If you win and the people of Central District decide they want to hold another election for District Leader, what would you do?”

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2019, 07:49:50 AM »
She did chase the question and made it about him. He was free to answer her question as he liked now without having to deal with the ire of other District Leaders for speaking on their behalf.

Someone laughed out loud nearby and the chatter in the tent was quite loud so he moved a little closer to Dana while also angling himself where her microphone would point away from the noise.

"I want the Central District to be a voting district. On my website that went live today, I've announced that I'll be implementing fixed terms for the Central District Leader. The length of term hasn't been decided yet but I want to have enough time to implement changes that might take a few years to get rolling. I capped it at twelve years already, but it might be less than that. This city's supernatural population has not yet seen a stable government," he stressed, because this was the biggest issue he could see so far, "and I want to give them that while also giving the opportunity to change who's in charge. So yeah, if I get in as District Leader, one of the first things I'll do is give people a chance to vote me out."

He laughed a little at his own phrasing like it was a spontaneous joke, though he'd practised it enough times that it would come out smoothly.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2019, 05:14:33 PM »
Dana smiled. There it was. An answer. The answer she'd wanted to hear, no less. He'd not only allow democracy in the Central District, but he'd also encourage it to flourish if he won. Ben had a better chance of it now that everyone had a vote, but why would the incumbent have agreed if he thought he might lose?

All her sources said Jake McCloud hadn't been forced to agree to the election by the other District Leaders. And it made sense. Surely they knew how quickly the seed of democracy could grow - especially in today's connected world. Everyone with a smartphone had constant access to cameras and voice recorders, not just nosy reporters. If anything, she could see the other District Leaders trying to shut everything down before it got started. It's what she would've done if she were a self-serving authoritarian set on oppressing the masses. Did that mean McCloud had gone against them? Or had it been Samson?

There were more questions than there were answers, but that was job security.

"Can you pinpoint the moment it became clear you should run for District Leader? If so, what was it?” Dana shifted to watch his expression. Whatever his answer, she could blend the two and shove the result somewhere in her article. If it was quote-worthy enough, it might even make it into her headline.

Offline Satyr

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2019, 09:10:40 PM »
"I can tell you exactly when, yes," Ben replied, his friendly smile fading into something a great deal more serious. He stood a little straighter, drawing up his courage to speak of a night that had begun so badly and yet finished on a tendril of hope.

"For a short while I was on a diplomatic exchange program between Charon, the East District Leader and Jake McCloud, current Central District Leader. The night I left Jake's care I was raped by Jake's then Harpy, Lazarus. Arrested an hour later on charges I still don't understand by Lisa-Joe Hampton, his current Harpy. Then the charges randomly disappeared and I was released to the Ward who brought me to Kerr. I don't remember a lot about that night because I was in shock, but I do remember thinking it was a monumental fuckup."

His profanity lapsed a lot of people around him into silence but Ben was staring at Dana, knowing she probably wouldn't print that word but she could allude to it. "An experience like that should never have happened. That was the night a wishful fantasy cemented into a goal for me. It was the night I was determined to try and make a change. I'm tired of powerful supernaturals doing what they want with no consequences. I'm tired of being ignored or dismissed as inconsequential because I can't force my will upon others. Leaders should be answerable to the people they lead. If they're not, then it's not a true democracy. Why should humans have it and we don't? We deserve it!"

His speech grew more impassioned when there were murmurs of approval at certain points. As Ben started talking to the small crowd in the tent more than Dana, he lost his reserve and spoke from his heart. He'd been worried about this initially, concerned that speaking off the cuff would lead to statements being made without thought and consideration. At this point he'd decided 'so what', because he could sense that the people here in the tent with him were swayed by his words.

After they cheered and broke into applause, he wondered how many of them lived in Central and could vote.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2019, 10:35:08 PM »
Kerr was never far away. When he heard his name from Ben's lips, he moved directly into his sphere, the accompanying vulnerability he was sensing from his fledgeling calling to him moreso than just his name being said.

He'd been gravitating around his beloved all session, finding himself occasionally drawn into conversations regarding the Oligarchy or people wanting to know how he'd come back from the dead (one woman had been genuinely surprised to find out actual resurrection wasn't involved, much to his chagrin). His gaze rarely left Ben, though, shifting compulsively off anyone Kerr was speaking to, scanning the crowd around Ben instead. Every now and then he'd float past, touching Ben's shoulder or running a hand down his arm or across his back, meeting his gaze with an encouraging smile while moving onward.

Curiously, he'd noticed that Ben got more notice whenever he got close to him. He tested the theory repeatedly, amused by the way attention snapped more acutely Ben's way just because Kerr got close to him - until he put a little more thought into it, anyway.

Kerr eventually concluded that it was the general public sensing Ben's potential for weakness, which he didn't like. Oh, it could have simply been voyeuristic curiosity but Kerr suspected a darker side to it; the desire to see Ben exposed, to a degree, to see him as a person. Nothing humanised someone more than their partner getting close, instigating personal interactions - whether they be in the form of looks, a touch or merely a more genuine smile. Kerr getting close allowed them a forbidden glimpse of Ben's private life in amongst his public, fuelling their interest. A double-edged blade, indeed.

It didn't deter Kerr from materialising on Ben's left when he sensed his fortifying presence would comfort Ben, though. He arrived in time to hear the entirety of Ben's rousing call to arms and grinned proudly as he watched his love's face light up with sincerity. When his rally quieted, Kerr turned to look at the woman Ben had been talking to, smiling at her as well. "There really is strength in unity," he asserted, politely echoing the applause as he glanced back to Ben then scanned the crowd again.

Offline Ehcorn

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Re: Not Just A Pretty Face
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2019, 09:31:40 AM »
Ben’s answer had been quote-worthy alright. He’d crammed it so chock full of soundbites she’d have to spend the next day analyzing them to figure out which ones to use. She’d even gotten one from Ben’s partner, the ex-Luminary. There were certainly worse problems for a journalist to have — like missing a prime opportunity to pursue another point of interest due to time constraints. She regretted not taking Ben up on his offer to hold the interview after his meet and greet, but there weren't any other reporters rushing to take her spot.

A few more questions wouldn't hurt, would it?

When the applause abated, Dana cleared her throat to speak, “I have something I wanted to show you." She dug into her messenger satchel and withdrew a glossy magazine with Jake McCloud on the front. One of the last presidential campaigns Dana had covered used the same style of portrait for their candidate; it featured red, white, and blue and a boldly written word meant to inspire. Progress, in this case, was being advertised. 

"This came out recently," she said, proffering the magazine to Ben. On it, he might detect an earthy scent like dried hay, and beneath that, oak and vanilla: tobacco and whiskey, respectively. "Mr. McCloud mentions several times in his interview that you plan to run things no differently than the Oligarchy. That you want to be the new Luminary." She glanced at Kerr, then turned her full attention back to Ben. "What's your response?"