The team continues to improve their compound. There is a discussion about having a “hot line” for people to contact them. Currently only the police have a direct line to the team through radio contact with Pittsburgh Steel, and Ohm. They don’t fully commit, but they start investigating the possibility of 1-800-GC-GUARD.
While the money from the comic book deals hasn’t come rolling in yet, Master Juyo considers what to do with his new found income given he took a vow of poverty. Guess there’s going to be some extra donations flowing into the coffers of some of the local shelters. Gravik upgrades his choice of vodka. Pittsburgh Steel looks at other possible investments, or maybe some additional armor upgrades.
Near the end of the month, the team is contacted by Lt. Dawes, their liaison with the SAPD. He says the Chief and Mayor Martinez would like to meet the team. Well, part of the team. He says that the matter is a sensitive one and the Mayor and Chief would feel better if Ohm wasn’t present. Pittsburgh Steel agrees to meet at the normal location on the roof of the police parking ramp the next day.
The team minus Ohm arrive at the parking ramp and the Chief and Mayor are already there. They notice that despite who they are meeting, there is only a couple of security people present. In fact it looks like the 2 arrived in the same car. Very unusual.
Between the 2 City Officials, they explain that there is going to be a rally on the 30th put on by a Professor Marko Worth. The problem is that Worth is pushing hate as his subject, and he draws a lot of racist and militant groups. And worse, a super called the White Knight, who is a KKK reject. The Mayor and Chief would like the team to be on hand for a sort march and the rally to help keep the peace. PART won’t be present even though the White Knight is expected to show and normally they would be used to handle a super. They feel the team could handle this threat faster and with less possible collateral damage than PART. There will also be counter-protesters along the route and at the park.
The team agrees to help and take the next week to research Worth and the White Knight. they find info that paints Worth as a good speaker, but essentially a hate monger and borderline racist. the White Knight seems to be a bruiser, but with a force field of fire that damages people and the ability to do a fire blast. They check out the route and the park to decide the best strategy. Gravik also uses his underworld contacts to see if anyone is planning anything criminal against the march and/or rally, or against Worth himself, but doesn’t turn up anything. The team decides to have Gravik, Paragon and Master Juyo to walk the route with the marchers, keeping between them and any counter protesters along the street. Pittsburgh Steel would position himself halfway along the route to be very visible to both the rally members and any counter protesters.
June 30th, the day of the Hate is Freedom Rally.
The team arrives at the steps of the UCSA administration building (the starting point of the march) to coordinate with the police. There counter-protesters at the college and along the route. Just before it’s time for the rally, Worth arrives in a white limo followed by 2 white vans. He has a group of followers calling themselves the Worthy that support him. Worth has a brief conversation with the Chief, Mayor and the team then gathers his people for the march. He is met with boos and shouts from the crowd. As they march begins, about a dozen fully robed and hooded KKK members get out of some cars and join the back of the Worthy. The crowd really gets angry.
The march begins with 2 little old ladies holding a long banner with HATE = FREEDOM on it. Worth walks right behind the banner followed by the rest of the Worthy, then the KKK. He uses a bullhorn to shout at the crowd about the power of hate and to come to the rally to hear him out. The march gets about 1/4 of the way to the park when about a dozen neo-nazis and skinheads come out from between a couple of buildings, push their way past the counter-protesters, jump the barricades and join the march. The crowd really gets loud and upset then.
As the march nears Pittsburgh Steel’s position, moving quickly out of a coffee shop and into the street are 2 large black men in white t-shirts and another, thinner lack man dressed all in black. They stand in the middle of the street. The smaller man yells at Worth that he is called Deacon, San Angelo is his town and has no place for Worth. Worth moves forward to talk with Deacon, but doesn’t make any headway. As the talk, one of the KKK members comes forward and moves towards Deacon. Pittsburgh Steel sees that the KKK is wearing very large combat boots, the same that the White Knight wears. As he nears Deacon, The White Knight throws off the traditional robes and is in his stylized outfit. He confronts Deacon and Worth moves back with the Worthy. The 2 men exchange words, White Knight turns on his flames and tackles Deacon. While the 2 are on the ground, Deacon lets loose with a blast of some kind of force and blows White Knight off him. white Knight gets up and one of Deacon’s men helps him up,
Then it gets really interesting as Pittsburgh Steel fires a smoke canister into the street, and follows up with a gas grenade. He hopes to break up the fight before it gets out of hand. And then he moves into the smoke as he is unaffected by it. The 2 combatants take a couple of shots at each other, but then back off. Pittsburgh Steel goads White Knight into taking a swing at him just as the smoke clears and the people only see White Knight trying to hit Pittsburgh Steel.
While he was playing peace-maker up front, the crowd and the marchers started yeelling more and more at each other. At the back of the march, a woman from the counter-protesters gets ready to throw something at one of the neo-nazis. Master Juyo sees her, but feels she doesn’t have a real weapon and doesn’t intervene. The ripe tomato hits one of the skinheads square in the face. another skin head tries to charge at the woman, but one of the SAPD officers steps in and clotheslines the skinhead, tells them to get on tneir own side of the barricade, then tells the tomato-thrower to either leave, or get arrested. Gravik moves forward to see if he needs to help at the front against the White Knight.
With the smoke cleared, Worth tells the White Knight to stand down and get back in line, even though he told Gravik and Pittsburgh Steel that he doesn’t have any control over the Knight. the march. Deacon tells his people that their going to the park. The rest of the march goes without incident and reaches the park. The Worthy, KKK and skinheads move into a barricaded section of the park, where Worth takes to a stage with a podium. The counter-protesters move to the other side of the barricades. the team notes that Deacon and his 2 men are nearby on a small hill. Pittsburgh Steel positions himself in-between Deacon’s position and the White Knight’s position, near the stage area. Master Juyo positions himself near the edge of the barricades at the front of the area. Paragon and Gravik tale similar positions near the back. The police are aslos stationed around the area. Worth begins his speech in earnest.
He is a very good speaker, very persuasive and is able to make what he says sound reasonable and even sensible. Even though it is entirely about hate, and using that hate to get what you want, and the power of hate. He somehow makes it sound….. ok. But at the same time, portions of the crowd get angrier and angrier; the skin heads do their shouts of “White Power” and nazi salutes; even Gravik, Paragon and Pittsburgh Steel can feel the anger well up in them. People, situations, governments and “those in power” – all things that each of the team has had to deal with and suddenly these things are really getting to them. They’re getting angry like the crowd, they are feeling…hate. Only Master Juyo remains calm and continues to scan the crowd. He tells himself, the ones in the rally won’t make the move, it will be one of the protesters,
And then he sees the man in light jacket moving along the back of the protesters, moving closer to the stage. He moves to be closer to where the man ends his walk. Pittsburgh Steel sees it too, and despite his feelings, warns the team that something might be coming. The man draws a pistol, raises it and fires at Worth. Master Juyo steps in and takes the bullet meant for Worth, and then disarms the shooter, but busting the shooters face with his fist. All heck breaks out. The KKK and skinheads charge the crowd, the Worthy surround the stage ready to protect Worth, the crowd readies to fight the ralliers, except for a few that go after the cops.
And then the White Knight turns on the counter protesters and sends a wide blast of blue fame into them, dropping a few, their clothes on fire. Pittsburgh Steel and Gravik move on the Knight, Master Juyo gets the shooters gun and the begins taking down the charging KKKs. Paragon and the cops near him intercept the skinheads charging near them. Pittsburgh Steel drops a gas grenade to break up a large group of counter protesters, skin heads and KKKs. White Knight takes down a cop with his fire. Gravik puts up a force wall to keep a cop safe from being pummeled by a half-dozen counter protesters,
White Knight and Pittsburgh Steel trade some shots, with Pittsburgh Steel dishing out more than the White Knight gives back, and continues to goad the Knight into attacking him and leaving the crowd and police alone. A couple of big hits and the White Knight goes down. The rest of the ralliers are either scattered, unconscious or being put under arrest. That’s when Gravik sees Worth and Deacon talking to each other, but can’t get to them due to a skinhead with a gun shooting at him. Master Juyo sees it and uses a burst of speed to get to the 2.
Worth tells Master Juyo that there’s nothing he needs to worry about, this is just 2 rational, intelligent men coming to an understanding. Deacon says “It ain’t nothing of your concern”. Deacon then turns and heads off with his men. Worth gathers the Worth and the police move in to arrest everyone else. A Gaines collar is on hand to lock up the White Knight. Statements are taken of everyone. Worth is invited to give his statement downtown.
Afterwards the team talks and compares notes and think that no matter how much sense Worth may have been making, the anger that they felt themselves and the reactions of the crowd didn’t match. And the questioned the shooters true motives. With Jeremy’s help, they get a video of Worth’s speech. None of them feel the anger rise up like they did at the park. And they see that the crowd seems to get angrier – both the rally people and the counter protesters – after Worth talks at them directly and looks at them. they even see when he talked and looked at each of the team and recognized that was when the anger started to build. Jeremy and Pittsburgh Steel use a new internet service called Yodel to search the internet for mental persuasion information and turn up a lot of information put out by a group called the Horizon Institute.
It turns out that the Horizon Institute is located near San Angelo. Pittsburgh Steel calls them to see if they could l come out and talk. The director of the Institute, Mr. Boyle, agrees and arranges a meeting. Pittsburgh Steel, Master Juyo and Gravik go to meet with the director, but Gravik decides to stay in the car, suddenly becoming worried about an organization that seems to be tracking and cataloging supers. Boyle meets the duo in the parking lot to allow for Pittsburgh Steels size. They discuss the changes in the crowds behavior at the rally at length. Boyle lets them now is own staff has reviewed the tape of the rally and no one seemed to get overly angry during it and there did not appear to be any effects happening on screen. He says that most people who are mentally manipulated recognize the fact afterward, and can usually identify who did the manipulation. He did say that it would be possible for a strong enough mentalist to make the person not realize that they have been manipulated. The former hero Mind Master was a powerful enough mentalist to such. In fact there is a thought that he is active as a vigilante mentally manipulating some criminals into surrendering and thinking that it was their own idea. With that in mind, it might be possible that Worth is strong enough to conceal his effects from his victims. Master Juyo also reveals his true background during the discussion as he was not affected by anything that Worth may have been doing, and if Boyle might find that useful. Nothing like someone saying that they are 1/2 vampire 1/2 werewolf to turn a few heads!
After that discussion, Bole broaches the subject of the Institutes goals of cataloging supers and providing analysis of powers and such. Would the duo be willing to offer some DNA for their records and research? Pittsburgh Steel agrees, but tells Boyle that he knows they won’t find anything odd in his DNA. Boyle says Pittsburgh Steel might be surprised. Not only does Master Juyo offer up his DNA, but says he’s willing to work with the Institute with anything that might be related to his ….ethnicity??? Boyle thanks him and files the info.
The trio leave the Institute and Gravik decides to follow up on things brought up in discussion with the others, in particular what about Deacon. He turns to his trusted street sources and finds that Deacon is not a native San Angelean. Deacon came to town a couple of years ago and has been something of a community activist and rabble rouser.
The team also follows up with the SAPD about the shooters identity. Master Juyo and Pittsburgh Steel feel that it was his actions that truly sparked the riot. The SAPD has found that the man is originally from Georgia. They are checking to see if he has any ties to Worth and was actually an accomplice in creating a riot,