INT. FAMILY HOME TV ROOM – EVENING
The room's lights are on but dim, and the TV looks to be on but shows black. A wire snakes from the TV to a nearby laptop. Son has arranged the couch parts into a rough circle of three separate chairs and one loveseat. The laptop sits between the loveseat and a chair. Finished, Son sits in the loveseat to wait. Cousin Girl and Guy Jing enter the room and Son waves Cousin over to join him on the loveseat. She does, but sits away from him with her hands clasped nervously in her lap. Son looks disappointed, but turns to Guy as he takes the third seat.
Thanks for picking Cousin up. I hoped it would be simple for you to bring her, since she's on your way.
Yes, it was no problem. But now I wonder why you gathered us here.
Oh, no, it wasn't my idea to get the team back together. I'm just here to support whatever plan we make.
- Guy (confused)
Then who - ?
Daughter and Bad enter the room. Bad looks annoyed to see Guy and tries to take the seat farthest from him, the one near the laptop. Daughter sighs and gestures for Bad to take the second seat, which she does with an annoyed look. Daughter now sits in the first seat and looks out at the assembled group.
- Daughter (formally)
Hello everyone. I have gathered the Retribution Society today because I believe there is a problem we five can best deal with.
Daughter presses a button on her laptop, and the TV above switches to show a still photo from a large, crowded auditorium.
This, as you may recognize, is our Town hall. In the upcoming week, it will serve as the location for the final debate between Fat Cat and Corrupt Politician, a day before everyone goes to the polls.
Everyone who hasn't voted early.
- Daughter (nods)
Thank you Son.
You can call me Captain Red!
Daughter ignores Son and taps her laptop again, the TV now switches to a split-screen view of Fat and Corrupt. Corrupt is an older man and classically handsome like an emperor.
On the right, the incumbent Corrupt. On the left, the challenger Fat. They're both slimy in my opinion, but at least Fat doesn't have the rumors surrounding him. Corrupt has been covering up, denying or ignoring various charges his entire political career, and yet he's won every election he was in by a wide margin. Statistically speaking, his streak of victories is highly improbable.
Not to sound impolite, but how does a middleschooler know statistics?
- Bad (grumpy)
Too late for that, jerk.
Mainly from online fantasy football.
- Bad (to Guy, proudly)
You should see her team, she has a lot of really good players.
- Daughter (to Bad, drily)
Are you going to be like this for the entire meeting?
- Bad (points at Guy)
Why does he have to be here? We don't need muscle and Son has a car now …
Actually, Sonny has been acting a bit unreliable lately.
- Daughter (determined)
You may all be wondering what the five of us have to do with a politician who wins more than seems possible. The answer is that we may have something in common with him.
- Cousin (confused, to Son)
The car, or your friend?
I guess … both?
- Bad (innocently)
I mean, what good is a coward going to be? We don't need a punching bag.
- Guy (angry, to Bad)
I am here because Son implied - but if you plan to insult my -
- Daughter (interrupts everyone)
You all know something about magic!
This quiets everyone in the room, as they all turn back to a grimly satisfied Daughter, who points at Corrupt on the screen.
The explanation I keep coming back to for Corrupt's improbable political career is magic. Every time he talks at a big public debate or holds a rally, his numbers jump. Win or lose, rain or shine, his numbers go up. My theory is that he has the ability to magically coerce those who hear him into following him.
- Bad (nervously)
Magic? What the hell is magic?
- Cousin (softly)
Me and Son know some people who know about magic, but we don't know much ourselves.
I assume by "magic" you mean chi? I only know what Sensei has taught me.
Bad, everyone here has some connection with magic. We should all be able to contribute. Now, I think we should try to interfere with Corrupt's ability at the debate.
- Bad (to Daughter)
Why am I the last to know all this?!
Excuse me, but I did not know either. And more on topic, the ability to block chi is a difficult skill. I do not see how you will obstruct this man … or even that you should.
Even if it's difficult, could you learn this skill in time for the debate? Could I?
Guy shakes his head and Bad pounds the chair with a fist.
- Bad (to Guy)
Since when do you do magic?!
I could ask you that question too. But I do not "do" magic. I speak of chi, a power that resides in us all.
Even me? I've seen incredible, unbelievable things, but I could never do those things myself.
- Bad (mutters)
Sometimes it's the stuff you thought incredible and unbelievable that turns out to be true.
So Guy. Out of all of us, you seem to know the most about magic, or chi. Could you explain it?
I am more curious as to how you learned of my knowledge of it.
I suggested you might, and you confirmed as much.
- Guy (eyes narrowed)
Yes, well then … chi is energy. We all have it, and we all use it. I can break a stack of clay tiles with my bare hand, that is my chi in action.
- Bad (scoffs)
That's something all those martial arts guys do, all with training. That's not magic.
Training can help one learn to control their chi, but that is not the only factor. As some people are born stronger or faster, so are others born with greater chi. No matter how much I trained, if I had not been born with enough I would not be able to break the tiles.
Enough? How is that – ?
Fair? Life isn't fair … but we can help even the odds. Such as at this debate?
Should you though? This is a fight between men, there is no reason why it should be a fair contest.
But to the victor goes the spoils. All I'm saying is that Corrupt shouldn't have a guaranteed victory.
If that is his chi, that is his destiny and all is right in the world. Will you fight destiny?
Destiny is crap.
Nevertheless, it is real. Fight it and you will only exhaust yourself. Better to let destiny dash itself across your back like the blows of numerous enemies.
Guy glances at Bad with a hurt look, who looks away with a sniff.
A coward breaks and fights back when challenged by a weaker opponent. True bravery is stoicism.
Maybe, but who cares about bravery?
Cousin (raises a hand)
I care about bravery. Being brave helps you tell people the important things you want to say.
- Daughter (nods)
And yet, too much bravery makes you look and act like an idiot.
- Cousin (light blush)
Is that such a bad thing?
- Son (quick interruption)
Definitely! You feel terrible when you act like an idiot! It sucks!
But you shouldn't feel terrible. If you said something important, you should feel good about yourself.
Son and Cousin both do a half-blush now, as Daughter sighs.
- Daughter (sarcastic)
I could swear this meeting was supposed to be about the debate.
Let the men fight as they will. Better the stronger win than the weaker have a chance to.
- Bad (triumphant)
Hah! Before you said that the stronger guy should let the weaker one win! Contradiction!
- Guy (flustered)
Guy's a hypocrite! Says one thing and does another!
I am not a hypocrite!
- Daughter (to Bad)
Technically, he's not.
What? No way, he is!
He said it was brave for the strong to let themselves lose, but also better that they win. Funny enough, you taught him that.
But bravery is a good thing!
- Daughter (self-satisfied)
Bravery is good for those without it, and bad for those with it. In other words, you have to balance it.
INT. FAMILY HOME KITCHEN – LATE EVENING
The room is well-lit but messier than usual, with plates and things stacked high beside the sink. Guy and then Cousin pass by in the hallway, but then Son calls out to Cousin. Moments later, Son and Cousin enter the kitchen.
I'm glad I caught you! I wanted to talk before you left, in private -
- Cousin (cold)
And here we are. What did you want?
- Son (taken aback)
Want? Only to talk.
Okay. So … talk.
Can we go somewhere … more private?
Guy was nice enough to bring me here and take me home again, I don't want to hold him up.
Yeah, okay … so I was wondering, why did you sit so far away on the couch?
Oh … because, I didn't know.
Didn't know what?
What you intended. You assumed I would sit right up against you? It felt strange, so I … sat how I did.
- Son (crestfallen)
Oh, I … I didn't mean to weird you out. I thought it would feel weird if we had separate chairs like the others. Because we're … close.
So is your sister and her friend.
Yeah, but we're close in a different way … right?
INT. GIRL HOME KITCHEN – LATE EVENING
Cousin sits on a stool at the kitchen counter, sprawled across the surface with her head down. Sub cooks a meal at the stove, a few small items like salt and pepper float beside his head.
- Cousin (despondent)
And I just walked out! I couldn't think what to say so I left!
Tell me, if you will, what you would have said with time to think.
I didn't know what he intended and I was unsure how I would react! If he put an arm around me, would I press against him?
Cousin hides her face in her hands in embarrassment.
I put distance between us because I wasn't sure I would stop him if he tried to put a move on me!
Put a move on you? In front of his sister? Seems unlikely.
He's very open about that stuff!
Well … did you have fun?
You would have been a much bigger help than I was. We talked about the local election, and whether that Mr. Politician has magic to make people like him … oh, uh, does he?
I do not know the man, but I would assume so. Neither he, nor his rival, would be in politics if they didn't have some charm.
What does being charming have to do with magic?
To charm, to be charming … did you think the similarity a coincidence?