((Jared Gull, Tony Walker, Janice Hartley, and Albert Andrews: Start))
Cigar smoke wafted through the silent air in the boardroom, the only thing disrupting the overall uncomfortable environment. Let it. He wasn't going to be the first one to speak. Jared was just glad to have witnesses alongside him to confirm the bizarre transformation that had dominated the last 15 minutes actually occurred. Together, the three of them had watched what at first appeared to be a bright, nervous young man turn into a creature whose body was mostly comprised of sweat and cheap fabric and face had been engulfed by a large, increasingly desperate and discomforting smile.
For 15 minutes they'd watched this poor kid haul his career in by the lapels, shoot it in the back of the head, dig its grave, and roll it on in, all without the slightest hint of self-awareness, and nobody wanted to be the first to tell him. He knew. He had to know that the cold, unresponsive stillness of his audience was at best born from apathy and at worst from contempt, but still he kept that damn smile. He kept waiting, just asking for the death sentence they were holding back.
Maybe he thought if he kept perfectly still, he could keep his future in a state between living and dead permanently. Schrodinger's screenwriter, just waiting for someone to pop open the box and take an unceremonious shit in it.
Maybe, on some level, they were morbidly curious about where this would lead. Would he break and admit that this was some sort of horribly thought out practical joke from the boys in creative? Would he try to run them through the flip charts, actual, physical goddamn flip charts, again? Would he dissolve first, or would his smile actually devour his head like some sort of localized black hole?
Tony did the merciful thing and finally broke the atmosphere with a cough. Appropriate, given that he was the source of the smoke. "Now, let me make sure I'm catchin' this straight," he drawled hesitantly, "Mr...?"
"Andrews, sir!" the sweat golem replied, with about eight times the necessary enthusiasm.
"Mr. Andrews. Yeah. So this..." God, that sound. Paper ruffling through pages, fucking pages of notes on a first pitch. It was downright inhumane. "Brock McClew? That's the lead's name, right?"
"Yes sir, we're not married to it, but it's testing very well with our pre-focus sub-prime surveys in the 18-35 lower middle class demo, which could be a massively untapped market for this sort of-"
Tony shut him down with a wave of his hand, "Yeeah, yeah, numbers, impressive, sure. I just wanna brass tacks the plot. The climax here revolves around McClew here...signaling a nearby U.S. Aircraft Carrier?"
Aaaand the flip charts where back. Impossibly, the grin actually seemed to grow as he flipped back towards his panoramic shots of the U.S.S. Nimitz. "Mmmhmm, this is a rough idea of what we'd hope to be working with while crafting the the U.S.S. Vigilance, pulled from active duty to search for the kidnapped students."
Vigilance. Christ. Subtlety had to be his strong suit.
Tony was dying out there, but it was his fault for trying to stumble out a polite way to handle this clusterfuck. Jared was inclined to let the poor bastard drown, but that probably wasn't the healthiest way handle the situation. He wasn't interested in going back to playing hush puppies until the guy just left, so he might as well throw in.
"Look, Andrews...I think what Tony's getting at is that this whole twist is kinda absurd."
Blinking. Had the thought never crossed through that empty little head of his? Or had he just been hoping they'd miss it? "Absurd, s-sir?" he stammered out, smoothing down the front of his coat as he spoke. "Absurd how?"
Jared sighed and leafed through the stack of notes they'd been given. "Absurd like catching the attention of a U.S. aircraft carrier with smoke signals."
He let the statement hang for a few moments, staring into the young man's eyes. Then, he tapped a line half-way down the page.
"On a wooden life raft?"
Nervous laughter sounded out from behind the flip charts. "Weeelll," he mumbled as he peeked through the sheets, "Obviously there may have been some oversight there, it's just an early treatment-"
"No, no," Jared interrupted, "I get that. I just think, if Tony and I are on the same page here, that we're worried this might be indicative of what you've got as a whole, here. And given the, uh...sensitive nature of the source material..."
"Oh for God's sake." Fucking finally, she was up. And it sounded like Janice was willing to be the hardass on this one.
"Are we going to dance around the elephant in the room or are we going to deal with why this appalling display isn't going a step further?"
Aaaaand the sweat was back. Lots of it. "Well, um, as you know, of course, we could possibly expect some, uh, pushback given our, um, controversial inspiration-"
Her hand slapped down against the notes. "You've monetized and satirized an on-going act of international terrorism. Is that the controversy you're referring to?"
Andrews shot a pleading look between Jared and Tony. Unfortunately, they'd both dedicated themselves to the important task of studying the boardroom carpet.