A Walk In The Dark


cassandra_icon.gif cesar_icon.gif

Scene Title A Walk in the Dark
Synopsis Agents Diaz and Baumann explore the sewers of the Safe Zone in search of clues pertaining to the food thefts.
Date March 16, 2018

The Brooklyn Marine Terminal is the single largest harbor in all of the NYC Safe Zone. All large shipments coming and going through the Safe Zone enter from this port, which shares space with the Brooklyn Army Terminal, home of the Safe Zone’s ostensible peacekeepers, the 91st Military Police Battalion. The Marine Terminal is home to the Red Cross Depot, a spacious warehouse containing food and medical provisions distributed by the Red Cross to the city’s needy.

Several weeks ago, the food storage containers in the depot were struck by a gang of thieves able to haul off with thousands of pounds of food in a single night, undetected by security cameras or guards. In the wake of the discoveries below the Red Hook Market, SESA has dispatched agent Cesar Diaz as lead to investigate what lies below the depot, to see if there’s any correlation to the discoveries of Agent Lin at the Red Hook Market less than a mile away.

It is in this dark, cold place that Cesar finds himself confronted with an uncomfortable truth of the Safe Zone: it can always get worse.

Safe Zone Sewers

Below the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal

8:58 am

The crumbling brick-lined tunnels below the Red Cross Depot are more than one hundred years old. These crumbling, mold-lined passageways are on the verge of collapse. Recent orange spray paint near sewer entrances show where Yamagato Industries contractors marked essential repairs, and others were flagged as non-essential. But these markers don’t stray far from the rusted metal-rung ladders, do not venture into the lightless depths below the city. Perhaps it was out of necessity with the sheer amount of work to be done, perhaps it was out of respect for that dark below.

Two and a half feet of ice cold standing water greets Cesar in these sewers. This intrusion from the river is a sign of structural damage and flooding. The murky gray depths of the water is interspersed with floating garbage; plastic baubles, foil wrappers, scraps of wood and paper. All manner of detritus floats down here, some clinging in heaps and bergs to the rough brick walls. According to the pre-war sewer map provided by his superiors, he has a 357 foot walk before he reaches his destination below the Red Cross Depot.

Armed with the copy of the sewer map, flashlight, a gun in holster, pocketed evidence bags, and a spread of clothing that at least attempts to protect from the infectious detritus within the sewers, Cesar heads into the darkness boldly. What qualms are physically churning in his gut and squelching from his boots is set aside, pushed down with the dogged determination that’s gotten him a few commendations back in the day. A need to know, some may describe it.

That doesn’t stop the sewers from being disturbingly odorous and giving him pause at almost every random floating miniature island of what is that which passes through the conical beam of light affording him visual access in the tunnels. Agent Lin had mentioned human bones. The agency’s evidence team would have to collect it later, though. One case of death at a time.

A trip to the sewers was, by default, on pretty much anyone’s list of things to not do for a fun afternoon but, as a SESA agent, Cassandra and everyone else in the department were pretty much the go-to for investigating things in places where people don’t often go. It’s places like this, the sewers, that tend to accumulate things that people do not wish to see. Out of sight, out of mind is still a mantra repeated often. After all, why else would people simply discard bad news in the trash, flush dead fish before the kids get home, or let mail stack up unread before facing up to it?

Over morning coffee on the way to the Brooklyn Marine Terminal, Cassie was reminded of the motto of the Wild Weasel air force squadron, whose motto was ‘You’ve gotta be shitting me,’ thanks to the unenviable task of hunting down and destroying anti aircraft missile emplacements using aircraft. She felt like a bonafide member when she was told of their trek to the sewers. “I did ask for this. Thanks for inviting me, Cesar. Just…give me a sec.” Cassandra pronounces his name with a soft e, like Sesar, not CEEser, the woman mulling over things for a moment before speaking. “I didn’t expect to be tomb raiding two times in the same week with a third coming up, assuming we’ll go to the Red Hook Market’s storage and the sewers beneath.” The trials and tribulations of the resident postcognitive. She’s been called on a few times since the paperwork went through, her visions helping point people in directions that they may not have considered, and with a scan upcoming of the items found with the bones beneath the safe zone store house, it’s starting to look like it might be a tough week for Cassie.

Dressed in multiple layers, including waterproof pierce-proof wading boots that go to her hips, waterproof pants, gloves, goggles, a hard hat with a lamp /and/ a respirator mask with a radio link and a backpack filled with multiple other things that might be important, plus her sidearm, Cassandra looks like she’s ready to enter a nuclear exclusion zone on a day-long excursion. She follows behind Cesar grimly, staying in the wake of cleared debris he’s waded through to keep from having something accidentally find its way into her waders, using her head lamp to illuminate the walls as they go, the flashlight held in her left hand focusing on other things more precisely that the head lamp might miss. “Slide your feet along the bottom when we get to the water.” Her voice is muffled thanks to the mask, the radio hissing softly when the channel is open with no traffic. “No maintenance means there are probably holes, valleys, and deep spots. I like swimming but this….a little too much for a gal like me. If we can get up on the ledges, we’ll be better off.”

“Don’t need to tell me twice,” Cesar replies to Cassandra about the possibility of holes in their footpath as they wade along, progress slow. He’s sticking as close to the sides of the tunnel as possible, avoiding the main undercurrent. Every step is a step closer to getting what they need and getting out, so to speak. But still, he’s determined to get something out of this.

Something that isn’t a lingering week long stench.

“Just make sure you don’t overdo it with your power down here, Tomb Raider,” adds the non-Evolved agent wryly, “there’s more secrets down here than I’d imagine you want to know or have stick in your mind. Agent Bluthner’s probably still in shock. If there were enough tomatoes, he’d probably have used them all in the bath.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me.” One of the limits of Cassandra’s ability is the requirement that she be physically located where something happened or touches something involved, with bare skin. That means the gloves might have to come off, and getting sewage out from beneath your nails is not something she’s really planning for. Even with the mask the stench seeps in - the one time she tried to adjust it, the odor hit her like a wet towel thrown across a locker room. She very nearly added breakfast to the miasma swirling around their legs but thankfully didn’t. “When I’m done in here, I’m /burning/ these clothes and taking a shower for a goddamn week.” And they’re not even halfway there.

Using agent Cesar as a trailblazer, Cassandra follows close behind, stopping at junctions now and again to mark on the walls with phosphorescent chalk that glows faintly in the light from their flashlights. Directions to get back out, an arrow pointing to the way they came. Yes, Cesar has a map but Tomb Raider Cassandra does not fancy getting lost down here. Besides, if something is found that doesn’t approve of their presence, running and having to check a map would require time that could be better spent avoiding danger.

Although the tunnel is in disrepair, it is mercifully without sinkholes or gaps. It is, however, gradually sloping downward in such a way that the water level continues to rise. By the time Cesar and Cassandra have reached their destination the icy water is now waist deep. The tunnel opens into a four-way junction directly below the storage depot. Raised walkways along the branches off of the main tunnel are choked with garbage, and the agents discover a sight down here much like what Agent Lin described below the Red Hook Market.

In the glow of Cesar’s flashlight, a mountain of shredded and demolished packaging is left in a heap clogging up the middle of the intersection. Open wrappers, torn cans, shredded boxes, all piled atop one another. Enough refuse to choke the sewer entirely. The mess down here is repulsive, from the black mold clinging to the stink of garbage and waste. Whatever happened to the food from the Red Hook Market is the same fate that befell the food from the Red Cross Depot.

Thanks to the map and general notes, getting to the refuse of food isn’t the hard part. However Bowie had described it and taken some pictures of it, though, there’s nothing that compares to seeing what became of the food and storage in Red Hook Market and the Red Cross Depot with his own eyes. And seeing it there, it makes Cesar mad. His grip on his flashlight tightens as he grimly looks at the utter destruction of the it all. “This is fucking messed up. Me cago en la mierda…” He continues muttering with each sweep of the light beam over busted cans and fluttering wrappers. Not even the icy waters flowing around him seems to cool his heated temper.

There doesn’t seem to be any point in gathering physical evidence, but he does pull out a camera that’s been waterproofed to snap a few more photos. The overall location. The state of the refuse at this point in time. At a point, he turns to Cassandra to check on her and to posit a series of questions. “OK, so, thoughts? How the fuck did all of this get down here? Who’s got capabilities to get all this done overnight? And what does it all have to do with William DeLuca?” He might be something of an outward processor.

It’s really not something you expect to see outside of a garbage dump, and knowing that the packages here were the food supply for thousands of people in the safe zone? Well, it’s almost as stomach-churning as the muck that currently swirls around their waists. Seeking higher ground, Cassandra lights up what she can with her head lamp and flashlight, training over the discarded packaging, trying to see any sign of anything.

“Let’s start with the beginning. I can’t see this being done with normal physical movement. There aren’t any elevators, holes, slots, or anything that could explain this all being just emptied into other containers and dumped down here, and it took us a good thirty minutes of slogging through sewage to get to this point, so someone carrying it down here is unlikely, unless there were like five hundred people at the same time.” An exaggeration, sure, but a lot of people would have been required and that many people keeping quiet isn’t a usual thing.

She sits on a ledge, her feet dangling in the muck. “That means that it more than likely was an evolved teleporter or someone who could just make the ground beneath the food…insubstantial or….the containers of food themselves.” She blinks, sliding into the water, slogging over to the pile. “Is the Red Cross Storage depot right above us? As in, the warehouse where all this was stored?” She starts shining her light at the bottom…looking for shipping pallets. When none are found she looks up to the ceiling again. “Cesar, the shipping pallets were left in the Safe Zone storage room….just like it looks like the pallets were left up there too.” In a world where evolved aren’t, she’d be talking crazy but here, in this world? Maybe not. “What if someone just made the food insubstantial and dropped it all down here?”

Moving closer to the garbage mountain in the middle, Cesar goes in for a closer look. "Gonna need a damn backhoe," he grumbles his assessment, "Or, how many flamethrowers do you think it'd take to take all this out?" That last one's a joke. Maybe. As Cassandra sits and processes, Cesar inspects, going for a full 360 come perimeter check of the heap.

"There was a girl that vendors were saying was a teleporter, brunette, stealing stuff," he says, "And I met another, but don't think they're the same girl. But what're the chances, two brunettes, two teleporters? And how many teleporters got such a fine-tuned capability that they can just move tons? Without taking the whole thing with them? The girl I saw at the market barely could keep herself together."

At the girl's question, he shines his light up to the top of the heap, the ceiling above it. "Yeah, I believe so. Which means the market's mark isn't far from here." It's back to the map after a moment, then he shines his beam on Cassandra. "You tired already? I didn't think you'd want to be puttin' your ass on any of thing in here," he notes, cocking his head. "Come on, up on your feet. We still got a lot of ground to cover. I'll even let you pick. Let's Make A Deal. What's behind Door number 1?" He shines his light to the left most tunnel. Door 2 is the middle, Door 3 the right most tunnel. And then he pauses, eyeing the other agent. “Do you get that reference?”

“Sorry.” Cassandra gingerly slips from her seat into the muck, standing there, peering up at the ceiling and the pile just beneath it. “Habit of my thinking. I’m not saying that it was teleported - the brunette you’re talking about probably isn’t worth following up on if she’s as flaky as you say. Good to know about her, but something like this?” Her light sweeps over the pile. “Probably far beyond what she can do. What i’m saying is someone changed the density of the packages of food and just let gravity do its work. Pretty much every kinetic I know has a range of, oh, about thirty feet, before things start to lose control, so they just pick a spot, make the stuff phase through solid matter, and when it’s out of range, pop, back into business it comes to be picked up later.”

It’s a solid theory, but it /still/ doesn’t make sense why someone would waste all this food.

“Before we see what’s behind door number one, I could pop open the mystery box and see if we get any echoes from around here? Maybe we get lucky and catch the direction they went in without heading down dead end tunnels? And to hell with you if you suggest splitting up. I watched too many horror movies during the war to know how well /that/ would turn out.”

It doesn’t take Cesar a long time to decide as he looks from the other agent to the heap, then back again. “That doesn’t say anything for what happened with DeLuca. Psychic projections, or whatever? Let’s just say I don’t want to believe in hungry ghosts.” He waves a hand at the heap. “If you can cut our down-here time, please do,” he says, stepping aside in case she needs to pass by him.

“It’s why I'm here.” Cassandra looks around for somewhere not in the water or, at least, somewhere she can lean before breaking the seal on her goggles, the fumes of decay stinging her eyes. “Find a place to stand and watch: when I do this, it'll get dark at first. You may see a few strange things, but none of it is real - it's all already happened and we're just watching the echoes.” She finds her spot and reaches into a zippered pouch in her jacket for a length of lined silk that she winds around her eyes two or three times before tying it tight. “Okay…”. she looks to where Cesar stands. “let's see if anything speaks to me.”

As Cassandra starts to concentrate, the flashlights start to dim, the beams not falling on anything in front of them, an inky blackness rolling in from the tunnels until the pair are surrounded in darkness. She slowly reaches back in time, searching for anything strong in the past. With the Red Cross raid happening at the end of February, something should show up. She searches for light. Movement. Anything to determine how this stuff got here.

There's nothing. Nothing relevant, at least. There's brief flickers of moments from seven years ago, people moving through the tunnels with flashlights and backpacks, likely a glimpse at the Ferrymen of old. But the closer to present day Cassandra gets, the less impressions there are. What's most troubling about all of it is that there's nothing to be found.

Not yesterday, not a week before, nothing. It's like — and seems reasonable — that no one was ever down here in all that time to leave a psychic impression. But if that's the case, if there are no latent imprints of minds from which to derive experiences from, how did the food get down here?

Cassandra is young, trained up fast by SESA, and thrown into field work at an age when most agents should still be in the academy. But here, now, she's experiencing a training gap. What does nothing mean to her ability? What does an absence explain, and what does the negative space outline?

Though normally a talker when there’s time to fill, Cesar goes silent upon watching Cassandra prep to do her version of the detective work. Though the man lifts a brow when she pulls out the length of silk to cover her eyes, he says nothing still. There’s still a twinge of wariness that tickles up his spine coldly when he witnesses Evolved abilities at work, and so when the flashlight in his hand dims he glances around with a line of tension running down his back.

A silent prayer that the feeling is not actually a cockroach.

Cesar blinks as there’s a flicker of a projection with Cassandra’s ability, the glimpse of former Ferrymen slipping through this area with flashlights and backpacks appears - at least to him - like maybe it is relevant. He files the sight away, but leaves commentary aside for now.

When the visions are done, when there’s nothing to be seen other than faint echoes of the distant, distant past, the little brunette makes a face and straightens, gesturing to ‘here,’ even though her eyes are still covered. “Okay…this doesn’t make any sense. This… we should see something if someone was here. If someone did this. There’s always a trace of something to look at if a person came through here, but there’s not…” The scene rewinds again to the flickers of movement from the ferry - too hazy to determine who they might be other than movement with backpacks and flashlights - then forward again, to see if anything could be seen but again, there’s nothing. She lets out a huff, audible through her mask, and the vision fades away, the light from Cesar’s flashlight and all the others coming back, the brunette unwinding the blindfold from around her eyes, wiping them, before tucking it away in the pocket it came from.

“I think going down those tunnels is necessary to be sure, but I don’t think it would be very useful. We need to look for tracks.” She frowns, though. “We need to look for some signs to be sure, but I’m think we’ll see tracks of animals, but with all this food, there’s hundred of rat tracks, raccoon, possum…” She sighs again, trudging across the water, around the pile of debris to where Cesar stands. “Long story short? As far as I can tell, no-one was here, as far as my ability is concerned. No human consciousness, unless it was shielded somehow or wiped away afterward.” She waves a hand, discounting that, pulling down her goggles again to protect her eyes. “I can’t see that happening, though. I mean… if youcould turn invisible and leave no trace of passage, would you be stealing red cross supplies?”

The implication is a troubling one, that there is no easily identifiable culprit. It leaves more questions than it does provide answers. It makes the thefts more than just robberies, it means that there are layers to the onion here. Cesar Diaz and Cassandra Baumann had entered the sewers in the hopes of nailing the case shut, but all their investigation has done has raised more questions.

Skin crawling, not because of the environment but because the itch to simply go stomping through sewer tunnels like it’s a door-to-door shakedown until there is an answer readily apparent or some criminal is flushed out tugs at him, Cesar has to take a moment to control the urge. “It didn’t make sense the moment the depot and market were hit, Baumann,” comes his measured reply. “Fuck, it all stopped making sense the moment Petrelli shoved the red pill down all our throats.” It’s unclear just which event he refers to. “But now that we’re here and we got a job to do, that much makes sense to me.”

At her mention of looking for tracks, he levels an incredulous stare at her. “We’re in a fuckin’ sewer and you want to look for animal tracks? Of course there’s animals down here! We may be lookin’ for fuckin’ ninja turtles and a giant rat in a bathrobe for all the fuck we know!” His grip on the flashlight tightens further and he sloshes away back the way they came for a few steps, several syllables spilling from the man in another tongue. The flare-up is shortlived, and eventually from where he stands, he turns back to view the mountain of spoiled food and rotting garbage, a frustrated growl kept mostly at bay with a shake of his flashlight to flick off drops of sewage.

Eventually, when he looks back to Cassandra, his impotent rage fades into contrition as he takes a shallow breath and exhales, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t meant to be thrown at you the way it was.” He motions his free hand to wave them back the way they came. “I’m not convinced there isn’t someone behind it still, pullin’ strings somehow, like, long range shit. But you and me are not going to spend hours combing through each of those tunnels ‘til we get something, that’s for sure. Forensics’ll gather up what’s feasible evidence and then we’ll see when analysis gets back on it.” It’s something of a depressing assessment of their position right now; analysts could take weeks, and that could mean another theft and no way to stop it. Cesar doesn’t think about the implications of a third theft further.

On that note, he fully turns his back on the moldy mountain, starting away back up the tunnel to the exit. As soon as they’re back in the range of cellphone service, he calls the agency to brief them and call for forensics.

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