Aspect Ratio


elisabeth_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif geneva_icon.gif lance_icon.gif royce_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Aspect Ratio
Synopsis A joint investigation by SCOUT, SESA and even Wolfhound comes knocking on a photographers door.
Date November 1, 2020

Bay Ridge: Charles Royce's Rented Studio Building

The studio isn’t really made up to be much of a studio. In some ways it looks like a warehouse that just has backdrops to make staging areas for pictures, but most of Charles Royce’s pictures were not taken within his studio anyway. Still, there were a few images on display, showing his award winning words. Most of them were older than last year, and thus were not moving pictures. One definitely was.

This one was a picture of himself. A timed picture, probably, but it still managed to shift every time someone looked away from it, changing from a sheepish smile to a wide grin, to a bored expression, every time people looked away for a moment.

The biggest bulk of the photographs, though, were post war photographs, showing the damages that had been done to the country as the people fought each other. Buildings brought down to their foundations, an image of an obviously expressive individual holding up a brick wall so that people could get an injured man out of the rubble, some of them had won awards, worldwide recognition…

And then a year ago after Detroit he had suddenly become SLC-E, like so many others.

The photographer, despite the appointment, is sitting down at a desk, making scribbles in a note book with wrinkles on his forehead as if deep in thought.

As the small contingent of law enforcement makes their way into the makeshift studio, Elisabeth's blue eyes are skimming the photos not just for movement but for their content as well. Much of what she sees in his photography is a world she hasn't really seen in the two years she's been back home… but it's eerie how much it is like other places she was in those same years.

The realization that he is one of the people whose ability seemingly came out of nowhere just a couple of months ago hits and she sighs heavily. The sound of their footsteps is not quiet in the large open space — in fact, they sound rather intimidating as they move purposefully toward the desks of Royce and his secretary.

Liz flashes her ID at the secretary and says simply, "Mr. Royce is expecting us."

Elliot and Wright enter the building with a comfortable saunter that lets each easily share the other’s sight as they move. They take in the impermanent nature of the warehouse more than the content of each display picture. They both hang back and to the sides to let the formal investigators take center stage at reception.

Mostly they keep their attention on exits, perches, or obstructions. The bread and butter of infiltration/exfiltration operatives. Neither expect this to play out as anything other than an interview, but it always pays to be thorough.

Lance looks from the moving photograph of the photographer himself, then back over to where he’s seated at his desk, and then back again with a thoughtful sort of expression as if he’s trying to compare the two and find any differences.

“Kind of primal,” he murmurs, then looks back over to where Elisabeth’s introducing them, reaching down to pull out his own identification. It looks much more impressive when you don’t read carefully to catch the ‘Junior’ part of ‘Agent’.

"Yeah. I can't really say I expected up to end up standing in the middle of Harry fuckin' Potter." That's from Geneva, who is also peering hard towards the one photograph that is moving. It's also a good deal less quiet than Lance's murmur, but that's likely to be expected: the second of the Junior Agents on the scene isn't much known for her attempts at subtlety.

Nevertheless, despite both her blatant tone and her youth, Stevenson looks genuinely professional in her work blazer and blonde hair all pulled back into a high bun. There is even some tiny but real aspect of intimidation lining her gaze, which follows Liz's onto the secretary's face and stays there in an unnecessarily even-keeled stare as she flips out her ID in rhythmic sequence after the others.

The secretary, a woman probably in her thirties, looks tired, but otherwise bored. She gestures them through without even a real glance at the badge and then goes back to her texting on her phone. Or perhaps a game of Candy Crush, or something similar. Whatever it was, it had more of her attention than her job.

The photographer, though, looks up as they approach, before saying a quick, “I’ll call you back, just cancel that too. And the next one. I’m not in the mood right now… Tell them I’m an artist! I need to be in the mood.” With that, he hangs up the phone, despite the sound of a protesting voice on the other end, possibly an agent or manager or something, who may not be pleased with the artist being an artist.

“I wasn’t expecting this many of you,” he mutters, looking past the SCOUT officer with the badge to the youngsters and then the—

Wait, is that Wolfhound?

Royce had been a wartime photographer, after all. He recognizes Wolfhound when he sees them! He probably had a few old pictures of those two around somewhere that he won awards for before he had ever become SLC-E. “I— are you training or something?” he looks toward the younger Agents present, assuming that they must be in training to get dragged along to something so boring as an interview with a photographer.

"Something like that," Elisabeth replies with a faint quirk of her lips. She's neither confirming nor denying — he needs no explanations. "You do good work," she compliments the man. A couple of years in Jaiden Mortlock's company has given her an appreciation for photographers who take the kinds of pictures he got awards for.

"Mr. Royce, I understand that part of your service includes very special pictures. We are looking into a situation that may have involved some of your moving photos — they're quite amazing. Do you think you could explain to me a little about how your ability works?"

Elliot smiles and nods politely to Royce to help disarm that brief look of recognition and concern he saw. He stands to the side and behind those appearing in an official capacity, relaxed but attentive. Wright takes the opportunity to study some more of the warehouse’s photographs, splitting her attention with Elliot’s perspective.

“Junior Agent Gerken, this is Junior Agent Stevenson,” Lance offers with a professional smile at Royce’s question, looking up from the photographs and stepping up after Elisabeth, “We’re here to represent SESA in this matter.” What this matter is, he leaves up to the older woman to explain.

Just saying ‘one of your photos may be a murder weapon’ seems gauche.

A little more irrationally annoyed by the lack of reaction from the secretary than she'd care to let on, Geneva sets her jaw squarely as she tucks her badge back into its resting place. It's a tension that informs the slightly more flippant edge she allows her voice to take next.

"A murder situation," is a prompt clarification to Elisabeth's comment, cutting straight through the much more complimentary tone of the older woman. It isn't particularly hostile-sounding, but it is a reminder. They aren't here for an educational field trip a la the Magic School Bus, after all.

Judging by the interest in her hard stare, Stevenson certainly isn't under the impression that this interview will be boring in the least.

“A— a murder? What— ” Royce shakes his head, looking taken aback and— well— concerned. Because it’s murder? “This isn’t about crime scene photos or something, cause I’ve never done those before? I did war photos, but that was different. I mean it was an ongoing crime against humanity, but that was more— making sure people saw what was happening and less— Um.“ Murder.

But before he gets further on that topic, he shakes his head, looking back at Liz and answering her question, “About how my ability works, I’m honestly not entirely sure still. I didn’t have it until that— thing— the one earlier this year, over Detroit? The one that gave a lot of people abilities. Turned out any pictures that I took and developed myself after that just became— different.” He makes gestures as he talks as if the gestures would help explain the situation better. “The people in them move around when no one’s looking at them.”

Indeed, Elliot and Wright, with their split perceptions, notice that the pictures never move while they are both looking at them, but when neither of them is looking at one, even in the periphery, it changes slightly the next time one of their vision falls upon it.

“Move a bit. Sometimes change too. Like if the person gets a haircut, it shows their new haircut. See— my picture even shows my beard. I was clean-shaven when that was taken— Very careful selfie. Wanted to see if I could do it to myself.”

He seems particularly proud of that, even if selfies in general were rather juvenile.

“I registered with SESA as soon as I discovered it. They classified it as a kind of Clairvoyance, cause the pictures seemed to update to show recent changes to the subject, but otherwise, didn’t seem to do anything, though the office in KC had an Empath, and she mentioned that there was a—” he hesitates as if trying to find the word. “Impression? On the pictures that I brought in to demonstrate. Like a vague ‘aura’ or something. She said it was too vague to get much from, but it made her know it wasn’t some kind of trick photography. People have been trying to find ways to print animated gifs for a decade, you know.”

Then there’s a pause, and he looks back at the two kids. The SESA Junior Agents. They weren’t that young when he went in to Register, but he’ll guess they wouldn’t lie about that in front of a SCOUT Detective. “When you say murder— who died?” he asks, wringing his hands a bit.

Shooting the impatient young agent who blurted that out a Look, Elisabeth turns back to the photographer. "You're not in any trouble, Mr. Royce. You've done all the right things. I need to understand a little about the photos and their apparent link to their subjects. You said new haircuts appear, beards, things like that. Have you ever had someone get their photos taken and pass away? Do they simply vanish from the photo? Or does the photo go still or anything like that?"

She holds up a hand and says, "I can't give you the details of our investigation except that the victim had been in one of your photo shoots. I'm wondering… if the photos reflect some kind of link to the real person, is it possible that something done *to* a photo could hurt the person in that photo." A faint smile quirks her lips. "Now there's a question I never thought to hear myself ask," she adds ruefully. "Have you done any experiments to see how that works?"

Wright chuckles quietly, a safe distance away from the grilling. “Fucking everybody but me got an ability from Detroit,” she says. “What the fuck.”

Elliot smirks. He keeps his attention on Royce's mannerisms as the questioning continues. His initial read feels pretty solid, that Royce has absolutely no clue what is going on. But people are full of surprises. And Unexpected Super Power Rule #1 is figure out the limitations and vulnerabilities. A slight hitch of his eyebrow asks, You did the experiments, right?

At the ‘murder situation’ comment, Lance instinctively elbows the other agent in the side. Which in retrospect isn’t the most professional behavior, but neither was immediately admitting this was a murder case!

We’re not supposed to tell him that up front, his hands flicker in her direction, before looking back over to Royce. “Huh,” he murmurs as the ‘aura’ is explained, “Maybe we should have Agent Bluthner look at one of them.”

There is a small, definite "ow" following the junior agent being elbowed by the other, but otherwise, Gene looks predictably unapologetic. Why not? It's not like we're not headed there anyway, is her grumpily signed response over to Lance, but at least she lets the proceedings continue without saying anything else.

At the mention of a victim being from a photoshoot, the secretary looks up from her game now, and Royce himself looks— bothered. Concerned? Stunned? He looks away and glances toward some of the photographs on the wall, many of which are not moving, but some that are. Most of those aren’t like the wedding pictures, they’re more artsy, like pictures in a park or in public locations. There’s a picture from the opening of the new Capitol in KC, where the people aren’t really visible or at least not in a way that is over-detailed, but the crowd still seems to shift from where they had been at times.

“I have destroyed some of my own pictures before, I make multiple prints and get rid of them sometimes. Remember that rich socialite in KC— I forget her name— How many prints did I have to do before she was satisfied?”

The secretary swivels her chair around and shrugs. “I don’t know. It felt like hundreds. She paid for every single one. They change all the time I don’t know what she didn’t like about them.”

“It was the background— she kept changing her mind on how her clothes and the background looked— she wanted the perfect picture.” And apparently had the money to pay for it. “We can dig up her number, but I destroy them myself because of the chemicals. It’s hard to find a safe recycler for them these days.” And because he knows how to do it safely, which a lot of people don’t. “We already have enough pollution right now.” As for the other big question— he looks toward the group photographs, “I’ve only had the ability for about a year. We could do a check and see if anyone I still have a photograph of has died… I’d say the group shots, like these, would have the best chances, but— there’s no way of knowing who all was in these.”

Elisabeth is listening intently to the descriptions, but there's a thoughtful look in her face. "That's a good idea, Agent Gerken — please make sure he gets one?"

The fact that the photographer has destroyed photos pretty much answers the idea of whether damaging the photo damages the subject of the photo somehow. She rather expected that answer to be 'no' — otherwise the troublesome client would be gone, not still demanding more and different photos and there would be a string of dead people — but it was something that had to be checked. Looking toward the other agents, she gives a tip of her chin toward the photos on the walls. "Take a look and see if anything hits you guys?" Like maybe someone looking like what one would expect a prepared corpse for a funeral to look like or something!

Returning her attention to Royce, she asks, "Do you keep negatives of your special photos? And do you have to develop them in any different ways from your more mundane images?"

“What’s the procedure for destroying other prints or negatives?” Elliot asks as Wright walks along the line of photos, looking for descriptions and dates. Elliot is curious for professional and academic reasons, though he also feels like he should be remembering something related to what Royce has just said.

“I’ll have one sent over to him to see if he can pick up a connection,” Lance says with a dip of his head, smiling a bit wider at the praise. There are plenty of questions already being asked, so he moves over to the photographs instead to start peering through them.

He’s not sure what he’s expecting to find. A corpse standing in one of them?

“There’s multiple methods, but usually an incinerator works fine as long as it’s filtered properly, you just shouldn’t throw photos away where it might come into contact with groundwater— not that the water around here isn’t already polluted enough as it is…” Royce shakes his head, looking toward the pictures of the city that he’s taken, whole landscapes of the rivers. These don’t seem to move, but those tended to be special pictures, requiring special attention.

“Kenn, why don’t you find that paperwork while I take these officers somewhere we can sit and talk for the rest of these questions. Standing around is probably making you all as tired as it’s making me…”

The photograph of Royce on the wall, when no one was looking, closed its eyes, forehead creasing, almost as if, for a moment as if it might have a headache, though this doesn’t seem to show on the face of the man before them. It’s gone again in the blink of an eye, replaced by a blue-eyed smile.

Much Later

The basement of the studio holds much of the behind the scenes work for the photographer Charlie Royce. It is the home of the incinerator, burning quietly in the background, melting photograph paper and developing chemicals of another picture. A picture of a young woman sitting in the park with her dog. A photograph of a couple together. A photograph of a cheerleading team of a local school. All of them had once moved, until the fire started to burn them away, unless someone had been watching them.

They were special. They had held a piece of something. He could almost feel it fading away now, as the fire took them, dissipating into the air, returning somewhere unknown.

He hadn’t felt it before, but he could feel it now.

The screen of his phone flickered. An old friend’s contact popped up.

N. They’ll be stopping by soon. They’re good.

Royce reached down and typed in a response.

R: Are they stopping by in person?

"Fascinating setup you have here."

So it would seem.

The man who appears to have materialized out of thin air stands with his hands in the pockets of his slacks, suitjacket still buttoned. With an aloof look about him, he casts a closer look around the space, green-grey eyes reflecting the light. "Given your curious situation, I decided to bypass the door. I hope you don't mind."

Languidly, he turns to face Royce properly.


The dots don’t get to manifest into a real message before Royce looks away and takes in a slow breath of surprise. “No, that’s quite all right. I’m glad you came by. My friend said you would be good, and discrete— that you’ve done jobs similar to this in the past… I need you to get back a few things that used to belong to me…”

There’s a slow exhale, as Royce looks back toward the fire burning, and the pictures that melted away. The one that caught his eye was one of a highly recognizable man. A proof he had not used in the end but had kept for himself, signed by the man he had taken a picture of on the old frame. That he had burned too. The recognizable smile and white hair greeted him, reminding him briefly of one of the proudest days of his life…

Then he looks back at the man, who somehow knew how to get through doors and locks and— well— that was the point?

“How do you feel about robbing the President?”


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License