Do Not Enter


bowie_icon.gif joe_icon.gif lance_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif

Scene Title Do Not Enter
Synopsis Agent Lin enters the Safe Zone's sewers in search of answers, and finds far more than he bargained for.
Date March 14, 2018

The New York Safe Zone does not have an independent public works department. Access to the city’s sewer system is handled directly through Yamagato Industries, and it is through their civil contractors that SESA Agent Bowie Lin prepares to officially step in to the underworld of New York.

Streetside in Red Hook, two Yamagato Industries vans are parked outside the high brick walls of the Red Hook Market. Construction saw horses are placed around the manhole cover in the street and floor lights have been set up around the entrance. Several Yamagato workers and two Company representatives loiter around the open entrance. One of the men in a business suit stands on his phone making sure that every t is crossed and i dotted on the release forms Agent Lin had to sign before delving down.

They'd told him the sewer systems were in poor shape. He did not realize how great of an understatement that was until his arrival.

Red Hook Sewers

NYC Safe Zone

A laminated paper map of the sewer system and a flashlight are the two most critical pieces of technology in Agent Lin’s repertoire. This far below the city, radio contact is muted and phone service unavailable. The sewer tunnels beneath Red Hook are in a harrowing state of disrepair. Pipes are ruptured from age and catastrophe, some are flooded with debris from buildings, piles of plastic waste, and as a flashlight sweeps across one pile of garbage… bones.

A partial human skeleton greets Agent Lin sixteen feet past the street entrance. It is just a tangle of unrecognizable bones — two femurs and a partial pelvis — likely having washed into the sewers during the civil war. They will need to be removed and identified later. Bowie’s map is not up to date, published in 2009 by the New York City Department of Public Works. It does not reflect the erosion damage from the 2010 freak winter storm, the damage from riots and civil war when the sewers were used to move people and munitions, the damage from years of abandonment.

For all that Yamagato Industries got the sewers working again, massive stretches of it are in considerable disrepair and states of decay. It will be years before the city above is repaired fully, and years more before the sewers aren't a frightening labyrinth of entropy.

But the sewers are not dead. Far from it. Cockroaches and rats rule this subterranean realm. A dozen rats scattered on Bowie’s entrance and the cockroaches seem less deterred. Ahead, a round tunnel marked by non-functional lights in the ceiling leads toward what should be the Red Hook market.

It is likely that Bowie got his partner to agree to come here under somewhat false pretences. Misleading pretences, at least. And worse, because for a while, Bowie was taking the time to mark major changes to the sewers on his map and really drawing this whole trip out.

But he isn't doing that now. The last mark is circled, though, so they might be able to come back for those bones at some point. But notetaking seems to be how he was able to processes exactly what they walked into. He knew it would be bad, but he didn't know it would be this. The cockroaches and rats aren't paid much attention— they were expected. He stands at an intersection, flashlight pointed at his map, which is folded up to display their current location.

You Are Here.

Sorry about it.

"I'm pretty sure," he says, lifting his light toward the ceiling and then down to the tunnel in front of him, "that this is the way we want to go." The flashlight moves, first to find his partner's feet, then lifting enough for him to see without blinding him. "You doing alright back there, Rhys?"

“There is no world in which I am doing alright, Agent Lin.” Shoulders hunched and eyes wide, Agent Rhys Bluthner is bundled up in a white nylon clean suit, complete with plastic sheath boots and a full plastic visor hood. Usually, these suits are reserved for biohazard operations like chemical spills, but it didn’t take too much convincing to apply that to his current situation. His voice is muffled behind the plastic, silhouette bulky under the liquid-resistant material.

Shining his flashlight in Bowie’s eyes, briefly, Rhys adds. “We are in a sewer!” Then, comes the usual protesting stamp one one foot — into a puddle of gray filth that splashes up the inside of his boots and runs down in thick rivulets. Rhys gags, lurches, and waves his flashlight around in the dark helplessly. “ohmygodohmygod.” The sound of Rhys’ displeasure is muted within the crumbling brickwork of the sewer.

Down the tunnel, the path branches out into a fork. One heads out toward the Hudson river. According to Bowie’s map, that ends at a drainage grate at about river level. There’s a distant light spilling down that tunnel. Instead, he takes the right fork, continuing under the Red Hook Market. Up ahead, there’s old spray paint markings on the walls. The word FORTIS is written in large black lettering, most of which is covered by black mold and sludge. The tunnel continues ahead.

"To be fair," Bowie says at Rhys' protests, "It's not much of a sewer." He blinks his eyes a few times, trying to clear away the afterimage of that flash of light. "Headquarters has showers. If they're good enough for a biohazard leak, they're good enough for this." Are they, though? Maybe. He hides a smile by turning away from Rhys and heading deeper into the tunnels. It wouldn't do anyone any good for him to look amused at anything happening down here.

"Come on, Bluthner, the faster we move, the faster this is over, right?"

And into the dark. His flashlight sweeps the area ahead, his notes turning mental instead of actually stopping to write them down. The map is consulted, though, just to make sure he's keeping them on the right track.

As Bowie and Bluthner follow the tunnel, they hit a gradual curve that — according to the map — should be under the main market concourse. Small drains in the ceiling roughly six inches across shed light through narrow openings. The noise above of market patrons echoes through the tunnels. But when Bowie finishes the curve, something unexpected gives him pause.

Eight Minutes Earlier

Hudson Riverbanks

The slate gray sky offers no greeting other than a faint dusting of snow covering the ground. The air by the river is cold, and where a concrete drainage pipe opens up to the Hudson river the smell of sewage mixes with the chemical miasma lingering off of the Hudson’s despoiled water. With the number of chemical plants and power substations that were destroyed during the war, the number of vehicles dropped into the river when the bridges fell, the oil-slick sheen on the Hudson is the least of its pollutants.

For Joe Winters and Lance Gerken, the riverbank provides opportunity. The grate here was long ago unseated by Ferrymen smugglers during the days before the war, tunnels Joe and Lance grew up hearing stories about. It’s no small surprise that they find it, with the stenciled fish still spray-painted on a nearby rock to indicate the location’s importance. The tunnel is dark, dripping with a thin trail of foul liquid, and into its lightless depths — mystery.

A respirator mask with fresh filters - purloined with another matching mask from Caspian’s art supplies - conceals half of Lance’s face, while the other half is shadowed by the edge of a hood. Hoodie, jeans and all have been colored thanks to Brynn’s ability in mottled greys and blacks and off-whites, urban camouflage. A duffle bag’s slung over his shoulder, and there’s a revolver tucked into his belt. What he’s holding is a crowbar, though, because he figures that might be useful down here.

“Close it up behind you,” he says to Joe, spreading out his silence field through the area to keep any noises they might make from leaving their personal vicinity, “And get a light up.”

Joe has brought wader boots with him. He's not sure how much good they'll do him, but he's brought them. Or rather he's wearing them. He's also dressed himself in a trash bag, well several trash bags, taped around his body to act like a makeshift hazmat suit and hopefully keep the worst of the evil off of him and his clothes. It's probably going to fail miserably. He moves along at a slow pace after closing the grate up behind them, turning his flashlight on and checking his other weapons to make sure they're in place. He's not heavily armed, just a well maintained Glock purloined from Brian's collection before he left Canada, and a sturdy Ka-Bar. The gun is in a holster on his belt, and the knife is the same on the other hip. He's walking along behind Lance, trusting him to silence them to anyone outside of their little bubble. It's standard practice for them when they're sneaking about.

“This is so totally not primal down here. This is gross, and disgusting. Why would you let me convince you to come down here Lance? What is wrong with you?" Joe mutters as they walk along. He's trying not to splash too much lest he get it on Lance or on himself. "So… lessee.." He has his own map, non laminated that he's looking at. An old ferry map. Probably also purloined from Canada before coming here. "So the sewers go… this way. And… yeah turn left up ahead." He calls to Lance as they walk along. "Think we'll find anything down here? Will you float too Lance?"

Lance is wearing wader boots as well, but not so much the trash bag chic look that his friend’s decided will work for the best down here. It’s a sewer, it’s going to be messy. Of course, it probably helps when you’re agile enough not to step in the worst bits, and to jump from spot to spot if needed.

“This was your idea,” he reminds Joe with a roll of his eyes, voice muffled by the mask, “Look, the Market should be in… that direction, I think?” A glance to confirm, since he’s the one with the map, and he walks down the deep pipe entrance, keeping to one side to avoid the worst of the dripping liquid.

The tunnels are as disgusting as imagined, slick with filth and full of stale, repulsive air. Deeper in the breeze from the drain is nonexistent and the stench of sewage is eye-watering. Streaks of black sludge run down the curving walls, black mold cakes old and broken lights embedded in the ceiling.

Up ahead the tunnel forks. According to Joe’s hand-drawn map of the New York sewer system, the right fork leads away from the market and follows old Ferry smuggling tunnels out to Coney Island. The left fork leads under the Market, and as they turn down that path—

— someone is standing in the flashlight’s path —

When the flashlight sweeps over the correct path, there is a ten year old boy standing there watching Joe and Lance. He's a little tan, with a mop of curly hair and wrinkled clothes. His shoes are worn and old looking, and he has a thin gold chain necklace that looks a little too nice.

The boy smiles, as if this isn't a weird encounter at all. “Are— you guys lost too?” He asks in a hushed voice, brows raised nervously.

Oh cuz that's not creepy at all. Little boy, standing in the sewers, with no flashlightly and no apparent map. Wearing a… gold chain? Okay that bit is odd. Joe taps Lance on the shoulder a few or five times, as if his buddy didn't already notice the little kid standing in the middle of the sewer. "Bro. Bro tell me you see that and it's not just me? Tell me you see the creepy kid alone in the sewer with no flashlight. Also you should probably drop your silence bubble if we're going to talk to him." WHy would Joe want to talk to him? Cuz reasons.

"Uhh well… no we're not lost actually. Are you lost? We can help you find your way out. It's actually not far. I'm Joe. This is Lance." He gestures at his best bud standing next to him. "We're looking for some people. Do you… come down here a lot?" Yes Joe, lets engage the random creepy child in the sewer. That's a great idea. Horror movie 101 right there.

“Do you think he’s lost? Or do you think he lives down here? Maybe he’s part of the whole thing Lance? Or maybe he’s a ghost? Do you believe in ghosts? I believe in ghosts. That gold chain is way too not dirty for a kid in a sewer. You see that?” Joe nudges Lance again a couple of times. Cuz no Lance hasn’t seen that, and Joe is going to make sure he has. Even if he already has.

The silence field is, of course, dropped as soon as Joe starts to talk to the kid — even if Lance is getting that creepy oh god a ghost feeling in his gut as well. Because there’s a smiling ten year old standing there in the dark as if this is perfectly normal.

“You thought Salem was a ghost too,” he mutters to Joe. Of course, so did he. He clears his throat, stepping forward, “Uh, how’d you even get down here, kiddo?”

The child looks up, not at Lance or Joe, but at something behind them. There's a splashing sound, silence, then the flash of a light on the wall. “I followed them,” the boy says softly, pointing behind the older kids.

And Now

Bowie’s flashlight shines across three forms in the tunnel up ahead. Two immediately familiar as the young men from the market — Joe and Lance — who were insistent on digging into the food disappearances. But the third boy, much younger, is at first a cypher. Until he turns and disappears through the sewer tunnel wall like a ghost.

Holy shit!” Rhys shrieks, frightened by both the sudden revelation that they weren't alone in the sewer and the boy’s sudden phasing truck. He clutches a gloved hand at his chest, breathing heavily.

In truth, Bowie jerks in surprise at first, too. But Rhys' reaction makes him have to cover a laugh with a well-placed cough. "No cause for alarm, Agent Bluthner. These are what we call children," he says, his tone serious, as if Rhys might really not know what the small boy is. Or was. The others aren't strictly children, but close enough for government work. "The notes on this case are on a giant wall, Rhys. Come on, at least pretend to read them." The phasing kid gets a mention! Maybe two!

He sighs, though, because he recognizes the leftover figures ahead of them. "I seem to recall," he says, raising his voice enough to be heard, "telling you to not do this exact thing." After spooking the younger one (the wall also notes that Bowie looks too much like a Fed), he steps forward toward Joe and Lance. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh! Totally Primal! He's a phaser! Or a ghost…" Joe glances past the kid at the two guys and the hazmat suit. "Uhhh… Seesaw. I think it's time to split." Joe looks left at Lance, then down the tunnel towards the agent, then back to Lance. "There's a tunnel back that way, branches towards where the kid went." Joe looks at his broninja, then he turns and he splits, tearing ass back down the tunnel to an earlier turn before ducking into it and hustling down that tunnel as well before hanging a left and then another right. "This should send us in the direction the kid went!" Yup. Joe is hunting the phasing kid. He does pull out his map as he runs, trying to run, not smack into things, and read the map all at the same time. He's not terribly successful at any of them.

“Bro, you’ve silenced us right? So they can’t track us by hearing? PLease tell me you did. I mean I assume you did, but sometimes assuming makes an ass out of you and me. I think… I think that’s something Brian said once. Or maybe it was Aunt Gilly. I don’t know. It was someone. That used to say that. So… yes.” Of course if Lance hasn’t silenced them as they ran then they’re going to be a little bit screwed since he’s shouting and giving their position away.

“He’s not a ghost,” Lance insists with a low hiss to the other teenager before slowly looking back towards the pair of SESA agents coming down the tunnel, hands coming up as if to show that he’s unarmed. He’s totally not unarmed, his gun is right there but at least he’s not holding it. “Oh, uh, well you see, officer— ”

Then Joe takes off running. Oh god damn it.

He looks at Joe, looks back at Rhys and Bowie. Back to Joe, rapidly disappearing down a tunnel. Then back to the agents with an almost apologetic sort of ‘what can you do’ motion with his hands before turning and sprinting after him.

Get back here you can’t hide from him you idiot he knows where we live,” is the declaration from the taller of the two teenagers as he tries to catch up with his friend and stop him. Splashing down the tunnel in hot pursuit, silence field absolutely not active.

Rhys isn't laughing. In fact, Rhys looks sheet white under his otherwise white NBC suit. He looks at Bowie, wide-eyed even after Joe and Lance are running off. Then, a huff of breath and a shaky exhalation. “B-Bowie— Bowie— ” Rhys just keeps shaking his head, brows raised and hands trembling. “He didn't— he didn't have any shadows. He didn't have— he was just— ”

Phasers who are actively phasing usually don't cast physical shadows. But those aren't what Rhys is talking about. “We— we have to go after those kids!” Voice cracking, Rhys pushes past Bowie and starts to run after Joe and Lance. He isn't following Bowie’s map, he's following the noises Lance isn't hiding.

Up ahead, Joe and Lance follow the phasing child’s projected path successfully. Joe’s instincts pay off and the offshoot passage that leads to an old public water maintenance conduit is also a dead end. Directly above there is an opening to a metal-lined tunnel with a sewer grate over it, leading directly to the main parking lot outside of the Red Hook Market, nearby to where Bowie and Rhys first came in.

The boy is waiting there, dark eyes leveled up on Joe and Lance as they arrive. He seems nervous, though, but quietly he motions over to an old waterlogged and mold-splotched mattress resting partly up against a wall, hiding something. There's empty cans on the floor in here, rusted. A backpack splotched with mold rests nearby to the mattress. It looks like someone may have lived down here.

Not more than a moment later, Rhys comes skidding behind Joe and Lance, eyes wide in horror. The boy looks at Rhys, wordlessly and then— disappears. He doesn't phase, he just fizzles out like smoke in the wind.

Bowie only gives Lance a disappointed look, since he is soon distracted by Joe running and his partner's unsteady breaths. The fact that Rhys doesn't relax after seeing that it wasn't a monster makes Bowie look back to him. Concerned. "Rhys?" He steps over, gloved hand moving to Rhys' shoulder. But then he's off, too, and Bowie's left behind in their wake.

But not for long, as he starts after them all in a run that is unconcerned about what his boots are landing in. He's not following his map, either, but is trying to keep their twists and turns in his head. In an effort not to get lost. He's relying on Rhys to keep the boys in sight. When they all come to a stop, all that effort is lost as Bowie watches the boy disappear.

"Hang on," he says to no one in particular, his brow furrowing. "I thought he was a phaser." It wouldn't be the first time a witness got their information wrong. He steps forward, reaching out to pull the mattress out of the way. To see what it's hiding.

"Gerken, Winters. Let Bluthner handle the backpack." He doesn't say that it's because it could be dangerous. But it could be. Or just gross, maybe.

Joe turns a corner and pulls to an abrupt stop as he sees the kid around the corner. "LANCE I FOUND HIM!" He turns to shout over his shoulder, then looks back at the kid. He walks forwards slowly towards the mattress and the little living area. There's a frown that pulls at his features. "Oh please don't be a ghost. Please don't be a ghost." Joe murmurs as he walks closer to the mattress. He'll just step over and pull the mattress away from the wall. "Hey no wait!" Joe reaches towards the kid when he disappears. "Dangit!"

Joe turns to glare over his shoulder in the direction of whoever made the kid disappear like that. There's a heavy huff from him. "I wasn't running away from the agents. I was running after the kid." Joe remarks back at Lance as if that makes up for the fact that… he was totally running away from the agents. He turns then, back towards the bed and whatever is hidden behind the mattress. "Bulletproof." He calls back to Bowie to remind him. "Thought he was a phaser too. Maybe psychic projection? I really hope it's that and that that poor kid didn't die down here." Please don't be a ghost. But yeah he totally pulls the mattress away from the wall before jumping back to reveal whatever it was hiding.

“Damn it, Joe, get…” Lance all but skids to a halt as they reach the room, “…back here. Hey, kid, look, we’re not going to…” And then, of course, the child disappears.

“Uh.” Above that respirator mask, Gerken’s pale as a sheet now as he stares at the tableau before them, which looks for all the world like a classic ghost story. “Please tell me that kid didn’t die of exposure here and that was his ghost leading us to his body or something, Agent Bowie, because I really was pretty sure there wasn’t such a thing as ghosts and NO JOE DO— “

He quickly drops back a step as the mattress is pulled away. He’s totally expecting a corpse.

As Rhys was moving for the backpack, Joe hauls the upended and moldy mattress over. It lands with a noisy slap on the floor, kicking up a cloud of dust and spores from the mold caked to the other side. Rhys recoils from the backpack, and moreover recoils because his fears were affirmed.

Lance gets what he was expecting.

There is a horrifying corpse of a boy behind the mattress, dead for an untold amount of time due to the conditions of the sewer. What is immediately obvious, however, is that his corpse has been picked apart by scavengers. There is barely any meat left on his bones, and what bones are visible through the yellowed filth collected on them have tiny tooth marks in them. There are dark stains on the wall and ground around where he lay, gnarled and half-eaten hands covering his face. Bowie, rather immediately, suspects the bite marks were not post-mortem. Rhys stumble-staggers back, sucking in a sharp breath and exhaling a faint noise somewhere between a whine and a hiss.

Around the corpse’s neck is a thin gold chain necklace.

"Bullets aren't what I'm worried about," Bowie comments. And then he watches as the body is revealed. He steps over to move Joe back some and crouches down next to the body. What's left of it. He doesn't touch anything, but he examines what he can see. And then he pulls out his phone. The flashlight comes on, to light the area as he takes pictures of the scene. The body, the dark stains. And the necklace.

Leaving the light on, he picks up the chain carefully between two fingers for a better look at it.

"We're the first people to find him," he states, glancing back to the boy's hands and face. He doesn't speak his other observations. Instead he looks over at Rhys. "Bluthner. Do you want to go topside and call this in? We'll have to examine all this." He's giving the other agent an out, if he is inclined to take it.

Yes, this was about the food. But now it's about something more.

"He didn't die of exposure." That's all he can say to help Lance out, really. "I don't think he's a ghost, not in the horror movie sense, anyway. But he might be astral projecting. Or something along those lines." Caught outside the body, in one fashion or another. Maybe. "I'm sorry you have to see this," he says. Maybe to all three of them. After all, this wasn't what he was expecting when he asked Rhys to come with him.

Joe well… Joe finds what he was expecting to find. He finds what he was hoping he wouldn't find. But he does find what he expected. The mattress is pulled to the side and he lets out a long sigh. "Agent Lin… I found something I want to report." Is said in a somber tone. He doesn't move towards the skeleton, or disturb anything else. He steps back away from the scene, leaving the poor boy's body alone so that the experts can come down and assess what happened.

Joe's head dips slowly, and sadly to Bowie's statement. "Probably a telepathic or astral ghost of some kind. Like the technopaths. Well some of the technopaths. How they can survive the death of their body." Joe's voice has gone strained as he fights back emotion at seeing that boy, curled there defensively. He died horribly. "Someone covered up the body with the mattress?" Joe asks of Bowie, peering at it, then at the boy's body. Otherwise they wouldn't have been able to get at him like that… so we're not the first ones to find it." Joe sighs softly and shakes his head, standing up and walking a few more steps away. "Death is nothing new to us Agent Lin."

“That’s still a ghost,” Lance points out with slightly wide eyes as he stares at the body in a bit of horror, “That’s— that’s the literal definition of a ghost! A consciousness surviving the death of the body!” He does have a point. One has to wonder what churches think of that sort of post-death survival in certain Evolved…

He steps forward, not to interfere with the scene but to pull Joe back away from it. Definitely not as an excuse to get a comforting arm around his friend, no, not that. He swallows once, hard, definitely pale behind his mask as he says, “There’s a— a necklace, maybe it could help identify— whoever he was?”

Someone else can get it. Sure, they’re used to death. Doesn’t mean it isn’t creepy as hell.

Blue eyes wide and as silent as a grave, Rhys belatedly squares his focus on Bowie and awkwardly levels a nod to him. “There’s— there’s nothing I can do here for him. He’s— there’s no shadows,” he reiterates, looking away from the corpse. “Whatever we saw, it’s him, but it’s… it’s also not. It’s like some… I…” Rhys doesn’t finish his thought, instead of wanders away from the scene entirely, lurching as he does.

The body lays in a twisted heap, likely frozen in the horrific position of its final throes. Whatever happened here happened with agonizing quality. The tunnels are quiet, save for the retreating sounds of Rhys’ splashing footfalls as he makes his way back to their original entry point. He doesn’t radio ahead, he doesn’t call out to anyone. He needs time, and space. And a shower.

Whoever the child was, whatever happened to him here, happened before the food went missing. For as much as the ghost that haunts the Red Hook Market is a phantom, he’s no phantom thief.

"Maybe. Or whoever killed him also hid him. And also wasn't interested in jewelry." Bowie looks over at Rhys, taking him in for a moment. His state. When he goes, Bowie watching, maybe making sure he isn't about to fall over. But then he looks back to the two boys. "How familiar you are with death isn't the point. How bulletproof you are isn't the point. At the very least we have no idea what evidence you two kicked over running around down here and more importantly the response to being familiar with death is not more death."

At least Lance seems to understand.

With a sigh, Bowie shifts, turning to take a few pictures of the backpack, too, before he reaches over to open it up. His flashlight is pointed down at the contents, his back angling to block the others from having to see it. Bowie isn't very optimistic about what might be in there.

It won't be a clue to the thefts. But maybe to who this boy was. And who might be missing him.

Joe really doesn't need pulling back away from the scene, he's stepped clear of it. He's not going to go digging around around some poor kid's body LANCE. But he does accept the arm that's put around his shoulders, slinging one around his brother's as well. He turns his head, looking over at Bowie and his shoulders lift in a half shrug. "Welcome to the new world? Where kids are familiar with death and find it commonplace?" He puffs out a cheek though and then sighs. "Yes Lance that is the definition of a ghost. Though there are different kinds of ghosts too. But…"

Joe glances over to Rhys and nods his head slowly. "I dont' think… he's our thief though. He's been dead too long." Joe's lips press into a thin line as he peers at the body and the scene. "If you have a funeral for him, or cremate him or… well I guess… keep me up to date? I mean as much as you can." This to Bowie, Joe now feeling a sense of responsibility for the kid. "I hope he's still alive I mean… well the projection. Like some technopaths are…" Joe does snort softly and wave a hand. "No more evidence than you'd have kicked over on your way here, or the guys who are going to come down here to investigate and stomp all over everything between the scene and their entrance."

Joe watches Bowie snapping the pictures, then looks to Lance and then back to Bowie. "So… we're just gonna… go on home… if that's okay Agent Lin…." Joe's eyes shift right, then left, then back to Bowie, hopeful they don't' have to stick around in the sewer and wait for backup and make statements and stuff.

It might have been Joe who was most gung-ho about coming down here in the first place, but it’s Lance that seems to want to see things through to the end. “I mean, he just disappeared… you’d think he’d have tried to explain something, right,” he asks his friend with a frown, glancing around, “Hey, uh— kid? I mean, you can just tell us what happened, who— what killed you, you know? We’d help catch whatever asshole did it.”

It’s got to be murder. Natural causes don’t leave ghosts, everyone knows that!

He steps back a little at Joe’s words, but he does get up on his toes and crane his neck to try and get a glimpse at the backpack as Bowie’s poking into it with his camera.

Bowie comes up from the backpack with two old pairs of socks, other assorted clothes for someone around the boy’s age, and… a Linderman Act Registration card. It's grimy and worn, but as Bowie flips it around in his hand and he finds a photograph of a boy only slightly younger than the one he'd seen disappear from the room.

William DeLuca
Registered Evolved; Tier-1
Psychic Projection

Below is an address in Harlem, now a smoldering part of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. There's nothing else in the backpack save for a flashlight with dead batteries.

Lance’s attempt at a sewer-seance is answered with silence. Silence ame the shuffle-scuffing of Rhys’ plastic-booted feet coming back into the room. Held with a pair of wooden tongs with rubber tips for picking up evidence, Rhys holds a mangled aluminum can that has not rusted or deteriorated. “Agent Lin,” Rhys’ tone is tense. “You're going to want to see this.”

Bowie doesn't have much to say to Joe. Or to Lance, really. He pulls out that card, outdated, old. And young, too young. The boy's picture is noted, his name, but the address is what gets a defeated sigh from the agent. But after a moment, he pulls an evidence bag out of a pocket to slide the card into. And that he keeps with him. The rest, he seems content to let a recovery team handle. He stands and looks over to Lance. "I'll keep you in the loop. If he talks to you, let him know that we're trying to help."

He glances over to Joe, but before he says anything, Rhys comes to cut in. Bowie looks that way, frowning at Rhys' tone more than his words. "Go home," he says to Joe, a belated answer, "SESA will be combing this area soon." More than they already are. There's a final glance back to the boy's body, then he moves to join Rhys.

"Show me."

Joe looks over at Lance, tipping his head a little bit, slowly, his frown still in place as he looks around the sewer slowly. "What a miserable awful place to die. And I hope he's still around. I hope he knows we'll make sure that his remains are taken care of and… yeah." Joe's cheeks puff out as he thinks, eyes wandering around. He starts looking around the stonework, looking for marks from a gun or something else that may have killed the poor kid.

He watches stuff come out of the backpack and he lets out a long sigh, then he crowds a little closer, peeking at the ID. "He… damn. He probably died even before the war… He might have been down here dead when we were safe in the Lighthouse." Joe shoots a pained look over his shoulder at Lance, his jaw tight at that thought, but he takes a deep breath, then lets it out and nods his head.

"I bet that necklace was important to him. Could be a focus of some kind. Don't know how his power worked. I would make sure someone doesn't steal that. And dont' assure me your people wouldn't do that." Joe does turn his head when Rhys comes over and has something in the can. Joe doesn't leave right away yet, instead he crowds a bit closer, trying to see what's in the can as well. Joe doesn't always do what's best for him. Sometimes curiosity definitely gets the cat.

“Hey, they’re not grave robbers,” Lance sharply whispers with a nudge against Joe’s shoulder, “They’re not just going to steal the poor kid’s shit, Jesus.” The urging from Bowie has him moving towards the exit again, though the sudden reappearance of Rhys and his clean suit has him pausing as well.

Aluminum can, not rusted— “Is that from the food stores, officer?”

Neither Rhys nor Bowie immediately answer Lance’s question, and while the two linger nearby to William’s corpse, Bowie and Rhys don't wind up going very far. In fact, they wind up right nearby to where the boy first appeared to them at the junction. “I was on my way out,” Rhys explains to Bowie, “and I got turned around and took a wrong tunnel, and that's when I found this…”

What reveals itself to Bowie is inexplicable. In a room adjacent to where William’s body was found, he finds the missing food, or at least the containers therein. Directly below the storage room, an entire sewer tunnel is packed nearly floor to ceiling with shredded, torn, ruptured, or otherwise opened and ravaged containers. There's scraps of food everywhere, from grains of rice to moldering spots of sugar and flower in drier areas. But nothing is intact, and other than scraps there's no actual food there.

Rhys shines his flashlight up at the pile, nearly a ton of food all emptied from their containers. “What…” he says in a soft voice, “do you suppose did that.

When Rhys leads him to what he's found, Bowie stands in the doorway to the room, his hands on his hips. He takes it in, the scraps and the packaging and the implications, and hangs his head for a long moment.

He had been hoping to find the food intact. Not this.

But then he lifts his head and steps into the room. His flashlight sweeps the area, pictures are taken, containers are prodded. It takes him a long time to answer Rhys. "There was a bookseller whose stock was all shredded up," he notes. But then his train of thought switches. "Why would you steal the food and do this? It doesn't make any sense. You'd make more selling it. You'd be safer storing it for yourself. Unless… someone stole it and put it here, planning to move it in smaller batches to avoid attention… and then some animals got to it?" Bad luck all around, there. He looks over at Rhys like even he doesn't buy into his own theory. "Or someone just wanted to dick us all over."

Agent Lin isn't known for unprofessional language. But sometimes it slips out. Like now.

"Did you manage to get any cell service? We've got some calls to make." He pulls out his map, using his light to find their current location and then uses a wall to make some notes. What was found where. What can be recovered. What can't.

Joe follows along, not to be left out of what is going on. They're down here already after all. So they follow back, being quiet for once as he walks along at the heels of the agents, stopping when he sees all the food. His eyes go wide at all of it, destroyed and ruined. He looks back at Lance as if to confirm he's not seeing things, then looks back at the food. "THis doesn't.. but this doesn't make sense." He echoes Bowie's statement, his head turning, features scrunched as he looks at the two agents, back to Lance and then back to the food once more. A hand lifts up, fingers rubbing at his forehead in confusion. He doesn't advance into the scene, he hangs back, but boy does he want to go investigate.

"Is it some kind of mutant rat infestation oh god… maybe… maybe that… cuz the boy was… eaten and maybe it's his ghost lashing out? But a ghost couldn't drag this down here. But if it was already down here maybe…? Cuz torn to shreds, like a rat might? I don't…" Joe frowns further. "Unless you had access to food and knew you could come in and sell it for an absolute premium if there was a shortage…" Joe whispers, his voice going angry. Very angry. But it fades quickly enough since they don't have a good working theory yet. "We can ask around, see if anyone else has had stuff shredded up like this." Joe pans his flashlight over the destroyed packages. "But there's no food. The foods been eaten, or taken somewhere else… so… what? What? What is…" Joe huffs and shakes his head a little bit. "Should we get going Lance?"

Of course Lance was following along too, trailing after the agents to investigate whatever it was that Rhys found. His eyes widen as well as he looks around the tunnel, at all the shredded packaging and the lingering scraps of food on the walls and floor. “I don’t know, this doesn’t make any sense…” He steps closer, crouching down to pick up a torn-open box of rice, turning it over… and then he suddenly drops it.

It doesn’t make a sound when it hits the ground. He’s so shaken that his power snapped on for a moment, drowning out that noise in unnatural silence.

Then he’s quickly straightening and almost stumbling backwards, stammering, “O-officers? I think we should get out of the sewers. I think we should all get out of the sewers right now.”

Rhys didn't need the fear in Lance’s voice to believe they should've left the sewers. The look he gives at Lance’s assertion in one of tacit agreement, however. “There's no service down here, I— we should get topside.”

In the glow of flashlights, the shredded heap of torn cans, ruptured boxes, shredded sacks, and food detritus provides no further answers. The boy’s horrifically mutilated corpse likewise presents more questions than it does answers. But in the long shadows of bones and boxes, there is a subtle warning provided to the SESA agents and civilians who have come down here.

An warning clearer than the muddied answers they found:

Do not enter.

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