Goonies Never Say Die


brynn_icon.gif lance_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Goonies Never Say Die
Synopsis Their intent was to start mapping the sewers. Maybe they should have taken the warnings about the sewers a little more seriously.
Date May 27, 2018

Williamsburg is a model of what Safe Zone renovation can look like. This former neighborhood of Brooklyn looks much as it did before the civil war, with its manicured parks, brownstones, and businesses. Though the shattered back of the Brooklyn Bridge does little to aid that image, there is enough similarities to believe that everything will be alright. But Williamsburg’s current condition can be likened to slapping a fresh coat of paint over a patch of rust on an old car…

All it does is hide structural problems.

Sewer Tunnels

Below Williamsburg

NYC Safe Zone

10:32 am

Below the city, New York is still rotting. Like an embalmed corpse dressed up for a funeral, the Safe Zone is decaying inside. This decay is most evident in coastal sewers where century-old brickwork is crumbling away as though it were made of sand. Recent yellow spray paint by Yamagato contractors Mark areas of structural concern, orange marks indicate active power conduits, blue paint marks water.

In late October of 2012, when the civil war had laid waste to New York, a hurricane named Sandy swept up from the mid-Atlantic, bringing with it torrential rain and storm surge that demolished what was left of coastal New York. This storm tore through the city’s already damaged sewers and powerful water pressure broke apart ancient sewer architecture and put further strain on the newer construction. All of New York is sitting on a rickety foundation of crumbling stone, one that is slow to repair and even slower to reclaim.

But that peril does not stop the sweep of a flashlight from disrupting this place’s silence. It does not stop the splashing footfalls of young adults come wandering into the lightless depths of the city’s decaying underbelly. Their voices echo down the crumbling brick tunnel, where a flashlight sweeps over older spray-painted signs in red that look like crude boats with triangular sails. Old Ferrymen smuggling signs.

It's hard to tell how long they've been down here, what with the passage of time relegated to watches rather than the movement of the sun. Squeaks can tell, though. She knows this place well.

The tunnels that make up the maze work of sewers and subways have been home for a long time. And as such, there’s a definite ease for Squeaks belowground that she doesn’t usually have above. Even with all its dangers. But that doesn’t make her overconfident. Like aboveground where kids learn to look before crossing the street and not to poke their fingers at strange dogs, she’s quick to point out the bad areas to Lance and Brynn.

Like that water that looks more black and sludgy than just really murky. “You probably don’t want to step in that.” And it’s probably better to go around those piles where the water collected trash as it drained away. “Sometimes things hide there.”

But generally, the younger girl doesn’t seem all that afraid of what’s in the Underneath. Or with how long they’ve been gone. It isn’t sleeping time, and she’s not hungry, so there’s nothing to worry about right now. Squeaks has also kind of convinced herself that the stories about monsters under the city aren’t real. After all, she’d never seen any in all her years in the tunnels.

The splashing of feet in the muck and puddles of the sewers is only audible out to about ten feet from the trio, after which the radius of Lance’s ability prevents any sound from escaping - while still allowing sound to come in so they aren’t taken unawares.

Stealth reconnaissance is, after all, his specialty.

He’s taking Squeaks’ expert advice as they travel through the ruins of the sewers, maglite in hand sweeping ahead of them, pausing on one of those spray-painted markings. “Ferrymen marks,” he comments, “Might lead us to an old safe-house or something if we followed them.”

Brynn relies heavily on Lance and Squeaks in thes environs. It's dark and she can't hear anything that might come at them out of the darkness. She stays close to Lance's heels, automatically stepping where he's stepped. She, too, recognizes the marks as they pause. She reaches out to touch one with her fingertips, tracing it as if remembering.

Then she goes back to the job that she's set herself. Even in the dark, she has a decent spatial sense, and the sketch pad she's carrying is going to, by the end of this excursion, have a map based on her mental sense of space and direction.

The tunnels are labyrinthine, especially the old ones built just after the turn of last century. They're smaller, too, not too claustrophobic for young adults but enough to make a fully grown adult hunch in discomfort. Up ahead there's signs of recent habitation, empty cans, plastic bags, and a makeshift dam made up of old palettes, plastic bags, and other garbage. Squeaks knows there should be — or was — a transient community not far from here in a demolished subway station no longer accessible from the street.

“Ferrymen.” The term is applied to the boat-looking marks on the walls. Even though there isn’t much significance to Squeaks on a personal level, it’s now a mystery solved. She takes the opportunity to pause when the older teens do to brush her fingers over one of the marks to clean off some of the years-old grime. If it works or not, she seems satisfied with the small measure of effort.

Moving on, she wanders through the tunnels as easily as she might wander the streets. The narrowing doesn’t faze her. For Squeaks, space is only an issue when her movements are restricted.

Seeing the trash, Squeaks slows and lets her light shine on it so Lance and Brynn are brought aware. Then, she lifts the light to her face, so Brynn can read lips as she says, “Some people lived near here. I think we can make it to the other side. Just don’t touch their stuff.” The warning is logical enough to her, and probably anyone who’s been around the homeless community for any good amount of time.

“Maybe they’ve seen Will,” Lance opins, the maglite sweeping over down the tunnel, lingering a moment on that makeshift dam, “Or they know something about all the missing food.” He steps carefully down the tunnel, ducking his head a bit when things get a bit low - keeping a careful eye out for anything dangerous that they might step on.

Or rats. Definitely looking out for rats.

Brynn gives her brother the Look. If there are rats as big as cats down here — which she thinks is a distinct possibility — and he doesn't shoot them properly before Brynn has to deal with them, there will be Hell to pay.

She walks along just as carefully, nodding slightly to Squeaks when she explains. It's just easier not to try to sign while they're working their way through dark tunnels so she remains silent unless or until she really needs to say anything. It's her usual way to handle things anyway.

Moving through the tunnels, headed toward the subway platform that had been turned into a makeshift settlement of destitute and homeless, there is not enough noise. Squeaks can tell right away, she’s been through here before and there should be a sound of conversations up ahead. It’s possible that the whole community moved on, but there would need to be a reason.

Before they reach the end of the tunnel, a flashlight picks out something in the gloom of the sewers. At first it looks like a heap of garbage, dirty clothes and something brown and… old wood? But then as the youths’ brains wrap around what they’re seeing, the horror of it comes into clear focus.

Laying across the middle of the tunnel is the tangled remains of a mostly stripped human corpse. It is sticky with brown remnants of blood and meat. Tufts of hair are still stuck to the scraped-bare skull, chunks of rotting flesh still clinging in crevasses at the cheeks, tangles of sinew and muscle on gore-covered bones. It’s still somewhat fresh, it couldn’t have been down here more than a few days.

The lack of sound and life is a little scary. And the absence of the little community is a confusing, even though Squeaks knows some of them move like circuses. Two or three different bands could take over a spot before the original group migrated back. It’s just the way of things. But not hearing anyone ahead when she should…

Her light sweeps left and right and left again through the tunnel. At first she misses the pile of remains, immediately counting it off as just the left behind stuff of the group who used to live up ahead. Or maybe it was something that got washed down from another part of the tunnels. But as they get closer to it, Squeaks settles the beam on the mass of stripped bones.

She stops short as realization for what it is sinks in. There’s a hundred other things she tries to believe it might be, but none of them are as clear as bits of flesh still clinging to bones. “It’s real,” Squeaks whispers while crowding closer to Lance and Brynn. Then, “The stories are real!” She shrieks in a mix of terror and …well, panicky excitement.

It’s a very good thing that Lance’s field is keeping the sounds of shock and horror from getting very far past them - the echo chambers that these tunnels tend to be would alert everyone for miles otherwise, more than likely. “Holy shit,” he swears as the corpse in the midst of the tunnel is revealed, his own flashlight’s beam settling upon it to join Squeaks’ own.

He looks to the others, pale even in the shadows of the sewers. One hand comes up, a wordless request to wait as he slowly moves forward, step by step closer to the horror that was once a man. Slowly he crouches down beside it, feeling a gorge rise in his throat and forcing himself to swallow it, to calm the shaking in his hands and resist the urge to run.

So he can look for the same marks on its bones as were on William’s.

Brynn doesn't register the silence, obviously. It's the flashlight's beam on a corpse that brings her full attention to bear. And the sad thing is… it's not the first one she's seen. Growing up during a war is hell. That doesn't mean she's not thoroughly freaked out!

When Squeaks crowds in, Brynn wraps a trembling arm around the younger teen and merely nods her head to Lance's direction to wait. Warily she keeps her eyes and flashlight focused on where Lance is, trusting Squeaks's body language to tell her if the other girl hears anything coming at them from the dark.

As Lance crouches down beside the body, he sees what his fears told him would be there. Countless tiny tooth marks all over the bones, scraping meat and marrow alike and tearing this unfortunate apart. There is barely enough left to bury in a casket, and further down the tunnel Lance can see nothing but darkness beyond the glow of flashlights. Whatever did this is down here, somewhere. The sharp hiss of steam erupting from a fissure in a nearby pipe elicits a spike in adrenaline, but otherwise causes no real harm.

“They’re real. I knew they had to be. The monsters are real.” While not exactly quiet, Squeaks’ voice isn’t pitched to yell as she rambles in frightened realization. All the years in the Underneath and never seeing anything close to this, it’s easy to decide the stories probably aren’t real. But this proves something else altogether.

“Wait!” That’s a strangled call when Lance goes to examine the tangle of bones and connective tissues. She doesn’t move after him, but clings to Brynn instead. “Don’t touch it…” Because it’s gross. And there’s a difference between this body and those others she’s come across that were either time-rotted to bones or the cleaner corpses of war.

The hiss, a sound that probably would have been ignored another time, makes Squeaks jump. She sidles away from the sound, half pulling Brynn to move with her, and makes steps to get the both of them closer to Lance. Safety in numbers, right?

“It’s not a monster, Squeaks…” Lance draws in a slow breath, and then immediately regrets it as he inhales the rotting stench of the corpse. He pulls back, stumbling to his feet as he gags, one hand up at his mouth as he resists the urge to empty his stomach. Once he’s manages to suppress that urge, he turns back to the pair, features pale and eyes a bit haunted with the realization of his fear. At the hiss of steam, he jerks a bit, looking in that direction as his heart leaps into his throat, still pounding even as he turns his attention again to them both.

The maglite’s tilted up to illuminate his face so that Brynn can read his lips as he asserts, “It was the rats. Like with Will. Like with the food.”

Shuddering in abject disgust, Brynn clamps a hand over her nose. Getting herded to the side, she still keeps her flashlight on Lance and nods to his assertion. Freeing up her hands by popping the flashlight between her teeth, she signs, Do we still think it's a rat telepath? The query is accompanied by another shudder of disgust. Brynn hates rats.

“Monster rats.” It’s a compromise, because now there’s proof that all those stories, the ones about creatures stripping flesh from bone in the old tunnels, are really real. Squeaks’ light flashes to the walls then skips back to the corpse. Monsters. Definitely monsters. She eases a step closer, to get a look from a slightly different angle, while thinking about Lance’s explanation.

She steps back suddenly, looking at the two older teens. “Will.” Squeaks releases her clingy grip on Brynn and shines her light the way they’d come, then the way they were going, where it’s all just blackness. “William!” The call probably won’t reach very far, given Lance being a ninja and all, but she tries anyway. “Maybe he saw something. Maybe he’s nearby. Maybe…” She can’t tell how long those chewed bones have been laying around, but maybe there’s others around, hiding.

“William!” Yelling again, Squeaks takes some running steps in the direction of the platform, then comes to a stop again. “Anyone!?”

“It’s got to be. I can’t think of anything else…” Lance turns back towards the tunnel, the flashlight’s beam sweeping across it… and then Squeaks is moving forward, and with alarm he moves after her. She stops, though, and he steps in closer, reaching over to her shoulder with a reassuring hand. “We should… we should keep going,” he says, though the tone of his voice sounds as if he really doesn’t want to. Turning back, he says in Brynn’s direction, “Someone might still be alive. They might need help.”

Someone that escaped so many, many hungry teeth.

With her flashlight having to move between her hand and her pocket or holding it in her teeth, Brynn's hampered in her communication efforts. But she gives Lance the are you effing KIDDING me right now?? look. Shoving her light in her pocket, she signs, Was that person alive when the rats attacked him? Because if so, Lance, we are not going one. step. farther. She will hit her brother over the head with a lead pipe if she has to. He can see exactly how serious she by the emphatic way she signs that last and the mutinous set to her chin. Brynn may be a delicate sort some of the… well, okay, maybe even most of the time. But the petite teen is not messing around with the safety of Squeaks or with monster RATS.

A big breath is drawn in, to really belt out a William. Squeaks gets as far as “Will— “ when the hand on her shoulder stops the rest of the name. She turns to look up at Lance with wide eyes. There’s something kind of frantic about that look, the high adrenalin push of being right and the spooked understanding of being right.

That’s the look she gives Brynn, too, when the older girl catches up. Squeaks might be starting to understand Cant, but she’s not that good and it’s dark in the Underneath, but she gets some idea from Brynn’s expression and posture. She extends a hand to touch the other girl’s shoulder, meant to be encouraging because it’s scary. “We need to try.” She says it calmly, though by her expression she’s very afraid.

She looks up at Lance again and nods to him. Let’s do this. Turning toward the waiting darkness of the tunnel, Squeaks takes the first step toward it. Another follows, then a third, and then she’s walking, flashlight beam bouncing and flinging onto everything that’s a slight variant from the walls and floor.

A quick, reassuring smile’s offered down to the youngest of them as she looks up to Lance, and he murmurs, “Keep close to us, okay…?” He gives her shoulder a warm squeeze, then looks back towards Brynn - seeing the signing, he shakes his head. “We need to try,” he echoes Squeaks, “The first sign of living rats, we turn back. I promise. Once we’re sure, we get out of here and call Agent Bowie.”

He doesn’t want them to end up like William. Or whoever that poor bastard on the floor is.

Then he’s moving down the tunnel as well, maglite swept forward to illuminate the tunnel ahead, keeping the field of silence tight around them so that nothing can hear them coming - although the light might give them away.

Brynn seems a little reluctant, but HELL NO are they going without her!! She's just as terrified as the others and sticks very very close to Lance. The incongruous picture of Fred, Velma, and Daphne in those old cartoons passes through her head — cuz they're a little bunched up here, peering around dark corners! And any second, she's reasonably sure something is gonna grab people's ankles and— No. Not going there.

She pauses long enough to tuck her sketch pad into her backpack while they climb in the narrow spot, keeping her hands free.

As the trio passes by the devoured corpse, the warning sign its body represents only serves to set the stage for the revelation that comes upon them as they round the curving tunnel and prepare to empty out into the blocked off subway station. Flashlights bob and sweep across water-stained and cracked concrete, across broken bottles and crushed aluminum cans with labels long-since faded.

The first sign of violence past the body is a spray of brown on the right tunnel wall, dried blood. Then, in the glint of a flashlight, there’s something more beyond. The tunnel Lance and the others emerge from empties out on the rail tracks about twenty feet away from the subway platform. On the rails are the twisted and meat-stripped skeletal remains of a half dozen people draped in the tattered rags of their now blood-soaked clothing. Up on the platform, a nearly skeletal arm held together by rotten sinew dangles down over the edge, fingers still glinting with a gold ring.

Beyond the flashlight, something reflects back down the far end of the subway tunnel. A tiny pair of eyes in the dark.

Blood and bodies isn’t a thing she’d normally be worried over. She’s seen them, she’s looted from them — dead people don’t need things — but the chewed upon bones is a frightening thing. Squeaks’ mind refuses to wrap around so many bodies that are where people should be alive and doing living things. Her light lands on each body, or tangle of bones and fleshy remainders. And she just tries to latch onto some kind understanding.

Then her light catches on the eyes peeking back at her and the others.

Dropping the flashlight, Squeaks reaches toward Lance. But it isn’t to grab onto him out of fear or anything. Because while she is afraid, this time it’s motivated her to act instead of cringe. The monster is right here! Her reaching hand wraps around the grip of the gun the boy has holstered and drags it free. Then, even though she’s never fired a gun, she points it at the two little eyes and starts squeezing the trigger.

“I… I don’t think there are any survivors down here,” Lance barely breathes out, the beam of his maglite moving here and there, his eyes flickering with it. Everywhere he looks is a vista of horrors, the gnawed remnants of the transients and refugees who were hiding beneath the streets of the Safe Zone revealed with the light’s kiss. He brings a hand up to his mouth, dropping back a step… and that stops him from seeing those eyes. It also stops him from noticing what Squeaks is reaching for until it’s too late.

Click, goes the gun. Click. Someone should probably teach Squeaks what a safety is.

“Jesus! Squeaks, what the he— “ The maglite’s beam sweeps towards the end of the tunnel… and he sees that glint, turning pale as a sheet. Paler, even, than at the sight of the bodies.

“Squeaks… Brynn…” A shaking hand lifts in the latter’s direction as he backs up a step. “Run. Run. Run run run RUN RUN!” Twisting on his heel, grabbing for Squeaks as he does so in case she doesn’t turn with him. Brynn’s in the rear. She should get the idea.

Reserving the right to at some point later sign I TOLD YOU SO at her brother, Brynn is both horrified and disgusted by what they find at the platform. The indrawn breath is enough to alert him to the fact that she, too, sees what they're all staring at. And despite being squinched up next to Squeaks, she didn't catch what the girl was reaching for either. Mouse, no! But it's useless to sign it in the dark, she can only think it. Thank God for safeties. Brian would have had their heads, allowing Squeaks anywhere around the firearm without teaching her the basics — and none of them have!

An oversight for another time!

When the light reflects back out of the tunnels, Lance doesn't have to say or sign a single thing. Brynn is already backpedaling warily. When he spins on his heel, that's the signal to haul ass back in the direction they came from! She slows up only long enough to let Lance and Squeaks take the lead — because Squeaks knows where we're going. And let's just hope the Devil doesn't take the hindmost today.

The devil isn’t one they know, either.

The chorus of shrieks behind the turning children grows to a roar that fills the tunnels with a horrific and unforgettable sound of hundreds of rats shrieking at once. Even as Lance is turning, more eyes are lighting up in the glow of Squeaks’ flashlight. Soon a carpet of shrieking brown rats is flooding in from the distant subway tunnel, spilling out of broken pipes in the ceiling to land on the floor, bowled over by the rampaging swarm of their own kin.

When the gun doesn’t have that satisfying bang not once, but twice, Squeaks makes a noise of frustration. She gives the firearm a shake, then turns it over in what’s probably going to be a search for the reason why it isn’t working. Is it broken?! She might even find the safety and figure out how to flip it off, if she had time.

Suddenly she doesn’t have time. Suddenly, Lance is yelling and at her to run. And then there are rats! Rats for days! Squeaks fumbles one last time to find the switch that makes the gun work. But then there’s a tug at her shirt, so if she ever found it won’t be known this time.

The pull on her shirt has her twisting around to run. Her flashlight is abandoned, but her hand still clings to the gun. Squeaks takes a look behind, hearing the plop of furry bodies dropping from other places. Then her hands thrust forward, to push Lance and Brynn along faster. Go faster!

The sound is terrifying, sparking panic in the deepest, most primal reaches of the mammalian mind, and Lance is definitely a mammal. Their only hope is that longer human legs will carry them faster than a rat can run, and from the sight of things behind them…

That didn’t help the people of this ramshackle settlement much.

There’s a hand pushing him from behind, and he misses a step— just to fall back enough to sweep Squeaks off the floor and over his shoulder before breaking back into a sprint with barely any motion wasted.

It’s time to get the fuck out of dodge.

Brynn can't hear the sound, but it's funny what she can feel — the thudding of hundreds of tiny feet do create a kind of thunder around them that she can feel through her shoes. And just the fact that there are enough of them to create such a disturbance has the teen running as fast as she can. Adrenaline is your friend! And thank God they grew up running the outdoors, because it means both of them have the endurance needed to make a solid sprint of the matter.

It's the squeezing back out the itty bitty hole they came in that has her abjectly whimpering in panic when they hit it. Terror is one of those things that makes bunny-hearts explode! She understands why now — the young woman has never been so scared of anything in her whole life.

Unfortunately for the children, there’s no escape. The rats, while not as fast, are more numerous than they first appeared. Even as they turn to flee down the tunnel they’d come from, more rats are dropping out of the pipes and squeezing through gaps in the ceiling. They begin swarming around Lance’s ankles biting and nipping at his calves, tearing at his pants but not yet getting through them. One lands on Squeaks’ shoulder, swiftly and reflexively brushed away even as it shrieks in her presence.

As the rats surround them, as their swarming masses covered in sewage and wastewater threaten to wash over them like a tide, something unbelievable happens. The rats don’t move in for an attack, they don’t begin devouring the children whole. The rats begin to surge between the youth’s ankles, moving past them and toward the same direction they were running to, and then one-by-one each rat begins to spark with electricity and then crackle into bolts of snapping lightning that strike the old power conduits riveted to the walls. Hundreds of rats, all sublimating into tiny bolts of electricity that arc into the wiring in the walls, sending a static-electric charge through the air that makes hair stand on end and lights up the passage.

A moment of terror later, and they are gone. Every single rat dissolved into lightning and disappeared into the wiring.

One second she’s pushing, and the next she’s gathered up and tossed over a shoulder. Squeaks’ first impulse it to let out a strangled, started yell while legs flail. This is not how you run away from things! But it is, sort of, and she’ll be indignant and huffy about it later but when her eyes find the tide of rats, she’s quite okay with being carried.

Flailing begins all over again when the nasty little creatures begin raining down. Her gun-holding hand slaps one, and she remembers that she has that thing! Jarred and jostled like she is, she’s still lost trying to find the safety until…

The rats start running for their escape tunnel while sparking and popping like little nasty lightning bolts.

“Stop stop stop!” Squeaks screams. She twists and writhes to get hold of Brynn also, to stop her from going into the tunnels where the rats are headed. Lance will probably have a better chance at reaching the older girl than she will. “Stop!” This time it’s yelled at the rats as the arcing lights and static feeling intensifies. This is not the kind of fireworks show anyone would want to watch. When it does finally stop she slumps, breathing like she’d run miles, and looks all around with wide eyes both frightened and confused.

As those tiny, terrible teeth start to tug at the denim of his jeans, tearing the cuffs and scraping his sneakers, Lance Gerken knows— knows— that this is it. There’s no way they can outrun this furry carpet of death, and they’ll be joining William and those others who’ve be lost forever in the dark below.

“I’m sorry,” he pants out, to Squeaks, to Brynn if she could hear, to his far-off sister and to Gillian, “I’m sorry, I thought— “

Then he sees the undulating, furry sea of bodies moving past them, and the shouting from the diminutive girl thrown over his shoulder has him stumbling to a stop, “What— where are— “

Then they spark, crackling with the blue-white plasma of electricity and arcing into the walls as if they were never there, the entire tunnel lit up with the dazzling display for a few moments. And then…

And then they’re alone in the tunnel.

Eyes wide as he casts about, panting, out of breath, terrified and shocked. “What… what the hell was that?”

The tide of furry creatures overrunning her ankles and then dropping from the ceiling is more than Brynn can handle. Her arms go up over her head, trying to protect herself from nipping, biting rats getting caught on her hair. She skids to a halt by virtue of running into Lance, sending him stumbling a few steps with the extra momentum. She keeps trying to shove him ahead of her in blind terror.

It's not until they're all three in a tangle of arms and he's pushing back that Brynn realizes they've stopped and she basically expects that we're all done for. She curls into Squeaks and Lance, waiting for the pain of being eaten alive.

And then when it doesn't happen, she watches as lightning arcs around the rats. Each time the electricity sparks like a bug zapper, Brynn tangibly jerks slightly in shock as she flinches. Her gray eyes are wide and uncomprehending of what they're seeing, her breath coming in panicked gasps.

And then they're alone. How the heck she managed to actually hold onto her flashlight she will never know, but her hand is clenched tight around the cylinder and it casts just enough light to reassure her that they're actually alone. No rats. But what the hell just happened?? She raises a trembling hand and questioningly gives the short sign for OK?

The sewers are now silent, save for a distant trickle of water somewhere far away and the heavy breathing of panicked teens.

The silence is almost as frightening as the noise had been. Squeaks’ hands lift and she presses them against her ears to muffle the sound of nothingness. The rest of her is a trembling weight still hanging over Lance’s shoulder. She doesn’t say anything right away, she doesn’t move either. She’s still trying to understand what just happened. Right now, it’s just too complicated a thing to think about.

Hours, or really just seconds later, her arms drop again and she squirms with a grumbling “Put me down. Put me down. We need to leave. We have to go now.” Because being in control of herself is a simpler thing. And once her feet are on the ground, Squeaks pushes the confounding gun back at Lance and starts looking for another way out. One that isn’t so dark and didn’t just have rats zapping themselves into walls and wiring.

It’s not until the bundle over his shoulder starts squirming that Lance dares even move again, realizing he’s still holding her and shifting to set her down on the ground— shaky fingers taking the gun back, the safety promptly clicked off in case he needs to use it. “We do,” he agrees, wide eyes sweeping over the power conduits, “I don’t— I don’t know when they’ll be back. I guess they weren’t hungry…?”

He looks over to Brynn, moistening his lips, one hand coming up in a ‘Maybe?’ sign back to her.

Brynn is shaking so hard that it's visible when she signs back, We are leaving, right? she watches Squeaks move around and crouches very briefly pull out a piece of white chalk. And then she sighs at herself, because at least here… it needs to be permanent. She walks to the wall and with trembling fingers draws out the old Ferry signs for Extreme Danger near the crevice they'd crawled through to get to the platform.

When she turns to look at the other two, there is a grim set to her small chin. I don't want to leave William down here, Lance. But whatever that was is way the hell out of our league. This is where Brian calls in the Brians.

While Brynn is drawing and Lance is looking at the conduits, Squeaks is turning a slow circle. Her hands wring at her sleeves, twisting and wrenching on the fabric as she considers the best way to get out of the tunnels. There’s obvious reluctance to go the way that had brought them to this place, that narrow tunnel had the rats going into it. But the other option leads back toward the old subway platform. That’s where the rats came from, and there may or may not be more waiting.

The circle is repeated, more slowly, as her sleeves are worried at more intensely. She doesn’t know which way to go. She doesn’t want to pick the wrong way, either. That was done when she proposed the idea of exploring further. That second rotation has her settling on the known way in, and reluctant feet carry her shaking scared self toward it.

“It’s not like they can hurt Will any more than they already have,” says Lance in a hushed voice, the maglite’s beam swept away from Brynn to take in the rest of the tunnel… and then as Squeaks starts moving, he moves to follow, keeping in close to her and waving Brynn in closer as well. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

If they’re getting out, they’re keeping as physically close as possible without tripping over each other!

Turning back to watch Squeaks fret, Brynn feels the same trepidation. All directions seem equally harrowing at the moment. She remains close to both of them, though, and when Squeaks is clearly reluctant to be the lead, she sidles around Lance to hold the younger teen's hand. Her own is cold and shaking too, but at least they can be terrified together and Squeaks will know she's still not alone. And that no one holds what just happened against her — they knew the rats were a significant possibility.

The teens’ escape seems clear at first, hurrying down the sewer tunnels back to the manhole they entered from several streets up. But halfway there there's a sudden realization of why the rats had fled. Why they had surged and then dissipated with such fervor. The rats were fleeing something.

Something that starts as a roar. Something Squeaks recognizes — someone is flushing the tunnel.

The wave of gray-black water that explodes from behind the children isn't an anomaly. It's part of an ongoing effort from Yamagato Corporation to clear up blockages and obstructions in the sewer system, pumping thousands of gallons of water into the sewers to force them clean as a prelude to reconstruction. The schedules are publicly available on Yamagato’s public-facing website and at the Town Hall, but it's not something the teens had considered or even truly known was a threat today.

The wave hits Brynn first, throwing her into Lance, who crashed into Squeaks and with the rest of the trio is dashed against one brick wall, then another. Then another.

Then nothing.

Then darkness.


A dark and damp stone chamber of crumbling brick streaked with algae greets Squeaks when her eyes are able to open again. Her head throbs in agony, muscles ache, and she is laying on a heap of old blankets covering a stone floor. Beside her Lance and Brynn lay with angry red cuts on their heads, bleeding stopped but wounds undressed.

There is a small light, an oil lamp burning atop an old milk crate. Several pairs of shoes are stacked up beside the crate, a heap of old and ratty clothes. The air smells stale here, a thick musty smell of something with poor ventilation. It's not underground, though. There's windows here, closed, but yet still darkness beyond. It's night.

The next thing Squeaks notices are the old water magnes bolted to the wall, the single metal door leading into the room. She's seen places like this, a pumping station for a water treatment plant. It smells of cigarettes, mold, and places best left forgotten. The stink of the sewer clings to everything here now, too.

“I figured you'd be the first one to wake up.” The voice comes from a dark corner of the room, where crouches a figure that looks like death come calling. Bald and rail thin, hawkish features of high cheekbones and a thin knife of a smile across the lips of an old man. She can barely see him in the lantern light, but she can feel his presence. His voice is like sandpaper.

Drawing in a drag off of a lit cigarette, Samson Gray’s face is illuminated by the orange glow at the cigarette’s tip. “Sleep well?”

It’s a slow process, the waking up after being almost drowned. The beating didn’t help a whole lot either. But wakefulness comes whether Squeaks might want it to or not, first with the smell and then with the open eyes. And it’s all double-underscored and highlighted by pain. She drags a hand up to push against her temples and maybe stop the throbbing. It’s probably futile, and the action is very short lived as she takes in her new surroundings. She’s familiar with the type of room, but there’s no way to tell where this one is. At least not from where she’s at, but it looks like it’s one of those old abandoned ones taken over by a squatter.

Without sitting up, she stretches that hand to first touch Brynn then Lance. They don’t look like dead people, so hopefully they’re okay until she can wake them up, or find help. Squeaks’ eyes squeeze shut, because that might help block out the pounding so she can think, or at least keep her head from exploding when she does finally move. That’s done with getting her arms and legs under her.

She gets as far as her knees when someone speaks, then she freezes. Her heart hammers in her chest, echoing the pulsing pain in her head, but she forces herself to move again. “I don’t know,” Squeaks answers honestly. Her voice wavers with fear, but she very steadily, slowly, puts herself protectively between Samson and her friends. Her eyes narrow a little, trying to see better against the gloom. “Where is this place?”

There’d be a low groan from Lance as he began waking up, that is if anyone could hear it; as usual, when things get too bad, his ability instinctively wraps around him to jealously hoard all of his sound for itself. He’s alive, but he’s not sure if he wants to be.

Slowly he cracks an eye open. The room is unfamiliar, and ominous. He holds still, feigning unconsciousness after that first shifting, feeling even his bones throbbing with ache as he listens to the conversation in the room.

Faking unconsciousness is the first tool you use when waking up captive. Brian taught him that.

This would be why Brynn is not good at the spy stuff! Brian really did try. She wakes slowly, dazed from nearly drowning, and reaches up to touch her head. It hurts! There's no sound from her either, though it's because she's generally not vocal. As she pries her eyelids open, it takes only moments for her to register someone is there — there's light, after all — and to jerk completely upright looking for her companions. One of whom, at least, seems to be chatting with the scary-looking homeless man. Not that she cares that he's homeless, but he's definitely rather terrifying. She blinks several times, looking around carefully for signs of others, but given that he seems to be the only one here and they're all alive and apparently taken care of as best he can, she seems to determine that he must be… friendly? A hesitant wave in Squeaks' periphery to alert the other girl that she's awake also doubles as a dubious greeting to the man in the dark corner.

“Used to be Harlem,” the old, bald man says in his sandpaper voice. Harlem is across the river and squarely located within the walls of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. “We’re in a building under the Henry Hudson Parkway, west side of Manhattan at the Hudson…” Settling down from his perched crouch into a sitting position, the old man looks at the others, then Squeaks. “I fished you out of the river,” is his way of saying you’re welcome.

In the silence between words, the weathered old man takes another drag off of his cigarette, exhaling a gout of smoke from his nose like some sort of dragon. “Name’s Samson,” he adds as an afterthought, “you might’ve seen me on wanted posters… or…” his eyes shift to the side, regarding the oil lamp, “do they still do those?” He wonders aloud, mostly to himself.


It’s not somewhere Squeaks is personally familiar with, but she has some idea at least of where they are. And it isn’t a good place. Which matches perfectly with Samson and his dark lurking ways and scary demeanor. It’s hard to swallow against the rise of dread that’s souring her stomach. “Oh,” she manages, small words to match a suddenly small voice.

The older girl’s movements are noticed, and Squeaks scoots back just a little further, and looks over at Brynn. We need to go, she mouths, hoping there’s enough light for her lips to be seen. “Thank you,” is directed at Samson, as she looks back to him, still afraid. Then she stands, with all the aches and pains protesting at the movements.

Who knew being flushed out of the sewers and into the river would hurt?

She stays doubled over after getting to her feet, hands on knees, then makes herself stand upright again. “We’re going to leave now.” It’s said with eyes squeezed shut, and it isn’t a request. But as soon as the wave of head pain eases a little, Squeaks opens her eyes and goes to help Brynn up. She’ll need the other girl’s help to get Lance next; the pair of them should be able to drag him outside and find somewhere safe until he wakes up.

It’s probably not a good sign when the person who rescued you starts talking about their wanted posters, and Lance doesn’t want the girls to be scared — he’s still a bit of a boy assuming that — so he finally stirs, grunting as he sits up, getting a hand under him.

Ow. Everything hurts. And he could use some bandages probably.

“I… don’t think they do,” he says carefully, eying the man like someone would an unfamiliar but potentially dangerous animal. “I mean, we used to live on the lam too, so— we won’t tell anyone where you are, or anything. We just…” He brings up a hand to the cut on his head, hissing a bit as he touches it, “…we need to get home. We’ve gotta warn people about the rats.”

Brynn's beginning to wonder if she's ever not going to have a headache again. She's had a lot of them lately. Shenanigans! Moving slowly, she winces when her side twinges and when she gains her feet, she's limping slightly as she moves toward Lance. Keeping Samson carefully where she can see him, she peers at the cut on Lance's head and briefly touches Squeaks' hair. She's reluctant to sign anything and settles for sidling a little behind Lance, letting him do the talking while she and Squeaks maybe maneuver to better positions to run again if need be. She's clearly uncertain about the entire situation — why are we worried about a homeless guy? But she's none too keen on the idea that Squeaks, who has a well-developed sense of self-preservation, is clearly all about GTFO.

Tired, jaundiced eyes look up at Squeaks, then drift languidly to the other children. As their eyes adjust to the light, they can see the oxygen tank up against the wall beside him, a respirator mask hooked up to it, not at the moment in use. “You’re free t’leave…” Samson says in a hushed tone of voice, motioning to the metal door. “I’d warn you about how dark it is, but I figure you don’t have any problems with that, do you?” He raises a brow as he looks pointedly at Squeaks, then blinks his attention over to Lance.

“I’m not worried about who you tell or don’t tell,” Samson notes with a slow tilt of his head to the side. “The rats don’t come to Manhattan, no way to get here.” He looks at Brynn, brows furrowed for a moment as he studies her, then Lance again. “Head north until you hit West 155th, then go all the way to the wall and follow it north. You’ll…” the old man wheezes noisily, then starts coughing into a closed fist. It only takes him a moment to get it under control, and take a drag off of his cigarette immediately after. When he’s caught his breath, he looks back to Lance. “Sherman Creek. The wall sank into the coast, there’s cracks big enough to sneak in through. You’ll have to find your own way across the river. No bridges unless you go all the way north to the Henry Hudson…”

For a withered old man living inside of a pumping station he seems to know a considerable amount about the city’s layout. Given all of the street names he’s dropped, though, they’re at least three miles across the city from where they started. He doesn’t look like the kind of person that can carry three unconscious teenagers.

Presently, Squeaks is all about crowding with Lance and Brynn and trying to get the two to move toward the way out. Normally she’d be throwing very pointed questions about, giving in to curiosity because knowing things gets you places. But the old man who looks like Gargamel’s brother and sounds like Death is enough to keep her from asking too much at first. She does meet the look he sets on her, eyes narrow and the full weight of I don’t trust you set in her expression. Her mouth sets in a question that goes unasked, but she supplements with, “We have flashlights.”

She looks from Samson to Brynn and Lance when the old man begins giving them directions to get back to the Safe Zone. Squeaks lifts a hand to touch Brynn’s arm, but she doesn’t try to share any of the information right now. Outside, once they’re away, they can figure out how to cross the river. When the coughing starts, she looks at Samson again, but doesn’t stop trying to get the other two to make small movements toward the door. That look of curiosity comes again, but she still keeps all those thoughts and questions to herself. For now.

“I don’t think they need a normal way to get anywhere, not anymore,” Lance mutters ominously, grimacing in Brynn’s direction when she peers at him. His hands move, signing, I’m fine.

The directions are rattled off, and he listens, nodding a little now and then. “Thanks, Mister— uh— Samson. And— “ He glances around, then back to Squeaks before observing ruefully, “We, uh, had flashlights. I think the flood took them, Squeaks.” Uncertain as he looks to the others, then the door. It is dark out there.

But the guy they’re with is kind of creepy.

Brynn nods slightly at the sign, quirking a brow as she notes that the old man is speaking. It's far too dark in here for her to really catch anything he's saying, sitting over there in his corner with his cigarette. She can tell he's sick, though — if the oxygen canister hadn't given it away, just the way he moves when he coughs does. That's not a cough that's gonna get better. It's the kind that just hurts.

She isn't exactly resisting Squeaks, but she's not moving as yet either. If only because she's not certain what's happening and Lance's uncertainty about whether to stay or go keeps her feet still.

“She’ll be able to guide you fine,” Samson says with regards to Squeaks, but then the wheezing old man offers a look to the oil lamp. “I suppose if you’re afraid of the dark…” he motions to it, and the lamp begins to hum as it lifts up off the milk crate and drifts through the air toward Lance, “you can take that with you.”

Baring his teeth in a yellow smile, Samson reclines back against the wall and takes the last drag off of the tiny nub of cigarette left pinched between his nicotine-stained fingers. “Be careful of what bumps in the dark, kids… the rats aren’t even the worst of it.”

The older teens aren’t moving, which makes Squeaks huff out a small breath. Staying put, talking to the creepy looking old man seems less wise than going out into the Exclusion Zone. At least, out there they can hide from the creepy things and wait out the darkness. Not that she has any idea of how far away it is until it’s light, but it sounds like Samson is saying it’s pretty solidly nighttime. She gives a nudge to Brynn and Lance again, but less insistent than before. She wants to go, but she isn’t leaving them behind.

“I can find the way.” It’s as much belief in her own street smarts as it is an echo of the old man’s statement. Though when she says it, Squeaks is also giving him a weird look. How would he know anything about her? Is he like Zhao, who spoke in almost-riddles? She wants to ask, it’s so tempting, but she settles for just looking puzzled at Samson. It’s a relief when he offers the lantern, but then it’s floating toward Lance and she grips at Brynn’s arm. Any other time she might have shrugged it off but it’s been too many strange and scary things for one day.

“Let’s go. Let’s go home now.” It’s practically whispered, almost pleading, as Squeaks pulls her gaze from Samson and looks up at Lance.

There’s a moment of startlement as Lance sees the lamp float through the air in his direction, and then he relaxes — as if something bothering him finally made sense. “Oh,” he says, reaching for the lamp, “You’re a telekene… I was wondering how you got us out’ve the river.”

It all makes sense now! He’s just a sick old telekinetic hiding out in the ruins. He probably killed somebody or something, but really, who hasn’t these days?

The lamp’s taken from the air carefully, and he flashes Samson a smile, offering genuinely, “Thanks. For the— directions, and the lamp, and— I mean, for rescuing us. That was pretty primal of you.” Then he’s stepping towards the door, nodding a little, “Okay, okay, let’s go…”

When Lance's body language eases, so does Brynn's, and she offers the man in the corner a hesitant smile and the sign for 'thank you.' On some level, it seems like should offer to help the strange man somehow, but… she honestly hasn't a single idea what they might have to offer. She does glance at her brother, absently ruffling Squeaks for a moment, before signing to Lance, Does he know anything about the rats? Or…. well, monsters in the sewer? Because they might as well ask, right?

“I’m a lot of things,” Samson says regretfully, “but none of them particularly good.” In spite of seemingly saving children from the river. He motions toward the door, then fishes around inside of his tattered shirt pocket for another loose cigarette, bringing it to his lips. “You kids stay safe out there…” he murmurs, flicking his index finger and thumb together to create a spark of electricity that ignites the tip of the cigarette.

It’s a relief when Lance finally agrees to go. It means Squeaks no longer has to stay — there’s no way she was going to leave the others behind, but she really didn’t like the idea of staying. It also means that she can let herself be a little curious. She takes a long look at Samson, probably trying to commit to memory every detail she can make out of the old man. And his little hovel of a home. If it even is his home.

Her lips thin against so many unspoken questions, keeping those words firmly behind her teeth as she shoots a look to the older teens. “How do you know all these things?” The question finally spills out. Squeaks’ face scrunches a little in a way that has nothing to do with the smell, but it could. “Who wakes up first. That I could get us back. How’d you find us? What are you that’s bad?” The questions aren’t asked in rapid fire, but stated more like bullet points and ticked off on fingers.

After a very short pause, the younger girl adds with that fear returning to her tone, “What’s worse out there?”

So of course the moment that Lance agrees to leave, the girls want to stop and ask questions. The lamp in hand, he stops dead in his tracks when they do, giving them a very you are so contrary look before glancing back over to the sick old man… telekinetic? He’d just lit a spark, so maybe he’s something else.

The volley of questions brings a slight wince, and he looks over to Samson, “You don’t— I mean, we’ll go if we’re bothering you, you helped us enough so you don’t need to answer any questions if you don’t want.”

It is the nature of being a girl. Or something. Brynn can't see what Squeaks asked, standing behind the younger teen as she is. She just figured if the man was letting us leave, he might also be willing to tell us what's out there. So at Lance's look, both her eyebrows go up. What? I didn't do anything! But then he's speaking to the older man again, so despite the desire to run away from the scary old man, she figures maybe Lance is checking on that question. It might be important if the group stumbles on something else out here!

Drawing in a lungful of smoke, Samson shifts a languid look over to Squeaks when she talks. He is lit only by the glowing end of his cigarette and the dim light of the small lantern flame. He only answers when he looks down to the ground. “I was in the neighborhood,” is his non-answer for how he found them, and nothing more. He doesn’t answer what’s so bad about him, and considers one other topic while he smooths a hand over his freshly shaved head.

“People,” Samson finally answers in response to what’s worse out there. “There isn’t much else worse in this world than people. You all’ll learn that nice an’ soon. I learned it right about your age.” He motions to the door, cigarette in hand. “It’s a hard lesson, but a good one.”

She may or may not believe the first answer, but Squeaks’ eyes squint a little like she might find something more while he puffs away on his cigarette. But the look that settles on her face is something else completely. It’s the answer to what’s worse that really gets a reaction. Kids are brutally honest even at the best of times, and her expression is exactly that. No shit people are worse. She’s experienced the worst of people.


“Not all people,” she states, so matter of fact. Because she’s found that some people are actually good and not monsters. Maybe even Samson, even if she’s very wary of him, isn’t quite the monster she first believed him to be. He might look like he goes out drinking with the Grim Reaper, but he also did save her and her friends. Squeaks reaches first for Brynn’s hand, then Lance’s sleeve, to signal to the two older teens that she’s ready to leave.

“Some people are,” is Lance’s quiet opinion of the statement, in contrast - or addition - to Squeaks’ own, regarding the old man for a moment, “Some people are the biggest monsters of all. We don’t have to learn that lesson, sir. We learned it when we were kids. There used to be more of us.”

At the tug to his sleeve, he offers the younger girl a reassuring smile, moving to head for the door, “Thanks for the save, again. And the lamp.”

As soon as Lance starts moving again, Brynn allows herself to be tugged along by Squeaks. She casts the old man a look and only hesitates long enough at the threshold to study him one last time. There's nothing she can offer in words or in actions to help him, but she nods slightly to him once more in thanks. Then she steps out cautiously into the dark tunnels beyond. Gripping Squeaks' hand tightly, she blows out a slow breath and in the lantern's glow, she signs to her brother, We still have no idea what the heck that was… rats turning to flipping electricity??!

Samson’s smile is a rueful one, but a smile nonetheless. “Be safe out there, kids.” Because Brynn is right. Because Lance is right. Though they didn't realize the context of their comments as viewed through the lens of history.

They have no idea what it is they're dealing with.

And there's more to come.

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