Hic Sunt Leones


cesar_icon.gif devon_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif emily_icon.gif lance_icon.gif lucille_icon.gif shane_icon.gif veronica_icon.gif

Scene Title Hic Sunt Leones
Synopsis In an uncommon collaboration for a too-common problem, SESA, Wolfhound and Scout combine forces to take down someone preying on SLC-E individuals.
Date January 29, 2020

Fort Jay SESA Headquarters

Fort Jay is a coastal star fort and former Army post located on Governors Island in New York Harbor. Fort Jay itself is the oldest defensive structure on the island, and was named for John Jay, a member of the Federalist Party, New York governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Secretary of State, and one of the "founding fathers" of the United States. It was built in 1794 to defend Upper New York Bay, but has served other purposes. From 1806 to 1904 it was named Fort Columbus, presumably for explorer Christopher Columbus. The National Park Service administered Fort Jay together with Castle Williams as the Governors Island National Monument until 2015, when it was repurposed to once again service official government operations in the wake of the civil war. Fort Jay is now the home of the New York branch of the SLC-Expressive Services Agency, or SESA.

The meeting room is a familiar enough sight for all of the agents gathering together for the briefing. For the SESA agents, it’s home turf. But for those on loan from the police department or Wolfhound, a conference room is a conference room. Briefing folders and notepads rest at each seat for the taskforce members to use if needed. A coffee station takes up the back wall, the freshly brewed batch perfuming the room. Whoever made it made it strong; one can almost feel the caffeine opening their eyes just from the scent alone.

Also familiar to many of the taskforce members is the face of the SESA agent organizing the briefing and serving as the liaison between the agencies. Veronica Sawyer stands at the front of the conference room in front of the display monitor that will provide the visuals needed. The screen is set to its default screen at the moment; a sedate gray background behind the familiar SESA logo.

SESA's presence is substantial at the taskforce meeting. In addition to Veronica Sawyer, there are other members of SESA that are ready to go. Agent Shane Bishop is a recent transfer to the New York Safe Zone SESA office, which means other agencies are likely unfamiliar with him, comparatively. Those with access to dossiers will note that he is specifically there for his criminology background.

Agent Bishop himself is not a large man; he is shorter than average and lean, with watchful dark eyes, in his late thirties. There's a sense of no-nonsense and nothing being hidden with the man: between his expressive face, posture, and appearance of being clean shaven: including his head. His garb lends tactical, though not overly so: a preference for black and pockets. He's leaned back a little in his chair, one leg crossed over the other at ankle to knee, stirring his powerfully strong coffee while taking in those that arrive in a fairly subtle way. He has a large tablet in front of him with a keypad, making it more of a small laptop than an actual tablet.

Agent Diaz strides in shortly before the briefing is meant to begin, and though he considers a visit to the coffee station set up along the back wall, forgoes its bounty for now. He'll just partake in the aromatics for now. "Sawyer," he greets the lead first. The others there and soon to come respectively get nods for their presence before he assumes one in a chair nearby.

Emily Epstein lowers herself into a seat by Cesar's side barely a moment after. "Hey," is her only warning and greeting both. She's holding a cup of coffee in either hand. One is for her, but one is apparently for him, judging by how she holds it out for him. It's no true cafecito, but hopefully it will do. She's previously made a point to never bring anyone their coffee, determined to never be pigeonholed in menial "intern" tasks, but he'd brought her more than one cup when she first returned to the office at the beginning of December, along with questions into her welfare.

So Cesar was a special case.

The cup is passed off without so much as a direct glance, and she's sipping from her own immediately after. "Lots of people," she notes, which is another reason she's likely chosen an anchor of comfort by Cesar's side. "Any idea what this is about?" It felt an awful lot like the briefings before the Staten Island operation, with the variety of organizations represented through attendance.

This felt like something big.

That moment of bluster expired, Emily's shoulders start to settle, and she overall seems less keyed into the moment.

Although usually attired in 'detective casual,' Lieutenant Elisabeth Harrison chose today's garb with the possibility of business happening soon after. Either that or she's ready to hit the streets this week with little warning. Black cargo pants topped with a heavy gray thermal shirt against the freezing temperature outside are the order of the day and her blonde hair is pinned back into a French braid. Blue eyes skim the room as she comes through the door — she took the opportunity of passing through Red Hook to get here to stop and get real coffee. Eleanor is legend.

She nods a greeting to Cesar — they've been working together a lot the past couple of weeks — and meets other people's eyes. She knows many of them. But it's the first time Elisabeth had laid eyes on Veronica Sawyer since she got back home a year ago. She stops dead and a smile curves her lips, taking away some of the grim exhaustion that lines her features. Her voice is quiet and somewhat amused as she greets mildly, "You know, Vee, you didn't have to have a whole task force meeting just to say hello."

One of the last faces to walk in is familiar to a few of the people in the room, Lucille Ryans slides a pair of sunglasses off of her face and tucks them in her front pocket. Leather jacket zipped up and black boots pad quietly on the floor. She nods to the people in the room, Veronica getting a soft smile before she finds a spot by the wall to lean against, crossing her long legs at the ankles.

The look projected from those light blue eyes was utter calm though inside Lucille's heart was thumping a bit faster.

This was personal for her, not that anyone here would know it. She would like to keep it that way as well. A hand comes up to sweep a wayward strand of auburn hair out of her eyes.

Lance walks along in from the back of the room as others slip through, carrying a notepad and already making a few notes on it — while he walks — but he manages somehow to keep from walking into anyone. A seat’s found, and he settles in before finally looking around the room. There’s Emily, there’s Cesar—

“Aunt Veronica? H— “ He catches himself just before calling a greeting across the entire room and making an idiot of himself, though a broad smile crosses his expression as he recognizes the woman heading up the briefing.

Squaring his back so she doesn’t get a bad impression of him, he brings the notepad up and gets ready!

Already present — because he actually left early enough to not scoot in just as things were starting — Devon has taken residence at the table. His worn leather bomber jacket hangs from the back of his chair leaving him in a simple polo bearing the Wolfhound symbol on the left breast, and utility pants. No fancy uniform and no armor for him today. He’s even foregone the coffee for the time being.

A pen flips between his fingers while he spends most of his time reading and re-reading the briefing notes that have been provided. Just to the side of the folder rests the notepad, words already upon it in pre-emptive notes and ideas. Every now and again he breaks from his study to mark the arrivals since he last looked. Emily is given a small, brief smile, nods go offered to Elisabeth and Lance. It’s passing looks for the rest, although Lucille’s might linger a second longer and show a touch of concern before moving on.

With smiles and hellos for those who greet her and nods of acknowledgment for the others, Veronica is neither effusive nor cold, but a happy medium. Liz entering throws her off that professional middle ground and she catches the woman around the neck in a hug.

“I figured you needed some space and I’ve been on a few business trips. Bad excuses. Good to have you back. Next time you need a break, I recommend Costa Rica.” She releases the blond woman and there’s a glimmer of tears in Veronica’s whiskey-brown eyes before she blinks them away and clears her throat.

Lance is there to provide a diversion at least, and she doesn’t look thrilled he’s signed up for this. “If you get hurt, I will kill you and bury the body to save myself,” is all she tells him, but there’s a smirk at the tail of that to suggest she’s not totally displeased he’s here.

Time to begin.

“Thank you all for coming,” she says, picking up the remote for the computer to begin the briefing. “As many of you know, there has been a string of strange kidnappings.” She clicks through a few photos of known cases. “Many of these weren’t reported as kidnappings but reported by hospital staff regarding patients with injuries they didn’t remember getting, patients with lost time — usually only a matter of a few days.”

The slide show contains photographs of the injuries. A broken arm. Contusions around the face. Broken ribs. “Many of the injuries are consistent with what we see in a fight, but others,” she clicks again to reveal photographs of a man with frostbite of his entire arm, “are more consistent with what we would see in an altercation between SLC-E individuals.” She nods to the arm. “That was from June, for instance.”

The next slide shows a series of videos spliced together, showing a nondescript van pulling up to curbs to discard an unconscious person on the street. Sawyer’s brows draw together.

“This is where it gets weird,” she says. “Whoever’s doing this is catching and releasing these people deliberately. It’s almost like the Company’s old ‘Bag and Tag’ except for the injuries.” Her expression is a little wry there; she still wears the guilt of those years like a badge of dishonor.

“Interviews aren’t particularly helpful. The victims don’t remember very much and it’s very disjointed. Apparently all of the perpetrators wear animal masks to obscure their identity. Tox screens show adynomine and amphetamine but also at least two unknown chemicals in all of the patients we’ve been able to connect to this case. Our best guess is that this combination is what makes them aggressive enough to fight one another,” Sawyer continues. “It’s basically a non-consensual fight ring, and whoever’s doing it has money to spare.”

The brief, tight hug is returned when Vee offers it and Elisabeth whispers, "Damn, it's good to see you." Her blue eyes are damp when she steps back but she offers the other woman a faint grin. "Drinks, you and me, when this is over." She makes her way to a chair to drop into it and listen to the briefing.

As Veronica starts explaining, those blue eyes sharpen on the images. In a very dry tone, she observes, "Fucking wonderful — the Pancratium is back in business." A decade ago, the Pancratium was the underground Evo fight club on Staten. Elisabeth remembers damn good and well the investigation — or lack thereof into that mess. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Although it seems unlikely it's exactly the same people, she'd bet some names are going to pop that are familiar.

Cesar glances up and over to Emily when she appears beside him. The coffee is a pleasant surprise, which he takes with a nod of thanks. He sips. No judgment visibly made on the strength or flavor. A tip of his head indicates greetings to Lt. Harrison, Lucille's entry also not missed. Neither, he notes with a small smirk, is Lance's calling of Aunt Veronica. Emily's inquiry doesn't go unanswered, even though his answer is simply, "We'll find out soon enough." And he settles to watch and listen.

Notes scrawled across his notepad, he glances between the slides and Veronica's given evidence. "Animal masks?" echoes the agent with a wrinkled of nose and brow. And with Elisabeth's note about the Pancratium, he gets even more disturbed, looking down to his notepad. He taps his pen on an underlined word. "Adynomine isn't a readily available product compared to Zodytrin. Only a few labs and government-run facilities would have access nowadays. Any leads on sourcing the adynomine?"

By Cesar's side, Emily shifts her weight with a small frown. Something doesn't add up. "Assuming they sourced it legally. You said they've got money to spare. Would it be too big an assumption to believe they might be making their own to pull this off?" Her brow slants in a furrow before she adds, "Not to mention, if they're specifically, successfully targeting SLC-E, either they've gotten their hands on an old Linderman registry, or the SESA registration database is compromised."

She wants to shiver at that, but she keeps her spine still and expression smooth. God, nightmare situations like that are exactly why I've not updated my status. For this exact fucking reason.

"The percentage of SLC-N to SLC-E would make successfully finding a target a bit like finding a needle in a haystack otherwise." Even if in New York, that percentage felt higher. "Unless there's similar reports for SLC-N victims?" She frowns as she thinks back to that percentage again. "How many of these reports come from outside the Safe Zone? Is this group specifically targeting New York City?"

Emily blinks, realizing just how much she's said. Her throat goes tight and her shoulders slope as she fights off the desire to suddenly become as small as possible. She normally wasn't full of this many questions in a group setting, patiently waiting for others to ask, but she can't help but suddenly worry What if this is what happened to Nathalie???

Shane looks through the materials they were given, holding any thoughts or questions; the presenter of the gathering seems to still have more to say; she may answer the questions that Shane has, so he holds them for now, remaining silent. Shane absorbs the information of the case and takes in the others in the room from his position. Notes are made of his thoughts, though: questions such as 'other connections between targets', 'kidnapping locations map?' and some other initial things, but he digs into the case file while listening to Veronica: it's likely the basics were already covered, and they'll want to focus on new ground.

Devon follows along with the presentation, gaze shifting between the display and his own notes. Like Shane, he keeps his questions and thoughts to himself for the moment, although he glances to Emily when she begins laying out her own queries. Likely he's made similar connections.

As Veronica goes into deeper detail surrounding the case, he frowns faintly. A quick look shoots to Lucille then back again to the grainy images of people being dumped from a van.

The door creaks open slowly with a creak. A figure walks toward them, silhouetted by the golden light from the doorway, nothing but a black figure — lean, possibly feminine. As the figure draws closer, as their eyes adjust to the darkness, they can see it isn’t a human face at all, but a feline one, mouth frozen solid in a snarl.

Lucille's expression grows dark as Veronica speaks, elaborating on what the investigation had found so far.

“Hello, little mice,” says the woman who is wearing a cat mask — this close, they can see it’s a mask, porcelain and grotesquely beautiful, something that might have been made in the early 1900s. The eyes behind the mask are fittingly olive green, though very human. “It’s time to play.”

Her voice would be sweet if she didn’t sound cruel.

"Like a cat…" Lucille whispers and blinks as the distorted flashback fades from her mind. She catches Devon's look just as he's looking off and she to frowns. At least the Crucible didn't force people into fighting, well not usually.

"They just as easily could have been scouting out for people with abilities, not everyone keeps theirs hidden." Hers had been on floor display during multiple fight nights, there's no question where she was scouted.

“Don’t fight this, or we’ll have to put you under again. This will make you feel better,” the cat says, voice sweetly cheerful, like a candy striper delivering jello. “The negation will wear off soon.”

Without his ability, Jonathan’s skin is as vulnerable as anyone else’s. Cat girl aims the syringe for a spot on the back of his neck. “It won’t kill you. You’ll like it,” she adds in that faux chipper voice.

Lucille's hand goes up to massage her shoulder where she remembers being injected, she remembers that man's face… what she remembers most of all was her anger though. Like someone had fanned a tiny flame into a bonfire.

Veronica nods at each of the questions, all good and logical brainstorming byproducts. Cesar’s query draws her attention and she shakes her head. “None that led us anywhere successful. That and the tox results make us believe that it’s being provided for whoever’s doing this by an unknown lab, or possibly in-house.”

Emily’s questions have Veronica pulling up a map. “Mostly New York area, though a few outside of New York,” she explains. “The red circles indicate actual kidnappings,” there are very few of those, “and the blue reports from hospital personnel or other clinics.”

Most of the circles of both sorts are centered around the Safe Zone, but there’s a few from other cities and towns along the eastern seaboard. Veronica shakes her head to answer Emily’s second question. “No SLC-Ns that have been confirmed. These people are definitely targeting our SLC-E community. For entertainment.”

She returns to the images of the unmarked vans. “You’ll notice that there’s about a month between each case, with a couple of gaps. One of the vans,” she zooms in on a particular image, “can be distinguished by a dent in its back bumper. In our investigation, we were lucky enough to capture some footage of a van with the same dent at a Red Hook dock last month.” The next screen shows the same van.

“The images from the dock aren’t clear enough to confirm it, but we believe that the abducted parties were being taken offshore.” Sawyer clicks the remote again, and photos of a large cargo ship appear on the screen. “This ship has been sighted along the eastern coast, just outside of US waters, multiple times in the past year. The dates coincide with the abductions or ‘missing time’ frames of our victims.”

Her eyes settle on Lucille, a slight furrow appearing over her brows, but she doesn’t call the woman out for the murmur or sudden show of emotion. “We’re unfortunately unclear on who’s doing it and just how, but the ship has been sighted and we believe whatever it is they’re doing, they are planning to do it within the next few days.”

Sawyer nods to the group. “So it’s up to us to find out what it is and put a stop to it.”

Well, fuck.

At this point, Emily wishes she’d brought something to write on instead of worrying about getting coffee on coming in. This is a lot. More than that, it feels personal. It could be, after all. She starts to frown as she looks over the map, her gaze leaving it to train on Veronica instead. Too often, the young woman uses her intern status as an excuse to avoid showing interest getting overly involved in ‘real’ SESA business. Here, it’s clear that will be no obstacle for her. Devon’s familiar with the set of her jaw and the quiet determination that comes over her.

She doesn’t know how she can help just yet, but she’ll jump in whatever direction she’s pointed in. “If you’re looking for volunteers in the investigation, please count me in.”

Cesar nods and strikes through a few of his notes once the possibilities he'd thought are looking more unlikely. Eyes lift to the plotted map to study it, and the shot of the van gets a frown. "And sounds like so far the press hasn't caught wind," he observes as well. Emily's volunteering gets the interested intern a sidelong, albeit approving glance.

"Sounds a bit more complicated than taking down a dogfighting ring, too, and just as tricky." Cesar taps his pen on his notepad, offering his thoughts. "They're mobile, have the resources, and are smart enough to have covered their tracks this long. Even if we can take down one event, that's not to say they haven't already planned contingencies and won't pop up again elsewhere."

Back to the picture of the van and the ship, he asks, "Do we got who's the listed owners, or what's on the manifests of the ship? Are they domestic or international? Maybe they've got a local 'office' we could knock doors on."

As the shape of the operation becomes clear, Lance’s expression darkens; remembering when his sister was taken by human traffickers, perhaps, his jaw grinding slightly in suppressed anger. He keeps it suppressed, though, scribbling thorough notes on the notepad that he’s carrying. To him, this is personal.

At a thought, he shifts to sit up in his seat - looking around the room for a particular face, relaxing when he doesn’t see it, though he’s frowning as he scribbles a few more notes down upon the page to match his worried thoughts.

The mention of a ship captures Elisabeth's attention and she narrows her eyes, pondering possibilities. "Do we have anything left that resembles a Coast Guard?" she asks Vee thoughtfully. "If so, they could potentially be required to heave to and be checked for contraband. Even if we don't… we might be able to sort out some volunteers on that front who know how to sail and could be put in position near enough the docks to shadow the next van arrival date and intercept whatever might be taking them out to international waters. I'm pretty sure, regardless of the state of the Hamptons, there are some exquisite sailboats retrievable. The country club had a storage facility out there to winter the boats."

She pauses, blue eyes flickering to a couple of faces, a rueful smile accompanied by a shrug. What? So I can sail is a big deal?

Luce grits her teeth and nods. Red Hook Docks. The Wolfhound operative looks down at the floor as she listens, obviously bothered but if a general consensus was taken in the room in that very moment then everyone would be noted as so.

"So we follow the boat to the location," she offers the obvious in a muted tone but otherwise the woman is quiet and thinking on what this all means. Lucille didn't remember ever traveling by boat but that's not saying much with the way her memory was warped from that night.

"I can ask around the Crucible, see if anyone has heard of a new 'rival' fighting ring." It made logical sense for her to go check it out on that angle. The main problem was that the bad guys knew her face, her ability and she knew nothing about them.

That was slowly changing now and there would be hell to pay.

“Has there been any pattern to the pick ups or drop offs, or is it completely random?” Devon’s first question is given a voice while he's still writing thoughts onto his notepad. “Anything at all that might aid with anticipating their next abduction. Or has planting someone been tried?” If not, maybe that's an angle they can work, pending poor results from other means.

A glance lifts toward Emily when she volunteers herself, a nod following. “Same,” he says, returning his attention to Veronica. That's a given, though, or he wouldn't be at this meeting.

“We definitely need more intel though.” Dev sits up, looks to Cesar and Elisabeth. “Knock on doors as Agent Diaz suggested. Check plates, boat registrations, canvas the areas where abductions and dumps have happened.” He’s sure some of which has been done already, but sometimes it takes asking the same question different ways to get stories to change. And physical evidence may have been missed. He looks at Veronica as another question comes to him. “Are these the only camera in the area? If there are others we may get a better angle or a clearer image.”

Veronica nods to Cesar’s suggestions. “The problem, as you know, is that after the war, we’ve lost thousands of records. And without any clear markings on the ship, it’s difficult to know what port it left before appearing here. It hasn’t been documented at any of our legal docks, but my guess is perhaps they take a smaller boat, possibly to Staten to change boats yet again, in order to keep the paper trail … well, non-existent.” She shrugs. “Unfortunately, with a lack of eyes and ears on the ground, and a lack of security cameras, and a lack of a paper trail, it’s conjecture.”

Her eyes find Liz’s next. “The boat’s not approaching the US shores, so so far the Coast Guard doesn’t see it as a threat. Given they’re still a bit undermanned, they argue it’s our purview more than theirs.” Her expression is a bit wry at that, suggesting she might not agree. “They’re willing to lend some support vessels to us, but the current plan is to surprise these folks by air. We’ll have a staging ground on one of the Coast Guard vessels out of their sight line and off their radar.” It’s useful to have people who can do such things with their minds, of course.

“Thank you,” she nods to those who are offering to join the investigation or find out more intelligence. “We’ve done some of that,” she nods to both Lucille and Devon. “Whoever knows about this isn’t talking. For once, people are following the first and second rules of a Fight Club.” It’s a tiny joke, but besides a small tic of one corner of her mouth, she doesn’t give too much time for the joke.

“Unfortunately, whoever has done the abductions is excellent at their jobs and no one seems to have witnessed anything. Or they clean up after themselves extremely well — whatever they’re giving the victims to forget what happened to them, it’s possible they’ve given to their witnesses,” Veronica explains. She shakes her head slightly at Devon’s question. “There’s not any rhyme or reason besides the dates, and unless we want to wait a month to see if we can catch the vans at the docks…” she shrugs.

The implication is they’re moving soon.

“The ship’s there now. While we could wait and follow the ship to where it goes next, we want to catch them in the act to be able to prosecute them fully. Of course we have people watching now, for signs of activity, but our belief is that the newest set of victims are already there, and that the fights are occuring on the ship,” she explains.

“Tomorrow evening. If your schedules are clear,” she adds. “Those with armor should bring it. Be aware, they are likely armed and have adynomine at their disposal.”

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