If Woody Had Gone Straight To The Police


bowie_icon.gif brynn_icon.gif lance_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title If Woody Had Gone Straight To The Police
Synopsis After their ordeal in the sewers, the Lighthouse Kids contact the authorities about what they've found.
Date May 28, 2018

Eric Doyle Memorial Library

There aren’t a lot of places in the Safe Zone that have reliable cellular service.

One of those places is the Eric Doyle Memorial Children’s Library in Williamson, which is where the trio of exhausted and beat-up teenagers made their way to - at Lance’s insistence - so that they could make a very important phone call. Arriving in the late morning, they piled inside and slipped off to the quieter parts of the library.

It’s at one of the reading tables that Lance is seated, holding a cell phone to his head, the cut on his scalp scabbed over ugly and red as he mumbles to himself, “C’mon, answer…” His gaze flickers to Brynn and Squeaks, worried, and then he’s staring back down at his hand, fingertips tapping soundlessly against the wooden surface as he practices with his ability to calm his anxiety.

Somewhere, Agent Bowie Lin’s phone is ringing.

Agent Bowie Lin has an apartment in the city. A bed, a shower, maybe some food in the cupboards. But it might as well be abandoned for all that he goes there. But it's lucky for Lance, Bowie being a workaholic, because he has service at work. Not so much at home.

"Lin," is the quick, but welcoming answer. It's backed by the click of keys and mouse, by the soft hum of central air, by a radio playing in the distance.

“Oh, thank God,” Lance breathes out a relieved sigh, flashing his Lighthouse ‘siblings’ a reassuring smile and sitting up straighter, “Agent Bowie, this— uh, this is Lance Gerken? Do you remember me?”

"Lance. How could I forget," he replies in a jovial tone. The sigh hits Bowie a moment later, though, and Lance can hear the change in his tone. Not that he's any less friendly, but the worry cuts in, even though he tries to keep it light. "What's wrong?"

“We, uh, we know what happened to the food,” Lance explains, “We probably shouldn’t talk about it over the phone, though, we— um, we’re at the Doyle Library?” There’s a long pause, “Also we could probably use a first aid kit. And maybe some tylenol.”

"Stay put, I'll be there. Is there anyone else there with you and your friends? Miss Childs, anyone? Ask them to stick around, if they are." Bowie is already standing up from his desk as he talks, drawers open and shut and then he's off. "I think I can swing a first aid kit, don't worry." He keeps Lance on the phone as long as he can, but given all the givens here in the Zone, the call inevitably drops. But the Agent knows to hurry. And the city just isn't as big as it used to be,

No, there’s no-one else there with them, Lance explains while the call lasts, they wanted to let the authorities know immediately and didn’t want to worry— and then the call cuts off.

They’re still there by the time Bowie arrives, still sitting at that same back table waiting for the agent to show up. Lance is leaning back in his chair idly flipping a quarter in the air, catching it, making it dance over his knuckles and flipping it up again. There’s that scabbed-over cut on his head - pretty recent - and he’s bruised up, his clothes looking like they’d gotten soaking wet in particularly dirty water and then dried out without using a washer-dryer.

He doesn’t smell that great either. None of them probably do.

Beside Lance is Squeaks, likewise looking like something the cat might have brought in and played a little too rough with. She’s scuffed and bruised, and looking half sick and exhausted with her head pillowed by an arm on the table. One foot swings idle, the toe of her shoe barely scuffing the floor while she waits for whoever it was Lance called to show up.

Brynn doesn't look any better than Squeaks or Lance — she's muddy, there's a gash on her forehead which is, at least, not bleeding anymore. There are a few other scrapes, and her dark hair is a tangled mess. Like Squeaks, she is leaning forward on the table, her chin propped up on her hands so that she doesn't simply fall asleep sitting there at the table. Her gray eyes are pointed at the front doors, the only thing at her back the bookshelves. She seems to not notice the fact that all of them are pretty smelly… but then again, it's not the first time. Heads up, she flickers her fingers in the warning sign.

Bowie makes his way to their table, dressed for work but also carrying a duffle bag with him. That, he sets on the table and opens even before he says hi. Water bottles are set on the table as well as a box with some kind of noodle dish in it. It smells good, but most certainly has vegetables in it.

"What happened?" he asks as he unpacks a very large first aid kit. Gloves go on first before he looks over at Brynn. "I'm going to patch you up, is that okay?" He gestures to the collection of bandages and alcohol wipes and gels that promise to fight off any infection from all these cuts and gashes they seem to be sporting.

At the motion of Brynn’s hands, Lance looks up - a relieved, if weary, smile as he catches the quarter and tucks it away in a pocket. “Hey,” he says, shifting to sit up straighter, the legs of the chair thumping down to the floor, “So, uh. It’s a bit of a long story, I guess.”

A deep breath, and as the agent moves to tend to Brynn - which he approves of - he explains, “We were in the Williamsburg sewers - not anywhere near Red Hook, I know you told us to stay away - mapping out some of the tunnels, and going to see one of the settlements of homeless people down there.”

A grimace, “They were all dead.”

The older girl’s movements prompt Squeaks’ gaze to focus out of that semi-vacant stare, but her head remains down. It's unlike her to not become on guard with the approach of anyone unknown, especially not a grown-up, but whatever their misadventures were has definitely taken a toll. She does watch carefully when the agent starts taking things out, let’s not get too careless with our cautions now. But with Lance there, and Brynn, there's none of the normal outward suspicions.

“They were eaten,” she supplies. Just as Squeaks had said, retelling the old stories that everyone who lives in the Underneath knows. “Just left them as bones.”

She sits up fully from the table as the agent approaches and nods her head when Bowie gestures at the first aid supplies — they've all lived in this world far too long to ignore infection possibilities. Brynn pushes her dark hair out of the way and glances at Lance before pulling her shirt and sweatshirt sleeve up revealing a scrape from wrist to elbow — the heavy material wasn't enough to keep her from getting swiped along a wall during that rush of water. Her signs to Lance are quick. Don't forget to tell him we don't think they're actually rats! I mean… rats don't turn into electricity!

When Brynn nods, Bowie starts with the cut on her head, making sure it's clean before pressing gauze against it and taping it into place. He's gentle, like maybe this isn't the first time he's done this to a group of scared people.

"The whole settlement?" He glances over to Lance, a frown on his face. He knows none of these kids have had an easy life— what kid has lately?— but he still wishes they didn't have to see any more of this kind of thing. "Can you mark where? We can send a team down. For recovery." And investigations, of course, but recovery implies proper funerals for the dead first. He sits before tending to Brynn's arm, too.

“Yeah. There was a flush— “ Yamagato’s been doing periodic flushes of the sewers to try and clean them in preparation for repairs, “— so I don’t know how much’ll be left. That’s.. That’s not the important part, though.” Lance leans forward, glancing at Brynn with a ‘I KNOW’ sort of look before looking back to Bowie, “So we found the first body, decided to keep going in case anyone was still alive. They… weren’t, it was pretty bad. And they were recent, within a day or three.”

A bit paler at the memory, and he swallows once.

“Then they found us. The rats. There were— hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe. They rushed down the corridor, and— right past us. They knew about the flush so they were running, or we’d be dead.” He draws in a slow breath, “But when they got past us to where there were power conduits…”

He gives Bowie a serious look. “We’re not crazy. We sa this. They all turned into electricity and zapped off through the conduits. They’re electromorphs, Agent Lin. All of them. They stole the food by transmuting it with them and zapping themselves back out into the sewers.”

“SLC active rats.”

“I know exactly where.” That's from Squeaks, who still hasn't lifted her head. And who continues to watch the agent with just tiredness and little of her standard curiosity. “It was a subway place before the fighting. I used to go through there a lot, when I stayed in the Underneath. I can show you.” On a map, probably. She's not that sure about going back just now. Not with the monster rats.

Brynn's watching Lance talk as Bowie cleans her arm. She sucks in a hissing breath at one point — that stings! When she glances back up to try to catch the rest of what Lance says, she gets active rats. Wait… what?? She looks confused. The rats have powers? That's…. Not exactly what Brynn was surmising from all of this, but … then again… in this crazy world, there's a whole lot of things that could be possible, she supposes.

Lance… can rats even be Slice? she signs with a baffled look. I was kind of thinking they were light constructs or … maybe even a rat telepath trapped in the brains or… Well… again. A lot of possibilities here. And they are just kids. Or it could be someone with lots of different powers controlling the rats, she offers, a sudden lightbulb in her head. Didn't that guy who found us have more than one power?

Waiting until he releases her arm, Brynn, reaches around to her go-bag to bring out her sketch pad and hands it to Bowie. It has what maps she was able to make, though the paper they're on may be fragile. This is why wearing a backpack is a good thing — even in a flush, you don't lose it. And her power guarantees the maps themselves are still on the page.

"Sorry," Bowie says to Brynn at the hiss, but other than that his attention stays on Lance. He doesn't say anything at first, just listens. There's a nod or two to makes sure the kids know he's paying attention. "SLC-Expressive animals. And all displaying the same ability. That poses some very interesting questions." So so many. "So the rats are a bigger problem than we originally thought. Go figure New York would end up with sliced rats," he adds with a crooked smile. That's right, he's heard the new slang around the city. Even if he's not sure exactly how kids today actually use it in a sentence.

"I'd appreciate the help," he says to Squeaks at her offer, "I would say that it's dangerous for you to be down there, but I think you learned that already."

Rats with superpowers isn't what he thought would be the biggest danger down there, but hey. He seems to be able to roll with it. And when he's done with Brynn's injuries, he removes his gloves, grabs another pair, and moves to Lance's side of the table.

“Okay, maybe it’s a mosaic,” admits Lance as he watches Brynn sign in their direction, “Someone like— Sylar or something who’s both an electromorph and a rat telepath, but why would they be going around stealing food and eating people? It doesn’t make sense.”

He helped us, so let’s try not to mention him, he signs back with a quick motion of his hands, before looking to Bowie with a wry expression, “I know it sounds crazy but we saw what we saw. Then the flush hit us, and, well…” That explains the injuries. And the smell.

“Never seemed that dangerous before.” No more than normal, and before there hadn’t been thousands of rats appearing out of somewhere then becoming electricity and vanishing into the wiring. Before, there hadn’t been anyone Squeaks had ever come across that had been stripped of all their flesh and left as bones, just like in the stories.

When Brynn brings out her sketchbook and opens to the maps, Squeaks’ head lifts a little. Just enough for her to turn it and get a better look at the drawings the older girl was able to get down. Elbows press against the table and she sits up some, then stretches a finger out to point at one spot on the map. “I think somewhere there was where we found the first bunch of bones. And the subway stop is up further.” She lightly traces with her finger to a guessed point. Seeing it flat and on paper isn’t the same as being down there, and it’s probably safe to assume she can picture it pretty well in her head how to get there.

Squeaks’ head returns to her arm, now both cradling it as her eyes go to Brynn then Lance and Bowie. “I don’t know what happened with the rats.” She knows what she saw, what they all saw. But the rats? “They went all bright, like billions of lightbulbs. Then got absorbed into the walls.”

Brynn nods slightly to Lance, acknowledging his signing that they're going to keep quiet about the man who helped us. She can't follow Bowie's words because his face is busy looking at the injuries, though she does offer him a small, forgiving smile at his apology for hurting her. It's not a big deal — it needs to be cleaned out.

Peering at where Squeaks points on the page, Brynn thinks about where they were in relation to the map and then nods to the younger teen. She makes a small mark that looks … well, remarkably like a skeleton… where they saw the first one, she marks the blocked-off area they had to squeeze through and includes the Ferry mark for "extreme danger" because she left it on the wall right there and it's a good landmark. She touches the place where the platform was and sketches in with her fingertip the rectangular platform — she didn't catch which platform it was, so she can't mark it with a name. And then in a different color, almost like a transparent watercolor, she marks where the flood of rats came from and where they disappeared, complete with lightning bolts at the conduits.

Flipping to a second page, she pauses a long moment and closes her eyes. Without moving her fingertips, a picture begins to take shape on the paper — what it actually looked like when the rats began vanishing, in full detail and color. It takes several long minutes, but Bowie's busy with Lance's injuries anyway. And when she's done, she opens her gray eyes and shows the agent what they saw.

"I don't think you're crazy," Bowie says to Lance, and he even seems to mean it. He pulls on the new gloves and starts with the cut to Lance's head, even though it's scabbed over. He's just making sure— since he's here. "Makes a lot more sense than someone stealing the food only to leave it behind."

He glances over at Squeaks and the drawing as she points out where they were. He pauses in first aid to take a picture, both of the map and of the spots Squeaks points out. But his attention does go back to Lance's injuries after that moment. "We'll find out what's going on with the rats. Could be other species are developing the same mutation humans are. There's a selection of the scientific community who have been curious to see if it happens. Would something environmental causing the— Sorry, boring lecture," he notes with a chuckle.

Only after Lance has been seen to does he look over at what Brynn is up to. The drawings get a lift of his eyebrows. "Looks like electric rats to me, too." Then, up to Brynn. "Can I keep those?" There are some people at Fort Jay who would be interested. But soon enough, his attention turns back to Squeaks again. "How about you? Cuts, scrapes?"

“Thank you,” says Lance quietly—wincing as the cut’s cleaned up. It’s dirty and probably might get infected without the care, thanks to being submerged in dirty sewer water, so taking care of it is probably a good idea. “A lot of people might say we were on drugs or something, so… thanks for believing us.”

He looks over to Squeaks then, frowning, “We need to warn people. Get them out of the tunnels until this can be dealt with— Squeaks, is there like— do the homeless people have any sort of communications network, runners or wall markings or anything we can use?”

“Everyone talks.” That’s Squeaks’ short answer. She sits up again, pushing herself upright and pressing her hands to her head. Skull is still in place, and feels less like throbbing, though she still looks miserable about it. “Just start talking to them. Most will laugh, because of the stories, but enough people might know that group we saw…” She knew them, after all.

Bowie gets a simply tired look. Not suspicious, but tired. And a shrug. She hasn’t seen a mirror so she’s not sure what her face looks like, but is probably a reflection of the two older teens. Squeaks makes a point to look at her hands and even shoves her sleeves back to take a look at her arms too. One elbow is held up a little, with its own neat cut crossing it. “Yes.” She has cuts and scrapes. But she sets her arms down and looks at the agent again.

There's a nod from Brynn to Agent Bowie when he asks if he can keep the images, although she takes the map and turns to another page to take several minutes to copy it down again, brushing her fingertips across the paper as she uses her ability to faithfully reproduce the map she made in the first place. She hands him the reproduction along with the pictures of the electric rats, and offers shyly, Thank you. For believing them. For not yelling about what they were doing. For… any number of things. She's slowly coming to trust that at the very least the agents they've come across so far are not the enemy. It just takes her a while to warm up to people.

Gray eyes flicker to Squeaks and Lance, and she signs for her brother. You know they're all going to think we're insane down there? All they've been doing is telling stories about monsters. She holds up a hand, forestalling objections. I'm not saying we shouldn't do it. We definitely should. Just… I don't think they're going to evacuate their homes just on Mouse's or even our or Agent Bowie's say-so. Unless he's sending in sweep teams and forcing them. She looks less than pleased about the idea, but then again… people getting dead by electric rats is not exactly pleasant either!

"If you're worried about people laughing, you can just mention that you found that group dead before the flush. People won't see them around, they'll understand the danger, even if they don't know what it is exactly." Bowie glances between them for a moment before he settles back on Squeaks. "Can I take care of that?" The scrape. "I promise I know how. I still keep up my nursing license," he says with a crooked smile. But. He also seems okay if she ultimately says no.

"Anyone who would say you're on drugs isn't paying attention," he notes, to the older two. "And I know you wouldn't have called me if you didn't think it was serious. You have good instincts." That one is to Lance. Brynn, though, gets a grateful smile and a return of her nod when she agrees to let him keep her work. "It'll help. Thank you."

His attention turns back to Lance, his expression curious. "Are you still trying to get into college?"

“I know, I know,” Lance tells Brynn with a shake of his head, “We have to try, though, and they’re not going to trust the authorities — no offense, Agent Lin.” A motion of his fingers towards Squeaks, “She knows some of them, and maybe that’ll be enough. If it can even save a few people, we’ve got to try.”

The question - out of left field, it seems - brings a curious look to Bowie. “I… dunno,” he admits, “Not sure what I’m doing right now. Trying to figure out what to do. Rob— I mean— Agent Quinn thinks I should look into eventually joining you all.”

He studiously doesn’t look at Brynn, since he hasn’t mentioned that in front of her yet.

“I can try.” Though getting word of what they found would require going back to the Underneath, and Squeaks isn’t sure she’s ready for that. But she’ll worry about that after talking it over with Lance and Brynn. She folds her arm again, elbow up for Bowie to clean and cover. “I don’t know who will listen or move. It was just stories before, and now it’s real. There’s monsters.” Not so much afraid, but simple fact.

Brynn was definitely already on board with the idea that they have to at least try, so she merely nods to her brother. But the information that he's thinking about doing something other than college… and looking at going into SESA training!!… brings her up a little bit short. She looks a little puzzled and opts, instead of querying him right now, to put her sketch pad back into her damp backpack go-bag. With her relatively minor injuries all cleaned up and taped now, she simply rests her elbows back on the table while the others talk.

Agent Lin lifts an eyebrow, but it's with indulgence. "I understand. But that feeling may put a damper on what I was going to say, which is: if you still wanted to go to college, SESA can write you a recommendation for the price of trying us out for a short time. You clearly already have the personality to be an investigator, why not learn how to do it safely and within the law?" There's a pause before he adds, "I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks you'd be a good fit. Plus, what better way to keep an eye on the authorities than to be on the inside, right? Your background, you'd have a good eye for internal corruption. Just something to think about."

Bowie is gentle when he takes care of Squeaks, too, and it isn't long until the trio is patched up. The aspirin comes next, just a bottle pulled out and set on the table.

“Hn.” It’s a surprised sound from Lance as he looks up at Bowie, and then he’s reaching over for the aspirin. He pops it past his lips and dry-swallows it, nose wrinkling a bit before he leans back again, clearly exhausted from his ordeal. Then again, they all are. “I… I mean I’ve got to think about that,” he laughs, “We just— my brain isn’t in ‘decisions about the future’ mode right now if you know what I mean, with everything that just happened. But— “ A nod, “I’ll think about it. Mo— Gillian thinks it’s a good idea. So does Robyn.”

So maybe he’s already agreeing, just not ready to pull that trigger, so to speak.

Somehow, Squeaks manages to muster some classic eyeballing for Bowie when he starts cleaning and bandaging her elbow. She even leans away from him, without actually pulling her arm out of his reach, but she gives herself some space to side eye and squint a little bit. Once done, she’s quick to inspect his work and give him another look. It’s only because she’s too tired to really protest, but she probably won’t be so agreeable next time.

She takes the aspirin bottle next and shakes a couple of tablets out into her palm. Squeaks opts to bite down on them before swallowing, which is probably the worst taste ever judging by her expression. But she gets them down and settles her head on her arms again.

Gillian and Robyn already know he's considering this move? Brynn glances away after Lance says that, pulling in a slow breath. Helping herself to several aspirin, she nods her thanks to Agent Bowie and smiles a little bit. Unless he has questions for Brynn herself, the deaf teen is merely using this time now to rest.

"Well, no one is expecting you to answer right away. Just laying out some options." Bowie looks over at Brynn, an eyebrow lifting in amusement before he returns her nod. Someone is in trouble here and it isn't him, that's what he's taking away from this. As for Squeaks, once he's done, he moves away from her again, letting her have her space while he starts packing up his kit.

"Do you all have somewhere to rest for a while? I suggest sleeping this off. You'll need it." Worry about the kids has been this man's burden since he met them. Seeing as they insist on running headlong into danger. "I'll get these maps to the office, we'll see what we can track down as far as other odd sightings. Rats with superpowers. That's a new one for me. We're gonna have to put this in the Cases You Won't Believe filing cabinet."

“There’s some sort of murderous telepath near one of the breaks in the wall around the ruins, too,” Lance adds almost offhandedly, because of course there is, “If you need more things for that case file.”

A faint, sly smile, and then it fades as his headache throbs back into life, and he grimaces, “Yeah. We’re gonna head home for showers and sleep after this. We just didn’t want to wait in letting you know, after all those people…”

Reaching out to the older girl, Squeaks lightly nudges Brynn’s shoulder with a finger to get her attention. She signs a quick You Okay? after drawing her hand back. Because she’s noticed the looks during the unexpected turn in all the talking. We’re going home. Soon. Lance said. Assurances, even if Lance didn’t exactly say that, and not because she thinks that’s what’s bothering the other girl, but because maybe something else to think on is better right now.

Brynn grins at Squeaks and nods. She doesn't look mad or even annoyed. Maybe a little … thoughtful. Gray eyes flicker back to the males and she signs thank you to the agent with a grateful look. Homeless or not, they aren't disposable people… and it does make her feel better that they've told someone who might be able to make sure that the dead aren't merely disregarded.

"I always like to add to the weird case files," Bowie says. His brow lifts, like he hasn't decided if Lance is having one over on him or not. "Make sure you all keep your cuts looked after. If you need them looked at again, you know how to find me." Most of them would be fine, but the nurse in him worries about the deeper ones. And the fact that these kids seem to have no fear most of the time.

With the kit packed, he hefts it onto his shoulder before he picks up the drawings and maps. To Brynn, he makes the Thank You sign, which is likely one of the few he knows. "These will really help." When he turns back to Lance, he gives him a nod. "Make sure they get home safe. And make sure you talk to someone if you need to. All of you." Talk to someone in a personal sense, rather than an investigative one. "Thanks for the call. And the information. I'll see if we can't keep you updated if we come across anything new."

Goodbyes said, the agent makes his exit, letting the kids have their peace again. He has the opposite as he makes his way back toward work, instead of toward home. At least there are couches at work.

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