Not Going to Work


cassandra_icon.gif cesar_icon.gifsqueaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Not Going to Work
Synopsis Agents Baumann takes Agent Diaz to meet up with a potential informant and guide to the sewers to aid their investigation. But, Cesar does not approve.
Date April 18, 2018

In front of the Eric Doyle Memorial Library

A restored, 19th-century carriage house, this library rests between two much larger buildings. Opened in March of 2018, this Library serves the public. This 2,600 square foot building acts as a learning space for the youth of the New York Safe Zone. The services and books within catering primarily to children and young adults, with classes and clubs to enrich and entertain.

The building is named in honor of Eric Doyle, a Ferryman, who sacrificed his life in a daring raid on the Cambridge Institute facility, where dozens of children were being held.

The skies are overcast, the sun’s rays woefully inadequate to punch through the slate grey clouds promising rain if the barometric pressure drops too much. A day when people long for the sun and the warmth it gives, although the few foreigners from the northern parts of the world would consider this a perfect summer day. Agent Cassandra Baumann had left a message for Squeaks to meet her and Agent Diaz at the Doyle library to discuss the ways that she could possibly help with the investigation of the loss of food. The first part of the girl’s payment - a bag of food from SESA’s stores - was carried over one shoulder, Cassie’s messenger bag over the other. “I know this isn’t exactly to regulation, Cesar, but I was kind of grasping at straws here. She offered, and, well…” There’s a shrug given as they walk towards the library. “It’s better than running into the sewers blindly.”

Arms crossed over his chest as they wait, Cesar leans against the library’s facade looking out at the morning weather as dreary looking as ever. “No it’s not,” he remarks in regards to this being to regulation. “And hate to break it to you but we’ve already gone through the sewers blind. Maybe not deep enough, but I’m going to be up front with you Baumann. I don’t think this is a good idea. The agency’s already got enough to deal with, we don’t need a PR fiasco on top of it about using kids to do our work.” A significant glance is sent to the other agent for it, especially given what they’d only recently discovered in a classified meeting. Cesar then cuts his glance away to the street again, waiting. “Is she going to show?” he wonders aloud.

Of course Squeaks is going to show up. In fact, she’s exiting the library just as Cesar voices his thoughts. She has no books with her. Those were kept inside because she has no means of checking them out. Nor does she have a backpack. But several sheets of paper are being folded together into a haphazard square as she walks backward from the library, her back pushing the door until it’s wide open and she can spin around and be properly outside.

It’s some footsteps away from the library before she looks up to see where she’s going. The folded papers are jammed into the back pocket of her overalls. Her hands find the pocket to her hoodie next as her pace settles into something not purposeful. She’s wandering, but she’s remaining near the entrance, while she looks for — Oh! There’s Cassandra. With… someone else. Huh.

The stranger makes her suspicious, so Squeaks doesn’t approach right away. She lets a turn take her closer to the door, because maybe she can get inside again if she needs to make a quick escape. Her head whips around to keep eyes on the pair of agents, eyeballing them both.

“I think she will. The message went through the right channels, and she’ll either show or she won’t. And if she doesn’t, that’ll solve the whole problem. I even mentioned you, so she may be watching us from afar, to see if we’re worth approaching.” Cassandra slips the bag of food off and leaves it at her feet, wishing she had a cup of coffee to drink or something to do with her hands to keep her nervousness to a minimum. This was highly irregular, talking to a kid about helping map the underground, and probably is a bad idea that won’t be done at all, but she is a woman of her word. Which is why she’s here, now, with Cesar.

“I appreciate you being up front with me, Cesar.” No Diaz, Cesar. “I know I’m young and make a fuckton of mistakes, but I’m trying my best with what I have. Using Squeaks offered assistance would keep us from having to go into the tunnels blindly again, and after that Eve prediction…..” She shakes her head. “Anything to keep me from getting eaten by creatures, the better.”

Cesar holds up a hand to stall Cassandra’s self-deprecating statement, his features shifting to something less cool and more sympathetic. “‘Ey no worries, I know you get nervous too. World’s a crazy place sometimes, it’s all we can do to live in it and work with what we got.” His head tilts slightly at her use of his name, but he lets it be. Just in time, as he spots Squeaks come out of the library. For those moments, he merely observes the youth without approach or salutation. He stays where he is, close enough to Cassandra’s vicinity to be associated with her, but far enough away he’ll be distinctly not within any physical grabbing range. And he remembers the words of a certain lawyer, trying to appear less intimidating by uncrossing his arms and instead hooks his fingers into his pockets.

It’s hard to mistake her wariness of the pair of agents. Squeaks definitely is watching them. She could just disappear back into the library. It’s easy to get lost in there, especially for one as small as she is. But she did say she’d help Cassandra. She even said it at the meeting. So she has to do it. The obligation doesn’t make her any more trusting of the pair. Especially Cesar, he’s a stranger. She’s wise to those games of looking less intimidating.

She makes one more pass around, a quick turn that takes her from the entrance toward the street. But instead of going away from the agents, the girl veers toward them. “Hi,” is all she says once she’s close enough to be heard without shouting.

When she lived in Louisiana, growing up, one of Cassandra’s ways to pass the time was feeding the birds in the park across the street. You could fling bread out and watch all sorts of sparrows, robins, mockingbirds, and even bluebirds trickle in to feast on the day-old french loaf that was usually purchased for just this occasion. If you moved too quickly, they’d startle and run, so she got very, very good at sitting still, watching, and listening. “There she is, by the door.” she murmurs softly, not really even moving her head to say it, her lips barely making the sounds come out - a whisper just for Agent Diaz. And as Squeaks starts approaching, Cassandra pushes herself up to her towering 5’3” height - barely to Cesar’s shoulder in heels, and puts on a welcoming smile. “Hi Squeaks. Thanks for following up on my message. This…” She turns to Cesar. “Is Agent Diaz. He’s the non-evolved lead on the food theft case, and I thought it best that you and he meet to discuss a few things.”

Still staying farther off, Cesar extracts a hand from his pocket to hold up in a light wave of greeting. There’s a slight shift in his expression, a small, thin smile. Given that he’s bigger than the two of them, he doesn’t move to get closer. “Baumann… Cassandra… says you got a good idea of where we should be looking. You know your way around underground.” He doesn’t say more, but instead looks off and around, checking for other potential listeners.

“Not where you should look. If I knew where to look, I’d say so and then we’d have the food back.” Or so the girl assumes, because surely when you tell the people who are supposed to fix problems, those problems are immediately fixed. Right? She doesn’t really know how these investigations work. “I know how to get around the Underneath.”

She takes a step closer, but only just one step. It closes the distance and requires less loud voices. “Cassandra asked about maps, and I told her it would be helpful to have someone showing the safe places and the deep dark places that you don’t go. There’s bad things in the deep dark that make you gone. Plus. The Underneath is miles and miles and miles big, it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know it.”

The spot the two agents chose to wait was out of the way with a view of the library doors, a small alcove that was used as the entryway for a long-closed fashion boutique called ‘Forever 21,’ so passerby just happening to hear what they’re talking about would be seen coming and could be easily distracted or dissuaded from coming any closer. “I don’t want to get lost, and we don’t know it, so Squeaks, here, offered to help. Her maps will give us an idea of where to look. It should save us a lot of time by giving us ideas of where things are in relation to other things. Chambers off of the market, for instance, or ‘no go’ zones that might hold clues.”

“So you got a map, but why do you want to go into such a dangerous place yourself?” Cesar looks askance from one face to another, his smile faded and replaced with pensiveness. “We wouldn’t get lost,” he adds with a look to Cassandra, a firm belief to his words there. “Unless you planned on running off somewhere chasing a shadow.” He turns back to Squeaks, still eyeing the young girl, not speaking to whether or not the food of the previous thefts are still existent. He shakes his head, unconvinced, a breath huffing out. “What bad things and what dark places? How do you know about them?” The questions roll out slowly, probing for more info as they stand there.

Everybody knows about the bad places.” Squeaks’ skepticism that Cesar understands any of this deepens. “You don't go to the deep dark places because then the things that live there eat you and leave just your bones so no one remembers who you were.” She’s gravely serious as she explains this. “Everyone who lives in the Underneath knows not to go to those places. It's how you don't die.”

The girl’s arms fold across her chest, confident in what she knows to be maybe mostly fact and partly story. She's seen the remains of people she can only assume got lost there, after all. Though these agents don't know that. “It's only dangerous if you're dumb and don’t know where to go. That's why I said Cassandra should have a guide. So you know where to go and not be dumb. And you would get lost without someone who knows the ways of the Underneath. The old maps aren't good for how it is now. But you don’t have to listen to me about it.”

“It’s not getting lost that I’m worried about, Agent Diaz.” Cassandra says softly, remaining where she is against the wall, looking to him after a moment, and then back to Squeaks. “What I’m worried about is being down there without a clear route of escape, or having one route blocked off and having to find something else. There are places below the city that people do not go or, if they do, they don’t come back out.” She’s not saying monsters, of course, but something down there is hazardous to health. “Could be collapses, could be poisonous gas trapped, could be rats. Who knows? But with her leading the way or, at the very least, copies of the maps she’s made, at least we’ll have an idea of where to go and more importantly, where not to go.” One of the first lessons Cassandra learned in the middle of the second Civil War? Always have a way out. Preferably multiples. “These bad places the undergrounders don’t go, Squeaks…do you know why they’re bad? What makes them dangerous?”

Echoing the movement from the young girl, Cesar also refolds his arms across his chest. Skepticism is met with skepticism. If the topic weren’t serious, the sight might strike an outside watcher as comical. “Except we aren’t just going to wander until we’ve found something,” he states obviously. “I’m not stupid. We — you and I — don’t go in without maps. Without an exit plan. Without figuring out what we’re looking for in the first place,” Agent Diaz cuts a look to Cassandra again for her question, dropping off any comments in favor of turning back to listen to Squeaks’ reply to the other agent’s inquiry.

“Maybe.” It’s as close to agreeing with Cassandra that Squeaks has ever gone. Just like the answer before, when the younger of the two agents first asked her about the Underneath. “There’s stories about people going into the deep dark places and not ever coming back. Never found, or when they’re found there’s just bones left. Some kind of monsters. Smart, scary, hairy monsters with shiny eyes and sharp teeth. Because the stories say those bones are all that’s left. no meat or skin or nothing left on the bodies.”

The kid is still very serious about all of this, in spite of her suspicion directed to Cesar. It’s even still directed toward Cassandra, if a bit lesser. “Anyone who’s anyone that’s from the Underneath knows you don’t go to the dark below. Not unless you want to get eaten. Or worse.”

“Agent Diaz, you know as well as I do that plans change as soon as you get punched in the mouth, and the maps? The only maps we have a pre-war. This city has been bombed, ripped up and turned around a hundred times since the war. Anything that was there might still be there, or it might be a collapsed ruin, blocked off to anyone besides someone Squeaks’ size or smaller. The maps we have are /okay/, but I’d like to have a better idea of what we’d be walking into before walking into it.” Cassandra looks to Squeaks, arms crossed, then to Diaz, arms crossed, sighing.

“Look….I’m not saying we’re going to run off all willy-nilly, Agent Diaz. I’m not saying that either of us are stupid and are going to go running off into the dark with a candle and a candybar to face the darkness. I’m saying that we need all the help we can get to plan this little endeavor out.” She looks to the red-haired girl then, offering her a small smile. “Squeaks, can we see the maps you’ve been working on for underneath the market? I’d like to compare them to the maps that we already have to see if anything stands out. And if we need to go down there and explore somewhere not on the map, we’ll get in touch, okay?” Cassandra is trying to find a happy medium between Cesar and Squeaks.

“She’s not coming with us, Baumann,” Cesar replies after a short glance to Squeaks before turning back to Cassandra. “And I’m not going to be the one to tell Choi or Kenner that we’re resorting to taking children to dark and dangerous places.” He pushes off the wall he’s leaned on, taking a few steps away to stare out at the street, hands reaching up to interlock atop his head. Frustration laces his posture, one he’s keeping a lid on as best he can. For now, he stands off while Cassandra and Squeaks negotiate on maps and things, but stays within listening range.

“Bet I know more about dark, dangerous places than you,” Squeaks says almost sing-song and taunting. Well, she is taunting, childishly picking up on the male agent’s annoyance. “No maps here, I left them somewhere. You want some, you can make your own.” That’s directed at the pair, but she side-eyes Cassandra as she says it.

The girl turns to go the opposite direction. There’s other things to do still, and she can’t stay and argue forever with grown-ups who won’t listen to kids. “But don’t say you weren’t warned about the dark below and the things that eat you up,” she calls over her shoulder. “You go the wrong way, all that’s left is going to be your bones. So sad.”

This obviously isn’t going anywhere good. Cesar is extremely defensive and Squeaks has moved from discussing to outright taunting him about his lack of knowledge - something that Cassandra was trying to rectify for the both of them. And Cesar outright stating ‘She can’t come with us,’ as if that was the plan to begin with, earns a wrinkling of Cassie’s brow and a sideways look. This whole meeting seems to have failed utterly, so the most logical thing is to end it before it gets any worse, to see if anything can be salvaged of it later. “Thank you very much for your time, Squeaks. This bag is the food we agreed on for your time. If you happen to remember where you left a map or two we can see, please contact me and I’ll come by to pick it up.”

The only response to the taunt from the young girl is a pointed look. “You either want to help us or not,” he speaks evenly, dark eyes turned back onto Squeaks, “but don’t waste our time.” To Cassandra he levels the same even tone, clear on the matter, “your CI here’s already gotten the agency in the Council’s crosshairs, you realize. So much so I’d expect fallout from it if we even entertained the notion of bringing a child along an active investigation.” The emphasis weighs heavily in his tone.

Finally, he turns away and with a shake of his head, just starts walking off towards the street. “I’m heading back to the fort,” he announces more for his coworker’s sake than Squeaks’. It’ll be a bit of a walk, but that’s probably what he needs to dissolve the hard gut feeling of frustration.

The look the kid shoots over her shoulder at Cesar is a question all its own. Is he serious? She doesn’t want to help? Instead of responding, she rolls her eyes and shrugs. Sometimes you just can’t help grown-ups who think they know better than kids. When the bag is pointed out, Squeaks looks at it, then hooks a hand through the handles.

“Grown-ups don’t like to listen to kids.” The statement is directed at Cassandra, complete with a skeptical expression. How much has she listened to what Squeaks has said and the warnings about the sewers? She shrugs and slings the bag over her shoulder. It’s easier to carry that way. Without answering about the maps, or waiting for any response, she starts away from the library too, but not following Cesar. She’s going her own way.

And Cassandra? Cassandra feels a little…no, a lot like she screwed up. Cesar is pissed at her for seemingly wasting his time, Squeaks is pissed at her for the same reason, although the food probably helped a little in regards to things. “What else could go wrong…?” she mutters to herself.

What else, indeed?

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