Only Emptiness


vf_cardinal_icon.gif vf_hana_icon.gif vf_magnes_icon.gif

Scene Title Only Emptiness
Synopsis No one said side quests are supposed to be easy. This one is eye opening.
Date December 10, 2011

Ruins of New York

Only emptiness.

That’s the first thing most people feel when they step out of the Hub, come above ground. There had been trepidation in letting Magnes out into the ruins, but with no recent reports of sniper fire and no deaths, there was little reason not to.

The world he finds waiting for him outside is surreal, the same as ever yet different. Twisted. Changed. As they emerge out into the ruins of New York City, a crow caws. Wind gusts as they look out into an abandoned city intersection. What once might have been a flyer flutters by, caught in the strong wind. Overhead, grey clouds hang in the sky, the sound of thunder reverberating against buildings. Vacant. Empty.

It’s unsettlingly calm. Rotting wood creaks. Metal clinks against metal somewhere nearby. The sound of wind chimes are carried on the breeze.

But otherwise… it is complete and utter vacancy. The sounds of abandonment. The air falls still, chilled, and a real sense of what he finds himself in may start to settle in.

It feels like an open grave.

But it’s still New York. Recognizable despite the lack of people. Finding their destination shouldn’t prove too difficult. But even in its current state, New York can be as unpredictable as ever.

One of the many existential nightmares that Magnes finds himself facing lately just happens to be the revelation of the reality in which he currently resides. He looks around, and there's something unsettling about not having his ability out here, something disturbing even. There's a true sense of danger, a feeling of foreboding.

This is Kazimir's world.

Kazimir once said to never forget, he is the villain.

"I know where we're going, but I figured you guys know the places to avoid, so I don't wanna go running off and then end up dead because I walked into some sort of Vanguard nest…" he says while checking on his gun one more time.

The outsider's companion is this is but a shadow, an almost literal ghost of this dead world that drifts over the pavement like clouds before the sun. One of the few able to come and go from the Hub without too much worry about the viral epidemic, Richard Cardinal offers the whispers of his advice.

"You're going to want to stay out of the open. They have a sniper… that's what got Lancaster and Messer recently…" …and Eve… The sibilant echoes of the shadow's speech coil up from the ground, a warning added, "…and be careful not to tear your suit or they might not let you back in." …back in…

The shadow lingers in the darkness of a lamppost’s penumbra. Magnes is the one that knows where they’re going, so the decisions from here are his to make.

"This would be easier with my ability. This virus sucks." Magnes complains a bit, but then he starts walking. "We're getting the medical supplies first, because the library is closer. If we go to the library first, we'll have the books slowing us down." There's a pause, though, and he looks over at the shadow. "Though I mean, you can swallow a nuke, I mean presumably, based on conjecture, so I think you can handle books."

He however, shakes his head. "But let's do medical supplies first, it just seems like the smart way to approach this." So he starts to follow the directions given to him by Kain, while very carefully keeping an eye on his surroundings. Don't wanna get the suit caught on anything.

"I can swallow a nuke, can I…? And what makes you think that?" …think that?

As they start to move, the whispers of Richard Cardinal encourage him to take shelter here or there, warn of places not to step because of instability or other dangers. The shadows don't have to worry about it, but they've seen others fall prey to unpleasant fates in the ruins above the Hub.

The breeze picks back up slightly, whistling as it passes between tightly knotted pieces of metal and collided cars - at the very least, the number of still abandoned cars on this particular street make the prospect of hiding from any potential snipers more plausible. Being grounded offers a new perspective, and for someone unused to it, the quiet can be slightly disorienting.

A bird suddenly takes flight, passing just in front of Magnes as it emerges from an old, abandoned track container. Another one sits, perched on the edge of the roof of a long abandoned Rite Aid, watching Magnes and his shadow as they make their way down the street.

Ahead, a small sign, rusted and barely hanging to the pole it's attached to, points right down the intersection of 34th Street and 31st Ave, deeper into Astoria. Magnes knows the way - but signs, dilapidated as they may be, are a cold comfort out here.

Thunder rolls overhead again, the breeze picking up a bit stronger.

"This is nuts, how New York is just… basically a ruin at this point. I always thought Manhattan was bad, where Peter exploded, but this is just…" Magnes shakes his head, continuing to walk and very cautiously watch his suit. He seems to be a bit paranoid about it. "I mean, I'd imagine you could swallow a nuke, I mean, uh, you know, scientifically, if there's a lot of light or something, I mean… I'd assume that might be how your ability works, maybe. Maybe you can't swallow a nuke!"

”Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,” …desolate…

The haunting whispers of Richard Cardinal’s disembodied voice rise in the air as he quotes the book of his youth, the shadow trailing up the side of Magnes’s suit and murmuring, “…oddly specific thought, Mister Varlane. But yes. Everything is a ruin. Everything is dead. Everything is gone…” …gone…

Thunder is a good reason to return home — such as home is, these days. In some respects, with all the ruins her domain, Hana Gitelman does quite well for herself; the only thing she lacks is company, and even then, solitude is itself an old friend. Dressed in layers against the chill wind, all of them muted in hue, Hana makes her way through the streets, alert for sounds — and for radio signals — that might hint at company of the wrong kind. Which is potentially any kind.

She didn't actually expect to hear a voice on the breeze, one that carries farther in the tomblike silence than it ever would in a living city.

Hana stops short, one hand reflexively going to the rifle slung across her back. Then she registers how indistinct the voice is, words tattered by distance and the fitful nature of the air. Not an immediate hazard, then. But a novelty, certainly. A curiosity. Retreating some distance back onto a cross-street, Hana takes cover in the mouth of an alley, waiting for a glimpse of who approaches — and which way they go.

"I mean it's not that specific, it's science! Well, it's pseudoscience I guess. Conjecture, things like that. Anyway it was a dumb topic let's see what else we can talk about…" Magnes keeps walking, he seems to be pretty particular about his routes. He at least recognizes much of the city he used to deliver all over to, and is pretty sure how to get to his destination, but he doesn't try to veer too far off course from what Kain suggested, not wanting to run into Vanguard.

Well, more specifically, he's trying to avoid running into Kazimir.

"So uh, what do you think of Elisabeth?" he suddenly asks, staring down at the shadow briefly. "I mean, I'm involved now, I suddenly got a girlfriend again. But like, I bet you think Elisabeth is pretty hot, huh?"

“We could focus on the mission you know…” …you know… A dry whisper, the shadows spilling off Magnes and twisting along the ground, drifting ahead of them, “I suppose she’s alright, if you like that sort… why do you ask?” …you ask…

Richard keeps close to Magnes, not knowing where they’re going still, assuming the outsider does.

"Well, I don't know, she seems a bit stressed out, and you seem cool. You don't seem like a bad guy." Magnes just sort of shrugs, in the midst of his trek.

“I’m seeing someone. Where are we going, Varlane…?” …Varlane…? The whispers are a touch irritable as the shadow moves; Cardinal’s not used to small talk while moving through the ruins with a team.

One person passes across the mouth of the street Hana's looking down, distinctively garbed in a Hub suit. That answers one question. The fact that he keeps talking, carrying on one end of a conversation, and yet has no company in sight — well, there are a number of answers for that, and only one of them actually casts aspersions on the suited man.

Still, one suit is odd, and habits honed over the past year regard odd things with decided suspicion. Rather than confront him, Hana withdraws into the alley and moves quickly ahead to the next block, listening, watching — for rather more than just him — and discreetly following on as parallel a course as the streets and alleys permit.

"Mt. Sinai Hospital. And oh, that sucks, I mean, not for you. Anyway, sorry, I guess I'm just in a good mood. I feel like I've really bonded with Elaine." Magnes doesn't say 'again', or 'in an existentially different way than previously'. He just keeps walking. "We have a long walk. Well, I have a long walk. Walking sucks, I wish I could just fly there…"

He shakes his head, but otherwise keeps going. "There's no trick you can do to get us there faster?"

“I could get there very quickly… but that’s just me. You’re limited by all that flesh and bone you’re carrying around with you..” …with you… As their destination’s named, Richard considers the matter silently for a few moments before drifting outward, “I’ll scout ahead a bit, then. Keep out of the open. Shadows. Cover…” …snipers…

"Alright, well, I'm sure you'll figure out how to find me if I have to move." Magnes decides to head into an alley where he's spotted a dumpster. Then he opens it, looking down to spot a bunch of old rotting… everything. "Ugh, okay not here." Then he spots a nearby crash can, and puts that into the dumpster, then gets into the trash can that sits into the dumpster. The smell is still awful, but at least he's not touching things. And, soon after, he pulls the metallic lid of the dumpster down over his head.

At this point, Hana suspects she can make an educated guess where the scavenger (she presumes) is headed; there's only one place around here really worth singling out. It's only a guess, however — and the consideration of whether to act on it is derailed by a succession of clanging noises from down the other street.

Hana eyes that street dubiously. She may be curious; she's not a cat. There are no shots, no swears, not even the sound of that voice carrying on its seemingly one-sided conversation. Stepping into the lee of one of the street's many parked, rusting vehicles, she waits to see what follows, one gloved hand resting lightly on the edge of the car's trunk. She doesn't hold a weapon ready, although she carries plenty; nor is she now hiding, though the car is ready cover if it proves needed.

She doesn't know who is in that suit, after all.

Richard Cardinal drifts from the shadow of a car to that of a lamp post, skims through the shadow of a shop awning and slithers along to the edge of the intersection… and then the living darkness freezes there at the sight of the woman that's standing in plain sight.

Someone that can't be there because she's dead.

Thoughts racing, the tenebrous shape darts like an arrow between shadows, slipping finally beneath the car… which is where the careful, shivering whisper of the shadow-mimic comes. "How are you not dead…!" …dead…

There's motion where she doesn't expect it — a figurative tickle at the edge of Hana's vision that's too fleeting (and too two-dimensional) for her to quite resolve. She tenses, takes a step back… then freezes at the whisper that emerges from beneath the car. Ah. That explains that.

Hana takes another step back, looks down towards the gap between metal and concrete. Not that she can see anything of the animate shadow per se. "I am," she replies grimly, voice low but not whispering. "It just hasn't caught up to me yet."

Her gaze flicks to the street where she knows there's someone else. "I'll stand your third," she states, deducing that there isn't another sneaky Evolved in this particular scavenging team. "Hospital?"

The sudden crack of what sounds like single gunshot rips through the air, louder than thunder and more sudden than lightning. The sound reverberates and echoes through the air, but there's no mistaking it was quite a ways away.

Still, that doesn't change the danger it presents.

Thunder rolls in the sky again, lighting flashing in the clouds. It's grown darker as they've walked - not just because it's getting later in the day. As the echo of the distant gunshot fades, the first drop of rain clinks against Magnes' trash can.

But there isn't far to go now, not the hospital.

Magnes lifts the trash can and rises out of it, carefully climbing out, making sure he doesn't rip his suit on his way out. "Hana?!" he suddenly asks, a woman he's only met once, but he knows how important she is. But the sound of a gunshot… he rushes over to her, looking around. "Okay we need to hurry up, get to the hospital, then the library, and get the hell out of here!"

“How… but… it hasn’t killed you yet…?” …yet… There’s shock in the sibilant whispers from the shadow, as the fact that this woman is alive flies in the face of all he knows about the virus. Maybe it’s mutated. Maybe Hana’s just too fucking stubborn to die.

He could believe that one.

Then there’s a gunshot, and that clang-clatter of the garbage can, and Cardinal hisses, “You can’t keep your cover for ten seconds, can you? Hana, Varlane - Varlane, Hana. Let’s move, the sniper is out there today…” …sniper…

Hana has no answers for Cardinal; the only one she has is self-evident and goes unspoken. The gunshot has her slide the rifle off her shoulder, looking in the direction whence it came… inasmuch as she can see anything at all, given buildings. "Not close," is also self-evident, but worth somewhat more note.

She gives Magnes a brief nod, but addresses Cardinal. "Scout ahead. We'll follow." Signaling Magnes to fall in behind her, Hana starts up the street, keeping to the sidewalk where cover and concealment are at least potentially more accessible.

Magnes follows the signal, crouching down and perhaps taking a moment to consider why the hell she is not in a suit and also alive. "Wow I'm on a mission with Hana…" he says with an almost starstruck tone.

Sure, the one time they properly spoke he accidentally pissed her off by being a child, but… it's Hana!


There’s no words of agreement from Cardinal, simply action as he sweeps over the car he was beneath and across the pavement - a drifting shadow from patch of darkness to the next, heading to scout their way to the hospital.

And whatever threats may lie in wait.

Magnes' comment earns him a sidelong, faintly baffled glance from the woman in question. Slowing as they come to an intersection, she holds up a hand for him to hold and herself creeps forward to look down either side. Seeing nothing, Hana gestures him forward. "Have we met?" she asks as they continue.

The answer seems to be 'yes', but she sure can't remember it. Then again, she's been a long time alone; memories fade.

"Oh, you know, back during the uh… uuuuhhh…" Magnes clears his throat as he starts to move forward, when gestured to. "Okay so uh, what were you doing in 2008?" he suddenly asks, because, well, he kind of talked his way into a corner and now this is the most half-assed bullshit way he can think of out of it.

Hana looks askance at Magnes as he comes forward, frowning dubiously. "Never mind, then," she says, continuing forward, lifting her gaze to the rooftops, fire escapes, high windows lining the street. "It doesn't matter now." 2008 was a whole world ago.

"How are you alive?" Magnes suddenly wonders. "Shouldn't you have the virus? Aren't you like, uh, a technopath? But you're alive out here, with no suit on? Isn't the virus airborne?" he asks all the important questions all at once. "Shouldn't you be a rage zombie?"

Hana is slow to answer, finishing her scan of their surroundings before distracting herself however slightly with speech. "I have it," she answers succinctly. "The rage hits regular people. Evolved just die." She falls quiet a moment, listens, continues on. "I'm just dying slower than most." Albeit a lot slower.

"How do you know you have it?" Magnes asks, tilting his head in mild confusion. "Do you have any symptoms? I mean, all I'm saying is you seem like you're being a bit pessimistic about this whole dying thing…"

Hana closes her eyes briefly, breathes out a huff. "Yes," she answers curtly. She looks ahead to the intersection that is their destination, the hospital down the street; jerks her chin in that direction. "This is not the time."

There's still a sniper out there somewhere.

Thankfully, the rest of the trip is quiet - whatever the source of the gunfire was, sniper or otherwise, seems to have gotten whatever prey it had in its sights. The echo fades, overtaken by the sound of rain as it begins to fall with increased intensity, pinging hollowly against awnings, abandoned cars, trash cans, and non functioning lamp posts. The grey clouds hang low, casting a dim haze over the city.

A turn at the next intersection, a long walk down several blocks. Even now, broken glass still litters the streets of Astoria, once fluttering debris pinned to the ground by the pelting rain. Empty buildings, long since darkened and pillaged, line the length of 31st Avenue, a set of street lights swaying gently in the wind their best indicator that they've reached Crescent Street - and that Mt. Sinai Queens is just a right turn away.

The hospital itself, pitch black inside and cast against dark skies, is foreboding. Situated across the street from a deli and predictable arrangements of pharmacies - also long since broken down and raid - it's clear that Kain wasn't kidding about the place having been picked clean in the past.

An uneasy air weighs down upon the property, the signs of past conflict - raids, desperation, and riot, leave their mark across the once pristine walls. Broken glass, burn marks, impact points, bullet holes, the lingering sounds of what could be anything down the halls…

The only way to go now is down.

The whispers of a shadow guide them, scouting out the roads ahead to the hospital and finding them safe - guiding through areas less rained-upon, where awnings and ledges shield the worst of the rain that’s beginning to fall.

Cardinal doesn’t trust what might be in the rain. The world itself just seems poisonous, these days, to him.

“We need to be careful… careful down here… Edward reported that the lower floors are unsound structurally, which is why we haven’t hit it yet…” …yet…

"This would be easier if I had my ability… this is pretty risky." Magnes starts to follow Cardinal's voice, but he also tries to keep his eye on Hana, in the darkness. "Do we have a flashlight? Do flashlights still exist in the apocalypse?" he suddenly asks and wonders.

Hana follows their guide's directions without speaking further, only giving a slight nod to the concerns about unsoundness. As they come to the threshold of the hospital, she pauses in the process of trading rifle for handgun to cast Magnes an incredulous look. "Exactly what rock did you find him under?" she asks of the shadow, or perhaps of no one at all.

"You didn't bring one?" is more obviously directed to Magnes. Risky, indeed. Making no attempt to mask her sigh, Hana pulls a thumb-sized penlight from her pocket; it's attached to a loop of braided paracord, obviously intended to go around a wrist. She hands it over. "Don't shine it in my face," she warns flatly, because it seems such warning might be merited.

It's not much of a light, but in the dark interior even weak illumination is worth something.

"I forgot that we don't have lights and stuff. I wasn't prepared for the world to be in, y'know, ruins." Magnes says, before quickly adding, with a clearing of his throat, "I mean, you know, because of the bunker and stuff…"

He takes the flashlight, then shines it, looking around, and especially trying to make sure that he can see in front of his feet. "Hana, do you uh, feel any working machines? I don't know how your ability works…"

The sigh that whispers through the air is no doubt an extremely familiar one to Magnes; he's heard it nearly every time that he's had to deal with any iteration of Richard Cardinal.

"It's… a long story," he murmurs to Hana, "And I'm not sure of the details, honestly. He's very bad at keeping to a cover story, though…" …a cover story…

"Do not shine that light on me," Cardinal adds firmly, "If you can help it. I'm going ahead…" And the shadow slithers forward, into the depths of the hospital.

The way down is simple enough for Cardinal, able to move between cracks in floors and under doors, through elevator shafts. That's the first readily available means of descent - abandoned, broken, and pried open service elevators. Torn posters advocating flu shots adorn the entrance check in area, a map of the hospital worn and posted on the wall behind check desks. Any pamphlets that might have held similar information are long since taken, the check in area otherwise bare.

The map seems to indicate stairs around the corner that lead down to the basement, but provides no further insight on the state of the hospital.

As Richard scouts ahead, he begins to hear something - the faint sound of repeated, rhythmic banging. Metal against… something, from the sound of it.

Very bad, indeed. "Just stop, Varlane," Hana states wearily as they make their way through the halls in the shadowmorph's wake. She takes point in their little convoy of two, of course. "Whatever your secret is, wherever you're from that isn't 'an apocalypse,' I don't actually care."

She pauses to contemplate a pried-open elevator shaft, then goes looking for the stairs that are practically certain to be near any elevator. "No power, no computers," Hana says at last, finally answering his second question. "If something's not networked, I wouldn't notice it, but — there's still no power."

"I kind of wonder what your ability does outside the context of the modern world." Magnes muses as he continues walking near Hana, trying to keep his light away from Cardinal but in search of stairs. "I mean, yeah, it makes sense that you learned to use your ability because of networks, so obviously that's how it works and how you learned to use it, but in terms of evolution, it's not like nature made networks, you know?"

He pauses for a moment, taking a brief second to think. "What I'm saying is, your ability to interface with networks or however it works, it's probably something interesting, I mean, the function of it, the actual function of your ability that allows you to mess with technology." He shrugs, then, adding, "It's just a thought. We're in the apocalypse, can't hurt to consider it."

“He never stops, by the way….” // …the way…// The whispers come from the wall beside the pair as a human silhouette stretches up it, the shivery voice of Richard Cardinal observing this quite wryly, “Not once, not for a moment, not even to breathe…” …to breathe…

There’s a pause, and then he adds, “There’s something down there. Repetitive. Metal on metal. Not sure what’s causing it… I’m going to find out, but wanted to let you know first…” …first…

That warning given, the shadow darts back ahead again, a tenebrous shape hunting the sound of metal against metal.

Thunder rumbles outside again, and this time lightning arcs across the sky to match it, providing a moment of eerie illumination in the lobby, wind whistling through broken glass and bent steel. Somewhere, from within the hospital, the sound of something crashing rings out, before everything falls quiet again, save the sound of the rain outside.

As the shadow winds its way into the basement, the sound - a dull, reverberating clang - sounds out, time. And time. And time. And time, again. A faint, dull light comes into view as Cardinal slips down the a hallway, and another sound begins to bleed into the metal clanging.


Soft sobs, unintelligible mumbling mixed up within, and as Cardinal follows the sound and light, he quickly finds himself in a room, illuminated in dull light by a small handlamp. The walls are lined with cracks, chips, broken chunks, running all up and down. With one clang, the ceiling groans. The room looks like, once upon a time, it was the site of a battleground. A struggle.

Everything in disarray, metal shutters and grating pulled down to prevent entry into a back storage room. Broken chairs and half a table look like they were thrown into one of the walls. the wall buckled and broken from the impact. The light illuminates dark, rust coloured stains on the stone floor, where carpet at one point had been laid.

Little of anything that gives clear indication of what this room was remain, except for once damaged sign - "Storage 2B". Under it, stands a figure, hand hand pressed against a reinforced door as they bang a large piece of broken metal against it time. And time. And time. And time, again.

"I can tell…" Hana mutters, shaking her head slowly. She looks at Magnes for a moment, then shakes her head, both choosing not to engage the speculation and believing he begins from an incorrect assumption. But in the end, what does she know about biology, evolution, or any of that?

She nods to Cardinal as the shadow darts off. "In this situation," Hana points out to Magnes as they enter the stairwell, "considering distractions like that could get us killed." Straining her senses for anything below, she moves cautiously down, gun held low but ready. "Odds are Cardinal's 'noise' is from what you called zombies."

Vanguard has no reason she can imagine, and who else would be out here?

Magnes follows Hana down, keeping his light forward, still being rather careful about his suit. Lots of things to get hooked on in hospitals. "I've been on missions before, I'm just nervous with a virus and not having my ability. I mean, Argentina with the Evolved hunting sentinel robots was worse." he helpfully points out. "But I had my ability too… not having my ability makes everything harder. I hate feeling so heavy, being in this suit, I feel a little helpless."

Oh. Well.

Richard Cardinal sweeps slowly around the battle-damaged room towards the solitary figure that’s trying so desperately - or hopelessly - to get into the storage room, a shadow creeping at the edges trying to get a better look at whoever that is that’s banging the metal against the door.

Or whatever is doing so.

The figure doesn't seem to notice the creeping shadows, focused on the continued beating on the metal door. A small dent has formed from where the broken metal - long, jagged, and slightly rusted - has impacted countless against the door. Blood smears against it, a hand beating and scratching against the door so much fingernails are cracked and bloody, fingers blistered and busted open.

It chokes out a sob again, the figure - a man - mumbling to himself in an unintelligible mess of words. "The drugs" are the only words that stand out amongst the grumbling, but otherwise it comes across as an unrecognizable string of gibberish.

The door to the room itself is closed, seemingly tight - but it is not air tight, with plenty of room for a shadow to slip under. A clear window in the door, cracked but not broken, offers a view into the storage room - visibly untouched by the passage of time.

Another landing, another flight of stairs. Hana contemplates it under the sweep of the light Magnes holds. "I don't suppose you know which floor we want?" she asks, continuing down without waiting for an answer. If nothing else, they can start low and sweep their way back up.

Hana falls quiet after that, glancing briefly in Magnes' direction. That silence holds as they descend the second level; it isn't broken until next landing. "Helpless goes rather hand-in-hand with apocalypse," she remarks, tone devoid of any inflection.

"Kain said we're going down." Magnes knows who Kain is, though he didn't bother to question the man. This is the first time he's actually met him in a personal way, but, well…

Either way.

"We're supposed to go down, it's unstable so there's untouched stuff down there." He follows her down with his light, and he can't help but add, "You know, you were humorless even when you didn't have a virus. I wonder if I'm just not your type of person… though I guess that time you yelled at me, I probably deserved it."

The poor bastard. So close, and yet so far…, thinks the living shadow of Richard Cardinal as he watches the man hopelessly banging against the door, desperate for the drugs that are too late to save him. He makes himself watch for a few long moments. To remind himself why he’s playing hero instead of hiding in some darkened corner.

Because outside the people of the Hub, there are only fanatics and this.

Then he spills through the cracks in a spill of umbral darkness, leaving the man behind as he continues inward to investigate the room. If there are drugs there, then this might be exactly what they’re looking for.

As Hana and Magnes descend the stairs down to the basement storage, they begin to hear the echoing clang of the metal on metal - just for a few moments, before it abruptly stops. For Cardinal, so much closer, the sound reverberates through the room, but no follow up strike comes after it. The man who was banging at the door is gone, as if he weren't there at all.

The storage room is vast, but incomplete - one of a few, judging from the sign that hung overhead the door. Filed containers of basic medical supplies as well as numerous prescription or stronger medications are tucked away safely and neatly on shelves and in sealed container.

From inside, the living shadow can see that the door is locked by what was once an electronic lock - one that did not automatically disengage when the power outages occurred. What he cal also spot, however, is a low spot in the wall where light from the handlamp filters through cracks - a spot barely intact.

Hana looks askance at Magnes yet again, but anything she might have said is interrupted as she finally picks out the clanging sound Cardinal described earlier. One constant beat — until it stops. She pauses just short of putting her hand on the door, then pushes the lever to crack it open just slightly, listening intently for anything beyond.

Silence reigns in the hall, and Hana quickly steps clear of the door, her free hand holding it open for the suit to follow after.

Magnes switches flashlight hands, then suddenly draws a handgun, heading in when Hana ushers him in. He finally stops talking, he seems to be suddenly in Serious mode. He has Company training, and police training, and is actually using it, holding his flashlight next to his gun for aiming purposes, as he aims around the room.

This Hana may or may not be able to discern the sudden shift in his movements and actions, who even knows anymore!

Jackpot. Cardinal slips back beneath the door in a spill of darkness, spreading up the wall in that weak spot in the shape of a giant X. “I think we could break through here… but be careful, we don’t want the roof falling in on us…” …on us…

“Oh, and… there’s probably an invisible zombie in here…” …look out…

For the moment, they're alone. The only sound heard throughout the hallway is the creaking of the damaged walls. The flashlight reveals that far down the corridor, something's already partially collapsed - a result either the ravages of time, or someone else's failed attempt at "rescuing" some of the basement storage's various contents.

A quiet, barely audible scrape sounds.



Richard can hear it where he is, fainter for Hana and Magnes. Still nothing to be seen to attach to the noise.

Outside, thunder cracks through the air, hard enough to vibrate the walls just the slightest bit. A bit of concrete dust falls from the ceiling, drifting down in front of Magnes, flashlight moving across the room.

The walls, the floors, are marked by various rust red stains, long since dried. Walls crack, chunks torn out at corners. Dings, dents, small holes, and scorch marks fill the flashlight's light as it moves along the basement.

Something happened down here, that's for sure.

Some habits never die, and as they move down the corridor, Hana doesn't notice the spacing she and Magnes have fallen into, the way they divide the hall and clear lines of fire. She does notice the lack of further commentary (or questions), but mentioning it would defeat the purpose. Besides, she has more pressing concerns.

She can almost hear something. Something that isn't the rattle of thunder. "Got it," Hana says to Cardinal. She looks down the darkness of the farther corridor. "I'd like to sweep to a set of fire doors, first. Try and bolt them." Block out any of their purported invisible zombie's potential friends. She glances to Magnes. "Bring anything for breaking walls?"

"We don't have a lot." Magnes says as he reaches behind him to grab what can only be described as an strangely small sledgehammer hanging from his belt, about the size of a normal hammer but with a larger head. "This has to do." He considers if he should just go for it, then heads to where Cardinal's X is, but he looks back to Hana first, trying to make sure.

“There’re plenty of supplies in here, but there’s a reason nobody ever got to them… for instance, there’s something coming closer,” is the dry, sibilant whisper of Richard Cardinal, “Or else it’s just making noise where it is. I doubt there’s more than just that one zombie…” …poor bastard…

The scrapes echo through the corridor outside the storage room as Magnes makes his way to it. They space out more and more each with each repetition, until the scraping suddenly stops when the pair reaches the door. Water drips down from a crack in the ceiling, a puddle beginning to form. As Magnes steps to the X, thunder rolls outside, duller than the one before it.

It almost masks the sound of movement, sudden shuffling the only warning before a piece of metal suddenly crashes into the wall above where Magnes inspects the X- and where once there was nothing, the broken, single minded zombie of a man stands, no longer cloaked in invisibility. The blow against the weakened wall almost makes the room feels like it shifts, concrete in the ceiling grinding together as it moves and shifts from the swing.

Anything Hana might have said in response to Magnes' glance is cut off by the sudden launching of junk down the corridor. Tensing, she looks whence it came, gun reflexively orienting on it — a vague shape just a few feet off in the dark, picked out faintly in diffuse light. No warnings to her companions, no expressions of alarm or concern; Hana fires three shots at the thing's torso, the only area she can reasonably expect to hit given that Magnes has her light.

When Magnes hears shots firing, he looks back, spots the zombie, and pretty much immediately aims the flashlight at it while simultaneously swinging the hammer to try and smash its head. "Cardinal, will you get the virus if you wrap around his face as a shadow?!"

“Of course not. I don’t have a body…” …a body…

It’s not a bad idea, either, which is why in the wake of those words Richard Cardinal is washing off the wall in a rush, twisting darkness spilling up the zombie’s tattered pant leg and chest, shadows moving to blind and conceal and confuse. There are worse things he could do, certainly, but any of them would potentially expose him to the virus.

And fuck that noise.

wGunfire echoes through the room, the muzzle flash offering bursts of light as Magnes whips around with his flashlight. Wet flesh splits as Hana's bullets impact, staggering the lone infected to the side. It hunches slightly, allowing Magnes to get a solid connection with his hammer. He can hear the crack and split, a tangible sound as jaw bones shatter from the blow.

With a bloody splort the zombie stumbles into the wall, bloody fingers leaving streaks as it rights itself - not down for the count yet. It flickers in and out of visibility, but is halted as Richard robs it of it's vision, stumbling towards Magnes blindly.

The walls creak as it pushes, concrete groaning as it pushes against itself. There's a loud crack, but nothing further. Not yet, at least.

With Magnes now in hammer range of the zombie, they're too close for Hana to shoot again, or even deploy a knife — not in this lighting, not with the risk of damaging Varlane's suit. She moves out and to the side instead, somewhat into the zone the unfortunate monster came from, clearing space around Magnes and giving herself a different angle. She keeps an ear on the darkness around them, in case of more — possibly in vain, given the clamor their little group is generating.

"I apologize for this, I know this isn't your fault." Magnes says with a deep breath, and then, aiming his flashlight to get and get a good angle, he suddenly tries to smash the hammer downward and into the zombie's head completely.

“This guy is already dead, Varlane— “ …already dead… A frustrated whisper from the shadows clinging around the rage-zombie’s features, hiding his vision and desperately hoping that the creature’s ability is just invisibility and not photokinesis.

As the hammer crashes down on the zombie's skull, a sickening crack sounds. The zombie collapses to the ground, flickering in and out of visibility again as it twitches on the floor - alive, but seemingly incapacitated. It shows no other signs of other powers to bring to bear, spasming as blood streams from where flesh and bone have been split and splint.

It doesn't get back up, at least.

The room shakes. Concrete grinds. A long crack begins to form in the far wall as plaster splits from where the broken piece of metal collided into it. Outside, thunder only adds to the noise.

Hana waits, gun ready, watching the zombie twitch. She listens — to thunder, to unraveling plaster, to the sounds of the hapless monster on the floor. Finally, since the thing seems disinclined to entirely cease despite its brain damage, she holsters her gun, steps forward to borrow the hammer from Magnes, and cracks its lower legs with two sharp blows. Just in case.

The hammer is handed back. "Go ahead with the wall," Hana allows. "Haven't heard anything else down here." She herself steps back, drawing her gun once more but holding it at rest.

"You have to crush its head, that's still a person, suffering." Magnes states to Hana, though he'll leave it to her how she decides to do that. He seems quite sympathetic towards the thing, but he turns to the wall, then starts smashing his hammer with all his strength against it. "This place is Hell and I'm ready to leave."

“You might want to hurry,” observes the shadow of Richard Cardinal, sliding up the wall, “This place seems like it wants to come down rather urgently and what we’re about to do probably isn’t going to help any. I’m sure there was a reason why Edward told people not to come here…” …here…

With each blow, a piece of the wall falls away, affording them move than enough space to duck under and into the storage area. Inside, it's just as Richard described it - a jackpot. There's more than enough supplies to last them a good while, including pain killers, negation drugs, gauze and bandages, and most else they could readily ask for.

And the hospital itself seems upset with their plan to trespass within the storage room, and each hit of the hammer seems to destabilise the architectural integrity that much more. For the moment, there is still a ceiling above them.

It's becoming quickly apparent that might not remain the case.

Hana looks at Magnes, looks at the zombie that's already had its head staved in and is still twitching. Since she's holding a gun rather than a hammer, she leans down and shoots it in the head at point-blank range. Maybe that will actually end it. Maybe not. It's practically a moot point now.

The ceiling's threatening to fall in, after all. If they don't get out soon, they'll all end — well, everyone but the living shadow.

Putting the gun away, Hana moves into the storage room, quickly taking stock of what's on the shelves. "What all were you sent for?" she prompts, rifling through a shelf of linens until she finds the stack that are pillowcases. One of those'll do. Then she proceeds to pile supplies into it.

"I think everything." Magnes looks back at the shadow, then at the stuff ahead of them. "Cardinal, I need you to take as much as possible. You should be able to take a lot, but I don't know how far your ability's progressed…"

Then he starts to quickly try and find something to actually store these things, to try to take as much as possible. "It took this much to get here, we have to get as much as we possibly can."

“Oh, yes, I’ll pick all this up with my hands…” …my hands… Richard replies in deadpan tones, the shadow washing over the medical supplies ineffectually. The twisting whispers of the shadow add, “I would prioritize the negation drugs… they’re most important for long-term survival…” …survival…

All involuntary movement from the zombie ends as Hana euthanizes it, just a bloody mess remains of whomever it might have once been - and still less messy than what it could have been, all things considered. As light fills the storage room, Magnes and Hana can see what Richard did - the treasure trove, a room that goes back quite aways and has multiple entrance points, all as sealed as this one was.

Each shelf is clearly labeled, every container neatly and cleanly set on it's own. Most things with additive properties are either gone or seemingly stored elsewhere, but there's at least a little of just about anything else.

And thankfully, there seem to be no other rage-zombies about - the only sound that haunts the trio now is the echoing thunder booms, and the creaking of plaster and concrete. If the ceiling is coming down, how long they have is unpredictable at best - terrifyingly short at worst.

Noticing Magnes looking around, Hana snags another pillowcase and tosses it his way. A third is pressed into service as padding for adynomine vials. "We'll get what we easily can, and leave," she counters. Indeed, by her estimation, she's about reached the limit of what her ersatz sack will readily bear.

Twisting the upper portion of the pillowcase into a knot, she hoists it over her left shoulder. "I can come back tomorrow," Hana offers, "see if anything's still accessible." It wouldn't be the first time she's left things where scavengers could find them. "But if that ceiling falls in, I don't intend to be under it." And with that, she starts back towards the hall.

"Well, if somehow the virus gets cured, and I can just come out here with my ability, it won't matter if the ceiling collapsed." Magnes wildly speculates, narrowing his eyes at Hana as if he's suspicious. But he instead focuses on the main things first, which are the negation drugs. And once he's gotten plenty of those, he pulls a thick trash bag from his belt and starts to put a few other assorted supplies in that, before hefting them both over his shoulders. "Alright, let's get out of here. I only need to get a few books from the library, it's kind of important, world saving business."

The shadowmorph flickers along the ceiling as if checking how deep the cracks are running as the others loot to the best of their ability, occasionally murmuring something in worried, sussurant tones.

“Finally… you might want to run, I don’t know how much longer this place is going to last…” …to last…

The next sound any of them hear is the buckling of plaster and concrete at the far end of the long storage room. Long splits streak down the ceiling,breaking into cracks.

And then it begins.

The first rain of concrete and plaster falls, bringing down with it old furniture, machinery, remains. They crash, breah, collect. Dust billows out as the cracks continue to spread out. The whole ceiling doesn't come crumbling down all at once - whatever once damaged these hallways has been been slowly rotting, worse in some places than others.

But it's spreading, running towards them.

The cacophony of noise almost covers the sounds of the next piece of the ceiling crumbling. And it's only making its way towards them.

Not long is the oh-so-obvious answer. If and somehow can wait; it's definitely time to run. Hana hits the door full-force, glancing back just enough to check if Magnes is following; he's close enough. She holds it open until he's through, then bolts for the stairs to do the same there.

When Hana hits the stairs, she takes every other step. Two flights up and they're out.

Magnes runs up behind Hana as quickly as possible, and, thankfully, he's been practicing moving around without his gravity. But his lungs are burning already, his body just isn't used to this kind of activity without some kind of aid from his ability. Still, he'd rather his lungs burn than die and get crushed. Also, the weight from the bags isn't helping, but he isn't letting them go, he has a death grip on them.

Oh, there it goes. Richard Cardinal sweeps after the others, the shadow they’re casting behind them as they run for the stairs, dancing along the railing and the walls.

Move… don’t you dare get crushed down here, Varlane! We need you…” …you…

The collapse follows behind their every step, deafening as steel, plaster, concrete, and more crack, break, tumble, fall.They can see the cracks in the wall racing after them, trying desperately to catch up as the ceiling comes crashing down. As the bound up the steps, a cloud of dust and broken plaster shoots up the stairwell - the destruction falls into the stairwell, but doesn't pass it.

It is perhaps luck that, the lobby is still intact. As the sound of the full collapse of parts of at least the first floor of the hospital settles, the rain becomes a welcome substitute for the sounds of the chaos that preceded their arrival back on the ground floor.

And thankfully, none of that particular zombie's friends seem to be waiting for them either.

Arriving at the ground floor, Hana pushes the door open cautiously and listens a moment, gauging what she can of the building's destruction from sound alone. Mostly, the takeaway is it's receding… and thus not collapsing right here. Once they're off the stairs — and appear to be out of immediate danger — Hana takes a moment to reclaim her penlight from Magnes, now that he's carrying two bags. Light in hand, she picks her way back out to the lobby doors and the storm still going on outside.

Switching the light off and stowing it in a pocket once they're all clear of the building, Hana glances back towards the dark interior. She wonders, briefly, how far the noise carried — and if anyone else heard. "Let's get some distance," she says, turning and starting down the street. "The library, was it?"

"Yeah, I need some books on theoretical physics, and some stuff on quantum mechanics and higher dimensional science. Let's do it!" Magnes says after he's gotten a chance to actually breathe. "Chances are, the collapse echo'd off a lot of buildings and they'll have to do some work to actually pinpoint this place, so we should have time to actually get out of here, depending on what abilities they have access to. Cardinal should scout ahead, and sweep the area from above as quickly as possible."

There’s a relieved sigh that echoes from the living shadow as it slides along the street beside the pair. “I’ll scout ahead… but I can’t fly, Varlane.. Hana, try and make sure he doesn’t die before I get back, will you…?” …will you?…

Cardinal flickers over the pavement in the direction of the library to try and chart them a safe path.

Thunder rolls overhead, the shadow sliding it's way ahead of them. The storm churns overhead, but rain and lighting are nothing in comparison to what they walked away from today. The walk to the Library would be calm in the wake of the partial collapse of Mount Sinai Hospital Queens.

At least they didn't get away empty handed.

Magnes will get what he needs - the Library isn't too far, and chances are anything that might prove a danger is moving to investigate the sounds of chaos coming from the hospital. But what has been seen here today will always be a stark reminder in the backs of their minds, that it's just like Magnes had thought earlier.

This is His world now. They are just surviving in it.

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