Origin Of Darkness, Part II


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Scene Title Origin of Darkness, Part II
Synopsis SESA meets to discuss how to resolve the rat plague once and for all.
Date December 7, 2018

“Recording begins.”

A tripod mounted camera records a concrete-walled laboratory space. A pair of solid-case computers with monitors mounted to the keyboards display monochromatic black and green screens. Adjacent to the desks they’re on is an ten foot by ten foot wooden maze about waist height to the figures in white lab coats standing around it.

One of these figures is a young woman somewhere in her early teens with sandy brown hair down to her back. Her eyes are a piercing blue, features strong and angular with a prominent nose. She has a stopwatch in one hand, clipboard in the other, and is looking to a man in his thirties in a matching lab coat holding a wire cage containing a mouse.

“April 9th, 1981.” The brunette girl says with a fond smile to the older doctor. “Facility B, 10:44 am Eastern Time.” As she gives the dateline, the doctor in the labcoat sets the cage down on the corner of the maze and pulls out a tiny brown rat from within. He carefully sets the mouse down inside of the maze. “Test subject: Shakespeare. R. Norvegicus, age 1. Generation 4.”

The rat begins nosing around in the maze as the older doctor closes up the cage and sets it on the floor. The girl checks her clipboard and reads something aloud from it. “It has been fourteen hours since the second injection and Shakespeare is not exhibiting the signs of neurophagia that Frost and Plath experienced.” She looks up to the rat, then back down to the clipboard. “Last maze run confirmed metacognition completely intact. And if we’re lucky, he’ll shorten his time by half today.”

Watched by the older doctor, the young teen sets down her clipboard and approaches the corner of the maze. Gently, she strokes her fingers along the rat’s back. “Come on Shakespeare,” she says encouragingly, eliciting a series of soft squeaks from the rat. “Ok, here we go.” She says, lifting up a block of wood that had kept Shakespeare isolated from the rest of the maze.

Standing up straight, the teen girl clasps her hands together excitedly as she and the older doctor watch the rat. “Shakespeare is… navigating the maze.” The rat swiftly moves from corridor to corridor. “He’s remembered the turns… avoided the trap door. Gosh, just— look at him go!” There’s so much pride in her voice.

But then, brows raise in worry, and the girl watches the mouse begin to act erratically. The older doctor picks up the clipboard and begins to take notes. “He’s— oh, Shakespeare.” She says disappointedly. “He’s gotten himself lost in a corner.” She starts to reach in. “Ok. Well, this— ” Whatever she was going to say next is cut off by a sudden explosion of electricity from the corner of the maze. “Oh my God!”

A power surge causes the footage to sputter, and when it comes back on there’s an alarm klaxon going off and the brunette girl has fallen onto her side on the floor. “Oh— Oh my God where— where did— ” She looks up sharply to the older doctor who is helping her up off of the floor. “Doctor Price! Doctor Price! He’s— ” A rat scurries across the floor. “He’s out of the maze!”


The older man, Doctor Price, helps her up off of the floor and is just as bewildered as she is. “How… how did he— Why is the alarm going off!?” He shouts over the blaring noise.”

“I don’t know!” The girl yelps. I think it was a power surge— it— ” There’s another snap of electricity and the rat on the floor transforms into an arc of electricity and disappears into an electrical outlet. “Ah!” She shrieks, recoiling from the electrical blast.

Doctor Price stares on in wide-eyed bewilderment. “Oh. My God.” He looks to the girl, then to the outlet. “Did— ” His mouth hangs open and he exchanges a look with the girl in stunned confusion.

“Oh my God. Call Mr. Deveaux right now!” The teen shouts, looking horrified. “We might have an unexpected mutation. Tell Victoria too. She’s— ” The girl looks up to Doctor Price. “She’s going to be beside herself.”

Doctor Price slowly raises one brow at the girl, ordering him around as she is, and cracks an amused smile. “Yes ma'am," he says with a ping of good-natured sarcasm.

There’s a hiccup in the footage, a cut, and then it picks back up again.

The teen is sitting on the edge of the maze, looking into the camera. Her nametag is clearly visible this time, C. MORRISON. “Um. Log–log, ah– ” Her brows furrow, and she looks for her clipboard, but it’s nowhere to be found. With a quiet sigh, she gives up and looks back to the camera. “Shakespeare escaped the maze,” she admits with some reluctance. “He–” She falters. “I think he escaped through the wiring in the buzzer.” Her brows come together, knit with frustration at what she’s about to admit. “As electricity.”


Looking down, the girl kicks her feet and curls her shoulders forward. “I– once we find him we can be certain what happened.” Though she doesn’t sound certain of the likelihood of that. She hops off of the maze and walks up to the camera, reaching behind the viewfinder. The last thing that can be heard is an exhausted, and muffled, “Good lord.”

Fort Jay

New York City Safe Zone

December 7th

3:12 pm

The video is stopped, and the wall-mounted television is frozen on the name tag displayed on the young doctor’s chest. Stepping away from the television, Rhys looks around at the conference room with a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth.

Director Kenner rarely sits in on assignment briefings, but this particular briefing is one so important that it's required his direct attention. Seated at the head of the long conference table on the far end of the room, Kenner has his fingers laced together and chin on the backs of his hands. “I'm going to be frank with all of you,” he admits quietly, “this blindsided us.”

Kenner is a no-nonsense leader, willing to admit his failures and look for opportunities to improve both himself and the agency. When SESA fails, he sees it as a personal failure. He's counting this as such. “I don't think anyone could have been prepared for the possibility of genetically-enhanced SLC-expressive animals. But we should have been. Our agency sits on a trove of information pertaining to the Company and its research and this?” Kenner points to the screen. “This isn't anywhere. No database, no paper archive, nowhere.”

He looks to Rhys, who moves back to his seat and flips through some files. Then, Kenner leans back in his chair and rests his hands on the arms. “We've been made aware through third-party resources that the Company may have performed a wide-level information redaction during the mid 1980s pertaining to events surrounding a heretofore unknown SLC-expressive individual. Now, we've analyzed the data retrieved from Fort Hero and I've been assured that this doesn't appear to be related.” He eyes Cassandra for a moment, then looks down to the table. “It's was just… something caught up in the redaction.”

Rhys then goes around the table, handing out paper copies of laboratory documentation on the experiments. It doesn't appear complete. “Now, there's a lot to dig into down in Fort Hero and — Agent Bauman — I know you're already about to raise your hand. We’re going to assign you to a long-term research project there, but first we need all hands on deck with this rat situation.”

Kenner slides his tongue across his lips, shaking his head. “We've found some partial research, kicked up the data to our labs and they've come back with some promising information. The rats may have only been genetically viable for the experimentation they did because of a hereditary genetic disorder that allowed whatever chemical composition the Company was using to take hold. We don't think the Company meant to do this, we believe it was an unfathomable accident.”

Rhys looks at his paperwork and steps in. “You'll see on page six, the Company was experimenting on curing Alzheimer's using rat as test subjects, implanting human cerebral tissue via a Company asset who could manipulate genetic structures via an SLC-Expressive ability, one Doctor Jonas Zimmerman.” Rhys flips his page. “We believe that their experiments with human cognition, combined with the chemical treatments they were undergoing, not only led to the development of these abilities but also may have jump-started the Company’s development of synthetic SLC-Expressive abilities in the late 80s.”

Rhys flips through a few more pages, and Kenner chimes in. “Long story short, these rats are latter generations born from Shakespeare. Smarter than average rats, and clearly possessed of a singular inherited ability. Now, the lab has come up with a means of exterminating these animals before they kill again. I wanted to round-table the plan with you all, as you're some of our brightest agents.”

Nicole Varlane leans back in her chair after the video switches off. Her eyes stay on the blank screen for a moment before switching focus to the director as he speaks. As the handouts get passed around the table, her gaze shifts again to the papers she leafs through slowly.

She's not even a field agent. At first, she was confused about her inclusion in this round table. In present company, she's less mystified. Under the lights, there's just the barest hint of sparkle in the dark blue lacquer on Nicole's nails as she taps the pads of her fingers on the tabletop soundlessly while she reads.

She's got a bad feeling about her eventual involvement in this plan, whatever it may turn out to be.

Cassandra’s hand was already lifting to volunteer when she was pointed out. She sinks back into her seat a little, hanging her head a little. “Just wanting to be as much help as I can, sir. Anything for the safety of the Safe Zone populace.” The wind was taken out of her sails just a little with that, but it’s nice to know she’s got a place. The video, for now, is left uncommented upon. How to kill something that’s incorporeal is one of the main questions she has, but for now, she doesn’t say anything.

At the mention of being the brightest, a single brow tips up on Thomas Cooper’s brow and he actually takes a subtle glance around him. Wow… they must be desperate is what he manages NOT to say out loud around the big boss, Kenner. “I’m actually surprised Pikachu’s genetics passed like that for so many generations. I mean the average lifespan of a rat was like what? 4 years max? In the wild maybe half that?”

Flipping through the pages Thomas continues thoughtfully, pulling out his phone to access the calculator. “So we are something like 10 generations into this thing?” He trails off with a low whistle. “That’s a shocking number of babies.” Then he remembers where they are, looking at Kenner and clears his throat. “Anyhow, who knows if we are seeing all of them. What I did see of them through Bauman. They are a bit hive mind like and very protective of their own. Until one gets hurt or they are threatened, they are rather docile. One of our victims was able to tiptoe through them, even gently toeing them aside. Then of course, she steps on one and they turned all psycho. If they are smart, it could have been a scouting party.”

Scratching at his jaw, Cooper looks at the others who have dealt with the rats before in person, “We even figure out the common thread of where they were? What we saw, I got the impression that they seemed to be looking for something, we could draw them to a certain place, but have to make sure to get all of them.”

"I'd have a pretty solid way to just give the rats ridiculously severe cancer, but I'm having some issues lately, so it's not worth the risk." Rasheed says as he considers what exactly he just watched. "It's just like those old Russian and German experiments on animals to do crazy things, except we have proof right here.

“Based on our estimates from Agent Lin’s research, followed by my own and what we’ve had other field agents doing by tracking sightings, we’re certain the rats are contained within the electrical infrastructure of the Safe Zone power grid. It looks like they can only travel through live wires, and since there’s no power exiting the Safe Zone, it’s contained them. They don’t seem inclined to travel far, physically.” Rhys flips through some of his documents, finding a specific page with a tap of one finger.

“Raytech has graciously provided us with faraday cages that can trap the rats, but with the sheer number it looks like we’re dealing with I’m not sure it’s going to be a viable solution.” Rhys furrows his brows and makes a noise in the back of his throat. “According to the surveys we’ve done, we think the rats might be centralized under the Red Hook area. It has the most stable power network, and— this is the weird part— not a single sighting in Yamagato Park where the power is all coming from.” Rhys shakes his head, tapping the page with a pen. “Still haven’t been able to figure that one out.”

Leaning back in his chair, Rhys looks over to Kenner who offers the young agent a nod. “Lab tech have said that the rats cognition may be closed to that of a human. Capable of planning, puzzle solving. I understand it’s a shame to need to do something as drastic as exterminate them, but with the public safety hazard they represent I don’t know what other recourse we have.”

“Which, brings us to the solution we’ve developed.” Rhys takes the focus away from an increasingly nervous Kenner. “What we’ve planned is to develop a targeted biological weapon that…” he sifts through the notes, trying to make sure he understands it all, “effectively targeting some unique identifiers in the rats’ DNA, making it harmless to us… lethal to the rats, and — sort of like an ant trap — they’d spread it through their nest.” Rhys clears his throat. “The uh, issue… is that to ensure maximum lethality, we’d— need to deliver it very close to their nest.”

Kenner leans forward and presses his hands together and rests his mouth against the back of them. He looks up to Nicole, not really saying anything with words, just with his eyes. As he looks back down to the table, Rhys continues. “So, the plan is we can introduce a biological weapon that will wipe them out. But that has to be kicked up the chain further, we can’t just do that without oversight and approval.”

If we take that route.” Kenner adds at the end. It seems like he’s not on team bioweapon.

“They just finished that big solar array in the marketplace.” Cassandra says. “Maybe the power just tastes better to the swarm in that location, or the infrastructure allows more movement without circuit breakers and air gaps.” Cassandra has been busily taking notes, with a giant circle around ‘deliver it to nest,’ followed by three exclamation points. “And if it's stable power, what's stopping us from setting out a lure? Shut down the power in the zone except for one that leads to a trap? Make them hungry?”

“Soooo…” Cooper seems rather reluctant to say it, but after a moment he just trucks on, “Have we thought about just shutting all the power in the Safe Zone and see what happens? I mean that’s one way to keep them in place, though there might be riots. But is it riots or eventually we are overrun with enthusiastically breeding rodents?”

The agent continues to look uncertain, as he goes on to ask, “Alsooo, why can’t we just ask Yamagato’s help in figuring out why they stay away from them?” Cooper flips through the brief, “Have we done that? I mean, it can’t hurt to ask. Can it?” The man has clearly never dealt with them, so he looks at others a touch clueless.

No. No. No, no, no, no.

Nicole’s hand slowly creeps up to her face. Her fingers pinch the bridge of her nose for a moment before she hides half her face entirely against her palm. That is exactly the opposite of the reality she wanted.

“Things were tense enough in the Safe Zone with the blackouts. Anyone get caught at the market during one of those?” She raises her brows. It’s a rhetorical question. They’ve all either experienced firsthand or heard from someone who did, she’s sure. “Asking the public to endure another blackout while we starve the rodents isn’t going to work. They’d just be driven to the places where the power needs to stay on, wouldn’t they?” Nicole frowns. “The hospitals don’t need an infestation.”

A you cannot be serious look is leveled in Kenner’s direction. “How sure are we about this rat poison?

The sins of the Company, cause they had been sins, were not Corbin’s favorite topic, nor was anyone delving deeper into what happened at Fort Hero, so he has been quiet a little longer than one might suspect at this meeting. At least until Yamagato Park was mentioned. That’s when he shifted in his seat and looked toward Rhys. But then the rest started to pale his face as he listened on the possible ‘plan’. His only relief is that Kenner doesn’t seem sold on it. “I agree with Varlane. An extended blackout would cause many problems.” Even if they explained why. Even if it saved lives. “And I don’t think a biological weapon that targets any kind of DNA is a good idea, either.”

He doesn’t say it, but it sounded like something the Company would do. Or like what Humanis First had done during the war. He’s disturbed to learn that one even exists and is ready enough to be deployed, honestly.

“We should reach out to Yamagato Park, as Agent Cooper suggests, to see if there might be a reason why the rats did not travel into their area. It could be a security protocol that they have in place. I’m sure they don’t want the bad publicity of another blackout on their hands either.”

Not with competitors showing up on all corners who might say they could have done things better.

"How exactly do we know that the rats won't mutate in a new and exotic way and then suddenly we have some sort of SLC-E plague rats?" Rasheed asks, raising a Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson level eyebrow, throwing his hands up a bit. "Anyone try throwing water on the rats? Just sayin'."

The mention of water has Rhys looking up abruptly. He looks at Corbin, then down to his notes and starts hurriedly flipping through some pages. While Rhys is in a fit of paper shuffling, Kenner just nods and wrings his hands together. “We sent a package of information to Yamagato Industries, but their SESA liaison Ms. Falkenreath… I’m not sure she’s actually gotten to it yet. They’ve had a lot on their hands investigating the bombing earlier this year, and they don’t seem as inclined to include us in on their affairs as we’d like. Negotiating that territory has been… fraught.”

Exhaling a sigh, Kenner nods to something said too long ago to be obvious. But when he motions to Nicole it’s clear he’s thinking of the blackouts. “You’re absolutely right, we can’t afford the public panic of a city-wide blackout, especially during winter. There’s also, as said, critical infrastructure we can’t power down like Elmhurst. The last thing we want is all the rats showing up there.” Kenner leans back in his chair again, idly spinning his wedding band around on one finger. “I’m wondering if— ”

I knew it!” Rhys shouts with a slap of papers on the table. Kenner flicks a look in the young agent’s direction, and Rhys just tramples over whatever it was Kenner was going to say. “Rasheed, you’re a genius.” Rhys holds up a print out of a report. “Agent Lin filed this report from what was our last incursion into the sewers before he was reassigned to KC. In it, there’s…” He scans the document. “A civilian, Lance Gerken, indicated that the rats appeared to be driven away by water. On multiple occasions they’ve moved through an area to avoid the presence of water.”

Rhys flips through some more paperwork. “Hurricane Sandy,” he indicates, “when they were below what’s now the Red Hook Market, we believe they were flushed up from the lower sewers by the storm surge. That led to the death of a child living in the sewers away from the war. Then,” he slides out photographs of a camp of homeless people living below the city, all rent to bones, “here. They avoided a flush of the sewers Yamagato did to clear access to power lines, it drove them into an area they’d not been seen in.”

Rhys slaps a hand down on the table. “They’re moving to avoid the water!

“So we arm people with super soakers and tell them to hose down any rats they see, then lure the entire swarm somewhere and drown them.” When you put it that way, it all sounds so simple and easy, but there are a billion moving parts. Cassandra sighs, leaning back in her seat, looking up at the ceiling. “We need to get someone to talk to Yamagato, to give us an idea when they’re planning to do anything major with the sewers so we can be ready. Watching the weather, too. A good winter storm dumping a foot or two of snow on the city will inevitably melt and send them scurrying. They’ve been down there so long, though, that there’s probably a spot they’ve got that’s safe from the weather and the water. They must have been caught out of place when Yamagato did the initial flush, and the storm…” She shrugs. “Who really could have planned for that.”

“Huh,” Cooper says from his place at the table, leaning back a little turning thoughtful. “Well, at least we know how to get them to go where were want. Like cattle in a shoot.” Just what to do with them when they get there is another thing.

“And.. I don’t know about you, Bauman, but I’m not sure a supersoaker is gonna be very effective beyond pissing the whole pikachu swarm. Remember what they did to that lady.” There is a bit of a shudder at the memory of the aftermath. “I think I would want a firehose and protective gear and rubber underwea-” Thomas trails off again remember who is there.

“Sorry,” Cooper apologizes and clears his throat before he continues. “Either way, I think we now know the means to get them where we want, now we just have to figure out what to do when they get there. I am also leary about using this poison, seem to risky when it it has the possibility of affecting the public or anything else environmentally.”

Water. Isn’t that convenient.

There’s a moment when Corbin gives Kenner a pointed look. Even without utilizing abilities, it would be easier to control flood parts of the city underground and pump it out after than it would be to deal with the potential riots and death of losing power for an extended time in the middle of winter. The blue eyed former Agent of the Company does note, though, “I think we should try to come up with a solution that’s not a biological weapon.” He at least will go as far as to call it what it is.

“I won’t even ask where you acquired such a thing from.” He has his suspicions and them dbeing confirmed would be worse than not knowing for sure.

Nicole had about to say something about not all electrokinetics being bothered by water when Kenner took the floor again and Rhys’ discovery gives them more to work with. She’s likewise raising a brow in the Director’s direction as Corbin voices his thoughts. “I agree,” she murmurs. While she won’t discount use of the method entirely, she isn’t eager to find out what could possibly go wrong either.

“Fort Hero,” is Kenner’s grim answer to Corbin’s inquiry. “There's some research your team pulled out of that lab that’s… pretty terrifying. It could be purposed to make an aerosol rat poison that… well, just kills those rats. But I think we’re past that and honestly? It was my last choice.”

Digital converters!” Rhys shouts as he jumps out of his seat and slaps the table with both hands. “Yamagato has digital power flow maintenance systems installed in Yamagato Park to ameliorate energy loss. The infrastructure for it isn't present in the rest of the city,” he says, reading something off of his phone.

“I thought I remembered that!” Rhys exclaims as he turns to look down the table. “During the blackouts, they had Barbara Zimmerman meet with us about the power. They said the problem was at digital conversion systems at the park borders. They're uh,” Rhys starts snapping his fingers, “they're for energy conversion and modulation. I don't know why it stops the rats but I'm willing to bet it's those choke points.”

Kenner, watching Rhys with brows raised, slowly comes around to everything being proposed. “I like the idea of a controlled flood. We could get public works on that, have city water do a flush and herd the rats into one place. If they're a… a hive mind?” He looks at Cassandra and Cooper, “then they'll go together. Then we just need to…”

Hesitating, Kenner looks at Nicole. “Right now I'm looking at you, barring a better option. Your ability could… I mean potentially?” He claps his hands together. “Like a steel trap.”

“It makes sense that Yamagato has power conditioning on the mains to prevent stuff like that from getting through.” Any IT guy worth their salt would be sure that the power that they get doesn’t vary very much, and these rats are certainly a giant variant. They couldn’t have planned for electric rats but, knowing Zelda and the way Yamagato is meticulous, it’s no wonder that it might have come to this. “We could always make a steel Faraday cage, attached to batteries. Get one of the rats, figure out the voltage that it carries and then just…shove ‘em in.” Cassandra sits up a little straighter. “A bigger version of the Raytech system if we can do it.

“Damn Rhys,” Cooper looks thoroughly impressed, “you are on point tonight. Kudos” He salutes the younger man with his coffee cup, before sipping at it.

“Soooo..” He starts after he carefully sets down the cup, “I know we don’t want to do Blackouts, but what about working with the existing rolling blackouts we already have,” Agent Cooper looks at the others as he talks, his tone thoughtful. “I know it gives us a pretty short window to work with. But if we use the floods to drive them to a certain area in the city, just before a blackout. That would help ensure they don’t just zippity-zap right out of there. I mean, let’s face it, New York is a pretty old city. There would be electrical wires everywhere.”

Looking at Kenner, Thomas shrugs his shoulders, “As long as we pick an area that doesn’t have hospitals and make sure to seal sh— tuff up, it could work at least to get them in one spot.”

Fingers drum on the surface of the table. “Though, you know, we could just drown them,” sounds simple enough to Cooper, even if he knows it is far from it. “If we can get them to a junction close to the ocean and flush sea water through all the pipes. It’s risky, but far better then releasing what is potentially a shady clandestined organization’s rat doomsday poison into the environment.“ That is just his opinion though.

As Rhys confirms the suspicion, Corbin grunts. No, it doesn’t surprise him at all. And he wished he didn’t have ideas in his head of how the Company could have used such a thing. He wondered how many people had known about it. He had once thought his clearance level had granted him access to a lot of things, but with everything that came out… and everything he kept learning, he was realizing he hadn’t had access to much at all.

But at least the bio weapon seems to be off the table. For now.

How many times will it come up as a possibility for use? While he hopes never, he knows how these things go. Never really is a long time.

With Cooper’s words, he nods. “Red Hook doesn’t usually have a rolling blackout, but we could potentially add one for a day. As for a location— I know they don’t currently have electricity active, but have they ran lines for Brighton Beach that we could turn on? If so that might be the safest place to funnel them.” If not, he doesn’t have another suggestion.

Kenner earns a sour look from Nicole. Her ability may work as a steel trap, but she’s not paid nearly enough for the amount of therapy that would be required after that sort of encounter, she’s sure. Still, she finds herself weighing her sanity versus the safety of the people in the Safe Zone all the same. Her expression softens some.

“That’s brilliant, Cooper.” It is a narrow window, but it might be enough to work. Nicole ruminates on this a moment, listening to Corbin and nodding along. “Not a bad thought. Get them away from the populated spaces before we act.”

“This is what I pay you all good money for,” Kenner says with a grin. “Bluthner,” he points to Rhys, “take the proposal of a sewer flush to public works, get Yamagato in on this and ask them about a temporary rolling blackout in Red Hook to drive the rats out.”

He looks over to Corbin, pointing a finger directly at the agent. “I want to get a chain blackout that goes from Red Hook down to Brighton Beach. With all the construction they’re doing out there they’ve had to have run power already. If we can get them there, we can flush the rats right out to sea and…” Kenner grimaces, “Maybe save us from having to pull Varlane into this. But,” he eyes her, “I’m going to keep you on call as a backup in case this goes sideways.”

Pushing back his chair, Kenner looks around the room with a sense of pride. He’d wanted anything other than the biological option, and thanks to the collaborative minds in the room, he was able to find a solution that may save the city — perhaps the country — a problem in the long-term.


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