Point Failure


iris_icon.gif joe_icon.gif niki_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif tibby_icon.gif

Scene Title Point Failure
Synopsis When the power fails throughout Red Hook, people congregate at the Market for a bit of normalcy and to air their discontent.
Date September 6, 2018

Red Hook Market

Outside, the sun hangs low over the horizon, painting the neighborhood of Red Hook in warm hues entirely at odds with the present atmosphere of its inhabitants. Inside the Red Hook Market, there are far more people than typical on a Thursday, even for after-work hours. It's not just prospective customers who loiter around stall tables and cluster in the aisles this eve, but the frustrated and discontent, people whose dinner and evening plans have been disrupted by concerns of a kind this neighborhood does not usually have to account for.

Outside is a neighborhood that has been deprived of electricity for perhaps half an hour already, with sunset impending and no end to the outage in sight. Inside, courtesy of the solar panels the Cooperative Council arranged to have installed, the Market is an island of urban normalcy in what may soon be a sea of darkness.

Standing outside the Red Hook Tavern is a small cluster of women with wine coolers in their hands and frustration plain on their faces. "Not five minutes after I'd put the casserole in the oven," Sabine complains to her friends, gesturing angrily with the hand holding the bottle. "Five minutes and the power goes out! Weren't the problems supposed to be fixed?" Though Red Hook was not directly subject to said earlier problems.

Halfway down an aisle from them, two children of around seven appear to be playing some combination of peekaboo and tag around a knot of food stalls, weaving around the tables and their patrons alike in an eminently unpredictable fashion. Their enthusiastic energy appears to have already done a number on the teenager overseeing the kids; Oliver stands back a short distance, slumped against one of the underground plaza's supporting posts, one eye on the racing kids and the other on the text message currently being tapped out on his phone. The vendors providing their obstacle course, on the other hand, are clearly approaching the limits of their tolerance with this game.

All around, more people filter into the Market, drifting down into the underground levels where everyone else is, and where there is the most engagement to be had. The air is thick with humidity and with the susurrus of conversations rising and falling in tune with the arrivals of yet more acquaintances come to kibitz and commiserate in their complaints.

Joe and the other kids are a pretty common sight in the Red Hook Market. Trading and buying what they can't find otherwise. Joe is wandering around the tables and stalls with a backpack securely on both of his shoulders. Probably with Squeaks in tow, though there's every possibility that she's flitting around the market on her own. Joe can sense the discontent brewing since the power outage. Hear it and see it, so he's hurrying his business up, grabbing a few last minute things as he moves about the market.

Joe stalls near the women with the wine coolers, listening to them as they speak. He chews on his lower lip a little bit but doesn't comment, moving on down the way, towards the food vendors where the kids are weaving around. He's not terribly concerned by the kids, even ruffling a head in passing as he waits in line at a particular vendor who makes some pretty incredible dumplings. "Reminds me. Need to stop in Raq's soon and get this mess cleaned up." He lifts a hand to push fingers through hair that is getting a little bit shaggy. Haircuts aren't exactly priority these days after all. Though it hasn't seemed to stop Raquelle from doing good business.

While Squeaks had followed Joe to the market, she had her own purchases to make. Legitimate purchases, with actual cash exchanged for some things that she decided was needed also. Mainly foodstuff, canned goods last a long time and she picks up a few every chance she gets. But there are a couple of odd bits, things only she would find interesting.

So while she hadn’t been exactly shadowing the older teen since entering the marketplace, she never wandered very far either. It made it a lot easier to find him when the power went out and people began getting grouchy.

Squeaks joins Joe in line for the dumplings, but she’s looking over her shoulder instead of to the food vendor. “We should probably hurry,” she suggests. And it is a suggestion, even if there’s a nervousness to her tone. Angry grown-ups always make her uncomfortable, and she’s aware of the complaining happening.

There's really only two things Iris Earhart does when she comes to the Red Hook Market: Buy food for the week, and to pick up her book orders. This is the rare week where both of those things overlap… or it would be if she had gotten to the "food shopping" part of her venture at all yet.

Instead, she crouched over at a milk crate of old damaged and mistreated books, rifling through them in the hopes of striking gold, a red haired man - Anthony, as she's come to know him - watching her patiently as he places a stack of books on to the counter - Iris' order for this month, as is tradition.

"Oh my gosh!" she suddenly exclaims excitedly as she practically throws herself into the crate so that she can pull out something she's spied at the bottom. Eyes wide, she slides the old and nondescript looking book into the palm of her hand, and opens it to the title page, where it displays "A Little Princess". There's a glimmer in her eye as she looks down at the publication date and copyright information.

In a whirlwind of motion, she near leaps back to her feet, spinning on her heel as she turns back to the counter and almost slams the book down on to it next to her stack. "How have you not sold this yet! Or set it aside? How is it even in one piece!?" With stars in her eyes, she smiles wide at Anthony laughs, immediately reaching into her purse.

It's then that her expression falters, and her shoulders sink. "Oh no. I've overdone it again…"

Niki is wandering through the market with a canvas bag hanging from one shoulder filled with this week's produce. She has to come to a sudden stop to avoid colliding with one of the children playing their game. Her whole body tenses up, face scrunching as she braces for an impact that doesn't come. She relaxes with a small sigh.

Opening her eyes again, she settles her gaze on the tavern. It's been a long week, and it isn't as though there's much for her to go home to. She could stop for one drink. It isn't as though Tuck's around to scold her and keep her honest.

Shoulders sagging, the blonde shakes her head. Boredom is not a good reason to break her sobriety streak. Since it's likely she won't be watching her old VHS tapes of The Honeymooners tonight, Niki makes her way toward the bookshop in search of something new to read by candlelight tonight.

A small woman prowls on the edges of the crowd, or as best she can but since Tibby Naidu is a tiny woman she can slip in and out of the spaces between people with relative ease. “Keep up Oya yeah?” She says softly to the African Golden Cat that follows after her, sometimes scouting ahead and turning to look back at her master/friend with an expectant look Humans, so slow might be what she would say if cats could talk. The bleach blonde smiles softly and hefts her bag on her shoulder with a half lidded stare across the group of folks. It was congested and Tibby felt nerves that she was trying to ignore. She wasn't afraid of the dark really so much as the moods of the people in the Safe Zone worried her, she had spent a fair amount of time at Alister’s on Staten Island but returning to her boat docked in the bay she felt that she needed to stock up on some essentials, maybe find a toy for Adze who was feeling cooped up lately because Tibby didn't want anyone stealing him.

A hand goes to pull and fiddle with the waistband of her black short shorts, a dark blue tank top and boots that come to her calves are her attire. Eyeing the pop up bookshop she can't help but notice the overethusiac bookworm exclaiming about some copy of some book that Tibby doesn't know. The South African woman doesn't say anything just yet, emerald green eyes flicking over the other selections in the boxes before her.

The boy who has his black hair ruffled stops short and scrunches his face at Joe in the particular offended pride distinct to childhood. Then he's off again, giving the teen a wide berth and dashing down the aisle instead, dodging Niki while calling for his compatriot to come along. Catching sight of Oya, his eyes go wide with first surprise and then delighted interest — right before he runs smack into Iris' side, utterly failing to heed his more immediate surroundings.

"Connor!" the other boy exclaims, planting his feet and abruptly halting in the middle of everything. "Are you okay?" He hasn't noticed the cat yet.

Oliver only notices that his charges have become wayward when Connor's name rises above the background. Pulling his head out of the all-encompassing world of texts, the teen glances from side to side with sudden alarm until he spots the younger boys. Whatever can be read into his expression as he settles back in against the pillar.

Meanwhile, Sabine has eyes for only one thing: the blonde woman standing in full view not fifteen feet in front of her. "Ms. Zimmerman!" she calls, the kind of formality that isn't — the kind that hearkens an impending demand. Stepping forward, subconsciously putting her friends to either side and just behind her as if they were standing in support, Sabine delivers that demand promptly. "Has the Co-op talked to Yamagato about all this?"

At least some of the surrounding conversations go quiet, collective attention refocusing on the two women. They'd like that answer, too, even if they weren't so brazen as to do the asking.

Most people would still label Joe a kid himself, so it might be a bit of an odd sight to see the ruffle. But Joe's been helping take care of kids a long time. Since he was little himself. There's a faint chuckle from him as the kid gives him a wide berth and he turns to regard the Squeaks that has suddenly come upon him. "Heya Squeakers. Find everything you wanted? And yeah… we should probably be moving along. Plus I'm sure Lance and Brynn are hungry so we should be getting back. But need the goods first." The goods being the dumplings they're in line for. "Maybe we should… crap."

Joe’s voice flatlines as he hears the raised voice elsewhere in the market. Well not elsewhere, it's just down the lane from where they stand. "Crap." He mutters again as he watches someone come forwards demanding information about what is going on. "Why can't people ever just be happy to have what they have?" He asks aloud. Not like shouting aloud. But he's not being quiet about it either. “Joe unshoulders his backpack and turns to Squeaks. “In case it gets ugly can you hold onto this?” He asks her. Because of course Joe is going to involve himself if things get ugly.

Raised voices are never a good thing. Squeaks’ angles a look in the direction of the demanding voices even as she takes the backpack. She’d rather not get involved in any ugliness, and she doesn’t care much about the why or why not of the power outages. “We could just leave,” she suggests. But it doesn’t sound very hopeful that Joe would agree. Her head swivels and she looks the other direction. She could always leave on her own.

"Huh?" Iris blinks as she stops in the middle of digging around in her purse, turning to look in the direction of the yelling. She stares for a long moment, uncertain of what to make of the woman's outburst. The mention of the Co-Op, though, that gets her attention real well. Head tilting slightly to the side, she purses her lips. "Ms. Zimmerman…? Why does that sound…"

Suddenly, she snaps her fingers, eyes lighting up with recognition - Ms. Zimmerman, of course! This is what she gets for spending the last few meetings reading instead of paying attention. Turning back to the counter, she dumps the contents of her change purse on to the counter and doesn't make much of an effort to count it. "Don't worry about the change, Anthony!"

Particularly since, if she'd bothered to count, she'd know she was a dollar short. She'd have to reconcile that later.

But for now, she turns from the counter, a hand slipped under her stack of books, holding them with surprising stability as she makes her way over to join Niki.

Niki freezes in her tracks. Ah, a squeaky wheel. Slowly, she lifts her head and offers a smile. “Hello, Sabine. It’s nice to see you.” Even if she wants to jump straight to the accusations disguised as questions, Niki will still exchange one-sided pleasantries. “As always, your civic mindedness is appreciated. Yes, we have been in touch with the engineers at Yamagato Industries and we’ve been assured they’re working to resolve the power issues as quickly as they can.”

What she wants to deliver is a sarcastic retort of No, we like to keep the place dark just to ruin your night and drive you to the tavern.

Again, Niki smiles. “Was there anything else? I don’t want to keep you.” This is, she knows instantly, a mistake.

Tibby’s eyes narrow at the site of a impending confrontation and she draws herself back to the wall near the edge of the bookstand, lowering herself to a crouch before settling down on the ground back to the wall, she slips on a pair of dark sunglasses and as her head bows, her consciousness springs forward into her friend Oya, the African Gold Cat shudders a little as the familiar mind settles over hers. This bond was a strong one, perhaps her strongest and though she sends waves of gratitude and peace through the connection she shares with the feline Tibby feels bad, still a cat can get closer and inspect better than Tibby could.

Oya’s gold fluffy tail sways side to side as she trots over to the place that Niki and Sabine stand, purring she nuzzles Niki’s ankles and squeezes in between them before coming to a curl at the blonde councilwoman’s feet. Tibby looks through Oya’s eyes, senses the world through her body.

For now she observes.

Connor eyes the woman he'd collided with, who is apparently completely oblivious. That's all good, then. The boy scuttles back while Iris is still staring in Niki's direction, regrouping with his confederate and assuring that yes, he's just fine, see?

He looks around for the cat and sees it now at Niki's feet. Connor doesn't need to be anything like adult to know that's one situation he shouldn't get in the middle of. Glancing past the other boy at their supposed watcher, Connor leans in and whispers in his ear, then darts off around the bookseller's stall. The boy left behind looks back and forth and back again, then peels off after Connor with some degree of evident reluctance.

Oliver fails to notice.

Meanwhile Sabine does not smile back at Niki. She arches brows instead and succeeds in looking down her nose at Niki despite being the shorter of the two women. "Well of course they said that!" she proclaims, raising her hands in dramatic exasperation. "They're Japanese and a business. They're not about to admit anything bad — and," Sabine continues, stepping forward and gesturing with bottle in hand towards the string of lights on the market's wall, the outside neighborhood without, "this sure isn't good!"

The top of that bottle swings around to point unerringly at Niki… though its holder keeps herself at a reasonable distance, not crowding into personal space. Entitled Sabine definitely is; brainless, she isn't, at least not entirely. "And the council's just willing to sit back and accept that? You're supposed to represent the community! Tell them we won't stand for this!"

Because that's going to get the power back up. Really. Even so, there's just as much rumbling concurrence from the surrounding crowd as there are shaking heads and disbelieving stares. Perhaps fortunately, both of those reactions are minorities; the majority aren't paying any attention. They're probably familiar with Sabine.

"You know… considering our own government doesn't have the resources to rebuild New York at the moment and we're relying almost entirely on private citizens and corporations to do the work we should be grateful New York is in as good of a condition as it is." Joe pipes up. Because he sees someone being belligerent and well… he doesn't like bullies. "This soon after this city was all but destroyed by war… we have power… mostly. We have food most of the time. Medical care. We're beginning to rebuild infrastructure. I mean… that's pretty awesome. And we have Yamagato to thank for a good deal of that. I think maybe you should be a little more grateful for the things you do have, than whining and complaining about the things you don't."

Joe steps away from Squeakers, patting her lightly on the forearm as he steps past the dumplings stand, but pauses to glance over his shoulder. "Money is in the side pocket. Get those dumplings. Pleeeeeease." He flashes his friend a wide grin before he turns back to the conversation at hand, his thumbs hooking into his front pockets as he walks closer, standing nearish Niki but not right next to her or anything. "Besides. It's not like power outages are anything new to New York. Heck Yamagato will probably get the power back on waaaay faster than the old power companies." An attempt at some humor from the kid.

When Joe speaks up, Squeaks blanches and sidles backward a few small steps. Hopefully it just stays as words for now. Words are okay, even when they’re yelling words. But just in case, Squeaks starts looking for a way out, a way to duck behind the press of bodies to escape the grumping and grouchiness.

It’ll mean giving up her spot in the dumpling line, but she’s okay with that.

The girl catches sight of the two boys running off in her search for an out herself. Around the bookseller stand might prove useful, at least if people aren’t going behind the stalls with their grumblings. She follows after momentary debate, pulling Joe’s backpack onto her own shoulders as she ducks and weaves past elbows and shoulders to tag along after the younger wayward boys.

"Heeeey!" Iris protests as she reaches Niki and Sabine, a frown on her face. "That's not-" She stops abruptly, pausing so that she can put down the stack of books she's carrying. "That's not fair! I mean, I know it's annoying, but it's not like we can just- just march in there and be like 'take us to the control room'!" Iris' voice shifts at the end into a bad imitation of one of the Yamagato higher ups she heard in a television broadcast once, hands moving to her hips afterwards.

The stare she gives Sabine is one of pure annoyance.

She maybe shouldn't be speaking up for Niki since Iris isn't council, just one of their frequent helpers and volunteers. That doesn't stop her from continuing, though, as her annoyance gives away to a genuine smile. "Besides! Things happen! Why get mad about it? I dunno, light some candles and paint! Or go walking, or-" Iris' eyes light up, and she reaches down to her stack of books and pulls up an old, thin, and battered copy of Carmilla. She only grows brighter as she offers it to Sabine. "Read!"

Perhaps strangely enough, Niki is better prepared to handle Sabine's gesticulations and arguments than she is the support she's suddenly receiving from Joe and Iris. Her posture goes stiff as she glances to each one in turn. She focuses on her breathing. In, out. This is a fleeting moment and it will be over soon and she'll be on her way home and can address all of this with her fellow council members later. This doesn't need to be a one woman crusade. For either of them.

"I understand your frustration," Niki assures, voice even, pointing out, "my own home is without power this evening." It isn't as though she's sitting in some ivory tower, unaware of the plight of the rest of the Safe Zone. "As always, I believe anyone who feels passionately about our home, who has ideas for how we can all come together and improve things, should seek a position on the council."

Amber eyes narrow at the woman known as Sabine and a deep yowl begins to sound from her belly. Tibby through Oya expresses her annoyance at the loud lady through her own yelling. Filthy. Her mind echoes and the words reverberate through Iris and Niki’s mind, a slip since they are so close to her. Feeling herself unveiling herself, the African Golden Cat freezes and looks out the corner of her eyes at the two women next to her.


Joe's rational interjections earn him a flat look from Sabine, the kind that says louder than words your opinion wasn't invited. Nonetheless, the aim of her pointing bottle shifts slightly to target him instead. "They're rebuilding it, sure. They've been rebuilding for more than three years," Sabine points out, counting the preparation time before the Safe Zone opened for settlement. "And in all that time, they couldn't be bothered to put in backups? New York had outages, sure. It also had redundancy."

Meanwhile, Squeaks makes her way around the bookseller stand to find one of the two boys standing in an ephemeral island of space between clusters of conversing adults. Turning in place, he looks every which way, craning his neck and sometimes his whole body in trying to peer through whatever gaps arise in the crowd. Clearly, he's lost track of Connor.

Iris is the recipient of an entirely different flavor of flat look: the baffled stare. Blonde brows arch eloquently as Sabine looks from the woman to her book and back again, not so much as reaching out towards it. Instead, she returns her attention to Joe. "No phone, no internet, no cable — not even running water, some places — fine," Sabine says, in a manner that implies the exact opposite. "But if all they're going to provide everyone is power, they can damn well do a better job of it!"

It's the feline yowl that breaks Oliver out of his texting hypnosis, the youth looking first to that sound's source, then the verbal conflict the cat's sitting in on. Whatever. His gaze goes to where he last saw his charges, expression slowly darkening with a frown as he finds their presence lacking. Where did they go?

Sabine's attention returns to Niki, and she casts her free hand up towards the ceiling. "The council had the right idea!" Speaking of. Sabine's eyes narrow at Niki's suggestion, calculating gears clearly turning inside her mind.

Before she can reply to that suggestion, however —

— a loud, harsh-edged snap echoes through subterranean corridors and vaults —

— and the entire market is plunged into blackness.

Gasps, yelps, and curses fill the air of the endarkened space, all conversation either momentarily pausing or drowned beneath the sounds of shock and surprise. Afterwards, the susurrus returns with greater vigor, louder statements that convey nothing of substance — a thousand iterations on oh my god and what just happened. In perhaps a small mercy, Sabine seems to have silenced by this development.

"Connor! Jeremy!" Oliver calls over the noise, suddenly frantic, the light from his phone's screen glaring past those nearby as he attempts in vain to illuminate two wayward children.

"Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were an expert on construction, supplies and logistics, infrastructure, electrical engineering and the myriad other skills that go into rebuilding a destroyed city. I'm sorry. I should have known buuuuut I didn't. I will of course bow to your expertise on exactly how long things like this should take." Joe's shoulders lift in a shrug. "Actually…" Joe remarks as if just thinking of it. "Since you're such an expert on all these things and know exactly how long it should or shouldn't take for this to get fixed I mean… why aren't you doing it yourself?" Joe's head tips to the side a little bit, a questioning brow lifted upwards at Sabine.

Then everything goes black. Joe immediately settles into a crouch in case bad stuff starts happening. Like bullets. Bullets are bad. "Squeakers flashlight!" He calls turning to look over his shoulder even if he can't see her cuz blackness. Hey at least she'll be fine. BatSqueaks and all of that. Joe is fishing in his pocket a little bit, looking for his phone, his voice raising to be heard, or hopefully heard. "Pretty sure someone did this!" He calls out to the others nearby. He slips his hand into his pocket, pulling his phone free and turns the light on it on and… he starts heading in the direction of the tunnels. He's going to go see if he can find out what happened.

When she finds the younger kid, Squeaks stops just a couple of steps away to watch him then look for his companion too. Because these kids, or at least the missing one, seems to maybe know of secret routes? Unless something bad happened, but as soon as her thoughts touch on that idea, she shakes her head to make it go away. No, just a couple of kids playing hide and seek, most likely, and she’s found herself part of the game.

Then something in the Underneath snaps and everything goes really, very dark.

Squeaks reaches out in the darkness for the boy she found to keep him from running off. “Wait, your grown-up will find you,” she states nervously, stepping close enough so her voice will carry. She hopes his grown-up will come for him. Unfortunately for Joe, there’s no flashlight clicking on to shine at him, because she wandered off like she does and can’t hear over all the sounds of shock and anger.

With her head turning as if on a swivel, she tries to reorient herself without any lights. Sure, some screens are probably coming on to make people look ghostly and spookish, but she doesn’t find it as helpful as people think it is. Squeaks squeezes her eyes shut and tries listening after finding nothing useful in seeing, emitting quick little squeaks and clicks to get a better sense of things with her ability.

The sudden snap and the blackout results in a loud series of thuds as Iris's armful of books go tumbling to the floor. She doesn't even have time to be disappointed by Sabine's rejection of her perfectly reasonable suggestion. Instead, her hand slips into the pocket of the light jacket she wears and slips out with two pieces of paper between fingers- paper that, in her grasp, has become as rigid as metal.

It's not that she's looking to hurt anyone, she's just startled. Once a moment passes a short breath escapes her lips, and she looks up to Niki, then to Sabine. "You don't rebuild a city like New York in two years," she offers in a quiet voice, trying to smile despite the timing. "Growing pains, that's all!" She beams a smile to Sabine, hoping that she's helping Niki more than she's hurting the other woman's cause in this moment.

"Besides, it won't last," she assures, hoping that, like of the many books she's read, that'll be the moment the power comes back on, as if driven by some sort of cosmic timing, rather than resting on the irony of the outage's timing.

Just as she’s prepared for a redoubling of efforts at verbal assault from Sabine, the power goes out and Niki sags momentarily, defeated. The posture doesn’t last, because she’s trying to present a confident front for the Council, and that means she bites back the are you kidding me on her tongue.

That sound before the power went out, though… It doesn’t sound like she expects a blown transformer to sound. Digging her phone out of her pocket, Niki puts on the flashlight, murmurs an “If you’ll excuse me,” and starts to weave through the crowd toward what she hopes was the source of that sound.

As the lights cut out Tibby uses Oya’s eyes to quickly check on her unoccupied body before she prowls closet to Niki’s ankles, curious for what's going on. Using the feline’s acute senses to listen and watch for anything unusual. Tibby begins to feel the urge to leave.

A booted foot grazes Oya’s whiskers at the same time Niki’s shoulder bounces off somebody else’s smaller, more compact frame. “Var försiktig,” says a husky voice. Then: “Be careful.”

Niki’s light illuminates a hand at her shoulder, then an arm leading into the curve of another woman’s torso. Brown eyes blink owlishly in the dark. A stranger whose face is framed by a rose-pink bob steps out of her way, making room for her in the corridor.

“Sorry,” she adds, like it’s an afterthought. Because it is.


As Joe's rebuttal moves from rationality into snark, any points the voices of reason may have accrued in Sabine's regard are promptly wiped out, even offset. Perhaps fortunately, the enveloping darkness provides a considerable distraction — for everyone.

"What's going on? What just happened? Was that a rat? Did a rat just run over my foot? Where'd it go?"

The initial alarm of the marketgoing crowd subsides into a hubbub of disquieted grumbles, louder than the casual conversations before as people try to talk over the dark. Moving through the crowd proves to be easier said than done, even with smartphone-hosted flashlights in hand; the sharp contrast between glare and shadow, the preoccupation of each person with their own state, and a general unwillingness to budge prevents the aggregate from yielding before those who intend to pass through.

Jeremy latches onto Squeaks' arm with both hands as she addresses him, clinging close, willing to take any solace in this situation. He sniffles, but her support seems to be forestalling a collapse into crying. "What's going on?" the boy asks in a small, half-choked voice.

"Oliver!" he calls out a moment later, loud syllables momentarily cutting across Squeaks' own attempts to pierce the dark. "Oliver? I'm here!"

"What do you mean someone did this?" is more directed, less rhetorical than the general queries of the crowd; it is accompanied by a large hand reaching out to Joe's shoulder, a pushy pause rather than an assertive grab — though it could become the latter. The hand belongs to a tall man on the other side of middle age; in flashes of LCD light, he gives the impression of someone who works a trade. "Do you know anything about it?"

Meanwhile, Oliver starts working his way in the direction of Jeremy and Squeaks, apologizing absently to everyone he jostles or cuts between along the way — including Niki, Iris, and the three women outside the tavern.

"Someone did this?" is picked up by the crowd, passed from knot to gaggle, disseminating out toward the edges of the market. "It's an attack? Are we in danger? What's going on up above?"

The crowd's tension palpably ratchets tighter, cloth rustling and feet shuffling. It jumps again when a loud metallic clatter sounds from the next aisle over, nearly every phone-light suddenly orienting in that direction. There's nothing to see except an apologetic-looking woman and a void where once there was a stack of baking pans — but even that doesn't soothe the crowd any.

We should get out of here isn't spoken per se, but can be heard in subtext, in implication, in the changing quality of the atmosphere. Already, those nearest the various stairways are filtering out — but a mass charge would run aground on that structural bottleneck.

Dangit. No flashlight. Squeaks must be doing as Squeaks does. Run and hide. There's a huff from Joe as he's forced to settle for the flashlight from his phone. It's pretty strong, just limited in time since it drinks down battery like nobody's business. "I mean that I heard a cable snap. If there were a cable close to snapping it would have been noticed. Also we would have heard the individual strands popping before the bulk of it gave way. This was an all at one thing. So either a tremendous amount of strain was suddenly put on the cable that made the whole thing snap all at once. Or… someone cut it or broke it purposefully. In this city? I tend to believe sabotage over accident. Especially given how crowded it is here. Which tells me the black out wasn't on accident."

Joe is paranoid. He believes there's always someone out to get the people. Whether it be the government or yet another shadow organization. "Now if you get out of my way I can go find out whether my paranoia is right, or whether I'm being ridiculous and it was an accident." And if the guy doesn't move Joe well… Joe can make him. Without hurting him even. The breaking of holds and the relocation of people was beginning teachings in the school de Brian. "Panicking isn't going to help!" He hollers at the crowd. "Don't be sheep!" He shouts as he tries to move in the direction he thinks the snap of the cable came from. With or without people he intends on investigating.

With all the noise, it’s difficult for Squeaks to filter it all out and get any sense of any direction. Easier to do things the old way, before she found out about anything extraordinary. So instead of trying further, she wraps her other arm around the younger kid’s shoulders as kind of a really quick hug. She still feels they’re weird things, hugs, but she does know that most people like them and they sometimes help in scary situations.

“I don’t know,” she offers in delayed answer. What is going on? “That was really loud.” And now it’s very dark. She lets her arm fall away from Jeremy’s shoulders, but lets him cling to the other. “You’ll be okay,” she says, guiding him backward just a couple of steps more, in case the press of people finds them, too.

“You had a friend… a brother? You two were playing.” It’s conversational, even though she sounds scared also, but it’s just words to occupy until she can figure out what to do, or the boy’s grown-up finds him. Not that Squeaks is really sure which will come first, and with the sounds of panic growing she feels like it’s safer to stay in the pocket of space behind the bookseller. “I saw you running. What were you playing, it looked like fun.”

"Wha- hey!" Iris' protest comes as Oliver cuts past her, scattering her already dropped stack of books. Her pout lasts only a moment, though, more focused on the the fact that they're currently sitting on the brink of chaos. She blinks, looking up to Niki, as if wanting her guidance - Iris isn't too used to jumping into things on her own, not like this.

"H-Hey!" she shouts out to the crowd. "I'm sure it's nothing like that, just a line frying or something- oh gosh, could it be an overload or something? Hmm, Iris, think back…" she says to herself, trying her best to recall any number of thrillers she's read for some sort of similar situation.

Niki’s hand is warm when it comes up and connects with the pink haired woman’s. She takes a steadying breath and flashes a quick smile. “No harm done. Sorry about that.” As she starts to move away, she gets jostled back by Oliver. A quiet grunt escapes her lips and she frowns. “Sorry again.” Hopefully she doesn’t make a habit of this.

Adjusting the canvas bag on her shoulder, Niki starts to move forward again. She has half a mind to make her way to the exit. She could knock on some doors and see if she can get a quorum for the council… Or she can gather more information first. Maybe it is just a surge and an overload. With a heavy sigh, she keeps moving toward where she heard the sound of that snap.

The boot from the pink haired woman gets a swipe of a claw from the feline, Oya’s ears flatten against her head. Not that this wasn't to be expected but the emotions of everyone in the crowd might be influencing her mood. Watch it. Is projected into the pink haired woman’s mind as Tibby through Oya’s body peers up at the lady before circling again through Niki’s legs as she moves. A look over her shoulder to her body, maybe she should go back. It's always hard too when it feels so.. freeing in her current state.

No, not yet. Tibby stays anchored in Oya’s mind, swinging her head back and forth to follow the commotion and the lights.

Niki doesn’t see it — her eyes are focused on the expanse of darkness opening ahead of her — and those who do don’t take note. It’s such a subtle thing, the casual manner in which the pink-haired stranger tips one last glance at the retreating blonde.

Her lips, painted a warm, rich mauve, flatten out into a thin line that borders into a frown.

Maybe the cat notices. Maybe the cat is more attuned to moods than people. Maybe the cat senses the low thrum of anxiety barely contained in her chest as she nudges her out of the way and disappears into the crowd.


A hold, the man's contact with Joe isn't, and whatever he's looking for in the youth's response seems to have been met. Or perhaps it's simply that other concerns have become greater, as Joe's concerns were heard by more than his intended audience alone. Proximity turns to jostling, concern to urgency — and despite the best exhortations of both Joe and Iris, urgency feeds upon darkness and congestion to become panic.

Sabotage. Someone cut it. Get out, get out!

A short distance away, Jeremy continues to cling to Squeaks like the lifeline she is, a bastion of safety in the midst of roiling tensions and the growing press to leave. "C-connor," he supplies, not so much a stutter as a false start, interrupted by his own flinch away from a questing beam of light. "He's my best friend."

Further answers are cut short by Oliver's arrival, the older teen managing to exude franticness despite having come to a complete stop just behind the boy. "Jeremy!" he exclaims, grabbing for said boy's free hand. "Where's Connor?" has the biting resignation of a well-worn refrain. Only once that's spoken does Oliver redirect his attention to Squeaks, though in the dark that attention shift is more sensed than seen. "Thank you so much," he says. "I don't suppose you saw where the other one got off to?" Since he's patently not right here.

"Connor wanted to hide from you," Jeremy supplies to Oliver, between still-ongoing sniffles. "I didn't want to, but…"

Beyond that little knot near the bookseller's table, the aisles are becoming packed at key points — essentially everywhere along routes that ultimately lead back to the surface. More clatters and crashes and curses supply inevitable accompaniment to this growing congestion as people trip over market items and over one another. The air comes to feel heavier, more oppressive, charged in a way that owes nothing to the electricity the market currently lacks — not directly, at least.

Perhaps fortunately for Joe and Niki, the power bank is not on the way out, but rather deeper in. Getting there requires they push upstream through people becoming increasingly desperate to get out, but over time their local torrent becomes a trickle, and then finally ceases altogether as they reach a stretch of corridor not included in the market proper.

There are no stalls here, no wares, and thus no customers interrupted in their shopping and socializing. Only the strings of dull lights overhead, the wires that feed them, and the box out of which those wires originate. Another wire extends up the wall, disappearing into the ceiling and the level beyond. In the glare of phonelight, at the right angle, that wire seems to have a second shadow, a sooty stain marring the underlying brick — a scorch mark that suggests if the market building hadn't been brick, it might just be burning right now.

Joe pushes upstream. He has an advantage in moving through crowds in that he doesn't have to worry about the odd elbowing or knee. Sure they might stagger him to the side but they don't bruise or batter him, so he can keep on going. Once he breaks free of the crowd he makes his way towards where he heard that sound from, pausing at the wall, shining the flashlight from his phone up at the box and the wires. He pauses when he sees that scorch mark, his head tilting to the side. "Wish Caspian were here right now." He grumbles none too quietly. Caspian could tell him what that scorch mark means. But Joe's know how doesn't extend that far. He'll look for evidence of a cut or a break, and if he doesn't find one then he'll try to follow that wire, up it seems, to figure out where the problem occured. If there's a Niki there he'll let her know he's going to go look for the problem spot, see where the line was cut.

At Oliver’s exclamation, Squeaks turns just enough to find the older teen, her hand reflexively pulling the younger kid closer to her. When Jeremy recognizes him, she relaxes a little bit and lets him go join his watcher. “No,” she supplies, even though she is guilty of following the two kids to the more empty space they’re standing in.

She watches all of the people who’re near panic now, trying to rush out and up the stairs. She’s choosing to stay put, in case Joe comes looking for her maybe, or because she’s reluctant to try to navigate through so many pushing and angry bodies. After a second she ducks slightly so she’s more eyelevel with Jeremy, blue eyes wide and seeking. “Maybe I can help find him. I’m real good at hiding and seeking.”

Squeaks doesn’t explain anything more than that, but digs into Joe’s backpack for the flashlight that’s kept there. She gives it to Jeremy after turning it on, telling him, “You can seek too.” Then she straightens and tries her ability again. Eyes squeeze shut tight enough to keep everything out as she focuses on mapping the stall and the area around it with her clicks and squeaks. There’s hopefully unusual things to pick up on, cracks that lead to openings that small bodies can fit into, and maybe even a small body doing some hiding.

One hand comes up to cover Niki’s mouth after she makes her way through the crowd and spots the source of trouble. This all could have been so, so much worse. While Joe’s light is on the scorch mark, Niki takes photos with her phone. She’ll need to share this with the council.

Pressing her lips together, Niki turns on her heel and starts toward the stairs. She’ll need to check topside and report this to the others.

With feline eyesight, Tibby cocks her head at the pink haired stranger as the market erupts into the chaos and panic that soon ensues. Another look behind her shoulder but her body is still curled up in a ball in that nook. Slinking forward Oya darts between legs and trots to where the pink haired person can be seen still from her eyesight. There isn’t much else she can do in her present form and she’s weary of letting Oya loose mentally in this crowd now that panic has risen. Tail curling in on itself before uncurling again, “Meoww.

Examination of the scorch mark by flashlight reveals little in the way of beginning or end; the intensity of its sooty shadow depends on the proximity of the wire to the wall. The endpoints are simply where the wire peels away, whether to pass through a discreet hole in the floor above or to enter into the box sitting on this floor.

Tracing the wire's trail up will require getting through the crowd now clogging the figurative bottlenecks of stairwells. In that, Joe and Niki's detour affords them no advantages; at this point, not even claiming councilor privilege will break through the alarmed, frantic crowd.

The bookseller's stall, in contrast, the crowd has flowed out like the receding tide to leave behind an island of quiet — not calm, and nothing like serene, but focused inward rather than out, the immediate concern of finding Connor reigning over all else. The shouts and squabbles of the mob are someone else's problem; the congested stairs, a problem for later. Oliver looks them over anyway, worry knitting his brow. What if Connor got caught up in all that mess?

Panicked mobs are places where people get hurt, after all. Perhaps especially reckless young boys.

Not to mention incautious small felines. At least the pink-haired woman Oya follows is herself not so far in from the fringe, where there are fewer people and no amount of jostling will get anyone out faster.

Jeremy lets go of Squeaks, albeit reluctantly, to accept the offered flashlight. "O-okay." Sweeping it down the dark aisle, he makes a good-faith effort to light up nooks and crannies and places someone might hide. Concentrating on that search, the boy doesn't notice Squeaks doing her own 'seeking' with closed eyes. Oliver notices; he chooses not to ask.

The way voices bounce off the walls of the underground space does not aid Squeaks' search, but the withdrawal of the crowd from their immediate surroundings is a small blessing. It's not the return from a crack or crevice that catches her attention, but another stall in the next row over, a table draped with muffling cloth that nearly reaches the ground. The gap beneath is broken by something not part of the table — something that might well be the feet of a crouching child frozen by trepidation.

Still the crowd streams out onto the ground floor above, exiting from the Market and scattering into the surrounding streets. Yet farther above, color leaches from the sky and the first stars (actually planets) begin to show their faces in the gathering dark. The wait to emerge into open, unbounded air feels interminable for those still caught below, and yet it is also only a matter of minutes, seconds creeping past in the way they do when action is stifled and patience runs thin. Of those who exit, some have the wit to put considerable distance between themselves and the maybe-sabotaged building, but most mill about in the road, feeling themselves safe just for being outside, collecting their friends and congregating back into knots of gossip and consternation.

Perhaps fortunately for the mob's thoughtlessness, if not for the gossipy grapevine, no further excitement proves forthcoming this eve. Dusk shades into full night, the crowd unravels and disperses home, and eventually the Market stands alone, one more quiescent patch of darkness in a sea deprived of light.

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