Spare Ribs


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Scene Title Spare Ribs
Synopsis Agents Baumann and Cooper investigate a series of grisly deaths and make a harrowing discovery.
Date October 19, 2018

Ferrymen’s Bay is a bustling neighborhood. Though it isn't as populous as Bay Ridge and has an overall low residency rate, the businesses and airport access here make it a frequently trafficked region, not to mention the industrial port access and proximity to Yamagato Park. On paper Ferrymen’s Bay should be densely populated and thriving, but it's current state is rather intentionally by design. Yamagato Industries intentionally limited resident placements into Ferrymen’s Bay to allow for more extensive renovations than elsewhere in the city. As such, the region is crowded with the long necks of construction cranes and the riotous noise of heavy machinery.

The Park Acres tenement building rests across the street from a massive reconstruction effort, where an entire city block is cordoned off by chain link fences and surrounded by construction equipment. Beyond the fences, human laborers work side by side with a handful of bipedal humanoid automatons dressed like construction workers. The juxtaposition of this urban renewal against the crumbling brick front of a severely damaged tenement building is stark.

The presence of two SESA-emblazoned cars and a white van bearing the agency’s seal is a different kind of stark, as is the warning provided by yellow and black tape reading crime scene surrounding the entrance of the building.

The Safe Zone isn't always as such.

Park Acres Apartments

Ferrymen’s Bay


Pale eyes squint against the nearly noon day sun as Agent Cooper slides out of the car, eyeing what assets were already there. There is a god awful sound from the man as he sucks at the straw of an empty iced mocha, trying for that last bit of chocolate mocha-y whipped cream at the bottom. So much for a cool entrance, Cooper. Giving the cup a shake and peering at the contents, he leans into the car to drop it back into the cup holder.

Shutting the car door, Cooper adjusts the collar of his suit, still not use to the stifling professional wear, after so much time in hole-filled jeans and sweats. “I swear I don’t remember this suit being so itchy… kinda tight in the crotch, too.” He grumbles brushing at wrinkles. “Okay… so elecro-rats… Lightning rats… Rat Sparklers. Whatever they are… possibly killed six people here?” Making sure his badge shows, he adds in a mumble, “What a thing to come back too. I’m just glad I missed the whole sewer sluming.” There is amusement at the idea of Rhys down in the muck.

“This whole Rats of Nimh thing is a bit too freaky for me.” Says the man who makes balloon animals and talks to his guinea pig, Al the Third.

He waits for Cassandra to join him in front or the car, before moving towards some of the forensic agents lingering about, giving her a bit of a lopsided smile. “Kinda shocking to be out here, huh.” Probably a bit too soon, Cooper. There might have been a few more on the way over. Turning to watch some of the ongoing construction, eyes narrow a little in thought, “I’m not quite as up on the case as you are, Agent Baumann. There any records of other attacks like this? Possibly around construction sites?”

The trip from the motor pool just beside the docks took a little bit of time. Roads were still under construction in some places, while others still bore the marks of running gun battles, impromptu sewer repairs, or explosive craters that required some delicate driving. Even the modified 4x4 that was assigned as their vehicle had to push out a little bit of effort to follow the route that could be easily described as ‘ambitious.’ Still, they made it there and had time to grab coffees from that little stall in Red Hook, so despite the whole ‘investigating a murder’ thing that they were heading to, the day was starting to shape up rather nicely.

Climbing out of the passenger side of the car is Agent Cassandra Baumann, finally freed from her administrative shackles. Her coffee - something she liked to call the Wake Up Call - is not even a quarter gone, but thanks to the caffeine packed into it, she’s already pleasantly buzzing and much more awake than she has been in a very long time. It’s good to be back in the field.

Looking up at the building who’s shadow they’ve parked just out of, she lifts her sunglasses up to gaze at the windows - some broken and missing entirely, others patched with cardboard and foam to keep out the noise of the constant 24 hour construction going on across the street. “You’ve pretty much got it. Before I got sidetracked from the investigation, we found that a kid - William DeLuca, his name was - was caught in a flash flood in the sewer and swarmed by rats. He was a psychic projector and…” She sighs and looks over, wanting to think about anything besides Cooper’s crotch. “The shaky first theory was that his consciousness went out and took over the rat swarm, leading to all of this.” She gestures to the building.

She makes her way over to walk along with Cooper, giving the forensics people a wave as they draw closer. They probably recognize her from the amount of evidence they’ve had to bring her over the past four months. Cassandra certainly does. “Be glad you missed the sewer slumming. It wasn’t pleasant to begin with, but add in blind passages, no map, and years of no maintenance and you get a pretty miserable trip. I swear it took me a week to get the smell out of my hair.” The look she gives him almost dares him to make a comment before she continues. “As far as records of more attacks like this?” She shakes her head in the negative. “Just rumors, and not many of them. There were those handouts warning about ‘slice rats’ that an unknown party put out a few months back, telling people to stay away from the dark places. It might be good to find one of them running around and see if they know anything. Once we’re done here, of course.”

It might be too early for something like this, but a pun is a pun, and it can’t go unmentioned. It’s not proper SESA protocol to let a pun go - at least in Cassandra’s opinion. “I find your manners quite shocking in this context, Agent Cooper. You seem so grounded. Watt do you think we should do next?” Cassandra grins, tucking her sunglasses into her breast pocket, giving a nod toward the building.

There's minimal SESA presence outside the building, just a “white jacket” agent — effectively administrative aids for field agents — leaning up against one of the already parked vehicles composing an email on his mobile device to send once he has signal again. He notices Cooper and Cassandra stepping out of their vehicle and pockets the device, then starts making his way over.

“Baumann, Cooper,” The Agent greets with a nervous smile. He's maybe 23, 24? “Todd Crest, Agent Services.” He turns following the introductions, motioning up to the building. “We had six bodies, all in various states of dismemberment spread across four floors. The building’s almost completely empty. Forensics believes the infestation started in the basement with a registered animal empath, one…” he quickly checks his phone, “Madeline Simmons.”

Todd starts to walk toward the building stoop. “What would you like to see first, agents?”

“Niiiice…” Cooper drawls out at the puns, but quickly focuses on the approaching. “Agent Crest,” he greets, biting back any comments on the guys name. He’ll save them for later.

“Dis-” Brows pop up on Cooper’s forehead and he might look a little uncomfortable. Hands are folded, but he is still able to point at the man, “Pretty sure I heard the word dismemberment. Must be October… ” The agent looks at his partner on this case and comments, “I think I’m gonna regret that extra donut. How about you?”

Taking a deep breath and steeling himself against carnage they are about to view he motions the man on, “I think starting at the basement would be best. Point of entry.” Plus get the enclosed crypt like creepy basement out of the way. At the stoop, Cooper pauses so that he can ask, “Got spare gloves? Some booties?” He lifts and wiggles his converse-clad shoes. Cause where there are dismembered bodies there tends to be lots and lots of gore; and, Thomas was attached to this particular pair.

Cassandra always hates walking into scenes like this, and she’s prepared for it in her own way. “Caffeine is an appetite suppressant. Besides, I’ve been around the morgue a lot lately, helping with identification, so I think I’ll be okay.” As long as the evidence isn’t spread across walls or ceilings or anything like that, she should be, but in the event that it is? She may need a moment or two.

Dismemberment? She hazards a look to Cooper before speaking up. “Have the victims been removed already, or are they still there? Have the forensic teams already started with the evidence collection, and could they tell if it all happened at once or if the people were actively getting away? I may need to pick up a few things for my ability to work, and I don’t want to spoil anything.” Electric dismembering rats are bad. Invisible electric dismembering rats are worse because you can’t see them coming. Both are pretty terrible things, which reminds her. “Other than the obvious, were there any rats left around? Dead or otherwise? ”

“If he doesn’t, I do. I tend to keep a couple of sets of basic protective gear, as well as other important investigative tools with me.” She shrugs her shoulder to indicate said bag, the contents shifting audibly as she fishes out a LED flashlight from one of the side pockets.

It’s a lot of questions, especially all at once, and the administrative aid clears his throat and checks his tablet. “Ah, the remains are still inside. Forensics won’t make the call to move them until you’re ready.” He swipes through a couple of screens, then pauses and looks up at the building, clearly referencing a three-dimension floorplan on the screen. “So based on current analysis, it flowed upward… kinda like a fire?” Todd looks over at Cassandra, then slowly starts pointing up the building.

“First victim was found in the basement. Mostly.” Todd grimaces as he says that. “Two, uh, of the victims lived together on the second floor in apartment 102. The first victim also lived on the second floor — apartment 101 — but she was downstairs at the time. Third, fourth, and fifth victims lived on the second floor in apartments 201, 202, and 203. The sixth victim was the only person living on the third floor, apartment 304.” Todd stops at the top of the steps, lifting up the tape for the agents. “Four apartments per floor, so there was some space left in here. We’re lucky for that, I guess…”

As the agents step under the single line of crime scene tape, Todd starts walking them into the foyer. Already, there’s signs of violence and damage; food scraps are everywhere, torn open boxes of macaroni, shredded clothes, tattered newspapers, stuffing from inside furniture, just scattered. “It’s uh,” Todd looks around, “it’s a mess in here. So,” he looks back to the agents, “where would you like to start?”

Cooper can only stare as the young woman fires off all those questions. When she is done, he can only blink a few times and look to the other guy with a ‘did you get all that?’ look. He quietly lets the guy answer all her questions. When he seems oblivious to anything Cooper asks or says, Thomas gives the guy a bit of a flat look. “Yeah, Baumann, I’ll take you up on that offer for the gloves and booties,” he grumbles out.

There is a look of impatience at the Agent giving them the grand tour. With a bit of a sigh, Cooper fingers pinching briefly at the bridge of his nose. Then he gives a snap his fingers to make sure he has the guys attention, this time. “Again,” Cooper starts making sure each word is clear. “The basement. That is where we’d like to start. I know she’s pretty and clearly brainy, but come on man, pay attention.”

He’d march off for the basement, if he knew where it was, but he is stuck with this yahoo. “So tell me what we have on the animal empath?” He works at fishing out a small notepad and pen, flipping it open and ready to write.

“Hey be nice.” Cassandra says with a smirk, slinging her bag around to withdraw two ziplock bags - one full of latex gloves, the other full of those boot things you normally see in clean rooms to keep filth off of floors, repurposed to keep filth on the floor from getting on them. She passes them out to anyone who wants them, tapping her shoes on the floor once the booties are on to make sure they’re on good. “Sorry.” She offers to the administrative agent. “I’ve been out of pocket for a while. This is the first investigation I’ve been on in months and I’m…yeah, antsy.”

“I’m going to guess that the animal empath was in the basement, trying to communicate with the rat swarm and said something that they didn’t like or just couldn’t be talked to…” She trails off at the scene before her, taking a few moments to register exactly what she’s seeing. “Jesus, it’s like a weed eater went crazy in here.” And the bodies haven’t been removed yet? Great.

“The basement, please. Lead the way.”

Todd grimaces and sheepishly bobs his head, stepping around the detritus of the hallway on his way toward the stairs. There's a flash in an adjacent apartment as forensics continues photographing and logging evidence. As he walks, Todd turns and looks back to Cooper and Cassandra.

“Madeline Simmons, 21, Registered Class-C Evolved, mental category. No special solicitations.” Todd rattles off as he reaches the top of the stairs to the basement. “She manifested in 2013, registered in 2016. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She relocated to western Pennsylvania during the war, headed back east when the Safe Zone was founded. Took a settler’s stipend to move in. She was placed in Park Acres in August 2016.”

Heading down the stairs, there's a pungent stink of death lingering in the air along with a faint sewage scent. “She demonstrated her ability at registration as being able to sense and alter the emotional states of animals.” Todd reaches the bottom of the stairs, then steps through a small storage space crowded with chewed cardboard boxes and a pair of derelict bicycles with flat tires, into the basement proper.

The basement is dingy and dark, damp with mildew and laden with spiderwebs in the exposed floor joices overhead. An old washer and dryer are set against the far wall. Boxes and gardening supplies are stacked up down here, torn through by rats. There's a rusted metal grate marked with an evidence card set nearby to the door, and in the middle of the basement is a square, open drain eight inches across. The grate likely went over it.

“That's where we presume the rats came through. A floor drain.” As Todd motions to the drain, forensics agents in the room rise from photographing and measuring small scraps of human remains, of which dozens are scattered across the room. Scraps of bloody clothes, fragments of chewed, red bone. Bits of bloody jewelry. A tattered shoe. A human mandible nearly stripped entirely of flesh.

“Let me… know if you need anything else.” Todd says as he ducks his head down and focuses on his tablet.

There is a low whistle from Cooper when he sees the destruction. Pausing on the stairs to pull on his foot protection. The agent looks a touch pale at the remnants of the animal empath, but he tries to see her as anything but a person. Disconnect his mind from it. It’s never easy.

Pulling a flashlight out of his pocket, a small compact thing, but with a powerful LED beam, Cooper makes his way to the drain. “This doesn’t seem very controlled,” he states pointing at some of the destruction, “Almost like they’re berserking. Maybe she tried to and started a rampage?”

He leans cautiously over the hole and trains the light down the drain, “Any of the sewer diagrams survive the war?” Once he knows that there isn’t some critter waiting to fly out and latch onto his face, Thomas crouches down to get a closer look and hen over at the grate. “She might have started it. Had there been any Pikachu sightings in the area before this?” He turns the flashlight towards what is left of the empath. “She might have decided to get them to go away and instead set off some sort of trigger and they wasted the place.”

Then it occurs to him, “Why am I speculating?” Cooper sends a grin to Cassandra. “You could show us, I guess. Though….” He looks at the bits and pieces. “Maybe we should just speculate. Save our sanity.”

“Yeah, it’s….not going to be pretty if I do show what happened. I’ve watched a swarm of rats at work before on a person, and I’d rather not do that again. I think, though…” Cassandra removes her blindfold from her pocket. “That we should get the scene before the rat swarm. Leave out the gory details and see what led up to the whole thing. I mean…” She steps into the room proper, over one of the mangled limbs. Not a person, a thing. “The victim might have…I don’t know…been on some substance and set up a feedback loop with the swarm.”

She picks up one of the bits of jewelry - one of the ones marked with a little plastic tent with the number 39 printed on it and studies it, thankful for the gloves. “Sewer diagrams aren’t really a thing anymore. We might be able to find the pre-war blueprints, but according to this girl I talked to about helping explore down there,” She sounds a little frustrated at that. “The pipes are a maze even with maps, and the old maps are no good. Everything is interconnected and twisted, repaired haphazardly with no notes. Figuring out where the swarm came from would be great, but following the trail of the pipes would just lead to the big bad underdark.”

Backing up against the wall with the bit of jewelry, Cassandra uses her free hand to wind her blindfold around her eyes. “Find a wall, Cooper.” She advises, turning to the technician. “Todd, find a wall. It’s going to get dark for a second.”

And she begins.

Its pitch black.

There’s a click, followed by a spark, and firelight floods into the basement from a hand-held kerosene lamp. There’s a young woman holding it up, blonde hair cropped in a short bob, brown eyes scanning the dark corners of the basement. Anxiously, she walks through the basement door and sets the lamp down beside a square, rusted iron grate in the floor.

Slowly, she settles down on her knees, leaning down close to look through the inch wide holes in the drain’s surface. “Mmnh,” she mumbles, pushing herself to her feet and dusting her knees off. Soon, she's moving purposefully over to a workbench and pegboard with a handful of old, dirty tools hung up on it. From the bench she produces a heavy crowbar, then walks back to the drain.

She wedges the crowbar in place with a noisy clink, then presses all her weight down onto the crowbar’s arm to pry one end of the thick grate up. Once she's got it about an inch up from the rim of the recessed concrete ledge, she hooks the pronged crowbar head between one of the holes, and drags the grate cover back several feet and out of the way. The crowbar is laid down with a clang beside it, and the young woman makes her way back to the now open drain.

“Big damn hero,” she says to herself in a whisper, shaking out her hands and settling down on her knees again, “solving problems,” she continues as she leans down and starts inspecting the greasy, dark depths of the drain, “saving lives.” She picks up the lantern again, and starts to look down into the drain, but a sound behind her causes her to sit up straight and look back toward the doorway.


“Who’s there?” She asks, holding the lamp up and squinting into the dark. Another footstep, then another. Someone is down here in the basement with her. “I've got a gun.”

“You do,” comes a man’s voice from the darkness, and a brief look of recognition hits her a moment before a tanned man with dark hair about Cooper’s height, dressed in a dark jacket and black pants comes walking into view. He has scars all over his face, one through his lips at the side of his mouth, several across his brow. Knife injuries, perhaps.

Kal,” the young woman says with notable fear in her voice. She suddenly looks around the basement, then back again. “Kal— how did you—”

“Find you? Maddie. You should know better than that by now.” Kal steps in, unbuttoning his wool jacket. “Where's my merchandise?”

Having never seen Cassandra in action, Cooper watches the display with open fascination, mouth hung open a bit. “I admit, I feel a bit obsolete. That’s pretty fuckin’ cool Bauman.” Once that first bit of newness has worn off, he pulls out a notebook and starts making notes. Especially, to get with a sketch artist if they need it. “Kal…. What’s your deal Kal?” he murmurs.

He looks between the techs and Crest, “No evidence of scar face being down here?” Knowing the answer might not be in their favor, but asking it anyhow.

“Curious though, Baumann, with that bit of jewelry you could go back further? Maybe find out what the merchandise is?” He waves his hand in a dismissive manner, “I don’t mean right now.” He wants to see the rest of this first, obviously.

You'd be amazed at what comes out when people don't know or expect Cassandra to be a possibility. “Let's see what they say. Wouldn't surprise me to see a bit of foul play in a second and then some very pissed off rats.” She leaves the note taking to Cooper, since, y’know, blindfold. She gestures to the paused scene, remaining by the wall as to not trip over things. “The way she's talking, it's almost like this isn't the first time she's done this. She sounds confident that she's going to save a lot of people. That might just be the hubris of the young, or she might have a relationship with the rats. As weird as that is…”. Kal gets a look through the blindfold. “She was an animal empath…smuggling contraband through the sewers for this guy?”

The thought of drug addicted, electric rats does cross her mind. This is just getting better and better.

The idea of using animals to smuggle stuff into the Safe Zone gets a thoughtful nod, “Smuggling would be a pretty damn clever idea. Good one.”

Madeline backs up, nearly stepping in the open grate and only at the last moment moves around it. “II don't have it,” she says with wide eyes, gripping the handle at the top of the lantern tightly. “It's I told you it'll take a little while. This isn't fast.”

Kal doesn't seem convinced. He steps forward, glancing at the open grate, then around to push Madeline back up against the workbench by proximity alone. “I know you've been talking to Frady,” Kal says with a flick of two fingers in her direction. “I don't like you talking to the press.

“It's— it's about the rats!” She cries. “The— Quentin’s been— oh my God Kal, come the fuck on. You're the one who told me they're real!

“Fuck the rats!” Kal says as he backhands Madeline. “I need those guns, Maddie. I needed them last week! You know how important that sale is! You know!

Madeline turns sideways to cower against the workbench, shielding her head with her hands and dropping the lantern with a clank and a crash to the floor. It's spillproof, flame still burning but no kerosene looking out. That would've been a different tragedy. “Kal stop, please!

He doesn't.

Instead, Kal pulls out a handgun and presses it under the side of Maddie’s jaw. “I am not gonna die because you got cold feet! Tell me where they are!” Upstairs, one floor above, the riotous bark of a large dog can be heard constrained by apartment walls.

I don't have them, I don't have them!” Maddie screams, trying to slip away, only to find Kal grab her by the wrist. “Stop! Stop let me go!” There's an electrical spark in the drain, and the sound isn't missed by Kal. He looks over his shoulder, and in that moment of distraction Maddie snatches his gun from him.

Get out of here!” Maddie screams, pointing the gun in a tight, two-handed grip at the scarred man. Kal stares down the sights, breathing in deeply before exhaling a slow sigh and looking at the drain. His hands raise, and he backs away slowly. “I said go!

Kal ducks into the shadows, without another word said. He watches Maddie until he is consumed by the shadow of the stairwell, and only then does her attention turn to the sound of crackling electricity coming from the drain.

No,” she whispers. “No, no, no…” Maddie sets the gun down on the workbench, then hustles to the drain. “No— no not now, not now.” There's fear in her eyes.

As he is writing, something seems to click in Cooper’s head, like two puzzle pieces coming together. CLICK “Whoa… wait. Kal? Guns? Whoa hohoho.” He starts to move towards the guy, but stops himself. Shaking a pen at image, he looks a bit curious. “So that’s what you look like… like you had a run in with a weed wacker.” Pale eyes squint at the man. “Heard his name a lot out there,” he explains for the rest. On Staten that is. “If you wanted guns, you go to Kalik. Worked for some Ukrainian group running their guns.”

His gaze shifts to the blindfolded woman, even if she can’t see him, “This guy is dangerous… but like… imagine it in all caps and air quotes. He deals mainly with the Ghost Shadow Triad. Nasty, nasty group you do not want to run into.” Yet, he sounds kind of excited about the prospect. Or maybe just because he knows something useful! “She was in some deep shit for sure.”

Watching the guy retreat, Cooper hmms softly to himself, but the whispers of the woman draw his attention, “Uh… should we stop here?” The idea of watching her get torn apart doesn’t seem like a fun one.

She may not look like she can see him, but she can. Cassandra follows Cooper as he moves, waving a hand, the entire image freezing instantly, when he does. “Careful. Remember, active crime scene. I overwrite your senses with what’s going on, but I can’t alter gravity or the location of blood splatters and the like.” Probably why she pointed him and Todd toward a wall.

Cassie turns to look at Maddie, frozen by the work bench, then back to Cooper, listening as he speaks about guns, Ukrainian mobs, and the triad he’s dealing with. “I’m ending it when the rats come out. Right up to the edge. We don’t need to see what got her from there to here. I already have enough trouble sleeping, sometimes.” She leans against the wall behind her, thoughtful. “I think that Mr. Kal might pop up a second or two before the rats come. And we’ll need to search the building, stem to stern, to see if any guns she was shipping for him happen to make an appearance.”

And with that, the show starts up again.

Madeline is in a panic. She rushes for the door out of the basement, but slides to a stop when an arc of electricity leaps out of the drain and manifests as a rat in a flash of electricity and ozone. “Ohmygod,” she whispers, scrambling back toward the workbench. “No, no,” her hands come up, eyes close, and the rat pauses where it sits.

“Easy,” she whispers. “Easy there. I'm not gonna hurt you. Just Kal.” Slowly edging around the basement, Maddie presses up against some of the cardboard boxes. Then, from the drain, another electrical snap and a rat appears out of nowhere. Maddie startles, clapping a hand over her mouth. Five more appear and start spreading out, sniffing around the basement.

“Okay. Easy. Easy,” Madeline keeps whispering as she concentrates on the rats and maneuvers over to a gap between the cardboard boxes. Rather than edging to the door, she starts trying to reach for something between the pile of boxes, now shoulder-deep in the stack.

Five more rats appear. Ten. Thirty. Madeline stops what's she's doing and stares at them fanning out, climbing over everything. One starts chewing on electrical wiring until the casing is torn away and then leaps into the wires as a bolt of electricity and disappears. Thirty more rats appear, and now the basement is cracking with them.

A bead of sweat rolls down Madeline’s brow from her hairline and she gives up on whatever she was trying to grab, moving with inching steps through the basement, carefully nudging rats aside with the toe of one boot to make a place to stand. Another group of rats appears in a successive blast of electricity from inside the drain, and Maddie yelps, stepping back and—
— stepping on one of the rats.

The rats all turn at the shriek. Maddie’s eyes widen and she lets out a terrified scream. The swarm begins to converge on—

The image stops. Freeze frame. Then disappears entirely.

Todd finally breathes, one hand clutching his chest as he stares at where Madeline was standing. Where a lone human mandible is now marked by an evidence card. Todd turns, staggers toward he door to the basement, and just outside the doorway a fetching sound is followed by a small splash.

There is a clatter of Cooper’s pen hitting the floor with a clatter, barely missing some bit of gore. His jaw is slack with surprise and wide-eyed. Maybe a little pale as well. “My god..” He whispers and gives himself a shake. “Okay…” Hand rubbing against his face, he realizes he doesn’t have his pen and looks down.

Bending down slowly, he carefully picks up the pen, checking it for blood. None? Okay good. Straightening he moves over to the wires. “Can…” He can’t believe he is asking this… “Can you back it up and replay that bit from where the rat starts gnawing the wires? I- I mean did you see it? It went into the wires.” He makes a thrusting motion towards the wires, “in-to” and follows it for a moment. He jots down a note, “That’s fucking scary, means any place with electricity could get visited. Wonder if it has to be a deadline or if they can just use the lines at anytime?”

Coopers excitement over this is palatable. “And did you see. The pikachu… pikachee… pikachia(?) didn’t care or react until one of them was hurt. A hive mind, clearly connected, maybe via that current. It’s like they are pure lightning, but can take form…. whoa…. “ He whispers that last out like his mind is blown.

Turning to point at the wire again, Cooper looks really worried suddenly as he says, “So the question is: Which way did they get out again? Are they in the wires now, or did they go down the drain?”

Todd’s exodus is ignored. Once he gets to the hall upstairs, it's beyond her power’s reach so thankfully the sounds and sights he's been subjected to fade, leaving him in the comfort of the real world. “Yeah, I can do that.” Cassandra says. Lifting her opposite hand, the one not holding the bit of jewelry, Cassandra studies the darkness and then her hand darts forward. She takes hold of what, at first, seems to be nothing, but on closer inspection looks like a gossamer thread, barely visible in the darkness. Plucking it just so, the scene, prior to the rats, starts to go in reverse, the woman manipulating it like a DJ might manipulate a record, halting it when the rat is jumping into the wire. Remaining where she is, the scene moves back and forth in that moment, the rat flashing in and out of the wire. “They seem to know the paths they can take with the least resistance.” Not a pun this time. “It would make sense how they moved through the building. Following the wires, looking for someone to attack. I think you're right. One of them getting stepped on triggered an instinct in the hive mind to defend itself. They didn't seem really even care about her or attack until that moment.”

Cassandra turns to look at the image of Maddie, by the boxes. “She might have been able to pull it off, if she hadn't been spooked by that Kal guy. But that begs the question… what was she digging for?” The hand holding the thread releases it, the real world coming back into stark view, and Cassandra, after daubing her eyes, removes her blindfold. “What do you think, Cooper?” She clicks on and shines her light on the boxes Maddie was scrambling for. “Want to take a look and see if she was telling her arms dealer friend the truth?”

“You would think after her, that would be it, threat eliminated, but they wiped out the whole place,” Cooper comments thoughtfully, eyeing that piece of jaw laying there. “Did it seem like they were looking for something specific? The one going into the wire was clearly off to scout, which has be wondering if there is a Nimh situation.” Looking down at the remains he asks, “If it was food, wouldn’t they have converged on her immediately?” Food is food after all. His face paling at the mental image that creates for him. “They had absolutely no interest in her like she wasn’t even really there.

He shakes it off by turning towards the box and hmms.. “What’s behind box number one?” Cooper motions the woman to proceed him and take a look, following after her.

Cassandra heads over to the boxes, pulling on a new pair of gloves as to not mark them with the stains on her previous ones, and shines the light inside, pulling them away to reveal what lies beneath.

The boxes are old and water-damaged, the ones on top filled with books that show signs of mold and stink of mildew. Both stacks are surprisingly heavy, but the gap between them is just big enough for an arm to squeeze into. Through that gap, Cassandra’s flashlight shines off of a glossy, black plastic case standing some five feet tall that is wedged between the boxes. There is a scratched up logo on the case, painted in white: a triangle framed by Chinese writing.
The logo of Praxis Heavy Industries.

“Dammit, these things are heavy…” Cassandra complains as she slides one mildew-stained box off, reaching over to grab the next, setting them near the stairs, of all places, out of the way where they won’t get any evidence on them. She’s too busy moving boxes to notice anything else right now. Hopefully this second one will be enough for Cooper to notice what’s there.

Cooper isn’t about to let her do all that heavy lifting, managing to snag a box, while she shifts one. Though a glance down reveals what they may be looking for, “Whoa, hey, hold up.” Dropping the box, he is holding, on the ground; Cooper flashes his light in there. “Hey check it out. Praxis logo.” He looks at Cassandra and waggles his brows, “The mystery deepens.” Tucking the flashlight away again, he reaches into the stack he attempts to dislodge the box. It requires sliding another box aside, but with a grunt he removes it from its spot.

Hefting it in his arms, laying it logo side up in them rather than setting it somewhere to mess up evidence, Cooper turns it towards Cassandra so she can open it. “Let’s see what the potential murder weapon was going to be shall we? By the feel of it, Kal got lucky.” Peering down at the box with narrowed eyes. “Think this could also be part of the merchandise?”

“Let’s find out.” Cassandra says as she works on the locking latches, flipping out a pair of locking tabs and twisting them to unhook latches built on the inside, lifting the case’s lid slowly.

When the case opens, it reveals a form-molded foam insert tailor made to hold the case’s contents. But what's inside this container isn't just a gun, it's some kind of boxy-looking long rifle with a matte gray finish. The weapon has a mounted scope and a grip built into its thick stock. Modules along the barrel look like capacitors and the bore on the front is square shaped, not circular.
A white stenciled mark on the barrel reads PHI-III EM Railgun System.


The case opened, Cassandra just looks at it for a second, her head tilted to the side like that picture of a puppy listening to his master’s voice. “What is that? It looks like a rifle but….weird. And what’s a Railgun? I mean? I guess this thing is a railgun from Praxis? Sounds science fictiony.”

When the weapon is revealed, Cooper lets out a long drawn out, “Hoooooly Shit.” He cranes his neck to try and get a better look at thing. “Oh. My. God.. you haven’t heard of a Railgun before? I mean, I’m used to seeing articles on these in like gun mags, but… Never in person.” Someone might be a bit of a gun nerd. “They are nasty business. Uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosives to lob projectiles. Next level sci-fi shit for sure. And I have it in my hands.” Definitely a gun nerd.

The man gives a low whistle, “No wonder Kalik was anxious to get it. I wonder If he was going to sell it to the Ghost Shadows… God with this…” Thomas lets out a huff. “Man… this…” Brows lift a bit. “Wonder if Praxis is showing any missing guns.” He brightens, focus turning to Cassandra; kinda like a kid at Christmas, “You can look at the history on this thing can’t you.”
“I can.” Cassandra says. “If that thing’s what you say it is, I think the last place it needs to be is here in the middle of a crime scene. If we’re going to delve into that thing’s past, we should do it back on the island where we won’t be randomly interrupted.”

The question about Praxis and missing guns gets a shrug. Cassandra honestly doesn’t know. “The question that I’d have is whether or not this is even legal to manufacture here and have in the United States. And if they’d even tell us that they had something like this in the pipe and whether or not one of their prototypes happened to be missing. This…” She looks at the rifle again. “This being out in the wild is going to cause problems for a lot of people. Jesus, I hope this is the only one of them.”

The comment gets a wrinkle of Cooper’s nose, “I wasn’t saying now. Sheesh. Gimme a little credit, been at this longer than you, silly Agent.” He isn’t insulted, his tone more amused. He looks back down at the gun and motions at her to close it again, with his chin. “This is clearly something to look into, though.”

Looking around then, Cooper barks out, “Can I get some forensic people to tag this baby and get pictures?” Turning back to Cassandra he says much more quietly, “We are not letting this thing out of our sight until we get it back to the island itself.” Clearly, the man’s trust in the system only goes so far. It might be a new world, but it’s got a ways to go.

Cooper’s been the one with his feet in the gutter, so his thought about keeping hands on the weapon until somewhere safe is appreciated. “Yeah, sorry. I’ve been working in a conference room for the past four months, so I’m kind of used to people just dropping stuff off and getting their results right then.” The lid of the case is lowered, the latches re-latched and cranked to seal the railgun tightly in its foam-lined cocoon, Cassandra stepping back to look over the room again. “Electro-rats and railguns. Sounds like a nutty Pokemon episode.”

The forensics team that had been waiting outside so as to not experience the projected psychometric slowly file back into the basement, marking, tagging, and photographing evidence to be transported to Fort Jay for proper cataloging. As they're photographing the gun case, something glints in the darkness behind the cardboard boxes. It happens twice, between two flashes, and it's enough to divert Cooper and Cassandra’s attention back to the wall of waterlogged boxes.

On closer inspection, there appears to be something hidden against the wall behind the lower row of boxes. With a bit of effort and a hand from the forensics team, Cooper is able to move the boxes out of the way, revealing an area in the basement wall where the concrete had been cut away to hard packed earth.

Ten more identical black cases are stacked within.

Cassandra was right: this is going to cause a whole lot of trouble for a whole lot of people.
Remember that scene from The Matrix, when Neo and Trinity were entering the building to rescue Morpheus? Once the boxes are moved aside and several more of the railgun cases are found stacked neatly in the excavated hollow in the wall, that’s exactly what Cassandra is feeling. Just one of these Railguns would be a problem, but eleven? One is enough to take on a military convoy by yourself, but eleven means you have the ability to level a city block and start a war with enough firepower to completely annihilate whoever’s standing on the opposite side of the battlefield. Cassandra lets out a low whistle. “I think we might want to get these out of here under guard. This….” She looks again. Yep, still there. “This is millions of dollars worth of equipment, I’m guessing from the way you talked.”

Once the path is clear and photos are taken, Cooper moves in to tug the first case out. “This… This is bad, Baumann.” Any amusement he might have had is sapped away at the discovery. “Are these even all of them?” he asks aside to Cassandra, in wonder. “Might need you to scroll back and check how many get placed in there. Was she selling them herself and if so who too?” He passes the first gun off for tagging and tugs out another.

“If these are already out on the streets, how many other Praxis or any company weapons are out there. “ He looks back at the pile when the box is handed off. “We can’t go up against this. The MPs sure as shit are not equipped for this.”

There isn’t acknowledgement that Cassie’s idea has merit, maybe because he agrees and he turns to look for Crest. “Hey, Todd-ee-oh.” He calls out to the Agent. “Please, post people outside. We don’t want anyone else down here. Have them keep an eye outside for anyone suspicious hanging around, watching the comings and goings.” Completely serious and maybe looking a touch worried, Cooper steps away from the wall.

This was a big discovery. Clicking on his flashlight, he sends the beam into the space, to make sure there isn’t any more surprises behind those boxes. This was clearly her stash. “And Todd! Call back to the Fort and see if they can send out an armed transport for these.” He was serious about not wanting these to fall into the wrong hands.

Todd, still a bit green in the gills, steps through the door and eyes the case on the floor with a furrow in his brows. He looks at the guns, then up to the two agents, then around to the forensics team examining the weapons. The weight of what they found buried in the wall combines with the weight of the deaths filling the building from floor to floor.

Todd scrubs one hand over his mouth and reaches inside of his coat, retrieving a satellite phone and dials out to Fort Jay. His hand comes up and takes through his hair, and just sort of scrubs there for a moment.

“Yeah uh, hey. It's Crest, uh…” Todd slowly shakes his head.

“We’re gonna need a hand out here.”

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