The Heart Of Darkness


bowie_icon.gif brynn_icon.gif joe_icon.gif lance_icon.gif owain_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title The Heart of Darkness
Synopsis A pair of SESA agents cross paths with former Lighthouse wards on the precipice of a dread secret.
Date July 11, 2018

“I think I hate you.”

Flashlights cut through the dark, reflecting off of ankle-deep standing water and the glistening grime-lined walls of what was once a subway tunnel. Rhys Bluthner, in a pair of highwater rubber wading pants, splashes through the muck underfoot with nose rankled and brow furrowed. He pauses, briefly indicating with his flashlight where an old piece of graffiti shows a fiery bird with wings outstretched and the words Rise Up stenciled below.

“I hate you so much.”

Up ahead of Agent Bluthner the subject of his ire is his currently assigned partner, Bowie Lin, currently stooped over and inspecting something protruding from the water’s surface. As Rhys approaches, he looks away from the old phoenix graffiti and shines his light down on what’s in front of Bowie. The fractured cranium of a human skull stares up from the water, hollow eye sockets scraped with tiny claw and tooth marks. All of the complaining is gone, and Rhys lurches backwards with one hand clapped over his mouth.

Then, muffled behind his hand.

I hate you.

F-Line Subway Tunnel

Beneath Jackson Heights

July 11, 2018

1:39 pm

Bowie is doing his best to not let his feelings be hurt. Which is made a lot easier by the fact that he doesn't believe Rhys means it. Working as a nurse, working in the Air Force, working for SESA, he's been told I hate you a lot by people who don't really mean it.

Gloved fingers run over the skull's scratches and bites and Bowie frowns at the implication. He hopes, in the back of his mind, that the body was already dead before the rats found him.

"Think of it this way," he says as he stands up again, "if we solve this mess, we don't have to come back down here ever again." Maybe. Probably. He steps over to clap Rhys on the shoulder— with the hand that hasn't been poking at dead things in a sewer. "That's motivating, right? Plus, Agent, this has moved up a notch from missing food. People are dead now. We can handle some discomfort to find out why they died and to make sure no one else has to, right?"

Pat, pat.

Bowie moves ahead, passing the skull to search for the next bit of the trail.

Rhys rolls his eyes so hard they may fall out of his head, but it's all an act. Bowie saw through his protests, through his frustrations. Rhys is just as dedicated to the idea of helping prevent more loss of life as Agent Lin. Looking down to the skull, the corners of his mouth turn down into a frown.

“I resent you,” Rhys corrects in a gentle voice, paying the skull one last mournful look before following behind the agent.

“So much.”

"That's fair," Bowie says with a crooked smile sent toward his partner.


The sewer access at Spirit Playground on the corner of 36th and 9th is one of the few that access former subway lines. Getting the manhole cover off is usually an arduous affair, but the youths spelunking down into the tunnels below Queens have a new guest with them, and Owain Mihangle’s power makes lifting manhole covers a problem of the past.

Garbage, broken concrete, and filth on the other hand… that's outside his wheelhouse.

The Spirit Playground sewer access is backed up, old debris from storms years ago create a tangle of broken wood, rusty nails, shattered glass, and all other manner of dangerous detritus. But it's not under observation by the military police who are now actively watching for unlawful sewer access.

Which is exactly what all this is: unlawful.

“I’m telling you, they’re slice rats!”

The maglite in Lance’s hand sends its beam sweeping through the opening in the debris that they've cleared, making sure there's nothing actively moving on the inside.

“It’s not a guy,” he insists, “They aren’t behaving like they’re possessed, they’re just behaving like— like rats.”

There’s no sound that echoes forth to herald their clearing of the entrance, no clattering of rocks or screeching of rusted metal being pulled aside - stopped at about a ten foot distance from the master of acoustic control. (Well, master might be a strong word.)

He’s dressed in a hoodie with a poncho over it, and rubber waders and boots, all the better to avoid being bitten and electrocuted, or so he’s hoping at least.

“I wish we had some idea where Will hangs out, though… I mean how far could he go, he’s dead. What’s he doing, going on a vacation to Key Largo? He knows we’re trying to help…”

“What if someone’s been, like, experimenting on animals and making them Slice?” Owain opines from behind Lance, his own copper maglite yet to be turned on; that’ll come when they finally get in. “Like, you heard about that zombie pig, right? A video surfaced of it playing in the mud, just fine, even though he should’ve died in that accident he was in.”

His eyes are silvery, like chrome, and a pair of large copper ball bearings are hovering in the air over his head. “Maybe that pig can heal or something, and these rats are…like…an electric hive mind or something.” Owain has his own rainy day getup going, a pair of rain boots covering the bottoms of his gray jeans, a rubber raincoat on over that. He even donned some rubber gloves, because electrocution sounds particularly uncomfortable.

Change jingles in his pocket, a backup just in case the ball bearings aren’t enough; in his backpack with the copper zippers, he has a nice spool of copper wire packed away, reasoning that perhaps he can make the rats electrocute themselves — or at least pull the electricity away.

Joe rolls his eyes as they trudge through the sewage and the muck. "And I'm telling you they're not slice rats. There's no such thing. It doesn't make sense. Why would animals start manifesting evolved abilities? Unless someone specifically made them evolved rats. Which why the heck would someone make electric rats Lance?" The sound of Lance and Joe arguing is a constant. Not arguing so much as disagreeing. "I… may have found out some information about Samson. The guy who saved you guys. Mister Shades thinks it's Gabriel's dad. And if it is maybe he's got some crazy animal morphing powers and he's the rat swarm? Would make sense."

"Does he know though? We've only seen him the once. Maybe he doesn't know we've been down here trying to find him to help." Joe and Squeaks did good. They got a bunch of equipment and supplies together for this spelunking event. Canned and packaged food that wouldn't be spoiled by a dip into the sewers. Rope and flashlight batteries and bandages and all sorts of other stuff. Joe's backpack is FULL. "You know, that's exactly what Key said. The pig that is. That's weird."

He continues to slosh through the muck in his rubber waders, everyone has some for this trip. Well except Owain, cuz Joe didn't know he was coming. Though he's definitely happy to see him there. "I'm pretty sure that it's an evolved and not animals. Just because we've never seen an animal morph before doesn't mean they exist. Some abilities are super rare after all. Oh Squeaks. I got Twinkies. Key had some. They're back at the apartment. When we get back we can celebrate with some honest to god Twinkies." Joe glancing over at the smallest member of their party with a big grin. It's hard to sign with a flashlight in hand, but he does his best for Brynn's sake.

As they entered and climbed carefully over debris, Brynn has stayed back closer to Squeaks — she and the younger girl both look reluctant to deal with rats coming this way, though likely for different reasons (Brynn's always been afraid of them). Her gray eyes take in Joe's signs in the beam of her own flashlight, but she doesn't sign back — she rarely if ever gets involved when the boys are 'disagreeing' — fussing, poking at one another, having boy pissing contests, whatever it is they're really doing. Instead she's on a constant vigilance kick down here. If those rats come back, she wants to know as early as her flashlight can expose their beady glow-in-the-dark eyes.

Less enthusiastic about returning to the Underneath, especially since it was to those areas where all the stories said not to go, Squeaks was perfectly fine with letting the boys take the lead. Even though she’s put on a brave face about it — singular rats don’t bother her so much as swarms, and there’s the flushing that could happen without warning — she was even relieved when Brynn decided to hang back also.

Like the older girl, she’s ignoring the discussion about what the rats are. Squeaks isn’t totally convinced the rats are slice, and she’s even given a number of theories to Joe about what the rats really were. None of which are brought up as they climb and crawl over debris — that’s a task that requires some concentration since there’s sharp and pokey things, and she’s not used to wearing rubber boots which like to get hung up if she’s not paying attention. She’d rather just be in her regular shoes, but she wasn’t going to argue. She could always kick them off if they really got annoying.

News that Twinkies were actually found brings a quick grin. “No fake Twinkies?” Squeaks was even less thrilled about making Twinkies out of Sno-balls than she was about wearing rubber boots. It’s just not the same.

As the group of kids rounds a curving tunnel, they spot a few scattered bones laying amid the partly flooded tracks, exposed rib cages and fractured skulls, signs of death much as they had witnessed further south when the wave of rats came cascading up to avoid a flush of water. The worse discovery, the sudden realization that they’re not alone as a flashlight sweeps over them from up ahead.


“Have I said I’m worried yet?” Rhys chirps from behind Bowie, hustling with splashing steps to catch up to the agent. “Because, as I look around this flooded sewer and contemplate the rumors about electric rats I’m beginning to worry my rubber pants might not be the style faux-pas that saves my life.”

Briefly, Rhys looks back in the direction they’d seen the human remains, then back to Bowie. “Those bones were stripped like how Cooper field-strips barbecue wings at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Back… when we had those things.” Sweeping his flashlight behind himself, Rhys watches the rear tunnel, jumping at every small sound.

“I miss barbecue ribs,” Rhys bemoans softly.

"You said it in the car on the way here," Bowie points out, "And on the ferry over from the island. And when we climbed down here." He looks over at Rhys, light shining toward— but not at— him. "Choi said bite-proof suits weren't in the budget. Maybe next year."

He is just trying to keep things lighthearted, but a sweep back ahead of him makes him frown. "Keep your ears sharp. They'll only be a problem in numbers, so if we hear them coming, we run." No plans to stay and get eaten here.

Bowie makes a rueful noise at the mention of barbecue, though. "Chili cheese fries," he says, as for the guilty food pleasure he misses the most.

Chili cheese fries!” Rhys sharply whispers while clapping one hand to the side of his face. “There was this little street vendor on the upper west side, Cornado’s, best chili cheese fries you could get out of a truck. He worked right before a DHS checkpoint, fed all the folks protesting Registration. I used to get onion rings by the bag.” Wherever Rhys put that onion ring weight is a mystery that not even science could solve. "I’d cover them with hot s — ”

Cutting himself off, Rhys jerks his attention to a side tunnel. “Bowie,” he hisses, “there’s something— ” Rhys doesn’t even finish his sentence, just sweeps the flashlight down the tunnel with wide-eyed panic right into the oncoming—

— children?

Oh for fuck’s sake,” Rhys curses, clutching at his chest with one hand. “The Scooby Gang is here, investigating the mystery of how they gave me a heart attack.”

LHK’s are up and then bowie after them and then that’ll just be pose order!

“Oh no,” Lance breathes out as his flashlight sweeps over more bones, breaking off from the previous conversation as a gaping toothless smile is illuminated, empty eye sockets looking sightless at the group, “They’re this far north, too…? I was hoping they were keeping closer to— “

The other flashlight beam has him freeze, his own sweeping up to match it.


The silence field drops, and he clears his throat, “Uh. Hi. Have you, uh— “

A long pause.

“— seen a lost dog anywhere?”

Worst. Excuse. Ever.

The bones prompt a bit of the color to drain from Owain’s face — he’s seen his fair share of death, but it never really gets easier to see death anyhow. “Jesus,” he mutters, shaking his head. “That’s…ugh, that’s gotta be a shitty way to go.”

Those copper ball bearings spin a little bit more furiously around Owain’s head as the light from the flashlight bathes over them for a moment, his grip tightening on the copper mag light briefly, moving to ensure that Brynn and Squeaks are behind him…until he hears Rhys call them The Scooby Gang, and Lance responds with an extremely lame excuse.

“Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to lie?” Owain shakes his head disapprovingly, before turning his silver-eyed gaze, which reflects the light of the flashlight like a mirror, back to the two adults.

For Brynn’s sake, Owain signs, I think they’re looking for the same thing we are.

"Oh hi agents. Lovely day we're having down here isn't it? I'd say fancy running into you here but it's really not that surprising is it? I mean, that we're down here on the same day in the same area of the sewers kinda, but not so much that we're all down here again. Oh, you haven't met our friends. Agents this is the rest of the gang. Gang these are the agents. Bowie is pretty cool. Other one is kind of a wimp. Complains a lot. Throws up at the sight of dead bodies." Joe tuts softly, his customary grin out in force on his features.

"Oh yeah. Super shitty way to go. The rats don't care if you're still alive when they eat you. Thankfully I'm down here to help tank the rats. And then you can tie them up with what you do." See, Joe can decide not to tell everyone everyone else's business. Keeping Owain's ability a secret for the moment. "So hey Bowie. How yah been? Haven't really seen you lately. Been busy at the office? We've been mapping the sewers. Exploring. Trying to find William and the rats. They're electric rats now. Either slice, or an evolved gone animal swarm, or maybe robots. Still not sure which." Joe's shoulders shrug a little bit and he keeps on walking. "Come on Lance, stop gawking. Come on agents, might as well join us. Strength in numbers and all that." Joe, just adding people to the party. It's kinda how the LHK do though.

“Lance can lie. When the situation calls for it. Sometimes. Actually Lance didn’t anyone teach you to lie? Pretty sure Brian did a whole course on subterfuge and what not. How to lie, when to lie. I mean this isn’t the time to lie. But to be fair Ow…” He pauses midway through Owain’s name. “I don’t lie most of the time either. Deceit is bad mmmkay.”

Sometimes it's a blessing to be deaf. Especially when Joe is dissembling and just running on and on. When the flashlight passes across the team, she keeps to the back — she is not an offensive power by anyone's measure. Plus she has Mouse to keep safe. She waves rather sheepishly at the agents… she can't see them well, but anyone who is wandering around down here that makes Lance and Joe start their routine can't be squatters or residents.

Are they about to pitch us out in our butts or try to tell us we're too young to be down here? she asks calmly. Mouse said there's another way in, it just means backtracking a bit to go around this section, if they're going to be all protective adult on us.

Old bones don’t bother the youngest of the teens. She’s seen lots like them, even pilfered through pockets still attached to old bone bodies. There are definitely worse things than skeletons, and she gives the skulls and such that they pass a look but not much more. What does bother Squeaks is when that light passes from the direction they’re heading. She squints against the sudden brightness, already looking for a way to disappear until she can be sure of who those people are.

Joe’s avalanche of words keeps her from following through on that idea.

Squeaks, keeping close to Brynn’s side, stretches up on toes to look past the boys in the lead. She stays stretched when the agents — Bowie at least — becomes a little more recognizable, not so much on her toes but bodily, to look taller maybe? If you puff up like that, people leave you alone, right? Brynn’s questions get a quick shrug, shoulders popping up and down. Lots of ways to go, she confirms, and then offers a “Hi,” to the agents.

Bowie turns to see what Rhys is looking at, his eyes narrowing before the figures become clear. When they do, that gets a facepalm. He's quiet, listening to them, looking between the group, but ultimately, his gaze falls on Lance. He shakes his head. He's not mad, Lance, he's just disappointed.

By the time Joe reaches a lull, the agent has turned his direction.

"One of these days," he says, "you're going to run out of oxygen mid-sentence." Spoken in the same tone as your face is going to freeze like that. He looks Squeaks over, too, and Lance gets a sideways look. For better or worse, he seems to have deemed him the ringleader of this little troupe.

"Rhys, take up the rear. Let's make sure we all get out of here safely." Instead of getting eaten by rats. Or electrocuted by rats. Or anything. He moves to the front of the group himself, nodding Lance to come along with when they move forward.

Rhys side-eyes Bowie on that instruction. “You know, what I want to know is who don't these kids know? Because your personal histories?” Rhys makes a frantic gesture with both hands, whipping his flashlight around. “They're tangled.”

But even as he's making his wild gestures, Rhys is slinking to the back of the group. Quietly, he reaches inside his jacket with his free hand and removes a sidearm that has a coiled cable — like an old phone cord — extending from the bottom of the grip. It trails down beneath his high-waders to an unseen battery pack. The Raytech Banshee night do better than bullets in this situation, especially with as many civilian bystanders.

As Bowie starts to move ahead, Rhys looks around and tightly grips his banshee. “I literally cannot believe this.”

The disappointed look gets a slight wince from Lance, recovering to offer a hopeful smile and a spread of his hands in a ‘what can you do’ sort of gesture in Bowie’s direction.

“I know how to lie guys, it was a joke,” he mutters to his friends-slash-siblings as he moves up at Bowie’ gesture to join up with the agents. Or maybe the agents are joining up with the Lighthouse, since they’re outnumbered 2-to-1 here.

“We’ve been trying to warn all the underground communities,” he admits, sweeping a hand in a motion that encompasses the newly-created group, silence field unseen but now keeping all of them from warning anyone of their approach from a distance, “Make sure they… all get out before. Well.” The maglite’s beam sweeps over pale bones sticking out of the garbage, demonstrating so he doesn’t need to say it.

“What’re you doing down here?”

Those oddly disquieting silver eyes turn to watch the two agents, but not before catching Brynn and Squeaks’s signs. Looks like they’ll be joining up with us, he states the obvious as Rhys moves to take up the rear; as he passes, the copper ball bearings falling into a much more relaxed orbit around his head.

The copper maglight in his hands spins against his palm of its own accord for a moment, before he grips it and clicks the light on, pointing the beam toward the ground to illuminate the area that much more.

As to Rhys’ question, Owain shrugs. “I don’t know you, I don’t think,” he murmurs, “but then, I’m kind of a tagalong here.”

"Uhhh I mean… well there's… not a lot of people we don't know to be honest. We have a LOT of aunts and uncles and guardians. Like a lot. And we know lots and lots of people." He pauses and glances back towards Lance. "Oh yeah. Richard Car…. Ray wants us to catch him a pikachu so his science fairies can study it. Did Caspian finish the capacitor cage to try and trap one of the rats?" He asks curiously, looking back over his shoulder. His hands move as he talks. We're good Brynn. Agent Lin is good peoples. Joe ooooooo's "Lance, getting in trouble with his future boss. Bad bad boy Lancy poo!" Joe laughs as they walk along, his laughter oddly not echoing through the sewer given Lance's silence bubble he's got up. "That's weird. Can't usually tell when your silene bubble is up, but my voice didn't echo properly. That was nifty."

"Yeah, what /are/ you guys doing down here? This doesn't really seem like a mission for two suited up Seesaw agents. Cuz like… you guys aren't really equipped to take on killer man eating electric pikachu rats. Just sayin. Unless you guys have force fields or something I'm not aware of. I mean you've got guns, but like… that's not gonna take care of a swarm of man eating rats." Joe continues to walk along behind Lance and Bowie, but he calls back to Rhys. "So agent. You didn't seem like you really wanted to be down here last time. How did Agent Lin drag you back down here? I mean your stomach isn't the strongest and… yeah. Oh Agent. Meet our friend. Friend meet the Agents." Clearly avoiding using Owain's name. Cuz well it's not his name to give out. "Hey Squeakers, can you check the map? Make sure we're going the right way?" He asks over his shoulder to the smaller teen.

Brynn is following along as best she can in the semi-dark. More flashlights mean more visibility — which is both good and bad in this case. If they're trying to stay low profile, it's starting to get bright. A swift eye toward Lance and an observation of the flanking movements of the agents tells her what she needs to know even before Owain's signing.

Rhys taking the rear guard position in their marching order puts him in closest proximity to Squeaks and Brynn, and the deaf teen peers at Rhys very intently. If he didn't know better, he'd say the girl — and that's really all she is, and not one with overwhelming presence at that — was sizing him up and making some kind of judgement call. The tightening of her lips and somewhat skeptical shift of her gray eyes from him to Joe and back again perhaps conveys that she's not entirely sure he is qualified to be here.

If he shoots me with that hi-tech thingamabob because something scares the piss out of him, Joseph, she warns, using the sign for Joe's full first name so he knows she is not kidding, I will turn all your body hair glitter pink and it will stay that way forever.

The familiar agent’s gaze is met, as best it can be in the dark, and the youngest of the gaggle of teens offers a shrug. She may not have exactly wanted to go back to the tunnels, but she’s not going to snitch on any of her siblings or Owain. It was decided as a group that people needed to be warned of the dangers, since the stories are actually real and all. And when he looks away, she sticks her tongue out at him.

As the unfamiliar agent moves to the back of the party, Squeaks’ eyes follow and get more narrow as he gets closer. She huffs quietly, just a short breath, as she shoots a side-eyed glance in Bowie’s direction. She might have something to say about having a babysitter at her back, but Joe asks for the map so she makes a show of pulling it out to look it over. See? These kids know what they’re doing!

A finger trails mostly in the direction they’ve traveled, coming to a stop near where they’ve met up with the pair of SESA agents. Squeaks’ eyes flick back at Rhys, then lift to Joe to show him the map just in time to catch Brynn’s threat. She’s learned enough of the language to understand much of what the older girl is saying, and it gives her the giggles.

"Rhys." Bowie gives the younger agent a look, like maybe he thinks commenting on their personal histories is a little rude. Or, at least, out of place for the moment. "Let's focus on making sure everyone gets out of here, right?" Which might clue the kids into what Bowie's focus is, even though he doesn't answer the questions about what they're doing down here. Because maybe he thinks it's obvious. Or maybe because once he saw the group, the objective changed from Investigating to Escort Mission.

But there still is some investigating, as Bowie keeps sweeping the sewers for evidence of the rats' trail. It may be a disturbing number of stripped corpses, but finding their nest might be helpful in this case.

"That's good," he says to Lance, eventually, "Warning the communities. I hope they're listening." To the kids, to SESA, whoever they'll take the word of is okay by him.

Grimacing, Rhys continues to watch his feet as he walks through the subway tunnel, scanning for more signs of human remains. He stops at one point, pulling a strip of vibrant pink nylon tape off of a roll at his waist and hanging it from an exposed pipe. “Forensics is going to hate us…” he admits with a hushed tone, looking back to Bowie and the young, invested citizens following him.

As the front of the group rounds a tunnel they pass into a partly-collapsed section of the subway. Demolished cars that fell from above are heaped on top of one-another along with mounds of damp concrete. There's an entire collapsed building above the toppled cars, likely a parking garage that was hit during one of the initial bombing runs over New York. Rhys shines his flashlight across the Rhône's cars, then illuminates a narrow gap between some of ththe vehicles.

“Do… do you…” Rhys murmurs, creeping forward slowly. “Do you hear a buzzing sound?” At the same moment, Lance and the others recognize a faint electrical buzzing noise getting closer, on the other side of the collapsed debris. Before there's time to react, there's a riotous sound of electrical discharge beyond the collapsed vehicles. Some flashes of electric-blue illumination, shrieks of rats, and then nothing as the sound dies down.

A few pops, sparks, and sputters echo from beyond, but the sound hasn't disappeared entirely. Rhys sweeps his light to the right, where a metal-runged ladder going down below the subway is marked as CON-ED ACCESS. The distant shriek of rats echoes up from within.

The crackle-snap of electricity in the air has Lance stopping in his tracks and losing a bit of the color in his face; arm raising to his side at a 90 degree angle, hand forming a fist. Halt says the gesture, to anyone with military - or paramilitary, in the case of the Lighthouse - training.

“It’s them,” he says in hushed tones, gaze following Rhys’s gesture towards the tunnel and ladder. A hard swallow, glancing to the SESA agents with a worried expression, “That’s how they’re getting around. The old power lines. They ride them.”

“I don’t suppose anyone brought a flamethrower or… a lightning rod or anything? Maybe a fire hose?”

Owain’s jaw sets as the herd of Pikachu makes their entrance, adam’s apple moving up and down as he swallows, eyes closing a bit as he musters his willpower to not run the other way. Electricity sucks, and the shrieks of the rats themselves doesn’t do much to steel the nerves.

His eyes, still mirror-like from the use of his ability, open once more; the copper zipper of his backpack unzips itself, and out floats the copper pipe that normally is used as a flying machine, the straps no longer present. The spool of copper wire emerges shortly after, the wire itself unraveling like a disturbingly thin and long snake.

“Need to ground this,” Owain gestures to the walls of the underground — that shouldn’t be too difficult, considering the fact that they are underground. “Might even be able to turn their electricity against them if I can get them to touch the wire. Theoretically. Don’t take my word for it, I might be wrong. But I can at least figure out how to ground this.” The copper pipe spins in mid-air to call attention to itself.

He warily eyes the two agents, despite the display of his ability — but the fact that the others are okay with them is enough for Owain. For now.

Joe is walking along, being Joe. Which means babbling, filling the air with noise. Talking about everything. Hobos getting eaten, the food disappearances. His disagreement with Lance over whether William is a ghost or not. But then there's that pop and snap of electricity, and jovial carefree Joe disappears in an instant. Right away he's ready, one hand slipping into his jacket to pull free a machete. Not that it's likely to do much good against a swarm of rats, but hey it's something. "Nope. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a hold of a flamethrower in time. I do have the makings for a few improvised incendiary devices in my pack though." Which he unshoulders at this time, hands reaching in and swifty retrieving bottles, rags and a lighter. Classic molotov cocktails. Then the screeching is coming up from below them. "Why don't we cleeeear back from there Agent Rhys."

The sibling squabble passes quickly as everyone whips around to face the same direction. The deaf teen can't hear what caught their attention, but her body language shifts immediately from the cautious watchfulness to full alert, gray eyes scanning the darkness around them. The lightning bolts that crackle from the gap in the rubble tell her all she needs to know. Her left hand goes out instinctively to have a hold on Squeaks and without looking toward Rhys, who is standing right there, she moves to the correct position to be out of his line of fire and not blocking his gun arm — assuming things come from the direction everyone is looking. Though her right hand starts to move toward the back of her waistband, indicating that she's likely carrying a weapon, she has a flashlight in that hand and so doesn't pull it. (Hers usually stays exactly where it is because if she has to pull a weapon, hell's already frozen over and the Devil got past her brothers.)

Her light comes up higher, illuminating the tunnel ahead and behind them, but when she sees nothing in that sweep, her eyes go immediately back — not to Bowie, the ostensible adult leader of the group, but to Lance. The quick hand motions are practically like screaming to her, and she seems to have no qualms about making sure to herd the younger teen with her as soon as Lance makes that call. For now, she waits.

Those sounds are curious, even with the squeaking and shrilling beneath it, and they don’t cause as much alarm in the youngest of the group as they might have the first trip. She’s definitely cautious, head tilting as she listens and eyes wide in seeking the source. But, lacking any sort of survivalist training that the older teens have, she doesn’t see Lance’s gesture and Squeaks is almost two steps ahead of Brynn before being pulled to a stop. She looks a question at the older girl, then catches on to the boys’ commentary.

Along with the other girl, she scuttles aside, casting frowny looks at Rhys like maybe he’s to blame for something. Squeaks follows that up with skirting behind Brynn to stand on the opposite side, then stretching up on tippy toes for a better look. Not that there’s a whole lot to see in the tunnels, even with flashlights, but she tries just the same. After a second or two, she digs into a pocket and finds some small bits of concrete rubble, just large enough to throw with mild accuracy.

Bowie stops at the sound, his hand moving to draw his own Banshee. He moves to put himself between the sound and the kids, watching for the swarm to make their move. When they don't, he follows the light from Rhys' flashlight to the tunnel. He steps that direction, but turns toward Lance.

"Your friends are freaked out," he says to the teen in a quiet whisper, "this isn't safe."

He lifts an eyebrow, then starts toward the tunnel again. He doesn't climb down the ladder right off, but he uses his flashlight to shine down below. Just to get an idea of just how many rats there might be down there. "Well, Rhys. I think we might know where they're nesting." Con-Ed. Go figure.

Joe sidles over and will interpose himself between everyone and the ladder downwards. "If they come up, let them swarm me and then you guys kill them. Blades, guns doesn't matter. You won't hurt me, but you'll hurt them." A glance to Lance and a nod to him. Lance knows Joe is immune to their teeth but not their electricity. Resistance will only go so far, so he's trusting everyone to get the rats off him if they swarm. He steps over to the ladder.

"So glad you're here with us man." Joe comments to Owain as he watches him messing about with metal to do electricity things. "Magneto powers rock." And then Joe is… grabbing his flashlight and leaning over the edge near the ladder, trying to peek down wards, flashlight on and in hand, moving about, so he's hanging sort of down the tunnel the ladder is in, using his knees and legs as leverage and traction both.

“Oh my God both of you get away from there!” Rhys hisses as loudly as he can while taking a few steps back from the ladder. “Con Edison is a sinkhole,” Rhys splutters over the shrieking crackle of the rats. “Phoenix blew that place to smithereens when they stopped the Vanguard.” Everyone’s seen that season 1 finale of River Styx, but historically there were no ninjas down there. That— embarrassing embellishment seems par for course for the show, though.

Apart from Rhys’ protests and his side-eye at Owain’s McGuyvering of wire into some sort of makeshift attempt at a ground, Bowie and Joe can both see down into the ladder shaft as swarm of rats moves like a furry gray carpet along the floor some fifteen feet below. They spark and sputter, leaping in and out of chewed-out power conduits by converting their bodies into electricity and then reforming back again. The swarm doesn’t last long, maybe ten seconds, and wherever they were going seems to be anywhere other than here.

But both Agent Lin and Joe notice something left in their wake. One of the rats re-solidifies from its electrical jaunt halfway between the sides of a dented aluminum can. The rodent lets out a shrill squeak, bisected by the metal, leaving a bloody streak down both sides as it twitches and spasms on the floor. It dies quickly, leaving two halves of a rat at the bottom of the ladder.

“They’re not freaked out,” whispers Lance back with a sharp look to Bowie, “They’re just aware that we’re in a stupid amount of danger right now.” Then the agent’s moving forward, and he sweeps a hand back as he steps back - indicating to his ‘squad’ as it were to back away as well. Rhys has the right idea.

He doesn’t try and call back Joe, though, all too aware of their point man’s near-invulnerability; of them all, he’s likely the least in danger.

“We know where they’re nesting, though,” he says tightly, looking over to Rhys, “And how they’re getting around. If we can sever all the lines going in and out of there we can trap them, maybe?”

“So should we just leave these things to keep eating people because the place might not be so structurally sound?” That sounds worse said out loud than it did in his head. Owain shakes his head. “I mean…I don’t think I could sleep tonight if I didn’t at least try.” But then, the young Mihangle has a rather bleak look on life these days, and seems to care little for his own safety.

The metallokinetic goes silent, then, the spool of copper wire drifting over everyone’s head, slowly lowering itself down into the manhole; once he hears the spool hit the ground, the wire springs to life, coiling across the floor to create a ‘rug’ of copper wire, a barrier between the ladder and the direction he last heard the rats going.

Owain takes a breath once he’s completed his task. “Hopefully that will catch any spare Thundershocks the herd of Pikachus decides to throw at us. I don’t know too much about electricity, though, so don’t get mad at me if it doesn’t work.” A shrug rolls over his shoulders. “Next time, give me like two weeks advance notice, so I can actually research this stuff.”

“Uhhhh what in the heck just happened Agent Lin?” Joe blinks slowly and looks over his shoulder at the rest of the group. “Sooo. Rats do actually turn into electricity. So one of two unheard of things has happened. Slice animals. Or an animal shape shifter that has multiple powers. Both ludicrous but one is true. And uhhh apparently they can reamaterialize in the wrong place and kill themselves? Is aluminium conductive? Cuz a can just cut one in half.” Joe looks over to Agent Bowie leaned over the hole with him. “We need to go down there Agent Lin.” Joe turns to look over at Lance.

“Oh, they’re gone. They just pikachu’d out. But if they’re nesting down there they’ll be back. We could set the trap while they’re gone. I’ll be the bait. I mean, if that’s okay with the government suit types who are nominally supposed to kinda be in charge? How bout it seesaw? Wanna help us solve the city’s man eating electric rat problem?” He flashes Bowie a wide grin, cuz lets be real, The LHK’s are gonna do it with or without the agents. “But seriously is alumnium conductive? If not we should have brought some of that with us to trap them with.” This while copper wire is threading itself through the air of it’s own accord. Just another day in Weird City. “Owain. Have I told you lately you’re the coolest? I mean after my ninja bro. Though you come close. Magneto powers are primal.”

Brynn frowns as things go rather wonky up front where she can't follow what's happening easily. She keeps enough distance not to be in the way. When Joe turns around and starts on about aluminum, she isn't sure why the information matters. But she signs, Of course aluminum is conductive — remember the tripwires? The explosives inside them wouldn't blow without the spark, and we didn't have fuses so we tied them to that car battery. Mmmmaybe it's a good thing the agents don't know ASL?

She looks around, wary about whether the electric rats are going to suddenly appear somewhere up here. We definitely need the corpse, she opines. If they're really gone, getting that should be safe enough, ya think?

She glances at the agents… is this going to be one of those 'we're the adults, do what I say' moments? Brynn waits to see what the call is.

Con Edison. Squeaks knows that name, she’s seen it on a wall, on some doors, and when Rhys says it aloud, her head tilts to one side and her nose wrinkles as she thinks about it. Blown to smithereens? Hardly. “I know this place,” she determines suddenly, and just loud enough that only Brynn — if she could actually hear — and Rhys would hear her. “It’s perfectly safe.” Except for the rats, she means. She slips free of Brynn’s shepherding and tippy toes toward the ladder and the opening where she stretches to be tall enough to see into the hole.

It isn’t enough to completely confirm her suspicions, not really. Not especially with all the rats that are crackling and flickering around like electrical arcs. But few others know the Underneath like Squeaks believes she knows it, and she’s been down there before. She ducks and leans away from the hole when Owain’s wire thing goes down, then creeps forward while well below everyone’s eye-level to peer into the hole to see no more rats.

“The tank!” It might be a weird thing to exclaim, but that’s what Squeaks says next in a very excited voice, and loud enough for everyone to hear. All fear of the rats has been forgotten right now, because there’s better things nearby. “I found that…” when she went looking for… “William!” The call for the ghost-projection comes as she makes a sudden skittering jump for the ladder. Rats be damned — they disappeared again anyway — she’s going down there.

"Whoa there," Bowie says, putting an arm out to block Squeaks from just jumping down the hole as if they were in a car and stopped too sharp. Mom-arm. "Easy. No need to run down there to get fried if they come back. Rhys and I came equipped," he says, since the agents are in rubber and gloves and have sonic weapons that might help with the horde situation. "I'll make sure nothing is going to kill everyone down there first. Right? But you— " Squeaks, that is, " —can't go down there. Not with us here. Rhys?" Help with the actual child is communicated in a gesture before he turns to test the ladder.

He seems to decide it's stable enough, because he starts down. One he's on the ground again, his steps are careful as he walks to the ex-rat. The evidence bag he pulls out first is far too small, but a second one seems to satisfy him, because that's where he's putting the rat's head. There's another in his pocket for the other half.

“Okay alright okay,” Rhys stammers as he pushes his way up through the kids to reach Squeaks. “Alright sweetheart I love your spirit but you don't wanna catch Typhus or something.” Gingerly, he puts a gloved hand at the small of her back and tries to guide her away from the ladder.

“That thing could have a whole host of diseases. I mean it turned to lightning, and I'm not a scientist but that seems — in the parlance of youth — really fucked up.” Rhys offers a look back to Lance, the most reasonable of them all for some backup with actual street credit. “We need to bag that rat and get it to a lab. We might be able to figure out where they came from. Somehow I doubt this is a happy accident.

The noise of the rats and the electrical him has dissipated entirely, leaving the sewers quiet save for the distant drip of water. “Director Kenner is going to shit his pants,” Rhys murmurs, looking at the ladder.

“Whoa, Squeaks!” As the agents move to intercept her, Lance tries to catch her attention as well, one hand lifting in a motion her way. Come back later, his fingers dance her way, a reassuring smile flashed as he steps over as if to ‘collect’ her back to the group, assuming they all saw the message as well, “I don’t think we’ll be finding Will around here…”

“We reported that they turn into electricity,” he points out wryly, looking to Rhys with a brow’s lift, “That shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.” He gives Joe an almost-hurt look too. What, didn’t he believe them?

Still, the vindication that they were right seems to be enough to keep any actually hurt feelings. “You’re right though, Agent Rhys. You need to get that to— I don’t know, someone who can take a look at it. And we should get out of here too, before that— crackling mousey death comes back. ‘Death by Pikachu’ is not what I want on my obituary, I’m jusssayin, guys.”

Owain nods in agreement with Lance. They’re not going to let us do anything cool down here. Wait until they’ve gone on their way. Heck, if we come back tomorrow night, I can pick up a book on electricity, and we can figure out how to catch these things — maybe even how to stop them.

The metallokinetic glances sidelong at the SESA agents. “I still say they’re slice rats, escaped from some lab or something. Same with that pig Oleg. They run tests for human drugs on rats and pigs, so…they’re probably the result of someone trying to make some drug to make people SLC-Expressive.” Owain signs along with his words, for Brynn’s sake. “Just saying, the Institute was pretty messed up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did this.” He gestures to the halved rat.

“I agree, though. I really would rather not be Thundershocked to death.” Owain reaches out, plucking the floating copper maglite from the air.

"Actually Agent Lin, Squeaks is the best of us to be down here. She's survived most of her life down here in the underdark. She's actually our guide and what not. Also if you don't want to deal with government slowness? I have Richard Ray and a some of his science faries ready to dissect and study one of these rats. Like he's eager to look into it. Rather than deal with government glacier pace. Just sayin." Joe sees the hurt look on Lance's face. "Yes I believed you. But there's a difference between knowing and seeing. And I have seen. And it convinces me more that it's a multipowered evolved. Cuz all these rats expressing the exact same power is far less believable in my opinion." He's signing as he goes, though in the dim sewer there's probably a lot missed.

Joe does sign agreement with the group that they'll just come back without the SESA agents to deal with. But until then… Joe turns to look down the hole at Bowie. "So, if you tell Richard Ray that Joe sent you and you have one of the electric rats he'll have it dissected and studied way faster for you." A glance to Rhys then. "You guys really shouldn't be down here without us. You don't have the equipment or the know how to deal with this just the two of you. Not saying you're not capable agents but… this is not a normal situation yah know? I thought seesaw agents were supposed to be more responsible than the last incarnation. Gotta question that though. When kids know how to do the job better than trained government agents.” There’s a teasing wink at Rhys before he heads over towards Squeaks.

Brynn is by now missing most of the fast-signed conversation in the dark, between wary glances toward the Pit where she saw electricity crackling and making sure she's got eyes on Lance for direction. It's probably a good thing, since she might had had to facepalm over Joe's lack of tact when explaining why SESA agents might not be the most qualified to be here. She catches enough to know Lance is pulling the Scoobies back, and she sidles a little farther away from Rhys — he's an unknown quantity to her and she has no idea how his nerves are, so with sonic weapons in the mix, she's just better served staying out of people's way.

It’s too late to abort the leap, and if Squeaks were anything but a skinny stick of a kid she might be able to muscle through the Mom-Arm. But she isn’t. So, instead of a scurry down the ladder there’s a hurk sound as she runs into Bowie’s arm. She’s just as quick to whip away from the agent, in case that stopping arm becomes a grabbing and holding arm, and she’s glaring at Bowie — for all his good intentions of keeping her safe, she’s not having it.

When the other agent steps in to shepherd her around, the youngest teenager writhes and twists to avoid being touched. “Hey!” The protest is high pitched and yelled, and there might be more to come until Lance’s motions catch her attention. It doesn’t stop her from scowling at Rhys. With a couple of muttered rude words, and just once stomping a foot at Rhys when he gets too close, Squeaks skulks back to stand near Brynn.

It's pretty gross work, getting two halves of a rat and the can that bisected it into evidence bags, but Bowie seems pretty calm about it. It isn't the first bit of grossness that he's had his hands in. Still, the bags are a mash of guts and fur and blood.

There are more glamorous jobs out there somewhere, surely.

But it isn't too long before he's making his way back up, slower than his trip down. At the top, he glances around, just to be sure he isn't popping up into a herd of SLC animals. But since all there is is Rhys and ornery teens, he pulls himself up to ground level again. Even if it would be more peaceful down below.

"Alright, Agent," he says to Rhys, "we should get this back. Forensics loves presents." Someday Bowie will bring them something other than a dead body.

“We’ve got an entire forensics department,” Rhys notes as an aside to Joe, “but, thanks for the suggestion. Besides, there’s protocol in these sorts of things, and we can’t go handing evidence over to a private company that — for all we know — might have been involved in their creation.” It isn’t that Rhys has a dim view of Raytech, but a less than trusting attitude of the man in charge, given that the others may well be right about the Institute’s involvement, and from Rhys’ perspective those two things may as well be identical.

“Really, we appreciate you kids are invested in this — in helping the Safe Zone, but…” Rhys looks at the entrance to the maintenance tunnels, and doesn’t finish his sentence. “Come on, let’s get out of here and…” he eyes Squeaks, briefly, then averts his stare to the ground. “Let’s get out of here and get you someplace safer. And no complaining or…” He tries to think of the most gently threateningly thing he can say.

“…or I’ll call Gillian.”

That’ll do.

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