Un Pas Après L'autre


lance2_icon.gif olson_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif robyn3_icon.gif

Scene Title Un Pas Après L'autre
Synopsis One step at a time.
Date September 29, 2018

It’s hard to find a place to use a phone. Fortunately, Lance has access to the library, which actually has cellular service, and nobody is likely to bother him if he takes over one of the side reading rooms for the call. He makes them occasionally, since a lot of the old Lighthouse residents live in actual decent places that can get phone calls.

“Hey, Robyn,” he cleared his throat when the phone was answered, “Can I talk with you somewhere…?” A long pause, “Also, uh, could you bring, like— Agent Bowie or Agent Rhys?”

Now that was probably an unexpected request.

"Lance?" Robyn's voice on the other end is momentarily confused - she hadn't recognized the number. But hearing his voice turns any trepidation she had into curiosity more than anything else, and his request only deepens that.

"Is everything alright?" is her first question, her tone just short of motherly - not that Lance needs it, but it's a bit reflexive with the former Lighthouse Kids. But matters that need not one, but two SESA agents? Typically not "everything is fine" material.

"Or did you finally decide you're going to for it?" is a more lighthearted question, with tone to match.

In the background Lance can hear, “Is that Lance Culver? Tell that little shit he still owes me two hundred dollars for that jacket, and that it looks lovely on him and compliments his eyes.” No, Rhys, it's not that Lance.

“I mean, yes— er— probably, but no, that’s not why I’m calling,” Lance admits, clearing his throat briefly, “It’s more a criminal activity thing that I wanted to talk about, actually, in a more official vein?” A pause, “Before Joe starts shooting bad guys or something. You know how Joe is.”

This is probably why he wanted to call someone more friendly that also has official connections first, so he can say things like that,

“It’s not the rat thing, either,” he promises, “So Agent Rhys doesn’t need to worry about wading through sewage. Again.”

"Gerkin," Robyn remarks to Rhys, before her attention snaps back to the phone call. There's a lot to unpack in only a few sentences. She doesn't know how Joe is, no these days, but- either way it's a cause for concern.

"I- right now? I will certainly do what I can, but SESA only has jurisdiction in select circumstances, Lance." She takes a deep breath. "Whatever it is, I'll help however I can, of course." On record or off.

But then, she turns, looking pointedly at Rhys. "What's this about sewage?"

“Screw you straight in your cyclops face, Robyn.” Rhys can be heard saying in a sing-song tone of voice over the phone. “But seriously what are you talking about? But also screw you.”

“I know, I know, but— I mean I guess I could ask Wolfhound to just shoot a bunch of people but I figured I’d try, you know, actual authorities first,” Lance admits a bit dryly, “If nothing else I can give you some intel about the slice trafficking operation going on around here, even if you don’t have jurisdiction across the river.”

"Please don't go to Wolfhound, Lance. Don't make my job harder." Robyn looks back to Rhys, a small look of amusement on her face. "A tip. Traffickers." That offered to Rhys by way of what's being called about.

"I… appreciate the desire, Lance." She really does, rather than siccing Wolfhound on something or pursuing things himself. "I'm not sure there's much we can do. Can make sure your tip gets to the right ears, at least."

“Yeah, well, they’ve tried to grab two of us already,” says Lance, his tone quiet and dark, “They got lucky and got away, but it’s only a matter of time before our luck runs out, and— well, then shit’s going to get bad.”

He breathes out a sigh, “Yeah, can I at least meet with you and give you what I have? I have maps, pictures, names. The whole deal.”

"Of course we can meet you," Robyn responds softly, before sighing. "I don't know how much we can do with it, but we can make sure it gets into good hands." There's a moment of pause before Lance can hear Robyn call back to Rhys,"Rhys! Fancy getting some coffee?"

“Robyn, that is why we have Dirk.” Rhys can be heard chirping in the background. “Oh you mean with— ” he mumbles something audible, “yeah sure let me get my coat.”

“It’s something, I mean, I don’t think the military police would take me seriously if I called them,” Lance admits dryly, “At least I know you guys will, and— anyway, yeah, where should I meet you?”

"I have an address for a deli I like to meet people at," Robyn offers, and Lance can hear the sound of rustling around afterwards. "There's a small coffee shop across the street. One of the only ones in Bay Ridge."

“Sounds good,” Lance allows, “I’ll grab my shit and meet you over there, then.”

Nite Owl Diner

Bay Ridge

Robyn’s choice of establishment was once a New York fixture. A chain of Nite Owl diners could be found across nearly all of New York State. The one on Manhattan is a ruin, now, though an historic one given that the first steps to defeat the Vanguard were discussed by members of Phoenix in that very diner a decade ago.

Only one Nite Owl remains in New York, and it's in as much disrepair as the rest of the city. Sitting on an otherwise demolished narrow block at a three-way intersection, the Bay Ridge Nite Owl is a fifties dinner come to life. Metal-siding walls, large windows, and a neon owl sign on its roof. It even advertises Coney Island Hot Dogs, in a world where Coney Island exists only in memory, much like the era the diner comes from. But there's one thing that, even in this unspeakable future, it does have:

“Coffee, black.” Rhys quietly requests from his seat in the booth at the front of the diner, glancing outside to the street as a pair of horses clop by pulling a trailer full of salvaged electronics. The waitress turns to Robyn, one brow raised expectantly.

Across the street, Lance sees the two agents in the window. They came after all.

Once the horses and their salvaged burden have passed, Lance crosses the street towards the battered old diner; shoulder meeting the door to nudge it open, he walks along inside without hesitation. He’s dressed decently enough by Safe Zone standards; black jeans that don’t have any holes in them (yet), a grey hoodie worn over a plain black t-shirt. A messenger bag’s strap crosses his body, one hand lingering protectively over it out of habit. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are everywhere.

He also, currently, has bright pink hair. Bright sparkling pink hair. It stands out just a bit.

“Agents,” he greets as he approaches the booth, a hint of a grin tugging at his lips. It’s the sort of greeting that makes someone feel like they’re in a spy movie, after all.

"Coffee… also black". Robyn thinks for a moment before letting out a small sigh. "Have the things for pie? French toast?" She always asks, and the answer is always no. No harm in asking though, and really, she'll take either. Offering the waitress a small smile, she lingers a moment before turning back to Rhys back to Rhys. "The coffee is swill, but it's… potent. Wonder what they put in it sometimes." Or where it comes from.

Lance, as he approaches, is probably glad Robyn can't see colour. To her, it just looks like he maybe bleached his hair. "Bonjour, Lance," is offered with a tight smile as she sits up in her chair. "I hope the trip was safe."

The waitress gives Robyn a flat look when the word swil comes up, and she flips her notepad over and manages a faint smile. “Flour and eggs we got, enough t’make pancakes. No bread or pie pre-made today, though. Things’r sparse. No syrup today, either, but we've got some fresh fruit for compote.”

Rhys looks up from the menu, with many items covered by strips of black electrical tape as they become unavailable. “I think I'm good with just coffee,” he says, looking over to Lance afterward with increasingly large eyes.

What,” Rhys exhales, “happened,” is nearly breathless, “to your haaaaaair?” The last part is said as a raspy, hoarse whisper.

Lance’s nose wrinkles up at the exaggerated shock, both eyes rolling upwards and a hand self-consciously lifting to rake it back from his face. “My sister’s a chromakinetic,” he admits, “I may’ve messed up a date she was on. She’ll turn it back eventually when she gets tired of me owning it.”

A chair’s taken, and he drops himself down into it before flashing the waitress his best smile, “I’ll have some coffee too, please.”

Rhys can pay.

The messenger bag’s brought around to his lap, and he undoes the buckles, “Thanks for, uh, meeting me, too. Both of you. I know this shit isn’t really in your jurisdiction, but— I knew you’d at least listen to me.”

Robyn catches the waitresses' dismay, and considers for a moment defending herself. But no, most coffee in the Safe Zone is swill - but it's coffee, and that's what matters. Maybe she'll leave a big tip today to make up for her big mouth.

"Sister? I thought Hailey was…" Robyn trails off for a moment, before sighing. "Oh." She gets it now. "You'll have to explain to me what's so amazing, Rhys." She points to her visible eye as a reminder, and smirks. "I'm going to guess it's not simply bleached like it looks to me."

With that, she sits up a bit straighter in her seat. "Pancakes and compote sounds delightful," she adds with a smile to the waitress. With that, her attention turns back to Lance. "So, Mr. Gerken. What do you have for us?"

Rhys eyes the hair again and then offers the waitress a polite smile before leaning back into his seat. There's a jingling ring as someone else enters the diner, and Rhys slips out of his booth seat and waves them over. “You're right, it's not our jurisdiction.” He looks at Robyn, “Don't be mad.”

Bootfalls announce the arrival of a tall man in black BDUs striding over to the booth. He cuts a sharp silhouette against the red, black, white, and chrome of the diner. Dark skin is creased with worry lines at his brow, head shaved, jaw square. Robyn recognizes him immediately, even before Rhys can offer a greeting.

“Major Olson,” Rhys says with a police smile, “this is Agent Quinn and a civilian informant Lance Gerken. This,” he motions to the guest, “is Major Matthew Olson of the 91st Military Police Battalion. I asked him to join us, because it's his jurisdiction, and he cares.”

Olson makes a face at Rhys, then smooths his composure and looks at the very informal booth setting. “Quinn, Gerken. It's a pleasure. Could I…” He motions to the space beside Lance, as if to imply scoot in there.

“Not my blood sister, no, it’s Brynn, she turned it pink,” Lance explains for Robyn’s benefit with a roll of his eyes, “She’ll get over it, it was for her own good.”

The litany of older brother-figures across the world.

The surprise guest has him turning to look where Rhys is waving, and at the sight of the decidedly military-looking officer approaching, Lance sits up rather straighter than before, shoulders back. Not quite at attention but no longer a teenager-slump in his chair. The arrival of a stranger in the situation has him less at-ease, but there’s a flicker of greater hope in his eyes all the same.

“Major Olsen, ah, thanks for coming— “ He shifts to make room, “Oh— yeah, of course, of course. Make yourself comfortable, I was just about to dig out what we’ve gathered about these assh— criminals.”

"Major Olsen," Robyn offers herself with an incline of her head. She offers Rhys a smile. "Why would I be mad?" She gives a motion of her hand to Olsen. "I said we could make sure that this information got to the hands of those who could make the most use of it." She looks back to Lance, trying her best to act like she's in on this moment. "Here he is."

But then she leans over to Rhys and stage whispers, "why do you always have to be so dramatic?". It's a teasing question, one that's followed with her smile giving away to a full grin. She watches Lance carefully though - his shift in demeanor, his words. After all, if he's still planning on following her advice, well… poise and attitude matter.

“This, coming from the Dread Pirate Quinn,” Rhys whispers back, eliciting an awkward smile from Olsen. Breaking up that exchange, the waitress comes back over after seeing Olson sit down. He takes the opportunity to change the topic with a quick order.

“Coffee, cream and sugar please.” Olson says, then turns his attention to Robyn, then Lance. “So, I appreciate you all bringing me in on this. But why are we meeting in a diner and not Fort Jay or the Depot?” One brow raised, Olson makes t rather clear the question wasn't rhetorical.

During that brief distraction, Lance takes the moment to self-consciously push pink hair back from his face, looking somewhat worried about what impression he’s going to make on the man. He’ll have to talk to Brynn about ending his - admittedly deserved - punishment there.

Realizing that the Major might be about to call out the two agents on the unprofessional choice of locations, he swiftly moves in with a save, “There’s actually a good reason to meet somewhere less— official, somewhere and with less eyes on this, if you’ll humor me while we go through this, sir.”

"Dread Pirate Queen," Robyn corrects in a perfectly level voice. Pot, meet kettle. Which is why the questioning of locale catches her a bit off guard - beyond Lance's desire to meet "somewhere", the diner had been a bit of a cheeky, dramatic choice of her own. "To be honest, sir, Mr. Gerken requested a meeting off Fort Jay grounds. Additionally, I wasn't expecting someone of your caliber to be joining us - at the time, a small, quiet meeting between the three of us didn't seem like it would catch any attention, particularly since Mr. Gerken is a friend of mine."

Never mind the age difference, which Robyn hopes Rhys won't comment on.

"Besides. Everyone in the Safe Zone needs to get out of the office sometimes," she offers in a slightly more casual manner. "If you would rather relocate, I have no qualms with that." This is potentially sensitive material after all.

Olson spreads his hands and smiles, shaking his head. “It's fine, it's fine. Really. I was glad to get off base for a bit myself, truth be told.” The waitress returns, setting mugs down and pouring coffee for everyone. At the same time she sets down a small ceramic decanter in the shape of a cow that, presumably, has milk in it.

“So, Mr. Gerken,” Olson says as he picks up the ceramic cow and tips it over, pouring a stream of milk from its mouth into his coffee, “what's on your mind.” And as a total aside he says quickly to the waitress. “Actually, if you've got a bagel or muffins or something, can I—”

“Bagels, yeah. Plain, but they're locally made.”

“Perfect, just a plain bagel and whatever you've got to spare for a spread’ll do fine.” Olson sets the ceramic cow down and waits expectantly with a steady look at Lance.

Once the waitress has departed, Lance sets down a couple file folders on the table and slides the messenger bag - now mostly empty - down to sit on the floor leaning against his chair. “So two of my… extended family,” he says, the easiest way to explain it, “Have been kidnapped in the past six months. Both of them have escaped, but honestly? It’s only a matter of time before one of us doesn’t get lucky, and I’m sure not everyone does.” Darkly, “It wouldn’t be a profitable business otherwise.”

He looks to Olson, “We were raised in the Ferry, with the Lighthouse, so— basically we were raised to fight in a war.” No shame there, just the reality of the situation. “So we decided to do some recon and gather intel, and we’ve got quite a bit to hand over about their operation. Maps, surveillance photos, names, possible connections.”

“And— “ He glances to the agents, then back to the major, “I guarantee you’re going to be really interested in one of these names at least.”

"In the interest of full disclosure," Robyn notes, "as I mentioned, Lance is an old friend of mine, from my Ferry days." Either of them trying to explain more about the Lighthouse Kids, or the myriad people who watched over them, gets complicated, so Robyn skips it. "Which is part of why I'm glad Rhys called you, Major Olsen." Because it might look bad if she takes to spearheading this herself for a friend. She still worries about being placed with Wolfhound as it is.

Her expression sours a bit at raised to fight in a war, giving Lance a bit of a look - there are some things that are better left unsaid. "And how have you been going about this recon?" is one of her more important questions. "You need to be very careful before you start pointing fingers, Lance." Which is why she's glad he seems to have proof.

Rhys has grown visibly quiet, watching Olson with a studied intensity that stands in contrast with his youthful appearance. As he sips his coffee, Rhys occasionally offers a look over to Lance, then back again.

“You shouldn't be doing that,” Olson is obligated to say, “but what happens outside of the Safe Zone isn't the 91st’s responsibility to police, so if you're going to take that risk on yourself out there…”

“Before you get to the names,” Olson says quietly, “I want you to know we’ve been trying to investigate the human trafficking, but there's two major problems. One is that most of their operation occurs outside of our stated jurisdiction, Two is… confidential, but the FBI and SESA are working with us on it. That said, I heard the reports about what happened to Hailey Gerkin earlier this year in the Bronx.” Olson doesn't say that it was her fault, but the way he emphasizes the Bronx implies she shouldn't have been there.

“What've you got?” Olson asks, intently, to Lance.

“It has to be somebody’s jurisdiction,” Lance states firmly, “We can’t just let people go around kidnapping and murdering people, even on Staten-freaking-Island. We’re trying to live in a society here, not some— Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome power fantasy.” As to where and how he’s been doing recon, he slips on by those questions.

The grousing about things is brushed aside then with a shake of his head, and he digs through the paperwork before him. The first is a larger paper, unfolded to show a map of Staten Island, zones noted in black ink and with notes in a cramped female hand. Staten Island Trade Commission is passed over for Traffickers.

“This is a map of their claimed territory, although obviously they hunt well past it,” he notes, “There was some conflict between them and the Commission — that’s Alister Black’s people — back in June, took out one of their operating areas, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed them down much.”

Pictures, next, produced thanks to Keira’s own investigations and laid out. “Eugene Arrowwood— seems to be at the top of the heap but knowing how these groups work he’s probably a figurehead. This is his brother Buddy, who’s— well, he’s definitely not the brains of the operation, let’s say.” The third, a blonde woman, “This is Astrid, she works with them too, I’m not sure in what role.”

He pauses with the next, “This one, ah— well, tell me if you recognize him?” His gaze sweeps to Robyn and Rhys, as he turns over another photo that was clearly taken in the same general area as the last few. A photo of a person who might well be recognized as Sylvester Sandoval.

"There's a line between jurisdiction and resource availability," is Robyn's thoughts on that matter. "Can't speak for the MPs, but SESA is stretched thin as it is. Sending agents in under anything but the most specific circumstances is a death warrant." Eyes alight to Lance. "It's not that no one knows what's happening. It's that throwing bodies at it won't solve the problem, and those are in short supply anyway." Her voice is hushed. "Sometimes, you have to pick your battles."

It's bitter on her tongue, a practised response. She hates it, and it shows on her face and in her tone. But, it's the unfortunate truth for the moment. She would do something, anything, about it if she could

But as soon as that picture of Sandoval comes out, Robyn reaches down and flips it over face down, a scowl on her face. "You were right, Major. This was an inappropriate venue for this meeting." A concession offered with what Lance has just shown them. She gives an askance look to Lance, and again poses her question: "What recon methods did you use to acquire this information, Lance?" This is important.

Olson exhales a sigh when he sees the photographs, but remains quiet as Robyn flips the photo of Sylvester over. His dark eyes move to Lance, then Rhys, then back to Robyn.

Rhys, however, exhales a slow sigh and takes his fingers through his hair. “Sandoval might be undercover,” he says as a diffusing strategy, “before we jump to conclusions here. I'm not one hundred percent on that, though, I mean that's…” he eyes Robyn.

“I know of the Arrowood Brothers. Their names have been floated up to us with regards to a kidnapping that happened in Yamagato Park. The Yamas ultimately didn't accept our offer to help.” Olson’s lips downturn into a frown, and he looks at the photographs more, absent recognition with regards to Astrid.

“I echo Agent Quinn’s inquiry,” Olson says as he picks up his coffee to take a sip.

"I thought so too, but you said it wasn't in SESA's jurisdiction…" Lance brings up one shoulder in a shrug. He didn't make any accusations, technically — he just flipped over a picture. “I don’t know how that sort of thing works, though, if the FBI can ‘borrow’ someone or something.”

He reaches over for his coffee finally, lifting it cradled in both hands to take a sip. "I know a shapeshifter that got the pictures by slipping into their turf," he says with a tip of his head to them, "They only knew Sylvester's name, though — it was Alister Black that pegged him as a SESA agent when we had a meeting with him to discuss these… guys."

He's really trying not to swear in front of the Major.

"Black also said that he'd tried to kill him during that skirmish I mentioned from June, so if he showed up with any unexplained injuries around then, that'd be why," he adds, "He also mentioned that they were both at the gala recently."

Robyn's eyes squeeze shut as Lance explains how he accomplished his surveillance. "Bordel," she curses under her breath. "A third party shapeshifter?" There's a look of mild disappointment on her face as she regard Lance with a smile tinged with frustration. "I did not think Sandoval's work brought him into direct contact with these groups, but… I do believe that was something he was working on at some point."

She lets out a sigh. "Shapeshifters make matters… messy, Lance. Knowing that… I'm not sure what we can use of this." It hurts to say, and she offers him an apologetic look. But it is, unfortunately, true.

“Well, I can't ignore this.” Olson says with a slow shake of his head, “but ultimately it's SESA’s jurisdiction, but you can be sure I'm going to take it up with Director Kenner immediately. That's simply proper.”

“Agent Quinn and I will likewise take this back,” Rhys says with a furrow of his brows. “But what bothers me is that we know where the Arrowoods are operating out of. Staten Island is a shitbole, but the problem we’re facing — and I'll be honest it's one Olson’s people face too — it's a heavily-armed shithole.”

Olson nods and a takes a sip of his coffee. “Bluthner’s correct. If we go in there looking for Arrowood and it turns into a gunfight — and I can assure you it will — we risk that firefight turning into a fucking war. We’re not authorized for those kinds of operations without direct expressed permission from the DoJ and DHS.”

“Okay, but we’re missing another angle on this.” Rhys looks back at Lance. “I need to know who your shapeshifter contact is, because we might be able to leverage that asset to get a small team to isolate the traffickers and allow us to arrest them outside of Staten Island, or— honestly anything. We’d need to kick this up to logistics, Antoni Paloma’s team. But if we could go back with as much information about your asset as possible, it might help.”

Rhys’s pupils dilate some, and his attention on Lance becomes focused and somehow distant at once.

“I know. There’re enough guns and weapons in there to start a war…” Lance’s gaze drops to the coffee he’s holding, his lips pursing, “…it’s going to be a hard winter for us, but it’s going to be harder there. And that’s going to have them looking over to our side of the river when they start starving, and freezing, and running out of resources. It might be a hard situation, but it’s just going to be worse the longer it’s left.”

He draws in a breath, then looks up, exhaling it with a nod. “Her name’s Keira,” he admits, “She’s a smuggler. Just one of— I mean, you know how many people go between here and Staten on the regular, I don’t need to tell you that. I know she wants these guys to go down bad. She might cooperate if you agree not to go after her.”

He looks back to Robyn unrepentantly, one shoulder lifting in a shrug, “Hey, I work with what I’ve got, Robyn. I don’t exactly have a budget, you know, it’s hard enough keeping ourselves in food these days… I’m not going to sit back and let my family get dragged off and sold to the Triads because the best source of information I had was a shapeshifter.”

"I would never expect you to," Robyn is quick to reply. "Nor would I expect you to not use what resources you can. But a shapeshifter - a smuggler? - it raises concerns about validity. It means that this information will be scrutinised even harder than it might have already been." Or at least, that's how things would probably go if SESA was handling it.

"Regardless, something - particularly something like this - is far better than nothing." She looks up to Olson, and then back down at the pictures. "I just can't promise anything will happen quickly," she adds truthfully.

“Two things,” Olson says matter-of-factly as he sets his coffee down. “First, given that she's a smuggler my primary concern is that this is a revenge job. I know the Arrowoods are gun runners, first and foremost. I can't be sure if this isn't a vendetta, and she's just selling them upriver so that my boys do her work for her. That goes doubly so for her intel about Sandoval.”

Squaring his coffee on a napkin, Olson briefly looks out the diner window and back to Lance. “Second, and this is more a question than a statement: Triads?” He raises a brow, adding nothing more than that bit of curiosity.

“Yeah,” Lance’s head bobs slightly in a nod, pausing to take a sip of his own coffee before lowering it, “You’re right, that is a— question. I can talk to her and see if she’d be willing to be— interviewed?”

A glance between the trio, unsure if that’s the right lingo for the occasion.

“Assuming a promise of not being prosecuted, of course,” he adds a bit wryly onto that, before leaning forward, one arm folded on the table’s edge. He looks to Olson, then, “She won’t be happy but I think I can talk her into it. And— when they had Sq— Jac on the boat, they said that if she was slice they were going to sell her to ‘China’. I’m making a bit of an assumption here that the Arrowwoods aren’t in the global transportation business but are selling to the Triads.”

Robyn purses her lips. There are no coincidences. "It's not the first time I've heard of the Triads in relation to kidnapping, stalking, or stealing Evolved folk, but… the other account was very unique." She glances over towards Rhys, before clearing her throat. "And confidential."

Eyes slowly move back to Lance. The look she gives him is a considerate one, tinged with a bit of disappointment.

"Revenge ploy was my first thought as well," she admits. "That's where my hesitation with this evidence comes from." She's never knowingly known a shapeshifter she can remember, but she's heard stories and seen reports. "Not all smugglers are bad," she notes for all present - and there's a certain authoritative tone in her voice. She would know, after all - or so she would believe, at least. "But if they want to help stop this, they won't decline an interview."

“Ghost Shadows are the only triad still in operation in New York, according to the FBI.” Olson helpfully explains. “They've never been too deep into human trafficking before, but there's an opportunity for everyone these days, it sounds like. They're primarily concerned with maintaining a Refrain trade, and it's been hard finding all the ways they use to move it into the Safe Zone.”

Sighing, Olson folds his hands around his coffee mug. “If your source, Keira, is willing to meet with us then we could maybe move forward. But I can't give her immunity from prosecution. This isn't the war, and people who are smuggling now are cutting a profit off of others’ suffering.” That much is delivered with a flat look to Lance. “The days of criminal ‘heroes’ is behind us. The heroes are in uniform now,” he confidently assures. “But I know trusting that is hard.”

Finishing his coffee, Olson purses his lips and pauses as the waitress comes over with his bagel and a small cup of softened butter and a knife. He smiles a thankful smile at her, then waits for her to depart before digging in to the bagel and spreading the room-temperature butter around with a knife. In that silence, Rhys finally speaks up.

“We may have other problems,” Rhys seems reluctant to admit. “You,” he points at Lance, “know Keira through Joe Winters,” which seems to be an extrapolation Rhys made somehow beyond the context of the conversation. “I dug back through the chain of associations, and… I'm not sure firstly, that we can trust her, or secondly that she isn't part of the problem entirely.”

A touched look comes over Rhys as he shakes his head. “I wasn't able to get everything because I haven't met her personally, but I've met some of her peripheral accomplices. But this goes way back, back before the war back.” His brows furrow. “Samuel Irons, the former Chief of Police. Sylvia Lockhart, the late former mayor. Daniel Walsh, aka the Irishman, a former NYPD detective…”

Olson looks up from his bagel, staring vacantly for a moment before identifying the elephant in the room. “Humanis First?

Rhys grimaces and shrugs. “Maybe. I don't know the nature of the relationships. She might not have been aware who they were. They were all public figures. But…” Rhys slowly looks over at Robyn, then back to Lance. “This might be a bigger issue than either of us realized.”

In the interim,” Olson interjects, “two things,” he says again to Lance. “One, you and your friends stay inside the Safe Zone. I'll put out an alert on the Arrowoods if they pop their heads up to bring them in for questioning.” Between points, Olson brings up his bagel and takes a bite, chewing thoroughly.

“Two,” Olson finally says. “I want locations and times of any altercations with human traffickers that happened inside the Safe Zone. Because that is my back yard and I have full authority to protect this city as my judgment sees fit. So,” Olson bobs his head, “close to home leads, any?”

“Hey, I’ve been doing my best to work with the authorities,” Lance points out at the mention of criminal heroes, “We’ve called SESA every time we’ve found something. Admittedly, Joe and Hailey aren’t quite so…” He rubs a hand against the side of his neck, “..trusting, yeah.”

Rhys’ words get a confused look, his brow knitting, and he glances between the others, “I can tell you she’s definitely not Humanis— she’s Slice herself, and seems to be pretty anti-Pure Earth too… not going to say she might not’ve worked with some scumbags back in the day, though. I mean. She is a criminal.” It happens. “This isn’t just some fake information and revenge ploy, though — I had this confirmed by two sources, although I can’t speak for Alister Black’s willingness to talk.”

In the interim clears the table, the authority bringing Lance’s full attention back to Olson.

“Hailey got grabbed outside,” he admits, “Sq- Jac got grabbed inside the boundaries of the Safe Zone, although she was in the Underneath, and they took her from there to Staten. I’d lay odds that they might be using the sewers and tunnels down there for trafficking purposes. She’s a little traumatized right now, but… I can talk to her about getting an exact location. I know she knows it probably down to the square foot.”

"It wouldn't be the first time someone who was expressive worked with Humanis. Or Pure Earth," Robyn notes mostly for the sake of noting it. "A… close friend of mine was snatched coming out of class," she continues with a distinctly flat tone. "She ended up fine thanks to someone's timely intervention - and she herself was grabbed because she was trying to keep another girl with invisibility from getting snatched. It definitely is a problem."

Needless to say, one Robyn wants to do something about. But her lacking presence in the Safe Zone these days makes that hard.

"I would rather not contract more assistance out to her until we know she's willing to be interviewed and cooperate." Clicking her tongue, Robyn leans back in her seat a bit. "As for the Triads…" She glances over at Rhys, and then at Olsen and Lance. "I'm currently working leads on another case, and… word is the Ghost Shadows have been coming for people on behalf of the targets of other investigations. There may be something looking into there." Which is to say, yes Rhys, this may be bigger than either of them realized. "But that may have to be a matter that waits until we have better positioning on this matter."

“Most of these things go unreported,” Olson says with a hand scrubbing over his mouth. “Mostly because people think the 91st is overworked and can't respond to them all and… they're not wrong. The Safe Zone’s a lot bigger than it feels sometimes. But that's no excuse for things to have gotten this way. People snatched out front of schools? People getting smuggled out of the city? It's unconscionable.”

Having lost his appetite, Olson instead finishes his coffee and pushes everything a bit away on the table. “Your friend, Jac?” He looks at Lance, then over to Robyn and Rhys. “I'd like to get a statement from her, and if she's SLC that's SESA’s court. If not she or her parent or guardian or whatever can come down to the 91st and deliver it. I want to know where she was taken from in the sewers, and I'm gonna go down there and— ”

“Ac— tually,” Rhys makes a face. “The sewers might not be— uh— we should talk somewhere private, Olson, after all this is said and done. There's a— we have a rat problem.”

“Excuse me?”

“Seriously it's— I don't want anyone overhearing. Which reminds me,” Rhys takes his phone out and starts keying in a memo, “I need to reach out to Raytech about faraday cages. Uh, anyway go on.”

Olson stares for a moment, then scrubs a hand over his face. “Jac. I want her statement on record, and we’ll dig deeper into this. Agent Quinn,” he looks over to her, “maybe you can float this up to operations control? Antoni’s probably already working on something.”

Then, to Lance. “And you, stay away from Staten Island or wherever it is you're running into smuggling shape-shifters. Or next time it might be you on a slow boat to China.” As he says that, Olson is fishing money for his bagel and coffee it of a pocket.

“You d— “ Lance is staring at Rhys, now, “You didn’t tell the cops about the rats? They— we’ve been running around town posting up warnings on all the major entrances to the Underneath, we’ve lost at least one encampment down there and you haven’t even— ”

He cuts himself off from what is clearly about to become an acid-sharp rant so he doesn’t draw attention from the rest of the cafe— by the expedient method of turning his ability on. He’s muttering something as he brings his coffee back up in utter silence, taking a long swallow as he composes himself. Setting it down, he draws in a slow breath, exhales it, and then lets his ability drop again.

“I’ll talk to Jac and Keira, Major,” he says in carefully controlled tones, “And I’ll see if they’re willing to talk on the record, as it were. I’m trying to trust the ‘heroes in uniform’ here. I hope you’ll take me seriously, because people are dying and worse.”

At the sight of Olson digging for money, Robyn shakes her head on him. "Lunch is on me," she says with a small chuckle. "I'm the one who dragged us out here." And she can afford it, even in these hard times.

But with that mirthful moment passing, she sits up a bit taller, eyes on Lance. "Before you get too mad, Lance, consider: we are all overworked and understaffed. I am hardly even in the city much of the time, save for post mission decompression time. Rhys here has work of his own," she notes with a motion of a hand to him, and then to Olson, "and the Major and his men are stretched especially thin. We are doing what we can, with what we can." She offers him a hesitant smile. "This? This drive to do the right thing, to help? This is why I recommended SESA to you. We need more people, and we need good hearted people."

Her expression falls a bit after that. "That said? Don't get too reckless. Don't start fights you can't win. I certainly am taking you seriously, and I'm sure the others are. There's just-" She lets out a tired sigh. "There's only so much we can do at one time. Battles have to be chosen, not rushed in to. As much as you, me, or anyone else may wish otherwise." It's clear that leaving this situation the way it is sits with her about as well as it does Lance, but she is clearly much more resigned to it.

Attention back to Olson, and she nods. "I'll have someone following up on it. I'm still on duty in Rochester, and have limited bandwidth accordingly. If it's not me, it may be…" she thinks for a moment. "Nicole Varlane, if she's available, would be my first choice. I'll certainly speak to Antoni and be in contact either way." Her smile turns into a grin. "I'd have Rhys as my first choice, but it sounds like he's not done in the sewers."

“Bowie gets himself promoted up to big case in Kansas City and me? Back on sewer patrol.” Rhys slowly slouches down and runs his hands through his hair.

“They might have… mentioned this rat business. but it never made its way all the way up to me,” Olson admits. “Like Robyn said, we’re stretched to the limits and sometimes things fall through the cracks.” Sometimes those things are electrified nightmare rats. “But this human trafficking business? We've been investigating it for a while and keep running into dead ends. If your friend has some concrete info we can use, then we absolutely will.”

Sliding out of his seat, Olson stands and looks at the crumpled money he'd found in his pocket and slides a $10 under his coffee cup as a tip. “Find out about Sandoval,” Olson urges Robyn, “and I'll work on my end of things.”

“The Lighthouse has an animal empath if that’d help,” Lance says a bit dryly in Rhys’s direction, one hand coming up to rake back through his own pink hair as he straightens up, “Alright. I’ll see what I can do about getting a criminal and a traumatized girl talking on the record, which— yeah that might take a little while.”

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, is it?

He wrinkles his nose in Robyn’s direction, “If you’re all so overworked that you can’t share information about major threats in the Zone, then there’s something wrong with how you share information. I get it, though, I get it— “ A sigh as he brings his coffee back up, “I just hate sitting here when I know where the problem is.”

"Un pas après l'autre," Robyn remarks to Lance with a slightly dismayed tone - she understands his frustration all too well. Once upon a time, she may have been in shoes adjacent to his, so it's not hard to sympathise. "We're doing what we can," she continues in a lower tone, ignoring the fact that not everyone here - or anyone - may know French. She offers him a smile, relaxing in her seat.

"What would you do, Lance?" A curious, but serious question - one she clearly expects and answer to. And certainly a question asked without malice - no, she genuinely wants to know.

BUt she doesn't immediately wait for an answer, turning to Olson. "Yes, sir. I'll… see what I can do about looking into Sandoval. He's a good agent, though he keeps to himself." And there may be a reason for that. She'd have to talk to Choi and Kenner about temporary reprieve from her work with Wolfhound - ill timed as that may be - so that she can properly focus on some of these matters. Maybe it's time Alice Roux steps out again. She'll have to see.

Bristling just a little, Olson smooths his hands down his uniform and looks from Lance to Robyn. He's silent, thoughtful, and pensive. It seems like he would have broken away, too, said his goodbyes and moved on. But Robyn asked Lance a good question, and the Major seems inclined to stick around and see what his answer is.

“What would I do…?” It’s a good question, and Lance leans back in his chair a bit, one hand coming up to rub over his face. “If we were still in a war that’d be an easy question, but we’re not anymore. We’re trying to be a civilized society again.” Of course, Joe and Hailey feel otherwise about that particular matter — for some of them, the war may never end.

“If I didn’t have to deal with red tape? I’d arrange for Sandoval to find out about some too-good-to-resist target for the traffickers, have him watched and followed, when he sets up a meeting or goes to see the Arrowwoods— hit them then,” he shrugs, “Take out as many heads of the hydra as you can, make a big public trial for any of them you can grab. Gangs are snakes. You take off the heads and they break up. And if you do it just before winter, it’d make all the other gangs on Staten think twice about hitting the Zone when they start getting hungry.”

Crossing her arms, Robyn taps a finger against one of her elbows as she listens. She has thoughts and commentary on all of this from the getgo, but whatever she thinks of his plan she largely keeps to herself - commentary will likely lead to an argument, and there's only so much time in the day for things like that. Today, it's not much.

So instead she gives a confirming nod - at least Lance has a plan, even if it's not quite from the perspective she hoped. "Alright," is all she offers with a small smile. "Did you have anything else to share before we take our leave?" This, for Olson's benefit - it's clear he's done, and she has nothing left to ask otherwise.

Olson is conspicuously quiet as he looks Lance up and down with a flick of his eyes. A moment later he just offers a short shake of his head. “I want you to know you did the right thing, coming to me.” Olson offers a look to Rhys and Robyn, then nods to Lance. “We’ll get this sorted, and as soon as SESA gets me info from their interview of your friend I'll do whatever I can.”

“In the meantime,” Olson points at Lance, and uses the young man as a medium for a message. “No vigilante justice.” His stare is steady, and Lance mentioned the Lighthouse. Brian Fulk’s reputation is widely known, as are his proxies.

“We’ll make this right…” Olson promises.

“It doesn't have to be like it was anymore.”

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