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Arriving in Moscow
Aeva was not sure that it could be called a 'good' thing, but there were some of the ragged remnants of the North-West British population who had managed to find a way of making themselves useful. In the case of Terry Hinchcliffe, it had been to find the hull of an old wooden ship near-beached at low tide after the Great Wave had claimed nearly everything along the western coastline. Nobody seemed to own the vessel and he had made something of a hobby of fixing her up, having floated it to the bottom of his back garden once the tide came in again.
It was mostly sound; it floated and only leaked a little in rough weather - not enough to make it a real risk of sinking. But the best was that rich people thought an actual wooden ship with actual canvas sails and a real anchor as tall as a person was quite charming. And they liked to hire it to hold receptions, listen to singers, make speeches and do other things that rich people could afford to do on an unusual, floating venue.
And having learned his trade mostly from books and stumbling around in shallower waters and coastal regions, Terry wasn't especially fussy about the legitimacy of any crew who cared to sign aboard. He had a few permanents who didn't really get paid, except in food and board, and others who did because they knew something about old wooden ships and taught him something new about his adopted trade.
But Aeva had learned her own skills mostly from a book and extrapolation. Sailmaking - or rather repairing - was not so far removed from the business of a seamstress, and so in return for help with his worse-for-wear canvas and some tutoring of himself and his crew, Terry overlooked the fact that Aeva's passport was a fake, that she came aboard with one small bag in which were the precious tools of her trade and that passage, her food and her accommodation were all that she asked in return for everything she was willing to do and teach.
It had been a good plan which worked like a charm, and when she arrived in Moscow, it gave her confidence that the next stage of her plan would also work.
Aeva had been denied a passport by the CCD authorities. She had actually found herself angry and wondered whether it was the activities of her late father, or her oldest brother Karl who she could blame for that. There was the possibility it was Taren, but... well - if the CCD had any idea what he was doing, then she would have been hauled in to answer questions. And if she didn't know where he was or what he was doing, then it was very unlikely that the CCD did, either. Getting a phony passport was more expensive and only a little less difficult than getting a real one!
Eventually she had left word at home that she would be taking a tour with Terry Hinchcliffe, and had decided to trust Terry himself with her destination - after all, it had technically been his decision! If Taren came out of hiding and needed her, that was the only trail she had dared leave.
Aeva also knew that her passport was never going to pass muster with the people at the border control. Illegal immigrants tried to get over the border all the time, were taken to detention and then returned to wherever it was they came from. At least that was the official line, but Aeva couldn't trust that. She was sure some did make it back home... well - she knew they did, but 'some' was not 'all'. She hoped that whoever assisted her in getting into Moscow made it back home - and wished him or her a better life there when they got back.
She was helped by a little teenage goth who reminded her of Karl when he was that age. He made such a fuss about his passport being refused, that Aeva was able to slip unnoticed into another queue, and while the guard looked across to the ruckus, wondering whether he was going to be needed to help put the problem away, she showed her fake ID, which was duly stamped and she was waved along with the rest of the crowd, anxiously looking back to see the boy being restrained and taken away. The man who had let her go was shaking his head and frowning, paying heed to the next woman in the queue.
So Aeva walked out onto the streets of Moscow, heading for the only place an illegal immigrant could go... the Underground City.
Edited by Aeva, Jul 31 2013, 09:45 AM.
Aeva learned quickly, thank the Gods. She had too few resources to look as though she belonged on the better streets of the teaming mass of socialites and nuveaux riche, but her decent wool coat was both warm, and presentable. She might get away with being just above a menial worker about her business, but she was aware that the same was not going to be true when she reached her destination.
Within her first fifteen minutes of entering the city under the streets of Moscow, she saw that those who looked like they may have two coins to rub together (or even just two halves of the same coin), were immediately set upon by beggars, prostitutes and looked at suspiciously by just about everyone else. Any who looked as lost as she felt seemed at double the risk, even if they only carried a small bag, like herself, but appeared easy prey.
Abandoning the idea of finding a corner in which to don a less presentable aspect, Aeva found herself ducking out of the Underground City and finding a deserted alleyway in which she could turn her coat inside-out. During her sojourn on the ship, she had been told that it didn't do to appear too wealthy in certain places in Moscow; the underground hadn't been mentioned specifically, but if there was anywhere above where that applied, it would be doubly true beneath. She had taken the lining out of the coat, and doubled the seams with deliberate clumsiness.
It still looked all right on the outside, but now the inside of the coat looked like a threadbare version of the outer. She used a thin, wide scarf to cover her too-clean hair and kept up a pace and stride which made it look as though she knew where she was going... like a resident of the Underground City, rather than a newbie. Where she would actually go, Aeva still did not know, but she kept going, hoping that nobody would notice her. A faint shiver, a slight feeling of a cold breeze rippling just beneath her skin gave her a measure of confidence. That feeling usually meant that she went unnoticed.
It was rather difficult thing, to explore discretely. But she was exhausted and needed sleep.
Partly, she wanted to stay near the surface, so she would have a quick exit should she need one, but the lower she went, it seemed quieter; fewer people. There was an old underground rail tunnel, bereft of tracks or overhead lines and a warning sign that was rusty and old warning of collapse ahead. Aeva glanced behind herself, hearing faint noises, but seeing nothing. There was indeed a collapse, but it appeared as though anything useful had been stripped away, leaving nothing but rusty, twisted metal, concrete blocks and paving. Small and nimble, Aeva could just about get through the wreckage.
Perhaps she had made a mistake coming here. Of course, there was nowhere else to go, and she couldn't have stayed in England, tracked by the CCD, questioned about Taren... *did* she know something? Could she give something away when answering questions that she didn't even realise she was aware of? She needed a space, left in peace, to think.
And fortunately, although the tunnel bore evidence of more collapses further on than the old sign, there was nothing here to fall on top of her. A sheet of corrugated iron was awkwardly held up by planks and breeze blocks, creating a sheltered little hole, and even if the metal did collapse further - it was too thin to be very heavy. As much as she needed to think, Aeva needed to sleep, and vainly pulling the coat closer against a chill that was inside more than out, she slept.
They had only been blankets, but they gave Aeva an idea. So many refugees like herself lived here, some far worse off than she, since she had no children to worry about and she wondered how her father had managed when he first started out - making contacts, trying to improve people's lot. The gods did not seem very close down here and in a cynical frame of mind, Aeva didn't blame them.
But her father had started with precious little, too. Just the house, four kids and a garden... but he had managed. There was no employment in the ruin of North West England; people scavenged and salvaged, traded and travelled. So he had started small, as would she. Her own foraging had brought a few precious bits and pieces; much she was able to trade at the market for food, as well as her skills - sitting behind some stall, out of sight, mending clothing. It was not exactly big business, but it kept her fed and nobody was demanding rent in the old railway tunnel where she slept. Unfortunately, it didn't give her money to fling about, either.
Then, in her investigations further down the tunnel, she found storerooms. There wasn't much in most of them - or rather, there wasn't now. Most had held food that had been eaten by rats (she hoped it was rats; Aeva didn't like much like the idea of anything bigger), but one had held a lonely crateful of blankets.
She would achieve something by taking them to one of the immigrant camps of which there were simply too many, but the prize may be too tempting, and she wasn't sure the residents there wouldn't sell them - something they would regret, come winter - or that others would notice and raid the community, despite the husbands, brothers and older boys who tried to set up a guard. Not a very efficient guard, either, since she had been able to sneak in more than once. Always with that chill feeling under her skin.
However, she was a seamstress; and a good enough one to come up with a basic little pattern. Come winter, there were going to be a lot of children with odd little tartan coats and grateful parents who could at least be satisfied that their children were warm. Winter could kill, and she suspected that many had not realised that, yet. So with a hand-held machine, a power-point in one of the larger storerooms, once she had cleared away some of the debris, Aeva set to work each evening after coming back from the market.
She traded her skill for curtain cord, so each coat had a little belt, and she didn't have to worry about adult thieves; the gangs of large brutes who would barely fit a toe in one of the armholes! Off-cuts and scraps were patchworked into new, smaller blankets that would do for infants were any unfortunate enough to be born into this subterranean hell. At least the community had a midwife with whom she could leave those!
It took Aeva weeks, but eventually she was out of blankets and there was nothing else to do but deliver the products of her labours. Perhaps, if she could do enough, it would earn her a bed sometimes. It might be nice to sleep with something other than fear to keep her warm!
Nervous, she slipped past the two unlikeliest guards she had ever seen; one a zit-ridden youth and a toothless grandfather who peered at everyone suspiciously through cracked glasses. How she managed with the enormous trolly of wool, she wasn't sure, but while many heads whipped around at the noise she made, their eyes slid disinterestedly over Aeva and her burden.
She began at the end furthest from the entrance. A few families had a little room, others slept in the corridor, and a few dozen children would not go too cold, this winter.
With her unlikely band of helpers, Aeva doled out the last food from the basket, and quietly prayed to Rosmerta that none of the old, past the sell-by goods actually harmed anybody. The boxed biscuits and pasta had probably fared best for being two months old, and neither were especially nutritious, but if it stopped a family from going hungry then it would do. That last piece of scavenge had been lucky! The biscuits were neatly laid in metal boxes and some of the more resourceful in the mixed-race, mixed-language, mixed-age and patched-together community might be able to come up with a way to use them.
Two of the men, one Scandinavian and the other African, were already attempting to compare notes and ideas in something that resembled English, but which neither spoke with a great deal of skill. At least Aeva supposed that was what they were doing, since they were waving the tins about, nodding and gesturing, while the African's wife shook her head and doled out the recent contents of the boxes into a roll of freezer bags to share around.
Cautiously, Aeva had let herself become a little bit known in the market place. Some of the places were able to give her left over and out of date food that would otherwise be thrown away - at first, it was just about enough to feed herself so the precious few coins she earned might be spent on other needed tools and items for the gathering immigrant community which sprang up from the destitute group she had first visited.
Her sob story helped, of course, and in fact, was a true one although she lamented slandering the soup kitchens.
She had gone to them, once - not for soup (although her stomach growled at her) - but to plead with them to send some of their food to the Underground City. There was so much need; so many people without even time to fall prey to the vicious gangs and criminals down there because they were literally starving to death.
They turned her away.
Oh, they did it gently, and sorrowfully, and with explanations that they were simply too afraid to go near the place. The excuses didn't feed anyone though, and while she was sure they would have been willing to give her whatever was left over, the trucks and mobile kitchens only left when they had run out themselves. There was never anything left.
Stoves! The two men were trying to work out how they might make a stove to heat food and provide warmth for the community!
For the first time in a long time, Aeva smiled.
One of the Chinese refugees patted the spot next to her in invitation, and Aeva took her knife and bread to sit with her. She also had a packet of raisins and shared them, while the Chinese - girl? woman? Who knew? - added a sadly bruised apple and pear to their little feast. Aeva set to cutting the mould off the bread; the rest was only a bit stale and they talked to each other, just for companionship as neither knew the slightest part of each other's language. But that didn't matter - they just talked.
The others were also finding places to eat mix-'n'-match meals. When they went to collect the food, there were enough of them, now, that nobody tried to take any from them. Occasionally, someone would point out a beggar or lost-looking family and they would give away a little of the precious stock, especially if someone could be persuaded to join them. The larger this community became, the better protected it would be.
Aeva began working on her new project. Amidst her scraping about for any kind of fabric to make into clothes, she had found a man's coat. Her own garment was her passport into the better parts of Moscow - too many places turned away the less well off, and with some of the restaurants beginning to let her have the scraps for her 'soup kitchen', she couldn't afford to be too shabby when she approached and 'bring the place down'. Hers was going to be too badly off at some point, and she needed a replacement that was not expensive. This one was grey, rather than her dark blue, and had belonged to a gentleman who was obviously very large, and that meant she could cut it down to fit herself, over time. Any wearing at collar and sleeves didn't matter since she could cut them away.
She had taught some of the others to sew, as well - especially the infirm or elderly who could do little else to contribute. Contribution had become very important to all of them. There was currently quite a fashion in the Underground City for patchwork, and she tried very hard not to think about where some of it had come from.
Initially delighted that some of the others had found ways to scavenge on behalf of the community themselves, she wasn't sure it was in the best interests of the rest to know that some scraps - and some entire items of clothing - had come from corpses. In fact, Aeva tried not to think about it herself!

(OOC: This one did not come together quite as well as I had hoped.))

In the days after the somewhat pointless raid on the escaped surgery patient's...lair? Hideout? Den? There was still some debate as to just what to call that blighted place...

In the days since, Chief Inspector Drayson had been looking a bit more closely into the situation in the tunnels and chambers that lay mostly forgotten under Moscow. He had been pouring over reports and even interviewing workers and project heads that had been working on reclaiming and re-purposing vast regions of the city's underground.

The picture that was pieced together from his investigations was...disturbing, at best. Past projects had led to dozens and dozens of arrests of illegal immigrants who were deported back to Africa and China. All told, the numbers were easily in the hundreds. Drug dens and manufacturing labs were found down there. Sex slaves (most of whom were also deported, it seemed). Some reports spoke of sex slave operations, or even black market organ trades. And on top of all that, there was little to no evidence of anything being done about any of it.

By all accounts, the hundreds deported were just a drop in the bucket. Hardly a fraction of the numbers of people indicated in the reports or by the workers he interviewed. But it wasn't hard to understand the why of it all.

Money. If what the numbers seemed to say were true, there were thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people living illegally under the city. On the surface, there was a healthy looking budget for government funded soup kitchens and shelters. The last census had indicated a healthy unemployment and homelessness rate. A critical eye would notice that that was amongst registered citizens, not illegal immigrants.

The cost of tracking and supporting all the people in the underground, or in deporting them all, would have been astronomical. So instead, it seemed they were ignored. And that lead to trouble. Trouble like the dead group of eerily quick healing cannibals they had found. He couldn't fault anyone for choosing to ignore the problem; it would prove far too costly to deport everyone down there, and equally so too costly to help them. So long as it remained a self-contained problem, then there really was no issue.

Drayson didn't like ignoring problems, though. Some things he would choose to ignore of course; had that ash and stone had a face? Probably not. Maybe it was just modern art. Anything could be passed as modern art, after all.

It was one of his rare days off...not technically accurate, as his rank and position meant he made his own hours and schedule, but it was one of the rare days he took for himself. These days were usually spent in one of the whole-in-the-wall British pubs secreted around Moscow (they were everywhere in the world if you knew where to look), or enjoying a book, or generally just relaxing and forgetting the stresses of his job and the world at large.

His personal style didn't vary in the slightest between his working days and days off, and as such he stood out rather sorely in the underground city below Moscow. He had learned quite a bit both from his time hunting the escaped heart patient, and from his investigations that followed, so it wasn't hard for him to find his way to one of the possibly hundreds of hidden communities below the city.

His exploration found him confronted by two men who seemed self-appointed guards, watching the tunnel into an area from which he could hear the sounds of a community. A zit-riddled teen and a paranoid old Chinese man with broken glasses. Drayson stood out in the under city like a sore thumb, with his nice clothes and general state of cleanliness, but aside that the fact that he was willing to look people in the eye, that he was calm and walked tall. He wasn't one of them.

And he wasn't the type to be stopped, either. A few teenagers had tried to follow him for a while, probably intent on killing him for his clothes and money. They had been dissuaded with a short conversation, and after that the criminal element seemed to give him a wide berth. He wasn't down there looking to arrest anyone, after all.

The point being, the two would-be guards had no luck or desire in really trying to stop Drayson from passing. At first, they probably thought he was some well-to-do's man, looking for any hidden gems in the gutter, but once he flashed his badge and made a friendly introduction, they weren't sure what was going on any more, and he was allowed into the would-be community.

Word would have spread ahead of him of course; that he was asking questions. Seemingly trying to understand how things were under the city streets. The problems, the dangers, and most curiously the stories. Stories of things like the cannibals found in the old bath house.
Some disturbance called Aeva's attention while she was trying to show one of the women (nationality and language unknown) how to fix some old baby clothes another of the refugees had passed on to her.

Folk were busy avoiding a well-dressed man and sometimes scurrying away when he tried to talk to them. It was NOT promising; he stood out a mile simply by being well-dressed and to one side, Aeva could see some of the men and one or two women gathering - some of the more aggressive and defensive members of their little commune.

With none of his teeth, only half his sight and perhaps missing a few of his marbles, old Chan was still capable of throwing a man twice his own weight clean across the tunnel when attacked. They were not sure 'Chan' was actually his name, but it was something he kept saying so it had stuck, and he didn't seem to mind. So Aeva wondered why he had let this one just walk in. If anything had happened, Darryl, Chan's usual guard-partner, would have come running and certainly they would have heard any commotion; people fighting over the contents of dead men's pockets, at least.

"Can I help you?" she asked. His head turned towards her, probably recognising his own language in the clash of tongues around him. "You'll be welcome to join our community," she continued. "We have three 'rules' if you can call them that. Everyone contributes, however little or much they're able; harm no-one; and we all help each other."

When he asked whether she was the one in charge, Aeva actually laughed for the first time in months.
Few of the people he had come across in the underground city had been willing to openly approach him, so it was a bit of a refreshing change of pace when Aeva willingly presented herself. Drayson couldn't help but grin at her burst of laughter to whether she was in charge in these parts; he wasn't exactly surprised by it. These makeshift communities rarely had much that may pass as organized leadership. That was probably part of the reason why they went unnoticed by the government.

"Don't worry lass, I'm not another mouth to feed."
He produced his badge, "And I'm not here officially. It seems the government has gone to great pains to ignore you all, and well, you know how bureaucracies are. Not my department to be dealing with illegal immigrants."
He offered her an amused wink and tucked his badge away again.

"You see, my curiosity was piqued the other day. We found two dead men in an abandoned bath house not so far away from here. Cannibals, from the looks of it. And from what I can gather, that sort of thing may not be so unusual down here."
He looked around, then sat on an upturned old vegetable crate after unbuttoning his suit coat.

Edited by Drayson, Sep 15 2013, 11:11 PM.
It wasn't easy to completely ignore the badge, but Aeva was aware that lesser crimes were often ignored in the pursuit of greater ones. "Yes - I'd heard those rumours," she replied. In truth, some of the community had told her something of it, but their ability to talk to each other simply wasn't up to much detail. Aeva supposed that starvation had driven the first cannibals to such action, and then it had started to be easier than trying to buy, beg, scavenge or hunt food. And finally, it was simply habit.

Then she sighed. "To be honest, there's all sorts that goes on down here - I'm pretty sure there's a black market in organs as well," Aeva said. "I've nothing official to go on... no contacts or anything. And, as you said; most of us are illegal immigrants - we're not just ignored, we're deliberately ignored. I don't think anybody realises the extent of the Underground city and if any authority were forced to acknowledge us, we'd be far too big a problem to deal with."

Aeva frowned - the man seemed trustworthy, but there was never any telling. On the other hand, she was going to have to take risks sometime. "Let's be honest; the only reason nobody has caved us in is because there's too big a legitimate population, and too important a city right on top of us. But with the constant danger down here, I'm afraid you'll find that anybody who knows about the death of these two cannibals... they'll be cheering the murderers. We have a share of vigilantes down here, as well, and I've been careful *not* to know who they may be. I'm sorry I can't be more help to you... we don't usually get treated so gently." She managed to smile again.
Drayson nodded slightly at her reasoning; it was true, no one in the government was interested in dealing with the illegal immigrants. To acknowledge them would cost millions, maybe billions, of dollars, would ruin careers, would cause entire departments to implode under the sudden work load. Hence the soup kitchens, and the occasional small busts. It was just enough to make it seem the problem was known, understood, and under control, to those that lived above.

"You have me wrong lass. At the end of the day, I don't think I care much who killed those men. But I don't want vigilante-ism to be the solution to whats going on down here. I can't help you, officially. If I were to do so, it would mean I had to acknowledge you are here. And if I were to do that, it would end badly for everyone."
He pulled a phone card, the sort that could be used in exceedingly rare payphones, and a business card with his office, work, and personal Wallet number on it, and held it out to her.

"The budget of a Chief Inspector is...excessive. But, as you can understand, I cannot simply do with it as I please. Checks and balances. Penny and bean counters. But, I don't have to worry about jurisdiction or inter-department politics. So if I were to catch wind of trouble somewhere, anywhere, I can look into it. And the pay of a Chief Inspector is equally excessive. And I can do with that, as I please."
At the end of the day, he wasn't out to pad out his portfolio. He didn't need any rush of cheap, easy busts. There was no desire for further promotion, and even if there were, this was not the way to go about it. He was exactly where he wanted to be, because he was able to do as he saw fit. He could turn a blind eye to the illegal immigrants if everyone else in the CCD seemed so damnable hellbent on doing so, but he could not ignore the problems they had.

And he was worried about more then simple crime. There were things down here that defied rational explanation. The coroner reports on the two dead cannibals were just as confusing as he had expected, and rather then look deeper, it had been decided to just close the case and let it be ignored. Likely, any tips Aeva provided him with would be of the mundane sort; gangs and murderers and such, but each foray he could make into the underground, the more chance he had to find and deal with the things he was worried were down there.
Aeva looked at the two cards in her hands, scarcely able to believe that he had simply handed them over to her. She knew that she could be trusted not to go spend the phone card on dating lines and astrology 'gurus', but Drayson barely knew her. And contact details! Real contact details - to someone in the police, who had... rank... influence...

"I hope I can be useful to you," she said, meaning it. "And... I'll try to be better at listening to rumour; I suppose you can get translations, so if I hear anything and don't understand it - you... you really might find it useful! I apologise in advance if it isn't, but there's a good chance someone around here has seen things you'd want to know about." Aeva realised she was babbling. "Thank you," she ended.

Aeva wasn't stupid - she knew that talking to the police wouldn't be tremendously popular with a lot of the people down here, but the overwhelming majority were like the folks in their growing community. Simply seeking a better life, a bit of safety, and willing to do it on the right side of the law if they could only be given that chance. Helping to clean up the current hell of the underground would be in the best interests of most of those down here; and those it wouldn't were 99% of what was causing the problems.

And there was at least one little thing she could do.

Bidding Drayson wait for a couple of minutes, Aeva ran towards one of the 'founding families' of the community. Italian, they were - the mother of a brood was the one in charge, and more like a grandmother at that, her husband a jovial man who looked as though he should have been large and a host of capricious children with a finely honed sense of adventure; especially the three eldest boys, two of them twins, who had been exploring all over the underground, despite the danger, and despite the spankings they got in return.

It hurt to give away her own dinner, but Aeva thought about phone cards and Chief Inspector Drayson on her side to make it easier.

"I know this is a child's drawing... and I know it's not in English," she explained, showing the large and fragile-ish sheet of paper to him. "But these are some of the tunnels where some of the strongest, darkest and strangest rumours are. Nobody will show you these places, or talk to you about them, because they're either too afraid of what goes on down there and won't be seen in the vicinity - or because they're *part* of what goes on down there. But I spent my first few days here -" she indicated one of the lines. "It was abandoned and mostly caved in; I got in there more through luck than judgement, but the artistes who drew this map also found it, and I've no reason to think the rest of it is any less accurate. To be honest, I don't think some of these tunnels were made by anyone... in authority, shall we say."

Aeva relinquished the crude map to Drayson's hands, doubting the scale was much to be trusted, but reasonably sure of the existence of the passageways, tunnels and doors that had been marked in everything from felt-tip to crayon to biro. She just hoped it was half as valuable to him as the cards were to her.

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