The Equilibrium Files #3.2
They arrived at the subway station.
The boy led them into the chaos of the crowd, each individual acting with purpose but all contributing to the confusion. "Down here, dudes.” Yardbird led them off the platform and into a well-lit, well used tunnel. With some trepidation they followed him. He led them along a thin ledge that ran along the side of the track. The distant rumble of a train made them halt, their hearts in their mouths. The rumble became a clatter and then a rush of air as the train sped past. They flattened themselves against the wall, the windows of the carriages flashing past their eyes like some hellish strobe light. The train disappeared toward the station and the mages followed their young guide. Eventually they came to a disused junction. A boarded up tunnel entrance faced them. Yardbird said "This is where I split. Good luck.” He headed back the way they had come, giving them a wave and a cheeky smile. There was a makeshift entrance in the barrier, an obvious sign that this tunnel was not as unused as the transport authorities might have supposed. The trio clambered through and found themselves in pitch darkness. Switching on their flash lights they walked slowly forward. After a short while they heard the sounds of movement ahead. Rounding a bend they came upon a small band of ragged street people foraging for whatever they could find. The two groups eyed each other suspiciously. Neither made any antagonistic moves and the encounter passed without incident. The mages continued on their way eventually catching sight of flames casting a shifting shadow on the tunnel wall ahead. As they approached they were confronted with a barricade across the track. Two heads could be seen peering over the parapet. "Whadya want?” one of the heads shouted.
Dreyfus shouted back, "We’re looking for someone and we think they could be with you. We’ve no other business, just looking.”
"You anything to do with the police or the megacorps?”
"No, like we said, just looking for someone.”
A part of the barricade slid back and a figure stepped out. It gestured to them to approach. As they neared the homemade wall they saw the guy was armed. "OK, you can look, but any funny business and…” he looked meaningfully at the weapon in his hands. "No trouble, honest,” Dreyfus repeated.
A visual scan of the small community showed a rag tag collection of people living in a ramshackle underground slum of makeshift shelters. A village of cardboard and corrugated iron lit by smouldering torches. Fires burned as the occupants tried to keep themselves warm. As the trio moved through the crowd they saw a group of street kids huddled together. ‘Wheels’ concentrated for a moment, trying to find an astral signature. There, he picked up a strong sign. Among the group of children was a boy of around 16 years old with a dog at his side. Both animal and boy shone with an unmistakeable and powerful aura. The dog growled, moving to protect his charge. A protector spirit, obviously.
"We mean no harm,” said Dreyfus. "We’ve come to help. We’ll take you to a safe place where you can learn things you’ve only dreamed of”.
The boy drew back. "I won’t leave my friends, they need me.” He looked back at the rest of the kids. "We’ll be OK Charlie, you go with them.”
"Come with us and you will be shown ways to help them even more.” Dreyfus urged Charlie. "We must get a move on. We’re not the only ones looking for you. You’re real important, y’know.”
Charlie at last decided to go and they headed for a ladder to street level. They heard a commotion behind them and turned to see a group of Bloods ransacking the slum. "There’s the little shit we’re after” the leader shouted. The rest of the gangers drew there weapons and rushed forward. ‘Wheels’, ‘Potty’ and Dreyfus prepared to defend themselves and Charlie. ‘Potty shot first and the leader went down, wounded. ‘Wheels’ turned on his magic shield and the air around them shimmered and crackled. The gangers halted, unsure of what was happening. Suddenly a bolt of flame sped their way. In a panic and unable to control himself, Charlie had unleashed a spell. This was too much for the street thugs to take. They had never seen magic and they fled, pausing briefly to gather their leader.