|Date of Cutscene:||13 June 2018|
|Location:||New York City|
|Cast of Characters:||Shadow|
It is, by all appearances, a fairly average night in the Big Apple. The lights are bright, and the streets are bustling -- people driving home, people going out, late night delivery trucks and taxis picking up party goers who had enough sense not to do their own driving on a binge night. Among that kind of throng, nobody pays much attention at yet another cab with its 'active fare' light on.
In the back seat, Natasha shakes out her hair after stowing the slouch hat and scarf that make up so much of her disguise, frowning in frustration at an uncommonly unproductive evening's investigation. There's been an uptick of missing persons report and Kelly Chambers, NYPD analyst, insists it's statistically significant - and she's not been wrong yet. But so far, neither the police nor the Shadow's investigations have turned up any leads.
She's so lost in thought that it takes a moment to realize that her driver just took a much sharper right turn than he usually does unless there's an emergency. "Benny? What's wrong?"
Benny glances up at the rear view mirror to meet Natasha's gaze, an eyebrow raised in confusion. "... nothin'? Just driving home like you ordered, Boss..."
Natasha looks out the window, frowning as she recognizes where they are. "Then why'd you just take a right? The shortest route home from here would've been a left at the last light instead..."
Benny opens his mouth, then his eyes widen as he realizes he doesn't have a good answer. "... But..."
Natasha's eyes narrow as she recognizes the signs of mental compulsion, and she reaches down to retrieve her hat and scarf. "Pull over here, but stay in the area - or as close as it will let you," she orders, then takes a deep breath as she settles the scarf over the lower half of her face. "It appears I'm not done investigating tonight..."
Quiet and unnoticed, the Shadow makes her way back to the intersection, studying the traffic as it goes on its way unaffected -- until a police cruiser makes the same abrupt right turn Benny did.
She notices the compulsion immediately as she crosses the intersection - a mild urge to turn away and go elsewhere, because there's nothing here worth investigating. It doesn't appear to affect passers-by, only police -- and people like her, apparently -- but some experimentation reveals that it covers several blocks.
Her willpower is sufficient that the compulsion has no hold on her now that she's aware of it, but that's too large an area to search on foot. Plus, she has no way of knowing if whoever set this up will detect someone breaching whatever this is the moment she does it. She turns away, dialing Benny's number to get him to come pick her back up. When in doubt, consult with an expert.
Professor Eugene Yeoh is a third-generation Chinese-American. He holds two doctorates in medicine and a Chair at MIT, and is well known professionally for his research into the similarities between physical therapy and traditional techniques such as chiropractic. He is somewhat less well known for his expertise on the more esoteric uses of Ki and , especially since his days of active practitioning are long behind him, but as he glances down at the girasol ring on his finger he recalls the debt he owes to the dark figure speaking to him over a secure connection. "... I must concur. From the effects you describe, it seems less of a direct mental compulsion and more an alteration of the local feng-shui, deflecting watchful attention away from something at the approximate center. Once set up, it wouldn't require much power to keep running, much like a river will prefer to stay in its new course once you've dug a trench, but digging the 'trench' in the first place would require... significant... amounts of power. A skilled Ki adept should be able to find traces and track them back to their origin."
The shrouded figure's head tilts. "I know where to find one. How significant?"
Eugene winces once, forcing bad memories and an old shame back down. "At least a person's life's worth," he finally replies. "Possibly more, depending on how long they've kept this up - keeping the course altered takes less power, but that's not the same as requiring no power."
The connection closes, and Professor Yeoh lets out a shuddering breath that shifts into a yawn halfway through. The Shadow called him out of bed for this consultation, but thinking about the implications means he's not going to be able to sleep well any time soon...