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Follow the Chaos
"Quick. What is the absolute worst place in this Valley one could go? The most insanely suicidal place to be found? The place where only a great fool would venture—and only an insane fool would follow?"
How the final battle of Codex Alera is located

Alice can't find Bob, where could he have gone?

Ka-BOOM!

Oh, there he is.

This trope centers on finding a character by the fact that they have a tendency to cause destruction wherever they go. So if you can't find them, just look for the nearest explosion. Or, if no explosions are imminent, do as the quote above and think of the place where the most potential trouble could occur and you'll end up with much the same result.

Such characters tend to be Chaotic in nature. They may be heroes who frequently use plans that are Crazy Enough to Work, or just have the plain rotten luck to always cause collateral damage wherever they go no matter what they do to avoid it. Alternatively, you may have a Mad Scientist or Bungling Inventor whose creations always blow up, letting you know if they're in their lab or not. A danger zone may also be indicated by a Foreboding Fleeing Flock.

The intent behind this trope is that the chaos they cause will give you an almost immediate idea of where to locate them. Finding a site of destruction and knowing that they've been there is a separate idea which involves a more protracted hunt.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In the Red Riding Hood chapters of Skip Beat!, Kyouko ends up alone with a stalker in the forest, and Fuwa Sho runs around trying to figure out where she could be. He figures it out when part of the forest explodes with her psychic energy/inner demons/hatred.
  • During the Enies Lobby arc of One Piece, the crew is trying to locate Luffy, who charged in ahead of them. When a building nowhere near them suddenly starts to collapse, they know exactly which direction to head in.
    • Later, Smoker tries to use this technique to catch Luffy when the Straw Hat Pirates enter the New World, figuring that it's in Luffy's nature to go to the most dangerous of the three islands on the Log Pose. He fails to anticipate that Luffy will do something even crazier, and go to an island that's not on the Log Pose
  • Variant: In Lost Universe, the characters know that dinner is done when they hear an explosion coming from the kitchen.
  • InuYasha: Naraku not only has a distinctive demonic aura (that the titular Inu Yasha calls a "stink"), he also tends to leave behind trails of dead bodies everywhere he goes.
  • In Red River, there comes a time when Yuri runs off to solve a problem herself, leaving Kail behind her and in a political situation that forces him to stay in Hattusa. When he gets leave to follow her, he asks the mayor of the town if there he asks "Where are you in this town having trouble right now?" When citizens burst in on the meeting shouting about how townspeople are breaking into the jail, Kail knows exactly where Yuri is.

     Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in X-Men. Sort of a running gag, except they don't find it funny.
  • In Marvel Comics' short-lived series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Marion finds Indy in the middle of a foreign city. When he asks how she found him, she responds "Simple. I just followed the trail of cops and unconscious bodies."
  • In The Death of Superman, this is how Supes and the other heroes keep finding Doomsday - he just destroys whatever is in front of him.

     Films 
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park. A T. Rex is rampaging through San Diego and the protagonists have to capture it. Ian Malcolm's advice? "Follow the screams."
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: After he has seen Indy buried alive in the Well of Souls, Belloq looks around at the burning airfield and destroyed plane.
    Belloq: Jones!
  • In RoboCop 3, after Robocop has left resistance headquarters on a personal vendetta, it's suggested that they might track him down by driving around and listening for explosions.

     Literature 
  • Tavi, the protagonist of Codex Alera, has such a tendency for plans that are Crazy Enough to Work that the question asked in the page quote is enough for two people to simultaneously work out where he's gone less than a second after the question is asked.
  • Also, in the Discworld book Sourcery, minor character Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
  • Matthew Reilly's Shane Schofield is a variation—he isn't tracked by the chaos, but a few allies come by the area afterwards and conclude that he's been there from all the horribly destroyed vehicles, bridges, and chunks of road.
  • Even early on in The 39 Clues, Nellie is able to locate Amy and Dan by turning on the news, seeing where's there been some suspicious-sounding trouble, and heading directly to that location.
  • Animorphs:
    "See Ax? Told you it was Rachel. Any time you hear screaming and see people running, you're going to find our girl Rachel somewhere close by."

     Live Action TV 
  • This is one reliable method of finding the Doctor from Doctor Who in a hurry, as Martha points out in "The Lazarus Experiment".
    • Donna Noble eventually tracks down the Doctor by following strange and bizarre occurrences, figuring the Doctor will inevitably become involved. She's proven right in "Partners in Crime."
    • While tracking down River Song in "Let's Kill Hitler", Rory and Amy argue about what possible clues they could use to find her when a crowd of panicked people come running out of a restaurant, all in various states of undress.
    • The Seventh Doctor had a companion named Ace who was fond of incendiaries. Upon being captured, a large explosion rocked the building the villain had him in. "That sounds like my friend Ace. It has all of her subtle undertones."
    • When asked how a character will locate the Doctor in the episode "The Crimson Horror":
      Vastra: To find him, she needs only ignore all keep-out signs. Go through every locked door and run towards any form of danger that presents itself.
      Strax: Business as usual, then?
      Vastra: Business as usual.
      • Incidentally, the Doctor is found very quickly with this method.
  • In Castle, Alexis lets Ashley's rat escape. After she apologizes to him for losing his beloved pet and he forgives her, Martha's shriek is heard offscreen. Alexis and Ashley look alarmed, but Castle merely says, "Found him!"
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Beckett and Ford have to find Sheppard among a mess of Genii soldiers occupying Atlantis, but the life-signs detector doesn't distinguish between humans. Ford confidently states that the dot representing Sheppard will be the one causing other dots to vanish.
  • MythBusters: After a massive explosion for testing the "30,000-Foot Fall" myth, Jamie joked that one way to tell the MythBusters had been somewhere was to look for shrapnel in the trees.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles newspaper comic, the turtles have several (mis)adventures end on a space bus station after closing hour. In the darkness Raphael gets separated from the others, and Leonardo think they should better search for him:
    Leonardo: Since it's Raph, we should head in the direction of trouble.
    Donatello or Michelangelo: Which way is that?
    Sound from the left: Urk! Ugh! Grumph!
    Leonardo: Next question...

     Video Games 
  • Implied in the "Scotland The Brave" level in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. When you get to a lift, Captain Ash looks down from the top and invokes this trope before winching you up.
    Captain Ash: Hello down there? Oh, I heard gunfire a knew it had to be you.
  • A quest chain in World of Warcraft's Western Plaguelands has you helping to train a new druid. When you speak to the quest giver for the second quest in the chain, she mentions that the student's spells were so out of control she not only could see them from where she was, but she was using them as a marker to track your progress.
    • To illustrate: said student was so incompetent that in moonkin form, he was spamming Moonfire on himself.
  • A few characters have offhandedly mentioned that this happens to Shephard from time to time. A memorable quote by Joker in the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC...
    "Approaching your position, Commander. Just following the gunfire."
  • Meta example in co-operative games where one player is more skilled/familiar with the game than another. "Follow the dead bodies." is common advice to help the other player find his way to catch up with the first.
    • Also present in most other games. If you get lost, avoid the trail of bodies. Find more chaos and you'll get back on track.
  • If you fall behind and lose track of your teammates in City of Heroes, just listen for explosions, gunfire, and Kinetic Melee.
  • Used as a dialouge option in Neverwinter Nights to an NPC that you rescue and are telling him how to get out.
    "Just follow the trail of dead bodies."
  • Similarly, in Saints Row IV, Kinzie is about to offer directions on where to locate a friend in need of rescue only for the boss to tell her he's simply following the trail of dead bodies.

     Web Comics 
  • In Tim Buckley's spin off superhero comic, Analog & D-Pad Ethan/Analog asks how to find the Frag shortly before a building collapses behind him.
  • Looking for Group has Richard, who is easily tracked by a trail of "littered corpses" according to acquaintance Maikos.
  • Early on in El Goonish Shive, Elliot visits Tedd's house, and Tedd's dad answers the door. When Elliot asks where Tedd is, Mr. Verres admits that he's not entirely sure, and lists a number of possibilities. An explosion and scream follows. "Basement it is, then."
  • Girl Genius
    • This is how Adam and Lilith locate Agatha aboard the Castle Wulfenbach.
    • Gilgamesh Wulfenbach knows Agatha is the real Heterodyne, but while in Mechanicsburg, he finds out that there is someone claiming to be a Heterodyne girl (who he hasn't met in person yet), attempting to enter "her" castle. Then another one shows up.
      Gil: A second—is she attempting to enter the castle?
      Vole: No, sir. She iz in a coffee shop.
      Gil: ...a coffee shop? What is she doing in a coffee shop?
      Vole: She iz making coffee, sir.
      Gil: Making coffee—
      Vole: Dere haff been three explosions so far, sir.
      Gil: [happily] Agatha!
  • Most of Megatokyo's cast falls under this. However with all the random property destruction going around by monsters of the day it could count as a subversion too.
  • In one Evil Diva comic, Michelle is wondering where Diva and Loki have gotten to when people come running by screaming "They're headed for the gym! Run for your lives!"
  • In Goblins, following his battle with Dellyn Goblinslayer, Thaco finds the rest of the party thanks to all the random magical carnage unleashed by Complains' Shield of Wonder.
  • When Elan uses Durkon to Send a call an ally for help in The Order of the Stick, he phrases the request with this in mind. In fact, Elan did this well before there was any hint of an explosion being imminent, but also understood there would be an explosion if they totally screwed up.
    Durkon: If'n ye wanna fight an evil villain bent on conquest, go ta Windy Canyon an' look fer tha big explosion.

     Web Originals 
  • Used in Freeman's Mind with Gordon singing a song to himself.
    "Follow the dead body road! Follow the dead body road! Follow, follow, folló damn! Look at all that blood!"

     Western Animation 
  • Subverted in The Simpsons, where Homer tries to find Bart and his pet elephant via a train of destruction...only to discover that the trail of damaged houses he'd been following was caused by a twister (which have somehow caught Patty and Selma note ).
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman and Robin are looking for The Creeper...
    Robin: Which way did he go?
    Batman: That way.
  • In Megas XLR, this is just the natural result of Coop being a Destructive Savior turned Up to Eleven.
    Goat: I wonder where Coop is? He's gonna miss the mecha bot ultimate battle.
    Random girl: A giant robot is wrecking the city!
    Goat: There he is.
  • Whenever Ben 10 goes missing, all his allies have to do is keep an eye and ear out.
  • In Wakfu Season 2 finale Eva is looking for her boyfriend during the battle. Cue a huge nuke like explosion going off on the other side of the island.
    Eva: (Deadpan look on her face) Never mind, I found him.

    Real Life 
  • Part of the reason Chicago's Great Fire got so badly out of hand is because the guy manning a fire watchtower misjudged which block the fire was on, due to the still-smoldering ruins from a smaller housefire the previous day. After he realized his mistake he requested a second alarm with the right location, but the guy actually sending the alarms thought the corrected directions would confuse the situation. The third alarm again sent all the remaining fire crews in the city to the wrong location, but by this point the fire was so big that it was visible from blocks away so the crews just followed the smoke.

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