Doctor Grindlewelt's Blackmail

Summary:
March 10, 2014: Shift picks up a lead on one Doctor Marcus Grindlewelt, who is being blackmailed by bad people. He picks up two stragglers, one telepathic, and doesn't realize just what he's walking into.

Metropolis University

A patio outside the Metropolis University Convention Room.


Characters

NPCs

  • Doctor Marcus Grindlewelt
  • The Hat Man
  • Various thug mooks

Mood Music: Masters in France - Madhatter (spotify)


At some point, Kwabena Odame simply can't take the boredom any longer, and he slips out onto a patio for a cigarette. The first drag is one he takes very deeply, enjoying the slow relief that floods his system. It isn't very long after that he received a text message.

While eyeing the words upon his phone, Kwabena notices another individual, one who has stepped out of the University's main campus center and onto the large patio some distance away. This fellow, an older, Caucasian with salt and pepper hair, is also lighting a smoke.

Kwabena looks down to his phone. He angles it just so, snapping a high definition photograph, and sending it to whomever is on the other end of his text conversation.




Emma's relief is palpable, too, as Shift steps outside. Then, he lights up that cigarette and she makes a soft noise that only she can hear — a sound of enjoyment. She's not a smoker, but damned if she doesn't undestand why Kwabena is. This way, she can enjoy the smoking without the detriment to her health. She guesses she could smoke in diamond form without it hurting her lungs, but she doubts the nicotine would permeate her bloodstream, so… pointless.

What's this? Text message? Who's this man Shift's taking pictures of and sending them to people. She taps into his knowledge centers and sifts through for answers.




Bruce Banner wants a cigarette himself, his iPad and notes tucked away in his satchel. He draws his pack out, unfiltered Camels, lighting one with a battered zippo. He once would have scoffed at the idea of smoking, but, well, he's long past worrying about cancer these days and, counterintuitive as it seems, the stimulant actually relaxes him. It's an odd effect, but one he's learned not to question, inhaling tightly and slowly letting the smoke spill from his nostrils. Looking up, he sees the same man who'd noticed him before, now looking across at another stranger. Better than staring at him, he supposes.




The man on the other end is simply known as Franklinton. Shift has never met him, doesn't know his real name, and is only given his information when it's needed. But this line did not come through Emma Frost and her problem solver, it came instead through U. Samuel Kathman, Esq. Shift's attorney. That's right, the criminal defense attorney who has all of those shitty ads on local TV and radio stations, not to mention bus stops in the ghetto and subway ads all over the five boroughs.

The man in question, whom Kwabena so stealthily snapped a photo, is none other than Doctor Marcus Grindlewelt. As Grindlewelt turns about to take a call on his own cell phone, Bruce will most likely recognize him. He's a professor from Cambridge University who specializes in metahuman biology.

From where Shift's standing, he can't see Banner's arrival. Both men, however, are in a position to recognize what happens next. Grindlewelt's demeanor darkens, and the cigarette perched between his fingers falls limp. Grindlewelt lowers his phone from his face, color draining from his skin, and simply stares out at the campus for a very long moment.

Without warning, Grindlewelt throws his cigarette to the ground and makes for the nearest stairway from the large patio with determined footsteps. Not far behind him is Kwabena, who seems to be taking great care at tracking Grindlewelt at such a distance that the good Professor won't realize he's being followed.




Emma is intrigued. As she processes the information in Shift's mind—U. Samuel Kathman, Esq… Who, oddly enough, shares a practice with one of her personal lawyers, actually… And, this Dr. Marcus Grindlewelt. Hmmm.. She watches as the good doctor's expression changes and he drops his cigarette…and begins making for the nearest exit.

Out of the corner of Shift's eye, she can see Bruce. She also senses his aura. Whether Shift actually takes note of him or not is beyond her. But, knowing what that text said and wondering what's going to happen next, she's not sure how this will go. Will Bruce follow, out of curiosity? Will that be dangerous? She waits to see what happens, thinking she can perhaps calm things down before they get out of hand… Hopefully.




Bruce Banner considers Grindlewelt's reaction to the phone call, taking a long drag halfway through his smoke. It could've been something as simple as his funding getting cut or finding out his grandmother had died. Sure, it was probably something that simple. No need to put yourself in any danger or try to investigate, Bruce, everything'll be just fine. Go about your business. It's none of yours and you'll only end up finding trouble if you try to pry. And then he realizes that Shift is heading in the same direction, too, very casually, but nonetheless. Dammit. And so, Bruce, too, begins to trail behind, following Odame instead of the good doctor, finding it easier to follow the follower than the followee.




Doctor Grindlwelt keeps moving at a rapid pace toward the nearest parking garage. It's one of those well lit affairs, and Shift remains right on his tail. Grindlewelt is none the wiser, too, as he reaches for his cellular phone, raising it to make a call.

"Hello? This is Marcus Grindlewelt. You… you bastards!!" He comes to a halt in the garage, glowering at his phone with anger and fear. "Don't you dare touch my wife and son! Understand me? Don't you dare touch them!!! What do you people want? Tell me!"

There is a long pause, during which Grindlewelt's lip trembles. The anger is now gone from his voice, which has become more pleading. "Alright. Alright, don't — don't do anything. I'll be there as soon as I can." The doctor jumps in his car, a Lexus, and goes tearing through the garage recklessly.




With a frown, Shift leaps into the air. His clothing falls from his frame, and a plume of black smoke takes his place. It soars in an arc until it lands upon a motorcycle, a Harley Davidson Iron 883, gunmetal gray, 2012 model. He reaches behind to snatch free a blacked out helmet, fixes it on his face, then takes up the chase.




Emma's consciousness goes with Shift as he follows the poor Doctor Grindlewelt, who seems to be almost running to find his car. When he stops, pulls out his phone, and begins yelling into it — screaming out of fear, anger, sadness… Emma feels bad for the guy, but she can't get wrapped up in that. Is Shift out to help or hinder the situation? She's waiting to see. She could find out, but she wants to let it unravel… Like a story.

What a lovely woman, letting this man's grief and horrible situation feel more like a television drama than a real thing. For a moment, she feels uncomfortable about that.. Then, she figures, she still has the chance to interact, if she really, really feels the need. Then, Shift's smoke! And, leaaaaaaping… She loves traveling as smoke! Then, on the motorcycle! Vroooooooooom!




Bruce Banner arrives just as Shift….well, shifts, watching as the smoke reforms into his body. Huh. Well, that's different. Almost unsure of what impulse is driving him, except the idea of yet another fellow scientist in trouble, Bruce calls out, "Wait…" he says, leaping down the stairs a few at a time until he can try to catch up with Shift, "Let me help…Grindelwalt…I…I know him. Whatever's going on, I want to help." Okay, so, having sat on a panel with Grindelwald at a panel discussion at Cambridge 8 years ago isn't exactly a bosom friendship, but, well, Bruce doesn't have many friends to begin with.




Still with little clue that he's acquired a frequent telepathic traveler, Kwabena is about to take off when Bruce halts him. The gunmetal gray uniform he wears could easily be mistaken as the jumpsuit of an overachieving crotchrocket junkie, especially with the extra padding he's had added to it in order to keep it from looking like a run of the mill zentai. Clearly, he was wearing it beneath his business casual. For a drawn out moment, he consider Bruce's offer. He turns to look toward the garage's entrance, visible a floor downward, where Gindlewelt's car is tearing through the exit.

"He's in troubah." The Ghanaian looks back at Banner hesitantly. Something seems dangerous about this…but…Kwabena's good at danger, right? "So is his family."

With a begrudging expression, Shift snatches his helmet from behind and tosses it to Banner before scooting up on his bike. "Hop on, and don't worry. I'm a professional."

As soon as Bruce is aboard, Shift takes off. He makes quick headway through the garage, but once he's out on the street, he's taking up a classic pursuit pace, obeying traffic laws whenever possible so as to avoid attracting attention.

Grindlewelt's Lexus is headed across town, toward the Metropolis shipping district.




Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, boyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. When Emma hears Bruce calling out, asking to come along…on this very stressful mission… Emma silently rubs her face. Oh, man, oh, man. Okay. Maybe it'll be okay. Mayyyybe…Hulk will be necessary. Maybe? She tries to shake off the unease she feels at having her retainer being hugged by the equivalent of a humanesque ticking time bomb. Except, this one explodes into a giant green hulking monster that's really angry and fight-y.

She takes deep breaths and just follows along with Shift. She's not sure what's going to happen, but she's going to have a good view of it. If she HAS to jump to help prevent an emergency, she can, at least, try.




Bruce Banner just clings tightly to Shift, knowing well enough that he's out of his element and not entirely sure what possessed him to do it. He's actually fairly good at self-reflection these days, but he still surprises himself every now and then. Today is one of those days. He tries to focus on what he knows about the Professor…and, realizing that some hacking would be a good idea, reaches into his pocket and manages to pull out his smart phone, a cloned device with home-brewed software, keeping a tight grip with one hand as he starts to work on seeing if he can hack their quarry's cellphone with his free hand.




Bruce's hacking does its job well. He's able to piggyback on Grindlewelt's last call, eventually locating a specific warehouse somewhere in the meat packing district. Based on the Lexus they are following, it's very likely that this is where Doctor Grindlewelt is heading.

"Do me a favah." Shift glances over his shoulder briefly at one moment, while speaking over the growl of his motorcycle. "Keep quiet about de trick you saw back dere. Didn't know you were following me." He looks back forward, banking the motorcycle around a corner that brings them closer to the industrial edge of Metropolis. "Lot of peopah don't like metas."

The Lexus is driving erratically. Inside the car, Grindlewelt is relying on GPS to reach the address, and in his frantic driving, he keeps missing turns. There is a lot of swearing, some anger, and a fair portion of fearful tears as Grindlewelt makes his way toward that warehouse.




Okay. When the car starts weaving and there's a lot of missed turns, back-tracking, and things of that nature, Emma decides that this guy could fuck everything up for himself with his emotional state. So. For a brief moment, she leaves Shift's mind and enters Dr. Grindlewelt's. She soothes him psychically, and pushes back, and redirects the majority of fear and anger…to more constructive places. Such as being calm, being logical, thinking clearly. She helps him to calm down, helps his heart rate to slow. He still knows how important this is, he still feels all the things he did, before, but he's less…frantic, more focused…like a laser.

Then, she's back in Shift's mind, listening as he asks Bruce not to tell his secret. That gives her a grin. If only Shift knew Bruce's secret… Perhaps, before this is over, he'll find that out. If she can't keep the beast at bay, that is.




Bruce Banner tries to keep a trace on the Professor's GPS, just in case he somehow manages to slip from their pursuit. He almost doesn't hear Shift's question, concentrating as he is on his computer work, but finally lets it register on his brain, "Huh. Oh, yeah, sure, of course….er, just remember, um, quid pro quo," he says, knowing his secret is far, far more damaging than Shift's.




It’s a good thing that Emma intervened. Right as Doctor Grindlewelt settles down and starts driving normally, he passes a pair of police officers, who do not pull him over. Had the police intervened… well.

"You got it." Shift has no idea whether Bruce has any powers or not, but he's no fool. It's a distinct possibility.

Soon enough, the Lexus pulls into the warehouse. Two professionals, and by that we mean bald dudes in shirts, ties, and nice jackets, meet him at his car. They grab him by the shoulders and lead him toward one if the warehouse doors.

Shift pulls up at a distance, having already killed the lights and engine. The motorcycle coasts and is eventually stopped by the African's boots. He sits there and watches. One of the bald men scans the area before falling in behind his partner.

"Alright." Shift pushes a button — a modified, thumbprint activated ignition. He has a hard time keeping track of keys, you know. "What do you know about Grindlewelt?" he asks. "I've been told he's meta-friendly, and is working on some few projects to benefit children with debilitating mutations at Cambridge." He glances Banner's way.




Bruce Banner slides off the bike, pushing a hand back through his already unkempt hair. He feels like he should straighten his glasses, only he hasn't worn them since the accident. Or, at least, hasn't needed to, one of the few benefits that Bruce got. "He's a geneticist, primarily, along with a medical doctor. Noted medical ethicist as well. A lot of his work has involved stabilizing the X gene associated with mutation. The media doesn't notice that many young mutants don't have stabilized powers, often suffering from uncontrolled outbursts or even pain as a result of their abilities. His work would make them more practically controllable, or, at least, that was the intent. Some have theorized that his work could be used to transplant mutation from one organism to another, but anything like that would be highly speculative…' he murmurs. Also highly profitable, and subjecting the mutant population to becoming donors to those wealthy enough and unscrupulous enough to buy their genome.




The news draws a frown to Shift's face after he dismounts. "But his intentions are good." It said more as a statement, but his eyes dart over to Banner. "Right?"

Its worth noting his silver eyes are now revealed. The brown contacts must have fallen out when he pulled the smoke trick, similar to how his outer clothing fell off.

Shift looks back to the warehouse. "I want to protect him, but we should also find out who dese peopah are, what dey want."

Warily he glances back toward Banner. "Name’s Shift. Hang out here if you want, but I'm going in." He walks around the bike, opening a cargo pouch and retrieving a Smith and Wesson model semi-automatic pistol. He lifts his eyebrows before tossing it at Bruce. "Just in case." Then he smirks. "Don't worry. I'm bullet proof." With that, he's off, headed for the warehouse at a light jog while pulling the mask over his head.




Bruce Banner had been preparing to give Shift a warning of his own, about the potential consequences of teaming up with Bruce. Of the need to get far, far away fast if things went south. But, of course, Bruce is too lost in his own thoughts and, by the time he's prepared to give the warning, Shift is already masking up and heading in. Bruce hesitates for a moment, knowing that putting himself in harm's way doesn't make anyone safe…but he can't just leave Grindle to his fate …and so, Bruce finds himself trotting behind Shift, shrugging off his jacket first and leaving it behind, although oddly still wearing his motorcycle helmet, the words SOY BOMB standing out in black on his white tee.




Meanwhile, inside the warehouse…

It’s a big place. Scattered throughout its tall ceilings are the conveyor belts, chains and hooks that make its purpose quite clear. It's a meat packing joint, to be sure, one of those that has stopped working 24 hour shifts.

Doctor Grindlewelt's family is there, bound and gagged and being held by a pair of masked thugs. The Doctor's breath catches when he sees them, Emma's telepathic handiwork faltering against the sheer emotion that comes from seeing them.

"Doctor Marcus Grindlewelt," calls an unfamiliar voice from the shadows. "Glad you decided not to be an idiot."

The suits release Grindlewelt, and he staggers forward for a moment before looking about. "Who are you?" he calls.

Outside, Shift is messing with the security keypad, and getting nowhere. "Damnit," he hisses.




It is at this point that Emma plants a very strong suggestion in Shift's head. She's still watching things go down, but it's important for him to know… {If things get dangerous, watch out for yourself around Bruce. Smoke out. You don't have to leave, but smoke is safe — harder to grab,} she tries to word it carefully, so Shift won't necessarily bail on the whole thing if/when Hulk shows up. {In a way, he very much is…a bomb, but in an unexpected way.}




Bruce Banner pushes Shift out of the way a bit, "Allow me," he murmurs, taking a moment at the keypad and then jamming a Swiss army knife into the side panel, popping it off and exposing a series of wires. He starts to unravel and rework them, bypassing the basic functions of the lock until, with a slight spark and a whiff of ozone, the door unlocks with a soft clunk, "Open sesame," Bruce murmurs, gesturing for Shift to go first inside.




It’s about that time when another unfamiliar idea comes to him. Shift is easily pushed aside, and doesn't even react aside from staring at Bruce in a manner that is both impressed and distracted at the same time. His eyes glance from side to side, then up into the air. He'd heard rumors of telepathic meta humans out there… and he's usually not this paranoid around strangers who, like Bruce Banner, have the overall appearance of 'normal folk'.

"I'm impressed," he quips, shoving the stray thought aside. However, Emma is sure to pick up on his suspicion, alongside a fair bit of paranoia. If there is a telepath out there messing with him… the idea doesn't sit well at all.

Once inside, Shift leads Bruce down a hallway that in short order opens into the warehouse proper. The voices can be heard easily now.

"Your work on X-Gene stabilization. We want it. All of it."

"Why?" asks the voice of Doctor Grindlewelt.

"Because we want it. Why shouldn't matter to you. Keeping your family safe should. And… I think, we've proven, we can find them. Your home has some impressive security, Doctor. Top notch but nothing we can't…" He laughs. "Nothing we can't handle."

Finding a shadowy place, Shift peeks around the corner. He can see Grindlewalt, his family, the thugs… and the backside of a man wearing an expensive suit and, of all things, a classic fedora-style hat on his head. He frowns, then turns toward Bruce, nodding with his head toward a shadowy place on he opposite side of the doorway.




Bruce Banner creeps in behind Shift. While he's done plenty of sneaking in recent times, it still feels almost odd to be on this kind of adventure. It's clearly much more Shift's milieu and Bruce is happy to resume his backseat. If the time comes for him to take action, it won't be quiet or subtle, after all. He keeps close to Odame, following towards the shadowy area he indicated, trying to keep a hold of his temper. The idea of these men ransoming the professor's family to get what they want is starting to make him…angry.




{Now,} that inner voice urges Kwabena. It's soft, calm…delicate, somehow… But, firm. {Now, Kwabena. He's starting to lose control. Get your distance, but not too fast. Make an excuse to let him move in front of you,} it instructs, that voice. It's so vague, but Shift knows these things, feels them like instinct. Like…precog, sort of.




"I'm sorry," stammers Grindlewelt, his countenance shaking. "But I… I don't have access to it."

"Liar!" seethes the hat man.

"No! I really don't! It's - it's all secured. Dual control. I can't just go get it without a proper escort!" The doctor takes a step toward the hat man. "Please, I'm telling the truth!"

The moment that move is made, however, something rattles behind the doctor's wife and son. Chains, from far above, their meat hooks strapped secretly to the prisoners' backs. The hat man, having seethed a hiss and raised his hand in a signal, directed some mook in the shadows to turn on a hydraulic device. A terrible sound of ripping flesh precedes the screams that accompany the woman and boy's sudden ascension into the air, dangling by the meat hooks now firmly embedded into their upper backs.

At the same time, Kwabena becomes very, very worried. Normally, he'd have pushed Banner aside and rushed in, putting a quick end to these dirty bastards, leaving one alive for questioning. This time, however, the unexpected, precognitive feeling causes him to move behind Bruce in a manner that seems nearly instinctive. "Hey boss," he starts to say. "Keep an eye out here, I'll sneak in and take 'em out." He backs off, while keeping a wary eye on Bruce.




Oh. Oh, shit. Ohhhh. Wow. {Definitely, get out of his way. I'm not calming him down,} Emma's voice is actually quite audible and firm. If Shift doesn't start moving, he'll feel his body starting to move of its own accord.




Bruce blows their cover almost as soon as the hooks rip through skin, the cries of raw pain from mother and child hitting Bruce hard. He remembers the sound of a woman and son crying out in pain. He was such a boy himself once. And his mother…well…she didn't make it. He crumples to his knees and cries out as Shift starts to move behind him, clutching at his guts and lowering his head for a moment.

Bruce's back seems to be rippling, his t-shirt starting to strain in odd, bubbling shapes as if something were boiling beneath the surface of his skin, trying to get out. There's heat, too, radiation rising to the surface of him and then there's a scream, raw and intense, drawing all eyes to him. With a grunt and the gnashing of teeth, the sound of ivory grinding on ivory audible, crunchy, wrong as he turns his head to look at Shift. Veins stand out in his neck, pulsing and thick, tendons straining like ropes as his skin starts turning a sickly yellow on its way towards green. His eyes are green naturally, but now it's a vivid, unnatural shade of it, the bloodshot orbs swelling in their sockets as the pain of transformation rips through Bruce Banner for the thousandth thousandth time, "Stay…behind…or…runnnn…" he grunts, the words breaking off into a growl as he turns his head towards the bad men and bursts his skin, rising up to his feet and throwing his arms back in a savage roar as he rises to eight feet in height with an explosive *WHUMPH*, arms thick as tree trunks stretching to either side.

Everyone's seen it on the news. There's no question. No need to say it. No wondering who this might be. For nearly half a decade, one word, one creature, has been synonymous with disaster. Devastation. Death. And its eyes just narrowed and focused on the men in the suits. A chuffing breath. A snarl.

A Hulk.




This is the moment where Shift feels himself fighting against that inner voice. The loose cannon who feels himself rejecting logic. He understands his power, at least to a certain point, and he knows where his powers end.

Still, Shift looks on in stunned silence as the transformation takes place. There is a moment when, as mutant and mutate eyes lock, where Shift understands. He understands why the transformation takes place. Not in the sense of science, but in the sense of a man who doesn't fully understand his powers, but understands the way they manifest.

Kwabena's eyes harden, and he looks from the Hulk to the puny mortals who are about to feel via wrath. And he understands, in that one breath of a moment, what must be done.

If they are to know what where's evil men want… the Hulk must be stopped. Otherwise, he will tear a havoc through them worth reckoning in the annals of monsters.

With a ferocious roar of his own, Kwabena thrusts himself at the Hulk, resisting rye telepathic promptings of Emma Frost with a fury of deliberate anger. A feral cry precedes him thrusting himself at the monster, body turning to smoke as he launches himself at the beasts neck.

Below, in the warehouse, the mooks stare with wide eyes as a cloud of black smoke seeks to stretch itself around the Hulk's head, it's goal a blinding wrap around the green monster's head. They are stunned, staring wide eyed as their worst nightmares are laid out before them.




{NO! ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY!?!?! THAT IS THE HULK, GODDAMIT, KWABENA!!! I WILL FIND THE ANSWERS, FUCK! STAY SMOKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!} Emma is SCREAMING, now, her subtle proddings abandoned. And, withdraing from Odame's head, Emma tears VICIOUSLY into the head of the bad men, one at a time. Each one, she rips apart, telepathically, searching for the answers she wants, she needs, to make this situation less dangerous for Shift. Bruce is just fine. She plows through the bad men's minds and, when she's found the answers she needs, she's back in Shift's head. {GET AWAY FROM HIM! I HAVE THE ANSWERS WE NEED! I'M ONLY ASKING NICELY THIS ONCE, ODAME,} she roars inside his head.




Hulk thrashes as the smoke attacks him, his rage lessoned not in the least by the smoke distracting him from his prey. If anything, the frustration makes him angrier. He grasps at his head, trying to snatch the smoke from the air only to find himself grabbing at his own skull. He snatches with increasing violence, his massive frame twisting and bashing around. A nearby wall crumbles with just an accidental swipe of his elbow, exploding outwards and leaving a massive hole of plaster and wood and trash, wiring sparking. "STOP MAKING DARK!!!”




At this point, Kwabena knows. He's no fool, and he knows there is another voice in his mind. Even in his rage, he is resistant. {GET OUT. OF MY HEAD.}

Even with that visceral, violent warning, a part of him heeds. Whomever this is, he finds himself trusting, against all odds. The voice is simply too powerful to resist. And he can't help but be touched by the concern. It leaves it's mark, makes him hesitate just so.

It is in that moment, with the Hulk's thrashing about, his smoke form scattering, that he makes his move. As the Hulk cries out, he seeks to insert himself into the monster's mouth. Any space where air might seek through, he makes his play; an effort to thrust his whole gaseous body through those large and small spaces alike. His goal is to fill the creature's lungs, filling every space and choking the beast to a slumber. The question is… will there be enough of him to accomplish the task?

Throughout it all, an angry thought resonates. {WHO. ARE. YOU.}

The mooks below, still paralyzed by their fear, look on as it happens.




{Are you fucking kidding me?! That's all you can fucking think about?! What the fuck is your problem!? I'm beginning to think we made a mistake in hiring you!!!!} Emma's voice sounds entirely enraged. Emma stands up in her office and begins pacing angrily. She is FURIOUS. How DARE he tell her to get out of his head! How DARE he demand to know who she is! {I am your employer, you great moron! What the hell do you think you're doing?! Are you asking for death?! I don't pay people with death wishes! I TOLD you, I KNOW who they work for, already,} she barks at him, psychically slapping him a bit, trying to get him to see sense. {All Hulk needs to do is roar and you're out of his lungs. Do you even know if he needs to breathe?!} she jabs.

The answer to Odame's question is: no. There's not enough of him. And the Hulk does indeed gulp as that tickle hits the back of his throat, inhaling sharply and sucking Odame deep inside him, room to spare inside his massive lungs. Hulk can hold his breath for well over an hour. Those gangsters probably won't last more than twenty seconds, as Hulk, his way cleared, begins to lope at them, hands outstretched to snatch them up…




Suddenly, this becomes one of those 'oh, shit' moments, when Kwabena finds himself inside the monstrous beast, unable to break free. The stubborn side of him backs down, and with a begrudging realization he recognizes that he's merely along for the ride. He has no power against the Hulk.

The villains are easily snatched up, putty in the creature's hands. He's free to do with them what he will, while the living smoke that fights in futility against the Hulk's mighty lungs finally settles, merely along for the ride.

A rueful thought is bounced back violently against the telepath who has infested him. {He won't hurt me. I'll survive. And you… I will hunt you down, and we will bring these bastards to the ground. Til we walk over their cold corpses and set things right. Do you understand me? Invader!} The mental intonations are rueful, angry, and curious.




{You don't know that, idiot,} Emma's voice is cool and angry. {You don't have to hunt me down. I'll give you the information you want, and, since you SO object to me TRYING TO SAVE YOUR FOOL LIFE, I'll have your retainership severed. Since that's what you seem to want. I'm sure you'll do so much better with your lawyer man,} she says in a snarky way, her head ticking back and forth in her anger. {I'm not an invader, you dumb shit. I'm — how did you put it? …Just along for the ride. I'm simply seeing things through your eye. And, if you'd listened to me, you wouldn't BE in this position and those people wouldn't have to DIE HORRIBLY,} she gives him an actual psychic jab at this, like an elbow to the ribs.




Hulk is, of course, completely oblivious to the debate raging in the air and his lungs, his own mind actually rather uncomfortable for Emma to draw near, a raging torrent of raw, unfiltered emotion, like a blazing inferno, a forest fire, consuming all that comes near it. Most people think of the Hulk as mindless, a machine of pure destruction, simply mowing down everything in its path without reason or consideration. And, sometimes, that's true. It all depends on the provocation. In this case, the provocation were the sinful acts of these men now in his grasp.

The minions suffer first, which says something, because the Hulk knows the difference. The result is savage, the sound of bones crackling audible even inside his thick-muscled body, screams of raw agony erupting as ribs shatter, organs puncture, legs kick futilely from broken hingers in a shattered pelvis. A meat thump is all that marks the final passage into death.

The leader, however…he is gripped fully, but not destroyed, not yet. Hulk walks over and reaches out, his now minionless hand grasping the chains dangling mother and son in the air and snapping them like twine, wrapping tight on the chain to slowly lower the two to the ground. Gentle. Almost sad as he looks them over. And then he looks into the face of the man responsible, pulling him close to gaze into the Hulk's wrathful, unforgiving eyes. The face that flashes before Hulk's eyes, though, belongs to a man long dead in the forgotten past of a terrified child…




{You think I really care about these people.} With a Herculean effort, Kwabeba hurls himself against the nigh impossible strength that seeks to keep him in, and yet he finds no avail. The Hulk is simply too powerful.

Fortunately — and it is one small comfort — Shift has found himself capable of existing in smoke form for long periods of time. It takes effort, but ironically, Emma's guarantee of the information he wants is the key to staying his ferocious, hell-bent temper. As such, he lingers as a cloud deep within the Hulk's belly, perceiving the terror beyond as vibrations against his gaseous state.

{These worthless fucks had it coming. You tell me what you know, and we will run these bastards to the ground. Something tells me… if they have malicious intent upon our kind, you might want me on your side. DON'T… underestimate me. You hitchhiker.}

And with that, the show is in Hulk's hands. Oddly enough, he's safe inside the lungs of the beast; safe until the creature fades or he finds himself lost in tendrils of black. A numbness comes over Shift's psyche.

Meanwhile, in the warehouse, Doctor Grindlewelt rushes for his family. With shaking hands he peels meathook from flesh, and begins mustering his wife and son from the destruction that ensues.




{Don't tell ME they had it coming! Why do you think I told you I wasn't going to stop him?!} Emma gripes. {As if I don't know! As if I didn't see and hear what you saw and heard!} she throws her hands up in the air. Jherika, Emma's personal assistant, is now sitting in one of the chairs in front of the clear glass desk, watching fretfully as Emma gestures angrily and storms around. She won't leave her presence until her boss returns, now. Clearly, something horrible is happening. {JUST YOU KEEP INSULTING ME AND CALLING ME NAMES AND SEE HOW FAR YOU GET, GENIUS!!} she growls. {NO ONE talks to me that way. Not even YOU, no matter how self-righteous you feel,} she says, her voice icy…so icy, it almost feels cold to the mind.




Hulk watches closely as Grindlewelt rushes to his family, seeing him embracing and caring for them. The way a father should. And so he turns away, his work with them done. A foot lashes out, bare and massive, and one of the walls of the building erupts outwards as Hulk tears through, the ringleader in his grasp. It seems almost as though he's forgotten the man at first, striding along, arms swinging at his sides, the thug gripped almost lazily as he makes his way through the street. Shrieks ring out as he's spotted, people calling for help, police, 911, Superman, anyone…Hulk pays them no mind. Puny humans and their puny squealing. So afraid. They should be afraid. Hulk's wrath starts to rise again as he finally stops and looks at a dumpster in an alley. A dented thing, covered in graffiti, the plastic lid half torn off. Hulk walks up to it slowly and looks down at the man in his hand.

"Trash",he says, Odame's smoke exhaled with the word, puffing the man out into the world again as he slams the ringleader down into the dumpster, bones breaking and crackling. The gangster is barely conscious, but starts to scream as that dumpster is lifted in the air…and the walls begin to cave in, the Hulk wadding the dumpster up into a twisted metal ball with the villain's flesh as its meaty core.




Shift's mental response is similarly chilling. {Heads up would be nice next time.} And not a heads up regarding the Hulk. To Emma's benefit, she'd warned him. No, this is strictly in response to being spied upon.

Seems Kwabena doesn't appreciate unwanted visitors.

{You want a ride, I'll show you a ride.} The chill of Emma's presence is not unaffected. It serves to cool the Ghanaian's hot temper, but only so. There is something exhilarating about it at the same time, as if a kindred spirit had been met.

Out he comes with the Hulk's exhaled word. The tufts of smoke lurch out, reforming some distance away, just in time to witness the ringleader's ultimate demise. A sneer forms, and then, with a scampering upon brick, he bounces off the wall, grasps hold of a fire escape, and flings himself skyward, turning to smoke as he disappears into the night sky.




{NO NEED, you insolent fuck,} Emma growls. {Your wish is granted,} she snarls. And, then, as forcefully, and painfully as she can, she SEARS the information she ripped from the mens' minds…into Shift's mind. He couldn't forget the man's name or how to find him if he tried. And, with that, she withdraws from Shift's mind fully, leaving only an echoing word: {Fucker.} And, when her eyes refocus on Jherika's nervous face, she has to bite back anything and everything she wants to say. Jherika did nothing wrong. She is simply concerned. She has nothing to do with the fact that Kwabena is an asshole, especially in the face of the fact that she was simply trying to save his life. Sure, she was riding without permission…but, she RARELY asked permission, and never of someone who works for her in such a manner. "Get me Kingrow," she says in a very quiet, very controlled voice. Jherika is out of the room and getting the problem solver on the line before Emma's eyes open.




Hulk knows about none of this and, if he didn't, wouldn't care. Humans (and mutants are the same, as far as he's concerned, all of one tiny, loud, annoying species constantly pestering and whining at him). When the screams have finally settled, Hulk tosses the ball into the air and gives it a savage soccer kick, flying out of the city, over the skyscrapers to land twenty five miles out in the ocean. Hulk turns away from the alley and finds himself staring at a tiny old lady with a shopping cart, the old lady quivering a bit in terror. Hulk sighs. Raises a hand and gives a gentle finger wave, hand opening and closing. And then leaps, up, up and away, getting some distance so he can have a little time to himself before Banner starts worming his way out again…


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