The Smooth: Rivalry

Summary:
August 08, 2014: The Brighton Beach Cartel is about to have a rude awakening. Two law enforcement officers just happen to be there to witness it. (language and violence)

Mutant Town - New York City

Mutant Town isn't so much a slum or ghetto as it an enclave. Sure, it started
out as something else, but it's big enough now to have its own personality
and, frankly, subcultures within the larger… uh… subculture.

Regardless, it's as eclectic and unpredictable as its inhabitants. Which
means: Very.


Characters

NPCs

  • Andy 'Dobbs' Finn
  • Frank 'Cracklin' Smith
  • Kicker (Derek Adams)
  • Porks (Yusef Ahmadi)
  • Blazer (Tyrone Jennings)
  • Swarm (Marcy Eddlestein)
  • Charlie Adams

Mood Music:
*"Take Out the Gunman" by Chevelle (spotify)


The Smooth: Rivalry

The needle tears a hole. That old familiar sting.

Charlie hasn't been on the up and up for a couple of weeks. Ever since her last job. We use the feminine identifier here, because for the moment, that is how Charlie has chosen to identify herself. It wasn't an effort to snub the boyhood she enjoyed until puberty, nor was it out of some kind of twisted fantasy or gender crisis. No… she was a mutant, and she could change. Thing is, her most lucrative (and typically frightening) jobs had come to her when she had chosen to be feminine.

She stared for a long moment at the array of paraphernalia. Spoon, cotton ball, bottle of water, gauze, belt, hypodermic needle. However, the powder Rex had given her two weeks ago wasn't like what she'd seen in the movies. Looking closely enough at it with the tiny, LED flashlight upon her keychain, she could see scaly flecks of luminescent blue peppered throughout the powder.

Ever since her first hit of the smooth, she'd been viciously addicted.

Add water. Flick bick. Burn with a festering sense of anticipation. She waited until the veins were plump and welcoming, before committing the dirty deed. Within moments, she felt the soothing release of what many might call normalcy. She felt her throat loosening, her muscles tightening, her body changing, until there sat Charlie, lingering in his self-medicated daze of relief.

- - - - -

Everyone knows the rules. Where the A-C-E line stops in Mutant Town, you take the south exit. It leads one right up to the avenue, where the north exit traverses an entire city block underground before leading one out of the subway and into one of the worst blocks in this already strange neighborhood. It's 11:23 on a Friday evening, and this part of the block is all but owned by the Brighton Beach Cartel. Word on the street has it that Scales, the elusive gang lord, is going to make a rare appearance in the neighborhood tonight. As such, a number of New York's most troubled youths are lingering about, smoking, drinking, cursing, and creating a general sense of unpleasantness. Easily half of them have been in prison before, some of them more than once or twice.

*

When he first joined the Marshal's Service, no one told him how much damn walking this job involved. Well that's wwhat Thomas is doing tonight. Walking, up the avenue twoard what looks like a problem ready to happen. Virgil is at his side, as usual. He looks serious and is not caging for belly rubs as often he does. Which is helpful.

Ordinarily this is an NYPD scene and Thomas is a big believer in not getting in their way. However, he's got hints that one of his fugitives, one Garret Reynolds, is somewhere about and possibly mixed up in this nonsense. So here he is. Investigating and casing as he has been most of the day. He'd really rather be home, but some things can only be done when the right people - or wrong people - are about.

*

The NYPD is all for cooperating with the Marshals, but they also don't care much for letting other agencies wander too deep into their territory. So when the Marshals contacted the department, Sara's supervisors tapped her to walk the beat with Thomas. That's what she gets for spending so much time playing nice with SHIELD. Despite her usual preferences, Sara's actually not bad at undercover work. Something about a willingness to commit. So she's wearing the sort of dress that suits clubs in these areas: dark, more revealing than it ought to be, and definitely not police issue. But then, neither is the strange webwork of what looks like metallic lace crawling up her right arm. Could be a mutation, right?

*

"Hey! Hey Blazer!" The call comes from a shady looking dude with long, unwashed hair and the look of a gutter punk. The man he's accosting, Blazer, is a young black fellow who can't be much older than twenty one. Blazer is perched up on an old, unused bus stop bench, arms curled around his legs, the left of which is bouncing rapidly. He doesn't appear to be breathing.

"Blazer!" The shady dude comes right up and smacks Blazer across the back of his head, eliciting jeering laughs from some of the lowlifes nearby. "C'mon Blazer, gimme a light!" He leans over the kid, a self rolled cigarette perched precariously between his teeth.

Blazer looks up, scowling, and separates his lips. A small cough comes out, and with it, luminescent tongues of red flame. The shady looking dude backs off swiftly, only losing one quarter of his smoke to the flame, then walks back toward his buddies with the hooting cry of a daredevil. Blazer, however, seems visibly disturbed by it all, until the girl sitting next to him puts a comforting hand on his left leg.

Blazer looks at her hand, and smirks ruefully at the tiny centipedes that crawl out from beneath the hem of her ragged hoodie. He looks up to her, momentarily captivated by her attractive face. "Thanks, Swarm," he whispers ever so quietly, keeping the flames that sneak out along the breathy words to a slow journey just beyond his lips.

There have been little incidents like this throughout the evening. Telltale signs that this group of ne'erdowells are but a single insult away from violence. Its only the whispers of Scales visit that keeps them in line. Every one of them wants to be on the gang lord's good side.

Time wears on, but soon enough, other figures begin filtering into the area. They all look human, which isn't entirely out of place for Mutant Town. Not all mutants have funny eyes or pointy teeth, after all. However, they aren't known around these parts, because they don't belong here. Beyond that, the way they are positioning themselves suggests trouble, for one by one they place themselves in alleys, crosswalks, building alcoves and other nooks, forming a circle around the collective troublemakers.

The sounds of music, talking, and debauchery begin to die off as the Cartel members start to sniff out trouble. The cops have been around this before. All it's gonna take is a needle to drop, and this place might just light on fire.

*

Thomas himself is dressed in clubwear which means really, that there's less of him covered than he'd like. The guy usually prefers the flannel shirt and jeans approach to dressing, so being out in a tee, vest and 'stylish' pants is a bit different for him. And the hat. The hat's ridiculous, he thinks. But it's the job.

"Doesn't look real good." He murmurs to Sara as he watches the newcomers filter in. Actually it looks like an ambush. Marshals do the same thing when they're preparing to make a bust or take down a fugitive.

Only he's guessing this won't end in an arrest.

Reaching in for that instinctive sense of how the criminal mind works, the connection to Justice, Thomas desperately tries to figure out what's going to happen next.

*

"Does the dog turn into a werewolf?" Sara murmurs, leaning against a wall and looking down as though she's flipping through her phone. Wishful thinking. Despite her joking words, she's keeping an eye on the movement of the crowds. Even someone who belonged here would be tense in this sort of situation. "Hellhound?" More wishful thinking. "I'd take the back up." She tilts her head, a fall of hair hiding the faint amber glow behind her eyes as more of that metal creeps across her temples.

*

Justice is certainly not blind, and it is not about to fail. The newcomers aren't moving. Like a game of chess, they are positioning themselves and waiting. Someone else is coming. Or, perhaps they are already here? Perhaps it's both? There may be momentary confusion, but Thomas' eyes are soon drawn toward two individuals who have been here for a while. They also don't belong amongst those of the Brighton Beach Cartel, but they've done an impeccable job of fitting in. Dobbs, white, and Cracklin', black. Hitmen, by the way they carry themselves. Hitmen who work for whomever else is coming.

That someone else arrives in style. The sound of motorcycles rev up from every direction, and the crotch rockets appear on every street and in every alley, their lights shining on the gathered Cartel members. The silhouetted riders are clearly packing heavy, with assault rifles lifted up in display. Oddly similar to the incident in Eastham Square.

The sudden entrapment is so intense that none of the Cartel members move a muscle. They know their surrounded, and even though the collective metahumans could probably kick some ass, they aren't so stupid as to risk losing so many of their members. Fortunately, Sara and Thomas continue to go unnoticed, thanks to this distraction.

Cracklin' clears his throat and speaks out with a loud voice. "Keep behavin' muties, keep behavin'. No one wants to get anyone killed tonight. Not you, not me, not your boss man either. You all hear me now?" He looks about with a vigilant eye. "Good."

"Who the fuck are you?"

Cracklin' turns to the voice, which came from a middle eastern kid with spikey hair. "Me? I'm Cracklin'. That's Dobbs." He points out his Hitman partner, who holds a pistol against his other arm, both of which are crossed over his chest in a cocky yet confident demeanor. "And you're done askin' questions, Porky."

The needle hovers.

*

"Hellhound is closer, but not quite it," Thomas murmurs. And then…

And then that happens. Okay. They haven't gone for the shootout. This isn't some simple gang war. This isn't waste a few muties and hightail it out of here. This is something more complex. More organized. More sinister.

"Crap. Well, now I wish I'd gone and asked for a bit more backup," Thomas is half joking. Sara has a well earned reputation for getting things done even if the Witchblade isn't exactly on her file. He on the other hand… well his stuff is on his file. Though you have to ask for it. And know to ask. It's not like they just hand it out at the Service.

"This is going to get ugly real fast. And I don't see my fugitive, so it's your call. Break it up? Or wait and see what they try?"

*

Sara glances up through her hair, watching the arrival of the motorcycles and the people who travel with them. "You're right," she murmurs to Thomas. "Whatever this is, it's big. And since the Fisk managed to destroy most of the evidence we could have gotten on him, if this is linked to that, I want to see where this rabbit hole goes."

*

"We are here for one reason," continues Cracklin'. "The smooth." He grins widely, shamelessly displaying his perfect teeth. His eyes pan to and fro, visibly humored by the nervous reactions brought about the those words. "Oooooh, don't be shy now. We know you pieces of shit have it. So here's what's gonna happen. You're gonna step forward, hands in the air like I'm the mother fucking NYPD, and you're gonna hand it over. I know that means some of you are gonna be in a world of hurt until your slippery boss man shows up with another shipment, but that's something Dobbs and I like to call, 'the ropes'."

Dobbs, midway through lighting a cigarette perched between two of his gun-wielding hands, smirks and offers a quiet little 'humph' that just might be the closest thing to laughter he can produce.

"Clock's ticking, muties." He wags a finger. "Don't make us do this the hard way." Another pause with no volunteers. "Which, to clarify, is the 'we fuck your freak asses up' way."

One of the crotch jockeys lowers his rifle in rookie anticipation, but before any shots ring out, a black dude in his in mid twenties steps forward. He's clearly a body builder, and the white muscle shirt he wears displays his cut physique. "I got it, holmes." He raises his hands into the air as instructed, and begins approaching Cracklin' with measured footsteps.

*

Thomas hand reaches back toward his service gun. Sara can probably practically taste the tension from him. "The Smooth? That a drug?" He knew his man was mixed up in some drug trade mess, but not the specifics. DEA hadn't been very helpful on that front, frankly.

"Easy Virgil. Easy…" The dog can sense Thomas' tension to. It really wants to stand but Thomas doesn't want to call attention to them just yet.

"Move in?"

*

"Who steals directly from users?" Sara murmurs to Thomas with a faint frown as the show-down begins. "You want a score, you take it from another dealer." She reaches up slowly to tuck her hair behind her ear, tendrils of Witchblade wrapping around it and the rest of her hair to pull it away from her face. "Junkies don't have enough self-preservation to give it up without a fight." When Thomas asks his question, she shakes her head. "Already too late. This is a fight."

*

"Easy, WWE." Cracklin' is all watchful, wary if the approaching man's every move. The closer he gets, the more confused Cracklin' appears. You see. for lack of a better word, the man who hired Cracklin' and Dobbs has had some inside men doing intel on the Cartel. And he can't quite piece this guy, though there is a familiarity about him. Who is he… couldn't be Gobber, and Porks, Blazer and Swarm were already pegged. That leaves…

Cracklin's eyes go wide. "Shit!" He reaches for his pistol.

At the same time, Kicker, the black bodybuilder in a muscle shirt, bends his back and throws his palms to the pavement.

Sara couldn't be more right.

When Kicker's palms hit asphalt, a percussive blast rocks the area. Moving at the speed of sound, a distortion of air spreads out. Cracklin' and Dobbs are knocked right off their feet, along with many of the lower ranking Cartel members and bystanders. It leaves only a fraction of time for a the undercover law enforcement to brace themselves before the shockwave strikes their legs with intense force.

There are a few moments of utter pandemonium. Bikers are thrown from their seats, parking meters are upended, a fire hydrant is bent and fires water high into the air. Then come the gunshots, ringing out from the bikers and guardsmen who'd encircle the mutant gang members.

*

"Crap!" Go time. Thomas takes a few steps away from Sara to give her room to work. Virgil follows. THere's a moment where Thomas is Thomas. Then he's… well, Thomas+. The face and body are the same. The clothes though… he's got a duster and a wide brimmed hat and a button down shirt and denim pants. His eyes are glowing and an aura of power radiates from him. A shining star-badge glows on the coat itself as his .45 sweeps out. "US MARSHALS PUT THE WEAPONS DOWN!"

Nearer to Sara, Virgil grows to nearly twice the size he was and his eyes glow bright, bright red.

*

When she sees the wave of force coming, Sara goes down into a crouch, and that lacework of metal flashes into a full suit of armor, fingertips sharp and clawed as she digs into the pavement to keep her feet. Thomas' transformation gives her a moment of pause, though it's Virgil who gets the longer look. "Hellhound it is," she mutters, getting a look at the layout of the fight as she straightens. "Party's over, kids!" she calls after Thomas' order.

*

Somewhere amongst the fray, one of the gang members heard Thomas+'s demand. "FUCK THA PO-LICE!" It's a sentiment that seems shared, for the warning is ignored. The mutants scramble, many of them pulling out small arms, mostly pistols, a few knives. It's a sad display against the circle of humans packing military-grade weaponry. Not hard to get, if one is in driving range of a Wal*Mart these days. However, a handful of the mutants are far better prepared for this.

Porks, the middle eastern, turns upon the closest biker. He flings forward both hands, and super-sharp spikes shoot out from his fingers. The spikes impale the biker in multiple places. He falls off the bike while screaming in agony. Kicker comes up and swings his arms at the closest thing he can find, which happens to be the smooth surface of an abandoned food cart. A deafening -crack- joins the gunshots, and the cart goes flying across the way, headed for two of the other faction's gunmen.

Blazer takes notice of Thomas. He hears the Marshal's call. "Cops!" he alerts Swarm, pointing at them.

Swarm dives for cover behind the bus stop. There, she closes her eyes and lifts her chin. From all over the place, the insects under her command emerge from their nooks and crannies. Within moments, a swarm of roaches, spiders, ants, moths, bees and the like are converging on Thomas, from the ground, the air, everywhere.

As for Blazer, he stares right at Sara as she armors up. He jumps off the bus stop and let's loose a vicious cry. From out of his mouth, flames of blue etched with red lance across the distance toward her.

*

Bugs. Bugs are bad. Okay. We've got a problem here. Thomas pistol is not going to handle that. There's a shimmering in his hands and suddenly, he's got a shotgun. With a 20 shell magazine and birdshot. Without any hesitation at all he opens fire on the bugs. Seriously. He hates bugs. "VIRGIL! GET HER!" The hellhound whirls, snarls and charges the girl. Hard.

*

Sara lifts her right arm as Blazer dives toward her, a shield spreading from the Witchblade there to deflect the worst of the flames. "Right, attack the people who didn't come here to jack you," she calls toward the mutant. "I'm not the enemy here, kid! Go home!" At least she's not trying to give him the anti-drug lecture.

*

Swarm, from where she is perched on the ground behind the bus stop, goes wide eyed when she spies Virgil charging her. Suddenly, the swarm of insects becomes focused on the hellhound, leaving Thomas to bat at those who remain. Justice is on his side, and he will recognize that Dobbs is getting to his feet.

Kicker and Porks are still going to town on the perimeter. Kicker is slapping and kicking every solid object he comes near, sending shockwave blasts toward the bikers and thugs guarding the streets. He's got one quarter of the perimeter on their haunches alone, and the bullets coming his way area thrown off course by the sonic blasts. Porks is slinging spike after spike at his adversaries, a maddened look in his eye, while bullets find purchase and numbers on both sides start going down.

Blazer heeds Sara's warning. To a point. He closes his mouth and draws in a deep breath, but turns away from her. He lets out another scream, this one headed for Dobbs, who is coming up behind Kicker. Before the flames can engulf him, however, a bullet is fired from Cracklin's pistol. He's still lying upon the cracked pavement, but his aim is perfection. It strikes Blazer in the shoulder, and he goes down.

This leaves Dobbs with a clear shot at Kicker, who is quite distracted…

*

A silvery glow lines Thomas' shotgun as he shakes himself free of the remaining bugs and moves toward Dobs, but aims the now silvery shotgun in the air over Kicker and Porks. "STAY DOWN!" He yells as he moves. Then the shotgun goes off. Rather than pellets, bolts of silvery energy, maybe fire, fly out into the air. If nothing else it's a hell of a light show.

"GET ON THE GROUND YOU TWO! NOW! YOU! YES YOU! I SAID STAY DOWN."

Virgil leaps at Swarm. The bugs impede him, bite him, but he's as magical right now as Thomas is. Which is to say, a lot. It'll be a minute before he really needs a vet.

*

Shooting has not been approved by the NYPD. With Cracklin' on the ground and Blazer taken down, she heads for the instigator first. "You got the ground part," she growls at Cracklin. "You forgot the part where you put down the gun." Armored, in the dark, she's got her own form of intimidation as she reaches for the gun.

*

Kicker and Porks, in turn, are suddenly laying plenty of attention to Thomas. They are momentarily distracted by the lightshow and offer no further attack for a moment.

Swarm cries out when Virgil comes upon her. She doesn't struggle, but the swarming of insects grows yet more ferocious, biting and swarming around the hellhound with buzzing fury.

Cracklin' is in a tough spot. From where he's at, he can see a lot of what's going on. He can also see Dobbs bolting away from Kicker, headed toward the perimeter with a baggie clutched in his a fist. He sneers ruefully and calls out, "SCRAM! MOVE OUT!" Then, he drops the gun, and puts his hands into the air, surrendering to Sara.

*

"I SAID GET ON THE GROUND!" Oy. Thomas is going to have so much paperwork to fill out. At least he hasn't had to actually shoot anyone yet. "Virgil! Heel!" The hellhound spins, shakes himself to try to get the bugs off and runs back to Thomas. He's whimpering a little, apparently not completely immune to hundreds of stings and bites. "Lady, stay down and call your swarm off or I'm sending him back!"

The Marshal is too busy trying to cover people, so he has to trust that the legendary Detective Pezini has things covered. He doesn't seem super worried about that.

*

Sara has things handled. Sort of. Blazer is presumably down, at least for a few minutes, with the gunshot, which means she can focus on Cracklin. Focus long enough to deal with the man by taking a swing right at his jaw. "Oops," she mutters. "Some people just always seem to resist arrest. We got a runner, Marshal!" she calls toward Thomas as she follows Cracklin's gaze toward where Dobbs is making his escape.

*

Surrender means arrest. Arrest means that she won't be getting her promised supply of the smooth. Swarm is already neck deep in withdrawal. Kicker was keeping it from her and Blazer on purpose, to keep them riled up and on edge. Fearing the onset of heavy withdrawal and seeing Blazer on the ground with a gunshot wound, she begins to cry. The insects gradually go away, scampering and flying back to the places they came from.

Kicker and Porks share a look. They could keep fighting. They should keep fighting! Before they can, however, Kicker realizes that his stash was lifted. His eyes go wide. "Mother FUCKER!!"

Kicker throws his arms to the pavement. A ring of sonic energy blasts out, ripping asphalt and cement up into the air in its wake. The force is too strong for even Sara and Thomas to sustain, and everyone left ends up toppled over in its wake.

Unfortunately, Dobbs has already leapt aboard one of the crotch rockets. Ignoring the rider who lies bleeding on the street nearby, he takes off, spared from the sonic blast by a conveniently positioned building. It's brickwork shudders, and the glass windows above shatter, but the building sustains the blast and provides Dobbs a clear getaway.

*

Thomas wants to take a shot. But even if he could, say, shoot out the tires - and that's an iffy shot - the rider would be in a bad way. And then he gets knocked over.

"He's gone!" Thomas calls out, as he picks himself up and looks around. "We'll ID him, your people can pick him up. Unless he pops hot on one of my lists. Then we can work together on it."

The Marshal's clothes return to normal and the shotgun fades away. His pistol comes back and he keeps it out. "Everyone stay on the ground and keep your hands where I can see them. You TWO!" Kicker and Porks he means. "I'm serious. Don't get up. I'll be upset if I have to flip out again on you."

Virgil returns to normal when Thomas does. He's limping a little… and he's probably gonna need a vet from the bug bites.

"Any chance of some backup, Sara?"

*

Sara pulls out a zip tie to secure Cracklin, glancing toward what's left of the crowd at Thomas' question. "I assume you mean calling NYPD," she drawls, dry, at his question. "I've got two," she nods toward the thug she's with and Blazer bleeding on the ground. "Looks like you've got two. You're looking at the wrong girl if you need someone in two places at once. Hit the speed dial," she adds, pulling out her phone and tossing it toward the Marshal. The armor, even as she speaks, is fading away, leaving her looking relatively normal again.

*

Musical interlude: "Winchesters" by Javelin ([http://open.spotify.com/track/5gGBhs49lMzgrUUy7x8NWh])

Kicker looks on as Dobbs makes his escape. With an exasperated sigh, he slumps onto the ground and surrenders. Porks, watching it all happen, scowls and does the same, shaking his head in failure. The sudden absence of gunfire, sonic blasts, and other sound leaves the place breathing with the dark undercurrents that follow violence and death. Threaded within it, however, is a sense of impending rivalry.

The Brighton Beach Cartel won't let this go unanswered. But for now, two lone law enforcement officers seem to have the situation under control. Backup will soon arrive, making the cleanup much easier.

- - - - -

In an apartment building ten blocks away, Charlie lingers in his smooth-induced stupor, but he's no longer alone. In the shadows, there are swirling black tendrils of smoke that silently form into the shape of a man clad in a gunmetal gray uniform. Shift walks over toward him silently, frowning as the scene is laid out before him. The spoon, the needle, the empty baggie. He's been a year sober, but the sight of it still brings back memories. He reaches for the baggie, studying it with a frown. He's not ignoring the sound of gunshots in the distance, they are certainly noted, but he's more interested in the remains of what was once inside of that baggie. The flecks of scaly blue.

Looking back to Charlie, he frowns deeper. "I'm sorry." Sorry, because he should have checked in on her… on him… sooner. But also, sorry that he's taking the remainder of Charlie's stash. "Gonna be a tough time. Try to stay strong." The shadows reclaim him, and Charlie shivers as he begins to change back into his feminine form.

*

Thomas finally relaxes as the boys in blue, and a few deputy marshals, show up. There's questions to be answered. Shots fired, but at least no one shot. Well, not by he or Sara anyway. After the half hour or so it takes to coordinate with the officers on scene, he finally manages to walk over to Sara with a bitten up Virgil in tow.

"I get the feeling this isn't the last we're hearing of this. Thanks for watchin' my back, again. You're something else. Definitely live up to the legend." Looking down at his dog, he sighs. "I gotta go get Virgil seen to. Do you need a lift anywhere? Precinct or just headed back home or something?" Cops are a brotherhood to Thomas. All cops. He doesn't mind the extra driving.

*

"Speaking of legends," Sara replies to Thomas with a faint arch of her brow. "Funny thing about legends. People like to talk, but they're not usually too keen on them being true." Once Cracklin is secured, she moves over to put some pressure on Blaze's shoulder, crouching down. "There is something big going on here, Marshal. Something a lot bigger than a couple of people wanting a fix. Going to be more."


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