The Smooth: Inferno

August 16, 2014: Richard Dackleman runs the majority of his trafficking operation out of the Bronx. Shift and Estacado intend to burn it to the ground, but some troublesome cops interject. (Vulgarity, gore)

Dackleman Complex — New York City

Dackleman Investments is a small investment firm located in the Bronx. The
storefront building sits on the first floor of a five story building, the
upper floors of which house a document retention company that is secretly a
front for Dackleman's drug-running operation.



  • Various Darklings
  • Various Dackleman thugs
  • Various cops and firefighters

Mood Music:
"Master of Puppets" by Metallica (spotify)

August 5th, 2014. A number of arrests are made in the shooting at Eastham Square in the Bronx. One of those arrests, a thug by the name of Rodney Filch, was almost immediately lawyered up by the infamous U. Samuel Kathman, esq. Kathman is your typical hood lawyer, taking child support and drug dealing cases, but he's got an incredible track record with getting criminals out of jail time, and he even handles a number of high profile clients. The man is a thorn in the DA's side, and to make matters worse, he's about as Jewish as they come.

Interestingly enough, in spite of the severe amount of arm wrestling Kathman has done with the police, his client, Rodney Filch, finally admitted to the police that he was involved with a trafficking operation run by Richard Dackleman. Dackleman, who has been an annoyance to the NYPD, the FBI, and the DEA alike. As hard as each organization has tried, no one has managed to nail Dackleman with anything more than one count of public intoxication, which he paid out for in 2009.

Still, there are those in the community who know the truth behind Richard Dackleman. These people, well connected to the criminal underworld, are aware that Dackleman's people were responsible for the shootout in Mutant Town on August 8th. They know that one of Dackleman's hitmen managed to steal a bag of the smooth, and they have been told that Dackleman has already packed his bags and headed south, skipping town for brighter pastures. And yet, Dackleman's dope boys continue working the streets, and his high end contacts continue pushing cocaine into the white collar, Wall Street sorts who survive on it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a side of adderol to keep their dicks up during sex. It's an ugly world, and whether he's in town or not, Dackleman's. empire continues to make it even uglier.

In an alleyway some few blocks from Dackleman's complex, there sits a motorcycle. Upon it is Kwabena Odame, his frame shrouded in a black leather riding jacket, black jeans, black boots, and a black helmet. Earbuds connected to his phone stream the NYPD police bands relevant to this part of town, courtesy of some phone-fu run by one of his underworld tech buddies. When the time is right, he dismounts from the bike, stows his helmet, and pulls a hood up to cover his face. Just your typical black guy, walking down the street with earbuds on at 1:45 in the morning.

Sample photo, thanks Jackie!


Sara Pezzini is a thorn in the side of her captain. There are rules in the department about what gets done when and how it gets done. They're there for a reason. And then there's Sara, who refuses to back off a case once she's started on it, and insists on doing things her way. She's gotten better at making sure the evidence can still stand up in court in the last few years, but that doesn't mean she won't plan her own pursuits. Like this. And she's even pulled her partner in on it this time.

"You know the nice thing about the drug busts?" she muses to Paul. "No one even blinks when they swear they got brought in with the help of some sort of armor, or a monster with glowing eyes. Everyone just assumes they were high as hell."


Not even a jaded cop, born and raised in Gotham, could process watching a couple kids get cut into pieces and not be affected. So even though they're not vice, when Sara suggests looking further into this Smooth shit? Paul's all for it. "And resisting arrest." he adds. "Which accounts for all their injuries." Kids. Cut into pieces.


1:42 AM. They say the city never sleeps, but in the depths of the night, large chunks of its reputable population slumber soundly. Similar majorities of its disreputable burn the proverbial midnight oil; cutting and bagging until the morning light, moving box and food trucks off into the city, laden to capacity with vice. Then there's the man eyeballing Dackleman's operation from across the alleyway, overlooking an interjecting pizza parlor, atop the roof of a much taller brick tenement adjacent to the drug den. He smokes the last few drags of a waning cigarette and casts the butt aside, the glimmering cherry tracing a path through the night as it twists end over end groundwards; meanwhile it's all too easy to miss the tendrils of shadow that twist and grow forth from the pits of shadow at Estacado's feet.

Those probes of phantom shadow are already poking through windows, coursing down ventilated pathways within the marked mobster's lair, darting along crevices in the long silhouettes cast by track lighting on the factory floor. Eventually, the Darkness finds its way to the well-protected rooms on the fourth floor that serve as storage for Dackleman's little drug factory: and then its Host is no longer on that adjacent rooftop, but spilling forth from the dark corners of the darkened storerooms, joined by a swiftly multiplying selection of stunted, aggressive little gremlins who seem inclined to alternately ingest and cart off the room's contents into the dark, as if disappearing with it to nowhere.

Regardless: they make a lot of racket— more, once the two men posted outside the door discharge their submachineguns a half-dozen times and get torn to shreds, screaming. 1:44 AM. And change. Jackie's early.


A glance to the shadowy places as Kwabena walks down the street with purpose, a man who just got off the bus from working second shift and is in a hurry to get home. That's who he is to everyone doesn't immediately point fingers. He's simply walking too fast to be a dealer. And yet, as he glances toward the shadowy places that line the streets, he's wondering if his would be partner is going to show up.

The sound of submachine gun fire from the building answers that question for him.

That son of a bitch. Stealing all the fun.

The building sits on a corner, and there is a loading dock perpendicular to the entrance to the small, investment firm. Standing to either side of the loading docks are two security guards, their badges reading "Allied-Barton". As soon as the gunfire is heard, they look startled. One of them grabs a cell phone, while the other turns for the access door next to the dock, keying in his code. "Damn!" he curses when he does it wrong, and begins keying his code in again.

Turning the corner, Kwabena sneers from beneath his hood. Suddenly he's running, and about halfway there, his clothing simply drops to the pavement, earbuds tangled up amongst the fabrics and leather. A cloud of black smoke takes his place, soaring down the alley. It bends through the air and claims both of the guards's faces, tightening upon each and steadily suffocating them until, one after the other, they drop to the pavement.


"Injuries? Me? I would nev-" Sara cuts herself off as the racket begins, slapping the back of her hand at Paul's shoulder. Normally, that wouldn't be much. Tonight, though, the Witchblade knows something Sara doesn't, and where she'd usually still be holding it back, it's already in gauntlet form around her hand, hungry. Sorry, Paul. "Better get moving before they destroy all the evidence," she snorts, taking off toward the sounds at a dead run. Moving fast, she only has a moment to wonder just what it is about what's going on in there that has the Witchblade so worked up.


Gunfire? Means no need for a warrant. The lap is barely noticed since Paul was smart enough to wear a vest. /Some people/ don't have instant suits of armor at their beck and call. As he follows Sara, he calls it in. Machine guns pretty much demand backup.


Those same small arms fire again, though this time it's Darklings dressed in gangland garb that mimics the outfit Shift wore when he met Jackie snatching them up and using them with alarming efficiency to pepper the enforcers that respond first; runty gremlins do tend to have the element of surprise that way. They shred the wall lamps with 9mm fire, and pour out of the storeroom in pairs, picking up the weaponry of fallen mobsters as they go— it's certainly going to paint an intriguing picture for forensics. The men this deep in the complex are mostly Dackleman muscle— soldiers on site to provide backup against just this kind of attack. Well, not -just- this kind of attack: typically, the assailants come through the doors properly.

To their credit, they realize they're inexplicably under attack from -within- swiftly, falling back around a swiftly abandoned cardgame and mowing down several Darklings, their screeching forms dissipating to smoke. They're legion, though— and they're pissed. They're also hopped up on cocaine. A feral little creature hawls an M249 it may or may not have picked up from a mobster around the corner in the wake of its dissipating brethren screaming "SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!!" as it unloads into and through the building's superstructure: and the gathered gunmen. A smaller, only slightly less drug-addled gremlin slides through low between the first's legs, bounding up the closest mobster's leg and chewing in through the ribs. Fastest way to a man's heart.

Word quickly spreads in panicked shouts through the building: they're under attack, and it's not fucking good. The bagging operation splits up swiftly as security diverts towards the obvious threat: little do they know they've got trouble coming in, too.


As soon as the guards go down, the cloud of smoke curls up by the door. It reforms into Shift, now dressed in his gunmetal gray uniform. He's quick to pull the hood up over his face, then jams his hand upon that keypad. A second or two passes, during which he closes his eyes and focuses on his mutant ability. His hand gradually melts, transforming into a dark liquid of sorts, seeping into the keypad where nook and crack gives passage to its electronic innards.

Shift winces as the keypad shorts out, but a little shock wasn't going to kill him. Soon as that's done, his liquid hand comes back out and snaps into human form, and he's through the door.

Inside, he finds himself in a room filled with boxes upon boxes of documents. Plastic boxes carrying any number of papers. And there, not far from him, is the warehouse office.

In he goes, rummaging about until he finds a pair of bottles. Whiskey and rum, each of them relatively full, and next to them, a pack of smokes and a lighter.

A cigarette goes into his mouth and is promptly lit. A few puffs later and he's going for the bottle of whiskey, because fuck rum. The cap comes off, and he takes a hearty swig or two, before setting the bottle down with a satisfied sound.

His eyes lift toward the ceiling. There's a lot of noise coming from up there.

Almost reluctantly, Shift begins stuffing each of the bottles with paper from the office desk. Then, he walks out of the office and into the warehouse proper, shaking those bottles as he goes.

"Smoke if you got 'em," he says to the empty warehouse floor, then lifts the bottles toward his face. He lights each of them with his cigarette, then goes striding down the middle of the room with purposeful steps. When the time is right, he throws each bottle to either side of him, his hands coming across each other artfully. The bottles soar, shatter, and ignite upon the racks and racks of stored documents, a flash fire that melts cheap plastic and sets fire to the documents inside.

As the blaze erupts behind him, Kwabena begins tearing boxes from their shelves, littering the floor behind him. More kindling for the fire.

"Hope you're having fun up dere, Estacado."


Something very strange is going on here. The Witchblade hasn't been this insistent since…Shit. "Eyes open, Paul, it's about to be ugly up there!" Sara calls back to her partner as she barrels past the downed guards and toward the stairs at full speed, completely armored. The blade can sense its ancient enemy, and it's hungry for a fight. A wickedly curved falcata forms in Sara's hand as she takes the stairs two at a time, gun still in the other.

She retains just enough sense for a pro forma shout of: "NYPD, guns on the ground!"


Paul pulls his gun as soon as he's done calling for backup. "I can hear." he tells Sara. More than that, he can feel it. "We have supernatural involvement too." Though not demonic. He's not sure what it is. Slow down, damn it. By the book!" Which means no running headlong into a firefight.


In the process of moving out the laborers, a few more opportunistic thugs take the screaming from upstairs as a good indication they should split, too, ducking out onto the fire escapes in an effort to drop down to the streets below and flee. On the first part of the plan, they succeed— but while the unarmed people find their terrified flight down the alley unhindered, those still clutching Dackleman arms close at hand are snapped, abruptly, into the shadows as they pass, plucked from their feet by the toothy maw of an inky black beast that seems to be made of tooth and scales, shimmering and black.

Ironically, the Witchblade's pursuit of Estacado is just enthusiastic enough to draw a smile from that essence of Darkness— sensing Sara and impossible to miss in return. Those hidden, shadowy connections stretching across the primal void: it's a pity she can't hear the cold, pitiless laughter like Jackie can. The cackle of a beast that hates the Witchblade's purported 'Balance' almost as much as the Angelus' purported 'Order'.

Estacado paces along the nearly vacated fourth floor stepping gingerly around a collection of enforcer bits, still all but unseen as his minions slide through the shadows from the floors above and the ceilings below him. They drop onto their prey with gnashing claws, bone-crushing teeth, and the mobsters' own fine firearms. The cacophany of dying men, madly discharged weapons, and the snarling and feasting gremlins makes for a chorus straight out of a horror movie.


By the time Shift is done with the first floor, the place is blazing along like a pile of Dackleman's finest crackrock. He's intent on burning the place to the ground, and there's one more thing that will make that possible.

Reaching the old elevator, he pries the door open with fingers that have grown supersolid. Then, he reaches inside, finding the counterbalance cable, and squeezes. It groans and whines in protest, but finally snaps, wildly snapping about when relieved of its tension. The elevator car comes crashing down, narrowly missing Shift as he ducks out if the shaft. Inside the car, a man is screaming, but that scream is silenced when the car crunches into the sub basement.

Shift hops into the shaft, crouches down upon the car's mangled roof, and leaps. A quick transformation to smoke sends him flying upward, his speed bolstered by the hot air blowing into the shaft from below.

Brick warehouse, no windows on the first floor. That fire only has one place to go. As the flames work their way up the shaft, they creep out about the second floor. Its only a matter of time before the stored documents on that level go up as well.

Black smoke comes streaking out of the cracks on the fourth floor, eventually reforming into Shift. He looks around at Jackie's handiwork with a rueful sneer on his face. "You wahrent joking. Its a bloodbath."


Going back down is clearly not an option. Up, though, is exactly where Sara - or the Witchblade - wants to go. "Darkness!" she calls back to her partner. "Keep out of the shadows!" As if reminded by that statement, Sara's eyes start to glow amber, a bright light building in her palm as she makes it up the last flight of stairs to the fourth floor. A stray darkling, too caught up in the fun of destruction as he tries on a hat made of a pile of guts, finds himself contributing to the gut pile with a sweep of Sara's blade in passing.


Wonderful, the Darkness. Sara's mentioned it and the Angelus in the past during their talks on What's Really Out There before he died. Fortunately for Paul, the Rapture doesn't really care one way or another. That he can tell, anyway. "Damn it, Sara! Slow down and start thinking instead of running!" Which is not to say her advice is unwise or goes unheeded since he does stay out of the shadows.


"I never joke." Jackie notes, in a tone that's too faux-dramatic and flippant to be anything -but- an abundantly sarcastic joke; right? With the building's crew largely distracted by the triple fronts offered by the fire, the darklings, and the arrival of the superpowered police, stragglers become all the easier to pick off, and large containers of the building's flammables are hauled to the sides on— if not down through— each floor by muscular, drugged up little imps. When the fire's heat spreads to the second story those chemicals go up first, dousing the floor in gathering fire as something particularly volatile goes up with a building-shaking blast. "But we've got other problems."

At this point Estacado's features are obfuscated by the Darkness that gathers around him in chitinous armor, eyes pinpricks of flaring yellow as he turns to regard the arrival of Sara and Paul, "Don't tell me you're on Dackleman's payroll." He doesn't really expect that to be the case, "Pretty much anythin' else you're doing here, we're on the same side." It's spoken with the sour resignation of someone who's not used to people listening when he says that. That, or his mood is spoiled by the grating voice in his head. ** JackIiiiIIEEeee we must DESTROY them; feed me their hearts or they willl take YoURs. **


Whatever Shift might think of those scurrying little imps, there's not much to tell. His face is mostly obscured by the mask, and his mouth is drawn into a thin frown. Other problems are not good, and whatever Jackie may have been referencing, Kwabena makes an assumption when Paul and Sara show up. He recognizes them easily. They were there after Kush, when he was in SHIELD custody, and he distinctly remembers them thinking unfavorably about his actions there.

In an effort to smooth over any unwanted tensions, he reaches up to demask himself. Silver eyes are a telltale sign, and he hasn't changed his appearance since that operation. "He's gone south," he explains, referencing Richard Dackleman, the alleged brains behind this whole operation. "Need to smoke his ass out if were gonna find him." There's a small tug at his lips, considering the pun he just made. It was pretty terrible, but he's still proud of himself for it, even in the shade of such destruction.

Truthfully, as much as Kwabena dislikes cops, he'd rather have these two on his side than not. His methods, not to mention Jackie's, may not fall into the realm of 'legally acceptable', but that's an avenue he and Jackie have that Sara and Paul do not. A partnership could be beneficial. Then again…

Sirens are closing in, echoing around that neighborhood as the backup Paul called for gets close. The fast sirens of police vehicles are joined by the longer drawl of fire trucks.

Turning to Jackie he asks, "Any sign of Meadows? Dobbs? Buzy Fingahs?" He begins walking while inquiring, looking about the room with a growing anxiety. "Bastahds might be downstairs, or dere not heah at all. Might've skipped town with Dackle."


"By what?!" Sara snaps at Jackie. "Torching all the evidence? For fuck's sake, you know well enough how to keep your ass out of the fire, you'd think you'd know what we'd need to put someone else's on it." Jackie isn't the only one with a voice in his head, whispering about how it would be better to fight, and what is she waiting for? Luckily, there are enough darklings to take the wrath, and another that gets too close gets dismissed with a flick of a barbed tendril of Witchblade that sends it flying. "I swear to God, Estacado, I find out you're in on this…"


While Sara is yelling at Jackie, Paul's looking at Shift. "You." Oh, he remembers the man quite well. "Smoke him out? Ha ha. By burning all the evidence we need to convict him and anyone else doing this? Or are you making sure there's nothing to connect /you/ to this? You can be damn sure if you are, we're going to find out about it now that we know you're involved."


"Even if the asshole -were- here to arrest— even if any of his lieutenants were here to ask, and they ain't…" Estacado seems relatively certain of this fact, numerous pairs of wary, glowing green eyes watching Sara and Paul from every shadow, "Some -other- asshole is anglin' to put him there. This guy has it coming." And if that doesn't make his deep offense at the insinuation clear, Jackie further clarifies for Ms. Pezzini, dropping his helm with a flutter of midnight hair, "Doping up metas in the ghetto isn't exactly my style baby. Why do I haveta keep sayin' it?" The toothy, arrogant smirk suggests that the Host is -entirely- clear on the why's. "Damn straight there's nothing connecting me to this." Paul's right. At least— nothing useful, especially once the fire's done; Jackie takes a measure of pride in it.

The smirk lingers as his attention returns from Paul to Sara, "But if you want whatever connections there are from this place to Dackie, we can work something out." Maybe he didn't notice the fire creeping up from below; maybe the 'assuming there are any' is just implicit. "He's just a baby step in gutting the whole Smooth shitpile, anyway." Jackie got what he wanted, here: whatever arms and drugs the Darklings didn't shove into one orifice or another, and a plain statement to not only the underworld parties tied to this.. but Kwabena Odame as well. It's why Estacado -still- looks way too smug for a guy in a burning building facing off against an ancient adversary amidst two deadly wildcards.


Back to Paul snap Shift's eyes. They wrinkle around the edges a bit before he answers. "Fake documents. Dackleman ain't new to dis game, he knows not to be so sloppy." The words come out with vitriol, perhaps a bit insulted that this cop might consider -him- to be sloppy. The next words that come from Paul, however, serve to change that sentiment. "I want dis 'smooth' shit off de streets. I'll go to whatevah lengths to do it, lengths your 'friends' in da DEA don't have de balls to reach fah. You don't like it, fine, but you can eidah help us or stay de -fuck- out if mah way."

As if to prove his point, the Ghanaian brings his arms together, fingers knitting as the upper half of his body solidifies into a solid, rock-like material. There's a quiet rage in his eyes when he does it, a suggestion that the changes in his molecular structure are somehow linked to his mood. He crouches by a hole in the floor, bringing his arms down to smash through it and make it larger. Then, after snapping a rueful look from Paul to Sara, he leaps through the hole and lands with a heavy -thud- on the floor below.

It's hot down there, flames licking at holes the Darklings have made down to the second floor. He looks about, but all he can see are corpses, entrails, and the Darklings that feed on them with drug-addled hunger. "Yah friends have a scorching case of de munchies," he remarks darkly, referring to the master of these creatures even though there's a chance Jackie won't hear his voice. Still, he trolls the area with heavy footfalls, disregarding the flames that lick against the floor and begin to devour the walls around him.


"You're not that good at being the hero, Estacado," Sara shakes her head, clenching her fist to draw back a few tendrils of the Witchblade that have tried to start their own fight. "Leave it to the professionals. You want this stuff off the street? Share information." She glances toward Shift as he jumps down, grimacing. "Careful how you pick your friends. That one shot a man's wife to keep him from holding the other hostage in a standoff." There's nothing to be gained from starting a fight here, or at least that's what Sara tells herself. "You've got my number. Call it before you go putting guts all over the place, would you?"


Paul watched Shift's little transformation act, it confirming what he remembers from that mission and why he didn't' bother covering him with his weapon. Once he's gone, he turns to study Estacado. So that's what a crime boss looks like. And a criminal artifact wielder. In this case, chocolate and peanut butter do not go well together.


"These guys went mad on their own tainted shit, shot the fuck out of each other, cookin' operation went up like a hundred proof." As if on cue, another of the jugs set by the Darklings accelerates the blaze, blowing out windows on the third floor in a plume of fire and glassy shrapnel as flames rush down two hallways on liquified currents. Hell, even ballistics supports his unapologetically smarmy story; gangland shootout, drug lab implosion, and an unaccounted for jungle cat or six. Something with big, nasty teeth.

"My boyz just can't resist a barbeque." There's a zealous chorus of agreement from the Darklings on hand, the cheering particularly unnerving from the ones below, disappearing or being swallowed up by the flames with nary a care in the world. Back into the Darkness; to the Wielder's grip, "I'll be in touch, Pezzini." There's no sign that he's shooting anything but straight, with the last— aside from the cheeky salute he tosses to Paul. The dark carapace reclaims Jackie's features as an outstretched hand launches a twisting lance of blackness which blasts through the end of the hallway out over the alleyway in an eruption of bricks— his exit. "This Smooth shit is bad news all around."


Shrapnel bounces off Shift, but he doesn't care. Soon enough, he makes his own exit, this one coming in the form of a body suddenly sublimated into black smoke. Barely distinguishable from the smoke and ash that begins filling the fourth floor, he appears again before Sara and Paul, black tendrils knotting together until flesh becomes a man. "Only way is up," he advises them, before his body again disappears into tendrils of smoke. They curl about each other restlessly, ready to track behind his counterpart.

Water begins to douse the building from the ladder trucks outside, while police spotlights illuminate the blaze and a helicopter comes in from the sky. The place is going down fast, it's structure bucking and creaking in complaint.


No more time for witty banter. The building rumbles, and Jackie makes his escape. Sara, meanwhile, looks to Paul. "So, you know how I told you I was going to take some flying lessons?"


Paul's silent as he watched Jackie and Shift disappear. "Did you get your license?" he asks, sounding resigned, as he puts his gun away and fastens the holster. He already knows where this is headed. "Go ahead and wrap those tentacles around me tight. If I fall, it better be both of us."


Black, draconic wings bear the Darkness-wielder skyward before those spotlights can spoil his swift ascent, vanishing into the night sky high over the growing inferno below, the focused and raging blaze all but gutting the once profitable drug den. The box truck being prepared for shipment tonight suddenly rumbles to life, a darkling with an adorable trucker's outfit that appears to work for a company called Mr. Smiley's flooring the accelerator and peeling out down the back roads. Escape or not on the merry chase that's bound to ensue, no one's night will be dull.

Settling in on a windswept peak high over the cityscape half a borough over, Estacado perches on the edge of that rooftop tower like a gargoyle, drawing forth the severed head of one of the lead gunmen from hell-knows-where and peering into the dead man's gaze. The dead man peers back with glowing, green eyes, and croaks out a word, "No." Corrects, softly, "We're gonna talk about where all your missin' bosses have gotten off ta."


Police and firefighters are covering the place now, more units converging still. The commanders always suspected this place, but they'd never had enough to get a warrant. Too late, now.

One officer happens to notice a pile of clothing on the ground. Black leather jacket, black pants, shirt, underwear, the whole nine. What catches his attention is the smartphone and earbuds that seem to have been discarded with them. Moments before he can reach for them, however, a cloud of black sweeps past.

"Gah!" emotes the officer, shielding his face.

Then, the cloud is gone, and with it, the smartphone and earbuds.

Meanwhile, the building buckles. Bricks start to fall, and the lower levels crumble. It sways and burns, while firefighters cry out in alarm. The ladder trucks start to back away; that building is coming down.


"I had a few lessons with practiced instructors. It'll be great," Sara assures Paul, moving to the edge of the building as a pair of wings unfurls from her back, sharp and draconic - it's all too clear which side of the family those come from, when seen at the same time as Jackie's. "Hang on, Princess," she smirks at Paul as she reaches out to pick her partner up before jumping off the ledge. Poor Paul.


"You are definitely NOT my Prince Charming." Paul points out. He can probably be forgiven for closing his eyes. It's the smoke. Really. He's planning on putting in his report that he thinks he saw Shift and Estacado in the building. There's might be no evidence but he wants their names linked to it and he'll let Sara know so they can keep their stories straight. But that's for later. Now, he just wants to land safely.


This is New York. Buildings are designed to be later demolished. Five floors of brick, steel, and mortar slouch. There is a pregnant pause in it all, before the building topples to the ground, leaving behind a blaze of flame and smoke. It's a beautiful backdrop for Sara and Paul as they escape with the help of Witchblade.

Elsewhere, in an alley some few blocks away, a motorcycle quietly emerges onto the street. Its rider, covered in gunmetal gray and wearing a black helmet, rolls quietly down the road a distance, before firing the headlight and gunning the engine.

Shift can see the blaze in his rear view mirrors, peppered by the blue and red backsplash of swirling lights. Beneath the helmet he grins, then reaches into his jacket and taps the phone, dialing Jackie's number. Specifically, the one labeled TALK.

Time to find out just how profitable this adventure will be.

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