The Smooth: Concoction

Summary:
August 19, 2014: Bruce Banner delivers some findings based on his analysis of a 'smooth' sample. They also encounter Corvinus, who offers to join Kwabena's mission.

Abandoned Office Space

An abandoned office building in midtown. The scene also sees a change of location to rural New Jersey, off I-95.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


The moment Bruce Banner had contacted Kwabena, he was on the move. They decided to meet once again, choosing the same abandoned office building on the upper east side as a rendezvous spot. Kwabena was swift to make the trip there, but he wasn't sure exactly what to expect. He was, understandably, hoping for the best.

Walking toward Banner, there's an unspoken expression of gratitude thwt he doesn't acknowledge with words. "What have you found?" he asks, unable to conceal anticipation from his tone.

*

Bruce Banner turns at looks over his shoulder, opening his laptop and beginning to start up a graphics program, "You're lucky I anticipated your arrival. I don't react well to being startled," he says, although not with any real rancor. If he can find even a little humor in his own situation, he's doing decently at the moment.

"What I found suggests that you have someone, probably a single individual, at the top of the food chain here. A biological agent of some sort has been introduced to high-grade heroin to create the drug. That agent is what's suppressing the X-gene in users. Whether that biological agent is something that was developed in a lab or through some sort of power…I'd lean towards the latter, but I'm a little out of my full area of expertise, not enough to make any promises. The agent may be introduced willingly or it could be harvested. It wouldn't be the first time a metahuman has been used as a guinea pig," he says.

*

"Would it help if I told you I brought some cannabis?" Kwabena's response is dry, not entirely truthful, but there is some humor in it as well. He steps lightly over toward the laptop, mindful of his movements. He knows exactly what happens if Bruce gets set off in the wrong way.

The findings are Greek to the Ghanaian, but he nods his head in understanding. "Makes sense. I would think, if it were scientifically possahble, we'd have probably seen something like dis already." He reaches up to rub his chin in a thoughtful manner. "I may be close to finding out how it's coming in," he remarks, but that's… not exactly useful in this dialogue.

Looking back to Bruce, he nods his head. "It's something. It gives me something to look for. Thank you."

He steps away, giving Banner some room, but there's clearly something on his mind. Something that has him not wanting to leave quite yet.

*

Bruce Banner isn't particularly good at reading human beings. If he was, he'd have seen through the lies and the manipulations of the government and generals for whom he'd once worked much earlier. He's become craftier since then, no doubt, but his social skills are probalby still a bit comparatively stunted.

*

When Shift doesn't immediately leave, however, he pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights one, inhaling for a moment before leaning back against the desk, "Feel free to leave the cannabis. Is there something else on your mind, Mr. Kwabena?"

*

The sound of a cigarette lighting has him smiling. They do have free reign of this place, don't they? He turns around, reaching into his pocket for a pack of smokes himself. "Actually," Kwabena admits, "I left it at home." He clicks a zippo, lights his square, then replaces the zippo with a smartphone. A few taps bring up a very specific email, which he shows to the good Doctor.

The email reads:

Greetings. Ornithology is a troubling science, when there are strange birds around. Stomping on folks and their ability to make their own choices really ain't cool. Most folks should stay in school, but not the point. Everyone should be required to wear helmets at skating rinks by law. Laws are meant to ruin people and prevent them from learning. This should be as clear as mud and dark as night. Talk me back. Word.

It is addressed to 'The one 'burning' #Smooth'

"I don't know who it is," murmurs Kwabena, "but I think I'd like to find out."

*

Bruce Banner narrows his eyes, "Whoever the writer is, their writing style leaves much to be desired," he mutters, "Almost simple word-association, a straightforward attempt to seem mysterious and say nothing, but imply wisdom. Without the 'hashtag'," he says, actually doing air quotes around the word - he finds social media insufferable, "There's be no real content here at all. It's…word soup."

"But you're right. This person definitely wants attention, yours specifically. Whether it's a trap or just a stool pigeon," he says, giving a slight chuckle at his own bird pun - you've still got it, Banner - "Did they want to meet or do you need a digital trace on this?"

*

"I think it was intentional," notes Kwabena. "Something to get my attention. What I don't get is… how de fuck— " He suddenly stops, eyeing Bruce warily, and smoothes out his tone of voice. " — he or she got mah email address."

"How does it work?" he asks, briefly changing the subject. "My… 'abilities' ah directly related to my emotional state. Is dere a way to 'switch' you off?"

Its a sidebar, but it was for a very good reason. Back to the matter at hand, he nods to the phone. "It's something. I have a feeling dat, if I do send a response, dis pahson is gonna track me down. Look at de trace."

Indeed, a simple examination will reveal that the e-mail came from a multi-bounce method through several servers including a couple of international hubs.

*

Bruce Banner considers for a moment, "If I could turn…him off, believe me, I would. It's not as simple as that, unfortunately. I try to manage my adrenaline and heartrate as best I can, but circumstances don't always allow for that. It does give me a certain amount of carte blanche, but…I can't trust him to do anything but be the beast he is. Right or wrong don't mean anything to the Hulk. They're just…words," he says.

"That's a decent encryption sequence to keep the trace off, although I could probably still maneuver it. As you said, though, probably simpler to just reply and see what you get," he says, handing the phone back.

*

"Yes, but you do eventually 'come down'." It's a crude way to describe it, but Kwabena's no scientist. He stifles a grin at mention of 'the Hulk'. It was a good way to describe the monstrosity, he had to admit. He doesn't pry… he doesn't ask how long it takes, or what the Hulk's effective range is.

"I'm going to reply," he decidedly says. "See what happens. But I could use some backup." He slips some GPS coordinates, hand written on the back of a liquor store receipt, to Bruce. Those coordinates just happen to be approximately 45 miles inland off I-95, surrounded by… well… farmland and wilderness.

"In case you want to back a bruddah up."

Kwabena offers Bruce a slow and thankful nod, before turning and walking toward the elevator.

*

Bruce Banner considers. Normally, he keeps any chance of the Hulk coming out to minimum. As he said, the beast is uncontrollable and he can't guarantee what, if any, restraint it will show. On the other hand, his scientist's curiosity has been stirred by this mystery, and he soon finds himself tagging along, grabbing his cellphone and popping into the elevator as well. He slides on a pair of sunglasses, "Just remember, if things start getting too…green…there's no shame in running. Running is the smart thing to do."

*

"Yeah." Kwabena learned that lesson sure enough. The elevator dings.

Approximately two hours later, Kwabena pulls his motorcycle down a long, dirt road. This is, quite literally, the middle of nowhere. The nearest farm house is a good three quarters of a mile away. It's there, once the motorcycle has parked, that Kwabena withdraws his smartphone. Two bars… good enough.

He retrieves the email and sends a response. GPS coordinates. Nothing more.

*

Within five minutes there is a response to Shift's message.

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as Nevermore.

Underneath the last line there is an embedded timer counting down at a casual pace.

Whatever event it is counting towards seems to be about an hour out.

*

Bruce Banner takes a glance at the e-mail and just shakes his head, "English majors," he mutters, blowing smoke as he has another cigarette, then lets Shift resume their journeying to wherever the coordinates lead.

*

Shift reads the email, frowning. "Christ," he murmurs. "I hate riddles. It's like…" He gestures about with the cell phone, keeping his animated annoyance to lower levels, considering his company. "Guy walks into a bar, spends four hours bullshitting when really, all he wants to say is, 'nice legs, short skirt, let's shag'." The Ghanaian looks back at the timer on the e-mail, frowning. "What do you think it means? I say… he or she is on dere way, and it's gonna take an hour."

*

At the seven minute point of the countdown the countdown stops and vanishes, and a Youtube link pops up to 'Burn' by The Cure.

The other party is trying to at least be courteous enough to let the other sentients it is meeting have time to deal with any biological needs or the like.

Just as the song is wrapping up there is the sound of something large and feathered approaching, circling, and landing a good forty yards away in the darkness, keeping to the shadows.

"This one was hoping one would respond sooner rather than later. How might this one aid one in one's quest for Enlightenment?"

*

Bruce Banner just gestures to Shift. He had even less patience for riddles than the investigator did, and he was really only hear as physical backup and to provide any scientific expertise. Talking to giant bird-things discussing Enlightenment was definitely not in his job description, "There he is, the amazing typing corvid. Go forth and get your answers, big guy."

*

For a few moments, Kwabena is seriously questioning his decision not to stop by home and pick up a joint or two. He simply can't help but roll his eyes at the way this creature introduces itself, and shoots a wry smirk Banner's way before walking out and toward the flying… thing.

"I try not to be hasty," he answers, before looking Corvinus up and down. He squints his eyes, considering the question, and when he finally comes to some sort of presumed understanding, his brow droops. Crestfallen, as if he and Bruce just waited a hell of a long time taking so many precautions, simply to answer an offer of assistance.

"Well, you could help by enlightening me as to how de hell you knew how to contact me." Shift takes a lot of precautions, protecting his internet and cellular identity. Perhaps he needs to take more.

*

The bird-thing blinks a few times as it listens to Bruce talk, then bounces a bit nervously. It definitely does not want to make the flip-side of a godslayer angry.

"One may rest assured, doctor, that we are allies not foes on this issue. One cannot become a truly spiritual being if one is hampered by chemicals that prevent one's true potential from being known. All lives are important with the coming storm. This one would prefer to lend assistance much as can be provided, if such would be acceptable?"

The avianoid bobs its head up and down.

"Without going into the deep mathematical permutations of probability and possibility, a careful assessment of posters on local forums regarding certain health issues indicated that a good twenty-five percent were using masked addresses. Further perusal and elimination of those linked to government agencies reduced that to five percent. This one then sent a carefully worded message to that five percent and set in motion a waiting protocol for future contact. This one does respect one's confidentiality and does not seek to disclose identities save for when absolutely necessary."

*

Bruce Banner blinks for a moment and takes a long drag on his cigarette. He does have a sense of familiarity in regard to Corvinus, but the incident in Constantine's company, the trip the Egypt…all of that has stayed fuzzy, dreamlike in his mind, not least because half the time there was spent as the Hulk. And the surreal nature of the trip itself. Seriously, why would Tony's secretary be pulled along on a trip to Ancient Egypt? Trippy.

He works hard to parse the words of the creature, lacking not the intelligence, but the poetic nature of the being's speech is at odds with the straightforward logic and cold reason that makes up most of Bruce's self-identity. So, he doesn't even try, again leaving it to Shift to do the answering.

*

It would seem that Shift, on the other hand, is beginning to understand. Either his mind is growing accustomed to the bird creature's speech, Corvinus himself is using fewer riddles, or… well, perhaps Shift is just blacker than Bruce.

"Clevah," answers the Ghanain. The sarcasm, formerly bordering on hostility, is now tempered into a softer tone, one grateful for the respect Corvinus has shown, though still dry enough to suggest some annoyance at having been played regardless. "Well, neidah of us ah big fans of dis 'smooth' shit, eidah. I hope you undahstand what I mean. But, if you want to help… well, I can tell you what I know, and what I think needs to be done."

*

So far, so good. No 'Hulk, Smash' is *good* 'Hulk, Smash'. The Corvinus has no doubt in its mind what its probably existence expectancy would be if that particular nuke were set off. It may be a durable ancient AI clad in protective material, but it is nowhere near capable of handling that situation. And if it tried to fly away, the doctor's alter-ego would probably catch it in a jump and piledrive it. No. Combat is a very bad idea.

The bird-thing bows slightly at the 'Clevah' comment.

"This one understands the frustration of being far afield, and this one apologizes for the subterfuge. Given recent events and situations within the metroplex of the Big Apple, this one may or may not be on the radar of a protective device agency, as well as potentially being tracked within said metroplex by a spirit of mischief. This one completely understands and is willing to offer one insight, guidance, ideas, and if necessary within reasonable bounds, physical support to resolve the situation."

*

Bruce Banner tries not to think about what the Hulk would do in a given situation. He knows it would be bad, destructive and potentially deadly for anyone near him or in the beast's path. He has only willingly released the creature a time or two, and the rest of the time…he's been given no choice. On thing's for certain: this is another motley crew being put together. Perhaps they should call and see if Tony's secretary is available.

"Is there a particular reason you're averse to the use of personal pronouns? A philosophical basis, perhaps, or some kind of curse, like you can't hear your name said backwards or if you refer to yourself in the first person you turn into some sort of corn plant?" he says. His limited exposure to magic has lead him to regard it largely as a power, but nonetheless very silly, discipline.

*

Thank you, Bruce, for asking the question everyone wants to see answered. Shift smirks ruefully, but the creature's offer is understood. "Yeah, I know what you mean." Shift is, after all, on SHIELD's radar, too. He pauses long enough to hear Corvinus's response, before asking some questions of his own. "What do you know about de criminah undahworld? Maybe, more ah, specifically, what else can you do? Aside from sending clevah emails, flying, and speaking like some kind of reformed Arkham patient?"

*

If it were possible for an obsidian hued entity to brighten a bit, Bruce's commentary would have made it happen. "Well said, sir. Well said, indeed. This one is not afflicted with the unpredictable nature of many things from Mister Coat Steam's residence. No. This one has no self-referential pronoun in one's language that would not come off as either insulting or deprecating… and most assuredly distracting from this one's quest to provide Enlightenment. So this one would imagine that yes, it would be more of a philosophical nature. Let not this one step into the way of one's journey into discovery!"

The tone is pleased and encouraging from the bird-thing? No one ever really asks it why it talks like that. They just assume it's a thing and move along.

"This one would know that there are some foul things afoot, mostly in Gotham, some in the less reputable parts of New York City. This one also knows that a certain spirit of mischief is seeking individuals of strength to pad his ranks."

The avianoid pauses for a moment as if buffering or parsing the last bit of Shift's comment.

"This one is capable of withstanding most small-arms fire, putting forth minor feats of strength, recovering from damage in a timely fashion, and, sadly, if needed, rending one's opponents. In addition to the flying and sending emails and speaking like a reformed Arkham patient."

*

Bruce Banner chuckles a bit. Seems like the bird has a sense of humor. Even Bruce doesn't always have a sense of humor, although he's working on it. Humor's supposed to relieve stress, after all. Laughter's the best medicine. Most of Bruce's experience with laughter has been at hisexpense.

That doesn't happen as much anymore.

"Are you an alien species, then? Or some sort of hidden race, a cryptid like Sasquatch or El Chupacabra? Or perhaps even a conceptual creature, something born of mass consciousness, like this Slender Man I keep hearing bandied about?" he asks. So long as he isn't an immortal werewolf bitch with a gun fetish. He's learned to avoid those.

*

"Unfortunately," says Shift, "you'll find dat if you mess around too much in de crime world, 'rending one's opponents' often becomes neccahsahry." The first few talents he understood quite well. Small-arms fire meat shield, teammate with which to bust down walls or hold up collapsing bridges. Check. He also, contrary to what many might believe, possesses a visceral understanding of one's desire not to rend one's opponents. He may not seem to mind doing it, but it's what keeps him up at night.

Besides, between Shift, Bruce, and some of Kwabena's other counterparts, the rending of opponents is quite well covered.

"If my investigations go well, I can guarantee you dis, I will need de help and I will call fah you." Oh, he tries very hard to ignore the voice in the back of his head that is trying to tell him how ridiculous this whole situation is becoming. Bruce's questions are important; Kwabena wouldn't have thought to ask them.

"And how do we keep in contact with one anodah?" he asks, and stifles a wince. "E-mail?"

Tactfully, he prevents himself from letting the words 'carrier' and 'pigeon' slip.

*

"This one is The Corvinus, requested by the Creator Race to perform the task of bringing Enlightenment to the client-people to the people of Thanagar. Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation of intent and development, this one is currently not performing that task but instead, how does one say it… 'playing the long game' to attempt to prepare a defense to hopefully bring them to Wisdom in the next two millennia. This one is a fully autonomous and self-sufficient sentience with a local sentient interface. Good questions, Doctor. This one wishes sometimes that others would ask such deeply thoughtful ponderings."

It pauses as Shift speaks up. "This one will look forward to hearing the response and in the interim will continue to monitor the electrons of the communications networks for any sort of indication of counter-force mobilization, as well as any other parties that may be also taking an interest either in ending or extending the 'shelf life' of the chemicals in question. We have already exchanged messages, so that is the best method to utilize in contact, but if one wishes to switch to a more secure avenue of communication this one would not be adverse to it. Semaphore is probably not an efficient method, however, and cannot be recommended in good conscience." Mirthful tone after that last one.

"Does one need anything at this time?"

*

Bruce Banner considers for a moment, 'I could use a shot of whiskey," he considers, taking another drag from his smoke, "So, a mutant, a monster and an alien bird walk into a bar…anyone wanna find out how that joke ends?"

*

"With a shot of whiskey." Kwabena fires off that response without missing a beat.

As far as Kwabena is concerned, the Corvinus is nuts. He comes from a world of assassins, drug deals, and mercenary work, capped off with hookers and blow as they cherry on top. Any thought of gods, goddesses, and supreme beings is bullshit that belongs in a mosque or Sunday morning pew.

Doesn't mean he won't take a helping hand.

"You see anything about this countah-force motahvation, tell me. Right away." He peers up a the Corvinus, bearing a mixture of concern with hesitant approval, before casting a look Bruce's way. "We get back to de city, I will go get dose doobs." Then, he climbs on his bike and fires the engine.

*

"Unfortunately, this one does not have alcohol available. If one does require it, however, this one may be able to request the other to acquire it for one? And this one does not go into bars. There is too much of a chance of someone becoming injured or crippled if this one engages, and this one does not want to have to answer questions from the local law units such that the answers would impair its mission."

"Absolutely. Just be careful, all of you. This is going to become a bigger storm before it blows through."

And with that, it lifts off and into the night sky. It has to get back so its partner can get better rest and get up for a well-rested day at work.


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