Smoothing Things Over

Summary:
September 2 2014: Kwabena returns to M-Town, determined to do something about the Smooth.

M-Town Park

A bit worse for wear after the Hulk/Loki Fight at the end of Burning Human, now mutants and work crews are picking up the pieces


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
"In Motion" by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross


The final pieces of Burning Human are coming down, slowly but surely. All that's left by now are the tattered event posters hanging from electric poles and buildings, and the shell of the stage front and center of the small park where one Incredible Hulk faced down one Asgardian named Loki. The park itself is in need of resurfacing, to say the least. However, much has gone back to the way it was before the festival, save the chill that seems to linger upon the darker places in M-Town. Many people here know at least someone who was taken first by the Smooth, and later by the mysterious creatures headlining the festival.

Still, there are homeless back in the park, and the errant junkie, drunk, or ne'er-do-well are hanging around again. Such is life in the darker recesses of the Big Apple.

Roaming the streets, Kwabena sticks near the shadows. In the shadows, he's never alone. It's not only the pack of cigarettes keeping him company, nor the styrofoam mug of 'coffee' that's been spiked by a bit of expensive swill from his flask, nor is it the trailing edge of the gyro he's finishing up. He knows he's never alone in the shadows, because of the affiliations he's made with them.

A plume of smoke follows him with every puff of a cigarette. The gyro is balled up and tossed into a waste bin, but beneath the ball cap upon his head, his silver eyes are ever watchful. He's not wearing his uniform, at least not openly; those who only know him as 'Shift' may not recognize him in jeans and a black, leather jacket. He came here for a reason, and he's bound to stay as long as if takes before he finds who, or what, he's looking for.

*

Bobby is not in the habit of 'patrolling'. He's not a cop, nor, really a vigilante. He is, however, in the habit of making sure the streets literally stay clean in the aftermath of Burning Human. At the moment he's near the park icing off another dangerous hole. The place got torn up pretty bad and the least he can do for now is make sure no one breaks an ankle stepping into one of these damn mini craters. It's tedious work, but worth it.

*

Resurfacing. Mike's already cleared out all the dead scanners that were killed during the affray, and he's mostly recovered from the shock of having two-fifths of himself effectively destroyed, which led to a two-day period of headaches whenever he tried to use his power remotely from his body. Being back to touch-range was painful and frustrating.

He walks down the middle of the street, on the outskirts, and near him, all the damaged wires and pipes are slowly healing themselves. He sees Bobby and yells over, "HEY! That works better if you use asphalt!"

*

The familiar voice. Kwabena knew he would find something if he were patient enough, and Mike's voice is the trigger. Good thing, too… he's far more comfortable here than in Hell's Kitchen. Two cell phones were taken; one from a user, one from a dealer, and thanks to a little flick of the Hulk's finger, Shift was unable to retrieve them. But then… there was the voice from those phones. From the one calling himself, 'Metal'.

Mike's voice draws Kwabena from the shadow. Crossing the street behind the passing of an MTA bus, he pulls the bill of his cap down a touch. All black, with the embossed, stylized 'C' of the Cincinnati Reds.

As the park comes into view, so do the feats that seem to follow Mike. Bobby he recognizes; from both of his worlds, so to speak; and it's with a dour smirk that he realizes that, as far as Bobby goes, odds are his secret's out.

Really ought to curb that drinking a little.

After crossing into the park, he lifts his head and calls out with a quieter voice, meant only to be heard by the two working in the park. "You de one dey call, 'Metal'?"

*

"Do you see an asphaltomancer here?" Bobby calls back. "No, you do not. This is what I've got, Mike." Bobby ices another pothole full and then another gopher burrow before he turns to see Mike being accosted by a stranger ho looks… oh, that's Kwabena. Darcy's friend. AKA Shift, the guy who can do a trick that would make Bill Nye green with envy. He starts to walk over from where he is, sealing other holes shut as he goes.

*

"Yeah. You're the guy who was on the phone trying to find that ratbag dealer."

He winces as he sees the asphalt doing strange things with the thermal expansion of the ice. Well. Think of it as science class, Mikey, let's see if the potholes grow as the ice melts. After all, it's not normal ice, is it?

"I take it you ran into a dead-end with the phones?"

*

The shadow that Shift casts behind him as he joins those on the street is perhaps too long for the diffuse lighting of this part of town, its form subtlety ungainly and shifting. An easy thing to dismiss as a trick of the eye, an abnormality of this or that streetlamp or building facade— the kind of thing that an arrogant expert on the internet might circle in red as proof of photoshopping. The softest green glimmer sparkles within the darkness overhead, an inaudible whisper passed from building to building, eave to eave, adding to the neighborhood's less than uplifting aesthetic— even if it would be hard for most to say precisely -why-.

*

Kwabena takes a big step over a fallen gyro stand. He glances back at it with a sense of irony in his motions, before the smirk gets wiped from his face. "Sort of." His voice drops to a conversational tone, a touch quieter than that in fact. This conversation is for Mike, Bobby… and the shadows. "Had to ditch it," he explains. "Good thing, too. When Hulk hit me…" He winces at the memory, taking a moment to stretch out the receiving end of his torso. Cracked ribs. Still need to deal with them. "Dat hurt. Would have killed de phones, dough."

Kwabena reaches up, hand partially covered in black, fingerless gloves. Close up. the vintage Led Zeppelin shirt is visible beneath his jacket. He tilts the cap back more so that the duo can see his face, before offering the hand in greeting to Mike. "Name's Shift." Shift, because it's a name Mike will remember.

He seems unbothered by the unease in the air. Probably used to the shadows.

*

Bobby comes up and nods to both Shift and Mike, hands in his pockets now. "Glad to see you in one piece. Not many people can survive getting Hulk-Punched. What brings you back though?" The unease in the air has not gone unnoticed by Bobby as unusual because he lives here. Yes, he notices these things.

*

"Ditched 'em? Huh. I've probably recycled the parts then, if they fell in the neighborhood. Well. No big. I backed up the phones completely, so anything they had, I can give you. What do you need?"

He looks over at Bobby, and a few small bugs - smaller than his more usual ones - lift off his arms to swirl around the eaves and peek into shadows, because something is making noises. Probably better to say someONE or someTHINGS, but Mike will check it for immediate danger.

*

The voice that the Darkness uses to speak among its own makes no sound, it's a sensation. There is little to be seen even with the sudden focus on the shadows under the building eaves— that glimmer of green, here and then gone like a trick of the light. Whatever is watching, it's cagey, all but invisible; even actively avoiding the locations that are actively swept, watching from numerous other overhangs and alleyways, the crevices behind poorly tended dumpsters, perhaps even amidst the cracks in the dilapidated streets themselves.

*

"I could have gone smoke," Kwabena offers for Bobby's benefit. "But… Bruce is a friend. Guess dere wasn't much of him in dere." He pauses, looking Bobby right in the eye. There's no dishonesty when he says it. "Don't… evah get hit by him."

Mike draws the Ghanain's attention. "Every—" The bugs catch his eye, and he looks from the arm back to Mike's face, as if to say 'nice trick'. "Everything," he finishes. "Dese bastahds have apparently gone regional. Gotham, New York, beyond. Depending on how well connected he is, it's got de potential to go global." Now, Kwabena isn't sure just how well attuned either Bobby or Mike are to the underworld. Stuffing his hands into his jean pockets, he asks, "Eidah of you evah see Breaking Bad? Scahface?"

*

"Not really my scene." Bobby admits. "But I know more than I want to about smooth. I live here and the stuff's been all over. It was bad enough when it was just heroin, but now this?" The ice nerd shakes his head. "You sound like someone who wants to do something about it."

*

"I've been running junkyards across the country for a few years," Mike answers. "I've seen criminals, idiots, and so on. But I also saw one kid sliced in half and another kid crushed to death because someone who was messed up by that Smooth garbage was so far in withdrawal that he couldn't control his powers, and I've seen a LOT of people being messed up by it when it wore off. It's a lie. That one doctor at the Avenue C Clinic said the stuff is worse than heroin, but he can clean it up. But then when they go out and take it again? It sucks."

He recalls the bugs. Whatever is in those shadows, he can't scan it. That probably means magic. He has the materials for his anti-demon sword - a quarter-pound of rock-salt in his internal stores - and he can pull it together fast if he needs it. Otherwise, not much he can do about the stuff. Not a magician, no matter what people say about his tech props.

"I'm sending for a spare phone, it'll be here shortly," Mike says. "I'll clone the contacts from both phones onto it."

*

"Been clean a year," admits Shift, looking back to Bobby. "Shit's a goddamn epahdemic, and I'm only talking about heroin. Dis stuff? Tahgetting mutants?" He shakes his head bitterly. "You want to find a way to remove it, fine, but you don't piggy back on a highly addictive street drug and tahget de mahginalized. Not our peopah." Mike's story earns a grimace. "I… heard about dat." It's hard to tell whether Kwabena is grieving for the loss of those children, or quietly fighting off anger directed at the ones ultimately responsible.

The African nods his head in gratitude for Mike's offer. "I been around dis world for a while," he admits. "Longah dan I'd like. All dese dealah's, dey get dere supply from de traffickahs. It'll be a complex network dat all leads back to one place. One boss who runs de whole thing! probably someone you won't expect. A lawyah, a liquor store ownah, stock tradah. Someone with complicated books, pahfect for laundering money. De sloppy ones get too greedy, dey get busted by de DEA pretty fast. De good ones, dough?" He shakes his head. "Dey're behind what you call an Empiah. You fight all you want, but de most you get your hands on are de low levah traffickers, de guys supplying de dealahs. You want to put an end to de Smooth? You gotta find who's making it."

*

"So how do we do that? Can't be that many people right?" Bobby frowns, thinking. "The drug's too new for the recipe to be widespread and it's a niche market on top of that. The person making it will want all the profit to himself, or at least as much of it as possible. So hopefully we're not looking at very many people."

He sighs. "But I doubt it'll be as simple as beating up a few dealers to get to the traffickers, and beating up a few of them to get to the boss. If it were that simple someone would have tried by now. Cops, rivals. So… what's the play?"

*

An RC helicopter flies down the street and lands on Mike's shoulder, then walks down his arm. It collapses in on itself, and rearranges into a smart phone. Mike grins and hands it to Shift.

"Your information. Please double-check it to make sure I haven't left anything out by mistake."

He's pretty sure he has it all, but there might've been something that got jarred loose by HULK SMASH later.

"I … have been having some really uncharitable thoughts about what to do for the people who invented this. They all start with me taking them up to see the planet from space."

*

"We got friends everywhere." Bobby's question is answered not by Shift, but by the cool customer crossing the street towards them, though where he stepped out from is anyone's guess— no one came up any adjacent alley, no one came down the cracked and pitted sidewalks. One moment there's no one, the next Jackie's there walking and talking like he's been involved in the whole conversation, a long black overcoat that's far too fine for this neighborhood hanging open over a similarly pristinely tailored suit accented by its crimson components. What was it Shift was saying about empires, books within books, and intricate operations?

Estacado just smiles a devilish, knowing smile as he scans from mutant, to mutant, to mutant evenly. When a lingering breeze catches the tail of his coat for an extended moment, it's hard not to notice the glimmering pairs of unnatural green eyes peering out from within, as if the lining were some dark portal to another world; a densely populated world. "They got plenty of rivals, but it's their own web that's gonna lead right back to them." His voice is rich with notes from the harder parts of the city, cementing the dark-haired, swarthy-skinned man's Italian-by-way-of-New York image. "Don't worry, charity -ain't- on the menu."

*

Kwabena reaches out to gently accept the cell phone. He turns it over in his hand, expecting it before giving Mike a slow nod of his head. The phone is quietly slipped beneath his jacket, beneath his Led Zeppelin shirt, and into a pouch lining the waist of the uniform he wears underneath it all.

Now, when Jackie steps out of the shadows, he seems otherwise nonplussed. If anything, there is a slight undertone of apology in his expression, for he truly didn't want to play the two of them that way. He likes Bobby, and Mike has been nothing but helpful. As far as he's concerned, Shift now owes them each a favor, and that's a debt held with no interest, no balloons, and no early payoff fees.

"Feeling will be mutual," offers Kwabena. "Charity isn't something dese types undahstand. You might want to undah estimate dem, thinking you're dealing with mere mortahls. Dat may be, but…" He retrieves his hands from within his jacket, gesturing toward both Bobby and Metal. "Guy I know, scientist, analyzed de smooth for me aftah I lifted it from a friend of mine. Hookah, who's asshole pimp got her on it because he's… stupid. Dis shit ain't being made by a chemist. It's being made by one of us." By a mutant, perhaps, or a metahuman of some sort.

"You guys want to help…?" Kwabena gestures toward Jackie, saying, "We're going south. To Gotham. You make sure de bastahds know dat M-Town isn't fah sale to de lowest biddah." Hey, it's just a suggestion, but the tone of his voice suggests that Kwabena has a damn good idea how to fight this.

*

"I was thinking just finding a way to make them suffer the withdrawals." Bobby says grimly. "Over and over and over again."

Gotham… Mmmm. Bobby has a few things to consider, like the reputation of the group he's with. He can't drag them down with him just because he's pissed off. However… "Yeah. I gotta be careful, can't have things come back on some folks, but I'll help if I can. This stuff is killing people here."

*

Mike would do that 'pinch the bridge of the nose' thing when he finds himself suddenly deep in a gangster-noir film atmosphere, but that's not appropriate to the genre. Still. The guy hasn't introduced himself, but he's probably connected to all the mysterious noisy dark chitter whisper things.

"I don't want them to suffer. I want them to … if they won't learn, and repent, and make up for what they've done, then I would have no problem finding an island for them to live on where there are no other humans, and where they will never see another person for the rest of their lives."

*

Mike stops moving for a second. "Wait. You said 'being made by one of us'… access memory archive… Bobby. Remember the guy who came after Nan, the one with the addictive blood who was using it to control other mutants? I haven't seen any reports of him lately. If he's been captured, or recruited…"

*

"Don't worry." Jackie answers in a tone that's more than a touch facetious, "I'm sure everyone'll be real happy with their retirement package and its scenic views." It's not as dismissive as one might think, laced with graduations of truth and layered intentions, but it's far from a stretch to conclude that Estacado doesn't have particularly magnanimous intentions towards Dackleman, his suppliers, or the whole of the sick, sad operation.

"Withdrawals over an' over again— that's a pretty good one. Heh." He admits with a measure of appreciation, nodding once towards Bobby; who probably doesn't have a real keen grasp on what he's just accomplished, ominously amused note or no. "Whatever— whoever— the source is, we'll find it. And shut it down." He seems entirely confident of this fact, even if he's not particularly inclined to proactively delve into his own nature or motivations.

*

There isn't a thing Kwabena might have added, though he has a small idea just what kind of 'retirement package' Estacado has in mind. That rueful smirk disappears and he turns to Mike, asking, "… addictive blood?"

Suddenly, he's considering that the cell phone may not be the most valuable piece his acquired this night.

*

Bobby nods, thinking. "Guidos, yeah. I had meant to deal with him more permanently but he just never popped back up. You don't suppose he's the one making it? Or, er, being used to make it?" It would fit the available facts though. Perfectly addictive on the first hit, affects mutants. His blood didn't make folks lose their powers but that could be added chemically he's betting.

Jackie gets an odd look for the first time. "Don't think I got your name."

*

"I had the streets bugged for two months and never scanned a sign of him or his gang," Mike says, "not since the attack on Nan failed."

He looks up with interest as Bobby asks the tall, dark, dark stranger his name. His scans are running - maybe he can tell whether this guy is a mutant or something weirder. Not that there are that many weirder out there.

*

Jackie offers no particular impression of the mutant who may or may not be the source of the Smooth— he doesn't know the guy, and all the leaping to conclusions he might be doing remains internal. He simply notes what everyone is thinking, "If it ain't chemistry, source has to be something like that." It explains why the stuff is so weird— his own scientific analysis, in brief. "Jackie." A hand is offered to Drake, along with a wry smile and the promise of a firm handshake. "Thanks for the help." He'll say it, because the people they're hunting? -Not- going to be sharing the sentiment.

*

"Guidos." Kwabena echoes the name, if not for effect, then to help internalize it. "Anything's possahble." He glances toward Jackie, then looks to the others. "Gotham's waiting fah us. Best be off." He pats the place down by his waist where he'd stowed the cell phone. "You'll know how to reach me."

He turns to leave, but lingers for a moment upon Bobby. He doesn't want their mutual friend, Darcy, to know what he's up to. His path is littered with danger, dirt, and most likely blood. Being friends with Darcy had become a point of brightness… he doesn't want to drag her into this mess. Kwabena's no telepath, but they say a look is worth a thousand words. Perhaps the ice mutant will get it. "Watch yah backs. Dese bastahds don't know restraint."

Kwabena pulls down his ball cap and walks off. The clicking of a zippo follows him, and a plume of white smoke trails behind his head.

*

"I'll keep an eye out." Perhaps an answer to two questions. Bobby looks over to Mike. "Anyone get the feeling it's gonna get a little worse before it gets better?" He murmurs low as Shift moves off. The guy seems to be alright, really, but this is dark and dirty business.

*

Mike nods. "I've got scanners, sniffers that can smell the Smooth. I'll make some available, if it helps."

These are moth-antennaed boxes with directional arrows. They assemble themselves from two of the remnant scanners in one of the rooftop hives, and a bit of Mike's spare mass. Meanwhile he looks at Bobby and says, "Be careful then. I'm good at imposing restraints, and you're pretty cold when you have to be."

*

The offered gadgetry in tow, Jackie paces Shift, casting a silent glance aside to the Ghanaian whilst hooking thumbs into the overcoat's pockets. His pace is unhurried but intent, even and purposeful. A salute is cast half over one shoulder back at the pair, as he fishes out a cigarette of his own and shakes his head. "This is gonna get messy before we're done." He half-predicts, and half-promises, echoing the concerns of the other pair in ominous synchronicity. Overhead, a single, shrieking cry from some unidentified, winged creature sounds beyond the clouds, piercing to the city street with bone-chilling, volatile enthusiasm; and impatience.


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