The Smooth: Battergate

Summary:
September 6, 2014: Rant and Shift both have business to take care of in Battergate. Rant happens to be hunting Shift, thinking he's someone else… but a mysterious third party seems to be hunting them both. (heavy vulgarity, dark themes)

Battergate - Gotham City

Battergate. The very name conjures images of conflict. The area had been, back in the 80's, a fairly nice middle class neighborhood full of apartments, single family dwellings and parks. Lots of parks. A sharp downturn in the early 90's drove a lot of the families away and filled the area with… somewhat less desirable residents. These days, the parks are full of drug dealers, the single family homes have largely been replaced by project housing and gangs rule the streets virtually unchallenged by the overwhelmed GCPD. The place looks a lot like Detroit after a bad bender and a pounding hangover.


Characters

NPCs

  • Boosie
  • Bug
  • Boosie's thugs

Mood Music:
"Yonkers" by Tyler, the Creator (explicit)


Battergate. Little known fact about Melody. Her mom was from Battergate. The Williams were born and bred, straight from the hoods of Chicago, Gotham, and tiny parts in Milwaukee, not that downtown shit, but a little past it right on Palmer and Richards and oft scattered about the many Housing Authority projects called 'The Lawns'. You had the last name William's? You claimed it and people treated you like 'cuz an dem', no blood relation because it wasn't thicker than water.

Mel claimed it very little, however when little Rant came calling, 'cuz an dem' came out of the woodworks because she often gave them the good good when it came to electronics. Deals and the like, stuff straight off the truck and not in stores yet, often times shipped from the factories in Singapore to their doorstep.

This one particular and only time is when Melody called in a favor to 'cuz'n's', the supposed top dog of the William's family when it came to crime and drugs, pushers and movers that Mrs. Kenway disowned and tried to keep her little daughter from. Key word. Tried.

Melody: Boosie, its Lil Rant, Mel-mel. Need a favor.

Boosie: Sup lil mama?

Melody: Some guy made a run at me, beat me up a little. Grab your boys? Scare him or something? Whatever it is you people do?

Boosie: Dun trip lil mama, we got this. Need me to bring that thing so you can watch?

Melody: Yeah. Sending you GPS.

Melody didn't have to be there in Battergate to see what was going on, as long as her cousin had that little contraption on his person, she'll get good row seats. Whenever they were receiving a package, one of the boys would usually hold up his phone and stand back as if he were filming for a crowd, but it wasn't for a crowd, it was always for her.

It didn't take long for the boys to gather up, Boosie texting every bit of contact he had in Battergate with a few extras, some dudes rolling up and parking their own cars in back as they rally behind the house, crow bars and bats, pistols in tow. It looked like they were going to war. All for a lil girl who got hopped up on The Smooth.

-

Ghana. Tribal. Not far from Accraa in miles, but far enough from development to be meaningful.

The kind of place where a young mutant, first displaying his ability, might be branded a demon.

Far from it might Kwabena seem, as he roams the streets of Battergate. He's dressed in baggy jeans, oversized combat boots, and a hoodie complete with a black cap, emblazoned 'C' of the Cincinnati Reds embossed above the bill.

He's got cash in pocket. He ain't packing. And word is the fuck is out for blow. Girl. Coke. Whatever you call it, the poor sap has been asking around like someone new to the scene, even going so far as to ask for some 'white'.

Someome sold him some hard. He promptly handed it to the next crackhead and moved on.

Truth is, Kwabena is a character, a facade of the hardened mercenary he truly is. The lame attempts at asking for cocaine? A front; something that might draw the dealers to him.

His partner in crime, one Jackie Estacado, is across town. He had his strengths, Kwabena had his.

"Hey man." Kwabena pulls a random stranger aside, forcing his eyes to go wide with hunger. "You got some girl, bruh? Something to help a bruddah out? I gotta get straight, y'know'm'sayin'?"

-

Boosie and his boys waited in the back, the well placed dealer standing out front with hands in his pockets, taking up post on that little split of the sidewalk. Those two lines, they were his boundaries. His little personal island of sorts, he thought of it as a stand of course, you step into the line and you're about to get served, crack, her-ron, meth, he would have had it all, and for the less savory types? Capped right in between the eyes and drug into the back and put into a hole like what.

So that random, well placed stranger was pulled aside by Kwabena, the man with a target on his back, his face gone stone serious as he pulls out his phone with a step taken back. Yeah, that red dot was right next to his phone, where it checked in with the satellites and bounced back to the bird cage where Melody hung.

Melody: He's there.

Boosie didn't draw out the boys yet, he was going to let the Stranger, who shall be aptly named Goose, do his thing. Might as well make a little money before breaking this dudes leg.

"Ay. Ay my nigga, don't be standin' so close, back up off a brotha." He put his hand out to make the motion of giving him room, shifting through his pockets to pull out a small bag which was deftly cupped between fingers and palm. Goose knew the hand work, and even though it was not needed he kept it concealed in case GCPD got uppity and decided to cross into their zone.

"How much you hurtin' for bruh? Empty out dem pockets and lemme see what you workin' wit." Mel's got worked up by this fool? No way, he knew little Rant was more careful than that.

-

"Sorry man, s- sorry!" Kwabena knew the song and dance well. He knew his part, well enough to agitatedly rub at his nose while backing off, then glancing either way as if he just committed the cardinal sin.

"Aright, aright." Kwabena stuffed his hands into his pockets, turning them out. His real belongings, of course, are tucked into the pouches of his uniform. He pulls out a few wadded up bills, change, and a busted cigarette. Washingtons, Lincolns… and two Benjamins.

The Ghanaian stuffs them into the dealer's hand, before gnawing on his fist. "What you got?" he asks. "C'mon man, don't fuck around with me!"

-

Goose stuffs the bills into his pocket, even the broken cigarette (which will be patched up later with a piece of notebook paper and a wad of spit) into his pocket, a quarter or two missing it's mark which *TINGS* upon the ground and rolls right into the grass.

"Awe fuck sherm head.. see what you made me do my nigga?!" Goose reaches out to give a shove at Kwabena, taking a step forward out of those lines he called his 'Box', point of sell if you will. "Nigga, do you know what I coulda done with that goddamned change? Makin me drop the shit.. you gone get it now.."

Drugs were stuffed back into his pocket to use said hand to place two fingers in between his lips, his lungs filling with air to crack out a loud whistle that'll give Boosie the cue to drag out the boys for a beat down that Kwabena would never forget.

"Yeeah buddy!" One of the dudes following Boosie from behind the house calls out.

"You done fucked up fuckin' with Mel, dats wifey brah!" Another hollars out.

Boosie led the charge, Louisville slugger smacking against his hand, his intent pure on beating this son-uv-a-bitch down for messing with 'Lil Mama'.

"We should cap this foo.."

"Beat that nigga dead!"

"Fuck him up good!"

This wouldn't be no martial arts flick, they were going to swarm and not wait for one to go down during the fight. Goose took a step back, phone up and ready to film the interaction for his own viewing, while another emerges with an I-pad, the face upon it rather familiar as she watches curled up, arms wrapped around her shins.

"Turn it around so I can see, Bug. I can only see you."

"My bad, Ran-Rant. You good, ma?" Bug asks aloud, keeping away from the crowd of dudes.

"Yeah, I'm good. I hope they hurt him bad."

-

All along, Kwabena continues to feign ignorance. That is until he's surrounded. That's when he quietly reached up, pulling the cap from his brow to reveal a perfectly bald head.

"Who… de fuck… is Rant."

A crackling sound forms in the air, and Kwabena's skin seems to harden, glistening in the night, like a cut of obsidian as hard as steel.

What happens next is an artful display of violence. Kwabena simply twirls about, using fist, shoe and head alike to singlehandedly dismantle the fools converging upon him. Their fists and weapons break upon him like shattered glass; his counter attacks nothing short of brutal. Skulls are cracked. Weapons, shattered. Leg and arm bone split into pieces as he works, one after the other, through the thugs who thought that they were in for a beat down.

Boosie is left for the end. Kwabena squares off against the punk, angling his head to the left that elicits a vicious cracking sound. "What you got, 'nigga'?" He drops the racial slur as if he were mocking the man. "You got a ten inch steel dick I can crush, you fucking piece of shit house nigga?"

Low blow.

Kwabena steps back, waiting to determine whether the broken bodies that now surround him will be enough to shatter Boosie's will.

-

"Wait, what did he say?" Melody said out of the screen.

Bug still hung back, he was still in view, but he looked like a by stander at best. He was a slim, ratty little fucker, probably a little taller and a hell of a lot skinnier than Rant. "Uh.. he said he didn't know… woah.."

The fighting began; dudes dropped one by one even though they swarmed Kwabena with no mercy. A punch lands it's hit to the jaw, only to be broken, a shin was bent back with a kick, baseball bats were broken and so nearly was the resolve of Boosie.

But of course, the dude has to save face. He was one of the many William's spread across the Viceroy's, they even had a few of the Kings on lock and scattered a bit into Atlanta and some of the biker gangs up north from there. He couldn't let that ride.

He was shaken, but not stirred enough to take a step forward, baseball bat pointed directly at Kwabena's head, and if Kwabena was really, really paying attention? He'd see that piece of metal tremble. "You don't know who Rant is? You gone learn today!" He lifted that bat to take a swing.. and then…

"STOP!"

Those words echoed through the pockets of Kwabena and Boosie both, not to mention the I-pad that was held up to capture the entire thing so that she could see. The voice itself almost sounded distorted, the very image of Melody fading in and out before it refocuses again. "Bring me closer, Bug."

Boosie backs off on his would be assault, silently thankful for the intervention. Bugs' legs were shaking as he approached, he was definitely scared of Kwabena, he could snap Bug in two without a moments thought.

The ones who could stand after the assault, tried to limp and gather up the others who could not, while few of them laid upon the ground, cracked skulls and bleeding out, left to their own devices. They would be dead in a matter of minutes anyways. They were only human and Melody wasn't there to ease the pain or heal.

As Bug approached, slowly, carefully, the I-pad held out with shaking arms, Melody remains curled up in the safety of her cage upon the screen. "You sent people after me. Two guys. One white one black. They shot me up with that shit that YOU developed, and I know it was you. I traced the phone that you gave them to come to me to lure me out."

-

For a few long moments, Kwabena simply stares at the illuminated panel, while the iPad swarms him with the unexpected. He looks, watches, and listens.

He's also very quick to piece things together. Dackleman was afraid of him; so much so that he thought it appropriate to misdirect.

After some few long, drawn out moments of silence, Kwabena turns his attention upon Boosie. Silver eyes narrow, and a hand comes up to point at the man.

"You." The hand swivels to point at the iPad in Bug's hand. "And you." A breath is taken. "You will take me to Rant. Oddahwise…."

Bit by bit, the Ghanaian standing before them dissolves into black smoke. The clothing falls from this cloud, flattening upon the ground before the black tendrils reform into the shape of Kwabena once more. Only now, the African is clad in the intimidating, gunmetal gray of his uniform.

Without mercy, he approaches one of the downed thugs. An arm reaches out, repositioning the man until his jaw is firmly placed, bleeding, upon the filthy curb. Kwabena's boot presses firmly upon the thug's skull, and presses.

Slowly.

"You will take me to hah," says the Ghanaian. "Now."

-

Melody's eyes squint at the screen back where she sat, her arms untangling from their spot to draw legs into an indian sit while she leans forward, bringing her face into clearer view of the screen as Kwabena shifts. She looks a hell of a lot worse up close, dark rings around her eyes as well as dark veins that form along the creases of her brow bone and jaw line that crept up a long her cheek. She looked like the walking dead, but that was just the nanites beneath her skin working and replicating, killing itself all over again to try to adjust to the endless withdrawl of the smooth she seemed to be suffering from. This, was worse than the chemo.

As Boosie was pointed at, both hands went up akimbo, his head shaking as he grew serious. Scared, but serious. "Nah man. That's my cuz. Can't bring you around the fam. That's baby girl. Nah.."

Bug wasn't ready to show him where Melody was currently held up, but he did offer up a tiny bit of truth. "W..we don't know wh..where she be.. buh-buh-bruh! Fo serious! Sh..she underground man.. don't kill him, that's my big bro!"

While Bug pleaded for the man upon the ground, Melody's hands came up to cover her face. She actually liked Bug and his family, saw them as kindred spirits, even tought him a thing or two when it came to Java. "Wait.. wait. Creepy dude. Stop.."

Her hands drop down to her lap with an audible pop, only to have one lift to rub a shaky hand against her face. "Just.. take your phone out of your pocket. I'll tell you where to go, let them tend to their people. Deal?"

-

There Kwabena waits, as patient as can be. His boot remains pressed into the mother fucker's skull, just waiting for the moment when he might press down and split the bastard's teeth against cement.

That moment never comes. Instead, he slowly backs off, taking a couple of steps backward while reaching for a pouch upon his belt, and the cell phone lingering within. The device is withdrawn.

"You'll come good, or I won't rest until dese wahthless fucks ah dead and bleeding," he warns, speaking toward the phone as if it were some sort of microphone.

-

The phone in Kwabena's hand flickers on, portraying the same image that was on the I-pad to his smaller screen. "It would have helped if you turned the power button on." She had to do all that work, really. She was already tired.

Though, his next words cause her to frown, her gaze lifting up and around her as she grits her teeth, her nose soon wrinkling into something unsightly as she leans in to focus on the screen again. "What you say? Did you say Waterless?" She grunts loudly, and as she leans back, her face disappears and the map application upon the phone flares to life.

"Don't worry. I'm not checking your text messages. Just follow the navigation lady, I programmed the address already into your phone. I'll meet you there in an hour."

But Melody, she was already on her way out of the cage, all it took was a little blood transfer from the bite of her thumb to the metal lock of the cage. Nanites will eat through it quick enough, and she'll be in and back by morning, video feeds scrubbed, Catwoman none the wiser.

(That last part was a total lie.)

-

The Ghanaian spares one final look to the thugs who might have wanted to rough him up. He says not a word to them; they were, in essence, no longer important.

As he moves off, Kwabena reaches for a pouch on his uniform. He retrieves a pack of smokes, a beat up, old zippo, and follows the map's instructions.

One hour? Not too long to wait.

-

Gotham City is full of death. Such a statement might be called an exagerration by many of those in the city, and scoffed at by those outside of it who have no experience with the place. Even those who suffer daily, and feel like they could suffer an untimely end from some random shooting at any given time might not entirely agree. But none of these people can see the dead that roam the streets. None of these people are in danger of picking up new phantasms with a misplaced touch of the hand to any given surface. None of these people are Cemetery.

From Cemetery's perspective, this whole damn city is haunted.

The figure that is half-regarded as rumor and half-regarded with fearful trepidation due to the growing number of near-identical stories about her from a diverse range of criminals — some of whom were considered respected members of the community before they wound up turning themselves in for murders (and other crimes as well in some cases) they might have gotten away with — has enough ghosts haunting her personally. She is not seeking out more, just trying to lighten the burden of souls she carries.

But sometimes, she feels she must take action to resolve what will otherwise remain unresolved. While many place faith in the Batman to protect them, based on the death-pallored view of the world that the armored 'ghost' sees things through, Batman misses a whole lot. As much as she is loathe to accrue more phantasms seeking justice, vengeance, resolution… She feels that unless she does it, it won't get done.

She has never met Batman, but she thinks the duty she is carrying out is one that is beyond him. And that is what she uses to steel herself as she visits the building in Red Hook that was recently described as looking like something out of a horror movie. Articulated platemail, with rubberized joints, produces minimal noise despite the metal that should be clanking and clinking with every step. A long black cape, tattered about the edges as though it were made from the curtains of some ancient, abandoned castle, drapes about the imposing, sharp-edged figure, as she navigates through the warehouse district. A seemingly empty helmet reveals no indication of anyone wearing this armor. If anyone sees Cemetery, they probably aren't going to try to mess with her.

She looks kind of terrifying.

-

Red Hook, where all the nasty bad happened. Police tape was still cornering off the part of the warehouse that was broken into, busted up, and bloodied. A mess was there; latex gloves of rescue workers who served as a clean up crew for the cops, baggies dropped here and there, random foot prints of police and a few of those little stands with numbers embedded in them were knocked over. Chalk outlines were all that was left behind. Chalk, chalk, chalk, it was as if someone went crazy right at the entrance with circling of the bullet holes that were left in the wall, even a few bits of red string were hung from one of the bullet holes as forensics attempted to guess at the trajectory of bullets.

More chalk, busted lamps, but the light still worked thanks to Melody's tampering. She didn't blow -every- light in the building, she had a feeling she'd be back after she spilled all of that delicious Smooth upon the ground.

True to form, there she was, standing in the middle of the room barefoot, arms wrapped around her body as she attempts to fight off the chill, and the coat she wore? Three sizes too big, taken from one of the guards as he slept. Too bad that chill wasn't due to the night, it was due to having that little need, her eyes scanning the floor hoping to find at least a decent size of the blue crystals to shove up her nose just so that she could think straight.

It sucks. Addiction was no laughing matter. She was willing to lick dirt.

In that same room she stood, a few more chalk outlines were made there, but no bullets. There were claw marks upon the rafters and a bit on the floor that look a little smeared, Melody ignored that though. Her back remained towards the door, so if anyone was coming near, she wouldn't see. Her focus was on finding a tiny sliver of the smooth that would get her goat and last her through those crazy nights in the club where she was locked up, she would be so.. so fine.

The thought alone nearly made her salivate, and feel a tiny twinge of regret. She had a feeling that if she left the club she'd be looking for a hit, and look at what she was here doing. She knew she could have broken out of that cage at any time, but all she needed was a reason. Thankfully, or no.. this was it.

-

As he enters the abandoned warehouse, Kwabena Odame remains blissfully unaware of any other presence. The map was almost enough; the promise that he might be onto one of Richard Dackleman's goons was more than enough to bring him here.

It was difficult for the Ghanaian to retain control. His X-Gene, triggered as it is by the emotional state of him, was crackling. Flesh and bone constantly transforming to it's super solid state and back, bootfalls coming lightly, then heavily… lightly, then heavy. Again and again, back and forth, until with one vicious swipe of the hand he removes the lock keeping him out.

Slow, calculates breathing precedes him. For a few drawn out moments, he looks upon the woman within. He could have transformed into smoke; taken her by surprise and suffocated her. He could have changed to liquid, slipping her bare feet and coming upon her with all the deadliness that he is.

Instead… he pities her.

If there's one thing Kwabena knows, it's an addict. After all, a year past, he was one. He remains in the doorway, panting softly as he quiets the vengeance within him. For by now, he has come to suspect something.

The smooth may be his fault.

"You're Rant?" he calls, accented voice echoing into the room. "If you're affiliated in any way with Richard Dackahlman… den I am going to kill you."

Fists clench.

-

People are witnessed entering the building, from Cemetery's vantage point in the darkness across from the warehouse itself. First a woman, then a man. When the woman entered, Cemetery pointed and flexed a control mechanism in her armor's right arm, sending out a miniscule black dot with a white cross in the center. The audio-pickup landed on the outer wall of the building, and its hyper-sensitive technology went to work. When the man entered, the armorsmithing vigilante was already listening in while deciding to making her own way closer. She isn't seeking confrontation, and is here to get the death impressions primarily, but finding out what these two are encroaching on a crime scene for is a matter of potential interest for her.

The death threat sharpens that interest quite a bit. She decides that she can't afford to either risk more death or to just wait around while whoever these people are do whatever they're here for. She prepares to try to encourage them to leave, or perhaps to reveal what their involvement with all this is… With the skills and resources available to her. Unless people with super senses are in the area, they might not realize that someone else has snuck into the building as well, on the opposite side of Rant — the far side from Shift — and is performing quick preparations for a very convincing spook-show.

-

Covered hands through the sleeve of her jacket lifts to wipe away at her face, even attempt to smooth slightly messy hair back and away from her face as she turns at the sound of the accented voice. In fact, it was like she took a double take, gaze lowering, lifting back up, and down again to hang her head as if she were shaming herself into something.. possibly just by being here. She was truly a mousy sort, short enough to be considered a high schooler, awkward enough that the introverted side of her speaks out. Aside from that looming addiction, she always carried the sense that she didn't want to be where she was, and that was all natural.

"What? Who's Dackamin?" She mumbled, then repeated a little bit louder so he could hear. Cause, she mumbled. "I DON'T KNOW DACKAHMIN. You stupid or something?" She turns now, eyes pressed to the ground, back towards the incoming Cemetary to face Shift. Her boldness came from lack of the smooth, irritation at not finding any. But she wouldn't dare tell him that.

"Sorry." Was mumbled out, hand lifting to press against her veiny cheek. "Who's that though? Your rival or something? Your punks did this to me. They gave me this stuff and now.." She trembled at the thought, the way she felt when she was high. She floated, soared above all, Deus Ex Machina. It unlocked something within her that caused her to spread across the world, and she saw -everything-.

"You.. you don't have any more do you.. cause.." Her hand shakes free to scratch at her scalp confused. "I shouldn't have came here… fuck you and your goons! God she's going to kill me.."

-

"No." Kwabena can only hope that his words pierce through the haze. He knows it all too well, the memory of it even going so far as to bring a wince to his face. For a moment, however brief it was, he finds himself missing the old life; the dope, the needles, the endless nights, the bitches, all of it. He was a mercenary now, goddamnit. Memories like those just don't belong.

"I didn't do dis to you."

Oh, Kwabena could have smelled the addiction from Metropolis; from Atlanta, from Mexico City. The woman's mannerisms, the way she speaks, the way she scratches at her face. He fights the wanting away. Perhaps it was the grinding of his teeth, the promise of a flask, some smokes, and a few lortab's he lifted from an old lady earlier in the night, whatever he needed to ignore those haunted memories. And so, he presses on, considering the puzzle as it is laid out before him.

"Just like Dackahman," he quips. "Shoot up some bitch and have hah coiled around yah fingah. Tell me." Kwabena steps forward. "What did he want from you? What did he pay? Where de fuck is he calling home? Cause I swear to God, you show me a nigga who did dis to you, I'll rip dem apaht and leave dem to de bats."

Kwabena remains blissfully unaware of the other presence here. So focused he is, upon Rant, upon himself, that he seems to miss what might have entered through the shadows.

-

A tremor passes through the building. The walls and floor vibrate, in a strange, rippling manner, emanating from down the hall. The boards sound like they're creaking and bending — like living things, or like inanimate things possessed by something else. The rush of an unfelt breeze, the sound of a rasping breath, and the flickering of light bulbs in the ceiling — even in places there ARE no light bulbs — make it clear something weird is going on. Far down the hall, farther than is actually physically possible given the warehouses dimensions, a single, bare light bulb flicks on as it dangles from the ceiling. The hall seems to be hundreds or perhaps thousands of feet long now, as deep darkness saturates it everywhere except for where these mystery lights shine.

The flick-flick-ting of a struggling electric light echoes all the way up the hall to the location of Rant and Shift. The light goes off. It comes back on, and this time there's something standing under it. It is short and pale, with blackness atop what might be its head. The light goes back off, and stays off for a few seconds. Then another light appears, closer — further along the hall to the two intruders. The figure is there again, more easily seen. It seems human-shaped. Child-sized. Long black hair draped around its head. The light goes off again. A third one appears, now only a couple hundred feet away. The figure of a little girl in a blood-stained nightgown, face concealed by her own hair, stands beneath the light, along with someone new. A gaunt-looking young man with a bullet hole in his forehead, blood dried around it and on his face. His eyes are dead and empty.

Another light-off-light-on, and now only about 50 feet away, the hallway has about half-a-dozen people who look quite dead standing there. Girl, gaunt teen, an old African American who looks like he ran a general store in the 1930s based on his clothing, a pregnant woman with her belly slashed open to match her missing throat, a broken-necked man in a wheelchair twisted by some monstrous impact, and a police officer with his head gone.

They stand there, staring without even looking, and then the light goes off again. The doors into the warehouse slam closed behind Shift, any opens windows close, and the warehouse is plunged into deep shadow. A voice that reverberates without echoing, shakes the walls and floor while still sounding like a whisper, speaks from the sudden darkness.

"There are enough dead without more being made, and enough ghosts who deserve justice without your promises of vengeance." Then a final light comes on, a mere 15 feet away, and theres is nothing under this one. Nothing standing in the circle of dim, flickering illumination. Until the outlne of something black and silver and metal and edges and skulls and batwings and the imagery of death silently drifts forward into the light. "The wrongful dead will have their restitution. It shall not be you who delivers it, but their guardian. The living shall have their peace, when the phantoms who haunt this place have theirs."

The plan is to convince them not to seek vengeance and to let Cemetery deal with the drug dealers. As much as she wishes justice for the living AND dead, she can not condone further murder to accomplish that end.

-

"You don't -GET- to tell me no! You don't -GET- to call me a bitch!"

The lights flicker within the room, power threatening to go dark with her rising temper that flattens as soon as those words leave her lips. Her head hangs low, remorseful, hand reaching up to rub at her cheek yet again. "Sorry." She mumbles out, her other hand lifting to gesture towards his person, where ever his phone was kept. "Take it out."

She waits for a moment, her brows furrowing just a touch. Her ears tune into the slight rumbling and the sudden realization hits. The lights? That was not her doing. If she was strong enough to spread herself along the electrical currents, she would have done so immediately, but she only felt a blip at her back, enough to cause her head to finally lift, eyes from the ground, to whip all around her and turn.

Any normal day, Melody would have been freaked out. She would have taken on her name sake to Rant her way out of a situation while backing out of the door in preparation to run. But this time? It was different. Much, much worse than the demon she thought she saw. Much worse; because she wasn't high.

Facing the slowly appearing ghosts, she slowly takes a step back, hands out slightly in front of her, her direction would be the front of Kwabena if he hadn't moved away. If she had the shakes from the last bits of withdrawl from the Smooth? She was getting it from fear. Cause fear and freaked out are in two different leagues, the former a zone she rarely, if ever goes into.

She couldn't back up any further, her knees immediately noodled beneath her as she collapses to the ground, her hands immediately lashing out to keep herself upright as she begins to hyperventilate. She was already dealing with the guilt of her first major job and those thugs who attacked her being killed; the hit that she sent out on Bruce Wayne, and now there was this..

*Gzzzzt* "I can't.."

*Gzzzt-zuuhh* "I can't…"

-

Rueful may be the manner in which Kwabena looks at Rant. She may be led to believe that he considers her pathetic. It's all a bluff. Something about this isn't right; the puzzle pieces aren't fitting together the way that they should, but rather, in a manner that suspects foul play. Lies. Deceit. She believes him to be a part of Dackleman's operation, when clearly, someone got her hooked on the smooth, and that can only mean one thing.

Process of elimination. In a moment, the hateful expression that lingers within the Ghanaian's silver eyes begins to melt. There is but a brief moment where compassion appears.

That moment, however, is stifled. He's halfway through reaching for his phone as instructed, when the tremor hits. A frown draws across Kwabena's face, and he turns just slightly, eyeing the flickering of the lightbulbs, listening to the rasping breath, feeling the touch of breeze upon his cheeks. It's likely another trick of Jackie's… but this didn't seem like Jackie Estacado. It felt… different.

The phone is dropped back into his pouch, and a gloved hand reaches to pull a hood from behind his neck. The material is incredibly stretchy as he pulls it over his bald head, concealing all but his mouth and chin. Some idiot might have gone so far as to call him out for acquiring it at a convention somewhere, but this isn't a spandex costume designed simply to conceal identity. Sure, the material may leave little to the imagination, but any close examination would reveal it to be a thick weave, far more elastic than normal fabrics might suggest. In fact, the way the material stretches… it's clearly not anything someone might call 'normal'. The weave is made of unstable molecules, which are entirely unnatural in this world, but a necessary venture to keep the state-shifting mutant from encountering terrible wardrobe malfunctions. The uniform itself remains an intimidating sight, with seams and angles upon it that are intentionally designed to look powerful, rather than heroic.

Shift, as he's known when masked up, takes a few steps backward toward Melody. He may not yet be wholly convinced of who's side she's on, but the girl is clearly suffering ferocious withdrawal symptoms, and there's now another force at play here. That, for the moment, makes them allies. He puts a gloved hand on her shoulder, and with a voice that is almost entirely opposite of the threatening manner in which he'd spoken before, not to mention lacking the forced 'ghetto style' of speak, says to her, "Easy…"

The armored person that appears at last gets a disapproving frown. There is a long moment where, from behind the slightly lighter 'eyes' of his mask, Shift studies the figure. Finally, he speaks up. "You ah frightening hah. Stop." Judging by the stern note of his voice, Shift very well may be inclined to 'make' this armored creature stop if his demand is not obeyed. "You'll tell us who de hell you ah, and why de hell you come in with all of dis -" He motions about with his free hand. "- smoke and mirrah bullshit." The stern nature of his voice breaks just so. "And staht speaking normah English, fah fuck's sake."

-

The armored figure seems to float above the ground, and further, though it may be hard to tell in the minimal lighting, it doesn't really seem as though there's anyone… Or anything… Actually… IN the armor. The helmet, at least, shows no signs of eyes or mouth in the openings… But that could be another trick, right? Assuming any of this is tricks, as Shift seems to believe them to be. It's hard to tell where this 'vengeful ghost' is looking, but within the armor, Cemetery is indeed observing the effect she is having on these two. The terror evident in the girl's face and body language doesn't hit her as hard as it should. That bothers her more than the fear itself. Has she already become so jaded in the relatively short time since starting? A month or so of scaring criminals, confronting them with the faces of their victims, and giving those victims voices and physical forms of their own… Making other people shake and shiver and wet themselves and beg and plead for mercy and scream — so much screaming…

Those were people she knew to be murderers though. People who the very ghosts she was giving justice to would not stop begging her to punish. She doesn't know what these two are capable of, nor what they might have already done. So, since she doesn't have the dead hounding her to punish them, shouldn't she feel bad about scaring them? Even if one of them seems less fazed by it? This isn't the time to perform a self-analysis, however. She puts the matter aside, like so many other things, for when she is alone with the ghosts and haunted by both her own memories and theirs.

The cape draped about the floating figure flies open in a sudden blast of wind… Seemingly coming from BEHIND Shift this time, instead from down the hall. The joints, the eye and mouth holes in the helmet, all visible openings in the armor, blaze brightly with fury-red light of considerable intensity. Especially given the otherwise dark warehouse, and the fact the light bulb that was dangling over head shatters and vanishes, leaving just the molten glow emanating from this 'monster' to see by. The voice that booms out now is way louder, and seems to be a melding of many voices all in one. "I AM CEMETERY, MURDERER. I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD. YOU WILL NOT KILL ANY MORE. WHATEVER VENGEANCE YOU SEEK, IT WILL BE METED OUT BY AND FOR THE GHOSTS OF THIS CITY."

The voice quiets from the high-decibel output, though still loud enough to be heard quite clearly, as one clawed, gauntleted hand rises and points. The red lights shining from within Cemetery appear all down the hall, one after another, after another. This time not dangling light bulbs, but emergency lights in a long, rusted, metal corridor. In the mix of blood-hues and darkness, the hall is jam-packed back beyond the limits of sight with Gotham's dead. Thousands and thousands. "Do not seek death, and do not seek vengeance. Now…" The front doors, behind Shift and Rant, creak open slowly, allowing what moonlight makes it through the smog cover to spill through.

Then all the lights within the warehouse, the miles-long corridor, the dead, the armored figure, all vanish in a sudden darkness. When the shadows lift somewhat, the warehouse is as it was again. Except for the voice that growls forth once more from the hallway that is now empty except for all the chalkmarks and signs of struggle.

"Get. Out."

-

Five years ago, Melody stared in the face of death. Hair melted from her hair due to chemotherapy, fingers thin as bones and unable to keep the most basics of food down within her throat. Fear was there, the fear of missing out on the best years of her life. Never been kissed, hugged by someone who wasn't of the same gender or fallen in love with some odd trinket that didn't consist of a computer. She had no heirlooms to pass down, save for the gene that strived to eliminate her mothers side of the family, just fear. Yet with that fear was acceptance that, even if you die? Everything was going to be alright because they saw it coming.

Thanks dad, for saving her life, only to have her face something like this.

Fear. Terror. Guilt. Depression. Near suicide. A deal gone wrong. The need to save someone's life even if they don't know that it needs to be saved. More death. More guilt. Addiction that her 'perfected' nanites couldn't shake.

Thanks dad. Thank you very, fucking much.

She couldn't handle what she was seeing at the moment, fearing that her mind was going to blast off through the wifi to search for pictures of kittens falling off of shelves and puppies slamming their little faces into doors, she held on to what bit of reality that she could; the hand that touches her shoulder, the dirt beneath the round that was probably laced with.. Smooth.

Would she really eat the dirt to try to get high? Hell no, but that would be better than the display that was going on in front of her.

She -tries- for the life of her to stay grounded, to calm her breathing, to stop her heart from pounding so fast that it might explode, the light show largely ignored cause hands shot up and covered her face as she curled upon the ground.

There was no stopping the little shaking session that occured throughout her body, if she had anything to eat or drink in the past few hours, it would have been expelled upon the floor though piss and projectile vomit, cause everything including her chest started to her.

Get. Out.

Melody could, and probably would if she currently wasn't all wet noodled on the ground.

-

There is a piece of Kwabena's psyche that suggests that this may not be parlor tricks. Had this incident taken place in even as short a span as two months ago, he'd have been fully convinced. However, he has encountered the paranormal, and he still tends to deny it. That small part though… it does send a shiver down his spine. One that he conceals quite well, save for the bit of wringing his teeth put against his lips.

The Ghanaian stalwartly tells himself, again, that it's nothing more than parlor tricks. He's as stubborn as they come, it seems… and he is particularly difficult to frighten. He has, after all, stared down the barrel of a gun, he's been shot in the head more times than he can count. His mutation simply makes him invulnerable to most conventional forms of violence, which has delivered the end result of forging a relatively daring man out of him.

Shift stands strongly during Cemetery's pronouncement. He looks beyond to see the dead, and it brings a reaction from him. A grimace. He's seen countless dead before, some at his own hands. However, there's only one memory that begins to haunt him in that moment.

Ibrahim al-Tawhid's favorite wife.

SHIELD never even gave him her name. They most likely determined that he didn't need it, or perhaps they were so disgusted with him that they elected not to provide it. However, there have been evenings where her face has kept him up at night. He still, to this day, does not regret the decision he made to murder her. It was her, or Asila… al-Tawhid would have killed his hostage. He made a move that saved Asila and resulted in the capture of a dangerous terrorist. It was a smart tactical move; even Black Widow had agreed with him.

He still sees her face at night. She's been a reason for many a shot of whiskey, many a rolled up joint, even a few lines of cocaine here and there.

He doesn't even see the dead that Cemetery is forcing them to bear. He only sees al-Tawhid's dead wife, with a bullet hole in her forehead. From his rifle.

Shift would have normally stayed behind. He might have hunted down this Cemetery person and taught her a few things about the real world, about what life is like when you're hunting a dangerous mob boss like Richard Dackleman. However, instead, he finds his gloved hand clenching down upon Melody's shoulder, trembling just so.

He never trembles.

Ever.

"We're leaving," he says to Melody. With his hand on her shoulder, he turns her, reaches out with the other to make damned sure she follows. "We're leaving, now." He's not answering Cemetery. He's talking directly to Melody, and if she doesn't go… he's more than capable of carrying her out.

-

It's harder to scare tough-people when the fears that Cemetery makes real aren't personalized. That's something she is learning and that this experience has only emphasized. Some people have reasonable fear reactions to terrifying things. Some people try to dismiss it as tricks or harden themselves to it. If she had the time to get death impressions of specific people from the masked man, she could tailor one of her 'Ghostly Theaters' for him personally. But instead, she went with something slightly more generic: The stuff Cemetery herself sees and has banging around in her head all the time.

Everyone has a mental vault. It's where the stuff people don't know how to deal with goes. The painful memories, the scary ones, the doubts, the nightmares, the urges… It's all filed away in there. Some of those vaults are well-secured, others less so. But they all have a certain fixed capacity.

Cemetery's vault is stuffed well beyond its limits with the final moments of all those dead she just filled the hall with. ALL of them are in there.

Her vault is leaking so much blood that she sees it manifested all the time. The dead are clawing to get out, and the only way to make her vault lighter is to bring resolution to those wrongful dead. Every one she finds justice for leaves her without that particular ghost infiltrating her dreams, following her around during the waking hours, a constant reminder that cannot be ignored. Shift may know the dangers of tracking down a mob boss.

Cemetery knows the fear, pain, hate, and despair of their victims. The victims that mob bosses and serial killers and the callous wealthy and hit-and-run drivers and careless industrial workers and ALL of them have made. They could both teach other, it seems.

But that may never come about, as Cemetery isn't interested in asking Shift for lessons. Instead, she waits, concealed, until Melody and Shift are out of the warehouse and what she judges to be a safe distance away. Then, she appears in the hall, stepping out from behind some boxes, and looks at the chalk marks.

Knowing full-well how overburdened with souls her vault is, she pulls aside the mesh on the palm of one gauntleted hand, and touches her bare skin to the warehouse floor. She knows that will add all the victims who died here to her ghostly entourage.

She knows from the news that none of these deaths were peaceful, and that more than a few were truly monstrous.

But there is no rest for the angry dead.

And no rest for Cemetery until they get it.

The armored vigilante goes into a trance of experiencing the horrors that took place here, in an overwhelming, simultaneously bombardment of all deaths at once, feeling it as though it was happening to her, hearing and seeing it and even smelling and tasting it through the senses of those who died.

The overfull vault becomes even more so.

-

There were no memories for Melody to call her own, really. Save for the deaths of those gang bangers who attempted to assault her and Guy. And the hit that she promised to foil on a Bruce Wayne who remains, as alive as ever. If anything, she was guilty from associating with those people, and saving their lives when their lives would have been forfeit as well as freedom if taken to a proper doctor. But, still.. fear, it was in her heart and she barely was able to stand as Shift began to give them the go ahead to leave.

Wobbily legs were stood upon, fingers grasping at the fabric inside that too large coat she wears, which digs through the fabric of the flimsy shirt she was lift with by Catwoman's orders. Flimsy as in, nothing she could truly hang herself with. But carrying on.

Her body remained at a hunch as she was turned, thankfully away from that gliding spectre. That alone was enough to send her launching forward at a stagger towards the door. She did not need help in leaving that place. In fact, she was damned sure that she wasn't going to come back looking for a spoon, syringe, or anything that would get her high off the smooth.

Fear is a very, very powerful motivator. And she already associated demons with it, now this.

-

Shift has eyes for the door, and the door alone. He paces the girl who had become his ally, the outcome of their acquaintance yet to be determined, though he still keeps that hand upon her shoulder. How many times had he wanted a hand upon his shoulder, when he was trying to get clean?

It never happened. The hand.

It isn't until they are outside, and have put significant distance between themselves and that warehouse. That's when he releases her, and reaches up to withdraw the mask from his face. The hood simply flops down against his back, and he turns to gauge her with silver eyes. "You need to tell me, right now, dat you ahen't working fah Richard Dackahlman. Dat you aren't involved with pushing dis shit onto de streets." Whatever it was that shook Kwabena inside that warehouse, it seems that it wasn't powerful enough to truly debilitate him. He's spooked, this much is certain… but it's become compartmentalized. He has a job to do, and he's not about to just let this woman walk away.

"I'm going to take him down," he explains, candidly, coldly. "Him, and his entiah opahration. Won't rest until de smooth is a distant memory. I can help you get off dis shit, Rant. But I gotta know where you stand, fahst."

He's got no weapons to bring about upon her, nothing aside from what she witnessed on that video feed to explain to her that he is a walking weapon.

That doesn't mean he isn't above glancing over his shoulder, looking at the warehouse that is well behind them.

-

Being frog-marched out of the warehouse was a blessing in disguise, Melody was about to be reduced to tears and wetting her pants with whatever she really didn't have. She was scared, rightfully so. The move to Gotham marked the downfall of a good little girl into something less, nice. But still, she was afraid, there was no erasing that. That fear stopped her from uploading everything to the mans phone, instead she was going to unleash a verbal rambling upon his ears that he'd probably have to make sense of in a later date.

"I'll tell you everything, I swear. But I had enough.. I'm done!"

Her voice held the tremble that matches her current emotions, a step taken aside so that the warehouse itself could be in her view. She didn't want to look at him anyways. She -thought- that all of it wasn't his fault, but it seemed as if it weren't.

"His guys wanted me to set his empire up here in Gotham. He wanted every guy on the street, he wanted an impene.. impenetrable operation that even GCPD couldn't touch."

There was a pause, her gaze falling towards the ground. "And I did that. He has a ten guys soon to be implanted upon the force, two in City Hall, three at the local banks, a couple planted in each division where he could push the most product."

She takes a step back then, her hands raised. "I was promised money.. and more of that stuff.. I.. it was right there in my lap and I could have grabbed it.." Just thinking about it causes those hands to wrap around herself to make herself so small. So, so small.

-

Kwabena listens carefully, dispassionately. There's nothing in his expression or his stance that might suggest his opinion on Melody's confession. He simply listens, silver eyes now locked upon the woman known only to him as 'Rant'.

He doesn't speak at first. Rather, the Ghanaian watches as she hugs herself. He knows that as well. He knows how pathetic he was when he was on dope. He can't judge her for it, not fairly, because he did some outright despicable things when he needed a hit. Some of those things involved cracking skulls. Others involved… well. Darker things.

Some things this Cemetery person would probably hate him for.

"So, you know exactly who is in which positions," he finally says. "You got names, phone numbahs, addresses. We can make a list."

By now, Gotham City is being infiltrated by countless of Estacado's Darklings. Kwabena judges that he might be able to spare some time helping this kid out. "Call me 'Shift'," he tells her. There might come a time to give her his real name, but that time is not now. "Where you staying?" he asks. "Cause we got to get you cleaned up off dis shit, and fast."

-

She gives a slow nod of her head, confessing to that fact. "I know who's who. I know where they are and where they live. I know everything." It almost sounded as if it were dark, her lips forming into a thin line, hate within her eyes even though they were downcast to the ground. "To one of his guys, there are two of mine. They're being watched." East End was covered by the Cat, but the rest? It seemed almost as if it were up for grabs. Yet in this instance, Catwoman possibly claimed all of Gotham for herself.

She was thankful at least, that he wasn't going to kill her for building Dackleman a powerful infrastructure, that would have left Selina's people out in the open and in the cold as they are now. Away from her laptop, sick with the need and want of Smooth.. she had no business being out and so near to what she would call her 'Ground Zero'.

"Shift. Ha.." It was a dry laugh. "I can't take you back there. I'm not even supposed to be gone. I'm supposed to be locked up for my own good and not here. I'm going to get yelled at.." Those words trail off as she digs her bare foot into the ground. "I'm fine though.. really. I just gotta go back. You.. you stay in touch. I got your number and I can find you anywhere. Okay?" She.. at least attempts to put on a smile as she begins to back out. "Melody. Rant is just a name I got as a kid cause I talk to much.. and it's kind of hot out here…"

-

There's a slight narrowing of the eyes when she treats her home with such secrecy. Then again, it was understandable. "Suit yahself. Promise yahself one thing, dough. You call me, befah you go and get any more of dat shit." He casts a look back toward the (haunted) warehouse, scowling a touch.

Shift doesn't enjoy being thrown off his game like that.

Back to Melody he turns. Barefoot, looking sick and like hell. He could still tell that beneath the withdrawal gunk, she was pretty. The frown is replaced by a slanted grin. "Don't worry, girl. He's gonna pay up for what he's done to you."

The Ghanaiam crouches down, then leaps. It's a normal leap in every sense of the word… except that once his boots have left the ground, his body, uniform and all, transforms into black smoke. The upward momentum of the jump sends his suddenly weightless form skyward, disappearing into the Gotham smog.


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