A Shaky Alliance

September 20th, 2014: Midnighter and Shift follow a false lead planted by The Wall.

Alterra Cafe

It's still a coffee shop, guys!



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Mood Music:

The cafe was soon cleared out of it's random patrons and workers, leaving Amanda alone to think on her thoughts. Paths were followed, routes and mannerisms were systematically picked out for her to pick up on where others could not. Names were grabbed from formers and most present, watched and picked until that certain person arrived in Gotham. Once again, Amanda's game at chance was going to pay off, and if it didn't this night? She'd try again, and again, and again…

With no one present, second cup of coffee put down by the need to remain alert, Amanda stands, coat tugged down to cover, cup picked up and carried behind the counter where the fresh pot of coffee sat. She made sure, of course, that they'd leave a few behind.

Earlier, she thought, she'd never try the amenities that allow for a sweetened cup of coffee, but seeing what was behind that counter changed her mind.

A dash of sugar.

A dash of chocolate.

A dash of vanilla.

A squirt of cream.

A drizzle of caramel to top.

A straw was taken up and tucked into the cup, a quick little sip had eyes nearly rolling and lips curled up into a faint smile that no one usually has the pleasure to feast upon. Yeah. Mind changed. And now she waits.


Smooth. If anything was guaranteed to get Midnighter's attention, it was that. They didn't know it, of course. If they did, they'd go running if they were smart. Assuming they ever heard of him which they almost certainly haven't. He found a dealer in Manhattan and worked his way up the ladder till he hit a dead end. Except for one word. Gotham. SO he started the process over and was led to a coffee shop. No name, no description. All the guy knew was that someone, sometimes, dealt out of the coffee shop. Who'd suspect a middle class/yuppie hangout?

And so Jack Baker shuffles in. He doesn't have the money to waste on this kind of place but now and then, he just needs a little something to save up for. A reminder that if he works hard enough, he too might be able to afford buying overpriced coffee and have someone serve it to him. Except… where is everyone?


The door opens, Waller reaches within her jacket pocket to reach for a badge, but stops. She was still behind the counter, sipping on her coffee, not realizing where she stood but yet her gaze falls upon the man, and it was critical.

Exits were scanned one more time for good measure, she did not have the backup that she usually possesses with her, just two pistols and knives to line the legs in proper spots, a flack jacket that covers the most vital of organs.

"Evening." She states, taking herself.. and the cup she carries from behind the counter. If he was going to get coffee? She damn sure wasn't going to serve it up to him on a silver platter. She was better than that. "Coffee is free for tonight."


Midnighter doesn't move from where he stopped just inside the threshold when he noticed how empty the shop was. Waller's hand toward her jacket produces an instant change in body language that most people would miss but almost certainly not secret agents. He watches her as she moves then, keeping her in his line of vision, walks over to the kitchen to push the door in and look around. Empty. "Who are you?"


She doesn't answer for a time. She knew that the back door was barred and locked, the emergency latch would have to be tripped for those walls to fall and the alarm to sound. Getting out that way, would be simple enough. If there was time. His movements spark her own, intending to move whenever he does so that no grounds could be crossed or set above her.

"Waller. Amanda Waller."

Whether he's heard of her or not? It's not the point. The front door where he just moved from was met with a turn of the sign, a push..and lock.



"And why do you want so badly to meet me, Amanda Waller?" If he recognizes the name, Midnighter gives no more indication of it than if he finds being locked in alarming.


It takes a minute for her to get acclimated into answering questions. But, whatever works, for this situation only.

"Trent. Baker. Hoffman. Why else would I be 'dying' to meet you." Hand lifts to create quotes, dropping down to offer up a little bit of a smile in return.

"I'm here to call you out of retirement."


"So Jackson King is no longer the Weatherman." Midnighter surmises. Only the Weatherman would have the authority and he's already dismissed that Waller might be a subordinate. "Did he retire?" Or is he dead.


Alterra Coffee was on full lockdown. Anyone looking from the streets would see the back of a woman near the door, and a man across the other way. Things do not look tense as far as outwardly appearances, however.. it is certain to say that the both of them? They were armed to the teeth in some form or another.

There was no Stormwatch lining the streets to keep eyes upon the Weatherman, no other agents of chaos that Midnighter may or may not have brought with them. Just the two of them.. one.. pushing out false leads of a drug that is seemingly expanding and attempting to ruin it's way through Gotham, the other? Following a lead.

Guess who had done which?

"He's not." She confirms, moving away from the door to pull out a chair, her fingers maneuvering it so that the seat faces her, which she straddles idly. Easy access to damage. She doesn't entertain the thought of King further, no. That question was destined to go unanswered.


The whole damn thing smelled like a trap.

Shift is but one man, but at his fingertips, he wields a powerful network. On the one hand, he has a significant portion of Gotham's criminal underworld at his fingertips. On the other hand, he has a potentially endless army of otherworldly creatures to call upon. Behind him, he has menacing allies, such as Jericho. The Mutants of M-Town. The Hulk. And yet, he waits to strike, to pull so many strings together and take down the man who has become his sworn enemy; Richard Dackleman. He waits, because he knows that Dackleman, in spite of the vengeance Shift carries for the man, is not the primary target. Dackleman will have his day, but for now… the smooth must continue.

What surprises him is a lead, coming to him through the network, that tells of a new hub of operations taking place out of Alterra Coffee. An unassuming coffee shop as a local trafficking hub is not entirely unusual; what is unusual… is that this place wasn't on his list.

Hence, the trap.

Upon a rooftop across the way, a thin cloud of black descends from the deep, evening sky of Gotham. Virtually invisible against the night sky, the cloud of black begins to slowly coalesce. Normal ears may not notice a thing; neither would normal eyes. All the same, the blackness pulls together bit by bit, tendrils of living gas seemingly coming out of thin air until, at last, it begins to solidify. The sound is utterly silent beneath the grinding, breathing noises of the city, but it's there, a sound resembling air being whisked through a tube. Piece by piece, the blackness turns into a man clad almost entirely in menacing, gunmetal gray, mask drawn over his face.

Shift perches upon that rooftop, with the sky and the distant buildings of downtown as his backdrop, and peers down toward the coffee shop below.


Midnighter stays where he is, only turning so that he continues to face Waller. She sits; he does not. "Why?" Not 'Why do you want to?' That answers is obvious. Rather, 'why should I?' He can live without those identities. He has no family or friends she can threaten. He's used to people trying to kill him. They fail. What's in it for him? Why would he want to return after so long away?


Now we're talking. This is the part that was going to get good, or bad for either of them. She came alone for a purpose; sending people after him would project that she was attempting to force him back into duty, not to mention, put a bad taste in her own mouth which would possibly piss her off if they failed. Such a conundrum, no?

Unaware of what was upon the rooftop waiting for them, one hand lifts to gesture towards him, brows lowered yet features cool. Even. Nearly emotionless."Why did you come here." There was no question in those words. "What were you doing in your life that lead you right here, to this point. Give me a day. Two days ago. Three. What did -you- hear that made you want to come to -this- particular coffee shop?"

She has been looking, it seems.

"You need a purpose." And that was that. She didn't want to state the obvious, that this type of work? To people like him and her? It was fucking thrilling.


The masked figure across the way turns aside, and stretches out his arm. A transformation takes place, where flesh, bone and uniform transforms again into tendrils of living, black smoke. The transformation crawls all the way up to his shoulder, and the gasses stretch out, reaching out over the city street below until it falls upon a transformer.

There, the tendrils gather together, coalescing into a thick, black goo. More solid than liquid at first, the material eventually begins to seep into the transformer as it further liquefies. Upon the exposed part of Shift's face, he grimaces in anticipation, eyes concealed twisted into focus.

Suddenly, the transformer explodes into a shower of sparks. Lights blink out in a four block radius as the power drops out.

Upon the rooftop, Shift hisses in agony, and quickly draws what is rightfully his back into himself. Teeth gnashing, he tucks his arm against his body, ignoring the trembling that comes with it. Then, he pushes up, leaping off the rooftop above and going into a freefall. His body twirls about once, taking the form of a swan dive, picking up speed. Before striking the ground, however, the man disappears into smoke again. The tendrils hit the pavement and zoom across the street towards the coffee shop, passing between tires and underfoot as passersby panic at the sudden blackout.


"Smooth." Midnighter answers. She knew that but he's willing to play along. For now. "It needs to stop. Those who create it need to end." Most people would have swapped those clauses: end the drug, stop the people. Most people aren't him. "I have a purpose and I never run out of objectives." To make the world a better place. The transformer exploding heralds the lights going out and he leaps over the counter not just for cover but for the weapons available. WHich is most everything.


"And you will never get it out of you. That purpose. That reason. Return to Stormwatch and you'll have everything you need readily available. You won't be held back, you'll be free to live your life as you please, only if you come when called. Our medical and dental plan that's in place.."

Yeah, recruit true to form. Yet her words were cut as soon as the transformer goes out, her eyes canting down towards her watch with a slight sigh. If it were her guards? They've gotten skilled at tracking Amanda.

She slowly stands from her position, leg drawing away from the chair which is turned and politely put into place. She doesn't spring into action, instead she reaches into the depths of her leather pocket to retrieve an idle band, which was used to gather curled, shoulder length locks to bind into a high bun.

Just in case.


Bets are this place isn't air tight. It takes a few moments for Shift to make his not-so-grand entrance, but soon enough, a column of smoke is forming in the dead center of the coffee shop. It solidifies much faster than earlier, a sound of displacing air joining it. Then, the masked individual is looking from side to side, lips curled into a thick frown. "Eidah of you run and you're dead," he warns, then waits to see what their play will be. After all, there's a lot you can learn from being quiet.


Medical and dental plan? That must be a joke given she has access to Midnighter's file. But the offer will wait till after the fight. "Running was the last thing on my mind." he tells their unexpected company. "But I will give you the chance to do so yourself if you tell me everything you know about smooth. That's going to happen to matter what but it'll be easier on you."


Like a mad scientist, Amanda remains calm. She keeps her distance from either men, remaining stalwart and true in the face of potential danger. Unexpected events breed results, in her mind, whether good or bad, she's witnessing two in action. Her hands reach behind herself to withdraw the weaponry placed there, two pistols, armor piercing, specially made and decorated, just for her. She wasn't one to attack, favoring the line of questioning that Midnighter brought upon the strange mutant, to violence.

She hates violence.


Shift's masked face settles upon Midnighter. Upon the massive man he seems to linger, though there is little exposed of him to tell what, exactly, it is he's thinking. After some few long moments, his face turns about to settle upon Waller.

If Midnighter is asking about the smooth… then she must be the one who laid the trap.

"What do you want from me, den?" His arms gesture out toward either side, and he begins taking slow, meaningful steps toward her. "I don't appreciate my time being wasted."


Midnighter's question goes unanswered but he's likely to learn things by doing nothing for the moment. As he hasn't accepted Waller's offer, he has no responsibility to guard her, especially if it'll lead to what he wants.


Three birds, one stone.

As luck would have it. The man approaches her, her eyes narrowing as her gun hand flies up, stiff.. pointed, unwavering.. aimed right towards the mans face. Bullet right in between the eyes; she'll do it if she needs to. But his display of brim and smoke would make it all the more harder.

"The Smooth itself."

Trigger finger squeezes, curling into a secure fit around the latch, but she does not place more pressure upon it than needs be. "To quarantine and ultimately destroy. And all parties eliminated."

Shift would know this, the Smooth does not only affect the mutants, but the weight that's being put on the humans as well is devastating. If crack kills? The Smooth would be a potential epidemic. Almost worse than the Black Plague.

"Now. Who the fuck are you."


"No." Shift's voice is stalwart, with dark undercurrents. "De smooth burns. No quarantine. No research." Waller's final question, again, goes unanswered. Let her work her contacts, she'll be able to figure it out. Instead, the African smirks, eyes pointed toward her gun. "Go on, den," he tells her. "Let de authorities know what's going on here. Shoot me." He's not stopping in his slow, steady approach; it almost seems as if he's egging her on.

Because he is.

Midnighter isn't being ignored, either. Not exactly. Shift remains aware of the other person, even though his eyes can't track Midnighter's location, listening for boot steps or the telltale sound of weaponry arming. "Right between de eyes would be pahticulahly telling."


"So it can go through you as you change to smoke again." Midnighter states. "You want it stopped. We want it stopped. Enough flexing and tell us what you know about it and we'll all get our wish."


Refusal. A question unanswered, things were about to turn to shit in this coffee shop real, really fast. She doesn't move as he continues his approach, her gun hand steady as her eyes shift towards Midnighter. He made a good point. The bullet will go right past him and into the wall, or possibly some place that'll ricochet and hit either of them.

And she didn't want that.

"You sure you want to do this?" Amanda questions, however, the language wasn't her own just then. She reverts to Mfanste, her accent close to a native of Ghana as an American can get. Here's to hoping, or not caring if he speaks the dialect or not.

Gun was pointed sideways and towards the air, her other hand reaching behind her to hook the one she held into an idle grip in it's holster, the other soon following suit.

She didn't want the police to come, nor she didn't want to waste a bullet where something.. or someone couldn't be hit. If he wanted to throw down?

It'll be all hands. Here's to hoping Midnighter can appeal to Shift's 'good nature'.


While Kwabena was raised on Dangme, Mfanste was a language commonly used in the capital of Accra, where he spent time in his youth as a ward of the state. It brings a pause, his footsteps slowing to a halt. Then, a mischievous grin forms when the woman turns her gun aside. Good call on that one, Waller.

"Yah friend is smart," he quips, indicating the voice coming from behind him. He turns his masked face then, giving Midnighter an approving nod. Perceptive, strategic. Seems the masked man approves.

The face turns back toward Waller. Then comes forth a slew of words spoken in Mfanste. "If I help you, it comes with a cost. Your word. That you'll destroy the smooth, no research, no retention. That happens, then I'll give you everything I have. But if you betray me, I promise there won't be a single night where you aren't haunted by the fear that I might slip into your bedroom and slit your throat."

Now that he's made his threat, the Ghanaian slips back into his heavily accented English. He reaches up to lift the mask from his face, revealing angular features, midnight skin, a bald head and silver eyes. Now they have a face, which is both an olive branch and a risk forced upon both Waller and Midnighter. "Since names ah so impahtant to you? Shift."


"I know." Spoken in regards to Midnighter, one of the many reasons why she wanted him to come out of retirement in the first place. The words he spoke in Mfanste were understood, a nod soon given as her hand strikes out, fingers extended and spread in the form of a shake. If you want to make a deal? You grab hands, sans spit.

"You have my word." She says in plain English, just promising that would cause her not to break the bond and the need to transform the smooth into an actual weapon. She'd have to look elsewhere.

Not that she was afraid. Never that.

If the hand was taken and shaken, she'd withdraw in favor of a seat, pulling the chair out once again to plop her denim clad ass atop of it with a slight lean, hands snaking into her back pocket to retrieve a ruined pack of smokes to fish one out and light up, deep inhale taken.

"I would have hated to break the bank to pay for this, since I'm not exactly on call. But since we three are after the same thing in regards to the Smooth, I would like to offer my services in the form of one of my agents." Inhale.. exhale.. a plume of smoke fills the area near her, her hand reaching up to fan it for.. no reason at all. "This particular agent will have no need to watch, to spy, to tell me secrets that you do on your time, Shift." A pause, then.. "..He will only come when needed, and possibly serve as a point of contact if you wish to see me face to face." And that was all.

In regards to Midnighter? "I will forward everything to you in the interim, from what we were during your time with the particular organization to what it's become now. Under stable leadership."


Reaching out, Shift accepts the handshake. With his mask withdrawn, he's able to look Waller in the eye. She'll be able to see the dedication within them, and also, the lack of trust. Time will tell if she keeps her word on this one.

Shift moves to take a seat, grabbing a chair and turning it about before lowering himself. The uniform he wears seems high tech, the fabric a deep, form fitting gunmetal gray, but with a thickness that suggests vinyl or kevlar. Mysterious as it is, there's no sound as it touches the chair.

"De smooth is being pushed primarily by a man named 'Richard Dackleman'. Used to opahrate out of NYC, but he got greedy. Word is he's relocated to Gotham, and he's established an impressive opahration."

The Ghanaian looks between Waller and Midnighter as he speaks. "De Galante Crime Family is bringing it in, from a place where I must assume it's being created. Location still unknown. Once heah, it's re-distributed by a numbah of infamous Gotham organizations. Triad seems to be handling ovahseas distribution; Odessa Mob is handling domestic shipments. Dere ah some oddah, smallah opahrations dat handle distribution within Gotham to the local using population, and de Brighton Beach Gang is selling it up in Mutant Town."

Shift leans forward, folding his gloved hands together. A serious expression lingers on his face as he divulges yet more information. "Now, I have a high numbah of opahratives nestled within all of dese organizations. Dackleman is still off de grid, and we still haven't been able to locate where, or how, it's being produced. Keep in mind, dese guys ah smaht. High level trafficking. And, dere heavily armed. Dackleman was into firearms before he got into shit like coke and heroin up in de Bronx. Got to be cahful about involving de authorities, too. You shake too many trees, get de wrong pahson lawyered up, and it'll be dat much hardah to find de source."

Now, he looks between the two, studying their responses to such a wealth of information. He doesn't trust easily, no… but if these two are actually working for Dackleman? He'll know soon enough.


A face to the name. Both faces to both names. Midnighter was addressed first. "As I said. You will be free to do what you please, but you will come when you're called. No threats. I cannot promise repercussions, you've been in the game far longer than I have. Even my boss has bosses." Everyone has a boss, price of doing business. And, he can take it or leave it.

Though, the story that Shift weaves was an interesting one. In a way, her interest would have waned if it weren't for the humans tangled in this mess. A five year old abandoned because her father got hooked on Smooth, dragged the mother down with. Child inside the system.

A small house fire caused because someone attempted to replicate the effects of the smooth by cooking their own stash.

A teenager, showing off in front of his friends, bought smooth and tried it for the first time, no hope of survival.

"The legal aspects? If it should come to that, you leave to me." With as much power Amanda pushed around, one could say that she -was- the walking epitome of the government. The cigarette was half finished when she leans forward, offering the butt towards Shift if he happens to smoke, she was not one to be stingy.

Newports. Menthol. Typical.


A lingering stare is given to Waller, but Shift finally reaches out to accept the cigarette. A deep drag is taken, appreciated, and expelled through nose and partly spread lips alike.

"One request. Dackleman." He looks between the two. "Makes sense to let the whole thing breathe until we find de source, but when de time comes, I want him."

Theres something vicious in the merc's eyes. Seems the two have some bad blood to deal with. It's also a favor to Waller, so she might understand that Shift has no intention of letting him go through the justice system.

Another drag is taken. "IP address. 401.78.200.91. Heavily encrypted. Use it to coordinate all efforts, or else dis whole thing will go cocks up quickah dan Rod Stewart made our mama's cum in de '70's."

Midnighter is Waller's man now. He can get his smoke from her.


"Agreed." Midnighter tells Waller. He can deal with bosses if it comes to that. Or just go underground again. It's second nature by now. But he can do better work with more resources. "Who's distributing it is irrelevant at the moment. So that leaves the De Galante's. We should have a talk with whoever the current head is." he says to Shift.


Cigarette taken, and this is where Waller departs. She stands from the chair, her motions careful and precise as to not shake up either of the men, which would turn it into a three way battle that would bring hell on earth.

She moves around the counter top to grip the keys the barista left behind, then back towards the table in between Shift and Midnighter, keys pressed upon it as she gestures towards the place. "Lock up when you're done."

There was no fanfare with her exit. Only a relaxed glide towards the door which was soon unlocked, exited, and closed behind her. Leather jacket zipped up to fight off the chill of the nights air… and she was off, moving down the street in the darkness, disappearing around the corner.


"Galante," Shift corrects Midnighter without fanfare. "Sorry, it's de accent." He nods his agreement, adding, "Gotta move fast when it goes down. Shit's coming in from out of state, don't know just how fah. Probably best to take a quiet approach. Big guns will get dere day when we find de source."

He takes another drag of the cigarette, then turns to look at the departing Waller. Once she's gone, he smirks. "Can't trust someone who nevah shares dere name." The woman still remains a mystery to him."


"Call her the Weatherman." Midnighter tells Shift. Waller's going to come up now and then and calling her 'that woman' could get complicated as time goes on. Though it's probably better than a lot of things some people call her. "Tell me where he is and I'll get the information." It's obviously an afterthought when he adds "You can come if you want." A man who can turn to smoke should be good at staying out of the way.


The Weatherman. Noted. He'll need to work his contacts on that one. "I'll have de infahmation uploaded by morning."

The man stands, turning to raise his mask. "See you dere." And then, in a puff of smoke, he disappears.


And so Midnighter is left alone, having just rejoined Stormwatch at the same time he got a major lead on the drug. Already, it's paying off. Coming out from behind the counter, he turns off all the light switches so they don't come back on when power is restored and then leaves via the front door, locking it behind him. Jack Baker needs to get back to his apartment and get some sleep. It'll be a busy few days and just thinking about it makes him smile.

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