The Smooth: Alliance

Summary:
September 28, 2014: A leader of the Odessa Mob has made for Alliance, Ohio, in an effort to evacuate the people responsible for creating the smooth. They've been tracked.

Edwards Estate — Alliance, Ohio

Alliance, Ohio. "The town where Main Street is a dead end." The place has that whole 'small town, big city' feel that comes so easily in post-industrial age midwestern towns. A once bustling main street now lies mostly desolate, thanks to the Wal*Mart that opened up two decades ago, right around the time when the last of the steel mills shut down. Demographically speaking, it is in Alliance where income disparity seems most rampant. On the outskirts of town, there are mansions. A healthy majority of the others are on government assistance. Retail, services, and Mount Union College serve to keep the city alive, but barely.

It is upon the outskirts of town where the Edwards family lives, their Estate occupying a large plot of land. Beyond the mansion itself, there are three smaller guest houses, and a number of garages to support the family's collection of classic cars.


Characters

NPCs

  • Vladimir Pietrovich
  • Stormwatch soldiers
  • Dr. Pablo Falzoni
  • Damian "Scales" Woods
  • Darklings
  • Dackleman thugs

Mood Music:
"Inventions" by Maserati


Sunday, September 28th. 2:04 AM.

Interstate 476, Northbound.

Seated in the back seat of his Lexus, Vladimir Pietrovich, senior leader of the Odessa Mob, eyed the shoulder of the highway while his car passed by a pair of police cars, lights flashing red and blue. They had one of his motorcycle scouts pulled over for speeding. Turning back to face the darkness beyond, he scowled, eyes flashing from the driver to the cell phone in his hand.

Ever since leaving Gotham, he'd been tempted to use it, but it was clear that their communications methods had been compromised. He had one choice now; get to Alliance. Warn the others. Get Falzoni and Scales the hell out of dodge.

Once the police cars are out of sight, he leans forward. "Step on it," he tells the driver. "We don't have all night."


Sunday, September 28th. 10:06 AM.

Airspace over Western Pennsylvania

Shift is seated in the co-pilot's seat of a VTOL aircraft, loaned to the operation by The Weatherman. He may have no idea how to operate an aircraft, but he knows how to monitor a tracking device. Not that he would need much help, given some of the parties on board, but the Ghanaian feels a particular sense of responsibility here; responsibility for the outcome of this operation, and responsibility for those who have come along.

The tracking device has followed Vladimir Pietrovich's Lexus up I-476 out of Gotham, and Westbound on I-80, through the mountainous expanse of Pennsylvania. It has settled on the outskirts of a small city somewhere in rural, Northeastern Ohio. Alliance, Ohio.

A glance is given toward Midnighter, before Shift unfastens his seatbelt and rises, moving into the cabin of the aircraft. He looks around at those who have gathered; the mysterious Huntress, Lunair, Melody, and a small handful of soldiers also lent to the operation by The Weatherman. "Tahget has settled in Alliance, Ohio. Southeast of Cleveland. Rural. Lots of drug trafficking goes through de city, so, no huge sahprise dere. Keep your heads on, dough. Local cops do a damn good job setting up stings, so dere's a possahbility dere already onto it." He walks over to a computer, calling up a google maps street view of the area. It reveals a large estate, with multiple buildings surrounding a massive mansion. Silver eyes then drift over toward Melody, to whom he asks, "You got anything else on dis location, Rant?"

-

Huntress hsa not been a very happy camper during this whole thing. She still has a headache from earlier and her mood is shot to hell as a result. Why she's even here is any guess but it most likely involved her being volun-told or something. Really is anyone's guess. When Shift speaks she turns a bleary gaze towards him and nods slowly, trying very hard not to move her head too much. "Right." That all (briefly) said and done, Helena closes her eyes and tries to will the throbbing in her head away.

-

The tracking frequency came through the email that Shift and Corvinus had worked out. A lot of that has been happening lately for the ancient avianoid artifact. It is beginning to wonder if open and honest communication on this rock-ball are an illusion, but at the same time it has been aided by the electronic subterfuge. Definitely makes things easier to arrange surreptitious meetings using the whimsical human creation 'Craig's List', whatever that stands for.

When the information came down, with the barest of hints that yes, this was a time-sensitive manner, the vast yet diminished computational prowess of the epochs-old entity started to number-crunch. While it would be able to theoretically arrive in the given location at the given time under its own power, it would still be in a recuperation cycle and potentially combat in-effective. Various other options are contemplated, including the use of the rail system, the bus routes, automobiles — even though the partner could not drive that could be an option.

Ultimately, though, it decided on a markedly unorthodox and completely novel method, even as it weighed variables of known human behaviour. After several seconds of contemplation, it locked out the best route to get to the last known heading of the frequency and the device. If it over-shot, well, it could always double back.

So it was that Southwest Airlines Flight 597 out of LaGuardia to Akron, Ohio mentioned in their flight log 'an unusually strong headwind' and 'significant turbulence during the start of descent'.

Above and out of the sight of passengers, Corvinus had managed to ensconce itself tightly on the rudder assembly and enjoyed a far more brisk flight than it would have been capable of on its own. In fact, it ran numbers during the flight to see what methods could be used to implement some of the flight data into improving its own flight envelope. When the jetliner began making a descent, the avian entity tumbled to one side and let itself be buffeted for five thousand feet before fanning its wings wide. A banking descent began, even as it killed momentum.

Now that it was in the appropriate area, it pulled out a small battered old phone, with only one 'app' on it. That app, such as it were, was a signal strength locator, with a signal highlighted on it as 'Target Primus'. Mindful of local flight traffic, it began its own quiet pursuit of the source signal.

-

Poor Huntress. Lunair is one of the passengers along, although she tries to remember to use her codename. Does Armory sound pretentious? Hmm. Tough to say. Nevertheless, she has some sort of sleek, achingly beautiful high tech armor that looks like she pulled it from a video game. A slender helmet with a folding visor rests in her lap. She looks to Huntress, quietly concerned. And then Shift speaks. She frowns faintly. Cops, huh. She's hoping it won't come to tangling with them.

"Good to know," She offers to Shift. Lunair's pretty well mannered. Even if something seems off about her. Sure, she's probably one of the younger fighters but it runs deeper. Nevertheless, she glances to those around her, seeming curious.

-

Waiting. That's the part Midnighter hates the most. But cars only go so fast and there's no point in wasting time and fuel by taking off before they knew what the destination was. Instead, he amused himself for several hours by questioning Galante. Perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing as he's a mob boss - was a mob boss - the man didn't break easily. Information obtained was minimal in the time he had to work with. Maybe later if this trip doesn't work out.

He's in the pilot seat, refamiliarizing himself with the controls since it's been a while since he flew anything. He'd forgotten how nice it was to have access to this kind of resource and the authority to tell the FAA that they were going to be flying from A to B and just suck it up. "The bosses must be kept alive for what they know." he says over the intercom as he listens to the conversation going on in the back. "Everyone else is expendable so make sure they don't have a chance to bother us later."

-

Melody wasn't listening. She rarely, if ever, when doing something this big, is listening.

Earbuds were tucked deep into her ears, her eyes closed the entire fight, fingers clenching and unclenching against jeans pre-ripped which cause them to expand further than designed. What was she doing?

She was jamming. Jamming away, her head bobbing back and forth, occasionally one hand lifting to let off a gangstalicious gesture, mouthing a few words to the song to get her revved up from the talk she had with The Woman, and the pat on her back towards Keith. Yeah, it was about to guh-guh-guh-go down tonight!

Not really.

The rise of Shift causes her eyes to fly open, hand lifting to snatch one bud out of her ear as she draws her eyes upright to scan what she knows how to relay who knows what. "Nothing important that everyone needs to worry themselves with. I mean, if you're worried about polution cause.. this place is -cram- slam full of it, then hey! This is your city! Over twenty three citizens and…"

Midnighter's words ring through the coms, slightly irritating poor Rant. She hates death, and violence moreso.. so her little Rant about the city is on hold for now.

-

Green Arrow had been generous in lending Huntress to the operation. Shift was also thankful that the vigilante had remained behind, in order to keep an eye on the crime families in Gotham they'd hit. There's no telling what will happen now to the Lucky Hand Triad, the Odessa Mob, and the Galante Crime Family. Timo Galante may now be in the clutches of The Weatherman, a terrifying thing beyond what Midnighter may have done to the poor son of a bitch, but crime families have a way of reinventing themselves, and there were plenty of other Galante's to take the throne, so to speak.

Shift walks over toward a cabinet in the wall. His gloved hand opens it and retrieves a first aid kit, which he rummages through while Midnighter speaks. "He's right," he adds. "Don't pull yah shots. We got Govahnment Backing on dis now, dey'll handle whatevah mess we make." Silver eyes observe those gathered, not entirely sure on how some of them feel about killing. Regardless, he walks over toward Huntress, handing her a hypodermic needle. "Dis will help." He knows she took a hard hit, and the juice inside of that needle is military-grade pain killer, designed to let her operate uninhibited for a while. She may hurt more later, but hopefully Ollie can help her out on that front.

Deep down inside, he hates the fact that this has become a Government sponsored op. He hasn't had the best of luck with these, after all.

The Ghanaian turns next toward Rant. He doesn't remark on the odd nature of the woman, instead letting a smirk draw its way across his exposed face. "When we get close, hack in. See what kind of a defense we're dealing with down dere. I don't expect it to be light. As far as weaponry goes?" He gestures toward Lunair, or 'Armory' as it were. "Armory can get us anything we need." He turns and walks back toward the cockpit, reclaiming his spot at the co-pilot's seat and strapping in.

Soon enough, the Estate comes into view on their long range scanners. Shift leans forward, keying in a magnified view of the area. Pietrovich's Lexus and the entourage of SUV's and motorcycles who had accompanied him are there, but the thugs have all gone inside. There are a few men patrolling the grounds here and there, armed with heavy assault rifles. He casts a look toward Midnighter while keying the tactical information into the cabin, so that they others can see it. "What do you say? Silent approach, or do we come in like hellfire?"

-

She's not the one being addressed but she speaks up anyhow, Huntress' voice coming across as fairly wary which, for anyone who knows her, knows that's a sign that something about this has the normally reckless woman worried. "We should come in as quiet as we can," she announces with a slow, self-affirming nod. "They might be better armed than might be expected. Plus the element of surprise is always a good thing to have on one's side, yes?" Grinning, she reaches up to adjust that strange mask of hers.

-

There will undoubtedly be some chaos on the ground when Corvinus gets involved with this. It is unaware that the operational parameters have been changed to a 'kill all save the leaders' stance. While equipped with a multitude of tiers of self-defense and offense logarithims, save for certain circumstances the release of lethal force is generally discouraged. If too many defenders of this rockball are eliminated, then there won't be anyone to deal with a possible future threat.

That possible complication aside, it successfully dampens its speed to something more it can handle, making slight course adjustments as the tracker updates with an indication that the tracker has stopped. A slight course variation to thirty degrees for a few moments verifies that yes, not only has the target stopped, but via the basic math of triangulation where the target is located.

The bird-thing descends, banking right and left for last minute-adjustments. A simple message is sent to Shift.

"Big Black Bird Standing By. Loud/Silent? (L/S)?"

It holds off on further approach until it gets word either way. It won't compromise the situation, at least, not yet.

-

Lunair listens more than she talks for now. She smiles politely at Shift, and nods. "Just let me know." Pause, then at Huntress' words, she points out, "I suspect that filling a car with explosives, launching it with explosives beneath it then shooting it with an anti-tank gun would also kind of surprise them." It just depends on the kind of surprise really! At Midnighter's words, she seems quiet. "You are the first person I've ever hear say that it was okay to do that," There's a mingle of relief and uncertainty. On one hand? Lethal is a lot easier. On the OTHER, it encourages a rather unpleasant side of her.

"Still, I am fine with quiet too," A nod at that. Yes indeedy.

-

Midnighter doesn't know these people which equates to not trusting them. Hell, he doesn't necessarily trust the ones he does know. Silent only works if everyone is able to be silent. It only takes one person to screw up and alert them, making the entire attempt to sneak in a wasted effort. And worse, letting the ones they need escape. "There's not enough of us to guarantee they don't get away if there are any mistakes. So we're going to go in hard and fast and take out the outside guards and vehicles. Armory, you are on the right track. I want several RPG-32s at the ready." Hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers. "Anyone sound off if you can use one. Otherwise I'll give the controls to Shift and do it myself. We can drop anyone onto the roof if they prefer to come in from above and land safely. The rest of us will clear then ground then land."

-

"We don't need to be close. I got this." A hand reaches up to curl into a fist, lightly dapping against her chest as she lets out a breath. Someone.. is a little -too- confident.

While the others were mixing and mingling as best as they could on a mission, Rant remains quiet, her eyes closing to hide the little sparks of electricity that may crown the orbs, the way her color may change and the fact that little black lines in the from of veins would creep upon her arms. A side effect, lingering due to the Smooth.

She taps into the radio frequency that was meant to be kept secret, the same voice.. recognizable from the last mission, playing over the comms.

"Testing. Testing."

"Accessing street cameras surrounding the area."

If anyone were to look at Rant, they'd not see her lips move.

"Hitching a ride on the local Wifi. Ah. Alright. I'm inside."

There was a moment where her hand suddenly lifts, fingers lightly playing against the air as if she were typing one handed upon the keyboard, motions needed through comfort as her lips quick and frown, but not move.

"Two." Is all she says for the moment. "Ten guards. Two placed at each entrance. Two black SUV's on the road leading to the estate. Armed guards on the front lawn… several. Breaking in.."

"Server room access. Accessing cameras. Too many rooms."

She twitches a little, fingers halting.

"Accessing city's historical database. Searching. Four story mansion. Six bedrooms, five and a half bath, twelve rooms total. Safe room top floor, heavily fortified. I can't get a count on who's inside. Cell phone signals down."

She pulls herself from her 'ride', a draw of the breath taken as she glances around the room almost bewildered. Melody is probably the only person on this ship who has no clue what to do with a gun, but she wouldn't dare say. She just won't touch it.

-

"Don't worry, Huntress. Dey will be sahprised." After all, as far as Pietrovich is concerned? He got away scott free with that little trick he pulled at the Pierce Tower. It would seem that Shift is in agreement with Midnighter. "We'll go in hahd."

The Ghanaian goes silent when Rant does her magic, providing them with a total layout of what they can expect. Ten guards, two placed at the entrance, two SUV's on the road leading to the estate, armed guards on the front lawn. Plenty of rooms to clear.

"Huntress, Briggs, Jackson, Jennings and Adams." Shift addresses four of the Stormwatch soldiers who are accompanying them. "You'll drop in and establish a defensive perimiter around de area. Take out anyone who tries to make an escape. Midnighter will handle de SUV's while I drop in over de Estate and provide a distraction. Also? We've got air support. You guys see de big bird dat comes in from de sky, it's a friendly. Once Midnighter and I have cleared de grounds, everyone else will drop in and advance upon de mansion." He stands up from the co-pilot's seat, and moves back into the cabin.

Once there, a gloved hand points at Lunair. "Armory, get Rant some defensive armor. She's our eyes and ears, your job is to keep her safe, at all costs." He raises the mask to cover his face, then checks the comm unit knit into the wrist of his uniform. He'll have to keep an eye on it at all costs.

Once the VTOL is making it's advance, skimming over the rural roads leading up to the mansion, Shift reaches over to pop the hatch. The cargo door opens up, allowing Huntress and the four soldiers to drop down from above, using grapple lines to slow their approach. Shift cuts the lines once they have hit the ground, and waits until all five of them have checked in.

"Midnighter, we're a go." Shift reaches down to his wrist comm, and taps in a single response to Corvinus. "L". Loud. With that being said, the Ghanaian dives out of the rear of the aircraft, headed for the ground below in a swan dive.

-

Once the message is obtained the avianoid gives a brief nod, though to whom it is nodding at is uncertain. Then the voice sounds over the phone.

Interesting. It will have to dispose of this one 'on accident' after this situation so the partner can get a newer more secure model.

It makes a bit of a bank then dives down at the compound, wings flaring wide as it approaches, flying around the eastern edge. When it feels the turbulence of the VTOL it comes in for a landing and flexes a bit as it lowers the wings down in front of it slightly, ready to use them as shields should the need arise.

"ATTENTION, PURVEYORS OF DEATH! YOU WILL STAND DOWN IMMEDIATELY AND CEASE ALL HOSTILE ACTIVITY! FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN HOSTILE ACTION! ONLY WARNING!"

It's a bit of a bluff, it isn't a murderous type save the worst of situations… but if it is assaulted it isn't going to feel bad about breaking bones or putting folks in the hospital. Given the gravity and magnitude of the situation as presented to it by the Ghanian, it is willing to wade into gunfire if such is arrayed against it, hopefully sending guards scattering and if they stand their ground, flying not of their own volition.

-

"So, the car full explosives is a no?" Lunair has a sense of humor. Or something. Oh well. She'll set about to making a few of those RPG-32s. All she does is - well, they just APPEAR out of nowhere. Her powers are quiet and subtle until the weapons come out. "And uhm, what color armor?" At least Lunair is thoughtful towards Rant. Armory will wait until Rant okays it, and create a similarly sleek set of armor and helmet. Someone's played too much Metal Gear Rising. But then, with powers like hers, are video games so bad?

She listens to Shift, nodding. Righto.

-

Once everyone has left who intends to leave, Midnighter takes the plane in, the engines not quite pointing directly downwards which makes it 'walk' across the yard. Some bullets ping off the hull but anti-personel weapons aren't going to do much. The engine turbulence so close to the ground easily blows guards off their feet as well as anything not tied down. The noise also makes it impossible for them to coordinate anything over their radios. "Move back from the hatch." he warns those inside as he moves the plane further back once all is chaos on the ground below. It's about to get worse.

With the engines pointed straight down, it hovers in one spot and the hatch on the side opens. Midnighter walks to the back, leaving the controls unattended. It should be fine for the minute or so this'll take. Giving Lunair a nod, he picks up an RPG and fires it at the SUVs. A second blows up the front door and anyone who might have been running to reinforce those outside. The third explodes more or less in the center of where the guards are concentrated. "We're going down." he says as he heads back to the controls.

-

Melody felt a little bit of relief, she wasn't going to be taking up arms and she didn't have to place -that call- so that she could. She was going to be protected. A nervous smile is cast off towards Lunair as she unbuckles herself, moving across the plane to sit near the woman as the others drop off and out of sight. "I guess we can go with black? I would say purple or something pretty awesome but I think that'll just make me a moving target.." She was nervous, that was for sure.. but this was something that she couldn't do back home from Gotham.

"Can you make me something that gives me a little electric shock? Don't ask.." She cuts that out right quick, yet.. as the controls were unmanned and Midnighter makes an appearance, a hand goes towards him and points to the front of the plane.. and then to the ba..

"Oh.. oh.. oh.."

Hands clap against the side of her head as her eyes squeeze, she even rears up with her knees as if doing so would shield her from the sound of the RPG. The thunderous crack and explosions was the sign for her to lower her hands, her eyes soon gone into the back of her head as she drops into the wavelength for a quick second to alert the others the SUV's were taken care of.

-

There's more people than Shift's gang looking into drug trafficking in Gotham. And there were more people than his gang planning on going after the crime gangs involved with it. One of those people discovered what went down several hours ago. Through the aid of her advanced military-grade communication and decryption technology, and her own moderate skill at hacking, she was able to tap into the communications of Shift's crew, and find out enough about where they were headed to try to get there before them. See, this particular vigilante decided she couldn't afford to leave handling these mob bosses and their goons to people willing to kill to resolve their problems.

She isn't willing to let any more casualties happen — on EITHER side. And so, a sleek black motorcycle like shadow forged into steel, streaks of red trailing behind it from its lights due to its extreme speed, is tearing down roads and highways, trying to get there in time. The bike's rider — a figure in a black and red ensemble of her own, crimson hair streaming and writhing in the air after her, to go with the black cloak that flies out behind as well — has optical enhancements in her helmet and sees the RPGs fired. She swears under her breath. She's too late. She flips a switch, and the already-moving-faster-than-almost-any-other-two-wheeled-vehicle-of-Earthly-origin-onthe-planet motorcycle speeds up further as nitros are fired.

It's hard to keep control moving at this speed, but the heroine grits her teeth and bears it. Adrenaline sharpens her reflexes and reaction time. She hits an incline adequately sharp enough, and her motorcycle goes flying up into the air by about three-dozen feet, the machinery still more quiet than an average car, even as it is pushed to perform at its maximum. Then she hits a second switch just off the handle bars, and a device that has two functions is launched from the side of the bike. The devices is a disc with a bat-like emblem on it. It flies across the distance between Batwoman's mid-air bike, and the aircraft that Shift and crew arrived in.

And if it makes contact it attached with a claw-like mechanism that can dig through solid steel… And releases an electromagnetic pulse that should fry all unshielded electronics in a mile radius. Even if it misses, function two activates. Function two is the release of a smoke cloud, to make a potentially near-lightless environment even harder to navigate.

First thing to do when people are shooting off rocket-propelled grenades: Make them not able to see a target. Also, lights going out all over might make it harder for the bad guys to see what to shoot at as well.

The motorcycle lands after several seconds of air-time, hard, and Batwoman barely keeps control once the wheels make contact with the ground again, having to swerve madly back and forth. She has already failed to prevent killing. But in the next few moments, maybe she can get close enough to stop any more.

-

Shit hits the fan pretty fast in a town like Alliance, Ohio. The guys around this town are third generation steel workers. They're tough, most of them have done military work, and those who haven't have grown up around guns, pro wrestling, and whiskey bars. They might not be Navy SEALS, but they're well paid, well armed, and dedicated.

Regardless, the arrival of a massive, avian creature takes them off guard. For a moment. Guns are drawn and semi-automatic weapons fire gets sprayed toward Corvinus; guess these goons don't get the hint.

What happens next can nearly spell it out for them. The VTOL comes in, exhaust blasting most of the guards to the ground and nearly melting their faces. It's not a lethal move, but it puts them down for the count. Which is long enough.

A black cloud rushes along, like a phantom along the ground. The VTOL blast hits it every so often, causing the smoke to blast apart, but it always comes back together. Once the engines are pointed downward, Shift goes to work. The cloud reforms into the shape of a man, arms curled around one guard's neck. A wrench, an ungodly snap, and that guard is dead. Another transformation to smoke, and he moves off toward the next one. This one finds his head jerked forward and into a kneecap that just formed out of black, gaseous tendrils. Blood splatters from a shattered nose, and the guard is thrown to the ground, head striking asphalt and splitting. He'll live, perhaps. Smoke again, and he's off for the front door.

There, the Ghanaian reforms between two guards who are firing their weapons toward Corvinus. His hands lash out, pulling the rifles toward himself. There's a sneer that borders on vicious as the men look on, gasping, their weapons pouring bullets right into Shift. Little black tufts of smoke shoot out with each round that passes through his body, only for those tufts of smoke to get sucked right back into place, leaving the Ghanaian seemingly unharmed. Each of the guards, however, are pumped full of lead by their buddies' guns, and soon go down in a heap next to the mangled doorway. One might argue that they killed each other?

Dashing into the mansion, Shift raises his wrist-comm, the tiny item small and light enough that he was able to keep it within his smokey clutches. "Shift—" he starts to say, when suddenly the device sparks against his wrist and goes dark. He winces, and frowns. "What da fuck?" he spits out, but before he can respond, two thugs are running down the hallway, their weapons drawn. Even as the darkness descends upon the grounds at the behest of Batwoman's smoke-bomb, Shift takes a run forward, ignoring the bullets that pepper his body. They, after all, end up blasting through the drywall and shattering the stonework of the mansion's outer walls.

Outside, the VTOL aircraft is about fifteen feet from the ground when Batwoman's device hits, and fries the electronics. The engines sputter and die, and the device goes falling toward the ground. The crash is gonna hurt, that much is certain, but everyone inside is armored enough to survive the fall, thanks to Lunair's armor-weaving capabilities.

-

The wings are adjusted slightly to protect the bird-thing from the localized windstorm created by the rotors of the VTOL, even as it cracks its neck and looks for any who have not stood down. The whirling cloud of death it had not anticipated, but is largely powerless to prevent, even as it reconsiders its options in this scenario.

The 'WOOSH' of the RPGs are the slight warning the bird-thing has to shield its senses. Then the SUVs go up. And the front door. And the largest clump of guards. Well, it can't say it didn't warn them. It wasn't anticipating that sort of firepower brought to bear, but it shrugs a bit, striding forward with an odd gait as it seeks out any who are attempting to continue the fight.

While it is not a tactical savant and neither is the partner, it is getting a bit of a 'tickle' along a logic process.

Too easy. Something is awry.

There is a brief beat.

The VTOL crash-lands as the EMP goes off and even it gets dazed briefly as ancient processes and work-arounds wend their way through to the most recent Patch.

There is a shift in the avianoid's demeanor as talons extrude to full length and the rather casual approach turns to war.

"HOSTILE DISRUPTION ATTEMPT NOTED! PROTOCOL 667.1 ACTIVE!"

In the darkness and the smoke it is attempting to identify any unkown targets as possible hostiles.

Oh boy.

-

"Yeah, sure," Lunair nods to Melody. The armor is a dark black and royal purple. A simple lightning gun is no problem. The easy stuff is over quickly, though. There's an EMP and she winces, although at least Lunair was wise enough to put her helmet on. She's only reeling for a moment. Weirdly, this sort of death fiesta is not unusual or unknown to her. It might explain a few things, even. But she's dazed in the crash, more than a little bruised and irritable.

Once she can get outside, it's time to regroup. Lunair would really rather go fight things. For now, she regroups and will railgun anyone who gets too close to her or Melody and is hostile.

-

Midnighter's bringing the plane down for a landing when he suddenly loses all power and the engines cut off. Unlike a regular aircraft, he can't even glide. It hits hard but could have been much worse. Regardless, Waller is not going to be happy about losing one of her jets. The crash only dazes him for a moment then he's up and out of his seat. "Stay in the plane till the smoke clears and defend it." He's out the hatch and headed to the mansion, not needing to see to get there since it's not likely to move. There's only Shift and the bird thing between it and the plane so anyone else's breath or heartbeat he hears will be considered an enemy and taken out.

-

Melody.. looks.. awesome. She even goes so far as to mimick the motions of patting her helmet and growling as if she were in a Call of Duty mission.. well, one could take it as such. It may help with the deaths that were being caused around her. "Alright. I am good to.." But something was coming, she was still slightly connected to the comms when everything went..

"Wait.. what was.."

Dark.

Her hand reaches up to grip the helmet tight, a loud scream piercing through the electronic devices before they're blown out, her body lurching backwards onto the seat and then..

*CRASH!*

Steam rose from around her from the engines having gone out, a belt buckle knocked against her helmet hard which added to already ringing ears. "Sonuva snicket.." She mutters out, attempting to pull herself up and out of the rubble. "Muther-pluckett.." She grumbles out, attempting to stagger towards Lunair until Midnighter orders them to defend. "But…" She started to protest, but they were already gone. She already knew not to mess with the wavelength ride right now, she could feel that the area had gone dark, there was a disconnect there that was easily felt.

"The flibbin-flabbin' comms are down Armory, we're on our own." There was no repairing this, she'd have to actually be there to fix it for it to work.

-

Once she gets within range of the crashed VTOL craft, Batwoman barely bothers to slow her bike before leaping off of it, gliding on her cape a short distance, and then hits the ground in a tight roll that has her coming back up in a crouch. She removes her helmet and tosses it off to the side as her motorcyle zooms past her, loses its balance, and goes skidding on its side until weight sensors determine it no longer has a rider, and it shuts down. The optical enhancements in the helmet would be of no use in the smoke cloud, even if almost all of her gear is shielded against EMPs. As well, keeping her hearing and peripheral vision unobstructed lets her navigate the obscuring smoke more readily, and to fight within it…

Which she does.

Goons lost in the smoke may start finding themselves taken from behind, grabbed and pulled away from their fellows, leaving behind only a swirl of disturbed air, perhaps a cry of shock, and then — following the sound of an impact or two for each — silence until the next. If any take swings blindly at her, Batwoman ducks or avoids them, and then strikes vital locations to take these tough steelworking men out in ways they would have sworn a shorter (and female) opponent couldn't possibly have done.

Unfortunately, Batwoman breathes and has a heartbeat, even if both are relatively steady considering her physical activity level, and thus might be detected by Midnighter during his transit to the mansion. She was hoping to neutralize the people in the VTOL before they could make it to the mansion, however…

So tangling with the unknown but clearly murderous anti-hero or whoever he is falls in line with her objectives just fine, really.

Too bad she doesn't know there's already another killer inside.

-

It's fortuitous— the power goes down in the compound, and the little gremlin hiding out near the breaker box peeks around the wiring, its head appearing from a space too small to conceal it. Green eyes blink, a toothy smile erupts— he doesn't have to be electrocuted today! If it weren't for the nearby henchmen guarding stockpiles of drugs and cash, the little bugger would shout and jump for joy; as it is there's just a little, somewhat grotesque pump of a clawed fist, and the Darkling slips away again. Those tracking down the compound's backup generator are similarly lucky— and as the electronics all fail, a proverbial second wad of shit hits the proverbial already very shitty fan.

There's more than one killer inside the compound, and rather suddenly: the walls themselves, the corners of the rooms come alive with living shadows, the light from the windows even providing no respite due to the roiling smoke that covers much of the outside. Goons lost in the smoke may be taken by the Batwoman, but those inside are even less lucky: they find their throats ripped out, their guts spilled, their faces eaten off amidst poorly-formed, garbled, gurgled screams and unnatural roars that suggest the entire thing has gone shitside up within as well as without. While that entourage of creatures, chattering cheerfully amidst the carnage, deploy around Shift's assault and aid the Ghanaian, the brunt of this tertiary and mysterious force attacks seemingly from the buildings themselves, deep within the compound: the basement, the stockpiles in the outer structures.

The men guarding them already are similarly assailed, guns and blades proving little respite from the living, voracious Darkness, and a wall of gloss black rises swiftly to cut off entry to those deeper rooms, sealing doors and windows with barriers that proactively kill those trying to breach them with spikey, cruel tendrils akin to a nightmarish thorned bush. Between a rock and a hard place, indeed. Or: dark and darker.

-

The Stormwatch soldiers continue to maintain their perimeter. Huntress's whereabouts at this point are unknown. As for the soldiers, however, they have orders to follow, and they'll follow them until someone changes that. So far, however, the chaotic commotion gripping the Estate's front lawn assures that nobody has even gotten that far.

With the communications network down, the 'team' has a much harder time coordinating. The two thugs who came at Shift are engaged, only to be ripped away from him by something… else. The African stops dead in his tracks, eyes panning from side to side as the goons who came at him are drug into the shadows, screaming, entrails following their bodies across the floor as they are ripped asunder.

So it begins.

From outside, sounds of horror begin to fill the grounds. They come from all corners of the mansion itself, and from the three guest houses that pepper the acreage. Screams of death that echo against the walls, the trees, through windows and door alike. There's no way that one man is responsible for all of this, right?

Shift draws a deeper breath. He knows exactly what's going on here. In a manner of ways, he was even expecting it. He wasn't expecting the mysterious arrival of a third party. The breath comes out through his nose, and instead of proceeding into the mansion, he turns right around and walks out that front door. He knows where the plane had hovered; he heard it crashing to the ground. Through the darkness of smoke and fog, he walks steadily, ignoring everything around him. He's got to reach Lunair and Melody.

The mansion itself is a farce. A large building that houses the Edwards family, sure, with plenty of guest rooms to house those of Richard Dackleman's crime syndicate who served to protect the place. However, the real target lies within those guest houses. Two of them are filled to the brim with fresh bags filled with The Smooth, stowed away in storage bins that pepper the rooms that are otherwise filled with bunks. Bunks where the thugs sleep. The third guest house, however, holds a basement. It is from that basement that three men flee.

Vladimir Pietrovich, the Odessa Mob Boss they tracked here, goes running along toward the mansion. At his side is Dr. Pablo Falzoni, the chemist-turned-prisoner, who now clings to Pietrovich out of a twisted sense of tortured loyalty. On Falzoni's other side? A mutant known only as 'Scales'. Damian Woods is his proper name, and once upon a time, he was a cocaine addict. Now, in his mid-thirties, the scale-covered mutant has become the true mastermind behind The Smooth. His chemical reconstrution power was what originally created the narcotic. Dackleman's thugs kidnapped him, and Dr. Falzoni, the good doctor forced into perfecting Scales' creation. Scales is also the leader of the Brighton Beach Gang, the ragtag collection of thugs who first introduced the drug into M-Town. There, in the shadow of smoke, the three make their way for the mansion, and ideally, the safehouse inside. They have no idea what they're running into, but the screams don't seem to turn them away. They have no other choice.

-

The bird-thing strides in the smoke and darkness, flaring its wings out much like a cat might use its whiskers. It has a reasonable assumption that the VTOL or its occupants did not utilize the device… the landing sounded a bit too rough for someone on board to have done that. Counterproductive. Foolish.

It takes a few more strides towards the entrance of what it thinks is the building based on last known visible landmarks, even as somewhat quiet yelps and the like emanate from various locations. Is IT the one being hunted? It is definitely at a higher tier of alertness, even if its visual actuators are… not very effective. That will probably need addressing in a subsequent patch.

Then the screaming starts. Yes, that would be the next tier.

"LETHAL FORCE AUTHORIZED! DEATH TO THE DEMON POSSESSING SCUM!" It is no longer pulling punches and whatever runs into it will get claws, wing-buffets, or whatnot backed by the closest approximation of wrath that an aeons-old Extrapolated Intelligence can emulate.

-

Lunair REALLY, really wants to go in and fight. A part of her burns and itches inside, like a chained dog snapping at the end of its leash. But she knows better. She'll be good for now. Lunair manages to fish out a flashlight or something. "I'm still working on incorporating fancy stuff into armor, so I apologize for how primitive it is," She admits. Armory's young. She'll get there. But being on their own concerns her. Fortunately, there's - well, just a flashlight amidst the darkness. Probably stands out a bit, but Lunair would rather be prepared. "I would try fireworks or a flare, but that seems a bit much."

Anyone who gets too close though, is going to find themselves on the receiving end of a railgun blast. That is, anyone who isn't friendly. She's a good marksman. Though, a pause. "Would a laser or light weapon be less painful?"

-

Midnighter can and does detect Batwoman. But he can also tell she's taking out guards which means she's fighting for them. He can't account for her but the bird thing didn't come with them either. "Remember, we need the bosses alive to find out where this stuff is coming from!" he calls and dashes up the steps of the mansion. That's not just for Batwoman's benefit since he can hear the screaming inside the mansion. And he's not the cause. He almost crashes into Shift coming out but he stops in time and grabs the man's arm. "What the hell is going on in there?"

-

"I think it's pretty cool." Melody states. "Like, how can you do that? I mean, everyones got some nifty powers and such, but what if we combine them?" Her eyes glaze over, having a small Captain Planet moment as a little grin shines from the darkness. She even wiggles a little, her head bobbing slightly as she attempts to hum out the song. They were alone for now, which was a good thing, cause as soon as she hears the deafening screams, her gaze shoots towards the entrance of the choppah.

Her blood runs cold.

"Why do they sound like that.." Melody murmurs, a little bit of fear strangling within her throat. "..That.. that don't sound right.."

She tries to focus really, her gaze falling upon Lunair as she kneels upon the ground to try to search for something, maybe.. a first aid kit that Shift held earlier. "Doesn't lasers burn? Like if you shoot them you could like, cauterize the wound and keep them alive longer. Unless you blow a hole in their.."

*CLACK*

*CLACK CLACK*

"What the fuck!? OH my god what the fuck!?" A goon practically screams out, backing his way into the carrier. He was unleashing hell with his machine gun, until he turns, eyes widened in pure horror. "Fucking die! DIEE!" He shrieks.. taking aim, hisshaky hands squeezing the trigger.. and…

*PLLTTACKACKTACK!*

-

What the Hell, indeed. Some of the more sizable stashes of Smooth are carried off into the corners of the room, disappearing into the shadows with their carriers— but far more of it is out and out devoured. Darklings literally gorge themselves on the baggies and their contents wholesale, shredded plastic and scattered powder littering the bunks as they eat it, snort it, rub it into their bellies.

It's the production room that's trashed the hardest, however: chemicals are guzzled down, fires are started, equipment is smashed into other equipment and one another. Many brave Darklings die in their chaotic endeavor, leaving not so much as a beautiful (grotesque) corpse behind. Waller isn't the only one with an agenda for the Smooth— or the leaders of this particular crime syndicate. Not finding them already holed up in the saferoom is a letdown, but the ample forces in and around that hardened haven are a consolation prize for notably less stunted creatures of shadow: they're larger, they're not taking the haphazard glee in the carnage that their drug-devouring, money-thieving, gleefully chittering counterparts are.

There's no stilted slang cast between these creations within the mansion, only snarls and the sick sounds of crushing bone and flesh as they rip into Dackleman's gathered entourage from the inside out, tearing apart anyone not on their list and dragging a few VIPs off into the dark. The effort drives no small percentage of the gunmen back out -towards- the Stormwatch operation— often back first, firing back into the house. Darklings, for the moment, do not breach the structures even amidst the cover of the smoke, their supernatural signatures darting to and fro within, conducting their bloody work as the barricade over the production room door seems almost to smile; if it had a proper face, instead of just teeth, and insectoid eyes.

-

Caught by Midnighter, Shift skids to a halt. He gestures back toward the mansion. "It's… dahkness. De shadows. It's here. You go inside without me, you're a dead man." Shift can't account for the Darklings, which is precisely why he intends to get 'the team' back together. He knows he's on Jackie's 'do not touch list', but he simply can't account for the others.

Shift turns back to Midnighter. "Go, get Armory and Rant. Everyone needs to stay with me to stay alive." He turns then, hearing Corvinus' voice sounding in the darkness. "Corvinus! Keep anything dat comes outside occupied!!"

Now, Shift turns back to the entrance. He'll stand his ground here. Those men who back out through the front door? They find themselves at the mercy of a man without mercy, necks snapped and backs shattered.

Pietrovich, Scales, and Dr. Falzoni reach a side door safely. Their eyes are collectively spooked. Pietrovich reached for the door handle, but Scales suddenly reaches out, stopping him. "Wait," he hisses. "I don't know what the fuck is going on here, but we can't go in there."

"What do you mean?" asks Pietrovich, turning upon the drug-maker. "Where else do you think we should go, you fucking Mutie?"

"Anywhere but in there!" hisses Scales. "Look, listen, it's… something's gone real fucking south."

"So, what? We run for the fucking hills?"

"Something like that."

Meanwhile, Dr. Falzoni is looking between the two with mad eyes. He's been tormented, tortured, abused, forced to mastermind Scales' creation into the vicious narcotic that has begun to sweep the nation's mutant ghettos. The threat that intends to go worldwide. And now, in this moment… he's about to break. His hands form into fists, and he stares at the arguing men with a steadily growing ire.

-

The avianoid slashes out at the darkness and the smoke as *something* brushes against it. There's a bit of a crackle, an almost electronic sizzle — wait, all the electronics are supposed to be dead, right? — from the Corvinus, almost like a bug-zapper. And then something splatters messily, dark ichor flying everywhere in the smoke, and then another one as the point of resistance is identified as 'needing more work'. Another one's head rolls on the ground before dissipating into nothingness.

Then the machine-gun warms up and it is about to leap in the general direction of the gunner when Shift calls out.

It turns towards the shout, talons extended, even as more of the things swarm towards the ancient obsidian entity, for it appears to be quite tasty and smells of phat lewt. It turns into a mad ball of haste, attack, parry, and other motions, some trained, some pure panic — as if an ancient entity with no true emotions could emulate such a thing, heedless of the consequences. There are more crackling arcs and sparks as some of the things attempt to bite it. Its form is highlighted in the darkness by these flashes, bright enough to cut through the chemical smoke.

The Hulk, it is not. Survival, though, sometimes is not the best route for Enlightenment, other than the simple knowledge of one having survived a thing.

"DIE, DEMONSPAWN! DIE!"

-

Something has definitely gone south here. While Lunair aches to investigate, she wisely stays where she is. Lunair looks to Melody, "Yours are neat, too. And huh, that wouldbe awesome." There's a smile at the grin. Lunair has - a problem expressing emotion. But she's trying. "I'm not sure. I just sort of do. I have to understand what it is I make in a way. But I really don't know a ton about my powers," She admits.. "Thank you, and hee." There's screams and - she freezes.

Fortunately, Lunair is pretty battle hardened. "That definitely does not sound right," She agrees. She has to stay calm. Right, laser might be better. She has a large, high powered sort of weapon that pulls motes of white light as it charges. She opted for a light/laser sort of mix. Lunair takes the laws of physics and reminds them that the safe word is Oklahoma. She saw that joke on the internet once. Nevertheless, there's now at least one armed and panicking goon too close for comfort. And with bullets pinging off armor and jet alike. White light dances around the end of her weapon and the goon will find himself desperately injured or mortally so. Pew! Though it's more a quiet, deep sort of sound.

"Are you okay?" Lunair asks.

And then along came a Darkling. Lunair looks just as baffled as he does, even if one can't really see it in her helmet. Pause. Then she will reach… carefully pat it on the head if he lets her. And give him a tiny dubstep gun. "I think someone said diplomacy works." She's not very good at diplomacy.

-

Midnighter stares at Shift a couple moments before saying "When this is over, I'm going to get answers." Not Stormwatch. Not Waller. Him. Not that Waller will object. Smooth is going to get off the streets, regardless of who he has to kill to do it. Turning, he heads for the jet, staying low to avoid the occasional stray bullet being fired by terrified thugs who fled the mansion. When he gets back to the jet, he sees a dead thug and a… demon. With a gun. A leg sweep disarms it and he reaches for its head, twist it one eighty and tearing it off. "Neither hurt? Good, come with me." He drops the head and heads out outside again, pausing to make sure they're following.

-

Melody stood up just in time to get cracked right in the face .. alright, it wasn't the face, but the top of the helmet that Lunair made, and a bit along the body. Melody kind of freezes then, her hands held out in front of her, eyes squinting and.. nothing. She has to check herself, pat herself down to make sure there was no loss of limb, that she was still alive admist the horror and gore and..

Is that a fucking demon?

"Uh.." Is all Melody could say, pointing out the little Darkling that.. gets petted? She's so confused. If the EMP didn't scramble her nanites, this surely would. He almost resembled that thing from that night in the warehouse. "Don't shoot little buddy.." Melody coos out, slow steps forward with her armored hand reaching out, attempting to pet it all the same.

Until Midnighter comes and ruins the whole friendship in the midsts of hell on earth.. type.. thing.

"What the jimmyflips, man!" Melody screams out. "He was a friendly!"

She was all for protesting, preparing to seriously pitch a fit right then and there in the chopper. People were dying, being disemboweled, attacked, heads torn off and tortured.

But she cared about a little Darkling who was to be a friend. A friend.

Tragedy, really.

"You're a solid Dick-butt. SOLID." She was clearly crying, and if no one saw? They'd see it now, her helmet being ripped off and tossed to the side as she marches on ahead, not waiting for Lunair or Midnighter to follow.

She was gonna go tell.

-

The little Darkling seems momentarily inclined to take a bite out of Lunair, peering up at her with glimmering, unnaturaly green eyes and a show of pointy, razor edged teeth. Then she hands it a gun. The stunted little scout is momentarily distracted from the urgings of its instincts and the handful of larger brethren tryign to make Corvinus a tasty morsel, taking a moment to cackle gleefully and swallow the device whole; before it gets its neck snapped, suddenly, from behind, dissipating into the ether like so much ashen mist. He had barely begun to live, and devour.

As if in confirmation of the scaled mutant's assertion that they /can't/ go in there, that side door /erupts/ outwards, end over end, flipping about with brutal intent straight for Pietrovich. He's on the 'kill' list. The hallway beyond seems to bellow of its own accord, a screeching protest that the trio didn't simply charge inside, as if the mansion itself were irate. The gathered smoke allows its protest to be more than futile, however: tendrils bearing green-eyed, draconic maws surge from the structure amidst the obstructing fog, the glimmering compound eyes likely the only visible part of the glossy, scaled black-and-red serpents that seek to pluck up and swallow the other two whole, one after the other, without -too- much biting. Running was, perhaps -is-, still a very good idea.

Shift's efforts to herd everyone back out front, around him to regroup— it may be wise, it may be safest, but it also gives the Darkness within the compound all the more time to gather up its prizes, ferrying drugs and resources off to gods-know-where.

-

Shift knows exactly what's going on here. His expression remains neither pleased nor displeased, a thinly drawn line of acceptance. "Sure." That's all he says in response to Midnighter. Jury's out on how that one will go.

He does know not to fuck with the Darkness. Bullets, knives, blunt objects, most of those conventional weapons are powerless against him. But these demons? Well. He certainly doesn't wish to find out the hard way. Besides, they're on each other's 'do not kill' list. He snags one of the Darklings as they rush by, lifting it by the arm and settling it against his other arm, using the hold to keep the creature from gnashing at his face. "Listen. De big bird outside? Stop attacking it, he's a friend. Okay?" He peers at the Darkling ruefully for a moment, before tossing it away and letting it go off to do whatever it wants to do.

The others arrive unharmed. For, you see, the din of battle is growing quieter, the Darklings having devoured nearly everyone who once inhabited the estate. The smoke is even starting to clear, now that a fresh wind is blowing in from the south. Shift is about to enter the mansion by the front door, when he hears a commotion to the east.

"GAAH!" It's the voice of Vladimir Pietrovich, and it's the last sound he makes before the door impales him into the earth, legs and arms sticking up from where the door has crushed and buried his torso into the dirt. Blood pours out from his mouth and nose while he gasps and croaks and flails, but it's no use. He'll be dead in thirty seconds.

"WHAT THE FUCK!?" cries Scales, who backs away quickly from the door. He stares at the gaping maw, the eyeballs, the tentacles, shocked for a moment, before battle enters his eyes. He crouches down and puts his fingers into the dirt, focusing. Grass, rock, and dirt suddenly begin to melt, his chemical-restructuring power turning into a gooey acid. "EAT THIS, YOU FREAKISH SHIT!" he cries, and flings his hands forward. Between Scales and the side entrance, the earth is uprooted and transformed, the acid devouring everything in its path as it rushes for the house, splattering into walls and eating through it in moments. There's plenty of ground before him, and Scales just keeps backing away, throwing wave after wave of destructive goo at that horrible monstrosity inside.

Dr. Falzoni just follows, shell shocked.

"Come on," says Shift, motioning toward the commotion. "Everybody, move!" And then he's off, running for the side entrance. He only momentarily glances toward Melody, cursing under his breath about something. Probably the fact that she removed her helmet.

-

Shift's recommendation goes on deaf birdly ears. Well, not really 'deaf' as much as 'Really, terribly, horribly pre-occupied at the moment, can't spare a moment as this one is fighting for one's continued independence and existence and can't stop to chat, thank you'.

Still, it is quite the sight to see, as the flares get brighter as bigger things throw themselves against it, and it doesn't back down. Great holes are torn into it at this point, blood flowing a bit from points, one wing hanging limply as it continues to fight with a ferocity that no normal human could match.

"YOU! SHALL! NOT! PASS!" Okay, its partner gave it that one, as both of them throw their all into this. Lord of the Rings? Really?

Hopefully whatever or whoever is controlling this comes to its senses soon or it could get… bad.

-

Lunair is worried about that odd bird guy she spotted. But there's no time to think on it. She blinks, as Midnight just rips the head off the darkling. Sure, it had pointy teeth and ate a gun, but after her last attempts at diplomacy ending in liberal use of the Twerker… well, this is progress. "Yeah," She replies to Midnighter. Then Melody gets hit in the face. Or the helmet. "Ack! Are you okay? Here, I can fix it-" Or replace it.

Once upon a time, a strange woman with many arms said that Lunair was touched by the Wildways. Given that she seems content in chaos, this is probably a truth. She's touched, alright. She blinks at Melody. "I'm sorry." She doesn't know how to deal with that. Socialization.exe has crashed. She was trying to monitor the situation, acting as a good guard and yet - bafflement. A dude even got owned by a door. Go figure. She doesn't seem inclined to mess with the Darkness or Darklings, either. She is following Midnighter and Rant.

-

Is she crying? She's crying. Someone brought a crier to a combat mission. Shift is going to have a lot to answer for. But not now since he too hears the screaming from the side of the house. "This way!" he orders, running east.

-

Melody was totally crying. It's not like she could help it. She was stepping over body after body, that fact alone was enough to make her wretch and cry like the best of them. She couldn't even tear her gaze away from most of it. A guy had his guts hung out and a darkling snarled at her for watching. The large, black bird was being torn limb from limb but..

Screams, the house shook, orders given. Screw it.

So she ran, starting off with a slow jog, her direction? The other, goddamned way.

Yes, Melody slow jogged the other way at least a few good working nanites reached out to a small spot in Hells Kitchen.

"Aspect. I need a tackle type military thingy! Reverse hack and go!"

That slow jog was met with a slight stagger and stumble, and a crisp turn upon her heels right before she steps upon a corpse. Foot planted upon the body and boosted off of, and she breaks out into a fast run. She wasn't as fast as a locomotive, she couldn't run faster than a speeding bullet but the perk of being a meta human due to her implants allowed her to run fast enough to keep up with a car on regular traffic. One that had somewhere to go.

She was heading right for Scales, back straight, terminator esque run with leaps and bounds that put her closer and into the direct line of fire of the goo. But she strafes left, her arm lashing out in a would be tackle that slams right into the middle of the weakest one out of the two..

Which was the doctor.

But she kept going, arm clenched around whatever clothing she had grabbed with the intent to drag and heal the sucker later. The upload that Aspect momentarily gave her was a serious rush, one that she'd have nightmares about later. Downside to being hacked.

-

For a few moments, the handful of beasts that assail Corvinus likely seem all but limitless, more coming from all angles within the smoke. When and if he breaks the upper edge towards the sky, however, he's not followed farther into daylight— and even if he stands his ground, that assault ends swiftly after Shift gets his message-by-proxy to the hidden Host, and the situation on the eastern end of the compound becomes a priority. The twin serpentine heads as if from some b-movie giant snake, well, they're torn asunder in sizzling pain by the sprays of acid, but several more erupt forth from the ground as the pair flee— meeting wave after wave of searing goo.

It happens once, perhaps twice more before Scales is fleeing -into- an even wider maw. It's like a man-eating flytrap in sleek, dark blacks and purples grows from beneath him in an instant, its gaping maw larger than the mutant himself as each half of it closes around him, behind the latest blast of acidic death. The mansion lurches and creaks, screeching its discontent as its walls are dissolved, but it's the screams of the mutant, and the panic of Falzoni that are, perhaps, the most prominent sounds.

The good doctor is saved a similar fate by the edge of the slowly dissipating smokescreen, and Melody's timely intervention— even as glimmering green eyes, a dozen pair or more, seem to peer out from that coalescent artificial fog at them… as if it were Jackie's own tool. They blink out of existence, and a distant growl sounds in halfhearted displeasure, so suddenly one might wonder if it were ever there. Good enough… good enough.

-

Suddenly, Melody is bursting along faster than any of them can catch. Shift is running full force, but he simply can't keep up. It would take some time to harden his flesh enough to give him the extra strength, after all. What he sees is Melody running for the acid, then jinking to the side and tackling Falzoni. From his vantage point, it almost looks as if she's about to be devoured.

"NO!" he cries out, but nothing else comes. Everything seems to be dissappearing back into the darkness from where it came. Scales is gone, his screams no longer audible from wherever it was the gaping creature took him.

"Rant!" he calls after her. "Fuck sake, you got him, now bring him back!" There will be time to assess the carnage, figure out what happened. Not much, considering the EMP fried their gear and there's no doubt that local authorities are on the way. But for now, Shift seems solely bent on getting Melody's attention.

Falzoni is screaming and struggling, but he's not strong enough to counter the enhanced, meta-human who's got him. "Lemme go!" he cries. "Lemme go!"

The smoke continues to clear, letting sunlight peek back into the estate. The mansion itself continues to creak and groan, its innards having been shredded so. All that seems to be left of the operation here… are corpses.

-

The battered bird-being stands, blinking, as if it had just weathered a tsunami by standing in front of it somehow. Its left wing is drooping on the ground, broken in several places, right arm hanging limply, as various bits and feathers are missing from all over its form. Without the capacity for flight, it takes a faltering step, even as the wing attempts to move with the other one, and it takes a step towards the others retreating. Then another.

The pace is almost mechanical, the joints and muscles almost screaming audibly as it moves in clear pain and agony. Still, it continues to move, somehow, a bit of a limp in the right hip.

"This one requires sustenance."

Compared to its shouting before, it is more a subdued whisper, an echo of what it was in the combat phase, even as it attempts to find an extraction point with the rest of the remaining personnel.

In the distance, largely non-descript black vehicles start to make their way in, perhaps the owners of the aircraft, perhaps other parties. Their pace is measured, yet somewhat swift. No sirens or lights accompany them on their approach…

-

"…" Miss Rant ran off. Lunair looks a bit startled. She'll watch after them, though, eyes wide in horror. Miss Rant can't get eat— wait, she didn't get eaten. Phew. And she has the dude! "Good job!" Hey, why not? Nevertheless, Lunair will join the others.

-

Midnighter sprints after Melody and, unlike Shift, he can keep up. At least for a short period which is all he needs to… see there's no need to. The demons are disappearing and everyone seems to be dead but their one prisoner. "Shut up or I'll break your jaw." he tells Falzoni. A bluff since he needs him talking and doesn't want to wait a months for it to heal. He stands there, glaring at the man he has no idea who he is then transfers it to Shift who he's sure knows more than he's saying. And probably knew it before this all started.

-

Melody was booking it. Despite the man's screaming, hers could probably be heard above his, after all. "Don't get eaten!" *PUFF* "Don't get eaten!" She shrieks out, fully intent on running into the next county if her lungs weren't hard pressed by cigarette smoke from chilling in the Tin Roof. Secondhand? Not a myth!

Hearing Shift, she veers around in a wide circle, not breaking her stride yet avoiding the ruined ground from the goo and where the Darkness once was. It doesn't take her long to come back towards the crew, dropping the man off in front of Midnighter who.. doesn't get a glare, but a slight cringe and a quick hop step and away. That dude is merciless! Let him deal with the good doctor, she'll heal him later.

She lets out a huff of air and crouches, hands planted upon her knees as she looks at all those gathered.. and.. breaks out into tears.

Why?

Poor Corvinus! The creepy looking man-bird-I-don't-know-what-to-call-him-but-he's-on-our-side was hurt! And he was hungry..

"Oh you creepy bird thing, you're all beat up and stuff.."

*SNIFF*

She staggers right towards him, arms outstretched in a hug that wouldn't fit, and just snuggles the ever loving crap out of him, no matter if he was hurt and all. Normally, she wouldn't hug, in fact, she probably would have ran away, but.. dammit. She almost got eaten. She was glad to be alive and to be able to give hugs that would probably hurt and maim. She was amped, scared, crying and practically delirious.

-

In the aftermath of the carnage, the Darkness is just… gone. Or at least, it appears that way. The Darklings have vanished, the house emits no more sounds but its own frame's creaks and groans, and the dissipating fog reveals nothing but the disabled or devoured bodies of the mobsters who managed to flee the scene -that- far… or got caught by the incoming team. Of course, it's not without signs of its passing: the once prolific operation is reduced to raggedly chewed bits and scattered traces, the small army Dackleman had on-site apparently mauled by a host of wild beasts that neither came from nor went anywhere easily detectable. Forensic science only goes so far in this day and age, after all.

Deep within several of the bodies, however, something akin to a splinter has been inserted, left, deep and hidden in the dark. They're going to take these guys somewhere, after all… and this dangerous strike team is going to have boots on the ground looking at the reports, if not helping create them— let's just say Jackie prefers to know exactly who he's dealing with.

-

Falzoni immediately shuts up upon being dumped. He knows he's up to his neck in it now, but the whole experience has him absolutely spooked. To make matters worse, the good doctor was a victim in all of this, forced at gunpoint to do Dackleman's bidding. But, he's in Midnighter's clutches now. Stormwatch is certainly a monster of its own.

It's the very fact that this whole operation was under Stormwatch's umbrella that gives Shift a fleeting sense of relief. Back aboard that crashed VTOL, there will be credentials. Paperwork backups in the case of an EMP that will get the whole lot of them out of any trouble with the law, local, federal, or otherwise. It's a god damned two edged sword, and for once, it's about to work in the mercenary's favor. For once, he won't just book it.

Beneath the mask, his eyes look from Lunair to Melody, then to Corvinus and finally Midnighter. Lips are drawn into a thin line, expressionless. "Let's get him back to de ship. One of dose cops ought to have a working phone so we can call dis in and get some fucking transportation out of heah."

The team may believe that they lost Scales. But they do have Falzoni. Scales and Falzoni clearly have something to do with the creation of the narcotic. It's not exactly a mission gone to plan, but they aren't walking away empty handed. So much the better.

"I hope de Weathahman knows how to handle dis clustah fuck," he asides to Midnighter, before climbing into the crashed VTOL.

Epilogue

ABG American Broadcast Group

A news clip on the evening news brings our viewers to 'Alliance, Ohio', a small town with big troubles.

"Here in Alliance," the newscaster reports, "The recession has hit… pretty hard. Looking around here on Main Street, you'll see empty storefronts, the ghosts of a once vibrant industrial community. Now, you're unlikely to see much action here at all, except… on the first of the month."

Cue B-Roll of people lining up outside the Credit Union to get their government checks.

"Crime has become a big problem in Alliance, especially in the drug world. The town plays host to a substantial amount of drug trafficking; the effort of moving large amounts of illegal drugs through the region, to other parts of the country. Detective Phillips, of the Alliance Police NARC division, explains."

"See here?" A police detective roams the grounds of what once was a large mansion, complete with three guest-houses. Police tape lines the area, and the entire place is pouring with FBI, DEA, State and Local investigators. "This mansion used to belong to a prominent family here in town. Family of wealth, kinda hard to come by these days. Now, we don't know what exactly hit this place… the forensic teams are having a hay day with it."

Detective Phillips crouches down, showing marks in the grass. "These here are animal markings, of a kind I'm frankly not too familiar with." The office rises and leads a cameraman over toward a pair of giant, scalded marks in the turf. "From what I can tell, these are burn marks. Possibly from a flame thrower, grenades, or even a VTOL aircraft. Bottom line is, whatever went down here, looks kind of like a war zone, and that's the kind of thing you encounter with organized crime. The house has been shredded, and there's not much to go on, but we're finding trace amounts of a narcotic unlike anything we've ever seen before."

Cut back to the newscaster, who stands at the mouth of the destroyed Estate grounds.

"While the DEA isn't saying much to media outlets, they have suggested that this new drug might be similar to something that's been hitting the streets of New York and Gotham, an incredibly dangerous and addictive drug that some on the streets refer to simply as… 'the smooth'. We'll have more on this story as news develops. For now, I'm Todd Barkham, live in Alliance, Ohio. Back to you, Jan."


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