Friends and Neighbors

Summary:
November 10, 2014: A Friends of Humanity flash mob in Harlem is defused by a few local superheroes.

Harlem

Harlem used to be a mostly African-American through the decades, though this is no longer true (African-Americans are presently about 40 of the population.) The neighborhood has been the site of a number of amazing artistic booms, usually followed by equally devastating busts. Presently the area is slowly gentrifying, as is much of Manhattan. Other places of note include the Harlem Dance Theater whose troupe has toured internationally, the Harlem School of Arts, two well regarded hospitals and the City College of New York.


Characters

NPCs

  • FoH marchers
  • Harlem locals

Mood Music:


The recent violence in Wall Street — with the so-called 'Friends of Humanity' attempting to attack a Senator — has set anti-mutant tensions aflame throughout the city. FoH cells have been staging 'Human Pride' flash mobs throughout the city to capitalize on this. But they may have made a miscalculation when they staged their latest event in Harlem. Here, community activism runs deep, especially where matters of bigotry are concerned. The locals aren't taking kindly to this sort of behavior on their front stoops.

One such local is Sam Wilson, who has taken to the skies in his wing suit. He's been a not-uncommon sight in the neighborhood for the past few months, and without a mask, his identity is something of an open secret for those who grew up here. A lot of people will feel better knowing that he's keeping an eye on the situation. Others won't know what to think. And there's always the chance that some rioter from Long Island somewhere is going to mistake the wings for a mutation and get riled up…


A woman who is decidedly not a mutant (or a metahuman), walks crisply down the Harlem sidewalk. With her messenger bag clung to underneath her arm, Gwen Stacy knows better than to walk too slowly around here, particularly around riots and demonstrations, but the soup kitchen that she volunteers at is still two blocks away. And it's Monday; she always helps with dinner on Monday.

The good news is, she doesn't look menacing. Her fingers tighten around the strap of her bag and her paces take on a nearly clipped characteristic as her walking speeds up. Blonde hair is tugged into a tight ponytail and her blue eyes track forwards so as not to draw the attention of the demonstrators as she moves.

Her clothes are average for anyone of her age: blue jeans, and a thick wool peacoat act as her sources of warmth along with a red and blue scarf. The flier overhead catches her attention, however, and prompts her to look upwards away from the world in front of her.


So this is what Peter Parker is forced to do when he doesn't have any new pictures of Spider-Man to sell? He's sent down to Harlem (with a metro card because Jameson is too cheap to send him in a cab) to be prepared to take pictures of any rioting or protesting that may be going on. People in the journalism world tend to be able to find out about things and thus why Peter Parker is fiddling with his camera right now. From a somewhat safe distance.

Peter takes a moment as he's paying very close attention to the demonstration. He raises the camera up and snaps a few shots every now and again. He even gets a shot of the Falcon flying overhead. It really is quite cool to see epic heroes doing things that don't involve breaking the city and making it worse.

By the way, for every two pictures he takes, he also manages to snap one of a certain blonde that's across the street. Not that he's stalking. Not really. Shut up.


Just about everyone in the neighborhood knows about Luke Cage, the bulletproof Harlemite who hangs out on corners that dealers might otherwise frequent and alleys where truant kids go to play when they should be studying; he's made it his mission to keep an eye on the neighborhood since being gifted with his powers, whether that means making drugs a little harder to buy, keeping kids in school, or - like today - sitting on a stoop.

Flash mobs being what there are, there were plenty of locals who had tidbits about the upcoming event to share with the ex-con; Luke Cage being who he is, the sometimes Power Man decided to find himself a good place to watch the 'festivities', if not discourage potential mob-members altogether. Or, failing that, let them know that they're being watched by someone who is, if not a mutant, a person who is both more than human and less than amused with their ideology; if any FoH members do happen to look at him the wrong way, he's perfectly happy to stare them down until they look away.

Once or twice, when he catches sight of Falcon circling overhead, he shoots the agent a peace symbol; he is not actuall sure whether or not the flying man can see that far, but it's the thought that counts, right?


Gwen and Luke aren't the only one to spot Falcon as he does his flybys — although he does return Cage's hand signal, so maybe those goggles of his aren't just to keep the bugs out of his eyes. As predicted by your humble narrator a mere three poses ago, one of the men marching by the jeering locals (skulking more than marching, really; so much for Human Pride) follows the blonde's gaze upward and sneers. "Mutie!" he yells, pointing. "Thinks he's too good to walk on the ground like the rest of us!"

There's a general chorus of anger from the marchers, answered by amused heckling by those in the know. Before the FoH sympathizers can realize their mistake, someone has lobbed a glass bottle at the flier.

That seems to crack the tension — some of the people on the sidewalks rush toward the marchers, angry at the attack. Others are simply trying to get out of the path of the falling bottle, which stands no chance of hitting its lofty target. The march can't tell which is which, and aren't prone to much reflection before retaliating. Sam does the honorable thing and makes the bottle hit its target, diving steeply and catching it in midair, then comes in for a slow, powered landing, thrusters kicking up enough dust and grime to create a space between the clashing sides. But he's only one man, and there are two whole ranks of people rushing at each other.


The glass bottle makes an easy trajectory towards the unbeknownst blonde who'd seen the Falcon overhead. With her eyes turned upwards, Gwen has no idea the glass bottle is coming towards her, which could be why, instinctively, she ducks, drawing her hands over her head, as the Falcon makes a nose-dive to catch the bottle.

As she ducks, however, she gets pushed and prodded into the middle of this oncoming mob. "S-stop!" her voice emits loudly as bodies push her towards the activists. This is not how she envisioned today going.


~ Spider-Sense. Tingling. ~

Peter Parker was already on the move before the bottle was even thrown. By the time it hits a height in which Falcon can drop to catch it, he's put his camera away. By the time Falcon is down to make his thrusting line of division, Peter has pushed and shoved his way through the crowd and he's coming up right behind that blonde he was certainly not stalking or taking pictures of or anything like that. Nope.

"I got you." She may recognize the voice as belonging to Peter's but consider that he's just put himself in the middle of all this, attempting to protect his ex(?) from getting thrown into the middle of such a budding riot, this probably is not the best time for her to try and look and see if it really is him. "You okay?" Peter is asking this as he's trying to make sure his Spider-Sense is focused on the nearest threats to Gwen's safety. Like people that want to fight. Each other. Or him. Or trampling. Or… yeah. His Spider-Sense is going bonkers right now.


Luke stands when that first skulker shouts at Sam; history has taught him that situations rarely, if ever get any better when people start bringing out the racial epithets. He tries to shoot the guy a look that screams 'sit down, shut up, and rethink the way you exercise your First Amendment rights', but it's too late by then: somebody else is chucking a bottle that may as well have been a molotov, given the explosive effect it has on the already tense street.

Gwen's cry grabs his attention before he can make a move towards the heart of the unrest, but before he can make it more than a few steps over there, someone seems to be pushing her away from the crowd instead of deeper into it. Possibly still cause for concern, but given everything else, Luke resolves to just keep an eye out for her as he pivots and charges into the fray. The dusty, dusty fray.

"What're y'all doin'?!" he exclaims, shielding his eyes as he ducks into the cloud Falcon's kicking up. He quickly moves to the edge of the cloud, where the two parties aren't so readily contained by it, and as he throws his arms out to corral a trio of surging marchers, he looks over his shoulder towards some of the locals. "Falcon's good— look!" He tips his chin towards the winged man who is probably not so easy to see just now. "He took care'a himself just fine! Much as I'm sure he appreciates you gettin' his back, this crap's gonna make us look as bad as them!"


One of the dozens of threats pinging Peter's Spider-Sense is quickly going to start drowning out the others: a trio of thirty-something men narrowing their eyes at him and at Gwen. The lead Friend's gaze is drawn to the camera bag. "Looks like the lamestream media came out to smear us," he snarls, holding out a hand and stomping toward that. "Gimme that camera, you little punk…"

And despite Luke's vote of confidence in Falcon, Pete isn't the only one dealing with threat overload, either. The HUD in the pararescueman's goggles is struggling to keep up with the growing confusion in the street, attempting to isolate individuals and assign them color-coded highlights to indicate threat and endangerment levels. Sam had this filter on because he was hoping to deal with a couple of isolated troublemakers, at worst. With the mob scene now unfolding, it's turned the entire street into a nauseating disco lightshow as the computer waffles about who's causing the most trouble — or in it. His response is delayed enough as he shuts it down that one anti-mutant bigot is bum rushing him by the time his vision clears.

"Oh, hell," he grunts as he's knocked to the ground. He lands on his feet and grapples with the man, wings flung back to provide balance — and buffet back anyone trying the same trick from behind him. "What part of 'jetpack with robot wings' do you jackasses not understand?" It takes him only a seconds to dispatch his attacker; the man lacks his training and experience, not to mention physique.

"Recognize!" he yells, leaning over his fallen attacker. The boast, along with Cage's admonishment, seems to have gotten this part of the line to settle, for the moment. If the marchers weren't afraid of superheroes, they wouldn't be here, and the locals certainly don't seem keen to try to brush past the pair and start more trouble. But elsewhere along the shifting front between the two crowds, things are only getting worse.


"Peter?! What are you doing here?!" Gwen's bewildered expression means she's easily corralled out of the middle of the riot, at least for a few beats. But she becomes harder to move as her eyes turn towards the shelter. She was so close to making it in without event. Her bag bumps and prods against people in the crowd, even as she's bustled away from the centre of the riot itself. And, those who it bumps may think it contains weapons of some kind thanks to the metallic weight of it, and the clinking the canned food items inside produce.

Her shoulders jostle as another body presses against her and she, instinctively steps towards Peter Parker. The trio stepping towards them has her expression steeling. "He's not here to smear you. He's…" she sighs dramatically "…he's my stalker." There's a small nod of her head as her eyes tick towards Peter and then back to the thirty-something men. "I'm sure it's a story you know! He's my ex-boyfriend. I broke up with him because of his politics and," her blue eyes steal a look, "his tardiness! Who'd have thought he would stalk me after that. I think I should take the camera — " Look at how helpful Gwen is being to you, Peter! Reap the benefits of that helpfulness!


"Stalk— what?!"

Peter was not prepared for this. But he's not about to let anyone but Gwen get her hands on that camera. So with a tug of strength that normally wouldn't be on a loser like this, he snatches the camera bag and pushes it into Gwen's hands. This is probably a big mistake, but he immediately turns his back to the more violent members of this crowd, putting himself between Gwen and them. "Go. Now." is all he has to say. For a minute there, he sounds almost like he's one of the heroic sorts. But there's no way that random photographer stalker Peter Parker is some kind of hero, right?

~ Spider-Sense. Ignored. ~

After all, it is the only way for things to make sense, as Peter gets yanked up from behind. Grabbed by the jacket and everything! As long as this helps to delay things so that Gwen can get away, Peter is cool with it. So much so that he almost forgets to pretend to be caught off guard! He kicks one of his legs. Kind of.


"Falcon!" Luke shouts when the winged man goes down in his peripheral vision. His muscles tense as he leans in that direction, but the marchers struggling to work their way past his arms remind him that there's too much going on for him to abandon his segment of the unrest, barring some kind of emergency.

And then Falcon reminds him - and likely a fair number of other onlookers - that he's plenty capable of taking care of himself anyway.

As Sam takes care of business, Cage thrusts his body forward to knock his trio of marchers on their asses, "Hardly any'a y'all are from here!" he loudly reminds them - and anyone else in earshot as he then starts running and/or shoving his way further away from the agent to spread his unique version of calm, "and none of y'all have any business bein' out here, stirrin' things up for nothin'! You got— "

Without Falcon's debris cloud to help discourage conflict, Cage is finding it increasingly difficult to force his way through the squabbling crowd without actually hurting anyone. If it were just bigots and outsiders, he might be less inclined to take it easy on them, but— he recognizes too many of the faces around him. Before he knows it, he's trapped in a crush of clashing bodies and struggling to walk, or even move move than a few inches without worrying about setting off a trampling incident.

"— a problem with mutants— you wanna— grrgh— share your big argument against 'em— with the world— " Luke shouts between bouts of swaying with and pushing back against the tide of flesh around him, "— start a goddamn blog and leave usalone!"

A beat later, after he manages to line up a short, sharp, and blessedly clear shoulder bump on one of the marchers, he tacks on an equally loud, but significantly less impassioned, "— sorry, kids."


"Stalker?" The man confronting Peter seems confused for a second, then his expression hardens again. "Leave her alone, ya creep," he says in a low, threatening voice. Who would have thought that a bunch of bigoted near-rioters would come to Gwen's defense? It just goes to show: people are complicated creatures. Not that this means a change of heart as far as their violent intentions toward Peter Parker are concerned. They obligingly gang up on the gangly youth.

As Sam moves in the direction opposite from Luke's, trying to spread their cease-fire along the line, he quickly comes to the same realization Cage has: there's no way to do much at ground level without setting off a stampede. Fortunately, Sam has other options. He jets straight upward, wings unfurling once he's clear of the crowd. Then, he scans with his good old-fasioned eyes for epicenters of conflict. He draws a bead on two: the spot where Peter is getting clobbered, and a particularly unruly marcher who is hitting anyone who gets within range of his fists. Taking aim with his wrist gauntlets, Sam fires his talon grapplers — designed for fast rescue retrievals — at Peter and the mosher. Falcon's going to lose several yards of altitude and put some strain on his engines, but if his aim is true, he'll be able to defuse both conflicts by removing their catalysts.


There's a hint of apology that reflects in Gwen's eyes as she accepts the camera bag from Peter. Her chin drops and he, undoubtedly, can feel that frown. Stalker seemed somehow safer than media person.

The camera bag is taken and held close to her as Gwen slips passed the thirty-something men who let her by. She manages a grateful smile towards them, but once she's passed the trio, she casts a look over her shoulder, the smile long dissipated and replaced with very present, very real, worry. She reaches into the pocket of her jacket and extracts her cellphone. Very quickly she dials 9-1-1. "Hello, police?" she murmurs quietly while cradling the camera bag.


Peter Parker is finding it difficult to get himself in a position to do something like change his clothes. He only struggles with those that are ready to beat him down long enough to try and catch a glimpse of somewhere he can duck. As that dude starts to pound on him (which is really funny because he's dodging every single punch thrown, but he's making it look like he's being hit), Parker covers up until he hits the ground. And that's when he's not being 'punched' anymore…?

Peter uncovers his head from his fetal position of protection, just in time to see that his aggressor is being yanked by some awesome action from the Falcon. "Thank you!" Peter makes sure to give a wave that is extra civilian-y so nobody suspects that the reason he's up and running in a general direction of an alley is to change clothes. Nope. Clearly, he's running because he's just been saved by a superhero!


Eventually, Luke is able to insinuate himself between a pocket of marchers and locals in such a way that his outstretched arms form a wall between them; it is mostly a matter of picking the right times to go with the flow of people and allowing himself to be guided until he's more or less in the middle, but he's not about to let an opportunity pass him by. After a few seconds of bracing against the crowd, he sees and hears someone being abruptly yanked out of it, which draws his eyes up along the length of the retracting cable to the Falcon on the other end.

"Which one'a y'all wants the next trip up to time out?!" he exclaims to the marchers he's facing, hoping that the possibility of an impromptu flight is enough added incentive to disperse. "Stand down! Go home! Take a couple'a days to rethink your life choices!"


Sam's engines wail as he hauls the two rioters into the air. They swing together as he drags them upward, hitting each other — convenient! Or at least, it seems that way until they start blindly pounding on each other with fists and feet. Falcon grimaces and tows them over to a nearby alleyway. (Fortunately for the web-head's modesty, it's not the one he chose for his quick-change.) Positioning himself carefully, Sam releases the magnetic clamps in the two snares, dropping them both into an open dumpster. He would make a 'taking out the trash' pun, but Luke pretty much has the quipping covered. He gains a few yards of altitude with a couple of flaps, then swoops back the way he came, hovering above Power Man and demonstratively searching for more troublemakers to winch away.

Luckily, the fast reactions by a few key individuals seem to have moved the crowd past the flashpoint where it might have become a real mob scene. Apart from a couple of specific trouble spots where individual people are engaged in fistfights, the greater parts of the crowds are eying each other warily and backing apart. Several members of the march have already decided to get on with the fast-dispersal aspect of every flash mob.

Sam decides to drop in on one of the few remaining fights, diving like a raptor seeking prey before hitting the brakes at the last minute, his outstretched wings flattening the combatants with a wall of air as he parks only two yards or so above their heads, gazing down threateningly. "We got a problem?"


With things calming down, Gwen finishes her conversation with the 9-1-1 dispatcher. "Again, please feel free to call me if you require any followup." A smile tugs her lips upwards again as she cradles the camera bag even tighter. There's a fresh glow of pride at having rescued one of Peter's most prized possessions.

She nods lightly at the dispersion of the mob and begins to tread back towards the shelter. She's already late for dinner prep.


Meanwhile, in an alley…

"Oh you've got to be kidding me." Peter looks down at his torn open shirt to realize that he didn't even have his costume on. "Worst. Day. Ever." He sighs and pulls his shirt back closed, zipping up his jacket because now he'd look even more awkward. He turns and runs back out of the alley and into the… fray that is starting to disperse.

"Huh. Well. That deescalated quickly." Peter reaches up to run a hand through his hair and immediately starts trying to catch sight of Gwen. Not for any particular reason other than he's going to need his camera back. Not stalking!


A bigot's fist bounces off of Cage's chest when he interjects himself into another of the last hold-out conflicts; given that most of the other marchers have begun making with the dispersal, he settles for crossing his arms and peering down at the straggler with a tilted head and arched brow instead of barking at him to leave. It's an expression that says plenty on its own, anyway.

Once he's gone, Luke turns to check on the other half of the fight, and while his look is initially one of admonishment, it'll fade pretty quickly as he confirms the local's wellness(or lack thereof); once that's done, he'll move on to start checking on other residents. Including marchers, if there's anyone left who happens to fall into both circles; his displeased look probably won't be going anywhere when he's dealing with them.


Luke is an imposing enough presence that the man who hit him seems to shrink about a foot when he realizes what he just did. In seconds, he's running as much as the crowded street will permit, tail between his legs. His own fight dispersed, Falcon jets away to gently perch on the edge of a rooftop, his wings folding back into their casing as he realizes that there isn't much more for him to do. He tosses Cage a salute but doesn't come closer — for some reason, he seems to be keeping a minimum distance from the hero for hire. Before too long, the last of the fights have broken up and the tense crowd is dispersing. Everyone has enough to think about that no one pays Peter's wardrobe malfunction much mind. Off in the distance, there's the sound of police sirens — running late when they'd actually be useful. Typical.


She may not have spidey-senses, but Gwen's intuition tells her she's being followed again. She stops and then twists her chin to peek over her shoulder to spy Peter. Not more mob folks. Her lips edge upwards lightly and the camera bag is offered. "You're welcome," she says lowly. "If you wanted to see me again, you could've just called me. My phone still works. Number's the same." She takes a small step towards him, closing some of the distance between them.


"… Right. Uh. Thanks." Peter has a hand on the back of his neck while he's listening to the words that come from Gwen. He doesn't exactly try to close the distance himself. His feet are firmly planted because he's not sure what any of this means. There's always so much drama between them. For, y'know, reasons. "I'll uh…" He reaches out to take the bag and sling it back onto his shoulder. Sirens. "… I better go. Got pictures to take or a job I will lose!" And Peter's turning to make with the running away from Gwen. Er, running to take pictures. Yup.

Run, Peter. Run.


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