Cult Conundrum

Summary:
December 30, 2014: What do two archers, a merc, a movie star, and a cult all have in common? They all fit inside of the same Brownstone building in New York City. (Language, immolation)

Upper East Side

This building was supposed to be home to some rich and famous guy. Turns out he has friends. Really really weird friends.


Characters

NPCs

  • Cultists! Oh, the horror.

Mood Music:
None


It wasn't too long ago that Hawkeye — the guy one, the Clint one — sent word to a select few allies that he was gonna need some backup, to bust up a cult that he'd tracked. Someone had been abducting the homeless and making them disappear. It's not a glamorous case like fighting Terrax the Tamer in space, but everyone needs someone to stand up for them.

But that was a little while ago, and things change.

The 'where' of all this is an anonymous brownstone on the Upper East Side. It looks expensive enough — and its sale price is more than some people see in three decades, so yeah — but to all outward appearances it's just… a brownstone. Property records (for those who go the route of contacting the assessor's office) list it as belonging to Stefan Amis, a male model by trade, who's done well enough to afford a nice place like this. He was in some music videos, but he hasn't worked much lately.

From the outside, all is quiet. So where's Clint?

*

It's a small city, after all! Whatever's happening up on the surface is nothing Domino's concerned with. As it turns out she happens to be approaching that very same building, for a completely different and potentially obscure reason. From the tunnels. Tonight New York's got an albino rat.

Fortunately, not -all- of the city's underground is sewers and subways. The Big Apple has quite a peculiar history hidden beneath the streets, someone could get lost down there for days on end. It pays to plan ahead on these operations, pouring over old public records and building plans. Having a forearm-mounted 'automapper' certainly helps, too. Fitbits got nothin' on this stuff.

The merc squeezes through a crumbling gap in an old, bleached brick wall, causing a handful of crumbling mortar to dust the air with her passing. The mask covering the lower half of her face helps keep the debris out of her lungs. Clear glass goggles help protect her eyes, complete with a miniature HUD for that hi-tech hired gun appeal. She's right on top of her target location, if the data is all in order.

*

Kate Bishop is across the street and down the block a bit, perched on the edge of a roof and watching the building in question. And waiting.

« Did you lose your britches again? » she texts the other archer. Because, well. She's probably not ever going to let him live that one down. « It's pretty quiet down there. I'm not sure I can pass for selling girl scout cookies, though. » Which is followed by a selfie with a broad, toothy grin from the rooftop.

*

Clint's there, no question. He's on the inside, a few steps down, settled in an alcove of one of the many rooms, bow in hand, blue eyes attentive to any movement. The phone *bzzz* in his pocket, and stepping backwards into the shadows of an empty room, Clint pulls the phone from his pocket.

« Keeping my pants on. Ur welcom. » Given the day he had today, that's a victory for him!

Raising his eyes ceilingward, he's back to listening, tracking paths. It's another minute or so before his thumb swipes the top of the phone, « If u make a brownie joke, im breaking up w/u. »

*

Through the wall, Domino can hear…

…chanting. And if she listens hard enough — or equips a directional mic — there's also muffled struggling and the subtle rattling of chains.

Upstairs, Clint is settled in his alcove, and calming new-age-y synth-and-harp music is wafting around. Even the alcoves are luxurious in this place. Someone shelled out a lot for the most stellar interior design this side of a megabudget film set. "Clinton…?" The woman's voice comes near, slow and lazy, like talking is just so much stress on her lips.

The redhead in white puts her hand on Clint's. "Is that her…? The one you were telling me about…?" Her hand moves to Clint's jaw, to tilt it upward, and ensure eye contact. "Go and take care of her, will you, my handsome knight?" Then she gingerly releases his jawline, but something about her touch feels like it lingers on the skin in the most divine possible way…

*

It's quiet. It's lonely. It's ..actually pretty damn warm in the tunnels. So much heat with nowhere else to vent to. It could be zero degrees topside and still be in the eighties if one finds the right spot to lurk. At least it's an affordable way to vacation somewhere warm in the dead end of December. Domino's only dilemma now is that the path into the building she needs had been bricked over some time ago.

But, it's cool. This is what detcord is for. Jacked-up stuff, not the string they line fighter jet cockpits with.

She's just about to get started in setting it up when she hears ..chanting..? Wait, that can't be right… As luck would have it, being prepped for a stealth job means that she -does- have a directional mic. She's going to go ahead and set this up before the explosives, because suddenly this cramped, crumbling little tunnel with no light of its own just got a LOT more creepy-feeling.

What on Earth is going on down here?

*

« …I don't even know what sort of awful joke you're thinking about. I feel like I should be worried. »

Kate doesn't even know how much she should be worried. But where Clint's good with staking a place out for hours, she's restless. Especially with him inside. So she starts to move along the rooflines, traveling closer to the brownstone in question to see if she can catch sight of anything interesting there.

*

To hear his name spoken, clear blue eyes shift towards their author, and he watches her approach, unmoving. Clint's head cants slightly before he nods. "Yeah," and his voice is low, almost a whisper. His head moves easily under the woman's touch, and there's no question that gaze meets gaze, and understanding has passed. The warmth of her hand lingers upon his skin, and it's not a heartbeat that passes after before he turns and begins to make his way towards one of the windows, away from the 'gathering', but only slightly. Bow is out, and keen eyes are tracking movements around the brownstone now. It's not hard to catch sight of the approaching Kate; he knows her.

« Nvrmind, then. » is sent back before the phone is tossed off to the side, unneeded for the time being. Now, the bow is brought to bear once more, arrow pulled from the quiver and nocked, ready to fire.

*

As Clint gets ready, the woman in white takes her leave, walking down a stairwell to the basement…

From Domino's perspective, the sound suddenly stops. Not as in she can't hear it anymore, but as in everyone stops chanting. It's as if something happened to silence them all. The directional mic can pick up the struggling, the chains, still…

And then there's gagged screaming, and the sound of a sizable fire being ignited, and burning. Whatever's happening, it's not at all cool. Because the gagged screaming stops very quickly, but the sound of the burning continues.

*

Dammit..! What the -Hell- is going on down here?! This isn't supposed to be happening! This job's supposed to be a simple stealth and snitch, there wasn't anything in the contract talking about creepy chanting in the basement! It's - oh, there it goes. Almost. Less chanting, more ..oh dear. Dom's in a bit of a pickle, now. She could still do the job. She -should- still be able to do the job. She..just..has to go through whatever's down there in order to get the goods…

(Stick to the plan, Dom. This is why people still hire you.)

The cord is quick and easy to set up, like a string of silly putty she can stick right to the brick in a rough oval shape. Then it's just a matter of running two wires to the detonator, aaand-

*THUMP*

The noise is quite similar to the sound of the door closing on a cargo truck, easily overlooked to most people within an urban environment. Though, to anyone on the other side of the wall it's going to be a bit less subtle… It also may well be too late for the cult's last victim of the evening, though she's determined to not be the next one on their list. This is what a pair of suppressed .45 sidearms are for!

*

As she gets closer to the brownstone, Kate flips on the comm piece in her ear, frowning as she comes closer. "Clint," she murmurs. "Seriously, what's going on down there?" She pulls out her bow - the compact piece he gave her for Christmas - and sets an arrow to the string as she tries to get a look in the windows. Safe on her perch. Usually. Who shoots the snipers?

*

There. Target acquired. There's a shadow from the window, and the bow is drawn back slowly as the sight picture comes into full view. Just before he releases it, the explosion rocks the downstairs. It takes Clint's attention just enough that as the arrow is loosed, it skitters near Kate's feet rather than hitting a touch higher. No matter, however, as an explosive *pfft!* emerges, and a high tensile net is blown out, threatening any who may be near.

Realizing that he's just missed, Clint pulls his bow up and he swings around such that his back is against the wall, his gaze canted downward. Decisions, decisions… but he has his instructions, and another arrow is pulled from the quiver and nocked to the string. Taking this nice and slow…

*

The brownstone shakes when the explosion sets off, and now a wall is missing from the basement.

The basement would look divine, except for two things: it has an altar with a still-burning corpse on it that was just used as a human sacrifice, and someone went and blew up one of the walls.

A couple cultists are buried under debris or otherwise impaired. But there's the woman in white, one red eyebrow raising as she calmly holds a gas can up by two fingers like she's showing it off in a commercial. Her gaze is vacant, tracking over the debris, the pinned cultists, and through the fire to Domino. When she speaks, she sounds bored:

"You destroyed my wall."

*

Fresh hole in wall: Check. Loaded Sig's: Check. Freakish cult and crispy homeless guy on the altar: Check. Famous movie actress: Wait..WHAT?!

"Well. This is unexpected," Domino declares through the mask. (Should have chosen the other door… Um. Okay. Now I don't know what to do. Painting, Dom…)

"Right. Uh, the guys'll come take care of that on Tuesday. I'm just..gonna..yeah," she hesitantly announces while daintily stepping over brick-littered cultist bodies. "Love what you've done with the place. The charred corpse really makes the colors pop."

The shifting of weight causes the rubble to drift and fall upon those few unfortunate bodies even further, causing a slight wince from the albino and a soft, muffled "Whup, my bad. Stairs are this way, right?"

*

Something is not- Kate hits the floor - or rather, the roof - as the shot comes toward her, and when the net skitters by, it manages to tangle around her foot. Her brows furrow as she turns to look at it. That's…oh, that's definitely Clint's arrow. Those are her notching marks in the nock denoting it as a net arrow.

"I'm taking that as a cry for help, Barton," she growls into the comm, pulling a utility knife from her pocket and slicing through the net enough to pull her foot free. From the shelter of a heating unit, she looks over at the building, marking the window the shot must have come from. Right. Well. Time to practice some of that swinging from one building to another stuff, right?

The arrow with the line. Line up the shot. Tie off. Prepare to run. One…two…oh god why am I doing this?!

*

Clint can hear the com traffic, obviously, but doesn't respond to it. Instead, he's stepping in front of the window once more and taking a look at the status of outside. Not seeing anything at the moment, the archer turns and makes a run from the room, taking stairs two at a time, bow still in hand, arrow still nocked. Up a flight, and it's to a window that is just off center from his perch when last he'd taken a shot. Up comes the bow once again, and with narrowed gaze, he's searching out his target.

*

The woman in white sets down the gas can as if she was setting a priceless sculpture on the floor and watches Domino walk past. She is, in fact, a movie star: Meredith McCorr, who's been absent from the public eye for about five years. Is THIS what she's been up to?

"Look at me," the redhead says, not actually moving to stop Domino. All she needs is that moment of eye contact. Even through a mask. "Come back here."

The remaining cultists are frozen by indecision, unable to act without someone to tell them what to do.

*

"I'd really rather not if it's all the same to y-ack!"

Rubble on the floor. One piece in the right place and Domino's foot slips out from beneath her, stumbling as she catches herself from an outright fall.

Pistol suppressors add a lot of length to a sidearm. This extension of reach is what smacks the control unit on her forearm, switching the goggles from a comfortable HUD to glaring, blurry infrared.

Infrared goggles apparently block certain hypnotic stare powers.

(Time to move!) Stealth is gone. The situation is getting bad -real- fast. She still can't assassinate a famous actress, can she..? Not without a good cause and a lot of money, no. So she does the next best thing, flicking a wrist and ejecting a loaded pistol magazine straight at Meridian's forehead before she tries to make a mad run for the stairs. Anything'll do in a pinch!

*

Kate's going to do it. No, really, she's going to do it. Why is she doing this? Barton. She's doing this so she can punch Barton.

She fires the line across the buildings, then starts running, hooking her bow over it to slide down the line toward the window Clint was at before. She keeps her knees up, trying to make a smaller target and prepare for a good tuck and roll on the landing. "You owe me so big," she mutters under her breath.

*

There. There's the arrow. The line. Clint follows the line back to see the archer, and his expression is flat and even as he draws the bow back, ready to loose it. The tip of the arrow moves slowly as Kate swings on the line, and it's loosed. Arcing gently through the air with a practiced launch, the stun-arrow looks as if it's flying true. Once it's shot, the archer rolls back in, back against the wall, and his attention falls to the doorway's arch.

*

The ejected magazine nails Meridian right in the forehead. She's stunned by the sheer impudence, until she feels…

Meridian goes a bit cross-eyed as she looks up at the point of impact. And then reaches up and touches it as a trickle of blood runs down her nose. Her shoulders shake, and she quickly lets out a scream, half wordless rage, half wordless terror.

"KILL HER! ALL OF YOU! KILL HER NOW!" Meridian roars at her cultists, who immediately and dutifully give chase. Most of them are model types who look like they have all the combat training that wone would expect from a job as a personal shopper at a department store. Still, they go after Domino like a pack of wild dogs.

Meridian, meanwhile, is running to the bathroom: "I need to fix this, I need the calendula ointment—"

*

(Ohshitohshitohshit-)

These were people. These -are- people. Hopefully..? Which..crud, that means Domino probably shouldn't start killing them wholesale. No wetwork on this operation, -painting,- girl, painting! She flies up the first set of stairs she finds. If there's a lock in the way she'll shoot it until it's gone. What else is there, what would work for crowd control?

Smoke grenade. They work for ninjas so she figured why not? She'll start carrying one on stealth ops.

The goggles are yanked away from her eyes so she can see where the heck she's going, swapping out the unloaded pistol for the smoke gren. Nothing dangerous, just fog in a bottle. Pull pin-toss over back of shoulder-close next door-find something heavy to jam it shut with-go go go!

"Someone is gonna be in -so- much trouble for this… Dammit, I don't even know who to punch!"

Altitude. Get higher. Keep looking..get higher. Did she just hear a thump upstairs?

*

Kate Bishop is doing it! She's going down the line! She's totally got this! She's almost-

GOOD LORD THAT HURTS.

Clint's arrow hits, and while her uniform offers some insulation from that sort of thing, it's not nearly enough to take the sting out of it. It's a lucky thing that the shock causes her muscles to tense, keeping her hands around the bow, rather than dropping it and falling to the pavement outside. But once she hits the end of the line, her tuck and roll turns into more of a…roll and twitch.

*

Clint knows instinctively that his arrow hit. There's no need to check on that. Instead, he nocks another arrow and makes a run for that archway and is headed back down the stairs one level in order to get back to the room he'd vacated, and the one where he's sure that Kate's landed.

There, there she is. On the ground, and Clint approaches slowly, bow back and aimed at the form lying on the ground. He doesn't say a word; no smile of greeting, no 'Oh, hey, Kate, glad you could make it'. Nothing.

*

The smoke grenade takes care of most of the cultists trying to follow Domino up the stairs. There aren't a lot of high-grade security measures present. Or even really any! It is, for the most part, just a brownstone that happens to have Domino's target in it. And a cult. That burns people.

Some of the cultists stagger up the stairs after her, but they collapse in a coughing fit. It's not even a fight. These simply are not combatants. Upstairs, it looks like this place has been used as an art gallery as much as a home, because every room is just full of staggering, near-priceless works of art, from the modern to the contemporary.

Meridian herself does not follow Domino up. Probably too concerned with her scar.

*

Up the stairs and around the corner and-

(Bishop? -Barton?- What-)

It's one of those split-second decisions ruled by instinct. The twitch in the shoulders and straight down the spine, the sudden trigger which causes the power to run through -her- rather than through her environment. Her free hand grabs Hawkeye by the shoulder, wrenching the SHIELD agent around to face her.

Then she headbutts the ever-living shit out of him.

"GOD-! No one wins with a headbutt," she groans. To Kate, she says "There's a mob of bloodthirsty cultists coming after us so we should probably get the hell outta Dodge. If you wanna throw your mentor out the window, now's the time." Wait..is that..? YES. Weapons holstered, painting yoinked off of wall. "Go, window, get us a car, gotta leave now!"

*

Sorry, Clint, but you sort of deserve this.

Kate is just getting feeling back in her limbs when Domino shows up to deliver a head butt, and she follows it up with a foot aimed right at the tender bits. She's still shaky when she tries to get back up toward the window, stumbling a step or two. So shaky, she doesn't even snark at Domino. Which is saying something.

"Car's half a block down," she says hoarsely, looking back over her shoulder at her mentor.

*

Clint's about to release the string and send another arrow through the stricken Kate when Domino finds them in the room. He's spun around, and when heads collide, the archer starts to go down, but not without attempting a retaliation strike. So close, but yet so far, however, when Kate delivers her own coup de grace, and there really isn't any recovering from that strike anytime soon. Down he goes, his bow is dropped and clunking onto the ground, the arrow skittering, and gulping air as he tries to right himself and push himself up with a flat hand. His phone is on the floor in the room as well, tossed aside after he'd taken the first shot.

*

He's -still- not knocked out? "You're too damn stubborn, Barton!"

And this is what steel-toed combat boots are for. *KLONK*

"Unbelievable," she mutters while swiping the fallen phone off of the floor then … "Hold this," she tells Kate while pushing the painting toward her. Looks like she gets the fun of lugging Barton out of here. Lucky her!

When they find the car, he's going in the trunk. She'll drive, too. Because Kate took an arrow in the leg. So says the last chick standing.

"I hate this part of town sometimes…"

*

Hold- Well, it's probably stolen anyhow, given who they're taking it from. And besides, Clint shot her. Kate takes the painting under her arm and tries to help with Clint, but she's still pretty wobbly in the knees from the shock arrow. There are going to be so many words later. So. Many. Words.

*

So. Much. Pain. It's enough to make Clint's eyes water if not cross. He breathes out a word, or maybe just a syllable before everything just goes *BLACK*.

Whoomp!

Clint's out, and there is probably going to be an ugly bruise when he wakes up to go with the stern talking to he's undoubtedly going to get from Kate. At least he won't notice the indignity of being shoved into the trunk of the car the girls just carjacked.


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