Basketball NYC Style

Summary:
January 19, 2015: A Basketball Game in Central Park and Audrey is targetted

Central Park - New York City


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


It's been a long, long day at Central Park and now it's time for basket ball! Seriously. Pick up game. Right now. Powers approved, just don't break the ball. Or the court. Then X-Red and their friends would have to fix that too. So really more Power Ball than Basket Ball, but still it kind of sort of looks like the same thing, if your average pick up game of 20 somethings messing around is full of odd one off mutants.

Bobby is grinning at the man opposite him. He's dribbling, sure, but also using small snow ramps to give both him and the ball a boost as he moves about. "Think you can keep up?" Fake left, theeen go for the layup.

About three blocks away a group of people in an unmarked listening van are concentrating on… someone not in the game. "Okay, I think we've found her. Wait for the confirmation then all units move in on my signal."

***

In the aftermath of the attacks, there's been plenty of publicity about how the Red Team was going to help with rebuilding Central Park. A public group of mutants, unattached to any particular government, organization, or corporation. So the next time Audrey decided to relocate, she went to New York, this time with a purpose: getting a glimpse of some of these people and determining if they were as good as the publicity said.

She's acquired some new clothes, ones that stand out a little less in the winter New York crowd. Jeans, sweater, pea coat. Seated on a bench not far from where the group is playing, she watches with a paper cup of coffee cradled in her hands.

***

"Don't make me laugh, Cold Twin. This game is nonsense for silly babies compared to a real sport," Roberto boasts, teetering on the edge of his transformation into Sunspot as he squares off against Iceman. "Make your move already, so I can melt right through those ice statues and end this quickly. I don't want to put you through any more humiliation than I have to." He's bare from the waist up and dancing on padded, skintight boots, having discarded the armored sections of his X-men costume for increased mobility. His footwork is flawless, but despite his trash talk, he's a soccer player, and not used to using his hands for a steal.

***

The Titans have offered their allies any necessary aid towards helping with the reconstruction. Or dealing with the Friends of Humanity. At Gar's insistence, Vorpal has taken up the invitation to the park after assurances that no, the green Titan wasn't going to die from Narrative Complications.

Gar's a bit of a smart ass.

The cheshire cat is sitting, cross-legged, by the court, cheering indiscriminately for any and all players. He figures, after all, that even though powers are allowed, the Rabbit Hole is a game-breaker. Besides, there's just as much fun to be had by the side of the court as on the court. He turns over to Zatanna, his team-mate and usual partner-in-crime with a grin and a raised eyebrow. "Are you going to join in the game, Zee, or are you going to 'spectate?"

***

Zee is enjoying the spectating game, so much …. action…. to watch. Leaning back on her hands, legs outstretched in front of her, Zee grins at the Cheshire, echoes his raised eyebrow and shrugs "I don't know, spectating is pretty exhillirating … and they may not like my type of 'powers' out there."

***

Lunair is not one for being social. She had to rest at Magneto's, and now she is passing through from point A to point B. She was getting groceries and medicine. She only buys enough with cash for a few days. She has to keep moving. She drives her dark purple Vespa these days, since her car was blown up. Though, she does slow down to watch the game at hand.

Well, Lunair normally LOVES being social. Just not now. Not after the flu and the HYDRA.

***

The Human Torch has been on the far end of the park, working on documenting the fire damage to some of the older trees. He has a HERBIE with him to record the information. HERBIE reminds him of the time. This is how he learns, almost too late that it's time for the pick-up game. So he bursts into flames - not reigniting any trees, he's careful - and flies over to the game court, followed by HERBIE.

"HEY! Snowflake! Got room for another player on either side?" he calls from above the court.

***

"Yeah Torch! Come on Over!" Red rover, red rover send Johnny on over. Bobby winks and grins at Roberto and goes for a fake, deliberately skidding to send a spray of snow up at Sunspot's face as he stops, slides into a pivot and goes for that layup.

A few blocks away, a tech in a uniform that conspicuously bears no identifying marks squints at a display. "Zoom in on grid Four Alpha. Magnify… okay, wash it out. Clean up the image. Give me thermal… yeah… yeah that's her. All units. We have positive identification. Make sure she doesn't get away this time, GO GO GO!"

Tieres screech at the outskirts of the park as about half a dozen black SUV's spring into motion all at once. Their movements' purpose may not be immediately obvious, but the noise is enough to make Bobby stop midstride to look. "The hell…" He mutters low enough that only Berto may be close enough to hear.

***

That sort of noise is enough to draw Audrey's attention. The black SUVs that accompany it get another response entirely. Abandoning her coffee, she stands up from the bench and starts moving away from where they are. Hands in her pockets, head down, she does her best to look…Well, unassuming. As soon as she passes something that provides a visual break, she creates an illusory duplicate, sending it walking in another direction. In short order, there are three Audreys, all walking purposefully away from the vehicles.

***

Roberto throws an arm up and flickers over into the burning black silhouette that is Sunspot, causing the snow spray to melt in his fiery corona. The move still delays him, and he's about to follow the other Bobby's move when the game seems to stop and the other player's attention shifts completely. He follows Iceman's gaze and his ember eyes narrow. "Merda," he mutters. "Not today."

He doesn't notice Audrey's trick with the illusory duplicates, simply seeing them as civilians to be protected from whatever misguided whack-job paramilitary outfit is trying to execute a sting operation on a basketball blacktop. "Back off, bostas. This is a public park," he calls out, trying to put as much intimidation into his voice as he can. Not for the first time, he curses the fact that his scary-looking transformation doesn't come complete with any scary-sounding voice distortion.

***

Cats have great ears. A purple ear flicks at the noise and he immediately swivels around, spotting the cars.

Black SUVs. FBI? Stormwatch? What was going on?

"Zee," the cheshire leans into his friend and nudges her, thrusting with his chin in the direction of the cars. "By the prickling of my thumbs…"- a warning- be prepared to be ~enchanting~.

The cat stands up and steps closer to Bobby and Bobby (is that a sitcom yet? Why isn't it a sitcom? Someone get me an agent)

"Think we're having 'friends' visiting?" he asks. If the Friends of Humanity were planning something, they were going to find out that the weather would soon get cloudy with a chance of anvils.

***

Keiths nudging has Zee flowing to her feet as she stands, nodding quietly to her team mate. Moving with Keith, looking in the direction he's gestured, the raven haired young woman recognises the /three/ Audrey's and she blinks. "I know her… she's running from something pretty scary…." Zee moves past the group of Men towards Audrey, hoping the woman will recognise her.

***

Lunair is vaguely familiar with Stormwatch. She had left the Wall a message. But now, she's in hiding. Always move. Always keep moving. And then, she sees things going down. And not just the basketball game. Oh neat! Johnny Storm is there, too. She has to smile beneath her scarf. They look like such good people. But what's with the black SUVs? Lunair's heart sinks, a primal fear. Predator hunted. Who is being hunted? She carefully parks her vespa to watch.

***

"HERBIE, defensive shield on, and start monitoring," Johnny says. "I want that feed to the four major news networks now."

He flies lower, and says, "While you're at it, Herbie ol' bot, scan radio frequencies, and keep track of everything they're saying."

"Is there anything else you'd like while I'm at it, Master Storm?" the robot answers on its speakers, in a snarky voice.

"No, but when you get a spare minute, we'll want pizza after the game. If the game happens."

***

There are eight or nine SUV's closing in from every direction. They have the easy exists out of the park sealed off now and each is disgorging a cargo of armed men in black tactical gear looking and moving ever so much like professional soldiers or SWAT team officers. They're rapidly closing on the three Audreys. Over HERBIE, Johnny can hear the chatter from their support van. "Drone support up. FLIR engaged. Got Thermal. Okay. Sending her location. Move in and ignore the duplicates!"

"Berto this looks bad." If there's anything Bobby's learned over the course of working with X-Red it's what legal law enforcement operations look like. Lots of protocol and proceedure none of which is being followed right now. "I'll do some crowd control so we don't have to deal with sixty at once." The ice guy takes off and starts laying down barriers in front of about a dozen or so oncoming soldiers.

***

Audrey glances up as Zatanna comes closer, turning a briefly panicked look on the group closing in. "You shouldn't be here," she hisses to the magician. "You're going to get hurt." Says the girl being cornered by armed men in tactical gear to the magician and professional hero. The duplicates aren't working. It figures. They trained her, they know what she can do. Catching her lower lip between her teeth, she takes one more look at the men closing in before taking a deep breath. "Cover your eyes," she murmurs to Zatanna, the only warning before a sudden wall of light and heat flashes up between her and the operatives, blinding and searing for just a second - a tiny amount of time, but hopefully enough to scramble the equipment.

***

Sunspot glances at Keith, but his expression is unreadable in this form, apart from his bright-burning eyes. "Friends are usually either marching around with badly spelled signs or committing hate crimes in dark alleys," he tells the Titan, his voice betraying his grim mood. "If they're getting this organized, we're really in trouble." He glances at the other Bobby, then agrees, "Of course, he's right: we're in trouble either way."

Then Audrey's blinding wall of light bursts onto the scene, a sense-scrambling assault. Unless you happen to have mutant abilities powered by light absorbtion — in which case, it's like a sudden jolt of energy and focus, clean adrenaline in the bloodstream. "Whoever did that: namorada, you just made a fan," he says with a wicked grin, taking a running, thrust-assisted leap toward the main force of swat-team wannabes. He's coming in hot, ready to hit the dirt in the midst of them, with an omni-directional blast of solar force that will further scatter and disorient them.

***

Vorpal trusts Zee's word implicitly. If Zee says that the girl is running from something scary, then she's running from something scary. If Zee is going to help her, then she needs the help. When his sight clears from the bedazzling provided by the girl, the cheshire grins as Berto charges in.

"We're not in trouble, Berto. They are."

The cheshire cat has a lot of tricks up his sleeve- some of them are rather risky. One can only imagine what some of his Titans team-mates would say if they saw him take the risk he's about to take… but since they didn't or couldn't come along… as the French say, "tant pis!"

The Rabbit Hole opens, depositing Vorpal behind the line of rushing agents, right amont the vehicles.

"Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee!"
The Chaos Wave erupts from Vorpal, imbuing the vehicles with the unpredictable breath of life of Chaos Magic. The drivers are going to find that their vehicles are completely out of their control, and under…

"Fetch!" the cheshire points to the running squadrons, giving the order to the vehicles.

***

Lunair can't really help without outing herself. For her part, she figures not dragging HYDRA or another target into this is the kindest thing to do. With that, she will putter off on her vespa.

***

As she approaches Audrey, and the girl recognises her, Zee speaks in that funny way of hers ~ sehtolC gnikroW ~ and within seconds, she's dressed for the stage (thigh high boots and fishnets included). "Let's just say it's part of the job." as she throws her arm up over her eyes for the time that bright flash goes off. "Come on…" she won't say the young womans name "Let's have some fun with this…" Gesturing to the park benches, Zee grins widely as she speaks:

~ kraP sehcneB emoceB sthginK dnA tcetorP xuL ~

The park benches start to move and contort becoming armoured knights who stand between Audrey and her pursuers. "Now run…."

***

Barriers. That's a good thing.

"Hey, Herbster. Notify the NYPD that we have an attempted kidnapping happening," Johnny says. Because really, they've had the Central Park accesses closed off since the fire, so no black SUVs should be getting this close. None at all.

Light and heat? Johnny senses that and sees that some of them are getting closer… so he puts up his own barrier of extremely bright, hot flame between them and Audrey. Just for grins and malice. Berto should love this; on the bad-guy side it's at 5000 degrees, solar intensity.

"Master Storm, I am detecting massive anomaly effects. Scanning diverted per Richards Directive Five-dash-twelve."

"OK, but keep the news feed going!" Johnny yells. HERBIE pings the code for 'I will try' — and Johnny actually understands it, amazingly enough.

***

The soldiers that Bobby had walled off don't prove to be deterred by an eight foot high ice wall. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that they're more motivated by their own now amuck vehicles rumbling toward them. They break out climbing gear and begin to scale the wall. Which is when they find out that the ice nerd is not playing around here. An ice chunk the size of a softball hurled by an arm that still hasn't given up that old track and field practice routine. One, two, four spill back down the slick wall as it ramps up a bit higher and curls inward. Climb that, chumps.

Berto's blast sends another dozen or so soldiers flying and then he draws gunfire. There's actually quite a lot of gunfire, though a lot of it is directed at the SUV's and some at the park bench knights. Bobby swings down by Johnny as he lights up another section of the park with impassable fire. "Johnny, give me a good blaze on some of these dead trees. I'm sure they're using thermals. A good cloud of steam should mess that right up if you can give me a big enough fire to damp down."

Berto can see these are no paramilitary whackjobs or Friends terrorists. The gear, the movemetns, the fire discipline: It all says one thing 'professional'.

***

Audrey's blast seems to have disoriented… er. Everyone. The troops who were facing her are momentarily blinded and if she could only hear the string of curses that breaks out over the airwaves as a drone's expensive optics package fries.

Audrey shoots a grateful look at Zatanna, and in a blink of an eye, the girl simply disappears. Visually, at least. Light passes directly through her as she turns and runs. Except she doesn't go far. With no way of knowing how this confrontation may end, she can at least be sure that the soldiers will come looking for her when they finally retreat. So where better to hide than ground they think they've covered? She heads for a grouping of large rocks close enough to Johnny's flames to have absorbed some of the heat, hiding out in their shelter.

***

Sunspot batters the soldiers aside with a wave of force, then dives behind one of the ice walls as he draws fire. "Porra!" he spits. "I had my armor on twenty minutes ago!" But in superheroing as in life, there's no vice as harmful as bad timing. Speaking of which: the Brazilian glances over his shoulder and notes that his bit of cover has chosen this moment to start melting — whether thanks to the Torch's assault or his own inescapable hotness, there's no point speculating.

Fortunately, one of the shock troops he shepherded into dreamland is also behind the wall, so it should be the work of a moment to appropriate a kevlar vest. He does so, lamenting what it does to the flattering lines of his costume, but aware that bullet holes don't exactly win beauty contests, either.

***

Vorpal is having the time of his life. He can't help it- trickster spirits revel in chaos, it only makes them stronger. He doesn't lose sight of the fact that the young woman's life is at stake, nor that his team-mates are in danger. A Rabbit Hole opens up next to Berto, depositing a Vorpal (who also makes sure his costume is designed with flattering lines- vanity is the original feline sin) who is sporting a pair of illusory fairy wings and a wand.

"Looks like you're having a coverage issue, aren't you? Let me fix that-" a swing of the wand, and a chaos magic armor materializes around Sunspot's body, glowing purple and bright. "Should last about a minute or so, make good use of it!"

And with that, the Cheshire is gone through a Rabbit Hole, dropping from the sky onto a group of disoriented soldiers who are about to experience close encounters of the Black Tiger Fist kind.

***

Zatanna blinks as Audrey disappears but it's then that the words the Cheshire had spoken sink in and she grins even more widely. "Vorpal… I'm buying you new movies… This is no Bedknobs and Broomsticks…." Even though she's animated the park benches.

Speaking of those park benches, they're still under her magical compulsion and she notes to herself as they form as loose circle around a group of rocks unobtrusively, seemingly gone dormant now the girl has disappeared.

Ducking behind one of those park benches, Zee watches as the soldiers spill over the ice wall and the ice-nerd plays ice-bowling with them… waving her hand in the direction of those nearest her, she speaks again:

~ sreidloS peelS woN ~

***

Johnny calls down to Berto, "You just gotta make a shell of intense heat!!"

Then again, most people can't keep the intense heat within the shell the way he can. A foot away from him, you could eat ice cream without it melting. Not so much courtesy, as Sue demanding that he not burn her furnishings. So the smug tone is really unwarranted.

Meanwhile, a couple fireballs are tossed in the direction Bobby was pointing — clearly dead trees, there's no branches, most of the bark gone. They shouldn't burn that well, but the flames fill the area.

"GO FOR IT, SNOWSTORM!" Johnny calls out.

***

Bobby grins and takes off again. This time he draws bullets, but not for long as he applies ice to the fires Johnny just set, careful not to douse them too quick. The frozen water bleeds off in the intense heat and pretty soon a cloud of really quite warm fog has filled the area in all it's glrious uncomfortable stickiness.

Zee's spell puts another half dozen soldiers right off to lala land and in the fog can be heard the sound of hand to hand. Even blind, Vorpal's facing men who have been rather highly trained. If the young hero knows anything about hand to hand he'll recognize MAC (Modern Army Combatives, not the other punchy thing that acronym stands for) being used but the ability to teleport and summon constructs is a rather powerful one. On the plus side… there don't seem to be that many troops left…"

***

Why aren't they leaving? Audrey stays crouched among the rocks, invisible, as the others take on the soldiers. Quietly, she draws a handgun from the small of her back, keeping it in hand in case she should need it. She's watching, though, trying to see if she can recognize anyone, find anything that would suggest how much they know.

***

Berto glances downward with a frown. "Is that a codp—?" But Vorpal is already gone, and there's probably no use questioning the look, anyway. The Brazilian looks half tempted to argue with Johnny about just how feasible his plan is, but he decides to save that for another time, when they aren't actually being shot at and the discussion can be detached and academic. (Definitely the proper setting for such a meeting of the hotheads.)

Instead, he simply tosses aside the drab kevlar and vaults over the chest-high wall that served as his defense. Time to switch from melee DPS to tank. He catches sight of the nearest cluster of enemies still maintaining formation. Then, he focuses his superhuman strength in his legs and charges at them like literally anything other than a lineman in American football. How dare you compare him to anything associated with that bastardization of the beautiful game?

Assuming that the armor is as bulletproof as Vorpal can make it, he'll charge right into the middle of the squad. Why bother with fancy fighting tactics when you can just grab guys and heave them hundreds of meters away. Let's see how their fancy tactics manuals cover that possibility. He does make an effort to toss the soldiers away from Zatanna's armored circle — surely that's got to be a point of importance for her to have fortified it so thoroughly.

***

Fortunately for Berto, Vorpal's armor is as bulletproof as it comes, the chaos magic constructs are surprisingly durable- because it's magic. While Zatanna may have a point, the fact that Vorpal gets a good chunk of his ideas from Disney movies is probably what keeps him so cuddly and non-lethal. It is probably something the soldiers are somewhat thankful for, as their surviving vehicles pounce on a few of them and spray oil on their flailing selves- they just can't contain themselves, the poor dears.

Speaking of which-

The men have the advantage with their superior training. Although Vorpal is a black belt in Tiger Style, he does not have as much field experience. Even though he is training with Iron Fist, training is something that takes time. Still, Vorpal has one thing over them- he's a cat and he possesses, to wax purple, that ancient grace and agility of the big predatory cats to which few humans can aspire, so while he takes a few blows (and three rather good cut), mos of the time he is slipping out, around and under the men, leading to a lot of friendly fire, until one of his evasive maneuvers let him come around from behind one of the operatives and… he hugs him from be hind. "I choose YOU, Freakachu!"

And then there is no more Vorpal. There is also no more soldier.

Three miles above the ground, a Rabbit Hole opens and vomits forth a soldier who is most likely about to make a very interesting stain on the ground- or he would, were it not for the purple glowing lasso of the Cheshire cat latching onto him, keeping him dangling.

"The way I see it," Vorpal says, "It this…" he is swinging from a swing. The ropes for the swing are anchored… nowhere in particular, hanging there in mid-air the same way that bricks don't. The lasso is anchored to a hanging hook which, again, does not seem connected to any wall.

"You tell me who you work for, why you're after that girl, and what are your plans with her, and I will let you down in a way that does not involve recovering you with a scraper." Swing. Swing. Swing. "OR you don't tell me, in which case I'll forget how ropes work… and so will the rope. Whaddaya say, Doc?"

***

As the next group of soldiers advance on Zee's position, she watches as Berto smashes a group away. This time, following the Cheshires example, Zee lifts a hand up to remove her hat and reach inside. As she removes her hand, out comes a length of rope… something the young magician can work with. This group won't be sleeping…. Holding the rope out, Zee speaks again as she moves forward into the group

~ dniB mehT dnaH dnA tooF ~

The rope snakes out from her hand and twines itself around the soldiers, more rope being pulled from hat to accomplish the task.

***

HERBIE manages to continue to send the ongoing dramatics to the news agencies - of course, Audrey's face when it was visible, was carefully obscured because he's not just a little robot of very little brain, but an entire floor and a half of the Baxter Building, and so much smarter than he looks. (Not difficult. His drones are dorky to a fault.)

Of course, once the fog hits, the view of the vans attacking and oil-whizzing on the attackers is lost. The news outlets may consider this a 'news of the weird' thing rather than a 'strange attack on innocent person'.

Johnny watches Berto's charge, and yells "GO GO GO RED TEAM!" Yeah, he's cheerleading.

***

That's just about done it for the soldiers. Berto beats, Zee ties and Johnny cheers the rest of them into impotence.

Bobby zips about in the fog freezing engine blocks so that the chaosed cars don't do anything unfortunate. He's not sure how much control Vorpal has but… let's not find out just at the moment. The fog, of course, can't last long, and he lands by Zee and Berto. "So… damn. Where'd she go? Did she get away?" Beat. "Where's Vorpal?"

***

The soldier at the end of Vorpal's chain does not look pleased. Not at all. Clearly he's a trained soldier, but nobody covered getting held up by ropes a few hundred feet in the air. "You're making the wrong choice here, kid," he growls, though there's a marked quiver in his voice. "You think the girl's some sort of victim? She's a deserter, and we wouldn't be hunting her down if she wasn't dangerous. You want to rescue someone? Put me down, get down there and apologize, and help us bring her in."

You've got to give the guy some credit. He hasn't wet himself yet. You get that with professionals. Professionals who are used to dealing with and manipulating people with unusual powers.

Audrey, meanwhile, is holding her position in the rocks, trying to take a head count of the soldiers on the ground. This is so, so not good.

***

The balrog fire of Sunspot dissipates when Roberto can't find any more handy targets, and he regroups with the rest of the erstwhile ballers to commiserate. By all rights, he should look supremely ridiculous in his skintight leggings and glowy purple armor, but something about the swagger in his stance makes you second-guess that assumption. It's like Prince rocking a violet guitar covered in curlicues: if you look confident enough, you can pull anything off.

Well, not the glowing codpiece. If you keep your eyes above his uniform's plunging beltline, he still looks cool.

He raises one eyebrow at Bobby. "He teleports, camarada. I have no idea where he is. Neverland, probably. Or, wait, Wonderland…?" He's not as good at keeping to a theme as Vorpal, obviously.

***

"You are boring me. And you know what happens when I'm bored? I lose interest. And when I lose interest, things… disappear," Vorpal says.

And, as if on cue, the rope suddenly gives way by about a foot before finally stopping again.

The swing is gone, and instead the cat is seemingly walking on air, making his way to the front of the soldier to see him face to face. He isn't really walking on air, but stepping on tiny platforms that appear and disappear as he does so, but to the naked eye, the fricking cat is walking on fricking air.

"You come to a public park, attack my team-mates and my allies, open fire in a public are and attempt to kidnap someone, and then you have the gall to spew this jingoistic bullshit at me? You are not our masters, you are our servants. Wanna try that again?"

His eyes glow red and suddenly it is night time. Or at least, the world around them has turned into a place of pure darkness where there is only the soldier and Vorpal- or rather, the Cait Sidhe, the cat's fur having turned pure black with only a spot of white on his chest.

"You will speak the truth to me or I shall claim your soul, lad, and then I shall let ye fall. Once yer dead, ye'll spend eternity working for me. Now…" he leans in, his smile growing grotesquely wide, "What's it gonna be?"

***

"I see Vorpals handiwork still in play" Zee smirks at Sunspot as he approaches, her eyes never leaving his face. Cold Bobby gets a shake of her head "She's safe…for now" and Zee casts a glance to the rocks…. that her park benches have now settled around. "Have you met her before?"

***

Johnny lands next to Berto (and presumably Bobby if he's done suppressing the excited black SUVs) and comments, "Somehow you make that purple glowing codpiece work. I don't know how though,"

***

Bobby glances around. Vorpal's too high up for him to see. Instead he looks for heat. The girl's got to… there she is. Right there. He doesn't call her out though. These things work best if they're not forced. So instead he just sweeps his gaze over the place and looks back. "Somone wanna call the cops?"

***

There's a fine line when it comes to terror. Light-headed already, when the soldier sees the transformed Vorpal, there are no more answers coming. Instead, he starts scrambling for his weapon. Hopefully, Vorpal secured him well enough, otherwise the cat is getting shot at. There's a reason soldiers train. It's so they can act on training instead of sheer panic.

Down below, Audrey starts to slip out from behind the rocks, though she puts the gun away before she goes visible. "You shouldn't hold them," she says quietly as soon as she's close enough to the others to be heard. "They're Army. It'll just turn into a sea of red tape before it disappears."

***

"Oh, believe me, I've worn worse," the Brazilian answers, flashing a cocky smile at Zatanna and Johnny. He looks downward, inspecting the armor. "It'll wear off any minute, I'm sure. Get those twitpics while you can."

When Audrey appears from the circle of bench-knights, Roberto doesn't seem entirely surprised. He dusts his hands off and extends one with a smile. "Roberto da Costa of the X-men. You say that was the army? It's incredibly illegal for them to deploy inside the country against its own citizens like this." It's a rather serious statement for a man wearing a magenta Tron outfit. As though the universe recognizes that fact, the armor blips out of existence at that moment, leaving him in only red wristbands and his uniform's skintight leggings and boots. It's kind of a lateral move, as far as gravitas is concerned.

***

The Rabbit hole- never leave home without it. "I'll take that" the benefit of punching holes in reality is the fact that your hands could be just about anywhere without you having to move your body. This proves to be VERY useful sometimes*. "Curious thing to kill people with," He turns the weapon in his hands, which are back to where they should be."It's so much simpler to just let them fall." the cat grins, and extends one hand towards the soldier's forehead, palm glowing. And then the glow is gone.
"I have placed a curse on ye, mortal. Yer soul is mine until the day ye choose to tell the truth. I recommend that day be soon, ye seem to face combat quite often. 'Twould be sad what a lonely bullet could do. Well… in any case, when Death comes for ye, I'll be waitin'. I take my tea at four, by the by."

And then there is nothing but free-falling for the soldier as everything dissolves and the earth speeds up towards him-

The fall lasts for approximately five feet. The Rabbit Hole opens and soon Vorpal and the soldier fall from it and onto the blessed earth, near where his team-mates are gathering. Vorpal, of course, lands on his feet, now back to his regular purple coloration, gun pointed at the soldier. "Hey kids, got one who needs binding over here. Wouldn't talk, but that's ok. I've claimed his soul." He grins

*Like during those times where Vorpal wants to put on a puppet show AND watch it at the same time. Get your minds out of the gutter, you perverts.

***

"I'm sure you have" Zee quips to Berto and then turns as Audrey appears, offering the other woman a smile. "Glad you're not hurt" Bertos armour returning to… normal…. gets a look from the Mistress of Magic and a grin as Keith appears. She'll let someone else do the binding this time.

***

"Yeah, if they're army they're doing something illegal," Johnny observes. "Why are they chasing you?"

The return of the Cheshire Cat means he has to step a step to the side, and HERBIE lowers down to scan the faces of all the allegedly Army people, because if they're secret, well, they just blew their cover. Front. Page.

"Oh, I suppose I should let go of the firewall," Johnny mentions, and it vanishes completely. Just like Berto's Tron Codpiece.

***

Bobby grimaces. "No, not legal Berto, but if it really is the DoD…" They'll need rock solid proof to take them on. "We may not be able to touch this. Might need someone who works a bit less… strictly inside the confines of the law." Because he knows that he knows that there's only so much one can legeally do quickly when faced with this kind of thing and lawyers won't help Audrey if she gets snatched in some kind of raid or legal maneuver.

***

Audrey gives Roberto and Johnny a flat sort of look. The sort that says if they believe how illegal it is matters, she's got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them. "There are programs," she explains, avoiding Herbie almost instinctively. "Aimed at training people like me- People like us into weapons. Hundreds of years of science got them one Captain America. A few thousand years of evolution's gotten a lot more people like us." She glances cautiously toward the men on the ground. "I'm not a deserter. I left before they could push me into enlisting. But I'm not going to be their pawn."

Swallowing, she reaches up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. "Thank you. But…I really have to go. Please, it's not worth pressing this. It won't be that easy." As she speaks, her features change, a trick of illusion shading her hair to dirty blonde and blurring the lines of her face. "Thank you," she says again, then turns to find a less-watched spot to escape from.

***

"Un momento, senorita!" Vorpal exclaims- and then looks down at the soldier he brought back from the heavens. He shrugs and gives the man a good *wang* across the head with his trademark flamingo croquet mallet. Okay, now he can focus on Audrey. "You don't need to be on the run. We can hide you and offer protection. Any of us can." After all, the Titans currently had a mutant refugee in their underground. Riana could probably use the company. Unless, of course, the X-men had a spot…

***

"Ei, wait! I didn't immigrate to this country to watch the damned military snatch people off the street," Roberto says, his expression uncharacteristically stern for a moment. "I'm not in the slightest bit worried about red tape. You want to see red tape? Wait until you see what the DCI lawyers hit these guys with. I just got assualted in the middle of a charity project because somebody didn't like a girl who happened to be in the same park as me." His self-righteous rant is really getting a head of steam now. "If there is one thing the X-men absolutely, no question, do NOT stand for, it is shadowy government canalhas hunting people down." He does his best to catch Audrey by the arm. "If you're a mutant, we'll protect you. If you're not, we know others who will. We've done no less for others in your situation."

***

"She is Berto and she's absolutely terrified." Zee watches Audrey start to move off. "You know me… " Zee still won't say the girls name "I think you started to trust me. All of these men are trustworthy and what they say is true. Come stay with us Titans, or head off with the X team but please" Zee pauses "don't stay on the run."

***

"If it IS the DoD, they blew it big time," Johnny says. "And if they're weaponizing metahumans, well, there'll be some problems with that. Slavery was made illegal a hundred fifty years ago."

Well, technically 150 years in December. Meanwhile, HERBIE has finished scanning faces and sending the recording of what went down to the media, and incidentally the FF databases (and DCI can get them when they want.)

Johnny won't offer the same sanctuary, because Reed has already told him to stop bringing disasters home, but he'll nod when they say X-Men because it's always fun to watch their training sessions with the Army.

***

Bobby sighs. On the one hand he does think that Audrey would probably be better off somewhere more, er, secure. On the other hand he remembers what happened to another mutant in trouble when she was offered sanctuary with the X-Men and it functionally amounted to being imprisioned. He'd like to think that Berto or Gar or Zee wouldn't do that. But then he'd liked to have thought that Scott and Kurt were above that too and they manifestly weren't. So yeah, he's not about the pushy.

"Look, they want to help. I get if you don't feel like it's safe or have reasons. If you come, I promise we'll all do whatever we can to keep you safe. If you decide to go… at least take our number? If you get in a scrape we'll come looking for you."

***

When Roberto reaches out for her, Audrey turns, hand snapping out to try to grab his wrist and twist into a swift joint lock. It's a practiced motion, so much so that it comes without hesitation. Zatanna's words get her to pause, though not without releasing 'Berto, should she catch him. "I can protect myself," she says quietly, a pained look crossing her features at the talk of lawyers and the like from Johnny and Roberto alike. "You don't understand. It's not that simple. It's not black and white. It's complicated." She takes a deep breath, slowly stepping away from Roberto. She nods slightly to Bobby, lowering her voice. "I'm not walking away from here with you either way. They'll know exactly where to look, and you need your resources in more important places right now. Please. Think about this before you dive in."

***

Roberto is snared easily, and does nothing to fight it. Whether he catches her or she catches him, what's important is that she pauses long enough to hear them out. He rubs at his wrist when she releases it — even without struggling against it, those locks can hurt — but doesn't seem at all bothered by her defensive reflex. He nods when Zatanna clarifies that Audrey is a mutant, then listens intently as the stranger alludes to the dire situation she finds herself in. But his decision is instantaneous all the same.

"There's nothing to question. Providing shelter and support for mutants on the run — it's central to why the X-men exist," he tells her with intense earnesty. "We have the Red Team if you want to fight this in the light. We've got other teams if you want to fight it from the shadows. But either way, you don't have to fight it alone."

His grave expression suddenly cracks into a self-assured heartbreaker's smirk. "And if you think they'll be able to trace you running with us, you've clearly never met my friend Illyana. We won't be 'walking' anywhere." He sketches quotes in the air with his fingers.

***

"And the Titans don't stand for any of this illegal crap nor this persecution, either. We like it even less than Sunspot likes covering up his perfect abs."

The cheshire's grin turns into a regular smile. "Jokes aside, do listen to him. The X-Men are good people and our friends. If you need help-" he looks at Audrey and Roberto, "You need but call. We'll be there in as long as it takes stunningly beautiful sorceresses to speak a charm." He looks at Zatanna. Wink.

***

"The girl has skills, leave her be." Zee watches Audrey with careful gaze and gives her a nod. "You know how to find me and that I'm good for a meal and conversation." She shrugs one elegant shoulder

"We're all in this to help others and Berto's right about Illyana… I've held Limbos power and what she can do…" Zee shudders slightly "I wouldn't want to be on her wrong side." Keiths comment has the raven haired woman blush slightly as she returns his wink "And he's right, we'll be there as quickly as I can speak."

***

Johnny shakes his head at the heroic self-sacrifice, noble etc. that never really does anything to stop the injustice because hiding from tyrants is working in their turf.

"If they're as good as you say they are then they'll have you within a half hour of walking away from this park. And thanks for assuming we're stupid. Of course it's complicated. It always is. Anyway, this is already going to blow up. It'll be on the news tonight, with their portraits."

Johnny frowns, because he's seen this happen before.

"And if this means there's some sort of stupid spy-paranoid 'burn notice' on these men because their cover was blown? Well, like certain other soldiers, well, they knew the orders were illegal, and were obliged not to obey them. Oops. They shouldn't have gone after you in public. And if it's an attempt to discredit the metas, it's also nothing new."

***

"Berto." Bobby sighs. Again. "Let it go. She may decide she wants help at some point but I don't think we're convincing anyone right now." And frankly Bobby has his doubts about the impotence of shadowy military cabals if only because of the people present, he's been involved in having to hide someone from them. Even if they don't have the resources of HYDRA this could rapidly turn into the kind of situation that features paramilitary werewolves having running firefights through large repurposed buildings full of hostages and flammable chemicals. Why no, no particular reason that comes to mind.

"If nothing else we have something new for Doug and Mike to pick at. If anyone can make headway on this, it's them."

***

Audrey takes another step back, shoving her hands deep into her pockets. "I'll…be in touch," she says with a nod, turning a last look on the soldiers already restrained. "They're not all bad people, you know," she says quietly, before a quartet of Audreys replace her, all of them walking off in different directions before all of them simply…disappear around corners.

***

Roberto gives the other Bobby a baffled look as the ice-meister hems and haws, then turns and sees that Audrey has left. He gapes for a second, then lowers his head and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Wow. Thanks for the backup, Cold Twin," he says with evident annoyance, looking up and gesturing after a randomly selected Audrey duplicate. "She's definitely better off walking on foot from the scene where she was just attacked, rather than disappearing and reappearing instantly at any point on planet Earth she chooses." Granted, the illusion trick is a nifty one. Still, Roberto is making a point. He shakes his head and sighs, then does, in fact, let it go — by refocusing on a familiar and favorite topic.

"You wouldn't put a bag over the Mona Lisa's head," Roberto tells Vorpal, patting his abdomen. "Any great work of art should be displayed for the world to enjoy."

***

"Yeah, I've tried that line on Gar, but he still insists on getting uniforms that cover everything," Vorpal quips back at Berto and pats his shoulder. "Good work out there, everybody. I'm going to head over to the Titan's office to get a hold of L. As soon as Johnny's newsbyte hits the air, the proverbial dung is going to hit the fan and the Titans will need to formulate a statement of support. Let's get together this weekend for another basketball game. Ideally somewhere remote and hard to crash, like Nazca."

The cheshire grins and snap-points at Johnny, "I'll see you later, Matchstick. Zee, I'll see you at the base."

One Rabbit Hole later, the cheshire is traveling towards Staten Island, where the Titans' public office will soon have its public opening.

***

Zee smirks a little at Berto as she looks "Passable I'd say… thanks for the assist out there, it was appreciated" As Keith takes his leave the raven haired woman nods "Sure, back at base when I get there." Cold Bobby and Johnny get a smile and nod "Later guys, if you do get a game together, let me know." The Mistress of Magic starts walking away, murmuring something as she does, her costume reverts to her normal street clothes. Looks like she's going to walk awhile.

***

"How do you know that?" Johnny asks Berto. "I mean, she's only really visible from the upper torso and you can't really tell what her figure is like under that outfit, but to be honest, that smile could get really creepy. I would need to see her other expressions."

He carefully doesn't say "O-Face" because HERBIE is still recording for Reed. The news report has been turned off, though he's still recording everything up to when the (alleged?) military guys are either arrested or released. And then, he gets to go explain all this to the rest of the FF.

***

Bobby returns Berto a very flat look. "Yeah. Maybe it's dangerous, but I saw what the X-Men did to Nancy when she came to them for 'help' and if you think I was about to subject someone else to that think again. Push 'protection' on her and we're no better than the people chasing her. There's a reason I ended up going outside the X-Men to help Nan. We tend to get our heads stuck pretty far up our own asses when it comes to things like this. What she wants matters." This is not something on which Bobby will brook disagreement. Taking it kinda personal, actually.

"What's the phrase? No means no."

***


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