Howard's 11: In Darkest Jersey

January 31, 2015: SHIELD agents investigate a weapons deal involving stolen tech.

Knucklebones Casino

An Illegal Casino - New Jersey



  • Cass Wren
  • Jonathan Rossi
  • Manny
  • Virgil

Mood Music:

Knucklebone Casino is about as legitimate as it sounds - and also about as posh as it sounds. The entryway is tucked down an alley in deepest, darkest Jersey. The only way to gain entry is to give a password to a guy named Chuck who has breath like boiled, rotten cabbage and a demeanor to match. Snow falls in wet flakes and slops against the ground. People gather in clusters to smoke and trade small, illicit packages.

Inside are clusters of gaming tables - all the usual ones, and a line of slot machines that devour the quarters of anyone stupid enough to plug them in to the completely unregulated devices. This is a den of thieves, in a neighbourhood of thieves.

So why would any respectable person step foot in this neighbourhood? SHIELD got an anonymous tip that some kind of illegal arms deal might be going down tonight. That in and of itself wouldn't really be under their umbrella, except for the fact that there's intel that the tech came from a SHIELD facility.

Respectable? You must be thinking of someone else. Now, Natasha herself is as respectable as an assassin gets, but Fiona "Fifi" Saccone is not the same at all. "Fifi" has platinum hair, implants (surely), and wears fur and animal print. She looks, in short, like several of the women in here. Looking like this is a pretty fine way to fit in.

Natasha's spent her time well: she's brought a lot of little apparently-nondescript gadgets in that big Louis Vuitton of hers. The plan is to get into the back through some unguarded avenue, but they haven't been able to get an idea of the layout inside yet.

"Nice place," she drawls to her partner. She's even snapping her gum.


Steve is also in costume. An inconspicuous looking wig is worn, slicked and black, and over his face he carries a pencil thin mustache and a soul patch. The baby blues are covered by some thick aviator glasses, which he's explained to everyone helps him keep from showing his 'tell' at the poker table.

When he speaks, it's with a heavy New York, stereotypical Italian accent. He's wearing a charcoal colored suit with a slippery looking black dress shirt that looks like it came straight from a shop off the Jersey Shore. "Luca Perotti" leans over towards his partner. "Thinkin' of splittin' up and gettin me in on pllaying a game of Texas Hold 'Em." With some of Nick Fury's money.


The alleyways are still used by those who have nowhere else to go. It might be a skeevy club, but it's out of the way and there isn't a lot of traffic. It's a good place to hide…or meditate. Or some combination of both.

There just might be a large appliance box tucked into the darkened corners. There isn't much of a sound coming from that box…not yet. Although, as voices are heard, there is a flicker of a flame that begins to dimly illuminate that corner.


The dossier pointed out two guys and one woman that they're looking for. Jonathan Rossi, a young lieutenant of a Jersey street gang is currently leaning on the bar, looking far too conspicuous as he looks around with suspicion. The other, Cass Wren - a hired mercenary, keeps checking her phone and glaring at the back of Rossi's head. She looks like she might be ex-Marine, from her solid build and severe haircut. Their third target is outside. Manny - just Manny - is a short, balding man currently smoking and making low conversation with a man with slicked back blonde hair.


"You go make some money, baby," the blonde replies. With just the right appalling levels of babytalk. "I'm gonna see how good the bar is."

Meanwhile: Rossi looks like their man. A lot of the guys in here look about right, but not only was Rossi in the dossier, he's looking ten times twitchier than a chihuahua. Natasha — let's just go with Fifi — fiddles with her earring, turning a tiny dial. It should, if she tilts her head just right, feed whatever conversation she's aiming at straight into her ear.


"Thass right, baby, thass right." Luca (Steve) makes kissy faces at Fifi and plops himself down with a wad of cash at the table to give him a good look at Cass Wren. He gets his chips, but from behind his glasses, he's taking long looks at the woman with a shaved head. Widow is running point, and Cap is hanging back, looking for the surprise play.

The glow…from a lighter, perhaps? It's snuffed out before the sounds of movement are heard in the alley. Bottles being knocked about, papers crunching…it's movement. Someone's there. Perhaps that someone is intending to draw the attentions of Manny and his buddy…


"Relax, Jonny boy, relax," Rossi murmurs to himself. He scratches at his arm and keeps looking around. He scoops up a drink (not his own) and swallows several mouthfuls of it. Natasha knows a bulge of a weapon under a coat when she sees one. When he shifts, the silver grip flashes in the low light.

Wren folds her arms over her chest and presses her tongue against her cheek. She sets her jaw and flexes her forearm. Something shines on her, too, but it's not a gun (though she's doubtlessly armed.) No, there's something metallic shining on her wrist, and she really doesn't seem like the jewellery type. There's a patch on the side of her neck as well. Strange.

Manny and the blonde man speak in hushed tones. Manny seems more agitated than his counterpart. Someone says the word 'grand' and 'tech' and 'payment,' but it's all hushed. The conversation is quickly edging into argument territory. The blonde grabs the front of Manny's shirt and slams him up against the wall, just feet from the fridge box.

"You got someone there?" says the blonde man. "Huh?! You knew the deal, Manny. This ain't gonna look good to my bosses." The man sounds nothing like a Jersey boy. In fact, he sounds like a Cajun. "Now, you deliver the merch tonight, all of it, or we're going to have a problem." He turns and glares at the box, then kicks out at it. "You too, pal! Get outta there!"

Manny takes the moment of distraction to snake a hand into his pocket. He hits something.

Inside, Wren draws her attention to her cell phone. She snarls, then tries to catch Rossi's attention. When the young man doesn't snap to right away, she crosses the room, grabs him by the scruff and shoves him towards the door.


Well. That's a fun sign. Fifi got about as far as ordering a vodka Collins before their two marks start heading for the door. She heads on over to Steve, apparently in no hurry but nevertheless sliding through the people like a greased otter.

Bumping him with her hip, she manages to whisper nasally: "Hey, doll, you got your lighter?" As she nods her head toward the door, the pair are just heading out.

If he catches her meaning — and surely he will — they'll be heading back outside.


"All in," Luca says as he pushes all of his chips into the front of the table. Over 12,000 dollars right there. He'd only gotten a brief look at his cards, but it's time to go. Sorry Nick.

Luca gets up abruptly and follows after Fifi—he flips the cards over as is custom, and he has a 4 and a 2.

The rest of the players look at each other in shock. That dude just gave away 12k.


The man in the box stands as it's kicked and he merely looks at the blonde man. Sure, he looks like he should be living in the box but his eyes glitter through unkempt, over-long hair. "I was here first. Maybe -you- should leave?"

It's said calmly but not terribly kindly. It seems that he is also not willing to go without a fight.


"I swear to god, I got no idea who this guy is, Virgil. I don't got no idea. Tell him, buddy!" Manny flails at the man in the box. "Look, I'm alone, like I promised."

Except that's not exactly true. Wren shoves Rossi through the door and out into the alleyway. Young Jonny fumbles with his jacket to do it up. "Christ, it's cold," he mutters.

"Shut up and smoke," murmurs Wren as she reaches into her jacket pocket for a silver cigarette case. She lights one up and passes another over to Rossi.

"You know I don't smoke," Rossi squeaks. But a further glare from Wren has him taking one anyway. They seem to have no idea that they're being tailed. There are around a dozen or so people milling around and smoking. Manny and Virgil are about fifteen feet up the alley and to the left.


Time for some smokes of their own. Even Natasha's cringing at the money Steve just left on the table, muttering in his ear: "Boy, Luca baby, you're sure cool about leavin' all that money on the table like you did. I sure hope your boss ain't mad."

She turns her back pretty pointedly to the other people in the alley, fishing in her purse for the pack of cigarettes. Loosing two, she keeps one and passes it up to Steve. And prays that he doesn't try breathing in and then choking smoke all over the place.


"He'll get over it," Steve says under his breath. His hands stay in his pocket for a sec as she hands the cig to him. His eyebrows come together in confusion as he shakes his head slowly. As if to say—no, I don't think so. Finally he takes the cigarette, and rolls it in between his fingers.

Firestorm looks between Manny and the Blonde, "I've never seen this man before in my life." As if that's supposed to make things better. "I also suggest you let him go." A nod is given towards the alleyway, "You have an audience now."


Word gets up through the SHIELD pipeline with a bit more ease of late, those in charge tend to have a pretty good idea of what's going on and where. Hill may not have been on the scene from the moment this operation started but things had been in good hands to start. Now she's in the area, holed up in a matte black SUV with all of the extra bells and whistles a commander in the field could come to appreciate.

They've already got two of the Division's very best on the scene, for the moment she's simply helping to facilitate their plans. She's got heat signatures on a screen and a UAV drone in the sky overhead in a holding pattern. Simple and lightweight, should be plenty. Heck, should be more than enough.

"Alright kids, I've got eyes on you," she transmits in a soft voice.


"See? He's got nothin' to do with this!" says Manny, hands in the air.

Virgil looks over his shoulder at the group of people milling around the club, then back to the small balding man. He then hauls back and punches the man in the gut. "You think I am an idiot? Fils de putain!" He hauls back and kicks the downed Manny in the gut. He then walks out into the middle of the alley and calls out, "Cass Wren! You are working for these…couillons?" He laughs. "Yes, I see you. You are far too conspicuous."

Wren glares at Virgil, snarls, and tosses the cigarette onto the ground. "We're just here to do a little business, Virgil. Like you." She mocks a curtsy, but as she does, her hand goes back towards her gun.


Fifi pulls out her lighter, doing her best to Totally Not Notice anything that's very clearly going on behind her. She lights her own cigarette, though she doesn't do any more than give it a puff and let the smoke go everywhere. Her eyebrows perk up at the… 'conversation'… but she's no less ready than she was before.

"So. How's it goin' by you?" she murmurs. "Everything just as terrific as ever?" Oh, she's definitely still paying attention to the potential fight behind them, but she's doing her best to look like she isn't.


Steve does a thing where he cups the smoke in his large hand—smoking overhand if you will. With the cold air, no one will probably notice. "I'm just gettin wound up, know what I'm sayin? Greasin' the tables to make a second pass." His eyes are on that gun and he's ready to strike if Cass pulls the piece.


Firestorm reaches a hand down to help Manny up after he's been kicked, "Are you all right?" is asked before his eyes go back to the blonde man. However, back to Manny, he offers, "You should probably leaves before he gets too angry." He may or may not notice the guns…or all the people noticing the guns. After all, they're people going in and out of some seedy club. It hasn't been his business until now.


Fancy tech or not, it's still easier to see things with a direct line of sight than it is to see things through solid walls. Hill has a better view of the alley than she does the inside of the casino, though it would appear that there's still plenty to see from the outside. "Looks like I got here just in time for the action."

This is also the moment where she reaches around to the back seat for a futuristic looking rifle, a prototype of something Fitz has been working on down in the labs. "Does he seriously call this thing the Night-Night gun?" she mutters to herself while checking over its interface. Standard control layout and ergonomics, a few more glowy bits than she's used to… Somewhat awkward to move around inside of an SUV. Seems legit enough.

As far as she's concerned this op is within the hands of Cap and Widow. All the same, she can be ready to tag any runners. So, she'll just quietly roll down one of the windows and wait.


Wren does pull her gun. "We're just here to do a little business, Virgil. And you've gone and made this way more public than it needs to be. I think we're going to find ourselves a buyer who has more discretion. Manny. You haven't given him anything yet, right?"

Manny sits on the ground and shakes his head.

"Th…the rest of you! Back the fuck up!" says a very nervous Rossi who has drawn his gun and is now flailing it wildly at the smokers. "Go inside or go away!"

Virgil just stands there, smirking. Or at least, it seems that way. He's actually got his fingers around a small, glowing palm sized device. He's ready to flick his wrist and toss it into the alley. Maria's instruments suddenly spike. That is a non-conventional energy source right there.


Small, glowing palm-sized devices are almost never good things to have around. That being the fact, Virgil is Natasha's main target. Apparently there's some decent stretch in that skin-tight dress and some flow to the mink coat. From standing around with a cigarette she's suddenly airborne, sprinting like a demon in those five-inch heels and leaping on the man. One hand goes to the back of his neck to drive his face into the ground. Her knee goes into the small of his back to slam him down all the harder, and her other hand twists his arm behind his back by the wrist so that he doesn't have the chance to do whatever he was going to do with that device.

And then she's leaning down to purr in his ear.

"I really hope you haven't activated that thing. Because if you have, it's going to go off in your hand."


Steve makes a dive for the woman, driving his shoulder right into Wren's back and drives her towards the ground, pumping his feet like any good linebacker would. He's oblivious to Manny and the others who remain; he's just sure he wants to disarm this woman before someone loses their life here tonight.


Firestorm watches as everyone springs into action…well, this is an interesting turn of events. The guns are pretty much ignored as his attention goes to the device. That energy spike can't be good. When Fifi takes the Virgil down, he strides over to the other and crouches down next to him, glancing briefly at her, and then shoots a line of fire from his hand to the device.

This particular fire doesn't burn…Virgil's hands remain untouched.


Another nod is given to Fifi before he sighs and stands, looking around at the others. Any more devices? The guns really don't seem to concern him right now.

Sudden energy spikes, one of a great many things which Hill is not expecting to have come into play. One of the scanners peaks out and emits a soft alert, taking her attention away from the alley to see what the deal is.

"Something's wrong. Something big's powering up, everyone st-"

Natasha's already dropped the man flat on his face. Cap's already taken out the other woman, too.

"..Right. Whatever's connected to that trigger, I -don't- want it being fired."

Hopefully nothing explodes, or discharges, or activates, or -whatever- with that power spike. Hopefully the other guy working with them just took it out of commission, for that matter. If there's anything left for the vehicle scanners to sniff out then they can work on pinpointing the source if they haven't yet found it.

She's just going to bring the rifle up to her shoulders and brace herself for a shot, another sniper lying in wait. Go ahead, someone just -try- to run. Fitz could use the data.


Virgil goes down. He's completely and utterly caught off-guard by the Attack Jersey Princess. His face slams against the snow, blood burbling from his mouth and staining the muddy slush. He has a death grip on the device. There is something etched on the outside in red. It's clear, even at a distance. STARK INDUSTRIES. The logo is circa 1975. The Frenchman smiles fiercely, then slams on the pin to release the energy in the device. But…nothing happens. It just sort of cracks open and ooozes all over Virgil's hand. Whatever that cold fire did…it seems to have worked. The energy signature suddenly dies on Maria's scanners too.

The force of being slammed from behind causes Wren's gun to go skidding out of her hand. She does go down, but she's back up in an instant. She felt…a lot more solid than she really should. In fact, she felt a lot like slamming into a metal door. Off comes her jacket, tossed thoughtlessly into the snow. Her arms, her neck, and presumably parts of her torso look like metal melded with flesh. It's all very Terminator. She scowls deeply and charges at Steve, swinging a fist around to sock across his jaw with about twice the force she should be able to.

Rossi continues swinging the weapon around. He looks like he's about ready to piss his pants. "Everyone! Stop! Stand the fuck down!" The threats are hard to enforce when he's waving the thing aimlessly. But that makes him a loose cannon. He could shoot someone by accident. The gun goes off and ricochets agains the wall. Then he swings around again to point it at Firestorm.


Attack Princess's eye flicks to Firestorm in some surprise. Whatever he did, though, seems to have fizzled out whatever was about to get them.

"Neutralized," she replies into the comm. To Virgil, then: "Someone's determined to make a mess. Mama's going to give you a time-out so you can think about what you almost did." With a sock to his temple, hopefully she's knocked him out.

The problem with the Little Red Dress is that it's not proof against much. Not fire, not radiation, not bullets. So while she's disabled Virgil, Rossi's now a threat. She's hoping she can straighten and kick the gun out of his hand before he can shoot, but disabling that guy might rely on Firestorm.


Steve gets smacked right across the jaw in a punch so fierce the echo reverberates throughout the alleyway. But rather than cower away from the punch, Steve turns back and shakes his head slowly before spitting just a hint of blood.

From there, he's on her like stucco on a Southern Californian outer wall. Biff! Smack! Boom! Steve isn't a fan of hitting a lady, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

When it's over, he's giving her a whitewash in the snowbank by the dumpster.


Firestorm just gives a sigh, "I was just looking for a quiet place where no one to bother me. You've bothered me." He gestures to Rossi when he waves the gun at him and some more of that fire shoots out towards the gun. If he tries to fire from it, he'll find that the gun is now plastic and the bullet is now rubber. There's still potential for some pain, but a plastic gun's mechanism may not have enough torque to really make a difference. "Now, GO AWAY!"


"Copy, will worry about the 'how' later," Hill radios back.

Here's her first mark: Rossi. Mostly because she knows the Night-Night gun is rated for use against other people, not metas, or people made out of metal, or cyborgs, or..whatever that is. Cap's on his own there for the moment, and doing a mighty fine job of it.

Now, she doesn't know who the other guy (Firestorm) is yet. She doesn't know what he's capable of doing yet. From where she's sitting she still sees a baddie with a gun. It's all the reason she needs to pull the trigger.


One frangible polymer slug filled with dendrotoxin snaps out of the SUV and across the street into the alley beyond, aimed right for Rossi's chest. Just in case the sights happen to be off a little. It isn't currently known, but the amount of toxin hasn't been properly balanced yet. Rossi could be in for one heck of a nap.


Virgil's head bounces off the sidewalk and he's out like a light. The casing of the device still rests in his palm, the oozing, innate material dribbling between his fingertips.

Wren puts up a hell of a fight, but in the end, the metal maiden is put down by the disguised Captain. She is not unconscious, but she's not getting to her feet any time soon. She groans softly and spits out a mouthful of blood and snow.

Rossi fires. Bangbangbang at Firestorm. More like…patpatpat of plastic bullets. He doesn't have any chance to really be confused by what happened, as the night-night bullets slam into his chest and release dendrotoxin into his system. He's on his feet only for a split second, then his eyes are rolling back in his head. He drops to the alley, joining his compatroit.

Manny? Hey, where did Manny go? Somewhere in the fray, the balding man slipped away. Even Maria's surveillance missed him.

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