Missing Man in Mutant Town

June 19, 2015:

Psylocke gets her first real lead on Flash's location. The ninja brings fear to the party.

//Dead Broke Pool Hall //

A very decrepit pool hall in Mutant Town; a known Purifier hangout.

Characters

NPCs: Various Purifier Thugs

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The last week and some change had seen the neighborhood of Mutant Town a focal point of the investigations of a myriad of individuals. Not only are there the efforts of various agencies seeking to keep the volatile area under some measure of calm, but a cadre of agents have been dispatched to find what elements of the Purifiers remain prominent.
And for one that can read the surface thoughts of a mind as easily as one reads the headline of a newspaper, that investigation can be bountiful if also tedious. As Elizabeth Braddock moves throughout the city's streets she can almost feel the palpable fear and oppression that is evident. Not just from mutantkind's general sense of anxiety from the way humankind feels… but from the more palpable danger that is represented by those humans who have taken up arms in the pursuit of some misguided cause.
At first for the few days it was like tossing a net over the side of a ship and hoping to catch a boot. Eventually, however, she covered enough ground that she started to get a few hints. Little more than small tidbits, flashes of faces and negative sentiment that seemed out of place amongst mutantkind. Then there was the first touch of malice that she sensed and it led her to here, on the border of Mutanttown just in Hell's Kitchen.
It's a pool hall, of all things, though it could pass for a dive bar… that just has six pool tables. It has the same level of clientele but here the thoughts are more detailed, more prominent. And some of the conversations had amongst the people are outright telling as the words 'Purifiers' and 'mutie' and 'scum' are all fairly prominent.

Betsy is a patient woman. Kwannon once spent a week clinging to the side of a boat, waiting for a target to be alone for long enough to slip aboard and cut his throat. Ninja know the value of stealth and deliberation.

But days of psychic scanning were wearing at her. Trawling thoughts, emotions, fear and anger. Forced to wade knee-deep through the mental sewage of the most radical Purifier terrorists. All the while, hoping for a flash of insight into Thompson's location- and dreading the thought of him being dead somewhere.

But a tickle of a thought. A mental image of a drugged and battered Flash Thompson, being blasted over and over with music and with sedatives flowing into his veins. Tortured. Questioned.

For an hour she sat in the shadows across the street, kneeling in an abandoned apartment. Eyes shut. Mind sniffing like a hunting dog. And then… that image of Flash. Again. More clearly. A vague memory of questions being asked, torture implements being employed.

Betsy's eyes snap open, pools of luminous amethyst, and her face as cold as a Maori stature. She walks to the window and looks down at the sight of four men walking into the bar, and zeroes in on one.

"You're mine," she whispers in a harsh, ragged voice. A length of that red sash is bound to her forehead, holding her hair back. A single kanji character in white embroidered into the front.

'Vengeance'.

Those four men laugh, the sound echoing off the heavy close in cement buildings even as the troop pause long enough to share some inside joke. Their minds are in the gutter, extending little further than the hope for booze, drugs, and women. And the moment they enter that building their voices are abruptly cut off once the door closes, yet she can still hear them with her extraordinary senses.
Inside at this hour there are only a dozen… perhaps fourteen men in total counting the bartender. Across the back of the bar is a multi-armed cross in red on a black flag, and in the window of the place is a variety of signage with symbols that only a member of a hate group would perceive in a positive light.
At the bar, the tender lifts his voice. "Ry. Kev. Fuckin' A, the hell have you guys been?"
A rough laugh is given in return, "Can't tell you that, Harper. What you don't know you can't testify to." And at that they all share a raucous laugh.

Judicious field preparation is the key to dominating a battlefield. First, eliminate communications. One cut phone line and a cellular scrambler does that. Then eliminate escape routes- compressed air and liquid metalweld renders one fire door into an impassible barrier in less than five minutes. Prevent reinforcements from approaching: an illegally parked delivery truck and a malfunctioning light halts traffic for several blocks. Corral your enemy into a corner… as easy as a length of chain shutting an alley gate on one side, and a glimmering double-handful of caltrops the other direction making foot departure impossible.

Many heroes prefer to fight in the light. It's intimidating and overwhelming, clearly indicates their allegiance and goals, and lets an opponent know instantly what they're up against. Ninjas, however, prefer the darkness. They know well the value of fear.

The lights in the bar die. All of them. Even the state-mandated emergency ones. Outside, the city street lights go dead, too. Virtually no light is admitted into the bar, the tiny 'privacy' windows turning it into a formless mass of shadows and shouts and barked knees.

"My cellphone's dead!" "What the hell, Tony? Where's the lights?" "AWW SHIT! I just banged my knee!"

In the confusion that follows, no one notices when the first of their fellows vanishes in a flurry of paralyzing punches, tucked under a pool table.

"The fuck?" Is shouted from the bartender as he's leaning over a panel and trying to flip several switches. "This ain't right. It's the feds, man!"
"Fuck!" That group of four men all moved together, instantly going low and each taking up an angle as they pull sidearms. They at least have some measure of training, that's clear. "Kev, try your cell."
"On it," The light from the cellphone limns the man's face in the dark for a moment, showing the man starting to dial a number that isn't 911. It's also enough light to show the bartender coming up from behind the bar with the ubiquitous shotgun that always somehow finds its place right next to the Kentucky bourbon.

But there are no sirens. No boots, no flashlights or flashbangs. Outside, the city sounds normal, if quiet. What federal agency would shut down the streetlights?

Another fellow goes down without a noise, body stashed in a corner no one will approach. A shadow indistinguishable from the floor flies like a crawling cat, toes and fingertips, skimming the ground effortlessly.

The soft *thump* of knuckles driving into flesh, easily lost in the sound of guns being cocked. Another body produced; another body stuffed under a stack of chairs.

"Something's moving!" And perhaps their fear serves to aid Pssylocke in her assault on the men for one snaps out, "You don't wanna get your ass shot, you hold the fuck still!" Which motivates most of the other customers to hold their positions.
There's the sound of weapons ratcheting and the shotgun's pump working as those four men who had come in earlier try to keep an eye out. Yet where they look, Psylocke is not there. Eventually the bartender flips on a switch and a light snaps on, sweeping over the distant pool tables and the booths against the wall. He holds the maglight up and says, "There's nothin' there."
Kev then pipes up, "I'm not gettin' anything, man. Nothing's gettin' through!"

"Augh!" one of the men screams, hands tugging at his coat. He whirls and opens fire, a line of bulletholes ripping through the bar's exterior wall. The noise inside is incredibly deafening, particularly in the tight confines of the place. The snap and pop of burning gunpowder leaves bright afterimages burning in the eyes, particularly from some fool with a ported barrel that flings gunpowder into the air like a roman candle with each shot.

Deafening silence reigns, the only consistent illumination coming from the shadowy, indistinct form of the bartender's position, maglight panning across the men's faces in a steady back and forth, illuminating terrified features and confused expressions.

"Man, fuck this." The bartender says sharply and without a further word he breaks into a run for the door. Most of the other people are down, and out of it. But that group of four men remain and as soon as the tender starts to beat feet one of them snaps. "I fuckin' told you to stay still, Harper!"
And with no hint of nevermind, the man brings the weapon up, takes aim and fires with a short triple crack of the pistol, sending the rounds into the retreating man and sending him spilling to the floor.
The maglight, dropped, rolls across the floor, casting long shadows and making them dance in the dark even as one of that remaining quartet of men snarls. "Fuckin' great. Now the hell are we supposed ta go on Friday's, man? Fuck!"

In that moment, one of those four vanishes. Silently. Not even a whisper or muffled complaint. There in their periphery, like everyone else, staring at the moment of murder; a grim theatre that even trained killers have a hard time not looking at. There's an obsession with death that very few ever shake.

And a ninja knows how to exploit that. There is no blood or gun or scrap of cloth. There one moment- gone the next. As if the body had vanished.

That brief discussion, the small disagreement gives her enough cover and enough time to make the extraction. When Kev and Ryan step back into cover by their table… they realize that they're down to three. And suddenly it's all the more real for them. There's no further expletives, no further pointing and gesturing. Almost instinctively they go back to back to back taking refuge underneath the table as if to make sure there's no way they can be approached without one of them seeing.
And their minds, oh their minds are a flurry of activity. Fear dominates, fear and anger surging through their thoughts and she can almost feel the way each of them seethe. Ry and Kev are both trying to think of who they can contact, how, how to extract. And where do they want to go to? A place… a strongpoint where they felt secure. A place where they put that mutie in his place and had the support of soldiers like them. That old Church on 16th. Yeah. They need to get back there soon.

Military strategists frequently rail against defensive mindsets for good reason. Those men are indeed safe- back to back, weapons out, looking at shadows and flickering images and with fingers on the trigger, ready to go. Unassailable.

And leaving the rest of the bar patrons alone, isolated, terrified. Hiding in the shadows, crouching in silence or whimpering in fear. And one at a time, those other voices go quiet. Bodies slump in sleep or worse. The maglight, rolled to the wall, illuminates nothing but an abandoned corner, a pocket of exposure no one goes near.

The darkness is power. The silence is the voice of fear.

And then for just a moment, a figure, crouching in the maglight's narrow well of illumination. Inky black. Sinuous. Glittering eyes of amethyst.

And then it's gone, leaving only a blinking afterimage.

Three little monkeys, sitting on a bed. One falls down, and bumps his head…

The response is almost immediate. With a target, with something to see, one of the remaining trio opens fire. The gun bucks sharply several times as he fires and fires. Not knowing what he's shooting at, his compatriots join the fray sending lead towards the door where the flashlight was dropped. The cacophony is loud, accompanied by the shattering of glass and the crack of wood.
Then one of their weapons goes empty… the next… and the third. It leaves them with silence once again, only this time it's broken by a whispered, "What did you see?"
The response is another whisper, "A… a woman?" The incredulity in the voice might almost be offensive if it wasn't so staggeringly tinged with fear.

And in that deafened moment, while faces are contorted in fear, eyes narrowed at the cone of light and dazzled by the flare of burning powder at the muzzle of the guns… one more little monkey falling off the bed.

And then there were two.

Ry and Kev remain, and by their minds she knows those are the two. Oh the other two men weren't saints, but these two. They have memories she can dig into, faces she can identify. Flash's face. There's an image of the man being brought in somewhere in the dark. Of him being strapped up to a metal matress frame all the while various devices are aimed at him.
But those aren't thoughts that float to the fore. Not now. Their thoughts in this moment are more primal, tormented by fear and ragged with no solid thoughts able to be put together.
And once again, one of them suffers a crisis of nerves as he breaks. Suddenly Kev breaks for the door, running quickly towards it and /slamming/ his shoulder into its frame to try and smash it open.

Interestingly, security doors are surprisingly simple to disable. Particularly in a city like Gotham or New York, they're designed to be obdurate walls against even particularly intent or crazed intruders; junkies, robbers, bikers alike. But it takes almost nothing to completely disable them. A properly bent bobby pin, inserted into the exterior panel and twisted sharply prevents the security bar from disengaging. A police battering ram would be needed to knock down that instant barricade. The bar, below ground level, even sports thick iron security bars to protect the smokey, 4" thick glass blocks that admit only enough light to tell night from day. It's a natural fortresss.

When Kev turns around, Ry is gone. Vanished like everyone else. There are no sounds in the room aside from his ragged, panicked breathing and the ringing of gunshots in his ears.

Just one more little monkey jumping on the bed.

Some, when they're pressed so, devolve into pitiable whining and pleading. Others simply seek to smash and to fight, lashing out at what they can. But Kev is of another catergory. He looks about frantically, then steps quickly towards the bar, over the body of the tender. He reaches up and /pulls/ the heavy shelving along the wall down, bottles crackling and crashing to the floor as he does so. It's enough that it exposes one of those barricaded windows.
An old length of pipe is found and he takes it to try and smash the wood protecting the glass of the window, trying to _make_ a way out for himself.

Midswing, something searing, agonizingly hot slashes across his lower leg. Pain screams through his nerves, far worse than a mere knife wound should allow. A hot wetness immediately slicks his unresponsive ankle, the entire lower half of his leg becoming unresponsive and collapsing under him. In the dim glow of the exterior lights, his eyes finally adjusting to them, the flopping end of a severed Achilles' tendon glints through the steady spurt of blood coming from his ankle.

And suddenly his thoughts are all begging, all pleading. His prayers become subject of the divine as he reaches and clasps at the wound as if trying to fix it through sheer wishing and pressure. But that searing pain is unassailable and he whimpers as he curls up behind the bar.
His voice lifts as he tries to tell whomever this is, "Please… please, I didn't do anything. Please just let me go. I have family. Please. God."

"Do come and sit. We can't have a civil chat unless you sit."

The voice is quiet and cultured. British? A woman's certainly, but horrifyingly dispassionate. When he crawls around the edge of the bar, there is a light. A single, guttering candle in the middle of the long table. And every chair is occupied by a body. Some of the faces are made visible by that flickering light. They are the bloodied, ashen faces of his former friends, unconscious… or worse. One chair is left empty for him, pulled slightly out.

It takes time, interminable time that seems to linger on and one for him. But slowly… slowly he's able to drag himself forward across the blood-slickened and grimy bar room floor. He coughs, gagging at the sight and the view of his own leg as he moans softly to himself.
Yet he does as he's bidden, pulled by the faint hope that if he does what she says, that perhaps he'll escape, he'll live, he'll continue. To the back of the animal mind that lives in all men that is all that is wanted. Continue, no end.
And slowly he pulls himself up into that chair and whispers. "Please."

"Good. You can follow instructions." There's something positively vulpine about that satisfied purr. From the shadows across the table steps a figure, as feminine as a stalking panther. Her face is covered by a silky mask- her eyes, a shocking shade of blue. "I'm going to explain your situation," she says. She pushes one of the bodies casually out of the way and crawls across the table, eyes glittering like a snake's, fixed on the man's terrified features. Serpentine, her body rolls forward, as if that mask conceals fangs ready to bite, face bare inches from his.

"You've been poisoned. That burning sensation is a rather fascinating drug. Used as a salve, it helps stimulate nerve damage. Injected, it creates a reaction that causes permanent symptons akin to fibromyalgia. A stubbed toe feels like a hammer- a scratch feels like a knife wound. Your clothing will chafe like wool on a sunburn," she assures him, gloved fingers stroking his face like an animal toying with a meal.

"Now, it's twelve o'clock on a Saturday. The bars are closed Sunday, of course; Monday, your friend you murdered so artlessly typically takes for himself. A few text messages, and I can ensure that every employee simply takes a week off work," she says, voice husky and lethal. "All the while, you'll bleed, you'll itch, you'll sweat, and these corpses will bloat and rot around you. You'll be alone," she assures him, in a tone that mimics sorrow. "Abandoned."

She slides forward onto his lap, straddling his hips, and hooks her hands behind his neck. Sensual at yet, so animal that there is nothing sensual about it. "How does that sound to you?"

That's the moment when the tears are given their freedom, streaming down his cheeks as he looks downwards, trying to stifle them and failing. His breathing is ragged and harsh as he shakes his head, his hands doing nothing to simulate even an aggressive action, simply hanging at his sides and seemingly trying to ignore that she exists at all. But when she finishes speaking… when she asks him that question…
He manages just that one word at first, "Please…" The moment lingers as he tries to look at her, no hint of sexuality or attraction is in his mind. There is just fear and the desire to preserve himself. Eventually he manages, "Please. I'll do anything."

"I know, I know," she soothes, crooning, squeezing his jawline. "You will. I want to know about your friends," she says. "I have this jigsaw puzzle of the Purifiers, and I just need someone to put it all in context. You're my -corner piece-," she tells him in a tone of mock reassurance, rubbing his breastbone with a vigorous motion that sends nauseating, burning pain through him. She pats the raw, reddened skin under his shirt. She leans forward, pressing against him, and plucks a wallet from his rear pocket.

"So let's talk, you and me, just us /girls/," she says, sliding her rear back onto the table and crossing her legs neatly. The wallet is flipped open, and she starts going through it. Cash tossed aside. Credit cards tossed aside. A picture of his family, admired- and his driver's license carefully noted.

"I want to know /all about/ them. Where your friends live. Where they work. Where they meet for your little soirees. And then you're going to tell me where you're keeping that sneaky Agent you captured," she says, leaning forward and resting an elbow on her knee, chin cupped in hand. Her blue eyes are wide on his face, and she looks at the picture of his family and shows it to him, pouting behind the silk mask.

"After all, I'd hate to have to talk to your /family/ to see if they know anything…"

The man looks up at her, eyes pleading. But it's almost a foregone conclusion. There's no murmur to her warning her that if he talks that they'll kill him. He knows she'll kill him no matter what, and more. There is nothing for him save the now. And there in that pool hall amongst the corpses and the damage, he is utterly and truly alone.
A snorting sobbing inwardly drawn breath is taken as he says simply. "I… I'll tell you everything. I just… you gotta understand. There was just us. And some meetings. People showin' up, we weren't allowed contact with them. They said… cells you know. Nobody knows nobody. You gotta believe me."
And she can read in his thoughts that he is telling her the truth as he knows it, as he then spills it about what happened a week and some ago. "Just we must've been on record somewhere with someone higher in things. We got a call. Had to do our part for the cause. Brought us in to work security. To cover some holes. They had some mutie… all wrapped up and tidy… they were doing things to him." That was a lie, they all were doing things. There was laughing. Joy. Superiority.
"We watched for them. Six of them. Military guys. Like career. But there were no names. No fraternizing. Just… you gotta believe me."

"Oh, I believe you," the kunoichi says, assuringly. She leans forward and pats his shoulder, nodding solemnly. "I really do. And because I believe you /so much/," she says, scratching his skin with her nails, "I'm going to give you a chance to be /my/ friend now." Flaming, agonizing sensation crawls along his neck where her fingernails barely stir the skin.

"I'm going to do you a favor, my new friend. You're going to be the lone survivor!" she applauds him. "You're going to be the only one who managed to drive away a gang of armed mutants who attacked this bar and set it on fire. Your friends are dead, of course, and that's just so… /sad/," she sighs. "But you're going to limp into there and tell them how brave you were. How many lives you saved!" she congratulates him. "And what you'll do with that heroism is ask- no," she checks herself, "/demand/ to meet those brave men and women in charge. And you'll be very convincing about it, and you'll shake their hand, and look them in the eye, because if you don't put yourself in the same room as them for me…" She pats his cheek again, eyes sorrowful.

"Well, I don't think I have to even say an 'if' here, do I? Because this? This was just me looking for some information," she says, gesturing vaguely. "Imagine if I was here to /hurt/ you." She gasps as if affronted by that notion, touching her breastbone. "It just doesn't bear thinking about."

And with that he says sharply. "Alright. Yes…" He shifts, wincing with the pain and the pressure of her touch upon him. He tries to pull back, to just get some distance from her but is unable to do so. He coughs again, sobs and shakes his head. "Alright. I know where to go. Just please…" He looks up, trying to see her once again if only to try and prove to her that he'll do as she asks…
Only to not see her at all. Yet he does not forget his word, nor does he hold off on fulfilling it. He pulls himself roughly to his feet. And if he were not the creature that he is, it almost would be pitiable to see him make that way out of the bar, raggedly trying to reach his vehicle… and then trying to drive it to that storage facility he had stood watch. His singularity of purpose would almost be admirable…

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