Mallah And The Matrix

August 02, 2015:

Changeling has gone missing, and Vorpal recruits Hawkeye (II) and Tigra to find him.

The Cerebral Cappuchine - New York City

A coffee shop in front, but in the back room, down a freight elevator, one reaches the secret hideout of those Gaulic Gangsters, The Brain and Monsieur Mallah.


NPCs: Mallah, The Brain, Mysterious Figure



Mood Music: Death Of The Cog

Fade In…

The beginning of July was awesome. Fireworks, picnics, the occasional fight against world-devouring evil. Then, of course, there's the aftermath of that, and Gar Logan and Keith O'Neal had been taken in different directions (physically) as they were investigating different disaster locations. But a week and a half ago, Gar's communicator stopped responding to coded location pings, even though he kept sending casual 'things are fine' updates from his heroface account. And today, the update was exactly the same, word for word, as the one from a week ago.

His last location ping was from a block of mildly hipsterish bookstores, restaurants, theatre and record stores (VINYL ONLY) here in Brooklyn.

The coffee shop has been here for years under this name. The proprietor is an aging but still quite huge ex-professional wrestler from France, and his partner, a wheelchair-bound intellectual, frequently engages customers in debates over the latest books. And they, and a parrot, are the only ones in the place at this hour, too early for dinner, too late for brunch.

With everything that had been going on, Vorpal had trusted Gar to keep him up to date. When the first update came in, he thought Gar probably had to disable his ping for reasons- because he sometimes did have them.

Then there was the invasion, and Traverstein committed suicide, and Keith wasn't in a right frame of mind to think very clearly- until the other update.

And at that point, his 'Something is Not Right' alert goes off like a firework.

That's why Tigra and Kate got messages with a brief layout of the situation, and a 'meet me at' ping with the location of the coffeeshop as a rendez-vous.

Keith O'Neil enters the store- but not as Vorpal. Also, not as Keith O'neil either, but as a terribly Hipster young man with dirty blond hair and… well, 'vintage' everything else including thick glass frames (that he totally doesn't need) and a perfectly ironic T-shirt. Powers of illusion are great. And yes, Kate and Tigra got a quick snapshot of what he looked like, so they could pinpoint him accurately.

With characteristic I-don't-care-itis, he makes his way to one of the tables, casting a disinterested glance around the establishment.

Kate has been busy lately. All kinds of busy. But if Keith needs help, then she's going to manage to find the time, one way or another. Wearing skinny jeans, chucks, and an oversized t-shirt, she pushes her sunglasses up over her head as she steps into the shop, taking a look around. She doesn't look like she's carrying anything that registers as a weapon - that would stand out. "Hi," she greets cheerfully as she steps inside, looking over the menu.

Since the latest incident with Carnage, Tigra's laid low. Might be a lesson was learned about even following up on a basic lead without effective backup. Now, SHIELD has the info she had, and maybe it's better they deal with it themselves.

Then, Vorpal contacted her. He informed her that things were not what they ought to be with Changeling, and she agreed to meet up in hope of lending a hand. With him making use of a disguise, Tigra does the same. While she's not so great at the whole hipster thing, Keith and Kate, for that matter, get a text sent to them showing her looking as a plain ol' human, no sign of the tigress there at all.

This is because Greer has made use of her magical amulet, the one that allows her to tuck the fur, fangs, and claws away. That means mostly pale Caucasian skin and black hair, and as for an outfit? Well, she can't completely forget about what she is, wearing a tiger-print top, leather pants, and flat ankle boots. This is how she enters.

The parrot sullenly mutters in some incoherent birdish language as the strangers intrude on its hitherto quiet domain. Especially the hipster. The big guy at the counter says with a distinctive French accent, "What'll you have?" to Kate, while giving Tigra a once-over glance, and completely ignoring the hipster who apparently is not here to get coffee. The quadriplegic man in the wheelchair, however, does speak to Keith, wheeling towards him and asking, "Are you waiting for someone, maybe? Or just need a place to rest?" in a voice that sounds slightly mechanical — he's using a throat-microphone. Whatever disease did this to him left him pretty much immobile, as he moves around using a hand-lever control, and his head is tightly held against a frame on his chair.

The menu offers standard drinks, and a line at the bottom says, "We proudly do not serve Starbucks coffee here."

"'m fine, just waiting for my posse-" The hipster is in the process of answering before he spots Kate and gives her a nod. "Hey!" he waves. And of course, Human Tigra. They're all playing at Superspies. "Three Gibraltars, please," he says to the man in the wheelchair. Normally he'd smile, but his character is Too Hip to Smile. "Cool parrot. How old is it?" he asks as means of being friendly without actually smiling. He knows parrots live for fricking ever. Keith then puts a hand down on a chair near a table, claiming it for the three of them, and looking towards the arrivals. "Ladies, it's good to see you."

"Do you have a house specialty?" Kate asks with a friendly smile for the proprietor. "I'll try whatever's good." As the anonymous hipster calls over, she half-turns to raise a hand and wave. "Hey, there you are," she greets cheerfully. Nothing to see here, just yet another New York kid meeting friends for whatever's cool these days. "I'll be right over." She's got a stranger to schmooze, after all.

Greer doesn't look like she especially stands out this way, but her figure is good, she has a confident attitude, and this is essentially how she looked when she went around as The Cat…prior to becoming a cat. The parrot earns a curious glance along with the wheelchair-bound person, and she manages not to look too sympathetic. Wouldn't want to come off as patronizing. "I think I'll have a small mocha, nothing extra in it." A hand dips into the back of the pants to fish out a ten-dollar bill, and a cat's head amulet hangs from her neck like a pendant. Kate and Keith get a wave along the way and, after her order is paid for, she moves over to tell them quietly, "No senses this way."

"Marc Antony? He is a mere fledgeling, we brought him here ten years ago," the man says. The bird fluffs and squawks when its name is mentioned.

The man at the counter quirks one enormous eyebrow disapprovingly and asks Kate, "I will make for you a regulation cappucino, then. And of course, Mademoiselle," to Tigra. He makes exactly the same drink, once in a restaurant water glass, the other in a cappucino cup, and the mocha by adding a precise amount of chocolate syrup at the right time. The only way to tell them apart, from the top, is that the Gibraltar has a foam pattern that looks like a skull, while the Cappucino has a leaf shape and the mocha has a swirl that shows a bit of chocolate. Also, the Gibraltar costs a dollar more.

"I am Byron," the man in the wheelchair says. "My partner is Mal. We will be closing in a half hour, so if you wish to order anything from the pastry shelf, it will be one-half off."

"We won't be terribly long. But I'll have a chocolate croissant, please." Keith says and sits himself down immediately. He waits for the man to be out of earshot before saying -"I've got mine going. So… I'm not a detective. This is the last place he 'pinged' from, though."

His conversation is muffled outside of the immediate area of the table- an illusion trick he uses to keep people from eavesdropping. "I don't want to be too suspicious by being too nosy, though. Did anyone notice if that parrot is all green or does it have some other color?" He didn't want to stare to be too obvious.

Just in case. It would be too easy if that parrot were all green, but Tim did teach him not to leave a single probability unexplored. "Aside from that, though… I'm not quite sure where to start…"

"That is awesome," Kate beams back at the proprietor as she hands over cash, taking her drink over to join Keith and Tigra. Settling in, she gives the cup a slow spin without actually drinking from it. "I don't suppose there's any chance he just…left his phone here, is there?" she asks wistfully, looking around the place.

"Got an idea," Greer says to the pair she's with, turning away from them to have another look at the man and his parrot. "I love birds!" she gushes, and that much is probably true, just not in the way she's playing it off as right now. "Is there anything here I can feed him with? A biscuit or something like that?" As she coos over the parrot, she does have herself a good look at his coloring, plumage, and all that. She's got her drink as well, giving it a few moments to cool before sipping any of it.

The parrot is, in fact, entirely green if you don't count the feet and eyes and the black beak. For a juvenile, it's rather large, but ten years is not really a fledgeling either. The very large man delivers a large, chocolate-infused croissant on a small red plate with a white lace paper doily under it. There are also two chocolate-tinged biscotti.

"The bird will grow fat if we let customers feed him. He is a shameless flirt, as well," the big man says, pouring more water into the bird's water cup. And the man in the chair wheels back to the bookshelves, and begins speaking quietly into a microphone. Apparently he's doing inventory. The man at the counter begins a more thorough clean-up.

To Tigra, the bird seems a bit unnatural. Nothing she can quite pin down - a vague sense that it smells or moves wrong. It's looking at her, but not like a bird does. Not like a human does, either. Maybe more like a camera. And it isn't flirting. It's fidgeting.

Keith frowns and looks into his drink for a second, trying to figure things out. "No, not very likely at all, Kates." He hates the fact that this is the first time he and Kate have had a chance to sit down and talk in months, and he still owes her a lot of catching up. But there's stuff going on. "… Okay, I'm open to suggestions… I could poke around the back. I can ask for the bathroom and then go invisible?" he suggests.

"How obvious are you willing to be?" Kate asks, looking between the others. "Because we could ask if they've seen our friend who was supposed to be meeting us here. Might be able to pick something up from their reaction. Or they could freak out, and then we'd have a fight on our hands. I'm pretty good with either, really."

Greer gives the man a slightly pouty look, but she wiggles a finger closer to the parrot - not too close - and steps away again. "I guess if you let me do it, you've have to let everyone who asks do it," she answers in an understanding way, leaving her to go back to Keith and Kate, where she sits down and converses with them.

"Such a pretty bird," the woman says before dropping her voice. "But it's not him, and I don't think it's even a real parrot. If I had to guess, it's mechanical, so now what?"

The parrot begins making truly rude sounds, which the man in the wheelchair ignores, though the barista is growing increasingly annoyed at the fuss especially when the bird starts flinging bits of fruit and seed from its food tray. There might even be a 'pfui' discernable through the rude words in plain bird speech. It's a regular tantrum after a half a minute.

Vorpal hmms, "I'm going to go for the back and poke around invisible. You two ask the question and see what their reaction is. If they get aggressive, I'll be able to come from the back and reinforce if there's a fight."

He stands up and asks for the restroom. It's not too hard to perform the illusion of going into the restroom- he does press the lock, though, so that when the door swings behind his illusion, hit clicks behind him.

Then it's just a matter of tiptoeing invisibly, maneuvering past the counter and going to the back…

Freight elevator. Okay, he can't activate that. They might grow suspicious at stuff magically activating itself. But there is also a locked door with a little sign that reads 'BASEMENT, EMPLOYEES ONLY.'

"No emergency exit?" he mutters quiety, looking around. "That's against fire code…" he hms. He can't Rabbit Hole through the door without seeing what the other side looks like, so that's as far as it-


He takes his cell phone out of his secret pocket and sets it to 'selfie' cam. He slides the phone under the door of the basement entrance just enough for the camera to be able to peek to the other side… he could Rabbit Hole that way! Yay for thinking outside the box!

"Fuck…" Booo for the door being old and therefore thicker. Way too thick. Ah well.

It looks like the freight elevator it is. He peers at the front and focuses… and lets out a very small chaos wave- very weak enough to maybe cause a few things to fall off the counter and be messy, but not large enough to cause any huge issues that might be 'suspicious.' Mischief achieved, he goes into the elevator and activates it…

Kate idly stirs her drink, still smiling back at Greer like they're old friends having a snack. "Excuse me?" she asks, leaning back and looking toward the men. "Has there been anyone else in here today? We were supposed to meet another friend here, but he's way late, and he's not answering his phone. I was just wondering if maybe he was in here earlier and had to leave, or maybe we got our times mixed up or something, if you guys are closing soon."

At the commotion suddenly coming from the parrot, Greer simply stares at it. "Uh, is that normal?" she questions, especially once it turns into more than just fussing over its food.

The woman in the tiger print still doesn't know Vorpal or Gar beyond the first, crazy meeting that ended up with them under the control of the Mad Hatter, so her experience with his abilities are minimal at best. "Yeah, sure," she nods while giving her mocha a sip to taste. "S'good," she calls over to the large man who made it. Kate deals with the question, then after a few more moments pass, even she sits up suddenly as a few things topple to the floor. "What was that?"

"Nobody has left anything here today," Mal replies, a bit grumpily. The bird freaking out is bad enough but when Mal grabs his broom to sweep up, he apparently knocks over the inevitable rack of high-end tea that you find in even this coffee shop. And the bird LAUGHS at him, in an eerie humanish voice, and then its head starts spinning on its neck like a deranged owl. Which really isn't normal for this species of parrot. The man in the wheelchair stops talking, but that's all that's obvious from him.

However. Mal is losing it. He grabs the bird by the head and says, "NO. MORE." and yanks, removing it from the rest of the body. Yeah. Robot bird all right. There's gears and cogs and a spray of machine oil. Some of it may reach the table where the two women are sitting.

The stairway down is rickety and dangerous and it's dark, though a phone's screen-light can help. At the bottom, a standard mad science lab, with a smaller-than-usual dalek-shaped entity with tentacles and visible brain floating in a tank of bubbles; there are two of those "cylinder tanks" one of which holds a fluid-suspended Gar Logan with a full-head life-support and brain scan; next to that a much larger tank holds a full size silverback gorilla in similar headgear. The brain in a tank is hooked up to something else, and there are blinkenlights and clickenboxen all over the room.

Fortunately Vorpal is in his feline form, and darkness is not that much of a problem- still, the phantom glow of the phone aids. However, when he arrives at the bottom of the stairs, he extinguishes the phone and walks forward. He stops in his tracks when he sees the lab, heart going up to his throat when he sees Gar suspended there.

And he ducks back into the staircase and sends a hurried text to Kate and Tigra:

«Gar captured. Mad scientist. Likely robots there. Go in like a wrecking ball»

It would be foolish of Keith to attack right now when he is undetected and there is this thing in the lab. He doesn't know exactly what it is, or what it plans to do. An attack at the coffeehouse level- which at this point is clearly obviously a front- would probably draw the robobraindalek's attention and Keith can sneak behind.

~What's going on here?~
++Mind transference. Likely.++
~~How do you guess?~~
++Perhaps the abundance of brain-related objects clued me in.++ The Cait often speaks with Snark. Right now it is DRIPPING with it.
~So when we shut this thing down, we need to make sure the right brain is in the right body~ Silverback gorilla. Silverback gorilla… why was there a silverback gorilla in the other tube? There was something Keith was forgetting-

No time. He had to get Gar out. He moves quietly, aiming for an approach vector that puts him behind the Dalekthing before the attack above breaks out.

Kate blinks at the reaction to the bird, then again when its head comes off. "Uh…" Nope, even Kate's a little short on words for this one. Luckily, she's saved from having to actually respond by the text from Keith. "Well, if you haven't seen him, then I guess we probably ought to get going," she says with a small smile, standing up with her coffee in hand. "Do you maybe have a to-go cup?" She doesn't actually wait for an answer, though. Once she's close enough, she throws the coffee at his face, reaching behind her back for the pair of fighting sticks under the oversized shirt.

Some of that machine oil lands on the table Greer and Kate are at, and a bit even splashes in her mocha. "Yeah, I'm not finishing this," she says flatly after the outrage of the man leads to the destruction of the so-called parrot. Kate receives the text faster than Greer, who really ought to change her service if that's going to keep happening, and she rises slowly as she fingers the amulet at her front. "You know, I think we need to have a look at your supply room," she quips, as signs of the tiger appear. No effort is made to hide that any more, though it does take her a few moments to get down to her usual attire when she's got her own stripes. "So is it going to be the easy way, or the hard way?" the feline wonders, tail lashing behind her, almost whiplike.

About to answer Kate's request, Mal the Barista is really not expecting his carefully crafted work of genius to be thrown back in his face; if he were a prissier fellow he'd burst into tears and demand that she leave his establishment now and forever. And the other woman turning into a tigress, well, that's simply bad manners all around, isn't it? But the earlier chaos wave hasn't finished making things fall apart; there's a spark and a BANG from the wheelchair, and the man sitting in it doesn't move at all, but his body begins a rictus-tremor that looks like the beginning of the grandmother of all siezures. The barista yells out, "BYRON!" in a voice filled with pain and fear, and he begins an ape-like lope and dive towards the quadriplegic, diving to the right to avoid the attackers.

In the basement, Gar begins to move inside his tube, stretching a bit like he's waking up. But the dalek-brain-bottle fellow and the ape are still motionless.

"You know something?" Vorpal's voice emerges an inch away from the brain-in-a-dalek, even though the real cat is actually closer to Gar's tube. Trickery is part of his trade, after all, "I bet a good zap of chaos magic will fry that little brain jacuzzi of yours. So why don't you reverse whatever it is you're doing and just give up?"

The cheshire keeps an eye on the Brainlek as he shuffles quietly towards the tubes. He tries to get a peek at the readings, and anything else that might give him a clue on whether or not Gar is Gar, or the gorill-

He pauses for a second. Gorilla. Brain in a bucket. Damnit, why did that sound familiar? Nope, no bells ringing.

Kate Bishop frowns at that odd lope, and again at the fact that…is the guy in the wheelchair a robot, too? "Okay, what in the hell is going on in this place?" Kate asks, turning after Mal as he goes for Byron instead of the fight. "You two are…under investigation." She's pretty sure she can't actually arrest people. Not for being weird, at least. "Sit down, and maybe this won't have to get…any weirder."

"No, they're machines. Destroy them." Tigra isn't even waiting another moment as she leaps toward Mal, adding, "Would've fooled me without my senses, but my ears don't lie." Should she land on the back of the barista, she'll do something similar to what happened with the 'parrot' and try simply ripping the thing's head off. "You get the elevator back up here. I'll catch up in a moment."

A silent alarm goes off elsewhere. The Mysterious Shadowy Figure (depicted as a flat-black sillhouette) peers at a display, and sees Vorpal in the room with the Brain and Monsieur Mallah still in their tanks, but it's clear that Gar Logan is awake now, and that the Brain will be awake shortly. A finger stabs fiercely at a button, and there's a klaxon alarm in the basement — and the Dalek-shaped fellow, and the cylinder holding the ape, drop with a THUNK and a hiss of compressed air, sucking them down into the secret, hidden pneumatic tube system that still underlies New York.

The floor irises closed behind them.

Gar Logan, however, has managed to wake up, turn into a green fish, peer out of the cylinder, and turn into a giant-sized armadillo, breaking the cylinder he's in.

"What? Machines?? You are insane," Mal says, "help me, he's dy… ack!" and then Tigra rips his head off. And yes, Mal was apparently a robot, not technically a crime in New York. Byron is now burning seriously, the smoke bad enough that it indicates he might be a fire hazard since he's in the bookstore part of the shop.

In the basement, a water-based fluid splashes over the floor as it leaks out of the ruined cylinder.

"Yeah, elevator sounds great," Kate agrees with Tigra, leaving her to handle the malfunctioning robots as she goes to punch the elevator button. That isn't exactly time-consuming, so once the elevator is coming, she heads behind the counter to find the regulation fire extinguisher to take care of Byron.

"Gah!" well, he clearly misjudged that situation- understandably he was more concerned over Gar's welfare than to check that the brain was-

Nevermind that. His illusion is ruined because there's clearly water splashing around a pair of invisible legs and going through his illusory double. No time for that, though- Vorpal has to know if this is indeed Gar in Gar's mind, or someone else.

He becomes fully visible and points a glowing purple sword at the giant armadillo-

After the Phoenix incident, Gar and Keith had come up with a post-hypnotic suggestion, a phrase that Keith alone would utter that would break Garfield out of his transformation- a phrase Keith O'Neil would never, ever say in his entire life.

"Justin Bieber is the best singer in the world!"

Yeah. That hurts coming out. It just hurts.

The sound of the elevator moving would likely be noticed by those down below, but up top the robots are in the process of being put out. After chucking Mal's head aside, Tigra spots Kate at work with the fire extinguisher, nodding once before she goes up to the front door, turning the bolt to lock it as she flips the sign to say 'Closed.' Back she goes toward the counter. "Just in case. Now let's get down there and see what's going on. I think I heard an alarm."

Unfortunately, locking the door isn't the best move, because the smoke has reached the fire alarm and now that's howling away, and of course, signalling the fire department. And because this is the worst possible time for it, there's a noise of keys and a jingle from the bell over the door as another person enters … a customer? Nope. Worse. The Landlord…

"Whatever is going on here?" he asks Kate, since she's the one wielding the fire extinguisher. He looks vaguely artsy-ish. He's looking around, at Tigra, at the decapitated robots, at the burned robot, and when he says, "GENIUS!!" Kate will recognize him immediately as Thomas (Toe-Moss) Spratt, the owner of the Spratt-Fawles Gallery which is further down the street. And she knows that because he schmoozed all over one of the parties her father threw last year For The Arts.

Gar coughs and spits water, and says the counter-signal. "And Miley Cyrus is a musical genius."

Hey, he's already coughing up water.

"If I could answer that question, Mister Spratt, I would. But I'm a little confused myself," Kate admits, giving Byron another sweep with the fire extinguisher. Really, it's just responsible to make sure nothing's going to spark again and start up a real fire. "Maybe you should wait outside for the fire department, so you can make an appropriate claim against whoever's been renting here," she suggests. It wouldn't hurt to find out who that is, either."

"Gar!" the sword vanishes and Vorpal runs over to the green one. Wariness gave way to concern and he puts his arms around his fellow Titan. "Goddamnit Gar, are you alright? What happened to you?"

The sounds of the fire alarm reach his ears and he grumbles. He looks at the floor irises, and then back to Gar. He doesn't know how Tigra and Kate are faring, and the priority is to get Garfield out. "Come on, we need to get you checked up anyways-" he says, grabbing Gar and running towards the staircase. Rickety and unsafe it may be, but nothing some construct reinforcement won't fix, right? However, Vorpal finds that the elevator is not there. This means either the ladies are coming down or… someone else.

Tigra grimaces, hands going over her ears as the fire alarm kicks in, shrieking throughout the entire space. "Again with the sirens!" she whines, just as the landlord picks that very moment to show up. Keys? Well, he must own the place. Even while continuing to cover her ears, the tigress shouts over to him, "DID YOU KNOW THERE'S APPARENTLY A MAD SCIENTIST'S LAB IN YOUR BASEMENT?"

Soon as the door for the freight elevator opens, Tigra hurries inside. "WHEN I GET BACK UP I WANT A REFUND, BECAUSE I DON'T DO DRINKS FROM ROBOTIC BARISTAS!" Still yelling, since she can't exactly hear very well herself right now.

Gar leans on Vorpal as they climb up, but only for balance.

"Oh, I know who they are, I didn't know they were mechanical … what? Mad scientists?" Spratt makes his way behind the bar and presses several keys on a flashing wall-pad and the fire alarm dies down. The fire department aborts their scramble, and a twenty-five dollar fee is assessed to the coffee shop.

"I was going to admire the composition, the raw animality, the post-modern reduction of mankind and even birdkind into mere mechanisms, but I see that it wasn't actually Art. Oh well," and Spratt looks around. "This is going to be quite complicated. I'm afraid you'll have to tell your friend that she can ask for the refund from the insurance company, because they're apparently both deceased now… Oh, I'm not sure HOW this is going to work out … I'll have to find something to fill this space… Honestly, you'd think she'd have asked him for the refund before tearing his head off?" he continues muttering in a monologue that runs behind everything else.

Gar and Vorpal exit from the stairway onto the main floor, and the door closes behind them as the elevator door opens letting Tigra out in the basement. The klaxon has died away now that the irisis have closed, and the emergency lights are on, and one of several cameras is watching the tiger-striped woman as she does what she does. Mysterious Shadowed Figure considers… this one? Maybe?

"No, Mister Spratt, very much not art," Kate replies, dry. She sets the fire extinguisher down now that there's no more sparks, clearing her throat. "Mister Spratt, we're going to need the information on the lease for this unit," she tells the man. "It looks as though there may have been criminal enterprises here, and if we're going to investigate those, then we're going to need the information they used to apply for the lease, as well as any financial information on how they've been paying."

Vorpal exhales with relief as he kicks the door open once they reach the top of the stairs. Thank goodness Gar is wearing some clothes. Otherwise he would probably have had to preserve his modesty through the means of magical illusions. He keeps his hold on Gar and heads to the front, emerging to add even more confusion to the mixture as Vorpal emerges carrying with him a soaking Changeling.

Vorpal surveys the scene, the smoke, the decapitated mechas, and a landlord. "Um, did anyone happen to see a five-foot-ten walking tiger?"

Thankfully, the worst of the alarms are silenced. By the time the elevator's doors open, Tigra's there to spot…nobody. "What the hell?" she begins, moving into the lab area to pick out the aftermath of what happened with Vorpal and Changeling. Then, their scents are noted with a sniff that leads her back toward the stairs.

Unbeknownst to her, Tigra is being observed by someone else. A final sweep of the area and she begins for the stairs, but a persistent little red light draws her attention to a video camera mounted above the door to the stairs.

Mysterious Shadowed Figure will have a perfect view of Tigra's head angling toward one side before she squints up toward the lens, then with a little leap her hand appears to enlarge quickly before it covers the screen. She yanks it out of its place, static filling the man's view on that monitor while others she didn't spot catch her in the act. With a huff, she follows the Titan trail back up, leaving the elevator behind.

Tigra has captured the red dot! She wins!

When Gar sees the parrot, he shudders and nearly turns into one… but he manages to look away. After a moment sitting at one of the tables, he looks at the detached head of Mal, and the scorched and foamed Byron.

"My comm is in the left side top drawer," he says to Vorpal. "Behind the cash register. They had me hooked up to this virtual reality thing — see when I first got here, Byron was walking normally. I was suspicious, they smelled wrong, and … HI, Tigra." He waves and continues. "They reminded me of something, and when I figured it out it was too late. Someone zapped me from behind. I woke up in a featureless room, and this voice was telling me that if I was good, they — it used 'we' to talk about itself — would let me have a body. I had to make some Heroface postings, and then they made me be that stupid parrot. I couldn't get out of it. I realized that it was Monsieur Mallah, and the Brain, when they started talking to the hipsters and emo kids. The whole spiel, anarchy, down with the government, freedom is a lie, only the strong should rule. I started fighting it. That was when Byron started to wake up too. We couldn't talk directly … Mallah was angry because Brain was losing his body again. But we both wanted out of this, and so he and I kept fighting. Then you showed up and the program broke. I could act out."

He slumps back into the chair. From his place atop one of the stools, Spratt frowns and says, "That's definitely a violation of the lease. I DO have a no-supervillains rider on the lease. Well. That means…" and he stops talking, a slightly greedy smile creeping onto his face. That smile is familiar to any number of people who've known him when he thinks he has a way to get more money out of a situation than he should.

Vorpal smashes the cash register open with a flamingo mallet. Why? Because it is satisfying- the kind of aggression he can't visit upon Brain and Mallah now for having done this. He snatches the communicator and finds himself regretting the fact that he didn't go apeshit on the brain-in-a-vat.

"Alright then… we will leave you to whatever checkbooks you want to do… Mister-" he didn't catch the name. He goes over to Gar and runs his fingers through his hair, placing the comm right in front of him.

"Tigra, did you see anything of note down there?"

He's not addressing Kate right away because he doesn't know if she wants to claim acquaintance with his scraggly self in front of someone from the clear Uppah Crust. In a softer tone, he asks "-are you okay, though?" to Gar.

"Mister Spratt, if you can track them down to sue them for violating their lease, I'm sure the FBI will be thrilled with your assistance. Actually, I'd bet you even get some kind of whistle-blower kickback on any seized assets when they find them." Kate Bishop: encouraging civilian crime-fighting through greed. "And I'm sure the police will be happy to take whatever statement you can give them." If she can catch Vorpal's eye, she'll give him a sympathetic eyeball.

By the time Tigra rejoins the others upstairs, Gar's in the middle of telling his story. She looks agitated throughout, the tail especially giving it away as she crosses her arms in front, shooting an annoyed look toward the landlord along the way. Not impressed with him, nope. "That means I'm pretty sure you get to keep the security deposit, but you were negligent in not even being aware of what was going on in your own property. Did you even listen to everything he just said?" She jerks a thumb toward the green Titan.

With the cash register now open, something she didn't even need to do herself, she rummages around and takes the amount she paid for her mocha, leveling a challenging attitude toward Spratt. "When the robot barista tore the head off the robot parrot, some of the machine oil got in my mocha. I'm just getting my money back."

Following this, she shakes her head to the cheshire cat. "Just the aftermath of whatever happened, and someone was watching us from a video camera. I smashed it." Her tail twitches in pleasure at announcing this, then she moves past the destroyed robots to pick up the clothing she'd entered in. "Mallah and the Brain. I have no idea who they are, but it sounds bad if they were doing all of that to you," she tells Changeling.

"Yeah, I'm OK," Gar says to Vorpal. Then he looks at Tigra. "But they weren't … they were just as much trapped in that sim as I was. Yeah, they're my long-time enemies, from my first team … and they were really rotten then … but I'm kinda worried for Brain and Mallah. Brain at least didn't know what was going on until I got stuck into their little world … I don't even know how long they were here …"

"Two years," Spratt says. "Two years, four months, and three days. They leased the place, spent a month on the refurbish, they even lived in the room upstairs, because it came with a discount."

Gar shudders again, involuntarily, and turns into an anteater. For some reason, anteaters are not subject to being creeped out. Maybe it's because they eat termite mounds.

Spratt cheers up a bit, and calls the police to report the situation, and there'll be a crime-scene tape across the door within an hour.

And the Mysterious Figure moves in whatever secret place it occupies, and sends an order. By the time the detective comes by in the morning to see what was actually happening, the book store will be cleaned out, the coffee and tea and all the paraphernalia will be gone, even the tables and chairs. The apartment upstairs will be empty. And the freight elevator, and the equipment in the large room downstairs, will be completely gone, leaving behind a smaller, bare, concrete slab basement with two bare-bulb lights.

The Cleaners have been here.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License