Narcotics Economics

October 08, 2015:

While Betsy and Shift discuss their gangbanging prisoner, Agent Carter closes in on a lead unprovoked.

Hoboken, New Jersey and Financial District, Manhattan.

Characters

NPCs: B-Dawg, Asian businessmen.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Moaning Lisa Smile by Wolf Alice


Fade In…

Lunair has been asked to watch the place. It's a small tenement apartment, across the Hudson in Hoboken. Not the nicest part of town, which is partly the point; blue collar neighborhood, hit particularly heavily by the recession, but not the kind of neighborhood overrun by drug dealing and gang activity. Poor, but quiet. The people here don't pay much attention to odd happenings, because it's better to let things be.

So, nobody seems to pay much attention to the arrival of a car, and the emergence of an African dressed for the moment as a hoodrat, or the Asian who brings with her a thuggish looking dude. Nor do they pay much heed to the odd chick who's hanging around outside.

Kwabena doesn't speak as they enter. After locking the front door, he retrieves a device from within a small, table-top cabinet in the entryway; a high tech scanning device purchased recently upon the black market. The one room apartment won't take long to scan for bugs, and he does so efficiently.

"Clean. We can speak freely." He replaces the device, saying, "I would appreciate if you didn't speak of dis place." After all, his death and resurrection threw a bit of a hitch in his arsenal of hiding places and safe houses, many of which were snatched up by new tenants upon failure to pay the rent. It takes time to rebuild an empire.

*

"Why would I?" Betsy asks, with an arched eyebrow. She casts around for something clean to sit on, and, finding nothing suitable, picks a position that's the least objectionable. "Lunair speaks highly of you, for some reason. I don't frankly give a damn about your personal activities. I don't even know you. He-" she nods at the prisoner- "is the only person I'm concerned about for the moment, but it sounds as if I've stumbled onto something quite larger than a mean little smuggling ring. Care to fill me in on your side of the story?" She rests perfectly manicured fingernails atop her cross thigh, looking at Shift with a surprisingly intense and unusual amethyst gaze, for all the world like a queen who happens to be momentarily displaced into a mean hovel in New York.

*

"It would be unfair of me not to ask," explains Kwabena. His tone is plain, a matter-of-factness about it. "I've seen too many things go sideways because someone made an assumption about anodah thing."

Silver eyes fall upon the catatonic B-Dawg, and they rest there for a long moment. It almost seems as if he were reading things into the situation, things that aren't exactly there. The manner in which B-Dawg's unshaven face seems to have been intentionally neglected; the stubble is too fresh, but one would need to look close enough with intent to see it. Too much meat on his bones to be an addict. Little things, easily overlooked.

He finally turns to look back at Betsy. The intense gaze doesn't catch him off guard, but he considers it for a long moment. His face seems tired, but his own eyes of silver carry an intuition that wasn't there before his resurrection.

"Instinct," he answers. "I'll spare you de mundane details, we haven't the time for it, but he -" A gesture toward the thug. "- is involved in something big. Now let me ask you; is dere a shortage of heroin in dis country? Cocaine? Methamphetamine?" He shakes his head. What everyone knows, however, is that the sudden emptiness of exgenta-diacetylmorphine flowing into the United States - 'smooth', by its street term - has been nothing short of a tragedy to those addicts unable to get their fix. And there are plenty of them.

"Supply and demand becomes interesting arithmetic when 'supply' suddenly becomes more den zero."

Meanwhile, in a Manhattan coffee shop, a pair of Asian businessmen are having a business meeting over coffee and pie. Business meetings happen all the time in this particular shop, given its proximity to Wall Street, and it's not unusual for such conversations to be hush-hush. However, among the many things that have changed since the 1940's, one thing hasn't; people who are up to no good have a certain mannerism, a body language, the likes of which someone with Peggy Carter's considerable talent couldn't help but notice.

In the safehouse, Kwabena adopts a seat, after brushing offa layer of dust with his sleeve. "You can call me Shift. Lunair and I have worked togedah before. She's odd, but, I trust her."

*

"Lunair is the definition of odd," Betsy agrees in a dry tone. "However, she is reliable in her own way."

She listens attentively to Shift's explanation and nods once, shortly- none of this shocks or surprises her. "I'm afraid I'm not terribly interested in the economics of the drug economy," she tells Shift, dryly. Still, her eyes flicker to Shift, then to B-dawg and back again, extrapolating that line of thought he provokes.

"Hmm. You're proposing that the shortage of Smooth is… controlled?" she asks the mutant, one eyebrow hiking up. "It would make sense- I suspected for some time that Smooth is synthetically generated in bulk, which is hardly the sort of thing one would expect to find in barbituates or other drugs. That takes a great deal of capital, startup, and distribution, and universally, the addicts are far from strung-out junkies looking for their next high."

*

There's only a few places that Peggy trusts to make proper coffee. She's in between a mission and a briefing - just enough time to get a good cup and head back to the Triskelion. As she waits in line for her proper coffee, she goes through her usual people watching. It takes her a moment or two to realize why her eyes keep returning to the two Asian businessmen over talking quietly over coffee and pie. It's the body language and the way they keep looking around the shop.

Frowning, she slowly backs up, slowly moving closer toward the pair. She's attempting to get close enough to start to listen in. While she moves, though, her attention is directed toward the counter. General misdirection.

*

"If you want to fight a certain thing," Shift tells Betsy, "you have to undahstand de economy of it." He turns toward B-Dawg again, considering the woman's next question. "I don't know. It's possible. HYDRA was behind its last surge. Dis isn't just some money making asset designed to make white collar criminals rich. Mutants are contentious by definition. Lot of reasons for someone to want to withhold - or supply - dem with Smooth." He shakes his head. "Richard Dackleman -" He glances back to Betsy. "- trafficker who was behind its first appearance - he's dead. His empire's been dismantled. HYDRA was only able to bring it back because dey had infrastructure. But dis doesn't smell like a move to build infrastructure."

He doesn't ask for the woman to reciprocate his introduction. It's relevance, right now, is unclear.

"Hanoi Enterprises is a non-factor." In the coffee shop, Asian #1 is answering #2's question, when Peggy draws close enough to survey. "They do weapons. This isn't something you classify that way."

"So, it's tech?"

"Humanitarian. Pharmaceutical. Hasn't passed U.S. regulations though. Apparently, Homeland claims it's got WMD potential."

Asian #2 shakes his head. "I don't like it. We don't know enough about DEO to know how to anticipate them."

*

Betsy pays attention, but inwardly, her eyes start to glaze as Shift drones on about HYDRA's latest bit for world power. Still, under that pretty face is a fairly astute mind, and she grudgingly kicks it into gear, looking at Shift with the sort of blank feature that Melinda May patented years ago, and mulling over the possibilities.

"It sounds most likely that someone is attempting to gain control over the mutant community," she says, finally. "Supplying them with Smooth obviously creates one kind of stranglehold- forcing addicts into seizure withdrawals makes another. I suppose if you understood the metrics well enough, it'd be easy to effectively destroy anyone over time. Smooth is… very addictive, isn't it?" she asks. "Sometimes it's just as destructive to deny someone a thing as to give it to them."

*

Once Peggy is close enough to listen in, she stays mostly where she is, intently watching the counter for the people to make her coffee. It's a fancy coffee shop, so it may take them a few minutes. It takes quite a lot of practice to listen closely while making it look like she's not paying attention, but that's what being a spy is all about. WMD certainly catches her interest. Hanoi and DEO sound like buzz words she should certainly research as soon as she can. Perhaps this all links back to the strange men with cybernetic enhancements.

*

"Someone always is," Shift answers. "Extremely addictive. Still, it's all a guess, based on some compelling facts."

He finally turns away from B-Dawg. A flask is removed from his hoodie, uncorked, and offered first to Betsy. Regardless of whether she'll take it, he'll have a drink before setting it on a neighboring table. "So, what's your play? Gonna wake him up and break some fingahs?" There's a coy smirk when he says that; clearly, Shift has something else in mind.

Back in the coffee shop…

"Won't matter," Asian #1 answers. "They aren't looking for this. Shipment's already made it through customs. Here." He withdraws a folded up piece of paper and slides it across the table. "CEO wants you to stop by, ascertain if the delivery mechanism is viable."

"As long as she can guarantee my safety, it's a deal." Asian #2 takes the piece of paper. The two men stand, bow at the waist, and upon leaving the shop, begin to go their separate ways.

*

Peggy moves toward the counter as the two men stand. Her coffee is waiting for her and she quickly takes it and puts down money, insisting she doesn't need change. That gives her enough time to allow the two men to gather their things and as they leave the shop, she follows. After all, once she's gotten a coffee to go, what is more natural than going?

Narrowing in on Asian #2, she starts to follow him as he goes on his way. He's the one that's supposedly goingto go check on whatever the delivery method is. That seems like where she's going to want to see more.

*

Betsy spreads perfectly manicured fingers in rejection of the offer, rising smoothly from the seat. Some might say she moves like a dancer; to a discerning eye, it's more like a serpent. She walks across the room to the unconscious prisoner and rests fingertips on his brow, eyes lidding in concentration.

"Hmm. Interesting," she murmurs after a few long moments. "He's been strongly psychically conditioned against interrogation," she tells Shift. "I'm not entirely sure if it's through process or more extraordinary means, however." She focuses again, her only motion her shoulders rising and falling, and finally B-dawg exhales and rolls onto his other side, breaking the contact with Betsy's fingers.

She grimaces and wipes her fingertips on his ragged shirt, then on her brilliantly orchid-colored windbreaker. "There. He should wake up feeling extraordinarily cooperative," she tells Shift. "I've undone the conditioning. Granted, he'll likely be suffering from some psychoses for a few years," she says with a negligent handwave, "but that's the downside to being involved in a drug syndicate. You should find him a very useful source of information," she says, settling primly down into the chair and crossing her legs once more.

*

Asian #2 boards a subway train, one headed uptown. It's not a very long journey from the Financial District to Mutant Town, and it's there where he disembarks. However, just outside of the subway station, his cell phone rings. He answers in a foreign language; Bahasa Indonesia to a keen ear, and commences with a loud and boisterous conversation that he clearly has no qualms hiding. Likely has nothing to do with his shadier dealings, but it will make Peggy's goal at being inconspicuous… more difficult.

Meanwhile, Shift can't help but feel a shiver run down his spine. He doesn't like telepaths. It's nothing personal, but while he's a particularly hardened mutant mercenary, he's no defense against someone rifling around inside of his brain, and finds himself uncomfortable with the idea of this strange woman discovering just how deeply he's been involved in this whole mess.

An eyebrow arches. "Conditioned? Dey can do dat?" Yeah, he'd be interested in that investment. "I'll bet he has no idea it was done to him. Dis fuckface is a pawn, through and through." He shakes his head a bit, finding the whole affair a bit pathetic.

"Guess I owe you some thanks, Purple. I'll run down his contact and see how deep de shit flows. Full disclosure; whatever dese assholes are up to, I intend to rip it to pieces. You want in? Fine. You even get a say in how things go down. Oddahwise, walk away and call in a favah sometime."

Out comes a pack of smokes, and he perches back upon the edge of his seat, lighting a cigarette with a brand new zippo. He sure misses the old, beat up one.

*

Peggy dutifully follows Asian #2, sipping on her coffee as she does so. A woman dressed like her could easily be going anywhere in the city without question. Plus, New York isn't really known for getting into other people's business. For the most part, people come and go without anyone caring one way or another. As she gets off at the Mutant Town stop, she exits just as the man starts a loud conversation on the phone.

With a sigh, she keeps walking. Putting her paper coffee cup in a nearby trashcan, she picks out her own phone to starts to scroll through random options. She's really not paying attention to it. Instead, she moves closer and closer to the businessman until finally she bumps into him. Expertly, a hand moves to the pocket she saw him put the piece of paper in as she attempts to steady both him and herself.

"Apologies!"

*

"It's not hard. A few key words here, a bit of brainwashing, there. You could probably learn to do it yourself," Betsy tells Shift. "Conditioning is just a matter of negative association. Done well enough, you can prevent someone from even knowing that they /know/ something of import, let alone divulging it. You don't need telepathy to understand how the mind works," she says, with that same unflappable expression. "I havea vested interest in making sure that drugs don't flow into Mutant Town. There are too many people attempting to rebuild their lives, and adding in a convenient, highly addictive subsitute for dealing with challenges won't help them any. I want to see this taken care of, and quickly. I assume from your demeanour that you want to keep oversight to a minimum; that's fine. However, if you lose control of the situation, I /will/ bring in allies to take control of the situation." That eyebrow again. "Understood?"

*

The Asian nearly drops his phone. He turns to Peggy, unleashing a verbal torrent upon her. "Fuck, woman! Watch it!"

She finds the piece of paper, just in time for the businessman to push away.

"Learn how to walk in heels, or don't fucking walk at all! God damnit." Turnjng away, he resumes his telephone conversation, knowing nothing of his missing prize.

… yet.

Shift is listening. Carefully, in fact, even though his silver eyes remain locked upon B-Dawg through a haze of second hand smoke. "Good," is his answer. "I've run down dis epidemic and been part of its demise twice, now. What is it de Americans say… third times a charm?"

He finally rises, goes back to the cabinet by the door, and retrieves a burner phone. The device is tosses through the air toward Betsy. "Can't be traced, GPS is ripped out, so don't call me crying for help without giving me a goddamned address."

With that said, he makes for the kitchen. Time to rummage through the non-perishables to smack together a shitty dinner.

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