One Smooth Gambit - The Smooth Finale

December 01, 2015:

A team put together by Captain America, Betsy Braddock, and Shift heads for th UAE on a top secret, off-the-books operation. Their goal: to apprehend Damian Woods, creator of exgenta-diacetylmorphine and stop a terror plot targeting the U.S. (Warning: lots of heavy language is used)

Ad-Adnani Camp - United Arab Emirates

Characters

NPCs: Various IWO and Ad-Adnani terrorists, the Deranged Six, Damian 'Scales' Woods and his bodyguards. With special appearances by 'Skullcap' and 'Yankee', who drop too many n-bombs, and Evangeline Woods, who tried her damndest.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For by Death Grips


Fade In…

May 22, 2014

Two thugs bursted into a basement narcotics laboratory. One wore a skullcap, the other, a NY Yankee's cap, all black.

"Nigga, you don't know! You just don't know!" Skullcap told Yankee. "This shit's gonna curb the market like nothing! This some serious Scarface shit. Naw - naw, fuck that. Fuck Scarface. We're talking Heisenberg level, blow-yo-fucking-brain-out-ya-skull white!" He turned to rap on a nondescript door. "Yo Scales! Dawg, you got some company."

The door opened, revealing a young man not much older than nineteen. His eyes, paranoid, looked from Skullcap to his visitor, lids narrowing speculatively. "This the buyer?"

"Yeah man, this -"

"Fuck off. Punk ass nigga, I speak for myself." Yankee walked past Skullcap, eyeing Scales in a similar manner. "So you're it. You're the guy."

Skullcap rubbed his nose, then nodded toward Scales. "Show him."

Without a word, Scales turned away, reclaiming a jewelry box. The upper lid, once opened, was mirrored, covered with flecks of sparkly residue. However, their eyes were immediately drawn to the white powder lying within. The overhead light glistened off the cocaine, giving it a scaly appearance.

"…. Holy shit."

"I know, bruh," murmured Skullcap. "Ain't that the scaliest shit you ever seen?"

"You can't push this shit anywhere but Wall Street." Yankee turned to glare at Skullcap. "I don't sell to no cracker-ass Bateman's. The fuck you think this is?"

"Naw, but it ain't like that, bitch! Scales can make this shit out of fucking dirt. No lie."

Yankee stared at Skullcap. He could feel the barrel of his Glock, digging into his thigh where he'd shoved it beneath his waistband. He could picture it; the sound of the gunblast, the splatter of blood on the wall when he blew this nigger's brain across the room.

"Look man. Just cut a line," Skullcap urged. "You ain't never been on this train."

"Coke's dead," Yankee glowered. "You think I come here to sell girl to a bunch of yuppie-ass fucks in Williamsburg?" He drew the gun. He pointed it at the other man's head and drew close, aiming it right between the eyes. "Coke's dead mutha fucka! Dead as yo' ass gon' be if you don't show me somethin' worth my fucking time!"

A long silence lingered between the three; one finally broken by the quiet, meager voice of Damian 'Scales' Woods.

"I got something else. Something you… you can't even imagine. I call it… the smooth."


NOW:

The Islamic World Order (IWO), led by Aiman al Radim, have devised a plan to insert weaponized exgenta-diacetylmorphine (smooth) into five of the United States' major sources of water. Al Radim is in possession of Damian Woods, aka 'Scales'; an American mutant with a chemical manipulation ability, and the man who originally created the smooth.

With Saudi Arabia and Oman bracketing him, it's unlikely al Radim will move the weapon over the mainland. Odds are he will move it north, into Iraq. As Psylocke noted, Basrah isn't far upriver from the mouth of the Arvand; an area of sufficient turmoil that could provide an affiliate group could easy passage with a small bribe or a handshake.

Team Alpha consists of Braddock, Audrey, Agent Lewis, Beast, and Ravager. They will head to the rendezvous point via Turkey, utilizing Braddock's contacts to fly into Qatar. The rest of their trip will be by car, where they will scout out and make a positive ID on the target.

Team Beta consists of Rogers, Shift, and Lunair. Once the target has been verified, they will go in via air drop and commence with a stealth assault to wipe out the defenses. Team Alpha will bracket the enemy, preventing them from escape and holding them to the arena.

New intelligence has been gathered by Shift; as of twelve hours ago, Woods was spotted in the UAE. Bad news is, he's now holed up in a camp with a splinter group called Ad-Adnani. They were operating in Syria until D'aesh took over and ousted them. The Emirates seem to have no idea what transpires within their borders. If they are getting any support from corrupt government types, it's off the books.

This suggests that the IWO has made an alliance with Ad-Adnani, utilizing them as muscle. Woods, allegedly, is being treated with kid gloves. A bodyguard is attached to him at all times. He never goes anywhere without a convoy. He eats in the Officer's Mess.

Worse… nobody has been able to verify whether metahumans are employed by either Ad-Adnani or the IWO.

Doing this thing silently is going to be a challenge.


Alpha Team has made their journey without much resistance, largely thanks to the telepathic prowess of Elizabeth Braddock. Shortly after 3am local time, they make a positive ID on the target; Audrey is the one credited with that find. Meanwhile, Beta Team approaches the drop zone via an enhanced SHIELD Quinjet designed for stealth operations. Neither radar nor human eye have spotted them, yet…

*

Being a ninja, like being a commando, is not just a study of esoteric arts martial. It's a style of combat that specializes in stealth and infiltration, making a small force seem much much larger than their numbers would otherwise allow. Multiplying your force's overall power by swift action and decisive impact.

Betsy, Rose, and Audrey draw up at the last line of sand-dusted concrete walls, just out of line ofsight. Between them and the compound is a wide expanse of asphalt and dust, with frisbee-sized irregularities here and there to indicate the presence of land mines. Only two men guard the northern approach, and it's clear from their game of cards that they don't expect anyone to be so foolish as to attempt to cross a minefield, let alone a flat and featureless expanse.

~Linking in,~ Betsy's thoughts come. For Audrey, it's a sudden gestalt awareness of everything Betsy sees and hears, shared vice-versa; for Rose, messages alone. ~We've a straight shot at the fenceline from here. I can keep the guards distracted; Rose, if you can spot the mines and walk us in, I think Audrey can keep us concealed from view?~ she inquires telepathically, looking from one woman to another. She whips a spare red sash from her belt and wraps it around her lower face, tying it off and effectively masking her.

*

Stealth and infiltration are Audrey's specialities, though there's less of a tradition behind her training. As Betsy's mind links with hers, she pauses for a moment, trying to adjust to the extra information. ~I can,~ she agrees with the other mutant. ~Dealer's choice as to how. If you can see what I see, I can take us fully invisible. Should compensate for the blindness you'd have otherwise. Or I can put a veil around us so you can see on your own still.~ She's already checked all of her weapons multiple times, but this time she checks her shoelaces. Just in case.

*

Beast is apparently the Rooster in the Hen House for this mission, but he isn't going to let things like that distract him. He's here to help and that's his focus. No weapons are worn — he has his teeth and claws — and he is, as usual, barefoot to help with the whole stealth factor. He may not be ninja-trained, but he's no slouch when it comes to being stealthy. That, and he can hear and catch scent better than most.

*

Betsy's warning is taken as her voice echoes in her mind, the rigidity in her shoulders something Ravager still cannot shake off when unfamiliarity speaks in her mind and not to her normal senses. The dislike is evident, but the discretion is necessary and after a few jobs she should be used to it. Should. But this was not a Black job, nor is it any of her others, none the less she has heard of this /Smooth/ for quite some time and discreet attempts made to subvert it did not work, so hopefully quiet and brutal would. Somehow she doubted it. But leave it to the pessimist…

The armored and lined suit is strapped and loaded, tac belt, straps around thighs bearing blades, holstered H&K's at her sides and crossed swords at her back. The half-mask of black that rests over the single milky eye is tugged down as it flares to a light glow. ~I can guide us through. Let me know when to start and ready.~

*

Steve sits hunched over slightly on the bench inside the Quinjet. Back during the war, Steve would notice young men nervously chewing bubble gum, feverishly writing letters, or trying anything to get their mind off of the upcoming battle. Ever since he was administered the super soldier serum, however, Captain America has always felt rather calm in these moments.

He gets up slowly to view the monitors one more time before he starts to pack his things. For this mission he's going with decidedly darker colors than the red, white, and blue. Instead the motif is black on gunmetal grey. The shield has been colored differently for the purposes of this mission as well.

"Well," Steve begins as he looks at Shift and Lunair. "Looks like we're about to get started. Shift will run point and go gas to do the scoping. Once we get close enough Lunair and I can bring the hammer. Keep in contact with each other on the earlier frequency. I'll be patched in with the other group. Silence is golden and patience is a virtue. No mistakes. We don't need any international incidents."

Cap pulls on his wingsuit, checking it in several places before the Quinjet ramp begins to lower. "Be seein' ya."

From there the Captain flings himself out of the rear of the plane and into the darkness beyond.

*

Darcy is the weak link on Team Alpha. She's not the sneakiest ninja in the pile, since she's not a ninja, but she had snuck out of her parent's house when she was young. And she's not wearing high heels. In SHIELD standard black, Darcy's eyes widen as she looks between Betsy and Audrey. ~I can totally hear you guys in my head. This is fucking freaky as fuck.~ Her glasses are not in evidence, having put on her derby contacts. They are prescription… and purple. Bright, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Purple. ~No offense. I'll try to not think… Out loud! I meant think outloud. I'm totally going to be thinking, because thinking is important just… how do I shut up my brain? …Okay, shutting up now. I hope. I think. Maybe. Right. Got it!~ Maybe.

*

Lunair is on Team B! Team B represent! While she is capable of stealth, she is not on that team. She has her power armor on, black visor folding Metal Gear style. Her armor is camouflagey with gunmetal greys and blacks. She is thinking, considering. Quiet. Thinking. Quiet weapons. Silent approach. She doesn't use a wing suit. She has power armor, that runs silently. Eat your heart out, Laughing Octopus. Even if she's afflicted with a similar sort of madness. She nods at Steve. "Yes sir." She murmurs. She will fasten a pair of lightsabers, a chainwip and a silenced sniper rifle over her shoulders. Artists would be proud, and soon, she will join Captain in the air.

*

"You got it." Shift rises from his seat, wearing the gunmetal gray uniform he always wears for these sort of situations. He's the first out of the airplane; no wingsuit, no parachute, no weapons.

Once in the air, Kwabena tucks his body into a line to pick up velocity, neck craned so that he can watch his progress. Faster and faster he plummets, in part because he's modified his density to increase the rate of his acceleration. Moments before striking ground, his body changes into a cloud of smoke, bending and diverting its vector to fly along the barren earth at a frightening pace.

Moments later, Kwabena begins feeding intelligence back to the team over the small earcom that travels within black tendrils ofsmoke. The voice doesn't sound like his own; rather, the airy whisper of dust scratching against itself with tone and sibilance. "Ten armed guards on the east perimeter." A pause. "Two on the north." Another pause. "Ten more on the west. Heavy concentration south. Twenty or more. Headed for the compound."

So far, Alpha Team's approach has yet to be noticed. Audrey is more than capable of hiding their presence with her powers. Betsy will find little resistance in the weak minded guard distracted with their game of chance, which will allow Rose and Beast to lead them through the minefield.

On the way down, however, a bird has the unfortunate fate of flying into Rogers' shield. There is a squawk, and the signature clang that only vibranium can make. On the ground, a pair of soldiers look up into the sky and begin chattering, alarmed, in Gulf Arabic.

A moment later, both seem to be choking on their own airways… a glint of light reveals black tendrils filling their mouths and nostrils.

*

Betsy stays right at Darcy's elbow. She /is/ the weak link, but she's also the most reliable asset on the team— Smooth won't hurt her. So Betsy does double duty, staying in the agent's shadow and making sure she doesn't trip and fall or hit an errant landmine.

~Move out, then. Rose, get us to the wall. Audrey, give us a light scatterfield to guard our approach. I'll deal with the guards once we're in range. Hank, mindyour step and start trying to find the Smooth facility as soon as we're inside. Darcy, stay close to me.~

And with that, the team is moving in a fast, ground-eating rush that's completely silent. Between Betsy's telekinesis baffling the sound of their footsteps, inherent grace and silent skill, and Audrey's light-bending illusion, they're completely invisible. ~There— vault the fence and rally inside the cabin,~ Betsy tells the team. All of them get a glance at the inside of Betsy's brain, where a three-d wire overlay has been created from their combined intelligence and her unique gifts. Sure enough, the place she's chosen to scale the fence is well protected from any guards about who might see it, with a shed just inside for them to rally at.

Betsy takes out both the fence guards with a powerful telepathic suggestion and offers Darcy her interlaced palm and fingers, able to easily throw the agent atop the guard's walkway to be caught by someone else alreay over the fenceline.

*

~Focus,~ Audrey advises Darcy. She's not a telepath, but she was trained to be able to work with them - albeit not one of Betsy's formidable skill and power. ~Think of it like a phone, and you're holding it away from yourself when you don't want the person on the other end of the line to hear you.~

That's all the time she has for advice, though, before they're moving through the mine field and not getting blown up while keepingthem under cover is a much bigger concern than how to control psychic bleed. She's quick to get over the fence, following Betsy's mental map over to the rally point.

*

Beast just gives a sigh as he's outed…again…although it seems to pretty much be a given whenever he goes on missions nowadays. At least those in their Team are pretty much known to him and vice versa. It could be worse.

There's a nod at the instruction and a slight narrowing of his eyes as he thinks…not particularly at the group telepathic bond, specifically, ~This isn't my first party, you know.~ That said, he's going to try to keep his nose to the figurative ground as they move closer so he can try to catch a scent.

*

The feedback from Darcy has Ravager cringing a single finger presses to her ear as if that will block it out. ~Oh, for the love of… I can't turn her off. Turn her off!" The protest is in the backdrop of the banter by Darcy like a single protest amongst the babbling audience of seagulls. Just not 'Mine'.

Distraction enough had when Betsy states for her to begin, and so she does, but light, small aluminum needles are being placed along the way, intricately atop each landmine with quick draws from tac belt…. Just in case subtlety does not work.

Clearing the wall with silence and speed, Ravager waits up top enough to capture Darcy's hand and pull her up, setting her down with a head-toe snap of mismatched gaze and a single finger to press to her lips. ~SHH!~ Templerub.

Then into the cabin she goes, casting Hank a sidelong glance with a lift of brow and a small nod.

*

As the intelligence comes in, Steve makes contact with the other two in Beta team. "Look alive, guys."

Moments later, Steve hits the groundshield first to minimize the sound and goes into a controlled roll near some shrubbery. He stays low, getting a good look at his foes under the moonlight. Assuming he's not been heard, Steve acts quickly and decisively.

A quick twist of his coiled body before he unleashes the shield. It soars into the night, arcing wide and true before it hits the initial soldier, knocking him out and caroming off towards the throat of another baddie. Rather than stand still, Steve runs in the opposite direction, quietly upon the sand. An enemy, not more than 20, notices his approach a moment too late and catches the American's fist in his face.

Steve holds his arm out and amidst a slight whirring sound in the air, the shield makes a small clunk as it reattaches itself to its moorings on Steve's left arm.

*

~You got it, Pretty Lady.~ chirps Darcy's mind as she stays near Betsy. Her smile is bright and calm. Her mind is not. The junior agent is nervous, but handling it well. Her adrenaline is helping keep things sharp while there's the sense that she misses her wrist guards but that she's loving her kneepadsand …~What? Phone? Oh, right. Sorry. You guys have popped my I-Can-Hear-Your-Thoughts Cherry.~ Darcy thinks aloud while clamping her lips into a thin, unpainted line to keep from saying any of that out loud while watching Ravager scale the fence and reach a hand down for her. Darcy is quick to climb after, taking Ravager's hand of help the rest of the way. ~Shh what? I'm being queit. Haven't said a wo- oh, thinking again. Sorry! Sorry! Thinking not to think now. Dude, her eyes are badass. I wonder if I can get another pair of… Right! Not thinking!~ Darcy tries really hard. She really does, and for a few moments, at least, her mind is schooled and quiet. She follows Ravager and the rest of Team Alpha, never realizing that of the team, if they run into Smooth, she won't be affected.

*

Lunair manages not to giggle at bird vs Captain America. She lands gently, quietly. She has more control, as she can fly in her armor. The shockingly large, silenced sniper rifle comes out, then. Unlike a normal silencer, Lunair can cheat and draw upon the power of things she's done, seen and played to render her gun very much /quiet/. And lo, near Steve, there is a soldier unfortunate enough to pop into her lane of fire.

The air reminds her so much of Africa, she is grateful for her sealed armor, shaking as a memory returns. The sand, the blood, the strange language ringing over her ears. The soft moonlight, like the skull of an assassin's mask starkly against his dark skin. Yes, remembering him, too, that faint terror. But now is not the time for memories. Now is the time for doing what she has done, over and over, enough to have earned perhaps a medal or two if they gave them to the silent, uncertain soldiers that creep into wars born of infinite cruelty. A soft ptang noise, and a man soon finds himself on the bridge between this world and the next, unable to ask God just why as his throat becomes viscera, blood and nothingness. No screaming. Not tonight.

*

Beast has a significant advantage in that he's worked with 'smooth' up close and personal. Cyclops had brought him a sample of it to study. He's able to catch the scent quickly, but this odor is decidedly different. It's concentrated. Intense. As if a few truckloads of the stuff has been compressed into something the size of a marble… and there are five of these marbles. The odor will lead them closer to a building near the center of the compound, one which seems surprisingly lacking in guards.

Even while the Alpha Team closes in, Beta Team is hard at work, striking quickly and quietly. Steve's onslaught is masterful, leaving little in the way of opposition. Shift is nowhere to be seen, even though every so often, a soldier drops to his knees, clawing at the air and choking on the invisible. Lunair's efforts are met with little in the way of resistance, for the mercenary was created to be a killer, and she does it well.

What happens next is inevitable. It's hard to say whether it was a foe of Rogers, Odame or Lunair who got to a weapon, but the silent night is filled with the patter of an assault rifle. Within seconds, the soldiers left standing begin to cry out in battle yells, and an alarm goes up across the compound. Floodlights spring to life in an effort to shed light on the attack, and the terrorists still standing begin grouping together, firing at anything they're fortunate enough to see.

*

Betsy holds Darcy in place with a touch of her fingers. ~Rose and I will take point. You three,~ she says, eyes flickering to Hank, Audrey, and Darcy. ~Be careful here. This is going to—~ at that point, the floodlights turn on and all hell erupts. Betsy's response is to roll her eyes and huff once in exhalation, mask distending from her lips minutely. ~Well, it's now officially a party. You three mind your heads and start working towards the Smooth,~ Betsy says. She looks to Rose and nods once, rolling a shoulder in a limber fashion to loosen it up. She draws her black-bladed katana from the sheath on her back and generates an amethyst blade the precise color of her eyes in her other hand, holding the katana in a defensive zatoichi grip. ~Rose, shall we clean house?~

Betsy moves to the edge of the cabin door and without so much as an eyeblink hesitation, darts into the shadows. She's nowhere near as armored as the other team members, but she's fast, graceful, and disappears effortlessly into the shadows. She starts cutting a swathe through the NPCs with fast, decisive blows, taking down the guards closest to the cabin and making sure no one in the immediate area has line of sight to Hank, Darcy, or Audrey.

*

~Got the lights. Psylocke, Ravager, trading cover for darkness in three…two…one…~ With a thought, Audrey wraps shadow around the spotlights, in the same moment dropping the cover over Betsy and Rose when they head for the enemies. She can see in the dark, she presumes Hank at least has sharper vision. Which leaves Darcy.

Which is why, before the agent can panic, she's stepping up next to her, setting one hand on her shoulder in an escort position as she draws her gun with the other. She, Hank, and Darcy are still under a veil, and she nods to the scientist. ~On your lead,~ she says across the link, pausing long enough to take out the knee of a guard who gets too close to their cover. Guns are firing everywhere, who knows where that bullet came from?

*

He'll have to have a chat with Betsy later. Now isn't the time and Beast recognizes that even though he barely manages to surpress a growl. His attention, however, is quickly caught once he gets a familiar scent. ~Found it…~ is offered before he scowls, ~It's…this is bad. Really bad. It's ridiculously concentrated…~ he does trailoff as the lights are doused and the fighting begins. He has decent darkvision and can still follow the scent, "There are five that I can smell…these are incredibly dangerous…" he offers to the two that he's with. "Get ready to move quickly," is all the warning he gives before he quickly moves towards the closest of the 'marbles'.

*

~Get one stabbed out and I am sure we can hook you up. Easy as that.~ The voice of Ravager retorts to Darcy although there is no sign of anything writ upon her features as they gather. A single roll of shoulders settles the tension drawn through her shoulders, the readiness. She has to be used to working with Psylocke where for the beginning it is easy…too easy. But eventually luck is not on their side and that glass half empty relates to the realist who drank the whole bitch and gives them all the middle finger.

Ravager is greedy like that sometimes. Okay, most of the time. She's thirsty.

Called it! The dark silence is sliced through with the caucophany she so adores and idle hands are given the work she desires. Reaching up and back, the swords are drawn with a silent hiss and a song only those infused blades can produce, reflecting light off the honed edges before it goes dark due to Audrey's manipulations. A nod to Psylocke and she splits path with the team and the woman to rapidly ascend, keeping to the tops of buildings within the compound, one of which has several men hastily suiting up, gathering weapons as they had been roused from their shift to rest. Reaching down to grab their gear from the lockers a single grenade drops and spins at their feet, but before they could flee the building expands and bursts into shrapnel that threatens to bite at Ravager's heels when she hits the ground in an absorbed roll that keeps her going even when not on feet.

Another few come from the right, a single lead shadowing the path of the playinum haired woman, raising his gun in time to get off a single round with a yell in Gulf Arabic that even sprays spittle forward. The bullet cuts strands of white to fall into the sand and spittle to land upon reinforced suit…. "Not good enough." Ravager states as she closes that gap with the impact of the pommel of her sword to send his nose upward into cavities and his head snapping back to fall first before the rest of his body joins him in unconciousness.

*

Things happen at lightspeed, so fast it becomes hard to keep up with. Steve Rogers isn't thinking anymore; he's merely reacting. The gunfire erupts off to his right a mini-firework that looks like some sort rooster-like sparkle-demon as it keeps up its oppressive rain towards the Captain. Up comes the shield with bullets pelting it harmlessly. The flattened metal slips helplessly down onto the sand, like black nickels dropped by a child.

Rather than sit still, Captain America's needs to act. It's an impulse far more ingrained him him than any serum cocktail. He bullrushes the gunman, who never stood a chance. At the last second, aghast that the super soldier is coming straight towards him, the shooter tries to take out Steve's feet, but he's much too slow and does not have good enough aim. Once he makes contact, the young man from Fujaira soars almost 50 feet in the air. By the time he lands, the Star Spangled Man with the plan is already attacking elsewhere.

It becomes a blur, really. Ever so often the shield is thrown, a head is conked, and the vibranium comes right back to Steve's hand. His martial arts is brutal against these half-trained agents of terror, and he refrains from going easy upon them. All around him a small gaggle of enemies begins to form, wailing and gnashing their teeth at their injuries.

*

Darcy doesn't panic! Not a lot, anyway. She's had some firearms training, and so the sound of gunfire is not foreign. Startling, for certain, and Darcy does flinch away from the sound. That is until Betsy and Rose make to go OUT into that clusterfuck.

And then everything goes dark.

Darcy gasps, her purple eyes widening. Her lips part to speak, but she catches herself just in time… and then there's Audrey putting a hand on her shoulder and trying to keep her calm. She smiles at the other woman lightly, flinching only a little as Audrey kneecaps a guy. Darcy finally pulls out her side arm, readying it, but not firing into the fray. It would suck for her craptastical aim to hit a Friendly.

Darcy turns to look in the direction of Beast's voice. Her gaze misses the mark by a wide margin since she can't see past the end of her gun barrel. She turns to glance at Audrey and her smile turns thankful.

"This is like a Trust Game. Don't run me into anything. Kay?" Darcy says, lips grinning. She won't move until Audrey moves her after Hank. He's the expert on this stuff, apparently?

*

Death, blood, and incomprehensible words beneath the moonlight. It's all coming back in a rush. Lunair is fending off the urge to just drop explosives everywhere, murder everything in sight and go home panting like a dog, dazed and wild. But it's not the time for that. Quiet is the word of the day, and she's doing such. Although, their cover is duly blown. She's going to help Captain and Kwabena. Snap to. The sniper rifle disappears in favor of an alarmingly large 50 calibre machine gun. She does her best to flitter in and out of the shadows, an enigmatic, thoughtful agent of death.

There is far less elegance and far more finality in her chattering answer to their guns. Sprays of blood, gasps of despair, wild eyes and clutched wounds - if there is enough left to clutch are left in her wake. Spat, spat, splat, the sound of viscera, organs becoming useless and blood answering the sand's aching call.

*

Audrey's snuffing of the floodlights only serves to incense the terrorists, which makes them sloppy. The combined efforts of Ravager, Captain America, Psylocke, and Lunair quickly turn the advantage into the heroes' favor, and within a short span, the battlefield dies down.

Shift solidifies somewhere between two choked out soldiers, his arms still smoke as they pull out of nostrils and reform into flesh and bone. Rubble is still settling from the building Ravager demolished, and he spins on his heel as one of the last ones standing unleashes a barrage of bullets that fly harmlessly through him. That soldier's rifle becomes somewhat permanently attached to the side of his face, and he's down for the count.

Audrey and Lewis are led on by Beast toward the target compound, while Steve and Lunair join the others in picking off the remnant.

Hank will smell it the moment when Betsy's telepathic prowess understands it. A telepathic dampening field, generated by a metahuman of some sort, suddenly drops, and the odor of a half dozen creatures joins the scent of concentrated smooth in Hank's nostrils. There is but a momentary lapse in battle, but Hank and his compatriots are met with the ripping of metal, stone and lumber as the entire facing wall of their targeted building is torn asunder.

Mutants. Six of them, varying in size and capability, stare at the attackers, their eyes driven mad by withdrawal from smooth. Their powers are out of control; another side effect of the withdrawal symptoms, and a new sort of hell breaks loose at once.

A psionic scream, coming from a short man, rips through the minds of those linked by Psylocke. A burst of plasma goes careening toward Steve and Lunair, the latter of which finds herself bum rushed by a speedster moving in a fast blur. A tall woman leaps into the air, the force of her vault sends a shockwave through the ground toward Ravager. A middle aged man, eyes wild, opens his mouth and breathes fire toward Shift.

Finally, a lumbering creature with a thick, nearly impervious hide faces off against Beast, Audrey and Darcy, roaring in anger and blocking their passage into the building.

*

Betsy gasps and stumbles, going to a knee and dropping hard against the ground. Her shoulder falls sideways and props her against a cargo container, but she barely stays upright, clutching her skull with both hands. Her katana skitters across the ground. The psionic roar is unexpected and intensely painful, something for which Betsy hadn't mentally prepared herself.

It takes the whole of her focus to defend herself from the onslaught, the link evaporating before feedback can overwhelm the team. She hunkers down in as small a ball she can manage, clutching her temples and screaming soundlessly into the dust-covered asphalt underfoot.

*

The scream rips through Audrey's mind, and in that moment, the young mutant reacts on pure trained instinct to lash out. Her shields, rudimentary as they may be, slam down. She, Hank, and Darcy flicker back into sight, and the full force of the floodlights comes back on for a split second.

It's a split second only, because as soon as its visible, the light is pulled into a spot the size of her fist right in front of the face of the creature in front of them like a black hole. Except instead of a black hole, it's pure, concentrated, blinding, super-heated light.

She can't hold that much light in that small of a space for long, but that's all right. She doesn't try to. The moment the light is gathered, she lets it back go, releasing all of that heat and energy with a concussive blast like standing right next to a lightning bolt.

*

Golden eyes widen as they come across the guards. "Don't kill them if you can help it!" is called out even as Beast pulls a hypodermic needle from his uniform and quickly uncaps it. There's a roar of pain when he gets the mental blast from the other telepath, but Betsy manages to shield the worst of the feedback. Now, a bit grumpier, he searches out a target when the lumbering creature faces them. "You'll do."

To Darcy and Audrey, he calls, "Keep him distracted!" and he launches himself towards the creature's shoulder.

Surely there must be a soft-spot somewhere near his head…or his eye will do.

*

The others that came tothr angered curses of the man are met with a quick and swift brutality, one that has Ravager leaving the building behind her, silhouetting her form with the flames that erupt from it in her departure and the drip-drop trail of blood smattering the sand beneath her feet, sprayed out into a speedy pattern at her sides to shed her swords of it before they are sheathed.

Her hands are still upon the hilts when the building comes into view. Not because it was a target, but because the whole wall was torn asunder in a grand entry of rabid metas/mutants. The prelude to the largest migraine Ravager is about to have since the hangover of 2014, enough that the skin around the bionic eye jumps, making that single occular narrow and the heel of her hand come to press upon opposing temple. Then she shuts her mind fown, the force of will that allows entry returned to shut it down. Silence, sweet…

The sudden shake of earth brings a quick reaction, that mismatched gaze snapping towards the woman who vaulted and caused the small richter announcement, the grappling gun withdrawn and fired into the air after her, hoping to hook the clawed end into her target while she aims for higher ground and away from the small edifice that grows ever swiftly into her direction.

*

As the plasma reaches out towards him, Steve makes a split second decision not to try and block it with his shield. He's not sure what sort of attack is coming for him, and would rather attempt to dodge it than find out the hard way that the vibranium protection is not enough to protect himself from the fourth state of matter.

Instead, Steve leaps into a backwards handspring, narrowly dodging the shot. Rather than sit and rest upon his laurels, he flings the shield out towards the plasma wielder, hoping to knock his opponent out.

*

Darcy can't suppress the shout of pain as the psionic scream rips through her mind. Her knees bent with the want to fall to them as her hands come up to grab at her ears, as if that would stop the 'sound'. Maybe it worked, for to Darcy, a few moments after covering her ears the scream dissolved into nothing. Eyes watering, Darcy manages to lift her gaze to the roaring lumbering beast that she suddenly finds between her three-man group and the inside of the building. She squints and blinks against the harsh spotlights. Their light made brighter by their sudden appearance.

"Tow cable anyone?" Darcy squeaks as the light coalesce onto the lumber-hulk's face and then explodes. She brings a hand up to shield her face as she falls back against a crate while the other reaches for one of the pouches on her SHIELD utility belt. It is not as cool as a certain capped-crusaider's but it does have a climby-rope, and a grapple thingie. Darcy will learn proper names never. With Audrey lightpunching the very angry big thing in the face and Hank leaping up high, Darcy is more than willing to take the low-road.

OH! I got friends in low places..>

Darcy sprints from her crate, hooking the grapple-thing to some bit of rebar sticking out between clumps of collapses wall. Just at the creature's side, she drops to her knees, and from years of derby excutes a neat knee spin on her kneepads to change her direction on a dime. Shoving her weight back to her feet, Darcy seeks to run behind the creature. Just.. don't.. SIT on me!

*

Speedsters. Lunair hates speedsters. She really does. But Lunair has to get out of the way of the plasma, dropping her gun into nothingness.

Memories of that Nazi who beckoned her to original purpose flicker. Fraulein, fraulein! FRAULEIN! A handful of syringes offered. Lunair swallows hard. She can but toss a glue grenade near her, hoping the bumrushing speedster doesn't guard their back zealously. She pulls her shockwave staff, tries a swing. But odds are, the armored girl is about to go flying, tackled by a speedster. She gasps, and remembers precisely why she dislikes concussive attacks. There's sorrow, despair and fear. Dust flies, with the shockwave, and as Lunair desperately tries to protect herself. Feet lifting off the ground, if she is indeed, bumrushed and trying to shift sideways.

*

The Deranged Six may have found their powers doubled in intensity, but the withdrawals have also removed a level of control.

The psionicscream suddenly died off, sputtering. The short man's eyes go wide, but he finds his shoulder becomes the recipient of a bullet. Shift lowers the weapon just in time to find his super-solidified state pelted with fire. He growls and forces his body to harden further still, the flames licking against black obsidian while the rifle melts in his hand. Betsy's attacker falls, holding his bleeding shoulder.

The monstrosity guarding the wrecked compound roars in agony at Audrey's onslaught, but the concussive blow only sends him staggering backward a single step. A few pieces of his hide shed to the dirt; a sign of his uncontrollable mutant ability. However, it's the window Hank needs to leap forward and attach himself to the creature's shoulder.

Ravager's grappling hook sinks into the tall geomancer's thigh, eliciting a cry of anguish. Rose is lifted just in time; the swath of moving earth rips past beneath her toes. Within moments, she's on a collision course with the mutant some sixty feet into the air. She sure can leap high.

Captain America is fast, and his shield rings true, knocking the plasma bearer right on his ass.

Lunair's glue grenade may not have done the trick, but the speedster's powers are as out of whack as those of his compatriots. He's caught up, cursing vehemently at his now-sticky legs.

Just then, Darcy pulls a classic move, and the largest creature is caught up in grappling cable. His legs buckle, and he goes down like an AT-AT. His leg pins that of the stuck speedster, and his shoulder falls upon the fire breathing mutant, cutting off the fire for a moment.

"WOODS!" The roar comes from Shift, who calls out toward the building. There, Damian 'Scales' Woods can be seen running, bodyguard on either side of him, trying to get away under the cover of general mayhem.

*

Betsy shakes off the cobwebs, struggling to her feet. It's too soon to link everyone back into her gestalt awareness— her psionic ears are ringing like she got clocked in the jaw. Still, focus, one step at a time. Sword. Feet under you. Move.

In the space of a few strides Betsy at least recovers her equilibrium, pushing off the cargo container one last time and abandoning the extra point of balance. Her head snaps around at Shift's shout, and she tracks the direction of his gaze towards the target. Before she's even thinking about it consciously she's up and running like a grey bolt, the red streak of her sash flittering in her wake. She vaults off a barrel as if it were a pommel horse and then easily kips atop a cargo container, giving her line of sight to Woods and his bodyguards. Anticipating his course of withdrawal she moves to cut him off, taking a slightly longer route that will allow her to land on them from a blindside in scant moments.

*

Audrey isn't the best qualified to go after Woods, but she can lend a hand. Stillrecovering from the effects of the psychic attack and her own response, she latches a column of light to Woods, lighting him up like that dude you need to talk to in a video game. Darcy has the giant down, and Audrey does her best to keep him there short of actually killing him. Though there's a moment where her gun points a little higher than the pair of hip shots she fires into him.

*

Beast grabs onto the creature's shoulder and jabs the hypodermic needle into the closest soft spot. He then shoves the base of it to insert the serum into the creature when he catches a scent. "He has the Smooth!" is called out even as he points towards the one running away. He's going to remain on the guy's shoulder and pull out another needle in case it takes more than one to take him down.

*

The impact is inevitable, but the /how/ can be manipulated. The grappel line is wrapped around Ravager's hand, a motion done swiftly to bring it to even remote tension in that closing distance, and once she feels that iota of resistance her arm jerks back and out to treat the hooked weight like it was upon the end of a whip. If her efforts work the shift upon impact will have the geomancer skimmin just beside her instead of on top of her where the momentum from snapping her downward /harder/ has them both plummeting towards the ground but within that exchange of blows Ravager seeks to get the geomancer beneath her where boots will slaminto her side, the blades hidden within the soles seeking to penetrate just beneath her rib cage and use the woman's own body as padding for one hell of a landing!

*

A couple dozen yards away, Steve can see what's beginning to unfold. Shift yells the name, he sees the man running, and sees Betsy making her way to cut Woods off. He begins to run at full speed, topping out at just over 30 miles per hour, trying to get to the drug chemist from the other angle. He hopes that he's able to reach the man in time, leaping in the air at the last moment, going in on a high attack like a linebacker looking to bury a running back.

*

The large creature trips over the grappling cable, just like Darcy had planned! She has just enough time to register that it worked, and just enough time to realize the error she made in that she's still attached to said climby-rope. She's yanked off her feet but the sudden jarring collapse of the creature. She curls into a ball to land on forearms, elbows, and knees. The front of her SHIELD tac helmet scrapes the floor as she's drug a few feet closer to the giant. When momentum stops, she uncurls and pulls the standard issue knife and cuts the cable by leaning back on it to put tension and yanking the blade across it. She topples backwards as tension is released. The knife is dropped, and Darcy rolls to a crouch.

Roller derby. Love it.

Chaos. It's actually pretty thrilling! Darcy looks in the direction Beast points, spotting the beacon of light, but she knows that she has no way of reaching the guy. Like, AT. ALL. Plus, there are baddies down here who are likely to get up soon. She slides up to her feet pulling her sidearm out again, and rushes toward the Speedster and Flamespitter pinned under the Not So Jolly Giant. Unflicking the safety, Agent Lewis levels her gun at them.

"Stay down and I don't put one into each of your fucking heads," she states, trying to muster as much May and Hill and Romanov into her voice as she can.

*

Draaaaaaaaaaag. Her bootheels skid through the dirt. Lunair is not having fun. There's going to be bruises. What is it about busting her ribs? But the speedster is slowed, and gunked up. She's going to be dealing with the speedster, and anyone who dares bother the running Captain America. Lunair pulls her shockwave staff and is going to blast and pummel the speedster into next week. The first ass beating based time traveler, right here. It would be funny if she weren't angry, and hurt.

But at least it's not lethal force. Yet. Gutteral growl. The speedster will probably have problems remembering her, at least. BOOM! THOOM! The sickening sound of stave meeting speedster.

*

Hank's serum doesn't work immediately. The beast struggles against his bindings, and growls at Audrey firing into him, but the his hide begins to gradually flake away, his body shrinking from its behemoth. Just in time, too… one more flinging of a massive arm and he might have hurt somebody.

Ravager's trick works, and though the geomancer grapples with her, she finds herself perpetually sandwiched between the platinum-haired Rose and the ground that rushed toward them. She lets out a cry that shatters the earth, turning rock into soft dirt, which only serves to keep the eventual impact from killing her.

Between Darcy and Lunair, the speedster and firemouth aren't going anywhere. Shift slowly begins to revert to his normal form, but a grimace tells him the danger of that; go back to flesh and blood, and he will receive third degree burns over his entire body. He retains his super solid state, and will need to do so until he cools down.

Fate falls upon Psylocke and Captain America. Woods turns to glare at the incoming Braddock, and lowers his hands to the earth. The ground between his fingers begins to sizzle and hiss, as it transforms into acid. His bodyguards scream in agony, and the transformation rushes toward Psylocke, sure to eat her alive if she doesn't get out of the way.

Then, his body is thrown ten yards to the side when Captain America strikes him. The chemical reaction is cut off, and when he falls, five objects fall from his pocket. They are small, a luminescent blue in color, about the size of marbles.

And they're rolling toward the river of acid he's just created.

*

Betsy doesn't hesitate for a second. She charges straight towards Woods, but when the ground betrays her she simply leaps at him from thirty feet away. A bizarre moment of suspension might cause a mis-step as Betsy takes to flight, a wake churning the acid-snarling sand two feet under her. Body poised in a graceful, almost balletic carriage, she snaps a hand out and brings all five of the tiny blue marbles winging to her hand like a magnet attracts them, snapping into her gloved palm. She skids to a halt a pace behind Steve, dust flying, and swiftly deposits the marbles in a utility pouch affixed to her waist.

"Nice tackle," she comments, snapping her sword around in an arc and sheathing it. ~Linking in,~ comes her voice, along with a return of that gestalt awareness- a composite view of everything the team is seeing at once, plus bonus intel from Betsy's constant low monitoring of the area. ~A few stragglers remain, but they're disorganized and hiding,~ she says, mentally tagging their locations. ~Watch out for traps and ambushes, but the only remaining forces are human.~

The Brit frowns, then lifts her mask up an inch. "Hut salahak! Atistslam!" she shouts in badly accented Arabic, her voice carrying easily.

*

Audrey keeps a gun on the monstrous mutant along with Darcy, trusting the rest of the team to deal with the smooth. Which is a lot of trust, given she's dealt with the side effects of unwilling exposure to the stuff before, and it was not fun.

*

Beast leaps off of the shrinking behemoth once the serum starts to work on him. It might not get rid of any after-effects, but he'll have a brief respite, at least…until the serum itself wears off. Landing on all-fours, he glances around to see of there's anyone else he needs to intercept.

Even as Betsy mentally informs them of the stragglers' locations, he takes off after two in order to make sure they don't try and attack.

*

Not good. "Hey, what's with those vials going to the acid?" Lunair points out. If she can see them. What's going on? Nevermind. She's got to keep things under control here. Speedster is going to get zip-tied up.

*

~ohmygod ohmygod ohmy- Fuck. Is this mic on again? Damn, this is confusing as fuck. None of those asshats are near by, right? Right?~ Darcy's mind says as she keeps her sights trained on the mutant(s) in front of her. ~Who's handling our ride back? Is that me? Lumiere, you got these guys?~ Darcy's full of questions, though the last one is clearly aimed toward Audrey. The name Lumiere comes complete with mental thought of the candlestick from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Bad french accent and all.

*

It is a strange feeling, being here to see this through. Kwabena was around when the smooth first reared its ugly head. He promised himself he'd see it through to its end, and as the marbles fly into Betsy's grasp, he breathes a long sigh of relief.

"Looks like he's got de straggahlah's undah control," the Ghanaian quips as Beast bounds off to pick off the rest. He isn't quite bothered by the telepathic messages, which is surprising - though Darcy feedback has him grimacing and scowling her way.

~Let's pack up and get the hell out of here.~ His own mental voice lacks the thick dialect, similar to how he spoke when in smoke form. "Darce?" He nods toward a wayward jeep, for there's nothing better than riding out of the warzone on your enemy's ride.


SOME YEARS AGO:

"Damian! Damian, get down here and finish your homework!"

"Just a minute, ma!"

The clomping of Evangeline Woods' shoes up the stairs prompted him to act; the white powder quickly turning back into dirt, just in time for Damian's mom to walk in.

"Oh, hell no. Damian, why do you keep trashing your room like this?? I swear to the Good Lord, you keep this up you're gonna go down a bad, bad path."

"Yeah, I know, ma."

"Now you clean up this mess and come downstairs to do your math assignment!" Evangeline turned on her heel and stomped away. "I ain't gonna see you turn out like your old man, rotting in jail, you hear me??"

"Sure, ma." Damian waited until the door swung closed, then put his headphones back on. The words told him of the glamour, girls and fame of a life of crime, and as the beat pounded it's perversion into his soul, the dirt transformed into white powder once more…

… and Damian Woods, with a smile, sold his soul and lowered his head to take a sniff.

THE END

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