The Third Hit

February 25, 2016:

Section hitmen go after Doug Ramsey.

A Diner in Brooklyn

Characters

NPCs: Waitress, onlookers, Section mercs

Mentions: Spider-Woman, Storm, Jemma Simmons

Plot:

Mood Music: Thé à la menthe by La Caution


Fade In…

The City was dark, damp, and thick with the miasma of humanity and of weather. It cries, with each car rumble down the road. Venturing out from the office was always a long, ardurous journey, and a well-honed street-wise person has to always had to have his wits about him. Most especially to meet a dark stranger, a dame with legs from here to eternity, long lusturous hair that could make a raven weep with envy over its dark shade.

The dame had troubles, yeah. Short, dark, and dangerous, with a rap sheet a mile long, and she needed -someone- to cover her shapely derreire.

Enter the Fixer.

The Fixer had his own share of troubles. Breaking into a military base, making off with… god knows what he -had-, but for a dame? Drop everything and do what he could for her…

"Hey, pal! Do you want your coffee or not?!"

Doug started, blinking at the waitress. Oh right. Real world time, Doug. "Um… I'm fine with coffee. I'll order when the lady arrives."

Sighing, leaning back in his seat, Doug eyes the menu, before flipping his laptop open once again. Sitting in a 24 hours retro diner that was build, basically, out of an old railroad dining car, Doug poked at the keys again. Not sure what to expect from -that- girl, that… "Laura Kinney", the file said. Well, whatever she needed, Doug would have to fix it.

*

While Laura has settled somewhat nicely at the school it became evident, to the staff at least, that Laura required some form of identification to navigate the 'real' world. She has no real birth certificate and while she has a few pre-made passports on hand, Laura was never quite sure if The Facility knew of said passports. While those passports are in hidden within her meager belongings, she has yet to ever use them. When the staff at Xavier's realized this, they set up the meet with Doug Ramsey. A picture of the lanky blonde man was shown to Laura, along with the place and time.

And when that time arrived, Laura Kinney found herself at the coffee shop.

She doesn't immediately enter when she arrives at the door. Instead, X-23 will automatically scan the place and the people it holds, from behind that glass door. She's looking for any hidden threats within and when nothing strikes her as trouble the young woman will finally enter. Like an arrow to a target, X-23 easily navigates the tables, people and wait staff before her silent foot falls bring her to Doug's table. Then she waits for him to acknowledge her presence.

*

Mid thirties, shaved head, probably ex military. Grey north face jacket, black jeans, sturdy boots and a black button down tee, complete with a satchel and all. The fellow walks in, takes a seat at the bar, and smiles at the waitress who approached him.

"What'll you have, sugar?"

"Coffee, black," he tells the woman. Before she can leave, however, he gestures for her to stay. "Tell me something. What is it with the whole, 'sugar', 'sweetie' thing? I mean, is there like… a school they send you to? Where you learn to talk like that?" He smiles in a charming way.

His eyes, however, aren't exactly locked upon the waitress. They flick from her face to the stainless steel counter and cabinetry, then gauge the reflection of Doug, visible through the darkness of a microwave oven's window. His eyes flick back just in time for the woman's response.

"Well, hon, we call it the 'school of hard knocks and minimum wage'." She raps on the countertop. "Gotta be nice to people, else we'd let y'all know what we're really thinking." With that, she winks and moves off to prepare the gentleman's coffee.

*

While it might seem -weird- to do this kind of job in a diner, the impression Doug had gotten, based on what little was known, was that Laura Kinney had been through a -lot-, and yet wasn't terribly -comfortable- with seeing people outside her… well, job. And chances were, she probably didn't have any particular ideas about what she -wanted-.

And so, a diner. Where else in New York City could you run past all sorts of masses of humanity?

Besides, just flashing pictures wasn't the -same- as experiencing that sort of variety.

Laura being so quiet, Doug simply goes on peering at the files, before he happens to glance up and…

"GAH!"

Eyes wide open, Doug quickly settles his body language from surprise to a more subdued, semi-wary, fashion. Right. From what he knew from a cursory look at the files, she might be distrustful of words, so he would have to try a different communication approach. Great start, though, Ramsey!

An apologetic look to other customers, Doug's smile freezes somewhat as he eyes the ex-military person who's sitting and holding up the coffee. Something about the body language seemed -off- compared to what he was doing, like he was observing something so -fascinating- about a microwave.

No wait, eyes back on the girl dresseed. Whatever she was -doing-, Doug surreptiously adjusts his collar, checks his hair, and works on making himself more presentable. Right. "Uh, Laura Kinney, right? Sorry, you surprised me." Hands up, open, show her both sides, then present a hand and wait for her to handshake. "Doug Ramsey. Um, sorry about that, I didn't expect you to be so… quiet."

*

While most people would ignore the new customers that trickle through the door in ones and twos, X-23 doesn't. Thanks to her training and her own nature, she can't help but automatically look towards the door every time it opens. It's a habit that has allowed her to save her own skin a time or two. As such, when the ex-military man walks into the coffee shop, X-23 can't help but spot him. Her eyes will follow him until he settles at the bar and while her gaze lingers on his form for a second or two longer, eventually her attention is brought back to Doug Ramsey when he shouts that sound of surprise.

Her curiously flat expression barely flickers, but perhaps with Doug's keen mutant ability he'll be able to read the barely perceivable shift from neutrality to cautious wariness now. Especially when he offers that hand of his. Her green-eyed gaze will drop to Doug's hand for a handful of seconds, before Laura finally reaches out to shake the proffered hand. Her grip is strong, much stronger than what someone of her stature should be able to do, and after two shakes she'll easily let go of the other man's hand.

As for his introduction, Laura can't help but offer one nod, saying simply, "Yes. I know." That he's Doug Ramsey, that is. "I am, Laura. They said you could help me." All of her words are said in that rather monotone voice of hers, even as she stays standing.

*

"Maybe you can tell me what you're really thinking," says ex-military. "After your shift?"

The waitress smiles demurely at the man, then hands him her coffee, wedding ring remarkably aimed so that he can see it. "He's ex-SEALS, sweetheart," she murmurs, and wipes her hands on her apron after finishing. "I'm not in the mood for a cock fight." Then she winks and moves off to help other customers.

Ex-Military just shakes his head, hands in the air. "My apologies, ma'am." He smiles in self defeat, then retrieves a cellular phone from his jacket pocket. While blowing on the coffee, he opens the phone and begins tapping away.

SMS: 'Target acquired. With company. Need time to vet potential threat.'

Message sent, ex-military swipes over to his New York Times app, and begins scrolling through the morning headlines.

*

Taking a deep breath, Doug has to remind himself that words alone would probably be not enough with Laura, given her non-verbal means of communications. Whether she was consciously aware of it or not, it was clear enough to him, at least, that she didn't actually -want- to be here, that she was following orders, and that the best way to, at least to help her find something comfortable was to get her to relax.

Taking a deep breath, willing himself to ease off a bit and ignore that hand that's screaming ITHURTSITHURTS, force it into friendly 'I know you're a scary strong girl, don't hurt me, I'm trying to help' mode, Doug takes a seat, sinking in and relaxes. It's a diner. Nothing out of the ordinary here, right? Just bring coffee, relax, and then get down to business. "Well I can help with some of the paperwork, but I thought sitting down and talking with you about what you'd want to do might help me figure out your paperwork. Uh, tutor you a bit." There, just keep talking, get her to be a bit more at ease. "Here, have a menu, anything you want?" Food menu, that is. Identities, background, that could wait a bit.

And then Doug does a check of the microwave. And if the man happens to look at the microwave, Doug gives that microwave a -look- that basically says "If you're looking at me, I see you."

*

If Laura realizes she hurt his poor under-developed hand she doesn't let on and for clarification, she doesn't realize she hurt it. When Doug sits and offers his explanation of how he's going to help her, with paperwork and such, she nods once again. It's only at the mention of tutoring that the dark-haired girl will allow the slightest of frowns to tug her lips downward. No one mentioned tutoring to Laura. Thankfully though, she does understand the social queue of sitting now. She'll pick the seat that allows her to have the least amount of at her back, as she once again scans the area about the two of them. When Doug offers that menu to her, she'll automatically accept it, even as her green eyes drop to the various food-stuffs one can get. Eventually she'll just put the menu down, saying as she does, "I am not hungry." Nope, no thanks or thank you from Laura, as social norms still elude her most of the time.

It's only when Doug's gaze goes back to the bar or rather the microwave a second time, that X-23 will look the same way. "What is it?" She asks and while she's not good at reading social situations per se, potentaily troubling situations are much easier for her to read or at least understand.

*

Meanwhile, across the East River in TriBeCa, Kwabena Odame speaks with someone off camera. It's unclear whether it's Ororo, or Julia, or potentially one of the SHIELD agents he'd enlisted (that's a stretch) to watch over the condo, but, he speaks nonetheless. "I'd bettah notify de oddahs. Dis could get ugly, real fast."

The phone at X-Red begins to ring. Someone picks up, and after a brief conversation, Kwabena is informed that Doug Ramsey isn't present at the moment. "It's very urgent you put me in contact with him," answers Kwabena, while storming across the room, cell phone in hand. He snatches up his leather jacket and riding helmet, saying, "He could be in very real dangah."

Back in the diner, ex-military does indeed glance toward the microwave between every few swipes on his cellular phone. There is a moment where the distorted eyes of Doug are noticed in the reflection, and they seem to be looking right back at him. This makes the skin on the back of his neck crawl; ex-military is well aware that he's dealing with powered people, and he has no idea what that means in this situation. Still, he hides it well (though perhaps not well enough from a person like Doug, who ought to be able to read the fear on his face), and cracks his neck to the side before the waitress returns.

"Okay, may I have the special, over easy, rye toast, and ham?" He grins at her, winningly. "Always love a good slice of ham."

At this precise moment, Doug's cell phone rings. It's an incoming call from X-Red.

*

Satisfied that the message was delivered, Doug turns his attention back to Laura.

Tutoring was more of an euphemism, in this case, and the frown from Laura at that has Doug hastening to correct, "Don't worry, we're not talking about school or homework." Right, find another way to explain euphemisms to someone who is very literal. Which means basically coming up with a whole new language, maybe, but that could wait. And with Laura already uncomfortable enough, Doug doesn't spend too much time pushing her on breakfast. It wasn't like he was Henry Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle here.

"All right," Doug begins. "Now then, what would you like to…"

The phone ringing, Doug holds a hand up. "Sorry," he says, a slight note of annoyance at the interruption displaying in the way his shoulder slumps as he answers the call. "Doug here. What's up? I'm in the middle of a meeting."

*

X-23 keeps her gaze upon the ex-military for a moment longer, even after Doug turns his attention back to her. While she would have liked to keep her attention on the man at the bar, Doug's words do pull her back in the moment. Her green eyed gaze transfers from the back of the man settled at the front of the diner to Doug's face, as she listens to what he has to say. Of course, when Doug's interrupted by the phone, X-23 doesn't seem to mind, or care, as her gaze goes right back to the man at the bar.

Nostrils will flare ever so slightly when that faint scent of fear finally drifts back to X-23. Fear is easier for her to pick up here, as most of the scents that can be smelled are much more light-hearted. Happiness, sleepiness, maybe some grumpiness, but hardly any fear and so the ex-military's scent sticks out like a sore thumb. Once that scent is smelled, X-23 will place both her hands atop the table now. And while it's rude to interrupt a person when they're speaking on the phone, X-23 still says in that emotionless voice of hers, "He is afraid now." Her pronouncement is said quite softly, but not soft enough that Doug shouldn't be able to pick it up easily enough, thanks to the two being at the same table.

*

"It's Kwabena," answers the voice on the other end. Kwabena is already out of the condo and is hustling toward his motorcycle; the sounds of morning traffic and city life are evident on the other end. "Sorry, but, we're in troubah. De Section has put out a hit. Dey've already made two attempts at Spidah-Woman and myself. Send a GPS ping to me, I'll meet you."

Without another word, Kwabena hooks the cellular phone to a special carrier on his motorcycle. The helmet is fixed on his head, and the engine fired.

Meanwhile, in the diner, ex-military reaches for his cellular phone again. He swipes from the news app over to his messages, and sends one more message.

SMS: 'GO.'

Outside, there's movement. From twelve different places, men in plain clothes produce artillery from their persons, mostly assault rifles. They begin closing in on the diner from all directions, weapons drawn, eliciting cries of surprise and terror from the people outside who are just trying to get to work. It's like they're coming out of the bloody woodwork.

*

"I see," Doug says, working to keep his voice neutral. His body language is tense now, though, as he glances up at Laura. "GPS on. I think somoene's already here…" he says, just before the windows shatter and chaos begin.

What follows is a short expletive in Klingonese that roughly translates to 'Your mother slurps predigested gagh, you toothless dogs!' before the phone is dropped, and Doug shifts to hold up… a butter knife. Uh. Yeah.

"Laura, um, other business caught up. I kinda need your help here. Can you like, take people out…?"

And then a sudden realization. "OH! Without killing!"

*

When the soldier receives that single-word message there's just enough shift in his scent that X-23 can detect it. While there's still fear there is now what X-23 can only describe as resolve mixed within it. He's made a decision now, or has decided upon some sort of action and X-23 is aware of it. It also doesn't help that X-23's sensitive hearing picks up the accented voice on the other side of the phone. The man that identified himself as Kwabena. The mention of trouble and a hit is easily picked out of all the words Kwabena says and while X-23 doesn't necessarily know who 'The Section' is, she now knows they're trouble At least, trouble for Doug.

And while X-23 doesn't know Doug all that while, he's part of the Institute and X-Red and that now makes him part of her 'family' and 'family' must be protected. At all costs.

The shouts and cries of alarm from outside are likewise picked up from outside, as she easily filters out those sharp noises from the daily grind. Her gaze will find its way back to Doug just in time to see him brandish the butter knife. While she would likely know how to usethat as an effective weapon, she has to briefly wonder if Doug does. Still, whatever doubt she feels at his ability to protect himself is pushed aside, as he gives her a mission. It's only when he adds that last line, that she will finally speak again. "I will try."

The man in the diner will be dealt with first, as he's the most noticable target in the crowd. Quickly now, X-23 moves and while she would normally deploy her claws at this point, she doesn't yet. She's going to try for non-lethal at first. Until she has no recourse but to kill.

*

Ex-Military turns around, pulling a sawed off shotgun from his satchel. He levels it upon X-23, lips spread into a vicious sneer. "Back off, sugar," he growls, and cocks the shotgun with a heavy sound. "Stand down!" If she doesn't stop, he'll open fire. Lotta good that'll do him, of course, but as far as ex-military knows, that sawed off will pump her full of lead and end her life pretty quickly.

Outside, the foot soldiers are closing in. A couple of people who are caught in their way are roughly grabbed and thrown aside without regard. Then, one by one, the mercs begin smashing the windows and the glass door, making for a way in.

Meanwhile, Kwabena's motorcycle is tearing through traffic. He knows these streets, he knows the patterns well. It doesn't take him long to get on the Brooklyn bridge, and with time running out, he veers the bike into the pedestrian travel lane. "Sorry!" he calls to those running and jogging as the motorcycle rips down the middle lane, pushing 130 mph.

*

Doug's ability to fight was pretty limited, for the most part, against weapons and people much stronger than he was.

And even more ludricious right now. Guns. Butter knife. Toss it aside!

But crowds…? Crowds had relatively easy language to read. Flee. Fight, move. Exit. That was, after all, one of the basic premises that the concept of Psychohistory would be based on - that it was easier to deal with large groups than with individual people, because groupthought and groupspeech tended to be much more limited.

With one group pushing another, Doug elects to re-direct the gunsmen group -away-, make them follow him. Which means immediately zipping for another area, trying to buy time to let Laura pick them off one by one. Presumably she functioned similarly to Logan, and it would be wiser to -not- let her get so full of lead she couldn't do anything.

First thing… panic! Pull the fire alarm, and keep moving! Did they have -sprinklers- in this place?

*

Yes, a lot of good that will do him, it seems.

And while the ex-military man offers that first warning and then follows it up with that second warning, all X-23 says is a flat, "No." And as soon as that single word leaves her mouth, the former assassin seemingly bursts into action.

SNIKT

That familiar sound may be heard by Doug, as X-23 finally releases the claws housed within her hands. As soon as those claws burst forth, X-23 immediately lunges forward, intending to cover the rest of the ground to the ex-military man with a quick tumble forward. At the end of the sommersault, X-23 will seemingly pop to her feet, hand claws still extended and already moving in a downward slash. Yes, she could go for that killing blow, but she is trying to follow Doug's last command. No killing. And so, X-23's attack will be aimed at cutting the gun in half versus thrusting them into the man's heart.

This close, it should be easy for the ex-military to see that X-23's features hold /no/ fear whatsoever. There's no worry, no anxiety, no nervousness, just blankness upon her features.

*

Ex-military's eyes go wide. The gun is dropped, and though he knows that look, he's determined. So he moves in and grapples with Laura, doing his best to press the advantage and stay away from those claws.

The fire alarm goes off, signaling the sprinkler system. There is panic, but it's quickly moved into a tide that puts the patrons in the way of the mercs. They were ordered not to kill any civilians. Hurting them is fine. There's a great deal of yelling and some pushing and shoving, but no weapons fire yet.

Shift barrels down and veers the motorcycle off the bridge, sending it skyward. The bike leaps over the ground beneath, and lands in a cement drainage ditch that runs deep into Brooklyn proper. What little water there is finds itself kicked up behind the Harley as it screams along, deftly dodging debris in the ditch as it closes in. Behind the helmet, Shift is all focus; he only hopes he gets there in time to do some good.

*

Huh. Of -course- the crowd never quite reacted correctly - groupspeech, groupthink was one thing, but groupLOGIC was completely out the window, the random element that always made Murphy laugh and cackle as he massaged -his- law.

Still, that at least was useful enough - if the mercs were caught up in the crowd, and weren't opening fire, Doug -could- use that to his advantage, at least.

Body language -was- a beautiful thing, and those dance lessons he'd had in the past was useful enough now, as Doug changes tactics. Instead of fleeing, he moves with the flow of the crowd, letting the wave clear by just enough to violently ram sharp pointy elbows and knees at the closest merc he could before the firearms were put in position to go off, and then flowing back into the crowd before they could react. And when there was no more crowd, he'd shift to between the soldiers, forcing them to hold back on fire lest they hit each other, doing what he could to thin out the mercenaries' rank.

*

Grappling. X-23 is quite capable of grappling and in reality is an expert at it, but there is little time here. Now she must be quick and dirty because more soldiers are coming in. Her wrists will seemingly be 'captured' in ex-military's hold and once she knows his hands are now likewise tied up, X makes her next attack. A second dual *SNIKT* can be heard, as X-23 pops the individual bone claws held within each foot.

Lifting one foot up X-23 will literally slash at ex-military's foot. Her adamantium covered bone claw will easily slice through his ankle, severing his foot from his leg. Even when the ex-military man cries out in pain, X-23 will still help him fall to the ground gently. Then she's tearing his pant leg open and a section off to fashion a tourniquet for him. "You will live." She states in that almost robotic voice of hers, as she helpfully stop the blood loss that she herself caused.

Once the man is settled and his dropped gun kicked out of the way, X-23 will turn her attention back to the crowd. Sure, she could have picked up the gun and used it, but there were too many innocents running about and while X-23 is an expert marksman, even she can't always guarantee chaos won't find her bullet going into someone unintended.

Blue eyes will now lock upon Doug, as she watches the man jab and ram his way through the mercenaries. Again her lips will tug down in a frown, before Laura is once again moving. She's now moving towards a small bunched group of mercs,three in total, and she's angling herself to come at them from behind. Once she's close enough, Laura will all but leap at them, her claws extended and a low growl releasing from her throat.

*

Doug's footwork is aided by his mastery of body language. Some of the mercs try to get at him, but their grabbing hands or thrown fists shred within inches of striking. His jabs and knee-hits won't do much against their padded body armor, but it's certainly annoying to them, and it serves to further distract them from overcoming the crowd.

Ex-military grabs his leg, staring wide-eyed at his amputated foot. He'll be spending a great deal of time at the V.A. in the future, God help him. The others that are bunched together are taken mostly by surprise; one of them manages to squeeze off four rounds that pelt Laura's left arm, luckily missing bone.

The loud gunfire, confined in this cramped space, elicits the crowd into a near frenzy. People scream and throw their hands over their heads, splashing water all over the place. Some of them try to get down on the floor, while others bum rush the only exit this small diner has.

"Regroup!" calls one man, and a handful of mercs make an effort to move toward the booths, hoping to regain the advantage. If they're able to reach the perimeter, Laura and Doug will be trapped and need to fight their way out, rather than work with the advantage that pandemonium gives them.

*

It wasn't as though Doug expected to take down trained military people (okay, maybe he had -some- hope, but that kinda went out the window unless he could disarm and smash people with the face, but these men were -trained- to not lose their arms so easily), but at least getting time for X-23 to come over was useful enough.

On the other hand, he didn't have much choice here, other than to move with the crowd while Laura was doing her veg-o-matic thing, unless… "Take out their weapons!"

*

While the four bullets easily slide into X-23's arm, there's barely a grunt from the girl. In fact, her blood only drips out of the wounds for a few minutes at the most, before the bullet wounds quickly knit together. The merc's armor doesn't seem phase her ability to slash at them, either, as claws easily puncture through the armor. Again, she dispatches them in as non-lethal way as she can, though the man that managed to hit her gets an extra crack into the head (claws sheathed) for his troubles.

Still trying to get herself over to Doug, X-23 will plow through the crowd, only managing to pause a few times to push people towards the shattered windows and away from the mercs. "Get out."

When X-23 arrives at Doug's side, the man that's obviously leading this squad clearly (to X-23's ears) calls out there-group. "We are losing our advantage." She says to Doug, even as she reaches out to grab Doug and push him towards the bar. "Get behind the counter." And while he mentions taking out there weapons, she seemingly ignores it, as she steps away from the young man again. She'll get rid of them, yes, and it's not just the weapons she'll be getting rid of. It may seem like the men are winning at first, as Laura lags behind by a second or two behind them and seconds are what counts in a battle. Thankfully though, when the men bunch up together, striving for those booths, that seemingly works in X-23's favor. Jumping up to a tabletop, X-23 will cast a quick glance at the men before she literally leaps upward into the air, somersaulting as she goes, so that when she 'lands' she'll be landing feet first - toes pointed downward. Those singular metal covered bone claws upon her feet are still extended out and when the young woman lands upon her 'mark', the soldier will find those claws easily sliding through both of his clavicles as she lands upon his armored back. Her momentum is enough to knock the man downward which throws her forward; X-23 only encourages this movement, as she pulls her claws free of the man's shoulders (which are likely destroyed now) and tumbles upon the crowd. When she pops up, there's the possibility that she'll be surrounded by the men now, but shedoesn't seem to care as her gaze looks towards the man she tagged as the leader.

*

The more the diner clears out, the more advantage is given to the mercenaries. X-23 makes quick work of her targets, and Doug won't have any trouble getting behind the counter, if that is indeed his play. The thing is, this gives the mercs much more reason to use their weapons. And they do. Not those who are surrounding Laura, but the handful of others who aren't broken and bleeding aim toward Doug.

He'll be able to read their targeting methods, and he'll be able to dodge the incoming bullets, but it's going to be close. Damn close.

The assault rifles open up, tearing through cheap pleather seat cushions and shredding plyboard furniture; yet while the rifles fill the air with their deafening pops, a motorcycle goes sliding down the sidewalk outside, having been set down on its left side.

Shift barrels through the roof, crashing down onto one of the mercs who have opened fire. Both go tumbling to the floor, the masked Avenger grappling with the mercenary's gun. It swings around, taking aim at another merc's legs, and opens fire, shredding through the second mercenary's legs and toppling him to the ground. This happens before Shift can yank the gun out of the merc's hands, and with a growl, he begins to bend the rifle.

"I suggest," he says, while facing one of theothers. "You boys run."

The exposed skin on the African's face becomes rocky, like patches of matte obsidian. The rifle whines in protest, and after two seconds, Shift just snaps the bloody thing in half like a toothpick. "Befah de girl and I make you shit yahselves."

*

Doug -was- going to make his play for the counter, seeing as he wasn't getting to disarm anyone easily, and without some sort of bludging weapon that would work on their armor, he wouldn't get very far. And who knows, maybe he'd find something useful behind a counter like…

What the hell, how -hot- did they make their coffee here?

At least it would buy him enough time for him to be absolutely relieved when Shift comes down through the roof of the ceiling and…

Oh hell, his -laptop-!

And yes, he's going to be reckless enough to go for it, and heaven help anyone who gets in his way.

*

Even though X-23 is surrounded, save for the downed man she had jumped upon, she still shows very little emotion to the group. It's only when the men turn their guns towards Doug, that X-23 will once again move. She's darting forward to the closest man with his gun at Doug, and as soon as she's within reach of him, she'll simply sweep his legs out from under him, and aim a hard punch to his face. The gun will likewise be taken from him and tossed away, a faintly feral growl leaving her throat again.

Sadly, however, she's not quite fast enough to get the others and poor Doug will still have to dodge a healthy hail of bullets.

Her hands were just beginning to reach for another merc, before the roof all but exploded down upon them. While other people might reflexively duck down from said roof falling, X-23 doesn't. Instead her gaze will go towards Shift who so neatly took-out a gun-toting merc as well as gun. When the obsidian skinned man offers that threat of his, X-23 likewise adds to the soldiers, "I do not wish to kill you, but I will if need be." And her claws upon hands are still out and held in a rather offensive position. Green eyes will also seek Doug's lanky form out, to make sure he's still in the land of the living.

*

The action stops for a precious few moments. Seems Doug picked a good time to go after his laptop. "It's him," says one of the mercs.

"The unkillable one."

"I've been dead befah," Shift answers. And then a seemingly wicked grin appears on his face. "But not by you fuckfaces."

Three of the mercenaries level their weapons and open fire. Shift does nothing to dodge them. Instead, the bullets seem to go right through him, pegging the empty booth behind and shredding it. Halfway through the onslaught, he glances over to X-23 with a half cocked eyebrow, and gives her a nod of his head.

Then, hetransforms into a roiling cloud of black smoke, with thicker tendrils that move and writhe as if alive.

"Oh God!" one of the mercenaries cry out.

The cloud bursts forward, forming three long prongs that find faces, then mouths and noses. The smokey arms plunge in, holding the mercs in place as they gasp and choke for air.

Do your thing, claws.

*

Everything is taken in by X-23, but perhaps only Doug will see the very faintest of pauses from the young woman, when Shift transforms into smoke. That miniscule pause lengths for another half of micro-second when the roiling smoke seemingly holds the mercs in place.

Still, X-23 knows what to do and quickly now, she'll all but go down the line and knock every single merc out. No killing, at least not this time.

While others might use nerve pinches, or sleeper holds, X-23 goes for simplicty. She'll apply just enoug pressure on the carotid artery to send them into a quick slumber. Once that's done, she'll turn back towards Doug, though her eyes stay upon the smoke which holds the slumped soldiers still.

*

Suffocate a man for just long enough? He'll pass out, but the automatic functions of the brain will keep the lungs pumping. Suffocate a man for too long and he'll die. Shift pushes that envelope, but he has done this trick quite a few times. He understands the way the inside of a human lungfeels; he can recognize the difference between the tremble of death, and the verge of shutdown. He withdraws at the right moment, leaving the men to slump down, unconscious but still alive.

The smoke becomes man-shaped, then resolidifies into a human man once more.

Kwabena looks around, taking stock of the numbers. "Twelve men for one pahson?" he asks, clearly vexed. "If dat isn't ovahkill, I don't know what is." He pulls the mask over his face, concealing his identity save for the lower half; the uniform is a thick gunmetal gray easily mistaken for spandex, but the unstable molecules it's made of are far more sophisticated than costume material.

His face turns from Laura to Doug. "You okay, boss?" he asks, before looking Laura's way. Curiosity is concealed by the mask.

*

Clutching his laptop, staying clear of the carnage as the two main fighters take care of the groups, Doug offers a weak smile. "I should be flattered, maybe?" he says, as he tucks his computer away before looking back and forth between Shift and Laura. "Oh, you haven't met? Kwabena, this is Laura Kinney. Laura, Kwabena Odame. I was working with him for another task that I guess -this- was a response to. I'd ask what the hell is going on, but this isn't the place for it. You wanna come along, Laura?"

*

While Shift's curiosity is concealed, Laura's isn't. Well, if you can read it that is. There's a slight rise of her eyebrows to signify that curiosity of hers, as she takes in the now re-formed man before her. His question about her health causes her gaze to drop momentarily to the now healed bullet wounds; the scars even now fading to unblemished skin.

"Yes." Comes her monotone response, even as her bright green eyes returns to Shift for a moment. Then she's turning her gaze to Doug, as he fills her in on some of the details on just /why/ these men wanted to kill him. Again that slight frown tugs her lips downward, but she will nod to both men, "Yes. I will join."

*

There are police and fire closing in. Kwabena doesn't admire the prospect of explain this to either. Plus, the sprinklers are soaking his uniform, making it even more flattering (ahem) than it was before. To say he's itching to leave might be an understatement.

"Or, just Shift." He would offer her a hand, but the glove is soaked. Without another word, he moves to follow Doug as well, clearly intent on letting Doug lead the way. He'll grab his bike once they get outside.

*

"Right. Guess I'll have to explain -some- things, Laura… c'mon, you haven't seen where X-Men Red is yet, have you? We're at the airport, in this terminal that we bought up, going co-op…" Doug says, leading the way. Probably much more interesting for Laura, at least, thanthe next line:

"And then after we're done, yes, I -will- make sure you're all set for school."

Cue Laura's expression.

*

Like a dutiful soldier, X-23 follows, falling back slightly to bring up the rear, as it were. It's only when Doug adds that last bit, that X-23's expression shifts /ever so slightly/ to something that can only be described as a peevish (for her!) expression.

School. Yuck.

Fighting is so much better and easier for her to understand.

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