The Fifth Hit

February 04, 2016:

The bounty on Shift gets personal. Far too personal. (Warning, vulgar language and disturbing imagery ahead)

Hella Kitchen, Kathman's Law Office

Characters

NPCs: ZZ-Top, Ashley and Lisa Kate, Carter Johnson, and the augmented Section Mercenary.

Mentions: rant aspect

Plot:

Mood Music: Me and The Devil by Gil Scott-Heron


Fade In…

"What happened?"

For many blocks, the flashing lights of first responders were visible in the damp, darker streets of Hell's Kitchen. They were centered around a smouldering mass of brick and ash that once was a six story mid-rise. In its basement was a speakeasy humbly titled 'Krank's Cellar', a dingy place where lowlifes, soldiers of fortune, fences and the like used to hang out, conduct business, partake in general debauchery. It was popular amongst those who knew of it.

"Whole place burned to the ground," answered one of the Cellar's more frequent patrons; an older, bearded man people affectionately called 'ZZ-Top'. He'd been a member of the Hell's Angels when he was a young man; the fact that he's speaking with Kwabena Odame is a sure sign of the times. Thirty years back? He'd have been curb stomping the son of a bitch over his skin color. "Firefighters'r sayin' its arson, ain't no fire burns that fast."

Kwabena, standing at the very back of a small crowd, looked away from the former biker to frown in thought. "How many peopah were…"

"Dunno," answered ZZ-Top. "They're still diggin' out cooked corpses."

Explains the smell, Kwabena thought to himself. Still, the picture before him wasn't unfamiliar. It was the work of professionals.

Instinct drove him to the prepaid smartphone in his pocket. Scrolling through news feeds, paying specific attention to the crime pages, he found a headline that made his blood run cold. The owner of his favorite cellular phone store, where he always acquired his prepaid and untraceable phones? Guy by the name of Abed Mohsin. Shot dead, with one fatal gunshot wound to the back of his head. Execution style.

"Shit."

"What?" asked the old man.

But Kwabena was already gone, running for his motorcycle parked not far away. "Fuck! God damnit!"

The phone was clipped to its study carrier, the Iron-883's engine fired, and he took off through the streets, headed uptown toward the Silk Stocking District. One dial was made, stabbing at the screen while weaving through traffic in a deadly pattern, but there was no answer. A second dial. A third. Nothing.

On the open road of Central Park East, he opened the throttle and reached 138 mph in no time. Kwabena weaved and bent his bike through limited traffic, blew through red lights, and performed stunts that would risk a normal man's life; but he was no normal man. Silver eyes carried an glare of intensity not often seen, focused as they were on keeping his bike in one piece.

Even a neighborhood as affluent as the Upper East has its seedy streets. Upon one of these, the motorcycle came to a harsh rest, it's kickstand thrown down and it's rider leaping off, making for the door in a full run. He kicked it open, not caring to check whether it were locked, and made for the offices of U. Samuel Kathman, Esq., the famed criminal law attorney seen on all of those cheesy bus stop ads.


Ashley and Lisa Kate, the skinny, blonde, and adderol-fueled receptionists should have greeted him. Instead, Kwabena found the young girls in the lobby, their mouths and chests mauled open, organs and teeth spilling out, blood on their torn clothes and smeared on the floor.

A small number of patrons were present in the waiting room. Some standing, some still in their seats; their bodies broken, bones shattered and bent in unnatural ways. A horrible sight to see, but the sight itself didn't phase Kwabena as it should. He's seen worse.

Moving on, he opened the door past the reception desk, only to find another body in the corridor beyond. A large, rotund fellow named Carter Johnson, security. His flabby corpse torn to pieces, with the head simply missing, torn off with what would appear to have been very sharp teeth. A trail of blood led right to the lawyer's office door, peppered with spat out teeth and a single, bloodstained eyeball.

The door was cracked, a blue glow coming from within. A glow Kwabena recognized, and drew a deep sense of warning in his gut.

Throwing the door open, hefound a large man looming over the lawyer's expensive desk. A large, blue energy field surrounded him, shaped vaguely like some kind of demonic lizard, with an open jaw and impossibly sharp claws. The office was in shambles. The lawyer, Sam Kathman, lay against the wall behind an overturned, oversized leather chair.

Kathman was still breathing, but not for long.

In the lawyer's right hand was grasped a pistol, unable to aim it considering the angle at which his broken forearm was bent. His shirt was torn open, lungs heaving behind a smear of torn flesh and blood. He turned weakly to look at Kwabena, and opened his mouth to speak.

He never had the chance, for the monster before him lashed out, slicing through the lawyer's neck. Fresh blood spurt forth, and Kathman's head fell back, attached by bone and the gurgling of his open trachea.

Eyes wide, Kwabena looked on as it happened, feeling an old familiar rage welling up inside. A rage kept at bay only because he was a changed man who didn't trust himself.

He didn't trust himself to do the right thing.

In that short span of time, the blue-flamed killer reached out and snatched up an item from Kathman's near lifeless left hand. A USB thumb drive, within which was stored a complete bio-digital backup made from the nanite programming held within Melody Kenway. Her entire essence, a copy of which had been downloaded and stored into so many terabytes of solid state memory.

The creature slapped the thumb drive into a port at his neck, and tracers came to life beneath the skin, starting at the neck and spreading across his entire body

."NO!!!!"

The tracer lined mercenary turned to look at Kwabena. The Ghanaian's silver eyes were wide and filled with blind rage. His mouth peeled open to unleash an unbridled howl of vicious anger as his body transformed into super-solid, and he threw himself at Kathman's killer.


The ensuing battle was one of heedless ferocity on both ends. The creature swung with its claws and teeth, but they tore across Shift's enhanced skin with little to no effect. Shift threw his fists, arms, head, feet; indeed, every part of him at the enemy, but his blue force field kept the Avenger's onslaught at bay.

The duel wrecked Kathman's office. The desk was smashed, curtains ripped asunder, paperwork scattered, ripped and charred. Still, the two enemies came at each other with mounting speed and lethal attacks, both hell bent on destroying each other and anything in their way. For Kwabena, it was personal.

This man had killed his friends, came after people and places dear to him. It was a measure designed to be personal, and now, he was downloading the memories and knowledge of a woman he once loved; a woman he still cared for, deeply, despite their strained relationship resulting from Kwabena's death, resurrection, and shattered soul.

Eyes glowing with blind rage, Kwabena screamed with every attack, but the duel was going nowhere. With every second, more of Melody's programming was being assimilated by the enemy. It was fast time for Kwabena to turn shit up to 11.

Backing down, the mutant's screaming became a low growl. His body quickly transformed into a man-shaped pile of black, smoky tendrils, and not but a second later, those tendrils ignited into super-excited gas. When he next threw himself at the blue werewolf, he was no longer a man; he was burning with the heat and intensity of a nuclear warhead.

Bio-plasma met blue energy with enough force to melt the paint from office walls and ignite flammables within the lawyer's office. An explosion of force threw everything against the four walls, launching Shift upward and forcing the werewolf off its feet. Both slammed through the ceiling and blew clean out of the building, headed skyward like a meteorite of white and blue.

Upward and upward they went. Try as he might, Shift couldn't break through that force field and reclaim the thumb drive, so he drove the digital polymorphic-enhanced attacker beyond the skyline, through the troposphere and stratosphere alike, and into the near reaches of outer space.

At long last, the creature lost consciousness. Shift dug his hand into the forcefield with a terrible grimace, until the thumb drive melted in his fiery grasp, stopping the download before completion. He gave one heave to the werewolf, hoping against logic that he might be strong enough to throw the man out of orbit and on a trajectory of infinity. But the Avenger had stretched himself to his limit, and began falling back into the atmosphere alone, burning a dim white.

Some minutes later, a ball of white fire pierced the clouds outside of Boise, only to land in a cattle field some miles from the metropolitan center. Only then did Kwabena's fire burn out, leaving him curled up in a fresh crater, grasping the molten slag that once was Melody's backup.

Eyes bloodshot with the remnant of anger turned to look at the night sky above, and a vengeful scowl formed on his face. That day, Kwabena swore to hunt down this new enemy, never to stop until the augment was defeated… permanently.

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