The Hand that Kills, Part 3: Black, White, and Red All Over

March 18, 2016:

The Hand attacks at a fundraising party at Fordham University

Characters

NPCs: The Hand

Mentions: Paul Manning

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The Kerrison Building
Fordham University
Upper East Side
Manhattan
10:04 PM

"We're late."

Matt Murdock, dressed in a simple black tuxedo, leans in toward his date, Lara Croft as the pair ascend a marble staircase and make their way to the ballroom. Many of the city's most important dignitaries are here for assorted reasons. The official reason for the gathering is a gala for all of the donors to Fordham's Anthropology department which has been a major focus for the University this year.

Unofficially this is schmooze central. Business elite mix with governmental officials. There's also a smattering of underground criminal elements, but most have done a good enough job to avoid too much official attention. Either way it's a mixture of high class, and Matt Murdock is feeling slightly out of place.

Rather than some sort of string quartet or other classical music style, the songs come through on a PA and carry a more modern feel. Not quite techno music, but faster than Mozart. And with a beat.

Lady Croft is on Matt's arm, looking every bit the British Aristocrat she only behaves like on occasions like this one. Her hair is down and curled in a sweeping wave, she's wearing some modest makeup, and her dress is grey silk covered in black beading, one shoulder, with a strategic cut out at the waist, and a high slit. The most strategic part of it is that it manages to show skin but hide most of her scars from her various adventures.

"Of course we're late. No one of any importance arrives to one of these functions on time," Lara explains to Matt with a grin. "I detest these things, but if I don't at least make an appearance and drop off a check, the tabloids will be all over me." She glances around, looking for anyone she might recognize among the masses.

"Are you prepared to be photographed with me, Matthew? I'm sure there will be a ruckus over my mystery date," Lara adds.

Sara Pezzini is no one of any importance. Which is why she was here not only on time, but early. She's here in something of an official capacity, though. On the guest list, she's no one in particular. But with all the artifacts and dealers moving through this benefit, she's here in a semi-official capacity, tracking some of those dealers.

It doesn't mean she hasn't dressed to suit the party, though. She's gone with classic black, in a silk number with a simple cut, cowl neck, and a low-scooped back with her hair pulled over one shoulder. The bracelet at her wrist is the only jewelry she wears, though it's certainly a statement piece.

Ford knew the University's name had nothing to do with his own, but as he was on a charity streak, it made sense for him to stop by. How could he resist donating a bit of money to his own partial name?

Unlike most of the folks here, Ford isn't quite dressed as fancy and done up as most of the others, but the way he carries himself and behaves, one can understand why: he doesn't see a need to. Why dress to impress when he can simply come out and say what he wants, and get just about the same result, if not better? And what he wants is to make a pass at just about every lady he runs across. Though, he does pause as Croft and Murdock enter, his eyes lingering more on Croft than her date. He'd move in on his own time… for now, he spied someone a bit more approachable (ie. nobody lacthed onto her arm).

"And here I thought astronomy was the course one took to see heavenly bodies. Clearly I was lied to." Ford smirked as he approached behind Sara, bowing politely despite his choice of words. "Had I known ladies like you could be found here, I might have pursued more academics more seriously. Shame on me for not taking my studies as seriously as I should've."

Julia comes into Upper East Side from Upper Manhattan.

"I have no problem with that," Matthew says, holding his cane in front of him since he has Lara's arm. "If nothing else, it'll get Foggy's underwear in a bunch for a day or so. Do you want anything to drink?"

As Matthew makes his way towards the bar, he notices a scent he's not smelled in quite some time. For many men it is alluring. Strong, yet feminine. Mysterious, yet unmistakeable. He knows that smell. And unlike most men, however, the odor makes him grit his teeth.

Sara Pezzini is here.

He plays it cool, however, and makes it to the bar, ordering scotch for himself.

Meanwhile, downstairs and out into the night air, the two men at the door are no longer there. Perhaps it means that it's late enough that they don't expect any more visitors. Perhaps it means something else.

"A drink would be lovely," Lara replies, "Whiskey, neat." She squeezes Matt's arm gently. "Sara is here. If we go over to say hello to my old friend, do you promise to behave? I know the two of you don't exactly get along." She pauses. "Unless fences were mended while I was away?" She tilts her head slightly before giving a not to a passing notable in the archaeology field.

"Doctor Kanada, so good to see you. It's been so long." Schmoozing, she hates it, but she can put on a fake smile with the best of them.

Many people are here for so many reasons… Julia cleans up nice, and she even got a babysitter tonight so… she's in a slinky black dress slit up one side to show a lot of her left thigh. While many spy types would strap a weapon to that leg, she doesn't.
What does she have strapped to her leg? Nothing! Well, stockings but you know. Stop staring pervs!
She does have a tiny cellphone slipped into her clutch purse, and a data spike/USB hacking SHIELD toy that slips into the bottom of the phone like a stylus. She's not important or cool, so she wasn't late. She was there nice and early and was just chatting up someone over to one side while sipping a glass of champagne and keeping her eyes open, her head on a swivel.

"Buddy," Sara laughs as she turns toward Ford, "If you were going to study academics the way you studied pick-up lines, it's probably a good thing you saved yourself the money." She's got her own tumbler of whiskey already in hand, taking a sip with a crooked smile that takes some of the sting out of her response. Some of it.

"Donor, then?" she asks, giving him a quick once-over. It's a sharp look, taking in the outfit an the attitude alike and filing them away under the appropriate headings. "I hear there were some interesting items in the last fundraising push."

"You talk like I'm blowing smoke. I don't give out compliments unless I mean them~" Ford replied, smirking and nodding his head. "Never would've been good at the books anyways. I had…" Ford paused a moment as his eyes drifted back to another lady he'd had his eye on. Slim black dress, plenty of leg, little left for the imagination… well, the normal imagination, anyways. "…other things to preoccupy my mind."

"You could say that. You could also say I'm just here looking for a date. Both work just as well." Ford looked down at some of the items on display, before turning back. "Actually, I've developed something of a fascination with African cultures since my last safari. You wouldn't believe me if I told you why. Though I find my attention keeps getting…" Eyes roam down. Eyes roam back up. "…pulled away by more important things."

"I think this dress cost more than my monthly rent… when I had my own place and not a friggin' safehouse." mutters Julia into her tiny little blended latex patch/neck/subvocal mic.
She sips her champagne again and sweeps her gaze about the room. "I'm not seeing the target I was briefed on." she subvocalizes as she smiles and watches the room… moving towards the bar so she can get a better position to study folks. "You're -sure- he's supposed to be here tonight?" she adds subvocally. "Okay.. not criticizing. Just… askin'." she mutters while keeping her smile on.

"I can be nice," Matt says as he reaches Lara's side and hands her the requested drink. His is similar, but a more golden color. "Can she?" He tilts his head towards Pezzini, realizing that since he's left for the bar she's picked up another. "Who's he? Anyone we know? Maybe, if we're lucky, he'll have the same height of pedestal to place himself on as she does."

"Who'm I kidding? No one has that high of a pedestal."

Matt never even hears them climb the steps. Their movements make less sound than a mouse's foot and they've been trained to slow their heart rates to almost immeasurable levels. Against everyone's blacks and whites and grays, the scarlet red of their clothes stick out. As does the growing crimson stain of their first victim, stabbed through the back by the edge of a katana.

"Lara…" Matt says. Most men, more heroic men, might put themselves in front of their dates. Murdock, however, knows that Lara needs know help. Undoubtedly, she will realize that he's running to the bathroom not because he's a coward, but because he needs a change of clothing.

A split second later, the rest of the ballroom is erupting in screaming as well. Their numbers multiply, as do the numbers of those they mow down.

Lara accepts her drink from Matt and takes a swig, steeling herself for what she expects will be some really daggery eye-shots from her BFF when she sees her with Murdoch. Again. She's been out of the country for 9 months on some expedition or other, but it seems like she's still making time with the blind lawyer whenever she's back in the States. "I don't know hi-…"

Lara stops mid-sentence as she spots the flash of red. "Dammit, Matt get somewhere safe!" she hollers. It's for show, she knows he needs a wardrobe change. For her part, the Tomb Raider slides a knife from a sheath under her dress. Not having her bow or guns with her is irritating. One really doesn't prefer to fight ninjas with just a ceramic blade. But it will do until she can improvise something better.

She heads towards the first person in red PJs to head them off at the pass.

"Oh… there he is. I'm moving in to get this gear within range of his…." And… that is quite literally when the sword stroke slices her target almost in half.
Julia pauses and stares for a long moment. Normally she wouldn't hesitate like this but, she was so focused on her job…. that she is caught completely off guard here. "Shit." she mutters into her comm device. "Looks like a ninja attack or something. Target is down, repeat target is down. I am engaging to try to keep civilians safe."
The reply, "No, you have your…" and Julia rips the latex patch off her neck and tosses it aside. She is an off book agent anyway, that gives her a bit of freedom.
She didn't -bring- her costume with her damnit. She thought she'd be fine without it for one goddamn night. Besides, it's not like a full bodysuit would've fit under -this- dress. Hell, a bikini style costume -may- have showed. But she's moving forward and grabs a serving tray off of the bar… turning and shipping it full force towards one of the attackers. She's -trying- to draw their attention onto her instead of the others… and she picks up a second tray to use as a weapon.. or at least a shield.

"Mmmhmm," Sara hums to Ford, watching him eye up the room with an amused look. "You might be surprised about just how much strange I can believe. Possibly especially in Africa." Before she can elaborate, though, there's screaming in the room, and she sets her glass down. "Oh look," she says with mock cheer. "It looks like I won't even have to explain."

Somehow she managed to put a gun under that dress, and she pulls it out in a smooth draw, moving toward the commotion. "SHIELD, put the weapons down!" she calls ahead of herself, with no expectation it's actually going to happen.

Ford blinks as the screaming starts. Odd… ususally, that doesn't happen until later back at his place. But when he spies blood, he figures it's time to mosey out of the way. He didn't want to get involved and using his powers here would absolutely put him at risk for earning trouble. "Sounds like you have things under control… if you'll excuse me, I'm not dressed for a brawl tonight." Ford opts to find the nearest exit that he can and make tracks out of here. No, he didn't like leaving these folks to their fate, but if SHIELD agents were present…

Finding a nearby door, Ford steps through it for a moment, before pausing outside. '…oh hell. Curse me and my bleeding heart!' Ford quickly started removing his suit jacket and reaching back for the balaclava in his back pants pocket, slipping it on. 'I'm going to regret this. I just /know/ it.'

Blood begins to pool over the floor, getting the ballroom soaked and covered in bloody footprints as the battle begins to spread out. Thankfully, those who stayed instead of ran seem to have been partially successful in preventing more death. By now, many of the innocents have already fled and are running out and down the stairs while the red-clad ninjas enter into melees with heroes who have chosen to stay.

One ninja takes a swing at Lara. He seems intent to use his longer reach and blade to his advantage as he slashes at her wildly, attempting to get a lucky shot and lop off an arm while simultaneously keeping her at bay.

Julia's ruse works. At the last moment, the ninja slices through the serving tray, cleaving it cleanly in two. It clatters against the bar loudly. Though it did no harm to the attacker, it was clear his sole attention was now on Julia.

Sara's voice is one who has brought world renown terrorists to their knees, but the man that comes at her doesn't seem to care. Maybe he knows that if he gives up he'll have no chance. Or maybe he knows that if he stabs at her quickly enough he might get the advantage. Either way, he thrusts at her, intent to stab at her chest.

Worse, there's someone coming from behind Sara as well. Moving silently and with an outstretched blade, he looks intent to stab her through the back.

THIIIPBOOONG

There's an additional clattering of metal upon the tile and the sound of Daredevil's club recoiling. "I think that's four you owe me, Pezzini."

"Pez! These guys won't stand down!" Lara shouts to Sara, using her knife to slice the bottom part off her dress off from the knees down so she can move easier. She twirls the cloth into a rope and slaps it around the blade of the ninja attacking her. The lithe woman leaps over his head, twisting the cloth to bring the blade towards his own body and hauling him off his feet with a sharp push off a nearby wall. "Do you have an extra piece?" she finishes her question to the SHIELD agent and bearer of the Witchblade.

Croft can't help but grin when Daredevil's familiar voice is heard. "Well, well, at least one costume showed up to protect us helpless rich philanthropists," she quips.

Grinning, Julia rolls her neck and tosses her tray into the air, catching it edge upward with index finger and thumb. Then… charging ninja.
Her psi-web-network casts outward… invisible strandes of psi energy that tell her where everyone around her is, what direction they are moving, and all of that sort of thing. Which is how she is able to turn her eyes towards the others… and hurl that tray towards the back of someone about to lacerate one of the others in the room…. and still lean back doing almost a full backbend as the sword swipes through the air where she was just at… without even looking at her attacker.
She murmurs, "Surprise." as she plants her hands behind her and kicks both feet upwards with a large amount of force, flipping over to land on her feet a couple yards back from where she -was- standing. Sure, the handplant kick always works in the movies, but this one isn't a Capoeira style kick so much as a gymnastic flailing of the legs.

Jacket off. Mask on. Shoes off. Dress shirt off. Had to be sure he wasn't recognizable. Ford didn't like the prospect of getting involved, and the prospect of using his powers made it even worse. Hopefully, these quick changes should make him hard to note. He ran through a quick check of his deeper voice, just to make sure that SHIELD woman couldn't connect his voice to him. Why was he such a sucker for the ladies and making it hard to keep his cover? Ford finally finished his quick change and opened the door again.

Ford's eyes quickly snap on one ninja looking to do harm to the lady in sleek and black he saw earlier. But… she seemed capable of handling herself. Ford instead opted to take a shot at the ninja closest to him. In a blur, Ford took a quick lap around the room (80 mph let him get away with that), before skidding to a halt at one of the ninjas and raising a leg up, delivering a lightning fast side kick with enough force to knock a hole in the wall. At that strength, it should be enough to cripple this guy. He wasn't worried about holding back on these guys; they clearly had no intent of doing the same.

Sara doesn't hesitate when the ninja comes toward her. She pulls the trigger, center mass. "Lara, long time no see. I tried to call when I was in England, but they said you were out." As she lowers her gun, the Witchblade climbs up her arm and across her torso, a heavy, curved blade already forming in her hand. "Here, take mine." She tosses the gun to Lara, just in time to spin and slice through another attacker.

"Magical suit of armor," she points out to Daredevil with a smirk. "Not sure I owe you any. But out of curiosity, what would the first two be?"

"Wish I'd gotten here sooner," Daredevil says to Croft just before he strikes a vicious backhand blow to a ninja's head. He goes low to sweep the leg out of the other one, popping up near Pezzini.

"Unfair advantage," he remarks about the armor. "I'm hurt you don't remember, but doubt you'd give me credit anyways." he says plainly, scanning with his ears and radar for more of them. "How's Manning?"

The foe that Ford kicks indeed will likely be crippled. There's a sick thud as he hits the wall and begins to slide down it in an unsmooth fashion before falling to the floor. Similarly, Croft chucks her foe to the wayside after her acrobatic flip. The handplant flip brings Julia out of danger in its elegance, and at a good point too, because suddenly:

All of the lights go off.

And they stay off for about fifteen seconds.

When they come back on, all of the hand, including those wounded, crippled, and fatigued. They've just vanished.

Daredevil is leaning down already, going through one of the dead men's wallet. There's a soft exhale as he runs his hand over one of the credit cards.

Lara stomps the downed ninja in the face to make sure he's out before she whips around to catch the gun Sara tosses her. "I was in Tibet and a few other spots doing some research and raiding. I'm sorry I missed you!" Nothing like holding a conversation in the middle of a ninja battle.

Croft racks the slide on the pistol to ready a fresh round as her face goes stone cold. Her arm levels out and she begins firing with deadshot accuracy at any red-clad weapon wielder heading for a civilian. She empties the magazine before the lights go out.

When they come back on, the barrel is still smoking, but the ninjas are gone. "I really hate it when they do that," she mutters. "I'd better go head off the press so medical personnel can get in, and make sure Matthew got out all right," she notes, aimed at Sara but really to Daredevil. She heads out to deal with the paparazzi.

Ford blinks as the lights go out, before turning back on and leaving him the only one wearing something remotely like a ninja mask. Not good. Granted, he was also the only one without a shirt or top on. Perhaps his stunning upper body tone would distract long enough for him to make an exit (or so his wishful thinking would lead one to believe). Time to scoot back out before he gets caught. He gives the remaining heroes a collective two finger salute, before dashing out one of the side doors. He had to make his way back to his clothes and get changed before being noticed. Part of him DID wonder what the heck that was all about… why would ninjas attack a university fundraiser? Was it something on display they wanted? Perhaps best not to ask those things, lest he wind up even deeper in trouble than he was already.

"And here I thought we were a team, Red," Sara quips back to Daredevil, catching a ninja's blade on her own and shoving back with considerably more skill than she's shown in the past. Apparently she's been practicing. "Manning's keeping busy-" she starts to answer before the lights go out and she curses. When they're back on, with the ninjas gone, she curses again. "Really? Ninjas now?"

Her feet connecting with her assailant, Julia got back to her feet, and the lights went out.
That didn't really bother her so much since she knew where everyone was. So she pressed her attack… and lashed out with a web of psi energy to try to grab her attacker as he got back to his feet. Then… he was gone before the web struck.
When the lights come back on, she finds herself staring dumbstruck just like everyone else.. but for an entirely different reason. She is stunned by the fact that the ninjas all just… up and poofed like they were made out of air. It is creepy. She was able to track them all at once and then.. there was nobody to track. Now.. where did she put that comm device?

Daredevil stands, and moves over towards the other corpse, reaching down for the wallet once again, opening it. He finds a credit card again and wipes at the face. "Umberto Rodriguez. Finnigan O'Malley." He looks up to Lara and Sara, "Rumored heads." There's a sharp intake of air as he tries to think.

Last week, when she'd come back to town, Matt had told Lara he wasn't sure what these ninjas had wanted. Now he was a little more sure.

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