No Blue Skies Ahead

March 27, 2016:

Shift enlists the help of Claire in his attempts to interrogate a captured Section Augment. (Vulgarity, disturbing imagery, and a racial slur)

Hell's Kitchen and beyond.

Characters

NPCs: Cyber-Eye, Sherry the hooker

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Bullet The Blue Sky by U2


Fade In…

Its been twenty four hours, give or take. The clock is well past midnight when there comes a knock on the door; Shift is looking for the ER Nurse.

The African is still dressed in his spandex-like costume of gunmetal gray. His face carries with it an expression of dull intent, as if he's blocked out his actions of the past few hours. The silver eyes are devoid of emotion.

*

All her friends are stable. The arguments have been had about going to the hospital, Claire has lost, as usual. Some sleep has been gotten in short shifts, but not all that much. But life has calmed. No more ninjas, so far, and no more weird thugs. Claire has showered and changed, still borrowing Lara's clothing so the slacks rest rather low on her hips and the shirt is, well… Claire definitely fills it out, we'll just say that, but the clothes are clean and she looks half put together despite her own aches. It's hard to wrap your own ribs, sometimes.

The woman steps over to the door, looking the spandex-clad man up and down. He'd be handsome if he didn't look quite so dead inside. "Yeah? You hiding somethin' under there that finally is bleedin' enough to bother you?" She asks, giving him another evaluating gaze with those dark, considering eyes.

*

"I don't bleed," Kwabena answers the nurse. "Not easily." It's an answer, at least, and now the woman probably has a better idea of just who or what she's dealing with. "I'm going to need yah help with something different. No questions asked." He nods his head down the old hallway from where he came; there's an elevator at the end of the hall, and a motorcycle waiting outside. He'll give her about four seconds to make a decision, or to slam the door in his face.

*

"Convenient for you." Claire states flatly, just about as mouthy as the rest of this group, it seems. But then, her voice has *just* the slightest edge of an accent, someone who grew up speaking more Spanish than English in the Puerto Rican section of Hell's Kitchen. It makes her words more sharp, sometimes, and just lends to that take no bullshit attitude she practically screams. Her brow arches as he mentions no questions, but she does follow him out of the door and down the hallway. "You know… asking for help then putting limits on it is pretty much an asshole move. I do like to know what the hell I'm doing."

*

Convenient. The deadpan expression breaks, and Shift smirks a bit. "If you only knew." He turns abruptly and leads her to the elevator, which is one of those old machines that has a call button, but a manually operated door.

"You're helping me with something unethical, illegal, and absolutely necessary," he tells her while hauling the door open and stepping in. "Glad you asked?" he arches an eyebrow while the elevator begins moving down toward the ground floor.

*

"…considering the amount of criminal vigilantes I help on a regular basis, I sort of think the lines betwee unethical and illegal are closer to faint breezes of mis-spent expectations. Necessary, though, I understand. Tell me why it's necessary." Claire is a walk and talk kind of woman, not used to having time to sit and debate conversations. If she's not already moving into action, people are dying, or worse. So while it seems she might not be fully agreeing yet, she is moving at his side with the same strong purpose to her walk that he displays.

*

"Because dis man and his team of chuckleheads, which your friends fairly well disabled," Shift explains, "were planning to assassinate a mutant activist, and a friend." The elevator door opens, and he leads Claire into the lobby and the motorcycle waiting outside. "He's paht of a lahgah organization," the Ghanaian explains, "and I'm trying to stop dem."

If she can't see where this is leading yet… well, that's not Shift's problem.

The mercenary retrieves a pair of helmets from the luggage compartment of his Harley-Davidson Iron-883, offering one to Claire before fixing one upon his head and climbing on. "Don't pull any shit. It has an ejector seat."

Its really hard to tell whether he's joking or serious.

*

This is the point where Claire needs to decide if she trusts the man or not. Considering he does seem tobe allies with those who saved her life, htough, and she's pretty much here already, Claire gives a quiet sigh and tugs the helmet on over her head. She then kicks her leg smoothly up and hugs the back of the bike, one arm around his fit waist as she does NOT like the idea of flying off into New York traffic.

"Has he killed people already?" Claire asks as she settles her head in against his, still moving, still ready to work, but she is clearly not good at this asking no questions thing. Against his back she's a feminine, fit warm pressure of hips and chest. She smells like soap from the shower, a faint hint of cocoa butter, and antiseptic.

*

"Yep," Shift answers, before kick starting the bike and revving it into gear. "Might want to hold on a bit tightah dere, RN." A second later, the motorcycle is tearing off into the empty street, headed for the seedier part of town. Seedier than the red light district they aren't far from.

Its a daring journey through alleys and side streets, at breakneck speeds and steep banking turns. Maybe he's just trying to shut Claire up for a while. Soon enough, the bike ends up coming to rest outside a shitty apartment complex, not heavily occupied, save for the hooker outside and the shadowy man across the street who's either a pimp, or a drug dealer.

"Hey, Sherry," he tells the hooker in passing.

"Hey there, hot stuff," she answers. "You ready for that blowjob, honey?"

"Nope," he answers, before yanking on the front door and pulling it open. "I got a date, and she only cost me a pint of cheap liquah. Keep hiding dat herp undah all dat lipstick, Sherry."

"Oh, keep talkin' that dirty nigga talk, sugar. Make me so horny!"

"Go rub one out, den," he calls back, before holding the door for Claire with a wry smirk. "I fucked up her pimp some few weeks ago," he murmurs. "Man had to learn not to keep a quota."

*

As he mentions for her to hold a bit tighter, Claire rolls her eyes and secures her second arm around his waist. Not getting fresh, just not dying. Then they are whisked off and away towards whereever he's planning on taking her. Claire watches the city around them as they drive, tracing her whereabouts in a way only a born and bred New York girl would know. It was a comfort to know where she was located, finally.

Then they are there and Claire smoothly slips off, removing the helmet and handing it back to him before dark eyes toss in the hooker's direction. Full lips just give the woman a smirk, not bothering with denying or a come back about the date. She just waits for him to stop flirting and shakes her head, moving for the building at his side, "Yeah, I'm sure you're a real knight-in-shiny-spandex for all the prostitutes in this town."

*

"You have any idea what your pal in de red gets up do aftah dahk?" Shift asks Claire as they move into the building. "Ask him about Chahlie sometime." He turns on the third door down, ground level, and pulls it open.

The apartment is barren, save for an old couch that's been stripped of its linens down to the wooden bones of the item, shredded fabrics and stuffing strewn about. The Cyber-Eyed mercenary is shackled to its frame in heavy chains. He breathes heavily. The cybernetic eye has been ripped out, the empty socket stuffed with blood-soaked stuffing from the shredded couch cushions, and there are lacerations all over his arms where the glowing green tracers had appeared not the evening prior.

Strewn across the floor is an old lamp, unlit. It's been taken apart, the electrical cables split apart and removed of their insulation. One positive wire has been shoved beneath the mercenary's skin on the left arm, the negative wire in the same spot on his right. The damn thing is plugged in to the wall socket, suggesting an active current is currently frying the poor fucker and has been for some time.

Otherwise, the entire apartment is destroyed, with scalded marks upon the walls and floors, suggesting these two had something of an epic struggle before Shift was able to detain his enemy.

A camera rests upon a tripod, aimed at the bound thug. Attached by USB cable is a laptop, with facial recognition software running and churning through potential names. It's already come up with four, and is 98 complete.

Kwabena walks over to the computer, studying it for a few moments.

*

The nurse is dead quiet for several heartbeats as she walks into the place and just stares at the scene laid out before her. She's shut down any emotion from her face but the fact that she is lacking a witty comeback probably means there's more shock going on internally than she'd care to admit. Claire paces a few feet farther into the room, very careful to avoid *anywhere* that camera might be recording as she does still like and want to keep her day job. Finally, her mind catches up to the fact he said something.

"I wouldn't call him my pal, but I've lived in Hell's Kitchen my whole life. I know what the Devil does after dark." She murmurs huskily, but there is a distance to her voice that wasn't there before. She might not actually be up to straight up torture. Who knows.

Claire takes a forcibly deeper breath, though a slight hiss of pain escapes after she does that, cracked ribs not appreciating the bike ride OR, well, breathing. She just braces a hand against her side to steady them and stares at the man studying the computer. "…tell me why this is necessary again?"

*

"De electrodes are frying de tracers undah neath his skin," Kwabena answers drily. "Preventing him from turning on dat goddamned force field again. He's got about ten grams of dope in him right now, so he's about ten light years from being labile."

He turns away from the computer and walks back over toward Claire. The dark expression on his face threatens to change. It's hard to tell whether he's about to start yelling or crying. It's complex. "He's associated with De Section. Dey're associated with real scum. SIGMA. Redshire. Dose HYDRA cocksuckers you, Devil and Croft fucked up last night. But we've got nothing. Just been chasing dese goons all across de globe, trying to lock 'em down, but dey keep slipping our fingahs. Dat bullshit ends here."

Kwabena takes Claire by the arm, the one opposite her cracked ribs, carefully guiding her over to the computer. It's now 100 complete, and lists five potential names. "I have no desire to break into anodah military facility, so, I need you to run dese names through EPIC and find family membahs, legal contacts, anything you can. Fuck HIPPA violations. Only way we get dis clown to talk? Motivate him properly." A beat. "And if you can bring some Adavan, I'd really rathah not be shooting Scorpion King with street drugs."

*

The woman does allow herself to be guided, probably out of the shock she's fighting more than anything. She's gingerly settling down onto the stool in front of the computer, staring at it quietly, as he gives her those instructions. Her eyes widen a bit more, staring hard at him, defensiveness suddenly kicking up on her dusky, lovely features. "I am NOT using EPIC to figure out how to torture a guy usinghis family. No. F*ck that. You're on your own." The woman still has some morals, it seems. She looks up, locking eyes with him.

"Look, this guy is the bastard who has killed people, right? If he's got family, it ain't them. They aren't a part of this. I don't know what you all do or why you do it, but if you want to still call yourselves the good guys, you do not f*cking bring innocents into this. Adavan? That, I can get you. You want to know how to cause him more pain that any human mind can sustain without killing him? That I can do. You want some sodium thiopental? I… can probably even find that. But I'm not violating my licenses, HIPPA, or some innocent f*cking lives because you wanted an easy way out." IN shock, broken ribs and not really a fighter or not, Claire Temple still has a backbone of titanium. She stands up, staring eye to eye with him as she says that, just daring him to tell her she is wrong.

*

"Torture is an ineffective way of producing valid infahmation," Kwabena answers in turn. "Dis," he gestures to the prisoner, "is not torture, it's detainment. We unplug him, he fires up and staggahs out. I drove one of them into outah space, and he came back. Do you begin to undahstand now just how dangahrous dese augments are?"

Fixing his jaw, Shift refuses to look away. "I've no intention of taking his wife, or his daughtah, and hurting dem," he admits. "I want to study dem. Find out if dey ah peopah who stand against de wicked intentions of his organization, because den? I can shove dem in his face and prove to him dat his compatriots will kill his family, if dey don't make him do it first. I want him to suffah de humiliation when dey see what he's become and look on him with disgust and disappointment. If dat fails?"

Turning away, Shift looks at the victim. "Den we'll pump him so full of Adavan he'll be drooling into a metal dish for de rest of his life, not killing peopah." He looks back to Claire then, fixing his jaw. "Or I could put a knife through his brain and at least remove one augment from de equation." An eyebrow arches.

*

"And what about *them*? Yeah, this shit will f*ck with his head, but what about his wife… His DAUGHTER. You're going to tell some kid that her father is a mad man with some world-wide evil organization? Even if he goes back… changes somehow… that's still f*cked her life forever. You're hurting his family way, way more than you're hurting him. Even if we get pictures of them, or whatever… They don't know about this. Period, dot. Let some one in this god damn world keep their f*cking innocence." Claire still isn't sitting, standing stiff and straight as she stares up at the handsome man in front of her and they continue to debate the most effective way to torture the strug out (literally and figuratively) guy on the couch.

"I get how dangerous it is. Patching up the Devil ain't my first rodeo. A whole slew of you do-gooder idiots seem to think it's a great idea to collapse on my fireescape half dead. I know what the other side does to you. I know that they don't care and they don't have morals and it nearly gets a lot of really good people killed. But I'm not turning into them. And neither are you. Not if you ever want my help."

*

"Dey'll find out eventually," Kwabena argues. "When SHIELD decides to get off its ass and puts dis organization down, dere's a ninety percent chance it hits de news. Daddy's dead, and by de way, he was a terrorist."

Claire's final argument has Kwabena turning away. He walks toward the other side of the room, reaching up to slip a finger beneath the clingy gunmetal gray. There are no zippers, but the material separates beneath his neck, and he slides it apart down to his sternum to get some air. It's clearly some kind of high tech material, rather than costume spandex.

"So, what, den?" he asks quietly. "I let you do your thing, make him suffah, and hope he spills de truth?" He's not looking Claire's way, rather, just staring at the wall. "You want me to put a knife in him and move on to de next one?"

*

The dark haired nurse just stares at him even as he pushes back about SHIELD. She's not wavering. Claire exhales a slow sigh as he turns away and loosens the neck of his shirt but doesn't keep pushing her. She takes a moment to look at him, genuinely look, that dark skin making her half curious as to what more is beneath that armored material, but this isn't the time or place. She turns back away and moves for the door. "Give me 30 minutes." And, unless he protests, she's out the door again.

It's closer to 40 minutes, actually, but the woman returns, a pack of something over her shoulder. She doesn't even bother knocking when she turns the door knob to step back in — who the hell else would be coming in this place. She steps over to the closest flat surface and begins to lay out the pack she has. A tourniquet, a few vials of… Something. A syringe. "Scopolamime." She pushes forward one vial. "Sodium thiopental." She pushes forward the other. "One loosens lips… the other relaxes the brain, induces mild hallucinations, and makes the brain cling to strong suggestions. You can make him think his family is right here. Sure, it might not work. But… it's worth a try before sacrificing our own damn souls to get it out of him." Her dark eyes search his face, waiting to see the reaction to her compromise

*

For the moment, Kwabena's mind is anywhere but what Claire might think of him, standing there in the costume that leaves nothing to the imagination. He's not a muscle man, for he doesn't need to be, but what he does have is well taken care of. When she makes her leave, he glances her way with a nod of his head, and makes for the kitchen. There, he'd stashed his booze, smokes, and the needle/spoon kit next to a bag of heroin.

He eyes the narcotics for a moment longer than he should. It's been so long. Three years? He's lost count, but he'll never forget his first time. Maybe, after so many years, the damage to his brain chemistry has -

Nope. He uncorks the bottle and takes a healthy swig, then lights a smoke. This'll have to do. Partisan's LSD he's saving for a day off. As if he ever gets one.

When Claire returns, she'll find Kwabena seated upon the stool, lit cigarette in his hand, the uniform still unzipped down to his sternum. His black skin is marred, as if he'd been cut open a few dozen times. The wounds have developed scar tissue that suggests it happened twenty years ago; a side effect of what happens to his molecular structure when he utilizes his mutant abilities, for those cuts are only a week old.

Kwabena listens silently while Claire explains what she's brought along. Silver eyes study the materials, then move back to her face. "Well, we don't have all day, and he's high as fucking Sputnik. Fortunately, I can fix that.

Kwabena rises and goes into the kitchen. He returns with a spoon, bottle of water, a bag ofcotton balls and a fresh needle. Also, his pack of smokes, buried within is a small bag of cocaine. It doesn't take long for him to melt the blow and get it juiced into the needle. Seems he intends to bring Cyber-Eye out of his slumber by freebasing him.

*

Claire studies his skin when more of it is now available, seeing those scars which look like the wounds are decades old, not days. He didn't look old enough to HAVE wounds that old on his adult body, so it was a curiousity to the trained nurse's eye. But this wasn't time for questions between them. So she just watches him a heartbeat longer than necessary before he goes to get the stim to bring him out of it.

When she sees what he's doing, there is no surprise. She grew up in Hell's Kitchen in the 80s. Sure, it wasn't as bad as the 70s, but it was still bad. For a civilian, Claire's seen everything. "…we're gonna be lucky if we don't give him a heart attack." Claire mutters to herself, but it's not a protest, not this time. Just an observation. "Maybe he won't be a junkie, at least, and it'll be easy to find a vein." Since he's working on preparing the blow, Claire steps over with her tourniquet and knees at Cyber eye's side, tying off his upper arm and starting that careful slapping dance with the back of her fingernail, trying to raise a vein to make this all easier.

*

"I don't think so," Kwabena answers. "I've read de Army's official reports on dese fuckbags. De amount of strain dey can handle is pretty impressive."

A bit of cocktail is shot out from the top of the needle. Then, he brings it down upon Cyber Eye's arm carefully, as if he's done this before. The needle pressed against the skin, but he pauses, turning silver eyes to look at Claire. "This ain't gonna be pretty," the Ghanaian whispers. "You ready?"

*

"This isn't my first rodeo. Just do it." Claire knows what's going to happen. She knows how bad this can be — will be — but she takes it with the tough, stern grace of a woman who really has seen it all before. You don't have to be a super hero to know how fucked up the world can be. She pulls back enough that any completely violent thrashing isn't going to get her, or her broken ribs, since it seems the dark man hovering over both of them wants to administer the needle himself and he sure as shit knows what he's doing. So, Claire pulls back and waits, a hovering, dusky skinned avenging sort of angel in this awful scene which is just a varation on things that happen nightly in her section of town.

*

The needle goes in, plunger depressed. Soon as the dirty deed is done, Kwabena discards the item by flinging it across the room, then reaches over to secure the mercenary's arms. His exposed skin quickly super-hardens, granting him an enhancement to his skin, and just in time.

The merc's forehead wrinkles. Then, his eyes bat open and he lets loose a horrible scream, immediately lunging against his detainer. "Urrrrruuunnnngh! Mmmmmmnnngtth!" he shouts. "Mmmrrrruuuunnnn away!!! Let me… hunnnngh! Hunnngh!!"

*

The woman steps back another foot, silent, completely unphased by the things that are happening in front of her. Claire seems to be watching more to study what her companion can do, the skin changing, somehow, but she'd need to touch to know exactly how. Her head tilts, curiosity deepening. But it wasn't the time.

After another few moments, she steps over to that side table and picks up the little vial of the first drug as well as the syringe. She doesn't prime the syringe yet, waiting for their captive to calm down a bit. "Tell me when he evens out…"

*

The insensible shouting goes on for another moment or two, before the one-eyed mercenary sort of focuses his eye on Shift. "Where ammmm I? You.. fucking… fucker… fuckkng… hnnmmrrrgh! Where… Where!" The words descend into something between laughter and sobbing, at which point Kwabena backs up just a bit, while still holding the merc's arms. The uniform covers all the way to his fingers, but the material bulges, and has developed something of a matte obsidian sheen. It changes with him, becoming more solid than usual.

"Now," he tells Clair, and bodily forces the victim's arm her way.

*

Like they were going through the motions of some boring play or morning ritual, Claire exhales a slight sigh and pulls back the plunger of the syringe, drawing up the hallucinogenic drug first. She steps around the couch to the side of the body and that bared arm, the fight he wants to give actually making it easier for her to find a vein. Expert hands carefully slip the needle into flesh, along the line of that vein, and then she's depressing the needle, "…That should feel a hell of a lot better. We'd hate for you to be a mess when you're family's here to see you. Want to make your good byes nice, you know?" Claire smoothly states to the man, her voice strangely gentle, all sweet, bedside manner.

*

Cyber-Eye calms not long after the injection is placed; enough so that Kwabena finally feels somewhat comfortable releasing the man. "My family," he breathes sluggishly. "They haven't… seen me… in years."

"Well, dey're here now," answers Shift, his tone more that of the executioner than the warmth Claire brings. "Right over dere, in de oddah room. We'll let you see dem. First, you need to debrief."

The mercenary tries to sit upright, but he just doesn't have the strength for it right now. His body is all sorts of fucked up; it's likely the cocaine is the only thing keeping him awake now. Awake and twitching. "Mission… not a success," the merc says. "Whole team was taken out. I…" He looks to Claire. "Got away?"

*

The nurse is clearly already prepared to play good cop to Shift's bad cop. As their captive turns to her, looking almost hopeful, a slight smile decorates her full mouth. "Something like that. What matter is you're alive… and they're alive. And they want to see you. But… we've got a few more things to help stablize you, so you need to talk to us before you can see them, alright??" Could it really be that easy? Claire wasn't certain, but she turns her body to pick up the second vial and stabs the syringe through it, filling the glass with the old fashioned truth drug which is as hit or miss as it comes. Maybe they'd be lucky. "Just one more bit of medicine…" She half coos, pressing the needle to his skin and the plunger.

*

"Well, de Section is impressed with you, none de less," Shift answers. "Dough dere ah some problems with your augmentation dat need looking into." He pauses while Claire administers the truth serum. "Which is why we need a full recounting of de opahration, from staht to finish."

Cyber-Eye closes his good eye and frowns. "Nothing you don't already know," he answers, lamely. "Got hit at the rendezvous. Never had time to move into position, make the hit. Man in red. Woman.. two women. Three? Women. And Shift." When he speaks the Ghanaian's name, he turns to look off into the distance, frowning. "He's here, isn't he?"

Kwabena frowns and backs up into the shadows. He looks Claire's way, eyes like daggers. The show's all hers, it would seem.

*

If Claire could give Shift a look that would kill right now, she would. She was NOT an interrogator. She didn't even know exactly all the information needed! But suddenly his ID has been compromised and he's backing away. She is left alone to play good cop and maybe sweet the information out of him without doing the worse things he'd been contemplating about doing. So, she sighs, fingertips reaching up to come through the guy's hair.

"Hey… hey. Look at me. You're hallucinating. He's not here. They gave you some sort of drug. We're trying to clear it out of your system, but I need you to focus on the things that are real. It'll help get you back to yourself. Even if I already know… your brain is all mixed up. It might be hard to remember because they did things to you and we need to unscramble them." Her fingertips reach down, gently wrapping over his hand, giving him something to hold onto. "Start from the beginning. See what you can remember. I'm gonna fact check everything to see what you get right… We'll get you through this. I promise. Then you get to see them."

*

Kwabena's sorry. But he had to see this through; he couldn't trust it with anyone else. Other people would just involve the cops, and considering this thing runs deep into the United States Military, he can't involve the cops. It's a rabbit hole they'd never climb out of.

"We left the compound at Rickenbacker," the mercenary tells Claire. "Dispersed into our holding positions. Went dark. Stayed dark soon as Greece fell to shit, just had to regroup at Rickenbacker. I… I don't know where the others went. I had my orders, and that's all. Rendezvous with the HYDRA team here, assassinate McKay, go back to Staging Area B. Wait for further instructions."

However, the moment Cyber Eye said 'Rickenbacker', Shift's eyes hardened. Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio. It's a lead, if nothing else, but damn if it isn't another military installation. He doesn't want to go down that road again. "God damnit," he mutters.

"We got jumped. I…" Confusion. "Got out?" He looks to Claire, then back to the shadows where Kwabena disappeared. "I got out," he repeats, though he sounds unsure of himself. "I got out. I always get out. I'm unstoppable!" He lunges, which is when the chains catch him.

And then, his eyes go mad.

He roars, straining against the chains.

*

Claire keeps that touch, slow, soothing, trying to be as gentle as she can as she tells honeyed lies to the man on the couch. Her dark eyes flicker up, watching Shift over the back of the sofa, questioning to see if he's gotten what he needs. And then all hell breaks loose. The madness in his eyes, probably worse hallicinations in his head. Claire jerks back suddenly, before he manages to catch her, the motion drawing a hiss to her lips with the harsh move of her injured ribs, but it's better than taking another hit.

She pulls herself a few more feet away, not quite breaking the atmosphere yet, even as the guy seizes and fights on the sofa, "I…I don't know if we're going to get him calm again. You get what you need, or you need me to try talking him out of this?" Apparently, she had more tactics. But she looks tired and sickened by it all, in the main. She doesn't look like a woman who wants to go back there.

*

"I got enough," Shift says, but anything else is interrupted when the merc's yanking pulls one of those jury rigged power cables loose.

The lights flicker once. Green tracers explode all over the mercenary's body. The stuffing is blown right out of his missing eye socket, and the cables are lit aflame, running to the wall and blowing the outlet across the room.

"Shit!" Kwabena shouts, as the entire opposing wall erupts in flame. He comes forward, tugging at the prisoner's chains, but Cyber Eye is wrestling against them so hard that they've pulled taut, and can't be undone.

*

"Shit. SHIT SHIT." Claire echoes his sentiments rather exactly, the moment the opposite wall goes up. She's kicking into action again, dashing through to what was once upon a time a kitchen in this place as she searches for anything — Fire extinguisher, baking soda, ANYTHING! She's frantically throwing open cabinets, but there is nothing. She then reaches for the faucet and turns it on, hoping at least she can get water. Nothing. "FUCK!" Claire hisses, tat being the best word she's got for all of this.

She's back in the room and the old place is going up fast. She looks up to him, half frantic, not going to leave some poor schmuck who signed up for the wrong team to burn alive in this tinder box. She reaches over, shouting at the guy, "CALM DOWN AND STOP FIGHTING OR YOU'RE GOING TO DIE HERE!" And now she's fighting with his ankles too, trying to get them free. It's probably a lost cause, especially as a wall collapses behind them. There are tears in her eyes as she bloodies fingernails against tight chains. "God DAMMIT."

*

There is a moment where Kwabena considers just how much value he should place on the prisoner's life. Carrying the nurse out of this hellhole is precisely what he should do, right? He comes close to doing it.

Instead, he winds super-solid hands beneath the chains, and begins to pull. He pulls hard, muscles ripping against the confines of his uniform, until he's growling and bearing his teeth, but the chain begins to bend, and eventually, it breaks.

Rapidly, Shift untangles them, freeing the prisoner. He drags the man bodily to his knees, then tries slapping him in the face to gather some alertness, but the man simply scrawls across the ground, totally freaked. "Oh, for fuck's sake!"

Getting underneath, he hefts the man into the air and throws him over his shoulders, then makes for the door. Once they're out in the hallway, he gestured toward an old fire alarm. "Pull dat damn thing!"

*

The fact that the guy stays behind to help get their prisoner free, something Claire couldn't manage with merely mortal hands, changes every assumption in her book. She flashes a look up to him, relieved, thankful, respectful, and she just gives one quick nod before scrambling back up to her feet and tossing back closed herkit. Of course, she tugs out a certain syringe, pre-loaded, which she's had to use before. Knock out, just in case he's too unruly. It's the one weapon she keeps in her hand.

Then she's moving foe the door with him, keeping it open so he can get the prisoner through then they are dashing down the hall. She uses her free hand (the kit is over her shoulder) to pull the fire alarm which immediately breaks out into a wail. Then she's still running, heading for the closest exit.

*

Fortunately, there aren't many who occupy the building. People poke out of the various apartment doors, among the worst lowlifes of the city, yelling and screaming obscenities at this damned inconvenience, but Shift ignores them.

Once out into the street, he leans over and dumps the poor fuck onto the sidewalk. A look to Claire, then back to the mercenary. He can't keep dragging the guy everywhere; he doesn't have the resources to keep him detained. "Fuck it. We'll let de cops sort him out," he tells her, then gestures toward his parked motorcycle. "Let's go! Come on!"

*

The guy is so drugged out that Claire doesn't even bother with her last resort weapon. Hopefully he'd still be there when the police came. She just dashes after the man who grabbed her what feels like hours ago and leaps onto the bike right behind him. Syringe shoved into the kit slung across her back, she loops her arms across his stomach again and this time holds on quite tight. Only this close can he feel that she she very finely trembling. She says nothing about it.

Held close, she lets them drive away. She doesn't even look back at the scene. She doesn't want to see it. Claire's breath echoes quiet on his neck, a bit too shallow, but she doesn't yet speak.

*

It takes some time for Shift's body to soften out to its normal flesh and blood. However, the ride back isn't nearly so breakneck. He isn't trying to shut her up this time, and he also has an idea that she's got damage to her ribs.

Once they finally arrive at the apartment building, Kwabena drops the kickstand, but he does not disengage the bike. His eyes remain straight forward, staring off at the empty and quiet streets. The sirens in the distance might be for the fire they caused; it might be for something else. Doesn't matter. No one would bat an eye to see them here, even in spite of his gunmetal gray uniform.

*

As the bike stops, Claire just sits there for one heartbeat. Two. She's drowning in her own thoughts. But in times like these, there's never time to drown. So, she doesn't waste more time. She just swings her leg back over the bike, swallowing back the pain of that motion. She was getting used to it. She can't quite meet his eyes at first as she moves to walk away, go back to hiding with people she barely knew.

Then she pauses. Claire turns back, looking up to him, purposefully trying togain his eyes now. There is something harder in her than there was before, and something else… more lost. More sullied. Understanding how to torture someone is different than doing it. Once she knows she has his gaze, she throatily rasps. "…Make it worth while. Don't…waste whatever the fuck we found. Just… just make it worth it." Then she turns to go once more.

*

Knowing that she's standing there, staring at him? Kwabena finally turns around to look Claire's way. He's already on it. His next move? Pay Jones and see if she can't track the merc's movements. Back to Staging Area B, or whatever the fuck that may be.

"Don't worry." He turns away, eyeing the street. "I always do." A beat. "Get dem ribs looked at."

The bike peels out, leaving a trail in its wake as it and the mutant rip off into the night.

*

The woman stares after him, the line of her lips hardening for another heartbeat or two, but all Claire can do is trust that it was worth it. Then she turns back, disappearing into the building, the street empty as if nothing happened at all.

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