South Hook Conspiracy

May 29, 2016:

Shift is monitoring activity he believes to be SIGMA related, when two people happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

South Hook, Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: Gotham Cop, Serbian gunmen

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Sweetest Kill by Broken Social Scene


Fade In…

All the bad shit goes down after dark.

The sun fell over South Hook, Gotham, three hours ago. While the tide of industry has an ebb and flow of its own, there is always movement along the shores and islands of Gotham's waterfront industry.

Not all of it is entirely legal, either.

Pier 47 currently houses a mid-sized freighter bearing identifying words in the Serbian language. There is movement on the deck; nothing that seems entirely out of the ordinary, but at this hour, a GCPD car rolls up to the pier, emergency lights off, and parks.

"…. Shit."

A block and a half inland, atop a five story warehouse, a figure hides against the ballast of a rooftop, shrouded in gunmetal gray that blends well with his dark skin. Kwabena Odame, the Avenger known as 'Shift', is looking through the dim red scope of a sniper rifle that is currently trained on the police car. No, he isn't about to shoot a cop, but he is tracking the officer's movements, looking on as the cop gets out of his car and begins shining a flashlight toward the boat.

"Goddamn Gotham cops," the African whispers.

*

Gliding silently through the water in the shadow of the freighter, a trail of blonde hair makes its way underneath a nearby pier after detaching itself from a returning boat. The trains north to Metropolis might be cheap, but hitch-hiking was even cheaper.

Rising from the water in the darkness of the dock, the young swimmer doesn't come up for air as much as form from the glassy surface itself. Climbing up onto the shore line, she pulls a plastic bag out of the water behind her and opens it. A night-time swim was all well and good but it's not so far into summer that dry clothes aren't in order.

*

Through the scope, Kwabena tracks the officer's movements. It's a stroke of luck that he catches a glimpse of blonde hair in the water, and rotates the sniper rifle's scope just enough to observe the figure as she emerges from the water.

That does it. This situation just became too dangerous, and neither the swimmer nor the cop have any idea just how dangerous it's become.

Time to intervene.

Lowering the rifle, Shift vaults forward, legs in the air, grasping the edge of the roof with his gloved hands. Legs in the air, it provides enough downward, falling motion to give a burst of kinetic energy, but before the figure in black really begins to plummet, he transforms into a cloud of black smoke.

Moments later, that same cloud of black smoke, previously invisible against the night sky, comes rushing against the GCPD officer, with just enough density to knock the cop on his ass.

There is a struggle, but the cloud of black takes shape of a man, and with a poof of displaced air, Shift has reformed. His body is sheathed in gunmetal gray from head to toe, leaving only his mouth and chin visible.

For a few seconds, the Avenger and the police officer struggle.

*

The commotion catches the ear of the girl hiding under the pier, straining her senses as she is while pulling down her tanktop. She frowns and a sea-blue eye squints through gaps in the walkway above her but can't make out the source. A tired sigh escapes her as she weighs her options, then resolutely dons her sweater and tucks her grocery bag underneath.

Two little hands grip the side of the wharf as Nerina's head peeks up and looks around.

*

Eventually, the man shrouded in gunmetal gray subdues the police officer fully. He makes a shushing gesture with his free hand, then slowly removes his gloved hand from the officer's mouth. "Quiet. Stay quiet," he urges the cop.

"Who the hell-"

"Sshhh!!"

The cop glares at the vigilante but remains silent.

"I will make a guess. You have not heard of SIGMA." Shift motions toward the freighter. "Had you come any closah to dat pier, dey'd have shot you."

"Assaulting a police officer is a crime!"

"So is saving one's life?" Shift glares at the officer from beneath his mask. "You can shut up and work with me, or I'll commit anodah crime and knock your ass out here and now. Get me?"

*

The blonde ducks back out of sight and puts a hand over her mouth to muffle a yawn. Thinking better of it, she unties her grocery bag and tucks it out of sight with a plastic-y crinkle before climbing back up and swinging a leg onto the dock. Hauling herself up with a little grunt, the girl stands up to her modest height and looks over curiously at the discarded flashlight in the distance and the pair of men grappled nearby.

Her head cocks to the side, almost like a crow, and she tucks a hand onto her hip as she watches things play out. Unfortunately for her, and perhaps them too, she's not close enough to hear Shift's warning.

*

From the boat, there comes a bit of shouting. Serbian. Seems the swimmer has been spotted, and the lookout has alerted someone.

Shift looks up from where he's detained the police officer, and spots the girl not far away. His masked face turns to the boat, and a grimace forms on his face.

"Shit!"

Kwabena leaps off the police officer a hair before gunfire erupts from the boat. The *pat pat pat*! of semiautomatic rounds spray out, splintering wood and splashing water all around Nerina. They're shooting at her!

*

The swimmer's head whips around towards the boat as she causes more commotion and her shocked face is illuminated by the flash of guns as they open fire. Her boots clatter frantically against the wooden pier as she turns and runs, getting showered by splinters as the spray of rounds walk up the dock in a serpentine trail after her.

Just as she nears the edge of the planks and a jump into more water, the woody *thock* echoing the guns' retorts becomes a fleshy *thump* and then a din of splashes. She cries out in a young, pained voice and slaps against the water limp before quickly disappearing under the dark waves.

*

Shift is already running for the woman when she goes into the water. Gunfire erupts from the pistol of the police officer, who has smartly taken refuge behind a series of crates, but his return fire comes at a bad angle and won't do much. It does, however, turn at least one of the semi-automatics upon his position.

Shift dives into the water, behind the girl. He'll use what light shines into the water from above to look for her, or at least the telltale sign of blood, in an effort to find her and drag her to the surface. As he goes in, however, his body begins to make some sort of transformation; the exposed skin of his face hardens, and the gunmetal gray that clings to his body does the same, producing odd, unnatural rocky formations across him.

*

The girl's clothes sink beneath the surface as they soak in water but the brackish bay makes it difficult to see far in the dim light. The broad fabric of her sweater fanned out like an algae bloom is an easy target but despite the bullet holes in its back, the garment is empty. The girl's boots sink fastest on their way to the bottom, followed more lazily by her pants, and at first the unlucky swimmer herself is nowhere to be found.

A trail of hair and a woman's silhouette catches the light down below only to disappear in a silty haze when looked at too closely.

*

Bullets pierce the water, only to bounce harmlessly off the hardened body that went in after the swimmer. There comes a moment when an odd expression crosses Shift's face; as if he's seen this before.

Clothing, but no person.

What are the odds?

The Avenger's body then takes on another transformation. Arms and legs, fingers and face, they all begin to morph into something more akin to pudding. Liquid Mercury might be a more apt description, only the material has a color black as octopus ink. The now-liquid man sinks down deep, his biomatter 'listening' to the water in an effort of tracking the girl. He can't be convinced that she's alright, or that this is a normal occurrence for her. After all, he can still remember the first time his body transformed, against his will.

Above, the GCPD officer is calling for backup.

*

The water is still shuddering up above from the shock waves of bullets diving in after them but after a few moments' focus to tune it out, the other rhythms of the water become more noticeable. Following the two boots down in their spiral towards the sandy bottom, the ebb and flow of the bay's evening tide tickles the sandy mist and small ripples pulsate from… seemingly everywhere. A maverick current brushes past Shift's shoulder and wraps down his back before disappearing past his leg.

The girl's boots reach the bottom of the bay and of their own accord, tilt right-side up.

*

"Head out."

Sound ripples out from where the 'face' of Kwabena should be, the water vibrated as if it were one massive voice box. "If you can. To the starboard end of the boat."

The liquid mass that Shift has transformed into moves against the currents, like an arrow toward the starboard end of the boat; opposite the direction of the shooters. Once there, the voice echoes through the water again. "Are you with me?"

*

The phantasmal outline of a face cocked to one side appears briefly in the water before vanishing, lasting no more than the silhouette before it, but soon after Shift reaches the far side of the freighter, a shadow falls over him. Not a visible one, but upstream, something has moved to block the prevailing current.

A faint image of the girl's face fades into view, regarding the mercurial man curiously.

*

There, Kwabena resolidifies to take the shape of a man, who's grasping hold of a ladder on the ship's hull. He points up, then begins to climb. Up he goes, hand over hand, until he's vaulting himself over the rail and onto the deck above.

The Avenger wastes no time. He charges for the gunmen, paying no attention to the guns as they turn on him and open fire. The bullets just seem to pass right through him, pelting into the deck behind his legs. The first two gunmen are taken out by their own rifles, which are grappled and thrown into faces, breaking noses and cracking skulls. Non-lethal, but bloody and brutal to be sure.

*

Nerina follows a couple rungs slower as the bay itself flows up the sides of the ladder, reshaping as it rises into the same silhouette it had formed underwater. As she climbs into the deck, the young woman is still transparent and largely featureless - aliving mass of water, and an unhappy one.

Turning her attention to a different pair of gunners, her body collapses into a puddle and pours across the deck. The bullets shot at it kick up splashes of water and the flow stops, perhaps wounded again by their guns.

The Serbs pauses for a moment with their fingers hovering tensely on their triggers, then two tendrils rush out of the puddle and engulf their weapons. The limbs stitch themselves together back into a humanoid form as the naiad raises her arms to expand her hold to the gunmen's faces and pull them into a single watery mass.

*

In a similar fashion, Shift turns on another pair of Serbs who come at him, unarmed. Both arms are thrown upward, and from the shoulder down, his flesh and uniform changes into tendrils of thick, black smoke. The smoke dives into the mouths and noses of those gunmen, choking out their lungs and bringing them to their knees.

He holds on just long enough for them to loose consciousness, then withdraws his smoky arms and wills then to reform.

Nerina's gunmen are similarly trapped in her watery grasp.

*

While Shift is willing to move on when his enemies stop moving, the nymph doesn't seem quite so gentle. As her gunmen begin to choke and their grip on their weapons slacken, she rips them away and spins them around in a pair of watery hands.

Two gun shots ring out in sync within the din of their fight before Nerina moves on, dropping flat against the deck once more but this time dragging along a rifle as she looks for more crew.

*

"Dis isn't SIGMA." In short order, Shift is by Nerina's side, sans weapon. "It's… something else." He glances toward Nerina, eyes hidden behind the mask, but the frown on his face is telling. "We should leave. I'll plant a tracking device."

It's worth noting… no additional gunfire is coming from the GCPD cop. He's likely dead. Also worth noting, Kwabena hasn't said a thing about the woman's apparent metahuman ability.

"Are you hurt?"

*

Once quiet returns to the dock, Nerina looks around with the rifle under her chest, looking almost illusory in the way light passes straight through her watery body, creating a distorted image of the gun's stock. Her own attention is more focused on the groaning bodies laid out across the deck.

"I'll live," she dismisses before nodding towards the remaining crew. "You left them alive?"

*

For a few brief moments, Kwabena seems fascinated by the way this woman's body looks, made entirely of water. His fascination isn't entirely apparent, what with his eyes concealed by the mask of gunmetal gray, but his lips part and hang open for a moment while he just looks at her.

The moment passes, and he scoffs a bit at her remark. "For now. Come." A nod of his head to the starboard edge of the freighter, and he's off. A running dive into the water, his transformation into liquid form complete once he's fully submerged and swimming, with impressive speed and ease, back toward the pier.

*

The young woman doesn't seem to notice as the featureless glass of her eyes sweep the deck for clues about the freighter's value. She drops her borrowed rifle onto the deck disdainfully and takes a step to follow after Shift… then turns and walks below deck.

"I'm not going through all-a this trouble without a little something," she mutters to herself as the Italian in her accent slips out.

*

By the time Nerino has made it back to the pier, Kwabena is hunched over next to the GCPD cop. There's a puddle of water beneath him; the gunmetal gray uniform is drenched, causing it to cling more tightly to his musculature than before.

The cop's body is riddled with bullets. The vest stopped most of them, but one ripped through his leg, and the other blew a hole through his face. The Avenger reaches out with gloved hands to feel for a pulse, then sighs and drops his head a touch.

*

Nerina eventually wanders back down from the freighter, still transparent but now wearing a poorly over-sized jacket and pants that have been rolled back to usable lengths. Above and below, her form is bulging with an unlady-like excess of pocketed findings. "Her" "new" shoes click against the wood as she steps up beside him and looks down at the policeman.

"Senza fortuna," she comments evenly. The girl's face is neutral in the face of death, marked only by a light frown.

"Thank you," she adds to Shift, paying his face more attention than his suit despite the recent turn of events.

*

"He's dead," Kwabena reports, after finding no pulse. He then claims the officer's radio, listening to it for a moment. Normally, had the cop called for backup, there would be reports coming over the radio, but none came in.

"No backup, eidah."

Dropping the radio, he turns back to Nerino. Kwabena has seen his fair share of death, and he's got no love for law enforcement, but this cop didn't deserve this. "Don't thank me yet. You may have just gotten pegged by de Section, and dat means a whole load of troubah for you."

Turning, he makes for the street. "I've got a staging area back dis way. Gotta get a tracking device on dat ship before dey make for de open sea." He looks over his shoulder. "Coming?"

*

The watery young woman's eyelids flutter slowly; she blinks. "What?"

*

The Ghanaian stops in his tracks, turning to face the woman properly. "You're in dangah." Kwabena isn't mincing words. "I suggest you come with me, for now."

*

The nymph's body finally solidifies into its natural lightly-tanned complexion and Shift's silver eyes meet a pair of sea-blue gems that on her young and vibrant face should be brimming with life. They're not and Nerina gives the offer a flippant wave of her hand. "They were just shooting me. I have places I want to be tonight."

She reaches up to cover a long yawn. "Like bed."

*

Reaching up, Kwabena stretches the mask from his face, letting it flop down the back side of his neck. His skin is dark as it comes, and there doesn't appear to be a hair on his head. The silver eyes gleam a bit in the darkness of night, revealing an almost catlike nature behind the pupils.

"Yeah. Dey were. And dey're paht of an intahnational terrorist organization. Odds are? You've been pegged. Dey might send assassins to shut you up. Take my word for it, kiddo. Dis is nasty business."

While speaking, Kwabena has closed the distance between them. "Dey especially don't like men and women with abilities. Like yours. Mine. I'm offahring you a chance to not go it alone when dey send peopah aftah you." A pause. "You got a name, kid?"

*

Nerina cocks her head again as she listens while letting Kwabena come as close as he wants. "Nessuno," she half-answers with a shrug. "I'm not-a 'fraid of some humans. There are no witnesses, nobody else saw us, and also… I don't die."

"I don't think I trust you, either," she adds thoughtfully as she sets a hand on her chin.

*

A knowing grin spreads across the Ghanaian's face. "Smart girl," he answers, in regard to trust not being so easily extended. "And trust me, Nessuno. Dere are always witnesses, and everybody dies."

He doesn't draw too close for comfort. He does, however, extend a slightly damp, gloved hand. "I'm Shift. You get in ovah your head? 555-419-2200." Another smirk. "Since you're gonna be dumb and go it alone."

With that, he turns around and begins walking away. "Sleep well, kid."

*

"Nessuno" takes the offered hand and grips it but doesn't immediately let go, using it to hold the Ghanaian from his escape as she looks up with an awkward smile. "Shift. Before you go… I will forget that number, and I have no phone."

*

Silver eyes drop to the hand that has been retained, then rise to meet those of Nerina. No phone? It surprises him, and his eyebrows rise to show it. "Do you know de cafe on Richards and 82nd?" he asks, decisively.

*

"No but I can find it," Nerina replies. "If you have-a piece of paper, I can buy a phone later. These coglione were generous," she says, patting her swollen and over-sized jacket.

*

Her question receives a look. A piece of paper? Somewhere on a damp skin-tight uniform? The look is soon replaced by a lopsided grin. "Meet me dere in an hour. I can give you a phone."

She won't need to release his hand, for in the blink of an eye, the man has transformed into smoke. Thick tendrils of black smoke that coil up on the ground at her feet, then vault into the air, headed inland and toward the building he'd first spied on the Serbian vessel from.

*

A light, melodic laugh follows Shift into the air as he departs and Nessuno shakes her head in amusement. "At-at-at-ahh… Now I kind of want your body," she muses before turning and walking along the pier to where she'd left her bag. The nymph glances down at her wrist and pulls back her sleeve to expose a string of watches running up her forearm. "Good thing I have these now."

*

Should the woman tarry long enough, she might notice a string of black tendrils soaring through the air, only to alight upon the Serbian vessel, near its port bow. For a moment, Shift reforms in the dark, and once he's placed the waterproof tracking device, he's back into smoke form again, using the hull to coil up against before disappearing into the night sky.

*

By that time the thief has wandered some distance away but not quite out of sight. She giggles quietly to herself at the fresh display of metahuman ability. Shift might not know it yet but she's going to be late. Finding somewhere to hide her perfectly legal new gains in Gotham will take time. Finders keepers, right?

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