Better than Death

December 06, 2016:

Three incompetent bur rather vicious super-villains are robbing a bank. X-23 and Iron Guard try to stop them.

NYC, Financial District

The Financial District. When people think of New York, with it's skyline dominated by high rises belonging to powerful corporations, this is what they're thinking of. Situated on the southeastern side of the island (just follow the huge buildings) this is the beating heart 'Wall Street' and many powerful and influential corporations. From the 90's on, a number of high rises were converted into condominiums and there are at present about sixty thousand people living in the district, to which is daily added the commuters and tourist populations the latter of whom come to see such sights as the New York City Police Museum, the Canyon of Heroes and the Skyscraper Museum.


NPCs: Rhino, Shocker, Nitro (emits by Iron Guard)



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It is a cold evening in New York and people hurry to finish their business and get back their warm homes. But the financial district never truly stops and some corporate office buildings still have the lights on. All normal in their busy normality.

And then the forefront of a bank explodes, sending class shards all over the street. Nearby cars flip over and civilians scream and panic. Terrorists! Some scream. A couple cops cross the street quickly, running to see what has happened, but the second they get to the shattered gates of the bank, a second explosion sends them flying out. Only… there was nothing there to explode, it is as if the very air detonated.

Much like the Financial District there's another who couldn't quite sleep - X-23, or rather, Laura Kinney.

Yes, the mansion is a known thing to her, but being away from the noise, the clutter, the people for so long has reset her tolerance levels back to zero. As such, the slim assassin finds herself in the heart of the city, watching the people, the places, the things.

She was loitering at a corner, far enough away from the bank that the explosion doesn't touch her, but the noise, the brightness, her heighten senses easily see and hear the commotion. Pivoting upon her heel, X-23 will turn all her senses to the shattered forefront and with a step, the assassin will affect an easy ground-eating lope towards the building.

Her pace only slows slightly at that second explosion … Already she's scenting the air, trying to ascertain what type of bomb is being used (if there is one). And while others might check the cops first, X-23 moves past them, her attention upon the shattered building.

Blood and death. Those are the scents coming from the bank. Easy to spot the shattered corpse of a security guard, he was too close to the explosion. Inside, more corpses, and some injured and dying. Fortunately the bank was closed to customers, but there were some workers here.

“You maniac!” A somewhat muffled voice sounds, “half the city must have heard that! And you blew up the damn entrance.” There is a giggle (which does sound maniacal). “So what? That fool pointed a gun to me. And we have no use for hostages. And if the cops come, I will kill them too.”

“I have no time for this crap,” grumbles the first voice. The vault is open, lets get what we came to pick up and leave before Spider-Man or someone else shows up.”

Laura can see three men ahead. One is dressed in a padded yellow and brown armor. Another is an old, but strong man, with long white hair in a purple and dark blue outfit. He smells to ash and cordite. The third one is a huge, huge man in grey armor, with a horn in the head. And he is looking at the doors direction. “Wouldn’t mind if that insect shows up, but the boss doesn’t like too much killing,” he has some Russian accent. Also, he is looking right at Laura as she gets inside. “Kid, get out of here,” he makes shooing gestures with his huge hands. He must weight over 500 lbs. Huge.

Verdant green eyes easily pick out the corpses of those that died within. Her expression, however, never changes from that flat, almost detached look.

The fact that she's also severely outnumbered doesn't seem to matter, or stop her from stepping past the shards of glass, chunks of concrete, or burnt papers to be inside with the would-be bank robbers. There is, however, a slight pause from X-23 at the sight of Rhino's massive form. Not because she's scared, or afraid, no, there's a calculating look in those green eyes of hers. She's determining the best way to stop the three men within.

It's only with Rhino's shooing motions that the assassin will say, "No." And while others might posture and puff and warn the would-be thieves away, X-23 doesn't. Instead there's that familiar *SNIKT* and both sets of claws pop from the young woman's hands. Then, she's moving. Quickly.

Kids these days. The massive grey-clad man moves forward to try to grab Laura, only stalling when he sees the claws. “Who are…” he starts, but then he grunts. Someone else just landed outside the bank, Laura can hear metal hitting the pavement.

“Iron Man? Guess Shocker was right, now we have a fight,” but behind him the man in purple and blue just cackles. “Watch out, Rhino, that kid has claws. And yeah, I’ll take care of him. Hell, I will take care of both at once, hahahahaha!” He explodes.

“Nyet…” manages Rhino, as the whole building rocks with a far more powerful explosion than the ones before. Rhino actually tries to stand between Laura and the blast. But the armored man just rushing into the bank takes the explosion head on. He is hardly blown up to pieces, though, although he is forced back a couple yards, somehow managing not to fall down.

If there was still some worker alive in the bank, that is no longer true. “YOU MANIAC!!” Roars the muffled voice from the back. Inside the vault Shocker was safe, but he is obviously not happy.

The arrival of another hero is indeed heard by X-23's sensitive ears, but for now, the young woman's attention is solely upon Rhino. She's coming in low and fast, half crouched as she ran, with her claws at her side. And while she was about to try and lash out at Rhino, specifically his legs to hamstring, that explosion hits.

If it weren't for both Rhino and the unknown armored man, X-23 would likely be burnt to a brittle crisp. As it is, she's not and her attention now turns from Rhino (and the armored man) to the crazy exploding one. Clearly, Nitro has moved up on the threat-level list for X.

Barely stopping, the dark-haired young woman will alter her path just enough to try and skirt around Rhino's massive form. She's moving to try and attack Nitro, unaware that the man changes physical states when he makes things explode.

Rhino seems unhurt by the explosion, although he shakes his head to clear his ringing ears. And he misses Laura sneaking past him. Anyway, he assumes ‘Iron Man’ is the main threat, so he charges, like a Rhino. It is what he does.

Nitro meanwhile is a cloud of gas, but he is quickly rematerializing. That was hardly the biggest explosion he can cause, so he is back in about five second, he barely has time to be surprised Laura is still alive and moving. But the Shocker also comes back, to see why the hell Nitro keeps exploding, and when he sees Laura, he lifts an arm and sends a shockwave blast at the girl.

And just in front of Rhino, Iron Guard is also somewhat surprised by the violence and ruthlessness of the exploding super-criminal. But having a 700 lbs. Rhino charging him he has little time to commiserate. With surprising agility, he jumps aside, and then fires a repulsor blast point blank at Rhino’s leg, making him lose balance and crashing down to the street outside. He then glances deeper into the bank, in time to see Laura and her claws.

While it might seem like X-23 hasn't taken any real notice of the armored man, she has, but she's focused on her task at hand.

Her mission, if you will.

As soon as Nitro re-materializes into his more corporeal form, X-23 will lash out with an underhanded claw-jab. She's aiming for the man's heart and while her aim is typically quite true, today it's not.

Not when that wave of force suddenly hits her and the slim assassin goes flying. And while she could have likely been thrown further away, thankfully, a still standing wall stops her forward momentum. With a hard thud, the dark-haired woman slams against the wall, before dropping to the ground. The crunch of glass (and possibly bone) might be heard and for the moment, X-23 doesn't rise from that attack.

Nitro attempts to step back when Laura stabs him, but he is not quick enough, only Shocker blast saves him, “aaargh…” he stumbles back, bleeding. But the wound is hardly deep. “Kill that bitch,” he says, seeing Shocker has managed to nail her. “Shut up and… crap, that is not Iron Man!”

“Iron Guard, actually,” notes Nathaniel, stepping between the villains and Laura. Shocker blasts him, but he braces for the attack and barely grunts when hit.

“Where is Rhino?” Asks Shocker. “I am going to blow up the whole building,” states Nitro. “No, wait, you would kill me!” Complains Shocker. “I am here! Where is that guy?” Bellows Rhino, getting back into the building.

The other two villains turn to the huge Russian, and Nathaniel fires a double repulsor blast at Nitro. Not pulling punches there, he sends the explosive murderer flying against the far wall of the room with bone-crunching force. “Alright. You two surrender now, too many deaths already,” he commands, his voice mechanized by the armor.

Of course Rhino charges again.

Shocker runs, but in the other direction. Cowards live longer.

Bones knit and injuries heal and all of it only takes a handful of moments. Perhaps a full minute, if one were to really time it.

As soon as her body is able to, X-23 will rise to her feet, from where she had fallen. Her green eyes will sweep the area at hand - noting the armored man standing in front of her, the running Shocker and the fallen Nitro.

Then her gaze falls on Rhino, as the large Russian man runs toward the mechanized man known as Iron Guard.

While normally, X-23 would go for a killing blow, with Rhino, she hesitates. Perhaps because he tried to protect her when Nitro tried to kill her, but, whatever the case may be, Laura will pause in her consideration of where to hit Rhino. Finally, a decision is made, and with that decision made the dark-haired assassin leaps forward. She'll effect a quick and tight tumble, with that somersault sending her just past Rhino's charging form. Once she's behind him, she'll whirl around and lash out with claws, aiming to cut both of Rhino's Achilles' tendons.

This time Iron Guard can't dodge, since Laura is behind him and the first scan he made stated she had several broken bones - not to move. So instead he will use his forcefield. It can take Rhino's charge, no problem.

And Laura moves… what? Nathaniel didn't expect that, and neither did Rhino. The big Russian barely sees the girl, he is focused on 'Iron Man' so he screams loudly when his tendons are slashed. His armor and flesh are tough as tank armor plate, and even adamantium does not cut that easily, but Laura cuts deep enough the huge man falls down on his face, and rolls over screaming, trying to reach his injured legs. Loud swearing in Russian can be hear.

"That was… not very nice, young lady," comments Iron Guard. But he sounds more amused than displeased, and thumbs up at the small brunette. "<Don't move, Mr. Sytsevich. Your Achilles tendons are both half cut. The paramedics will be here in ten minutes, but I do not think you will be able to walk for the next three or four weeks.>" He tells the fallen villain in Russian.

He glances back to Laura. "Adamantium? What is a girl your age doing with half a million dollars in claws made of secret, experimental alloys?"

While she intended to slice the tendons completely, X-23 hadn't quite compensated for the thickness of the costume, nor the durability of the Rhino's own skin. Next battle, she'll remember that about him.

Rising to her feet, the young woman will then turn her attention towards the Iron Guard. There's a calculating look within her eyes, as she considers the mechanized man, but, all everything he did lined up in the heroic, or good guy category, so for now, he's slated as a potential ally.

It's, however, his words joking said or not, that cause X-23 to finally speak up. "It is better than death." Her words are quite monotone, clinical almost, as she turns those verdant eyes towards the fallen and now screaming Rhino. Clearly, his bleeding, screaming and thrashing of pain doesn't bother her. That last question of Iron Guard's brings the assassins eyes right back to the mech-man and the faintest of frowns begins to tug X-23's lips downward. She doesn't ask how he knew her claws are covered in adamantium and instead, she says in that flat, matter-of-fact voice of hers, "The metal was grafted to my claws to allow me to kill difficult targets easier."

Nathaniel looks around, at the shattered walls and burning desks, and the corpses of Nitro’s careless violence. Shocker is not in the area and his armor sensors do not detect any other life signs besides the four of them. Next time he will remember to stick trackers in cowardly villains. Now, police sirens are closing quickly. “Yes, better than death. I am Iron Guard, I am with the Avengers. Will you stay to talk with the police?”

Iron Guard, of the Avengers. The name and team are memorized, even as the suit of armor is. For her name, she'll simply offer a hesitant. "Laura."

Like him, she's using her own keen senses to keep abreast of just what's going on around them. At the first hint of sirens, the dark-haired woman will cant her head slightly to the side.

She's silently calculating how much longer she has before the police arrive on scene. When Iron Guard asks that question of whether she's going to stay or not, the assassin will take a moment to consider her answer. Then, with that flat firm voice of hers, she says, "No. Goodbye."

And just like that, Laura pivots from Iron Guard and begins to pick her way through the broken glass and metal.

“Thought so,” mutters Nathaniel when Laura turns to leave. Too quietly for a normal person to hear, but he doesn’t know the young woman has super-senses. He does know that her injuries are mostly gone, which is remarkable. Curious, he fires an invisible tachyon stream to the mutant girl’s back. It will mark her for a few days so his armor sensors can find her. Just in case. Because someone gave a teenager adamantium claws to ‘kill difficult targets easier’ and that is pretty disturbing even for the messed up 21st Century.

Since he is an Avenger (and look, a badge and everything) he does need to stay to talk with the cops. And the reporters. Le sigh.

That muttered thought so is heard, by Laura, but she doesn't react to it. Nor does she react to that invisible stream of tachyons - that's just too far above her heightened senses to detect.

When she steps free from the shattered bank, she'll fall into step with the crowds that surround the active sight and with only a few steps, she's swallowed by the crowds.

As for Nathaniel Richards, those cop cars pull up, as well as several news vans. His life is definitely /hard/, isn't it.

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