Devil on Detail

December 17, 2016:

The Dark Devil foils a theft of…something. By someone.



NPCs: Five


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Dark. Sleet. Nasty weather, the kind that takes a tax on the homeless of fingers and toes. The city of Gotham hunkers down, icy streets banking with slush the color of rust and mold. Rarely ever quiet, there is a kind of artificial quietude imposed upon its vast bulk by the promise of heavy snow, a hush beneath low-hanging, gunmetal clouds.

It can't last. Sirens split the night air like the wail of banshees, echoing across the bay from Metropolis. There is a torrent of radio traffic from one city to another, details spare, transmissions fuzzed. A break-in at a gene-mapping laboratory, the theft of something important, details vague, possibly classified. The culprit managed to elude police, but was last seen heading for Gotham, hell bent for leather. Radio chatter rises like signal flares across the dark child of the northeast corridor's three largest cities, but that brilliant, dazzling beam of light in the sky, the beacon to summon the bat, remains dark — who can know why?

A slender figure tears through back alleys with the agility of a doe in flight, long-legged and strangely buoyant. Its contours are made strange in the half-light: slick leggings, jacket, something almost but not quite like heeled, knee-high boots. Orange arc-sodium glare smears and drools across the slick, black, glossy contours of a helmet, plays off of the wink of short cables that sprout from the back, loop down and around, tuck beneath where helmet meets neck.

Beneath the high collar of the cropped jacket, lashed about her torso and secured to the solar plexus, a slim glass container glows, pulsing softly blue at intervals. It radiates faint heat against the thundering cadence of her rushing heartbeat.

Six slings herself into the pitch of an alley, throws her back up against the rough brick of the wall. Footsteps echo a block away, then fade. The vent in the front of the helmet expels a jetstream of hot air as she exhales, struggling to catch her breath.

/Almost there./


She could feel it on the air. No matter how confident, how superior, how important, when someone fled like prey The Devil Inside roiled and raged. Steam rose around her against the biting cold of dirty sleet, more a muck grey than clear or white, and as she pulled in air across her tongue and through her nose she rose from her crouch at the corner of the building.

Sometimes she liked to think the thing inside her let her smell someone a mile away, let her taste fear or desperation.

Not even close.

But she had learned other ways to hunt, and as sirens send Six into the tangled web of Gotham's alleys, as footsteps miss their mark and pass her by, another has caught her trail. In any other place, the street lights would make her approach impossible. In any other city, it would be all the more unexpected.


Certainly she is not the imposing creature of the night that criminals whisper, and never out in the open, a small slip of a thing that doesn't even have a mask. But there's something about her. The way she rises from the top of the dented dumpster lid. The pose she strikes as she looms overhead. Maybe all of those things fall a little short, but her eyes hold an otherworldly burn that cuts to the core, lips pulling back in a grimace as she sweeps her gaze from top to bottom and back up again.

The grave will call to them all one day, but few get to know what it feels to have someone step on it before they're in the ground.

"Guess all that's for you then." A slow inhale, as if somehow, she can taste Six on the air. "Guessing /that/…" She glances to the container. "…is not yours."


The helmeted figure snaps up from the wall the moment the ground trembles with the sudden impact of a landing body, spinning to face the speaker and there is something off about all of it — not just the swiftness of the response, but the sound her heeled boots make as she adopts a posture of readiness. It isn't the hollow wooden tick-tock of stilettos…it's something like the sound a sword makes as it whispers against a whetstone, the song of an alloy on asphalt.

Beneath the helmet, within the anonymity it provides, Six waits for her heart to start beating again.

(You have company,) whispers the voice in her skull.

/That would have been nice to know thirty seconds ago./

Runs like a doe, freezes in headlights like one, too. Nothing about the helmeted figure moves save for the rolling stream of mist periodically jetted from the helmet's forward vent — at least, until the masked figure speaks. Makes a few guesses. Good ones, as it turns out.

The helmeted figure says nothing, but her head snaps up and to the side looking at the rising faces of the apartment buildings that sandwich this fetid forgotten space. Less than a split second later she's in full motion again: two steps and a leap, and somewhere in that leap the heels of her boots split at the toe, the stiletto segmenting, all points reconfiguring into claws that bite into the brickwork to assist in a desperate, rapid ascent. The right arm assists, tiny, winking barbs spit from the ends of slender fingertips, but the left sees no use — perhaps holding onto the stolen item clutched against her midriff. The lack of one assisting limb does not appear to slow her down overmuch.


Every other costumed freak in this city with a desire to do good would lament how they always run. How there's always part two. How it never, ever ends in simple surrender.

Not The Dark Devil.

Her smile is a spontaneous thing filled with a burning thrill that turns her cheeks red and her heart into a revved engine. This is what she lives for. Not just the thrill of chasing down some thief, but the inevitable confrontation that happens after. She knows what happens after flight, and she lives for the fight.

Every night she swallows the shame of what she's become, a monster hanging on by a ragged edge, but in this moment, where her skin roils with goosebumps and her eyes sharpen to a vibrant focus, she wonders if she's ever felt more alive.

She doesn't have the fancy tools of the various Batlings and Robin-sons that flit about, and so she does it the hard way: With a leap she snags the bottom of a nearby fire escape, and her body turns momentum and torque into an ease of effort, kicking her way up and over to the next level, and where the next ladder is locked she kicks out to windowsill and back over, again, scaling the building parallel to Six's avenue of escape.

Boots grate against ice and rooftop gravel, and if one were looking up they might see her in mid-motion, a ball of sailing fury that aims to catch Six from behind - right when she's about to come over the top.

It is not the fluid swing of someone on a Bat-line, nor the careful somersault of a former acrobat, but the pouncing plow of a predator that thinks it's finally going to get to sink it's teeth into it's prey.


(She's coming,) whispers the voice in her head that is, and is not, her own.

Adrenaline fuels her scrabble at the building's ribs, driving her up to the ledge, and she feels a sudden upswell of hope as she crests it. Up and over, two buildings across — get that far and there's a means of swift egress just waiting for her to arrive.

May as well be two continents. The moment she levers herself up over the edge she feels her pursuer's weight slam into her from behind, and though she makes a valiant effort to retain her balance she's unable, her forward momentum already working against her. She's flung onto the roof. It hits her chest like a fist, punching a short, sharp sound of surprise and pain out of her, but it doesn't sound anything like her voice by the time it passes through the helmet's filters. What emerges is a sound like pained static, the snarl of some sort of digital predator.

Sucking a breath down into her shocked lungs, she writhes, twisting like a snake beneath her would-be captor and grappling with her hands, fighting to reverse their positions. One hand is decidedly artificial, a glinting, wicked thing every bit as deft as the real deal; the other is very clearly flesh and blood, albeit flesh and blood skinned in a lightly armored glove.

The real danger is no doubt in her feet, though: still claws, still sharp enough to pierce brick, and as she thrashes there is some risk of one of them finding purchase on flesh.


The Devil Inside roars against the fiber of her soul, the integrated menagerie of sickly and sweet. She never knew violence before this thing joined with her, and now when she tastes it she knows the only reason she has not become the monster that others before her have is that she somehow, impossibly, fights back.

So when the Devil wants to lift her body and slam both knees into the back of Six's skull, when it wants to drive Six's helmet into the rooftop until it becomes a shard-laden jaw of face-lacerating goodness, she fights back.

Mechanical limbs and their dangerous barbs whirl out of her, and she tumbles forward, keeping momentum when Six comes to a stop and twisting against more slush and ice as she slides a couple feet away, until she plants a foot and begins back at the woman, a juking start turns her motion left, right, and left again, and as if painting a picture or scripting a song, she'll get to Six /probably/ about the time she's getting up, a hand faking up and out as if to bring a blow crashing down before she whirls in a sudden, spinning kick that aims to dislodge her precious cargo from her cradling arm.

There are more than one ways to put someone on a back foot - tonight her eye is on the prize!

"Don't be gentle. I haven't found anyone to fist-fuck all night."

Look this is a classic catch phrase that Batman used to use at the beginning of /his/ career. Really.


The kick lands — bullseye, right where intended — but it does not have the intended effect. Six takes the full brunt of it rather than reeling away, another choked sound forced out of her as she topples backward, lands hard on her tailbone. She feels her ribs creak, hears and feels a sudden pop on one side, an alarming warmth that spreads down the net of muscles lining the right side of her torso. /Not good./

Either the helmeted figure has no breath with which to banter, or she elects not to use it for that purpose. She's fast — very fast, actually — and she makes decisions with an unnatural rapidity, turning her backward sprawl into a roll and twist that takes her further from her assailant, toward the edge of the roof. And rather than attempt to go on fighting, she gathers her legs beneath her and takes off in another sprint, a sleek bullet shot toward the building's edge, and the next building over.

A…wobbling bullet. The pain in her ribs begins to unfurl ladders down into her hip. She pushes through on the strength of necessity, but if this fight is a war of attrition, she's already at a disadvantage.

She clears the gap with distance to spare, but loses traction atop the next roof, leaving dark weals in the tarpaper atop the cement roof as she skids. One hand fumbles with the nearby metal lip of the HVAC ductwork, to keep her from taking another spill.


Oh /god/ how she moves. The Dark Devil watches, and she can pick out all the parts of her that were made in a shop against those made in the core of another person. It's an instinctual traction that her predatory mind latches onto, thrilled by the speed of her quarry combined with the sudden, delicious hobble.

If this were any other place she'd lose her. Even hobbled, Six has certain advantages. But The Dark Devil knows it's haunt, knows it's layers, and she darts sidelong.

There's a furious calm. The disconcerting kind of thing that soldiers know to dread, where not even animals will make sounds for the terrible violence that is soon to follow. A twang echoes sidelong, then the sound of something - three somethings - whistle through the air.

Ping. Pang. THWAP!

The first two ninja stars hit the HVAC work, but the third will smack against Six's helmet before ricocheting off to the side. Most importantly, all three ninja stars are different shapes, and one is already bent from the impact to that helmet.

You're looking at the best three dollars Azalea Kingston ever spent at a flea market.

Wherever this vigilante disappeared to, she reappears trailing cable - literal coaxial cable - torn from the side of a nearby building and used as a falling fulcrum to give her the momentum to swing parallel to Six's position. It leaves her vaulting over the left side of the building Six just landed on, and with a rolling tumble she once again comes to a stop in front of the tenacious thief.

It's all over her face how much she enjoys the chase, her eyes lifting to level that death ray in the other woman's direction, her smile a thrill-seeker's thanks. "It's slick out here. Ice and rain and dirt, and this is /my/ city. You're going /nowhere/."

She advances. No furious charge. No reeling attack. The careful stalk of someone who means to end the game.


While the devil inside watches, Six is still on the move. Once she has her footing, she's moving again, for the far side of the building, and if it had not been for three dollars' worth of cheap but well-thrown metal, she probably wouldn't have stopped. It's difficult to tell from inside of the helmet just what it was that hit her, save that it pinged off of something sensitive. Briefly, the display inside of that helmet flickers, and a bright spark of alarming feedback squeaks through the line connecting the back of the helmet with the port drilled into the base of the back of her skull.

The effect is immediate and exceptional. Six spins around to face her attacker, arms held wide for balance. If she's going to be shot at — it was probably a gun, she figures — then she's going to want to see where it's coming from.


Only her pursuer isn't there. And then she /is/, very suddenly, vexingly close, somehow managing to keep up on the strength of her improvisations alone.

Six stumbles backward, and then continues to edge slowly that way, knees slightly bent and arms still held out to either side. She moves only as quickly as the masked vigilante, trying to keep the distance between them steady, but she's now only a yard from the edge of the building, and the next one over is across the street: far too far away to leap to, unless those legs of hers are hiding something more.

Pulses of mist stream from the slots in the low jaw of the sleek helmet.


(The Valkyrie's systems are coming online.)

/You read my mind./


A slide. A skid. She advances. Again and again to circle and cut distance. There's a moment when it seems like she might stop, maybe believing any further movement might send Six into a backward spiral over the edge. Who knows - maybe her mission won't /let/ her be caught.

The last yard is a mad dash. At first it seems like a double-leg take down, a sliding shooting thing meant to wrap Six's legs up in her adrenaline charged arms, but she'll stop short and pop up to her feet as she skids slightly right, but all the while her knuckles lead the way, up and arced in a perfect way to take advantage of momentum and the sudden stop of her right foot against the brick at the building's edge.

Her other arm stays coiled close - not as a defensive measure, but ready to reach out and snag her quarry if her punch lands as expected - it's the kind of heaving blow that, helmet or not, it likely to send someone over the edge.

As much as The Devil Inside wants it, Azalea Kingston does not, will not kill.

Of course, if those magic legs are hiding something more, it's likely The Dark Devil won't be able to anticipate it. She's a master at dissecting meat with her eyes. Motion is betrayed, intentions unraveled. But metal? Maybe if it were a sword swinging at her head. For now, Six is three eighth's of impenetrable mystery.


It doesn't land as expected.

Not this time.

The entire encounter has been dominated by the masked woman's proficiency with violence, and marked by a decided lack of reprisals on the part of her quarry. The helmeted figure has not taken a single swing, has not seemed interested in anything but flight, escape. And to gauge from the assault to her person, the blows that landed, the toppling-over, Six doesn't have an extensive background in hand-to-hand fighting. Maybe not with any kind of fighting at all.

But she learns quickly, and she processes sensory data like a machine. This time, she knows what's coming, and this time, she tilts her head to the side, a neat, almost robotic snap to an angle. But she has to lean to do it, to avoid the blow, and so the Devil is no doubt forced to get her fingers into some part of her prey's attire, to keep her from spilling backward over the edge.

This close, the Devil's own face is reflected back to her, distorted, in the endless, shining night of the helmet's slick, wet faceplate, and the puff of warm steam that jets from the front of it tingles over freckled skin, a humid contrast to the frozen evening air. They hang that way for one, two full seconds, precariously balanced on what feels to Six like the edge of the world.

And then the reflection is blotted out utterly by a sudden blazing, hellish, halogen dawn. Floodlights rise from behind the building's edge, behind the helmeted figure, along with a stuttering whine and deep subsonic bass that together chop the air like a knife. Through the glare and the spitting screen of ongoing sleet, aggressively sleek contours can be glimpsed: a cockpit twinkling with lights like colored stars, barely visible through a smoke-black canopy. Halos containing rotors on either side. It hoves into view, this VTOL craft the size of a compact bus, and trash and slush, water and debris go swirling violently away from the building's edge.

Six reaches back with one artificial hand, grips the retrieval line that descends from the craft's stubby nose behind her, and on some soundless command the aircraft wrests upward and away, dragging Six with it.

And Six?


She is obviously counting on her captor letting go.


Her punch slides by, and it threatens the balance of her next act in a way she had not anticipated. One hand hooks low - grabbing for anything she can at her hip - a belt, a harness, anything at all to keep her from going over, and her punching arm crooks, looping around her neck to suddenly cinch them close.

It's everything The Devil Inside wants in human on human interaction, but Azalea's focus turns it's baser urges to a kind of tilted fascination. In the moment that hangs there forever, where gravity circles them both like a noose drawn from the depths of Hell, The Dark Devil tilts her head.

Maybe it's staring at herself in that reflection that's so fascinating. Maybe, somehow, she can see beyond. There's a bump when her forehead taps against the protective headwear, like a kid intent on pressing it's face to the glass to see what's behind something tinted.

Then her fascination is torn asunder, the thunderous cacophony of a dragon rising against the horizon. Slowly her head tilts back and up, her hair whipping about in a furious dance against the man-made storm.

Anyone else would probably lose their nerve, lose their cool. The Devil Roars, angry at itself for it's lapse in concentration. The hold is not a great one. She's already begun to slip, forced to coil her arms around Six's hips and wedge her chin down against the cradled object of her thieving affection.


Time to go for a ride.




No…no, no, no no no. No!

Behind dark, bulletproof glass, Six's eyes widen. She looks down, spends moments shocked that things are unfolding this way. Who would do such a thing? The craft has already edged out over the building's ledge; it's an eight story drop to a cold, hard sidewalk.

And yet.

There they are.

Six kicks out at the empty air with her legs, struggling to hold their combined weight. The only reason that it's even possible is because the hand involved is not made of flesh and blood, but the upper arm to which it is attached certainly /is/, and Six is not a physically imposing individual.

In the noise and swirling chaos, her 'passenger' might see the helmeted head snap up to look at the craft, down, up again, searching for recourse, some next move in the game. As though responding to this indecision, the aircraft's smooth peel away from the building has stalled, leaving it to hover twenty feet above the rooftop they'd only so recently abandoned, its indecision linked to her own.

All that while, stretched out that way, the cropped jacket's lower edge is creeping upward, cresting her ribs. Beneath, slotted into the harness that rides over the cloth of her clothing, a muted blue radiance edges into view. It's a vial containing liquid, and the liquid is causing the glow all of its own accord.

For the first time across the entire span of the encounter, the figure with the helmet speaks, voice a filtered, toneless sibilance. "/Let go./ I don't need your death on my conscience."


It's that moment when Vincent and Jules look into the briefcase. The Dark Devil knows not of what it stares at, but one lizard-brain though dominates all others in that moment. It isn't the press of her cheek against her quarry's stomach or the slow slip of her arms that are about to peek over Six's hips and descend past her thighs, where little purchase remains. Instead, her brain is locked. Focused.



Her mouth opens and she darts in. OH GOD IS SHE BITING AT HER?!

When her head snaps back the blue glow lights up her face, and for the first time her eyes seem terribly, horribly inhuman.

With the end of the vial pinched in her mouth, she lets go. Six's arm will find sudden relief as The Devil's weight lets go, her eyes saying neener, even as her mind suddenly catches up with the whole falling bit.


Like a cat she twists in the air, and the vial comes loose, but her hand is waiting to snatch it - right before she slams into a nest of small satellite dishes that the residents of this building have elected to use to get their latest in television programming.

Someone's missing Westworld tonight. Someone else is breaking some ribs.

Six will see The Devil's hand open, even as the creature rolls and groans from her battered position, the intact vial still in her hand.


She really does think, for a split second, that this madwoman is about to take a bite out of her stomach. Just open her mouth, keep on opening it, unhinging the jaw like a serpent and unfolding row after row of teeth and just—

But she doesn't. Later she'll wonder why she thought that, what it was about the woman's face that made her feel as though such a thing could be possible, but she won't be able to recall. Only the sensation of overwhelming relief as the movement yields something utterly mundane…

…swiftly followed by the crushing realization that she's just lost. Lost the fight, lost what she risked her neck to obtain.

She doesn't even have time to respond before the masked vigilante drops away, flips around and lands in a briar patch of electronics. The spark of blue light that winks from her open hand as she rolls free of the wreckage is salt in the Six's wounds — which are, speaking of, beginning to send ever-more urgent complaints to her central nervous system. Her battered ribs do not appreciate present circumstances.

Still, she hangs for some moments longer, looking down at the chill, winking star of the vial, struggling with the urge to descend, knowing damn well she won't be able to get it back.

She breathes a quiet curse and finally twists around, turning to face the retrieval strap. It reels upward toward a gap that slides open in the base of the craft, which pivots away from the building, swinging the blinding suns of its lights around. The chopping whine intensifies. Rotors spin up, halos tilt, and as it begins to race off into the darkness, the helmeted figure finally disappears through the hatch, which closes seamlessly behind her.


The stumbling, half-fall of a jerking motion that sends her snarling free of dishes and antennas and who knows what else leaves her stumbling and grasping her side, her gaze cast upward as the whirl and whine of engines dominates the air.

Forever and ever she watches. Watches it climb. Watches it escape. Where are her wings? Why doesn't she have those?


Finally there's a snort of breath through her nostrils, and long after the vehicle has left her only with the sound of sleet in her ears does she yell after it.

"You blueballing fuck!"

She practically snarls the words, and then stumbles sidelong before jamming her fist into her ribs to send pain ricocheting through her synapses. It is fuel for The Devil, and left with her glowey shiny-prize, she licks her lips and considers. Does it taste good?

Nah, better not. Better let someone else figure that out. She puts it in her very best pocket before rushing to the edge of the building where she knows there to be an escape ladder and leaps, catching air, and at the last moment rusty metal, gliding down it with what she imagines is the same fury as those churning rotors that left her behind.

It's not, but she likes to pretend.

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