Bangkok Deal Gone Wrong

May 21, 2018:

T'Challa and Lily end up at a black market deal between major crime families. Their goals put them at odds. A fight breaks out.

Bangkok Oriental Hotel

Characters

NPCs: Crime families. Black market handler.

Mentions: Black Panther, Lily

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The dark reflection of sunglasses hides his eyes.

The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok was listed as a top choice on many vacation sites as a prime place to stay when vacationing in Thailand, with an internationally minded staff, and luxury acoutrements. However, unbeknownst to many, such hotels were also prime locations for men of ill repute to keep company with one another. Almost without exception, there can be no good done when devils meet.

It is ne of the more auspicious deals in the black market, known to many but admitted by few. Two major families working in cross connections with one another were negotiating a deal involving the transit of enough weapons to level a small country. This was the first of such affairs, and the success of this could make or break deals for days to come.

It was all predicated by a single person, a shadow broker.

This is why several men from each of the major executive arms of the participating families are present, along with a retinue from the broker himself, who is not present. This is also why a single man has chosen to blend in on the Chinese side, his imposing height, cut stature, and tendancy to ask no questions at all marking him as a hired gun for the Chinese side of the deal, an imposing bodyguard in a well cut suit. He takes the floor on the side, listening to the affairs intently.

*

The market whispered of an austere meeting, a job floated up. Her Johnson wasn't one of her regular clients but the job was one of her favorites: Destabilization and chaos. Fly to Bangkok. Find the meeting. Disrupt the deals. Collateral damage: Irrelevant. Discretion: Irrelevant. Hands were shaken, papers forged. By the next hour she was on a plane.

All to coalesce into a single moment. From the waiting staff backroom she departs, dressed in men's clothing, a coat, a wig of thick hair that hides her ears, and enough makeup to hide the tone of her face. Blue gloves guiding a cart hide her hands. She doesn't smile, best not to give away her teeth.

Coming to a stop at one of the many stone displays dressed with white cloth, she lays out trays of food prepared from the kitchen. At least one glance is stolen at the Chinese side of the room, her movements stiff. A couple of times she scans the room, taking in an inventory of its occupants.

*

The guard stands, motionless, hands clasped in front of him as he slowly sweeps the hotel. Aside from the attendants in waiting, the room is mostly empty but for the negotiations going on at the table in the west half of the lobby, situated at the center of a nest composed entirely of alpaca, mahogany, crystal, and inlaid purple mahogany. Of course, it was to be expected. An entire wing was bought out for the deal, on the dime of the broker, and right now a crew of handlers were facilitating the deal between the Germans and the Chinese. Currently, more than one tense moment has passed the table around, as two rather rancorous representatives of the families were being navigated through pitfalls both political and fiscal. Attitudes flared, but then, it was in everyone's best interest that the deal go down.

The truck was on the property, but it represented ionly a fraction of the total value of the deal. A week long prospect, but in the end, it was just a sample.

Of course, the guard had no interest in the deal. He wasn't being paid to be interested in the particulars, only to protect the heads of the representatives and to make an intimidating show. It really is a shame he has no interest in the money, either.

He says something in a language no one in the delegations currently speak, low enough that he could be mistaken to be mutering to himself. They had taken to calling him the Nigerian, lately. It was an easy way to classify him, for people who didn't know any better.

'This is our best opportunity to gain more intelligence on him,' he says in twisted up words. 'He must have connections to our target…'

*

Lingering just a bit longer at the table, the … 'enthusiastic' negotiations are what really paint the picture of who the bosses are the table. The trusted members of the elite. Her hands are trembling slightly, the adrenaline response in her body initiating that tell-tale rush one feels when they're about to take a life. She loves it. Her black eyes focus on the rancorous chinese man leading that side's negotiations. Patiently she sets out the plates on the buffet table, waiting for a moment, when he takes a sip of his drink.

Not a minute later, as the negotiations cool off, she looks back at the man with intent. Psi-circuits lighting up in her brain as the muscles contract in his throat. Paroxysml spasms closing the throat, muscles malfunctioning, inflammation responses. That's just for the show. A distraction. He'll be dead long before he chokes out, his heart has already ripped, his body just has to catch up first.

The waiter can't help but smirk a little bit, eyes locked on the lead. This is always the best part, and she's sure they'll be too distracted to notice her. She's just an innocent bystander watching the show, right?

*

The response is almost immediate.

The Chinese leader is just about in the middle of a rousing debate over the course of shipment for a regular munitions supply when he suddenly breaks into a coughing fit. It takes a full thirteen seconds for then to realize that the man is in danger. Seconds more to realize he's dying. A few seconds more to realize that it isn't poison, and no one else is also in imminent danger. The man is attended to, as many rush to help, trying to lead him quickly away to the car. It doesn't take long for one side to accuse the other, and vice versa. Weapons are drawn almost immediately, and the situation escalates. The only thing keeping things from breaking out into a full on firefight are the handlers, who are trying desperately to salvage the deal.

It's at this moment that the guard spots the waiter, his eyes focusing on her sharply.

The handler's efforts work.
For thirteen seconds.

After someone loses an eyeball to a .22, bullets are flying in relative short order, a brutal fistfight throwing a man through and over a chaise lounge, while another man gets clamped onto with a neck lock. In this sort of melee, there's no more race, and no more allegiance.

A priceless vase shatters into a thousand pieces.

For his own merit, the Nigerian takes cover quickly, dispatching no less than two on his way behind a great stone column near a fountain, quickly looking back as he steps smoothly, stepping around the column until he gets out of the way of the fire, barking something harshly into a mic that cannot be made out. He looks around the edge of the pillar, unwilling to compromise cover until he makes sight of his target. There is only one person he was here for today. But who was the other that he spotted? His senses are much, much stronger than most, but even he is not immune to making a misjudgment.

Still, the guard and the waiter are the only two in the room that do not respond with bullets or running in the din. A damning act, both. If only anyone were paying attention…

*

Lily's stare breaks once the man has been rushed out of the room, her biokinesis has done enough to seal his life. Looking to the handlers, she pauses, tensions are rising. If she had hair on the back of her neck it would be rising to the adrenaline breaking out in the room. She doesn't even appear to notice the Nigerian has caught on to her for the moment, and for all intents and purposes, she is ignoring him as a non-factor.

When the first gunshot goes off, she's diving behind a stone pillar. In the crossfire, bullets ricochet off the granite and marble structures, sending dust and fragments into the air. She stifles a laugh, a side effect of her own rush. Her coat is unbuttoned to reveal a police-armored vest outdated from the 90s, and two leather holsters holding guns for easy access. The makeup ends at her neckline, pale green skin showing on her chest.

"…Fuck," she comments to herself, "I forgot who had the car keys."

Whoopsie! Ducking around the pillar of the column, she crouches low and begins running after the handlers. This should go well.

*

The otherwise nondescript guard moves quickly through the dark and dangerous spaces. In the shadows of great columns and spires, the guard stalks quickly through the mayhem, nimbly crossing through the arcs and trails of bullets that go on to shatter windows and ribs with the same discretions offered to one as to the other. It is clearly not his intention to eliminate the opposing family as instructed, but to find his way to the retreating handlers for the deal.

Someone crosses his path, slipping a Colt from his jacket.

A moment or two later, the guard catches sight of the retreating handlers, and more importantly, the now plainly outfitted waitstaff attendant, who is carrying more weapons than one would guess for a waitress. The scent of gunpowder and blood is strong, but he finds her, all the same, tucked behind another pillar and now moving towards the same objective as he. His frown is deep, even as stray lead carves a dust cloud from the alabaster not too far from his skull. It's becoming increasingly dangerous to be here, and even more so, this new person…

He thinks he knows what happened.
- Ayo.. bi su a waje. -

He slips a small device from his coat sleeve, setting it against the ground, before interacting briefly with a small string of beads at his wrist, looking down at the device. The movement is fast, hard to detect. But a second later, the device responds, smoke crawling from it as light crawls across fine inlaid patterns in its surface. An instant later, the woman running after the handlers would run hard up against what would appear to be something no more advanced than blue vapor. At least, that is how it would appear. But the shimmer in the air belies a surface of energy harder than steel. It lasts only a moment, a shimmer in the air to check the momentum, and confuse the mind. It might be disregarded as a moment's distraction, an object unseen catching at the jacket or a low overhanging finial, quickly broken. One would be able to easily write it off as any number of things.

Until the bodyguard leaps out of nowhere at the waitress, aiming to put her across the carpet with one single kick.

*

The waitress, or the woman pretending to be the waitress in masculine clothes, is surprisingly agile. Her legs carry her vaulting over a toppled table with catlike grace and ease, momentum barely disturbed as she's carried by nimble legs to the handler. She is fast, though not superhuman, more like a trained athlete. She's focused, ducking and weaving between props, vases that explode, and stray bullets as the sides exchange metal. She has great reflexes.

All of these amazing talents do nothing for her when it comes to technology. It's not the device that sets her off, it's the light reflection that triggers her paranoia. Brain split between weaving around it and running into it, she manages to do neither. Instead, she clips it like a bird into a glass window, setting off her balance and confusing her long enough for a foot to send her rolling across the carpet, punctuated with a yelp of surprise.

Shoulder-tucking her tumble and roll, she skips back onto her feet a bit off from the impact. Eyes wide with bewildered confusion at the Nigerian bodyguard who just leap-kicked her. Her lacefront wig on the ground, discarded in rubble from the roll. It leaves her platinum-white side-shave and pointed ears exposed. Makeup smeared revealing paler, near-albino and white skin in spots on her face. The waitress was Lily all along!

Her eyes catch the wig on the ground, and she shrugs, looking back at the bodyguard. "You got me," she quips with a pointy-toothy grin. No one is going to be able to link this back to her, not after this much blood. Drawing her pistol in one smooth action, she points it at the handler and fires. "Tag, you're it."

*

He is fast.

The rate at which the guard moves is simply unheard of in most of the hired hands one could expect from even this level of engagement. He doesn't stop after his first blow, chasing after the bewildered agent with darting strikes that miss only by inches, if that, for the grace of the bold agility the waitress shows in recovering. Another kick, thrown from a rolling hip, cracks the air open wide. A single hand cracks through an inch of mahogany as the waitress rolls away. A wig is discarded in the exchange, and the guard is forced to stop as the disguise peels away.

He is fast, but for the moment, a bullet is faster. When the undone mercenary slips free a pistol, the guard is unable to move aside quickly enough to stay out of the way of the firing arc, and the guard's torso whips away in a strange vector from the shot, a harsh bark filling the air as he is struck in his left side.
But could it be said to be strange that he doesn't fall over? The voice that slides from him is a sword over the whetstone. Curious, then, that for those who would be able to tell the difference, his accent is not Nigerian in the slightest.

T'Challa, young king of the Wakandan nation, speaks in earnest.

"I would have thought," T'Challa says, quietly removing his sunglasses, "That mercenaries of your stripe would have been killed long ago…" Seeming only mildly perturbed by the gunshot, the king folds up his glasses and tucks them away into his jacket. A fast eye would see the foreign language flickering across the lenses before he folds them. It hints at further advancements, as evidenced and reinforced by the painful roll he gives his side, the side that she shot him in.

The hollow point round of a 10mm hits the ground with a soft clink at the motion, the head having failed to open at all. It is marked with the barest hint of blood, but the heat and deformations of the round are minimal, to the point where it could simply be used again.
It's like the round forgot how to fly mid-shot.

*

The smoking gun is lowered, "Usually people stop fighting after I shoot them," Lily comments helpfully when the bodyguard doesn't fall from the shot. The cut on her face from the earlier scrap has already finished healing, all that remains is a small amount of dried, white blood.

When T'Challa dips his hand and reveals himself, the mercenary tenses for a moment before relaxing. "It's not every day I get to meet a king." With the sleeve of the waiter's jacket she wipes her face clean of the makeup. Helpfully she offers, "Normally I'd love to chat about the world of mercenaries and why we deserve to die, but I really oughta catch that broker and steal his shit. You know how it is, right?" She glances at the remaining family members trading shots.

*

"You must be a good shot," the young king comments, even his mild demeanor carrying with it the weight of a mountain. He doesn't smile, and his humorless countenance belies the easy tilt of his word. He fixes the mercenary with a steady glare, his dark eye sharp, hard and steady, even in the pace of gunfire. At any moment, a bullet could cut either one of their lives short. He does not take his eyes off her, no mater how harsh the crack of the barrel, or how close the snap of air from passing lead may grow.

Priorities, simply.

"You are recognized in the state as a criminal, and a potential threat to our sovereign borders. Your campaigns in Johannesburg have assured that," he informs her, his tone flat. "In a normal circumstance, I would deal with you myself, but I have other business to attend to. Give up and leave today with your life.."

And just like that, the king of Wakanda turns, showing her his back. He walks away from her, towards the shooting, and firing. "The broker leaves with me," he states, brooking no disagreement. He talks as if his word were absolute law. "And.."

She could do anything to him in that moment. But is it that easy?
"I do not have a habit of giving second warnings…"

*

"Tell me a place where I'm not," chides Lily sarcastically, flinching at a bullet passes uncomfortably close. Her sarcasm belies a certain amount of candor behind the facade of uncomfortable humour amidst a hostile situation. Her mission may well be complete, but the adrenaline ensures her greedy, impulsive nature.

She takes a step after him, "I want the handler's keys, or I kill them. Your choice." Is this some kind of offered alliance or truce? It certainly wasn't offered, and her tone has switched from sarcastic to demanding. She has already made her choice and she steps in stride. At the same time, Lily is watching the young king intensely, as if ready to make a move herself. Not far off, a glass display case of valuable necklaces explodes onto the floor in a shower of crystals.

*

A slow breath is taken.

At first, the king doesn't respond, watching the battle move ahead. Though it feels like days have passed, their exchange is only a few seconds wide, less than a minute having passed since she intervened in the deal. Since then, entire magazines of ammunition have been fired, a few hundred dollars worth of bullets causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, over potential millions in weaponry. The battle is already spreading out, gunmen searching for cover in other rooms and wings. Distantly, a grenade goes off, caving in a wall. The weapons….

He is by his homeland's mind disinclined to enter into the dealings between the affairs of another two countries. But his mind is different.

The faint electronic hum of unravelling energy spools from beneath T'Challa's clothing, a purple line crawling irregularly across the tailored fabric. In the wake of the purple band, intricate patterns and weaves align, creeping across the young man's body as the band leaves nothing but sleek combat weave in its wake. A second can last for a day in battle. But the sun has barely even reached high noon before a lattice of metal lines slither from T'Challa's collar and interlace, forming first a cage over his head, then a full coverage helmet.

The helmet distends his voice as the dark crawls over his lips.
"Those weapons will never cross the borders of Africa," T'Challa says, the sharpened sword of his voice now unsheathing to reveal a plainly lethal edge, the sound of his footsteps disappearing as his stance changes with the crawling emergence of his suit. There is almost no time between his will and the slick of black that consumes him, his silhouette all but disappearing in even the slightest dark, a vertiginous second become a day split into instants, into eyeblinks.

But the claws that unsheathe from his hands then seems to take months.
By the time he whirls for her, he is trying to take her head from her shoulders in one clean blow, and with it, all the remaining years in her life.

Negotiations are the levers of a king.
But the Black Panther knows nothing of a king's business.

*

The microseconds that pass as black patterns crawl up the king seem to take longer than any other part of the exchange tonight. The smooth voice of T'Challa punctuating Lily's step back. Vibranium claws swipe for her neck by the time she is halfway to ducking back. The metal claws draw across her face, leaving a trail of four eviscerating cuts that begin to bleed that familiar white lifeblood. She is fast but he is faster.

What follows up is an exchange of blows, Lily on the defensive as she bobs and weaves her way back in a full defensive position. An opening as she ducks and twirls around a shattered column of broken marble and dust gives her the chance to create some distance. The loud report of bullet after bullet from her pistol aiming for the combat weaved panther. The flash of the barrel and impact of the bullets meant to be a distractor rather than the main course.

No, T'Challa has her full rapt attention. Her eyes have been like that of a predator stalking prey, black like voids, analyzing. Her emotions swell up now in her stern face, adrenaline peaking again for another dose of that sweet flight or fight instinct that makes her power so easy to use. Blood drips down her left arm from the thousand cuts of her defense against superior CQB weapons.

Something changes. Psionic fields flexing unseen to those unattuned. Fields flex and distort between T'Challa and Lily on waves people cannot observe as psionic force is exerted. Through the adrenaline, emotion, and pain, Lily focuses her biokinesis on the enemy that is being shot at, repeatedly. He needs to be slowed down. She needs time to kill the broker. It doesn't matter if it's painful, T'Challa's leg must be broken, and she focuses on that while withdrawing, for as long as she can keep eye contact.

*

Fighting the Black Panther is an altogether different experience than anyone else.

He whirls, leaping after the albino mercenary through dodge after dodge, as if hell-bent on trying to stand on her shadow. His claws flash out like cannonfire, long arms taking hellish gouges out of marble and gypsum in equal measure as the panther slips around the column in pursuit. It is worth noting that unlike before, bullets seem to do almost nothing to the warrior king, the suit of black not even emitting after the harsh crack of the gun, the panther a thing of no sound, none other than the sound of his claws cutting rock and flesh, the sound of bullets hitting the ground like dropped candy.

There is a tendancy for metahumans to stand their ground against bulletfire, to intimidate enemies into surrendering. They are commonly brawlers, commonly the sorts who stand and take blows, and then return them with magnified force. This is not the way of the Golden City, and the panther pursues her hard, with no hitch in his gait, no distraction.
To say that he eats the space between them is an understatement, breathing room halved as soon as it is made, and halved again. There is no emotion in his soulless white eyes, to match the predatory gaze of his quarry. Is it her imagination, or does he shift with her fields, as if he could somehow sense them? Is it her mind, or does his claw raise with twice the speed as it did prior? This blow is a straight gouge that will go through her middle, and leave no room for—

"HYAH!" the panther barks, as his legs seem caught in mud. The whirlwind of pain abates violently as the panther struggles to make it further towards the mercenary, his knee dropping to the floor as his bones sing. He does not speak, only struggling to find his feet beneath him, his bones warping in his flesh, driving him further to the earth. He struggles to stand, the effort titanic. His hand raises slowly.

The gap is only moments.
*

While the mercenary's original intent was merely to maim and distract the young king for the sake of capturing the handler for herself, a deal gone awry, something changes in her demeanor. After their extended draw has worn on her stamina, seeing the panther on the ground only causes a desire to redouble her efforts. A clip is exchanged in her gun for another as she begins stepping toward him. Every step magnifying the intensity of her psionic field.

The closer she gets, the more intense the pain will become as bone is splintered, torn apart by the very body it is supposed to support. A sadistic grin crosses her face, the cuts and bruises on her pale skin already beginning to fade. The white flow of her blood thinning from her arms, soaked into her worn police vest. "There is something so.. humbling, to see a king on his knees." It's as if the thrill of the snare, bait, and trap draws her in impulsively, standing just out of T'Challa's reach. "Just remember, I gave you a choice." As she reaches out to grab him, psionic fields strengthening and threatening to overwhelm should she gain physical contact.

*

The young king is driven to his knee underneath the weight of the mercenary's confusing power. A normal person probably would have simply succumbed by now, and it takes a special force of will to keep him from laying down and crumpling in pain as the calcium in his bones rebels against him. His hands flex, the blades there extending with the tension in his hands. His head bows beneath her, as his mind wraps around all of the potential causes. He knows more than most, his senses reaching farther than others ever have a chance to ply.

Some sort of psionic field, some sort of biodebilitative ability…

There is a grace even in the way the king suffers. His movement is not like the movement of any other, speaking to his acute command of every fiber of his body. I may be the only reason she needs to be this close to humble him. His back rises, falls as she overlords his weakness, the detail of her healing injury not lost on him. He breathes hard, the effort needed to try and stand proving too much for him.

"A king is only on his knees twice," the panther labors, "once when praying…"
His mind becomes sharper, more bold.
"Once when ready to leap."

The move is fast. A force thread of incapacitating purple energy sprawls through T'Challa's hand as the king rears back, throwing a hand-spear cut from violet lightning up at the mercanry, in a brutal overhand. Force enough to throw her off her feet. Power enough to cease every thought she has in her head. Unconsciousness is fast and brutal if the panther scores a direct hit. He means to draw no blood with his attack, but every point that crackling violet touches will be numb and useless for some time.

*

The pain must be debilitating, excruciating, and it usually doesn't take this long. Something is wrong, but Lily is too far absorbed in her own superiority to gather that hint. She missed the note. The show must go on. "We could have been so beautiful together," she muses silently, closing in. Intent to kill or harm at this point diluted in the malevolence of her body's language and ambiguity of her words.

Her hand is upon him, peaking in strength as though it might shatter the panther's leg right then and there, but it dulls when he speaks. She listens. There isn't time to react, how could she predict the young king could even move, let alone formulate a counter-attack.

Violet electricity crackles along her trunk as it strikes her by the human location for a heart. A direct hit. It travels up her nerves with enough kinetic force that it sends her against the marble pillar behind her, the recently damaged rubble coating her in a fine rock powder. The contact of body to pillar is punctuated with the sickening crunch of internal damage, as the gun in her hand skitters across the expensive floors away from her. Immediately all sense of psionic energy collapses.

Darkness threatens to envelope her senses, the sides of her vision narrowing into a tunnel of light as she slumps to the ground on all fours. Now the one kneeling. She should be unconscious, but she shakily remains on all fours. Her multiple hearts working overtime to ensure that aspect of her survival.

"Fuu… h.. hurr." Lily slurs, not quite able to articulate her mouth muscles in the acute way to pronounce sounds. That hurt.

*

"You may have gained notoriety as a powerful creature in South Africa," the Black Panther labors breathlessly to say, "but you did not cross the borders in Wakanda. I know this, because you are still alive." Slowly he rises, his shadow crawling across the ground as it lengthens, the matte seamlessness of his suit making it hard to tell where the black of dark ends and the panther begins.

It is not without its pains. His movements are slow, methodical, a creature already aware of every fiber of his being made aware of much more. Agony crawls along him, but still he stands. Even if only at one leg, he stands, settling his weight there. Because she is right. A king never kneels. He leaves aside her comment about the two of them together, his grace too sharp to follow the cut. Instead, his only response is the click of his wrist guns. These, he trains on the weakened mercenary, closing his hand to clear the sightlines. His mask removes any semblance of emotion from the man, making his glare hard and judgmental.

His voice does nothing to disabuse the mercenary of that notion.

"I will return you to Johannesburg," The Black Panther decides. "I imagine the authorities will have many questions for you there.."

*

Lily pushes up on all four limbs, trying to stand but instead falling back into the floor, a plume of powder following her collapse. The movement reported by cricks in her back that signify the extent of injury. Her breaths are labored, dispersed with hacking coughs. She is not recovering from her cuts and bruises as quickly this time. In fact they don't appear to be visibly healing at all.

Returned to Johannesburg? Well. It's better than being killed on the spot. Her movements are drunken, intoxicated, uncoordinated. Whatever passes for a motor cortex in her nervous system is having trouble compensating to the overload it received, however dampened it was by her unusual neurology and biology.

The mutant attempts to stand again, but almost immediately she topples back over. "Fuh.." She gives up, laying there. At least she's still getting paid.

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