These You Can Kill

September 21, 2018:

Red Widow and Punisher run into a few demons terrorizing citizens. These ones, no one is going to complain if they kill.

Hell's Kitchen

Characters

NPCs: Two demons, three imps, two citizens

Mentions: Daredevil

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

People have often called New York City hell, usually after they fail to get tickets to Hamilton or get mugged or something like that. Currently, it's almost literally true. The sky looks like a horrible bruise, matching Frank Castle's face quite nicely. While many New Yorkers have stayed in their homes, some soldier on, including Castle. He has other work to do, work that won't wait.

Frank wears a plain black baseball cap, a dark gray hoodie, and a black jacket, bulking his frame out all the more. His hands are tucked into the pockets of his zipped-up hoodie, holding a pistol out of sight. He watches his way warily as he moves down the street, and then a shout for help goes up. He winces just a little, his shoulders hunching up as a snarl follows the shout… but when a younger voice cries out along the first, he turns from his path, his steps hurrying toward the alley where the shouts are coming from.

*

Ava Orlova could hole up in the basement of the YMCA. It's not exactly a home, but it's also not exactly the sort of place that people or demons go wandering into by accident. But that would mean leaving others to their fates without protection, and that's something she swore to herself she wouldn't do. She's been sticking to the alleys and the seedier parts of town, where she usually ends up, so she's not far from the shouts herself.

The white modified fencing gear with the crossed red hourglasses isn't exactly stealthy…but then again, neither is the electric blue spark that pops between her fingertips as she follows the sounds of danger.

*

Frank's steps pick up speed as a cackle joins the snarl and the cries for help, but he doesn't draw his weapon yet, getting to the edge of the alley and peeking around the corner.

Inside the alley, a trio of waist-high imps are circling a woman and her nine- or ten-year-old son, plucking at spilled bags of groceries. They're the current tormentors, but not the real thread, despite their long nails and curling horns. No, the real threats are the two hulking, red-scaled demons crouched on the fire escape above the scene, watching the imps have their fun and snarling to one another as if speaking.

*

Stopping and seeing what's going on is definitely the smart, tactical choice. It's not really Ava's, though. For something more ordinary it might be, but when it comes to this…Sometimes if you stop and think about the unthinkable, you freeze.

Ava breaks into a jog half a block from the mouth of the alley, but by the time she reaches where Frank is she has a pair of fencing sabers wreathed in crackling blue electricity in her hands. And she's at a full run.

*

Frank stops in shock, his shoulder against the corner of the alley, growling, "What the fuck?" His instincts draw the pistol from inside his hoodie's pocket, a heavy 1911A1, but he doesn't move forward, or even level the weapon, staring in shock at the scene before him. That allows Ava's rush to surprise him, but somehow the sight of a woman in all white and red, carrying two electrified fencing sabers is more normal than the rest of the scene, and he shakes his head, hefting the pistol into a two-handed shooting stance and stepping into the alley, close to the wall to maintain a line of fire around the charging woman.

The imps look up as they're charged, one looking back to the woman and taking a swipe at her leg that sends her tumbling to the ground. The other two gibber and cackle, bouncing on bandy legs toward their attacker. The demons hiss and snarl to one another again, and then one drops down, somehow managing to land without making a sound despite the fact that it stands taller than six feet and is built like an NFL linebacker.

*

The figure in white and red is significantly smaller than it might seem from the force of the rush…especially against the backdrop of the demon who's landed in the alley. But that doesn't seem to give the girl pause. "Get back!" Ava shouts as she takes a swipe at one of the imps with the blade in her right hand, dropping low to sweep her left leg at the other. The gutteral Russian curse that follows is less intimidating.

"Why don't you pick on someone who can defend themselves? Stupid little…" The strange blue light snaps along her blades as she fights, echoed in her eyes and hissing when it makes contact with anything else.

*

Frank picks his target as the armored white and red figure meets the demons, snapping off a pair of quick shots at… the demon still lingering up on the fire escape. "Cover," he informs his apparent ally in that gravelly voice that sounds like he's smoked a least a pack of cigarettes every morning with his ground glass and nail breakfast.

The first imp bounds half a dozen feet into the air, tumbling over Ava and landing behind her with a crooked sort of giggle. The second, however, starts to duck and ends up tumbling onto his face with a whining yelp as brown blood sprays from its nose. The demon advancing on Ava waits for the two imps clear the way, and then advances on her with a feinting punch with its clawed left hand, and then a backhand blow with its right aimed at her chest.

*

Ava has no objections to cover. Especially when she gets a glimpse of the bigger thing that's headed her way. Her jaw sets in a stubborn line rather than show fear, grip tightening on her blades. One jabs upwards at the feint to skewer the creature's arm, giving her a pivot point to step out of the way of the second strike and sweep her blade across the extended arm. Her movements are swift and practiced, the sort of thing that comes from more years of experience and training than she's old enough to have. And though she's fencing, a practiced eye can see the distinctly Russian training in the way she fights.

*

Frank sidesteps twice to clear to the other side of the melee, pumping out two more shots into the demon on the fire escape. Four rounds down, four left, since he had one in the pipe. The bullets explode down the alley with the regularity of a metronome, Castle shifting his left side forward and lifting his left elbow as the imp that tumbled over Ava comes after him, protecting the pistol and giving him a chance to fend the thing off if it makes it through the two rounds he fires at it.

The demon up on the fire escape is hit by two more bullets, falling away to the alleyway beneath. Whether the drop is intentional or not, it lands easily enough, if not quite so lightly as its fellow had. The demon facing Ava takes a saber to the forearm, bellowing in pain as electricity arcs over it. The thing sweeps out with its other arm, snarling as the second strike hits home, but trying to snap off the blade pinioned in its arm. The imp at the woman looks between her and her son, grasping for both and not quite getting either one. The woman reaches around it to try and draw her son away, kicking at the imp, but not doing much good. The imp that jumped over Ava comes rushing straight at Frank, screaming… and taking two rounds in the chest. It slides to a twitching halt at his feet. The third imp rolls onto its back, howling its pain and grasping at its broken nose.

*

The skewering blade is ripped from Ava's grip when the demon pulls away, the electricity coursing down its length disappearing when it's no longer in contact with the girl. "I am going to need that back," she pants, eyes narrowing as she angles the other blade across her body and takes a few careful, sideways steps around the demon, trying to take its measure. The woman and her son catch her eye again, though, and instead of charging the demon again, she falls back enough to dive at the imp attacking them. One arm goes tight around its throat, and the blue light in her eyes flares and starts to crackle down her arm.

*

Frank looks down at the imp at his feet, wide-eyed for all that his face holds in a steady scowl. His breath comes quick and fast, and he punches two more rounds into the creature, turning its head into a brownish smear. Two bullets left. Stepping over the corpse, he starts to advance down the alley, a lumbering pace that starts at a walk and quickly becomes a run. A roar of his own builds in his throat as he charges, leveling the pistol at the second demon and firing off two more shots, the pistol's slide locking back as it runs dry.

The demon facing Ava steps back as Ava turns aside, snarling something that… is not English or Russian, but might actually be a response to Ava's statement. Pulling the narrow blade from its forearms, the thing throws the sword aside with a clatter and then advances on Ava again. The second demon takes two more bullets, clearly staggering, but just as clearly still advancing on Frank, bellowing a sulfur-scented response to the veteran Marine's roar. One imp dead, another just pulling itself to all fours and trying to get up with a broken nose, and the third… well, the third turns its head to try to bite Ava's upper arm, its neck twisting around farther than a human would be able to do. And then its muscles lock up as electricity crackles along it, and it screams around whatever bit of cloth or cloth and flesh its managed to grab between its teeth.

*

One of the best things about fencing gear: It's meant to stop sharp objects from penetrating. That doesn't mean there isn't going to be one hell of a bruise from the force of the bite afterwards, but at least Ava isn't bleeding. Yet. From that. The blue electricity intensifies even as Ava gives the imp's neck a practiced twist that would break any human's neck with brutal efficiency. But there's no accounting for an imp's physiology. Plunging the blade in her other hand into its body a few times should help, though.

Red hair falls across her face as she turns quickly to check on Frank and the mother and child, taking quick stock of the opponents left in the alley.

Demon is still coming. And she's down a blade. But she does have a handy imp's…body? Using the momentum of her turn, Ava manages to swing the imp and toss it in the demon's path, buying herself half a second to…actually see what's coming at her. That may have been a bad choice.

*

Frank drops the empty pistol as he and the demon reach one another, dropping his shoulder to plant it into the demon's gut as the scaly fiend reaches and whiffs at his head, not expecting it to come in low. His roar cuts out with a grunt of impact, and then picks up again as his left hand drags his Ka-Bar from his waist.

The imp's head twists farther than it should, but it eventually pops, helped by the tightened muscles from the electric current. The blade piercing its vitals undoubtedly helps as well. The demon facing Ava actually catches the imp's body in its unhurt hand, looking down at it, and then throws the new corpse toward the woman as she tries to haul her son away from the melee. The trio (two humans and an imp-corpse) go down in a heap. The demon that Frank speared with his shoulder swings a fist down, aiming to slam the impertinent human off of it. The wounded imp finally gets up to its feet, looking to the two brawls, then the heap of humans-and-imp-corpse and starts to stagger in that direction.

*

Stolen knowledge flashes through Ava's head, a thought that's only half her own that more guns would be more useful than blades in this particular situation. There's no time for regret though, not with the civilians still in danger and a demon still coming toward her. There's another stifled curse in Russian as she turns from the larger demon to rush the last of the imps instead, wasting no time reaching for an arm to pull it back away from the woman and child. She already has her blade ready, tip angled upward toward the imp's brainpan. Assuming imps have brainpans, that is.

*

Frank tumbles to the ground as the demon's fist impacts on his back with a hollow thump, drawing a pained grunt from the man. The demon starts to turn to assist its fellow, apparently quite sure that the blow has dealt with the human interloper. But Castle pushes himself back up to his feet, "Hey ugly," he growls, flipping the curved blade of his combat knife from point-down to point up with a smooth, looping gesture, "We ain't done yet." And then he's rushing forward, knife flickering with deceptive quickness into a series of quick thrusts, aiming to test the thing's scaly hide just below where a human would have ribs.

Whether imps have brainpans, the tip of an electrified fencing saber planted beneath its skull certainly does the trick, leaving the creature twitching and then flopping down to the ground at the feet of the woman, who struggles to get herself and her son to their feet. The demon facing Ava follows after the woman, although its pursuit is slowed a touch by wariness, and so it only comes upon Ava when she has perforated the imp's head. It doesn't mess around with feinting or anything this time, merely barelling in with its wounded arm close to its body to defend against any thrusts of the sword, should it come free in time, and its unwounded arm reaching out to try and slash across the electric woman's torso with three-inch claws. The demon Frank tried to tackle turns back to the veteran Marine at the taunting, cocking its head a moment and then turning back toward its attacker, only to find itself fending off knife-thrusts somewhat desperately, slowed by several small entrance wounds and significantly larger exit wounds from the pistol shots it absorbed.

*

"Woman, run!" Ava shouts to the civilians, turning back toward the demon just in time to catch its claws across her chest. Once again her gear saves her from what would otherwise be a disemboweling, but it's not enough to save her from the force of the blow. She staggers, the breath pounded from her lungs, and just barely manages to grab hold of the demon's arm with one hand to keep herself from going flying. Stunned for a moment, the electricity flickers out and the blade falls from her hand, leaving her apparently unarmed.

Unarmed is not a good way to be when you're in close quarters with a demon. With a twist and a swing, she pulls herself up the demon's arm, climbing up onto its shoulders like a monkey. Of course, unarmed and with her spark out, it's not entirely clear what she means to do there.

*

A counter from the demon Frank is facing slips through, splitting his lip and bloodying his nose as it rocks him back several steps. It snarls in triumph and advances, only to find itself looking down the barrel of a second pistol, this one held steady in Castle's left hand, pointed directly at the thing's face. There's no pause, no one-liner, the barrel levels and Frank is already squeezing the trigger, pumping two quick shots into the demon's toothy maw. As it collapses backwards, his thumb moves on the side of the pistol and he gives a sharp whistle, wincing as the motion pulls at his bleeding lip. "Safety's on." And then he tosses the pistol in a high arc toward the clambering woman in red and white.

The woman does her best, finally managing to get up to her feet and pull her son after her. He manages to grasp one of the spilled sacks of groceries, and then the two are fleeing up the alley away from the fight. Ava's demon was not prepared for her to turn into a spider monkey. It's turning a little ponderously when she grabs its wounded arm, and is snarls in pain, frustration, or a combination between the two. It doesn't seem to mind the extra weight at all, but those hooked claws can't get a full swing at the woman up on its back, although they certainly try to rake her off. The second demon meets several high-velocity rounds from a 9mm, and on top of the .45 rounds from before, it's enough to turn it into meat, tumbling back to the dirty pavement, still twitching and with sulfurous smoke starting to rise from its wounds.

*

Ava doesn't hesitate as the gun arcs toward her, legs tightening around the demon's neck as she frees a hand to lean out and catch it. Her thumb flicks the safety without so much as a glance and, like Frank, she wastes no time with commentary before planting in in the top of the demon's head and firing half a dozen rounds point-blank, mindless of the demon-bits that spatter back up at her. Only when there's nothing left to shoot into does she slide back to the ground, gun held shakily in two hands as she scans the alley for any other opponents.

"Is that all of them?" she asks, panting.

*

Frank looks down at the twitching demon corpse, hefting his knife for a moment, then kneels down and stabs it in the throat a couple of times to make sure. Looking up, blood spattered on his face from the close-range shooting and stabbing as well as his own split lip and bloody nose, he studies the woman in white and red and red-all-over, breathing hard, his eyes still wide in a killing rage, complete disbelief, or both. After a moment he grunts, glances up and down the alley, then nods, "I think so." Only then does he wipe off his knife-blade and sheath the weapon at his hip again. "They make it okay?" The nod of his head evidently indicates the woman and child.

*

"Yes," Ava nods, her shoulders still tense as she gives the alley one more inspection. "Finally." Her nose wrinkles as she looks down at the smoking corpses, demon blood spray indistinguishable from freckles. She sets the safety on the gun once more, rotating the grip in her hand before taking a step toward him to offer it back. "Thank you. That was…very strange." One hand goes through her hair, pushing it back from a face with sharp, lean features as she finally gets a good look at the man. "Are you all right?"

*

Castle watches the woman warily as she handles the pistol, and when he is offered back to him, he nods, taking the weapon back and hefting it a moment to check the remaining ammo by feel. It's tucked at the small of his back, under the hoodie, and then he moves over to collect his 1911A1 as well, "Noncombatants…" there's a pause that tightens Frank's eyes a moment, and then he covers it by wiping the blood off his face with the back of his sleeve, "they don't always react real well. Especially to what-the-fuck-ever these things are." Crouching down alongside the bullet-riddled demon he dropped draws a wince as the motion pulls at his back, but he studies it closely, "If it was just one, I'd say meta." He never answered the question of whether he's all right, of course, but he seems to be moving well enough.

*

Once the gun has been handed over, Ava turns to retrieve her blades one by one. With a flick of her wrist, the blades themselves collapse and retract until there's little more left than the handles, which she hangs neatly at her waist. "Nothing that makes sense, that much is certain," she grimaces, nudging at the corpse of one of the imps with her foot. "They smell like rotten eggs. And the big ones were speaking, in some sense. Nothing I could understand, though."

*

"Figured it was like… German or something." It wasn't. Frank gives the dead demon a little shove with two fingers, the carcass barely moving, and then swaps out magazines for his heavy pistol without even really looking at it, hands moving by muscle memory. "Yeah. Makes about as much sense as what the feds were sayin' to do if you ran into them. 'Hands up, don't threaten 'em?' Fuck that." The withdrawal of the blades causes his eyebrows to rise up beneath the brim of his baseball cap, and he grunts thoughtfully, "What're you supposed to be, the Electro-Stabber of 50th Street?"

*

Ava shaes her head. "Not German." She'd at least recognize that. At his question, she gives him a long look and then a solemn nod. "Yes," she deadpans. "The Electro-Stabber of 50th Street. I think it has a very special ring to it, yes? And almost guaranteed that no one else is going to use the name." She wipes the back of one forearm across her face, wiping off some of the demon gore. "The Red Widow," she says afterwards, glancing back at him. "And I don't care who they are or who says not to threaten them. If they are attacking innocent people, then I will stop them."

*

Frank shrugs a little uncomfortably, "Never said I was good at names." When she provides her own, he looks down, tucking the big .45 into his hoodie pocket again and carefully reseating his hat atop his head. It buys him a moment to get past the unexpected gut-punch that the word 'widow' brings to him. Proof that he's still not totally lost it — proof that he's still not hard enough to do everything that needs to be done. He does his best to deflect, smirking a little, "Don't like spiders, then?" Finally, he pushes himself to his feet with a grunt of pain, dabbing a sleeve at his nose again and checking it for blood — yup, his nose is still bleeding. "Might get pretty busy then."

*

"Luckily for me, I have nothing better to do." Ava shrugs, giving him another sidelong glance as she takes his measure. "Though I could maybe do it a little better. I am lucky that you were here. I think if I had tried to take all of them, it would have ended poorly for more than just these creatures." It's only the sight of Frank's bloody nose that seems to remind her that there were creatures taking shots at her as well, prompting her to check her uniform for bood or scratches. There are certainly places where the fabric has started to fray, but there's no blood that's made it through at least. Still, she pokes curiously at the frayed spots where the imp tried to bite through her arm. "Why go after that woman and her child?"

*

"Easy prey." The words are a low growl from Frank, even as he shrugs off her words of thanks. He looks up and down the alley, "You run into trouble from Hornhead?" Since the last time he used that name, it brought up confusion, he adds, "The Devil of Hell's Kitchen." One hand gestures toward the hilts of her weapons tucked up at her belt, "Don't think he likes people using deadly weapons on his turf." There's a bit of a sneer to the description of Hell's Kitchen as someone else's turf.

*

"I don't usually kill people," Ava answers, glancing down at the hilts. "Usually and people being key words. But I'm also usually a little better at not being seen by others. I feel like there is less potential for people being upset about it when you're going after whatever these things are than if you're going after people." She grimaces, looking back at Frank. "There are a good many supposed heroes who have very pretty things to say about what they will and won't do. Whether or not they follow through on it may be another matter."

*

"Next time, maybe don't charge in without checking." There's a thread of sardonic humor running through the suggestion, although Frank chuckles darkly as he adds, "Yeah, I don't think even Hornhead would have a problem with these things getting shot." Looking up and down the alley again, he grunts, "Time for me to be moving on. See you 'round, Sparky."

*

"Hopefully under better circumstances." Ava nods once, giving the alley one more look over before deciding that there's nothing left here to worry about. She smirks at his back, waiting until he's at the mouth of the alley before calling after him: "Red Widow!" A sigh, and she shrugs out of the fencing jacket, turning it inside out before she makes her way inconspicuously out of the alley.

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