Who Rules The Woodland Night?

October 06, 2018:

Dinah Lance runs into Victor Creed in the news.

Characters

NPCs:

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's impossible for the GCPD to keep up with the -normal- spikes of crime in Gotham, some weeks— right now, with the overflow of people fleeing the chaos in New York, it's a burden several times higher than normal. Camps of the displaced who can flee no farther and either can't afford shelter or missed the vacancies have sprung up everywhere, nowhere more favored than the reserve around the Gotham Reservoir.

Always also a haven for muggers and miscreants, it's taken no time at all for the criminal element to set up shop, seizing (often literally) everything they possibly can from the refugees. One group of skinheads has been especially competent at it— competent enough to draw attention from the heroic elements active in the city.

The victimized homeless trapped close would be only too able to point the way towards the hostile camp… assuming one can convince them it won't get them killed. Of course, even if one can't, it's a little after midnight when gunshots ring out— lots, and lots of gunshots. Lots, and lots of screaming.

The gangers flee into the woods, haphazardly, in all directions. Several fire back over their shoulders, or up into the trees, seemingly at random. In bat-parlance, the entire crew is already, clearly, in a panicked state.

*

Dinah's not exactly the backwoods type. But she can be sneaky when she wants, thanks to a lot of years of training in martial arts and actual combat experience in the urban jungle. The woods demand the same level of discretion and care as the concrete forest, and so Dinah follows them on foot fairly stealthily.

It helps that the skinheads are all using flashlights (including their cellphones) to navigate the terrain, while her eyes are relatively dark-adapted. She stays to the fringes, the blues of her biking gear blending with the nighttime shades of the forest.

She catches one of them facing the wrong direction from his crew, and silent as a breeze she takes out a knee to drop him down and drops an elbow into his neck to knock him out. Zipties buzz as she hogties the villain, and she's off to hunt down another straggler while the others dash deeper into the woods.

It's almost too easy.

*

The gangers are easy prey for Dinah. On their best day, they'd need coordination or surprise to take her on, and tonight? Their attention is firmly behind them, on threats from within, not without. There's no sign -what- they're shooting at, the wild flashlight sweeps reveal nothing but a preoccupation with the treetops, with the underbrush. In the darkness nearby, two distinct voices scream— briefly indeed— in pain.

Once the Canary has taken out a third fleeing just that incident, she would come his fallen friends: their throats torn out, spines broken. The corpses lie where they fell at lopsided angles, horrified expressions on what's left of their faces as blood flows in torrents from their recently slain, spasming bodies.

A few meters into the thicker trees, a choked gurgle sounds with the distinct and repeated crack of broken bones, and a third form hurtles through the brush and crashes against a thick trunk, clearly thrown with inhuman force.

*

Dinah stumbles to a halt, face turning alabaster. She's seen people die. Car accidents. A fall off a building. Bullet wounds. But this— this is something else. It looks like an animal savaged these men. And efficiently, too. Gunshot victims tend to bleed out slowly on the ground, but these… the blood's everywhere. Trees. Shrubs. Rocks.

She gags, holds back her gorge, and starts looking for the animal in question. It doesn't take long before another victim is flung bodily through the trees to break against an oak tree nearby. She digs in her pocket for a bright flashlight but doesn't turn it on.

"God, of all the times to not have a gun," Dinah mumbles. She stays to the shadows and quiet as best she can, trying to get closer to the source of the noise and violence despite every instinct screaming 'run away'.

*

The man's head rolls inverse to his body to gape back at Dinah, his own look one of simple surprise… no time for the terror of his closest cohorts. The repeating gunshots grow more distant, the flashlights long gone. In the immediacy of the preserve around the Canary, silence suddenly reigns. Not peace— silence. Peace in the trees is not silent, but no crickets chirp, no treefrogs croak. It's wrong— /too/ still.

Her own breath may grow deafening, every rustle suspect. The breeze, an imminent threat. A key element of stealth is patience, and Dinah is given all the time she needs to exercise hers… but is she alone in that pursuit? She can freely creep closer— closer. Dinah would find yet another gored man spattered across a vine-laden maple, but no sign of what killed them. There's still nothing, not a peep, not a tremble of limb or snap of twig. Whatever did this it /had/ to be huge, right? But there's no sign of the passage of such a beast… no indication /anything/ was ever here, aside from the obvious carnage.

The Canary has all the time in the world, until she doesn't. Perhaps apprehension overtakes her— perhaps she finally decides she's alone. It's tucked subtly against a concealing trunk where any illusion is shattered, and a massive form drops with preternatural speed and grace. No, not drops— the predator wasn't overhead, but adjacent. He /pounces/, propelled off a nearby tree, almost silently.

Such an ambush could kill— it clearly /has/, and recently. The mountain of muscle and blonde scruff doesn't try to kill Dinah, though— he doesn't even try to hurt her, exactly. Instead, Sabretooth's aim is to overpower the woman against the ground, with one arm pinned high and his other hand on her throat, clawed fingertips curling dangerously towards her face.

She'd likely get cuts, struggling— and he clearly intends to inspire struggle. Regardless of the outcome of his ambush, it comes with a wide, menacing grin, full of toothy threat. "Now if you ain't an unexpected bonus. Here to save the day?" It's sarcastic; mocking.

*

For a moment, Dinah's wrapped up in absolute panic and terror. This isn't a human. It's an animal. And no matter how tough Dinah is with street hoodlums, there's that tickle at the base of the brain, that basal ganglia, that demands humans do only one thing in the face of such an attack: flee!

But then /it/ speaks, and Dinah blinks. Words. Communication. It's no panther or bear with fangs to her throat, but a man, no matter how foul-smelling and animal he might be.

The action is done faster than it would take to explain. She bridges her back, legs wrapping around that arm like a crawling vine. She can't match that animal strength unassisted, but if there's one thing Dinah knows how to exploit fighting superhumans, it's leverage. She twists the thumb and pinkie of the grip on her throat at an angle fingers are not meant to go, and simultaneously straightens her entire body out to dislocate her attacker's elbow.

*

The razors tipping each digit of Sabretooth's hands are impossibly sharp, and unquestionably capable of far nastier damage than the shallow, almost passing slashes angling for Dinah's features as she deftly lurches before being properly pinned. His limb caught, Creed -chuckles-, a dark, but genuinely amused sound.

The Canary is good— an expert. Good enough not to be unnerved by the dismissal of a metahuman. Good enough to then immediately gain the sickening realization that her opponent -let her do it-… and not only that, the 'beast' is masterful enough to almost playfully mirror the motion with the grip on her other wrist, torqueing that arm around and seeking to abuse her -own- powerful twist to dislocate it in turn.

That same violent twist sees the unnaturally strong, corded limb in her grasp whip powerfully outward and audibly snap back into place, the pain apparently meaningless as a brick of high-velocity knuckles seek to plow squarely into Dinah's face.

"Yer good, doll. Fun. I like that." The threat of the moment, the painful exchange— predatory lasciviousness practically drips from the words despite it all. Worse— because of it all.

*

Dinah's better than 'good'.

She's a humble florist, really. No metahuman talents to speak of other than the song she rarely sings. No, when Dinah goes to ground, it's all fists, fury, and skill.

And when it comes down to it, the number of people who can match that latter quality can almost be counted on one hand.

So when Creed punches at her face, Dinah shifts her head to the left, letting his knuckles plow into the soft loam and the rocks right behind her skull.

Those claws latch around her wrist, and Dinah counters with a classic triangle choke with her legs wrapping around Creed and threatening the flow of blood to his brain. The fingers of her free hand form a striking tip and she slams the point into Creed's brachial nerve, a move intended to completely paralyze and numb the limb.

"I'm as good as it gets, /doll/," Dinah snaps, her legs ratcheting shut around Creed's throat.

*

As soon as the limber fighter stays apace of the punishment, Creed drops his considerable weight with mirroring grace— agility that belies his unusual size. He releases her limb immediately, confounding the nervestrike— but not without turning those vicious blades inward, seeking to rake them down her arm as he does so.

Before the Canary can clinch the choke, both meaty mitts clasp on her strong legs and simply, suddenly overpower them, forcing the scissor apart and then heaving upwards and back with rote application of leverage of his own— leverage that could send Dinah hurtling end over end into the thorns and trees beyond. Meanwhile, the stalking beast leaps clear, already wise to the strength of her ground 'n grapple game.

"Naw." Creed dismisses with maddening certitude. It's almost nonchalant. She's not wrong— it doesn't take long to count the martial artists that could match, much less exceed her. She's also not alone in that class, tonight, however. Sabretooth hasn't stopped grinning. "Better'n I expected, though. You should be more hospitable." It's an unusual observation, under the circumstances.

"I coulda already killed you; but you were out here huntin' the same shitheels." Creed draws a deep, savoring inhale of the night air, audible and pointed. "And we both know you get just as much of a kick out of it." Aside from the gored bodies; but she can learn.

*

Dinah's flung free, albeit with a bloodied limb; she hits the ground in a tight roll and bounces to her feet like someone who's laid down a few bikes in her day.

She glances at the cuts. Ugly bleeders, but relatively shallow. "You owe me a new jacket, prick," Dinah snaps at Creed. She reaches for a pocket with a gauzepack stuffed in it and quickly tapes off the tatters of her sleeve and the forearm under it. It's quick and ugly work that immediately stains the bandage red, but it'll serve better than leaving it untended.

"Any dumbass can kill someone. Takes skill to drop a person without ripping their throats out," Dinah counters. "I'm nothing like you. You're out here killing. I'm just out here pruning some dead limbs."

*

"Sure, if you want 'em standing back up." Sabretooth doesn't, with this lot. It has nothing to do with the poor, victimized refugees— but he doesn't share the specifics. "Call it what you want, darlin'." Creed magnanimously agrees. "Pretend you aren't gettin' your thrills beating 'em down, wrapping 'em up."

The lupine grin, the sharpened canines, it's only more prominent now. "Pretend you ain't always one lapse from cutting loose. You're too good at it to be addicted to anything else." The baiting, passing off his art as the work of an amateur? It doesn't even faze Victor. He's far too aware of his own expertise.

"I'll give ya a fresh jacket" he has a legendary taste in coats, " and a whole lot more of what you like." The menace hasn't really abated, despite the apparent sincerity in the assertions. It's tinged by a dark playfulness; he already said it. She's fun.

*

Dinah rolls her eyes. "Oh, god, are you trying that old 'we're really the same' shtick on me?" she inquires of Creed, her voice dripping with disdain. "Jesus, you angry villain types never get tired of old lines," she informs him.

"You're just not in the right class of villain for me to start quivering at the knees and questioning my life choices. I've spent too much time hunting the lunatics who end up in Arkham Asylum to take you that seriously. Step up the psychological torture some more, man!" she says, with mocking laughter. "I didn't realize this was D-league villain night," she tells Victor. "And for the record— you are absolutely /not/ my type."

*

As Dinah speaks, Creed chuckles anew. It's more lingering this time, if somewhat darker. "Okay girl." Sabretooth agrees, far too readily. For an angry villain, he seems to be having an awfully good time with this. Maybe he's just intimidated?!? "If that's what you're into."

She was likely expecting outrage, indignation— a renewed attack. Instead, still chuckling intermittently, Sabretooth retreats into the woods. She can try to pursue, if she likes… but the night is as much his as others, the wilderness, even in microcosm, Creed's domain.

By logic, Victor's too large to disappear as suddenly, as silently, as lithely into the trees as he does…. but the deadly mutant is swiftly gone. Once again, the night is still, the night is quiet…. the looming menace on Dinah's horizon may only have grown.

*

Part of Dinah seethes at the idea of Victor retreating, but then again— she hasn't made it this far in life by fighting enemies on their terms. Creed's clearly more dangerous than she'd expected. Fast, strong, and with a sense of woodland management that Dinah lacks.

Fair enough. The concrete jungle is something else entirely.

So Dinah turns and /runs/ the second Creed disappears. And she's fast, bike boots or not. Dinah's fleet as the wind, and slight enough that she doesn't need to bob under tree branches or crunch through narrow gaps in hedges. Up ahead, the lights of civilization flicker through the branches. Sure, it's familiar ground, but part of their allure is as old as civilization itself. Gather around a bonfire, backs to the heat, and beat sticks on the ground to ward off the animals lurking just beyond the edge of the light.

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