ArchivedLogs:Fire and Filth
|Fire and Filth|
In which a villainous plot requires a hero -- and receives one, much to its detriment.
<MOR> Pumping Station #8
The installation is old and decaying, the square cement boxes gradually crumbling and the machinery rusty and stained from years of pumping sewage. At times past the place would be well and clinically lit, but now every every other bulb is burnt out, the sporadic illumination casting moody shadows across the sludgeworks. Despite the vital task the station performs in ensuring that the city doesn't drown in its own filth, there just never seems to be the budget to renovate these things: sewage reform isn't a particularly glamorous platform to campaign on, after all.
And so it's a dark, dramatically lit room that Tatters stalks through, her backpack adding to the impression of a hunched hooded figure as she pads long the edge of a sludge-filled channel, resting a weight-bar on her shoulders as she stops to peek behind an old crate and under a rumbling apparatus.
Chokechain isn't sparing the theatricality himself. He has the barrels set up with a nest of wires on top, and a currently dimmed LED display clipped in place. It looks like a bomb, but more than that: it looks like a bomb for television. There's a couple of people who could have been pulled from a casting call for "terrorists, assorted" lying unconscious near him, and rifles stacked near them. All the setup work is done, and he's playing the waiting game now.
"Here, slugmo. Heeeeere, slugmo. I sound like food, don't I? Come out and--" Tatters passes a doorway with a brief glance and carries on, leading with her pole. Nothing in there but some dudes and a cartoon bomb, they'd have noticed if her quarry was -- hold on a sec. The sewer ranger backtracks and stands in the doorway, blinking at the tableau before her. Dudes, weapons, old guy, bomb. What do you even *say* at a time like this? A wiser denizen with a stronger sense of self preservation would probably book it; Tatters defaults to a flat, "Um, what?"
Chokechain has taken it to the next level with jars of leech, rat, and cockroach all lined up neatly on a thrumming piece of machinery. He puts his newspaper -- financial section, dull at twenty paces -- aside, and beckons. "Later than I'd hoped for, but come in, come in. We don't know each other."
Tatters remains in the doorway, yellow eyes luminous in the half-light, raising a finger as she peers across the room at the man, her expression difficult to read in the shadows of her hood but her croaking voice clearly bemused. "You're right, we...*don't* know each other. You, um." How do you even phrase this? "You should...probably explain yourself. I'm not accepting your invitation to step into your bomb, gun, and dude-filled office until you do."
Chokechain ponders her a while, and his hands do a twitch like they would have reached for a cigarette if they weren't in just the situation they are. He takes in her appearance feature by feature, and there's these moments of distaste that are followed almost straight away by them being smoothed away. "Fair enough," he says easily. "In brief: I need a hero."
Tatters tenses, her leathery knuckles whitening (slightly) as she grips her weight bar, her eyes narrowing in sudden confusion. This whole tableau was already rather surreal, but hearing that...? It's clear that his words have struck a nerve, albeit by chance, and it's a long few seconds before Tatters discounts the possibility of her sister being involved with this fellow and relaxes her jaw enough to reply. "I'm listening."
Chokechain squints at her reaction. He takes a breath, and he either tosses whatever speech he had prepared for something off the cuff, or he's some actor. "These two," and prods one of them with his toe, "are bad sorts. You stop them from pulling off this," and he waves a hand, admitting the broad strokes of it with a twist of a smile, "heinous crime, and they will be the other, not you. And, I hope, not me."
"So they're bad sorts. What kind of sort are you?" Collecting her composure, Tatters steps forwards, her posture much straighter than when she'd been creeping around. Glancing down she uses the end of her pole to tilt one of the prostrate 'villains' with her pole. Unconscious, or dead? It's hard to tell in this light. Her expression neutral, she turns her eyes back to the talker and rests the iron pole back against her shoulder. "And if I play along. How are you expecting this to go down?"
Chokechain watches the one she tilts closely for signs of waking, his hand going to a bottle which can only be chloroform. The man's bearded face twitches at the movement, but he doesn't wake. "I'm open to suggestions," he answers her second question first. "As for what sort I am, I'll admit it: I want the bad times now. The people up there aren't going to get more understanding without a push. I want it now, before they get too inventive."
"Do you /usually/ invite random schlubs off the sewers to do your scheming for you? You're the one who was sitting here waiting for a patsy, I assume you've got a plan." Tatters nods at the sign of life, and wanders back to lean against the doorjamb, the end of her pole planted against the floor, her expression still mostly neutral but slowly turning curious. "And you're right, things aren't gonna change on their own. But I'd still like to know where you're going with *this* mess," a wave of a hand takes in the whole scene, "before I sign on."
Chokechain says, "Yes, I have a plan. Imrich and Dragan here are off the sexual offenders register. Their bank accounts just happen to have suspicious payments in them; I wonder how that happened. Random schlub, as you say, stops them, and people might stop banging on about the filthy mutants for a moment don't you think?"
"Really? Some guys attempt A Terrorism in New York City, funded by mysterious backers less than--" Tatters pauses and flicks her eyes to the ceiling as she does some quick math, "--sorry, /just over/ a year since some assholes tried to blow up Liberty Island. No one could /possibly/ think mutants were involved. And this couldn't /possibly/ bring an uncomfortable amount of scrutiny down on me, an ugly homeless sewer-dweller who just happened to be skulking around a municipal facility at the time." She fixes the man with a level gaze, her eyes, formerly spaced widely apart, shifting closer together as she focuses on him. "Your plan sucks. Go home."
Chokechain's jaw muscles jump out; the jibe makes him angry, and he doesn't bother hiding it. His voice is even enough though, "You imagine some other world, where threats are seen for what they are, instead of through a fog of hysteria. I will confess that I don't particularly mind if it works for you. I just want the hysteria. I want a partner." He stands, and stretches. "I hate plan B."
"And you think hysteria won't hurt /us?/ You think people aren't happy to just, I dunno, plug events into their existing prejudices?" Tatters voice raises, her croak growing harsher as she gestures vaguely up at the surface. "Look at friggen Liberty Island. The closest I've been to being a terrorist is playing goddamn Counterstrike, but no, /I/ was that mutant girl who dropped out of school when she started growing tentacles, so *I* was the one who got a brick through the window. And look at friggen," she rolls her eyes and jabs her weapon in an easterly direction, "What's his face, Magnetron, he was Jewish so obviously it was the Jews, because THAT goddamn conspiracy theory hadn't gotten old yet. And we don't trust the government, right? So obviously Liberty Island Was An Inside Job. Or it was friggen Latveria, because /they/ hate Americans, right? That's how hysteria /works./" She pauses and takes a deep breath, giving the man a look of mixed annoyance and scorn.
Chokechain concedes the point with a wave of his hand, "All possible, yes. But my other move means blood in the streets now, so this little burp of Islamophobia it is." He picks up the jar with the leech, and unscrews its lid. "Do you want to know what happens if you're afraid to try being a hero?"
"From the sound of it, it involves blood in the streets." Tatters hefts her weight bar, holding it like a baseball bat and grinning...mirthlessly? It's hard to tell in this light. It could be maniacally. "Last chance, old man. Drop the slug or you get the hero you asked for." Was that cool? It sounded cool but man, it's hard for her to tell. She'll have to run it by Lily later. Part of Tatters speaks up from the back of her mind, pointing out that it's ridiculous to be worried about the quality of one's one-liners at a time like this, but the other part -- and tonight, the dominant part, the part that Lily had been insistently trying to encourage for years -- is just thankful that she has the chance to practice on some crazy in the sewers before she has to try Heroing in front of conscious, judgmental bystanders. what about the mortal peril? Uh, maybe, she'll get to worrying about that later.
Chokechain has the leech crawl and perch on his finger obediently. His acknowledgement of her line is a jut of his jaw, and a little shrug of his shoulders. "Maybe you're amazing," he says to her. "Maybe you've just the right gift to stop these two poor bastards burning when their bomb misfires. But I don't think you are that kind of incredible. I think you were hoping I was going to go for you. But we are allies. By blood."
What is he...ugh, there's a scheme here, isn't there? Whatever, that bomb probably won't blow while he's still here but there's probably not much time to think of what to OR think of witty rejoinders. There is only time for punching, and shouting a battle cry of the first thing that comes to mind; she'll have plenty of time to think about what she *should* have said later. Thus Tatters charges, launching herself across the room and aiming a baseball swing at her foe, shouting...what was he talking about? Something about blood? "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!"
Chokechain flicks the leech at her, and it's more than perspective that makes it seem to grow in her vision: it's really growing. It keeps its momentum as it grows to the size of a large dog, a beanbag worth of grey leather hurtling to meet her. He pivots, and pulls at one of the barrels, trying to rock it enough to get it over on its side, his face wracked with the effort of that kind of growth.
In retrospect, Tatters wasn't sure what she had expected him to do with that leech. She chides herself for the tactical error as she skids to a halt and barely raises her weapon to interpose it between herself and the creature. And then she's hit by the mass of leechflesh, staggering back and struggling to heave the monstrosity off of her it in turn fastens itself to her shoulder. With an inarticulate croak of rage she surges forwards, giving her pole a sidelong fling in the man's direction, then grits her teeth and does...something, her hand disappearing into her sleeve and that side of her arm seeming to deflate as she struggles with the megaleech.
Chokechain takes the pole to the side of his head with a crack, and blood makes streams down his face. There's a moment where his grip falters on the leech: it halves in size. It's not trying to do more than fix on her, not trying to draw blood. As much comfort as that might be, it is trying to change its jaws from on her arm to on her face. Chokechain has the barrel moving enough that he'll be able to tip it any moment, "Last chance before they have to burn," he hisses through blood.
As the leech tries to wriggle away, it finds its progress impeded by the mass of flesh filling its maw, Tatter's left arm replaced by a swiftly growing tentacle that -- well, okay, from the rings of bony spikes that perforate the leech from the inside out with a staccato splurch, it looks like her plan was to hit Chokechain with a Leech Arm the size of a large dog. Now that the leech is only the size of a *small* dog she abandons that plan in favor of lurching forwards as fast as she can and lashing out with her elongated, leech-capped appendage, straining to close the distance fast enough to slap the man's hands away from the barrel before it's too late.
Chokechain's face blanches at the fate of the leech, but he braces for impact, and the barrel goes over as instead of slapping him away she makes full contact with her leech arm. The rat bursts out of its jar at a flick of his gaze, and he looks into her eyes to see what she'll do. He wants it to be a mexican standoff, but he might just have to worst of it as the stink of diesel spreads in a puddle away from the two of them.
Tatters makes a sound that's half croak and half snarl as her lack of dexterity sends the drum a-tumbling. Friggen scratch-grown limbs, they never work right unless you *calibrate* 'em. Standing in a crouch, she flicks her eyes from the man, to the slowly spreading puddle, to the 'terrorists,' to the rat. After giving the matter due (if hasty) consideration, the silence broken only by the rumble and slosh of machinery and the pained squeaks of what's left of that poor leech, still twitching on the end of her tentacle, she brightens and holds up a finger as if ask Chokechain for a moment, and digs around in her pocket for a second until she produces a Bic lighter. With a shrug she flicks it a few times, then tosses the safety-compromised lighter onto the puddle of flammables. Better to take care of it sooner rather than later, before the fumes have had time to mix with the air and the puddle itself to reach the unconscious hostages.
Chokechain has mixed it down, so the flames are sluggish rather than blazing. His eyes are on them nevertheless, his muscles taut and ready. "My creature may be able to take your throat out. You might be able to tear my guts with your, ah, appendage. Let's say you care about these pieces of filth enough to take that chance. New plan?" he suggests.
"Yyeee hvvvv-HCCHH HMM!" Tatters words come out as an unintelligble, grating noise, until she clears her throat and shakes her head and tries again, her goblinoid grin lit by the flickering light of the fire as she stands in a crouch. "Do you know how many years I've spent training to fight giant rats in a sewer? That's, like, absolute basic hero stuff." Her grin widens and in a sudden surge of movement she leaps forwards through the flames, lashing out with her tentacle and following up as she lands with an attempted gutpunch with her remaining hand.
Chokechain's muscles are teak, but he's distracted dodging that tentacle, and sending the rat through the puddle of fuel. He folds, goes down, and the rat's life winks out in the flames before it can track fuel and flame over the men's recumbent bodies. The fuel instead sloshes their way, leaving them a moment from catching alight.
Tatters recoils as the man crumples around her fish, stepping back hurriedly and raising her, er, arms as she fights back a surge of nausea. Punching sewer monsters, giant leeches, wrestling with horrible creepy crawlies -- man, whatever, that's her life now. But seeing a human being collapse from her blows like so much...well, it hasn't stopped being horrifying. Hopefully she didn't break anything. She glances at her tentacle, bereft of its dying leech-glove and stained black; the thing must've shrunk when he'd turned his attention to the -- hold on. The sight of a burning rat-trail startles her out of her funk and with a shout she retracts her tentacle to a more useful length and rushes over to grab the two men, snagging one by the back of the shirt and hooking her tentacle under the arms of the other, hurriedly pulling them out of the room before they catch fire, lowering her head and squeezing her eyes shut against the increasingly thick smoke.
Chokechain is gone when the flames choke themselves out enough for the room to be reentered, the worst damage this damp squib of a bomb caused being blistered paint and a thick coating of soot over everything. The cockroach jar is left a few hundred paces away from the scene, its inhabitant set free to roam as it wills.
When Tatters squints back into the room, she lets the men down and...man, seriously? He shouldn't be able to do that. With a grumble she shakes her head and shrugs off her backpack, sitting down against the wall and slowly restructuring her tentacle into something approximating an arm with a hand on the end. And her hoodie has a big hole in it, and she should probably drag these guys to the police station and explain about Evil Frasier. And she didn't even find the sewer monster. Worst. Night. Ever.