Capes Issue #9

Fact-Gathering

2 August 2010. 2305 hours: the Sir Titsalot incident

Nightfall pads swiftly past the wrecked GMC: notes the lack of corpses. Reaching the piles of shell casings marking where someone with enormous amounts of ammo – presumably Gunship – burned the parked cars, he takes a half-second to admire the uncanny precision of the shooting.

There must be a great recoil-suppression system on that suit! he thinks.

It seems Gunship doesn’t want to take a life. Jack on the other hand – Nightfall moves on to a position at about 45 degrees from the Titsalot doorway – has no such problem. Each victim is neatly double-tapped in the head! There’s a clipboard lying in the street: names and photos of Frank and his mobster friends and associates. He hands it to Holmes, who drops the snapped noose he’s been fondling and takes it, running his hands lightly over it. He shakes his head: nothing particular to pick up.

“I’ve had a good look through here,” Wraith calls through, “apart from snow and ice, there are a few dead bodies, but Frankie isn’t one of them.”

“I can hear sirens,” Nightfall adds.

OK den, Performer ain’t dead an’ Holmes is back wid’ us. I’m buggin’ out wid’ Performer. Wraith, I guess dat leaves ya th’ job a’ jockeyin’ Holmes away.”

“I was going to stay and see what the police find but yes, I suppose the priority is to get our team safe away. I can always come back later.”

“Back to Armory! Let’s roll!” With that, Nightfall swings up into the darkness.

3 August 2010. 0100 hours: Armory I

“Hello?”

Nike can hear a dull murmur of voices but there’s no-one in the break-out room. The widescreen is off and beer fridge is closed – maybe Tripley is out on patrol? She glances up at the “perp-board” and notices quite a few of the Tonifanni side have been marked off in red – it ties into the media reports she’s been hearing during the past day. No-one’s in the IT room either but from there, it’s obvious the gym is where whoever is in, is at. She pushes open the heavy door and recoils in shock: Joe and Thad are actually low-fiving each other like homies, Matt is grinning pleasantly, and Terry seems battered and humble. For a moment, Nike feels like Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

Skylark!”

Hell, girl, where ya bin?”

“Better late than never!”

Nike lingers behind with Red as the old-timer updates her. They’ve just finished some kind of strategy session. The others trickle out to the TV and coffee machine. Channel Three is running a late-breaking news special about the incident: Amy Feng, hair and makeup still perfect, reports that among the many corpses of associates of the Tonifannis, Frank Tonifanni is still unaccounted for:

There has been a major armed incident in the Fens tonight. A number of Meta-powered individuals appear to have launched a concerted attack on a Men’s leisure club in the area, which is rumored to have links to the organized crime group under Frank Tonifanni.

Police report that there are a number of violence-related fatalities in the area, and while official identification of the victims has not been made, confidential sources within the Department indicate that the victims are all members of the Tonifanni ‘family’, indicating that this attack is part of an ongoing mob war.

Independent witness accounts taken by the FCPD indicate that there was an intervention by a second group of Meta-powered individuals, bringing the incident to a close. This second group appears to be the same group recently active in bringing the Bomb’s terror spree to an end.

The city is now holding its breath, waiting for the next outbreak of violence. And the Police Department has repeated its call for Frank Tonifanni to come into police custody for his own safety. The whereabouts of Mr Tonifanni however, remains a mystery.

This is Amy Feng Channel Three News.

“Hey, you guys are still here! I thought we were getting back on the road again! I just had to arrange my story to my folks…”

Hi Nightfall!” Holmes responds, “glad you could make it back with us! Yes, we’re about to decide our next move.

“I didn’t get anything interesting off the clipboard: but from the rope I discovered that Noose’s girlfriend is Envision: she’s a planner, very clever. I don’t know that she is the teleporter though it is possible. The illusions we’ve seen are consistent with her MO but mass, selective teleportation is not.”

“Well, that’s all good. So where are we going?”

Bed, to sleep off the concussion,” replies Performer raspily, blinking with exhaustion.

“I wanna keep on Frankie’s trail. We got two places ta check: Pisano’s Butchers an’ his dump in th’ burbs. So, sweetcheeks: ya up for it?”

Skylark’s eyes narrow: “Sure, can do.” Eyeing Joe’s mohawk, she begins making a combat fan out of newspapers.

“How ’bout you, kid?”

Sure! Great!”

“Well, you know, I think I can check those locations before you get there,” Thad suggests. “As long as I’m not moving around I’m OK, and I can feel myself coming right.”

Natch. Ya get right onta that. We’ll be drivin’. And hey kid Skylark’s got a ‘no peekin’‘ rule when she’s gettin’ changed!”

“I can sift through the police and CSI logs, to see if anything comes up,” adds Matt as the combat fan whistles toward Joe’s do, “and go back onto the scene. I’ll let you know if and when…”

The Hunt

0200 hours: the Tonifanni residence

Holmes, much recovered since an unseen hand sent him staggering, sends his mentality into the Tonifanni residence. The wife, immaculately made up, is harrying her two teens into the car, bundling the last of her many bags in. They leave and take the route out to the I-525. Holmes follows them as far as his range allows, then reports back.

0200 hours: Pisano’s Butchers

It seems abandoned as Nightfall and Skylark easily crack it open: no need to call Tripp in from his position lurking in back of the van. Skylark sniffs the air, caught between hunger and revulsion: it’s full of blood: but animal blood. At Tripp’s suggestion, they take phonebooks and paperwork including scrawled notes, and rejoin the big ugly.

Hearing from Holmes, the three make the short trip back to the Armory, pick Holmes up, and drive back out east toward the Tonifanni residence.

0230 hours: in Joe’s van

“Say Holmes,” Tripp begins.

“Yes Joe?”

“I got a favor ta ast ya.”

“Carry on…”

“I wuz thinkin’ ya c’d alibi me ta m’ girlfriend. She’s bin mouthin’ off about not knowin’ where I am. I figger I c’n interdooce ya as my boss in th’ community organizer racket.”

“It’s not a racket, Joe, we do good work.”

Sure, sure. An’ it’s over ta Lincoln, so’s it’s close enough she don’t get too freaked, but she ain’t about ta go over ta check on me.”

“Well that sounds OK… in a very devious sort of way.”

A’right! Us Massive gotta have each other’s backs, right?” Joe makes a black power fist, then fishes back for a celebratory beer.

The van swings off the main road, but Joe can already see FCPD lights flashing and detour signs up. He keeps driving by, working around the locality to a quiet reserve.

0300 hours: Tonifanni residence

Holmes invisibly works his way through the FCPD team investigating the residence. Secret closets and cellars are being examined, but the teams don’t seem to be having more success than did Holmes on his first sweep there. He concentrates, runs a post-cog on the gun closet:

Frank is handing his armory out to a colleague he addresses as Sil, while trying to reassure his obviously-upset wife. It seems, from the context, to be in reaction to the hit on Little Mikey. The two mobsters leave in a GMC Yukon – the same one Gunship ripped apart, realizes Holmes.

Holmes returns to the Ford van. Skylark and Nightfall are sitting very close to one another in front.

Ya-eey! Are you two necking?”

“We were just pretending to neck!”

“It was Joe’s idea – at least he didn’t suggest himself for the job! He’s over there, getting some sleep. Did you find anything?”

Joe! Wake up! We need to get rolling again!”

 Once the van is headed back to the Armory, Holmes uses the comms to update Wraith as well as his travelling companions.

Wraith comes back:

“I’ve taken time to check back on the nightclub as well. There wasn’t much happening at the scene – I guess there’s some CSI schleps milking some overtime tonight. But it struck me – Holmes – you can be invisible while physically there, right?”

Sure, it’s what I’ve just been doing…”

“Well, if you ran a post-cognition sequence or whatever it is on the ripped-apart vehicle…”

Ouch! Yes, you’re right Wraith; I can’t think why that didn’t occur to me! That could be a huge clue as to where Frank went!”

0430 hours: the Sir Titsalot crime scene

The burnt-out cars have been hauled away, but the GMC is still there! Invisible, Holmes threads his way through the CSIs and occasional knot of lazy police, and touches it:

Wild-eyed, Frank and Sil pile into the GMC Yukon 4WD. Frank guns the engine and the big vehicle fish-tails up the street. Muzzle-flashes create a strobe effect as they hit the T. Sil mutters something – it could be the Hail Mary – and a huge set of steel claws fastens onto the GMC’s hood, slamming it to a nose-down stop. The front and side panels rip asunder and a hulking battlesuit fills Holmes’ vision!

In the bag! Jack yells from behind Gunship, “Good work Gunship – step clear!”

Run! Run now!” The urgent whisper comes from Gunship!

“I can’t get a shot!” Jack yells, This is our contract Gunship! Gunship! …We’ve got a job, don’t make me…”

Jack levels his firearm down the street: and Bad Tripp plummets with a roar out of the sky, slamming Jack flat! In the other direction, Frank and Sil flee down an alley, Sil urging Frank to get to a second vehicle, “we’ll head out to th’ forest,” he pants.

0440 hours: Terry’s apartment

Somewhere deep within Terry’s nightmare a phone rings, distracting him from struggling against the noose round his neck. He’s trying to reach for the phone and stop the strangling with the other hand… then the phone falls off the table and Terry falls with it, over the building’s edge and down, down…

Dude!”

“Wha…”

Dude! Phone! Man you have some weird friends…” Terry’s roomie trails off as he seeks his own bed, the mists of unconsciousness already reclaiming him.

“Hello?”

“Yo, Terry! Get y’ass over ta th’ clubhouse! We’re suitin’ up!”

Wondering how Joe got his number, Terry struggles out of bed and into something approaching wakefulness. By the time he enters Armory I he concludes – rightly – that Matt probably already had his phone number. That’s the down-side of being open about my identity, he muses as he makes a beeline for the coffee machine and fixes a strong black one. He’s barely interested in who else is in the break-out room but with the first sip scalding its way into his brain he turns and realizes his path to the Dark Side of beverages has been duly noted.

Two Interrogations

0530 hours: Wharton State Forest

Wraith moves in through the back door. It was child’s play, he preens, to find a tie-in between this run-down hunting shack and Sir Titsalot, at least for someone with his skills. Somewhere out on the perimeter Nightfall is running a wide scout and Performer is standing ready. Skylark is far back beyond the Ford van, keeping lookout, while Bad Tripp is walking quietly in front of Holmes, along the road toward the shack’s front door. Right up against the back door, and oblivious to the invisible intangible Wraith, Sil is sitting in a chair tilted back against the door, a MAC machine pistol cradled. Wraith levels his blaster and mutters “ready here!”

In the only room worth calling a room of the lodge, Frank is sleeping inside a sleeping-bag, M16 beside him. There’s a soft but heavy and somehow very definite footfall outside the front door. Frank’s eyes snap open, but it’s too late: the door, frame, and several feet of wall fly out, and a huge shape springs inside and gloms massive hands onto his prone body!

From the back, there’s a noise not much louder than a silenced pistol. “Mine’s down,” reports Wraith.

YA MINE, PUNK!!” bellows Tripp, smashing the unfortunate mobster up against the roof beams then down onto a dilapidated sofa. “Ya gimme answers or it’ll be too bad!”

0540 hours: the hunting lodge

Guys! Incoming jetpack – probably Gunship!”

Skylark’s warning interrupts a solid flow of information from the demoralized Frank.

“Guys, you-all hearin’ me?”

“Yup, we’re gettin’ gone, jus’ tidyin’ up!” growls Tripp, two mobsters tucked under one enormous arm and clutching the rear wheel of the mobsters’ car in the other hand, “OK take us up Performer, an’ m’ van wid’ us if’n ya can!”

No problem!”

Low to the trees, the van and Massive – minus Wraith – slip away, Holmes cloaking the departure with rolling illusions of treetops.

Wraith quietly awaits the opposition: but it’s Gunship alone that alights!

Gunship is visibly distraught at finding the lodge in its obviously-raided state: after dithering for a minute or two, the battlesuit takes off towards Happanuk Hill, a good landmark for Wraith who can’t ghost as fast. He reports back, and Holmes zips intangibly over to the Hill, to watch Gunship’s approach. There’s no ruse or secret lairGunship lands right on the hill-slope, settles, and pops the suit.

To the unseen audience’s surpriseGunship is a woman: young, red-haired and pale-skinned, and still very upset. Being a natural red-head (though to be sure Nature is assisted a little) her nose and eyelids are pink from blubbing by the time Wraith arrives, to hover invisibly over her.

Gunship!”

“Wha – who’s there?”

“Do not fear me – I am not here to hurt you!” Wraith accesses the battlesuit easily now that the girl is not occupying it, and shuts it down. “If I was, you would already be hurt!”

“Are you – are you in my head? ‘Cause if you are I guess my shrink might have a point…”

“No, I’m invisible, above you!”

“Are you like a guardian angel, or are you what – say, can you show yourself?”

Matt sighs resignedly. This interview is not going smoothly, and he’s conscious that Holmes and Performer can probably hear all this.

“OK, just for a second!” The suit becomes visible, gray on black in the rising dawn, above Gunship, who exclaims: “Oh – that’s kinda cool! So that’s like a cloaking device – very Late Empire Klingon!”

These simple words perform a small revolution in Matt’s heart: he feels himself somehow warming to the pink-nosed girl.

“I want to know what your stake in all this is, Gunship. I know you’re not a killer – and I know you allowed Frank and the other one to escape! Why were you with those stone killers, Jack and Noose?”

“I have to… I mean I’m part of the team, and they’re – we’re – supposed to hit the place in the forest in ten minutes… and they’re gonna know I was off-post… and I’m in like so much trouble!

“Uh… maybe we can help with that… but tell me why you feel so obligated?”

Holmes has not lingered to hear the answer: he flashes back into his body, to alert the Massive that there is a deadline. Performer switches his flight path to the Centurion monument, depositing the mobsters on top. Nightfall callously confiscates Tonifanni’s cellphone, surreptitiously planting a trace bug while doing so. 

“I owed my dad for the funds I got for the suit. They’re really expensive to build – but then I guess you know that! Say – uh – why don’t you come down – or at least show yourself – I’m getting a cricked neck!”

“You can always lie down to talk to me!”

Gunship blushes, and perhaps inside his suit Matt does too.

“Look, I’m losing my weapon…” she coaxes, plucking a pistol from her shoulder-holster and tossing it aside. “I’m defenceless…” A second, deeper blush joins the first.

Matt’s tone deepens a little: “OK, I’m going to join you…” he appears next to Gunship, but remains intangible. “You can climb into your suit. You’ll find the servos no longer work but I’ve switched life support back on.”

“Oh – you can do that remotely – that rocks!”

Don’t be afraid: I don’t want us to be disturbed…” Matt transfers his intangibility to Gunship as he touches her and the two battlesuits sink into the earth. Gunship is clearly unsettled by this overt show of power and Matt presses his advantage:

Why are you in this at all?”

“This was a way of working the debt off! My main problem is, I told my dad I’d do this!”

“So you owe your father: I’m wondering who your father is? Is he one of the big players? Underworld? Demolition?”

Gunship laughs bitterly, and a little wildly:

“My dad is Buttonman!”

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