Capes! Issue #14

Southside Boost

15 November 2010: 0135 hours: Southside

Performer admires the stars on this clear Fall night. Here on a Southside roof, there’s not so much neon that the sky gets blocked out. He’s sheltered from wind off the river by the bulk of Bad Tripp, squatting like an over-muscled gargoyle on the rooftop between Shelley and O’Donnell.

“Dat’s our ride. But checkit: de secon’ truck’s Li’l Leroy’s.”

Performer follows the inky gargoyle’s gesture: there’s a late-model SUV rolling quietly towards their tenement, followed by another.

“Best ya call fer backup on de M-phone, ‘case de Chem Bros’ in dere ridin’ dirty.”

Performer’s speed-dial finds Wraith, Skylark and Holmes in net. Holmes is tied-up with something but the other two agree to make their way over.

Performer and Tripp watch: an empty re-up valise is let down for the re-up team to fill. It’s tossed back: before it can be hauled back into the tenement, Performer levitates the second SUV on top of the first, and Bad Tripp leaps down on top of the pile!

Auto-glass showers onto the pavement and road as the bottom SUV’s door panels give out, but the top SUV is well-reinforced and the windshield merely crazes. Panicked shots erupt from inside it up through the roof. Tripp slides onto the bonnet, turns and glares down through the windshield:

BAD TRIPP!”

He drops down onto the pavement; picks up the valise; sneers back at the re-up crew; slopes off into an alley. He’s not followed.

As a grace-note, Performer flips the top SUV 180 degrees so it’s upside down and still on top of the re-up crew’s mashed truck. He calls the success in so that everyone can meet at Armory.

Afterthought

0137 hours: A minute or so later, the last banger has crawled out of the wreckage and run – keeping away from deep shadow. Holmes’ ghost drifts into the scene and reviews it. Little Leroy was the chief in the second SUV, and when things went off, Leroy assumed it was the Chemical Brothers re-negotiating his contract: he was relieved to find it was only the Massive!

Holmes drifts off back to his own body. Cheese Combo may be somewhere in the Candyman camp with a makeover of some kind. Holmes feels a little sorry for him.

The Right Signature

15 November 2010: 0600 hours: Armory

With a key of cut Boost to work with, Wraith puts the rest of the night in: refines out the cutting agent; reverse-engineers the pure compound into the base chemical ingredients. Then it’s back into the computer room on the trail of firms that ship them in.

“I’ve got two local firms,” Wraith mutters as he finishes his filters. “Majestic Industries, and Pinni-Chem. Hmm, Majestic… reputable, ISO-9000 certified, known processes… or Pinni-Chem, a small outfit with… no apparent contracts. I think we have a winner.”

Joe Tripley takes the printout of Pinni-Chem directors and copies it, hands it round.

“I’ll get in touch with activist networks,” Nike offers, “they may have Pinni-Chem on a red-flag list. But that won’t be for a few hours.”

Wraith sticks his head into the common room:

“I’m going to get some shut-eye, but come business hours, I’ll have a walk through the Pinni-Chem employee files and see what security checks have on them.”

“Me, I’ll see if Narcotics know anything about these guys,” Tripley growls. He unholsters his snitch phone and calls Hippo. The narcotics detective is on shift and agrees to the favor.

“Just run th’ names up th’ flagpole an’ see if anyone salutes,” Joe concludes. He stretches, decides on another brew and a short sleep before calling Wendy Boys. Holmes walks in, nods cheerfully.

“Sorry I couldn’t make it earlier, but I could see the two of you coped easily with the Boost boost?”

Performer laughs agreement, entertains Skylark and Wraith with an impromptu stage-play on the car-flipping. Joe grins slightly, agrees:

Fun…”

The Beat

Joe Tripley: Wendy Boys is a cute 20-something with a lot of red streaked into her dark brown hair. It’s a cooler day on the street, but she still wears a midriff top. Nails, the black varnish chipped a little, tap nervously on the tabletop at Redeye as her hazel-brown eyes assess Joe. It is awkward: in some ways she knows him wellWendy knows more about Joe’s taste in music and what kind of sound system he uses than any other woman alive – but in other ways he’s a stranger, and not a reassuring one. But he does his best, crinkling his rugged face into a brotherly smile, keeping his body language open, waiting ‘til they both have their coffee, then just being a good listener as she re-hashes what now seems a lost cause.

Joe winds it up with an offer to help her find a new apartment and with a “seeyaround” they part. He finishes jotting it up into his casebook and asks himself: what do we know?

Wendy’s ex, Eric, is recruited at one of the Dream Raves Skylark got a lead on. The rave is known to be organized by the Chemical Brothers. Candyman himself may do the recruiting. It occurs around four weeks prior, and Eric is separated from Wendy that same night. She is drugged but not molested. After her fliers go out Eric, apparently strung out on something, reappears to break up with her. He is already disassociated from his previous life and does not want his own belongings. When she persists, Wendy is physically threatened both by Eric and by having a moped thrown through her window.

“Rave on…”

Nike Williams: Annoyingly her ex-activist contact Connie – she of the odd boyfriend – mentions Jerry Falweather as the only one still active. Nike finds it hard to analyze why Jerry’s name should make her bridle. It’s not as if I slept with him! Maybe it’s his borderline condescension?

Nike turns her attention to her other idea, and comes up with Freedom’s Eyes, a corporate watchdog NGO right there in Riverside.

Matt Gray: Matt unzips Pinni-Chem like a cheap schoolbag and opens its employee list for inspection. It’s not the lack of NCIC matches that’s surprising, it’s the lack of any actual chemists or researchers. “We have drivers, store people, and some dispatch clerks: that’s it apart from the directors,” he explains over the M-phone to the team.

“Yeah… those d’rectors… gotta flag on the name Campbell. M’man Hippo tagged him fer me: he’s got real juice; one of the Grant Conglomerates directors which means he’s in th’ dirty crew pumpin’ funds ta Hizzoner. Ya ‘member Frankie an’ Lester both rated Grant Conglomerates…”

“And of course, they were the nuclear materials importers,” Thad agrees.

“All I’ve got on him is a home address,” Matt adds regretfully, “I’m sorry, but I need to sleep. Nowish.”

“Say Nike, if’n ya got access ta a computer, how ‘bout gettin’ profiles on Campbell’s family. Wife, kids, where he golfs… we need to ream this mutha’s life out an’ be ready to work him over.”

Nike Williams: Turning to the PC at Neverending Story, Nike moves Toby adroitly out of the way and begins working through social networks, but soon gets bored and calls Freedom’s Eyes instead. She’s in luck: and soon finds herself entering the premises further down on Riverside.

Dennis, a young-old man who looks like an ex-pat Englishman but isn’t, repeats Joe’s information – only with no expletives – about Campbell. Grant Conglomerates is a corporation they have many suspicions of, but their legality is secure. Nike feels as if she has made a good contact as she leaves.

Will you won’t you will you join the dance?

15 November 2010: 1745 hours: Armory

Nike’s report is simple. Matt, Thad and Terry have nothing extra. Joe reads out his notes on Wendy’s story, then turns to the obvious:

“So OK, Friday night tonight: who’s up for the Dream Rave? Wraith, ya wanna be there or at least be a ghost there?”

“I’ll be there in my suit, invisible and intangible,” Matt confirms.

“An’ Performer, ya must have a nice outfit, right?”

“Oh, sure, I can be there. It’ll be good to get out somewhere I’m not the entertainment!”

Skylark, ya gonna go with this Falhouse guy…?”

Falweather, but no, I’ll be there on my own. Jerry’s not my thing.”

Holmes?”

“Sure, I’ll be there. I’ve got the street cred to pull it off.”

“An’ I’ll be there, hopefully with a date. It’s my turf. Should be fun!”

Meet: Awkward

16 November 2010: 0025 hours: Eclipse, Southside

Charlie’s pleasantly surprised at Joe’s invitation. Being Joe/Charlie: it nearly turns into a fight. But she bites her tongue; turns up in a classy vampirefreaks outfit. Joe dresses in clean black jeans, polished steel chain, tight mesh vest and immaculate ‘do. The phones are still clipped to his belt in a leather holster, but by the muffled thumping from inside Eclipse, they aren’t going to be much use.

Nike walks round from the nearest car-park: sees Joe and his date.

Connie?”

Nike?”

Gnh?”

Nike starts talking to Charlie as though they are close friends: Joe discovers that Joe’s girl Charlie is Nike’s friend Connie… from back in FCU days. Uh-huh. Joe looks suspiciously at Charlie, then at Nike. Nike is definitely older than Charlie. But by the drift of the chat, Nike was a mature student to Charlie’s fresher. Then, to make matters worse, as introductions proceed, Nike reveals she already knows him then calls him Tripp!

Sure ya know me – ya can’t even get m’fucken name right!” he retorts and stomps on into Eclipse. Behind him Nike is carrying it off as best she can, talking about working together on a community project with Thad.

Charlie wants to talk about it, but she and Joe work their way through the vast, throbbing cavern that is Eclipse, towards the DJs, and with the music and smoke and everyone jumping, she starts enjoying herself and forgets to puzzle why Lincoln community organizing is so popular.

Dream Rave

16 November 2010: 0045 hours: Eclipse, Southside

Joe looks around. At the stage end, there are two exits, both with security. He recalls Holmes’ briefing:

Eclipse has been set up as a gigantic barn, with smoke machines and light trees on every second pillar. The entrance is far end opposite the stage: the bar on the corner right of entrance. The controls are up above the corner to stage left. A green room is stage right. Behind the control booth stage left a two-story prefab has been attached to the old brick original building, accessed from the Eclipse floor and allowing access to the control booth.

Terry’s already in the mosh pit, below Hep n’ Hexie the Coast DJs. His good looks have drawn several pretty girls to him and he’s really enjoying himself. Joe works himself and Charlie closer to the door leading to the two-story. A two-man security team is on it. From where he is, Joe can’t see any details of the control booth. He decides to bide his time and let the other team members get into position: the music is telling him to relax and dance!

Thad wrenches his mind away from the pulsing beat! Now he is sure: this is more than just trance music and pheromones! There’s something hooking people: the smoke, lights, subliminals maybe: whatever it is, it’s no match for his titanic will! He flashes the message round. Terry confirms the same: he’s on his way out to the fresh air: he had wished to investigate the bar, but something was stopping him.

“I thought it was all that firm young flesh rubbing up against you?” Wraith suggests cruelly.

Joe asks Wraith to check the control booth. Wraith is distracted by the need to sample the music, lights and smoke. He can’t pick anything in the former two, so decides to steal a smoke machine.

Nike, warned by Thad, drops into a patch of shadow and climbs swiftly up a column to the ceiling arches. There, she becomes Skylark! She begins homing in on the control booth. As expected, one of the techs is clad in tie-dyed gear!

Thad gives up on gaining access to a toilet cubicle as a voice booms out over the PA:

Well well well! We have intruders! My people! Search for intruders! Search the shadows!”

Candyman’s image has replaced the DJ show and the trance beats have stopped. Eerily, hundreds of ravers begin casting around, looking for people hiding in shadows. Even more eerily Thad can sense an intellect roaming across the dance floor, seeking him! He pulls up his camouflage power: dodges the questing hands!

Terry breathes deep: the night air is beginning to revive him. He slips out of sight and then to a rooftop: becomes Performer. He can no longer raise Thad mentally: pulls out his M-phone and calls Wraith.

Wraith slips out from under the building with the smoke machine on him; drops it up to Performer: slips back inside to help. Immediately, there’s a call in from Joe:

“C’n ya hear me?”

“Yes, I have you loud and clear.”

“OK I’m gonna stream this to ya…”

A mofeed comes in: video from another of Joe’s phones, showing two bouncers guarding a doorway.

“C’n ya do somethin’ ta get ‘em off th’ door? We gotta get inta the control room!”

Wraith chuckles evilly:

“Leave it to me: this’ll be a pleasure!”

Skylark, now costumed, crouches upside down on the ceiling waiting for the Wraith’s move. Suddenly both guards stagger away, wrenching their headsets off! She sees Joe slip past them into the two-story beyond.

Chemical Brothers

0115 hours: Joe looks around: thick electric cables snake across the floor towards another open door to a lit area. The lower room he’s in is shadowed. He crouches in the deepest shadow in the corner, and begins the change to Bad Tripp.

Even as he does so, he sees shapes through the open door: human shapes, changing their own form: Dog boy and Strider at least; and maybe someone larger again?

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