Issue 1, chapter 2: Street Life
Rough Justice, having searched the now empty flat that had moments previously contained some of the now-dispatched members of the Death's Head gang, is getting frustrated. His search has revealed nothing more than a typical gang hide-out. Various skull graffiti and imagery lay about the place; scratched into tables, and sprayed onto walls. His search exposes very little: a television, some spray paint, evidence of petty drugs use, some playing cards, but nothing that seemed to help identify the reason behind the recent surge in Death's Head activity. His actions getting ever more erratic and violent, searching turns to vandalism as he vents his ire at finding no clues. He starts throwing tables and chairs over, breaking objects in his path. He picks up one of the cans of white spray paint from one corner of the room, and sprays a sad face with a single tear onto every skull he lays eyes on.
"Stop wasting time" Cass's voice cuts through the noise of the destruction from the doorway, pausing Rough Justice in his tracks. Sulking, RJ pushes past Cass and mounts his motorbike without a word, speeding off away from the group.
"WAIT" booms Sledgehammer and runs after the man before anyone has a chance to stop him.
Remembering the information they had gathered so far, Tracer heads towards the basketball courts with the intention of staking them out, waiting for the seemingly inevitable return of the gang. Without warning, Fade walks across to Cass, placing a hand on his shoulder, the both of them dematerialising in an instant, a strange purplish-black after-image rapidly dissipating into the air.
The two men appear on one of the roofs overlooking the basketball courts, four storeys high. Disorientated, Cass looks around, realising what has happened.
"Never do that again." He intones coolly to Fade before walking casually off the roof.
The wind rushing past him, and the noises of the city in the late afternoon had done much to help calm Rough Justice as he rode through the streets, resigned to the fact that the large man, Sledgehammer, was following behind, and mildly annoyed that he was able to keep up with the bike. He had decided to refocus his attention; there were no clues to be found at the small hideout he'd investigated earlier, but someone in this city must know something. He was determined to find out what it was, and so had resolved to seek out some of the local bars and pubs for information. He had visited a couple of pubs with little result, but soon came across one that seemed a little more dark and dilapidated than any that he'd seen so far. 'Breakers Bar', the pub sign announced, hanging loosely from its one good hinge. Parking his motorbike nearby, he dismounts and enters the dingy pub, Sledgehammer at his side.
As they enter the pub, the few regulars who are already drinking look up, and quickly down again. Clearly they have seen enough strange people enter to mind their own business. Both men walk up to the bar, where a large man is polishing glasses with a rag that seems dirtier than the glasses are.
"I buy you beer", Sledgehammer says to his friend, depositing nearly $50 in various notes and coins from his trouser pocket onto the surface of the bar. The barman's eyes widen briefly before picking out the right change for two beers. As he hands over the beers to the men, Rough Justice asks,
"You seen anything unusual round here lately?"
"What kind of unusual?" Comes the unhelpful reply, "We get all sorts in here."
"Those skull punks, have they caught your eye?"
"Skull punks", repeats Sledgehammer, nodding encouragingly.
"I might have, I might not have. Like I say, we see a lot of folk come and go in here."
"Perhaps this might help jog your memory," states Rough Justice, picking one of the higher denomination notes from the pile of cash still resting atop the bar. The barman takes the note, folding it into his back pocket, ready to reveal what he could remember:
"Yeah it's coming back to me now, there was a bunch of them in here a couple of weeks ago. There was this little guy with a thin moustache doing most of the talking. He had protection though: two big guys – strong, silent types, ya know? – by his side. They was talking to some hooded guy, I didn't get to see his face."
Satisfied with this information, Rough Justice contacts the other members of his group ("Switchboard, patch me up to the others"). He relays the description of the small man and his cronies to the others, as Sledgehammer looks around the pub, a confused look playing across his face, clearly not quite comprehending their new method of communication. The men finish their drinks, and leave the pub, ready to head back to the courts.
Tracer leaps to catch Cass in his sudden decent, but is too slow, leaving Cass crashing toward the floor, but he lands gracefully, as though he'd only fallen 3 feet, not 40. Without a word, he gets up and dusts himself down before walking to the bus stop opposite the court, where he sits down, waiting with patience for the gang to turn up.
With the decision to blend into the background, Cass has reminded the others of the need to remain out of sight until the Death's Head gang arrive, and so Tracer nimbly scales one of the closest buildings and twists himself, spider-like, to view the court below from the shadow of the underside of a balcony, 25 foot above the scene. Fade dutifully perches on the ledge of the rooftop, waiting.
As expected, it's not long before the gang of thugs arrive; the black cars pull up and men of all sorts, unified only by the skull motifs displayed proudly on their clothes and skin, start piling out, into the court, unaware of the three men watching their every move intently.
The gang are led by a small man with a thin moustache, flanked on both sides by much larger, muscular, mean looking men. All three onlookers know this is the gang's leader, both from the description psychically relayed to them by Rough Justice, and from the position the man takes up in the court, sat upon a makeshift throne of junk, clearly presiding over the others. The rest of the gang stand or sit casually about, making conversation, laughing and joking (although none of the three watching men are close enough to hear about what).
Before any of the men are able to act upon the scene, the sound of a motorbike engine punctures the air, and Rough Justice rides into view with his characteristic devil-may-care attitude, sledgehammer running along beside him, easily keeping pace with the motorised vehicle.
Dismounting the motorbike, Rough Justice walks casually to the entrance of the court and calls to the nearest members of the gang,
"Any of you ladies got a ball?"
Five of the men in the court round upon Rough Justice, jeering and confident on their home turf. Aggressively the men tell RJ to leave in no uncertain terms. Sledgehammer takes immediate issue with people bullying his best friend, and as a warning shot, picks up the black car nearest to the entrance and throws it over the heads of the five men.
Unfortunately for them, three of the Death's Head who were standing further back in the court are struck with the full force of the thrown car, and are knocked down like bowling pins. They won't be getting back up.
With the sudden commotion, the remaining members of the Death's Head are on full alert, and the three men, Cass, Fade and Tracer, realise their stakeout has been for nothing.
"GET THEM!", the little boss man screams, with a surprisingly commanding voice for his size.
RJ runs at the nearest group of thugs, arm outstretched, and delivers an almighty clothesline to the first man, bowling him over, his head hitting the ground with a sickening thwack. His momentum continues and a second man goes down in the same manner. By this point RJ has slowed a little from the impact, and the third man, although receiving a blow, is only dazed by it.
Tracer leaps from his balcony hiding place, landing in front of one of the thugs, whilst Fade realises that if he can grab the boss, who is still perched on his throne, and bring him away from the fight, then he can get the information they need quickly and easily. He teleports to what he hopes is right behind the small man, but misjudges the distance, and ends up ten meters from his target, too far to run up without being spotted. so he teleports back to his original position to rethink his tactic.
In amongst the fighting, Sledgehammer, also aware that the primary target here is the small angry man, makes a run for him in an attempt to grab the man, but one of his bodyguards jumps out in front of his ward quicker than Sledgehammer has time to react and he grabs the wrong man.
Meanwhile, the other thugs, seeing that the group means business, have drawn their pistols and starting shooting at those nearest them. Tracer takes a hit, but to everyone's surprise but his own, the bullet's impact is completely absorbed by the armour tracer is wearing, negating the bullet's effect. Another shot rings out and this time thuds into Sledgehammer, who doesn't notice as the bullet crumples and falls away, unable to penetrate the man's impossibly tough skin. A third shot hits Rough Justice, who doesn't seem to have such impenetrable defences. The bullet tears through his shoulder, causing RJ to grimace, but he doesn't seem fazed, retaliating on the nearest thug to him, slapping him down to the floor with a ferocity that leaves the man out cold.
Sledgehammer, finally realising that he has grabbed the wrong person, slams his head into that of the captured man, breaking the bones of his face, his blood covering the face of both men. Sledgehammer, enraged, tosses the man aside and kicks another thug in the back with all his might. The thug bends the wrong way backwards and is sent flying across the court.
The gang's leader, again in an unexpectedly commanding voice, shouts to his guards to follow him, and makes to run off out of the court, but Fade, having now recalculated the distance to the leader of the gang, sees what is about to happen and this time materialises accurately behind the leader, grabs him and disappears, reappearing back on the roof.
"BRING HIM TO ME", hears Fade in his mind, but this is different from the Switchboard-enabled psychic communication he had been getting used to. There's an intrusiveness to this communication that isn't entirely comfortable, and he realises with a start that Cass, who hasn't moved from the bus stop opposite, is staring right at him. The psychic voice had been that of Cass.
The remaining conscious or alive thugs are thinning now, but one of the remaining thugs, having seen that Rough Justice can be shot, aims his gun at RJ and pulls the trigger, but Tracer has seen the shot coming and dives into its path, absorbing the bullet's kinetic energy entirely.
Fade and the struggling boss man re-materialise in the street next to Cass, but the small man commands at the top of his lungs,
"LET ME GO!"
Surprised, Fade's grip on the man slips slightly. Taking advantage of the moment, the man makes to run but suddenly his strength leaves him. Fade has placed a hand on the man's head and the familiar purple and black wisps coalesce around the man, penetrating his eyes, nostrils and mouth, which is open in a silent scream. Suddenly the man goes limp and Fade releases his grip. The man slumps to the floor, his skin deathly pale, his eyes still open and his little chest rising and falling erratically. Cass shoots Fade a withering look and grabs the debilitated man by the ankles, dragging him unceremoniously back to the court where the one-sided fight is drawing to a close.
Rough Justice, who the others had seen get shot, was now back in the fight, and the bullet wound on his shoulder somehow gone, leaving a little blood on his clothes, but no other trace. Easily dispatching the last thug, Sledgehammer seems to have calmed a little from his earlier fury, seeing that his pal is OK.
Having finished the fight, and wanting no part in the after-party, RJ walks back over to his bike, whilst Tracer moves over to the car that had brought the Leader and his body guards to investigate.