|What: A milk run goes south. Surprise finale.|
It's late. So late that it's closer to morning than night. Despite the hour, Gotham's docks are filled with the sounds of heavy machinery shifting enormous crates, pallets being stacked, and warehouse doors banging open and shut. The occasional toot of an incoming ship is oppressively loud this close to the water's edge. This is one slice of the city that's always alive, though right now it's sparsely populated by security guards and union laborers.
"'scuse me," Gambit says politely as he bumps into a surprised night watchman. A quick sidestep and a supporting hand are followed by a handkerchief waved in the man's face. "Does dis smell like chloroform to you?"
A few seconds later, Gambit lowers the unconscious guard to the ground and pats him gently on the cheek. "Sleep well, mon ami," he says pleasantly. Then he's off again. There's one shipping container in particular he's searching for. According to his intel, it's filled with the personal possessions and private files of a Japanese corporate giant on extended vacation. In short, a payday too good to pass up.
The girls don't sleep much, and when they do they often sleep in the day. At night, they can ghost around any part of town they please, listening in to people's dreams. Dreams are the interesting parts of most people. They're wandering the edge of the docks, hand in hand. Esme's walking up on a railing, hanging on to Sophie's hand, when Sophie stops moving and she nearly topples.
|"Hey!"| |"Hush."| |"Listen!"| Something interesting is happening. The spike of the guard's surprise and the smug bubble of Gambit's thought catch their attention.
|"We should--"| |"Shouldn't."| |"Should!"| Whoever was protesting is thoroughly outvoted. They take a closer look at the mind in question and glee fills the gestalt they share. |"SHOULD."| Careful to drape an aura of 'not my problem' around themselves, they scamper between crates and machines to get a visual line on their target.
Still ambling along, Gambit has produced his staff and triggered it to its four-foot length. Whistling breathlessly, he twirls it between his fingers like a gentleman's cane as he counts off containers. He's definitely feeling pleased with himself. Confident. Cocky, even. He seems to know exactly where he's going. Like a heat-seeking missile, he winds his way through the corridors of containers until he finds the one he's been looking for. He pauses at one point to glance behind himself, then shakes his head and goes to work on the lock. A brief touch from his fingertip charges the hasp with purple energy. A soft POP is muffled by dockside noise when the lock explodes and falls away. The sound of the door creaking open is much louder.
The girls stand in judgment at the end of the corridor. |"He's not being very sneaky."| |"His brain is sneaky."| |"True, but no one else around here can tell."| |"Arrogant."| They drift a little closer, keeping to the shadows.
|"Careful."| |"He could be smarter than he looks."| |"Not like other people."| They're all vastly curious about what's inside the storage unit. |"Has anyone heard him?"| |"Check."| They delay their attempt to peer through Gambit's static and instead search the area for other minds.
There's little to see around the container. Inside, however, it's practically Christmas... which the girls still don't quite understand but it's exciting nonetheless. |"Look!"| Their minds whisk past Gambit for the moment to sweep the interior of the container. Angry minds, happy mind. |"This should be good."| They skip forward a few more paces.
The inside of the container is abruptly lit by a single match. It's just bright enough to illuminate a man wearing a suit and a cold expression. The dozen or so burly thugs that surround him are visible, but only as silhouettes. There's no treasure trove. No big score. It's an ambush.
"Remy LeBeau," the suit-wearing man says, his voice a deep, pleasant rumble. He uses the match to light a cigarette that he has clenched between his teeth. "Or is it Gambit? Le Diable Blanc?"
"Seems you got me at a disadvantage, homme," Gambit observes dryly. Rather than tensing for action, his muscles loosen. He brings his staff to bear and there's a loud SHINK as it telescopes to its full length. "What's dis? Who are you?"
"Me?" the man in the suit says, smiling around his cigarette. "I'm just a messenger."
When the match goes out and the container is plunged into darkness, all hell breaks loose. Gambit is attacked from all sides. While his adversaries hit each other as much as they connect with him, they have numbers on their side. The Cajun swings his staff in desperate circles to buy himself some space, but he's already taken hits from a baseball bat and a length of chain.
Where others might be horrified, scramble to call the authorities, or intervene... or even just walk away... the Cuckoos are transfixed. |"Ooooooh."| |"Fighting time!"| The chaos of a fight is interesting, all the thoughts and passions and directed actions.
|"I think this one is going to lose."| One of them points out the blur of Remy's mind. |"If he does, it will break his interesting brain."| |"Boring."| That can't be allowed to happen. |"Are we helping?"| |"How?"|
|"We have to be..."| |"I'm tired of being careful."| |"Please?"| |"...if we have to kill him after, it's not on me."| Their minds separate as the Cuckoos shift into diamond and wander casually into the fray. None of them need telepathy to feel each others' glee at getting stuck into a fight.
The baseball bat cracks into Gambit again, this time across his spine. He WOOFs out a breath of air and falls to his knees, then takes out his attacker with a sweeping kick. It's clear that last blow hurt, though. He's lost his feline grace. He moves raggedly, almost staggering. His attacks are no longer elegant. Just brutal. An eye gouged. A kneecap smashed. A larynx crushed. It's still not enough to stem the tide. Like a hydra, two thugs seem to spring up for every one he drops. When reinforcements arrive, Gambit's gratitude outweighs his suspicion. Not his surprise, though. The sight of three crystalline women is dazzling, to say the least. He opens his mouth, closes it, then opens it again."Bonjour, ladies," he greets them. "And merci."
There are eight goons left, leaving two for each of them. Injured as he is, Gambit remains in the fray, though he attacks from afar with a charged playing card that sends his opponents flying in opposite directions. Each of the remaining six pair up, swinging bicycle chains, lengths of pipe, crowbars, and other improvised weapons as the trio of women. Despite the interference, the man wearing the suit continues to watch. All that's visible of him is the glowing ember at the tip of his cigarette and a small, confident smile.
The Cuckoos are agile and relatively well-trained in hand-to-hand combat--also impervious to attack and inhumanly strong. Pipe and crowbars bend and ring, vibrating out of the hands of the attackers, chains simply give the girls a way to sling the wielder overhead and out of the container. A simple punch or kick is enough to shatter a body against the nearest wall.
While her sisters plough through the mass of flesh, Sophie casually fends off attacks and surveys the situation. She doesn't like strangely calm, smug overseers. That's usually the source of the trouble. She runs three paces, then drops and slides through the fight like a baseball player heading for home, only her goal is Mr. Trouble. She comes up reaching for his throat.
When their weapons prove ineffective, the hired thugs are easy to dispatch. They are, after all, the cannon fodder. It's about this time that someone slams the door to the container closed and bars it from the outside, plunging the interior back into darkness.
When the man wearing the suit is grabbed around the neck, he doesn't try to resist, or even dodge aside. Slowly, he opens his jacket and reveals the bricks of explosives strapped to his chest. "Remy," he calls, his voice choked and strangled. "The Guilds say hello. And goodbye." The glowing timer attached to the explosives counts down steadily. 14... 13... 12...
"Merde," Gambit swears. He sags back against the wall and uses his sleeve to wipe blood from a cut under his eye. Then he takes a deep breath, braces himself, and swings his staff. Kinetically accelerated, it whistles through the air and makes a sizeable dent in the wall. Another swing, another dent. It's a race against time to make a new door, but it's not going well. "Anybody know how to disarm a bomb?"
Sophie makes the judgment call and, in an instant, the Cuckoos are flesh and blood again--save for their hearts. |"Take it."| They rip into the man's mind, pulling what he knows of the bomb out without mercy or consideration for his mental health. Somewhere in there, they learn who he is and why he's here, adding the Assassin's Guild to the list of people they really, really don't like.
|"I have it."| Phoebe's fingers hit the right buttons, she tugs a wire, and the timer goes dark. |"Take it."| Esme and Sophie quickly remove the bomb from the man, folding it carefully and neatly. |"It will be useful later."| They drop the limp, babbling body on the floor. It's pitch black in here but they don't need light to know where Remy is to face him.
"Some people." "Don't like you." "Very much." The words ripple from one girl to another without hesitation. "We can see." "Why."
Gambit pauses, his staff still raised for another swing as he glances over his shoulder at the now flesh and blood trio. "Ahem." He clears his throat, lowers his weapon, and turns to face them properly. The cut under his eye is minor enough that it's almost stopped bleeding. Another dab from his cuff wipes it clean. Except for a scrape across the side of his neck, the rest of his injuries seem to be hidden by his coat and his articulated armor. The tip of his tongue flicks out to wet his lips as he considers his reply. "I'm complicated," he finally says, narrowing his red-on-black eyes as he studies each of the girls in turn. "You like me. Else you'd have let me die."
"You have an interesting brain." That's Sophie, not that he'd know or be able to tell even if he did. |"We should keep him."| |"We can't -keep- people."| |"We already have Laura."| "And a terrible sense of self-preservation." They come forward at a measured pace, picking through the wreckage from the fight. "Which means you could prove useful to us."
Adrenaline and pride can only carry you so far. Gambit plants his staff and leans heavily on it like a walking stick. It's anyone's guess how many times he got hit during the initial assault, but he's feeling all of them. His attitude seems intact, at least. "You could prove useful to me, too. Never had triplets before. Gambit feelin' a lil' bit sore, so you might have to do de heavy lifting." Despite his roguish words and his boyish grin, a thoughtful, measured gaze is focused on the three women. Beneath his rough, uncultured exterior, a keen, curious mind is examining everything that happened in the last two minutes, dissecting the various feats and capabilities displayed by his rescuers.
"Like we said. Terrible sense of self-preservation." Sophie lifts a hand to touch his cheek when she gets close enough. His cloudy mind is perturbing, only because they can't be sure of how dangerous he could be to them. "You wouldn't survive us." "And that would be a pity." "Because we haven't gotten to play with you yet."
"I'm tougher dan I look," Gambit replies, his grin diminishing to a smaller smile that's more difficult to read. He turns his cheek, not to lean into the touch, but to make himself more accessible. You don't have to be a telepath to interpret that gesture. He's not afraid. Not after everything that's just happened. "Anyway, why save me just to play with me and den kill me? Seem like an awful waste."
|"We are never wasteful."| The touch helps the girls to communicate clearly, to see him and be seen. Their mind is... vast. They look through him, ignoring all his sins and seeking only what matters at present--his boundaries. Those boundaries are far past where most people draw the line but not far at all from where the girls have drawn theirs.
|"We are satisfied."| Sophie takes her hand away.
"We should attend a poker game or two together some time, Mr. Le Beau," one of them says. "Or an art auction." "Or, for that matter, a bank."
"I like where your heads are at, ladies," Gambit replies, staying very still until the hand is withdrawn. Then he bobs a cordial, courtly bow. It a old-fashioned gesture, but he somehow manages to make it look graceful. "I'd be honored. What should I call you? And how? Respectfully, don't look like dere's much room for a cell phone in dese outfits of yours."
"We are Sophie." "Esme." "Phoebe," they say, for what it's worth. "We don't use cell phones." "Why would we need them?" "We usually only speak to each other."
|"We should get one, though."| |"But then people could find us."| The argument flies fast and furious in the background.
"We haven't got one," one of the girls says "But we could find you again." "If you wanted."
"I'd like dat," Gambit says, nodding agreeably. Each of the girls is given another nod of her own by way of greeting. "For now, I think I'll go lick my wounds." He peels aside his coat, looks underneath, and winces. It's quickly dropped back into place. "Thank you. I probably be dead right now if not for you."
"You would be." "And that would be a pity." "We'll see you again, Mr. LeBeau." One of the girls shifts form, easily kicks open the container door, then shifts back without missing a beat. The Cuckoos wave at Remy in unison as they leave. "Get well soon." "Thank you for a fascinating morning." "Have a lovely day."