|Big Red and Tin Man|
|What: The Demon Botis has escaped a summoner and is on the loose in New York looking for some souls to claim--he picks the wrong man to trifle with--no one trifles with Jim Rhodes--while Hellboy is hot on his heels. (WARNINGS: Gore, language, and black magic.)|
"Aw, crap." Hellboy is standing in the middle of a shabby little apartment in Hell's Kitchen that looks like a scene out of a horror movie. There's the usual black human fat candles and the pentagram, some unfortunate black chickens, and a lot of fresh blood. That's to be expected--the chicken blood. A sure sign that things are not as they should be, however, is the human blood spatter all the way up one wall and on the ceiling. Dark pools of blood on the floor have been dragged in S-shaped smears all the way over to the window.
"That's not..." Hellboy turns slowly to the BPRD agent leafing through a stained grimoire.
"Yeah. It's Botis." The agent gives him a rueful shrug. "At least giant vipers are hard to miss? And he left you a trail..."
"He's always been a thoughtful son-of-a-bitch." Hellboy crouches down because he sees something he likes even less. Tiny pawprints through the blood as well. "Damn it. Imps. They must have caught a ride through when Stupid here--" He points at the half-a-corpse on the floor. "--bungled the binding. Everyone knows you don't summon Presidents at this time of the month. Someone get me..."
"Here." An agent is staggering under the weight of a sword as tall as Hellboy.
"Aww, there's Daddy's baby." Hellboy slings Caliburnus across his back. He's out the window even as someone's telling him he needs backup and to wait and... yeah, no.
Botis is going to stick to the sewers, letting the imps lead the way and report back. The imps are scampering ahead above ground, searching for open windows, sniffing about for likely victims for their master to engage. They're seeking ones who are lonely, more than anything else, ones who miss friends and lovers. They can smell unresolved relationships. Botis, of course, can make all right--for a price. A small price. Maybe even just a favour.
This makes Rhodey a perfect target. He's taking a walk in Hell's Kitchen by himself, for one. He definitely misses Bethany. And today, at least at a glance, he looks mostly normal. He's gone for an athletic look, wearing a football jersey with undersleeves and loose pants that conceal the majority of his prosthetics.
Noise? Was that a noise? One eyebrow cocked curiously, he hooks a right and peers down an alley. Nothing in sight, but his gut is telling him a different story. "Here, kitty-kitty-kitty~" the big man singsongs as he steps around cardboard boxes and empty beer bottles.
Something mews appealingly from deep in the alley, then another plaintive cry comes from under a dumpster. Sad little voices, lonely things. They keep calling until Rhodey is well into the dark. Something heavy clatters back in the street, a manhole cover being upended.
A paw reaches out from under a box to pat at Rhodey's foot. It's awfully big for a kitten's paw, even for a cat... maybe the length of a woman's hand but long and spindly. A small nose nudges out from under the box, a tiny pink snub nose over a slash of a wide grin crammed with needle teeth, then the whole head emerges--burning red bulging eyes, waxy skin hanging over hollow cheeks, skull sloping back into huge ears like bat wings. As the box slides away, the thing is revealed, a spidery mockery of a child's body with tight-folded wings and lashing tail.
The mewing and mewling is enough to draw Rhodey far away from any other pedestrians. Willingly, too. It's not until the paw makes an appearance that he starts to get suspicious. When the leathery bat-thing crawls out of the proverbial woodwork, though, he changes his tune completely.
"What the shit?" The big man backpedals to put some space between himself and the creepy little creature. There are subtle changes in the color and intensity of light coming from his prosthetic eye as he attempts to scan it. "Who are you? Hell, WHAT are you?"
The imp giggles, then scuttles to get between Rhodey and the street. There's a leathery snap of wings opening as others drop down from where they clung to the alley walls. The dumpster clangs hollowly as more imps scramble out to crouch on the edge of it. One imp isn't very imposing but as their numbers increase, they begin to present a more significant danger.
The imp at the mouth of the alley giggles again and glances over its shoulder. Behind it what seems like an immense viper is rising, hood spread, but the strange fog gathering makes vision unclear--or perhaps Rhodey's mind itself is unclear.
"Don't fear us," a sibillant voice suggests. It's a hell of a strong suggestion, one only a strong will could resist. "I only come to offer comfort."
Rhodey's strong. Mentally, emotionally, he's almost impervious. A tough cookie, as it were. Even he is drawn in by the hissing voice. Drawn into the obvious danger presented by a flock of creepy little bat-monsters. And... And...
His mind shies around the idea of holding a conversation with a giant snake. Instead, he stops about a dozen feet away from the group and presses his back against a dumpster to protect his blind side. Soldier's instincts hard at work. "What... Who are you?" he asks again.
"You may call me friend, for that is who I am. After all, you called me to you," Botis murmurs. "I am only here to help. I know how lonely you are, how you miss your friends and loved ones. Would you not be happy to have them around you again, loving you unconditionally and devoted to you forever?" His imps rustle their wings and purr contentedly. They have found someone willing to talk, so many treats will be theirs soon--cats and dogs to munch, maybe human bones to crunch.
"I will give you all of that, and for so very little," Botis continues. Very little. Rhodey doesn't need his soul, does he?
For his part, Hellboy is thrilled when he sees the open manhole cover ahead of him. He vaults up to street-level, eager to catch the demon while it's focused on stalking something. There the bastard is, being all snakey right over there. IN PUBLIC. Damn New York.
Hellboy knows that voice. That's the negotiating voice. Even for him, it's got some appeal. He shakes off the effect and draws Caliburnus. Big snake, big sword. Snake's gonna lose this round.
"This ain't a supermarket, Botty," he grunts as he charges. "Time to go home!"
"Hellboy?" Big Red's appearance is enough to divert Rhodey's attention. The cyborg shakes his head to clear some of the fuzz from it. He even wipes his face against his sleeve, as if the action might wipe away the crazy things he's seeing. No such luck.
"What the hell is going on here?" Rhodey shouts to Hellboy. "Shit, we're fighting? Oh, yeah, we're fighting."
Jim's been trained to handle a lot of situations, but this isn't anywhere on the list. "Big red guy, big sword, big goddamn snake. What's not to love?" he mutters to himself as flips open the hidden compartments at his hips. There's a standard-issue Air Force survival knife packed on one side and a pistol on the other. He readies them both and throws himself into the fray. "Hey! Little guys! Over here!"
Botis is feeling pretty spry at the moment. That's why one only eats half a would-be summoner before hitting the town. Don't want to feel sluggish, of course. His massive wedge head hits Hellboy in the chest at just the right angle, flipping him into the air but not before Caliburnus lays open a long slash across Botis' back.
The snake snarls and shifts form in a swirl of fog and shadow. Now, a horned man Hellboy's height stands in the street, the faint light glittering off of his shining fangs and massive sword.
Several imps take flight, hopping and flapping and scrambling out of reach. The rest charge Rhodey fearlessly, grabbing him with their claw-tipped hands and feet, snapping at him with their big mouths. If they hit flesh, they'll tear ragged gashes but hitting Rhodey's cybernetic limbs makes them squeal in protest.
Hellboy... is airborne. Crap. He twists agilely to hit a wall feet-first, then launches himself back at Botis. Wait. That's no snake. He can't change direction so he'll make the best of the momentum and his swing of Caliburnus.
Knife reverse-gripped in his left hand, sidearm in his right, Rhodey is using standard close-quarters combat tactics taught to him in the military. He fires several carefully aimed shots at the monsters winging through the air before the rest are on him.
When he shifts his attention to the ones on the ground, he also shifts tactics. He's still in a shooting stance, his firing hand balanced atop the one that's holding his knife. Every time one of the creepy-crawlies gets close, he swings his joined hands and both weapons. Along with his cybernetic arms, it's a lot of metal to get hit with. Whenever he has the time and space, he pops off another round. He doesn't go untouched, though. A claw slips through his guard and tears a cut in his face, exposing the shining metal of an artificial cheekbone.
The imps are tough--they last through a lot of damage before falling apart into mist and rotting flesh--and as strong as a meth-addled grade-schooler. Still, Rhodey cuts them down. They're not very smart, tactically. They keep coming, trying to overwhelm him and drag him out into the street, until they're all broken and gone.
Botis meets Hellboy's charge, their swords ringing off one another like bells. They go at it hammer and tongs, snapping at each other in a language that sounds like it would be dangerous to speak.
"I am the Lord of Unity," Botis snickers, in words Rhodey can understand. "I bring all things together as one. I could have given you unity with all you love, mortal." He swings at Hellboy again.
The next sound is distinctly reminiscent of the imps taking flight, only much deeper--not unlike a parasail opening overhead. The thing descending is the size of a man, with far too many legs and arms, flying on a pair of massive wings. The face has more than once face, more than one mouth. It lands and scuttles at Rhodey. Its faces go all the way around its head, it has no front or back to speak of, as though someone crammed multiple imps into a ball and squeezed until they were one.
When the imp-mass descends. Hellboy shoves Botis back, hard. "Oh, you did not with the squishing and the imps," he says in English as he backs up to give himself some room. He holds Caliburnus in his right hand and unhooks a bandolier of small vials, which he flings toward Rhodey. "Tin man, catch!" The vials are all marked with Catholic symbols and clear words: HOLY WATER.
Rhodey snatches the bandolier out of the air and spares an instant to peer at it. "Holy water? Seriously?"
Then again, Hellboy would appear to be the resident expert. Jim shrugs and slings the strap around his torso. Against his better judgement, he holsters his pistol and starts lobbing the vials like grenades. One at the insane, eye-wrenching blob-creature and one at Hellboy's opponent for good measure.
He's got another trick up his sleeve, too. The glow in his prosthetic eye slowly starts to intensify. It's now a vivid, angry red. Wisps of light and energy trail in its wake as he bounces to and fro, throwing his improvised projectiles.
Rhodey used HOLY WATER. It's surprisingly effective! The imp-mass screams and writhes, though as before when it was separate beings, it pursues Rhodey relentlessly. Getting Botis' attention might have been a bad move, though. The big demon slams Hellboy back with a two-handed blow, then turns and extends a hand toward Rhodey, fingers spread.
When you've been around the magical world long enough, you learn that seeing someone's palm often means you're screwed. People don't raise their hands in this business unless there's something really ugly coming out of them.
Botis fires a cone of black at Rhodey. Not real black but it's a darkness that crawls over everything, heals the imp-mass as it passes, and seeps into Rhodey's senses. |"Sleep. Only sleep."| The word feels like sleep but it's deeper than that, the sleep of death. Stop existing. Stop breathing. |"Find peace."|
Hellboy doesn't waste time resisting the blow. He knows Botis is pissed, so he rolls with it. Instead of staggering back, he comes up ready and charges the demon to break the spell--hopefully in time.
"Now you're in trouble," Rhodey chuckles. Using his heads-up display, he focuses in on the pile of hands and arms and mouths that's currently trying to kill him. Once he's got a lock, he fires a energy beam from his eye that's potent enough to punch a hole in a tank. "Put that in your pipes and smoke 'em!" he jeers.
He should've saved his shot for the bigger foe. When he's caught in the dark, intense magical attack, he immediately drops to his knees. He's resisting it. He'll be damned if he's not resisting it. It shows on his face; his teeth are clenched and beads of sweat have formed against his dark skin. He's fighting a losing battle, though. He slumps forward, catching himself on his hands, slumping until his forehead THUNKs against the pavement.
The spell shatters as fast as it came. Demon screams--that'll wake you up in a hurry. The hand--hell, the whole arm--that was the channel for that demon magic is twitching in the street.
"Give it up, Botty." Hellboy was enjoying the fight and then Botty tried to kill his new friend and--it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, right, Rhodey? "Get your ass back to Hell before I send it back in pieces," he bellows. His next blow is a slash at the imp-mass to draw it to him as well.
"You half-breed traitor," Botis shrieks. "I'll find your true name, I'll come with my legions!" Enraged, Botis throws his own sword with surprising skill and speed. Hellboy is caught off-guard and takes it full in the chest, all the way to the hilt. He stares down at it with a mildly shocked expression. Damn.
"Stay away from my friend." There's not much strength to Rhodey's protest. He's drained. Weak. Impotent.
He's also very angry.
He manages to haul himself up as high as his knees. It's far enough for him to take aim. Though his HUD is scrambled by static, he's still able to lock in on Botis. He has to manually override his safety interlocks, but he's able to route power directly from his arc reactor to his optic laser. He doesn't hesitate. He fires a second blast, leaving just enough reserve power to keep his life support systems online.
Botis is badly wounded and his sword... well, Hellboy has it right now. Hellboy is down on one knee but he still holds Caliburnus in the Right Fist of Doom. Rhodey doesn't know Hellboy but Botis does, and he knows--even before the blast hits him--that he's going to have to rethink this. Then Rhodey drills a hole through him. Twice.
There's no final words, just a terrible scream as Hell itself--one of them, anyway--opens up under Botis' feet. He disappears down in a roar of flames and a rush of sulphurous yellow smoke. His arm, the imp-mass, and his sword are nothing but a black fog that swirls and drains away into the Hell-hole.
The strange silvery mist that had obscured senses and thoughts is gone as soon as the hole closes over. Hellboy sags, leaning on Caliburnus. Blood pours from his wounds, pooling the streets.
"Great shot, Tin Man," he says weakly, then he spits more blood.
Rhodey staggers to his feet and toward Hellboy. Blood. So much blood. "Hang in there, man," he urges. "I'm gonna get you outta here. PATTON, I need an evac. Now. Bring the Little Bird. I'll fly him to SHIELD myself."
For once, the AI doesn't reply with a scathing insult. Help is on the way.
No stranger to sitting with wounded comrades, even mortally injured ones, Rhodey settles himself down comfortably next to his buddy. "That was some fight, eh?" he chuckles. "Glad you showed up when you did. How you doing over there?"
"I'll be fine. Don't fuss." Hellboy waves a hand dismissively, then slowly keels over to lie on his back. "I'll just lie here a while. I can't die. It just feels like shit. You should have seen me the time I went ten rounds with an machine gun placement. Had a hole the size of Texas." He gives Rhodey a bloody grin.
"You can't die? So you'll just... get better?" A little perplexed, Jim cocks his head to the side and gives Hellboy a Look. He's grinning back, though. Can't help it, considering the extremely strange circumstances.. "How long will it take? I have a chopper on the way, but I can call it off if you're cool to just sit here and bleed for a bit."
"Ah. A week, at most, until I'm a hundred-percent." Hellboy drags Caliburnus to his side and hugs it. "I should stop actually bleeding everywhere... I don't know. Usually someone puts a bandage on me and I ignore it." He sighs heavily and the wound burbles at him. "Did I ask you?" he mutters. Everyone’s a critic.