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June 6th 2019, 10:00 PM

The Fens

 

Crouched atop the van as it sped over the bridge Red Lynx kept his body low and balanced as his target wove in and out of the late night traffic.  Technically of course he wasn't supposed to be off campus without leave.  As far as he was concerned the notice of his intent to familiarize himself with bayview and the southside perhaps after curfew was as good as permission.  Summers likely would not see it that way.  Particularly as he crossed the river from the relative stability of south freedom for the infamous fens.  But he could hardly allow the thief to escape merely by crossing a bridge.

 

At the Riverview Inn and Suites, which had neither a river view nor suites but did have hourly rates, Robin sat in a rented hyundai camera in hand.  Tracking down cheaters was not the most glamorous of work for a PI but it paid the bills and the agency could only take on so many freebie cases and keep the lights on.  She heard the revving of the engine as the compensation mobile squealed around the corner and rocked to a stop in the parking lot.  The pair that emerged were precisely the type she'd expect from such a fine establishment, tall muscular, wearing the Fens approximation of wealth doubtless ill gotten, armed if that oddly straight legged gait was any indication.  

 

Less expected was the thump of muted footfalls on the roof of her car as a delivery van sped past and something almost silently lept from it vaulting off her rental to scale the side of the motel and keeping to the shadows pick their way across the roof overlooking the criminals in the parking lot as they looked around then moved toward the trunk of the lowered Honda they'd arrived in.

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"Dammit," Robin muttered under her breath. Well meaning hero though the near silent visitor might be, there were kids and families with no where else to go also taking advantage of those motel rooms. If the would-be-hero attacked, they might be fine but the spray and pray of these fine Fens natives might hit an innocent bystander. Regardless, she wasn't going to get the money shot tonight. 

 

Robin hissed another curse under her breath and shoved her camera onto the passenger seat. She didn't bother to grab her jacket as she opened the door and stepped out. The silver metal of her bionic arm caught the lamp light with a dim glint. She slammed the car door with a deliberate bang, meant to draw attention and took a step away, turning her back towards the street. 

 

"Bad parking lot to pick tonight. Tell you what. I'm feeling charitable. You drop the guns and the goods on the ground and I'll let you walk home on unbroken legs."

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The way the thugs jumped at the slam of the door told a story of both thier inexperiance and anxiety.  If those traits were to Robins benefit was yet to be revealed.  Kam froze in the deep shadow of the motels now defunct neon as the sound echoed in the parkinglot and shades were quickly drawn around the courtyard and the smater residents made for the back walls and bathrooms before the shooting could start.

 

The metalic glint of the young womans arm caught his attention long enough that the thieves had slowly walked away from their vehical and positioned themselves between his hiding spot and Robins approach, backs to him as they pulled weapons from their waistbands.  While most wouldn't see his dark form in the deep shadows robin likely coudl make out the man shaped shadow that lowered itself silently from the rooftop behind the men doubtless thinking it was coming to her defense.

 

The pair she had threatened laughed off her words and leveled thier guns on her approaching form the light glinting off the nickle plating of the 9mm's as they held them steady in classic west coast gangster pose.  Too much time at the movies not enough on the streets.  These guys were teh most dangerous sort, toughs with alot to prove and no idea how in over their head they were.  This could go south real fast if not handled with care.

 

"Yea?  How bout you walk away an forget you saw nothin?"  the one on the left replied taking his eyes from Robin to smirk at his partner in crime, "Or we could give you a good reason not to be walking right if you ask real nice."  he  challenged gyrating his hips for emphasis at the offer.

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"Hell, you assholes really are new in this part of town, ain't you?" Robin drawled as she took a step forward. Her grey eyed gaze shot to their guns and the loose grip before she took in their features. She lifted up her bare hand - the one still made of flesh and bone before she reached out to the nearby bike rack. Closing her fingers over the steel piping, Robin pushed down on the metal until it bent with with a loud 'crunch'. Lifting her prosthetic, Robin wiggled the silver fingers. "Just think what I can do with this hand. Now, let me make the suggestion one more time. Walk. Away."

 

That was - in part - a bluff. Her prosthetic was no stronger than her other hand though arguably more impervious to bullets but it really didn't need to be. She was more than strong enough to back up her threats. "I'm still Nighthawk and these are still my streets." 

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The two hoodlums looked to each other for a long moment with a shared grimace pistols aimed loosely in the hero's direction.  As they swung back to the vigilante protector of the Fens their hands dropped to their sides and the guns clattered to the pavement.  "Watch your back bitch!"  one shouted as they turned and beat feet for the nearest ally.  The threat was not entirely empty but this wasn't the first enemy Nighthawk had made and wouldn't be hte last.  Most were just clever enough not to try anything.

 

Red Lynx emerged from the shadows as they vanished into the ally the ring of the fence they jumped echoing down toward the pair left in the dim light of the flickering vacancy light.  The young Dakanan starred after the retreating criminals with a shake of his head and rounded on the interloper who had interrupted his take down.  "You are just going to let them go?"  he rumbled challengingly as he approached and examined the young woman standing before him.  His eyes lingered long on the mechanical arm with recognition and he looked to her with suspicion, "No wonder the villains of this city continue to prey on these unfortunates."  he growled and stalked toward the open trunk to recover whatever the thieves had stolen.

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Robin heaved a sigh at the new costumed vigilante in her neighborhood. "You're not from around here." Robin commented before raising her hands to cup around her mouth. She directed her shout towards the motel behind the newcomer, her projection clear and crisp. "Hey, it's clear. I scared them off for tonight. Go on back to bed, folks."

 

She jerked her chin towards the window and the too small face that popped up to draw Red Lynx's attention that direction. Robin offered a smile and a wave before she let the bionic arm drop to her side. "The Riverview is one of the few places that doesn't ask questions or ask for ID to book a room. Makes it a popular place for crap like this to happen but its also the only home for about a half dozen families with kids.  Those guys are new, they're not locals, and if you spooked them, these guns would have blown through the walls and windows like tissue paper. Yeah, I let them go for now. Bigger picture, kid."

 

Robin padded over on silent feet to glance over the trunk but first she stopped by the discarded weapons. Robin covered her left hand with a glove before picking them up and flicking on the safeties.  "I'll bring these back to Fred. We'll get some prints and check the guns against our records. They're green. Finding them isn't going to be difficult. What's your name?"

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The masked hero looked up as Robin called out quickly taking in the faces in the windows and lights quickly dimming as the less criminal residents returned to their fitful sleep.  Robin could make out the telltale swallow of his shock and discomfort with what she'd kept him from doing.  "They call me the Red Lynx."  he replied voice dropping to a lower and quieter register than his initial surprised remarks.  "Skittish criminals with firearms."  he sighed, "A volatile combination."  

 

Pulling aside the loose covering the thieves had laid over their ill gotten gains he looked down at the box and it's markings.  "Canine anti-parasitics."  he mused quietly and pulled the materials sheet from it's pocket on the box examining the list of chemical components in the the veterinary dewormer.  "I'm not sure to what purpose it can't be of value in it's current form and none of these are precursors to pharmaceutical analogues."  he sifted through the trunk absently searching for further clues.  "Nor explosives or toxins even if their MO indicated such capability."  which clearly from his tone he did not believe it did.

 

"Is Fred your contact with local law enforcement then?"  he inquired casually, "I could report on the initial theft to him if that would be of service."  he was very much not from around here that was increasingly clear.

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Robin smiled slightly, "Fred is my partner and she's an alchemist. We run a private investigation firm here in the Fens. I can't exactly become a cop..." Robin lifted up the bionic arm once more. Even if she'd been able to keep her supernatural gifts under wraps, the prosthetic was clearly beyond what was available to most people. She still wasn't entirely comfortable with it and it showed as she reached up to rub her fingers over the metal wrist. "Besides, most of the cops who patrol the Fens aren't locally born and bred. Too many of them think we're all just criminals waiting for opportunity. This is my neighborhood; I was born here. I do what I can to keep it safe. I'm Nighthawk. You can call me Robin, though. I lost my ability to keep a secret identity when I lost the arm."

 

Robin sighed and glanced down at the car's contents. "They cut cocaine with it. Levamisole is rumored to increase the high and its a stimulant. It'll also blow your immune system out super fast. It could be any of a half dozen gangs that they're working with."

 

She turned back to her beat up car to toss the guns in the back and fetch her camera. Taking a few snaps of the plates, Robin turned her attention to the lot numbers on the boxes, taking photos of those as well a small sample in an evidence bag. That Robin understood the basis of police work was clear. Her lessons at Claremont had been very thorough. "Veterinary medicine is tracked; each case will have information about the distribution center and lot numbers. You can use that to track back the theft."

 

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"Yes that must be quite the story."  Kam replied looking once more at the arm and clearly trying to figure out more without leading questions that might reveal too much.  Robin seemed noble and certainly kind, he did not relish the possibility that she or her contacts had stolen technology from his homeland.  

 

He checked the label again and nodded, "of course, make a dangerous drug more so."  he sighed with resignation.  "It came from riverwalk veterinary, they were not subtle."  he offered helpfully, the small clinic would be closed this time of night and its location south side would mean it was close but not as secured as local supplies..  The perpetrators had simply smashed an office window and grabbed what they wanted before police could arrive on scene.  "I saw them flee the scene and pursued."  the costumed vigilante explained as he followed her procedure with keen interest.  "You sound more fond of this place than I would expect of a native."  he inquired curiosity piqued.  He hadn't meant many locals outside the carefully curated list the school brought in for specialty training.  This wasn't an opportunity wished to waste, "This,"  he gestured at the box with a nod, "Is unlikely to be their only source it seems your neighborhood will be less safe if the rest gets to the streets."

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Robin shrugged. She was well aware that most people had trouble understanding her loyalty to the little neighborhood. It had a lot of crimes and a lot of problems but it was Robin's home. Really, it was the last connection she had to the family that she'd lost. 

 

"It's my home and these are my people. If I don't help them, who will?" Robin said simply as she straightened and slammed the trunk shut once more, leaving the stolen supplies inside. "Come on. Clarence will be calling the disturbance into the cops. They'll come get the car."

 

Robin waved at the older man, peering out from the dirty window of the small motel's office and smiled when he waved back. Robin locked her camera in the trunk of her own car along with the guns and evidence that she'd taken for her own records. She fished her battered jacket out of her back seat and shrugged it on over her shoulders. It wasn't the original one that she'd worn as Nighthawk but she'd picked it up second hand and already patched several bullet holes in the thin leather. Assuming that the Red Lynx would follow, Robin broke into an easy jog towards the nearest building and leapt and swung herself up until she perched on the roof ledge. Crouched on the ledge, Robin waved a hand towards the Fens. "This was probably their initiation. They're not locals but a couple of the gangs are always looking for new blood. They'll give them a small job like this that's not critical if it gets screwed up. You look pretty quick and nimble. How good are you at tracking in an urban environment? Those guys aren't going to get far on foot. Easiest thing to do is shadow them to where the real problems are."

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Following at an easy lope Kam made an graceful leap to pull himself up next to Robin near silently.  He wanted to put a stop to whatever this gang was up too and this seemed his best opportunity to find out more about the unusual defender of the downtrodden.  He followed her gesture as he tried to pick out any relevant details that might give them their next step.  "I have some experience in tracking."  Red Lynx acknowledged, though the urban jungle was a far cry from the savannas and rainforests of his home.   The masked hero pointed to the fence blocking one branch of the alley the thieves had fled down.  "They leapt the fence there."  he noted and swung easily to the next eav looking both ways down the street the alley opened onto.  

 

"There."  he motioned as he moved west along the rooftops above the boulevard, "The waste bin is recently toppled."  They had knocked it over in their haste and it easily pointed their direction of travel.  Bounding silently from roof to roof and up to ledges and balconies with feline grace Red Lynx moved at speed looking for the next sign of where their quarry may next have turned.  A recent skidmark in the street where a car had to brake suddenly for them, an angry hooker loudly complaining to her pimp about the punks nearly breaking her heel, and soon the hoodlums were in sight crouched against a building and looking for pursuit as they caught their breath.  

 

"... back to the scrapyard.  Those guys won't care we got jumped by some random wannabe hero."  drifted to the heroes ears the thieves in deep debate what to do next.  "We gotta get that box or something better or we never getting in with the royals."  And now Robin would know that meant the self styled royalty of Jules 'King' Kahn and his ridiculous playing card themed gang were stepping up from petty theft and low end choppers to dealing.  Which meant this was going to be a turf war once he got what he needed to cut whatever coke he'd managed to get ahold of.

 

Red Lynx looked expectantly to Robin hoping the names would have some meaning to her.

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"Damn," Robin breathed out, her voice little more than a whisper of sound. "The Royals work out of the scrap yard but they're low end. They must have gotten their hands on coke and want to turn a profit. That'll lead to in fighting which is bad news. I know where the royals hang out though. We'll drop these guys so they don't get up to any trouble and go take the drugs from the scrapyard before they can hit the market."

 

She glanced over at the Red Lynx to see if he was following. The vigilante seemed to know a great deal but clearly wasn't used to this type of crime. Robin paused and then explained. "So once cocaine gets into the US, it goes through a lot of hands and each person who gets their hands on it will cut it and resell it, diluting the drug and increasing their profits. So if you buy a kilo raw at around thirty thousand dollars, you cut that at a one to one and resell it. Then you've sold two kilos, diluted for a profit. Then, if that person resells it, they'll add something else and cut it again. Then it gets sold to users on the street. Jules Kahn is a low end thug with ambitions to move in on the Skulls and their dealing in the south side of the Fens. A turf war will be bloody with a lot of collateral damage."

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Tilting his head to listen to the explanation Red Lynx nodded, "Cut them off before they climb that ladder yes I see."  he agreed and looked down at the pair below them appraisingly.  "The one on the left favors his right leg, probably twisted the knee jumping the fence."  he whispered in hushed tones, "The other has hearing damage in the left ear best side to approach from."  he explained and gestured to the one with the bad leg then to himself leaving the other for Robin.  The costumed hero began a silent countdown and as he closed his final finger swung himself off the ledge lowering himself silently on one arm to the ground just behind his target.  The other thug's eyes grew wide as the masked avenger appeared behind his friend but any warning was too late.  

 

Red Lynx snapped a light kick to the back of the knee driving the would be gang member to his knees before finishing him with a vicious jab to the temple  leaving him crumpled in a heap.  The blows were tightly controlled, the knee intact just taking advantage of the joints weakness to get a knockout blow to the head.  He'd be regretting his choices but nothing some aspirin and rest wouldn't take care of.

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Robin dropped three stories without blinking an eye at the distance. She landed neatly on the other man. Her weight drove him to the ground, one hand clamped over his mouth so that he'd not even utter a sound. With methodical precision, Robin bounced his skull against the concrete just hard enough to render him unconscious and no more. The Red Lynx caught her movement to check his pulse as well as the small grimace when the smooth metal of her hand touched his throat. It was the first time Robin had looked awkward as she shifted to check his pulse with her left hand - the one that was still flesh and bone instead. 

 

Checking Red Lynx's as well, Robin nodded once before she pulled out zipties from her pockets. Within moments, she'd trussed up both men and tossing one over each shoulder, lugged them out to the street where she attached them to the light post. Around one's neck, she clipped a sign, scrawled with the sharpie in her pocket on a stray piece of cardboard, 'We robbed the vet's office. Please call the police when found.' At the bottom, Robin doodled the symbol she wore on her costume and then nodded back towards the building. "Fastest way to the scrap yard is across the rooftops."

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Kam was likely caught staring. It wasn't often the Dakanan Prince encountered a combatant who's skills outstripped or even challenged his own.  When Robin looked to him he was quick to pull his gaze from her lest she think him staring at the arm.  He helped secure the men tucking a card in each mans pocket for a pro-bono law firm that worked across the river in the neighboring southside.

 

"Lead on."  Kam replied confidently smiling under his mask, "I can keep up."  he promised clearly enjoying the prospects of the night ahead while trying to maintain a respectefully somber affect given the gravity of the tasks ahead.

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Fortunately, Kam's mask hid his gaze and it honestly didn't occur to Robin that he might appreciate anything beyond her form. She nodded agreeably and took Kam at his word. Without much of a pause, Robin swung herself up, bouncing easily from ledge to ledge until she was balanced easily on the roof ledge. As soon as Kam joined her, she leapt for the next ledge. Her footfalls were near silent as she raced across the rooftops, bouncing from roofline to roofline with ease. Although she glanced back to make sure that Red Lynx was keeping up, once it was clear that the young man could match her bruising pace, Robin let herself fly. It had been too long since she'd had a reason to race across the rooftops with the wind tossing her dark curls back from her face. 

 

All too soon, Robin's sneakers hit the rooftop that looked down into the scrap yard. It was on the edge of the Fens and although nominally was a scrap yard, everyone knew that it housed a chop shop.

 

Robin dropped down to a loose limbed crouch and pointed out the dimly lit yard. "The royals work out of this place. Most of the gangs in the Fens don't have delusions of grandeur but King likes to dress his men up to be themed like playing cards. He aspires to be a B-list villain someday."

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Kam launched himself after her as she scaled the wall taking more advantage of acrobatic leaps than handholds.  He pulled himself silently to her side on the ledge and followed her on her path over the rooftops of the fens like a shadow flitting across the skyline.  He found the entire chase exhilarating and was doubtless oign to be spending more time in the troubled Fens when he could sneak away from the headmistresses watchful eye.  

 

As he came to rest at her side his breathing was quick but not labored as he dropped into a coiled and ready crouch to listen to her explanations, "Gangs are tribes marking of self and other is the surest way to build collective loyalty."  he analyzed quickly as he scanned the yard with a slow pan of his head.  "Gate is closed only one guard."  he noted pointing from their sheltered alcove.  A light bounced aimlessly through the back half of the yard with whatever poor schmuck left on patrol in the junk heaps.  Light spilled out of the windows and faint music could be heard drifting through the night.  The chop shop was busy for no actual automotive work getting done.  "How likely are they to notice the guards going missing?"  a smart quarry would have check ins on the regular to ensure the lone guards were in place. The Royals didn't seem the type but he would leave that call to the local.

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"Not very. It's not a well run operation but they're well armed. Better guns and more skilled than those two in the parking lot." Robin explained with a jerk of her chin towards the guard in question.  "I'll go clear the one guard. You take a look in the shop through the windows and get a feel for how many we're dealing with. I'd rather take the coke out of the equation. If we take out the whole gang, it'll lead to a vacuum in this section of the Fens which means an uptick in violence inevitably." 

 

Robin's voice was weary. Without waiting for an agreement, she dropped down into the scrapyard nearly silent and surprisingly hard to see for all that she wore jeans and a jacket. Despite her casual clothes, she blended into the shadows seamlessly. 

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Vaulting across the street and over the fence Red Lynx landed near silently atop on of the stacked crushed cars waiting for the patrolling royal to return to the garage before creeping further into the yard.  He made his way silent and hidden across the yard and scaled the garage without being noticed by the raucous gangsters inside.

 

Lowering himself head first from the roofline he peered through the dirty window and counted the royals arrayed around a table drinking and making crude jokes at the expense of the Skulls, local ladies of the night, and the new recruits they were still waiting on.  He counted the foes and caught sight of 'King' seated on a beaten lay-z-boy outside the nominal office space in the garage.  The coke was probably locked in the office possibly in a safe but he couldn't see from here to be certain.  Lifting himself back to the roof to reposition, an empty bottle rolled off the roof where it had been discard and he barely caught it before it hit the ground which surely would have alerted the gang to his presence.  

 

Red Lynx breathed a sigh of relief and tucked the bottle into the remains of the rain gutter clogged with at least a decade of detritus.  Creeping across the roof he dropped to a window to look into the office and made out a small black duffle zip tied shut.  It seemed the most likely place for the coke to be, easy at hand when the recruits returned, but out of sight enough to not attract attention in a raid.  He crouched in the shadows outside the light pooling from the open door and waited for Robin to complete her task.

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