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Avenger Assembled

Black and White

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The chase was a short one, speed and stealth pitted against a terrified mobster's fear as Jimmy Spaleni ran for his life. Unfortunately for him, the costumed adventurer at his heels caught him. Avenger slammed the terrified thug against the wall one-handed, his voice a curling mask of cold, malevolent fury. "Suggest you tell me the truth."

"I swear, Avenger, I don't know nothing!" the terrified man gasped, his breathing constricted but not stopped by the iron grip on his collar. "I ain't worked for Oliverti in years, I-" He could see the malice in the blue eyes before him, the only hint of humanity in the masked face that had meant so many beatings, so many broken bones, for the rest of his crew that night.

Avenger pressed him harder, acutely conscious of keeping his advantage against this sort of criminal scum. The important thing with this kind of informant is to make sure he's more terrified of me than he is of his friends. He heard the roughly-hewn brick wall scrape against the man's back, saw the fear writ large on his face even in the dark of the alley. "Unfortunate. Not as friendly as Foreshadow." He raised his free hand, balling his gloved hand into a solid fist, and drove it into the man's belly with a solid blow. "Beating will help you. Friends won't think you snitch."

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Nightrival appears to glide over the rooftops, hidden within the shadows. He's been enjoying these nightly patrols. The Southside has been quiet for a few weeks. The gangs are in check and there has been no sign of Hieronymus King's activities. He can focus on keeping the streets safe from garden variety crooks rather than robots and mutants.

He hears the sounds of fighting directly below him, someone being threatened and then struck with a terrible blow. He removes a swing line from his belt, hooks it onto the edge of the roof, and then swings down to the alley in one motion. Nightrival stands behind someone in a costume looming over a helpless man. He balls his fists and steps closer.

"Ya must be new around 'ere," he growls. "I gotta say, yer not gonna make any new friends by beatin' 'em. Especially in my neighbourhood. Why don't ya let 'em go so's I can give ya a proper welcome?"

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Avenger turned his head as Nightrival came down, his icy-blue eyes glimmering with irritation. A little belatedly, Jack remembered that most humans aren't strong enough to hold up a full-grown man one-handed. He slowly slid his prisoner down the wall until his feet touched the filthy alley floor beneath without releasing his iron-clad grip on his collar. Crap! If it was the Raven, I'd at least be able to enjoy the show. "Your territory. Apologies." The words were cold and flat, picked out of Jack's idea of what a crazy, creepy vigilante would say. "Friends been selling zombie powder. Unacceptable. Will interrogate him elsewhere."

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Nightrival unclenches his fists when he sees Avenger release the man. He can tell by Avenger's posture that he probably won't be able to hit Nightrival, but Nightrival could have trouble doing the same to him. Hauling a full-grown human being up in the air is no small feat, however. He doesn't want to be on the buisness end of Avenger's fist.

"I got no problem wit' other capes workin' this side o' town, as long as they play by th' rules. Zombie powder comes through here time ta time. I won't tolerate it." He points to the man being held by Avenger. "Whos' this guys friends? Maybe I can help."

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"Help? Yes. Help." Avenger glared at his prisoner, who'd been shooting profoundly grateful look at Nightrival ever since his feet touched the ground. "Acceptable. Gratitude." He hit Spaleni again, but softer this time, more of a gentle tap to the face. "Friends selling underneath Route 4 and Route 6. Unconscious. This one escaped. Can talk. Believe mob connection."

"He's crazy, man!" Spaleni gasped in reply, waving his arms futiley as he tried to get Nightrival's attention. "He's gonna snap my neck as soon as you're gone! He turned my...I mean, that whole crew into jello!"

"He's not on your side, scum," spat Avenger. "Your crew shouldn't use guns if they can't shoot."

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Nightrival tips his head to the side. He doesn't exactly trust this Avenger at the moment, though he seems sincere. Then again, the man struggling under Avenger's grip is pretty sincere too. Nightrival doesn't care if this man is a crook or not, he won't tolerate wanton murder in the Southside.

"Wha' does he mean, turn his crew ta Jello?" he asks, taking a step closer. "Ain't no one snappin' necks in my 'hood. Ya better explain yerself 'fore I lend ya a hand."

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Avenger stared at Nightrival, honest, befuddled incomprehension in his eyes before the hard, cold look returned. "Didn't kill anyone. Don't kill." The look he gave Spaleni suggested he wasn't above seriously considering it, however. "Gave them pain instead. Can't stand on a corner if you can't stand."

"C'mon, Nightrival," Spaleni tried to weasel, "you gonna let this crazy SOB take me in? Or you gonna let a real hero do it?"

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Nightrival sees right through Spaleni's deceit. His eyes look dull and menacing rather than wild and panicked. Spaleni's words ring hollow in his ears. Nightrival drops his shoulders and takes a step back.

"Yeah, whatever," he says to Spaleni. "Yer a worse liar than Smash, an' he ain't excatly th' brightest bulb in th' box. "

He turns to Avenger. "A'right, I believe ya. Let's bag this guy an' check out this spot ya told me 'bout. I'm inta crackin' some skulls tonight."

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"Good. Starting to worry there." There was a moment of hesitation in Avenger's voice as he spoke, as if he actually had been worried about Nightrival's reaction. In that moment of hesitation, the street sentinel came to a realization about the dark, gritty vigilante standing before him: he was a phony. Oh, it wasn't necessarily that he was a bad guy or actually out to do Nightrival or anyone else on the street harm. But Nightrival's met plenty of people from the street. Avenger is many things, but he isn't one of them.

With Nightrival on his team, Avenger took this opportunity to take Spaleni by the collar. "One chance. Give us your supplier, and you walk home tonight." The words were dark and disturbing, and they were evidently enough for Spaleni. The man began spilling out a tale of how his crew was supplied by the Jamacian Invincible Ya-Ya Posse operating out of Kingston Trucking. The posse kept some gunmen on the premises at all times; there were bound to be thugs there even tonight guarding the latest shipments.

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Upon closer inspection, Nightrival finds Avenger to be out of place, like a grain of salt on a mound of pepper. He knows the difference between someone who works on the street and someone who doesn't. For a crime-fighter with so much physical strength and the ability to make men like Spaleni cower, he looks as though he'd rather be elsewhere. Nightrival wonders who this new player is, but he'll have to leave that question in the back of his mind for the time being.

"I know th' place he's talkin' 'bout," he says. "We can get there in no time."

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Avenger knew the Ya-Ya Posse as well, if only because Jack watched a lot of TrueTV. Jamaica's gangs in America were loud and violent, heavily armed men carrying out the same bloody struggles on America's streets that they did on their own home turf. They tend to grow fast, burn brightly, and burn out spectacularly, meteors of crime and vice. Freedom's Posse is well-armed, but he'd never heard of them carrying anything more dangerous than an AK-47 or two. "Think I know it too. Which means-" He cracked his forehead against Spaleni's with a noise like a gunshot, sending the already-battered thug to the ground with a groan.

"Told him he could walk out. Just not when. Heh." Avenger seemed quite amused with himself. "Meet you there?"

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"Nice hit," says Nightrival, admiring Avenger's handiwork. "He's gonna feel that in th' mornin'. I know th' guys he was talkin' 'bout. They can get dangerous but they're not th' most subtle. We should meet 'bout a block away and scope out the scene 'fore chargin' in. I'll find ya there."

Nightrival slips into the shadows behind him and vanishes into thin air.

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Avenger looked up, about to speak, as Nightrival disappeared. He paused a beat when he found the man gone, looking around but seeing no sign of him. "Heh. So that's what that's like." Avenger headed into the darkness, turning a few corners before disappearing into the night entirely. Once hidden sufficiently, Avenger's body broke apart into a thousand fragments of mist, drifting up into the sky as he made his own way very quickly to their mutual destination. Once there, he simply reformed and waited for his companion to arrive, crouched in the shadows of an open stoop. There were definite advantages to working with a partner.

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Nightrival swings above the streets and through narrow alleys to reach his destination. He occasionally lands on a roof, races to the edge, and then somersaults into the air and onto an adjacent roof before he resumes swinging above the neighbourhood again. He knows many routes in the Southside that shorten his travel time, though being able to climb and jump over buildings has its advantages.

As he draws closer to the location he spots Avenger in the open stoop. How'd he get 'ere so fast? he thinks. He lets go of the swingline and lands with roll. Using the shadows to conceal his presence, he slinks up to Avenger.

"You gotta Avenger-mobile or somethin'? Dang, yer fast. Anyway, what do ya see?"

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Nightrival's question got an honest chuckle from Avenger, who might have had a heart attack at the man's stealthy approach if he hadn't been made of such stern stuff. (And, naturally, if his heart ever beat at all.) "Faster if you take the subway," he replied unhelpfully. "Half-dozen, I think. Machine guns. Was waiting for you to do my recon, he admitted.

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Nightrival nods his head. "I'll go scope it out, then. Ya'll know I'm in trouble if . . . uh . . . ya hear automatic weapons and screamin'."

Once again, Nightrival seems to evaporate into the shadows. He slithers off the stoop and down a nearby alley, keeping his back glued to the wall as he prowls closer to the scene. Faded posters hang ragged off the brick walls and the ground is littered with crushed, rusty cans. He reaches a four-way junction in the alley that allows him to peer across the street with a relatively clear view.

So far this Avenger seems to be th' real deal. I wonder what 'is story is? Not that I've 'ad bad luck wit' other capes, but a dude's gotta be cautious-like these days.

He glances around the corner to get a sense of the security detail outside the location.

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Nightrival proved the night's master as he slipped through the darkened streets, evading the eyes of all and sundry like a master of darkness. There were two thugs lounging innocently around the front door of the trucking company, one man smoking a cigarette while the other read the newspaper. They were good; it took someone with Nightrival's sharp eyes to spot the Berettas tucked away underneath those ill-fitting company uniforms.

The real question lay in front of the company, where a long black limousine lay parked non-chalantly in the slot reserved for the company president. There was a man in there as well, a driver seemingly asleep as he rested in the front seat with headphones on his ears. Still, even at this distance, to Nightrival's sharp eyes something seemed distinctly off about the man.

Nearby, Jack was very impressed indeed with this mortal adventurer he'd encountered. Sneaking up on the undead and hiding at night was no easy feat; especially when the man looking for you could see in the dark! Feeling a little challenged, he kept his position. He'd show this guy by being a damn fine team player...and keep him from getting suspicious. That was one thing he didn't need.

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Nightrival watches the guards for a minute and then passes his eyes over the driver. The guards would be easy to take down, but the driver may be a problem if the heroes don't act quickly. He sneaks back to Avenger using the same route through the alley.

"There's three o' 'em outside," he whispers to Avenger. "Two are packin' irons and watchin' th' place, and a driver nappin' inna limo. I dunno 'bout the driver, he could be trouble. How do ya wanna play this?"

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"Fancy tools, like Raven?" Avenger pointed to Nightrival's belt with a questioning air. Hey, how did he know what a utility belt looked like? Maybe he needed to invest in one of those..."If not, suggest we take them by surprise. I drop down from roof, take doormen, you take man in car? Not used to working with partner," he admitted.

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Nightrival peers down at his belt.

"Huh? This thing? Nah, jus' th' basics. Nothin' fancy like that Raven lady. My budget is kinda limited, ya know?"

He turns his head in the direction of the guards, thinking over Avenger's idea, then looks back to the hero.

"A'right. Let's do it yer way. We hit 'em at th' same time. Follow me."

Nightrival slips away and prowls back down the alley to the opposite side of the block. He bolts across the street and ducks behind a building a few doors away from Kingston Trucking. Removing a swingline from under his belt, he tosses the weighted hook to the roof. The hook grabs a ledge. He grabs the rope and climbs to the top. He hops over the ledge, sneaks across the rooftops, and stops when he's right over the guards.

He checks to see if Avenger is nearby.

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Spotting Avenger was no easy task in the darkness of the city, especially not when Avenger himself was taking such great pains not to be seen. The truth of the matter was, Avenger had simply crept across the street in shadowy mist form and positioned himself directly beneath the passenger door of the parked limo. When Nightrival moved into action, theoretically it would be easy enough for Avenger himself to vault the car and take out the driver with a good shot right through the half-open car window.

Beneath Nightrival's feet, he could feel a bass rhythm through the soles of his boots, the pulsing rhythm of what might be Haitian music coming through the roof. Someone inside Kingston Trucking likes dance hall music, and they like it loud. That'll make life a little easier on them once they begin the fight. For his part, down below, Avenger had no idea where his putative ally was. After some consideration, he opted to get things off with a bang! He sprang into action and vaulted the car in one smooth motion, driving his booted foot through the window in a sudden, powerful kick! It was a mighty blow that shatters the glass in a sudden burst of noise. The kick would have been perfect except for the little complication that the driver's head exploded! Before Avenger could react to that, he realized that his boot was caught in the door, and that the men behind him were raising their guns...

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With one hand firmly gripping the swingline, Nightrival jumps off the roof and swoops down to the street. All he sees is Avenger appearing out of nowhere and kicking in the windshield. He knows that the driver must be unconscious after taking a hit like that, but he doesn't witness the driver being "killed" in a such a dramatic fashion.

Nightrival juts his legs out and swings directly into one of the guards. Blood bursts out of the unfortunate guard's nose and he drops to the asphalt. As soon as he hits his target, Nightrival lets go of the swingline and flips into the air. He twists mid-jump and lands a flying back kick into the other guard's jaw. The guard spirals on his feet and lands face down, a handful of his teeth scatter across the parking lot.

Nightrival lands on his feet and walks up to the car. He peers into the driver's seat and then jolts back.

"Wha' did ya do?" he shouts at Avenger. "Ya didn't hafta kill 'em!"

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Avenger looked surprised as well, as much as his facial expressions could be recognized through his double hockey and ski mask. For the first time, Nightrival saw the man's 'character' crack just a tiny bit. "I..." He peered into the darkness of the car, his eyes widening. "It...Zombie. Nightrival; zombie." Sure enough, there was no blood in the car, only dust and the faint smell of decay as the headless corpse leaned over on the seat, an ashy stump poking up above the collar. "Zombie selling zombie powder. Already dead. And that means..." Avenger looked over at the noisy warehouse, deep concern in his eyes. "Monsters."

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Nightrival doesn't want to believe that Avenger could commit murder. The other hero's hesitation in responding to Nightrival's accusation prompts him to suspect that appearances are deceiving in this case. Someone who wants to take down a drug ring won't kill those involved, he reasons, not if he wants a conviction. Most capes play by the rules, and Avenger does not seem like another Silencer.

He takes a closer look at the body inside the car. He sees the unusual condition of the driver's remains and the presence of dust instead of blood. Nightrival is not a doctor, but he knows something is not right. His instincts tell him that Avenger is right. Zombie powder does transform people into monsters, and the driver must be another victim of the drug. Nightrival finally nods his head and straightens up to look at Avenger.

"Okay, yer right. I'm sorry I didn't trust ya. This is what it looks like." He glances at the building as well. A knot of rage tightens in his gut. "Let's go hunt us some monsters then."

Nightrival slinks away to the door where the guards were standing. He presses his ear to the door in an attempt to hear if anyone is directly behind it, despite knowing that the blaring music would conceal other noises.

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Leaning close to the door, Nightrival couldn't hear anyone close to the door. That could mean no one was there; it could mean they were just very sneaky. It was hard to tell either way, especially once the sound of music he'd heard before resolved into what sounded like cthonic mystic chanting. Not speaking French and without much command of arcane lore, Nightrival was hard-pressed to figure out exactly what the man inside was saying. Whatever it was; it sounded bad! Beside him, Avenger was pressed against the door as well, his blue eyes narrowing. "Making more. Making more powder."

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