A Warm Reception


Scene Title A Warm Reception
Synopsis It's a regular old welcome home.
Date August 09, 2019

Howland Hook Terminal

Once a thriving bayside shipping port, Howland Hook has seen better days. A good portion of it remains in ruin, remnants of pre-war damages accented by later attempts at repair. The rest has been revitalized by other elements.

There is a main complex amidst the fields of shipping containers, standing solid and new near the equally new docksides. For all that this is a lawless place, a hand has taken hold of Howland and has shaped it back into a shade of its former self. Small vessels come and go, traffic moves in and out sporadically. Containers of metal and wood exchange back and forth, a consistent, subtle hum of activity behind tall metal fences and razor-wire, pockmarked with armed guards.

The central buildings are concrete brick and tempered windows from the outside; on the inside, they are modernized, with localized electric and water, inaccessible from beyond the property lines behind barriers. Mostly administrative spaces, with a below-ground space acting as quarters and bunker.

Outlying buildings are smaller, often supply stations and similar; there are several dwellings outside of the perimeter with signs of occupation.

May 22, 2019

Two men are playing cards on a table made of milkcrates and loose board. It's what passes for outdoor chic these days on Staten Island, or at least represents their could-give-a-better-fuck take on it. The late spring air is warm, their laughter soaring as high as the temperature while they banter between themselves, telling war stories and throwing down hand after hand. There's not as much booze as they'd like to be drinking, so they take their time in knocking back the bottles of beer.

Honestly, with warm beer, who knows if that's better or worse.

Technically, they're supposed to be on watch, but no one comes skulking around the hollows of Howland's these days. Everyone who's sane knows the place is claimed, and that potshots are taken at anyone who isn't deemed to belong.

So that's why they're not paying attention when someone strolls up, alone, falling firmly into that earlier-described category of 'not deemed to belong'. In fact, the man who approaches does so with such a swagger that they initially assume he's one of theirs. After all, who would be bold enough to just saunter up like they own the place?


"Gentlemen," the stranger says while he approaches, and that's their first indication something's out of order here. Then when they turn to see the shorter-than-average sun-speckled brunette in a suit, the stranger is looking up absently at the warehouse the men are stationed in front of, adjusting the cuffs of the dark, emerald suit he wears and the black dress shirt that pairs with it.

"Easy, now," he cautions, carefree as they come to their feet, one of them drawing a gun on him. In fact, he smiles, lips creeping back over teeth shy to show themselves. "Wouldn't want to hurt yourself with that." There's no raise of his hands, merely a lift of his chin to gesture at the building before them, one composing Howland Hook Terminal. "You don't happen to know who owns this, do you?"

What an absurd question. The 'gentlemen' playing cards certainly think so. "We do, of course," says the one with the gun. He's pale; has a very particular, thick accent. The man in the suit can't place it, but he likes it.

"That's where you're wrong, I'm afraid," he informs kindly, almost sounding sad. "These grounds belong to the d'Sarthe Group. I have to say, you're trespassing pretty boldly here…" The two look between each other in confusion. The who? That's a name that they've not heard in years.

"The fuck it is. You're the trespasser, you—" In lieu of any name-calling, the guy with the gun pulls the trigger on the man in the suit, only for his very appearance to swipe left and into nothing, a notification dismissed temporarily from the fabric of reality…

until he reappears a moment later directly in front of the thug without a gun, arm stretched out before him and into the other man's chest.

"Listen," the man in the suit explains tiredly, knowingly. "This place doesn't belong to you and yours, and this is the only warning you'll get…" His arm moves from side to side, wrist and below still disappeared into the thug's chest while he stammers and stumbles. "… to clear off of this property you're trespassing on." He's trying very hard to be polite, even with impatience beginning to temper the edges of his voice.

"Otherwise, I finish reforming the rest of my hand— inside your friend's ribcage."

His brow arches nonchalantly but pointedly as he turns to the man with the gun. "It's your choice entirely."

And the thug with a gun chooses to fire again repeatedly, to no avail. The suit and the man in it waver in and out of apparent existence in a rippling wave as the bullets zip through him, and when he reforms he does so as the thug before him releases an agonized scream.

As one might, after all, when their chest is ripped open and their heart is literally held in another man's hand.

When the first and second thug are both dealt with, the man in the suit shakes his hand out to rid it of the gore it's now covered in, noting that it's touched the sleeve of his shirt, too. He lets out a disappointed click of his tongue. "And I was so hoping to not ruin this suit," he laments quietly to himself, waiting to see who else comes at the sound of the screams.

Ace Callahan could have handled this from afar with a perfectly good long-range rifle, but that was far less polite, in his opinion. And besides, it didn't give him the opportunity to continue honing his people skills.

That said, this would all have to be cleaned up by the time Mr. d'Sarthe and his retainers arrived.

2 Months Later

It would not be the first time a suit was ruined here. Nor the last.

Howland's Terminal has in the past been a hundred things for a hundred invaders. Not until now has it looked so alive since not just the war, but the very first apocalyptic bomb in New York's Midtown. Though absolutely not a flurry, the low murmur of activity is a subtle drone amidst the otherwise desolate bayside.

Demolition has been taking place for several weeks now; the removal of debris came first. Staten Island has not seen dump trucks filled with trash for years. First journeys were many- - trucks in and out, the burning of discarded wood and a deliberate new scrapyard forming on the far edge of the coastline. Scavengers are welcome there, provided salvage in exchange for supplies or intelligence. Clearing the terminal of the shards of war is methodical, purposeful.

News spreads fast here, and inquiring minds learn just as quickly.

Staten Island has been in a state of flux for years now. So few have been able to plant feet, roots, roles. Establishing a pecking order has taken a long time, and now— it has been upset, upended, upstaged in earnest.

Linderman is a memory. The Trade Commission is a steady flow. Triads are rampant. Gangs are amorphous, and out for their own ends. There has always been an influence behind so many parts of the island, and yet it hadn't a face. A featureless source of energy, humming along the old leylines like meditation. Waiting, patient and silent.

The tiger in the grass, bestriped and blended into the land.

Once the demolition and removal of Howland's old shells wrapped, it was a descent into repairs next. Money came from somewhere. The buildings sprouted nearly overnight. Fences. Armed guards. Shipping containers, boats, lifts. Business. Trades. As it used to be, shaded by the lawlessness of its neighbors on all sides.

Ghost Shadows made an early attempt at incursion. They came to regret it, and have since given Howland a widening berth. The island is big enough for two prowling cats. The pieces of a shattered city are numerous enough carrion.

Much like the Ghost Shadows, Gideon d'Sarthe has two sides on his board. Twice as many pieces. Legitimate black dots. Bastardized reds. Criss-crossing in the world's deadliest game of checkers, played by one man and many hands in mirror of his rivals.

His empire has not faded, as many have. He knew exactly how to exploit the wars, the laws, the desperation and yearning for progress.

He has never been one to abandon his hands-on approach.

Outbuildings have yet to be patched. Some may never be, giving a wraith-like aura that lends itself to a feeling of despair.

Just how some of them like it. Just the thing to appreciate about such a place. One side, new, the other— charred.

Armed guards flank the outside doors to the oldest warehouse, colorful with graffiti and spilling light through patchy ceiling in rays between shadows. Two more stand just inside, eyes ahead.

"…Where do you think you're going?"

The tiger growls.


"What I loved most about this…" Words carry a faded tint of accented English, tattered and deliberate in enunciation. "… was your sheer optimism," Blue eyes, piercing and level, fall on the back of a man crawling in the dirt, legs dragging behind him, withered, skeletal. No blood, no wounds, just pain.

One shining brown shoe plants against his spine, the weight of a man three times as heavy as he pressing inward on the back of ribcage.

Gideon d'Sarthe adjusts the lay of his suit jacket, one hand at the front of his vest, smoothing invisible lines. A tiny smile in the gray of beard does not reach his eyes by any means, yet those bright eyes twinkle with a deceptive joy. "Maybe this ending… wasn't quite what you had in mind,"

"But rest assured, your family will be taken care of." Gravel tumbles more deeply into his words. "Even if they won't know what came of you. How does that sound…?"

Gideon is answered only with a rattling whine of breath, and the craning of wide, fearful eyes up into his face.

Standing only a few feet away, Ace sips delicately from a to-go cup of coffee, eyes away from the sorry sight on the ground. It would ruin his morning aesthetic. So, he keeps his own counsel while waiting for d'Sarthe to finish up with his current business.

He does share the older man's amusement for the naivete that got Gasping, Wiggly and Legless there into his current predicament. No one gets away with stealing in Gideon's house. It's so fiercely-protected an operation. He can see where the man saw opportunity take a cut for himself in the middle of all this growth happening, but there's no sympathy for seeing it, much less trying to act on it. It would take far more cunning a cat to either succeed or escape from the Group's enforcers.

"Mr. d'Sarthe, not to rush this staff meeting, but you do have a 9:30 coming up," Ace reminds with a courteous lightness.

“Oh he can spare a moment,” comes the gravely voice from right beside Ace where a moment ago there was no one. Someone is standing there, stooped over with an arm around Ace’s shoulders, with a too large smile spread across his weathered face.

redd_icon.gif mines_icon.gif

“He's the boss, after all,” is the final reminder that Redd gives as he unwinds his arm from around Ace and straightens up, adjusting his necktie and straightening the lapels of his plaid suit. “Isn't that right, Boss?”

Far behind Redd, just a black silhouette in one of the warehouse doorways of the terminal, Jason Mines is making a much more obvious and slower approach from the car he recently parked. The car he and Redd shared all the way here. Mines looks about as thrilled at how that went as anyone else in his position.

Gideon does not lift his head at the words of his current company; a hand does, however, gesturing gently back at him.

"Yes, yes, I haven't forgotten." No need to mother hen, Ace. The man who appears out of nowhere has it quite right. Moments can be spared, allow the boss to have a little quality time with his hands-on approach to… everything. Silver hair frames d'Sarthe's forehead as he leans overhead, foot planted firmly and hand at the other knee. A grip latches onto the fallen man's head, fingers threaded in hair, slow in its pullback. Gideon's voice takes on the tone of a scolding, sarcastic father. "That's right, isn't it, Keith? I'm the Boss."

Redd's arrival, and by extension, Mines', are expected and in a way, reassuring.

'Keith', as he's identified, writhes and hisses in pain, a whimper back.

Gideon speaks without looking over his shoulder.

"I was beginning to get worried. Wondering if I had sent you out too soon after New Hope. Clearly, my mistake." A conversation, casual and in that smoky voice of his, turns far more bitter when put to the tableau before them.

"As much as I would like to continue this… I do have a schedule." Hand in hair moves to neck, and when Mr. d'Sarthe stands straight again, the man comes with him, feet leaving the ground when he is hoisted up by the throat. Given a smile. Gideon has that charming smile. One that never truly fades, hued only by his emotions. Currently, sharp, razor-edged, scornful.

Keith's frame begins to wither just as his legs, skin loosening and limbs flailing weakly. Fingers scrabble uselessly against Gideon's paw on his windpipe. He isn't choking. He is being dismantled from the inside out. Joints lock and bone breaks, snaps of sound as flesh seems to disintegrate unseen under the lay of skin.

Once he is dropped back to the ground, Gideon's features are flushed red with irritation, the barrel of his chest solid as he watches.

The skeletal sack who was once a man still gapes and twitches, organs still working in attempts to bring him back from the brink. Nothing to work with, they fail too, one by one, a lengthy struggle before he'll pass. Yet, Gideon refuses to stay so long as to see it. Rather, his satisfaction comes early on, and he turns away soon after.

"Once he's finished, clean it up." d'Sarthe rebuttons the front of his jacket whilst addressing one of the other armed guards; he adjusts his cuffs, smoothes his wave of gray at head and jaw, grinds something invisible from the sole of a shoe on his way over to the others. Smile flickers from devilish to companionable, an honest shift. "A pleasure to have you boys back. No trouble on the road, I take it…?"

Ace doesn’t so much as flinch in surprise at Redd’s surprise appearance as immediately shirk away from the physical contact associated with it. It sends a feeling of disgust crawling up his spine, one that’s visible in the grimace he wears. The unexpected event definitely disrupts that next sip of steaming coffee he was about to take, too.

Even after Redd unwraps his arm, he gets a glowering side-eye from Ace, any commentary cut off by the dropping of withered body back to the ground. What an odd sound it makes. He simply clears his throat and lets the interaction proceed. Looks like things will get started on time after all.

“No problems a little tender love and care couldn’t fix,” Redd says with a lopsided smile, briefly flicking a look to Ace. “Well, actually… there is one point of business that I’ve gotta iron out here now that I’m in the big city, but it ain’t anything that’s gotta rush.” Straightening up and tucking his hands into his pockets, Redd keeps pace with d’Sarthe, listening to the wheezing gurgling of the heap of a man at their backs.

“My question to you,” Redd says with an incline of his head to his boss, “is what’ve you got going on that needs getting going?” Another smile, larger than before, if that were somehow possible.

"Perfect." Gideon lifts both brows to Ace as he breezes by, a hand at his buttons and the other out to clap against Redd's shoulder; his smile of course is no match for the other, but it seems to make an attempt. Without further fanfare, he pivots to start walking in the direction of the exit proper. "I believe I know exactly what you're talking about." d'Sarthe informs, barely passing a sharp look sideways. A mutter under his breath follows, indistinct but non-English, a catch of frustration.

No matter.

At their backs, the other guards tend to what is left behind, the outside pair prying doors further open for the formation moving through.

"I'm going to need you to make some impressions. More specifically," Gideon turns a look to Redd, then Ace just on the wings. He already knows that Mines is privy to more than these primary details. "Here on the island. While I handle some roots on the 'mainland', as it were. You know," A cryptic chuckle comes from his chest, in-joke and all, "Legitimizing my options. So many old friends, so little time. That's where you come in."

Following behind at a languid pace, Ace is content to stay out of the spotlight… until the look from Gideon summons him forward another few steps. "Mmh," is the light note that emanates from him at the news they'll be making impressions around town. He doesn't look like it'd be his favorite thing to do, but very little meets the criteria for what he's seeking in life.

So instead, he lifts his chin a touch, engaged in the moment. "What kind of impression are you wanting to be made?' His attention slants past Gideon to Redd, knowing just what kind of impression normally follows in that man's wake. "Constructive or reconstructive?"

Redd flashes a smile to Gideon, then as Ace speaks he turns his wide-smiling attention in that direction. Folding his hands behind his back, Redd listens with a brow raised, but he gradually slows his pace to lag behind the two. It isn’t long before Gideon and Ace both notice that Redd isn’t even there anymore…

…as far as they can tell.

Terminal outbuildings at their backs and the main operations at their front, the path between is remarkably flat, everything old demolished, leveled, tread faintly with tire trails. The outlines of foundations and rusty runoff marks the graves of years past.

"Oh," Gideon looks to Ace, a growing smile as a guard runs a key to open a mechanically locked door into the terminal headquarters. "I would say a little touch of both." Blue eyes flicker to where Redd once was, knowing and darting back to his forward march. "I know you're not much for flash,"

"I'm not against being accommodating." Gideon leads to an elevator, one lean hand holding the door from clamping shut, the other magnanimous and beckoning. A slip of smile crooks under his beard. "We'll hammer out the details downstairs."

With a glance behind to allow for Mines to catch up, Ace steps over the elevator threshold with a small, satisfied smile of his own on his face. He swirls the cooling coffee in his cup, lifting it to savor what’s left of it while he wonders what lies ahead. Whatever it is, it promises to be full of opportunity.

“I look forward to it, boss.”

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