What's Old Is New Again, Part I


alister_icon.gif astrid_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif keira5_icon.gif sibyl_icon.gif sylvester_icon.gif tibby3_icon.gif

Scene Title What's New Old Is New Again, Part I
Synopsis Alister Black arrives to do business.
Date June 6, 2018

Staten Island, Meat Packing Plant

Staten Island’s Rookery is awash in blood red light and the designer watch on Alister’s wrist reads 7:57PM. Three minutes until sundown, three minutes until the time specified in the ransom note Sibyl delivered to the Staten Island Trade Commission, threatening the life of his pet ocelot if he did not deliver $10,000 in cash to the old meat packing plant.

The building in question sits at the end of a snarled but well-trafficked street, and although it still functions as a meat packing plant, those with a finger on the pulse of the island’s criminal scene know that it doubles as one of the many houses for the network of human traffickers operating outside of the Safe Zone on the other side of the water.

Plastic sheeting blocks Alister’s view of the warehouse’s loading dock, where a truck has parked, but from the rooftop, where a feral cat with a patchy orange coat is perched, Tibby can clearly see the men unloading the vehicle’s contents: freshly-butchered sows wrapped in a material similar the loading dock’s opaque draping. Blood pools in the wrinkles in the material, some of which drips onto the pavement as two men in plain street clothes offload one pig at a time and hustle the meaty packages inside.

No humans today, only pork.

At least Alister can be sure that his ocelot is well-fed.

The car he, Tibby and Sibyl are seated in is a newly restored 1984 Ford Mustang convertible with fire engine red paint and rims so new that they gleam in the fading light. In the back seat, on Sibyl’s lap, sits a briefcase with $10,000 in cash — exactly as requested by the kidnappers.

Although unseen, Etienne and a small team of Alister’s best men await orders via radio nearby.

It’s showtime.

Alister grabs his oak cane with its crystal ball handle, and the briefcase full of cash, stepping out of the car. "Don't forget what I told you, Sibyl. About staying out of sight."

He's not without Sarah McGlocklan, tucked away in his white blazer, and another gun strapped to his leg, hidden under his pants.

He waits next to the car, waiting for the kidnappers to show themselves. "I have your money!" he shouts, figuring they'll be on time if they want it that badly.

Meeting Handbag’s owner was not What Tibby was expecting or his creepy not daughter from some witchy woo woo tribe. Tibby was reminded of her bibi and bibi had some strong fuck you up in the head hoodoo going on.

The tiny woman slides out of the car, her emerald eyes on the feral cat there ahead. She feels her alright. Poor thing. Casting her mind out to ‘Handbag’ she sends a Rescue. Coming. For you, before hefting her assault rifle onto her shoulders and making way behind nearby cover of the car itself. An oversized black shirt with black leggings cover her. That Kevlar shit covers her chest. A big bulky hoodie that is just way too big that it ends up looking like a dress covers it all, it's baby blue though. Scuffed up black Docs. Her usual black backpack strapped to her back.

Eyes closed momentarily, she grins as she feels them out there. Her friends. They couldn't keep pace totally with a automobile but she nudge them along. A whole herd of them. Not within sight yet. Her main feline friend, Oya slinks out of the car after a look over at Sibyl. The African golden cat purrs before coming over to Tibby. “Aye.. what if they just shoot ya and take the money?” She doesn't put it past Astrid.

“And what about a reward yea?” She’d save Handbag’s life for free or even would have been able to get Buddy to eventually help her if given enough time. But the young girl, Sibyl seemed to have a “plan.” She was already ready for this to be over.

The very nature of a convertible makes it impossible for Sibyl to stay out of sight, but she's at least dressed inconspicuously in blacks and grays, including a pair of leggings and a tank top that clings to her small, wiry frame and leaves little excess fabric to get snagged in the event of a scuffle. She had similar concerns about her hair, tied back into a sleek braided bun, coiled like a snake at the nape of her neck.

There is nothing for anyone to grab except for her limbs, which she holds very close to her body.

Alister's shout draws two armed guards out from behind the loading dock’s plastic sheets, their rifles loose and hanging from leather straps slung across the bulk of their shoulders. One pinches a cigarette between his tattooed muscles. The other is lankier and propelled by a sort of nervous energy that winds through him, subdued but nevertheless electric.

“Fuck me,” says the one with the inked knuckles that spell out S-T-A-Y T-R-U-E. “Is that A-Lister Black?”

A-Lister Black is one he hasn’t heard before.

"Some unfortunate morons decided to use this warehouse as a meeting place for a ransom. How would you like to make some money?" Alister asks, hitting the bottom of his cane against the ground twice, in quick succession. "I may need some shooting done if things don't quite go as planned." Best he uses some disposable people as a bit of a buffer, if possible, to save Etienne some trouble.

The nickname elicits a snort from the tiny woman and she wonders if A-Lister is always like this. The cane and such, all the drama. There's a piece of Tibby that likes it though. The more guys shooting for Alister the better this might turn out. She wishes Buddy was here.. a nagging sense in the back of her head. She doesn't trust Buddy’s friends. But she trusts him even though she gets the feeling that he could be.. not that great for her. With what being a human trafficker and all.. shaking her head to clear her thoughts on that. More on that later, focus.

A few felines, ahead of the impending herd slink into the area. Eyes going this way and that, tails switching in a curious synchronized wave. Scouts.

Tibby smiles faintly at the feeling of their presence and also seeing them come into view. Oya gets excited, the golden fur rising. Yes Oya, our friends are here.

“Trade Commission's got no business here,” states Knuckles. The men who had been unloading the meat from the back of the truck stop to peer around the corner, wiping sweat from slick faces with the grubby sleeves of their smocks.

That's a lot of cats.

“Maybe you wanna call Sly,” one of them suggests.

And so Knuckles unclips the radio from his hip and cradles it between his shoulder and the bristle of his jaw without taking his eyes off Alister — or Tibby.

“Hey, boss,” he mutters into the receiver. “Black's here t’see you.” A beat, then: “Yeah. That Black. Sounds like he’s got beef.”

"Someone has my ocelot, and I'm here to pay a ransom. I don't have time to waste." Alister sounds slightly impatient, moving to sit the briefcase into the back seat, then turns to face the men again. "If you'll aid me in acquiring my ocelot, I'll be making my way back to my territory."

He tries to sound reasonable, and takes a moment to yawn. "Though perhaps speaking to your supervisor will get me to where I need to be, so I'll wait here patiently."

An eye roll at the wasting of time, hand on her hip Tibby just her head out towards Knuckles and his friend. “Oi, tell em Buddy’s friend Tibby is here! The cat lady.” The latter an afterthought. Looking over to Alister with a raised eyebrow. Supervisor? This guy is funny.

“We only want Handbag! Astrid only wants to make some money. It's easy yea?”

Maybe she shouldn't be playing the ‘I know these guys’ Card. But they might not have many. Especially since it seems to be a delay. Looking over to Alister, “They don't seem to be expecting you..” that's odd. A mental command sent to one of the cats, a tiny tabby with wild eyes and the feline is running around the perimeter of the place, “I'm taking a look.” To Alister though Sibyl is probably aware of more things than she can pick up on with her feline sight.

Nothing untoward lurks behind the warehouse. Tibby’s slight tabby prances down the alley that separates the warehouse from the adjacent building, ducking around forgotten bags of trash rotting in the late day sun, and over obstacles in its path like a squat stalk of milk crates in front of one of the building’s side doors.

Sparrows, startled from their roosts in the alley’s cool shadows, take flight in advance of the feline’s approach, seeking higher perches on defunct, sagging telephone lines as they scold the tabby in their shrill little voices.

A few minutes later, a tall man in a business suit that’s much too dark for the sweltering summer heat emerges from the loading dock. “Sly” pushes his Aviator sunglasses higher up the bridge of his nose, which is perhaps a little too large for his face and unfortunately its most defining feature. Polished leather loafers gleam in the last minutes of daylight. So does his dark hair, slicked back with some sort of styling gel that smells faintly of sandalwood.

“The supervisor has arrived,” Sylvester announces. “What do you want, Maxwell?”

Alister grunts, his mind perhaps already made up about the state of ash he intends to leave this place in. And then he holds up his free hand, as if to tell the man to hold on for a moment. "I'm here for my ocelot. I received a note from someone who was intellectually inept, telling me to bring money or they'll kill my ocelot. I believe she's currently being called Handbag."

"I was told to meet here. Now, if my ocelot could be promptly returned to me, I'll be on my way." he quickly stomps the bottom of his cane against the ground once, to emphasize his point. "Tibby, produce the ransom note that I received."

The skinny tabby cat regards the sparrows with a hungry look before trotting down the alley more, looking this way and that way. Coming upon the building’s side door with a tilt of its head.

Tibby is jolted back to reality by Alister’s demand and her brow furrows before she grits her teeth. Did this white.. did he? Did he just hop too her?! The look of offense is apparent and the tiny woman ruffles the back of her bleached blonde do roughly, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Closing her emerald green eyes and tipping her head back. So help me, I'm praying to all the Orishas. Give me patience.

Done with her prayer of calmness the feline lover slowly opens her eyes still staring up at the sky. “Tell your mail order bride to produce it. I don't know where that shit is.”

Oh. That’s her, Sibyl supposes. Her fingers depress the clasps fastening the briefcase, springing it open just long enough to produce the poorly-constructed ransom note from inside. It clicks shut again a moment later, and the girl is emerging from the convertible with the briefcase in one hand and the note in the other.

As light on her feet as Tibby’s tabby (try saying that three times fast), she comes up alongside the older woman and Alister, but not a step further. She holds the note up for Sylvester to examine — at a distance.

Baby cheetoh, he mouths. Jesus fucking Christ.

Sylvester runs his tongue behind his front teeth. It looks, at least to him, like something Eugene could have produced, depending on the amount of ayahuasca in his system, which is — not coincidentally — what got them into this mess in the first place.

He assesses the situation unfolding in front of him in three beats.

The first, Alister.

The second, Tibby.

The third, the child.

Lying about the ocelot is not an option. Everyone on Staten Island knows what Tibby can do, and his own experience with animal telepaths tells him that she can already feel Handbag’s presence in the warehouse even if she can’t pinpoint the animal’s exact location.

“You’re really going to give me $10,000 for a stupid, piss-stained cat?” he asks instead, and does not bother to conceal the suspicion creeping into his voice. “It’s not even worth half that.”

"So you do have Eileen." Alister says the ocelot's proper name, and then reaches to take the briefcase from Sibyl. "Yes, $10,000 dollars. It's the principle of the thing. I'd rather have my ocelot than the money."

Before they arrived, it should be noted, that Etienne and his other men were told that if anyone manages to retrieve the $10,000 during all of what's about to transpire, they will get a cool half among them.

"So, where is my cat, as you call her. I'd like my cat out here, safely, and then you'll have your money." he very diplomatically instructs. "There's obviously no need for us to have a bunch of drama over a simple pet. You'll get money, I'll get my ocelot, and then we all go home happy. A simple business deal."

The arrival of Sylvester has Tibby tilting her head. She's expecting Astrid, she figures the the blonde wouldn't be fair from Handb- Eileen. Tibby has to remember that. Handbag is cute though. The tiny woman stays steady and watches the exchange between the two.

The woman yawns, this is taking a while. Oya follows suit, licking at the back of her paw regarding the humans with a lazy glance. That's when more.. cats arrive. Another wave at least the last bit still hadn't arrived, various dirty browns, oranges, whites and blacks trot in with yowls and purrs and howls of rage from some of the more feral. Tibby sways from side to side as she whistles a tone.

They settle one by one in seated positions. Stopping the whistle. Tibby opens her eyes and arches an eyebrow. Some of the cats leap into the cat, tilting up their heads at Tibby and then flicking a look towards Sibyl. Two more jump on the hood, “Where’s Astrid?”

“Enough cats!” Sylvester barks. His hand ducks inside his suit jacket, unclipping the pistol from it's protective leather holster. He snaps off the safety in the same smooth motion that produces the weapon, which he points square at Tibby’s center of mass.

The two armed guards follow their employer’s lead. One trains his rifle on Alister, the other on Sibyl.

She flinches.

Sylvester presses out a slow, calming breath. “Approximately— seventy-five percent less cats,” he clarifies, voice quieter but no less firm and still bold enough to carry across the street.

It's a good deal. Not only does Sylvester get $10,000 he hadn't budgeted for, but he also rids himself of the animal that’s been stinking up his building and keeping his people up at night with its incessant yowling.

There's just one problem with the transaction.

He's not sure the woman Tibby's asking after will allow it.

“How do I know you won’t send Saint James to cut our throats the next time we’re asleep?” he asks Alister. “I want to do business with you, Maxwell, I really do, but I hear you raid merchant freighters and shoot men for less than looking at you the wrong way.”

Alister listens to this, notes the guns, and then gives Sylvester's question a solid few moments of thought.

Before he just kind of laughs, and shakes his head. "Make no mistake about it, Sylvester, as much as I like my ocelot, the primary reason that I didn't have everyone killed is because I wanted to maintain a business relationship. Eileen would certainly be a loss, but I do have a reputation to maintain."

"However, I'm here, attempting to do a fair trade, instead of having you all burned alive, because I thought we'd all rather go home peacefully and enjoy the rest of our day." Then, staring at the gun pointed at him, he smiles. "If you do shoot any of us, you'll all be killed anyway, so I don't think this is the course of action you're looking for. My company does pass to people when I die, and I don't think you're looking to complicate your life today."

"Tibby, send some of the cats away. I wasn't aware that the feline species was more terrifying than guns." He wags the briefcase a few times. "Essentially, your only option to get out of this fully intact is to make the trade. You're an intelligent man, you're at a disadvantage, and if I made you any assurances it would really be dishonest, considering your overall lack of advantage. Sure, you could shoot us all, but then you'd die too."

"Is it really worth a cat?" he asks, shaking his head. "So, how about you stop aiming a gun at my young protege, and we get this over with?"

Lucky for Tibby she's had her assault rifle sitting in her hands waiting for just this moment. God damn it. It's lifted as the Sly man points his firearm at her. An eyebrow quirks, flicking off the safety. “Don't start a bladdy shootout over my fucking cats!”

Emerald green eyes narrow to slants as her mind whirls, this is not going according to whatever fucking plan they had. “Dom amerikaanse esel.” Said with a sigh, this really doesn't need to be that hard. Alister’s command is met again with a flare of the eyes. She’s not happy with either man telling her what to do. It's why she works by her fucking self. All these thoughts raging through her mind. “Ya, a few can go.”

The two on the top of the hood slink off, in the direction that the skinny tabby went behind the building. One by one a few more of the felines follow in that direction. Coming upon the skinny tabby on the side of the building and out of sight. There are meows and hisses before the cats grow quiet. A few more exit to the side.

There are ten or so felines left afterwards prowling around the car. Oya and another rubbing themselves through her ankles.

Whatever the other felines are doing on the side of the building isn't visible but one of the cats leaps onto debris on the side of the building, making its way upwards to the roof. Another follows. “You better get ready to duck.” Is whispered to Sibyl as Alister and Sylvester do their back and forth.

With his free hand, Sylvester takes the radio from the guard with the knuckle tattoos. “Astrid,” he says, and does not wait for her chirped reply. “Would you be so kind as to bring Handbag upstairs. Please. We have company.”

At the same time, Sibyl’s own hand is drifting toward the open flap of her own coat, although she does not reach inside it yet. Splays her fingers across her chest instead, like she’s hoping to quell the panicked flutter of her heart.

To Alister, Sylvester juts his chin. “Open it,” he says of the briefcase.

So the head of the Staten Island Trade Commission does.

It’s empty.

Alister stares down into his briefcase when he realizes that it's empty, then he looks to Tibby, who isn't stupid, then looks over at Sibyl. "Where exactly is my money?" he asks Sibyl, because she's been trusted with numerous aspects of this exchange, namely, holding the briefcase.

"Sylvester, I need a moment." Then, back to Sibyl. "Trust is very important to me. Tibby isn't stupid enough to steal from me, it certainly wasn't Etienne, he has the ability of long-term thinking."

He drops the briefcase now, staring dead at Sibyl, eyes narrowed. "I've given you anything that you could possibly need, I've tried to educate you, tried to teach you about the world, brought you into my house, I'm trying to fix this island's water just like you asked."

Motioning to the briefcase, he simply asks, "Did you steal from me?"

There's a groan. This is so not what Tibs signed up for. Only catching the two in the corner of her eye as she keeps her gaze mostly steady on Astrid’s man friend in front of her. Are you shitting me?

Tibby taps her foot, mauling over her options. She's gotta save this cat, possibly from all these psychos. Weighing her options the tiny woman scoffs at the situation. “Hurry.. up.” She says out the corner of her mouth to Alister and Sibyl.

On the side of the building, most of the cats have made it to the roof of the building. Prowling ahead softly but not appearing within eyesight yet from below. The rest of the cats that are on the way change course, no coming in the direction of the others. Taking a wide berth to angle themselves at the side of the building, Adze leads the last wave. It’ll be a little before they are in the area still. The strain of this many felines under her control is manageable but she does tighten the expression on her face as she concentrates on the two seperate large groups of felines. Almost, lovelies. Ah ah ah, wait. The felines on the roof are still.

“I—” Sibyl starts, but she doesn’t get much further than that, because Sylvester has lost what little patience he had to begin with, and his cagey nature convinced him the moment the briefcase snapped open that he’s walked into the middle of an elaborate trap set to spring.

He’s not wrong.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s the one about to spring it.

He fires two shots in quick succession. The first strikes Sibyl with enough force to bounce her off the hood of the Mustang. The second slams into Alister’s chest and imbeds itself in the bulletproof vest he’s wearing under his coat, knocking the wind from his lungs and bruising ribs.

The two armed guards take cover behind the truck parked in front of the loading dock.

The pop-pop-pop of gunfire fills the air. Tibby feels the heat of a bullet as it whizzes past her ear and shatters a window somewhere behind her, spraying the street with shards of broken glass.

She should probably take cover, too.

Alister stumbles and starts trying to scramble with his cane, ending up on his hands and knees as he gets behind the car for cover.

Sibyl was shot, because every woman who steals from him dies eventually, that's what he imagines.

It's difficult to escape from the idea of fate.

He doesn't pull his gun first, instead, he pulls out a radio. "Etienne, kill every single one of them, and then I want their warehouse burned down. Sibyl may or may not still be under our employ. She'll survive, I'm sure. Just concern yourself with killing everyone. I want this warehouse to be ash, and I want Sylvester's head tossed into the middle of the most crime ridden area of Staten Island."

Those are his orders, because he's feeling bitter and betrayed.

If only Chess was here, but she'll probably betray him too.

The only one who doesn't leave is Margaux.

Sarah McGlocklan is drawn, but he doesn't leave from his cover, he wants to wait for things to clear a bit. "Sibyl, you better not die, because I'll be damned if I don't have closure this time!"

“OI OI!!”

Tibby screams as guns are shot and people are hit. Well fuck me. The woman thinks to herself as she ducks after feeling the bullet near her head. Eyes wide, she dives under the car, crawling on her belly with the rifle in front of her before she comes to just before the lip of the front of the car.

Taking care to not shoot anywhere near Alister and Sibyl, Tibby fires a few shots towards the two guys with practiced skill. Green eyes squint as she directs a volley of bullets towards Sylvester.

Up above, the felines rustle to action prowling to the edge of roof, peering over with unified interest at the firefight blooming before them. A large gray feral cat inches closer to the edge then the rest.. and then he leaps out into the air. Mouth opening to show fang and a yowl rises from cat’s throat. The felines are jumping off the roof. Tibby’s body shakes with the effort and the fear of what can happen to her friends. Sorry, Sorry. Ah fuck. Directed to the falling cats, they are necessary though. A distraction.. Thank you. Praying to Bast that their landings are graceful.

There are three that are falling in the general direction of the two men behind cover and a couple others above Sylvester. Oya rushes to Tibby’s side under the car with a wide stare. “Aye fuck! Oya! Back!” Frustrated with all of this.

“What did I say about the fucking cats!”

Sylvester’s handgun clicks on empty, and he backpedals, retreating inside the loading dock to insert a fresh clip. Radios spark and crackle to life on both sides. “I said seventy-five percent les,” he’s muttering even though Tibby isn’t around to hear it, “seventy-five percent less.”

The two guards by the truck do, though, and with both Alister and the feline telepath seeking shelter under and behind the mustang, they turn their attention on the targets that are available to them: Tibby’s army.

Blood spatters against the pristine rims of the Mustang’s wheels. Cats splinter off in different directions, startled by the sound and the ripple of pain that sears through the herd and strikes out at Tibby’s mind when the first of her companions is killed.

They blink out like lights. Two. Three. Four.

Sibyl, sprawled on the pavement near the front wheels of the car, is unmoving, but it’s unclear whether she’s unconscious, dead, or simply playing. Neither Alister nor Tibby are close enough to check, and to check would make them an even easier target than the tangle of cats swarming the street.

“Eugene,” Sylvester snaps at his radio, which he’s managed not to lose in the rapidly mounting chaos. “The dogs! The dogs!”

Backup comes from the loading docks, men rushing forward with guns raised, sending more volleys of bullets against the cars and Tibby’s army. One such man, an average-sized fellow who very clearly works out more every day after unloading pigs or people or whatever the hell it is they do here, slips out as well; however, despite his raised weapon, he doesn’t fire at the cats. He instead slips behind cover, taking stock of the situation as he slowly, carefully puts himself into a more central position.

Man, these people are even worse than Carl thought. Killing cats. The muscular fellow isn’t really the best person in the world, but he’s not killing cats bad. These traffickers are pretty awful people. Carl could say some things about the feline telepath who is making all of these cats go to their deaths, but he will try not to judge. Still, it’s a little bit disturbing.

Even if Carl has issues with the animal telepath, he has many more issues with the man who just ordered his men to kill all of these poor little kitty cats that would sooner scratch him in the face than let him pet them and snuggle them like he would like. Firing shots off at the air far above the car to maintain his cover (Carl is a HORRIBLE shot, it seems), he circles the field, making his way toward where Sylvester and his men are taking cover.

Being a vigilante is fun.

Etienne doesn't respond to Alister's request. Not over the radio, anyway.

His response comes in the form of a shouted order that only those huddled near the convertible can just detect, and then all at once, the street goes from shootout to warzone as the thunderous cacophony of rapid, automatic fire cancels out all other noise. Muzzle flare visible in the dark window of the building opposite the meat packing plant, the mounted machine gun lays down chaos in suppressing fire. Dust and loose rock explode from the concrete mouth of the loading dock. Glass explodes out of the windows of trucks and punctures appear within metal. Hanging plastic is shredded, left in tatters.

This isn't how Etienne typically likes to do things. Like a British army, lining up to die. He prefers to be a knife in the back long before chaos hits. But we don't always get what we want. He does, however, present an opportunity to move as those men running out are forced backwards by heavy duty machine gun fire, and Alister will catch a glimpse of movement as Etienne springs out from hiding, four men trailing, weapons drawn. Two more are left with the mounted machine gun and its hiding place, and on Etienne's silent signal — a fist raised — it ceases fire for a moment.

By then, he and the others are crowded near the mouth of the loading dock, angled out of sight beside it. Etienne raises his rifle, ready to shoot anything that steps within sight.

The sound of barking dogs flows out from the docking area when a door opens. Astrid Nyström only looks ready for battle if you count the weapon she has in her hand, a Remington shotgun, and in her other hand, a leather leash attached to a rhinestone collar. In the collar is an ocelot, which — and Tibby might approve — is ever so slightly less piss-stained than usual, but still anxious, still growling, still with its fur thin in places and more frightened than fierce.

"Succotash!" is not actually an expletive — it's Sylvester's name, as christened by Astrid, and she sounds pissed. She slams behind cover, hauling the ocelot along with her, bumping shoulders with Sylvester. She is dressed for the day, not for a shoot out — cut-off jean shorts, fishnet stockings, fur coat, hair up in a high ponytail, and black glasses perch on the tip of her nose, already a little off balance.

She managed to grab a rig of ammo on her way up, and she cracks open her Remington to check. "Whomst the fuck." This is clearly his fault. "We need to lockdown, dude."

While the suppression fire is going strong, Alister uses this moment to crawl his way over, cane firmly in between his teeth, and reaches to drag Sibyl by the collar, trying to pull her back behind the car while people are a bit too distracted by Etienne and his men shooting the hell out of them.

He's not about to try to drive away yet, that might be a little too risky, but if he can get Sibyl or not, he soon ends up back behind the car, dropping the cane from his mouth, and firmly holding Sarah McGlocklan, waiting for a moment.

They already know he's back there, so he decides to call out. "This didn't have to happen!" he yells, because they need to know why this is happening. "You didn't have to steal my ocelot, you didn't have to point guns at us, you didn't have to insult me at every chance! Now you're all going to die on pure principle."

There's a short pause, peeking under the car, trying to see if he can spot any feet getting closer to him. "In your last moments of life, I want you to think about what you've done, and what you could have done differently. Maybe, if you beg, if you grovel on your knees and piss your pants as a sign of subjugation, you might live, or at least die peacefully without a desecrated corpse."

It's raining cats. It's raining cats.

Tibby feels the jolts in her mind as feline after feline meets its end. Tears go unshed but the moisture in her eyes cause her to stop and while she wipes her eyes she feels the whole reason why they’re in this mess come further within her range. Handbag.

And Astrid. Ah.

The feral cat is mentally waved at if that's a thing even. Tibby’s breathing rapid as more of the cats leap down towards the men shooting at them. On the side of the building a chorus of yowls can barely be heard as seven cats come leaping after Sylvester and Astrid. Save your sister. Free her.

The roof almost empty of felines, the shape of the caracal Adze can be seen closer now with the last of the herd behind him. Some thirty odd felines with wild eyes, one so skinny with fur so matted that Handbag even looks better groomed.

The last of the herd mix in with Etienne and his men, running behind or through the men. Tibby finally gets a grip on herself and she fires more bullets at the group that's stolen the cat. They've gotta get Handbag and then get the fuck out of here. “OY! GET IN THE CAR!!” Realizing he can’t hear her, Tibby’s expression goes dead as she enters Oya’s mind next to her underneath the car.

Get in the car Alister! Run the fuckers down, grab Ha-Eileen. it's not a great plan but right now how the hell else. Oya’s tail twitches as she perched next to Tibby’s prone body before she makes the switch back with a gasp.

Inside the protective shelter of the loading dock, Sylvester opts to trade out his handgun with something more comparable to the weapons being wielded by Etienne’s men. He hefts an assault rifle with one hand, the radio in the other.

Roof,” he says, and maybe that’s bad news for Etienne.

On the other side of the street, Alister’s hand finds the collar of Sibyl’s jacket as she’s rousing and feebly struggling to peel herself out of it. Like her former guardian and the woman accompanying them, she had the foresight to strap into a bulletproof vest when she was dressing for the excursion.

She could not have anticipated just how much getting shot would hurt, or the damage a bullet would still do to her frame beneath the armor. If Alister’s ribs are bruised, hers might be broken. “Get— off—” she rasps, pulling free from the jacket at the same time her still-trembling hands manage to loosen the straps of the vest beneath, shedding clothes like a hermit crab sheds a shell that’s become too waterlogged and unwieldy.

Shots ring out from above, and the intent behind Sylvester’s one word order becomes immediately clear as more traffickers appear on the lip of the roof. One brandishes a shorter, stockier-looking gun that fits against his shoulder and appears almost comically small in comparison to his broad frame, but Etienne will at least recognize the threat for what it is.

A grenade launcher.

Sibyl staggers around the back of the convertible while Sylvester and the men trapped inside the loading dock are preoccupied with Etienne’s assault. She pops the vehicle’s trunk and ducks her head at exactly the right moment as a bullet fired from the roof ricochets off the lid. Inside the compartment is a briefcase that’s identical to the one Alister had been holding, the one that had been empty.

It’s a safe bet this one is not.

“You take Naidu,” is Sylvester’s suggestion to Astrid. Suggestion, not order, because no one orders Astrid around.

No one.

“I’ll take Saint James.”

It isn’t clear yet who’s going to take Maxwell.

Sylvester makes himself visible long enough to target Etienne’s contingent with a haphazard spray of gunfire that goes wide, missing his intended target but felling two of the men directly to his left instead.

Sibyl slams down the trunk again, briefcase stuffed under her arm. She breaks for it.

Man, Carl really isn’t a good shot today. For show, he fires a few rounds off in the general direction of Etienne’s men from cover, but each one misses. Maybe it’s that chest cold he was home sick from the other day — he hasn’t been saying too much today, he’s just been doing as he’s been told and keeping his head down.

That’s probably what it is. Carl is just having an off day.

Green eyes focus on Sylvester as he moves, and then Carl is on the move, ducking and weaving and rolling behind cover and generally doing badass things that buff guys do; he offers his boss some cover fire as he moves to join the man. While he’s an awful shot today, Carl can at least provide something that’ll make the pirate people duck, or something.

At least he has a bulletproof vest on.

Motherfuck.” He growls this out as he joins Sylvester, his voice hoarser and rougher than normal; sounds like he has laryngitis or something. Good old Carl, comes into work and does his job even though his throat probably doesn’t feel so hot.

"I can't even fucking see Nai— "

Which is about when multiple cats attack, and Astrid has too much to deal with. She punts one away with a sharp kick of her boot, growling as little claws tear trenches in her mostly bare legs. She levels her shotgun directly downwards and fires, a sound that echoes thunderously within the docking bay. One feline becomes mostly paste on the concrete, and the others have instincts overriding influence, scattering for a moment, Handbag taut on her leash.

Sylvester doesn't need to suggest twice. Furious, Astrid finds cover to take a better look at the battlefield. Shiny stupid car. Alister yelling. Gunfire coming from an angle. "TIBBY!" In between firecracker gunshots, Astrid's screech travels the relatively short distance across the road. "Back the fuck off or I'm blowing the cat's brains out!"

She aims, fires — but not at Handbag. Buckshot peppers the lovely paint job of the car.

Etienne, meanwhile, has his focus honed in on the shootout between himself and Sylvester's men, but splits when he hears roof. He raises an eyebrow, and he falls back, grabbing his radio. A brisk order, and machine gun fire renews — first, a wall of bullets that pushes the ground forces back, while those unfortunate enough to not be fast enough find their bodies shredded — and then it angles upwards.

Pushing back towards the edge of the dock's entryway, he doesn't raise his gun — instead, he unclips a small, handheld item from his belt, and throws. It arcs, skitters beneath the truck they're using as cover, and by the time it rattles out into the midst of those holed up in the loading dock, it's already spilling a great gust of stinging gas. A thick cloud of white is quick to engulf the space, and its effects follow: watering eyes and stinging pain, the sudden increase of queasy saliva, the gasping sting of constricted breathing.

"Sibyl, what the hell are you doing?!" Alister asks, but before he can even do anything, she's grabbing a briefcase and running. He points Sarah McGlocklan at her, yelling, "Don't move or I swear to god I'll shoot!"

He aims, anger and betrayal in his eyes, and then he lowers his gun. "Damn you!" he slams his fist against the bumper, because he can't do it.

As angry as he is, he can't shoot Sibyl.

There's not a gun large enough to give her a wound as deep as the one she's driven into the very depths of his soul.

But he has to do something, so once that tear gas canister is thrown, he finally pushes himself up with his cane, and rushes into the car. He tosses the passenger side door open to drive around for Tibby to jump in, then keeps going, trying to make some space between them and the warehouse.

On the radio, he shouts while driving. "Try your best to get Eileen, the ocelot, but if you can't, at the very least, I want that warehouse burned to the ground, not a single person left alive unless they're being trafficked. Everyone else, dead."


Tibby only hears pops of guns and people screaming, felines dying. She can't seem to get a great grip. Then Alister is starting the car and her eyes widen as she rolls quickly out from under it. “Ah fuck fuck fuck take me back to Johannesburg, Where's my bibi!!”

The tiny woman looks around with wide eyes as Astrid screams her name and demands. “ASTRID!! IF YOU KILL THAT CAT IM GONNA SEW YOUR LIPS SHUT! AND NOT THE ONES ON YOUR MOUTH!!” Her voice is so small, maybe Astrid didn't hear that. She probably did but the feline lady is PISSED.

As Alister swings the car around she dives in, Oya following close behind. Sibyl is an after thought and that's really Alister’s problem. Slamming the door shut she ducks down to the floor in the passenger seat and looks over at Alister. “Keep the car steady, don't let us die. I'm not gonna be able to help ya ass while I'm getting Handbag!” Looking nervous the woman bows her head among the chaos and closes her eyes as her mid leaves her body and instead of trying the gentle approach with Eileen the ocelot, desperate times call for desperate measures and so Tibby slams the force of her mind against Handbag/Eileen’s. There's no other choice, she has to take her mind.

As she focuses all her effort on the securing of Eileen’s bag. Her grip on her other felines falters and as her control slips.. the feral cats become.. even more feral.

When left to their own devices, feral cats do what feral cats do: they disappear.

Or maybe they’re taking a page from Tibby and Alister’s playbook.

The choking fumes of the tear gas have everyone in the loading dock retreating deeper into the warehouse. It fills noses and mouths, and the newly dense air with the sound of retching.

Sylvester vomits onto his shoes. He’ll have time to reflect on whether or not they’re salvageable later. Right now, the only thing that matters is getting away.

He seizes Astrid by the arm, hauling her deeper into the warehouse, away from the roiling smoke. Her grip on the ocelot’s leash loosens, grows slack— Tibby feels the tension release at the same time Handbag does.

She’s free.

As he’s backing away, Astrid’s elbow in one hand, rifle in the other, Sylvester kicks over an oil drum positioned close to the loading dock’s rolling doors. Its contents spill out onto the concrete and leak out into the street, flowing in a fast, dark wave beneath the truck parked there.

He needs to put something between himself and Astrid, and the force of nature that is Etienne Saint James.

A wall of flame will do nicely. It doesn’t matter that Carl is still standing right there, about to get his feet wet.

Sylvester swings his rifle back up again, takes aim at the drum and—

A flash of light and sound erupts, engulfing the warehouse’s facade and the truck outside, which ignites in a secondary explosion heard all the way on the other side of the island. Heat licks at the back of Alister’s neck and sends Tibby’s hair floating. Pieces of shrapnel break the few windows on the street that don’t implode in the initial blast.

One of the truck’s tires crashes into the road up ahead of the convertible, causing Alister to bear a hard left on the steering wheel as he swerves out of the way and goes careening up onto the curb. A fleeing trafficker gets dragged under his front bumper with a crack and a scream.

Carl and Etienne do not fare as well.

It takes several moments for the former to gather his bearings from where he’s been thrown clear of the explosion. The first thing he notices is that debris is raining down from the sky, and that where the truck once sat, a dark plume of smoke furls up, up, up.

It’s dark, either because the sun went down when no one was paying attention to it, or because the soot and smog blocks it out entirely.

Etienne’s body lies nearby, prone, bent at an awkward angle but breathing.

There is no sign of Sibyl Black or the suitcase containing the $10,000 in unmarked cash.

This is all kind of insane. Everyone is fighting everyone, and people are screaming at everyone, and everything is just kind of insane and awful, and Carl really just wants to get a shot in at Sylvester.

His eyes go wide as his target kicks the oil drum over, as he aims, and his own rifle goes up, aiming a shot —

And then everything goes even more insane, and up is down and the same the other way around, and he’s being thrown by a big explosion, and then there’s kind of a blank space between when he’s flying through the air and when he regains his wits, reaching a hand to rub a bit of blood from his face, its source a cut. There’s a lot of other cuts everywhere but over his chest, and his head hurts a bit, but he’s in one piece.

Coughing, Carl sits up, glancing about. Man, if he had been in one of his other faces, he might not have fared so well, but Carl is tough. He was a good grab. Green eyes skim the aftermath of the explosion, squinting against the darkness from the soot and smog and smoke.

Well, this won’t do at all.

Beneath the whine in his ears: the sounds of crackling fire. Smells of exhaust. Of blood. Etienne realises quickly that this last one is his own, coating his mouth, oozing from a nostril.

His rifle has been knocked out of his hands, so he braces himself flat palmed against concrete as he eases painfully onto his knees. Realises, in his stupor, that his sleeve is on fire with a delicate lick of persisting flame eating into leather, and a few almost lazily slaps of his hand dulls it out into embers. The radio that had been, a moment before, bleating Alister's commands beneath the heavier sounds of automatic gunfire is silent, broken, left behind as he gets to his feet.

The rest have fallen back. The wall of flame currently burning away does just enough to guard against invasion after where Sylvester, Astrid, and a handful of fortunate footmen made their retreat; but not enough to satisfy Alister's hunger to turn the giant concrete meat packing plant into cinders.

And the rest have scattered as surely as Tibby's feral felines.

Etienne does not give a second glance to Carl, but as Carl scopes around, he may be able to just see him; a broad shouldered figure in the smog, stooping to collect up his rifle by the strap, and then disappeared as he moves for the street. He may not be able to retrieve for Alister Black his perfect victory.

But there is something he can pursue.

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