5082/I Liked You Better When You Were Dead

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I Liked You Better When You Were Dead
Date of Scene: 08 February 2021
Location: Port of New York, NYC
Synopsis: SHIELD investigates a theft of prototype materials at the Port of NY. Things get explosive.
Cast of Characters: Jane Foster, Sam Wilson, James Rhodes, Jethro Glass

Jane Foster has posed:
The Containerport serving New York City looks like a Lego kit increased to a macro scale. A rainbow of shipping containers abuts the harbour and rivers pouring into the Atlantic, overseen by hulking red and white striped cranes that dwarf even the seagoing cargo ships nestled against concrete docks. From a distance, the myriad Panamax ships and tankers look like toys, but the true scale only becomes obvious when a forklift or a sailor can be seen crawling over the deck like an ant. Behind the various shoreside apparati, the tangled maze of large crates fill the terminals, bisected by wandering roads and paths.

For all there is order here, there is also madness. For all there is frantic activity in some quarters, others are practically static and uninhabited.

Winter brings snow and ice to the corrugated shipping containers and crates stacked several high, forming ominous levelled walkways and blind spots where cameras can't track.

It's cold, windy, and utterly unpleasant. That chill drives people to do their work and get back inside the comfort of an office, cargo hold, or vehicle as soon as possible. Great cover for a blind attack by day, albeit early. It's not much past dawn, the winter light watery, and only one unfortunately overlooked camera identifies a breach of a periphery system. The security guard assigned to monitor this misses it for his coffee, and not for half an hour will it be reported that visuals and one infrared side-scan saw six people head into an area of materiel bound for South Korea. The crates don't appear much on manifests except by weight with a core package of stickers and digital exemptions from declaring much of what's in there, partly because of the industrial and technology conglomerates dealing with them, earning protection of several US agencies and Seoul. Weapons that don't belong in foreign hands.

By the time someone takes notice, they've lost an idea of where those six people are. They've only got the silent, crying alarms and a tangled security system, shut down and cut off, leaving them blind. Next stop? SHIELD.

Sam Wilson has posed:
"Alright, rookie," Sam Wilson says with a sigh over his built-in comms system, "time to find out how well that training's gonna pay off for you. I'm assuming you've had plenty of practice keeping up with aerial targets--at least with Rhodes." He chuckles softly, soaring above the port.

A moment later, Sam's Falcon wings lift back and he alights on one of the taller stacks of containers. "Having trouble getting access to the security feed. Six targets in play ... whenever we can find them."

James Rhodes has posed:
Newly minted SHIELD agent, and already getting calls to go...figure out what is going on at a container port. While Sam has landed on the roof of a container, it would seem James has taken up a much higher perch. He's got more technological toys to play with that might help with spotting anyways. He flicks on to the Avengers comms channel for a moment to ask, <<Think it was mean of us not to have someone ride with the new guy?>> before he goes back to general comms and speaks up, "War Machine on station, going to do some IR recon to see if I can pick up heat signatures. If they're human we should see them."

War Machine himself is up in the clouds, out of visual sight of the containers his group is focusing on. He adds, "Also deploying drone to scope things out on ground level. Don't shoot it out of the sky, or Tony Stark WILL charge you for it." Probably more likely he'll charge Rhodey, but no need for the new guy to know that right now.

Jethro Glass has posed:
     Jethro is dressed head to toe in a white camouflage uniform. He's got a heavy rifle on his back that's had its sides replaced with white camo panels to match and is bundled up to the nines for warmth.

     One look at him shows a stance that's got a good deal of comfort in the wilds on the edge of society more so then the midst of these snow covered jungles of steel containers.

     "Afeered I's gonna fall ahind?" His gravel filled voice calls back over the coms as already he's climbing his way to a higher vantage point, his eyes on the open as he dots along like a wild animal in the forest.

     The way that he scampers leaves little to no sound on that frostbitten day as he keeps his stands low to the ground, his scoped rifle on his back and his eyes on the prize ahead. For a man on the ground he does an amicable job of keeping up with falcon jumping from one container to the next.

     His mind goes back to the ruined city of Al Gordan. The snow fades from his view as he bounds from one half collapsed structure to the next, scuttering along between cover like a ghost his clothes keeping him warm in the midst of the chaos.

     Vision narrows further as he throws himself into a slide underneath a precariously placed crate sliding into cover as he lowers himself into place pulling out a pair of thermal imaging binoculars to get a better view of things. One hand holding onto the high powered rifle in his offhand.

Jane Foster has posed:
The low-hanging clouds bring the benefit of coverage at the cost of cold and wind. Up there is a constant fight to stay aloft and not knocked around by a driving, chilly breeze promising snow. If not for modifications built into said suit, War Machine would be more Snowcone Machine. No other surveillance on high except what he and Falcon have shot skyborne exists within sensory range except for the planes headed to JFK and Newark.

On the ground, matters are peculiarly still. Sounds of an active port echo in the distance, the hydraulics of the cranes, squeals of metal grating on metal. The perpetual slap of the sea drowns out any voices. However they might be communicating here, the team infiltrating the sea-crate labyrinth mustn't be speaking up much. Little immediately meets the eye as being off. Heaps of "Atlantic International" branded shipping containers rise and fall, no more than five high per safety standards. They generally look closed and undamaged, a few rusting and aged from their time in service. But that's to be expected. The air smells faintly of smoke and rust, thin fumaroles rising here and there.

Prints in the snow are few, rimed in ice, showing where workers or security went past. Some treadmarks indicate the somewhat recent pass of a forklift, but the ice filling the impressions suggest this isn't in the last hour or two.

It might be the only signs of movement are the SHIELD team themselves on the ground, the careening slide from Jethro ominously loud and echoing down the labyrinthine byways. Those paths twist and turn in geometric forms that would make an excellent lair for the snake from that old mobile phone game. But there's a lonely silence to it all, as if the world collectively holds its breath.

Sam Wilson has posed:
"Well, can you blame me?" Sam asks over the SHIELD channel. "I just figured ol' rocket-legs would be the quickest of us, and I'm prone to being the smoothest, so..."

He quickly switches to the Avengers channel. "I guess you could ask Stark to install a bucket seat or something in that flying tank suit if you really want to be /that/ guy."

Sam looks around, adjusting his goggles to flip through several readout screens. "Heat signatures and electromagnetic signatures both, although I'm not finding much of either ..." He pauses a moment before adding, "... and that smoke doesn't seem to be ordinary, while we're at it." Information about the identified fumaroles is sent to the others, including an image of one crate door that seems to be ajar.

"I guess this bird's wings are gonna be clipped, aren't they?" Sam sighs and drops down into the maze of shipping containers. "Either of you see anything or anyone--be ready to take 'em out."

James Rhodes has posed:
<<I mean, /I/ don't feel /bad/ about it...>> War Machine replies, before he frowns at what he is seeing...or...not seeing on his scopes. "That's actual smoke from real fires, or flares it looks like. Messing with my infrared right now. But, I can see two individuals. One looks like the security officer, down by his vehicle. The other is trying to do some Spiderman nonsense and cutting the lock on one of the containers. I'll send coordinates." Which, he promptly does. He then checks a couple of other things on his suit, and turns a little, keeping his high altitude orbit going.

"I'm not getting anything other than scrambled up here. Gonna see if I can't get visual if I dip under the clouds." War Machine tells the group, and then descends through the cloud line, to see if that might clear things up for him and his spotting. He mutters a few more curses and then asks, "JARVIS, any way we can dial up resolution on my cameras on that guy cutting the lock?"

Jethro Glass has posed:
     Jethro's face is almost completely covered by that overly thick winter mask of his, those eyes hidden by the strip of black cloth with two small holes cut for his eyes allowing him to feel safe and secure in the cold air. He listens for the echo hearing it bound from one wall to the next. They're in the lion's den and at any moment could come face to face with the opposition.

     He looks across the ship scanning from one side to the other. "Rocket, gottsa look thatn up." He speaks under his breath making a mental note though through context clues he can tell that the legs of that flying hunk of metal must be rockets. "Sir, Yes sir." He smirks lightly under that mask.

     Then he spots the smoke through his binoculars looking real close for a long moment, before hooking them back onto his belt and lowering his suppressed rifle down into his grasp.

     He peaks through the scope and looks to see if he can't get a better eye on what the other two are talking about. "Lookin if I can't catch line on these varmints." He leans down into position adjusting his scope with care as he settles down into position.

     The rifle rests up against his shoulders scope up against his goggles. Jethro takes his time zeroing in on target breathing slown down to a crawl as he scans that horizon for the images just sent his direction.

     He can hear the thrum of the Rockets high above in the air, the chirp of a bird on a distant branch. Further off the rumble of traffic and a distant carhorn as two individuals skid to a halt just barely missing one another. The grinding of metal on metal as the wind catches an open container door pushing it back and forth, the sounds of the urban jungle fading soon to.

     He can't get visual, and lifts from that spot on the snow moving camp. Despite being on foot, and in spite of the massive network of crates he's making fairly good time moving from one spot to the next. Each time taking pause just a quick moment to see if he can line up a visual before moving towards the next.

Jane Foster has posed:
Swift movements loosen a metal bolt from the protective sea locks that would keep the crate shut. A flare of white-hot light emanating through the IR scans by Falcon and War Machine isn't large, a pinprick that winks out once he cuts through the dense rod. With nothing more to hold it in place, the door easily swings open with a nudged kick. As soon as it's ajar wide enough for a very skinny man, the thief performs an acrobatic kip of the kind used by mountain climbers to crawl past an overhanging lip. He's in, shrouded in darkness.

Two more disturbances take the form of quiet, whispering trails through the air. They come at a low angle, propelled by low-burst charges that send a device not much bigger than a hockey puck slaloming across the open space. Falcon's the first to pick these up, though Jarvis gives an excellent view of the faint little smoky contrails. The "pucks" collide with the corrugated sides of the shipping crate and latch on, not just toppling to the ground. They don't glow, boring tin-grey attachments easily overlooked by the much bigger object.

The smoky air smelling faintly of ozone, purely accidental, right?

Sam Wilson has posed:
Sam cautiously approaches the identified crate, his hand hovering over the firearm holstered on his hip. "Hey," he whispers into the comms, "you guys hear--"

His question is interrupted by the sound of the pucks striking and latching onto the shipping container sides. "Never mind," Sam mutters. "I got this."

Sam leaps forward, throwing his body feet-first into a cave-like formation of shipping containers stacked in an irregular manner. The sounds of kicking and punching follow.

And then, bursting out of the cave, is the Falcon. He's clutching an enemy by the chest and neck as he soars out and up into the air. That enemy? Sam Wilson.

Garbled sounds of the struggle can be heard, faintly, over the SHIELD channel.

James Rhodes has posed:
"Jarvis give me a weapons lock on whoever you can get. Baddie of course." Rhodey says into his comms, hoping that Sam and Jethro have their IRR system turned on. He then says, "I want to put some flack on the guy breaking that lock, let's make him worry about what he's up to." He dives a little lower, and then, out of his shoulder pops a 20mm cannon, set with timed munitions. He's not trying to kill the guy, not outright, but he definitely wants to scare him off of the cargo container, "Let's light him up!" And then, the gun starts firing. It is not pinpoint accurate -- he doesn't want that -- but it is going to make that person's life loud and scary.

Jethro Glass has posed:
     Jethro stops on the spot when the two go flying high into the air. He drops down towards the ground and shoulders his rifle. Raising it up he takes aim slowing his breath. His scope follows the pair as they twist and turn through the sky.

     From his perspective the entire world seems to slow. He can taste the direction of the wind as the flakes of snow freeze mid air a thousand mathematical calculations flooding through his brain as eyes narrow thin through the lenses of his goggles.

     It's an almost impossible shot with two identical figures, but if there was one thing that One Hit Wonder was known for it was impossible shots. He holds his breath slowing his heart-rate to an almost stop the flow of his blood slowing with it as the world slows to a crawl even further.

     The light of the world dims around his target as he closes his non-dominant eye looking through the glow of his simplistic scope.

     Fwift. A plume of smoke erupts from the end of his rifle as the weapon discharges a single round out the end of the rifle. The suppressor does its duty admirably hiding the initial sound of the explosion behind a series of baffled chambers, the flash almost nonexistent as the smoke drifts off to one side the bullet spinning round and round through the air propelled by black powder.

     The subsonic round spins and spins retaining its velocity as it slams towards the duplicate the round itself tipped with a SHIELD special designed for disabling rather than traditional killing stopping power. The wonders of modern technology.

Jane Foster has posed:
Strange things happen all the time in New York. It's New York. But over the crowded terminal, away from the waterfront in Atlantic International's crate farm, seeing a man fight himself has to count as particularly strange. What's it like for a non-twin to punch himself in the face or take a knee? The two of them airborne have similar skillsets, and the Bad Sam grabs at one of the wing-pack straps if he can. Anything to yank his other self off course, forcing them up or spiralling away at speed.

Two other visible targets remain: the guy in black sliding into a shipping crate, and the person stalking out from the complex of crates aligned to make a narrow deep 'cave' with a fire burning within an adjacent container. The latter slinks low, raising a black revolver to fire at Jethro since he's the clearest target on a windy day. That the gunperson is trained is without question, using the corrugated tin walls for cover between shots and dropping low, moving light and swift to the next perch.

The lanky guy inside the shipping container is no doubt about to do something when the door behind him becomes perforated with shots and the rattle-fire of open guns. Rhodey's salvo sends him flying onto his belly inside the crate, scrambling for protection. It's deafening in there, and he shouts incoherently, hands over his ears.

The pucks on the sides are silent and harmless for another thirty seconds until one goes off with a burst of ozone and the other, fatally pierced by a bullet, is an excellent magnet on a crate. The crackle of electricity from the first has a weird chemical flash, bright green-yellow.

More problematic is the blast from inside the crate. The burst that goes off fries out the electrical and comm systems in its wake. Something else bursts out through the side of the occupied shipping crate, sparks and impressive fiery trails going airborne. One of the 'fireworks' is anything but, a glowing pellet that detonates close enough to Rhodey to warrant full defensive systems. If they're awake. The jarring shockwave sends things spinning wildly askew for any regular device, and he's just inside the outer range to get tagged.

Then there are the Sams...

Sam Wilson has posed:
The Falcons spin in tight spirals around one another, with one of the two gaining the upper hand by wrenching the other's harness off-course.

But then, Jethro's round strikes the advantageous Sam, who immediately lets go of the harness as he falls limp. The fall becomes one of free-fall as his own wings no longer have any pilot guiding them.

The off-course Sam quickly regains control of his own equipment and performs a loop in the air to dive down toward his subdued opponent.

"Thank you!" Sam shouts through the comms, racing gravity to try and grab his twin. It's a close call--but he manages to reach out with one hand and snag the back of the other's harness before twisting his body to direct his wings out and up, supported by the suit's thrusters.

The two men end up scraping along the concrete, the conscious Sam's wings positioning themselves almost like a parachute to slow the men down. While it works, the Falcon retracts his wings, dropping his unconscious opponent, and tucks his legs in for a series of somersaults and rolls until he stops.

Breathing heavily, Sam looks over at ... himself. "Good news," he heaves. "I'm OK. Bad ... news ... whew. This is the most handsome criminal I've ever seen."

James Rhodes has posed:
A LOUD curse comes from Rhodey over the comms as he is hit by whatever it was that was fired at him. It seems to have fried some of his electronics, and some of his propulsion, "I gotta pull back for a minute, get some of my systems on line..." he calls over the comms, and then turns and burns as best he can up into the clouds, deploying chaff and flares as he goes in case something more sinister has locked onto him.

Jethro Glass has posed:
     Jethro spins round as he's struck, it knocks him off balance sending him falling backwards into the freshly fallen snow. It's a surprise that knocks him completely off guard having been preoccupied with assisting his fellow soldier in the field. The only bright side is that it takes him out of the line of sight of whoever that mysterious stranger was that was blasting away with their revolver.

Jane Foster has posed:
Somewhere over the functioning comms, SHIELD calls out. "Falcon, this is Agent Loren. Do you read me? We've got bad visuals and need to know whether to dispatch medical teams on standby."

The same echoed relay comes a second later from one Agent Vale to Rhodey. "War Machine, confirm you are stabilized?"

Open evacuation routes probably aren't a necessity but Jarvis loads them up anyway. Mapped visuals overlay the HUD to demonstrate at least where they are headed, including the pinging red dot for the exploded crate. Just in case.

Hard to say if anyone is coming out from the suspicious crate in question. Going in, not so much. The third person on the team taking shots at Jethro doesn't need to be told twice: they duck and run while the flack and chaos fills the air.

Sum total? Two caught, one running, and that leaves three bogeys for later. A dead guard with arm outstretched in the snow, reaching for a hope that won't come. The unseen soul hovers in the cold, taking a last look over the smoke rising into a turbulent grey sky, the spectacular descent of a warbird, the brilliant shot of a rifleman, the delirious save of a war machine.

<<I swear... I tried. Didn't see it coming, but I tried to stop them. It wasn't all in vain?>>

Beside him, an equally invisible presence pauses, searching for words. When they come, she smiles. <<No. Life never is.>>