5087/All Quiet in the Western Bronx

From Heroes Assemble MUSH
Jump to navigation Jump to search
All Quiet in the Western Bronx
Date of Scene: 09 February 2021
Location: Ministry, The Bronx
Synopsis: A battle royale is about to begin for the soul, a life, and Hell.
Cast of Characters: Meggan Puceanu, Jacqueline Falsworth, Anthony Druid, John Constantine, Amora, Julio Richter

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Ministry doesn't feature on any lists of New York's best nightlife. It doesn't have the prominence of 1Oak for dancing or the Hellfire Club for rich people. Those in the know are a select bunch, largely drawn from minority and immigrant communities. Latino, Black, South American, Filipino: they all come for the top-notch music, hedonistic spirit, and something fleeting and rare in their lives. An impression of wealth and importance for those so often forgotten draws them in. The culture surrounding the undisputed high priest of excess involves beautiful women and well-dressed gentlemen caught up in the seductive thrill of alcohol, drugs, and music.

For that's what Ministry caters to. The worshippers of the revel, caught up in the dusk 'til dawn party that ends only when it matters. Prayers and homage paid to their own beauty and youth makes up for all those other forgettable indiscretions under sparkling lights on the dance floor.

But the two-storey building stuffed deep in the Bronx isn't labeled, an off-limits space without invitation. If you aren't in the know, finding it requires legwork. A lot of it, in fact.

An Asgardian vision gives some assistance to that end, details given from Amora's nightmare probably useful.

There's the page sketched out with a date back in November from Sister Caterina, removed from one of the ubiquitous sketchbooks she harbours in her room. Its forgettable shape almost exactly resembles the details Jacqueline saw when trying to approach the party house from the Astral Realm before Itztlacoliuhqui appeared and barred her way.

Julio had word of its whereabouts, confirmed by a shaman-priest of Tlaloc at Millbrook Community Centre. Of places where lucky migrant workers go, if they pass muster with Winter Santos, a DJ with a string of accolades and a fuckton of money.

Together it takes a hell of a lot of walking to track down the anonymous structure set among so many forgettable buildings. Most are boarded up if not covered in graffiti. Fewer places are intact and occupied than not. A place where, if the guess is right, a young woman went missing. Not the first, not the last.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline Falsworth does *not* fit the profile of this club's demographics. Her family has had a Hellfire Club membership for demographics. But she doesn't generally take advantage of it, either. Not since her apparent death back in '95. Still, it's on the books. Somewhere.

But here? No. Here is foreign territory to her. She's not dressed for the club, either. Because, really? She's just not going to blend in. Strawberry blonde hair. Blue eyes. A posh London accent. There's no way anyone inside will mistake her for a local. But that doesn't mean she's not going to get in, nonetheless.

She wears her Spitfire suit simply because it has padding and provides a light form of armour. Especially at speed. And it's speed she's going to use now. A blur of movement and a flash of spitfire trailing her follows her about the building as she scopes out entrances, cameras, personnel placements and more. She even breaches the the perimeter and tries to get a brief look inside... all before returning to where she started to decide on the best way to approach what she saw.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid wears a slimming black turtleneck under a broad shouldered jacket, a pair of black round-lensed sunglasses perched on his prominent nose. His beard is sculpted carefully as he steps in, a cigarette holder in one hand. He's playing the part of the bon vivant, which isn't always precisely untrue. Druid has always walked a fine line between ascetisism and hedonism, deprivation and excess. Both can create ecstasy. Both can lead to wisdom. Not every path needs to be walked, but Druid can't help but take a few steps along any that come his way.

He keeps his senses expanded, drinking in his surroundings and keeping his awareness open in case of unexpected disruption. Or does he expect something? Hard to say where Anthony Druid walks. A few patrons recognize him and receive brief autographs and selfies with the smiling mentalist, but, beyond that, he doesn't create much stir.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine's a half-block off, wearing his overcoat and Flora's face. The magus is trying to smoke, which is largely a challenge considering that Flora is very much NOT a smoker. The addiction is clearly as much mental as physical at this point.

When Jacqueline returns to contemplate the options, he runs his fingers through Flora's dishevelled hair and re-binds the black strands into a messy ponytail.

"Right, well, no Snidely Whiplash blokes standing around talking about human sacrifice, that's inconvenient," he quips. "In this case, I say we just go in and start kicking over nests to see what gets the hornets angry. Want to come in, or linger out here when I start screaming with the whole maiden in distress bit?" Constantine grins at Jacqueline and starts walking towards the club, flicking the discarded cigarette butt into a gutter as he goes.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Jacqueline's surveillance reveals a compound of abandoned buildings and two barely occupied, clinging to existence by their graffiti-soaked fingertips. Cameras guard the entrances and exits of the Ministry, of which there are three: the front door, a back door behind bars, and a fire escape to nowhere headed to the roof. A detached block is empty, vacant businesses boarded up and an ancient shoe store sign crooked above a chained-up door. Faded posters and a condemned sign from 2019 lies under thick paint. On the opposite side is a cheap smoke shop selling mostly porn mags and cigarettes, and a struggling property management office under vacant apartments. Other than a dismal light in the smoke shop, there's nothing by way of movement or open signs of interest. Just the club.

Ministry's entrance isn't attainable without approaching a bouncer and a stony portico that splits the foyer in two. Paths lead presumably to the same place, a cavernous interior rather than little rooms turned over to a private club. Music drips out: beating techno and saccharine pop vocals remixed with fade out and Spanish lyrics that sync up to heady base. There's no line and red carpet, no black painted line on the cracked curb. The bouncer lurks in the deep vestibule. Speakers rattle from inside, projecting an air of vibrant intensity down to the bone, cutting perfection.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
When one finds it damned near impossible to die -- Jacqueline hasn't managed it yet, after all -- one tends to get a little cavalier with one's personal safety. As a twentieth century woman, Lady Jacqueline Falsworth-Critchon was a model of high society patience, grace, and elegance in public. And an iron willed matriarch in the board room. Now, in the twenty-first century, she keeps up appearances in the boardroom, but not to the same degree in her personal life or as Spitfire. A little recklessness can go a long way. Impulsiveness even further. Thus, as John asks his impertinent question, she silently apologizes to the horrified Brother Theo who still lurks in her head (the Ministry is definitely NOT a place for the old Jesuit), and flashes the sorcerer-in-a-medium's body a bit of a feral grin.

"Oh, by all means," she tells him. "Let's go stir up the hornets, shall we? I could do with a good scrap." She winks. "I'll even give you a two minute head start." Only because her out-of-place Brit look will distract from his Flora-as-a-Latina-in-distress look. It's not like she won't be there in a heartbeat, anyway.

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid has become more than familiar with the lingering bouquet of Constantine's spiritual presence, a miasma of ethereal essence at once both fetid and potent. He's known more than a few old Jesuits in his own time and found most of them to be surprisingly libertine for men dedicated to a life of labor and prayer.

As for doormen, he has wealth, fame and the mesmeric ability to make the man turn the other cheek and open the velvet rope. He isn't likely to be denied, although he can't help but feel a little old given the current environs. Ah, well. He may have matured, but it seems much of the pleasure of youth remains the same.

John Constantine has posed:
Constantine's approaches tend to share a common denominator: whatever's easiest. A slight-framed Hispanic woman steps up to the main door and slips the bouncer a $20. A little chatter, some coy flirting, and Constantine maneuvers into the building with little celebration or remark.

The magus finds a side door that's unattended and disables the door alarm, then props it open with a business card to keep the lock from re-engaging behind him. Flora's face turns towards Jacqueline's last location and a bird whistle floats over the breeze, audible likely only to the speedster with the enhanced senses.

Flora takes the time it requires for Spitfire to arrive to dig out a new cigarette from Constantine's jacket pocket and a lighter with it.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Anthony will be disappointed, then, for the Jesuit overlaid and wrapped up in Jacqueline's tarnished aura glows a steady pale cyan tinged in a rim of silver. No fetid stink, no sins scorched black and red. Other than the damage of being entrapped in a soulcage and deprived of his body, Brother Theodore Faneuil is what it says on the tin: a man living more in the sacred than the secular. His disapproval radiates in faint waves among Jacqueline's thoughts, concentrated where he at least won't plague her concentration too much. That said, he can hardly shut down and go to sleep when sleep is a conscious-physical function.

John-in-Flora has to cross the whole of the dance floor and head deeper still to find the only other door: the back one scoped out by Jacqueline, wrapped in bars. A Mediterranean woman barely over five feet and change won't be too stymied getting past the clouds of smoke and mist stirred up around drinkers laughing on couches. That little adventure grows more difficult when past dancers thronging under speakers pointed over the main open space below. Lounging men -- mostly Hispanic in extraction -- occupy the back hallway leading out to that solitary entrance, and it's them that he has to thread past with no more space than the typical aisle. Other than a set of restrooms and a stairwell headed to the upstairs loft, there aren't any exits to speak of except wherever the hall dead-ends after doglegging, and an unescorted woman isn't getting past them without some kind of sharp look, a smirk, a reflexive move.

"Where you going? Don't recall you getting no invitation," says one, and that turns the attention of the hounds to the scent of fresh meat. Don't take it personal, for there's something in the cool air and vibrating techno vibes that invokes the darker shades of the world.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline is beside Flora in less than a heartbeat, the card in the latch fluttering in the wind behind her. "Gents," she says with a smile, taller than the Latina body Constantine wears. "Allow me to present our invitation, yes?" Her eyes grow black and her smile turns decidedly sharp. She gives them no time to react, however, before she's streaking down the hall, pushing heads violently into walls and into each other. Oh, she's merciful enough not to hit them hard enough to kill. But she fully intends to leave them senseless.

She glances to Flora, when a moment to presents itself. "This place smells and sounds like that dance hall in the aether. I'm sure we're in the right spot." Not to mention the cultural clues. "Do let's open the door, shall we?"

Anthony Druid has posed:
Anthony Druid tries to radiate as much cool as a TV host in his fifties can manage, although his tantric expertise does give him a certain frequency of vibration that vibes with certain types regardless of his vintage. He winces a bit at Jacqueline's violent tendencies, but shrugs a bit. Probably inevitable.

"I really do need to put some effort into studying Spanish. The romance languages just didn't have my intersection with my fields of study," he says and, holding out a be-ringed hand, he telekinetically shifts the doors open to give them passage.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Ministry throbs with sound and colour.

John Constantine hidden in Flora's body ends up being bodily grabbed by a pair of bouncers alerted to the problem of a speedster vanishing off the security cameras relatively speaking. No matter how cocky a 5-foot-something warlock in a medium's body might be, the strength or leverage will not match two people endowed with power from authority, fitness, and a healthy dose of magical reinforcement. Their mates lying sprawled against the corridor leading towards the back will take longer than not to recover, but the pair throw John through an entryway and haul him away.

Anthony Druid stands out, and he might not prefer the manhandling. Telekinetically shoving open doors is a fine way to discover a pair of women entwined, scantily clad, staring up at him from their couch from that lounge room of sorts. One of them flips the bird. The other makes a disgusted noise, accompanied by flinging her drink at him. The bottle twirls end over end, enough to hopefully make him backpeddle for his own safety. That puts another off the board when a larger dancer slams into him with a purpose, forcing him back. The dancers in the central dance hall are just too thick to keep him easily together, separating him by practically moving in a living mass to the DJ's summons in the control booth. Music tips up, louder, and they throw their hands in the air, cutting off a view. Just a club in dark, exquisite candor.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Jacqueline, then, is left with a clattering mess of toughs pulling themselves up from the wall if they can at all. The noise warrants attention from upstairs where the rough staircase leads to the exclusive open loft, the spiral contained within the 'ruins' of rough brick and industrial metal. She's bought precious seconds for herself to look about quickly.

That dead end of a hall she ran to leads into a closed room. Doors guarded, wrought with some kind of graffiti-streaked brick motif that's all the rage in industrial dance clubs. Some of it has arcane meaning, but without reading Nahuatl, it's mostly just scratchings of Aztec design featuring weird shapes, a man in a leopard-skin outfit, a broom or a whip or an atlatl in hand. Hard to pick out, but it's there. The shimmering cries of the dancers answering the beat don't make it easy to hear anything beyond.

Amora has posed:
"Are you certain this Leena is to be found here?"

Amora looks like a true queen of the night, at least for the tastes of an EDM club, all glitter, short gown and heels that make the already tall Asgardian tower over almost anyone within the place. Bouncers beware! And of course that the tiara is in place, ever-present in that emerald color. And while her tone might be one of full disinterest about Leena there is a keen observance from her eyes, a tenseness in her shoulders. She knows something about this place.

"I have been here in the past." She tells Julio. "Or rather, my mind was." whatever that means. "Might be good to be careful."

Bouncers? She won't even care. She offers them her best smile and perhaps even lightly chuckling if she sees any of the League being tossed out of the club. "Use your magic. If there's a keenness to her you might be able to find the girl." and she does the same, focusing, gesturing subtly with one hand as she tries to look for traces of magic in the club, or from where they emanate.

Julio Richter has posed:
Fortunately for whichever of their allies remain in action, the cavalry just arrived. In contrast to his traveling companion, Julio Richter isn't much to look at in ordinary terms: just a fit young Latino in tattered jeans and a parka, whose fur-lined hood he brings up over his head as he strides across the threshold into the club.

To those with third eyes to see, however, Rictor is a blinding beacon of magical power, pulsing and otherworldly, but filtered through his home domain of Earth magic like a klieg light blazing through a forest canopy. Tendrils of vines growing preternaturally quickly try to trail him into the club. (Now there's someone for the bouncers to card.) As his hood shades his face, Julio's eyes blaze with green light, even in the mundane realm. "If her power touches the Earth, I will find it," he says with confidence.

There's a passenger in the back of his head, scared out of his wits but eager to strike back against his tormentors, and Julio is partly putting on this swaggering show for his benefit. And partly because, with his magic juiced to its maximum potential by the heart of the eldritch horror, he really is feeling eager for a fight.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline spends a fraction of those few seconds regarding the graffiti that dances on that door. <<I don't suppose you know anything about this, do you, Brother?>> She queries the preist in her mind lightly. She doubts he'll have much to say, but she's been surprised before. His knowledge is broader than she would have expected of a priest.

She's not in the most patient of moods, tonight, and the guards are starting to pick themselves up. She doesn't want to have to put them down again, so she decides that -- unless Brother Theo tells her not to -- she's going to try opening that door. She's pretty sure, whatever's behind it, is what they're here to find.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
<<Regrettably no, ma'am,>> the Jesuit buried in Jacqueline's mind exudes sorrow on that. <<Mesoamerican, mid-fifteenth to seventeenth century. Quite faithful to the source material, from what I can see. Your vision is marvellous.>> Compared to Brother Theodore's usual rheumy vision of a near octogenerian, he benefits considerably. <<Should you humour an old man, I would not touch them. They are presumably a risk.>>

Amora has posed:
The Asgardian lifts one slender hand, glancing about until it focuses on the second floor. "Up there." she notes, "It is where the focus of power is coming from. Which may mean it's where the girl is. Or where we will find our gentle host." a shrug, "One or the other, fine with me."

A glamour is then cast so as to aid her natural attraction. One to help them 'part the seas' that is that dance floor. "Come along." she beckoning with a fingertip and starting to make a beeline through to reach the other side where they may just get into contact with Jac if all goes well.

And if the dancers part ways to let her past.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
The Ministry is dark. Why spend money on lights when they can spend it on a ridiculously good sound system that shakes the two-storey building converted into a temple to music and brazen worship of all things dark, harsh, and glorious? Dancers might be likely to crowd around Amora rather than give her a berth, welcoming her into their boundless appreciation for the beat. Those who don't drink at the many lounges dance, and those who can't dance at least sway and groove. Appreciative looks cast her way don't make up for the fact the dance floor is itself fairly crowded, and cutting through is a slow process. When the magic swirls around her to earn a beckons, the DJ salivates and others are stricken, eager to follow.

Nothing natural about that.

Julio isn't neglected either, plenty of smiling faces and raised arms giving him a throng to work through. His power more likely attracts than repels the majority of the partiers, suggesting they lack the means to see what he is. The green light effect in his eyes gets some puzzled stares, some snapped double-takes. "Woooo, spooky contacts!"

Overt malice might be better. Instead they're welcomed into the fold, and Daniel's vaguely horrified take on all this is nearly excited in a dark way. <<Whoa. This-- see, this is fancy. You gotta have money for this shit.>>

Julio Richter has posed:
"Si, I don't feel Leena," Julio answers Amora, his words spilling from his mouth and across his skin as little glowing traceries, like the edges of leaves, that are just barely visible in the darkness of his hood. "I sure as hell feel Winter, though." He tilts his head on the same angle as her pointing hand. He follows in her wake, leading with one shoulder so that he's facing outward warily as they shove through the crowd.

Still, the darkness is no problem for him, especially with the air thrumming with the bass vibrations that his mutant powers float through like they're warm salt water. He can /feel/ the people around him, the whorls and eddies they make in the sound. "I can make a ramp, if we don't feel like taking the stairs," he offers. "Say the word." Still, he'll be happy to work his way through the crowd in a friendly way until he can't anymore.

"I don't have money," he mutters to his passenger. "It's all about who you know." Amora is certainly someone to know.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
Jacqueline acknowledges the Jesuit with an apologetic inner smile. <<I may not have a choice, Brother. If the girl we seek is in behind there, then... that's where we must go. And even if she is not there, I suspect someone of import is there.>>

She inhales a fortifying breath -- just because she heals quickly doesn't mean she doesn't feel pain. Indeed, on some level, it's worse, since her body never reaches the stage of numbness that signals it's experienced too much pain. It's always healing itself away from that point.

She lays her hands on the door to open it. If it doesn't give easily, she applies her strength to it. One way or another, however, she's going through.

And as she does, a deep, bone chilling cold scrapes over her skin and settles into her marrow. It's enough to frost her over her skin and make her lips and fingertips turn blue. Almost enough to give a girl frostbite, in fact. Save, of course, for that superhealing that never quite lets it get that bad.

She leaves the doors open behind her, black pupils filling her eyes, removing any trace of iris or sclera, as she pulls back lips from elongated teeth, reacting to the cold and the curse that pushes against her and looks around at the room she's entered.

Amora has posed:
Amora takes in a breath. Silly mortals. But clearly the wrong choice of glamour. She shifts it to an aura of command but appears with little patient for being touched by these people, making a dismissive gesture with her hand to those she finds on her way. "Out of the way mortals, I have places to be." tone imperious, bolstered by her own spell.

She will continue on towards the other side if she can.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Jacqueline crossing the doorway means physically running into that door, forcing it bodily to give way. A lock defies her but persistence and strength give way. But not before the cold strikes another victim and leaves a black sheen coating Amora and Julio's Sight. Its chill, rapid presence proves rather like the astral plane in encountering the Aztec god of winter and punishment, but on a subdued scale. Just as Julio casting on behalf of a crocodile god isn't the same as the deity himself chomping someone.

A smash through leads into a room barely lit, fringed in bare brick walls and much-scrubbed concrete floors. A barred, locked door leads outside, the back of the Party House, matching what she already sussed out before on her peripheral run around the property. Barbed wire makes it that much less friendly. The industrial staircase opens to the side, and there's already someone taking up position, sighting down the spiral to shoot whatever comes this way. Other protections include an exciting little drain in the floor, a boxed wine left forgotten on a table, and a sign in Spanish insisting they take out the recyclables on Tuesday evenings -- or else!! Do your part, be earth smart! -- with a peculiar frowning emoji.

No chained maidens, no horrible monsters emerging from the pipes or a puddle.

Daniel is qualing inside Julio's head at mention of Winter, shrinking into a tiny grain as though he might pull himself free of the corrupting elder darkness and the danger therein. In Jacqueline's pain, the Jesuit tries to comfort her, murmuring soothing prayers as he would attend to the bodily cares of any worshipper. Even if it hurts him too, Theodore won't be distracted.

Amora keeps her entourage at a distance, but their disappointment is a palpable thing. A pulse of dismay and sorrow shines through them, those who fall back to dance and those who stand by the wayside watching. They still have cover from anyone on the far side of the Party House and the dance floor, for what it's worth.

Julio Richter has posed:
It's good that Amora is doing the magicking to get them through this crowd. If it were Julio's task, he'd just create twin walls of force and part them like the Red Sea. Part of him is still tempted to, but he'll follow her lead until that no longer seems viable. He's well aware he's not the brains of the operation here.

After a couple of seconds, though, his blazing eyes narrow in a wince. "Mierda. That felt /bad/," he says, voice a rumble of urgency. "No time to waste." And then he's rushing, sidling past Amora if he has to, diving through the crowd with his vibrational senses to guide him past the dull voids of bodies and through the rich harmonic pools between them. He throws one open hand out behind him: she can grab it if she wants. If, that is, her dignity will permit her to be pulled through a press of bodies like a freshman at her first punk rock show.

With or without her, Julio will catch up to Jacqueline and follow her through that warded door. Walls of force for bulldozing people, no good; but he will try to put up his own wards between her and the frost tearing at her: something to at least cushion the effect.

Jacqueline Falsworth has posed:
As Julio and Amora join her, Jacqueline glances briefly back over her shoulder to them. She flashes them a bit of a smile, mainly because she can sense just enough to know that the curse could have been worse without the young druid's attempt at interference. She breathes a soft thank you to the Jesuit in her mind, as well. Even still, there are ice crystals melting off her lashes and hair, the flush of her skin turned from blue to pink once again.

The dimness doesn't bother her. Her eyes are adapted to low light. She realizes, though, from the drain in the floor and the barbed wire spun around, that this room must get hosed out on occasion. Probably due to all the blood.

As the gunman takes up his position, the speedster gives a mild shrug. Bullets don't scare her. But she might scare him, when all he can see as he fires wildly, bullets sending up chips of brick, is a trail of blazing fire spiralling up the stairs before the semi-automatic in his hands is ripped from his hands and he is slammed up against the nearest wall.

Amora has posed:
Fine. Amora *allows* the contact, taking the man's hand but of course that she goes and comments. "You are always so eager, Julio." yes, she puts that little tease to her tone. For even in the realm of winter and death there is no denying her nature. She casts a look at Jac when they arrive near that door, the greeting the woman receives being a briefly raised brow.

"The source of power is upstairs. I advise caution from this point onwards." she says while the 'gang' nears the stairs to go up. Of course that she won't go first. Getting shot isn't in the plans! No matter that she is an Asgardian ... She is the feeble sorceress! They always stay back, right?

"Allow me." She then offers, a gesture as a staff materializes in her hand, gem on top. She gestures, the gem on the staff glowing before a large curtain envelops them. One invisible to scrutiny, of course. And keeping those inside it invisible as well to the outside. At least to more mundane sight.

"This will keep us out of sight." Or at least her and Julio, as Jac is already up there causing havoc with the gunmen.

And then it's time to go up, starting to go up the stairs to whatever may expect them on the other side, staff in hand.

Meggan Puceanu has posed:
Converging on that corner stairwell, the three of them enter into a miasma of darkness. Thrumming bass projected through speakers all over the dance floors muffles any reactions: the grunt, the groan of Jacqueline impacting him, bullets chirping and cracking. At close quarters, the unsilenced gun is loud, deafening even with the vibratiosn in the air.

Fire hangs there for an instant, making it possible to see the trail taken by Spirtfire as she runs the spiralled orbit up the tower. The second floor opens up from the rail guarding the landing to keep someone from toppling head-over-heels in a drunken row. Those safety measures might be questionable considering the horror show on display.

Dancers gathered in the middle stamp and twirl through what holds little in common with the clubbers downstairs. Another kind of dancing altogether calls to more primeval rituals when little separated ceremony and truth. Bare limbs wreathed in sweat and bare chests carved with small cuts and beautiful dyed patterns mark them, men and women both. Grass skirts add to the jeans, the teeny-tiny rompers, the ritual gear. They whirl in a leaping display of athleticism, a ring of people that crouch and jump. Someone shakes an obsidian rattle, another ululates in Spanish.

Here is power in action, the protective triple barrier nothing like the circles favoured by European magic. Styles here are intricate and elaborate, difficult to ascertain between the Nahuatl stonework, the technoshamanism that weaponizes sound into a physical barrier and something harder to trace. Weapons jammed into the ground at intervals could be suggestive of physical foci, but the complex web of energies spans to points in the ceiling, the dancers themselves engaged in ritualized blood-letting and maiming. All that expresses why signatures might have been dampened, coated in a tarry black darkness.

Whatever their purpose, a knot of dancers writhes around Winter Santos -- handsome, dark-haired, drinking from a beer bottle -- and a man with a coin pressed to his brow. His gaping throat smiles a red, red wound even in that poorly lit place.

Julio Richter has posed:
As they rush forward, Julio looks back and flashes an impish grin at Amora, lit by the gentle green glow that's emanating from him. "That's what they tell me," he says. "That didn't sound like a complaint, though."

He lets Spitfire deal with the gunman, but the bullets biting into nearby cinderblock prove Amora's caution more than well founded. Tucked beneath her concealing spell, he lifts his hands and creates one of his own: a wardwall, not unlike the ones he usually creates in the image of Tlaltecuhtli, but this one is a canted cross, wreathed in traced vines and leaves, shedding silent sparks. He holds the X-shield in front of him as he precedes Amora up the stairs, as hot on Jac's heels as it is physically possible for him to be.

As the ritual space comes into view, tendrils of brilliant verdant energy are curling out of every gap in his coat clothing, like he's Sleeping Beauty's thorn-enmeshed castle bedecked in crust punk graffiti and risen up off its foundations to kick some ass. He hits that sound barrier, a standing wave of mystical and sonic power, and if anyone thought vibrations could keep Julio Richter out, they don't know Julio Richter. (Of course, they /don't/ know Julio Richter. Who the hell is Julio Richter?) An inverse wave dampens the barrier, and Julio's own mutation draws what power remains into himself, bleeding it into the earth like these dancers are bleeding themselves. Of course, the moment the barrier comes down, Amora's deceptive shield is defunct; there's no way Santos won't see what he has done, and a moment later, he'll see Julio there, grinning at him with a mouth of green fire.

"'Sup, pendejo?" he asks, his voice a mocking challenge.