5409/DoppelGang: A Den of Thieves

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DoppelGang: A Den of Thieves
Date of Scene: 02 March 2021
Location: Hell's Gate
Synopsis: A friendly doppelganger gives the Titans a lead on an undercover DoppelMission to do... something. Portal technology is involved. An Italian mutant who thinks he's the Pope is involved. DoppelPrisoners are taken for questioing, and DoppelTech is taken for sciencing.
Cast of Characters: Colette O'Connail, Caitlin Fairchild, Toni Monetti, Terry O'Neil

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    With the capture of BadCassie, the Titans' doppel-problems seem to be over. A mood of celebration, a relief from the paranoia of the past weeks, a sense of normality and, whisper it, calm has descended over the tower the following day. There has been relaxation. Laughter. Pizzas.

    And then, inevitably, Terry receives a reminder that the wider DoppelIssue is not yet resolved.

    While not a member of the Team, Colette O'Connail has been associated with the Titans since the team got back together. And Colette O'Connail still has a doppelganger out there. She's unusual as these doppelgangers go in that she hasn't attacked anyone, wants her opposite number from this world to know nothing about her, and at least claims to be hunting other doppelgangers. This last detail is what has lead to this small expedition of Titans to Hell's Gate.

    'I need some help. Tracked a group of Leapers. They are up to something.' This is the extent of Vorpal's knowledge of the situation, but she had asked him to come to a particular location in the seedier part of Hell's Gate, one of the islands that makes up Metropolis just about a mile south of Titans Tower.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
To the Mystery Van!

Well, it's really just an SUV with the Titans branding on it, and a special government-issued plate. But it's big enough for six to fit comfortably and there's room in the back for some emergency gear and utility items that come in handy from time to time.

Really the worst part of it is that Caitlin is the world's most conscientious driver. Every stop sign, full stop. Exactly the speed limit. Three second intervals before changing lanes. It's a wonder they get anywhere in Metropolis, and more amazing still, she seems able to get them around without cursing at anyone or flipping them off.

Trying to get her to switch stations for something other than Josh Groban is a futile effort, but... driver picks the music.

When they get to the location indicated she pulls over, parks the vehicle, and dismounts the rig. Shocks creak in relief. Caitlin's dressed pretty casually, in yoga pants, sneakers, and a comfortable grey hoodie. "This it?" she inquires, and shrugs out of the hoodie and folds it up before putting it on the driver's seat.

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni is still in athletic gear - freshly laundered because duh - because she has yet to get a costume together. It was like the other day now. She took a six hour nap and then ate an entire pizza while broadly hinting it would go great with beer.

"Caitlin, you drive like a nun," Toni says.

"I'm just gonna follow you guys' lead because I am putting the spanking in brand spanking new," Toni continues. She raises one silver-white index finger. "Lemme walk that one back..."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
Terry has ridden with Caitlin before, so he is used to the routine. One of the secrets of Agatha O'Neil's past was a stint as a stunt driver for movies and shows in her reckless youth. Which means that she is extremely aware of everything can go wrong. Caitlin and Agatha would make great pilot and co pilot. Agatha liked better music, in Terry's mind, at least.

"Yes, this is the place," Terry mutters, looking around, hands in his hoodie pockets. "Cait doesn't drive like a nun. Sister Mary Francis was a speed demon, back in school..."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    'The place' as it turns out is a badly run-down basketball court. Nobody is playing basketball there, probably because there are no hoops. They probably got stolen years ago. A couple of kids sit in one corner smoking something of questionable legality, the question being raised more obviously by the fact they rapidly conceal it and start walking away in a supiciously nonchalant way when the Titans-branded vehicle arrives.

    The other occupant of the basketball court leans up against the wire fencing, apparently staring into the distance. Included in that distance is an old wooden church, even more run-down than the basketball courts. St Olav's-By-The-Dock was built at the end of the ninteenth century by the Norwegian Sjømannsmisjonen to provide services to the many Norwegian sailors who could be found on Hell's Gate back when it was a major international docks, but it has been closed for 30 years, and peeling white paint has been replaced only with grafitti.

    Said watcher is not immediately recognizable as Caitlin's former collegue at Happy Harbor, if only because her hair is brunette rather than blonde, but after a few moments the resemblance becomes obvious. Caitlin will have observed the Colette she knows bleaches, after all. This one differs a little in other respects. She's thinner, her features a little gaunt, and when she waves over to attract Terry's attention there's something defensive about her body language, as if she was attempting to attract attention and yet not be seen at the same time. The Colette of this world is filled with self-confidence, this Colette not so much.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"I've also got zero points on my license, and my insurance dropped way down after I turned twenty-five," Caitlin tells Toni. She flashes a grin at the girl and finishes changing in the protection of the half-open door. The SUV is locked up, arming the rather overbuilt security system, and with the Titans in tow Caitlin heads towards their point of contact. She falls back a little to give Terry an encouraging nod; Colette did ask for him directly, after all.

It's still a little unnerving to recognize a friend, and see no real recognition in their eyes. Caitlin opts for a pleasantly welcome demeanour, but doesn't make any effort to curb how she towers over everyone else, either.

Toni Monetti has posed:
"Must've been a different order than mine," Toni tells Terry. Then back to Caitlin, and she frowns as if she's unable to argue with what Caitlin is /saying/ but seems to like, /spiritually/ disagree. Either way, she dismounts with the others, hands in her pockets. She looks around, staying kind of a pace and a half behind Caitlin and watching after the retreating people enjoying a recreational plant prohibited by certain laws. But...

They're gone, and Toni does't give chase. "That's a really old church," Toni says as she claps eyes on St. Olav's.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
Terry doesn't give chase, either. Having a brain that might be qualified as a hallucinogen himself, he isn't in any place to judge anyone on that particular field. "We'll have to compare notes sometime, Toni. I went to Saint Sebastian's..."

But he doesn't get to reminisce much, as his friend from another world makes her appearance. Terry walks over to her, smiling at her. "Hey stranger. It's good to see you... you doing okay? As okay as can be expected, at least?"

Small talk. It's a Terry thing when he hasn't seen you for a while.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "In Europe it would be considered a fairly new church," Colette says in a quiet voice, looking at Toni curiously. "Only about a century old. Europe used to be full of churches that are far older. Um. Still is in your world, I guess." It's an odd way to hear a confirmation of her origin; other doppelgangers have generally done their best to pretend they are really from this world right up until the backstabbing starts.

    Her eyes go to Caitlin, and there is indeed no sign of recognition there. She doesn't seem to be obviously intimidated by Caitlin's towering height, but it's hard to be sure through the generally defensive posture. She shifts her gaze to Terry, and gives him a smile that lights up her face. "Hey Terry. Good to see you too. I'm... fine. I've uncovered something concerning though."

    "So um... my name is Colette." Her eyes flick between Caitlin and Toni. "If either of you two know me, then... sorry, I know it's confusing. Please don't tell her that I'm here, I would really rather than she doesn't know. Hopefully Terry has explained things. I come from the world where all the Leapers... the people you call doppelgangers, are coming from. I'm not crazy though. I'm actually here to try to help out the situation."

    "There's a kind of underground that a fair few of the Leapers have been using. Staying in contact with each other, sharing resources, you know. I've worked my way in to gather information and I've been following some leads. Some of them... there's a group that seems a lot more organized. And very secretive. They've been making contacts in the Leaper underground, dropping all kinds of hints about some big plan they have that's going to change everything, they say. One of them - I've seen before. Back on my world. He went by the name /Il Mutante/, and he's dangerous." She nods her head towards the church. "I've followed one of them to here. Figured I could use a bit of back-up."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"I know your, uh... Counterpart," Caitlin says, when addressed. "She's a friend. I'm Caitlin," she explains, and flashes a genial smile. "Terry told us a little bit about you. It's okay-- we know you're trying to help with the dopplegangers. Leapers," she hastily amends. Eyes track to the church, then back to Colette, and she motions with one hand in an invitational gesture. "Can you tell us anything else about Il Mutante? Is he strong? Violent? More of a henchman or a ringleader type? Anything at all might be useful."

Toni Monetti has posed:
"That is so true," Toni says, followed by - "Oh."

Her lips purse and thin together. Toni folds her hands behind her back. She listens wordlessly, inserting something when Caitlin introduces herself, "I'm Toni, hi - I'm a new hire, don't sweat it." and with that she falls quiet again, contemplating this bleak picture that Colette is painting around the edges.

"'Il Mutante'... that's Italian, the Mutant," Toni thinks aloud, looking momentarily towards Terry. Then she looks back to Colette and slightly upwards at Caitlin. "Uh..." Back to Colette, she says, "Do you guys have a lot of mutants? Like... it's a whole, thing here, but it might be... rarer? Or like, people didn't make an identity? I'm sorry, I know this is probably awful."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"Their world is a little... well. It's a mess. Gigantic alien slug brainwashed everybody," Terry fills Toni in. "Up until the eighties, I believe, their world and ours were on similar historical tracks, and then the monster game. Now that world is severely destroyed, and on the verge of a nuclear war. Supergirl was brainwashed evil on that world and Wonder Woman never came to Man's World, so you can imagine how many levels of fucked they are."

Glancing around, he adds "SHIELD is trying to avoid a panic, but there were about five thousand intrusions detected from the 'leapers' into our world. As you saw the other day when we fought Wonder Girl's doppelganger, the vast majority of them have nothing but one singular drive: murdering their counterparts and taking over their lives here. Gar's doppelganger nearly succeeded in killing him. And mine took away my powers for a while."

A quick glance at Caitlin almost screams 'Don't you dare tell her about the kissing.'

Turning to Colette, he nods, "You need backup. That means I need to cat, then. One second."

Flipping over his rainbow bracelet, looks at the mirror underneath, and says "We're all mad here!"

There is a prodigious and colorful show of lights, and when it is all done, Vorpal stands where Terry used to be. "Alright. What's the plan, Lettie?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette looks at Caitlin with a slightly surprised expression when Caitlin decleares her counterpart to be a friend, then blinks a few times and breaks eye contact a little hastily. "Oh I... I'm sorry, I know it's got to be awkward. I uh..."

    She takes a deep breath, shakes her head, and looks back. "Il Mutante... not so much a ringleader as a ringtyrant, I guess? He set himself up as the dictator of a large chunk of what used to be Italy, around Naples. He declared that God is dead and that Zhed'Zhud'Ger'Uth was the new God and that he was it's pope. Strong, yes... very. Violent, very. He is also capable of manipulating fire. I assumed he had died when Napoli was nuked just after Zor-El and Zhed'Zhud'Ger'Uth were defeated, but everyone says he came through a Gate."

    She tilts her head to Toni, thinking a few moments before answering her question. "I don't really know. We don't have the awareness of mutants that you have here. Honestly I don't quite understand how it works here... I mean you seem to have a lot of people who are mutants but aren't called mutants, and it doesn't make a lot of sense. As Terry says... our worlds seem to have been identical until forty years ago, so I would guess the prevailance is similar, but... well there are a lot fewer people on my world than here."

    Colette watches Terry's transformation with considerable curiosity, never having seen him actually change forms before. She shakes her head. "There is definitely not a version of you on my world, Terry. I'm sure if there was someone who did... /that/... I would have heard." She gives a soft laugh, then looks back towards the church. "Plan. Uh... I don't know. I followed three of them back here and I've been watching the place for a couple of days. People come in and go out. I estimate there are eight people inside there at the moment, but I haven't seen Il Mutante. No real information on who's in there. I would just... sneak inside and take a look around, I guess. But I'm not... I've never worked with a team before. I hoped you might have a plan. Huh. Lettie. That's funny."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"All right, eight people inside, /maybe/ the principal but we're not sure," Caitlin says, dutifully repeating Colette's words. She touches her wristband and activates a little smart watch. Terry's transformation is politely ignored, because paying attention to Terry just encourages him.

A drone detaches from the top of the SUV and buzzes aloft. It moves quite nimbly and flits through the wind with a suspicious amount of on-board intelligence, flying with entirely too much personality as it makes a covert approach towards the Church and starts looking for a way to get a view of the interior. Various filters, including thermal and infrared, start filtering over the image to try and spot movement and heat sources.

"I'm trying to find a side door or emergency entrance we can jimmy through," Caitlin tells the others. "Colette, why don't you let us handle this?" she suggests. Colette doesn't have any powers that Caitlin's aware of-- why would this one? "If we have to do a dynamic breach, I'll take point, Terry you work the angles on them. Toni, I don't know how fireproof you are," she tells the new Titan. "If you want to roll with me, you can, but no one's going to fault you for ducking bullets if you wanna go with Terry."

Toni Monetti has posed:
"Well I ain't gonna try to like explain the whole thing but basically it's when you get superpowers and stuff from like natural causes when you grow up," Toni explains to Colette. "There's like this one particular gene or something. It's still controversial and everything. I guess having controversies is a luxury."

After a moment, she says, "I can't think of a like, famous guy like that or anything..." She is then given two quick sights in rapid succession: One, the manifestation of Vorpal in full and glorious technicolor, and two, "it had a drone?" the deployment of a drone.

Toni looks at Caitlin at the explanation. "Uh," she says, "I'm not, but I think the plasma can be...? I think I'll go with him," she says. "Just since this is like my second time and if I got shot it'd be really bad." To Colette, Toni says, "You get hurt that way, they told me."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
Vorpal glances at Caitlin, and raises an eyebrow. "She'll be fine, Cait. This Colette has learned to survive over there, she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve that our Colette doesn't." He leaves it at that- parallel dimensions allow for all sorts of things, "Remember, my Doppelganger didn't have powers."

A grin to Colette, "That's because there's only one Cheshire cat in the whole universe, Colette. But as it turns out, you can actually split him up, so I am not going to let that happen again. IN any case... drone report- do we have an opening? If we can get an image of the interior, I can Rabbit Hole us inside, too. Toni, we will go in invisible, that's the best way of not getting intentionally shot at."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette actually jumps slightly when the drone detaches itself from the roof of the SUV, and she watches it for a few moments with wide eyes. Things really are different in her world.

    The church is not in a good condition and all the windows are boarded up, but not well. There's a lot of thermal leakage, and the drone is able to identify nine heat sources in the building that are roughtly the right thermal signature for humans, and one that's quite a bit hotter.

    "Uh yeah, I..." Colette glances gratefully at Terry for his explanation. "Yeah, I have... tricks. Up my sleeve. I'm... look, I don't know what you guys can do. But uh... if Il Mutante is there, probably best to leave him to me, I don't want you guys to risk yourselves. Just... well, he's taller than you," she says nodding towards Caitlin. "Distinctive. If he's there you'll know it's him. If not, I think we need to grab someone for questioning. And not let any of them escape. I think that's the important thing."

    The drone keeps circling the building, locating one window high up where the boards have partially fallen away. The video feed from the drone reveals a view of part of the interior of the church, revealing a stack of pews shoved into a pile against one wall. The main hall of the church appears to have been cleared.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"All right, but be careful," Caitlin advises Colette. She sets the drone to a safe observational-only mode and beckons the Titans along, moving at the head of the pack at a slow but ground-eating jog. It takes them around a relative blind spot towards the church and she helps Toni, Terry, and Colette vault a low security fence with little effort. Once they're near the building, it's not much work to scout an upper-floor window that will open into the gallery near the choral loft. It's as good an access as any. She puts her back to the wall and pats a thigh once, then stoops with her fingers interlaced in a stirrup that will boost Terry effortlessly up to the window. From there, it's just a matter of the Cheshire portalling the rest of them into place.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
As he flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the Cheshire becomes invisible. It wouldn't do for him to be seen making an entrance through the window like some Batman Rockette, after all. For a few moments, his success might be up in the air until a Rabbit Hoe opens right next to Caitlin and co, leading them effortlessly into the choir loft, which not only has an excellent view of the terrain, but it's also not occupied.

However, Vorpal isn't taking any chances, and he has overlaid an illusion of the choir loft, /deserted/ over the real one. Can't be too careful.

Toni Monetti has posed:
"Like the actual Cheshire Cat? I thought Disney," Toni begins, but they are already on the move. She is able to get over the fence without much trouble or without flashing her mysterious powers.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette is noticably wary of the Rabbit Hole, perhaps understandable for someone who once walked through something not completely unlike it to intentionally strand herself in a very alien version of her own world, but she follows the Titans through and into the loft.

    The church is small and cramped, and the loft is accessed via a single narrow stairway on the far side of the choir loft from where the group have arrived. Visible in the main hall below, a pair of people can be seen working at a table in the nave, but the roof there is low -- there are obviously some rooms above it. Caitlin would estimate that the majority of the heat sources will be in those. The higher transept is more clearly visible from the choir, and is empty. The floor has been cleared, and marked on it is what looks suspiciously like a magic circle.

    Colette raises a hand in a stop gesture, takes a step forwards -- and vanishes. A moment later she steps out from the shadows in the unlit stairway opposite, and gives a thumbs-up gesture towards the other three.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin holds her breath, screws her eyes shut, and steps through the Rabbit Hole. On the other side she takes a quiet stride and exhales through her nose. Quesiness marks her features for just a few seconds and she almost staggers as something in her inner ear does a flip. r
"I'm okay," she mouths, and waves off any concern.

Colette's little vanishing act gets a double-take from the redhead; she looks at Terry and Toni to confirm what she's seeing, and the read that it isn't one of Terry's illusions makes her brows rise. It's pretty hard to tiptoe silently around when you weigh 350lbs so Caitlin sticks to the walls nearest the brick exterior, trusting Terry and Toni to get a read on things below.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
It's convenient that they are forced to be quiet. That way, Vorpal doesn't have to explain what's going on with Colette's vanishing act. The Cheshire is very interested by that magic circle, and he has to restrain himself from going to check it out right away... and potentially messing it up. There are many ways you can mess up a magic circle- and some of them are subtle enough that they're not noticed right away, but which have ruinous effects on the magic. Such as, say, scribbling the first verse of 'The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All' in runes on the inner lining of the circle, craftily camouflaged among existing lines.

It doesn't have to be THAT song in particular, but if you are going to do it, why not do it with style, right?

He give Colette a nod, and then gestures to his compatriots and begins to quietly advance, his powers of illusion blending him with his surroundings. It's not full invisibility, but he can go that way if trouble starts.

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni kneads her hands together as she is forced for the moment to be silent. The pass through the Rabbit Hole makes her grimace, but she does not have time to really pay attention to it, probably because she's worrying about her performance and is, let's be real, not the most attentive person God ever put together.

She does get a bright idea at the staircase, and makes a gradual ascending over-staircase - thinner, but (this is important) NOT putting weight on the staircase - suitable for her to step on and move along. She is close enough to Caitlin to whisper to her all-but-in-her-ear, "I do this at home when I get in late." The free-standing construct will sink a millimeter once it actually has someone other than Toni on it, but only one millimeter, accompanied by Toni looking abruptly strained. But that's life, isn't it.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
"You hear something?"

"Hmm? Hear what?"

"Up in the... gallery. Whatever it's called."

     The shorter of the two men points up to where the four interlopers have entered, and his partner looks up. Both men stare straight up at the choir.

    The tall man shrugs and returns to his work. "Nah. Probably just rats." Terry's illusion-casting seems to be working.

    Shorty isn't convinced. "Could be," he says dubiously. "Or could be those kids again. I'm gonna take a look." He picks a gun up from the table and walks forwards, rounding the possible magic circle, and disappears from the angle of view. His partner gives a bored shrug.

    Moments later Toni feels the strain of another set of feet on the stairs -- the short man with the gun is heading up them from the bottom.

    Colette looks back at the other three a little wide-eyed, and points with a finger down the staircase, then points at them, her finger jabbing forwards three times each time. Then she points at herself, and then down over the balcony of the choir. Without waiting to see if her gestures were understood, she steps into the darkness of the stairway.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin tests Toni's creation out and once it passes a ginger inspection, she nods approvingly at the woman and starts padding down the silenced steps. The sound of voices freezes her halfway down the steps going towards the corner; she turns this way and that, looking for options.

Not seeing any better ones, Caitlin plunges down the last five steps at full speed and slams right into the hoodlum as he turns the corner. One hand grabs his gun hand and pushes the gun towards the ceiling so he won't hit anyone if he pulls the trigger. He's lifted, spun, and Caitlin sinks one arm around his neck in a chokehold. A few seconds of applied pressure cut off the blood flow and render him safely unconscious.

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni sees Colette gesture. The gestures mean nearly nothing to her. She can tell someone else is on her stairway and coming downstairs so after she gets off of it, she does something simple - OK, two things that are simple.

One is to curve this metaphysical staircase to face straight agaisnt a wall: the second is to change it from the characteristic ninety degree zigzag into a sudden U-shaped slide. This is cartoon horseshit, Toni thinks, as she also sinks into a crouch in anticipation of possible gunfire or something. I really, REALLY hope Caitlin isn't looking at me, or that if I get shot it's like heroic and not --

Yeah, her interior monologue occupies most of the remaining thought.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Although Toni's construct trick does a good job of stopping even Caitlin from making the wooden staircase creak, but the time she has rounded the first bend of the stairs and started her charge, he feels the shaking and comes to a halt. He is entirely unprepared for what is bearing down on him, and while it may not be a 'Full Caitlin', it's fully effective, taking the man out of the fight and out of consciousness before he has time to fully register what is happening.

    Equally, Caitlin is moving before she has time to register what has happened to the staircase. In the last moments before shortie loses consciousness, the risers of the staircase flatten. She's too sturdy to lose her footing, but her feet start to slide downwards.

    It's perfectly understandable. Toni's new to teamwork and new to the team - people don't know what to expect of each other yet, and Caitlin moves really, really fast for someone her size. In the second or so of concentration that it takes Toni to change the form of the staircase's second skin, Caitlin is already grappling her opponent.

    It is fortunate that the results are more comedic than anything else. Looking rather surprised, Caitlin slides down the last few feet of the staircase, swivelling slightly as she goes, with her victim slumped in her arms. She skids out of the end of the staircase and into the back of the nave, to find the tall man slumped across the table, and the church apparently otherwise empty.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin stops with a scrape of dust and wood trapped between feet and floor. There's a look of wary balance, and then she straightens smoothly and looks around. A hand lifts to her mouth, haltingly. "Uh... clear, team," she mutters, just loud enough to be heard up in the choral loft. Caitlin takes a moment to unload the gun with a surprising amount of practiced ease and then twists it in two directions between her fists, breaking it. The other thug is checked for injuries and a heartbeat, then similarly disarmed as well. Some nylon cord is used to bind their wrists together and to each other and she leaves them back to back with their socks shoved in their mouths.

With that handled, she moves to check the stairs that lead up to the heat sources upstairs, and beckons the other to join her.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
FYI: Vorpal sucks at Charades. He's always been more a wordplay/pictionary kind of guy, and when Colette gestures, his best guess is 'Pinch him with a pitchfork while I run away.' Close, right? He doesn't have much time to process, because the staircase turns into a slip and slide and the cat is along for the ride. Caitlin marches on like the battle hymn of the republic, ending up with Caitlin going Full Herself on Shortie.

Vorpal, on the other hand, comes to a stop at the bottom in a reclining position not unlike that of a hollywood starlet draped over a couch with a balkan holder and the words 'why don't you come and see me sometime?' about to burst from her lips.

"That was fun," he whispers as he gets to his feet, "Do we get to ride the bouncy castle next?" he grins, going over to follow Caitlin.

"Let me give you a zap..."

And with one snap, she now looks like the tall man who is slumped over, an he looks like Shortie.

"Just in case," he whispers. He gives Toni a glance, "I can make you invisible if a need me to."

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni does not speak much in the immediate aftermath of things, probably because she's trying to figure out if she just committed major assault or not. She does make a thumbs up towards Caitlin as she secures the bad guys, and then tells Terry, "That would actually be really great. Is it gonna fall off if I hit anyone?"

Toni probably picked up that one from overhearing someone's D&D game.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    While Caitlin is securing the prisoners, DoppelColette returns from wherever she had gone, which turns out to be checking a side room by the front entrace to the church. She's back in time to witness the way Caitlin deals with the gun, which clearly impresses her. "Great Gaea, you're strong Caitlin!" she whispers.

    'Great Gaea'? Now that's interesting...

    Colette moves over to the table, studying the paperwork as the three Titans assemble at the bottom of the staircase leading to the rooms in the top of the church. As with the stairs down from the choir, the staircase here doubles back on itself and nothing can be seen up it, but voices can be faintly heard from the upper floor. There's no indication that the alarm has been raised.

    "W-wait, what are you doing?" Colette hisses to the three Titans, joinging them with an expression of alarm. She blinks in surprise as Caitlin and Vorpal change appearance, and she takes a short step backwards before stepping forwards again. "Are you just... shouldn't we check out what's here? And scout out what's up there? We don't know. /He/ could be up there. He's dangerous!"

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin smiles at Colette's praise and rallies with the other two Titans. Caitlin looks down at her hands as the illusion takes over, then nods approval at Terry.

Colette's question, though, begs a pause. Caitlin blinks at the other woman, and looks to Toni and Terry, then back to Colette.

"Uh... that's what we're doing," she says, speaking softly. "Checking out what's here. The longer we spend sneaking around, the more likely we are to raise an alarm. If he's as dangerous as you say then we need all of us to hit him at once before he can get his wits under him. I don't wanna slog through a bunch of goons while he's setting the place on fire."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
A quick gesture, and Toni is INVISIBLE. "Nah, this is real invisiblity, not that lame Raistlin Majere 'fart and you're discovered' invisibility." He pfffts, "What a poser."

It's remarkable that, when Caitlin and Vorpal speak under the shroud of the illusion, their voices sound like Tally and Shortie. It's a good thing Vorpal's very sensitive hearing picked up the dialogue, because otherwise he'd have to use another voice. And for funsies he tends to default to Harvey Fierstein these days.

ShortieVorpal looks at Colette and, in a moment of being irrepressibly himself, he quips "Great Gaea, not Sufferin' Sappho? Don't worry too much, Lettie. We helped take down a Warzoon invasion. Unless he is more dangerous than an alien flotilla... all four of us can lick him and found out how many licks it takes to take to get to the center of his tootsie pop!"

He pauses. "Okay, maybe I need a better figure of speech, but you know what I mean."

Toni Monetti has posed:
"God I hate raisins," Toni agrees with Terry, or at least she thinks she agrees with Terry. She moves quietly, not least because she can't quite see her... feet? But she has proprioception so it's fine. It is fine.

"I'm following their lead here," Toni tells Colette, quietly, "so like I'm not getting a big vote, but what I remember here is there's this bad guy, right? Il Mutante? So like we ought to at least scope him out and look him up if he's like actually an X-Man or something and then we can just call them and ask them yo how do we beat this guy. Right? We could even get his local version involved."

"I feel way safer while I'm invisible, thank you," Toni adds very quietly to Terry.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    DoppelColette stares at Vorpal with a studiously neutral expression for a few moments, then nods her head slowly. "What's a Warzoon?" She asks, before immediately frowning and shaking her head. "No... doesn't matter. Look, unless you're fireproof, you probably don't want to tangle with him at close range. Don't expect him to hold back just because his own people are in range."

    Her eyes flicker to Caitlin and then to Toni, and she frowns with a look of agonized indecision. "I didn't intend for you to take risks. Listen, there's no restroom down here, so it will be upstairs. That's where you're going."

    She gives a short nod to Toni, or at least to the place Toni's voice comes from. "I haven't been able to identify his... what's an X-Man? No, don't answer that. He's distinctive. Two meters tall. Bright red hair. If he's there, come back down as soon as you can do so without raising suspicions. And..." she turns to Caitlin and Vorpal, or tall man and shorty as they now appear. "...And talk together on your way up the stairs, it would be odd for you to be going up together in silence. If you need backup, yell 'not again', and I'll come in from the opposite side, okay?"

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin/Tall Guy flashes a smile at Colette. It manages to look reassuring. "Thanks, Colette. 'Not Again'," Caitlin confirms. She looks to the quarter, eyes the stairs, and thinks.

"Okay, here's the plan. Terry, as soon as I get a hand on the target, Rabbit hole both of us outside onto the street. I don't want a fire in here. I can tank him out there while you three neutralize the mooks. Might be worth just locking down the stairwells so they can't leave. If you get done first, come help me. Remember that some pyrokinetics don't actually make fire, so be ready with other options if water or oxygen containment doesn't work."

She looks around, then nods once. "Okay! Titans, go!" she whispers, and offers a furitive thumbs up.

She plods up the stairs with an effort to keep her heavy tread relatively quiet. "Yo! Did someone order a pizza?" Tall Guy's voice is raised enough to be heard, slightly muffled by the soft old wood around them. At the top landing she shoulders open the old door that leads to the thug's sanctum.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"Raistlin, no-- I'll explain later," Shortie says with a grin, and nods as Caitlin and Colette discuss strategy. When all is said and done, he materializes a pizza box in his hands, and the accompanying smell. Delicious, hot, succulent pizza. As they make their way up the stairs, he adds in Shortie's voice-

"With /pineapple/ on it. Who's the wise guy?"

What? He's got to get into character. Shortie looks like a pineapple-hater. That's why Cait just had to knock him out. It was the right thing to do.

Toni Monetti has posed:
"They're like the mutant ADL but they wear spandex, I'll explain later," Toni says to Colette, which probably doesn't help anything.

She gives her a thumbs up on the fire tip, and realizes she's invisible, so instead there is a brief floating silver :thumbs-up: emoji. As she walks up the stairs, Toni tries to start thinking about cups and lids and stuff instead of occasionally giving Terry an incredulous look for what he is clearly suggesting.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    'Mutant ADL' is apparently not an explanation that helps DoppelColette in the slightest. She has however become accustomed to explanations that don't explain anything. This world is weird. Nice, but weird. She gives them a nod and watches them mount the stairs with a concerned expression.     Inside the hall at the top of the stairs are three men and a woman at a table, playing cards. The woman has an assault rifle across her knees, and one of the men has a handgun resting on the table beside him. There are matresses strewn around the floor, and two of them are occupied with sleeping forms.

    This leaves one human-sized heat signature unaccounted for - there are a few doors off this room though, so the last person is probably behind one of those. Two are marked with restroom symbols, and one has a sign on it reading 'Private'. In the middle of the floor stands an old cylindrical space-heater, which might be the cause of that single hotter heat signature.

    The four card-players look up from their game as the Titans, illusioned or invisible, arrive. One of them, a heavily freckled red-head gives a nod towards Caitlin. "Pizza, boss? Hey, if you're paying I ain't sayin' no. How's work going, getting anywhere with those plans?"

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"Mind your business," the 'boss' says, gruffly. "Pizza's at the dock out back. Two of you go get it. You other two, go, uh... got to the parking lot across the street and check out the SUV parked there."

Caitlin watches the pause and confusion, and smacks the back of her hand into her palm. "C'maaahn, go do it!" she barks, and scowls pointedly at the thugs to get them into motion.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"Yeah, we ain't getting paid for just standin' 'round."

Vorpal keeps his eyes on the others. If things went pear shaped, he was going to get some Rabbit Holes into action. He briefly wondered if Il Mutante was nearby, and whether he shoudn't just drop him into the middle of the ocean instead of the street... but he wasn't going to go cowboy on Caitlin's plan. He has learned his lesson!


Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni begins edging around the corner of the room under her veil of invisibility. She glances around the visible people to try to match two meters (that's like basketball player tall, she thinks) and red hair with anyone present. The closed doors present her with a hypothetical obstacle, and she rubs her nose in thought.

Though, Toni thinks, eyeballing the guy with all the freckles and squatting down in her invisible state to check out his legs. Could THAT be the guy?

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    There's some grumbling from the table, and the woman looks at Caitlin with a frown. "You coulda brought the rest of the pizzas," she complains. Apparently Cailtin don't get no respect.

    "Okay idiots," she barks at the three other card players. "Game's over. You heard the boss. Stef, Bri, you guys check out the SUV. Peter, fetch the food."

    The other three card players grumble, and the freckled one replies "Yeah yeah, 'coz you were losing, Sally." Nevertheless, he picks up his handgun, checks it, then punches one of the other players on the shoulder as he stands. He's not short, but he's well short of two meters. "Come on Stef, you heard the lady, we got a sus car to check out."

    Peter gets to his feet with a sigh and slumps theatrically towards the stairs to fetch pizza, closely followed by Stef and Bri. The theatrics give enough time for Toni to make her way into the room and get out of the way easily enough.

    The woman with the rifle gives Caitlin a shrug. "You want two people to get a pizza, wake someone up. I'm not going. Not meant to leave the building, remember? Orders of the big boss."

    She shuffles her chair back and watches the trio of her former card opponents pass the three Titans and descend the stairs to the church below, where DoppelColette is waiting.

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"Gotta keep the big boss happy," Caitlin agrees. The 'boss' walks behind his employee's chair and with one hand, yanks it out from under her rear with no visible effort. Caitlin catches the rifle in one hand and tosses it to Toni so it's not in grabbing reach. Flailing fingers are caught in her grip and Caitlin applies another chokehold that expertly knocks the woman out in just a few seconds.

She looks at the others and uplifts her chin. "Toni, you and Colette sweep the floor and make sure there aren't any stragglers. I'm going to tie this one up and toss her in a closet. Terry, watch our backs and if Il Mutante sticks his head out, Rabbit Hole him out of here."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"You know, if Stark ever fires you, you could make a /killing/ in professional wrestling," Vorpal quips. He keeps his guise up, just in case, and perks his ears to catch in any Il Mutantes, Il Palazzos or Il Magnificos who might decide to make their entrance now.

"Keeping my eyes out... I wish that dork would show up already so we could take care of him. I've got tricks I've been dying to try out..."

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni is silent for a moment.

Then she says, "Right, yeah. Got it." From here she moves round with quiet footsteps to check the various rooms, ducking down low as she pushes things open with the kickplate. THIS one, she learned from watching people play violent video games. She can tell full well she's not a ghost or something to go with the invisibility!

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Toni's circuit of the room locates the last missing person -- sitting on the toilet. "Hey! Occupado!" she yells angrily at Toni, followed by a confused blinking. "Uh who the fuck are you?" she demands as she takes in TToni's curious posture. She clutches at her jeans and lurches forwards, crashing the door shut.

    There's a sudden hacking cough beneath the covers on one of the matresses and a tousled-haired head pokes out, blearily looking at Caitlin. "What's going on, boss?" the disheveled man asks sleepily. From the matress close by come sounds of snoring.

    The lack of yelling from downstairs, it seems that DoppelColette was keeping well enough out of sight not to have been spotted by the three who have left, but apparently she was alarmed by their arrival. This can be determined by the alarm visible on her face in the brief moment between her appearing suddenly in one corner of the room, arms outstretched. Then the lightbulb explodes and something covers the window, casting the room into sudden darkness.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
Vorpal freezes when the room is cast into darkness. Why would Colette do that? The only explanation he can think of in the spur of the moment is that trouble is coming, and she's signaling them to GTFO.

"I think that's a sign," he says, and a Rabbit Hole opens, streaming light in. It leads to the rooftop of one of the buildings across from the church. "Quick, let's regroup."

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
"Darn," Caitlin grates, and rushes to the Rabbit Hole. "Okay. Out the door," she agrees. This Colette she doesn't know well, but Caitlin clearly trusts Vorpal's judgement in the matter. The redhead pauses at the entrance and beckons for the others. "Go, go go," she urges, until everyone's through who is going through. Caitlin follows last, her frame blocking the bright portal just in case any bullets come flying in their wake in the interim between getting out of the Church and Terry closing the door behind them.

Toni Monetti has posed:
"Your mother," Toni tells the woman on the toilet as the door slams shut. She pulls backwards and then checks herself, but before she can get things together, there is an abrupt explosion of the light bulb - oh that's awful if it's a CFL, Toni thinks irrelevantly -

Terry is moving faster than her, mentally as well as physically. A hole opens and Caitlin speaks. Toni breaks into a scramble towards the opening, leaping through it and landing on what may be a tarpaper surface with an 'uff!' a moment before she says plaintively, probably to Terry, "I didn't **** it up did I??"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Things get confusing fast. The darkness is very sudden, and there's no time for anybody's eyes to adjust to the sudden lack of light. Even Terry's superior night-vision only shows vague shapes. The darkness is a surprise to the slowly waking sleeper, who manages to get as far as "What the f..." before losing consciousness again for reasons that remain unseen in the dark.

    The rabbit hole appears, and in the sudden light coming through it, DopelColette can be seen watching the three with an expression of panicked confusion. She blinks at the sudden interruption of light, and four loud shots boom out from the restroom as the woman inside shoots through the door.

    DoppelColette falls back with a cry, clutching her shoulder, and whatever was covering the window vanishes, letting more light back into the room. Wincing, she raises her good arm and a globe of black energy forms between her fingers and rockets forwards, crashing the restroom door inwards off its hinges, knocking out the woman inside.

    Her hand goes back to grip her shoulder, and blood seeps through her fingers. She looks back at the Rabbit Hole where Caitlin stands guarding the portal, winces again, and says "What in... what's happening?"

Caitlin Fairchild has posed:
Caitlin turns and grabs Colette's arm to pull her clear of the Rabbit Hole, and pushes her away from the roof's edge to sit on a vent. "You've been shot," she observes with a tight and clinical voice. Caitlin looks over her shoulder towards the church, then looks at Terry and Toni. "I'll get her stabilized and stop the bleeding. You two are gonna have to handle the guys on the ground. I need the trauma kit out of the car."

Caitlin gives Colette an apologetic look. "Sorry, this is gonna hurt a bit," she says, and tears a length of cloth from the side of Colette's shirt. With hands that are strong enough to dent rebar she applies firm pressure to the wound to staunch the bleeding.

Movies often downplay how much that sort of pressure treatment hurts.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"... This is the strangest timeline," Vorpal mutters, with Colette getting shot instead of him. "You're in good hands, we'll take care of the rest..."

The Cheshire Cat points Toni to the street below. "Looks like our dates are showing up, Argent. What do you say we go and give them a proper rendez-vous?"

He reaches up into the air and a chaos construct appears- a large croquet mallet in the shape of a flamingo, because branding is everything. "We drop on three?"

Toni Monetti has posed:
Toni watches between Colette, Caitlin, Terry. It's hectic, confusing. She bites her lower lip for a moment, and then Terry speaks.

"Uh," she says, "I'm not bulletproof, so like give me a second here." A second passes, then two. She snaps her fingers. "I have an idea."

Her hands come upwards and she begins to make something out of that silver plasma? What is it?

It's the Bat logo.

Toni sends it sailing outwards, turning her head so it intersects the moon and a street lamp on its way down to possibly bull into the thugs from behind!

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "Are you all okay?" Colette demands, stumbling a little as she's pulled through the rabbit hole. Her eyes go from one to the other with obvious concern, and then with obvious confusion to Caitlin as she starts tearing Colette's shirt.

    "Caitlin, what are you? Ow! Ooooow ouch. Hades, that hurts! Please stop Caitlin. I'll be fine. Just... ow! It's okay really. Just needs to get the... please stop... bullet out. Just gimme a couple of minutes, okay?"

    Can confirm. Much worse than in the movies.

    The pair who had been investigating the SUV are approaching the front of the church cautiously. Bri has his gun drawn, while Stef has picked up a wooden pole. Argent's bat logo glints in the moonlight, glistens in the light of a street lamp, and crashes Stef and Bri into the church door with a meaty thud.

    Towards the rear of the church Peter, disappointed to discover the lack of pizza, hovers nervously at the loading entrance, unsure about re-entering the building. He is easy prey to flamingo-malleting.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
"One kit coming up!" Vorpal says, as Toni takes care of the twosome down there. Now, Petah needs to be distracted, so while Vorpal jumps through the Rabbit Hole aAnd digs arouAnd the car, an illusion begins.

There's the snare of a drum, aAnd the souAnd of a tuba, aAnd rather soon the flight of a piccolo joins in. Seemingly out of nowhere, what appears to be a massive marching circus baAnd rouAnds the corner aAnd passes by Peter in its multi-color extravaganza, portable paper lanterns lighting the way. There's even some singing by the members of this motley crew:

~Come follow the baAnd wherever it's at
Let both of your feet beat time to the drum
AAnd let your heart go rat-a-tat-tat~

"Kit!" Vorpal says, emerging from the hole aAnd tossing it at Caitlin, before diving back in aAnd disappearing. Where to?

~A flag in your haAnd, a plume in your hat
Battalions of brass pass aAnd catch the light
Is there a sight that's sweeter than that?
See the pretty lady toss that baton high
Ain't she cute as a Daisy?~

AAnd it is at that line that the majorette, baton twirling, separates herself from the line aAnd does a dazzling demonstration, seemingly for Peter alone.

And then she seems to accidentally let go of the batom, which flies at the man in twirling multicolor-


The illusion dissipates aAnd there is just Vorpal, beAnding over to pick up the flamingo club from beside Peter. He turns arouAnd aAnd gives the rooftop Titans a thumbs up.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    It is easier to argue with the 400 pound gorilla than the 350 pound Caitlin, and despite her complaints Colette surrenders to the ministrations with minimal complaint. After a few minutes she even stops saying ow.

    With the gang taken care of, DoppelColette and the Titans return to the church. Upstairs, the snorer is still snoring, somehow remaining asleep through all of it, and is cuffed before he wakes. While the Titans deal with the prisoners, Colette studies the paperwork on the table downstairs.

    "It's what I suspected," she says to them eventually. "It's plans for a portal. There are a few variants on the design. Our technology is generally not as advanced as yours, but some combine magical and technological effects. I don't really know how these things work, I never got to see any of the schematics, and for some reason it looks like these schematics are incomplete."

    She gestures to the table where the two men had been working, assembling something electronic that even Caitlin can't make sense of at first glance, but seems to be some kind of very high current power coupling. "Pretty obvious what's going on here," she says. "Il Mutante is trying to open a two-way portal."