7662/Silent Shadows

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Silent Shadows
Date of Scene: 02 September 2021
Location: A warehouse registered to Lerna Shipping and Logistics, Dock districts, New York.
Synopsis: A silent assassin and an urban legend investigate a company named Lerna Shipping. What they find has more than one head...
Cast of Characters: Natasha Cranston, Quiet

Natasha Cranston has posed:
            Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Man?

    SHIELD has been recovering from its recent setbacks, and getting its fingers back on the various pulses of the world. HYDRA has been driven scuttling back into the shadows like the roaches they are, but only a fool would assume them gone for good -- and SHIELD does not intend to be that fool twice.

    Still, keeping track of every possible HYDRA front or infiltration is a - forgive the pun - Herculean task, SHIELD only has so many data analysts to spare, Greek mythology is a very popular source for names in the Western world, and it's simply not feasible to check all of them.

    ... That said, the name 'Lerna Shipping and Logistics' really should have run a bell much earlier.

    Initial analysis gives a high probability that this is an active HYDRA front, but inconclusive -- HYDRA has learned a thing or two about operational security and tends to couch their communication in innocuous code phrases.

    That said, communication analysis indicates a 'special priority shipment' is due tonight -- and aside from the loaded phrase, the fact that it's due to arrive in the dead of night and a specific crew is assigned by name to handle it suggests that it might not be as innocuous as they try to pretend to be.

    Unfortunately, SHIELD has a lot on its plate and can't afford to send more than one agent to investigate at the moment. Accordingly, Quiet's orders are to prioritize observation and information gathering, and to avoid engagement if at all possible...

Quiet has posed:
If things were better managed, less reactionary and not still recovering, Quiet might never have been sent on this mission, or perhaps she'd have been sent on it far sooner. Still, with all that had happened the silent sniper couldn't help but wonder how far the infiltrators had truely reached.

How many targets had she found her sights on because of their machinations? It was a disturbing thought best left for another day.

Still, just because observation was the mission didn't mean she was without the means to deal with a more...confrontational approach. The familier weight of her rifle against her mostly bare back was a testament to the thought while the ICER at her hip at least gave the option of a less lethal approach.

A quiet task for Quiet, but that didn't stop the little exhaled sigh as she stretched out her form into a prone perch, ready to watch the building in question.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    It's that magical hour of night where it's getting too late even for the night shifts and dedicated partygoers and still not quite early enough for the early morning shifts. Traffic in the area is light, with mostly the occasional garbage truck or taxi still plying their trade.

    On the one hand, that means that it's an excellent time to transfer a shipment without too many prying eyes; on the other hand, it does mean that the cargo truck approaching the Lerna warehouse stands out like a neon sign to any eyes - like Quiet's - that are paying attention.

    Equally interesting, from Quiet's perspective, is that while it's not uncommon to have a couple of loaders standing ready outside the warehouse to greet the shipment, said loaders would not under normal circumstances stand spread out in a classic picket pattern with each member scanning an individual quadrant of the area... And while they're not carrying anything openly, from her vantage point she can make out the telltale bulges indicating the presence of a poorly concealed firearm on several of them...

Quiet has posed:
Weapons themselves weren't a damning thing, but they were an indicator she should be getting closer...so she would.

A little tensing and she leaps upwards, a surge of inhuman speed and effort catapulting her upwards silently before she touches down closer to the warehouse.

She didn't draw her own weapon, as much as old habbits had her hands itching towards removing obstacles to get answers.

Instead she moves slowly, the air shifting around just a little as her camoflague reflex kicked in. Not quite invisible...but it certainly would do find in the dark against tired eyes...

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The sentries are /definitely/ better trained and disciplined than would be expected from warehouse workers. Not nearly good enough to pose an actual problem for someone with Quiet's skillset and abilities, but better than some militaries she's had to sneak past.

    That said, there's only five of them outside to cover a fairly large building and none of them are wearing night-vision gear... And for some reason they spend more time staring into shadows than looking at the lit areas. Gaps aplenty to slip through, although getting inside will involve either checking the roof for an open skylight or waiting for someone to open the doors - the latter of which is likely to happen soon as she sees the truck approaching.

Quiet has posed:
It wasn't the way she was usually hired to shoot things, but for Quiet? It was part of the job.

Digging into the pockets of her combat webbing at her waist a small camera was drawn out in her gloved fingers. Intel gathered with every little snapshot to highlight guards, roughts, identifying insignia...

Then she was moving, making her way through the gaps...but she'd started with the rooftop, comfortable ground after all.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    None of the sentries are wearing insignias - HYDRA isn't /that/ arrogant, usually - but a few of them have at least partially visible tattoos that should make it much easier to look them up in various databases. From this close she can also make out a couple of surprisingly sophisticated security cameras - closer to military issue than civilian models. Hard to get unless you have the contacts - and pretty expensive even then.

    The rooftops are much nicer; while on the one hand she has to move more carefully to avoid making a noise, there's a refreshing lack of security cameras and the skylight offers an excellent view of the interior. It's also locked, but not /that/ well.

    On the ground, the truck pulls up by the warehouse entrance and the driver emerges and is greeted by the sentry nearest to the loading doors.

"Welcome. The shipments is ready; we should have you loaded and on your way in half an hour."

"Good. You're running late as is."

    "... That's not our fault -- when CMS cut us loose we lost half our access lines and we're still re-establishing--"

"Save it. I'm here for the shipment, not your excuses. CMS will be dealt with in due time."

    The loader nods and turns to signal the warehouse, and the loading bay doors groan open to allow the truck to back up into the bay. Inside, several more workers are moving into position to start loading the pallets in the center of the warehouse into the truck.

    ... And from the corner of her eye, Quiet sees the flicker of a shadow by the loading bay, as if someone just darted inside slightly faster than anyone could follow...

Quiet has posed:
A few swift taps on the screen and the info she'd gathered, recording and image alike are sent over the network back to her contact. A mission complete, but perhaps it would be enough to allow her the approval to take a more direct action.

Then she saw it, eyes so sharp and superhuman they could track and calculate the gaps between a helicoptor blade or the flight of a bullet picking up on the shift of motion making its way deeper.

The scantily clad sniper turnes spy frowns, shifting her path.

That warranted a closer look...

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Even with her visual acuity, it's /hard/ to track -- and it takes a while for Quiet to come to the conclusion that while the shadows are visible - sometimes, when it's moving past a light source - who or whatever is casting them flat out isn't. Most people would regard that as an impossibility, but Quiet is well past making such assumptions.

    It's equally obvious that the warehouse personnel haven't spotted either intruder yet; the sentries have moved to cover the loading bay while everyone else gets to work getting the cargo into position...

Quiet has posed:
It was a push to follow, especially without giving herself away. But the interior of a warehouse did mean things were slightly more confined...

Flattening herself against his one of the crates, Quiet watches, waits...and hides from the invisible while trying to see it.

Quite the challenge, even for her.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Tracking a single shadow in a poorly lit warehouse definitely proves a challenge worthy of Quiet's skills... But it seems to be almost mimicking /her/ moves; flickering past the workers, pausing by one of the crates, and moving up into the rafters, where it's even harder to make out anything...

    ... And then the laughter starts. Not the cheerful giggle of people reacting to a joke at a party; not the maniacal cackle that people in Gotham have learned to fear, but something darkly malignant, derisive and mocking and full of menace, echoing from the walls, making it impossible to tell where it came from...

    "Scurrying around like roaches in the dead of night suits you, Davey," a voice calls out, distorted past the point where it sounds like anything recognizably human, constantly shifting position as if it's coming from literally everywhere. "Trying to get back into your masters' good graces by delivering these weapons. Did you really think you'd get away with it unnoticed? That I wouldn't KNOW!?"

    Another peal of laughter -- and on the floor, work has been halted and every 'worker' is now holding a weapon, grouping up into trios and scanning in all directions as they start patrolling for the source.

     The former driver is glaring at the spokesman - probably 'Davey' - with an expression of near-murderous fury. "You let a meta find out about this operation? You /idiot/!"

"I didn't, I /swear/--"

    'Let' implies that he had any say in the matter - or that I needed permission," the unseen entity interjects. "You play your cloak and dagger games, but the shadows are /my/ domain..."

    Some of the 'workers' are visibly unnerved by the laughter, but discipline seems to be holding... For now.

Quiet has posed:
That itself was very much -not- something out of Quiet's book. Technically she could laugh, just as she -could- talk...but neither were something she woud do. Whomever this shadow was however? It seemed that they were more than happy to terrorize the would-be Hydra operatives.

Indeed another Meta, but not one like herself. How very curious...

A little shift, a tilt of her head and she continues to watch. Not a shadow herself, but a distortion in the air very, -very- slowly reaching for her weapon.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    'Davey' seems to have recovered from the initial shock and his superior's accusations. "You think you're so clever, but did you know THIS?" he shouts, pulling a switch - and the heavy duty searchlight installed in the rafters switches on, bathing the entire warehouse in bright light - and casting a stark shadow on one of the walls.

    "Not so clever now, are you?" 'Davey' gloats as almost the entire work forces moves to cover the shadow. "You can come out and show yourself, or we can see if you're bulletproof. Your choice."

Quiet has posed:
Well...she was told to hold back, but the rules of engagement? Well, they could shift easy enough when a third party was in danger. She had no idea who the 'shadow' was, even if they very much gave the impression of a vigilante of some kind. Still, she shifts, moves and...drops down behind one of the men.

Her form presses up to one of the men's back, an arm of unnatural strength wrapping it around the man's throat in a well-practiced grip to choke him out. One at a time till things kicked off, quiet as her namesake.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    With all attention on the Shadow, no one notices Quiet, not even her chosen target right up until the moment someone closes off his windpipe. Making sure his bulk doesn't make noise when he falls is a bit harder, but she's had plenty of experience making bodies disappear.

    For his part, the Shadow appears to find his current predicament more amusing than alarming, as the laughter shifts to a low chuckle. "Oh, someone's feeling clever," comes the reply, apparently unconcerned with the tightening cordon around him. "Did you really think I didn't see your toy when I first came in?"

    The chuckling continues even as the soldiers close in, weapons raised - and even from Quiet's position she can see all of them getting progressively more tense.

    And then one of the soldiers suddenly twitches, turning to aim at an apparently empty corner with a yell of surprise and anger. An instant later, half the soldiers are turning to look as well - and in that instant of distraction, the Shadow's arm comes up, taking aim.

    The gunshot is almost deafening in the relatively close confines - and the blaze of light as the searchlight explodes is almost as blinding as the subsequent darkness. There are more shouts and a few more gunshots - but no indication that any of them hit anything...

Quiet has posed:
A gunshot in the dark had her crouching low, her own weapon up in an instant and ready to fire...but she doesn't fall to quite the same recklessness as the gunmen. Instead she scans the dark from her position, despite all the chaos around her Quiet couldn't help but be amused by the fact that somehow, despite everything, she so far managed to keep to the rules of observation and recon.

Of course, the sudden motion of throwing herself around the corner to avoid the wild gunfire disrupts her 'cloak', revealing the bikini-clad killer to anyone whose eyes might manage to pick her up in the darkness if they weren't distracted by their hunt for the shadow.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The gunfire peters out as 'Davey' manages to shout at them to hold fire loud enough to be heard, and by then there are several men down - apparently from ricochets. "... Spread out by threes, keep in contact, /FIND HIM/!" he yells, even as that chilling chuckle fills the air again, just long enough to let them know they missed.

    They're very obviously well-trained, but it's equally obvious that morale has taken a severe hit and it's on the verge of affecting discipline. They're still moving as teams, but the twitching is becoming much more severe -- on the one hand, that makes them harder to sneak up on, but probably easier to distract...

Quiet has posed:
Whoever 'Him' was, they'd certainly gotten enough to work for SHIELD to move in on. She actually makes to check her comlink for permission to move and act...but she'd have to make the decision for herself.

Perhaps she was simply getting impatient? Hard to know. But none the moves, her footsteps silent but the rush of wind perhaps enough to give her away enough that one poor mook in the team of three actually turns to face her right before she slams her foot into his face.

Twisting between the next pair with inhuman speed, she slams her fist into the jaw of the next man and then her elbow into the third. The silent supersoldier actually exhales a sigh of delight at action finally engaged...then she moves back into the dark to make her next attack.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
HYDRA has numbers.

They have the weapons.

They have the home ground.

But even with all that, they are not the hunters in this play.

    Quiet takes the trio out almost entirely silently, but the sound of bodies hitting the floor attracts another team that arrives just in time to see her vanish. There's call of 'Man down!' and guns and flashlights swing around to try to find where she'd gone... Until there's another yell from a different part of the warehouse, followed by the sound of fists and boots impacting flesh, and more bodies dropping.

    One of the agents, a bit quicker on the uptake than the others, goes wide-eyed in horror. "... Fuck. There's /two/ of them!?"

The only response is another malevolent chuckle echoing in the darkness.

Quiet has posed:
Enemy of my enemy doesn't automatically mean friend, but it would have to do in passing for the time being.

As panic rises and guns are turned wildly in all directions Quiet goes for another option. Hopefully the shadow wound be able to pick up on it, but when all the enemies were straining to peer into the dark? Well, it was simply too easy!

Hooked into her limited webbing she fishes the solitary flash-bang grenade free, tossing it deliberately to send it skittering between their feet noisily, to make them look while she shut her eyes and covered her ears.

Then there was the disorienting explosion of noise and light for an instant, echoing all the worse indoors before she lept into the disoriented mess, super-human punches slamming into the mooks intent on dropping them hard.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The skittering noise does exactly what Quiet intended -- several of the goons, already tense, startle at the noise and turn to look in its direction just as the flash detonates. Even with her ears covered, Quiet can hear several loud shouts of alarm and shock -- and one heavily distorted snarl of pain. Apparently her enemies' enemy hadn't quite reacted in time.

    Still, it has succeeded in incapacitating the largest remaining cluster of enemies, and she's in among them before they have a chance to recover. They're down in a matter of seconds, several of them without even realizing they had someone to worry about.

    Nearer to the back of the warehouse, 'Davey' is shouting increasingly angry demands for a report into his com, heedless of the fact that his superior has drawn a gun.

"HYDRA gave you this one chance to make up for your failures. There won't be a second."

    There's the sound of a gunshot, and Davey's shouting stops abruptly. The superior re-holsters his gun and turns to leave...

Quiet has posed:
Finally there was a gunshot, but it wasn't from one of the goons. A single sharp retort, but not of a bullet. Instead the 'ICER' pistol strapped to Quiet's thigh as drawn and fired in that single moment of precision, all semblence of stealth long past as the inhuman markswoman fired upon the 'superior' who'd confirmed his connection with that one sentence and execution.

Sure, she could worry about the masked assailent in the shadows in a moment, but well...SHIELD -had- sent her to get actionable intel. Capturing a confirmed HYDRA agent alive would fit the bill.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The HYDRA agent crumples in mid-step, his head bouncing off the concrete floor as he collapses - concussed, perhaps, but almost certainly not fatally so. The shouting has stopped, and after a last few muffled thuds punctuated by the distinct sound of a boot slamming into a face, the sound of fighting likewise comes to an end.

    Silence returns, interrupted only by the occasional pained groan or labored breathing... And one set of carefully measured footsteps, echoing off the walls.

Quiet has posed:
Her phone is retrieved from where it rested clipped to the rigging that really was all that seperated most of her outfit from simply being swimwear. One message over an encrypted channel later and she was sure a retrieval team was on their way to clean up soon.

In the meantime...

She turned, weapon at her side while she made to face the source of those approaching footsteps.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Something seems to be happening to the echoes -- with every step they become a little more focused, a little more precise, and as the remaining lights flicker back on that shadow is clearly visible along the far wall as it moves toward her, shifting, lenghtening, solidifying, shifting from two dimensions to three in an eye-straining moment... And a tall figure clad in black from hat to toe regards her from several meters away.

"SHIELD, I take it?" the Shadow inquires, one raised eyebrow barely visible above that crimson scarf.

Quiet has posed:
A shrug, but it might as well be an acknowledgement from the weapon held by her side alone before the silent woman tilts her head and raises an eyebrow. Clearly the question of who or 'what' the shadow was questioned without words in expression alone.

In the dark and surrounded by unconcious or injured HYDRA operatives, the pair couldn't have looked more different if they tried, one concealed almost completely, the other obviously having no issue being 'seen' at the moment.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The figure regards her silently for a few moments more, head tilting slightly as if awaiting a response while those blazing blue eyes regard her, seeming to look past the skin to her very soul beneath -- and then the moment passes as the figure likewise gives a shrug in response.

    "I am most commonly known as the Shadow," comes the reply to her unspoken question. "One of my agents called my attention to this company's... off-the-books activities -- a number of transfers that had never made the official manifest. I decided it warranted a personal investigation."

    A sound that was probably a snort before the voice mask they're using distorted it beyond recognition. "HYDRA. That explains a great deal. I'll have to make it more clear that they aren't welcome in this town..."

Quiet has posed:
Agents? That just raised more questions. Of course, Quiet couldn't vocalise those, so instead she simply lowers her other hand to rest on her cocked hip, its twin still keeping her pistol close. Just in case.

Still, at mention of HYDRA from the staring figure and their recieving a message of being unwelcome? Quiet's lips quirk and she gestures to their surroundings and the general state of the thugs.

They had in some ways already made a bit of a statement!

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The Shadow seems to have little difficulty reading Quiet's body language, and a harsh chuckle is the response. "Indeed. Hopefully they'll take this lesson to heart," they reply. "hr,... Although I doubt it.)"

    Another twitch of the head, as if listening to something she can't hear. "... And I believe that's my cue to leave," they add. "Give your superiors my regards - and good hunting."

    A nod, a touch of a gloved hand to the hat mimicing a tip without lifting it, and the Shadow turns to leave, seeming to fade away with every step until mist and shadows swallow them...

Quiet has posed:
Curious...but Quiet was nothing if not patient when she had to be. She'd learn more when she could, but until then as the other figure departed to what she assumed was the sound of her backup arriving, the bikini-clad sniper simply nods, arms folding under her bust.

Just who was that shadow?

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    SHIELD backup arrives momentarily, and the warehouse is quickly and efficiently secured. Of the Shadow, there's no sign - and none of the agents reports seeing anything out of the ordinary on the way in.

    It would appear Quiet's last question will remain unanswered, at least for now.

Whether it ever will be... Only The Shadow Knows.