#2: How To Make Friends And Influence People, Pt 2 Sept 8, 2015 16:22:51 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Sept 8, 2015 16:22:51 GMT -5
Issue Two: “How To Make Friends And Influence People, Pt 2”
Written by UltimateDC
Edited by Charlie Wilkins
The six of them had been drugged and taken away in the night to an abandoned highsecurity mental institution on the outskirts of Gotham City.
The six of them were told that they had been drafted into a mercenary team, and that should they refuse a mission or disobey orders, they would see their lives burnt to the ground by the mysterious figure who brought them in known only as the Voice.
Now, the six of them sat in what was once the mess hall of Arkham Asylum, looking up at an old TV screen, as the mysterious Voice began briefing them.
<Your first mission begins tonight,> he said in his distorted, unnatural voice.
The TV monitor flickered and changed, showing a series of images; mugshots, arrest records, as well as video footage, all of them featuring two people. They were teenagers, a boy and a girl, both of them looking and dressing very much like the other.
<This,> the Voice continued, <is Thomas and Tuppence McTernan, a.k.a. the Terror Twins. They’re metahumans out of South Carolina who work as hired muscle for whoever pays. They recently decided to be their own bosses and made their first big robbery: an 86 carat diamond worth over five million. They’ve opted to sell their loot here, in Gotham, using this man as a fence.>
The screen then showed news articles featuring an unusuallooking man, with an exceptionally round frame and a pointed nose. He wore an elegant suit, completing the ensemble with a top hat, bowtie, monocle, with an umbrella hanging over his arm.
<Oswald Cobblepot,> he continued, <aka the Penguin. He’s found a buyer, and the transaction will be happening in a few hours at his club, the Iceberg Lounge. Your task will be to steal the diamond and deliver it to a safe house I have in the Cauldron.>
“A jewel heist? Really?” Copperhead asked. “I’m an assassin and you want me to steal a diamond?”
There was a pause before the Voice answered. <Before we go forward with assignments more suited to your individual talents I need to be certain of your efficiency and as a team and your capability on a basic mission. Now if there are no further questions, I’d advise you to step outside. There’ll be a car waiting for you. Inside it will be a tablet that’ll have all the information you’ll need to complete this job>
<Before I send you out into the world, remember this: You are my Six. You have been chosen. And you are, each of you, utterly useless. This world has given you great gifts, incredible talents, and you have accomplished nothing. Now is your chance to change that; to become more than just petty criminals and superhuman failures. Don’t squander it, my agents. And don’t fail me. You are all aware of the consequences.>
And with that, the screens went black, leaving the Six alone with each other in the mess hall. After a moment of silence, it was broken by Mr Toad asking, “Well ‘e certainly knows ‘ow ta give a pep talk, eh?”
Copperhead rolled her eyes, stood up, and headed for the door. “C’mon,” she said as she pushed the double door opens. “Apparently, we have a diamond to steal.”
* * * * * *
Oswald Cobblepot was tense, and when he was tense, he drank. He sat in his private office alone, poured himself a glass of 105 Year Old Master of Malt scotch whiskey (market price $1.4 Million, but Oswald procured it in more underhanded ways), and sipped at it eagerly. It didn’t matter that he thought it tasted like death or that it felt like he was swallowing a lit match; he needed a drink, and this was how people of his kind drank. The least he could do is drink in style. So Oswald endured, and waited for the proper time to arrive so that he could finally relax.
It wasn’t as if Oswald never dealt with unstable elements in this business; he’d fenced for Catwoman (adrenaline junkie), worked with the Riddler (egomaniac), the Scarecrow (creep), even Mr Freeze (obsessive) and nearly every other unhinged psychotic in Gotham City.
Oswald, researched them, known them, worked them, handled them all. However, the McTernans were unknowns, wild cards; they couldn’t be predicted.
Worse yet, the twins were still teenagers, full of volatile hormones and prone to making stupid, shortsighted decisions. A deal of this scale had to be handled with the utmost of care, and Oswald wasn’t certain the twins could provide it. So he sat in his office, alone and drinking.
The scotch wasn’t helping.
Oswald’s door opened and a woman stuck her head in; Jamie Bloom, his assistant. She was in her late thirties, stocky, with auburn hair tied back. “Sir, the McTernan twins are here.”
Oswald muttered a curse, downed the last of his scotch grimaced, coughed and then said, affecting a smile, “Thank you kindly, Jay. Tell them I’ll be out shortly.”
Jamie left, closing the door behind her. Oswald donned his jacket and top hat, tied his bowtie perfectly, checked the mirror to make sure he looked impeccable, and then walked out of office and into the main room of the Iceberg Lounge.
Between the grand ice sculpture in the center of the room and the bar on the far side, sat two people in one of the private booths. They were a boy and a girl, looking to be sixteen, blond, wearing the same white sleeveless shirts and camouflage cargo pants. The girl had a bemused smile on her face as she watched the boy chatting up the lounge’s hostess, who quickly walked away flustered at the approach of her boss.
“Mr and Miss McTernan!” Oswald said, faking magnanimousness. “Welcome to the Iceberg Lounge. Ms. Lark,” he said, gesturing to one of the nearby hostesses, “be a dear and pour our guests a couple glasses of soda?”
Tommy McTernan laughed, and spoke in a southern drawl. “Aw c’mon, Pengy, this ain’t Disneyland.” He looked over to the hostess, tapped his empty glass and said, “why don’t you pour some whiskey in mine, darlin’?”
Oswald felt a twitch in his eye. “I wasn’t aware you had aged five years in the past month, Thomas. I’m not sure what the law is down south, but in Gotham, the drinking age is twentyone.”
“You can’t be serious,” he scoffed. “You’re a gangster fencin’ a diamond stolen by two wanted supercriminals. Who gives a damn about the law?”
“The law may be… flexible,” Oswald said, his generosity seeping out of him. “But as long as you do business with me, you will respect the rules of my establishment or you can throw your diamond into the river for all I care.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes at Oswald. He looked like he was about to stand up, but his sister put a hand on his arm. He looked at her and she shook her head at him. Tommy took a breath, sat back down, and forced a smile on his face. “Two sodas it is.”
“Outstanding,” Oswald resisted the urge to make his statement facetious. “This is how tonight is going to work: in the next ten minutes, tonight’s extra security will arrive, followed shortly thereafter by Mr Harris and his entourage. We’ll talk, relax, then Harris will ask to see the diamond. He’ll inspect it, determine its value, and we’ll negotiate a deal. He gets his rock, you get your payday, I get my ten percent, and then we’ll all be on our merry little way; a basic, straightforward, noroughstufftype deal. Sound good?”
“Couldn’t’a said it better myself,” Tuppence answered.
“Good,” Oswald said. The hostess, Ms Lark, arrived with the Terror Twins’ drinks. “Kids,” the Penguin continued. “If everything goes according to plan tonight, you won’t be my customers anymore, you’ll be my partners, and I always drink with my partners.”
Oswald gave them a smile, and the twins returned it. They took their glasses of cola, raised them to Oswald, and drank. And whether they knew it or not, all three of them shared the same thought at the same time:
If you screw this up for me, I’ll kill you.
* * * * * *
The car that awaited the Secret Six in what was once the parking garage of Arkham Asylum turned out to be a stretch limousine they figured the Voice had sprung for a vehicle that could carry all of them. Still, Sickle had a difficult time getting in, and the chassis rocked back and forth when he did manage to take a seat.
Mr Toad insisted on being the one to drive, claiming he had spent his life ‘drivin’ the motorcars’ and was the best they had at it. To his credit, he was making excellent time to the Iceberg Lounge, but his driving was loose and reckless, nearly crashing the limo and disrupting Gotham’s early morning traffic more than once. It was a miracle no cop cars were chasing them.
Cluemaster sat shotgun with the Voice’s tablet in his lap, going over every piece of information stored inside regarding the mission at hand and giving Toad directions whenever he needed them.
Sitting in the passenger section were the last four. Sickle was near the divider in the front of the cabin while Copperhead and Mist were in the back, the latter staring daggers at him. Double Down was in between, aware of the tension he was positioned in and doing his best to not draw attention from either of them.
After ten minutes of feeling the Mist’s silent venom, Sickle rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the people in the front.
“You can stare at him all you like,” said Copperhead. “But it won’t kill him.”
“Yeah, but it reminds him of what I did to him,” Mist said. “By the way, thanks for helping me out back there. I owe you one.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” Copperhead answered. “The Voice wanted us all alive. I was following his instructions. If it were up to me I’d leave you where I found you. All of you.”
Copperhead’s tone made it absolutely clear that she wasn’t joking. “If we are to survive this enslavement, I’d rather not put my life in the hands of someone so stupid as to antagonize a man like that and leave him alive afterwards.”
Mist wanted to say something in response, something clever and biting that could express all of her anger and bitterness, but Copperhead’s words had cut her deeply, so instead she just spat an inarticulate “Screw you,” and returned to staring at Sickle.
* * * * * *
As the limo turned onto the highway that would take them into Gotham’s Pinkney District, Sickle sidled up to the divider and asked, “How much longer this will take? Misty girl keeps staring at me.”
“Well, maybe you’ll fink about that next time ya try an’ kill someone, eh?” Mister Toad asked.
“GPS says we’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” Cluemaster answered his question.
“I can cut that time in half, easy like,” Toad said, swerving the limo around a car in front of them and sped past it.
“Not if we want to get there in one piece without the entire GCPD following us, Mr Toad,” Cluemaster scolded him.
Toad muttered a curse under his breath and slowed the limo down.
Sickle cleared his throat and said, “The Voice said you were in Circus of Strange, yes?”
“Since the age a’ fourteen,” Toad answered. “Why’d ya ask?”
“Is nothing,” Sickle said. “I used to be in circus too, with…” he trailed off, scratching at the scar on his shoulder. “Although I did not work for anyone as insane as your Professor Pyg.”
The limo slammed to a halt, throwing everyone offbalance except for Mister Toad, whose foot was pressing the brake pedal down as far as it would go. When the car settled, he turned around, faced Sickle, and said, “Get this through your thick ‘ead, ruskie: you don’t talk about Pyg like that to me! You got that?”
“Yes, yes, I understand,” Sickle answered, trying to placate him. Toad snorted and resumed driving the limo.
“Anyway, Pyg weren’t crazy,” Toad said, flippantly. “‘E was just misunderstood, y’see.”
“And what was his misunderstanding?” Sickle asked.
“The professor…’e had this ‘ere philosophy,” Toad explained. “Pyg thought that all humanity every one of us that we were freaks. The socalled ‘normal’ hid it best they could, while people like us in the Circus leaned into it, embraced it, lived it. Didn’t seem right to ‘im that we were the ones singled out for being true to ourselves, so ‘e wanted to fix it. Pyg took the blokes what seemed the most normal, the ones trying to cover up their eccentricities, and made ‘em normal as could be. That’s what the Dollotrons were: people stripped of their identities, their personalities, until all that was left a person as normal and dull as they liked. The way ‘e saw it, if you wasn’t a freak, you was nothin’.”
“Your professor’s philosophy left trail of bodies behind,” Sickle said.
Toad shrugged. “All surgeries ‘ave their risks. ‘E did ‘is best.”
After a moment of silence as the inhabitants of the car took in this new information, Sickle said, “You are strange man, Mister Toad.”
“From the day I was born,” Toad answered.
Nobody said anything else for the rest of the journey.
* * * * * *
The limo pulled up to Pinkney Street, an avenue that ended with the lavish Iceberg Lounge. Toad parked it, and as the Six got out, the tablet in Cluemaster’s hand pinged and lit up. He looked at it and said to the rest of them, “We got a message: ‘Look in the trunk. V’”
“Ten bucks says it’s a bomb,” Mist said.
“Twenty says it’s a dead body,” Toad added.
They found, to their surprise, that the trunk contained something they actually wanted: equipment. Specifically, it was their weapons their customized tools of the trade that were taken from them during their abduction.
For some, they were rare instruments, like Cluemaster’s bulletproof vest, strapped with capsules that carried his various gadgets and devices; or Copperhead’s bracers, each equipped with claws on her first and middle fingers.
For the rest, they were much more basic; Mist’s Colt .45, Mister Toad’s brass knuckles (and pack of cigarettes), and Sickle’s namesake.
“It’s gotta be real inconvenient to have to carry around your weapons with you,” Double Down said, flicking at one of the cards etched into his flesh.
“I dunno, kiddo,” Toad said. “I laid your arse out pretty well with just me lavely singin’ voice.”
Double Down grumbled something, but didn’t have it in him to say it aloud. With that, the unlikely group faced their first mission in the Iceberg Lounge.
“Alright, let’s get this over with,” Copperhead said, tired of this mission before it even began.
“That’s the team spirit the Voice wanted to hear,” Cluemaster said. “Alright,” he held up the tablet, “this has the lounge’s blueprints on it. There’s a back door in that I can pick the lock on. Once I do, Copperhead, you should… Copperhead?”
She was gone. Without a word, a sound, or a trace left, Copperhead had all but disappeared.
Cluemaster rubbed his eyes in exasperation. “I think we’re gonna have to put a bell on her.”
“Oh no,” Mist said. “No way that bitch is getting the diamond before I do.”
She changed, becoming a cloud of green smoke. The cloud shot through the air at the Lounge and disappeared from sight before any of them could start.
“This is goin’ great,” Toad said.
“C’mon, team,” Cluemaster said. “Let’s go do what we’ve been told to do.”
To Be Continued
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