#3: How To Make Friends And Influence People, Pt 3 Sept 30, 2015 13:32:27 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Sept 30, 2015 13:32:27 GMT -5
Issue Three: “How To Make Friends And Influence People, Pt 3”
Written by UltimateDC
Cover by Roy Flinchum
Cover by Roy Flinchum
Edited by Charlie Wilkins
The next person to show up at the Iceberg Lounge after the Terror Twins was Oswald Cobblepot’s extra security: a tall, lanky man who introduced himself as Guillermo Barrera. Wearing a plain leather jacket and jeans, he strolled in casually, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
Oswald approached him and said with minor agitation, “Did you bring your uniform?”
“I did,” Barrera said, somewhat defensive. “Although you said this was just a fence deal. I don’t know why I need to be in costume.”
“Get dressed,” Oswald ordered. “We have to keep up appearances.”
Not long after Barrera donned his grey jumpsuit, patchwork mask and various belts loaded with razor sharp throwing knives, the buyer of the 86-carat diamond finally arrived: a balding man in his sixties who was known only as Mr Harris. Accompanying Harris was a dark-haired young woman in a red costume, whom he introduced as his bodyguard, Cinder.
“Harris!” Oswald said with a smile. “Wonderful to have you back in Gotham! Can I get you a drink? Ms Lark, bring our good friend anything he asks for.”
“I’m ten months sober,” Mr Harris said dismissively. “Mr Cobblepot, I’m a busy man, as are, I’m sure you and your…” he looked to the twins. “…associates, so let’s get down to business. Please show me the diamond .”
“Of course, ” Oswald said. He turned to the twins. “Miss McTernan?”
From where she was sat Tuppence regarded Harris briefly, before reaching into her pocket and producing a silk pouch. She stood up from the booth, walked over to Harris-- an act which put Cinder on guard--- and gently placed the pouch in his hand. Harris sat down at a table and pulled from the pouch the diamond. It was a bigger jewel than any present had ever seen, the size of a tennis ball and clear as glass.
Harris drew a jeweler’s loupe from his jacket pocket and placed it in his right eye, then began his inspection.
Oswald felt his fingers twitch--- a nervous tic he’d had since he was a teenager. He didn’t try to cover it up for fear that any movement would shift the eyes in the room to him, so instead he let himself twitch and waited for Harris to finish examining the diamond.
Finally, Harris took out his loupe, set it on the table, and casually said, “I can give you two million for it.”
Tommy muttered a quiet “yes” to himself, while Tuppence allowed herself a small smile. Their attitudes changed when Oswald said with confidence, “ten.”
“Ten? Are you insane?” Harris said. “I can’t recoup ten million on this thing! I can go up to three and that’s it.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I thought you came here to make a deal ,” Oswald said. “Eight million.”
“All right, five million dollars, and that’s as high as I can go,” Harris narrowed his eyes at him. “Take it or leave it, Cobblepot.”
Oswald was pensive for a moment, before taking a breath and saying, “five million it is.”
Harris and Cobblepot shook hands and the Terror Twins looked at each other, both of them beaming. Oswald even allowed himself a smile. Harris was stern as ever as he pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll contact my people and have the funds transferred into your account.”
Before anything else could be said, a woman in tight red and black leather with subtle reptilian scales covering her skin landed on the table Harris sat at. Faster than they would have believed, the woman snatched the diamond out of Harris’s hand, flipped backwards off the table and made a break for the exit.
As the assembled criminals watched this unfold, a cloud of green fog began to trail the thief, quickly gaining speed, until it eventually engulfed her. The cloud passed quickly across the woman and when it did, the diamond went with it.
The reptilian woman sneered and shouted, “oh no you don’t you little-- AH!” She felt something sharp and painful in her shoulder, and when she arched her neck to see the cause, the woman saw that a knife had firmly planted itself at the source of the pain. She looked back and saw the source of the blade-- Barrera-- and that he was holding another, ready to throw.
“Who the hell are you?” shouted Oswald.
“--And where the hell is my diamond?” added Harris.
Copperhead crouched in place; her snake-like eyes darting from Oswald and Harris, to the still-ready Barrera with his throwing knife raised, over to the Twins, who had both stood up and were looking to start a fight, finally to Cinder, who now seemed to be holding a fireball in her open hand.
Copperhead muttered something in Spanish that none of them heard, before she shouted to them: “Come on! Get it done with!”
“Not so fast!”
Entering from the back door came four men, all of whom gave Copperhead a conflicted sense of relief and embarrassment at their arrival.
“What in God’s name are you people doing in my club?!” said Oswald .
“We’re here for the diamond,” said Cluemaster, “now, where is it?”
“That misty bitch took it and split,” Copperhead answered.
Cluemaster put a hand over his masked face and let out a strained sigh. “Fine! Then I guess our business here is concluded,” he gestured toward the door, “we’ll be on our-- JEEZ!”
Cluemaster ducked just in time as Tommy Terror flew through the air, hurled by his sister at the group. The older twin crashed headlong into Mr Toad, sending them both barreling through the back door.
“Hey!” Oswald said out loud. “Don’t damage the club!”
“Bill us, Pengy. We’re millionaires now,” muttered Tuppence Terror as she ran after her brother. She was stopped when Copperhead dove onto her, coiling and crawling around her body with the utmost grace. Tuppence tried to tear her off, but couldn’t lay a hand on the scaly-skinned assassin.
Despite Oswald’s protests and anger, the fight in the Iceberg Lounge was on, and nothing he could say or do was going to stop it.
* * * * * *
Tommy recovered quickly from his brief flight and powerful crash. Being a human fastball wasn’t ideal, but it was a tactic that worked for him and his sister before; nobody saw it coming, and few could prepare for it. He looked down at the dazed face of Mr Toad-- grimaced at his appearance-- and prepared to finish him off with one well-placed, super-strong punch.
Toad returned to his senses not a moment too soon. Before Tommy could land his decisive blow, Toad’s unusually long tongue shot from his mouth and hit the Terror Twin directly in the eye. He grunted in surprise and tried rubbing at it to ease the discomfort.
Toad, not wasting a second, grabbed Tommy by the shoulders and rolled backwards, flipping over and throwing Tommy off of him. Toad got to his feet and slipped on his brass knuckles just as Tommy recovered and stood up as well.
“C’mon then, sonny,” smirked Mr Toad, bouncing on his feet and holding up his fists like an old-timey boxer. “Show me what you can do.”
Tommy, with one eye squinting, charged forward, only for Toad to effortlessly step aside. Tommy turned and swung at him wildly, but Toad ducked and dodged every punch that came his way. Toad jabbed at his foe, hitting Tommy square in the face but not at all slowing him down.
“I’ve fought plentya’ blokes like you before, small timer,” Toad dodged another hit and returned it with a successful jab. “Yew fink that jus’ ‘cos yer strong, ya don’t need ta know nuffin’ ‘bout fightin’--” Toad hit him again. “--Well I don’t care if you’re Giant bloody Haystacks --” Another hit. “--Power don’t mean owt’ if ya can’t connect!”
Toad jabbed once more, but this time Tommy caught his green fist and squeezed it. Toad yelped at the pain as Tommy seethed at him.
“You talk too damn much,” said Tommy, punctuating his statement with a fist straight into Toad’s face. The frog man flew back and slid across the ground. The world shifted and blinked in and out of focus around him and he felt blood streaming out of his nose. Still, he staggered to his feet and put up his fists, ready for the next round.
Tommy smirked and walked towards him. “Any last words ‘fore I beat yer ass ta death?”
“Just the one, mate,” said Toad. His throat swelled and bulged and he let loose another of his ear-splitting croaks.
The elder Terror Twin put his hands over his ears and, despite being slowed by the sheer force of the assault, kept walking towards his enemy.
Toad doubled his effort, putting as much air, as much power, as he could into his croak. The whole room seemed to shake with the force of the noise he was projecting. As he pushed, Toad’s head began swimming, but he ignored it as best he could and kept up the sonic assault.
Finally, as Tommy reared back and was prepared to strike at his foe, he lost his balance against the sheer force of the sound. He fell and flew back, bouncing across the ground like a stone as he flew through the demolished doorway and out of the room.
Toad stopped and took a few much-needed deep breaths. He tried to say something clever, but only managed to wheeze out, “tha’s-” before he fell to the ground unconscious.
* * * * * *
When Guillermo Barrera came to Gotham City, he was told that a soldier of fortune could make money on domestic soil if he had a costume, a gimmick, and a name; apparently, years of training with the Hasaraguan Territorial Army and his role as head of interrogation for the secret police wasn’t enough.
So, Barrera commissioned a costume that made him look like a gargoyle, purchased as many razor-sharp blades as he could, and started marketing himself as ‘Brutale’.
It all seemed a bit silly to him, but America was a land of wretched excess; soldiers couldn’t be just soldiers, they had to be villains. Besides, if he could handle working for General Navarro, he could handle anything.
Looking at what was happening around him, he wished he’d gone to Juarez instead.
The one that gave Barrera the most worry was the big one with only one arm. He’d heard rumors of the vicious Hammer and Sickle brothers, and looking at the seven-foot-tall man covered in scars and tattoos, he was ready to believe them.
Barrera drew another knife from his belt and hurled it at his neck, then another, and another. Sickle barely dodged the first as it nicked his skin, and the other two thudded into the wall behind him. His eyes lit up when he saw Barrera and he rushed at him, gripping his namesake weapon in his left hand.
Barrera threw another knife, barely giving himself time to aim before he threw it. It landed in Sickle’s chest, but the giant grunted and continued running at Barrera. He roared and swung the sickle hard at Barrera, who dove out of the way as it crashed into the ground. Barrera recovered quickly and drew knives from his belt with both hands.
“Let’s dance, cabrón,” said Brutale, and the two charged at each other.
Sickle had more speed than Brutale anticipated, but the lone arm meant he could only attack half as much, which seemed to balance it out in Barrera’s mind. He had reach, however, and Brutale found he couldn’t get close enough to cut anything important.
After a few missed swings from Sickle, a back-handed strike hit Brutale in the head, toppling him to the ground. His helmet absorbed most of the blow, but he still found himself seeing stars from his place on the ground.
“Die with dignity,” said Sickle. He raised his oversized weapon overhead, and as he prepared to strike, Brutale rolled out of the way and hurled another knife at him. This one found its target, plunging into Sickle’s stomach. He suppressed a cry of pain as Brutale pressed the advantage, leaping to his feet, grabbing the knife in his enemy’s stomach, drawing it out, and stabbing him again and again and again with it.
Sickle’s weapon clattered to the floor and he grabbed Brutale by the neck and lifted him up, choking him. “For that, you will die slowly,” he snarled. “Dasvidaniya, little man.”
Something slammed into Sickle’s head from behind and he collapsed to the ground, his wounds bleeding onto the carpet. Brutale was released from his grasp. Neither of them got up.
* * * * * *
As the battle erupted in front of her, Cinder drowned the sound of Oswald Cobblepot’s screams of protest out and turned her focus inward, blocking out the noise and concentrating until she felt the spark ignite around her. She became engulfed in fire, a silhouette surrounded by red light as flames danced around her.
Cinder took off into the air, flying past the other fights going on in the club and focusing on the two near the back; the blond one in the brown costume and the one with the large playing card tattoo.
Cluemaster’s attention was focused on the many fights going on in front of him, but his focus quickly shifted to the burning woman flying at them. Double Down grinned and said confidently, “I got this.”
The tattooed villain held out an arm and patches of skin peeled off it, revealing themselves as razor-thin playing cards as they hovered in the air before him.
Without warning they shot forward at Cinder, but she hurled a ball of fire at them, turning them to ash. Double Down cried out in pain as Cinder prepared another shot. A stream of fire erupted from her hands and flew towards him.
A wall of cards appeared in front of him and he shrieked as the flame burnt it away, dropping to his knees as he clearly struggled to keep his defense up.
Suddenly, waves of water fell onto all of them. Cinder looked panicked as the fire surrounding her diminished until it was finally extinguished. She fell to the ground and landed hard, leaving her dazed was her body smoked.
Cluemaster stepped away from the fire alarm on the wall and went to Double Down’s side. He appeared to be completely skinless and panting, only muscle and sinew on display. “Will you be all right?”
“It… grows back… long as there’s one card… left in the deck,” said Double Down, “I guess this… makes us even… y’know? You save my life… I save yours?”
“I saved you back in Arkham, too,” said Arthur. “You still owe me one.”
“Really?” said Double Down. “…Crap.”
A gunshot rang out and Cluemaster was knocked back onto the drenched ground. His vest saved his life, but the impact knocked the wind out of him and moving was going to be a challenge.
Before he could try, Arthur felt a kick across his face. He looked up and saw Oswald Cobblepot standing over him, red in the face and hand gripped tightly around the handle of an umbrella.
“You stupid son of a bitch!” growled the Penguin. “Who sent you? Was it Sionis? Falcone? Joker? Who!?”
Cluemaster spat out a mouthful of blood and replied, “a little voice in our heads.”
Cobblepot grunted and gave him another kick. “Fine. Losers like you aren’t worth torturing, anyway.”
As the Penguin aimed the tip of his umbrella at Cluemaster’s face-- which Arthur noticed looked curiously like the barrel of a gun-- another cacophonous sound interrupted them. A limousine had crashed through the front door and was honking its horn repeatedly. Sitting behind the wheel was a young woman with short black hair and sunglasses.
“Come on!” shouted the Mist.
Taking advantage of Oswald’s momentary shock, Cluemaster pushed through the pain in his chest, pulled a capsule from his vest and hurled it at Oswald’s face. It burst open and let out a cloud of gas that burnt his eyes and made him cough hoarsely, even as the sprinklers finally turned off.
Cluemaster got to his feet and awkwardly made his way back to the car, seeing Copperhead and Double Down beat him to the back seat. He climbed in after them, and as soon as he sat down, he felt the chassis shake; Sickle, dazed and bruised, got into the cabin and fell hard against the seat.
Arthur turned to the Mist. “Did you…” he wheezed and clutched his bruised chest. “Did you get the diamond?”
“C’mon,” she grinned, holding up the jewel. “I’m a professional, aren’t I?”
The driver’s side door opened-- much to Mist’s shock-- and Mr Toad was standing there, breathing heavily. He didn’t speak, but instead pointed and snapped his fingers at the passenger seat. Mist shifted into green fog, drifted down the seat, and rematerialized on the other side. Toad got in after her, closed the door, and took the wheel in both of his green-skinned hands.
From inside the limousine, the Secret Six saw Cinder get to her feet, staring daggers at the car. She reached out a shaky, drenched hand towards the car and her fingers began to glow red like hot metal, steam and smoke coming off of it. It burst into flames as she aimed it at the limo.
“Oh, crap,” said the Mist. Toad shifted the car into reverse and began to pull away, but the damage to it and the rubble around the wheels made a quick escape impossible.
“I got this. I mean it this time,” Double Down said. He reached a skinless hand to the door and rolled down the window. With a flick of the wrist, a card shot out from the sleeve of his jacket and flew across the club, darting in front of Cinder, and flying back. The saw her choke in surprise and grab her throat as blood streamed from beneath her hand. She convulsed and dropped to her knees as the card flew back into the limo and landed in Double Down’s hand.
“My lucky lady,” he said, kissing the face of the Queen of Hearts, ignoring the blood on the edges. With that, the limo peeled out of the club, swerved onto the street, and sped off into the night.
By the time to police and fire department arrived at the Iceberg Lounge, Mr Harris, the Terror Twins and Brutale were long gone, along with every trace of Cinder’s corpse, all of the cash available, and several bottles of high-priced liquor from behind the bar. Oswald, Jay and Ms Lark all gave the same story about a team of supervillains who robbed them after hours and trashed the lounge. The cops were suspicious of the story, but didn’t ask further questions and eventually left the three of them alone.
An hour later, while Jay was on the phone with the insurance company and Oswald was in his miraculously undamaged office, numbing his bitterness with scotch, he received a phone call from a blocked number. He had a good idea of who it was from. He sighed, braced himself for the worst and then answered, “Cobblepot.”
“Is it safe?” asked Harris.
“The cops don’t know you were here,” answered Cobblepot. “So if that’s what you’re asking, then yes, it’s safe.”
“Good, good,” said Harris, audibly relieved. “Now, Oswald, can you tell me what in God’s name happened back there!?”
“The dangers of working in Gotham,” said Oswald. “I don’t how they found out about the deal, but rest assured, I will put every ounce of my resources into getting the diamond back. Then we can resume our business--”
“You are out of your damn mind if you think I’m doing business with you again!” shouted Harris. “My bodyguard is dead, for God’s sake! You and I are finished, Penguin. Never contact me again!”
The line went dead. Oswald took a moment to collect himself, to make sure he didn’t do any more damage to his club, before approaching his assistant outside in the main lounge.
“Hey boss,” said Jay, “the insurance company is sending someone to assess the damages on Friday. Before then, we should put together a--”
“Call Forbes,” Oswald cut her off. “Arrange a meeting with him. I want to get the diamond back and I want to punish the people who took it.”
“Sir,” answered Jay nervously, “are you sure that’s the best course of action? We don’t know how much repairs are going to cost, we’ll have to shut down the club for a while and the cops are probably keeping an eye on you--”
“THEY HUMILIATED ME!” shouted Oswald, swiping his umbrella across the bar top, smashing whatever glasses remained untouched by the earlier brawl, “they broke into my club, my home, and they made me look like a fool! No, Jay, now IS the time. We will hunt these bastards down, and as God as my witness, I’ll sew a flag from their skins before I’m done with them. Nobody embarrasses me like that. NOBODY! So do as I ask and call Forbes. Arrange a meeting. We’re going to find those six bastards and we’re going to make them regret they EVER crossed Oswald Cobblepot!”
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