15440/Lightning Crashes

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Lightning Crashes
Date of Scene: 08 August 2023
Location: The Velvet Club
Synopsis: As Red Hood ramps up his one man war on the Gotham Mafia, Huntress makes a rare appearance in recent weeks to try and stop him. If anything it hardens his resolve. Some people's children.
Cast of Characters: Red Hood, Huntress

Red Hood has posed:
In the days following the violent clash between the Galente and Bertinelli families, the news has been playing and replaying the GCPD provided video clips and lamenting the sudden increase in mafia violence as the power struggle continues.

Only slightly less covered is discussion and speculation about the apparent vigilante glimpsed in the video. Some shows are even trying to prove who it is based on what can be seen of the figure's form, others based on the glowing lenses. Some think it's Batman. Others think it's actually Azrael the so called Avenging Angel. Some argue that it couldn't be either because they don't use guns. It could only be Batwoman. Or Red Hood. But he doesn't kill. Right? Does she?

Three nights later, outside the Mob-owned Velvet Club, an angry figure watches as a number of SUVs show up to join those already parked. Suited figures emerge and walk inside like they own the place, likely because one of them does.

Security is heavier than usual, whether because of the aggressive acquisitions of the Bertinelli family, or because the arrival of the vigilante at that meeting - on top of other direct attacks by vigilante(s?) - it is hard to say. Probably all of the above to one degree or another.

Watching from those shadows, Red Hood frowns behind his mask. The optics display positive IDs as figures can be seen. Galente members. Falcone. A number of insignificant families that do a lot of the dirty work for the Big Five.

Nodding to himself, there were enough inside to indicate an important meeting.
Huntress has posed:
Helena Bertinelli's name being in the public domain and her link with the recent moves in the Five Families is... problematic. Some of it is, in a way, mundane. She receives a call from the school she works for to tell them her services as a teacher is no longer required. She tells them she understands, thanks them, and hangs up. She doesn't let anyone see her cry. She'll miss the kids. But this is more important. She's already sacrificed so much, she can't give up now.

Other calls, from Sicily. Calls from distant acquaintances, others in High Society, merely wanting gossip. Some she indulges with fanciful stories, others are refuted with, 'They once claimed I had a secret daughter, too, can you believe the press?' Distractions, rumors and gossip to muddy the waters. Maybe one day she'll be able to recover the reputation of Helena Bertinelli.

But she suspects she's now past the point of no return.

It's just another thing to throw on the fire, much like her relationship with one Jason Todd, the Red Hood.

There's a tap at the door. Her consigliere steps in, one hand covering the phone he's holding. "I got word Galante's meeting with a bunch of groups outside of the five at the Velvet Club. Seems he's trying to garner support. You want me to put the boys on it?"

Tempting. But good chance it would just end in another bloodbath, and the recent moves -- as well as the conflict with her own family, some of them bucking her leadership, makes that too risky. "Not tonight. Keep an ear to the ground. We've plenty of people in those circles who will leak word of the outcome later." Helena rises. "I'm headed to bed."

She's not, though.

The uniform that was once housed in a secret room inside her penthouse has been tucked away in a hideaway at the back of her closet in the Bertinelli mansion. This room, she knows, once housed stacks of cash, her father's personal slush fund. She stares at the purple and black outfit. If it were her, she'd be there. Which means, more than likely, he will be.

The decision is made swiftly, and she changes. It's been weeks since she's gone out on the rooftops as Huntress, snuck past security, entered the dark streets of Gotham without a cadre of Bertinelli muscle behind her. It feels freeing. But there's a tension in the tightness of her gut. She isn't sure what she'll do when she gets there, if he's there. Mostly because she isn't sure what /he/ will do.
Red Hood has posed:
She knows him better than she thinks.

Whether she can get there in time - and what she chooses to do if she does - might be harder to decide.

At the club, the figure has repositioned and is now.. right outside the front doors.

Red Hood's form is hunched forward, stalking like a predator toward the bouncers at the door. His chin is tipped down so he appears to be looking just through the top of his optics. He doesn't seem to care if he is spotted as he isn't even trying to avoid the pools of light cast across the parking lot.

Once in range, about the same time that the bouncers notice him, Red Hood lifts his guns and begins firing. There are no silencers. The shots erupt loud and violent. To their credit, the bouncers do get their weapons out but their return fire strikes the ground short of the attacking vigilante.

As Red Hood nears the club, he looks at the five Mob vehicles taking up the club's handicapped parking spaces. Who does that? Talk about an asshole move. Pulling out sticky bombs, he tosses one onto the hood of each SUV. The moment he kicks in the front doors, he sets the charges off. Each vehicle eruprs into a ball of orange-yellow flame and black churning smoke.
Huntress has posed:
The Huntress sees the signs of the Red Hood's presence long before she arrives. The flames of those brightly burning cars lick up into the air, the boom of it echoing out over Gotham. The kind of noise that most citizens close their windows and check their locks against, telling themselves the GCPD will handle things.

Huntress knows better.

This club is deep inside Mafia-controlled territory. The only way the GCPD is coming here is in loads of riot gear, riot trucks, and with the full backing of the Mayor. A Mayor who, arguably, depending on who you talk to, might or might not also be on the payroll of various Mafia families.

She lands on a rooftop overlooking the club, and surveys the burning remains of the cars, the dead bouncers at the door.

Helena hesitates.

In a way, he's doing her a favor. Making it easier to get to her end goal. But this? This is the Jason Todd of old, the broken young man hollowed out in the Lazarus Pit, hurting and lashing out. She didn't try to help him, then: she couldn't, when she couldn't even help herself. Maybe now, though?

An unsteady breath rattles out of her, and she leaps across to the roof of the club.
Red Hood has posed:
The moment the doors crash inwardly, one ripping off its top hinge, the gunfire resumes. Amidst the screams from civilian customers and dancers alike, Red Hood begins to move methodically through the front room of the club. The measure of gun control and aim is precise enough to be a clinic in itself. Shooting between and over panicking patrons, Red Hood is only hitting Mob members working security or working at the bar. The bar, itself, and all of the liquor bottles displayed are shot to pieces as well. This is a scorched earth campaign not just a targetted hit.

As Huntress closes on the scene, if she studies the stricken bouncers ouside, they are shot, clearly. But they're alive with seemingly stable vital signs. Did he miss his kill shots? Intentionally?
Huntress has posed:
From her vantage point up on the edge of the roof, the Huntress pauses. She sees the chest of the bouncer shift up and down. And in that moment, a noise rattles from her throat that is some part relief, some part surprise.

Jason Todd is still there, under the Hood.

For now, anyway. She knows how easily those lines can be blurred, and then crossed.

She races across the rooftop, dropping down into the back alley, just as the door slams open and the first screaming, panicking patrons push their way out into the night. The gunfire rattles loud behind them. The woman tries to push past them, but they're in panic mode, so she leaps up, grabs the fire escape from the second floor, and smashes in a window, leaping inside.

Huntress knows she won't beat him to the room full of mobsters. She's not even sure she wants to. But she knows absolutely she needs to be there.
Red Hood has posed:
'Some times it feels like I am two people. John is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight.' -- Johnny Cash

At the moment this concept easily sums up Jason Todd. There is Bad Jason and.. More Good Jason, who still does bad things just less of them or to a lesser degree. At the moment those two sides are most certainly at war with each other.

Inside the club, it isn't entirely clear which side may be winning that war. The bar is shot to hell, liquor and glass is scattered everywhere. The surge of panicking customers and non-mob staff continues fleeing out any exit they can find. Meanwhile the mob members are trying to take a place of safety and concentrated firepower, their guards pulling out automatic weapons and preparing for the uncertainty of the next few minutes.

Huntress is surely not that far behind, but Red Hood is moving through the club like a brick wall. He has taken a few rounds to the armor but it hasn't slowed him down. Behind him is a growing trail of bodies. Whether living or dead is not currently clear.
Huntress has posed:
Huntress has shown few compunctions about killing mafioso in particular, or criminals in general. Civilians, though? She does draw the line at that, one of the few lines that has kept Batman from interfering directly with her even while he clearly disapproves of her methods and outcomes.

It is chaos inside as she descends the stairs.

The music continues to blast at fall volume, the pulse of the beat almost masking the load roar of the Hood's unsilenced weapons. No one is paying her any mind: the terrified patrons are merely trying to escape, and anyone of any resistance is already down by the time she reaches the floor.

Huntress hesitates, and checks, bending to reach for a pulse point, then a second. Not so much wanting to see if they are alive but as a check in on Jason's mental state. This obvious mobster with a gun in his hand, is he dead? What about the bartender?

Dread draws tighter as she follows in the path of destruction he has wrought, running now, crossbow in hand.
Red Hood has posed:
Entering the dubiously dubbed Champagne Rooms hallway, Red Hood pauses only a moment before starting to clear rooms one by one. As he does, he slaps a small shock trap on each door frame to keep each room clear.

A trio of guards come down the stairs and start shooting, causing him to duck into the last of the private rooms for a moment. Reloading as bullest angrily scream past and through the wall, he pulls a stun grenade and almost casually flicks it around the wall toward the men. They had him at a choke point but it also restricts their movement as well.

As the blinding flash goes off, Red Hood steps out and unloads a volley of rounds at the guards. Two go down. The last one used his pals as a shield so isn't as much blinded as deafened.

He lunges at the vigilante, slamming him against the wall. He gets two blows in before Red Hood breaks his grapple, kneeing the man in the stomach before bringing the butt of his pistol down on the man's head. He follows with three shots that should have been his to begin with and then presses onward up the stairs.

The bartender had a shotgun. Now he has a broken sternum from three of Hood's high tech bullets that flattened on impact with bone but only just broke the skin otherwise. Breathing isn't going to feel good for a while. The other gunman? Much the same. With typical bullets the shots would be absolutely lethal. Instead these shots incapacitate but with a lower risk of lethality. Probably.
Huntress has posed:
The lack of deaths tells Helena a lot. Red Hood wasn't quite so discerning in the warehouse. Was it because she was there, or because he lost control? No way to know, really. She notes those traps on the doors as she passes at a run, but she has worked with Jason long enough to know it means he's not in there -- he's just using them to watch his back.

She hears the bang of the flash grenade ahead and accelerates, just in time to see the last guard slumping to the floor. Her mouth opens, but she doesn't call out. She's not sure whether it would get her a bullet or not, so she closes the gap, taking the stairs two at a time.

He must hear her, coming up the stairs. She's not hiding.

And Helena's kind of expecting the Red Hood to be waiting for her: but she forges ahead recklessly, seeking to spring the trap if any by force -- diving forward and down at the top of the stairs, rolling and spinning up onto one knee raising her crossbow to any threats.

Even if it's him.
Red Hood has posed:
By the time Huntress reaches the top of the stairs, Red Hood has kicked open the Inner Sanctum of the club, one of the mob's supposed safe places to meet.

As she rises into a fighting stance, another blinding series of flashes, four of them, go off inside the meeting room almost at the same time with deafening effect in the enclosed space.

Huntress will see Red Hood just as he disappeares into the room and begins to fire.

There are voices; muffled cries. Some series of words both scared and angry, somehow at the same time. A cry of agony following what must have been a bone breaking. Then a low, deadly calm voice, just muffled enough by the room's walls followed by one last gunshot.

The implicates can't be reassuring.
Huntress has posed:
The Huntress will never lose sleep over the injury, or indeed, deaths of mafioso and criminals.

Helena Bertinelli though? Some of these people, scumbags and low-lifes though they are, are necessary to her new criminal enterprise.

Some of that dismay must show on her face underneath the mask -- but whether that's dismay on behalf of Jason or for what he's done isn't clear as she leaps into the room. Crossbow swinging around.

"Red Hood."

A breath, as she weighs what to say.

Red Hood has posed:

That seems to be the last thing on his mind.

The still smoking gunmuzzle is pointed at the forehead of the man sitting at the head of the boardroom table.

The high backed office chair is turned away from the door, obscuring who sits there. There is a bullethole in the chair back at the height of the man's head.

Looking at Huntress for just a moment, Red Hood snorts.

"Just doing your job for you. You've been slacking." It's cold. Harsher than he probably meant for it to be.

"Gotham isn't going to be afraid of 'The Huntress' but it sure as hell is going to be afraid of Red Hood." The air quotes are easily heard as he mocks her.

"This has been fun but I have places to be. People to shoot." And he shifts his guns to shoot two of the still stunned and cowering lower level officers in the thighs. It's clear he's hit the arteries given how quickly fountains of blood appear from the two men now screaming in agony.

Staring her down, Red Hood shakes his head before backing up toward the outside wall where he slaps an explosive that is already blinking as it counts down. He rolls to the side just as it explodes.

Not meant to kill, the explosive essentially vaporizes a three foot diameter opening in the wall that now sucks in outside air and swirls all of the dust into an almost perfect smoke screen. Huntress can still see Hood as he steps in front of the hole, preparing to make his exit.
Huntress has posed:
"This isn't what you want."

This isn't what /I/ want.

"This isn't you."

It wasn't.

Huntress takes a step forward. A breath. Who knows what might have come out next. It's never voiced, as Red Hood moves to fire and she surges forward, too late to stop either of those shots. Sure, she could've used the crossbow to try and shoot at him -- but that she doesn't says a lot about where her line is, even if it's a confusing one.

Could she save the lives of those two men? Probably, with a tourniquet. But it would mean giving up what she came here for.

This is the thing about working with someone for so long: you get to know their tricks. How they operate. How they like to escape. She knows what that explosive is intended to do, and she leaps /for/ him, anticipating his forward momentum and timing hers so that as he steps out, she leaps to throw an arm around his shoulder, her weight momentarily pressing into his back.

The Huntress is not aiming to stop his escape, though. She's going through the drop with him.
Red Hood has posed:
Some part of him is impressed at her quickness. Some part of him is peeved she figured out what he was doing. He won't make that mistake again.

As their momentum carries them through the hole in the wall, Red Hood is falling the 15-some feet toward the ground on his back with Huntress above him. There isn't time to recover or break free from her before they hit the ground.

The sound of his body hitting the pavement comes with a huff of air from his lungs and the crack of metal as the back of his mask bounces off the ground. His armored jacket has an inflatable air system like cycle racers use. The soft hiss of air bleeding off indicates it probably saved him from broken ribs.

He isn't stunned, however, and immediately attempts to use Huntress' momentum against her by throwing her over his head to give him time to spring to his feet.

"This isn't what I want? It's not me? Well you're clearly mistaken. When it turns out everyone your world is just using you for their own gain, it's -very- easy to be me." he growls.

In the distance, the rumble of a certain '67 GTO echoes off the buildings as it sets itself into motion, closing in on Red Hood's location.
Huntress has posed:
The landing knocks the wind out of the Huntress, also. The sharp inhale of breath comes as one hand slides down his chest, and she starts to push up, the position intimately familiar-

-and then he launches her above his head.

It's unexpected, and yet he knows her to be highly athletic, turning the throw into a roll, though the landing is still one that must surely bruise as her knee slides along the ground as she comes to a stop, one hand balancing herself there in that moment.

He throws her own words against her. The worst kind of reaction, because how does one counter that? By admitting she was lying? That she said it to push him away? To try and keep him away from all this -- only to find he's right in the middle, and losing himself?

Helena tries, one last time. He's familiar with this, her Sicilian anger, the way she draws herself up, the ire in her voice. The warning. "This is /my/ war. Stay out of it. Or-" she lifts the crossbow. In the same way he put two shots at her feet in warning, the bolt slices so close to his head he'll hear the displacement of air as it passes by him.
Red Hood has posed:
The thing about being murdered. Somehow coming back, then that whole dunk in the Lazarus Pit and going entirely insane for a period of time. It makes death a lot less terrifying.

He stands there, unwaveringly as she aims toward him and fires. Doesn't flinch as the bolt streaks past his mask, possibly brushing its fletchings against the angry red metal as it buries itself in the wall behind him.

"You lost your war, Huntress. The Bertinelli family is back, or haven't you noticed while you've been AWOL the last month?"

He stares her down as his car rolls up not far from him, the angry rumbling of the engine adding to the tension. Somewhere in the distance there are sirens. If only because there are burning cars and even part of the building now.

"The time has come to leave this war to the professionals" he says as he jabs an armored finger toward her. "You can help or you can get the fuck out of the way but you can't stop me."

"The Galentes are down yet another key officer. You're welcome."

Throwing down a smoke bomb and a flash-bang, he tucks into a backwards roll and flip, intent on springing himself up and toward the opening door of his car.
Huntress has posed:
"I noticed," comes the sharp snap of of the Huntress' words. "You're making a mess of things. You have to- to stop." The crossbow swings towards the GTO... and she hesitates.

She genuinely loves that car. She can't shoot it.

Just like she can't shoot Jason.

It's that simple realization that hits her, that freezes her in place. God help her. God help them both. Helena Bertinelli is in love with Jason Todd.

And he's just made himself one of the Five Families' most high priority targets.

The GTO rolls away, untouched, and it's not until the sirens get closer that the Huntress finally moves. It's going to be a long night. The Bertinelli's need to prepare for war.