Shr1ke - Mark Savage Gets Lucky.

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Description: Mark Savage is a man with a scoop. Sally Swagger is a girl with a spoon. Shr1ke is a thing with lots of knives. Who ends up with the scoop when all is send and done? Find out in one of the most exciting cutlery-themed contests of this generation. Spoon vs Knife, Whip vs Shr1ke, right here, right now!

The exterior of the Golden Angel Waterpark is one of the most beautiful and extravagant places Shr1ke could imagine. It is truly a jewel in the crown of Southtown. The tournament had gotten her attention after the first round; something inside her driven to test herself against her fellow fighters. It was only after she had arrived in the glittering dome that she had realised how little she had thought this through.

Even retracting as many blades as possible, something which was uncomfortable, people... stared. She couldn't blame them. Every glittering surface, every pool of water, every terrified child's staring eyes, it was an accusation.

She didn't belong here.

Signing up to tournaments was always difficult, but this time it had felt harder than usual. She made herself do it, and then she'd retreated. Even here, even in such a beautiful oasis, there were places more suitable to ... 'people' like her.

The boiler room was one such space. Loud, filled with hissing steam and uncomfortable heat, not many people wanted to spend time here. Huge machines kept the park's water flowing at a comfortable heat, and at good pressure where required. It was far from the public eye.

And here, in this dark space full of clanging pipes and outrageous noise, Shr1ke could curl herself up into a corner and wrap herself in a cocoon of comfortable solitude. Here, the blades could glitter in the corner, and she could look - at a casual glance - like just another piece of dangerous machinery.

Soon. Soon the sun would go down again, and she could return to her nocturnal exploration of Southtown's landscape. Until then, she could just... exist, until it was time to battle.

It's a wild proposition, even in a world where martial arts and sexual exploitation go hand in red-palmed hand, to gather an unlikely bunch of competitors together and ask them to spray a surprise bikini on themselves. How does the technology work? What are the ramifications of it? In spite of the traditional philosophies espoused by the masters, many of this era's warriors are mentally unstable, afflicted by shame and guilt and tumultuous self-doubt... what manner of monster drives such beings together and makes a sensual laughing stock of them? Of course, pain is going to follow. Careers may be broken before they have even begun.

Or, as is the case with one Sally Swagger, we might just find a perfect fit.

Sally, for such is most definitely her name and whyever wouldn't it be, is one cool cocktail of a young lady. Currently she's hanging out by one of the many pools within the waterpark's sprawling ultra-gala, sipping on an alcohol-free beverage that couldn't look more boozy if it tried. She's a blonde, naturally, and it's a dye-job, also quite (un)naturally, a cute bob that bites at her adorable jawline as she chews a big ol' wad of bubblegum between toots on her outrageously-curly straw. The back half of her 'do is covered by an impractical, flimsy pink hood attached to the 'Angels Gone Wild!' shirt hanging with artful decadence off one shoulder. It's the kind of baggy shirt that clings to every curve on the way down, turning even a quite-modest C-cup into an expansive flesh-treat. On her hips, it's pure magic, and she seems to know it.

Miss Swagger's legs go on for days, barely restrained by a pair of deliberately-tatty Daisy Duke's and culminating in... high-heeled flip-flops? Sexy AND practical!

In all, Sally is the sort of atrocious fashion nightmare that should have been left behind by the world two decades ago, but she absolutely hasn't been - the cameras have been devouring her at every opportunity, and though she's yet to be persuaded to hoist that baggy tee up over her seemingly-expansive goods, it's only a matter of time. The pair of star-shaped yellow plastic shades currently sheltering her big ol' brown eyes from view are affording her brief respite, because that's just how the world of celebrity works. This is affording her, also, the opportunity to survey a nearby gentleman, tucked in beside an ice cream booth chattering away on his cellphone.

Mark Savage is a journalist. He's pretty much the kind of dude who decided with a name like 'Mark Savage' he had to make waves in the world, and exactly the kind of dude who spends a great deal of money on looking sharp. Mark Savage really, really likes Mark Savage. Mark Savage is a douche. Please never, ever try to be anything like Mark Savage. You know what happens to Mark Savage? Let's watch and see, right here on the Sally Swagger Power Hour!

"I'm tellin' you, Stevie, this is /it/! These shots are gonna make me rich beyond my wildest - and you KNOW how wild I am, bro! Haha! Am I right? Yeah? YEAH?! This is goin' to the BANK, baby!"

Mark Savage has gotten himself a scoop. He's struck it big with some candid behind-the-scenes shots on this very tournament. There's always something going on behind the scenes, the shenanigans lacing the ever-popular world of fighting perhaps its least well-kept secret. But nobody's truly blown the roof off something like this, revealing the sexy pomp and - dare we say it - 'swagger' for the sham that it is. Mark Savage may have done it.

Mark Savage is a dangerous man. And dangerous men tend to come across... danger.

"Okay, five sharp, got it, bro. I'm keeping these close to my chest in the meantime, know what I'm sayin'? Haha! YEAH!"

Hanging up on his call, Savage leaves the shadows behind and rolls up on one Sally Swagger, who's just in the process of popping her bubblegum for the forty-seventh time.

"Heeeey, dollface, lovin' the goods, yeah! You point a solid gentleman like my bad self in the direction of the water closet? This dude's gotta take a huuuuge leak!"

Mark Savage is a douche. Did we mention that? Sally doesn't. She just presents him with a big, lipsticky grin, flashing pearly whites as she twinkles those doe eyes over the rim of her terrible shades and urges her newly-found prey to follow her with a devilishly breathy, "I think I can help you with that..."

Sally Swagger isn't all that she seems. She's a trapdoor spider, and she's prepared a perfect hole for Mr. Savage to fall headfirst into. And thus, she shifts her hips rather unnecessarily to the opposite extreme before sashaying off toward a utility building near the park's edge. He follows her every step of the way, boasting of his accomplishments as a male and every now and then surreptitiously reaching for the breast of his very pricey jacket, checking that the key to his fortunes remains intact. Sally doesn't miss this. Sally doesn't miss a trick. Relaxed the entire way, she turns when she reaches her destination to helpfully rest her garish fake fingernails on the stick figure of a man -- the internationally-accepted indication that here, indeed, is where Mark Savage can 'siphon his python'. Unbeknown to her fly, who's about to fly very loose indeed...

This is the door to the boiler room. It's not hard to switch a sign. The only thing that's hard when you're Sally Swagger is-- well... we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Savage slaps Sally's well-toned ass before he pushes the door open. Sally's well-toned ass clenches as she glances over her shoulder, sets her footing, and then strikes Savage from behind with a brutal roundhouse kick that over-extends his untrained neck and immediately knocks him unconscious, sending him tumbling with a loud series of metallic bangs and concrete bumps into the depths of the boiler room. A passing family of three hear the noise and look around, just to see Sally grinning back at them, giving a jaunty wave with her fingertips and then miming as if to lift her shirt up over her head and give their ten year old son a rude awakening.

The family hurry on, the mother shaking her head and crossing her breast with open irritation. This place! These people! This isn't the waterpark for them!

A moment later, Sally is inside the boiler room, absorbed in the work of frisking Mark Savage for the manilla folder containing his enviable scoop. Unhurried; she's alone, after all...

Only, she's not alone.

The unconscious form of Mark Savage may well have deserved to be knocked unconscious. Okay, no, he DEFINITELY deserved to be knocked unconscious, he might deserve even worse. But, as far as Shr1ke is concerned, the door to her little hovel opened, and then an unconscious man was unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the room. The woman who follows does not move like the helpless, oversexualised model that she is dressed as; she moves like a professional. The frisking is slow, but it is thorough, and that is enough to convince Shr1ke that this is not some accident or mugging.

Something else is going on here.

How such a large creature moves so quietly is something that tends to keep people awake after they've encountered Shr1ke. It rarely comes up initially. The bladed monster has so many other things to worry about; the faintly-glowing, malevolent red eyes. The height. The muscles.

The knives.

The door closes behind Sally with an ominous click, and there Shr1ke is. She stands like every nightmare vision of tournament madness; the monstrous form protruding blades in all angles, a modern artist's rendition of the Angel of Death, towering, massive, and standing before the exit to the room.

It is probably just as well that Mark Savage is unconscious. A glimpse at his would-be saviour would likely necessitate new pants.

"What are you doing?"

Four words which, really, wouldn't seem that unreasonable if anyone else was asking them. Here, though, the metallic snarl of her rasping voice is coupled with a cacophony of noise; a mad, shrill hiss of boiling steam punctuating the words for her, clawed fingers flexing at her sides.

She could already tell that this wasn't going to end well for anyone.

Mark Savage least of all.

Nothing has ever kept Sally Swagger awake, if we're not counting a few licks of cocaine and mucho pene. But there's a very good reason for this - that Sally Swagger has never, in fact, been to bed.

The second that door closes, the doelike brown eyes that dart toward the source of the disturbance are no longer those of vapid, bubbly Sally. An immediate shift comes over them, a hardening of the pupils, a gentle furrowing of the brow, an animal awareness far beyond anything the Angel Gone Wild could ever manifest. She's not alone... but she has to be. There's no time for games.

Except that what greets her threatens even the little assassinista's enviable resolve, and though the voice that comes out of her mouth an instant after she takes in the bizarre and terrifying formation of Shr1ke most certainly does /not/ belong to Sally Swagger... the faint quiver it carries is none too typical of the baked-and-bred NESTS agent. "Well, aren't you an interesting sight?" Her tone is hushed, and private, somewhat lost on her breath as she rises smoothly, slowly to her feet and turns side-on to this nightmare interloper. Her gaze darts furtively left and right, just enough to ascertain there's not anywhere to actually run.

It's enough time, too, to weigh what the hell is actually happening. There's got to be an explanation for this, and surely she can handle herself, no matter what it is? Of course she can.

"What," she returns more boldly, starting to subtly remove her silly heeled flip-flops using her feet alone. "Are /you/ doing? If you think for a moment I'm going to believe you came here for the Wet 'n' Wild Watercoaster and then took a wrong turn looking for the ladies' room..." Daring, she flashes a teasing half-grin, "I know some strange, impractical people, and every one of them has better sense in swimming costumes."


"You are a person, right?"

Genuinely, she's not sure. It's an honest question!

Shr1ke is watching. Those bright red eyes are always unblinking, and she can practically see the thoughts turning in Whip's head. The hardness in those eyes; this is a woman who is ready to try and fight her if she has to. The fact that she seeks some way to extricate herself, she's not a fool.

The mockery. Definitely trying to distract her from what she was witnessing.

This is the second time in as many days that she's witnessed a mugging of sorts. The first time, the victims definitely deserved it. This time, no. Shr1ke might look like a monster, but she's no idiot. The way that this bottle-blonde woman responds is not, in any way, innocent. She knows what she's doing.

"Do NOT try to distract me."

Shr1ke takes a step forwards, talons on her feet utterly silent against the concrete of the floor. This woman has taken up a good stance, she can tell that much; side-on, presenting a slim profile. Shr1ke's blades bristle in response, her stance wide, her long limbs ready to snap into motion at the first sign of aggression.

"Step away from the civilian, and explain yourself."

The longer she talks, the more that rasping, scouring-pad-on-rust voice of hers definitely sounds... human. Still accented, though. Japanese is not the native language of this... creature. It sounds vaguely arabic? Peel back the layers, here, and there's definitely something underneath all that steel.

Though Shr1ke does not seem like she's ready to give up any answers. The question is, will Whip?

The moment it's made clear she can't chatter her way out of this, Whip throws up her hands - keeping the motion easily-read, palms open and fingers spread.

"I wouldn't dare, you're clearly a--" Woman? It's dark in the boiler room, but the lines of that barbaric outer layer, if indeed it is... "You clearly know what you want."

There's a definite fringe of sarcasm in that, the bold twist of the transformed Sally Swagger's lips striving to drive a barbed hook through the slabs of jagged metal confronting her. There's unanswered questions on both sides, here; what possible reason would such an apparition have for being in this boiler room. Whip is confident she wasn't followed, so either she's dealing with somebody much better - better-informed, more stealthy, smarter - or her antagonist was already waiting behind that door. That's a troubling issue to confront, if so, not least in light of whatever information Mark Savage has on his person. There's too much to think about, too much distraction, so Whip remains in the moment - she follows the order to step away, circling as she does so to place herself at least in the broader part of the room, as far from the heated metal of the boiler as she can. There are pipes above and to the sides; it's claustrophobic, still, but she's at least got a few feet in which to manouevre. She keeps her hands raised, her voice calm.

"My name's Sally," odd, that doesn't sound like a lie. At all. It's confident, unbroken, non-hesitant. Well-rehearsed or...? "And that 'civilian' is a very bad man." The same can be said of that statement, it's utterly convicted. "I'm a mole for the tournament organisers." Wait, what? Whip smiles, easily now, breezy and relaxed, her shoulders loose as she shakes her head. "The company behind Golden Angel needs to protect the secret of its product very carefully indeed; corporate espionage, you know? This man is Mark Savage. You can look him up online. A two-bit journalist working for a series of publications, always desperate for his break."

There's a pause, and she sighs, as if regretting what she says next. This may be the only lie she's actually told, but damn if she's not a damn fine liar besides.

"I'm afraid I was just about to give it to him. Some very powerful people want him put away, before he costs them a lot of money."

Whip arches a brow, matter-of-fact but also questioning, unspoken: 'That's my side. How about you, freaky-metallic?'

There's a surprising amount of grace in Shr1ke's movements, as 'Sally' backs up and leaves the journalist exposed. She doesn't know what 'look him up online' is supposed to mean. Probably something to do with this internet thing she keeps hearing about on the television? But, she sees no reason to admit to her ignorance there. What she does do, is stand over him. Feet apart, arms at rest, eyes not leaving the blonde for an instant.

It is plausible. Very plausible. It also places her in an awkward position. She already felt that her position in the tournament was precarious; she does not fit the beautiful model mould that the organisers wanted. If she was to eviscerate a tournament official that would probably not do a lot for her chances of being invited back to the next round.

Still, though, there's something else going on. Whip had all but admitted it.

"I'm here for the tournament." Shr1ke says, at last. "My name is Shrike." A subtle shift, and Whip can see it written down the side of the creature's long torso; SHR1KE, right there in white paint.

"If there is something going on in the tournament... I want to know about it."

She hadn't actually used any of this strange swimsuit technology yet. She had just retreated as quickly as she was able. She didn't even know if the swimsuit would be compatible with her body. But, if there was some danger involved, she wanted to know now - before she put any of it on herself... and so that she could...

What? What could she possibly do to expose any information told to her? Who would listen to HER?

Away from the sliver of disruptive light surrounding the door, it's easier for Whip to take a proper look at Shr1ke - certainly, without losing the advantage that she gains from allowing her vision to remain adjusted to the gloom inside the boiler room. Her training and genetic advantage give her a wide spectrum of awareness, but one does not relinquish any chance for greater leverage. She can't read those piercing red machine eyes, but there's still something... human, about the way this apparition moves, and reasons. Her suspicions are partway confirmed with the revelation (?) that she's speaking to a tourney participant. Only in part; after all, with such a well-masked voice, this 'Shrike' could be anyone, rendered much more capable of deception through the pantomime of their dress and sonic adjustment.

"You're..." on the other hand, Whip can't help but find this hilarious. Woman or machine, that this thing is taking part in a skimpy bikini extravaganza... she begins to laugh, her cheeks puffing out and lips pursing as she tries to stifle the laughter and basically fails majestically, a loud and very youthful, 'BAHAHA!' bursting from her throat before she can contain it. "Oh! I mean-- no, no of course you are..." she stammers and coughs a little, big brown eyes trying to beam some heartfelt apology to the metal monstrosity before her; she's not being cruel, it's just-- I mean, look at her. It. Her. She's pretty sure it's a her.

"You're here for the tournament," she manages more soberly after a deep breath, nodding and blinking the tears from her eyes, "That doesn't explain why you were... you know what? Never mind." Whip completes her rally and smiles, dropping her weight into her hips as she settles in for a lengthier discourse. There's still something very 'ready' in her posture, but it's subtle. Almost instinctive, really.

"This technology, it-- it reads who you are. There's been a long-running theory in the circles of pseudo-science that a person's 'soul' can be sampled on a genetic level, that the expression 'we are who we are' may have a ring of very biological truth to it. So, what the spraysuit does, is it reacts to the unique chemical makeup of our bodies and attempts to replicate our innermost in the suit that emerges." She pauses, just briefly, to look into those red machine eyes and check that the person within is following along. It's a kindly gesture, really, though it could be read as condescending...

"So, if you've been wondering why so many variations on the costume - and why so many people are so surprised by what they've found - I'm sure that explains a few things, doesn't it?"

That's a loaded question, an edge to 'Sally''s smile that seemed to have faded in the last few moments. She's watching for the reaction, waiting to see who exactly she's dealing with. Can this be so innocent?

"You can imagine, Shrike, how much that kind of technology could be worth to the wrong people. If it's legitimate, and not a quirk of chemistry - it could be, don't get me wrong, nobody really believes this stuff - then what we're looking at is a way to /read/ a person through contact with their skin alone. That changes advertising, it changes criminal law, it changes the very fabric of our society."

Suddenly, she's grinning, rolling a shoulder in a devil-may-care shrug, her hands spreading a little wider in the air.

"Shrike, all my employers want is to excite and titillate. This is about nothing more than moolah, you get me? If the occasional rat bastard opportunist has to be hospitalized to keep it that way..."

The laughter hurts. It really does. Physical pain is one thing, but Shr1ke's sense of self-worth has taken a beating over the past few days. Interacting with people is difficult. It would be easier if she could just retreat, find some quiet spot in the countryside where nobody would ever think to look for her, and focus on honing her craft. But. That isn't where she belongs. She couldn't advance without fighting other people; she couldn't unravel the mystery of her own existence without trying to trace back the people responsible for it, and more than that, she couldn't help people without being there.

The blonde tries very hard to make her position sound reasonable. It is difficult to read Shr1ke's expression, those red eyes unblinking, the rest of her features swaddled in smooth black material, rendered almost entirely invisible. She doesn't let her pain get in the way, though, and she slices through the crux of the argument to the core of it in a moment.

"That all makes sense." She says, and for a moment, perhaps Whip might believe that Shr1ke is going to be entirely reasonable about this; that she's going to let her get away with brutalising this journalist because he'd uncovered the truth.

"... But that's too important to keep to a corporation."

And just like that, she dashes any hope that they would be able to work together on this.

Shr1ke's bladed form takes another step forwards, now placing the journalist behind her, rather than straddling him. "Money isn't important. If that discovery can make the world a better place... it needs to be for everyone."

She's still not moving to make the first attack, but her posture is ready. The possibilities of this discovery were incredible. If everyone could see their souls, it would surely help them understand the greater oneness of humanity. It would help bring the people of the world together.

It would help people understand who she truly is, rather than just what she appears to be.

She couldn't let that stay in the grasp of the world's capitalist overlords.

COMBATSYS: Whip has started a fight here.

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Whip             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke has joined the fight here.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Whip

Maybe she's been around a certain slutty mercenary too long, but Whip actually groans when Shr1ke's hopeful ideal raises its pretty little head. 'So', her weary expression says, cheeks puffing and lips pouting, 'That's the way we're going with this'. Shifting her hips, she furtively lowers one of her hands in tandem with the realignment of her spine. A particularly cunning eye might note this as a sign she's going for something held, perhaps, in a holster built around her torso. That would be a very fine guess, but once again we're getting just a touch ahead of ourselves.

"You know, for a moment there I thought we could be reasonable about this?" Laments 'Sally', urging out a conflicted smile as she takes a half-step forward, shifting her stance into one that can be mistaken as nothing but purely aggressive. "I suppose it was always going to end this way; you were always between me and the door, and I can't really leave any witnesses here. It's nothing personal; you seem nice!"

Wait, does she mean that? It doesn't /sound/ sarcastic, and it's delivered with a bubbly chirp that may be the last pleasantry Whip dispenses in this encounter. She had to make it a good one.

"Let me ask you one thing, though," her voice tightens, and without further preamble she drops her rearmost arm to her lower spine, shifting rapidly underneath her 'Angels Gone Wild' shirt and deftly hoisting out the coiled form of Voodoo, blue and brazen as you like. The whip is uncoiled with a lascivious crack, and Whip's expression changes instantly; she /liked/ that. "Do you really trust 'everyone' with such potential? You think a single person in this tawdry waterpark really wants a better world, peace and love and justice for all? Open your eyes, Shrike."

Her arm billows outward, carrying a second resounding crack of Voodoo within the tight confines of the boiler room.

"And think fast."

The startling blue tip, sharp and spiteful, is aimed to impact with the metal monstrosity's throat, then coil brutally around it. Choking. Restraining.

"Think /better/!"

A beat later, Whip will descend from above, using a sharp tug upon her namesake to spring tightly through the heated air and drive a bare, calloused foot down into those glowing red eyes. Fearless, it would seem.

Or fucking stupid. Taste the Swagger!

COMBATSYS: Whip successfully hits Shr1ke with Strength Shot - Code Superiority.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0             Whip

"At least one."

The question of how many people really wanted a better world was probably rhetorical; it didn't really matter. Shr1ke knew what would happen from here on out. The revelation of the strange fighting style she was up against was, curious; she hadn't expected the woman to pull a whip out of nowhere at all, but ultimately? This woman is a corporate stooge, looking to silence the press and serve the almighty dollar.

As the whip comes lashing in, she raises her arm, intending to simply turn it aside and dodge away - instead, the flexible weapon curls about her, and she still provides plenty of leverage when the NESTS agent leaps into the air, and comes down with her heel leading the way.

Toughened glass splinters under the impact, and Shr1ke's world is split into myriad different shards. It is an interesting effect, and it doesn't change her decision in the least. The woman was in close, now, and they were fighting. After that impact, she was absolutely confident that Whip would be well-trained enough not to just die now that they were engaged in battle.

So those long limbs grab out, aiming to snare the woman and bring her in close. Bristling blades provide numerous sharp edges to make this a really, really unpleasant experience, but - and if she's as cool-headed as she seemed so far this should be obvious to the experienced Agent - not a single one is positioned anywhere intended to be lethal. Just, flesh wounds, from the hug.

Lots of flesh wounds.

COMBATSYS: Whip blocks Shr1ke's Spiked Reverie.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0             Whip

Sally Swagger has a lot of flesh to wound.

Fortunately for the talented young lady known as Whip, the body she actually boasts is well-seasoned against the ministrations of violence. There's really nothing she can do to avoid the reaction speed Shr1ke presents; she's descending into those arms, and when you're approaching a creature made of bladed metal armour at an awkward angle, you're not liable to muster the power necessary to break their grasp without further damaging yourself. She took one gross risk already, and while her foot is *throbbing* from the impact, the skin is intact and she's none the worse for wear. What happens next--

Well, it was always going to hurt. She's hauled in by the justice-fuelled monster, cutlery biting her skin through the cheap material of her shirt, her bare legs scraping the protrusions further down, leaving bloody scratches up the full length of her body. Papercuts, by comparison to what this aggressor is surely capable of - but it hurts, all the same, it's distracting and troubling, her nerves prickling at her, screaming for release. Those screams are among the many she's had to block out in the past sixteen years. Whip tenses against the pressure, able to present the tough hilt of Voodoo with one extended arm, keeping herself away from the tighter confines of Shr1ke's deadly affection. Her torso is firm, taut musculature resisting just enough that the wounds remain fleshy, nought but a reminder of how much trouble she COULD be in.

"I appreciate the offer--" she grits out, shifting her grip on Voodoo so the blue coils ride down her opponent's back, with a deft final twist teasing the tip of the whip between steel-sheathed legs. "But you're really not my type!!" Spitting the last, she lifts her legs and kicks out from the grip, thrusting herself upwards, risking further damage in the process, into a tight flip that will carry her out of the grip and over Shr1ke. On the floor, Voodoo follows the ensuing extension of Whip's arm, the furious coils seeking to entangle the machine-madame's legs...

And pull them from underneath her as Whip drives herself back toward the ground, dropping her full, surprising weight - she's not a large girl - with a tight scream.

"RRRAGHH!! I'd prefer you..." If she's managed this much, pulling Shr1ke over and down in a similar arc to her own, she'll disentangle Voodoo and bring her namesake down in a fierce lash to the spinal column - knives be damned, she's dispensing brutality whether it's effective or not. "On your FACE! GROVEL!"

She seems to enjoy that word /far/ too much, for those keeping count.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke blocks Whip's Assassin Trap.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0             Whip

That's the funny thing about the world of fighting. All logic dictates that a woman going barefoot against a steel-plated monster, wielding a whip of all things, really ought to have no chance at all. They both know, however, that this is definitively not the case. Now that the fight is kicking into gear, Shr1ke has a lot of things to worry about. Quite aside from the fact that she is trying to be careful not to accidentally kill Whip, there's also the prone form of the journalist on the floor, and the cramped conditions. One might think that these would work to the advantage of the creature with the long reach; in fact, Shr1ke prefers active movement at all times, rarely staying still, and with all these pipes around, her range of movement is severely hampered.

"And in the heat of battle..."

Shr1ke's words sound more confident now. They practically THRUM in the confined space. A burr of metal that grates on the ears as Whip coils her namesake about her legs, and wrenches hard.

Only, Shr1ke is already lunging forwards, the metal-plated beast lunging with impossible speed for something that damned big.

"Your true nature is revealed."

Blades project in deadly arcs, spiralling from her arm as she leads the way. Whip's movement is completed regardless; her attempt to lash at the creature results, instead, in the smaller woman essentially switching places with her, and Shr1ke driving one bladed hand deep into the pipes where she had stood moments before, the room suddenly filled with hot, hissing steam.

Something that big should not be able to recover so quickly, but there it is. It's not just speed; every movement is careful, graceful, calculated. No sooner has the bladed fist punched into the pipe than the creature is leaping backwards, talons leading the way to try and simply rake down the woman's front whilst recovering her guard.

COMBATSYS: Whip fails to interrupt Light Kick from Shr1ke with Boomerang Shot EX.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0             Whip

Speed is one thing; awareness is another. Awareness breeds greater speed, in motion and in strategy. It's an equation Whip is all too familiar with herself, and the manner of her training - that imparted to the Cartel as a whole, almost without exception - means she can recognise the same origination of process in another. Shr1ke's composure, translating even through the cloying battlesuit, coupled with the fiercely-calculated rhythm of her actions is telling a story that Whip finds... distracting. Yet enthusing. Adrenaline is already coursing through her veins when she hears the horrific slam of metal through metal, when steam strikes her back and the hunter abruptly becomes the hunted. It's all over in a seeming instant, but the pretty young assassin is with it every step of the way.

Voodoo comes up in a cross-guard with her opposing arm, seeking to catch and redirect the savage raking in the same motion that will carry a return lash-- and more besides. There's an instant where attack and defence intersect, Whip's resolved brown eyes meeting the damaged, piercing red stare of Shr1ke. It's what might pass for a moment of understanding, if they could carry true emotion between them. But can they?

Regardless, there can only be one temporal victor from that moment. On this occasion, it is not 'Sally Swagger'. It's the gracefully-strutting machine-bird, talons parting that hastily-formed guard and driving deep through baggy t-shirt and trussed-up bra-holster, the snap of material beneath as soft leather is parted and peels away from the torso. A torso now bearing a bloody array of tears, visible through the ruined shirt.


Whip sounds like a little girl as she curses, perhaps one who's just said a dumb thing to a boy she likes, or forgotten to do her homework. But that resolution remains in her eyes, as she's forced to stagger back into the cloud of steam, reassuming her full height in the progress, allowing breath to circulate from her lungs and human chemistry to numb the searing pain of torn nerves.

"Never mind my nature," she barks a moment later, restoring her stance as she circles through the confines of the boiler room, striving to use the boiling cloud to her advantage. "How about yours? You're not just a freak-- you've had the training to match what's been done to you." That's a risk, playing that card. 'Been done'? She's stabbing at a hunch, but it's an educated one. To move like that-- Shr1ke has reason to fight. To maim. "Why are you really here?"

Why is it that she finds it easier to communicate in these moments? In the glorious thrill of battle, her body... fits. When she has to try and speak, to reach out to another human, to make herself understood; in those moments, Shr1ke feels as though she is trying to read brail through mittens. Her body hangs over everything, the blade of Damocles just waiting to drop. This is not the body of someone who is meant to talk.

This is a fighting machine.

"I am the Butcher Bird." Shr1ke intones, fingers flexing. She doesn't deny that this was done to her. Of course it was. Who would willingly do this to themselves? "I am here because there is fighting, and in the fight-"

She moves so quietly, that's the horrible thing. With the wreathing steam boiling in the room, making everything so hot, damp, and obscured, it is so much easier to track her by her words.

The next ones come from right behind the Agent.

"I find peace."

The claws descend swiftly after her words. She might have strong ideals and a good heart, but Whip is more right than she could know. Shr1ke HAS been trained; trained to take advantage of every opportunity granted to her. Trained to show no mercy. Trained to exploit, strike, rend at every weakness.

It is a style that might just seem familiar.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke successfully hits Whip with Torn Spectre EX.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0             Whip

Clear as mud. Clear as steam in a dank boiler room. Clear as she could have hoped for, honestly.

Whip isn't prone to leaping to conclusions - she likes to observe, reason, be certain when she strikes. In the stifling heat of any battle, that can be profoundly challenging to achieve-- but interpersonally, there's no excuse for a severe lack of tact. Time can always be made, openings can always be found. Ideally, the same should be true of a fight, to the death or otherwise. Calling Shr1ke an 'apparition' is only seeming more apt by the second as she moves through the din and obscurity with a silent and eerie grace, and it's not just the ensuing strike that seems familiar - it's everything, from her clearly conflicted soul to the ostentatious pronouncements she seems prone to making now her blood is sufficiently roused. Whip's always kept her bootheels upon the ground, but others of her kind... drama drives them, compels them, inspires them. Something nags at her awareness.

And then, the assassinista is made prey, once more. She has a chance to react, of course-- even a good one, by any reckoning. Her bare feet creak against the slick, stone floor, callouses pressing in all the right places to send her sweeping into a forward roll, away from harm. But something in that tone, in the scratchy syllables, causes her a momentary hesitation. She moves, but her left foot skips to one side on beads of collecting moisture, and the momentary imbalance presents her back all the more tastily for the descending hunger of that strike. She's rightly impaled, driven forward rather more messily than she intended, biting back a scream to direct her own hiss beneath the tumult of steaming pipes. It hurts. It's a /powerful/ strike, well-aimed and directed to cause maximum damage for the speed at which it's inflicted.

"There is no peace," Whip gasps out, her eyes stinging as she somehow directs her body to complete that roll in spite of the brutal rending of her spine. She can feel the vertebrae click as they find their disturbed position once more, a gentle flex of her body assuring her no permanent damage has been done - she'll get better. She has to. Because now she needs not just to escape this room, but find /answers/.

"There's only the battle, and the truth at the end of it."

The hand not bearing Voodoo reaches for the tattered remnant of her harness, pulling it free along with the last burden it holds - a monstrously-sized handcannon with grotesque stylings, as much an abomination of NESTS' tech-tampering as Shr1ke herself. "I may not be able to see you, but I can hear you, Shrike. I can /feel/ you. I wonder if you'll feel this..."

Spinning the weapon about her hand, deft digits catching it in a cosy grip as she spreads her stance and arches her back to brace for the tremendous recoil, Whip narrows her gaze and seizes her fighter's spirit by the throat. It's that lurking sixth sense she uses to zone in on the metallic Butcher Bird through the steam and the pain. She makes one last adjustment, springing a foot to the side and landing in the same posture, before all fury erupts from the barrel of that shiny black weapon. It's somewhat astonishing one can even hear Whip through the eruption of light and heat, but her voice carries all the same, calm and confident:


And a single high-calibre short surges forth, parting the clouds before it, seeking the very heart of danger. As fearless as its mistress.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke dodges Whip's Super Black Hawk.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/--=====|-------\-------\0             Whip

The swirling steam parts, and for a moment, Shr1ke is there, clear as day. The woman radiates menace, her 'killing intent'. It is a constant struggle for her to hold it back, to fight the training attempting to drive her to lethality. That only makes the conflict within her more nakedly obvious to those with the senses to feel it.

Then there's the breathing. The attempt to choke her may have failed, but there is no doubt that Shr1ke needs to breathe. Her breathing is shallow, but each intake is a rasp of steel wool, each exhale a whistle. Quiet, to most. She might as well be broadcasting her position to the NESTS agent, though.

The high-calber bullet is another surprise, and it is pure instinct which has Shr1ke run TOWARDS it. She slides on her knees, arching her back underneath the lead. Where there had been a gap in the steam, now there is the lunging monster herself, all blades swirling into life as she rises back within arm's reach.

Her arms slash at Whip's legs as she rises, already twisting in case that hand cannon follows her, clawed fingers in close, reaching, tearing at her stomach. She is in that moment herself, now; that rolling, swirling, terrifying press where she feels that if she falters, if she places even one talon incorrectly, she will topple and fall.

Only, every fight before this one has been for show; it has been staged, choreographed, or against opponents so hopelessly weak that they couldn't hope to compete with her. This, is no such thing. This is real.

Perhaps, if she lost here, she wouldn't wake up.

"What is your truth, then?" The rasping voice demands, hot breath washing over Whip like a furnace, even as she keeps up her determined assault. "You're a hired gun. You weren't just going to hospitalise him, were you? Is death your truth?"

COMBATSYS: Whip blocks Shr1ke's Power Strike.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/--=====|>------\-------\0             Whip

Unlike her whirling aggressor, Whip has rarely done anything but fight for the very blood in her veins - or to remove it from others. Though she's seemingly outmatched these past few moments, the NESTS agent is never without an answer, never without a steely gaze and a ready quip, because this is always real to her. Every step. Every heartbeat. Every tearing of flesh. It's one pace closer, or further, from the end of everything. And to that end, when Shr1ke blurs beneath her raging projectile, she's already drawing the recoiling handgun back, lifting it over her shoulder, her right leg sweeping an arc to reverse her earlier stance, pulling away from the oncoming engine of destruction. That first slash toward her legs is met with an inclination of the left, the blade biting only at skin, turned away by the muscle and sinew beneath; a simple check.

It doesn't matter to Whip that these are severing blades, caustic steel ready to bite deep and render her unable to walk. Why shouldn't they be? It's the same, in the end.

"Death," she says as she steps back once more, tucking an elbow into her bloodied gut, the hard bony prostrusion crying foul as it takes the blade's brunt. "Is everybody's truth."

A third step is taken not to retreat - in truth, there's no further to go, she's inches from a red-hot pipe, the steam searing between the obstacle and she. Sweat beads upon her flesh, and her hair roasts her scalp, conducting all that heat and amplifying it. The budget dye-job likely doesn't help any. Instead of backing away then, she stands her ground, sweeping the raised handcannon around with a deftly-switched grip, reversing her clutch as she aims to simply and savagely pistol-whip the Butcher Bird out of her storming assault. It's not all she's got; weaving with the motion and mounting a counter-lunge, spinning past Shr1ke with a tight hiss of effort expelled.

"I'm no mercenary; I do what I do to keep this world safe from itself. If I have a truth of my own..." Voodoo held before her, the Blackhawk raised and ready, Whip cuts all pretense of acrobatic grace or cunning strategy and lets out a sharp kiai as she stomps forward with one long, powerful leg, a few specks of blood flying into the cloud of steam from her earlier wound. She's aiming only to connect with the Peaceful Butcher's back, knives be damned, pain get screwed, slamming the metallic monstrosity against wall and pipe alike. Through, if she had a hope in hell of managing it. "It's that I don't know who or what I am. My name... it's not my own."

If the strike succeeded, she'll have the gun lowered and ready now, threatening to terminate the fight. If it didn't, she's moving backwards once more. Stay spry, stay focused, keep them guessing.

"I make my own truth, because mine was stolen from me." There's hesitation in her tone now, as if she shouldn't be saying this. Forbidden knowledge, or uncertain facts? "This is my life now. /This/ is my truth."

Right here. Right now. In the heat and the pain.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke dodges Whip's Crushing Strike.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/--=====|>------\-------\0             Whip

In close, this is where Shr1ke exists. That razor's edge where one moment bleeds into the next, and each dances around the other in a ballet of violence. It is exquisite. The way the monstrous woman moves is like an artform in itself, pure poetry writ with the specialised instrument that is her 'augmented' body.

The butt of the pistol comes down, intent on finishing what Whip's bare heel began. The kaleidoscope image passes within inches of her, but she does not retreat. In the face of the kiai, she merely sucks in a breath, steam swirling as she draws it into her lungs. How is it not scalding her? The lunging kick, aiming to send the Butcher Bird hurtling, meets only air as the monster twists, hot metal pressing into the knives at her back, making the bladed edges glow dimly with the heat.

And through it all, words are spoken with so much more... veracity, than there would have been in a quiet conversation. Blood is in the air. She can almost taste it. She had not believed that she could trust a word spoken out of this woman's lips after the apparent truth of her payrole had been revealed.

She believed her now, though.

"We make our lives anew every day."

Her voice is harsh, grating, ugly; as ugly on the ear as the monster's visage is on the eyes, and yet. And yet. There's something there. Something beyond the harsh growl. There's no judgement.

"Nobody can take that away from us. Who we are now. Who we will be, tomorrow."

Whip has started to back up as the words reverberate through the room, but the Butcher Bird doesn't let her do that for long unopposed. Long legs eat the cramped space as though hungry for more, one broad arm slashing out for Whip's midsection, the forearm erupting into a long, wickedly-barbed spike.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke successfully hits Whip with Medium Strike.
- Power hit! -

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/-======|>>>>---\-------\0             Whip


The word is strained, but taut with meaning. Doe-brown eyes stare levelly at Shr1ke, not merely defiant but completely certain - of what she is, of what she will be. One way or another, she'll be who she is. All the internal conflict, all the doubt and uncertainty, it doesn't mean anything in this maelstrom of pain and interpersonal destruction. Each of them discovers who they truly are.

Whip, for example, has just discovered she's a girl with a stranger's arm embedded in her abdomen.

"This... this is who I am..."

Her blood drips steadily from the wound, as with a grunt she twists just enough to allow the spike to slide free-- that's the trouble with barbs, they're such a bother to extricate, but it seems as if the assassin has some experience in removing such impediments from her guts. She appears to faint for just a moment as the wash of pain overcomes her, eyes rolling upward until the whites are plainly visible, eyelids flickering alarmingly. A slow breath leaves her throat, torn and rattling, and then... a fierce grin appears on her lips, her pulse quickening with equal ferocity as she slides both her arms around the metal-clad woman's, using the combined leverage to /rip/ the intruding limb from her own midsection and, hurling her full body weight forward with a flexion of powerful legs...

The bottle blonde attempts to drive that extended spike directly up toward Shr1ke's own throat, Whip's elbow placed to add extra drive and momentum to the counter-stab. It's rather clumsy, a brutal attack that requires perhaps more raw, main strength than the NESTS agent appears capable of. But battle leads them all to do unbelievable things, doesn't it? What seems impossible can be just a teeth-gritted gambit away, and what seems merely difficult-- well, perhaps she'll just about manage to make this ridiculous proposition look easy. If she can get the spike into position before her foe realises what's happening and retracts it, Whip follows up by rolling onto her own torn back, grinding her spine into the moisture-clad concrete and kicking a leg up and out to fling her erstwhile foe toward the boiler tank.

"Now who the hell are you, really?"

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke blocks Whip's Armed Combo.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/=======|>------\-------\0             Whip

Shr1ke realises what is happening. Too late to completely stop the attack; the spike retracts, yes, revealing the sleek black bodysuit beneath before her wrist is smashed into her neck. It is difficult for the monstrous woman to look surprised with her unblinking features, but there is a moment of shock. It is, not often that someone attempts to just overpower her like that - most people are put-off at the idea of grappling with all those knives. Then the followup happens, and it is only by raking talons into the concrete floor that she is able to stop herself from smashing into the boiler.

"I don't know."

Given what Whip just told her, it might seem as though Shr1ke is mocking her, except... there's an earnestness in that rasping voice; a sense that she is opening up somewhat.

"For now, I am the entity that stands between you and this man. Perhaps that is enough."

The blade slides back out of her forearm, not barbed this time, but serrated. Longer. Just how many variations on 'horrible-looking sharp implement' does this thing have built into her, anyway? And that moment of reappraisal is all the warning that Whip gets.

Shr1ke's speed has been obvious from the outset; now, suddenly, it is MORE. She practically explodes from the standing position, no longer quiet. The steam is torn apart, the sound of her footsteps finally audible as she focuses on powering forwards, before lunging up and into the air.

When she descends, it is like some terrible swooping bird of prey; a mass of metal and crushing intent which aims to slam Whip down into the ground beneath rending claws and ripping talons.

Only, it doesn't end there. It SHOULD, but it doesn't.

Because regardless of whether she has pinned the woman beneath her or not, those lashing claws aim to snare the woman, drag her up into her, crush her to all those spikes - just as she had done earlier - and then, impossibly, INVERT herself, completing an elegant backflip which would bring both feet ripping up the NESTs agent's front, to crash into her chin and send her high up towards the ceiling. Good thing this place needed a lot of height...

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke blitzes into action and acts again!

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Shr1ke           0/-------/=======|>------\-------\0             Whip

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke successfully hits Whip with Serrated Wraith.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Shr1ke           1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0             Whip

COMBATSYS: Whip fails to interrupt Mortal Hallucination from Shr1ke with Boomerang Shot EX.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Shr1ke           1/-----==/=======|=====--\-------\0             Whip

COMBATSYS: Whip keeps on fighting!

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Shr1ke           1/-----==/=======|=====--\-------\0             Whip

It's maddening, honestly, not being able to read the emotions of an opponent. Whip is, at heart, an amiable sort-- if she wasn't raised to kill and injure them with impunity, she'd be a people person. Every action from her discovery until now has been made on the basis of assumption, her ability to discern Shr1ke's character or intent all but lost in the face of cold, bladed steel. She's leaking from what feels like a thousand aching wounds now; perhaps she'd not have the measure of this rasping-voiced woman even if she were bare-naked before her, but nonetheless it's... difficult. Confusing.

A kip-up brings Whip to her feet after the sacrifice throw, her increasingly-unkempt Daisy Duke's straining as she rises on those powerful limbs. Thank goodness she's a NESTS agent; chafe is to be expected, and bothers her a deal less than the multiple tears on her chest and back, and certainly than the cavernous hole in her abdomen. Looking up toward her approaching opponent, she forces herself to think not of herself and her physical ailments-- but the metal monstrosity's croaked words. She doesn't know what she is? Sees herself as an obstacle to the assassin's success? It's pragmatic. It's somewhat sad. It reminds Whip...

...of Whip, as she strives to never be. Haven't they all got a sadness in their soul somewhere? 'No', she wants to reply, 'It's never enough'. Because she knows it's not. She /knows/. She's as confident of that as she is anything else in this world, that there's always some meaning to be found in our actions, our dreams and our desires, shared or otherwise. There's no real time to speak, or think, not any more, so she breathes a sigh that billows the steaming cloud before her, angling her chin upward as she sways on shaking legs to avoid the opening salvo of that long, deadly protuberance. She moves with it, perfectly timed--

To be lacerated, torn from shoulder through sternum, to that already-ravaged stomach. She hits the ground upon her back, her motion only affording her the opportunity to attempt something - anything - to prevent what follows. Intent brown eyes find Voodoo, still in her grasp, and Whip props herself up on her elbow, bringing her other arm across to block the hail of claws. A block is not what she needed; she needed to move, or follow this next gathering of momentum by her deadly assailant. All she's done is give herself to the Butcher Bird, and she's soon hurtling heavenward, trapped by the cold spikes of an inverted iron maiden and then unleashed painfully, cruelly...

She careens off the ceiling with a brittle crunch, every bone in her frame juddering with the impact, landing no more comfortably on the slick floor a moment later. Every morsel of her being /screams/ at her, and she starts to scream but wrenches it into a choking laugh, blood erupting from her throat as she throws her gaze defiantly into the low-hanging steam. "Is--" she chokes on a mouthful of her own, pulsating life, pausing to spit and sputter, then slamming both palms to the ground, her face hanging down, covered by damp and sticky fronds of bottle-blonde. "Is that it?"

It's a dark, hollow query, and with it uttered Whip /thrusts/ herself to her feet. She's lost Voodoo, and the Blackhawk, somewhere along the way, but she stands all the same, lashing her arm out horizontally to part the mist with controlled anger. A hiss of effort accompanies the gesture, and there she stands, opposite her foe, head still hanging on her shoulders but doelike eyes raised and staring a survivor's fury.

"Is that all you've got? All your pain, all your desire, this is what it comes down to?"

A grin, weak and twisted, pulls itself onto her lips, unbidden. She's trying not to laugh, her shoulders quivering, knees trembling.

"To save the life of a scumbag you've never even met, you'd fight another stranger to the death?"

It comes, the laughter, big wet peals of it that /hurt like hell/ to deliver, hand going to her brow where she drives a palm against the ensuing headache.

"Haha! You're stubborn, I... I think I kinda like you... but... we're not done..."

Another snort as she purses her lips, restoring some semblance of a fighting stance as she beckons to the Butcher Bird. "Come on, birdie. Finish what I started. Show us both what you are."

'To the death'.

The words hit home hard. Harder than the blow that shattered her vision. Hard enough to stop Shr1ke mid-step. All at once, she... sees the woman before her. Not just the opponent she was trying to defeat, but the woman she is in the process of tearing to pieces. The wounds. The horrible wounds. She can feel, somehow, the blood trickling over her myriad blades, pooling wet and sticky against her suit.

Her foot hovers above the concrete floor for a full second, and when she places it down again, it is gentle. Careful. Her heart is pounding in her chest. Every instinct she has SCREAMS at her to finish the woman; to rend her limb from limb and carry the bloody gibbets out skewered on her weaponry, but, but...

Is that, who she is?


One heavy hand slaps into the side of her skull. Metal slides against metal with a cold, echoing noise as claws curl, and with a sudden growl, she raises her arm. Every blade slides together, flowing like water, until her fist is enclosed in one long spike, rippling upwards like the petals of some beautiful, terrible flower.

Which then simply melts away, retracting until only the tiny edges are visible protruding from a very long, very strong, but very human-looking arm, which snares the journalist by the scruff of his neck and slings him over her shoulder.

"I will not kill you."

The words are very quiet, a razor shearing through silk, as Shr1ke turns her back on the NESTs agent.

"Go home."

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke just stands there, like a scary statue.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Shr1ke           1/-----==/=======|=====--\-------\0             Whip

Sometimes, Whip envies people who can't think in the heat of battle.

She's been pushed to the brink here, the sum of her wounds inflicting a grievous, bloody toll that's honestly making any kind of faculty a real issue. But still the genetically-superior brain ticks and tocks, still the heart thump-a-thumps in her chest, the rhythm steady if unsettlingly rapid. There's no reason she can't surge forward and resume this conflict, seeking to part the myriad blades and drive her strikes to the woman beneath. But, isn't that precisely what a violent idiot would do? So many failed experiments, so many attempts to create the ultimate fighter have resulted in glitches of exactly that nature. Whip prides herself that, limited as she may be compared to some of the more elaborate NESTS projects, she's never stepped out of line. Never over-extended herself. Not every mission can be a success, but...

To die, here? For the sake of covering up a fool journalist's so-called 'scoop'? She's keenly aware it would be a waste. Loyalty has a limit.

Loyalty also demands good sense. How much more could she do, than this? To throw her life away on a lost cause, for what, vengeance? There's no revenge to be claimed here.

Her warrior spirit be damned, Whip spends several, long and uncomfortable moments staring down the implacable form of Shr1ke before she lowers her arms and nods, a deep gesture perhaps akin to a bow. It's a concession to respect between them - she genuinely can't remember the last time she was pushed so hard, so fast, least of all by an unknown interloper. It's.. troubling, as much of this has been. But it demands nothing but recognition of the fact. Her failure is another's success, her retreat the holdfast of one whom - she feels, deeply now - has more reason to need this than she does.

"I should thank you," she murmurs, clearing her throat as a little more blood bubbles up from within. Delicately wiping her mouth, the other hand clasping at the oozing puncture wound in her midsection, Whip offers a sad sort of smile, the tilt of her head adding a matter-of-fact note to the expression. 'Hey ho'. "I hope you don't come to regret this. I told you... we're not done..."

She heaves a breath and starts to shift through the steam toward the door, knowing precisely where it is, her path intersecting the abandoned form of Voodoo. It takes a hesitation and a quick glance-around to locate her less-treasured item, not too distant, and not enough to bring her back within aggressive range of the armour-clad victor. Both weapons are stowed beneath what remains of her t-shirt, the 'Angels Gone Wild' logo now too torn and blood-smeared to be recognisable. Sally Swagger is, at least for the moment, a creature of the past. It's probably just as well. The truth of Whip's cleavage would only disappoint the cameras.

"I," she pauses again with her hand on the door, glancing back over her shoulder and a sweep of dishevelled, bottle-blonde hair, "Hope for your sake it's me they send, the next time. Watch your back, and think smart."

Whatever Shr1ke is, whomever she is, Whip knows NESTS will not allow this insult to pass so easily as she will herself. As for her own punishment? She cares not a lick. She can take it.

A beat later, she's gone, the boiler room door swinging shut with a *click*. On the other side, an empty space where the appropriated mens' room sign used to hang. Whip has a heart, after all...

COMBATSYS: Whip has left the fight here.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Shr1ke           1/-----==/=======|

THAT NIGHT: Southtown Park.

"So yeah, bro, I must have been more wasted than I thought! I wake up ten hours later, in a bush, with the worst hangover in the world, and get this... /not a single rubber left in my wallet/. And you KNOW I always carry a six pack."

The guffawing, chortling journalist may well be the true monster here.

Crouched in the shrubbery, two glowing red eyes observe him in silence. The lenses repaired. Blades once more extended from the arm. It, hurt, to keep them tucked back for any real length of time. Yet, the lasting pain was in the words of that... 'Sally'.

This wasn't over.

Savage would be in danger. Shr1ke would be in danger, too. But that was not anything new. From the moment she had been born, wreathed in flames, past burning away to be replaced with nothing but ashes and fear, Shr1ke has known that she could never be safe.

But perhaps, she could provide safety for others. Perhaps.

And maybe that is where they differ, she and that blonde would-be assassin. Because whilst she was crouched there, in the dirt, alone and unappreciated, with nowhere to go and everything, as Whip had put it, taken from her...

... at least for now, Shr1ke thought, this was, in fact, enough.

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke has ended the fight here.

Log created on 09:18:01 01/21/2018 by Shr1ke, and last modified on 13:20:52 01/22/2018.