Two docks to choose from. Downtown, and Belmont Harbor.
Justin chose the latter on the basis of the law enforcement presence he thought he’d see at the former.
Some birds and men might be intimidated by the size of Belmont. 818 slips is a lot of slips to go through. But he can rule out quite a few right away. Slips that aren’t in use? Ruled out. Slips who have major corporate ships docked at them? At least to begin with, that’s ruled out. He does flyovers to look for interesting items or people of note at slips with barely marked, small company, or private boats, ones that would be large enough to carry a substantial amount of cargo. It’s illegal or highly suspect, it’s expensive, it’s coming from far off, it’s probably been offloaded at a coastal dock at least once before being transported to the inland waterways. All still cheaper than flying it, but it’s all risky and all expensive. Justin doubts they’ll want to waste the effort. In his opinion they’d want to move as much product as possible with every trip.
Could be wrong. It’s a starting place, though, and he recognizes he might not get as far as he’d like in one night. He might have to be out here for the next four weeks and that’s if he’s picked the right docks at all. But he doesn’t mind. This is his thing, and he’s happy to be doing it.
Obviously, though, he won’t say no to an awesome windfall of info right away.
It’s not a bad idea that Justin has. The plant, the metal has to be coming from somewhere. There’s been no known source of the metal since 1995, when the Genosha-Wakanda conflict levelled Wakanda but before then, weapons had been made with it. Weapons can be smelted down and …
As the bird flies over the docks it’ll note that one of the slips appears to be unused. The office attached it has boarded up windows and the general air of disuse about it – sort of – the area around the doors (front and back) seems … very clean.
And what’s that small trawler doing there, tied up the dock?
Discrepencies are good things to look for as well, and the bird capitalizes on it. He soars and lands right on the trawler to get a better look at that one first, mostly because it’s easier to explain a bird on a trawler. He’ll maybe have to grab a different form for the office, and one thing at a time. He notes the slip number while he’s there, cocking his head sideways just like the bird he’s pretending to be. A mannerism, truthfully, that makes it into his human interactions.
He balances there. Ravens aren’t terribly nocturnal, but they’re also black, and you know. He doubts these guys are naturalists or anything. And there are any number of reasons why a bird might be off his cycle in a city, after all.
It’s getting on towards the evening, the sun is starting to set, so a raven perching on the boat isn’t too unusual. OK. It’s a bit unusual but the men and women on the ship unloading it aren’t naturalists.
Justin will notice that the trawler is remarkably clean for the type of boat it is, that lingering fish smell is lingering but not overly pungent. Interesting? Probably.
There’s three men and two women on this boat and they’re talking amongst themself. “The crate has been secured in the building. We’re just waiting on pickup now.”
One of the women makes a flapping gesture with her arms, trying to shoo the bird away.
Justin allows himself to be shoo’d. “Rawwwwwk,” he fusses. Like any bird would.
He circles up to the roof of the building though. He picks at his feathers. He hop hop hops to a spot where he thinks he won’t easily be seen. And then? Time to transform into a wharf rat if he can, so he can get in there and see what is in that crate. Or smell it, at least, if he can’t see it, since it’s secured. But secured means many things, and it depends on crate materials and…
Anyway, bottom line, he’s going to try to shift without being noticed, then find a way in to go have a looksee, preferably without getting kicked or causing someone to get on a chair and start shrieking. Always a danger when using rodents.
It’s a wharf and the roof of the building has places to hide. He can shift and make his way down into the building.
Once inside, it’s a standard sort of layout for a storage house. There’s office to the back, bathrooms on the left and the main area of the building is clear. On the right hand side of this area is a square shape with a taupulin laid over it.
Justin can hear the five people coming up for the trawler. He doesn’t have long.
The little black rat scamper scamper scampers across the floor and darts under the tarpaulin.
What’s in the box? What’s in the box? What’s in the baaaaaaahx?
He sniffs. He looks for knotholes. He looks around for other ways to find out. He can’t open the box, after all, but he has other means. His tail twitches in excitement, back and forth, his little whiskers wriggle side to side, his little pink nose inhales deep. He runs all around it just like the hyper rodent he’s pretending to be, mostly because being in an animal form still seems to come with a few of the instincts, even though he’s perfectly capable of thinking in all of them.
It’s probably good Justin can think in all of them. He’s likely going to need that facility and shortly.
He can find a knothole, but its dark in there and it’s hard to see. The scent though, it smells … metallic and something sulfur or ozone. It’s possible that the youth isn’t familiar with that smell, but if he holds his head just right, enough light filters through….
Is that a blade, an embossed blade, he can see?
The door opens behind him and voices filter through “They’ll be here soon and we’ll get paid”
Melted down weapons is the most likely source of vibranium, and Justin supposes just shipping the weapons holds them up to less scrutiny than say, bars of metal, which might be identified as vibranium. Weapons would get a glance. ‘They’re shipping replica blades.’ Or whatever.
Justin scampers back out again. He needs to get back out of the building and into bird form so he can look at whomever shows up; so he can follow them. He thought about using the fact that rats can squeeze into ridiculous places to just get into the crate. But then he’d be in a crate full of sharp objects that might shift around. That does not sound like fun.
He dashes again, quick like a …well like a rat.
It’s not a bad thought on the rat’s part. The export of weapons from Wakanda is certainly a problem, with the devolution to its primitive roots and the loss of Vibranium. Also just finding the weapons is a challenge.
The bristles of a broom hit the floor where he scampers. Thump again.
“Damn vermin.” That’s a masculine voice, the broom chasing him across the floor to his escape route. With him disappearing, they seem to forget about him.
Waiting on the roof is going to be cold, maybe his feathers will keep warm. Down in the building he can hear the five moving and talking. Nothing specific, just the low hum of the discussion as it goes. Eventually, a van pulls up and a man with blonde shaggy hair gets out and goes inside.
Ack! Crap, man!
He runs a little faster from that broom. Dude!
He fluffs himself up just like a chick when he deals with the cold, but the cold can’t disuade him. But when the van pulls up and Shaggy goes in, Justin takes this opportunity to soar to another perch, this one to get a look at the license plate. Because there’s every chance he’ll lose the van, but the license plate is surely something an Agent of SHIELD can run. Hell, any civilian can pull up a basic license plate search on Google, but the information attached is often too old to be of use. Meanwhile, Simmons can maybe flick her fingers.
He supposes he could get in the van, but he doesn’t like that. He makes a wing around it though, to find out if he can see or hear anyone else inside.
Maybe Simmons can run the plate, collecting it isn’t a bad idea. As he circles the vehicle, he’ll note that here’s no conspicious markings that will tell him who owns the van – it could be a rental for how spartan it is.
Through the window though, he can see some paperwork on the seat. Is that name he make out? There’s also a hoodie and the remains of some food. Seems ‘Shaggy’ was hungry on his way over.
The door to the building opens again and the sliding door of the van is thrown open. He’s only a few minutes before the van leaves. Will they notice the nosey raven as it inspects the car?
Justin sure hopes not. He zooms in through the open door. If it’s a rental the license plate is going to be a bust, at least unless Simmons can pull the rental records. Name could be an alias, but aliases are still useful. Either way, he feels like he ought to risk it. He’s here, after all, and he’s not going to bring big fat handfuls of nothing when he comes to call. At least they won’t notice a nosy person, which tends to be way deadlier.
Not that he hasn’t been made before, but he does do his best.
But to sell it? He pecks at the remains of the food. He avoids anything with bite marks, but he could use a bit himself, and his favorite form is a scavenger bird. Hell, his favorite form chows down on carrion, though Justin’s never taken it that far. Point being, if dude’s not going to eat that…
All very good points and with information they might find something, without it, they have nothing.
It’s a pastrami sandwich that he’s pecking at. It’s not bad, but not great. Clearly picked up from a local greasy spoon. The paperwork he’s seen is a flyer. For a bar located just inside the South Sprawl – “Puzzles”. There’s live music there on Friday nights and it seems the bistro will be open.
The car door opens as Justin pecks away “Hey. Get out…” a hand flails in his direction, snatching the sandwich the bird has been eating, and trying to hit him again.
“It’s that bird again…” says the woman who shoo’d earlier. “Somethings not right here …”
The woman is smarter than she seems.
Justin has this bit of pastrami hanging from his mouth. And then he acts like any bird. He makes a panicked-seeming whirling flight about the van, cawing his fool head off, before attempting to streak past the group at large. Then? He will make a great show of flapping his damn fool head right into a window, like the dumbest of all dumb birds.
He flitter-staggers back, and lets out a pathetic “rawwwwwwwwwk,” before taking wing. Maybe, just maybe, he will sell it. He might lose his chance to follow the car this way, but…
He does have the name of a bar, now doesn’t he? It’s something to check out. He sure can’t follow the car in bird form, anyway.
He’s a lot of information really. The crate and what might be in it. The registration number and the name of the bar. All good leads, he just has to decide what to do with them and what his next move will be.
“Get out here…” Shaggy hasn’t seemed to hear the woman and flails a bit more as the raven flaps around, hits it head on the screen and then streaks out. Her companions though have and an icy blast rushes over his wing, he can feel the burn of it even as they beat down.
He’d better keep flying.
Justin’s next cry of pain and alarm is a lot more real. Several feathers blast off into the night. He flies his ass off now, coasting more than flapping, not risking a look back. He cuts a diagonal across blocks, speeding as fast as he can, making it hard to find a way to follow him.
He dives into some bushes and changes once he hits the ground, rolling into them and panting, little caring about the twigs and leaves in his hair. Too close. He took one too many risks. He grips at his arm, letting out a soft sound, pulling it out of his windbreaker after unzipping the jacket so he can pull up his sleeve.
“Ahhhh,” he hisses, for there is a livid spot where the skin off his arm is simply gone, like a dry ice burn. It’s not actively bleeding, but it is not going to be fun to deal with.
No matter. He eases his jacket back on and slips out of the bush. He pulls out Agent Simmons’ card, pressing his phone to his ear as he dials her number. He starts walking, wanting to be at home and in safety as soon as possible. But this can’t wait.
It takes a moment before Kaylee answers. She recognises the number of course. Justin had given her his card and the phone number was memorised. What’s the use of quantum brain if you can’t do that. Then again, Kaylee forgets she’s a LMD most of the time.
“This is Agent Simmons.” she answers “I hadn’t expected to hear from you so soon, Mister Steele. Did you want an official quote for your blog?”
“No ma’am. I mean. Yes, I do, but that’s not why I’m calling. This is bigger than my blog, and I was serious when I said that I only wanted to write on this if it would be beneficial. No, I’m calling because I have some information for you. Is it better to give it to you over the phone, or is it better to meet in person?”
Again that natural politeness comes through, and he seems to mean it. He sure sounds out of breath as he keeps walking, looking nervously over his shoulder. Which is dumb. The only way he got followed is if one of them could also fly, and if they could find a black bird on a black night at a distance. A panicked black bird at that.
“I’m not messing with you,” he promises.
“Kaylee.” Comes the gentle correction and then there’s a long silence. “Meet me at the Cattle Car in an hour. Do you know where that is?”
It’s a bar in Hermosa, on the Northwest side of Chicago. One of the nicer parts of the city. “I might have a friend meet me.”
It might be telling she doesn’t ask for more information or even ask if he’s old enough to enter a bar. Just takes the youth at his word and agrees to meet him.
Immediately after his visit to the library, Justin Steele decides to see if he can't find the source of either the mysterious plant or the mysterious metal. He finds more than he'd hoped, but cuts it real close.
January 06, 2051
Belmont Harbor, Chicago
Various Bad People