|Season 6, Episode 21|
The Way of the Iron Fist
The Color Purple
"Cage Unchained" is the twenty-first episode of Assemble!'s Season Six and the one hundred and fifty-second episode overall.
Luke Cage walked into Harlem’s Paradise and leaned against the counter.
-How can I help you?- Candace Miller, a waitress, approached him.
-Scotch. On the rocks, please.-
-Right away.- The girl smiled, walking away.
Cage sat on the stool, waiting for his drink, when someone talked to him.
-The great hero is back home?-
Luke turned around and saw Misty Knight smirking, holding a cosmo.
-Unfortunately, this is only temporary.- Cage shrugged. -It ain’t easy.-
-Tell me about it.- She smiled.
-How come someone like you know what it’s like?-
Luke looked up and then back at Misty. -Lookin’ for something?-
-No.- She shook her head slightly. -Saadiq’s still got it.- She chuckled, looking at the performer behind them. -Stone Rollin’ was a dope album.-
-“Album”?- Luke chuckled. -Now I know you’re an old head.-
-You ain’t no spring chicken neither, sucker.- She replied.
Misty then looked up at the balcony again.
-So you’re a bench-warmer? Or did you miss the cut?-
-I just figured you were… One of his.-
-One of Cottonmouth’s?-
Luke chuckled. -I hear he hates that name. Mr. Stokes’…-
-Cottonmouth’s…- Knight interrupted him.
-What makes you assume that?-
-You’re beautiful. But…-
-You’re a little older than he usually likes them.-
She chuckled. -Yeah, just a heads up… That’s not a great flirting technique.-
-But I’m not finished.- Luke smiled. -Dumb men like little girls. Me, I ponder a woman.-
-Why don’t you… Ponder me another cosmo?- She laughed.
Luke called Candace but before he could ask her anything, she spoke to him.
-Luke… Can you do me a favor?-
-Table seven wants six bottles of Ace of Spades. Can you please help me carry them up?- Cage looked up at table seven.
-I don’t like being up there by myself.-
-I’m right behind you.-
Luke walked up the stairs, carrying the bucket containing the six bottles and put them on the table in front of Cottonmouth and Black Mariah. Tone, one of Cornell’s bodyguards, checked Candace out. As he was about to walk downstairs, Stokes grabbed his arm.
-You’re a big one, eh?-
-He’s wearing a little jacket.- Dillard commented, as Cornell laughed loudly.
-Haven’t seen you behind the bar… What happened to Dante?-
-D-Dante called in sick…- Candace explained.
-You want a job?- Stokes looked at Cage. -I can find something more suitable for a man your size. Better paying, too.-
Tone ran his thumb down Miller’s arm.
-You ever carried a gun?- Stokes asked.
-No. I’m good. Thanks.- Cage replied, as he and Miller got downstairs again.
Suddenly, Tone’s cell phone rang.
-Yeah?- The bodyguard picked it up. -Sh*t. F*ck.- He hung up and approached Stokes and whispered in his ear. Cottonmouth’s deal to sell Hammer Industries guns to criminal Domingo Colon had been attacked and his money had been stolen by Chapman and some others, leaving several of his own men dead.
The next morning, Lieutenant Rafael Scarfe examined a crime scene.
-Puerto Ricans.- Officer Jean DeWolff replied.
-Thought that parade was last week.-
-Who can keep track?-
They both chuckled.
-Who do you think this guy was trying to call?- DeWolff pointed at a dead, masked man, whose cell phone was laying besides him.
-Ghostbusters.- Scarfe replied, and the other laughed.
-Hey, Bailey. How you doing?- DeWolff asked her colleague.
-It’s another beautiful day at the office. What’s not to love?- The other answered.
-Don’t you start singing show tunes on me.- DeWolff smiled, crouching to get closer to the corpse. When she pulled his mask off, she shook her head. -Oh, sh*t. Dante Chapman.-
-You know him?- Scarfe asked.
-I know his mama.-
Cottonmouth’s Office. Harlem’s Paradise.
-Of course it wasn’t an inside job.- Stokes said through the phone. -We had people die, too. Look… I don’t have the stuff… We need to talk about this in person. My word is still my bond… Hello?- The man on the other side had hung up already.
-That’s Domingo?- Tone asked. -Yo, what’s up?-
Cornell sighed. -It’s above your pay grade.
-Shades.- Cottonmouth said, standing up and walking to his partner. -When’d you come home?-
Alvarez took a deep breath. -Ooh, a while ago. Seagate wasn’t sh*t.-
Stokes smiled and cleared his throat. -So… What can I do for you?-
-It’s the other way around. Y’all got hit last night. That expensive, exclusive, hard-to-get hardware that Diamondback gave you is in a police evidence lockup. And the money… That Domingo and his crew were supposed to give you… Is gone. I’m with Diamondback now. You knew that, right?-
-Well, tell Diamondback it’s about time…-
-Uh-uh… Diamondback tells you…-
Cottonmouth laughed loudly. -I’m his number one seller.-
-I ain’t here to spank you.- Shades shook his head. -But I do need to look you in your eyes…- He said, taking his shades off. -Was it an inside job?-
-No.- Stokes replied sternly. -Hell no. I needed that money, too. It took forever to build up that kind of trust.-
-We’re here to get you back on your feet. Whatever you need.-
-Who is “we”, you fake-ass Ray Charles?- Tone asked.
Shades chuckled. -I got your back, B.- Hernan looked at Cornell. -Just like back in the day.-
-Forget about back in the day. Why is this feeling like a takeover?-
Alvarez chuckled softly. -It’s not. If it was… You would never even see Diamondback comin’. He wants you to win. How can I help?-
Luke Cage was about to walk in the barbershop when he saw a crumbled edition of the Daily Bugle. The front page read “GAME OVER”, with pictures of Dante Chapman.
-Dante was one of my kids. So was Chico.- Pop explained once Cage was inside. -And Shameek, too. Just like those kids playing over there.- He pointed at the two young men in the back, playing on the gaming console. He scoffed. -You know, that’s how you get ‘em on your side. Sweepin’ up hair. Runnin’ errands.- He chuckled. -Lettin’ ‘em hang out, play video games. Anything is better than what’s waiting for them out there on the street.- He pointed at the Barbershop’s entrance. -They want a way out… But they have too much pride to ask for help. So you gotta Jedi mind-trick ‘em into something.- He chuckled again.
-Everyone has a gun.- Cage sighed. -No one has a father.-
-Ain’t that the truth.-
-You sure they did it?-
-People started callin’ me half an hour after it happened. Shameek has always been the spark plug. And Chico… A follower. I just can’t believe that either one of them… Would just turn around… And kill… Dante. You didn’t see anything going on with either one of ‘em, did you?-
Cage shook his head briefly, but he remembered how Candace had said Dante called in sick the night before at Harlem’s Paradise. -No.- He lied. -You live and die by your choices.-
That night, Luke went to the Harlem’s Paradise again to look further into the murder. He stole a cook’s apron and infiltrated the kitchen. Once there, he saw Tone walk inside with Shameek Smith, who was carrying a duffel bag.
-What you worried about?- Tone asked the young man.
-Nothing, I’m not worried. I just never met Cottonmouth before, that’s all.-
-Mr. Stokes.- The bodyguard corrected him sternly. -Mr. Stokes. That’s important. Never Cottonmouth.-
-All right, okay, my bad.-
-After what happened with Dante, we circling the wagons. They after us, B.-
-Nigga, it don’t matter who. Mr. Stokes wanted me to check on you… Personally.- He patted Smith’s shoulder.
Tone walked upstairs as Shameek followed. Once he was in front of Luke, they made eye contact for a few seconds. However, they were interrupted by Tone’s orders.
-Yo, what you doin’?! Come on!-
Smith did as told and walked upstairs. Luke was about to follow him, but stopped in his tracks when he saw Shades walk inside the kitchen. He remembered being together in the Rivals when they were young, and their time at Seagate together. As Alvarez walked past him, Cage looked down and Hernan didn’t recognize him.
-Shades…- Luke muttered, as the other man walked upstairs. The hero turned around, took his apron off and walked out of the kitchen.
-You like my Biggie photo?- Cottonmouth asked Shameek. -Me too. You know what draws your eye when you look at that? The crown. Wanna know why? Huh?- He walked closer. -‘Cause everybody wants to be the king.- He slapped Shameek's face hard, as the young man groaned. -I slapped you like a little b*tch.- He breathed deeply. -I'm not the kind of man to use a closed fist on a woman… Where’s my money?- He inquired.
-I… I didn’t…-
-Uh-uh.- Cornell interrupted him. -Only thing worse than a thief is a d*mn liar. Where’s…- Stokes slapped him again. -My…- He hit him once again. -Money?-
Shameek groaned, bleeding heavily.
-You left Dante alive. He called Tone. And with his dying words, gave up you and your homeboy. We got your money. Now you’re gonna tell us where Chico is so we can get the rest.-
Smith spat on Cottonmouth’s face. Shades smiled, as Cornell laughed loudly, wiping the saliva off his face.
-Yeah. Thank you.- Stokes smiled. -Now I can hit you like a man.- His face hardened, as he pulled Shameek off the chair and tossed him on the floor. Cottonmouth kneeled, and he started punching the young man repeatedly, as blood splattered on his face. Shades and Tone watched the scene take place, as they heard bones start crunching.
Once Shameek was dead, Cornell stood up, panting. He looked at Tone. -Get his ass out of here.- He ordered. -And go fetch my money.-
Luke Cage was walking by Genghis Connie’s, a Chinese restaurant in Harlem, when he was approached by a man and his gang.
-Hey, yo, my man.- Zip spoke up. -You know what time it is?-
-8:15.- Luke replied, checking his watch.
The men laughed, as Zip reached out for something in his jacket. He pulled out a flyer and handed it over to Luke.
-Stay Harlem.- The man said. -Stay black.-
Luke looked down at the flyer, noticing it advertised the New Harlem Renaissance, Mariah Dillard’s campaign. Cage turned around and walked inside the building.
-Uh, no. Not yet.- Luke smiled. -I'm waitin’ for something.-
-Oh, that’s okay. Let me know when you’re ready.- She nodded and walked away.
Soon enough, a young woman walked inside the restaurant, looking at both sides. Luke spotted her and smiled, before he waved her over.
-Reva.- He whispered.
-Carl!- She smiled, hugging him tightly.
-I go by Luke now.- He smiled, hugging her back. -I’m so glad you agreed to join me for dinner. Take a sit, please.-
-Why wouldn’t I?- She exclaimed, doing so. -I was heartbroken when they took you to Seagate.-
-That’s sweet.- Luke smiled. -I missed you.-
-I missed you too… But why did you take so long to actually call me?-
-I had a tough time trackin’ you down.- He chuckled. -But here we are, aren’t we?-
-Yes, we are.- She smiled.
Suddenly, Zip walked inside the restaurant, swinging a baseball bat around, followed by his crew.
Luke was about to stand up, but Reva put her hand on his arm.
Zip smashed some of the restaurant’s decorations. -You’ve been in this country for how long?- He asked Connie and her husband, Jin Lin.
-And you still… Can’t speak English?- Koko, another one of the men, asked, picking up one of the portraits on the restaurant’s counter.
-My English is just fine.- Jin Lin defended himself.
-Show Mariah Dillard some love.- Sugar, another man, suggested.
-Contribute, and we'll go away.- Koko shrugged.
-It’s a family thing.- Sugar explained.
-I own this restaurant. My father owned this building.- Jin Lin replied. -Tell Mariah Dillard I am not contributing to her complex. We voted for her and gave her money before. And I respect Mr. Stokes. But no. No more. I can’t.-
Zip hit the ground with the bat. -Give us… The money.-
-Yo… I don’t like your tone.- Luke said, standing up.
-Carl…- Reva whispered.
-Excuse me?!- Zip turned around.
-You’re being disrespectful.- Cage explained. -It’s unnecessary.-
The men laughed.
-You need to step off, Mayweather.- Koko mocked him. -I mean, what you think you gonna do, man?-
-I think he think he gonna bring it.- Sugar told the others, as Zip chuckled.
-I can.- Luke said. -Not the way I want to. I’d kill you.-
-Ooh.- Zip pretended to shake and then he chuckled. -I like this cat.- He clicked his tongue. -Yo, Amos.-
-What’s up?- Another man sitting down asked.
-Show the man what you famous for.- The other ordered.
Amos stood up and walked towards Luke, as Sugar laughed. The first closed his fist and hit Cage’s cheek, but as soon as his hand was in contact with his unbreakable skin, his bones crunched and he started screaming.
-What…?- Reva whispered, taking some steps back.
Luke grabbed Amos’ belt and threw him through the restaurant’s window.
Zip grabbed his bat and ran towards Luke, who blocked the swing with his forearm, as the wood was destroyed against the Hero for Hire. Cage picked the other man up and tossed him against a wall.
Koko pulled out his gun and aimed it at Luke, who grabbed the weapon. The other man fired it, but the bullet stayed in the Harlem’s Hero’s hand. Cage put his hand on Koko’s forehead and slammed it against a table.
He opened up his fist, revealing the bullet, before letting it fall to the ground. Sugar looked down at it, and then back at the hero.
-You want some?- Luke asked him.
-I don’t even like this niggas, man.- He cried, before running out of the restaurant.
Then, Cage turned to the Lin’s. -I’m sorry about your window.-
Connie reached out for the cash register and opened it, before offering Luke cash. -Here.-
-Ma’am, I’m the one who owes you money.-
-You made things worse. They'll come back again.- Jin complained.
Luke turned around to face Reva, but she had walked out of the restaurant already.
-We want to hire you.- Connie said.
-I’m not for hire.- The hero replied. -Not anymore. But you have my word, ma’am. I’ve got you.- He said, following Reva.
-Reva, wait.- He reached out for her.
She turned around. -What… What happened to you?-
-It's a long story…-
-I’ve got time. You wanna go grab a coffee?-
-You know I don’t like coffee.-
-Neither do I.- Reva smiled flirtatiously, as they headed to Luke’s apartment.
Some feet away, a black van was parked. Little did they know that Willis Stryker, a childhood friend of both, was watching them.
-Carl…- He smiled evilly, before driving away.
- Luke Cage's sprite was made by User:Sunder4321.