They first started coming together last fall at Darryl Whiting's Crown Social & Recreation Hall, a/k/a Club 48, a street name taken from the club's particular location, 48 Geneva Avenue. Gang members from all over Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan would gather there on the weekends, dance to the tunes, drink some beer, maybe smoke a little reefer around the few small tables.

Not exactly a positive setting for Boston's already troubled youth, but it beat the streets. Kids who've been inside and others familiar with the club say it was neutral turf, a place where beefs were left at the door and rivals could pow-wow inside.

Which is what some top dogs from Mission Hill and Intervale did last fall. The street scene back then was heating up hotter than ever, with new posses sprouting like mushrooms on every block. Some of them were even hooking up together, creating one big, brawny crew from two or three smaller ones. And then there was that new supergroup of more than half a dozen gangs that claimed to have posse'd up in to one syndicate that started with a core known as SCAT.

Those mergers were weighing heavily on the minds of guys like the P-Man, a Roxbury gangster who says his boys were starting to feel some pressure from SCAT. And this troubling new trend was a major topic of conversation at Club 48 one night between Intervale and Mission Hill. After talking for a while, the two groups discovered they shared some common enemies, too. "So everybody be talking like we should be down together," says the P-Man, who was privy to the negotiations. "People be like 'Yeah' or 'Nah.' And finally, everybody says, 'Yeah,' so we could be, like, the ultimate posse."

Six months later, UPS -- United Posse Syndicate (a/k/a United Posse Society) -- stands as one of Boston's largest mega-merged gangs. Sources say UPS includes, at least, kids from Mission Hill, Intervale, Vamp Hill, Heath Street, the Headquarter Boys, and Corbet. Between them, a member says, that's some 300 ready-and-willing kids; include the wanna-bes, fringe players, and assorted hangers-on and the number doubles.

In the last year or so, as Boston's gangs have multiplied to the point where they're literally bumping into each other, the soft associations have increasingly become firm, formalized mergers. One of the first big-time partnerships went down between Corbet and Intervale, forged through a blood tie linking Tony Johnson and his cousin Mack "Little Mack" Fludd of Intervale, according to police. Although still two of the largest and most violent gangs in town, prison and death had wreaked some havoc on the rosters of both, and their decision to posse up a while back was seen by many as a way to prop each other up and hold to their top-dog status. Corbet and Intervale members have been seen around town making the sign of both the "C" and the "V," saying, "Corbet and Intervale forever."

The move sent shivers through the rest of the rough boys. With Intervale and Corbet now the number-one mega-posse, someone was going to try to knock them down.

"Corbet and Intervale, they got down and they got ruthless," says one kid. "It was like all you heard was Intervale and Corbet, Intervale and Corbet. That's all you heard. And we said, 'Yo, what's up? We got to get down and stop this.' "

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