The Internet of Things

September 26, 2017:

Kitty Pryde stops by the bank to cash a few checks. Instead, she ends up in a dangerous confrontation with a mysterious hacker running a remote hostage situation scheme.

Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: Bank employees, customers, and one evil hacker, emitted by Kingpin.

Mentions: The Guardians of the Galaxy, Zatanna Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

For all the time that Kitty has stayed in Gotham and stayed at the Shadowcrest Manor with the Guardians of the Galaxy, it has been both tumultuous as well as quiet. Quiet has been the name of the game recently, except for the strange puddle of butter she slipped and fell on recently that had no explanation or reason. She's learned not to ask about the random things she might find in the Manor. Whether or not it is magic, she assumes that it is and leaves it be.

Today, though, she's finally doing some much needed adulting. There have been a few checks her parents have sent her that she should deposit. She doesn't trust Rocket or Groot to not take them and either try and make some form of bomb out of them or craft a strange part-paper part-food structure out of them. And so, virtually banking is a bit out of the question. Heading to a branch of her bank nearby the manor but not in the ultra-rich part of Gotham, Kitty stands in line, remembering just why she really enjoys virtually banking and cursing herself for not just doing that instead of trying to do this in person.

*

It's an older building, as many in Gotham are, but as Kitty enters she sees some newer doors and windows. Each one bears a sticker reading: "Secured by Blue IoT. Find out more at www.blueinternetofthings.com."

There is a decent line for the teller's counter today. A kid is playing in the little waiting area, waiting for Mom. There are three tellers on duty, and a loan officer hard at work at her desk. A television plays the latest from CNN. Security cameras line the lobby, and there's one security guard on duty. All fairly standard, all fairly run-of-the-mill, just another day in Gotham.

It's when she takes her place at the back of the line that everything *stops* being just another day in Gotham.

Some sort of metal security shutter clangs down over every door and window, including the exterior teller's window leading to the car drive-thru. The television suddenly goes to static.

*

Kitty is ready for a boring bank day. What she gets is doors clanging shut and televisions going to static. Huh.

A trained X-Man, the brunette is already perking up. Despite the fact that she was anticipating this being a normal day, she'd already evaluated the guard, the TV, the stickers. It's just part of her training and it has become instinctual. Just as instinctual is bringing up her Starkphone and typing in the Blue IoT address to try and figure out more about them as well as see if the internet/wireless is still up and working.

Her eyes scan the crowd, the doors, just about everything as she does this. A part of her attempts to not be excited about the fact that finally something is happening. Living in a mansion with the Guardians is certainly not boring, but it is also not possibly stopping bank robbers.

*

As soon as she tries her phone she will realize there's no signal and no wifi. People all over the bank are realizing the same thing. One of the tellers reaches for the phone, and the way she is jiggling the hang-up button back and forth says that there's no landline signal either.

The fizzing television screen changes. A sexless sort of cerulean Minecraft figure pops up on the screen. In a very creepy electronic voice that again has no particular gender it says: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to what is, I'm sure, for many of you, your very first hostage situation. And, for all of you, your very first remote hostage situation. In a moment, I'm going to explain the situation a bit and tell you exactly how you can survive the next…well. However long it takes. Know I can hear you as well as you can hear me, so do be careful how you respond."

There is an undeniably smug quality to the voice, electronic or no.

*

Kitty checks her phone and immediately realizes that something is blocking the signal. By the look around the room and at the tellers she realizes its not just her and that it's not just the wireless.

Slipping her phone back into her pocket, Kitty looks about for the cameras. If she were to hack into something like this, she would do it through the cameras. However, the genderless voice only mentioned hearing. Do they have visual? That's something he should figure out. She doesn't want to seem like a hero type. So, instead, she goes dodging behind one of the bank stands that holds the different banking slips. She attempts to do this as quietly as possible. Hopefully that will give some sort of indication as to whether they can see her or not.

They've yet to give their demands, she can wait for that to figure out how best to ask. Now is the time for information gathering.

*

Sure enough, the Minecraft figure seems to turn its blocky head in Kitty's direction. "You there. Ponytail in the blue top. What are you doing?"

Yep. Minecraft has visual confirmation too.

Moving lets Kitty see a few other things though. The air vents for the HVAC unit are also brand new. And there are a few panels in the walls which look new too, but which don't seem to serve any discernable purpose. They look a lot like dummy electrical panels, the type one might put in a home when it's been prewired to allow for built-in speakers or the like, placeholders that sit there until homeowners take advantage of the capability. Except they look different. They're not screwed in. They're set just a little bit into the wall instead.

Over in the play area, the little girl starts to cry; the Minecraft figure is terrifying her and the mood of the room is doing the same. She goes racing towards her Mom, who gathers her fearfully up.

Minecraft doesn't react to that. Not because it can't be seen, probably, just…because it's not terribly relevant.

*

That is just want Kitty wanted to find out. "H-hiding!" Kitty calls out in a broken voice. She knows how to act innocent. "Hostages generally mean weapons and threats! Killing someone everyone hour!" Her voice gets more panicked as she talks, ending very high-pitched. She doesn't exactly want to panic everyone, but she knows that if she does it makes it easier to disappear again into the crowd. She's drawn attention to herself now and in order to get herself somewhere else without being seen she needs to make a distraction.

The girl in the play area is observed, mostly because Kitty wants to ensure that that the girl is properly protected. The reactions of that are duly noted.

There are options, she just has to remember them. Why is she so rusty?!

*

Minecraft seems to accept that. The little 8-bit hands pat pat the air.

"Miss, I want you all to come out of this alive."

It doesn't seem all that sincere.

"Here are the rules. You must stay in the lobby area, where you all are now. All bank employees who are not in the lobby will need to move out here now."

Several do, a few from the back.

"I am in contact with this branch's corporate office as we speak. 2 billion dollars wired to the account I provide them within one hour, or I unleash the deadly gas canisters planted throughout the building and you all die. Nothing personal, but we're doing wave of the future stuff here. I don't feel like making these people think they have room to negotiate. However, I also have ways of killing any of you if you get out of hand. Don't fool with my security shutters. See? Easy. Kid can even play with her toys. You need to go to the bathroom you get a 5 minute time limit and you go in one at a time."

Kitty will be able to note that she did pick a good spot to cower. There's no real camera coverage here. Minecraft might have seen her move there, but she can't see her right now.

"If they decide not to play ball, I'll just pick a different branch until they do. See? Very efficient. It might be in San Francisco next. Or Canada. I always thought those people were too nice. So. Sit tight. And remember I'm watching."

The screen changes to what looks like some sort of screen saver. Now it's a happy face with a bullet hole in the head, bouncing all around. This probably doesn't indicate Minecraft isn't paying attention…just that he or she is done talking.

*

Stay in the lobby area. Deadly gas canisters. From assessing things, Kitty takes a guess that the strange vents are serving no purpose and that Minecraft is calling its 'security shutters'. The likelihood of those being the gas canisters? High.

Staying where she is, Kitty takes quite a few measurements. She's very smart, she knows math and computers.

*

Stay in the lobby area. Deadly gas canisters. From assessing things, Kitty takes a guess that the strange vents are serving no purpose and that Minecraft is calling its 'security shutters'. The likelihood of those being the gas canisters? High.

Staying where she is, Kitty takes quite a few measurements. She's very smart, she knows math and computers. What she is attempting right now is difficult and requires quite a lot of precision. Kitty has some form of camouflage while she is phased, but she doesn't want to risk too much of it. Who knows what technology he has?

And so, she decides to take a very deep breath and then phase through the floor and keeping herself as transparent as possible It's the top of her head that might at all be visible if someone knows what they are looking for.

Practically running through the slid floor, she makes for the first vent to see what she can see there.

*

There are the little plates, and there are the brand new vents. She's able to phase through, and what she finds is one of the gas cannisters lodged into the vent. It's small, small enough to fit into a standard commercial vent (which of course people cannot go Mission Impossible-ing through in real life, unless they can phase).

It's rigged up with a circuit board, and the sensors on it indicate a WiFi connection. Not a remote detonator exactly, because it's not really an explosive. It's a remote open-close command that will either unleash the gas or not. It's the same sort of technology that lets people open their garage doors with an app, or turn their lights off and on. The kind of thing that's advertised with the Google Home or Alexa devices every day. It's not even all that advanced, but someone has definitely taken the Internet of Things concept to the most larcenous possible level.

If Kitty's antics have been noticed it doesn't show, because Minecraft doesn't react, and nobody dies.

*

As Kitty phases up into the vent, she knows that it is certainly not wide enough to someone one the perfectly fit into, it's enough for her to phase slightly enough to not trigger anything and also grab some breath.

It's a very delicate operation here, even with a simple on and off technical switch. She has to make sure she can disable things while also not tripping any sort of wires.

Using her phone, she tries to remotely (and anonymously) plug into first the WiFi and then the circuit. It's a difficult thing to do while trying to keep herself semi phased and not tripping off any wires. However, still, she attempts it, to keep all the canisters on the off position, no matter what any outside source tries to say.

*

Kitty is a good enough hacker to find the hidden WiFi network Minecraft is using, the one her phone couldn't find automatically. It takes her a moment, but thanks to her pinging efforts she realizes the device is on an obscured network called "getjinxed." Getting onto it without letting the other hacker know she's getting on it is harder.

But she does it, and she finds a whole host of devices. There are 5 of these cannisters in the bank, plus a whole lot of things called 'needlers'…16 of those in all.

The code is very complex. Kitty might be able to screw with it to keep any of those devices from triggering it, but it's not simple. This person, whomever he or she is, is a master hacker and programmer; Kitty will have to make her own assessment of her skills to see if she thinks they're comparable.

As it is, the delicate operation burned ten of her 55 minutes or so. 45 minutes left. Not that the timeline matters if she's successful, but it does kind of matter if she's not.

*

As Kitty is able to hack into the system, she curses. Why does no bank robbery go easily? Hacking into the feed takes her a little while and she concentrates on that while also making sure she doesn't accidentally phase into a wall.

Realizing what she is up against, Kitty curses under her breath as much as she can. Once she is properly hacked into the system, she moves to a more comfortable position. She has a decision to make. This hacker is quite good, incredibly complex. She could try to fight this hacker. It's something that she wishes to do, to prove herself. However, she fights against that.

Instead, she uses her phone and the access that she has to record the next five minutes of noise and video. Then, she loops it and feeds it back into the feed that she is now hacked into. As long as she doesn't touch the more complex code of disarming the canisters or anything else, this might work.

Leaving that phone as the hub, she quickly phases back into the room. To test her theory of whether the sound and video is working, she gasps and runs to another part of the lobby.

*

It's a bold plan.

The teller she was next to jumps as Kitty sort of re-materializes. She stifles a scream. By now everyone is sitting down. Mom has her child in her arms and is trying to distract her over at the play area. Everyone's nervous, sweating, tense. "What the Hell are you doing?" one man cries, looking nervously at the big television screen…

But the dead happy face continues to bounce all over the screen. The loop worked; it didn't require Kitty to really touch anything too terribly new, and it wasn't nearly as secured as the devices are.

A bunch of white-faced civilians now all stare at the X-Woman. Uncertain, unsure, they flatten behind furniture or against walls, breaths held, waiting for someone to die, glancing at that screen. Boing, boing, boing goes the face.

*

The happy face keeps bouncing. They don't seem to see anything wrong. Kitty takes a deep sigh as a few people yell at her. If it had not worked, that would certainly be something that would have hurt everyone. Instead, she looks about and starts grouping everyone together.

Standing, she addresses the crowd in a normal tone of voice, she doesn't want an echo. "We have thirty minutes to get out of here," she tells them calmly. Lockheed isn't with her and she doesn't have a mask. While she doesn't generally tend to hide her identity, this is a little more personal than she usually gets. However, there are people who need her. That trumps secrecy. She would have preferred to do this without some sort of speech, but she will do what she has to do.

"What I need is for everyone to line up. I'm going to get us all out of here." At that, she moves to the front door that is gated. Once there, she takes the hand of the closest person and then pulls them. Using her phasing ability, she pulls that person through the door and then outside. %r

*

Good news and bad news.

The good news is, Kitty gets them lined up, and gets the first of 11 people out of the building safely…after some discussion they all push the baby to the front of the line, so she gets the child, who can't be more than four.

Ten more to go.

Bad news? The culprit is watching the exterior through some server other than the 'getjinxed' one tied to the devices. A traffic cam is pointing right at them, and this may be why when Kitty goes back inside ten people are screaming as a grey-green gas starts to pour through the vents. They're all coughing and freaking out, but they haven't died just yet. Maybe if she gets them all out fast enough they'll live with a bit of treatment? Of course, that means she's going to have to dive into the gas multiple times…

Or pull something else very, very clever very fast. Thirty minutes just became 'Time's up!'

Not that Kitty is probably watching the screen, but now there's a bright red angry Minecraft guy waggling its finger at the room. His little 8-bit brows are drawn down into an infuriated 'V'.

Whomever her opponent is, that person is a careful and intense adversary to be sure.

*

Crap. Crap crap carp. She should have known about the outside cameras. Kitty curses herself, but she doesn't have the time to do that. She doesn't see the scolding Minecraft man, she doesn't think about the time limit that she might have been able to stop. She tries to not blame herself for trying to stop all the poison canisters.

However, how could she not? Instead, she hopes that her attempt to keep people in lines to let them out continues. She takes a deep breath outside and then plunges back inside. She has no words, she can't. Instead, she touches the door and steps between it and then gestures for everyone to run through her to the outside. To encourage them, she grabs the closest person and shoves them through the strange sort of portal she's made.

*

Out they go, coughing and choking. Phased, the gas can't impact her at all. One person— the baby's Mom, who scoops up her child quickly. Two. Four. Eight. Nine.

Number ten is the one that doesn't make it. He's an elderly man, and he collapses within inches of Kitty Pryde. By now the entire bank is filled up with that grey-green smoky mist. It swirls and whirls, touching on everything like a sort of strange fairy fog. An unseelie sort of fairy fog, to be sure. It mists and twirls over the man.

Outside, everyone's phone works again. Someone calls 911; the police will be here any minute. More importantly, the EMTs, to see to all these very sick people.

*

That is not good enough for Kitty. As everyone makes it through, she phases through. Holding her breath, she moves forward and pulls the elder man through the doors with her abilities. Even if he is a not alive, she will bring him outside into the proper air. He may not survive, but she has to try it. Even if he didn't survive

The sound of sirens spurs her to action and she moves to try and get away from that. Instead, she watches from a distance.

*

The man is, sadly, very dead. She can tell even as she brings him out in her arms.

What follows is fairly standard. Police cars zoom up. EMTs zoom up. The people are herded in, taken care of. The coroner is brought in for the one fellow who died: Thomas Abernathy, age 64. News vans roll up next, though they don't get a whole lot because all the witnesses to the crime all have to be treated for this poison. Hazmat guys show up to try to make the bank usable again, and to try to identify whatever the stuff was, which will take them awhile.

As it all settles down, Kitty Pryde gets a text message on her phone from a hopeless scramble of numbers and letters. It's a Minecraft avatar, one that looks like her.

Its little 8-bit head blows up again and again.

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