All for Charity!

November 03, 2017:

Some of the largest names in New York turn out for a joint charitable gala in the newly refurbished Stark Expo. But one can't have a charity event without having things go terribly wrong…

Stark Expo - New York City


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The night of the gala has finally arrived. The Stark Expo, in all of its newly renovated glory, has been buzzing with activity like a beehive with vendors putting into place all of the wonderful details that make an evening of this complexity beautiful, successful, and enjoyable. Musicians. Sound tests. Lighting tests. Tables and food.

There are a lot of things happening at once.

Until half past six, anyway, and then they clean up their messes and secret themselves away to the places that good vendors hide. And they wait.

And then the doors open, and everyone is free to begin getting through the intense security. Scans and screens that one would expect of a Stark event, as well as all of the security personnel that one should expect when gathering so many high profile names into a single room.

Hanging from the proverbial star, the glorious hope of an evening well spent for charity so everyone can feel wonderful.

As people begin to arrive and make their way through the admittedly tough security- there is a lively band playing on stage on the other side of a lovely cultivated indoor garden: the NYC Jazz and Joy Ensemble. It's a toe-tapping mix of swing tunes, big band covers, and re-imaginings of light-hearted selections from the Top 40. There are plenty of instrumental solos, masterful demonstrations of the bright brass and drums. Vocals are provided by a tuxedoed man and a young woman in a lovely dress of such red hue and brilliant sparkle that it would make Dorothy's ruby slippers jealous. Between long instrumentals, the two alternate taking the lead on playful duets.


Of all the things Obadiah Stane loves in this world, a plan coming together is at the top of his list, and this was a plan long in the making.

For him dressing for this event is a simple affair, black tie, white shirt, a classic tuxedo tailored to make him look a little sharper than he usually manages on his own. As cars begin to arrive in the circle in front of this domed garden they've set up in, he begins to greet the first arrivals, some personal friends, others just acquaintances of his and Tony's from years of business partnership.

Handshakes, smiles, he plays the part of good cohost, working to usher people through towards the gathering in front of the Pagoda, and introducing friends who might find interest in each other's company. Tonight, after all, is not just about dressing up and having a drink here or there. It was about charity. Obadiah Stane certainly wasn't above securing a large charitable donation by way of arranging for the proper introductions after all!

For those heroes invited, drawn by the donations made in their names or simply brought as plus ones, Obadiah makes a special point to find and great, and whisper appreciation, for the situation here is dire indeed. Or so he'll tell them. He needs their help. He needs heroes, to press the flesh and work the crowd, to encourage those here who live their lives without concept of scarcity that in fact they do have a little more to give.


Daniel Thomas Rand has been something of a Loch Ness Monster in the Manhattan social scene since his return from…wherever it was he was for the past decade or so. He's been spotted at a small social event here or there, and around Rand Industres proper, but never at something as big as tonight. Truth be told, he really didn't want to come, but his various handlers thought it would be a good idea for him to at least put in an appearance. Rand is a sponsor of tonight's festivities, so his absence would be felt.
Thanks to one Emery Papsworth, he's all shined up for the occasion. He's in a perfectly fitting, stylish blue silk suit. His hair has been arranged in something other than a brillo pad, and his face has been shorn like a sheep. Of anything, he feels most exposed with his babyface on full display. The paparazzi better enjoy clean-shaven Danny Rand, because chances are, he won't make an appearance again for a very long time. He's got his own cluster of escorts and handlers, including a bodyguard and a PA who are also dressed to the nines so they don't stick out.
The best he can really hope for is that no one cares that the mystery CEO is here among the various other heroes and luminaries. But he promised Joy he'd stay at least for a few drinks. So he starts looking for the bar, tugging awkwardly on his suit as he does.


Wilson Fisk does not have any trouble getting through security at all. He is quite unarmed. Being devoid of any weapons does little to soften the seething quality of his walk, the way his tight smile always looks a little more grim than friendly, simply because it never reaches his eyes. But dove grey suit is sharp. Perfectly tailored to his large frame. Large in a way that conveys strength far more than it does any sort of fat.

It would be absolutely inaccurate to say that he, of any of the people here without money, has no concept of scarcity. Indeed, he knows the sting of privation quite well. But that is far behind him. Tonight, he is a no-name philanthropist, here as a representative of some construction company called Union Allied, his title ambiguous, his donation…or the company's donation…rather large. Can he be persuaded to give more?


What is far more certain is that there are handshakes to be given. "Good evenings" to offer. A big glass of red wine to claim. A banquet table to scope out.


Emma Frost, the statuesque CEO of Frost International and a quiet co-conspirator for the evening, is there early and thereby bypasses much of the security. And she's dragged company along with her. Bulky company. She's a vision in ivory, wearing a couture gown of satin. It has a distinctly 1940s sort of glamour to it, hugging curves until it cascades from her hips. It features a cowl neckline, and it sweeps backwards over her shoulders. But the finely shaped muscles of her back are left to full view as those gathered folds meet, pinch and twist together at a point so low on her back as to be nearly indecent before flaring out over a chapel train. The train has been leashed by way of a loop on her wrist to stay mostly off the ground and to occasionally give glimpses of the strappy white stiletto sandals beneath.. Her hair is twisted up, and pearls stud the way along that twist. Pearls and diamond clusters also pierce her ears and dress one slender wrist.
Leaning in towards her plus one, Emma indicates Obadiah with a french manicured fingertip and a murmur to him. "Over there. We need to go say hello." And, without waiting to see as to whether or not Logan actually wants to go with her, that's where she starts going with all of the confidence that comes with being on what one considers to be familiar hunting grounds. Whether or not she's actually been in the Expo before is immaterial.


The Stark Expo. The music is almost familiar and Peggy Carter looks about her with both curiosity and wonder. She remembers the Stark Expo during and right after the War. While she rarely had time for extended revelry, she always made it a point to at least make an appearance at the Expo to support Howard. She also generally enjoyed seeing all the technological advances and the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding it.

The woman out of time finds herself feeling both at home and very out of place as she can't help but mentally critique the clothing and hairstyles of those who dressed vintage. They're close, but she can tell what is the wrong cut, who did not pin their hair right, how some of the hair is sprayed back rather than using pomade. She is done up in perfect vintage style. The dress she wears is a deep red and looks like it was made specifically for her - as it was. Her hair is appropriately curled and pinned about her face with victory rolls and a few jeweled pins flash against the light.

While most may merely glance at the restored exhibits, she takes her time. In fact, for a good long while, she stands in front of Howard Stark's anti-gravity automobile nearby the entrance. She's unable to help herself.


If someone had told Caitlin she was mistaken for being part of the post-scarcity crowd, she'd have laughed right in his face.

The towering ginger woman has actually put some effort into her appearance tonight, likely due to the influence of certain fashion-conscious friends. It's a relatively conservative outfit; deep navy blue, with a neckline that leaves her shoulders bare but modestly stops just below her collarbone, with short demi-sleeves. Matching sandals with a low heel add a stylish flair, easing the dress out of formalwear and into fashion. Her hair's been tamed into large curls atop her head and allowed to drape behind her neck, in a manner that probably called for a lot of aching shoulders. But the 'look' works for her, anyway, and she shows her invitation at the door before heading inside, edging a little self-consciously towards the edge of the crowd so she doesnt' run anyone over.

Also, it's a clearer path to the buffet table, and Caitlin Fairchild never passes up a chance to get free food. With a suspicious flickering of her green eyes, she meanders pointedly closer to the layout, looking for familiar faces and then waving at the representative for Starr Labs across the way.


Since arriving in this universe, Logan had mostly only met people at Xavier's Mansion. Yet here he was attending a charity event. He knew going in that he was going to meet people from this reality that he had not yet met. How would people react to seeing a much older Logan than that they remembered? It was hard to say.

Nevertheless, he was determined to make a good impression, and decided to dress up in his best clothes. Even if his best clothes were not exactly to the standard of those he had heard would be attending. But hey, he only had the clothes on his back when he arrived, and wasn't exactly one for shopping.

He had personally been invited by Emma Frost as her plus one. Logan was not sure why, perhaps as a body guard? Maybe she was expecting an incident to occur, with so many bigwigs gathered. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that Emma had personally invited him, he may not have turned up to this event. He certainly didn't have any money to his name.

As Emma gestured over to a different part of the room, Logan in the general direction but wasn't entirely sure who she had meant. Despite this, he nods his head and follows Emma. He quickly catches up her, and as soon as he does he offers to Emma's arm in his.


Tucked away in a position that is accessible and visible, but still mostly out of the way, there is an open bar. And beside that with all of its more standard offerings is a much flashier affair: a custom cocktail bar with bartenders who are more artists and showmen than most. A small plaque on the counter reads in fancy script: 'Enjoy! Warmly, Your Friends at Rand Enterprises. Men and women dressed in pleated white shirts and slacks or sensible In front of the stage where musicians play away, there is a large space that's been cleared and set up with ballroom-quality hardwood. Beyond that, a sea of large round tables have been set up and draped in thick champagne-hued pin-tucked satin. A tasteful mix of high and low centerpieces with autumnal floral arrangements decorates them, as do antique-gold plate chargers and white napkins and placeholder dishes.

To the side of the stage, a long table has been set up with seven stations that feature the donated items up for the evening's silent auction.

There's an inclusive weekend getaway to Paris. A limo and private winemaker tour for eight through five Manhattan wineries. A fancy dinner for 10 at the exclusive Per Se restaurant, courtesy of Rand Enterprises. An evening with the Manhattan Philharmonic for four. A "sports in New York" package, with tickets to five different sporting events from an arena game to a boxing match. A private boat tour and sunset dinner on the Hudson. A hot air balloon ride. And then there is a coveted prize: an enormous contemporary painting by a up-and-coming celebrity artist in shades of blue that are evocative of a waterfall or a downpour or a fancy interior wall fountain, all depending on one's particular interpretation. A tiny note indicates that it's courtesy of Frost International, and valued at approximately $25,000.


Boss and teacher, and more. Rusalka had sworn a proper family oath when he'd selected her for an intern, and tonight's certainly one of the rewards of that oath. Granted, it's a black-tie gala, which just means she's ended up in a long, rich blue swing dress that Sloane had picked out - and Sally can't help but admit her best friend has a great eye for such things. The everpresent hairband isn't there for once, instead she's got a hairstyle borrowed from Audrey Hepburn. A black bolero helps at least keep some of the cold away, though it still would have been much nicer for a proper suit.

Just a bit too modern, it would have been.

Coaxing her plus-one to attend the event hadn't been so hard, once she'd mentioned the musical talent in attendance. Live, no less. Not that it'd be all that hard for Sloane to get through the security herself, sometimes it's just fun dragging people to such events when there's an in. Excited, a bit nervous at suddenly hobnobbing with the socialite crowd, it's something that's new for the Sokovian.

Sure, she's noble born, but not to any kind of ultrarich modern jet-set types. So she's going to enjoy tonight, especially after having caught a glimpse of Stark's people fishing the original levitating car out of his private storage. Definitely on her list to do.


Many of the famous here make their way with fanfare of some way. These events are meant to evoke awe and spectacle, both by the things presented as well as the people. To sell yourself; it's important for a great many things. For salesmen, for politicians, even for those that just wish to lead people to better. But sometimes, the best way to sell yourself to hold true to who you are and let your own personal character speak for itself. At least for some.

For one Steve Rogers, there is no other way for him to live.

Peggy will hear his voice behind her, the super soldier taking advantage of the rare moment where Peggy is entranced with something enough he has a prayer of sneaking up on her. It's not a wise move to do for an agent like Carter, but well, Rogers does like to take risks from time to time (just as long as they are MORALLY UPRIGHT risks). "I wonder if he got it working," he offers softly before moving through the party.

Steve is currently dressed in his old WWII dress tan attire, figuring that it will be enough and show he is first and foremost proud to have served and continue to serve his country. Despite the natural confidence that his build would seem to suggest, he does have a slight bewilderment moment as he moves past Peggy and slightly into the party. While he has his own natural charisma that often carries him through such gathering, it's clear that he's still not used to navigating these things without a handler of some sort. So there is a lot of smiling and nodding. When in doubt, smile and nod. He does take note of familiar faces. Stark, Fairchild, Carter, Rusalka and others are noticed, filed away in the 'THIS COULD BE A ZOMBIE OR ALIEN INVASION AT ANY SECOND' part of his mind.

Because in his line of work and with his luck, Rogers figures it always best to play it safe more often than not (unless he is taking a MORALLY UPRIGHT risk).


If Sloane L. Albright spent any more time inside the Triskelion this month, she would probably have gone insane by now. It's good to have a friend drag you along—she could even call it a 'work thing,' if she stretched the definition to keeping an eye on a fellow Agent-slash-mentee of Tony Stark. Getting through security isn't exactly hard, but there's a bit of time taken with it.

Ginger red hair pinned up and back, styled in a way to accent the odd shape of her ears, the young SHIELD Agent's dress is red with a few black accents, cinching close to her waist with a little more volume as it falls to just above her knees. It's the shoes that are the worst part; she hasn't worn heels since before Terrigenesis—they feel weird on her feet, what with the scales. It's that what keeps her held up—the guards squinting at her ID, her invitation, a check of the small clutch she carries along. Fiery orange eyes with slit pupils also lends itself to an odd enough look.

Once she's inside, it's hard for her to not have at least a few memories resurface; while the Albright family was not amongst the social elite or the richest people in Boston, she was certainly well enough off and has attended her fair share of parties in her life.

But now, as the Inhuman's gaze slowly rolls across the room, Sloane comes to a pretty grim realization:

"I think I know like two people here. … Three? Maybe three."


Emma Frost doesn't need a reason to drag people along. …She doesn't need one, but she usually has one. She probably does now, and just isn't sharing with the class. All the same, she carefully picks her way over the grounds of the Expo with her swaying stride towards Obadiah, picking up two glasses of champagne from a tray on the way.
It's about that time that he offers up his arm, and she takes it. Precisely one-half of her alcoholic spoils are gifted to him with a lift of her eyebrows and a lift of her glass to the powers that be. "To a good evening," she says, never pausing in her hike.

When she reaches Obadiah's vicinity, the blonde smiles brightly and untangles herself from Logan's arm, stretching a hand out towards the bald cordially. "Mister Stane! It's all so lovely, isn't it?" She indicates Logan with a small sweep of her other long-fingered hand. "Please allow me to introduce my plus one, Logan. Logan, this is Mister Stane of Stark Enterprises. And Mister Stane… Did you see that the fledgling from Rand is here?" This time, she points in that direction with a tip of her champagne glass. Everything is going according to plan.


Scott Summers isn't exactly excited about showing up to this gala after the month hes had. Lately he's had his share of meeting people good, bad, the inbetweens anyone and everyone really. He needs time to recharge but with Jean busy and the Professor abroad he was informed one of them has to deliver the donation from Charles Xavier. At least he gets to feel somewhat important showing up in his 63 silver 'vette. His sparkling pride and joy especially now that he got the dent out of the fender.

Scott isn't exactly dressed to impress anyone tonight but he alo doesn't want to make the Professor look bad, these kind of events are important for the wealthy and the movers-to-shakers of New York City, possibly beyond considering the names that are on the guest list, Rand, Frost, Stark… it goes on and on. A navy blue suit and a lavender oxfort shirt with black leather derby shoes make for a cut formal look, his ruby quartz glasses topping it off to sit neatly on a proud nose underneath that mess of dark brunette waves.

His inward groaning gets drowned out when he hears the band playing some swing. A little known secret, Scott likes swing. At least some of it. As uncomfortable as he is feeling right now the music and a familiar scruffy face at least ease some of his tense. It doesn't stop the mutant from shifting his fingers over his front pocket from time to time to make sure the check is still in his jacket.


Caitlin manages to scoop up a slightly-too-full plate, with a bit more food on it than would strictly be polite. But as the old joke goes, what does the 350lb Amazon eat? Whatever she wants!

Popping cocktail shrimp into her mouth, she starts walking (carefully) towards the Starr Labs booth. It'd be embarassing for someone to lose a toe thanks to a careless step, and despite her friendly mien, Caitlin definitely has a heavier stride than she ought to, even for her height.

She passes through Fisk's orbit, ducking her head just a hair so she's not literally towering over everyone (to absolutely no avail) and spots Steve Rogers. A brilliant smile breaks over her face and she makes a beeline towards him.

"Steve! Hi!" she gushes, looking happy to have found a familiar face in the crowd. "Wow, you look amazing in that outfit!" she admires, looking down at the Star-Spangled Man. "Those old Army uniforms are so -smart-, I love them," she tells the blonde man.

"Oh! Want a shrimp?" she says, waving a small platter of assorted hors d'ouvers under his nose.


A stunning cross-section of Manhattan's glittering elite is on display tonight: heiresses and tech titans, influencers and opinion makers—even a few storied superhero. Any one of their names could inspire a Page Six columns in the NY Post, or a quick story in the Bugle. All together, it's a paparazzi's paradise. Less noteworthy—second or third-tier at best these days—is one Matt Murdock, partner in a scrappy, single-shingle firm in Hell's Kitchen, whose claim to rapidly dwindling fame was a successful defense of mass-murderer James Buchanan Barnes in a well-publicized trial earlier this summer.

He's not remotely rich (definitely a charity ticket), and his fifteen minutes of fame are arguably up, but the boxer's son cleans up alright. He even manages to cut a half-way dashing figure, with his seemingly perpetual five-o'clock shadow banished in favor of a clean shave, and his scruffy-chic workwear traded for a simple but well-tailored tux. By necessity the red-tinted, round-rimmed spectacles remain, though, as does the walking stick which makes its careful tap-tap-tap on the floor of the entryway just past security. Somehow, despite the growing crowd, it manages to catch not a single toe of passerbyes.

"Ever been to one of these things before?" he's asking the dark-haired woman whose arm he's taken in his own. And while he (obviously) doesn't glance around their swanky surroundings, there's still an undeniable sense that he's absorbing all of it as they make their way on to the floor of the expo. He's a man of subtle emotional cues, but a certain dry skepticism of it all pervades.


One of Danny's handlers steers him towards the cocktail bar sponsored by Rand Industries. He smiles at the bartender who is busy flipping a bottle of something.
The man, without missing a beat, sets a glass down and pours in a measured amount of booze. "What'll you have, sir? I've come up with a signature cocktail for tonight that I call The Dirty Hobo, after our enigmatic CEO's mysterious return!" The man looks quite pleased with himself.
Danny just looks at him, brows up, eyes wide. The tiniest bit of a smile appears. "The Dirty Hobo?" he echoes back.
"…with no shoes," adds the bartender with a wink. Then, one of the other servers grabs the man's arm firmly enough to nearly cause him to drop a bottle. She whispers something that causes all the colour to drain from the bartender's face. "Oh I'm so, so sorry, Mr. Rand. I'm…" But he's pulled back and replaced with a smiling woman. "Let me get you an Old Fashioned, Mr. Rand. I've heard they're someting you like."


"Emma! Wonderful to see you. Well look at that…" He leans back a little, taking her hand and lifting it just so, as if he might want to spin her in that dress to see how it moves. "You look absolutely stunning. I can feel jealous glares cutting into my back from a hundred yards away. And.. what? Rand?" He manages a long, even stare across the room until he finds a clean shaven face and something approaching a reasonable hair styling.

For a bald man to have seen Danny's hair, with such promise, in a disheveled state would have been a crime. He is thankful Danny saw not to mock him so. Of course he doesn't stare long, instead his eyes get caught on Sloane Albright. "Is that woman part fish? You know I'm going to have to say h..oh."

The Plus One.

Obadiah smiles a polite thing, and then reaches out to take Logan's hand, a firm shake offered as he gives him a long look up and down. His gaze almost waxes nostalgic. "Have we met before? You look familiar. Egypt, 93', maybe?"

Of course, Obadiah is probably mistaken. His memory isn't what it's used to. Absolutely perfect.


Charity gala. Black tie affair. A matter of course for the well to do and the famous. All very prestigious. Still, it's a mortal event, for mortal people, indulging in mortal frivolities. Hardly the proper dwelling place for those slightly less than mortal. Hardly the place for Loki, God of Mischief, to be on the invitation list.

Which is, of course, why Kaylie Olufson is here, and not Loki Laufeyson. It's a big difference. Obviously.

It's also obvious that Kaylie is already here, quite promptly, by the time others start floating in. Black-haired, pale-skinned, with strikingly bright green eyes, the woman is dressed in a black couture, high-necked and sleeveless evening gown, the green of her eyes matching the coloration of the ostentatious assemblage of jade feathers that decorate her shoulders as part of an otherwise black silk shrug she wears over her dress, the long skirts composed of black downy feathers that seem to fade towards a similar shade of jade as those above the further down they go. Long-hair done up in a series of pleated braids woven close, bearing sublime, she certainly looks like she belongs.

And yet, the woman is just abruptly… there, as if she's always been; if security is prompted, they'll remember letting her through after the pre-requisite checks, though they'd be a little fuzzy on the details. Stories often are. The important thing is: she's here, she's completely normal and human according to the opinions of those who matter, and she has all the bearing and confidence of someone who belongs. And isn't that all that matters?

Of -course- it is.

And so, Kaylie Olufson, not the God of Mischief, settles in for the evening somewhere off on the fringes, seemingly content to just observe for now. Champagne flute in hand, she takes a mild sip as she watches the proceedings… and then makes a slight face as she tastes the drink on the tip of her tongue. "Ugh. Well. They're doing their best with what they have, I suppose," she decides to herself, because of she's a magnanimous mortal. Truly. Just ask security.


"To a good evening," Logan replies. He walks arm in with Emma, yet, somehow, she still manages to lead him across the room. Logan recognises this a being a characteristic of her being a strong woman. He admires this about her, though of course there is part of his nature that is somewhat still protective.

As they walk, Logan looks around him, taking in as much of the faces as he can. There are many that he recognises from his home universe, many he hasn't seen many years. As he looks, he deliberately avoids eye contact with any of those he knows.

When they get closer to where Emma is leading him, he realises who they are approaching. Obadiah Stein! Logan immediately stiffens, and he tries to nonchalantly avoid eye contact with the man in front of him. In fact Logan almost ignores Obadiah completely, apart from a courtesy nod.


Using the party and her distraction to his advantage, Steve Rogers manages to get the drop on Peggy Carter. While a generally observant person, a party such as this muddies her senses a bit. She's not expecting an outright attack and therefore she has allowed herself to get distracted.

Steve will be rewarded with Peggy not exactly jumping, but starting and turning toward him in surprise. On any other occasion, there would certainly be consequences for such a startle. However, this is a gala and physical violence is generally frowned upon at formal events. He snuck up on her! She can't tell whether she should be upset or impressed by that sheer fact. For a moment, she takes in the uniform she was more used to seeing Steve in and blinks a few times.

"He did," Peggy replies before she gives Steve a bit of a smile. "I saw it in action once." As Steve moves past her, she realizes that she's lingered at the front long enough and therefore follows at her own pace, taking things in and studying what she wishes.

Taking a glass of wine from a waiter, she moves about - easily picking out Steve from the crowd and noticing him to be a bit out of his element. She moves forward toward him just as Caitlin offers Steve shrimp.


A raised eyebrow to the security guard when they have trouble with Sloane. Really? With the kinds of people Mr. Stark himself circulates with, and the SHIELD badge they both carry, the scales and ears are going to be a problem? Sally sighs, shaking her head - then can't help but laugh softly.

"That's…about the same, I believe, for me. You. Ah, Mr. Stane, I think…" She's pretty sure she saw Obadiah walking around - not that she'd ever actually met him before. But at least she knows about him, what with Stane being part of the corporate leadership for Stark Industries. "Ah! Yes and -" Ahem. Well, she doesn't point to Captain America or anything. "Captain Rogers, as well, though…" Though she's afraid of meeting him here. It's not that she's known for her incredible marksmanship or anything…

…but at least he'd helped Rusalka Stojespal, Junior SHIELD agent get to the point she can pick the right barn to hit the broad side of.

"So I guess…let's go mingle! If you don't add…mm, two people to your list you know by the end of tonight, you have to walk home." Smug, of course, but well…she wouldn't really do that. Would she?


Caitlin passes into his orbit, large and exuberent, and Wilson Fisk murmurs a low rumble: "Excuse me." He steps to the side as she barrels through towards Steve Rogers. Disinclined to press celebrity flesh, disinclined to draw much attention, he stops for a word here and a word there, but soon makes his way to his destination. It's the painting drawing the eye of one Wilson Fisk. Like a moth to a flame, he comes to stand before it. He sips his wine as he contemplates it, the soothing way it has of evoking the water. It draws him even more than socializing draws him. He is still, and he may even appear to zone out as he stares at it, wine glass in hand.

He shouldn't be tipping his hand like this. Not if he really wants to take this home in the auction. He'll end up paying far more than it's worth. But he can't help himself, either. He notes the artist's name, too.


"Mmhm. Military balls, though. Not quite the same, is it?"

That's Kinsey Sheridan answering Matt Murdock. For someone who spends half of the week up to her shoulders in vehicle grease, and the other half of the week in doing god-only-knows-what for Tony Stark at the Industries tower, she cleans up remarkably well. Her hair's up in a simple, elegant twist, fastened in place with a large clip of showy scrollwork in gold. It's possible her full-length gown is rented rather than owned, given there's little call for attire so dramatic in her day-to-day: a rich, dark green in color, it asymmetrically sweeps over one shoulder to leave the other bare. Covering nearly all of her collarbone and upper back, it's quite modest, actually—save the slit that climbs almost all of the way up to the top of one thigh. The heel occasionally visible on that side is relentlessly high and kept on by dint of golden straps so slender that they don't really look up to the job. Fashion!

She's largely jewelry-less, but there are dangling droplet earrings that wink when she turns her head, as she does when she leans in to add, "Here's hoping it's a little less exciting than the last charity ball I went to."


Even in a crowd, even with the distraction of the unflattering drink name, Danny is pretty good at knowing when he's being watched. He looks up long enough to meet Obadiah's look for a brief moment, before he's distracted by the bartender pressing a drink into his hand. Something about the man seemed familiar, but then, a lot of people seem familiar to him in his attempt to cram and get up to speed about who's-who in the city's social scene. He sips his drink, but then his phone buzzes. He pulls it out to check it, frowns at the display, then sips his drink once more before setting it aside. To his handler's dismay, the newly-shorn young CEO then heads back towards the entrance. The bodyguard and the PA try to slow him down, but there's something determined about the set of his jaw.


There's a chuckle of pleasure as Emma's admired, for she does very much like to be admired. Her chin tucks demurely as she murmurs. "Oh, Mister Stane. Too kind as always."

But then she realizes that she's not the one playing shy. Her eyes slowly track in Logan's direction when Obadiah isn't looking, and an eyebrow pricks upwards. Curious, that.

The press of bodies is thick around her, however, and she ultimately decides against attempting to pry into the matter, with her words or elseways. She drinks more champagne and offers a look that tells Logan, should he notice her, that she's noticing him.

Ultimately, she turns to Obadiah, leans in, and sharply whispers. "You did make certain that Tony is going to be here, right? Chained him to Miss Potts?" Who can be trusted to show up on time. "Something equally effective, perhaps?"


Fish, dragon—Sally Stojespal's plus-one has been called a few different things in the past, but she is most assuredly not on the Stark Industries payroll.

SHIELD training is paying off, as her eyes sway around the room casually but surveying. She recognizes Steve anywhere; you don't forget a man you have a poster of on your wall, especially how embarrassed you are when you admit to that man's face that you have it. Still. It's still there. A few people she's seen and met and spoken to all of once that she remembers; after awhile the class and elegance of most of the people here is enough that it starts to blur together a little. There's also a totally human, totally normal lady in the corner.

Tilting her head, Sloane provides a fangy grin. "You're saying that like your driving is the highlight of my night."


A blink is given as Caitlin admires the outfit, causing Steve to give a sheepish smile. "Well, thanks. Just figured you can't go wrong with the classic." There is a short pause and awkward pause as he feels it necessary to add, "Not old." Another two second pause goes by before he takes a shrimp with a simple "Thank you". Unaware that Peggy is moving in on his position after his fly-by comment, he glances about. "So, um, you enjoying yourself?" he asks as he looks around. Huh, some aloof woman in green that appears attractive, but he soon brushes it off as he continues to scan the rest of the gathering. There are familiar faces, men of business, lawyers, and people he should talk to, but the idea of small talk causes Steve to frown slightly. Please not another talk of weather or what Robert Downey Jr. is doing that's really cool. Please.

As Murdock is noted, Rogers quietly notes the skilled but horribly blind lean lawyer of good moral character. If there is an zombie invasion, he'll have to remember where Matt is, lest the poor defenseless man be trampled by the fleeing people from the zombies.


Conner hadn't done too much in the charity ball and gala space. That was more a boring thing Tim had to do when they weren't doing way cooler stuff with the Titans. Be that as it may, Conner had just so happened to on mail duty the day when the invitation for this shindig came in, and there was at least one thing he knew about these these events that made it worth attending on a whim for this particular day.

Free food!

Arriving under the auspicious excuse of "Tim Drake's plus one", the boy of steel has turned in his usual duds for the very best in Crazy Sal's Discount Rent-a-Tux. A quick survey of the crowd reveals the towering red crown of at least one fellow Titan, but being that Conner doesn't know Caitlin terribly well, he sticks to peeling off hors d'oeuvres by a borderline egregious amount onto his serving plate, shoving one morsel after another into his mouth as he hunts for more substantial offerings.


"Not really," Caitlin says, with convivial cheer. She seems utterly unaware that she's almost brushed shoulders with one of the most powerful men in New York. Foruntately, Fisk drifts off moments before Caitlin would have smacked him in the kidney with a free-swinging elbow.

"I'm starving to death, dinner was like, two hours ago. And I have to present later on the Starr Labs microimpellers we've been prototyping, and I'm reallllly nervous about it. Last year I did the presentation on our Fabricator unit, and I got attacked by … gremlins, or something."

She looks down at Peggy as the woman moves to flank Captain America. She smiles at the other woman in a friendly fashion, but if Peggy was going for a stealthy approach, Caitlin ruins it out of solidarity for her former fellow Avenger.

She spots Conner entering and waves. It's a little unnecessary—she's head and shoulders above almost everyone else. "Conner! Hi!" she calls over to him.


Scott's eyes are traveling after Logan, Emma and Obadiah briefly, a mental tick to knock off who he may or may not know. At least thats two. A murmur of 'Steve Rogers' has him turning around just in time to step out of Danny Rand's determined path, a quiet, "Excuse me." Issues free of the tall brunette leader of the X-Men. His step surprisingly light in those tight glossy black dress shoes. Hopefully he avoids any bare toes.
It is not that he doesn't see Mr. Rand it's just Scott is a bit of a Captain America fanboy and he has yet to meet the man in person, maybe he can rid himself of the Xavier's donation and steal himself a handshake before exiting quietly without disturbance.

It's not a venture Scott tries too hard at to spot the man realizing inwardly he's feeling quite goofy about the entire ordeal, another time perhaps. This would hae been much easier if he had brought someone more comfortable in an environment like this, someone like Warren or Betsy. No matter, a meeting with the war hero forgotten as he squeezes past two more talkers as politely as he can, back on task. At the very least he can say he showed up.


Sloane's fangy grin and tease is met with a cool matter-of-fact reply. "Of course it is. I was going to show you that newly opened nighttime racing track. I am in flats, you know." Of course, that just means the two are eye to eye…but it also might just mean she's serious.

Glancing around, there's really not a lot of people she truly recognizes. Just a few 'knows about' and 'has read about' in the end, certainly she supposes it might be nice to mingle a bit. "So. Shall we ah, what is the word..broaden horizons?" And totally ogle the levitating car. And maybe try out the snacks. And…well, maybe bid on something.

"For now let us be charitable, yes? I suppose. C'mon, this will be fun." Sally gives Sloane's hand a soft squeeze. "That saxophonist with the jazz band seems kind of cute, you know." Mwahaha and all. It's not wrong to be evil and gently play hookup games with your best friend, is it?


Kinsey tells Matt that she hopes this black-tie event is less eventful than the last one, and wins a quick slice of a smile from the plus-one on her arm. "God, I hope so too," he deadpans as they make their way deeper into the crowd. "I mean, didn't you end the last one stuck to the ceiling, or something?" There's a beat, and then the lawyer offers a musing: "It's funny we were both there and never ran into each other. But hard to do when — you know. Apocalypse."

Despite his brief appearance at the ill-fated auction in Gotham, Matt's own experiences with these sorts of high-society events are few and far between. Perfume, cologne, and high-priced alcohol cloud his senses, a hundred snippets of banter tease at his ear. Matt feels his class origins acutely in these moments—just a kid from the Kitchen who grew up in a grubby little apartment. He clears his throat. "Want to lead us to the bar?" he asks lightly of Kinsey, a slight smile paired with the request.


Well look, Obadiah is an expert at these sorts of situations. So having Logan dodge his greeting is quite alright, because Emma is there with a question, leaning in to listen to it, and then he gives a nod and a small smile.

"Oh sure, sure, I made certain Tony would be here. I told him that Taco Bell was catering and that the after party was clothing optional. He said he wouldn't miss it for the world."

Clearly he's joking.


Obadiah can make jokes.

Only a telepath would know if he were not joking.

"Well. Looks like everyone's mostly here."

He gives a nod, and a man steps up to the microphone on the stage, politely speaking up. "Greetings honored guests. Please, if you would proceed to your seats…" He indicates the dinner tables, large and easily big enough to seat eight people at each.


Hors d'ouvres are passed. Champagne and wine are distributed like business cards at a conference. The music is loud and gloriously lively. The garden is perfectly cultivated. The bidding has started for the silent auction.

Everything really is going smoothly.

As Obadiah begins speaking, a chime sounds throughout the Expo to call the cocktail hour to a close and draw guests towards the promised sit-down dinner dinner. And, in case there are any who don't hear it or simply don't know what it means, there are primly dressed servers with trays to collect hors d'oeuvres plates and empty glasses as well as to begin moving people towards the tables to get themselves seated as the host has asked.


Emma gestures towards the stage as Obadiah goes, indicating her blessing for his departure. And then, quietly to Logan, the elegant blonde woman tells him, "Scott's here, I think. Can you go get him and make sure he ends up at my table, dear? The one very much up at front, but all the way to the left side. Unless he has a better view of the stage, of course." Unlikely.


"Sorry to hear, I can understand that being inconvenient. Best of luck on the presentation, I hope it goes well," Steve replies to Caitlin before his eyes go toward another soul with red glasses. Must be a fad he doesn't know about. As Scott makes his way toward Rogers, the Super Soldier lifts up his head slightly as he looks toward the stalwart champion of mutantkind, waiting to see if the man is actually moving toward him or someone right next to him. Back in the day, there were many women that scrawny Steve thought were going to take to him when they were going to talk to the person to the right of him. Or the left of him. Or above him. Any direction that wasn't where Steve was mostly.

Rogers doesn't take his seat quite yet, but he figures he has some time to talk to this individual seeking him out before he actually gets that event assistant that meekly asks for him to take a seat.


Didn't you end up stuck to the ceiling, or something? Kinsey purses red-painted lips, lashes lowering to a dry half-mast over hazel eyes. "Yes. Spider-Man was trying to keep me from being crushed. Though…" The dry look softens. "In all fairness, it worked. I shouldn't complain."

She's gentle as she begins to guide the pair of them through the shifting crowd. The two of them have spent enough time together now that she's getting good at gauging which gaps in a crowd are large enough for the two of them to pass through, and which going to close and which aren't. While they're moving, her eyes are endlessly traveling the spangled, glinting upper-crust of the Tri-Cities area. "God, Matt," she whispers, without any worry the music or ambient babble will keep her companion from hearing her. "Everybody is here."

For Matt the challenge of the evening is parsing endless strong sensory data; for Kinsey, it's the ceaselessly running monologue of the AI in her skull: Five is identifying one metahuman after another, all in turn. She spots Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, Caitlin Fairchild—that one gets a double-take from her, and a faintly guilty twist in her stomach. Scott Summers, too. "Even the X-ers are here."


Speaking of Relics from the Past…Much like Cinderella going to the ball…a certain fit butler spent most of his evening making sure others were ready for this gala which means his own arrival is delayed. For once, not part of the help, the Irishman enters the room in time to hear people be told to take their seats. Emery Papsworth is clean shaven, that razor taking away the stylish and faint shadow that usually accents his jaw, as a result he looks smoother and younger than usual. His hair has been artfully moused and tousled to create the proper slightly wavy effect with his longer locks and he wears a well tailored three piece suit…a dark charcoal grey with a lighter grey vest, onyx and silver cuff links and a matching stud in his left ear. He scans the room thoughtfully, hearing the chime and nodding occasionally to familiar faces, glancing up towards the stage as he makes his way to his seat/table.


The call to go to their seats jostles Fisk out of his silent contemplation.

He draws close to the bar himself, looking for a re-up before he does sit down; his table, at least, is not terribly far away from it. He'll wait patiently for Murdock and Kinsey to get their drinks before he steps up, passing less than three feet away from them as he rumbles out a quick, quiet, "Can you top off this wine for me, bartender, please?" Even when he's being perfectly polite and civil his voice carries a seething quality that makes him sound a little angry under the surface no matter what.

Everyone is here, indeed.


Logan turns to Emma, "Look I apologise if I made you look bad, just now." He sighs and scratches his head, "It's a long-complicated story. It's best not to get into it right now." He pauses, "Slims here? Sure, I will go find him." With that he walked into the crowed trying to find his fellow X-Man.


Well Caitlin, you managed to catch Conner right as he was mid-scarf on some sort of crack-cheese-provolone combo. "Hmrph!" He said at first, quickly manage to swallow the morsel down and walk over a little closer. "Hey, Cait!" The Kryptonian greets as he imposes on the presence of the redhead and Steve, offering a wave to both (quietly assessing maybe that yes, this is actually Captain America) and casting an eye towards the departing form of Wilson Fisk. "So uh, what brings you here exactly?"

Hopefully that's enough time to stall, but then they're quickly getting motioned to move to their table. "Ah, crap." He interjects before he can answer any questioning about why he might be here, "Were those like, assigned? It wasn't on my card!"


'Kayle Olufson' takes one more sip before she decides she gave it the old college try.

She thinks it's courteous, the way she subtly dumps the rest of it into a nearby, potted plant. Wouldn't want to make a scene.

Flute suitably emptied, the esteemed Kaylie Olufson who must assuredly be someone of note deposits it upon the tray of a helpfully approaching server. "Well, maybe they'll have some properly aged wine," decides the green-eyed socialite (?) as she waves off the help before he can even think to usher her towards the tables. After all, she knows where she's going. Which is why there's no end to the confidence with which she makes her way towards the main event, feathered skirts fluttering behind her almost of their own accord as she reaches the back row of the assembled tables… to the middle…

… and she must assuredly be very important indeed, considering her destination is a straight shot to the table very much at the front, all the way to the left side. Emma's table.

Where she promptly sits as if she had a personal invitation from the hostess herself.

"My, but isn't this all exciting?" she wonders, voice affecting the absolute droll of the idle rich perfectly. She's had quite a bit of practice.


Caitlin falls silent when the call to take seats is given, and she smiles at Steve. Giving his arm a friendly, familiar squeeze, she whispers 'Bye!' and turns towards Conner.

"Hey!" she greets her fellow Titan. "Me? I work for Starr Labs," she tells him. A cheeky grin crosses her face. "Y'know. Some of us do have day jobs," she teases. "C'mon! You can come sit with me, no one's gonna make a beef about it," she says, linking arms with Conner in a come-with-me-if-you-want-to-live fashion. There probably aren't a lot of people who can move Conner against his will, but Caitlin seems not to really care.

"Wait, what are YOU doing here?" she asks him. "I woulda figured like… Robin mighta been here," she says. Perhaps it's some nascent instinct that picks up on Kinsey's glance—she looks at the woman and doesn't recognize her, but smiles anyway. "C'mon, Conner! I'm at Table Four."


Obadiah passes a great number of folks on his way towards the stage, stopping a moment to check his watch, and pausing as he sees a certain woman in green head for the table he was to share with Emma. Take his seat. A small smile, a tiny nod, he's apparently just fine with that, taking the stairs on the side of the stage and pausing, just so, his eyes skyward.


The look Sloane gives Sally just lingers there for a short time, like she couldn't believe that her friend was ready to drag them both off to a track after a big charity gala. Then, her brows crease and her eyes hood halfway, mouth quirking into a flat line as she realizes the Sokovian would totally do that exact thing.

It's quite the face journey.

Sally's pushing matchmaker buttons now. Sloane's pointed ears turn toward the sound a bit more. "He's a little flat," she says, bringing her background into a joke. "… I mean a little. A little."

*ding ding ding*

"Saved by the food!" she says, lifting her invitation up enough to glance at the back of the card, heading toward the tables. Deep down, there's this creeping fear she's going to end up at the same table as all the rich people due to Sally's work with Stark and then it's just all big and weird and—weird.


"It really is," Emma replies to the striking woman who joins her, her smile saccharine sweet with the falseness that these events seem to require. And then she sips some more from her champagne glass and looks in Obadiah's direction.

Looks at Obadiah looking in a different direction.

And then her smile fades as she she closes her pale eyes and sighs.


Danny Rand Rand isn't going to get to dinner, and he isn't going to be any less enigmatic for his appearance tonight. He also, it seemed, shaved clean for nothing. Despite the protests of his mini-entourage, the young man is moving rather insistently against the flow of people, back towards the exit.


An hour ago Tony Stark was asleep.

The inventor, billionaire, philanthropist, and all around amazing guy had a long night building things. Doing things. Being badgered by people with more sense than he has. Then in the middle of the previous morning had a brilliant idea that woke him up and sent him back to his lab. Where after a few more hours of work he passed right out.

Which is business as usual.

What makes this day different though was that he actually had someplace to be. Some place he should show up at. Some place that actually had his name on it. Which is why he had blearily gotten up. Stumbled around and shouted at JARVIS to find his clothes and spent the first fifteen minutes awake causing a mess. The next fifteen was spent getting ready. The next fifteen was spent working on a holoemitter that he just had to finish RIGHT THEN. Then next five? He can't remember. Something to do with cuff-links.

Which means he only had ten minutes to get down to a charity ball that was way more than a ten minute drive away.

"Shall I get your car warmed up?" JARVIS had asked as Stark put the final touches on his outfit.

"Car? Look JARVIS, its a charity ball." There was a wicked grin from the inventor. "I'm wearing a suit."

The AI sighed. "Of course you are, sir."


Now those outside the domed glass building, and even some inside might see a bright spec of light swiftly getting larger. Closer. A dull rumble of an approaching something. Gleaming repulsor engines driving a single figure onward towards his goal. The goal of being fashionably late. "Please let Obi leave the roof open please let Obi have left the roof open…" And the roof is open. "…he thinks of everything. JARVIS tell him he thinks of everything." As Tony Stark, Iron Man, arcs up to swiftly do a loop around the building. Its lazy, the jets not nearly full power as he lets people get a look at him before diving down though the open hole in the roof.

Streaking down like a meteor the Iron Man suit pulls up just short of cratering into the stage to slam down in a three point landing. At it hits cunningly hidden holographic lights worked into the building ripple outward in waves of gold and red before the familiar suit slowly stands and raises its arms. "And now!" Comes the familiar voice from said suit. "Its a party!"

As he says it the suit raises up from the floor, hovering there before the front piece begins to move, plates sliding against each other as it opens to reveal the figure of the hour. The man within the metal…the…

Wait there isn't anyone inside?

Indeed. The suit itself seems to be entirely empty!

That sits there for a second or two before again that voice can be heard from off stage. "BOO! He's not the real Tony Stark!"

And the real live Tony Stark walks on, wide grin on his face. Eyes dancing with laughter. Dressed in a modern cut suit black as night, tailored directly for him of course as the crisp edges of the black cloth catch the light as he raises his hand to wave towards those gathered there. His cuff-links look like tiny arc reactors. Walking over to the suit he leans his shoulder against it, crossing his arms over his chest as the suit itself shuts once again.

"Can you believe this guy? Trying to trick everyone? Shame on you!" He calls out laughingly. The suits shoulders slump in dejection. "Go on. Get out of here!" And with a rush of repulsor engines the suit shoots out the roof once again.

Stark laughs as he turns to the crowd. "Right! Now that he's out of the way…I mean really. He's such a show stealer. How do you all put up with him?" That wicked grin for a moment before he continues. "So I just want to say thank you all for being here. Charity was something my mother cared about, and what you see around you. The Stark Expo of the past is what my father believed in. Means a lot to have everyone here to share both." A beat pause. "So now that the words are out of the way I'll let you all get back to trying to politely, or not so politely, one-up each other! Enjoy the rest of the party!" And with that he gives the stage back to the people he stole it from, heading once again for the wings.


Kinsey tells Matthew Murdock that everyone who is anyone is here, and the eyebrows above his glasses lift and drop in the semblance of a shrug. "I should say hello to Rogers and Carter before the night's over," he offers. Former witnesses, and fellow travelers-out-of-time with his former client. Then she's guiding them to the bar—yes, they've been called to take their seats, but surely the bespectacled, cane-wielding Matt Murdock is allowed a little leeway in the journey from here to there.

"Macallan with a splash of water in it," Matt is telling the bartender, casual as you please. Yeah, he feels like a fish out of water. But there's good live music, and booze, and at least a few people he knows and likes—not the least of whom the woman standing beside him in her sleek gown and impossibly high heels.

This'll be a good night, he tells himself as he lets Kinsey makes her own order.

The pinpricks on the back of his neck had started even before he heard the voice. When that single, powerfully percussive heartbeat comes to the fore somewhere behind him. And then, when that voice sounds, that innocuous request for a top-off of a glass of wine, Matt freezes. He almost doesn't hear that impossibly loud 'clunk' of his glass of whiskey being set on the bar in front of him—and his pause is long enough that the bartender pushes the glass forward so that it makes contact with the tip of the fingers that rest on the bar edge. Even then he doesn't respond immediately—

Because even though it was months ago, and filtered through the grain and static of a phone recording, Matt Murdock knows that baritoned-voice. Even if he doesn't know the name of the man to whom it belongs.


Indeed, there's not a whole lot even Conner can say to Caitlin Fairchild just up deciding they're going to sit together. "Hup!" He says, suddenly jerked forward with the statuesque amazon in a scenario he might normally be all for if it wasn't growing apparent by the second that he was painfully out of his element.

"Yeah, good question!" He said, on the subject of Tim. "I thought he was going to be here so we could like, scope a few things out. He's usually the planner for this stuff. But he's not here so my plan is to…um, make chums and hopefully eat some decent food?"

He shrugs, offering a mercilessly infectious grin before taking his seat, "So hey, was that the real-deal Captain America you were talking to just now? There are some heavy hitters here."


Annnnd it is very much like a high school drama! Scott was very eager to at least get a handshake or say hello to Steve Rogers; a personal hero and champion the X-Men leaderhas tried to model himself after, it would have been like a kid meeting Michael Jordan for the first time. Instead they are asked to sit and it is Logan rerouting him to Emma's table by invitation. Logan of all people. I really do hate you some inner voice chimes through Scotts head.

Neatly, straight backed with only one exhale Scott Summers strides right on by the abnormally large redhead and Captain America's table to take up the hostess' invitation. Two ships passing.
Politely and quietly drawing out a chair to lower in to. "Miss Frost." His deep voice carries but remains below Stark's speech. both brows lifting at it. "He's, uh, yeah, something."


Sometimes the best threats are the ones you never plan for ahead of time. Or the ones that involve just enough BS to be believable; Rusalka has definitely learned the ways of Tony Stark. Let them wonder if you're serious or not, and worry that you might indeed be capable of doing it after all. Of course she wouldn't actually do it, she just doesn't have to tell Sloane that.

The expressions that cross Sloane's face are totally worth it, and the Sokovian bursts out into giggles - which simply double down when the raddest water dragon stumbles over her choice of words.

Saved by the food indeed! And with that she'll make her way over to the proper spot for seating, joining in the crowd and then watching as the Iron Man suit arcs through the air. There's a soft facepalm and a pinched nose, as her boss just can't not make a dramatic entrance…followed by a suitable look of surprise and laughter when he manages to one-up himself. Short, to the point, and…poignant.

Not something she'd have expected from him, in all honesty. Clearly Rusalka has more to learn.


Caitlin hauls Conner along (politely) and gets the two of them planted at a table shared with a handful of other social personalities at the affair. The tables are large enough to seat ten, leaving little need for awkward isolation. A waiter comes by—Caitlin orders a ginger ale, demurring on the offer of an alcoholic beverage. She turns her attention to the speechmaking and the surprise arrivals of the real headliners, and joins a smatter of applause at the appropriate moments.

"Oh! Crap, I have to handle something at the booth," Caitlin tells Conner, after checking her phone. "Sorry, someone had a little emrgency. I'll be back as soon as I can," she promises, getting to her feet.

"Don't steal my dinner!" she admonishes him, and then hustles towards the Starr Labs booth.


"Isn't he just," Emma says dryly with a half-formed smile on her lips, reopening her eyes and drinking the champagne in her hand until the glass is empty. Setting it back on the table, she laments not refilling the glass before taking her seat, but finds her smile for the man in ruby quartz glasses anyway. She is, by appearances, very glad to see him. "But, Mister Summers, he does put on a good show. And that's what these events do best with. A little smoke. A few mirrors. A little magic to make the money flow into good causes."

Her blue eyes turn to take in the other woman. "Don't you agree, Ms…?"


"Pinot grigio for me, please." That, to the bartender. Then, to Matt: "Sure. Once they start the auction we'll probably have time to visit."

Everything seems to be going well. It helps that Kinsey's familiar with the man behind the curtain on this one: as much as Stark may drive her to distraction just by being himself, he is—when he has to be—supremely competent. Not that she would ever, ever say that to the man himself.

And then, very suddenly, everything is not going well. Or it's going very well, in the most dangerous of all possible ways. The soft breath she takes as her eyes unfocus to the sound of the voice behind her happens almost before Five reports what she already knows: «High-priority voice recognition flag: 'Mr. F.'» And unusually, he follows that up with a personal remark: «Kinsey…it's him.»

Her fingertips tighten on Matt's sleeve as she reaches for the flute of wine with her other hand. She says nothing, but once the lawyer has his drink in hand, she urges him to turn with her, flicking a glance at the owner of said voice with a small, polite smile of the 'sorry, excuse us' variety. Inside of her skull, Five is mapping every line and curve of that face, information fed back to the laboratory in Gotham.


There is a drink in Emery's hand, how or when it got there…it is hard to tell but he is Irish. So. Its inevitable at a gala like this. The glass tumbler is held comfortably, a finger occasionally bending to trace a pattern against the glass. He is quiet though, watching people curiously and cocking his head to the side as he sidles up to the table where Emma and Co happen to be, tugging out a chair and bowing deeply to Miss Frost. "….Milady." He greets with that lilting voice colored by rounded vowels that hail back to his place of origin: Ireland.

He pauses in mid bow as he watches Iron Man's entrance and then gestures towards the seat. "I believe tat seat is mine, milady…ye dun mind if I join you all this evening. It really is a fine to-do, Milady, turned out lovely." Not to he rude he turns to the others at the table to offer an additional bow.


There's a clapping coming from the stage even as Tony makes his speech and begins his exit stage.. well. Wherever he likes. Then it's Obadiah's Stane's turn to take the microphone, his beaming smile projecting across the crowd of generous souls and guardians of humanity that have gathered tonight.

"Well then. That was certainly Tony Stark!" Somehow his smile brightens in the confines of the gray of his beard, and as applause dies down he leans in towards the mic again, hands gripping either side of the podium. "I don't want to make Tony Stark a liar, so I'll get the words out of the way as quickly as possible. Tonight is the product of a number of generous donors, public companies and private individuals, and I'm happy to say they were too numerous to name individually, but that I'll see you each tonight, in person, so that you know how much it means to continue to support the initiatives two of my dear but departed friends had made into their life's work. Legacy is important. All of you are part of that now."

There is a pause as Obadiah speaks in passing of Howard and Maria, his gaze wandering down to the podium itself, a brief flicker of emotion in his eyes.

"Well. Thank you all, and please, do me the honor of helping me welcome a very special guest who's taken time out of her busy schedule to appear here tonight. Many of you gathered may have come to know the magic of meeting Captain America himself, or shaking hands with the Iron Man. But none of that comes close to real magic. None of that can hope to top the wonder and amazement…

"….of the great Zatanna Zatara!"

Obadiah's hand waves and he steps aside from the stage, quickly exiting to head into the crowd and promptly sit, without introduction, next Rusalka and Sloane.


She takes most of her cues from her father on stage - she starts on time and always arrives in a bombastic way, and one that does not rely on her actual talents. Like the Great Zatara before her, the magic she performs onstage is all artifice, and like him, she makes it a point in her performances to show off her technical skills in the craft.

Not like most of the world knows that she knows how to do the real stuff, anyway.

Once announced, the lights on the stage darken, plunging it into pitch black. The silhouettes of her stage assistants, a man and a woman in red costumes to better see the in the darkness, perform a dazzling choreography with fire sticks, flames whirling on both ends of long batons as they weave dancing steps through the shadows. There is an ornate basin in the middle, large and wrought out of steel, akin to those that handle massive firepits in designer homes, and once the assistants reach either sides of it, graceful limbs extend, batons plunging into the middle.

Fire erupts, but the color is not normal. The higher tongues of red and gold reach, the twisting apex shifts from violet to iridescent blue and white, smoke billowing out from the stage before the outpour suddenly and inexplicably reverses. It is as if time winds backwards before their eyes and once the flames have been snuffed…

Zatanna Zatara has suddenly appeared, sitting on a black pedestal of marble that wasn't there before, one hand braced behind her at her slight lean and long legs crossed over the knee. Her performance ensemble is her classic look, the one her fans associate with her - tailcoat, top hat and black stilettos paired with fishnet stockings. Her other gloved hand is lifted, index and thumb pinching the brim of her hat, pulled low to obscure the view of her eyes, cast shadows highlighting the scarlet of her smile.

The Princess of Prestidigitation thus makes her debut on the stages of New York City, and the crowd goes wild.


Settled comfortably into her seat, Kaylie Olufson's own smile is a more drab affair, understated and disaffected like someone carefully desensitized to pageantry. The perfect picture of the idle rich. No—

Her smile is in those bright green eyes, as they turn to focus on Obadiah Stane, staring expectantly at the sky.

It's there where the black-haired woman's interest seemingly lies even as Tony Stark makes his grand, two-fold entrance—perhaps especially, as if watching the entire affair through the eyes of the business partner rather than the man of the hour himself. One black brow arches its way upwards; her head cants towards an idle angle as she observes the showman make his show, and the gallery astride her make their idle observations. He does put on a good show. Doesn't she agree?

"It's fascinating. I never knew what a mechanical peacock looked like until today," answers the woman in the feather dress, voice wonderfully devoid of any sense of irony. "I'm learning all sorts of things today."

A second passes. And then, as if remembering, she places a hand to her collar. "Olufson. Kaylie Olufson. And I've never been much for magic. Too garish."

So says the woman who is not the God of Lies, expertly timed to be uttered seconds before Zatanna Zatara's appearance can inspire the crowds to drown her words out.

Which must, of course, surely be coincidence.


Conner is given a wave by the Star Spangled Man with a Plan as Caitlin makes her exit. Shortly after, Steve watches as Summers is led away by social convention. The man is quietly noted by Rogers for a 'talk to later' before noting that he should likely also take his seat. Seeing that Peggy is there, he'll pull out her seat and help her in (presuming she welcomes the gesture) before taking a seat at his table, giving a "hello" to all gathered as he does.

Tony's presentation causes the Avenger to merely shake his head with a smirk, then there is a blink of surprise to see Zatanna's performance. In the wake of it, he only has one thing to say.

"She really should wear some pants," the Man Out of Time comments softly.


Once seated, Sloane watches the display in earnest; eyes wide and mouth open as the Iron Man comes slamming down to Earth, only… it isn't him. Tony makes his entrance, and during his speech, Sloane leans to whisper, "He's so freaking cool."

Stane is next, offering words of wisdom; discussing the past, the future. She watches him like a hawk; she's trying to practice the things she's been learning in order to hone her skills—the way he stands, the way he carries himself, and the might of his beard. Once things get settled, she shoots a glance the Sokovian's way. "Was that your other boss?"

Then, one more glance back across the table—straight at Conner, while his companion is busy skittered away. A scaled arm lifts, hand up a bit. She looks like the fish out of water—proverbially and literally. "Um. Hi."


Oh don't worry Caitlin, it's cool. It's not like you were the only person Conner even sorta knew in this sea of unfamiliar (and reasonably famous) face. "Okay then!" The clone said with a thumbs up, "Don't go making any portals to really uncool dimensions open!"

Also no guarantees on the dinner, but he'll do his best. Conner will begin to dig into a very nice, very appreciated cut of steak as Tony Stark comes and goes and Obadiah Stane picks up the slick in what was no doubt a very proper introduction the Titan tried to listen to as he ate his steak, though Zatanna's name does perk him up from his meal.

Huh, just how many Titans were here that he didn't know about? He'll watch the magician's performance with rapt attention, applauding and whistling (Was whistling cool? Let's hope) at all the appropriate junctures.

"Pants ruin the illusion!" He asserts, picking up Cap's whispers on superhearing and responding before he could think. "Uh…big fan! Thank you for your service, sir."

He's left realizing Sloane is staring at him, and raises a solitary hand in greeting. "Yo."


And Wilson Fisk turns with his freshly poured wine. Just to go back to his table, really, though that lets him get a better look at the others at the bar. A ker-thud of his powerful heartbeat indicates he recognizes Matthew Murdock, though, at least to the ears of that worthy. A hint of displeasure, crossing both his features and his other markers, says it's maybe not just because Murdock is the southpaw defender of the former Winter Soldier. Maybe it has more to do with a conversation that required some of his time and attention, some months ago, a conversation Murdock was a party to. One which had required him to do some damage control.

"Excuse me," he rumbles to both of them, just as he had to Caitlin earlier. That's not a conversation he wants to get involved in, one where he has no choice but to use his own name.

He moves on to sitting down at his table. Good food is coming. He is more than ready for that. And there is a show upcoming, which he rather thinks he might enjoy. He is nowhere near the most important parts of the action, working, as he is, udner the illusion that he is not so important. Tucked in the back, near the shadows. Low key. Radiating the kind of presence nobody really wants to sit with unless they have to. The exact opposite of Tony Stark in every concievable way, though he'd of course noted the entrance. He hopes this and the magic show will keep him out of any…awkward conversations.

Meanwhile, the facial recognition map whirls and twirls back in Gotham, going through hundreds of thousands of records in the blink of an eye. His face is not found many places, but even he has to have a driver's license. Eventually, the face will match right up to the one thing he wants to keep hidden: a name.


Sloane's comment gets a slightly giddy "I know, right?" back from Sally. The idea of an autonomous suit like that? Super-cool! Hmm…she might have to think on that. Ideas, ideas.

Obadiah makes his speech and then his way off the stage, and Rusalka can't help but appreciate his words. Kind, gentle, and heartfelt towards Stark's long-lost parents. It's something that she, as a Stojespal, recognizes as a deep connection to and for family. Something she was brought up to always remember, and take pride in. To her friend, she nods. "Yes, that's…oh! Mr. Stane!"

Well she hadn't expected him to join her or anything. "Sir, a pleasure." She's about to introduce the ginger at her side, but there's someone else in her focus. "A wonderful speech, sir."

And then there is fire and light and magic - ever the engineer, Sally's looking for just how Zatanna might have pulled it off, and nods appreciatively. The best magicians make it too hard to figure out!


The approach to Caitlin and Steve was not meant as a form of subterfuge or stalking. Instead, she smiles at the two and nods. She came to help usher Steve into conversation but she also does not wish to interrupt a conversation. Her politeness and her desire to follow through on an action war with themselves for a moment and are - luckily - saved by the dinner bell.

As Steve pulls out her seat, Peggy gives the man a smile and allows it. Settling herself in, she watches Tony's entrance with a bit of a raised eyebrow and a sigh. Though she knows the man will hate the thought, he is quite a lot like his father in some ways. Then, she turns to watch a woman she is surprised to realize she knows: Zatanna. With an interest, she angles herself to watch the performance.


"So does she." Scott says appreciatively in regards to Zatanna on stage - speaking of smoke, mirrors and a little magic. The brunette does his best to remain quiet throughout the entertainment, that check is slid over to Emma at some point and tapped with a middle finger, "The Professor gives his apologies for not being here and hopes your charity can benefit from his contribution." Not saying a word until Kaylie is done speaking, a warm smile offered the woman from below the spectacles, "Hello." No name just simply that. Scott doesn't actually expect many here to seek conversation let alone his name. This is a rather prestigious cluster after all.

The Irishman joining the table gets a polite nod from Scott and brief look but is then brushed off to watch the stage act. A thumb pressing down in to his pocket to skip his phone back to vibrate while it chimes to life repeatedly.


There's his name from somewhere off to the side, his brows lifting as Rusalka compliments his speech, and he returns the compliment with a polite smile, but moreso just looks over and up to the show on the stage. Fire reflects in his eyes, unnatural and beautiful in it's own right, and the moment Zatanna appears on her stool his hands come together, a grin on his face.

He'd always wanted to see The Great Zatara in person, and while at first he thought he might be settling he can see that his comment about legacy being important was not lost on Giovanni. As a great tradition is recounted before his very eyes, for a very brief moment, Obadiah Stane is truly at ease.


Among another assigned table of bored socialites and charity directors, one young woman has been making polite smalltalk. Dusky-skinned and demure and dressed in red, with eyes like clear skies and calm blue waters. Endlessly serene, and maybe just a little bit vacant.

"Wanda," is how she introduces herself to her tablemates, simply and humbly, her voice flecked with a distant, Eastern European accent. Oh, no, she could not afford a ticket like this. She is one of those little people. She manages a small, urban charity—Diversity Matters.

What does that do?

"We help marginalized people find their strength," she says.

Her table, with its pleasant small talk, eventually goes silent to the announcement and flashy spectacle the great Zatanna Zatara. Endlessly patient, Wanda sits back, and takes in the showcase of magic.

The woman's mouth twitches up at one corner. She leans her chin in her hand, and after a moment, nips down on the tip of her smallest finger. That's what it is. What she's been sensing from miles away. Hidden beneath that ridiculous show, something in that woman that's been beaconing her forward.

Wanda's eyes focus on Zatanna from her seat, locking on, staring, unblinking. Her free hand, hidden at her side, under the table, curls two of her fingers, a slow turn of her hand coalescing a thred-thin burn of red light, flickering subtly through her fingers.

It's time for a closer look.


"A pleasure, Ms. Olufson," Emma says, as though never having met the woman before in her life. Because, surely, she hasn't. Not even a glimpse before this very moment.

Emery earns a more emphatic greeting. "Oh! I'm so glad you could make it, Mister Papsworth." His place in her world is left completely unspoken as she indicates the two other bodies at her table. "Please, allow me to introduce Mister Summers, and Ms. Olufson. I'm afraid the fourth member of our party seems to have disappeared. But! Quickly, then, then sit down because the show is about to start!" The check in the envelope that Scott gives her is deftly slid under the charger on the table from view.

And when it does, the woman in her slinky gown leans her bare back against the chair and even her empty champagne glass can't deprive her of the self-satisfied pleasure of this moment. …Particularly when somehow a server just happens to think that now is a good time to edge down the side to deliver a sampling of red wine to whoever wants one. A portion of which Emma avails herself. "I do love it when everything goes according to plan," she says, unaware of that statement already starting to fray. "Charles is very kind, though, to help. As are you for being his emissary."


If someone who could see the things Matt sees were to fix their attention on him, he'd burn as brightly as a signal flare. The heartbeat that went from a trot to a gallop, a breath caught and held in the chamber of his chest, a sudden flush arcing along the lines of his neck and temples, the whiff of saline in the air as minuscule beads of sweat eke from his pores. On this most unusual canvass he's the very picture of a man in shock following this brief encounter with "Mr. F." Stark's antics, Zatanna's performance, Stane's ring-leading—it's all just din while his mind races a mile-a-minute.

It's him. The Russians. Dr. Kelt. The people on those meat-hooks. Hunter. It's all on him. The man behind the goddamn curtain is right there, and all you have to do is turn around and—

And then F is turning, making his way back into the crowd, and Kinsey is nudging him, gently but unmistakably urging him in the other direction. "It's him," Matt breathes when he's sure there's enough distance between them to where it won't be overheard. Though he suspects, from what he knows of Kinsey's own abilities, that she already knows exactly what he means. He keeps half his focus there, with here, while the other half of his attention rests on the retreating drumbeat of Wilson Fisk's heart.


As Conner remarks a table away on Steve's whisper, the First Avenger leans his chair to take in the young man for a moment, studying him in the wake of his words. Finally there is a simple nod, the compliment placating the break in etiquette. "You're welcome, happy to be of service," he states to Conner before turning back toward Peggy and his table. Calmly, he works into his food with the civility trained from dinners with congressional men and women.

After the incident with the overheard whisper, Rogers decides to communicate with his partner in justice with subtly, which Cap can manage… from time to time.

"So, we looking at a quiet dinner for a change? Seem to be a lot of interesting people here."
As the interpersonal dramas play out, as the use of powers show that any place can be a time to demostrate personal gifts, Steve seems rather oblivious. But well, that's what friends are for.


After leaving his bodyguards on one side of the wooden bridge, Morien walks across the bridge. Morien quickly pulls a glass of wine from the first server that he sees, and start to casually walk around the room. Morien walks around the tables to check to see if their if he has an assign seat. Morien is about to ask one of the servers, when he hears Emma's voice

Morien walks over to Emma and raises his glass to her, "It seems you a success on your hand. My apologizes for being late, but I was on a business call. I would have brought along my CFO Arielle Reynolds, but alas she is keeping the Shabbat.

Morien looks pass her for a moment at all the festivities, "Did you already announce Umoja International's donation?


Leaning forward to set his drink down, Emery flashes a dimpled smile at Emma before turning to his tablemates. "Emery Papsworth, professional Butler and certified Personal Assistant at your service." He settles down in his seat in time to see the show get started and he is lifting an eyebrow as he takes a small sip of his drink.

To his tablemates he offers. "Such a dazzling display from the young lady but I admit, the handsome young man and breathtakingly beautiful women at this table are equally as stunning tonight…thank you for allowing me to join you." Then the Irishman is back to watching the show.


"Uh … good steak?"

Sally wanted her to mingle—this is more or less as close as she's going to get at the moment. The ginger Inhuman's head tilts, then she glances away from Conner for a second. "Sorry, this is my first time doing one of these. I mean, in a long time. It was nothing like this. I hope that's not weird. I mean it's weird, but… I— uh. I should start over. I'm Sloane."

And then the magic show starts. Understandably, she's briefly distracted, much in the way Stane is while Sally tries to speak with him for a moment, glancing back at Conner, Sally, and other occupants of the table while doing her best to pay attention to the show.

This party business isn't too bad. Different, but not too bad. Is this the kind of thing the spies get to do, too?—not that she really wants to transfer into that kind of assignment. "This isn't a concert, but it's pretty cool," she says quietly—more to herself than anyone else.


The theme of tonight's performance appears to be 'Escalation.'

The raven-haired magician on stage starts with the classic tricks, with her own twists: pulling a rabbit out of her hat… and pulling the hat out of the rabbit. Instead of sawing one of her assistants in half, she keeps her vertical and behind a metal frame where her lower half would be visible, sets the middle on fire and, while grasping the top, 'pulls' her assistant apart from the waist up and misaligning her from her hips and legs.

Her assistants fill the stage with bubbles after with their flawless dance choreography, streams of the floating spheres reaching the crowd and fragmenting stage lights into rows of color. Zatanna joins in with the footwork, weaving in between svelte bodies until she gets to the front of the stage. One of the dancers dangles a bubble caught between both palms….and one that she expands. Larger, and larger, and larger…

…until she sets it free, letting it float upwards. Behind her, Zatanna takes a flying leap…

…and dives into the bubble, which inexplicably holds her form, as it keeps floating up and up and up.

And vanishes, only to reappear at the center of the stage with a quip and a smile under the hail of applause.

"I know we're a few days out of Halloween," she says, reaching for the black cloth covering the marble slab from earlier, pressed flat onto the surface. "But it's my favorite holiday - go figure, right? So to send it off the right way…"

She draws the cloth back with a sharp flick of her wrist, and in the unfurling of ebony cloth, a Jack O'Lantern is revealed, sitting on the slab as if it had been there all along. Its comical face is directed to the crowd, its eyes crossed and its grin more like a grimace, and missing quite a number of teeth.

"I'm going to turn this festive gourd…" She lowers her voice into a pitch that more closely approximates an ominous tone. "Into a killer."

Waving her 'wand', she points to the pumpkin, only to freeze visibly on the stage when she looks down at her extended arm and sees a mechanical elbow joint. The surprise is apparent; ice-blue eyes grow wide and the wand drops from her hand, released by nerveless fingers. Gloved hands lift as she examines them, expression stunned and disbelieving.

Is this part of the performance?

Her fingers aren't her own. Wooden, painted white, strings wind over her wrists and extend upwards into the ether. Her heart lurches into her throat as a panicked fear grips her limbs. She had just lived this kind of nightmare, having so recently seen her reflection in a mystical labyrinth of mirrors, transformed into a marionette, dangling on strings…

…surrounded by friends who were…

Pupils dilate with horror as her head snaps up to view the crowd. Bile, brought upon by the kind of nausea that can only be caused by a person's most terrifying, most psychologically debilitating fear, rises from her stomach. "No…" she gasps, stumbling backwards and nearly falling in her haste to get away. "NO!"

Was it because of the tyet? She can barely even form that coherent thought when every instinct to protect herself envelopes her, and in the midst of a gurgling, frantic cry, she lashes out. The sudden torrent of magical might surges out of her and into the crowd, weaving in between bodies and leaving them unharmed, because it only seeks one person out to stop the nightmares pouring into her brain.

Like a homing missile, it bears on Wanda Maximoff, seeking to knock her off her feet and send her flying.


There are some people at the Stark Expo tonight who were not on the invitation list. Not the formal one. Their invitation was extended to them years ago in the form of ordnance labeled Stark, used against mutantkind over the years repeatedly, without mercy and with extreme prejudice.

Tonight, some of that is going to get returned. With interest.

Zatanna Zatara's show starts, slowly, to go amiss. Like a slow rot—like a spreading cancer. Something is clearly wrong with the young magician… something that culminates in her abruptly lashing out at some aggressor only she can see.

That's about when the charges go off, throughout the expo, in a series of deafening explosions.

A significant amount of military-grade Semtex is nothing to sneeze at, especially when it has been planted in key locations at an extreme speed followable by no human perception. It is planted at the base of tall dividing walls and heavy displays. It is planted at the security checkpoints. It is planted throughout the cultivated garden where the main event is transpiring, with supreme indifference towards human casualties.

Most importantly, it is planted all along the great screens proudly showing the Stark Industries logo, along with the logos of Rand Industries and other major sponsors.

Said logos shatter and burst aflame, in a rain of sparks and debris, when all the explosives detonate. Walls start coming down, around the Expo.

A blur ghosts through the destruction, as Pietro Maximoff darts back towards his sister's side, just in time to catch her from the air as Zatanna's backlash sends her flying.


"Yes." That's the whisper from Kinsey, lighter than a feather under the noise and raucous applause of an audience enchanted by Zatanna Zatara's New York debut. She guides Matt unerringly through the dim toward the table that waits for them, with only a pause to ask an usher which one is theirs. Only once they're seated does she lean over again, heartbeat tripping along, to whisper almost directly to his ear:

"I've got him. …After."

The most important message relayed, she settles into silence to watch the ongoing performance, just another guest. Magic shows! How neat.

And so, of course, it all begins to go wrong. Really wrong.

Really, really wrong.

A bolt of actual magic winds its sinuous way into the crowd as Zatanna screams, and Kinsey's eyes round. "I don't think that was-" She'll never get to finish that sentence. Explosive detonations rip through the interior of the building, shattering any hope of an uneventful evening, and Kinsey, simultaneous to a small shriek, is grappling with Matt's arm to pull him with her as she slides directly out of her chair and underneath the table. It's sheer instinct, processed through the filter of a military background.


Escalation is more than the theme of Zatanna's performance, and Obadiah rises as it's clear that something is wrong. He says something, a single word. Men converge, heading for him. Heading for Emma Frost. Heading for…

It does not matter.

Between a blur of something almost silver and the rippling shockwave of explosions that cascade throughout the event, his men become casualties. The world rains fire and even as Obadiah reaches for his watch, to summon his last line of defense, light reflects in his eyes, backlit by a shattered Stark video display.

Arms come up instinctively, debris peppers his arms. He does not realize until after, that he should have guarded his chest.

Looking downward his first instinct is to laugh, brought low by something so simple as a piece of metal. Very recently, someone had told him he was 'Only Human'. In this moment, he knows the truth of it, gaze shifting as the world tilts and a hand reaches for the table where Sloane and Rusalka had been sitting.

Then Obadiah Stane collapses to the table and through it, blood expanding over his white shirt as if it were a nation being conquered by some insidious enemy.


Scott's not quite sure what to make of Emery as the man speaks only giving a light uplift of brows that cases dark arches to rise above the reflective shades. "Thanks?" His voice lilting up in question, as if about to say something to Emma his mouth opens then closes upon Zatanna's cry, when those waves of mystical force press out Scott shows a surprising amount of quick action by jumping to his feet, it's the explosions that daisy-chain throughout the gala that have him flipping the table like a mad man. It's surface angled towards the blasts even if they're not near enough.
"Get down!" Scott shouts at the top of his lungs, taking his own advice to end up in a crouch whoever is closest to him will if not out of arms reach likewise get roughly jerked to cover as well. For what that measily but of furniture may be worth.


Caitlin, at the periphery of the event, is not in a position to contribute immediately. But she is in a position to help protect against a larger loss of life—she finds herself next to a critical load-bearing column, and staring curiously at the planted explosive in the seconds before it goes off.

The detonation is barely sufficient to make her blink in alarm. But her finely tuned instincts catch the telltale creak and screaming protest of the warped metal as the column starts to collapse. Moving swiftly in her ragged, torn dress, she braces her shoulders against the column to hold it upright and keeps an entire section of roof from crushing several dozen people.


"It's…pretty nice, yeah!" Conner said of the steak. Actually, it might be the best damn steak he's ever had in his life, but the clone lacks the posh vocabulary to describe this sensation other than 'awesome'. "Hey, no worries. It's not my usual scene either." He said with a smile, wink and a finger gun, "I'm Conner."

The magic show kicks off and begins going pretty well, all considered. "Hey, I actually know her sorta!" He asides to Sloane before realizing he maybe shouldn't just blurt out that they're on a superteam. That might not be kosher? He'll check with Tim later. "Not well or anything, but she's pretty cool."

Things then proceed to go not well in a very quick manner, prompting Conner to immediately rise to his feet when it's obvious the act isn't one any more. "H-hey Z!" He shouts, feeling a chill run up his spine when that torrent of magic rushes through-and passes him by. Magic was #2 on the list of things that could give him a bad day, right after kryptonite, but he wasn't target and there seemed to bigger problems. Faster…problems?

Conner blinked. It was so fast he wasn't sure he saw anything at all. A blur shaped like a person….did somebody just move?

He had maybe a second or two to ponder this question before explosions rocked the gala and things began to get even worse. "Oh, thank God." The clone quietly muttered as he, in full view of whoever was around, pulled his tux apart to reveal a fitted t-shirt emblazoned with the familiar family 'S' brand.

"I'll be right back." He says to Sloane, shooting off his feet into the air and planting his hands on whatever part of the ceiling looked most ready to collapse. In addition to his own kryptonian strength, he'll extend his telekinetic aura as a sort of 'net' to reinforce and hold the building's structure in place, hopefully allowing people time to escape.

He's really concerned about what's going on with Zatanna, but this is where he'd needed most, at the moment.


As always when stuff starts going sideways, things seem to slow down around him as he analyzes what is going on. Emery was smiling a bit at Scott and starting to ask the ladies something but it starts with the abnormalities and the sensastion of that rush of magic and almost in Unison he has set his drink down and moved with Scott in the instinctual flip of the table to create the barest of shields before dropping to try to tug Emma down as well, crouching behind her as the secondary rear shield as the explosions go off and he slows his breathing. "Ahhhh…explosions and tings going tits up, Milady, this is now officially a party."


There's a brief moment where Emma's heart sinks as she feels something… Something far too late to do anything about it.

And then the world starts exploding. Walls start crumbling. There is blood and terror, and it takes the telepath longer than it really should as the world briefly becomes a giant, blinding shriek in two planes. The volume for her isn't a '10', it's a '20', and it feels very much too familiar.

The table is flipped by the mutant beside her, and she falls in behind it as Emery tugs with little regard to her lovely gown or the red wine that splashes over it, but only because she's gripping her temples with her eyes tightly shut with a wince.

But she swiftly gets her bearings. As she lifts her head, her lip curls upwards into an angry sneer, her eyes open with a wide intensity and her hand, now empty, is shaking.

Meanwhile, there is a red and gold suit already tearing back into the room. This time, however, the suit isn't empty. It is very much occupied, and JARVIS ever so kindly and briskly analyzes where the best place is on one of the larger walls on the side of the room opposite Connor to do likewise. The witty repartee is definitely still happening, Stark unaware of Obi's chest's unfortunate run-in with the metal bit, but it's where no one can hear it. For now. But it's definitely still happening.



Even in his state of quiet shock at their brief not-quite-confrontation with the hulking "Mr. F," Matt Murdock probably catches on earlier than most that things are about to go six kinds of sideways at the Stark Expo. The quail in Zatanna's horrified voice as her nightmare comes to life, the endless ripples and vibrations sent by Pietro's deadly zip through the space. All of it hints at the very sort of pandemonium that comes next. For all that, the few seconds of warning he receives does him scant good. Even if he—with beyond human senses—could tell where the explosives were, there's no way he could make it to any one of them in time, much less disarm them.

All he really has time to do is duck down with Kinsey under the table and try to keep his head low and shield her frame with his as the walls come tumbling down around them. In moments there will be injured to deal with and decisions to make. But to get there, those moments must be survived. Particles of debris flood the air, fill his lungs with noxious chemicals. Sounds of chaos, pandemonium whirl around the ruined expo hall. "Are you hurt?" he asks Kinsey first, and with urgency. "Are you hit?"


A pleasure, Ms. Olufson, says Emma Frost.

"Of course it is," answers Kayle Olufson, with all due graciousness.

When Emma makes her introductions for the others, green eyes slide towards Scott, and then Emery, in short order. The would-be socialite's stare is like a black hole where no interest may escape, the cultivated cold of the cultured assessing each in turn. Her greeting?

"Also charmed, I'm sure."

Because when crafting a character, having both a distinct and consistent personality is of utmost importance. As any good storyteller would inform you.

So, when the wine comes around, she takes a glass of her own, but doesn't quite take a sip yet. She watches the festivities for a moment, takes stock of the location of more relevant parties that she, of course, knows entirely from celebrity and renown and little else… and then she decides to taste. The glass lifts, resting on the edge of darkly painted lips…

… and then there is a twinge across senses more than mortal, a tug on the fabric of things.

And there is a pause, just long enough for 'Kaylie's' lips to twitch upwards at their corners in the subtlest of smiles as she sips.

"What a marked improvement," she comments. Of the wine, of course.

"Too bad the same can't be said of the performance…"

It's like ironic prophecy. Or a jinx. Because as those words are uttered, everything seems to go wrong.

Magic. Real magic. It responds to the touch of something off and wrong, like a reflexive motion of the soul within Zatanna. And like a flipped switch, everything falls apart soon after. As ethereal energies rip through the grounds, more conventional forces in a more easily packaged but no less potent Semtex form shudder the very foundation in calculated explosions. Kinetic force ripples all around her.

And Kaylie Olufson enjoys one last long, savoring sip of wine before everything falls apart.

"But it could be bett"BOOM

Heat ripples, debris rains; unseen magic flexes and stretches, and as others scatter poor, mortal Kaylie is caught wide-eyed and horrified in the fringes of a blast radius; caught, and knocked aside like a ragdoll by the shockwave's forceful momentum. Collapsing rubble breaks and partitions her from the rest of her table in a wall of debris, heat catching a flame on her feather dress as she groans wearily and rolls onto her back. She looks appropriately bloodied as any normal person rightly ought to be in such a situation, but alive, slumped to the side and looking like she's in most desperate need of saving. Like any bystander would be. Clearly, unconscious from the shock.

It's a compelling and natural narrative, so it must be true. Or at least, it's conveniently believable enough for her to put her utmost confidence in the fact that the heroes will keep her body safe—

—while her consciousness takes a lovely little jaunt outside it, to get a much better vantage point to enjoy the festivities from, sight unseen.

If -only- she brought some popcorn.


Sloane watches the show with rapt interest; she's not sure how to react, what to think about it. She's looking for the wires, the tricks, the gimmicks, but she's enjoying the show—it's fun to watch. Still, she keeps her voice at a bit of a hushed tone as to not disturb others trying to focus on the show. "Really? That's awesome. I got to meet Captain America once, it was pretty cool."

The theme of the show is escalation. And things certainly escalate.

Mystical forces interact; Zatanna lashes out against an unseen assailant as within a fraction of a moment of a second everything just goes straight to Hell and back. Explosions sound in her ear, and it isn't a sound that she's all that used to. Still, training starts to kick in: Shrapnel starts flying, electronics and iron.

A chunk of a table comes flying end over end from near the displays; the Inhuman steps up and extends her arms, catching it against her chest full-brunt while her weight is forced back onto her heels— one snaps, and she stumbles, trying to keep her balance while holding onto a mess of wood and metal and everything awful. It doesn't help Stane, but it keeps the poor souls at the table behind them from catching stained oak and wood shrapnel to the face, dropping it on the floor rather unceremoniously.

Catching her breath, discarding her heels, she starts catching her bearings. Conner's friend—wait, she's met her before, hasn't she?—is running to help support the building, while Conner himself is now flying holy crap she sure got put at the right table, didn't she.

Watching above, keeping an eye out for falling debris while other superhumans do their work, Sloane starts padding across the ruined floors. "Call it in! I'll see if anyone else needs help!"


There it is.

Eyes unfocused, face serene, Wanda briefly unfetters herself from the world, from its sensory trappings—and instead looks deep and down with her other eyes.

Her hex moves through her fingers, balancing probability to unlock secret after secret in Zatanna's mind, unhitching lock after lock. Wanda moves through the woman's mind like a surgeon's scalpel. She cannot read it, not like a telepath—and surface thoughts are fleeting, useless things. All she needs to do is feel for what is there—the fears, the nightmares—and let them go.

Only, Zatara reacts.

The sudden, terrible show of power hits Wanda by surprise, upending her table, scattering its other people to the ground, and cracking her straight out of her chair.

It's Pietro, with his usual quickness, that is Wanda's only savior, catching her as the gala explodes as planned all around them. Knowing her twin brother well enough to not need to turn him a single look, she keeps her eyes and attention fastened on Zatanna, fingers curling as a new hex spins calculations through her fingers.

But, still, with enough multitasked attention to aside to Pietro: "I thought I told you to wear the suit."


Ooh, halloween themes. Something still new to her; the Eastern churches that sprinkle Sokovia never got into the All Saints' holiday like the Western ones did. Then again they had plenty of other celebrations around this time, including the Hunter's Moon; the fact that said moon is only a couple days away doesn't hurt the illusion one bit. Neither does the fantastic tricks that Zatanna's doing.

All in all, even if Sally's not used to Halloween itself she knows the horror side of it - and thinks, at first, that there's some sort of strange theme going on with the show. Right up to the point that magical energy flares around the crowd like a light-filled blast wave…and physical energy flares through the crowd in a debris-filled blast wave.

Sally's first instinct, still being young, is a shriek of terror and ducking down. The next instinct is to reach up and claw for Sloane, trying to pull her down to some sort of safety from shrapnel. Armored or not, her friend is her friend - and yet her friend is already on the ball, catching a massive chunk of table that would have flattened them both. Cobalt-blue eyes widen in surprise and wonder at the sight for a moment.

Her third is to spin at the crash of Obadiah Stane next to her, and partly on her - before blinking and realizing just how much blood is on his shirt. "Mr. Stane!" She can't hear anything at the moment, as if everything were underwater. Even her own voice is practically nonexistent. Hands flutter a moment in shock before she practically crawls on top of the old man, shielding him in case there's anything else - and putting as much pressure on the chest wound as she can. Things she had learned from grandparents and uncles flash through her mind, mixed with things she's learned from SHIELD as well.

"LIKAR!" English, fool! "MEDIC!" Aahhgh, it hurts…


Pietro Maximoff, in a hoodie with the hood thrown back and comfortable jeans, rolls his eyes. "Have you ever tried to run in a suit?"

Jovial in the midst of destruction, still carrying Wanda in his arms, Pietro moves through the crowds as they run and seek cover, a shark cutting through schools of darting fish. He moves at a normal speed now, slowing himself pointedly to the infuriating crawl of the human race. Contempt blazes in his face, his blue eyes sweeping the masses, his white hair catching the light of burning fires. What would his father say if he could see him now?

Good thing his father isn't here, and Pietro doesn't know shit all about him!

Somewhere along the way, he puts Wanda down, leading her by the hand instead as he raises his voice. How can he be heard so clearly, even through the chaos? Perhaps it's the red, red gleam in the eyes of his sibling.

"This is what 'humankind' amounts to," he shouts, his voice slashing through the noise to carry above the crowds. "Rats celebrating other rats. Pathetic creatures. Do you know how many mutant children Stark's murdered with his bombs?"

A snarl flickers across his face. "I suppose you do, but it doesn't matter. They're just mutants, right? You'll throw money at whatever bloated, self-congratulatory event he slaps the label 'charity' on, and feel self-righteous regardless."


It gets worse.

'Escalation', after all, is the theme of tonight's performance.

As Wanda exerts her will and assaults her mind with all of her uninhibited, unstable ruthlessness, Zatanna unleashes a bloodcurdling scream, punctuated by the terror of not just her childhood fears that surround and threaten to suffocate her, but the realization of what the other witch is doing. She feels the magical locks and tumblers disengage inside of herself; like holes being relentlessly punched into the endless well of her mystical soul, power starts to leak from her in dangerous waves, and her fright is preventing her from controlling it.

It slips from her grasp like water, and she is desperately trying to hold onto it.

Her body falls on the stage, burning in white-blue flames that grow only brighter and brighter. Tears brim from the corners of her eyes, crying out in the midst of her struggles. Hands lift to grasp both sides of her head, writhing on the ground. Pain blisters through her senses, an uncontrollable supernova of sensation flooding her. If she doesn't…if she can't…

Oh god, oh god— !

…people will die.

"No! Don't do this— DON'T DO THIS!"

Images flood her mind at that, strains of Wanda's crimson curse threading into her and undoing her from the inside out. Her subconscious fills with the face of Caitlin Fairchild as everything the Scarlet Witch does to her compels her to utterly annihilate her Titans teammate. A burning blue hand lifts, but she fights against it, tremors spasming over her fingers as she turns this deadly weapon towards where the giant ginger is holding up part of the venue to prevent it from falling and crushing everyone else.

"Cait….Caitlin!!" she cries. "I don't think…I can't….you have to run…!!"

But it's too late. The sizeable build up of magical energy just fires, cutting over the heads of others in an attempt to tear her redhaired comrade asunder.


Obadiah groans, a hand lifting in a horrible haze, tasting chemicals in the air and blood in his mouth. He finds someone else there, someone who will share the stain of his life as it seeps from where he was holding his chest, and his hand presses to Rusalka's cheek.


His eyes do not see except for the shadow of who looms over him, someone from his past, someone he wishes for all the world he could make it all up to.

It may be to late.


"I'm good!" She doesn't have to yell for Matt to hear what she's saying, but in the moment, heart racing and thoughts sprinting apace, Kinsey falls back on old instincts, voice raised above the din of screams and collapsing walls. "I'm fine! Are you?" Hands on his shoulders, searching. He seems fine. She extends one of those hands to push the tablecloth aside and look out into the surge of the panicking crowd—a sight that plunges her backward in time, to the Radio City Music Hall, and yet another date with Matthew Murdock that ended in a frightened mob.

"I'm going to look for—for something…" The words are vague, but the moment her eyes unfocus, lowered slightly on an angle, it's probably evident to the vigilante of Hell's Kitchen just what it is she means.


It's always work that makes her late to social events. Well, when it's not Tony, it's work. Running HOURS late, Pepper hurries through to where the main charity event is being held, now more glad than ever that she went with an outfit inspired by the Shalwar kameez of India—it means she's wearing fitted trousers under her long skirt.

And then she hears the explosion. "Oh god." And then she thanks her designer yet again as she sheds the long skirt and matching heels then slaps her hand over the center of her shoulder bag… that envelops her in the Rescue armor the way Tony's suitcase armor would.

Eight seconds later and a few running steps forward, Rescue rockets toward the source of the noise to try and help. Somehow.


Morien was about to repeat himself to Ms. Frost but that is when the explosions happens, and Morien goes flying face into the air. He land face first in a champagne glass tower. The damage to his face is already healed, when he starts to look around at the damage to the place. "I knew it! I feckin knew it! They could held the party in feckin Gotham, and it would had the same results! Morien pulls out his handkerchief with his right hand to cover his mouth as he pretends to need it to breathe as he coughs his way towards the exit. Morien frowns as he hears someone call for a medic and quickly runs towards the direction. Morien kneels down next to Rusalka and says, "Let me see, what I can do?


The air is filled with debris and smoke, shrapnel has found homes in both people and objects…things are falling and collapsing…the souls are swirling at the surface of several poor souls and it hums through the chaos like a sweet refrain for Emery. The screams, the magic thick in the air, the cries for help churning and churning together and the 'retired' reaper is trembling slightly.

But priorities. He watches Emma's reaction carefully, glimpsing the stain and wincing. He raises his voice. "Fair Warning! Will the owner of teh fecking brilliant plan to get wine on this designer gown please swing by teh front till for yer complimentary arse kicking because not even dry cleanin' will get this stain out. I repeat, ye maybe gettin' stabbed in teh throat' wit the stilletos!"

Then he is checking on the other table mates. "We gotta evacuate civilians because it sounds like tings are about to go nuclear." He shifts his mindset to soldier mode, scanning the mess of their surroundings and blinking as more magic is getting flung. "Ye know fight between two wimmen is wrong when…the memory shifts from the wank bank to teh nightmare…what inthe name of all the fecking saints…" He is crossing himself and calling upon Raphael and Michael under his Latin.


Sometimes, Steve Rogers still has the unique ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. In the wake of his words, explosions rock the area and as he had presumed, superheroes pop out of the woodwork as danger presents itself: Supporting the ceiling, supporting the people in danger.

The ringing in his ear reminding him of the warzones of the past, Steve pushes himself up from the table, the force of the explosions rocketing him toward his food. Wiping the expensive meal from his visage, Rogers slowly gets up as he inspects the scene, taking it in and evaluating it. It's not zombies, but it's clear as people cry out for medics that there are monsters present.

A glance is given toward the powerful blast from Zatanna toward Caitlin. He doesn't even have time to consider the threat before a bold voice announces itself.

A hand reaches down to unbutton his jacket as a man announces the woes with humanity. Of course, this means that one man must rise up.

"We need to get this people out of here as quickly and safely as we can. If someone is badly injuried and seems to have a back injury however, leave them here!" The voice of Cap roars out, lacking the magical enhancement of the speedster's sister, depending on stage training and pure urgency to give him the volume.

However, that powerful set of lungs soon averts himself toward the male co-conspirator. "And you think bloodshed makes you any worthier? There is always a better way. If you truly wish to make a better world, it's working with people, not against them. These people might not be perfect, but they are trying. Honestly TRYING."

Steve has removed his jacket, setting it on the table. He doesn't have his shield, his super suit, or even a firearm, but he does have the strength of his convictions. "Humanity might make mistakes, but to say that this is the right way…." A hand gestures out to the room at large as he rolls up his sleeves. "You're wrong."


Her dress is somewhat the worse for wear, torn and perforated in spots and bleeding from a few wounds of her own. Mostly her arms, raised as they'd been to clap at what had been some fantastic stage magic and in anticipation of something more coming with the great pumpkin. The table chunk would have killed her outright if Sloane hadn't blocked it, but there'd been plenty of other fast shrapnel. Her left leg especially, as it's hard to stand on.

And hard to use her hands, too.

Morien arrives, and Sally glances up barely able to make out what it is he's saying - she just nods at her purse on the table, and yells out "Purse! Phone! Panic button!" He's the only one around at the moment, besides Stane, and the old man is in no condition to be dealing with SHIELD's technology.

One hand doesn't really want to work, but the other one does; leaving the shrapnel in place she makes sure there's nothing further - and keeps pressing as hard as she can, trying to stop the blood from seeping out. His hand brushes her cheek, smearing scarlet, but she can't hear the name he states. "Mr. Stane, stay awake. Don't move. Keep talking." Even if she can't hear him.

Panic sets in. What is she supposed to do? How hard is she supposed to press? What if she's cutting off his hair, on his chest like that? She's not supposed to remove it, right? What if there's a wound inside even deeper, an artery? Focus, focus, FOCUS! Stories from home… There's a momentary hard blink, a flicker in her eyes, and then Sally's right hand suddenly jams into Obi's chest, searching - and finding the blood vessel, pinching it off as tight as she can.


A quick headcount first for those who were at the table, Emma, Emery, the disguised Loki. "Shit." Scott murmurs, the fire show around them, the cries, mystical mayhem and a… voice of mutantkind? A muscle underneath the smoothly shaven cheek of Scott Summers bounces. The ones doing this are mutants and… the woman on fire. It's too much to try and process, Iron Man is here, Super… youth? He doesn't know. Fairchild, Captain America. This is not a very smart place to assault. The woman that has fallen, is scooped up over one shoulder then drawn up and draped across the civilian garbed up X-Man. Almost duckwalking past people as he carries her towards the exit of the gala, "Follow me, you, come on. UP, up."
A hand waves at them, no heroics for Cylops. No not beyond trying get a escape train out of here. "Secure us a path, please!" He yells for aid to anyone. His concern isn't fighting or trying to confront the attackers or even figure out whats going on. Not yet at least. "Everyone who can, please, calmly start evacuating."
Fire and smoke will begin to spread, inhalation can become a problem.
Emery sounds like hes on the same thought track. "On it. Just help me." Then the iconic Cap offers the best aid on this one he can, mustering them along. Scott feels some small sense of pride in all the urgency.


Lucky for Obadiah Stane, Morien knows these events in a shitshow and he always comes prepared to help when it does. Morien pulls out a tin can from his pocket, and pours some dried leaves into Obi's mouth. "This will help with the pain and slow down your bleeding a bit. You are going to be feeling really good for a few days. Morien writes something on Obi's arm for the EMTs.

Morien pulls another small pouch out from his sheet and begins to spread it on spots that are bleeding and around for the shrapnel. The material looks mud and smells like decayed fish, but it stops the bleeding for a moment. Morien peers at Rusalka, "The medicine I gave him will keep him alive for about an hour. Tell the Doctor not to give him anything for the pain, it will kill him. What I have him is a lot stronger."


Caitlin's a hero.

Sure, she's not exactly an old hat by most standards. But she's been there. Seen some things. She's exchanged blows with some of the toughest villains to face the League and she's stood by the Avengers, the Justice League, and the Titans. She's been wounded and she knows how to take a hit.

Caitlin watches Zatanna's fingers curl around that eldritch power, watches it take form and shape— and she barks a command at the last guests still clambering towards safety.

"RUN!" she commands, her voice almost stentorian in volume. She pressses her lips into a thin line, shoulders bracing the column, and holds position as that energy ripples through reality and slams into her with ear-shattering force.

Caitlin screams and is flung off her feet. The column collapses, and moments later, a large part of the ceiling overhead falls as well.


In the physical world, Kaylie Olufson slumps lifelessly to the side, her breathing shallow. Clearly unconscious. Off in some other world. Who knows where? Likely, she could use some saving.

And in the astral realms, Loki Laufeyson, God(des) of Mischief, watches a mischief not of her making as it escalates perfect planning towards perfect chaos with a smile. Clearly delighted. And right where she wants to be.

Sight unseen, the trickster floats above, an accumulation of jade thoughts and emerald spirit forged into an astral silhouette. Seated cross-legged in the air, she props her chin upon an open palm, burning green eyes floating towards the blurring smudge of quicksilver that is Pietro and Wanda pontificating on retribution, before rolling towards their retribution in the making: Zatanna Zatara.

Magical nuke.

Loki's ethereal lips twitch down towards a frown.

"Ah, so this must be the fabled 'party pooper' mortals oft speak of."

What kills the mood more effectively than calamity, after all? -Unplanned- calamity?

She watches. He watches. As blue flames burble at the magician's skin, as magic seeps from her like water bursting from a dam. The first shockwave releases and that mere modicum of buildup rips through the foundations and tears at the spiritual senses of the Prince of Lies, tugging and pulling at her even from the safety of her astral perch. And this is just an inkling. A sliver. A mote of a great and terrible thing locked within.

"Tsk tsk. I don't think you're ready for your big debut quite yet, are you?"

And so one ghostly green hand extends above the proceedings. Magical threads of glowing jade flow through the tapestry of what is, weaving a lie into the nature of things to insinuate a voice inside Zatanna Zatara's head. One feminine, at first, but bleeding towards masculine. Familiar. Fresh.

You know, Zatanna Zatara, there's easier ways to avoid late fees than blowing up half the city. More effective ones, at that.

And that magic laces to seek purchase in the fundament of Zatanna's soul, giving her company amidst the flames as she burns. Reaching out, towards that wellspring of power leaking and being pried open. Providing her support. Guidance, as the God of Mischief seeks out the hex picking the locks of Zatanna's soul.

Focus on my voice. Your body is the door. Your mind is the lock. This is your domain. Concentrate. You make the rules. Are you really going to tolerate unruly guests in your home when they don't even bother to wipe their feet on the welcome mat?


Pietro's sleek silver head turns towards Captain America as he is addressed. The recognition is obvious in his eyes—and it is chased swiftly by a flare of fury. The lecture seems to stretch on forever, in the speedster's perception, on and on into eternity. His eyes glaze, just a little. It's all too wholesome.

So he does what Pietro does. There is a split second of warning as Quicksilver tenses, the wind-up preparation of a cheetah digging in its blunt claws.

"Working WITH people? Any time a hand was reached out," he snarls, "it's cut off by YOUR kind!"

Pietro leaves Wanda's side in a leaping blur of blue light, with full intention to cannon straight into Cap and send him flying back.

Incidentally, straight back into where Scott and Emery are trying to evacuate people. Scott may meet his icon—but not in the way he expects.


The strange voices swirl above Obadiah, Rusalka and Morien bot. One hand shoots up, grabbing Morien's shirt. His other, to the intern's shoulder, letting her know the truth strength in his hands as pain ripples when she reaches into his chest to stop the bleeding.

"Protocol… Ragnarok. E…execute."

It is then that Morien will silence him with medicines bordering on arcane. Screams fill the space between his gasps of breath, terror consuming the air as fire lances across the room to find Caitlin Fairchild, and magic and bombs and God knows what else descends upon them. Steel and glass fall in a cascade. One woman shrieks before she's nearly cleaved in two, splattering Steve Roger's pants in a fine spray of blood.


Taking a moment to hover above the chaos, Rescue's glowing 'eyes' take in the room as Pepper gives JARVIS a chance to calculate what's going on where she'll best be able to help.

There. Abruptly, the feminine-looking Stark armor jets over and snares Rogers by one arm. Hopefully she can stop his momentum toward where two men are trying to evacuate people without dislocating the super soldier's arm.

And, maybe, if the man is amenable, she'll throw him right back into the path of the speedster.


And Emma actually smiles at Emery's defense of her dress. Of all the stupid things to make her smile. For someone to - smack dab in the middle of the fight - to notice that she got wine on her wonderful gown. "If we survive this, you're getting a raise."

She tries to make her own headcount of important bodies, but it's hard in the noise. But then? Then there's work to do. Emma lets Scott lift up Lo— Ms. Feathergown, and then she sets herself to work. He needs calm. And calm is what the telepath tries to provide for him as she begins to work her part of things, trying to move people along to the doors that are still accessible. A part that won't out her for what she is. A part that won't leave her buried under piles of rubble. …Again. Yeah, she just going to follow Scott and Emery on out.

Which may or may not be another plan doomed to fail, but she's going for it.


You know. Wilson Fisk can enjoy a good bombing. He had some planned himself. Being in the middle of one? Not really in his plans.

He had covered his head with his arms like any other person in the world, scowling. Debris had flown into his bulk. The padding? Helpful.

This is not his chaos, this is not his fight, it was a way to get some useful professional contacts, and a PR move for certain interests of his. Nothing more. People are screaming and throwing powers about…no. Won't do.

He finds that he is down on one knee, thrown forward when the bombs sent his chair flying. His nose is bleeding; he dabs at it with a square of a handkerchief that used to be a pristine white. He turns, sees the evacuation effort.

Brushing a little dust off his suit, he slips into that effort as a beneficiary there to. He allows himself to stumble and fumble and be pushed like any other civilian. It's a little galling, but it's better than the alternative.

The moment he's outside he does not, like a good Samartin, stick around to give a report to various authorities, or to help out in any way. He waves off a random medic, demurring that the young woman's attentions are better served elsewhere.

Then he slips into the night, walks away from the chaos with no more concern than if he were leaving a particularly bad date.

The true annoyance?

They destroyed his painting.


"You are all complicit," murmurs Wanda Maximoff, her voice low, thin—carrying none of the fury and passion of her twin brother.

But she still equals him in hatred. "You all have sinned."

Taking in a deep breath, red light streaming coronal from her eyes, Wanda lifts both hands. Her fingers move and curl and dance, a marionette conductor's jerks and twists of plucking, pulling strings—

—strings her hex has bound to Zatanna.

The witch compels the magician, her head tilted, her eyes gazing sightless.

Kill them, orders through Zatara's bones, her bones, her blood. The suggestion ignites to burning.

Start with those closest. Start with those you love.


In that moment, Captain America speaks to both, and Wanda gains enough cognizance to listen. Her face is serene, placid, patient—though she does not agree. Her eyes shutter.

She opens both hands, and a cat's cradle of red filaments stretch and twine and knot through her fingers. Her hex rolls its dice against reality, and that unnatural, crimson seeps from her—leylines of smoke stretching far across all corners of the devastated gala.

"If for one moment—know the suffering of mutants," she sneers.

For all minds that have no barriers to the Scarlet Witch's hex—a force begins to press in. Seep inside. Intrude. The dead begin to flicker in like hallucinations in front of one's eyes. Nightmares come to life. Fears filter in. Time to teach humanity that a mutant's function is to BE AFRAID.


Morien doesn't bother with the phone, but instead goes for the more serious issue - creating some sort of instant poultice or something. The remedy isn't one she recognizes specifically, of course, Rusalka not being a proper Old Lady herself. Not for a long while, though she does recognize the general gist of it. Score one for growing up in a backwards, rustic Eastern European country that still uses such ancient remedies.

She does what she can to focus on Morien's words while holding on tight to Obi's chest. There's a shaky nod, before she stretches out her left hand - bloody and flopping, but it's enough to drag her phone near. A shout at it in a voice she can't hear, hoping that it's able to issue the red alert to SHIELD…before Obi's grip on her shoulder gets her attention.

As does the faint, distant crack of glass high above; Sally barely has time to pull herself over Obadiah Stane to shield his bulk when the crystal daggers fall, and pain gets new meaning.


A quick flash of a smile to Emma before he is shrugging out of his suit jacket and draping it if allowed over her shoulders. Then he is swaying slightly, fists clenching as the waves of souls nearing their final release or crosing over seem to be growing in intensity and Emery is quickly shaking his head. By now, his own expensive suit is ruined. It is getting blacker by the moment, dirtiers, and as he kneels from time to time to take someone's hand and help them up, or mofethem



Time seems to slow before her eyes when the miasma of white-blue energy slams into Caitlin, sending her off her feet, knocking off the only thing that is holding up that portion of ceiling and wall. Debris cascades down the red-haired Titan, and Zatanna stares horrified from where she lies. She attempts to roll her body, to crawl back up on her hands and knees….

But another flash of red haze rips Caitlin Fairchild's face away, replacing it with another. Handsome. Dark-haired. Blue-eyed. Her heart seizes up in her chest as her trembling limb shifts, compelled once again to do harm to people she knows. Friends. Friends who can fix the damage done.

If Conner Kent dies today, Tim Drake will never forgive her.

But she can't help herself. "Conner!" she cries in warning, nearly choking with her sobs. Because she can't, her focus split to the breaking point, body still seized up by the trauma as she watches puppets fly and her own body tugged like a marionette, her defenses weakened by a very real, very debilitating fear. Her hand turns, to draw a bead on Superboy.

"Conner get away!!"

With a dreadful flash, the bolt cuts through the smoke, bearing right towards where the Clone of Steel has moved to help. But before she can fire off another—

—someone seizes her back, like a hand grasping over the scruff of a kitten's neck, she's pulled back into the magical abyss storming within her, her physical form slumping on the stage, ice-blue eyes wide and staring at nothing. The world opens up and a voice pours into her head, a presence wreathed in green…


She knows this person, fragments of memory returning. Within the depths of Studio 54, Crowley's notebook, the card that fell between its pages bearing a name…

"…I know you…" she whispers.

You make the rules.

Inside the abyss, her fingers stretch out, and simply grasps the out of control furnace within her.

Tell me.

She pushes. She holds it together as another presence slips around her, to tangle with the unwanted scarlet threading through her locks.

Show me. I need…


Matt does, indeed, have a sense of what Kinsey means when she says she's going to 'look for something'—and he doesn't even need to see the vacant look in her eyes to tell it. He also has some sense, at this point, of the precarious position those sorts of searches put her in. They leave her vulnerable, prone. So while every bone in his body wants to leap up and play the idiot hero by taking on the mutant terrorists who just killed—what, dozens? it feels like dozens—and imperiled hundreds more, he keeps a vigilant crouch next to her.

"Go for it," Matt tells Kinsey, just loud enough to be heard over the tumult of the world falling apart around them. "I've got your back." He grimaces as he hears that solid heartbeat of Mr. F.—somehow still detectable even through the madness—fade and disappear.


"Wait, so this was like, a mutant thing the whole time?!"

Ever with his pulse on the moment, Conner has remained in place all this time, trying to ensure more ceiling doesn't collapse while the more fragile guests escape. It's not exciting, but it's necessary, and even the showboating Superboy can recognize the difference when things get real. Much as he'd like to help Zatanna sort out whatever weird magic nonsense is going on in her head, much as he'd like to drop down help /Captain America/ go fist-to-fist with the silvery jerk who seems to be the culprit this time (that blur did look pretty silver-like, Connor reflects). Right now, he's gotta do what only he can do.

But suddenly what he can do becomes a whole lot more, when Zatanna send Cait flying and a good chunk of the ceiling with her.

"Caitlin!" Conner cries out, and turns face to face with Zatanna's warning, his every cell tensed to either move or defend against a blow he knows he can scarcely defend against…

And somehow, it doesn't come. Whatever's happening, Zatanna isn't letting it happen idly. He flies from the ceiling with a burst of speed just then, using a combination of fists and telekinetic force to punch and deflect the larger chunks of debris from hitting any civilians, but cant't avoid a piece of masonry striking him across the back in the process.

"Hoof!" Superboy winces, pain ricketing across his back enough to send his flight pathy wonky, but not enough to ground him. He'll wobble his way down to the ground anyways and get over to Caitlin's side, assessing her to have just taken a nasty hit. "Hey hey Cait! You gotta stay in the game here, we gotta do something about Z! Whatever's going on with her, she's trying to fight it!"

He didn't know her that well, he didn't know either of them that well, but they were teammates. That meant they were in this thing together, whatever it is.


A quick flash of a smile to Emma before he is shrugging out of his suit jacket and draping it if allowed over her shoulders. Then he is swaying slightly, fists clenching as the waves of souls nearing their final release or crosing over seem to be growing in intensity and Emery is quickly shaking his head. By now, his own expensive suit is ruined. It is getting blacker by the moment, dirtiers, and as he kneels from time to time to take someone's hand and help them up, or move them out of the path that is being cleared. He is focussed on the task at hand.

He is jogging ahead to push a broken table out of Scott's way and then moving back. He occassionally calls out for medic, sometimes he is closing people's eyes….and when Captain America comes flying towards them, he happens to be kneeling over a young woman with a chair leg sticking out of her leg, holding her hand tightly as he opens up a channel to allow the pain she is feeling to flow into him, gritting his teeth and grunting before barking out. "If ye are NOT able to fart magic and shit red white and blue or zippiditydoodah and fight whatever tis is, like the Good Captain said, either get the f*ck to the nearest exit are help others get tere, I need a goddamn medic!" He nods towards Emma, his eyes seem to be glowing faintly he waits with the injured woman. "May want to take your leave milady."


The red vines of destruction coil in Obadiah's mind, a fever dream born from an unkind mind, sending to him a rippling horror. Again, he thinks of Whitney. She waves at him, the daughter he did not deserve, the one who had cast him out from her life for his profession. Penance did not matter. It was all to late, and even if it were not, he would only be lying to her.

He watches her die, crushed by a great suit made of iron.


His shout rips through the air. Again and again, he sees it in his mind's eye, a terrible calamity. A horror untold. He watches her die in slow motion. Sees her crushed, bone and skin and blood, splashing outward.

Much like bone and skin and blood splash outward when the actual Iron Monger suit suddenly, terribly arrives in operation of the Ragnarok Protocol, landing on a fleeing couple and utterly obliterating them.

The dome takes the worst of it, pummeled apart and raining destruction. It kills mercilessly, a chain gun activating to cut a swath through the room, blood exploding from people as if they were water balloons for a whole other kind of party.


Caitlin's hurt bad. It's a deep, nauseating pain, which is the only real objective assessment she has of her injuries. For a superhuman to be injured that critically, that badly, is a shocking experience to say the least. Caitlin can shrug off artillery shells. Zatanna's eldritch blasts have done some damage she can't even quite bear to look at.

But she's tough, and Caitlin buries the pain. Buries it deep down. When Conner flings the debris off, Caitlin's burned, bloody body surfaces like a submarine breaking through the ice. She staggers to her feet, bloodied, dress torn, face—expressionless.

"Survival protocols engaged," she says, calmly—and swings a fist at Conner's face.

Freight trains go off the tracks with less kinetic energy than the blow she offers her fellow Titan.


"Oh yeah, come to the party they said. Enjoy the experiance they said. Be a vacation they said." Tony Stark mutters to himself as he uses the power of his suit to keep half the damn building from falling onto the guests. "This is not relaxing!!" He shouts at no one in perticular within the confines of his suit.

Then a sigh.

"JARVIS. Target structural weaknesses. Melt them solid again!" Lasers soder breaks in the wall shut before he steps back to stare at the carnage growing around them.

And red magic is seeping out.

And now there are ghosts and nightmares.

"I…" He swollows as he swares he sees his dad out there with some kind of dissaproving stare. "…JARVIS. Filter out all targets that don't show up on scanners from my vision." He orders as other nightmare images start to crowd in around him. "If you don't see it, don't let me hit it." The suit, red and gold and hunched over in a posture that just screams of someone extremely annoyed turns to start to target Wanda and the speeding bullet.

"Alright. Taser arrays on full ready too—"

And the wall behind him. The one he just fixed. Shatters into about a billion pieces as Iron Monger bulls its way in.


Tony concentrating on the /real/ problems even as he sees the massive machine's chaingun spin up. "Hell. PEPPER IF YOU CAN HEAR ME! Get JARVIS to filter out anything that doesn't show up on scanners! Try to get people out! And stop the whoever is doing the red thing!!"

Then Iron Man is flying and as the chaingun scythes death though the room Tony flings himself infront of the bullets, using the thick hide of his suit to shield those without such protection.


This is not relaxing!


Oh. Hell. No.

As Emma feels that tickle against her awareness, that attempt to override her senses draws her to a stop. And what was an expression of concentration contorts into something else, morphing quickly. A flat expression, and then disgust, and then dread as a brand new terror starts to awaken…. nearly every conscious body around them. And it's safe to say that the best decisions are not what follows. There is now a renewed screaming, renewed panic, desperate fights with each other as people begin to stampede towards exits or lash out in the terror that Wanda Maximoff incites with her magic.

And there's the matter with Zatanna. And with Obadiah. And then the cycle of Emma's expression repeats all over again. Of all the stupid, weak-willed… UGH. And of all the nights to not have pre-gamed her drinking before the party.

She could try to protect any person here, but there are still too many. And so, Emma looks at Wanda. And frowns. Deeply.

And then that prodigious brain of hers sends thoughts hurling before her, focused with a hand, as she tries to target the Witch who is half responsible for the death of what was once a beautiful one-of-a-kind couture gown.

And is now off to start a wonderful new life as an homage to Jackson Pollock.


Cap's words are taken to heart. Sloane's been helping people escape, clearing the way by either shoving rubble aside or lifting things as best she can to make sure the exits are even *somewhat* cleared out. Hurrying back, shards rain from on high—and for her part, the Inhuman is trying to pelt the glass out of the air, sending it flying toward walls with quick flicks of her wrist and compressed jets of water from her hands—practically 'punching' the air and trying to deflect the largest parts and pieces as she moves closer, and closer, and—

—memories of the theatre. Of being trapped. Of inhaling the Mist, and being the One people ran from, screaming. Of being conscious at the start of it all, the months-long incubation that she tried so hard to escape as her body was broken down, altered, and put back together again. Of coming to her senses in the streets, wandering and alone, lost and horrified, dripping with the green slime that filled her cocoon while in Terrigenesis.

Fears start creeping in there. What if Sally rejected her? What if SHIELD experimented on her? What if her parents reacted even worse? What if she were too dangerous to be let outside? What if she were locked away in a tiny cage, and worse than that, just alone in the dark, with no one to—

—then a horrific crash lands in the expo hall, the bulk of the Iron Monger just barely enough to blur through the nightmares and the distractions. Sloane throws her arms ahead to the sound of the chainguns, heaving herself and her arms ahead to try to create a thick enough and strong enough surge of water right there out of the thin air to rob the shots of their momentum, to save someone, to save anyone, to not—be—alone—



When explosion start to fall again, Morien shouts at Sally, 'You need to get him out of here! Oh, and you didn't see any of this." Morien's eyes glass over for a moment as he see countless past enemies begin to appear before him. Morien closes his eyes, "This is the second time this happened to me in the last three years, you are going to have to come up with a better trick. There are still beads of sweat appearing on his forehead from the heat and from his enemies appearing around him, but since the illogical nature of so many of the people he has killed being in this area, and having been down this road more than once before allows him to act.

Morien grabs a napkin to cover his face again to keep up the pretense of trying to catch his brief. Morien rolls behind a table and closes his eyes to focus on the powers granted to him by Ma'at Boons.


The Mutant Terrorist Twins would not be immune to the devastation of the Iron Monger. Certainly, Pietro could dance between bullets, and Wanda might be able to peel the suit like an onion given time. But it does not give them time.

It has no mind to alter. No pity. No remorse.

It arms super-luminous flashbangs, enough light to permanently blind those without protection. It arms gas canisters that would boil blood and split flesh. Because the Ragnarok Protocol is not meant to protect Obadiah Stane. It is simply meant to kill everyone else, a last resort, to turn victory to ash in the mouths of those who might get the best of him. But it does have one priority target, and knowingly or not, Iron Man saves them all the moment he appears on the great metallic monstrosity's sensors.

It disengages those weapons, which are no use against a fellow metal man, instead arming neutron repulsors and it's hypersonic rail gun, powering through a wall of water and swinging an arm wide to sweep Sloane aside to get a clear shot at the Iron Man.

Repulsors fire and the rail gun sings, spitting death in Tony Stark's direction and taking half the part of the building behind the billionaire with him.


Kinsey says nothing in response to Matt's determined overwatch of her vulnerable self, but her fingertips tighten on his shoulder in what must be a wordless thank-you.

He isn't forced to baby-sit for long, though. She extends her consciousness outward, searching—and finding. She finds Tony's Iron Man suit, presently occupied; she finds the Rescue suit that Pepper is wearing, too.

And another Iron Man suit, offstage. And drones. Drones with cams and—

…and tasers.

"Yes," she murmurs underneath the table.

"Go on, Matt," she adds, as most of her mind occupies the mechanical shell of the suit backstage. "I've got something to defend myself with now."

It's not that there's no risk. There is. But he's got abilities few others do—things that might do some good elsewhere. "I'll be alright."

The suit backstage ignites with light. She extends herself through its limbs, expansive, and the power of it fills her up. Even amidst all of this suffering and tragedy, there's something euphoric in the feeling.

The small fragment of her consciousness that slid through the security system to review of the footage traces out the course of that beam from Zatanna again and again. Five profiles the target—and the figure who appears seemingly out of nowhere to catch her. These are her objectives, confirmed by Pietro's vocal address of the shrieking crowd.

The suit backstage blasts out into the air above the crowd in a spiral amidst a cloud of swarming drones. This amount of multitasking requires almost all of her focus, but one of those drones is tasked with watching the table beneath which her physical body remains. The others race off, searching the tidal movements of the crowd for the young woman Zatanna Zatara bolted. The suit?

Seeks the man who caught her.


Maybe there's something to her family background. Maybe there's something to that little pouch of wheat she keeps in her purse. But as the dome itself collapses and that little bit of superstitious protection from the Wisewolf of her homeland is pushed further, the mystical redness begins to seep in.

Glass shatters, crashing down around her—and she does her best to shield Obadiah Stane's body from it. The shards and splinters carve a hundred small cuts in her back and her legs, spiking her body with a hundred pinpricks of agony. She can't help crying out, before looking back down—and that cry turns into a shriek of horror.

It's not Stane beneath her. The blood that covers her hands and face belongs to someone else, and spreads across a grey and blue uniform, trimmed with gold. The thunderous cannons of the Iron Monger begin their barrage, and all she can do is drag the unconscious Sokovian air force officer to the ground with her, sheltering her mother as best as she can under the table. Hands, shaking with mindless terror, magical effect, pain, and confusion try to stem the wound in her chest.

What voice she has left is that of a little girl, only for Obadiah's ears. "Mama, bud' laska, ne vmyray…"


She's not alone. But Zatanna is never alone, is she? No—that's something that her newfound guest discovers in short order as she makes herself comfortable within the burning sea of the magician's soul. A tether, not like the spindly scarlet of the witch's hex. Strong and ever-present. And leading back to…

Information Loki tucks away within the corner of her mind for later consideration. After all—there's more pressing things to deal with.

Tell me, says Zatanna, in the depths of her mind. Amidst the tangled swirl of red, green seeks to thread itself into its midst, as if to try to hold back the tide of what is probable—to try keep the magical dice rolling for a few precious seconds longer.

KILL THEM, the puppet strings tug.

REPLY HAZY - TRY AGAIN LATER, emerald threads compromise.

An improbable annoyance. A bit of mischief. Lasting just long enough…

Show me.

And Loki is all too happy to oblige, looking to interpose himself—herself—between that unlocking spiritual tide and the scarlet thread that unwinds it, to act as a mediator between Zatanna's subconscious and conscious. The power burns gloriously, uncontrollably, potent but unfocused; it sets the trickster's mind alight. But he focuses. He controls. He reaches out, to funnel a sliver of that vastness through himself, through Zatanna, to act as a focus point. An anchor. Stability in a sea of madness.

Like this. They want to use you. Use -them-. They want to command you. Command -them-. Make them regret ever thinking you were their blunt instrument. Focus on your guest. I'll focus on the locks.

And the God of Mischief shows, threading that green presence through the magician, to focus on, to concentrate upon—to strengthen the bindings of that protective dam, to bolster Zatanna's own will, to give her the focus she needs to fight back against the presence inside her mind with the very power that Wanda seeks to use.


"Uh." Conner says, staring up at Caitlin a bit like she really is the terminator now, "That doesn't sound goo-"


Conner flies, and not by intention this time. Pure instinct activated his telekinetic forcefield the instant his muscles tensed for the blow, taking a good portion of the edge off, but he's still seeing stars (and stripes, hey Cap!) as he goes soaring across the expo hall like red-and-blue comet.

Fortunately, he snaps out of it before his trajectory takes him clear out of the building, forcefully willing himself to a dead stop as he shakes his head and gets his bearings. "Geez!!" The clone protests, covering his smarting nose, "Am I the only Titan here tonight who isn't out of their freaking /gourd/?!"

Maybe that's a yes, but it's not the most important question anymore. Not when the Iron Monger suit starts crashing through the ceiling and laying waste to everyone around it. The violence is horrifying, but some part of Conner is relieved to have a non-magical problem he can actually deal with.

So he flies straight for it, detouring first to try and catch Sloane should she be knocked aside by the metal demon's sweeping blow. "Keep it up!" Is all he has time to say one way or another, taking advantage of the machine's focus on Iron Man (Hey, that's Iron Man!) to crash both high-speed, forcefield-coated fists directly into the monstrosity's chest plate, with all the forceful momentum he could muster.

It was a bit like Caitlin's freight train analogy, except it wasn't happening to him this time. That was an improvement!


Like a ragdog, Steve is cast aside, thrown by the sheer speed of the Brother Who Loves Too Much. But he's caught in a way that causes him to wince in pain. His shoulder isn't dislocated, but there is defiantly a grimace of pain. "Thank you," he offers softly before he is thrown back toward the fray, not really having much time for anything else in the chaos of the battle. While too slow to actually hit the man known as Quicksilver, he is at least thrown toward the fight, rolling once he hits the ground and bouncing back up.

"There are always kind people, you just need to?"

Cap looks around and finds that there isn't anything around him. Anything at all. Just ruins. Husks of buildings as far as the eye can see, skeletons of people in various acts of life, as if some sort of modern Pompeii.

The expo has no hold on Rogers, walking through the battlefield as if it didn't exist.

What happened here? Why did this city, this nation, lose itself? Tattered newspapers talk of civil war in the headlines, of superheroes taking sides politically in battles as violent and cruel as online discussions. Where the American Dream was declared by the bold print fluttering in the breeze, the cause is clear by one that Rogers settles his eyes on: a picture of himself, with the headline: ROGERS URGES AMERICANS TO STAND UP FOR WHATS RIGHT. His ideology lead to the death of the nation he loved and nothing will undo that.

Rogers feels the spatter of blood on his cheek. His hand moves toward it, the sensation not all appropriate for the scene. The reason is soon clear as he is broken from the nightmare, seeing the dead woman in front of him.

In an instant, the man is back to his usual self again. He cries out for all who can hear him, not caring if they fought with him in the past or never would consider him an ally.

"Those that are heavy hitters, take that thing down!" Cap 'strongly urge' as he points toward the Iron Monger. "Everyone else, have the people stay low! Get them out of this fight. Whatever your origin, we fight as one to save lives!" Steve coughs a couple of times in the wakes of his attempts to rally and inspire. He doesn't know exactly what is going on with Wanda or what she is doing or did, so he can't really advise on that. But he knows what he can do to try and help.

"So you call yourself the saviors of mutantkind, like you're some heroes?" Steve moves forward, sliding into a fighting stance. "You're no heroes. You pick on the elderly, the unexpecting, the weak. You can push around a human with power far beyond theirs. So if you truly are something brave, how about you trying taking on the BEST humanity has to offer?"

It's clear that Captain America is trying to goad the two into focusing their attentions on him. After all, he figures if there is anyone that can earn their ire here outside of Tony 'Your Bombs Killed Lots of People' Stark, it's the Steve 'THE UTLITMATE HUMAN' Rogers.


Fortunately for Emery, Emma, Scott and the Loki package Rescue/Pepper intercepts Steve Rogers before he collides with any of them. En route the wall above in it's buckling state spits out massive chunks of debris; Scott's left foot sweeping back. So very close to needing to use one of Xavier's old cast off wheel chairs or worse.
Luckily for them the bulky man before them cleared a nice path, escaping the structure only to have Scott stuffing Miss Feathergown towards Mr. Fisk. "Take her. Thank you." No wait for anything response once Summers felt the fabric covering forearms he releases his grasp and spins on a heel to dash back inside, "You hear that, Emma? They're doing this all for the suffering of mutants. Le—… " An eruption, a crash of glass, a blood geyser that was once multiple people and a Robocop villain become real bars Scott's path inside.
An eldritch haze plays across his mind. That telepathic honeybrain Scott possesses has undergone a lot of conditioning over the years, bolstered by connections with the Professor, Jean and rigorous psychic defense training but right now, magic is starting to toy with his senses. His glasses? Are they on? Doesn't matter. Scott fires a massive optical ray at the backside of the Iron Monger as Superboy pounds in to it's front. A wide crimson energy lance that strobes in to existence then blinks out just as quickly as it popped off. His hands come up to cup his face, eyes closing, he… can't feel the rims. No, he can't? They're there! They have to be?

Blind now, the X-Man stumbles over something or… a piece of someone dropping hard to *KLAK* one knee off the smooth gala floors. A hiss cutting past his teeth and lips.


There is nothing…in Emery's own mind that is more terrifying than what happens when he sleeps. The torture of his own personal hell, makes him resistant to many things. His attention however is simultaneously split in two directions…between the spray of chain gun shoot outs and how the danger dial keeps going higher and higher especially with his current charge starting to hallucinate right before a stray bullet slams into her head leaving her once beautiful face gore pocked and frozen in a shocked expression as she gurgles for breath.

He sees not the girl however, but and old old woman looking up at him…familar face so much like his own just darker complected, wide chocolate brown eyes milky from age as the light fades and he tries to blink away the red haze that is creating his horrible snapchat filter. His babygirl…old as hell and him still young. An inevitable reality he faces every year his precious Kennis gets older.

The real girl however is lifted and dragged out of the line of fire as Emery tries to keep his cool. His path blocked by another dead body. Damnit, his babygirl is dying but not really today…he just cannot see that as he cradles the young woman in his arms, rocking her slightly and still accepting her pain as his own as he leans against the cover he has found behind a growing pile of corpses and debris and covers the fatally wounded woman's mouth and nose, blood soaking through his shirt as he holds her and then as she is almost to the edge of leaving her mortal coil he is whispering a soft prayer in Latin as he leans forward and it looks like he is about to kiss her, a soft glowing blue light flowing from her lips and into his own mouth as he inhales deeply and she goes still.

Now….it is Samael is rises to his feet, jaw set and fists clenched, eyes dark yet still seeming to glow as he hears the Cap's rousing speech. "To be horribly american, I've got next…." He is however Irish. "….ye fecking millineal arseholes…." His fists clench and unclench as his focus has gone to whoever the cap is speaking to. But he is turning to hoist a bleeding man over his shoulder and start to edge towads and exit.


She lets him; subsumed by suffocating fear, she lets this familiar presence thread through her. Amidst the magical supernova housed within her, it looks almost like Christmas—sparks of emerald fire war with scarlet from the interloper that has attempted to disengage everything that her father has sought to protect inside her. And deeper still, past the silver link that ties her forever to John Constantine, he'd find something else.

A sea of burning red - deeper, richer, older than the threads fighting against his—downright ancient and just recently assimilated into the ridiculous vortex of power already inside Zatanna Zatara. Something else for him to parse, for another time. But his influence, his guidance, does its work in threading around the growing instabiity of her core. How long it will last, however, is another story—the rest of her does not recognize the God of Lies, and it resists his intervention—something that the young witch cannot assist him with when he instructs her that they ought to divide and conquer. In the end, that is the most tenable strategy.

Make them regret ever thinking you were their blunt instrument.

White-blue fire coruscates around her, a wild hurricane of magical energy that has found some stability thanks to some unexpected aid from a deity. Her slim frame slowly rises off the stage, eyes snapping open. The pale blue of her irises recede to pure white, gloved hands tilting up to cup the air above them.

"Pots," she hisses. She does not see so much as sense, turning her attention towards Wanda Maximoff, split apart from her foe in a sea of chaos. Inside her mind, she glows like a red dwarf, on the verge of fusion.

Reality attempts to rubberband at her command, to snap right back at Wanda; a mystical backhand that rockets through the ephemeral plane where most of these battles tend to be fought.


Jacket Mask Guy rips his jacket apart to make a makeshift mask. He appears his down the table and flips towards Captain America, "I hope you don't mind a fellow veteran holding the line with you. JacketGuy catches a few bullets in his chest as he flips, but they already healed by the time he lands next to Captain America. JacketGuy pauses for a moment as ancient enemies appear to rise from the exploding ground. Morien shouts, "By Ma'at's will this will stop! He unleashes a blast of mystical energy in Wanda's direction.


Needles. Scales being extracted. Tissue samples. Strapped to a table, under a hot light, in a dark room. Days and nights blurring together, often shackled and held down and /alone/. Nobody coming to help her, her friends actually coming in order to shun her, to tell her she's weird and strange and just alone. She's Inhuman. That means she's part alien.

Alien, strange, and alone.

Sloane's arms feel heavy. She's wearing a straightjacket, at least in her mind.

Fiery orange eyes lift. Sally needs help.

The fish-dragon Inhuman makes the charge toward danger, even as her eyes continue to lie to her, as her memories and emotions jar back and forth and she isn't quite sure of what she's even seeing anymore. She doesn't see the arm of the Iron Monger until it's too late—a crashing, crushing blow that lifts the girl in the red dress right off her feet.

When she hits, it's in a mess of broken tables and chairs, impacting hard. Her innate constitution and stamina keeps the blow from instantly killing her, but now her world is spinning, hard.


After tossing Rogers back toward the middle of everything, Rescue returns to hovering above everything, as Pepper tries to make sense of what she's seeing. The Stark Expo grounds, abandoned an allowed to fall into ruins like an echo of the city just outside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia.

And that's when Tony starts yelling in her ear. Figuratively. She startles, then in a breathless voice that's almost a squeak, she says, "FRIDAY?"

"Calibrating, Miss Potts. Compensation now active."

"Then find me someone who doesn't belong in this mess?" Pepper's voice is still very uncertain, but the AI takes the commands readily. "Scanning visual and thermal signatures."

Then the Rescue armor raises both hands without Pepper's initiating the gesture. One takes a full-power shot at the closer of Iron Monger's knee actuators, and the other fires off a non-lethal repulsor blast at one of the three magic-users in the area.


The Scarlet Witch plays conductor to an orchestra of moving, filamented red light—tendrils of smoke breathing through the room. All playing the notes of her nightmare concerto.

That power burns from the tips of her moving fingers, arced and directed on her careful, surgical gestures—one hand moves like it is sewing, the other cutting, and then both knotting, tying end on end the countless permutations of reality and rigging the game to her will.

The Ragarok Protocol begins all around them—something not in her and Pietro's plan—and it's nearly enough to shock Wanda free from her concentration. She is vulnerable where she stands, unable to see as she "sees" other places far-reaching: but, in the end, she trusts in Pietro.

Her brother is faster than all of it. Trust always in him.

Wanda's eyes reopen, no longer blue—burning red as a sunset, that nascent crimson smoke seeping free from their sockets. She tilts her head, focusing on the compromised Zatanna, and lifts her puppeteer's hands. Red filaments flicker between her fingers. Her doll has not finished DANCING.

Her hex compels her deeper—until something stops the Scarlet Witch. A wall. A blockade. Red meets green.

Wanda's mouth twitches at one corner, her temper starflare-bright. What is this? What is this thing? Something she has not sensed before. Something confused and new. Something not human. Her hex tries to feel the shape of that power unknotting her fetters, and there is little left for her to do than force her way back in.

Reality makes a roulette spin between Wanda's fingers. She rigs this too, probability fixed and compelled to her will.

YOU ARE GLASS, the hex commands into Zatanna's blood. SO BREAK.

Unfortunately, some things cannot last—

Emma's psychic dagger rips into Wanda's mind. Her focus shatters. Eyes back blue, she shudders in, and loses enough composure to fall victim to Zatanna's retaliation. The mystic hit fells the Scarlet Witch, and all those red filaments loosen free from her fingers—the red smoke dilutes and mists free from the air. The nightmares end.

Two mystical attacks launch into her, into her head, into her blood, ripping seams into her soul, and all the Scarlet Witch can do is grasp feebly onto her own dark hair and begin to scream.


Pietro only pauses in his stride long enough to resolve to the naked human eye for half a second: a figure balanced improbably high on the side of a wall, midway through running along it. He tracks the progress of Captain America through the air, but in the time it takes for Rescue to… well, rescue Steve, and fling him back around in Pietro's direction?

Quicksilver's outline flickers, he picks up speed, and he's gone in the next nanosecond, a flaring line of white and blue the only thing visible of him.

In his perception, of course, the shrieking chaos is a snail's crawl. His blue eyes dart across the molasses-drip of motion around him, noticing WAY more Iron Man suits than he is willing to suffer to exist. He tenses, about to lunge for Tony Stark himself—but one of the other suits, the bulky one, starts to turn and focus-fire Stark, and the irony is hilarious enough that Pietro forgets his rage long enough to smile.

There is another suit emerging from offstage, he notices from his peripheral vision—the one Six controls, though Quicksilver is, fortunately for her, not aware of that fact. It's obviously looking for him, and he grins to himself. It's gotta catch him first.

He stops again, slowing, resolving enough for Steve to see and address him. His head turns as Captain America levels that threat. How about he try taking on the BEST humanity has to offer?

"Against me," Quicksilver sneers, rising to a full stand, his head lifting and blue eyes flaming with raw contempt, "the best humanity has to offer won't last even half a second."

He turns to face Captain America, braces with killing intent behind the coil of his body—

—and he hears Wanda scream.

He is gone between blinks of the eye. The last sight anyone has of him is a brief moment where he mantles over his sister, taking her in his arms… and then the both of them vanish, sped off into the calm night outside the bloody chaos of the ruined Expo.


Conner goes high, and entirely without planning, Caitlin goes low. The ginger Amazonian superheroine barrels into Iron Monger's lower back, shoulder first with a hit that'd get anyone a contract with the NFL. She doesn't have Conner's twitchy vector-changing speed, but Fairchild is a lot of sheer mass and velocity. Her high heels long since destroyed, she churns up the hard flooring underfoot with the force of her acceleration as she slams into the armored suit.

Caitlin doesn't stop with a shouldercheck. She swings meaty fists and curling fingers into the armored chassis, her fingernails alone harder than steel as she claws, rips, and smashes with a peculiar, expressionless detachment. Iron Monger is merely the closest target for the ginger superheroine, and she seems like she's going to claw through the armor's back, out it's front, and continue the momentum of her rampage no matter who is in arm's reach next.


Whelp. Made Iron Monger mad.

"FLASHBANGS!" Comes the call as he sees the grenades fly. "COVER YOUR EYES!" But Tony hardly has time to actually parse anything else.

"Sir, Mister Stane is quite injured. He needs medical attention." JARVIS' voice snaps in his ear as the Iron Monger focuses his attention on him. "Pepper! You still alright?" He calls out as he raises his arms to deflect a repulsor blast up and way from the crowd. He has to land to do it. It shoves him across the floor as he sees…

His spear suit tear its way out of the back room.

"Huh," Then there is no more time to talk. The railgun on the Iron Monger roars and Stark hardly has time to get out of the way. It clips his shoulder, cracking armor as he spins away to see the round impact the building behind him. One of the old Stark Expo buildings. One of his dads buildings.

It breaks like its made of matchsticks.

"Alright," Stark growls. "Time to pop the top of this tin can. JARVIS."


And Stark flings himself directly towards Iron Monger. Vectors calculate the attacks incoming on the suit. The beam. The hammer blow. The repulsor blasts.

"Overcharge right arm repulsor."

"Sir, that will break the safty featu—"

"Just do it!"

Starks right arm glows bright white as he rears it back, slamming the flat of his palm directly against the faceplate of the much more massive suit.

The discharge, point blank into the thing will wreck the Iron Man's right hand. But hopefully the Iron Monger will get the worst of it.


"Hello Mr. Stark," the spare suit says to Tony. It isn't Kinsey's voice, but a synthetic, masculine one, and it pipes across whatever common communications band occupies the suits. Kinsey is too busy piloting to communicate, but Five has that covered. "Kinsey Sheridan would like you to know that we're borrowing your equipment to assist with the unfolding scenario. Please refrain from assaulting it."


The great metal behemoth shudders with the impact from Scott's blast, pummeling it forward and staggering it's ability to maintain continuous fire. Moreso, it does something else. It puts the Iron Monger right in the line of fire of a two-fisted blow that sends shockwaves careening through what's left of the garden dome. Another blow impacts low, from a woman who could fell buildings. Metal shatters, shaken wholly from the materials that anchor it, and then Tony's blast comes, a great whine of terrible power plowing into the head of the Iron Monger and sending it spiraling away and right through JacketGuy's blast of energy, which seems to set the whole of the massive monster alight in eldritch flame.


It smashes through the other side of the dome, out of sight. Gone perhaps? Disabled? Destroyed?

There is a roar.

It looks for all the world like a skeleton set on fire, metal and jagged, and when it speaks it is with a voice from the grave, for JARVIS can certainly block out Wanda's false signals. But not the voice of a disappointed father.

"tOnY…So dIsapPoinTing…WoRse tHan…H..H…haMmer tECh.."

The great beast slams into Iron Man, powering him out of the building, into the concrete plaza beyond, bringing them both to a scraping, skidding stop with the Iron Monger looming.

It's chest plate hangs by a hinge. It falls away. Beneath is an ARC reactor meant to make Tony's own look like a toy, but it is not the size or yield that is most distressing.

It is about to go critical, with fifty megatons of force.


She remembers. Rusalka, the little girl, remembers the stories she'd been told. Remembers the pouch that had fallen from her purse. Its contents…and its meaning. She grabs for it, under the table and still trying to hold onto the wound in her mother's chest. Knowing the Stojespal baroness is already dead and yet unable to do anything about it. But she can ask someone else to.

The pouch is caught, the few small heads scattered on the body, and Rusalka's hand presses them down. A prayer, a wish, perhaps even begging of some kind. 'We do not worship her. But that is not the same as believing she does not exist.' Her great grandmother's words come to her mind as she makes her request, bloodied hands still holding that chest wound closed.

A flicker of scarlet eyes.

A sense of rich softness.

The scent of wheat.

Wanda's spell fails, the hold on her mind slips away and the truth is revealed - and Obadiah Stane, not Irja Stojespal, still manages to breathe. It's just enough in time to see the Iron Monger suit take on her boss directly - and Sloane as well, crumpled from its strike. And so many others wounded as well. She's just one person…

But she can at least save a few. That strange doctor earlier, the naturalist; his work gave Obi a fighting chance. A torn strip of her dress finds its way into the wound as well, pressing that poultice deep and helping stop the bleeding. Triage. Next. Scrabbling for footing, barely keeping upright, Sally manages to get to Sloane's side -

- Just in time for the light from the arc reactor to shine an evil brightness in the world, and all she can do is cling to her friend for a final act.


With Evil Frick and Frack gone…Emery stops seeing older versions of his daughter's face on differenr bodies. Nightmares stopping = better chance as evacuation now. This is a war zone. Emery is a trained soldier and so he is moving bodies and pointing towards exits. His longish hair dusty and bloody, his shirt sleeves do not exist anymore because he has used them to stop bleeding tie off limbs. His tattoos would be showing but his arms are covered in blood and grime. His shirt…and vest…nope, ruined and he is bruised and bleeding from wounds under his clothing he is just not going to check right now,

He does however look up in time to see Fat Iron turn into Skinny Iron Man and go flying out the side of the building with the original Six Piece Iron man. Robots are…beyond him. But. Back in his day…dissapointed father figures just slept with a woman you could never shag and asked you why you are still single during tea. Apparently…things have changed. "Cap! Milady? Teh super powered lot broke the building! Where exactly is safe now!?" Still focussed on the mission. He will deal with the emotional trauma later.


Well that worked.

Stark leaps away as the Iron Monger falls. The damage done to the suit is massive. Stark alights in a flare of jets as he flexes his ruined hand. Seeking the limits of its mobility…

…and then…

Like some beast back from the dead Iron Monger roars its way back from the blink of oblivion. The tackle tears Tony from his feet. Sparks strike and damage readouts of the suit grow. He can feel paint and armor stripped from the back of the suit as he comes to a stop under the bulk of the massive black suit.

"Now I know you're just being petty, dad would never mention me and Hammer Tech in the same breath."

But then he sees that glow. Eyes widen behind his faceplate. That reactor. He's set it to critical. It'll take out the whole bloody city and he doesn't have a convient portal to fling it though…

But he can fly it away…

So he reaches up, hands gripping the casing of the reactor to tear it free of its mounting. Repulsors firing to get the ruined bulk of the other suit off him. He'll have to fly it up himself…then he can call a secon dsuit. Maybe it'll reach him in time.

The world slows down as he runs though scenarios in his mind until he hears an unfamiliar voice in his coms.

"Kinsey? KINSEY! If there isn't anyone in that damn suit get it over here and take this football as far away from here as possible! Sending specs on how to overboost the jets now! I'll go critical in less than a minuite!"

Yes. Thats a much better. Pepper will yell at him less with this plan.


Mischief. The key to perfect mischief is just like the key to the perfect joke: Know when to stick the landing, and go no further. Keep it up only -just- long enough to throw expected fate into disarray.

And always, always, leave on a high note.

The God(des) of Mischief knows this fact very well. And so the trickster blocks only as long as necessary. Confounds only as long as necessary. Upsets the order of things just as much as required…

… to unsettle Wanda Maximoff perfectly for the fall by others' hands.

And in so doing, Loki learns so very much. About the chain-smoking magician bound to Zatanna's soul. About the burning red well that she supped so deeply from. And about the mutant witch who winds the odds of the universe around her fingers. All with one, little push.

Sometimes, the bst things in life only come when carefully laid plans become unraveled. And Loki Laufeyson is nothing if not a master of improvisation.

Which, ultimately, just leaves him with the hard job: the clean up.

Locks have been opened. Boundaries cracked. The walls built up around Zatanna's soul have already been here a long time. Spiritual erosion will finish the work that the Scarlet Witch has started in short order. The God of Lies feels that vortex churn, unseeing and unaccepting of his decisively alien presence. A supernova nestled in the heart of a teenager burns at the trickster's spiritual flesh, bending and tearing at the Asgardian's existence like it were trying to simply melt every trace of him away.

But the God of Mischief concentrates. Focuses. That green thread within Zatanna reinforces itself within metaphysical space until they become bars, until bars become walls, until walls become a box—

—until a box becomes a dam, reinforcing the old with the new, locking after lock clicking to places around the fathomless depths of Zatanna Zatara's mystical subconscious.

For a moment, silence reigns within the poor girl. Blissful, easy silence.

… I'd like to formally congratulate you, Zatanna Zatara, on your knack for drawing the attention of the absolute worst sort of people.

Loki means, of course, Wanda.

Of course. It's a compelling narrative, isn't it?

How refreshing! I think we were regular superheroes today! Some advice, though: Next time you do a magic act, perhaps pick a theme other than 'escalation.' Speaking of which… this is probably going to sting a bit. To your left! Wait, or is that my left-

And that is the last cogent thought the God of Mischief provides before that ethereal presence bleeds its way back out of Zatanna right as Pepper Potts' repulsor blast blindingly bolts into view.


Emma is aware of Emery's departure, at some level, but she doesn't move to escape as he asks her. She lingers, and it gives her a brief glance, she thinks, of something new from her employee as he goes about a field angel's work. …Or perhaps not.

Her attention is focused elsewhere, centering her psi attack on Wanda. As Emma's wordless attack strikes home, and then more follows behind that is not her doing, her hands simply drops to the gown, wine-soaked and now starting to stick to her, ruining all of its lines. And at some point, she realizes, the little loop on the train broke, it's no longer on her wrist, and it's been dragging through filth and debris and is now a tattered mess.

But at least Wanda's down and people are once more exiting like they should, for the most part, where they can with exits blocked by debris or rendered inoperable.

That's when she turns to look for the X-Man who was behind her just a few moments ago. Her voice may or may not have the edge of concern to it as she adjusts the strap of her gown to settle it back into place. "Scott?"

But then Emma hears a familiar accent. "Emery!" she says in a rare moment of informality. "I… I don't know," she says, with regards to where might be safe, looking around. Her eyes fall on the drama still transpiring. "Not with that still going on."


Scott is limping his way out with several other stragglers, all of them covered in dust, ash, blood and any manner of other cast off. "I'm all right." The man assures Emma, glad to see her as well, enough so he touches her elbow and proceeds past, his pride is wounded as his knee but hes on a mission still to assist those in need and secure the area.
The X-Man will disappear in the background during this process. Still much to be done and faces to run past Cerebro later. This entire ordeal has been a nightmare.


Jacket Mask Guy watches as his blast his Wanda, and Iron Monger by the way of him being thrown into it. JacketGuy lets out a war cry as he looks around the room. He is not going outside with all the other people, so he looks around for another way out. He rolls under a table and uses the same pen, he used to write on Obi and draw a door underneath the table with a door nob.

He knocks on the door, "Let me, it is an emergency." The door opens and falls on the floor at the Oblivion Bar. He jumps up and dusts himself off. He walks up to the bar and asks for Jameson and Coke. Be waves his right eyebrow to quickly dismissed any questions, "I don't have to tell the story. I need a drink, and then I need to go back, and check on my bodyguards. TheJacketGuy lets out a frustrated sigh, "Next time, I am staying home, and watching The Peep Show on Hulu. Feckin Stark!"


The suit hunting Pietro stalls mid-air, and twists around at the waist to look at the Iron Man. The drones, watching their target spirited off at speeds incomprehensible even to the cameras built into each and every one, suddenly lose power and topple out of the air, dropping onto the ground and rolling in every direction as Kinsey abandons them as useless. With most of her focus returned to the suit and its complex systems, her reflexes are significantly improved.

"I'm on it."

His spare suit streaks across the smoking, chaotic interior, and spirals past him so quickly that the only indication of the exchange will be the rough yank as its mechanical hands clamp onto the overloaded reactor and pull it free—and the streak of heat as jets rake Tony's suit, and the empty one screams upward at the very outer limit of the speed it's capable of, clutching that glowing, ticking time bomb to its chest.

«It's going to destroy the suit,» Five says, in the silence of her head.

I know.

«It's going to hurt.»

Yes. But not as much as it would if we don't get it clear.

The AI has nothing to say to that.

The spare suit bursts through the ruined glass of the ceiling and out into the night air, ascending like a meteor skyward. The city dwindles to a spread of blocks, a smear of glittering light. The atmosphere thins, slowing the suit's progress, but still, she cannons upward, and the reactor in 'her' arms begins to whine, heat up. Energy begins to melt holes in the suit's chest.

Brace yourself, she tells Five, just before the world erupts into starfire.

Violent energies shatter her awareness. Beneath a table, blood begins to rill out of both sides of her nose, and Matthew Murdock will find himself contending with something very like a small seizure, Kinsey's carefully coiffed hair unraveling, the clip popping open when her head snaps back.

Over the city, a spectacular lightshow unfolds: like a galaxy bursting at the seams, streamers of iridescent light fold outward, chased by a transparent shockwave that sets off car alarms from one end of the Tri-Cities area to the other. If the windows of the venue had not already for the most part been shattered, they would do so again; more panes of glass rain down, bits of half-broken infrastructure succumbing to this additional insult.


Between Conner's momentum and some impromptu assistance from Caitlin (did she flip a coin before she attacked someone or something?!) and two other guys with firepower he didn't wanna mess around, the Iron Monger saw an unceremonious ejection from the affair. Superboy wiped his nose with his thumb and took a brief moment to admire his handiwork.

"No ticket." He casually remarks.

That aside, there's a whole host of other things to consider now that that one threat is removed, much as Conner would like to chase after the thing and ensure it was down. But there were teammates in need, and seeing as how he still wasn't sure if Caitlin was going to sucker punch him again or not, Superboy decides he'd rather contend with whatever crazy crap was going with Zatanna.

"Z! Hey, Z!" The clone shouts, flying over to the magician's side trepidatiously, still wary of that near miss. "Are you….okay?"

No lie, he kind of wishes Tim were here for this.


The gala hand promised a grand finale, a night topped off with a speech from Captain America himself, on the joy of giving. Because that joy comes back around. Instead it is given to a grand finale that turns night into day with a sudden, terrible roar.

High above the city, high above the atmosphere, all below will know only the held breath of not knowing if it's far enough away. But perhaps none of them understand, perhaps Tony is the only one who can eyeball it, calculate in those moments before the blast the success of a hero who's name is but a number.

The twins may not know it, but they almost leveled a city in their chaos. Six may not know it in the darkness of the aftermath and the seizure that grips her, but she has saved millions.

Light shines like a new, burning star, night into day, illuminating the carnage of the garden dome below in visceral detail. The day may have been saved, but the wounds are many.



Atli Wodendottir wrings a bit of green cloth that may or may not be the underwear of FOUL LOKI over a great tub of popcorn, inexplicably producing butter substitute.

Oddly there has been a shortage in the city in recent days.

"VICTORY MY FRIENDS! I knew there was some yield yet left from this crop! Come, gather round Fair Rocket! Gather round Brave Groot! Let us sit in Midgardian custom and watch these pictures in motion, a tale of might and thunder and heroics untold! Tonight we traverse the wild frontier of a warrior's journey! Tonight we gaze upon…The Pootie Tang!"

Just then the EMP from the ARC reactor blast takes out the Asgardian's television, showering her in darkness while her fist is held high.



The God of Lies has centuries of experience and magical knowledge of the same duration - he's able to do what even her father sometimes struggles to do, once the well is uncapped and Zatanna's endless magical potential starts gushing forth. With some effort, green threads thicken and solidify, reinforcing the seal that is already there, buttressing its failing foundations with an injection of alien magic. There should be more rejection, really, like a particularly risky organ transplant. But the magical abyss that Loki attempts to get under control slowly relents and gradually adapts, accepting his changes and knowing them to be necessary for the moment.

Finally, he's done it. Locks re-engage, tumblers spin and gauges latch onto their sockets. The burning pit of Zatanna's soul stabilizes with his guidance.

Outside of her body, the young woman feels bands of tension unwind from her chest. The uncontrollable aura she exudes fades into a more manageable glow. Around her, she sees Wanda's nightmarish influence fade, filaments of scarlet snapped in twain, pulled apart until they're reduced to sparks and drifting through air choked with smoke, damage and the screams of the injured or dying. For the first time since the middle of her performance, she sees her surroundings clearly…

…or as clear as the smoke allows anyway.

…drawing the attention of the absolute worst sort of people.

I get that a lot, she transmits. Even her mental voice sounds sheepish.

Ice-blue eyes find Caitlin and Conner in the crowd; guilt wars with relief.

Next time you do a magic act…

She blinks. What? Sting? What are you…

She turns around exactly at the moment FRIDAY's protocols lobs a stunning blast at her direction. She catches it square on the chest, sent flying back into the stage and disappearing in a messy tumble of black cloth and other accoutrements she needed for her act. Her top hat tumbles. A white, terrified rabbit escapes from its confines.

"….thanks for the warning…" she says to empty air, around a cough.


With Iron Monger gone and out of the picture, Caitlin looks around the room for her targets. It's laughable—almost absurd, really—to realize just how incredibly outgunned everyone else in the room is. Magic barely slows her down. Armor-piercing bullets bounce off her skin. Caitlin flat out ignores the explosions, the shrieks, the chaos around her. Whatever Wanda did, whatever bells she rang, there is something very broken deep in Caitlin Fairchild. The Scarlet Witch set off more than one weapon of mass destruction tonight, and while Six could fly an arc reactor into the upper atmosphere, precious few people are in a league to stop the ginger in her current, broken mental state.

Caitlin breaks into a run towards Conner, knocking tables, debris, and people out of her way. At the moment, there is no higher threat to her person than the Kryptonian—fortunately for the rest of the survivors in the room, she doesn't stop to pull anyone's arms out of their torso.

Without so much as a grunt of effort, she flings herself at Conner with superhuman force and launches a pair of textbook punches at him, blindsiding her fellow Titan with earthshattering blows.


Pepper blinks rapidly behind Rescue's faceplate as the ghost city disappears from before her eyes and what's left is … not a whole lot better. More alive, but still exceedingly bad. "FRIDAY, if you haven't already, get emergency response teams here as quickly as possible. Medical, fire, everyone."

"Already done, Miss Potts," the very faintly Irish-sounding AI replies.

The Rescue armor drops back down to ground level, and when Caitlin throws punches at a young man nearby, the armor's hands aim at them again of their own volition. "Please stop that," Pepper's mechanised voice emits from the armor. And then, only on their linked comms, she asks Tony, "Are you okay? And please tell me there wasn't anyone in that other armor."


Well, before Zatanna could answer Conner's question, something went and shot her with a repulsor bolt. "Hey!!!" Superboy turns back with a grimace of irritation, and not a great idea of where it came from. "Cut that out, we're trying to talk!"

And then, before anything else could happen, Caitlin was leaping for him. It was a bit unsettling-usually when a girl was this mad at him he'd at least done something to kinda deserve.

"Okay, don't know your deal is, but the gloves are off now!" Conner shouts, and yes, the gloves do literally come off, his hand glowing with a verdant blue energy as the amazon neared him.

Conner caught punches in both hands, using ever ounce of tactile telekinetic force to neutralize the tremendous power behind those launched fists. Shockwave reverberate, his arms seize up and feel like breaking, but somehow he manages. He's not sure how. Squinting, he opens one eye at the currently-mindless redhead.


In one fluid, rapid movement, the boy of steel clenches his hands around Caitlin's fists, lifts his arms, and flips the woman over his head to slam her into the ground with something approaching the force she'd just used on him. Then, he shouts.

"Z!!! If you've got your head back in the game, help me out here!"


Tony watches the empty suit tear past him, watching the rangefinder in his own sensor suit as the distance ticks up. Further and further. Boosted and overboosted as his secondary suit carries the device away.

…and then comes the lightshow.

Tony flops back on the concreate as relief suffuses every pore of his being. Arms thrown wide as he rests on his back he stares up at the lightshow above for a quiet few moments before Pepper's voice intrudes on his moment of calm.

"There wasn't anyone else in that other armor." A beatpause. "I didn't get to see your dress."

Then there is a groan. "JARVIS, get a medical drone to Kinsey would you. Pepper you already got emergency services coming right?"

"Sir?" JARVIS' voice cuts in. "Miss Fairchild and Mister Superboy are still fighting."

"Tell em to take it outside! In a direction with no people!" He sounds irritated. "Or I sware to god I'll call Superman to scruff them both!"

Inside the remains of the building the voice of the AI crackles to life. "Ah Miss Fairchild? Mister Superboy? Mister Stark requests that you take the fight outside please? Least he call your commanders and or relitives."

And under Kinsey and Matt's table a tiny little drone intrudes to drop a highly advanced medpack into their hands.

Dunce is always helpful.


She's still picking herself off the ground when Superboy calls for her assistance.

"What the—" Her pale stare finds the giant redhead cut through the room, just in time for the Clone of Steel to pick her up and drive her into the ground. For a moment, confusion wreathes over her face. The red witch was gone. Why was Caitlin still…?

Shaking her head hard, she points a finger towards where the two Titans are fighting, but her command is for Fairchild alone.

"PEELS!" she shouts.

Reality's acquiescence is immediate when she blankets the other woman with a sleep spell.


Jacket Mask Guy talks on the phone to his bodyguards at the Oblivion Bar why he sips on his drink. "What do you mean you left the posts before any the explosions went off? Morien massages his temples, "Yes, I am glad that you two are safe, but I don't think that is appropriate behavior to be doing in my limo, and especially when you are supposed to be body guarding me! You better stay and help out the first responders. Morien scrolls his phone, "Activate Delta team to assist you in helping the first responders, and no one speak to the press."

Morien orders another drink, "No, I am fine. Once I heard the explosions, I must have ran 10 ten blocks, puked, then I took the subway home. I am going to take a shower and go to bed. Morien ends the call and walks over to the pool table at the Bar, "I got next.


Obadiah Stane bleeds.


Being piledriven into the ground isn't particularly fun, but Caitlin's used to taking the big hits. Superboy hits hard, granted—it's no fun getting slammed six inches deep into the ground. Caitlin grips his wrist on the flight up and over, though, and when she bounces against the ground, she lashes out with her feet and grabs Superboy's neck in a chokehold, the sole of her foot bearing down against his throat with increasingly dangerous amounts of force. Caitlin's not pulling her punches, and if she's not trying to twist Conner's head off with her feet, then she's trying to crush his windpipe with them.

Zatanna's words flood her senses, float up into her brain. It's a command that is simple and overpowering, all at once, and Caitlin has no recourse or means for stopping them. Why /not/ sleep? It's a perfectly reasonable suggestion. The redhead's eyes lid and she starts to go limp, then yawns, curls onto her side, and moments later is sleeping as peacefully as a babe, heedless of the destruction around her.


Caitlin is knocked asleep, and Conner is left in a rather awkward (but not wholly unwelcome?!) position where he'd been having the life wringed out of him just moments before.

"Well, this isn't so bad." He reasons, before remembering the Zatanna was totally still here and therefore he ought get up.

"Phew…well, we should probably drag her back to the T or something, right." He asks, throwing a quick salute to the building AI in deference to the fact that he's not fighting anymore. They could talk about what happened later.


She lands somewhere near Conner, glancing down at Caitlin's unconscious form. "Yeah, we should," Zatanna murmurs, before flicking her gaze sidelong to Superboy. Her expression is laden with many things - relief would have been the most paramount, were it not so consumed by guilt.

"Conner…" she begins.

She could explain. That she saw puppets everywhere. That she was turning into one and that was the reason why she freaked out and lost control. That her phobia was no laughing matter; she could tell him about the time she guest starred on Sesame Street and thought she could hold it, only to vomit in Oscar the Grouch's trashcan amidst the resounding screams of horror from the children and the puppeteer handling the green puppet. It was horrible.

But she can practically see his expression afterwards. He'll never take her seriously ever again.

"I'm so sorry," she whispers.


Rescue pulls Iron Man up off of the floor and sends him back to Stark Tower for repairs and for Tony to rest. For her own part, she heads back to the entrance, uncovers her skirt and shoes, and the armor folds away just as Pepper refastens her skirt around her waist and steps into her shoes.

She dusts off her sleeves in an attempt to smooth away some wrinkles, then shoulders her bag and steps briskly toward the arriving emergency services people to start directing them to where they're most needed.


This is so completely far out of Conner's zone of thing he knows how to deal with, he literally cannot crack a joke right now. That alone is terrifying.

"It's…okay, Z." He says earnestly, laying hands on her shoulders and trying his best to think of what he would say in this situation. "Everything is going to be alright."

After all, they were Titans. When things went wrong, they kept moving forward until they were right again.

"Come on, let's get out of here." He said, hefting the unconscious Caitlin over his shoulder. "We'll touch base with Tim. He'll have some sort of twelve-step plan on what we should do next, but I bet I can trim it down to six."

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