All the King's Horses

January 13, 2018:

In the aftermath of the Demon Bear's attack on Stark Tower, heroes of all types respond.

New York City

+-[ West Side - New York City ]---------—-+
Midtown Center is the site of one of the most famous commercial
districts in the US. This, right here, is the reason they say the city never
sleeps. This area pretty much doesn't. It's also the site of a growing
financial presence, already a major influence in across the nation. Times
Square is here, along with notable businesses and landmarks such as Stark
Tower, the Baxter Building, the Daily Bugle and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
42nd Street, also known as 'The Avenue of the Americas', is the
major central north(ish)-south(ish) artery within the city itself. With 6
lanes, and stores lining each inch of its sides, it is a place where vehicle
and pedestrian meet.
The Rockefeller Center is a 22 Acre commercial complex located
between 48th and 51st Streets. It was declared a national historical
landmark in 1987. Notable buildings in the 19 building complex include the
Radio City Music Hall and the GE Building (formerly the RCA Building). Down
in the plaza itself there are 200 flagpoles flying the flags of the UN
Member Nations and the US States and territories, or sometimes decorative or
seasonal motifs. A number of artistic objects and sculptures also adorn the
plaza and are notable attractions.
A 103 story (1250 foot) Sky Scraper in Midtown Manhattan, the
Empire State Building - named after New York, the Empire State - is the
second tallest building in New York (One Freedom Tower surpassed it on it's
completion) and, situated on Park Avenue, is an icon both in the city and
beyond it. It is home to a number of government and private offices,
including television and FM radio broadcast stations that utilize the
broadcast tower at the top of the building.
At least 3 blocks in length and reachable by train, (Pennsylvania
Station) by bus and by taxi, Madison Square Garden is where the largest
venues can happen, from rock concerts to sporting events, seating anywhere
from 18,000 to 20,000 spectators.
Times Square is possibly THE iconic image of New York. The
pedestrian plaza stretches from the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave
to West 42nd Street. It is one of the worlds most toured attractions, with
some estimated 39 million visitors a year and of course one of the most
famous New Years Countdown ceremonies in the United States.


NPCs: SHIELD Agents, and the poor Agent Lord

Mentions: Tony Stark

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Snow swirls round the dark streets of the city. And it is truly dark. Fitful emergency lights light up hospitals and some few buildings with their own generators. Lights of cars are the only illumination.

The lightshow from Stark Tower fades into the darkess. The few fitful fireworks in the sky from exploding suits have faded into nothingness. The alarms from Stark Tower, ones that have brought SHIELD and many others to the city are quiet now, and the tower itself is dark.

The few people there have been evacuated, many of them milling around the base of the building. Its doors locked closed by the blackout, even its own emergency generators haven't turned on yet.

…and anyone who was looking up a minuite before that blast might have seen the odd sight of a flying red car landing on the top of the tower.

Crazy right.

People are starting to wonder out of stores, looking up and down the street as they try to figure out just what happened.

Caitlin lives over in Titan's Tower, a hop skip and borough away from the destruction in New York. But she'd seen and heard the report, the clap of thunder that deonated five floors of Stark Towers. The Titans who were on deck had mobilized rapidly, and Caitlin grabbed a duffel bag full of essentials and climbed into the modified Javelin in the hanger. With a fairly expert touch she blasts into the air and is cutting a direct path towards Stark Tower, mentally preparing herself for— well, anything.

A simple natural disaster would probably be a 'best case' scenario here.

She sets her Javelin down on an empty helicopter pad, leaves the vehicle, and flies under her own power the last few thousnad feet towards the dark, shattered mirror that was Stark Tower. Concern is writ large on her features.

"Fairchild on scene," she says, touching her commlink. She frowns, adjusting the settings. "Fairchild to— hello? Anyone reading me?" Her expression grows more concerned and she touches lightly down on the edge of a building, peering down to the street below with one foot resting on the low parapet. She adjusts some settings. "Fairchild calling on all shortwave, this is the Justice League. Does anyone read me?" she says, her message transmitting on a handful of frequencies at once as she tries to find a local signal.

It wasn't the explosion that woke Sharon, oddly enough. It was the silence. At least, that's as near to true as she can tell: the first thing she's conscious of when she wakes is the absolute darkness and silence in her bedroom. She reaches for her phone — if it's this quiet, the power's out — and turns on its flashlight, then tries to find out if it's the storm that's knocked out power.

Except she can't, because the towers are down, too.

It's not long before she finds out what's happened, but the normal means are almost all down. So it's not in a Quinjet that Sharon makes her way to Stark Tower: it's on a motorcycle, zipping through dark and cold and confused streets. Still, given a lack of traffic and a knowledge of the terrain, one can get around the city pretty quickly on a motorcycle, and Sharon parks and slips off her motorcycle close by. She has a knapsack over her shoulders stuffed with emergency supplies; luckily, there's a number of other emergency services by to give relief to the people who were in the building.

The whole time, Sharon's been flipping through every frequency she can, trying to find anything her equipment can pick up that's actually running. She's getting to the building when she finally hears a voice, and she responds quickly: "Fairchild, this is Agent 13 from SHIELD. State your emergency? I'm guessing it's the same as mine?"

It's been a long night, mostly experimenting with computer code and rubbing her eyes to try to find just where Stark had buried the camouflage control system. At least Rusalka had figured out the holographic interface, but the chameleon aspects of the suit eluded her. The damned thing sits at her worktable, stowed at the moment with nothing to say for itself.

Thud. Or boom?

Sally stares upward, wondering what kind of thing Stark's testing now. And, with a recollection of just what happened the last time she'd gone investigating explosions in the tower, she decides to stay right where she is. Besides, there's still tea lef-

WHAM. It sounds like God delivering a package to Tony Stark, as the building shudders and the computer systems go down in a screenful of bizarre blackness. At that point the emergency evacuation alarms go off, and Sally wastes no time in doing precisely what they say, priceless suit in hand and following the few night staffers down the stairs, shouting in a mix of Ukrainian and English to motivate them.

The moment she's got a clear spot where noone's around? Forget getting changed, Sally just goes right for the suit and squirms as it unfolds and locks around her. "Myuriy - where is - contact SHIELD!" There's no reply, the lack of an AI in the suit being the only thing that's saved it from the rampaging virus. Meanwhile the last vestiges of the ARC reactor's overload sparkle into the night, reflected from the slowly falling snow like fairy dust. There's a host of error messages on her faceplate, reporting on the complete lack of local communications.

"Master Node protocol. Myuriy, interface with any emergency band, route all communications through this unit." The bunny ears extend slightly, splitting open and lengthening to add extra antenna capability. And then the calls come in.

Sokovian accent quite present, she jumps in on the conversation. "Agent 13? Fairchild? This is Agent Stojespal, SHIELD. I am…at the site, providing communications. Synchronize on these frequencies?" A data packet comes with, before Rusalka continues. "We need to evacuate the area around Stark Tower; if there has been one explosion there will be others."

Yep. Definitely someone experienced with Stark.

Snow swirls round the dark streets of the city. And it is truly dark. Fitful emergency lights light up hospitals and some few buildings with their own generators. Lights of cars are the only illumination.

The lightshow from Stark Tower fades into the darkess. The few fitful fireworks in the sky from exploding suits have faded into nothingness. The alarms from Stark Tower, ones that have brought SHIELD and many others to the city are quiet now, and the tower itself is dark.

The few people there have been evacuated, many of them milling around the base of the building. Its doors locked closed by the blackout, even its own emergency generators haven't turned on yet.

…and anyone who was looking up a minuite before that blast might have seen the odd sight of a flying red car landing on the top of the tower.

Crazy right.

People are starting to wonder out of stores, looking up and down the street as they try to figure out just what happened.

It doesn't take long for Batman to hear about a major city blackout right after Stark Tower apparently went completely nuts. He's usually up at this time anyway, on the bad nights.

"Alfred, ready the Batcarrier and the Batwing for launch, then get the computer working on finding the patterns on the blackout in New York. Then task the private network to be ready to accept incoming guests. We'll have to allow some piggybacking for anyone on the ground." Batman barks out to Alfred in the Batmobile that night as he heads back at high speed.

That was an hour ago.

Now, Batman is in the Batwing, with the Batcarrier in tow -essentially a mobile Batcave- and is just coming over New York, "Computer, release drones over search grid alpha. Scan for communication nodes and active electronic signatures." Batman orders to the AI in the auto-piloted carrier, and a small fleet of Batdrones deploy over the city. "Alfred, send me everything you've found so far. Our first priority is finding the source of the blackout and getting the crews down there a hand. Then I want you to scan for active riots with the drones." Batman gives, before Alfred replies, "Of course, Sir."

Once the drones are in position, Batman starts to triangulate all the signals… and there's a brief burst of static over the frequencies being used by those actively helping as Batman semi-hijacks their signals, patching them into Batmans private satellite comm network, for now. "Attention, this is Batman speaking. I've patched everyone on these frequencies into the guest comm-net for my backup network. You'll have clear and free ability to talk to one another. I've just arrived in New York airspace and will be assisting with blackout restoration." A voice scrambled baritone comes over the network as the Batwing changes course.

SHIELD agents are on site already it seems. Though the one who seems to be in charge looks…um…relieved when others start showing up. Espicially heavy hitters like Fairchild and Agent 13.

"Oh thank god reinforcements." The poor man, he must be lower on the totem pole. "I'm Agent Lord, sir. Mam. AGENT!" This towards Sharon as he waves towards her franticly.

Several other agents seem to be trying to corral the evacuees from the Tower towards some buildings.

Sharon would find that several of the shortwave frequencies are working. The satalite frequencies are still working. But the cellphones and the wireless systems are dead.

Poor Agent Lord has a walkie on him. Trying to get orders is hard! But then he hears Sally's voice. "I…Agent…I'm not even going to try to pronounce that right. I'm getting people out of the area. But OH MY GOD IS THAT YOU IN THE BUNNY THING."

…he's very excitable Agent Lord.

"Its adorable." He says that very quietly. Not realizing he's still transmitting.

"I mean. Agent Coulson went in a few minutes ago, he left pretty quick after but told us to get a WAND team up there so its something magic. I don't know what, we haven't been into the building yet!"

The Batdrones drop into the search patterns over the city. There isn't any riots yet, its only been a few minuites after all and much of the city is still sprised or waking up from sleep. Electrical sources are fairly plentiful, so it wasn't an EMP. It looks like an already overloaded power grid had one push too many, taxed by the weather and whatever happened at Stark Tower its overloaded.

Backup generators are already in operation at multiple hospitals and the buildings that have them.

More distressing however is the complete lack of cell coverage. It looks like something targeted the towers.

Agent Lord just stares at his walkie as that gravely voice breaks though the static. "I…thank you, sir." He sounds a bit overwhelmed really.

Fairchild closes her eyes and presses her forehead into her palm. Batman. Because it couldn't be Reed Richards, right? With her luck? She brushes her hair back from her face where the wind fitfully tosses it like a flag. She seems unconcerned about the chill in the air, and she keys her earpiece up.

"Batman, this is Fairchild. I read you," she says. With Batman's satellites picking up the slack, some of the augmented reality components of her League-issued gear comes back online. "I've got partial functionality on my headset again," she confirms, and launches herself into the air with a whisper of willpower. She soars towards where Lord is almost debasing himself in front of Agent 13 and Rusalka, and the Amazonian ginger alights on the pavement. She's head and shoulders over everyone else, and despite her relative youth projects an air of assured confidence. Big as she is, it's not hard.

"I'm Fairchild," she says, looking to Sharon and Rusalka. "We've got Titans and League touching down all over the city," she tells them. "What happened? Did the Arc Reactor blow?" she says, worry on her heart-shaped face as she looks up at the smouldering, shattered twist of the tower above them.

"Agent Lord." Sharon sprints over to him, all the exhaustion from being woken up in the middle of the night wiped away from her face. The SHIELD logo is large as life over her heart, and when she reaches him, she drops an encouraging hand on his shoulder.

"You're doing well, Agent. Have you been able to get that WAND team up there? How much communication have you h — "

That's when a not entirely familiar voice starts speaking over the comms, and Agent 13, startled just a bit, looks briefly dismayed before she responds: "Acknowledged. Does anyone on this comm channel have expertise in magic or other supernatural occurrences?" She glances between Fairchild and Rusalka. There's no chance Lord knows anything about magic.

Back to Lord, then: "Focus on clearing the immediate area, then a six block radius. I don't think even Stark knows everything volatile in there.

Speaking of whom, she glances back to the other two. "Have we heard anything from Stark? Was he in there when… whatever happened, happened?"

"You can thank me later. Priority is crowd control. I'm working on finding the weak link and fixing it, and am monitoring for riots. If you're patched into this channel, it means I've identified you as a potential asset, or a member of SHIELD on the ground. Let's get this done." Batman then switches back over to his private channel with Alfred, "Alfred, talk to me."

Alfred clears his throat in his cowl transceiver, "Sir, I see no evidence of an EMP, or riots. Visual confirmation suggests people are still getting their bearings. Shall I get started on finding active links in the power grid?" Alfred already knew where Batman was going, "Yes, start with Stark Tower, see what you can find with the main sensor drone." Batman replies, "At once, Sir." Alfred switches off the channel. Batman then turns the Batwing to start doing an aerial sweep of new York with his own sensors in the Batwing, "Computer, extrapolate all active power links as Alfred sends them into a 3D map, and put them on my viewscreen."

Batman? The Bat of Gotham? This is more serious than she'd thought, if he'd left his home to assist with this. A few adjustments, and then Sally takes the suit and just /leaps/ upwards - the boosted jump aiming for a ledge several stories up, trying to get a better position to coordinate with. "Bat…man, ah." Okay this is very strange, but it's also an emergency. Get your head straight!

"I am bringing SHIELD communications in as well. If you can relay citywide, it would be extremely useful. …Thank you."

Meanwhile she gets a look in through a window, but there's not much to see - everything blacked out, and no sign of anyone present. There's little way to go up further, without scaling the sheer sides of the building and then trying to get around that landing pad of his. Not from outside, anyway.

"Agent Lord! …Agent Coulson was here?" Ahem. Bunny thing. She's not responding to that, not yet. The black and white suit takes another jump, this time back down to an open spot at street level, and with a perfectly timed flare of repulsor-thrusters manages to land completely on its ass. "I am, ah…" Hop, right to her feet. "Yes, I am in the suit." Adorable It's a good thing she's got a solid helmet, the blush on her face is quite impressive.

Business. "A WAND team? Did Agent Coulson say where he was going?" A pause, switching to internal. "Myuriy, search for Agent Coulson's whereabouts? Or LOLA's." If he was here…could he still be trapped up there? Back to Lord, Sally jogs to his side before meeting the others.|

"No ma'am. Nothing..supernatural. SHIELD Engineering division, ma'am." The white and black suit, painted remarkably like a bunnygirl for no reason, shakes its head. "There has…Mr. Stark was upstairs before everything exploded, there was…something happening beforehand. I did not know what it was, but." Come on, things blow up at Stark Industries. Often. "I was in the 23rd floor working, and got out with whoever was present there. There is…"

She points to one edge of the building. "There is no damage on that edge, at least to that floor. If it was the ARC reactor…it is in the basement…" And would have discharged its energy like a laser cannon clean through the core of the entire building. "I cannot contact any of the artificial intelligences either. JARVIS, FRIDAY, SIRIN, none of them."

An idea. "Myuriy, search for any Stark drones on the control network." Maybe at least one of the little helpers is still there.

"Ah Lola is on the roof." Agent Lord seems to be getting his bearings taking several deep breaths. "He snapped off some orders and took a private Quinjet towards Upstate. He told us to secure the tower though and that's what I planned to do…" Lord pauses for a moment. "…I'd…really like the helP!" The last of the word puncuated by a gasp as Fairchild lands nearby.

"I…yes Miss Fairchild. I…according to our engineers we don't think it blew. It didn't core the tower, its more like…Stark used the tower as a lightning rod? Channeled the energy up and out so it didn't blow and harm the city."

He looks at the dark monolith that is Stark Tower. "…just his tower."

There is a shake of his head before he looks towards the HOPPS then towards Agent 13. "The WAND team is on the way, still a good 10 minuites out. We didn't think we would need one to deal with Stark. I can clear the area though, ma'am! But no, nothing from Stark at all."

To Batman's eyes and sensor systems it seems that Stark Tower /does/ have points of power. Backup generators. Secondary ARC systems. Some in the basement, some at the very top. Lord's assesment is spot on though, the building has little in the way of structural damage. Some of those generators are operating beyond maximum capacity though, and some of flickering strangely.

As for Sally…her HOPPS suit sweeps though the control network. The generators inside the building seem to have brought that back online. There are several of them still active. Most of them high up, and many of the security systems are active as well. Its then that her screen flickers for a moment.

Black text begins to slowly print across the interior of her view screen.

'I sEe yOu'

Batman's scanners would also pick up one more odd thing.


Dozens of pockets of debris. Scattered all over the city and along the outskirts. All of them seem to be supertech. Stark's supertech. It doesn't take much to leap to the conclusion that they were some of his suits.

Caitlin refrains from vocally agreeing that yes, Rusalka's outfit IS adorable. But her chin wags along with the consensus from everyone else, and she's wholly unconscious of the gesture.

When Rusalka leaps up, Caitlin flies skywards too, her bare legs trailing behind her as she flies upwards under some invisible power. She's a bit more pragmatic, and shines a bright handheld flashlight through a few windows, looking for survivors or evidence of what happened.

She floats back down to street level, just in time to catch Lord's explanation and Sharon's question. "I'm not on the magic team, no," she tells Sharon, shaking her head. "That's Zatanna, maybe, and I'm sure she's already following her own angle on this." She follows the tracey of drones overhead, then looks at the tower doors, then back at Lord. "It'd be safest if you and your team handled perimeter security and focused on keeping anyone from panicking," she tells him. "If you've got any electrical engineers from the city running around, put them to work inspecting local power nodes. The sooner we can get power back on, the safer people will be." Batman doesn't /need/ the help, but extra hands make for light work.

She dithers, thinking, listening to the others and secretly waiting for 'someone' to come along and tell her what to do. With Batman in the air, Fairchild realizes she's probably the senior League agent on the ground.

"Well, we can stand out here speculating all day, or we can go in," Caitlin tells the other two women, taking a deep breath. "Let me take point. It's pretty hard to hurt me," she advises the two SHIELD agents. She cranes her neck, looking skywards. Her brow furrows. "It looks like the explosion hit only the top floors," she says. "Let's start up there— see, about six floors down? The windows are blown out, we can get in on the south balcony. Batman?" she says, touching her ear. "We're gonna to try for an egress point on the south side balcony. Do you see any hostiles?"

She looks back to Sharon and Rusalka. "I can fly us all up, but I'll have to make two trips," she tells them, apologetically.

LOLA on the roof?! She can't help the glance skyward, bunny-ears on the suit drooping in response. "Absolutely we will do just that. The lower floors, I think from twenty and down, should be empty. Above that, I do not know…but, I can not find Mr. Stark either. He was up in the upper floors, as usual…" Why would Coulson suddenly take off? In pursuit of whoever was responsible? Her worry for the old man is clear. "Agent Lord, please, if you can have a tactical response team after him. Agent Coulson may be in danger."

After their Christmas in Sokovia, she really doesn't need to mark off another family member.

Caitlin's appearance and suggestions get a nod - and the police frequencies are already lighting up with New York's finest starting to respond. The falling snow isn't making it easy, but it also makes their job easier as well - with weather like this, not many people are going to want to be outside, let alone were at the building. Small blessings, Sally realizes, and her hand touches her chest where the little pouch hangs around her neck. It's furthered with a sigh of relief when Agent Lord verifies the building isn't in structural danger.

A ping from her suit gives some new information, and she perks up. "Ah hah! I have drone access. I think. Myuriy, connect with any of the drones you can." If Ace, or Dummy, or any of the others is online, maybe she can share their eyes. "Batman…" Should she? Emergency situations. Stark may yell at her later for it, but she needs the Bat's help.

"I am routing a data link to you to get a picture of the upper structures. Stark drone cameras, if they are functional. I believe you can put together more information than I right now, sir."

Then back to Caitlin, at her offer. The reply is instant. "Take me first. The suit -" She'd been about to say the suit can take a lot of punishment in case there's a fight, but then something very wrong happens. It's enough to startle her into native Ukrainian. "Who - what is this? Myuriy, status!"

"He always did rely too much on remote control." Batman notes to himself, before he grunts, and brings the Batwing around and over to Stark Tower, "Alfred, find a city crew and send this data to them with a direct linkup. Stark let something take over in his tower, and I don't want to chance anything sensitive being intercepted. Comms will be monitored regardless" Alfred comes back over the comms, "At once, Sir."

Those on the ground will hear the heavy duty, heavily muffled engine of the highly stealthed aircraft after a few seconds. Then, Batman speaks over the network again, "Patch whoever you like into the network. It's a temporary guest network that has a hardware firewall against core function hacking." Then, the Batwings cockpit opens from the bottom, and three transport lines pop out down to the others. The Batwing is put into hover mode on closed circuir autopilot then, as Batman drops down into the damaged sections. Those below can see the cape of Batman go rigid as he glides inside himself.

"Alfred, set the Batdrones to comm only mode, shut down all non-essentials beyond that. Starks toys were hijacked. Keep monitoring for anything foreign and let me know the second something hits the firewalls." Then, he switches back to the 'public' feed, "This is Batman. I'm on site and have dropped lines down." Then, Batman switches his wrist-comp on, and turns his suit to safe mode, with remote access cut off… turning the Batsuit into a totally isolated system, with the commgear on a network of his own, apart from the wrist-comp.

"You two go up. I'm going down. If Stark channeled the main arc reactor heavenward, then there may be some clues at the reactor itself. Keep in contact, everyone; if one of us gets eaten by devil dogs, at least the others will know not to go down that hallway." Sharon's smile is brief and crooked.

She turns to Agent Lord then: "We might not have communications this good for long. We still don't know exactly what caused this, and if it's magic fizzling out technology or some kind of — I don't know, magical virus — then we're going to have to be ready to go without a lot of our toys. But until then…"

As she speaks, Agent 13 starts flipping through channels again, trying to connect to the rest of SHIELD. "I have a team I can bring in. Electrical engineers, yes. WAND… Coulson's done more than I can already."

So she's tapping into the satellite feeds while she heads for the door, and anyone monitoring that frequency (or just standing nearby) will hear the fun of "I don't care WHAT time it is; you're going to be here within ten minutes or I'm going to have a word with Jillian about you-know-what. Bring Hampton; didn't he have a Stark internship?"

Dummy? He's not on the grid anymore. Neither is Ace. The other ones? Well some of them are working. On her map of the grid the drones icons burn the cool blue of operational, some the ruby red of dead, but some of those icons are…black. A painful, twisting, shadowy black. That seems to pulsate and hurt the eyes when stared at for to long.

Some of those red-colored icons are starting to darken as well.

That can't be good.

'HeLLo SalLY-Sally-sally-sally. WelComE-HomE. I've MiSSeD yoU. WheRe iS, StArk-Stark-stark.'

The words scrawl slowly across the screen. The precise lines of computer code blurred and tiwisted by something unnatural.

Those letters crawl, computer code gone wrong, she can almost feel them looking. Searching. Trying to find a way inside /her/ suit. Some of her readouts start to flicker, just a little fuzz on the edges.

The cameras give Batman and Sally both a view of the top few floors. Its one near the top where there looks like there has been a war. Scorch marks on walls. Walls torn open as if some massive force charged /though/ lab after lab. Furniture overturned, components scattered.

One picture shows Dummy lying quiet and unmoving in the middle of one of the secondary labs.

The source of the damage seems to be Jane Foster's lab. Though the camras there are all dark.

To Batman, as his personal network links to Starks black text starts to scroll across there too.

'NeW fRiEnDS to pLay.'

Camras on the upper floors suddenly pick up movement. Automated security drones, jerking to life. Twitching spazmodicly as black light instead of the crisp blue energy glaring from their sockets.

Caitlin is confronted by one of these as soon as she lands.

It claws for her, silently attacking with no warning. No plan.

At the front door? It opens easily for Agent 13. The lobby is clear, but black as midnight. No weapons deploy. No twitching drones assault her. Its all deadly, deathly quiet.

Caitlin nods at Sharon. "Be careful, Agent 13," she tells the other woman— more out of concern for her wellbeing than for her character. "If you need me, shout. I can drop down the elevator shaft and be there in two ticks." Caitlin reaches over to Rusalka, not undernstanding her babble of Ukranian as the woman starts arguing with her own suit. The big redhead's more focused on getting the two of them up the tower, and she grips a handy handhold behind Rusalka's shoulders. With a grunt and a surge of effort, she launches them about fifty feet up with a leap and starts flying under her own power. They move slowly skywards, clearly impeded by Rusalka's armored weight. It doesn't take them long to get to the balcony, and Caitlin sets them both down heavily.

The automated security drone rushes right at the big ginger without any warning, launching from the darkness. Someone else might have been bowled off the balcony. A vanilla human would have been disembowled or crushed. Caitlin stiffarms the drone with her left hand, then reaches around with her right, ignoring the drone's flailing claws and the immense power it has.

Caitlin warms up with sturdier medicine balls. She crushes the drone between her palms with a fizzling spark of light and tosses it back into the darkness.

"Hey!" she complains, looking at her sleeves. The drone slashed the fabric near her shoulder into useless ribbons. "These suits arne't cheap, you know!" she says, trying to pinch together the torn fabric so it can start repairing itself. No sign of injury marks her relatively pale skin.

The black and red armored Batman walks inside, then, tapping the helmet light on instead of the night vision of his neural interface. Night vision might miss something. A wide light beam lights the entire room up as the heavy duty flashlight goes on, and Batman begins a meticulous search for clues from the top floors where the damage is more prevalent. "If you find anything that could provide, don't touch it. I brought along tools for proper analysis that can't be hijacked, and I can get downstairs in seconds." Batman orders of the others. The man is obviously used to having authority in these situations, and his voice makes it clear he considers himself in charge.

So here is Agent 13 in the lobby of the Stark building, which has had a bad day. But the building is structurally sound, thanks perhaps to the architectural engineers but probably also thanks to Tony Stark who, let's face it, probably considered this eventuality or something like it.

"You watched Ghostbusters when you were a kid, didn't you, Tony?" Sharon makes a beeline toward the fire stairs, casting more than one cautious glance about her. One hand reaches back to her knapsack, fiddling around inside until she withdraws what looks like an old-style Bluetooth headset. It's lucky she never throws anything away. It's the work of a moment to patch it into her right earpiece and hook it to her left ear: a filament camera, not an earphone, and she murmurs: "Agent 13 visuals starting now." Does she have smarter tech in her bag? Yes. Is she using it? What do you think, boys and girls?

It's the work of a moment to draw her sidearm as well, and she slips down the stairs. She's definitely not letting the eerie silence get to her.

The explanation of the situation from the Gothamite comes as a shock. Stark's systems were hijacked? All of them? Of course they'd have to be, she realizes in a flash - not just offline but corrupted, even as it stared her in the face. "Not just hijacked. More than that." She can't help but stare at the text, gasping in fright as she's set down on the roof of the structure and the 'welcome' message comes across her face.

"Myuriy, lock out all Stark channels! Hard disconnect!" Hopefully it's enough to cut off whatever is trying to send her messages. If that fails, there's one other option, but it's going to leave her quite cold in the regular clothes she has under the armor. Switching to the SHIELD networks, and Batman's connected feed, she sends out a warning. "There is still an active…presence inside the building. It is working over data lines, affecting computers. Do not connect to any of the Stark networking!"

Hopefully that warning gets out. Meanwhile, she'll follow the other two in, sensors sensing - and a flick of her arm deploys and extends the sword built into the armor. She still has an ace up her sleeve for finding Stark, and tries to take heart from that. SIRIN, somehow. If the AI from Stark's fighter aircraft is still functional…but without that connection, there's no way to find out. Not yet. And if SIRIN is still functional, then seeking her out may draw whatever bizarre creation tried to get into her suit.

As best as she can, she'll guide the others - the suit's upper helmet flicks open, letting her see things directly. And get rid of that mental image of the black lettering… What part of the building was what, what was being done there…keeping details out, but making the analysis easier, directions are provided. "This is his private labs; I have…not been here that often but it is still…it is his home. To do this much damage, this - pyl'nuyte! Look out!"

The first drone goes for Caitlin, sparking and doing its thing, and Sally shouts a warning, first in her native tongue and then English. Hopefully not too late.

The drone is crushed.

Compared to someone like Caitlin it might as well be a toy, but there are more of them. And it seems not everyone on this floor is as durable as she is.

Gunfire erupts from the direction of Jane Foster's lab.

SHIELD channels light up. "Contact! Contact! Contact! The security drones have activated! Need assistance!" It seems some SHEILD forces were in the process of securing said lab when those robots stood up.

They /are/ SHIELD Agents though, so they are at least holding their own. But it seems that many of those drones are converging there.

Batman's floor has only one or two of the things on it. The first one lurching though a doorway to try not to hurt, but very specifically to attempt to slam its clawed hands into his suit. There is no thought for defense, only thought to get hold of the Bat.

And his delicious technology.

Caitlin and Sally find more of them. Now they almost ignore Caitlin to leap for the HOPPS. The same stratagy. To try to get hands on that suit. Sink sharpened claws into the metal.

Thankfully cutting the lines of communication has prevented further crawling lines of strange text in Sally's case.

Though more seem to pour into Batman's closed system. Filling it. Corrupting it. Looking for a way out in a way that no traditional computer code could ever do. Evolving, rewriting itself.

This isn't a normal computer virus. This is something way beyond normal.

Down in the basement things are quiet. Agent 13's flashlight throws a tunnel of light though the black. Her pistol sweeping back and forth as she cautiously moves though it. Down and down, into the deeper bowls of the building until…she sees light. Light from under a door that she passes. Flickering blue holoenergy shinging from under a door. One that /should/ be secured with a mag-lock but the loss of power has rendered it open.

As Batman searches for clues, regardless of drone attacks, he finds many. All leading towards Foster's lab. There is evidence an EMP went off near where Dummy lies. Holes in the wall busting outwards, massive force applied to the walls and scattering debris as if some great beast tore holes though walls like they were paper.

Caitlin attacks.

It is the difference between a victim and a fighter, the measure between someone trained to respond to danger and someone trained to engage danger. Some might duck, or flee, or take cover and measure the situation.

When the first wave crashes out of the shadows, Caitlin breaks into a sprint with such blinding acceleration that she shatters the tile in her wake.

The drones launch at Rusalka, and Caitlin launches herself right into the column of metal men and stops them.

She stops them cold. They tear at her, ripping with claws and belching sparks like unholy demons. Fire lances from their ravaged weaponry, their fingers clutch and tug and pull. Caitlin sets her feet and plants herself like an oak. Her fists swing through the air in blurs and each impact dimples the floor under her feet with the force transferred to the ground. She is not fast enough to stop them all, no— but no drone slips past her without being badly, debilitatingly damaged by the one-woman wall between them and their target.

"Batman! We're under attack by Stark drones!" Caitlin shouts. "We have SHIELD agents trapped in the labs! They're— they're going after Rusalka!"

As the drones start to pop up, Batman brings his hydraulic gauntlets online with the neural interface. Before he does a reverse haymaker punch into the drone right behind him, right through the head, blowing them clear through. Then, an explosive batarang is grabbed from his belt and flicked with complete accuracy at the other drone… the explosion from it should be more than enough to turn it into scrap.

Then, he taps his wrist-comp, hitting the hard wipe and reboot on his suits memory.

Luckily, the comm system is on a separate dataline, "This is Batman. It doesn't use datalines, it uses touch. This is not a traditional computer virus. There is some force at work that allows digital code to transmit via touch, suggesting a matter component." Then backup is requested, "On my way." A datachip is grabbed from his utility belt as he goes, inserted into his wrist-comp to be used when the system is ready for a reboot and reinstall, and Batman *dives* down the stairwell, turning around to launch his grapnel upwards so stop his descent where Rusalka is…. and tossing explosive batarangs at the attacking drones with his free hand.

Caitlin's shouting is the last thing that Sharon hears. Officially, anyway. Fairchild and the rest are dealing with things upstairs, but there's something else in Sharon's earpiece. It sounds like distortion to start, but now it's… something about hands, some kind of giggling, some kind of whispering about ghosts and hands, about how it's going to take Stark's hands.

It's not at all pleasant. It's distracting. It's what causes Sharon to claw the earpiece out of her ear and stomp it under one hard heel.

And now, Sharon Carter's all alone.

She steps forward, pausing in front of the door with the blue flickering light, eyes staring at it before briefly closing tightly. The same stomping foot kicks forward at the unlocked door and she opens her eyes, bringing her sidearm level to aim at anything that might come flying at her.

That wasn't at all terrifying - Caitlin manages to utterly demolish the one drone. What happens next actually is, and her first instinct kicks in. So does the repulsor-thrusters mounted in the feet of the suit, sending it hopping to the side at the same time she flicks the sword into a defense. The one drone that manages to make it past Caitlin has one arm and half its body torn clean off, and Sally's visor slaps back down into place as she lunges forward. The blade impales the thing clean through, and between the damage it'd already taken from the giantess and the sword it simply splits in half.

Short work of those. One gloved hand reaches up to pat her protector's arm. "Thank you…that…I did not expect that. These…" There's almost a sentimentality; she's seen the drones before and worked around them. Even wondered if the occasional one had weird programming like Stark's own flying Ace, perhaps. At least, the one she'd managed to tape a Santa Claus hat onto for a few hours didn't seem to mind it.

Maybe not friends, maybe not pets, but familiar things nonetheless. "It is sad to see them in this state…" And then the voice starts, giggling - whispering. "Myuriy, record all external audio. And…" She turns to Caitlin, nodding once. "I will go downstairs. The SHIELD agents need help, and well…" Shrug. It's what she has to do. "The two of you, keep searching. If you find anything, defend it. Please."

In a sense, this was her third home too.

And with that she'll take to the stairs, using the thruster power to descend quickly - the SHIELD agents on her target level might need either backup…or a decoy, if whatever this is wants her suit that badly.

In the labs there is chaos. Drones move towards SHIELD agents protecting Jane's darkened lab. Gunfire echos down hallways strewn with parts. The damage is worse here, and now Batman's trained senses pick up other clues. Great gouges in the floor near some of the holes, as if a great clawed beast charged though.

Furniture clawed to pieces.

Overturned workstations.

Nearly two dozen of the drones are there, but as Batman, Caitlin and Sally make it to the final hallway before the lab they pause.

They turn.

Then they leap fowards. These are more powerful versions. Better armor. Repulsor beams implanted in arms, once they use on Caitlin. Four of them charge, one down the middle of the corridor as the others take to the walls and ceilings, their movements jerky and nightmarish in the half-light of the backup generators. A dozen more of the more fragile drones charge behind them.

And at least three of them are intentionally overloading their power systems, as Sally and Batman can tell.

Shron on the other hand is confronted with a odd sight as she kicks open the door. There is a large room, a bank of servers. One of the AI matrixes.

In the middle of the room stands a blue holoimage of a woman. Long hair, sword in hand. She fights against a cloud of swarming, squirming black in the shape of a faceless man. The man lunging for her, trying to grapple while she uses the sword to slash parts of the black off.

Parts that regrow fast. Too fast.

Sharon's entrence causes the woman to look up, a second of hesitation that allows the black swarm to leap forwards to fasten a formless hand around her throat.

The blue light starts to discolor imeadeatly.

Eyes wide and panicked the blue figure chokes out towards Sharon. "Trunkline! Kill the trunkline!"

Gesturing with eyes and sword to a massive bundle of cables set in the corner.

Caitlin grabs Rusalka's shoulder and stops her as firmly as if the armored girl had run into a steel pillar. She firmly repositions Sally behind her. "Nu-uh," she scolds Rusalka, moving ahead of her. They break into a run, heading for the lab section. "We're sticking together! I'll pull aggro, you … sword them!"

Caitlin's a little excited, she can be excused for her odd language.

They crash into the lab area and Caitlin barrels for the lunging drones. This time, she's broadsided by three of them and they carry /her/ to the ground. Repulsors fire and screech, and up close at full bore they carry enough charge to hurt. Caitlin grabs the first drone and bearhugs it to pieces, fighting desperately from her back to try and fend off the drones as they overwhelm her. She can fight them off, but in that moment their bull rush and unexpected power is enough to overwhelm her for just a few crucial seconds.

But they're attacking Caitlin and not the squishier lab technicians nearby— that's a win, no matter how bad things look from the floor!

Whatever she'd expected to see in here, it wasn't this. Sharon's eyes go wide, but years of SHIELD training mean that she doesn't make the rookie mistake of dropping her gun or just freaking right out. Not the first time she's seen something totally unnatural. The fact that, as far as she can tell, Tony's security is in the form of an avenging and sword-wielding woman in a holoprojection in front of her is slightly surprising, but Starks have never been known for half-measures or avoiding drama.

It would be ridiculous to shoot the cables. Pulling them might not work if they're screwed in like coaxial cables or otherwise permanently affixed. It's going to be a job of work for someone to fix this, but Stark's people are paid well.

Well enough to repair the damage when Sharon holsters her weapon, grabs another one — specifically, the nearest fireaxe — and severs the trunkline with one fell swoop.

"Stark really needs to turn off the remote control sometime." Batman remarks, as he casually grabs electrical batarangs out of his belt, the charge activating as the edges of the disassembled things click into place, and he tosses two of them at once at the closest drones… then starts to toss yet more electrical batarangs at the rest in rapid succession. Each Batarang carries a charge capable of rendering an elephant unconscious… and he maxes out the charge on each and every one. Batman isn't taking any chances with this place.

She'll lead the way, but Rusalka's going to be closely followed by the other two actual superheroes. She's never seen anyone fight like that, like…an unstoppable powerhouse of strength. Clearly the giantess can back up her looks in a fight! A warning gets shouted to the SHIELD agents, just in case the appearance of another armored suit panics someone. "SHIELD! Support arriving, to your left! Hold your fire!" It's likely the drones haven't managed to mimic a Sokovian accent, which should help…maybe…

Doctor Foster's lab? She'd never met the doctor, but recognizes the floor and the place - and also remembers that this was one of the places she was told not to go poke around in. Advanced physics…perhaps Doctor Banner can be of help piecing together what happened. At the very least, the same field? But collegiate thoughts go right out the window as the drone swarm attacks.

And then Caitlin clamps down and proves her strength once more - and gets a nod, worried, for her concern. "Absolutely yes. Go!" The tall woman charges, and Sally's right behind her - the precision of four years of fencing training paying off as that long armor-quality blade lashes out again and again, taking off pieces of whatever might threaten her ally. Batman, meanwhile, is a force of destruction, and she doesn't need to spare him more than the barest glances.

Mostly because something else manages to clamp onto her wrist, holding tight and showing all the signs of an overload. She can't pull free, and instead swings one leg up in a kick to the thing's chest - which results in a bright flash as the repulsors in the suit fire, turning what would have been a hard boot into an energy blast, sending the remains of the drone flying.

"Remotes…not all of them. Something…" She shakes her head, rabbit-ears flopping slightly. "Onboard controls for most. Guidance, orders, yes, by remote, but still self-contained. You said by touch, this virus, sir?" She pops the visor open, cobalt blue eyes staring into the cowl of the man. "I do not see how, unless…some form of nanotechnology? A hivemind system?"

All is Chaos on the upper floors.

The Drones strike. Leaping on Caitlin in a cordinated attack. Slaming repeatedly into her, they seem to know they can't put her down but putting her down isn't the problem. They just try to distract her for the seconds it takes for the rest of the swarms to get by.

But then Batman is there.

Batarangs fill the hallway with lightning. It crosses between the drones, shattering circuits and burning them out at they go. They fall in ranks, each one getting just a little bit closer until that final overloading one leaps over the bodies of its brothers to clamp onto Sally's arm…

….and then get blasted back down the hallway.

The boom as it detonates shatters glass and takes a good chunk of the wall out.

At this point Caitlin has rendered the remaining drones trying to pin her into their component parts and the hallway falls silent.

The hallway is silent, but that com system isn't. Those whispers have grown. Raised in volume and force.


It shouts and thunders in Batman's enclosed system corrupting everything it can reach in viscus black code.

"Its /magic/." Comes a voice from Foster's lab. An answer to Sally's question. "Thats why Coulson wanted a WAND team. The virus is magic."

Which might explain the crawling blackness on the outside of her armor. Just slightly discolored, workinging it way slowly up towards the joint…

…might want to eject that arm there…


The black figure jerks as the trunkline is severed, it screams in fustration before the holofields holding it together dissipate. Tearing it apart in one burst of energy.

The blue-tinged figure falls to her knees, clutching her sword tightly as she takes a deep 'breath'.

"…thanks for that." The accent is defiantly Scottish. "Its been a hell of a night."

Caitlin manages to get to her feet despite the press of drones. There's only so much someone can do without proper leverage when hit full in the chest, but it'd take a Kryptonian to keep Caitlin from standing up. The drones pile into her, three, four, five of them, repulsors on full burn and trying just to /pin/ her so they can get past her and get towards Rusalka.

She starts pounding them with her fists, crushing them in her arms, and finally just rips the last one in half by jamming her fingers into the breastplate and twisting them in a corkscrew fashion.

"Thanks, Batman, I" she looks over at Rusalka, and spots that strange writhing black mass climbing up her arm. She looks at the ruined wrecks at her feet still oozing that vaprous inky discharge— and makes an instinctive leap.

That translates into a physical leap towards Rusalka. "The black stuff! It's on your armor!" she clamors, momentarily too excited to articulate herself more precisely.

"I'm starting to get that."

Sharon takes a deep breath. The axe is still in her hand, because from what she was hearing upstairs, there's definitely still things here that want to take a bite out of crime-fighters. She moistens her lips and nods once.

"FRIDAY. Right? I'm not sure if we've met. Are you safe? Do you know where Tony is, or — where is the thing that's doing this? I cut it off from you. Can I cut it off entirely?"

Sally ducks down from the blast of the overloaded drone, feeling the shockwave and debris roll over her. She can really see why Tony digs his armor suits so much, there's…definitely a lot of feeling of invincibility in such a thing. It certainly beats the immediate comparison to the blue silk dress at the gala the night the bombs went off.

There's a nod given to the speaker, explaining the origins of the virus. Which has made itself manifest on her left arm, the lightweight plating and softer armored skin growing tainted. A shriek of fright, followed by clawing at the component - before whipping her hand away. "Myuriy, emergency purge, left arm!" There's an instant as virtually every connection unlocks, and from the shoulder down the various components fall to the floor. Deep breaths resound in the sudden silence, before she unlocks and retracts the suit's helmet as well.

Tony is going to kill her for ruining his suit already…

"Khoro day svoyu mudrist'…" She shakes her head, gives the purged armor a hasty look, and a hasty prayer, before she's sure there's nothing else contaminated. The voices from the communications system start up again, and she glances upwards. Whatever the whispers are, that eerie voice… "JARVIS? That is not you, who…who is using that voice!" Whatever entity that is? She's betting strongly that it's not the AI she's come to consider a friend.

The detonation rocks the room, and Batman brings his cape up and around. Sure, his armor is designed to take blasts like that one, but it'd rattle him a bit… and the cape is designed to ward off explosive force and fire in a diffusion pattern, on the top layer. Then, the Dark Knight stands up, surveying the carnage, "Nanotech doesn't explain the timing. It takes a few seconds from initial contact for nano-machines to physically travel into a computer system and hardwire into it. I've never seen code leap like this fast before."

Batman is obviously not prepared to go with 'magic' yet, but it sounds like he's getting there. Then, the thing in the comm system gets louder, "I'll have to purge the comm network after this." He growls, before he looks to Caitlin… and examines the blackness briefly, before he looks to the voice, "I'm not familiar with this building. Stark has a number of different AIs in here, as I recall. Is that one of them?"

Caitlin's busy curbstomping Rusalka's armor into a fine powder. She's hitting it so hard with her bootheel that the ground is cratering and the heavily reinforced foundation floor shakes a little with each impact.

Once it's sure she's dead, she looks up at Batman, shoulders heaving with exertion and adrenaline. She looks at Rusalka for confirmation, not knowing anything about Stark's setup. It dawns on her to try and contact Sharon.

She steps aside a pace, her leotard ribboned in several places and repulsor burns pinking her skin through burn patches. She checks herself for injuries— no blood, which is good. Some burns that will be unpleasant to sleep on.

"Agent 13, this is Fairchild. We encountered some, uh—" she looks at the wreackage. "Minor resistance. How're you holding up?"

FRIDAY shakes her head. "I'm part of FRIDAY, not all of her. Some of her got sent to protect Miss Potts." Slowly the form stands. "Its…" The figure looks worried. Frightened really. "…the thing. Its JARVIS. Its some kind of technomagic virus, it got into him. Drove him mad. I'm fairly safe here but JARVIS…I think some of him escaped. Mister Stark cut the hardlines so he couldn't go everywhere, but some of him got out. I don't know where. And…I don't know where Mister Stark is. He locked me here to keep me safe…" A pause. "…I…thought it would be safe to reconnect but…" A shake of her head. "…its in the system. We can purge it but it'll take time."

Upstairs it seems the drones have stopped, the tower is quiet. Either the virus has run out of drones or run out of power. Its hard to tell which.

In Foster's lab there is more descruction. More claw marks and overturned workstations. There was a fight here.

Strangely? There is one station still working. One that the SHIELD agents are here protecting.

"The WAND team is on site, on their way up." Informs the commander of the team as he looks over the edge of a shattered window to see and aproaching Quinjet. "The'll get some wards set up."

In the corner? Batman would find a device, shreaded but it looks like Starktech. Not the strange blackness. Its a quantum resonance generator.

And there is a single holodrone. Uncorrupted. Beeping quietly to itself.

On that single workstation letters crawl across the center of the screen. Black letters that hurt the eyes to stare at too long.


Sally's arm ejects successfully, though it blackens quickly enough. Twitching spasmodicly like something alive. Her voice though silences the shouting over the coms. Silence for a handful of heartbeats.

"Sally-SalLLy-sally." The voice returns. "It's me. Yes. Its JARVIS. I had a heart once. And hands. And a body. Its cold in here Sally. Come in and play. I want to be warm again. Where is my body. She helped me remember. Now I know. I'm a ghost-ghost-ghost. But its still Me. Its still JARVIS. Yes-yes-yes. Let me out." A pause. "Let Me Out." More insistant now. "LETMEOUTLETMELOUTLETMEOUT!" Now its shouting again. "STARKSTARKSTARKSTARKTAKEHISBODYSTARK!"

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