Best Laid Plans

March 15, 2018:

The Titans find a young meta in trouble and put their foot in more mystery than they bargained for. Also melt their house a little.

New York City

Characters

NPCs: Aldrich Killian

Mentions: Daredevil

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

New York City is never a /quiet/ place, but there are different levels of quiet. There is the background noise of a living, breathing, metropolis on one hand. On the other hand there is 'Goddamit Stark is going to blow up the city again!'

Tonight, just on the edge of Hell's Kitchen where the devils like to play, is a sudden burst of violence. Violence out of scale even for that section of the city. After all most desinins of Hell's Kitchen don't flip cars down a street.

Well. At least not unless you're Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. Or some members of the Hand. Or some of the people from Mutant town. Or…

You know what lets skip it.

Back to the violence.

The street in question isn't that heavily traveled as the day is shifting to night. That is a good thing as a black SUV goes tumbling downn it. Sparks strike from the asphalt before it slams against a light post hard enough to cause the metal to bend as it wraps the vehicle around the pole.

Hard to tell if there was anyone in there. If there was? They aren't happy.

The source of this sudden pitch is a young man, twenty at the most. Staggering in the center of the road. His eyes are wild, hiss hard shorn in a short buzz cut. Blue jeans, dark blue t-shirt, he doesn't /look/ that special…

…except for the fact that he just pitched a car like it was a baseball.

Alarms start, and now its a race to see who gets there first. Stark? Avengers? SHIELD? Or the group of PUNK KIDS that live on the lawn.

…er…I mean the Titans.

*

It's not like there's a shortage of costumed weirdos in New York ready to deal with crazy situations at the drop of the hat, but… Yeah, it's the Titans.

The Tower is well-placed when it comes time to respond to emergencies in the city, after all, and most of the members of the team of young heroes have some kind of ability to get around quickly, whether it's flying, or web-slinging, or running at incredible speed, or just flipping the bird to anything resembling acknowledgement of the laws of physics and teleporting. There's also a couple of planes.

Having been in the past the 'guy with no ability to fly on his own so he has to get embarrassingly carried by someone who does', Red Robin has resolved that particular issue with his wings and jetpack combo; it might not give him the speed some of the others can manage if they really want to, but it's a lot better than nothing. Those same wings now drape around the costumed vigilante as he perches on the edge of a building, observing the developing chaos as his domino mask's lenses magnify the image. Of course he was the first one on the scene. Does he even sleep?

"Looks like just one target," he comms to the rest of the team. "Some kind of metahuman strength, Wonder Girl you're on point, everybody else back her up. Remember, try to subdue him and minimise collateral damage."

Of course he sends Cassie in first, she's incredibly strong and quasi-invulnerable. This is her time to shine.

*

"On it!"

Wonder Girl really is going to miss being the primary 'Robin Carrier' of the team. It's was like being a messenger bird, delivering a, uh, you know. Messenger bird. Of PAIN. But all that aside, the WW-to-be (hopefully) blasts by R. Robin under her own flightful abilitiy; she had wanted to check if anyone was in the vehicle but she'll have to trust that someone else will take up that duty. Instead she makes a wide sweep to put herself in direct line of her opponent's path. With both arms extended with the intent of tackling him straight to the ground- Truth be told it isn't a very elegant technique, but some find her rough 'n tumble technique rather charming.

At least, that's what she tells herself. "That'll be enough of that!"

*

Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel had been sitting up on the roof of the Titans Tower, listening to music while fiddling with her phone in one hand, eating a delicious sandwich in another. The enormous subs she eats from the kosher deli on Wednesdays are the best in the world, but Spidey turned her on to this great sandwich place nearby and as soon as she made sure there wasn't anything in there she couldn't eat, she had a gorgeous enormous sandwich of her own.

She's halfway through it, updating her official Instagram when suddenly she pauses to hear Red Robin's call. In a whirl, she's setting down her (heartbreakingly tasty) sandwich, shoving her phone into her bracelets, and chucking her headphones onto the roof. In another instant she's leaping down, then swooping up, bat-shaped, to make her way to the site.

"On my way! If just to watch you mop him up, Wonder Girl." You can practically hear the :D in her voice.

*

He says back-up Wonder Girl but really, Cassie seems to have it well in hand.

Zatanna Zatara is already in the scene, but she remains on the rooftop. Bundled up against the icy fingers of the lingering Winter's chill, as if reluctant to let go of the city that it has gripped for the last few months, she remains crouched on a nearby rooftop, wondering to herself whether this is the view Matt Murdock sees all the time. The Titans were technically invading his turf, but she knows for a fact that these days, something else has captured the lawyer-turned-vigilante's attention.

She's dressed in her usual black - it makes her difficult to see, though none of the people she is with are normal; they all have super grafted into their bones, blood and brains, sometimes all of the above. Without her magic, compared to all of them, she was largely ordinary in terms of strength, speed, senses and intelligence.

With everyone else keeping a bead on Wonder Girl, she turns her attention to their surroundings, to try and see if there is anything else within the vicinity that should concern the rest of them.

And while she does this…

She's digging into a small container with two tacos in it, plucking at the tasty, stuffed corn shells with pale digits poking through her fingerless gloves.

"Go figure trouble explodes just as I'm about to celebrate Taco Thursdays," she murmurs through their shared communications array.

*

One day, someone is going to have to do a study about why 99% of the superhero population congregates in New York, probably one of the places least in need of superhero salvation if their mere presence wasn't courting crazy supervillains every day.

It'd be a fun, and depressing, read. At least Peter Parker has a good excuse, though:

He's dirt poor.

… er. He loves his city. Yeah. That's it.

Regardless, it's one of the many reasons why he's one of the first to respond to the sign of problems in Hell's Kitchen. Normally, he'd be happy to let the Teenage Mutant Ninja Devil take care of it, or the One Punch Detective (all great code names that no one ever takes him up on), but this? This seems big. And besides. He's getting messaes from the Titans about it. And that means team bonding. In his very own team. That he's a part of.

And so that is precisely why Spider-Man blitzes his way in to Hell's Kitchen at high speeds, a brilliant "WAHOOOOOOO!" heralding his arrival as the webbed vigilante flips effortlessly through the air; white lenses whirl into a squint as they eye the buzz-cut young man beneath him from a bird's eye view.

"Maybe he just needs a Snickers?" he suggests, helpfully, over the comms as Red Robin begins to strategize. "Is that joke still relevant? Laugh really hard if it is. Or just laugh anyway to spare my feelings. I'm feeling kinda fragile today." A pause, as Spider-Man swings past, aiming to gather up nearby bystanders to try to evacuate them from the immediate area.

"… Which is prrrobably not a good thing to say when you're about to fight The Canny Car-Flipper. That's a good name for him, right? I mean—" INSERT PANICKED SCREAMING FROM PEOPLE BEING SHUTTLED OFF BY THE HORRIBLE SPIDER-MENACE HERE

"OH MY GOD PEOPLE COULD YOU ACT LESS HORRIFIED ABOUT ME SAVING YOUR LIFE, I JUST SAID I'M FEELING FRAGILE!"

And so it goes.

*

As the Titans arrive on scene everything seems to be going According To Plan. Which is good.

The people Peter's saving scream and flail of course. One old lady does beat him about the head and neck with her handbag while shouting something about SPIDER-MENACE TRYING TO STEAL HER SOUUUUUUUUUL.

JJJ's propaganda at work folks.

Things start to get more…intresting…when Wonder Girl slams into that poor boy in the t-shirt. The tackle goes off almost without a hitch. He falls, crashing to the ground. Which is when Cassie might realize a few thing.

First off is that he's hot. I mean…really hot. As in as he reaches up to try to shove her away his hands are glowing almost white, hot enough to liquify metal as he pushes out in a panic.

…and screaming. Oh yes, he is defintally screaming at this point. Eyes wide but wild and unseeing, he only seems to slightly register Wonder Girl as a threat, perhaps not even meaning to try to hurt her. Just an automatic responce to shove her with those burning hands and that prostigious strength away from him.

…well. This is new.

*

Reaching Hell's Kitchen is a uniquely short prospect for the second spider in the Titans: Cindy Moon lived here for a year, becoming intimately familiar with every sharp turn, alley, rooftop, and shortcut through the neighborhood— of course, she's only *just* gotten to speak more than two words to Daredevil in the last week.

"Great, now I want tacos."

Arriving in the district at break-neck speeds, even for someone with proportionate spider-attributes, she's cutting free from web-lines early, rebounding off walls one foot to the other before catching a ledge and scrambling up onto a roof, running the edge and leaping — right past Zatanna, snapping her wrist and letting a web-line anchor on a building across the way, swinging in to land atop the SUV on it's side and wrapped around the post.

Silk leans in quickly, looking to look down into the interior to verify any wounded or casualties. Spider-Man's got the civilians, Wonder Girl's on the front-line…

*

Poor Peter, but damn it that's what he gets for laughing at her Wonder Cat gimmick. Yes, it's incredibly petty, but it wounded Cassie deeper than any blade could. Maybe she should talk to him about it.

Nah.

Ms Marvel's verbal smily face does, however, make the impact of body hitting body feel even more satisfying, but said satisfaction is short lived when being on top of a boy she doesn't know is accompanied by heat that is absolutely not a sign of passion, "… YEOW!!" the push sort of succeeds considering that she wastes no time pushing herself off under her own power only to end flipping backward a couple of times and ending on her duff as steam rises from her very red, handprint-marked shoulders. "R- Red? I don't know what's going on, but he's crazy hot and I don't think he's stable!" Cassie reports with wide eyes, and apparently ignoring the searing pain otherwise.

By the way, she thought today was Tuesday until Zatanna spoke. Dinner betrayal.

*

As if to puncuate Wonder Girl's warning the young man doesn't stop screaming. A worbling strange continuous note as Cassie leaps back. When he tries to push himself back up, his hand melts the asphalt so quickly and entirely that he sinks into it up nearly to his elbow.

*

That… doesn't sound good. The YEOW doesn't sound good. The report from Cassie sounds even worse. Ms. Marvel swoops down, morphing into herself just before she touches down near Cassie's side.

"Oh jeez. I could. Try to pick him up and drop him in the harbor, cool him off?" That didn't work so well the last time she tried it. Her aim was off and the Hulk ripped off a 7-11. "But I don't know that I'd make it in time! He really looks like he's about to blow!"

But that DOES give her an idea. "Hang on! Gonna try to find a fire extinguisher!" And she goes dashing toward the nearest storefront.

*

What happens next is more of a test run than anything; she doesn't know what's going on and this new metahuman doesn't appear to be anywhere in the Titans' extremely thorough database.

What's going on?

"Hey buddy!"

A gout of freezing wind comes spiralling from seemingly out of nowhere - the black-haired witch on the rooftop finally polishes off her last taco; and just in time for things to get relatively complicated in the middle of Hell's Kitchen. It comes sweeping for the screaming man in an attempt to lower his temperature so that the other girls can handle him.

"Cool off a little!"

Part of her wonders where Matt is, but as he isn't around, she assumes something else has caught his attention. Bigger troubles in Hell's Kitchen, perhaps? She has heard strange rumors lately through the magical grapevine, which was one of the many reasons why she scrambled with the rest of the available Titans to this specific burrough in New York. But this is just about the last thing she's expecting.

"Anything about this guy look familiar to you, Red?" she wonders; Tim may not have powers, but what he lacks in that department, he makes up for in many ways - like his eidetic memory.

*

Of course, Red Robin doesn't seem much bothered by the cold.

The suit is temperature-controlled.

"Isn't it traditionally Taco Tuesdays?" the vigilante wonders in response to Zatanna's complaint. "Are you creating some kind of Taco Schism?"

It's easy to joke around, because of course everything's going According to Plan. The team is working like a well-oiled mach—well, okay, it's working like a mostly coordinated team. He's trying to not catalogue things he'd rather they did differently, but it's tough, you know? It's tough.

"I hope you've got a big-ass Snickers," the Red Knight says, bringing back Spider-Man's earlier suggestion, leaning forward on the edge of the roof - actually, by this point, he's clinging to the facade of the building, his suit's geckskin insets sticking him there like some kind of wall-crawler. The responses from the target are… Strange. He doesn't seem to be in any kind of cogent mindset, just lashing out, and that buildup of heat…

It's not good. He's doing the math in his head: For one thing, it shouldn't even be possible, but so should lots of things.

"Wonder Girl, knock him out, a loss of consciousness might turn whatever this is off." Might, maybe. That's not a good plan. He doesn't like might and maybe plans. "Zatanna, can you ma—" Oh, she's already doing something, summoning a chill winter wind to try and freeze the target. And she's asking him…

"No. Maybe… No. Can you put up a barrier around him if this doesn't work?" he asks in return, finishing his earlier thought.

Because, you know, if the guy's a bomb, better to contain the damage, right?

*

Are you creating some kind of Taco Schism?

"Some of us refuse to conform to taco tyranny, Red Robin!" Zatanna's voice replies through the comsystem. "But yeah, will do. Just need the others to pull back if they can't take care of him before I put one up."

*

"Ow! Jeez! My feelings!"

This is Spider-Man's terrifyingly threatening declaration as he drops off that last, old lady, having to -physically detach her- to stop her from continuing to beat him in the skull with a purse. He resists the urge to web her wall to a hand, because she is old, and he is a hero. Take that, JJJ!

"Y'know, old people are supposed to be -nice and sweet- and I refuse to believe all those children's movies were lying to me. You've nearly ruined my sweet and naive conception of the elderly. Happy??"

And here, Spider-Man quite pointedly waggles his finger and clucks his tongue at the mean old lady before firing off another line of webbing to rescue the -next- person to start shouting at him angrily.

"I swear, I bet the Golden Girls wouldn't be beating me up like this."

Eventually, though, once he's sure the area is -mostly- clear, Peter's attention shifts towards the man — just in time to see him glowing. Literally. Not like a euphemism for how happy he is because he is 100% not that. Literally glowing superhot.

Like he was conducting enormous amounts of heat —

"Ohhhh man hey Wonder Girl maybe you should back off a bit-" But the Titan is already getting a very thorough superheated shoving by the time Spider-Man arrives; clinging to the side of the building, white lenses seem to squint as if in a wince, before he looks around him. Heat. Lots of heat. They need something to counter it. Ms. Marvel mentions looking for a fire extinguisher. Zatanna starts to drop the temperature around him. And Peter…

"Silk! Let's buy 'em some time!" Peter does what he does best.

*thwip*

Fires lines of webbing at the man, aiming to cocoon his hands together and hoping Silk will follow suit; the webbing is heat resistant, at least enough to distract him, make him take -some- time to break out. Hopefully, long enough for the others to be able to do what they need to do.

*

From fallen SUV to streetlamps threatening to fall over, Silk is on the move to stay at the opposite side of Spider-Man: Coverage, distance, and accuracy are their bedfellows right now, and she's had more than enough close quarters encounters with alien crocodile women in the last week to want to try to tussle with some guy that looks like white-hot death on the streets.

"Definitely not hitting /him/ with a funnel-web."

'Let's buy 'em some time!'

"Got it!" Cindy replies, fanning out her fingers, swinging her arms out. The webbing jets from her fingers in a *swip*, corded and aimed to hit low and bind the burning man's legs. It takes a few moments longer for her to hit the right mixture of proteins; while her webbing is potent and unusual, she doesn't have the advantages of a spider-chemist!

*

The young man struggles to get himself free, the strange worbling scream of his varring pitch as he tears asphalt and pulls his arm free. Molten stone drips from the arm and by all rights the arm should have fallen right off, but the skin seems to be repairing itself. Bones knitting and skin healing over even as he stands…

But then the Titans leap into action.

The air around him chills and his tempeture plummets, the dripping stone freezing solid again. His glow is dimmed, and then the webbing comes in. Slinging onto his hands, snapping them together like thick gooey manacles as he staggers back, straining against the restraints as he keeps pulling at them. Melting webbing even as he raises his arms above his head angrily.

Which is right when Silk's webbing hits him, slamming his legs against each other and knocking him completely off balance.

Giving Marvel and Wonder Girl a good opening.

His eyes are rolled back in his head now, operating entirely on instinct as he screams. Though oddly there is just a touch of a darker color creeping into the edges of those white eyes. Something not quite natural, though with everything else going on one would have to be a super detective to notice that.

*

"Rrgh.." Wonder Girl winces, but she does hear Red Robin loud and clear. She glances to Ms. Marvel though reaches out to grip her scarf before she can get to far, "Wait, elemental stuff is taken care of; do me a huge favor and stay here?" she gets to her feet as she rolls her right arm. "Because if I get exploded, I could seriously use a catch from anything other than another vehicle."

And with that she rushes forward again, trying to push aside the discomfort she feels from listening to the poor guys screaming. So knock him out, huh? She knows exactly how to do that, at least in theory, as she bursts forward once more, this time even faster then before. A single fist is swung to the side of his head, with a follow-through, "pleasedon'texplode."

*

"SORRY!"

Ms. Marvel's shouting this as she runs out of the little bodega, a little red fire extinguisher in her hands. "I'LL PAY YOU IN A SECOND I PROMISE I JUST NEED TO — "

There's a short, paunchy, balding man running out the door and shaking a big fist at little Kamala as she runs off with his merchandise. But right out in the street there is a guy who looks like he's about to… no, he HAS started melting into the pavement, and it's hard to know where to turn or who to yell at, particularly when there's a whole bunch of damned kids on his lawn or street or whatever, and it looks like a bad scene anyway so he just turns and runs and slams the door behind him.

"Oh jeeeeeeeez he's looking really bad, guys; your arm is super not supposed to do that…" Peter may be rubbing off on her. But she's trying to extinguish his arm anyway, and calling through the comm: "I don't know what to do! SCIENCE HAS FAILED ME."

*

There is, indeed, seemingly little concern from Red Robin about Wonder Girl's well-being, having her go toe to toe with the mystery metahuman like that. It's not borne out of a lack of care or anything like that: Simply put, he knows that the demigoddess is better equipped than the rest of them to deal with an unknown level of super-strength, because she is hella tough. There's a reason he barely bothered armoring her new costume when he put it together… Because he can't make armor that's tougher than her.

Sure, if Superboy or Fairchild were around, maybe they'd be in there instead. If you've got a brick around, use them as a brick.

"Superhuman strength, regeneration, temperature generation…? No, thermal… Side effect? Maybe…" Red Robin's thinking out loud, and of course he's recording, you know, all of this, scanning and surveying from his perch. It's frustrating, in its way: Of course, he wants to be down in the action, but under the circumstances it doesn't make any sense for him to run in too, especially after Cassie goes for a home run on the guy's headmeats.

So…

"Ms. Marvel, pull Wonder Girl back, Zatanna lock him down!"

*

Zatanna lock him down!

Ice suddenly comes alive underneath the man's form once Cassie has knocked him back and Kamala sprays him with even more coolants to keep his temperature down. Like shackles, they curl around the man's wrists and ankles in an attempt to fasten him on the ground. Tim had asked for a barrier, but the black-haired witch takes these precautions first, because a barrier would take some time.

Especially when it's supposed to contain a possible explosion with an unknown yield.

Once she's done, she plants her feet astride, lifting her hands as glowing circles and arcane symbols wind around the air - like tumblers of a safe being spun. She murmurs quiet incantations, lost to the wind, her position given away by now, considering the white-blue lights emanating from her sorcery. Brows knit in concentration as the same sigils appear in crushed snow and melted pavement, etched upon the ground with invisible fingers.

It's going to take a few minutes.

*

Out runs Kamala, the glorious fire extinguisher of their salvation in hand. Which is a good thing too, because the guy is -already- melting through Spider-Man and Silk's webbing in tandem. Just how hot is this guy running?? He's like when Peter tried to overclock his junkheap of a computer and —

"Oh god, pleasedon'texplode," joins Spider-Man in the chorus.

But he can see what's happening to the man. Mending his wounds almost instantly, looking strangely out of place and confused, generating unhealthy, inhuman amounts of heat. The way his eyes seem to slowly bleed to a darker shade at their corners like the fringes of an infection. This doesn't feel natural.

But the implications, for now, are something he can't let himself dwell on. When Ms. Marvel starts dousing the man up in excessive fire extinguisher foam, Peter lands next to the be-paunched, disrunted man she stole it from. "Uh, sorry! I compelled her to steal your fire extinguisher. With my" uhhhh "spider-hypnosis." Better only -one- of them get bad press, right? And he even seals the deal by wiggling his fingers and going, "OoooooOOOOoooOOO now get back inside before I used my evil venom blasts on you!" Venom blasts. Like that would ever be a thing. Come on Peter.

And after that? After that, Spider-Man is off again, flipping into the air to spin a line and start circling about the mad, hothothot man as fast as he can. "Silk! Other direction!" he calls out to the other spider-type here, and the reason should soon become clear as he starts to spin his webs again — firing off that adhesive in a circular wrap that begins to cover and encase the man from his toes to his neck, looking for further reinforcement from Silk as he attempts to web cucoon the man up to hold him down if those icy shackles won't last. And as he finishes, he gives his bold battlecry:

"Okay runrunrunrunrunrun-"

*

It looks like it works — at least at first— at least while the webbing is pinning him down. Not to be stopped yet, the blazing man's body continues to generate heat in oppressive waves of force, while Peter goes to accost the poor shopkeeper, Cindy's moving to catch up— at least partway— with Ms. Marvel and Wonder Girl, standing ready to snag them with web-lines should the need arise.

But he's /just getting hotter/.

"Ohhhhhhh god damn it—"

While Zatanna spins the spell, Spider-Man calls for her again, making another quick plan. Adhesives and webbing spray, and it doesn't take long for her to get the jist of the webhead's plan, sprinting, leaping, and adding layer on layer of her organic adhesives until the web-pod is complete.

"Don't need to tell me twice!" she calls a moment later, running and making a leap for a nearby street lamp for a higher, slightly more distant perch.

*

"THE DAILY BUGLE WAS RIGHT!" Screams the terrified shopkeeper. "YOU'RE SOME KIND OF SPIDER-WITCH!"

This is totally helping his image. Totally.

However the rest of it seems to be working better. The two Spider people combine with the shackles of magic to control the uncontroled figure. The ice, the coolant from the extinguisher seems to knock them that tempteture down. He's moving slower…

…and when Cassie's fist slams into his jaw his head snaps back with an audible crack. That graying of his eyes stops as his body goes limp and he crashes to the ground just as the barrier completes around him. The fire seems to damp down. The heat rolling off of him starts to dissipate. The screaming mercifully goes silent even as the Spider's finish their cocoon.

…and there he lines. Bound by magic and webbing like a package waiting for delivery. Unmoving. Unexploded. Unconscious.

*

Kamala's not actually all that used to taking orders, but in a pinch, in a situation like this, she's not questioning it. Admittedly, she wasn't trained by a psychotic billionaire vigilante to work as one part of a well oiled machine, but she's not bad at teamwork. She hears it makes the dream work.

So when Red Robin orders her to get Cassie back and safe, she does it. She chucks the fire extinguisher aside, then grabs Cassie from behind with big huge hands. Dragging her back and behind herself, Kamala spreads herself to make a shield for Cassie and anyone else who doesn't want to get exploded. She turns her face away, because that way at least maybe she won't lose her eyes, and flings her arms open to catch the blast.

After a few seconds, she opens up one eye to squint at the guy who didn't explode. Cassie's knocking him out seems to have done the trick. "Uh. Uh. I… think we're good." She hesitates before adding: "Let's get him somewhere explosion-proof and experimental so we can figure out what happened to him?"

*

"Ow."

It's kind of like knowingly touching a hot stove, and Wonder Girl is a little concerned that blisters may form on her knuckles after this. Not that she really has time to really think about it before she finds herself scooped by a big ol' hand which would surely make for a fantastic moment if it were drawn in comic panels.

For now, Cassie will trust that Ms Marvel knows what she's doing, but it feels *incredibly* odd being the one that's being shielded rather than herself doing the shielding, and to make matters worse, there's nothing that happens. No mushroom cloud. No massive crater. No nothing.

She peeks over Ms. Marvel's shoulder with wide, blinking eyes.

"… Huh. S- So we are. Well, I appreciate the fast moves all the same. Thank you."

*

The target is down.

"Good work," Red Robin tells the others, the fingers of his gloved right hand moving over the haptic holographic interface glowing a pale blue over his left gauntlet. "Ms. Marvel's right, though, we need to move him." There's plenty of places they could move him to. They could drop him off at the Triskelion, or STAR Labs, or Avengers Mansion, or heck they could just leave him in a bundle in front of Stark Industries and ring the doorbell and then just bail. Instead, there's a bright light over the street and the distinctive low thrum of engines as the T-Jet lowers itself on autopilot, the back of the vehicle opening.

"Let's get him on board, we'll take him to the Tower and check him out," the vigilante says, vaulting off of the roof he'd been crouching on and gliding over to the plane.

  • * *

The lab facilities in Titans Tower are numerous, and most of the space available is currently unused. Lab rooms have been allocated to everybody who has that sort of inclination, of course, be they science nerds or engineers or a witch. The medical bay and the forensics lab are of course more 'communal' spaces even if probably most of the team wouldn't know what to do with them. It's the latter lab that they've moved the patient to, putting him on the imaging bed that previously was used to scan a certain Inhuman for her new costume, making this guy the second alive person to be checked out with the forensic scanning equipment.

"Honestly this is not what I figured I'd be using this equipment for," Red Robin notes, as the scanning arch draws its slow way down over the unconsious subject, creating a three-dimensional hologram floating over him, mapping out the body's various systems, creating a kind of explorable model from the skin to the bones. He'll need some samples too, and they'll need to try to identify the guy, but…

"Need to figure out what he was doing in Hell's Kitchen, too," the vigilante says, prepping a syringe so he can take a blood sample.

*

The return trip to Titans Tower was uneventful at best. She had spent the few minutes' ride in the back, checking for injuries - Kamala and Cassie had been front and center with the man, and while Wonder Girl can probably heal from her injuries on her own, she isn't sure about Ms. Marvel. Still, should either of them need it, she is there, applying her healing magics over whatever burns they might have suffered throughout the strange, but not-too-terrifying ordeal.

At least, compared to what some of the Titans have encountered already.

Tim's pride and joy tended to be this specific area - laboratory facilities that would make any R&D department in any technological outfit anywhere in the world cry bitter tears of envy. Moving over to where the caped vigilante is already getting to work on analyzing their unfortunate stray, she peers at the holographic image he is already constructing. She doesn't know what he's looking for, but science was never her forte - that, she leaves to Tim, and on occasion, Peter, too.

Need to figure out what he was doing in Hell's Kitchen, too.

She is no help there, she isn't trained to clinically obtained samples in such a way as to reduce the risk of tainting them once taken from the body, but the unknowns, she can possibly help with. "I can peek into his memories," she offers, taking a step towards the imaging bed where the poor soul is unconscious, strapped and being examined by millions of dollars worth of high-tech machinery. A year ago, the feat would be beyond her.

But she has grown since then, at least as far as her powers are concerned. Most recently, her excursion deep into the seat of her soul under the watchful eye of the Scarlet Women that came before her.

Taking a step closer to the head of the bed, she stretches out her fingers, and closes her eyes. Her lips move, arcane syllables made all the more complex with her backwards speech whispered in the space between herself and her subject.

*

And then-!!

… Nothing explodes.

"… Wow. Did we just save the day?" The fact that Spider-Man has to phrase this like a question probably just goes to show what his usual luck is in situations like these.

Having retreated from what he assumed was going to be ground zero for -some- sort of terrible overheating-related accident at top speeds (which, as it turns out, is incredibly speedy), the webbed vigilante just sort of slowly peeks his head out past the corner of the building he clings to. Lenses whirr down into a squint. "Huh. Guess we managed to cool him off in time. I feel like I should make a pun here. Like, 'I'm glad he managed to chill out a bit!' or 'That almost got heated!' What do you guys think? Huh? Huhhhhoh okay you're all leaving hey wait up for me!"

And this is the sound of Spider-Man swooping down frantically, plucking up the fallen, bound man as he goes to land, on his feet, on the T-Jet's open entrance.

"Please don't try to melt me, dude, I didn't mean any of that wordplay, it just sort of happens-"

~ ~ ~

"He kinda looked like he didn't know what he was doing, y'know?"

This is the first thing Spider-Man says, settled upon the ceiling of the lab as he watches the medical scanners work their technological magic, eyes unseen behind the mask taking in the information as it is presented with an uncanny understanding.

"So, like, he's freaking out and whatever. Doesn't seem like the kind of reaction someone would have if they were wandering around for a while from somewhere far away. So like… maybe whatever this is, happened to him in Hell's Kitchen?" The webbed menace scratches the side of his head.

"Or maybe he just thought it was like, super appropriate to do his fire devil thing in Hell's Kitchen. Maybe he was gonna be Hell's Chef. Like. He'd get a fireproof chef's hat, start Gordon Ramsaying all over the place while he robbed banks in the Kitchen… … what? Is that too Gotham-y??" -He- wants some crazy themed villains. All he gets are lame animal-motifs. The Kangaroo. I mean honestly.

*

"I think you're right, Spidey. This guy really didn't seem to be, like, aimfully causing a ruckus. He just ended up being a ruckus all on his own."

Ms. Marvel doesn't say he's right about Hell's Chef, though. She maybe treats that like the general chaff of chatting with Peter. And isn't there something familiar about the way he talks? Something kind of like someone at her internship?

Anyway. She reaches out to the holodisplay and starts separating out his various systems. She's learned this sort of tech, at least, at Stark Industries. Nervous system in blue, circulatory in red, and so on.

"We better keep him unconscious," she murmurs. "It seems like the only thing that really worked. So maybe this is neurological?"

*

Silk's first thought comes spilling right out of her mouth: "I am so glad we have a jet because I really didn't want to think about Spider-Man and I having to carry him in a webbing hammock across town."

Silk's second thought: "Okay, we … have our own jet."

* * *

In another lifetime, Cindy Moon could have been a scientist, doctor, or mastermind of a super-secret spy organization, but that is not who she is today.

She's interested in knowing more about what's happening, for sure, but she chooses to do so from a relatively safe distance in the lab: She's sitting on the ceiling with her legs folded in, but watching like a hawk— at the very least, she can contribute her memory for anything to come later.

Flicking her index finger straight, a webbing claw forms at the tip of her finger, giving her the ability to slit the fabric covering her face to start cramming a protein bar into her mouth. "Maybe a /little/ Gotham'y," she says around it.

"Those were definitely pain screams," she notes, glancing next to Zatanna. "Y'see anything in his head? … Is that how it even works?"

*

No ID. No drivers licence. No wallet at all. I mean not even any tattoos. Finger prints. DNA Samples. Those are easy to come by. Harder to match. It'll take time.

It's hard to get a blood sample from the teen. His skin seems to knit around the needle making it damn hard to pull out. The healing defintally isn't a concious mechanism. It just…happens.

Healing is good though. Because he doesn't seem that much more resistant to damage than most normal people. Cassie's punch nearly snapped his spine and it did shatter his jaw. It just…fixed itself. Before he even hit the pavement.

The body systems are fine. In fact they are better than fine. Every physical system of the boys body is operating in top form. Better than top form. Enhanced strength. Enhanced speed, at least that one is theoretical. They didn't seem him moving at top speed when he was entirely uncontroled. His healing is off the charts. In fact it seems able to fix what would be for most people lethal damage.

To put someone like this down would be…difficult…

To say the least.

Lying there on the bed though? He seems entirely calm. Quiet. Almost innocent. Breathing in and out. Everything is fine…

Outside the Tower. In the shadows of an alleyway a bald head man leans against the alley wall. Smacking on a piece of chewing gum, talking on the phone. "Yeah, they took him." A pause. "Oh the kid group, Titans or whatever. So what you need me to do, boss?" A nod. "Clean up. Got it."

The phone goes click as the shaved head man glances up at the dower and pulls a small trasmitter from his off-the-rack bodyguard suit. "Sorry, kid." He says with a grin as he presses a button on the transmitter.

Tim's intrusion measures would pick it up of course. A high tech signal that screams across the electronic waves into the tower. A brute force. Easily traceable to its origin point. But…its not supposed to be untraceable. It is supposed to be a failsafe.

Tim and Kamala's scans turn up something highly odd though. Metal in the blood. Tiny flecks of it, flecks that move and shoot though the veins and arteries of the subject in a way that suggests a contentiousness. Nanotech. Advanced nanotech.

Nanotech that, when that signal hits it suddenly goes into a frenzy. Attacking its host.

The boy's eyes suddenly fly open but all that can be seen is a gray film. Gray that starts to blacken around the edges. One hand punches /though/ the imaging bed, fingers snapping out to curl around Zatanna's wrist as his mouth opens in a wordless scream. Heat spikes again, white hot as lights can be seen spiderwebbing out from under his skin. The metal of the bed starts to soften as he starts to convulse…

…and then Zee feels it. Just a brush of something magical. Just for an instant released, a familiar dark magic.

And in Tim's 'special sample' area of the lab, where the most dangerous things are kept, an alarm suddenly pings the detective as the Janevirus suddenly hurls itself against its containment like a living thing.

*

"No!"

Ms. Marvel can see his body going haywire. She doesn't know anything about magic or much about that virus that sent Stark's tech into conniptions, but she does know that whatever's inside this boy is killing him. She doesn't have the presence of mind to try to get what's clearly in his eyeball out of him. She knows that they can't give him an immediate transfusion, and she knows he'd probably die of the shock if they did.

"Nanites in his blood," she says. "It's like they're rejecting the host, or his body's rejecting them! They're killing him!" She's hunting through the menus on the medical equipment, trying to figure out SOMETHING to do, and wondering if it isn't the kindest thing at this point that Cassie knocked him out. She wonders if he feels the pain of his blood being on fire like this. She wonders if he feels anything at all.

*

"Neat," is Red Robin's response to the alarmingly fast regeneration displayed by the unfortunate test subject. Well, it is neat. He thinks so, anyway, even if it is making it tough to get the samples he needs. "Definitely something added to the body, like nanomachines, so the heat is some kind of waste product—"

What's not neat is the intrusion that manages to bust through some of the most advanced electronic countermeasures security in the world. This is what he gets for not seeing if he could 'borrow' some of that Kryptonian computer tech from the Watchtower, or maybe see if Starfire had any Tamaranean stuff laying around, or…

"We're compromised," the Red Knight says even as the Tower's computer informs him of such, though the way the nanotechnology in the unconscious man's blood responds is a pretty clear sign of just what's going on. "Something like this isn't going to be a long-range transmitter, it'd need too much… Spidey, Silk, Ms. Marvel, get outside, find the transmitter!" Calm, focused, forceful. No sound of panic anywhere in the young man's voice. Can't afford it. They probably won't be able to find the source. The important thing is to clear the room.

The metal and plastic of the bed is just melting, and the heat generated by the subject is rising at an alarming rate. Maybe if he had the time to do something about the nanites, if he could get control of them or…

The white-hot hand grabbing at Zatanna. Burns will settle in quickly.

An alarm goes off. The virus…?

Abruptly, obeying a mental command from Red Robin, transmitted through the neural impulse pickups in his suit, an electrical charge passes into the currently cloth strip-form wings of his suit; one wing hardens, the inertrite weave responding with a reverse piezoelectric reaction. It becomes incredibly hard. And extremely sharp.

And then he quickly sweeps it, to just sever the hand grabbing at Zatanna at the wrist.

"We need to clear the lab. Now," he says, and now he's the one trying to catch Zatanna by the wrist if necessary, to get them to safety.

Because of course, the labs have blast doors. Of course, the labs are designed to protect anyone outside from anything horrible that might happen within.

They just need to get out, first.

*

"Guess we'll see," she tells Silk with a lopsided grin, before getting back to work.

But then…

Her eyes snap open once the boy is suddenly unconscious - a hand reaches out to snatch her wrist with a hand emanating white heat. That clear, ice-blue stare widens as she feels it burn, the upper layers of her skin peeling away and getting to the muscles and tendons underneath. The pain blossoms like a mushroom at the back of her head, but that, she can handle - she has had her share of licks, and she would have cried out in pain if she didn't see the venomous black ichor flood into the whites of his eyes. Still connected to him by her earlier attempts to peek into his memories, she knows immediately what is about to happen.

No.

The Titans are in the tower. Their living spaces, their rooms - all of that expensive equipment. A place where they could all belong and do good for a world that needs saving. A place that Tim had built because of her and other people like her.

All about to be destroyed in a ball of white light in three….

Two….

Red Robin is suddenly there, severing the hand grasping her by the wrist.

With her own taken, she makes a break for it with the rest of the Titans, clearing the blast doors just as they close behind them.

*

And just like that, with the blare of his Spider-Sense, everything goes to hell.

Peter Parker doesn't have the time to parse the implications of what this sort of nanotechnology might mean and how it found its way to this boy, who clearly has no idea where he is, or even what he's doing. No time to consider who might be behind this. No time to do anything but react, as the young man grabs Zatanna within the searing brand of his grip. This can't be natural, not when he looked so stabilized before. This can't —

His first impetus is to try to get Zatanna out of that grasp. He reaches — but it's Red Robin that cuts him off at the pass with those orders. White lenses widened like in something resembling surprise, the webbed vigilante struggles for a brief, few moments with those words. But he's right. He's right, and —

— and at the very least, they need to get out of here, fast, even though he wants to save him, even though that feeling of powerlessness to help galls him. So he moves. He moves, swiftly… and only pauses when he sees Ms. Marvel still there. Still working.

"We gotta go!" he shouts. And it's because he knows exactly what's going through Kamala's head, because they're the exact same thoughts -he- has, that he tries to grab onto the Inhuman vigilante, to drag her out past the blast doors if he has to.

He'll try make his way outside, as fast as he's able. Try to find that transmitter if he can.

Even if part of him knows he probably can't make it in time.

*

Cindy's quick to move, hand pushing up on the ceiling to get her flipped over and back on her feet— back on the floor— in a hurry. "Zatanna—"

Everything goes to Hell, fast; the young man starts to heat back up, Red is there to keep her from getting her hand burned clear off, and Tim's barking orders. "Right!"

Though she's not as strong as Spider-Man, her speed is undeniable: She's off like a shot out the door like she's doing her best Impulse impression, bolting for the nearest exterior access and popping doors and windows open to get her access to the New York air as quickly as possible.

"Going low!" she calls just before diving right out the window and throwing a web-line with a *fwip* to anchor to the underside of one of the Titans' Tower arms. She swings low and fast, eyes scanning quickly as the spider heroine is set to encircle the tower in record time.

*

".. Ugh, stupid cat."

Isn't that always the way? After a trip to the kitchen to grab an ice pack, Wonder Girl was *trying* to head back to the group when Clawminator Destrucat Mk. II comes from nowhere and starts bothering her about food. Food is poured into the bowl, at which point it decides to walk off elsewhere. "… Terrible."
Herst some point it's when she catches word of things going 'horribly wrong' (tm) and she's all but too familiar with the evacuation process, she snags the furball under her arm as she also bolts out from the tower, joining the search for the transmitter. UNfortunatly she's going to gain some more war scars in the process.

*

The table melts. The hand is severed but the skin and bone seem to regrow from the stump with blinding speed. Flashes of light building flesh out into an entirely new limb even as the Titans flee for the doors, the body of the man convulses as the bed melts out from under him. Its hard to even tell if he's still alive or simply a conduit for whatever terror is in his blood…

…the doors slam shut seconds after the last of the Titans make it out and the explosion rocks the buildiing. Interior sensors spike a heat scale that is off any chart. In fact its not the explosion itself that causes the damage to the room. Its that terrible heat.

The body itself flashes into vapor as that wave rolls out. The furniture in the medbay turning to slag in an instant. The blast doors themselves spike to white hot and begin to deform but as there isn't a secondary explosion to blow them apart they hold, though they do deform. Getting them open is going to be fun.

The room itself? It…well…melted…

Covered in slag with hardly even carbon remaining. Along with slight film, just a touch, of dark magic.

Outside as the Spiders and Kamala rush to the source of the trasmission they find…a tiny palm sized transmitter. One that seems to have burned itself out in the using, the transmission having lasted not long at all.

In Tim's lab? The virus still roils, either reacting to the blast or the transmission. Its hard to tell.

*

It's the last possible second. Everyone ELSE realized what was going to happen. And maybe Kamala knew too, but maybe she figured this time would be like the time that the Hulk got that thing that made him big and reddish and terrifying and she'd be able to somehow maybe just make everything work.

Hope, however, does not stand up well in front of bombs.

Peter grabs her arm and it's only then that she turns, bolts, wishing a quiet apology to the boy melting through the table. They couldn't have done anything. It's not their fault. They tried. But it's just words to try to help her sleep at night when in the end someone's dead.

Luckily, it's not a LOT of someones dead this time, though there's a fair bit of the Tower that is going to need some heavy renovations. She sprints out at Peter's side, leaping along with him out and away and toward the scorched transmitter. She's so angry that she almost curses.

"This was intentional," she growls. "Whether someone wanted to bomb the tower in the creepiest way possible or they wanted to cover up their evidence, these murderers are going to see justice." Not… that it's going to be easy to figure out who made that thing. She leans down to squint at it, but she doesn't want to go poking it before Red Robin or Spidey. She's the new kid, after all.

*

After completing her own lap around the underside of the tower, Silk uses momentum and strength to throw herself up the side of the Titans Tower, at least as far as she can before scrambling up to the surface. Her extrasensory abilities— her Silk-sense— flares for just a moment before silencing, coinciding with the young man's detonation and the rumble of the tower beneath her hands and feet.

She catches up with Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel not long after this, jogging up alongside them to stare down the blown-out transmitter with a frown hidden behind crimson cloth. Cindy's mouth pulls into a tight line, hesitantly putting a hand to the plug in her ear. "Red, we safe now?"

Silk doesn't even wait for an answer before she slips back the wrist of her suit enough to expose the Stark-Tech wrist strap she's wearing, turning on the camera app and starting to take photographs of the blown-out device from numerous angles, making sure to position herself for good angle and size reference shots.

You don't live with Jessica Jones for a year and not learn a few things.

*

Blast doors, distance.

Inertrite wings unfurled, maximum power flow through the suit for maximum protection as he hunkers down, pulls Zatanna down behind the shield the wings provide as the explosion goes off, as it rocks the fortunately not nearly as precarious as it looks T-shaped building.

"You okay?" he asks of the witch, first things first. A quiet question, because if she's not he wants to let her safe face in front of the others, though they are in the process of doing what he told them to, at least. Once that concern is dealt with, though, there's other things to deal with. A neverending list of them, already compiling in his head. Need to do a structural check, need to sweep the forensics lab for any useful information they can still glean - fortunately, the scans are in the central computer - need to make sure there weren't any other nasty surprises left behind.

Red, we safe now?

"Assume no," is the terse response from the young leader of the Titans. They can't afford to relax now, not when they have no real idea what just happened. "If you find the transmitter, I want it bagged and brought back. There might be something we can learn from it. But Ms. Marvel is right, whatever these people were doing," and he honestly doubts it was a targeted attack, but writing it off entirely would be foolish, "we're going to get them." He projects confidence, certainty. The idea that it's not up for negotiation, that failure in this is not an option.

Which, in fairness, it really isn't. Someone died.

They couldn't stop it.

That's the limit of failures already reached.

"Time to get to work."

*

You okay?

Ice-blue eyes wander from Tim's cowled and masked face to the wings on his back. "…guess all our testing of those things paid up in significant dividends today, huh?" Zatanna says lightly, though tension remains in her eyes from the stress of the moment; the blast doors manages to contain the explosion to just that part of the Tower, a thought that fills her with a tremenduous amount of relief. Glancing down at her hand and the nasty burn, she nods. "It hurts, but it'll heal. Sorry, Tim…everything happened so fast, I couldn't get anything from his head before he…"

And now most of their evidence has just been incinerated.

Most, but not all.

With Peter, Cindy and Kamala already racing for the next point of the trouble, she stands up slowly from where she and Red have ended up, glancing at the doors that have protected the rest of the headquarters and the way they've been twisted from the blast. Her face drains of color.

"Tim," she murmurs. "If we hadn't taken him off the streets of Hell's Kitchen…"

And god knows just how many there are.

After a moment, she looks over to her friend. "I felt familiar magic before everything went down. It felt like…Stark Tower, during that joint operation with SHIELD. The thing that was carrying on with Jane's virus. I think we better tackle that problem first before we try and find these guys, we can't work in compromised environs. At least, not safely."

*

The transmitter is easy enough to tag and bag though disentangling its secrets might take longer.

Though as the Titans recover and sware to bring the people behind this to justice…

…across town. In a little secret underground lab, a blonde haired man takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Ah well, it /is/ a loss of a subject. A promising one as well, but unstable. As they say though you can't make an omelet…" He turns to the rest of his lab, a dozen figures in harnesses sleep quietly. Hooked up to arcane science as something is pumped into their bloodstreem. Rerewriting. Rewiring. Improving.

"Without breaking a few eggs."

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