Somethin' Smells Funny in the Kitchen

June 29, 2018:

A group of heroes get wise to a bomb threat at a public school. Will they be able to stop the blast in time? And…is it the only one?

PS 35, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Broadway, it ain't.

Characters

NPCs: Emits by Kingpin.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

PS 35, Hell's Kitchen, June 29, 2018

5 PM

The crowd gathered out front is all parents, a mass of angry humanity shifting around one another. Most of them are glaring daggers at one Detective Sergeant Brett Mahoney, the Hell's Kitchen police officer who has taken point on dealing with every single one of them.

"I'm here to get my child. He's my child, and you can't keep me from him," booms one father, an edge of panic in his tone.

A mother pushes up her glasses, and says, "How does it make sense to lock down the building? You're locking our babies up in there with the bomb!"

"Ma'am," Mahoney says, with easygoing patience. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time there is no bomb. And if we evacuate the school, we then give the caller what he or she wanted. A scare, a spectacle, classes out, whatever. In some cases, these threats are also called in to make the kids more vulnerable to something else, like a shooting. In the 0.05 event there's an actual bomb somewhere in this school, the squad will find it and then we will react appropriately. Until then lockdown conditions are established security protocol."

Another one of the fathers, a smaller, slimmer man than the first, then points right at the elephant in the parking lot. "It's been half an hour already. Where is the bomb squad? Isn't this…I dunno. Urgent? Even for Hell's Kitchen?"

For it's true. There is neither hide nor hair of a bomb squad van, robot, or specialist. Mahoney's long look towards the street, where one might expect said van to come rolling up at just any old minute, says that this is concerning to him as well. Doggedly, he continues to do his job, glancing back at the other cops nearby as if to ask if any of them have any word. There are subtle tightenings of the eyes, micro-expressions which say they can't figure out what the hold-up is either.

The parents aren't the only ones who are tense.

*

There's a certain instinct some animals have when there's trouble on the horizon. Less knowledge, and more something known, something reacted to in the primal parts of their brain. The way a pet might hide away, hours in advance of a storm hitting. Because when everything hinges around the concept of surviving every day, you learn quickly how to predict bad things on the horizon.

Which is why Peter Parker has learned to listen to his instincts whenever they tell him something terrible is going to happen.

'Instincts' in this case means a preternatural sixth sense that has been ringing to almost headache-inducing levels for him nearly all day today. It made concentrating on his classwork nearly impossible; focusing on his job moreso; managing coherent sentences in his conversation with his aunt, all the moreso. Something was happening — something terrible. And the very second he gets the opportunity —

It is the slim, red-and-blue figure of Spider-Man that swings through the bureaus of New York City, eventually pinpointing source of that danger that sends his spider-sense into its chaotic frenzy to the rundown stretch of Hell's Kitchen. Perched safely hidden away around the corner of a nearby building, lenses whirl into a squint as he spies the mob gathering outside. Hears what they're arguing with the police about. Children… bomb squad… bomb.

"Oh, jinkies," mumbles the would-be masked menace, behind widening white lenses. Yep. … Yep.

That would do the trick. Thanks, spider-sense!

And so it is that the webbed wonder pushes off that building, silently hopping from structure to structure to make his way, silently and stealthily, behind the mob and for that building the police have cordoned off, intent to find a way in that his spider-sense -isn't- telling him will make everything blow to kingdom come as he patches in to a certain, restaurant-themed super-friend.

«"Hey uh… Red Robin, I think I've got a minorrrrrrrrrr teensy tiny really little no big deal situation here. Uh. Does your white ninja portfolio include bomb diffusion-??"»

*

For her part, Scandal wasn't really the type to hear about things unless she was doing a job. She sometimes got involved in certain issues and had standards, though. She wasn't really the true hero type. However, she kinda had a soft spot when it came to kids. Passing by, while eating a hot dog, she heard someone talk about some strange thing happening at the nearby school and she frowned. She figured it wasn't that big of a deal till she thought back to some of the odd rumors she'd been hearing.

Well, it isn't like she had much else going on.

Hopping on her bike, Scandal rolled out with a billowing trenchcoat flowing out behind her as her motorcycle rolled toward the PS 35 in Hell's Kitchen. She wasn't going to stay long. She just was going to swing by and check it out. Not quite like a spider might but swing by none-the-less.

Even before she got there she had pushed her mask into place, hiding the lower part of her face behined the rebreather mask that helped to keep her face a secret and her special claw like weapons were on her wrists. She pulled up to a corner from the school and blinked.

"No bomb squad…just a few cop cars?" Scandal tilted her head and then looked at her watch. It had been far too long since the thing had started from what she heard. She twitched an eye before looking around a moment and then back to the situation she sees up ahead. She glances down at her watch again before letting out a soft sigh and parking her bike.

A few moments later, she was quickly making her way across to the school, slipping quietly toward an unguarded window and trying to avoid police detection or otherwise. If she can slip inside, she'll pull forth a small tablet from a pocket and try to pull up the typical lay out of these generic schools and think to her own education on bombs to figure out the best place someone might put one…ya know, just in case…

"Maybe I might be able to charge the city after the fact…" Scandal hmms and shrugs in a whisper to herself.

*

Fortunately, since this is New York City, it's absolutely plagued with friendly neighbourhood superhero teams. Okay, maybe most of them aren't from this neighbourhood, because Hell's Kitchen just has the one team and they're probably not even awake yet, but that's not really the point.

The point is that the Titans have a certain degree of arm's-length cooperation with the NYPD, and even if they didn't let's be real here - Red Robin would definitely have something set up to monitor law enforcement and emergency services communications in the city anyway. Naturally, a situation like this is being monitored. Even if it wasn't, well, there's Spider-Man on the scene, making sure that his fellow youthful do-gooders would know. Asking the right questions.

Does your white ninja portfolio include bomb diffusion-??

"Yes," says a voice about five feet behind the webslinger as he creeps across one of the nearby buildings. It's nowhere near dark enough out for a proper skulking, but the core rules of the human animal hold true pretty much wherever you go: Most people just don't look up unless you give them a reason to. In a city, whether it's Gotham or New York, it makes the rooftops an excellent place to hide.

Which is why Red Robin is on one of those rooftops, probably purely coincidentally on the one the other Titan reaches at exactly the right time for him to speak up. Probably. He'd never tell, anyway: Cultivating an aura of mystery and infallibility is part of the whole schtick.

He is, of course, monitoring the police bands even now, keeping an ear out for where the rest of the police response is. And also, of course, he's watching the school, the white lenses on his domino mask shifting to a faint red glow as he checks thermal signatures, though given the distance results are likely to be imprecise.

"Though first we'd need to find the bomb."

*

SOME TIME AGO

"You want me to do what?" Domino hisses, grimacing at a burner phone with dubiously narrowed eyes and a wrinkled nose.

FIFTEEN SECONDS LATER

"For HOW much?!" Domino exclaims while recoiling from the phone with wide eyes and sharply arched brows.

NOW

Dr. Winnifred Faye's darling son Jack attends PS 35 because she did, once upon a time, and no matter how far her brilliant mind's taken her in the world, it wouldn't do to let the boy forget his roots— even if she has to hire a service to shuttle him safely to and from school.

Even if said service is out of commission due to a stomach bug, motivating her to reach out to the next safest set of hands she could think of to ferry her child home. Dr. Faye's work in the field of renewable energy has stirred up enough attention from particularly unscrupulous parties that hiring bodyguards and/or mercenaries to play school driver is moderately paranoid, but not without precedent; once, Shotgun tried to, well, shotgun her to death. It's not the sort of thing one forgets easily.

Neither she nor Domino expected today to be the day that her paranoia pay off, though.

Domino caught the shift via police scanner and swiftly approaching sirens while she sat in her rented Accord and waited for Jack's after school activities to finish and spent the next thirty minutes finding an alley to pull into so she could change, tool up, and return to PS 35 and search out a rear door or window that isn't already covered. Unlike Scandal, if she makes it inside, she'll just— walk, head slightly bowed, brow furrowed in thought, murmuring:

"Where would /I/ be if /I/ was a bomb?"

*

Scandal finds a window, though it's awfully small. Like, one of those flip in and out window small windows that is going to be a real bitch to climb through, leading into what seems to be a dingy, smelly boy's bathroom in all its high school glory. She can try to enter (and not get stuck) at her own risk, but it is perilously near places nobody wants to touch. Another approach might be better, but she'll have to be the judge.

She also finds the typical school layout. It's a three-story building. The school offices, and that includes pretty much all relevant ones like the guidance office and the nurse's office, all have their own little complex on the first floor, west side. There are classrooms stretching out in a line to the east on both sides of the hallway on both stories. The building splits off in a T to the east, one side leading to the auditorium, the other leading to the gym.

There is a basement level, accessibe through a small door behind the stairwell on the west side, leading to the spot that holds the furnace equipment, washers and dryers for all the reasons why schools actually do need them, janitorial supply spots, maintenance tools, etc. It's just a big block basement that runs the length of the building.

Scandal would know 'the best place to plant a bomb' is really, really relevant.

If the bombmaker is trying to get someone specific, the best place is where they'll run across it.

If the bomb-maker wants to take out only a portion of the building, perhaps to ensure some target or piece of equipment remains intact while something else gets destroyed, then the charges need to be placed as far away from that other point as possible.

If the bombmaker wants a big, scary looking smoking explosion that collapses the building without a fire then sticking them at all the sort of structural points that would allow that to happen on the first floor (she judges that would be about ten sites) would do the trick.

If the bomb maker wants a giant, intense fire they're going to do stuff in the basement, but they're also going to add thermite charges or something similar throughout the building to make sure everything goes up hot, hard, and fast.

Domino does find one rear door that's not covered. It's an ancient fire door off the auditorium that looks like it hasn't really budged in over three decades, one that has been chained shut. As luck would have it, though, the problem was a foundation shift. On close inspection, however, it appears the foundation has shifted back into place over time, or at least has wriggled enough in the other direction to make it possible to get it open once one navigates the simple hardware store lock n' chain that have been employed at some point to be doubly sure nobody gets in.

They can hide from the cops, but neither Savage nor Domino can hide from the rooftop vantage points, nor thermal scan, of Spidey and Red Robin. Those two will be able to see the other two players in this event relatively clearly. Red's thermal scanning doesn't help overly much. Classes indeed ended an hour ago, but there are kids here. A gym full of people. An auditorium full of people. School library and computer lab and offices full of people. He can judge there are still about 180 people in a building that would normally have about 700 on site. A small blessing, this small fraction, but not much of a blessing. Whatever the bomb is, it's not running 'live' or 'hot' enough to show up on the scans from this vantage point, but that doesn't mean much. These are those old cinderblock thick walls, there's probably a ton of asbestos in those good old public school ceiling tiles…there are just a ton of things, in other words, that could interfere in addition to the question of whether or not these things would show up in the first place.

*

Spider-Man is wise to Red Robin's sneaky sneak ways. Fool him once, shame on you. Fool him twice, still shame on you. Fool him three times and then maybe we can talk. The point is —

Yes, says the voice behind him.

«"Oh my god Chris Farley sneak attack!!"» Spider-Man exclaims — quietly, of course, this is a stealth mission — in a way that Red Robin will have to deal with hearing in person -and- blaring in his ear at the same time. Because traditions are important, like having minor freakouts at inconvenient times due to the ninja-y nature of Gotham's resident crimefighters.

<"Oh. Uhhh. Is this thing still on?? One sec, I just gotta-"» Smack smack goes Spider-Man's hand against the side of his head, and after a few, hushed, «"DID THAT DO THE TRICK"»s, he eventually (eventually) turns off the communicator. "Sorry, I was fiddling with it a bit earlier and I got this real cool modulator thingie to work and then it just — sorry. Sorry. So, how about that bomb?? See anything? Any — oh hey, suspicious people!"

Lenses squinting, Spider-Man tilts his head towards the approach of Scandal and Domino towards the building; behind his mask, the webbed vigilante purses his lips. "Think they're involved somehow?" he asides to Robin. It seems unlikely. But then again…

"I'm gonna go in and see what I can find. Keep in touch! … Like, y'know. With the communicators. Not like — don't tweet me. … And don't let people know I have a Twitter account. I'm supposed to be too cool for that."

And so, with this (long, winding) farewell, Spider-Man takes a leap towards the back of the building; he sticks his hand to one of the windows, intent to use those wonderfully ill-explained adhesive powers to cling to it and slowly drag it up so that he can slip into an empty room at the top floor of the institution and start to make his way through the school proper — trying to focus, as best he can, on that sensation of danger ringing in his skull.

"Heeeeere bomby bomby bomby," he whispers, half to himself (the other half, obviously, being for the bomb). He clicks that communicator on, because -of course- Red Robin couldn't get a break that easily.

«"Still, this is weird, right? Where's the fuzz? Where's, like, I dunno, the bomb disposal what'sits? And the dogs, y'know, the ones that sniff out everything bad that ever existed? … man, can we get one of those dogs? That would help -so much right now-."»

The point is: something here is awful fishy.

*

A frown comes to her lips as she hops up and pulls herself up to peer into the window, "Perfect…" She mutters as she looks inside before simply shaking her head and deciding it might be best to find another approach to this. She instead begins to move around the building to a side looking for an entrance similar to what Domino might have found. For now, she's gonna just be stuck looking for a way in at the moment. Even as she moves she idly moves her hands to a bag under her jacket and puts her hand inside. A moment later she's slipping a small case free, and peering at it.

Lockpicks, just in case of course.

*

"Agh," says Red Robin, clutching at his ear with one hand as Spider-Man's voice blares into it. Maybe he deserved that one.

Naturally, since he's in Work Mode, he endures the rest of the wall-crawler's efforts to get his comms system under control with stoic patience, until he mentions the 'suspicious people'. At that, the vigilante frowns faintly, following Spider-Man's gaze. It's possible, of course, that they're more of NYC's capes crowd, just out to help out of the goodness of their hearts. It's also possible that they are, in fact, somehow connected to the bomb threat. Naturally, with the relay between his suit and the Titans Tower computer, he starts looking the two women up.

You know, just in case.

Spider-Man isn't gone for long before Red Robin decides to take the direct approach as well: He isn't quite the superhuman leaper than the other Titan is, but that's why grapple guns were invented. A nearly silent *paff* of escaping compressed gas is the only thing that betrays the launched line, Red Robin reeling himself over to the school and (using technological means of his own) also clinging to the building's wall, creeping towards a different window. Multiple lanes of entry are probably for the best.

«"Actually we do have a dog,"» Red Robin transmits as he crawls into a different classroom. «"I dunno if he can sniff out bombs, but I think he has x-ray vision. But you're right, it's weird that the bomb squad hasn't shown up. Usually this is the kind of thing they're all over."»

Naturally, the next thing to check for is unusual electromagnetic activity, searching for anything that might be a transmitter, assuming the hypothetical bomb is set up to be remotely detonated. It's always possible that it's on a timer, instead, or some other local detonator, but…

*

Domino fetches tools from a belt pouch, then softly hums while navigating those tumblers. Red Robin and Spider-Man get an uninterrupted view of the woman in form-fitting tactical leathers with firearms visibly holstered at her waist and back as she works— inevitably overcomes— an ancient lock. After it clicks open and the chain falls slack, she drags a crate into position so she can climb up and take a set of tiny pliers to the wire that shouldn't be - wouldn't be, if it weren't for lazy contractors - bulging through the crack between door and frame the way it is. With that taken care of, she replaces one set of tools with a singular, semi-automatic one and swallows the rest of her song with a soft, sharp inhale.

Pistol in hand, she sets her hip and shoulder against the door, slowly wedges it open to sweep for hostiles—

— and instead locks eyes with a faculty member who whips towards the low, insistent creeeeeaaaaaaaaak echoing through the auditorium and the outside air.

Given that 'typical school layout' is next to meaningless to her, it's only now that she realizes there are a few (dozen?) strings attached to that lucky, lucky door.

She doesn't holster the gun as the door opens the rest of the way, but she does lower it to her side— and raise her free hand to show at least one an empty palm. And muster her least-threatening smile.

"Heeeey," she exhales while peering around. Her free hand slowly comes in so she can press a finger to her lips as she evenly continues, "Gonna— need you to just, kinda…"

Meanwhile, Red Robin begins to get data back from the Tower's computers. 'Domino' - AKA 'Sweet' Bea, AKA Beatrix Kiddo, AKA Shelly Draco, among others - currently lacks the bone-white and black-patch paint job present in most of the files on her; whether or not she's also left her penchant for doing sometimes-dirty jobs for the highest bidder and miraculously surviving terrible circumstances at home remains to be seen. Participating in blowing up a school would be rather extreme relative to her rap sheet, but with so many variables in the air, there's no telling whether someone went to the trouble of making the mutant mercenary just the right offer to push her from shooting criminals and the odd scientist to terrorizing children.

*

Savage's search for a new exit yields…

The final seconds of Domino slipping into the auditorium.

What Domino is staring at is a middle school basketball league, and the coach she gives her request to widens his eyes. He looks like he's maybe right out of college, with sandy hair and a lanky frame, bright green eyes and a really kind look to him, like he smiles a lot. He takes a broad step back from her, looking from the gun to her face and back again.

Unable to determine if she's friend or foe, he half-raises his hands a little in entreaty and says softly, "Just tell me what you need to keep them safe and I'll do it. I'm not interested in making trouble."

He looks really longingly at that open door though. He wants to lead the sweaty team of 8th graders through it, really bad. All the boys he's responsible for have all been gathered on the bleachers. Some are playing on their phones, some are talking like this is no big deal. A few look legitimately scared. The coach moves slowly, but it's clear he's trying to block the sight of the gun from them with his body. Or. Perhaps he's trying to be the first to take a bullet.

Upstairs, Red and Spidey finally find the first sign of trouble, and it's not the bomb proper. It's a strategically place stick of thermite, which indicates a greater bomb complex that's going to have to be dealt with, perhaps multiple incindiary devices throughout the building and a desire to bring it all down in one big raging inferno.

*

Slipping up to the open door, Scandal frowns and furrows her brow at the sight of someone else going inside. She hmms softly and slips up to the door and peers inside to hear part of the conversation. She glances toward Domino and then takes a sharp breath before slipping slowly inside. She looks ready to strike or a moment before blinking a few times at the sight of Domino. She tilts her head and then notes the Coach before putting a finger up for him to be quiet as well. Of course, she doesn't have a gun out in her hand.

"Probably best to get the kids out of here…fast." She nods her head and gestures toward the door they came in through, "Quickly, quietly, and far away…" She then looks over toward Domino and nods to her before saying, "I'm assuming you're here to stop this…?" She tilts her head a little. THere's always that slim chance she's here to…ya know, help this situation in a bad way but it seems rather unlikely given she's in the building rigged to supposedly blow up. There's definitely recognition in her eyes, either way.

*

«"Whoa, what?! We have a dog?? With x-ray vision??? That would be way more useful than a super-sniffer! Why didn't we just bring him?? Just — ugh! My life!"»

The jokes help to ease the tension, at least — help to keep Spider-Man from dwelling on the fact that so many kids' lives are in danger, and so many teachers just trying to keep calm. Instead, it just lingers there on the fringes of his thoughts, like an ever-present anchor to the reality of the situation that helps him focus on the task at hand.

He can't let anything happen to these people. He won't. And as he quietly maneuvers through the school building, he uses that sentiment for fuel to focus out the white noise of his spider-sense — to focus on just where the danger is coming from in this building. He maneuvers past desks, hopping up above on a nearby ceiling for easier movement as he crawls his way forward towards the sensation like a game of hot and cold…

«"So, any info on those two? Friend or foe? Or friendly foes? Foe…ly friends yeah okay that doesn't really work. What would you use for that, even? There's all this stuff for frienemies, but what about enefriends?? Even that sounds like you're giving a friend an enem-"»

… and then he sees it. Not a bomb. Not quite. Something spectacularly incendiary.

Thermite.

"-uh. Oh, jinkies."

Oh jinkies, indeed.

«"Uh, Red. I think it's a much bigger problem. Are you seeing thermite, because I'm seeing thermite."» Which means probably burning, not booming. And probably means… this isn't the only one they have to deal with. Behind his mask, Spider-Man winces. And, lenses squinting, he slowly — slowly — descends on a single, spun line of artificial webbing, to descend as carefully towards that thermite as he can to get a closer look — and try to see just how hard it's going to be to remove.

*

«"Well, it's Superboy's dog,"» comes the offhanded reply as Red Robin devotes the bulk of his attention to the search. He doesn't have any nebulously-defined extra sensory abilities, unlike some people, so he has to depend on perfectly normal human senses (and also the best technology an extremely wealthy gadgeteer can buy or assemble himself, which to be fair helps a lot) to do the job. It's what he's been trained for, above and beyond all the other things - to investigate, to interrogate his environment, catching things that others might miss. Other times, though, those things aren't that tough to find.

For example.

«"They're mercs. Not exactly Deathstroke, but it looks like they've both got reps for surviving when they shouldn't. Metas, maybe. Presumably they're here because somebody paid them, though why anyone would send hired guns into a building they're planning to blow up I can't hazard a guess."»

It's a safe bet, though. Generally when you find mercenaries somewhere they might be in personal danger, it's because somebody hired them. Hard to enjoy your money if you're taking senseless risks. No, taking senseless risks is for people like… Well, like Red Robin and Spider-Man. Because…

«"Yeah that is thermite,"» the vigilante confirms. «"Somebody really doesn't like this school."» The joke is delivered distantly, almost perfunctorily. The focus is on the job in front of him. Decisions and possibilities play out in his mind. Does he warn the police outside? Does doing that cause whoever is behind this to set off the devices? But no, why the threat then? To get attention? Or does the bomber want the building cleared, out of some desire to not have lives on their conscience even as the building burns? First, though, the thermite charge itself: Looking to see if it has a fuse of its own, something he can deal with to at least reduce the danger in the short term, but…

«"We really need this building cleared."»

*

Brown eyes flit across the bleachers, comparing scared faces to the photo she studied before embarking on this totally simple, straight-forward lottery ticket of a job.

Domino hears soles on paneled floors a split-second before Scandal speaks. It's enough to let her whip towards the unfamiliar voice and the face she recognizes from description and renown rather than experience, extend her pistol-arm, and - surely - put the minds of Coach and his charges at ease.

"… Okay, yeah," she exhales a beat later, lowering the gun— slowly. "and yeah. Gonna just— " She gestures the firearm around a little— glances back at Coach at the kids— then jerks it down to her side while flashing the lot of them a big smile and a quick wave.

"— assume you're not trying to mindgame me into helping you get a bunch of teenagers killed," she breathlessly decides while facing towards Scandal. "And, just, shoot you in the head if I'm wrong—"

Another quick glance towards the rest of the auditorium, this time with a sheepish, wincing smile. She starts to wave again, only to stop herself upon thinking better of it.

"— which I won't be, because you're definitely gonna help me herd these kids somewhere safe so we can sweep the building." she concludes as the smile falls into a tight, barely curved line. "Right?"

The kids and Coach get a thumbs up, then she puts her back to Scandal and holsters the gun so she can head towards the bleachers.

"I'm thinking we split up, take the kids through different exits," she says to Coach and Scandal both, already beckoning towards the bleachers. "So we're not all together, in case— " Beat. "Just, In Case. We let the cops handle them, then we get back in here and do some bomb-hunting— clear? This room aside— how many are we looking at dealing with, here?"

*

Domino's charge is indeed here. He is, ironically enough, one of the unconcerned phone kids.

The coach opens his mouth— civilians being what they are, sometimes 'but the cops told us to stay put' is the first reaction. But then they did so thinking there wasn't a bomb, and now here are two armed ladies who thinks there is one.

"Um. I dunno, maybe a hundred, two hundred. I mean in the whole school. In the gym there's just my thirty, nobody's in the locker rooms. I know the theatre kids had a rehearsal today, and there's about 50 of them because it's a musical. A couple of the other clubs meeting in a couple of the other classrooms, plus staff members still on-site."

But he seems to have relaxed, seems to think they're not a threat anymore. This makes him worlds easier to deal with.

The thermite adhesive is pretty good, but it's no match for Spidey-strength. It comes right off in the webslinger's hand. That's the good news. The bad news is nope. Detonator isn't here. No fuse either. It's just an accelerant, strategically placed by someone who knew what he or she was doing.

*

A look over at the kids and then at Domino before she takes a sharp breath and then says, "I'm here for a good reason. K?" SHe then looks over at the coach and simply states, "It didn't blow up when we came in, it isn't going to when you go out. Head out, go away from the school. That's it. If you can find cops, go be near them." SHe then looks back at Dominos.

"Honestly, that many kids…I'm not gonna be able to guarantee a safe and orderly exit fast." She nods her head, "Best bet is to check where they might have hidden things." She then hmms, "Hey, you." She points to the coach, "Fastest way to the basement?" She then looks back at Domino, "We can try to start working on getting the kids out but if we get the bomb stopped, problem solved."

Ya know, assuming there's a bomb at all.

*

«"Maybe someone hired them to, like… save the day? I dunno. Some kinda heroes for hire thing? Ugh no wait that just sounds silly doesn't it shut up but if it sounds cool it was totally one hundred percent my idea so don't steal it!!"»

All this said as the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man sinks down to pluck that thermite from the wall, eyeing it with scrutinizingly squinted lenses. No detonator, no fuse. His estimation is it'll be somewhere on the lower levels, unless whoever is behind this just wants the top to go up in flames. Letting the thermite dangle off the tip of his pinky finger, the young vigilante goes about webbing up a simple, reinforced sack to deposit it in — somewhere he can place any of those accelerants he can find. If a bomb does go off, he's not about to make things worse.

«"Ugh. Detonator's not here. So, the police keep a bunch of students and teachers in here because of a bomb threat but don't send people to investigate the bomb threat, and suddenly two mercenaries show up out of nowhere to walk into the bomb threat instead of detonating it from afar?"» muses Spider-Man as he makes his makeshift bomb disposal unit, slinging it over his shoulder and attaching it there comfortably after he drops the thermite within. «"All of that makes like, super double no sense. You're right — we gotta get these kids outta here first and foremost. I'm gonna go downstairs, see what the friendly neighborhood mercenaries are up to and maybe get some kids out of here. If they're here to help, that's great. If not, well, they'll just, like, shoot me or something, and then we'll know they're totally evil and also have the worst sense for diabolical planning ever. … the mercenaries, I mean. Not the kids. I don't think the kids have a bad sense of diabolical planning — I mean I do but in a good way — I mean — ugh! Whatever! Going!"»

And so it is that Spider-Man slips out of the classroom, with full intention of hopping onto the railing of the first stairwell he can find so that he may start to effortlessly glide down towards ground level with a whispered, "Always wanted to do thiiiiiiiiiis— " as he goes.

Even in times of crisis, you need to take joy out of the simple things in life.

*

«"I'd be kind of offended if people started doing our job for money,"» Red Robin notes in a rather dry tone, still distracted. Though that's easy for him to say, since he's indepedently wealthy and will almost certainly never have to work a day in his life. But, you know, it's also about the principle of the thing.

The young man's frown deepens as it becomes clear that this is going to be a very effective bombing, though there's that itch at the back of his mind, that awareness that there's too many pieces he doesn't have. If anything, he would say that this was a professional job. Not a demolition, but not exactly a hack job with a bunch of pipe bombs and maybe a jerry-rigged pressure cooker. It doesn't seem like a troubled student sort of thing, or a disgruntled teacher. It seems like somebody with resources just really wants the school gone.

Carefully avoiding anything that might strike a spark, Red Robin removes the thermite charge and tucks it away for later - not for the things he usually uses thermite for (there are a few) but in case there's any trace evidence. He doubts it, but even a small chance is better than no chance at all.

"So… Thermite charges as accelerant, make sure the whole place burns down," he muses to himself as he heads for a stairwell, his booted feet almost totally silent in the hall. "Maybe more than one device then for redundancy, umm…" Again he's checking, searching, looking for anything out of the ordinary. But the basement seems like the likeliest spot, now.

*

"Okay," Domino exhales. Brown eyes briefly linger on a particular boy with his nose in his phone before focusing on Coach.

"Well, we can get /these/ kids out. /I/ can get these kids out. I'm /gonna/ get these kids out— kids, c'mon!" She starts to pick up the pace in her beckoning, pauses, then briskly amends, "Guys, fellas, /men/, c'mon!"

Assuming that they listen - to her or the coach, either way - she'll proceed to march them towards the door while saying, "I'll catch up with you once these guys are with the cops. Or hijack the PA and see if I can do an orderly evacuation by voice— we'll see how I'm feeling," to Scandal. "Probably, like the first thing! But we'll see." Towards the end, she pulls out a phone, opens the contact Dr. Faye gave her, and briskly taps while she talks:

<domino> your mom sent me fyi
<domino> (guns and hair; hi!)
<domino> did you see anything weird today
<domino> also i would pers. feel much better if you stuck with me bc im ex. lucky but i would understand if you wanted to not be in a possibly bomb-riddled school
<domino> no presh lmk

*

"The fastest way to the basement is just straight that way," the coach says. "You're going to head down the hall towards the office. When you find the stairwell near the office you'll hang right into a little alcove, and there the door will be. It's locked usually, but uh."

He hesitates, then says, "I'm guessing that's not a problem for you."

And with that he gets the kids rounded up…

Save for the kid Domino came for, who blinks at his phone, then finally looks up. He waves tentatively at her. Everett Faye is a lanky kid with big hands who has yet to grow into some degree of height, and he ambles over to her. "I'll stick with you," he decides. "This sounds like a story I can spin to impress girls."

Because.

Priorities.

And there's Spidey by the self-same stairs as described, reaching the spot near the basement door first. As he slides down, on the ceiling, in a corner…check it out. More thermite.

Red's search turns up more thermite as well. The place will definitely be totaled. What will be left will be a big vacant lot. Without the help of good people there won't be any survivors. Red, too, can reach the basement door soon enough.

This is not a high-security door or anything. Just a big metal door that the janitors usually keep locked. It's locked now, it's just a standard door lock like you'd find in any school in the nation on a stairwell door that leads to some spot they don't want the kids in. It's probably not even that effective against some of the kids.

*

A look over at Domino and the woman nods, "Do it then. I'll be heading that way." She gestures to where the coach indicated and then grumbles as she starts that way. Her eyes go to the door as she exits, looking it over carefully and then heading down the hallway. She's rushing that way, running with a good degree of silence for someone going that fast. Of course, then she spots a masked do gooder rolling on up to the same door she's heading to.

"I'm assuming you're Spider-Man." She looks to him and then at the door, "Don't touch the door." She simply states and walks up to it to start looking it over. She slips down low to look under it first and then proceeds to try to look through any crack around the door jamb. Her eyes carefully looking things over as she moves.

"I'm guessing you are here to help. If so, apparently there are kids in there are roughly 150 to 170 kids left in the building. Theater kids are in the theater, some kids in classrooms for club meetings." She then will attempt to carefully open the door to the basement, ya know, just in case it's rigged or something.

She never really looks at the wall-crawler past the first moment, instead focusing on the door.

*

«"I wouldn't mind, like, health insurance."»

Because Spider-Man is about as far from independently wealthy as you can get.

«"Maybe some good dental… … not that I need it. My teeth are not weird. You're weird. Shut up."»

And down slides Spidey, with a soft little 'wheeeeee' of elation as he goes. There's the slightest twinge of his spider-sense — something off in the peripherals of his vision — and as he lands with a little hop, he looks upwards. More thermite. Lenses squint almost incredulously.

«"Someone's got good reach, or they had plenty of time to get this stuff set up,"» he asides to Red Robin on those open communications; -=thwip=- goes a webline, snagging that thermite to delicately pry it free and let it fall with all due care into the opened sack slung at his back. "Aaaand that's two."

And with that, the young man turned vigilante looks sidelong at that basement door. He scratches the side of his head, frowning. Gut instinct tells him what he's looking for is probably there. This much thermite, they want to cover -everything-. And if they want to cover -everything- — leave this entire school nothing more than a pockmark to be paved over and forgotten — then the best place to set off an explosion would be…

The thought raises troubling questions, ones that Spider-Man just doesn't have it in him to address as he advances on the door. He looks at the lock. Looks right. Looks left. Reaches out.

"'Oh yeah I dunno officers I just found the door lock snapped in half with superhuman strength when I got here, weird right, I know! What, you want my autograph for saving the day and totally not breaking and entering and you don't want to shoot me at all this time, well I guess that sounds okay-'"

I'm assuming you're Spider-Man.

"Holy heroes for hire, Batman!" exclaims Spider-Man in what is assuredly not a squawk of surprise; it's really not. Some things are just sort of habit at this point. "Look, okay, if you're going to shoot at me, we might as well get it over with now, because I've got a 9 pm appointment with the cops trying to arrest me for saving the day that I have just got to get to oh wait you're trying to unlock the door that's cool."

The masked menace clears his throat. Listens to the woman's words. "There's a bunch of thermite ferreted away through the whole building." Spider-Man lifts his little webbing bag up, demonstrably. "It's all — y'know, accelerants. Pretty sure the detonator's gotta be down in the basement. "Be careful. Whoever did it is a pro." A second passes. The arachnid hero seems to hesitate.

"So like, how are the benefits to the whole heroes for hire gig, do they have good dentaaaalll y'know we'll just circle around back to that later when or if we're not all charred skeletons, okay, gonna go nnnnnnnow-"

And off Spider-Man goes, intent to make his way towards the theatre and grab what thermite he can find along the way. «"Hey, I'm going for the kids! One of the mercenary-types is going down to the basement, pretty sure the detonator's there, dunno if you wanna keep an eye on her — the one with the brown hair and the ninja-like sneaking up tendencies? I mean. The other one. Not you."»

*

«"If you're self-conscious about your teeth you could always ask Zee,"» Red Robin suggests conversationally. «"I guess magic healing is basically our health plan right now anyway. Sure, we've got scanning equipment and I can handle a lot of basic surgery…"» Of course he can. Sometimes he can't depend on his butler to stitch him back up after all. «"…but it's not like we've got a really dedicated medic without support staff. Maybe we could work something out, though. Would you need an arachnologist?"»

Okay, he's probably not being entirely serious, there.

It's hard to tell given his tone of voice, though.

With still no apparent sign of the bomb squad arriving, he can't say he disagrees with what to him sounds like Spider-Man taking over the evacuation entirely of his own volition and not because anybody told him to. Though the mention of one of the mercenaries headed towards the basement is… Kind of concerning, given they have no idea who hired the two women, or why. So the Red Knight moves more cautiously down that last stretch of stairs, the view through his mask changing, switching over as he sees Scandal Savage studying the door. Thermographic is surely useless in the basement, knowing how public schools are with their furnaces even in the summer. Instead, he looks for electrical connections, and then goes a step further, scanning, looking for booby traps and then looking past the door. The cheap metal should provide too much of an impediment, it's doubtful it'd be lead-lined.

Because of course if the door clearly isn't trapped, he's going to say so.

*

"True," Domino says, nodding while holding a hand out towards Everett. "I've got him," she then states, resolute as she sets her eyes on Coach's. "He'll be good, I promise; I'm a highly trained soldier of fortune." A slight pause, then she offers, "Like a superhero, but I get paid for it; think of it as a ride along. I'm gonna teach him how to defuse a bomb." Another brief beat. "And send him the hell out if things look dicey, obviously; Highly trained."

Everett isn't her only problem right now, though, so once everyone's gathered at the door, she peeks out to check the corners, then starts leading her the team towards the police perimeter. She doesn't intend to see them all the way through the journey and explain any part of her presence her to the police; she trusts the coach to be able to take the reins once they near an office standing guard just around the corner.

"Just remember," she murmurs to the coach, reaching across the wall she's pressed against to take his shoulder. "Hands up, and you bravely decided to get the team to safely, all on your own. Good?"

She doesn't wait.

"Good!" Coach gets a firm squeeze, then a little push once Domino's maneuvered her way around him. Taking Everett's hand, she gives the rest of the team quick waves and a parting, "Stay in school— unless something better comes along!" while running back to the school so she can join Scandal.

*

Here's a question.

Is it a good sign or a bad sign that nobody thought to trap this door? Because it is not at all trapped. It's just locked. Once they make it through though…

Well.

Someone has rigged the crap out of the entire basement. There are in fact six bombs here, strategically placed, wired together, starter thermite up the walls. It is not a remote detonator…there's a good chance it already would have gone off, if so, given the heroes climbing around.

Instead, these are time bombs. By now, it's around 5:23 PM. The bombs are set for 7:00 PM. So good news, unlike the movies, it's not three minutes to kerboom or anything, or thirty seconds, or anything crayz. Bad news, an hour and 37 mintues really isn't a lot of time for disarming things, in real world time.

Spidey gets to the auditorium. He finds three adults with a range of kids from the elementary levels to the high school levels. They're all huddled uneasily on the stage, not doing any blocking, but the teacher-director, a stout-looking Asian woman with a no-nonsense attitude, is making them run the lines for The Music Man anyway. Including the songs. There's no piano accompanyment right now, or any other instrument, cause all the musicians are up there with them, but one of the senior boys is right in the opening patter of Ya Got Trouble. "…Or are you not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community? Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say trouble right here in River City!"

The coach looks at Domino. His mouth opens. His mouth closes. He says, "Uh. Um. Okay, sure. Everett. Have fun storming the castle, man."

"You too, Coach."

Domino puts her hand on his shoulder, and he gives her a little smile. He's still got freckles himself. 26 if he's a day. Short-cut red hair. "Good. On my own. Good."

And he takes the other kids out muttering, "I bravely decided to get the team to safety, all on my own."

And there he goes, with all the rest of 'em.

With his hands up.

Everett holds Domino's hand, runs alongside her easily. He's an athlete and his eyes are bright with excitement. "It's too bad my Mom would kill me if I tried to be a highly trained soldier of fortune," he says ruefully. "She's got her heart set on getting me into Yale."

Joining the others happens quickly enough. There's probably some 'hi Spidey, bye Spidey?' moment, as they pass in the hall?

*

"I wasn't planning on shooting you at all…but the urge grows by the moment." Scandal says as Spider-Man keeps going on and on before finally he's away and she sighs a sigh of relief. She then lsowly opens the door and starts going down the stairs. Her eyes start to go progressively wider as she goes down the steps and then she swallows upon seeing what is before her, "Well…"

She quietly creeps back up the stairs and shakes her head slowly before saying, "Getting the kids out it is." She nods her head, only to spot Domino coming her way and gesturing for her to go back, "We have to get everyone out…now." She nods her head, "We got an hour but that…that is…" She looks back down the stairs, "A few hours of work…"

*

"Hello mercenary, goodbye mercenary!"

There very well may be such a moment.

«"Arachnologist? Jeez! Do I need to explain the whole 'Spider-MAN not Man-SPIDER' thing to you? Again?? Because I will if I have to, you speciest — oh hey, here's the kids, try not to blow us up before I get them out, okay??"»

And so does Spider-Man happen upon the auditorium. In mid-rehearsal. He tilts his head. One lens whirls into a sliver of white, the other expanding just so into an effortless 'really?' kind of expression.

"Wow. That's just…" Slowly, Spider-Man scratches the back of his head. "… I feel like any 'the show must go on' jokes are gonna sound really corny and stale and it's gonna ruin my reputation for fresh wisecracking but oh my god it's -so- -tempting-."

And he just stands there, for a long, quiet moment, as if visibly wrestling with the urge to make some sort of theater joke. "Nnnnggggg-"

Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say trouble right here in River City!

"Why sure I'm a billiard player! Certainly mighty proud I say — I'm always mighty proud to say it!"

And so it is that Spider-Man makes his grand flipping his way onto the auditorium stage in a flourish, his hands aloft lift he's handling a pool cue — before quickly realizing him SUDDENLY SPRINGING UPON THEM might just possibly be terrifying oh god wait "Oh god wait I'm not here to murder you that probably didn't even enter your mind until I said it holy crap I hope this isn't traumatizing I COME IN PEACE PLEASE DON'T FREAK OUT."

A second will pass by, with his hands held up just so. His head tilts. Lenses squint. He slowly points to the spider-logo on his chest. "See? Just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Just going to evacuate you guys from the building and then also a safe distance away from it and also maybe rehearse for your play because frankly I think you can do better for the lead-" a glance towards the senior boy "-no offense, you've got potential, I just think I can bring more to the productionnnnnn ANYWAY. Let's get out of here! No need to panic, calm orderly fashion, follow me, there's nothing to be worried about here, but maybe expediency would be a good idea! Let's get some relaxed speed walking going here. Just follow me, okay? This way, this way."

And so will Spider-Man try to ferry out the students and their director, asiding as he goes,

"Seriously though, I think I can do Robert Pattinson better—"

"Preston!"

"Whichever! God!"

*

"It's got its perks," Domino says to the boy, "but Yale's probably the safer bet? Way better chances of snagging a job where people don't shoot at you—"

A red and blue blur gets a brisk chin-tip as Domino and Everett run by.

"— and crunch time just means, I dunno, longer shifts? Way, way less pressure! Super boring, though!"

Downstairs, the woman is greeted by the sight of enough bombs to summon a frown a frown.

"Speaking of…" she softly exhales while slipping her hand from Everett's and approaching the nearest bomb, showing him a 'stop' gesture for a second before letting her arm drop. Her eyes flit about for signs of tripwires or other impediments while she draws tools from her belt, intent on checking the device out for herself.

"Maybe…" she thoughtfully says of Scandal's estimate. "Not that I wouldn't - still - recommend doing evac anyway… Ev! You ever wanted to play with the PA system? Tell a bunch of your classmates to proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion and not freak out at Spider-Man?"

*

And so it goes. Scandal Savage and Spider-Man, with help from the redoubtable Everett, get the kids and staff members out. Brett Mahoney, who could complain, mysteriously does not.

Not so mysteriously at all in reality, as Red uses those connections between the Titans and the PD to verify that yes, the building is rigged to blow.

By the time the bomb squad is over an hour late he's been spending as much time on the phone getting pissed off trying to figure out why, to no avail, they're delayed. His police officers all decide not to do anything about the lockdown other than giving stern warnings about how dangerous disobeying police orders was.

The bombs are tough though, and set by someone super good at their job. The kids and teachers are all out by 5:59 PM.

The bombs?

They're not diffused until 6:56 PM, with 4 minutes to spare.

And for about two minutes after that, Spidey's spidey sense calms down. Because the immediate area is fine. It's like someone turned down the volume on the feedback for one blessed minute. Softer. Softer. Softer…

Only for them to turn the volume all the way back up to maximum as the the time ticks up to 6:58 PM.

There are more bombs.

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