Blowin' Up the Kitchen: Part 2

June 29, 2018:

Hell's Kitchen erupts into fire and fury under the assault of one of the largest mass bombings in New York's history. Here's the story of the heroes who were right in the middle of the kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen, 44th St. to 50th St.

There's some nicer stuff here. Marginally.

Characters

NPCs: Lots, emitted by Kingpin

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

June 29, 2018

Hell's Kitchen

7:00 PM

One minute ago people were going about their business.

One minute ago a guy was selling a clueless tourist a counterfit watch by the corner bodega on 44th. One minute ago, a meat slicer was generating some exquisite cuts. People were rushing home from work. Or rushing to Friday night on the town.

Then the clock strikes seven.

The concussive force of a massive number of bombs going off defies description. It's like standing inside of a tornado being buffeted by a hurricane. It is shaking buildings and glass simply seeming to evaporate out of windows before hitting sidewalk in bloody patterns. It is noxious killing smoke and ebony ash clogging the throat and stinging the eyes. It is sudden heat, the pain of a blaze at the eyes.

It is like truly being in perdition's own ovens.

In the central part of Hell's Kitchen, an area stretching beteen 44th street and 50th street, the fires are everywhere. Here, some of New York's more "affordable" apartment buildings sit. Brownstones of varying degrees of livability, competing with all manner of business space. Sometimes sharing business space, as is the case of a certain 46th street brownstone once home to Alias Investigations, which is on fire. It's just one of many, many buildings in similar straits.

The shriek of mothers wailing for children. The jangling whoop of car alarms. The shriek of too-few sirens. Emergency response was never meant to handle a mass bombing on this scale. There are perhaps five firetrucks, perhaps ten ambulances for this section of the Kitchen alone, and a huge portion of this neighborhood is on fire. Not every building. But enough.

Heroes will not stop some people from dying today. A lot of people, in fact.

But they may keep this from becoming any worse. If they act fast, and well.

*

Lets not kid ourselves, the Secret Life of Butlers would be a hit reality show if most Butler's weren't fiercely protective of their company secrets so to speak. where do you order handkerchiefs in bulk? Where and How do you get exact replicas of items that are damaged and get them within 24 hours? How do you not constantly day drink? So many questions, but today…the Irish Butler has allowed a passenger on one of his grocery runs. What brings him to Hell's Kitchen? He's got alot of contacts in this area due to his ethnic heritage so he knows who to and who not to trust.

Emery Papsworth wears a simple pair of dark designer jeans, dark green boots, a black henley and a black leather jacket…his longish locks brushed back and tucked neatly under a dark green beanie. His sleek black Charger (4 door) is parked a little way down from the 'closed' meat market as he is handing a large piano bench sized piece of meat currently wrapped in brown paper and tied with string to his taller, darker, harder…companion. "Oi, Granny Walsh…" His voice raises to address the tiny old lady with her coke bottle glasses and white hair and wrinkles. He lapses into something in Gaelic to the old lady standing at the front door as she is staring moon eyed at Luke for a moment before going back inside. With a roll of his eyes, Emery adjusts his fingerless gloves and smirks. There is a pause before he turns back to Luke. "She says she will give me a 30 percent discount if ye take your shirt of…horny old bat" He drawls, quietly amused and it is said with fondness. He has known Granny Walsh for a long time.

But The Chocolate Masterpiece's presence does have its perks, as the tarp covered backseat of the Charger has more packages than usual. Some extra packages of pheasants and sausages and bacon, so much bacon.

"Make sure ye put it on the floorboards!" He barks out in that lilting accent of his. "She's got the heart, liver and tongue comin' next and then we can head off." There's so much meat in that backseat. And it is one second he's directing proper meat handling…and then the next…He's turning to start back up the sidewalk to the butcher's to get the next package when the world around him slows down. It only takes that one second and then he's thrown back and slamming into the side of his own car with the concussive force of what's going on with a "…shit." Wheezed out. Ironically enough if you squint, the dent he leaves is almost like a shamrock.

*

Anita Martinez had only wanted to find her son. Missing for three weeks. A trail of evidence pointed to drug addiction, beginning with a back injury. A common tale. Azalea only needed Anita to fill in a few details, and she was certain she could help her.

Light etched in her face in the moment of the explosion, and Azalea knew she would never help Anita. The very moment Azalea had opened the door to Alias Investigations to let her in, the whole of the building shook. Her lips had parted to greet her in Spanish, but the words never came.

The only blessing was that Anita never had time for realization as her body seemed to flatten and straighten all at once, struck dead by concussive force and a whirlwind of fire that sent parts of the woman rocketing past Azalea as the Godling succumbed to elemental force.

Little more than a projectile, she demolished Jessica's desk on her trip through the back windows, sailing across a street rippling in the wake of fire until her diminutive form relented to gravity and cratered through a UPS truck.

The next explosion sent her tumbling the other way, along with the truck. Through a gout of fire. She could do nothing for the driver, forced to watch as he broke against metal and fire and screamed a sharp, short scream that forced Azalea's eyes closed.

As the screams begin in earnest, as people search for loved ones, for meaning, and the whole of the situation begins to spiral out of control, the side of that truck creeks, broken in half and twisted beyond recognition, it parts as Azalea rises from fire and fury and flame, what's left of her clothing plastered to her in a burnt ruin. In the moments that follow, her pupils go wide, taking in horror that is all to familiar, and grief that might never have struck her in a bygone age to pull tears from her eyes.

Here, she stands body unbroken by such man-made destruction, fists curling into her hands as she steps from the fire… somewhere in Emery's periphery.

*

Mountains do crumble. Or at least get knocked off their feet when giant Borough wide bombs go off. So much for that slab of beef, as it gets sandwiched between Luke Cage's form and the sidewalk. There is a sickening crack of bones that are not his own as bovine ribs puncture the paper and jut out at dangerous angles, yet Cage gets up from the carnage with nothing but a new scuff on the elbow of his hoodie. He only has time to register that a cement cornice has broken off the building behind them and is tumbling to the street near the Charger. When Taller than most and, well, 'unbreakable', Luke's first instinct when the world starts to crumble around him is to dome over the nearest person. In this case, Emery finds himself with Luke's arms crossed over his Irish head and the big man's head tucked close to use his body as a shield as he's thunked in the back like a pingpong ball ricocheting off a paddle. "You a'ight?" Are the first words asked of Emery when the roar of falling buildings lessens enough, straightening away as errant bits of concrete and brick shrapnel tumble away from his form. Only then does he get a full understanding of what's happening around them.

"Sweet Christmas." Luke mutters, as he watches Hell's Kitchen burn.

*

One minute you're walking down the street, on the phone with your mother debating the 4th of July order to place at the butcher's since Julio's shop is closed - something about a freezer being down, or ICE, or something related to the cold. Because the tripletas need to be ON POINT, and if they're not, you know Abuela is going to have that look. The disappointed look. Where do folks think Claire learned it? Humidity is sticking everywhere, but at least the heat wave is a day away. For Claire Temple, this is a most days of the week walk. This is Thursday in the neighborhood.

And then it's Armageddon in a warzone.

She's knocked off her feet by the concussive blast, shards from a nearby building picking out a few choice landing spots in her skin. It's going to take an ears ringing, wind knocked out of her moment to catch her breath and lift her head - just in time to see an Azalea ridden truck careening way too close for comfort. The fire when it comes to an abrupt and unchosen stop? Even closer.

*

The so-called Devil of Hell's Kitchen spends most of his nights on rooftops for several reasons. He's more mobile, for one, with his grappling hooks and acrobatics. There are fewer sensory distractions, for another — or at least they're at a remove that gives some much needed detachment.

Those are the practical reasons. But bottom line? He loves it. Matt Murdock has been to some dark places, of late. Through the emotional grindhouse. Yet up here, running on ledges and chimneys and fucking clothing lines if he moves as fleet and fast as he can, leaping through mid-air, he's still never felt more free. Man Without Fear, they call him — or at least they did before they started levelling darker charges and names against him. But how can you possibly be afraid when your home is right there beneath you?

Then, mid-leap and swing from building to building, home is gone. He feels the titanic shifts in pressure and currents of air before he hears the explosion that will so quickly consume the building he just vaulted from. The blast and ferocious heat sends his formerly elegant arc careening, hurtling through the air. The baton is lost and Matt Murdock is making a ten story dive towards the roof of an SUV with blasted out windows and car-alarm blaring.

He's too shocked to scream.

*

Harley Quinn should not be in Manhattan. She should be in Gotham.

Should be there, would be there. Could be, isn't.

Tonight, she's been actually out and about, unattended by her wandering boy toy Owen Mercer. Befitting a clown of her habits, talents, and proclivities, she has slowly spiraled down in the list of destinations until she wound up somewhere a little more comfortable than where she's been staying. Somewhere a little more like Hell's Kitchen.

Just before the bombs strike, the harlequin is happily walking down the streets perusing the various bars with her a lollipop sticking out of her mouth as she looks for a new place to sucker folks in drinking games. Because she definitely didn't promise that she would stay out of the bars all the way in NYC, now did she? NOPE. Did not. And it'll give her something to fill the empty hours other than her too many thoughts.

Except that the bar she was considering and favoring suddenly goes up in flames, sending Harley flying halfway into the street. She barely has time to cover her head. When she gets back onto her feet, she realizes that her awesome twill coat - black and red quartered just so - that she JUST finished putting together a few months ago - is on fire. "FOR THE LOVE OF GROCK," she squawks unhappily, even as she rips it off to reveal the black tank with its diamond pattern hand stenciled on. "I JUST MADE THAT."

When she notices that everything's on fire, however, she does eventually come back to her senses and stop stomping her jacket where she's thrown it on the ground. And then she drinks it all in for a long moment, crossing her pale arms and looking suitably impressed. "Well. It's bigger boom this time. So, at least I'm movin' up in the world."

*

STARK TOWER:

Five's voice: <Something untoward is happening in Hell's Kitchen.>

The stool Kinsey was sitting on tips over with a clatterbang. She kicks one heel off with sufficient force to nail the inside of her office door. Something definitely rips as she hurries toward the closet containing her gear, stripping with the inelegance of barely-controlled panic.

"TONY!" ….JARVIS?? Jarvis, tell Tony I have to go, I have a-" The stockings don't want to come off and now they're completely shredded as she skip-hops the final distance into the closet, sparing a hand to open the closet and subsequently stumbling sideways, shoulder colliding with the closet door. "I HAVE A THING!" She flings the tattered hose. Anxious hands fumble through a closet she should've tidied up after her last outing — bodysuit tangled in prostheses, helmet faceplate smudged, but she was so over the whole hero thing for the last, is it a month? Is it two months…? She yanks one matte, black half-limb free, pivot-falls into the closet interior so that her back is to the wall, and scrambles to begin exchanging one set of limbs for another.

god she really needs to work on this whole hotswap utility thing-

"TONYYYYYYY!" She tips her head back and yells the name at her ceiling, like that would matter. "IS THIS SERIOUSLY THE ONE DAY OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE THAT YOU'RE NOT BEING NOSY? THIS BETTER NOT BE- BE SOME KINDA, SOME KINDA PASS-AGG-"

Still nothing. Not even from Jarvis. So she gives up on yelling about leaving early — hell, maybe he's already on his way there — and frantically finishes getting dressed, only to step out of her closet and find the man casually leaning in her office doorway, chewing on a bite of sandwich.

"No. No!" is what Kinsey says, as he starts to open his mouth. She lifts her helmet and jams it on over her head to forbid whatever that was going to be about, wincing at the smear she forgot to clean off of the inside of the faceplate. On the upshot, it makes it impossible to see Tony's expression as she brushes past him.

She still doesn't have perfect control over the newly-incorporated propulsion in her legs. The 'rocket' elements stripped from that pair of Peter Quill's boots — Christ, almost two years ago now, in another lifetime — work just fine, but she's not accustomed to flight, and the sight of the blocks blurring past beneath her makes her gloved palms sweat. Just, the Valkyrie is in Gotham, there's no time to call for a Lyft, and it's Hell's Kitchen, Hell's Kitchen, oh fuck oh no, please let them be okay, let him be okay, it can't end like that not now not ever-

*

"You know," Stark's voice is full of amusement. "If you said something I could have helped ya with a secret room. And some kind of quick change system. I mean a /closet/ is a bit cramped." This is all shouted at her retreating back as she shoves her way past him.

"Also I like the outfit! You should wear it more often!"

Not sure which outfit he's refering to. The underwear or the hero costume.

She starts to rocket off only to hear him call.

"Have fun saving the city with your friends I'm not supposed to know anything about!"

He is. Entirely. Insufferable.

He finishes the sandwich as she disappears from view, waiting a few more moments before nodding to himself.

"JARVIS. Get the emergency response teams in the air. Put them in standby along the destruction zones. Warm up Mark 50 and I'll meet them on the roof."

"Sir, you did say you would stay out of it…"

"I am staying out of it! This is me staying out of it! I'm just…" He waves a hand airily. "…preparing. For…eventualities…"

JARVIS just sighs. "Of course, sir."

Stark just snaps his fingers. "Glad you agree. See ya on the roof!"

…this'll be fine.

*

There were more bombs.

Domino was among a small group that discovered and defused bombs set beneath PS 35… four minutes ago.

Three minutes ago, she was telling Everett - a young man whose rich and moderately paranoid mother happened to hire her to sub in for her usual driver/bodyguard service - exactly how she defused those bombs so he could tell the girls in his class all about it come Monday.

Two minutes ago, she was turning away from brief eye contact with Detective Brett Mahoney and remembering that she's got warrants and a rather distinctive face. With her charge's hand in hers, she hustled towards the closest alley she could find, hoping to skulk away from the police massed outside of the school.

A minute ago, she and her charge sped up as the neared the other side of the space between buildings—

— and now she's straining to pick herself up, having managed to pull Everett to herself and take the worst of the impact when buildings began exploding behind them, threw them into the street, and buried that alley in rubble and gore.

"Are— are you…?" she pushes out as she makes herself stand rather than stoop so she can help him to his feet. They're both scraped, bloodied, studded with asphault and glass. He's not moving /much/ faster than she is, but doesn't seem to have any issues with getting to his feet— or stiffly, barely nodding.

As soon as she gets that signal, Domino's eyes dart long enough to spot— there. Grabbing Everett's hand, she takes off as quickly as she can manage, darting past wandering, wailing bodies and far less fortunate ones until they're beside a screaming but otherwise intact vehicle.

"Look, this is— I've gotta see what the fuck is happening, and— look, six bombs is one thing, but your mom'd definitely kill me if I just dragged you…" she hastily explains while fetching tools and picking the car's lock. "I'll be back for you soon— as soon as I know that this isn't gonna get worse." she says once he's safely - hopefully safely - inside. "Or that it definitely is, in which case we're getting the fuck outta here, ASAP."

With terror and death as far as her senses extend, this is harder than it may appear. An SUV blaring away not so far away catches her attention before anything else does— especially when she turns her head that way and sees a red streak falling towards it.

"Okay," she exhales while breaking into a sprint, "fuck it—!" and weaving towards a flattened sedan.

Bounding off of its hood takes her to a stair car that's been tilted onto its side, leaving its most important feature jutting up at a wild angle. Touch that precarious roost, she springs free, angling towards a flag pole that tilts towards the falling Devil thanks to the newly buckled street. A few long strides lead into lunging from the pole, colliding with Daredevil in mid-air—

— hissing as the air is driven from her body—

— and tumbling away from the SUV, towards a truck careening wildly down the road with its driver slumped over at the wheel. Mattresses tumble intermittently from its rear as it fishtails about, giving the pair a place to land— and bounce, and skid away from.

It's better than breaking an untold number of bones, but the bruises - the road rash - probably won't be much fun.

*

Buildings don't get engulfed in flames all at once. Some burn faster than others, but even with bomb-generated fires there are points of sluggishness, bits that wait to go up in flames, even as buildings go unstable. There are people who yet live trapped inside, identifiable by distant cries or by simple common sense.

A handful of firetrucks get to work on a handful of buildings. They can't do anything but the best they can do, and that means starting somewhere, down on 44th street, working their way up as several more careen past to the next deployment point somewhere higher up the chain. Traffic is a problem for any vehicle trying to get anywhere, and a big one. People try to get out of the way for the city's emergency vehicles but there is confusion, chaos, fear. Things like that UPS truck blocking the road.

*

The Irishman probably had a dream like this once, being hovered over by a handsome muscular man, pressed against a car. But this is a situation where Emery does not pop any sort of fantasy fueled boner. His head cocks to the side as he works on listening, understanding why Luke's doming him at the time. Then when it sounds like debris is slowing down he moves a hand to pat at first and then sort've shove a bit against Luke's chest with a slow nod. "…I'll be fine…go…" He points shakily towards where people are falling over, and flying and falling and such with a wave of his hand.

Then in his periphery he notices the 'young woman' who seems to have fallen but she's getting up just fine and then there's another body falling from the sky towards and SUV, like Lucifer being cast out of heaven. More feminine forms falling over or getting blown back and such and Emery is waiting for Luke to back up off him as he tugs a dark green bandana from a pocket and coughing softly ties it around his nose and mouth.

Within him, the past memories of blood, death, fire, and fear flicker like a distant flame in the dark room where his past life looms in the shadows of regret and Catholic Guilt. But the experience causes his dark gaze to sweep across the chaotic scene and his site rep is formulating rather quickly. People trapped in buildings, Emergency Response Vehicles blocked, Injured people…

The bandana is tugged down briefly. "Injured people need to be brought to a central location out of teh way of fallin' debris, and we gotta clear a way…" He whistles sharply even though it probably can't be heard through the rubble when he catches sight of Harley. "MISS HARLEY, Sweetheart! We need a way to clear a way for teh ambulances!" Then a look back to Luke. "We need to get them people out of teh buildings." Then he raises his voice. "IF YE ARE NOT BROKEN OR DEAD GET THE BUCKETS and SHIFT YOUR ARSES, GO FIND MURPHY AND TELL HIM TO GET HIS BROTHERS OR I SWEAR TO GOD I'LL TELL THE PRIEST WHO YOU'VE BEEN DIDDLING, RUN DOWN AND SEE IF TULLY'S PUB IS STILL STANDIN' AND GET HIM TO BRING HIS HOT NURSE OF A SISTER!" He's raising his voice and yelling at random passerbyers as he hops down and starts pointing and gesturing. "OI! WIPE THOSE TEARS, WE'RE FECKING IRISH, we eat this bomb shite for breakfast!" Inspirational words, really. He points towards Azalea as she's closer, double-taking and squinting as he gesturing. "Dun just stand there, c'mon, c'mon…are ye hurt?"

*

It's a voice that should not be, in a place he should not be, and she stares with the insistence of recognition. But that will have to wait for later. Emery's question forces her to look to the truck, one foot finding the side of what's left of it's ruined wreck, a sharp shove sending it in a slide to smash between two parked cars.

The other piece she grabs through fire, and she does not burn as she closes her eyes, dips her head, and begins to shove it to the other side of the street. She should pay no mind to the broken, mangled form of the driver inside, his dead eyes to the sky, asking a silent question.

How did the heroes let this happen?

Still she stares, brief enough, before finally giving Emery an understated answer in the wake of her display.

"Not on the outside."

It's then that she looks up to what remains of Alias and grits her teeth, rushing back into the fire and fury, if only because there may be some small chance someone yet lives. A neighbor. A friend. It tugs at the back of her mind, the words of the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. 'You will not pay the cost', he said. She knew, and she still sent her message.

Azalea can only assume this is the reply.

*

Luke is off Emery with the shove, giving a light lipped nod as his brain tries to process the enormity of the catastrophe. The Irish butler is busy spouting inspirational words that'll require a hefty deposit to the swear jar if they were in Pop's and Cage is stepping into the street to stop the dangerous skid of the mattress spewing truck as it nears Claire by putting his shoulder into the metal of the fender and deflecting it like a linebacker. A strong arm reaches down to peel Claire off the sidewalk with a rumbled, "You good?" That seems mostly rhetorical as he's directing and ushering other people streaming from the building behind her before anyone gets trampled, sending them towards the edge of the street where they are in less danger of getting something collapsing on their head.

*

.. oo OO ((Get up. Get up. Get …)) UP. Claire starts to press herself up from the ground, all the admonitions to add pushups to the workout routine arguing with more blaring noise than should exist at the moment. That means that for an instant she's at about eye level with the MatressMobile's grill as it comes at her. Then at eye level with Luke Cage's calves as the metal of the fender does a little bend around his shoulder.

At least he makes getting to her feet easier! "I need spray paint," she answers Cage. Non sequitur? Sure. There's method, though, it's just going to take a split second for her mind to settle back into place. "Sorry. Irish is right - roads need clearing. Structures … secure the scene for Triage." It's instinct to grab for the phone, to start to text the preset group text to all the Problems (AKA supers) in her life. But that just means bits of broken screen are digging into her fingers. Phone = Toast. It's shoved in the remains of a pocket. Another look at the mattress truck and she nods. "I think you're good on the clearing the roads and structure. Go!" She's grabbing a teenager streaming out of a building to put in the demand for red, yellow, green, and yes, black spray paint in rapid fire Spanish. Time to start the triage…

*

Harley coughs for a long moment, lungs still sensitive and rebelling against the thick clouds of ash and soot that fill the air. But as she hears her name with a very particular 'Miss' attached to the front of it, she twists quickly to try to see where that voice's owner is and her wide and pale irised eyes are - for a moment - just filled with a strange sort of confusion. "Bailey's?"

She's distracted momentarily when she realizes that she lost her lollipop when she fell, but abandons the search for it on the ground quickly so that she can begin looking instead for the familiar voice. When she finally spies Super Emery in the hellscape unfolding, the blonde in her pigtails and red leggings looks momentarily bewildered. And then torn, her lips pursing to one side.

Whatever the inner debate is, however, it quickly is set aside as she's given a clear set of instructions from someone that she actually cares about for the moment.

So, abandoning her jacket to its smoldering fate, the clown princess gives two thumbs up with a ridiculously wide grin, adjusts the leather gloves on her hands as she moves to start putting her strength to good use, trying to help move some of the mid-sized debris out of the way. The effort is a little tentative, particularly when she has to grip things, but she's helping. When she sees a roadsign that's fallen over, she collects it to use as an impromptu shovel / scraper sort of thing.

*

Another attempt to blow up Luke's bar, she'd thought. Or, worse, maybe an attack on Alias…or maybe someone figured out where Matt took Ikari's goons and they set Fogwell's on fire. God, that would be awful.

And somehow the reality is worse than any of that. Worse than all of it. Because it is all of it, as far as Kinsey can tell: as she slices her way across New York's airspace, the place where Hell's Kitchen ought to be looks like the place where Hell's kitchen might literally be. All of the blood drains out of her face, jaw lax and incapable of hinging closed again. Every moment counts in a crisis, but those last moments to plan before she arrives contain only the word no, repeated endlessly on loop in her own head. She's made a career out of comprehending the incomprehensible, and still, the scale of it staggers her.

It takes a rough landing to jostle her thoughts out of tail-chasing uselessness. Heeled-boot prosthetic feet knife apart into birdlike claws in time to try to arrest her momentum, but it's not enough, and she finds herself slung into the top of her chosen roof with shreds of tar paper and gravel clutched in both, tumble-rolling twice before skidding to a sprawled stop. No pause, just a scramble to regain her feet, kicking the debris clear, so that she can reach the roof's edge and look out on-

Fire and too-few flashing lights reflect in the perfect, glossy black of the helmet's sleek faceplate. Flames and smoke and screaming, twisted metal. Shattered brick and jagged crumbs of glass, bleeding bodies, moving or still. It is an intensely physical catastrophe. The software in her helmet works overtime: it maps bodies, obstacles, registers temperature readings, monitors emergency response channels, scans for local bands in use, finds access points to the grid, the stoplights-

A wave of frustrated helplessness knuckles up in her chest like a fist. What the hell can Six do about this? She gropes for something. Anything.

Send first responders everything critical, she tells Five, spinning to sprint toward the roof access door. Affected blocks, estimated casualties. I want you working traffic signals to get people out of the way when they're en route.

<Casualty estimates may not be accurate given present d->

It's better than what they'll have!

<Understood. And while I do this?>

The doorhandle is uncomfortably hot, even through her glove, as she yanks it open. Smoke boils out of it. The filter of her helmet's HUD flickers, changes to grant visibility in shades of blue and wireframe edges.

I'm going to try to keep some people from being burned alive.

*

Matt was ready to give Jane Foster's crimson super-suit (v2.0) a real stress test, hurtling as he was towards a steel death trap. And truth be told — in this particular instant — he's ready if it fails.

God has other plans for him, even if he's stingier with dozens — hundreds? — of others. The man in red is saved mid-flight by person unknown, her slighter figure slamming into his and deflecting his angle towards the most improbable target. Had he any wits about him, he'd wonder what the odds were of a mattress truck driving through the streets of Hell's Kitchen at this particular and leaving its contents on this particular block were. But he doesn't have them: won't until well after he's skidded along the street alongside his savior, or until the cacophony of flame and sirens and shouting and crying stops overwhelming his senses and he can reassert some focus.

Of course, all that focus does is tell him what's happened to his neighborhood. To his home. His face wrenches briefly, the cords of his neck and the line of his jaw that the mask doesn't hide are taut and twisted. Then he stifles his mourning, shoves it away into some handy compartment as he stumbles to his feet and turns to offer the woman who just saved him a hand. "Two kids up there," the Devil rasps with a jut of his chin towards the third story of a flaming building, without so much as a thank you. And there's absolutely no sign of any such thing through the window, which flickers with flame-light and smoke.

"I'm going in," he says, unceremoniously, and then he does.

*

Domino's ribs will hate her tomorrow. They're already screaming through every shallow, agonized breath she takes and each new bruise she feels when she commits the cardinal sin of 'moving in any direction, in any way at all', but there's a reinforced glove in her face and fire and death everywhere else.

Her ribs'll just have to wait their damn turn if they want her attention.

"Just two kids?!" she exhales, surprised and wary. And running after the Devil of Hell's Kitchen after taking his help up, grimacing all the way. "I've got you— just keep playing spotter, and I've got you! Christ, who would— there were bombs under a SCHOOL not that far away!"

Brown eyes briskly dance the street, filtering through carnage in search of options. If this red-clad stranger is even right - if there are kids in the burning building she's darting into - finding them and running all the way back down to the ground floor probably won't be an option, which'll mean figuring out the quickest escape they possibly can once those kids are with them.

Which'll almost certainly mean giving her ribs even more to whine about— maybe with a chestful of broken glass, for variety's sake.

"Please tell me you're a structural engineer, or demo expert under there, because knowing whether or not the upper floor walls of a burning apartment building can take a frag grenade without killing everyone inside could be EXTREMELY useful in a second, here…!"

She crosses her fingers behind her back, hopeful.

*

Emery's words start mobilizing people. They're a bit beyond having any buckets, but some local toughs go wading into buildings, or jump out of cars. An actual priest races by and begins hauling people out of buildings. As rallying cries go, it was colorful, yet effective. And if there are a few black, brown, and Asian faces who glance in his direction with split-second raised eyebrows as he declares a state of IRISH nobody calls him on it right now. They're all too busy taking his excellent points to heart, chipping in. Just ordinary folks now, moving in the right directions, helping.

There is a guy who sleeps in the elevator in the Alias building. Sometimes he goes by Andy. Sometimes Al. Sometimes his mind wanders, and he says his name is Betty, and then he laughs uproariously. Al is the most usual name, and Al is harmless. Longtime residents of the building step around him, ignore his smell, tuck money or food into his hands or occasionally haul them into their apartments for a shower and a change of clothes. Somehow the guy is as much a resident of the building as anyone with an apartment. By tacit agreement of all the neighbors Al is never around when the super goes looking for people to throw out, he is never reported, he is taken care of as best as the residents can take care of him without them taxing themselves.

Al is the person Azalea encounters first, sound asleep and drunk as a skunk in the elevator whose doors have opened insistently on the first floor, frozen due to the fire alarm going off.

There are still some buildings in one piece. The kid Claire grabs looks around in a panic, cussing in Spanish, then changes from 'panic rabbit run to probably more trouble' to 'purposeful run to the Ace Hardware.' Ace looks like a strange nonsequitor in all of this. Shiny and brand new, with gleaming letters only slightly tainted by the smoke, tucked into the ground floor of a brand new condo building that was put up recently, that rises 15 stories above it and offers upscale apartments that go for four times what anyone at these brownstones were paying. The lights are still cheerfully on inside, no fire has touched it or the building around it. The kid runs inside, a clueless cashier gapes at him and the chaos, her red apron standing out under the harsh neons like a splash of blood. He grabs spraypaint and sprints towards the exit. She tries to stop him, to make him pay. He pulls a gun and explains it's for the nurse-lady, she's gonna use it to help people. She gapes at him and lets him leave.

Later, the 11:00 news will report this as an act of looting. They'll play the Ace Hardware security camera footage along with other footage, and slick anchors will shake their heads over what this poor beleagured world has come to.

But he gets back and shoves them into Claire's hands

Efforts to clear the debris are met with shouted thanks from the emergency people, starting with fire trucks who take advantage of a little more space to get to more of the buildings. And when they start getting an inexplicable flood of useful information, courtesy of five, plus traffic signals which send traffic flowing out of the Kitchen so more needful traffic can flow in…it helps. This is especially helpful for the National Guard, en route; today the governer acted swiftly.

Two kids upstairs indeed, a young boy holding an infant, huddled in terrified fashion under the kitchen table, both crying, parents dead from smoke inhalation. Being tiny and naturally inclined to stay low has left them alive long enough for the Daredevil and Domino to get to them.

*

Its another one of those moments for Emery where the pain and suffering that's happening right now, the noise, the sirens, and ringing in his ears it all becomes muffled and fades to background noise when he stares at Azalea a little longer, lips parted. Flash of a mop of curly blond hair stained with blood. Flash of dead green eyes starting to film over. Flash of knife slamming into a gut. It all blurs together like a carton flipbook, and for the life of him he can't put his finger on it. Memories he represses start pressing their ugly faces against the glass partition in his mind and begin pulling taunting faces.

Then the noise of reality all rushes back around him and he blinks, watching the seemingly young woman perform feats of strength and then go running back into a building. Something akin to being spooked flickers across his soot smeared features. Nope. Couldn't be. He will not let it be.

His attention goes from person to person, a nod of approval to Claire with her actions, a kiss blown and probably lost in the smoke towards Harley and a look towards Luke at what he's doing and then he's now moving from car to car, checking to see if people are still trapping in cars or not. And occasionally, sending an encouraging word to someone passing by. Heroes are Heroing. He's switching between Gaelic, English and fluent Spanish where needed to direct and point people in certain directions. And offering his own help when needed.

*

There he is, as much an obstacle as a possible casualty, and with the way he usually keeps himself, probably twice as flammable as anyone else. The heat alone outside the elevator is going to hurt Al, but far less than if he stayed and cooked in the elevator, and so Az hoists him, pulling him from certain death to run on behalf of Al. To save him, even as the ceiling begins to come down, and the walls buckle, spilling the apartments above into a conflagration that piles in her wake.

Then it will hit Emery, a weight pressed into his side and back from where he stands not far from Harley. It will only take but a turn for him to look into blue eyes that stare back with murderous weight, peeled from ages past, from memories that try to claw at his brain.

"Find a doctor for him. Smoke inhalation."

She does this because she remembers, too. She remembers this one, most of all, had a good heart.

"I…"

I need to go.

I'll go get more help.

I'll clear more of the road.

Azalea wants to say all of those things, but her humanity eats at all of the places her old demon couldn't fill, and there with a homeless man as the only barrier between them, she says to Emery the only thing that really matters, even if he might not know why.

"I'm sorry."

*

Luke just sort of head tilts at Claire with thinning lips, the nonverbal equivalent of 'lady, have you lost your damn mind?' when she says she needs spray paint of all things. Maybe she fell harder than he thought. He doesn't look too enthusiastic about being told to clear the roads either, but there's something inside of him that makes him sigh begrudgingly and move off to do as Claire asked. It's sort of his thing. He bends to drag a fallen traffic pole out of the way of the corner intersection, red light flashing from a broken lens dragging behind Cage on its wire like some children's toy where where a wooden duck is supposed to quack. Better? Because now he needs to focus on getting people out of the buildings, they can't be saved by paramedics if they are crushed or burnt to death first. Things he's unafraid of.

Cage is about to enter a brownstone that looks like it's going o sheer in half at any second when a teenager busts out the door, struggling to carry a flat screen television in his scrawny arms. Looting, already. Nobody grabs their TV as the first possession they think of when they're concerned about their own life. With palm and fingers flat, Luke simply daps him on the forehead in passing, like a pastor healing the infirm. "No." He scolds, as the kid neatly gets knocked unconscious and Cage plucks the TV from his hand and scoops up the kid with the other to set them both out of harm's way so he can duck into the building.

*

Under other circumstances, Claire and the rabbit might have words about the gun. At the moment, though? She nods to the boy when he returns, already working on the fourth or fifth assessment. And nope, he doesn't get to shove them in her hands. He gets recruited. "We all have to be heroes tonight. You too." The words have to be shouted over the cacophany. "You stay with me. I check the patient, talk to them. I tell you what color and you spray it clearly on them where the medics will see it. You see anyone you know go by, you get them to help us move people that need to be moved. Red means you flag down the medics, they need the hospital sooner. Yellow next. Green, and … IRISH MAN." That's probably Emery, right? "Where's the central gathering spot for minor injuries for later transport? Or get us a bus!" She turns to crouch over an unconscious figure, tilting the man's head to reposition the airway and bending over to feel for spontaneous breathing. When she hears it, she straightens up. "RED," she calls out and starts moving onto the next.
It's a brutal mathematics, no time to help set a broken arm, no time to soothe a child separated from a parent. At least Cage made it easier for ambulances to get to the patients tagged in red. Mind she's not noticing any of the groaning structures above, or the mass of concrete and bricks that's seriously considering sliding down from the floors above the nearby bodega.

*

Normally. When a specific someone rushes out of Stark Tower due to a phonecall its something small. A kidnapping. A murder. A puppy stuck in a tree. You know. Normal stuff.

Not an entire district of the city exploding in fire, flame, and fury.

Of course. You can't really expect something of this magnitude to go entirely un-noticed by the powers that live in a city like this. Especially one specific one.

The few fire trucks and emergency vehicles struggle to make it though to the heart of this mess. On the ground that is. In the air? There isn't nearly as much problem.

Five would register a new AI coming into the picture. Dozens of drones streaking though the air. Each of them in the familiar form of a specific Iron Man suit. Stripped down a bit but the Stark logo is…as always…obvious.

There are dozens of them, each streaking to problem zones. Pulling people out of flames. Putting out fires. Even clearing the road for the emergency services.

Well. /Tony/ isn't getting personally invovled.

These are just his bots right?

Totally not him.

DOESN'T COUNT!

*

The woman running, like him, improbably into the blaze, has questions. Or at least best case scenarios. Please tell me you're a structural engineer, or a demo expert under there, she says, because then he might know what the building can take before it collapses.

"I'll know," the man decked head to toe in red leather and with little horns on his head says tersely, and with a self-assurance that's still somehow remotely absent anything like bravado. Then it's into the fire, ramming shoulder-first through the overheated door and into the hell-scape of smoke and flame. He doesn't look behind to see if she's following; he's straight up the stairs, flames licking at his heels as he charges into the rising plumes of smoke.

Through the cloud, choking, he finds the boy and the infant. For once he wishes he had a goddamn cape to swadle them and guard them from the choking fog. "Come on, we're getting you out of here," he says breathlessly, chest-pumping and pulse sounding in his ears.

"Throw it!" he tells her, without so much as a glance to see whether she's actually followed him.

*

"Works for me!"

Domino knows plenty about letting sheer confidence buoy her through life or death situations, so if the guy who looks entirely at home amidst oppressive heat and ruin says he's got it - without so much as a whiff of hesitation - then she's willing to trust him. She came this far, anyway, sweating and burning— choking— all on the word of a man who swore that it would be worth it.

And if he happens to be wrong, then she's all set to trust herself to get them clear.

Confidence!

For better or worse, he at least turns out to be entirely correct about the children. He beats her to the punch with grabbing them, but that's fine with her: it frees her up to unclip the grenade she brought 'just in case' and lob it towards the first wall she sets her eyes on. As soon as it's out of her hands, she lunges towards the Devil and the children, hoping to clamp her hands around as many ears as she can manage before—

BOOOOOOOM!

— it's time to go.

"C'mon! I heard something about triage— hey!" Running - backwards - towards the hole, she fixes her eyes on the boy. "Are you guys hurt? We're gonna make sure you get taken care of, but we need to know!" She doesn't take her eyes off of the kids even when she runs out of floor and somersaults into fresh air and wailing. There are still mattresses in the street; she's already checked the angles. It'll work out.

Or so she tells herself, confident and anticipating bruises and the bouncing.

*

Emery will find plenty of folks still trapped in cars. The cars are a mess. People slammed into each other in the initial parts of the blast, or into lamp posts, benches. In some cases debris has fallen atop cars. There's plenty to do, but the fluent direction he's giving is a huge boon. People are generally willing to help. People generally want to. If they can get out of panic-mode long enough to do it. Any strong voice telling them to do anything useful is a boon; he's providing that.

In the building the kid was looting there are quite a few people who are trapped under debris. This one is sluggish to burn, at least, giving Luke plenty of room to work. About fifteen of them in all, though there is one teenage girl doggedly trying to dig someone out, straining against a metal beam that is too big for her to lift. Adrenaline means she is sort of budging it while a much younger girl cries, but it's not going to be enough by a long shot.

Claire's new assistant blinks a few times, and quips, "First time I ever been told to tag somethin'. Or someone." But he's game, and he does. With even more space on the streets? The ambulances, scant as they are, start making their way close enough to take advantage of Claire's efforts, and one of the paramedics goes, "Oh thank god, someone got on the triage already."

Some ragged cheers go up for those bots too; not because the other efforts aren't appreciated and needful, but because they're very visible. A lot of them come from the firemen, who are just making scant progress. But with the help of the Stark drones, active conflagrations are going to become soot-black unstable structures in no time. Actually getting everyone to safety might very well take days, this isn't the problem of a few hours' work, even as well as everyone's working and working together. But it brings this area under control, and that's a damned important step.

The boy clutches the baby and clings to Matt Murdock, burying his face in the devil's shoulder, the booooooom making him curl up like a traumatized hamster, and whimper. Sadly the only answer Domino gets is this: he coughs weakly, but their hearts are both beating despite the rasps in their lungs. They'll live, though they're likely going to need to be tagged with some red paint.

*

IRISHMAN is turning away from a car calling out to someone. "Oi! Tommy, I know you and your boys be jackin' cars…go and get your boys and get these cars unlocked or get into 'em and take the people to the Pretty Latina lady with the spray paint." Then he's replying to Claire. "/Bloody/ Hell woman, I'm a Butler, not a Bus Depot!" But he's still searching for a safe place. "Half a block, we can carton it off where there's less smoke and less debris, near where Miss Harley is cleanin'."

He is so busy doing his Super Buttle thing that he turns and suddenly…there's a homeless man in his arms and as the core of his being reaches out to do an assessment of life and souls and what not, something brushes against his awareness as he meets Az's gaze with his own for just a moment and his blood feels like it is running coldas his arms tighten around the homeless man and his jaw sets. It is only because he can feel that the Homeless man needs help that he tries to keep his breathing even, despite the fact that he's started trembling and he swallows and scoops the homeless man into a bridal carry back towards Claire's triage. "Smoke Inhalation." He's laid down carefully before Emery straightens up and backs away, looking back in the direction of Az, fists clenching and unclenching. Focussing on keeping it together. Help is coming and he's turned his attention to making sure people he has a clear place marked out for the folks who need transport. "Oi! Lets clear an area for teh passengers of our imaginary bus. We need a Ginger with frizzy hair…"

*

In only those few moments Emery is his better self and turns away, Azalea has gone. There is to much to do, too little time to do it. Her failures to be good in another life has to wait, and she wades back into fire and fury and all the rest again, if only so that she might not have to look Emery in the eye. Claire will find more piled at her feet before the night is done.

Azalea will recognize far to many of them as neighbors, even friends.

Soon she has little to offer but strength, here and there, stealing a glance at Cage in passing, on her way to somewhere else. It is not until she stumbles upon the body of little Ivey Lee that it is too much. Seven years old.

An entire existence ahead of her.

Azalea doesn't bother pulling her from the rubble.

If this is the reply to the message she had sent to the Gangster, clearly, it was not a message well delivered.

Oblivious to the struggles left in her wake, something tugs at her in a way that is divine, an anger that could swallow the moon and turn the sun black, all demanding she make it right.

Azalea Kingston leaves Hell's Kitchen, covered in the blood of others, in soot and ash and the gore of buildings, and goes to find Wilson Fisk.

*

Luke is able to pull the first few free with minimal effort, lugging them out like groaning sacks of potatoes sometimes two at a time that he lays down in Claire's triage area before going back in for more. His lungs aren't as resilient, the repetitive inhale of smoke will take its toll eventually but for now it's just causing him to cough occasionally until he finally zips up his hoody and ducks his face into it enough to cover his mouth and nose as best as possible as he works. When he gets to the pair of girls, however, that small preventative measure goes out of the window. "It's all right, I'm here to help. C'mere, sweetheart. Step back. I'll get her out." He rumbles. If she was able to get it to budge at all, he can make quick work of it. The problem is convincing himself to take his sweet time so as to not cause more damage by falling debris. 'Calm your Chi', Danny would tell him. And so the big man assesses everything before setting muscle to work to ease the beam off the younger girl.

*

The fires go out but the buildings themselves are gutted. Structurally unsound in dozens of places. People are still in them even as firemen rush to help people from buildings, from rubble.

One large tumbledown structure starts to topple towards the street.

There is a streak of light in the air. Something moving far beyond normal speed arrows its way though the dark of the night. It flies directly at the building and as it goes dozens of smaller devices deploy from the back. Each of them rush towards the building. Tiny grapel systems deploying. Saftey foam and bonding agents coating the structure to keep it from falling apart, manipulator hands to push back against gravity to hold it together as a red and gold suit /does/ now appear along with all the other familiar drones.

Putting the building back together, evacuating wounded from the higher levels. When he puts his mind to it, Tony Stark /can/ actually be impressive.

Still insufferable. But impressive.

The man himself pulls two more people carefully from a window as he keys in a com system.

"Kins," He snaps the name out via a secure channel. His voice clipped, his attention pulled in every direction at once as he commands his legion of drones and takes in the information being sent at the same time. "I'm sending you a list of the most structurally unsound buildings and the worst danger zones. Also the highest concentrations of vital signs. I'll take care of the big buildings, you all get the people out of them and to safety."

A pause.

"And then? I think we might need to have a little talk."

*

Claire Temple nods to the medic that talks about the triage. "RN, licensed, certified, specialty in emergency room care," she rattles off, getting the bona fides out of the way so they can leave her alone to continue her work. Emery's answers? "Bloody Hell. Apt description," Claire says dryly after Emery's words. Her current patient is sitting up in front of her and the nurse holds a finger up in front of the woman. "Follow this." When the woman follows the order, Claire follows up with the name, what day is it, who's the president questions. When the woman makes a rude finger gesture to the last question (New Yorkers, man…) she nods to Taggy. "Yellow, help her get to the area Mister Emer… EMERY?!? Tell our boss I won't be in tomorrow. Take her where Mister Emery is talking about."
She takes a few precious seconds to grab a stack of cards from a pocket, handing them to the Buttling one. "Here. To the heroic types when they need their lungs checked on in a few hours." Just an address and the word nurse.

On to Al Bettyford and she starts running the checks. Borderline, but considering his social status? He'll get marked red to make sure he isn't left on the street. Then again, everyone not clad in metal suits probably looks like they're playing on the lowest social rung - torn clothing, soot and blood and everything under the smoke hazed sky stained. Figure after figure, short assessments - able to walk? Green and go hand out by Harley. Breathing checks - if red or black if not spontaneous at first. Bleeding, mental status … she'll probably be there until morning.

*

Domino tries to shield the sensitive ears of the child and infant with whatever's available to her, while the man they're wrapped around shields his own. Vainly. The grenade he asked her to throw lands, and it sends a seismic shock through Daredevil's whole frame. There's one heartbeat, two, of eerie and impossible silence.

The world reasserts itself then, and the man in red shakes his head as if to banish cobwebs. He scoops up the young boy who seeks to burrow into his shoulder and feels a pang in his chest. "The baby," he says to Domino, just loud enough to be heard over the pandemonium around them. "Take it."

He angles his head towards the ear of the young boy in his arms. "It's okay," he murmurs fiercely, though it's true in only the strictest and shortest-term sense. After all, he smells the burning and crackling flesh of the dead behind him. "You're okay. Just — just hold on tight." And then he rises, and then he rises, runs, and leaps through the smoke and the ruined wall with unerring and uncanny accuracy onto one of the mattresses.

*

Even through the helmet's filters the air is hot and reeks of char. Bubbling, blistering paint, hot mortar, ash, and other things — sweeter things — that Kinsey doesn't think about too closely. She navigates the darkness of the smoke-filled stairwell, descending the stairs three at a time, wheeling around the landing and down to the first door giving access to the building proper. Down the hallway, with the bristling sensors in the helmet attuned to anything that might sound like a human voice, on the other side of the doors she passes. Nothing, so far, and no scrapes or bumps or regular thumps, either.

<I feel obliged to mention that your costume was not designed with reassurance in mind,> Five surfaces long enough to say.

He's right. It isn't. It's not designed for heroism. It isn't designed to give comfort. She's never felt the failings of her costume — of her purpose and her capabilities — the way she does now, trying to support bodies heavier than her own — bodies suffering the agony of raw burns — in escape from a burning building, bearing them up with limbs that are hard, angular, in many places sharp. Imparting reassuring words through a voice synthesizer deliberately bereft of anything like real emotion, emitted from a helmet that lacks a face.

And then that voice in her ear.

"One thing at a time," she says back, through gritted teeth, and after that she doesn't say anything at all.

*

Domino doesn't let go of the baby until she's done tucking, rolling, landing, and hurting.

She winces when the crying inevitably begins and spares the child soft, shushing whispers and a few gentle rocking motions while she lies on the mattress and aches. Hell's Kitchen is still striving to live up to its name to the fullest all around her, though, so even worthy cries only merit so much of a break before the mercenary must haul herself to her feet and make a bee-line towards Claire. She didn't catch a bit of the spray-painting system or the assignments being handed out, so trusting a baby to someone running around with a spray can is not her /first/ choice when she can just head straight for the order-giving source instead.

When Domino arrives, Dr. Temple will get a huffed, "Not… great— lotta smoke— big landing…" before the hand-off is made and Domino heads back out to continue working.

*

Quinn has been, for better or worse, dutifully worked. And, as Emery has so generously noted, she has indeed cleared a sizable location of the larger and more problematic chunks of concrete and the like. It helps, really, once she shoulders in - seeing faces of the sorts of people that she might actually care about. Women and children awaken the sorts of protective feelings that keep her working as the air gets thicker and harder to breathe.

Someone was helping at one point, she was sure. Weren't they? Maybe they were. They're definitely not now, leaving Harley the opportunity to put down her NO PARKING sign, sit down, and try to catch her breath while trying to pull her gloves gingerly off her raw hands. …Only to find they won't come.

"Damn it," she mutters to herself, legs bent like butterfly wings as she sits on the curb in her red leggings - which are only becoming increasingly black in the soot and smoke. "My luck, I really need to jes' start packing a S'more kit at all times." She looks up, mouth wide to ask the next passing person if they would appreciate marshmallows and affirm her thoughts… only to actually see the state of said person. She slumps, coughs, and goes back to trying to work her gloves.

*

And so it goes.

Eventually, the inferno is completely done. Stark's drones. The National Guard, finally able to arrive through cleaner streets. A gentle rain, even, that blows up from the lower half of the Kitchen in time. Vehicles are jacked and found and moved. People are sorted. More crews arrive on the scene from other burroughs, finally able to get through.

A lot of the civilians peter out, either moved out of there by the professionals or simply reaching the end of their stamina and strength. Some don't. Taggy stays right in the game until morning, when he finally falls asleep with his back to a light post, taxed to the end of his fourteen years and change of life. Emery's crew of car thieves is in it to win it as well. Indeed, a lot of the ones who stay are the scoundrels, the drug dealers, the ones on the wrong side of the law. People who have lived hard lives, people with a lot of resilience. Despite Luke having to stop a real looter, most of them don't.

There are, probably, those among the ambulence crews, or the fire crews, or any of the rest who might have snarled about metas or masked vigilantes in pubs. Who might have believed rumors about Daredevil, the murderer. Who might have turned and spit at Tony Stark's name, with his life of privilege and his shiny everything. Who might have dismissed a nurse because she wasn't a doctor, or a man, or white. Who might have called a man in a hoodie a thug, or snickered at a modern-day butler. But today they're just grateful to have them. Grateful to work side-by-side with them.

The person who did this meant it for evil. But that doesn't mean that for a few hard, grimy, smoke covered, nasty moments, some good doesn't come out of it all the same.

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