Blowin' Up the Kitchen: Part 3

June 29, 2018:

Death and destruction reign in Hell's Kitchen as a mass bombing rages. These are the tales of the heroes who took the top of the kitchen.

Hell's Kitchen, 50th through 55th St.

The … nicer?… part of the Kitchen?

Characters

NPCs: Many, emitted by Kingpin.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

June 29, 2018

Hell's Kitchen

6:59 PM

Clocks.

There's almost not a person alive who doesn't carry one these days. Sometimes multiple clocks. One minute ago a woman checked her fitbit on her wrist, even as her phone marked the creeping encroachment of the 7th hour. A man with a Rolex notes the comforting sweep of the second-hand; it tells him he won't miss his train. And high above, other clocks helpfully mark the days and hours. One man swears in Spanish and jogs down the sidewalk, weaving in and out of traffic as the bank clock over his head offers time and temperature. For some, time is a comfort, for others, time is a cage.

7:00 PM

The second hand sweeps. The minute hand flips.

Time becomes a catalyst.

The roar is like standing beneath the collision of two jet airplanes coming together mere inches above one's head. The noise is phenomenal until it drops away for a moment, a sheet of white filling the senses. Vision and hearing disappear for a second before dropping away, and few are in the same place when it's done.

They're gone for what seem like an eternity, they return to madness. It can't have been more than seconds. Buildings are shaking. Broken glass is raining down from high buildings above. Cars have slammed into one another. Debris has slammed into cars, chunks of building with their macabre rebar skeletons poking out of the ends of them on trunks or crushing tops, making gruesome corpses or trapping people inside.

Utter bedlam.

And fire. Spiraling, angry red orange flames clothed and cloaked in ebony and grey, noxious smoke already sending a rain of char and ash down on the people below. Everything is heat and the struggle to breathe.

As if the whole of the neighborhood had suddenly decided to manifest some vision of its name.

In the northernmost end of the kitchen, an area stretching between 50th street and 55th street, the fires seem to pick and choose their targets like slasher flick seducers picking targets. Many of the buildings here are nicer, newer, and they all seem fine. Weaving between them are old, but still expensive apartments, offices, bars and dives. A certain obnoxious glowing street sign that once made Matt Murdock's 50th street apartment livable now shines on an inferno. Josie's Bar becomes a wooshing fireball in an instant, on account of the fact that every inch of it was sticky with cheap booze.

There are, already, so many dead. So, so many. And while emergency response teams do pour in from the north, there aren't enough. Four firetrucks, who can't even get through past 55th street, because there's so much mess in the roads. Six ambulances.

This is a bombing on a scale the likes of which has not really been seen before, and the city is not equipped for it.

*

Tom Judge — dressed in a long coat and a loose priest's collar — strides purposefully through the streets with as much habit as safety — it's useful to look like you know where you're going even when you might not. Only the slight hesitation as he reaches the cross-street betrays indecision, covered up by a pause to fumble for cigarette and lighter, buying him more time. The tall, thin man is not someone who carries a watch, or even looks for the time — but it's there, pressing like a dull ache against his head. A reminder of just how long since he's tasted alcohol. The bright, neon lights of a bar across the road lures him out onto the street, dodging traffic, earning a baring of horns.

And then the world, for a moment, ends.

It comes back. Inches away from Tom, two cars are mashed together, smoke drifting upwards from the engine of the vehicle nearest to the former priest. Heat presses in against him, but the man doesn't seem overly uncomfortable about that. Still: "For fuck's sake!" The glowing neon lights of the bar he was angling for lie in a twisted tangle, the 'O' the only letter still lit, flickering in an out, the bar beneath a flaming mess. The scale of chaos hasn't penetrated yet, lost for a moment under the pain of his very personal, ongoing sobriety. He takes a step towards the flaming wreckage of the bar.

*

What if you knew something was going down and you just let it?

Owen Mercer was specifically told that Hell's Kitchen would be experiencing an incident. He was personally told this by a man with the power to make unspeakable things happen. Owen was further told that there was something he might gain from whatever terrible thing might occur, so long as he was willing to do something terrible of his own.

And Owen wanted to say no. To flip him off, cuss him out as creatively as possible and stand firmly on the side of the angels with a Captain America-esque jaw jutting out righteously. And yet? He didn't. He listened. He maybe even agreed. Or at least did something that could be construed as agreeing.

But in true Owen fashion he tries. So he did his best to warn his friends (a new concept for him) to stay clear of the kitchen tonight. Surprisingly enough convincing Jess and Luke to steer clear was fairly straight forward, because they trust him. Oh good. That will only make this worse.

But that still leaves all the people that Owen doesn't know and shouldn't give a rats ass about but yet he finds himself doing that weird thing where you consider other people and try and stop them from dying a horrible firey death. Or at least he does something akin to that. First step, stop dodging one Danielle Moonstar's surveillance. Second step, leave a couple chalk marks to establish a communication protocol and drop site. Third step, consider leaving nude photos as hilarious prank. Fourth step, remember that you are supposed to be helping people and instead leave a message asking Dani to be on high alert in the kitchen as backup for you based on 'reliable sources'. Fifth step, which wasn't really part of the plan but somehow happened anyway, acquire more of that ridiculous good heron and get high as a kite literally and figuratively.

Which brings us to Owen sitting on the edge of a rooftop in full on Boomerang regalia staring down at the street with googly eyes trying to decide if people look more like running mice or if mice would look even cuter if you dressed them up in people clothes. A beer in one hand and his other idly checking his phone just in case. His boomerang gear looks to be upgraded, perhaps as part of his work for Rand he made some modifications to his own. And a large bag of 'toys' sits next to him as well.

Or it did. Until hell broke loose. Which causes Owen, his beer, his gear, his cheer(?) to go tumble, bumble down a fire escape and into a dumpster where he belongs. A groan is all the effort he can make at this moment, while Hell's Kitchen burns.

*

Frank Castle hates bombs. It's a simple fact. They're an indiscriminate coward's weapon. He hates them even more when they interrupt his plans for revenge. One moment he's skulking on the roof of a building, carrying a duffel back stuffed with clothes to bulk out the shape of the high-caliber ill-intent within, and the next he's inside what used to be a bail bondsman's office and his duffel is nowhere to be found. Even more concerning — to most people at least — blood trickles down from a thin gash at his right temple. Castle, however, pays no attention to the rivulet of red, instead pushing himself to his feet and looking about for the duffel. As he fails to find it, anger twists his features for a moment, and he snarls, "No!" Despite his protest, however, the duffel does not make a reappearance.

It's then that Castle notices the extent of the damage, as best as he can from within the office. "Shit." There's less anger there, but it's still definitively grumpy. Shoving aside half a desk, Frank moves toward the front door, limping at first on a battered leg, and then walking more steadily as he continues. The door sticks, as well it should with two thirds of the roof inside the office, but Frank gives it a kick and smashes it open, leaving him looking into a scene from hell — without the kitchen. "Shit."

*

Your supposed alternate-timeline-dimension-whateveritis-boyfriend drops seemingly from the face of the Earth and you think nothing of it, but when he returns back in your life? Well, you're immediately suspicious.

Or so Dani is.

When Owen contacted her earlier in his own unique way to request aid she immediately felt suspicious. Immediately. However, Danielle Moonstar isn't one to shirk responsibility (in either world) and so, here she is. Dressed for trouble in her black kevlar-nomex weave costume and armed to the gills with hunting knife, SHIELD issued ICER and her trusty bow and arrow.

And while Danielle is in high alert mode, she doesn't quite know what she's necessarily looking for, but she knows one thing she needs to find Owen. Then she'll locate whatever trouble is going down, she just knows it.

BUT, because there always is one, before she can locate Mr. Captain Boomerang the world explodes and turns to fire. It's enough to bowl her right on over and to the ground. She lays there a moment, stunned, until finally her senses return. "What the hell." Dani says, perhaps yelling those three words as the world burns, then she rises to her feet. SHe pulls a burner phone from her back pocket and furiously now, the Cheyenne woman types a message to Owen. It reads in all caps:

'WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO'

Yup, it's apparently all his fault in Dani's mind.

Once the message is sent the phone is pocketed once more. Now it's time to help.

*

6:00 PM, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

"Hey Jane," says James Barnes, "if you wanna check on 'whether Matt's being an idiot' anytime this century, we should really get going right about now."

6:55 PM, 50th Street Station

"You'd think they would have figured out a way to make the subways run a little faster after eighty years, but no, they've just gotten worse," Bucky grouses, as he and Jane make their way west across Hell's Kitchen towards Fogwell's, and Jane doubtless pays no attention to him.

7:00 PM, West 50th Street and 9th Avenue

A split second before the neighborhood erupts in fire and smoke, Bucky abruptly yanks Jane down to the sidewalk, covering her with his own body. Hard to say what warned him: maybe a slight change in the air, the distant roar of a explosion registered a few split seconds before a normal mind could, or maybe just the sixth sense that comes from too many years being at the epicenter of shit going down. Either way, instinct takes over for a few moments, as shattered glass rains down on both of them.

"What the fuck?!" he manages once the shock clears, pushing back to his feet and reaching to help Jane up.

*

ONE HOUR AGO

A man with a big, lumpy bindle of plastic bags tucks himself into the corner of an alleyway. He squints irritably at a cheap beer can, shaking at it, hearing no remaining liquid within, and throws it to the side. He hunkers down, bearded chin touching chest, and lets his eyes slip closed.

TICK. TOCK.

A girl was peering into the alleyway, pointing at the sleeping man, one of the biggest she'd ever seen. Wisely, the mother was attempting to corral her away. They were both watching when the explosions erupted - one of which almost immediately behind the man. An instant, horrific death, but they didn't have the time to process it, as the side of the building was now slumping toward them, a killing wave of masonry.

The woman skitters back. Falls. The girl grabbs at her arm, screaming, trying to haul on her with all of her strength. Still bound by its structural frame, a spire of brick comes down at them with finality. Their eyes close instinctively.

The end doesn't come.

The man from the alleyway is above them, shirt gone, pants burning and ragged, his skin unharmed. With both arms, he holds the frame, turning it into an enormous shield, splitting the cascading wreckage around the three of them. The pavement cracks under his back heel.

An errant brick caroms off his head with no effect but to jostle the sweat-stained leather headgear on his forehead. "Hmph," he growls, shifting, dropping the steel and brick to the side.

Hercules turns, swatting idly at a flame on his hip, looking down at the woman and child. He jerks his chin toward the sound of sirens. "Go on. Get outta here!" His booming voice works like a bucket of ice, shocking them back to reality. They flee, the woman gathering the girl up into her arms.

Herc watches them go for a moment and plants his foot down on the steel he'd just caught, snapping it apart into a more mangeable size, propping it up on his shoulder.

He frowns, looking around at the city in chaos. "It's a sacking…" he mutters, "…so where are the barbarians?"

*

RECENTLY

A roiling mass of light briefly visits a sidewalk to deposit a large, displeased woman. The woman does not land well from the exchange — she has a few feet to drop and perhaps wasn't expecting it. In her defense, getting thrown out of a shiny cloud is not a common way to travel.

"Sera!" she says, hoarsely. She finds her limbs quickly, lurching forward into a crouch. She is wearing some kind of action bikini with weird fantasy cosplay stuff like metal headwings and face paint and what is hopefully a fake sword. It doesn't blend.

This is not Hel, she thinks. A car passes her. The driver stares at her. She stares back. When the car passes, she brushes her hand over her face. The enchanted war paint there fades away, and the pure white of her eyes becomes something more human. She has an idea of what planet she's on and it troubles her.

"Um, lady — and this is very important — what costume party are you already dressed up for at six in the PM on a Friday."

Angela straightens her poise to stand, which incidentally leaves her towering over the two men who have come out of a storefront to see her blocking them. She glances from them, to the storefront window, and then back. She has taken note of the merchant's fine clothing mannequins with all manner of crafted leatherwear.

"I am ill dressed for the hour," she says, leaning into the mystical power of the Allspeak. "Do you know the merchant here? I have a need for attire."

The two men share a glance. One of them rests his hand on his chin and looks thoughtful. The other reaches out and puts a concerned hand on Angela's elbow, which she gives a pointed look.

"This place isn't really for your type," he says.

"She is kinda butch, though," the other man observes. He tilts his head. "Like a Barbarella butch."

"Oh," says the other man. "Truuue."

NOW

Angela, having acquired local clothing thanks to the kindness of one Todd and one Scott, blends in much better. This merchant only carried menswear, but it there was much practical clothing to be found such as 'slacks' and 'button-up shirts that will look murderous with the sleeves rolled up oh my god look at your BICEPS YES I LOVE IT.' She also acquired a fanciful rainbow business card, which her threat judgment has ascertained is not related to vile Asgard's own rainbow obsession. Even if it were, she must use this fabulous business card to repay their kindness. The laws of self-governance demand such sacrifices.

Angela wanders through the sidewalks without a direction in mind. Her armor and weapons are safely stored within her personal enchantments. If she is right — and she imagines she is — her flight from Hel has brought her to the mythical planet of Earth. It smells much more like sun-baked urine than the stories suggested. It puts her on edge, because perhaps the smell means Asgardians have been recently near.

Angela's thoughts are interrupted by violence and flame. The minute changes in air pressure, coupled with the structurally unsound pre-collapse buckling on the building next to her, gives her time to look over and study the incoming explosion. She purses her lips as the fireball billows out toward her. The brick of the building, several stories tall, teeters dangerously toward the street. It will collapse. She does not move, pretending to have a baseline level of reflexes that could not possibly respond in time. The voyeur-pervert Heimdall's eye may have been drawn by the teleportation, despite how subtle Sera's magicks were. It is worth being cautious here. She has survived much worse.

A pity, she thinks, I enjoy this Earth shirt. The brick and flame come tumbling down toward her — !!

*

Franklin Percy Nelson understands the value of time. Time is important. It's probably why he has always put his trust in a good watch.

Friday, minutes before 5 o'clock, and he's making his way to meet up with the Murdock half of Nelson and Murdock to go over all the information he's combed through, flagged, and highlighted pertaining to Danny Rand and Juno Industries. This is his first time since the opening of N & M that Foggy is out of the office before 5:00. While he knows, in his heart of hearts, that his work is not done, the fact that he's making it toward Matt's with takeout and beer warrants an achievement badge.

Yes. Foggy Nelson has always understood the value of time. With the tinniest of ticks, the hands on his perfectly accurate watch click into place and his entire world goes from a typical late evening of a New York City summer day to the deepest inferno of Hell.

His ears are ringing, and the shadows across his eyes keep flickering like sunlight through leaves. No. Not the sun… nor leaves. It's fire, and the thin, fluttering obstructions is sheafs of paper being caught up in the abrupt thermals. Instinctively, he grasps for one as it dances past. He doesn't need to see the paper to know where it came from; the embossed braille dots are all too familiar.

"Oh… oh, no. No, no-no-no, no. Matt." He staggers up to his feet, messenger still looped around his shoulder and hanging down his back. He guards his eyes against the blaze as he looks toward Matt's apartment, and a thick knot of emotions catch in his throat.

*

Time. One thing is certain, even when you have an abundance of it on your hand:

It is the most precious resource we have…

FWOOM

… and you can never, ever have enough of it.

It's a fact no more abundantly clear for a certain webbed vigilante known as Spider-Man than it is tonight. Perched against a building next door to an older school nestled within the depths of Hell's Kitchen, Peter Parker is a young man who feels exceptionally proud of himself today. Sometimes things don't work out for him — oftentimes they don't, despite his best efforts. Yet today, he is sure, is not one of those days. He found a problem before it actually became a problem. He solved it before it could get worse. He saved lives. A lot of lives.

And behind that mask, he is smiling, even just a little bit, with that edge of pride as he sticks to the side of his helpful edifice and fiddles with his web shooters.

"Yeah, it's like — I dunno, it's weird. I think there's something strange going on down here," he speaks into the StarkTech phone-slash-superhero-communicator he had painstakingly built into his suit, ejecting an emptied cannister of adhesive into the warm, stale air and snatching it away as he speaks. "Me and Red and some mercenaries who were like maybe the bad guys but possibly had a change of heart and totally did a Heel-Face Turn. Or is it Face-Heel Turn? I dunno. The good kind of turning. Shut up. The point is, jury's still out on all of that, maybe they weren't even bad to begin with, I'm not sure — but no one from the bomb disposal unit ever came. Weird, right? Like… like they were…"

Lenses whirl into a squint. Behind his mask, Peter frowns.

"… maybe it's nothing. But you should still get over here, just in case, okay? If there's something more to this, maybe we can like, I don't know, get ahead of it before it spirals into something really super terrible."

He feels happy. Good with himself, despite lingering suspicions.

Which is of course…

"The important thing is, people are safe now — wait—"

… why everything goes wrong.

The sound of explosive chemical reactions drown Spider-Man in glass-shattering cacophony as his entire world becomes a numb ring seconds after the delirious twinge of his spider-sense. He barely has enough time to choke out a cry before fireballs rip through a building not that far from the school. Without sight, without hearing, without any of his other senses to rely on, Spider-Man -leaps- off the side of the building he was occupying second before chunks of rubble and shards of glass can pelt into the side of the building he once occupied. The webbed menace goes into free fall. He can't see. He can't hear. He can't —

And it is pure, sheer, luck that has his vision returning to him just in time to shoot off a web-line seconds before he can pancake into the earth, attached to a nearby building -not- in ruins. A hard -yank- brings him up, up, up…

Just high enough to see the cityscape, pockmarked by flames like opened pits of Hell sprinkled across its kitchen. White lenses widen to reflect the open, horrified shock behind the mask.

"No. Nononono. Why?! I — I — " No. He found the bombs, they had more time, they had to have more—

"NO!"

And it is pure instinct that sends Spider-Man swinging off in a blurring flurry of speed, heat-pumped winds beating mercilessly at his body as he rushes for the first burning building he can find to rocket through the flames and look for anything — anyone — he can find.

There's never enough time.

*

MEANWHILE, ON LONG ISLAND:

"It's cool," Nico answers the phone, slightly hesitant. "Yeah. Like, I'll totally get there. I read the maps, I can get the LIRR, right? Like - wait - dude? Spider-Man? What -"

She can hear the distorted explosions.

Nico swallows and considers her surroundings for a pregnant second, then another. Nothing presents itself and so she tilts her head back and straightens up, sucking breath through her teeth, bringing back her left hand, curling it into a fist…

And SMASHING it into the wall of Titan Tower. Nico Minoru's strength is only enough to hurt herself. The pain runs like iron webs up her knuckles and she turns her head to look because she has to tighten up and do it AGAIN before what is necessary has been done. As blood runs down her knuckles, she breathes out the words:

"When blood is shed, let the Staff of One emerge!"

It hurts coming out. Afterwards she takes another second before staring at the floor and saying with portent, "Take me to Spider-Man."

Magenta light sweeps over her without drama or preamble.

SO

Nico Minoru back-sweeps into existence standing in the gutter right in front of a sidewalk. Her left foot is firmly placed on a page 5 update from the Bugel from earlier in the week regarding You Know Who. The headline reads, You Guessed It, "SPIDER-MAN" - if there was more, it is invisible underneath Nico's leathern heel. She looks upwards, blinking, and opens her mouth to say something inspiring.

The building is falling towards her.

Nico feels her stomach fall into somewhere around her knees and turns her eyes heavenswards, but there is something long and black and unadorned in her hands. Why didn't it work, she almost thinks, before she blurts out, "BUILDING STOP FALLING" and then arches her back.

FWOOM! The light storms out of the Staff of One and Nico's eyes at the same time, rising like a dust devil in a widdershins loop towards the building that had begun to tumble forwards. Flame is touched and just… stops. Bricks halt in mid-air. The building, mid-collapse, resembles a photograph. Even clouds of dust have stopped, like incredibly diaphonous blobs of foam. That probably-unwholesome violet-ish light pervades the entire thing. The back half of the building crumples distinctly inwards before the wave of magic catches up to it.

Nico twitches. "I'm gonna throw up," she says with sickly certainty. She does not, not right away.

She fumbles for her earpiece. (of course she had an earpiece in to talk to Spider-Man) "I, uh - I have this one - I don't know if it's going to… last, but… hurry?"

"hi," she says to Angela, finally.

*

6:01 PM, Bay Ridge, one degree hotter with Jane Foster's annoyance:

"What's this 'anytime this century'? Coming from someone who literally takes ten minutes to text, five of them spent slowly scrolling the emoji list rather than using the macros I set up for you, with your old man typing," Jane breezes back, in the midst of grabbing a few last things and compiling them into her magic-imbued STUFF app. God, she loves that app.

The banter helps keep her from thinking too hard on whether the time may be coming — if Matt's ready to know what they're doing. If they're ready to know if he's been doing anything else — like another murder attempt with the mob — that might have to end with her trying to reclaim the equipment she made him. Enabled him, maybe.

Anxious, grim, awkward, awkward thoughts.

7:00 PM —

And Jane Foster has already forgotten whatever she was brooding on the train over. Forgets most of everything, really, to the sudden and concussive BLAST of that initial explosion that guts out the street in a searing wave of fire. Bucky's instincts are sudden and honed, and she feels her spine hit the cement before she can even feel the heat on her skin, and all Jane can do is react just as mindlessly, wrapping her hands up to protect the back of his head, curling close to try to clamp the sound from both their ears. She squeezes her eyes shut against the rain of glass and holds her breath.

The explosions give way to fire, and smoke, and screams, and Jane shellshocked by most of it, absorbed a moment too long to wipe the glass from Bucky's hair. When she looks past him, she goes sheet-white.

"Are you OK?!" she yells the same time he does, a little loud, head thick from the clamour. There's bodies around them. Fire everywhere. No single source, she thinks, trying to allay the panic — it's everywhere. Terrorists? Worse?

*

There's not even anything or anyone left to save in that bar, unless one counts that 'O' sign. Everyone who was in there was dead, including Josie herself, the redoubtable woman who took no shit and told no lies.

It's worth noting that PS 35 remains fine. All bombs found and disarmed. Peter and the others did save those people. Indeed, sudden shrieking from the school says parents and children still crowded around the place have edged instinctively back towards the building they just fled. It is untouched, and as safe as it's going to get. Much like the building Frank is trying to get out of. Meanwhile Hercules holds up one building. Nico holds up another. People take the opportunity not just to get out of the way of collapses, but to get out.

Others get their bearings. Or fear for lost friends. Matt Murdock's apartment building is definitely one of the ones that had bombs in it. It burns like a Midsummer bonfire, no doubt leaving dozens of dead residents in its wake.

Will Jane's concerns about the Devil of Hell's Kitchen prove to be a moot point? Will there be anyone to reclaim gear from?

*

There are lots of voices caroming around what was once a relatively-nice part of Hell's Kitchen, lots of crashes of falling masonry, and lots of roaring fires. But it's hard to miss the shouting of an actual god. Frank Castle turns to look in the direction of Hercules, but then a lesser voice catches his ears, and he grimaces sharply at the crying of a child and the scream of its mother. With one last glance back over his shoulder in the direction that he thinks his gun-laden duffel is, veteran Marine hurries his steps in the direction of the half-crushed car that has been tumbled on its side. He may not have super strength, but he has a hell of a lot of anger to draw on. One hand draws a heavy Kabar knife from its holster at his back, and he slams the hilt of it into the already-stressed windshield. Once, twice, three times and the safety glass turns to a snowstorm of tiny cubes.

On the other side of the car from Frank, a puddle of spilled gasoline washes ever-closer to the flickering flames of Matt's apartment, but Castle doesn't see that, he just sees the dark-haired woman and the little boy inside the car. The knife is sheathed, and he starts hauling away the plastic-tangled remains of the windshield, crouching down to push his already-bloodied face inside the car, the blaze of Nico stopping the falling building casting harsh shadows across his already harsh features. It is not a reassuring visage, and the woman screams all the louder.

*

From a dumpster, easily drown out by the cacophony of awful happening around it the tiny strains of Coldplay's Major Minus play, complete with lyrics like 'They got one eye watching you, One eye on what you do..' which would let Owen know that he has received a text from his once-upon-a-jabberwocky-dream-love that she's hella pissed. But Owen neither hears the phone nor would care if he could. Instead he's concentrating on exiting the dumpster and getting his bearings, including using his speed to try and regain some of his limited senses.

Outside the dumpster Owen manages to take stock of what boomerangs he has on his person and locates his gear bag, hanging three stories up. The good news is that he correctly guessed tonight's fun might involve exploding things based on his last run in with a Fisk based plot. The bad news is that most of the things he brought aren't handy. After a few more minutes to catch his breath and try to get his bearings he launches a razor boomerang to cut down his bag.. or what he thinks is his bag. The next a freezing boomerang is sent at the tallest burning building, hoping to cool down some of the flames and hopefully prevent a collapse.

The bag drops successfully down in the alley with Owen. He's so prepared. He allows himself a small smile as he opens the bag to find not the cornucopia of trick boomerangs to help but some clothes..? And some bad-ass weapons.

"What the shit?! This isn't…?"

Slow on the uptake, but not really turning down weapons, Owen hoists the bag over his shoulder and takes a more careful look at the ten or so boomerangs left on his person. Better make those count. He heads to the street, looking for people who are trapped in cars as he goes.

*

Another step. Tom Judge isn't precisely running to any sort of rescue here — and not because he knows for certain everyone in that bar is dead. As he moves, slowly, things penetrate — not just the fact that he lost the bar nearest him, but that it, and everywhere else seems to be on fire. But not him — or at least, not his skin, but his jacket seems to be smoking, something he seems absurdly oblivious to. The heat is more an annoyance than a deterrence — thanks to the silver artifact that swings loosely from the chain around his neck, gleaming in the reflected firelight.

His expression flattens into a scowl, as if this were some personal affront instead of mindless, random destruction.

"This is not—" he takes a breath. "This is not you," the thin man mutters, mostly to himself, like someone trying to convince himself. Whether he's trying to convince himself to help — or not — isn't clear. His gaze flickers over the bar — with little but smoking ruins and flames — and he grimaces. And, with a roll of his shoulders like he's steeling himself, Tom steps towards the flaming remnants of the bar.

Everyone's dead. But something compels him to go and make sure, anyway.

"Hello…?" seems kind of lame, and half-choked as he gets a lungful of smoke. The sleeve of his jacket begins to smolders as he brushes past a burning pillar, scrambling over precarious masonry towards what's left of the scarred bartop.

*

New York City in crisis means everyone is desperately trying to call everyone else. Foggy has fallen into the same trappings as he tries to ring through to Matt's phone. The drooping tones of CALL FAILED sounds off in his ear for the third time. "Shit." He knows its no use, and so the lawyer shoves his phone back into his pocket just as he turns to get his bearings of the chaos that has enveloped the Kitchen.

This is just in time to hear the screaming coming from the turned over car. He can't see Frank yet, but the sound of terror is enough for Foggy. He starts toward the car, reading the situation with each step. His well-worn brown loafers step right into the puddle of gas, and the smell hits his nose moments later.

Fast-acting logic pieces together the realities: gas + fire = 'plodey.

"Shit!" He starts running forward now, trusty messenger bag slamming against his rump as he runs. He skids around the car, coming face to face with Frank Castle as he reaches in for the two. "We gotta move! Car's leaking." He steps forward to help Frank, assuming Castle is there to save the pair and not about to engage in more typical Hell's Kitchen behavior.

*

A feeling behind her. Angela begins to glance over her shoulder at the person who popped into existence behind her (did Heimdall notice?!) but her interest is diverted by the novel sight of the collapsing building entering a freeze frame.

Angela's odd, pale-eyed gaze sweeps from frozen building to Nico. She studies the shorter woman for a moment with the kind of casualness that is typically not granted for people hanging out underneath a half-exploded building.

"You would have saved my life, I suppose," she muses. "I would owe you."

She gestures toward the building. "Is this indefinite, or are we at risk of resuming being crushed and burned?"

In the street behind her, a man stabs his way into a car while a woman screams. Angela considers the possibilities of this being a normal day in the blasted hellscape of Asgardian-occupied Midgard.

*

"Someone has to be the last bastion of proper typing in this day and age," Bucky complains. "You kids will abbreviate goddamn anything. And I scroll through the emojis because sometimes I find one I like better than the one I was going to use…"

So the banter goes on, in the way two people banter when they're trying to cover up worry, during their uneventful subway trip, until it dies an abrupt death as they reach the very eventful Hell's Kitchen.

Are you OK? Jane shouts as they both struggle back to their feet. "Fine. You?" Bucky replies, but it's plain he's already mode-shifted, his eyes narrowed and his features blank. The Winter Soldier is close to the surface in these moments, raw instinct and accumulated memory alike triggering hard in the burning wasteland that was once a few city blocks.

Looks too much like a lot of scenes he left behind, in his years as the Soldier.

There are a few guesses circulating in Jane's eyes. Bucky has plenty of guesses of his own, but only one he voices. "Him?" he wonders, even as he starts to move. Down the street, towards Matt's apartment. This puts him on a trajectory straight towards Foggy, who he catches sight up as he and Frank try to rescue the woman and child in the car.

Bucky puts on some speed. "Foggy!" he yells as he approaches. "Where's Matt?"

*

Screams everywhere. Horrific fires. People scattering in a panic. A deeply compassionate hero may have difficulty deciding where to go. So much to do.

Hercules wipes dust out of his beard. 'Fortunately', he's a Big Action kind of person. A figure in red whips past above his head. "Yeah," he murmurs. "Everyone's gonna be coming to this one." His face is briefly unreadable. "People will be expecting things." He still has a headache, damnit.

Alright. You're here. The city's being sacked, or something like it, but there's nothing to attack, as everything's already been done. Fire everywhere. Sirens. Rubble… rubble.

Secure a route.

Experimentally, Hercules shakes bricks off his girder, biceps surging as he gives it another bend, laying it across the road. "Hrrrraaagh!" He sweeps, scraping piles of debris off the road with a horrible scraping noise. The pavement is damaged, but passable. He grins, patting at the metal. "Not bad, not bad." He orients himself toward the wailing sounds of the fire trucks.

The warriors at the barred gate, waiting for someone to throw it open. The God of Strength heads that way, starting at a jog, moving further into a run, angling himself to shove the worst of the debris from the road as he goes, sweat and dirt building on his shoulders.

*

While Danielle Moonstar isn't magical in the typical sense of the word, her status as a Valkyrie gives her the ability to sense such mystical arts. And right now it can definitely be felt.

It brings a question to mind, but those questions for now aren't said. Instead Dani has her SHIELD issued phone out and she's currently yelling into it. "BACK-UP ASAP. Medical too. We've injured. A lot of it."

There's chatter on the other end and Dani listens to it, even as her eyes flick around the area. They pause when she spies Tom heading into the burnt bar. "Get here fast." She ends angrily, then the SHIELD phone goes in her pocket and she's trots towards that same bar, "Hey, we don't - " Run into bars. That's how she was going to finish that sentence, but with an exasperated sound Dani mutters, "Oh for the love of - you're going to do the exact same thing."

And while she moves to the burnt bar, Dani can't quite stop herself from trying to keep ahead of this rapidly evolving or devolving situation around. And she's also keeping a keen eye out for Owen as well. They may not be friends, but Dani wouldn't want to see him injured, or worse.

Either way, into the bar she goes, "Any injured?" She calls to Tom, but as soon as she steps inside she already knows the answer. The death visions within blots out her sight momentarily.

*

Flames crackle around the sounds of crumbling concrete and melting plaster, but beyond the noise of disaster-in-progress, there are no other sounds from the building that Spider-Man dives into. None—

Until strings of webbing create a net between the ruin of two buildings and that red and blue figure bursts out seconds later, body wreathed in tongues of flame as he does his best to shield the two people, an older couple, grappled tightly to him. He ignores the heat. The heat is nothing. Not now.

And so he pushes the pain out of his mind as he twists in mid-air, landing in that adhesive net to dull their fall down to something mildly uncomfortable instead of 'instantly fatal.' Two. That was all he could find. The rest… the rest were…

… he can't think about the rest right now. For the sake of the people who are still alive —

— for his own sake.

"YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!" shouts Spider-Man over the roar of fire and crash of concrete; he makes sure they can make it safely away before he is leaping again towards the next site of destruction he can find, and then next, until eventually, eventually, he lands next to —

"… Mister Barnes?!"

There is a moment there, where time almost pauses, where Peter almost forgets the gravity of what's at stake here. It has been a long time since he's seen Bucky Barnes — and just seeing the man's face dredges forth a wellspring of complicated emotions and memories in the young man. And so he stares, wide-eyed (in a manner of speaking), at the infamous Winter Soldier.

But there's no time, is there?

"Mister Barnes — everything's going wrong, I don't — there was a school, and bombs, thermite accelerants and — and — I thought we got them all, I thought that was — we have to help!!" It is all that Peter can think to say; in this moment, with destruction on this scale? There's no time for wit. No time for quips. No -time-.

There's more he wants to say — wants to be able to try to coordinate, to see if Bucky, or Jane, or -anyone- needs his help — but he hears that crackle of static in his ear that prefaces Nico speaking those very tense words into his ear. He looks to the side — and sees chunks of rubble, literally frozen like they were preserved in amber.

"Holy crap. I — I gotta go — Mister Barnes, please be careful-!"

And seconds later, he is leaping away again, webbing sending him hurtling off like a cannonball through the air. "I'm coming, Nico! Just — hold on!"

And there he goes, a red and blue smudge lunging past Angela and Nico as he impacts against a chunk of floating rubble in a crouch, rebounding from one to the other as he makes his way inside into the preserved destruction-in-making to look for anyone inside still amongst the living as his Spider-Sense screams at him.

"Nico, just — hold onto it a little bit longer-!"

*

Fine. You?

Tears run from Jane's eyes, maybe because of the smoke, maybe because of a body lying a dozen feet away: it's hard to know for sure. But the rest of her is calm, calm as clear skies, lost in that fortunate few minutes a body has when the shock sets in — can deal with things quickly, effectively, without the trapping of emotion. It helps, similarly, when Bucky Barnes retreats just enough that the old instincts of the Winter Soldier reseat themselves in the man —

He's calm, and it helps keep her calm too. Her answer is a brief, honest nod. Sure, she's not a corpse on the ground, so why not.

The first thing Jane does, as they move, is to pull out her phone. She needs to — call someone. SHIELD. Everyone else. Steve. Peggy. Stony. Oh, god, Jessica. So many people she knows in Hell's Kitchen. The lines are down. System's down. Takes nothing to level it, she would know. What does she do? She's supposed to be a genius, and she can't think.

She could give herself back to the magic — if this is not a time, when else? People are screaming everywhere, and she feels helpless.

Phone dead to any use but to its STUFF app, Jane stumbles as she exchanges out her shoes to innocuous flats mid-step, nearly losing Bucky through the smoke and jostling of panicked bodies.

Not even sure what he sees, Jane is looking up — not for the stars, but the distant, fiery ruin of what was — oh no. Oh no, oh no.

A moment later, she's there, joining Foggy and Frank both, recognizing the former, and immediately scurrying in to try to help wrest those two from the car. It looks comical by Jane Foster, five feet tall and skinny, but so charged with adrenaline her numb hands feel they could bend steel.

She swears she sees and recognizes Spider-Man through it all, talking to Bucky, as even she tries to spit out, "Matt's place — it's — gone!"

*

Hercules says, “yeah you better run!!”

*

The towering woman in the extremely on-point shirt speaks to her in a musing way.

Nico relaxes. Kind of. This is relative given that she is in a city street that is like six different shades of exploding and on fire. The unearthly aura remains but it does not seem to be, as the kids say, channeled.

She stares at Angela for a moment.

"Uh," she says. To her left people start vigorously busting into a car, which does get a glance from her. Something else explodes down the street, loud enough to make Nico wince — and someone leaps in. "Hold on," she tells Angela, "I'm gonna put this on speaker -" Which involves taking off her earpiece and bringing out a thin rectangle of something-or-other. Or, to those of Midgard, a Starkphone!

Bwip. "Spider-Man, my magic's stopping it cause a building is really complex. I… I just can't get much further away from it. I guess it's gonna last like three minutes. If I cross the street it'll probably go. It's gonna be alright, just breathe, okay!?" She mouths to Angela 'You Need To Run' and points in the direction of the man with a girder. And then her eyes widen in disgust and horror. Why?

BECAUSE

Something grabs Hercules's girder on the rebound. (How often does this happen?) "Hey!" comes a booming voice, brazen and fiery. Look to the side, Hercules! It's a black-skinned man - no, something manlike but not an actual man. Muscular, eight feet tall, bearded rufously and with curling rams horns. Cracks in his skin have bronze scars. "Hercules! I haven't seen you in a while. Do you remember the City of Brass?"

The ifrit twists at the waist. "It does!" he bellows. The motion is enough to make a loud and distinctive CRACK as Hercules briefly breaks the sound barrier on sheer force alone. The ifrit's laughter is half-concealed from mortal eyes and ears by the chaos brought by another.

Also it threw the girder right after Hercules, who is on track to hit the highly magicked building. The girder is slightly slower but only slightly. It would probably just straight up kill everyone on the street, save perhaps Hercules, by sheer momentum, BUT: "Rust!" Nico shouts, and there is another burst of light. Fresh iron oxide flakes gently streak over the assembled instead, probably not helping anything but possibly helping fire, a little?

"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" Nico says, pointing with the Staff of One. She is still on speaker phone.

*

There are emergency personell who shoot Hercules an incredibly grateful look. There are some thumbs up and cheers, and they begin just…moving to the first buildings and people they can reach. It's a start. Of course there are streets and streets which will require this treatment, but every little bit helps.

Dani calls SHIELD, and there's a crackle on her comm. "Acknowledged, Agent Moonstar. Emergency personell in route."

Dani can definitely tell everyone in that bar is gone. There is nobody else. Which means being in there is awfully bad. She doesn't see Azazel himself, the one who has surely become her own personal death omen by now…but she can hear him humming.

Smoke on the Water. Because the Angel of Death can be an asshole like that.

It's a warning for her, because he could all too easily collect her soul today.

Spidey finds an elderly woman, barely breathing, with an four-year-old in one arm and a middle aged woman, dead, clutched to her. They stagger through the smoke, blind and deaf and confused. The old woman coughs, and it is surely only force of will keeping her up at all. Raw determination. Spidey has arrived in the nick of time to make it count.

Between Nico, Foggy, Jane, and Bucky getting those two out of the car is easy enough. They both desperately need medical attention. Any stray spark could do for that gas, too. And they are just one of just endless seas of people who are probably trapped in cars or buildings or whatever else right about now.

Even as Hercules' past comes to call, creating more issues, more chaos, for all.

*

Frank still isn't quite used to people screaming when they see him. He has time. He grimaces and slithers deeper into the car, "Ma'am, we gotta get you…" He takes a fist to the face from the woman, ducking his head at the last moment to save his eye. "Damn it!" Foggy's arrival with dire news about the car's future as an explosive backdrop galvanize Castle, and he fends off another blow from the woman to pop her seatbelt and haul her past him by her arm, "Take her, there's a kid in the back seat." Frank's gravelly voice rises to something approaching a roar, and he leaves Foggy and Jane to extricate the woman from under him and halfway-through-the-windshield. It's almost lost in the sound of the Herc-powered road girder — erm, grader, but thankfully Foggy (and now Bucky and Jane as well) are close by.

The kid's car-seat is a problem, because it's been too long since Frank had to deal with one of them — he freezes a moment, seeing another dark-haired boy just a little older than this one, horsing around with his sister. Pain wrenches at the Marine's heart, his breath catches, and then he shakes himself, braced between the sideways seats of the car. "I'm gonna get you outta there, kid. Hold tight." Once more, the heavy Kabar is drawn, and he reaches in to cut the boy's straps, hauling him out with the hand not holding the knife.

And still the gasoline spreads closer to the burning apartment building, the imminent explosion now threatening more than just innocents.

*

There's no response from within Josie's bar, other than the crackle and popping of burning wood. Still, Tom Judge ventures in further, sliding on the precarious rubble and waiting for it to settle before he advances another step. He tries another, "Hello?" just in case — pausing to listen, though that doesn't last long, since he's soon coughing against the smoke. Movement catches the corner of his gaze, and he spots Dani entering through the burning haze. "Hey, don't, it's dangerous" because, you know, it's fine for him. Still: "Can't hear any"

He stops, because he's spotted something. It's just a hand. He's seen much, much worse in his time. And yet also not, because as luck would have it, he gets a brilliant, technicolor up-close-and-personal vision of the last moments of the owner of that hand's life. It results in a sharp intake of breath, a painful groan, and then another coughing fit that folds him over double, half leaning against that burning pillar to try and catch his breath.

And that's about when he notices the sleeve of his coat has gone from smoldering to being on fire. Actual fire.

Yeah.

"Fuuuuuuck." Immunity or not, it's hard for that primal, instinctive panic to be entirely ignored, Tom flailing about and trying to bat it out in between coughing fits, largely unsuccessfully.

*

Juggernaut arrives from West Side.

*

Then, Foggy hears his name. He turns just in time to see Bucky heading toward him, but the shouted question draws his mouth thin. He doesn't have time. "Gas. Fire. Boom." He says this things directly to Bucky and Jane before he's back to helping Frank get the two out of the car. He's handed the woman, and he grunts a bit to accept her arm, tugging her out of the way even while she screams and tries to get back toward the car that still contains her kid.

And then there's Jane. Jane might be all ready to upend the car with her own brutal determination, but Foggy is grabbing at her with his free hand. "Wrong direction. Go that way, and get exploded. May I recommend going this way instead?" He hopes to be hauling back both Jane and the frantic mother, closing the distance toward Bucky.

"I was brining Matt dinner," is all he says as he nears the Winter Soldier.

*

A stream of cursing at super speed escapes Owen's lips as he finds himself again running into a burning building in Hell's Kitchen to pull people to safety after Wilson Fisk blew it up. Only this time there are a lot more stairs involved. So. Many. Stairs. Owen makes it out with two kids and comes face to face with the Jane, Bucky, Foggy, Frank crew. He all but shoves them at Jane (and yes, in the direction of the pooling gasoline scenario.) He acknowledges them all with a nod and a wry grin and says "I'd accuse you of being involved but this isn't fucked up enough for you." Yea, still not really letting go of that whole tried to kill him thing.

He doesn't wait around though, heading back towards a building before turning to notice the flaming fire demon and the projectile that he vaguely recognized as the drinking dude from the internet videos.

He was supposed to do two things. Help save innocent people and text Dani nudes.. no! Look for Daredevil and Six in the chaos. Right, that was the second one. But there's now a fire demon and that probably takes precedence. And it's kind of cool looking. Which is a really terribly scale to use when assessing priority, but it's Owen and he is nothing if not terrible.

"Hey you goat-faced burnt-ass baby-eater! You can't just toss internet beer pool drinking dude aside! HE IS A GODAMN NATIONAL TREASURE!"

Owen pulls a black tipped boomerang and flings it with superhuman speed at the Ifrit, hopefully encasing it in a personal gravity field, pinning it to one spot.

*

In a crisis situation like this, there's really few better people to be around than Bucky Barnes, as Jane distantly observes, in terms of 'being around someone grounding.' Decades of war and screaming and death inure a man; they render the switch from civilian back to soldier an almost instantaneous thing. The Winter Soldier is at home in situations like this, and he's half-driving right now, shouldering through the panicked crowd and shielding Jane's smaller body with his own.

…Mister Barnes?!

The Winter Soldier spins around, pistol in hand — only to register Spider-Man standing there. "Kid…?" Bucky says, holstering his weapon again. A school, and thermite accelerants, and bombs, and — "Hey — calm down." His right hand takes Peter's shoulder in a bracing grasp. "You can think about it later. All right? Help people now, and don't get yourself killed."

That's really what it boils down to.

Bucky takes his own advice. Foggy's eventual answer for his question draws no immediate response save a matching tight-lipped look. Wherever Matt might be, the question is rapidly put on hold by the more immediate predicament of the woman and her child trapped in the car. Frank Castle gets the woman clear, but the kid in the backseat is harder to reach — and strapped into a car-seat. It'll be awkward, slow work trying to pull the struggling and frightened kid out of the confines of the car. Too slow.

Bucky heads back towards the car, silent, save for this: "NOT THE TIME, MERCER."

Approaching from the side, he wastes no time to close his left hand on the back door of the car and tear it cleanly from the vehicle's body. He repeats with the front door on the same side, and with a wrench rips out the frame in between for good measure. He doesn't speak, but it's plainly obvious he's intent on making a much easier exit route.

*

That hum. It's familiar. So is the song. She knows who's here in Hell's Kitchen with her this evening. With all of them.

Dani stays still for long moments until finally she snaps out of whatever fugue state held her motionless. Let's blame it on the smoke and the active fire which causes the black-haired woman to cough, or perhaps hearing the man swearing pulls her back. Whichever it may be, Dani returns to herself and swings her gaze around. Then she moves, heading deeper into the burning building, "Out." She shout-coughs, "Now. There's nothing more we can do here."

Of course, by the time Dani's makes it to Tom's side he's literally on fire. Flailing too. Not that she can blame him. That doesn't stop her from reaching out to try and grab him, to hopefully push him out of the wreckage of a building and back outside.

*

"Alright," says Angela. She is maddeningly agreeable to the concept of being put on speakerphone. The time-frozen flames give her hair an eccentric halo effect and cast shadows on her face that are probably not reassuring.

She crosses her arms while Nico works things out with the one called Spider-Man — a totemic Earth name, interesting — and then the aforementioned Spider-Man arrives to bound into the building. Angela watches with detached interest until she catches Nico's mouthed suggestion in her peripheral vision, which returns her attention.

"It would be best if we settled our debt now," she suggests. Angela doesn't react strangely to the sound of a booming demon man yelling about brass cities until someone gets hit enough to break the sound barrier.

Angela reads the situation in between the moments in which they occur. The witch begins to raise her staff, and surely enough she is measured for this task as well. The strong man, however, seems notably less prone to disintegrating.

Angela judges the arc. She estimates the speed, his mass. She bends her legs and leans forward in preparation. The man-projectile looms closer —

Angela bounds up off the ground with a mighty leap. She arcs toward Hercules, lowering her shoulder and preparing to aggressively catch him. The two collide with a mighty THWACK of body slamming into body, Angela somehow proving the equal force to the ifriti-launched mountain of muscle.

Angela bears Hercules to the ground, where she at least has enough control of her descent to keep to her feet. She doesn't mind letting go of Hercules if he isn't coordinated enough to stick the landing and requires a bit of tumbling.

The redhead straightens her posture again, then rolls the shoulder that she led into Hercules with. She gives an upward nod toward the bronze demon. "Witch girl, do you know this horned one? One more small boon and we will count ourselves equal."

*

You can think about it later. All right? Help people now, and don't get yourself killed.

He still feels the weight of that hand on his shoulder as he leaps into that building. The weight of those words. Think about it later. Help people now. Think about it later. Help people now. Think about—

"Okay," Peter Parker whispers, beneath his breath. "Okay. I can do this."

I guess it's gonna last like three minutes.

Three minutes.

Three minutes to find people. Three minutes to navigate the flames. Three minutes to get them out before the entire, frozen building collapses around them. Never enough time.

"It's — it's okay," he mutters into that communicator. "It's gonna be okay. I'll make it work."

And he forces himself to believe it.

Three minutes. The way he moves through that building is nothing short of spectacular, agility and spider-sense helping him to weave like liquid between the heat of frozen flames, between splintering, collapsed floorboards. He uses portions of gaping landscape, of fractured foundation, to aid him in more swiftly scouring the building, adhering to cracking wood and suspended rebar as he sweeps the complex.

And there he finds them. An older woman, a small child, and… and…

Stopping in a stagger in front of them, Spider-Man wastes no time. He reaches out, pauses. "Ma'am, you need to… that woman, she's — she's-" he begins, and chokes back the words. Behind his mask, his eyes are squeezed shut. But he doesn't linger. Think about it later. He can't afford to. Help people now.

"Let me — I'm going to get you all out of here, okay? It's going to be okay."

It's nearly two minutes in that Spider-Man emerges from that building with the three of them in hand. That woman — she doesn't deserve her burial ground to be —

He doesn't think about it. He just focuses on the fall as he bursts out past stilled fire, leap-frogging from floating debris to floating debris, ushering those people to the safety of an untouched, nearby building. "Go — just — go! Hurry!" Wide-lensed eyes yank backwards towards the ruin of that building. Maybe thirty seconds left.

"Nico, this is gonna be kinda awkward so please please please don't scream I just don't want a building to splat you like a goomba from Mario but not the movie one — "

-=thwip=-

is the sound that races for Nico Minoru's ears from behind as a webline attaches very securely to her back. And

-=yoink=-

is the (not literal) sound of Nico Minoru being yanked away from her own frozen creation to get her out of the collapse radius, just in time for Spider-Man to slowly turn around and —

"OH MY GOD, WHY IS THERE A FINAL FANTASY SUMMON FIGHTING XENA AND HERCULES HERE?!"

So maybe there's time for some jokes.

*

Hercules is used to keeping morale up. When the first responders cheer, he gives them a beaming grin and a thumbs up. They don't have to know who he is to understand that a very strong boy has their back. He does grab a passing woman by the shoulder to ask her, "What are the other ways you're all trying to get in?"

His answer secured, Herc sets back off, to adventure! But no! He is gripped, or at least his tool is. Many super-strength sorts of people are unaccustomed to other strength, but his early life was one of actual epic struggles. He understands that these things happen. He turns to the ifrit, reaching around with his other hand to wrench the girder free.

"That," he responds, "was entirely casual."

He ''doesn't'' expect the throw, which gets him just as he was ready to pull, still imbalanced. "Balls!" he shouts, tumbling toward the building. He's not in particular danger, but…

Hercules starts reaching out for the girder chasing him. Can he use it somehow? It bursts into rust, scattering into him. Guess ''not''. "Centaur balls!" he shouts again, before impacting Angela with a "WHOOF"

The strength of the Prince of Power is based on magic and divinity, not hyperdensity. He only weighs about 400 pounds, which is great up until something starts throwing him around. He adjusts to look at Angela as they land, propping an arm around her shoulder, settling so he is in a proper princess carry position. Even in the hell of flame and death, he grins at her: "A rare beauty to have such strong shoulders! New in town?"

Hercules successfully lands. He immediately gropes over his shoulder for the mace he doesn't have, and instead grabs an errant piece of rebar, folding it over for a better striking surface. "Xena isn't real, kid," he says to Spider-Man, already headed back for the ifrit, this time on his guard. He claps the red-suited hero on the shoulder. "Zeus knows I wish she was."

*

[Matthew Murdock returns to OOC Land.]

*

In a long, long year-and-a-half, Jane Foster has found herself in a number of scenarios: facing down giants in frozen Jotunheim, driving a car down the Autobahn in a chase after sorcerer-nazis, opening a black hole in the heart of Wakanda —

None of it seems to prepare for this. It was so much, then, but at one source — one direction she could face — one enemy she could face, but this? This? Where is an enemy in a world of fire? There's no one source, because it's everywhere, it's all around her, it's so much all at the same time, and whatever it is she's doing, it's not enough.

Her inner ears still blendered by that initial concussive blast, and held together at the seams by the combination of Bucky's calm, her own reflex to get mechanical in times of need, and the blood of a nameless woman on her hands, Jane still stares through Foggy a moment too long, hearing-but-not his instruction as he guides her labour in a better direction. "OK," is all the words Jane can commit to, "OK," as she helps grapple the woman away from that car, and toward the grateful sign of first-response and paramedics already on the scene.

And then Owen. Suddenly there, and that's right, she knows him — she's supposed to not like him that much, right? — but right now, Jane is living lidocaine, numbly accepting the children in her arms and staring right through his rakish smirk. She's usually better with her rejoinders. Right now it's autopilot, and the wind-blown ash watering her eyes.

"Come on," Jane hears herself whisper to the two children, with so much strength to carry one and guide the other, away from the heat of distant fires and running gasoline, and toward the closest paramedic car. She hands them off with words that, when she recalls them, will later break her heart: "I don't know who they are."

Her open hands swipe ash and someone's blood through her hair. She doesn't notice. She's supposed to be a genius, with answers, with solutions. Foggy is telling Bucky about Matt, about dinner, and her stomach flops over. "I'll go look," she says, probably of that husked-out, burning building, feeling helpless here. "I'll look for him."

*

Foggy is watching the car with apprehension as Bucky goes bolting off toward it. He blinks at the Winter Soldier's shout back behind him, and he turns slowly toward Owen. He up-nods all casually, as if the world wasn't burning around them and his best friend wasn't probably dead and he didn't have a woman sobbing against his shoulder while a scary ass dude in black was cutting her kid out of his carseat. "You were on his lawn, weren't you?"

Then he looks to Jane, and the sight of her sends him into his spiral. He's talking very pointedly and very fast, completely blowing past her vow to go look for Matt. "So, you're here, with Bucky. Tell me what the hell is going on." He holds up a very purposeful forefinger. "And I already know all about Matt and his moonlighting, so let's just assume I've already checked Snopes.com and have thoroughly fact-checked your answers." His jaw is set, and the flare of Son of a Butcher's Moxie is flaring in his green eyes. "Who just blew up my neighborhood and where can we find the asshole?"

*

The ifrit turns its head to look towards Owen with sudden intense focus. "Hm? Are you with HIM?" the demon asks with perhaps surprising courtesy, before taking one step forwards — and getting boomeranged. The boomerang does not seem to wound it, but one of its legs is firmly placed to the ground. It rumbles. This is a novelty to it. That's probably good for the long-term health of the legacy of Owen Mercer and the Captain Boomerang mantle.

"Ho! Warrior, explain this weapon. It's a novelty to me," the ifrit offers Owen. There is no clear compensation for this request.

BACK TO NICO.

Nico's mouth hangs open when Angela abruptly leaps upwards with unwonted and unrevealed strength. It stays that way as she grasps the man and then bears him to the ground, more or less safely. It was long enough that her teeth click when she turns her eyes back to Angela and says in oddly flustered disbelief, "WITCH GIRL?"

"Okay, that's fair," she admits a moment later.

Spreading her arms then, Nico answers Angela. "I don't understand, but — if you can stop that, that creature, it's probably here to prey on people. I know the look." Her lips thin for a moment. "Please," she says. "If you can stop whoever it was, stop him from hurting people, then we can call it even." Her forehead glistens with sweat as she grasps the Staff of One -

"Are you flirting? Now? Seriously?" This to Hercules. As he grasps the rebar, Nico runs a hand through her hair. "Thank you," she says to Angela, looking straight on at her as she does. "I owe you one. Just -"

thwip

Nico Minoru is suddenly hauled out of the way just as her spell begins to weaken. The final gift of the Staff of One is that the building is at least going to collapse gracefully. Nico stumbles but has, of course, a stick to prop herself up with, and then she looks over after Spider-Man does. "He /does/," she says, shocked.

"So is that five, Hercules? Getting old?" the Ifrit calls to the Prince of Power. One charred-black hand comes up to beckon him in particular closer. "Well; I don't mind killing more of your old friends."

*

It is around this time that SHIELD fire-fighting helicopters come zooming in. They just start unleashing foam over the worst of the buildings. Fortuitously for anyone who wants to go look for loved ones, though the buildings will still be structurally dangerous. Unsound. SHIELD medic units still can't do much about ground traffic, so they just zipline and drop down from helicopters too. Go racing through the streets. The average person on the street doesn't realize how fractured and riddled with holes that agency is right now, and maybe right now it doesn't even matter. Right now, they're here to help, and what was a problem of fire and fury becomes more a problem of grim labor and digging both the living and the dead out of places where they're trapped. It will probably do for the gas puddle too.

*

It's possible Tom doesn't even hear Dani's shout; he's making a guttural sort of noise that doesn't cease when she successfully manages to grab hold of him and haul him outside, stumbling over the rubble and almost lurching the pair of them into the flames for a moment, before they navigate back to the street, the somewhat less smoky air.

There, he collapses to his knees, and then onto his side, rolling. His jacket's still smoking, but the fire's out quickly enough — leaving a large hole that's burnt through his jacket, through the t-shirt underneath, but left his skin oddly unmarked underneath.

This is really not how he pictured any of this going. Not that he pictured Hell's Kitchen exploding in front of him — more likely a fun night in Josie's bar and, later, a drunken walk back to Brooklyn. He doesn't bother getting up just yet. Things can't get any worse from down on the ground, right?

"What is even happening right now?" he asks Dani, squinting up at her, like she might know somehow. She looks authoritative, anyway.

*

"Seriously? You're a flaming pile of shit out lamb chops and you need me to explain a boomerang?"

Owen glances down long enough to select a light blue tipped boomerang, very similar to the one that he had flung earlier. He holds it up as if to show it off for the nice burning demon.

"You throw them… Well. I throw them. And really just me. Unless if you count batarangs or other Gotham rip off garbage. You look like you'd know Gotham pretty well. We have plenty of burning trash heap people like you."

Owen throws the boomerang on the line about throwing them. He lofts it nice and high, innocently as if just explaining what they are like the he was asked. And then he adds, "And then they come back."

Hopefully the boomerang comes back close enough to explode and cover everything in the vicinity with liquid ice. It's not exactly Mr. Freeze caliber stuff, but it's way cheaper to make. Which Owen thought was a good trade off until he's faced with a fire demon taunting a demi-god (Okay Owen would never be able to come up with that term, so he mentally substitutes 'jacked beer guzzling man of awesome' instead)

"And hell yes I'm with him. We're going drinking later. It's going to be epic."

*

"Recently," Angela confirms to Hercules. She narrows her eyes in mistrustful consideration of his smile. Perhaps she is Nordic. The accent is difficult to place.

"You mistake me for another, man of spiders," she calls back, stepping away from Hercules as he goes for the ifrit. She begins walking a circuitous route to what will perhaps be her target. "Yet I will cast this summon back to Final Fantasy if so bid."

Nico makes sense of the structure of the deal. She catches on quickly. Angela looks over her shoulder to glance sidelong at the other woman. "It is agreed," she replies. "I will collect later."

THWIPPED. Angela is not concerned because Nico and Spider-Man seem like they have an understanding about this kind of thing.

Angela finishes walking to the other side of the ifrit from Hercules. She spares the sky a look as the helicopters come in. Authorities, she judges. She still has time to close this transaction before it would be better for her to leave. Over the ifrit's shoulder, she attempts to lock gazes with Hercules. It is a silent acknowledgment of intent that some with a sense for battlefields should have context to decipher.

It is something like 'we're gonna fuck this guy up from two ways so watch your elbows.' The Allspeak does not work in this matter, but fortunately some things are universal.

Silently, swiftly — surprisingly swiftly, though still within human bounds — Angela lunges in to menace the ifrit with a knuckled jab to his lower back, where her senses and cruel sensibilities suggest there is less muscle to guard the horned thing's internals. She leads swiftly from this into attempting to peel back the ifrit's dominant arm by grabbing him at the wrist, which would open him to possibly being yanked off-balance and made easier prey for Hercules.

*

Gas. Fire. Boom. Indeed. Frank has just freed the boy from the carseat when the spreading pool of gasoline reaches the first outpost of fire. The liquid douses the first little flame, but then reaches a second, stronger flame. Bucky ventilates the car, and Frank looks up in some surprise at the features silhouetted by not-car-anymore, then immediately hands the four-year-old up to the Bucky. "Go," the Marine growls, "Get him outta here." There's a whomp as the gasoline fumes ignite, then the puddle itself, and the flames race along the surface.

Castle pushes himself back, shattering the last vestiges of the windshield as he throws himself to the ground and rolls away from the car. There is a much louder WHOMP as the fuel remaining in the car's gas tank goes up, engulfing the former vehicle in flames. Thankfully it doesn't explode, there's no shrapnel, but there's still a rush of flame and heat.

When Frank hauls himself to his feet, his face is black with soot and red with blood from his earlier scalp wound. But he's steady, and the woman and the kid aren't in the car anymore. He takes a moment to spot where Bucky has taken the boy to, and then nods briefly, recognizing another veteran. They're everywhere, really, holding up the pillars of society. And that's when he realizes that there's a fire demon-thing in the street, "What the fuck?" It's more… quizzical than anything… this is way out of Frank's wheelhouse.

*

Hercules shows perfect teeth at Nico over his shoulder. "Always! Lustful living is the sign of a healthy life!" He smacks the rebar into the palm of his hand. "And that is no creature, but Bevim'unir, Duke of the Funeral Pyre. Perhaps he took all this fire as worship. He won't find anything here but enough ash to snuff him out." He tilts his head with a loud pop.

For all his grinning, flirting, and smelling like beer, Angela can tell that this is a man who knows what a battlefield is like. They share a brief acknowledgement and he hangs brielfy back, allowing the woman to strike the first blow while the ifrit should have his own attention.

-— New Activity ---
Just after the icy boomerang bursts, he makes his move. The ground cracks as he lunges, rebar in both hands, his grip compressing the metal under his fingers. He roars, swinging the weapon for the inside of the ifrit's knee, hoping the ice has climbed far enough to weaken it.

"Consider it efficiency, Bevim'unir. We have more important things to do tonight." He glances at Owen out of the side of his eye, making sure to stay out of his firing line.

*

Another hand claps on his shoulder. This one is much heavier, in a literal sense, not the figurative kind. Also stronger.

Some small part of Spider-Man reflects, even in the tragedy of the day, that he should not tell James Buchanan Barnes he found someone with a mightier shoulder pat than him.

Xena isn't real, kid.

"I know that! It was just a — wait, does that mean Hercules is real??" Spider-Man asks Hercules.

Without a single. Drop. Of irony.

The joking, however, does help. Helps him to center himself again amidst his panic, his horror, his worries. So many people dead. It helps him to think about it later. About the fact that he could have done more. Should have done more.

And instead, he spent his time until this moment patting himself on the back.

Think about it later. That becomes his new mantra as the arachnid just tries to lose himself in the moment, lenses narrowing as he focuses on the Ifrit in the distance. He doesn't have time for this. For it. For a bit epic fight. He needs to save people. His quick mind puts two and two together. There's a burning building between himself and the Ifrit. So…

"And it's MAN, not kid! Spider-MAN." He points emphatically Angela's way. "See? Not-Xena gets it!!"

Finally.

And with that, and a brief aside of, "Nico, can you help them like banish the Primal back to the Aether? I've got to…"

Do what he can. Anything he can.

"… gotta help the survivors."

And with that, he is off like a shot, running at speeds faster than most cars as he charges for the Ifrit as if intent to bullrush it alongside Angela. And then, at the last moment —

— he springs.

Springs, twists in the air, and palms the Ifrit's face with intent to literally handspring off it as if it were a launchpad.

"Hey, you do know this is not literally Hell's Kitchen, right? Yeah okay sorry that was a lame joke pardon me gotta goooo — "

But not before webbing up the thing's eyes nice and good.

-=thwip=-

"Wait, does that mean FINAL FANTASY IS REEEEEEEeeeeeaaaaallll — "

And those are Spider-Man's final words as he flies into the flames.

*

Guttural noises or not Dani helps to haul Tom out of the burning building.

Honestly, she's heard worse in her career as X-Man and SHIELD agent. So much worse. Most of it from Owen. Okay, maybe some from Emery too. Oh, who's she kidding, just about everyone she knows has a mouth on them. The company she keeps.

"Bombs." Dani says to Tom once he's no longer on fire and when he asks what's going on. "And a lot of them." Her eyes raise upward when SHIELD helicopters enter the scene. "Than god." She mutters, "Help is here. You okay?" She asks, and with that question Dani's gaze automatically turns to the chaos around them. Sure, she could have slid right past the group, but when her eyes land upon the Ifrit, Dani just can't help but goggle a moment. "What in the hell -"

Because tonight is all about the what the hells, apparently.

"You better get to safety or come with me. Something, but I'm pretty sure there's more than just bombs going on now." She tells Tom, and then there's the flash of something near the Ifrit and group. A boomerang. And that immediately causes something like a grin to tip Dani's lips upward - well, for a minute, then Dani frowns again. He knew something was going to go down which brings questions to mind, but that's definitely for later.

Now Dani jogs towards the craziness and towards those she knows, Bucky, Owen, Jane and the others. Already she palms an arrow and loosely nocks it against bow and string, intending to aid in whatever way she can.

*

"What does Hel need with a kitchen?" Angela calls out as Spider-Man blasts off again. She will never, ever know.

*

"Anyway," Nico tells Spider-Man, "Xena had black hair —" She sways for a moment then before drawing in another deep swallow, the thought derailing into the… well… the aether.

She will collect later, Nico thinks. What did I just do? Who IS she?

This is a mystery, but there is a bigger mystery here.

The ifrit smiles at Owen Mercer. Smile is a general term. Chimps smile too. It does not mean good things. "Insults," the ifrit says. "I'm glad you've got brass in you. Here -" and he flexes one hand and raises it upwards. "Have some more." Two of his nails erupt forwards, and now Owen is faced with the problem of razor-sharp brass superheated to just shy of melting flying at him. A third nail was about to join them but the ice boomerang erupts on the ifrit's hand. Superheated hell-skin cracks! Brass blood leaks out.

The devil bellows laughter. "How many tricks do you have? Delightful!" Except that he's raising his other hand. OR WAIT: NO HE ISN'T: ANGELA!

Bevim'unir is named and this makes him roar with a new layer of delight. "You do remember me! How MUCH do you remember, Prince of Power? Do you remember the plaza you rent asunder? Do you remember the fiery wenches with whom you lay?" All of this hot talk is accentuated by Angela getting the advantage of leverage. That blow strikes skin that had been less aggressively chilled, but the crack happens nonetheless. The ifrit isn't made of muscle, exactly, but there is an implosion. The wrist is articulated like a mortal's might be. Control can be seized.

There is a similar reaction to when Hercules kicks the inside of the creature's knee. It cracks! Brass seeps out. But Hercules might be able to tell that Bevim'unir is fading. Something has changed. He used to be a hearty figure. Now it's like a shadow, or a reflection…

Nico gives Spider-Man another look of judgment as he opines on whether or not Hercules is real. But he's departing and Nico's response to his suggestion is "um," followed by a look at the creature and an "ok."

The Ifrit explains itself. "Seven believers died, Prince of Power, and I came out of their blood. I see the ruin has crested sooner than I had hoped… it's a shame. But, for old time's sake -"

With a massive noise like a transformer blowing, Bevim'unir slams his horned head forwards to attempt to headbutt Hercules!

*

There's a split second where Bucky looks between the child, the spreading fire, the gasoline, and Frank Castle. A split second where he hesitates.

Get him outta here, the Marine says. Bucky recognizes the tone, and without a moment's more hesitation he takes the kid and hauls back to where Jane is ushering the other two children to emergency services.

The handoff doesn't take too long, giving him time to glance back with some apprehension to check if Frank made it out. There's a brief moment as the two veterans recognize the other for what they are, and that nod is quietly returned.

He turns his attention back to Foggy and Jane in time for Jane to declare she's going in to look for Matt. Bucky seizes Jane's arm, going a shade paler. "Not even I can go in there right now, Jane," he says. "The fire's too intense."

And then Foggy starts demanding answers. Bucky doesn't seem as surprised as he might when Foggy reveals he knows all about Matt's 'moonlighting' — courtesy of a warning from Jessica — but he does look resigned in a way that suggests he wishes Foggy still didn't know. "If I knew for sure," he says, "I'd tell you. But I just… can't be sure."

He's hedging, something assisted when he notices Danielle approaching. His attention turns towards her. "Dani! You okay?"

*

OF COURSE

Mid-headbutt the ifrit's eyes are coated in a thick layer of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man's webbing. This may cause problems if Herc doesn't get his angle right, because history always repeats itself as farce.

*

Foggy turns as he starts speaking to Jane, his voice rough. "I'm not standing by and doing nothing, Foster. I'm not — " And then he blinks. He is looking head-on at what can only be described as a massive creature of flame and smoke. He stares at it, jaw kind of slacked a bit. "A Balrog — a demon of an ancient world."

Within moments of speaking those words, his eyes widen. "Oh shit, I know what to do."

Then, suddenly, his eyes sweep the ground. He saw it moments ago. Where'd it go, where'd it go. Ah, there it is.

Foggy breaks from Jane's side, darting forward down the street toward the Ifrit. His messenger bag is adjusted as he ducks low, grabbing an appropriate and twisted bit of metal off the ground, still crusty with concrete. He's still moving forward, dedicated in his advance as he ignores any cries of opposition to his emboldened forward march toward the fire demon.

He's keeping a close eye on the Ifrit's path, and when he gets to the fire hydrant . "Hello, old friend. I need your assistance again."

Foggy has cracked this hydrant many times before, as a poor kid of the Kitchen on hot summer days. He looks up toward the Ifrit and before he can even stop himself, he bellows, "YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS!"

Fates align and he wedges the bend in the metal right into the hex of the hydrant and gives it a hard turn. THe pressure releases and a violent, thick stream of water explodes from the valve right at the Ifrit.

All hail Sir Foggy Bear, Son of Nel.

Maybe…

*

%r"Bombs?" Tom echoes Dani, blankly. He, too, sees the helicopters, mouth thinning a little rather than any expression of relief.

Well, Hell.

The thing is, out of the whole chaos of this night, that word is the most familiar to Tom Judge — and it makes him sit up, following Dani's gaze towards the Ifrit. "Ah," he breathes, in an odd kind of relief, like a fire demon makes way more sense than bombs, for some reason.

Dani makes her offer — You better get to safety or come with me. — and the ex-priest is rolling to his feet. All logic suggests he should follow Dani towards the hell demon, since he's best equipped to help. He really, really looks like he wants to turn tail and go in entirely the opposite direction though, truthfully.

He makes a noise, like frustration, and a moment later, he's shadowing Dani, long legs carrying him quickly to catch up with her. For a moment, it seems like he'll do the right thing, despite all instincts screaming the opposite. And then, between one step and the next, he's gone, veering off through an alley, winding his way between destroyed buildings, rubble, and wrecked cars in search of a way out of Hell's Kitchen.

Fuck. That. Noise.

*

There's one way to describe Jane Foster, caught in the interrogation light of Foggy Nelson, and that blunt remark on Matt Murdock's hyperviolent alter ego.

Surrounded by fire, she's at least one secret lighter. "I made his suit," is all she confesses, her voice an undertow. But who just blew up the neighbourhood?

How Foggy phrases it brings some sort of cognizance back to Jane's head; she shares a quick glance up at Bucky. With the furor everywhere, it feels it could go on forever, she hadn't realized the destruction may just be limited to here — but it seems to be. A thought half-way calcifies, but neither can she be sure. And, even if she was — how could she even begin to phrase it?

Not that she has time to. Matt's apartment is burning. He could be dying, and she is — isn't this her fault? She made his suit, as she said. Encouraged it. Encouraged him. Enabled? Maybe, if she didn't, if she'd never meddled, he wouldn't have —

A hiss of energy wreathes tellingly at those strange, everyday-looking flats of hers, but quick as magnetic propulsion may be, the Winter Soldier is quicker. His arm catches Jane out of a would-be reckless leap straight to that building, and she looks back on him, his talk of fire, with a look as equally guilty as it is stricken.

"What if he's —" she begs, because she doesn't know what to do. But Foggy Nelson does.

Jane, helpless not to, follows the lawyer's breakneck run towards something that — out of all of this, right here, the demon made of fire may be something that makes the most sense.

"Oh," is all she has to say, to that.

*

More fire-fighter's foam rains from the sky. Now SHIELD people start clearing debris, enough to get some of those city vehicles through. City vehicles themselves are starting to arrive from other boroughs. At this point, save for a few pockets of flame here and there (and this ifrit situation perhaps) it is all mostly smoke and sodden ash, not open flame. Small blessings.

But sorting through all of this? Figuring out who is alive and who is dead? It's going to be the work of days. Chatter on Dani's SHIELD comm says it's the entirety of the Kitchen. Just that one neighborhood, but the entirety of it just the same. They're now coordinating with the National Guard, which got deployed to the other end of it, regrouping.

A light rain starts. It helps, just a little. Some civilians have made it out, those who don't have the mental capacity, fortitude, skill or desire to remain in this kind of a warzone. Some are doggedly helping. Normal folks. Secretaries. Retirees. Even this one Jamba Juice cashier who ran out of her untouched establishment to come and help. It's a weird tableu, all of it.

Especially when one factors in the heroics of one Sir Foggy Bear, Son of Nel.

*

Angela consolidates her hold on Bevim'unir when he proves unable to fight her. She pins his arm to his back and shifts her grip. That she does not further attack immediately is because she assesses that the ifrit is not as significant a threat as immediately imagined, and she requires time to consider the best way to dispose of him.

Head chopping off usually works, but that would require pulling her sword. She could run through the usual demon-obliviating frequencies on her lance, but that would require her lance. Tossing him into space would require flying. Perhaps she could just try popping his head off and see where that takes her.

Bevim'unir lurches forward to headbutt Hercules. Angela is briefly taken off guard by the sudden ferociousness of the hereto-thought-spent foe, but she yanks him backward toward her soon enough afterward.

And then both she and Bevim are bodily engulfed in a torrent of gross underwater cistern water that has been sitting there for who knows how long. Angela's voluminous hair goes limp, but she is otherwise taking this with great stoicism despite the water pressure. This has the side effect of keeping the ifrit around for the ride.

"I AM OWED FOR THE DEFILEMENT OF MY RECENTLY PURCHASED GARMENTS," Angela bellows over the hydrant noise and, you know, SHIELD helicopters and fires and sirens and all that kind of thing.

*

Frank can't handle something out of that book he got totally bored with when a buddy handed it to him in Afghanistan. Even if Foggy can. There are people swarming the brass and shadow and fire and horns thing, so Castle turns away, only then spotting the hovering SHIELD helicopters and the uniformed people beginning to filter through the chaos. Time for him to find his bag of firearms and get gone.

Step one, go back into the former bail bondsman office — thankfully it's not on fire. Step two, search for his duffel — unfortunately it's currently on Owen's back, which makes finding it in the collapsed building rather difficult. He does find a duffel, and even if it's not quite the right shape or weight, it's close, and there are plenty of cops on their way, and he really doesn't want to be taken in on twenty-plus counts of murder. He will be very, very confused later on when he opens it to find some very technologically advanced boomerangs. For now, however, he just fades into the light rain, letting it wash soot and blood from his face.

*

How high is Owen still? Well. First off, he's too high to properly use his speed powers to dodge the projectiles fired off at him. Second, he's hit but not sure if his new body armor held or not. Third, it didn't.

"You shot me with your finger nails? Gross. What is wrong with you? What's your follow up? Licking my eyeball?"

The wound on his shoulder makes his right arm all but useless for throwing and he's running low on boomerangs as it is. But that doesn't mean that Owen has the good sense to stop taunting the thing. Especially when it seems like the super hero wrestling squad has it under control.

And then Dani appears. Owen awkwardly raises his good hand in the awkward half-wave of someone who knows there is yelling in the near future. But he rallies to yell, "I always took you to the best places in the other world too. The best!" No, that's not true. But she doesn't remember that.

And then Owen can hear Foggy talking. With a look of minor disgust he shakes his head and yells, "Nerd! Get out of here." Because Owen might miss more highbrow references but movies are at least in his wheelhouse. Of course he'll be eating those words if Foggy's hydrant trick actually works.

But Owen does try to get back to the plan. Which involved going drinking with giant hairy frat dude. No! Finding Daredevil and Seventeen Magazine. He tries to reason that they are both vigilantes helping people, except why is one a magazine? He wanders off to try and find them. Or his gear. Or his phone. Or people to help. In that order.

But then a funny thing happens. He crosses that line to just over the hump towards sober. Maybe it's the immense amount of bodies with sheets wrapped over them. Maybe it's the fact that he's pretty sure he can smell burning flesh. Maybe it's the sight of the two kids he and Jane saved crying in the arms of a firefighter. But slowly it dawns on Owen what he was a part of. What he let happen. He stumbles towards an alley as if under the weight of that knowledge. His stomach turns and he empties it out into the alley floor. And there amongst his own sick, he spots something flashing.

Of course.

He found his phone. So that's one thing on his list.

*

"You first, Pippin!" Comes the curt, instinctive reply toward Owen at his nerd blast.

Nelson straightens up from his burst of adrenaline-fused heroics, breathing out a heavy exhale as the water continues to rush at full blast over the street. It engulfs more than just the Ifrit, but also some of the debris from the exploded buildings. Foggy just lets it flow, his jaw set as he looks over what had been his childhood neighborhood. His eyes lift toward where Matt's apartment burns. He vaguely hears someone call for a demand of reimbursement for garment destruction, and he can't even muster a lawyered response.

He drops his bit of twisted metal and looks toward Jane. "We need to find Matt. He's not in there, Jane. He's not. You made his suit, right? You got a way to track it?"

*

The rebar now has a smoothed side where Hercules hammered it into the ifrit's knee, which he doesn't seem to notice as he follows through, spins, and attempts to slam it into the elemental's neck.

Was this creature's summoning intended or coincidence? Either way, if it gets out, it can use the devastation of the sacking to gather an enormous amount of flame - and flame is strength to an ifrit.

Herc tries to shove its windpipe closed with the rebar, but the metal melts too quickly, the steel melting and flowing down its chest. He glowers into Bevim'unir's webbed eyes.

"You know," he responds, "not really. I remember the drink, and the games, and a certain someone trying to cheat me out of my lion skin with a misshapen brass die. But who's counting? Never mind the blood sacrifices of fifty nights your people were trying to arrange."

The rebar erodes to nothing, leaving Hercules's hand to grasp the ifrit's neck directly, smoke and steam rising as he burns. "Grrr—rraaaagh!" Such impossible heat! He's forced to recoil, leaving the opening for the ifrit's headbutt to catch him full on the temple with a fantastic crash and a burst of flame.

Hercules staggers back, gaze swimming. He drops to a knee, shakes his now-bared head, thick hair falling about his forehead. "Ngh." He is, for a moment, deeply vulnerable.

With a heroic bellow, a wave of water hammers into the ifrit, misting Hercules with warm steam. It brings him back to himself, his eyes clearing. He looks around for the boomerang warrior, seeing him vanishing back into the crowd. Good. This is a fight for gods. The Prince of Power straightens and marches to the ifrit, grabbing onto him, thinking of city architechture. Sewers and streets are best constructed just along each other, and sewers will have even more water.

"My comely friend," he says to Angela with a grin. "Push ''down.''"

His back and shoulders surge red as he starts forcing Bevim'unir down with all of his strength.

Which is a lot of it.

*

The question of whether she's okay earns a grimace, "Sure." She says, "You two?" She returns automatically, even as her gaze takes in all the craziness - because really, that's all it is. Craziness.

"Not sure -" She begins, but stops when Owen waves to her and calls out to her. "What? Are you -" Nope, that thought doesn't finish, not when chatter over her SHIELD comm gear is heard. Whatever is said earns a grimace from the woman and a slight pallor to her features. "SHIELD's bringing more resources. Give me any places you need looked into." Cause she caught some of the chatter about missing friends, "And I'll direct them your way."

And while Owen may have went over ot that alleyway to hurl, he best watch is back, because truly Dani will be looking for him ASAP.

As for the Ifrit - really, what is going on with that! That's Dani's last thought before she melds in with the rest of the men and women of SHIELD and all the residents as well.

*

Luke Cage heads out to West Side.

*

"We're fine," Bucky replies Dani grimly. "…for given values of fine, anyway."

His attention returns when Jane speaks up. I made his suit, Jane admits. Bucky sends her a wordless look, and then rests his right hand to the small of her back in a little gesture of comfort.

It's a gesture that soon transmutes to a clutch at her arm as Jane tries to lift off. He tugs grimly, bracing, as her flats start to emit suspicious energy, looking resigned — like he's done this many times before.

But what if he's dead? is the thought she doesn't finish. Lips pressed together, Bucky shakes his head in a short, sharp gesture. He doesn't want to think about that either. "We'll find him. But not by flying into the middle of a fire like that."

Foggy asks if the suit might have tracking — because he won't believe Matt is in there either. He can't. Matt's just somewhere else, somewhere they can go and find him unhurt and okay. "The suit doesn't have tracking," he admits, with a side glance at Jane to confirm. His mouth twists in acknowledgement of the irony. "We wanted to respect his privacy."

A mistake, perhaps, in retrospect.

*

Hydrant man flees the scene. Angela turns her gaze back to the ifrit squirming in her grasp. Headpopping is looking better and better. She shifts her grip again, tensing as she anticipates the movement necessary to clutch at the horned one's neck without giving him an opportunity to slip free. The water mercifully begins to die down by some fraction.

Hercules approaches. Angela locks gazes once more to ascertain his intent. In this brief conflict, she has gained a measure of appreciation for his durability and eagerness.

He makes a request. Angela turns her head slightly as she listens to and feels her environment.

"Yes," she says, in both acknowledgment and agreement.

With a mighty flex, Angela pushes the ifrit forward so that the both of them have a leverage advantage, and then pushes with power that does not belong to even her large frame —

There's another advantage here. There are no SHIELD helicopters in the sewers. One hopes, at least.

*

He's at it until the last fire is out.

Until he finds the last body still breathing.

By the end of it, Spider-Man is more black than red as he perches upon the smoldering ruins of an old, guttered building that was once a home to so many and is now just… nothing. An ugly scrape of rubble that will be cleared away and forgotten. Soot powders his suit towards a gray coloration, his right lens is cracked in hairline fractures. His fingers brush across the handful of ash coated against their tips.

And those wide, white lenses whirl into slits, as if they could close off from the world completely.

He stays like that for the longest time, even as the authorities and those of even higher stations begin to arrive. He shouldn't linger here. He can't. He's hardly New York's favorite person, and who wants to risk the possibility that SHIELD is in cahoots with the DEO and still remember the time he kinda-maybe reverse-robbed them?*

(*It's a long story, but it's all Six's fault, listeners!)

In the end, as his head drops, he spies Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster, lingering near some other, obliterated apartment complex. He pauses. Behind his mask, conflict rides high but brief upon his features.

And then, he just slowly bleeds out a sigh from exhausted lips.

Think about it later.

With that, all it takes is a leap. A leap that would probably kill most normal people — but it's been a long time since Peter Parker has been normal, for all the pain that has inflicted on him. Flipping through the air, he drops on the overturned remains of a nearby car, perched on its tire. He hesitates, again. He knows that look they have. He recognizes it instantly.

The look of people who might have lost something close to them. Something personal. Something…

"Hey. Um," he begins, tentatively, clearing his throat. "Mister Barnes. Doctor Foster." Yeah he knows who science people are.

"I…" I'm sorry? I wish I was faster? What good would that do? Don't be stupid, Peter.

"… how good are you at identifying bombs? Because, hypothetically speaking, if me and a friend of mine found one before all of this happened, one of the ones responsible for all this, maybe…"

Maybe they can find whoever did this, and make them pay for all this horror.

*

Fortunately for the Son of Nel (everybody do the swim), Bevim'unir is being held in place rather effectively. Aiming will not be hard, but he is working with a static 'cannon'. The water gushes forwards. Steam begins to rise from the superheated creature, but Bevum'unir has the presence of mind to call to Owen, "Do you want that to happen?"

At this point the blinded devil is drenched, much as Angela is. There is a yank backwards; his stance lowers, as if to stay on the level, to avoid being overborn. Perhaps there's a lesson there, if Owen remembers it later. But he has many other things to occupy himself.

"Hehh," Bevim'unir answers Hercules. "I remember… or I remember that such things happened. Things are different now, you know. The brass is hollowed out. The blood won't burn. The old forms are all still there, but the savor's gone. Do you understand, Prince of Power?"

The beast then roars as he is bent forwards with unwonted strength. "HRRGH! This virago of yours, Hercules! I think I would have liked her, if I - hrrghhh—"

The ground, tormented already, cracks - and a new sinkhole appears here in Hell's Kitchen. Who pays these people! Underneath the twin divine forces, the ifrit crumples; buried in running water and given, no doubt, a few brutal encouragements, he collapses. To Hercules it would be passing strange, for even the brass within the ifrit corrodes into poisoned verdigris far more quickly than it should. And muscles and skin of smokeless flame just… vanish.

The webbing doesn't, though. Good work!

-=-=-=-

Peter Parker gets a new problem. Or maybe it's an opportunity.

Nico, looking more haggard and having apparently lost or secreted her Staff at some point along the way, comes running out of an opposing alleyway. If Spider-Sense doesn't intervene, he is getting abruptly, almost crushingly embraced.

"You're alive," she says. "Oh my god. Oh my god, all of this. Holy shit." Her head turns to look at the other people nearby. "hi" she says, not for the first time.

*

"Alright, well… I'm asking for an upgrade, on behalf of my sanity." There is no amusement delivered there, no Foggy-styled quips. He's serious. This is Matt, and he's serious. "I can't be his back-up if I don't know where to find him. We find Matt, and you make sure he's chipped like a prized Pomeranian."

When Spider-Man joins them, he turns slightly toward the soot-covered kid. "Hey there, Spidey. How's it hanging?" He looks toward Jane and Bucky now, frowning. "Bombs are more important. I'm going to try to call him again." He digs out his phone, stepping aside a bit so he can try Matt's number. Again.

*

Even Danielle Moonstar's familiar face, in all the chaos, gives Jane too-brief relief. It is one face of a friend, but there are still so many more unaccounted for.

So much death. So much blood. The weight of James Barnes's hand on her back tries to assauge her guilt, and she even seems set on accepting that small comfort —

But Jane Foster's reckless heart seeks much more, and it takes Bucky's restraint to keep her from shooting straight up into the air in some wild something to plunge into multiple floors of burning wreckage and try to find her friend.

Her pleading meets the Soldier's stonewalling rejection. Jane stares up at him silently, as if for a moment prepared to be stubborn — before the propulsion sighs out of her flats, and she relents.

About that time, demonslayer Foggy returns, admittedly to a bit of Jane's staring — she's fought demons, not never quite like that — and comes bearing questions. Bucky answers it, and Jane's expression provides easy verification.

"I'm regretting privacy," is all she undertones, her expression hard. Should she say more? About how they last saw Matt? If that, in any way is connected to —

Flicking a glance toward Bucky, Jane's lips part —

— and Spider-Man intercepts any last thought in her head.

Her eyebrows lift as she looks on him, still with that faraway shellshock blankness sifted with an old familiarity — she remembers him, Ozone Park, so long ago, so long —

And bombs. She holds her breath for a beat. "I can," she says. She made enough of them, while soulless. The rest she'll learn. That's how she works. She — pauses a moment, eyes on Foggy, stalled, unwilling to want to give up on Matt, but he already is assigning both of them off. Jane pauses a moment, guilty, but accepts it.

"Lead the way," she orders.

*

Steam erupts upward as Bevim'unir hits it. Nothing an ifrit can't handle, normally, but weakened and somehow lessened as he is… the brass fragments into the water to give someone at a water treatment plant hell.

Hercules stares down after it with narrowed eyes. Something odd is occurring, and something he wishes he didn't have to take any part in. Then— "Ah!"

Hercules jumps in the hole. A moment later he emerges, dripping, a gleaming golden mace in one hand as he hauls himself back to the street. He puffs in irritation as he shoulders it. "So much for the mattress…"

He glances up at the helicopters and, pointedly, at Angela.

"Buy you a drink or ten?" Never mind that he doesn't have any money. He'll figure it out.

*

The ifrit does not go well. Angela sees the matter through with her horrific strength and expressionless gaze. When it is condemned to the below, she stands at the edge of the hole and watches.

Hercules soon returns with a prop. Angela's sternness finally recedes. She gives him a thoughtful look, pursuing her lips. It's a bit difficult to read her eyes with the whole 'white irises' nonsense going on. Her own upward glance confirms that they are comrades in this particular concern.

"Closer to ten," she says, before starting off to find an acceptable exit. "But we split the bill."

Earth, so far, seems like a fairly typical planet.

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