We Didn't Start The Fire

Summary:
September 10, 2014: A fire breaks out in Lower Manhattan. Columbia and Vorpal show up to save the day.

Lower Manhattan

The southern end of the island of Manhattan is the seat of Wall Street and
City Hall. Bounded by the Hudson on the west, the East River on the east, and
the harbor to the south, it's a veritable mosaic of smaller, storied
neighborhoods that fill in the patchwork south of 14th street. From the
arts-friendly, boutique-laden, gentrified areas of Greenwich Village, SoHo,
and TriBeCa, to the tenement dwelling, immigrant-filled, working class
districts in the Lower East Side, Bowery, Little Italy, Lower Manhattan is
one of the most diverse places in the city. Just about anything can be found
here, and often is.


Characters

NPCs
*Police Officers

  • Firefighters
  • Rescuees
  • Bystanders
  • Perky Pit Bull Puppy

Mood Music:
We Didn't Start The Fire


It is late afternoon in the Big Apple. Quitting time for most hard-working folks, and at the intersection of 9th Street and the Avenue of the Americas a traditional apartment building is in the middle of a much-needed overhaul. Pipes, timbers, stones… the whole building has been going through sporadic work as the budgets have allowed, and the weather.

Under normal circumstances, a warm day would not be much bother. However, with the combination of warm day, a decided lack of any sort of breeze, and stray sparks, a smouldering rag begins to ignite.

It takes about twenty minutes for visible signs to penetrate the building that something is wrong, at which point flames begin to lap outwards at the lower levels.

Fortunately, MOST of the tenants have either moved out due to the construction or for work today. There are, however, several unfortunates that haven't realized that their building is on fire yet, nor the immediate danger as century-old materials begin to stress and strain under a newly heated environment.

Cameron Alain Tenoaks, AKA 'Columbia', doesn't know about this danger yet. She has made her way to New York City on her day off from the job today. She at least can pretend to have a real life here, away from the attention of the eager reporters ever trying to get an interview with her, the various corporations seeking her name on various items for sponsorship, and the people who follow her to see if she's going to do anything heroic while they're around.

A couple of police officers standing at a nearby donut shop point at her, and a heated discussion begins as to whether or not she's actually the orange-haired babe that totally put down that attempted cop-killer over in Metropolis a few months back—before their attention is brought to the fire that is beginning to become obvious…

***

Vorpal's ankle is finally on the good side of the recovery curve, and so today is a good day for a light patrol. It's a good thing, he thinks, to stay active, even if one must stay exclusively within pre-determined parameters of physical effort. Robbers will just find themselves running into purple walls instead of fighting a Cheshire. C'est la vie.

Right now, he's sitting on a rooftop in his human shape, looking over the area when he notices the telltale signs of a fire. He would have noticed the smell of smoke first, if his sense of smell were not stunted due to his particular history.

"Oh, crap!" the young man stands up. A fire. That was major business. With a burn injury on his right arm and a recovering ankle, he might not be the best choice…

He quickly takes out his phone and looks for his fellow team-mates. How about—- Garfield?
Not responding. That's right, he has an exam at around this hour.
Flash? Looks like he's involved with something right now, from his icon. He looks at the rest and sighs- nobody is close enough.

"Looks like it's up to me." He mutters and fishes into his jacket for his handheld mirror.

***
The flames continue their inexorable advance up aged stone and wooden beams, even as a few spindly old folks suddenly realize the danger and open their windows four floors up, waving for help. Then a few a little bit lower down, not quite into the flames, yet.

The officers are calling into their shoulder-mics as fast as they can, one calling for fire and any sort of rescue services, the other calling for more police officers to help block off the area from onlookers.

Cameron looks up when she hears the squawking of the radios, even as the drift of smoke reaches her nostrils, and hops over to the two men coordinating for the moment.

"Columbia, outta MFR, gonna lend a hand. Keep folks clear."

The police officers look at her like she's on drugs at first, then nod even as she jumps… or was that flies… it was kind of quick, relatively speaking, to the lowest of the windows, carefully grasping a mother and a child to her chest and turning away from the building even as a lick of flames shoots up and starts to lap at her trenchcoat. Probably not the wisest of outfits to wear for the hero-ing gig, to say the least.

She hasn't seen Vorpal yet, as she brings the two to the officers.

"Tell 'em six buses."

She turns around even as one of the structural pillars begins to sag, and the expression on her face is one of both horror and resignation. There's no way in heck she's going to be able to even start to hold up the building AND save everyone in time…

***

Buttresses. More than one art history student has chuckled up their sleeve at the architectural term- and many moments of rackuous laughter have been had when an unwary student mispelled the components of a Gothic church as 'flying buttocks.' These objects of scorn and amusement, however, prove useful today as purple, glowing flying buttresses appear to counteract the sagging of the pillars. One superhero coming to the aid in a fire is enough to spark the interest of the crowd. Two? Now that's what they call entertainment.

Vorpal is running, against Garfield's recommendations, but fire waits for no ankle. The purple platforms beneath his feet appear and disappear as they are needed, allowing him to run through the air as fast as his injured feline agility allows him. No longer in his human shape, the cheshire cat makes for quite an unusual sight. "We need to get these people out ASAP!" he says. Formalities will be observed later, obviously, "I've got the elders on the fifth floor, can you take care of the fourth?"

***
Columbia isn't an architect. However, she did a lot of study in the arts during high school and later in college. She does catch the significance of the glowing structures pretty quickly, even as the law enforcement officers slowly get re-enforced by others that were in the area.

The woman's a paramedic by vocation, and she understands all too well that in a crunch situation such as this stopping to chit-chat would almost definitely cause harm or possibly even death to some of the trapped people in the building.

"Watch your tail up there, cat."

How… clever.

"Seriously. Old building, fire in walls."

She makes her way to the fourth floor windows, picking up some guy that had a leg in a cast, two women, and gives a glance up at the fifth floor for a brief moment before heading back to the impromptu staging areato deposit her load.

Yes, that appears to be flying, even…

***

"No need to tell me twice!" Vorpal responds, creating a platform for the seniors waving their arm. "Alright, just stay on the platform and it'll guide you down…" the cheshire says, making sure that the platform is wide enough. And that it has handles to hold on when it floats down. "We need to move fast, I'm going to see if anyone's inside!" he calls out to the flying woman. He jumps off his own platform and soon it begins to gently glide down, crammed with the people who were at the windows. That, however, doesn't mean he got all of them. There could be people inside, passed out from inhalation.

When he lands, he normally lands gracefully and on his feet. This time, though, there is a bit of a stumble due to his ankle. He takes a few seconds to run to the kitchen, take offf his bandcamp jacket and soak it wet on the sink before wrapping it around the lower half of his face… because an asphyxiated hero is a useless hero. That done, and aware that time is ticking away, he runs through the floor, kicking doors down and looking into the various aparments to check for people. He also calls out, in case someone can hear him.

***
"I'm goin' two, meet you half."

Cameron's actually getting a bit of a rush from this. She takes a deep breath before charging into the building on the second floor, taking care to keep as many doors and walls as possible between her and the ever-growing fire, and in the fourth interior second-floor apartment she checks she finds two kids and a cute pit bull puppy.

Back the way she came, then, even as she cradles the two kids and the dog to her, using her back to push doors open.

Upstairs, Vorpal finds two different rooms where the music was cranked up really loud, but after some insistent pounding the doors open to reveal one drugged-out punk and in the other one a very sleepy looking portly middle-aged fellow, who may have just been woken up from a sound sleep…

***

"What is WRONG with you people?" Vorpal says exasperated, dragging the two over by their collars over to the window. He needs to see through the window to get a clear view of the street below— there. Line of sight. A wave of the Cheshire's hand and the Rabbit Hole opens up, the other end appearing on terra firma across the street. He pushes the two men without waiting for their explanation, right through the Hole before he closes it once the two have popped safely out on the other side. "Bloody stoners," Vorpal mutters. One floor down, time to go down another. He slides down the bannisters because, why not?

The buttresses, through, begin to tremble. It is hard work to keep focus to keep his constructs from vanishing. The fact that they're holding up a sagging building makes it even harder. "Gottahurrygottahurrygottahurry…." next floor down, he repeats the process, keeping his keen ears open for any sound- breathing, coughing, crying.

***

At the trembling of the building, Columbia shakes her head. Either the buttresses were giving away, other parts of the building were, or there was an earthquake happening right now. While dreading the third option and fearful of the second she makes her way down to the exposed pillar and grunts, straining even as her jacket really catches on fire, and helps support the pillar, even as sweat streams down her face and there's almost an inhuman bellow of pain.

Cat, hope you're getting 'em. I'll hold it for a while. Hopefully.

Fortunately, the next floor appears to have been cleared out in anticipation of cleaning, however, this also means that there are very few walls between Vorpal and the fire when he gets to the level… and he can see the hell of the inferno over by where he entered…

***

"Crap…" The cat takes a few steps back, repelled by the heat. That's when he notices the ends of his whiskers beginning to shrivel up. "… Wonderful!"

That band jacket is getting remarkably dry, no longer providing as much filter from the smoke as it once did. Still… he runs, he needs to make sure there's nobody left. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he forgot someone.

***

On the very far end of the building there is one formerly locked door that opens quite easily now that the structure has been compromised, half the door falling off in Vorpal's hands. Inside the temporary room, it looks like two very odoriforous homeless folks are sleeping off a mid-day bender with some sort of cheap alcohol. These would appear to be the last two on this floor, and there are no other cries for help, no pounding, no other signs of folks that need to be rescued.

Then the entire building shifts a bit, and there's a bit of a yelp from the area that was buttressed. Cameron is starting to lose her fight with time and the building and she's got her eyes closed counting to herself.

Okay, so it's a lame technique but if she doesn't take her mind off the pain for just a few more seconds… then the cat and anyone he would have rescued would be dead.

***

Time was of the essence. And time was against him when it came to two unconscious men and a compromised ankle. What was worse, he couldn't see the street from here, and the internal structure was beginning to sag. That buttress wasn't goign to hold up for long- he could feel the magical structure beginning to come apart at the seams.

"Oh… what the hell."

Careening down the stairs, there is a purple wheelbarrow bearing the two men with Vorpal pushing with all of his might. The jacket has fallen off and he, bare-chested, is getting singed to hell and inhaling more smoke than he originally intended.

The bottom floor is one hell of a firepit, and the taxed feline can feel his willpower waning and his magic growing weaker. With one last feat of muscle, he pushes as fast as he can while flames, embers and debris fall around him. He gets burnt here and there, but nothing serious fortunately due to the speed he's carrying…

Which means he bursts through the doorway and smashes upon the first step. The two men and the cat fly in the air and fall onto the pavement outside- the transients probably regaining their consciousness from the jolt, and the feline slowly beginning to succumb to smoke inhalation.

The buttress and the wheelbarrow disappear as he falls unconscious.

***

The buttress was helping distribute the weight of the sagging pillar. Even when it was falling apart, it was still somewhat functioning in that regard. Its absence, along with subsequent fire damage, is too much for the tortured building to withstand.

It comes down, the whole side, from the top floor all the way to the basement.

The bright orange-haired woman with the flaming trench-coat is not seen as dust and flame emanate from the collapsed building.

A bunch of on-lookers are sort of gaping in horror. Some strange strong woman came in and sacrificed herself to save some people? Surely she made it out on time, right?

The murmuring starts to pick up, even as the police become a bit hard-pressed to hold the crowds back.

Then a brick moves… and then part of a beam… then a whole section of debris as a thoroughly dust-caked, burnt, and half-trenchcoat half-shirt wearing woman pulls herself up out of the pile. There's a slight bit of dinging around her, and she looks like she's been run over by a truck, but… she's standing. And walking.

Camera phones are going nuts as she walks over to the staging area and sits down… or more slumps down.

Some of the arriving ambulances are quick to help Vorpal and the homeless people, and then others nearby. Looks like the cat will need some oxygen for a while.

However, in the days that follow, it will come to light that all residents (and some non) were saved, including one perky little pit bull who seemed none the worse for wear. A subsequent investigation will reveal the cause, promises will be made, etc, etc.

All in all, not bad for a couple of pretty much rookies with no logistical support, right?


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