A Bloody Good Start

December 29, 2016:

After a few days examining the artifact that Peter Quill has stashed in her house, Zatanna Zatara uses it to send Thor's and Peter's physical forms into Muller's labyrinth of nightmares in another effort to rescue Jessica Jones.

A World Between Worlds

Muller's labyrinth of horrors, take two.

Characters

NPCs:

Mentions: A lot

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Whatever macguffin Peter Quill managed to find and brought to the homestead of one Zatanna Zatara ended up being an incredible find.

It had a variety of mystical properties but most importantly of all, it could feasibly contain physical bodies on top of souls; even now the young magician could feel the pulse of several hundred lives powering the very core of the artifact. For someone so young, its appearance in her home calls upon a specific brand of expertise, armed with more than enough magical knowhow that belies her young age. She has wasted no time marshalling the troops after, having arrived at the very early morning after her disappearance the night before, exhausted and visibly carrying some hollow ache, bleeding still from that devastating gauntlet of emotion that John Constantine tore into her just a few hours ago. If she had thought she could handle going back in the labyrinth, there is absolutely /no way/ she can do so now.

Which means Thor and Peter Quill will have to do this without her guidance.

Both men would find themselves in a lone corridor - the journey is different this time, unlike what she had attempted with John before. There is no attempt to pull their souls from their bodies. Instead, she has elected to transport their entire beings into the last place she had felt Jessica's presence in Gottfried Muller's nightmarish dream realm, aided by this mysterious, but powerful soul-powered relic that ended up falling into her hands. Whether by coincidence or by the demands of fate, she doesn't know; a niggling thought seeps from the back of her mind that it might have less to do with her and more the vestiges of chance that John has left behind, clinging onto her skin like intangible cobwebs.

The space itself is half-illuminated, though the source is indeterminable. There are sounds, voices, distant past the lone door at the very end of the empty hallway. Zatanna has explained this before they left, that time works differently here. It could feel like minutes in the breach, but days in the waking world, and pulling Jessica out of this expediently is probably in their best interest.

She has also informed them that she has chosen Peter Quill to do this for a reason - the labyrinth feeds off regret, of memories and traumas and past sins, pulling them from the ephemeral stuff that commands the human consciousness and brings them to life as monsters. It had wounded her, the first time she arrived here, and absolutely crippled John Constantine, whose miserable existence had been just the right gasoline for this pile of eldritch kindling; this place had almost killed him, were it not for Zatanna's intervention.

As far as she knows, Peter Quill and perhaps the God of Thunder will carry very little into it, given the former's irreverence and joie de vivre, and the latter's very long life.

But only circumstance now will be able to tell.

—-

Right now, Peter Quill is in possession of one large regret. A singular thing. Something that is a very recent development in his life. Something he should have known better to try, but the lure of it was too great to pass up. His main regret right now…

…is that he shouldn't have drunk all night with the God of Thunder…

Look he held an Invinity Stone. He survived in space. He faced down a man with the powers of a god with only sweet dance moves to back him up. He thought he could take it.

Now. Doubled over in this half-lit hallway, one hand braced against the wall to keep him on his feet. He knows that was a huge mistake.

"I have decided," His voice weak and trembly as he tried to master his rolling nausea. "Magic /sucks balls/."

Slowly he pushed himself back up to his full height, which usually was impressive. Just…not next to Thor. "Lets get this over with so I can find some damn aspirin." His eyes narrowed at the little hallway they found themselves in and he glances at the Thunder God. "At least they arn't giving us many decisions." He added as he checked the power on his paired blasters. "Lets knock and see who answers…"

—-

EARLIER

"She's just, she's so perfect man, she's so perfect, I just want to—"

The pantomime which followed was very forceful, very organic, very real. It resulted in a tremendous gale of laughter from deep within the belly of the God of Thunder. "Yes, verily, I know just what you mean young Peter Quill. I too have, in my years, been with many a fine wench, and with much good drink within my belly."

A somber note then, from the Thunderer, as his mind attempted in vain to put faces and names together. So much time, so much forgotten. Nearly, a regret…

"It was so much easier then," Thor adds, bitter.

His reverie was broken as Peter Quill, the indomitable Star-Lord, proceeded to topple over the back of the sofa, emptying the contents of his stomach. The Prince of Asgard's laughter began anew. This memory too, he would eventually forget.

NOW

"It isn't magic that places the heavy load upon your mouth my young companion," Thor seems no worse for wear, despite the late hour at which he finally passed out. Very little time had passed between then, and when the Lady of the House awoke the duo for the chosen mission.

"It is but your weak constitution," he adds, not mentioning the utterly pounding headache he's currently healing from. He holds his magic hammer aloft, the metal head glowing with a pale blue light.

The air of a confident god surrounds him. The way he carries himself, so tall and so strong. His cloak left behind, he stands resolute in his hauberk, the plates across its front shimmering with the very lightning that encompasses his being. "You simply need spend more time with me. Do well today, and perhaps you will have that chance. Learn to drink like an Asgardian, and there is nothing the Nine Realms can do to stop you."

Not exactly the wisdom his father, the All-Father, would dispense, but there's a reason why Thor isn't the King. He swings the hammer idly, striding forward down the hall. Shadows dance, yet Thor is fearless, the lack of hesitation very clear. "I have been in many realms, and many planes of existence. Whatever we find here, I hold no doubt that we shall dispatch it swiftly, and return your young friend to her rightful place.

"Although, which plane of existence are we on again?"

The punctuation mark comes as he issues his oversized battle solleret forward, clearing the door right off its proverbial hinges. "We've no time to knock, Peter Quill. If anything moves and it is not your companion, remove it from this realm by force!" And indeed, if anything inside is moving that isn't clearly friend, it's likely to be on the receiving end of a few hundred thousand volts.

—-

When the door comes off its hinges, there is nothing but dark, empty space - like a warehouse nightclub that has suffered a power outage, they would get a sense that it is a room, but empty and devoid of life for now. It doesn't jive with what Zatanna had told them before she sent them off on this so-called labyrinth of living nightmares, where everything changes and reflects the most deep-seated thoughts of any intruders, but for something that was supposedly full of malicious intent to make people miserable, it is very still.

There could be many explanations for this. Maybe Muller's influence is waning. Maybe someone in the corporeal world has managed to actually, finally kill the immortal Nazi sonuvabitch.

But slowly, slowly, shapes take form, manifest. The darkness parts like the Red Sea, floors and walls and counters shimmering into view. There is air, the humm of distant machinery.

Peter Quill and Thor would find themselves in the Milano, sailing into the vast sea of stars, in its galley and the perpetual mess that Rocket always leaves behind every time he cooks.

But Rocket is not there.

There is a woman, spines protruding from the line of her bare back, her shoulders and down her arms. She is clad in a near-transparent shift that leaves nothing to the imagination. When she turns her head to look at them, her eyes are downright iridescent - like green daggers, set over lips like pillows. Beautiful, dangerous, and familiar.

"Peter!" she greets warmly. "Dinner's almost ready."

That is when she turns around, letting both men glimpse the giant, swollen belly hanging low on her hips.

"I made plenty. I made so much. I'm eating for two now, you know."

Her smile grows bigger.

"We /all/ are."

Somehow, a wall slides open, and bodies spill forth, rushing to greet Peter and Thor. All women, all beautiful.

And all pregnant.

It seems that the labyrinth isn't above /creating/ new nightmares after all.

—-

"I held a damn Infinity Stone you think I could hold my damn booze, but no. Do you have two hollow legs or something?" Comes the grousing from the self proclaimed Star-lord. He uses one hand to help himself down the hall, but when the Asgardian 'knocks' he is ready. Rolling through the now broken portal into darkness. His armor snapping into being, his guns coming up to cover all of…

…nothing?

Slowly he stands up from his combat crouch, eyes narrowing behind ruby-red lenses as he peers at the slowly changing darkness. "Well…" He finally gives his opinion. "…this isn't so bad." Then a pause as the light snaps images into place. The images are familiar though, the Milano. His own home. His ship. His place of solitude and safety. "…aww man this is great my ship!"

A voice though draws his attention. His eyes snap to the figure there. A voice that he knows. The spines…well yeah. Look sometimes you just go with it. Don't judge. He smirks slightly and starts to lower his guns when she turns.

She speaks.

He /sees/.

Oh god.

Then the wall and…OH GOD.

Peter Quill isn't one to run form most things, but if he /had/ an option he might have right then. His primal lizard brain shrieks at him to run for his life. His logical brain screeches that it can't be real. As the mass of pregnant beauties charge towards him and Thor he stands there. Frozen. Deer in the headlights.

Then though something clicks.

And he turns and bolts for a side panel on the Milano.

Its got a handle on it. With a sign. 'Danger. Do not pull.' A smaller sign under it. 'No seriously. Don't fucking do it.' then an even smaller one. 'THIS MEANS YOU ROCKET'.

Quill ignores all the danger signs and as soft and grasping fingers of hands that he knows so well reach for him he yanks on the lever. Which is attached to the airlock.

Which will hopefully blow them into space.

—-

It all happens very fast, really. The figure turns, the belly is swollen. "Peter Quill, is that yours…?" Thor questions, amusement plain, as the nightmare rapidly unfolds.

The wall parts, and the women come forth. Part of the Thunderer almost feels like he should know them. That the faces should be familiar, just as the contours of their body should all be so easy to remember, how their soft skins felt against his calloused fingers.

Yet he cannot. The years are so many, the memories so blurred by now, that they are simply a vague emotion, one he has felt countless times along his long and storied life. The Asgardian is one with the cosmos, and his history of indulging in the flesh is but a footnote to the triumphs and deeds of daring-do he has performed.

The Nightmare makes its attempt, and though there is a tug, the mark is missed. That does not remove the frown that paints the face of the God of Thunder at the oncoming horde.

Luckily, it's not one that he has to worry about for long. The airlock erupts outwards, sucking everything out into the depth of space. Thor does not move - he does not wish to, and thus, he does not. The look he gives Quill is approving.

This is not his first journey into mystery, and it will not be his last.

"A clever ploy, whoever is behind this!" It's all fake, right? There is no vacuum. He can shout. He can boom with the thunder in his voice. "Perhaps you should meet my brother one day, when he returns to the living. He could teach you a thing or two to the subtleties of madness."

The hammer in his hand crackles into life, arcs of lightning sizzling off of its metal head as Thor does the sensible thing. Bringing forth the magic within, he leaps forward, slamming Mjolnir down into the deck of the Milano. A shockwave erupts, which should be enough to dispel what in his eyes is but an illusion, a layer of fear cast upon their senses.

"Now reveal yourself, or do the sensible thing - release the young lady, and run with your tail tucked firmly between your legs!"

—-

And out they go, Quill holding on as bodies fling past him at breakneck speed.

"Tina. Trixy. Candy. Maybaline. Maybaliene's sister. Maybaline's OTHER sister. Marie. Galmira. Thorkina the Destroyer…I STILL DON'T KNOW WHY YOU INSISTED I SAY THE WHOLE DAMN NAME…Keiti. Keiti's mom. That Iskivarian that I only slept with once. Loren that punched me. Loren that stabbed me. Loren that was…oh man she was really good with her hands I should look her up after this…"

Yup. He's saying bye to them all as they go slinging past.

Does this make him a gentleman or just a horrible horrible person? Who knows.

—-

The airlock opens up and bodies get /spaced/. As every step of Peter Quill's sexual history goes flinging out the door, they react in different ways. Most of them scream, some of them curse, almost all of them say something about how he could do this to them and their unborn babies but these entreaties yield very little fruit in the end. It doesn't change the fact that they all /die/ somewhere in the black, heads exploding from the lack of breathable air.

Wait, does that actually happen in space?

The airlock slams shut and the wrenching pull of the vaccuum ceases. As Thor calls out into dead air, he doesn't receive a response except for the landscape to shift again. In a blink of an eye, they are no longer in the Milano but in the fields of Vanaheim, rolling and green, stretching out as far as the eye could see.

They are surrounded by goats.

Thor would recognize them - he has had several with which to ride into battle over the course of long, long centuries. But much like the way he could barely remember the faces of the women that surrounded him earlier, the goats do not seem to recognize their master. They wander aimlessly over the grass, chewing at it, bleating now and then, a greeting or some outraged expression of offense when another's muzzle gets uncomfortably close to the hindquarters, but otherwise nothing all too terrible happens.

The labyrinth groans; the cerulean skies above them crack and splinter at the strain the construct is under as it /tries/ to unleash a veritable cornucopia of horrors fueled by their most intimate fears and sorrows, and fails miserably because otherwise, there's /nothing/.

Who are these idiots?!

Somewhere at the very end is another door.

—-

"YOU'RE MAGIC CREATIONS DOESN'T MATTER!!" Is Quill's responce the whole way down. The lock slams shut as Thor shouts at the heavens and causes a sceneshift. Gone are the vaccuum of space and the wonderful safe space that is his Milano. Now its all…open countryside and fresh air.

Yick.

And goats. So many goats.

Star-lord looks at the goats. Then at Thor. Then the goats. Then Thor.

A quirked eyebrow before he just eleqently shrugs his shoulders. "This is all you big guy."

He has no idea what to do with /goats/. So he starts to wairily stroll though the peacibly munching herbivores. Guns at the ready though, just in case one of them turns its some lady fawn girl thing that wants child support.

He isn't putting anything past this maze.

"So. Door number two." He glances up at the cracks in the sky. "We are totally putting paid on you freeking Nazi maze thing! I got a hangover from hell and am so done with this!"

—-

The Hammer falls, and the world about them gives way to something far more familiar. Straightening from his landing pose, the God of Thunder turns his cool blue gaze onto the fresh surrounds. "Ah, I had thought perhaps the women before were intended for me. I see instead that this plane has these in store for me instead."

There's a smile on Thor's face as he takes in the plethora of goats.

It's not as unwholesome as a wandering mind may think.

"Well, I see Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, but I have left them on Asgard. We have a mission, Peter Quill. Do not dally here, for they will eat anything, even that shiny battle-garb of yours."

Thor expects no difficulty. He simply wanders through the field, passing goats by, giving them a pat now and then. "So a Nazi is behind all this?" he inquires, winding Mjolnir up by its handle. He lets it loose, hurtling for the door, intent on simply breaking it clear before they get there.

His hand held out, awaiting the return of his mystical armament, he adds, "I think I met one of those, once, about eighty years back…"

Yes, just who is this superhero team up, and what crazy name do they go by? The Lords of Star and Thunder? Hammer and Quill? Thor and Sidekick?

—-

To step through the next door is to step into a kind of cacophony.

It looks kind like the inside of a police station with grey, institutionalized brick walls. Fluorescent lights flicker crazily overhead, casting everything into nightmare shades of blue and purple and white. And there is noise. LOTS of noise. Things breaking. People attacking. Someone shouting.

One would have to move through the halls to get there, but there are only three twists and turns before one enters a layout that never existed in any real police station

But it becomes something like entering a big warehouse, and one with a weird interrogation room directly in the middle; one with one way mirrors-the kind that allow the people outside to see in, but don't allow the person on the inside to see out. The intercom buttons are jammed wide open, and there are no entry or exit doors on the room at all, as if it were just a big box made of mirrors.

In this case, however, the interrogation room is apparently someone's sanctuary. There are quite a few people positioned outside, trying to get in, most with curiously blank faces.

Zatanna Zatara, looking gorgeous as ever, her wand striking fire at the glass. That glass is apparently as thick as concrete given the attack only melts some of it away, but it doesn't look like it will hold out forever.

A black woman with a fantastic head of curls, and a black man who looks like he was forged from bricks. She just stands there beating on the mirrors with tiny fists, but he punches and forms spider web cracks whenever he does.

Rocket Racoon is there shooting at it with a rocket launcher, silvering off bits and shards of glass that go spiraling off into the darkness.

Gottfried Muller strikes at it with shadows, his evil face blank, but satisfied in its blankness.

Groot slams his big tree arms into the top of it. He, too, looks blank faced. There are no cries declaring his Grootiness.

A pretty blonde woman hits it with a baseball bat. A scrawnier black man beside her is also wielding a baseball bat. They do less damage, but they're dogged in doing it.

Quill is there too? A second Star Lord, who is blasting away at it with his pistols, eyes as blank as the others.

Behind them stalks the only man whose face is animated. He is in a dark purple suit. He'd be handsome if his face weren't twisted in rage, in hate. He's screaming. "I'm going to keep them all, Jessica!" he screams. "All of them forever! They'll be mine! I'm going to make Muller make me immortal. I'm going to make Muller make *them* immortal! They'll be my TOYS to PLAY with, and I WILL hurt them!"

There is no sound from within the box. Just the shrieking of glass and the shattering of shards as the assault weakens it still more.

"And YOU! YOU'RE going to be immortal too, because I'm going to make you watch it all. You'll be able to do nothing! NOTHING, Jessica, do you hear me?"

How could Jessica /miss/ hearing him? But the normally caustic woman apparently has no comeback other than silence at this point.

"And it's your fault because you were all too eager to leave me for dead. If you wanted me DEAD, you ought to have CHECKED or finished the FUCKING JOB instead of leaving me to rot!"

Perhaps she's concentrating on maintaining her refuge. There's some powerful sense that somehow, the mirrors belong to her, that she's scraped together this much against the things she's endured in here, of which this is only the latest episode-the one that might just have broken her if the rescuers had not appeared in time. Of course…there's the question of how they'll do now that they're dealing with HER nightmare. At least there's no mind-controlled Thor there. Jessica has never met him.

"I'm too powerful for your games now! You're going to be sorry! Sorry you defied me, sorry you left me. I'm going to break you every way a woman can be broken! GET OUT HERE! YOU CAN'T HIDE IN THERE FOREVER! GET OUT HERE, JESSICA, AND MAYBE I'LL AT LEAST LET ONE OF THEM GO. Oh, but who will it be? Little Zatanna? Trish? Reva? You should be thanking me. I made him bring her back for you, since you were sniveling so hard over killing her. YOU HEAR THAT, YOU BITCH? Get out here! Get out here and GET ON YOUR KNEES, and THANK ME."

It's impossible to see the woman herself inside of her self-made prison, her last stand there, because the assault on the place is kind of making it hard to see inside. But?one assumes she's in there, though in what shape it's hard to discern.

—-

Hrmmm. Lets take stock here.

Quill moves down the hallway towards the massive amounts of noise that are coming from that interrogation room. Lots of people with blank faces beating on the only room that seems to still be intact. Spittle flinging purple suiting madman shouting at that room. Gesturing wildly. Lots of people, some of them he knows. "So," Star-lord asides towards Thor. "I'm thinking he…" He points at purple suit. "…is Bad(tm). And whoever they are trying to get to in the room is Good. Well. Jessica. Who has a whole /load/ of issues apparently but we can get into that later. Right now." His pistols start to hum as he kicks up their juice. "Dramatic entrance."

He can't really bash though the ceiling or crash the Milano into them. But he just goes with what he knows.

He clears his throat. Raises his voice.

"HEY! ASSBUTT!"

This shout is punctuated with pair blaster rounds at the back of Purple Suit Guy's head.

"SURPRISE!"

—-

The sounds are not unfamiliar to Thor. He has heard it in so many ways before over the millennia of his existence. They make the turns, and they see it all. The unending assault upon the glass, the vile words, the sheer rage that seeks to penetrate the sanctuary within. It draws Thor's blonde brows down, the mirth of the situation forgotten at what he sees as a clear violation.

Listening with half an ear to the call that Quill makes, the God of Thunder is left with one puzzling question. "What is this bracket-tee-em-bracket you speak of?"

A puzzling trademark indeed, for the Asgardian knows not why the letters were uttered!

"You handle the resplendent man, I shall deal with the riff-raff," Thor issues, as the play unfolds. Star-Lord unleashes with those twin blasters. There is more to Thor than simple swinging of hammers, though he'll likely get to that.

Summoning the storm, he lifts Mjolnir high, a roar of demand rushing past his lips as he commands the very element his Godhood revolves around; thunder, lightning. He will call forth a tremendous plunge of lightning down into the hammer, across his body, the plates that line his hauberk alight. Shadows will cease to be as he illuminates the warehouse-like atmosphere with the heavy stench of ozone, followed so swiftly with a cracking surge of electricity into the mass of flesh that seek the breaking point of glass.

"I call once more to whoever is behind this - know that you have risen the ire of the Thunderer! The Lady Jessica Jones shall walk free this eve, so sayeth Thor, Prince of Asgard!"

And he doesn't even sound hoarse after all that drinking just hours prior. A true god, right here. He'll continue to pour lightning out of Mjolnir until he's satisfied.

—-

Kilgrave had time to half turn around and looked shocked that he was interrupted before Quill's blaster rounds hit the back of his head. His blood splatters in a spray across the mirrors, a glorious, glorious spray of beautiful crimson drops. Or one person, at least, /would/ find them beautiful, if she could but see them. By now her reluctance to do murder has been very, very tested, tried, and eroded.

Unfortunately even Kilgrave's death doesn't stop everyone from trying to execute his commands. However, the power of Thor compels them. Or…Tazers them, anyway, and they all fall down. Well. Groot kind of folds over. They are silent, splayed out, breathing but still.

There's silence for just a moment. And then a ragged woman appears at the window, gloved fingers pressed against the glass. She can't see out; she only had so much control over her sanctuary, and she chose impregnability over information. Being blind and helpless is its own kind of Hell, but it was the one that didn't put her directly in Kilgrave's clutches.

Her slightly sallow face is pale under the single light still left on…the one inside the chamber. The others were put out by Thor's lightening. Her face is stained with sweat. The lady does not look much like a Lady. She's shaking violently. Any nightmare of Jessica Jones' includes having to actually /feel/ the pain; she has been denied her normal coping mechanism for numbing it. No booze. Not even a damned drop. She's dealing with some serious withdrawal. A small thing on top of everything else, but nothing that makes anything easier. She's wearing jeans and a hoodie that she's got pulled over her head, as if the thick layer of sweatsuit fabric offers yet one more layer of protection, however flimsy that protection might be.

She swallows, takes a deep breath, and asks, "What's happening? Who's there?" It's a tiny bit hopeful—she'd heard things that sounded /friendly/ to her ears, but even friendly things can deceive in this place. Hopeful. But wary.

No sarcasm though. No tough talk. She sounds as exhausted as she looks, and she just does not have the energy.

—-

"Its a trademark thing that I thought was funny…you know what I'll send you a memo." Quill shoots back towards Thor as he sees his target splattered all over from here to next week. "Huh. Guess they don't make bad guys like they used to." His drawl loud in the sudden quiet of the station house. Broken only by feeble twitching of Thor's victims. He picks his way carefully though the mass of zombie-memories, pausing only to nudge his own a little with his foot.

"I look nothing like that guy!" He complains. "…but I hope I don't look that goofy when I'm sleeping it off."

Then he is moving on the the window. Knocks twice on the splintery surface.

"Candygram, for Jessie. Gotta come out to sign for it."

—-

When the silence is broken by the appearance of the damsel in distress, Thor's eyebrows lift. It was a little surprising! Even gods can be surprised. Lowering Mjolnir to his side, relinquishing the power that the magical relic allows, he makes a slow approach. For the most part, it seems he'll be letting Quill handle this part. After all, he does not know this Jessica Jones.

"You should answer the question properly. The girl is clearly not in the mood for jokes. Also, you don't twitch that much, however you did throw up once during your slumber, Peter Quill."

That said, Thor lifts his voice, and a hand in greeting. He's been in one interrogation room, very briefly, and does not quite realize the nature of the glass. "Lady Jessica Jones, it is Peter Quill and Thor of Asgard. Zatanna Zatara has requested that we escort you back to Shadowcrest Manor with all due haste. If you would be so kind as to come out, we shall gladly do so."

Yet his blue gaze shifts away from the glass, inspecting their surrounds instead. Can it truly be this simple a rescue? He spins Mjolnir between his hands, expecting the room, and whoever controls it, to make another attempt at imprisonment or attack at the very least.

—-

For a moment confusion comes over her face. Just…confusion. Then…suspicion. But…it's Thor's voice that has her staring in contemplation. She believes them, because she's certainly never met Thor of Asgard, and it seems like nothing she'd dream up, but…it would be like Zatanna to find a way to send a god to help her.

"Okay. Stand back," she says.

She then rears back her hand and punches through the glass from her side. It just sort of shatters like fiberglass, falling down rather than out in spite of her warning, and she hops out. "Thank you for coming for me. Both of you," she says sincerely. She looks away, a little embarrassed. Heartfelt, the thanks, but having to rely on others, being a damsel in distress, letting others put themselves at risk for the likes of her…

It's not easy.

But she shakes it off. "But…I hope you know where to go from here. Every time I defeated something before, it…"

A shifting, hissing, sibilant sound. Then a choking, gasping, growling sound. Muller was on the ground like the others, but now his skin seems to be sloughing away, peeling off in strips, revealing a mass of shadows that rises, and rises, and rises, a mass of multiple limbs and burning red eyes, all in an expressionless face. His head brushes the ceiling.

"Got…worse." Jessica finishes, falling into a defensive crouch as the rest of the light in the room goes out. There are only the eyes…and a mass of shadow tentacles snapping out towards the three of them, some intent on ensnaring, others intent on slamming into them with bone crunching force.

—-

There is a bright grin on his face as Jessica hops out, Quill leaning with his arms crossed and the weight on one leg. His blasters still dangle from his hands but his armor is at least slid back into its neutral position. "Nice to see ya, Jess." He drawls before he glances at Thor. "…and I thought the whole…trapped in your nightmares thing was a bit heavy. Gotta break up the tension with a bit of humor and all!" Back to Jess he waves off the thanks. "No problem. Can't have you missing my new-years eve party. Your the only one who might be able to out drink Thor here, so I had to get you back."

He would say more, but the hissing interrupts him.

The creature rises, taking on the shadows and form of nightmares itself. His hand flashes to his ear once again as the armor slams back into place.

"No no, this is better." Peter says with all the bravado he can manage(which is quite a lot). "Damn thing is getting desperate. No more tricks. No more feeding on regrets. Its just gonna throw one big ugly at us…"

A limb slashes towards him.

"…I prefer that."

Then he's just simply not there. Diving under the swing of the limb before popping back to his feet. His guns spitting electric death towards the eyes of the creature to distract it.

One limb snatches at his heel, slithering along his leg to catch on his boot and so he transfers one blaster's attention to that as it hauls him up into the air.

Oh yeah. He's got it right where he wants it.

"Help would be really welcome any time now!!"

—-

Fiberglass bounces right off of the impressive arms and armor of the God of Thunder. While Thor may have been expecting trouble, the genuine thanks he hears soon after draws his eyes back to Jessica's frame. He smiles at her, inclining his head respectfully. Yes, he can drink a lot, that's quite true.

He hears the sound even as the investigator speaks. The monster growls back to life, becoming quite the eye sore as it discards its skin to reveal its true nature. The God of Thunder is forced to lift his head as it grows. "I knew it," he mutters, annoyed at being right.

Just like that, it goes from good to bad, the shadowy creature lashing out with limbs. While Star-Lord may be swift, there's less of that for Thor. He finds himself ensnared in quick order, the hand with Mjolnir bound at the wrist, the other soon thereafter. He is held, poised just so, arms straining as he's spread out?

And is served up like a silver platter for a massive flurry of tentacles that drive down, pummeling the God down into the concrete below. It craters on impact, the muscled form of Thor quite a burden. But the creature does not stop there, continuing to rain down blows. The thudding is awesome, the sounds bordering on wet, and the floor itself gives way as Asgardian is buried.

"By Odin's beard, you shan't keep me down forever!"

The proclamation is in there somewhere. There's no doubt a lot going on, with the staccato burst of Quill's blasters, and all the slithering of tentacles. One of the pummeling tentacles quivers, seemingly caught, and a massive surge of electricity races up the shadowy length towards the main body.

One of Thor's mighty fists slams back into view nearby, Mjolnir held high, but the God seems to be buried beneath the floor still. He's working on that, clearly!

—-

Jessica's head swivels this way and that, almost in a panic, trying to decide what to do. Peter's blasts towards the eyes only seemed to make those same eyes crackle with energy and light, but they'd been good efforts. But as Peter's blaster disintegrates that tentacle around his foot, she turns towards the downed God, screaming in sudden mindless fury. She starts /ripping/ tentacles off of him, simply tearing them out of the body of the shadow thing and flinging them aside, sometimes using the very solid shadow forms to knock away things that come for her. Perhaps enough to give him some breathing room.

It doesn't last long…soon she's being flung halfway across the station too, where she lands and breaks a desk in half with her back, the tentacles chasing fast behind, ready to pounce.

Peter, meanwhile, will realize that where he's gotten the one, five more have appeared. Furthermore, the roof of the police station strains, then screams, as the creature grows even larger. It's taken blaster bolts and electricity and physical damage…but…

It's growing. Growing /stronger/ for their efforts.

The voice seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. Calm. Male. Tinged just with the tiniest hint of a German accent. Strangely quiet in its way, even though it reverberates enough to shatter the rest of the glass somewhere in its seething mass, a sound that sounds like a thousand tiny bells.

"Peter Quill. Star Lord." His tone is flatly mocking. "You held the power of the very Infinity Stone in the palm of your hand. And Thor of Asgard. Your Godlike power means little here."

There's a pause, even as the roof finally pops away, goes spinning into the night. Sirens sound somewhere.

"You are both going to die. Die, in a failed quest to save one worthless woman, a piece of trash who did not deserve your regard. What a pity."

—-

The shattering of the fiberglass perhaps did more than show them another way to go. The magical energy shift is one that is subtle and in the chaos of tentacles, death and mental anguish, it may have been lost in the mix. It's also possible none of them are attuned to the magical properties in order to feel it at all.

However, in the midst of sirens and as the roof of the police station spins off into the night, there's a shimmer in the air around the solid shadow creature near the back. Suddenly, a small purple creature emerges. Perhaps it's only magic, but it looks like a tiny winged dragon? It rears upward and breathes fire at the tentacles chasing Jessica right as another woman with dark brown hair appears right in front of the shadow. She's not from the visions before, nor does she look incredibly familiar to those in the fight. Her outfit is black with bright yellow accents. In one hand holds an unsheathed katana, the other is clenched in a fist as she attempts to punch right through where she assumes the head of such a creature might be. "I don't know who the hell you are, but you came into the wrong part of gem town, you jerk."

—-

"Well," Peter calls as the five more tendrils come spinning towards him. "At least it got my name right." Then he's twisting though the air, his foot lands on one slimy surface as he uses to to springboard off of it. The second he slips by. The third clips him enough to slow his dodge. The fourth slams into him and the last crashes into his chest with all the finality of a speeding car. Limp-limbed he sails though the air to impact against one ruined wall and rebound from there into the floor.

Now most normal unarmored humans would have been turned to paste by that. But Quill is neither unarmored, or normal.

He raises his head and the faceplate retracts for just long enough to let him spit a glob of blood onto the floor before closing again. "Jessie! This one is your nightmare! You gotta believe we can beat it. Cause fuck it we can. I'm Star-lord, and he's a goddamn /god of thunder/ and you held this off long enough for us to get here. So don't you dare give up on us yet!"

Its getting bigger, its getting stronger, but Quill? He's just getting madder.

…and he's got a plan…

It was straining to keep itself powered with just him and Thor. If they can poor enough juice in it it'll break it…

HE NEVER SAID IT WAS A GOOD PLAN!!

His boots ignite to send him spiraling though the air right for the creatures face…

…right when someone else apparently had the same idea?

So just as the newcomer finishes her punch, in rushes Quill. Eyes wide behind the mask, not knowing there was going to be someone else in his flight path. So he flies. Right next to the smoke-like head of the thing. Shoving something into what he /thought/ the eye might be. Then…well…

…then he just might tackle Kitty. Because he has a /plan/.

…and that plan involves the Rocket Made Grenade he just stuffed in that things face.

"Thor! Light it up!" He roars as he tries to tackle Kitty away from the thing.

…how well that works he has no idea, but he tries.

—-

Kitty's appearance may explain why the two men had been able to overcome the initial resistance so easily.

The nightmare simply does not handle surprise well.

Its head snaps forward when she punches through it, shadow tendrils jolting out of one side of its face in a strange wave, just in time for Quill's maneuver with Kitty and the grenade.

Meanwhile, Quill is yelling for one /Jessica Jones/ to /believe./

The dragon disintegrates the tentacles that had been coming for her, just like that. A /dragon/, a thing out of storybooks that she'd enjoyed before The Accident changed every part of her that could be changed.

Believe. Believe something could go right for a change.

A wild shudder runs across her body, because her life has taught her /nothing/ ever goes right.

But /something/ did. In here, she had been able to resolve some things that had hurt her for years. Not all of them. But quite a few. There were reasons, for example, her parents hadn't been among the ones attacking the sanctuary, nor her brother.

She'd been able to create defenses for herself. She'd claimed what was hers and now…now they had a shot. She could sit and beat herself up with shame for endangering the help she'd /asked for/…believing it could only result in their destruction…or she could believe a different story. She could believe that it would, that it could, work out for the better.

Could she believe?

It's hard to navel gaze while there's still a fight on, so even as she grapples with her own mind, she springs up and grabs a desk, holding it high over her head, face locked into an expression of grim concentration.

I'm Star-Lord.

He's a God Damn God of Thunder.

There's even some new champion, some third hero who is as unexpected and as unknown as Thor, ready to jump into the fray just to help someone, period, much like the hero Jessica herself had so desperately wanted to be once upon a time.

The God of Thunder thought enough of her to come in and try to get her. Tears prickle at the edges of her eyes. A few spill over. Who was /she/ to warrant /that?/ The thing wasn't wrong, she /was/ worthless…

But he came /anyway./ They both did. And here, she'd only ever given Peter shit, making fun of him for losing Groot. And /he/ came /anyway/.

And she? She /had/ held it off. She had. She had /endured/. And damned if that wasn't worth something.

And as Thor says the thing isn't original, a wry, hard smile of agreement touches her lips, strengthening the seed Peter planted in her mind.

Thor calls upon them to stand together, and this inspirational call will not be denied.

—-

No longer frozen, Jessica does her part as she sees it, tears fading in a renewed burst of energy and?hope? She hurls the desk at the seething mass, at right around where it's torso would be, a huge metal contraption that strikes with incredible force, doubling it over at the exact moment Thor LIGHTS IT UP with the mythic power of Mjolnir. There's a white hot implosion inside the shadows, and pieces of the thing go flying everywhere.

In a perfect world, this incredible combo coupled with this sudden burst of belief would result in the thing disintegrating. But they are dealing with a troubled woman's mind, one for whom belief is just about the hardest "ask" in the world. So, while it no longer seeks to blot out the sky, while its body shrinks down to three quarters of the size it was before it popped off the roof, while it now seems to lack any visible eyes or clear version of a head…it's not gone yet, its mass of a body still whipping out uncontrollably, seeking their deaths.

Nevertheless? There's clearly /something/ to the direction this is now going in.

—-

Kitty's eyes narrow at the strange creature in front of her, hand still through its head-region. Then, however, she is totally surprised by the tackling Star-Lord. The woman goes toppling forward, solid only because she did not expect the man behind her to grab her. "What!" For the moment, she doesn't phase through him. Instead, she reels back and attempts to elbow him right int he face. One needs mass in order to do that. "Get off of me!"

Lockheed, somehow unsure of whether Star-Lord is attacker or friend, wheels back and attempts to land on his head to claw at him to release Kitty. The sudden crash of lightning startles the mutant enough to spur her into action. The person Peter was holding falls right through his grasp as if he was holding only air. The Shadowcat lands mostly on her feet, stumbling and then tumbling before pushing herself upward.

The tip of Kitty's katana flicks upward as she attempts to slash and phase her way back toward the shrinking body. She's gotten a bit of the gist as to what is going on, but for the most part is still in the dark as to what it is they are actually fighting. "Is this an 'I do believe in faeries' thing? 'Cause if so, I totally believe in faeries."

—-

Annnnnnnnnnnd….elbow to the face…

"I'm trying to help you, you crazy woman!!" Peter shouts right back in her face. "Its very bad to be that close to something I just stuck a grenade in!" No sooner he has time to say that and register that 'heeeeeey she's kinda hot' then he has a Lockheed attached to his face. "GET OFF YOU OVERGROWN PARAKEET!!"

And then he's not carrying anything.

"Wait wha-wall."

And Star-lord once again meets a wall. This time with a Lockheed in tow.

Thankfully his armor absorbs most of the impact and once again he finds himself flat on his back after his assisted flight though the air. "I am really tired of this thing." He grumbles quietly. "Alright. Fine." As he rolls over he raises his pistols again. "Look you overgrown shadowpuppet! I'm so tired of your shit!! Your wrong. Cliche. I mean really. Do they give villains some kind of goddamn script! Its like you all read from cue cards." A longer pause. "BAD cue cards. I mean you should fire your writers man."

A pause.

"And oh yeah. The grenades had secondary devices." He adds as he pulls out a detonator. "FIRE IN THE HOLE!"

Click.

Boom.

—-

As the God of Thunder strikes again, sending still more fire and light into the heart of shadow, Jessica picks up another desk. She'd chuffed at Kitty's quip. Like Peter, like Zatanna, like a few others she's missed, here's this woman with just this apparent goodness to her.

These sorts of people have been teaching Jessica to smile. Even to laugh a little bit. They're balm to her soul. In Hell's Kitchen, she'd been surrounding herself with the grimness and the grime. She'd been taking pictures of the worst of the worst. She'd been side stepping addicts and vomiting into dark alleyways. It was not an environment which could bring wellness to her soul.

And even those who cared enough about her to try, like Trish, did it directly, in a way that more poked at the pain and made it flare again and again, forcing her to shut down and shove away.

The people she's been around lately have provided a more indirect balm. There had been something about Zatanna. About Rocket and Groot. There's something about Kitty. About Thor. And about Peter Quill himself, echoing Thor's statements about the nightmare's dialogue, cheerfully bickering with the third rescuer, yelling his "fire in the hole" like it's almost a big lark, like he can't even conceive of not getting out of this.

And in that moment? Neither can Jessica Jones. The idea of being defeated simply…stops making sense.

It's at that moment she flings her second police desk.

Katanas go snicker snack. Explosions rip through the thing's body. Fire and light and fury. And then?

When the second desk soars, it soars through nothingness, hits the opposite wall with a fantastic sound, and flops over with another loud bang that reverberates through the room. All that's left in the air is a kind of greasy black smoke which is soon very little more than a memory.

Jessica reaches her fingers out to touch the air and to verify it, recognizing suddenly that there isn't a single horror, nightmare, or fear left in her. She can't even think of one more thing that could leap out at this point that wouldn't just be kind of a replay of everything she's already seen, endured, and dealt with. She does a mental survey of herself and finds not the jagged, ragged, pain filled shards she'd seen as so very normal but…something smooth and whole, a version of a better self who is almost /bored/ by the idea of continuing to wallow in that pain when suddenly she can believe that maybe, just maybe, there are some better things ahead.

Granted, she's a little confused by the goat that just wanders randomly up to her, seemingly out of nowhere, butting at her hand and looking for pets, but?she'll bite. She'll give it a few scritches. It's kind of the least she can do.

"So," she says. "About getting out of here…"

—-

The strain this battle causes in a space not meant for violent action of this magnitude - certainly it isn't programmed to account for the God of Thunder literally storming down the halls - only worsens the fissures they glimpsed earlier on in Thor's Fields of Goat. Jagged pieces of the space start falling on top of the party, dangerous points threatening to skewer every last one of them if they aren't careful. The world shakes, a distant roar - nothing animal or human - deafens them, the sound only growing louder and louder as the labyrinth comes apart at the seams.

They would see it, too, the cracks on the floor, the widening gaps. They fall away in chunks, threatening to have them drift lost forever in worlds between worlds. While they could risk falling into the abyss, none of them can be sure that they'll be able to find their way back if they do.

They'll be forced to run, to leap, jump and skitter past falling debris. Somewhere in the world they left behind, the red gem shudders, cracks spreading over its faceted surface. This is the moment Zatanna returns to Shadowcrest, to check on their progress, with bruises on her neck - a consequence of the emotional gamble that she had just undertaken with the Winter Soldier.

Dropping her things, panicked fingers reach for the artifact.

Power surges through the corridor, the dimension bending to the will of another - namely a young woman who has yet to realize the full magnitude of her talents, and breadth of the wellspring of potential inside her. It bridges the widening gaps, shields them from the falling crush of several days' worth of accumulated nightmares. Another door appears at the very end, glowing white.

When they throw themselves through it, they fall on some very hard floors. The high ceilings and the gothic opulence of Shadowcrest swim in front of their disoriented eyes.

Zatanna drops the artifact, rushing towards them. "Oh god! Are you all alright?!" she cries, panic cutting through her tired expression.

And then she sees two other women with Thor and Peter. The other, she doesn't recognize, but the sight of the black-haired private investigator causes a sudden tremor over the girl, ripping down her spine.

The magician throws her arms around Jessica's neck, nearly sobbing with relief. The strain from the last few nights have stretched her to the near breaking point and while she manages to hold back yet another wave of tears, it is with some effort that she does. She clings to her reclaimed friend, feeling more life return to the space she had carved within her ribcage using John Constantine's knife.

It doesn't exorcise those ghosts completely, doesn't completely salve the world of hurt she is in.

But it's a bloody good start.

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