A Straight Line

March 06, 2017:

Takes place several hours before AKA Dr. Philgood. Jessica Jones spots Hikari Hataori in Stark Industries and makes the uneasy decision both to warn her about the case she's working…and to recruit her as an additional set of eyes and ears.

Stark Industries, New York, NY


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Obidiah Stane, Peter Quill, Silk, Peggy Carter

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Just a few hours before Joker's attack on WNEX will blow her cover here for good, Jessica Jones gets out of a cab and goes striding towards the building now, booted feet click-clacking across the sidewalk. Of course, she doesn't look entirely like herself. A black pantsuit with a red blouse, hair swept into a bun, little glasses. She's been in and out of the building quite a few times this month, though she has not yet run into anyone who could conclusively identify her except, perhaps, for Obidiah Stane, who did it with an advanced facial recognition algorithm. Nevertheless, Peggy Carter's trick, "I get that a lot," has saved her from most problems.

She even carries a little purse today, something she's not normally caught dead with. Still, this disguise is not so conclusive that someone who knows her couldn't pick her right out immediately. She pulls out an access card, prepared to swipe it on her way through the lobby, which she slips into in rather no-nonsense fashion. She is radiating Corporate Woman from every pore right now.


Ribbon has no idea whatsoever that anybody would come in here disguised. She just parks her little pink moped in the covered and attended parking garage and walks on in, swipes her card, and goes up to the 'busy' floors.

At least, that's what she usually does. Today, the routine has been interrupted.

She can't find her access card!!

So now there's a Hikari Hataori semi-blocking the card reader, digging through her messenger bag with a slowly-increasing sense of panic. "Oh come ON, I know you're in here somewhere…!"


Jessica Jones turns and hears a familiar voice. And blinks. Little Hikari with her pink hair wasn't someone she expected to see here at Stark Industries. She changes directions, though, holding up her card. "She's with me," she tells the gate guard coolly, reaching out to tip her card against the reader for Hikari's benefit. The guard probably recognizes the girl, but…no access, no entry. Still, for whatever reason Jessica has top-level access, and he's not going to naysay her.

"Come on, I'll get you wherever you need to be in the building. You might remember me from that one thing, I'm Miss Jessica Knight." Because she doesn't want Hikari accidentally saying her real name. "I didn't expect to see you here." There's warmth in her voice for Hikari where there was none for the guard. Jessica hasn't had time to really talk to Hikari, but…what she's seen, she likes.


Hikari considers herself pretty memorable… at least among normal-looking people! In circles like these, though, there are far more impressive looks. Like the Hulk! And Captain America, because eeeeeeverybody turns to peek when Steve Rogers comes through.

She's halfway to giving up and performing the Call of Shame ('Mister Tony, I'm locked oooouuut!') when a savior appears clad in Business Professional! "Ah-?" Wait, who is she with, she's just-!!

"Miss Jessica?!"

Thank goodness for her habit of calling people by their first names… Swept along by Hurricane Jones, Hikari flashes a genuine smile at the poor guard and follows Jess, swinging her messenger bag back over her shoulder. "Hi! I work here one day a week," she explains as they walk. "It's been a while, how are you?"

Why are you dressed like someone who wants to eat faces? "…Did I forget your last name?" she ventures after a moment's hesitation.


Jessica waits till they're at the elevator before shaking her head a little bit, hitting the button for it to go up. "Do you need to go up or do you work here on this floor?" She assumes up, most everyone has to go up at least one floor. "No, you didn't forget," she says softly. "I'll tell you when we're in there." She's rapidly accounting for Hikari's presence here, working it into her personal calculations.

"What do you do here one day a week, anyway?" That's far safer territory, after all, where people might be listening to them both. She adjusts the purse like someone who really can't figure out what to do with the damned thing, adding, "It has been awhile. It's good to see you though."

She can remember pleasantries. After the fact. Usually it's business that consumes her mind first, after all, and this is no exception.


Hikari nods, ponytail bobbing. "Up, please. I work with Mister Tony in his lab on the 47th floor." She nods again, this time with an expression of understanding - she can wait until they're in the elevator, certainly.

"Mister Obadiah invited me to come and work here to help out with some of Mister Tony's designs. It's a really huge opportunity for someone in my field, even if I don't know anything about robotics!" she beams. She watches Jessica, but at least pretends to do it not so blatantly. Is she… huh, had Jessica carried a purse last time she saw her? She hadn't seemed like the type, but…

Well, it's definitely part of this… outfit? Disguise?

"I'm glad to see you're okay!" she decides to say instead, because it's safe and true. She waits for the elevator doors to ping, glancing curiously at the other woman's suit jacket. …Huh, it's really nice for off the rack…!


"I am okay. Thanks to you, in fact," Jessica says with a faint, warm grin. "Hikari Hataori, kicker of alien asses."

The suit is not, in fact, off the rack. It's one of Tony's suits. Hikari would recognize the fabric. Bulletproof, perfectly tailored to Jessica's size and measurements.

(Maybe Hikari even made it without realizing who it was for? If she did, Stark also put in an order for six pairs of bulletproof jeans, six bulletproof t-shirts, and two bulletproof leather jackets all in the same size.)

"That is a huge opportunity, and Mr. Stark's a great guy. Don't tell him I said so though, he seems far more amused when I get in his face."

The elevator doors slide open and Jessica ushers them inside. She frowns, faintly, at the mention of Obidiah, thoughtful. An interesting choice, that, though not inherently sinister. Just interesting, just something to file away. When the doors slide shut she explains. "I'm here, undercover, working on a case." She hesitates, leaning against the wall of the elevator, frowning faintly. She's seen Hikari in action. She knows what she can do. Could Hikari serve as another pair of eyes here?

"It's dangerous," she adds, deciding to gage her reaction from those two words, to see how spooked Hikari is by the notion that there is something dark afoot here at Stark Towers. She doesn't want to give the young woman, someone who has saved her life, more than she's ready for.


Her eye for fabrics is usually top-notch…! But usually she's not out of her element, surprised by Miss Jessica Knight-Jones, and swept along on an adventure of subterfuge! Once she realizes that she completely misrecognized one of her own pieces she's going to be soooooooooooo embarrassed.

"O-oh, well, it wasn't that much…" Hikari laughs a bit, picking at the hem of her blouse. She may be turning a little pink around the ears. "I'm just glad you were okay afterward."

And she's already been warned not to say too many nice things to Tony because he'll be absolutely insufferable!

"Oh?" A case…? Ribbon tries her best not to look too interested, because it's really not any of her business, probably, and anyway she doesn't want to mess up Jessica's investigation—

And yet… Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. She looks up at Jessica from beneath her brightly-colored bangs, with an air of barely-subdued eagerness. "Can I ask what's going on?" Hikari eventually relents, because OMG how exciting!! And dangerous!! Thank goodness she's got great health insurance now!


A hint of a smile comes over Jessica's face, but she frowns thoughtfully. "Not here," she decides. She hits a button to take them down again, texting Tony.

Hikari's going to be late. She's with me. She then starts a white noise generator app on the phone, just in case every elevator in this place is recorded and under surveillance.

"Let's get somewhere we can talk in private. I'm going to bring you in on this. I don't want you taking any unnecessary risks, but I'm hitting walls left and right. But…this is your last chance to back out."

She puts her phone away, takes out a pad of paper, and scrawls the next bit.

Four Stark employees. Murdered. Still want in?


She watches Jessica type something into her phone, frowning thoughtfully. She'd better tell Mister Tony she's going to be late… Hikari digs in her jeans pockets for her phone, which she has not lost… and also finds her missing access card, to boot. That pink flush is slowly turning more towards red…!

She taps out a quick message as well. Gonna b late talking 2 someone imprtant will make it up 2 u!!!! Hopefully he can parse Milennial.

Her last chance? Hikari considers the ramifications of her next course of action. She reads what Jessica scrawls down on that piece of paper, fingers straying nervously to the strap of her bag.

Her parents… They'll be devastated if something else happens to her. She has a future in front of her, one that she's working so hard to make happen.

…But… Those four people had futures too. Everybody here has something they're working toward, even if it's just 'keeping a roof over their head'. They have the right to live, and Ribbon has powers that can help people. Tucking her lower lip nervously between her teeth, Hikari takes a deep breath through her nose, shoulders rising and falling as she makes her decision.

What would Caitlin do?

She looks up at Jessica with determination in her brown eyes.



Jessica sees the nerves, and she almost reconsiders, though she gives young Hikari zero crap about finding her missing card. Hikari is young, really young, and Jessica has no right to ask this of her. "I'll get you paid for whatever work you do. I know, you're a Big Damn Hero, but that doesn't mean you have to be Really Damned Broke, and I can file it under 'expenses'."

Tony's got deep pockets.

But the elevator moves inexorably downward. They hit the lobby again, and she waves to the security guard, considering where to take her. Rooftops are what she likes best, and she steps into an alley, eyeing a nearby building. "Here, grab on," she says. "We'll jump up there. Then turn off your phone, and I'll turn off mine, and I'll tell you all about it."

It's possible, after all, that all she'll do is make sure Hikari doesn't become victim #5; simply by letting her know there's something going on. She's not about to ask the girl to take unnecessary risks.


Hikari is young. She's just turned twenty, and she still lives with her parents, and a bunch of other qualifiers. But she has this power, and it must have happened for a reason. "Th-thanks," she blinks, surprised at the offer. "As long as it doesn't cause trouble…" Or bankrupt Jessica!!

She doesn't actually know who's bankrolling the detective.

Hikari waves as well, playing the part of someone just going out for a lunch date with their supervisor. And once they're out in the alley… "Jump?"

She looks at Jessica. Up at the roofline. Back at Jessica. Oh. "Um, okay…"

She's not entirely sure how to go about this, but if she gets it wrong Jessica will surely tell her!! Hugging onto the taller woman, Hikari shuts her eyes firmly (and wraps a loose emergency line around their torsos a couple of times as well, because eeeeee it's so high up).


Jessica grips her tightly, and doesn't seem to have any problems. She jumps, they soar, and she angles them neatly onto the roof. She's actually getting better at her landings; she's been doing a lot more practicing lately, a little less intent on pretending her powers don't exist than she'd been months and months ago. "You can open your eyes now," she says, with a chuff of a laugh, even as she lets Hikari go. "I guess that's a little unnerving, sorry."

Still, she walks some distance from the edge so they won't be seen, and looks around to make sure there's nobody else up here on this particular building, having a smoke. When she's content the coast is clear she reaches into her pocket and shuts off her phone. The tracker Jane gave her isn't going off; they're probably not bugged, and they're probably safe. She turns to face Hikari then, a grave expression on her face.

"Let me start by saying I don't want you to risk yourself, at all, to help me out. You're very good, but…neither one of us is immortal. I don't want you to show much of your hand at all."



Hikari's momentary terror is, thankfully, kept on the inside. The line does go a little tighter around their middles, but she kind of can't help that!

"I-it's okay," she sighs, settling back onto her own two feet (and thoughtfully dispelling the line). "I should get used to stuff like that anyway…!" Because who knows what other terrifying things will happen in the future?!

She follows Jessica away from the edge and turns her phone off, hoping that this isn't going to be a surprise CANDID CAMERAAAAA! moment because she would just about die of embarrassment. But then, wouldn't it be nice that those people hadn't really died?!

That's enough daydreaming for now, though. Hikari nods quietly, expression shuttered. This is really going to be dangerous, isn't it…? "I'll be very careful. As long as all I need to do it observe, or light stuff like that I should be okay!" Please don't say she has to fight in heels, they are impractical and she has no idea how Black Widow does it! "But someone has to figure out what's going on, right? If not us, then who? At least we're a little better prepared than… well, human detectives would be… Oh no, I hope I didn't just jinx us."


"Yeah. All I want you to do is notice if someone is acting funny, afraid, out of the ordinary, out of character, and text me if you see that," Jessica says quietly. "We've got four murder victims. All seemed to be passing Stark tech to someone. There's a faux-Iron Man suit out there that's already attacked one person, it may have been built using that tech. I'm getting a lot farther working the victim angle than I have with anything I've tried here in the tower but…you never know. There may have been a blonde man one of the victims was meeting with, someone who took off with some of the tech information, but…no luck on him yet. I'll give you my contact information before we leave from here."

She paces around the top of the roof a little bit and says, "Obviously I want you to watch your back as well. Stark won't let anything happen to you while you're in his company, but…there are deep waters in that building, currents I don't really understand, and obviously there's trouble in paradise. I brought you in as much to keep you safer as to put your extra pair of eyes on things. Tony already knows all about it; he hired me. But don't tell anyone that. There are people who know I'm there, know who I am, but they think a different party brought me in and I need to keep it that way. He's just about the only person in that building besides you that I trust right now."


Despite her newbie-ness, Ribbon settles down to listen quickly. This is important. People have died. She and Jessica could die as well. "That's… that doesn't reflect well on Stark Industries," she murmurs, dismayed. It couldn't be Mister Tony, right?! He's been so nice! …When he wasn't drinking or yelling about stuff she doesn't really get, or launching helper robots across the room without looking first…

But mostly, very nice!

If all four of them were selling company secrets…

Just who is it that would be willing to kill to protect their intellectual property?

Hikari frowns, settling down criss-cross-applesauce on the roof to think. "A blond man…" she murmurs, tucking a thumb to her lip as she thinks back. Remember, remember… no, she can't remember seeing any blonds that don't belong! She wasn't looking for them!

"I'm glad Mister Tony knows, at least," she sighs, tugging her ponytail over one shoulder to stroke her fingers down its length. "This is really huge… But we'll have backup." It's something of a statement and a question at the same time; who knows which security guards are truly loyal? Even Iron Man can't be everywhere…! "And thank you for trusting me," Hikari adds suddenly, taking a break from her funk to look Jess in the eye. "Thank you for watching out for me. Are you going to be okay, though, if someone finds out?"


"Of course I trust you. You're a hero," Jessica says, looking Hikari in the eyes. "As for me…Well. I have these nifty bulletproof clothes, and I'm kind of hard to kill. I'm also being careful as a mouse and…I'm not working this alone. I have very good help. We're working the victims right now. I feel like if I can understand what's going on with them, we're going to get this case cracked wide open. But look, if you see the man in the other iron suit…run. Hide. You can't take him. Do whatever you have to do to get out of there; call me, call Tony, call anyone. Don't engage. He's dangerous. I don't want to find myself in a rumble with him."

After saying she's fine, but whatever, it's true. "All you can do is keep your eyes open. You may not even see anything at all, I don't know. But if you do…don't bite off more than you can chew, either. If anything happens to you because I put you on this, I won't forgive myself."


A-a hero?! Ribbon's cheeks flush scarlet, and she kind of wants to sink into the ground and also kind of wants to beam proudly because wow, who gets called a hero anymore? Besides Captain America and stuff?!

And even if she's a little embarrassed, the idea that Jessica feels like she can depend on her makes Hikari want to do even better than her absolute best. "…Wait, bulletproof?" Hikari blinks. Leans in, and flips up the hem of Jessica's suitjacket.

…That's her handiwork.

She completely failed to recognize her own sewing.

what is jessica thinking there's no way hikari can be trusted to do anything, she broke three needles before figuring out how to compensate for the weave and she didn't even

Outwardly, she shakes it off as best she can, and lets go of the hemline. "R, right! If you have one, send me a picture of the other suit so I know what it looks like? Mister Tony draws up revised designs all the time, I'd hate to mistake it for one of his…" She settles her hands on her knees and takes a deep breath. "If anything happens to me, it won't be because of you. It'll be because of whoever did it to me. Don't forget— the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, okay?"

She's trying to reference Occam's Razor and doing a terrible job of it.


The PI gives a kind smile— one of her rare ones, in fact— as Hikari has…pretty much the same reaction to being called a hero as Jessica herself pretty much had the one and only time it's happened to her. She knows how good that feels.

But it's true. Jessica has a really good imagination. She is pretty sure the Saskarians would have ransomed her for the gem and then used their space tech to murder her. With maybe some torture thrown in for good measure to motivate Peter Quill. The chances of survival go way down for a kidnap victim once they get in the car; she can't even calculate odds for a spaceship.

Jessica turns her phone back on and brings up a video. "This is him attacking my friend Silk," she says. She lets the video play, lets her see the Iron Monger in all of his terrifying power. Silk, of course, holds her own throughout, but it's enough to set Jessica Jones' mouth into a tight, grim line.

She tilts her head at the Occam's Razor, grinning. "Well, you're the expert on lines, so I'll take your word for it." She gets what Hikari is trying to say, but something tired and guilty nevertheless hovers about her dark eyes.


With luck, Hikari will never realize half of the things that Jessica knows by rote.

"Silk," she mumbles, watching the video playback. What kind of person could that be? Of course Hikari would be interested in someone who named themselves after fabric!!

She waits until the video ends before speaking again. "That doesn't look like Mister Tony's suit at all - beyond being an robot exoskeleton, I mean. It might be an actual, one hundred percent robot, but… the proportions are right for it to be a human being inside of armor."

Hikari tugs at empty space between her fingers, drawing out a short ribbon to play with while her brain works. "But… that's pretty scary," she has to admit at last, with the video over and twelve inches of light wrapped around her left wrist. She blinks and looks down before vanishing it. "Uh- oops."

"Eheheh…" An expert on lines! Even if Jessica's just being nice to her, it does raise Hikari's spirits. "Try not to worry too much about me, okay?" she says, even if Hikari already suspects it's pointless. "I won't say I know what I'm getting into, but if I didn't believe it was worth the risk I wouldn't have agreed."


"I'll send you my case files later; you'll know everything I know about what you're getting into. They're kind of a mess…my version of thinking out loud, but maybe you'll even see something or have a question I don't have yet. Like this insight into proportions— I'd given that zero thought." Jessica has no sense of the aesthetic at all, really, and no visual intelligence to speak of. Hikari's insight is already proving valuable, and it relaxes her.

"It's possible all the actual theft is done with, because this suit is already made but…in my experience once someone has figured out they can get away with something they tend to want more of it. They don't tend to stop— why, when they've put their hand in the cookie jar a dozen times before? I can't even find a motive for the victims who were actually passing the tech to do so, though…it's early in the case yet. What's your number and e-mail? Probably safe enough to turn your phone back on now."


Hikari beams, some of her shyness receding. "Everybody brings something new to the table, right?" If only it were that simple, Jessica could just bring in a dozen people and have the case solved overnight! "Even if that's the only thing I end up contributing, at least it's a little more that might take you toward the correct answer."

She leans forward, hands resting on her ankles, until she's asked for her contact information. "Oh! Hmm, let's see…" Getting her phone back out of her pocket, Hikari tells the detective her details while turning it on and waiting for it to load. "I think we can share by tapping our phones together, but I'm not too sure about the fancier stuff… I just use it to make calls and take photos," she admits.

"No motives, huh…?" Not even blackmail or coersion? Though certainly Jessica took those into account, too. "I guess all we can do for now is watch out for strange things, right?"


"Maybe blackmail. Maybe coercion," Jessica agrees; Hikari will see her thoughts on that angle when she sees Jessica's messy work-in-progress. She frowns, trying to remember how to do the damned tap thing, but ultimately just says, "Jarvis," not THE JARVIS, but the default program on the Stark phone. "Share information with Hikari's phone."

"Yes, Miss Jones," says the pleasant, but not-quite-like-the-real Jarvis' British voice.

"Thanks, Jarvis."

With that done she offers an arm. "C'mon. Let's get you back downstairs. I'll be in the building the rest of the day, down in HR, going through employee files and paystub data for everyone who ever touched these four. It's tedious work but…it means I'm on hand if you need me. And in the meantime, I know you have your own work to do!"

Assuming Hikari does just that, she'll leap them down as promised. But she'll also send Hikari ahead…now that the young heroine has found her access card, she doesn't think it would do to put them together in the minds of too many other people if she can avoid it. She'll enter about fifteen minutes later…

Still uneasy about her choices this day, but without any regrets about strengthening a friendship with a certain pink-haired wonder.

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