On a Jet Plane to Berlin

April 24, 2017:

It's time to tie up loose ends. The composite team of John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, Dr. Jane Foster, Jessica Jones and Red Robin board a private flight to Berlin with one goal - to find Hermann Steinschneider, immortal nazi sorceror, and neutralize him for good. Information is exchanged, an agenda is hammered out, and Jane promises sweet, sweet gear.

The Friendly Skies - Somewhere Over the Atlantic

A super sweet jet with all the swanky trimmings, courtesy of a bunch of shell companies that in no way belong to Wayne Enterprises.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It has been a couple of hours since their party had taken off in their chartered flight, having left JFK International's private airstrip at some point in the mid-morning. While the initial plan had been to open a gate to let them through from New York to Berlin, the inevitable expenditure of magic and the distance would have caused too many ripples when the reduction of their magical footprints had been considered necessary. Thankfully, this had been an option open to them - Red Robin had technology and money to burn, and he had made arrangements to not just ensure that they had transportation, but that they wouldn't be hassled in customs for whatever reason. It's also safe to assume that the plane their using is also no ordinary plane.

That, and they can trust the pilot implicitly.

As the Gotham-based vigilante ensures that they get to their destination safely, the rest are comfortably situated in the private plane's main cabin, the low hum of the engines serving as a backdrop for present conversations. As expected from someone with millions of dollars in his disposal, the space is downright luxurious, with plush, pale leather seats, a couple of bathrooms, incredibly soft carpet and a well-stocked refrigerator and bar. Windows left open enable light to stream into the space, their surroundings a clear, pale blue blanketed by a sea of fluffy white clouds. It's a good day to fly and so far, it has been smooth sailing without a hint of turbulence.

There are fold-out tables close to the seats, for whoever wants to work.

Dressed in her typical blacks, Zatanna Zatara has just finished assembling a tray of drinks, laden with a couple of glasses of good bourbon for John and Bucky, whatever wine or cocktail Jane has asked for, a soda water with lime for Jessica, ever so supportive of her attempts to stay sober, and a breakfast smoothie for Red, low-fat organic yogurt blended with cherries, strawberries, bananas and honey, all too aware of the young man's predilection for healthy eating. She has elected to mix a Caesar for herself, also known as a Bloody Mary's better Canadian cousin, the vibrant orange-red concoction standing tall among the other glasses. She figures she's going to need it.

It isn't even noon yet, but it is somewhere in the world. Berlin, specifically, their final destination.

With the tray arranged, she moves towards the rest, handing them out. There's a glance towards the cockpit, almost certain that the vehicle has an auto-pilot function. Picking up her own glass, she takes a seat next to John Constantine. The papers are around, somewhere.

Whenever Red emerges from the pilot's seat, she gives him a smile and a wiggle of her fingers, before turning to the rest.

"I figured since it's been a while, we should get each other up to speed," she begins. "It feels like forever ago, but Red decided to check out the Excelsior Hotel once he started getting word that the Cult of the Cold Flame guys were snooping around Gotham retracing Steinschneider's steps. We found a portfolio of old documents, but they're all in German, so Red and I got to work translating all of them."

—-

It's worth noting that Jessica Jones has been in A Mood.

It's the type of mood that causes her to direct a withering look at the cab driver her brought her to the airport, and to the airport staff she had to navigate. It's the type of mood that characterized her constantly when Zatanna and John first met her, though it's not aimed at anyone here. In fact, she's been very careful not to inflict it on them. If she speaks at all, it's in short sentances and quiet, but she's never rude. Not to them, not to this circle of friends, her team, her family. She's just curled around something inside of her that is hurting, and she's not sharing.

There's also the matter of planes.

It's not exactly a secret anymore that Jessica's family perished in a car accident, though those who missed the news articles and the bit of buzz around Trish's attack don't necessarily know. Nevertheless, cars and planes are big metal fire things that run on gas. They're death traps. Jessica may be able to leap a six story building, but she can't survive a 10,000 foot fall, and as far as she knows most of the people on the plane can't either.

At take-off, she clenched her fists until her nails dug into her palms, all to avoid crumpling Red's very expensive arm rests. And right now? Every bit of imagined turbulence, even normal shifts and banks of the plane's movements, whiten her face, produces gritted teeth, has her literally checking her seatbelt. This is a plane full of amenities, and that seatbelt is the only god damned amenity she cares about. She takes the soda water sourly, because truly, she wants to be drunk. But neither does she complain about it.

She downs it like it is a shot though. Like she's pretending really really hard.

She also eyes Zatanna walking around the plane. Because Zatanna should be in a seatbelt, where her chances of DEATH go down considerably. She is tense until she sits back down.

She sort of mutters, "Zee, put your seat belt on."

Just super fun to travel with, is Jessica Jones.

Then Zee is already mentioning what she herself missed at the hotel. She hunches in her seat, slumps down, stretches out her long legs, shoves her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket. She's bundled straight up, despite the warmer weather, the grey scarf all around her neck, the jacket zipped tight, the fingerless gloves, the jeans. She doesn't seem hot, indifferent to temperature as she is. She just wanted armor. She looks down, a bit of disgruntled embarrassment over fucking up the investigation crossing her pale features, darkening them still further.

—-

Accepting his glass of bourbon in silence is one James Buchanan Barnes, whose last clear memory of planes that was truly his own were the sturdy C-47 Skytrains that dropped men down to their very probable deaths in Europe over seventy years ago. Those were drafty, unbearably-loud, rattling conveyances, full of boys sweating fear-sweat with the wild eyes of those well-aware what waited below.

Those memories are still more preferable to his more recent memories that involve planes, memories that are not truly his own and usually involve unspeakable things happening at the very end.

His gear has all been neatly packed into several bags and then stowed, via Zatanna's magical spell of holding, in his phone. This is endlessly novel to him, as is evident from the fact he keeps turning his phone over and over in his hand and waking it up to look at the app again (titled 'STUFF'), but it has the unfortunate side effect of preventing him from calming his nerves by working with his hands, checking and rechecking his weapons.

Then again, maybe that's for the best.

He's been flicking glances at Jessica off and on, mutedly concerned, though in mixed company he says nothing. He just leans a little against Jane, seated next to him, and turns his eyes up to Zatanna as she starts to speak, transparently listening.

—-

The plane wasn't the end of it, of course.

Fake passports with surprisingly effective paper trails; actually completely legitimate entry visas for Germany, obtained for those same fake identities. The private jet was also quite legally owned… Through a shell game of holding companies that would drive the most determined accountant to Arkham-bound insanity. Of course, the jet had some… Modifications.

The young man who'd led them onto the tarmac and the private plane, and who emerged from the cockpit once the aircraft was safely cruising with the help of a home-brewed smart autopilot, was not wearing a cape and cowl. In fact, he wore dark blue-grey denim and a red dress shirt, a waistcoat and loosely-tugged tie in charcoal grey and then a leather jacket with striped sleeves, rather than any costume.

A hundred tiny little changes made him look nothing like Timothy Jackson Drake, his longish hair dyed a dirty blond just this side of brown, his eyes a steely grey-tinged blue. The lines of his nose, his jaw, the shape of his brow all subtly shifted. Nothing to connect him to Zatanna's friend, glimpsed in photos she'd taken; nothing to tie him to one of Gotham's favourite sons, a philanthropist and reluctant member of the city's social scene.

Red Robin was just Red Robin, in costume or out.

"You're far more likely to get into a car accident than a plane crash, Miss Jones," he says, his voice lowered but not electronically modified. Focused. Intent. "I've only crashed a plane two, three times, tops."

Reassuring, right?

He remains standing, though he does go for the smoothie, because he probably neglected to eat already, with all the other preparations that needed to be made. Besides, he knows from experience that Zatanna makes good smoothies, and that she'd probably guilt trip him into drinking it if he didn't, right there in front of everyone.

"Display," he says, and a blue hologram hangs in the air over the middle of the seating area. Scans of the documents lifted from the Excelsior Hotel, side by side with translations from German to English. "Steinschneider was keeping tabs on his descendants, from a distance. The specifics of his interests aren't really clear, however as far as we can tell, he only has one surviving blood relative: Reiner Steinschneider. I think that's who they were talking about when we were in the Cold Flame's stronghold," and yes he remembered all of that. "We also found Steinschneider's will, which was never executed, but left almost everything he had to a woman by the name of Greta Muller. Unfortunately, that's a rather common name, and records in Germany from that period are spotty for some reason, so who Greta Muller is and why Steinschneider would've left her nearly everything remains something of a question mark."

He frowns, pensively, taking a drink from his smoothie. It is good, as he anticipated.

"Also, a source of mine learned that Steinschneider was trying to track down a diary written by his son, Armand, by visiting occult stores in Gotham. I haven't been able to find out anything useful about that, yet, either."

Things have been busy, as they all well know.

—-

John, by distinct contrast with Jessica, seems to be making the most of the rare opportunity to fly the friendly skies without being crammed into the modern equivalent of one of those ancient frigates dealing in human cargo, bodies shoved into spaces far too small, particularly taking into account the physical dimensions, in John's very European opinion, of the average American. He's never been interested in technology beyond the conveniences it offers him in his work — he doesn't even own a television — but like the laptop open on the tray in front of him and the smartphone cabled into it via USB, Red Robin's super-jet brings enough benefits to the table to capture even his appreciation. It helps, one supposes, that he's dressed all out of uniform, eschewing the iconic trenchcoat with complicated feelings: some regret, because it's heavily warded and has kept him alive more than once, and because it tends to carry with it a certain weight of recognition amongst his 'colleagues,' many of whom have never met him, but most of whom have heard that he exists via whatever outsize rumors are passed around in circles like his. Some relief, as well, because anonymity is precious for John, and the opportunity to dress like virtually anyone else on earth and blend with the masses is rare and novel. He's done that, with dark men's jeans slightly faded in the center of the leg, a leather belt, a long-sleeved white shirt under a grey hoodie — unzipped — and a men's street jacket.

He looks like…anybody.

It's a little weird.

One of the many things to appreciate about Red's plane arrives in the form of a glass of something to drink, though it's some moments before he can pull blue eyes away from whatever he's reading on the laptop screen. When he does, they lift on an angle to follow Zatanna's descent into the seat next to his, and the light in them changes, from intent focus to wry affection. "Thanks luv."

Zee, put your seat belt on.

"It's not as if it's going to help if something goes wrong is it, Jones?" John muses, oblivous, as he sweeps fingertips over the trackpad on the laptop to scroll downward, perusing the latest translated news out of Berlin. Jessica Jones is often in a bad mood, and he's been too preoccupied with the interior of the jet to notice that she's been busily trying to simultaneously clutch the arm-rests and avoid compressing them into their constituent molecules like some kind of human atom-smasher. "Anyway, something did go wrong I'm sure we could just bloody levitate all the way down." Who needs parachutes when you've got magic?

Only John could find a way to make something worse and then better in all of three seconds and the span of two breaths.

As the briefing begins he subsides into silence again, and though it may seem that he isn't paying attention, carrying on looking at the screen in front of him, nothing could be further from the truth. He keeps an ear on the conversation, though for at least this stretch of it he doesn't require updates: he's had most of this for months.

He does glance up again as Red — and he double-takes there, because holy shit that is not what he expected Red to look like under the cowl, with the long hair, like the world's most deadly grunge afficionado — summons up a display.

—-

The tiny astrophysicist does not even look up from her laptop when handed a glass of merlot. Her lips crook up in grateful thank-you, but her eyes do not stray from the bottomless well of her work. She's been this way for most of the ride.

Jane Foster arrived at James Barnes's side, fresh-faced with her dark hair ponytailed back and wearing clothes she normally does not — designer jeans, a fitted blouse, and leather jacket (probably all has something to do with Jane making sounds at 'concealing herself better' in earshot of a fashionista Zatanna: there was no escape) — but around the eyes wearing the obvious side-effect of someone undergoing a straight fifty-hour science binge. She's had a lot to do, and more than a handful of projects to either square away or finish outright, before losing herself into the frenetic job of learning, engineering, and building an array of technological helpers for this trip. Not to mention, needing to produce a hell of a lot more of her freshly-invented nanofibre.

It's also occupying that STUFF app.

That trusty laptop of hers — familiar to all here, John Constantine was once a very adequate desk for it — nestled in her lap, any in-flight jostle or turn of the plane lost on her, Jane type-types away. Unlike Jessica (and whose condition Jane has not yet noticed, thanks to tunnel vision), the scientist takes naturally to air travel. And why not? A creature of the stars, a born traveller and wanderer? Staying still frightens Foster more.

Eyedeep in data, Jane vaguely feels Bucky lean on her, and without a glance up, absently and meaningfully lays her closest hand over his knee.

It's the change in conversation to business that finally pulls her attention, though reluctantly, off her screen, has /another/ double-take at Red Robin sans mask and get-up, because even him playing video games on her couch in full gear was strangely less weird than this, and Jane listens in on the initial sitrep, storing all information for later. She considers it enough to ask a question. "So which lead is strongest enough for us to hit first? Unless you're thinking to divvy us up and we all try to chase one in smaller groups?"

—-

Zee, put your seatbelt on.

"Oh, Jess, it'll be fine," Zatanna tells Jessica with an encouraging smile. "Have some of your water, you'll feel better. And Red's piloting, I'm sure absolutely nothing's going to happen."

Picking up her Caesar, she looks up as Red Robin moves into the main cabin to cue up his holographic display, with the documents and translations side by side, as well as pictures of Reiner Steinschneider - around the same age as John - and whatever else they know about him. There's a bit of a nod when the Batling detective informs them that he is probably the person the Cult is looking for. "Him and Adelaide Weir, the wife of one of Steinschneider's other sons, are his only relations still alive," she says to the rest. "The rest are dead either by accident or some kind of excess. I didn't find anything all too suspicious about their deaths, but it's hard to determine that by text and I passed the documents to John to see if he can try and figure out whether we're dealing with some kind of family curse on top of everything, maybe something to do with the inheritance…from what I gathered of Reiner, he's not some entitled rich kid. He went to the Conservatory of Berlin and occasionally lends himself out as a concert pianist, but most days he works at a bar. Doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary about him, but considering the Cultists expressed interest in him, either he's just keeping his clairvoyant talents under wraps or they just want to use them to get to his great-grandfather…which of course doesn't really clear up just why the Cult wants Steinschneider so bad."

There's a glance at the rest. "Nothing on Adelaide Weir either - widowed, now, lives a quiet life as a pensioner but doesn't seem anything out of the ordinary either. Which of course in our line of work most probably means there's definitely something up, we just don't know what yet."

Jane's query has her grinning faintly at the physicist, also flashing her a surreptitious thumbs-up in approval of her outfit. "Well, first thing's first. When we get there, we need to get in touch with one of Daddy's contacts, Maria Krueger. I don't know much about her, though, and I wasn't party to that conversation - John had that meeting with him a while back, since I can't…" There's a slight shift. "…Daddy's cursed, and apparently it's bad. He can't be in the same room as me, can't hear my voice, can't be spiritually or physically connected to me in any way, otherwise the both of us die. So John's had to act as an intermediary between me and my father until he finds a way to break the curse. But he's been helping us in this whenever he can, since I don't know anybody who knows the Cult as well as he does. Anyway, she'll be our guide also in Germany's occult scene…I think our best bet would be to talk to her if she knows anything about the Steinschneiders. Clairvoyants are a little unique…at least in our field. Like, not all magicians are clairvoyants, and not all clairvoyants are magicians, that kind of thing. I'll let Red cover what he found out from Gerry Craft about that."

—-

Two of the men decide it's a great time to logic Jessica Jones into being less afraid of the plane. And for all that she's tried so very hard not to inflict, for all that she owes Constantine a great deal and Red a great deal, she loses her edge of decorum. They are both treated to withering looks before she hunches back down in her seat, crossing her arms and holding on tight, mouth falling into a thin, tight line. Zee tells her to drink her water, but she's downed it, so she crunches ice instead.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. It's loud.

The best she can do to avoid being a total pill is to just keep her mouth shut and to focus on the matter at hand, but she'll let Red answer about the leads; he seems to have continued to work this case whereas she'd been distracted onto other matters.

The truth is, Jess needs the refresher herself.

So she drags her attention to the hologram, saying only, "I'm telling you, Greta was the bitch he was boinking."

But then, given the way her cases used to work, this is probably the first and only conclusion she'd come to. Doesn't mean it's wrong. She says it in weary fashion though, not really invested in making anybody believe it. At least she's paying attention, however, and she falls silent again, since Red has more information about clarivoyants to share.

—-

It must be confessed that Bucky did a private trace, himself, on those false identities and on the paperwork connected with the plane. Not because he doesn't trust Red, necessarily, but out of a professional sort of curiosity on how the boy worked and how thorough he was.

He came out of it rather impressed.

To that end, he's fairly sure that the face he sees of 'Red Robin unmasked' is not actually Red Robin's true face. The boy is too careful to be careless on something as basic as that. Bucky himself consented to use a small spell from Zatanna to alter his own appearance, in the interests of not agitating the international community during these treacherous times: a little cantrip that lets him appear as himself to the other five, but disguised to everyone else.

His eyes turn when the hologram pops up, and if he's startled by the advanced technology it doesn't show. He's probably not; he's seen a lot of advanced tech at play during his time as the Winter Soldier. His eyes narrow slightly with thought as he parses all the information as it comes in. He remains largely silent, however, and it's rapidly evident that he is no longer accustomed to operating in a group, preferring to work alone.

His handlers tried to make him work with accompaniment sometimes, during his time as the Winter Soldier, but stopped once they realized he would freely kill them himself if he felt like they were slowing him down. Which they often were—

The warmth of Jane's hand comes to rest on his knee. He doesn't look, but he doesn't pull away.

"How did you find your information about these people?" he finally breaks his silence. "Pretty easy to sanitize records. Direct surveillance is likely to dig up more than what they 'seem' to be."

His eyes flicker, distrust briefly showing under his lashes. "If you don't know much about this woman," he adds, "perhaps we should watch her briefly before first approach, too."

He continues to not address Jessica's mood. He'll straighten it out later once the sitrep is over. That, at least, is very familiar territory to the former NCO.

—-

"I mean… Yeah, probably," Red Robin agrees with Jessica's assessment. 'Mistress' was along the lines of what he'd been thinking as well, though he wouldn't have put it quite so crassly. "But when we're dealing with the case of an immortal Nazi sorceror I don't really want to latch too tightly onto assumptions. We might miss something."

There's a faint frown from the detective at the details of the curse on Giovanni Zatara - he'd known there was something going on there, from what Zatanna had told him before, but that sounded particularly unpleasant, vehemently against either the Princess of Prestidigitation or her illustrious father dying as he was - but there were other, more immediate things to address.

"When I was initially investigating Steinschneider, Mister Craft told me about the Spear of Destiny," he'd collated the information, of course, and sent a few people copies, but well this was a time for putting pieces together, and that seemed like half a lifetime ago anyway. "From what he said, the Spear is an extremely powerful artifact, and that it's likely that Steinschneider's immortality comes from having been stabbed with it, much in the way the Bible talks about the Resurrection. He also said that an object like that is probably tied to a place, that it needs to be looked after to keep its magic stable, probably by a priest… Which is why Miss Jones and I initially looked into religious orders in Germany, before we had the detailed notes Steinschneider made about his own descendants. Also, originally Steinschneider was just a clairvoyant, from all accounts, but it's my understanding he can do a lot more than that, now… Perhaps that's also from the Spear?"

He looks towards Zatanna and Constantine, at that; they'd know far better than he would.

Bucky's words about direct surveillance get a nod from the young man, the healthy level of paranoia - or 'sensible caution', as Red Robin himself would describe it - matching with the detective's own inclination.

"It's not a bad idea. I brought some surveillance equipment, the stealth drones can easily be controlled from a central location to put eyes all over."

—-

I'm telling you, Greta was the bitch he was boinking.

There are two rough little notes of amusement from John as he settles back into his seat, lifting the glass he's been brought via the lever of his elbow the seat's arm. Such a way with words, JessJones has. He's otherwise quiet, though; it isn't that he's incapable of digging for information, fully experienced with manipulating his way into places he shouldn't be in search of fragments of knowledge needed to put other puzzle pieces together. It's that there are people on the plane who are, to put it lightly, infinitely more adept, having spent a lifetime and change (Bucky being the lifetime and Red being the change, obviously) doing that very thing. He's perfectly willing to absorb everything, and seems to trust in the authenticity of what he's being told absolutely — which is exceptionally rare, it should be said.

When the Spear of Destiny is mentioned, mid-sip, he coughs, lowers the glass, wincing and letting a sour look harden his face. "Ah, bollocks," he mutters. Tim's glance in his direction meets with frowning uncertainty. "The actual Spear of Destiny's been in the keeping of this…sect…of some sort since…hell, I don't know. You stop hearing about it a little after Nazis stop paradin' about. It may well have given him his longevity, but whatever it is keeping him upright, it's probably something else." Lips pressed into a thin line, he allows himself a handful of seconds to contemplate, then rolls his shoulders. "We'll see soon enough."

Blue eyes slant sidelong at the witch beside him. "Clairvoyance is sixth-sense business, yeah. Not magic. Which…" Pausing, he cranks around in his seat to shoot Jessica a look. "You're good for that." There's no further explanation, but presumably Jessica understands what he means. "Anyway, I'm guessing being clairvoyant was already part of the package before he was given eternal life. Given the information Jones turned up, it sounds like he caught the attention of the Nazis with his predictions to begin with, and if he was nicked with the Spear in their company his gifts may have been part of why they elected to give him that gift — if they did. Could be he did it to himself, though that's sodding shortsighted, if so."

—-

It's the shift of tone in conversation, mainly begun when Zatanna discusses being unable to see, or hear, or even be in contact with her own father (she'd known something of it before, and hurt for Zatanna then, any sort of trouble or loss of a father striking well close to home,) that Jane closes her laptop and officially sets work aside. She leans back into the richly-padded chair and relaxes with crossed legs, still feeling a vague, pensive sort of tension from Bucky Barnes at her side — enough that she decides to keep her hand nestled on his knee.

And she listens. It's a sizeable about of information to glean in just a few minutes, but Jane's steel-trap mind does not forget. She stays quiet on the wings of the conversation, passively absorbing every bit of it. That is until Red Robin talks about stealth drones —

Jane, herself, doesn't have to be clairvoyant to sense Bucky is about to have an old man disapproval moment over that. "No need on the drones," she remarks happily. "We have the real thing right here." Her hand on the ex-assassin's knee gives a declarative pat.

Talk of the Spear of Destiny lifts Jane's eyebrows, however. A few months ago, she'd be asking what the hell that even means. But in the many, many, many books she's read — all happily donated by Miss Zatara, herself — there's been more than a few mentions. Mentions she had trouble believing at first, but, why not, everything else is apparently real? And not only real, but in possession of Nazis?!

She toasts that particular thought with a deep drink of wine to get a far worse taste out of her mouth. "That Spear of Destiny. If it's an actual thing in this, and if it's being wielded in some way against us, I assume that's a really bad thing? Like on a scale of one to ten, how bad would that be for everyone?"

—-

Bucky's remark and Red's rejoinder of it has her nodding. "We found the bulk of this information hiding in a vent in Steinschneider's hotel room in Gotham," she tells him. "Probably just left there because your efforts with John and his failure at the gala forced him to leave in a hurry. But as Red and I discovered sorting through the docs while we were translating them, the information's pretty dated. We can rely on them, I think, especially the legal papers that we found - the will and everything. But we could use some updates on Reiner Steinschneider and Adelaide Weir." That had been a tremenduously good point, and by the sheepish look on Zatanna's face, it's clear that she would have forgotten to mention the age of the documents were it not for Bucky's astute inquiry. Unlike him, with close to a hundred years of black ops experience, and Red and Jess' investigative acumen, or even John's experience in the field, the young lady is very much a novice when it comes to this kind of…well. Detectiving.

John's remarks about the Spear of Destiny has her glancing at him, deference on her features - not just because of the fact that John had been her instructor in the past, she also doesn't know anyone else who is as familiar with Christian lore as he is. "Either something else, or he managed to get some Jesus juice in him to be able to become…what he is now," Zatanna says. "And maybe there's something in his biology enabled him to assimilate it. Who knows? We'll find out more when we get to the ground, I think."

Zatanna drains half her glass, and leans forward, elbows braced on her thighs. "So I think we've got a pretty good To Do list once we hit the ground in Germany - meet with Maria Krueger and ask her about the Steinschneiders, see if that turns up anything helpful, and she can give us the low down on what to watch out for in Berlin's occult scene….considering everything else going on." Everyone else in the plane is familiar with the Rising Darkness problem on some degree, so she does not rehash all of that. "And start updating our files on Reiner Steinschneider and Adelaide Weir using the stealth drones and whatever surveillance equipment we have…though we'd…naturally need to break into their places to set that up. That way if we need to approach them, we'll be able to figure out the best way how with the updated information we have." There's a glance at Bucky and Red at that, the most capable of performing those tasks out of all of them.

There's a quiet pause as Jane poses what she does. "Well, so far our working theory is that it might give you powers and unwanted immortality if you get stabbed by it," she says. "But there might be side-effects that we don't know about, considering I haven't really heard of anyone get stabbed by it outside of Jesus Christ until this case. John and Daddy always told me, though, that Time affects artifacts differently - age either makes them become more powerful, more unstable, or both. And if we're looking at the worst case scenario, which would be both, then…I can't accurately gauge how bad it would be, but most definitely noticeable bad. Like earthquakes, strange shifts in reality, unexplained miracles and disasters. The fact that we haven't heard anything like that coming out of Berlin is promising, at least. Wherever the Spear is, it's being kept relatively secure. But that also probably means we're not going to be able to find it easily and it's starting to look more and more like we're going to need it in order to neutralize Steinschneider."

Which is, in the end, the objective of this entire trip.

—-

Jessica has not reacted to the bit about Zatanna's father mostly because she knew; the original case was finding the man in question, a case which had abruptly ended when it became clear that the man had never been missing in the first place.

Constantine tells her 'you're good for this' and Jessica exhales a little. She does understand precisely what he means. Much of her sour countenance fades. It also wins some points that he just takes her grouchiness right in stride, as did Red, really, as if they're not at all concerned by it. It's a little confusing— most people bristle and decide they want nothing to do with her after that— but these people are hanging in, not allowing her caustic prickliness to get to them. Well. Zee never ever did, to be honest, and the poor girl has been the recipient more than once. But she hasn't really put the others to the test on this count, not that she consciously would have thought of it that way.

In the end, it's something that will strengthen her love for all of them, later, when she can really examine it.

At any rate, she shoots Constantine a deeply grateful look that momentarily yanks her up out of the worst depths of her mood. It can't keep her out long, but she's not really angry, so the anger, at least, fades away.

Little known fact about depression— it does not always manifest as active sadness. Nor do drugs taken for it, drugs which Jessica has dutifully been downing, actually always chase it away. Sometimes it's a lack of energy. Sometimes it's a brain fog that makes it difficult to focus, to concentrate, to add useful input to what's going on. She even appreciates Constantine pointing out she contributed, feeling rather inadequate in a plane full of geniuses and wizards when she herself is just a scuzzy PI from a scuzzy neighborhood, not the best or the brightest at what she does by a longshot. Red outstrips her as a detective, despite Zatanna's generous assessment of her. Bucky outstrips her as a fighter, is a spy, and can match most of the strength she actually flexes or uses. Zatanna and Constantine are magical mavens, and Jane brings the science like a boss. She hasn't felt this way in their company before, integrating with them, often seamlessly, to get the job done, but today, right this second, she's having trouble understanding what she can bring to the table besides crass wording and stupidity on a plane. She keeps it to herself behind a now-expressionless face, at least trying, trying with all her might, to push past whatever is eating her.

Her failure at the hotel comes up again though, and she looks down again. She'd only gone back to the counter. It had never, ever occurred to her to backtrack to the room. She'd assumed it had long been cleaned out and rented to a dozen other guests.

She tries to make a peace offering. "I can watch boring shit for hours. I can watch the drones or do live surveillance on the second target while Bucky hits the first." She modulates her tone as best she can, it comes out mostly matter-of-fact and professional, if a little exhausted.

—-

Spear of Destiny, Tim says. Bucky sighs audibly. "Sunday school…" he says. "Should've paid more attention."

That's about all he has to say about that, though he looks vaguely uncomfortable at all the blasphemousness flying around. He might not have been a very serious Christian by the standards of his time period, but to have talk about it bandied about so… dismissively as the mages do is still entirely new and unusual to him.

What isn't, however, is Tim's comments on surveillance being a good idea. He'll put up stealth drones all over the place. Bucky doesn't argue, but he does grumble something under his breath about a good pair of eyes having been more than good enough before all this drone nonsense started up. The idea of stuff being recorded anywhere but in his own mind seems overly complicated to him, but… twenty-first century and all.

Jane certainly believes in him, judging by her commentary. An indulgent glance is shot at her, a brief look almost of pride. Despite the horrific memories attached to their acquisition, his skill and abilities are still his own, and he is certainly fully aware of their breadth. "I mean to shadow them personally if possible," he allows, "but the more methods the better, I suppose. Whatever you have that requires placement I can easily slip in to install."

—-

Red Robin, of course, has plenty of experience in dealing with grouchy personalities.

He was trained by the Batman, after all.

"Physically shadowing is vital, too," the young man agrees. "And a few of us are good at getting in and out of places undetected, which will come in handy… Not everyone we're looking into is going to be accomodating, especially not if these Cold Flame cultists are also keeping an eye on Reiner Steinschneider. It's best to assume the element of surprise won't last, and we'll be facing opposition sooner rather than later."

His training might have been very different than Bucky's, but he was also trained to fight in a war, after all; planning for the worst, and acknowledging that those plans likely won't survive contact with the enemy, is an essential maxim in any soldier's life. If you want to survive very long, anyway.

"So, breaking it down: First we need to make contact with this Maria Krueger, then we need to do reconnaissance on Reiner Steinschneider and maybe Adelaide Weir just to be careful. We need to see if we can find anything else about this Greta Muller, and while we're at it the diary of Armand Steinschneider - if our bad guy is interested in it, I'm interested in finding out why. Then we need to locate the Spear of Destiny, to hopefully use to stop Steinschneider himself. While also avoiding the Cult of the Cold Flame, who are probably also going to be all over this."

The worst part is that it sounds like fun. Terrifying fun, sure, but fun nonetheless. Red Robin can feel it, that tingling sensation just below his sternum… The feeling like just before you jump off of a great height.

"I think it might be 'all of the above,' Miss Jones," the young man says, with a bit of a wry grin for the PI. "You're good at doing a lot with a little, and we're going to have to adapt to the situation on the ground. But if there ends up being hours of boring shit to watch, I'm gonna take you up on that. Oh… Uh," he says, suddenly remembering. "Who else here speaks German?"

He raises his hand, probably unnecessarily.

—-

John glances around the plane at that question, and then frames a thin, flat smile. "Unless you're talking…" He unfolds various fingers as he counts them off: "Gothic, Burgundian, Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old Low Franconian or Vandalic…'fraid I'm not going to be doing any translating."

Because why would Constantine ever bother to learn contemporary languages that might help him engage with the modern world? Far better to fill his head with the dead ones. Clearly.

—-

A brief, crooked grin from Jane replies that look Bucky slips her. She's got his back.

However, the brief flare of levity falters at prolonged discussion of the aforementioned Spear — and the sorts of things it can do. One stab could or could not grant someone unwanted immortality, and the thought of that makes the scientist momentarily pensive, trying to imagine it. Living forever? Sounds amazing as if knowing she will personally court all the universe for all its infinite possibility and infinite answers to her lifetimes of question. But at the same time, it sounds vaguely terrifying. Lonely, even. And changing of a person: her entire everything is her fear of dying too soon. To exist without that?

In the end, she boxes those thoughts for another day. Don't overthink this, Jane. Just make a mental note: don't get stabbed by Jesus spears.

For now, she just gazes beseechingly into the middle distance as John Constantine recites off his long laundry list of dead languages. Each one brings more and more severity into Jane's squinted left eye. "Old law /what/?" she asks, with the sputtery impatience of any consummate science major. "You are so not allowed to make fun of me ever when I start speaking technical. /Franconian./"

She does, however, graciously answer the question about speaking German. "Little bit on my part. James is crash-coursing me. But I learn fast."

—-

"What. When did you learn Franconian?" Zatanna wonders, glancing over at John. "Which one is that? Did you ever teach me that?"

But with Red asking about who in the group speaks German, she lifts her fingers. "Yup, that's me," she tells them with a hint of a smile. "Boiled down to the basics, I'm a Logomancer - the more words I know, the better off I am." The fact that Bucky knows it as well, by Jane's words, doesn't surprise her in the least. "So that's good, half of us know, that means if we have to split up three ways, we can pair up in a way that there's always someone fluent in the language."

Still, the concise way Red outlines their objectives earns him a smile; she even looks proud, however unsurprised she is. "Anyway shadowing the targets is also good, and we're going to be trying to keep a lot of our magical shenanigans down, because Red's right. If we're going to try and steer clear of the Cult, which is probably on this, that's going to be necessary on the parts of John and me. So we'll probably not use much unless it's absolutely necessary." More of a struggle for Zatanna, really, than John, who in spite of his status in the magical community is a veritable Scrooge when it comes to expending his own mana.

But that does mean relying on the other four and their non-magical methods for getting a good portion of this done.

"I'm interested in the diary also," she says with a frown. "If Steinschneider is looking for it, it might have something to do with the Spear of Destiny…or whatever else he's up to that the Cult might be interested in. I feel like if we can just find out what's up with those two camps, a lot of this would make more sense. But we'll make do with what we've got for now."

After a pause, she smiles. "Anyway, if anything it should be fun, right? I haven't been to Germany in a long time, and I hear the weather's nice this time of year." She frowns. "…would have to figure out places I can actually eat there, though…" she mutters. The local cuisine isn't exactly vegetarian-friendly.

"Anyway….that's all we've got, for now," she tells the rest. "Any other questions? Oh! Accommodations. Right."

She glances over at Tim at that, a bemused expression there. While her own trust fund isn't lacking, Tim has his own companies and investments. It must be nice to be mega-rich.

—-

"I managed to study a little with the Rosetta Stone thing. And then I found this great translation app on my phone," Jessica Jones replies to Red's question. The truth is she has zero head for languages. Zip, zilch, none. Except for the curse words, of course. And even then she can only really retain one or two phrases. "I won't be in trouble if I need to ask for a taxi or anything but…pretexting's going to be a bitch and interviewing's going to be clumsy as fuck." Which they probably all already knew about her, coming right down to it. She'd have studied harder, but she's been working her ass off lately. Not that she's been precisely forthcoming about the case that is actually putting money in her bank account these days. They know all about the stuff she's been working on with them though, and between all of it, plus Other Situations— there was not a lot of time to try to become conversational in German.

Red's compliment elicits a ghost of a smile. Just a little one, but…okay, she can see they're all trying to build her up, draw her out of the hole she's fallen into mentally and emotionally, and though it can't chase away all of the things that have put her in this state in the first place, she finds to her own great surprise that it still…helps. It still gives her a few handholds to use in the quest to try to pull herself up the side of the sheer cliff she finds herself upon mentally. They can watch her relent at last, still not herself but…better. And better isn't nothing.

She even manages a little chuff when John reveals that he only speaks dead German, because of course he does. She manages another little smirk when Jane ribs him about it. She starts to relax into the comforting collective embrace of these people who have become part of her bedrock, her very foundation, each and every one of them. There is a balm, suddenly, in just being around them as a group.

Of course, a bit of turbulence hits and she does stomp down hard. It's not 'break the floor' hard. It's not even dent the floor hard. It's 'I'm stomping on a brake that isn't there hard.' It does make a rather fantastic noise though, even through the carpeting.

Because clearly Jessica does not realize that braking is not what you do when you hit turbulence in the plane. She looks embarrassed. And tries to make a joke out of it. "Yep. Still no brake there. Just checking, everyone. Carry on."

She gives a corny thumbs-up. Humor, even in the face of shit, is a really valuable thing.

Then she adds, "Bet you dollars to donuts he hasn't found the diary because it's not in an occult shop. We'll have to think about where else it could be. Get to it first."

But that's it; she has no questions, she actually finds she at least followed along well enough to get what they're going to do when they get there.

—-

It's a good breakdown Tim gives. Bucky says nothing, which is his way of indicating he has no complaints and approves of the itinerary. What he feels, listening to it, isn't quite the rush Tim does— there's little about it that can be called 'fun'— but more akin to the restless energy of the soldier in the trench, or the keyed-up predator urge of the wolfhound that's caught a hint of blood.

This trip is fairly simple for him. Steinschneider tried to kill Jane, has fucked with too many others in James Barnes's protectorate, and so he has an overdue appointment with death.

…Again. James means to make it stick this time.

Ah, but then the question of the hour: who else actually speaks German?

"Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof," he quips dryly, in accentless and perfect German. There is a pause, wherein he figures probably only half the company here will even get the joke, before he adds, "Yeah, I talk the Kraut lingo."

Someone will hopefully stop him from saying that before they actually get there.

As for accommodations? Bucky grimaces. "I probably still have a couple hides from the Iron Curtain days," he says, obviously trolling, "but I'm sure you'll all prefer to stay in whatever ridiculously posh crap Red can scare up."

—-

The litany of dead Germanic languages that Constantine rattles off actually function as a distraction for Red Robin, gears visibly turning behind those currently grey-blue eyes. Curiousity, and the detective's implacable hunger to learn compel him to wonder about some of those seemingly useless tongues; he should probably shelve that for now, though. He's already busy learning how to communicate with Hassan, which had been complicated enough given that stretch of weeks in which he couldn't contact the mummy at all, and also where he didn't sleep and was obsessively fixated on other things.

But shelved isn't forgotten. Red Robin rarely forgets anything.

"Yeah, that works. Uh, you probably shouldn't call them Krauts, though," the vigilante adds, towards Bucky. "Or Jerries. I don't think anyone's really used that kinda talk in the past seventy years, it'll just make you stand out more." Or get into a bar brawl. Which might draw more undue attention their way, especially with the whole 'cyborg supersoldier' thing.

The bit of turbulence doesn't really faze the young man at all, though clearly Jessica isn't a fan, her attempt at humour to cover things up drawing a tight smile from the detective.

"I guess that means you don't want any piloting lessons, Miss Jones?" he jokes.

He's definitely not letting Zatanna anywhere near the controls, he's seen how she drives.

Nor Jane, either. She seems dangerous.

Accomodations gets a look in his direction from Zatanna, one laden with expectation and meaning, which is only enhanced by Bucky's own ribbing. Red Robin folds his arms over his chest with a faint creak from his leather jacket.

"Starting to feel taken advantage of, here," the young man mutters, though he doesn't really mean it. "Fortunately, I rented out a penthouse condo in downtown Berlin. Centrally located, and here's enough space for all of us and some equipment. Once we land at the airport, customs should be fairly quick, and then we can head into the city and settle in. Though it might be a good idea to see if those boltholes are still around," he adds, towards Bucky. "In case we get compromised."

—-

John piles on with Red about James Barnes' slang: "Yeah, you can't say Kraut anymore, Barnes. Or Jap, or probably pinko, or, eh Ruskie, or…" He hesitates, and shoots Jane a flat look. "Look, Foster, you can give me shite about the languages I know when you teach your bloke about controversial anachronisms. I can speak out-of-fashion dialects, but at least I know better than to do it in mixed company."

Zatanna's query gets a glance and then the ever-so-slow, ever-so-small lift of his shoulders and tilt of his head that stands in for a shrug, brows elevating scant degrees. Either he doesn't remember or, as is more likely the case, it's a long story and not well-suited to either the moment or the people they're with, requiring explanations opaque to anyone outside of their bizarre little community. Either way, the group is spared.

He's just returning to the very important task of bringing his glass to his lips when they broach the matter of living arrangements, provoking a slow frown, pale eyes sweeping from one face to the next. Whatever his concerns are, he must not find them mirrored in anyone else, so after a moment he elects to keep them to himself.

"Maria Kreuger will have hidey-holes of her own if I don't miss my guess," he says, having drained his glass and slid it aside, voice husked with the strength of the spirits. "Though I ought to say this in advance, because I know nothing about the woman: Giovanni Zatara looked entertained by the thought of sending me to meet her, and while the rest of you probably have no experience with what that means, I can promise you that this is as good an indication of any that she's going to drive me half-mad somehow, so you ought to brace yourselves. Christ only knows why."

—-

Turbulence does not as much as flicker a single eyelash on Jane Foster.

Usage of the word 'kraut', however, does.

"James," Jane groans, with great suffering, "we already went over this, you can't —"

And then John Constantine gives her shit about it! The scientist positively sputters. "Oh my god! I did teach him! He knows better!" A glance at Bucky. "You know better!"

As for plans for their itinerary and soon-to-be accomodations, Jane listens but has nothing to offer; she seems fine with it all. More than fine, really, because Jesus Spearhead Christ, a penthouse in the middle of an European city? Her last vacation, which was over a decade ago — New Mexico doesn't count — was spent out of hostels. Remove the elements of Nazis and demons and all that nonsense, and this may well be the best vacation of her life. Even WITH it all, it may be.

"All sounds good. Give or take John being driven crazy," Jane says, with audible reticence, and because she's mainly putting together the obviously strained relationship Constantine must have with the elder Zatara. On the outs with the girlfriend's family? She winces. That never ends well. "Like a literal crazy?"

The woman frowns to herself. One thing at a time, Foster. "Guess we'll take it as it comes. When we get unpacked and set up — don't let me forget. I have presents for everyone. Namely something that will make you bulletproof. You can wear it under your clothes: breathes pretty well. Like wearing a swimsuit under your shirt." Jane pauses. "Though I was considering /John's/ to be in the form of a /cape/. Don't think we /didn't notice, by the way/."

—-

John laces his hands over his lean middle and smiles the kind of serene smile that is the privilege of the truly avenged. "It's almost," he says, in a distracted, aloof sort of way, eyes closing and head resting comfortably against the back of his very comfortable seat, "As though being forced into a cape against your will is a bloody nuisance, or something."

—-

The 'K' word leaves Bucky's lips and she can't help but feel her jaw drop a little, so blindsided by the term that she forgets what she's about to say at the moment. When John adds onto the list, Jane's groan and Red's hesitant chastisement has her biting on her bottom lip to keep from laughing. After the last few months, this easy camaraderie is something she visibly enjoys - everyone in this plane has suffered in a myriad ways, and the fact that the rest of them have managed to come together again to act the way they usually do with one another leaves a surge of warmth bubbling from her stomach. Affection bleeds through the astral link that binds her soul to John's, though this time it has less to do with what he does, and more to do with the fact that they're all here about to do what they do best.

Jane did mention it is the weirdest superhero team in existence, but that is alright with her. She is very comfortable with weird.

"Hey, I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I'm all for staying in a cushy penthouse in Berlin," Zatanna says, spreading her fingers in a demonstrative fashion. "I'm pretty sure if nothing else is guaranteed, the fact that there's some aspects about this that'll make us hurt, pained, uncomfortable or all of the above is, and I'd rather cry about it in amazing digs than not. No reason why we can't all enjoy Berlin. But with that, I say…"

She stands up. "Another round of drinks, I think. Before Jess starts chewing on her glass, next, and before Red wastes away before my very eyes." There's a look towards her best friend.

Next stop: Berlin. And all the wonders and horrors waiting for them there.

But really, what's the worst that can happen?

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