April 14, 2017:

Jessica Jones and the Devil of Hell's Kitchen continue to follow up on information gathered at Radio City Music Hall immediately after bizarre supernatural events interrupted a musical performance. Zatanna Zatara joins them in exploring the offices of Auspex International, and what they discover, as usual, leaves them with more questions than answers. (GM: Constantine)

Offices of Auspex International

It's a start-up business office space in New York City.


NPCs: Trey Bryant, Emily Montrose, Justin Roquefort, Mystery Antagonist

Mentions: Tony Stark, John Constantine, Spider-Man, Red Robin

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Getting access to Auspex International has been something of a trial, which owes itself in part to the fact that the company specializes — specialized? — in collecting user data, making the contents of its offices potentially sensitive, and in part to the fact that until the turn of the month someone was continuing to pay their lease fees. In cash.

The moment that was no longer the case, the company holding the lease placed a call to Alicia White, ombudsman for the FCC — also known as Jessica Jones, Private Investigator and a damn good liar when the need arises.

"Usually we'd handle this ourselves," said the older gentleman who met them outside of the building, a brownstone in which all of the units had been renovated into small offices. "But the kind of work they did, we've been real reluctant to go in there. Sort of a 'C.Y.A.' situation, you know. They owe a month of rent, too, but they said you might be able to do something about that?"

He'd left them to their own devices after unlocking the door and giving them his mobile number, instructing them to call him and tell him when they were finished so that he can come back and check that everything's locked up tight again.

And with a minimum of fuss after weeks of telephone tag, there they are at last, standing in front of the door — plain wood, marked with a brass plaque on the front that depicts the letter 'A' in 'Auspex' as a bird — that leads to whatever remains of Auspex International.

Pushing the door open reveals a small, even cramped 'lobby,' a boxy space largely filled by the reception desk, which sits in front of a bright orange accent wall, the logo for the company set into it in raised, brushed steel letters that gleam where they haven't been blackened by some torrential onslaught of fire, or something very like it. Around the plume of scorching on the wall the brand new orange paint is bubbled, charred and flaking away. The long light fixture that had been suspended over the front desk from two steel cables is hanging on a slant, one end dragging on the top of the reception desk, cable severed — or melted through? It appears to have fallen on a glass vase containing expensive silk flowers, as the remnants of that very thing are scattered across the desk and the floor.

There are a handful of waiting-room chairs, but they're small. Corridors lead further into the offices to the left and right of the accent wall. Everything is dark, but not all is silent. There's a quiet rush and mechanical clicking sound from somewhere further into the space.


Jessica Jones had definitely shown up in her suit for this. Her one and only suit as it happens, black and red, with the little reading glasses, red rimmed, that go with it. She'd swept her hair into a bun, added hair extensions to give her silver wings that sweep up from her temples, and had put on make-up in ruby red color schemes that she never wears herself. Even her nails are laquered a matching red. She even went so far as to get little red boots. She'd gotten too much publicity of late not to go to the extra effort to look buttoned up and not-at-all herself.

She'd also arrived with mocked up business cards, and someone ready on a phone line back at Alias, in case the landlord wanted to call and confirm that Ms. White was on the up and up.

She had also sighed, feeling pity for this poor clueless guy who didn't ask for any of this bullshit, and had cut her own check to reimburse this guy a little. The Stark case is still filling her bank account, and she still has two more months left of Red Robin-paid up rent. She can help this poor sob who is down on his luck and maybe get him not to ask questions. "This is from the petty cash draw allocated to victims," she had told him. It's a couple hundred, amounting to two hours of paid work on her part, nothing massive, but not small.

"Everything else requires paperwork, approvals, red tape, you know how it is."

She radiates a wholly un-Jessica-like air of brisk efficiency; her face is utterly professional and her body is relaxed. Inside: flutters of adrenaline and a liar's skipping heartbeat since she's busy committing what is surely a felony by impersonating a federal authority. She'd left the others to figure out how they'd fit into her scheme, or whether they'd just drift out of various shadows when the doors were finally open.

She's really glad once the guy is gone, though, and wastes no time stepping inside. She pulls off the reading glasses, tucking them into her shirt, and exhales. She immediately takes a picture of the scorch mark, though it doesn't much mean anything to her other than there was a lot of fire being thrown around here. The click of the phone in her hand is habit; a need to document and detail everything down to the last fall of ash. She takes several more; taking in the light fixtures, reorienting herself in professional ritual.


She has been given enough information by John to know that if she's coming to this excursion, she better wear a disguise - and put those theatre chops to work. Dressed in a dark suit and heels, with her hair pulled back in a serviceable bun, Zatanna Zatara has left her goth fashion behind in favor of businesswear, complete with glasses perched on her nose. She waits for Alicia to take the lead on this, dealing with the older gentleman as she quietly follows after the private investigator, dutifully taking notes in her smartphone. Like most of the world's working citizens in the modern age, she scarcely looks up.

With the doors finally closing and leaving them to their devices, she removes her glasses, tucking it in her breastpocket as she immediately gravitates to the middle of the room, already catching the first, lingering traces of very black magic. The purity of her own soul renders her extremely sensitive to darker workings, and she can already feel goosebumps rising from her skin and the sick twist in her stomach.

"Well…John really wasn't kidding about the degree of bad this is," she murmurs. She has just finished reviewing the text John had sent her. After firing off a quick response, a brief query as to what he was doing, she tucks the cellphone back into her back pocket as she surveys her surroundings. "People have been practicing here and it's dark…recent, too. Puts my teeth on edge."

She moves further in until she reaches a spot in the office where she feels… "There's traces of a demonic presence here," she says, reaching into her pants to dig up her obsidian obelisk. She points it towards the space, and casts, with a quiet word, a flashback spell - in an attempt to conjure up faint images of what had happened before. It is her own version of what John usually does with dust and a few words of Aramaic.

The clicking further into the offices does not escape her notice, but there are other people with her. "I'm not imagining that, am I?" She's almost certain Jessica has heard it also and either she or the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will be on it. There's a glance to the man, a look at Jessica, and one that wonders, without words, just how many masked crimefighting vigilantes New York has. Does every burrough have one? She knows Spidey is active in Queens!


One drifter is accounted for at Jessica Jones' eleven o'clock, quietly pushing open the brownstone's front door some minute or three after the beneficiary of her generous donation makes his exit. The Man in the Mask, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, Zorro — whatever one wishes to call him — he's made no attempt to costume himself beyond the usual black bandana that obscures the top half of his head, and the matching compression shirt and cargo pants.

Safe to say he absorbs everything Zatanna says about the level of evil contained in these floors, though he doesn't deign to comment on it, or her, at the moment. His hands are held slightly outward with palms turned downward and spread. His head is canted like a cat, as if he's caught some quiet whispered conversation and is straining to make out the words.

It's only when Zatanna asks whether she's imagining what he's been focusing on that he brings focus to bear on her. "It's like a copy machine spitting out sheet after sheet," he offers in a hushed, raspy voice as he walks slowly past her and deeper into the space.


Several interesting things happen before they've even left the lobby.

The first is that Jessica Jones will discover that her phone's camera doesn't seem to want to take clear pictures. It's impossible to double-expose images in a digital picture without actually layering one image over the other on a transparency layer, but at first glance that's probably what appears to be happening. Closer inspection will reveal that it's less that the image is double-exposed than it is that certain pieces of the environment are almost semi-transparent, but the areas of transparence vary from photo to photo. Most of them are shot through with blank spots, pitch black, which seem almost more like a failure of the image to load than anything within the camera's actual depth of field.

Zatanna's magical recreation of the last major event in the space creates an instant explosion of blue light that behaves entirely unlike it's supposed to. Particles of the magic she's stored within the obelisk burst from the tip of it as they were designed to do, and they chart lines within the air of something taking place — or begin to, at least, spilling over and around the contours of what appears to be a cluster of figures, two of them wearing suits and the others in robes, the vague outline of the secretary behind the desk with hands raised defensively, and a massive jet of something — fire, energy — that lines up precisely with the scorch mark on the accent wall. What should happen is that these motes form a cohesive image and allow it to replay that sequence of events, but they never have the opportunity, because something about the environment prevents it. They're torn out of their lanes and sucked into still-invisible fissures in reality, drained into nothingness before they can solidify into the image they're meant to depict. And more than that: the magic still within the obelisk thrums, motes slowly being pulled out of its surface like sweat from a glass of lager.


Jessica screws up her face when asked if she can hear the sound, in the way someone straining to catch something just on the edges of her own hearing strains. She hears it, but mostly as a faint hum. She nods, though…and shoots DHK's back a bit of an impressed look that he's able to actually describe what it actually sounds like. She's soon distracted by the mess of her photos, letting out a soft, angry scoffing noise and putting the the phone away as useless. So much for documenting the scene.

When she sees what's going on with Zatanna's magic she gives a sharp intake of breath. She keeps her voice low, conversational. "That doesn't look good at all. Is— is some sort of residue eating your spell?"

DHK creeps further into the space; she does too, a little, wanting to more or less keep both of them in sight. She swings her gaze between him and the spectacle of spell motes being pulled apart and drained away, muttering, "Things that make you go: damn, I really hope that is a copy machine going haywire down there."

Jessica can think of other possibilities. None of 'em good.


The faint figures that do not coalesce into clear images has Zatanna frowning quietly from where she stands. There's a glance towards the lines in which the motes vanish, tracing them in the air with her eyes, her lips pulling down in a quiet frown. "Well," she murmurs. "That's weird."

What does widen her eyes is the way motes of her magic start leaking from the tip of her obelisk, drawing them out into the ether before they vanish. Her lips press in a thin line, turning to look at Jess. "Whatever happened here left cracks," she tells Jessica. "Like a vaccuum…I felt it was bad, but I wasn't expecting it to be this bad." There's another glance at the space where the scorch mark lies. "Casting magic here isn't going to be easy, and we don't really have the time to fix it either. So just get ready for….anything."

Her lips press in a thin line. The idea of her magic not acting the way it should in this space does not sit well with her and so many things could go wrong, especially with what John had managed to communicate to her and the possible connection between this and what they were looking into in New York in what seems to be another lifetime ago.

There are options - the reckless one is to attempt to detect those fissures in the ether, and break them open wider to see what's on the other side. But she has other people with her, and with the way the space is twisting her magic, she doesn't want to put them at risk. Instead, she stows away her obsidian obelisk and starts heading further into the offices. Reaching out, she starts opening every door she finds, getting closer and closer to the humming and clicking that she hears. There's a glance at DHK at that.

"Wow. Your hearing's pretty good," she tells the black-clad vigilante.

Eventually, she'll end up close to where the copy machine is, if it really is that. She opens the door and glances through it. If nothing else happens, she'll wander inside to pick up whatever sheets of paper are being spat out to take a look.


"Thanks," the man in black replies to the woman beside him as they make their careful trek down the hall. Well, somewhat carefully. The corners of the man's lips will quirk in either amusement or irritation as Zatanna proceeds to fling open the doors in what appears to be ground zero for some obscene hell magic. He won't protest, but he will stay close to her. He seems, for his part, utterly uninterested in inspecting the doors she opens. There's no peeking inside, no quick reconnoitering, though he'll pause by each, as if waiting for something from within to come to him.

On the exchange between Jessica and Zatanna, that matter of magic and whatever the room is doing to disrupt its usual flow, the man in the mask is mum.

When Zatanna gets to the room — the one marked for one of the co-owners, Trey Bryant — the man in black breaks the script from the last few rooms, preempting her by putting his palm on the door as if he means to outright bar her from opening it. He doesn't seem to be paying attention to her at all, however, and instead sidles up to said door places his ear against it. After one heartbeat, two, he steps back again and relents. "Open it slowly," is all he says, and keeps his palm against door to fairly well make sure she follows his advice.


The gap on the right side of the accent wall opens onto a corridor that leads off to the right. The doors on that side of the office space are marked Server Room, Animal Farm, and then the last two doors have the names of the co-owners, Trey Bryant and Emily Montrose on them. Trey Bryant's office is the one the sound is coming from behind, and as they get close to the door they'll be able to confirm what the Devil of Hell's Kitchen has already told them: what they're hearing is the sound of a printer or photo copier endlessly printing documents.

There is good news and bad news, Jessica Jones.

The good news is that it is actually a printer going haywire down there and spitting out copies — enough copies that they've created a pile of printed sheets knee-deep just underneath, gently sloping away to either side across the room.

The bad news is that the printer has somehow been fused within the center of the chest cavity of a man who is himself fused to the wall, arms and legs spread as though he were making snow-angels. Only his head and neck are not somehow knitted together with the stuff of the wall, and they hang forward, his chin-length dark hair obscuring his features.

The printouts on the floor all consist of the same thing: sheets of money. Not real money, of course; it's printed on copier paper and only printed on one side, but that one side is end-to-end covered in life-sized images of hundred dollar bills, in much the same way that money is actually printed at the Mint in DC.


The arrangement — Zatanna blithely throwing doors open, DHK pausing by each — leaves one Jessica Jones to play rear guard. She watches with approval as the Devil makes her slow the heck down at the important door, sliding into a fighting stance. They're here to investigate, but her hackles are way up. His own watchfulness relieves her of the need to tell Zee to slow it down, something she really only would have said because it's Zee opening the doors in the first place…

Since basically opening them one by one and having a look-see would have been her own unsubtle plan, despite her general state of unease.

She does mouth the words 'Animal Farm?' with a distinct sound of disgust.

But you know. Disgust is a relative thing, and as she peers past her two companions to see what's in that room, without really moving any closer, this is more than proven.

"Whaaaaaat the actual fuck?" whispers the PI, once again reminded how very out of her depth she is when one gets past looking up ownership records and pretexting hapless landlords. Pity mingles with disgust, which mingles with fury, which mingles with fear, which mingles with a desire to do something all pent up into a nasty sensation of having no idea what to do. A desire to help a victim, a desire to attack a threat, and not knowing at all which impulse to follow. It all flitters across her expressive face, it all flitters across her non-verbal cues, and finally she swallows and mutters, "Guess we found Trey…"

He doesn't look in much shape to attack, but she suddenly just reaches out with faintly clawed hands, as if preparing to 'yoink' either or both of her friends back to safety if this freak show starts…vomiting tainted copy ink at them or something.


She gives DHK a glance, before she nods grimly and carefully opens the door as instructed.

What she sees is the last thing she expects. Zatanna's eyes widen, though her jaw otherwise stays closed. What is weird and macabre is almost normal for her, no matter how terrible, rendering ultimately a strange juxtaposition between her continuous shock over the evils human beings can do to one another, having not developed the calluses necessary to withstand those. But this she can handle without turning away and wretching somewhere in the hallway. Ice-blue eyes take in the way the printer is wired into the mounted man's chest cavity, her lips pressing together in a grim line.

Taking a step forward, she catches sight of the sheets of paper being spat out, and what she sees on them causes her expression to twist faintly in confusion. Nothing about the space, to her, is making sense - an attack on a music hall by multiple demons ends here, offices in which the fabric of reality has been cracked by dark magical workings, and now they're literally knee-deep in a half-hearted counterfeiting operation? There's no way any of these bills would pass muster…

…unless magic was involved.

"We should probably check out the Animal Farm and the Server Rooms later. The latter, especially….I wanna see if we can grab some of the hard drives and have Red take a look at them," she tells her companions, more for Jess' benefit than DHK, who she has absolutely no idea has met Red Robin before.

There's another glance at the printer spitting out paper, and somehow not running out.

The young woman takes a step forward; as Luck would have it, she just misses Jessica's urge to pull her back, withdrawing her obelisk and taking a look to see whether the motes are still bleeding out of it, to gauge how strong the vaccuum effect is in this room, as opposed to what she had experience in the lobby. Without hesitation, she moves to poke the body with it, trussed up against the wall like he is.

"Excuse me, Mr. Trey?" she wonders. "Are you alive?"

One would think, considering the state of the body, that there is absolutely no way that he is. But the printer is still working, and it's not running out of paper. It's wired into him for a reason, and if she looks into it, then maybe they'll actually have someone around who'll answer all of their questions.

If not…well. Plan B it is.

For Break Everything.



Jesus. H. Christ.

That's what Matt Murdock says to himself when his strange, world-on-fire echolocation — already on the fritz in this environment — puts together what's barely conceivable. But it's only a barely visible hitch of his carefully modulated breath and a tightening of his taped fists that begins to communicate to the outside world his inward horror at Trey's fate. Meditation, and the mindfulness cultivated alongside it, helps here. Focus on the present, on what's around you in the here and now, he hears, an old man speaking to him from across a decade.

And so he will, and with that outward focus hear the little clicks and whirrs that direct him away from both the horrific freak-show and Zatanna's attempt to engage with it. He nears Trey's old desk, drops to a kneel. "Something had to start this print job, and I'm betting it's right here," he murmurs, motioning to the desktop lodged beneath the ill-fated business owner's workspace. "Jones, want to see what's on here? I've got Zatanna's back." And with that, and without further explanation, he's pushing himself to a rise and making to do exactly that.


Jessica's assessment is correct: Trey Bryant appears to be in no condition whatsoever to launch an attack. Or scratch himself, or much of anything else, really. His skin lacks the cold pallor associated with corpses, though he doesn't appear to be breathing — probably no wonder there, because his entire chest is full of an office appliance.

Zatanna's canary-in-a-mineshaft magic wand informs her swiftly that the pull of the void is even stronger in this room than it was before. The droplets of light that sweat out of the obsidian object do so with greater rapidity and move through the air more aggressively as they swirl into nothingness, as though the three of them were standing in some sort of vortex, or one of those chambers in which engineers test the air speed of turbines.

Interestingly, it's when she prods him with the tip of it that the most intense reaction happens: there's a sharp tug on the energy contained in the obelisk, a fat sip of the mana within dragged out of it and into the man's body, spreading throughout his wan flesh like arcs of lightning. It rouses him almost instantly.

His head snaps up. Wide eyes are terrified behind the lenses of his wireframe glasses.

The first thing he does is scream.

It's not a scream of pain, it's a bellow of horror and despair. Alive, yes. Sane? Remains to be seen.


It's a great strategy. Just like that, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen does exactly what he needs to do to give Jessica an even keel instead of allowing her to sit there in frozen, semi-protective uselessness. He gives her productive action to undertake in the face of all of this. This allows her to push forward past her emotions, though it hardly gives her meditative calm.

Indeed, She nearly jumps out of her skin when Trey starts screaming, her heartrate elevating a great good deal. But there's work to be done, and she doesn't let that one grip her now that she's been reminded of that. Work she can do.

She licks her lips and drags her eyes away from the spectacle, clearing enough of the workspace to sit down and start messing with the desktop. If the copy machine can work maybe the computer will too, despite everything being so dark. If she can't get that to work, or if she can't get in because she's no hacker (though if she's lucky, Trey saved his passwords) she'll just start rummaging around for paper, for print-outs, even dumping out the trash, the PI's go-to.

A flurry of motion, a whirlwind of assessment, a very real attempt to shut out the horror. She is, however, looking carefully enough at everything with a practiced eye, keenly paying attention to what's just trash, what might be useful.


The scream nearly has her jumping out of her skin.

She's suddenly thankful that DHK decided to stay in the room with her, unconscious of the fact that she has taken several steps backwards before she even knows it. Her heart lurches painfully in her ribcage, sympathy and horror dawning on her once she realizes that yes, the man is still alive. A chance for answers or no, part of her had been wishing he was dead. Then at least he wouldn't suffer…like this.

The raven-haired witch draws her tongue faintly over her lips. If nothing else, this room is even worse, as far as the shattered fabric of reality is concerned. With good reason. Whatever has managed to pull this off had to expend a significant amount of dark magic, and as she shrugs off the way her skin crawls at the presence of so much of it in this space, she presses on. She doesn't chance using her magic on Trey - not too much, anyway. That poke was able to wake him up and that will have to do for now.

"Trey? Trey…hey! Calm down! Nwod mlac!"

Under these circumstances, nobody would, but she has to try.

"Look…you don't know me, I know, but if you can just…" Zatanna gestures helplessly around her. "Tell me what happened to you. I won't be able to help you get down from there unless you give me something."


Neither of his partners can know what that blood-curdling scream means for Matt Murdock, how he can hear a hundred nuances of terror and despair within it that they cannot, or how he can sense the sheer /wrongness/ that comes from a man without heartbeat or breath making such a sound. He may be spared some of the stark visual horror that has them fumbling and stuttering in their progress, but he experiences a different variety in his own peculiar way.

There's little enough for him to do right now: Jessica is manning the computer he couldn't operate if he wanted to, Zatanna is trying to reach and speak sense to the ghoulish Trey. All Matt can do at /this/ particular moment is to stand close beside the goth-girl for any requisite backup, listen, and be ready for —

Well. Whatever comes next.


The computer Jessica begins to investigate does have a password lock on it, but there isn't anything in the desk area to suggest passwords. However, trying 'guest' instantly unlocks the terminal, which may be the first indication of the fact that Trey Bryant is sort of an asshole.

His desktop has approximately thirty shortcut icons strewn across it in no kind of order or sense whatsoever. The background image is a stylized photo of a superyacht at sunset, which is probably indicator number two.

He seems to have no intention whatsoever of calming down until he's ordered to, backward, by a young woman whose backward speech tends to influence the nature of reality. It quiets him at least, though his eyes remain wide. Out at the end of his splayed arms, his fingers twitch. There's something curled in the fingers of the left hand.

"Who are you? How long — oh my god, this is a dream. It's a nightmare. This isn't happening. Please! Get me down! Get me down off of the wall! YOU HAVE TO GET ME DOWN YOU CAN'T JUST LEAVE ME LIKE THIS!"

Brief, fitful struggles produce nothing but a sudden tearing sound and another agonized, strangled sound from the man on the wall. Some of the fabric of his shirt just below the square protrusion of the printer turns a darker hue as liquid rises up from underneath. It looks a little bit too dark to be blood, though.

Afterward he lapses into a few moments of nose-runny weeping, but not for long. His attention comes and goes. "I thought I was making the right decision, y'know? I never thought — I wanted to — they offered me so much money, you know, and we were struggling to pay the bills, I just wanted to be successful! An' along came this app, iDol, and it was so popular, an' their office sent people to talk to me about…doing this…collaboration, testing some software, they were gonna bring us in, partners, y'know? All their data work, y'know? But what the hell is THIS man, what the hell! What the hell is this!"


Asshole or not, he doesn't probably deserve the fate he got. Jessica exhales sharply. Thirty shortcuts…

She takes out her phone. She might not have time to look through everything. She pulls out the USB cord and tethers it up. Hopefully she's not about to fry her phone. "Jarvis, create a new cloud drive marked AIX Investigation. Copy all files to that drive."

The phone responds in a pleasant British affirmative.

She'll let her virtual assistant get to work on that. Emails…she'll crack that right open, maybe there were emails from his business partners. If Jarvis gets nothing at all, if she can look at only one thing, e-mails and bank records are the ones she'd choose. She opens another tab. If he saved his banking info in his browser she's going to crack that sucker right open. If she can only look at two things before it all goes to shit, the e-mails and the bank records, the things she normally can't get her hands on legally, ethically, or simply, are the ones she ultimately focuses on.


If this is somewhat weird, talking to a poor app-developer pinned to the wall wired into a printer, Zatanna doesn't show it. The two main influences in her education and indoctrination in this strange, horrible and wonderful world that she inhabits have never been shy in exposing her to the darker workings of the Art and their influence exerts itself here. But that doesn't mean that she isn't sympathetic; already she's trying to desperately think of a way to get him down from where he is without killing him and knows, as her stomach sinks, that it might not be possible. A human being will not be able to live without the organs he is clearly missing.

Oh god, she thinks, closing her eyes. What the hell am I going to do with this guy after we're done here?

As dark liquid seeps around the square protrusion, which she eyeballs with caution and suspicion, she suddenly realizes that she might not have to worry about it, though she feels sick to her stomach at the realization. If she's right…

Memories of the angel sinking into a puddle of Primordial Darkness dance inside of her head.

"Do you know who they are?" she asks Trey. Already she's reaching out in an attempt to take the Devil of Hell's Kitchen by the arm, to tug him a little bit away from the doomed Mr. Bryant, and herself in the process. "The people who approached you. What kind of data work did they ask you to do? Why….are they making you print hundred dollar bills?"

She remembers the contents of John's text and even as she asks, her stomach tightens into a ball. Some part of her hopes that whatever answers are forthcoming would not hold up their present, running theory as to what's happening.


For all that he seems the lone wolf, standoffish type, the man in black will allow himself to be taken and guided backwards relatively easily — especially since what Zatanna and Jessica Jones might perceive as some sort of liquid registers to him as nothing whatsoever. A dead space for sound, a gap in his bizzaro-radar: mere void. That, coupled with John Constantine's lecture from nearly a month past, is enough to make the Devil of Hell's Kitchen doubly wary.

The one thing that momentarily distracts him from Trey and his increasingly bad day is the chime of Jessica's phone; Jarvis is a long way from Siri, and something in the exchange has him canting his head in her direction while she frantically attempts to download whatever she can before all Hell, literally, breaks loose.


There doesn't seem to be any difficulty in copying the drive now that she's got direct, physical access to it. His email is set to keep him logged in at all times because of course it is, so there's no trouble in getting into that, either. He has well over 5,000 messages, half of them marked unread. One of the last messages he received was from Emily Montrose, Subject: CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD!!

It reads, 'The guys in IT tell me you STILL haven't changed your password. Seriously, Trey, if you're going to single-handedly manage this fucking merger you've forced us into, you need to protect the agreements, okay? Our front door could be jimmied with a credit card. I know you think we're 'nobody special' but the minute it gets out that we're partnering with iDol it's going to paint a big, fat corporate espionage target on our backs and we'll get outbid, and since we're up shit creek now I'd like to make sure we still have access to a paddle.



PS: Don't forget it's your turn to bring the main course to company potluck this weekend.'

There's a single response from Trey:

'I changed it already, god. Your such a worrywart. Tell the guys in IT to focus on doing their jobs, we still haven't moved all of the customer info off of srvr 3 so the idol guys can put their code on it.


PS: I kinda forgot, cover me? I'll bring napkins and a 2L soda. Will get you back next time, thx Em'

Trey, fixed to the wall, subsides into a sullen silence after his final frantic words. It's some moments before he speaks again, as though he'd tired himself out and had to gather his strength. "The guys who run iDol. Or not, I don't know. They own it? Or they just consult with it, or — fuck man I didn't really care to be honest, they wrote checks with lots of zeroes on'em." His head lolls, and he casts a sullen look down at the pile of paper. "This is their idea of a joke I think. Funny-haha. I cut the deal, and they used — I don't know how it works. I don't know. They did something with my app history, and sure, okay, I post about money a lot, but money's tight! I have ambition, you know? I'm an entrepreneur. I got into this business to make money, not to, whatever, make the world a better place. We sell people's information. Right? Sorry if I'm the only one here who wasn't fooling myself about why we're doing this in the first place!"


Jessica Jones isn't even looking at the goop anymore, trusting Zatanna to sound the alarm if something goes any more magically sideways than it already has, listening to the witch question the hapless Trey with only half an ear. She has entered a state of total focus. It's not zen. It's not singing bowls and pools of water. But it's as close as her natural wiring allows for without a lot more practice.

"Seems like Em was the brains of the bunch…Tell me they e-mailed the merger agreements, or that they're in docs, so I can get the address of the other party right off 'em." she mutters to herself. "There might or might not be something useful in all the legal mumbo-jumbo, too…" She types 'merger' into the search box at the top, then clicks over to the bank accounts. She may be copying everything, but those bear special attention right here and now. "Or tell me they're in docs…they gotta be in docs, right?"

She opens another window and does a document search while she's at it.

She misses the Devil's reaction to Jarvis, of course, because she's not looking at him either. The screen has all of her attention. She's still not convinced she'll be able to look at all the secrets in this computer at her leisure, despite her copy job, lending total urgency to her quest to get the most useful bits right now, before something goes horribly wrong.


There's a glance at Jess and the way she finagles the computer. To Trey, Zatanna furrows her brows. "You don't have a name or a description or anything? They didn't give you any business cards?"

Or he might have, and he just discarded them. They could be still in his desk. There's a look shot to Jess at that, but it looks like she's right on the ball on it. There's a hint of a smile; not as seasoned of an investigator as Jess, Red or even John, she isn't all that surprised that her mind is already leaping into the next bit.

"Trey, what's the last thing you remember?" she wonders, turning back to the man pinned to the wall. With the connection with the iDol app established, she has no hope in being able to parse this out herself, that would mean getting into the ones-and-zeroes to determine how magic is being worked through the app, and she has absolutely no brain for programming. She does know a few who are, however, and she's already pulling out her smartphone to shoot a message to Red Robin.


Of course these fuckers named their app 'iDol', the Man in the Mask thinks to himself as he listens to what are probably some of Trey's last words. His lips — one of the few parts of him not obscured — are twisted by a combination of pity and distaste. Otherwise he's all ready vigilance, arms folded across his chest, attentive to every exchange but offering up none of his own commentary, even where his input might actually be useful — like on the subject of what legal mumbo-jumbo Jessica Jones should be frantically downloading. Safe to say he feels a twinge of guilt over that one, but he puts his trust in the detective.

And he listens, with a combination of interest and dread, for what Trey's answer to Zatanna might be.


There is, perhaps surprisingly, no immediately evident document that looks like it has to do with a merger. The only hit that Jessica gets as she prods around is an email from moc.lodi|trofeuqor.j#moc.lodi|trofeuqor.j, and it pings because it involves the word 'merger.' It reads:


Head office not thrilled. Montrose terms delaying merger. Offering incentives to trial code on your servers before agreement.'

If Jessica chooses to investigate the desk — it's a disorganized mess, of course — she will indeed come up with a business card related to the email with the scant details: Justin Roquefort, iDol Outreach' — whatever Outreach means — along with the email address associated with the email she's already seen. The phone number is an 888 number associated with the iDol corporate customer service department. The back of the card, though, has a number 3 scribbled on it.

Meanwhile, returning to the man stuck to the wall:

"Uh…there's a card somewhere. But they're always swapping dudes around. It's always some random guy in a s — "

He's interrupted by a sudden gush of black liquid that fountains up out of him, spilling like a river of ichor down the front of him. He groans, coughs, and continues on: " — in a suit. They all look the same to me, man. They came busting in here while we were working and just started trashing the place…" He seems ready to lapse back into his self-pity when he remembers something. "No, wait. There was a — there was some guy who didn't really fit in, too. Smelled fuckin' awful. Looked like…I don't know, some kinda…old hobo…" He's quiet a moment, staring up at some non-point close to the ceiling as he strives to connect fragmented thoughts. "Looked like he'd been out in the sun for a million years. He had grey hair and like…really, REALLY bad teeth. He didn't say anything, but he was — he took Em." Another pause. "I don't know anything else. Shit. We put the code on the servers and just…that was it, that was all, then suddenly we're working one day and they show up here out of nowhere, just…" His eyes glaze. "…it was so bad. What they did. To everybody. Fire and…whatever the fuck this is…"


Jessica chooses to investigate the desk. "Business cards, good idea, Zee." Seasoned or not, Zee has the same instincts. She hauls the drawers open and snatches out the business card, narrowing her eyes at the front and back. She pulls her wallet out of her back pocket and tucks it away. She frowns, checks the progress of the copy. 20%.

"Got one," she adds, sounding distracted.

She tap taps the keys indecisively a moment, in a complete contrast to her furious motion of before. But…she can't be the only one doing this search. She bets its been done from this computer, even. Surely this isn't going to cause in the utter meltdown of the machine. It's not going to grow fangs and eat her face, it's not going to suddenly catch on fire, it's not going to suddenly fuse her to the desk and make her start printing out booze photos or something. She hopes.

She's no hacker, she wouldn't call herself tech savvy, but she's like any in her generation who uses the Internet on a daily basis. It's not a huge leap of knowledge when she slowly opens up a Google window and types: " IP Address" into the search window. That might lead to some coordinates, which might lead to another site to check out. Justin Roquefort could be an alias, but it's one she'll check out all the same. She frowns darkly to hear that Em has been taken.


Looked like he'd been out in the sun for a million years. He had grey hair and like…really, REALLY bad teeth.

Blood drains out of Zatanna's face. Her relatively calm heartbeat ticks up a few notches - brought there by the gush of darkness spilling out of him, yes, but largely from the words that the doomed developer speaks to her. As Jessica roots around the desk in favor of the hunt for more information, ice-blue eyes stare at Trey, her mind shot back to several weeks ago, that encounter at the High Line…

She shakes her head once, her lips pressing into a thin line. Glancing to Matt, she gives him a small smile, though one wonders whether he'd be able to see them anyway, there are no eyeholes on the mask he wears that covers half his face. "It'll be okay, I think," she tells him. "I think one of us should grab the hard drives from the server room." She wiggles her obsidian obelisk. "Not exactly helpless and everything, but we have to move. Whatever's spilling out of him might very well end up eating this entire building, leaving nothing left.

"What do you mean he took Em? Your coworker?" Her brows furrow. There's a glance towards the door. "Where's her office?"


It's not difficult to track down a public list of IP addresses for iDol's websites, though these are of course only the ones that are user-facing, much the way '' worked before it. There isn't just one, of course; given the vast amount of users they cater to, there are closer to twenty different IP addresses, all of which can be pinged by the kinds of sites that test whether or not a server is online. What the infrastructure of iDol looks like beyond the address that the outside user communicates with, however, is impossible to say. It's safe to bet that there are vast server farms behind those portals.

"Em," Trey says. In spite of all of his many…MANY…shortcomings, he sounds genuinely remorseful as the conversation begins to circle around his missing business partner. "Shit, Em…" There's a long pause during which he sinks back into his own thoughts, but he does eventually answer: "Her office is across the hall. I wouldn't go in there though. I heard…just…I wouldn't go in there."

Down the corridor, the door to the server room is — as one might expect — securely locked, but sounding the door's surface will reveal it's only locked at the doorknob, and simple enough to kick open. Whatever amount of money Trey was being paid to do whatever it is they were asking him to do, he didn't spend it on additional security measures.

Inside it's a brisk sixty degrees at most, the better to keep the many, many standing racks of winking servers cool. There are ten in all, though a little over half of them appear to be offline, and the extranormal senses of the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will tell him right away that they weren't taken offline, they were fried. The smell of melted plastic and charred silicon is faint but discernable.


Jessica Jones likes the idea of splitting up not at all. She snaps her head up and scowls at Zatanna Zatara with all of her might, a scowl that transfers unseen to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen as he agrees. She exhales through her teeth though; this is Zee's area of expertise, and if anyone's going to go off alone the one of the three of them who is the combat expert with the slick moves seems to be a good choice. It's intense worry, not anger, thrumming through her system, through her every pore, but she finally says, "Be careful, DHK. Shout if you need us."

A faint unhappy smirk. "And don't say that line about how you're always careful, we both know that's bull."

Her stomach does another slow twist. Then she…gets back to work, exhaling. Zatanna is doing a good job with the interrogation, DHK will do a fine job not getting eaten by monster servers, and she…will continue to get what she can. She jots the IP addresses on her little notebook. Starting points. She has a long overdue visit to a certain hacker to make; she'll bring them there.

The code is all on the servers, so no need to worry about that. She frowns down at the computer again, trying to decide where to go next. She finally pulls up the browser history out of a sense of due diligence, to see if there's anything that strikes her as off…or a bank account login, which might lead to a partial account number for the iDol people who paid Trey off.


There's a glance out the door. Don't go in there, Trey says.

He is a stranger to her, so he cannot be faulted for this, but anyone who knows Zatanna that warning her away from a place using those words will always absolutely fail.

"Jess, could you watch him?" she asks the private investigator, before she pivots on her heel. "I'll be back, Trey." She doesn't wait, of course she doesn't, nevermind that the Devil of Hell's Kitchen had suggested they hit the partner's office together. To her credit, though, she does not intend to go inside without him. She has every intention of doing some magical diagnostic work first. With the door wide open, and with the position of Em's office just being right across from it, she has a clear line of sight of the interior of Trey's office, and down the hall, where DHK is ducking into the server room.

If his business partner is missing and the 'old hobo with the bad teeth' took her, there might be something in her office that she could use - personal effects, something, to be able to scry. And if she can find this woman, if she's not too late to save her life, it might give her a direct bead to them, the wizened figures she glimpsed through the portal what seemed like such a lifetime ago, before an angel was consumed by the Primordial Darkness.

The night John Constantine performed a bloody deed to spare her from the necessity of doing it herself.

Whenever she reaches Em's office, she pulls out her obsidian obelisk and holds it towards the door, to discern just how the glowing motes of magic act when close to it.


"Won't say a word about being careful — cross my heart," the man in black says dryly before taking his leave of the ladies. And then he is, indeed, kicking open the server room door, letting it bounce off the wall once before moving in swiftly to survey the scene. He grimaces at the pungent odor of burnt electronics, reaching out with his senses for the remaining electrical currents — no, really, it's a thing — and moving swiftly to rummage through the still intact servers for their hard drives. Cords are plugged, and one item is stacked on top of the other in the crook of one arm before backward steps carry him out into the hallway, where he senses —

One Zatanna. "Jumping the gun a bit?" he says, while he attempts something of the same feat as she — listening for strange sounds, searching for unnatural fragrances, searching for any indication of what's behind the door Trey warned them off of.


Trey watches the masked man leave, then Zatanna, and he begins to look…worried, for all that it's possible to discern expression in a man whose face is black from the mouth down. "Hey," he says to Jones, fear encroaching in his voice. "Hey, you're not gonna just leave me here, are you? You can get me down, right? That thing that chick was waving around, she can like…you know, reverse this? You can't just leave me like this."

Meanwhile, Jessica checks the browser history, and…

Oh man. It's so much porn.


There's anime porn — the summary will helpfully inform her that this is called 'hentai' — and 'regular' porn and porn sorted by sexual orientation. There are kinds of porn that exist for highly unacceptable reasons, socially speaking. There is cartoon character porn, video game character porn, movie character porn. There are a slew of 4-chan addresses with link titles that one imagines it'd be a terrible idea to click on and visit.

There is also a link to Trey's TD Ameritrade account, and a food delivery service.

But it's mostly porn.

In the next office over, Zatanna Zatara discovers….

Emily Montrose.

Sort of.

Much like Trey, she doesn't seem to be dead, but neither does she have a heartbeat or appear to be breathing, and while she must have been sitting in her chair like that for weeks — head tipped back, a fine layer of plaster dust from the cracked ceiling having drizzled onto her face, into her wide-open mouth, possibly on her open eyes — she doesn't seem to be hollow from lack of food or water, either.

And yet: No decay whatsoever. None at all. She's cold, but then so is Trey. Her condition is, aside from being unnatural, a mystery.

Where the blood around her chair, all over her desk, and on the wall behind her came from is another mystery without any immediately apparent answers. It looks as though she were explosively detonated, but she's clearly intact, not even a bruise to be seen.


When Zatanna tells Jessica to stay here and watch Trey her hands fly up in a measure of complete exasperation, tumbling back down again as she snaps: "Sure! Let's split up! We can take more damage that way!" It's a throwback to an older, angrier Jessica, the one that Zee had once observed was downright impossible in the best of times. Click, click, click of the mouse…Mutter mutter grumble: "Because you were just too in danger of finally shedding that Scrappy Doo threat for good. Couldn't have that now could we?"

Jessica scowls at Trey now, not answering his questions at all. "Trey. Man. This is disgusting. I mean seriously? I feel like I need to have some serious fucking brain floss right now. Just some 100% pure Oxyclean brain detergent. I should count myself lucky you're not spewing tissue and lotion right now. I mean Jesus. How did you even get any work done, you unholy douchebag?"

Yeah, safe to say Jessica's pretty grossed out. "Jarvis…make sure you're not downloading any of this garbage. I don't need all the spam either. Just…use your spam filters, use your anti-virus, get the documents on the computer. Flush any of that shit you've already taken on."

Yep, her mood is just taking a fantastic jolly nosedive, and this turns her darker and colder. "You want me to tell Zatanna to help you? Well then help me stop wasting my god damn time. Tell me what is on this machine that I would absolutely need to know to bring those iDol fuckers down. Give me every scrap of information you can think of, everything we don't have already, Trey, or so help me I'm going to tell her to turn you into a statue that can see, hear, and feel, leave you there, and put a plaque on your forehead that reads 'here lies Trey, the biggest douchenozzle that ever lived.'"

How she's going to do that when Zatanna has gotten her to stay here with Trey despite her misgivings she doesn't really address, but she's ferocious enough about issuing the threats.


"I heard that," says Zatanna from the hall. "I am not Scrappy Doo."

Magic from the other side of the door pulls at the stored magic in her obelisk. She frowns - the draining effect is pervasive in the building, but when DHK chastizes her for jumping the gun, she flashes him a grin that he can't see. "I haven't touched it," she says. "I was waiting for you. Honest!"

With that, and should DHK report nothing too dangerous, she opens the door. What she sees inside plants a twinge in her stomach, but she doesn't feel as grossed out as she should - the young woman has been to the edge and back, as far as magical workings go, she has developed a strong core out of necessity, as ably as these past exploits have done to rid her of her desire to consume any red meat forever. But she gingerly picks her way through the office, taking note of the blood…

"Whoever did this could have…exploded her." She can't think of any better adjectives. "And then put her back together….the question is why, though."

As Jessica interrogates Trey from somewhere behind her, she calls out for the private investigator's benefit. "I found Ms. Montrose."

Moving carefully towards the body on the chair, head tilted back the way it is, she reaches out with her obelisk and pokes the side of her neck.


The Devil can hear both Jessica's snarky diatribe from down the hall and puffs out a weary and exasperated breath, murmuring the word, "Thirty-four" in a voice soft enough that, chances are, only he could hear it. He's done with this house of horrors even before he sees what has become of poor Ms. Montrose, in all her perfectly preserved nullification. He stands there, holding his small box of server hard drives, watchful in his own special ways as Zatanna makes her theories and then…

…and then attempts to do to Montrose exactly what sprung Trey to life from his stupor on the wall. Something in Matt's already tense frame tightens further. It's too soon to trust Zatanna, however much he owes her in another guise, especially when she's been so headstrong throughout this entire venture. But outside of snatching that obelisk away from her, there's little for /him/ to do now but watch and wait.


"Wh — " Trey stares at Jessica for a long moment, uncomprehending. When he realizes, things take a turn for the south. "What? Are you seriously gonna stand there going through my personal shit and, like, kink-shame me or whatever? While I'm melted to a friggin wall with a PRINTER IN MY CHEST? Are you fuckin' serious! What the hell is wrong with you! I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS! I DIDN'T ASK FOR ANYBODY TO G — "

The sound he makes after that is extremely unpleasant, a kind of choking gurgle. His fury does nothing for the integrity of his body, or whatever is left of it. This time the fountain of black that comes out of him is absurd in scope, a torrential blast that cannot possibly have originated from anywhere actually within him, like a geyser of struck oil.

It does not seem like it's going to stop. Where it falls on the paper it begins to drizzle across the sheets, dissolving, unmaking.

The prodding of Emily Montrose does not revive her. In fact, the tip of the obelisk sparks and crackles with sudden, likely painful feedback as the energy spikes backward into the implement, rejected from the physical shell by force — by what feels like deliberate force, in fact, as though she's been warded against that very thing, or some other magical equivalent.


Aaaaaand that's when Jessica grabs her phone, all but ripping the USB cable free. She leaps for the door, letting one of those jumps of hers carry her through the door, just missing being hit by some backsplash of black awful. It's not graceful; this leap, sending her skidding backwards across the floor when she lands, arms flailing as she seeks to regain her balance.

"Shit!" The Devil won't miss the spike in adrenaline, the very real fear that suddenly seizes her chest, a deeper terror than the flutters of fear she's already felt during the course of this investigation.

"Shit shit shit!"

She pounds down the hall towards them at a dead run, eyes wide. "Trey's dead again, and he's spewing and shit's melting wherever it touches. If you can do something clever to stop this from becoming the world's nastiest magical toxic waste dump, Zee, now is the time."

Only the thought that he could just spew, and spew, and spew, eating half a city block or more, stops her from insisting that they all just flee right then and there. And even then it's a bare thing.

Of course, courage is maybe not her strongest of strong points when one gets right down to it; it's possible she's overreacting and overestimating the danger in the situation.

She could live with that, if that's true.


The feedback loop is unexpected. Zatanna's obelisk falls from her fingers in a clatter, a small yelp of pain escaping her. Pins and needles shoot through her fingertips.

"Someone doesn't want her coming back to life," she tells DHK between clenched teeth, crouching down to pick up her implement and glancing around the room. "I don't particularly like the idea of casting any heavy magic while the fabric of reality in here is so tenuous, but maybe there's a way to move her away from here physically so we can examine her further." Reaching into her back pocket, she takes a snapshot of the room - it probably won't do much to immortalize what it looks, but the blurry image should be enough for her to reorient her memories into the space whenever she calls them back up.

"And I would rather not teleport her so…we're going to need a vehicle and a rug to wrap her in. But I think we definitely need to examine her in a controlled space. If she's warded, we can chance her not spilling…the way Trey is in the other room, and she's obviously not decaying."

She says this calmly, cognizant of the fact that she's probably not helping the Italian stereotype very much.

"So we should probably get to work if we intend to transport a body."

Turning to her smartphone, she fires off a text to John:

Might need to come back with a corpse. Any suggestions where? Warded. Weird. Don't want to chance casting anything while here.

She tucks the phone back into her pocket when Jessica bursts into the room and tells her about Trey's fate. "Shit," she breathes. "Here, see if you can roll out that body, we're going to need to take a look at it!" She points at Emily on the chair, before she starts moving out of the room and into the hallway. The first thing she does is snatch her penlight off her pocket, wedging it against whatever accoutrements she manages to find on the floor.

"Once it's out, it won't stop until it runs its course!" she yells over her shoulder. "I can buy us time and once I'm out I can see if I can't dump the entire place somewhere, but it's Primordial Darkness, Jess! It erases everything, even magic!"

Clamping her penlight down, she switches it on, turning it towards Trey's dead body and the printer.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. He was doomed the moment he was used as a conduit. Remembering the incident with the angel all too clearly, she knows there's nothing else she can do for him.

With that, she snaps her obelisk towards the penlight. She turns her head away.

"THGIL EB EREHT TEL!" Pure white light explodes it, having always kept it with her since the incident in the High Line, having improvised enough on the field to appreciate its usefulness especially when this stuff is involved. The blinding, eyeball-searing illumination pours into the space. Fumbling for the door, she closes it behind her.

Time to move.


Matt heard the exchange between Trey and Jessica, and the eruption of that gushing font of nothingness, well before the P.I. makes her ragged entrance and plea to contain that which cannot be contained. At Zatanna's summation of the dilemma, Matt lets out an exhale and hoists the box under his arm. "You need help with her?" he asks Jessica of the poor form of Ms. Montrose, although the question is offered more out of courtesy than anything else. He knows exactly what Jones is capable of.

Assuming Jones /does/ have it in hand, he'll take rear guard, waiting for her to move out before heading out the door himself. Flashing, blinding lights bother him not a bit — he has no functioning eyeballs to sear, and so when he makes his way down the hallway, there's nothing at all to trip up an urgent but steady gait towards the front door.


Moments later, Zatanna gets a text:

i thought we agreed no pets

Then, ten seconds later: cell

And then, thirty more seconds pass.

chas v. happy about corpse

Five more seconds: *not happy. bring febreeze

Their need to depart is made ever-increasingly more clear as Trey continues to vent…whatever the hell that is. The building seems unstable, pieces of it skewing oddly in one's field of vision, as reality itself in this location begins to unweave itself, growing fluid. There's no difficulty in picking up and moving Emily Montrose; aside from her bizarre condition, she's no different than any other human body, at least to the naked eye.


Zatanna explains fully exactly what she's been looking at. Jessica hadn't quite made the connection that yep, that was 100% bona fide Primordial Darkness.

So. She…wasn't overreacting then. That's good.

No. Wait. That's not good at all! GOD DAMN IT. Why couldn't she have been over-reacting?

But for the second time in as many months Jessica Jones finds that it's necessary to snatch a corpse for research purposes. Two times isn't enough to make it a habit, right? Shit, it's probably becoming a habit.

"No, thanks," she tells DHK, out of the same kind of courtesy.

She doubts there are any fancy rugs around, but she's got a solution. She reaches down, grabs a corner of carpet, riiiiiiips a large enough section right out of the floor, and wraps Em up. "Hi, Em. I'm Jessica," she says, nerves making her humor morbid as she scoops the entire bundle into her arms. "Please don't seep Primordial Darkness onto me. This is my only suit. And my only. You know. Body."

Searing light does bother her, and she does trip a little, closing her eyes against it and turning her head. But she has a pretty good memory for all of that, and a good pain tolerance. She bangs her shoulder on the frame of the doorway leading back to the lobby but doesn't let it slow her down. Indeed she basically just Kool-Aids through it, snapping the drywall as she goes instead, the one time she doesn't really bother to put her super-strength in any kind of check. What's a little more instability?

Then she's outside, skidding to a halt beside DHK and turning to look at the building. "Come on, Zee," she mutters. "Get done and get out." She doesn't like leaving the witch in there, not one bit. Fear and worry and guilt all make a fantastic soup of neurochemicals in her bloodstream. She isn't even thinking about how she's basically carrying what would look to anybody like a murdered body in her arms out in public. Hopefully there's no public around to notice.


She has to leave her precious penlight behind.

But it isn't long that after Jessica and DHK makes it outside that Zatanna does also, running in full-speed away from the building that is growing more and more distorted as reality starts collapsing inside of it. It isn't over yet, as she skids to a stop, flashing a quick, but tight grin at the private investigator before turning to look at the building once more. She watches and waits, obelisk in the ready, in case she needs to banish the entire building to someplace where it would cause less damage.

….admittedly she's never moved anything this big before, but there's a first time for everything.

Her smartphone vibrates. A hand hastily snatches for it, looking at the texts. Despite herself and her present predicament, she can't help but smile.

She sends him a bunch of less-than-threes, which have always looked like asses to him, before stowing it away.


As the three of them stand there on the sidewalk, it's the Devil of Hell's Kitchen who senses what's happening first, a product of his unique sensory life. For Zatanna it feels not like a bursting-forth of magic but instead the opposite, a bizarre lack of anything of the kind in spite of the way the building's angles and edges seem to mist into semi-transparency and buckle, corners of architecture jutting along the wrong axes, sights that might usually in other circumstances be accompanied by the raw stuff of expended power. Jessica would never expect to feel that resonance, but she, too, can see the way the building struggles and fails to assert itself as a piece of a viable reality.

For Matt Murdock, attuned the way he is to even the most delicate changes in the environment around him, the world is unmaking itself with unprecedented violence in just one impossible, contained location: things there cease to be there, cease to have ever been there. The primordial darkness infects the building across the street and consumes not only its existence but the whole of its history. With jarring suddenness, the offices of Auspex International disappear, the buildings to either side suddenly in residence beside one another as though they'd always been: no empty lot, no visible hole. Just the memory, already difficult to hold onto, of a building that once used to be there.

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