Messy Retrievals

April 28, 2017:

As Jessica Jones decides to stalk Adelaide Weir's house, the rest of the Berlin team decide to visit the pub of Derrick Keller, leaders of Berlin's cell of clairvoyants. At the discovery of Cold Flame Cultists attacking the pub, what was going to be a stakeout becomes a messy rescue operation.

Berlin - Germany

Downtown Berlin.

Characters

NPCs: Reiner Steinschneider, Giovanni Zatara (?)

Mentions: Batman, Jessica Jones

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Hilariously, should the group look up Derrick Keller, the current leader of Das Auge, they would find him listed as the sole proprietor of the UNION JACK Whisky Pub in West Berlin, located in Schluterstrasse 15.

With Jessica having elected to stakeout Adelaide Weir's house, the five other members of their Berlin team decided to pay a visit to the pub - it was around dinner time anyway, having left Maria Krueger's flat as close to eight in the evening, and the last thing the private investigator needed was to go to a place in which she was surrounded by alcohol. By the luck(?) of the draw, it was Dr. Jane Foster's turn to drive in whatever souped up vehicle Red Robin had elected to procure for their use in Germany (as the term 'rental' doesn't appear to be in the affluent young man's vocabulary). All in all, with very little reason to tarry especially since all parties appear to be converging on young Reiner Steinschneider, the evening seems as good enough as any to get the lay of the land as far as the clairvoyants were concerned - to case the place so they can formulate a plan for approach.

As Jane turns into their target street, however, Zatanna sits up straighter from where she is sitting at the back between Red and Constantine, ice-blue eyes turning towards the crest of the hill where the UNION JACK stands. "Jane, slow down," she says suddenly, apprehension bleeding over the link she shares with John, though he, too, can sense the bit in the air that has alerted the raven-haired magician. "Something's not right."

The young woman leans forward to squint through the windshield, her gaze aimed towards the building. After a moment's pause, blood drains out of her face; an alarmed expression is directed towards John. Supernatural senses aimed outward, even from this distance, she can see reality rippling strangely around the building and its perimeter - including the rest of the hill, her lips pressing in a grim line.

"I think it's a barrier," she says, for the benefit of the rest, though John would already be familiar with the type; Zatanna had used something similar to impede the rampage of an angel smothered in Primordial Darkness, and to keep innocent Manhattanites away from noticing or bumbling into the scene. "The kind that splits reality and keeps civilians out and to prevent them from noticing something's going on. There's a few other uses for it, but most of the time magicians use it to keep a fight from spilling out into the streets."

There's a glance at the rest. Two choices remain - breach the barrier and barge in, or wait and see what happens if or when the barrier falls away. As usual, both avenues have equal risks.

—-

Being that it was Jane's turn to drive, Bucky called shotgun. And probably with the aim of employing a literal shotgun if necessary, too, given that Zatanna Zatara's now done the world the dubious favor of giving one of its greatest assassins the ability to carry his entire arsenal at once in an app on his phone.

He's messing around with the app even now, as Jane drives slowly towards the Union Jack (seriously?) Whisky Pub that is their destination this evening, though he doesn't let that keep him from periodically scanning out the windows as well. One, old habits die hard, and two he hasn't been back in Berlin for decades. It's curious to him how little and how much it's changed over the years.

He glances up with greater attention, however, as John and Zatanna suddenly perk like bloodhounds and start sniffing. His thumb pauses on the app.

There's an implicit question after Zatanna's explanation of what's wrong wtih the building. Bucky is silent a moment, his blue eyes pensive, before he shrugs. "We gotta go in there anyway, don't we?" he says, though he doesn't sound exactly thrilled about it.

—-

Save for a span of four or so hours in concession to the need for sleep, John never did return to the condo last night, out working — and sparing the rest of them his bad mood, mindful of their purpose and canny enough to know better than to antagonize a penthouse full of people who would be captive audience to whatever air of displeasure hung on him like a bitter, restless shroud. Rarely a man of many words without good reason, he dragged himself groggily out of bed and into a shower and poured himself into the car to settle in with eyes closed and head back against the headrest for the duration of the trip, until ripples in the etheric fabric surrounding their destination prompt his eyes to crack open, pale irises slid sidelong toward the venue.

Zatanna explains, and John watches the faint glistening in the air.

Almost simultaneous to Bucky asking his question, John puts his hand on the door handle and pops it open, sliding out of the car without a word, and starting toward the bubble at a businesslike pace.

That probably illustrates his personal intentions well enough.

—-

Jane Foster is a patient, considerate, reasonable woman.

None of this translates into how she drives.

Tim Drake called it on the plane; the scientist quickly demonstrates herself a tiny hellion behind the wheel, imbued with a lead foot on the gas and a zero tolerance for anyone on the road seeking to cut her off, make her stop, or even do something ridiculous like drive at the speed limit. She taps her fingers very meaningfully on that same wheel, the meter no different to the dangerous way an irritated cat moves its tail, as she grits her jaw more tightly every moment she tailgates the car in front of her.

Eventually, with a sharp breath out, Jane swings the car into the next lane, makes the engine cry a bit, and cranes her head to glare her way past some poor German motorist.

At least she seems to demonstrate surprisingly quick reflexes, such as the way she turns the car in adherence to Zatanna's direction. And, with upraised brows, slows everything down as told, crawling the car for a place to park.

Over the hum of the engine, Jane listens to talk of barriers. She gives Bucky a glance, considering, before John seems to decide it all for them and exit the stopped car.

"That settles that?" Jane concludes. "Um, if there's a barrier — is this one the kind that would keep the muggles out? Will it let the rest of us in or are we carsitting?"

—-

"The hell is a Muggle?" Bucky asks, irritated.

—-

The car is in fact a mid-size BMW, that appears to be straight off the lot. Nothing too flashy or eye-catching, but there's enough room to fit the group, and it runs quite well. Of course, it's a European car, so it's rigged in European style, with the driver on the right rather than the left, and it's a manual transmission.

It doesn't seem to have been modified by the vigilante, but then he hasn't really had a wealth of time to do so. It's not like he can pay someone else to install gadgets into a car without getting awkward questions in return. 'Okay but why does it need a caltrop launcher, and what's with all these things that have bat in their names for no reason?' is just an uncomfortable line of questioning.

Jane as driver seems to have emerged largely by default, with Bucky intent on keeping the astrophysicist safe from anybody who tried to mess with the car, and literally no one wanting Zatanna behind the wheel. The seating arrangement in the back might even exist to keep the Princess of Prestidigitation from getting any funny ideas about getting anywhere near the driver's seat: The BMW isn't a patch on the Redbird for speed and sheer vehicular danger, but the vigilante is pretty sure she's just as much of a lunatic behind the wheel of a sensible automobile as she is a multi-million dollar supercar.

Increasingly, however, Red Robin is developing just as primal of a fear about Jane Foster's driving.

Blessedly, they do stop, when they find the pub in question and Zatanna points out that it's shrouded in some kind of mystical barrier that might mean there's a magical battle going on inside the confines of its closed space. She offers them a choice: Do they try to get in, or wait and see what happens? He's honestly not surprised that Constantine is out of the car almost immediately, heading towards the barrier. It's definitely a safer choice than staying in a vehicle Jane Foster is driving.

The hell is a Muggle? he hears Bucky wonder from the front seat, annoyed at the future people talking weird again.

"Really?" Red Robin says, his seatbelt already undone and his hand on the handle of his door. "I figured you got that haircut because you really liked Snape."

And then he's out of the car, silently exulting at the feeling of his feet on the pavement, at not having died under Jane's dubious vehicular care. He's got his sunglasses on, still, keeping an eye out for anything interesting in the gap between what normal human senses could see and what he would need actual magic eyes to perceive. Naturally, he is also walking towards the pub.

—-

"We can't go in unless I poke a hole in it," the young woman replies. "If that's what we're going to do I can…what th— John, wait!" She was half-expecting John to elect to stay in the car and wait for the barrier to fall away and assess his options. But with Bucky's question hanging in the air, reluctant as he is, she scrambles out at the British magus' wake, booted footsteps taking on a quick jog to catch up. The barrier itself seems to encompass the crest of the hill itself, the closer they get to it; while the rest of their companions wouldn't be able to see the shimmering perimeter, they can. The raven-haired magician's obelisk is already out, slid out from the back pocket of her black jeans.

Tracing a faint shape in the air with one end, a low, whispered word causes more visible ripples. A shimmering line appears before it spreads outward, leaving their party an open doorway for which to traverse through the barrier and upon reaching the other side, after having breached the camouflaging shell of whatever spell had been thrown up for this purpose, they'd be able to register bright light and smoke first before the full grasp of what they're seeing befalls all of them.

The UNION JACK is on fire. With how many countless bottles of high-proof liquor stored inside, the wood-and-brick building has gone up like an oven, red-gold tongues licking out of broken windows and leaving black streaks as it consumes wood and stone alike. The fire itself is fringed with sickly green on the edges, suggesting either a chemical additive or worse, sorcery, though really, considering what they've been dealing with the last few days, there's really only option that's likely.

Spells echo in the air, along with cries and screams of the dying as their Berlin group find themselves staring at a magical battlefield.

Agents of the Cult of the Cold Flame are, at the very least, distinct; dressed in dark suits, their ensemble of choice has not changed in the last few months since they last encountered the bunch from New York. At present there are twenty of them in the midst of separate duels between others dressed in civilian clothing, though a few have already given up and are attempting to escape. A young man and woman running towards John are suddenly just obliterated when a spell suddenly flies out from their periphery, reducing them to ash and spraying over the British magus' clothes at the sudden tick of wind.

Several feet forward, an older man has collapsed on the ground, with a younger reaching down to try and help him up - blond and green-eyed, he would be the spitting image of their quarry, Hermann Steinschneider, were it not for his age. He cannot be anymore than his late twenties.

A tall, lean shadow falls over the duo. Somewhere behind John, Zatanna freezes in her steps. The Englishman would only have a few seconds to register the familiar magical signature before the raven-haired witch is breaking into a dead run, reckless as ever, right in the middle of the magical battlefield. Through surrounding smoke, the lean silhouette of the caped figure turns towards the rushing young woman.

Underneath a familiar top hat and swathed in dark, full magician's dress, Giovanni Zatara's similar, ice-blue eyes widen briefly in surprise, before lips split in a smile.

"EZEERF!" Father and daughter exclaim in unison. Similar, but opposing magic spells collide explosively in the middle, twist and twine, tangling into one another in dangerous ephemeral ropes. The young woman's bootheels dig into the ground, dragged close at the apex at the sheer, magical force emitted by the other side.

"Darling," Zatara murmurs. "I have missed you."

"Who are you?!" Zatanna demands.

"You know who I am, my dear." With a snap of his fingers and another spell, the raven-haired witch is jerked off her feet by an invisible force, and sent hurtling into the burning building.

Inclining his head over his shoulder, the older magician addresses a few of the other Cultists fighting near his direction. "Kill Keller and take the boy!"

"NO!" The blond youth throws his body across the injured older man's just as other dark-clad mages emerge, one of them already grabbing his collar in an attempt to drag him off.

—-

"The fuck is a Snape?" Bucky sounds even more agitated now.

Especially since John Constantine just went ahead and got right out of the car and straight up left without saying a damn thing. The sergeant that still exists somewhere deep in Bucky's damaged psyche exhales a long-suffering sigh.

"And," he comments without looking at his target, pocketing his phone and making to get out of the car, "I told you not to tailgate, Jane. You're gonna get us arrested by the Polizei. This is why I don't let you drive at home— "

He shuts the car door pointedly before she can answer, trailing the rest up towards the pub and its odd magical bubble with another sigh. Nobody except Tim seems to know anything about subtlety.

AND THIS INCLUDES EVERYONE IN THE UNION JACK, apparently.

Bucky draws to a distinct pause as the bubble is pierced and the sudden reality of the pub's state becomes starkly obvious. People dying, people injured, doppelgangers and flying spells and— well, so much for not alerting the polizei.

"Jane," Bucky says, and from the way he's not raising his voice he must have some other means to communicate with her even from a distance, "hit the gas."

Then, ruminating over how STRANGE his life has become since he met John and Zatanna, he draws a P226 from his goddamned phone. He chose the P226 because it's chambered in 9mm and accordingly has a higher magazine capacity, and you don't need stopping power for a bunch of fleshy mages.

All you need is enough bullets for all of them, and when you can make kills with just one bullet, 20 rounds goes a long way.

The first bullet goes straight for the head of the mage trying to drag the presumed Reiner Steinschneider off. The other nineteen are gonna go for the next nineteen people he sees.

—-

The moment the bubble is pierced, the reason for John's haste comes into full view: had they decided to wait, there may not have been anything left.

Which is not to say that he expected everything about what unfolds. He didn't, for example, expect their quarry to spill into view immediately in front of them, and he sure as hell did not expect to see the Giovanni Zatara impostor standing there amidst the carnage and chaos.

If he'd had time to think about it before noticing the man there he'd have fully expected Zatanna to go racing off in that direction, knowing as she must by the way he doesn't immediately die that he is not, cannot be, the genuine article.

He does not have time; it happens in split seconds, but violence has a way of stretching time like taffy, distending things to draw out every lest excruciating second of mortal horror. He's beginning to reach into his jacket pocket for something when he sees Zee bolt into the fray, feels the dissonance of spells in direct conflict with one another — a sensation like the vibration of a wine glass that causes it to shatter, scraped across the fabric of his sixth senses — and then —

And then Giovanni Zatara's doppelganger slings Zatanna into a burning building, and everything goes red for John.

His last meeting with Giovanni and its near-miss with physical violence opened wounds that go back to the day he was born: yet another father figure ready to use his fists. He's nursed that wound ever since, pacified by Zee's reassurances but a long, long way from fine with what happened, and in the moment his white-hot, mind-dissolving fury at watching what's done to her — and perhaps irrationally, his anger with the impostor for soiling the reputation of a man he still, in every complicated way, loves — braids itself together with the lingering desire to break every bone in Giovanni Zatara's face.

Whatever trinket he thought he was going to use, he abandons that notion entirely. What he reaches for on instinct is the thing inside of him he rarely ever releases his reins on. Always quick to look down on magicians who use magic 'like water.' Always looking for a way to do things without resorting to using it, because he knows well enough that when you lie to reality often enough, eventually it does catch on, and it will punish you.

He reaches for that part of himself and remembers only when he unbinds it and a shocking torrent of power rises in him at his bidding that there's a piece of Zee's soul bound to it now, a potent cocktail of them both.

White and gold light suffuses the eyes beneath daggered down brows, jagged blades of it spitting into the space around his right hand and dragged into slow, ribboning revolution. The air around him throbs with it. If he speaks the words are lost in the conflict. A flick of one hand shells the fallen pair — old and young — in an envelope of protection, while the extension of the other sends a molten torrent of something terrible in the direction of the imposter, coils of brassy fire that cause the air around them to shimmer with not heat but sudden pressure brought on by velocity.

Tl;dr: John loses his shit.

—-

For the record, Jane Foster has herself a damn good laugh at Tim's Snape joke. Not that it, in the end, helps any of her restless mood.

"I wasn't tailgating," she answers Bucky briskly, with the automaton reflex of someone who's probably said this to him a good fifty times before. "I'm not going to get us arrested. No one here knows how to /drive./ Why don't they arrest /them./ And you don't let me drive because you're a —"

He shuts the car door and gets the last word. Jane grumps. " — jerk."

She twists her mouth and leans back into her seat. "Guess I'm carsitting. Wunderbar."

Testamant however to her paranoia-via-osmosis care of sharing space with Bucky Barnes, Jane keeps the car in park but does not yet kill the engine. Curious, she stares forward, unable to see any such barrier in question — but her brown eyes widen when indeed she witnesses the moment the others pass through the opening made by Zatanna. Witnesses reality within the diameter of that doorway turn into something else — shroud as smoke and fire. And a war being waged in the world hidden from this one.

"They stretched a localized probability field to absolute zero," Jane spits out. Checking to maintain she's alone in the car, because she'd never say this in front of polite company, she appends in appreciation, "Magical motherfuckers."

People vaporizing. Someone she doesn't recognize //throwing Zatanna away with a power that can kill, holy SHIT, is she — //. And John Constantine taking it apocalyptically well. And then Bucky suddenly asks her — in the comm in her ear, she's built these too — to hit the gas.

Jane doesn't hesitate.

There's a distant roar of an undergeared engine screaming for relief, and Jane rides the clutch as the BMW FLIES through the barrier's opening. She holds her breath and YANKS violently on the wheel, and any cultists on Bucky's six suddenly have to deal with the swung side of a car straight at their faces.

—-

Once Zatanna told them what the barrier probably meant, Red Robin experienced a certain sense of mingled dread and satisfaction: He had, after all, sort of called it. He was just hoping they'd have more time.

That's what he gets for hoping for things.

The Fake Giovanni, though, was definitely not in his estimations, either. The last encounter with whoever or whatever was wearing the face of Zatanna's father hadn't exactly gone great, even if they'd been able to accomplish their core mission objective. His plans for having to deal with the Cold Flame mages to begin with were uncomfortably close to 'I dunno, wing it' for his liking; the addition of that kind of a powerhouse to the field just scrambled that all the further.

The dread deepens as Zatanna confronts the Fake Giovanni, as she's hurled bodily into the fiery wreckage of the burning building, eyes widening behind his sunglasses. Now, of course, there's just the minor problem of getting past a bunch of murderous wizards to try and get at her, and the fact that the cultists are also trying to take the young man that their own side came here to talk to in the first place.

Added complications: Constantine's rage at several things coalescing into an uncharacteristically flashy display of magical power, a reminder that quick to anger though he might be, he's not always subtle.

And, of course, Barnes going on a shooting spree.

Red Robin knew that was going to be a problem, sooner or later. He doesn't want it to be a problem, but there it is. He can't make an exception just because he likes someone. It isn't as though he doesn't understand; he knows the cold calculus that makes it seem more efficient, less risky. He knows the desire to kill, too, knows it more intimately than he'd care to admit. To slay those who've tormented the people he cares most about.

But…

"There's enough dead here," the vigilante says, his arm blurring as he throws something towards Bucky's P226, one of those gold discs. Probably, he's not in time to save that first cultist: But if the disc hits the gun, it cracks open, the chemicals inside suddenly mixing, creating an immediate reaction to start leeching heat out of the metal, the ice of Dr. Fries' remarkable cyronic technology growing on the gun at an alarming speed. It won't last, given the whole situation with the fire, but hopefully it'll force Barnes to find alternate, and hopefully less lethal solutions.

And then, he's into the fray.

It's easy to pick out targets, the Cult of the Cold Flame having a distinctive Evil Wizard look to them, and frankly it's not a fight he's really up to if he were going to fight fair. Naturally, having been trained by the Batman, and a few of the most lethal killers on the face of the planet while he was at it, there's nothing Red Robin avoids more strenuously than a fair fight.

The very first cultist he approaches who's preoccupied with a wizard's duel is going to be distracted with the sudden, brutal impact of a booted heel slamming into the side of his knee, pressure applied with absolute precision to the weakest spot, where the kneecap will pop off, where the join will buckle inwards towards the other leg.

And then an elbow to the windpipe, crushing the reinforcing cartilage around the trachea, partially collapsing it: Enough room for air to pass to breathe, though it would be extremely painful of course, but speaking is probably out of the question.

He is apparently fine with crippling and maiming people.

—-

The hand that has reached for the back of the blond man's shirt freezes as an unexpected hole blows through the Cultist's skull in an act so sudden that it could be magic. Lifeless, he drops to the ground, leaving the young clairvoyant staring at the corpse. Shaking fingers move, grasping Keller's shoulders as he attempts, frantically, to get him away from the middle of the growing firefight. The other wizards converging on Keller and Reiner pause at the sudden loud gunshot - it almost doesn't register, as they probably don't get in a lot of battles were guns are involved.

But they scatter almost immediately. Another bullet catches another Cultist at the leg, forcing him to go down on one knee. The nearest one manages to call up a shield before a bullet hits him, which ricochets off the sudden sorcerous protection and sends it flying off into the night. Lips peeling back in a snarl, one hand keeps it held up while another makes a grasping gesture. It would have sent the younger clairvoyant flying, when the golden bubble of protection suddenly encases Keller and Reiner; the latter merely bumps into the field that John Constantine has thrown up around him. With a whuff, he sprawls on the concrete and groans.

Bucky's shot does not go unnoticed. Several mages turn their attentions towards the Winter Soldier, a volley of spells aimed for the assassin - a ball of fire, followed by the webbing, unpredictable jumps of electricity that rebound off a nearby street post and goes screaming for him. Three make the dubious decision to engage the man on foot, dark suited forms suddenly leaping at him from the shadows, one skidding in the last second to hurl a spear of ice aimed right for his chest…

He would have had to deal with them if it wasn't for the BMW flying from the street and into the protective bubble, twisting and sending its massive body between Bucky Barnes and the group of three angling to take him unawares. Bones snap, the air filled with sharp cries of pain as all three are sent flying at Jane's intervention, landing crippled on the concrete a few feet away.

Red Robin, in his Leon S. Kennedy cosplay, enters the fray, dispatching a Cultist with ease with all the vicious brutality his training has instilled on him. He doesn't escape the Cold Flame agents' notice, either, and those that have been attempting to take Bucky Barnes from afar turn another sorcerous volley on the young man. Shots from various elements go shrieking for his blood, a few fireballs aimed for his direction. In his periphery, the shadows open up again, more bodies spilling out to engage. One is faster than the others, leaping for Tim, magic circles flashing purple and black erupting from his knuckles, a faint buzzing emanating from them as he attempts to deck him right on the face. Another attempts to engage from his blind side, armed with the same.

Zatara spins around just in time to catch sight of the volley of shimmering energy and pure force coruscating towards him. Gloved hand lifts, a backwards spell called up just in time for red and black sigils to burn in the air, the circular outlines of an otherwise invisible shield slamming between himself and John's attack. It pushes the older gentleman back, with enough force that his dress shoes leave dark streaks over the ruined concrete as he's sent skidding backwards nigh-near uncontrollably, managing to stop short just past the rest of the burning building.

Crimson blossoms from his palm, skin rent at the sudden strain and seeping visibly through his white glove. With first blood drawn, Zatara's mustached lip curls up in a smirk.

"It seems I misjudged you, John," the older magician says, one hand tilting sideways. "You do know real magic, after all." Ice-blue eyes slowly recede into the whites of them, lurid red light spilling from his eyesockets as he calls up more of his own internal reserves. The fabric of Reality reacts to it, ominous vibrations spilling outward and causing the remains of the barrier to shake.

What follows next isn't directed at John; another spell is thrown towards the bubble of protection encasing Reiner from harm, the crackling node of energy slamming into the golden magical crust protecting him, burrowing hard and deep until the shield starts to crack. With that applied, his other hand rejoins the other, another spell flung, multiple threads of searing, red-and-purple bands coiling from both of his arms like serpents, twisting out and shooting into the ground underneath his feet, forcing concrete to bend and ripple as it hurtles in breakneck speed towards where the British magus stands, the ground breaking up rapidly towards him just before the lines shoot out of the cracks in an effort to ensnare and hurl him away from underneath.

The magical burr attempting to eat through John's protective shield over Reiner pierces through, shattering it in intangible fragments. Another Cultist gestures with his fingers, sending the young clairvoyant off the ground, careening into a pair of Cultists waiting by a black SUV, engines hot and running. The Steinschneider heir can only cry out before he's brutally punched and shoved in the back of the car, the door slamming shut.

"((GO!!!))" the Cultist barks in German, a few of them climbing in, with the driver flooring the SUV to get away from the scene. With the presence of one of the Cult's powerhouses on site, who will undoubtedly get in the way of any magical attempts to retrieve Reiner, there may not be a choice but to divide and conquer.

—-

The funny thing about James Buchanan Barnes is that a lifetime of torture and deprivation and having shitty things constantly happen to you seeds, deep in your soul, a white-hot core of rage that tends to flare up at the slightest provocation, and at the most inopportune moments. He disguises it pretty well, but sometimes it comes roaring out and the Winter Soldier still sleeping in his mind cracks open one frost-blue eye.

It turns out 'seeing Zatanna get thrown in a fire' can serve as one of those provocations. It might be part of the reason why he leaps immediately to shutting down this situation the most brutally conclusive way possible.

Training and instinct put him immediately on the offensive to neutralize threats— but he's forgotten about Red Robin, the biggest party pooper to ever poop on a party. The chide comes along with a special kind of freezing disc that immediately render the gun temporarily useless. He knows he can just wait a few moments and use it again— the heat of the fires guarantees that— but he takes Red's point, and with a growl he throws the weapon back in his phone.

And promptly whirls, dodging and weaving through the flung spells with beyond-human speed, to slam his left fist into an oncoming cultist's chest, sending him ragdolling twenty feet through the air.

This display might have made the cultists trying to engage him hand-to-hand hesitate— if they had time to do so before with a screech of brakes, Jane sends the car PLOWING straight into them. Bucky glances over his shoulder as the vehicle swings within inches of his back, skidding to a stop right behind him. "Thanks, doll," he remarks, but that's all he has time for, because John is losing his shit and Zatanna might be on fire (but she's probably fine) and that barrier protecting their target just broke—

Bucky's eyes track the Steinschneider kid as he's thrown into an SUV that promptly screeches off. It rakes around a corner before he can even think about shooting out a tire.

He promptly does the only thing to be done. He vaults onto the hood of their own car, because who has time for opening doors at a time like this? "Let's go!" he urges, completely copacetic with his chosen perch.

—-

It bleeds.

There are many open questions for John concerning the nature of the person — or the thing — capable of so perfectly imitating Giovanni Zatara. The mastery of magic required is so excessive that what baffles him is that they would bother in the first place. With enough raw power to mimic, what do they stand to gain by doing so…? There are countless answers, none of them good.

In John's worst fears, the doppelganger is the Third of the Fallen. But the Third of the Fallen would not, insofar as he is aware, bleed. And although he's seen enough to know that not everything that bleeds can be killed — Steinschneider is case in point — the sight of that sanguine trickle fills him with an elated viciousness so pure that it takes his breath away. And it feels good. It feels…so…good…to twist the tap on that internal faucet and unleash everything behind it, a jetstream of universal energy that seems to core him out, burn away all of the impurities of wrath in him until all that remains is murderous intent.

It seems I misjudged you, John.

John's mouth opens, the voice that spills out of him accented, his, but audible from seemingly everywhere, reverberating in layered echoes and whispers, as though broadcast from across countless planes — and maybe it is. Only two words, calm as a lake skinned with thin, brittle, black ice: "People do."

All around him, other spates of brutally efficient violence. Jane pulls a maneuver with the BMW that would surely impress him if he noticed (although only because he isn't in the BMW at the time she does it), Bucky manages to down countless figures with precision shots that seem supernaturally prescient, and Red toes up to the line of violence that straddles ethical questions: beyond a certain threshold of pain, is death actually the more merciful choice?

He notices none of it. There are two points of significance in his universe, and two only: the false Zatara and the young woman in what little remains of the whiskey bar. The former must be dealt with, as amply demonstrated by the way the sidewalk heaves up into sudden, jagged buckles. From the seams between them those indigo coils burst forth and wind about his limbs, lift him into the air and whip him away, tumbling and spinning through the air at speeds sufficient to shatter his ribs like matchsticks, should he collide with anything.

He does not. All of that impossible velocity arrests itself some six feet above the pavement, limbs and head last to slow, his spine bowed backward against whatever mystical cushion he uses to put on the brakes. The momentum of the air he'd been pressing ahead of himself rushes onward without him, stirring up debris and ash from the soiled pavement, and John just…

…hovers. Slowly rights himself, spine straightened, head lifted. The air begins to sweat magic. Latent power sizzling through the air by sorcerous combatants condenses into luminous pearls that accumulate on themselves and slowly spin like displaced stars toward the locus of John, to be…absorbed.

The charge that begins to build on him is like the spooling up of some metaphysical power plant, enough to raise the hair on his arms and the back of his neck — not that he feels any of it, or anything beyond the oblivion of absolute power. Wisps of light bleed out of his eyes, his mouth. His flesh glows with it.

All because of a mere mote of Zatanna's boundless soul, being hammered on the anvil of his own gifts.

—-

The side of the building explodes outward, and Zatanna emerges from the fire. Save for soot leaving streaks on her pale skin and a growing bruise on one side of her forehead, she appears to be smoking, but relatively unharmed, and leaking pure, white-blue magic. Wisps of power emanate from her slender form, and her fingers clutch tightly on her obsidian obelisk as the protective shield she had thrown over herself in the last minute fizzles away. Ice-blue eyes are quick to scout the area, and they widen at the carnage her friends are embroiled in.

John is furious, and it has been a long time since she's seen him use his own reserves, the power of her soul mingled with his as he engages the thing wearing her father's face - where he is now, floating in mid-air and his gifts amplified by that tiny speck of her own has her staring at him in mute astonishment, lips slightly parted. For a moment, Time itself grinds into aching, molasses-slowness for her, watching the way wisps of gold and white curl around him. It's in her expression, even without the link they share. It wasn't all that long ago when she had told him that she stays with him because of his intensity, and this one, specific moment handily illustrates everything that she has said to him.

"John…" she whispers.

Her stunned expression breaks, because it must, at the sound of pitched combat. Red Robin is being assailed from all sides, though she has seen him take down multiple opponents without a sweat and not even so much as a blink. A body goes flying past her, from the brutal chest-punch from one James Buchanan Barnes, the Cultist sprawling past her with a caved in sternum and teeth painted red. She catches the cry, too, turning around just in time to see the SUV peeling off with Steinschneider's great-grandson.

Her teeth grit. She wants to stay, she remembers, all too clearly, the last time she separated from John.

But watching him fight something that looks like her father has her heart sinking, fury giving way to bands of ice constricting in her chest. She remembers the last time she had left him, but she also remembers the last time she had doubted his ability to be who and what he is. And with Bucky leaping on the roof of the BMW, she has to make a decision fast. They'll be going after the Cult of the Cold Flame with no magical backup, and by the end of it, Reiner Steinschneider might need a healer…

It's a difficult decision for her: to stay and snatch some satisfaction for herself, get some answers from the Cult's Zatara, or increase their chances in successfully retrieving who they came for.

"…god….damn it…!"

She turns around, a spell on her lips. It brutally rips one of Red's assailants off him, and sends him flying towards the Fake Zatara. "John, Red! I'm going with Bucky and Jane!" she exclaims, already springing towards the BMW as it starts peeling off after the SUV carrying Steinschneider. She doesn't have to open the doors; once she's close enough, she leaps, a spell enabling her to phase through steel to sprawl in the backseat of the vehicle. And then they're off, to go after Steinschneider, while John and Red pin down the rest of the Cult just outside the UNION JACK.

—-

Knuckling the wheel, Jane braces against the knockback of inertia as she SLAMS the side of the car into so many far more vulnerable bodies.

Held in by the still-rolled windows, all she hears is her own ragged breathing. She turns a wild look out the car, and sees — sees so much. Sees Bucky, just ahead of her car, use his left arm to dimiss a cultist violently away. Thanks, doll, he tells her, and her mouth crooks up humourlessly, breathlessly.

She sees a glimpse of Red Robin, there and gone again, seaming quickly among the rolling smoke and out of sight. And she sees — she sees John, and in a way she's never seen him before. Destructive and terrifying. And ready to demonstrate just how a magician goes to war —

But there's no time. No time as she too sees the abduction via car, and her sharp eyes follow the escape of the SUV.

The BMW shakes under the weight of the Winter Soldier, perched, flesh and heavy steel, on its hood. Jane meets Bucky's eyes through the windshield, and setting her jaw, answers with a single nod. Switching gears, she —

— has a near heart attack as Zatanna materializes THROUGH the car and into the back seat, as Jane shrieks, "JESUS — you're OK! Thank CHRIST. Buckle up, because I'm gonna show you why James never lets me drive."

She stomps the pedal.

—-

Yeah, that's about what Red Robin expected.

Magical energies course towards him with murderous intent from a number of points of origin, the cultists of the Cold Flame having done so much damage to other people with actual sorcerous abilities… What chance does a regular human being have? No magic, no superpowers of any kind. A 'head-blind sidekick,' Razor had named him. The sort that get used up by the denizens of the magical world, whether they're friends or enemies.

He isn't sure he disagrees with that assessment, necessarily: Trying to help Zatanna has already cost him, led him to tell her a secret he'd sworn to never reveal to anyone, led him to bargain with his own future. The bitch of it is, he doesn't care.

In that peculiar way of his, the vigilante is aware of the things that are going on outside of his immediate vicinity, his finely honed mind paying attention in ways that most people never would. The magical battle between Constantine and Fake Giovanni. The shattering of the protective spell around Reiner. The capture, the pursuit by Barnes and Foster.

And Zatanna, joining in the chase.

So there's that.

It all passes in split seconds: He shoves the cultist he'd brutally crippled out of the line of fire, pushes away the other magician he'd presumably been dueling before, and moves like his life depended on it - which, of course, it does. Bolts of ice and lightning breeze past close enough that he can feel them, and then the vigilante is engulfed in flames.

Or, well, it certainly looks that way, the fireballs suddenly erupting in an explosion that completely hides Red Robin from sight.

A very badly burned leather jacket lands in the rubble; it was fireproof, but there's only so much you can do against a multitude of fireballs, especially when you throw the poor thing into their path. Red Robin himself crouches low, having shielded his head with his forearms. With the jacket now gone, it's clear that he's wearing some kind of harness, crossing straps that meet in the middle fo his chest in front, and hold some kind of small backpack tight against him, between his shoulderblades. He rises up to his feet, staff extending as one of the cultists charges him head on, the weapon whistling faintly in the air as he swings it across the cultist's midsection, and…

No, I missed something, he realises, too late.

Another magically-empowered fist slams into his side, the force of the blow knocking him off of his feet beyond what mere physical strength should cause, knocking the wind out of him and sending a spreading numbness up his side. His right wrist burns, itches. The first cultist attacks again, hitting him in the face, the blow sending him flying into a ruined wall, from where he falls, hits the ground.

"Ghhh," he pronounces, sagely. The shattered remains of his Wayfarers fall off of his face, blood streaming, red creeping into the white of his left eye from a subdermal bleed, a minor fracture in his orbital bone already developing a bruise. He reaches into his pocket with a shaky hand, pulls out a small black object that he presses against his face, where it adheres: It's a domino mask.

"Hey," he says, raspily. "Those cost like $5000, asshole."

Suddenly, Red Robin is in the air, propelled by a burst of energy from his backpack, a second burst sending him arcing downwards, bringing his staff down with the additional force right where the man's shoulder and neck meet. He throws something at the second cultist even as he lands: It's a small sphere, its texture rubbery and fragile, like a paintball. But it's not full of paint.

It's full of Fear Gas.

—-

AT THE UNION JACK:

As magic expended in the air condenses into drops of it to be absorbed by John, the false Zatara can't help but smile faintly, incongruous on a face barely made for it. "A handy trick, that," he tells him as he, in turn, slowly rises off the concrete, avoiding the body Zatanna had thrown at him in the process. "But I think not your own. Then again, it never is, is it, John?"

He might remember the night in Switzerland, having broken into the Cult's stronghold to find a ritual in which he had killed two apprentices, sacrificed them for whatever cause or agenda the Cult is presently pushing, their magic left to be absorbed by whoever or whatever he is. It has been months since then - God only knows how many he has taken since. And while the urge to do something similar here is tempting, he doesn't really need to - and perhaps, if he is lucky, the upstart trickster will learn this soon enough.

There's a hint of satisfaction when he hears the SUV peeling off with the captive clairvoyant, though if he notices the BMW peeling off after it, he doesn't show it. His ice-blue eyes are focused on John; it wouldn't do him any good, certainly, if he gets killed here.

Bands of red, black and purple wreathe over the leaner form of the older magician, spooling over him before webbing outward. Intersecting spirals burning with runes criss-cross the air behind him, in front of him and underneath. His own pale skin starts leaking black miasma, and the building wave of power in the vicinity only increases exponentially as two mages prepare themselves in those precious few seconds before unleashing the brunt of their respective magical mights. It's in the air, thickening the spaces in between - everyone in the vicinity would feel it, a weighty, burgeoning pressure bearing down on lungs as they breathe, making hairs stand up and gooseflesh to erupt from their skin…

…not that most people underneath the floating mages would notice.

As Red Robin moves back, bolstered by the hits landed on him, the five remaining Cultists engage him from all sides, converging just as he unleashes the power of his compact jetpack and returns to the fray. The folding staff that he uses in conjunction with the added oomph of that downward blow breaks bone, sending the man twisting down and stumbling, saliva bubbling from his lips at the pain that single blow dispatches across his body. He goes down hard on the concrete just as his other cohorts round on the vigilante.

But they do not expect the small paintball full of Fear Gas.

It emits smoke; the noxious miasma contained within puffs out within the dearly circle they make, spells and magical accoutrements in the ready only to get hit by the full force of it given their positioning. Hoarse, rasping coughs and spasming bodies fall away from their growing cluster and it isn't long before pupils dilate and the pharmaceutical frenzy begins. The world distorts before their eyes, each other their worst nightmares. Screams pierce the night, for all that Red Robin isn't really touching any of them, as they turn against each other and start throwing everything they can at one another. But the vigilante is still in the midst of them and not only does he risk getting injured. If continued to go unchecked, these mad, screaming mages are liable to kill one another - they are not holding back from using their sorcery. Anything and everything to protect themselves from the terror he's inflicted on the bunch….

ON THE STREETS OF DOWNTOWN BERLIN:

The men in black flee across the city, and the gunslinger follows…

…on top of a BMW driven by a diminutive physicist.

The SUV roars over the hill in which the burning remains of the UNION JACK are perched, still mostly shrouded by the barrier to keep the rest of the world unaware as to what is happening within it. It careens right into Berlin nighttime traffic, headlights careening past both vehicles in streaks at the speeds they have elected to use within cramped streets so common in old European cities. Somewhere in the back of the car, thusly weaponized by the presence of Dr. Foster behind the wheel, Zatanna dutifully snaps on her seatbelt, eyes wide and bracing herself at the back as the BMW lurches right into traffic, with Bucky Barnes planted right on top of it.

"Oh, Jesus Christ!" the magician cries from the back, face drained of all color.

Both vehicles twist through traffic; the SUV suddenly turns a hard right and up the ramp towards one of the highways where more vehicles speed past. All too aware that they are being followed, three of the mages in the car carrying Reiner Steinschneider pile out of it, phasing through the roof, before two break way from the trio, leaping on adjacent cars, the drift of bodies aided by their supernatural talents. They triangulate on one James Buchanan Barnes, leaping from roof to roof, uncaring of the impossible speeds in which they're moving.

The mage directly ahead of him barks out a spell; energy shoots out, white-hot as a laser beam, aimed straight for the Winter Soldier while the other two attempt to flank him from moving cars. There's another build-up, this time aimed at the windshield of the car, and directly towards Jane's face.

—-

The SUV surges right into Berlin traffic. Bucky Barnes says a quiet prayer of thanks for that spell keeping his features altered from all recognizability.

Otherwise, he seems pretty unperturbed by what's transpiring, balanced with aplomb atop the moving vehicle with such ease that the BMW might as well be putting along at 20 mph on a country road. Distantly he's aware Zatanna's come along for the ride, and silently he says another prayer for her soul and the years of her life she's doubtless going to lose, trapped in a car with Jane at the wheel.

Then the mages they're following start doing some crazy shit.

"Really?" Bucky grumbles as they start phasing through stuff and trying to flank him. "OK then…"

The supersoldier twists to one side as the first spell fires straight at his face, his narrowed eyes and enhanced mind able to process faster than the energy can move. The second charges up; his gaze takes in the trajectory, and he barks over the comm, "Jane, down!" the moment it's released.

He lunges forward from a dead standstill the moment that spell looses, intent on giving the mage no time to wind up another spell while he's in the air and unable to maneuver. There's of course those two men flanking who might be able to do just that, of course, but that's the reason he's got his P226 back out— along with a matching mate in his left hand. One pistol fires at each of the flankers even as he makes that leap for the SUV dead ahead, aiming to turn in the air and slam his steel left shoulder into the mage atop it as he descends.

—-

One of the two things in the universe that John continues to be aware of in any cognitive way emerges from the fire, shadowed with soot but otherwise unharmed. The pale mist that curls off of her announces her long before she actually appears to resonate with the silvery stuff bleeding out of the British Magus, as well it should: it technically belongs to her.

Something in the maelstrom of forces stills in answer to her visible presence, a momentary eye in the gathering storm. He shouldn't be able to hear that whispered word, but it falls from her lips like a stone into the fabric of magic woven through the interior of the barrier, into which John is now wholly enmeshed. It reaches him like the faint vibrations of a butterfly in a spider's web, transmitted along singing lines of cable-taut power. The live wire of the astral link lights up like the filament of a light bulb, transmitting a high-voltage pulse of something…complicated.

"John, Red! I'm going with Bucky and Jane!"

Red.

Right.

John's head turns ever so slightly, his awareness filtered through the miasma of ether to where Red is fighting on the ground. He outclasses his opponents, but he is outnumbered and shackled by his unwillingness to take any lives. John, in his present state, has no such compunctions. But:

First things first.

They could unleash everything, he knows. Level this block, consume the shield in a moment of explosive magical backdraft, vaporize everything within it and allow the brisance to roll outward over the next block and the next, clouds of magic seeping into the real. The consequences are impossible to calculate.

Or…

Reality already bends itself around the distension of John's position in space, warping visual cues, gilding and silver-plating the places that he seems to want to blur, go liquid, and run like spilled paint on an invisible canvas. It must go somewhere, or will eventually cause a rupture.

It could also do both.

The false Zatara accuses him of being a thief of magic, and this is true, insofar as it goes. But the truth is always this: magic stolen out of the hands of others still works. Occasionally, when John is through modifying it, it works better than it did before.

Once upon a time he stood in a Hydra facility, staring at a device cobbled together from transformers, surrounded by a ring of runes with Old Norse origins, though they were utterly altered by Hydra's own arm of sorcerers. He'd played his gaze over the inscription painted on the floor, eyes like crowbars striving to pry meanings from it, peeling back layers of significance in symbolism. When the crisis had passed, he had thrown himself headlong into dissecting what he'd seen, because he always does.

It had opened a portal to a pocket dimension.

He could use one of those right now.

Behind the false Zatara, glistening lines begin to inscribe themselves in the smoke-hazed air, as though someone were cutting through into this plane of existence with an acetylene torch. The molten lines remain, unfurling along remembered routes, long arcs described in nascent circles: large. Larger than the Zatara.

John's gone-strange voice furnishes his opponent with a low, throaty sound that might have been a chuckle. "If you're planning to kill me with hurt feelings I have some bad news for you, mate."

—-

Outnumbered is fine, outnumbered is the way Red Robin works. In the Work, there's always going to be more of them than there are of you, that's just one of the essential rules of it. Generally speaking, they're also not going to be playing by the same rules, at least for people like the young man who refuse to take lives - and, indeed, act to preserve lives whenever possible, even if it's the life of the guy trying to murder you - and a lot of the time they're going to have something in their arsenal that you don't.

Normally, it's guns. The sorts of people who run the streets in Gotham - or even New York City - turn to guns as a means of wielding power over others. Which makes their enemies get bigger guns, a cycle that repeats itself again and again and again. In this case, it's magic, but the Cold Flame cultists use their sorcery the same way one of the Penguin's goons would use an assault rifle. It's a blunt instrument, point and shoot.

Once Red Robin internalises that, it becomes less daunting to deal with. Fake Giovanni might have more esoteric tricks up his sleeve, but the rank and file seem content to hurl fire and lightning. To demonstrate their power in brute, direct ways. The cult had been compared to a 'magical mafia' in the past, and extending that comparison yields a simple result: These men are the soldatos, the muscle on the street. They're thugs.

And Red Robin is really good at dealing with thugs.

The Fear Gas hits more targets than he was expecting, the cultists having regrouped while his attention was focused elsewhere. His face still feels numb, as does his side, and he's pretty sure a few things are cracked despite the protection provided by Jane's nanoweave armor. Not enough to really slow him down… But he doesn't feel very bad about having crippled the guy who hit him in the face.

The problem, then, is the ones who were exposed to the Fear Gas, who've started turning their brutish magical abilities on each other. The situation was going to get out of control in a hurry, if it was ever in control. It's not some mad scuffle that will die out quickly: though the dose wasn't very concentrated, and won't last more than a few minutes, that's plenty of time for them to burn each other to a crisp.

Really, there's only one thing to do about it.

Despite the danger it puts himself in, Red Robin leaps into action instead of sensibly getting out of the field of fire and just letting them sort it out amongst themselves. The staff is a blur of movement, sweeping at legs, striking at heads; with an opening, he'll drive the end of it right up under one cultist's sternum, disrupting all sorts of very vital bodily functions in an extremely painful way, the kind that makes the body just decide to call it a night.

It would, of course, be far too much to hope that the vigilante would come out of it unscathed.

Especially since he gets hit with lightning.

He's fairly well insulated - of course he is, you never know what might end up happening - but an arc of directed electricity lances clear through him, and several horrible things happen as a result. He can smell the cooked flesh - his own cooked flesh - in a moment of horrible clarity, as a couple of sounds that most people take for granted stop: The beating of his heart, and the pulse of his own blood in his ears. The young man drops to his knees as several muscle groups become extremely disobedient, and he's rendered briefly blind as the onboard computer he's wearing is overwhelmed, the lenses of his mask going dark.

It's bad.

And yet, not bad enough to stop him.

He still knows where the last gibbering, fear-maddened cultists are, he can hear them; he pulls himself from his kneeling position, moving on legs that feel more liquid than flesh and bone, hurls himself at the nearest.

"Come on," he croaks, grabbing at an arm, twisting it, bending it in ways arms aren't supposed to bend, aiming to knock the cultist out with the sheer pain of an abrupt compound fracture.. "Come on…"

It seems to take forever, from his prespective, but the onboard computer comes back online. It restarts, it brings light and vision. And then, detecting a problem, it shocks him.

His heart lurches painfully back to something approaching proper function as he keeps moving, to take the rest of the cultists out before they kill each other, or themselves.

Or him.

—-

First thing's first, and after throwing the BMW into fourth gear and making the tires burn on the first breakneck turn into traffic, Jane knees the wheel and furiously paws the pockets of her leather coat.

"Hang on!" she yells back at Zatanna, before doing what any good driver does in the midst of an illegal urban car chase. She pulls out her phone like she's about to text.

Hitting one of her homemade apps, in an instant, Jane streams the link from her ear-comm into the car's radio, allowing him to hear the interior of the car, and also to broadcast back his voice. "James?" she calls into it, eyes focused forward on the super soldier perched on the hood of the car. "Can you hear us, babe? Zatanna's here!" Just in case he didn't see that. Probably did. Always does.

A light hits red but the SUV bulls through. Jane spits a curse and drops her phone, wringing the wheel to keep the BMW from colliding with cars. They careen and smash in desperate attempt to avoid it, and her too, as she weaves the vehicle through the intersection in desperate pursuit.

Under her direction, she veers terrifyingly left and right, reacting only on a hair trigger, adapting immediately to the frenzied road. She almost misses the ramp to the highway, and with teeth gritting, Jane wildly banks the car, tires blackening the pavement, refusing to let them shake her. They think they can lose her?

They don't. She holds pace, steeled tightly in the driver's seat, hands white-knuckled as she holds the vehicle strong while the speedometer climbs higher and higher. Distance closes between vehicles. With Bucky on the hood, Jane knows well the dance she takes, needing more than anything to give him his stable perch. To give him just enough opportunity for him to… do what he does best.

And then mages start phasing out of the car and start SHOOTING SHIT their way.

"Oh, Jesus Christ!" Jane blurts at the first look at it. "Oh god. Oh GOD. Wait — I've been here before! I've — I've done something just like this!" Fought mages? Chased an abduction by car?

"Dark Souls 3!" she clarifies. "This is that /asshole/ Crystal Sage all over again! He only took me a day! It was — it was under twenty tries, it's OK! I know what y— " Then Bucky's command shouts fiercely over the car's speakers. Jane's eyes widen, seeing it all for herself. Seeing the soldier launch himself straight off the hood of the car and into the air, dead forward. The speed she's going. The acceleration she's undertaking. Application of brake force. Solve for angular momentum. And —

"DOWN!!" she screams back at Zatanna, then turns on the wheel, applying just enough brake and leaning right to let the shot miss her by hairs. It punches through the windshield, through the passenger seat, and straight out the back of the car.

The car swings diagonally, lurching like it wants to flip — before Jane corrects the wheel and takes control. Hitting the gas to try to reclaim distance, she swings desperate shoulder checks back into the car.

"Zee?!" Jane bleats. "You're OK?! Still OK! Everything's OK! How much do you weigh?"

—-

AT THE UNION JACK:

If you're planning to kill me with hurt feelings I have some bad news for you, mate.

There is something unpleasant in the answering smile that this facsimile of Giovanni Zatara.

"You are wrong, John," he murmurs. "If nothing else, I would vastly prefer that you survive the next few months. The world is about to change, and it would be a pity if you did not get to see it."

He speaks the words while fissures spiderweb over reality behind him; through the vast concentration of power swirling within the barrier trapping most of their sorcerous intentions around this patch of hill, it may be impossible for him to detect what is going on behind him. But his own magical construct is almost complete, an arcane construct trapping him in a hexagon of ephemeral lines and runes, situated right in the middle as another circle builds at the very front, gearing up for what feels like a cataclysmic show of power. Within the bubble, everyone can feel it, the sense that something big and unstoppable is about to happen. It brushes over keyed-in danger senses like waves against buoys, choppy and unpredictable.

And without any further delay, he unleashes it.

It is nothing visible, the show of force he demonstrates. It ripples outward violently in consistent, pulsing waves not unlike how sound leaves large speakers, and the two of the Berlin team still trapped in the bubble would be able to watch as layer by layer, existence inside the barrier is flayed, a battered, peeling corpse underneath the might of the Great Zatara's doppleganger. Concrete turns to dust, rising up in microscopic motes until they vanish entirely at the midpoint before reaching the floating mages' shoes, the UNION JACK starts doing the same. Dead bodies of Das Auge's defenders and the Cold Flame cultists alike start unraveling, flesh dissolving rapidly until striated red and white of muscles, bones and ligaments are exposed and precious organs pop like bags of blood, red spilling down the rapidly rotting street.

The barrier shudders…and shatters. Fell magic starts spilling out on the streets of Berlin, eating away at the buildings surrounding the whisky pub, rushing cars. Pedestrians nearby stop and stare, before they start screaming as the waves reach them, clothes going first, fabric unraveling into nothing. People are going to die, but at least they'll put on a show before it happens.

All this would be noticeable to Red Robin, too, once he leaps back into the fray in an attempt to keep other Cultists from killing each other. His desperate path cuts a swathe through the remaining mages as he maims and cripples them with his folding staff. He manages to tear through and weave around the haze of wild magic swirling around him. A fireball narrowly misses him, so close that he can feel its heat against his face, and would have impacted somewhere behind him if it hadn't been caught by whatever the hell the false Zatara is doing, the destructive bit of magic suspended for a moment in midair before it starts dissipating, too, at this field of Unmaking that is slowly spreading form the epicenter. Instincts, long since honed from years in the Work, will at the very least be able to warn him that this is just the beginning of the effects of the older magician's latest spell and probably, they should either not stick around to see what happens next, or prevent the rest of it from coming out.

But bodies continue to fall, heavily injured, but at the very least still breathing. One mage manages to make his last stand against whatever demons he has been fighting, until he spins around to look at the crimefighting vigilante, being the only other one left standing. Whatever he sees on the teenager's face, under the influence of Crane's concoction, contorts his pale features in horror. He screams, the pitch of it bloodcurdling and suffused in terror, spells slung frenetically in his direction. Blast, after blast, after blast of mana pelt towards the charging Red Robin even as the sorceror attempts to scramble back and away, too addled to realize what is happening around him.

THE STREETS OF DOWNTOWN BERLIN:

The rapid car chase cuts through the overpass, Berlin's so-far unmolested cityscape beckoning the eye, presently reduced to an enompassing field of black dotted with thousands of lights.

Inside the car, Zatanna peers at the car's speakers. "….I can hear Bucky. How can I hear Bucky? Did you build this, Jane? This is amazing!!" Despite her present situation, losing years of her life as it is at the wake of Jane's insane driving, she still manages to find some awe in wonder at the brilliance of those she calls her own. "Hi Bucky! You're doing great!" More than, really. She isn't sure if she'd be able to do what the man had just done.

The first spell goes streaking past Bucky Barnes. The second one shatters the BMW's windshield and narrowly misses Jane's face when she goes down, punching a hole through the headrest and dangerously close to the part of the seat near Zatanna's skull and shattering the back of the BMW on the way out. Wild Spring winds roar through the car at the new opening torn into it, just as Bucky Barnes leaps from the BMW and into the SUV just in time for one of the mages to leap from one of the cars and onto the roof of the BMW. The bullet from Buckys gun clips him, though it manages to perforate through the other mage's neck, a spray of arterial blood flying from the wound like a streamer. The body falls right in the middle of the highway, to be ground up by the other cars speeding through it as it bounces limply like a marionette with strings cut, bones ground to dust, the rest of the mage leaving a garish red streak across the highway.

Zatanna stares as she watches Bucky fly from one vehicle to another; by process of elimination, whoever just landed on the roof of their car is probably not someone friendly. Whipping out her obelisk, a barked out spell ejects the mage from the roof, sent careening across the air. He manages to realign his trajectory, however, landing in a low crouch on a fast-moving Mercedes.

"I…I'm okay," she tells Jane weakly, even paler at the close call. "I think. It— what?" How much does she weigh? "Why?! Am I getting fatter?!"

OH MY GOD, ZATANNA, JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION IT COULD BE IMPORTANT.

"…one…I'm a hundred and ten!"

If flashed a look, she'll throw up her hands. "OH MY GOD OKAY. ONE THIRTY POINT THREE SEVEN FIVE EIGHT FIVE. AT LEAST IT WAS THIS MORNING. I WORKED OUT SINCE THEN."

The mage on top of the SUV does not expect the hidden steel shoulder, draped as it is by whatever outerwear Bucky is wearing to mask it from view. There's a surprised yelp of pain, his body landing hard on the roof, sprawled diagonally there. Whispering a few arcane words, he lurches back up, hand glowing as he attempts to slam it right into the middle of Bucky's chest - he continues to whisper, the words echoing strangely.

It comes over Bucky gradually.

The world starts to spin, a strange, seeping euphoria overtaking his senses, meant to make him malleable, docile, as fingers curl into talons in an effort to use the magicked hand to cleave through flesh and gouge out his heart right in front of the eyes of Dr. Jane Foster, somewhere behind them.

Zatanna's obelisk shoots out between the seats, pointed at the struggle towards the car. "YFILLUN!" Her command spills from the car, torn out by the wind as Reality once more contorts to do her bidding. The ill effects over Bucky start receding…

…right when the SUV suddenly swerves hard towards the left of the overpass' guardrail, magic rippling over it, smashing through concrete and metal and half-soaring, half-dropping into the lower highways below. Large chunks of debris slam of a few passing cars below, leaving vehicles to screech to a halt noisily as the black vehicle lands noisily in the midst of traffic, wheels and axles straining at the effort, bouncing twice and nearly tipping over one side before it rights itself back up again. It peels around in a reckless curve, to start speeding towards the other direction.

The teenaged witch stares as they come up to that new opening through the guardrail. "…are…we…?"

Oh god, they are.

—-

Voices chirp at Bucky suddenly over the comm in his ear. Not just Jane's, but also—

Hi Bucky! You're doing great!

His head turns slightly at the chirped words. Vague amusement flickers in his eyes as he balances on the car's hood, swaying easily with the frenetic movement. "I'm glad I meet with your approval," he remarks, before he swings into rapid motion, dodging the fired spells and flying forward in a lunging leap. He takes out one opponent and shoulderchecks another furiously; the third evades him, jumping onto the BMW, though Zatanna manages to get rid of him shortly with a spell.

The mage he knocked down takes violent umbrage, leaping back up and trying to pacify Bucky into compliance to have his heart quite literally torn from his chest. Zatanna, again on the ball, nullifies its effects promptly; Tim Drake isn't here, so the first thing Bucky does, once released, is slam the muzzle of his pistol against the mage's face and pull the trigger.

At about the same time, the driver of the SUV suddenly HOOKS a hard left and slams straight through the guardrail, hurtling off the overpass. Not expecting this at all, the super-soldier finally loses his balance, thrown from the vehicle's roof to hit and skid hard on the unforgiving pavement. He tumbles and is briefly lost to sight in the screaming traffic, probably much to Jane and Zatanna's dismay.

Then a moment later, he reappears at a dead run, visibly annoyed as hell. He overtakes the BMW in an impossible, loping run, rushing dead towards the gap in the railing, and with the kind of brazenness only a super-soldier can indulge, he leaps unaided from the overpass, thirty feet straight down. He lands without any apparent difficulty, rolls, changes direction with the SUV and starts a pursuit. On foot. And he is rapidly catching up.

His weapon is still in hand, but he hesitates to use it— if he blows out the tires at this kind of speed, he runs the risk of getting their target killed in the ensuing crash.

—-

Well…

That's what experts in the magical community would call 'not great.'

All around the Union Jack things are ceasing to be what they were, reduced to their constituent parts, and then those parts disassembled in turn, until existence begins to evaporate. Streamers of sublimated concrete, ribbons of gore threaded with white strands of off-gassing bone — color everywhere, and movement. It looks not unlike the disintegration of an antacid tablet tossed onto a glass of water, motes all rising, swirling in aetheric breezes. In its way — as John has said before, about something similar enough — it's quite beautiful. The catastrophic, apocalyptic, impossible obliteration of a thing usually is.

That kind of destructive force cannot be contained by the utilitarian magic of the barrier, and soon enough the upended fishbowl that John and Red have been working within also detonates, ripples of unmaking rolling outward from the nexus point of — of…

As the first tidal push of that lethal magic passes across John's mystical palate, nuances make themselves apparent — small things about the nature of what's being done that give him meager insight into the nature of what this doppelganger is. The muscles in his jaw go momentarily lax…

And then he redoubles his efforts, bending concave through the chest and abdomen, physical self bending around an internal tension that has nothing to do with muscle or bone at all, a reflex to mirror the strain of a more intangible effort. One of his hands extends, palm upward, thrumming with incandescence. He curls it into a fist and the tendons in his wrist and forearm stand out in high relief as he begins to lift it upward as though fighting against a massive weight — which he is. Behind him, between Red's position as he tangles with deadly cultists and the place where John and the false Zatara are squaring off, the pavement as yet uncompromised by the expanding field begins to ruck, rising in a thick barrier, stretching with a plasticity it should not possess. As that movement slows and the mass resolidifies, glowing strokes of gilded light slash their way through it, radiating through seams in the surface: runes to protect Red from…

From what's coming.

It will not separate the vigilante from his attackers, and may in fact trap him in with them — insofar as anyone with a jetpack can be 'trapped' by a wall — but that is shortly about to be the lesser of two evils.

That task done, John bends the whole of his not-inconsiderable will to the task of completing the runic circle behind the figure pulsing with fel, otherworldly magic, and as the last lines connect, the whole shape ignites with blinding light, cracks in the world opened. The circles themselves spin like tumblers on a safe, the inner one receeding backward through nothingness, opening a hole into another place, a sucking void. A vaccuum that begins to pull in everything in its immediate vicinity — making the purpose of the wall immediately apparent.

John is going to flush this knock-off Giovanni Zatara down a dimensional toilet, and try like hell not to be pulled in with him.

—-

Today is going badly, Red Robin thinks to himself. On the bright side, his heart is beating again, and none of the injuries he's sustained are really enough to slow him down right now - later, if he doesn't die, will be another matter entirely - but the Fear Gas ended up a miscalculation, and there's also the way Constantine and the Fake Giovanni's wizard duel is turning out. Even without any magical senses, the vigilante can feel it, and the last time that happened was when Zatanna forcibly retrieved the scattered parts of her soul, and in the process nearly unleashed enough power to crack the world in half, and there he was crouching right at ground zero.

This is probably worse.

The only thing that gives Red Robin any sense of ease at all is the hope that surely, between Zatanna and Bucky, they'll be able to keep Jane from crashing the car into something before they've even gotten a mile away, and letting the SUV carrying their target escape. Surely, the supersoldier and the gothic witch have things on lockdown.

Surely.

He really hopes they do, because it would be really embarrassing if he died horribly for nothing.

The last of the Cold Flame cultists, the thug sorcerors, hurls magic at him in a panicked frenzy; the ones that miss the vigilante are consumed by the growing Unmaking behind him, along with the bodies of who knows how many of his fellows, the members of Das Auge who were just there because of Reiner Steinschneider, whether they were trying to protect the 'boy' or just holding him to deny his immortal ancestor access. And as the barrier shatters, others will join them. Innocents who had nothing to do with any of this… And who, beyond the man who started it in motion, knows where it will stop?

Twisting around, Red Robin hurls a handful of small spheres at the last Cultist, similar to the one that held the Fear Gas, but a different colour: These are filled with a pressurised gel that, when ruptured, turns into a huge gluey mess… That rapidly hardens when exposed to air. He really doesn't have time to chase this guy down, not when they have to deal with…

The floor turning into a wall?

"Why do I get the feeling he's about to do something really, really dumb?" Red Robin wonders quietly, though this is certainly one of those situations where doing something really dumb might be the only actual solution. "Next time, I'm mixing a sedative in with the Fear Gas," he adds in the same undertone, closing with the hopefully-restrained remaining Cultist, with every intention of punching him extremely hard in the face.

—-

The shattering of the windshield turns Jane's head, closing her eyes the precious moment she needs to protect them as glass rains over her clothes and through her hair. Sitting up straight, wind whips her wildly, but the woman remains undeterred. Her hands tighten on the wheel, and she hits the gas harder to compensate against the extra drag. They are not going to lose her.

As the young magician looks on in undisguised awe as Bucky Barnes leaps from car to car, Jane Foster surrepititiously checks her mirrors, otherwise holstering her attention purely on the road.

There's something knowing in her brown eyes: none of this is new to her. She's seen this well many times before.

"Babe? Your five o'clock," she calls over the radio to her super soldier boyfriend, only to pause. "Or is that your seventeen o'clock? Do you use five or seventeen? Do you have p.m. in this?"

The BMW jerks as she weaves through highway traffic, dodging swerving cars in fitful tenacity to keep tail on the SUV — to keep watch on the way Bucky wages open battle. Her attention origamis in several angles: here, there, Zatanna behind her, and the math running through her head. She can calculate several probabilities to see the stop of that vehicle. But without needless death? Without a multi-vehicle accident on the road? Keep running the numbers, Jane.

Zatanna's first weight makes her eyebrows knit. Jane runs the math and comes short. Considering what she just did with the car, it's not logistically possible —

She glances back in blatant skepticism. And gets the revised number. One thirty.

"That's fantastic!" Jane says, in probably the worst moment of Zatanna's young life. "Oh, thank god! No, that's good! It means we can do this! Are you sure you can't be one fort — " Oh right, the story of Fatanna Fatara. "No, this is just fine! You're just perfect!"

It's at that moment one of the mages targets Bucky. Jane goes deadly silent, trying to think if they even have enough time to catch him if he falls — for Zatanna to quickly counter-act the curse with her own magic. "/Thank you/," she blurts breathlessly, as Bucky distantly resurges back to life —

— and Jane does not flicker an eyelash as he puts a bullet through someone's face.

She cries out in shock, instead, when the SUV lurches and goes — right — off — the — overpass. It tosses Bucky, and he is Jane's foremost priority, her attention veering heartstoppingly in the direction he falls. Falls and disappears among the lanes of traffic. "James!" she yells, whether or not he can even hear, the wind tossing her hair as she turns constant looks back on the road. "I'm giving him /five seconds/. Then we're —"

And he runs past the car at a speed that is absolutely not human. Jane exhales a sigh of relief, up and even as her errant boyfriend launches himself right off that same drop.

Are we? asks Zatanna, very very softly, from the back.

"I need you in the middle seat," replies Jane, matter-of-fact. Her eyes flicker as she calculates numbers behind their lenses. "Buckle in."

She floors the gas. Inertia lurches them both back into their seats. "IT'S FINE I RAN THE MATH! I JUST HAVE TO HIT 143!" Jane explains helpfully over the wind. "AND WE — OH WAIT THIS IS IN KILOMETERS, MOTHERFUCKING METRIC SYS — NO THIS IS FINE TOO!"

The BMW FLIES through the smashed rail and sails through the air. All four tires hit the concrete, and Jane upgears the car violently with a squeal of its wheels.

—-

AT THE UNION JACK:

Somewhere behind the false Zatara, a gate opens. The swirling void pulls with enough force to strip someone's skin off his bones - a happy outcome for John Constantine if it actually does do that to this strange doppleganger. But the hexagonical construct around him protects the man from further injuries, magical or otherwise. Ice-blue eyes narrow when he finally turns to look over his shoulder at the yawning abyss behind him, beautiful and terrible, this hole punched through reality and into another world in the Englishman's attempt to prevent him from unleashing whatever it is that he's building up for.

It yanks. It pulls, like a vaccuum it starts dragging the false Zatara, protective cage and all, into it. And as the world continues to evaporate around them, matter reduced into glittering motes, to vanish into the ether once microscopic enough to vanish before the naked eye, he'd find the older man's lips pull back faintly in a sneer, baring his teeth. He has absolutely no choice but to forego intensity in favor of keeping him anchored into the present space - the unmaking of their patch of Berlin gradually slows, giving the visible pedestrians time to escape. Within the cool, elegant facade of the older magician, however, there is visible struggling, to hang onto this world with as much intangible strength as he can spare.

But without abandoning his current task completely, there is simply no way to do that. The pull is too strong, so much that debris gets sucked into the hole John has made in their reality, to become one with wherever the other side opens up. One would think that this would be the time where the older man would decide to stop, to abandon the wake of destruction he was exacting in Berlin in favor of saving his own skin from being forcibly deported into the etherwhere.

He doesn't.

That mustached lip lifts on one corner in a faint smile, a terrifyingly exact imitation of the expression Giovanni had given John before during New Year's Eve when he lets go, letting himself get sucked into the swirl of magic coalescing behind him. It will still have to be closed, to ensure that he doesn't emerge back up like the final seconds of a slasher film, but for the moment, the false Zatara is just gone. No final taunt, no villainous words, just that single, baffling expression before he is drawn into the darkness of the gate and disappearing within it.

The wall that had been called around Red Robin prevents him, at least, from getting sucked in. With the hardening gel discs pinning the last remaining Cultist in place, it is an easy feat for the vigilante to come up close and plow his knuckles into his face, bringing the whites of his eyes into stark visibility as they roll back and he is out like a light.

The Unmaking stops, if not just because the caster is no longer there. Not on their Earth, at the very least. But the damage has been done and everyone can see the destruction wrought on the street. The distant clamoring of sirens are indicative enough that the Polizei have been alerted to weird shit going on downtown and are on their way to the scene…and if that portal isn't closed they'll probably get sucked in too.

IN THE STREETS OF BERLIN:

Are you sure you're not one-forty?

"I'M NOT THAT HEAVY!" One can practically see Zatanna leak a few exaggerated tears. But with Bucky suddenly vanishing when the SUV veers off the overpass, her jaw drops open, head twisting immediately to try and get a bead on him. "Bucky!!!"

…and suddenly he's up again and running past the BMW on foot. The young magician stares.

If she has any protests left, they die on the vine. "OKAY. I'M TRUSTING YOUR MATH!!" Words that she never thought she would ever say in her entire life as she slides into the middle seat and buckles in. She braces herself, teeth gritting behind closed lips. Because this always happens. It's a different story entirely if it's her doing the dropping, if it's her under control. Letting someone else send her flying is completely—

Despite herself, she screams anyway as their BMW flies off the overpass, and into the traffic below. It bounces and rocks viciously on its axles, but otherwise the vehicle is able to peel off after their target vehicle.

"HOLY SHIT. YOU'RE AMAZING!!!" the magician can't help but exclaim. Ice-blue eyes are bright, her blood is up and the rush of adrenaline and fear lights up all of her synapses like a Christmas tree.

The lone Cold Flame agent still hopping through roofs is busy chasing after the Winter Soldier even as he flies off the SUV when it breaks through the guardrail and plummets into traffic on the lower highways below. The sudden charge of him through the crush of vehicles in the overpass causes him to stare for a moment as the man with the metal arm just leaps from the break and falls straight down below, heedless of death and incoming cars. Shaking his head, he follows, though not in the same way; a luminescent bubble of magic encapsulates his form before he rises, and drops into the lower avenues of Berlin to give chase. His hands are out as he fires arcs of black-purple mana for the man's back.

Before the assassin, the SUV's back end moves closer and closer, though it has more to do with Bucky's speed than anything else. Through the back windshield, he'd find their quarrry, eyes wide staring at him as he overtakes most of the traffic just to get to him, a welt already appearing on his cheek and the side of one eye from the punch he had taken from one of the Cultists earlier. There are two other agents with him, flanking his sides, also keeping a visual bead on the Winter Soldier as he moves.

The fact that the distance between the car and the metal-armed man is cause for immediate concern and one of the agents guarding Steinschneider is forced to phase through the roof. With a sorceror behind him and now one in front of him, more bolts of light cut through the night in an attempt to impede Bucky's progress as he charges. He would suddenly find himself lifted, though given how fast everything is going, it is difficult to discern who cast the spell, but the invisible force attempts to just throw the Winter Soldier sideways, into the path of a fast-incoming semi.

Zatanna is on it, however, her obelisk trained towards the truck, firing a slowing spell on it. Her other hand traces patterns in the air, using sign language while her mouth is occupied with one other task and the SUV before them suddenly seizes up. Gritting her teeth, tendons stand out from her forearm as she slowly twists her outstretched fingers sideways, curling her digits upwards in a cradling motion, straining in the effort to close them into a fist. Back tires lift from the pavement, spinning helplessly into the air.

"Jane, I'm bringing it in!"

She is only using a fraction of her power; with what had happened before, there is really only one exception that enables her to get past her usual block of hesitation to use the rest of it, constantly terrified of the endless well inside her - they've already seen what happens when just a drop of that potential is used and she has ten years less experience than John. Manipulating objects like this is taxing without the rest of her reserves. Tires squeal, metal crumples as she attempts to drag the SUV back towards their speeding BMW.

—-

"THERE IS NO SEVENTEEN O'CLOCK," Bucky's voice chides over the comm. "There's no PM!! It's my five o'clock! And I know!"

He doesn't exactly have time to argue, though. The SUV plows its way off the overpass in an attempt to lose its pursuit, but the Winter Soldier isn't so easily shaken; he jumps straight after, in a leap of such speed and from such a height that a normal person would have shattered every bone in their body. The Soldier, though— he doesn't wince, doesn't miss a step, doesn't even really come to a stop. He rolls, translates his momentum smoothly, and is off speeding in the opposite direction without ever coming to a standstill.

This is as much to evade his pursuit as to catch up with his quarry. He registers the agent still chasing him, hears the sudden crackle of black magic firing towards his back. He launches himself right in a sidewise leap over a speeding car, vaulting over its roof and landing on its other side. One of those bolts tags him in the side, scoring a shallow wound— but midway through his flip over the car, he turns and fires backwards at his pursuer, aiming to cripple but not really fussed if the end result is 'kill.'

He's nearly upon the SUV when the mages finally figure out he's too fast to be hit by magic missile or fireball or whatnot, and try a different tack. The supersoldier, yanked up and flung abruptly sideways, sees the intent of the caster instantly even as he flies through the air. A lamp post in the median is the only thing that saves him; his left arm snaps out and he latches on as he passes it, arresting his own motion with a jerk.

With a tremendous exertion of strength he whipcords his body and slings around the post like a gymnast, completing a revolution before letting go and slingshotting himself right back the direction he came. Zatanna's magic is pulling the SUV backwards towards them, closing the gap between them rapidly, that much he can see…

…which is why he's going to aim to slam himself directly against the back of it.

Then, with a shriek of his left arm, he's going to aim to punch his metal fingers straight into the seam of the vehicle's trunk door, close a vise-like grip down on the edge, and tear the entire back of the SUV off in one rending go.

—-

All around John air and debris whistle past him, pulled into the void of his creation. The standoff that follows is tense but brief, and it ends in what to anyone else might seem like a baffling concession on the part of the impostor, grim little smile fed into the swirling maelstrom before he releases his hold on this world to let himself be pulled into the next.

It doesn't surprise John. Not after what he's sensed today. Not after what he thinks that could mean.

That, though, is for later. For now, there is the herculean effort involved in closing what has been opened. It isn't enough to simply obliterate the lines of the circle, creating instability in the portal: that would be a good way to lose most of Berlin in the process. He folds everything passing through him in white-hot, mind-erasing intensity around the edges of that ragged hole in space and crushes inward, brute-forcing the wound shut increment by increment, until each edge of the seam senses its opposite and leaps toward it in obedience to the laws of alien physics, or perhaps surrender to more terrestrial ones.

All of the furious expenditure of magic goes out of John at once. There is no graceful sinking down to the pavement, no slow stride to rejoin Red, bleeding off all of that white-gold energy, to say something with gravitas or perhaps make a quip. A superhero would do that, certainly.

John just falls six feet out of the sky and lands on his back on a crumbling sidewalk, sending up a cloud of dust that instantly sticks to the sweat on his skin. He heaves breaths and stares upward with blurry eyes and in spite of the delirium smiles, just a little.

Because holy shit, what a ride.

—-

"Well," says a voice from atop the concrete and magic barrier Constantine had erected. "We didn't die."

It's a joke, a bit of gallows humour from Red Robin, who sits crouched on top of the barricade, as though this were the most normal and comfortable place to be in all the world. The joke hides the fact that he is deeply bothered by the deaths that did happen, the ones that occurred before they arrived and the ones that happened afterwards. The Unmaking cast by Fake Giovanni in particular claimed lives horrifically, not only his own men but also innocent bystanders, people who had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did what he could… But it's part of his nature that he'll always feel like he could've done more.

He doesn't make a sound despite the debris as the young man hops down onto the other side of the barricade, the sound of the authorities drawing closer. Police, certainly. Paramedics and fire, he hopes. Lots of extremely uncomfortable questions in the offering… And time they can't afford to waste would be eaten up in the answering. Constantine looks out of gas. The car is nowhere nearby. He looks down at the magus through the white lenses of his jaggedly-shaped domino mask for a long moment, considering.

Well, he decides, what the hell.

Panels on the 'jetpack' open up in response to a neural impulse, transmitted through the mask and into the onboard computer, what looks like an array of strips of black material unspooling into something evocative of a cape. He hopes this works: He hasn't really tested it as thoroughly as he'd like, and it's really supposed to have more sensors, but…

He crouches down again beside the possibly delirious John Constantine, to pick the older man up with one arm behind his shoulders and the other hooked under his legs; this part's easy, the vigilante possessing remarkable, if entirely human, physical strength.

"You're gonna want to hang on," is all the warning Red Robin gives, before breaking into a run towards the nearest mostly-intact vehicle on the partially demolished street. He runs up it, using it as a ramp to vault off of, as the pack he's wearing obeys his neural impulses, an electrical current feeding through the 'cape', causing the strips to turn into what are, unmistakably, wings. the vault timed with a surge of energy through the repulsor jets, and - with a bit of a shaky start - they take flight. The younger man is silent, focusing on trying to keep them balanced, keep them gaining altitude and distance from the scene of the disasterbacle, and heading in at least vaguely the direction the tracer he had on the BMW says the car full of maniacs is headed. A few minutes into the flight, he does say something:

"…I'm really glad that actually worked."

—-

The BMW banks the thirty-foot drop and somehow does not flip: it even manages to keep all its wheels and axels. And Jane Foster is told that she's amazing.

"Yep, sure am," the physicist confirms, yet with a brisk breeziness to her voice like she wasn't all certain of her success. Not that Jane would ever admit aloud. No longer an issue, anyway, and she leaves it behind in her dust.

She builds back up to fourth gear again, steels her shoulders, and knuckles the wheel at nine and three, stiff-armed as she coordinates quick, twitch-fast turns at their fatal high speed. Cars blur by and, well adapted to the chase, Jane weaves from lane to lane, following both SUV and errant super soldier locked onto its frame.

Again, there is a fight, and she twitches her mouth in helpless witness as Bucky is again thrown to somewhere far beyond her vantage line. At her acceleration, Jane cannot spare any more moments to even look for him, not without risking a crash. As much as it bothers her, she decides this time to trust him.

Her attention turns only at Zatanna's warning, and Jane glances back at the young woman through the rearview mirror — glimpsing briefly but vividly the play of her arms and the flexing of her fingers, like magic played along the lines of a puppeteer's strings —

— the SUV slows and drags against it significant lead, and allows the BMW opportunity to close distance. And then… its back wheels lurch upward, pulled by invisible force up from the very road, and Jane, mid-pursuit, cannot help but to widen her eyes in awe.

And just like that, her faith is then rewarded as Bucky returns, otherwise unmaimed and strong, back in action and unpeeling the back of the SUV like a tin can.

Jane takes the hint. She floors the gas and, slowing her breath, takes patient, surgical care to steer it right at the still-moving SUV's opened back, aligning the vehicles in hopes for an exit point for both soldier and their hopeful rescuee. "That's beautiful, Zee!" she encourages over the wind. "Just hold it!"

She inches in close enough to come in clear view at the driver's seat. Of course, that's well helped that there's no longer an actual windshield.

—-

Well, that happened.

As Bucky slingshots his body back to the way they came, the SUV's underbelly is half-exposed by Zatanna's spell. He's able to punch his arm through and rip the back end the rest of the way clean off, leaving the remaining agent and the driver in the SUV. Reiner Steinschneider is clinging to his seat for dear life, pressing his body in the corner in hopes of making himself as small as possible. His eyes are wide and with good reason - there is nothing about his situation that isn't terrifying.

At this point, the Cultists are perfectly fine abandoning their losses. With such a dangerous man upon them and with too much going on, out in the open in the middle of a crowded street, the two remaining mages vanish, leaving Steinschneider's heir to the tender mercies of Bucky Barnes.

The Polizei's sirens are coming closer here as well, if not just the fact that it's very hard to ignore not just one but two vehicles who just flew from the overpass and disrupting traffic on the lower highways. With Jane flooring the gas and her directive to hold it, Zatanna does precisely that, holding onto the SUV as the BMW is very precisely maneuvered to give Bucky and Reiner Steinschneider their exit.

The poor clairvoyant is still clutching onto his seat, but determination steels his face when he sees help arriving. As the young magician at the back moves to kick the passenger door open, the blond just leaps, sprawling halfway into the backseat and his gangly legs dangling helplessly on the edge. He does have the presence of mind to bend his knees though, before he mangles his bones.

"Bucky, get on!" Zatanna cries towards the Winter Soldier, though really, he probably doesn't need to be told.

As Red Robin and John Constantine close the distance, they'd be able to see another tear coalesce in reality as the raven-haired magician slings another spell before them, to open up another portal to take them to more familiar environs before highway patrol closes in on them. With a quiet gurgle, she shoves the now-unmanned SUV to the side, clearing other vehicles and letting it crumple into the concrete divider between lanes. It stops in a grind and crunch of crumpled metal, but relieved of this last burden, Dr. Foster is free and clear to send their battered vehicle flying into the portal.

It remains open long enough for Red Robin and John Constantine to sweep into it before it blinks out of existence, leaving nothing but bafflement and so much property damage at their wake.

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