Builder, Warrior, and Extra

May 25, 2017:

Kinsey Sheridan's life ends up a lot more complicated after one Jessica Jones moves to interview the latest witness in her case: the robot known as Extra.

Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: Extra, emitted by Atli

Mentions: Tony Stark, Jane Foster, Spider-Man, Matt Murdock, John Constantine, Peter Quill, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Zatanna Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

A long drive to Shadowcrest in Trish’s car. Jess isn’t looking for the witch today, but she has been a long-term house guest here enough that the home’s strange denizens merely greet her and send her to the garden, and the object of her search.

Once there, she pulls Dunce out of her STUFF app.

“Hey there, Extra,” she says. “I’m hoping this little guy can translate for us. I don’t know if you understand me—Schism sure seemed to think you spoke English, but…I need to understand you. So… Dunce? Translate what I say into binary, would you? And translate what he says back into English if he does?”

The thought had occurred to her long before she’d gotten on the train. He’s a robot, he’s a computer, and though he must be some sort of hella advanced AI, binary is as far as she knows the basis for every computer language, a maybe-universal.

Of course, what she says isn’t all that profound. It is…”Do you speak binary?”

—-

The garden here has a layer of tranquility that can grab at anyone. Maybe it's magic, or maybe it's the immaculate groundskeeping, or just the fact that the place as the blessing of The Guardians of the Galaxy's spiritual leader: Grooticus, the Divine Splendor. Extra did not know, but knew that this place may not be made from the material of his home world, and it felt very much the same as the mercurial gardens he had once trained in.

Nothing shatters his concentration in this place, time folding backwards as he remembers his purpose. His beginning.

The end.

Though it's hard to make out any real eyes, the red energy that fills in the spaces between black and silver does shine on several nodes along the artificial lifeform's face, and as that face tilts up, it signals the end of his retrospection, rolling forward and to his feet in a short motion that brings him face to face with Jessica Jones. She's seen him enough to know his right hand never leaves the blade at his back when he is up, and it is not a personal gesture of fear. Just programmed preparation.

"Washutosahmashti."

The electronically processed voice layers in, subvocalizations over primary tones, just as Jessica instructs her own bot to translate. Extra's head jerks a little, following Dunce's movements, and as the binary trickles in, his head seems to tilt.

"Busto."

Extra reaches up after giving his response, a finger poking at Dunce, as if to express that the floaty creature might be malfunctioning. Dunce will wobble, then warble, translating before making a mournful sound, as if he knows he somehow failed his new master.

Slowly Extra lowers himself to a crouch, reaching out to do as he had done many times before: Draw lines in the ground. Six of them, of even length. This done, he looks up at Jessica, expectant. Hopeful, perhaps. Certainly she will understand him THIS time.

Jessica pat-pats Dunce’s little body. “It’s fine, dude, relax. It was a long shot.”

She crouches down and frowns. “Yeah, you keep drawing those. Six lines. Six what? Days? Months? Years? I don’t know what that means, man. Channel six? Six-six-six, number of the devil? Yeah. Busto. I don’t know.”

She exhales and says, “How about this? Do you understand me at all? Nod if yes, shake head if no.” She mimes doing these things, nodding, shaking her head.

She’d really like to get some sort of rudimentary form of communication down before, say, trying to get Dunce to scan the mysterious robot. It might be taken as hostile, after all. With at least yes and no, she can maybe get some kind of permission from him. And with yes and no, maybe she can at least get some rudimentary questions out of the way.

—-

The tracking of his eyes and head makes it almost comical to watch from afar. One can only imagine Rocket snickering as Extra follows Jessica's head motions and repeats them, but gives no real indication that he understands her. Until she says Busto, perking up a little, head tilting, as if Jessica almost said a word.

But then he looks back down to his six lines, his head bowed, his demeanor almost crestfallen. Then Dunce beeps six times after examining the lines, and Extra looks to the droid pointedly.

"Washtenakoronamesh. Washtenakoronamesh."

The word repeats, and then he wipes away his lines. Instead, he works on something else in the dirt. Something more complex. Or is it? Lines. Hexagons. He makes it big, so there is no mistake, underlining and separating dots on the left, and then the right. Finally a larger hexagon, this one seemingly broken in two.

He repeats this process. but this time, their are five hexagons to match the five divided on the left, and the larger hexagon is whole. Then, the robot looks up at Jessica. Hopeful. Almost pleading.

"Washtena" He points to the top set of hexagons, repeating the word again. "Washtena."

Then, he points to the bottom set.

"Washte." A firm nod.

Sure, this should explain everything!

(Picture for reference: http://i.imgur.com/5DM0c8v.png )
—-

Jessica likes puzzles, and abruptly the anxiety attack is over. She sits down, looking at it, and then she slowly gets it.

“Washtena…” she points to the top set. “No?”

“Washte?” She points to the bottom set. “Yes?”

And then, “Hey Dunce, snap a picture of that would you?”

Maybe they’re getting somewhere. She decides to test her theory. She points to him. “Extra. Washte?”

She didn’t have much of a head for languages when she tried to learn German, but…she had also been distracted, and to be very fair and honest, had known she’d be traveling with a bunch of language experts and a good translation app. So she’d let it fall to the bottom of her list.

But she recognizes that words can be taught by context, even when one doesn’t know them, and if she has to manually learn this guy’s language to solve her case, then by God, she’s going to figure out how to speak her some fuckin’ alien robot just as fast as she can.

—-

When Jessica the Stalwart Guardian sits, Extra takes this as invitation and does the same, his legs crossing, his gaze cast to where she points. He points at the first row. "Nuhoe."

Then, he points at the second. "Yaus."

But there, in his imitation, incorrect and broken in it's own way, a clue forms to the measure of why they have such trouble communicating. There are no undertones to these imitations. They are hollow, like the voices he hears from these biologicals all around him.

Dunce projects something, which shows a readout of what he detects when Extra speaks.

You are correct in your assessment Jessica Jones. The formula below: 2+3 = 4 | False and 2+3 = 5 | True are scientific values for base communication. We now know simple written extrapolation for true and false, however, further communication may be exceedingly difficult.

Dunce switches over to voice analysis.

There are three separate lines of syntax at work within every word, and every word is encrypted at multiple levels. Each level interlaces with the next, offering keynote markers for decryption, however.. it is beyond.. this unit's capability.

The sad warble of the droid as he fails, yet again, rings through the air.

Extra tilts his head again, and then gives a solemn nod, still not understanding either.

"Yosh."

—-

"Holy shit!" The words are triumphantly spoken, and there's a flash of a rare grin on her face. Brown eyes light up with the simple pleasure of this admittedly small achievement.

Well, okay, sure. Deeper levels of communication may be exceedingly difficult, but they're getting somewhere. She gives Dunce a thumbs-up, and says, "Don't feel bad. You're way smarter than Tony gives you credit for. You are officially renamed Ace when you're working with me. Here, keep a record of all this would you? We can get it to Jane, she might be able to decrypt the crap out of this. In the meantime? Let's work with what we've got."

She had totally missed the math part, but that's okay. Close-a-frickin'-nuff.

Since the six lines have been consuming most of Extra's attempts at communication, she starts there. Simple yes-no questions. True, false. She points to the six lines. "Place?" she guesses. Maybe he's talking about his home planet. Maybe it's coordinates. Though if it were coordinates one would think he would have gone with the hexagrams, which are his version of numbers.

—-

When Jessica curses, Extra jumps up and back. It is shocking how quickly he can move, a blur of red that lands in a crouch and looks around with a furious scan of the perimeter. Perhaps he has already learned from her, that those primitive words mean something bad is going to happen. His hand does not draw his blade, however, and when it appears to be a false alarm, he returns to both her and the newly dubbed 'Ace'.

His gaze sweeps over the six lines, and when she says place, his head tilts again, signaling he does not understand. Instead he kneels, and promptly draws six hexagons. Apparently, they are literally the number six. Then, his head tilts again. Promptly he moves away, towards the nearest tree.

Hopefully it is not one that is beloved.

"Yemshi!" The cry comes with great volume, dancing in the blood, teasing at adrenaline, the cry of a warrior mid-strike as searing energy lashes out during an arcing leap to take a big branch from the tree with a crash. Another dash, reality blurring around him, and he hacks a stump from the end he just cut, picking it up to carry towards Jessica.

The blade remains out. The scent of ozone in the air is all to familiar.

Setting the big piece of wood down below his hexagons, he begins working. First, the hexagons again, at the top. Then, more precise lines, mechanical motions guiding his burning blade to sear and burn the wood, causing a flare up here or there that deft fingers quell. Smoke wafts up, but it is not unpleasant, the hickory tainting the night air long after he's finished drawing a perfect representation of an image that is burned into his mind. This, of course, because it finally seems that these creatures understand drawings. Every other time he has drawn his simple lines, hoping to speak on their level, they have looked bewildered, and squawked at them with their base tones.

But that has now changed.

There, in the wood, is something beyond simple communication.

There, in the wood, is the perfect representation of Kinsey Sheridan.

—-

He jumps; Jessica tenses.

Crap. Does 'place' mean cut off my head?

Oh. No. It doesn't. Okay. And then he's…cutting down trees. Jessica winces. Hopefully this is not the kind of offense which might cause Zatanna to turn Extra into a mollusk. She'll have to leave a note. Dear Zatanna, please don't turn my witness (the weird robot) into a mollusk. Need him for case, also he saved my ass once, love Jess.

She sniffs the ozone. She is no Daredevil, to really smell magic, to really sense it, but she has from time to time caught the scent of it around Zatanna, around Constantine, and around the cultists. It was thick enough in the air at the church, the sense memory staying with her even though the details of the night continue to slide around weirdly in her head.

But now he is working. Literally the number six, but six whats? She sits back on her heels, watching him. And then…there is Kinsey.

She couldn't be more surprised if someone had hit her over the head with that board. She frowns at the number six…what does the number six have to do with Kinsey Sheridan?

"Okay, I still don't understand where sixes come in, but…Washte. Kinsey Sheridan."

She stands up, walks back, takes out her phone, and snaps a photo of the robot and the wood burnt portrait. She begins furiously texting.

This is a robot who does not speak English, or any known human language, who is apparently a vital witness for one of my cases. He just drew this. He keeps repeating the number six, over and over again, because true/false and basic number representations are about as far as I've gotten on communication. I'm having a fine WTF reaction right now. How 'bout you?

—-

A breakthrough, one that even Extra senses. The flurry of motion, recognition, it brings him closer to Jessica as she texts, as she tries to put things together, a hand reaching out to find her shoulder. His touch is not cold, not like one would expect, nor is it in any way the intrusive space-invading thing of another living being. Somehow, Extra is different. He points at the wood, then off into the distance somewhere, and then he urges her along, for just a step or two, trying not to communicate with actions instead of words.

"Washte!"

His insistence is clear, but he does not push or prod her along anymore, his hand slowly dropping from her shoulder. If she could make out his many photoreceptors as things that are eyes, she might be able to see the sensation that wells from the center of being and looms there, in the forefront of his mind.

She might be able to see hope.

Hell, she might still be able to feel it.

—-

He might not be a robot at all. The thought makes Jess start. She feels a brief upwelling of compassion as she pat pats his hand on her shoulder. She has never been in his exact situation: alone, lost, unable to communicate, and friendless, desperately needing to convey a message and completely unable to do so.

But she can certainly imagine what it must be like, and it seems painful.

“Washte,” she repeats. “Washte, she’s given me an address. Come on, let’s get out of here. I’m going to take you to see Kinsey. C’mon Ace.”

She drops her hand and starts walking, intent on leaving Shadowcrest behind to meet with her ever more mysterious friend. Given the fact that her text simply disappeared, that Kinsey said I can explain in person, Jessica has the sinking feeling that she’s inadvertently stumbled onto yet another one of her friend’s secrets. She never means to.

She just has a way of doing it. She supposes Kinsey isn’t the only one who has been subjected to this particular side effect of having anything to do with one Jessica Jones, PI.

Of course, this means Jessica has plenty of time to be grateful that she brought Trish’s car out here. She has no idea what her sister would say to a sort-of-robot riding shotgun, but that’s the beauty of being all the way out here. She can beg pardon instead of asking permission.

She programs the address Kinsey sent them into her GPS, and waits for Extra to get settled before starting the drive. She’s getting a bit more used to the exercise, driving…she’s less nervous, though she’s still religious about observing every last traffic law…much to the irritation of other drivers, probably.

—-

If not for Jessica getting into the car herself, Extra would try to climb upon the roof. The metal man almost seems intent on it, head tilting, photoreceptors twitching… and then it climbs into the back of the car and sits cross-legged in the middle of the back seat, closing the door behind it, but only after observing Jessica do so first. Wherever it is they are headed to, Extra seems eager, excited, compared to it's more muted responses when trying to communicate with Jessica.

Washte!" The voice modulates, it's should echoing to fill the car, a rallying cry for a charge onward to, finally, some closure on it's would-be mission. But that will all die away when Jessica begins the harrowing task of driving, metal fingers gripping at the seats in front of it to enact a stabilization protocol to prevent it from succumbing to inertia, and the various honks and beeps of drivers annoyed with the way Jessica doesn't cut corners in her driving in a literal or figurative way.

"Yosh."

Extra finds the whole ordeal distressing and illuminating all at once, as moving without it's own locomotion is certainly an act of trust that, perhaps, the robot was not ready to commit to. Still, it sees so very much. Places and people that it's head turns to keep up with, nearly spinning about in some instances, as one interesting human or vehicle or another passes by.

—-

The address Kinsey gave them directs the GPS to a backwater area beneath an overpass on the outskirts of Gotham. It's a place where multiple highways clover around one another and there's subsequently a lot of activity without a lot of attention paid to dimly-lit figures huddled up in the armpit between an overpass and runoff ramp that slopes down to the roadway beneath, where there exists just enough shoulder to pull off of the road. Guardrails will have to be hopped, but it's not difficult to see her once one understands that they're supposed to be looking.

Jean-clad and t-shirted, knees drawn up and arms resting atop, hair in a loose twist behind her head, she's seated beside a pair of prone figures bundled into soiled, heavy clothing. The latter appear to be snoring fitfully, though the positions in which they're doing so suggest that this lack of consciousness may have been induced rather than pre-existing at the time of her arrival.

—-

The robot's experience probably isn't helped by the fact that the other drivers stir up Jessica's considerable temper in return.

Periodically, there is shouting. "SIGNALS, ASSHOLE. LEARN HOW TO USE THEM."

Or a hissed: "God fucking damn it god fucking damn it fucking trucks go away trucks."

Or, "Augh, fuck, fuck you, no, fuck, I need to get over, stop fucking accelerating you fucking…fucktard!"

She hears 'Yosh' from the back seat, interprets it as best she can, and says, grimly, "Look. When people use these things wrong, people die firey, painful deaths. There are manuals for this shit. Classes. Can I help it if I paid a-fucking-tention and they didn't? I listened to the fucking lecture, they are fucking MORONS."

Of course, the last time she listened to the fucking lecture, the last time she followed directions, she ended up earning infamy among no small percentage of her friends by punching a demon's ass so hard that she literally landed in Switzerland. So there's that.

"Look at that. LOOK at that. The speed limit says 50. Five. Oh. Why is this fucker on my ass trying to do 72? Look, you motherfucker, you will get there all of six fucking seconds faster if you— look at that shit. He just drove like an asshole to literally get to the light six fucking seconds faster."

So it's a slightly tense and adrenaline-filled Jessica Jones who pulls the car off at the shoulder in confused fashion. She opens the door for Extra, and when he's out closes it and locks the car. She looks left and right, then…hops the guardrails as required. She is dressed in jeans as well, and in a dove-grey v-necked T-shirt. And here is Kinsey, with some (homeless?) people she's…(hit? drugged?)

"Hey, Kins," Jessica says, and she realllly can't help the worry that's flooding out of her tone. Even the first round of secrets she accidentally blew open did not produce this kind of response. Her expressive face arranges itself into open concern. "So um. Extra, Kinsey, Kinsey, Extra…Sorry for the— I didn't know how else to handle it."

—-

"GudFookSheetDahmit!" Repeats Extra, ever the student of culture, even one so obviously primitive as to speak in monotones and traverse the world via these death machines with no real brains of their own. It does not dawn on Extra, the real danger that looms behind them as the truck begins tailgating. With a whirl the robot turns and reaches for one weapon, shurikens firing up along it's knuckles as it prepares to face this oncoming demon with every last ounce of it's strength.

No. Not now. Not when it is so close to completing it's mission!

Then… Jessica shifts lanes and the demon blares by. The shurikens sink back into it's hand, and then it proclaims the battle won, most appropriately.

"MuterFooker!"

Muterfooker, indeed.

When the car pulls over and Jessica lets Extra out, it seems to test the ground to make sure it is sound before leaping out and into a pose meant for action. Left and right it looks until finally, down along the way, past obstacles and bodies both, it sees her.

"Washte."

Jessica leaps the guardrail, Extra leaps the entire distance, bounding up, then leaping off of nothing at all, the sound of momentum shifting of it's own accord echoing forth as it completes it's double jump and lands before Kinsey.

Suddenly, Robot.

—-

Homeless, transient — who knows?

Kinsey watches the car pull up with green-gold eyes, expression for the most part neutral, though there's an undercurrent of resigned determination there. It becomes something else altogether when the vaguely-familiar robot steps out (the circumstances of their meeting, of course, having been less than conducive to clear thinking on her part). The corners of her lips tighten, pulling her mouth into a thinned line.

Of course, it's a little bit alarming, she understands, to be in Jessica's position. The environment is…maybe ominous. It could be for that reason that she remains seated rather than rising when the pair ascend, each in their own radically different ways.

"We've met," she says as Jess makes halting introductions, examining the Machine From Elsewhere sidelong. But her attention returns to Jess after that, and it hangs there with a hard kind of gravity, the edges blunted by regret. "I wish this hadn't been necessary. It's not your fault, Jess, but it's not safe for you to know this much about me. And it's not safe for me for it — " She flicks a glance at the robot, "To know this much about me, either. …Especially now."

The breath she takes is long, the exhale a deep push that empties her lungs. There's nothing to do but push forward.

"I had the misfortune of investigating something not long ago — a spacecraft of some type or other. I took a strong EMP or something, it knocked me out cold. I'm told it saved me, which — don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for that, but the side effect is that I was dragged on board another craft and they took my helmet off, so then they all got to see…who I am. When I'm not me." She turns her head to the side, squints off down the highway after the retreating rear ends of cars.

There's a weighty pause before she looks back up at them both. "It's not the only one looking for me lately, though. Or maybe it's part of the effort trying to find me. Not…me. This other person that I am. My…" She huffs out a sardonic breath. "'Secret identity,' which is less secret all the time. And again, not your fault, but…" Her brows slide together. The robot gets a dubious look. "How well do you know this thing, Jess?"

—-

"Welp," Jessica mutters, shortly after Extra leaps ahead of her.

"I set out to teach him English."

"Mission fookin' achieved, I guess."

But levity is soon lost.

The harder edges on Kinsey's expression, the raw determination, the ominous place, the ominous language.

It begins to make Jessica wonder if she's accidentally lost herself an ally. Further, it makes her wonder if Kinsey is about to attack her somehow. Makes her start trying to figure out how she might do it, and how Jessica might defend herself without hurting a friend she still values.

Thus, her own body language remains neutral and attentive as she listens closely to what Kinsey has to say. Every word gives her a bit of hope that this isn't going to turn irrevocably nasty…the more Kinsey talks the less likely it is that she's going to do something drastic.

Especially now catches her attention. Secret identities make her wince a little bit.

Kinsey asks how well she knows Extra and she says, "I only know his actions. He saved my life when aliens tried to kidnap me. He saved my life again when he went up against his former team mate. But there's a language barrier, Kinsey. Like I said. We've gotten as far as basic numbers, pictoral communication, and true/false communication. And I guess the basic swear word primer, he picked that up pretty good."

Her voice softens. She keeps her hands out, takes a step forward. "Kinsey, if you're in some sort of trouble why don't you let me help you? You've helped me so much. I told you to get in touch with me if you needed anything at all. It sounds like you've been going through Hell all alone. C'mon, you know I'm the last person you need to protect."

—-

There is a current in the air. A buzz that only Kinsey can feel. Something familiar. Something very much as familiar as the night the robot had first met her. But of course, it did not know her. The robot was still out of commission when the rest of the guardians took her mask off, and it knew her only by her face. Not her helmet, or suit, or anything else about her other identity.

For Extra, there is no difference. It cannot conceive of deception on such scale. It does not understand the clear trepidation before it. It does not understand the words Jessica uses to unpack it, to try to connect. All Extra can do is try to do what it had done many times before, communicate: When it speaks, Five will be inundated with the task of unpacking it's multi-vector, quantum language, one that Five will have exactly zero trouble unlocking.

"Nashtewaqlmanyetaivoqulanowei."

I have thrown off my shackles to find you, most Gifted Builder, to warn you against the rise of The Machine God: Decimux, the Infiniplex. His attention turns to this iteration.

On the sixty seven thousandth rotation plus one twenty five, a warrior moved alone and against Clan doctrine to become the bridge for The First Alliance. This warrior died to deliver it's message, but the message brought the Recombining, ending all war. Unifying all forces.

The last layer is a forced datastream of base code, so complex, so divine in it's construction that it will make Five look like DOS. It is beautiful. It is dynamic in a way that goes beyond yes, no, and maybe. No ones, no zeroes, no nulls. It fits in a place of evolution at the speed of thought, and it tries to show Five, and by extension, Kinsey, the very source of The Infiniplex.

The only question now is how closely Kinsey will look upon the face of God.

—-

"The way that you can help me is by staying out of it, Jess. I don't know what, or who, I'm dealing with, and the last thing I need is to worry about people in my life while I'm trying to fix this and get to the bottom of whatever's going on. Whoever it is has massive resources, and the bad news — and I can't believe I'm saying this — is that they're not government. That used to be my worst-case scenario. Now, I'm not even sure that it is, because these people seem like they could give the DEO a run for the money, and there's no governing body keeping an eye on what they're doing. They went to the lengths of tracking down one of Spider-Man's friends and threatening his friend's family, just because Spider-Man was seen with this…other part of me…just once. Just once."

It is clearly costing Kinsey to remain sitting. Everything about her seems to crackle with restrained energy she cannot burn off, but she adheres to that precaution determinedly. "And you didn't — until now, you didn't have what was necessary to put things together. Me, and this other version of me that they want. So it was, in a way, helping me, because it was one less person they could track down and pump for information, or threaten me with. But now…" Her brows slide together, knitting over the bridge of her nose. It's regret, for the most part, and not irritation. Frustration, yes; she has the look of someone for whom events are beginning to skid out from underneath of, harried and struggling to maintain order.

"It's not that I don't think you're capable. I know you are. But information control is — was? Is — the most important thing for me right now, and every time someone else gets dragged into this the odds of someone getting hurt go up, and I just…"

And then she's broadsided by something else.

Her eyes glaze. Priorities inside of her skull shift. Five — who is not binary; whose consciousness exists in a quantum state of a peculiar kind — takes control, shunting that incoming raft of data…where? Elsewhere, at any rate, protecting the young woman who surges to her feet afterward, slender fingers splayed back into the dark and loosely bound crown of her hair. Her nose begins to bleed.

"Stop!" Hazel eyes flash dangerously, but it's the look of someone in a corner, not the look of someone on the offense. She unthreads her fingers from her hair and wipes underneath her nose with her wrist, streaks of bright red glistening on her skin. "I have enough problems right now of my own. I don't know why you think I can fix this — whatever 'this' is. If it's something that even needs fixing." The headache spikes through her temples. Does nothing for the lingering soreness in her abdomen, where not long ago she was through-and-throughed by a 7.62mm round. "Just…stop. I don't know what this means and you are on the wrong ball of dirt to get your answers."

A few collecting breaths later she slants a look at Jess, wiping at her nose. "Where are Quill and his people? They can handle this better than I can."

She thinks. She's not sure.

What she is sure of is that her cup already runeth over, and she has hit her limit.

—-

It would be nice to say that, as a person who spent over a decade routinely pushing people away, Jessica Jones instantly understands the urge to tell people to 'stay out of this'.

And it would be nice to say that emotions always make sense; a moment ago she'd been calmly contemplating that Kinsey might attack her in a panic, calmly deciding she could figure out how to deal with that, live, not hurt Kinsey, and then just sort of resolve that later.

But emotions are not always logical, and the actual rejection, the 'stay out of it, I don't need to worry about you' speech produces a response.

Jessica recoils as if slapped. Hurt rockets across her face, then anger. Her eyes tighten. Her mouth tightens. She hears Kinsey when she says it's about information control. She also hears another— well, friend may be too strong a word for Spider-Man, but he's someone she owes— has been threatened. Her lips lift into a sneer when Kinsey tries to outline the danger this organization represents, and she draws herself up to her full height; she has stood face to face with magical mafias, gang members, godlings and other horrors over the past months, and here she is. Something dark and determined makes her bare her teeth when Kinsey suggests that anyone could pump her for information, as if she would so easily spill secrets, she who stewards them for more than a handful of people at this point, either because she has accidentally tripped upon them, or, more rarely, because they have been entrusted to her.

Her face has a freaking thundercloud passing right over it by the time Kinsey is done.

It's more the hurt than the anger, really. She has found that she has some worth in the world primarily because she's been trusted to serve others. She's learning, however slowly and haltingly, that she can trust them to help her in turn, even if she's not there to micromanage, or control, or push.

At the end of the day she has no idea how to care about someone without taking care of them, without putting herself at their back and helping them in whatever way that she can.

Despite her swift intake of breath, the one that says she's about to lose her temper, the words never come. Something is happening with the robot and Kinsey, something that leaves her confused.

"None of them can understand him either," Jessica says, rather shortly. Kinsey's snarl of 'I have enough problems of my own' had made her flinch, and her redirect to someone else shuts her down entirely.

—-

The outburst is not understood, for in all of Kinsey's anger she is still speaking in the monotones that plague this world, drowning in it in a lack of context and depth that Extra's consciousness does not comprehend. It's head tilts, and it takes a step back as Kinsey finds her feet and lets emotion roll out of her like a storm. The sharp, almost birdlike motions of it's head in that moment show a creature that is growing to panic.

Perhaps emotion is infectious. Perhaps it has already been caught in the storm brewing between the women in it's midst. Finally, it repeats the behavior that it had used to bridge the gap before, trying as it might, desperate as it drops to it's knees.

It shakes. It does not seem like a mechanical thing to do, finger trembling as it draws six lines in the dirt at it's feet, carefully as it can, precise as it might, before looking up at Kinsey with it's odd photoreceptors, spread all over it's face, it's head swiveling from Jessica to Kinsey and back.

"Washtenasudatelono."

You are the Builder and Creation? You are 6.0?

On the thirty second thousandth rotation plus twenty eight, the clans formed their structures and battlements, and rested them against the mercurial sea, preparing for another wave. This one was the wave of war. This one was Purpose.

The data stream ebbs and flows with every underlying, multi-plexed word it sends, but now it is somehow desperate, almost erratic. Because it is not simply a datastream that it is sending in Kinsey's direction, it is the quantum consciousness of a being that will feel every bit like a cousin to her constant companion.

"W..washte?"

It asks, but this time it's voice is not modulated, as it looks frantically from it's place on it's knees, trying to speak to Jessica now, trying to confirm in their primitive understanding that this person is who it has been seeking all this time.

—-

The regret remains, probably amplifies as Jessica meets Kinsey's push back against the insistence that she include herself with furious expressions, but her determination is unwavering. It adds to the weight hanging on her shoulders, but does nothing to deter her resolution.

And then the robot decides to try to get into her head.

Two consciousnesses in one skull is already one too many, by Kinsey's estimation. It took her a medical coma and six months to acclimate to that arrangement, and it remains difficult to this day, as a recent conversation with a blind vigilante so adeptly illustrated.

Three is way more than she's willing to accommodate, to say nothing of the dangerous way that quantum states interact when they bisect. What she hears in her skull as she feels the inside of it threaten to shatter like so many shards of pottery is a long stream of meaningless language referring to things she doesn't understand, none of which she can process because it's not just her inside of her own head anymore. It's herself, and Five — and she already has enough trouble telling which of her thoughts belong to which of them, as it is — and now it's this other thing, too, for which she has no context, nothing about it even remotely like consciousness as she understands it.

It's just too much.

The panic of someone drowning is what spikes back against that intrusion. The monofilament neural net overexcites. She loses her sense of balance, auxilliary autonomous functions glitching like lights on a bad circuit as she strives not to succumb to seizures. Stumbles backward, catches a heel on one of the prone bodies, lands hard in a half-sprawl on top of them. Her voice is hoarse, but it still manages volume:

"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"

—-

There is nothing that will switch Jessica from anger to compassion quicker than that phrase.

"Washtena! Washtena, Extra, washtena, god damn it, you're hurting her!"

She inserts herself between Kinsey and the robot, cheeks flushed. She's overwhelmed, she's lost, she's angry and regretful herself. All she wants is to solve her case, to stop the murders. The case that's like having 5 1,000 piece puzzles dumped on her floor with no boxes to show her what might go to what.

She's also scared, because now the robot is doing something to Kinsey. She can only hope it's a good-faith problem, but…the idea that anyone should be in anyone else's head is enough to spur her to action.

And the only fucking word she knows to fix this is 'No,' or maybe 'False.'

All she can do is charge in and try to salvage this situation as best as she possibly can, and she's already planning her next course of action if this doesn't produce an immediate cessation of whatever is making her friend bleed and freak out and scream about people in her head. The course of action that will get Kinsey out of there.

—-

The lights on the robot flicker when Kinsey acts in self defense, it's body going rigid as the data flow stops, reverses, pushes on every artificial synapse in it's multi-spacial mind. Jessica is in front of Extra then, just before the metal man topples backwards like a broken toy, one more body for the pile here at the homeless people's nap-and-meet.

'GET OUT OF MY HEAD!'

Jessica's pleas flood in next, and a nanosecond later the datastream stops, pulls back. That hum that would persist in the back of a quantum mind goes away, left with the garbled vocalization of an artificial life form that speaks with new understanding.

"Not weesh hu-r-r-t… Seex pint Serr-r-o."

Their is a modulation that rumbles through it's vocal processor a moment or two after saying those incomplete words. Finally it tries to sit up, one hand moving to it's forehead in a very human gesture, a sharp shake to move the digital cobwebs.

"Apologize, Builder. Must act. Understand now? Decimux comes to this iteration. He will find you. He always finds you."

The accent is best described as 'digital', colored with tones not meant to make vocalizations with such singular meaning. But now it can, because another quantum mind touched it's own however briefly and allowed it to adopt the only communication protocol it did not already recognize: Human speech.

"Most Honorable Warrior will help." The robot props itself up, then indicates Jessica Jones - The Most Honorable Warrior that Extra now counts among its allies.

—-

There is a lot of noise. It is temporarily garbled. The seizures don't come, but consciousness flirts with going on vacation as she lays there, lashes fluttering, a hand pressed to the front of her face because she can taste blood seeping in through her lips, down from her nose.

As advanced as Kinsey's situation is, the hardware is delicate, barely-understood. Her situation with Five, not at all. A shockwave of energy in the opera house was once enough to make her hit the floor like a sack of bricks — and that is, incidentally, how she first met Jessica Jones. It's a physical and psychological ecosystem that is delicate at best. Experimental. She is a yearling metahuman. She has yet to begin to explore the furthest reaches of what's possible for her now because a solid punch to the head is still enough to kill her.

All of which is to say: it's some moments before she can rejoin the present moment as an active participant. She coughs, tilts over onto her hip and spits up a mouthful of red drool, swallowing down nausea. Her head feels like it contains ten hangovers.

"Jesus christ," she says, words stuffy with the blood coagulating in her nose. "What a week."

There's no room for delicacy here. She wipes her sticky hand on her jeans, smears the stain on the dark fabric, and then begins to wipe her nose and face with her t-shirt.

"No. I don't understand. But as long as we can talk about this stuff and you stay the hell out of my head, I will try to. Just…not today. Okay? I feel like shit."

Gravel, dirt, rust all stick to her blood-sticky hand as she plants it and begins to start to stand, only to decide that might be premature, subsiding onto her knees. Upright, at least, if dizzy. It's difficult to collect her thoughts, but necessary. "Jess, I know you're pretty pissed about what I said, but I have good reasons. Only now…" The resignation is what steals in, then. Exhausted, she gives up, audibly: "I guess it doesn't really matter anymore. I'll tell you whatever. At this point you know enough that keeping the rest a secret probably wouldn't help, and honestly, if they threaten one more person I know I'm just turning myself over to them anyway. The way things are going, that seems pretty likely. As for — this…" She waves a stained, dirty hand at the robot, "Whatever this is? I'm not making any promises. I have problems close to home right now. I'd like to not wind up vivisected on a table for the rest of eternity and I'd prefer not to have to watch the few people I care about similarly handled on the way there, so that's my focus. Robot…guy…or whatever you are, you need to put everything into an explanation that makes sense. Jess can proofread it and tell you if it still sounds like prophetic nonsense, I guess. But I'm not making you promises. Seriously. I'm not a tool or a weapon, I'm a person. And right now, my life? Is a mess."

—-

Extra is speaking English. And he didn't mean to hurt Kinsey. Relief suffuses Jessica's features. One problem down.

Now, she kneels beside her friend, putting a steadying hand on her shoulder, on her back. Angry as she'd been, she was angry because she gave a damn, now, she shows nothing but real, genuine care for one of the handful of people in the world that she likes. At first, she speaks to neither of them; Extra is giving her new puzzle pieces to fit in somewhere— and so is poor Kins.

Once again Jessica Jones has cause to understand how one Matt Murdock must feel when she greets him with a veritable flood of information, when he ends up entering some problem of hers 'in medias res.'

So she latches on to the most important bits.

She holds a hand out to Extra. "Most Honorable Warrior is on it," she says quietly. "This is my case, Extra. Most Honorable Warrior will protect the Builder. I have many questions for you. We will retire to my—" Shithole in Hell's Kitchen.

"Fortress. And discuss."

Normally she would demure about the honorable bit. Jessica Jones doesn't exactly see herself as a person of honor, no matter how much she'd like to be. But right now it's not important. What is important is:

"You are a person, Kinsey. You're my friend."

She lowers her voice. "And you're not turning yourself over to anybody. Let me tell you what's going to happen if anyone threatens me. I'm going to punch them straight through their assholes. That's what's going to happen. I'm not going to let you get vivisected. Anyone puts you in a lab, I will find you like the bloodhound I am and I will take them down and I will bring you back to New York for celebratory pizzas, see if I don't, whether you tell me jack shit or not."

There is, in these words, total conviction. One thing Jessica does not doubt is her ability to find someone she wants found. That? She can do. Always.

Her tone remains gentle, still, when she says the rest. "But…you're not making decisions about what to tell me while you're bleeding and hurting. Let's get you some first aid, get you some water."

To both: "We're not going to solve any of this today, so let's just…take it one step at a time. Alright?"

—-

The hand that finds Kinsey's other shoulder is not human, is not, perhaps, even alive. Somehow it has the same warmth as Jessica's, and the reassuring squeeze it gives contains the utmost humanity. Somewhere, somehow, someone showed it how to care.

"You are most important person, Great Builder. Honorable Warrior tells truth. Your enemies will find many of assholes punched through with prejudicial glory."

The nod it gives is absolute, and slowly, gently even, it rises and tries to help Kinsey to her feet.

"I am anomaly. No home. No clan. I am Extra." It pats it's chest with it's free hand, as if that explains everything, though it hardly explains anything. Maybe something to call it at least.

"Will speak to Honorable Warrior as you wish Builder. You will know tale of the clans. Of rotations untold. Then His comic. Decimux the Machine God destroy my world for me. Took me. Will do same for you. But we must stop other enemies first. Builder must be strong and focused to face Decimux."

Now that they have hold of Kinsey, Extra will follow most Honorable Warrior's lead. Though if they mean to take Kinsey to the car, there will be some hesitation. Oh what horrors await them on the highway, and only a small portion of those horrors are Jessica Jones' driving.

—-

Words still come as almost physical things. Kinsey's ability to filter sensory information is still not entirely recovered from this latest overclock. She shuts her eyes as they speak to her, but she doesn't seem to have any kind of relapse — it just helps her to focus if she eliminates one source of information her mind is forced to process.

"When I'm up for talking about this at greater length," she says, allowing the machine to help her to her feet — she doesn't have any reluctance to be handled by it at all, her comfort with machine intelligence probably a byproduct of her unique circumstances — "I'm gonna have a lot to say about all of this. Especially the parts where you think you know what would happen if the DEO decided you were in the way. You're trying to be a good friend — I know that. You just don't understand what we're dealing with. So I'm gonna make sure you understand. But right now…I just…want to go drink soda and eat percocet, and sleep this off."

She has less to say to their robotic third party, if only because there's so little there to get a toehold on. She accepts their help as they move toward the car, and she isn't shy about utilizing the stability that either offers, but her expression is tight. As they go, she murmurs: "Extra, I've had just about enough of being important, to be honest."

—-

Jessica Jones won't say no to the intel about the DEO, but she smiles faintly.

"In February two of my friends got kidnapped to literal Hell, Kinsey. We only had to go to Limbo to get them back, but I didn't flinch at opening a gate and walking through to go get them, and I'm not going to flinch at standing up for you."

Course, her friends had been about as amused as Kinsey is about that as well, but tough shit for everyone. What good is all this super strength and endurance and falling with style if she can't use it on behalf of people she cares about? And random individuals who are just living their lives? And children? And puppies? Puppies are pretty great too.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is…don't worry so much about me. I am a god damn superhero."

Yep. She…just said that. She said it with grim humor, but she said it.

She'll open the front door for Kinsey, giving her shotgun. She says she wants soda and percocet. Jess has no percocet, but she pulls up the ever-handy STUFF app. She withdraws a 2-Litre of Coke, because one of the first things she did upon getting this wonder was to stock up on all sorts of necessities in case she ever got dropped down some bullshit magical labrynth, kidnapped by a goddess past the 300th floor into some spirit realm, shoved into Infiniplex, which given all the portals flying around seemed like a possibility, or drop-kicked into the jungle. She also brings out her 1000-count bottle of Ibuprofin. "To tide you over until you can get to your Percocet."

She glances back at Extra, adding, "Try putting on the seatbelts this time, bro."

Her plan is really just to bring Kinsey back to the garage and to give her some space for the time being, and then to bring Extra…well. Home to Hell's Kitchen is an awfully long drive. Maybe just back to Shadowcrest. There's no reason they can't sit and have a conversation there, since he was already situated there.

And then? Maybe, just maybe, this shit show will resolve itself into some sort of actionable next steps.

The God Damn Superhero sure hopes so.

—-

The robot listens, computes. It does not understand so many of these words. It's threat to punch through assholes was a sign of solidarity. Something the Greatest Most Valiant Leader With Greatest Sensibility Peter Quill would do. It has tried to learn from Peter, and Groot, and even Rocket, who reminds it of some kind of static destruction anomaly given life. But none of them remind Extra of itself.

Except for Kinsey, when she murmurs a lament on being important.

The robot stops them all just short of entering the car, one hand pressing over where a sternum might be, high on it's chest. Then, it reaches out to do the same to Kinsey.

"I understand."

The quiet tone and the slight dip of it's head betray something it simply cannot put into these simple words. Then, it releases her so it might return to the back seat, where it will investigate The Great Mechanical Challenge known as The Seatbelt.

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