AKA Fire That Guy

July 19, 2017:

Nathaniel Richards shows up at Alias Investigations to offer one Jessica Jones a new case.

Alias Investigations

No costumes required.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones is always surprised— pleasantly so, maybe, but surprised— when someone calls ahead.

90% of her clients just come through her perpetually unlocked front door whenever, a door that's perpetually unlocked precisely because so many of them seemed to favor the 'break in and wait politely' approach. Her entire home set-up these days revolves around the idea that this is her reality. As a result, people often catch her in 'home' mode, too.

Calling ahead allows her to transition into something more professional.

Today the window unit is blasting cold against the burning summer sun beating mercilessly down on the pavement outside. Jones herself is dressed in day clothes, and if she's clutching a cup of coffee like it's a lifeline while she waits for her potential client to arrive, she is nevertheless awake and alert. The cup says, 'Tears of my Enemies' on it. The couch has been converted from 'Jessica's bed' back to 'a couch,' though the folded quilt across the back and the pillow that just sort of sits in the corner of it certainly leaves ihnts that she's not the one using the bedroom in the back.

When Nathaniel arrives, she asks, "Want a cup of coffee?"

*

Nathaniel has been buried in Stark Tower’s basement pretty much every minute since the last meeting with Jessica, and although he can do quite a bit remotely while delving the innards of a pan-dimensional super-tech portal, he can’t be in two places at once (anymore). This business meeting has been somewhat delayed.

Now the ball is Tony Stark’s side of field, however. And he agreed making the gate operational again was low priority since the world needs saving with annoying frequency. So they went to build high-tech power armors instead. Because who doesn’t like power armor, uh? Nerds love power armor.

But Nathaniel also took no-fun-work morning to visit Jessica Jones’ office.

The (in)famous Jessica Jones office. He expected something more… Sherlock Holmes, maybe. Or a Batcave. Historical figures should have those. The young man doesn’t look disappointed, however, in moments like this he feels like an archeologist discovering the TRUTH, so all is cool.

“Miss Jones, thank you for receiving me,” he greets. “Coffee would be perfect, please. As we talked a few weeks ago, I come to formalize your position within the Maria Stark Foundation and the Avengers. And of course to give you some work.”

*

It's true. It's just an office. Rather nice on the inside for the scuzziness of the building, but other than the big map on the wall with pushpins in it (it also has a post-it note reading: Bullshit Nasty Magical Events)— the place is definitely normal and pretty low-rent. There are no violins or cigars, though the historical record says she did smoke at one point. Apparently not now, because there are no ashtrays, and the place doesn't smell like smoke. There's definitely not a multi-million dollar forensics lab tucked away in here. Jones does what she does without the benefit of such things. Or she goes to friends who have them. That's worked for her too.

She stands up to get him a cup. The first one she grabs says: "I don't take orders. I barely take suggestions."

She pours the coffee, then just brings over some cream and sugar packets that look like they've been salvaged from the inside of take-out bags. She sets these before him in case he wants them, then settles back on the business side of the desk.

"The Maria Stark Foundation?" she asks. "I hadn't heard of that one. Stark Industries, yes, Maria Stark Foundation, no."

Curiosity is the hallmark of her profession, and when she doesn't know the answer to something, she asks. As for his thanks, she gives a wry half a grin, one that says she's not entirely sure whether or not she should be thanking him. 10 months ago the idea of those sorts of words being uttered in her office would have been…beyond ludicrous.

And yet, here they are.

"As for work— that's a whole lot of 'yes please.' Though I should probably disclose I'm a witness in the Barnes trial, which means I've been a little careful about what I take on. Trial starts in a week though, so… that issue should be dealt with soon enough."

*

Nathaniel will use (and abuse) the sugar, indeed. He is making up for sixteen years of living in a 'perfect' future where no one was allowed to eat anything that wasn’t absolutely and wholesomely healthy.

Fortunately he has not picked up smoking. Yet.

Coffee and sugar, yes please.

“Ah, the Maria Stark Foundation is a non-profit and completely independent organization that among other things finances the Avengers.” And it is absolutely -not- independent, since Tony is the director and most of the top people are either Avengers or SHIELD or ex-workers of SI. Hell, it is named in honor of Tony’s mother. But the setup works, “so in the case Mr. Stark is killed tomorrow or his company is destroyed, Avenger finances and operations will continue without interference. Virtually all Avengers business actually go through the Foundation.” And that they buy 95% of their equipment from SI is just a coincidence. All legal, too.

No comments about Barnes trial. Another historical figure. He has no details about the trial in his archives, he checked. But he figures when Captain America is called as a witness his speech will make the jury weep and they will give Barnes a medal. Maybe. Barnes is supposed to survive for years past 2017, but Nate is living in an alternate past already (and it is his own fault).

So instead he unfolds a tablet and sets it up on Jessica’s desk. “There is a gang of super-criminals operating in New York. They have been called the 'Masters of Evil' by the press, but they are not Baron Zemo’s group. I believe they are led by an obscure character called simply the Hood. Have you heard of him?”

*

She listens closely to this explanation, quirking an eyebrow. It's almost certain her bullshit detector is picking up good hard whiffs of the legal runaround in there, but since she doesn't entirely care she leaves it completely unaddressed. Instead, she pulls out a yellow legal pad and prepares to take notes.

"The Masters of Evil?" Jessica asks, her face twisting up into an expression of sheer, disgusted incredulity. "Someone fire that reporter. But no, I haven't heard of the Hood yet. What's his story? Other than apparently being a meta."

She jots down details. Hood. Meta-Criminals. But those are the only relevant details she's heard so far.

Masters of Evil, her ass.

"For that matter, I've never heard of Baron Zemo either," she muses. "Does he actually call his crew that? Fire him too. He's secretly 10."

*

Interesting question. Maybe it was some kind of overzealous and imaginative reporter calling them -that-. “Not sure. It is not very important because despite having some members in common this gang does not seem to have ties with Hydra or international crime. At least I hope they do not. But it is all speculation based in too little information. What I have observed is criminals that were loners now working with each other. Vanishing from police cells when captured. Or rescued when in transit. Or suddenly finding expensive lawyers when they are pretty much destitute.”

The tablet comes alive and shows a blurry holographic image of a man of average height in a large red cloak and hood. Impossible to discern the facial features. “I managed this image a second before another criminal called Grey Gargoyle turned me and my armor into stone for a while.” An embarrassing incident all around. He got ambushed like a chump. “My armor has very efficient recording devices, so this character was shielded, means unknown. And he went invisible right away. Fortunately his offensive capabilities seem limited to conventional handguns and Spider-Man, who was also in the place of the confrontation, was able to avoid him and force him to flee.”

*

"Tell me about the crimes they prefer," Jessica Jones says, thoughtfully. "Are these sophisticated robber types mostly? They can't be serial murderers, because the public outcry against something like that would have been insane. Or are they more the racketeer, drug runner, trafficker types?" There certainly seem to be a great good many of those groups around, doing horrible things. She notes the other names on the case.

She is not a cop. She was never trained as one. But in a lot of ways she approaches these sorts of things like a cop would. And really, cops in general aren't equipped to deal with meta-criminals. She might be…though she'd be dumb to take on a whole gang of them by herself, especially when they can get the drop on one of the Avengers. Even so…she gathers the information carefully.

*

"I would not call them sophisticated," considers Nathaniel. "But they did launch a fairly ambitious and complex scheme involving a high tech weapon once. And I have no information on operations they might have performed successfully," he admits.

More holograms flicker over Jessica's desk. A veritable collection of super-powerful lowlifes. Grey Gargoyle, Ironclad, Nitro, Shocker, Melter, Blizzard, Boomerang and Black Talon. Most of them do not have a reputation for complex crime. Robbery, protection rackets, some can handle some subtle theft, but no criminal masterminds there. "Come to the Avenger Mansion and I will give you access to the pertinent mission logs," he offers.

*

"Man," Jessica says, as she studies this line-up. "I thought some of the hero set had some dumb costumes. These guys really take the cake."

And then Nathaniel just sort of casually drops the other thing.

Oh just come to Avenger Mansion, like she's someone! Jessica Jones has a moment where life seems truly surreal, then she nods. "I'll need them," she says, oh so very professionally, like yep, she's just invited up to the mansion where the real heroes do business every single day. No big! But she stands up, apparently seeing no time like the present.

She has yet another question though, and she asks it. "What's the end game here, Mr. Richards? Are you wanting me to pinpoint locations so the Avengers can go in and get them? Are you expecting me to tackle, beat the crap out of, and apprehend so you can ship these bozos off to the Raft? What's been the challenge so far in handling these guys?"

*

Nathaniel shakes his head. "If you can tackle them, that would be nice, but the problem is not fighting them. The problem is they seem to have a very solid support structure, they work in groups, and they constantly escape custody. I think we need to find the Hood and neutralize him. Find their hideouts. Dissemble their information network. Probably also apprehend and neutralize the person or technology they use to teleport, since I am quite sure many of those 'vanishing' criminals were just teleported out of their cells."

In other words, it is mostly detective work. He finishes his coffee and continues. "Right now all the Avengers and the police have is an incomplete roster and their investigation is going nowhere."

*

"Well, that's part of your problem. You've been working with cops. Cops suck."

Jessica decides to cover her sudden stand with another trip to the coffee pot. She frowns thoughtfully. "I'll have a look and see what I can do. This is probably going to be a long project, Mr. Richards. Anything like this, where you're digging into whole networks like that, takes time, especially as they tend to keep moving. Once I look at the files I'll have a better idea of what I can do to get started and make some progress. I probably would like to look at them before I say yes at all, just to make sure I can do anything. I don't want you guys to pay me only for us to find out I'm going to be just as stymied as everyone else. I at least want to feel like I can give it a shot in a way that will actually make things happen for you guys."

She has some pretty high standards about taking jobs and not taking them. She likes getting paid, but not at someone else's expense, not like that.

*

Cops suck? Nathaniel gives Jessica a questioning look. New York police department doesn't have the bad reputation of Gotham's. Or the relatively good of Metropolis'. 'Suck' seems a bit too much, though. "The police might be stalled through extraordinary means," he admits. Another thing they should investigate, but that wouldn't be Jessica's task.

"As long as it takes," he states. "Many of them are not particularly subtle people. But the ones backing them are certainly elusive. And those are the main problem. These thugs can be overpowered, the Avengers can do that. It is keeping them jailed until the trial is over and they are in a super-max prison what seems impossible."

*
Jessica Jones seems disinclined to share why she has such dim view of NYPD…or PDs in general. His unasked question remains wholly unanswered.

"Yeah, ultimately going after the backers seems like a smarter strategy," she admits thoughtfully. This is another very complex case, it seems, but…she feels up to the challenge. "Alright. I’m pretty much free to go have a look at your files right now, if you like."

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