Fair Selfies

August 18, 2017:

Jessica Jones reaches out to Caitlin Fairchild, the last name on her current call list. The conversation demonstrates why no private investigator worth her salt would ever complain about the selfie generation.

Wakanda

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Halfway around the world in Wakanda, an alarm clock buzzes at an ungodly hour, followed by a polite British mini-Jarvis voice which says, "Please don't smash me, Miss Jones, you asked me to wake you at this time."

Jessica Jones half sits up and squints at the projection on the wall. It's the world clock, which shows that it's a not-ungodly hour NYC local time. "Right. Dial Caitlin Fairchild." she tells the S-Phone. "Maybe we'll get her this time."

The truth is, Jessica has left a couple of messages by now, but she also knows the life of a Justice Leaguer is a busy one. She is a persistent soul though, and Caitlin is the last person on her current call list. And she is not rolling in so many leads that she can afford to miss even one, especially not a person who might actually have seen something useful. Thus, Caitlin's phone begins ringing with Jessica Jones' number.

"Gooooooooo for Caitlin," comes a cheery voice on the other end of the line. It's Sunday— Caitlin's at home, enjoy a rare day of rest, and indulging herself wholly in some cocooning by playing Xbox in her pajamas and eating a giant pile of fried Chinese food, sitting on the floor in front of her sofa and with a little mound of endorphin-driving snacks around her. And she's painting her toenails, or trying to, and making a mess of it. She jams her phone between shoulder and ear, squinting at the shellac as it dries unevenly.

The greeting is so cheerful that it produces a smile even on the face of one Jessica Jones. It's fleeting, but it's there. "Caitlin, this is Jessica Jones. I don't know if you remember me. I'm the private eye you helped with her car a few weeks back."

She sticks the earbud in her ear and sticks the phone in the pocket of her plaid boxer shorts. She rubs a hand over her face and finally switches on a lamp. She's going to need that to take notes. The hotel room is nice and ridiculously high tech, which means she can barely figure out how to work half its amenities, but…the coffee pot is simple enough. She gets that going. Now that she's up, she's up, and she might as well get to work.

Caitlin snorts, then laughs. "Jessica! Of course I do! How're you?" she inquires, reaching for the polish remover for the nth time to start wiping her stubby nails bare again. She makes a face. "Do you know any tricks for applying nail polish?" she asks, almost before Jessica can answer. "I'm on like my… tenth attempt and the clearcoat keeps streaking the polish," she complains, before digging for an eggroll. She rotates the phone out of the way so Jessica isn't treated to a cacophony of crunching as Caitlin chews.

Jessica chuffs a laugh. "Sure. My trick is…go to a professional and let them do that shit."

Not that Jessica does her nails or goes to professionals. She'll just screw them up punching someone, later. But she isn't calling to talk about nails, so she quickly moves on. "Listen, I have a question for you. I have a note here that you might have been at the Mizizi na Nyasi conference in Wakanda back in May. Is that right?"

She holds her breath. She almost doesn't even dare hope that the information is correct, let alone that Caitlin Fairchild might have seen or heard something which might represent a lead for the team that continues its summer-long two-front war to save Bucky's life. Matt Murdock has beaten one foe at his own game, but the other remains.

"Oh! Yeah, I totally was," Caitlin says cheerfully. "Wakanda's like, AMAZING," she gushes, instantly warming to the topic. Her nails are forgotten, and she leans her head against the sofa behind her neck.

"I mean it's beautiful— it's wild, but beautiful— you've got these crazy sort of ziggurauts everywhere," she explains. "And it's all metal, that's the crazy thing, they don't use hardly any concrete; I don't know how they fabricate that much steel, but y'know," she says, barely stopping to breathe, "it's just incredibly technology, and everyone— I mean everyone there is really haughty and strong, they're all GORGEOUS, you never see a fat Wakandan; it's crazy— but they're also SUPER withdrawn, I mean, I had to work hard to talk to people and I know I'm not the most sociable person sometimes, but, like—"

Jessica Jones, PI, pours coffee as she listens to Caitlin Fairchild gush about Wakanda. She's not feeling nearly so amazed by the place, but that's because she's not here as a tourist. She is instead beating her head against brick walls, and now she has a sinking feeling that Caitlin might not know anything.

But she presses on. "What about the conference itself? Did you happen to attend, on any of the days that anything was going on there?"

The coffee is now in the cup, and she takes a long sip of it, but keeps it quiet enough. She paces around a bit, keeping her voice low. She doesn't want to wake her friends in the adjoining hotel rooms, to be sure.

She also nearly chokes on that coffee with a laugh as Caitlin describes herself as 'not the most sociable person' sometimes. She'd hate to see Caitlin's version of a sociable one.

"W-well it was kind of a crazy few days," Caitlin admits, recollecting the adventure. Unlike apparently half of the people she knows, Caitlin doesn't have an eidetic memory; she's brilliant but that's a unique talent all its own.

"I remember seeing a lot of tech on display; then there was the fire, of course, but Wakanda Security handled that pretty well," she hazards. She pulls at her hair with both hands, worrying her lower lip as she struggles to recall.

"Oh! I did get a lot of video of the conferences though," she says, brightening as she realizes she might yet help Jessica. "Mostly just selfie videos of me talking to people about nerd stuff, but would -that- help at all?"

Jessica's intake of breath is so sharp, so swift, so hopeful that it's no doubt an answer in and of itself, but she answers anyway. "Hell yes it would," she says. That hope is there in her voice, too. There's no telling what might be in the background of one of Caitlin's videos, and they might even point to conference survivors that the investigation team hasn't talked to yet. "You would be my personal hero right now if you'd send it as soon as you can. moc.IsailA|senoJ.acisseJ#moc.IsailA|senoJ.acisseJ. Every last bit that you have would fucking rock, you have no idea."

But even so, Caitlin mentions a crazy few days, and she's not going to hang up the phone until she's asked every last question that she can. "You say it was a crazy few days. Do you mean cause you were doing a lot of travel and seeing a lot of new stuff, or do you mean something crazy happened other than the fire?"

Because even if Caitlin doesn't recall anything new or interesting about the fire itself, something crazy in the days leading up to the fire could also be a lead. Caitlin might not even know what she knows, but it's Jess' job to find out if there's some little nugget or tidbit buried in all this craziness.

There might not be.

But due diligence demands the asking of the question, and even now she's already walked away with more than she could have dared to hope for.

"Yeah, 'sno problem," Caitlin assures Jessica, delighted she'll be of aid. "I've got it all stored on my dropbox; I'll send you a link and you can pull them down whenever you need," she tells Jessica.

"Uh, let's see…. weirdness." She scratches her button nose. "I saw someone showing a theory on organic plasteel," she says, cheerily. "-That- was pretty weird. I think they were gonna use genetically engineer spiders? But I can't imagine that'll go wrong," she says, with vast sarcasm in her tone.

"Science conferences, man," Jessica says with a snort. "The Princeton one was bad enough, Jesus. But okay, what is plasteel? I've never heard of that. Is it like a combination of plastic and steel?"

Because truthfully, Jessica did want to know what was on exhibit. Granted, she's looking for exhibits that might have smuggled accelerants, but she still wants to know. "Do you remember who the scientist was, showing that? If it's probably just in your selfie videos that's fine." More people to talk to? Also useful. She is now writing furiously, coffee forgotten. In this case, the slightest scrap of information is pure, solid, glimmering gold as far as she's concerned, even if only some of that gold will ultimately be made into…well. A case.

"Uh, yeah it's — the theory is that you can take steel and form polymers out of it," Caitlin explains, wriggling her shoulders onto her sofa in a manner you only do when there's no one else watching how ridiculous you look. She sprawls out on the cushions, staring at the ceiling.

"Y'know, we've got copper polymers and stuff, and plasteel is the same theory. More flexible, but more durable. It has a lot of potential applications, but there's an issue with… the… carbon molecules losing ionization?" she says, scraping her memory. "I've got a paper on it somewhere, my boss had me looking into it. It's a cool concept though, once we—" 'us engineers' — "figure out how to do it cheaply, it'll basically be everywhere."

"But I've got all my notes and stuff, and the videos, I'll just shoot you all of it," Caitlin promises. She's a very progressive tech girl; get it all on digital first, then come back to tag and sort it later.

"Beautiful," Jessica says. "Absolutely beautiful. I owe you one for this, Caitlin. Big time. I'll take you out to grab a bite or something when I get back in the country." It's also really rare to have any kind of witness or information source willing to turn over this much this easily; Jessica isn't kidding. The science talk she more or less follows, mainly because Caitlin took the time to put it into layman's terms for her.

Meanwhile, she wracks her brains for anything else she can ask. But she's not finding anything, not that she won't probably already find by pouring through all of Caitlin's materials…which she intends to do, and do again, and do again the moment she gets off the phone. Instead she asks, "If I have any follow-up questions after going through all of this, is it okay if I shoot you a text?"

"Uh, duh," Caitlin tells Jessica. "I'm 23. I communicate entirely through text messages, eyerolls, and outrage at my government," she says with a breezy, self-effacing laugh. "Text me anytime you like, and let me know if you need me to clarify anything in the videos. I got on a roll with this chemist from Scotland and— well it's kind of hard to follow the jargon if you don't have a BS in chemistry," she says, contritely.

"Anything else y'need? Wait, why do you need this?" she says, as it occurs to her to even ask. "You didn't say."

"Wakanda believes one of my friends set that fire," Jessica says, her tone turning grim, and dark. Normally she'd get off the phone before releasing details, but Caitlin has earned herself the explanation. "I believe they're full of crap. So I'm here with a team working to clear his name. We're on a deadline because they plan on executing him soon, so. You might have just saved someone's life because you took amazing notes and selfie videos."

Thinking of it brings the reality that they might not pull it off front and center. She scrounges in her bag. She's out of cigarillos, but she has a few cartons of the cheaper Marlboro Reds that she used to carry around as street currency. It's impossible to replace any of either in a country that refuses to sell them, but she opens her window— after fumbling for the button, and perches in it. Four stories up would make this perilous for some, but not for her, in particular. She lights it and takes a deep drag. It helps to keep her calm, helps to keep her emotions at bay. Now is so not the time for those fucking useless pieces of shit.

"So if you think of anything, anything at all, even if it seems sort of irrelevant…even if you think I might already have it…I'd like to know about it. Don't worry about what time it is here either, call or text right away."

"O-h," Caitlin says, voice faltering at the size of the stakes suddenly at play. "Gosh. I'm sorry, I didn't even know," she tells Jessica, with humble apology in her voice. "Of course I'll help however I can, if he's a friend of yours he's gotta be a good guy." It's Caitlin's simple but undeniable logic at play again.

She sits up carefully, listening to the sofa creak, and makes a mental note about replacing it. Again. The poor thing just wasn't built for a woman who weighs as much as an Asgardian constantly flopping on it. "I don't know what else I can do to help from here, but if you think of something, lemme know?" she requests of Jessica, putting her knees together in front of her so she can prop her elbow on her thigh. "And if it occurs to me, I'll def shoot you an email."

Jessica Jones wishes everyone were that easy to convince. She even smiles faintly out into the night at the idea that her recommendation is an endorsement in anyone's eyes. But she's not about to refute it, not even a little. If they fail…

The damned lump rises in her throat.

If they fail, she wants as many people as possible to remember James Buchanan Barnes as a hero, and as a good man. Not as a god damned terrorist.

Her voice is a little rough as she says, "I absolutely will. Thanks, Caitlin. You come to me any time you need a favor, and I mean that. No questions asked."

But with that, she does hang up the phone. She's careful not to flick her cigarette outside…Wakandans probably rip a left breast off for minor littering or something. She swings her legs inside and crosses to drop it in the toilet instead, flushing it down. Then she pulls up her e-mail.

The moment, the very moment that DropBox link appears Caitlin gets a text thanking her profusely.

And then, nothing, because Jessica pours more coffee, settles down in a comfortable spot in her hotel room, and gets to work combing through every last bit of it. Even the inscrutable Scottish chemist bits.

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