AKA Truth Juice

September 09, 2017:

Members of one of Wakanda's more politically motivated street gangs decide to round up Michael Carter and Jessica Jones, determined to learn the truth about why they're really there. Michael and Jess end up having a drugged up heart-to-heart before the gang decides their story truly is exactly as it says on the tin.

Birnin Zana

Home of the only store in Wakanda to sell any Rocky Road.

Characters

NPCs: Members of an unnamed Wakandan street gang.

Mentions: Peggy Carter, Sizani, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Of all the pain in the ass things they've done since coming to Wakanda, walking to the grocery store for a few things is the most benign. Perhaps because it's completely benign that the group chose that moment to jump them.

If it hadn't been for the possibly supercharged Wakandan weapon at the base of his skull, and if it hadn't been for Jessica's presence, Michael would have fought back. There were a few token efforts to resist, but then more and more of them started emerging from the shadows.

Outnumbered. Outgunned. Out shopping.

What follows after a ride in a vehicle over increasingly rough terrain is a blur of pat-downs, threats in a language his implant can't parse, and general chaos. At one point, their captors seem to realize they genuinely can't understand and aren't just playing dumb. They switch to poor English, though they might be faking how little English they actually know. Then, they're put into a small cell with a narrow window through which jungle foliage can be seen. The air feels fresh and damp.

They only get a few moments together before Michael is hauled out and shoved into an interrogation chair. No matter the threats, no matter the questions, the spy stays tight-lipped and stony-faced. They attempt to inject him with something and the needle snaps. Michael smiles a bit cockily, despite his situation. Sometimes he can't resist the Bond leanings. But, they're smart men, because they figure out right away that he must be some sort of metahuman. They have a needle for that.

Although it takes a few tries for them to find the right dosage, Michael eventually starts to talk. It's a testament to his highly compartmentalized spy mind that he only answers questions directly related to their current mission. Even a highly advanced Wakandan drug can't break down the barriers to reveal the truly classified material he's amassed over decades. Fortunately for him, they also have no idea who they have under their control. If they did, they'd risk an even higher dose.

As it is, the stuff seems to be working. They ask why he's there, what he knows, who he's working for. Some answers are vague, but he does tell the truth. They don't believe Barnes is guilty, that it's a setup by someone on the inside. That they don't know who. That they're not here to take down the Wakandan government or get embroiled in the current tension between isolationist forces and the King. It's all about clearing Barnes' name.

The lead interrogator, a man with decoration indicating high station and very intelligent eyes, is not happy with that answer. They throw him back into the cell to let the drugs work through his system. Then it's Jessica's turn.

A cell?

At first Jessica Jones almost snarfs a laugh. Until she goes to try to pull those bars apart.

Oh shit. Vibranium really is just about as awesome as she's read. She should have known, from trying to beat the crap out of Sizani, whose suit had held up to her abuse pretty well. But Sizani had chosen dexterity over the protection of full armor, and Jess hadn't gotten the full impact.

She has a few concerns, in addition to the obvious ones. Armored blazer, taken, taser gloves, taken— she hadn't activated them even while trying to punch their way out of there, because she's not sure of the strength of the shock and really had them on for Elektra, not natives, and they were originally designed to combat members of The Agency. Most worrisome, her phone, with all her case notes, all her contact information, all her banking info and all her worldly possessions, a downside of the STUFF app if there ever was one.

Jessica almost starts a fight when they drag her to the chair, but a gun held right to her forehead quells her as it has several times during this shitty day. They don't need special needles for her, a plain old needle will do just fine, sinking into her shoulder while she bares her teeth at these people. And all they really need to keep her on the chair is to keep guns aimed at her face. There are too many of them for her to think she can just go bugfuck crazy at them and hope to walk out alive.

Her answers are about the same as Michael's, just more colorfully phrased: "No, I do not give a flying fuck about stealing Wakandan technology. I like my good old fucking New York City shitty tech just fucking fine. I just want my god damn friend back. He's fucking innocent. No, I did not bring any drugs into this country. Do I look like a fucking drug dealer? That's what you see when you look at me? Elle fucking jefe?" Her head dips from side to side in an expression of drugged annoyance, and then she tries to take over the whole thing.

"Listen. While I've got you here. Any of you know anything about how those drugs got into the country? Got a name? They still flowing in, the drugs? I could totally stop that shit if you'd stop putting guns in my face. You're patriots, right? I'll go rip their shit up. Michael too. We're built for that, just rippin' shit up. Seriously? None of you? Anything? Look I got a whole host of questions…"

Eventually someone gets tired of her, hits her in the face, splits her lip.

"So no, then?"

And then she's flung back in with Michael.

"Ok well, call me if you think of anything," she slurs. Truth serum can't make her less of a detective or less of a smart-ass.

Truth serum, it seems, reveals more than simple facts. For Jessica, they revealed she is, at her core, a detective and smartass, and that Michael really does have a touch of arrogance despite how he tries to hide it. He's also a businesslike spy. His answers lacked colour, but they also lacked elaboration. And he still managed to disassemble on the whole 'who sent you here?' question. He came to help Jessica. Which is true, but he doesn't go anywhere without the blessing of the British government.

He's sitting in the corner of the cell when Jessica arrives. He's checking himself for marks, but his mesh provided ample protection. He rolls his sleeve down when she gets tossed back in. "A fine mess this is, isn't it, Jones." And then he adds, wryly, "I'd say we need to give up on that ice cream we bought."

"Figures. Only damned store in all of Wakanda with Rocky Road, too." She chuffs a laugh, a distinct quality of gallows humor to it. Ice cream— not in the phone. She'd definitely wanted some. Stress eating habits…definitely creeping up, in lieu of other vices. She's out of cigarettes, for one thing, and they don't sell them in Wakanda. Still staying off the booze. Rocky Road. Next logical choice.

Devoid of that blazer she's sleeveless, in just a tank top, and she of course has a nice big needle mark. The supercharged guns had bugged her even more than the gun guns, though she saw a mix of both. She leans her head back and sighs, closing her eyes for just a moment. Then she frowns. She looks over at Michael.

"I thought you came to help Peggy," she admits quietly. "But you said you came to help me. Thank you. I know this trip has been shit on toast for you. As evidenced by…"

She waves her hand all around the cell.

"I'm fairly certain Peggy would have preferred I did not come," Michael frowns. He really didn't mean for that to come out as blunt as that. And he can't seem to stop himself from adding more. "At least this way she can't completely avoid me." Ugh. A lot of things are compartmentalized neatly, but apparently not present, complicated emotions.

Jessica says the first thing that comes out of her mouth. "I think you're wrong. I think deep down she's happy for the excuse not to avoid you. I think she doesn't want to relent first, to look weak. I mean I don't know what you guys talked about when you finally talked. But the hostile glares stopped right after the plane, and she hasn't called you a headstrong dingus since we left New York City."

She winces. "Sorry."

She drapes her elbows over her knees. Tact takes work for her, and truth serum does not help with tact. It really just makes her natural tendency to be super blunt and somewhat offensive way worse. She's not even trying to be offensive, but that's what happened, and out it comes.

Michael Carter scratches the injection site. It's already less inflamed than Jessica's, but only because the mesh in his skin has self-healed. "Perhaps we shouldn't be speaking at all. I can resist whatever they injected us with to a point, but I'm rather past that point." He eyes the window and sighs. He's avoiding opening his mouth to mention Peggy, because Talking About Emotions is not a thing he likes to do. "I don't think they liked our answers."

"Whatever. We told them the truth. Unless they have some fucking evidence for me they can go fuck a cactus cause I don't have any fucking shit to hide. I ought to call in my backup." They didn't touch her panther tooth necklace. It can do that. It's just whether she wants to call in the favor and create more political unrest. It's whether Sizani would come. Besides…

She's looking at the cell too, and a thought is slowly swimming through her mind. She doesn't have a plan yet, but she feels like she can do this without that.

"Look, man," she says. "If I got my brother back from the dead? I'd be overjoyed. Fucking overjoyed. I miss him so bad it's not even funny. But if I like, found out he didn't die in that accident at all, that he'd been running around playing James Bond for decades? I'd be hurt and angry. And like, no offense, but you both do this British thing. Where it's like the Queen is going to come and bloody scold you if you have half a feeling. Maybe you should sit her down and get real with her, like super real with her. If you're sorry, be fucking sorry. If you just wanna be brother and sister again, tell her that. You drew close for like 3 minutes when we picked her up from prison, cause you allowed yourself to be visibly worried about her for all 180 of those seconds. I fucked that up for you, worrying about Jane, but I mean like, it mattered to her."

There's a lot of talking happening, which has Michael worried. She's not terse in general, but this is more than usual. Trying not to talk on this serum like like trying to hold in a particularly ticklish cough. The only way to get rid of the tickle is to talk a bit.

"You don't understand. That's just what we do. Both of us would be uncomfortable if we just…blurted out our feelings." He motions with a hand, then lifts that hand to knot through his hair. "We do the 'British thing' because we're bloody Brits."

He tries to focus on his uplink. It was interrupted awhile back, but his GPS is still functional. If he can concentrate, he might be able to pinpoint where they are.

"Sometimes you just gotta be uncomfortable. If it's important, being uncomfortable is worth it," Jessica says, flinging her arms up in exaggerated, passionate fashion.

Then, quite ruefully: "I'm trying really hard to come up with a fantastic example of an important conversation I had that made me uncomfortable. Usually I deflect shit with humor or a lot of swear words and try to act like I also do not give a shit when I give all the shits, all the time, though, and I mean a lot of those uncomfortable conversations have happened in code and sometimes they definitely embarrass the people on the other side of them but I'm still glad I had them. Actually I can think of one and it legitimately sucked and has legitimately made nothing fucking better so ignore me, my advice sucks, nobody smart comes to me for advice."

She runs her fingers along the rough concrete wall while he tries to get a fix on where they're at. "If you'd known anything about me you would have noped the fuck out of coming to me for advice on day one."

"I'm interested in other perspectives, which is not the same as taking your advice. And you do have a very unique perspective." That's…not far off what Michael would actually say without the truth juice, but it would have been couched in some dry turn of phrase.

He moves and goes to stand, but weaves a bit. The amount he was injected with has a few side effects that Jessica is likely not experiencing. "Perhaps we should only talk about how we're going to get out of here. The truth of that should be easier to handle. So far I haven't come up with anything that involves us getting out of here alive without causing an international incident and completely destroying any chance of the mission's success. Though I struggle to understand why so many people are so willing to risk everything for Barnes. And cause me to risk everything for the people risking everything."

He…definitely did not mean to say that last part.

"Bars may be vibranium, but the stuff holding them is concrete. I can punch through concrete," Jessica replies. "And then we have badass vibrainum bar weapons. Which we should drop as soon as we're done using them if we're gonna, since the last thing we want is to be accused of stealing vibranium. Ironic, isn't it? That's like five bazillion dollars of the stuff poured in some cell in the jungle cause here it's like oh sure, we make cool breathable vibranium underwear. Meanwhile, some asshole in some other country would murder for that shit. But I have no idea on the impact to international politics or whatever."

But he asks an important question, and Jess sighs. "Don't know about the others. Just know about me, Michael. Main reason: he's my friend, and that's really reason enough. But he's decent. He's kind. He protects people, especially those he cares about. He cares, like genuinely cares, about other people. And people did him a shit turn that he didn't deserve. And if I didn't know him? That would also be reason enough. And if I didn't know all that, but just knew that really he was just like me? Well, that would be reason enough, cause I want mind control to be a god damn pass. If anything that happened was his fault, then everything that happened to me is also my fault, and I don't want it to be my fault. I want to be absolved. I want to absolve him. I want to absolve me."

It's hard to tell with Jessica. She's definitely rambling, stream of consciousness style. And there's stuff she might not have delved into. But on some level she just tells it like it is if asked directly anyway. Truth serum is wasted on Jones. Being able to come up with a reasonable pretext for the greater good doesn't make her any less of a direct, straightforward soul.

Whereas Michael is a man of half-truths, truth rationed and poured between many cups. Lying all the time is exhausting and hard to keep track of, but withholding and half-truths? Well, that's easier, and can even become a habit.

"I don't want to be absolved of my sins. I want to be guilty of them. Because that stays my hand and makes me consider consequences, because whatever I do, I have to live with it. It is a cost." He draws in a sharp breath. That was not enough of a cough to remove the tickle. "I am a means to an end. I take on sin so that others can live in peace. Absolution can be dangerous."

He's sweating a little, standing now and pacing. He's starting to look agitated and like he might be experiencing heart palpitations. He makes a fist and swings it at the wall beneath the vibranium bars. "Absolution can lead to justification. I grant you, mind control is rather a different animal. But what about partial control? Would you absolve someone if they had some say in it?" He swings his fist again. Rock crumbles with no visible signs of lacerations on his fist. It only takes a few swings to note that the bloody rebar that runs through the stones is laced with vibranium. He guessed that, but punching things feels good right now.

Crap. Fucking rebar.

Jessica stands up and goes and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Sit down, Michael. You're about to make yourself sick. That would be real embarrassing for a super soldier."

But she heard him. "What's partial control?" she asks. She's a little woozy too, but she's not experiencing heart palpitations for fuck's sake. Not that she's expert enough to identify that just by looking, but she knows 'don't look good' when she sees it. And under the influence or not, well, there's questions to be asked here. There's stuff that needs to be understood. And so she's just going to try to understand it before she tries to answer it. Still a smart-ass, and still a detective.

"Partial control is choosing to drink and doing something stupid while you're drunk," says Michael as he shakes and flexes his fist, as he leans against the exposed bit of wall. "Like that." He resists volunteering more, and it's stressful on his system to do so. He closes his eyes and starts to do what are clearly breathing exercises. Get your shit together, Carter. You are a senior (senior) field agent. This is not your toughest situation by a long shot.

It may not be. But then, emotions are tough. And he hasn't been dealing with his. At all. This situation with his sister? Tough.

Jessica smiles sadly, too, cause she knows a little about drinking and drunk.

"Most people who choose to drink don't do so because they are trying to do their duty by God, Queen, and Country. You went down this path to punch bad guys. That was one of the first things you told me. I think maybe motives also matter. And this: if someone takes advantage of you while you're drunk? Well. Someone did you wrong, and anything that happened as a result of someone taking advantage is their fucking fault, not yours."

She sighs ruefully. Metaphors are breaking down. Here's some honesty: "Man. If it wouldn't kill Bucky I would crawl into a bottle right about now. I'd fucking shrink myself down. I'd fucking swim in it."

It's a small blessing that Michael has a hard time focusing on Jessica's words because of his heart hammering in his ears. His breathing is measured and he repeats the exercises, but it doesn't seem to be doing much good. The ocular implant shows his heart rate as dangerously high for a resting state. "I still chose it. I chose all of it. I said yes to the injection. I said yes to stasis, to my…" he stops himself because it comes close to the 'classified' mental blocks.

"…country. I have and have always had free will. I knew the risks, as they could reasonably be foreseen. I knew…" he sucks in a sharp breath that is not part of his breathing exercises. "I knew the costs. Your absolution of Barnes means you might absolve me. And I do not want that. I take…" another sharp breath, "…responsibility. We are alike in many ways, but he didn't have free will. I did. That makes me worse."

"Jesus, you need to lie down."

There's a lot to unpack in there, and rest assured Jessica hears it all. And she'll think about it all. He doesn't want absolution. He wants responsibility. There's a conversation— no doubt an uncomfortable one— to be had around that. And she'll tackle it, because she likes him, and he seems like he needs a friend who isn't his sister. But right now?

She gently tries to coax him into doing just that, bearing some additional pressure down on his shoulder. And then, alarmed, raising her voice as his breathing grows still more labored: "Hey! Whoa, hey guys! Wakandan…guys! He's seriously having a reaction to those drugs in here, he needs some medical attention. Guys! You got a counter shot? Please?"

Part of the reaction to the drug is certainly the dosage and the interaction with his already-altered physiology. The other part is, Michael is resisting. It's hard to tell, especially with the things he's never said aloud suddenly captured by a Wakandan recording device. But the fact that he's blurting out his own conflicted feelings rather than the fact that British Intelligence has deep cover agents in Wakanda or something is a testament to his self-control and his loyalty. The serum is drawing from a personal well rather than his vast trove of state secrets.

And it hurts, it hurts like a bitch. He swings his fist one last time at the wall before Jessica starts to push him down. He drops the rest of the way with little resistance. He opens his eyes to look at her. "You can't…" and then, text flows across his ocular implant, superimposed over her cheekbone.

INTERROGATION FAILSAFE ACTIVATED.

He starts to go limp, but his heart rate starts to slow as he does. Bit by bit, slowly, he slips into unconsciousness. The chip is designed to knock him out if he's close to saying too much. Hard to say if that was the case here, or if it activated because his vitals were dangerously high. Either way, she has a passed out agent on her hands, albeit with a much more normal heartbeat.

"Shit!" She catches him on his way down, eases him to the floor, takes his pulse.

She has no real idea how to check a pulse. It's one of those things she's read about but has never done. But she can feel the rapid butterflies of his heart rate under her fingers slowing down to something a bit more steady. She checks her own for comparison, frowning. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

"Nevermind," she calls, lest they think it's some lame ploy. "He's good."

Despite all this, she's getting a bit desperate to get him out of there, trying to figure out if she can pull the rebar out of the concrete anyway, if there's some play there (without really figuring out what she's going to do about all the guns), when the leader of whatever gang this is finally comes to the cell and unlocks it, shaking his head.

"You foreigners are bug fuck crazy," he says.

Jessica looks up at him and gives a sardonic half smile. And keeps her mouth shut. Just in case this is a good sign.

"We've heard enough. You're free to go." Maybe they scanned her necklace and realized that she seriously does have some actual ties to Wakanda. Maybe the rambling of a pair of individuals in a cell was enough to convince them they were telling the truth. Maybe they were kind of remorseful about that Rocky Road. Maybe a little from Column A, a little from Column B.

Probably nothing from Column C.

Either way, Jessica suddenly finds herself juggling all the stuff they took off the both of them. Weapons, armor, her phone, thank God. She quickly gets it all situated. She eyes him like she fears they're going to get shot, but being let go is the only option that probably doesn't…cause international incidents. Or tank Bucky's chances. So what she says is, "Thanks man. Seriously, if you do think of something… I am trying to help."

She leaves it at that though. Sometimes enemies can become friends. And then she legit scoops her arms under Michael's legs and neck so she can princess-carry him out of there. She blinks in surprise…heavier than most adult men, heavier than he looks.

"Man, Carter," she grumbles as she strolls out of there, only to find she can see the road back into town with ease. She walks it with him till they're back in the city proper. Then, she leaps up to the first roof she finds. That way she can leap roof to roof all the way back to the hotel, without making a spectacle of the tiny woman carrying the spy.

"Lay off the damned rashers, would you?"

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