Deluxe Briefing

September 15, 2017:

Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine and Azalea Kingston seek out one Jessica Jones in Wakanda. They get an update on the case so far and develop a starting point for their own efforts in the attempts to free Bucky Barnes once and for all.

Birnan S'Yan


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Just about everyone involved in Wakanda right now.

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


Jessica Jones has fallen asleep atop a SHORO crime scene data reconstruction console. Waiting for her searches, reconstructions, and analysis of various evidence to finish. In her sleep she mutters, "How'd they get the drugs into the country though?"

"Hydra," Bucky tells her, in her dream. He's in her window. They're back at Alias. He's stress-smoking. She can't blame him. But it's cold in here. Like a January cold, all out of season.

"Right but…but HOW did they get the Mandrax into the country? That's who got the drugs into the country, and only if I'm right about that," Dream-Jess grumbles, pacing, one hand pressed to her lower abdomen. In reality the wound is more or less healed, but in the dream she's bleeding freely. It seems perfectly natural to let the blood pour out of her fingers, to stain her hardwood floors, even as she tries to work.

SQUELCH. Jane looks up from Jessica's coffee table, where she's dissecting a disgusting severed head, eyes an eerie shade of blue. "Wakandans don't like things coming into their country."

"Right, which is why we need to know how," Jessica says. Someone knocks on the door. It's Luke Cage, glowering at her. She slams the door back in his face. "No time for you," she snaps.

Trish, sitting on her desk with a book in hand, little glasses pushed down her nose. Hair in a bun.

"Jesus, Trish, why are you dressed like a god damn librarian?"

Trish reads out of her book. "Most of the illegal trade from Wakanda comes primarily from…"

The phone rings, interrupting. Jessica makes an irritated noise and answers. It's Pepper Potts: "Ms. Jones, can you get me some fabric?"

The dream pops like a bubble.

"Textiles," hisses one Jessica Jones, as she sits bolt upright. She checks her phone. The local time is 3:33 AM. Back in New York, it is 6:33 PM local time. She can't possibly wake anyone up to go and do this. They would not thank her for it. So she races out of the little SHORO room, muttering, "Heavy duty textile thread in the bomb. Textiles were already moving out of the country via the underground trade. If someone can move something out, they can move something in."

A few questions to the members of Wakandan Security Services on duty, who she has painstakingly cultivated some kind of a working relationship with over these long days, asking them to cross-reference textile plants with possible ties to a group known as The Lost Boys.


Chui Textiles Plant, Birnan S'Yan.

Jessica Jones has leap-climbed to the very top of a communications tower just outside the plant, and uses a pair of binoculars to watch the goings-on there. She can see trucks on the move in there, even this late at night. People are moving around down there. It's not a great view, but it's one she won't get caught at. It's a broad platform, with plenty of space, though no barriers to make the heights better. She's sitting with her legs dangling over what is essentially a 200 foot drop, about twice as high as what she can just leap-jump, though if she's worried about a fall it doesn't show. It certainly means nobody will hear any conversation that might erupt up here, though it also means teleporting straight to one Jessica Jones might be briefly…nauseating? Exciting? Fun for the whole family?


Teleportation was one of the more 'major' tricks she has learned to master early, if not just because her father would often leave for parts unknown without her, and it would take too long to take a plane to whatever destination he had in mind; even when much younger, she loathed being left behind - a fact that Giovanni exploited for his own ends, if not just to ensure that his only child would be motivated enough to absorb her lessons quickly. Now, she can do this in her sleep, so long as she has a few visual aids to anchor her magic to where it belongs.

What she didn't expect, once everything had been settled in Tamoachan, was Azalea's request for a side-trip to Somalia, in order to dig up a set of bones from a mysterious cave. It is a journey in which John Constantine had no shortage of questions; knowing his history as well as she does, she can't blame him. There has been plenty of trouble over the years of people who haphazardly disturb the repose of the dead, and nobody knows this better than John. But thankfully, they manage to retrieve these without incident, and after a few minutes of labor, they're able to pack up what they need and be on their way to Wakanda.

She has been to the SHORO room before, the last time she had seen Jessica, so she has no need to look up Google images - not that she would find much on Wakanda, an isolationist nation that would put others of its ilk to shame. After a quick blur of colors, she, Azalea and John have arrived in the surprisingly high-tech chamber which contains most of the resources the private investigator has been exploiting, though the thought of it has apprehension curdling in the deeper recesses of her stomach - as always, whenever she is waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn't happen often, but when it does…

Their surroundings are reminiscent of all three floors of research and development in Stark Tower; the air humms with the near-silent strains of active processors and equipment, with holo-displays stretching across the ether. She is almost positive that Jessica would be around whenever they arrived; the fact that this area is empty and devoid of Jessica Jones' presence has Zatanna's eyebrows lifting upwards.

Has she decided to take the rare break?

"I could almost bet my soul that she'd be here," she tells the rest, pulling out her phone and wrinkling her nose before she taps the roaming button and fires off a quick message:

where are u?

Thankfully, no accidental tomato emojis today.


John's dressed like — well, John. There's some attendant risk involved in being The Man in the Trenchcoat in a place like Wakanda, but better to be infamous than inconsequential, he suspects.

He's long since acclimated to the sensations involved in traveling with Zatanna this way, but the longer the journey, the more disorienting it is, and the Brooklyn-to-Somalia-and-Wakanda Express line is more disorienting than most. The moment they appear, he's already squinting, hand lifted to pinch at the bridge of his nose as the first delicate blades of a headache blossom in the space just above and between his eyes. "Christ. I hope Wakanda's got distilleries as advanced as the rest of its bloody civilization."

He lifts his hand away and turns his head, twists at the waist to shoot Zatanna a mild look of incredulity. "That's tempting fate, luv. Rather you didn't. One person to rescue's quite enough, thanks." A beat, a flick of pale blue eyes through the high-tech interior, and a faint frown upon failing to find the person they're expecting to find. "…I hope it's still one," he adds, in a brittle murmur.


None of them have had much time to process the change that has taken place inside of Azalea, and though she looks like the girl they have always known, there are apparent differences already. It is in the way she moves, previously predatory, now strictly confident. In her gaze, a thing that once burned through layers of social obfuscation, now simply brimmed with a steely resolve. Thanks to her companions, everything that was strong about her but ultimately wrong about her had been dialed back to a capable middle. But there was something else. Something held back, something powerful.

It could be that she should not be here, that so much of what Azalea Kingston is now is a mystery, even to herself, that it is dangerous for her to come. Unfortunately, Fate had shown her an echo of danger emanating from this place, and the call of her now singular soul demanded action.

This God would not be deterred.

Besides, she has a couple of pretty great chaperones. When the light clears from her eyes, Azalea takes stock of her surroundings with a careful turn of her head, absorbing each detail until it's clear that Jessica is not here. It is the view beyond that captivates her in the moments that follow, stepping forward with the very large duffel bag still slung over one shoulder, it's contents shifting with the clang of bones and twisted metal.

Here she stands and stares, taking in the city through a projected image, but feeling the presence of Wakanda's spirit all around them. A breath catches against her lips, and one hand curls against her old army jacket, pulling it closer like a shield against that ethereal pressure.

"I remember this place."

Her fingers brush the hologram and it ripples, a slow blink aiding in her retreat from the image, to turn her attention to the texting Zatanna and the frowning Constantine.


Down the road, Jessica's phone buzzes, and she fishes it out of the pocket of her jeans with one hand, the other wrapped around her binoculars still. She pulls the earbud into her ear and murmurs, "Morgan, read my text."

And, in Morgan Freeman's voice, he does. Right into her ear. "The text is from one Zatanna Zatara who says, and I quote, where are lowercase u." He says it in all the dramatic tones one might expect when Morgan Freeman's voice is reading one's texts.

Really, she's not mature enough to handle a phone with a high-grade virtual assistant. She's really not. This is the proof. Right here.

Reluctantly she lowers the binoculars to swiftly text back though.

'Cell tower above Chui Textiles Plant. Well I don't know, maybe it's an UberCellTechTower. Whatever. Surveillance. Come quietly if you're coming.'

She also texts over a map. Seems prudent.

And then: 'Will meet you on ground.' Because she suddenly realizes where she's sitting, and imagines all the mishaps that could take place with all the…magical bamphing. Her anxiety ramps up (not that it's exactly simmering at low levels these days), and…yeah. She puts her phone away, and hops down, dangling a bit from the platform before her legs wrap around the scaffolding of the tower. She drops, then reaches out to catch herself in a maneuver that would rip anyone else's arms out of their sockets, then does it again and again, three times in all until she's finally close enough to the ground for a soft landing as she defines such things…which means at around the 70 foot mark, she just falls like a stone. The landing isn't good, she stumbles a bit, and mutters, "Shit."

She looks like a woman who slept on a keyboard. The faint outline of the keyboardface? Still on said face.

At least she does not require a rescue.


There's a grin towards John before Zatanna turns her eyes back to her screen. "Oh, come on, after what we just pulled off, I'm feeling pretty good," she tells him, ever-so-willing to be a font of good cheer and optimism no matter what their circumstances are. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Reading Jessica's response and looking at the map that has been forwarded to her, she furrows her brows. "Well, she's not here, and she's on top of a cellphone tower stalking Chui Textiles Plant. What the hell is she doing staking a cloth factory?" Was she running out of clothes out here? There's a lift of her eyes toward John and Azalea, giving the two of them a slight shrug. Fingers reaching for her obsidian obelisk, she traces a rectangle in the air and opens up a door leading to the outside world - the bottom of the aforementioned celltower, to be precise, a single patch of flat ground surrounded by verdant traces of Wakanda's city environs; a strange mix of futuristic urban and prehistoric rural. The moment she steps outside - in careful consideration of the disorientation her two other passengers must feel after bouncing around the globe as they have been just a few moments ago - ice-blue eyes drink in the richness of the city's colors, from the open sky and in the decorative tapestries she finds fluttering from a distance, amidst golden spires; her lungs fill with clean air, with a hint of ozone. She has never been to this part of Africa before, much less a country hidden by the whims of its rulers and now…

"…wow…" she murmurs, stopping to let the visuals sink in, before a thump heralds Jessica's presence somewhere behind her.

Turning, she flashes the private investigator a grin, lifting a hand in a wave. "What are you doing out here?" she wonders, unable to contain her curiosity. "And look who I brought." She gestures to John…and Azalea, subtle and not-so-subtle changes and all.


I remember this place, Azalea says, and John glances at her sidelong. He's been hands-off since the moment they restored Xiuhnel's heart to the space where those disparate souls met, but attentive in the way that he often is: silently and from somewhere behind and to one side. Keeping an eye on her, in essence, without crossing the line into anything anyone could call properly solicitous. "Recall anything that seems prudent to share with the class?"

He'd sigh, long-suffering and put-upon, when Zatanna tempts fate the way that she does, but her grin saps him of the will, and her good mood drains him of the desire. After a week of friction — his fault, really; a consequence of his inability to undergo the kinds of purification rites for Azalea that were necessary without turning into an absolute prick — it's good just to see her smile at him again.

They each of them have their own thoughts about the place itself. Zatanna's are predictably rapt; she's always been a sponge for the exotic, given to relishing far-flung places and the mysteries of the unknown, most especially those to do with people. Vibrant places, and the like. He isn't sure what Azalea must remember through the conduit of Xiuhnel, but feels confident those memories are something else altogether. And himself?

Standing there on the far side of the magical door drawn in null space, he stares at the gleaming skyline in the distance and feels the tug of something nostalgic, the wistfulness of a man who belongs in the city…

And also the cynical disillusionment one might expect. Imagine how nasty things have got to be under the surface, to have to pretty up the things you can see so bloody much.

"Oi. We fixed your uppity Aztec problem," he says, turning to face Jessica upon the thump and the greeting from Zee. He lets that understatement stand some moments before amending, "Well. 'tanna did, mostly." Pause. Grudging: "Stark helped."


"Just fire and blood."

Not so long ago she might have said those words with half-realized reverence. Now she sounds like she's saying a silent prayer, and there is not pride in Xiuhnel's actions. Once again a portal is open before them, and she'll file through when it's her turn. Before her change it would have been far worse on her. Worse than it was on John, because Xiuhnel did not like to be so disoriented, and would tear at Azalea in such a circumstance if he could. Now she strode across impossible boundaries as if she were meant for it, her skin lighting up as it beams in magical energy just as she crosses the threshold, and then she is set upon by the stars above, and the smell of fresh air.

When John speaks up, the part of her that is the quick to comment young woman leaps to the forefront, but her quip is stolen from her mouth by the sight of Jessica landing. Her bag leaves her shoulder and she eases it to the ground, weaving past John and Zee, careful to only graze them as she slips between them both to look at Jessica.

She practically runs at her

Arms coil, lift, and the hug is a crushing thing. A long time ago, she lost her mother when her father all but disowned her, and as much as she did everything in her power to ruin her chance at having anyone in her life to fill that hole, Jessica Jones stepped up.

Zatanna Zatara burned a Goddess from existence, and re-ignited a star. John outsmarted a Goddess, and shoved her heart back in her chest. Tony Stark stood between them all and an alien tide. But none of that would have mattered if not for constant reminder of her humanity that her friends have given her, and Jessica had been key to it all. This time what is left of her passenger is crushed under a new aspect of humanity, and words nearly fail her.

This time, it feels good.

"I thought John was going to cry for me. You should have seen it. He's a great surgeon."


They're all three a sight for eyes that are literally sore, and Jessica's lined, exhausted face breaks out into a grin, even as she rapidly and self-consciously shoves her necklace into her shirt; the ambivalence she feels about it having been ramped up quite a bit by Zatanna's questioning on their last meeting.

"Hey you gu—," she says, her tone soft and warm, but it's cut off with an oof as Azalea Kingston runs to her. She opens her arms just in time, and she wraps the girl in a crushing hug in return. John Constantine is irreverant as always, grumpy about Tony, and an answering smile tugs at her features, softening brown eyes which rest in dark circles, making them shine and dance with a moment of unbridled good humor. She buries her face in the girl's hair, and for all that Az must be someone new, what she sees is just Azalea Kingston for now, out of her cage and well and whole. Unbidden, tears slide down her face, brimming out of those same eyes, but they're the good kind, and and something like hope is allowed to ignite in there somewhere.

Good outcomes are possible. She has questions, so many questions, but it seems neither the time or place. "John Constantine and Zatanna Zatara," she says, her voice rough with emotion and admiration, though she still takes pains to keep it down. "The power couple who takes the apparent impossible and has that shit for breakfast."

Is there a joke there about John and his habit of eating weird things? Naw, probably not…intentionally.

"Kicking ass and taking names. God damn, but it's good to see you all." Sure, she'd seen Zatanna for a minute some— when was it? She doesn't even know anymore— but…this is just different. As for Tony, she'll thank him later; though she suspects the present she got him is going to feel silly in comparison to all the shit she continues to need to thank him for. He'll probably just say what an asshole he is and eat a piece of toast or something and refuse to be thanked while trying to see if there is any vibranium anywhere in the art piece she picked up for him.


She gives the two other women a wide berth, a booted step taking her by the side of John as she watches Azalea and Jessica grip one another tight. Not at all immune to such displays of emotion, warmth blossoms somewhere within her chest, filling her with alternating waves of it and relief at having assisted in not just fixing a dire problem, but saving a life - the most important aspect of what they've done, as far as she was concerned anyway. They can worry about the rest later; the implications of Azalea's changes, the thing they placed inside of her chest, pulsing strangely - a heart that isn't a heart. For now, she can bask in a certain sense of accomplishment, at the miracle she, John and Tony have wrought.

In all of her life, she has never helped revive an entire world before.

It only revvs her up, stoking the fires within the unrelenting engine that throbs within her ribs; if they can do that, she can only scarcely imagine what else they can do. For all that she spent her first years of her magical education being lectured about her limits and boundaries, now she is starting to question whether there are any. With enough creativity, with enough determination, maybe…

Suddenly, that entire tension-filled week in the Brooklyn flat is worth it, seeing Jessica lift her head and fix them with a tearful, grateful stare.

"Well, I mean…it wasn't easy," she tells her. "It was highly dangerous and extremely experimental and….well. John hasn't had a drop to drink, he even quit meat for it, so you can imagine his suffering when we started it. But I guess it's the usual with this type of work, yeah? Paying the price, some kind of sacrifice and all of that. I'm just glad it wasn't as bad as it could have been."

Jessica's joy has her smiling and lifting her shoulders in a slight shrug. "Anyway, I'll let Az tell you all about it." A good excuse for the two women to catch up in their own time. Her pale gaze wanders away to fix on textiles plant, a distance away from them. "So what's the deal with the factory?" she wonders.


The ghostly array of fingertips at the small of Zatanna's back are compelled there by the surge of feeling in her — one she cannot help but share with the man on the other end of that little silver thread. Xiuhnel and Itzpapalotl could well be a cautionary tale for anyone burdened and blessed with the same kind of connection, but here in the immediate aftermath, even John isn't immune to the buoyant rise of shining things in the young woman beside him. His eyes lid, slanted toward her profile, down.

They roll theatrically as they rise afterward, and the warm phantom of his hand is gone, both of his arms folded across his chest. "Sounds to me like you're going to need to re-learn how to lie now that the great murderous bastard's not exclusively at the wheel anymore, Kingston. Nobody's going to believe tripe like that."

He grimaces while some partial list of his personal sacrifices is made. "Speaking of breakfast," is the mutter that follows, "Steak and eggs, right. Definitely." Presumably this is a game-plan comment to Zee.

…Who is focused on the business at hand, and probably rightfully so, what with how they're all standing around outside of a piece of private property. He side-eyes the installation while waiting for Jessica to fill them in.


When Azalea lets her go it's to reach up and cup the side of Jessica's neck with her hand, focused on the beat of her heart, an old greeting among those closest with one another. It is not a lasting touch, and soon enough she's looking back to John and Zee with something far more profound than appreciation. She had told them they would be her Sun and Moon. Jessica is part of her pantheon as well, and being reunited with her family centers that pulsing energy that coexists with her heart.

Her gaze locks with John's and she forms a slow smile at his sass, practically beaming under it like it were a kind of compliment. She looks to Zee then, takes in her enthusiasm, and then takes another step back, to regard the textile plant. "Yeah, what's going on? Is Bucky being held in there? Are they…" The concern on her face is almost comical, because her question is quite serious. "Are they dressing him in bright colors?"

Look some things work for you if you're Captain America. Some things work for you if you're Iron Man. Bucky in pastels would be a crime against humanity. "Or is this something else? Just what the fuck has been going on in this country?"

Well, at least she still sounds like Az. Some things never change.


Azalea gives her that greeting, and Jess hesitates. Well, what the hell. She does the thing right back, and smirks.

Then they're all asking 'What the Hell, Jessica Jones.'

The detective opens her mouth to launch into an in medias res explanation, and realizes she will have them all very lost in short order. She looks back at the facility with her mouth in a grim, tight line. Well, it will wait. John is hungry, it's pushing 4:00 AM, and Rizza, early riser that she is, will be up.

"Let's take a walk," she suggests. The facility will be here when they are done. "The B&B I work from when I'm in this city is a short walk up the street, and the nice old lady who runs it will feed you— I don't know about steak, John, but eggs for sure, and she does serve meat. I'm just going to walk all three of you through everything we know about this case now, in chronological order, and then my reasons for being here this morning will make more sense."

Joyous as the reunion is, as the banter is, as all of it is, there is, as ever, the Deadline. The Case. And all emotions, even the good ones, are just shoved aside. She is as professional as can be suddenly, not an emotionless robot, but clearly more compartmentalized and focused than they've ever seen out of her. Indeed, her only concession to unprofessionalism is an aside of, "John, you got a cigarette I can bum, man? I hope you brought lots, cause they don't sell them in this country."

She waits for their assent, though, before turning to the road, or before launching in.


Fingertips drape lightly on the slight concave at the base of her spine, and Zatanna's response is immediate. As if the last week had not happened, her posture adopts the slightest lean into the wall he provides, hands in the pockets of her jacket as she watches Jess and Azalea have a tearful reunion, cut short as it is by the task at hand. Mention of steak and eggs has her tilting her face slightly on the side, to graze her lips against the high arch of his cheek. "Steak and eggs," she affirms. "Liquor, too."

As always, Jessica misses nothing. Her pale irises lift when she invites them to the bed and breakfast she has been staying in for the duration of her stay within the exotic boundaries Wakanda provides, and the idea of some rest after everything bolsters her already high spirits all the further. It doesn't take much to make her happy; a job well done, a place she has never been to before, some degree of relaxation and taking in the sights while she's brought up to speed in the next crisis. The on-the-go lifestyle that she has adopted as of late is something that she is gradually getting accustomed to again after so many hours spent catching up with schoolwork. Once again she can't help but wonder just how Tim does it.

She makes a note to call him later, though she already anticipates the questions. She had told him about an impending field trip to London, she has not told him about Tamoachan and Africa. A part of her can't help but feel somewhat guilty, silently ruminating over the idea that her best friend might start to feel somewhat left out.

A thought that persists despite knowing that he's probably immersed in Titans business.

"I'm down for a walk," she says, slipping one hand away from her jacket, fingers looping around the inside of one of John's elbows. "I've never been to Wakanda." Then again, most people on the planet have not. "I'm curious to see what's around here. But later, I'm kinda hungry too." Subtly adding the pressure there; she knows Jessica hasn't been eating.

Though when Azalea mentions the lack of cigarettes, there's a blink. "What, really?" she wonders out loud. "Of all the items…"

She'll start to move, once everyone's ready to do so. A chronological list of details sounds good to her and she's ready to listen.

And eat.

Oh god, she hopes there's fish or seafood. She needs something a little more substantial than a bowl of lettuce.


John's more than happy to dig into his pocket and retrieve the pack of cloves he carries, and he's about to toss it to Jones when she informs him that these are the only ones he may have access to for the duration of his time there.

Moments like this are a reminder of just what a selfish bastard John can be: he visibly hesitates, narrows his eyes on her. Debating whether or not he really wants to part with one, considering.

In the end he does the right thing, grudgingly — a choice by which the vast majority of his adult life could be defined, really. He tosses her the pack, but he leaves her to sort out how to light it herself. He has the silver lighter that Zee gave him, but a) it's incredibly dangerous, actually, and b) it hasn't left his possession since it was given to him, and he's not about to start the trend.

Beyond that he has little to say. He's been promised food — and alcohol, thank you, 'tanna — and so he's perfectly willing to follow along, witch on one arm, his other hand slid into his pocket.


It does occur to Azalea what is happening in front of her when John hesitates like that, brows lifting, eyes shifting between John and Zee as an epic struggle happens right in front of her. When John tosses the pack she can't help but smirk, and then she moves back to her duffel bag and pulls it back to her shoulder.

"Food sounds great. Have you seen the King since you've been here? I almost expected you to be in his custody by now. They do not like meddlers in this place."

Something she has first hand experience with, unfortunately. She'll set off into a walk with the rest of them, bearing the weight on her shoulder as if it were not there at all.


Jessica takes one, because that's the kind of selfish person she can be. She withdraws a plain old Bic lighter in cheerful red and inhales deeply, sucking on her first cigarette hit in days and days. Not that she's addicted to cigarettes or anything. She totally quit a year ago. Totally. Quit.

Oh hey, cloves are nice. She'll have to get some.

She passes them back, smoking and walking at the same time. Wonders if Rizza will serve booze, then decides Rizza will serve anything she's got that the goofy foreigners can pay for. For once the booze is no particular temptation to her; it's just not on her radar, not useful to The Case.

Azalea asks about the King, and she shakes her head. "T'Challa gave us all permission to be here," she says. "And he hasn't granted me an audience since New York."

She doesn't even hitch or think to look weirded out this time. Slowly, surely, this strange world where she has been granted audiences by Kings and can dial up business magnates and ask for favors is starting to align itself into some sort of normal for her, even if it is a pragmatic sort of a normal that is important to her mainly because it helps her do things that need doing.

With that, she launches straight in. "So I gotta take you back before the conference itself to start. Wakanda's undergoing some serious political shifts right now. There's a lot of factions, and I can't say that I understand them all. The King wants to unify the contry and wants contact with the outside world. Thus the new embassy in New York City. Thus Mizizi. Thus us, when you get right down to it. But there's an isolationist faction too. People who want everything to stay the same. Those political realities underpin everything that's going on here, so…keep them in mind."

It's a broad view that goes from political struggles to a textiles factory in the dead of night, but…that is the nature of this case.


The moment Jessica launches on the political landscape of the country, Zatanna is apprehensive immediately. It shows on her face, expressive as it is, glancing at John sidelong; politics has often been more his arena of interest than her own. But the fact that the private investigator chooses to begin her discussion about Bucky's plight with this has her frowning visibly already. Not because she hates it, not because it's necessarily something she doesn't understand….

"Well when the United States put out that case against Bucky, it was just as political as it was legal," Zatanna offers. "Don't tell me there are some factions actually pushing for Bucky's case to end here? It's not like…you know, this is the one thing all factions are in agreement of, so His Catty Majesty has to at least put up the guise that he's humoring them, is it?"

She knows it's probably not that simple - nothing about the last several weeks was. But she is trying her level best to keep up with those more experienced than her in these matters.


It's true that John is no stranger to politics. What little media he consumes tends to orient around them — the movements of governments, the rights of The People — because he's never really outgrown the foundations of what was once a thoroughly anarchist existence, in amongst the wild, free-range punks of London town. Eventually he'd wind his way into more than a few hallowed halls of power, albeit to clean up after some royal or other who messed the carpet.

Doesn't mean he likes them, though. Politics.

He holds his tongue, keeps his focus forward, and listens. The birds are asking questions he wants the answers to, so for the time being he says nothing.


As Jessica lays out the current state of affairs, the underlying current they must navigate, it draws her back to a past that is not her own. And yet, it is. It was. One of her most painful pasts. The weight of the bones on her back is more than physical now, dragging at her like a spiritual anchor, but so to does it give her the perspective she needs. It has been so long since she has been able to think clearly that when epiphany strikes it is almost painful, earning a brief pause in her step.

"He's caught in the middle then. If they think Bucky has done them wrong, those aligned against T'Challa will use his case as proof for their cause. So he must persecute him, but in doing so, it has given the King a chance to prove his own cause. If we, outsiders, can prove his innocence and uncover the true enemy of Wakanda then we will show the people here that the world is not their enemy."

Still, this perspective and insight is not the brilliant key to unlock everything. Her initial plan, to offer her apology, to stand before T'Challa and tell him she would like her friend back will not work. She sounds crestfallen.

"What do you know so far?"


Jessica shakes her head. "I honestly don't know what the factions want vis a vis James." She blows out more smoke, tumps out a few stingy ashes. "I know the Mizizi conference was an opportunity for those factions, but…we're not there yet." She could e-mail them the murder board too, and will, but…this lets them ask questions, and spot holes. It is her one and only chance to walk a new group of investigators through the case totally fresh, let new eyes see it, and she's not going to waste it. For one thing, Zatanna's question about what the factions are hoping for, and what political game T'Challa might be playing, are already insightful ones, things Jessica had given no thought to at all. And there's Azalea with a credible explanation for the whole gambit, one that makes T'Challa's actions make a hell of a lot more sense. She nods to conceed the point.

She takes another inhale of the cloves, and says, "The next thing you gotta understand is the underworld structure here. They have gangs, but most of them aren't like our gangs. Most of them are politically motivated. If they commit crimes, it's for political motivations. But that's not true of all of them. One such gang is called The Lost Boys. Shortly before the conference, the Lost Boys obtained a new source of drugs. Mandrax, or Qualuudes, take your pick on what you call them. The supply in this country quadruples overnight, and the Lost Boys rush to sell and cash in. They sell so many drugs that the populace starts taking a hit—in this country that doesn't cell cigarettes, mind you! My guess is the drugs came from Hydra, that this was their first bid to gain a foothold here, but that's only a working theory I'm trying to confirm right now."

She jerks a thumb backwards. "That was a factory with ties to the Lost Boys. I was asking myself how the drugs were making it into the country. Most of the crime is actually outgoing. Everyone thinks the big criminal cash-in is vibranium, but it's so high risk nobody really wants to touch it. No, the big criminal cash-in is textiles. Mostly animal pelts. And it's nothing to hide poached pelts in with bolts of dressmaker's fabric, ship 'em over the border. A pelt that's ho-hum here goes for $15 mil outside this country just cause it's Wakandan. Meanwhile, they use pelts to pay for drugs and sell them in-country for a huge ass profit. That's my theory about that, anyway. And yes, this is all relevant to James' case."

She had been confused by the underworld connection, at first, too.

"So. Conference isn't even planned yet. Lost Boys are making a god damn mint, and the political gangs who see themselves as a cut above the criminals start getting pissed. They all start talking to each other, and this culminates in an event known as The Battle of Two Names. It's a multi-city street battle between the Lost Boys and a politically motivated gang known as the Red Soil Boys. You're going to hear that name again, so remember it. Red Soil Boys get their asses handed to them and practically disburse. Meanwhile, Lost Boys are presumably continuing to sell drugs."

She glances back at them to see if they're still with her. The explanation has taken them into a residential neighborhood, not a touristy one, but Jessica walks like she knows where she's going.


One such gang is called the Lost Boys.

"Hopefully they're just gangsters and not…you know. Vampires." Which they very well could be, knowing how her life rolls, but Zatanna falls silent once more and continues to listen once that aside is voiced. Word on the drug trade, though, has her brows furrowing. "I thought Wakanda is still really isolationist?" she wonders. "I mean, I know the King wants to make changes and make the country more accessible, but from what you're telling me, that's not happening yet because these gazillion factions can't agree on anything. So how are these drugs getting in? Makes sense to me they'll do it that way though - I mean, dependence is the name of the game for any addictive substance, right? So…the more people they get hooked, the more people they can persuade to let them in? All HYDRA really needs is a foot in the door before they could really make a mess of things, from what I remember of past history."

Her tone is dry; for all of her endless capacity to forgive, she has not forgotten that it is the same organization that has strapped Jane to a chair and made her see colors that weren't there, the same outfit that had stolen seventy years of James Barnes' life….and how their agents stole her soul and used it to power their very own utopia machine and in the process broke the hearts of those who cared about her.

The fact that the fringes of her life remain under the shadow HYDRA casts lances a shot of frustration and no small degree of anger within her, a silver bullet tearing through the astral link she shares with John, a sudden change to her earlier good mood and one that nobody around her at present could miss. Her ice-blue eyes darken and her jaw hardens on the tender hinge where it meets her neck.

But what Jessica says about the pelts has her turning her attention back to the private investigator. After all, they say it plenty in crime movies - the tried and true method is to always follow the money, and she has. Her knowledge about the ins and outs of crime is something she normally defers to Tim to, having been a protege of the (allegedly) World's Greatest Detective. The fact that it actually worked here is, to her, somewhat incredible.

"But how does it— "

Yes, this is all relevant to James' case.

"Okay. How?"

Their surroundings change from the city's urban heart to its more suburban areas, and it doesn't escape her notice. Zatanna watches the comings and goings of regular, day-to-day citizens with interest, her stare following a couple dressed to the nines, moving along the wide avenue leading towards the heart of the city; a group of children dressed in what she assumes are school uniforms, though it's difficult to tell given their brightly colored clothes and caps and the only reason she makes that deduction is the presence of their bookbags; a mother pushing a baby stroller with a large black dog following their wake attentively. For all of their environs' exoticism, some things still remain the same - a fact that generates some sense of ease, being a stranger in a strange land. Something she can relate to, as always sensitive to the commonalities that enable her to establish emotional connections with other people.


Aside from a glance at Azalea and a short nod to suggest he's of a mind with her assessment, the only time John responds to anything at all in the ongoing conversation is when Jones says the word Hydra.

The look on his face is almost beyond description. He looks at Jessica as though she had personally insulted him; kicked, perhaps, his puppy, or claimed that she'd decided to give up investigating things and instead take up — oh, dung-eating, or something. It's the look of a man who's just realized he's stepped in a big, steaming pile of excrement in a brand new pair of just-polished shoes.

He still holds his tongue. His personal exasperation with Hydra's seemingly endless involvement in the world's ills notwithstanding, he's keeping his thoughts about the rest of what's said to himself, as is often the case. They're nowhere near finished with this briefing, by the sound of it.

The crook of elbow Zatanna is holding onto tightens against her resting fingers, a wordless response to that white pulse of smoldering anger.


As surroundings change, Azalea becomes distracted by the slice of life unfolding before her, at the first people she's really seen since coming back from another world. There is comfort in civilization, in watching the everyday lives of others turn as they discuss the entire country around them, and the fate of a friend hangs in the balance. It would be easy to become overwhelmed in Jessica's information, to lose herself to complexities that she cannot know yet. Her memories of this place come from a King who ruled a very different land. Her knowledge might help her understand the King's bandit. Perhaps. But not these subtle points, not the turning of a living country.

Frustration mounts, but it is nothing like the dark turmoil John and Zee revisit. She can almost feel it, glancing back at them to let her eyes roam over every bit of their soured moods. She remains silent now, focusing on the details, and on a statue in the distance, of a great Ebon Panther carved from volcanic rock.

No, not volcanic. Glass formed from the place where vibranium first struck this land in meteor form, a kind of obsidian unique to this place alone. Though she struggles with the notion to approach, she stays the course with her friends, staring wide eyed at the reflective darkness until it is gone from their sight.


"I'm getting to that," Jessica says, when Zatanna asks how it all relates. "Remember, I'm relating all this to you in chronological order, so it's going to seem confusing until we start linking these Legos together. It's a complex case, it's been a god damn beast, and the reason it's been a god damn beast is because shit that looks like it shouldn't be related at all very much is. And 'how are the drugs getting in,' like I said, was what I was trying to answer at the textile plant." But she's also aware they're getting so much at once that the details are getting lost. She just doesn't know any better way to do it. The case didn't make a lick of sense till she put these events on a timeline.

John's reaction to 'Hydra' is something she can agree with, but. Hydra's involved. No getting around that. She merely gives him the old fashioned 'sorry to be the bearer of bad news' shrug. He is absolutely right that they are nowhere near the end. They haven't even reached the firebombing itself yet.

Her cigarette is finished, so, regretfully, she puts out the butt and stows it in her pocket.

It's right about now that Jess stops them at a very nice house and opens the door, ushering them in. "Rizza," she calls. "It's me, Jessica. I've got four for breakfast this morning."

An old woman comes out and peers at them. "You didn't stay the night last night, Jessica Jones," she scolds. "You were up at that fancy hotel in Zana."

"I was working, but I'll pay for last night's fare," Jessica soothes. "Can we get these hungry people fed though? John here wants booze for breakfast, and meat, and eggs for sure. Zee, John, Az, this is Rizza. Rizza, Zee, John, Az."

Rizza ushers them to…well, it's just her dining room table. This isn't a bed and breakfast. This is a house that Rizza is renting rooms out of. But close enough. They're being treated like family.

Knowing they're hungry and tired, Jessica lets breakfast get out to them before she says too much more. She's hungry and tired too, come to think of it. In short order they're presented with coffee, chai, with coconut donuts known as mahamri, fried arrowroot, fried sweet potatoes, eggs, bacon, beans, and a sorgham porridge called 'uji.' Breakfast cocktails for those who want them. The food may not be entirely familiar, but there are plenty of vegetarian options for Zee, and it's good as only grandmothers can make it.

"So. Now we've got the expansionist forces planning the Mizizi na Nyasi conference," Jessica says, launching into her narrative once she's got a cup of coffee and a few bites of mahamri in her. She also waits until Rizza retreats to the kitchen, and keeps her voice low. "Just be aware that's happening as I briefly take us outside of Wakanda's borders. Welcome to Armenia, where an asshole known as Dot Hacker Says Love sets himself up with a terminal. This terminal starts monitoring all the external communications pertaining to the conference. Transmits broad spedctrum across the entire country. My theory is that Hacker Says Love is also almost definitely Hydra, and he used this terminal to gain information about a Wakandan Intelligence Services operation known as the Staff of Orisha, which is all about the WIS' response to Mizizi."

The narrative returns to Wakanda just that fast, it seems.


"Nice to meet you!" Genuinely meant, the raven-haired witch smiles at the establishment's proprietor just before she's ushered towards the dining room. It isn't long until food is laid out on the table, which the young woman attacks with gusto. In the midst of running around, training with the Titans, this is the longest stretch of time in which she has not fretted about her weight every single day. If nothing else, if there is one advantage of being part of a superhero group, it's the fact that Red Robin is an unforgiving taskmaster. She is, quite literally, in the best shape of her life at the moment.

Once Rizza has left, she lowers her voice: "Did you tell her you were going to be in Zana?" Zatanna wonders at Jessica when they're ushered in. If not, the owner of the bed and breakfast is very well informed.

Her plate has a bowl of uji, a side of fruit, a coconut donut (because she has to try them), some of the fried arrowroot because she's never had them before, and beans on top of her porridge. All protein and carbohydrates; normally she would care, but she is starving and at the present moment, she needs something filling. She gets some coffee as well; chances are she is going to need it once Jessica gets to the meat of her case.

A spoonful of porridge and beans finds her mouth, and it is delicious. While she has been cooking lately in Chas' absence, it is rare that she manages to sample other people's homecooking herself, and it takes everything in her not to wolf everything down and grab seconds.

And then the story takes a detour to Armenia; about the last thing she expects. So for the entire time since arriving, the witch says nothing. She just stares at Jessica, spoon half-lifted.


John shares one of his most charming smiles with Rizza. It's a thing he does, and to Zatanna, at least, it won't be anything new; he always piles it on with older women — meaning much older, of course. Women on the far side, and no longer part, of cougar territory.

He makes short work of the food and the drinks when they arrive. All of them, and then some. He's got a week of clean living to ruin, after all.

For the first time, John lifts a hand at a point in Jessica's story, palm outward, in a stalling gesture. The other is actively engaged in palming a napkin over his mouth, but when he lowers it again: "I know you said it was the name of the operation, but what's a Staff of Orisha? Who, or what, is Orisha?"


For Rizza, Azalea has nothing but the soft smile of someone who has not accepted hospitality like this in some time. Her bag is set beside her, taking up a large bit of space, but she's loathe to let it out of her sight for now. She takes a little food for herself, but as time goes on they will be hard pressed to find her taking a bite of everything. Maybe open heart surgery steals the appetite. Maybe this particular God doesn't need to eat. But she watches them all devour their food intently, as if drawing on such a simple thing to anchor her in place.

Eventually she takes a sip or two of coffee, her gaze dropping to her plate. "The Yoruba use them. Bird staffs. I don't remember what for."

It isn't all clear, and she can't remember everything from that other life. But she can see the staff in her mind, tiny birds in a ring. Still it might be enough to research. Even she catches on to the oddity of saying something that is, for once, useful.

Finally she reaches over to steal a stray morsel of Zatanna's donut. She doesn't want a whole one. She doesn't want one at all, save for a taste.

She is a whole different sort of menace now.


Zee and Azalea clearly activate Rizza's mothering instincts. Extra plates appear on the table in short order. In addition, Rizza all but bats her eyelashes at one John Constantine, gives him an up and down look, and murmurs something appreciative in Swahili before returning to the kitchen.

Once she's gone again: "No," Jessica says to Zee with a snort, about Zana. "I just have bounced between S'Yan, Zana, and Azzaria more times than I can count. Don't stay in Azzaria though, it has not been a good spot for me. Nearly got stabbed to death in that town, then nearly got my face blown off. Fun fact: it's supposed to be a sleepy little scholar's burg. But the whole police state thing eases up there a bit, and that's where a lot of shit has gone down. There's one other town I haven't been to yet. She just assumes I'm in Zana every night I'm not here, and gives me shit for it."

Everyone is so much more paranoid about the surveillance state than Jessica is. Jessica just has no fucks to give. The truth is the truth. She intends to shout it from the rooftops. What can they do? Try to kill them all a little harder? People on this team have already been stabbed, beaten, thrown into cells, menaced, stabbed with truth serum and what have you. Their enemies can legitimately go fuck themselves as far as the detective is concerned.

But then that's always kind of her default stance.

"Ehn. Orisha means god, but it's just a fancy name for a counterintel plan," Jessica says to John. "I don't know about the Yoruba, Az, though maybe the bird metaphor meant something to Kagiso. We thought it was some mystic weapon at first, but there are religious overtones to every damned thing here. WIS was worried people would use the conference to steal tech, so they launched a three pronged operation under the direction of their Head of Intel, Kagiso. Operation 1: Borderpost. Borderpost puts metas on site at Mizizi to counter any metas that might show up to cause problems. Operation 2: Spearfish. This blocked scanning techniques at the conference, but left some shit open so people could stick their hand in the cookie jar and get it bitten right off if they were fool enough to do it. Operation 3: Amandla, a widespread security search in the south meant to root out spies and infiltrators. Kagiso also orders himself control boxes for a weapon known as a 'light panther.' These are like…laser hologram things that look like panthers and can chase you around and fuck up your day, cut into concrete? I've never seen one. And now you're thinking, 'why the fuck is Jessica taking the time to talk to us about counterintel in Wakanda', and just— two reasons: one, my theory of the crime still involves an inside job, the idea that this could have been a false flag attack to push the isolationist agenda— and two, because it just…it comes up again."


She really should be taking notes, but she knows that there are some already waiting - Jessica probably has files uploaded in their shared network, for easy reference.

The part about the inside job had been what she has been getting at from her suppositions earlier regarding the drug trade, though she doesn't anticipate the theory including personages from an outfit possibly much higher in the Wakandan food chain than its average citizens. So Zatanna remains silent while she eats, saving the coconut donut for last - only to find a chunk of it missing. There's a look tossed at Az's way, but it's laden with a hint of amusement as she picks up the rest and takes a bite.


The Yoruba use them. Bird staffs. John blinks, slants a look at Azalea that's thoughtful, but his surprise isn't to do with the explanation — it's more about who it's coming from. "Yeah. Yoruba, and a handful of other cultures they've exported some of the pantheon to." He flicks a glance between she and Jessica, and then dips his hand into his pocket to retrieve a smartphone, and begin fiddling with it. "They're not gods, exactly, more spirits like the Loa, but it doesn't matter. I didn't think Wakanda would be on board with outsider spiritualism. It's good. …It's maybe good. Possibly good."

After that he falls silent, thumbing at his phone, glancing up once when Jessica describes laser panthers that run around and dismantle concrete. Brow cocked, expression skeptical and also a little bit pained, as though he found all of that in poor taste, somehow.

He's quiet after that until Jessica takes another moment to collect her thoughts. "'Amandla' is apparently a Zulu and Xhosa word meaning 'power.' Used in the days of resistance to Apartheid, not at all ominous." He drops the phone into his pocket. "So look, Jones, before you carry on, tell me this: do the locals subscribe to Yoruba religion? Other mentions of orisas scattered about while you're researching? This is a minor point for you, probably, but…" His eyes lid, and he rubs at the crop of stubble on his chin. "Not insignificant, I think."


Damn. Why didn't Jessica herself think to look up the word Amandla? Probably because she assumed what things were named didn't matter in this instance. She looks chagrinned, but…tips her finger. Point to John for that one.

"Ahhh…I don't know," she admits. "I pretty much thought it was all panthers all the time. I've never even heard of the Yoruba religion. I…"

Well, that says right now how John's going to be able to impact this in a positive way, doesn't it? "I have given zero point zero percent of my attention to the religion thing," she admits, instantly kicking herself. The crestfallen look twists at her face. Unforgivable, in a country where religion underpins everything.

Moronic, Jones, absolutely moronic. How much faster would this be solved if you'd thought about god damn Wakandan -church-?

"Haven't found any other mention of orishas either— that I've noticed."


John's contributions to the discussion earns him a smile from Zatanna, a brief reflection of the admiration she usually feels whenever he points out something everyone else has overlooked - such as in this instance. There's a glance towards the private investigator at that, the look on her face prompting a shake of her head. "It's alright, Jess, that's why we're here, right? Besides, that kind of thing touches on John's stomping grounds. Both of you are investigators, just for different genres of matters, is all."

Her? She's still learning. Notwithstanding her creativity in applying magical concepts to a problem, the battlefield is where she excels.


It's cheap glory for John to revel in, really, given it's essentially his life's focus. While Jessica Jones kicks herself for not being an occult expert on top of her legion of other focuses, John is busy chastising himself for not making the obvious assumption. For assuming that the Staff would be something uniquely Wakandan; that Orisha must be a person, because all he knows about the country is that it's wholly isolationist.

"Yeah, sorry. I'm going to be completely useless when it comes to laser bloody panthers." Another grimace. Tacky, says the look.

"Any rate, we'll go digging on that later. We're due some sort of meeting with a shaman in the know, I expect." He lifts his hand as an invitation for her to continue — presumably this stands in for an apology for interrupting her, though good luck getting one out of him — and then he reaches with that same hand for his coffee.


"Yeah, yeah it is," Jessica says, rubbing her face a little to reset herself even as she conceeds the point about why they're there. Having a team has been invaluable. Beyond invaluable. Now it's even more invaluable. She just…holds herself responsible for anything she overlooks. Especially right now. It's a knee-jerk response, but then she hadn't thought about religion in general, for years and years, as a rule, until that one weird moment in Ozone Park where she saw what seemed like a glimpse of some greater plan, Fate or something or Someone at work. Even with various gods and goddesses waltzing into her life since then. Even with one transformed one at the table, stealin' donuts.

But it is overlooked no longer, so she just puts a pin in it. Off that emotion goes to the dumpster, where it will be set on fire later. Every emotion is later, later, later right now. Back to the case. Always, always back to the case. A few minutes more, and it's like she'd never reacted at all, never had that moment of the intense self-doubt she is so often plagued by.

She doesn't even think she needs an apology. It was invaluable. Interruptions are good. New angles are sure as fuck good. Shamans are good. She gives a thumbs up to that around a mouthful of beans.

John waves her on, and she gets right back on it.

"Here's where dots begin to connect. Dot Hacker picks up chatter about Amandla on his network. A message goes out. Maybe from him, maybe from someone he's in touch with. Either way, someone from outside the country— Hydra— offers to pay someone inside the country— Personage Unknown— for unrestricted access to the conference. I can only assume Personage Unknown said 'sure.' Either way, Hydra has their in. They are able to slip people into the conference with a bunch of science nerds. Those assholes may have taken the time to infect Wakandans with their control nanites while they were here."

She pauses to shake her head. In a way, this story began way back at Ozone Park, didn't it? But she won't confuse the issue by ruminating on that out loud. Instead she says: "Cause if Hydra's gonna stay in Wakanda, they need Wakandans. But it's just as possible they just forged an alliance between themselves, a dirtbag traitor in WIS and the Red Soil Boy isolationist-patriots. Who, by the by, show up with a bunch of their isolationist-patriot friends to protest at the conference. At least one of the Red Soil Boys, a kid named Zithembe, AKA Dandy Jam the Cut, has become a real person of interest in this investigation. Daredevil's to trying to surveil him right now, and I'm trying to get his Momma to talk to me— but of course we're not there on our timeline yet. We're back in May. So. Here we are. Mizizi is underway, Jane and Bucky show up just looking to have some fucking fun for a change. Two days pass uneventfully save for these protests. And that brings us to Day 3, and that's when shit starts getting real."

And since she's about to get into the bombing itself, she takes another quick pause, just in case one is needed.


"What about SHIELD?" Zatanna wonders. "You have a team working with you before we came in, right? Considering the agency's been keeping tabs on Bucky, possibly forever, did they reach out or anything to you? Maybe they can help ferret out this Unknown Person who's trying to throw the gates wide open on HYDRA." That part of the case treads well into intelligence territory, and her experience with that is minimal at best, remembering the day they stole the chair from a HYDRA base in Siberia.

Save for that question, however, she falls quiet again to give Jessica room to discuss Day Three.


Having interjected about the thing of greatest immediate and professional interest to himself, John doesn't seem to need any more room for questions. He's quiet. And chewing. Another donut, actually, just in case Azalea's appetite picks up.


Jessica Jones gives a wry smile. "Sure. SHIELD's had their hand in it. Peggy Carter's here. Suspended right now, but here. Agent Melinda May showed up to help, though she went to Armenia to see if she could find out more, and is gone now. We've got Michael Carter, Peggy's brother from MI-6, equally well-preserved, here now too. The spies…think like spies. They have reached out to their international contacts more times than I can count, but this country has been so sealed off that they haven't gotten much. They shook out a few things that way in the beginning, but that vein has been mined to shit and back. I'll run down everyone else who is here in a moment. Jane of course. And…well I guess that's it except for. Ah. Luke Cage. Which we should— I should give you a heads up. About him. But later. Case now."

"So okay. First, an individual we've codenamed Bolton starts doing suspicious shit in front of James on purpose. He draws James to a location deliberately designed to make him look guilty as fuck, and reveals to James that he's Hydra just before the bombs go off."

She leans back in her seat. "47 injured, six dead. The bomb is an oxyacetylene and acetone solution mixed with a polyethelyne microfilament mixed by Chemist Unknown using Unknown Procedure. Respectively, these chemicals are welding fluid, propane, and— wait for it— a long chain plastic used primarily in the textiles industry."

Connections, connections everywhere, but no acquittal smoking gun just yet.

"I have the full write up on this bomb in the files I'm going to give you, so I'll skip that, but two of the firefighter drone trucks were also hacked. My guess is Dot Hacker strikes again; Peggy's trying to confirm that now. Those drones spewed still more modified welding fluid all over the fucking place."

She exhales. "Meanwhile, Kagiso chases James around with the laser panthers, which he was just thrilled with as you can imagine. Now…here's the thing. In spite of Spearfish, laser panthers went missing at this conference. Maybe other tech too, but I don't know. And I don't think it was just an attack of opportunity. Though…"

It's one of those moments. One of those moments where she is able to connect another dot. She narrows her eyes thoughtfully and opines, "The tech could have been Hydra's payment for setting James up as the patsy. Not that they're not getting plenty out of this to begin with, but they could have framed the deal that way. Hydra always has two or three wheels within wheels. That's just a theory though. That stolen tech comes up again soon too."


Confusion settles on her features. "Who the hell is Luke Cage? Like….the dude from Mortal Kombat?"

No Zee, you're thinking about Johnny Cage. At least Tim and Peter aren't around to make fun of her for citing the wrong reference.

When Jessica outright confirms that there is HYDRA presence in Wakanda, she can't help but sigh, glancing down at her empty bowl. "Knew being optimistic about it just being a theory was too much to ask," she mutters. Pushing away her coffee, she draws the bottle of vodka on the table closer to her. Breakfast of champions.

"Alright, now the textile factory thing makes sense," the witch remarks. "So what about the stolen tech?"


John's brow quirks. He has questions, but most of them aren't going to get them anywhere new, and presumably SHIELD spies working on spy things are going to have a lot more insight into those things than he would. Instead, his only question for the time being, offered when he's finished giving Zee an amused look, is, "Barnes believed this bloke when he said he was Hydra?"


"Great question," Jessica tells Zee, about the stolen tech. "I'm rolling right to that now." And she is.

"And yeah, John, he did. In fact I asked James about this whole thing way back in New York. He wouldn't tell me much: he was feeling taciturn, but back then he thought Hydra was the long and short of it. I assume Hydradude gave him a signal he recognizes, and…well, there's plenty of other evidence backing the Hydra connection anyway."

"Our next person of interest goes missing directly after the conference. Blackstone, AKA Bhekizizwe "Beck" Wright, was part of the Borderpost operation. He could easily fall under the "enhanced person" designation as he has microfilament vibranium tattoos which increase his speed and stealth. He's described as fiercely loyal to the Wakandan state, though it's unknown if he's loyal to the King, and has conducted many operations outside of Wakanda. He came back just to work this thing. Kagiso seems to be completely blase about his disappearance. Finding him seems pretty vital. He knows something. He was either involved— he's well positioned to serve as a broker between inside and outside interests— or he discovered something and had to go to ground to protect himself. It's been a priority since we got here, but we've had zero luck."

She shakes her head; being unable to trace Blackstone is a source of unending irritation for her.

"Meanwhile, Amandla operatives lock all the foreigners in their rooms and arrest all the ones who won't cooperate, then eventually ship them out. WIS takes the drones that were tampered with into custody— so we can't look at them. That's sort of a flat fact, in that it helps an insider dirtbag cover his tracks, but it's also reasonable standard operating procedure."

Jessica hesitates for some reason, then glances at John. "At some point, the land starts taking on…mystical wounds. To the west— we've traced the missing light panthers out to the west somewhere— and to the south, where Amandla was mostly supposed to be happening. We found the head of a Hydra guy piked down south, and he definitely had a control chip in his ear. And that's pretty much the timeline except for this: we show up. Kagiso seems pretty chill about that overall. A Hydra assassin shows up to try to kill us all: she started with Jane; she and Daredevil tangled with her, then Luke and I did— and we know someone put a hit on Blackstone, though whether they hit comes from the same sources or the assassins are the same people we don't know. We're trying not to kill Psychobitch by the way, some members of our party think she might be under mind control, though I actually have my doubts. Either way I hope Blackstone's assassin isn't having any better luck than we are, finding him."

She spreads her hands. "And there you have it. The case as it stands."


"….define 'mystical wounds', if you can," Zatanna wonders, furrowing her brows and glancing at John. How magic and the missing laser panthers are connected is a huge question mark in her head. She gravitates to that first, if not just because that is something in which she can help with some confidence. The rest seems to be the bread and butter of the SHIELD people that have arrived to help with the rest of the case.

The missing operative has her furrowing her brows. "If there's a picture of Beck Wright and if that's his actual name, I can try and look for him," she offers. "If you think that would help and no one else has had any luck."

Mention on the hit on the rest has her sitting up a little straighter. "Are Jane and everyone else okay?" she asks, because of course she would. If they aren't, she was certain Jess would have told them immediately, but she still needs confirmation. "So she was taken alive? Are the spy types interrogating her?"


'Define mystical wounds,' Zatanna says, and Jessica gives a helpless shrug. "Wakandans are bound to the land. It was one of the first things I was told upon my arrival here. When there's violence, the land feels it, but that's all I know. Or even get."

She shakes her head helplessly. "Got no photo of the guy. Bhekizizwe is the name you wanna track to. Possibly Bhekizizwe of the Kupaa. It would help if you looked for him, can you do it without a photo? I mean if I catch one through SHORO I can give it to you stat, but so far no dice."

And then Zee is worried about the assassin. Jessica makes placating motions at the air. "Jane's fine, everyone's fine, we're all fine," Jessica replies, shaking her head. "And nobody caught her at all.I mean we're trying not to kill her if we run into her again. Which is almost ridiculous. The bitch cheats, and she likes to lead in with sniper shots, but if she can't make that work for her she'll toss gas at you, or stab you with fucking Ninja Turtle bullshit. She moves like a fucking cat and thinks it's all a giant god damn lark. But she runs if she doesn't see a clear win, or if the authorities start showing up. She's dangerous as fuck, she did nearly set me up for a shiny new apartment in the afterlife even though she came at me and Cage two on one."

It must have been days ago though, cause Jessica, of course, looks unharmed now, and says that hard on the heels of declaring herself to be 'fine.'


Thankfully, Jessica offers up that tidbit because: "If it's true that Wakandans are bound to the land, I can possibly use said land to track him down if I have his true name," Zatanna replies. "I'll need to consult with a shaman to determine where the points of power are, instead of just guessing - I know nothing about Wakanda's history, so I can't even begin to guess. And from what John has been talking about earlier, we'd need to talk to one sooner rather than later anyway."

She can't help but sigh. "What a mess," she mutters, taking a swig of vodka straight from the bottle.

"Alright, well, hopefully the spy types find something soon, because I'd hate to embarrass them if I end up finding this Wakandan super operative before they do," she tells the private investigator, a gleam of mischief in her eyes. "Other than that, a shaman's a good place to start for John and me."


"Sorry, but if an assassin tries to kill 'tanna or I, I'm not going to give her a stern talking-to," John says, brows dipping, his expression flat. It's an overt declaration of his unwillingness to play by the rules — but then, he so rarely does, anyway, that it's probably just a courtesy in the end.

He's canted back deeply in his seat for the rest of it, still rubbing gently at his chin, his jaw, his eyes angled past the table and unfocused the way they are when he's consulting his own thoughts. Eventually he lets his head tilt forward, splayed fingers rifling back through tousled locks of gold and brown. "Mmhm," he says, agreement with Zatanna. "It sounds like there's more to Wakanda's magical heritage than orisas. Land with memory would be useful. A bomb like that goes off, kills a half-hundred people that way? Bet there's more than a little the land would remember about a thing like that, yeah? But we'll see. No promises. Because here's the thing — mages are a poxy lot of secret-humping recluses as it is. Add in Wakandan disinterest in the outside world, and I'm thinking the local occult element's going to be…" He narrows his eyes, cocks his jaw to one side. "Evasive. So, give it time."

Pale blue eyes find Zee, his head tilted over to the side. "Start tonight." Murmured. Not inflected as a question, but there's enough working history between them that it'll read as what it is: building consensus.


"Perfect," Jessica says. "And you just go right on ahead and show them up, Zee. We need this guy."

John says he's not going to play by the rules, and Jessica seems to have zero real objections. She simply nods her head at that. She's saying that for someone else's sake. It's been communicated. Duty discharged. "Maybe you could walk the crime scene too, John, though it's kind of a mess in there. Building's not that stable. But we've already walked it, so if finding that shaman and getting his help is going to take awhile, then that definitely seems like stuff none of us have touched for obvious reasons."

And then she can't really put it off any longer. She plays with her food, and circles back to 'who the Hell is Luke Cage.'

She gives Azalea and Zee an uneasy glance. Sure. 99% of this came out at trial. But Az missed the whole trial, and she has no idea if Zee paid attention to her portion of the testimony, stuff she'd kept carefully concealed from them both. And an important 1% did not come out at trial.

Fuck it, she eventually decides, and puts down her fork.

"Luke is a good man, he's a metahuman, and he's actually chased down drug runners back home. He's also black which is helpful for obvious reasons. But he's here for me, and not…necessarily in a positive way."

A glance at Constantine. Moral support. He alone knows this. He's already cleared her. It's not new for him. So she latches to him a little bit before dropping her eyes to her plate. There are still elements of shame here.

"When I was mind-controlled the man who did it forced me to kill a woman. That woman was Luke's wife. The day before I left for Wakanda he showed up at my office. All the testimony about Kilgrave made him think— rightly— that I either knew something about his wife, or could find out. I outright lied to him, but promised I'd help when I came back from Wakanda. He showed up here. So I told him fine, strap in and help and he could have his answers after the case was done. Thing is, after we got attacked I couldn't be that person anymore. I didn't like the risk it represented, but I told him everything. He took it— well. He was kind about it. I expected him to go home. But now he feels honorbound or…something to stay and help. And I'm not sure why, exactly…"

That doesn't ring super true, about not knowing why, but she says it anyway, even as she slumps a little more.

"Because even though directly after we sort of…reverted to investigating the case like I hadn't just dropped that bomb, once we parted ways I've—"

She exhales. "Been avoiding him like a dirty coward and communicating with him in curt texts. So um. There's that. Just. Thought that was. Worth. Disclosing."


"Honestly I knew there had to be some connection regarding mind control with you. I noticed how you reacted when we looked for Steve at the gym." A whole half a year ago; Zatanna may not be a seasoned investigator, but she is perceptive when it comes to people - most especially people that she is close to, and people she works with very often. The tidbit about killing someone under the influence, however, is new, and while surprise shifts over her expression, there is no judgment. To her, it's very simple - Jessica didn't do it, but someone else controlling her body. For a magician, it is a very easy distinction to make; she is young, yes, but she has seen it happen…and worse.

She has yet to grow calluses, however, to the horrible, nightmarish things a human being can do to another, and the idea of a sociopath using another woman to kill another for reasons that may not even be real reasons at all has veins of ice crawling down her spine.

She also is an empathic enough creature to understand that to Jess, it might not be that simple, and were she in her shoes, she would be torn up about it, regardless of who was in control of her actions at the time. The fact that this Luke Cage was kind even after the reveal is staggering also; it had been difficult to forgive Bucky, nevermind that he wasn't himself - not just for what happened to her, for what that had caused in the long run, but especially for making John suffer the one thing he absolutely cannot suffer.

"It's not like you can be around someone like that so easily," she says quietly. "I mean, after what you said, it sounds like he's….this phantasm of your guilt made flesh and blood. But you know, it's probably not easy for him to be around you, either. The fact that he wants to help regardless says a lot. If I were Luke, I'd probably be thinking that my wife would want me to. I mean, Kilgrave, HYDRA…they're all cut out of a same or similar cloth, right?"

There's a glance at John after; at his words about starting tonight, Zatanna responds with a single nod and a slight quirk on the corners of her mouth. "Night's the best time anyway," she tells him, leaning back in her seat and taking another shot of vodka.


It's true: John gave her his take, and absolved her readily. In the world he (and Zatanna) occupies, people achieving nefarious ends through proxies happens…often. Very often. Because magicians are, in large part, angry nerds who fail to excel at things like gym class, and resort to using golems and god knows what else to carry out their Dark Bidding. Unsurprisingly, Zatanna has no difficulty clearing the same hurdle. This issue — whether someone could be responsible for killing other people when they weren't themselves — has been the focus of the entire Barnes trial; their positions on that question and verdict are the same whether for Barnes, or Jones.

Also true: Zatanna's gift for throwing herself wholly into the experience of other people's emotions is a godsend at moments like this one. Whether John understands those emotions or not (and there's ample evidence to suggest he's better at this than he'd like people to believe, on account of the fact that he's still alive, and empathy is a key component of predicting other people's behaviors) doesn't matter; what matters is that he's not usually willing to wade in. Not into the deep end. Not if he can help it. Not even for a friend like Jones, though he has on occasion tried, and summoned up slim margins more for the detective than he's able to give most people.

But it's unquestionably called for. If not now, when? There's a little beat of relief in him when she steps in to do what she does so well, absolving him of the necessity. It means he can don a sympathetic look and remain silent.


Hydra and Kilgrave, all cut out of the same cloth. "Yeah," Jessica agrees grimly. "Yeah, they really fucking are." But it makes sense that Luke's thinking would be similar. That's also easier to swallow than 'he felt like he had to because she was a bitch and extracted a promise to make him help all tied to answers he had a right to way back in New York City.' It lifts a burden of guilt from her, if not all her guilt, to hear it framed that way.

It lifts other burdens that Zee, like most of her friends, gives her the pass so easily. She judges herself, but that doesn't mean she's super excited about potential judgment from the circle of people who have come to mean so much to her. Because it's that simple until it isn't, and then it's not that simple until it is.

Meanwhile, Zee doesn't even get on her case for holding back, and she's insanely grateful about that. But then, the idea that Zee should have been almost ludicrous. The woman's as compassionate as they come.

Meanwhile John just dons the sympathetic look, and that's fine too. Cause she doesn't really want to engage with emotions, for all that it causes some. The aim was to explain who this guy was and what he was doing here and how it could get complicated. With that done, her duty is done. It's a talk she probably should have with the Carters, too, but given Zee, John, and Azalea are all coming into this in medias res they're able to get the full, complete, 100% picture of what the Hell is going on out here as told by one Jessica Jones, all over a fine breakfast briefing.

All of this culminates in Jessica popping another sweet potato into her mouth. Az gets a, "They're shaman hunting, wanna surveil with me? Cause I…should get back to work." She sweeps a smile across the table as if all this Luke nonsense were just a footnote.

Which, in fact, so long as it continues to not hamper the case and actually to help it, it is. A footnote that it's honorable to make, but still a footnote. Everything is a footnote right now.

She pauses to wave her phone at a little terminal that Rizza has set up in her dining room, presumably to pay for breakfast and all attendant expenses. "I'm glad you guys are here. Really glad."


"So am I," Zatanna says readily, and once the present To-Do List has been split, she starts rising up from her chair, though she keeps the bottle of vodka with her - not that she would drink all of it, but she has an Englishman to consider also. "Not just to help Bucky and everyone else but….I feel like I can learn a lot, being here." A foreign land, steeped in mysticism despite its more overt trappings of science and high technology, brimming with secrets. A place where their worship of Loa-esque spirits underscores everything, where each person born here is tied physically and perhaps even metaphysically to their place of origin. She can feel it vibrating through every pore, and fresh from her earlier triumphs, she's hot-blooded and ready to start in another venture.

"So before we go haring off, I have another question. SHORO - that thing connected to Wakandan libraries? I mean, I'll probably go visit an actual one, but I need to know in case there's a Restricted Section they wouldn't let me into considering I'm an outsider." A good opportunity, also, to get the lay of the land socially.

Because John's earlier thought is accurate in that - magicians are typically angry nerds. And where do nerds often start?


"I think the two've you have got some catching up to do," John says, with a lift of his chin in Azalea's direction, and presumably Jessica's as well. He says that as he folds up the napkin in his lap and drops it on the table beside his very empty plate, rising from his chair. As he does, he leans and murmurs something to the witch with the raven hair, and straightening away from her his lips quirk to see her preparing to squirrel the bottle away.

"Ta. Thanks for breakfast, Jones. Tell Rizza it's the best thing I've got down me in days. We'll, eh." Flicked look at Zee. "We'll keep you updated, yeah? Pop by a little later on with whatever we chase up."


"No, SHORO isn't, but you can go to actual physical libraries with paper and everything down in Birnan Azzaria to the west," Jessica says, deciding to produce a thermos so she can dump coffee into it. It's just as well Zee is taking that bottle. It was starting to look good after all.

"There are a bunch of them. And schools. It's a cool spot, just mind the relaxed security. The Red Soil Boys operate out of there too, so keep an eye out for them. Not that I think some punk with a machete is much match for either of you, but when the gangs decide to sweep you up they tend to do it with lots of guns in areas where you're feeling reluctant to fight for all kinds of reasons. Also of note, WSS, Wakandan Security Services does do sweep arrests and will throw people in prison with no due process at all, so be real careful about when and how you color outside the lines."

She's found it impossible not to do some coloring outside of the lines, but Jessica has learned it is rarely a good first go-to strategy in these parts.

Then John is saying Ta, and Jessica gives him a quick salute. Ta back atacha. "I'll tell her, she'll be tickled. She's got four rooms, so if you're trying to find your place to lay your head this might not be a bad spot. Though we've made something of a headquarters here as well." She pulls out a piece of paper and scrawls down the name of the hotel in Birnan Zana.

And then she's out the door (perhaps with Azalea in tow), ready to go right back to her giant perch.

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