Rubicon

October 01, 2017:

Run by T'Challa. Acting on information regarding Blackstone gleaned from Elektra, Jane, Jessica, Matt, and Zatanna head to the hospital to ask him some questions… only to discover the true root of the infiltration in Wakanda. …And angry Wakandan gangsters.

Birnin Zana, Wakanda

A hospital in Birnin Zana.

Characters

NPCs: Rubicon, Blackstone, Dandy Jam the Cut

Mentions: Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The Hospital.

The hospital in the north, as it has been referred to variously, is one of the most advanced and well-hidden facilities in Birnin Zana. A place whose name is even hard to find. Once the exact location is known, it is inevitable that anyone attempting to visit is intercepted by agents of the Wakandan Intelligence Service.

'This location is a holy site, for the recovery of Black Panthers,' men in shades and lean-cut Wakandan business suits trimmed in gold say, with derision. 'What business have you here? Go, before we are given the order to snap your bones for each step.' It goes on like this, and there is very little in their interest regarding the ongoing investigation. 'We have heard about you,' is what they say.

At least, such is the limb until the bough breaks.

A man further to the back takes a step back, listening into an earpiece that cannot be seen.
"Let them pass," he repeats the unheard order.

The halls are quiet in a hospital meant for one man. Though doctors and nurses pace the halls, more engineers are seen than anything else. Those brave enough to enter the panther's mouth are led to a small room in the intensive care wing. They say it is where the Wakandan agent known as 'Blackstone,' the only current patient of the hospital, resides.

It's a long ride up from SHORO at Birnin S'Yan all the way back to Birnin Zana.

Jane, with Daredevil and Jessica Jones in tow — not to mention their erstwhile 'captive' Elektra Natchios, spent the time passing their newly-recovered information all out to all other parties.

Found Blackstone. Hospital in Birnin Zana. Hydra tried to murder — must get there asap.

With coordinates provided forward for all to congregate, eventually this car of the three arrives and makes initial contact with all others of this impromptu rescue. Jane Foster, for her part, looks skinny and underslept, a hard-eyed shadow of how she looked many months ago, though with that unchanged urgency about her eyes and impatience moving and flexing her fingers.

She's also not ready to be diplomatic when it appears they may not be able to go in; it may be someone else's wheelhouse to communicate far more patient words. She hackles up, already making plans to just /quantum tunnel/ the lot of them either way.

But — it's fine in the end. Let them pass. Jane's eyes roll to the ceiling. Thank Christ.

Led into the room, Jane passes a glance back. Some others here have been chasing this apparent ghost, Blackstone, far longer than she has. Probably with questions she doesn't. But little be it known she has any sort of patience not to immediately cut to the chase. "That man with the metal arm. You seen him? Who is he?"

Blackstone. The man who could have the precise answers they need to put an end to all this. After having her mental BSOD moment Jessica had decided nothing short of Hell would keep her from hearing what this man had to say. In the car she'd pulled out make-up wipes and had set about cleaning her face, a brush so she could brush smoke and cyanide out of her hair, or at least make it look less tangled. She'd found some wipes for her hands as well, clearing soot and grunge from Rizza's house off of her skin.

Strangely, she still can smell Rizza's soap. It makes no sense. There hadn't been much of a body to gather into her arms, much as she might have wanted to. But she's been smelling it ever since the woman died. Soap and coconut donuts.

By the time they're standing there getting stonewalled she looks presentable again. She had simply gone blankfaced when the men had threatened to go snapping bones.

Then there's the order, and when it's her turn to pass through the doors she strides through the panther's mouth like she belongs there, like she always belonged there, like they were foolish for thinking she didn't belong there, rapid steps and heavy boots clop-clopping and reverberating across the floors, mouth set into a grim line, eyes tight, body rigid. Jane leads in with questions. That one's as good a starting point as any.

It is easy for the likes of Zatanna Zatara to teleport to the location of one Jane Foster the moment she receives the text sent to all parties; she remembers her face well and that is often all she needs.

There's a brief message sent, a simple OK, before the wind carries her away and takes her to where she needs to be.

She materializes under cover the moment the car pulls up the building, and she's about to step forward and announce her presence, but something stops her - as always, one to be halted whenever she remembers something from her past experiences in the thick of it. Being part of the Titans and Red Robin's training regimen also has those lessons pouring forth into the most forefront corners of her mind, and an idea germinates quickly.

She changes her mind, about letting them know she is there.

Instead, she closes her eyes and with a whispered word, dissipates herself into air, to move invisibly after the three when they enter the panther's maw. Just in case trouble starts brewing and the element of surprise could be wielded with greater effect.

Daredevil keeps close to Jane and Jessica Jones, though when it comes to arguments with the guards, the training from his other life kicks in and the scarlet shadow briefly takes the forefront to try to talk their way into hospital without broken bones on either side — likely theirs. It's either ineffective or unnecessary. He doesn't need to understand the language that carries across the cell phone to know that someone just pulled a string for them.

That done, he follows the women deeper into the hospital and the room of its sole occupant. Jane asks her question about the phantom Bucky from those holographic presentations in SHORO from just hours before, and lets it hang in the air rather than follow up with the many he wants to voice. One step at a time. And in the mean time he'll take stock of the space around them, not to mention the man before them, in his own singular way.

Vibranium fibers form a circuitous network of swirls and tribal patterns over his skin. When the party bursts into his room, the agent is slipping on a pair of black gloves, a tall, lean, bald man, stripped to the waist. A set of shades shine on the stand as they enter. It clearly is recording something. At first the agent is busy straightening the cuffs of the gloves on him, his attention divided.

"I am Blackstone. You may refer to me as Wright. I understand you have been looking for me," he comments, clearly taking point with Jane.
"The king has given you the authority to resume my investigations for me," the agent mentions, an indifferent but iced edge cutting across the strings of his voice. "That is fortunate for you. Were you not granted permission, instead of turning a blind eye, the Service would have had you all erased by now."
Slowly, he turns, the skin of the heretoforth unseen half his face partially bleached, skin fresh from a graft and mottled in lighter tones. You can almost still smell the roasting skin.

"It is only a shame that your investigation has not borne more fruit."

When Jane speaks to him, his expression does not change, the same icy disposition across his face. "You all smell like fire and blood," he notes. "…and something else," he notes, looking from person to person, but not finding an obvious source, to his annoyance. "I am assuming you are referring to the Winter Soldier. He should be dead by now, if my understanding is correct." His assumptions about the recording are evidently much different than the assumptions others seem to have come to.

"You have clearly met with his co-conspirators in HYDRA. A miracle you have survived. But ask your questions quickly. When I yet stand and walk from this place, your investigation will be concluded, and mine will resume. In my measure, the intelligence services have entertained your farce long enough."

After so long, Jane finds Zatanna a sight for sore eyes. And hers are definitely sore. Seeing the young woman gentles her expression momentarily, looking closer to herself than this sharp-eyed, hollow, angry thing that smells noxiously of blood and clumsy magics.

But at Zee's proposal to cloak herself and be their added element of surprise: Jane is all for it. She knows the magician is one of their heaviest hitters, and who knows what sort of viper's pit they may well walk in.

And inside there, Jane finds herself finally ill met with the man called Blackstone: who looks freshly repaired from the sort of extensive burns that would probably have killed someone not with Wakandan resources at their heels.

His words harden her expression, and she passes a glance among the others.

"His name is James Barnes," Jane corrects sharply, all her stakes on the clear separation between those two names. Her eyes burn with urgency. "He /won't/ be dead, and no, I'm not referring to him. The observance modules caught evidence of a man at Mizizi — masked, metal arm. It tried to get erased, but it's there. It's /someone/. Whatever name you want to refer to him by — that man you saw. Did he engage you? Did you burn you? We need to know who he is, how he moves — the bombing at Azzanin. And another Jessica — " Jane turns a harried glance on her. "Just /survived/. While James is /dying/ this asshole is still active!"

Annoyance spikes and blossoms into anger as Blackstone gives them shit about the fruit their investigation has borne, as he blames Bucky yet again. It touches on her own frustrations, all they've been attempting and trying. It stings her professional pride and makes her grind her teeth. She puts her hands in her pockets and takes a few paced steps.

Few things can make her question her abilities as a detective. It's the one thing she knows she can do right. She had thought they'd put together quite a lot, but…she has to admit they still haven't managed to do what they came to do.

The one thing. Suddenly she's not so sure she even has that.

When the flash of fury fades there's only dull resolve all the same. What can she do but keep pushing ahead?

This time, she decides to add to Jane's questions. "Like Dr. Foster says, our investigation has certainly borne that SHORO logs have been tampered with, and the footage of the 'Winter Soldier' is fake. Don't suppose you know who'd have access or ability to do that?"

She shoves down her feelings and decides on a bit of a different tactic. She can be diplomatic, when she tries. It really does come with her job. She stops pacing, softens her voice, fixes Wright with earnest brown eyes.

"Wright, look. I understand it can feel like shit to have someone make out like you're not doing your job. But that's not us, okay? It's not about that. Drugs flowing into your country. Bombs everywhere, like Jane says. Wakandans are still dying. We're all actually on the same side here. Isn't bringing the real killer to justice a goal worth pursuing? Isn't that common ground we can stand on? Does it honor Wakanda for the wrong man to go down for crimes he did not commit? We've found quite a bit, we just need help connecting those last few dots. And then? Let Wakandan earth drink the blood of the real bomber."

After setting foot in Wakanda, while she's rendezvoused with Jessica a few times, she has not seen hide nor hair from Jane until today. Whittled down to an angry shadow of her starbright self, she can't help but be concerned, her nose tingling with the copper-tang of blood and magic she shouldn't be touching, though there is no anger or censure there, considering who was on the line (and she knows that were she in a similar position, she would be doing the same) - cursing herself once more than for all the magic she possesses, she is utterly incapable of creating more time; if there is ever a limit to her near-inexhaustible reality-bending skills, it would be that. Still, after a reassuring smile and the cheerful proposal that the physicist seems to agree with, she follows slightly behind the rest of the group until they come face to face with the long-missing Blackstone.

Who doesn't look all that happy to see them.

And something else.

Somewhere at the back of the room, Zatanna sweats a little.

Man. Cats all really do have judgmental faces!

Jane fields the questions as she should, though given the hard cast on the operative's face, she can't help but question how willing Blackstone really is to cooperate. That, and he was a spy who doesn't bother covering up the fact that he is hostile to James Barnes's plight - she isn't sure how readily they can trust him, even if he does deign to answer their questions.

There's a quiet glance towards the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, slipping to a space closer to him. Out of everyone here, he's probably the one most capable of detecting her presence. Her heart still beats after all.


Daredevil hears a good deal, it's true. He hears Zatanna's heartbeat — and more than that recognizes it as distinctly as a fingerprint. He hears the anger and exhaustion in Jane's bad cop barrage, and the monumental effort Jessica puts into the diplomacy behind her good-cop follow up. He hears the derision in the tattooed operative's tone, and bears the man's skepticism and scorn with relative equanimity. They are outsiders, traipsing into a country and culture they do not understand, and convinced they can do a better job of taking on HYDRA than Wakanda's own defenders and investigators. It's no wonder at all that they are ruffling feathers.

"Dots like who is heading up HYDRA's incursions into your country," the man in red voices quietly on top of Jessica Jones remarkable good cop with a single, solitary addition.

"Please don't misunderstand," Wright comments, still sitting on the cot provided to him by the medicians. The view behind him of the Birnin Zana cityscape is really quite fetching. "I have been in this hospital bed for some time. If I were on the ground, I would have re-located the mastermind behind the attacks quickly and killed him without delay. Who do you imagine is responsible for the heads at our borders already? You have spent too much time attempting to prove an innocence that has never existed. There is no other man with a robotic arm. In the meantime, you are correct. Innocent Wakandans have died, and my people have stood aside and been made to idly watch while you have entertained every option but finding out where your own is culpable, remaining blind to the sin that must be assumed."

To that end, he stares at Jessica Jones, flatly.
"I never entertained that you suggest that we are not doing our jobs. I suggest that you are /not doing yours./"

Slowly, the agent stands onto his feet, unlaced boots impacting the ground near soundlessly. "I have faced this man," he says calmly, in response to the line of questioning continued by the devil. "His chemistry is crude by our standards, but prolific. Barnes," he mentions, deferring to Jane only once, "could not have done everything this man has done, but a better co-conspirator never made. Who else could edit one of our streams so readily? Who else could synthesize within our own borders? This man they call Rubicon."

"I will find him, Jones, Foster … and you devil," he says, clearly at a loss but unwilling to refer to Daredevil by any other moniker. His eyes linger on the spot where Zatanna hides for a moment overlong, but beyond that, there is no outward indication that he knows or sees anything more. Suspicion may be bred deep into him by nature. Instead, the agent lifts his shades. "You will surrender the information you have found from this point forward," he adds, "and then I will find him. The time for Wakandans dying has past…"

He slips his shades on and stares at the internal displays.
"….he is here," is the last thing he gets to say.
Then the sound of gunfire and grenades begin to fill the outer halls of the hospital.

Men in well-cut suits go flying at the entrance of the hospital, explosions blasting in the doors to molten slag in an instant. The hollow sound of vibranium munitions being traded fills the hallways, and agents throwing themselves in the way of doctors and engineers. A full on fireball is thrown down the hall, and the sound of boots pound off of the floors. Smoke curls into view at the massive, beautiful panoramic view of the Birnin Zana cityscape.
It does not take very long for hell to assert itself.

Jane's eyes harden; usually so soft and dark and patient, now they shine like black glass.

Fury burns through every circuit in her head. Does no one /listen/ here? Does no one entertain /any/ sort of idea other than a judgment already passed? After so many months, she thinks she hits the limit of her patience. She's done with these games. She'd done playing by the arbitrations of others.

Temper well and truly broken, she opens her mouth to speak —

— and possibly for the best, something interrupts her. Something in the form of 'He is here.'

And the gunfire — the grenades — and the distant, engulfing burn of fire.

"Jesus!" Jane shouts, already sidestrafing reflexively away from that distant burn of heat. He's here?!

Then something switches in her head. Good. He's here. Through the hammering of her heart, there is no better way to collect evidence.

Her hand reaches into her coat to clasp around her phone.

Rubicon.

That might have been the man with the missile launcher. Jessica stares flatly at Blackstone. Daredevil can feel the monumental effort she put into her diplomacy. Now he can feel the monumental effort it takes her not to do something ill-advised. Something quite possibly violent, not lethal, but violent, like decking him or defenstrating him. She might give him the information, but in her growing ire it seems likely she might do so by literally shoving it down his throat before dropkicking him. That's just how infuriated she really is.

It's nice. Fury puts color back into the world again. It looks so weird with its colors bleeding out of it.

And then? 'He is here.'

"Oh son of a—!"

That anger finds a much more valid target. The fireball passes. She can feel its heat. And then?

Pounding step, pounding step, running and leaping, glad for her bulletproof clothes, she soars perpindicular to the hallway ceiling in something that is very nearly flight, moreso, at least, than her normal power leaps— a thing that keeps happening in the heat of battle, as it happens— trying to stay above the fray, trying to find this Rubicon or any of his fucking flunkies so she can visit a beatdown from above, a creature, now, of adrenaline and rage, impulsive, perhaps, but decisive at least.

Well, shit.

The sounds of gunfire and an explosion are those that she ought to be used to, by now, but adrenaline pours into her bloodstream like white-hot bullets. Zatanna whips her head around to stare at the door leading into the hall, and then to the rest; ice-blue eyes alight to Jane, remembering a time when she would be one of the first to hit the floor. The last few months have hardened her into something more impenetrable than the vibranium so precious in Wakanda, and she can't help but feel somewhat awed.

Jessica is already moving, of course. No doubt the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will follow, but there's a glance at the operative on the hospital bed. They haven't really begun asking him their questions, have they?

God damn it.

Maintaining this form is untenable when her priorities shift. Her sorcery falls away, leaving her exposed; a young woman, not even twenty, with ice-blue eyes and dark hair.

She keeps herself close to where Jane and Blackstone are, fingers lifting to throw up a protective bubble over them, the intent to focus purely on defense evident on her features and leaving the brunt of the combat solely on the rest.

There are worse hands you could leave combat to than these two Hell's Kitchen brawlers, one of them super-powered and the other who seems as if he could be himself, for all that he snaps into fleet action even before the true firestorm starts. Twin batons are already in hands when the first bullets are heard, and by the time bodies start to fly and boots start to literally land on the ground he's in motion. He can't fly — can't even leap the way Jessica Jones does — but he throws himself into the fray with such ferocity that you might be forgiven for not knowing it.

The front doors are melted clean-through, consumed in lingering inferno, and into the breach steps the enemy. It's on them that the Devil of Hell's Kitchen descends, a running, weaving, spinning dash through gunfire. Jane built this suit to withstand straight shots, but he's never been much of a mind to test that proposition. He closes the distance before more than three rounds go off, striking at the temple of one HYDRA agent with a baton just before he lands a hard roundhouse kick towards his companion.

And all the while, through the maelstrom and madness, he's listening for someone barking orders, someone laying in wait — someone doing anything other than storming the gates. Because, odds are, that someone's this Rubicon they're looking for.

The Wakandan agent doesn't bother with salve for the young women, though they plainly wear their feelings on their sleeves. His interest is not in their feelings, but in the people who have died on their hospital beds. He steps away with boots far heavier than they sound, hands lifting, and energy beginning to well in his core. Jessica is already gone, but his attention only returns from the sounds down the hall when the other woman appears, the bubble cutting off his intended path.

He breathes once, his own patience tested.
"Everyone who crosses our borders with sin in their blood will be executed," he says, as if to explain and to temper his own resolve. "My people are dying, because of these such men. Let me go, and I will deal with this."

In the halls, there is plenty to salve an angry heart. Many of the guards have been killed in the initial blitz, their bodies strewn throughout. Most of the killing originates from at least a score of men in all black tactical gear moving down the halls, their knives slipping around corners and slicing necks at the front, while others carefully trace the halls with green lasers, finding marks with carbine assault rifles, with munitions cycling quickly. Their weapons are conventional, when compared to the weapons used by the intelligence agents in the halls. They are making a beeline for the room where Blackstone stays.

And are paying for it quickly, as the Devil barrels into them. Skulls are lanced quickly by the red blur, and most men are distracted when they see a woman leaping over their heads. Of course, there is no end to the amount of fully automatic gunfire she is receiving as a result of this.

"There is no point if there is even one survivor," a mechanically distorted voice notes.

A group of security servicemen come barrelling down the hall, armed with advanced looking handspears before they are blown away in a blast of flame, their shouts in the halls cut short by a fibrous mass that eclipses them, whipping across them and burning them alive in an explosive exhalation. Not content to stop there, the flames spread fast. The source is the same as the source of that horrific voice. A man, clad in a chemical filtration mask and flanked by two black-clad agents at either side. One is carrying a Wakandan spear with a box integrated into it. The other is limned in knives, and is currently holding a black revolver.
The man in the mask? In the middle, wearing an advanced looking rig, with black hoses and intermix chambers at the arms? The guy who seems to be all about maximizing casualties? That's probably your guy.

And Zatanna is correct — Jane Foster is different now.

Such as the low, calm she speaks to her friend, as she materializes back into sight. Blackstone, in his tepid way, demands the defensive bubble be taken down —

"It's all right, Zee," Jane concurs softly. "We need you on the front lines. We /need/ that son of a bitch for James. I know what you can do. I can watch myself now."

Though to what ends — it is not certain, as the astrophysicist couples those words with the way she rolls her sleeve up off her left arm, the inside crook of her elbow tracked an ugly black. Her face betrays little as she feeds wire straight into her own vein — wire whose plastic casing is cut with sigils of dead languages, but all /home/ to Zatanna, within the pages of Shadowcrest's libraries she let Jane read and scour and remember. Drawing enough blood to write a binding spell on her arm, linking her activating phone with the only power source it has — Jane Foster's blood, her exchanged promise of life — she takes a moment to find which of her scripts.

She keeps doing this promising it will be the last time. She keeps doing this never wanting it to be.

Distantly, that distorted voice speaks, and Jane can catch words. Not even one survivor.

"Yes," she agrees.

She runs the script and her eyes change colour. Magic — so close Zatanna can /feel/ — circuits through Jane's body, feeding her.

Matt will smell the change in ozone. Familiar, alkaline, electric, the kick-surge of accelerating electrons bouncing off their atoms. Reality twists and corrugates in a familiar spell Zatanna would know —

— mixed with Jane's science, Jane's physics, and Jane's decisive command over both.

She schisms gravity apart and opens a singularity, a dead, empty sphere of pulling black. Miniature, it draws in whipping air but is not enough to drag bodies in — not unless they come perilously within inches of its void. It circuits with energy, light and heat sparking its perimeter, fed with some of that whipping fire now pulled into the vacuum and silenced. Opened on the other side of those arrivals, it looks every bit a /black hole/, cutting off any escape from Daredevil and Jessica Jones on the other side.

Jane's vacant face and empty eyes are a same cold void.

Jessica Jones has never really tested this gear before. She has a hard and fast don't get shot at policy as a rule. She lands in the middle of some group of gunmen. Were she a woman of normal strength, those rounds peppering into her gear would knock her down and out. They do bruise, and badly; she has to throw her hands over her head and face momentarily to keep that protected, lamenting bare hands and glad she's been wearing May's armored blazer despite the heat.

Right about now she envies the Devil of Hell's Kitchen his headgear, that's for sure.

Then she's knocking a gun up and out of the way with a high block, grabbing it and slamming it into a guy's face before breaking the thing over her knee. She whips a wheel kick into the head of a gunman now in front of her, pulling her strength precisely to ensure a knock-out and not a killing blow. It is not the graceful catlike efficacy of the Daredevil…even with her most talented of teachers she's had a few months of lessons at best and that shows. Still, the basics are there, and that plus her strength plus perhaps the 'wtf' factor she represents helps her get the job done.

She drops low when two guys turn guns on her, using a throw to fling one into the other, wincing when one shoots the other as a result. Then she's grabbing the shooter in turn to slam his head into the wall for another knockout, an oldie but goodie of a maneuver, really, and one that bears the benefit of keeping dude's body in front of her as a human shield to take more aggro. She drops him with a bit of a gasp when he literally bursts into flame, her own hands scorched in response by the heat alone.

Her face twists (emotions on her sleeve indeed), but she doesn't stop. She can't help it if they are going to kill each other trying to kill her, she really can't, though it's not precisely what she's trying to accomplish. Mostly she's trying to accomplish not dying.

But…well…there's a black hole in the hall. Jessica's mouth opens as she squints at it for half a second.

Well. There are also guys on fire, who will burn down the whole hospital if…so yeah. She nicks some tactical gloves from an unconscious guy and yanks them on. Then?

Jessica Jones starts picking up dead guys on fire, and chucking them up and through the black hole like demented footballs. And if this, plus black hole, plus Daredevil causes the guys in the back to have a bit of a moment, well, that's their problem. She's not working too hard not to hit any of 'em, that's for sure. She's just working hard to make sure she doesn't hit Matt.

It's alright, Zee.

"But what about this guy?" Zatanna wonders, turning her head to regard Jane, gesturing to Blackstone. "Don't we— "

Her voice dies in her throat when the petite brunette rolls back her sleeve, and exposes the pale skin of her inner arm and the mesh of black veins. Her pale face turns almost gray, recognizing the base configuration - it is augmented by Jane's science and that cannot be helped, she is not built like magicians and she would always, always require a power source for her work. But the price is always high - even for the likes of John, it is - and her own blood threatens to freeze in the open pathways of her veins.

"Jane," she whispers hoarsely, watching as a gravity well consumes a few of the invading agents. "No, you…"

Oh god. Oh shit. Oh god oh shit oh god oh shit oh god…

The clamor of battle pierces through the sudden haze of her shock, cold sweat trickling down the shallow canal of her spine. It may be a one time thing, limited use, but the protruding black mesh on her skin says differently and…

…oh god, John's going to be so mad.

But could she blame the physicist either? If it had been John locked in a battle to the death, nothing would be anathema. Nothing would be forbidden. Nothing would…

She closes her eyes and the ephemeral white-blue bubble winks out.

"Okay," she tells Jane. "Okay. I'll try and get him."

She starts moving then, slender body taking off in a dead run. Her approach is careful, but she moves fast. In the doing, she gives Blackstone what he wants, but only because Jane has asked her to deliver something they need.

Her obsidian obelisk spins out from the back pocket of her jeans, pointing to the mess before her. Her lips part to bark out a command.

"PEELS ARDYH!"

To a Logomancer, words are power, but she is often trapped with the predicament of keeping her commands not just short, but /precise/; the battlefield changes in the blink of an eye, and she can't always count on people to shield her. And if these people are allied with HYDRA, and to minimize friendly fire…

Reality bends to her decisive command, as she attempts to make them sleep.

Amid all the sorcery and high-flying, Daredevil is in the thick of it, doing what he's best at: taking on all comers with a fighting-style that's at once graceful and brutal in its economy. There's the sound of bone cracking, snapping as his foot finds a HYDRA soldier's knee; the spray of blood where one of those batons catches another man's jaw. There's a run-along the wall giving him the arc and momentum necessary to land his heel square in the solar plexus of a third.

Which is not to say he's not taking his fair share of blows, too. Even with all his speed and powers of awareness he's only human, and he tires. There's eight men laying around him now, but seven more in front of him — each with knives, or blunt weapons, or guns they are trying to aim through the smoke and ash and nightmarish landscape of limbs and bodies. Matt tastes the blood in his mouth, feels the blooming bruises on two ribs as he summons more air into his empty lungs, and presses on towards the man who authored all this violence — and the giant black hole behind the Rubicon. A year ago that sucking absence of sensory information would have left him slackjawed. Ten months into the surreal, he pays it little, if any, mind — and instead spins into the next volley, bent on reaching where Jessica Jones has leapt ahead of him — and where she seems to be punting dead bodies into the singularity's maw.

Blackstone leaves without any further word towards the two sorceresses. There is a job to do.

What follows thereafter is a brutal dance.

The moment he steps free of his hospital room, he buries his fist in a foreign invader who broke the line, a ripple in the air sending him skidding past Daredevil. From there, fists crack off like cannonfire between the killers, the security service, the two brawlers and the invading forces. Foreigners to the country are thrown down to dirt viciously and with little remorse from the defending troop. The first wave of Zatanna's spell hits the lead group like hammers, taking the fight out of the knife wielders and making the shots of the center bulk of the forces miss what would normally be perfect headshots, their boots going weak underneath them as the line breaks down quickly, with the whirling force of Daredevil quickly rendering guns little more than toys as men hit the ground crumpled. In the midst of that, knives are bent like tin against Jessica's strength, and a man's ears are clogged with drywall as his head beats down the wall.

A fiery body flies over Rubicon's head, being swallowed up into a singularity that blooms in the center of the hospital, cutting off their avenue of escape. The spear-wielding agent, the slimmer of the two lieutenants, takes a huge jump forward into the fray and away from the black, looking back in subdued alarm. The gunslinger to Rubicon's right almost falls over himself to get away from the blooming darkness, but it is something that the chemist recognizes quickly.

And laughs, bitterly, a reckless man. The sound is distorted.
No escape?

"Gregor, deal with them."
"I know what time it is.."

The gunslinger gains his footing, stepping wide and away from the massive pulsing black, forced further into the aisle, but now he lifts his black revolver. It clicks. And snaps. And it makes no other sound at all as it fires a set of four vibranium rounds towards Jessica and the red-clad one. Four rounds, two a piece, center of mass. It's all he intends to shoot. At Rubicon's side, the slimmer of the two agents lifts up the spear, and engages it. Red light traces out the outline of a pair of panthers in the hall, forming a vanguard in front of Rubicon. Which just leaves the chemist to engage his torches once again, lifting them slowly to orient on the back ranks of the two, the obvious source of the witch effects that are breaking up his front lines, no matter how valiantly they are trying to hold.
"The will of some is girded in things stronger than steel."

The flameburst fills the hall, a pair of trashcan-sized blasts of flame threatening to melt Jessica and Daredevil just for being on the periphery of their impact path, as they soar towards the back of the hall at Zatanna, Jane and Blackstone.

As it does before, the blood magic courts Jane's nervous system with a blinding, searing pleasure — as it weighs how much of her life it wishes to cut away.

Only her fury is left to center her, keep her eyes focused on this world: on its gestalt and not lost deep into the details she manipulates and rules she bends. Her now-blue eyes glow as as her fingers flex and curl, beckoning forward and holding the singularity in its squeezed, compressed pocket of gravity. The woman breathes in slowly, in and out, all her focus on sustaining it: not to keep it here, in existence — but to keep it from growing far beyond even her control.

It wants to: gravity existing only to provide a single role to the universe, and as the singularity destroys, it recreates its own order. It wants to consume, and with Jane Foster's hands on its fatal reins.

Bodies thrown in disappear: it seems an instant but with the curvature of time, it sieves into a plodding forever the closer one gets to that spherical void. It is the absence of light and sound, vacant and cold, and endlessly pulling.

There are gunshots: Jane releases an inch of leash through her hands, through her blood, through her code — the singularity growing as the gravitational pull works against the trajectory of those bullets, hoping just enough to divert their paths —

— but the fierce, fast, direct plume of fire is something else. Jane, still kneeling, blood quietly dripping from her nose, sees but has no defence. Not when everything she has is holding the singularity from chaos.

Yay! It's a good news bad news situation!

Good news, the whole hospital isn't going to burn down because of dead bodies, and that gave them a moment!

Bad news…the guys in the back are getting real damned serious, real fast.

Jessica Jones is dimly aware that her friends are behind her. Even Matt, once she looked around to figure out where he was before punting flaming bodies away so they wouldn't be on fire. She's been relying on bulletproof clothing and May's borrowed body armor, and she doesn't have any particular reason to believe these bullets are special.

She's wearing three layers of stuff: May's borrowed blazer, Tony's bulletproof tanktop and jeans, and Jane's bulletproof undergirding, gifted in Germany. And vibranium? Could probably tear through all of it.

Jane Foster saves her ass. Bullets tugged just enough off their trajectory mean that they slice slightly to her right, hopefully to find a piece of wall to live in instead of her flesh. This trip has already meant stab wounds and lungs full of cyanide; killer vibranium bullets which are probably capable of even piercing Luke Cage's flesh would probably have spelled her end.

Then there is fire, and she has no way to stop it; the heat singes her hair until she can smell it. It reminds her, abruptly, of another fire, one that scoured her from head to toe in her youth.

Collarbone, Jane said. Makes it hard to hold a weapon. Strike right there

Someone else is going to have to handle the fire. She's going after the gunslinger. She leaps again, trying to bypass the light panthers, and this time she's punching as hard as she can when she comes down, attempting to shatter bone in the precise spot Jane taught her, then attempting to grab the vibranium gunslinger's wrist and shatter it with a single squeeze, for good measure. It's not a long leap this time, just a regular high powerleap, angled up and down.

Fighting in cramped quarters is new to her.

But the magical battlefield is where she excels; investigations, science, espionage, even the finer points of magic, she often defers to everyone else, being oftentimes the youngest person in the group. But when it comes to a fight, she is surprisingly able; if nothing else, the cocktail of biochemicals singing in her system often pushes her creativity to soaring heights - not just to apply what she has learned, but to make her spellcasting more efficient. Three words or less. If she can do that, then her reaction time can improve and…

…she feels heat, before she sees the fire.

Jane is busy holding onto the gravity well and she can practically feel the seconds of her life draining away, offering these precious tokens to the altar of use. Jessica is not backing down, her trust on her comrades implicit in her movements. This Blackstone guy hasn't stopped moving the moment the shield went down and if both of them are going to keep fighting, chances are Matt will also.

She extends her hand forward, and as flames lick towards Daredevil and Jessica Jones, tongues of red-gold threatening to obliterate the rest of them at the back…

"ENOG ERIF!"

The elements answer her call; before the devastating wave even touches Jess and Matt, before it even reaches within breaths of Jane, Blackstone and herself…

…she wills it to dissipate into mist. It will mess with visibility. But Jane's gravity well doesn't need to see to consume the bodies of the invading HYDRA agents, doesn't need to look to swallow their bullets. And Daredevil…?

Well. Daredevil is already fighting in the dark.

He's at his best when fighting in the dark. Sight is a crutch, his sensei taught him, and that he was forced to abandon early in life was a blessing in disguise. He's not at all sure whether he believes that or not, but he believes it most when he's fighting in the dark while his enemies, deprived of the sight they still rely on, are truly blind.

But we'll get to that. First there's the matter of these bullets. Two of them heading straight for him, and though their trajectory is altered by more of that universe-warping mystical energy — one is still in danger of striking him. And so he tries to preempt, repeating a one-in-a-million trick he successfully pulled off against Hydra agents last time he was in a crowded hallway of mayhem courtesy of their organization. He tries to deflect the bullet with his baton, summoning up all his nearly precognitive powers of awareness and finely honed reflexes to bat the projectile away. It works and doesn't, altering the course of the bullet while the high-velocity impact with the rarest of metals stress-fractures Daredevil's slender weapon and rendering it useless.

The fracas continues.

For Blackstone's part, he is dealing with some of the peripheral flames, energy coursing throughout his body as he drives a fist through a weak-kneed agent and almost caves in the wall next to him by driving the tactical geared foreigner about through it. Just one second, just one slip is all he needs. And the aftermath of the sorceress' spell provides it in spades, the flames being driven off and away from him with a flash of vibranium force.

Gregor, or rather, the gunslinger, is having a problem right now. With his bullets not able to hit their mark ("Don't commonly see that," he grouses, just before Jessica hits him) it sort of makes life hard on him to make his signature longshots. In short, the amount of physics warping right now is really shaking his sideburns. Did that devil guy just catch a bullet? Wait, or what was — "that round shoulda shattred — " Speaking of shattered!! "AUGH!"

Rubicon growls, a metallic and vicious sound as his flames collapse to mist, and the pilots of his gauntlets wink out of existence. It will take a moment to relight them. The battlefield grows dark, and his men pay the price. But closer to Daredevil, there is a different form of light. Rather, the panthers in the hall. Jessica may have leapt over them and closed to close with Gregor, but Nyia is still here, and the closest devil is the target of her two subdued killers, the holographic and formless things making the vaguest amount of a deadly hiss as they leap at him, trying to cut into him with laser-cut claws.

A lot of his men lay in the ground, taken down in the ensuing and terrible minutes. There are still several left, recovering from the sleep spell, but the tide turns quickly, doesn't it?
Rubicon breathes, his respirator clicking as his pilots flicker. Behind him is no go. He clicks open his pneumatic launch tubes. With a loud pop, discs hit the ground. One across the ground at his feet. The other, to the wall next to him. He leans into the guard, and blows out the wall, caving it in into a waiting room in an adjacent hall.

Outside, five minutes ago:

Hey, is this the place, chili?
ya, d. You know.
Place doesn't even have a sign on the fron', eh?
no worries. trust me. this the place.
Okat, ya kat. Let's go. and call the other truck and tell em we ready. We gonna get us some today.

The sound of sneakers flooding the halls seems to fill things, omnipresent. "WHERE THAT JONES?" they ask of nurses and stuff that are huddled in closets. "WHERE JONES? WHERE THAT FOOL? She after my mom?? I'm gonna get her!!" Sneakers squealing in the halls. Then the sound of gunfire hits their ears. Dandy Jam sticks a finger in his ear, tall, dark and annoyed. "….guessin they be that way…"

Back in the hallway, now:

The gunshot comes from Gregor, actually, who is actually rather good at swapping gunhands, and is now making his best effort, despite a broken collar, to pistolwhip Jones with his off-hand. It only takes him a second to snake his hand between them. Another second to put his gun somewhere uncomfortable. Comparitively, it doesn't take anything at all to pull the trigger.
As the line advances, some of the scattered HYDRA agents are recovering, and attempting to go after Zatanna, Blackstone and Jane in the back ranks, gathering their guns and wiping off the blood. But right now, the more compelling targets are Nyia, who is trying to have Daredevil pulled apart by panthers, and Gregor, who is currently trying to blow a new hole in Jones with his off-hand.

That's about the time when the sounds of fighting and sneakers fill the halls.
They come from just about every direction. It's hard to tell how many Wakandan youths are stuck behind the black singularity as a matter of fact. But just about every other portion of the hall is suddenly filled with bedlam. Civilian, HYDRA, WSS, WIS, it doesn't actually matter to the horde of kids that burst in, knocking down guards and jumping over pony walls and through security windows as they start flooding into the area, all fists and angry faces. Doctors, nurses, engineers, guards, all getting knocked out in droves. One of the stragglers from HYDRA can be seen running as he's being pelted with bricks.

And in the thick of it all, some Wakandan kid in the background hollering as he gets closer.
"JESSICA JONES!! You fool bother my momma???? I gonna take my BOOT, and USE IT ON YOU, CHISEL you a NEW ASS!!!"

Nyia looks up, and blanches noticeably.
Gregor too busy trying to kill people.
"The situation has become unmanageable," Rubicon snarls, turning away for the hole.

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