Demon Bear: Empty Sky

November 08, 2017:

Cutscene. James Barnes searches for the lost Jane Foster.

Upstate New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jane Foster, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Afternoon slants over the lone figure of James Barnes, seated by a capillary stream that runs downhill on its way to the great artery of the Hudson River. All around him is silent, and his only company is the stand of aspen in which he sits. As if aware of his troubles, they lean over him, the shadows of their rustling leaves moving in ghostly empathy across his face.

In the quiet of the woods of upstate New York, he looks at his phone. Civilization glares up at him in the form of a glowing screen.

The response has been more than he hoped for. Offers to scry, to search, to help. He should send back something in kind. Some rallying or reassuring words.

If you get anything send it my way. I've got GPS. Upstate. Narrowing it down.

He hits send. Then he sleeps his phone, and puts it away.

He didn't have a motorcycle when he left the city. He has one now, a sturdy dirt bike that should stand up to the off-roading in his future. He's sure no one will miss it.

The saddlebags slung along it are certainly not for hiking gear.

He avoids the major interstates, eschewing I-95 and the Thruway alike. He hits the Taconic and follows it up a brief way, but swiftly shunts off onto back roads, and then no roads at all. The GPS pulses are intermittent, so spaced-out he could scream or kill someone, but they do come. He takes down each one as it comes, slowly mapping Jane's location as data points arrive.

She is still moving. That means she is still alive.

He gets occasional readouts from John and Zatanna's scrying, on top of his own. His map starts to cluster with marks. Some of them are recorded off in a blank corner, the ones the mages tell him aren't even on this world. How can they not be on this world?

Jessica tells him, it's because it's some kind of shadow bear. Jane's instruments registered an anomalous event immediately prior. The information goes right through him. What it is doesn't matter.

Matt would probably be telling him to smarten up right now. Calm down, slow down. Matt would know because Matt is the same, deep down.

Matt isn't here.

Night falls, and he's forced to stop in Tarrytown to gas up. The bike needs a break, more than he does. He should rest, should eat, but he has no desire. The best he can manage is to force himself to take some water.

On the off chance there's any hints in the local news, he stops in the nearest bar, hat on and collar up to avoid easy recognition. It's early enough in the evening they're still running the world news spots, and his second mistake (the first was coming back into civilization at all) is to pay attention.

There's a few talking heads on the TV screen, dissecting the recent so-called Trial of Two Centuries and its implications for future case law. One of the dozen-or-so men loitering around yells for the bartender to change the channel.

"That shit was already boring even when it was real-time news," he remarks to his friends, leaning his chin in his left hand. "Only thing worth watching it for was the chick. Hot little piece of ass, even if she was crying all the time. But then — "

His sentence gets cut off by forged steel and titanium knocking half the teeth out of his jaw, and his ass flat onto the floor.

A very brief engagement follows.

A dozen-or-so bodies later, give or take, James gets quietly back on his bike and continues north.

The next night finds him somewhere between Ossining and Pleasantville, in the thick forests that still exist even in Westchester County. It's far enough from the city — from any city — that the stars are visible again, even if they're wan compared to what they would have been in New Mexico.

In a little clearing between groves of elder, he looks up.

He cannot find Aquila or Lyra. Winter is pushing both constellations out of the sky.

It's superstitious… but he shudders a little, as he takes down the next pulse of the GPS.

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