The Passenger, or: Strange Things Afoot At The Circle K

March 07, 2018:

Two Birds of Prey and two possibly-future Birds of Prey investigate some mysterious bread and, in so doing, explode half the toilets in the Narrows.

Characters

NPCs: Shirt Says Paul, other unfortunates, a horrible tentacle thing

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\#https://youtu.be/S0nlygb1Qfw The Passenger, Iggy Pop]


Fade In…

Every Bird received, at some point prior to this evening, an earpiece and a phone with the imprint of a hawk with its claws outstretched. Every Bird was told that at some point, they would be called upon. Oracle doesn't necessarily call every Bird in her book for every task that needs doing. She tailors her call-outs to individual tasks. Some people are really great at sitting across the street for hours and taking photographs. Others are amazing at forensic accountancy. And some? Some are absolutely fantastic at making sure that the faces they bash in stay bashed in.

There's this bodega. It's not the best one in town, and it doesn't have to be, because it's a front for the gang that "owns" this neighborhood. It doesn't matter how good their business is; it matters that the chop shop around back has a place to launder its money.

Apart from these two little institutions, this particular block isn't a huge hotbed of crime, so it's odd that people haven't been coming out of the bodega lately. The place appears open for business, as always, but there isn't the usual traffic of people going in and out. It's eerily quiet, and the unpleasantly quiet feel isn't at all helped by the flickering light in the alley that runs alongside the building.

(Tonight's mood music: "The Passenger", Iggy Pop)


Jessica Jones is definitely good at sitting for hours taking photographs, but she doesn't have an earpiece or a hawk phone. What she has a client. Lately all her work has been all about Gotham, as if the Panther Goddess is making sure she doesn't have too many reasons to stray off the weird task her High Priest has asked of the detective. Which would be a lot more of a pain in the ass without her standing invitation to go sleep at Shadowcrest whenever she likes, an invite which has been very helpful indeed.

She is up on said rooftop smoking a cigarette. Most people wouldn't find 40 degree weather warm enough to forgo most winter clothes. Jess does. But not all of them. Her bulletproof black leather jacket is unzipped over a royal blue bulletproof scoop-necked t-shirt; bulletproof jeans and black boots complete the picture. She's got a nice DSLR camera on her today, and a messenger bag to hold it and her file and notes; she does a lot on paper even with an amazing phone/computer, which lives in her inner pocket. This one has a night filter that lets her take good photos without the tell-tale of a flash.

The quiet, the lack of traffic, all of this has her on edge. And so she leaps a rooftop or two to get closer, so she can walk above this alley with its weird flickering light, so she can see better what the Hell is going on.

But on edge or not, this is what she lives for, and she's pleased enough to be out here.


HOURS AGO.

"YOU'RE GONNA BE THE GUY MOONMOON, YOU'RE GONNA BE THE GUY! DON'T GIVE UP ELLAGIGGLE!" Furious typing in Twitchchat almost drowns out the sound of her phone, which has been buzzing for some time.

"Oh fuck!"

Furiously pulling on her costume even as she tries to leap from building, she gets the down low from Oracle, and more than that, finds out she's going to get a teacher.

NOW.

What's that ahead of Jessica? Not the usual rooftop things you have to worry about tripping over, but a woman and her child? What? No wait, as Jessica draws closer it will be clear that it is just a very, very, VERY large woman and another mostly normal sized woman. Dressed in black from head to toe, with red racing over her collarbones in a very distinctive bird symbol, she stares up at the much large woman with a certain kind of awe.

"Oh my god you're enormous and it's awesome."

Her hand comes out, tilted down but offered in such an earnest way as a smile lights up the Red Sparrow's face, her other hand on her hip and a light in her eyes that holds a barely contained excitement. THIS IS A REAL SUPERHERO HOLY SHIT.

Of course her senses are always on fire, it's what her Inhuman genetics have her built for, and she can see Jessica coming before the investigator can spot the pair, her eyes shifting sidelong, and that domino mask set in a little tilt. "Oh shit, incoming."


Normally this is about the time where most people go home, heading back from taking late hours for work or leaving any existing eaterys that don't usually stay open all night. Others take their time to head out to the bars, making their rounds as if the night will last forever.

However 'peaceful' this bodega in particular appears on the surface, there is always something deeper. And for someone like Raven, the 'quiet' doesn't quite fit the description.

Something had drawn her here. The pulses of daily life on these streets were hapzardly emotional at best thanks to the people occupying its space, leaving the poor girl moody once the most hectic parts of the day passed on.

When she usually traveled along the way, it settled.

This time…it didn't.

It's easier for Raven to remove herself from the situation, but there is a nagging feeling, a kind of terror that grates into her, getting pass the shadow of her hooded form and under her skin, a feeling that tells her that maybe, just maybe, she should try figuring out what it is.

Because common sense be damned.

"If I haven't done it already, I'm going to hate myself in the morning," the black-cloaked Raven mutters under her breath, almost appearing out of nowhere thanks to the darkness. Gliding is a thing and she does this effortlessly, seeking out the problem on her own without realizing there are others who may or may not be on the same page.


Barda's eyes squint in such a way as to suggest that her brow might be knitted, hidden beneath the plate of her ornamented helmet, as Red Sparrow gushes at her like.. well, like people usually gush at her husband. There's a moment's hesitation before her lips spread into a big, toothy grin and she takes the smaller's woman hand in an iron grip. She might even be about to thank her, but Red Sparrow directs her attention to the roof, first.

The giant woman's stance changes immediately. She pivots toward the building that Jones is crouched upon, bringing broad shoulders square with the unknown, hand going to the mega-rod on her belt. "Declare yourself!" Nothing about her body language suggests that she's aware of Raven.. yet.


And Oracle is watching.

Oracle is usually watching, but even she can't watch everything all at once on her own. The Birds are her eyes, her ears, and her claws.

Sometimes they're also her squealing fangirls.

The street itself, apart from the four women converging, is quiet. There's distant traffic. There's also the sound of the radio from inside the bodega, but it's a little indistinct. And nothing appears wrong, at least not at first glance.


With the cigarette hanging out of her mouth, Jessica hardly looks like someone looking for a fight. She hesitates and stuffs her panther tooth necklace into her shirt to make sure it won't get caught by something if there is one, but she sure doesn't look like she's here to start one.

And then she's being told to DECLARE HERSELf.

Everything in Jessica Jones' expression twists into a perfect arrangement of what the actual fuck skepticism.

She decides not to get closer. She takes a drag off her cigarette and just stares. And hisses, "What the Hell, Giganta, this isn't 4th Century France. You wanna shout that shit a little louder? I don't think every last asshole downstairs heard that. Or do I now need to answer some sort of bullshit question about the speed of a fucking African swallow? Christ. My name's Jones. I'm a PI. Who the Hell are you two?"


OH MY GOD.

Barda demands answers of the incoming Ms. Jones, and Sparrow can only turn her head and look. First at Barda. Then at Jessica, buh-linking twice as the Investigator's question about having to answer a question. "Actually, that would be great. What's the airspeed of an unladen Marlboro?"

Jessica won't get a chance to answer, she snatches that cigarette out of Jessica's mouth with lightning reflexes and sends it in a flickering spiral from the rooftop. This action is not meant as an affront, and as if to prove method to her madness she holds up a hand to silence them both and points at a fucking shadow that moves holy shit oh my god

Then she leaps. To watch the Red Sparrow move is very much like watching Bucky Barnes or Captain America, vaulting to the height of human excellence, but more like if you gave those gifts to a kid who eats way to much candy, spends to much time online, and is more likely to meme than dream.

There is a sound to Raven's left as feet meet brick, then a cartwheel that brings her into a threepoint landing in front of the Gothling Birb-Emo.

Up and down the Sparrow looks, then she clucks her tongue, eyes trying to see through all the places where shadow does not seem to work the way it's supposed to, super senses working overtime. Should she shout Who Goes There? Nah, fuck it, she does the same thing she did to Barda.

"Heyyyyyyy. Put'er there, pal! Unless you're not my pal, in which case, this will be awkward. Like when the hero and the villain don't know they're arch enemies, like in that movie by Dark Knight Shlay-My-Mom."

Still, she holds out her hand to Raven all the same, leaving Jessica and Barda to figure each other out while Sparrow BRAVELY holds down the alley.


Closing in on the bodega, Raven skulks. Drifts, even. Picking up on the faint radio static, two things cross her mind: either the station fails to get good reception around here, or it's something she briefly remembers from popular media like those video games kids her age keep referencing. She just forgets if that's a good or a bad sign.

As for the yelling across (above?) the way? Well, it's definitely hard to miss that. Thoughts rudely interrupted, Raven stops, her cloak trailing to a standstill seconds after she does. Drawing in a sharp breath, she ignores the rapid beating of her heart, slowly lifting her gaze in the direction of the three women-

Or two, now that the third has suddenly dropped down to nearly land on her. She barely catches the glint of the cigarette in its airborne trajectory when Sparrow lands and cartwheels moments later, instinctively shifting back to make room for her new 'friend.'

Sparrow may not see Raven's face clearly, but she's making a face. That 'what the heck' type of face, half-masked by shadow as she stares at the hand offered. The corner of her mouth quirks. "…Hi."

A pause. She still makes no move to shake her hand.

"Well. You're not wrong," she adds, giving a shrug at the 'awkward' part of the introduction. "I don't know about you, but this isn't really the time or place for greetings."


Of course, Barda is tense as Red Sparrow interjects in ways far more dangerous than her own booming voice (in her not-so-humble opinion). As the young bird leaps away, her eyes narrow and her jaw finally relaxes. "This alley.. I don't like how it feels. If whatever's inside there came out, I think we would be better off." This is what Barda offers to Jessica by way of.. well, not apology for her shouting, although she speaks at a normal level now despite the fact that the woman has come no closer. Hopefully she didn't take Red Sparrow's little joke with the cigarette personally.

Barda pulls the mega-rod from her belt, holding it out at her side as if ready to use it as she stares the way at the shadows that swirl about Raven. In the dim light, one would be forgiven for mistaking it for a baton or cattle prod.


From up on the top of that building, there's one thing that looks perhaps a little odd.

It's the bread truck. There's an alley that goes past both the bodega and the auto mechanic/chop shop. Between the two is a small parking lot that belongs to the mechanic. That's where the bread truck is. That's not where the delivery door is, though: that's along the side. So why's the bread truck pulled around back, out of sight?

A voice rings softly in Red Sparrow's and Big Barda's earpieces: "The one with the cigarette and the attitude is Jessica Jones. I put her on assignment here. The other… Both can be trusted, but neither's a Bird of Prey. Not yet, anyway."


Jessica Jones' cigarette goes flying, and the look on her face morphs to one of a sort of startled and huffy, seriously?!?

She does not go for another, though she looks sorely tempted. "I wasn't done with that," she grumbles. But she can hear the shhing and the reasons for it well enough.

If whatever's inside will come out, Barda says, and Jones shrugs. "It's true I'm not learning shit about 'em out here."

But then there's a bread truck. Brown eyes narrow and she holds up her hand in a 'hold that thought' gesture. Despite her griping, she seems to have decided the other people up here tonight are Gotham Hero Types (TM), and as such, are not really a threat to anything other than attempts to be stealthy. And her cigarettes. They are definitely threats to her cigarettes.

She won't fly; her landings are too loud, too messy, too clumsy. But she wants a better look at that truck. That hasn't pulled up in all the time she's there. She power leaps, opting to move beside it and peer inside, pulling on gloves with all the fingers attached as she does. Peering inside the cabin at first, though she's sure the back might have some interesting stuff. But so might the front, and if it's empty? She's totally raiding the dash, grabbing receipts to look at, and in general just going through anything she can find that might tell her more.

Apparently, the one with the former cigarette and the attitude is done with the pleasantries and is on to the 'continue case' portion of the evening.


"So… are you saying you like to just skip right to hugs? Or…? I'm new at this." Red Sparrow tilts her head to the side and blows a bit of hair out of her face, one hand coming up to run through it in an almost nervous gesture. Of course, that's when she notices the Bread Truck down the way, a little side-squinting, and then Oracle chimes in her ear.

It brings an immediate smile to her face, because, well. It means she doesn't have a nemesis yet! Gosh she'd hate to have one of those without, you know, earning it. Teeth flash in the night, bright and white and shining as they form Sparrow's grin at Raven, and it's almost a taunt when her next words form. "I hear you're gooooooooooood people. C'mon, Dark Avenger. Is it Dark Avenger? Wait.. Dark Angel? Oh. My. God. That is such a cool name and it sounds so familiar for some reason."

Right around the time Jessica is pontificating on ruining her lungs a little more, there's an absent, yet sharp scrape, as a foot dashes sidelong to smear the smoldering Marlboro on the ground into a pile of ruined ash. That done, she turns to make her way down the alley, brows lifting at the already investigative Jones, and then she peers up and back at Barda, everything about her expression saying one thing, and one thing only.

MUCH EXCITE, VERY HERO.

She vigorously waves Barda on to join them all, as they head for that singular destination, just kinda standing there, fists on her hips, full hero pose as she eyes the truck over. "Mm… br..bready."


"Don't think I've ever seen that movie either," Raven moodily adds as an afterthought, not exactly keen on continuing the conversation with Red Sparrow when there are Other Important Things Happening That May Need To Be Observed. It's not difficult to pick up on her meaning, is it?

Apparently, it is. She shouldn't be surprised. "No, that's not- " Raven sighs as she holds up a hand, the gesture creating a weak barrier of social protection before they're both distracted by the bread truck.

She's still not sold on this feeling filling the area. Not the one coming from Red Sparrow - that's a different feeling altogether. With the latter, she has to wonder what's going on and why she's known as 'good people.' Not many people know her. Not really.

Still, they're all starting to head toward the truck and the auto shop. Raven picks up the pace and tries to keep up with Sparrow, the chance to correct the alias interrupted by a spike of terror. She veers to lean up against the nearest wall, clutching at the fabric of her dark tunic.

"Not bread," she rasps, trying to regain composure as something else blindsides her with an intense hunger. Growing. Terrifying. "That's not bread…!"

She sounds ridiculous saying this aloud, but she really doesn't like this building now.


…Jessica does have a point. Barda nods her head yes, as if answering a question that nobody asked, acknowledging the information delivered over her earpiece. And yet she does not lower her guard, mega-rod held at the ready like a broad sword as she waits to see how Red Sparrow and Raven get on. Their interaction doesn't make much sense to her, especially within the context of the mission. Earth youth are very strange.

The two young women move past Barda and she steps in behind them, right before Raven appears to have some sort of attack. She looks between Raven and the truck and Jessica Jones. "JONES!" Big Barda bellows as she runs for the truck at top speed.


Sparrow declares the truck to be very 'bready.'

"Very crime scene-y, too," Jessica mutters, as she gives the cabin the once-over. "Don't touch anything in here, please."

She pulls out her phone. And from within the phone, somehow, there's now an evidence collection kit. Well, not somehow. Raven might well detect the swirling strains of an enchantment. "Our driver got shot, his clipboard's missing, and someone tried to clean up. They just. Didn't do it worth a shit."

The clean-up could be the reason why there's not enough blood in the cabin. Jessica starts by taking a swab of every blood spot she can find, her eyes narrow. In a way she's almost tuning folks out. Then it's time for a luminol spray; she pulls out a hand-held blacklight to swing it around, to see if there really was too little blood for being shot in the head. She goes looking to see if any ballistic evidence happened. "Shitty clean-up job." And of course. Prints. Fibers. Any other bits of physical evidence. Jess doesn't trust cops. She routinely tries to do their job for them as a result, and not just on the 'beat criminals up' angle. On the 'collect evidence good lawyers can use to nail them' angle. As long as the chain of evidence is still preserved and logged properly, her licensed status means that the worst that can happen are frowns and lectures.

Barda is shouting her name and running for the truck at top speed. Jessica hears the warning in her tone, even if she missed the comment about not-bread.

But the thing is, she's aware there's a lot they could have caught that she missed. So Barda runs. Jess quickly grabs such evidence as she may be able to keep and leaps backwards and clear, landing in a crouch as she grasps it all to her chest. She doesn't know if she's clearing from an explosion or a falling piano, but she definitely thought she detected a 'get clear note' in the call of her name. Her eyes are wide and her body is tense, now she's trying to discern why she's gotten clear.


For the empathic, the world can be a confusing, even painful patchwork of joy and sorrow, lust and disgust, boredom and excitement. It can be overwhelming. But most of the time, people's feelings are really muted. They're just moving through the world on autopilot. It means that spikes in emotion — shock, delight, terror — sometimes manage to shine out in the most unexpected ways.

The bread? It looks like bread. It's in plastic bags in a bread truck. When accused of being Not Bread, the bread holds very still. Perhaps it is attempting to allay suspicion.

Perhaps it's just bread.

Distantly, the radio is playing in the bodega. It sounds like Macarthur Park.

The bread remains sessile.


Ohgodohgodohgod. She saw something. Sparrow saw something. What did she see? Neutrons fire her mind backwards into that moment. A person standing in the bodega in a terrible trance. A swallow, as Barda calls out in alarm, and so does Raven. That this, this terrible truck, is filled with Not-Bread.

"What.. are you.. are you okay? What is it?! Is it Bomb-Bread?!"

That thought in mind, she grabs hold of Raven, forcing her back, forcing her in behind a dumpster. But even with this terrible revelation that it might be something else, she has to worry about the civilian. "Look stay here, think dark, shadowy avenger thoughts." A hand to Raven's forehead, the same action her mother used to take when Arnavi was having a bad dream, cool skin against the hot rush of emotion poor Raven is suffering through, and with a look that tells the other woman she wishes she could stay, she's dashing off, heading for the Bodega through whatever avenue seems easiest, intent on correcting her mistake.

If she missed something and that counter clerk is dead, she might never forgive herself.


Concentration! Concentration is the game. Raven fights, desperately trying to shake off the gross feelings while recapturing her calm facade. And here's Red Sparrow, 'helping' her. She doesn't realize they're behind the dumpster until after she has taken a few breaths, her brow wrinkling at the young woman at the suggestion of dark, shadowy thoughts.

So she has no sense of personal space. "Can you not- " Raven shuts up again as the hand rests against her forehead, her own expression adding in confusion with the amount of irritation she's been holding onto.

Still, the hand that clutches still remains over her chest, however, tightly balled as the intensity of that strange, otherworldly hunger attempts to overwhelm her senses.

Perhaps she is somewhat relieved to have these other 'friends' here to offset her current state of being, noisy and rash and ten. Perhaps she can be grateful later, because the longer she stays here to deal whatever it is setting off that dark hungering, the more it just eats away at her.

Taking another breath, the shadowy one barely shakes her head. "Okay. No…no, it's not the bread," Raven corrects herself, eyes darting about to see if she can zone in on the horribleness. "It's…something else…" She tries to make that little personal bubble appear again as she gently pushes Red Sparrow back, looking off to the side…

…And there's the ground, concrete and asphalt surrounding a simple manhole cover. Carefully drifting away and over to take a closer look, the hunger revives itself, growing fierce upon her approach. It's also not the prettiest manhole cover, covered in rust so vivid she's sure someone is making it look worse on purpose. But upon closer inspection, she squints, crouching low enough to just be a blob of black against a dark backdrop.

"…Hey, um. You." She clearly indicates Sparrow here, tilting her head her way. "Come take a look at this and tell me that isn't blood."


Big Barda hits the van's loading side with enough force to put her fist through the door and rock the body on its tires. With the ear-shattering squeal of metal forced to bend like clay, she rips the door clean off its hinges and peers into the dark bowels. Bread? She fires the mega-rod at the harmless stacks of plastic wrapped loaves.

BOOOOM.

That's some bread that will never harm an innocent celiac sufferer!


When Raven tilts her head at Sparrow, Sparrow… doesn't seem to be there and is instead rapidly sprinting toward the little convenience store.

There's a side door that presumably leads into the bodega, but it has no external handle and is presumably only opened from the inside. To the front door it is, for Sparrow.

Inside? The place is eerily clean at first glance. A young man, no more than thirty or so, stands at the cash register. He stares straight ahead and doesn't acknowledge Sparrow when she comes in except that his eyes snap to her and he watches her every movement like a drugged but intense cat.

Unusual things about him include that he seems to be wearing some kind of uniform. There's a patch with his name embroidered on one side, but there's a blank spot with loose threads on the other side. He also looks a bit pale and… saggy?

There's a smell in here. The overwhelming smell is bleach and disinfectant, but there's another smell, slightly metallic and definitely organic, underneath it.

From outside in the alley, there is a massive KABOOM and the strong smell of toast and burned plastic. Luckily the truck itself doesn't actually explode: it's just in really sad shape.

The guy behind the counter doesn't even look toward the sound of the explosion. He just keeps. staring. at Sparrow.


Here is Jessica Jones, crouching with her evidence. And there is Barda, who valiently warned her. Causing a KABOOM.

Tasing.

The bread.

Taken aback, with her snark levels edging ever northward: "O-kay…Did you…just…really want some toast?"

But then the manhole cover. Jessica hears 'blood' and wanders over to Raven, as the hyperactive Sparrow has hopped to the inside of the bodega, slowly shoving the strangely GSR-free samples back into her kit. Noting, belatedly, the fact that the black light still didn't show enough blood for the gunshot she thought she was seeing.

"It's blood," she confirms to Raven grimly, taking another swab sample at that.

She blows out her cheeks. "Think the answer is yank up this manhole cover and jump in the stinky sewer? It's so often yank up the manhole cover and jump in the stinky sewer." She reaches out to do that. The yanking up part. Not the jumping. She's really hoping someone will say: hahaha, don't be silly Jones, this isn't a stinky sewer job at all! She doesn't think it's gonna happen.

But. She's hoping.


Oh, if only she could tell Raven that's not blood. But Sparrow can't. All she can do is keep on racing back to this dude, who may or may not be alright, until finally she makes it inside the little convenience shop to star at the man with a sudden, awkward stop. A wave of her hand. Her senses absorb every inch of the place in a glance, and she can see the deeper signs that Something Is Not Right with this man. His saggy.. everything, that vacant look. It gives her the utmost pause.

If only she had some experience on her side. Oh wait, she does. And this is 2018.

"Team Comms on. Oracle, and.. everyone. Team. Hullo. We have a.. dude. In approximate dude form. Cannot confirm this dude is alright. He's just standing there staring at me like I'm eating his brain or something and honestly, even talking about him like he's a meat popsicle, doesn't seem to be rustling his jimmies, sooooooooooo. Hey dude? Dude? What's your name? Can you count to five? Tell me your perfect sunday, or something! C'mon give me something to work with I know graveyard shift sucks but this ain't the way to handle it."

There's a single step forward, fingers curling, pupils dilating as she watches for any shift in him that might be an attack.


At the sudden disappearance of Sparrow, Raven frowns. Deeply. "…Forget I even asked."

The explosion makes her flinch, but she doesn't move from her spot. She figures she's safer being here by the manhole than by that poor bread - now toasted - truck. But at least Jessica Jones is sensible enough to be there and answer her question as it still stands. Raven looks up at her, her expression unchanging as she replies. "As much as I don't want it to be, we may not have much of a choice. Especially since nothing feels right about this."

Because she's on board with not going down there. At all.


The bread does not reveal itself to be.. something else. Barda pokes at the pile of burnt bread and melted plastic, just to be sure that either Raven was mistaken or that what was in there is good and fried! She turns to head toward the bodega but pauses when she sees Jessica and Raven poised over the open man hole.

"Jones and Raven have found something, they're about to go in the sewer.." Barda is looking at them when she says it. "I don't think that we should split up. We can come back for the man inside."


EXT: ALLEY

Jessica Jones, strongwoman extraordinaire, levers open the manhole cover without much effort. Below is… well, the magic of air pressure means that most of the stink is kept down there, but a whiff will confirm that it's definitely a Gotham City sewer. Nobody should go in there. Not heroes or, for that matter, sewer workers or rats. Killer Croc lives down there, possibly, somewhere. And there's undoubtedly worse.

This might be part of the worse, though.

INT: BODEGA (OF DOOM)

The man — his shirt says his name is Paul, and it would be rude to assume otherwise — continues dully watching Sparrow. Watching. Watching. And when she takes a step or two forward, the still and creepy watching does stop. For a moment his face crinkles as if he's angry, as if he's about to give Sparrow some vicious insult.

But his face just keeps scrunching up. His mouth opens. And opens. And opens. And then his face opens, and then his CHEST opens, flaps of skin and flesh pulling away in toothed flaps that almost resemble some horrible rainforest flora. Tentacles like thin tendrils whip out in an attempt to grab at her wrists and her neck, and a horrible shrill shriek emanates from Shirt Says Paul.

In Barda's earpiece: "I recommend you don't split up. At all. Keep everyone together and ensure nobody goes running off. Retrieve them if they do; that is top priority. Sparrow — "

A moment of shocked silence, then: "Red Sparrow's in trouble. Sparrow, get out of there!"


Right. Evidence into phone. Maglite out of phone. "Jessica Jones," she offers to Raven. "Always great to make new friends when it's time to slog through literal shit."

She is off the comms, of course, but the problem stands. And Barda is clearly in contact with Hyperetta.

She flips on the flashlight, grumbling, "Last year's theme was nightmare realms. This year's theme is shit I bet. At least it's not frozen shit this time."

And she pauses to swing the flashlight around from up there. At street level. Just to see if anything looks promising.

But then she hears the faint sound of a shriek.

"Welp. Shrieks from suspicious bodega trumps shit from under suspicious bodega."

She still has that manhole cover; it might come in handy; she runs with it towards the Not Great Sounds.


It's really so much worse for Sparrow than anyone might know. She can see every minute, gruesome detail, as poor Paul becomes something she is certain she saw on some Hentai video that SHE CLICKED ON BY ACCIDENT GUYS GEEZ and oh God it's coming for her now.

"Nope."

It's so very calm, then there's a sudden, furious backpeddling as a tendril finds her ankle, another her wrist, even as her hand goes to her belt. She is is strong enough to lift a small car on a good day, the kind of strength that has kept her ahead of the common criminal. But this? This is something far more dangerous and deadly and her strength may not count for shit.

Maybe, at least, she can surprise it by no being EASY prey, tugging hard with one hand while another lets something fly. Something she's been practicing with.

A Batarang.

It flies right into the maw of the thing, and then, just moments later, an concussive explosion meant to knock people down, knock people away, ripples over her and sends her smashing back through the bogeda door, where the rest of them will see her rolling across the ground in a ozone-trailing heap.

Who knows if the creature is a live or dead, but it had the drop on her and it was the only way she could think to disengage. A beat, as palms press to rough asphalt.

"….worth."


"Raven." That's about the only time she's been able to properly introduce herself despite the strangeness of their circumstances, drawing herself back up and stepping away so that Jessica has room to work.

She isn't thrilled about the idea of going down into the sewers, but both she and Jones are technically saved by the sounds of shrieking. A hint of concern crosses her features, but she doesn't question the fact she follows the P.I. still holding the manhole cover. The night's been weird. It'll continue to be weird.

And deadly. And gross.

Seeing Sparrow crash through the door and roll past them is proof that her instincts haven't been playing her. That thing in there? It's disgusting and it needs to go. Her hands drop, then rise halfway as she murmurs something under her breath, beckoning at the darkness as a precaution if things go further sideways.


Barda is there to pull Red Sparrow up to her feet by the back of her suit, one-handed. "What is it?" There is an air of REPORT to her tone. They haven't been told to abort, so she intends to go back in. Her eyes are trained on the bodega door, mega-rod transforming into a giant ax in her hand.


A giant axe might be exactly the thing, given what was holding Red Sparrow. It makes a horrible SKREEEEEE sound, and this is mixed with a much higher-pitched and pained and panicked noise when its prey hurls something into its great horrible maw and explodes it from the inside.

The tendrils loosen, and Sparrow should be able to free herself, but the nasty thing appears to be still alive. It sprays horrible greenish ichor and an actually relatively small amount of blood over the windows, the cash register, the packs of cigarettes, and the counter itself. As it starts to shuffle out from behind the counter, its feet and hands, still unsettlingly human, drag along what looks at first glance like someone's coat dropped on the floor.

The fact that it's skin-colored and skin-textured, though, at least where it's not wearing the bowling shirt and blue jeans combo worn by the cashier, suggests otherwise.

Yeah. It's a person. Minus the person inside. All the bones, the flesh, the organs, the everything, are gone. Presumably that's what happened to Shirt Says Paul, though he still seems to have arms and legs and a great hunger for Sparrows.


Jessica Jones isn't always in danger of vomiting mid-battle, but WHEN SHE IS it might be because she's seeing THIS KIND OF THING.

Ruthlessly pushing down the urge, she takes a flying leap towards the back of the store to get behind…the…the…the…It.

She is no Cap. She's not even a Bucky. So she doesn't fling the manhole cover. What she does is use it as a bludgeoning weapon to try to smash this thing, much like a panicky housewife might try to smash the shit out of a cockroach with her shoe.

"This is fine," she comments, to nobody in particular. Relatively small amount. "There are more of these running around, probably," she adds, as she continues to try to bludgeon the crap out of the monster.

"I mean. That's…probably fine. Too."

She doesn't sound at all like it's fine of course.

Anything breaks her four month and change streak, her racing leap towards the 6-month AA token? It's probably going to be this one. This is a 14-shot kinda sight right here.


As Dark Energy curls and boils and roils from Raven's precautionary shadow-wrangling, Sparrow stares in half a daze, yanked suddenly to her feet with a wide-eyed sort of surprise that instantly tells her muscles they had better start working, or she's going to let someone down. Hands on Barda's shoulders, she tries to steady herself, and when she's asked what it is, she follows Jessica's trajectory behind it, and her sudden outpouring of violence that must be measured in tonnage.

There's a wince, and she lets go of Barda to stagger towards something on the ground, something she thinks might be a brick, but the sonic-blast still has her ringing just a little. "I'd say whatever it is.. it's in trouble! BIRDS GO FOR THE EYES!"

And with that she launches the object at the creature's eyes. Er.. well. An approximation of eyes.

The burnt loaf of bread she had mistaken for a brick bounces off with little more than a distracting shower of breadcrumbs.

"…"


There's a stare from Jessica Jones, and then: "What is it with you women and bread? Bread is not a weapon! Bread is not a threat! You are confused about the bread and I don't know why!"


That feeling never left. The hunger, the cloaked Raven discerns, is obviously coming from the monster formerly known as Paul. Her nose wrinkles, nowhere near the visual level of disgust Jessica currently has to fight because this is the kind of thing she's familiar with. Well, not exactly this, but it's…something. 'Disturbing' is the word for it.

One would think a manhole cover would take care of their problem. Because the bread doesn't do it. But that dark hunger feeling is still present.

In fact, Jessica is right. There is another.

"Great," Raven mutters under her breath, allowing the darkness to seep down into the ground to seek it out. "Just…great."

BELOW, the shadows take shape, bird-like as it darts and swoops through the sewers to check for the straggler. "So that we're all on the same page," the dark one says, disgruntled as Jessica yells about bread, "be aware that there is another one ar-" Although she's mentally preoccupied, her brow lifts, then furrows again. "-oh it might not be alone…"


This is Red Sparrow's first mission and she has encountered a nightmare creature, surely Barda must go easy on her.

No.. No. Big Barda is just too eager to start beating on the many-mawed beast to pile on her right now. Red Sparrow is given a look of exasperation that syncs up nicely with Jessica's outburst about bread, and then she runs into the fray.

"Then we will hunt down every one of them!" She hollers joyfully to Raven and she swings her ax at the alien's tentacle wreathed torso. Barda means to hack away its grasping limbs before it can use them to entangle her or Jessica.


The sewers. Are a bad place.

The sewers include the usual awfulness of sewers everywhere — rats, floating bergs of… let's just call it waste held together by things that never should have gone down the drain…

Not usually quite so many bodies. Or at least, parts of bodies. Specifically, skin. More people who seem to have just been hollowed out. From the look of them, roughly eight (at least down this main hall, it's possible there are more down side tunnels) are all wearing the colors of this street's gang. But there's also a couple of homeless people and, horribly, two or three people who just wanted a Slurpee.

But that sense is growing stronger. Two of them, it seems. But at least she has an idea of the route.

Oracle, who doesn't know this, speaks into Arnavi's earpiece: "You're okay," she says, and her voice is so calm, so, SO confident. "You're doing just fine, Sparrow. I'm sending you a map of the sewers in your vicinity. In and out, and you'll stop this thing from hurting anyone else."

The thing, meanwhile. Between the manhole cover and the axe and the explosion, it's having a really terrible day. There's not much of it left, but what is left goes scurrying out of what's left of Shirt Says Paul and makes a break for the back door. It's had enough of this game for now.


Point of fact, Jessica's been playing non-mystical sidekick to mystics for awhile now, and has seen a lot of stuff. It's just shit still freaks her right out out sometimes.

There are more. She was right. Why'd she have to be right?? She could have been wrong on that count. Her deduction could have failed her. That would have been okay. But nope. Had to be right.

"Fantastic."

But as she contemplates it, Barda's tasing of the bread makes more sense. Maybe touching the bread or eating it sparks a transformation. Maybe one of the other women picked up on something about the shit in the truck that Jessica missed. She makes that mental note too.

But hey. Yep. This is fine. She just finished with demon bears, so why shouldn't the next problem be demon bread?

God damn it.

She makes a mental note to get samples in case something in the now thoroughly tased loaves out there causes this Alienesque-nightmare to ensue.

Shit. She should not have thought of Alien. Because that means thinking of facehuggers and also the reasons why she didn't eat spaghetti for a full year and a half as a young teen. Because that movie. It ruined it for her.

"The rest of them. And. More to the point," she adds grimly, "we gotta hunt down everything that's causing them to get made, or a whole lot of people are going to die to this shit. If this is a one-off problem I'll eat my goddamn jacket."

A to do list is forming. Kill monsters. Run down license plate on bread truck. Investigate and surveil the bakery the bread came from. Pull records on this bodega. Pull records on bakery. Why is the clipboard missing?? Where is the clipboard? Why would it matter? Find out everyone this bakery delivers to. It's a long list to try to compose while a tentacle monster makes a break for the back door.

Jessica does try to land in front of it and give it a whack with the manhole cover to finish killing it. Lethal force is definitely called for today. Thus potentially freeing up the other ladies to go after others a little faster.


Words sing in the mind of the Red Sparrow, and Arnavi latches on to that confidence, as much as she nearly latched onto Barda for sure footing. Watching the terrible violence both women can deliver is awe inspiring, but she has not forgotten to keep her keen senses on Raven too. As the girl's mind goes elsewhere, and she announces there is more,

The schematics upload to her HUD, and she sees the creature running towards the back door, towards the alley, and the manhole that no longer has a cover.

There are all kinds of goodies on her belt. The trust Oracle has shown her with an entire legacy, of weapon made in a specific iconography, well. It isn't something Arnavi has taken lightly. She beams over at Raven, her sudden boost of confidence radiating out like a wave of good intentions, and then she runs forward, vaulting the counter, half skidding, half sliding in terrible ooze as if she were an Ooze Skater in the Ooze Olympics. Ducking under Barda's left arm, leaping past the creature to wrap her legs around Jessica in a tumbling, takedown to pull them both sidelong, even as one arm swings wide.

The unexpected betrayal turns into Arnavi throwing herself over Jessica to provide some amount of cover, because around one whole talk of the thing is what looks like a small tether, and at the end of that tether? A whole pouch full of air-burst incindiery bombs. One Bat-bomb of this sword would create a fireball in the sky, or maybe burn a tree down, or blow out some windows. Twenty? Welllllll, that's one way to clean a sewer.

"FIRE IN THE HOLE!"


Again, Raven's brow creases. Barda's enthusiasm would be great for a sporting event. Would this even be considered sporting, though? To be honest, she would prefer sitting through two hours of ball than doing this, but there is such a thing as priorities.

And with what she's seeing through her other pair of eyes, this slot goes to the top. She shouldn't be seeing leftovers of bodies floating among the wastewaters.

Quietly swallowing at the lump forming in her throat, Raven's lips press into a firm line during the pause as she draws herself back into her own mind and body. "Yeah, we're…we're going to need to do this quickly," she says, sounding grim. "You're going to want to watch your step, too. There are more…people…than I thought there would be- "

Annnnnd then SPARROW throws BAT-BOMBS down into the SEWERS.

"………."

And at this point, Raven suddenly feels like she's Done for the night.


Barda doesn't recognize the tech that Red Sparrow pulls off of her belt, and it all happens so fast.. well, she doesn't realize what's going on until the bombs go off. She winces visibly. Oh no. Well. At least they won't have to drag the sullen looking kid down into the sewer. Barda walks over to Raven, her giant ax shifting back down into a baton, for all most Earth folks could tell. "You ok?"


There's a moment or two when nothing really happens. There's enough time for the horrible Not Paul to slime its way significantly through the sewers in a beeline toward its friends. There's that few seconds of silence.

Then there's a sensation rather than a sound. It feels like a 'whoomph'.

And then? Well. It's sort of lucky that the manhole cover is no longer covering the manhole, because the sudden WHOOMPH of flaming methane and other things best not considered makes a remarkable pillar of light and heat.

The things that were are no longer. It probably hasn't exploded the entire Gotham sewage system for a variety of reasons, but however far it went, it seems to have done for the things that were living down there. Or at least, the empathic and psychic signatures of the creatures are gone.

There's a moment of significant silence from the Oracle comms. Finally: "Quick thinking, Red Sparrow. Not what I would have done. …Maybe best all around. I recommend getting out of there as quickly as possible. Chances are," she adds with a twist of immense sarcasm in her voice, "the GCPD might have noticed that."


Jessica Jones is abruptly taken down by the Ooze Skater before she can smash the creature, tumbling and pulling. She at least doesn't assume it's betrayal. She assumes she's being pulled out of the way of some danger. So she doesn't fight this. What she does is say, "Oh sweet Jesus" when she realizes the danger is coming from the companion.

Jess is not a fan. Of bombs. She presses her face into her arms and down towards the pavement instead of staring at the Pillar o' Flame as FIRE IN THE HOLE tells her everything she needs to know about what happens next and what Red Sparrow was about. Big BADABOOM is what happens next.

She looks up. She blows some hair out of her eyes. She looks up at Sparrow.

"I mean. It's an improvement from chucking the sourdough I guess," she says. The snark returns.

Then she reconsiders.

"Then again, you saved me a slog through shit. Well done."

But why were they in the sewers? Shit. Maybe Jess hasn't been spared a slog through shit. What's the connection?

Another item hits the To Do list. Along with making sure she's carrying around the holy water John gave her. The Pinches, at least, are always on her person, on a slightly longer cord already than the panther tooth necklace. At least John was wrong about using it all up by January 31st.

Either way…still got an investigation to conduct. She drops the manhole cover. She pat pats Sparrow's arm and then heads to snatch up that clipboard. Yoink. Sure, it might just be a bill of lading, but Jess is making out of here with all the evidence she can get before it's time to amscray. Which is probably in about thirty seconds, but she's still after the evidence, cause that's how she is.


The rush of fire, the pillar of it, sparkles in Arnavi's eyes. Because of COURSE she looks! There's a long moment of awe, and then Jessica looks to her, tells her well done. This, from this woman who like, you know.. she's a hero! An all the time fucking hero! Immediately Sparrow is up and throwing a fist to the sky, her jubilation most likely enough to make Raven hate her forever, but THATS OKAY!

"YES!! TAKE THAT! WELCOME TO EARTH! ETCETERA!!"

A beat, and then she looks over at Raven. "They can't hear me though, right? But OH MY GOD DID YOU SEE THAT! It smells like burnt dog now."

It's only the smell that saves Raven and Barda both from charging hugs, perhaps more devastating than alien creatures. "This was great. We.. I mean. It was.. we did good, right? I know Paul isn't.. he's gone. We could have maybe done better for him somehow.. but we saved the next person, right?"

Only the more experienced here can tell her that this isn't a short lived victory. Please, someone? Someone tell her Paul didn't die in vain?!


Sparrow's actions are unexpected. But she can't say it's not effective. After the blast shakes and probably alerts the poor people residing around the bodega, Raven has no moved an inch. Her cloak sways, fluttering back down to hang once things settle down.

Now pressing a hand against her own forehead under the volumnous hood, the young goth stays silent for a while longer. "…I'm fine," she answers some time after Barda asks. Fine because the air has finally cleared of those dark hunger pangs or fine as a cover for the headache that comes out of nowhere after the impromptu bombing is left vague. She does, however, glance over at Sparrow to frown at her. "Yeah, didn't need to know that."

Yes, Sparrow has a special place in her heart now. Goody.

Although secretly glad the red bird hasn't hugged her, she does understand getting out of there is a good idea. Still, Raven averts her gaze at the naive thought, shaking her head a bit as she turns to make herself scarce. "…In a way, we did."


Barda nods at Raven before moving up next to. "From the way you described Paul, I think he was already dead." She leans down, affixing a strange disc to each of her feet. "Come on Red Sparrow, I'll give you a ride." They're going to fly out of here, wheeeee.

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