AKA Flaming Chains of Justice

March 13, 2018:

A one-off missing kid case in Hell's Kitchen leads one Jessica Jones directly into the path of Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider.

An abandoned apartment building in Hell's Kitchen.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

By its name, Hell's Kitchen certainly sounds like somewhere that ought to be touched by the infernal pretty much always. But while it has its fair share of strangeness, and while mobsters and drug dealers do their best to keep it locked into a state of misery and fear, it is, for the most part, in general, pretty Hell free.

Tonight, though, an abandoned apartment building on the outskirts of the neighborhood is just reeking with energies from that particular realm. They're wild and uncontrolled, the kind of thing that can become really dangerous really fast if they're not dealt with. The kind of thing that tends to encourage Hell's denizens to come wandering out to do the kinds of things they like to do, which are rarely the kinds of things good, upstanding people would like them to do.

The street is mostly abandoned all the way up and down the thing, though dark music pounds through the cracked and broken windows of the graffiti-stained edifice.

It was nights like these that one particular (half) member of the infernal host decided to get to work.

Dressed in all black with a leather jacket, leather pants, combat boots, and full black gloves, Johnny Blaze rides through the town with a -clearly- modified Yamaha V-Max whose engine is loud enough to wake up that entire side of town. Either way, those wheels roll Johnny right down the street until his senses pick up that abandoned apartment building.

He can smell that supernatural shitstorm from -literally- a mile away.

Driving up to it, he parks that bad boy on the adjacent street and dismounts to dish out a cold plate of vengeance. He puts his hair up into a ponytail as he walks and gets his equipment ready. Silver chain dropping from around his wrist to be wrapped across his torso for easy use and a shotgun stowed in a holster on his side. Fully loaded with ammunition also adorning his heavy belt.

Though Johnny is unaware if any regular (cough) people are in the building, He starts looking around, ocean blue eyes looking like a wildfire was dancing in them for the briefest moment as he keeps moving.

The first few floors are completely empty. It's a quick check; a dart of a head into an empty apartment here, a step there.

But he can hear all sorts of noise coming from upstairs. The third floor is where the action is.

On the third floor, most of the walls have been knocked out entirely, creating one enormous space. And a few things are going on.

There are some robed figures who look like they dressed up for your run of the mill sacrifice, all around a huge occult symbol that's already really close to opening up a huge gate. While various aspects of this scenario have all the hallmarks of idiot amateurs about to get in over their head, a quick glance shows that is the facade. The spellwork is pretty good.

And there is an honest to god girl about to be made into a sacrifice. Just a girl, some high school kid perhaps either lured here or snatched off the street. Chained with thick heavy chains and a padlock.

Johnny gets up there just in time to watch what may qualify as a weird series of events.

It definitely qualifies as a bad series of events.

A woman drops in from the ceiling, literally atop the altar, though she stops short of crushing the girl. Indeed, she looks very careful not to. Hair black as her own leather jacket, black shirt, fingerless gloves, purple scarf, ripped jeans, combat boots and some sort of panther tooth necklace. It's hard to get a whole sense of it here and now, but she's been touched by some kind of magic too. Just definitely not the Hell kind.

She rips the chains off the girl by virtue of just reaching down to snap them.

"Really wish you hadn't broken curfew tonight, kid," she tells the girl, as she scoops her up. And it looks like she's all set to just leap them both back out of there for the moment, to get the girl to safety.

She starts to. She definitely starts to.

Then a quick thinking cultist lashes out with a curved knife to slice the back of the woman's leg, hamstringing her. She lets out a streak of curses that might make the average sailor run for the hills, clutching the girl in her arms, one arm under the former victim's neck, one under her knees. There's also a prodigious spray of hot blood.

Yeah. This gate's opening. It's opening in about 30 seconds. Death would be better, but blood is enough.

Johnny comes up to that third floor to see that girl about to be sacrificed. Likely in the middle of her pleading for mercy, Jessica motherf***ing Jones drops right on top of the lady and Johnny legitimately thought she was coming in hot enough to literally crush her.

Thank. God.

Either way, Johnny takes his cue with a little whistle. "Sorry boys, but you can tell Mephisto or whatever demon to stay the hell off -my- realm." he says then in only a slightly creepy voice as he takes that chain off his chest with a masterful whip of his arm, and with a pull and jab? he swings that silver chain, which soon catches on fire midswing, as he attempts to cut as many of them down as he can! Given, that chain is hot as hell (puns!) hot enough to slice through steel.

He shouts then to Jessica. "Duck! Now!" hoping that the sassy detective that he knows nothing about is at least not going to do something stupid like stand up straight.

Jessica's face contorts into the classic 'holy effing shit' look and then she just rolls right off the altar, gently holding the girl, protecting her with her body. That way the whole…flaming chain of justice thing can just do its thing without bashing and burning her head in. She can recover from a lot, but at some point there has to be some brain pulping and charring threshold that would keep her from recovering. She's not really eager to try to figure out exactly where that line is drawn.

Nor is she in the habit of getting between people who sound like they know what they're doing and cultists. She's met Mammon. No need to meet Mephisto too. Or Mephisto's drinking budies or…

Hell hounds. Which is what comes pouring through the portal, even as Johnny catches two out of four cultists and takes them right out of commission.

"Shit!"

Jessica puts her foot into the face of a Hellhound. There are about ten of those. The problem is they're invisible. She's guessing by the snarling and the acid drool dripping onto her jeans. They ripple a little bit in the darkness of the apartment building. She may be drawing quite a few cause of all the blood. But she definitely cracks the jaw of the one she nails. So that's good.

Taking out two of the cultists at least depowers the portal enough to keep anything else from coming through. The remaining two cultists? They raise their hands. Tendrils of darkness go snapping and whipping towards Johnny, attempting to pierce his flesh, seeking fun things like vital organs.

Really, it's a great day for everyone. Doesn't it seem like a great day for everyone?

Whew, thank god she knew how to duck. Well, if she's willing to descend from the ROOF of this place, she must be pretty capable. That, and what she's done so far is pretty badass. Mad respect. Either way, Johnny's attention is right on those sons of bitches who tried to sacrifice an innocent woman. Normally how those demons like to play…however, they weren't expecting one thing.

The Goddamn Ghost Rider.

He sees those Hellhounds sprout up, his magic sense allowing him to sense them clear as day. Like a 6th sense, in a nutshell. He manages to completely disentigrate one that comes at him by catching it mid-pounce…and it's pretty easy to see a previously invisible body turn to ash. Alas, one of those tentacles strike him right across the face…

Bad Idea.

Johnny's head turns to those cultists and his eyes catch fire it looks like, a stark comparison to those beautiful ocean blue hues. "Time to pay for your sins."

Then it happens. He growls a moment as his skin seems to literally burn off his face….his flesh, his hair, the muscle underneath fading away like turning paper to embers. All that remained?

A skull. wreathed with hellfire flames that burned eternal, eyes replaced by the cold dark of black, before those soul-less flaming eyes awaken. it lets out an ungodly growl before it uses it's hellfire to eliminate another Hellhound. a roar then.

Vengeance is here.

Jessica hears the roar of flame, turns to look over the top of the altar and…holy shit that guy's head is a skull and it's on fire. She sort of presses the kid's head into her shoulder. "Yeah, don't look at that, cause I'm not paying your therapy bills if you do," she mutters.

Someone's already paid Jessica's therapy bills. To some sort of mystic dream therapist no less. But hey, Skull Guy wants them to pay for their sins. And…

"Ow! Fuck!" Hellhound jaws clamp around her arm. "I so did not expect real magical bullshit tonight," she grumbles to nobody in particular.

She rips a vial of holy water from her belt. There's a howl and a lot of smoking as she breaks the thing on the Hellhound's face. She follows the smoke to grab its head and smash it into pulp.

"There are people I would have fucking invited to this dance," she continues. Who is she even talking to? The girl? The Ghost Riders? The hounds?

Really she's just running her mouth to hear the sound of her own voice, if anyone's keeping track.

One of the cultists takes one look at this spectacle, meanwhile, and decides it's a great time to make a break for the stairs. That's terrifying.

The other? Has more mettle and less sense. He raises his hands, weaving another sharp occult sigil. A crackling net of black energy goes flying for the rider. Six Hellhounds remain, and they form a neat formation as they go bounding towards the Rider. He looks like the threat right now, not the bleeding woman and her terrified cargo.

Ghost Rider is just doing his thing.

Another hell hound leaps at him, only for him to catch it with his hand once more, looking right into it's eyes before he tosses it head first right back through that portal from whence it came. Nothing can enter, but rules allow to go back in right?….right? Right. But if not, that's one ungodly sound for a neck-break. Then? The cultist moron tries to throw a dark net at Ghost Rider -while- Jessica gets bit right on the arm then pounds it into greymatter. Even the Rider is mildly impressed.

Alas, one Hellhound attempts to lunge at Jessica…and imagine it's surprise when that flaming chain wraps around it's neck and tugs it off course, leaving it whimpering as it's slowly dragged to it's doom. Right, the cultist. The spell hits the rider, but it only stumbles back one step…but now it looks pissed off. It steps on the Hellhound's neck, killing it as he moves for that cultist, chain attempting to be whipped right around his lower leg to drag him over to the Rider. "Guilty." that ungodly whisper of a voice declares. Though his back is exposed….

If a hellhound jumps on his back…

One certainly tries. And Jessica can't see the invisible. But what she does catch is just that faint shimmer in the air as it makes its way through dust and smoke and flame. She puts the girl down behind the altar, motions for her to stay put after dousing her in Holy Water. Jess thinks they are dealing with far fewer Hellhounds right now, by the sounds. And she thinks they probably can't bite someone who is soaked down in holy water with any real ease or desire.

Then? She leaps. She leaps, twists in the air, barrels towards the area behind his back, and by sheer luck ends up with an armful of fur and muscle almost as big as she is. "Too many demonic wolves this year already," she grunts. She's just going to punch that a few dozen times, don't mind her. Maybe overkill, but it's dying. Demonic animals are just fair game for beating the shit out of.

Meanwhile…the cultist is dragged towards the Rider. He screams in terror and in pain, his arms flailing as he is brought closer and closer. The portal snaps shut, they're down to three Hellhounds on top of the cultist who is busy wishing he'd found a different career to indulge in, seriously.

Ghost Rider can -smell- the Holy Water. Hell, it wasn't going to stop him….but Good God Almighty, it was gonna sting like a bitch. Either way, the Rider does not stop dragging that cultist towards him, but what surprises the Rider is that the injured Jessica motherf***ing Jones lept behind him to cover his back. Ghost Rider seems to lightly sigh an approval before he draws that hellfire shotgun, shooting another Hellhound right in the head. Two left…sheathing his shotgun, Ghost Rider punches throw another one….about five times. Because twice clearly wasn't enough. Ya gotta double tap when it comes to these things.

Now? The Rider's attention is on the cultist as he grips his collar, bringing him up to eye level.

"Look into my eyes." the Rider demands, looking for a Penance Stare!

Jess, at least, is undoused. It's just the girl who would have been the sacrifice.

And as she can hear no more snarls and whatnot, and the flaming skull guy is doing some sort of…thing…with this cultist, she limps back over to the kid. As she does she just rubs out bits of the circle as she goes, knowing enough to know that fouling a magic circle not actively being channeled into is a nice way to keep it from being re-activated. She stands guard over the kid again, but there's nothing to guard against.

Meanwhile, meet Joey Brandt, Cultist. He has some regrets. He has inflicted a lot of pain over his 28 years of life. Murders, various other crimes, from the age of 19 when he discovered the dark entity he worships. Even before then he did drugs, bullied the kids in the foster system he used to be part of. He was looking for power, and he got some. And didn't care who he stepped on to get him. But neither is he irredeemable. He's like many people who got hurt early and decided it was better to be the predator than the prey. Once he was a son. A brother. Just a normal kid whose single parent died of cancer early. Enough decency to make it work. Enough to make it into both the punishing tool it is meant to be and the redemptive tool it can be.

He's screaming and whimpering, and Jess eyes this warily. Real warily. But neither does she intervene. People reacting to being just stared at may raise some unpleasant questions about what could be happening, but she can't say Chuckles the Cultist over there doesn't deserve it. And she's gotten used to the fact that her ally has a flaming skull head.

The Rider sees the man screaming and whimpering from the effects of the Stare. He'll only allow the effects to last for three days. After all…more than enough time for Joey to realize just how badly he f***ed up. That said, they are now alone, with all targets eliminated. The Rider turns it's head sloowwwllyy to Jessica as if to see if they were allies by situation before he looks to that girl. Duly noted. She's a friend…and while he's seen the wrongs of her life, she was under mind control, and thus not of her doing.

He reverts.

The flames douse until the skull is no longer on fire. Then? muscle starts to regrow over his skull, his flesh rebuilding itself from the ground up in mere seconds until skin grows over muscle, and hair over flesh. his eyes returning to their normal human blue. He looks at Jessica then as he's revealed to actually be a very handsome, if not slightly grizzled man.

"Sorry about that. Thanks for the assist." he looks to her arm and leg…"You're injured."

He reads her soul. Her crimes.

Some were due to mind control. Certainly the sin of murder was, and a whole lot of assault.

The rest? Depends on how one defines sin.

Jessica defines it broadly. She got pissed at her brother at 15. Threw a Gameboy, caused a car crash. Three people died. She still hasn't forgiven herself for it, not really. Come to terms with it. But she hasn't forgiven herself.

The sins of sloth and gluttony. For years she drank herself into oblivion, let her gifts rot, helped nobody. Now she looks back at the things she could have been doing and holds herself accountable for things that happened to people she didn't help, things she can't even know. Sins of omission as much as sins of commission.

Deaths on her hands. Almost a year ago, someone was trying to turn the moon to blood. It was six people trying to stop it against fourty magic users trying to make it happen. They fought. Lethally. Some died by her hands. Understandable murder, and yet.

The sin of pride. A few weeks after that cultist incident she chose not to kill someone who begged her to do it, who promised some dire fate for the world if she didn't. She gambled, unsatisfied with 'bad choice or bad choice.' She took a third option. The whole world could have suffered if she'd been wrong. It didn't. She won the gamble. The fellow died anyway. Bad gamble.

She sees herself as committing the sin of cowardice nearly every single day, questions whether she commits the sin of wrath. The only thing her conscience is clear about is that she hasn't, to her knowledge, committed too many sins of greed or envy. Not to her knowledge, anyway. She has committed a myriad of crimes by the laws of men to try to help people, from tresspassing, to impersonation, to a technical kidnapping to get a child to safety. They weigh on her; she wants to be a hero, this is not heroic behavior, and yet it was all effective and needful behavior. She has covered for the crimes of others who are anti-heroic in nature, all out of a conviction that she has very little room to judge, especially those who are trying to turn their lives around, even knowing they might slip and fall.

She's not a vigilante. Not the way many understand that term, anyway. She takes cases. She tries to stop truly bad people, monsters, from doing bad shit. But she has no real belief that she is good either. She mostly follows her heart and her own conscience in the moment as best as she can, and it can lead to some weird, mixed results. She has no code. Just a burning desire to help people who are mostly just trying to live their goddamn lives. She's not a killer by nature, but she will kill. She's not a liar by nature, but she will lie. She is all too aware she walks a razor-thin wire. She personally believes she is going straight to Hell when she dies. Whether or not she is? Well, that's probably up for some interpretation. At her heart she's a compassionate person, at least, one who is motivated to save lives. Maybe that's enough. Mabye not.

To his magical senses, she's someone who has been touched by it— not just by holy water. By magics both dark and light. There is one rather major enchantment on her own mind right now, probably protecting it from, well. Mind control. Or mind reading of any kind. It would track, since it's all focused around her head. She recently triggered some sort of one-use charm, and she's carrying one. It radiates with luck and blood magic, but the kind of blood that speaks of the personal sacrifice of the wizard who gifted it to her, not someone else's sacrifice. She has been touched and harmed by dark magic in the past, but given the whole dead cultists thing that's probably not a huge surprise.

Unaware that he is weighing and judging her as he returns to a normal looking dude, she says: "No, thank you."

She glances down at their injuries like they're nothing. "Assholes," she sighs. "It's fine, I'll be okay in a few days. Hey. Sophie."

The girl is staring at both of them with wide eyes, her hands over her face. Jess puts her hands on her shoulder. "Hey. Call your Mom, okay? I'll take you home in a sec. It's going to be okay. You're safe now." Her tone is pretty gentle for the girl, at least.

Then she sticks out a hand to Johnny. "Jessica Jones."

Jessica was a curious case to be certain. While she had a great many sins, she was -guilty- about it. Accidents happen…life happens. Alas, the sins that she has commited has either been to protect others or to right her own wrongs. That said…there is a certain bible verse: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends'. That alone is more than enough for redemption of past sins. But truly, it's her compassionate heart and willing to do good that has saved her from the Rider and thus, Damnation. Perhaps it will be enough for her to enter the pearly gates.

A soft smile is given to her from Johnny Blaze, nodding his head softly with a kind smile. "Happy to be of service. Too many demon summoners in this city nowadays." He looks to Sophie to make sure she's okay, though he keeps his distance. After all, she could think he's the Devil or something. Either way, he looks back to Jessica and shakes his head a moment as she dismissed his concern. She doesn't know about the bites of Hellhounds, does she? Oh well. He extends a gloved hand to shake hers. "Johnny Blaze. Pleasure."

He gives her a once over. "I'll need to have a look at them….or you will have those wounds for a -very- long time. Infernal injuries are none to scoff at." he says kindly.

Jessica eyes her arm in particular, then frowns. Even if the infernal side means she only heals them like a normal person, it's stupid to go walking around with injuries she doesn't have to go walking around with. She's pretty sure John would give her what-for if he thought she was stupidly shrugging off stuff she doesn't really know that much about. And what if it defeats even her healing factor? She is busy, with half a dozen irons in the fire. Right.

She peels off her leather jacket. It protected her from a lot of the bite, but some of it still got through, with some of the saliva doing its dirty work on her skin. "Well. That's an interesting color," she says, of the livid near black crap that is eating its way down her arm towards her wrist and up her shoulder well north and south of the original bite.

"Yeah. Yeah," she says, shaken.

"Look all you want." She simply rips the bottom right half of her pants away, from the knee, she is not going to depants when she can just ruin a pair. North and south of the much deeper and more dangerous bite knife wound is more of that crawling corruption. Not just from the Hellhound's jaws, but from the corrupt magic of the blade that summoned it as well.

"K. Officially grossed out and weirded out," she says, far too calmly for someone who could be dead in the hour if she were not in the presence of someone who could do something about this.

Sophie edges to the back corner and softly calls her Mom. "Yes, the detective found me," she's saying. Jess keeps one weather eye on her. "She didn't get bit," she murmurs. "I know she didn't."

Johnny looks at her arm as she takes off her jacket and Johnny's eyes narrow a moment as her arm already has the black lines. Wow…with that bite alone, he would have given her an hour. two tops, to live. Good thing she agreed to be treated. She looks like the kind of gal who would give him one HELL of a time trying to convince her to accept some help. Though as she starts to reach for her pants, she doesn't need to tell him to look away.

Eyes averted, he awaits her to rip off the part of her jeans where the dagger had struck. then Johnny looks to Sophie to ensure she's alright before his eyes fall on Jessica again, eyes widened.

"You were struck by a Shadow Dagger. A pain in the ass, for certain. Sit down, please." he asks her kindly with that natural suave manner of speaking. It's charming and disarming. Just his vice…no effort required. That said…

He takes a deep breath, his hand seeming to be using some minor magic as his eyes glow a bright flaming red as he lets Zarathos have the reigns for a moment. He mutters something in Black Speech, and Jessica would notice that those black muck marks on her arm and leg…though it's clear the leg would have been far worse if he wasn't there to help.

He's not wrong. Jess is the queen of Not Asking for Help, Not Taking Help, and Not Wanting Help, or at least pretending.

But for now, she does. She sits back down, back to the stupid altar, because that's what's there. Rendered toothless and fangless by this evening's work. Whether disarming charm has its impact on her or if she's just tired and discomfited by what she's seeing, hard to say. She doesn't even ask what a Shadow Dagger is; which she might, normally. Right now 'nasty, black magic, gross, disgusting wounds, poison,' all seem appropriate, kind of self-freaking-explanatory.

She watches the lines receed. Watches her flesh return to normal. Exhales with the relief of the throbbing pain she was juuuust starting to become really conscious of. She marks the differences between his methods and other methods she's seen.

And when it's done, she exhales. "Thanks." Because not dying is a good thing.

Johnny regains control of himself after Zarathos works his black magic and Jessica is healed. His eyes return to normal and he shakes his head like he got a headache. A small breath taken, he lifts his eyes to smile at her. "Welcome. Thank you for doing as I asked…if you had not, I'd have given you two hours, tops to live." he's blunt. "Thankfully, no longer a problem." he stands, offering a hand to help her up, regardless if she takes it or not.

"I take it you're not the average gal, if you don't mind me saying. Not everyone can pummel a Hellhound." he smiles softly. She must know some powerful sorcerers if she has a magical assistance to help with mental protection. That said? He looks to the altar, hand atop it to make sure that the magic there has vanished. When it has? he turns back to Sophie. "Where did they take you from? Home? Outside of your Highschool?" He's gonna find the rest.

"From a party I wasn't supposed to be at," Sophie says with a sigh. "I'll give you the address." And she does. There are no doubt all kinds of evil doers attached to that party.

As for the hand up? Jessica stares at it for a second as if not entirely too sure about it, but finally takes it and gets to her feet. "You're thanking me for not dying, that's new," she says, blunt and amused.

He takes it she's not average, and the dry tone increases. "What are you talking about? I'm one hundred percent Captain Average. Nothing to see here, just a PI with a rare missing person's case where I got called in fast enough to do any goddamn good. Sophie here's my neighbor." Which is probably why she was called in fast enough. The people of Hell's Kitchen know her and know the merits and flaws of calling her, versus calling the cops. She seems okay to let this guy question her if he wants, standing there with arms crossed. It's equally clear her top priority tonight is escorting the teen home.

Johnny nods a few times then as he looks at Sophie. "Now…don't do that again, yeah? I'd hate to come looking for you. She already did." he head tilts at Jessica so she gets the gist. Before he gets all the location information. He can get clues there and find out who was there. Now he has some people to question….*sigh*.

Alas, another day, another weird cult vanquished. That said, he looks at Jessica as she notes how he thanked her for not dying. "I like to be spontaneous." a small, but friendly wink. Could -definitely- be mistaken for flirtation. He does chuckle mildly as she sasses him about being the most -average- of all the -average- people in the world of -average- proportions. heh. "Right, and my head doesn't catch fire whenever I'm feeling toasty." he responds with -almost- as much snark as Jess did.

"I have what I need. Thank you, Sophie, for cooperating. Stay safe now, alright?" He turns his head to Jessica, nodding to her softly.

He knew she'd probably investigate him in-depth.

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