BoP: This Glorious Life

April 16, 2018:

Jessica Jones contacts Huntress to back her up while conducting due diligence on plant monsters in the sewer. Their interactions are half getting-to-know one another, half interrogation.

The Gotham Sewers

Yeah. Fun.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jane Foster, Bucky Barnes, Big Barda, Red Sparrow, Oracle, Raven, Tony Stark, Captain America

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In the end, the plant monster had started to retreat underground…

And Jessica flew up and dropped every incediary device into it to stop it from getting away while the other Birds of Prey converged and damaged it. Killing it, sentient or no.

"Well done," Oracle had said. "You did what you had to do."

And that night, Jessica pretended she was sure, at least until she gathered up her demidog corpse, called ahead to Oracle's lab, stood there X-raying it with her badass earrings a la Foster, and trying to actually study the thing, before finally calling Oracle back and begging her to lock her in there so she didn't ruin her five months and change of not-drinking.

Oracle did her one better, but that's another story, for another day.

Where the other Birds flew to, Jess did not know.

But one thing she does know, days later. That was not necessarily the last of them.

And as it happens, her whole encounter with a severely overmuscled and somewhat crazy car-crashing mutant has made her more careful of late. After a lot of deliberation, she used the little Bird Comm and called Huntress.

"So…the thing tried to go underground in the junkyard and eight of our bodies were in a sewer miles away at a bodega that was the site of the first encounter. I'm thinking that we'd best be real thorough in Gotham's underground to at least do due dilligence, see if there's any evidence of more of these damned things. We could be lucky and that could be it, but…I feel like we should at least check. And I feel like this is maybe. You know. A quiet sort of an operation. Care to come with?"

Sure Jess, make a new friend by suggesting a sewer night out.

*

When the plant-beast-thing was destroyed Huntress barely hung around for goodbyes, before she retreated back into the shadows. Effectively disappearing from that particular scene.

For the most part she put the realities of sentient plants out of her mind, as she rolled back into her typical prey; the Mafia.

Sadly life rarely allows people to push things aside for too long, and a few days after the Junkyard Incident, Huntress' Bird Comm hums to life. Her greeting is quite short and blunt, "Huntress." and then silence, which Jessica thankfully fills in. That silence from Huntress only seems to grow heavier with each word of Jess'.

Finally though, that silence on Huntress' end is broken as she says, "Sometimes I hate due diligence." States the woman and then, "Give me fifteen."

Fifteen minutes pass and before too long the woman clad in purple and white costume arrives upon the scene. For this particular night her arrival is less shadow-y and more via a tricked out purple motorcycle. The motorcycle is hidden someplace convenient and once the kickstand is down, Huntress trots toward the appointed meeting place. "Let's be mindful of the crocodiles down there. Some of them are big."

*

The comment, about hating due diligence, had produced a weary but genuine chuckle from the detective.

"Seriously? Crocodiles? I thought that was just a myth," Jessica says. She's got on some high wader boots…if she's going to wade through the sewers she's not going to destroy her good boots doing it. They come up to her knees, revealing ripped jeans, and for this she's got on one of her oldest tank tops. She is not risking the leather down there either. The only gear now in evidence is that rebreather, weird fingerless gloves, a maglite, and a Sig Sauer P365 9 mm that is in a holster much like the ones law enforcement wears, though of course she is not law enforcement. Surplus stores are a thing though, and just cause she thinks the police are stupid does not mean they don't sometimes have good gear.

Not that the gun is her first line of defense, not against plant monsters and not against Crocodiles. It is something like her third, the first being herself and the second being the fingerless gloves, which are covered in ridges indicating circuitry.

Maglite would do in a pinch, too.

She hauls up the manhole cover, fits her rebreather into place, and drops down, saying, "You know. I was dumbass enough to think I would not be going into a sewer when we managed to avoid it the first time."

*

Much like Jess, Huntress has her rebreather still. She pulls it from a belt-pouch and like the detective she fits it over mouth and nose.

The sigh that can be heard from the black-haired woman earns an odd echo-y quality thanks to the mask. So too do her words.

"Well, I could lie and say no, but I won't. There are crocs down there and then there's a Croc." The implied capital letter for that last word is heard; a name perhaps?

With the manhole cover raised Huntress waits for Jessica to drop down first, before she quickly follows down.

The darkness is quite deep within the sewer tunnels and efficient movements produce a light within seconds. The light comes from a small handheld lantern, which is then clipped to the front of her purple and white overcoat. The cone of light is large enough to help both women to see ahead and to the sides.

An amused sound might be heard from Huntress at Jess' mention of thinking they avoided the sewers. "How long have you been running around heroing?" She asks with a note of curiosity to her voice, "Everyone eventually ends up in the sewers. It's like a right of passage."

And while her eyes can't quite be seen behind the lenses of her mask there might be the sense of a quick side-eye, specifically to Jess' gloves. Thankfully that look likewise prompts a question as the woman adds, "What's with gloves? They tech enhanced?"

*

"I have been running around 'heroing' for zero point zero months," Jessica says, with dry cynicsm. "I've been doing my job and have expanded that job to include this kind of weird for a little over a year. I have been in sewers, up demon's assholes and a few other places that have indeed taught me that shit is very much inevitable."

Splash, splash, stomp. "Yeah. Taser gloves that can deliver anything from a zot all the way up to stuff I'd probably get arrested for being able to deliver if a cop could identify it on sight. So. How about you? How long have you been 'heroing?' And…Croc? Who is Croc?"

She caught the name. And of course, has questions, because…that's what she does. Questions galore. Questions for everyone.

*

Unlike others Huntress doesn't necessarily ask what Jessica Jones' job is. She caught the byplay concerning the Detective and she likewise caught the woman's name. It wasn't hard to use the typical search engine to locate Jessica Jones and Alias.

"Good to know I'm not dealing with a sewer amateur." She states, a note of wry amusement held within her voice, "Because rats are the least of our worries down here."

While the two splish and splash, Huntress' steps are decidedly lighter. She's too use to being one with the shadows and even down here, where every movement echoes oddly around, the black-haired woman takes care. "Croc." She adds, "A man who has some similar traits to the animal. Ugly, mean, teeth that'll carve chunks out of you if you let him. He tends to hang out in the sewers, swamps too, or any place that's damp and dark."

The explanation on the gloves earns a thoughtful silence from the woman, "I wouldn't mind a pair of those. Especially when the fighting gets way too personal." And now Huntress falls quiet as she considers how best to answer the heroing question.

It's only after that silence hangs that the woman answers, "Years. Long enough to know it'll take even more years before the city is anywhere near cleaned up."

And then, to make sure the conversation doesn't stay on her, Huntress tosses another question at Jess, "Noticed you're stronger than the average bear -" And she can fly too, but that's not said just yet.

*

"I'll see what I can do. Engineer who designed them for me took an assignment overseas not long ago. Guy who improved them for me might be able to do something for you though." Jessica replies, on the matter of the gloves. "Not part of Batman's 'everyone gets really expensive gear' club, then?" Always nice to know what you're dealing with, after all. Or who.

The city getting cleaned up produces a lift of her eyebrow, and she opines: "That revolving door asylum isn't helping too much."

She's noticed she's stronger than the average bear. She almost makes a quip about having her ass recently kicked by an inaverage bear, but decides against it, saying, "Yeah. Little bit. Why crossbows?"

*

"I'll pay for the build." She adds, when Jessica explains how she obtained the gloves.

And while she was prepared to say more, the rest of her words pause at the mention of Batman, and his inner circle. A sharp look is cast Jess' way and what can be seen of her expression shows frustration, irritation? Something along those lines. "No." Is what she finally says, "Consider me the red-headed stepchild." And her tone of voice very clearly says 'don't ask me anything more on that'.

It's not lost on Huntress that there's likely much more to Jessica's strength than just 'little bit', but for now the purple-clad woman allows it to slide. At the last question of crossbows and why she chose them, the Huntress says, "Why not?"

"Those of us who don't have super-strength have to rely on the more mundane. Weapons." And while that answer is true, it might be clear that Huntress is purposely skirting that particular in-depth answer.

"Nice to see you have actual weapons and don't just rely on your powers. People tend to get cocky when they think they're invincible."

*

"Yeah. Kind of learned what a dumbass idea that was early," Jessica says. She hears all the tones of voices, and apparently either respects them, or just doesn't think they're worth pursuing at this time. She pauses to shine her light around a corner tunnel, pausing to consult a map of the system from her back pocket. This is the route between the junkyard and the bodega; the sensible one to check first if they're going to check anything. "And anything life didn't beat into me, my mentor did. So."

Taking the right corridor, she pauses to kick a rat into the wall with a grimace, long before it can get up her leg and into some part of her clothing where it might become a problem.

She gives Huntress a reprieve from her questions for the moment. She may be socially awkward at times, and she may be even borderline…or actually…rude at times. But sometimes, just sometimes, she's sensitive enough to let someone catch their breath when she wanders into multiple sensitive territories in one round of questioning.

*

A snort can be heard at Jess' first words. "We were all stupid at one point in our careers." Agrees the black-haired woman, even as she shines her light likewise around and down the tunnel.

"Who's your mentor?" She asks, curious, but also likewise trying to pull some additional information from the woman who walks nearby. The rat is given a look of disgust and while her hand twitches for her mini-crossbow, the woman doesn't quite pull the weapon from her glove.

"Tell me about the plant creature? Pretty sure I came in late on this one, but not late enough to see whatever that thing needed to die - sentient or not."

"I'm not going to wake up and find myself in the Return of the Pod People." Mutters the woman darkly and while the two speak, Huntress gaze flicks around them - to the mold and slime covered bricks, to the disgusting water they trudge through. It's a safe bet this particular costume is going to be burned.

*

On the matter of her mentor Jessica just accidentally-on-purpose forgets to answer. She's not sure why she's feeling protective of Bucky Barnes, enough to hold that one close. But she is, and so she does, trusting either her gut or her paranoia or her in general instinct to keep information about tight.

Instead she says, "We first encountered a couple of the people it had…merged with? Turned? Colonized? Turned into itself? I don't really understand it. They grew tentacles and attacked. One guy driving a bread truck, and then eight others that were running around in the sewers. Spores, I think, got into the bread, but Barda tased it so no samples. I followed the bread truck route to get us to the junkyard. Got to admit I didn't expect we'd find Queen Pod Lady there. They all stand around, the human victims, just looking stupid and not responding to much. I guess, until she makes them respond. What exactly did she say that made you shoot?"

*

It's not quite lost that Jess didn't quite answer that initial question about mentors, but much like Jess, Huntress occasionally gets a clue on when to push and when not to.

The story of the plant creature and what actually led to the junkyard is listened to. Considered even. It's enough to bring a slight furrow to her brow as she mulls over the mention of a bread truck. A. Bread. Truck. That strikes her as almost comical, but clearly not all that comical with what they battled days ago.

"She accused us of killing her spores, her children. I took that as a threat and shot." She explains, then continues with, "She also mentioned those that she took had no future, no life, the ones who's lives didn't matter, but she-it-whatever could make them useful. And sure, I'm pretty damn sure a lot of those thugs were just that - thugs - but that doesn't give that thing the right to enslave people against their will."

*

"No, it sure as fuck does not," Jessica growls. "Fucking mindcontrollers. Or body snatchers. Or whatever. Always think they know better."

She should be feeling remorse for killing it. Maybe it could have been reasoned with, maybe cultural differences, maybe blah blah blah…

She doesn't. She doesn't feel a damned thing except glad that another fucking mindraping monster is out of the world.

She exhales, pauses to run her flashlight over something on the wall that catches her attention.

It is slime. Just slime. She wrinkles her nose. Not-plant-matter is a good sign, but she doesn't want to think about what it is.

"Problem is, there's still four hundred unanswered questions. Queens, workers, drones. If she was the Queen, we might be okay. She made the children, so you'd think so. But it depends. She could have been a drone, carrying spores for someone else. And how did she get here? Why here? Why now? Is she alone? Are we looking at a fluke, an invasion, a science experiment gone wrong?"

*

The growl brings Huntress' gaze back to Jessica, as the purple-clad woman considers that response of Jess'.

"Pretty much." She agrees, "Better to shoot first and ask questions later." She adds, completely serious and while her own gaze roams the walls and the tunnel about the two, she continues to keep a portion of her attention on Jess too.

It's all those questions, at the end, that brings a faint grunt from Huntress. "She spoke about the spores as her own children, so hopefully she's the Queen? Though like you said that doesn't mean anything. After all, there's many species of animals that will change to adapt when the dominant animal has been killed off, or lost. Who's to say that can't happen here? A stray drone morphing into the new Queen." And with that thought Huntress' voice drops to grim tones, "And I suppose it could be a science experiment gone wrong, but something tells me it was more than that. It seemed too coherent. Aware. What happened with the dog-thing you had? Did we learn anything from that?"

*

"Still analyzing it," Jessica admits. "I think it's possible I'm going to have to go dump it on a friend's lab table. She's just gonna love it."

She pauses, looks up skyward. Thoughtful.

Actually, maybe she might.

"I mean, I have looked at blood samples, but all it tells me is about what the 'goo' sample I had told me before. Plant-esque, not-earthish. I need an expert. Oracle might be making a bit more of it. I will say this, the dogs seem a fuckton more…coherent. Than the people did. By which I mean the thing moved and ran and attacked and held its shape better. Dead Paul the Breadtruck Driver was a lot more…amorphous, even before Sparrow blew him up. I don't know if that means anything."

*

A friend's lab table - that brings a thoughtful expression to her half-hidden features. "You have some nice friends." The woman states with that same wry tone to her voice, "Most wouldn't want the presents you come bearing."

But Jess' thoughts are given serious consideration, "I'm not a scientist -" Begins the Huntress, "But perhaps it has something to do with humans having a higher level of consciousness? Perhaps that screws it up more - the more control it needs to exert the more unstable the person it controls is?" She shrugs, a roll of her shoulders folder, "But again, not a scientist. Hopefully Oracle or your friend can help us figure that out."

The two slog a few more steps through the muck and everything else that's disgusting, "Red Sparrow is young." She allows, "Cocky."

*

"It's as good a theory as anything I've got," Jess says, checking the map again. "Which means…wow we'd better hope she didn't spore the rats."

For a moment she just stops, freezes, as she considers an army of demirats. To her, that seems way more dangerous than demidogs. A swarm could just tackle even the strongest person down, bite the shit out of them repeatedly, and no matter how fast they got thrown off there would always be more.

Kind of like maggot crows.

Hokay. Great trip down memory lane.

"Jesus, crocodiles either. Shit. Fuck."

How often do they get lucky enough to get best case scenarios like the dogs and those people were it, we killed her and now it's all done the end?

But then Huntress is talking about Sparrow.

"Hyper," she agrees. "Good kid, or seems to be, but…"

*

"Hyper." She agrees when Jess offers that but, "Potential though."

And while Huntress didn't necessarily freeze at that thought of mind-controlled rats, clearly it made an impression as she says, "If she did turn the rats best thing we can do is get back up to high ground and drop some incendiary rounds into the sewers. I'm not fighting possessed rats that's just suicide."

And while Huntress likes to skirt death and take risks, that doesn't mean she's absolutely crazy when it comes to the thought of insane rats.

"How did Oracle find you?" She asks, her steps pausing slightly as she eyes a floating bit of debris - it almost looks like a crocodile, but soon enough it's clear it's just a broken piece of wood. Probably it came down through one of the various storm drains that lead into the sewers.

*

"Last one looked normal enough, but if I see another one I'll stun it and see what it looks like. If it looks at all like its face is a flower, then yeah. We're getting back upstairs. That would definitely be 'due diligence done' shit is in fan."

Jessica now is actively looking for rats indeed. Mammals. Infectable by spore. This is important. But then Huntress asks how she got found, and Jess snorts.

"Google Maps, I guess," she says with a shrug. "She hired me before she recruited me. Easy when I don't do the whole mask or nom de plume thing. How'd she find you? Of the two of us, I imagine you were the harder one to locate and talk to."

*

"A face like a flower." Snorts the woman, clearly feeling a certain way about spore-infested rats, but Huntress likewise looks for rats. Though will she shock or just shoot? Currently the woman is leaning heavily toward shooting. After all a rat-corpse can be dissected.

"Ha." She says quietly, "Google maps." The fact that Jess doesn't use a secret identity causes the purple-clad woman to consider that thought a moment. "Brave of you not to hide behind a mask. I imagine that sometimes bites you in the ass?" Comes her mostly rhetorical question, even before she allows a shrug at the question of how Oracle found herself.

"Oh you know how it is -" The black-haired woman says, "You're out on the rooftops beating up some would-be purse thieves and then the next minute there's a package with some communication gear in it."

*

Jessica shrugs and says, "It does. A lot. Thing is, I didn't set out to do this sort of work. I set out to find a kid's missing dad. It just unfolded from there. By the time I was done pretty much I'd blown the coop. And of course. You know. All the cool names and costume ideas are totally taken, I couldn't find one that didn't give me a wedgie…and, I guess maybe I kind of like that if someone needs the shit I can do they can just show up and my door. Got plenty of friends who do the mask thing though. I see how it helps. And I see how it's a giant pain in their asses when they're trying to juggle two lives. Tradeoffs."

But she snorts at the explanation of Oracle just sort of. Sending a package. "If I didn't like her so much I'd say that's creepy," she comments. "Do you know the other two well at all, besides Sparrow is Hyper?"

*

"There are tradeoffs." She agrees, but does't elaborate too much upon that. "And don't go for that spandex shit -" She adds, "Go for a nomex and kevlar weave. It acts more like leather versus spandex." Advise the woman, before she yanks a small quarrel from the quiver upon her other glove. The quarrel itself is a blunt-tipped thing, a non-lethal bolt and with an expert flick of her wrist Huntress sends it toward a small gray-brown body. There's a thump and then a startled squeak before the rather large rat falls over, unconscious.

At least it's not dead, right?

"Let's see what it looks like." And Huntress goes over to that inert form and gingerly picks it up by the base of the tail.

"Barda? No. That was the first time I met her. Who's the other?" She asks, the rat flipped over so the two can get a good look at the critter's face.

*

"Nicely done," Jess says, of the kill.

Huh. Nomex and kevlar weave. Well, that could be useful on its own right, mask or no mask. Though she wonders if that's what Stark made her jeans out of, or if he just…Starked it up to something better. Not that she's wearing the good ones today.

She can't see anything wrong with the rat, but she says, "I'll bring it to the lab too. I can't imagine any infection in these tunnels would escape any other rat, and, well." She points upward. "According to the map that ladder there leads to right outside the bodega. And I'm not sure if the other is one of Oracle's. There was…I don't know. She was helpful. I don't think I caught her name, there was a lot going on, but I think she became aware of the spores in the bread somehow. I assume spores in the bread. She yelled 'that's not bread'…things got progressively weirder from there."

*

While there isn't exactly a sigh of relief from Huntress, the tension that thinned her mouth to a straight line eases somewhat, when the rat looks visually okay.

The mention of taking it to her friend causes the vigilante to pass the rat over to Jess.

"If a person ate the bread would that have infected them?" Asks Huntress quite seriously, "Because that's going to make me really look at everything I eat now." The last is offered with a rather dry amusement to her voice, though it still carries an undertone of seriousness to it.

"We should see if Oracle can give us a roster of who's on the team. I doubt it's a secret."

*

"I think it would have. I think I am not eating that ever again. Mrs. Baird's."

Jessica goes up the ladder. Now in possession of… one rat. One handed, she holds the rat. With the other hand, she shoves the manhole cover up.

"The glorious life of superheroes and private dicks," she says dryly. "We could do a great PSA. Hey kids? Do you wanna wear a mask? Beat people up? First, let's talk about shit. You're going to be encountering a lot of it. Shit. And rats. Sometimes you'll have to play with corpses! Oooooor you could do your homework and go to college. That might be fun too. Yaaaaaay."

She snorts, lumbering upwards, adding, "Not exactly a Captain America special, but I think I could make it work. Thanks for going with me. I don't know whether to apologize that we didn't find anything other than Mickey here or call you my good luck charm."

*

Huntress follows Jess upward to fresh air and open spaces. While she's not necessarily claustrophobic there's a definite extra edge lost once Huntress is above ground again.

"I've seen worse PSAs." States the black-haired woman, the mask over nose and mouth removed, "So I won't complain at that."

It's the mention of being a good luck charm that now pulls a bark of laughter from the woman. "That's the first anyone has ever thought about calling me a good luck charm - and no need to apologize. Like you said due diligence. Like I said before we don't need a repeat of attack of the pod people." And while it's clear Huntress is going to get ready to leave, the woman pauses a moment, "Let me know what your friend finds out about the creatures." She says, "And if you need anything else give a buzz. If I'm free I'll help."

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