Unusual Justice

April 25, 2018:

8 months ago Trish Walker got a career offer she couldn't refuse. But what will she do now that she's discovered the hidden hand behind her good fortune?

NYC, D.C., and New Orleans

Cause what's a bold new career move without a little jet setting?

Characters

NPCs: Mariah Dillard, Assorted Others

Mentions: Azalea Kingston, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Luke Cage, Frenzy, Jane Foster, Michael Carter, Cindy Moon

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

AUGUST 2017

"WHIH News, Christine Everhart, reporting live today outside the United States District Courthouse in Brooklyn New York, where James Buchanan Barnes has been declared not guilty of all charges in the trial that has widely been referred to as ‘The Trial of Two Centuries. After an intense 3 days of deliberations the jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict at 2:25 PM this afternoon, clearing Barnes of multiple counts of treason, kidnapping, and murder…"

Of course, WHIH news isn't the only outlet that's been covering the trial. Trish Talks has certainly delivered its share of exclusive, in-depth coverage. And it's gotten some attention. Wherever Trish has arrayed herself in the moment of this victory, whether by her sister's side (though Jessica eventually gets cornered by a reporter, gives a not on her best behavior sound bite and then leaps up to a new building to run away), or on the steps to try to get her own soundbites, or still in the courtroom interviewing people who aren't out yet, she is eventually approached by a redheaded woman in a smart navy blue suit. "Trish? Trish Walker?"

Trish suppresses a sigh, turns off the hand held recorder, and pushes off the column she was leaning up against to turn towards the new voice. Her 'professional' smile is in place by the time she comes fully around, disguising her annoyance at the interruption. One never knows what opportunity is about to be presented after all. A quick appraisal of the red head and the quality of her suit has Trish doing the quick unconscious adjusting of her hair and outfit in order to appear as equally professional. More than one reporter had taken the opportunity to let her know that she was way out her league and trying to pretend she was more than just the radio equivalent of 'Entertainment Tonight'. One asshole had been bold enough to tell her to her face she wouldn't know "real journalism if it bit her on her ass".

It hadn't stopped Trish though. In fact, it had the opposite effect, and had resulted in some of her best work yet. In her own humble opinion anyways.

"Yes, that's me. How can I help you, Ms…?" She holds out her hand for a shake and tilts her head as she waits for the lady to supply her name.

"Vaughn," she says. "Iris Vaughn, NPR."

She holds out a hand and says, "We've been very impressed by your coverage of the Barnes trial. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I've got an opportunity I'd like to lay out for you."

It seems today it is indeed an opportunity around the corner. Vaughn hasn't been doing the reporting for NPR…that's been Sarah Koenig of This American Life, but when she offers her card it shows she's one of the Executive Producers for the radio station as a whole, rather than for any specific show.

Trish's hand had twitched slightly during the shake as Iris introduces her self and whom she works for, an unconscious reaction to preparing herself for more belittlement. Then Iris continues, offering coffee, and what sounds like a job. Both eyebrows raise sharply and her mouth sags open slightly before she can catch herself. My, my, what a most welcome surprise. The card is taken, tucked into her purse, and Trish's eyebrows twitch again as she realizes the potential opportunity that might just be presenting itself from an actual Executive Producer.

"Thank you, Ms. Vaughn, I appreciate that. This has been somewhat of a passion project of mine, for a multitude of reasons, so it's a huge compliment coming from an NPR Executive. I have some time now, actually, and I know where we can get a very good latte not far from here."

Trish feels a twinge of guilt as she was going to stop by and see Az today. Things haven't exactly been going well during their visits. Xiuhnel is getting worse, she refuses to think of it as Az is getting worse, and it's getting harder to watch without any sign of stopping. It's selfish, and she knows it, but she just can't force herself to go to Stark Towers just then. Not when NPR wants to take her for coffee.

At coffee, Iris goes through the usual small talk and questions. Why did Trish flip to talk radio, for example, what does she really want to see happen with her career.

Finally she says, "So I'll lay it out for you. We want to launch a new podcast called Unusual Justice. We want you to be the host. Right now we've got one season planned, with others if it's successful. The Barnes Trial and your work on it lays the foundation. This will focus on trials and court cases revolving around metas, vigalantes, people like Mr. Barnes. We're looking for sympathetic protaganists who are probably innocent, and you'd be investigating their cases during the podcast and documenting it. Much like Serial, only for unusual people. The one we've vetted for you right now is named Madame Lavanne St. Simeons out of New Orleans. She's a voodoo priestess who actually seems capable of doing things. She was accused and convicted of using real curses to conduct a series of revenge murders across the city. She swears she is absolutely innocent, and of course…it's hard to say, isn't it? Her case is on appeal right now. You'd have to really dig deep and investigate it, really exercise the journalistic chops I know you have. My only critique is you were clearly biased in favor of Barnes in this case, and you'd need more objectivity here. But only marginally more, as we believe she is innocent, and the Serial formula revolved around someone who had plenty of reasonable doubt too. Now you'd need to come to DC, but we're willing to absorb Trish Talks into our own studio and start syndicating it on NPR as well, and can work out a deal with your home station so that it continues. We don't want you to lose your name brand or your show, and we want to try to leave you a soft place to fall if the podcast doesn't work out. But if it does? We see possibility for permanent placement for you with our station."

Trish navigates the small talk far more smoothly than she does the actual questions about her career. She hadn't really thought of how covering the trial was going to change the direction of her career. She had only been thinking about campaigning for Bucky's freedom. Which had obviously shown in her less than subtle biased approach. She does manage to give her standard response about wanting to get away from 'Hollywood' and so on in order to actively pursue her sobriety. When she had started Trish Talks it had allowed her to stay on the fringe of the business she really did love, even if she hadn't handled her fame very well at all. It's no secret after all, her scandalous past, and battles with drugs and alcohol after all.

"I won't insult either of our intelligence by trying to deny I felt very strongly that Barnes was innocent," Trish starts with a chuckle after taking a moment to process all of Iris' information. "But I promise I can be objective. I'm not against relocating, as long as I could have some time to get things squared away here before leaving. I can't just up and leave tomorrow even though I am very interested in your offer. Moving my show, as well as working out a deal with WNEX, is extremely generous. I admit, I'm tempted to just say yes, even if I do have to leave tomorrow!"

Two faint spots of color appear on her cheeks, as she realizes she might be coming off a little to strong, which would take away any negotiating leverage she might have. She wants the job though, the deep seated ambition she couldn't help but inherit from her mother rearing up and screaming at her to take it no matter the cost. A very small part of her that is actually still rational is screaming that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, but it's so quiet in comparison it might as well not be there at all. Her internal agitation is causing her carefully crafted control to slip, and the napkin holder two tables down falls off the table, as if someone gave it a hard shove. Trish buries her face in her cup, miming a large drink to get herself back in check.

"Tell you what," Iris says. "We're not even quite ready to begin production yet. We can give you three weeks to relocate and can set you up with a corporate apartment as part of your benefits package. I don't think you should divest yourself of your New York apartment just yet, but nobody wants to be paying for two homes in major urban areas. Then another week to get you set up and squared away. We can begin production in mid-September. I can e-mail a copy of the proposed contract and you can feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all."

Trish's eyebrows rise again. The offer just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. There was NO way she was going to be giving up her apartment, so that jived beautifully, and a month is two weeks MORE than what she was going to set as her time requirement. Her rational side tries to get her to slow down again, before ambition rips it to shreds. She digs in her purse for one of her own cards, even though she's more than sure Iris already has all her contact information, and hands it to her.

"That all sounds like more than I can turn down, Iris."

As long as my legal team okays that contract, anyways But that doesn't really need to be said. They're both professional business women after all.

"I can't wait to see the contract and if I have any, you'll be the first I call. Wow. I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed by all of this. Never in a million years would I have ever guessed an opportunity to work for NPR would come my way when I started doing Trish Talks."

OCTOBER 2017

Things are going well. The show won't air till all twelve episodes are produced. Trish has been swept into a whirlwind fury that's taken her from New Orleans to DC and back again. When she is in the Crescent City she has a small, local studio to run Trish Talks from. And the rest is spent investigating, interviewing, recording. Her handlers are happy with how the show is shaping up. Her co-workers are smart and funny.

Last week Jessica called with the news that Azalea had been healed. She feels a little guilty. She wasn't in on it, at the end, because she had been in Wakanda and could not split her focus. She'd left it to Zatanna Zatara and John Constantine, but it had worked out. The result was some third person, really, a merge between Azalea and Xihunel. "She's different," Jess had said. "But I still see Az in there." Different could cover all kinds of things, but Jess, being Jess, had been less than forthcoming.

Trish's 'star' is innocent. Trish has uncovered a lot of exculpatory evidence an incompetent and biased Law Enforcement team missed, that the prosecution ignored and that the Mambo's ineffective counsel hadn't known how to properly use. This places her on the waterfront in one of the worst areas of New Orleans, staring at the home of one Evangeline LeDoux, whom evidence indicates might have done it.

Jess has called though, unaware of the time entirely. She's been operating on a crazy time zone after all. "We did it," she says, simply, tired but pleased. She has never exactly been forthcoming about how the investigation is shaped up over there, what she's doing or even how she and the rest of the team there came to be allowed in the notoriously reclusive nation, but she'll call to say this. "We're coming home. All of us."

Trish sits in her nondescript rental sedan, nothing too fancy fancy for the neighborhood she hopes, keeping one eye on LeDoux's house. Voodoo makes Trish nervous and being here, around someone who is probably using it to hurt people, even more so. It really doesn't help that Trish's own guilt over not being there for Azalea's healing has been making her waspish enough with everyone on her team to have impressed Jessica when she was at her worst. Hence, sitting on a rather dangerous steak out by herself. She drums out a short staccato on the steering wheel as she answers her phone.

"Really? Everyone? That's great news Jess! Is everyone okay? Are you okay?" A big fear Trish had had for Jessica was that something would go wrong, and her sister wouldn't ever be able to come back home. "How long till you're back in New York?"

"I'm fine," Jessica says. "Really and truly. It was pretty routine."

Trish can probably hear the lie at the last bit, but then, does one even have to know Jess, or be good at spotting lies at all, to catch that? And Trish has both.

"I'll be home tomorrow," she adds. "How's NPR?" She has been nothing but supportive, though she hasn't exactly had to face Trish's actual absence yet either.

But Trish might not have the opportunity to answer. Someone bursts out of the door to LeDoux's house, running and screaming as if Hell itself is on his tail. Moments later, a huge gator about twice the size of a normal one, with red, glowing eyes, goes racing out of LeDoux's house after him, hissing, jaws clacking, moving rather fast.

Trish rolls her eyes and is about to launch into full on dig-to-the-bottom-of-Jess's-lie mode but doesn't get the chance. Her phone slips out of her hand as she jumps at the appearance of the giant, red-eyed gator. It takes a couple of blinks for her to remember to slouch down in the car so she isn't seen.

"Jesus H. fucking Christ!" can be heard along with sounds indicating Trish is fumbling with the phone. She can't decide if she should put the car in gear and try and rescue the screaming person, hang up immediately and diall 9-1-1, or stay right where she is and hope to hell no one saw her.

"Jess, I think I gotta go. A voodoo witch just set a gator on someone and I want to go help them, or at least see about getting some hard evidence for the cops. Have a safe flight, I miss you, text me when you land, love you, bye!" The last bit sounds almost like one word, she spits it out so fast, before stabbing her thumb on the end button, and starting the car. Offering up a small prayer that God protect the stupid person who's about to stick her foot into something messy, she pulls away from the curb in pursuit of the gator. She idly wonders if gator damage would be covered by insurance before zeroing in on the task of hopefully preventing someone becoming gator snacks.

Even demon gators don't have much of a Save vs. Tricked Out (or is that Trished Out?) SUV. She hits the creature with a mighty crunch, and it howls in otherworldly agony. It also disappears into a thousand shadows like it never was as its prey disappears into the night. But…it was bold, and heroic. She helped him, efficiently too, without putting herself in any kind of weird spotlight, without risking the exposure of her own abilities to the world at large.

Of course.

Now she has to deal with the phone that rings and rings, with an anxiety-ridden sister on the other end of the line.

Nobody ever said this hero crap was easy.

In the excitement of running over a shadow gator, she looses her potential lead. She slams her hands down on the steering wheel in frustration. While it was great she probably saved someone's life, she lost what she feels to be more important. She tosses a disgusted look at the phone dancing across the floor on the passenger side and pulls over so she can finally answer it.

"Hey, sorry, just a slight voodoo shadow gator thing, but, uh, everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?"

Trish desperately hopes that a little Star Wars humor might divert a massive ass chewing. It's a faint, small, probably futile hope, but she still has it.

JANUARY 2018

8 out of the 12 episodes are almost wrapped up. Anti-meta sentiment is heating up all over the United States thanks to the attack of two mutant terrorists at a Stark Industries gala. The resulting mess resulted in a massive sky-bound explosion that rocked the city of New York. Debates on mutant and meta-registration (some making a distinction, most not) are raging in every city and state.

Thus, a Special Addendum episode on the proposed legislation and how it could impact the case got planned. It was a grueling three hour affair, in-depth talks with policy wonks, lawyers, advocacy group leaders, and St. Simeons herself were all called for.

Christmas and New Years were a bust.

She came home to find Jess had been and gone, had left the same gift basket full of fizzy bath things and lotions and whatnot that she's gotten Trish every year since she first came into her life. This time, though, a card: Keep kicking ass and taking names. -J.

Pinning LaDoux down with any hard evidence has proven impossible. She has powerful friends.

Trish sits in her apartment, taking a much needed break from everything, pawing through the basket her sister had left for her. Guilt, that ever familiar feeling she's almost gotten used to enough to be able to ignore, wafts through her again as she realizes how far out of touch she's fallen with everyone.

Tomorrow, I'll call Az and see if she's available for coffee or something. I'll have more time tomorrow.

She picks the card up, grinning widely at the message, and takes it into her bedroom to hang on her vanity mirror. She knows she's going to frame it as soon as she can, but not right now. Suddenly swamped by feelings of loneliness, she flops on her bed, grabs her phone, and calls her sister.

"Hey brat, thanks for the basket. I'm sorry I missed you. Things are just really crazy with NPR right now, there's been a ton of meetings, but I'm always thinking of you. Did you get the stuff I sent you?"

In true Trish fashion, she had gone decidedly overboard with gifts for everyone to make up for her absence. Both Jess and Az had gotten boxes filled with books, clothes, kitchen gizmos for Jess and her new found cooking skills, and a set of what she thought were really cool nunchuks for Azalea. Trish had debated about that, but Jess said Az was better, so she had sent them along.

"Hey you," Jess says warmly. "I got it, yeah! Thank you back. And no worries. I've been swamped with case work myself. Just came back from some crazy bullshit in Norway, too."

'Skills' may be a stretch, but she is at least not eating takeout 'every' night.

A pause. And then: "Shit. When's the last time we talked? Look, you should know…Daredevil and this group he put together? They totally nailed IGH to the wall. Took down the whole operation. And? Kilgrave was there. Out cold and in a coma. Seems like he's going to spend the rest of his life rotting in some deep dark black site SHIELD has prepped for him. It's over. It's over for good. He is never coming back."

It's a good thing that Trish is laying down on her bed, because had she been standing up she wouldn't have been for long. The room does a great big loop as that sinks in. It should be no surprise that he wasn't actually dead considering her experience with the IGH pills, but she had spent so long trying to convince herself, and more importantly Jess, that he had been long gone in the first place.

"September", she says softly. "Voodoo gators was the last time we really talked."

She sits up and glances at the calendar on her wall. The cleaning lady had faithfully replaced it at the beginning of the year for her and realizing how long it's been has snapped Trish out of her 'Kilgrave is well and truly gone for good' daze. "Holy shit, that's a crazy four months. Norway? Daredevil put a group together? You are going to tell me all about this! But first. It's really, really over! You finally have closure on that fucking piece of shit!! Forever isn't long enough to rot, but you can guarantee SHIELD is going to do everything they can to make sure it happens. I can't believe it. We are celebrating hard next time we're both in the same place at the same time. I wish I could hug you right now!"

Trust Trish to make it mushy.

"We'll get together soon," Jess says dryly. "And don't get all excited. They don't have a funky name or anything. He just got some friends together is all. They all seemed pretty intent on not having me there, so…I didn't go. And I'm honestly glad I didn't. I found other things to occupy my time and it all worked out. I didn't need to look at him ever again. Even unconscious."

But she does tell her a little more, including the fact that the guy she's dating after tanking her relationship with Michael Carter via text was there, and Bucky and Jane and several others.

"I want a hug. I'll come see you soon."

True to her word she does, but she keeps it light. Other than this one heavy tidbit, New York City could be the most boring place in the world. Cindy's no longer living with her, having joined a group called the Titans. Azalea technically still is, though Jess rarely sees her. She's doing music again. Bought a studio next door to Alias to create music that even Jessica Jones describes as, "Breathtaking. Some of the best stuff I've ever heard."

The hugs are long and deep. Jess misses her. She just doesn't want to say so.

Trish squeezes Jess just as hard as Jess is hugging her. Not being around has been a lot harder for Trish than she's let on. The work has been great, more rewarding than she had ever imagined it would be, but she has missed her family, which had expanded more than she had thought possible through Jess. Once they are settled in the living room, with a couple pizzas on the way, Trish gets into the catch up.

"I missed your face you know, even though you'd rather I don't get all mush-mush. It's good to be here with you. I hope everything's going well with Cindy as part of the Titans. She's a good kid, not that I need to tell you that." The mention of Azalea and her music makes Trish wither a little, and get a little far away. She's too much of a coward to do more than send the occasional, vanilla 'how's it going' text. "I haven't had a chance to hear any of it yet, but then, we haven't spoken much since she was at Stark Towers. Must be pretty good though, if you like it."

She nudges Jess, in an attempt to seem nonchalant. It's not exactly like she wants to spend their first real catch up in ages moping about her relationship woes. Instead, she wants to hear more about Jess's new man. "Sooo, tell me more about your new beau! Time to spill the tea, as they say on Drag Race."

Jessica smirks faintly and says, "His name's Luke Cage. He's a big Man Mountain. He might not be for real. I yelled at him to respect my boundaries better and then he did. He's got a good sense of humor. He's also apparently bulletproof. I think you're going to like him, assuming he is not a djinn, shapeshifter or some other magical creature that's too good to be true. I mean it was a little complicated and on-again off-again for awhile, but…he's not pressuring me or anything which is good."

She will happily consume pizza, and add, "Anyone new in your life, or is work eating you? I've started hearing the promos for your show. Sounds pretty interesting. Hits the airwaves in April, right?"

Jessica Jones. Hardly knows how to talk about her relationships when they're going well. Just to side eye them to see when they will start getting weird.

Trish plows her way through a couple pieces of pizza and eyes up a third as Jess talks about Luke. While her appetite and metabolism are no where near what Jessica's are, they have increased since her telekinesis was activated. Deciding that it's a special occasion, she goes for that third piece of pizza.

"Wait, what? Luke Cage? Wasn't he part of that whole bullshit arrest of yours? He did what?!? A man who actually listened and actually changed, on his own, without asking more than one time? You tried silver at the very least, if not full on holy water, right? All joking aside though, he sounds like an okay kind of guy. I'd like to meet him when you guys get to the family introductions stage of things. Maybe here, so we can test him and make sure he's really human."

Trish fills her glass with pop before answering Jess's questions about her own life. "Nope, no body, just me and the job. Doesn't really leave a lot of time for much else. Besides, I don't know that a partner is a good thing right now. No one knows about me yet, publicly anyways, and I still have slip ups now and again. One at the wrong time and my cover is blown. Any chance I have of being a voice for reason on the whole meta/enhanced issue will be gone and I'm just not willing to risk that right now. As long as nothing happens, it should be premiering in April. I'm a little nervous though, not going to lie. It's so different than anything else I've ever done before, you know?"

"No, that was someone else," Jessica says, about her arrest, shaking her head. "But yeah, I'll bring him by. "

But she falls silent to listen to the rest of it and tilts her head. "Trish, you're gonna be great, I promise. But I'm glad you're being careful. I'm also real glad the voodoo gator bullshit didn't blow your cover. This bullshit isn't going away, I don't think, not for a real long time. I mean, it's not bothering me any, except one stupid brick through the window, but you're a public figure. The only thing people like more than building a celebrity up is watching her fall, and all that bullshit."

"Are you going to do a spot on it? Registration? On Trish Talks, I mean."

Trish lets out an exaggerated relieved breath, complete with over the top wiping of her brow at the news it's a different person.

"Well that is a relief, because I thought for sure you had lost your damn mind. Not that I'm in a position to judge, but anyways. I'm really glad that I didn't get my cover blown too, Jess. I am really not ready for that. Not that I'm ashamed, it's just not a welcoming climate right now, you know? Stupid Trish. Of course you know. You basically hit the nail on the head with the watching celebrities fall thing."

Trish empties her glass, debates a refill, before setting it back down on the table. "I am definitely going to be doing a spot on it. I'm actually playing with the idea of doing a dedicated bi-weekly series on the whole Registration thing until people realize that it's a bad, unfair invasion of privacy being proposed. It's a short jump from Registration to concentration camps. Just ask the European Jewish community, or the Korean-Americans, during WWII." Trish's mouth twists as she forcibly quells the rant about to start. "Whew, bringing it back, yes I am going to talk a lot about it."

MARCH 2018

And so Trish does. Talk about registration, a great good deal. The show probably generates so many calls they have to update the switch board, though she has to field a lot of pro-registration calls from angry people who claim they just want to be safe. Or their children to be safe. (Think of the children!) And how these people are like walking nukes. ALL OF THEM ARE WALKING NUKES, TRISH.

The final episode of the podcast has been put together. Airing will happen soon.

Trish gets a text. Right at the end of a sweat-drop inducing show where individuals who offered veiled comments that indicated they might have been members of the human-only terrorist group 'Friends of Humanity' were calling to issue equally veiled threats and a lot of angry commentary.

Just a text from Jess.

Don't freak out, but I'm using your apartment. Just needed somewhere to lay low. Can get elsewhere if you need me to.

Trish campaigns just as hard, if not harder, against Registration than she did for Bucky. It might have something to do with it having a much farther reaching consequence, a very real one for her entire circle as well as the rest of the world. As disgusting as these threatening calls are, she takes them and keeps them on the line for as long as she can stand it, in order to glean as much information as possible to help identifying said asshats and hopefully lead to arrests. Because it's still illegal to utter threats, regardless as to the why of it.

The text makes her stop and reread it a couple times before answering.

Totally freaking out, why are you at my apartment? I don't care that you're there, you don't need to vacate, but WTF is going on that you need to lie low??

"Why do they always use children, like it's good for the children to teach them intolerance?" she mutters under her breath to no one in particular as she waits for a reply.

It's nothing. Just a little run-in. I'm fine.

Meanwhile, Trish's new producer Al totally blows Jessica's cover. "Whoa, hey, Trish? Isn't some chick named Jessica Jones who lives in Hell's Kitchen your sister? A Hell of a story just came across the AP Wire. You might want to come and take a look at this."

Because the producers monitor all sorts of stories, of course, and they all pretty well know Trish and her background by now.

Trish looks at her phone, complete skepticism plastered all over her face. It's NEVER just a little run-in when Jessica is involved. Ever. She's about to start typing a totally Trishified 'you're full of shit now tell me the truth' reply when Al calls her in. Instead, she tries a different tact.

Al is asking me if you're my sister because of some story he just heard on the AP Wire. Care to try again??

"Yeah, she is, I'm coming," she tells the producer, a little tiredly. Because it is Jess, and you just never know exactly how bad it's going to be.

The story reads as follows:

MUTANT ON MUTANT VIOLENCE IN HELL'S KITCHEN

Ben Ulrich, The Daily Bugle

Traffic on 46th Street came to a standstill at 5:45 on the afternoon of March 14th when an unidentified mutant stepped deliberately into the path of a car that seemed to be her direct target.

The car crumpled around the mutant, who stood unharmed.

The vehicle, a 2014 silver Lexus, was registered to one Jessica Jones, a private detective and known meta-human who operates her business, Alias Investigations, out of her 46th Street apartment.

Witnesses say Jones at first escaped from the car and began trying to treat the collision like an accident, only for the unnamed mutant to attack Jones.

Jones is known to have strength well in excess of a normal human's, rendering her capable of lifting a car. The unidentified assailant, however, seemed to have strength well in excess of Jones. Jones was beaten soundly during the initial stages of the assault, before seeming to take steps to prevent collateral damage by forcibly moving the fight to a nearby scrapyard.

Footage of the assault shows Jones trying to talk the assailant down on a number of occasions. The assailant claimed to be a member of the Brotherhood, a terrorist organization which has been linked to multiple attacks on humans, including the Stark Industries Charity Gala earlier this year, and several pro-registration rallies across the state.

Though the asphalt on 46th Street was damaged during the early stages of the attack, no civilians, buildings, or additional vehicles seemed to be harmed.

Nevertheless, this latest round of violence has sparked new pro-registration sentiments across the State of New York. Locally, Councilwoman Mariah Dillard of Harlem has stepped forward to champion some of these efforts.

"Nobody can lead a peaceful life with mutants fighting like a pair of wild dogs in our streets," Dillard says. "This incident only further demonstrates why it is absolutely necessary to take steps to get the mutant menace under control."

Dillard is the plaintiff in a civil suit against Jones, whom she alleges stalked and harrassed her in violation of the law while conducting her work as a private detective.

Jones has not turned up at Metro General or any other local hospital, and cannot be reached for comment. A few eye witnesses claimed to see the assailant leaving the area shortly after the attack.

And on the phone:

God damn it. It was Ulrich, wasn't it? Of course it was. Fucking Ulrich.

Trish reads, rereads, and reads once more the whole story on the screen. She almost hurls her phone at the wall but manages to restrain herself, knowing the hassle of replacing it. Instead, the garbage can gets a healthy boot and goes scooting across the floor. The fact that nothing else happens, no papers explode into the air, no loose items go crashing to the floor, is a testament to the level of control Trish has been able to develop. One of the few perks to come from what could easily be called a self imposed exile.

"Sorry. Excuse me. GOD DAMN IT ALL TO HELL, FUCKING DILLARD!" The first bit is tossed at Al and company, the second explodes out as she stomps out of the room. This was not going to help the whole anti-Registration movement she is trying to help.

Of course it was Ulrich. What were you following Dillard for? Who hired you?

Not that she really expects much of an answer. Jessica takes her client privilege very seriously after all.

Dillard? That was … well. Yeah. Ok. She sued me months ago, Nelson and Murdock are handling it. It's just some bullshit payback from the guys who owned IGH, or so Matt thinks. It looks like the people who hired me were connected to this dude Fisk somehow, who is in charge of all of them? This bullshit today doesn't have much to do with Dillard. Just some terrorist who I guess thinks I'm Jack fucking Bauer. Wanted to send a message to my friends, neglected to mention which. Anyway it's fine. It was a few hours ago. Bucky and Jane patched me up. Jane threatened to beat me with a medical textbook and force me into a hospital if I don't heal up fast enough, or seek magical healing fast enough. I'm fine. Just another day at the office.

A pause, and a beat.

The last thing you need to be worrying about right now is my scrapyard scramble. Your big debut is coming up. <3

In true Jess fashion, with one text, she has managed to take the wind out of Trish's righteously filled sails. Not only had she offered up enough information to placate Trish, she has also said she has and will continue to seek medical help. Luke Cage might not be the only shapeshifter kicking around Hells Kitchen.

Screw the debut. I < 3 you, not debuting. As always, help yourself to whatever you need. Food might be scarce, but I have ice packs in the freezer and a couple magic bags for heat therapy in the bathroom. Be careful, say hi to Bucky and Jane for me.

Putting her phone in her pocket for now, she heads back in to say her apologies for her little outburst. "Sorry guys, that was a bit much. I just feel like any time we start to gain momentum something or someone like this Dillard just has to step up and convince everyone how dangerous being different is."

In a few days, Dillard actually calls Trish Talks. Or rather, her media handlers do.

"Mariah Dillard has changed her mind about registration," the assistant tells Trish, over the phone, during non-show hours. "She wants to know if she can come on your show and talk about it. Given you've been such a passionate advocate on the matter of the anti-registration movement, would you care for the exclusive?"

Now what the Hell could have changed her mind? It sure wasn't Jess, who this morning sent a joking picture of herself with a bag of peas covering her entire face, and a thumb's up.

Trish is immediately suspicious of everything about this particular call. No politician in the history of ever has ever changed their stand that quickly without some sort of blackmail or payoff. Her eyes narrow but her tone maintains it's professional tone during the initial introductory chit chat and as the call continues.

"I am very interested in the exclusive. I do have some questions though, and some reservations, if I'm being honest. What exactly does Mariah want in return for this exclusive? My listeners have come to expect a certain level of honesty from my show and I am not about to compromise that. For any scoop."

She pulls her tablet over to fire off a quick email to Jess, since she's on her phone.

Dillard changed her mind. Wants to do interview on show. Thoughts????

"Nothing," the press secretary assures Trish. "She wants nothing. Just a chance to explain why she's changed her stance and a platform where she can encourage other people to follow."

Trish asks the question of Jessica, and there's a pause.

Dunno. She obviously answers to CGI in some form or fashion, or is in bed with them, maybe they wanted her to shift her stance. Maybe someone is bribing or blackmailing her. Maybe the Brotherhood got to her after she decided to jump in and compare me and one of their people to wild dogs. Maybe a sign appeared in the heavens and blinded her for three days. Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

Trish taps her fingers against her chin as she considers the different angles. Her eyes scan the response from Jess, and she barely suppresses a snort, although she's not exactly sure what she was expecting from her sister in this instance. On one hand, a chance to scoop a big Registration supporter changing her tune, on the other hand it could be some kind of set up. Though she couldn't say for what if her life depended on in. What would Jessica do? she asks herself.

"I think we can probably give her that platform. I'll put you in touch with my producer to set up all the details, if that's okay? In fact, I'm sending him an email right now to expect your call if that works?" She pulls the tablet close again to do just that. She also replies to Jessica.

Okay, thanks. I don't know what the game is, but I'll play for now. As long as Matt and Foggy say it's not going to interfere with anything they've got going. Or has that been retracted as well in her newfound rush of conscience?

No, she's totally still suing me as far as I know, Jessica says. Maybe she's hoping for a softball platform because you're anti-registration and there aren't too many personalities willing to step up and take that stand right now. Maybe she wants people to think that's what she's doing, or that she's backed down. I just wouldn't mention the lawsuit at all. It's not about me. Whatever her reasons, this registration shit is bad news. If she wants to retract, give her what she wants and save the tough questions for when you're not on the air. That's what I'd do, anyway.

Cause Jessica is sure Trish won't be able to resist a few tough questions, one way or another.

Regardless of what Trish thinks of Jessica's advice, one week later the formidable Dillard is in the production studio. Episode 12 out of 12 has been recorded and put to bed. Unusual Justice is good to go. That gives her a breather to focus on Trish Talks, for what could be a pretty explosive show, ratings-wise, with her New York listeners, anyway. Mariah is perfectly coiffed and a picture of poise, wearing a slight smile that just radiates benign noblesse oblige. It's the same one she wears when she discusses her efforts in Harlem, whenever she gets in front of any cameras at all.

Trish takes one look at Dillard and takes an immediate and savage dislike to her. Everything about her, especially her attitude, rub Trish the wrong way and scream smarmy. Like "look at me I donate to charity, so I can feel better about shutting down the homeless shelter that's blocking the view of my favorite tree" smarmy. But she has interviewed worse with a smile on her face and she's not about to fail at that now.

"Mrs. Dillard, what a pleasure to have you today. I have to say, I was very surprised to get the call from your assistant, and extremely flattered that you would choose me to help you tell your story." Her hand goes out without a trace of hesitation or the disgust felt as it's taken by the other woman. "You look lovely, as I'm sure you've been told a hundred times already today. Who are you wearing? Can I get you anything, water, coffee, tea?"

A personality? But she manages to keep that one on the inside. Insults are not the way to get what she wants from Dillard.

Mariah Dillard is all too happy to chat about designers, to compliment Trish on her own clothing, and to take a coffee. She never does seem to develop any personality beyond the one Trish observes right from the start. On the air, she is articulate and erudite. She describes watching a mutant save a child from a car wreck before her very eyes, a little baby just barely able to walk who had wandered into the street when her mother had turned to address her siblings for just a single moment.

It reminded her, she says, of the fact that these are all just people. It was a moment where she found herself suddenly drawing parallels to the civil rights struggles black people have been embroiled in for decades. It made her ashamed to think her fear had overwhelmed her. She now urges everyone to do the right thing, and promises she'll be voting against any New York City ordinances, about the only thing she has power over, that would hamper the rights and freedoms of the metahuman community in any way.

Which covers the PR fluff and the point of her visit. And leaves the question. Does Trish ask hard questions on air, off, or not at all? And…what does she ask?

On air, Trish behaves, and doesn't ask Dillard how she sleeps at night, or looks at herself in the mirror. She doesn't comment on how hard it is to not literally throw up all over the place at the bull patties coming out of Mariah's mouth. She plays along, rather charmingly is she says so herself, given how she truly feels. She should be getting nominated for Oscars, really. But once they're given the all clear and headsets have come off, Trish strikes. Figuratively of course.

"Thank you for that. I gives me hope that others are going to come to see the light about Registration. I have to say, though, I find it quite interesting that your name comes up quite a bit in conjunction with IGH. Who was actually developing drugs to create metahumans. Did you know anything about that? Strictly off the record of course." She blinks guileless green eyes at her guest.

She also strategically moves so that she is standing in front of the door out of the booth. Mariah is going to have to physically move Trish if she wants to leave without answering the questions.

Mariah Dillard knows exactly why Wilson Fisk is after a certain group of 'heroes' in Hell's Kitchen. So she doesn't look surprised.

"IGH is a non-entity these days," she points out smoothly. "I don't know anything about what they're up to. The holding company that bought them last year, CGI, does donate to me quite a bit." She spreads her hands. "Off the record, Miss Walker, that's all I'm prepared to say. I'm caught up in forces quite a bit beyond my ken at this point. The price of politics, and the price of doing all I can for my people back home in Harlem. Of course."

She tilts her head thoughtfully. "I think if you looked closely, you'd find you are caught up in forces a bit beyond your ken, too."

She moves to walk past Trish, adding, "Have a good night, Miss Walker." As if she is wondering how Trish can sleep at night, perhaps.

Trish inclines her head and moves out of Dillard's way and opens the door for her, letting just a hint of how she feels creep into her eyes. Not enough to get called out on, but enough that Mariah should be able to tell. Unless she's even thicker than Trish suspects she is. All warmth, fake or otherwise, has left her voice as well, though it's still very professional.

"Funny how that works sometimes, getting caught up in things. I hope you don't find that price too high, Mrs. Dillard. Off the record of course. Good luck on your campaign. I sincerely hope you don't turn out to be one of those politicians who just can't seem to keep their promises that got them elected. Good evening, Al will show you out, won't you Al."

Thank all Gods, Norse and otherwise, that Al was there to take over. She can feel a headache building behind her eyes, one that feels like it's going to blossom into full blown migraine sooner rather than later. Trish hates politicians.

"CGI again," she mutters under her breath. "We're going to have to get to know each other better now that I'm done with Unusual Justice." She pulls out her phone and makes a memo for herself to do just that. On another day. When her left eyeball isn't trying to explode.

APRIL 2018

The show airs a week later. One week after that?

The door is just slightly ajar.

She can hear Iris Vaughn, talking to NPR's program director, Ned Tooley. And the words Unusual Justice float through the air.

"…ratings are terrible," Tooley says.

"It's the timing," Vaughn says regretfully. "How were we supposed to know a few months after the project started terrorists would pull stuff and nobody would want to hear a thing about noble, misunderstood, wrongfully convicted mutants? She did a good job, Ned."

"Good job or not, what are we going to do with her now? I don't think we have a show for her. And I don't think it makes any sense for NPR to buy Trish Talks. The show is too locally focused. It never really caught on outside the State of New York. Heads would roll."

"We gotta put her on something, Ned. If we don't keep her in DC, working on plum opportunities, the Union Allied money dries up. And those donations have been a godsend, you know they have."

Trish stops dead as she hears Iris and Ned talking. She glances around quickly to make sure no one is watching and ducks into an empty cubicle just across from the door to eavesdrop without being caught. As she listens, her shoulders sag a little. She had heard it wasn't going well, but she didn't think it was quite that bad. At least Iris is sticking up for her, because she had done a good job. She had lived her investigative reporter dream and felt like she might have stumbled on to a talent she didn't know she had.

Her ears come to points though, as the conversation continues. Union Allied was basically paying NPR to keep her here in DC? What? Out comes her phone, which she very carefully puts on silent mode, to once again ask Jessica what she would do.

Can you do me a favor and see if there is a connection between CGI, Union Allied, and NPR? I think I'm learning something really important right now and want to stay and hear how it plays out. Ps. Miss you. Pps. Dillard is a douche if I didn't tell you that already. Ppps. Love you

Union Allied? I recognize that name. Azalea was working some kind of case about them. Their name was all over files she had spread over the living room months and months ago.

There's another moment, with the little dots going, indicating Jessica might well be using her investigative chops to try to find anything at all. Then: Union Allied is on the 2017 NPR Annual Report as a sponsor who donated at the $500,000 to 999,999 level. This makes them one of the thirty most important donors they've got, and stands this no-name outfit side-by-side with companies like General Motors, State Farm, and Citibank…

Another pause, another series of dots.

Meanwhile, the conversation continues.

Ned: "Maybe something like S-Town. That one went over pretty well. Human stories. I mean look, I'm as tolerant as the next guy, I've got nothing against powered people, but there's only so much we can say that doesn't piss off other donors. Like it or not, Trish has taken a pretty firm stance, and I mean…is Union Allied worth a State Farm? A Prudential? They donate four times as much put together, and you know the insurance industry backs registration like crazy."

Iris: "She might do an S-Town type thing if it's exciting enough."

Ned: "S-Town was exciting. Crazy clockmaker, buried treasure, lies and damned lies. What's not to like?"

Then, finally, from Jess: CGI owns them.

Trish frowns as she holds her hand cupped behind her ear to help her hear better. The frown deepens as she reads what comes back from Jess. The more she learns, the more rotten it's smelling in Denmark. Or D.C. as it were. She chews on her lip as Ned lays out the option she'll be given. It could work, it's not like she's firmly married to being strictly pro-meta on absolutely everything she works on. After all, if she did, it might start to look suspicious, and may lead to someone digging enough to expose her own little secret.

She shrugs as she decides that as long as she doesn't lose Trish Talks she can make an S-Town type gig work.

Of course they do. Why am I not surprised. They're the $$ behind Unusual Justice, which apparently sucks in the ratings. Might be coming home soon, depends on what's put on the table to keep me here. I let you know what I know if I find out more. Be safe, kiss kiss, say hi to all.

She tucks her phone back into her pocket just in case she has to duck even further out of sight, should Iris and Ned leave the office they're in. Boy wouldn't that be awkward, 'hey guys heard what you said, sorry I sucked, who's Union Allied, and why are they so interested in me'?

Three dots appear as if Jess has something to say about that.

Then? For whatever reason? They stop.

But in the end, what gets pitched for Trish to accept this 'career improvement' on someone else's dime is essentially more Lifestyle Fluff. Interviewing fellow child-stars in a sort of 'where are they now' format. "It's just until this registration stuff blows over," Iris says quietly. "We can put you on more serious reporting after that, but we're having some issues with some of our biggest donors and are trying to take the most neutral possible stance. Even NPR listeners like hearing about celebrities sometimes, Trish, especially ones who are doing intelligent or interesting things. We're not looking for the meltdown stories. We're looking for the philanthropists, activists, and entrepreneurs. It could be a good next step for you."

Trish weighs her options after Iris' pitch. The woman has a point, and it's not like they just asked her to start doing glorified rag mag radio. It is still NPR after all. And it could be a good next step. Not to mention that fact that it could funnel content into Trish Talks if she does it right. There are a few good celebrities out there, who aren't just being hypocrites, no names of course.

"I suppose, Iris. And again, it's still really generous of you, considering how we did in the ratings and all that. Nothing changes with my show? Can we do this on a trial basis for a while? That way no one is locked in to anyting that just isn't working out and we can all move on, no hard feelings."

Plus it might just give her a chance to find out a little more about the whole Union Allied/CGI thing. Starting with why they are so interested in her. Dillards words echo in the back of her mind, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She doesn't like being involved in things beyond her ken, Barbie, or any other doll she might have.

"I'm sure we can work that out," Iris says. "Good news, it probably won't be as intensive as Unusual Justice was. You might get some days off for a change."

Days off to learn what she needs to learn, perhaps.

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