CSI - The Multiverse Episode

May 09, 2018:

When Red Sparrow and Big Barda find themselves standing in a nasty crime scene, they call their grouchy detective teammate for help. Jessica arrives on the scene to find evidence of an old enemy returned.

Gotham City

Don't try the dating service. Just don't.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Oracle, Owen Mercer, Tony Stark, Six, Carol Danvers

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Gotham.

The apartment of H.M. Halsey, a best selling author, sometimes crackpot, all the time rabble-rouser.

Oracle's network had a tip that someone was coming after him - either it was one of the Joker's wannabe leftovers, or someone from the Falcone crime syndicate. Either way, they had little time to make it there, and no way to know if he'd be there at all. The worst of it was that Oracle's network had told Arnavi and Barda that he hadn't popped up on the grid for three days.

This could be bad.

Still, these two could move when they needed too. Given the nature of their mission, Arnavi had forgone her costume and mask, dressed in a pair of tan khakis and a fitted top of an absurdly bright pink, she was not likely to be missed by anyone who looked. At least she had on a jacket.

A white jacket.

With a golden scorpion on the back.

Awwww yissss.

With a sharp nudge of her shoulder, the door comes open, and a lock breaks. No forced entry. But the room looks utterly upended. Books of all sorts scattered to the ground of the small, oddly run down little apartment. Really, it makes Jessica's look almost lavish. There's the living room in front of them, a bedroom to the left and a connecting bathroom, with a tiny kitchen space tucked into a corner.

There's also blood. Smears. Smudges. Other signs of a struggle. It's sensory overload for Arnavi, and she stops just inside the door.

"Welp. I think we need some adult supervision."

Her head cants up and up to Barda, and a gleam comes over her eyes.

"I think we need Jessica Jones.

Barda arrives at the meet-up dressed in extremely drab, if normal, clothing for an Earth person: a light spring jacket of black, waterproof fabric hangs open over a pale gray button down blouse and black skinny jeans. Only the red belt that sits low on her hips sticks out as incongruous, with its unflattering pouches and her mega-rod barely concealed by the length of the jacket.

This is a stealth mission, so Barda allows Arnavi to take the lead as they make their way into H.M. Halsey's building. The sound of a breaking lock prompts a quick of her brow, however, and she lingers in the hall behind Arnavi to look for signs of nosey neighbors. "That sounds like a good idea. Do you know how to contact her, or shall I ask Oracle to connect?"

Today, Jessica Jones spent the better part of her day letting her sister fix the world's worst dye job. This means she is more than happy to go look at blood and guts, however she gets the message. Because today was miserable. A murder scene isn't likely to make it better, exactly. Murder scenes sear themselves into Jessica's memory. She's still haunted to this day by the body of Cassandra Marx and the knowledge that her killer is long gone, that it may be months, years, or never before she ever gets a lead on that again. She caught one murderer, but not the other.

But it's a way to exercise her mind when her brain had been leaking out of her ears.

The hair is not dyed for vanity, nor does it look it when she arrives. It is pulled back in a messy tail, and covered, until she gets into the room, with the hood of her hoodie, though she doesn't bother keeping that up. Friends can know CiCi McGraw is the same person as Jessica Jones. It's strangers, and those whom she hopes will become her eventual employers, who she wants to fool. The blonde hair is just the start. She's got quite a few little tricks for transforming herself lined up.

"Did you two touch anything?"

This is her way of saying hi. It's not said in a nasty fashion, just brusque, as Jessica often is.

"…I don't want anybody else, when I think ABOUT YOU I touch myselllllllllllllf!!"

For almost an hour, like this, Arnavi has been carefully dancing around the little foyer as she listens to her music, singing along even after Jessica enters the the apartment. Poor Barda. Of course, this stops Arnavi when she eventually sees her, eyes wide, hands moving up to take her earbuds out. Yeah well, that whole wearing masks thing is cool and all.

But it was time she showed her face to Jessica.

"Holy SHIT someone hit Power Pigeon with a Blond-O-Beam!"

Even there, in that moment of serious crisis, she manages a dawn-breaking smile, hands shoved into her pockets as if to accentuate her response. "Nope! Not a thing. We learned.. I mean, I paid attention to Oracle's starting course on.. something something, rooms with evidence. So uh, the downlow is this dude is a writer, H.M. Halsey. He wrote something or other about conspiracy theories, alternate dimensions. It was, according to his publisher, fiction. But he sold it himself as non-fiction. He often told everyone he was forced to say it was all made up. Anyway.. just crazy enough for some reject gang member that used to work for the Joker to nab him, I guess. At least that was the tip. God I cannot believe I am like, EASILY six degrees from the Joker now. Holy shit!"

Navi practically hangs off of Barda when she says that, jumping up and down before whirling to face the room. "But no really, we didn't touch anything. I can see blood. Smell more of it. Uh. Also something else.. something.. I don't know. I've never smelled anything like it. In the bathroom. No really, I'm not making a joke about it being full of three day old turds or something, it smells like ash and metal and something else. What do we do first?"

By time Jones arrives, Barda has a sour expression on her face. She's standing on the same small patch of uncluttered floor that she claimed an hour ago. One very long hour that she has spent watching Arnavi jam around the apartment like some kind of Flashdance fangirl.

"I have been watching a television show called CSI." Barda adds, confirming that she hasn't touched anything, but boy, she must now have a whole stock of terrible ideas about investigation that Oracle (and perhaps by extension, Jessica) will need to undo!

Arnavi jumps into Barda's personal space to drape all up on her and the giant woman furrows her brow, gently shrugging the smaller bird off of her. "We're at your service, Jessica." She is politely not staring at the detective's new hair.

"It's for a job, I'm going deep cover soon," Jessica says, a matter of the rote things she's saying about her hair these days.

"So. Okay. First, gloves for everyone."

She pulls out her crime scene investigation kit and grabs some, distributing them around. "I'm curious about these bathroom smells for sure, but what we've got to do is be pretty careful about disturbing trace evidence. The main mantra you wanna keep in mind is when something like this happens, the culprit always takes something, and he always leaves something behind. No body, not that this is the first thing you look at anyway. So what we do is we sort of work our way around the perimeter of the room, and then work our way inward."

She passes a blood taking kit to Barda. "Here, you start collecting blood samples. Just swab them up from different spots and put them in the test tubes."

She passes a camera to Arnavi. "You start taking pictures of just about everything you can. I'm going to start looking for trace. Check for anything missing or that seems out of place too. If you spot it, say something. We'll work our way towards the bathroom too. Try to disturb as little as possible, try not to step in any blood or anything, try not to move much."

Her tone is actually somewhat warmer, and she flashes them a brief smile.

"Really, Arnavi could do this with her earbuds in still. But she doesn't. Maybe it's some sort of respect she's showing for Jessica and Barda both in this all to serious moment. She shoots a thumb in Barda's direction, nodding gravely when she mentions it. "I too, have seen CSI."

But Jessica has them covered, and the wheels turn in the Red Sparrow's head as she mentally takes note of everything. There's a breathless look to Barda, as if wondering how they might ever become GOOD at this. But she begins by moving around the room as instructed. A slow exhale. Then, she sets to work.

Jessica is going to get exactly what she needs. Slight overlap, perfect alignment. She begins to take pictures like a robot might, lining things up with her excellent abilities of sensory perception, carefully stepping over things here and there.

"Set of keys here. Looks like.. yeah. Also a big folder like, uh.. I don't know. It looks like an acordian? It has some old style floppy disks in it and shit. Spilled out into the kitchen floor. Microwave's blinking that his food's ready. Smells like.. stale popcorn."

Her gaze sweeps over, in the direction of the bedroom. The door is open. The bed turned over, partially blocking the open bathroom door. She wants to rush in. She wants to skip ahead.

It is in every part of her nature.

But she holds course because while a sparrow is a flighty thing, pigeons hold the course, and she needs to be more like Jones in this moment, and less like herself.

"Fingermarks on the light fixture in the kitchen. I can't reach it, but Barda probably can."

Hopefully Jess brought large gloves! Barda puts the gloves on carefully, to ensure that she doesn't accidentally break them, before accepting the blood collection kit. In her own way, ex-Fury is as methodical as Arnavi about her assigned task. She spends a few moments studying the room from her place near the door, making note of every stain that must be swabbed, every obstacle avoided. By time Barda moves, Jones and Arnavi are already deep into their work.

"Yes, I can get the light fixture after I finish with the blood." Barda says as she squats down to collect her first sample: droplets on the floor not far from her. "The door was locked when we came in. Could they have taken him through a window?" Around the room, one sample after another, tip-toeing through the chaos. She's either less verbal than Arnavi about her finds, or less astute about what might be amiss.

Gloves of all sizes, thankfully!

"Very possibly," Jessica says, on the matter of windows. "But fingermarks on the light fixture, that's weird."

She comes over and offers Barda a fingerprinting kit. The instructions are right on it. "Once you take the prints, let's unscrew that. I'd be interested to see if we've got fingermarks because someone put a bug in there. It could be that dude just changed his lightbulb a few days ago, and they're his fingermarks, but…better safe than sorry."

She hasn't found any particularly great trace, but she's listening to Arnavi's assessment. "You've got a knack for this, kiddo," she tells her. She starts gently rifling through the folder, trying to determine what's in it. "Floppies. Who the hell keeps their shit on floppies anymore?"

She also reaches out to pop the microwave, to make sure it is popcorn, and not something far more interesting that was in the process of getting destroyed.

There before Jessica Jones, in the microwave, is a cat.

It's a cat printed on the side of the popcorn bag. Top-Cat Popcorn. The cheapest brand possible. At least he didn't burn it. When Barda does get around to the light fixture, she'll find it loose, and on top of it a small thumb drive. If Jessica checks the floppy disk bundle and the accordian folder, she'll also find a little notebook. Much of it is gibberish. Half written addresses, that sort of thing.

"Sooooo Baarrr-da. How are you settling into the city? I mean, have you gotten out at all? Maybe tried out one of those dating sites?"

No one can see her smile right now. Well. Jessica might be able to. In profile. It is positively delighted.

Arnavi stops at the bedroom door. She's waiting, having photographed almost everything else. Jessica will see something odd if she keeps pace, near the bathroom door. It almost looks like soot, or something to that effect, piled up near the base of it.

Barda will be able to pull several different prints, and collect samples of blood, all marked from the same consistent pattern of a fight that drug into the bedroom, where it seems to end at the bathroom door.

Jessica will get to the near last page of that book, even thumbing through it, something will stand out clear as day.

D E C I M U X.

"Oh, I found something."

Barda drops the thumb drive into the pocket of her jacket, just for safe keeping while she finishes retrieving evidence from the light fixture. Should she put the light fixture down somewhere? Glancing around, there doesn't seem to be any appropriate surface, so Barda shrugs and screws it back into place.

"..dating, in Gotham?" Barda laughs, full-throated and jolly, as if they aren't mucking about in the dwelling of a man who was violently injured and kidnapped if not murdered. "Hang on, what if.."

Turning to face where she last heard Jess rummaging about, Barda opens her coat and retrieves a small device from the pouch at her left hip. It's about the size of a cell phone. "Mother, can you tell if there's been a dimensional disturbance here recently?"

"Arnavi, could you take a sample of that ash by the bathroom?"

Jess is distracted as she thumbs through the notebook.

But when she reaches the final page the blood drains from her face.

It all comes rushing back. Eighty refugees, looking at her like she was their one true hope. The desperation on Sieve's face as he begged her to kill him. Staring at the blasted landscape of a dead universe. And. Of course. Cassandra Marx.

It's not a surprise, entirely, that it would show up here, this name, when this H.M. Halsey studied alternate dimensions. Indeed part of her had flashed on it. She'd been back on it days before, when talking to Owen.

Not a surprise that the timing would be so fantastically bad. It is this that Decimux excels in, she's sure. Exploiting periods of great turmoil.

The soft "Son of a bitch," crosses her lips almost without warning.

It carries the faintest edge of real panic.

Because she'd convinced herself. That it was done. That they'd knocked Decimux off the signal by stopping Sieve. Six was forewarned and unlikely to do anything at all to bring him about, safely tucked away with Tony Stark now that her cover was blown. There hasn't been hide nor hair of this problem in months, not a single lead, not a single incident.

She'd told herself it was over. And now a I can't do this, I can't be the person those people need, I can't be the person anyone in this world needs either litany runs through the head of the Power Pigeon. She had already needed to talk to Tony, and now she needs to talk to Tony more, and she has no idea how to divert her attention.

But Barda is way ahead of her, and she murmurs, "Can you ask your Mother if the energy is red, if there is any red interdimensional energy around?"

She sounds like a fucking moron. Oh hey, is it extradimensional energy? Oh hey, is it red? She's sure it's an electromagneticfrequencywhatit that's the proper way to term it, but all she has is goddamn red.

Dutifully the Sparrow moves into the other room, stopping to taking pictures of everything as Jessica reaches her conclusions and Barda asks her question. Finally Arnavi stops in front of the bathroom door, kneeling down with a vial in one hand, her brows lifted as she uses her gloved fingers to just kindof.. scrape.. scrape..flick! Yeah she's pretty bad at this part.

"Huh. There's.. oh shit."

The rest of the notes are piecemeal ramblings of a madman, and code, hand written in 1s and 0s. Finally, The Motherbox replies to Barda, already accounting for Jessica's additional request. "The most recent portal was opened 67 Earth hours ago. It's luminosity and hue are unknown. However, there is a device generating a similar distortion field six meters from your current position, and it matches the described color."

Arnavi pushes the mattress out of the way to get a better view of the bathroom. "Whoa, what's this red thing? And holy shit, so much ash."

Barda's demeanor changes immediately in response to Jessica's distress, a stern frown replacing the fading softness of her smile. She crosses the apartment, moving with much more certainty than she had traced the perimeter, handing over one of the collection kits. It seems that Barda means to give Jessica both of the collection kits, to put away, but she pauses when the device in her hand begins to beep.

Mother's reply will sound like a bunch of beeps and tones to the other two women, but Barda listens like she understands. She drops the second collection kit and turns to make a run for the bedroom, and the bathroom beyond that. "Stay away from that portal, ARNAVI!"

Jessica Jones takes the kits but is right behind Barda. "Arnavi, don't touch it!"

Just what Barda's saying. But she adds to it.

"Son of a bitch, they took him through the motherfucking portal," she seethes. "Son of a fucking bitch. Son of a goddamn fucking bitch."

Because even as they shout for Arnavi not to touch the thing

Jessica Jones is wincing. Because she never, ever wanted to go in there. And now someone has been kidnapped through there. Someone who needs a rescue. Someone who could be vital to the plans of a world eating God.

Can't do this, can't do this, can't do this.

She shoves her panic attack down. Now is not the time. But the time is coming. It's going to be a big damn doozie when it hits. She can feel it.

"Hey guys look what I found!"

Arnavi totally touched it. She picked up the little, round device that glows an eerie red, and has it in both hands when she returns to the face the other two Birds. Behind her, the dingy bathtub is cut in half. The sink is bisected as well. This is where the portal had formed. This is where the blood trail ends. This is where they have a device capable of making another portal, now in the hands of resident pupper, Arnavi Mehta.

Her thumb hovers over the button on top. Her gaze flits upwards at the both of them.

Then she tosses it to Jessica with a little flick of her wrist.

"DON'T DROP THAT SHIT!"

Her eyes go wide, as she speaks of the proverbial yellow cake. Do Not Drop That Shit.

Then she spins around, posing herself as if she were going to have her picture taken, but instead going back to her job of taking pictures of everything. Including Jessica, and her blond hair. And whatever face she's wearing.

As she stares into the abyss of this object.

Oh, and she'll get Barda too, just because it's impossible to not take some portion of a picture with her in it at this point.

Jessica will have seen these before. The Motherbox will confirm this thing is generating a low level field that can be fully activated to make a portal.

Barda stops short at the bathroom door, leaving just enough room for Jess to look in.. or rush past, if she prefers. It wasn't lost on her that the detective made some kind of connection in the moments before Arnavi discovered the device in the bathroom. As always, she leaves the lead open to whoever is expert in the field.

So Jess is totally going to have to catch that device! The picture that Arnavi captures should be hilarious. Barda's face won't make in the frame, but the Sparrow will get to see the brief look of abject horror on her face as her fingers hover over THE BUTTON and then she tosses the device.

"You must be more careful, Red Sparrow!"

Jessica Jones catches it.

She catches it and stares down at it, looking sick.

Her fingers don't linger over the button. But she doesn't need to linger them over the button. She closes her eyes and steps back. "I have to go get him," she says. "he was taken through here. I have to go get him."

Her hand shakes a little bit. "If he's alive. There's so much goddamn blood. We haven't even analyzed the blood. Is it his blood? Damn it, I need to decode this binary, I need to…But if I don't go get him, he might die. He might already be dead."

She's rambling. She knows she is. Rapunzel out of the Tower, scattering all over the place. She can't afford to get stuck in an evil dimension. And they might not be able to afford for her not to.

Jessica Jones knows how to analyze a crime scene. They were right on that count.

She does not know what to do, here and now though.

It catches Arnavi off guard, to see the grown ups looking less than in control. Well, maybe not Barda. She always looks like the galaxy could be exploding behind her while she slowly walks away, like a boss. Here and now, the Power Pigeon looks torn, and Navi reaches out to curl her hands over Jessica's, steadying them as they hold the device. Careful to avoid the button.

"Hey. Hey. Don't freak out on me. I can't handle that right now. You freak and I'm just pressing the button and we'll all get sucked into wherever this place is and I'll ruin my jacket and holy shit I doubt those people like the color pink. I'd be fuuuuuuuuucked."

It's all meant to distract her a little, to help keep Jessica from focusing on the spiraling pit that threatens to consume her as her guilt creeps up and those faces of expectant refugees look on.

"If so, we could use it to get back. If not? Well. Either way. We should talk to Oracle. She can process all of this right quick. We can form a plan. Get the band together, right? That's the smart move? That's what they'd do on CSI?"

Here she looks to Barda, pleading for some reinforcement. And some help, in calming Jessica.

"I don't think I saw the episode about the multiverse." Barda admits with complete seriousness. She takes a couple steps back into the bedroom, giving Jessica space to breathe, to pace, to punch a wall. Whatever she needs to do to ground her nervous energy.

"I agree, we can't barge into a foreign dimension by ourselves. We must marshal our forces. Perhaps this will help with the code." She pulls the thumb drive out of her pocket, holding it out toward Jessica. "It was hidden in the light fixture."

"You know. I like you two."

Jessica says it with real sincerity. It's a measure of how shaken she is that she does say it. There was a time, fresh off alcoholism, when all her emotions were trying to crash into her at once. During that time she found herself bursting into tears in front of people, making wild declarations of effusive love and friendship, and generally acting like a lunatic while she tried to figure out feeling. Now that she's well out of the throes of habitual alcoholism, if still unable to claim even a year's sobriety, she has snapped back to the middle of the road, neither the distinctly unpleasant woman she'd been while steeped in drink, nor that mess of alternating wild elation and love and crazed sadness that she'd briefly become, a time which had been so bad she had started to wonder if she was bipolar.

At the middle of the road, it's rare for her to say such a thing.

But it's true. It may seem a nonsequitor even, but it's true.

It's also a sign of a detective coming off the ceiling. "You both make good points."

Her fingers close around the thumb drive. "And there's lots to investigate. Like. I'm a damned investigator. Or something."

Brown eyes seek both sets of theirs, and she decides the other two birds…her teammates, she realizes, with a start, and not even a tongue-in-cheek team, but a real one, secret though it may be…deserve to hear more.

"As you may have guessed, I've had run-ins with this stuff before. This guy was working on something that touches on a universe-eating God called Decimux. I'd thought…I'd hoped…that we'd stopped him before, though I kind of went crazy trying to get people mobilized over it. Nothing really came of it, and it all went quiet, and we all moved on to other problems. It looks like it was a faint hope. And there were all these refugees. They knew…they knew a different me. They think…well. It doesn't matter what they think."

She swallows. "Thanks guys. I am really glad you called me in on this. And thanks for keeping me from doing something stupid."

Carol. She has to talk to Tony, and she has to talk to Carol. This is in Carol's wheelhouse, and now that she's home, Jess can reach out to her in a way that she couldn't when she first faced this.

And through it all, she's still got to do something about Trask, too. But. It was the same last year too. Good thing she's a good juggler.

"Anyway, safe to say it probably doesn't have shit to do with the Joker, at least not directly."

"Welp. That all sounds pretty horrible."

Arnavi glances to Barda and makes that face. You know, the one, with her teeth showing, awkwardly clenched jaw, all that. A sharp exhale, and then she pats Jess on the shoulder. "Sounds like we need to get all this stuff back and uh, well. Get this party started. I'm not sure I'm up to the dimension hopping chapter either. But… hey, Barda? Have you done any of that stuff? Does it feel weird? I bet it feels weird. Lets uh.. lets get out of this place. I can feel the roaches watching us."

The Red Sparrow will slip past them both then, straightening her jacket and shaking her head. Holy shit. They're about to go fight a God.

Barda tucks her Motherbox back into the pouch on her belt once Jessica has the thumb drive in hand. "You're welcome. I have not heard of this Decimux, but I come from another dimension and my home planet is ruled by a God who also seeks to destroy life. I am with you."

If any emotion escapes into Barda's voice to accompany this revelation, it is only the iron will of a warrior who has fought such "Gods" before. "It is not a pleasant experience, Arnavi. You should prepare yourself, I know that you are sensitive."

Youthful idealism, and a warrior's iron will.

Jessica looks at Barda as if suddenly getting her a bit, for the first time. Instead of seeing a quirky and boistrous figure who had made no sense to her. I am with you, she says, and something touches her eyes, perpetually anxious and worried, but hitting on some resolve all the same.

"Then there's plenty to be hopeful about," she says, as she, too, exits the scene. Likely she'll be obsessively over all the evidence later, off to Oracle's crime lab to assess blood samples, to assess the ash, to see what she can do towards deciphering the notes and finding out what is on the thumb drive. And anything she can't do with it, she knows Tony can. She tucks it all inside of her phone after opening a new case file in her STUFF app, and then exhales.

Old problem.

But maybe not so scary.

Because friends, too. Old and new.

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