Varying Levels of Import

June 12, 2018:

Jessica Jones reaches out to Zatanna Zatara about one recurring small problem. And one recurring very big problem.

Titans Tower

It's got a great kitchen!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Luke Cage, Tony Stark, John Constantine, Red Robin

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Need immediate help when/wherever is convenient. Not life-or-death. Maybe sanity-or-death. Actually there is the sanity-or-death thing and the definite life-or-death thing…

Jessica Jones is never going to be not awkward.

She stares down at the text, shrugs, hits send.

And then:

Look, do you got a minute?

All this to one Zatanna Zatara, whom, she is told, has some sort of goddess thing going on, atop some sort of Titans thing, atop some sort of school thing.

But eventually Jess is also no respecter of gods, titans, or people. And really, if you think about it, Zatanna is now all three of those. That's some serious irony, that.

Her response is almost immediate - of course she has a weekend, and she has been spending a lot of time in New York anyway. Not just because she has managed to fall in a state of cohabitation with John Constantine (and his true life partner, Chas Chandler), but also because it has been busy in the Titans Tower as of late and if she wanted, she could meet her there.

The Tower is what Jessica would expect from any superhero group with a very comfortable budget - it is a tall monolith stuffed to the gills with uber-technology, vehicles, meeting and processing rooms and even a living space entirely dedicated to the needs of young people who are presently struggling with the various issues one could expect from a bunch of twenty-somethings who maintain some sort of crimefighting, world-saving alter-ego. This is the place in which she decides to meet Jess, after giving her a brief tour of the grounds and the ‘safe’ areas - not that she doesn’t trust Jess, but she largely considers the Tower to be Tim’s domain and she did not clear this visit with him ahead of time.

In the gourmet kitchen that dominates the back of the large living area where most of the Titans tend to congregate on their downtime, Zatanna is there, making lunch - she is well on her way to mastering Chas’ chickpea curry recipe; the kitchen smells of warm spices, saffron-infused Jasmine rice and fresh baked naan.

“I hope this is okay,” she tells Jessica ruefully as she sets the bowl on top of the island where lunch is being served. “Probably not as good as Chas’, but I’m getting there! How have you been?”

Jess actually asked a few times if this was okay, admitting, "Tim made me stand in the lobby last time. Granted, I was just dropping off a cake."

But she admires everything, impressed. Even as she keeps her hoodie on the entire time. For. Reasons. She may be the most impressed by the kitchen that feeds the superheroes though, because even though her 'cooking' has barely progressed beyond Progresso, she can appreciate a pretty place to prepare food.

Zatanna asks is this okay and Jessica's shoulders shake with laughter. "I think nobody would eat if the only standard for good food in the whole world were Chas freakin' Chandler. This is amazing. And…you know? Despite the way the texts probably made it sound…"

She takes a bite. Closes her eyes in bliss. So good.

"I mean I've been in good shape," she says, after she swallows. "7 months clean, Luke and I got together-together, business is booming, picked up some new skills. Beyond the usual, I think I'm better than ever. How about you? Heard you might be spreading yourself a little thin."

Hoodie? Still up.

She takes a bowl of curry and some naan with it before settling across from Jess at the island, dipping her flatbread into the mass and chewing thoughtfully. Ice-blue eyes wander towards the hoodie pulled up over Jessica’s head, though she doesn’t really think much of it. She has seen the private investigator keep it up for days on end, sometimes, especially in the middle of an investigation.

As always, she devours the details of the other woman’s life with the quiet enthusiasm of one whose personal connections remain an important thing to her - a far cry from when she first returned to the United States, alone and missing her father, now she has an entire group to rely upon. Jessica was the first of these and while over a year has passed, she certainly has not forgotten.

There’s slight encouraging nod, and a grin, at the revelation that the private investigator is over half-a-year sober, though the mention of Luke has her furrowing her brows faintly. “Luke is….” A pause, before her eyes widen. “Wait, the big guy who helped us out in Wakanda? You’re dating him? Anyway, wow, Jess, I’m glad you’re doing so well! Sounds like you’re just that much closer to conquering the world, huh?”

How about you?

“I’m alright. School, work - “ her investigations with John. “ - and my extracurriculars - “ Her involvement with the Titans. “Have been keeping me busy. A situation came up recently that’s making me keep a close eye on things here, but otherwise I can’t complain.” She’s even getting a handle of her present custodianship of a goddess blood crucible inside of herself, becoming more and more her old self as the weeks pass.

“So if everything’s great, what’s with the text? It seemed a little urgent.”

"Urgent because personally great," Jessica says dryly, "doesn't preclude shit hitting the fan. But the small thing first. Help."

She pushes down the hoodie, where her hair has taken on the manner of a particularly scruffy calico cat. In patches it is blonde, and badly done blonde at that. Bleach bottle blonde. In others it is black, like she tried to redye it, only it refused to stick in some places, stuck briefly and washed out, she chose some cheap dye, or god knows what. This is a woman who should never, ever try to do her own hair, and yet for some reason she did.

"Undercover workup gone seriously wrong," she says, "followed by an attempt to restore order and sanity…gone seriously wrong."

Really, this is a case of burying the lede. When she drops the other thing this will seem totally ridiculous. But if she doesn't drop this first, she may never get her hair fixed.

She doesn’t know what she is expecting.

A modicum of seriousness settles on Zatanna’s face when Jessica confirms that it is urgent, but there is a small matter that needs to be taken care of first. And before the young magician can even open her mouth to ask, the hoodie comes down.

Instead of anything helpful, the witch lets out a tiny scream.

Hands lift to clap against her mouth quickly, in an effort not to offend Jessica any further. “Holy shit what happened to your hair?!” she cries, aghast, because it looks absolutely terrible. “I mean…I’d say it isn’t bad, but…” She reaches out, to hook gentle fingers into a long lock of hair. “But it’s really bad, no wonder you haven’t tried to remove your hoodie!”

The moment she touches those strands, however, black starts to bleed back into the private investigator’s hair. There is a whispered word and the damage done to her head slowly unravels and vanishes - were there anything reflective for Jess to see, it is as if time winds backwards, focused around her head, until there’s nothing left of the garish yellow color.

"I happened," Jessica groans ruefully. "I didn't think hair dye would be hard, for fuck’s sake. Turns out though? When you have naturally black hair? It requires steps. So many steps. And things go wrong. Thank you so much." For she can lift one strand and see it restored to normal.

Now she feels like herself again.

Instead of, as Luke had put it, like a deep fried Barbie doll.

"Silly me, I thought restoring black over blonde would be no big deal, but half the damned dye didn't take and yeah. Yeah, it sucked ass."

She exhales sharply and says, "You are a lifesaver."


“Hair is a tricky thing,” Zatanna tells Jessica with a laugh. “But it’s fixed now, you don’t have to be a deep fried Barbie doll anymore.”

Her hand lowers, and she helps herself to another bite of chickpea curry. “So what’s going on, is this about your undercover work, or something else?”

—-

"No, that's all wrapped up in this registration bullshit, and as big, dark, and awful as it is," Jessica says with a frown, "the other thing could make it moot. I'm not sure how to say this without sounding ridiculous, but here goes. The case I was working last year when we went to Germany, the other one with all the murders?"

The one that turned her into such a bear that Bucky finally had to sit her down and set her straight.

"Well I never told you what I discovered at the end of that case. And it's big. And it's back."

Shaking her head, she cuts to the chase. She gave everyone access to her files last year, after all, and that includes Zee. If she wants more details on the saga she can always read the neatly typed reports. For now, Jess says:

"Look, there's an interdimensional machine-god thing that likes eating realities. It's got its sights set on ours. I haven't decided when yet but I'm putting together a big team to try to go punch it in the face before it can. I have to talk to a…defector, of sorts, who might have some first hand knowledge, and the only portals we have might be borked up, but I still think we can find a way and I think we should. I think we should not wait around and see what happens if we stay on the defensive. Cause I kind of already got to see that reality, and it sucked. We have refugees from that reality living in ours now, and there were only eighty of them left. So. It kind of had an impact on me. Anyway. I'm hoping you will come and punch a god with me. John says you're like…wearing the mantle of the Goddess Isis or some shit, and honestly you need to be careful anyway just because of that. This thing dispatches some truly nasty people to kill rival gods before it moves in on a world, which means you're kind of a prime target."

Talk about the ‘registration bullshit’ has Zatanna nodding quietly as she eats. That is disturbing to her for many reasons, namely that the Titans have their own share of superpowered metahumans, and while not overly political, civil rights causes are the sort that affects everyone else and that tremendous empathy has her knee-jerking into disagreeing with it. Clearly, Jess feels the same way, otherwise she wouldn’t be so involved - and why wouldn’t she, considering her own status?

But when the private investigator tells her that is not what she was here for has her frowning. She reaches to take a drink of her sparkling water. “Alright, so if it’s not about that, then— “

She stops the moment when Jessica mentions Germany, an eventful bit of adventure if not for the fact that almost too much happened during it. She remembers the very thing Jessica references, if not because she asked about it, though not the details - serial murders of a mundane sort aren’t exactly in her purview, and she always maintained seasoned detectives like Tim and Jess were best suited for the job. When she brings up an interdimensional machine-god however, she slowly lifts her brows.

“What. You mean like…Unicron?”

Transformers reference. Robot destroyer and eater of worlds.

“So what are you suggesting, we find it and kill it first before it gets to us?” Zatanna wonders. “I’m game.” It’s a machine that threatens to destroy their reality, she figures her soul is safe. “So what are these agents like?”

—-

"I don't know who Unicron is, but…I mean the name is equally stupid. Calls himself Decimux."

She relaxes a little when Zee says she's in. She hadn't truly doubted, but it's not exactly a fun thing to go around trying to talk about. Fortunately they've all had enough grounding in the insane, she supposes, that she needn't have worried.

And now to try to describe the Agents.

"They're…"

She takes a thoughtful bite, furrowing her brows as she struggles.

At last she says, "They're all recruits. Interesting people Decimux took before he ate their reality. They all take strange aliases. Phina. Schism. Sieve. They tend to be imbued with this red energy that comes from nanites inside of them. Fry the nanites and you fry their connection to this god, but when I did that trying to spare one of them it killed him. Then again, when I accidentally killed the one called Mercer another one brought him back to life. One of them, Schism, seems to draw power from every version of herself in every reality ever at once. So she's crazy…until you temporarily break the connection."

She looks down into her water, a guilty look crossing her face.

"Then she turns lucid, begs you for help, says she used to be a hero, she wants to be free."

She swallows, and exhales.

"They tried to recruit Jane once. She was smart enough to decline the offer."

“Okay. Sounds like the quickest way to get at them is to make them fall asleep, trap them in a bubble and compel them to tell us everything they know about Decimux and go from there,” Zatanna remarks. “I guess it’s a smart play if they’re the sorts who go from reality to reality subjugating each and every one. Find the people responsible for protecting them and then destroy them, from those who pose the biggest threats to the least.”

After a moment, she reaches out to take Jessica’s hand and squeeze. She ought to be more frightened than this, but she has always been one for a challenge - that, and whatever has happened to her in the last few months - whatever she endured to become the present custodian of the Blood of Isis - seems to have given her a newfound confidence that wasn’t there before.

“Thanks for warning me, Jess. I guess I ought to tell John and Red, too, that this is coming down the wire.”

—-

Jess squeezes her hand back. "Pretty good plan. Here."

She pulls a damaged and defunct device out of the STUFF app, and hands it over to Zee. "That's a portable portal, though as you can see it's messed up. Gathered quite a few of them the first time around. It's probably still lousy with the Agency's weird energy-signature. Weird fun fact, that robot you sheltered in Shadowcrest's garden? Extra? He was a defector from there. Massively helpful when we finally figured out how to break the language barrier."

On the matter of going to Red and John, she nods emphatically. "Yeah, I figure if I talk to one of you about something I'm getting the other," she says with a twitch of a smirk. "And Hell, if every last Titan wants to come kick this thing in the face too, I won't say no. No more waiting around for people in authority to handle things. Not this time. People in authority can jump on this train if they want, or they can get out of the way."

It would be an impulsive response to a frightening problem if the original issue hadn't cropped up over a year ago, if nothing at all new hadn't come of the whole thing after the murder investigation ended. And if that probably isn't anybody's fault, that, and eighty people mistaking Jess for a dimensional double who they believe from the bottom of their hearts can save them has had the impact of removing her patience and making her proactive.

"Thanks, Zee."

There is a start from where she sits. “Oh, Extra? Yeah, I remember him. He’s one of those?!” Concern filters in those ice-blue eyes - not difficult to do, as Extra’s arrival to Shadowcrest occurred well before Germany even happened.

Zatanna falls silent when the STUFF app - something she devised, herself - is activated on Jessica’s phone, retrieving from it an unusual and unfamiliar piece of technology. Then again, it isn’t difficult to confuse the young magician there, she doesn’t exactly have the brain for science as some of her contemporaries do.

She reaches out to take the portable portal, taking a look at the machinery. “Now this is definitely out of my realm of expertise. I think Red can poke at it, he has a brain for engineering I don’t, and we have a Titan named Cyborg who’s a whiz with technology - mundane and alien. If I were gonna bring this thing for analysis, I’d go to them first. I’ll see what I can get them to do in that front.” With that, she sets the device aside.

“Is there anything else you want me to keep an eye on?”

—-

The STUFF app is the single greatest thing that has ever been placed in Jessica Jones' inventory. True facts. Cellular bag of holding. Best present ever.

"Just tell him to be careful not to accidentally open it. We have a theory that they leave them behind in the hopes of trapping us with them, which is why Stark's poking at the functional one in the hopes of making it do something a lot more useful."

But Zee's question makes her shake her head. "No, I don't think so. Between this, the collar thing and a missing friend I haven't had time to get into too many other types of trouble."

Give it time, maybe. She never seems to have problems finding that. "Obviously you know you can reach out to me if you have stuff you want me to keep an eye on."

But barring that?

The woman's content to enjoy the company and finish up the most excellent lunch.

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