Highway to Hell

August 14, 2018:

Tracking down an underground ritual chamber of the Cult of Blood, the Titans (plus some old timers) find something both familiar and unexpected… and something especially familiar to Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster.

Y'know, the old timers.


Spooky Underground Cult Hideout

A secret compound of the Cult of Blood located in an abandoned subway system.

Despite the name, it's not especially bloody.


NPCs: Blood Cultists NPC'd by Peter Quill!

Mentions: Tony Stark, Brother Blood

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The Titans have many enemies. Some mundane. Some not so much. When it comes to the followers of Brother Blood, zelous follower of Trigon…well they fall somewhere in the middle. Magic and cultists. Demons and politics. The charasmatic leader of the Church of Blood does a good job making live difficult for one Rachel Roth and anyone around her…

I mean. If she would just listen to reason they wouldn't have to but she keeps being entirely unreasonable.

…and therefor so are they.

But unreasonableness aside. The Titans can't really leave them to hang out in what amounts to the back yard. Especially when that yard is pretty close to prime recruiting territory, what with all the destruction lately sometimes Cults find the dispossessed easier to convince.

And so the Titans mobilize! Or whatever catch phrase they have going this week. While Red Robin goes to confront one part of the cell, others arrive on the scene of the main 'base' of operations. Rumor has it they are conducting a /new/ ritual. Something to bring them enough power to 'convince' Rachel to follow her /destiny/.

Which leads our heroes to now. Across the street from an abandoned subway entrance. In a part of town that has seen better days, mostly due to all the explosions that happened close by. Its quiet, which is a relief. No obvious watchers. No lookouts.

…I mean really. These guys are ametures.

"So what do these guys want with you again?"

The quiet whisper towards Rachel is from fellow magician and goth-chick, Zatanna Zatara, frowning as she looks across the street towards the abandoned subway entrance. It looks unguarded, but looks in this business are deceiving, and so she remains where she is until one of their capable team members makes a sweep.

She's still insistent on not having a costume, dressed in her typical working clothes whenever she is in assignments like these - black jeans stylishly ripped, to wear fishnets underneath, black boots, black hooded jacket and fingerless gloves. Her hair is pulled back, but hidden under the shadows of her attached cowl. It looks nothing like Rachel's, whose hood is a bit of a signature look for her, but she's a creative enough fashionista that she doesn't have to steal.

She checks her phone, and frowns. Not at anything that she receives in it, but the time and date.

"Damn, it's not Tuesday yet." As always, she's looking for any excuse to have a taco when this is over.

"Titans, triangulate!"

"No? Uh. Well, maybe… Titans, try!"

"Titans, tamper? Titans, tackle? Titans, toboggan??" %rAnd this is how Spider-Man has been spending his time while infiltrating the dangerous depths of a mid-level supercult dedicated to blood and apocalyptic demons:

Trying to figure out a new rallying cry.

Shut up. It's important.

The webbed vigilante has a pretty good idea of what's going on here, all considered — but honestly, he would have been trying to shut down this crazy cultist cabal the second they set up shop in his backyard regardless. After what the city's already been through… he's not about to let some insane guy who thinks 'Brother Blood' is a cool codename exploit other people's tragedies for his own benefit. He's putting a stop to this.


"I'm just saying, y'know, Avengers have that alliteration thing going that really makes it roll off the tongue and I just don't think we've captured that essence yet."

… Though that doesn't mean he's not still Spider-Man.

Currently, said Spider-Man is perched on an overhang to provide a better vantage point over their target location; white lenses narrowing to thin strips of white, the arachnid hero gives a long, careful sweep. No lookouts. No patrols, even. Nothing…

Except a vague, faint tingle at the back of his skull.

"Keep your eyes peeled. This place gives me the heebie jeebies already and we're not even inside." His head tilts. "More importantly…

"… Titans, terrorize? No, that probably sends the wrong message."

Damn, it's not Tuesday yet.

"Titans taco…?? Is that a verb? That should be a verb."

Cyborg stands ready and willing to cause as much damage and pain to everything that is even lightly related to the madness of this stupid ass church. He's not exactly the most religious individual but he does know that there's not a damn thing that these fools are up to that's healthy for this city.

He knows what a city without hope looks like. He's from Detroit.

Cyborg looks up from the holographic image that's hovering over his arm. "I'm sendin' you guys everything I could dig up on these idiots." He's pretty sure that everyone has their Titans Badge or whatever they use. He should really work on some new tech for that. Maybe something like Star Trek. He saves that on a file for later. "Also, some blueprints for everything below. As far as I can tell, no cameras down there so I don't really have any eyes down there." Something pings and he swipes the holoscreen above his arm.

"Wait. There's one pitiful camera right there, it'll just take me — I'm in." He raises the one eyebrow he has and frowns at the horrible and fuzzy footage that's playing live in front of his face. "Stairwell. Landing. Looks clear." Cyborg narrows his eye and his optic, turning to look at the rest of the gathered gang. "A little /too/ clear."

Somebody get that reference. Please.

Primarily courtesy of their connections with Tim Drake and Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster have maintained some ties to the Titans. They pop over once in a while to share info and to train. In Tim and Jane's case, they also sometimes talk science, while Bucky abandons them both in disgust to go terrorize Zatanna with fifteen mile runs.

It's perhaps not so extensive as their ongoing training regimen with the younger members of the Avengers, given Red Robin's management style of 'I can handle everything it's fine!!' Which, if you look at the guy who raised him, perhaps isn't too surprising. Nonetheless, despite the general air more of alliance than strict mentorship, sometimes they do join on some missions.

Tim, despite the above cited, is also a practical sort, and knows when it's helpful to inflict an old sergeant like James Barnes on his people.

For the time being he's hanging back on overwatch, similarly to Spider-Man, perched on the lip of a building's roof over where the gang is gathered and observing the unguarded(?) entrance.

Looks clear. A little /too/ clear, reports Cyborg.

"…Is that a reference?" comes in a moment later, over the comms.

Titans assemble! …wait, wrong team. Then again, Impulse has never been too keen about the traditional rallying cry. Red Robin's not here so no one's going to correct Spider-Man. The speedster grins a bit to himself as the human arachno-boy goes on. "Naw, I totally get it. Maybe we can come up with something better. Although now that Zee's mentioned it, I could so go for tacos right now…" Pause. "-and dude, you of all people should not say 'terrorize' after all the headlines you make."

So what's the mission today? Something about cultists? That seems per the norm for them. Impulse hadn't quite gotten that memo about Rachel having such…distinct ties with these guys, or rather the big guy they seem to hold in reverence. It's highly possible he'd only glossed over the details that came in. You get a better idea of things by jumping right into the mess, right? …has Max taught him nothing?

Okay, no, it's really just how the speedster usually is. He might have listened, but he's more the hand's on type. And now that they're here, he's psyched and ready to go.

"Want me to do some recon? I can just, you know…" he says, bouncing on his feet, gesturing with his hands where he stands by Zatanna and Raven.

Nico Minoru has kind of wondered if it means something that there are two other women in this clubhouse who were kind of like her. Three is a magic number, and they teach you that on the TV before the government shut down Scholomance Rock: but how do they break out here? Are they maiden/mother/crone? Something else?

Nico is not waving around her magic* evil* stick right now. Her hair is asymmetric and has enough blue tint in it to fit in on the internet. She polished all the metal in her face the other day. Her top has one mesh bridal-gauntlet-style sleeve and a screen print of a death's-head moth over her bust. Down lower is black-dyed denim cutoffs over mesh leggings, which has made her worry she's biting the style of this other girl.

(Nico said 'hi' to Zatanna and smiled a little, despite having already crafted like four different interior discussion screenplays about their choices of outfits.)

Wait, Zatanna said something. Nico reviews the mental tape. Her eyes turn towards Rachel as if to answer the implicit question. Then she asks Zatanna, "Do you have to track something?" quietly.

There is a period of silence in which Nico does not get the reference to ninja turtles before answering SPIDERMAN much more clearly.

"You should go with 'attack.' It's euphon… it sounds good. And it's like the Titanomachy." ("Hi," she addresses Bart.)

It's all about perspective. Rachel Roth interprets it one way. The cultists view it in an entirely different light. Anyone else looking into it will bring up another point.

As of right now, the matter of everyone else catching onto the details is trivial in comparison to the going-ons the Titans and company have come across. Rachel - or Raven, now that she's cloaked and hooded in black - allows her eyes to narrow slightly under the lull of her team's prattling. Mostly the Spider's prattling, but she should be used to this by now.

"Oh, you know," she shrugs as she replies to Zee, keeping her sights on the subway entrance. "They just want me to help progress their nefarious plot to bring 'Lord Trigon' into this realm so that he can be praised and begin destroying other worlds between dimensions."

All of this is said rather…nonchalantly, with light hand gestures mimicking fanatical praise before dropping back down again.

The brief expression of life that lights her face goes back into a neutral frown. "But like I said, I'd rather not have that happen. Not around these lunatics." While listening to Cyborg's notes on the premises, she glances over at Nico, then to Impulse. "I think that would be a good idea," she says. "Recon is good, Impulse. Just in case." An empty place shouldn't be that empty. At least, that's what the quiet mental paranoia is saying. "Also, they're cultists. If you can pick up anything, Nico, that would be great. I'll try to see if there's anything else going on as well."

There is a shadow that seems to move just on the edge of the camera's vision. The old security system nearly entirely broken in the subterranean station. Otherwise it is /too/ quiet. As Cyborg said.

No birds. Few insects. No people. Not even a curious rat seems to disturb the block.

It is eerie. Creepy even…

Similarly part of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Never Wearing a Costume Ever, Jane Foster joins Bucky Barnes, far up and away in that same position of overwatch. Small enough, and dressed in Jane-sized tactical wear, she seams effortlessly in with the shadow, staying back and keeping watch.

And multitasking on her tablet, of course, currently triple-checking a sync with some of her on-board gear. She testingly kicks the heel of one of her flats against the building edge, giving something a stuttering reboot enough to continue a strange, mechanical hum.

Glancing up, Jane reacts in real time to Bucky's comm'd question. "A reference of what?" she asks dubiously.

She also doesn't yet realize she's broadcasting. "By the way," she asides to James that's very much also to everyone else, "is it Spider-Boy or Spider-Lord? I can't get these names straight."

Is Taco a verb?

"No, but it should be," Zatanna says, in full agreement to Spider-man, until he's chastized by Bart, who does point out helpfully that he shouldn't be using the word considering how it's often attached to him per the whims of his biggest fan, J. Jonah Jameson. "Also Impulse's got a point. I'm perfectly happy to leave the branding stuff to Red, though."

With Cyborg being the picture of professionalism that he is, she waits for the T to blip on her smartphone's screen before swiping through the information he's managed to call up on the Church of the Blood - starting with Brother Blood, its megalomaniacal leader. "Ew," she mutters, wrinkling her nose. No matter what era, century or religion, the head of a church, somehow, looks the same to her. "What's with his face?"

Truly a question for the ages.

Somewhere behind them, the Winter Soldier asks if this is a reference. "Probably. I'm not familiar with it though," she tells Bucky with an apologetic grin.

Nico, next, and she nods. "Stands to reason that whatever magical fallout this is going to cause, we're going to have to keep track, on top of everything else. Still, I think Impulse has the right idea. Not without backup though, just in case. I'll go."

Rachel's reply is taken in stride, but she makes such a face when she hears it. "Great," she mutters. Another one of those." With that, she moves, falling a step next to Impulse so he can hold onto whatever parts of her body he needs to in order to brace her so that his super-speeds won't break her neck, or any part of her body.

"Yo, when this is over, we doin' a Ninja Turtles marathon. I hate y'all."

Cyborg doesn't like when people don't get his references. So, maybe he'll switch back to making sports references or something. That'll be a lot better. Everybody knows sports references, right?

"Y'all lead the way. I'll back y'all up. I don't mess with magic like that." Not that he's afraid or anything. He's just all technology. He don't like messing with stuff he can't scan or zap. "Recon. Good call." He's pretty sure Impulse will be done by the time he finishes but he sprouts off a couple of CyberSpheres (he didn't still this from Mister Terrific, honest, even though they look the same but with a 'C' instead of a 'T') and he sends those things across the street and off towards the entrance to this freakin' crazy underground lair of death and cults. Time for some scanning and filming.

No cameras?! He'll make his own freakin' cameras!

She's asking me to check stuff. , Nico thinks, before clearing her throat. "Yeah," she says, "hold on."

She preses her palms together and mutters something to herself. Her face tightens with effort. Then she twists her palms apart and in between them there is a momentary swirl of some kind of green crap that Nico holds up in front of her face. This must make sense to her.

"There's some stuff around the block but that's like folklore wards, nothing big," she says. "And downstairs there's… it's kind of like a peanut…?" Nico spreads her hands, the tiny motes of light dissipating.

"Peanut," Nico says. Her brow furrows.

"So there's something small, and something big," she concludes to Raven. "Could the big thing be that Lord Trigon person? Also I'mma do this, sorry," and with that her voice changes tone: "When blood is shed let the Staff of One emerge" as she reaches in front of her. The moth screen print gives horrid purple-litten birth to the simple geometric shape of the Staff as Nico hoists it out, feeding it up hand over hand for a moment.

"OK," she says. "Good to go."

I should ask her if she thinks Zatanna doesn't like me, Nico thinks to herself. Then a moment later: Am I /stupid/? Did eating raw oysters give me /the brain worms/? Oh my godddddd I can hear Gert calling me lame UGHHHH

Externally Nico looks determined and advances towards the subway stairs, glancing up a little to make sure that the Spider-Cavalry is present.

That feeling is getting worse. The faint twinge of danger at the base of his skull.

"Ugh. Look, I said it was a bad idea, okay? So maybe Titans, trombone??"

And it's not even because of people referencing his Newspaper Nemesis, ever-lurking in the shadows of an increasingly obsolete news medium.

But, as one of the proud few still representing Costumes for Heroes and not at all feeling like maybe he's wearing a tuxedo to a Sunday Barbecue (whatever that is), Spider-Man gives one final sweep of the area before springing from his perch. Silent. Too silent. Cyborg is right.

"Just watch out for toxic sludge," is Spider-Man's warning, as he glides effortlessly through the air to land, with utter quiet, near that subway entrance.

«"Okay so, first of all: something feels really off about this place and it's feeling more and more the more we stand around here, so something's up. Second: 'Titans attack!' has got some real euphonic legs, but I'm kinda super sold on 'Titans trombone' so maybe we can save the debate for after we beat up the edgelordiest lords to ever edge before he does some heinous edgin-"» silence fills the comms «"-wait that's a — that's a whole different thing isn't it — okay I'm just going to go do some spy stuff with Impulse later!!"»

And so Spider-Man bravely crawls his way into the evil edge lair of the Cult of Blood.

Five seconds pass.

«"And it's Spider-MAN, as in fully grown adult pubescent Spider-Male in his prime!!"»

Just because it looks empty doesn't mean it is. Impulse beams at the go-ahead from Raven, seconded by Zatanna. With a belated wave at Nico, Bart's attention bounces back and forth that one might think it a wonder he doesn't give himself a whiplash.

"Wait what? Well that's dumb. Like you'd help them summon this Lord Trigon guy," he snorts. If there'd been a memo about Rachel Roth's family tree, he must have missed it. "Anyway, guess all the more reason to get the jump on them. -ooh, pictures?"

Impulse is over by Zee to peer over her shoulder at her phone, making a face at the images she brings up, courtesy of Cyborg. "Punching his face in would be a definite improvement. Okay, so, Zee's with m— Whoa." He stares back at Nico as she pulls out her staff, literally. "Cool." And weird. But still sorta cool. —er, right, where was he?

As Zatanna steps closer to him, he turns and stoops a bit so she can loop her arms around his neck while he picks her up. "Ready back there? Impulse express, go!"

Soon as Zatanna's given the go-ahead and he's sure she's secured, the speedster takes off in a blur with her to scope out things below.

Under the shadow of Raven's volumnous hood, there may have been a ghost of a smirk at Zee's comment about Brother Blood's appearance. It clears up fast enough. "Thus, my life," she sighs with little flourish, rolling her shoulders back as she moves to stand. But there's a pause, even a stammer in her stance, when Impulse takes the moment to comment on Raven's predestined role in all of this. The young speedster knows what he knows, but his reply is just so innocent. Which makes her feel bad in return, averting her gaze for a few seconds. "…Yeah. I agree."

She's grateful Impulse's attention span flickers onto Cyborg's camera work and Nico's magic, however. Having the time to rid herself of feelings and refocusing on the mission is a must. In fact, it snaps back during Spider-Man's spiel."

«"-We are not doing 'Titans trombone,'"» she quickly adds over the comms in that same monotone she seems to carry well.

She often wonders why she's on this team. Why she decided to stick with them for as long as she has. It's a string of questions she constantly asks herself, and none of them are actually answered. Rhetoric? Maybe.

Refocus. "…Peanut." The word is repeated, a few degrees incredulous at Nico's findings. Her tone grows rigid. "And hopefully the big thing you're picking up isn't Trigon. There isn't supposed to be any other way he can travel…"

And so the Titans advance. Some on the ceiling. Some on the floor. Some at /ridiculous/ speed. Some using little techno-ball things that isn't really advancing its is more like cheating.


Spidey's creepy vibes get stronger the closer he comes to the landing at the end of the stairs. Keen ears pick up voices echoing off the dark stone walls from deeper in the station. Voice raised in a wordless chant that just creates shivers in the spine.

The more magically inclined can feel the reverberations of some kind of demonic ritual from further in.

Bart and Zee /zoom/ past the first landing. Reaching the bottom in an eyeblink. Finding themselves closer to the source of the chanting. It…is defintally a summoning ritual. However Zee can feel the mystical energy that is isn't a traditional /summoning/ ritual. It is more summoning…energy? Almost like it is feeding something.

That source of noise is coming from about a hundred feet down the tunnel. Just around a bend where the bare flicker of fire light pours out of what was a maintenance side tunnel.


Bart and Zee blow past that first landing but as they do a tiny form stumbles out from behind a support pillar. Its…well…an imp. Little useless wings. Spindly limbs. Tiny horns. Red skin. Disturbed by the passage of Bart's speed he flaps out of hiding peering towards the stairs…

And seeing strange camera balls go rolling down them.

"SHINEY!" Shrieks the creature and pounces towards one of the little silver spheres.

Cyborg gets a really good shot of what an Imp's mouth looks like as it gnaws and licks one of his little cameras.

…though thankfully he does seem to miss Nico, Raven, and Spidey at said stairs.

"My shiney! Go tell boss I get shiney!" The demon says happily.

They completely miss the small imp that is presently trying to consume one of the camera balls that have rolled further into the sewers. With Bart coming to a stop, Zatanna clambers off him, gesturing him to come with her as they creep sideways and keep closer to the darkness. This is where she casts a bit of glamour - something to enable them to camouflage themselves in the surrounding darkness so they can creep up unseen, close to the chanting.

«So there is definitely a ritual going on, except I don't think they're trying to summon someone» comes the witch's words from the comlink they all share. «It feels more like they're pulling….energy…from somewhere. Like they're trying to put in something else.»

Uh oh.

«Impulse and I are going to try and see if we can't get closer.»

She withdraws the obelisk from her back pocket, looking at it with her mystic's eyes to gauge its charges. With a grim nod, she starts slipping forward in an attempt to pinpoint the source, giving whatever bodies that would be seen within a wide berth. At the moment, they have the element of surprise. She isn't about to blow it, if they can help it.

Then again, she and Bart have absolutely no idea an imp's got one of their shinies and is presently trying to eat it.

Nico looks at Bart as he judges the Staff of One to be 'cool'. She blinks at him, but he's already away before she can smile. Then: She looks to Raven as she speaks.

Nico Minoru attempts to die of embarrassment. Fortunately she does not say anything aloud, in favor of a good ol' weak smile, and as such the spell does not occur, and she does not actually die. /but it was a pretty near thing/.

"Ah," she says, before clasping the Staff a little closer to herself. But fortunately…

Thank you, God, for putting a demon in front of us so I don't have to think about this any more, Nico then prays quietly, before she looks towards Spidey and Raven.

"I guess that's the small end of the peanut."

Her attention returns ahead. "… He looks like that thing from the cans of devilled ham. Uh - I probably should save banishing in case there's a ton of them downstairs. It looks physical, I think you could thwip him."

"I don't know," Bucky replies Jane with full seriousness, ignoring Parker's angry demurrals about the maturity that should be assigned to his Spider-moniker. "I thought it was Spider-Prince. Spider-Prince sounded right."

He pauses, squints downwards at the flats. "Are those your rocket ones?"

His attention focuses back on the matter at hand, however, as Impulse and Zatanna jet off for some recon. "Guess it's time to move up and in," he tells Jane, before he loops his arm around her waist. "Those better be the rocket ones," is his sole warning, before he jumps them both off the lip of the building's roof.

Presumably, a moment later, they rocket-land amidst the group.

The magical stuff he leaves to those present who are attuned: he's looking out for more mundane threats, as they proceed down into the abandoned subway, bringing up the rear behind the rest in the event of any surprises from behind. In fact, he starts to look around for alternative paths, perhaps contemplating trying to approach the source of the firelight from a different vantage than the rest of the group. Especially when Zatanna reports that the ritual feels more like an energy transfer than a summoning, per se.

"Is that chanting?" he complains, as the noise starts to filter up. "Starting to feel like Germany again."

For the most part everything is registering as your typically dilapidated subway station, and even as things blur past him and Zatanna as they make their way down, Impulse still processes things as one would were they traveling at normal speed. Of course, with their intent ahead and below, he doesn't bother to look back, even when their passing disturbs an imp from…was it guard duty?

Once they've stopped, the show's Zatanna's since the supernatural's more up her area of expertise. The speedster exchanges a look with her at the sound of the chanting, and once Zee's worked her magic, he trails along with her as they head deeper in. Her words in report to the others have him frowning. "Where's it coming from and where's it going though..?" he asks her in a murmur.

Giving her a nod, he waits for Zee to start again, following her lead as he listens for anything from the others and any changes in the chanting in the darkness. Maybe hidden treasure chests. Walls to knock on to distract sentries. Wait, focus.

Cyborg narrows his eye and his optic because he's not sure what he's seeing on his camera. He activates the built-in taser on the camera to see if he can't shock the demon thing that's trying to get rid of the epic tech that he just kind of created out of nowhere.

"Chanting's never good. I don't like chanting." Cyborg follows the rest of the team and is already priming up some of his weapon systems. He's ready to blast some things.

"I wonder if I can build a proton pack right quick. Are we talkin' ghosts here or…?" Cyborg tosses this question to any of the magic types. Because they know what's up with all of this.

"Ha ha, then he can be the Spider-Artist Formerly Known as Prince— oh, crap, he heard me?" is Jane's initial response to that grand soliloquy on Spider-maturation. Then she answers, rapidly: "Sorry! Sorry. Spider-Man. Great name. Wait, who even says 'pubescent'?"

Thankfully, fortunately, that enlightening conversation from Dr. Foster's end gets disturbed by Bucky Barnes deciding they need a change in altitude. Hastily ensuring her comm is now off — that's embarrassing — Jane glances up in wide-eyed surprise as Bucky gets a little more physically handsy than he usually does in mixed company. And he's being romantic at that, even asking if she's wearing her rocket flats. Clear skid straight to second base.

"James, this is not really the place —" Jane stutters, then seems to understand why, pretty much when Bucky kamikazes them straight off the side of the building.

Certain her heart is IN HER THROAT, Jane reacts reflexively; contrary to the name, her innocuous, fake-leather slippers do not burn with ignition propellant, heat, or light, but with a droning, low-frequency hum, arrest their fall and lower both of them safely to ground level. Magnetic propulsion.

"I'm not an elevator," is Jane's hiss, sotto voce, until the goings on attract her eyes, attention, and better sense. Starting to feel like Germany—

"And we're fresh out of Jesus spears," Jane utters, with a knowing glance to Zatanna.

"Real and fake Jesus spears," Zatanna whispers to Jane as a rejoinder. There's a wink diverted her way as they keep moving.

Perhaps Raven should have been easier on Nico. Perhaps she should reassure her things are okay. It's not like the poor girl is outwardly projecting her embarrassment under the guise of the weak smile, but a strong hint is present.

Especially when it turns out to be little imps with wings. Although frozen in place during that moment, she shares a look with Nico, brow lifting in mild surprise. "…That answers that."

Now she feels sort of bad for Cyborg's camera.

But like a shadow, Raven makes it a point to quietly drift past the imps distracted by the 'shinies.' Going deep into the station is normal, but the energy flow…it isn't The Worst Feeling, but it's definitely A Feeling. When Zatanna says something about getting in closer to its source, the goth says something they already know they should all be doing.

«"Be careful."»

Not that she needs to worry about them. But in a way, she does.

«"-We are not doing 'Titans trombone.'"»

«"So is that a 'maybe' or-??"»

Quiet. That's what Spider-Man is the second he slips inside. For all his chatter, when he gets into the depths of that would-be temple of blood (he just assumes they name everything including the word 'blood' at this point), his movements across the ceiling are, for all intents and purposes, inaudible. One might even forget he was there entirely, if it were not for the occasional sight of him, weaving through the shadows above them.

And if it weren't for the Sudden Imp Attack trying to literally eat a high-tech floaty camera like it was candy.

"Ah Red the Angry Bird!" whisper-shouts Spider-Man, aghast in true terror; one can debate whether or not Spider-Man acts before or during Nico's thwipping go ahead (probably after (probably)), but in the end, the result is the same:

"By the power of Spider-Christ, I compel you!"


And this is the story of how Spider-Man tries to exercise his exorcism skills.

By trying to web a tiny, tazed imp to a wall to keep it from alerting everyone.

"… That wasn't Trigon, right? Like — super disappointing if so. I was expecting something more… tripody. Maybe like he's got three of everything? Is that why he's Trigon? Did anyone see if that little guy had three of something? Maybe it's Teensy Tiny Trigon."

You never know.

Regardless — that feeling is increasing. It makes him incredibly uneasy, especially with what Zatanna's told them. He quiets again, keeping a watchful eye. Except for one last super important thing—

"And I'm not, like, spider-nobility, okay?? If I was maybe like… Spider-Marquis. Or Spider-Earl. Or Spider-Lord-of-Parliament-of-Scotland."

Really just speaks volumes of his ambitiousness.

There is a bit to focus on for Bart and Zee.

As the others deal with an imp, Zee and the very distractable Impulse find the actual meat of the Church of Blood. Around two dozen cultists fill the fire-lit room. Circular in shape and now decorated with mind-bending sigils that seem to be designed to draw and focus power.

The knot of cultists chant around a trio of stone slabs that have been dragged into the center of the room. Upon each lies what…a average guy. Two guys and a girl to be precise. Each dressed in Cultist robes. Blonde girl, with a blonde guy and a dark haired guy on either side. Each lie there quietly, chest rising and falling as the chant goes on. Almost seeming to be asleep if it wasn't for the open eyes and the look of…well…europha on their faces.

The energy is being channeled towards them. All that demonic energy flowing into them…into something /in/ them to be more precise.

Two figures stand near the slabs, leading the chanting. Two other though talk urgently near the door. The chanting works in the favor of Zee and Bart in this case. The two figures near the door are distracted watching, and talking.

"Are you sure this will work, Cyrus?" One robed figure hisses to the other.
"Calm yourself, Brother." The other man says. "With this ritual we will have something that can fight those damnable Titans with. Soon our lord will have his way in. Raven is too soft hearted to risk the deaths of her companions."
"You better be right Cyrus, buying these enhancements bankrupted our cell…"


"AHHH BAD EVIL BAD SHINY!" Screaches the Imp as it gets tazered. Kicking the camera right before /thwipthwip/ it is wrapped up and stuck to the wall.

…and one of the two by the door pauses a moment. "…did you hear something?"

«By all accounts, Trigon's a giant world destroyer with three pairs of eyes,» Zatanna says from where she is skulking around close to the ritual, her quiet voice amplified in their comlink, thankfully, by the power of Waynetech and Cyborg's own modifications on tried and true designs. After a pause, she adds: «…unless they call him Trigon because he's got two legs and a massive— »

The ritualists thankfully start speaking before the blue-eyed witch can continue the thought. There's a glance to Bart before she creeps up closer and crouches in shadow, her eyes flicking to the middle of the chamber, and then the two guards by the door. "Impulse, you think you can grab these guys before they drop to the ground?" she wonders. She's already pointing her obelisk out, tracing intangible circles over the two of them standing in their way.

"Peels," she mutters, in an attempt to put them to sleep. It won't be so easy to neutralize the actual heart of the ritual - people could die if she simply just makes them all stop what they're doing. But she will at least try and get rid of the guards, and let Bart catch them and put them away before they make any noise.

Meanwhile, she gets back on the comlink again and relays what she is seeing to the rest of the team: of the three vessels of the power that they're trying to implant with whatever energy they're pulling from the ether, along with what they say, and an accurate accounting of the number of cultists in the room.

With all the chatter continuing above, he's super-feeling like he's missing out on something interesting. But they've got a job to do down here, and at lest he knows that if stuff's happening back that way, the others have got it covered.

"Massive what?"

Oh look, cultists.

Impulse takes in the situation, brow furrowing behind his yellow-tinted goggles. "Victims, check. Cultists, check…" He glances at Zatanna and nods as he sees her begin to cast, practically vanishing from her side in the next moment as she tries to put the two to sleep. If it works then he'll be there to catch them and lower them to the ground, and if for whatever reason it doesn't, he'll just have to put them to sleep the old-fashioned way.

"You need to shoot a little higher, kid, a marquis is like nothing," Bucky replies Peter (he hasn't learned yet not to reply Peter Parker), though Spider-Artist Formerly Known as Prince draws a blank stare from Bucky. "The what?" he asks Jane. Someday he'll catch up with everything.

More important things soon demand his attention, however, namely getting down to ground level so they can proceed in with the rest of the group. Jane's half-hearted protestations about This Not Being the Place just get a smirk. "Aren't you supposed to be the liberal one?" he asks, before he throws them both off the building.

Her protestations at the bottom are equally handwaved. "I've been the elevator often enough, it's your turn."

He sobers decidedly, however, as they head downwards and the atmosphere grows more familiarly dire. Magic still isn't really his strength, and it makes him doubly antsy as a result. There's a slight click and the hiss of metal on leather as he unholsters a weapon.

It only gets worse as Zatanna reports what they're seeing and what they're hearing. He slants a significant look at Jane. "Buying… what enhancements…?"

Nico startles visibly at the sudden rocket-assist arrival of the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Winter Soldier. This fully takes her mind off of her interior turmoil of embarrassment.

"Oh, uh."

Fortunately - blessedly - Spider-Christ fills the air, and stops Nico from blurting out the question that came into her head. Was it 'are there demons in Germany'? Was it 'are you German?' Was it 'have you been to Germany?' Potentially all of them.

Her eyes cut back towards Raven. She tightens her grip on the Staff. She listens to Zatanna's explanation. Her eyebrows lift gradually, but matters accelerate swiftly.

Someone's about to see them. Nico slips forwards a pace and presses her back against the wall of the abandoned subway station, the Staff pressed against the rotting tile as well. She is, thankfully, on the opposite side from Li'l Thwipped Stuff over there.

"At least we can get ready," she says aloud, if very quietly. Already something dark is forming in her mind. The luxury of prep time comes in many forms.

"… she's being really detailed, wow. Uh," Nico continues, faltering in the face of professional competence.

The CyberSpheres are called back and they mold themselves back into the body of Cyborg because he's going to need all the firepower he can get. He's been keeping somewhat tabs on the people that are more equipped for this kind of thing. He's been listening and trying to prepare as much as he can in preparation for whatever's about to go down.

Oh, also, he's got a pair of shoulders loaded up with weapons that look like he's about to blast the first things that show up that aren't friendlies. He's always ready to blast things that aren't Titans. Especially things that tried to eat his cameras.

"Could we just trap them in there? With that Tricycle dude or whatever? If we end up havin' to fight /him/, I don't think we're gonna' have enough time to watch Secret of the Ooze." Cyborg's attempting to keep as much of this as light as possible.

"Hey Magic School Bus…" Cyborg is likely channeling this through the comms to all the magic types. "Through your powers combined, any way we can just get the victims to safety? Without, like, awakening the First Evil?" He's just throwing out ideas to see what sticks!

The impy, we shall call him Impy…struggles and spits curses from his place on the wall. Well he would spit curses but he's got webbing on his mouth so it isn't working too well. There is a distinct HA!! from him though as the drool covered camera ball gets reabsorbed.


Meanwhile the pair at the door start to turn…only to have their eyes flutter as they they pitch over. Caught and relocated by the Speedster of the party.

The chanting continues though, the pair of guards not missed in the droning voices . The noise is raising quickly now, reaching a crescendo. The flow of magic increasing.

On the table all three figures suddenly twitch their right hands in the exact same manner at the exact same time.

"SOON!" Intones the cultist at the front. "Our brothers and sister shall raise! Blessed by the power of our Lord! They will bring ruin to our enemies and glory to our Church!"

…maybe volunteers and not victims. But who knows. They /are/ cultists.

The instant he hears voices, Spider-Man is already leaping his way back up to the ceiling, clinging against the overcast dark. This is about when he'd wait for them to enter, web them up, and probably knock their heads together with a witty quip relating to, I don't know, blood or something —

— except that, just as Zatanna's whispered report reaches his ears, that growing tingle at the back of his skull becomes a high-pitched shriek of warning racing feverishly through his neurons. Lenses widen in time with the dilation of his pupils; if they could, the hairs on the back of his neck would stand on end.

"Fflk-" is the eloquently choked out sound he makes as he grips his head in a futile effort to block out the sharp spike of buzzing warning that arrests his synapses. Focus. Focus focus focus.

«"H-hey guys,"» he croaks dryly through communications, his voice beginning and ending in little tremors between breaths. «"Not t-to like… put any pressure on you… but the-ere's something really no good bad coming really soon."»

He shakes his head. Focus. He eyes the way forward. Focus. He starts making his way /directly/ for the source of the danger he's feeling. Focus.

«"S-sooooooo… time might be a factor."»

"… That wasn't Trigon, right?" Azar, give her strength.

Raven frowns. "…No," she whispers raspily, almost losing track of Spider-Man's train of thought. "There is no 'teensy' Trigon- " Her brow then creases as Zee fills him in on Trigon stats with her own theory as to why the 'tri' is in his name. "No- "

Fortunately, there is no heated moment and no completed statement when the witch goes on to describe what she and the others are seeing. Her voice drops, going quiet.

"Not good."

Worried. Fearful. Two things she doesn't normally show outwardly to anyone.

It all goes stone cold once the realization passes, determination set to bring a stop to all of it.

"Idiots. They refuse to learn from their mistakes. I'll show them soft-hearted…"

The spike in magical activity confirms Cyborg's suggestion of doing something to keep it things from getting worse. Without saying much more, Raven summons the darkness, letting it creep and seal over any open exits to keep the cult and their summoning inside.

"<It's cool, I've got this,>" Nico says to the Man of Spider in the same reassuring tone she had in Hell's Kitchen not so long ago. She glances towards Raven even as the chanting gets, like, dire.

She sucks in a deep breath and steps forwards. As she walks, helpfully ahead of the darkness boundary, she seems to startle for a moment.

But this tension is relieved and Nico's face is a mask only of determination.

The Staff of One is raised. Nico gathers her intention. She thinks only of adherents. They're a community, she thinks. They may be in an evil community but that means this should go right, and worst case, she tells herself, WORST case it's a little messy but it works.

The words are spoken.

"Let's Talk About NON-TOXIC Snake Church."

Violet-magenta light arcs from around Nico's eyes and around the Staff of One, sinuously rippling like iridescent serpents towards the body of the Church of Blood.

«Thanks, Spidey» Zatanna patches through as she glances towards Bart, apology on her features. «Think of this like a bomb, but magic. I'm going to basically try and find the best wire to cut, the problem is, considering time is a factor, I'm going to be defenseless while I do this. Whatever's coming? It's all on the rest of you - but whatever they're trying to do with these guys, they're going to turn against us eventually and I don't think I can do this while fighting what's coming at the same time.» Which means, at the moment, defense of her immediate perimeter will have to fall on Bart….for now.

"Impulse," she murmurs. "They're going to see us in about five seconds. You ready?"

Seconds tick down and whether the speedster is ready or not, the glamour comes down.

Spinning the obelisk in her hand, she staps the point of it in the middle - a small impact, in the end, but the effects are instantaneous. Like an earthquake that touches nothing, fissures of magical energy cracks across the chamber, veins of blue-and-white energy cutting into the darkness underneath the cultists' feet as ice-blue eyes drain of color, leaving nothing but white scleras.

First phase: Cut off the chanting.

"ECNELIS!" To bind them from speaking any further, to cut off the gasoline lines, so to speak, funneling into the three tributes in the middle of the chamber. She will do that first, before she does anything about the infernal energy that is being fed to them. The rest will have to be up to the rest of her team, because it's about to get hairy in a second.

Yeah, that's not good. Hopefully everyone's in position. Impulse frowns, and while he can't sense things on magical, technological nor spiderical level, the sensation of energy as it peaks still leaves a distinct impression in the air. And you know, they're kinda standing right near the heart of it.

"Born ready," he replies almost automatically to Zatanna, but he's going over what she said prior to, and in confirmation that he knows his part, he gives a nod. Defense it is. Nothing's touching Zee if he can help it, and hopefully the others aren't too far in reaching the rest of them.

With the glamour dropped, Impulse turns his attention towards the cultists and their foci, feet planted as he sets himself at the ready for whatever comes next, amber gaze sweeping across the chamber for whatever effects come with the Princess of Prestidigitation's spell. Then it's all playing by ear.

It is very fortunate that Nico did not ask the question 'have you been to Germany.'

It's starting to feel a lot like their excursion TO Germany last year, however, as things start to ramp up and the magic fireworks start to fly around the cultists.

The Winter Soldier might have felt a little more out of place among such things, if he didn't tend to be highly adaptable as a rule. Taking advantage of the fact they'll probably all be looking at Zatanna, Nico, or Raven after those fireworks, he slips ahead towards the chamber, moving as much as cover as darkness as possible.

He wants to get in closer towards the table, the cultists, and the subjects thereon.

Cyborg can't really move in the world of stealth. Okay, that's a lie. He has a cloaking device built in. But he's not thinking about using it right now because there's a bunch of crazy ish going on that he needs to be ready to deal with.

When the ruse is dropped and ignites the moment for the Titans to all Come Together, he rushes to get himself into the fray and watches. Everything. At once. Sensors and scanners of varying types are going bonkers because he's mostly just trying to make sure nothing does any sneaking up on them. He's pretty sure this might also be a trap but he's focusing up to make sure he's armed and ready.

He's not sure what kind of firepower he's going to need for this but he's certainly ready…. to make something.

"Uhhhhhhh." Cyborg doesn't really know what to say based on the mystical crazy that he's semi-witnessing. "Somebody call an audible." There. Sports reference.

Not good. That's a very excellent way to describe what Peter's feeling right now. And it's just that which hastens the arachnid's crawling sprint across the walls and ceilings of this once-abandoned underground, leaping from place to place as those chants ring higher and higher in his ears.

This isn't the worst his Spider-Sense has ever screamed at him. But it's more than bad enough to tell him he needs to get to Zatanna and Impulse — fast. If this was when he first started out, the headache probably would have been debilitating. As it is —

"Hey, Mister Barnes, doesn't this feel like a total buddy cop moment, like that really old movie with the Australian and the black guy and you're like a year away from retirement and you're gonna barge in and see all this crazy stuff and go 'I'm getting too old for this shit'??"

— he's progressed to the point where he's at least comfortable enough to make old references that will still possibly go over Bucky's head.

"Let's get 'em, Murtaugh!"

And with that, he makes his way into the chamber, intent to flip his way up towards the ceiling and cling there to get the drop on anyone or anything that might try to get at Zatanna or Otherwise.

"Oh man this is bad this is super bad — hey, where's all the blood? This is some seriously false advertising!"

"Are you seriously talking to me about 'really old' right now, kid?!" Bucky hisses under his breath, because he's trying to stealth, here.

Nico's twisting serpentine magic hits first, moments after the shadows close around the exits. The changing falters a moment at that, a few cultists around the edges cluing in to something going wrong…

…and then suddenly the twisting magic slams into them.

Nearly half their number suddenly writhe and scream before seeming to dissipear….robes falling to the ground. Only a moment later to reveal a dozen snakes of various types struggling out of the clothes. A few garden snakes. A few rat snakes. A few brightly colored little rock snakes…

…and two massive pythons.

…who are /technically/ non-toxic. Just big and now glowering at Nico.

A split second later Zantanna's spell hits and the room goes silent. Like a switch turned off the flow of demonic essence into the vessels stop. Now she can try to reverse it…

At least if she has a chance. As all the remaining Cultists are now pulling weapons, the closest ones already leaping for her and Bart.

Cybrog rushes, Bucky and Jane stealths. Peter wall-crawls. All three reach the room just as the cultists begin to charge…

…which is when all three vessels sit up as one. All three open their eyes as one. All three seem to move as one.

The look of triumph on the cult leader's face is short lived as he realises he can't speak the binding spell.

As the cultists fling themselves fowards its towards the darkness where Bucky stands that they turn their gaze.

"-has come to-"
"-welcome us home."

One finishes the others sentences. Three voices with a cadence of one. All looking at Bucky and Jane.

…and now that they have awakened, there is a particular feel to this magic. A familiar feel. One that brings to mind a shadow wolf and a black bird and a demonic bear.

The feel of the influence emanating from the three vessels is more than just familiar, and Zatanna's eyes widen. No. Not again.

There is a moment where the urge to drop everything and throw her ridiculous magical might on the three vessels in an attempt to cut this off at the knees before things get worse, but to let go of the threads she holds onto now would spell disaster and she has an entire group to consider. Gritting her teeth, worry for Bucky and Jane poisoning her nerves, she plants her feet astride over where she has stabbed the pulsing obelisk on the ground, using that as a channel - a safe conduit to manipulate the massive amounts of magic churning in the endless well deep inside her soul, wreathed as it is, still, with the Blood of Isis. While she has it, she will use it.

Archaic sigils blossom from the ground underneath her feet, two more circles manifest where she holds her hands aloft, and she closes her eyes and attempts to shut out everything else - even the visceral fear instilled in her by something that tastes so ominously familiar. Lips part for her own chanting and while the three subjects turn their attentions to Bucky and Jane, she starts to dive into the difficult task of reversing the flow of infernal energy powering the bodies before them, and leave them without.

But it will take time, and there is still the fight.

The good news is, Bucky successfully makes it up towards the vessels being imbued with… whatever.

The bad news is, Bucky makes it up to where they can get a real good look at him — the three of them seeming somehow

"Fatherwhat?" he says, though the shocked statement is sort of a placeholder for the awful existential dread of knowing what this is. Of feeling, once again, the grasp of another mind overriding his own, forcing him into an unnatural shape, and using him to commit horrible acts.

Story of his life, right?

"Kids," he says quietly over the comms, leaving any more technical explanations to Jane, "we got a significant problem here…"

He approaches the three cautiously, hands slightly raised, gauging their reaction. If he's got any pull over them at all, now's the time to find out. Maybe he can keep their attention while Zatanna does what she does. "You know me."

Suddenly, snakes!! Wait, was that part of the spell? He's pretty sure Zee had said something else. It's not a detail Impulse lingers on all too long as immediately the remaining cultists jump into action.

Typical reaction. Go for the weapons. As though pulling his own magic trick, the speedster seems to appear right by the ones that had gone for him and Zatanna. There's a sudden kick snapping towards one's stomach. Bullets disappearing from midair and tinkling to the floor as though they'd hit an invisible wall as fast hands catch and drop them before swinging a punch to the cultist's face. And "-is that a sword? Retro." Right before a footsweep as Impulse finds himself some new equipment. It's okay, he's played lots of games that use swords. How hard can it be?

"Uuuuh, that's…. Wha?"

From the three who sit up as one to Bucky and the others as they arrive on scene, Bart throws them a confused look as he hops back by Zatanna to keep up the defense for her. "Wait, you're their dad??" he blurts, staring back at Bucky.

"It's complicated," Bucky says, his voice kind of strained, while still affecting his best Chris Pratt impression.

Cyborg turns into a freaking Swiss Army Borg with the amount of blasters, lasers, cannons, lightsabers and noisy crickets that fan out from behind his back. He keeps his distance from the majority of what's going on because he's not about to dive into the middle of magic wars.

"… That explains the hair." Cyborg's response to Impulse is hopefully quippy enough.

The weapons all fold back into Cyborg as he doesn't want to make things go even further into bonkersville since it seems like The Buckster is probably going to be taking care of this situation. Or should be. He's Owen Grady-ing this ish, it looks like.

"On your mark, WTF Soldier." Cyborg's waiting before he just starts blasting at stuff. Maybe there's a magic spell or Bucky can ground them or something. The path of less violence would serve them well down here, wouldn't it?
POT: Cyborg just posed.

Covering Bucky Barnes' six, Jane joins his forward movement as the man's tiny shadow — and by the way she moves, deft and soundless, her training is evident. The Winter Soldier is an old hand at creating Widows where he goes, even one forged out of the unlikely of sources: some average, civilian astrophysicist bred in suburban Virginia.

Trusting the resident witches and magicians to handle the worst of the magic — Jane has an idea, but she's on magic remission, a choice that stings all the worse to feel it take shape so close. Feel it right down into the marrow of her bones. Her blood doesn't want to easily forget that addiction.

Pulling a small firearm, she converges on their stealth advance toward the cultists — and she swears she hears snakes, she KNOWS she hears snakes, nope nope, not going to look, not going to indulge that small little mindless phobia, Jane —

Finds an apt distraction in the way they're turned upon. The way Bucky is greeted by their would-be "children."

The blood drains out of Jane's face. "The demon bear," she says lowly, urgently, over the comm, her voice hushed. "This is bad. Some sort of — residue? Zee?" She can sense it? She can explain it? She can —

And Jane can, in a way, hit with the cold void memory of her possession by that maligned spirit. It makes her feel so cold, so sick, that her next words are a sharp demand: "Who the hell are you?!"

"I mean — you know — it felt pretty appropriate-??"

And that is exactly when everything goes to hell.

Something reaches its completion; Spider-Man might be about as magical as a rock, but he's got more sense for things that go beyond the physical than most. And right now, those senses are telling him 'EVERYTHING IS BAD AND NOTHING IS GOOD.' Even with the silence that overwhelms the ritual room, that warning mounts. And as the cultists turn, start unsheathing weapons one by one—

— Spider-Man does whatever a spider can, spinning webs of any size, and catching cultists just like flies!

… Which is to say, two strands of Tonka Tough weblines spin through the air to adhere to the weapon hands of a pair of cultists — seconds before the webbed menace himself drops onto them from above, twisting and lancing legs outward parallel to the rapidly approaching ground to kick both of them in the face.

"Hey. Hey!!" he chides, before landing on the ground in a hand-stand and spinning about to smack them both one more time with his heels. Is he breakdance fighting-??

"Use your words!!"

Get it? Because… … ah nevermind

Which is about when the trio rise.

"So, just for the record-" begins Spider-Man as he lunges for his next cultists to deter from the path of ultraviolencing Zatanna, "-those things are where the really ultra bad feelings I'm getting are coming from!!"

Spider-Man: helping.

And then they speak. To Bucky. And Jane. 'Fatherwolf.'

Wait, you're their dad??

Spider-Man's lenses go as wide as dinner plates.

"Wh — You and Doctor Foster had kids?! Whoa."

A second passes.

"Uh. Well. Mazel tov! Now can you please ground them or something because OH MY GOD?!"

It starts well enough. The silence leading to chaos, chaos leading to…this.

And this…this was something Raven wasn't expecting.

Too many things are happening and it's impossible to keep her own feelings about people being used under control. And yet it's different when they are willing.

"Fools!!" This is the loudest she's been, her voice ringing out as she flies upward, tearing her gaze away from the three on the pedestals, glaring down at the cult leader. "Why could you not leave it alone!?"

Again, her eyes snap back over to the three speaking as one, brow furrowing at their speech. Fatherwolf? The images themselves appear as well, imprinted into her mind even if she doesn't understand the reference.

But there's still everyone else to deal with, too. Shadows flow upward from the ground as her arms circle, melding them into a giant birdlike form. Dark energy engulfs her hands as her eyes turn white. "We're not done here," she hisses in the leader's direction, letting the dark raven fly about the room to distract and knock over the other cultists still standing.

Nico stares. It worked! Some of them didn't get hit - were they the ones who didn't really believe, Nico wonders, even as silence falls and chaos reigns even, like, harder than it had reigned before; which was pretty hard.

The speed man moves fast. Nico's grip tightens. Something's gone on with the mysterious man. Is he a werewolf, Nico thinks. No, the other woman's talking about a demon bear. Wait, she thinks. Bear, wolf.

Goat? Is there a connection?

The two pythons get the Staff of One pointed at them, and if necessary their snoots are thwapped. Bart then blurts something and Nico shoots /another/ tense double-take at Bucky, as he is accused of fatherhood.

Then she raises her voice. "Depart of your own will or we're going to compel you!"

When Rachel declares they are FOOLS Nico cannot disagree but she gets another sidewise glance which turns into a boggle at the unleashing of the shadowy bird-form. She steps to the side, to avoid any risk of collision.

how do i feel about this, Nico thinks in small words to herself.

"Yes and no!" Zatanna responds to Jane with gritted teeth. "It's as if someone took an echo of what came before and modified it! If I can just….drain it….we'd be able to force it back into torpor and unravel it, but it's going to take time!"

Sweat beads her forehead, trickles down her temples and clings to her jaw as she returns her focus to the ritual she is devising, fingers weaving lines of power in the air - a metaphysical cat's cradle where there appears to be no end in sight, webs and tangles so convoluted, only a few would be able to make sense of them. She tries her best to keep her attention from gravitating to the battle and the close calls they present - she has to trust her teammates to be able to handle the backlash the cultists are whipping at them.

She whispers; her words are lost in the din, but she is snapping the foundations in place, an intangible mechanism to reverse the flow of infernal power that charges up the three dangerous bodies in front of her like batteries. The other cultists will not be much of a problem - but the vessels definitely are. If nothing else, Spider-man only confirms it.

Zatanna is a bubble of calm in the middle of a room of chaos. Mostly because the speedster that simply disappears anything coming for the woman. Bart /does/ acquire a sword, three dangers and a cool looking spiked mace. And also put four more of the cultits on the floor.

More find themselves spidered. The first two flying in opposite directions due to the sudden breakdancing a third stuck to a wall. A fourth to the ceiling.

The pair of pythons close in on Nico looking angry…only to get smacked for their trouble. Her spell slams into the Vessels knocking one from its platform and rocking the other two. Though it seems they fight to…stay.

"You can not-"
"-banish us-"
"-we are from this world."

The lead cultist closes in on one, trying to force his binding though…

…and he is backhanded hard enough that bones crack as he slams against the far wall.

"Motherbird, you are-"
"-here as well-"
"-we are new. We are better. We will carry your will."

The three of them now stand, though they seem to regard Bart a moment.

"Motherbird and Fatherwolf creates-"
"-us. Yes."

But then they lock eyes on Bucky and Jane. Three heads tilt to regard them.

"Motherbird, Fatherwolf. You are different-"
"-wrong. We will fix you."

Which is when the three begin to advance only one towards Zee. The others towards Bucky and Jane. And as they stalk forwards their hands begin to glow with a familiar to some white-hot-head. Hot enough to melt metal and turn stone molten.

Zee is making progress. It seems agonizingly slow, but there is progress. Unfortunately…that means she is a threat.

Unfortunately speedster spandex doesn't come equipped with pockets, and Impulse doubts he'll get any of his acquired weapons into his Flash ring. Said weapons are abandoned on the floor by him with various clanks and ringing of metal, but at least their owners won't be needing them any time soon. Hopefully.

Raven's shout makes him jump- that's the loudest he's ever heard her, and arguably the angriest. His eyes follow her raven as it sweeps the room and through more cultists, his head spinning as both Jane and Bucky don't quite deny their parenthood, even though he's starting to think that 'complicated' is probably the best explanation for it by far. Storytime later. Survive first.

"Oh no you don't!"

With the Weird Trio starting towards Zatanna, Impulse moves to intercept them, charging seemingly right for them, veering instead around them, sharply. Tying their robes together. And around and around if he can manage.

Residue, Jane says. Bucky suppresses a sigh. "I thought it was gone, do problems with magic never go for good?" he rasps, briefly sharing some of Jane's sick feeling. An old panic threatens at the edges of his consciousness, that old visceral fear that gripped whenever the cold sank into him. Another decade in the ice. No, not this time, his mind is his own this time —

And Spider-Man's chattering breaks through the threatening spiral of fear, as it's wont to do. "We did not have kids," he insists. "It's — someone got ahold of residual technomagic. From the Demon Bear. Misusing it to make these — "

And of course, the source of the technomagic was him and Jane. So in a sense, they are their creators. Not that Bucky feels anything particularly paternal towards these aberrations, spawned of his and Jane's enslavement to that malign demonic force.

Of course, the kids don't want to behave.

"What happened to 'carrying our will?'" Bucky asks. He moves subtly in front of Jane as two of the trio start to advance on them, hands starting to glow. The familiarity of it sparks a memory in his mind. An Avengers mission, not that long ago. "What do you mean fix?! How? Fix what?"

He starts backing up, effectively trying to kite them, herding Jane along as he goes. "Looks like we're going to have to distract them until Zatanna can finish her unraveling thing," he says over the comms, grimly. "These things take a shitload of punishment to really kill, if they're in the same vein as something I saw a while back. Anything you can do to help her do it faster?" he asks Jane.

The giant raven makes its last pass over the room, dissipating into thin air. Raven's eyes stay blank, but look over to see where the lead cultist once stood, spotting him in a crumpled heap against the wall.

There are still the three among the cultists who are unified and acting as one. Her gaze flickers over to them as they speak, seeing that they have their chosen targets.

Two words come to mind: Protect them.

Yet there are two other words she would never have thought to think:

Protect Zatanna.

Her arms snap outward, then overhead, drawing up more wisps of darkness. They form solid barriers of whorling black, one with a wider perimeter around Zee, another two around Bucky and Jane as the three possessed cultists advance. The latter barriers seem to move with them, acting as a shield in case they need it.

One more barrier then comes up for Nico, just in case those pythons gain a second wind on them. Other barriers will rise and fall for the rest, depending on whatever is going on. They seem to be doing all right, but there's nothing wrong with extra defense support.

Cyborg keeps a close tabs on everyone that's part of the Visiting Team because he wants to be able to slide in and do some kind of anything that's needed if there's going to be something that needs to be done. But he doesn't really move. As far as his eyes, optics and sensors can tell, things are being handled. On as many fronts as possible.

So he waits. Patiently. He's not really in the mood to get into some kind of battle to the death with these things. When Impulse starts doing his thing, Cyborg shifts his arm into a giant cannon and just takes aim at the Bucky & Jane's "Excellent" Adventure spawn. He's ready to lend support fire should it be needed. But there's enough magic and parental guidance here to make this work, right?
POT: Cyborg just posed.

"No," Nico answers Bucky on the topic of magic, though he may not hear her in the whole fracas and carrying on. The creatures answer her and she bares her teeth in frustration.

Then the world before her gets shadowy.

It takes her a moment to parse it as a barrier. A blockage? A protective… she's protecting me, Nico thinks, but she has no good specific thought beyond that. The Staff of One is brandished in a different angle. Two pythons are in front of her -

"Snake Charmer!"

The magenta light streaks out again with a surreal whizzing silent flash. Whichever of the three wyrd figures is in front is now the most appealing thing on Planet Earth to a snake. To ANY snake. Ever.

"dammit dammit dammit," Nico breathes. What the hell else is there to do. She has to be able to do something. "Shoot them!!" she cries out at the looming form of Victor.

Down go a handful of Blood Cultists, webbed to their Blood Walls in this most sacred of Blood Lairs.

Peter really thinks he's getting the hang of this evil cult thing.

Flipping back onto his feet, the red-and-blue vigilante fires off a packet of webbing as he goes, covering the face of an advancing cultist with an artful flourish. He lands with a springing step, casting squinting, lensed gaze Bucky's way as the Winter Soldier explains the situation. "… oh," says Peter Parker, after a moment, jump-kicking his way between cultists. The Demon Bear. So that's why they feel like such bad news.

"Just FYI, saying it now, just like, on the record: I hate magic."

"Sorry Zee."

… …

"S-sorry Nico."

… … …

"Sorry… Raven? I think? Honestly not super sure what your superpower deal is except that you kind of scare me."

But it's just as he lands, readying himself for another round of go-time against advancing cultists, when he sees the lone wolf (get it) of those murder of crows (GET IT) marching its slow, inevitable stalk towards Zatanna. White 'eyes' widen. He notices the way their hands start to glow. He remembers it well.

He just talked to Tony about it not even a week ago. How—

"Wait! They've — be careful, they might explode!"

He is not killing them, he is not letting that happen, no matter what.

And so, springboarding off the last cultist he was fighting, Spider-Man angles himself towards the advancing Wolfbirdchild (really need a better name for that). As he soars, webbing starts to coat his own hands in layer after layer until he has thickened, makeshift boxing gloves — layers of webbing tough as steel to insulate his hands and protect him as he winds back and just tries to -clock- that thing with a descending punch straight across the skull — to try to distract it with Impulse, with a much more immediate threat.

"Hey! Uncle Spidey says GO TO YOUR ROOM! Me and your pa have a long overdue Lethal Weapon marathon and that is NOT for kids!"

That same memory reflects against Jane's eyes. Mother, she was called then. She didn't understand. She still doesn't want to understand. It's hard to think in moments like this, through the encroaching terror — every spiritual mote in her body remembering and hating the sensation of that chill. She was without her soul. It was like a void. It was her, not her — there was no warmth, and she was so cold. So, so cold. It chased her through the cold, and drove its claws through her chest — through her heart —

Voices bring Jane back, shouts among the Titans, as she sobers with a shudder, drawing closer to Bucky. She can feel the tension emanating off him; she wants to take his hand, so badly, but she can't impede him as those macabre 'children' threaten to fix them.

Her mind still locks against understanding, even as Zatanna explains — Jane just doesn't want to put the pieces together. 'Modified it,' Zee says. 'Technomagic,' Bucky reminds.

Jane sounds like she's been sucker punched, voice tight, winded, broken. "I failed. I didn't — get it all. I thought I got it all. My code — that code — they took it — or it's self-replicating — I got rid of it!"

Raven's shields cover them, and Jane seems to regain some bearing, her eyes moving as Bucky asks if there's something she can do. "I destroyed everything I had — when I thought it was over — even if you destroy this, it's meant to move like an infection. It's not meant to do things to people — not this, just act as a vector — I don't know what this is! I don't — who DID this?" Jane's shouts turn on the 'children' in question. "How did you do it?!"

"I don't think they did it. They're not….I don't think they'd have that kind of know how."

We might have to beat the answers out of Brother Blood, himself.

Considerations for later, Zatanna decides, hearing Jane's remarks over the din and gritting her teeth. It is slow going, yes. But better that than nothing, before she starts pulling her threads together, hands curling into one another. She closes her eyes, but despite the luminous sheen of perspiration on her pale features, she doesn't look taxed magically. One of the most powerful reactors of its kind in several multiverses rests in the seat of her soul - the only question is whether her body can actually handle it if it was all unleashed at once.

She isn't going to find out today. But given how she has handled this before, she can try what she has done in the past to speed things along - to weaken it, so she can press her advantage.

"Thgil eb ereht tel," she whispers.

Javelins of pure white light spun from some of the oldest words ever said in the history of the known cosmos spills from between clenched fingers; like searchbeams, they fire towards the three 'children' of the Motherbird and the Fatherwolf. And should they hit, she pushes, to get to the roiling nest of infernal energy she can see in her mind's eye and attempt to punch a hole in it to drain. It's akin to trying to reach into the depths of a sarcophagus filled with raw sewage, brandishing a drill; her skin, her blood, the very marrow of her bones, feel slick and oily the deeper she goes and she nearly loses every meal she ate today onto the floor. She's starting to look a little green, but she pushes on because she has no choice. Because Jane and Bucky are right - it's going to take a lot to neutralize these vessels and they don't have that kind of time.

The cultists are gone. Unconscious or snaked. The leader is not going to be talking to Raven because he is lying on the ground with his neck at a /very/ unfortunate angle. The Vessels are the only things left up…

And they are not happy.

"You are broken-"
"Fatherworlf. We can fix it."
"We can make you remember."

…yeah. That doesn't really sound good.

Bart lunges to the attack. Robes are wrapped up, ties, twisted round and round…and there is the sound of ripping cloth that fills the room as they simply shread the bindings. Bart can feel it now, they are /strong/. Really. Really. Unnaturally strong. The heat coming off their hands as they swipe towards him shimmers the air.

Snakes suddenly slither over, the pair of pythons wrapping around one of the Vessel's legs. Down they all go, even as the Vessel itself begins to tear into the snakes.

Two more advance. One towards Bucky and Jane.

The other towards Zee. Its hand pulls back and crashes down with impossible force against Raven's shields. She can feel the impact. The magic may even splinter somewhat.

But then the Vessel itself it slamming face first into it as Spider-man slams into him from behind. Web-fist slams face against the shield and it rebounds, swiping towards the Spider with a superheated backhand.

"We were-"
"We did not see-"
"Who gave us form."
"We thought you would be happy."
"We will help."

Jane's and Bucky's questions bring answers that are not the greatest.

"We know-"
"-we are weapons-"
"-sold and bought."
"We like our new form."
"We do not wish to sleep."
"We are inside these Vessels."
"We make them strong."
"That was our purpose."
"Now we are awake."
"Control is our own."

"Now we will—"

And Zee whispers.

Light arrows from between her fingers, slamming into the three Vessels. They raise their voices in one wordless scream. The one in front of Zee flails to try to shake the Spider-man off as his slams hammer blows against Raven's shield. It must make the light stop.

…but it is slowing down.

The light /is/ having an effect…

A second one staggers towards Bucky and Jane, arms outstretched. Black…film starting to form on its hands as it reaching for them.

The one distracted by snakes rips the poor reptiles apart with its bare hands. Lunging for Nico blindly. A black film also on its hands…and when that film slams into Raven's shield. She can /feel/ it. Trying to rewrite her own magics, take over her powers to take down those shields.

Just FYI, I hate magic. "So do I," Bucky says, the weight of two years of Dealing With Magical Bullshit heavy in his voice.

Jane can feel the tension off Bucky. He can, in turn, feel the disbelief and guilt and fear off her, her mounting upset hitting every protective instinct in him.

It's a justified upset. The virus they created was so dangerous they destroyed it all — or so they thought. And yet here it still is. Self-replicating — or stolen. Modified, either way. How did it get out in such a way that people would be buying and selling it? As weapons? Even such people as unrelated to the initial incident as the Church of Blood?

"Someone did this," Bucky says, his voice tight, even as that barrier from Raven spins up around him and Jane both. As Zatanna begins to pour pure white light into all three of their aberrant 'children.' "We're going to find out who."

Resilient to the end, the three Vessels stumble onwards, speaking words that tighten Bucky's jaw and narrow his eyes. That make it sound like whatever Jane created mutated into some strange sentience of its own — developed the ability to infest human bodies, mutate them, and change them into these things.

Things which tell him they will make him remember. Make him remember? He remembers more than enough already for ten lifetimes.

One, shambling determinedly even through Zatanna's pillars of light, struggles doggedly straight towards them. It reaches hands out, hands, already covering with black film, towards them both. Its progenitors, so to speak.

Its 'father' meets it with several .45 rounds point-blank to the face.

Every jolt, every slam thrums against the shields runs through the Daughter of Darkness' body the longer she holds them up, flinching at every blow.

Exhaustion threatens to weaken her as she tries to concentrate, averting her blind gaze from the lifeless body of the cult leader when they begin to wander back over the station grounds, refraining from replying to Spider-Man's quip about hating magic and the way she scares him. Focus. FOCUS.

Another blow. And another. The shields waver, wobbling, deflecting each attack until…

…Until there is light.

The bloom through darkness is a sight to see, beautiful in its own strange way. That is, until a filmly hand splays itself against a portion of the shield protecting Nico. Reality comes crashing back in when she feels the dark magic changing in mere seconds from her sway, running through her like an electric spark. It's enough to force her hand, the shields dispersing simultaneously as she gasps.

Unfortunately, it's enough to make her forget she's feet above the ground. Without the use of her powers, she plummets from where she once hovered, dropping like a stone.

"-whoops, that wasn't supposed to happen," Impulse blinks as his attempts to bind wrap them up and slow them down doesn't seem to have much effect. His surprise nearly costs him as he feels and sees those heated hands that swipe at him, through him as he vibrates to avoid direct contact, eyes wide. That there's a big nope!

The trio continues their approach towards their targets, and while he's thankful that Raven's gotten shields up and Spider-Man's trying his best to help keep them back, whatever's fueling them sure isn't letting up very easily. Light explodes and pierces the three, and for a split-second Impulse stands stock-still as he watches its effects. Well, something's going on at least! Now, just to get them off of Zatanna, Bucky and Jane! …and not end up like those poor snakes.

…and then Bucky flat-out shoots one of the vessels in the face. For the second time Impulse is still, this time in shock. Cultists or not, villains and megalomaniacs, they never killed any of them!

It's what happens next that snaps him back into focus. The effects of the attacks upon Raven's shields hadn't been readily noticed by him until now, and he sees her begin to fall. His feet jerk after the rest of him begins to lunge, and in the next moment he's running, arms thrown outwards to catch Raven before she can hit the ground.

And now the other OTHER girl with great clothes is calling on the light of creation itself. Nico would marvel if she wasn't *frikking terrified for her own backside*. This is the problem with these outings: they are never simple, are they?

She doesn't blame Spider-Man for his opinion. She wishes it was all mystic fun in weird nightclubs too.

I won't let them die, Nico thinks, but that isn't all she thinks. Sure, three months ago, that would've been all she thought, and perhaps she could do something that would clearly prevent that. Something of a *explosive* nature might do it. Or something equally hideous and agonizing. Something that kept these entities from harming the people she —

Part of it is the distance. They aren't the people she knew for years. Part of it is the explanation coming out of the mouths of the two parents who tagged along. (Yeah, that's what they get sorted as in the Nico Vision. Life's rough.) Modification. A virus. What did I already use, Nico thinks desperately. Both of the obvious anti-viral spells she already did. (ughhhh and that guy didn't even say thank you)

THERE'S ONE RIGHT THERE. It grinds against the shadowguard Rachel put up. It hurts Rachel in the process. Nico can see a blurring streak towards the flying, falling girl out of her field of vision but now, nothing between her and the Thing but air and the Staff of One.


is what she casts, the magenta light rising again to its blinding pitch as it sprays forwards with a reek of incidentally ancient air, the touch of that spell sufficiently vicious to decay all the oxygen in that particular strip of atmosphere.

Wham. Wham. WHAM. WHAM!

Blow for blow, Peter Parker only barely restrains that wellspring of strength he assails the Vessel with. He's not even sure if he could kill this thing by hitting it too hard. But he has no intention of finding out, either.

Blow for blow, Peter Parker feels the heat broil against his skin. He's not even making direct physical contact, but he can already feel it -burn- through the insulation and protection of his suit, like he was being baked within it.

Blow for blow, Peter Parker feels that webbing melt. Melt. Off his hands. Material stronger than most known substances dropping into pathetic puddles of sizzling orange on the ground as layer after layer of protective adhesive is shorn free.

But he can't let himself stop. He doesn't stop. Not until Zee finds a way to fix this. Not until —


— not until he hears that telltale sound of gunfire, and knows exactly what it's entailing before he even looks.

And yet, look he does. And he pays for it.

Wide white lenses snap in Bucky and his Vessel's direction, a split-second pause of shock that distracts him from the blaring of his spider-sense just long enough for the thing that was once a man to -backhand- him with a superheated fist. His suit is durable. Much more than it looks.

The emblazoned spider insignia on it -still- rips off, burning straight down to flesh and muscle as Spider-Man is launched off his feet and sent tumbling across the ground in a pained haze, reeling from a blow that would have rightly killed most anyone else.

"Hhk — guh" pants out the young man beneath the muffled obstruction of his mask. Adrenaline, at least, helps to deceive his brain into ignoring how painful the burns scorching at his chest are. Willpower is what helps him stand up again despite the protest of his lungs, webbing hanging in limp tatters from his wrist. He can't pay attention to what anyone else is doing now, no matter how much he might want to. He can't. He just needs to focus and get through this and make sure Zatanna is safe. Focus. Focus.

"A-alright," he grimaces, hands curling into fists. "… Alright."

And he -sprints-. Sprints towards that Vessel. Shoots webbing to cover its right foot up, bind it to the ground. He knows it won't last long.

He's hoping it'll last long enough for, though, for him to slide between the things legs, attach a web-line to the back of its right knee —

— and yank, -hard-, with all that accumulated momentum, until he dislocates or breaks -something-… or that webbing burns and he ends up paying for it.

Either way, he isn't letting it anywhere near Zatanna until she's finished.

They will find out.

Bucky's forced out response, determined and forceful, galvanizes Zatanna in turn - in order to do that they are going to have to get out of this predicament. With a hoarse cry, she lets go of the light; within the hairline cracks she's already made, she shoves an ephemeral fist through the holes she has made and seizes hold of the dark, beating heart within.

…and rips it out with sheer force of will.

There is a pulse - like a giant heartbeat, it thunders through the chamber, infernal energy sucking into the void that she has made. Tremors ripple down her spine, shake her legs, but she locks her weakening knees together, her insides lurching at the force of it. She isn't even aware of wisps of magic buffeting her upwards as she hangs onto it, to keep it open as much as she can, winds tearing at her hair and clothes as she spreads out her arms.

It's becoming more and more difficult to breathe, but she will keep it open until all of it is drained away before forcing it closed again - dropping to the ground on her knees and finally letting go. She turns her face away, and empties the contents of her stomach on the hard ground.

It's gross.

Right here, right now, is not the usual state of Dr. Jane Foster. She comes prepared with answers. If she does not already have them, then she figures them out — under pressure, under stress, under the heat of the moment. Little is beyond the capacity of her mind. She learns new subjects in days. Taught herself magic in weeks. She is guiding the birth of a higher level math — once did the same with a union of magic and technology — she is better than this. She is better than any single problem in this universe, because as Jane would tell anyone, there exists an answer for everything.

So why doesn't she have an answer for this? Those broken, inhuman voices make her go still, and her stomach quietly drops out as those things — those things she made — talk about their tainted conception. She can't move. She's back under the claws of the Demon Bear. She's back on Hydra's table, with those technicians staring down at her. She can't move, she can't think, and she's so cold.

"I checked it —" Jane keeps saying, maybe to Bucky, maybe to herself, labouring on with a weak insistence, trying to convince herself. "I checked — I made sure — it was gone —"

'We are weapons,' they say, and Jane can't breathe. Her worst fear, brought to life. How she judged those monsters of Hydra, creating weapons, creating twisted things, and sickening the world with them — how is she any different? She should think of something. She should react, especially as one draws closer to Bucky and herself — but she can only look on, drowning in guilt, seeing only how something she's done has taken more lives.

And then the Winter Soldier draws his weapon to solve it the best way he knows how. The shots animate her, ringing loudly against her ears — and Zatanna's wellspring rush of power blinds the rest away. Jane moves on instinct, grabbing onto Bucky, intent to shield him, or perhaps just afraid of losing him to the torrent — when it all fades. The void closes, and when Zee drops, she takes Jane's broken heart with her. "Zatanna!" she calls, stricken.

It is in the last seconds that they see the horrifying durability of these new creations. Spider-man pulls with all of his unbridled strength and there is a snap of bone giving way. But then a flash of light under the Vessel's skin and it almost immediately begins to mend. Nico's fetid air does the job of staggering the creature, causing it to gasp and fall to one knee. Lungs on the edge of collapse…but then the tissue repairs itself and it starts to raise…

Bucky pumps three rounds into the Vessel's face. He can't miss. Not at this range. Not with his skill. It tumbles over, sprawling on the ground. Blood on the stone under it…

…but that light flashes again. Ruined face slowly fixing itself. Heart restarting. Brain firing again.

It might take Cyborg to step in. Overwhelming firepower is the way to go even as Bart catches Raven and they tumble to the ground.

But then Zatanna tears a hole in reality. Energy reverses course…

The puppets loose their strings.

All three fall, lying there on the stone floor. Sprawled tangles of arms and legs, breathing yes. None of them dead. None of them exploded. None…of them in a good way judging by the blank stares there…but they are not moving. Not talking.

The demons are sleeping once again.

Through the haze, she hears someone calling for her. Zatanna brings her fist to her mouth to wipe the taste of bile from it, her senses swimming. The world lurches before her eyes and she squeezes them shut again before she loses any more bodily fluids. She doesn't try to stand, not yet. Instead, once she takes the chance to look at the room again, her ice-blue eyes fall on Jane and Bucky, and flashes them a thumbs-up.

"Thanks, guys," she says - to all of them, Bucky and Jane, Nico and Raven, and especially towards Spider-man and Impulse, who remained at her perimeter and made sure she was able to get to the end of her ritual. "Changed….my mind. Good thing…it isn't Tuesday….yeah?"

With wobbly knees, she pushes herself back up to a standing position, making a face. She can't help but look down at her arms and legs, expecting black ichor clinging to her limbs - she still feels oily, from the metaphysical dive she has made. But there's nary a trace of that physically. Still, she wants a bath very, very badly.

Still, she forces herself to move, reaching up to knuckle Impulse's shoulder, and rest a hand on Spidey's shoulder as she passes them. With painfully show, shuffling steps, pins and needles of sensation climbing up her arms, she looks down at the blank stares of the three vessels on the ground.

"….we….should probably put them on ice," she murmurs, glancing over to Jane. "You think Stark will be able to hold them? If they managed to tweak the virus to do this, we might need his help figuring this out, especially with what happened to Stark Tower."

She blacked out.

Somewhere in the back of Raven's mind, she realizes she has not been available within the last handful of minutes. She doesn't remember falling, but she doesn't remember hitting the ground.

Which means she could possibly be dead. And death is…peaceful.

This doesn't feel right.

As soon as those words cross her mind, she rouses, blue eyes returning to their normal state as she blinks the bleariness away. Realizing that she's not actually on the ground, she tries to move off of Impulse, failing completely as it turns more into a half-roll onto the floor.

"Ugh," is all she can say at the moment, but she's heard what has been said, lifting a hand in Zatanna's general direction, half-hearted waving to everyone before using it to limply pat Impulse on the knee. "…Thanks."

Is it over? Whatever energies had been compressed into the old chamber have suddenly dissipated, a feeling Impulse can't exactly explain save that it just feels clearer. He looks down at Raven, feeling doubly relieved as she comes to, but in his current position he can't quite do much to keep her from rolling off of him as they're both on the floor. But at least she's okay. He smiles tiredly at Raven's thanks, helping her sit up once he's gotten his own feet shifted under him.

Looking back towards the others, he's both surprised and relieved there's no evidence of people shot in the face and whatnot. He has no idea what's happened, but it's clear that Zatanna managed to pull through it, and not without everyone else's efforts. Wearily he lifts a fist in a week victory pump, nods at Zatanna as she makes it over with her own gesture of gratitude.

They did it. But are things really over?

Things fall quiet. Mostly the cultists that aren't, uh…

Nico takes a moment to exert herself to not think about that too much because there over there is Zatanna and she's looking around despite having vomited out a good four exorcisms worth. That's good (the moving part). She giggle-snorts at what Zee says, involuntarily.

When she says 'put them on ice' Nico shifts the Staff of One… …oh, she means Tony Stark and a time cage or something. She raises the weapon up. Her attention turns to the flopped-over Raven. She's moving too.

I should make a joke here, Nico thinks.

But, she thinks further, if I have to THINK that, I absolutely should not.

"So like," she says, looking towards Jane, her face somewhat spectral now that she is paled with the chill of post-battle mild shock but her makeup having managed to remain intact. "This is some kind of a… computer virus that got into Hell? I'm sorry if this is a dumb question, I just wanted to be sure I like… got that, because…"

Nico sidles around to offer a couple of surplus napkins from her shorts pocket to Zatanna. They are from Big Belly Burger, but they are also, like, clean.

"That sounds incredibly bad, and also, like something on Netflix."

That shattered leg mends. That blasted face mends. Maybe there really is no killing these things. Everything physical feels impermanent to a degree that would almost make him lose hope.


Instead? Instead, Spider-Man gets up onto his feet, a little unsteadily, as that leg starts to mend. Hands clenched, fists raised. A burn in place of a symbol on his chest.

Ready to fight until he drops.

Thankfully, it never quite comes to that. He's not really quite sure how to put into words what happens next — something blindingly bright confuses his senses, makes lenses squint as if flinching from it all…

… and by the time he finally refocuses, those… things have been stopped. Breathing, and yet limp. Unmoving. Blank.

Like vessels, relieved of their contents.

He just stares, for a moment. His legs feel like rubber. He just wants to fall down. For the longest time, he thinks of what Bucky did — if it would have been necessary. These people — are they even really alive anymore? Can they be saved? Is the only thing they can even do for them—

But Zatanna preempts his thoughts from going to troubling places, with the hand to his shoulder. Lenses flicker like a blink, tilting her way. "Zee, are you okay-? Doctor Foster — everyone, is everybody in one piece-?" is the first, most immediate thing that comes to mind. Second:

"… Maybe we don't run missions on Taco Tuesday, maybe that's like, a rule we make."

It's a little weak. But he at least tries, even as his gaze refocuses on the fallen Vessels. As he listens. Fingers drawing inward to curl into trembling fists.

"We need to bring them Mister Stark," he interjects, immediately. "At the very least we need to tell him. He wants — he needs — to know about this stuff. These things keep being bought and sold, and…"

His words trail. He shakes his head, forcing his thoughts past the pain.

"… we… we need to figure out whose doing this and put a stop to it all. Things are just getting worse."

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