Pieces
Roleplaying Log: Pieces
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Barbara swings by Jess's place to hook her up as a beta tester for the vOS (vigilante operating system). But, there's always more to talk about.

Other Characters Referenced: Zatanna Zatara, Constantine, Peter Parker, Tony Stark
IC Date: December 08, 2018
IC Location: Alias Investigations, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 14 Dec 2018 22:26
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 (ish?)
NPC & GM Credits: None
Associated Plots

Barbara Gordon has learned in recent years that, when dropping in on a friend who has an extremely busy and sometimes unexpected schedule, the best thing you can do is call ahead. So she did, letting Jess know she was coming up New York City way, and needed to ask a favor. To perhaps alleviate worries about the context of the favor, she promised her it was Birds work.

When the redhead batling (a nickname she has unknowingly begun developing) arrives at the brownstone in Hell's Kitchen, she parks her bike up on the curb and locks it with some serious antitheft technology. Then she's heading in, helmet under her arm, dressed in black motocross leathers and her red hair braided casually between her shoulder blades. She checks the little panel that tells her where to find each business in the building, and then heads to Alias's door. She knocks at the door before she opens it, calling out as she does, "Jess?"

Jessica Jones has zero worries about the nature of the favor. Barbara could have said it was any kind of favor, and she'd have said, "Okay. Come tell me about it."

But since that's all she says when she's told it's a Bird favor, Barbara may not yet know that.

Jessica's offices aren't where they used to be. The 46th Street Brownstone was destroyed in the bombings. Now she has an office on 44th, on the bottom floor of a building she shares with Nelson & Murdock, attorneys at law. The panel only lists those two, and it doesn't seem like the building has a lot of room to squeeze something else in, though it's possible.

She'll find Jessica at one of three desks in an office that is now only an office. Two of the desks have nameplates: hers, someone named Azalea Kingston, named as a fellow PI. The third has nothing at all. There are warm hardwood floors and pale green walls. Big black leather client's chairs, and a big green file cabinet, as well as a cork board that Jess is busy pinning paperwork to, frowning at it. There's a corner shelf that has not-much on it, save for this Grumpy Cat plushie that lives at the very top. Grumpy Cat glares at Barbara, but she shouldn't take it personally. Grumpy Cat glares at everyone.

Jess turns, waving her in. "Less need to call out now," she says dryly. "Just the one room. Bathroom is down the hall, even. But if you want coffee or water or a soda or something, I can oblige that. She is dressed in some of her nicer jeans, which means they're probably the bulletproof ones, and a navy blue long sleeved woman's Henley that has lacy sleeves. Somehow it manages to look both masculine and feminine. Much like Jones herself seems to straddle that line at all times. "What's can I do for you, Babs?"

It takes Barbara a moment to remember that this is the same building as Nelson and Murdock; she had come to see Matt about Frank Castle what feels like years ago, but really was just a couple months. She paces into the room, smiling at Jess with a warm flash of dimples. She takes in the offices with a quick sweep of her eyes, marveling at them with some honest approval. "Wow, Jess… things are really coming together here. I like the green."

Curious as Jess, if not perhaps more so, Barbara hones in on the papers that Jess is pinning to the wall. She steps up toward it, not trying to pry too much, but also trying to glean some purpose behind the pins and papers attached to them. She notes Grumpy Cat, and she just beams at him instead of succumbing to the stuffies glare. Once she has a good sense of the space, she takes up a lean on Jess's desk. She's not here as a client, and so the chair remains empty.

"Couple things, but first… I just wanted to check in." The redhead smiles again. "We didn't really have a, um… debriefing time." She's not sure if she likes the way the word tastes. It feels like something Batman would say, gruff and sharp — or something Frank would say… gruff and sharp. She settles into it, but disquietly. "I had to go make sure John wasn't getting arrested or something."

The papers all seem to be about some cold case, by the dates, but Jessica gently closes the doors to the cork board before Barbara can get a truly good look. She does it with the apologetic half-smile of someone who recognizes and appreciates curiosity, but who has client confidentiality to protect.

Babs leans on her desk, so Jessica goes and sits on top of her file cabinet. Her eyebrows twitch. "Debriefing time? What are we debriefing on?"

And the mention of John makes her nod faintly. Almost as if she's …confirming something. Her eyes narrow faintly in thought, like she's trying to make a decision. But she leaves it unaddressed, leaving it to Babs to expand on this statement whose gruffness she notices…not at all.

"… I don't know! Isn't that what we're supposed to do after working some kind of case like this with so many different people?" Barbara's laughter is short, and a bit uneasy. She reads Jess's face, and there's something there she can't quite put her finger on. She crosses her arms loosely at her chest, looking at the board of cold cases. "I guess, if anything… I want to know that you're doing okay. That was some really crazy stuff, and I don't think we're done seeing it."

She watches Jess with a half-tilt of her head. The concern for her teammate is there, and it's earnest.

Jessica actually smiles. It's warm, but it's also amused. "I'm fine. I didn't get injured. On the scale of one to scary that one didn't even rate for me. Navi seems pretty okay too. Irrepressible as always. But I appreciate that you thought to ask."

The comment seems altogether genuine. "I mean, the sensory deprivation thing wasn't my favorite, but. I'm more curious to know if we put a stop to that plan or if there's more work to be done, but I admit I haven't had time to keep digging."

And those brown eyes catch it all. The uneasy laughter. The defensive body language, arms crossed.

"What's really on your mind, Babs? I think you probably already knew I was in pretty decent shape. You're a good leader, and you're doing good leader things, but whatever it is, you can tell me. Just cut to the chase. I'm impossible to shock or surprise at this point in my life. Do you have a favor to ask, or did you need to talk about something that's eating you?"

Blunt, direct, to the point. With witnesses and occasionally clients, Jessica will sometimes come at things sideways. Almost never…practically never…with friends. She might try to find a graceful way to phrase it, but usually she just rips the band-aid right off. Honest in both her answers and her questions. Neither lying or succumbing to polite fictions with them. Once she might have been on her best behavior with them, but over time she's learned they accept her warts and all. And so though she's softer than she used to be, she nevertheless has stopped presenting anything but who she is, raw and unedited.

"Damn, Jess. What have you been doing lately?"

But the question isn't given much hang-time between thet wo before Jess calls her out. Barbara actually winces slightly, brushing a bit of forelock back behind her ear as she sits quietly there on the PI's desk. She chews slightly on her lower lip, thinking through her thoughts before she speaks them. She looks up after a moment, blue eyes meeting steady darker eyes. Then she pivots off the desk, pacing forward a few steps. "Before we go there… I really do have a favor to ask, so maybe you can make sure I come back to that, alright?" She gestures between the two of them, waiting for Jess to nod or give some affirmative. Then her shoulders drop a bit.

"So, John and I…" She starts, and then stops. Then she makes a vague gesture between her and some invisible person somewhere. She does this twice. And then she just sighs and shrugs helplessly. "John and I are seeing each other, and for some dumb ass reason, I keep thinking that I need to be really cautious about telling people that, about sharing that with people… and it's exhausting." She offers a weak smile, looking up at Jess. "Like, right now… really wanted to just tell you, and that be just something to share with someone."

"When one of your Goofy Gotham Assholes is capable of working a spell that burrows maggots directly under my skin, we'll talk."

Yes. That happened. Jessica Jones says it with no irony, no hint of exaggeration. She says it like she might say 'the Deli's pretty good.'

Barbara admits to this relationship with John. Jessica looks not at all surprised. And she says, "I know. I'm good friends with the woman he just broke up with. You don't have to worry I'll give you grief over it…not my business…though I do have opinions if you want them. As for dumb ass reason, probably not very. John doesn't have a very good reputation. Has a bad habit of burning his bridges. Some slow, some fast. Makes enemies, too. Lots of enemies. So…while I am safe and I'm happy to be a sounding board any time, caution is wise."

That draws a steady exhale from Barbara and she just slumps back into the desk. Her arms stay crossed at her chest now, and she closes her eyes to let her thoughts shift and move behind her eyelids. Then she opens her blues, looking back up at the PI. "You know, the vigilante community is disgustingly incestuous sometimes. I swear Dick Grayson has dated half of the women vigilantes out there." And I was one of them! She doesn't really mean to be so cruel to Dick, but it's a useful example to throw into this entire conversation.

Then she kicks the toe of her boot into the floor, listening to the slight scuff sound that doesn't actually leave a mark. "Any opinions about me in particular? I know how most people think about John." How did Bruce put it? Dubious morality and loyalty and lacks any sort of regimen. But she's pretty sure he had a lot more to say, but that's not Bruce.

"Opinions about you? You're a good woman, an outstanding crime fighter, and I trust you at my back. I also think you don't deserve to be John Constantine's rebound girl. Or…at least…I hope you know that's probably what's going on here. It might not be, I guess, love can be really super weird at the best of times, but…I'd keep it in the back of my mind at all times. Have fun with him, but don't hang all your hopes of lifelong happiness on him. Even if he's sincere, sooner or later his issues, his nature, might rise up and explode."

The detective spreads her hands. "But seriously, no judgement. No censure. He can be ridiculously charming, John. Alluring, even. If you tell him this I will cheerfully murder you, but when I first met him I had a little crush on him myself, till I realized he was with Zee. And feelings are feelings." A wry smile. A callback to a conversation from long ago, with another woman, over another man. "You can't really stop yourself from having feelings one way or another. Not without removing important bits, like your prefrontal cortex."

Kinsey Sheridan's words, repeated nearly a year later, at a time when Jessica was convinced she would never, ever find anyone because the man she was carrying a torch for was not carrying a torch for her, but for one of her best friends. Now she's engaged. Nothing stays the same, and damned if that isn't a good thing.

There's a visible wince at the term rebound, but she spares Jess from any half-hearted argument on the contrary. Somewhere, in the back of Barbara's mind, she knows that this might be exactly what this is — a rebound. But then her friend gets to the meat of it, and the younger detective is looking up at Jess once more. The cheerfully murder you bit has sparked a warm smile, and she laughs gently before she rocks forward, both hands coming up. "While I think being cheerfully murdered by Jessica Jones is perhaps the best threat against my life I've ever received," her dimples warm, "I won't tell John."

Then she slips her hands into the pockets of her jacket. She rocks forward a couple steps until she's able to lean against the filing cabinet beside Jess. She looks thoughtful, and even a bit serious. "We met when I was in college… up here, at Barnard. He was doing card tricks outside this dance club I was at with my roommate. I knew he was being a total charlatan, but it was a really good pick-up line." She shrugs her shoulders. "We dated for a couple months, but then… I needed to go back to Gotham… needed to be Batgirl." She looks up at Jess. "So, I broke up with him."

Then she looks down again, red hair slipping free from behind her ear in that annoying way it does. She tucks it back. "I don't know, Jess. I know he's broken, and totally… fucked up." There's that one permissible F-bomb that is allowed in any conversation with Barbara; gotta keep it PG-13, Babs. "But I'm hopeless, so maybe it'll all work out." She tilts up a weary smile to Jess. "You know, for a Power Pigeon, you're pretty wise. Sure you're not a Ornery Owl?"

"I would rather be Ornery Owl then any of these other monikers," Jessica says with a smirk. "But if you all think I'm going to wear a mask or a funny suit of any kind you're all tripping." She will never put on so much as a domino mask.

Ornery Owl is certainly way better than Jewel.

"As for wisdom," Jessica says dryly, "It's more like just a long, long tenure in the school of hard knocks. Made lots of mistakes, got kicked in the teeth for them. Make a living chasing other people's mistakes, you know? It just helps me spot pitfalls sometimes, is all. As for anyone else's opinion of you and John, you don't have to tell anyone jack shit. It's not their business. If you feel uncomfortable, don't. The only time you have to tell someone anything is if that fact is in danger of hurting them physically or emotionally. Or if it's weighing on your heart, I guess." Now, this time, advice Jessica once gave Kinsey, in summation.

"Anyway, it could. Dynamics are a thing. Someone who is a raging trash fire with one person just kind of works with another. You'll live and learn or you'll grow something great. Either one's worth doing."

"Luke's a lucky guy." Barbara smiles warmly. "Who knew Pigeons were such romantics."

Then her shoulders move beneath her jacket in a vague shrug before she settles back into the filing cabinet, arms crossed at her chest. "Thanks, Jess." She lifts her eyes to her after a moment. "Really." Then she breathes out a short breath, and she glances at her backpack where she set it down. "Now that we're done being touchy feely, do you want to know why I really came? The John thing was really just something that's been stuck in my head for a while, and, well… it was either talk to you about it, or find some sap on the train."

She pushes off the cabinet, starting toward her bag.

"Yes, I want to know why you really came," Jessica says dryly. "I just figured we'd get there in good time."

She crosses to the window as Babs crosses to her bag. She cracks it open, then withdraws a carton of Marlboro Reds. Her habit of window smoking remains, and she chooses one that will blow it all downwind. She isn't sure that will stop Matt from smelling it, but she hopes it at least makes it less unpleasant for him. She withdraws one, lights up, and takes a drag while Babs goes for her bag. She's patient, in ways few people ascribe to her. They forget how much patience surveillance takes.

And since there's obviously a prop here, she just waits for Babs to speak rather than peppering her with questions.

The sight of Jess smoking at the window draws a faint chuckle to her. "Yeah. John does that, too." It's a casual remark. "I pretend I don't notice." She is smirking as she steps up to Jess's desk and cracks open the bag and pulls out a slim, but not too slim, laptop… and two phones. They are very plain, ordinary phones that don't bear any real insignia or markings. They could be any brand of smartphone — almost like a TV prop in first glance from a show that hasn't gotten rights from any other actual brand.

"You seemed like a safe person to beta test this to me… if I messed it up, no one is going to care because you're not a mask. But." Then she sighs out a breath. "Now, look… I know you have a lot of tech nerds around you now, so even if this is something you don't need, would you still mind testing it out for a few weeks for me?" She pops open the computer, and takes out two cords. She starts to hook up the phones to the computer, and with a tap of a key, she pulls up an interface. It reads:

Codename: JESSICA JONES
TOUCH ID REQUIRED

Above that is a floating simple logo that just reads 'vOS - v1.23.'

"Peter Parker's been helping me with this. A Vigilante Operating System for mobile devices. I need some beta testers."

"I know. I will say this for him. He lent me a cigarette once. You'd have thought I asked him to cut off his own arm, but he did it. I got him a whole pack in recompense, though, so on that count we're even."

Jessica watches all of this and nods like she understands the half of it. She understands enough, at least, to come over and touch the interface, noting, "It's creepy you already have my fingerprint for a touch ID, Babs." Not that the cops haven't fingerprinted her in NYC. They're on record. Hell, they're on record for her PI's license, too. And registration, of course. It's not hard to get them, but Jessica can't resist a chance to give her friend some shit.

"What would a VOS for mobile devices do, exactly?"

Despite missing some of the nuances, Jessica is intrigued. In a way, she's done something similar. She's given all the Defenders, plus Bucky, Jane, Zee, and Red Robin, access to her computerized case files, all under their own code number. They can go in and read at will. Not only does this keep them from getting blindsided when Jessica is punching above her weight class, a habit that tends to bring trouble home to their doorsteps, but it also gives them a place to start if they need to take over the investigation for any reason, or if she suddenly falls off the map for some reason. A starting point to look for her, too, because Jess has been kidnapped enough times now that she takes those kinds of precautions.

Which reminds her: "If I ever go missing don't let John forget I gave him a lock of my hair for a tracking spell ages ago."

"I have a lot of people's fingerprints on file." Then she hesitates. "That sounds pretty creepy, too, now that I've said it." She glances to Jess, and her smile is gentle if not a bit sheepish. "I think Batman has a weird way of influencing his minions."

Then she puffs out her cheeks before she hands Jess one of the phones connected to the computer. "It will need more than your fingerprint, but that activates the cameras. It has wide-view cameras on both the front and the rear… so if someone picks up your phone and tries to activate it, it gets their face and its surroundings with just two tiny blind spots. If whoever has your phone fails to bypass the security, it sends the captured feed to those listed in your 'back-up' contacts."

Then she nods to Jess. "Press your thumb on the bottom edge, and say your name. Say anything really. I've got your vocal nuances already recorded into the computer." Then she realizes that sounds creepy, too, so she awkwardly explains. "Um. I pulled a lot of our audio from the ORACLE-mainframe. Althene parsed it out into inflection, and adding stress variables." Beat. "In other words, the system knows what your voice should sound like… whispering, shouting, in pain. The vOS has a multitude of voice commands built into it. I'll give you a full list."

Then she leans into the window desk, and her explanations are paused at the reminder of Jess's lock of hair. She smiles slightly at that, rubbing at her forearm. "I'll remind him, Jess… but, maybe we can also just try to make sure you don't go missing."

"Well, I suppose that's the reason why I can come to you to run the damn things," Jessica says mildly. "And actually get somewhere with the exercise."

But as Babs explains, Jessica's eyes widen. "That's damn useful." And she would know. Given she was spared a fairly grisly experience just because she was able to hit a speed dial to some of her friends by chance in the final few seconds before a cocktail of dangerous drugs finished swirling around her bloodstream. Now far more interested, she presses her thumb on the bottom edge as indicated.

"Jessica Jones." She says it in that way people say things when they're talking to computers. Clear enunciation, a pause between first name and last. Vocal nuances aside, 'say her name' is the most intuitive. She listens to this explanation about her voice and nods thoughtfully.

She smirks at the last bit. "Yes, I like that plan too. But it seems like you're already ahead of me there. What's this full list? And can it eventually be integrated into my existing phone? Because the one I carry basically replaced my laptop, you know? It basically replaced…everything."

The mere utterance of Jess's name opens the phone up. The black screen fades back into what looks like simple neon blue on black interface. "You can change the colors." It's a helpful note, because everyone cares about customization. Then she looks to Jess and nods soberly. "It also makes sure that if you're incapacitated, the likelihood of the phone picking that up is pretty spot-on. With the feed, it will also ping your location, so your back-up can find you."

Then she laughs at the full list question, and she smiles ruefully. "It's a long list, but the ones I think you care about will be the activation, and then the programmable keyword that activates its microphone. Talking to someone, can't get to the phone, need to start a recording… you ease a codeword into the conversation and the microphone activates and starts recording."

Then she shrugs her shoulders. "But it's real important thing is the Allies app that we got in the operating system. You can set up an entire network with various teams. I hesitate to call it a social media app for vigilantes, but it has similar features… able to share information, ping locations, virtually pass on leads. You can drop totally encrypted messages to each other. It can be helpful if you have teammates across neighborhoods or boroughs."

Then she starts to smile. "This is for street level vigilantes, people without tons of backing from people like Stark. So, yeah, you can totally integrate your regular phone into it… in fact." She digs out her own phone, and shows Jess. Her phone looks like… a phone. She taps the screen, and it flashes the up-close photo of Alaska — her giant burmese cat — sticking his tongue out and looking totally content. "Barbara Gordon's phone." She unlocks it with her fingerprint like most phones can now, and it shows off all her apps, and email icon, and messager, and photos. "Now…" She presses her thumb down on the edge of the bottom edge, and says her own name: "Batgirl."

Then the entire interface fades out, fading black before the violet icons emerge on the black screen, showing that it is now in Vigilante Mode. The yellow bat insignia is the phone's background. "You are the only one who can switch the phone between it's modes."

"Is this a bad time to note I have a Stark phone?" Jessica says dryly.

The Detective is hard to classify at times. Is she still a street-level hero if Stark happens to be one of her biggest clients, a person who pays her as much to go do hero crap, Jess as to investigate anything for him?

She considers it though. Switching phone modes for her is not a matter of protecting identities, but information. "Work mode, play mode," she decides. And, as a very single subtle nod to the Birds and their insistence on finding her the perfect nomenclature, she says dryly, "Or owl mode, I suppose. This is all pretty brilliant, Babs. I think you should also consider adding civilian supporters on there. Foggy Nelson may not wear a mask, for example, but he's in the trenches slugging it all out in a different way, and is pretty well endangered by his association with the rest of us yahoos. My sister Trish is kind of in the same boat."

She tap-taps the phone lightly and says, "You know what might be a great feature? Is if you have a companion app for ordinary people. They can download it, report a problem, with sort of an algorithm deciding if it's a vigilante-level problem or something the local police could handle. If it's something the local police can handle, it just routes their report to the police. If not, it figures out where the nearest superheros are, and pings this network. End result: the response time of anyone who gives a damn, whether law enforcement or vigilante, can get where they need to go, maybe before things turn really ugly. And it just doesn't ping you if your phone is in Barbara mode vs. Batgirl mode, protecting your civvie identity and letting you be 'off duty,' since God knows there's always enough crap to go around."

"I don't know. Is this a bad time to mention that I'm probably on the verge of becoming a Stark-Tern?" That's a Stark Intern for those just joining the nomenclature party.

Then she tilts her head, listening to the suggestions and advice. The idea of bringing hero support into the operating system has her nodding thoughtfully. "I doubt I'd have to change much to make that work… maybe just part of the setup you note if you're vigilante or support, and that might streamline the system." The mention of Foggy Nelson does have Barbara eyerolling slightly. "Nelson and Murdock," she says in a soft huff. "You know, I totally attacked Matt Murdock with a milkshake in college. I asked him to look into Frank Castle's vigilante case. Haven't heard a word on it."

Such judgement there.

Then she looks more thoughtful, almost concerned at the idea of an app for everyday people. "Oof." She frowns. "That'll be harder, and definitely require some hardcore law circumventing. Gotham just hit us with some huge anti-vigilantism laws, and someone caught with an app on their phone could be criminalized in the eyes of some. I'll think it over." Then she grimaces. "Maybe look into those stupud apps teens use to hide their nudes from their parents." She may have just gagged a little, forgetting her own teenage misbehaviors — not that Perfect Barbara Gordon had many of those. Dinah Lance? Another story. "But it's a good idea. I'll see what I can come up with."

She pauses then, tilting her head. "Anything else that you think would be good for this kind of system? Think what you needed most before you made friends with highly-connected people." She flashes Jess a wide smile, grinning until those dimples deepen.

"You have heard a word on it," Jess says. "Because he passed it to me, which makes sense, because he is a lawyer, and I am the investigator who investigates things for him. Thing is, I hit a dead end, and I mean…nothing I've found is going to help with your quest to rescue him from his own brain. As it is he seems to be done with his list, which means less bodies are dropping anyway. But why'd you throw a milkshake at Matt?"

"It's both a good idea and a bad one," Jessica says, spreading her hands, "And not just because of the legality. It could easily be used to set up traps or law enforcement stings, too. I don't know how you get around that one, other than knowing it could happen and taking your chances, scoping the scene before you dive right in or whatever. It may be the sort of patrol paradigm a lot of you guys do is going to have to do for that."

Jessica does not patrol. Just like Jessica does not cape or mask. Jessica is busy investigating things. And patrol went really, really badly for her in the past, but she never talks about that. She just grunts, when asked about patrolling, that she's not a goddamn soldier.

"What I needed most before I made connections with highly connected people," Jess says wryly, "Was rehab and an attitude adjustment. Um…I don't know. A library. A database. Who is this nutjob, anyone encountered him before. Hey I just found magic shit, here's the photo."

The mention that Jess is working on Frank's cast arches Barbara's brows expressively over her eyes. She hesitates a moment, and then starts to nod. It makes sense. Jessica Jones is probably the best investigator that NYC has to offer, and being tight with Matt Murdock… "I'm not looking to rescue him." Those words are soft, earnest, and a bit sad. "I think that if Frank ever got arrested… he would take his consequences, whatever they were." Maybe. Or maybe he's got enough ties now that he wouldn't, that he would take a pair of lawyers trying to defend him from life sentences or execution. She has to believe the latter, even she speaks the former. The question about the milkshake draws a small smile to her lips, and the redhead shrugs slightly. "He was dating my roommate. He turned into a jerk. I milkshaked him."

The turn to the anti-vigilantism laws has Barbara sighing softly, shoulders taking on a notable slump as she remains leaned against the filing cabinet beside Jess. "Everything comes with risks," she says in agreement. Then she looks toward the detective. "I'll see what I can come up with, though. I don't think Gotham would ever use the app to actually suss out vigilantes, but New York might." Then she pauses, letting a bit of silence lapse between them before she nods. "But you're right… there's lots that the police could do to try to corner a vigilante."

As Jess mentions what she needed, a small smile coaxes its way onto her lips, and she starts to nod slowly. The actual suggestion though has her leaning back slightly, thinking. "Hm. Now that is something I could put together… almost like a Vigilante Reddit." She hesitates. "Probably have to do some kind of passcode login for that, but that shouldn't be hard. You get setup with vOS, it gets you access to this database that others can contribute to." A thought springs up in her head. "I'll see if I can get Althene to moderate it. I think with her new upgrades, the Oracle Mainframe could handle that task while also being helpful to Bird missions."

There's a nice, pleasant little segue there, and Barbara takes it. "Which reminds me… you up for a trip into the Gotham underground later this week? I know we're coming up on the holidays, but… I got a lead on where the Whispers might be getting their power."

"As long as I'm not out of town by then. I've got to run down to Georgia on a cold case, and it's got a deadline. If I'm in town, yes, I'm absolutely good to go. I'm not worried about the holidays. I'll take Christmas off," which is actually a new thing for her, "and maybe Christmas Eve, and maybe New Year's Eve, but the assholes don't wait for the holidays to be over and neither should we. But I think we'd better take either John or Zee. They're using magic. We got lucky that the solution to their magic this time was a simple circle break solution. Any more important target may have far more complicated shit going on."

If there's one thing Jessica's learned, it's when to call in an expert. There are pros and cons to either. Right now she's pissy with John over Zee, but he's already acquainted with the case. She's more comfortable with Zee, but Barbara might not be. Either way, they need a goddamn wizard.

Something Batman said resounds in her head, and she takes a slow and stabilizing breath. Her eyes flicker up to Jess after a heartbeat, and then she nods. "We should take Zatanna." Her mouth settles into a hard line, frown worrying her brows. Then she eases off the filing cabinet, stepping forward a couple strides to clear the bulky bit of furniture. "She could add a fresh pair of eyes to what's happening."

She hesitates after a moment, glancing toward Jess with a half-pivot in her steps. When she meet's Jess's eyes next, there's an disquieted air that settles around her. She looks like she wants to say something, ask something, but then she kicks lightly at the floor with the flat sole of her boots and nods. "Thanks, Jess. Would you get in touch with her and let her know that we could use her help? If she's not interested, we can call in John." Then she steps to her bag to start packing it back up.

"Sure. Would you spit out whatever the Hell you just sucked back into your lungs like a bad cigarette inhale?"

Jessica Jones, rarely tactful, never patient with polite fictions, and always curious. She lifts her eyebrows, crosses her arms. She's a detective, and she's wearing her detective-face. For all that she has a dozen and five issues with cops, she sure acts like them a great good deal of the time, including in how she handles her interactions, going from casual to interrogatory in the blink of an eye, picking up on things and holding them bulldog tight.

Jessica Jones is just as bad as being around Bruce sometimes. Not that Barbara isn't an open book about half the time when she gets into her own head, but at least Bruce just glowers at her. Jess calls her out on her shit, which is probably why she likes Jess. Why she needs people like Jess. She slides the laptop back into her bag, and then the cords, and then the spare phones — save for the one she's loaning out to Jess to test.

"John said something about Zatanna a few nights ago. Something happened when the demon invasion came in, and Zatanna and some Hell Lord." Her world is so messed up that all those words come together and sound just normal. She powers through. "I think you should talk to him. He's worried about Zatanna… worried about something that happened down there, and what might come next. This is beyond me. Up until a few weeks ago, I knew magic was a thing, but had never really dealt with it firsthand." Now she's knee deep in it, and it all started when she called in Constantine on an exorcism. "We both know John enough to know he's not going to go seeking help from anyone, and that means that he's going to end up doing something about whatever happened there on his own. You're the bridge, Jess… you know both, maybe even know about what's going on."

She chews slightly at her lip. "He still loves her… still cares immensely about what's happening to her. I guess what I'm saying is… he could use some back-up."

"Oh, love of crap," Jessica growls. In a way that suggests yes, she's gonna, no matter how much she grumbles about it.

"What happened down there was not Zee's fault, not that she believes that." The detective runs her hands through her hair. She's the bridge? "Last time I tried to step in between the two of them and mediate it did not fucking go well. And of course he's going to go meddling after he fucking…well. No. I don't know. I wasn't there at their blowout. I just know what Zee said. Though I suppose I was hard on him. He did come fix up Luke's bar with our adorable fire rooster for nothing more than the asking and free drinks, even though he mostly seemed to…well."

She throws up her hands and scowls. "Sure. But no promises. I don't know what the Hell makes you think he'll accept help from me any easier than he'd accept it from you, but I'll give it my best shot. I don't even know what he thinks he's going to do. As far as I know that bullshit is over and done. Then again, I'm not a motherfucking wizard."

She's not really snarling at Barbara. She's just sort of snarling at the situation. It shows, because she paces around the room rather than glowering at the messenger.

"I know it wasn't." Barbara's words are soft and steady. "John knows it wasn't." Whatever happened down there — because Barbara knows so few details, and John has not exactly been in a storytelling mood, but — she knows it isn't anyone's fault. She shoulders up the backpack and hesitates for a heartbeat, looking uncertain — almost stalled in her own thoughts. "All I know is whatever happened down there, it was a big enough deal that Zatanna severed her link to John… just broke that connection." Beat. "The magical one." Because she really is confident that the emotional connection between John and Zatanna is there. "He's… worried about that."

A thought strikes her, and she exhales with a slow, shoulder-sagging breath. "Those two really need to talk to each other." Which is a bit of a heart-hurt moment for Barbara, because that is a dark and unseeable path ahead — the day that Zatanna and John finally talk to each other.

"Wait, what?"

Jessica stares at Barbara. "Barbara, Zee thinks John broke that connection. Are you telling me he thinks Zee broke it? Yeah um, sorry, but I'm going to have to tell her that like…yesterday. Because that's something she needs to know."

And she whips out her phone to do just that.

Barbara blinks in surprise at Jessica's words, and her brows arch high above her blue gaze. Having a pretty solid memory is helpful, because she recalls John's words pretty easily — with all the graceful obscenities that goes with them. "Yeah… he said she broke it off with him, closed off their magical connection, and that was that." She steps forward now when Jessica whips out her phone to start the text message or what have you to Zatanna. Her mouth settles into a serious, steady frown. Now her stomach feels uneasy, unsettled. Begs the question — who actually did cut the connection? Two detectives in the same room, and each recount a different story from their witness.

Her shoulders sag, and she repeats Jess's early miraculously PG-rated response. "Crap."

"Yeah. She said they had a massive blow-out, and that he broke the connection with her." Jessica says, shaking her head. She tosses the phone back in her pocket. "I always thought that connection was a bullshit thing to have. Didn't envy it. I love Luke, but I don't fucking want him in my head."

No surprise. She doesn't want anyone in her head.

"But I mean it's still a big discrepancy. Zee wouldn't lie about that. And there's no reason for John to lie to you about it. It would have made him look better to you to say he broke it, to say he was totally done with her so he was free to be with you or whatever. But if it didn't just break, someone broke it for them, and someone's fucking with them. Now it could just be Zee's Dad. He never wanted them together in the first place. Went to great lengths to keep them apart. But it could be something else, and if that's the case a trap could be brewing for one or both of them."

"Jess, hon… I don't think anyone would want to be in your head." She's teasing her friend, gently… in some desperate attempt for levity in a conversation that is anything but. "I sure don't want to be. I hear you don't dust."

The mention of the connection that Zatanna and John shared being bullshit has hopelessly romantic Barbara waffling visibly at that. "I don't know… something to be said about knowing the moment someone you love is in danger."

Blue eyes track Jess as she works the case now in front of them — a new case, something that is missing pieces. Then again, in a rather bitter moment, Barbara realizes just how far out of the loop she is. Maybe she is the one who is missing all the pieces, stuck with a few border edges and some undistinguishable pieces of dark sky. What had John said? Telling the story of him and Zatanna would be like reading from volumes. It was a redirection perhaps, because how can John even begin to explain this to someone who is only just learning how magic works herself? It weighs on her… visibly. The real kick is the idea that maybe this all is just a terrible misunderstanding that was compounded by a stupid little phone call from an ex-girlfriend about her roommate being possessed.

"Spells don't just break," she says quietly. "Not without a will behind it." Then she rubs slightly at her forehead, glancing up to Jess after a moment of thought. "Alright so… what did happen? Could this have been something from whatever happened in Hell?"

"You'd be surprised," Jessica mutters darkly, in response to nobody wanting to be in her head. But she gets off that subject.

"Well, it could have been their mutual will. Subconsciously. They're both powerful magicians, and half of the oomph behind the will is emotion. We can't rule that out. But…yeah. John has a lot of enemies in Hell. Zee's made a few of her own too. And together they're a huge threat. Zee's started to come into her own in a big way. But for that? If someone broke a bond held by two magicians of that caliber, then…I think they maybe needed to have something of each of theirs. Blood. And Christ, with that even a circle of half-wit cultists could get the goddamn job done. It could also be the result of a poorly worded deal, something they don't even know was a deal. Usually they're too savvy for that, but shit happens in the heat of the moment."

Jessica rubs a hand over her face. Volumes, indeed. In a way, John and Zee both were where her real life started. Two years ago, they were the first to see her as someone else. The first to treat her with real respect and friendship. The first to draw her into larger events in a way that showed her maybe she did have what it took, after all. "It's been over a year since I worked closely with either one of them. The big threats we were all dealing with got dealt with or fizzled out. Zee joined the Titans, John got more reclusive. Anything could have happened. We don't know enough yet. But I guess I'm gonna go see John anyway, so maybe there are more puzzle pieces to put together."

She might snarl that John and Zee didn't belong together, but she won't leave Constantine to fall alone into some trap. And she certainly won't leave Zee into it.

She narrows her eyes. "The Whispers were up to something big, something magic related. But you're telling me this is your first brush with magic. And the Whispers are so entrenched they're like institutions, right? So what are the odds you've never run into magic before, unless this is a new thing for them? I mean…you'd think if they were a gang this old everyone would know they had some sensory deprivation power, but it caught Black Canary off-guard too. And Red Sparrow. I wonder if there's a connection."

Barbara's hands slip deeply into the pockets of her motocross jacket. She worries at the lining, feeling the small place where her fingers often rub the satin thin. There's holes, incompletes. All the librarian-slash-detective-slash-technophile can see it for what it is: somethings are not adding up, not making sense. Research, she's going to need to research, but she doesn't even know where to begin. Hard to research without the right keywords. So, she instead sags onto the edge of the empty desk in Jessica's office and crosses her arms. Her motocross boots nudge into the floor, gaining purchase and wedging against the hardwood.

The distress — frustration, mostly — affecting her friend has her smiling a bit wanely. "I'm going to stop getting invites over if I keep bringing shit to your doorstep, aren't I?" It's a rueful, albeit self-conscious, ask that doesn't need an answer. She just rolls her rear slightly on the desk, flexing her shoulders in a slight shrug. "Alright." The word is a prompt for thoughtfulness, to get the pieces settled in her own head. Jess starts in on the Whispers, and she can do something with that.

"No. The Whispers are not a magical cult, or weren't. They're dark as all Hell. Strict and incredibly complex recruitment rituals… the first year or more of your time with the Whispers includes a metal mask graffed to your face to teach you not to be a snitch, to not talk, to not make a sound. Some of them never give up the mask, letting it become part of them." Her shoulders lift. This is just a typical dose of Gotham Weird(TM). "But the shadow thing? The darkness? That's new, Jess… like really new. I took John down there to check it out. There's some serious source coming through that magic. And The Mouse? The guy in Atlantic City? Constantine doesn't even think he's the end of it. Something else is offering them up power, something big."

Her shoulders roll slightly. "I was attacked by a shadow demon in the Underground. They were luring kids down there." Her throat bobbles a bit. "Eating them. I would have been a little bat-sized snack if John hadn't shown-up because he was tracking the same thing." Then she sighs out a breath. "But they were just sentries, guards… I don't know what they are guarding, or if they are even connected to the Whispers."

"No. Everyone brings shit to my doorstep. I want them to. It's what I'm here for." On more than one level. "At least people have stopped breaking into my office to put shit on my doorstep. Probably not as fun now that I don't live here."

She taps out a cigarette and lights it, pulling an ash tray out of her desk as she listens to Barbara speak. She inhales a little harder when she hears kids are getting lured down there and eaten. She may have stopped blaming herself for every last body that hits the floor on her watch, but she hates hearing about anything happening to kids. "Underground is where we found the Whispers. I'd say it's got to be connected. Whether the tether between those two breaking is related or not I couldn't say, but I don't believe in coincidences to begin with, and where magic is concerned they're even less likely."

"Seems to me we're going to have to take a party down there to find out what they're guarding. Otherwise they're just going to keep eating kids. And if it's connected, we'll find out then. And if it's not? We will also find out then."

Barbara rubs a bit at the center of her chest, feeling a bit of tension build. She nods slowly, thoughtfully. "Alright. I'm leaving town for a bit… two days at most. And then there's the Christmas Ball here in NYC that Dad got me tickets to… mostly because he doesn't want to go." There's a wry smile there. "Told him I was heading your way, by the way. He says that I should tempt you with another offer to join GCPD." It's a gentle teasing, knowing Jess wont' take it.

She feels a bit more confident with Jess's agreement with what she told Bruce she was planning. "I want to go down there and surveil. I don't think we should go in there to fight yet… we don't even know what we're fighting. I briefed Batman on this. He thinks that a bigger trap is gonna be sprung if we just walk in, and I agree. So… let's go trap-hunting and see if we can figure something out." She bounces up off her hip now, sliding her hands fully from her pockets. "Part of me thinks we should bring both Zatanna and John, but… let's take Zatanna first. She can look at this with a different set of eyes." After all, if something goes sideways, something hits Babs hard enough with magic… John's going to show up anyway, and won't that be fun.

"Tell your Dad that New York City has done me the favor of folding all my lovely efforts into law enforcement, and if he wants to make me some sort of deputy who never has to actually report to anyone but him and can pick her own cases, then I will also be happy to fold my Gotham efforts into Law Enforcement," Jessica says patiently. "I probably write better reports than half his force and am not satisfied to do half-ass, well, if the perp looks kind of good enough to fool a jury that's okay then case-solving. He can even give me some sort of special provisional badge and put me on retainer. What he cannot do is put me on a squad, issue me a partner, or otherwise make me act in any other way like a cop. He can hand me cases. I'll meet him halfway there."

Jessica sees the value of connections. And she knows anything's negotiable. And while she hates registration? That much has been a source of perspective for her. The usefulness of some authority, however tenuous, especially when she does not, and never will, wear a mask.

She scoffs at the mention of Batman, which she pretty much always does. She has never worked with Batman, but the rant has been happening for two years now.Fortunately all batkids ever get is the scoff.

"Yeah, no need to put them in the same room together right now," Jessica grunts.

She eyes Babs. "Look, Babs, I'm sorry I couldn't give you roses and sunshine about your love life right now. I'll tell you the same damn thing I told Zee though. You deserve a partner. You deserve someone who will build you up when you feel like shit, and who you don't have any doubts about. If that ain't John for you? Do not let that man take your heart for a ride. There are a whole god damn lot of good people out there you could end up with. You are also beautiful, intelligent, and bad-ass. So don't eat any shit. You stand up for yourself and your heart. Got me?"

Babs just laughs softly at the response from Jess on Jim Gordon's offer. Her smile sets into an amused curl, and she bobs her head slightly. "Alright, I'll tell him… he'll probably sigh, and clean his glasses fiercely at me in response." There's honest genuine love there. Of all the Bats, there is one thing that Barbara does not share with them: broken relationships with parents. The absolute love shared between Barbara and Jim Gordon is real, even if the latter has a painful overprotective streak. But, almost everyone around Babs does. She gives off that aura — and sometimes, she hates that everyone's first instinct is to protect her.

The grunting affirmation is met with a simple nod. She's not sure when she will get up the courage to tell John to go see Zatanna, but that fork in the road is imminent. Some of it for his sanity, some of it for hers, some of it for Zatanna's.

She would say more, but something catches her up in Jess's eying look, and she stands there to be carefully scrutinized. The words send her shoulders soften, dropping slightly beneath the structure of her jacket. "I wasn't wanting roses and sunshine." OK, maybe a little. She shuffles her feet slightly. "It's hard to love in our work, Jess… particularly those of us who wear the masks." Then she sighs out a deeper exhale, and nods dutifully to the advice. She knows Jess isn't talking about the complications of being a vigilante and loving someone; she's talking about the actual deep down root of being part of that crazy little thing called love. "I got you." She looks up at Jess after a heartbeat, tucking a bit of long forelock back behind her ear. "I got you."

Then she shoulders up her backpack again, lifting it high in a slight shrug of weight. "Thanks, Jess… for everything." She smiles a bit wearily. "Really. Good and bad. I need to hear it all sometimes."

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