Roleplaying Log: Lost
IC Details

Babs gets lost in her own head, and almost gets eaten by a shadow-demon.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 28, 2018
IC Location: Undercity, Gotham
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 02 Dec 2018 20:12
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 (Because John has language issues)
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Constantine as Demon
Associated Plots

They say there're countless stories in the naked city, or some shit like that. Thing is, laid bare, only a limited selection of anyone's stories are nice ones, real heartwarmers— everyone's got something to keep hidden, and a city like Gotham? Sometimes it seems like the only thing Gotham's got left is dirty little secrets. Case in point: children anywhere from seven to sixteen have been going missing in a difficult to discern but present pattern among various squatter towns tucked here and there amongst the old Gotham Undercity. Off older subway lines, under forgotten industrial sprawl— sometimes, the only place to call home is a choice of the last places anyone else goes. The last places even the Law looks.

There's few police reports to connect the cases— so it's legwork to get it done. Interrogation, surveillance, shadowing. Classic work; and a decided grind. There's a certain pattern that becomes clearer and clearer to a cagey mind eyeballing it, though: an interconnection of old ways through a train terminus long ago abandoned with the old-style rail-line.

Now, it's a study in neglect, crumbling stairways and walkways that were grand in their day dumping dust and failing structural detritus along the lower level, as a vast empire of spiders occupy the cobweb citadel tying dying chandelier to cracking archway. It looks like nothing has moved here in a very long time— much less some kind of gang trafficking operation. Still, there are footprints here and there. Always apparently alone, made at different times. Always small— children, perhaps women.

Work. It draws Barbara Gordon in, wraps her in shadow, and gives sanctuary. The cowl and suit is more than just physical armor; it wraps her in a guise of fear and intimidation and power and strength. It lets her hide away all her insecurities and uncertainties, and draws forth a powerful manifestation. If there was ever a spell that she cast, it was the transfiguration to become Batgirl.

She barely casts a shadow here in the dark, the shadows instead surrounding her in the softest embrace. Pale skin and fiery red hair is the only contrast to the dark. She's kneeling down slowly, touching the first footprint she finds with the edges of her long, gloved fingers. Across her HUD, that footprint becomes luminous with digital lines tracing its edges. Then it finds patterns, and even in the darkest dirt, it highlights were similar footprints draw her deeper into the dark.

She stands, albeit slowly. The long protective cape drapes around her, sweeping around her shoulders and barely hiding the stretched bat symbol that adorns her chest in dark yellow.

Her movements are slow, following the petite footprints while also not disrupting them with her own thick, treaded soles. The microphone buried in her cowl's ears is on, tracking any changes in the sounds of this deep, dark place.

The footprints come from here, they come from there. They wind strangely throughout the unlit ruins of an old and decadent version of Gotham, as if on the world's least comforting sight-seeing tour. As if there were pieces of art lining the walls to stop and look at, attractions to pause and enjoy tucked in the myriad nooks and corridors of this all but forgotten space.

Eventually, every path winds the same way: up one of a quartet of symmetrically aligned stairways to a central terrace overlooking the rest of the old station from every direction. What was once an info station or ticket booth is hollowed out, smashed by happenstance and conscious act, a relic of shattered glass and stripped woodwork. At first it's easy to conclude there's nothing there— an unnerving congress of footfalls in the dust that have, by all appearances, been coming here and vanishing into the ether.

There's something more purposeful amidst the chaotic husks, however— a small, calf-high statue of a serpent rising from a stone mound, its base etched in imagery of scorpions and fiery stars. Its metal heft covered in something dark, dry, flaking. Barbara would know it on instinct, before her instrumentation confirms— blood. Stains as myriad and aging as the footprints themselves. No sound stirs besides a distant, diffuse breeze. No footfalls sound, scarcely even Batgirl's own. But instinct tells her something different: instinct catches motion on the periphery twice over. Instinct tells her best case, they're flanking her… and worst case, she's surrounded.

Nightvision, however, reveals less than nothing: splitting the dark in such a way seems to drive away any form, as if looking through it. …. while the corners, the passing moments she looks away are filled with shifting shadows. Almost men, almost human— save for the dark glimmer of black-lit eyes and the unnatural elongation of limb and finger and maw. Save for the fact that they scarcely seem to -be- there at all.

Out of nowhere — part of that strange little intuition that she possesses — she's reminded of the children's story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Cheated out of payment, the Piper inflicted his seductive tune on the children of Hamelin. It had always been about children — the rats were added during the Black Plague. There is an eyewitness account in a 15th Century manuscript that claims 130 children were seduced, and lost.

As she follows these footsteps, she swears she can almost hear the soft lilts of the piper's tune here in this absolute silence. She ascends the stairs and steps within the structure. She turns slightly to take in each detail with her technologically enhanced vision, and it is in that moment, she spots that first dart — then a second.

"What the — ?" Her breath catches. Her fingers move slowly toward the razors at her belt, slipping one, then two, then three out. They slot slowly into the reinforced webbing between the fingers of her gloves. She does the same to her other hand until both bear claws of razor edges.

"I know you're here," she breathes, her alto pitched lower into something deeper, darker. It would be almost a smolder if there was any heat besides threat in it.

Her head turns slowly, lifting to take in each detail of what surrounds her even if she can only catch flashes. Her jaw flexes, and her foot slides back a bit to balance her posture. She spins, hoping her speed gets her more than a flash. Her cape whips open, revealing all the lines of hard armor and lithe limbs. She lashes out one of those razor-filled hands at a monster.

The razors are expertly thrown, intuited even as her assailants are un-numbered and unknown, all but innumerable in the darkness, all her gadgetry— at least that as yet applied— doing little but feeding into a trap. It's a trap that grows more horrifying as shadowy limbs don't so much reach for Barbara as stretch for her, the beings assailing her less motion, and more manifestation. Each limb's edges are razor-sharp, the talons of a beast but so cold they burn, leaving an icy trauma to the skin even as one's brain does its very finest to convince a person those cuts, those scratches are -lit on fire-.

The creatures fill in on all sides so surely that they seem to become one mass, a writhing wring of purest darkness that the woman's martial skills, sharp as they are, do nothing to touch. Quite unfairly, the spectral entities seem -entirely- able to injure her. One might easily get the impression they could skewer her in a moment if they were not, well, playing with their food. Bloodspatter is offering to the unassuming altar near Batgirl's feet, and for a moment, it's easy to conclude that if she doesn't think of something -fast-… this is going to get a whole lot worse, real quick. It's the risk one takes reading into the sordid stories of a city like Gotham.

Beyond the gathering predators, however, from without the circle, from the momentarily odd angle of a derelict column, steps a more tangible form. One that incants an odd, fiercely projected set of Latin notes— something about a purging flash consuming the ravenous in turn, for the nerds in the audience. It's a familiar voice, though that might now dawn before the flash-flare of energy within one of the forms, its shadowy silhouette laid plain as currents of energy crackle from its very center and bolt outwards, carrying from one to another in a chain of angry lightning that seems to sunder the very framework of the eidolons between them.

John Constantine is illuminated by the unnaturally luminescent storm-surge, its blue-white heat dulling with sickly tendrils of black and purple as the conduit completes its circuit back into the warlock's braced arm. For a moment, he's driven to his knees, still pinning that arm in the path of the onslaught, a runic brand running up his forearm flaring red, black, -angry- as the Hellblazer's eyes are lit from behind with the same hellish flame.

The counterassault is unexpected. Worst of all, it is unimaginable. She almost turns into it, the blades of shadow cutting through thick armor and soft delicate skin easily. She gasps at the first hit of ice, but then she gulps down a louder cry at the abrupt burn. Her first thought is of cauterizing, but then she feels a trickle blood across her cheek.

She turns, thinking that perhaps she can put some space between her and the creature, only to turn back into it as it closes in on all sides. Anger flashes through her — anger that activates that bitter taste of adrenaline and her fight instincts. She is at least going to be a food that fights despite the first splatters of blood. She grips at her claws, turning sharply into the shadow like a feral cat.

Then she hears the sound of familiar chanting, and the sight of John in the shadow draws her eyes wide with surprise. She's staggered for a moment, caught in the caltrop of the shadows and the surprise. Then she breaks from that frozen moment, and whips back to the monster. She goes for something different on her belt now, drawing out a concussion batarang.

She doesn't aim for the creature, but instead the ceiling. She looks up, barely times an aim, and then hurls it up toward the surface, the edges of the bat-shaped grenade catching the roof. Then she's moving, taking off at a run for John.

John's arm holds its glow like a superheated metal implement, the precise line flaring angry and smouldering visibly before the plume vanishes in darkness. The crackling aftermath sizzles within empty space, now, a dozen anomalies of ball lightning and unnatural light, casting a flickering lightshow across all the walls, amongst all the cobwebs in innumerable flickers of shadow and luminescence.

It's a bit unnerving in the aftermath of this moment, and no one can blame Batgirl for her impulse to get them out of danger. There are a few things on her belt that might have helped her with this bullshit— but she's not trained for any of it. The Hellblazer, on the other hand? John holds up an arm to forestall her— hopefully— long enough to schluff his trenchcoat off the other arm, the one that closed the circuit. The one heated like wrought iron.

The warlock's shirtsleeve is tugged as far back as it goes, his coatsleeve still touched by the energy, its edges smouldering as he flattens it to the floor, and presses his hand against it and the ground, heedless of the lingering pain. An intricate lattice of symbol and symmetry surges into view as if etched in mystical, invisible ink, golden-hued light replacing the corrupted discharge around them as the circle expands, transferring to the ground around them in all its impossible detail. The coat drifts to ash, the stale air in the terminus stirred as if every mote of dust shuttered synchronously, an audible -breath- accompanying a subtle pulse of dissipating light that rushes outwards and along every corridor around them.

"Good work" he gasps, pushing up to rest on his knees, back on his haunches, offering a tired smile up at her. It's easy to assume he's going to mock her for the inefficiency, and after a fashion, he's definitely being sarcastic… " had no idea how I was gonna get all those motherfuckers together like that, and still get surprise on my side." … but he's also being real. He does enjoy appearing clever and complicated, John Constantine.

She is forestalled, but just long enough for John to commit to his magic. She turns with a flourish of her cape — the fabric that, when energized with the right current, is bulletproof, but now sliced with thin, short cuts from the shadow monster. Then her gaze dances between the monster and John's coat, and she is bewildered by what she sees — but still her brain tries to track it all.

Encompassed in light, Barbara stands as a sharp and stark figure in black. Her hair turns into flaming gold — the same glow summer sun catches the locks. Then it fades.

Then she turns toward him slowly, her expression is open with surprise. "What… was that?" Then she blinks, turning toward John. "How long have you been here?" There's a slight accusation there. Was he following her?

It's more tangible when it's gone. The air of subtle malice in the terminus, the creeping of encroaching night. When it lifts, when there's peace, when what had been still and silent is actually -still-… the weight that comes off the back of one's mind, the tension in one's neck and shoulders, it's almost immeasurable. The space is purified, and Batgirl— well. She's left wondering just how many of what the fuck was that John just did what the hell to.

The accusatory line of questions bring a lopsided grin to Constantine's face. Everyone's always so thankful in his line of work, it warms him to the very cockles of his heart; maybe even the sub-cockle area. The warlock plucks himself up heavily, the glow finally fading to a remnant on arm and in his eyes, the quietest ember of darkest red behind the blue as he focuses in on Barbara.

"Think of the shadow-fucks like demonic special forces." The Hellblazer settles on. In layman's terms; plus just on principle, proper titles aren't something hellspawn deserve legitimized. "Probably left here to kill me when I followed the same trail you followed." More likely, at least one would think, is that they were left here to cull anyone following the scent; but John loves to make it about him, right?

"Me, though? I just got here, luv. Side door right over there." The warlock jerks his head towards a half-derelict column where there's definitely no door. "You alright?" It's deceptively nonchalant, almost rhetorical; the words of a magician who can more or less tell she's hurting, but basically intact, and has no idea how loaded the question might be just now.

To feel the change is something else entirely. She feels her shoulders sink, but the relaxation only upticks the pain that courses through her. She shifts uneasily on her feet, taking stock of the room once more. The altar site she had stumbled upon is given a serious look, and then she's back to looking at John.

"And the kids?" The question hangs there, uneasily. She knows the answer, but she just needs to see it flicker across his face without anything being said to confirm it. Her whole body knows that this is where a lot of souls came to be sacrificed. But for what?

"Following the same trail," she says, a bit uncertainly. The fact that she's suspicious of John is not something she enjoys to mull over, and so she drops her shoulders and breathes out another slow breath. Her eyes resume moving over the room, and then to the ash of his coat.

She's looking away when he asks the question, eyes taking in where he gestured to the door. Her whole body carries the sigh, and she closes her eyes. "Yeah," she says, tone subdued and thus masking the little knot of emotion there. She shakes her head a bit, looking up at him after a heartbeat. "Thank you."

She's not freezing him out; there's no real chill in her demeanor or posture. But there's something hesitant — a little failure of confidence. She knows he will see it, and she glance around the newly purified space as her thoughts spin about. "Just… didn't expect you."

Smarm and bluster wash out of John like a sudden turn of the tide with the laser-focused question. What /about/ those kids, John? Her expectation isn't wrong— the answer is plain without the Hellblazer saying anything at all. Even if the form of the tragedy is something she only partially delves; a luxurious ignorance that Constantine spares a moment to be sad she can't appreciate while it's there.

Constantine just draws a heavy sigh instead of immediately trying to explain any of -that-, pacing after Batgirl as she turns, listening as she speaks. Listening, and absently fiddling with one of the razor-lines cut through her cape, his manipulation of the damaged edges half compulsive fidget and half surprising curiousity, just poking at the inner workings of an unusual thing. Nobody doesn't think batsuits are cool, alright?

"Hell of a fuckin' trail, right?" There's no lording that over her, mind— it's shitty and he knows it. He's never stopped feeling an ache like Barbara's nursing just pondering on the reality of all that unreality. At least, not for quite a few years now. "I'm not following you." He offers up in a similar, quiet tone. Sorrow lingers that has nothing to do with the subject matter of explanation. "But I definitely jumped in quick as I could when I realized you were poking -this- nest."

Barbara Gordon ducks her chin. With no ear or misplaced hair to tuck away in a telltale gesture of nerves, all she can do is shift on the thick, treaded bootsoles before she lifts her blue eyes briefly to him to catch that telling look. Her countenance is sharp surrounded by the edges of her mask, and she seems paler and her freckles more defined. With all her color masked by the layers of the suit, the only warming to her presentation is the gather of red hair.

For a moment, she just mourns the reality of the loss. Her head ducks a bit again as he steps up close enough to look over her suit. She grimaces slightly at the realization that it is damaged — and not just slightly. Maybe time to finish that redesign, because Alfred is going to hate her showing up with her suit in this state.

Then she hears his voice — the words. I'm not following you. She actually grimaces a bit before she touches his forearm. It lacks the same warmth through the gloves, but the squeeze is there to remind him… to anchor him. She's thankful. Really. "I was just following the trail." Then her brows furrow slightly, though it is hard to see that full expression behind the cowl.

"I'm glad you jumped. I don't know if I could have gotten out of this without a much higher risk of not getting out of it at all." Then she steps in closer, and there's a moment of forged connection. She tucks her eared head gently against his neck so her nose and lips are close to his pulse. The rubber of her mask is surprisingly warm, and the rest of the helmet solid and heavy.

When she leans back after that moment, she is trying on a tired smile. "I got lost in my head the last day or so… work helps."

It's a little surreal, comforting one of the Bats. Saving their asses he's done, acknowledged and appreciated or not, but it's a different angle on the whole Unending Struggle consuming Gotham… and elsewhere. "You're good for that." John mutters quietly. Following the trail. Getting out from under entirely more trouble than she meant to invite. Getting lost in her own head.

The warlock loops his arms loosely about Batgirl's back, inside the sliced cape, and just leans back into that anchor with a rather tight answering squeeze. It's a mournful moment, for reasons both obvious and unknown, but spent in quiet support. A steady moment of grounding coloured liberally with sarcasm on Constantine's part— as he do. "No, you were smooth— had it handled. It was like we planned it." He's not entirely wrong.

"We should g" John pauses, scowls, and looks away from the embrace, towards that unassuming altar. "Right. Fuckin' bollocks." He lifts a hand from the redhead's waist to draw her chin up towards a gentle, momentary kiss. An apologetic punctuation to the gentler sympathy. "You've got thermite in that gaudy-ass belt, right? Tell me you've got thermite." Thermite makes everything easier, and don't tell anyone but John might still like to burn things.

Batgirl finds it more than a little surreal that she's embracing a Magician after almost being eaten by a shadow-demon. Everyone gets to have their surreal moment. The muttering catches a soft chuckle in her throat that is swallowed down; laughing in this moment does not seem befitting. Plus, she's still a little lost, even if she has picked up a thread to lead her back.

His squeeze incites a sharp, sudden breath. Her skin still aches, but it's less so now that the infusion of darkness has faded. The cuts — dozens of them — are going to be reminders of this for at least a few days before they scab. As long as there's nothing laced into the wounds, they will heal.

Then she's leaning back up to look at him at his compliments, and they incite a slight roll of her eyes even if there is still a small smile at her lips.

She turns slightly, hearing his half-start to getting out of there. But then he's stopped, and his fingers curl under her chin to bring her up for that soft kiss. She shares it with the same gentleness, not pressuring more than that in this moment. Then she hears his request, and her brows arch high, opening her expression. "Um, of course I do." Then she is stepping back just enough to retrieve the material from her belt. It's stored in a compact cylinder that just takes a quick rip of a wrapper to expose its contents. "Also, you call my belt gaudy, and I will cut you." Considering she has a number of razor batarangs still available, she's not joking.

Speaking of those, she's going to need to do a sweep to retrieve any that she can find. You don't leave good gear behind because you might have thrown it at a shadow demon, or worse, dropped it because said shadow demon tried to cut you to death.

It's a safe bet that John might have thermite. Or might have been supposed to bring something similar. It's possible that he's just being nice, rather than careless; it's also possible that it would cost him a hell of a lot more than a tube of the shit costs the Bats.

John takes the offering with a light pressure from his bare hand to her armored one, and smirks lightly, the gesture as much to add levity to his own heart as hers. "I'm probably just jealous." And he's not even really joking. An armored sneaksuit and not having to dig everywhere in a trenchcoat for the shit one needs is obvious class. If not a style he intends to pull off! A glance follows Barbara's path even as John's own is unhurried paces to the shrine. Not patient, exactly— savoring, perhaps. Or just building up a good ire.

He kicks over the serpent with a loud clang of metal to stone, and carefully covers it with the compound. Drawing himself up to his full, unslouched height, John gestures with a flourish over the profane artifact and it's consumed in a white-hot flare of light and heat, melting it down into a fresh pit it also devours into the stonework relics of the undercity. "I'm gonna cost you every last one, prick." John whispers to himself, to the smouldering remains, to -something-.

It's also safe to bet that Barbara is aware that John is totally using her resources. She'd tease him, but her thoughts are still coming back from their long dark trek, and so she goes with automatic gestures. One of these automatic gestures is stepping behind him to gather her batarangs. They are slotted back into the belt, even the damaged ones. She doesn't look up until she hears the bang and catches the scent, and the she is looking toward the burn.

She's stepped up behind him, fallen into the silent, careful steps that is such a character trait of all Bats. She catches the whisper, but does not remark on it until the burn is low and the remains unrecognizable. Then she casts her eyes up toward the ceiling, noting where the concussion grenade had taken a piece of ceiling, but not actually brought the structure down.

Finally, she breathes. "Done?" The question is almost whispered just off his shoulder.

It's easy to write the subtle edge to Batgirl's behavior as professionalism… or simply the strain of the night of work, injury, and implicit disaster. John's more than willing to presume, at least for the moment, nodding once to the question. He doesn't start at her approach, nor immediately turn from the pyre. A second, firmer nod joins the first, and several steps carry him back and into close proximity, glancing over one shoulder at the redhead as he tilts to bump her with the same.

It's a gentle, passing thing, more impact in the affection than the actual physicality of it. Renewing that cathartic contact amidst, or even driven in part by the muted emotionality of the moment. "Tied up with a pretty little bow and some god damn ribbon." John affirms, quiet voice still a mixture of silk and steel, relief and intensity. "Where the fuck are we, anyway?" Navigation is different for her, sue him.

The bump knocks her the rest of the way out of her reverie, and she is turning slightly toward him with a half-smile that projects something more than just casual professionalism. Though there is that. Connections can be so easily forged if someone pays attention: Barbara Gordon could have been seen kissing John Constantine outside Alysia Yeoh's apartment; Batgirl could have been seen kissing John Constantine in the deep dark of the underground.

But it isn't that. Not really.

All it takes is a casual uptick of her chin, and her HUD's information locates her easily enough. "Just beneath South Channel Island. There will be a rails station about thirty meters that way." She points while she continues to track the ceiling. Then she looks down to him.

"We should go back to the Belfry." She touches his forearm again, once more making a connection that lingers. "I'll lead the way."

Noteworthy connections and unexpected witnesses are part and parcel to the detective lifestyle, whether one fights crimes or demonic threats. Of course, sometimes one finds themselves in the latter role; and the former, for that matter. "SatNav huh?" Color John impressed. Sardonically.

"Makes sense. Targetted advertising has to suck balls in that thing, though." When out of one's element, crack wise. When in it, be a smartass. Really, it's a catch-all defense mechanism that has the bonus of sometimes earning him a chuckle. The warlock follows close behind, footing sure if not as practiced at stealth and agility as Batgirl's, by far.

He's content enough to follow— for a couple solid reasons— and as relaxed as a man can be under the circumstances. As surely as his senses are looking out for unexpected threats, hers take care of others even better than his own. Sometimes it's good to have another set of hands.

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