Summary: In which J’onn tracks down an expert in an unfamiliar field, and Zatanna shines as a hostess.
Location: Shadowcrest Manor
Shadowcrest is not an easy place to enter uninvited. Home of the magician Zatanna Zatara, it is very difficult to access with her permission. Thus, it may be strange that a tall figure shimmers into view at the front door. The man, a caucasian human in his mid thirties, wearing a tan trenchcoat and fedora, reaches up and knocks exactly three times. The low booming thuds bely the unconcious strength behind the hand.
Secretly, this man is the alien superhero known as the Martian Manhunter, and he has arrived today following a trail of rumors and hints after watching one of the famous stage magician's shows, a show that was just a bit too spectacular for the telepath to accept as merely mundane trickery. He says nothing as he stands there, a patient and stoic guest that could very well have been carved from stone as he awaits his hostess.
Besides, J'onn could likely find out at least rumors that the stage magician has previously demonstrated that she was more than that...before vanishing from the scene for an extended period of time. There is a long pause before the door opens. Apparently on its own. Perhaps this is some test for the stranger. Of course, you ARE dealing with an illusionist.
The disguised Martian does move an inch, merely waiting patiently. He is an uninvited guest, after all, and J'onn rarely presumes on his welcome. He keeps his telepathic abilities tightly controlled, protecting his own mind rather than seeking out his quarry's. Likewise, he stays in human form, not wishing to possibly disturb the house's occupants with the distinctive and inhuman appearance of his public form. After a moment, he speaks, "Zatanna Zatara. I desire an audience."
At which point, the lady herself appears in the doorway. "That depends. If you're selling something...especially religion..." She grins a bit. There's no actual threat, but one might suspect that she's good at making door to door salespeople...and Jehovah's Witnesses...go away. To somewhere interesting and embarrassing, no doubt. Maybe she's responsible for the two Mormons who were seen stumbling out of a strip club in Gotham a few weeks back.
"I am selling nothing," J'onn, or rather, John replies calmly. His face is impassive and stoic, but there's a certain amused gleam in his brown eyes. "I attended one of your shows, and I was most impressed, Miss Zatara. You have garnered a reputation, and not solely within the bounds of stage magic and illusionists."
For a moment, her face becomes speculative. Then, "Come in." Interesting. He does not sense of magic to her, which MIGHT mean he saw the couple of incidents lately when she was forced to intervene rather more publicly. She does not remember his face, but she was rather busy at the time.
"Thank you," John says, touching the brim of his hat in an old-fashioned gesture of respect. He walks serenely through the open doorway. "Your home is most impressive. I apologize for arriving unannounced, but I felt it would be best to meet first in person, and I have no interest in invading your day-to-day affairs."
The door closes behind them. Zee is moving into a sort of old fashioned parlor. "So. What do you want?" She sounds pretty cheerful...and confident. Of course, she is a sorceress on her own turf. No surprises that she would be sure she could get rid of any unwanted visitor.
"Merely to talk," John reassures, following serenely behind her. "You have piqued my interest. I'm afraid that I have little knowledge of magic, though it is not entirely unfamiliar to me, and I felt that I should familiarize myself with the experts on the subject. As I said, you have a reputation. A quiet one, to be sure, but highly recommended nonetheless."
Zatanna considers that. Her lips quirk. "And how do I know you aren't about to try something, Mister..." She tails off. He has her name, of course. She does not have his.
"I doubt you are defenseless," John replies evenly. "But in the interests of full disclosure, I will introduce myself. Do not be alarmed." With that, John turns into J'onn. His skin first darkens into a rich green, and he gains several inches of height, standing at well over six and a half feet. His shoulders broaden and his frame fills out with muscles that would give a bodybuilder envy. His hat disappears to reveal a bald head, and his trenchcoat flares out into a blue, high-collared cape. Within a second, the Martian Manhunter stands in the place of John Jones. "I am J'onn J'onzz."
Zatanna arches an eyebrow. She doesn't jump or start, but surprise does flicker in her eyes for a moment. Shapeshifting? It fooled her, anyway. "Your reputation is pretty solid yourself." She has not really ever MET the Manhunter. Not properly. But she knows of him...and how dangerous he could be. Fortunately, he's one of the good guys.
J'onn inclines his head in acquiescence. "Thank you. I apologize for the initial deception, but I understand that this form can be frightening to those who are unaccustomed to it. I had no desire to startle a sorceress in her own home." His lips twitch with a faint smile. "You no doubt wonder why I am here. I am currently investigating and building contacts within the occult community. Not all of the Justice League's enemies are extraterrestrial or technological in nature, and it may be useful to have such contacts when we next face a magical foe."
Zee can't help but grin. "You didn't startle me *that* much, but I definitely understand the concern. And sure. I can help with the kind of thing I'm good at." And she IS very good...despite all the issues she had that caused her to become a recluse for a while.
"Excellent." J'onn nods, smiling briefly. "The Justice League is growing, but we do not yet have any dedicated mystics on the roster. I have taken it upon myself to at least partially correct the oversight and make sure that there are those we can call upon when the need arrives."
Zatanna folds her hands together. "I can certainly help. I'll keep my eyes open for others who might be useful too...who have different specialties from myself." After all, there ARE some kinds of magic she...isn't that good at. Or isn't as good at.
J'onn chuckles. "That would be appreciated. I'm afraid that my familiarity with magic is sparse, and I am entirely unable to categorize it or discern what specialties there are."
Zatanna smiles. "I wouldn't expect that, although from what I hear, you are very good at what you do." She knows he could read her mind, and probably blast through her defenses. Fortunately, she is also sure and certain he would not do it.
In fact, the thought has not even occured to the Martian. He has a very strict code of honor concerning the use of his telepathic abilities. J'onn inclines his head again. "You're too kind. I've merely had a long time to learn how best to utilize my abilities. While Mars is now barren and lifeless, it lives on through me and I must work to set a good example to leave as the legacy of my people."
Zatanna nods. "All of this stuff takes a lot of practice. I sometimes wish we could get that across more to the general public who think it's easy." She bets Superman gets *that* one *all the time*.
J'onn laughs softly. "It can be frustrating to have one's hard work devalued, but I understand their feelings on the matter. The average human has absolutely no experience with changing their shape or firing lightning bolts from their fingertips. They have no frame of reference except for the heroes and villains they see on the news, who often make it look much easier than it truly is."
Zatanna grins. "You have a point." And she, of course, makes magic look far easier than it is for even the average magician...the average magician being the type who require a complicated ritual to do anything but simple cantrips. Look.
"Indeed," J'onn says agreeably. "Fortunately, we work hard anyways, so that when the time comes, we can use that heard-earned talent to save lives. Even if they do not realize the effort involved, they appreciate the results."
Zatanna brushes back her dark hair. "Most of the time. Every so often you get a case of major ingratitude."
"Once in a while," J'onn says, nodding. "Regrettable, but also forgivable. The misguided are to be pitied, not hated. And perhaps in time, they will learn better. I have been on earth for decades, and humanity has never ceased surprising me by showing grace where I had expected rejection."
Zatanna nods. "Well, yeah. You're a lot more different from the mass of humanity than I am." Of course, Zee is, herself, more different than most think.
"There are very few who are more different from humanity than I am," J'onn notes, with a certain tone in his voice that speaks of regret, of isolation. "But there are many ways in which I am not so different, and I take strength that though humans are very different from my people, they nonetheless value the same things: truth, justice, honor."
Zatanna shakes her head. "So," she changes the subject. "Did you have a specific case you were thinking of or are you just wanting to make sure you can call me in the future?"
"The latter," J'onn says. "Things are more or less quiet right now, at least for the League as a team. I merely wanted to introduce myself and ascertain whether we could call upon you as an ally. With that done, and my gratitude expressed, I should not presume to take up more of your time."
Zatanna smiles. "I wouldn't want to let a guest leave without offering refreshments, though," she points out. "Remiss of me not to, in fact."
"Do you have cookies?" J'onn asks curiously. "I am fond of Chocos, or Oreos." Basically the same thing, now that we don't have to worry about trademark infringement.
"Let me look." Of course, she doesn't actually get up, just mutters a few words backwards...and a packet of cookies appears. Why bother walking to the kitchen?
"Ah, excellent," J'onn says, a bit of enthusiasm creeping into his stoic voice. "It appears magic is useful for a wide variety of tricks, not just combating rogue metahumans or mythological t herats."
Zatanna opens the packet, then claims one of the chocos for herself. "It is." She flickers J'onn a completely innocent grin. "It's good for getting around, too," she admits.
J'onn chuckles, reaching out to pluck a cookie from the packet and immediately eating it. He doesn't speak until after he's chewed and swallowed. "What manner does your transportation usually take? I prefer flight to speed, myself. Teleportation, alas, is not one of my abilities."
"I *can* fly, but I generally teleport." It has its uses...and she can move a group, too, if the League ever needs her to. She munches on the cookie.
"Interesting," J'onn says, nodding. "If you don't mind my asking, what else can you accomplish through magic? What are your limits?"
Zatanna actually hesitates. Finds a cookie very interesting, then. "I'm pretty powerful, but I have to be able to use my focus and I'm generally not as good at any given thing as a specialist. But I can do *almost* anything...to some degree. I'm not very good at healing spells."
J'onn listens attentively, reaching for another cookie. "I see. But 'almost anything' is a very broad definition, and vague besides. If you do not want to elaborate, I understand, of course, and you need only tell me to mind my own business." He smiles gently. "Or if it would make you more comfortable, I could pay like for like and enumerate my own superhuman abilities."
Zatanna considers. "I'm best at illusions, elemental magic and transportation magic," she says, finally. "But really, the only limits on magic are your imagination and the amount of energy you can channel...your talent, as it were."
"That's an impressive talent, then," J'onn says. "I am glad I called on you tonight. I have a feeling that you could be a very strong ally to the League." He eats his latest cookie, chewing thoughtfully and swallowing. "Myself, I am capable of shapeshifting, of course, along with control over my molecular density that allows me to become intangible to most solid matter and allow light to pass seamlessly through me. My physical attributes are all enhanced far beyond human norms, and I have nine senses that allow me greater range of perception." As he explains his own powers, he is obviously not bragging, but simply stating facts in order to repay her honesty and transparency with his own.
"Nine...one of them is telepathy, but what are the others?" And she admits. "My biggest weakness is I can only cast vocal spells. Sometimes, the bad guys work that out." Even as simple a thing as a hand over her mouth can disable her.
"Telepathy is one, yes." J'onn nods. "I also possess superhumanly acute hearing. I have a number of visual senses that overlap, but are not precisely comparable to human sight. For instance, I can see through solid objects, or over extremely far distances without use of a telescope. Or see the molecular composition of objects without a microscope. I also have the ability to emit an ocular beam of heat and force. It's not truly sensory in nature, but the press has dubbed it 'Martian Vision',"
Zatanna chuckles. "The press says all kinds of things." They call everything by names that doesn't fit. "Usually about who's dating who, but..."
J'onn laughs again, with a genuine grin. "Ah, yes. I told Iron Man once about this tabloid reporter who began to stalk me not longer after my first public appearance. It seemed her favorite topic involved how my species reproduced and whether I had ever taken a human lover. The obsession was disturbing, to say the least."
"Maybe she had a crush on you?" Zee suggests. "Me, I just can't be seen with a man, any man, in public without him being my new conquest.
"The price of fame," J'onn laments. "I am perfectly happy to remain in the background. Even on as public a team as the Justice League, I find it agreeable that the press look first to Wonder Woman or Captain America."
Zatanna grins a bit. "Wonder Woman is very good at drawing attention, isn't she." It sounds like she's had at least some contact with Diana.
"She is," J'onn concurs. "And deservedly so. Fortunately, she has a message that deserves all the airtime it can get, so I don't feel bad about letting her take care of the press when it comes to it."
Zatanna nods. "And no, I didn't give her the show tickets." She winks at J'onn. "I wanted to, but I know she'd have turned me down. We're talking about doing some kind of charity thing in the near future."
"Excellent." J'onn nods and smiles. "I have known Diana for some time, and she is truly a wonderful person, and her charity is one of the best on the planet."
Zatanna grins. "I'm more than willing to work pro bono for a good cause. We're also thinking of giving some of the tickets away to the deserving...probably sick kids."
J'onn nods. "A worthy gift. I am glad that we agree on so many things. Now, I'm afraid that I must go." He inclines his head an a small bow. "Thank you very much for your time, Miss Zatara. We will talk again, I'm sure." He takes a moment to smoothly shift back into his John Jones persona.
Zatanna grins. "Take the chocos." She saw...well, even a Martian can look enthusiastic to human ideas, right? Or she's just trying to bribe him.
"Thank you," John replies, taking the bag and sliding it into a coat pocket. But not before taking a cookie out and eating it. "You've been very gracious."