Paint By Numbers
Roleplaying Log: Paint By Numbers
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

A coincidental run-in between two heroes in Queens results in a lot of spilled paint, and the mysterious Ghost Spider getting further enmeshed in the events of the new world she's lost in.

Other Characters Referenced: Spider-Man, Starfire, Tony Stark
IC Date: September 30, 2019
IC Location: A warehouse, Queens
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 02:12
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Gwen AKA the 'Ghost Spider' had a lot of things on her mind. Things that needed working out.

Ghost Spider preferred to work things out while moving. Specifically, while moving at a few hundred miles an hour, or potentially moving her fist into some criminal's face. This was what brought her to the worse parts of Queens.

But as she landed on one roof to take a break, grab a sip of water, and check her phone — the roof opened up underneath her.

"SPIDER MAN!" Bellows a bellicose, large man in a purple hat and matching coat with fur lining, green scarf and white collared shirt. One long, exaggerated moustache spills forth across his upper lip. In one hand is a paintbrush, perched on an easel with a large portrait of an enormous cockroach nearly complete.

"YOU'VE VEXED MY CREATIVE PROCESS LONG ENOUGH! Now you'll DIE for MY art, you insignificant arachnid!!!"

From a massive sewer grate that pops into reality in the middle of the warehouse Gwen had been dropped into, an enormous monstrous cockroach scuttles out, with an array of man-sized… man-roaches leaping out of the wings.

"But I'm not Spider-MAN!" Gwen complains, dumbfounded. "Is this what they meant by themed goons?!"

Moments later, locked into flip-kicking and biff-pow-socko'ing mortal combat with the ROACH HOARD of the PAINTER OF ONE THOUSAND PERILS, the huge cockroach picks her up and throws her through a window.

And another window. A dozen windows, all stacked up next to each other burst into a veritible cloud of shards of glass, Gwen smacking into, and then down, the real window behind it, her impression on the window enormous and dripping like fresh wet paint on the outside.

It's very art deco.

Normally, when the vigilante calling himself Red Robin is working solo, he does it in his own familiar stomping grounds of Gotham City. Even with the recent push to clamp down on the City of Yesterday's nocturnal crime fighters and their insurance company-ruining antics, it's pretty much a guarantee that on any given night you've got several people in costumes lurking on rooftops, busily working alone.

New York has a different character to its crime fighting… Outside of maybe Hell's Kitchen, which is like a little slice of the city was bound and determined to be 1970s New York or modern Gotham, right down to having a kevlar-wearing ninja beating the holy hell out of people. No, the rest of the city had that particularly New York surfeit of metahumans on both sides of the crime divide.

Well, really vigilantism is itself a crime, but you know.

So no, usually when he's working in the Big Apple, Red Robin rolls with a posse. Most of whom have various phenomenal powers. But sometimes it's nice to do the solo thing, even if it's in a city that isn't 'yours'. Sometimes it's easier to stealthily investigate something when you don't have a bunch of veritable demigods with you, many of whom have no concept of subtlety because why would they?

And then while you're out there on a stakeout, you hear banging and crashing. And somebody shouting about Spider-Man.

At that point, well, you kind of have to check it out, don't you?

"That's definitely not Spider-Man," says a voice somewhere up above the Painter of 1000 Perils, since a hole was conveniently left in the warehouse roof. The costume Red Robin is wearing isn't the same as the one Gwen had seen him in before: This one was less heavy, less designed to be spooky and intimidating in the shadows, with a domino mask instead of a cowl though it retained his preferred colour scheme of red, black and yellow.

"I mean, for one thing, he's taller," the voice is the same one, though, from that night the Ghost Spider literally crashed into Gotham. "Deeper voice. No hoodie thing on his costume…" A trio of smoke pellets fall to the warehouse floor before the Red Knight joins them, the only sign of him in the dark the faint glow of the white lenses in his mask, because wherever he goes he's going to do the Bat thing. "Tell you what, let's call it a mulligan, you leave her alone and you get to keep your teeth."

Then there's a brief, awkward pause, because:

"…Uh, who were you supposed to be again, anyway?"

Look he's never heard of any evil painters!

It is a known fact that you go to Gotham to be a LONELY GUARDIAN and you come to New York (but not Hell's Kitchen) for sweet team-ups. This is the city of the Avengers, and the Titans, and the X-Men, and the Defenders, and…

Well, also an extremely diverse ecology of themed goons.

Apparently the Painter likes roaches???

"SILENCE, CRITIC!" Roars the painter, swashing his brush with a swish and a flick as he produces a pallate - of TERROR! - and an entire red brick wall appears over where Red Robin was just moments before, crashing with a tremendous 'FOOMF' of air and dust as it cracks and shatters (as all pieces of poor masonry do) on contact with the roof. The Red-Masked Rapscallion is already swinging through the air, smoke bombs flying as he drops right on top of a man-roach, the insectile arms on the upper torso unhelpful in really combatting an expert combatant. With a swift series of moves, he begins clearing house in a wide arc about him, roach-men and man-roaches going flying with swift-kerpowing kicks and ba-cracking punches.

The painter hops from foot to foot. "You insectile imbeciles! Kill them! Nightwing and Spider-Man both!"

Red Robin (who is not Nightwing, and clearly not Nightwing) asks him his name and the hefty man rears back, sneering. "I am the Painter of One Thousand Perils! Allow me to show you my HANCOCK!"

With a flourish, he signs his name on the canvas in black and swishes it out with a brush gesture, a large AWFUL CLIP-ART 3D SIGNATURE comes flying at Red Robin like a billboard.

Gwen, for her part, grapples and wrassles the mandibles of the enormous BIG ROACH while dodging and flipping away from the lashing antennae (those don't normally lash and whip out, it appears the painter has taken ARTISTIC LISCENSE!) as she keeps mobile.

"H-hey! You're Red Robin, right? Glad you could show up. I've been getting freakshows and villains just crawling all over me for a shot at Spider-Man. There was a brick wall! I tried to buy a hotdog and a LITERAL BRICK WALL attacked me! Over by Fenway Park!"

With a quick 'fwp-thwip!' Gwen swings up, straining her web-line to double back in the air to deliver a flying kick to the BIG ROACH.

"Did, uh, Starfire talk to you?"

Being a LONELY GUARDIAN does generally mean having to face lopsided odds on a regular basis: Hence, in Red Robin's case, the staff (it's collapsible, don't think about it too much) which also, in situations where he's up against actual but quasi-imaginary monsters - situations like this one - tends to have some extra gimmicks to it. Drawing on the capacitors in his costume, the weapon proves to be electrified as he moves with the confidence of somebody who's been getting into fights with gangs of goons since before he was in high school, and the distinctive 'peak human' grace and agility of someone who's spent those intervening years being trained by a variety of maniacs.

It's definitely not the grace and agility of a spider, but the only baseline human who might even be able to approach that is the actual Nightwing.

"So… Not much of a listener, okay," the Red Knight decides. Maybe the Painter of One Thousand Perils can't hear over how loud his outfit is. And he…

Allow me to show you my HANCOCK!

"Oh yeah, I'm never telling Batman this one," he says, flatly. As though Batman never had to tangle with Crazy Quilt. Or Condiment Man. He remembers the last time he squared off with Condiment Man, back when he was the Boy Wonder.

Put him off of ketchup for a month.

Still, there's the immediate problem of the signature that's flying at him; the vigilante vauts backwards, flipping over one of the man-roaches and then kicking off of the creature's back, but even then he underestimates the speed at which the terrible painted words are flying at him, the unfortunate roach-person making at least something of a buffer against the impact though it still sends the young man flying, hitting the warehouse floor in a controlled roll that soon turns into a very dynamic low crouch.

"Yeah, that'll happen," he replies to the Ghost Spider, on the subject of the literal brick wall attacking her. "I think there was a guy who goes around on stilts, too. Though, we've got Kite Man back in Gotham, so I shouldn't throw stones." Being a superhero is really, really weird.

Did, uh, Starfire talk to you?

"Uh… She said something about making you live with models?" the vigilante answers, as he gets back into the fray. "I think she was trying to make it sound sad, like a cat stuck out in the rain…" His is one of the finest analytical minds in the world, immense natural talent refined through brutal training and literally life-or-death experience. One day, he might even surpass his mentor, taking the title of World's Greatest Detective to even more outrageous heights. But it seems possible, here, that he's not quite getting what Koriand'r was putting down.

"Did you… Need someplace else to stay…?" He knows she was poking around the Tower, after he'd brought up the Titans to her before. Maybe, some glimmer of realisation suggests, she'd feel better surrounded by other weirdo super young adults. "We've got space. And only the one model."

There's probably something else they should be worrying about first, though, as their casual danger dialogue surely only further incenses the Painter.

"Should really get that brush away from him, can you web it? Lemme just…" His hand moves so fast that most people couldn't even follow the motion, going from staff to utility belt to a throwing motion in a single fluid act, hurling a pair of batarangs at the BIG ROACH. It is, he's pretty sure, a product of whatever paint-based powers this particular villain has at his command, so he doesn't feel guilty at all that the batarangs are both explosive.

Shhhhh-shh-shh-shh, gentle Red Robin. You don't even really need Peak Humanity when you're fighting barely-threatening painted upper-half Cockroach, lower-half men-creatures. Mostly they try to bite, or kick, or strike with their spiny insect limbs.

With his agility, strength, experience, and a trick staff from 'behind the belt' (it's Comics Law that any hand-held weapon can be stowed in the small of the back, dear reader), Red Robin is an untouchable flurry of fury.

Gwen zips around the room just above the flailing antennae-line, shooting web-blasts of opportunity at the shockingly useless goons to pin them down, pausing with one hand and one foot laid against supporting beams to stick there. "Stilts? Seriously? And kites? That's… Actually, there's this dude where I'm from—" Ghost Spider's eyes narrow from 'conversationally wide' to 'battle-danger narrow' as she leaps from the pillar. About a heartbeat and a half later, a flying manroach flails parabolically at the wall, a flurry of grabbing hands and gnashing human teeth and flailing abdomen.

Gwen thwips and zips and slings around the room, kinetically bouncing off walls and enemy-stepping across the field. "Guy called the Bodega Bandit? He robs stores, like daily. He thinks he's my greatest rival. It's not even dangerous, it's just confusing! He's rich, or something!"

Ghost Spider is just about to leap on the Painter's business before she catches the worse half of BIG ROACH full body lariating her.

Wiping out into the stone floor of the warehouse, she's in danger of TASTING THE MANDIBLES OF EEEEVIL before two batarangs swing wide, connecting squarely into the painted BIG ROACH's head, exploding in two synchronized detonations of Bat-Roach Repellant.

In this case, death is treated as a repellant. Headless, the construct falls over, spooling out into motes of color and whimsy and bleck - and Red Robin suggests a bang-up strategy to defeat the Painter!

"Web the WHAT???" Ghost Spider shouts, both ears ringing, as she kips up into a crowd of man-roach and roach-men.

"Web my WHAT?! NO! You can't get your STICKY PLEBE GOO ON MY PRECIOUS PAINTS!" shouts the Painter.

"Oh, the paintbrush!" Gwen realizes, snapping her fingers with one hand, and whipping out a forearm-and-presented-wrist with the other, blasting out a glob of sticky white that gloms onto the painter's brush-tip projectilely, sticking it to the wall.

With a running start, Gwen leaps, web-lines, and delivers a double-footed swing kick to the Painter, sending him crashing against the wall — and into a paint-smear just like the BIG ROACH exploded into.

"FIE, SPIDER-MAN! YOU'VE BEATEN ME AGAIN! BUT YOU'VE NOT HEARD THE LAST…"

"OF THE PAINTING MAN!"

Dropping into a crouch past the easel, Ghost Spider rises and turns back towards Red Robin as the Roach-Men and Man-Roaches fade out and topple over. A hand snakes up under her hood to scratch at the back of her head. "Uhhh… Well, honestly, it is kind of a sad spider stuck out in the rain situation, but I can't start the whole thing trying to trade up… She's helping me out a lot with just a roof and a kitchen and a heater for New York in the fall. It's…"

She sighs, gesturing up and about vaguely. "It's hard. I want to be able to pay her back, but I don't really have 'marketable skills' or a marketable face right now. The whole vigilante thing doesn't exactly roll in the cheddar cheese. But, no, uh…"

"Actually I was hoping you could… introduce me… to Tony Stark? If you think he's trustworthy. I'm still not really convinced."

Sometimes that's all it takes: Red Robin is used to coordinating a group of people with incredible powers who, by dint of said incredible powers, aren't always used to having to actually consider strategy because they can punch tanks into their component parts.

But it does help with the whole master strategist rep, so he tries to not let on that sometimes the 'master strategy' is just 'do the obvious thing'.

The vigilante being who he is, though, this also serves a secondary purpose for him. It was, after all, possible that the similarities between Ghost Spider and Spider-Man were largely superficial ones, since he'd never really observed the way the multiversal newcomer operated. He'd extrapolated some from her actions on the fire escape - able to cling to surfaces, a superhuman sense of balance - but there were other things to evaluate, too. Did she fight similarly? Was she roughly equivalent to this universe's arachnid-powered hero in things like strength and speed? All these sorts of things get filed away, in case they become relevant later.

But…

"You know, I'm like… Ninety percent sure he gave a different name, before," Red Robin muses, staff collapsed and returned to his utility belt once the danger has passed. "Still… At least it wasn't 'The Boner' again."

Imagine what would have to go wrong in your life that you'd use 'The Boner' as a villainous nom de guerre. And to keep using it!

The featureless white lenses of the vigilante's extremely tricked out domino mask turn towards Ghost Spider, as he watches her curiously; the effect is different than before, without all that cape and cowl business helping to obliterate the obvious signs of him being a person. The mask creates some distance, especially with hiding his eyes, but it's (intentionally) not quite as off-putting. Somehow, the cowl is even worse than the full covering the Spiders prefer… Maybe it's because they have those expressive eyes?

"I dunno if it would actually be trading up," the guy who grew up in two different mansions and who personally owns a fancy townhouse in Gotham and a fancy penthouse in Manhattan replies. "But it's safe, and everybody's in the business, as it were. You're welcome to, if you want. Nobody's going to make you reveal your secret identity, and we have like… Three witches. We might be able to find a way to get you home."

But no what she actually wants is an introduction to Tony Stark.

If he thinks he's trustworthy.

"That's a complicated question," the young man says. "Stark… Means well, but I'm not sure other people really register to him. They're all just ancillary to whatever his latest whim is, which these days is taking off to Metropolis after metahuman registration became the law of the land in New York."

Tim Drake is the understudy - perhaps the true inheritor - of the title 'World's Greatest Detective', and when he sees Ghost Spider…

'Spider-Man' is basically all there. Sticky, strong, fast, danger sense (or at least one he's heard about), durable… Beyond some stylistic differences and a difference in overall demeanor which can be easily written off as outliers or 'it's a slightly different person, becuase different parallel universe', Ghost Spider and Spider Man basically line up side by side.

Really, the biggest difference between them, that nagging detective suspicion, is that Ghost Spider is far, far less talkative and quippy than the Spider-Mouth.

And she's pretty dumbfounded at Red Robin. "You had a villain called 'the Boner'? Seriously? That's just — wow. Just wow."

Dusting paint off her hood and shoulders and the other stark white parts of her costume and taking stock with a quick pan of her gaze, she lets out a sigh of relief. "You're… pretty dang impressive, you know?. Has anyone told you that? Oh, wait, yes, doyyy. Starfire probably has. She's just a fffountain of positivity."

And Space Facts. You cannot text STOP to opt out of Space Facts.

"I…" Ghost Spider's eyes drop, pinching at the top as if her brow was falling over them. "Everything's happening really fast, and I didn't want to nag at you, or to jump at you like some eager puppy. Trying to trade up, or even get a better deal, makes it feel like I'm going to be here for a while."

"Maybe I am."

Her expression rises, but the concern - the tenseness in those expressive eyes remain. "I looked myself up, here. What happened to the me of this universe. She's… dead. Killed by a supervillain. And I thought to myself: It's bad enough that I'm homeless, but it's worse that any night, if someone finds out who I am, other completely unrelated and innocent people are going to start dying because some whacko decided he didn't finish the job."

Her hands fall, to a closed-off cross tightly tucking both hands into her elbows as she paces about among the detritus of paint-based goons. "It's really stupid, so… I appreciate you reaching out. And…"

A wince. "That does sound like Tony Stark."

She sighs heavily. "I'm wearing, like, 5 layers and a beanie and sunglasses and trying not to get into anyone's sight for too long, because I can't crawl in through the windows at night. Spider problems. And it's still a roof, and…"

"Talking in circles. Sorry. Starfire asked me if I wanted to help out with some meteors in the ocean, but if you've got three witches and another version of me around, I'd probably not be too-too helpful."

You're… pretty dang impressive, you know?

"I have to be," Red Robin answers, with a wry smile. It's not bragging, though it's not exactly a humble response, either. "No powers, you know? I've got to be impressive just to get by." It's not like he's envious of people who do have superpowers - at least, not most days - but not acknowledging the difference there would be pure self-delusion.

And that's not something he affords himself: Frank self-assessment is key to being able to do the job. Or at least, that's what his adoptive father who dresses up like a bat always tells him.

There's a stillness to Red Robin as he listens to Ghost Spider while she speaks. He's paying attention - he's a good listener, if not always in the ways other people would prefer - but he's also continuing to analyse, continuing to compare. Mapping out more of the differences with the spider he knows: Spider-Man was often all nervous energy at times like these, he'd be pacing around, or something. It's further evidence against the initial assumption that she might be some other reality's version of Spider-Man, even before she admits to something that conclusively eliminates that possibility.

It only makes sense, though, right? If you were in another reality, on another Earth, surely you'd want to know if there was a 'you' there, and what they were like. All the myriad possible ways your life could've gone differently. It would be a unique opportunity to learn about yourself. It would absolutely be the first thing the vigilante did if he were in her shoes.

But what she found wasn't another 'her', living another life. What she found was an obituary, a gravestone with her own name on it.

"It's not stupid," the Red Knight assures her, gently. "I'm not sure there's anyone who could really understand what you're going through right now, especially learning that. Sometimes you just need to figure things out for yourself, I get that. The offer's not going anywhere."

The mention of the meteor incident, and Starfire suggesting Ghost Spider team up with them on that, gets a pensive look from the masked young man.

"Sure you would. Listen, we can always use more strong and sticky, and if Starfire invited you along then I'm inclined to trust her judgement. Besides, you never know, you might like working with a team."

'I have to be'.
"I saw Titans Tower. Heard how highly Starfire speaks about you, too, and she's got crazy space princess battle-training and enjoys her sunrises in *space*. Heck, I felt how dangerous you were when you were staring down at me with the hooded getup. I like the mask better, by the way."

Ghost Spider brings a hand up to fan lightly at her own mask's eyes. "But I'm biased."

Pacing and talking and feeling a little awkwardly sorry for herself, Gwen still wants to impress Red Robin. Like a job interview, she's nervous, but more than that: she's adrift at sea, an ocean full of monsters and craziness that threatens to swallow her up, and she's thin on things to cling to.

"You know how people say 'I just want what's best'? I'm trying to get to that, through all the craziness. Trying not to mess things up more than they are. And I keep thinking to myself: 'why am I here?'. That's why I wanted to see Tony Stark, too. To figure out why I'm here. If I can go home. If I'm… Dangerous."

A short, clipped laugh, and a sarcastic single-bicep flex. "More dangerous than usual. You know. Mostly to my own dumb self. Sometimes others. Hopefully the bad guys."

"I've not really had the luxury of a team. Maybe it'd be nice. I like—-d" Her extension to the past tense brings a pained wince. "-being in a band. Man, I'm gonna be really late for practice."

Usually, when a person wants to know why they're here, it's in a more philosophical, existential sense.

Ghost Spider, though, she's got a much more literal version of the question to ask.

"Hm," Red Robin muses when he hears those words, and thinks about that statement. "That's a good question. Maybe it's just a thing that happened, a one in a billion fluke, a portal created for some other reason that you coincidentally happened on… Maybe somebody back where you're from wanted to get rid of you. Or maybe somebody brought you."

It's one of those situations where there's far more questions than answers, and even those questions are based more on conjecture than having any real details to go on. But you have to start somewhere.

"Stark could be able to help there, yeah. Or we could try STAR Labs. Do they have STAR Labs where you're from?" It sounds like they're a less outrageous world than the one Red Robin is familiar with, so maybe 'a non-profit organisation that does mad science for (mostly) good purposes' isn't their sort of thing. "We don't keep a lot of the technology we'd need to get that data around the Titans base. Maybe could rig some stuff up, but…"

In the end, it all comes down to how much trust the Ghost Spider is willing to extend towards Tony Stark, a guy who injected himself with evil magic nanomachines to see what would happen.

"We'll try to get you back home before your band replaces you," the vigilante offers, though it's not exactly the most definitive assurance. "But in the meantime, why not help us out with this? See how you like working with the Titans, then you can decide for yourself later. No strings attached, no weird blood oaths. Promise."

He's at least mostly joking about the blood oaths.

Gwendolyne Maxine Stacy has a real problem with normally philosophical existential questions. In that most of them are real, tangible concerns for her.

"Yeah, it could be random. I'm pretty sure the ninjas didn't want to toss me through it - their boss the Kingpin didn't really seem" Gwen brings up both hands to waggle sarcastically. "real *jazzed* about the whole thing. But the thing is, I met someone - Quake - who actually went totally crazy at me because they thought I was an alternate-alternate me. Like, not a weird alternate clone who was actually normal, or with entirely different powers, another Spider-Woman. I got mistaken for 'another me' that - get this - was also from another universe. Not the me that died, from this universe. And she disappeared."

"So…" Gwen's gestures become vague, a raised shrug. "I show up right after. It made me think it became one of those situations where a 'Ghost-Spider Me' has to be here. That the weird portal that brought me here, brought me here for a reason. And if I get to go home then maybe…"

"Some other me gets to hold the bag. And that — that sucks."

Her arms fall, her overall expression and posture softening, slackening. "So I really don't know what to do, who to trust, or even where to go. I can't go to Oscorp, Lexcorp has a weirdly shady rep, and that leaves Tony Stark or the government. And uh, your government sort of has it out for spider-people more than mine."

There IS that evil magic nanomachines, too. But really, what's more evil: magic nanomachines, or pumpkin spice latte syrup? Starkbucks was a powerful organization!

"No idea about STAR labs. I guess I want to figure out the effect before I start trying to reverse it."

Blood oaths get a wince, though Gwen manages to laugh weakly. "Yeah, I'll help out. If you think I'd be useful, I'd be down - I want to be useful, becuase being dead weight's no way to be. But, uh… yeah, I may have a blood oath to, um, the weird ninjas? So let's just both hope that never comes up. Okay?"

"You can get my number from Starfire. For, you know, normal hero stuff too. If you've got a job that sticky strong can help with. Other than that, I'll probably just be hanging muggers up from streetlamps."

"Hit me up, or something." And, as if to escape 'big awkward feelings conversation' with the secret sauce of 'oh ha ha hey btw I may have pacted my services to evil ninjas???', with a skipping two-step and snap swinging extension of arm, a log web line smeks against the building up, out, and across from the warehouse they were in.

"Thanks for the rescue-backup!" She shouts, leaps up like a spring to follow her web-line off into the city.

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