24-Hour Spider
Roleplaying Log: 24-Hour Spider
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Ghost Spider and Atlas share garbage food and talk Problems in the park.

Other Characters Referenced: Starfire, Quake
IC Date: September 22, 2019
IC Location: Owl's Head Park, Brooklyn, NY
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 01 Oct 2019 16:10
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

* OOC Time: Sun Sep 22 23:34:39 2019 *

* * *

MY BURNER PHONE

Good evening.
Please forgive me for the assumption that you're a night owl.
It runs in the occupation.
I wanted to check in on you.
Make sure you hadn't been ambushed by ninjas.
Or robots.
Or clones.
Or the government.
Or anti-fashion assassins.
You get the idea.
11:38pm

I'll be in Owl's Head Park if you want to meet up.
11:40pm

P.S. There will be food.
11:45pm

True to his word, Carolus Sinclair is just… hanging around in Owl's Head Park at near-midnight. His chosen spot is a presently-abandoned playground, where he has seated himself along the upper railing of one of those play forts. A satchel is seated on the inside of the fort, alongside a paper bag from a nearby late night eatery.

The moth man himself has a little paper tray of cheese fries sitting on his leg, and a disgusting-looking burger in his upper right hand. He's not /presently/ dressed to obscure, although that big oversized hoodie is partway evident peeking out of the corner of his satchel.

* * *

There's a whistling - a breaking - of the air, rhythmic and growing closer, until with a great 'k-TANG' and a squeaking 'weerk-weerk-weerk' before the gentle 'paff' of soft rubber alighting on dirt ground.

And among the play-dome is a spider, holding up a phone accusingly while resting on both haunches in a deep crouch.

"A night-'owl'? Now that's just rude. There's no part of me that's like an owl, even if I can turn my head and neck almost the whole way back. Ok, so one thing."

"But spiders aren't nocturnal." Ghost Spider notes academically, drawing up to her full height and raising a hand to waggle a finger at Carolus.

"It's the ghost part that comes out at night. I've found a place to stay and some gear, though, so I'm actually doing pretty well. Better than I thought I'd be when I first got here, that's for sure. I've… not met anti-fashion assassins though, are those really a thing?"

* * *

Antennae shift and swivel in response to Ghost Spider's approach. The reaction is subtle, but probably not so much that it would likely go unnoticed by anybody mildly paranoid for any reason. If nothing else, Gwen's senses would probably tell her that she's been observed before there's any turning of heads or direct glances.

"The eyes on your costume are also pretty huge and expressive. That's two things that are owl-like." Carolus observes dully, wiping at his mouth with a napkin in his secondary right hand.

"But," he smiles, "I will be certain to draw attention more towards your aspect as a creature of the night, Spooky Spider."

"I'm glad your material situation has changed. This isn't the best reality to take a summer vacation in." His wings vibrate lightly, antennae swivelling forward, "There are options, of course, but many of them aren't so good."

Carolus leans back perilously far, reaching down to snag the paper bag behind him. He pulls himself back up and offers it to Gwen with his free auxiliary left hand.

His expression falls, "I am afraid that they are. New York Fashion Week ended exceptionally badly. Look it up on the news if you feel like being disgusted with humanity. Fortunately one of the people involved is a high-profile figure in 'our' community, so I should be able to interject myself into the problem neatly. All the talent in the world to go about unnoticed, and someone used it to poison a cranky designer."

"Your material needs are met," Carolus continues, "but how are you? You, the person behind that mask. Not Ghost Spider."

* * *

"It's *Ghost* Spider…" Gwen mutters, out of a corner of her mouth and around her cheek. "And if I find an Owl-Person, I'll have to compare costume designs. And I do daytime too! I do all-day, all-night. I'm an all-the-time Spider."

With a light hop, Gwen is up on one of the dome's bars with a single set of curled fingers, swinging her feet back and then forth once to transit to another bar smoothly. Seizing the new bar with outstretched sticking fingers she tucks her legs in and yanks, breaking up atop the dome on the sudden momentum and letting her fingers unstick.

Feet find contact, and she's up with far more effort than could conceiveably or conservatively be needed for someone who has sticky athletics powers.

"This isn't the sort of reality for a day trip, Carolus. I wouldn't come here for lunch if I had the money to burn. You guys don't even have Clown World."

Carolus offers, and Gwen accepts, balanced on the arches of her feet as if standing on a sheet of stone and not rounded metal bars, and after rooting around in the bag, she produces the wonder of modern America, humanity's greatest achievement next to cane sugar Coca-Cola: the cheeseburger.

Lifting up the edge of her mask to the tip of her nose to take big, hungry bites, Gwen mmfs and 'mmms' appreciatively.

"Carolus, all I've got is the disgusting parts of humanity. I crawl on cielings and need skyscrapers to fly. Still, that's pretty gross."

"I'm… I'm getting on. I thought I wasn't going to be allowed to be any of my 'myselfs', but I think I can make Ghost Spider work. It's really all I've got. And you?"

* * *

"Twenty four hour spider, for all your Spider needs." Carolus says, amusedly. He nods, and adds, "I remember. You could say that I'm teasing you, but that's not it exactly either. /My/ alias is Atlas, but it's not a particularly thick mask that I wear, when I wear one."

"Mutants need faces, out there. It can't just be one or two of us doing it."

Eyebrows lift, antennae twitch. Carolus tilts his head to one side, "Clown World. Sounds like a horrifying, off-brand McDonalds. But I think that I'd like to see it anyway, so long as it isn't filled with juggalos and bad soda."

Another round of precarious balancing and reaching. Carolus secures his bag on a raised segment of rail, rifles around in it, and produces some a Blue Sky Cola to pass to Gwen. Another couple of them are tucked into the bag, visible beneath the upsized hoodie in there. Might be more hidden in the depths of the bag.

"You are not disgusting." The statement is simple, matter-of-fact, and dead serious. Like it's something that Carolus has had to tell people too many times in earnest, and can't really tell for certain that there's any sort of joking going on with those remarks.

Carolus takes a moment to enjoy some of his /own/ burger and fries before he answers Ghost Spider.

His auxiliary set of arms lift to either side in an exaggerated shrugging gesture, "Working up the courage to go see one of my role models in the hospital without making a fool of myself along the way."

"Failing. Procrastinating. Wondering if it might have gone less terribly for him if I was a more active mask."

"You know," Carolus gestures with his burger, "the usual."

* * *

"As opposed to the spoooooooky Ghost Spider, for all your graveyard pest control needs. Seriously, getting grave dirt out of even *my* costume is a chore, and mine's easy wash."

"Death sticks to me, like a clingy toxic boyfriend who wants me to take him back. Won't take 'no' for an answer. The absolute worst kind of relationship."

Gwen's stance 'slips' as she scooch-sits down, knees resting on the bar before her and feet stuck to the bar under her.

"Weird to think about, though. 'Mutants need faces'. But people like me need the opposite: Masks. And Clown World is great! What's wrong with clowns and fun?"

The Blue Sky is taken with the ginger, finger-stick grasp of someone accepting a biological sample or radioactive waste. "Is this that fake soda that's ruined? I had a sip of some 'Diet' swill and I nearly died."

She pantomimes sipping at the still-closed can. "Just, mask up, can tilted, liquid death hitting my tongue. A terrible poison, like RAID for spooky spider-girls."

The reassurance of her non-disgustingness gets a thin smile. "I've pulled some pretty bad stunts, Carolus. I wanted to do it right up until the 'mask' came off, and it was too late. Maybe people are right when they cry out 'eek! a spider!' or whatever, even if spiders really, really want to be their helpful friends."

Carolus explains he's got a big meeting coming up, and Gwen listens while burging herself. "Accept you'll be a fool, if you're the kind that makes a fool of yourself, I guess. Can't make water less wet, can you? It's not your responsibility to dry out the ocean, but maybe you can smooth out the waves and get some… smooth sailing? God, that sucked, forget all that. Just be yourself, whatever that is. There, yeah, that's good. Nice, safe advice."

"The usual for me is just sort of…" She raises her hand, can and all, to pantomime a parabolic arc. "Neeeeeeeeeeerrrrr—kerplooooooosh." She sounds out, like a crashing airplane. "Controlled disaster. Sometimes it's an unmitigated disaster. Other times everyone bails out before the crash. I ended a lot of nights kicked to heck and back."

* * *

"Your costume is at least a quarter white." Carolus points out, clearly skeptical of the notion that it would be easy to get anything at all out of it. Forget blood or anything more serious. Or, really, just grass stains.

He takes another bite, a wordless affirmative vocalization following Gwen's statement about death. Nodding emphatically, Carolus replies, "That's how it goes. One of the founding students of the Institute died shortly before I enrolled. She's been back for a little while, now. And Professor Xavier himself has been gone since the alien invasion."

"Stories have happy endings because they end too soon. Capes and masks, we strongarm our way into a little bit of it at a time. Cling to it, like a thirsty man clings to water in a desert. But I don't know any of us yet who hasn't come to a messy end. Sometimes more than once."

Regarding the matter of mutants, "Most of us don't want to be those faces. But Professor Xavier always taught us to try to be… diplomats, I suppose. To reach, and hope that somebody else is reaching back. Personally…"

"Sometimes I'm sure that I just signed up to be the front of the line for martyrdom."

Veering sharply from the more serious topic, he replies, "Clowns are usually considered sort of terrifying by people in this reality. Like mascots that are exaggerated so much they just become monstrous, I guess. There's a certain wonder to imagining what the world is like on your side of the… dimensional rift, I guess. So it's something I'd like to see, but nobody from here is going to react positively to it. Especially while the Joker exists."

Carolus's wings twitch and vibrate lightly, almost in irritation. It's a much more full-body reaction of agitation than he's usually given so far.

"Certainly /not/. I require a great deal of /actual sugar/, and high fructose corn syrup isn't an acceptable substitute." He answers, only a hair shy of actually huffily.

Carolus is a soda snob.

A crinkle of wrapper being balled up follows as he deposits burger wrapping in his satchel. Carolus nods lightly, "I believe you. But people are complicated. We do bad things, sometimes. Even the very good ones. And most of us, we aren't the very good ones. If you understand that you have some things to work on, then that's a start."

"The mutant community," he says, "is extremely divided. It colors one's opinions about these matters. Look up Magneto when you get home later."

"And that did not suck."

The moth mutant can't help but look a little disarmed at Gwen's insistence that she's just a walking disaster area. Pressing his lower set of hands together, he says, "Well… er, try not to go into a tailspin between the park and your new place, I suppose."

* * *

"It's made out of some weird regenerating self-correcting material, and I'm sure if I could ask the person who made it, they'd have a really good answer! But I don't, sorry."

Gwen's voice is light, jokingly amused even in her rote fact recital. "Not every fabric or material stains like cloth, you know. If you have a less permeable clear membrane over it, it works out."

Punctuating her rather vague science with cheese fries by the handful, Gwen chews loudly with audible potatoey crunch and cheesy squish. "These are pretty good, though. But before you ask, yes, it's probably safe for me to eat with my hands. No, it'd still probably be dumb as heck to lick my fingers clean. I know where those fingers have been, and yes, it IS worse than not knowing."

Gwen has webcrawler'ed around Gotham City.
Gotham City is Jersey, But Filled With Evil Clowns And Garbage.

"The person who made my suit was retired and a hojillionaire, so, I guess my dimension is just better for not-spiders. Weird, right? Why's it gotta be me? I didn't even sign up for martyrdom… I just signed up to be not-me while flying over a hundred miles an hour down streets thirty stories up. I signed up to make a hammock and text my friends from the roofs of skyscrapers. To hang upside-down from bridges and just walk along the underside like it's my own personal sidewalk. That's what *I* signed up for."

Gwen fishes around the burger, raising the bun up to jam a cross-hatch of cheese fries precariously atop of the smushed lettuce and pickles, firmly re-attaching the bun to the top and biting down like a burger-pagan's heathen ritual creation and loving every second of it. "And let me tell you, that rollercoaster ride burns calories like woah. I was living off of dollar corndogs for at least a year."

A series of decisive bites, a minimum of chewing, and heavy swallows follow, and somehow Ghost-Spider packs away the rest of her burg, returning to the can of Blue Sky. "I'm trusting you here, Carolus. Trusting you with my life."

The explanation that a super-clown villain has Ruined Clowns For Everyone comes with a wordless nodding, Ghost-Spider's large eyes squinting deeply into the fizzy can of…

"Ok, this soda's… acceptable. Not the best, not the worst. You should try Fantastico." It's like Fanta, but with all the fake sugar replaced with real sugar. It's a Jarrito, basically. It's just Jarrito.

"Fantastico papaya is the big time."

Gwen lets her arms fall, resting her palms on the insides of her thighs and slouching forward into the jungle gym's precarious embrace. "I met, uh, Starfire? One of the Titans. Is everything in this dimension just bigger and more impressive and worse, all at the same time? She had crazy experiments happen to her and got tortured and slaver'ed and all sorts of crazy stuff. I just blew it in high school. 'Just'."

* * *

Carolus makes a vague affirmative noise concerning the matter of costumes. He says, "I managed to squeak in after the leather uniform craze had died, now it's back to old classic blues and yellows. It doesn't really go well with…"

He deliberately sweeps his wings out behind him to display his colors, which from this side is a combination black-with-speckled off white and a variety of similarly-colored patterns joined with red, "… This, and I can't really change my /own/ color palette to do anything about it. I think that I would like a regenerating, self-correcting costume. Mostly, ours is protective. And I don't really benefit from it that much."

Another vague affirmative. Without conscious effort to keep them up and displayed, his wings just sort of slowly drift to a resting position.

"I can't do that. Feels too weird. Obnoxious enough to keep as clean as I like to be, whether I've been rifling around in Gotham or not."

He switches to his fries, having finished with his burger. After a moment of not-at-all contemplative chewing he follows up, "I was just born. Mostly normal anatomical configuration until I was around twelve, thirteen. Then I went to sleep and bound myself up into a cocoon and started growing extra parts. My mother cut me out the first time. I was not happy to be awake. Growing pains multiplied by three thousand, and my new parts were raw and unfinished. Things changed after that. Went to Xavier's. Lots of other people like me."

"Aliens invaded. More than half of us hit the streets because the place was so overrun with invaders we couldn't afford not to field anyone who could fight. Some of us didn't come back. Haven't done a whole lot of heroing since then," He chomps on another cheese fry, "but it's turned into a thing that I can't not do, sometimes."

"And you," he says, "you might not have signed up for anything but the 'fun bits', but the way you talk about it is as… mmm… not passionate, but dedicated as anyone I've heard. Responsibility. Noblesse oblige. You beat yourself up over it even when you're not beating yourself up over it."

Silence lingers for a few moments before Carolus breaks it by cracking another one of the sodas. He drinks it the way a normal person drinks water. He gestures with the can in his lower left hand, "This isn't my favorite. It's what I had on hand. I'll bring something a little less generic in the future, assuming you're not gone back home or sick of hearing from me in short order. Never heard of Fantastico. We have /Fanta/. But beware, it is gross budget soda. Just buy store brand if you're that desperate."

Carolus finishes off the can in a single long gulp and deposits it back in his bag. "Starfire. What a coincidence. Based on your descriptions I would hazard to guess that your assessment is more-or-less accurate, but it may just be that you simply aren't in the deepest end of the pool in your dimension yet. I don't know."

"Do you want to finish?" He wonders.

"Your education, that is."

* * *

"Leather. Gag me with a rake." Gwen groans, rolling her eyes. Normally, this doesn't work BEHIND A MASK, but thanks to Advanced Spoder-costume Technology, it's actually even more exaggerated and absurd than a normal young adult doing it.

The morosity of the whole 'situation', and being called out for being a Responsibility-slinging weirdo-dork about the whole (or)deal, causes Ghost Spider to groan, and tumble backwards, empty bag falling out of her lap and arms dangling faux-uselessly. Ending up swaying upside-down stuck by her feet to the bar above she had been balancing on the whole time, Gwen hangs there, dangling, hood down, back to Carolus.

"That's.. .not really what I meant. Why I think the way I do. My big mistake. Happened at the end of high school. Senior Prom. I graduated after, which is the really sick joke."

"Someone died, and it was Spider-Woman's fault."

Gwen does a single crunch, folding herself up and over and trading feet for hands at the bar as she adjusts in space. "You're very pretty though. I'm a bit of a plane jane under this, if you'd believe it. Well, before the changes. I stopped having to go to yoga after it, let's just say that. Thank god, too, I always felt gross after yoga."

Gwen snorts. "And Starfire, yeah. She was… Well, she's an alien godbeing from outer space who both is and runs a company for supermodels. Everything's so extra. She put me up in her halfway home for gorgeous people. I'm wearing beanies and aviators to try to be subtle."

Gwen pulls herself up, pulling down the edge of her mask after wiping the corners of her mouth with the back of her wrist, and starts meandering across the bars with sweeping, widely swinging steps. "You can't stop heroing once you get the taste for it, yeah. You can't just sit there, because it's not about whether or not you can do anything.'

"You can help. It makes… everything your problem. Everything's your fault, if only you tried harder." A bit dark, but as Ghost Spider's indicated: she's probably the biggest fish in her world. Probably.

Until Ultimate Spider-Gwenthology #7: Galactus Shows Up, I Guess!

* * *

"I'm convinced that it's a phase every designer goes through." Carolus speculates, finishing off his cheese fries and tucking the paper container away into his satchel with the rest of his garbage.

He pushes off of the edge of the playground fort, wings buzzing to life to keep him from dropping to the ground below. The sound is subtle, only really obvious when he's in quick motion or when his wings are vibrating while he's not in flight— which mostly, he isn't just now.

The moth man circles Ghost Spider ponderously, listening to what she has to say. One hand rests against his chin, the others remaining loose at his sides. His positioning changes to roughly follow her current facing, keeping him in 'front' of her as she moves about. He doesn't attempt to flip upside down to match her facing, though. Carolus is not a sticky man. He cannot walk sideways for funsies.

"I'm sorry. Anxieties aside, our experiences do not correspond in that regard, and I would not wish to diminish yours by comparing them to mine. But if it is something that you need to talk about while you are here…" All of his remaining arms make a vague gesture, "Let this be the awkward, selectively forgotten signal that the option is there. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Xavier's Institute is specialized in… our kind of people. So I thought that it might be of use to you."

Auxiliary hands come together in a decidedly awkward gesture, "T…hank you. That is the second time you have complimented my appearance. Frankly, I don't know what to do with that, but I feel it would be rude not to acknowledge it." Antennae cant forward, twitching pronouncedly.

"I wouldn't," Carolus answers, simple and matter-of-fact, "but I am in sympathy with the grossness of exercises, and envious that you do not require them. Our training routine is… intense, at times. And these…" He raises both of his Extremely Fuzzy auxiliary arms, wrinkling his nose in disgust, "… are sensitive. All of these hairs are additional sensory organs. You can imagine what being sweaty is like for me."

"I am glad," he switches subjects, "you made a positive connection with Starfire. I understand that she is agreeable, but have yet to meet her personally. The Titans are… well, they are well-thought of in my community. In most communities, I am sure. But my community especially. It's nice for people like that to support you, no matter the reasons why."

  • * *

"I don't need to talk about my problems, that much. Mostly they're just old problems that keep tumbling forward. Like a fire, it just keeps burning, and the coals and embers and all the pretty little fluttering lights just start more patches of awful. Like I said."

Frowning under her mask is easier. Her 'eyes' droop, narrowing around the top as if eyebrows pressed down upon the corners of the eyes, but she can grimace and emote all she wants under the concealing future-fabric without giving away her transparent issues to the masses.

Or a single moth-man.

"It's always a plane crash with me. I don't do tailspins, it's always nose-down into the ocean."

Gwen's pacing stops, her hopping prefaced on a single toe. She pivots, like a ballerina, and brings her arms into a circle. "This is all there is of me. It's not like there's a girl who needs school and a place to belong and all that. I figured out why my head throbbed and then I came up with 'Ghost Spider'. There was another me, here. Two others. One, from another dimension. I guess I took her place."

Slouching, and then crouching down, knees wide apart as her hands dangle between her legs limply, fingers brushing the bar beneath the balls of her feet, her voice takes on an empty, 'well, there it is' breathy rasp.

"The other's dead. The one from here. I'm her ghost. Looked it up. Just goes to show you, never ever ever EVER read your own search results."

"Sorry, I got all… moody." Ghost Spider sighs, looking up at the hovering Carolus. "Starfire's nice, yeah. Not being yogasweaty's nice too, but it's not like I don't get my workouts. Swinging around is great exercise."

* * *

"It is not in our nature to talk about our problems. It is a display of weakness, and we do not like to do that. We would prefer to make believe that nothing is wrong at all, backing ourselves into a cage of our own problems and staring in amazement as we shut ourselves in, armoring and trapping ourselves in a single stroke. But what is in our nature, and what is good for us, these are separate things." Carolus replies, as matter-of-fact as if he was talking about the color of the playground equipment around them.

"I do not expect you to spill your heart to a stranger, Ghost Spider. But I also think that it would be terribly cruel to leave you without so much as an open door. That's something else that is important to my community. Some of us, anyway."

He waves two sets of hands dismissively, to indicate that the subject need not arise again. It doesn't matter, though. Where they seem determined to linger is, at the least, in orbit of this very topic. Carolus withdraws a little, establishing a bit more distance and fluttering about Ghost Spider in a circle. People who are well don't say things like that. But then, people who are entirely well don't say the things HE does, either.

"It's… fine, not wanting to belong here. I do not expect you to." He looks up into the sky, pausing his circling, "This is not where you want to be. Not where you intend to stay. There are people for you to return to, and a life for you to live somewhere else. This does not make Ghost Spider all of what you are, and the 'other you', displaced and dead alike, do not inform what you get to be."

"Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants a place to belong. Wherever you are, you are permitted these things, even when they are not given to you. You are also permitted to be moody."

He looks back down, buzzing closer in answer to what he perceives to be a fairly /defeated/-seeming body language. But as soon as he does, Carolus seems increasingly disarmed and lost. Both sets of hands press their fingers together in a distinctly nervous gesture, at a clear loss as to what to actually do or say.

"Mm. So is flying under your own muscle power, actually." He mumbles, awkwardly.

* * *

"My problem is everyone hates me for something I want to say I didn't do, but probably did." Ghost Spider snaps up at the hovering Carolus, eyes narrowed practically to slits.

"I…" She stops, brings her hands to her masked cheeks, and groans. "You're bringing me soda and burgers and trying to be nice, and I'm being catty at you. For, like, no reason. I'm so used to defending myself, it comes naturally. I see shapes in the air, flashes of color, a tingle in the foreground of reality, and I get my head down and take a swing. It's gotten me through…"

Fingers drag painstakingly across her mask with an audible skrrrrrrrrrrrenk of slow, sticky peeling, like a wet towel on glass.

"Actually, it's gotten me through nothing at all, why do I ever listen to my first instinct? It's like a drumline you memorize wrong so two seconds in you've ruined everything and everyone is confused and there's no way to fix it because you've just gotten it down *wrong*."

"Also, too late, I'm spilling my heart to a stranger, but it's the lame madlibs version where you can fill in proper nouns and places." Gwen snorts derisively, not bothering to get out of her morose crouch.

"Where did you learn to say stuff like 'you're permitted to be moody'? That's… A sentence, really."

* * *

Carolus answers Ghost Spider's snappiness with silence, blinking down into the dangerously narrowed eyes of her mask. He knows that if she wanted to force him away it would get unpleasant for him in a hurry, but he doesn't really think that they're quite there yet.

"You cannot hold yourself responsible for the actions of another iteration of yourself. Neither can you expect others to be able to fully disentangle themselves from what they experienced with that individual. I apologize if I have misunderstood your meaning, though."

"A significant portion of the population hates /me/ for being born, so the government made super robots to make certain my subspecies stays in line." He adds, unfolding his hands and seeming to regain a little confidence in what he's doing. Until, that is, Ghost Spider drags her fingers across her mask. The peeling noise gets a mildly horrified look out of Carolus, like the expression one might expect out of somebody abruptly subjected to nails on a chalkboard.

He has to fight an urge to gain some distance.

Swallowing a little harshly, Carolus says, "I think… it is probably because you are trying to avoid more…" He imitates Gwen's previous Neeeeeeeeeerrrrr-kerplooooooosh noises, using his auxiliary set of hands illustratively as he goes.

"But you don't really know how to. So you fall back on your… bad drumline, I suppose." He smiles, nodding towards Gwen, "But it would appear to me as if you have just stopped your drumming, Ghost Spider. Reflex isn't unlearned so easily, but I think that is an opportunity to try a new beat."

In reply to Gwen's observation about his bizarre manner of speaking, Carolus's antennae and eyebrows both rise sharply.

"Drama club." He answers, almost at once.

* * *

"Drum wordplay."

Gwen's costume-eyes pop out, one fully open, the other incredulously narrowed in an emphatic quirk.

"Really?"

Her sigh is enormous, but of the oddly cathartic 'reality can't be *this* stupid' variety. A pressure release, like a steam valve, and instead of a high whistle it trails off into a low, extended groan.

"Drama club." She repeats, and that is that. "I don't really care that there was another lost dimensional me, I really only care that when she left - however she did - I think she created the singularity that brought me here. Into this roaring dumpster inferno." Ghost Spider's eyes fall with her slouching posture, her head (and the hood above it) drooping lower, but she looks 'up' at Carolus in his now 'more backed off' hovering posture.

"Well, there's more good and more bad. I can't really blame a universe for working the way it does, can I? It's like spitting into the rain, or taking a swing at a buzzing sound. There's a lot more bad around here. There's also a lot more heroes."

"Maybe the whole thing would be better without powers. Without weird magic spiders and being born special." A moment passes for thought, for reflection on the dumb thing she said. "Or maybe it's all just a different way of the same thing as normal. A more shocking, more awesome in the dramatic sense and the now-you're-flying sense both, way."

Adjusting and re-settling her hood over her masked head with both hands, popping out the sides with thumbs and forefingers before adjusting the brim with the fore of her palm, Gwen rises, aiming a wrist downward to snatch the box with a web-line with a deflated crinkling sound, yanking once to pull the bag into her hand. Then, with a moment spent crunching and balling up the greasy bag into a ball, Gwen arcshots it into a nearby trashcan, sliding her shot in between the top lid-cap and the actual hole beneath.

"I think your metaphor got mixed up, but, it started pretty jumbled when it came out of my head, so, can't blame you. As for the super robots, Starfire seems to be entirely OK with busting them up with her…"

A new phone comes out - not Carolus' - and Gwen idly thumbswipes to a pre-opened window. "She has energy blasts, too? Sheesh, guess she just does that. Anyway she didn't seem too broken up about punching them with exploding hands. I'll cross that bridge when it defenestrates me."

"Want your phone back? Someone gave me one to keep. They had a whole shady panel van of them."

* * *

"Only out of deference to your own drum metaphor. I suppose there are numerous alternatives that communicate the same idea." Carolus replies, shrugging animatedly with all four arms.

Seeming to have found some measure of concrete comfort and confidence in where they both stand, Carolus buzzes to one side of Ghost Spider and seats himself, legs dangling, wings occasionally vibrating sharply to help correct his balance.

"Do you suppose," he says, "that there is some cosmic balance in effect that demands a Ghost Spider to be present in this reality and, in answer to one departing, immediately draws another in? That seems… incredibly specific."

"As for the universe itself… well, I have heard the notion that we might be better off without supers altogether. It is a complicated cascade of differences. On the one hand, a considerable amount of miracle science would vanish like that." He snaps his fingers together, "And on the other, there wouldn't be modern day demigods roaming the streets, pitching fits and putting cities to the torch whenever they get into a big clash."

"We're all better off without Achilles and Paris. There is no real argument there. But are we better off without Hector? That's not an easy question to answer at all. And it isn't as if there wouldn't be arbitrary imbalances of power without these phenomena. In the absence of concentrated, personal power…" He gestures into the surroundings with all of his arms, "Money and political clout would just take its place. Strictly speaking, it's already a fairly good substitute as-is, and many fall victim to abuses of that sort of power. Perhaps many more than the 'regular' kind."

He watches the shot that Gwen makes, humming appreciatively at her accuracy.

"If you think that what you're doing isn't working, and you acknowledge that yourself, you've already taken the first steps needed to change it. It's more than most people manage." He amends, cutting past the metaphors with a light wave of his auxiliary left hand. That same hand dips into his pocket, fishing for something. Out comes /two/ somethings, an ID and some sort of shiny-looking circular badge.

Carolus raises his Metahuman Registration card, "Super robots won't bother me because I made a questionable decision to be a leader in my community. People who happened to be born with superpowers are not particularly pleased with being forced to register. Off the record, I wholeheartedly approve of busting up Sentinels."

The ID pretty much looks like a driver's license, but with identifying characteristics for a metahuman. It lists Carolus's alias rather than his actual name — Atlas. He puts it away after a moment, but passes the little badge to his right auxiliary hand and fidgets with it mindlessly.

"Starfire? Yes. She has a lot of powers, I think. Like Superman." He hesitates, bringing the badge to a halt in his right hand. Extremely seriously, Carolus replies, "Sentinels are well-built for their intended purpose. Don't take them lightly if you end up in a scuffle with them. Please do not get defenestrated by one."

Regarding his phone, Carolus nods, "That would be appreciated. But only if you put your new number in it first. As I hope I've made abundantly clear, I would like to keep in touch while you're in this reality."

He takes a moment more to percolate on exactly what Ghost Spider said, and adds, "Probably get yourself a separate burner at some point, if you can. I don't know about you, but candy vans full of cell phones make /me/ nervous."

* * *

"Well hey, don't just follow my beat." Gwen snorts lightly, at the continuance of DRUM WORDPLAY. Carolus settles about, and Gwen stretches a bit, their conversation becoming more meandering and light.

"I think…"

Ghost Spider cants her head up at the invisible stars that even her spider-eyes can't quite make out due to the Fall clouds and the thick light pollution, but her eyes stare widely into the sky and she makes believe. "That I don't really know why I'm here, yet, but I have a feeling - call it a spider-hunch - that I'm supposed to be here. That the 'other me' that found her way home had to be balanced out."

"And if that sounds incredibly specific, then I'd just repeat the great detective:"

Is she about to quote Batman?

"Once you rule out the impossible, then what's left, however improbable, must be the truth." An incredulous cant-of-the-head-and-quirk-of-the-masked-brow is cast at the moth-man. "Didn't you say you were into theatre?"

The issue of registration is a tender one, one that Gwen feels entirely incapable of tackling herself, especially outside of her own dimension. "I think having a badge and taking responsibility is something that more people should do. But…" She gestures with a hand, out at the city just beyond the park. "My dad's a cop, so I'm biased. Ghost Spider - this mask is my badge. I guess even if Paris and Achilles ruin everything, there's still a lot of good we can do, 'Atlas'."

"I guess it's important to try and remember that."

As he solicits her phone, Gwen flips out her CANDYVAN CELLULAR, handing it to Carolus to figure out. "Sure. Actually, apparently, the lady who gave me it from her shady van was my ex-roommate? So it's probably… fine."

A concerned look. "Well… probably. Yeah, let's go with 'it's fine' because I'd rather not blow it cross-dimensionally by existing."

* * *

"Though I am accustomed to setting my own rhythm, there is a certain charm to falling in line with another's. Occasionally." Carolus replies, his wings lifting and vibrating enthusiastically as if to underline the remark.

He looks down as Gwen looks up, eyes surveying the greenery surrounding the playground in much the same manner as she tries to survey the stars. "If your spider-hunch is correct, it will be important for you to ascertain the particular nature of the imbalance occurring before you return… and hopefully, address it."

"I hope that we are both wrong."

His gaze is drawn back up by the quoting of Sherlock Holmes, the questioning of his hobbies.
Adopting the false demeanor of a much older man playfully antagonizing a friend, he recites, "Cocaine, my dear fellow. I'm back to my old love. A seven percent solution." Miming the act of offering two objects to Gwen, he asks, "Would you like to try some?"

"The funny thing is," he drops the facade, "Doyle and Gillette managed to squeeze the cocaine talk into the stage show but not the impossible-improbable thing."

He replaces his license in his pocket, "I agree with you, though. But only if the system keeps its head on straight. Sentinels… all by themselves, those aren't a good sign, Ghost Spider. But I want to play ball. Perhaps it'll work out. Perhaps not. But you, you're not an Achilles or a Paris. I think you're a Hector."

Taking Ghost Spider's phone, he rapidly puts in a pair of numbers — primary and burner — and messages both of them. There's a couple of buzzes on his end, which he ignores because he can just update the contact information later.

"Would you like me to see what I can find out about your prior self, or would you prefer if that remained buried? I am…" Carolus's wings flatten against his back, "Mildly concerned about how much you could be taken advantage of by people who are familiar with her. It's not uncommon for supers to end up being lab rats. I hadn't really thought about it until you mentioned this former room mate, but…"

He shrugs, "Shady van. Free candy. Metahuman registration going around right before you tagged in."

* * *

"I'm pretty used to keeping my own pace too, but I think most personalities I meet in mask life are like that."

A muffled snort issues from her mask, puffing out the material around Gwen's nose. "Well, except the criminals. But I think…"

The 'wistful spider-eyes' look, of casting her comically big and expressive white lenses towards the sky and out on the park lolls languidly askew and aside at Carolus. "Nah, Carolus. I think Hector is a little too smart for me. I'm brooding in my tent!"

Dropping 'through' the play structure and dangling on her hooked legs, she once more just flops around in the air limply, fingertips lazily dragging against the ground. "I'm being a big baby and trying to siege enormous fortresses and I'm freaking out about weird girls. The fact the girl being in a panel van just makes… her… an oracle, or something."

"So come on, Ajax, bail me out of this." Is her light, she'd-be-grinning-like-an-idiot-if-she-didn't-have-a-mask-on-so-it's-just-a-secret-smile finisher to her extended Trojan War reference.

Liberal arts majors are insufferable.

'I hope we're both wrong.' "Yeah. But right or wrong, I've gotta figure it out."

"But if you're trying to save me, moth fellow…" Ghost Spider, dangling upside down, places a lazy hand across her collar as if taking hold of a hand on her shoulder. "You can't do it. So don't waste your time. I'm far, *far* too weird."

Pulling herself back up with a quarter-crunch and a hand on one of the bars, Gwen finishes rising, swinging around the bar, up onto her feet, and accepting her phone back from Carolus. She leaves his loaner with him. "Nah. I'm something of a detective myself, though I'm no Holmes."

Ghost Spider winks. "I don't do any cocaine. All the rush I need are out there." Her arms sweep out, encompassing the city that expands in every direction for miles. "But thanks for the burger." Then, walking down the dome of bars like normal stairs all the way to the sandpit below, Ghost Spider stretches out, bringing her arms back, and then up. "Stay safe, and if you're not safe, stay, uh… Alive? Yeah, let's go with that."

If Carolus has nothing to shout at her (or speak normally at her), she's off in a few bounding steps and a long web-line that, somehow, finds something to attach to and allow her to swing up and away.

Thanks, New York City, for your absurd level of urban congestion. Spiders everywhere rely on your excellent and predictable city planning.

* * *

"Yes. But I am not most personalities in mask life. I am me, and I like dance and choreography." Carolus says, perfectly seriously.

He doesn't correct Ghost Spider's assessment of herself. It's not that he actually agrees, but there's only so much you can have a heart-to-heart with a relative stranger before you decide that maybe you've said as much as is appropriate.

"Probably an oracle." He agrees, blandly. There are still some notes of concern there about the Wonderful Wizard of Phones, but since Ghost Spider soon thereafter indicates that she has her own ways of looking into her past life, he simply allows the matter to drop. A fluttering of wings later and he's standing on the play structure, auxiliary arms crossed, primary arms held out to either side to provide balance he doesn't really need.

Traversing the topside of the structure ponderously, he pauses at Ghost Spider's… warning?

"I would not make such a presumption. Based on what I know of Spiders, spooky or otherwise, I suspect that you are stronger than I am." He lifts off of the structure, both sets of arms falling to his sides, "But you are on your own, in a reality that is increasingly hostile to your sort of person. Considerably more so, it seems, than your own. I do not think you are some Ophelia, powerless and out of control. You merit concern. Anyone in your position would. Not that I am likely to be aware of them in most cases."

"… Also," Carolus glances away, "one of my classmates was a punk-y girl whose superpower is generating explosions. You're really not that strange."

Carolus flits over to where he left his satchel, securing it across his shoulders and zipping right back to Ghost Spider like a hummingbird. He nods, "You're welcome. I'll check up again soon, unless I die. I will stay safe insofar as our shared lethal habits are ever safe. I trust that you'll do the same. I agree, by the way. About the rush thing."

Then she's gone, and Carolus is off flying in his own separate direction.

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