Are You Not?
Roleplaying Log: Are You Not?
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Ghost Spider calls up Red Robin to bring him into the loop on the new racists in advanced power suits. The conversation veers into the Big Hero Question.

Other Characters Referenced: Starfire, Tony Stark, Carolus Sinclair
IC Date: October 29, 2019
IC Location: Gotham, Upper East Side
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 30 Oct 2019 03:56
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The upper east side of Gotham City isn't that far from New York by bus. It's quiet, compared to the rest of the city. Less crime-y. It's a place trying very hard to get away from the associations of the rest of the city - the huge corporate interests and well-to-dos, and the squabbling masses down in the muck.

It does a decent job of it.

There's coffeeshops and quirky bookstores and brownstone buildings that glow orange and warm in the early evening. And wherever buildings are, there are roofs!

And nobody has ever learned to look up - Red Robin being yet another high-swinging hero who benefits from this!

Tapping away at her phone with a bag of pastries sat on the lip of the building next to her, Ghost Spider - Gwen Stacy - is dressed down from her hero normal. A white long-sleeved t-shirt bunched up regularly around her chest from partially hidden bandages barely hides two silver mechanisms clasped around her wrists. Atop that is a plaid flannel shirt, and over that is a jean jacket. A pair of jeans end in mismatched polka-dot socks and unbroken-in sneakers.

But, atop her face, as usual, is her white mask with magenta lenses, destroying what would otherwise be a pretty clear 'oh look it's just Gwen Stacy'. She taps away at a text message.

«Hey, Robin. I'm sitting on top of Esther's Bakery in Gotham. Can we talk? I may be in a bit over my head. Killer racists in WAR MACHINE suits nearly atomized me. Also a lot of murders.»

Placing her phone into her jean jacket pocket, Gwen starts unwrapping a filled strudel to stuff into her face, adjusting to a simple cross-legged sit right against the lip of the wall.

She prefers being able to see over the top. It's not like she fears falling all that much.

***

You don't find a lot of metahumans in Gotham.

It's not that you don't find any - there's probably not a city on Earth that doesn't have one or two lingering around, even if said city doesn't publicly admit to it. Being as it is a sprawling city of millions of people, eldest of the roughly equally-sized trio it makes with Metropolis and New York, it's not surprising that it has its own mutant community, as well as sundry others. But it's not like New York where you might find a costumed superhero doing their thing (legally or not) around any corner; it's not like Metropolis where the big blue boy scout sets a positive example for other, not-quite-as super individuals.

In Gotham, most of the metahumans are monsters. The types to believe that their abilities make them wolves among sheep. Understandably, they just don't find the same kind of welcoming or popularity they might elsewhere.

Which, you know. Blame Killer Croc, I guess? But not anywhere he can hear you. He does get hungry.

"It's Red Robin," says a voice from behind Gwen on the roof, a surprisingly short time after she sends that text. Is it some kind of secret Bat technique? Is Nico right, and the vigilantes of this town are possessed of the mysterious powers of the dhampir?

In fact, the truth is far more mundane: He lives not too far away, and Gwen happened to catch him at his hideout. Of course, he'd never admit to any of it.

He's crouched on the other edge of the roof, wearing the full cape and cowl he prefers around Gotham. More evocative of the Bat, more fearsome than the costume he wears for Titans work. The same colours, though, red and black with yellow accents. The same confident posture. The same voice, with its air of absolute self-assurance. He's been practicing both of those since he was thirteen.

"Just 'Red' works, if you need to shorten it. So, rough week?"
***

Gwen turns her head, her mask almost 'naked' in profile without the hood around it to give it volume and, strangely, definition. Ghost Spider's whole Look doesn't work as well without it, but she eschewed it this cold Gotham night.

She squints at Red Robin, lenses narrowing, and then, deciding it's Definitely Red Robin, turns back to her flaky comestibles. "Yeah. Rough's an understatement. You've probably read the news that Warren Worthington and his girlfriend are dead - murder-suicide. Well, I'm… pretty sure that's defintely not what happened."

Gwen takes a moment to take a big bite out of the jelly center of the strudel, flakes going every which way with a soft, slightly moist crunch. "But you could have probably guessed that."

"I've been working with Atlas, one of the X-Men, and Dani Moonstar, and went to the disposal site where Warren's wings were supposed to be incinerated, like, a week ago."

"Well, there was a viral agent there and his wings super weren't burned. Everyone in the place was dead - some sort of metal zombie. We go ask Warren's doctor what's up and these… smiling power suit racists show up and start blasting us. Wildest thing. Morphic armor, super heat-ray arms, and they're not even there for us - they were going to silence the doctor. I got fried pretty badly, and my costume needs some work, but… It's fine. I'm fine."

"They took credit for the two murders, too. Warren and his girlfriend."

Gwen heaves a sigh, her shoulders slouching into her chest. "And everyone's out for blood. How do you stop people, like that? When vengeance isn't even just the 'right' thing, but feels like the 'correct' thing?"

"I heard from Starfire that you're big on not killing, and it's probably going to be a thing, at the end of this. I'm not sure it's going to be clean from here on out."

***

The explanation provided by the spider-powered young woman is… Well, it's a lot, isn't it?

Weird viral agents, metal zombies, guys in power armor trying to silence a doctor in what sounds like an extremely unsubtle way. And worse, perhaps, they took credit for the murder of Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire.

The world of extremely, frankly disgustingly rich people was a pretty small one itself. At the level of not just the 'one percent', but a fraction of that one percent, it became increasingly difficult to not at least passingly know each other. As the adopted son of professional rich person Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake of course knew of Warren Worthington, at least in passing. And while he was the wrong generation to have listened to the Dazzler's music, well, he's gone by the oldies station on the radio before.

So certainly, he was aware. Certainly, he'd had certain thoughts about how believable the official murder/suicide explanation was.

But you know, his own ideas didn't have many zombies or power armored racists in them.

"Are you not, then?" he wonders. "Big on not killing, I mean." It would certainly mark a difference between her and Spider-Man, beyond the extremely obvious. He remembers, acutely, the near-breakdown the webslinger had suffered after Lernaea, after being unable to even save the cruel mind behind all of that torment. "If you want my help, I won't stand by while anyone dies."

He says it like a simple statement of fact, with that same absolute confidence.

But, well, the Rule is the Rule.

"What about the doctor? Were you able to save him?"

***

"It's… complicated. I think my greatest failure was not trying hard enough - not taking my responsibility seriously. I've always been good about controlling my strength, even early on - but it's not good enough to just 'not hit someone so hard they fall over and stay down'."

Ghost Spider lingers on the topics as she crinkles the paper at the top of her to-go bag, but it's the idle, musing sort of gesture. One that she makes out of thought, not out of intent.

Her voice wavers as she explores the topic, nothing like Red Robin's complete confidence.

"I don't think I want to kill anyone. But I think that maybe…"

"Maybe I've just not run into someone that's pushed me that far. It's scary."

Ghost Spider crosses her legs tightly, her lifted mask revealing her intense frown. "The whole issue is too hard to give an answer to. It's all about the question. About the me, right now, I can answer this, at least:"

"This isn't a one person… tttttthing. Job? Mission? Crazy task I can barely understand the scope of?"

Gwen plants her palm and rotates on it, turning to fully face Red Robin.

"Nobody should be dying because they woke up different. Nobody should be putting on crazy alien power armors and trying to silence people, or blow up entire blocks of streets and cars. I can say that. I think if people like you aren't informed, Red…"

"A lot of people who don't have spider-reflexes are going to die, and it's on my head if it does, isn't it?"

***

It's complicated, Gwen says.

Red Robin can hardly disagree there.

It's scary, she admits further.

Again, not much to be gainsaid about it.

"Once you put on a costume and start doing the whole superhero thing, you kinda give up any hope of things being uncomplicated," the vigilante says, though that's not really a reassurance, is it? There are those who operate in their world who would probably disagree with him, of course. Usually the types who've had a lot of the nuance whittled away from them by life, leaving them seeing everything in black and white. "But I think most of us have been in a situation that pushed them to that point, sooner or later. In the end, it comes down to the choices you make yourself."

Which, again, is not particularly reassuring, most likely. But it would be absurd to think that someone who's spent a good chunk of his life coming uncomfortably close to serial killers, maniacs, cannibals and worse has never faced the temptation to cross the line. Has never been pushed to that point. Even wanted to kill someone.

But, well. Life is ever a series of trials.

"But no, you're right. Nobody should be dying because of a quirk of genetics. People who think they have every right to act like judge, jury and executioner need to be stopped. But we can stop them without stooping to their level, right?"

It might be the hollow moralisation of somebody who's never likely to be targeted just because of a peculiar gene deciding to express itself. It could be that he's able to take that position because he has the privilege to do it: A one-in-a-billion prodigy with seemingly limitless resources and training few could hope to match. But everybody has to draw their line somewhere.

"Was there anything else identifying about them? Did they let slip anything else? From what you're describing they must have some kind of backers…"

***

She wasn't really expecting any different. It's comforting to hear someone say it. And among the people who 'get to'…

Someone who says the easy-to-say-hard-to-back-up words that she expects without any powers beyond a money pile and a keen mind… It means just a little more.

"I didn't answer your question, sorry. The doctor lived."

There's no weight to it, no preening or even pride. It's just the answer to his question. She forgot, amid all the self-doubt and navel gazing! "I swept him off the street after we sorta-kinda disabled the pair attacking us and him. It happened after I almost got fried."

Switching to an extended-leg sit, scooching so the edge of the building is behind her, rather than sitting on it, Ghost Spider rattles her bag of pastries. "Want one? Nighttime energy snacks."

Discerning features… "They had pretty advanced tech. Maybe Stark, or something not of this world. I want to say 'not of this dimension' but apparently they stack spider this high." She jokes lightly. "There was two - and they were inexperienced. Just sort of blasting away and flying. Totally silent flight tech, and they could just lock position in the air, like a magnet. In fact, I think everything about them was silent, except the damage they caused. Big smiles on them too, rictus grins. One had a yellow face, and the other had a red one. And they were… definitely manned. They were saying things like 'now it's our time!' and calling me disgusting. Which, I have to say, is a lllllittle rude."

Gwen pinches her thumb and index finger together for emphasis. "I brought up Tony Stark, and they seemed to feel pretty betrayed by him, but it could be an act. Besides that, they were sorta… Well, weird racists, but they had to be connected to something else. Well, no. They don't 'have to'…"

Gwen nods. "But that's my hunch. It felt like someone's best day being 'getting back at the bullies'. I know that kind of feeling."

***

Belatedly, she answers his earlier question about the doctor, that he survived.

"Well, I'm glad you're both okay," Red Robin says, sounding awfully genuine for a guy in a cape and cowl. She says she's fine after having been 'fried pretty badly', as she put it before, and he doesn't have any reason to mistrust her on that. She's certainly not moving like somebody in pain, though she's also not showing that pent-up, nervous energy he often associates with Spider-Man, and that he's seen from the Ghost version in the past; maybe her body's just using up all that excess energy to heal?

Besides, he's learned the hard way there's only so much prying you should do when it comes to a young woman's health, be she spider-y or otherwise.

"No thanks," he says, of the offered pastry. "I think you need it more than I do." He's got plenty of energy, because he drank one of his horrible smoothies prepared according to the exacting standards of the Batman Diet. None of the other Titans will drink them, for some reason.

Instead, he listens attentively when Gwen relates her observations of the attackers. Advanced technology, she says, though that's unfortunately not enough to narrow things down. Stark might be the most famous inventor of powered armor, but that's a genie that won't go back into the bottle anytime soon, and with those Sentinel robots around…

"They had to get the tech from somewhere, though it doesn't sound like they had anything distinctive enough to easily trace. So whoever their patron is, they aren't stupid… Just willing to fund sloppy overkill missions. Maybe psychological warfare? But nobody's taken credit to use it to frighten people off from working with mutants…"

He frowns, thoughtfully. Maybe thoughtfully; it's hard to tell when that's all of his face that's showing.

"Where did this happen?"

***

Gwen isn't moving, it's true. She's relatively still - not pacing, or getting up, or walking around. She's not trembling, either. She's… Restrained.

It's obvious Ghost Spider has her quiet moments.

Still, while it's less obvious her actual state of injury, she's not nursing any part of her body overmuch, and her range of motion while restrained due to whatever reasons - emotionally broody or otherwise - doesn't appear hindered.

She's just being broody! Spiders do that sometimes.

"It was like if a laser — or even more specifically, just 'directed energy' was taken to its absolute logical endpoint. A tight line or cone of destruction that totally tore up Long Island. You should be able to find it: Centerport Long Island, the residance of Doctor Stuart of New York Presbyterian. Their first shot melted his roof. Not part of it - the whole dang thing. That's why I was pretty sure they were manned, not drones or killbots."

"They were sloppy. That, and they reacted when hit. It's why I asked you about that line, that choice."

Gwen withdraws a chocolate eclair, and brings it close to her mouth. "That kind of armor - and firepower - mean that saving people could mean a choice. Two people already died, but their bodies are gone. Anti-mutant radical racists in advanced powersuits are trying to blow up metahumans and clean up loose ends. It's just sloppy sloppy sloppy. I thought telling you about it would help."

"Maybe I just wanted someone that wasn't connected to talk to. A reality check."

Ghost Spider snorts a sarcastic bark of a 'laugh'. "It's kind of pathetic. 'Here, Red, take this super vague information and my problems and please make the murder escalator I've been shoved down stop moving'."

She looks up, above Red Robin's head, her chin canting up. "I think the thing is, that if this doesn't end well, the whole Registration thing is going to blow up real, real bad. If it hasn't already. And this is your world: so I think you're the one that may need to lead the charge in saving it. I'll help however I can, but…"

"You're the one leading the team with a space princess. I'm just a ghost from another dimension."

***

Broody is certainly something Red Robin can understand. It wasn't too long ago that he was almot wholly broody, before reuniting with old friends and making some new ones helped pull him back out of his shell. Broody is one of the major states of any member of the so-called Bat-Family just in general; it's a side-effect of being part of the Batman's endless war against evil.

Plus, Gotham is just good for brooding. All those gargoyles, plenty of stormy nights, it's got the works!

"I'll check it out," the Red Knight says, once Gwen answers his question about where the attack happened. There might not be anything to be found there now, but there's no point in writing it off. Be thorough, the Batman had always taught him. Sloppiness makes you miss important details. "If I learn anything, I'll tell you, and you can pass it along to your X-Men friends." He certainly sounds like he means it, but then he generally does.

It could, of course, just be an act. Sincerity is a useful tool for getting people to go along with you, as no end of politicians and sociopaths have learned over the annals of human history. Maybe that's one of the reasons why the Bat goes for gruff. Nobody suspects gruff of having hidden motives, they just want you to stop glaring at them.

"It's not pathetic," the vigilante tells her, as Gwen delves into self-recrimination, a popular pastime of costumed heroes everywhere. "You're in… Let's face it, a really messed up situation. You probably feel untethered, lost in a world that isn't the one you're used to. Surrounded by strangers." Knowing full well that the 'her' from this world is cold in the ground. How would he feel, how would anyone feel, in her position?

"And, here's the thing… Right now, for all practical purposes, this is your world. Until someone can get you back home, you're a part of this dimension, as much as me or anyone else. Those guys in the armor suits aren't going to care if you're from a different reality. And I know you're not saying any of that to make it not your problem, but I still don't know that it's a healthy perspective. Besides… Like I said before, that team has room for a 'ghost from another dimension', too."

***

Ghost Spider broods in good company, indeed. Still not her usual self, at least she's found someone who understands quiet moments.

"I'm sure SHIELD and the X-Men are going to do everything they can to stop it. The X-Men, because they're the one under the gun… And SHIELD, because…"

A scowl. "Actually, they could be involved, but… I'd think they would recruit better people if they were. Well, I can't really say about them. You'd be the expert."

It goes unsaid that Dani is an Agent of SHIELD and probably asking very aggressively about MECHA-RACISTS, because those are details, and Gwen is brilliant but also wildly uninformed.

Word that Red will check it out and pass along anything he finds seems to perk up Gwen. "You will? Thanks. I appreciate it. I wanna say that means I'll be getting off at this stop, but… You're right. I'm here, now. This ride doesn't stop. It didn't stop when I was at home, and it won't stop here. Even dressed down like I am, beat up, I'm still wearing this mask."

The left corner of Gwen's mouth turns up. "I guess I'm just addicted to the plunge."

Growing quiet as Red Robin's overtures about her self-recrimination actually more-or-less put in bodyshots that she doesn't have good comebacks or smart words for it. It just is, and she can't Spider-Quip her way around the truth staring her in the face (from under a cowl).

The ending, though, returns her half-smile. "I thought you… Nevermind. Koriand'r said that you'd be the one to convince, but I never felt like I did any convincing. If you're offering, then maybe you know better than I do what you want. Which…"

A dry laugh escapes her lips, the 'wow, how stupid am I today?' varietal of self-deprecating inner thoughts escaping through breath. Standing up, she clenches and unclenches her right fist, before popping her fingers with a quick bridge, and extending her hand and fingers straight out to offer a shake. "If you'll have me, then, Red. Uh, disclaimer though: I'm awful at making band practice."

Her lenses 'blink' and her tone warms like a thermostat being cranked. "Haven't shown up in a month. I hear I'm the worst."

***

It's an established fact that Red Robin has little trust for SHIELD, or really any government agency… But especially those agencies that deal with superheroics and metahumans. It's an inherited prejudice, to be sure, something he learned from the Dark Knight himself, but it may well have been inevitable given their particular similarities of temperament.

Specifically, 'control freak distrustful of any authority but their own'.

But at least the younger vigilante is nowhere near as bad about it as his mentor. A solid 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, compared to Batman's 13.

"It doesn't seem like their style," he agrees on the subject of SHIELD. "But that could be the point. The question there is, what would SHIELD have to gain out of this?" A foundational question of any investigation, really. Who benefits? That's why 'follow the money' is often an effective strategy.

Except when you're dealing with maniacs, sometimes.

That detective's insight is turned against Gwen with precision and care, because he's not trying to worsen her existential crisis or otherwise cause her harm, just carve away some of the armor she's trying to put up about it. He's no stranger to creating a remove between oneself and others for protection, but right now it's not very useful to him if she does.

Which, uh, probably loops back to that control freak thing.

"The whole point of the Titans is to help. When I brought them back together… It was because I knew people, young people with powers, who needed that positive experience." Also because everyone Zatanna hung out with but him was in their 30s (or in one case was pushing 100) and he needed to act before she caught a terminal case of old personitis. But that doesn't sound as noble, does it? "And Kory has a good read on people, most of the time. Just, uh, be careful because her culture is kinda clothing optional."

He watches as Ghost Spider stands up; not long before, she described herself as 'addicted to the plunge', but how would she approach taking this one?

When she extends a hand, he does the same. He has a firm handshake, probably at least in part because of the gauntlets.

"Welcome to the Titans, then. If we ever have band practice we'll just send Impulse to make sure you're there on time. Or maybe get Zatanna or Raven to teleport you." Because now Gwen is in for extreme weirdo town, where everyone is a tiny god and for some reason they listen to this guy. "There's plenty of room at the mall, if you need a space of your own."

***

"You know…" Gwen's handshake is simple in the grip strength, but inexorably sticky in the two pumps she goes for. FOOLISH TIM DRAKE, YOU HAVE ACCEPTED THE TWO PUMP, THERE IS NO ESCAPE!!!

"The positive experience, huh? I had…" Ghost Spider leaves the handshake like that, without standing there trying to MAXIMUM SPIDER Red Robin's hand. "… Well, I didn't really have teammates. I got the suit from someone who was a hero, though. Who got out of the business, did science stuff and became really rich. Was all 'wow! I see great potential in you! here, have this mask, it makes things simpler'."

Gwen reaches up to pull down the lip of her mask over her face. "She kinda neglected to mention that 'simpler' was code for 'way more complicated, but in different ways'. Or that alternate universes exist? Really, a lot of omissions in that pep talk."

Her expression flattens, the lenses on her mask becoming nigh-boxlike. "Yeah, I've been staying at her halfway house for models. It's been an experience. Pretty much everyone is small on personal space."

"And shame." Beat. "I've never been asked for gym tips more in my life."

There's a pause as her eyes go askance at 'her own space'. "It could be… good. I really don't want to go back to Koriand'r's place with all the civilians when flying power-racists have my number. And if I could teleport to band practice?"

"I'd still probably be late. I've got to check in with Carolus, to see if he got any new leads, but I'll put you two together to swap info when I get a chance."

"Speaking of - thanks for the chance. I know you're taking one with me. I won't say 'a big one', but mostly because I've gotten the feeling from you that I'd really, really rather not be on your bad side."

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