2020-04-08 - Tough Critics


A casual visit to the Disaster Zone leads to trouble for Hod and excitement for Spider-Man.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Apr 8 00:00:00 2020
Location: Disaster Zone

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Theme Song



The DZ is, as it has been since the event, a glorious shithole of the desperate, the lost, the broken, and the cruel. A pocket of undiluted human condition hidden away in a sea of civilization and systemic lawful order. It calls to Hod, or perhaps it's people do, the lost and desperate and broken are his people after all and while he's never had the means to be of much use to anyone for the last couple of millenia, things have changed for him recently. And he made a promise. So here he is, in the DZ, doing as he usually does, playing an impromtu concert for all the ears that gather to listen, hiding from site but no less an audience for not being seen. After all, it's not like he'd see them if they were standing in the open anyway. But he can hear the heartbeats change with the slow ponderous twang of the musics sincere sadness, he can smell the waft of stale sweat, unwashed flesh, and old alcohol that permeates to many of the DZ's inhabitant for them to even notice anymore. He can sense them, in the shadows of the night, tucked away, curled up and hiding from the shadows they fear every bit as much as they lovingly embrace them. He knows they listen, he knows they gather when he shows up. He knows because for so many years he was one of them and while music is an ephemeral thing it can move mountains given it's proper application.

Hod's a shockingly good artist. He's not the best in the world or anything but there's a sincerety and purety to the way he plays the blues that brings what he sings to life in ones mind. It's not magic or anything, it's just truth given form and notes. He plays an old dinged up metal resonator guitar that has a tinny sort of hollow sound to it but who's simple non-electric mechanism manages to amplify the notes across the intersection he's chosen to play in as if he were in an amphitheater, the natural accustics of the buildings catching the sound and sending it back in on itself so that there's no point in the surrounding buildings you couldn't find a place to hide and listen safely. He stands alone in the center of the intersection, guitar resting against his body and he plucks at the strings and his voice, all gravel and whiskey sings out, his back resting against the skeleton of what was a delivery van before a Sentinel's foot smashed the front half into a pancake.

"Come down from your mountain
I miss your holy shoutin'

These days I can't make you make a sound
Take me to the times when
I'd look up to the skies and
Climb up there and draw the thunder down.."

Even people who can see perfectly tend to miss Spider-Man when he's passing through the area, especially if he's doing so as high up as web-slinging tends to permit. On the other hand, the Disaster Zone isn't quite as conducive to the wall-crawler's usual form of travel - fewer buildings still reaching high enough, damaged or decaying architecture that's no longer sturdy enough to stand upright even in the face of a length of synthetic webbing and the body weight of a fairly fit superhero. So while Spidey does take it upon himself to check out the Disaster Zone once in a while, he has to keep alert and have at least two options for changing direction if something goes wrong.

So far, nothing's gone *that* wrong. But when he sees - or rather, hears - Hod singing, Spider-Man changes course, landing lightly against what's left of an old apartment (or maybe tenement) building, ready at first to vault away again, then relaxing as he determines the structure will support his weight.

Even when that weight is sideways, crouching on the wall rather than anything horizontal.

And he listens. Not just for hints of trouble like he'd normally be alert for, but taking some time out of his patrol to just appreciate Hod's singing.

The song is blues but has a distinct delta country inspiration to it, something that makes one think of muddy slow moving rivers and humid blistering hot summers. There's a pain in Hod's voice he doesn't hide or accentuate, merely weilds like a butcher with a boning knife, paring away all of what's not needed and leaving only the choice bits.

"Now I'm forcing myself into
What you've already been through
Father I now know what I fear,
Now I need something stronger
A drug to kill the hunger
And ease the awful pain of exile here"

It's not an original song, nor is it the original version of the song. The lyrics have been changed, altered, the sound of it taken down a more bluesy road, but it's clearly deeply personal. The empty square takes on the quiet somber feel of a confessional booth more then a concert hall and it does nothing to lessen the tune's weight.

Wait. Something's wrong. Something's very very…Spidey can feel it.

"Well I'm the kind of love it hurts to look at,
Maybe I should take i-"

The blast of force picks Hod up and sends him hurteling through the air like a ragdoll, arms and legs flopping about erratically as the old Resonator flies from his grasp and does it's own summersalts. He hits a light post with jarring force, the breath blasted from him in an audible grunt as he clips off of it and careens in a new direction, smashing halfway through the windsheild of an abandoned van, his body half folded up on itself. The delivery truck he leaned against makes a hellacious grating screech as it's weight is send sliding across the road, tipped on a few degrees from flat, digging a slight furrow in the asphault. There was no explosion, just a wave of… something, that hit the man and the truck at the same time. A half second later a trio of what is very clearly robots lands in the clearing with surprisingly quiet clink sounds, no heavy thuds, no graceless waloops of impact. Instead, they're quiet, balanced, and move with an alarming level of dexterity. Made more or less in human form they move as a cohesive and quick unit, no sooner having touched down as they are running well beyond human speeds towards the blind man now folded up in the windshield. One of them takes aim with a shoulder mounted weapon that seems to just appear, unfolding from it's back.

The tingle of forewarning distracts Spider-Man from the concert, but it's not enough for him to relay the warning to Hod - and he can't bring his web-shooters to bear in time to prevent the old minstrel from getting blown away by the force blast. About the most Spidey can do is thwip a webline at the flying Resonator - it may not be much, but it's the least he can do for the bluesman in a pinch.

The guitar is reeled in quickly, and a cushion of webbing between the guitar's back and the wall's surface make sure the instrument will be safe for the time being. And then Spidey dives towards the three assailants —

"That's awfully heavy artillery to bust someone for busking without a permit, isn't it?" Spider-Man's voice rings out, his snappy greeting punctuated by a blob of webbing aimed for the muzzle of that shoulder-mounted gun. "And if you just don't like the blues, just flame him on YouTube or something!" the red-and-blue-suited wall-crawler continues, rolling with his first landing and rebounding into the air, launching more webbing to try and blind all three figures.

Robots or not, he's going easy on them. At least for now.

There's a soft electrical sizzle sound as the webbing aimed at the weapon splatters against an invisible barrier inches from it's target and seems to ricochete harmlessly to the side, sticking to the remains of a city-bike stand. Wordlessly the robot's weapon turns Spidey's way and fires almost silently. There's the faintest sound like two cupped hands clapping and the vaugest distortion in the air. It moves to fast for the human eye to track and expands outwards in a cone like shape as it travels, displacing air as it moves. Whatever these robots are, they're clearly made for function, eschewing all of the usual villain trope like flair.

The other two continue on their run towards the blind man, who's groaning a bit and wriggeling in an attempt to get out of the window. Fruitlessly in fact. They ignore the webbing as it slaps against the invisible sheilding and slides harmlessly away. One of the two rushing bots hands curls back on it's wrist, folding up so that something with an oddly shaped barrel can extend from the forearm.

Sonic weaponry, guesses Spidey as the shockwave travels underneath him; if he hadn't already been airborne again he'd probably have heard it *much* more clearly, assuming he could hear anything at all. Those shields are a bit more confusing, but he's going to have to figure out a countermeasure *fast* before the old busker gets … whatever those additional guns will do. Oh, and he has to do it without drawing fire towards the bluesman.

Just another day's work for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, right?

"Okay, so if music's not your thing, how about stand-up comedy?" the wall-crawler follows up. "Three tin cans walk into a bar —"

*Thwip* and *thwip* again, as Spider-Man launches weblines at a pair of teetering street-lamps, and then uses them to slingshot himself back Hod's way … and *not* inadvertantly, giving them an extra yank when he's on the way between them, hard enough to snap them off the bases. It's not like they were doing much good in a semi-upright position, and this is an easier way to find out what the drones' barriers do to solid objects than his punching or kicking them directly.

The bots cover ground very quickly and as Spider-Man sling shots past them, one of them leaps high while the other two continue forward, one tracking Spidey, one still focused on Hod trying to claw his way out of the SUV. The odd shaped barrel fires and a fine metal mesh, oddly enough not unlike Spidey's webs, unfurls as weighted ends pull it open wide, it whips through the air, seemingly intent on wrapping up the blind man in the car… on the car? That's unclear.

The two posts snap free of their bases and cannon towards the bots, the one that leaped (and now appears to be flying) is the only one not caught by the pair of posts. Both of the bots take the hits, sending them twisting through the air with a loud clang of metal on metal, the pair sailing right past the SUV and their prize. Neither however seems outwardly bothered by this turn of events, as they twist in the air, bodies contorting unnaturally so that legs rotate on ball and socked hip joints, torsos spin completely around, heads whip 180 degrees, and long before they land, they're facing back the way they came, already reaquiring their targets. They land readied and balanced, they are preternaturally graceful, which is not generally a feature most robots had. If it's any consolation, the sheilds didn't seem to stop the posts at all, or if they did, they shorted them out almost instantly.

That kind of body-twisting reversal isn't *completely* unknown to Spider-Man; he hasn't seen it in real life before, but some cinematic shapeshifters have pulled similar moves over the decades. It also confirms that whatever these three are, "human" is no longer on the list of possibilities for at least those two - and probably not for the third either.

There's not a whole lot Spidey can do about the net, but he aims a web-line at the center of the net anyway, trying to yank it short of its target. If he can whip it around and tangle the airborne 'robot' up in it, all the better, but it's starting to look a lot like nothing's going to take them out short of ISO Standard Blunt Force Trauma.

So if the net reappropriation pays off to tangle up the flyer, Spider-Man gives it a good hard yank, and follows through to try and bounce the head (helmet?) off the pavement, probably about as hard as Hod got blasted when the fight broke out. Hopefully these things are no less sturdy than the bluesy busker.

Hod grunts himself and puts one foot against the bent roof of the SUV and pushes, the metal squealing as he shoves it up and out of his way, his hand moving to the side to grip the roof support and pushing, it too squealing as it bends outward. "Motherfuckers!" he growls from the car as he pries himself free.

The net's tradjectory is knocked off course by the webbing, and it spins out of control, the physics of twisting wire with weighted ends flying through the air one of those things that's impossible to calcualte. Unless one is instinctually aligned to understand such things on a altered-genetic level. Then it's likely the sort of thing one can do without having to crunch the numbers. And so the flying robot finds itself somewhat frustrated by the netting that instantly wrapps about it's legs, tangling it up. This doesn't so much stop the flying really as it does just make the bot look silly as it whips down towards the ground with alarming force, cracking the pavement where it impacts and causing it to bounce slightly.

Somewhere in the flying, Hod's glasses came free and his disfigurement is not on display for all to see. As are his teeth as his lips peel back in a snarl, "Ow." he says, finally pulling himself free of the wreckage. There's blood trickling down from the side of his head where a nasty cut seems to be, but he doesn't give it much mind. He drops down to the sidewalk and wipes his mouth with the back of a hand, it comes away with a red smear, "What the fuck i-" he never finished the question as he's hit with another blast from the force cannon that sends him flying back the way he came, fired by one of the two bots that are just returning to the fight from their lamp post propelled tumble.

One down, finally. Probably. That still leaves two to go, though - and while it's a relief to see the blind bluesman still kicking, the fact that Hod just got blasted *again* means Spider-Man's doing something wrong.

The bound-and-downed 'robot' is quickly grabbed by its legs, and Spider-Man winds up for a throw, "Here's the wind-up, and the pitch - !!"

The throw is more like a hammer toss than a proper fastball, but the drone goes flying at its 'brokther' all the same, and Spider-Man goes after the third one hand-to-hand, not bothering with webs or cables or nets, just a series of rib-cracking, sheet-steel-denting punches. He has to disable, but on the off-chance that there's still something inside these metal shells that can *answer questions*, he's stocking up a few to ask.

One of the remaining two is caught mid dodge with the hurled body of it's fellow, the pair going down in a sparking skipping mass of metal limbs, a random blast of that invisible energy turns the corner of a small building into chuncks of debris that just shower up into the night and fall like gravely rain half way down the block, sounding for all the world like the tinest hail storm. The last robot charges in heedlesslyn meeting Spidey's attack head on.

If he were anyone else, maybe literally, the fight would have been over in the first second. The robot reacts with superhuman speed, it's hands whip not in fists, but in straightened fingers that act like knives that slice the air with a whisteling sound. Punching the bot is not unlike punching a bank vault. It's body is harder then steel and significantly lighter, if Pete had to guess, it's titanium. Spidey's fists land in rapid succession, filling the street with an off rhythm beat like a crappy version of Stomp. The bot continues to attempt to return the favor, lethal knife like hands whipping this way and that, soaking the blows with a stoic inhuman dogedness that's disturbing. It is always moving forward, trying to force Spider-Man onto his heels, never letting him get any momentum but never really manageing to gain any ground either.

The exchange couldn't take more then a handful of seconds, but it happens so fast that subjective time stretches far longer. There are dents in the robot's body, not everywhere, but in the places where it's design allows for more hollow space behind it's 'skin' rather then support. Chest, midsection, but they're superficial for the most part. This close in however, the robot suddenly changes tack, and the Spidey-Sense goes on four alarm fire as the eyes of the bot glow with a sudden green light.

Punching metal hurts, and the amount of force you put behind such a blow is no protection against bruised knuckles or worse. Spider-Man usually makes up for that by punching smarter instead of harder, but against a robot - or whatever construct this is - there aren't really any softer parts *to* aim for, and those blade-like hands force him to devote a measure of attention to defense - enough of it that he can't put as much offensive pressure on as he apparently needs to.

But when the eyes light up, coupled with the alert from his spider-sense, it's mainly instinct that guides his arm up to bury his knuckles in the 'visor,' even as conscious thought wonders how badly that's going to hurt.

And then he backflips away, just as the smashed 'eye' flares and melts the robot's head off. At least, Spidey thinks, that confirms these things *are* robots … or were. So he doesn't have to feel bad about wrecking them … much.

The first two constructs need enough of a check to make sure they're going to stay down, but once Spidey's done that, he heads over to where Hod wound up, moving a little carefully rather than swinging and bounding. "Hey, you okay?" he asks the bluesman. "I can call an ambulance or something if you need one …"

The two robots that were down are no where to be seen. The remains of the net lays where they ended up in a tangle heap, as does some webbing with blackened ends, burned off or melted somehow. The pair have vanished. There's no forth coming Spidey-Sense buzz that says they're laying in ambush or even near by. Whoever was controlling them may have taken the distraction of the fight to recall the automatons.

Hod is just standing back up, a bit wobbly, and bloody, but he's standing. Well. Leaning really. He pushes floppy strands of hair from his face, exposing the disfigurement, "I'm fine." he growls, though not out of rage or anything, his voice is just naturally growly. "Don't worry, they didn't do this." he waves a hand at his face, "Was born this pretty. Where's my fuckin' glasses?" he asks, burying his face in the crook of his arm for the time being, mercifully hiding his 'eyes' from Spidey's sight. "Can someone stop the city from spinnin'?" he asks no one, "Like to get off now."

"Better have a seat until you stop being dizzy," Spider-Man says cordially. "I'll see if I can find your glasses, or what's left of them. You'll want your guitar back too," he adds with a wry tone.

Assuming Hod cooperates, Spidey gets him seated somewhere - an intact bench, or the steps in front of a door, something. And he does indeed look around to see if those glasses are somewhere, but he might miss them even if they're intact. If he finds them, though, he brings them back to Hod - and the Resonator is retrieved from its high place of relative safety.

"So, any idea who sent those robots, or constructs or whatever, to try and kill you?" Spidey wonders once he's returned Hod's things.

Hod doesn't argue with Pete as he's taken over to a seat somewhere and sits down, his head in his hands. The glasses are lost to the debris of the DZ. There's a chance they'd be visible if the area itself wasn't already camoflaging them in a mountain of garbage. As it is, it's a hopeless task. At least the resonator came out of it more or less intact! Well. There's a new dent, but it's small, and hopefully won't effect the sound much. Upon hearing the bad news, Hod just sighs and pulls a silk hankercheif from inside his vest and folds it in half on the diagonal a few times until he's holding a strip of cloth. This he ties around his 'eyes' as he speaks, sheilding Pete from the view by keeping his arm or his hair sort of in the way the entire time, the actions looks habitual more then anything.

"Kid, I got no idea what just happened. I was playing a song, then I was flying, then I was hitting a lamp post, then I was in the passenger seat of a car, then I was flying against, and now everything's doing cartwheels." he snorts, "You think I got a good look at them?" he asks flatly, turning (now that his disfigurement is covered) and 'looking' at Pete. Well. Over Pete's left shoulder anyway. "I don't know what the hell just happened, but it's New York, right? Isn't this like… Tuesady here?"

"No, this was a Wednesday," Spider-Man replies, his tone relatively deadpan. "Tuesday's robots are animal-themed, or bigger, or both. And that's when it's not just some new super-villain in a gaudy costume full of gimmicks. But if somebody had a grudge against your music, they *really* went overboard,"

He pauses, looking around the area once more - not so much looking for things as just to see if he should have caught anything else. "Do you know any of the local authorities who might be able to take what's left of that one thing apart, and either make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, or fill us in about where it *did* come from? Or should I just unload the remains with somebody I trust not to make superweapons out of what's left?"

Hod tilts his head to the side and considers, "I could get rid of it, but it'll take a bit. Gimme an hour? Gotta get my wind back." at least the wound on the side of his head stopped bleeding, not that he doesn't look a proper mess, scalp wounds being what they are, but there's no /new/ blood coating the side of his face. Just the old stuff. "I owe you one though," he sounds as if the admitance annoyed him, "you come by Luke's sometime, place in Harlem, and the booze and board are on me. We can sit down and talk about why you're wearing what sounds like a sock over your face."

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