Escape to the Goat Pit

June 29, 2018:

After the explosion in Hell's Kitchen, Angela and Hercules go elsewhere to lay low until the initial emergency response dies down. They assess the similarity of their situations with varying levels of mysteriousness (i.e., lots vs. none).

The worst bar

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Hercules, the Prince of Power, seems to have some kind of sixth sense regarding places to get a drink. He can be heard muttering to himself - by the time they arrive, it is clear that Hercules's last 48 hours involved losing his fortune, being evicted, and then having his backup clothes, spare headgear, memory foam mattress, and shirt all go up in an explosion.

As they ghosted from the still-burning Hell's Kitchen, having done about all they could, at one point he pushed aside some rubble to retrieve his ash-and-soot-stained but otherwise undamaged raiment, consisting of a leather skirt, a strap across his chest, and sandals with straps that go most of the way up his thighs.

He's only wearing the strap, now attached to the band of his cloud-patterned pajama pants. Maybe it'll pass as enough of a shirt for people not to complain.

Aside from that detour, he goes directly for a really grungy basement kind of place on the edge of Queens named The Goat Pit. It smells like cheap beer, burnt meat, and blood. They don't serve anything but preztels and "cheese" fries and most people here don't make eye contact with anyone else.

Angela is a silent but self-sufficient traveling companion. Her major interaction with Hercules on the way to the bar was intervening in his pathing to show him a different way out of the chaos of the bomb attack, through and around the emergency services and government lockdown. It is difficult to say which of their sixth senses is the more useful.

By the time the two of them reach the venerable Goat Pit, Angela's clothing has mostly dried off. Her hair is still getting there. Whatever anger she emoted during the surprise soaking in the course of the fight has since evaporated, leaving her more interested in observing her surroundings.

The quality of the establishment does not put her off, but neither does she eagerly take to the experience. Hercules is still in the lead, pajama bottoms and chest strap and golden mace and all. What a chill woman with horrific super strength, at least.

The two of them get Looks. Obviously they get Looks. Angela is far too fashionable to come in here and Hercules is somehow not fashionable enough. Someone in a corner starts to mutter, but his companion flags him down and looks meaningfully at a big crack in the wall.

Herc has come here before.

There are no two stools next to each other until Hercules lifts up a nearly-unconscious drunk and deposits him three seats down. Returning, he makes a show of dusting the stool off and gesturing Angela to it with a grin before taking the one next to it, detaching the mace from his strap and laying it against the bar with a loud enough thump to get the bartender's attention.

"Your very closest beer, housemaster," he says, before stretching out his thick arms with a couple echoing pops. "About time I had the hair of the dog. Dry for a whole three hours."

Finally, he claps his hand on a bared knee, looking toward Angela. "And to who do I owe the rescue from the inconvenience of crashing through a blazing building? It takes uncommon strength to stop a throw from the likes of the Duke of the Funeral Pyre."

Angela is cheating on the fashionable part. Anyone can make a button-up and slacks look pedestrian, but a six-foot-two woman with a heroic amount of red hair finds it difficult to dress down. Plus her cheekbones are amazing, oh my god.

She watches Hercules settle in with the same detached interest that one, at this point, might begin to assume is characteristic of her. When a cleared bar stool is offered to her, Angela sits without further care for the man who got vacated.

"Two," Angela amends the order. She leans forward as if she were going to rest her arms on the bar, but instead presses the tip of her forefinger to it. It sticks slightly coming off. She rubs her forefinger and thumb together, frowns, and then contents herself to sitting with straight posture.

"My name is Angela," she says, turning her head to look sidelong at her soon-to-be drinking partner. "And I understand you are called Hercules. Is drinking this often typical here?"

The scope of 'here' is left unclear, but she did mention something akin to being new to the city during the fight.

'Angela.' Hercules goes to his first instinct and scans through his memory of Greek heroes, Olympians, and what Asgardians he knows. Comes up empty. Always good to meet someone new right up until they drag you into a quest and start getting people killed.

Hopefully that won't happen.

The bartender, trying his luck, pours out two cans of a more expensive microbrew (something like >HOPS!!<along Cassidy's Big Hop Hop Time, with Hops), setting the glasses for the two obvious supers down without concern.

Hercules pulls half of his glass down immediately. He barely registers the taste. "Not as such," he replies, "but neither are sackings." He levers his bare arm onto the sticky bar without noticing the grime and grins. "A more thrilling night than most. If people here were writing their myths properly there would be new freizes on the temples and songs of heroism and tragedy, but I wager they'll settle for their droning news broadcasts and comedy internet pictures.

"So," he switches gears - show interest, slightly increase proximity, smile your big damn bearded smile - "Where did you blow in from? Your accent is a touch familiar."

Angela approaches the beer situation with more analysis. She watches the pouring, briefly glancing to the logo on the can. When the bartender has left, she takes up the glass and holds it so that the light may better filter through. When she drinks, it is with first a half-mouthful, and then a larger pull.

Angela lowers the glass briefly and looks down into it. "Do they produce a surplus of hops?" she muses.

She takes another drink and then sets the mug aside, leaving it to its sticky fate on the bar top.

"Out of town," she answers, with the easy candor that comes from either truth or confident lying. Of course, 'out of town' is a loaded answer if there ever was one. She softens the statement with some explanation: "There are unhappy memories in my past. I prefer to focus on the present."

Hercules is edging in, but Angela casually one-ups the gesture by turning to face him and leaning forward, a hand on her knee to balance. The slight narrow of her eyes makes her look like she's tracking something, but the subtlety might be missed in comparison to how strange her white irises are.

"Do you know much of the days of myth, then? Are you very old?"

It's a leap that is suspiciously intuitive, but there's context enough for it with how a few of the others were talking earlier. And of course there was the scandalous report of hated TMZ.

Further down the bar, a 250 pound man whose entire body seems to be in service of a righteous beer gut with blackened fingers snorts grotesquely and deposits a nearly-solid loogie on the floor. If it weren't for the sticky film, it might have bounced. "Fuckin' California." he complains.

Hercules has heard more than his fair share of 'Out of Town's. He has never personally bothered to hide himself - he feels confident that if shadowy agents tried to disappear him (tried) the Greek government could find a way to stop looking at their fifteen dollars mournfully and have a thing to say on the matter. There are benefits to being an extant god of a civilization that is not, in fact, quite completely lost.

But he doesn't press, particularly with her explanation. Herc barks a laugh with some bitterness and finishes his drink, banging the mug twice on the bar for a refill. His face is reliably open and honest. "Aye… a long life can lead to a great many unhappy memories. I seek the present as well… and occasionally the future. Man thinks that the secrets of time travel are beyond them."

He lifts his mug pointedly. "They have had them all along." Another deep drink. He thinks briefly of smoke and screaming, drowning the sound in a wave of amber yeast. "You have the air of long life about yourself as well. Less in your shoulders and more in your eyes."

Hercules meets Angela's white gaze without flinching, unperturbed by what some would see as unnatural. "It can be difficult sometimes to really grasp the present when one has seen so much. The roads all start to look the same. Don't you agree?"

"Perhaps I am the victim of a birth defect and you are gravely insulting me," says Angela, holding Hercules' look.

A moment passes.

Angela tilts her head to the side and turns partway back to the bar so that she may finish her own drink. The narrowing of her eyes has changed slightly; there is a suggestion of a smile there that is not clearly reflected in her lips. After a brief drink, Angela sets her glass down and pushes it away. It makes a terrible stuttering noise as it clips across the bar top's gumminess.

"I would not know of road fatigue, but then I have always been one for changes of scenery."

The barkeep senses a chance to unload this unique beer and wordlessly matches Hercules' second pour by popping the tab on another can for Angela. She presses her lips thin, conflicted by this development. There must truly be more hops than this nation can bear to store.

"Those explosions were exceptional," she says, finally broaching the subject of what just happened. She does not seem to be using the word exceptional in the approving sense. English may be a second language for her. "The youths could not contain their fear despite their powers. It was unusual for them. The government will respond sternly, will it not?"

Herc reads it as a test and doesn't back down, lifting a knuckle to brush a trace of foam from his beard with a half-grin. He is on his third now - or at least the bartender knows to keep his glass topped off.

The moment moves through. A small shoulder Hercules pumps his fist, going "yesss"

Matters of hop overload aside, as the topic turns to the bombing, Herc's cheer does not dim greatly, more… mellows. He is no stranger to horrible death. Besides… he never said the city was under his protection. Not his responsibility. It's not like he just walked away from it, even. The turn of phrase doesn't faze him - we're all Allspeakers here, after all.

"A sacking on that scale in the States is unheard of. Attacks, certainly, great and terrible threats from thrones mortals cannot comprehend even, but this was something different. No conquering force would choose Hell's Kitchen as its first target."

Someone at a table with sweat-stained pits in his office shirt chimes in, "Clinton!" He is roundly booed.

"As for the government, it always has some new toys it can't wait to swing at the first sign of trouble. The city is like to get uncomfortable. I hope that one mortal stalwart makes it through - few people would stand against an ifrit with no armor save their business suit!"

Angela settles into the reality of having to drink another triple IPA. She has walked paths more grim, and no horde has ever dissuaded her — hops presently included. She momentarily looks up from her drink at the booing, the blankness in her expression suggesting that the meaning of the quibble is beyond her.

Hell's Kitchen. Two ls, she realizes now. Etymological quirks sometimes give the Allspeak a bit of a hitch, especially when there's much to distract.

"It will be trouble for you, I think, to live under increased scrutiny," says Angela. She taps her forefinger on the mouth of her glass, taking a brief silence to study Hercules' shoulders and bare chest. She does not attempt to hide her wandering gaze.

"You helped the firefighters, but were not eager to coordinate with those who came later. You took us to this wonderfully inconsequential place to lay low. Have you angered someone, or broken the law?"

She is being terribly selective with what she responds to, but her interest seems sustained.

Hercules sure hasn't been - but his assessment came previously and was complete. One of his greatest talents! When he sizes someone up as a battle companion, he is sizing them up in all other ways as well.

He preens with the unsubtlety of someone who knows they cannot be subtle. When he finishes this glass, as Angela looks, he makes sure to keep himself in profile. Hercules isn't built like the common idea of the superhero - he is chiseled broadly rather than precisely, with muscles built in the battlefields and stables, not in a gym. His habit of food and drink takes just enough definition away to make him, if you'll pardon the subculture, more of a bear of a man than a glamorous bodybuilder.

He puts the glass down with a bang. He's always ready for more. His expression turns sly as he wipes his lips. "Oh, an interesting take. I don't recall you being too eager to stick around for SHIELD yourself. I wasn't looking forward to being hassled about my quote unquote 'immigration status' while nursing a hangover, is all." One eyebrow twitches up. "Hoping to find a fellow fugitive of some mysterious court, were you?"

Angela's gaze ticks up as Hercules slams down his glass. She looks him squarely in the face once more. His probing questions do not earn any tells from her expression, but at least she has been consistent for long enough that the reality of her controlled impassiveness may have sunken in.

"Vagabonds rarely agree with immigration authorities," she says, in what may be the first clean(-ish) affirmative she's given on her status. "If we are in a similar situation, we may be of use to each other."

Angela leans forward again so that her voice need not carry so far. "I am a mercenary and finder of things and people. I would trade my skills for your assistance. A fair dealing."

Hercules chuckles. "They know better than to hassle me too much, if they like to keep their Helicarriers." His speech has an odd feel to it - he slips back and forth between modern vernacular and a kind of elaborate cadence nobody has ever actually used outside of old books.

Well, most people would think that. For Angela, the modern speech is probably more unfamiliar.

Herc rubs at his chin. "A finder may be just what I need. I admit to having a habit of" gambling away "misplacing things of significant value." Trade. A trade sounds good. A trade doesn't sound like it's going to be a quest.

His gaze then becomes slightly guarded. "This isn't going to turn into a quest, is it?" He has his hand ready to go for a handshake, but hasn't completed the forward motion yet.

Angela raises her hand in mirror to Hercules' impending agreement. Impending initial agreement, that is. The fine details must be discussed and settled.

He pauses. Angela stops moving the very moment he does. She gives him a blank look.

Eventually: "The idea is that I do the quest and you repay me in information and access."

An unexpectedly haunted look crosses over Hercules's face.

What exactly might he be processing? Is he thinking of the incompetent men that led heroes to die? The men who tried to cheat people out of their just rewards? Villainous kings and cruel senators?

Hercules's track-record with quest-givers is… uniquely poor.

"Tell you what," he says, offering his large hand - softer than it has any right to be, as divine durability prevents a fighter's calluses from forming. "We'll make the deal and work out the particulars on a case-by-case basis. I could probably use a little more activity!" Not to mention a little more money, which tends to come along with adventure. "Not to mention I would be a fool not to take the chance to spend a little more time getting to know a fellow traveller."

At least Angela is offering to take on the burden of questing. But that would make… Hercules the quest-giver?! What kind of monster will he become?

Angela takes Hercules' hand in agreement. Her hands seem similarly bereft of the usual signs of physical labor. For an avowed mercenary, this is perhaps unusual, and therefore perhaps A CLUE.

"I would be negligent to not determine specifics in an orderly way," she says. "Yet we have agreed upon the framework."

When Angela releases Hercules' hand, she turns back to the bar to take up her drink. She finishes her second beer and gives the bottom of the glass a thoughtful look.

"Yes," she says, her words coming slower. "It would be good to spend such time."

A brief silence.

"I have currency for these drinks," she adds in a more typical cadence. "Do you?"

Herc's grin gets larger. Someone so rough and tumble shouldn't have perfect teeth, its unfair! Not even a cracked incisor.

Then he goes, "Hrrrmmm," reaching down and picking up his leather skirt from where he left it on the ground, swatting at it a few times before picking one of the tassets. "Old habit a soldier once taught me," he proclaims, pulling a small pouch free from the backside. "Always keep a few extra coins tucked in your raiment! I don't think I've thought of this pouch since that Christianity stuff took off."

Herc shakes the contents loose - a couple ancient electrum coins and one of gold. Not much at all… at the time they were minted. "That'll probably do it," he says dubiously, leaving the coins by his glass. He flips over one of the electrum coins. "Hey, I'm on that one. Heh, that's funny."

The bartender comes to collect the coins. "Aw, come on," he protests. "The hell'm I supposed to do with these?"

"Ask a scholar, housemaster! I'm sure he can figure out the exchange rate!"

"The fuck's a fuckin' scholar?"

Angela turns further in her stool to watch Hercules go about his business. Once more the guardedness drops from her expression, again to show curiosity. She leans forward to get a better look at the skirt-digging.

Hercules explains. Angela wrinkles her nose when he pulls the pouch free.

"It smells… potent. Congratulations on your forethought."

She sits back again to give Hercules space to carry out the transaction. The problem with being wide is that you need lots of space for swinging your arms and shoulders around and all that. Large steps, also. Her balance can tolerate the stool positioning demanded by Hercules' current labor.

A disagreement. Angela clucks her tongue. She reaches into one of the pockets of her slacks — as men's slacks, they have appreciable pockets — and drops a twenty dollar bill on the bar top. She slips off her stool afterward.

"Let us stay on the move," she says. After a few steps, she glances back over her shoulder. Her gaze meaningfully drops to the bill for a moment, then back to him.

"You owe me."

"Bah!" Hercules says, swiping his roughly $2,000 worth of ancient coins back off the bar.

The booed man, a coin collector, sits in smug silence. Maybe if you people used proper district names he'd've intervened!

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