1963-11-30 - Radiohead
Summary: Duke is out hunting ghosts. Gamora is scrounging and trying to get by on Earth. Maybe they can help each other out.
Related: Allies and Alleys
Theme Song: None
gamora duke 

An abandoned lot in Queens that's been used as an unofficial dumping ground for old equipment and cars. There are strange stains soaked into the cold earth, some that have persisted in spite of the rains. It's just grim here. A forgotten, miserable little corner of an otherwise pleasant place.

In her surveys of the city, Gamora has spied a number of empty lots, and mentally tried to keep track of them. She's stranded here, and she's not above a little scavenging if she needs materials. A vehicle would be handy, but the archaic human conveyances are… archaic.

Anyayway, Gamora wanders in to the junk lot on foot. Apparently her leathers are enough to keep her warm in the November chill, or she's just not that prone to getting cold. Her weapon is currently collapsed in the form of a compact blade about the size of a Bowie knife, tucked away at the small of her back, almost completely hidden.

Passing through the aisles of junkers, she peers into car windows, hauls open hoods and trunks, and generally makes a thorough search of what might be available. Apparently she likes one of the seatbelts in an old Chrysler, and rips it out of it's housing, looping it diagonally over one shoulder. One supposes it might come in handy at some point.


Someone else is here. A tall, lean man wanders the lot, scaling broken pieces of civilization with practiced ease, as though all ground is even under his feet. The chill wind whips his long black hair until he tosses his head in annoyance, like a wild horse. There's something not-quite-human about him, to the practiced eye.

Speaking of eyes, he holds one on a golden chain. It's gleaming white and blue, a pure ocean blue, with a black pupil so dark that it seems to suck in light. He borrowed it from a Romani accountant, one of Coz's friends. His dog has more friends than he does. As he hops on the top of a television set haphazardly stacked on a broken washing machine, it spins faster, then leans strongly toward the far corner of the yard.

"Hm," Duke says articulately, then hangs the chain around his neck. He pulls a small tin out of his jacket pocket and takes a little golden cube from within, which he pops into his mouth before putting the tin away. "Let's see…" From the bag slung across his back, he pulls out a sawed-off shotgun and then just stands there, expectantly, looking in the direction indicated by the eye.


Being from… out of town, Gamora isn't all that clear on who seems more or less human at this point. Add in what she's seen in Mutant Town, and it really seems like almost anything goes on Earth. Hardly anyone stops her for the green skin, at least.

Initially Gamora was planning on ignoring the long-haired oddball. Lord knows New York has no shortage of those. But then the man is suddely alert, and drawing some kind of ancient weapon.

She draws her knife in a smooth, practiced motion, and looks from Duke to the corner he's focused on, and then back at him. "We don't have to fight. I'm not here for whatever's yours." She pauses, and her brow furrows. "Are you ok?"


"I'm very high," Duke says precisely. "Or about to be." He doesn't take his eyes off that corner. "I'm hunting ghosts."


Any suggestion that Duke is a madman — at least regarding the ghost comment — dissolves a moment later when the broken-down Chrysler rumbles to life. Somewhere, deep in the trash, a tinny little music box begins to play Brahm's Lullaby. A radio under a fallen wardrobe crackles, then begins to play the latest Billboard chart-topper.

That's why I'm leaving it up to you oh oh
You decide what you're gonna do
Now do you want my love?
Or are we through?

The car shouldn't run — the engine is missing, but it roars anyway and the doors open, then slam, aggressively. The remains of an old crank-operated washing mangle groan and chatter as the handle begins to spin. It rights itself, then wobbles forward, impossibly.


"Ok…" Gamora says, trying to think of something else to say, before she is cut off by the cacophony setting off in the lot. With a series of flicks and twists her knife is suddenly a full-sized sword and her gaze skims over the potential battlefield.

Whatever her thoughts about 'ghosts' might have been, she can't argue with the evidence of her own eyes. She makes a standing back flip onto the roof of an unanimated car, and then glances to Duke again. "Is this normal? How to do you shut it off?" She has to shout to be heard over all the cranking, clacking, and crunching.


"Yeah, it's normal." Duke isn't looking at the car, even though it's revving up to take a run at him. The television on which he's balanced turns on, tuned to a dead channel, and he wobbles slightly, but doesn't move. "You can't kill what's dead." He reaches into his bag and pulls out a couple little homemade grenades — glass wrapped in an intricate web of wire, which he tosses to Gamora. "Holy water. Might help." They're archaic, sure, but they're well-made.

Duke gets the shotgun ready as the junk heaves. "I should have had that spell specify numbers," Duke says, almost absently. "And size."

The thing in the corner rises. The heart of it, whatever's making it work, can't be seen, but it seems to be gathering bits and pieces of machines to it — the radio, a mixer, a drill, a toy train — all amongst broken things like chunks of concrete, a sewer grate, a corrugated pipe that straightens to work as one leg even as a length of I-beam, dragged here from someplace, slides into place to act as the other support.

A vacuum cleaner, dragging its bag and cord like a gutted creature, whirs to life and begins to inch awkwardly in Gamora's direction. The car backs up, thumping strangely on its uneven tires, and the radio blares the latest traffic report.

"Congestion at the intersection by Macy's…"


Gamora sheathes her sword diagonally across her back and deftly catches the two holy hand grenades, one in each hand, peering at them with a confused expression. Has she blundered into some kind of religious dispute?

"These don't look dead to me!" Gamora calls. Then she steps forward, gives the vacuum a swift kick, and hurls the holy water at the underside of the Chrysler while it's still trying to stand up. With only one grenade left now, she draws her sword again and prepares to defend herself. Slicing and dicing through Detroit steel won't be a problem, but also seems kind of pointless.

Gamora narrows her eyes, studying the growing mass, searching for any kind of weakness or point of imbalance. She would find a way.


"Undead, technically!" Duke unloads the shotgun into the mass in front of him and it groans, its radio-head tipping forward and the illuminated dial flickering. The station changes to something new and music blares far louder than the speaker size would allow.

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns…

Still, it recovers and takes the radio music to heart, it seems. White-blue ethereal flame flickers outward from the injury. "Fascinating," Duke says, even as the television finally shakes him off. He twists to land on his feet and plugs it right through the screen with the other shot remaining in his gun.


The holy water grenade doesn't require a three-count to work. This isn't the Antioch model. The car shrieks with pain, feedback squealing from its speakers. The wheels turn toward Gamora and it launches itself toward her even as the vacuum cleaner cord lashes out to try wrapping around her ankles.

More junk floats from the discard piles, plastering to the golem forming in the corner of the yard. Something strange and white rises out of the shattered television, whisks away to join the gestalt. Along the way, it wraps around the door of a refrigerator which it slams over the hole Duke left in the forming mass.


Whirling, Gamora makes short work of the vacuum tangler, leaving the cord in little pieces and the device itself a pile a shattered plastic. However, that means the carlem is able to tackle her where she stands. With no chance to get away, Gamora plants her feet and looks up at the underside of the monster as it looms over her. Then with one sharp movement she jams the glass globe of holy water into it's undercarriage, shattering the grenade manually.


Duke isn't that chivalrous but he does know things about not letting people die unnecessarily. Especially people who are in trouble because of him. He bodychecks the car, even as it bursts into holy flame, knocking it clear of Gamora. Seconds later, it bursts into real flame and is engulfed with a roar. Wincing, Duke shields Gamora from the heat.

He hadn't been intending to draw this many of the poltergeists here, never would have done if he'd known someone else would be savenging here. The LSD is hitting him hard now and, when he lifts his head to look at the massive makeshift junk golem finally taking shape — Radiohead, he names it — he can see them all as radiant vibratory entities clustering in the items they've managed to scrounge.

"Shit," he mutters. "We need to tear it apart, break it down." He thinks, if he does, he might be able to douse it with the last of the holy water in his bag. "They can't use what's been sanctified."

Radiohead is still blaring Johnny Cash when it lurches toward the two of them and it raises an arm made of a crib and the broken parts of a motorcycle to smash them both. It's nearly fifteen feet tall and the undead binding it together are better coordinated than they were the last time Duke ran into them. This could be a problem — fortunately for Gamora, it's really him they're angry with.


Gamora is more than familiar with taking advantage of an opportunity through being underestimated. She grunts her thanks at Duke's save and then mutters, "Right, pieces and parts it is…" With only her sword to focus on now, the green woman sets to work hacking and slashing at Radiohead's 'limbs'.

Dashing to one side, her sword flashing in the midday light, it doesn't seem to even slow down when it passes through the heavy steel. She aims to sever the I-beam leg on the right, and then rolls back to the other side, swinging up to remove the motorcycle arm.

Getting her bearings to make another attack, she cocks her head to one side, her chin starting to bob to the Johnny Cash tune. Louder than she needs to, even given the noise, she shouts, "I like this song."


Gamora has her sword, Duke has shotgun shells. He'd rather use his bow and arrows but he didn't bring those. He reloads the shotgun quickly, then ducks the swing of a furnace shaft wrapped in lead pipe to get close enough to unload right in Radiohead's, well, radio head. The blast blows the front of it out the back and the music stops abruptly.

"Oh, sorry." Duke turns to apologize. Tactically, it's a poor move. He is really, really high, it's surprising he hasn't sat down to make a basket or something out of the junk here.


The downside of Duke being able to see ghosts is him being a little stupid. Gamora slices into the I-beam leg and severs it — or it should sever. Duke can see faint white light trying to hold the thing together. Radiohead lurches and flails, clipping him in the shoulder with that arm he just avoided. Still, it seems the thing is weakening.

Gamora strikes the motorcycle arm but only succeeds in severing a tire, which comes flying back at her with all the malice of a thwarted poltergeist. Radiohead howls angrily — that's not the radio, it's the chorus of ghosts raging in unison with such outrage that the sound crosses into the land of the living. It's a terrible, icy sound, like death itself clawing at the nerves.


Luckily for her, Gamora is familiar with the land of Nightmare and facing death itself. The real horror would be her having to attend a baby shower. But monstrous ghostly murder machines? No problem.

Gamora is pelted by the motorcycle tire, but she deflects enough of it that it'll probably only leave a bruise. "It's ok. <HACK> I'll have to <SLASH> buy the record," Gamora says, punctuating her words with action. She becomes an ever-moving dervish. If a leg doesn't come off with one slice, it gets three, four, five or six.

Really, in another setting, her balletic movements would be the height of grace and beauty. But she continues her onslaught of blades, flipping the sword in one transition and separating it into two smaller weapons to increase the frequency of attacks.

Curls of metal and shards of glass rain down around her in a tinkling fall of broken host.


Duke goes sprawling but rolls and comes up gracefully, firing a shotgun blast into the arm that struck him before he has to reload. Yes, he'll have a bit of a bruise and he's got a bloody nose. That in and of itself is a tactic he hadn't considered. His blood, exposed to the air, distracts and draws the undead as it always does.

Radiohead creaks and sways as the less-invested spirits turn their attention to the bloody man. Duke pulls out a vial of holy water, which he shakes out in front of him as the luminous undead try to reach him. It works, after a fashion, driving them back from him with groans of frustration


Gamora's blender-imitation is having a marked effect on what remains of Radiohead. The battering weakens it, the parting of each separate piece of the golem releases the spirit within. Radiohead staggers under the onslaught, the weak grip of each poltergeist not nearly enough to keep it in one piece. Its legs crumple first, under the massive weight of the metal and concrete it used to compose its chest, and then the arms slowly disintegrate in a cascade of shards and fragments.

The more damage Gamora does, the easier it is to pile more on. Radiohead is coming apart at the seams, releasing icy, wailing ghosts into the ether with every slash of Gamora's sword.


Seeing the construct start to come apart at the seams only encourages Gamora. Now that the pieces are finally bite-sized, she flicks her swords points-down to quiver in the dirt and leaps onto Radiohead. She starts pulling at pieces with her bare hands that should be spare parts but are still held on by spectral adhesion. It seems like the sharp metal edges should be hurting her hands, at least a little bit, but she doesn't seem slowed down much.

Each piece she pulls off is flung across the lot with an incredible amount of force, trying to put as much distance between the disparate fragments as possible. She kicks, punches, and tears pieces off of Radiohead, bringing all of her strength to bear, and for once it's actually starting to tax her. Her hair is flying wild, and her breath is coming in furious grunts of effort.

"How much punishment can this thing /take/?"


"It's not alive, so…" Duke shatters one of the last grenades of holy water in the middle of it, then blasts part of it again with both barrels of the shotgun. This whole thing is trippy and he's not entirely sure he's not hallucinating Gamora. No, he's pretty sure she was here before the last dose took hold. "Until there's nothing left, I guess."


Finally, the poltergeists lose their grip on the physical plane. There's a gust of icy wind and a screeching above the level of human hearing as the host swarms the astral in a fit of rage. The ghosts claw at Gamora but find no purchase. It's just the sensation of cold fingers reaching for her soul and then, a final wail before nothing. Metal clatters, fire crackles, glass pings sadly as it cracks. Radiohead is gone.


Gamora sinks to standing knee-deep in the wreckage when the golem goes slack, and she shudders as the ice wind pours through her. After a few seconds of deep breathing to make sure the thing had really given up the ghost, she kicks away some of the garbage around her legs and steps out of the mess. Retrieving her swords, they are recombined and compressed back into the Bowie knife format like a trick butterfly knife, which is then tucked away, all before she turns back to talk with Duke.

Still a little out of breath, she looks Duke up and down. "Hey, are you alright?" Gamora asks, apparently not overly concerned with the man's bloody nose. For her part, only dirt, grime, and her scuffed leather clothes show signs of the fight. "I'm glad you knew how to handle that thing," she starts, and then narrows her eyes at the semi-glazed expression on Duke's face.

Then she just plows ahead, not sure if he's even reading her. Idly she notes, "Guess I won't be finding a vehicle in this mess after all." She stands there, hands on hips, surveying the wreckage.


Duke gives himself a shake, focuses on Gamora's face. "I'm fine." He produces a handkerchief after sliding his shotgun back in its place across his back, uses it to wipe his face. "Thank you. Wasn't expecting so many of them. But it's easier to see them like this." He gestures at himself. "Slightly…out of phase. They're spirits left here when the Hellmouth closed. And they're organizing." He looks a little worried, then shrugs. "Easier to kill in one spot, though. You need a car?"

Duke switches gears without missing a beat. Good thing he actually landed on a topic that was in play instead of going off on a tangent. "I can help you find something." Then it filters in that she's green. Okay then. Green it is. "Do you have a safe place to stay?"


Gamora follows Duke's line of conversation to the best of her ability. He references things she doesn't know about, but it doesn't seem like she needs to, so she refrains from some of her questions. "Spirits. Ok, sure. Yes, I could use a vehicle of some kind. But the places that sell them either don't care for the color of my skin, or refuse to accept valuable metals as currency," she says, utterly befuddled by this second fact. Bigots of all shapes and sizes certainly weren't a new thing anywhere, but who doesn't like money?

Following the switched gears doesn't seem like a challenge for Gamora. "I would appreciate the help, thank you. I've had some luck finding places to stay that aren't being used, but I'm open to suggestions," she says, stepping forward stiffly she offers her hand in greeting. "I'm Gamora."


"Duke." He offers her his hand. His handshake is warm and firm. "I don't care about your skin color. I own a scrap yard and I trade for metals, I can make an exchange for cash and goods. I grow food, raise meat animals, and make pharmaceuticals. And you're welcome to stay with me — I have sleeping quarters for people who don't have anywhere of their own. You're welcome to come by and get what you need, as long as you need. If you get hurt, you can always come back."


"Nice to meet you Duke. I-" Gamora starts, and then gets stuck. She isn't getting emotional, she's just genuinely confused. She blinks, furrows her brow for a moment, and then looks back at Duke. "Why would you… Ah, for the value of trade?" Gamora brightens at the thought of meeting a logically minded human. "Yes, excellent. It's my understanding that you value gold on Ea- /in/ New York. Is gold acceptable?"


"Gold, silver, platinum…I can also use mercury, magnesium, tungsten, and copper. I don't usually have trouble finding lead. If you need help, though, you can always come ask — no matter what you have to trade." Duke gestures for her to walk with him. He has a loose-limbed amble that's amplified by the LSD. He's not stumbling, just relaxed and radiating calm. For him, the world is a little golden and the things that belong in it are warm and radiant. That's how he could see the spirits better: they didn't belong. "The yard is between the water treatment plant and the bridge, north of this quarter of the city, almost on the water."


"This is good timing," Gamora says with a smile, her graceful, effortless walk settling in next to Duke's perambulation. "If you're going there now, I'll walk with you," she offers, matter of factly. She doesn't seem prone to small talk, but after a long moment she seems to remember that it's a thing. "Have you always lived in New York, Duke?"


"I've lived a lot of places. I've only been here a few decades." Duke doesn't look more than a few decades old, to be honest. "I'm from somewhere else — I don't remember, or I'd tell you. When we get to the yard, there's a very big yellow dog — I hope you know what a dog is. His name is Coz. Once he knows you, he'll let you in." He directs Gamora down a side street. "Don't worry. You'll get used to it here. And once people get used to you, they'll forget they ever thought you didn't belong. It'll be okay."


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