102 - Otto's Garage

The boss was retired. He wasn’t really “the boss” any more, then, was he?

Otto didn’t know how he felt about that. He wasn’t sure about what he was going to say, either. He just knew that he had to talk to Leo.

Summer vacation had kicked off with an alien invasion, by a race or culture called the Blot. Word got out - probably through that weaselly Farlander, Otto thought - that Earth had multiple Keynomes. Everyone wanted a piece, huh? Fine. The invasion had been repulsed, by heroes from fifteen different countries, some speaking to each other through volunteer translators on the Internet, coordinating their battle plans through the Quill compound and its satellite network.

Eight different Phoenixes cruised the skies. When they weren’t flying about exploring the world, they were hibernating, or nesting. Otto had nicknames for each of them. Orphan Phoenix, Alpine Phoenix, Ducky, Algernon, Slim-fast, Regolith Phoenix aka “Reggie”, Loosie Goosey, and the O.G. - Leo’s original construction.

With the de facto dissolution of the HHL as a power structure, the JHHL felt increasing pressure to re-brand themselves. The city, the country, and the world was looking for a successor. So they took a vote, and announced one day that they were “the Chosen”.

The Irregulators defiantly remained the Irregulators. Why not? Their schtick was basically being the rebellious younger sibling team, thumbing their nose at Stingray and Kid Kelvin and that whole puffed-up show team. Behind the scenes, people still got along of course.

That left the Menagerie. Well, it really didn’t. It left Alycia and Summer, and sort of Adam, who still had mixed feelings about heroics. Harry had moved on, doing his own brand of heroics around the world, but swung by from time to time to see A10 and the rest of the gang. Charlotte was busy as the Magus, doing her inscrutable duties. Leo and Jason had both retired to pursue their own technical and societal goals, sometimes working together, sometimes arguing bitterly.

All of that was a lot of firepower that could be brought to bear. But in the last invasion, it had been only just enough.

Which brought Otto to the Extension.

The Extension was technically part of the Quill compound. Leo and Aria had taken up permanent residence there, and there was plenty of room for Otto to do his own thing. It was more of a concrete bunker than a proper house, like a two-bedroom apartment that opened into a two-car parking garage underground, but it served its purpose. Like the carriage house at the Gale residence, it was filled with charts and diagrams and bric-a-brac, all the physical tools needed to keep the intellects who lived there occupied.

“Hey, uh, Leo.”

“'Sup, Otto?”

Otto paused. “You got four Heart Factories, right?”

“Yeah. Running simulations for Aria’s neural math. Why?”

“Could I uh. Can I borrow one?”

Otto was regularly backed up into the Extension’s own server farm. Leo knew, and Otto knew he knew, the only other reason he might ask for something like this.

“Gonna finally do it, huh, big guy?”

Otto felt the need to explain, to justify, but found he couldn’t. What do you say, when you set out to make a new life?

He found Leo’s hand, clasping the driver’s side mirror the way two human boys might lay a supporting hand on each other’s shoulders. “You always had the right, Otto. I know you’ll do a good job of it.”

“I’m gonna go get my own place set up.”

“Where at?”

“Site 5.”

The old Rossum base was underground as well, with an entrance built into an embankment by a nearby river. The Newmans had discussed using it in the past, and it had been scrubbed for bugs, booby traps, and intel by AEGIS.

“Cool.” Leo smiled at his friend. “Don’t be a stranger here, though.”

“I won’t. Hey, drop by in a few weeks, I should be ready to make introductions then.”

“Alright. I’m looking forward to it.”



The brothers parted ways, Leo back to his work, Otto to a local junkyard. The project was going to require a lot of raw materials. Otto, who’d been born in a junkyard, could think of no better place to go for what he needed.


All of the Phase 2 stories so far have been really interesting. Excited to see what happens with Otto’s turn on center stage.

Lots of interesting little tidbits mentioned in the first section. Had been thinking of the Blot since the Phase 2 concept was first brought up to think of how they and Octava would shake up things in Adam’s life.

Of course those shits would rename themselves the Chosen. :roll_eyes:

Kind of surprised with there being so many Phoenixes kicking around and what that means for people at large. If I remember correctly, the Phoenix was intended to not just be a support for the team but anyone the Phoenix deemed “worthy” of its assistance. Given the tools at their disposal, I could imagine there are at least a few folks out there who made friends with one of the Phoenixes and got an unexpected boost to their resources.

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I’d love to hear anything you have to say about this

They came about as part of the invasion, and stuck around. You’re absolutely correct, and we will see this very thing happen soon.

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Otto had access to enough Phoenixes to use their built-in robotics factories. He didn’t need to do the laborious work of screwing skeletons together, welding a T-frame, or any of that nonsense. It was still a lot of physical work, but Otto was used to that.

Fifty-five hours later, he had three humanoid shells. Reggie was tired from munching metal, and had curled up to nap. But Otto wasn’t done. Not by a damn sight.

The next step was to call on Jason, who had the money, brains, and boredom to help out. Otto wagered that Jason was getting a little antsy at not being able to jet around the world, doing exciting things, and this project would let him do a little bit of that. And when Otto explained, Jason’s mouth twisted slowly into a grin. “Sounds like fun!”

Within eighteen hours, Jason was cruising the roads of Dubai in a custom supercar literally nobody else in the country owned, or could own. Their destination was Romans Aviation, but there was plenty of time to play around, do some racing, dodge a few foreign spies and their inadequate BMWs. The usual. And after a couple of hours of negotiation, inspection, and legal hullabaloo, Otto Newman was the proud owner of a used Boeing B737-800 jet aircraft.

By comparison, buying the fire engine was almost ridiculously easy. Jason took care of that via a cell phone call on the flight back.

“These aren’t just toys to play with, right?” Jason had asked, mock-sternly.

“Don’t worry, J-Bear! You’re gonna love this. The stuff we can do with rescues alone is gonna be worth it.”

The work spilled out of Site 5 and onto the field next to it.

Now came the hardest part.

Otto sat in the lotus position on the concrete floor of Site 5’s hollow interior. Thin cables connected his torso to a Heart Factory. Reggie the Phoenix chirped curiously from nearby, but was content to sit coiled up and observe. There wasn’t much to observe, honestly. It was all happening in Otto’s head.

Otto remembered everything Leo knew about creating him. The seed of Pneuma didn’t exist in Otto’s mind, but he understood the principle. Be someone else, strongly enough to experience it. The Heart Factory would lock onto that delta, unwind it, build the mathematical matrix in memory, then reverse engineer a connectome for it.

What the technology couldn’t do is let Otto be someone else. He had to do that himself. But to do that, he had to know who he was.

Leo at thirteen years old. Foster child of a junkyard manager and truck driver. Two hard-working, loving people, who didn’t have as much time for their son as they wanted, but always tried anyway.

Otto’s speech pattern wasn’t an affectation. His accent, very different from the boss’s, was based on that of his parents. Leo had unconsciously adopted the speech and mannerisms of important people during his formative years, and when he baked Otto, this one stuck. But it wasn’t just how he spoke. His personality, his comfort zone, everything about him, was colored not only by that angry young inventor that had made him, but by the reliable blue-collar folks that Leo had attached himself to. He had something of the good ol’ boy in his soul.

He couldn’t imagine the souls he envisioned as being anything different. This was a job for a stoic construction worker type, the rugged git-'er-done sort, the Steely Eyed Missile Man. They’d have as much free will as Leo himself had granted Otto, but Otto got to set the trajectory.

One at a time - one at a time. The big guy. The bigger guy. The biggest guy. Hour after hour, Otto visualized, and the Heart Factory recorded.

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Leo and Jason pulled up around the same time. The two geniuses exchanged greetings. Alycia and Aria, arriving with their respective genius, did the same. Summer was a few minutes behind, but she was flying on her own.

Otto, Leo’s ride for the occasion, transformed and led the way.

“Alright, you dudes and dudettes, feast your eyes!”

The field outside of Site 5 was occupied by a parked Boeing B737 and a red fire engine.

“Uh. Great?” Alycia, the only genius here who hadn’t been in on the planning, was remarkable in the absence of further snark.

“Show 'em, boys!” crowed Otto.

The fire engine transformed. The Boeing transformed.

All of them had seen Otto, and he towered over everyone else. This was something else. The fire truck was easily three times his height; the plane, more than twice that. And it was fast.

“Yo. I’m Mo,” said the humanoid fire engine.

“Big Bill,” announced the equally humanoid jet plane, in a voice that could be heard across the field.

“Otto - Mo - Bill,” grinned Otto, gleefully. “Automobile. Get it?”

“Alright. Let’s get the obvious outta the way.” The group was finally able to talk seriously. “Square cube law.”

Big Bill, squatting to see the tiny humans beneath him, answered for himself. “Carbon structure’s mostly to hold me together. Movement’s due to internal MHD effects. Ionized fluid manipulated by magnetism. Plus Ms. Summer’s levitation and thrust system. 520 tera-Pascal nominal.”

Leo whistled, and Aria stepped in. “How do the three of you relate?”

Mo answered. “Brothers.”

Jason was next. “So what did you do with the jet and the fire truck, anyway?”

Otto grinned and clenched his fists. “Carbon fossilization! I got some microbots to strip down the structure and replace it with Leo’s carbon tech. Every meter of these guys is ultra-invincible Newman robot, but it’s still in the right shape, so I didn’t need to go learn aerodynamics again. And we refitted the interiors. Check it out.” He called up. “Transform back, you guys!”

They did, and Otto led the way to Big Bill’s cargo ramp. The interior of the jet was bare-bones in the extreme. Foldable seats, plus human-sized coffins or pods attached to the walls.

“And I assume the fire truck can fly too,” said Jason in the most casual tone imaginable. He’d led an adventurous life already, and something like that would be par for the course.

“Yep,” announced Mo.

Alycia asked what to her was the important question here. “What’s all this for?”

Otto grew more serious. “For a lot. We can go anywhere in the world in minutes to hours. We can load up with specialized rescue gear. We can haul civilians out en masse. We can fight stuff at any scale, in any environment, from the ocean to outer space. And these pods here–” He pointed at the interior. “These are suit-up pods. Get a superteam on board, or some specialists. Hop inside, and you get fitted with a Link Suit. That brings you life support, comms, grapples, all the usual stuff.”

“Listen. We’re not just defending Halcyon City any more. The whole world needs us. It’s time we expand our scope. Be ready to go anywhere. Represent anywhere. You know?”

“Oh yeah. There’s one other thing.”

The fire truck pulled up beside the jet, and Otto positioned himself on the other side. After a minute, three of the pods opened up. Three young men stepped out. They were dressed in identical outfits - flannel shirts, jeans, boots. The shirts were red, green, and blue, to distinguish them. While individuals, the family resemblance was strong.

“I’m making an effort to work at new scales too,” announced the human-sized Otto. His brothers, Mo and Big Bill, nodded along.

“Awright! Who wants a test flight?”

Like Harry, I think Otto’s one of those basically decent and likeable characters, ready to move out of the shadow of established heroes and make their own name. Otto’s new creations will be part of how our extended family of heroes get around the world and beyond, but we’ll see more of their own stories here and there as well.

FWIW, this is exactly the question I was thinking of for her. Alycia is, born and bred, all about the mission.

ThunderOttos are Go!