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.”
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.”
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.