CWC 02 - Intersection

Charade and Radiance both find surveillance boring, and both are able to cope with it anyway for their own reasons. For Charade, it’s training. For Radiance, it’s a chance to talk to her friend, or to think ahead to future conversations.

Alycia thinks of me as a robot first, a girl second. Leo saw me in about equal measure. Nono sees me as a girl - she doesn’t really process the robot part, I think. How does this would-be activist for robot rights view me?

Despite her embarrassing conversational missteps with Alycia earlier, the question isn’t about vanity or emotional interest in a boy. It affects how she’ll interact with him, how she’ll teach him about herself, what she should try to learn about and from him, and much more. If he’s so wrapped up in her identity as a machine, he might fall prey to the same bias he’s worried about in others. But if he doesn’t acknowledge her as knowing herself better than anyone else, he might listen, but he might not learn.

Her thoughts are interrupted by Charade, silently signaling. There’s activity inside the Halcyon Aerospace Museum. Maybe it’s harmless, maybe not.

The pair approach quietly - Charade much more so, Summer notes ruefully to herself. They’ve already left a service door open, with one of Radiance’s butterfly remotes on guard, and now use it. The museum interior is dark, but both girls have technological aids to compensate.

Radiance’s butterfly drones fly on silent wings, sampling and reporting back. There’s activity in the Grand Hall, and they converge. The drones can’t get near enough for a video feed without exposing themselves, and neither girl wants to tip their hand yet. They settle for the darting shadow they see retreating from the main hall.

The pair pursue, and find signs of their quarry. One of the unisex bathroom doors is swinging shut, probably behind someone. “Stay,” hisses Alycia, and sprints noiselessly down the hall, then back and round the other way. “No sign,” she concludes. “They must still be inside.” After a moment, her eyes go to the ceiling, and the ventilation ducts. “Alley-oop.”

Summer plants her feet and laces her fingers together immediately, and Alycia takes advantage of the improvised stepladder to vault the distance and tug the covering panel free. As she shimmies into the vent, the panel falls into Summer’s waiting hands.

Alycia could have easily gotten up there herself, Summer reflects with a smile. Once, she would have insisted on it, to prove herself independent. Now, she’s trusting enough to silently solicit her partner’s help.

A few minutes pass. Summer waits patiently at the door, tensing when the door opens again. But it’s Charade, still in costume. “No sign,” she whispers, still glancing around.

“Invisibility? Teleportation?” Summer guesses. Charade responds to the speculation by pulling a handful of metallic dust from a pouch at her belt, tossing it into the room, and pulsing an electric charge through it as it falls. There’s no yelp of pain from an invisible intruder, and the two girls shrug at each other.

Back at the Grand Hall, the pair look for clues. After a few minutes, Radiance spots an anomaly, and Charade follows up on it by waving her back and getting closer. Someone propped up a maintenance ladder against the wall nearest Comet King’s cruiser. Part of the exhibit has been tampered with. The girls check tensely for explosives or other traps, but find nothing. Charade snaps open a forensics kit and grabs samples, just in case.

With nothing else to go on, the pair decide to leave drones behind and call it a night. Once back at home, Summer turns her phone back on, and spots a series of incoming messages. They’re from the newest number in her contacts list.


:man_scientist: Hey
:man_scientist: Hi
:man_scientist: Sorry if I’m being a pest
:man_scientist: I had some more thoughts
:man_scientist: guess I can just tell you
:man_scientist: If I figured out who you are other people must have too
:man_scientist: Are you okay? Are you safe? If I’m causing problems for you please let me know and I’ll disappear

:robot: Nobody asked you to disappear and nobody will
:robot: I’m grateful for your consideration but I can take care of myself

:man_scientist: I saw Link and your sister fight together I absolutely believe that

:robot: If there were other thoughts, I’m home now and would like to hear them

:man_scientist: So you know Terminator and said you’d seen your share of robot movies
:man_scientist: I was dumb but I heard you
:man_scientist: And I wanna make the effort to learn so I thought, you and your sister must have watched a lot of robot movies the way Marion likes buddy cop comedies because it’s about a thing that’s close to you and interests you
:man_scientist: So I looked up a bunch of plots of those movies and it’s not very great if you’re the robot
:man_scientist: So that was my thought
:man_scientist: And I wondered if that was your experience

:robot: That’s mostly accurate
:robot: Thank you for that by the way
:robot: TheMarySue wrote an article called “Why Must Women Fall in Love to Be Human?”
:robot: justasec
:robot: Robots in fiction are tools or weapons or threats for the most part
:robot: When a robot is masculine or gender neutral it’s a mirror of humanity
:robot: When it’s feminine it’s a love interest
:robot: I’ve never met a Black or a gay robot but I imagine their lives would be very different from mine
:robot: But a robot by default is often something to which we ascribe human capabilities but not human rights, and whether human motives come with it or not determine whether the robot is protagonist or antagonist

:man_scientist: But a robot to you is never just a robot

:robot::girl: That’s right
:robot::girl: Hydrogen and oxygen are gases, but H2O is a liquid
:robot::girl: Mixing ingredients together creates a fusion that can have entirely new properties
:robot::girl: Where I’m going with this is that I agree that some robots might be people who aren’t recognized as such yet, and maybe one way is to look for their non-robot qualities to see if that gives rise to a positive experience for the people you want to influence

:man_scientist: That is amazing
:man_scientist: That is the sort of thing I have been looking for
:man_scientist: You are the new Menagerie superhero aren’t you
:man_scientist: If you don’t want to say it’s okay
:man_scientist: Even if I’m wrong
:man_scientist: But if you meant all that, would you want the public to associate robots with heroes?
:man_scientist: Your sister and Link do

:robot::girl: You’re right on all counts
:robot::girl: Well most counts, there’s stuff I don’t wanna give away about them

:man_scientist: Totally okay I’m sorry, please tell me to shut up if I ever cross a line

:robot::girl: I will. But if I don’t say anything, don’t assume you’ve crossed one either. I want your honest thoughts and opinions about this subject, okay?

:man_scientist: I promise

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Summer reclines on her bed, staring up at the glowing screen of her phone. She and Colin mutually signed off of their text conversation earlier, but now she finds her fingers are itchy.

There’s more - so much more - to ask, to talk about. Questions, opinions, yes, even a few accusations. Colin didn’t respond, or perhaps even notice, her comment about female robots being love interests. Did he realize that he’d checked her out earlier? If he did, did he think he was wrong? Or is she, Summer, imagining that he did? Perhaps her own feelings - the friendly separation from Leo, her lingering wants and regrets, the conversations with Alycia about dating - are skewing her perception.

She’s spent time thinking about her own synthetic memories. She believes that Leo had looked at girls in the past, but she doesn’t have the experience of it. For her, there have been times where boys in her memory looked at her, admiring her face or her body, though nothing ever came of it.

I’d probably visit a therapist if my own mind had synthesized that kind of memory for myself. Geez.

It isn’t necessary. Just the experience of it, being looked at, observed, checked out, is inherently passive and hence uncomfortable for her. It’s not something she invited. Even when she was living in Jason Quill’s house, experiencing his loneliness up close and wondering if it would develop into something else, she policed herself. It wasn’t her job to do so, but she did it anyway.

Why did I tell Alycia I might want him checking me out?

She knows the pat answer, the one Alycia might give - she’s attracted to Colin. The truth is more complicated, as it always is. She wanted to defend her new friend against her suspicious existing friend, because she admires his ideals and determination to a cause she holds dear. She wanted to erase the bad things he might do, for the sake of the good things. She wanted to see him as the activist she hopes he will be.

But he’s not just an activist, is he? He’s also a student, and a boy, and a person. He can make mistakes. Alycia surely has, and I don’t erase her sins for the sake of her potential.

Do I?

Ugh. Why does this have to be so complicated?

That was certainly originally the case. It’s probably still the case in its own way (e.g., her awareness of Summer’s robotic nature). FWIW, I believe she now thinks of Summer first as a person (who’s a robot, shaped like a girl).

It’s a weird set of mental Venn diagrams, to be sure, and I’m not sure she would be comfortable if confronted with it or forced to think it through.

I’m loving all of this, btw. And not just the Alycia parts. :grin:

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Yeah, this is all Summer’s subjective opinion at the moment. She can change her mind, or miss details. And she’s still wrestling with the complexity of those Venn diagrams herself.

As always, I hope you’ll speak up if Alycia ever feels mischaracterized or neglected. The B story, where they’re doing stuff as heroes, is actually relevant and ongoing, but I’m still trying to tie it back into the A story too, and Alycia is a key part of that.

Completely understood. Hell, even if it’s Bill’s subjective opinion as expressed through Summer, it’s useful to know, esp. when it varies some from my own head canon of how Alycia is or (and this can be different) thinks of herself as being.

O wad some Pow’r the giftie be givin
To see our PCs as ithers PCs see them!

Alycia would feel mischaracterized or neglected if she knew she’d been relegated to the B story. :sweat_smile: But, then, so would we all.

I’ll pipe up if she starts doing something unnatural.

Good deal :slight_smile:

For what it’s worth, my impression of how Alycia sees Summer is that she’s a person, a partner, and a friend, and there’s this other stuff that comes up - doubts whether she can have friends, doubts whether she ought to, buried terror about robots, perhaps second-magnitude impulses like “she’s a tech genius ergo she’s a rival I need to keep an eye on” or “she’s scientifically interesting and I want to dismantle her” (the latter has actually been expressed in thought).

And I perceive Alycia as spending a good chunk of her time and energy playing emotional whack-a-mole to push some of these negatives back where they came from, forcing her to retreat to familiar coping strategies (social justice lectures, grouchiness, brittle criticism) when that energy runs low.

And I think Summer sees that part of her and accepts it as who she is, and is willing to put up with nonsense that no other friend could get away with as a result.

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I think that’s an excellent summary of the mare’s nest that is Alycia’s head. So I guess I did a good job there. :slight_smile:

She’s actually changed/adjusted remarkably well in a limited period of time. In a more “real” situation, she’d be decades in therapy, assuming she was allowed to walk the streets at all. She’s going to be twitchy about a lot of that stuff, probably for the rest of her life – but Summer (among others) has given her a useful set of avenues to go down, and shown her a way of life that she can embrace and become part of (or at least emulate to the point where it becomes a counter-habit to the last several years of conditioning).

For that, and to the extent that she’s aware of what Summer puts up with, she will always have Summer’s back.

(And, FWIW, I don’t think Alycia would ever actually vivisect Summer, but she might get lost in distracted exploration if she had to perform emergency repairs on her. But if Alycia ever did have to take her apart, she’d make sure Summer the Person was as safe as possible.)