Masks 26.1 - Three-Way Combination [Background] [Cutscene]

Otto had lived as a boy for twelve years before he was born. During that time, he remembers Leo as a small boy, timid, gentle. Passive. He also doesn’t remember anything before the Pucketts.

They were loving parents who had lost a son. The father was administrator of Windy Hill in Smyrna. The mother was a nurse, the most competent and capable woman on the floor, who had attracted his notice after a shouting session in his office one night. After the marriage, they had become devout Enochians, followers of the Golden Generation hero Enoch and his/her otherworldly message of peace. Otto still remembers the haunting choral sessions at the church, and being forbidden music any other time. The Pucketts weren’t Otto’s parents - but his synthetic memories have supplied him with a pair of parents, also medical professionals, also Enochians, friends and coworkers and coreligionists with Leo’s own.

Leo remembers being packed into the hover-car by his father’s soulless robots. Otto remembers watching the abduction from the next yard over, tracking the sleek and high-tech vehicle as it purred its way into the sky and beyond the clouds.

The car was cool.

There were other abductions. Age eight. Leo, whimpering with fear, Otto a helpless child unable to protect his neighbor and friend. The Delacruz family, lying unconscious on the floor of their beautiful and colorful home. The child, thrust by metallic hands into the waiting flyer. The jets - a new feature, meant to evade AEGIS high-mobility aircraft. No silent escape this, but a roaring rocket burn that would carry Leo to a new life.

That was also pretty cool, honestly.

Otto had never drowned before. The night of his creation, as his memories shifted from synthetic to authentic, he was thrust into a blackness that felt like the world’s oceans coming down on his head. Existence was an absolute void. Not even the beating of his own heart, the sound of his own breathing, the rhythmic pulse of blood through his eyeballs, subtly distorting his vision, nothing.

He came to gasping for air, flailing his limbs helplessly, finding that he was paralyzed. He remembers a voice - his own, he mistakenly thought at the time. His creator’s. His little brother’s. The whine of desperation as Leo promised him it would be okay, talked him through the panic, brought him back down. Leo, the boy who he always wanted to save, had saved him.

He felt a curious lack of sensation. Things he’d cared about before just didn’t matter any more. “Your hormonal model is incomplete,” Leo explained to Otto, and Otto understood, because he remembered the science too. “But I’m prepping a body for you.”

“‘Body’ sounds like a corpse,” Otto protested. “You mean that rusted-out shell of a car?”

“Yeah… Yeah. I got a … I got a shell for you. Something to wrap you up in. You’re gonna love it.”

The two worked hard. The car came alive. Otto felt a strength and power he’d never know. Everything was alien at first, but Leo worked like a stevedore, plugging things in, hacking code into the night, testing, double-checking, rewriting, rebuilding. Through it, Leo would talk about his dad, talk about the experiences. Otto gradually came to realize that the two boys didn’t remember those nights the same way. What Leo remembered was his dad. What Otto remembered…

I’ll never lose him to that other car again, he vowed to himself.

And when it came time for the two to duel, Otto was victorious.

Leo was almost sixteen. Otto knew, but wasn’t quite sure he felt, what was going on. He could see his friend distressed, determined, devoted. When Leo told him the plan, Project PNEUMA, Otto was supportive. But he also cautioned Leo about his own experiences. And this time, Leo was ready. A full-coverage sensory experience. A claustral bridge. A synthetic endocrine stream. Proprioceptive patching from Leo’s own body. Otto had emerged into this world through a wave of pain and terror. Now, Otto watched the miracle a second time, witnessed a girl come into being in a moment of bliss.

Watch how he dotes on her, Otto would think. He’s so much tougher than he used to be, but he’s so tender when he’s with her.

He saw his little brother hurt by the breakup, felt a flare of anger at Pneuma. But there was a tiny part of his mind that was confused. I’m right here, it said. Come notice me.

Otto would be a loyal and devoted friend, Leo’s best pal. As Leo turned more aggressive, Otto channeled his own macho streak into a tough but cool big bro image to counter it. When Leo was close to blowing up, Otto would say something rough-and-tumble, but less aggressive, and bring Leo around. Through it all, Pneuma was their friend as well. Every time she would say something, she hit the mark. Every gesture, every comforting act, was magical.

It took Otto time to internalize why she was so able to get to him. It was so simple. _She’s drawn from a later time in Leo’s life. She’s been my best friend for three years, and I never knew her.
_
All three of them remembered Rossum, horribly and bitterly. All three had been twisted in their own ways by that experience. Pneuma still more so, for she’d been home-schooled like Leo. It bound the two of them together in a way that Otto couldn’t match. But when Pneuma came to Otto in the night, and perched on his hood and whispered her fears and frustrations about her reality, he knew that their own bond would be as unique. His heart stirred with feelings, light and dark.

When Leo announced his plans to become a hero, Otto went along with it, as did Pneuma. The first time the three of them combined - Leo in his suit, Pneuma in her armored form, Otto in his humanoid shape - it felt like nothing Otto had experienced before. Three people, moving in unison, feeding each other cues, whispering in each other’s ears. It was a dance with three partners, and Otto wanted it never to end.

The Menagerie has been amazing, for everyone. Pneuma, now also Aria, and the boss are back together thanks to being part of that team. Good. That’s good. Otto had suggested other girls to Leo, and he sometimes wonders what would have happened if Leo had gone for it. But now, as he unites with his two friends again, and feels that perfect harmony of motion and intent, he knows this is how things were always meant to be.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6078482

Very, very cool.

Something I (and, thus, Jason) is still having trouble getting his head around (in terms of just assumptions and approaches he doesn’t even realize) is that Otto is not a Talking Car, he’s a Human who’s in the body of a Car. He’s not Benny the Cab. He’s more like The Ship Who Sang.

It’s not quite that simple, since he’s spent nearly his entire life inside of that body (and it’s not just a car, either, but it’s also an early version of Leo’s tech). But it’s something I have to keep reminding myself about, and this vignette does that very nicely.

In some ways it’s a bigger problem for Otto than for Aria/Summer. They can “pass” to a degree, even if it’s just in emotional reaction to meeting them. And pop culture is full of examples of People who are Artificially Created, quite different from the cultural tropes of Talking Cars. But even there, I think it’s also way too easy to forget that Aria and now Summer come from a set of human memories; they are Humans who are (and always have been) in Artificial Bodies.

In some ways, that’s both more wonderous and (from some perspectives) horrifying than “Leo builds highly intelligent and compassionate robots”.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6078960

I am both pleased to get more Otto, and that my idea for his secret still works. :slight_smile:

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079029

Doyce T. said:

I am both pleased to get more Otto, and that my idea for his secret still works. :slight_smile:

If it’s that he is eloping with Miss Rodriguez, Leo will still take a spanner to him to find the problem.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079172

*** Dave H. said:

In some ways it’s a bigger problem for Otto than for Aria/Summer. They can “pass” to a degree, even if it’s just in emotional reaction to meeting them. And pop culture is full of examples of People who are Artificially Created, quite different from the cultural tropes of Talking Cars. But even there, I think it’s also way too easy to forget that Aria and now Summer come from a set of human memories; they are Humans who are (and always have been) in Artificial Bodies.

We are not our bodies, but they do affect us, and our worth and identity are judged based on them. If someone thought Otto belonged in a Pride Parade and invited him to participate, he’d be the one with the bumper sticker reading “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re in fourth gear”.

I mentioned that I’d asked a friend of mine about Otto, and here’s what she said at the time.

Me: so let’s say you are in a wheelchair, you can move that chair faster than anyone on legs, but in this world there’s no ramps or elevators, only stairs.
J: ugh
Me: your best friend and buddy respects you, does whatever you ask, and in fact depends on you. but your usefulness doing superhero shenanigans depends on you being in the chair.
J: ok
Me: He offers to build you a new body, a human-size human-scale body, if you want. How do you feel about your situation, overall?
J: hmm
J: i think i’d stick with my chair and limited access
Me: for what reason?
Me: (I don’t disagree, but I want to know)
J: better to be awesome sometimes than ordinary all the time

That said, now that Leo’s built a docking station shell for Summer, he might apply the same process and ask Otto if he wants a dockable android body that integrates with the car shell. If it doesn’t have to be a choice - this OR that - then all that would hold Otto back is his pride as a car, and that might be strong enough to say no. But then again, the three of them have a lot more friends now, and it would be nice to interact…

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079222

Bill G. said:

That said, now that Leo’s built a docking station shell for Summer, he might apply the same process and ask Otto if he wants a dockable android body that integrates with the car shell. If it doesn’t have to be a choice - this OR that - then all that would hold Otto back is his pride as a car, and that might be strong enough to say no. But then again, the three of them have a lot more friends now, and it would be nice to interact…

There’s a third reason he might say no, connected to his secret thing, but I don’t know/think it’s strong enough for him to keep saying no forever, especially with the kind of support the team can give.

Also, your friend’s response was GREAT.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079257

Since Doyce has brought up this secret a couple times, and I still don’t have any idea what it is, I’m going to start concocting increasingly implausible options.

  1. Getting a job as pizza delivery car to pay for insurance.
  2. Done with superheroics and is applying to the Food Network to become a celebrity chef.
  3. Has outstanding parking tickets and Sgt. Amari is very unhappy.
  4. Last oil change was strangely uncomfortable, doctor says this is normal for older cars.
  5. The Ponies put together a Gofundme to build him a robotic-horse shell, and he is suspicious of their motives.
  6. Children’s book deal finally came through, he’s now a published author.
  7. With Paul Walker’s passing, Fast & Furious franchise needs new costar for Vin Diesel.
  8. VERY MISTAKENLY got asked to speak about race at local social-awareness Meetup, it did not go well.
  9. Forgot to return that Redbox rental, Rook Industries now owns Redbox and is after him.
  10. After being a fan of e-sports for years, has learned that his score in Forza 7 means nothing after all and is sad.
  11. Finally invited to Top Gear!
  12. Secret Santa was Doctor Infinity this year.
  13. Halcyon’s NFL team furiously consulting the rule book on his eligibility as linebacker.
  14. Suing Transformers ‘Bumblebee’ producers for failing to secure likeness rights.
  15. Was invited to Homecoming by PowerPony, has nothing to wear.
  16. Binge-watched James Bond franchise last week, wants a bunch of new gadgets installed.
  17. Robot mode’s face is getting acne and he doesn’t want to show it any more.
  18. Hung around Streak too long and has started telling dad jokes, wants to be repaired.
  19. Got that sleek little Bugatti’s car-phone number.
  20. Accidentally promised Taz he’d come to her house for her birthday.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079943

No comment. :slight_smile:

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079950

HA!

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6079988

Round two!

  1. Disgusted by bourgeoisie convention and plans to live as a Bohemian, but needs redesign into VW minivan.
  2. Came up with a new online avatar and wants to share it with everyone.
  3. Embarrassing bumper sticker in a sensitive place, wants help removing it.
  4. Was keyed while parked downtown, one of the guys who did it is at THIS VERY COFFEE SHOP.
  5. Was invited to Titanfall LARP, needs a pilot partner, who’s in?
  6. Traveled across the haunted Helen’s Bridge in Asheville, NC, now needs a mechanic and/or Ghost Girl to clear up unexplained engine trouble.
  7. Got addicted to ethanol, now going cold turkey.
  8. Rambunctious child locked self in trunk during a recent road trip, needs help finding their parent.
  9. Spent all Leo’s remaining allowance on rims.
  10. Volunteered as gig vehicle/roadie for a local rock band, needs Saturdays and Sundays off from crimefighting. Oh, and can the drummer crash?

For what it’s worth, I’d actually write side stories based on 1, 3, and 20 from the original list, and 6, 8, and 10 from this one. I’ll see what kind of time I have :slight_smile:

Original 11 (Top Gear!) is a big dream, but we will get there… together! >_<

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6081630

Bill G. said:

For what it’s worth, I’d actually write side stories based on 1, 3, and 20 from the original list, and 6, 8, and 10 from this one. I’ll see what kind of time I have :slight_smile:

I swapped the numbering and the lists, and it was SPECTACULAR.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6081673

They’re all spectacular. I’d suggest that we drop all other characters and just have a month of watching Doyce run Otto through these scenarios.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6081755