Masks 27.1 - Aftermath

Leo is propped up against a familiar-feeling material. He’s disoriented. He realizes he’s on his back, laying on Otto’s hood. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Pneuma and Numina talking. He strains to hear the conversation for a moment, realizes it’s none of his business, and lolls his head backward.

“Hey buddy,” he whispers weakly. “You doin’ okay?”

Otto rumbles beneath him. “I can’t transform, boss. I think somethin’ fused internally. Good news is, the safety interlocks worked, cut in before I pulled every muscle in my body. And I’m outta gas. Listen, did ya know that GWAR did a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’?”

Leo laughs. It hurts doing so. “That’s terrifying. We’ll fix you up, I promise. You did great, Otto.”

A pair of beautiful faces come into his vision. “Leo! Thank goodness.” It’s Aria.

The other girl smiles. “Hi Leo. ‘Summer Skye Newman’. What do you think…?” She looks more worried than usual, for a moment.

Leo tries to reach up a hand. “It’s beautiful. It sounds amazing. You’re both amazing.” The arm comes down. “Listen… my chest hurts… and I can’t feel my left arm… am I…?”

“That’s acid reflux,” Aria says, more businesslike. “And you pinched a nerve in the arm by sleeping on it, it’s fine.” She cradles his cheek in her palm, all smiles again. “We did it. Everyone did it. Vyortovia retreated.”

Leo blinks a few times. “Oh, well. Hooray for our side.”

Summer nods, and grins at her sister, then at Leo. “You told them you had a plan. Now everyone wants to know what it is. They saw you three barrel out there, take out a bunch of guys, fight the Dread Queen, and then suddenly she punches you and sis, and everyone takes off. People are asking your secret.”

Leo closes his eyes. “The secret is to never give up,” he announces. A thought comes to him, and he pats his chest with a hand. It’s bare. “Hey. Hey. My armor. My shirt. Is anyone with a camera around–”

“It’s fine, you’re fine,” comes Aria’s soothing voice, quickly heading off his fears. “The med techs just had to examine you.”

“Well, okay. But why is my shirt still off?”

“I uh, I don’t see where it is right now,” Aria says, looking away guiltily. It’s laying on the ground in front of her, and she surreptitiously kicks it underneath Otto. Summer just giggles.

“Where’s Adam?” Leo asks. “Sol. Shit. I gotta talk to Adam. He’s gonna need me.”

The girls glance at each other, temporarily speechless. Otto fills in, his deep voice rumbling down Leo’s spine. “He needs space and time, boss. Now’s not right. Let him come to you.”

Leo remembers that last message. It gnaws at him, badly, but finally he breaks through the knot of tension in his heart. “I told him I trusted him to take care of things alone. Guess I better stick to that.”

“We’ve all done a lot of growing up lately,” murmurs Aria. “This is his.”

“I’m sorry,” Leo murmurs. “Flesh and blood. I always feel with you three that I’m the weakest and slowest. Thanks for putting up with me.”

“You are the strongest, in some very important ways,” Summer says. With a quick and guilty glance in Aria’s direction, she leans down and kisses his cheek. Leo feels the heat of concentrated laser light, the vibration of ultrasound. Aria just smiles and nods approvingly.

“Alright. Well cool. Let’s… Harry… chips and pizza.” Let the girls dote on Otto next, as they surely will. The big lug has earned it, with interest. Leo feels himself slip into a nap, with a contented smile on his face.


author: Bill G.

Aria and Summer carefully lever open the door frame. Purging his outer armor has left Otto’s car form looking more like a streamlined jeep than a super-car, but he’s still intact. Leo is taking a few minutes of well-deserved sleep on the hood.

“Summer, huh?” Otto asks, in the car’s interior. “Summer Skye, no less. Pretty sweet!”

“Thank you, Otto,” Summer says, blushing a little. She settles back against the blackened and charred upholstery. It’s still comfortable - the padding is made of carbon aerogels. “I was really worried about you.”

“Pff, the boss and I tested out this scenario a couple times. He calls it ‘God of War’. Badass, right?” Otto’s boastful voice is both deep and curiously childlike.

“Very badass,” Aria agrees. She tilts her head to the side, resting it against the seat. “Listen… Otto… we need to talk. About Leo, and Jason, and Alycia Chin. And about you, Summer.”

The two other robots perk up. Aria continues.

“We’re going to be under a lot more scrutiny now. You and I got our paperwork done. We’ll get Summer processed soon. People might be asking to interview us. They’ll be coming after us, the way people do. I don’t want to put this pressure on Leo. And Jason’s going to face a lot of pressure too, because of us staying with him. Alycia’s going to be a big PR magnet due to her history.”

“Jason’s a good guy,” protests Summer. “He wants to help us. I know he does.”

Aria rests a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “I know he is. I know he does. I’m saying he shouldn’t have to.”

“You got an alternative?” asks Otto.

“Site 5. We could fix it up, ask AEGIS to pull their monitoring out, put some partitions in, start making it habitable. Turn it into a Menagerie base.”

Summer frowns. “What if… What if Rossum left something in there? Some kind of trap, or bomb?”

Aria sighs. “I know it’s a risk. But Leo was just as worried about you at Jason’s compound, you know. And AEGIS has been through there with a fine-toothed comb.”

Otto’s deep voice finally chimes in. “I’m not against this. I think Leo might be, since he won’t want to live in one of his father’s old secret lairs. But I gotta agree, it’s probably the best move - if we need to get outta the Quill Foundation. We just don’t have the money to do anything else, and if we’re getting outta Q-Bear’s house, we’re outta his wallet too.”

Both Aria and Summer blink. “Q-Bear?”

“It’s uh, it’s his name. On an Internet forum. It’s … a nickname. I gave him.” Otto stumbles through his half-assed deflection. “I thought it was funny. Okay?”

Summer finally giggles, and Aria joins in. “It kind of is.” “Oh, it really is.”

The laughter dies down, and everyone feels a little better. “Okay,” Aria sums up. “If we need to get out, it’s Site 5. Leave it to me to sell Leo on the idea. Summer, keep us informed on Jason’s situation. Otto… you concentrate on getting better. You’re big and tough and you don’t know when to quit, and you need to take a break right now, trust us. You’re important to us!”

Otto protests, but his concerns melt into a purring engine rumble as the girls ‘hug’ him through the seats. “Okay, okay. I guess I can take a break and catch up on some games for awhile.”

“Good. And we’ll take good care of you,” promises Aria. “Deluxe washes every day.”

“And when I’m not checking up on Jason, I’ll be there too,” adds Summer. “I’ll keep your fluids topped off, and we can play some multiplayer.”

“Aw shucks,” is all Otto can manage. “You two really know how to treat a car.”

author: Bill G.

Site 5 is an old Rossum lair, as indicated. AEGIS tapped Leo to help them clean it out, disarm high-tech traps, and decipher inventions. If we need a new base, I think it’s legit to take the Mentor’s Resources move from the Protege as an advance, and get one that way. Not quite as snazzy as the Doomed’s sanctuary, but doesn’t interface with a Doom track either. And season changes often come with scene changes like this one. :slight_smile:

author: Bill G.

I’m down with that. Lemme ponder any options that might also be out there.

also with Jason moving to NBC status he might be able to do some fancy maneuvering with the quill assets to make an independent entity out of the compound.

author: Doyce T.

For me it’s how much do we want to emphasize new themes, e.g. darker sides or villain history, and putting the team out of the light and into a former lair felt like it did that. If we want to talk about independence, the Quill compound spinning off makes sense. For entry into a larger world, we might get a sponsorship offer, and agonize whether it’s a Rook front or not. And so on.

author: Bill G.

So many choices!

author: Doyce T.