Adam loved to hear about his father’s stories from work. From Sergeant Amari’s descriptions, Adam had put together a pretty good idea of what he thought police work was like. This was a protective surveillance detail; Concord and Otto were out as a visible deterrent to make sure no one made any moves against the principal—in this case, Jason Quill. The danger was Rosa Rook and her assorted robotic minions (and probably some lawyers from what Jason had told him about the meeting on the ride over).
Adam was was ready for danger. But danger refused to come. What Adam’s father hadn’t explained to him was how boring this sort of surveillance was. After the tension when the three arrived at the meeting and Jason going alone into the meeting, they just sort of sat around for a while. Adam was tracking Jason’s aura as he moved through the building but after he reached the other auras Adam could see, Jason just sort of stayed calm (at least as calm as Jason ever is) and nothing interesting seemed to happen.
Adam’s mind wandered in the backseat (it felt weird sitting in the driver seat with Otto controlling himself and Jason had taken the passenger seat on the ride there). It was hard to remember that he wasn’t alone in the car—in Otto. He could tell there was someone nearby, he sensed the aura, but it wasn’t as encompassing as it was with others. Or maybe it was just different because he was inside of Otto. This was kind of the only time Adam had tried to read anyone from inside of them before. He likely wouldn’t need to worry about it too much though; this seemed like a corner case rather than something he’d need to worry about recognizing a lot.
After a quick check on Jason to make sure nothing bad was happening—it looked like they were talking about something and Jason was a little curious—Adam decided he needed something to distract himself from his boredom.
“Hey Otto, are you like a car all the time except when you need hands, or do you shift back and forth whenever?” The torrent of questions flows out in that inquisitive manner of children; not waiting for one to be answered before the next one is asked, because all the questions combine to form a larger question. “Like does being a car feel more natural than being humanoid, or is there even a difference for you? Because I used to just be Concord when I needed to be Concord because it didn’t feel like me, but now it’s kind of interchangeable. Like now I feel like Concord is me when I’m Concord but not when I’m not. You’re like the only person I know that transforms, so I feel like you’re the only one who might get that.”
Otto’s voice is normally deep and resonant, but there’s a boyish joy at being asked about himself. “I feel like I have a human body, that’s how my brain is wired, but bein’ a car feels more natural to me, 'cause it’s where most of my authentic memories came from. Ooh, here, lemme show you an old comic strip. This is what it’s like.” An image flashes up on the dashboard screen.
“I’m the guy in the chair,” Otto explains. “I can carry a bunch of friends around. And I can go super fast. Except I don’t crash at the end. But, if Aria and Summer are along, there’s still ice cream.”
He gets a little more serious. “I think I know what you mean about transformin’ though. Took me awhile to adjust. The boss had to work really hard to help make it happen. And there was some really scary moments.”
author: Bill G.
Adam’s quiet for a moment at that response. His eyes drift down to the floorboards and then he gently rocks in his seat.
“I didn’t think there were any scary moments around Leo. That’s why he’s the boss, right?” There’s no sarcasm in Adam’s voice. No malice. Just a question and an bit of pain.
Otto laughs and laughs. “I call him ‘boss’ to tease him. Like, I’m playin’ like I’m his chauffeur, you know? He’ll get in the car and be like ‘home Jeeves’, and I’ll put on my cap an’ drive. He gets to do all the action stuff, an’ I’m always there, watchin’ his back.”
“Really, though, he’s my little bro. We both got lots of scary moments between us. Savin’ each other’s lives. The time when he made me. So he lets me look out for him, ‘cause it makes me feel more secure. He thinks of you like a little bro, too. That’s why uh, that’s why stuff is eatin’ at him so badly lately. He doesn’t hate you, I promise.”
The car rumbles quietly. It’s how a human might go hrm, when they’re in thought. “You ‘n Leo both have a lot of interest in emotion. He’s a scientist about it, all brain structure an’ emergent properties. Seems like you use it more like an energy you can wield. I think you both understand it. But it seems to me like that doesn’t really prepare either of ya to feel it. And that’s a scary moment too.”
author: Bill G.
“He doesn’t hate you, I promise.”
Otto’s words hit like a hammer. His interior spins in memories around Adam of a Crystal Cavern. The Keynome. Sol. “How can he not hate me?” Adam thinks. “I hate me. It was all my fault.”
The rumble in the floorboards brings Adam back to reality. Otto’s words sooth for a moment, but Adam’s own self-hatred rears back up quickly afterwards. “Are you sure he doesn’t hate me?" he asks, a loathing tone slowly raising as he keeps talking. "He probably should. He can’t trust on me for anything.”
“He sends me to stop a bug so he can help you and Summer and five minutes later I’m getting thrown around the skies of South City School District. He goes to fight the Dread Queen and I can see the ripples she’s causing to fight all three of you guys at once, but I can’t keep up to do anything about it. He send me down to a cave with Sol…”
Adam’s is spitting out words quicker than he can say them now. Thoughts jumble together and fly into one another. “I can’t do anything by myself. If he’d sent you, or Aria, or Harry, or anyone else down there with me and I came back by myself, he’d hate me. I’m just a burden. Everyone was worried when he showed up and now they’re sad that he’s gone, but they’re not sad for him—they’re sad for me and I hate it.”
Concord’s head is slumped between his knees and if he still had lungs he’d be wheezing to keep a breath in them for the all the shaking. The tips of Concord’s flames grow black and, somewhere outside of Otto, pebbles float and compress into moats of dust as gravity distorts around them. He just wishes he could break something. Hurt someone. Feel pain in the flows of energy that replaced his nervous system. Anything but this.
“No one hates me for anything that happened and I wish they did because I deserve it.”
Holy crap, did I just remember stuff that came up about Adam’s negative emotions after meeting Starsable, or have I been waiting for a good time to finally bring that up again when it was relevant? Little bit of both. It appears I’ve been playing the long-game when it comes to continuity.
Otto’s voice is gentle, and powerful, and omnipresent.
“That’s exactly what Leo feels right now, Adam.”
“I’m here. If Leo’s my bro, and you’re his bro, you’re mine too. I’m here. Come on. I wanna tell you somethin’.”
The car waits, hoping for some sign of relaxation, but goes ahead regardless, because what he has to say is important.
“Leo and Aria went in there to buy time for you. They were countin’ on you. And you came through. You did, I swear. Leo knew he wasn’t important. Nobody’s out-fightin’ the Dread Queen. Movin’ the Keynome was what drove them back, he figures. That’s what you did. It came at … at a cost. An’ Leo feels like he ought to have been the one to pay it. Not you. Not Sol.”
“He wants you to hate him. He sent you to do a thing, you lost someone close doin’ it, so it’s his fault, he figures. Who wouldn’t hate a guy for doin’ that to his buddy? So he’s waitin’ for you to confront him. An’ things don’t make sense to him until then. Ain’t healthy, but there you have it.”
author: Bill G.
“That’s exactly what Leo feels right now, Adam.”
Adam straightens up, his face contorted in confusion. The flames return to a gentle white and blue. Outside, pebbles drop to the ground. “No, that can’t be right.”
It’s hard for Adam to imagine Leo doubting himself or his decisions. He’s always so confident and sure; that’s why Adam looked up to him–wanted to be that guy for other people. But the words ring True. To Otto, Adam saved the day (at high personal cost). But it didn’t feel like he had saved anything.
A long time ago (about two or three years) the Amaris went out to dinner to celebrate Nassir finally making sergeant. Adam didn’t remember where they went to eat or much about the evening, but he did remember something his dad said. Someone asked him about making Lieutenant or Captain. Nassir responded that he wasn’t ready for the “burden of leadership” quite yet. That didn’t make sense to Adam at the time–leadership meant being in charge and getting to make all the decisions and people doing what you said. How could that be a burden? The answer was starting to come into focus.
Adam slumped forward, his forehead resting on the back of the driver’s seat. “How could he think I could hate him?” Adam asked, the train of thoughts already running circles through his mind. Adam was smart. Gifted, though he didn’t feel like it when other people in that category are Jason Quills and Leo Snows. Math and numbers came really easy. People and feelings, not so much. “What do I do to make this better, Otto?”
Otto pauses, marshaling his thoughts.
“I don’t think that either of you hatin’ the other does anyone any good. I’ve been tryin’ to find an answer for Leo. If it was Sol’s choice, make Leo understand how an’ why he might have made it. Help him understand Sol.”
The car’s interior voice starts to quaver. Sadness isn’t far away, and Otto is verbally side-stepping or hesitating to maintain control.
"Was he more like a computer program, an alien, part of an alien, a ghost, a… I dunno, maybe some or all of those things. What he liked doin’. Favorite place. Things he felt strongly about. If it’s even a ‘he’. How you two met. Was he just all mission all the time. Was what he did part of that mission, or… "
The pauses are growing longer, and this the longest of all. “I was made, Adam. I don’t know if Sol was too. Got the feeling that he was, and for a purpose. Well, me an’ him, we’d have had a lot to talk about in that case, y’know? I think I really missed an opportunity, an’ I don’t know how I feel about that. Guess I thought I’d have more time.”
“So… When you’re ready to talk… make Leo understand. I’d like to be there, if it’s okay. Maybe anyone else you think oughta hear it. But not until you feel like it.”
author: Bill G.
Otto knows Leo will also ask what Adam needs to make things right with him, but I’m waiting to see where this goes before having him mention this.
author: Bill G.
Adam nods. His mind is swimming with memories of Sol - things he’d said about himself, the Concordance, and his mission. Things not said, but felt. It’s a lot to process. It’s going to take time. But Leo needs to hear it now, even if Adam doesn’t know what to say, “This wasn’t Leo’s fault. He shouldn’t blame himself for this. I need to tell him that.”
Adam reaches out a hand and becomes awkwardly aware that Otto doesn’t have a shoulder to reach out for. Correcting, Adam just reaches into the front seat area and rests his palm on the center console. It’s the strongest source of Otto’s aura from the inside, so Adam hopes it’s as meaningful as a pat on the shoulder. “Thanks Otto. I don’t have a big brother but if this is what they do, you’re a pretty good one. And a really cool car.”
Sorry for the long wait time for so little. The spring crud is still in full effect.
I’m totally feeling the Leo/Adam heart-to-heart that’s obviously going to follow this, but I’d like to do it with a fully cognitive ability too. Otto’s giving the perfect reason to wait here, but I think Adam would want to do this right away–but it’s also Friday and even if I do take a day or two to recover, that’s the weekend and Monday is the next game. I’m all for hearing thoughts on this.
“I’m glad you think so, Adam,” Otto says.
“If Leo didn’t think you were ready for this life, he’d have had a talk with your folks. He’d ask you to step down, or transfer to JHHL or somethin’. He hasn’t done any of that, and he won’t. He knows that soon, you’ll be callin’ the shots and givin’ the orders. Maybe even tomorrow.”
“When that happens, he’ll follow you. I will too. We’ll take what comes, because we trust you. An’ trust means honesty. So if there’s somethin’ you need Leo to do, or say, to make things right with you, best tell him the truth about what you need, because he’s gonna ask.”
“I’m guessin’ if he’s not over this, you aren’t either. Sounds like the best thing for both of you right now is each other, an’ the rest of your friends.”
This feels like one of those things where maybe an interactive conversation isn’t for the best - I think we both know how it’ll probably go, or at least how Leo will go. I think if you wrote up what Adam wants to say, or needs to hear, and took that time to share any of Concord’s backstory you felt would be interesting, I’d be happy to see that. This is also a better format if you want others along, e.g. Keri. Does that work for you?
author: Bill G.