Many tech-based superheroes start out wealthy, with a successful business. But how did they get there? There’s no earth-shaking plotting here, just two people planning their future.
Leo is up against a hard mathematical puzzle. Aria is there with him, leaning back against him and holding up her phone. A series of items and numbers line up on the glowing screen. The Menagerie pizza party is going on in the background, but the two let it pass them by.
$850 a month for rent. $300 for food. $450 for health care and insurance. $400 for utilities and household supplies. But how…?
“I’m on a fixed income,” Leo murmurs. “And does this include Amazon Mom and Costco?”
“It does.” Aria thumbs one of the entries, expanding the itemized list for inspection.
“That’s not enough for you to eat too, unless it’s mac and cheese and ramen.”
“I’ll make do.” The girl doesn’t sound happy about it, though.
Leo hums. He feels a tightness, squeezing his mind shut. “I mean, yeah, we could get jobs, but then we don’t have time for the Menagerie. I worry about lacrosse already - what if something happens during practice?”
“Jason’s going to need a tech consultant. The Quill Foundation can pay you.” They’ve had this discussion before, but something has changed recently. Aria’s voice is confident and level.
Leo feels his reserve give way. “How much is he gonna pay?”
“Why not ask him?”
Leo grunts. “Okay, okay, I’ll talk to him. You win.” He smiles and ruffles her hair. “Now, smart girl, figure out Otto. I’m not putting him in a garage. Does your $850 handle that?”
Aria’s face falls. “No… no, it doesn’t,” she admits, a little ashamed. “That’s just the average for a one-bedroom…”
“Right. We’d need something more like a warehouse, a big open area where Otto can navigate, an Otto-sized living room, Otto-sized everything. That’s not a typical rental, that’s us doing some kinda custom room partitions. He’s a roommate, I’m not putting him in a garage if I can help it.”
Aria thinks about it. “I know. You’re absolutely right. We talked about… when you were out, after that big fight, the three of us talked about Site 5. That’s big enough.”
Leo’s eyes widen. “Holy shit. Are you serious?”
The girl nods. “It’s… listen, Leo, it’s just one possibility. Maybe we’ll come up with another team base, maybe we can use that as a residence too. Otto will be comfortable, if it’s big enough.”
Something clicks with Leo. "A one-bedroom apartment rental is what you priced out. Are you… " He turns her head to face him, and looks her in the eye. “Are you talking about moving in with me?”
Aria gives him her best incredulous look. “What do you think I’ve been doing all this time?”
Leo is taken aback. “I… well, we never really had anything fancy, you know? Just a one-room or studio type thing, like the Gale guest room, the shop… I kind of always assumed you’d want your own place, some privacy…”
The girl rubs his nose with her own. “You’re sweet. And you’re so sweet, Leo, that you push us away even when we want you to pull us in.” She is rewarded by his arms sliding around her and tightening, but goes on regardless. “If there’s space available, I wouldn’t mind a room of my own, to store my own stuff at least, but if there’s not, I’m just as comfortable sharing.”
Leo thinks more. “Do we have to pay property taxes on a base?”
“Probably.” Aria starts doing a search on her phone from the comfort of her captor’s arms. “Is a super-team a tax deductible organization?”
“I dunno. It feels like all we’re doing is charity work. Why not?” Leo shrugs. “Maybe Jason’s business managers would know.”
“Fair enough. Okay. The base probably costs a significant amount more than a one-bedroom rental, but let’s assume we have some kind of Foundation funding.”
“Well… maybe.” Leo finds new assumptions coming to his mind. “I’m wary of any kind of sponsorship deals. What if we find out that we’re taking corporate money? What if Rook is found to be paying us? I don’t want even the appearance of influence. And is it a bad thing if we’re seen as the Quill Foundation team?”
“That’s something you’ll have to ask Jason,” Aria admits. “I don’t think we have enough capital to bootstrap any kind of business where you sell your carbon tech–”
“–and I’m still wary of doing that,” Leo adds.
“And you’re still wary of doing that,” the girl agrees. “And I’m still researching markets where it would be useful without being dangerous. Bridges, dams, infrastructure, that sort of thing. Maybe the Foundation could give you a loan, if you come up with something. Oh. Oh! Ask for a percentage on any Quill tech that you help decipher and monetize. If it sells well, you’ll have recurring payments, not just a one-time consulting fee.”
“There’s a point here where I’m imposing on Jason,” Leo comments darkly. “I have no desire to push that line.”
“You have a fair point.” Aria snuggles close. “You’re too nice a guy to push that, and I know that, and you know that. Unfortunately, that’s probably why we’re still poor. You’re not one of these cut-throat teen geniuses who makes a million by age 13.”
“Yeah… Yeah.” This thought hits Leo harder than Aria expected, and she rests her head on his shoulder, pulling him back.
“I like you better,” she whispers. “You don’t have to have a lot of money. But - it wouldn’t hurt, right? And that’s my job, helping you navigate the business world without compromising yourself.”
Leo warms up again, and smiles. “I couldn’t do anything without you.”
“Well,” the robot girl of his literal dreams points out, “I am your better half.”
author: Bill G.