Masks Issue 13: Idling [Cutscene]

When you watch a movie about a rich or powerful person, you sometimes see the scene where they pull up in a nice car - a classy limo, a super-car, or something like that. They get out, the camera flashes explode around them, the red carpet is waiting. Then the car is gone. What happens to it? There’s a driver (for a limo) or a valet (for the super-car), who’s going to take it into a parking lot. You don’t see a lot of the hero getting back into the car and driving away. Otto, sitting in the airport parking lot, reflects on this. What if the hero needs to get away in a hurry? What if he’s just broken into the ritzy place to do something, or take something, that’s going to require a quick exit? That kind of movie is usually a bank robbery, with a getaway driver sitting idle at the curb. That doesn’t feel right either.

When Otto is a humanoid robot, his internal self-image, the one Leo crafted from his own human existence, matches up pretty well. Arms, legs, head. He can move and act freely. The car robot isn’t his skin, but a suit he wears. It’s the most comfortable suit ever designed, with myriad marvelous features. When he wants to become a car again, he just sits down, and his wheelchair - the one he sat in for years - unfolds magically behind and beneath him. He operates the wheels with his arms and legs. His passengers are tiny little people that nestle comfortably in his lap, sit on his shoulders, or rest on his back. It’s like playing with a pack of less fuzzy kittens. It fills Otto’s heart with warmth and joy, to be wheeling down the road a breakneck speeds, listening to blood-pumping rock music, with tiny friends hanging onto him. He wouldn’t trade this for anything.

He notices through his senses that some other cars are pulling up. They smell official. Government agencies use a different type of oil and pump from a different gasoline supply than conventional civilian vehicles. They don’t just go fill up their black Suburbans at Shell or 76. There’s a motor pool where maintenance and refueling happens, and they buy from the same vendors, every time. Otto knows immediately who these guys are, and what they want. The boss hasn’t called for me yet. So just sit tight. They know who I am, they’re just covering me. I could transform and jump over them if I had to.

Otto loves needling Leo. “Boss” is one way to do it. Otto is that chauffeur in the movie, the limo driver, the one who takes the car away after the hero gets out. But he’s also the chauffeur in the movie who’s the hero’s teacher and protector and assistant. He’s the one who gives the good advice, listens to problems, and says something cool. When the hero is out of options, the chauffeur is the one who shows up with the car and says a reassuring line like “get in, we’ll make it in time”. It lets them joke without feeling the weight of the truer, deeper relationship. Leo is his creator, his best friend, his little brother. If Leo needed it, Otto would bust through this cordon of Feds, take some small-arms fire maybe, ram through the airport walls, and start punching until he was at his bro’s side.

Pneuma, the reason the two are here, gets the same deal, every time, no regrets. She’s sweet, kind, funny, but she also hurts sometimes, because she was made for something, and Otto wasn’t. The two of them have had conversations Leo’s never heard and can never know about, but they’re all still happy together and that’s what matters. Ultimately, what bothers Pneuma is also what gives her strength. Until she’s square with herself, Otto will protect her with everything he’s got.

And the others? Sure. Jason Quill has his hover disc, but come on, that thing isn’t cool or stylish. Otto wants to call up Pimp My Ride and see what they could do. He’s sure Jason would be happier. Charlotte? They didn’t even have cars when she was alive, but she’s adjusted to everything else in the modern world so easily. She can also pass through shadows to get places, though, which is annoying. Who doesn’t need a cool car to ride in? Come on. How about Harry? Now that guy - that guy! Otto really wants to race him sometime. Yeah, he’s going to lose, even with his rockets. A speedster is too fast. That’s not the point. Otto wants to watch how his legs move, how he angles himself, how the wind moves around him. He wants to learn how to go faster, and thinks seeing Harry in action will help that. But all of them have earned their place in his heart, and they’d all get a ride to Hell and back if they asked.

author: Bill G.

Otto is Happy Hogan to Pneuma’s Pepper Potts and Leo’s Tony Stark.

(Neat vignette.)

author: *** Dave H.