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41.1 - Bravo (Alycia and Leo)

Bot bursts out of the side room -- a conference room, Alycia noted earlier, but cluttered with boxes and crates -- and heads down the hall, muttering under his breath, armor creaking and whining as he stomped down the corridor to the lift. Alycia keeps her position, leaning against the wall outside the door, opposite the way Bot stormed off. Leo follows him out in a few moments, eyes locked on Bot to his right. Otto does glance her way as he follows his master, but says nothing. She waits until Leo's turned away from his older self and taken a step or two toward Central Control, where the others are.  Clap. Clap. Clap. Slow, deliberate. "Well done," she says, a smirk on her face. #RP #Cutscene
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Leo is still regaining his bearings. Whatever technology the future holds is clearly in advance of his own neuroscience. They effortlessly implemented something like his Generation Four VR neurotech, which at this point is merely in the planning stages. The biggest hurdles aren't technical (except for the time-acceleration element, which he has no idea how to make happen for a biological brain), but emotional: how do you live for days or weeks without human contact, unless you plug a ton of other people into the same simulation? He's spent subjective days practicing emotional restraint. He can't show any impatience around the Pneuma inside, can't let her think she needs to do something for him, can't reveal his frustration or sorrow or anger. He has to love a woman who's been apart from him for so long. Fortunately, Aria has afforded him plenty of practice. He's so wrapped up in the nuances of Pneuma and the Bot's reactions that his sense of other people is still poorly calibrated. "Oh. Thanks. I think I did okay. We'll see if he makes progress with her. Hey, I'm sorry I was away from you guys for so long. But this is really important."
"Certainly important to the 'Newman' clan, past, present, and future," Alycia says. "And handled with remarkable ... well, is it manipulation if you're doing it to yourself? Self-manipulation? No, that's something altogether different." She snorts, softly. "Let's just say you knew precisely all the right buttons to push -- not all that surprising, given he's five-nines you, but it shows remarkable self-awareness -- and you had the guts to push them. Bravo."
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Leo rolls his eyes, but it's all aimed at the Bot. "That asshole. He forgot what's important, is all." The sadness, and the fear, comes alive. Leo feels himself grow anxious as the next words come thoughtlessly forth. "I mean, he lost his friends. They keep me in line, and I do the same for them. I guess it's understandable, but..." Words don't come for a moment. "He needs friends, real bad." Like me. "So without them, I gotta fill in."
Alycia starts to reply, hesitates, cocking an appraising eyebrow -- Always another surprise under the hood. A convenient sniffle for sympathy, or a noteworthy symptom of his pathology? -- then shakes her head slightly. "Fill in as the voice of his conscience, perhaps. Only Jiminy Cricket was only annoying, a focus for resentment and sullen obedience -- you make it all look easy." She pulls herself up from the wall, crosses her arms. "Jason -- our Jason -- told me once that everyone thinks your power, your focus, is on machinery, robotic." She gestures slightly with her forward hand toward Otto. "But that he thought it was your understanding of how the mind works, of emotion, not machines. Thus your --" A pause. "-- ability to build these wonderful things, and make them come to life." There's something harder under those final words. "Less Cricket, more Geppetto. Or perhaps Blue Fairy. So you make yourself a comrade to others, a leader, an inspiration, creating an infrastructure around you, a --" Another brief pause -- Wait. Is it that simple? -- and a smile wreaths her face. "Not in imitation of your father. In defiance of him. He creates soulless hordes. You create soulful kindred. He has to kidnap his own son to imitate a family. You join and shepherd a band of broken misfits who want each other to be their family. Yours is clearly the better way, even if it makes you far more dangerous than he ever thought of being."
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"'Holy shit, Leo Snow is dangerous, better keep an eye on him.' Parker will make an AEGIS agent of you yet," Leo observes with a smile. He's starting to wake up, try to figure out if what he's hearing is just a background hiss of ambient sarcasm, or if there's some other intent here. "But yeah. Most of that. Fuckin..." He looks for words. "Back when I first talked to Agent Waters, I told him, 'I don't build weapons, I build friends'. I'm not my dad. Never will be. Not just friends, though. A family, like you say, strong enough to fight him off if he came for me again." He glances around the base, silent and lost. "I guess.. in this place and time, even that wasn't enough. That's why I..." That's why I'm so angry at the Bot. I've invested so much hope in an unknown future, and it failed me. But I'm learning how to fix that. I hope. "Jason got me right. Connection is what matters, not the tech. That's what old me forgot. I need all of you in my life, pretty badly. He needs someone too. That's why Pneuma's important. Well, one reason of many." Leo grins fiercely. "That guy sucks now, but I think if we reboot his heart.. he's gonna do something amazing."
"Parker's not the only one who has me doing threat and neutralization assessments, you might recall," she comments with a smile. "Of course, I'd have done so without prompting, but synergistic assignments are always nice." The smile fades a bit, as she sighs. "You're also effective in controlling the conversation. Something I'm less strong in." She cocks her head. "The only question I have is how much of that is deliberate -- explicit disarming and redirection through selective emotional and rhetorical displays -- and how much is just a reflection of your actual emotional state dominating the conversation organically." A shrug. "Both are threats, but require different methods to address them." Alycia's eyes trail down the hall in Bot's path. "You're not wrong. He's a mess, all of what you said. But, then, so's everyone else I've encountered or researched here. Jason --" Another sigh, trailing into a light growl. "Something's very wrong there. Not just what he did, what he doing, but his behavior. I think. I -- can't tell if that's legitimate observation, or colored by -- denial, or something. I don't want  him to be the local science tyrant. It's --" She shakes her head again, looking around them at the worn shabbiness of the base, its air full of swamp and bodies and age and despair. "That this is -- or was -- a future of ours is deeply depressing. People broken, missing, dead. It was easier in the Sepiaverse -- that's a whole other dimension, even if the people looked like us. This -- as far as I can tell, this was all just a few tweaks in timing, some bad decisions, a slipped pebble cascading to this avalanche of ... badness." Alycia meets Leo's eye. "This is just the sort of shit my father would have ended up doing. Maybe not in bed with a plutocrat like Rosa Rook, ew, but creating an outwardly positive, inwardly corrupt regime and society, where what resistance there is looks like --" She gestures around. "-- this. We need to fix this -- and we need to make sure it never, ever  happens in our timeline."
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"Phoenix might be able to help here," muses Leo. "That's exactly what I built it for. But large-scale social change is tough to test for...." He thinks a little more. "I mean... From what I understand, yeah, there's a want of a nail here. Pneuma is abducted in a different way. I go off the deep end, because of course I would. I leave the team, like an idiot. The support I provided them is gone. Shit goes south. For what it's worth, there's probably worlds where the nail is Adam, or Harry, Jason, Charlotte, or even you. I mean, what if you'd said no to helping Jason? Who's he got left to go to?" He grows more earnest, standing straighter. "We depend on each other. Not doing that would be miserable. So yeah, we're all each others' weaknesses. But we can be strengths too. I don't know that this is what we ought to do, to avert, y'know, this , but it feels like it. Just.. keep being friends or comrades. Don't give up on each other. And that also means no killing this future Jason, if you can help it. I think this future needs him too." The seriousness is still there, but it's joined by a smile. "Jason. That reminds me. I'm grateful to you, personally. Summer said you came by the coffee shop and reached out to her, spent some time talking. She says she's happy with the progress you two made. She needs friends just as much as I do, or Aria, or Otto. Little things like that, just being friendly, can change lives. This place is proof of it. So, thank you."
Alycia stares at him, then slowly shakes her head. " Wángbā dàn, you're good. If you ever decide you're going to take over the world, let me know in advance so I can either be first in line at the dais, or else can find a convenient other dimension to duck into." An abrupt shake of the head. "Dammit, Leo, do you think I want  to kill Jason? Even the one of this timeline?" She snorts. "Okay, yeah, I spent a lot of time not too long ago talking about how I was going to 'destroy Jason Quill,' yadda-yadda. That was -- different. That was -- well, a lot of anger, but also kind of a way of distracting from what I was actually doing. Finding ... Father. There were people, who needed to think --" She shakes her head again. "I wanted to slap him silly, maybe break a few -- dammit, he's --" Alycia takes a deep breath. "My relationship with Jason -- our  Jason -- is already complicated enough, to the point of I don't know what's going to happen to it --" She holds up a hand. "Do not  give me romantic advice, I swear to God, Leo." She drops the hand. "I need to know what's going on with this Jason -- know what he's, what our Jason, is capable of. Would have been capable of. Before I can --" A snort. "It's Minority Report,  but not reliant on dubiously convenient precognitives." She raises an eyebrow. "Did Jason ever tell you about the history of the Sepiaverse? Achilles Chin and Byron Quill destroyed the world, seeking vengeance for the death of their children. That's a reason, one of them,, I think, why he was willing to -- do what he did. What I supported him doing." She glances down the corridor. "What this Jason did, the Jason here. To ... you. I need to understand that, so that I can understand that. If the guy I -- am so involved with, could act so capriciously. And if that's what I actually was part of over there. "  
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"I didn't hear very much about what went on over there, no. Nor your role in it. Doesn't matter. I trust you. Do whatever you gotta do." Leo doesn't need to elaborate on that too much. There's only one point where he does. "I'm not worried about you wanting to kill Jason. I'm worried about him trying to kill you, and you needing to defend yourself. It's easy - really, really god damn easy - to feel your whole life threatened by something. Old feelings, a familiar face, an unwanted encounter. Whatever. This stuff has real power. He might decide, I dunno, that he doesn't want to be confronted with you. He might try and kill you himself. He'd regret it, but then it'd be too late.  That's what I'm worried about. Don't let it get to that point where it's you or him. Okay?"
Again, Alycia is staring at him for a moment, before she barks out a laugh. "Ha! Of the things I was worried about, Jason trying to kill me wasn't among them. He's welcome --" She stops. "And that was your worry. God dammit , Leo." She taps her forehead. "Everything up here tells me you cannot be trusted, that you are manipulative, callous, narcissistic, self-indulgent, megalomanaical, seductive ... Man Most Likely To --"  She growls. "But in here --" She taps her chest. "You are -- seductive. You hit every, single, damned note as a leader and --"  Alycia shakes her head. "If I ever find out you have psi powers," she says, pointing at him, "I will hunt you down and kill you before you can open your damned mouth."
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Leo narrows his eyes and presses two fingers to his temple for a moment, glaring in stern concentration. Then he breaks off, and smiles. "I know you didn't need to be told what I said. I just hope that Jason shows as much restraint as you did. When you had a choice, when Jason was a thorn in your heart, when it was erase him or confront that thorn.. You didn't punish him for your own feelings. That's why I can trust you, Alycia. On this team, and with Jason. Do whatever you can for him. Do whatever you want to him." He laughs awkwardly. "That came out wrong. Er... No romantic advice from me, unless you ask for it. But don't. I'm shit at romance. I had to build myself a girlfriend before anyone would fall for me." The laugh fades. "That.. creating her to love me, yeah, that was manipulative, callous, narcissistic, self-indulgent... me at my worst. And Pneuma forgave me anyway. If I'm any kind of leader, it's a side effect of atoning for that sin, and working to be worthy of her. I'll let her know you think it's working."
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She glares at him for several long seconds, finally half-shouting, "Fuck you, Leo! You --" She slashes her arms to either side, and strides away back toward the Control Center, pausing long enough at Otto to point at him and say, "Not a word, Diesel-breath. Just, don't even --" Her breath catches, and she turns away and stomps off down the corridor.
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Oh ho, what do we have here
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"Said too much, I guess," Leo muses out loud. "Good job, asshole." You should apologize later, after she chills out a bit. She's sensitive about Jason, and you shouldn't have pushed that much. She was clearly wanting to talk about him, guess she's just not ready. Or you don't know how to talk to girls.
By all that's holy, the man is a goddamned verbal judo master, deflecting and evading and then turning around to punch you in the emotional solar plexus, paying you complements when you're trying to get a rise out of him, assuming self-deprecating modesty when you want his feathers to be ruffled, no impact, no impact at all, completely played me, it goddamned has  to be an act, nobody is that noble, humble, compassionate -- She pauses. Except that goddamned Summer, yeah, there's a freaking surprise ... Alycia drags a forearm across her face, and storms back into the Control Center, slamming herself back into the seat, pounding fingers into brittle plastic keys, and returns to her research.
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That was not the Alycia-bares-fangs-at-Leo I was expecting after her talk with Summer, but very interesting as itself. Hopefully you got what you were aiming for?
[I absolutely did not, which turned out to be kind of cool. Leo's unwillingness to rise to the bait (or, perhaps, unawareness of the baiting being done) is/was intensely frustrating for her, which sort of derailed the entire conversation plan [assert Leo is manipulative + extend that demonstrated assertion into his horrifying quasi-person creations = cause him to storm off and in so doing tacitly admit to her suppositions about him = moral victory and feeling better about herself]. Snarking truth to power has been one of her MOs -- it was one way, albeit with risks, she could get a rise out of her father. It doesn't seem to work with either Leo or Summer, at least not to her satisfaction. Add to that he actually got her, through example, to talk about her own shit is, to her mind, even worse. That she currently has both Angry and Afraid floating out there didn't help her any. She'll be back, don't you worry. Thanks! I hope it was useful / entertaining for you, too.]
I always forget about mechanics while RPing, but I suspect that some of the above, particularly the latter segments, would count as Share a Vulnerability of Weakness with Someone  from Alycia (which lets her do some fun stuff). I don't intend to retcon it at this point, if only because I like how the conversation wrapped up, but I'm noting it more to help me remember next time, dagnabbit.
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I'd say "ask them what they would do something dark for" was answered: Pneuma/Aria is what led the Bot here, and her creation was "me at my worst", so take Influence if you are satisfied with that.
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As for snark, yeah, Leo's just thick ("Emotional Honey Badger don't care"). He spent subjective days doing Comfort & Support on Bot's Pneuma and basically is coming off of that. Glad to know she'll be back, and I wonder what'll happen when the first thing she hears is "I apologize for upsetting you" :D
Bill G. said: As for snark, yeah, Leo's just thick ("Emotional Honey Badger don't care"). He spent subjective days doing Comfort & Support on Bot's Pneuma and basically is coming off of that. Glad to know she'll be back, and I wonder what'll happen when the first thing she hears is "I apologize for upsetting you" :D GOTO  AlyciaReaction :-) I'm coming to realize that Alycia really reacts poorly to people being nice to her. It's gotta be a trap. Oh, shit, I've made myself vulnerable, haven't I. This wasn't my plan, dammit, I've lost control of the situation. When's the other shoe going to drop? I don't deserve this, and it's rubbing my nose in that. Once they know me better, they'll take it all back. It's gotta be a trap. Etc. The fact that she's actually reacting outwardly is probably a good thing.
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Yup! :-) (I have always loved the Cats Ears for Alycia, btw.)
Bill G. said: I'd say "ask them what they would do something dark for" was answered: Pneuma/Aria is what led the Bot here, and her creation was "me at my worst", so take Influence if you are satisfied with that. Given that I already have Influence (apparently Alycia has influence over the entire Menagerie, past, present, and future, go figure), so ... +Freak -Savior
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*** Dave H. said: +Freak -Savior Done.
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"The hell was that, boss?" asks Otto, finally. The big robot is in humanoid form for the moment. Leo shrugs. He's still trying to parse the whole conversation. "She had a lot to say about me 'managing the conversation' and pushing Bot's buttons and shit. I dunno if she was praising me, dissing me, or just trying to dissect it. I feel bad for having to kick his ass like that..." He trails off. "Some asses need to be kicked." Otto hunkers down, getting close. "Listen.. Leo..." The name makes Leo perk up. Otto usually gets serious when he calls him by name. "I... I got it wrong. I thought old Otto ran away or somethin'. Aria explained it. Feel kinda stupid now. Anyway. Listen. It's not just you guys that depend on me these days. I got... I got other people, people who'd wanna hear about it if I kicked the bucket--" "I'd take care of it. Just leave details where I can find them," Leo promises. "But listen. We already made it past that moment. I think we've got a good handle on who our enemies are now. And I'm gonna keep upgrading you and Aria and Summer, I promise." He pats the carbon frame of his friend reassuringly. "I know you'd be missed, big guy. My job is to make sure that it never comes to that." Otto smiles. "Alright. And I'm gonna do the same, Leo. You 'n Aria have nothing to fear. Ol' Otto's in the bad guy beatin' business, and cousin, business is boomin'." He slams a heavy fist into a cupped palm, and grins unpleasantly. "Hey, that reminds me." Leo has a sudden realization. "You still got the thing on ya?" "I still got the thing on me," confirms Otto. Both boys glance around warily, a little guiltily. Seeing nobody in sight, Leo nods. "Lemme see it." Otto fishes it out from a recess and carefully holds it out, palm up. Leo checks. Everything's intact, no damage of any kind. "Alright. I'll use it when the time is right. Soon, probably. If you're not gonna be around, you be on standby or make other arrangements so I can get to it, you read me?" "I gotcha boss." The package slips back into its armored storage compartment.
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Bill G. said: "Hey, that reminds me." Leo has a sudden realization. "You still got the thing on ya?" "I still got the thing on me," confirms Otto. Both boys glance around warily, a little guiltily. Seeing nobody in sight, Leo nods. "Lemme see it." Otto fishes it out from a recess and carefully holds it out, palm up. Leo checks. Everything's intact, no damage of any kind. "Alright. I'll use it when the time is right. Soon, probably. If you're not gonna be around, you be on standby or make other arrangements so I can get to it, you read me?" "I gotcha boss." The package slips back into its armored storage compartment.
Btw, nothing would infuriate Alycia more than Leo and Otto's bemused dismissal of what she had to say. Well played.
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*** Dave H. said:   Btw, nothing would infuriate Alycia more than Leo and Otto's bemused dismissal of what she had to say. Well played. Otto's kind of dismissive about it. Leo's giving it plenty of thought, since he'd still feel responsible for upsetting her somehow. He's just wrong about what did it. But to be fair, I don't think she's told him what did, either. :)
Bill G. said: Otto's kind of dismissive about it. Leo's giving it plenty of thought, since he'd still feel responsible for upsetting her somehow. He's just wrong about what did it. But to be fair, I don't think she's told him what did, either. :) Oh, I would never argue that Alycia is behaving or reacting rationally. As much as she thinks she does. :-)
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This is been great stuff, guys. Thanks