51.8 - Ottonomous Beings (Alycia and Otto)

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[One more item from my list.] Alycia takes a deep breath. He's going to think you're crazy , she considers. Then, Well, he probably already does, so where's the harm? She goes in. #Cutscene #RP [Alycia is tracking / has tracked down Otto wherever he's hanging these days -- the Gale carriage house still? Consider this a day or two after the dance. If Mary is hanging out with him, wherever, I'm prepared for that (whether or not Alycia is).] [My response time may be slow over the next 24-36 hours.]
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Otto isn't at the carriage house, but is apparently near enough for government work (however much Alycia denies that's what she's doing). His guest, Mary, is actually there, apparently being fitted and sized for... something... that Leo cooked up, and he's impatiently waiting to see the results. This seems like an opportune moment for a one-on-one conversation.
[I'm not clear if what Mary's doing is there / visible, or off someplace nearby, but on the assumption that, in either case, they have that opportune moment ...] Alycia glances around. "Hey. Um ... you have a minute? I need to talk with you about something -- something I saw up in the future timeline." She nibbles her lower lip. "It was over in the Sepiaverse. When Charlotte was doing her big hoodoo thing. And it involved you."
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Otto is impatient. In car mode, he's spinning donuts in a nearby parking lot, only stopping once a human-scale visitor that he recognizes draws near. "Aria won't let me see her," he complains, out of nowhere. "It's not like they're fitting her for a god damn wedding dress." There's a pause. "They wouldn't. Motherfucker, she wouldn't do that to me." He comes back to the topic at hand, having gotten that out of his system. "Sepiaverse. Future. Yeah, I was there for about half that shit. What about me?" I'm assuming Mary is off somewhere else doing something else, to simplify your situation. :)  It's good timing for the thing Leo cooked up for her.
Alycia hesitates. If Otto is preoccupied by other Newman melodrama, this might not be the right moment. When would be? "While I was in the Sepiaverse, there was a moment when Charlotte was sealing the rift, when I was confronted by the ghost of my father. In my face. Screaming. In the end, it was dragged off, away from me, by another ghost." She pauses a moment. "By your ghost."
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"Huh." Otto muses silently on that, then elaborates further: "Huh." "Not mine, I guess. Botto. The other Otto, the Bot's big bro." The car rumbles a bit, a sort of wordless rumination. "So this got you on edge, I guess. 'Cause of your dad, 'cause it's me, 'cause of ghosts, maybe all three." The passenger side door cracks open. "Climb in, take a load off. If ya want, if not that's fine. I'll hear whatever you wanna say about this. If you said your piece, I got a story for you too."
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She hesitates a moment. What she has to say is important, but Otto has sometimes struck her as ... willful. Capricious. She's here to connect the dots for him, to confess her sins. What if he takes that wrong? Well, if so, then that's a form of penance. And, honestly, where safer than inside him? She steps in, takes a seat. Automatically puts belts herself. "It's not about my father. Thought that was haunting in more than one way. Nor is it about your having saved me -- or 'Botto' --" Ugh . "-- having done so, though I thank you -- him -- for that." "No, it's that this means you have a soul. A spirit. Which in turn means I owe you a profound apology. You are a person, and I did you an injustice in not recognizing that. I deeply regret that." It's odd -- she apologized to Aria, then to Summer, and didn't feel this nervous. But with Otto -- she tenses a bit for what his reaction might be.
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The car listens to this, and digests it, and finally renders a verdict. "Huh. Heh. Heheh.. ..Hahahaha." In a human, it'd be a belly laugh of amusement. He stops, sounding for all the world like he's wiping tears from nonexistent eyes. "I'm sorry, but, ya gotta admit, this whole thing is kinda funny. Like, as a ghost, do I rattle my tire chains? Am I a Volkswagen Beetle-juice?" His next two words don't seem to fit, at first. " Rocket car ." "Y'know, Leo and us bots, our little clan has our secrets and in-jokes. I've been saving good kids from their shitty dads since I was thirteen. My license plate said RKT CAR - 'wrecked car'. But when I crashed into Rossum to rescue Leo, li'l bro thought it was 'rocket car'. That memory turned into a promise. If one of us needs saving, another will burn through anything to get there an' do it. An' nothin' will stop us." There's only the slightest of pauses. "Not even bein' dead." "I'm a car, Alycia. I'm also a dude. I know who I am. I'm glad you figured it out too. But even if you hadn't, I'd'a saved you if you needed, and would again. An' hearin' I got to do some f'in metal ghost shit made my day. We're 100% cool. You really wanna make it up to me, though, don't be a stranger. Hang out and talk for a bit. I got some shit to work through too."
Well, he took that with less angst than expected. But, then, that's Otto, too. Or is it wrong to summarize and wrap him up in so glib an observation? "I've no doubt you'd save me -- or anyone who needs saving -- if the situation arose. Regardless, thank you -- in proxy for Botto -- again. And --" She wags her head again. "-- all the rest, my apologies, as I said." She glances around. "So I'm not sure if I can help with any of your shit, but if I can, I certainly owe you to try. I can't imagine it's anything technical, between you and Leo, but ..."
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"My shit's with you, actually," Otto confesses. "See, for a long time, ever since you attacked Harry, I thought you were a daring but mean, heartless, Quill-hating bitch. Turns out you're actually a caring, clean, hopelessly Quill-dating bitch. So, I wanna apologize for misjudging you so badly." "I only got one frame of reference, so tell me if I'm off. After Rossum got through with Leo - had him for four months - I was there to pick up the pieces. Kid was so brainwashed it wasn't funny. Wanna know why his bots are so god damn strong and tough? He wanted friends who couldn't be hurt and taken from him. Kid needs friends so badly. He's a gentle soul. That hurt him in ways I'll never know." "I figure you got it worse, and longer. I shoulda been a friend a lot sooner. I'm sorry. I ain't gonna screw that up again, I promise."
She's busy parsing his parallel construction, the possible threat of his "my shit's with you," and being called a bitch and a continuum of responses she could give to that before his following words sink in, talking about Leo, then veering into talking about ... ... her? And, probably because the subject of her father was at hand, she can hear him, hear his ghost ranting at her, denouncing her, calling her worthless. She can hear every other shout he made, ghostly and corporeal -- the unreal expectations, the bitter denunciations, building her up to take a fall, honing her as a weapon and threatening to discard her as each flaw was found or forced, that voice soft as a flensing knife, loud as a demo charge ... She catches her breath.  Tā mā de -- that's usually 2 a.m. nightmare stuff. She resents Otto for bringing it to mind -- an unjust blaming, she knows, but almost reflexive. She stuffs that down, and examines Otto's offer of friendship.  They're all so alike, fundamentally. Him. Summer. Even Aria, past her protective layer. Each with very distinct differences, but at their core ... and that's got to be Leo, too.  For a moment, she half-regrets not having pursued him, as if my life weren't already a tangle of carnivorous worms. Well, that opportunity is well-passed. What do we do about Otto? "I won't play 'who had it worse' between Leo and me. But there are certainly ... parallels. Jason said the other evening that the Menagerie's unofficial motto should be, 'We have Daddy Issues.' He has his own weight to bear, there, too. As does Harry." She muses a moment. "I'm not much of a friend. But I'll try not to be so proud as to turn away any support you might have. And -- vice-versa. If I can be of service, or provide an ear, or hands for that matter, let me know."
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The car rumbles. "It took the boss a long time to get himself together, even with friends. I dunno where you are on that path. But if it ever gets rough, only thing I want is for you to open your mouth when you got somethin' to say. With friends, hard truths only hurt a moment. Silence hurts forever." He seems thoughtful. As a car, Otto has no face to show, no human body language, nothing. But somehow, the tone of his mechanical systems fills in. His engine revs, the idle hum, a brief blast of air from the AC instead of a snort, somehow convey the humanity behind the machinery. "Like if you wanna talk about hurtful comments, ' diesel breath '? Really? I'm electric, ya reprobate. But I'll forgive ya, because someday you're gonna say that shit, only you'll find that you're saying it fondly, like it's a way to cement friendship." His voice drops, becomes more uncertain. "So there is one thing you can do. So uh, Mary. This girl flew out to visit me. We're uh, we're really having a lot of fun. But she's a tough badass chick, and you seem like you're a tough badass chick too. So uh, how do I impress someone like that? What's a cool thing to do?"
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"I'm not," she relies, an acerbic tone to her words, "prone to not talking." She holds up a finger. "But, perhaps, not always what I ought to be saying. I am --" She hesitates, then plunges in. "-- not someone who is used to people around me actually ... caring. More along the lines of scheming. You, your sisters ... you make it damned difficult to maintain that sort of level of suspicion and misanthropy. I either owe you a great thanks, or I'm setting myself up for a terrible betrayal." She raises an eyebrow. "I guess we'll have to see." ... "Apologies. Finding barbs to lob at someone who's not outwardly human is difficult without sounding or being ridiculous. Your zero emissions are to be commended, not ignored." ... A 'tough badass chick.' Is that what I am?  She's unsure whether to be amused or uncertainly resentful. She instead takes it as it lays. "Accept it. Admire it, but don't fetishize it. Don't be threatened by it, don't compete, don't resent. Of course, you're fairly badass yourself, but regardless of how badass people interact normally, don't compete with her badassery. Complement it. Assist where needed, stand by when your contribution isn't necessary." She pauses a long moment, seemingly done with the list, before adding, "Realize that badassery is just a part of her. It may not even be the biggest part, or the part she thinks of herself as. It may be a defense. Don't -- don't assume that's all there is to her. She may resist looking behind the curtain, or even the suggestion the curtain is there -- or she may be seeking someone to do so. In either case, there's more to her than being a tough badass chick, just as there's more to you than being a tough badass talking car." Alycia shrugs. "That's all general principle. Specifics depend on her and what she likes. But --" She pauses, then continues. "-- those generalities should be of use."
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"Huh." Otto's shifting non-verbal cues indicate a level of attentiveness beyond that single-word summation. He eventually adds more. "Yeah, this is all good stuff. So, Aria an' Summer ain't sisters to me, not like biological sisters, y'know? They're still family, but it's that other kind, the one where you don't share parents. But I get them. Like, if you make Summer cry, I'll make you cry. I just don't have much experience talkin' to girls who ain't them, so this helps. And I ain't exactly built to go practice it at school, yannow?" He rumbles further. "Right. I'll trade ya some education. Jalopy. Lemon. Edsel - not a lotta people know about that these days. Anything by AMC. Good general purpose car insults. Chevy. Fuckin' call me a Chevy and it's on. Anything sayin' I'm slow or bad at cornering'll work too. You wanna call me fat while you're at it, 'bus' or similar stuff works. Call me a commuter car of some kind and it's war. Tell me I'm in first gear, or you're gonna get out and push, that kinda shit. Give it some thought and try a few out next time ya talk to me."
Alycia smirks. "But Otto, I've no need t insult you now. Though should that change, I'll endeavor to pick more ... piercing phrases, by your guidance. Thank you." She nods. "But, yes, I know that Aria and Summer aren't truly your sisters. Your relationship, to the extent I understand it, goes beyond human language as it stands. But you share quite a lot in common, to the extent that some sort of connection ought to be acknowledged. "And I'm glad if I could help with this 'Mary.' I'd add that, if she sees you as a person, let alone a romantic partner, her perceptiveness is already significant, so your need to 'do something' is far less than it might be otherwise. She should appreciate your efforts for what they are."
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Otto laughs at that. "Shit, she flew to Halcyon, I know she thinks I got somethin' going on. I just feel like I gotta repay that with somethin' special, y'know?" "I mean, I can't just say 'hey hop in the back seat', I mean I could but it's not gonna -- y'know what? I'm gonna stop talkin' about this, 'cause it'll get weird fast." The car considers something else before saying anything. "This 'seeing you as a person' thing, this is really important to ya, ain't it. Like you took it really seriously to come apologize to me for somethin' I probably didn't even think about. And I sorta said yeah, we're cool pretty fast. Mary's gettin' on board with ol' Otto pretty quick, but what about you? Lemme ask, and I hope you'll tell me if there's anything. I know sometimes you wanna run away. Please stick around and do what ya can with this question." "Is there somethin' you wanted me to say? Or that you were afraid I'd say? When you said I was a person, I mean. Like yeah, I forgive you, no big. What's it gonna take for you to forgive yourself?"
His lead-up to his final question is scattergun, but sufficient to guide her in her answer. A layer has been peeled back, but that's as deep as she can go right now. "Forgiving myself isn't what this is about, but thank you for your forgiveness. That -- well, that is important. I just -- well, I needed to set that right, with you. Sometimes, with some mistakes, that is possible." She unbuckles, lets herself out of the car. "Be yourself, Otto. Be honest with her. The more badass she is, the more she needs that. The more she wants it." A half smile, a pat on the hood, and she exits, stage left.
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Hopefully that was sufficient for Alycia, and interesting enough to see play out. :)  As she observes, there's some similarities between them (the cycle of accept forgiveness/offer comfort/relationship-tinged small talk for example), but hopefully they still come strongly through as individuals.
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Otto would of course let Summer know, at least in brief, that Alycia dropped by and apologized, and what made it happen - he knows this topic is important to her. But what does she think about Alycia's reason? Otto can't die. The big guy is too tough, too powerful, too cool to die. That's what Summer thought. What they'd been saying, after they came back from the future, couldn't have been true. It feels weird, talking about friends "coming back from the future". Perhaps no weirder than Leo and Pneuma, boyfriend and girlfriend, sitting in the dark and watching the Data episodes of "Star Trek: the Next Generation", trying to glean clues about the robot experience. They watched any scifi they could, honestly, anything to do with robots. Science fiction had been anticipating real science for decades - "Doc" Smith's suggestions for space fleet management had been adopted by the actual Navy, and Arthur C. Clarke had, if not originated, at least contributed to the idea of geostationary communication satellites. Maybe there was something there to learn, perhaps not about the tech, but about the experience. The lesson Pneuma took away from all of this stuff was that robots have to be human-ish to be acceptable. They can be recognizably human in mannerism, like WALL-E and EVE, or they can strive to achieve some other human-like status, like Bicentennial Man's Andrew or Star Trek's Data. But robots who don't try to fix their robot-ness will be thrown over for a "real" woman, such as in 80's schlock like "Cherry 2000", or destroyed for their presumption, like the Replicants in "Blade Runner". Summer thinks back to those experiences. Sure, it was all fiction, meant for human consumption - human , she notes in self-reflection, but you are too - but fiction reflects reality in some form, doesn't it? She thinks about the future, and Alycia's change of heart. Otto Newman had to die for the sins of robothood, to redeem poor artificial lifeforms like Summer. It wasn't an emotional moment, it wasn't a well-reasoned argument, it wasn't anything that Summer herself could leverage to persuade other people. It was a spiritual moment, isolated to one person - Alycia. Summer can't just take Alycia on tour like a televangelist - "listen to this woman's amazing story about my dead car friend!" The whole thing feels like a sour joke. It's not Alycia's fault - Summer realizes that - but it's just so god damn frustrating . I'm back at Square One. Well, kind of. I'm there with one more friend than I had before. That'll have to be good enough.
[Oh, they are all individuals, while also clearly being family. Otto's question of what Alycia was afraid of hearing back was an interesting one. She might be mulling that for a while. It's interesting that Summer takes this as part of her greater question on robot/human coexistence, while for Alycia it's all/just about finding and acknowledging the truth for herself, and then acting accordingly and honorably. The idea of dragging around Alycia as a televangelist witness is funny -- but Alycia would definitely do it (with personal qualms) if she thought it would be of any help. She's used to evangelizing, in her own way. Alycia had intended on telling Aria and Summer the basis for her "conversion" once she had the chance to tell Otto (and told them so). Unless they say something to her first, she probably will still do so at some opportune moment. (Huh. Does Charlotte have a sense of who has a spirit/soul? There's a conversation Summer might have.)]
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*** Dave H. said: Alycia had intended on telling Aria and Summer the basis for her "conversion" once she had the chance to tell Otto (and told them so). Unless they say something to her first, she probably will still do so at some opportune moment. (Huh. Does Charlotte have a sense of who has a spirit/soul? There's a conversation Summer might have.)] Summer hasn't asked yet for what I hope is an understandable reason: what if the answer really is "I sense nothing"? I definitely felt Pneuma's fear back when Mike was rolling dice to look at her aura (in fact I chipped in Team to make that happen, and an earlier Adam/Leo conversation fed the roll a vitally necessary +1). I the player and Leo the PC are convinced Summer has what we'd call "a soul", but we're both materialists and Summer isn't. But if Otto really had a ghost, now that Summer has heard about this, she will probably have questions for both Alycia and Charlotte, yes. :)