Robot In The Basement

28 July, 2014: Bobby Drake finds that a robot has moved into the basement of his apartment building

Mutant Town — New York City?

Mutant Town isn't so much a slum or ghetto as it an enclave. Sure, it started out as something else, but it's big enough now to have its own personality and, frankly, subcultures within the larger… uh… subculture.

Regardless, it's as eclectic and unpredictable as its inhabitants. Which means: Very.



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Mood Music:
Daft Punk - Robot Rock

Bobby's apartment is on the third floor which, while nice in many respects, does occasionally make more mundane projects a chore. Things like taking out the trash. Down three flights of stairs, out the door and to the alley dumpster. And heaven help you if you let it pile up 'cause then you're in for a bit of a workout. Bobby likes his workouts… but he prefers they take place in a gym for the most part, so he's pretty conscientious about keeping the trash monster at bay. Which is what he is doing right now, or rather what he is just coming into the building having returned from doing.


One of the things about Mutant Town — they don't always pay attention to housing regs. For instance, the "apartment" at the bottom floor of this building is actually a former boiler room, but two months ago, a guy moved in who offered to clear out the mess of old parts, the boiler, the pipes, everything, from all the apartments even, and replace them with a more modern solar-boost system that can cool as well as warm. The price was right. So, today, he's about to install the solar power system on the roof. And it's sitting next to the trash bin in the alley because it's junk… at the moment. But the tenant, one Mike Drakos, is about to change that.

"Hey, neighbor," he says. It's not clear whether this guy is a mutant, but it is clear that his skin is metallic gold and his hair is chrome-blue. Otherwise, he looks like a mutant guy - same perfect-body effect anyway, the one normal humans have to work to achieve.

"Careful, I'm about to do strange things to old junk."

The solar power system — about twenty cracked, broken, useless plates of dirty glass, plus a bunch of metal framework and some leaky batteries, rises into the air as the gold guy raises his left hand.


Bobby has seen people do some odd things, and if he thinks about it playing Lord of the Scrap Heap probably isn't the oddest. Though it has to rate somewhere close to the top of the scale. Tossing his trash into the bin he just stares. "Um… wow. How are you doing that?" Ever inquisitive, that Bobby. Give him time and he'll start to wonder exactly what kind of energy exchange is involved here.


"It's my stupid mutant trick," the guy says. "Watch this. apply design sheet 12-solar-1-34 glass"

The glass all un-breaks, becoming almost liquid for a second, then separates horizontally into thinner panes, one floating above the other. The black stuff crawls around from the lower sections to the middle, and changes color, then metal lines appear all over it as leads migrate throughout. The plates seal together again, and the frame becomes a more ornate, hexagonally-tubed structure.


Now that isn't something you see every day, even in M-Town.

"Wow… did you just… mutant magic a solar panel into existance?"

The ice nerd kind of wants to get closer and take a detailed look but it's common etiquette in M-Town that you do not disturb another man's floaty pieces of formerly junk.

Okay, that's not true. There's no etiquette that addresses that, but it seems like it'd be smart to wait until he's done with them.


"Just upgraded from spare parts," gold-dude says with a slightly disparaging tone, as it clearly is easier to do that, right? "Just a sec, I have to search the garbage for … ah, thank you, disposable society, that's what I need."

A dead television (tube type) and three broken air conditioners rise out of the trash bin, in response to a raised right hand.

"Now this one. apply design sheet 12-solar-1-b-22 battery, pump, exchanger."

The television practically explodes into powder, as parts swirl around, collecting in orderly lines; the air conditioners come apart into recognizable pumps and circulators, stretching out to connect to the back of the glass plates, and spreading out as little fingers. The battery rises from the ground, unrolls itself, the gel-and-rust separating into gel and metal, and the paper takes on a glossy character; it rolls back up and turns into a flatter, more compact format, plastic shaping itself around.

"OK, that'll work… I hope. Want to see if it does?"


"Uh…" Bobby's still processing the fact that this guy fabricated a solar heat system out of parts.

"Yeah I think I would if you don't mind my gawking. I'm Bobby, by the way. And you are, I'm going to guess, Tony Stark's magical mutant alter ego?"


"Nah. Stark bought a car from us once," the gold guy says. The collection of television parts swirls into a cylinder, and a big chunk of scrap metal flattens itself out into a sort of mesh grid on the ground.

"Hop on?" he offers, stepping onto half of the grid. "Oh, I'm Mike Drakos, call me Mike."


Bobby gives Mike a quirked eyebrow and steps on. "Do you do elevators as well Mike?" Guess they're all going to find out. Say what you will about M-Town (odds are it'll be true) but there's rarely any such thing as a boring day here.


"I might, once I get done with the heat exchanger system. More barter for rent, right?" Mike says. "Going up."

The grid begins to float, slowly, and the solar system plus the parts and the batteries all float up separately. When they reach the roof, the grid glides over to an empty area, and then disassembles itself from under their feet, turning into a set of clamps that bite through the roof to connect with supports and leaving them standing on a roof.

The solar panel system then moves over to the matching positions, hex-frame locking into the supports, and spreading out to face the sun. The battery settles into place underneath like a lurking spider, connecting itself to the system, and the television parts swirl out and turn into a set of forty identical control pads, while wires compose themselves into a cable that runs down the old chimney-vent that was used by the boiler, 20 years ago when it worked.

"Out of my way, Santa Corpse," Mike says, as a wire tendril tosses a dead pigeon (many years gone) out onto the roof.

"Ick. Well, I'm'a seal it up so no more of that is gonna happen."


Yep. That's a dead pigeon. Live in New York long enough and you'll see plenty o' those.

"Wow. So this is going to heat all the water, then? Or… is it actually going to provide power?" Bobby's impressed. The degree of integration he can get with the existing systems is practically seamless. And the things he's able to make with just junk. It's not just the power that impresses him. He has to know a lot about how machines are put together to use this effectively.


"This is a heat/cool system, it's actually a support for the heat pump that I built out of the old boiler. Sometimes, you get more heat than you want, other times, you get more cold," Mike says, "So I used an empty space below the building that would've turned into a sink-hole in a few years, made a paired vac-isolation molten sulphur tank and a liquid-nitrogen tank. The LN's gonna take two winters to charge up though."

He brushes his hand in a 'shoo' motion at the controls. There are four "wells" which lead to skylights off the bathrooms, and the controls head down, and there's a series of 'squeak?' then 'slam' as they are distributed. Mike keeps his eyes closed and concentrates for this part.

"There. They're all in place where the old thermostats were."

Now that that's done, he looks over at Bobby, and offers a hand to shake. since he was busy earlier.


Bobby… only kind of followed the explanation. He's a physicist with a focus in thermodynamics, not a gearhead genius. Still, it sounds like he did an awful lot of work. Except, well, now he imagines it was rather all like this.

Bobby grasps Mikes hand and shakes it firmly. "That's downright decent of you, Mike. I hope you're getting compensated for this somehow."


"Yeah, I get free rent for six months," Mike says. "Wish I could afford the liquid nitrogen to fill the chill tank though. Well, I kinda can, but that'd be more money they'd have to pay back and I don't want to outright buy the place, y'know?"

He looks at the solar panels, and grins. Good, they're working in spec. Time to go downstairs, then. He walks over to the roof door — locked.

"Hey, unlock for me, just for a moment, ok?" he says to the lock. It shifts slightly, and the door opens.

"Wanna see me hook up the system?"


Okay… that… that was scary. "So locks count, hrm? I guess it's good that you're more the handyman type and less the cat burglar type, huh." Bobby does, though, most certainly want to see Mike hook the system up, so he follows him down. "Basement, huh? I live up in the third floor. Does it get hot down there?"


"Not so's I'd notice," Mike says. "Robot mutant is rated for temperatures between -250C and +3000C - but I'd rather not do that latter part, it's hot."

He does the skipping-glide down the stairwell, coming out the front door and then down the stairs to the side door built into the side of the stoup, which opens with a 'ck-chunk' noise. A short hallway leads to three doors; one reads 'Storage', one reads 'stairs', and one has the words 'Boiler - Private' and the 'Boiler' has been roughly x'ed over and the word 'Drakos' painted above it. The door opens, ch-kunk, and there's a hallway, a door on the left saying 'Drakos' and to the right, a double-wide door/arch, with a strange machine the size of two washing machines, two pipes leading into the ground, and two leading up into the rest of the building. The walls need paint. Beyond the machine, a locked door reads "Thermal Ballasts, DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT PROTECTION".

Mike takes the wires that have come down a pipe opening in the ceiling and connects them to the machine. It starts to purr faintly, as a motor starts up.


Okay. The machinery is a bit beyond him, but heat exchange is something Bobby understands very well. It was, after all, essentially his major.

"Aaaaaah. Okay, that's the pump, I'm guessing, for the heat exchange system. Clever. I think we used to use something like this at the lab to cool off our superconductors." Bobby doesn't mention that they use it a lot less since they hired him. Ice mutant breaks physics, for sure, but in very handy ways when you need to keep things cold.

"Wow, that's, uh, quite a variance there. So you could live pretty much anywhere you liked, really."


"I could, but I draw the line at Jersey," Mike says. "So, where do you work? Superconducters sounds amazing. And 'used to use' — you know a better system? Because this is as close to state-of-the-art as I could find without stealing industrial secrets."

Mike taps on the surface of the heat pump, and places the last control unit against the hole that opens. It lights up, and he watches it cycle through the forty different controllers.

"Huh. Third floor, huh? Someone on your floor has a really effective air conditioner."


"Invicta Energy. They have a research facility not too far from here. Well, within driving distance anyway." Ah well, seems like the can't sort of out of the bag. Bobby grins.

"Thats… not the AC, and yes I do know of a better system, though it's not a machine."

Holding up on hand the sandy haired man lets rime creep up his arm. A pulse of cold air goes out from him.


"Stupid Mutant Tricks. That would explain it. I've heard of Invicta, but only in the science journals. I work at the family business myself. Drakos Motors."

It's entirely possible that Bobby doesn't know anything about Mike's family's business — if he has no interest in custom-made luxury sports cars that start in the six digits (first digit greater than five) or if he's never followed professional racing.

Mike holds his hand out a few inches away from the frost, and one finger-tip splits into a series of tiny sensors.


"Drakos Motors… Oh! I've heard of them. Pretty brilliant mechanical design. Some of the students I went to college with were kind of obsessive fans." That's about all Bobby knows.

What Mike knows, or rather what his sensors know, is that Bobby's coalescing moisture out of the air, but also somehow creating it ex-nhilo. He's also cold. Really cold. His body temperature has passed below hypothermia range and well into the 'you should be an ice cube' part of the scale, but the fluids in his body seem unaffected.


"Thanks. That's my Dad and me," Mike says. "We're trying to get a couple others but they just haven't had the intuitive thing for engines, so far."

He finishes the scan and makes his finger be a finger again. "So, can you precipitate nitrogen? Because if you can, then this system will be functional tomorrow and a lot of people will have a much better summer."

The gold robot looks speculative, "And I should be able to get you two months of free rent, as a subcontractor."


Bobby thinks about it.

"Yeah, I could. I mean not with my mutant power, but I can definately drop the temp enough to just pull it out of the air. If you need it, well there's plenty of it around… though we may wanna, I dunno, take a field trip to somewhere less likely to be broken by a sudden local cold snap."

That last is said with a wink. Bobby can't get cold enough to affect the weather, that he knows of, but freezing the pipes and brickwork is definately a risk here.


"That's not a problem," Mike says, and the door to the thermal ballast room pops open. He steps through, and a light comes on. Inside, there is a catwalk around a tank, fifteen meters across, and metal buttresses running through rock and other material, keeping the hole from getting bigger. Pipes go into the tank, a pair on one side, and another pair on the other, and there's a sort of 'seam' between the two that has a walkway on it. Mike points at the side labeled 'LN' and a funnel constructs itself out of the metal. A grid forms over the funnel, then a series of finer meshes, and a flat metal pan. Along the walls, vented grates open, and air begins moving.

"Since we're not trying to make super-pure LN, all I have to do is catch and remove the water, hydrocarbons, and CO2. If you can make that space around the collector get down to -200 C, I'll do the separation," the robot says. Should be ultra-simple, no?


"Sure, I can do that." Bobby reaches out and simply focuses on coating the metal around the funnel with ice. In this case he's not going for a lot of ice. A thin rime will do. So long as it's really, really, really cold.

"So long as you're sure this wont cause any problems. Like, uh… freezing the air. I've never done anything this cold outside lab conditions." He can go all the way down to near absolute zero… but that's all kinds of dangerous for reasons that most people don't know about because they never come sup.


The metal does things that metal isn't supposed to do, flexing, kicking the ice off…

Mike curses, "Oxygen. Well, that's not gonna be enough to cause trouble."

He keeps the air circulating, from wherever it's being pulled, and gradually a very cold liquid begins to trickle down into the container… it takes a good fifteen minutes before Mike says, "OK, gotta stop now," and the metal warps around again, removing all traces of the funnel. There is water ice and carbon dioxide ice and nasty, nasty grey ice that's made of hydrocarbons, sitting on top of the tank, but it gradually evaporates. Mike leans against the catwalk; if he were using lungs he'd be gasping for breath.

"I forgot the oxygen. Brilliant, huh, quantum computer for a brain and I forgot the stuff I used to breathe."


Ooooh. Oxygen does liquify. "You should have said something." Bobby chuckles. "But I'm glad you're alright."

Pulling out his phone he checks the text messages to see if there's anything from Doug recently. They were gonna just discuss recent events over Pizza… though hey, more company is alaways welcome.

"Hey I'm headed back up to my place and ordering Pizza. I'm expecting a friend, I hope, but if yuo haven't eaten you're welcoem to come."


Sure enough, there was a text from Doug, stating in simplest terms: "Here, where are you?"


"Pizza? Sure, I can process some pizza," Mike says. He gestures and the ventilation ducts all close and seal over. He leads the way back - the lights go out, and they go back through the machine room and around the corner to the stairwell, and Mike runs up the four flights to the third floor. Bobby should be in shape, he can do this, right?"


Bobby texts back.

Was in the basement, coming up. Go ahead to the apartment, Nancy's hanging out there, she can let you in.

"Come on, you can meet a couple more of my friends."

Bobby is in pretty decent shape it's true but he's slower because he's actually ordering Pizza. Four people… three mediums should do it. And it'll be here. So all is well.


Eyebrows rising to nearly his hairline, Doug glances at the apartment door. Oh, right.

Rather than ring the bell, though, Doug dials up Nancy. "Hi Nan?" he replies when she answers. "It's Doug. Whatever you do, don't come near the dhasgfhsjfs …."


Nancy is in the kitchen when her phone buzzes. Oooh! Texty goodness from… Doug? <Hey schmuck face!> She starts to make her way to the door to get something out of her purse when the call comes in. She looks at her phone and starts to laugh, turning to open the door and pulling in her power at the same time. "Sorry Dougie. Come on in?"


The robot dodges the (nullifier) bullet! Mike steps out to the hall, and looks down, seeing a man momentarily engaged in derp-tongue outside a door. That's kind of a terrible mutation, unless it's some form of Tourette's Disease. He waits for Bobby to catch up, listening in on the phone signal. Hm. So that's the best local pizza place, huh? Add that to contacts.

For those who don't know Mike - a gold-skinned guy with chrome-blue hair has stepped out of the stairwell and is walking toward Doug, trailing a phone-swyping Bobby Drake behind him.


Bobby grins as he saunters in the open door.

"It'll be here in fifteen. Make yourselves comfortable. Anyone want a drink?"

Bobby heads toward the kitchen pausing to give Nancy a hug and a kiss on the cheek on the way. His apartment is, fortunately, big enough to provide Doug with speaking separation, especially now that Nancy's been working on pulling in her powers.


"Thanks a lot, Nannie," Doug replies, rolling his eyes as he steps in, taking a moment to poke her forehead just between the eyes.

"Not funny. Next time Hjhfshhg…" The look on Doug's expression as Nancy makes an explicit point to not mess with her is quite simply 'Aw f—- me'.


Nancy smirks at Doug as she pulls her aura in tight. But then he has to go and poke her. She crosses her arms over her chest, smirking and tries something she's been working on. Directing her power on one target. Doug is her favourite practice dummy. She feels that little touch of nausea again that comes with her pressing her power in a direction she's not used to, but is rewarded as Doug breaks out into gibberish. Laughing, she pulls her power back in and gives Bobby a kiss. "I'll get out the sodas. Or beer if that's what people prefer."


Mike walks up, and as he's about to ask what's going on, he freezes in place.

<error. interprocess communication interrupted.>

And then he can move again. A quick scan of the error logs … Ah. Mutant power suppression. Well, it's a good thing that he was paranoid last year when he did the last body-design-review.

There's a sort of 'ker-lunk' noise from Mike, followed by a faint whirring. He walks in, and says, "Hi, I'm Mike. Is Nannie short for Nancy? Water for me please," and he moves into the room, with very faint, but still audible mechanical whirring noises.


Bobby cants his head slightly as he makes room on various seats while Nancy goes to get drinks. That wasn't quite the reaction to Nan's field that he'd expected. Ah well. Several physics texts get returned to a bookshelf and a newspaper finds its way onto the coffee to able. There. Seating room. Bobby flops down on the couch, digging out his wallet for when the Pizza arrives.

"Mike just recently moved into the basement." He offers. "He's doing some work around here." Like, upgrading all the machines.


"Ngh… I see you've been practicing," Doug responds, rolling his eyes as he moves over.

"Oh hey, Bobby. I'll take the soda. And skip the beer."

Pausing as he regards the faint whirring from the machinery, Doug tilts his head at Bobby.

"And… Mike. Interesting company you keep, Bobby."


Nancy starts getting the drinks, nodding to the new face.

"Yeah, Nancy, but people call me just about everything under the sun. I think my fave is Nyan Cat, but…. Paul and I aren't exactly on speaking terms any more."

She looks over to Bobby as he explains, nodding.

"Do I need to keep my distance from the basement then?" she asks, code for 'Am I gonna turn him off like Dougie here?'

She grabs a second soda, still waiting to hear Bobby's order.

"Yeah, I've been practicing a lot. Every day. Can't pull it in all the way yet, but that's my goal. And I can almost target it. It's more of an egg then a line, but it's working."


"I'll sit here on the floor," Mike says. "I've been experiencing a power-suppression effect, and I don't want to accidentally break your furniture." He pretends not to know that it's centered on Nancy.

"Nyan-Cat it is, then. As long as you warn me, I have no objection to visitors."

His movements as he sits cross-legged with his glass of water, are graceful but too precise, ever-so-faintly abrupt. Uncanny Valley, 1/2 mile.

"It's kind of a coincidence, actually," the gold-skinned guy explains. "I wanted a ground or basement floor room, and the only space available was the former boiler room, and to expedite move-in I agreed to remove the old one and install something better. This would be harder if my folks hadn't bought an old farm near Tacoma two years ago. I picked up some excellent designs for small-industrial scale systems."

He looks over at Doug, and with a sideways sort of smile, says, "I'm not kept … for company. Although I have been told I'm a keeper."


"Soda for me Nan, thanks!" Bobby keeps beer but doesn't often drink except for once in a while with friends.

"Mike here is a… technical wizard I guess you could say." He doesn't want to go telling all Mike's secrets, but he doesn't appear to be very secretive about it, doing it as he was in the open.

"Seem friendly enough to me anyway, Mike." The ice nerd laughs. "So Doug, how was that reading we found the other day?"


"Oh," Doug considers, as he pulls out his smartphone, and starts going through the pictures.

"In a nutshell? The Origin of the Golden Apple is apparently a load of claptrap, according to it. If the papers were for real, then the Golden Apple of Discord are related to the Apples of Hesperides, which belonged to Hera in a garden somewhere. Now, they weren't clear exactly where the garden was, but Atlas went to collect the apples. And it turns out, if I'm not mistaken, that they're saying the garden wasn't Hera's, but Idunn's."


Nan brings over the sodas and water, then takes hers and sits in a beanbag chair that keeps her just out of reach. She does it to be polite for those that don't like being around her power.

"Technical wizard, huh? I'll keep that in mind." She listens to Doug and frowns. "I thought the Hesperides were the daughters of Atlas. He had free access to the apples, which is why Hercules took over holding the earth so Atlas could get the apples for him, cause he was not allowed in the garden, considering Hera really didn't like Hercules"


"Someone's crossing the streams of Mythago with ill intention?" Mike says. Because claptrap refers to a really cheap trick used in theatre to elicit applause — and that usually meant a bad actor. He opens a cell stream and begins searching the online sources. Hesperides, garden owned by Hera, Apples of Youth, grown by Idunn, Atalanta distracted from race by suitor who threw golden apples she could not resist, and here it is, the celebration of marriage of Peleus and Thetis, Paris (of Troy) and Eris the source of Discord marks a golden apple for the most beautiful and tosses it between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris ordered to judge, guaranteed to be twice wrong, cause of Trojan War. Trojan Horse? Trojan Norse?

"Idunn vs. Hera, that's definitely crossing the culture lines. Frigga was the Hera analog, and Idunn was analogous to Hebe."


"It's all really interesting to be sure but why were some guys paying millions for it to werewolves in the middle of a skate park in Hell's Kitchen?" Bobby shakes his head, his recent brush with mauling still fresh in his mind. Thank goodness for Doug, Amara and Lunair.

"Seems just a little odd… you know. Not really a collectors item this, not for those prices… in that setting."


"Well, that's the stories told of Herakles," Doug replies, as he reads further. "But… you're forgetting one thing. Those stories that endure… they were passed on by the people who worshipped Herakles as a God. So naturally they're going to glorify Herakles. But you have to remember one thing… those stories were passed on by men. Women…" And here Doug taps the phone… "The women tell a different story. And naturally, they worshipped Hera and her daughter, who ended up marrying Herakles… the Glory of Hera, indeed. She put him through all those Trials to show that he was truly the Glory of Hera."

Scanning, Doug considers. "And naturally, because Hebe wasn't all that famous, Herakles storytellers would naturally focus on Hera…"


Mike looks at Bobby, a blank expression on his face.

"Whatwolves? Where wolves? <searching» Hell's Kitchen skate park … recent police report … details available from Special Investigations, access denied, U-Tube… yes, there it is. Those aren't mutants?"

He looks at Doug, "Yes, of course, but Idunn was married to Bragi, the god of poetry, which, Kevin Sorbo notwithstanding, is not analogous to Hercules. Mythology as history is imperfect again."

He looks up to Bobby. "OK, so why are you researching this?"


Bobby laughs and shakes his head.

"Because five werewovles chased me down a street. Uh… well maybe, but the shoe fits right? They were selling those to some other guys for a cool couple mil. Oh and Doug, I looked that language up."

He glances down to Mike and to Nancy and then back to Doug.

"Google tells me it's Linear A. Linear A hasn't been translated."

Which, on the one hand is cool, that Doug can read things no one else can. On the other hand it means there's no scholarly commentary on the matter. Le sigh.


"Is that what it is? I hadn't seen any samples of it before," Doug muses, peeking at the papers on his snapphone.

"How did you even figure out what language it is?"


Nancy looks over to Mike, shrugging her shoulders.

"I'm lost. You?" She sips at her soda and leans into the beanbag chair, listening. "So, we have an apple of the Hesperides?"


"You have language samples of Linear A with translations? May I see them?" Nerd-bot is multiprocessing now.

"Who were they selling to? The video is crappy, shot from a cell phone through a dirty window. Enhancing… ugh, no, this is not Columbo, enhancement is limited and inadequate to resolve facial features," Mike says, though he's not looking at a smart-phone while he says this.

He stops, realizes he has water, and drinks it, with the 'ding, ding, ding' sound one normally hears from an archaic gas pump.

"We have a story about them, apparently. Doug should read it aloud. Or better, declaim it in traditional style, for performance points. I hear a car door and feet on the stairs, your pizza is probably …"


"… here."


Mike gets an impressed look as Bobby gets up to answer the door and pay for Pizza. In moments a cheeze, a pepperoni and a hawaiian adorn the table complete with paper plates.

"Dig in folks. Not traditional Greek I know but food and a story is always good. To answer your question though, Mike, I have no idea who. And I'm not a crime solving type so I don't know of anyone who might be able to piece clues together. Though that african guy seemed pretty certain that the wolf guyes were part of some gang. Silver Syndicate, I think he said."


Nancy looks at Mike, one brow arched. She wants to say something, but it's rude, so keeps it to herself and just sips her soda instead. She rises to her feet and goes to get herself some pizza, one slice of each. "Silver Syndicate? Doesn't that sound a little weird? I thought werewolves were like allergic to silver or something like that."


"My father likes to throw basil and kartopekous — that's pine nuts — onto cheese pizza and declare it Greek Food. Mom calls it 'nasty'," Mike observes, and takes one slice of cheese pizza. He's just on the edge of Nancy's field, so he shifts slightly to the left and looks towards the kitchen. A krinkle sound, and a small ball of tin-foil rolls out to him, then flattens and thins and wraps the slice.

"I prefer aluminum foil with mine," the robot guy says, taking a bite. While chewing, his voice says, "It is weird and different. Perhaps it's a bravado thing?"

Robot, talking with mouth full. Yes, he's doing it on purpose to see if anyone says anything.


Bobby is not a stickler on manners… though that's kind of odd… just a bit.

"I mean I'd assume so too, Nan but… heck I just know about ice and superconductors." He shakes his head. "I don't suppose any of you guys know someone who is good with info? Oh! Doug, I just did a google image comparison. Can do all kinds of things on a computer these days, as I'm sure Mike knows."

After a moment Bobby gets up and plops down next to Nancy with a grin and more pizza.

"So yeah, this is all really bizzare… what do you guys think we should do about it?"


"I'm not telling a tale. That'd take a long time, and I want some of that pizza," Doug replies, as he reaches for the slice.

"But we could probably consult a detective or something. There must be one out there. That, or someone with a heavy interest in myths."


Okay, that just confirms it. She watches Mike as he starts *eating* tin foil and leans over to press her shoulder against Bobby when he sits with her.

"You collect the weirdest people," she tells Bobby with a grin, offering him a bite of her pizza. "Frankly, if I needed to find someone with information, I'd talk to Doug here. Or Jericho."


"Someone who is good with info? I'm good with mechanical design and engines and cars. I'm also a living computer with essentially free cell access because I cheat. I could become good with info, but I dislike wasting my brain space with crypto routines. If I had access," Mike says, taking another bite of tin-shrouded pizza — which doesn't drip on his clothes because it's wrapped — and continues, "to someone whose power was to understand any language, and therefore, to automatically bypass all cryptographics, I might involve him in such a search, since he could easily bypass paywalls, security walls, and so forth. But I am a humble mechanic."

Yeah, humble. Sure. He smiles at Nancy when she calls him weird.


Bobby nods and looks over to Doug with a sheepish smile.

"Oh, sorry Doug. Didn't know you were a tech guy. But my question still stands. Should we do anything? And if so, what? I mean clearly somethings going on but to we want to get ourselves involved?"

Nancy gets a grin in return. "Yeah, I know. But they're all nice weird people."


Nancy gets an email from Jacky Winters showing him arm-deep in a cow and being sprayed with cow-flops as he tries to help turn the calf. The caption is "Having a Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here. Instead of Me."


Mike gets a strange look from Doug.

"Cryptography's not a difficult thing, it's just a re-arrangement of letters. I mean, I bet if you could get me in to see Kryptos at Langley, I could crack K4. I just have to have some idea about why this is significant to anything to even know where to begin to look."


Nan grins at Bobby when he tells her he collects nice weird people. She gives him that look that newly attached couples often do, cavity inducing, more so with it being Caustic Nancy giving the look.

"Flatterer," she counters. "Well, isn't it sorta… our responsibility? Normal people can't solve this sorta thing. Or maybe I'm just drinking the kool-aid again."

Nancy's phone bleeps and she looks down at it and then laughs.

"Seems Jackie is having a blast." She hands the phone around.


"Cows. I hate cows," Mike says with a tone of utter disgust and also, a bit of auto-tune. He considers Doug's remark about significance.

"Yes, we still need to know who the purchaser was supposed to be. I wonder, though, if it's worth that much, has it vanished from evidence? Because it's very likely to do so."

He connects to a website and looks around, but once again, the police sites don't let him see past their firewall after a certain point.


"That might be a good place to start. If we can figure out who was buying it, I'll bet we can figure out what they wanted it for." So much for just Nancy drinking the kool-aid. Bobby seems to have bathed in it.

"I'll bet the police files have any leads they've got. And maybe the money in the case can be traced back if they don't. Just suggestions." Not much he can contribute on the investigation front sadly.


Eyeing Mike's posture as he seems to be doing something even though it's not clear, Doug asks, "Okay, so what are you doing? I mean, you seem to be looking for something, but it's not there in front of you, so…"


"Oh. I'm sorry, I've been rude," Mike says. He takes off his right hand, <pop!>, and sets it on the floor, fingertips-down, and from the 'stump' it begins projecting holographic screens of the websites he's searching. He shifts over next to Doug and says, "I was looking for the police reports on what happened with the werewolf guys. See, I keep running into their firewall here, and I'm not good enough to get past it without getting their attention."

The left hand, he has to keep because he's using it to eat the pizza slice.


Color Bobby impressed again. It's not every day you meet what is essentially an ultra-transformer.

"Is there any piece of tech you can't be? Maybe we should just get you to be a computer and let Doug go to town." He's half joking. Half, cause Mike is probably a pretty damn good computer if he can do all this.


"Oh, is that all…?" Doug tilts his head, as he looks at the firewall. And then he tilts his head, and begins speaking in binary code, leaving it to Mike to translate that into assembly code to get past the fire wall. And then punctuates it with… 'please.' As though the firewall was doing him the courtesy. Which it rather was.


Nancy has been too dumbfounded to do anything after the removal of Mike's hand and 'Thing' projecting holograms in the living room, to really say much. She looks to Bobby, as if hoping he might give her some input on the proper way to react to a person removing their hand like that.


The voice-to-code translation works because Mike's directly feeding it where it needs to go, wrapping it in whatever packetization is necessary. The packet part, he's pretty well learned, but there are places where he has to put in values from what Doug is saying. The firewall lets them in, and there's a mass of directories. Mike sorts them very fast, looking through the lists of reports, the evidence-database, and so forth. He comes up with the right case, and the names of the werewolves, and the evidence-locker number of the scrolls. A quick "Please verify that this evidence is in place" memo is easy enough to spoof, and the results will come back when the control officer finishes checking visually.

"Thank you, Doug," Mike says. He looks over at Bobby. "Oh yes. I prefer not to be a bomb, a gun, or a satellite. I make a crappy stone axe, too. I'm also limited to about a hundred tons of mass."


Bobby just leans back and munches pizza at this point. Suggestions are about all he can supply at this point. Unless Mike starts to overheat. Was that a cooling fan he heard earler?

"That's pretty handy Mike. I… wait. You can change your mass to a hundred tons?" So, like, the guy could be a car easily. "I'm…. not really sure what to say to that."

Doug and Nancy both get… questioning glances. Do they know what to say?


"I don't want to think about that," Doug sighs. "So… let's see what these werewolves are all about. Cross-reference that with the white pages, and, um…" Doug ticks off several databases, including those that were… less than well-known. Somebody's been hacking into certain databases.


"I probably could, but who wants to be a giant robot, they always attract hostile zords and brightly-dressed sentai with shoulder-chips and weird physics-defying weapons," Mike says. "Actually, that's the limit on metal I was able to lift when I last tested it. I can incorporate that much into my body, but it's much easier to be a vehicle than a humanoid when you do that kind of thing…"

He starts checking databases per Doug's recommendation, finding Silver Syndicate, and so forth. The officer returns with the evidence report — still in place. But no clue about who was buying it.

Dead end, here.


"Yes you are," Bobby grins to Nancy, "and a lot less flighty." He stretches.

"Okay. Well… I guess that gives us something to think about. Keep me in the loop, mmm? I'll help out if I can. This seems serious. In the mean time… why don't we finish off this pizza."


Grimacing, Doug leans back. "I'll have to think about where else we can check. In the meantime… yeah, pizza sounds like a great idea."

He eats pizza quietly, until the carb rush makes him sleepy and he leans back for a nap.


"Yeah, well after the last time I tried to run, I think I prefer to stay right here," Nancy says. She nibbles on her pizza and tries to think about how she can help. She's not really concentrating on the food.


Mike shrugs, and puts his hand back on, which makes the pretty holographic screens go away. He calls a second ball of tinfoil from the kitchen and makes it into a pizza wrapper for a second slice of cheese-only.

"So, how bad is the werewolf problem really? Do I need to take my silver iodide spray with me when I go for a walk after dark?"


That get a pause from Bobby… "Do you actually have that? I dunno, I mean it's the first time I've seen them. Mostly the trouble around her is just from regular gangs. Well, mutant gangs but you get the idea."

More pizza. Hawaiian is soo good.


Nancy suddenly gets a nervous look on her face.

"Wait…. werewolves? Umm, did they have any insignias on them?" She looks over to Bobby.

"Think Partisan might know something about this?"

She waves a hand to Mike.

"No, the gang around here isn't werewolf. Though their leader seems to be some sorta drug dealer. I think he might be a mutant."


"I could have it if I needed it. It's a first aid thing," Mike says to Bobby. "I haven't been bugged, been here for a couple months. Someone tried to get me to give them my skin the first week I was here, so I took it off, and they screamed and ran away. I have to admit, I kinda made it creepy underneath."

Mh. Pizza, with the foil, tastes like it used to when he wasn't all machine all the time. Mike looks up at 'drug dealer' with a dead expression.

"Really? Do they need to learn to just say 'No … Please, No, Stop, I'll never do it again' ?"


"Dunno. I may ask them at some point but I've had other things on my mind," Bobby sighs.

Like training for a raid.

"Though if you wanna deal with them, be my guest. I'm guessing a metal man wouldn't be very suceptible to their usual methods."


"Maybe after the hospital thing, we can deal with that gang. I don't like them being so close to your place. I know I don't live here, but… I worry about you," Nancy says. "But we first have to deal with the hospital."


Mike looks up from his food at the mention of 'hospital' but he's not about to pry. Having to visit sick or dying friends or family can be incredibly uncomfortable, and he's been out of that loop ever since he started randomly growing robot parts — too likely to freak out the family if the Reverend's brought her weird Borg kid along.


Bobby just gives Mike a smile.

"It's a… family thing." Wolf family thing. He's doing it to back up Nancy. And he's a bit nuts. But they don't need to know that.

"Should be over soon though. For the better I hope."

The ice nerd gets up for more drinks. "Anyone want something?"


Nancy smiles at Bobby as he covers up for her and she leans in to kiss him.

"And then I get to move to the middle of nowhere and play babysitter. You better visit me. Lots."

She looks over to Mike and chuckles as he continues to eat tin foil wrapped pizza. "So, tell us about yourself."


"More water would be wonderful," Mike says. "Or if you have a flat cola you can foist that off on me. The phosphoric acid is helpful but the bubbles aren't."

Crunnnch, squeak, chew. Pizza! and then Nan speaks, demanding disclosures.

"Oh no, I've been show-and-tell all afternoon. Mike Drakos, genius auto designer and robot mutant motorcycle, does not fall so easily for your conversational ploys, Nyan-Cat." He bites the pizza fiercely! "You must tell me about yourselves. S'il vous plait."


Flat soda… does not often happen in Bobby's house. However… there is some left over coke from last night. It's flat ish.

"Sure. Anything for you Nan? And of course I'll come visit… heck… maybe you'd guys would even need a hand out there? I wouldn't mind doing that," he chuckles from the kitchen.

"Well you heard most of mine. I work at an energy research firm, do superconductors. My talent for keeping things chill is very helpful there." Yes he just made a pun.


"Well, I think I might need a lot of help around the farm. A lot of help. You might have to spend the night. Often," she grins over at Bobby and waggles her brows at him. She leans back and smiles.

"Okay, I get it. You want to learn about me. I just turned 21. I'm a cellist. I just got my second audition for a theater that does musicals on Broadway. I have a tendency to turn people off, but I'm working on my attitude."


"I noticed the off-switch," Mike says. "It was disconcerting, from a concert cellist. I also just turned 21. How good are you? I'm a fan of techno myself, but that's mostly because I'm a synthesizer. It doesn't count as performing, for that reason."

Mike also adds, 'does superconductors' to the Things To Investigate In Greater Detail, subcategory Bobby, due-date Sometime list.

The control box on the wall, over the strange hexagonal-fan-thing that recently replaced the radiator, starts flashing, and Mike looks up at it.

"Awesome, the chiller is actually chilling," he says. "Not needed in here, of course. The temperature regeneration system has kicked in, so it's dumping heat into the sulphur bed. We should put a greenspace on the roof, though, for micro-climates."


"You'd have to talk to the building manager about that." Bobby says, tossing Nancy a grin. "But Jorge's pretty good about that kind of thing. Er, unless you're the new building manager I guess… but didn't you just put a bunch of solar panels up there? How's that gonna work out?"


Nancy laughs.

"So, you noticed that? You're a mutant then, not a robot?"

She finishes her pizza and wipes her hands on the napkin.

"I'm … I'm okay. I just hope I get this job. It would be pretty awesome. And don't let anyone tell you any different. A singer's voice is part of them, but it takes skill to use it well. So, you can turn into a synthesizer. It still takes skill to be able to make music with it."


"Location, size, and not covering the panels," Mike says, "should be exactly what we need. The manager just approves my designs, he trusts me."

He shakes his head to Nancy, and says, "I don't turn into," and then in descending tones from 'G' he 'sings', "I . am . a . syn . the . siz . er." Then in his normal voice, "Until I get my human-sim working, my speech is generated by a sound chip and some awesome maglin speakers that use my body for a resonant surface."

The question about mutant vs. robot. OK, they're reasonable people. The werewolf clip proved it. Sorta.

"High points biography: I was born on New Years Day of 1993, and in 2004, my mutant abilities activated — I started eating metal without any side effects. I started being able to talk to it. To make it do things. I can sense it, except in a sort of glob centered on you, Nyan. That's a dead zone to my sense. When I was 15, I took a bad hit to the face during football practice and my eye spontaneously replaced itself with metal and circuitry. A week later, it grew back as flesh, and all the metal sort of … melted and flowed like wax. It was disgusting. It kept happening, though, every time I had a significant injury, ZAP! I grew a robot part until it was ready to be completely healed. Unfortunately, two years ago I was in a major accident and the injury was fatal. I ended up jumping into the metal of the car, and when I came out of it, I was very similar to the robot you see today. I'm not going to be turning back to flesh; there wasn't any left to reboot me from. Still a mutant, obviously."


"Wow. That's… I mean that's pretty intense. You seem pretty okay about it though. I imagine that had to be rough at the time though." Bobby gives the robot an appraising look. "I mean people flip out enough over regular mutants much less… evolving cyborgs?"


Nancy O'Neal says, "So… you'll never be flesh again? But I thought you said that you were growing your human-sim working. What does that mean?"

She gets up to get herself another soda. None of that diet stuff for her. Full on sugar. She smirks, wait till she tells Hank. Take that, sucka!

"What about your family? If you don't mind my asking.""


"Yeah, I'm an evolutionary dead end," Mike says. "Not going to be having children, so, no evolving. Mom almost cried more about no grandkids than anything else, and then she was all guilt-ridden for that. Besides, my sister might procreate, some day, so the genome is still viable. She's not shown overt signs of mutancy yet, and she's five, and hasn't declared that she wants to grow up to be a motorcycle, like I did at that age."

He takes a long swig of the flattish cola, <ding> <ding> <ding>.

"I wasn't OK with losing my humanity. I was useless for a month, desperate for the next three. Once I figured out that I was stuck, I decided to make the best of it, spent some time testing my limits. But when Dad asked if I was ready to go back to work, I started panicking at the thought of meeting our customers like this. So I moved here to figure out how to live as a metahuman, since I can't go back. Part of that is to develop a nanotech skin that simulates human flesh, so I can look the part when I need to."

Mike laughs, a bit hollowly, "The SRD actually came through though, made sure I still have my citizenship. Of course, they don't know the cause of my change, just that it was happening. They seem to think I was some kind of mad science victim. Like mutation could be inflicted by design."


"I hear it can, actually…" Bobby says quietly… "But that's neither here nor there. I've not had any run ins with the SRD but they've got a bad rap here in New York, so I'm kinda glad. But it's nice to hear they came through for you."


"The only run in I've had with the SRD was kinda creepy. Some guy who calls himself Backblast was hitting on me. With his creepy Freddy Mercury moustache and the fact that he was probably old enough to be my dad."
She makes a face and comes back to the table, shuffling her chair to be closer to Bobby's.

"Long story. Don't worry. With a code name that sounds like 'Flaming Farts' he didn't stand a chance."


Yes, the SRD-NY "sardines" have a bad name all over the country — the SRD-Chicago is, for whatever reason, very friendly with their metahuman charges, at least, the ones who aren't psychopaths or proven terrorists. Like Magneto. Mike got to listen to a few conversations about that when his SRD social worker was helping him figure out the best way to deal with the other kids freaking out about his robot parts.

"Wait, mutation by design? You don't mean that thing about…" but as he pauses a bit too long, Nancy brings up Backblast and derails the train of though. Mike laughs at the sudden memory of the man, the moustache.

"You met Backblast? He was in the Chicago branch a few years ago. They had a group called The Joes, like, the old anti-Cobra group. Took silly codenames, his was because he kept getting caught in the back-blast when he'd blow something up. Or that's how he explained it. Yours sounds more likely. Still not sure why he called me Destro Junior."


Well this is news to her.

"Cobra? Aren't they like a part of Hydra?" She looks thoughtful. "I think Parti told me that. So… he's fought Hydra? Well…. wish I had known that a week ago. We could have used his help with the hospital thing."


Bobby grunts his agreement. The SRD-LA, well SRD-Greater LA Area, was fairly laid back as well, though that was a byproduct of a lot of lcoal and state driven restrictions on what they could and could not do. LAPD has a bad enough rap amount its constituency. The powers that be were not going to repeat that with the SRD.

"Joes?" Bobby hadn't heard of them, but then until recently he doesn't keep up with this kind of thing.


"Old paramilitary unit, pre-SRD. They might've been connected to SHIELD, I don't know. But they were the primary anti-COBRA force in South America during the Reagan and Bush times, and they got spun up again when Cobra re-started in Venezuela," Mike says. Of course, the whole Venezuela thing is way too complicated - an anti-American president, assassinated by Cobra and replaced with an android double which fell apart in the middle of a speech, that was such a six-years-ago kind of thing. Almost forever.

"Wait, what's this about Hydra? I've seen the Hail Hydrant down the street, but I always thought that was just a joke in bad taste."


Bobby glances over at Nancy.

"Do you want to tell him?"

He doesn't know as much about it and really it should be Nancy's call on if she wants to share this or not. The guy seems on the up and up but then… well you always have to be a little careful.


"Hail Hydrant? You'll have to take me to see that sometime."

She leans on Bobby, snuggling up against him.

"Hydra's a group, like SHIELD, but with totally different motives. They were started by the Nazis in WWII, though there is belief they started long before that even. Not a nice bunch of guys. They're the ones that made me… me."

She lets her power go to its natural state, surrounding all three in its blanket of null before pulling it back.

"Myself and a bunch like me. They made me to be a weapon. They thought they had failed, but then we all started manifesting in our late teens."


"I knew about the World War I and II organizations. One of our customers told us about them, how they had destroyed her family's good name. But I thought they'd been destroyed at the time the Red Skull was killed."

Mike thinks about the danger of a group of mutant-by-design children in the control of people like the Skull, and shakes his head.

"You're not letting them, I hope," Mike says, arranging the weapons-chamber in his left arm to carry stun-gun projectiles, and the one in his right arm to work as a rail-gun with a feed of needles. It's not something that shows on the outside, except maybe to Doug, who has fallen asleep with pizza-coma. Because, the way she said that, just a bit too unnerving and ambiguous.


"No, we're not. Nancy… has some friends who don't like them."

That's all he's going to say about that right now. It's a bit of an understatement too.

"Really don't like them," he amends. Partisan, he's pretty sure, would kill them all with her bare hands if she could find them.


"No, I have no intention on being a weapon for them. They ruined my life, and my mother's too. They have no concept of ethical behaviour. I owe them nothing. The others like me, the ones they made, I'm working on helping them escape from Hydra. I just hope we are not too late."


"Good. Let me know if I can help somehow," Mike says. "Although, it might be more as a backup, really, since it sounds like you're already prepared."

The robot mutant could probably be useful in any kind of an escape situation, after all.


"Thanks Mike, that's really decent of you." Bobby grins. "Especially considering we just met today. Yeah, if we need you we'll definitely let you know."

What? He's not gonna tell the guy no. Even if Partisan and… maybe the Jeri guy might be a bit frowny about it.


Nancy nods her head. "If all goes according to plan, we'll be in and out of there in about 20 minutes, with no casualties on our side. And Bobby and I here will be bored to tears the whole time." She smirks to her boyfriend. "We have to make sure we don't go playing Candy Crush, no matter how bored we get."


Mike stands, and walks over to the desk, finding a set of sticky-notes. He runs a finger across three of them, thermally printing his phone number, and handing a copy to each of Nancy and Bobby, and sticking the third to Doug's phone.

"Thanks for the pizza. I have to call my parents - tomorrow is their anniversary," Mike says. And the second anniversary of his robot life, but he doesn't mention that part. Instead, he heads for his apartment.

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