B012.3 Born At Sleep

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Melody stepped out of her room in her new work clothes – a loose, bright pink jumpsuit Irene had bought her as a present, a few days ago – and went towards her workshop.

She’d just showered thoroughly, after having spent most of the afternoon after that mortifying scene in front of the television demonstrating her dancing skills, of all things!

It was easy to forget, since he seemed to have a say in damn near everything around here, but Patrick Patrid was not only supernaturally creepy, he was also the Public Relations manager of the American United Heroes’ divisions. All of them. Primarily New Lennston, but he really did have a say nearly everywhere in the Western hemisphere.

That was a lot of PR to work on. And they got to bear the brunt of his attention. Joy oh joy.

In this case, it had meant that he felt it his duty to make absolutely sure each junior hero was a skilled enough dancer to not embarrass themselves (and by extension, the United Heroes, as he said) during the reception.

Furthermore, it was evident that Patrick Patrid had some very high standards when it came to determining who’s skilled enough, and who isn’t.

The result was that they’d spent three hours trying to convince him that they could dance in a satisfactory fashion, and everyone other than Aimihime, of all people, had failed to do so (apparently, she had learned how to dance from a friend and his older sister). Melody had, once upon a time, taken dance lessons (her mother had argued that, if she could not carry a tune in a bucket, she could at least dance to one), but that had been a long time ago, and she had not practiced since getting her new and improved (and far, far more top-heavy) body.

In the end, he’d stuck the lot of them with dancing lessons. Every morning and evening for the weekend, and the morning before the gala, too, for everyone but Aimihime (who’d participate with Goudo, anyway) and Irene.

Melody shuddered. Hopefully, Patrid wouldn’t actually supervise those lessons, because God knew she’d felt dirty enough already, dancing and sweating in front of his criticising eyes. It wasn’t even like he was actually doing anything creepy, or saying anything creepy, or even looking at her in anything but a perfectly professional way, yet she’d felt like she’d been forced to dance naked in front of strangers.

And then there was that other issue – Irene. After her little explosion, she’d gone quiet, barely talked and left as soon as Patrid had announced the demonstration.

She hadn’t even talked to Melody yet, which was worrying her – awkward as it could be, she was pretty sure that she was the only real friend Irene had, the only one close to her age she really hung around with outside of the occasional group meeting. So if she didn’t come to her for comfort, as she otherwise would, then…

I hope she went to her mom and not her dad, she thought quietly to herself, passing by Spellgun’s workshop on the way to hers, walking through the bright, clean white hallways of the building they all toiled away in. Even if Lady Light is working most of the time… she’d take time off for her daughter, surely.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she finally reached her workshop – and found that someone was inside.

It took her all of a microsecond to switch from residual discomfort and worry to utter outrage, as she touched her hand to the panel next to the door, opening it up.

When she saw the guy in the grease-stained jeans overall and black shirt, looking over her work on one of her tables, she pulled out her vocaliser and typed angrily into it.

<Hey, what’s the big idea!?>, she shouted, making him flinch. <Hands off my work!>

The man turned around to look at her, cocking one eyebrow. He was an African-American of middle age, somewhere in his mid-thirties, with some impressive scars on his face, hazel-coloured eyes and not a single hair she could see anywhere.

He blinked at the sight of the curvy girl in the bright pink jumpsuit and brown hair.

“Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jumpsuit like that, right?” he said instead of explaining himself. “Did you accidentally drop it into a vat of neon paint?”

She blushed a bit, but kept frowning at him, stopping once she was just five feet away from him. <It’s a present, it’s none of your business and what are you doing here!?>

He shrugged, averting his eyes again to look onto her workbench, picking up a piece of machinery – Melody recognised it, it was a part of the pacemaker Brennus had cobbled together for Prisca Fion during the Hemogoblin incident; they’d salvaged it and she’d requested to be allowed a look at it – not that she’d ever been any good with medical equipment, but she was curious about Brennus’ speciality and she’d hoped they’d hold some kind of clue (that had been a bust).

“Not looking at your work yet, Miss,” he replied. “Just got curious about this. Looks very familiar, right?” He lifted up one of the sketches she’d made of the gadget’s inner workings.

She relaxed – a little bit. Still outraged, but at least this guy seemed to be a techie. And besides, if he was here, then he was a member of the United Heroes, or otherwise allowed to be – security was tight. <I don’t know what you mean,> she replied honestly, though she did put an edge into her voice. <Do you mean that you know Brennus’ work?>

“Brennus? The new kid in town?” he asked, surprised. “This is his work, right?”

She nodded.

“Interesting…” He turned away from her and studied the pieces on the table. The pacemaker. The breathing apparatus. The dialysis machine. A few other pieces. “Hmm. You have more of the boy’s work, right?”

She nodded and walked to wheel-rack holding numerous metal baskets. With the push of a button, she rotated the wheel until she could pick out one particular basket and carry it over to the workbench.

<Here, I still have this raven,> she said, lifting a tray out of the basket and laying it out in front of him. She’d disassembled the raven, having hoped to adapt the design for herself (having drones to spread her acoustics would be a huge advantage), but it had transpired that her power just didn’t want to play ball.

The man looked through the pieces with practiced motions, barely touching them as his eyes flicked back and forth quicker than any normal human’s should when taking in this kind of technology. Most of his attention went to the burned-out computer chips, too.

Is he a gadgeteer? He certainly looked like a gearhead. But who was he?

“Interesting, right?” he said, his eyes going back and forth between the raven and the medical equipment. “They have almost nothing in common.”

<I know that much,> she admitted. <I mean, I don’t know much about his other equipment, but these ravens contain completely different technology compared to the medical equipment he made. I don’t know what that means, though.>

“It means it’s not his, right?” he replied, taking a step back and crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’ve read up on the new boy. He’s an electrical engineer, so to speak. Not a medic. Nor a medical technician.”

<Maybe he has more than one spec?> she asked, getting a little excited now. This was getting interesting, even though she was still pissed at having a stranger in her workshop without her permission! <I’ve heard of gadgeteers like that, who have two or even three completely different specialisations they work with.>

“Possible, but unlikely,” he replied, making a dismissive gesture with his hand. “It happens, but it’s so fantastically rare, pretty much every other theory is preferable, right? Besides, I recognise this work.” He pointed at the medical equipment. “To be precise, it’s based on the work of another gadgeteer.”

<How can you tell that? The design is very elegant, but it does not appear to be that exotic.>

“Ah, but the elegance in itself is a hint to the original designer,” he explained. “And I have seen medical equipment derived from this particular source before – the really interesting question, though, is where he got it from. She isn’t the kind of person who’d freely share her technology on Toybox. In fact, she’s one of the few people banned from it.”

Toybox. The big online community for gadgeteers from all over the world to talk shop, share ideas, designs, resources and more. Every gadgeteer worth their title made it a point to register with the central message board, if only so as to access their public schematics – works from gadgeteers which had been released, not into the public domain, but the Toybox domain by their originators, for every (or almost every – one could restrict their designs to verified heroes, vigilantes, villains or neutrals, or any of at least a score of other attributes) gadgeteer to use; she was pretty sure that Brennus’ ravens were largely based on designs he’d taken from Toybox, and he did have an account on it. And then there was all the other help one could get from the various threads…

To have a good reputation on Toybox was a hallmark of being a great gadgeteer. To be banned from it…

She frowned. <I only know of four gadgeteers banned from Toybox. Merkabah, Mechorror, Dusu and…>

“Atrocity,” he spat the name like a curse, and for a moment she thought he’d literally spit out. “This is based on her work, I’d bet my gearbox on it.”

How in God’s name did Brennus get his hands on Atrocity’s technology!? She remembered the hemogoblin incident, and Hemming talking about this ‘Macian’ they’d been looking for… was Brennus this person, after all? Or was he just connected to him, having gotten the technology from that mysterious stranger?

Or was it something completely different?

“Be that as it may,” the stranger continued, “I did not come here to talk conspiracy theories with you.”

She focused on him again. <Ah, may I finally know who I am talking to, then? And for what purpose?>

He smirked at her. “My name is Hotrod. You recently requested a custom vehicle, to use in conjunction with your equipment. I saw your proposal and decided it would be a waste not to actually base it on your audio-technology, so here I a-“

He was cut off when she threw her arms around him in a nearly bone-crushing hug, her worries about Brennus’ technology already forgotten.

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42 thoughts on “B012.3 Born At Sleep

  1. This was supposed to be longer, and include Basil’s talk with his friends, but I am not nearly finished with that rather long scene, and I didn’t want to keep you guys waiting, so here’s a shorter chapter.

    I CAN’T promise it but, depending on one particular event happening or not happening, I might have the next chapter done before Saturday, and another on Sunday. If not, then there’ll be only one update on Sunday.

    • Ah, the bittersweet taste of anticipation, when you know one of the big chapters where a plot line most certainly reaches a key point if it isn’t resolved is coming soon, and time slows to a crawl while you wait.
      I am looking forward to the sweetness of the release.

      In other news, do I smell Heterodyning between Hotrod and Melody?
      It’s also quite interesting that Basil’s tenant has taken a page from Atrocity’s book, his being Macian all but stated, and that makes it strangely more exciting don’t you think Ties?

    • Adaptation and improvement, capable of repurposing other tech to his needs. Doesn’t even have to be gagiter tech, food and his ceramic are just him working with baseline stuff. His armor/Ravens are from toy box. Stun equipment based on Melodies stuff. Even the vibrio sword is based one other people’s work. We haven’t seen anything unique to him so far, with possible exemption of his chips. Also the egg is probably either a shield or teleport tech.

      • You’ve got the same theory I do on Basil’s specialty. He gets to adapt/modify/improve gadgeteer tech. Including his own.

        That last part is why he’s cannabalized his stun gun I-don’t-know-how-many times to make something on the fly.

        That would also mean that if he gets ahold of Sovreign’s tech, he might conquer the world, instead of just Africa.

      • If you consider Brennus and Macian to have the exact same powerset, I don’t think it makes sense since Macian’s AI, kinetic repulsor, and forcefields are obviously not adaptations or improvements to anything. Plus Brennus has his totally original ceramic armor.

    • Interesting indeed. I wonder if he is even a gadgeteer in the “traditional” sense. He may just be tapping into other peoples powers or more specifically their past projects. Might explain why making things more cost efficient gave him such a headache.

      Then again since he has a second gen power they might just be things that his passenger remembers.

  2. Maybe an hint of Brennus actual specialty? Improving on or maybe just copying other’s designs?

    That doesn’t feel right though, might be a secondary perk but my bet stay on Brennus/Macian being specialized in artificial intelligence or something related that allow for both AI and the other stuff…

    • That’s what I’ve been thinking. There was a Tieshaunn comment a while back about Su Ling, saying Sovereign could match her in mass production, and Macian could match her in AI design. Plus it seems that when Macian attacked the Syndicate, presumably with a chance to prepare, the big gun he brought out was an AI. Then there’s Eudocia, who’s apparently the 2nd most advanced gadget on the planet, so Macian most likely hasn’t topped her design.

      Then on the Brennus side of things, his most complex invention is the crystalline CPU, which was used for fancy programming (turn it up to eleven and fancy programming becomes AI). Plus when his power was doing its own thing it turned towards a programming intensive egg-thing, with four of the CPUs.

      But then he’s also super broad in what he can do. And he’s rally good at integration – from the Toybox, Polymnia’s tech (including the in-battle bomb making) and now Atrocity. It’s really interesting when you think about Polymnia being unable to work with Brennus tech on her own. I’m sorta leaning towards him just being very, very good, with an extremely broad field he can play in.

      And then there’s his maybe pre-cog stuff. Ugh. Who knows?
      Then there’s all the other Basil goodies. I’m assuming Aime learned to dance from the Blakes. Was that a Macian/Amanda skill, or a Brennus/Amy thing? Probably the later. I can’t imagine there’s much need for ballroom in a perpetual warzone.

      And now the UH are beginning to put Basil and Macian together. I feel like this is going to go (mostly) public, by the time the story’s over.

      Oh, and Polymnia’s transport reminds me – whatever happened to the Raven cycle? Memory issue?

      • All CPUs are crystalline. We make them from SI monocrystals but other materials are being researched.

      • true. I decided to stick with “crystalline cpu” for two reasons:

        1. I don’t assume that all my readers are fluent in current engineering
        2. Basil’s CPUs literally *look* like they’re made of crystal (and they’re way shiny when in use)

      • To be honest its been too long for me to remember how exactly you described his CPU.

        Maybe were talking about optical computing and holographic memory. Not sure if it would justify shiny glowing cristals but science ruins everything anyway right?

      • About why Basil’s crystaline CPUs would be very sparkly in use:

        In normal computers w/o superconductors, one of the big engineering problems is disposing of waste energy (heat). With an optical CPU, he might be disposing of the waste energy as light, via fluorescence. If this waste energy was visible light, the crystal would glow.

        Given Quantom Mechanics, I’d expect the crystals to all glow one color, unless he is doing processing on multiple ‘channels’ by using more than one wavelength of light.

        That said, I’d also expect the crystals to glow steadily, rather than sparkle, mostly because I don’t think that human eyes could see the flickering from 1’s and 0’s at individual spots.

  3. Specialty mimic? His specialty was passive when he hetro’d with Poly

    Or maybe switching equipment from one specialty to another.

  4. Maybe Atrocity based her work off Macian’s at one point? That would be hella cool.

    But probably not, since medical equipment seems to fall within her machine-body integration specialty.

    • Now that I think about it, Macian cut his teeth on medical equipment with Amy. I’m guessing that he defeated one of Atrocity’s cyborgs and used its designs to work on her. He wasn’t very good at it at first, if I recall.

  5. Typos
    extention > extension
    Mid thirties > mid-thirties
    DId you accidently > Did
    acustics > acoustics
    permition > permission
    messageboard > message board
    Bonecrushing > bone-crushing
    Plus there’s a possible inconsistency with 12.2, where Aimi apparently had “little to no experience dancing”, and now is the only one to get Patrid’s approval

  6. First off, I’ve finished my first reread of the story, and it has certainly helped!

    Secondly, I have a theory. Brennus’ and Macian’s power (the two are definitely connected, as confirmed by the story, IIRC) doesn’t specialize in adapting/improving others work, as hypothesized. The similarity between his work and Atrocities comes from the memories Brennus has from Macian fighting the Savage Six inside their alternate reality (such memories include vermillion blades, and the weird lullaby mentioned oh so long ago). This is why he has talent at medical work, despite that not being his specialty (or maybe it is part of his specialty. Unconfirmed)

    This would make his skill with medical treatment similar to his skill with cooking. Tieshaunn has confirmed that Basils skill with cooking is not a result of his power, which might mean it comes from experience cooking as Macian.

    Did I misquote you Ties? And is my analysis accurate, based on what has been revealed in story?

  7. I’m interested in another thing. Why was Amy, in the flashbacks, so horrifically injured? How did she become the little child Frankenstein?

    My guess is that it wasn’t simply injuries due to fights or collateral damage, etc. I think Atrocity got to her and cut her up. She’s the one who “broke” her initially and the trauma only continued with Macian “patching” her up.

    Another mystery is Basil’s status as a 2nd generation metahuman. Amy’s powerset seems to be stable, but it’s obvious that Macian was rendered partially insane by his power never turning off – just like Ember felt when he brought Macian into his own world and felt Macian find a brief peace. And Basil has mostly seemed all right, but obviously he’s not coping well lately with his power not turning off either – like a scaled-down version of Macian’s power. Now either (1) Macian/Basil was always a 2nd gen but the madness brought on by Macian’s power is irrelevant to whether he can be considered “stable”, in which case I’m just grasping at straws, or (1) Macian was a 1st gen and Basil is some kind of 2nd gen, maybe a “fake” one as the power of Macian gradually returns? The Raging Heart certainly doesn’t seem any kind of stable.

    I’m still getting ominous vibes from the fact that Peacock Lady was the shopping mall. She only seems to be around when world-shaking events are about to happen. Is the Weisswald diary and research diary going to kick up that much of a shitstorm?

    Peacock Lady seems to be very similar to Journeyman. When she bumped into Basil and he whirled around, she disappeared.

    • hint: she’s the precog who messed up Kudzu’s plans

      Macian’s insanity was not due to his power, but his general circumstances of life, which also impacted his power (he was always on edge, always looking for a way to survive, to improve, to get out – and so was his power). If anything, he’s the reason his power so unstable, not the other way around.

      As for Basil… more to come, very soon

      • Oh wow, I think that’s just about the only peacock lady fact we have, beyond knowing places she’s been.

        And Macian!Basil being responsible for his power being unstable is very interesting.
        We’ve had hints, in-story and in comments, that a lot of Brennus!Basil’s troubles with his power comes from not being in synch w/ his tenant (While Macian is in synch). In particular, there were comments in 10.5 and 11.14 saying being out of synch for an extended time will lead to side effects (a lot of which we’ve seen in Basil – memory issues, emotional issues, sleeping problems, difficulty controlling ones power etc.)

        So my new guess (which I kinda have to throw out if we’re getting answers soon) is that Macian ‘broke’ his power/tennant somehow (because of his general issues? or is it that once he wasn’t in the S6 environment his change in attitude led to him losing synch?) creating the power-problems that resulted in Basil as we know him.

        The main problem with this, as i see it, is how Amy/Amanda fits in. Did she manifest, and due to her obvious issues also broke her powers, somehow resulting in them creating a shared delusion (maybe developed from their faked backstory and/or communication of their powers), with young Amanda stepping up to protect Basil, who has always protected her? And how does everyone else around them having memory issues come in? Amy’s powers? (Could it even have been partially intentional, back when they were creating a fake backstory?). I can sort of see how the narrative might play out, maybe. Unless maybe there’s just some outside interference, which is responsible.

        Then there’s the possibility of Basil and/or Amy being ‘vectorless’ 2nd gens. Fits that ‘plays hob w/ brain chemistry’ thing. Plus Goldschmidt did “snatch them up”, and Lars saw the Blazing Sun back in ‘81, well before Basil was born (and also before he seemed to enter the pre-cog part, maybe).On the other hand, Blazing Sun did make that comment about “I wasn’t there, yet”, or something, about a memory, which possibly doesn’t fit into the ‘connected their whole lives’ thing.’ And Ember didn’t notice aything in particular about Amy’s world.

        Honestly I have no clue.

      • neither basil nor amy are vectorless 2nd gens

        keep in mind that Ember was new to his power, and just eight years old besides – even if there was something wrong, he wouldn’t notice it unless it was blindingly obvious

      • Ah, I should have guessed that about peacock lady. Basil’s split-second precog (or maybe it’s just Macian’s finely honed battle instinct acting up?) was obviously never on the same level as a mastermind-type precog. Now that I look at the event, the peacock lady’s intervention (bumping into Basil) was just enough to get him to stop in front of the shop door so that he could get inside it instead of being confined to the atrium. She’s a seriously smooth operator.

        Now THAT’S a nice bit of info about Macian and his power. In any case it points to one path of improvement for Basil, perhaps?

        The vectors for basil and amy…what are they if not members of the savage six? Though I don’t know if any of them can heterodyne. The idea of Atrocity being one of the vectors is…disturbing to say the least, but I kind of want it to be her.

      • Also… “he was always on edge, always looking for a way to survive, to improve, to get out – and so was his power”

        So somehow Macian found a way to cross Heretic’s dimensional barrier. He made a one-use gadget to do it – but it cost him and Amy something. Their original bodies maybe?

      • Okay, I have another WMG. Macian really is dead. Basil’s vectors are Macian and Ember.

        What made my think that was rereading Little Giants. In that, it was Henry, not Macian, who was annoyed at Pristine not being properly dressed. Thus, I found myself wondering if Basil was some sort of composite made from/by Ember and Macian.

      • But the Peacock Lady called Brennus “Macian” at the shopping mall.

        And I’m pretty sure tieshaunn mentioned how a 2nd gen’s powers will have some sort of relation to their vectors’ powers but the connection may be extremely hard to spot and probably won’t be obvious most of the time.

        Whereas here, Brennus’ power is exactly the same as Macian’s – pictographs. The personalities are different, sure. But as of now there’s simply not enough information.

  8. Maybe he did it in Vegas when he killed Mindfuck. He tortured him, too, so he must have found a way to deal with Heretic, at least for a time.


  9. Oh! That gives me an idea. Maybe it was Mindfuck who screwed up Brennus and Amy’s memories in a last ditch attempt to save himself. Pretty sure he’s only telepathic and posseses a child’s body so mental attacks would be his only means of offfence. Scewing with and completely repressing someone’s memories seem like fairly effective ways of all but killing someone (humans are nothing more then the sum of our memories and all that). If Macian was able to kill him then his mind control powers probably weren’t working, so it seems to me like the next best method of attack.

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