2010-05-03: Dealing With It


Mike_icon.jpg Theo_icon.jpg

Summary: Mike and Theo finally have a talk about what happened when Theo saw inside of Mike's brain.

Date: May 3, 2010

Log Title Dealing With It

Rating: G (Note: Religious Content)

Xavier Mansion - Forgotten Path

Overgrown with trees and brush, this path has long been out of use and is rather difficult to find at all. Looking closely at the ground shows the remains of a dirt walkway, but the entrance to said walkway is long since lost to the plants. It winds through the woods, eventually opening to a view of a long forgotten chapel on the grounds. Perhaps once it had been a charming little building, but now, it has certainly seen better days. The windows are boarded over, the doors are barely hanging on their hinges, vines have started to grow up the walls, and there's even a good chuck of it toward the back that looks as if it were the victim of a fire. All in all, it seems it was judged not worth the cost of repairs and left to nature's devices.

"It's a thunderful day in the neighborhood, a wonderful day in the scary woods, Would you be my, could you see my, won't you tree my neighbor…" Mike is singing. Not badly. The lyrics are just a little odd. He has just emerged from the Chapel and is walking back towards the school proper, while the storms rolling through the area have cooled things down to the low seventies. He's wearing his usual "not in class yet" hawaiian shirt and hot-rod shorts, and is otherwise his genial robotic self.

Theo is off the path, but he's not reading as he usually is. Instead, he seems to be looking for something. He takes high steps to get over brush and branches. It's still a bit wet from earlier rains, but he doesn't seem to be too bothered by it. He hears Mike's singing before he 'hears' Mike's approach, and looks up. He pauses in mid-motion, and follows his movement with his gaze, uncertain whether to approach him or not, it seems.

"Snap?" Mike says, hearing some unfortunate dead branch being crushed under the weight of the interloper human in the "wild" part of the woods off the path. (Wild. Yeahsure.) A glance in that direction reveals the culprit. Oh. Joy and bliss. Well, it had to happen SOMETIME, Mike. You've only been avoiding each other for … over two weeks? That's not impossibly long. "Hello, Theo. What are you doing over there? If you get lost they won't find your body for at least two days. Trust me on that one."

Theo changes course, since he's addressed, and doesn't seem to find humor in Mike's statement. "I'm not going to die in the woods," he says, little to no emotion behind the statement. He doesn't answer the question about what he's doing though, opting to keep it to himself. "What're you doing?" he asks. returning the question.

"I wasn't going to die in the woods either, but it very nearly happened," Mike answers, equally deadpan. He has a better poker face than Theo, by design, but that's kinda cheating. He considers a flip answer but decides not to be too rude.
"I was in the chapel doing morning prayer, something I try to do every morning. It's this weird thing called 'having a religious faith' that seems to be much freakier here than being a robot mutant. What're YOU doing?"

Theo makes his way out onto the path, and decides that his activities aren't private enough to raise unwarranted suspicion. "I heard a rumor that there's old sentinel parts somewhere in the woods back here," he says. "Just thought I'd see if I could find them."
"Yeah, people here seem to pretend that religion just doesn't exist. It's like they're too scared to think about it or something. Well, I'm glad it works for you." He doesn't say anything else, but instead puts his hands in his pockets.

"Oh. Well, you'll have to arm-wrestle Magneto for them. I hear he has been scrounging them all for his own," finger quotes, "nefarious purposes," and Mike looks around at the grounds. Woods, low-lying plants but not kudzu or english ivy nor the hellaciously nasty tibetan blackberry bramble, and not sufficiently old as to be "ancient forest" like some of the places Mike's lived. No obvious "giant robot crashed here and was buried" signs either.
"So have you found anything? If so, will you need help digging it out?"

"Not yet," Theo admits. "Why, you offering?" he asks, sounding a little surprised. People have been onto him about 'attacking' Mike, but he doesn't remember the incident. It feels rather the contrary to him. He looks out across the woods. "You turn into a backhoe or something?"

Mike shrugs, and answers, "Not so much turn into, more bring my bike here and turn it into, but if you did find something, what would you do with it?"
Since Theo seems uninterested in bringing up the rather painful incident, Mike isn't going to push it either. It DID seem to put Theo into a bad place, if Rashmi's highly edited version of things can be taken at face value. In any case, Mike has been doing his due diligence, and talked with his parents, and was told 'give him the benefit of the doubt anyway,' so he's going to be polite and treat the guy the way he'd like to be treated himself, until and unless it blows up again.

Theo shrugs. "I dunno," he says, "I was just curious to see what they're like. I like to build stuff, so if I can figure out how they work, maybe I could recreate one. Smaller of course. Just seemed like something to do. I just got done building a train." He smiles. "Maybe I could make something for you to merge with," he suggests. Wait, hold the phone, did he just offer to do something nice for Mike? Still, there's an air of uneasiness that hangs around him, despite his offer.

"That might be cool. I made a mini dune buggy for the Danger Room, since nothing it creates feels real to my power… it's really HARD to merge with a vehicle when it's actually a fake construct of hard light emitters and doesn't work outside the illusion."
Mike sighs, internally. "OK, we should talk about what happened. You're still giving off 'the robot is going to eat my brain' vibes, and I'm still uncomfortable with you, and we should stop doing that if we can. Want to talk?"
Mike gestures towards the chapel, and the bench seat in front of it. "You'll get less wet if we sit over there, too."

Theo chews on his lip, and doesn't give a verbal answer, but he nods, and starts to walk toward the bench. He sits down, and rests his elbows on his knees with his hands clasped. He isn't really even sure where to begin the conversation. Talking through his issues isn't something that he's big on, but this one is big enough to him that he feels its worth stepping out of his comfort zone.
The technopath opens his mouth to talk, and opens his hands at the same time, but nothing comes out, he just gives a nervous laugh.

Mike waits. One might not expect it from his usual demeanor and attitude, but when he's in the role of 'listener' he's very good, or more precisely, fairly well trained, far beyond what most teens are capable of. Therefore, he gives Theo a moment's space to order his thoughts. His body language is not defensive, more neutral, and his attention is focussed on Theo without being a direct challenge. Of course, his expression is that pleasant almost-smile; he thinks about turning on the image inducer but decides to wait to ask Theo if it'll help. He also considers playing the "I'm listening" clip from that rerun of Frasier but that could be a bit weird.

After about fifteen seconds, Theo does finally speak. "I don't know what happened," he tells the robo-teen. "I remember that Robyn said something that made me mad…and then I remember waking up in med bay." He leans back into the back of the bench. "I DO know that I woke up feeling like I was stuck in the Matrix," he adds. "You know, with the little numbers the flow down those screens."

"Yeah, actually, I know the feeling well," Mike says. "When I was changed it took me four weeks to figure out why I felt so weird all the time. So, what happened then?"
He waits for Theo to continue. Not going to add his side of things until after Theo's done.

Theo doesn't seem to care for the question. "And then…I couldn't control it. It still is eating me alive. Every time I go to sleep, I can't rest because all I can think about is numbers. It's like a giant math problem, but I don't know what I'm trying to solve. I finish one part of it only to find more, and it never ends." He shakes his head. "So you tell me, what happened?"

Oh. Damn. Uhm. "Shit," Mike says, quietly. "OK, I guess it hit you much worse than it did me."
He pauses to think for a moment, and his engine revs up to increase the power since he's using processing power he usually reserves for manipulating matter and energy to reconstruct a machine, particle by particle. That increase is of course obvious to Theo.
"I am going to say things which you may find disturbing. Please accept for now that nothing I say is intended as an attack and that I feel no fear, anger, nor hostility toward you."
Mike's affect, his body language, already robotic, becomes completely impenetrable because there is none, just his voice, almost completely without the robotic overtone.
"You were verbally sparring with Robyn, and were verbally expressing your tolerance of homosexuality while phrasing it in language and mannerisms that conveyed the opposite message. I attributed this to your inability to calibrate the appropriateness of your actions to the situation, and was aware that you might become violent. You had stated that you were fine as long as Robyn did not 'stare at your ass' — specifically that you did not wish to be even casually considered in a homoerotic context, with what others might think was a thinly veiled threat. You acted unaware of the anger and resentment you were inducing, and as you were leaving, Robyn made a remark that indicated an awareness of you in that context."
Mike pauses to observe how Theo takes this, because it's important to how he continues.

It may be difficult for Theo to be read, he doesn't seem to change his expression much, save for when Mike's engine revs. He likens it in his mind to a computer 'thinking', but he isn't completely sure how to respond to Mike's functions anymore.
He looks Mike straight in the eye as he speaks, and his gaze is constant, not shifting from one region of his face to the other, he simply looks straight into the same eye the whole time that he is speaking. Mike clearly has his full and undivided attention. He reserves any comments about what he thinks about his own abilities for the time being, and now he simply waits to hear the rest of what Mike has to say.

Without emotional feedback, Mike's simply convinced that Theo is, in fact, Not A Normal Human. Because Mike has the excuse of having a robot body.
"Your response was to pick up a clay planting pot and to throw it at Robyn's sculpture, and with that as a distraction to attack Robyn with another planting pot, with the apparent intention of smashing it into his face. During that time, where most people would be expressing rage, anger, your facial expression was completely unaffected."
Mike pauses for a moment to consider how to do this next part. Theo is in input mode, so…
"I was prepared for an attack. I intercepted you, though you managed to throw the pot at Robyn anyway. You became berserk and apparently fearful when I restrained you from attacking, and your power activated. I do not believe it was an intentional activation. I am a four-dimensional construct, not three dimensional. In attempting to force me to release you your power activated the failsafe devices on each of my main modules, which rotate those components fully into threespace. They were improperly activated and it created an anomaly. Incidentally that was extremely painful to me, rather like having your skin forcibly yanked open would be to you."
Mike pauses again to see whether or not Theo shows any reaction to that expression. Another test. If Theo does have some form of normal human empathy, even a little, that should cause an involuntary flinch and his pupils will contract. After the pause he continues, because the nightmares should stop, even if it puts Mike at a bit of risk. "There was a moment where my fourth dimension was overlapping and visible, and your power then attempted to comprehend my structure. If you refactor for the presence of the fourth spatial dimension you should find that the infinite recursion issue resolves to a manageable equation. All the linkages will make sense."

Theo does indeed respond. The idea of his own flesh getting ripped off bothers him, and so the thought that he might have done it to Mike makes his skin crawl. He looks away. "I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't know I can do stuff like that." Not entirely true any longer, but it is true that he didn't know at the time. He lowers his head. "I didn't want to hurt you."

That's a relief for Mike, that Theo can extrapolate to others and react to it… indicates that he isn't as bad as certain famous sociopathic-but-functional persons of the past, like for instance Peter Sellers. Still needs to work on appropriateness though.
"I know, you wanted to hurt Robyn, and I wasn't going to let that happen without trying to stop you. What happened to me as a result is as much my fault as yours and I forgive you for anything that needs to be forgiven. I'm also sorry that it hurt you to try to comprehend my systems all at once. If the nightmares don't get better, talk to me and I will help you try to make sense of them. Some of what I do is completely cheating."
Of course Mike is going to have to change things around now, because even if he does think Theo's not innately hostile, he isn't going to leave himself unprotected. That would be too risky.

"Nightmares could be worse than math problems," Theo states, but he doesn't elaborate. He lifts his head again, "I don't get you Mike. You're a pretty odd guy. What do you have that I should be forgiving you for?" He shakes his head, and stands back to his feet.

Mike also stands. His engine revs back down as he takes the backup processors back to idle, since he's no longer attempting to model Theo's reactions. He will walk along if Theo is headed back to the classes.
"Theo, I designed myself. I'm pretty sure that anything really stupid and confusing is my fault. And I will try to help you with any nightmares you have, if you want me to. But as far as forgiving… I have a hard time trusting you, and that makes it hard for me to treat you with the respect you deserve. I see your actions and I think 'this guy is dangerous' … and you are, don't doubt that for a minute … but I also think poorly of you because of it, and to me that's a sin. We're all broken in some ways. Your ways happen to involve relating to other people and understanding why they do what they do. But you showed me just now that you have more ability to do that than I thought you could, and I feel ashamed of my expectation because it wasn't based on logic, it was based on personal dislike. I don't want to be the person who does that to other people."

Theo's nose wrinkles a little, "Yeah, we're all broken." He doesn't contest the matter, he agrees. "We're all really broken. But my problem isn't that I can't relate to people. I think it's too much of the opposite." He seems to think on that for a moment, his eyes not focused on anything.

"Really? How so? You said you weren't worth liking, because nobody is, and the way you said it and the way you do outrageous things without comprehending their most probable reactions, that's typical of someone who hasn't really developed the non-psionic sense of empathy. Except that you do have it to some extent. So I'm wondering, is that new, is it your powers crowding something out, is it due to the stuff that happened to you before you came here?"
Oh, like that's going to help … shoudn't have stopped modeling, Mike. And, yeah. Mike did research the things Theo mentioned in passing, mutant-hunting and murders in Manassas, FoH offshoot murdered a family, a very high probability Theo escaped that. And though Mike isn't sure if it's connected, the kidnappers who were trying to ransom mutant kids, and of course that group trying to turn them into suicide bombers, all in the same general area. But the Audi that Theo arrived in, Mike figured out where that one was stolen from, since it was in a public database of stolen-car VINs. He hasn't mentioned that to anyone.

"Like I said," Theo answers. "I relate TOO well. People are evil at the core Mike. That's what they teach in the Bible, right?" he asks, appealing to Mike's own faith. He's apparently somewhat familiar with Scripture, though it is clear he doesn't follow it. "Totally depraved, I think is the word that gets used a lot."
"Underneath everybody there's something dark that wants to claw its way to the top," he states. "I can relate, because I'm part of everybody. So that's right, I said nobody is worth liking. If you'd been in my shoes, you'd think the same way I do." Now it may be more clear why Theo says he 'doesn't get' Mike. There's something notably different to Theo, and he doesn't think it's the understanding of human nature, rather his response to that understanding.

Recognition of the problem: Mike gets it. Too well. This is a classic conundrum to people who won't look past what they can see directly, or so Mike thinks.
"How do you measure depraved? There is a standard of deviation," the robot boy puns. "I believe that there is something besides the broken-ness. I believe that we also have the image of God, and no, I don't mean the stereotypical big old white guy in the sky. I mean something, someONE, infinitely more than just this world, this universe as vast as it is, someone who cares immensely about every part of it, who created it, and us, gave us the power to choose, to become like that infinite self whose image is a seed in us, and I believe that transcendent being chose to be one of us to show us that it's possible to become UN-broken. So if I were in your shoes, and I were still me, I would probably still choose to believe that everyone has that image in them."
Mike shrugs elaborately. "I could be wrong. But if I were, I would still choose to believe what I do, unless and until it's proven absolutely that it's wrong. And then I'd still choose to ACT as if I believed what I do because it's intolerable to leave the world wallowing in broken."

"You sound like my friend Kyle." Theo answers, unimpressed. That may seal it for Mike, for the witness to the burning in Manassas was one Kyle Adams, son of a preacher. "If we have the image of God in us, then maybe He isn't as great as you think," he answers in disgust. "Or maybe I'm just more broken than most, because if I were Him, I'd just wipe everybody out and start over."

Confirmation acquired. Mike answers,"Yeah, there's a story that he did that once. Look, I'm late for a class, but I don't want to cut you off. You're not more broken than most, just differently. It's silly to compare that. Any time you want to pick this up and we have time to talk, I am open for it. And Theo? I really am sorry that you had to spend that time with me stuck in your head. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

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