2010-09-10: Show And Tell


Theo_icon.jpg Mike_icon.jpg

Summary: Mike comes to the Flushing Plant to upload information from the future. Theo finds out that there is more he has to reveal than he likes. Warning: Some religious content.

Date: September 10, 2010. 4:32pm

Log Title: Show and Tell

Rating: PG-13

Stark Industries - Flushing Plant

The Flushing Plant is a state of the art facility. Some of the world's top scientists scamper about with one design or another, while interns carry coffee and try to gain knowledge of breaking new discoveries. There are new developments being made every day in various fields. It's really a quite exciting place!

The Flushing Plant is a little more exciting today for most of the staff. Mike's arrival has many of the scientists asking Mike, and byproxy, Theo, many questions about the way he works, eager to learn grand secrets of science that they can apply to future inventions. Theo carries a notepad for Bob, the head of the department, and chief question asker of the day. Piles of notes are on the computer, and with each question Theo types out more notes. It is getting to the point that the novelty has worn off of Theo, but Bob keeps promising that he's almost done asking questions.

Pragmatically, Mike is simply saying, "I don't know," to most of their questions. It's not entirely true; much of it he does, but really, really doesn't want to give away how he works. For free. To Stark Enterprises. Finally he says, "Please. If you really want to get my design information, I'll need to get a contract and involve my parents and some intellectual property lawyers. My parents haven't given me permission to give any of that information away. I'm sorry. I'm here to talk to my friend and to put together a crystal reader for Mr. Stark."

He's really kind of annoyed that they could see through the image inducer, but … Tony Stark did invent the things, so it makes sense. He looks at Theo and shrugs.

Bob nods, "Sorry, we're all just so curious. Theo, I'll let you handle the upload and leave you two alone," he says. "Mike, thanks for coming." Bob heads out to the other room, and Theo holds up on hand, and gives a silent three count to Mike, and then holds the notepad computer up. "Sorry, I forgot my-" Bob smiles, and takes the pad. "Thanks." He then goes back out.
"Sorry," Theo apologizes for Bob. "He gets a little excited. He hops onto the computer, and pulls up the capture program. "You wanna plug in?" he asks.

Mike lets the human image return so he can have expressions, and puts a USB cable in his mouth. "Sure, plug me in here."

The design for the crystal reader comes across in a 10gb CAD file - yes, CAD. Standard format and all. Technically, it's straightforward, it just requires the ability to scan information at the atomic level, and without the use of the 4D angled interface and the extremely tiny psionic-touch it's rather more difficult - but Mike isn't willing to give that part away either. So he invented something else, a quantum-mechanical level resonance sensor, that artificially generates entangled states. Silly robot. That by itself is probably worth MUCH more. Fortunately, the designs have Mike's personal electronic signature all through them.

As the data streams across, Mike's catching up. "So, what's going on with you and the school? I heard from Rashmi that things got freaky."

Theo shrugs, watching the data. "Yeah, that Selene lady is supposed to be teaching at the school. She tried to kill a few students. Needless to say, it's got some people a little unnerved." He's had his own freaky things, and knows that Mike may well be referring to his own experiences, but he doesn't offer it initially. His face stays tuned to the data on the screen.

"Selene? Don't know a … wait." He blinks and does the 'pinch the bridge of the nose' gesture. "OK, right, moon goddess of the ancient Greeks? Oh, right. On the list of inaccessible enemies in the X-Database, right above Sinister. Great."
Well, that pretty much means Mike doesn't get to go back to the mansion for the near future, doesn't it. He starts viewing the CAD file "preview" so Theo can see what it looks like, holding it in his visual-sensor area.

"Yeah," Theo says, distantly. He doesn't say anything else for several seconds. Instead, he just stares at the screen. He notably hasn't used his powers once on anything in the lab. There doesn't seem to be any response to the note to himself from Mike even, and finally he blinks once. "It's a good schematic," he says. "Maybe you should work for Tony, too. I could probably get you in. Hell, you probably don't need a reference from me." He goes back to being quiet, a certain studious look on the preview. His mind, however, is clearly elsewhere.

"It might be fun, but I wouldn't be able to until I'm sixteen, so have to wait for New Years. SO, you're really quiet, Theo. What're you thinking about?"
The last of the data files finish transferring and Mike sends the digital check-code so the sanity of the file can be confirmed.

"Does God forgive murder?" Comes the response. Theo turns finally to face Mike, and looks him straight in the eye. "The perfect, holy, just, unmovable God of the universe. The God who hates sin but for some confusing reason gives pardon to some. Does he forgive murder of other human souls?"

Mike looks at Theo for a moment, ever so slightly frowning. He starts to say something, then immediately stops, and says, "I need to think about your question for a moment."
That moment stretches out for a good minute, while Mike stares into nothing, then he finally answers.
"You're throwing some interesting assumptions in there, Theo, and I don't know that I can answer you in a way that you'll believe. Different faiths will answer you differently. But what I believe as a Christian says that God forgives all sin for anyone who repents and asks Him for forgiveness. And murder is a sin against the other person, as it takes away their life and you can't give it back; it's a sin against God because it takes away one of His gifts from another person, and it's a sin against yourself because in doing it, you wound that part of yourself that shares in the life of the other person. But one of the Gospels says that Jesus was crucified between two murderers, and the one who asked for forgiveness, he granted it to him."

"I'm a murderer," Theo continues. "A little more than a week ago, I got attacked by two mutant haters. They tried to kill me, but the tables got turned." He traces the keys on the keyboard. "I didn't pull the trigger, but only because I didn't think I could get away with it." Theo shakes his head. "I saw my future self. I killed…I killed a lot of people, because they were in my way. I don't see how God can justify forgiving someone like me. I don't deserve it."

That gets an "OK," from Mike, and a pause … "Your future self is not you. You did not do any of the things he did. And WANTING to kill the two guys is not quite the same thing as killing them. Although I suspect you did mess them up."
The image-induced expression on Mike's face turns into a sort of pursed-lips-sideways-scowl, the USB cable still connected. Mike reaches up and removes it from his mouth.
"Theo, you're much more logical than I am." The robot kid says, "You wouldn't be upset over being a horrible person because you DIDN'T kill someone, or your future alternate self WILL HAVE killed many someones. What's behind this?"

"You don't understand, Mike," Theo answers, standing from his seat and pacing to the other end of the room. "Being logical is the only reason I didn't kill them. Because I didn't think I could get away with it. I know if the opportunity had been there, I would've killed them." He paces back closer to Mike again. "And maybe my future self isn't me, but I have trouble finding the difference between him and me. It bothers me because…" he stops. "Look, it just bothers me. I love my dad, and I know he'd be ashamed of me if he found out." An odd sentimental thing for him to say, though something about his response might suggest he really doesn't know the answer, and he's fishing for an answer that makes sense.

"That's why I asked," Mike says. He pauses again. Theo would probably be confused by Mike's thoughts, if he was listening to them … fortunately they're far enough away that it would require work to do, even though they ARE emulated on a complex machine rather than in wet-gooie proteins. For one thing, a part of them is repeating a prayer over and over, the gist of which is "Oh Lord, don't let me screw this up." One part is reviewing the information that Mike found, months ago, about Theo's family being attacked and his father killed, and the additional scraps he had been able to find (even when he was traveling through Theo's home-town on the NASCAR journey in July).
And, another part is weighing the value of telling Theo that he knows. The decision is to let Theo decide if he wants Mike to know. But the USB cable goes back into his mouth, as if he were nervously chewing on it, and a heavily encrypted archive of the data Mike found, possibly including things that Theo doesn't know yet, goes up to the computer as Theo.zip … the zip has a password, technopath, and inside is a program that will decrypt the contents of the secondary archive, which is MUCH more complicated. Not that it's likely to take the Stark people that long to break it with the computers at their disposal.
"What happened with your Father, Theo?"

Fortunately for Mike, Theo's mind is both otherwise occupied, and flooded with the incoming transmissions of many different machines, so even if he were to try hard at the moment, he wouldn't be able to read much from Mike's robotic mind. "Nothing!" Theo responds quickly in defense. "I said I love him, and I care what he thinks about me. My dad would never dwell on thoughts of murder. He'd love me anyway if he knew, but that's not the point." He lets out a frustrated sigh. "How can you be sure God will forgive me?" he demands, as if suddenly Mike is being interrogated. He clearly does not want to change the subject to his family.

Mike doesn't do the Long-Suffering Gaze of Infinite Reproach, or any of the other Rashmi-developed expressions that would tell Theo that he should stop trying so very hard to hide whatever it is he's hiding. His tone of voice, though, is a a fair approximation of Infinite Patience.
"You know that answer already, Theo. You cannot know for certain that God is there, but you DO know that love forgives and that a perfect God is, among many other things, perfect love, and would therefore forgive perfectly. And you're saying that God is not going to love you for what you feel or did, but your father would have?"
No, that's not a slip. It's intentional.

Theo's face turns red at the end of the statement. "What did you say?" He caught what Mike said. He unbuttons his top shirt button. "Say that again." He moves closer to Mike, perhaps closer than is comfortable. His expression is of shock, of possible anger, of definite confusion.

With Theo that close, Mike doesn't have to speak very loud at all. "That I've known since the second week you were at Xaviers, and that I have told nobody, not even my own parents. And I'm very sorry that I haven't trusted you earlier to let you know that I knew."
Mike isn't stupid, he knows that Theo's volatile and cold blow up, but he's got everything that can be permanently damaged moved out of reach, and is willing to accept some transient catastrophe if it helps. OK. Maybe Mike _is_ stupid.

Theo doesn't blow up. He looks like he can hardly breathe. Slowly, he reaches up a hand to place it on Mike's mechanical shoulder, but then pulls back, making a fist. He then pulls one finger out of that fist, and points deliberately at the other teen. "That…was not your right," he says, his teeth clenched. The look on Theo's face says that he'd like to take the robot apart piece by piece, but perhaps because of his location, he restrains the urge. "It's not your business. It's not your problem."

The voice of patience again, "And that's why I didn't tell anyone. I investigated what was publicly available based on what you revealed and what I learned. I haven't used it against you, but with what you're asking of me now, I had to let you know what I had learned. Otherwise, I'd be lying to you."
Mike seems unfazed by the body language, but then, he's also got that 'not responding' thing down like a robot.

"Yeah, well you didn't need to be looking it up in the first place," Theo says. "I don't want people to know. I don't want my sisters to know where I am, either, so don't even think about telling them, or I'll come looking for you." The conversation has definitely taken a turn he didn't expect. "I just want to let it go away, and pretend that it never happened, and go on with what scraps are left of my life. I just need to build something new."

Mike sighs. Theo will know how deliberate that sigh is, since it's utterly unnecessary except for carrying emotion.
"I did have to be looking it up, you know what things are like there. You could've been anything. As it turns out, you were a refugee, therefore I haven't told anyone anything. But I did leave a copy of what I learned on the computer there, with heavy encryption. Includes updates from when I happened to be there. I thought you might want to know how they were doing."
He lets his actual emotions show through the inducer: not anger, but some exasperation, maybe. And concern. "I know you want to pretend it didn't happen, but that might come back to bite you. Your sisters were also part of your life, and just leaving them there? Is that what your Dad would have wanted? But building something new, yeah, I know about that, and I think you're right to try to do that. And one last thing to chew on. God works in the world through people. This is God forgiving you for not-murder and for thinking about it: you need to decide what kind of person would make your Dad proud of you, and be that person."

"My dad would be proud to know that I didn't do something that will get my remaining sisters killed. Mary has a husband, she has a life. If you're such a great detective maybe you can figure out where Rebekah is, and Abigail is probably with Mary. If I get involved in their lives again, they could be killed. I'm not going to let that happen. If I talk to them, Mary will try to take me away from the school. She's a control freak, that's just how she is. And she's a lawyer, so she'll probably succeed." He plops back into his chair. "My dad would be proud of what I'm doing here. I'm really making something of myself. I have the ear of the great Tony Stark. He's listening to things I say, a launching platform that he never had. He was every bit as smart as Stark, but he never had anyone to hear him out. So I'm gonna make it big."

Mike shrugs, but then, he's 15 even if he is a robot. And a car. "Yeah, well, I wish you all the luck in the world with that. I don't think you're as poisonous as you think you are, but remembering what bits I do from Ghost, you're probably right enough. And hell yes, your dad would be proud of you. So all the rest? Look at the info in the file, is all I can tell you."
It probably won't provide any new revelations. It has some snips from the newspaper: some sort of arts-in-the-park picnic with a shot of Mary and Abigail in the crowd; a local editorial in reaction against the rise in violence; an old police notice with descriptions of all four sisters who died, plus Theo, asking for anyone who might have seen them to come forward (that probably reads like Mary's work). There's a few random images from the area as well — really high quality digital shots of the town taken from the approach to the raceway (which isn't really that close) and some people with the name of the town on a banner so they can find each other. A shot of a bike gang, all blurry except for a clear view of the colors worn by of one of the bikers who is closer to the camera. Those people could be almost anybody.

"Yeah, well, I guess we'll see, if I grow up to be a supervillain that tries to take over the world. I guess if I succeed then I don't have anything to worry about." Theo give an ironic smile. "What would YOU do if I killed those guys?" he asks, now making it a question of Mike's own judgment.

"What would I do if you had? Probably turn you in to the police, then try to find a good lawyer to defend you. Maybe testify when they try to get you off on an insanity plea."
That's said with a grin. He shakes his head then. "Honestly, Theo? I've been so angry at some of them that I have to priority down the emotional feedback so I wouldn't kill them. I even had to split and process-kill part of my thoughts when I noticed I was figuring out how fast I would have to be moving to dislocate … someone's … shoulder and break their arm. I constantly self-censor my thoughts. It's something everyone does, to some degree, but most people don't notice it. Your dad may have done that kind of thing."

Theo frowns again. "You don't know my dad," he says, denying such a possibility. His father was his idol, not common among teenagers, but very real for this one. "That upload finished yet? I gotta find a faster way to transfer information." His mind drifts back to Kisha, knowing she had come up with something.

"No, I don't but I wish I could," Mike says gently. Then he pulls the USB cable out of his mouth. "Yeah, it was done some time back. Anyway Ghost knew how to block-transfer gigabytes at a time but he didn't tell me how, and that," Mike points to the computer, "is clearly not part of a car so I can't do it the way I know how."
Watching Theo's distracted expression Mike smiles just a little. "New girl at school?"

Theo arches his brow. "There's a several. Where to begin?" he smiles. "One though, she's probably trouble. Kisha. Another technopath I think. Either that, or she's even smarter than me, but I don't want to admit that possibility."

"Really? I'm terrified if you are willing to even consider it. Does she have a specialty?"
Mike leans forward with a "tell me all" sort of half-grin, expression. "Also is she cute?"

Theo shakes his head. "Seriously? She's pretty hot, but I dunno. She's got the personality of a 486 computer. Still, hot is a good plus, and at least there's someone that I can talk to on an intellectual level." He shrugs. "She seems to like to invent things, when I met her she was building a virtual interface for a computer using old Wiimotes."
That earns a quirked eyebrow from Mike. "OK, they have to be good for SOMETHING, right? So, other than the queen of the night being a teacher, any other disasters? And, frankly, my new school is boring boring boring. I never knew I'd be glad to be in a boring school though."

"Sounds like you miss it," Theo says. "Why'd you leave, anyway? Too good for us? Going to the big state sponsored school? Maybe I should get over there, get away from the White Bitch. I swear I'm gonna lobotomize her in her sleep if she ever tries to mess with my head."

That also earns a quirked eyebrow. "You'd never know if she had. But no, my Mom found out about the whole Sinister thing, and then how close that Magneto EMP came to killing me, and she went nonlinear. My summer plans were turned into 'Off to the ultra-low-tech retreat' until I was almost out of gas. So, she and Papa discussed it and decided I was going to stay back in Cleveland, but I talked 'em out of it, since I knew about the other place."
Now that's a piece of divine providence, as far as Mike's concerned.

"Well," Theo says, "Maybe your parents are right, you'd probably be safer anywhere away from this city. I've never seen so much crazy garbage happening my life." He begins to shut down the computer once the file is saved. "I'd give anything to go back home."

"Yeah, sometimes I would too. But I don't fit there any more, and really? I don't know if you'd fit in yours now."
He offers a fist to bump, "Thanks for taking down that design. Be sure you don't leave that zip file on, that's for you not your research guys."
Mike waits for the boss guy Bob to show up. The escort out will be fun. Hopefully they won't try to wand him down for stolen tech.

Theo stops the shut down, and pulls a flash drive from his pocket. He sticks it in the computer, and pulls of the file before deleting it. He doesn't ask for specifics. He is hesitant on the fist bump, but does acknowledge it, however half-hearted he may respond with his own fist. He's still not happy with Mike knowing about his past, but he would trust Mike with the information more than most people.

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