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The Real You (IC)

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Monday night in downtown Freedom City. It had rained the day before, and the pavement was still saturated with moisture. The night was overcast, and the moon and stars were obscured behind a thick cloud cover. It was spring, but it was the type of night that was chilly enough for an extra layer of clothing. Not that Rachel would have gone out without the hoodie anyway. Dressed in her favorite gray hoodie, featuring a large rodent with sunglasses on the front with the caption, "Chinchillin," and a comfortable pair of baggy jeans that were tighter at her waist than her ankles, she adjusted the strap of her messenger bag as she apprached the front door of Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair. "One. One, Two. One, Two, Four. One, Two, Four, Eight. One. One, Two..." She counted her footsteps quietly as she walked. It helped her focus on what she was doing rather than where she was. Outside. In the open. With people and cars and the sky and all the other things that made her nervous. "One, Two, Four..."

Finally, she reached the front door. She rolled up her right sleeve, and pulled off one of the 9 elastic hairbands. Pulling her hair back, she tied it off in a ponytail, then drew her sleeve down once more. She knocked once, hesitated, then knocked twice. After a second hesitation she knocked four times. "Gabe?" She glanced nervously to either side, and behind her, "You here?"

Could just hack the secur...No! He said not to!

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Gabriel Quinn, alias Tom Walker, alias Push, sat at his office desk, mulling over a pile of paperwork in front of him. He always let it pile up, then spent an all-nighter trying to work through his billing, bills, accounting...not one of his favorite weekly jobs. The office windowshades were down, and the only occupants of the garage were an old Ford and a fairly shiny Chevrolet (although the undercarriage was an absolute nightmare), so he had been expecting a quiet night. Then he heard the knock on the front door of the waiting room, and he bolted to his feet. He'd forgotten Rachel was coming for dinner!

He fairly jumped over the desk, stopping at the door of his office and dusted off his legs, straightened his shirt, patted down his hair, and tried to look somewhat professional. Which was a fairly losing effort. Telling himself to remain calm (also a losing effort), he walked out of the office and unlocked the front door. He blinked as he looked at Rachel, tilting his head, then shrugged. He hadn't really seen her out of costume before, but she was dressed very practically for the weather, and he respected that. Growing up in Gear City did breed a very solid grounding in function over form a lot of the time.

"Hey, Rache. C'mon in, I've got coffee on the boil downstairs." Although he didn't tell her it had only started percolating a few seconds ago when he tapped his commlink to start the machine...

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"Ooh. I do like coffee!" Rachel reached forward, placing her left arm around his shoulder, and hugged him. Her right arm, busy securing her bag at her side. She didn't want to jostle it too much considering what it was holding. Slipping past him through the doorway, she made her way to the table, unslung her bag from her shoulder, and rested it on a chair next to the cluttered table. "What's for dinner? I'm honestly really glad you can cook. If it doesn't have circuits or wires or electricity or anything like that I tend to be pretty bad with it. Besides, Dr. Wintersgill says I probably shouldn't be too close to open flames that often anyway."

There were papers everywhere. They all looked very interesting. She'd finished reading one of the bills laying on the top of one of the piles before she caught herself. Forcefully shutting her eyes, No. Don't read. It's not yours. Well. Okay. Read. But ask first! she admonished herself.

"Hmm, what are you working on?"

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And another victory for function over form, as Gabe noted with some amusement that she did look just as good from behind in the jeans as in the bodysuit. He blinked as she asked her question, shaking his head to focus, and shrugged.

"Eh, bills, billing, accounting work. Entrepreneurship generally means a metric ton of paperwork to get through on a regular basis, and I keep letting it pile up. Eh, I'll get through it later."

He then remembered her first question, and a wide grin spread across his face.

"Well, I was thinking a stir fry, actually. I've been eating a bit heavy recently, so I was thinking something nice and light. Chicken teriyaki sound good?"

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"Hey, are you kidding?" She smiled as she turned away from the table. She walked back over to Gabe, and wound her arms around his waist. Hey, without my boots, we are the same height after all. she smiled at her thoughts, "I'm practically on a steady diet of high-sodium foods. Teriyaki flavored Ramen is one of my favorites."

Meanwhile, she was mulling over something else about Gabe, beside his height. A few weeks ago, even the idea touching other people had been something that repulsed her greatly. Granted, she still couldn't bear contact with most people, she'd been getting better about it. She remembered briefly a time when she'd been on a mission with Ironclad and a few others. Mid-breakdown, she'd received a hug from Ironclad. Granted, the female hero was entirely encased in steel, it still seemed like personal contact. She'd welcomed it then, but that was the first time she'd actually done so, and even that was only while her psyche was on the fritz. Since then, she'd graduated to being able to shake hands in day to day life, a victory she was very proud of. Real interpersonal contact, though, she could only manage that with Gabe. What's more, she even felt drawn to him. She liked touching him. It was reassuring. It was something solid to hold on to, something familiar. She smiled at him.

"Would you like me to help? With your bills and stuff? I'm pretty good with numbers, you know." she asked him.

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Quinn rubbed the back of his head and looked at the papers, the desire to skip doing the paperwork and have someone else do it intermingled with chagrin at having his girlfriend essentially double as his accountant. Sighing, he hugged her back and placed his chin on her shoulder, murmuring.

"Well...we'll see. I won't say no, though."

He leaned his head back, looking at her, then planted one right on her lips. Taking a moment to enjoy it, the kineticist disentangled himself and motioned at the waiting room and office.

"Well, might as well start the tour before we start getting...err...distracted. Ahem. Welcome to Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair."

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Poor Rachel was just thinking about how relaxing it was to have Gabe's arms around her. How reassuring it was, how comforting it was. Then he kissed her, and everything got flipped on it's head.

Fireworks.

She was pretty sure she was seeing fireworks. Either that or hallucinating. One thing was for sure, a moment ago, she was relaxed. Now she was excited. A moment ago, she was reassured and comforted. Now now she was panicked, unnerved, even. She knew those feelings. She'd been stricken by panic attacks so severe they'd taken her breath away. But for the first time in her life, she wasn't afraid of those feelings. Because it was Gabe that was holding her, having her breath taken away was okay. Because it was Gabe that was kissing her, she actually liked all the panic and excitement she was feeling.

Outwardly, Gabe must have felt her stiffen up as every muscle in her body tightened up, screaming in sudden, beautiful protest at this new form of wonderful excitement. Then, when he didn't pull away immediately, she melted, enjoying the moment along with him.

Damn!

...the kineticist disentangled himself and motioned at the waiting room and office.

"Well, might as well start the tour before we start getting...err...distracted. Ahem. Welcome to Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair."

She clutched at his shirt for one final second as he pulled away from her, "I... Um... Tour?" She was bewildered, like a deer caught in the headlights of the old ford pickup across the room. "Gabe... I... Tou-Oh! Tour! Right!" She smiled at him, finally coming back to her senses, "Okay," She prompted, stepping toward him, holding out her hand for him to lead her by, "Lead the way!"

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Push stopped for a moment, looking at her with a brief worry that he'd done something wrong, then relaxed as she seemed to come back to her senses.

"Not much to show, but I built it myself...so yeah, I'm a bit proud of it."

He took her hand and showed her around the garage and workspaced he'd set up on the upper floor, even cracking a joke about the now-working garage door she'd fixed during her "visit" recently. For a bit he explained about the security system and the wards rigged up, only mentioning that a couple of friends had helped him with them "like a barn-raising, y'know?" when he'd built the place. It was actually fun to show her around the buisness he'd built, granted, it had taken a lot of help from his friends and AEGIS, for which he was very grateful...but it was still his Lazarus Auto and Industrial Repair.

He pushed aside the toolboxes and knelt down by the metal trapdoor, looking into the retinal scanner, typing in a few keys on the console and speaking the usual password; "Stone, passcode Anastasia", and it flipped open as it was supposed to. The kineticist backed up and extended an arm, motioning for Rachel to go right down.

"Ladies first, of course."

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"Oh, it was a retinal scanner!" Rachel said with some astonishment, "Biometrics makes sense, probably why it took me longer than a second to hack it the first time around. I'm guessing that's more AEGIS tech? Considering most of the stuff in here works like that garage door opener, I don't see where you would have gotten a retinal scanner from..." She shrugged the issue away. It was what it was. She certainly had no room to speak about him having security technology he otherwise shouldn't have.

"Ladies first, of course."

"Thanks," She smiled, and made her way into the basement of the structure. "Mmm! Smells like coffee!" she remarked when she was finally down on level ground again, looking back up as Gabe descended. "It's warmer down here," she noticed. Rachel reached down and grabbed the bottom of her hoodie, pulling it up over her head. The hoodie peeled away, revealing a gray babydoll t-shirt with a hello kitty design on it. She laid her hoodie over one of the nearby chairs. "Glad to see you got the place cleaned up," She turned, and faced him, leaning her back up against the chair, "I could have helped, you know."


Meanwhile upstairs, Rachel's bag rustled in it's place on the seat. After vibrating, and moving once or twice it sat still. Then suddenly the flap of the messenger bag was pushed open, as a small metallic object rose out of it. The light at the front of it flickered on. After three short tones, it spoke, "M.A.C. unit online. Awaiting input... Awaiting input... Awaiting input..." After a few moments it ceased speaking and simply hovered in place. Then it spoke once more. "No new input. Reverting to last User directive in log. Organizational procedure enacted." It rotated in place, observing it's surroundings. It's sensors fell on the nearby table with it's stacks and stacks disorganized papers. "Prime directive: Organize. Execute."

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Catching a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of Rachel lifting up the hoodie over her head, Push immediately turned his back, blushing furiously (not that he'd let her see), until he realized that she was already wearing a shirt under it. With a somewhat abashed look, he hastily scurried over to the coffeemaker/hot chocolate maker, pouring one cup of each, and turned holding them both with a wry smile.

"Yeah, you probably could. Sorry, two years on the run kind of breeds a bit of...well...independence. Hard to break sometimes."

He passed her the mug of coffee, leaning back with his own cocoa, and raised it in a sort-of toast.

"We drink way too much caffeine, Rache. Cheers."

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Their mugs clinked together, "Blasphemy," she claimed as she put the mug to her lips and took a big sip. She quickly pulled the mug a way, and swallowed hard, and waved her hand in front of her mouth, "Haaaooo! Hot! Hot!" After calming down she sighed, "Hoo boy. Good stuff. Should have blown on it first, though. Hope I didn't burn myself. And come on, Gabe. You know as well as I do that there's no such thing as too much Caffeine." she rolled her eyes and shook her head at the absurdity of the idea.

Taking a short walk with her mug, she gave the room a once over. "So you've got the waiting room and office upstairs. The service garage as well. And your room is on the upstairs as well? What's the basement for then? Just a sitting room? Wreck room? Doesn't look like a place where you'd let customers sit. Especially not with the biometric lock." She looked back at him from the other side of the coffee table, "Why would you lock it then? Are your coffee and cocoa maker that important?" She took a sip, a smaller one this time, "I mean I like coffee as well as the next girl, but a new coffee pot costs about $20. What else are you keeping down here?" She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, but playfully.

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Push took a slug of the cocoa, letting out a breath with a whoosh. He was rather cheered that she liked the place, although her rather apt observation that the security system was a bit excessive for what was downstairs was rather accurate. The kineticist began work on the stir-fry, slicing up some boneless chicken and onions, and replied to her first question in a jocular tone.

"You forgot the piranha traps. Those things are practically impossible to keep well-fed."

Chop-chop-chop-chop, dump into the pan, heat on, sauce in the pot...where was that bok choy?

"Actually, there's no room for a bedroom upstairs, so..." He rubbed the back of his head, somewhat embarassed. The urge to tell someone about what he'd accomplished here was just overwhelming. "Yeah, I kind of live down here. It's, well, my home. Literally, figuratively, metaphorically, sentimentally, whatever. Yeah, I know it's under a garage, but I've worked on it for a while. Bought the furniture myself, set up the heating and the AC, got a deal on insulation and...I'm rambling, sorry."

He coughed, somewhat awkwardly. Turning to leave the stir-fry simmering for a bit, he then pointed at the two doors opposite the living area, on either side of a worktable covered in odd technological bits and bobs, and a hanging map of the USA with pins stuck in it here and there. The third door beside the kitchenette didn't recieve an explanation.

"One on the left's my library, got a lot of Heinlein, H. Beam Piper, and Harry Turtledove on those shelves, a few back issues of the Freedom League's old comic books still in the plastic covers, and two of the comfiest chairs I could find. Other one on the right's just a really big storage room where I toss junk or loose car parts until I can find a use for 'em. Like I said, it's not the roomiest place in the world, but it's mine."

The kineticist rubbed the back of his head as he considered the answer to his last question, but eventually he shrugged. She already knew about Scratch (though he still wished she'd let him explain it to her, and he'd said as much quite a few times in the course of helping her get her drive for information under control), so...

"Eeeh...let's just say I've had a slight problem with supernatural crashers whenever I set up shop in an area for an extended period of time. Scratch doesn't seem to like it when I'm not on the move, and his minions tend to express his displeasure...well, violently. Still, last pack that tried to kick down the doors ended up picking one of the few times I had a superpowered houseguest over. After we threw them back to whatever stygian depths they came from, I called in a few favors and beefed up the security system. Even got some honest-to-goodness anti-magic wards set up over the whole building. As much as I like punting demons through portals, doing it when I should be having lunch just ain't right."

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Listening to Gabe go on about his workshop while he cooked was like being on an audio tour of the building. For the most part, she let him talk uninterrupted, but she did make the odd comment here and there.

"Actually, there's no room for a bedroom upstairs, so..." He rubbed the back of his head, somewhat embarassed. The urge to tell someone about what he'd accomplished here was just overwhelming. "Yeah, I kind of live down here. It's, well, my home. Literally, figuratively, metaphorically, sentimentally, whatever. Yeah, I know it's under a garage, but I've worked on it for a while. Bought the furniture myself, set up the heating and the AC, got a deal on insulation and...I'm rambling, sorry."

"Hee, you're apologizing about rambling?" She stepped into the kitchen, and leaned up against a nearby counter top. She wanted to be near him, but not in his way. "Think of who you're talking to." she smiled, and downed the rest of the coffee in her cup. "Mhmm coffee, coffee, coffee."

"One on the left's my library, got a lot of Heinlein, H. Beam Piper, and Harry Turtledove on those shelves, a few back issues of the Freedom League's old comic books still in the plastic covers, and two of the comfiest chairs I could find. Other one on the right's just a really big storage room where I toss junk or loose car parts until I can find a use for 'em. Like I said, it's not the roomiest place in the world, but it's mine."

Hmmm, pretty good collection. I'd love to see that computer, but there'll be time later. She thought. She flipped her cup into a nearby trash can, and then reached down into one of the cargo pockets on her jeans. "Hmm. Guess I left that gum upstairs in my bag." She approached him from behind, wound her arms around his midsection, laid her chin on his shoulder and gave him a brief hug. "Want to clear the coffee before I eat the food." She breathed deeply, "Which smells amazing by the way." Gabe felt a moment of hesitation on her part, then a small kiss pecked on his neck just above the collar of his shirt. She released the hug saying, "I'm going to run and grab it quickly. Be right back!"

"Eeeh...let's just say I've had a slight problem with supernatural crashers whenever I set up shop in an area for an extended period of time. Scratch doesn't seem to like it when I'm not on the move, and his minions tend to express his displeasure...well, violently. Still, last pack that tried to kick down the doors ended up picking one of the few times I had a superpowered houseguest over. After we threw them back to whatever stygian depths they came from, I called in a few favors and beefed up the security system. Even got some honest-to-goodness anti-magic wards set up over the whole building. As much as I like punting demons through portals, doing it when I should be having lunch just ain't right."

Rachel already had a foot on the bottom step of the stairs when he told her about the supernatural party crashers. She hesitated, "Wait, are we talking, Night of the Living Dead? Bram Stoker's Dracula? Or more along the lines of Howard Phillips Lovecraft squicky stuff?" She had that curious look about her but for once instead of demanding more information she settled with, "You must throw some weird parties." She smiled and shook her head.

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"Tell me about it, and they never clean up afterwards."

Push shook his head in mock despondency, taking out another pan and unwrapping a huge packet of Chinese noodles. The sauce was starting to bubble, the stir-fry mix was sizzling, and the kineticist was in his element.

"Nah, think more big fire and brimstone thugs with more hot air than brains. That's what he sends when he wants to get me moving. The H.P Lovecraft-type stuff was...elsewhere."

He coughed, clamping down hard on the memories that bubbled up, and plastered a wry smile on his face, winking at her.

"Had worse knocking on my door, but hit 'em hard and fast and they go scurrying through their portals. For all their eldrich evilness, they're usually a bit surprised by how resilient a 'mere mortal' can be. Heh. Hurry back down, this shouldn't take long to finish cooking."

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Before continuing up the stairs, Rachel raised an index finger, prepared to impart some wisdom, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. Sun Tzu." She took the steps on at a time, talking as she went, "You know, I have some stuff in my junk closet you might find handy the next time you're besieged like that. For the fiery thugs, I've got an extinguisher grenade that'll give them one nasty chemical burn, and snuff out their will to fight. For the more Lovecraftian weirdness, I've got, well let's just say the Trap from Ghost Busters isn't just Hollywood magic."

She was nearing the top of the stairs now, "I've actually got one hanging above my computer mm-Mac!" Her head had finally peaked above the entrance to the basement. There was a moment's hesitation, and then she stormed up the rest of the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her, "Bad robot! Leave that alone! No!" from the basement, Gabe could hear her yelling, followed by some odd beeping and lower strangely rhythmic conversational tones. He couldn't make out what the other speaker was saying, though. It was too muffled. "Hey! Put that down. Okay... Now eat it! .... Of course I know I haven't installed a mouth yet. It was a jok...Hey! I said stop! Don't make me flash your PRAM, buster!"

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**The following describes the scene upstairs should push venture above ground***

The scene just outside the LAIR waiting room was an odd one. Rachel was standing on one side of the table that had previously been strewn with billing information. The table itself was easily many many times more organized than it had been when Gabe had seen it only a few minutes ago. Rachel was yelling, clutching some of the bills in her hand, and waving them through the air in frustration. It was easy to see the object of her anger. A small blue robot floated across the table. it proved to be just out of reach when Rachel reached across the table with her free hand and it floated back slightly causing her fingertips to just miss it. Oddly enough, Gabe could have sworn her heard the robot make a noise like a four year old blowing raspberries at an irritated parent. The robot itself had a set of what could only be spindly arms extending from either side of it's chassis. It clutched a few of his bills in it's own hand, if you could call the pincer like manipulator a hand. "Must continue executing last user directive. Organizational procedures in effect. Please do not interrupt."

"But these papers aren't yours. You can't just... Errrgh!" She growled in frustration, "Mac! Commandlist Run: 'cmd' New User Command: Sub Routine: Clear cache of User Commands. End Sub Routine. Command, 'toTable': New User Command: Subject: Held Item. Action: Place gently on nearest surface designated 'table'. End Command. Status, 'idle', New Primary Status: Action: Null. Duration: indefinite. Abortable, true. Execute 'idle'." A few commands in, Rachel's hands had gone to her hips as the robot began to respond accordingly.

"Mac" abruptly floated rigidly just under five feet from the floor, eye level to Rachel. A drastic change from the table height it had been fluidly floating at moments earlier, "Memory Cache Cleared. Executing toTable." The robot descended slowly, and gingerly returned the documents it held neatly and gingerly to the top of the nearest stack of papers. It returned to eye level immediately after. "Executing Status 'idle'." The robot fell silent and simply floated in place.

"Ha! I win you stupid machine. Just remember, I've still got SysAdmin privelages on your a-" She'd finally spotted Gabe at the top of the stares, "Gabe! Oh no! I... I'm so sorry!" She quickly put the papers she was holding on top of the same stack Mac had deposited his on. "He just... Must have forgot to clear the..." She trailed off, staring at her feet. Throwing a sideways glance at the hovering robot she spat, "Damn it, Mac!"

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Push's eyebrows shot up as he poked his head out of the trapdoor, looking at the rather incongrous scene in his office. He'd heard the sounds of argument upstairs, and for a moment he'd been worried that one of the aforementioned eldrich abominations had broke in. Then, as he bolted for the trapdoor and started channeling energy, he noted that her voice was less panicky, and had more...consternation?

For a moment, Gabe just stared. Then he opened his mouth to say something, and closed it again. Then he opened it again. Then he facepalmed. Then he looked back at her with only a single raised eyebrow, and spoke in a very slow, very deliberate, and very dry voice.

"Rache, there is a little robot hovering over my desk. Why is there a little robot hovering over my desk?"

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Rachel crossed her hands behind her back and stared at the floor. "Because I... I made him." She looked up, her expression hopeful. "Please don't be mad. I brought him over to show you. My first attempt to create something that thinks for itself rather than just executing commands." Realizing the irony of her statement, she gave Mac a sideways glance, "Well, I didn't remove that capability. Obviously, it comes in handy. But Mac is... Let's just say he's a work in progress."

She turned to face the robot again, "Mac, status abort. Recite designation, primary functions, and capabilities."

The robots flight ceased being a rigid hover and returned to it's more active, fluid behavior. "Designation, M.A.C. Mechanical Analytic Construct. Purpose designation: aiding Rachel Geist in any activities or projects as directed. Primary functions include complete control over functional, learning, positronic processor, or brain. Sub capabilities include flight, logical deduction, and direct communication link with Rachel Geist."

"Mac, authorizedUsers.add("Gabrel Quinn");"

"Purpose designation: aiding Rachel Geist or Gabriel Quinn in any activities or projects as directed. Gabriel Quinn will need to register voice credentials for further proceedure. To begin process say, 'New user login: Gabriel Quinn.' Current status: Idle."

"There," she turned back to Gabe, a proud smile on her face, "Now you can tell him to do stuff too. I'm sorry about the papers, I... Well... At least they're sorted now..."

Screw up more why don't you, Blue? God. Hope he's not mad. Dinner's gonna be SO awkward now.

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Push tilted his head at the construct, then shrugged. He walked up the steps, keeping an eye on the tiny robot (MAC, was it?), and ruffled his papers a bit. Heh, the little guy did organize them. Quite nicely too, this'd save him some time. The kineticist stroked his chin and finally spoke.

"Eh. New user login: Gabriel Quinn."

He was actually quite flattered that she'd added him to the list of people on the little tin can. But then, he had very little idea over what he could do with the aforementioned little tin can when he still had a cleaning robot hidden somewhere that he had no idea how to operate (and when it has a plasma burner, you gotta be reeeeal careful).

"So...what are you going to do with the little guy eventually?"

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"Voice ID recognized. New User: Gabriel Quinn registered." Mac simply hovered and spoke the response to the command, awaiting further orders.

"So...what are you going to do with the little guy eventually?"

"Well," Rachel brushed an errant piece of hair away from her face, "He can help out around the house..." She smiled sheepishly. "Truthfully, I ... Didn't think about that part. I suppose when I get some more of the modifications done he'll be able to help out on patrols too. He can test my prototypes. You know. The models that I don't want to field test because I'm afraid they'll malfunction and blow off my arm or something." Rachel shrugged like that was an every day occurrence for her.

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Gabe's sole response to her comment about blowing an arm off was a raised eyebrow, and he leaned on the desk as the little robot hung in midair near it. He looked over at it, and the two exchanged a metaphorical glance. Then he smiled, ruffling the back of his hair absently, and patted the papers with one hand.

"Meh, don't worry about the papers. He's a cute little tin can, tho'."

The mutant pushed himself off of the desk, motioning for Rachel to follow him again. The smile turned a bit wry as the thought of a customer walking in and seeing the little dude shoving around papers hit him, and he jerked his head towards it.

"Better bring him down below so he doesn't scare off the customers. I do try to maintain some cover here, though judging by how many times I've had to kick out unwanted houseguests, I think that's a losing effort..."

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"Meh, don't worry about the papers. He's a cute little tin can, tho'."

"Isn't he though?" Rachel beamed, happy that Gabe wasn't angry at her. Still, perhaps she could do something nice for him later as a thank you for putting up with her antics. To further relieve the tension, she cracked a joke, "I wouldn't go pinching his cheeks, though. I'd imagine he'd hate that once I finally get his personality chip installed."

"Better bring him down below so he doesn't scare off the customers. I do try to maintain some cover here, though judging by how many times I've had to kick out unwanted houseguests, I think that's a losing effort..."

"You're right," she agreed, "Losing battle or no, it's better not to exacerbate things. Mac, follow."

The tiny robot turned toward the sound of Rachel's voice and began to float after her as she made her way down the steps. "Command received: Follow."

"This way, we can keep an eye on him. Won't cause any more trouble that way. Hope we didn't ruin dinner."

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Push's response to that worry was in a very dry and laconic tone, one of the kineticist's favorites to use in slightly awkward situations. Whether or not it was reassuring or irritating depended on the listener, but generally it was the latter.

"Hon, I've had demons kick down a hotel door when I was in the middle of my cornflakes and robots come through a restaraunt wall in the middle of lunch. Occupational hazards, heh. I don't think we'll have a problem."

He winked, leading the way down the stairs, then his head jerked up as something occurred to him.

"Wait a sec...personality chip?"

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"Hon, I've had demons kick down a hotel door when I was in the middle of my cornflakes and robots come through a restaraunt wall in the middle of lunch. Occupational hazards, heh. I don't think we'll have a problem."

"Oh good!" Either she'd missed his sarcasm, or she just didn't get it. Either way, she seemed relieved.

"Wait a sec...personality chip?"

"Oh sure!" She responded, like the reasons for a personality chip should be obvious, "First off, I really don't want to have to talk to him like I'm programing in C++ all day. That would get old real fast. Besides, won't it be fun having a real conversation with him? And how else do you expect him to learn Feng Shui?" Now it was Gabe who was left wondering if Rachel had just cracked a joke. "I'd tell you more, but I think it'd be more fun to surprise you. I'm hoping to do regular upgrades on him, with about a month or so of run time in between to make sure the hardware can properly support the additions."

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Gabe stroked his chin, pondering, as he returned to the sauce. For a moment he considered quickly flying out and finding some sake to go with the meal, oriental drink, oriental meal and all that, but decided against it. Alcohol wasn't something he indulged in frequently, with good reason.

"Huh. Have you given a thought to a personal cloaking system for...it? Him? She? Name's Mac, so probably a he."

He cocked his head to the side, then swirled the teriyaki sauce as the meat and veg in the pan sizzled. The smell of stir-fry and cookery filled the downstairs, another reason Push was so fond of the place. Whenever he made good food, it absolutely filled the room for a few hours.

"Y'know, I know these...sorry, this gadgeteer who's managed to come up with some real remarkable tech. I could introduce you to her if you like, ever heard of Ironclad?"

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