Drawing A Blank


kendall2_icon.gif brynn_icon.gif

Scene Title Drawing A Blank
Synopsis A pair of artists discuss art, robots, and awkward conversations.
Date May 17, 2021

The Lanthorn

The Lanthorn (an old word used for the lantern room of a lighthouse) is a Romanesque-style building constructed in 1899. Obviously it has been renovated many times over the ensuing decades, but apparently everyone who ever bought the building loved the fire pole because it still remains.

The upper level was subdivided into four small apartments at some point, perhaps in the 1980s based on the appliances within. The lower level has a massive set of windows where the old fire truck bay door once stood, the bottom half bricked over to create a wall instead of windows that touched the ground.

The front door of the building opens into a large common area that resembles a lobby, and the back half of the lower level was partitioned off into several more small apartments.

The ever-present smoke outside still casts a pall over the entire Safe Zone, and it's severely curtailed any outdoor activities. Thus limited by what one could do with their free time, it's no wonder some people might be going stir crazy.

Fortunately, Kendall is one of those perfectly content to stay indoors on his day off. Sprawled on a couch with his legs over the arm on one end like a weirdo, he's using his knees to prop up his sketchbook as he doodles.

Brynn's cane is laying on the floor next to Doodlebug's prone form, and the girl herself is sitting cross-legged on the floor with her own sketch pad spread in front of her. As is generally the case, she's a quiet companion, and if he's been watching her movements at all he can see the places where she struggles to control her finer motor skills. She has a fierce concentration when she's trying to draw something small.

There's a definite hint of frustration when she drops the pencil to the page, though. A minuscule sound of disgust escapes her while she glares at her most recent abject failure — at least, that's her own perception of the sketch.

I give up, she signs in exasperated ASL. It still doesn't look right! It's a simple pencil sketch of Doodlebug, and actually it has a ton of shading detail. For most, what she's not liking will not even be visible. But she looks up at Kendall and adds, You can't tell me that this looks anything like the work of the same person who did that, she gestures toward the massive wall-mural that takes up the entire foyer, the intricate and colourful autumn mountain countryside that was once explained is a place near their home in Canada.

At the frustrated sound coming from elsewhere in the room, Kendall looks up at Brynn. When she signs he watches carefully with a look of concentration, tinged with a brief bit of confusion as he clearly misinterprets part of it, though he seems to figure it out from context.

Sliding back to sit on the couch like a normal person, sketchpad set on the side next to him, he looks at her, then at the mural. You been having he starts it out, but realizes he doesn't know a good word. Sick? he shakes his head after that. "Seizures." He looks back at the mural and shrugs. "Well hopefully you'll…" Oh right. You be better soon? he's still learning, things aren't quite right still but it's a work in progress.

She watches his face while he talks, both for his signing and lipreading to catch what he is trying to say when he doesn't have the right one. Brynn smiles slightly, sighing. She writes down the word seizures and makes the sign for him, so he can learn it. Because that's the whole point of learning, right? But she looks at her picture of Doodlebug, wistfully looking back at the mural. I don't know if I'm ever going to get that skill back. I can't feel my right side still and … unless something big changes, I'm not going to get it back.

The petite brunette hesitates, because she's not sure how much Kendall actually knows about anything that's going on. She picks up her pencil and writes, very slowly, Can't feel that whole side. Hand doesn't always go where I want it to anymore. She looks up at him to show him what she has written. Then she adds, I can't get what's in my head on the paper anymore. It makes me angry all the time.

Kendall takes note of the correction and tries it himself a few times, since…. it might be a good word to know? "Yeesh." He rubs his jaw in consideration, then shakes his head. I can't think of how to help. What… With a sigh, he leans back on the couch, looking frustrated. Sorry, not learning fast.

When she seems to take pity on him not doing too well, he looks a little relieved. Also, since she is using a different medium to communicate, that means he can now, too. "Do you know what caused it?" He hasn't been briefed on that particular situation, it seems.

Can I see? that's a simple enough phrase to use. He gestures to her sketchbook, since she's so hung up on the quality.

Brynn hesitates and tries to figure out a short version to explain. And then she realizes he is unlikely to believe the truth and settles for, We know cause but not sure whether it can be stopped. Working on it.

Then she shrugs slightly and holds her sketch book out to him. He's more than welcome to take a look. Part of her knows none of the sketches in it are terrible, but they are not what she's used to being able to do with either her hands or her ability.

That's good, someone is working on it hopefully. What, 'I'm a robot clone' isn't good enough? In exchange for letting him snoop at her work, Kendall offers his own sketchbook if she wants, because fair's fair, after all. For the most part, his sketches look like practice on different styles, though it seems to have a heavy inspiration from comic books and manga, as if it wasn't already obvious he's a huge nerd.

"Hmm. Personally I don't see what the issue is." he comments as he look them over thoughtfully, then he blinks as he forgot to use his subtitles and she probably couldn't see him with the book in the way. "Oh sorry. They look great to me, we're always our own worst critics. Besides, isn't comparing sketches to a full wall mural already an unequal comparison?".

Brynn gives him an eloquent shrug and a facial expression that indicate both that he's right and 'but who cares about logic?!' at the same time. Then she grins ruefully. Both are my own work. Just that she's holding herself to standards that she can't meet anymore.

Paging through his sketches, she looks pretty impressed. His style reminds her of Sylvia, but there's a different flavor to it. If Sylvia were still here, you could probably work together — she drew comics. She looks up, curiosity in her gaze. Do you want to sell your work? Or is it just for fun because you like it?

It might be harder to follow that set of signs, but she tries to get across what she means with simpler gestures too, like indicating the drawings in his book and the universal 'money' with a questioning expression. She doesn't want to write on his pages.

Kendall puzzles out here words for a minute. "S-Y-L… oh, a name. Sylvia, not sure who that is. And, uh." The second one is easier to figure out.. "Asking if I'll sell my…? Wait no, uh… draw for money?"

He looks to the side at that, falling silent. "You know, before the war, when we were doing our best to keep everyone safe, we ended up in Grand Central Terminal, and a few of us decided to draw a mural in there… I added a decent sized section myself. Of course, it got blown up during the war."

He looks up at her own mural, then back towards her. She probably didn't expect to get a whole monologue for a yes or no question. "And now it's been recreated in a museum. If I did decide to sell stuff I drew, would it sell because I was a Ferryman, or because people appreciate it for what it is?"

It's a good question, and one Brynn tips her head to consider. Picking up her pencil, she picks up a piece of scrap paper to jot on it, Does it matter? She shows it to him and then takes it back to add, I draw because it's what I need to do, but what the piece says to me isn't what it may say to someone looking at it.

She shows him the words and points to the mural. What do you feel when you look at that?

When she writes on a scrap of paper, Kendall belatedly realizes he's holding her best means of talking to him and hastily hands back over her sketchbook with an apologetic look. The scrap is read, and he looks at the mural again, more contemplative than before.

"Well, since it doesn't seem to be from around here, I would guess it's from wherever you kids were spirited off to when the war started. there's a slight emphasis on 'you kids' since he knows exactly how she'll react to that, to judge by the teasing look he gives her.

"But as to what it makes me feel, personally… hm. Relaxation. Nothing dangerous happening there, it just is. But yeah, I know what you're trying to say, everyone would be different. I just don't want people to think what I draw is only worth something because of what I did."

Well, that she can understand. Brynn does wrinkle her nose and give him a disgruntled look about 'you kids' when he says it. So just use your initials or a pen name, she writes after taking back her sketch book. Long conversation with him still requires a lot of writing for her, though he's getting better with practice.

You never get to choose why people value something you make — they value it for all kinds of reasons, and if what you did is part of that for them, it's just the way it is. Brynn tilts her head and then adds, One of the things my siblings valued about my art was the fact that it could be used for camouflage. Not exactly something I was proud to be able to do.

She toys with her pencil, and then asks, What do you love about your art?

Kendall is trying, but 2 months isn't nearly enough to become even decently competent at a new language. "Yeah, I guess. Or I could deliberately draw something really bad under my name and see how much money someone would be willing to spend on it. Maybe like… a picture of a banana."

He lifts his hands up and forms them into a rectangle with his forefingers and thumbs, then spreads them apart and a black painting with a single halfway peeled banana under a spotlight fades into existence. As he widens the gap between his makeshift frame, it grows larger until it's about 3 feet wide, floating in midair. "Think I could get away with selling something that doesn't exist?"

She does ask a serious question though, and the painting disappears. "If it makes someone happy to see it, I consider it well worth the time and effort."

Brynn watches him build the illusion in midair with a wistful expression. It takes her a long minute to turn her attention back to the paper and jot down, Guess if it doesn't stick around, that would be hard. I used to use my ability for a tattoo place. It could have been a good business. If she weren't a robot who never had powers in the first place, anyway. Maybe the real Brynn will do it again.

The upwelling of tangled emotion that come with the thought is unexpected and her fingers tighten around the pencil in her hand. Forcing a faint smile to her face, she works on writing out, I'm hoping that the people working on my situation will be able to make it so I can feel the right side again, so I can at least draw the way I want, even without an ability.

No power? Using his subtitles is convenient when he wants to actually communicate with Brynn, but if he wants to get better, he can't be using it as a crutch. Why? When Kendall dropped his hands to sign, the painting faded away. "So you used to have a power, but you, uh… had a stroke or something, and now you don't have it anymore?"

Kendall is guessing now. "I think I remember you mentioning that once."

The girl huffs out a breath that might be a half-laugh. Wish it was that easy. Brynn looks up at him, as if weighing what to tell him. Real Brynn was kidnapped. I'm a copy. I know it sounds crazy. She shrugs a little. Brynn is chromakinetic. They couldn't give the copy powers. The stroke is basically a malfunction in wetware.

She pauses with an expression of resignation. Now you think I'm a schizo, right?

Kendall spends more than a few moments reading over what she wrote down, even though they're short, simple sentences. He then leans back and thinks it over, crossing his arms thoughtfully. "Well that's new. But I can't say it's-" Oh he forgot his subtitles again. "Not really the weirdest thing I've heard. Hell, I was technically dead for a month, and time travel was involved." his subtitles are even italicized for emphasis, amusingly enough. "But, uh, not sure what you mean by 'real'. You're real too, right?"

Just to make sure though, and obviously as a joke, he reaches his pencil out to poke her. Blunt end, of course, he's not a jerk. "To be fair, though, I'm the last person to ask about what is real and what isn't. Though, uh…. 'wetware'?"

Well… he doesn't seem to think she's insane. That's a start. Nibbling her lip, she tries to figure out short ways to explain. I'm some kind of organic robot. They downloaded her memories to me. The stroke was some kind of software update that went sideways, from what I understand. Gray eyes roll expressively, and Brynn writes, I don't quite get most of it – especially the why – but that's the general story.

She pauses again and then adds, I'm *real*, but… I'm not? Looking up at him, Brynn shrugs with an expression of uncertainty. In my head, I'm Brynn. But… I'm not really. I don't know what to do with it.

"Oh, a robot clone." Kendall nods as if this somehow makes perfect sense. "Like Battle Angel Alita or… hm, maybe Chii from Chobits since you aren't a fighter. Maybe operators like in Ghost in the Shell." Nerd.

"But if you're hung up on whether or not you're real, well, everything you've experienced since you were, uh…. he can't think of a non rude way to say this. "Built? Born? Created?" He shrugs his inability to describe it, forging on regardless. "…well anyway, those are your experiences, right? Not OG Brynn. I mean… unless it was within the last month, I only know you right?" he considers that foe a moment. "Yeah, I don't know her at all, huh. But I know you and consider you a friend, if that helps?"

She tips her head and stares at him. You're taking this about like any other LHK does, Brynn writes and then starts to laugh the silent giggle of hers. "oh, weird stuff? Sure thing!" Blowing out a long breath, she shrugs.

It was longer than a month ago. So no, you've never met the real Brynn Ferguson. Looking down at her drawing and the notes she's jotted, she takes a long minute with her thoughts. When she writes again and looks up at him, the note merely says, Thank you. For a whole host of things she can't really put into words right now.

You're welcome. that, at least, Kendall knows how to do. "Ssssssoooooo….." Kendall looks at her appraisingly, with a sly grin. "Aside from the, you know… er, malfunction?" probably could've phrased that better but whatever. "What's it like being a robot? Can you, I dunno, shoot lasers? Have a hidden rocket launcher? Or more like Inspector Gadget, where you have fingers that are like multi-tool functionality?" Clearly the thought of her being a robot doesn't bother him one bit.

Brynn gives him the look that every girl knows how to make when she has brothers, the one that says BOYS. Her head shakes vehemently in a 'NO' movement even as she grins, and she makes a sign that is unfamiliar and possibly not ASL. The fact that there are two separate Signing languages among the LHK is a complicating factor. Botnugget. Then she writes, I can barely control my hand enough to write. My handwriting is of a 5 year old. Of course I don't get anything cool. She pauses and tips her head. Well, I guess not entirely true. I can hear in one ear. Even though it was apparently a malfunction. Not that I understand anything I hear, but.

She pauses, then writes out, Someone came to help – said maybe we could be fixed. But if it's not before the next update, probably all of us that it happened to are gonna deactivate. It's a clinical way to say she's possibly going to die when the next software update processes, and she doesn't meet his eyes. Even the thought of it is terrifying, but she does her level best not to think too hard about it.

He has no idea what this word she signed at him is, but given her expression, it's probably something offensive. He smirks at her, then reads the next bit.

Kendall huffs out a breath at that last bit. "And how exactly is that any different from the rest of us?" He waves a hand out towards the front door. "The world is dangerous, even without things being on fire. We could all die tomorrow."

Her rueful expression conveys agreement on that front. Brynn tells him, Not wrong. Being LHK is always 'we could die tomorrow so have fun today' kind of. It's not entirely true, but the young adults that identify with the Lighthouse do have a tendency both to live interesting lives (in the Chinese curse sort of way) and to run toward danger to help whoever they can anytime the world goes sideways.

She looks down at her sketchbook and smiles slightly. Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm living her life. I don't *think* she'll blame me for any of it, but… when they bring her home, I'm probably going to leave.

Kendall knows a little of that 'run towards trouble' himself. When she drops that (non-literal) bombshell, he sighs, shaking his head doubtfully. "Well if you think that's best. I don't think anyone would chase you away though. And if the 'real Brynn'" giant blue quotation marks pop up on either side of him, fading away as he keeps talking, "…is anything like you, I doubt she would either. You're too nice for that."

He tilts his head and looks at her thoughtfully. "Maybe you can get a haircut to distinguish between the two. Uh… is that real human hair, or….?" what is even considered a polite way to talk about a very humanlike robot's body?

Brynn tugs on her long dark hair thoughtfully and makes a shruggy hands kind of movement. Pretty sure it's all organic and essentially a clone body that they've downloaded Brynn's memories to. Hence the comment earlier about wetware – apparently someone has been looking up sci-fi terms for what's happening to her. Honestly, all of the specifics of the tech are so far beyond me, they might as well be Greek, she admits.

Same. Kendall gestures to himself after that with a smirk. How work. that should be enough to get his point across. "To be honest, I'm not sure anyone really knows how their bodies work. But… if you do cut your hair, will it grow back? Will… huh. Will you grow old?" nevermind earlier Brynn was worried about not living past the next patch cycle.

She peers at him. As far as I know, clones age like normal bodies…? Now he's asking questions that go right to the heart of some of Brynn's own terrors, too. I'm a living, breathing example of the question of whether souls exist, I guess. What is a person but the sum of their memories?

"So… now we're delving into philosophical as well as spiritual questions, something else no one knows the answers to." Kendall shakes his head. Don't worry. Just live.

He hesitates after that little bit of signing, furrowing his brow as he stares at her for a moment. "A question just occurred to me but it's probably best not to ask. I might regret it on multiple levels." He forgot his subtitles again but he seems to be a little twitchy all of the sudden.

Good thing she's quite adept at lip-reading. She makes a come-on motion that clearly means 'ask it.'

"Uhh." Kendall suddenly looks really embarrassed and the next question isn't even spoken out loud. How accurate is it to everyone else? he turns red and waves at the subtitles to dissipate them almost immediately. What is he, 15?

How accurate is 'it' — Brynn looks at him blankly. She's trying to parse what he's actually asking, and the blush pretty much answers that for her. She turns a deep shade of pink as well, and struggles with several emotions that flit too quickly across her face to be identified instantly.

Okay — biological robot = Clone. As far as all tests they've done on me and the others who are having this happen, we are genetically and biologically just regular people, only without our powers. Not sure why they couldn't clone that aspect as well, but not like anyone really understands where they come from. Genetically twins except for SLC gene. Totally human girl here. The handwriting is a good bit more jerky than it was before.

She taps her pencil on the page without looking up at him, perhaps not wanting him to see anything else in her expression.

"O-oh, I see." And THAT is all that needs to be said on the matter. And yep, instant regret asking that, now it's super awkward and Kendall has NO idea what to say now.

AWK-Weird, for certain. She doesn't know how to read tone, and it takes her a minute longer before she looks up with a carefully neutral expression. She's not that great at hiding that her feelings got hurt there. After noting his body language, she offers, Well, you were doing pretty well up to there, with a weak smile. She's trying so hard to rescue him. Not like it's not something everyone probably wonders — whether I'm a fully functioning robot and all.

Someone watched Star Trek back in the day.

"I wasn't asking for… I mean, I'm not…" OK, this absolutely went sideways. "I-its not something I care about at all, I was just… curious. Yes." Oh god she probably thinks Kendall wants something from her now. "Just for the record, it doesn't matter either way!"

Well, that at least breaks some of the awkward, as she starts to giggle silently even while she blushes more. It's a long few moments and the words when she writes them are jiggling because she couldn't stop giggling while she wrote but didn't want him to just die on the spot of mortification.

I didn't think you were asking for anything, I thought you were disgusted or something. But I guess it's good to know you're not interested so I can stop wondering! She puts a big smiley face on the end of it.

Well ok, here's something slightly less awkward to talk about, though it's also not really something he wants to say out loud. Just to clear things up, it doesn't matter either way because I'm not into girls. after that silent subtitle, Kendall's gaze slides away from her uncomfortably. It was a logical conclusion to that whole conversation, right?

Of course, it didn't really occur to Kendall that there might be a different interpretation of that admission.

Enlightenment brings an easier smile to her features. They're still both very red in the face, but Brynn offers the tablet again. Now that *that's* all cleared up, wanna trade pictures and we can give each other drawing tips?

"Absolutely." and Kendall will trade with her. Let's pretend that never happened, ok?

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