A much younger version of Otto appeared in Load and Fifteen Minutes before Chaser was submitted to the publisher that ultimately accepted and published it. Here's a scene from Fifteen Minutes, in which he's being interviewed for a reality show he and a few others were hired to star in.
"Ah, so it's my turn now, eh?" Otto placed his backpack on the bed and took a look around the room. Off-white walls, beige carpet, stucco ceiling; the same as any number of other apartments he'd seen. A desk sat in the corner near a window overlooking the driveway and the street, with a mushroom chair in front of it. The chair was kind of nifty, but didn't look as if it would work well with the desk, which was quite plain – no shelves or drawers, just a flat surface facing the wall.
"Yep," Eddie said, standing in the doorway with his shoulder-mounted camera pointed at Otto. "Figured I might as well get as much supplemental stuff as I can while we're waiting for the rest of the cast to show up."
"Okay. Guess you'll want to start with an introduction, then?"
"That's a pretty good place to start, yeah."
"Well, then." Otto scratched the bald portion of his head, near the base of his frill of green hair spikes. "Uh, introduction. Okay, I'm Otto Fellatio. Not my real name, obviously; I started using it as an online handle years ago, and it kinda stuck." He shrugged. "I've been told it fits, though."
"And how old are you? You look pretty young."
"Thirteen. Well, I'll be fourteen in a few months." He unzipped his backpack and took a couple of T-shirts out, opened the tiny closet and hung them. Gotta bring my dresser. Or just get a new one. Might not be a good idea to haul too much of my stuff over here, in case this thing doesn't work out.
"How'd you get picked for the show?" Eddie said, tracking him with the camera as he returned to the backpack and pulled out a pair of cargo pants.
"Not sure, really. Shakira thinks Jack wanted us here to draw some attention away from him, and that makes sense to me."
"You're good at drawing attention, I take it?"
"Apparently. I suppose it's because of the podcasts we do in our free time. I usually find a way to bring the conversation around to sex or masturbation or something like that." He dug around in the pack, pulled out a plastic bag and hurriedly placed it on the top shelf in the closet. "My Fleshlight. You don't need to be taping that."
"Uh…okay." Eddie's eyebrows shot upward. "No offense, but that caught me a bit off guard. When I was your age, nobody I knew would ever admit to, um…"
"Punchin' their munchkins?" Otto snorted. "Life's too short for pretenses. Besides, you remember what it was like to be my age, right? Hormones raging, and all that shit. There's no way to stop it, so why not embrace it? It's not like it's destructive, or anything." He grinned. "In fact, the reason there are so many unwanted pregnancies and STDs is because too many people go out and bang the first person who'll take off their clothes for 'em instead of staying home and jerkin' it. Remember, kids, masturbation prevents abortions." He raised an eyebrow. "I need to put that on a T-shirt or bumper sticker or something. The preceding phrase is copyright 2046 by Otto Fellatio. Steal my idea and I'll sue your ass off!"
Eddie stared at him for several seconds and just blinked. "Uh…well…if Jack does want to keep the audience's attention off him, I guess he picked the right person."
"That's why I have so much fun with our podcasts. I have too much pent-up energy – and that's even before my morning coffee. And all the cups of coffee that follow it. Anyway, I gotta get all this out of my system somehow. When I grow up, I should do talk radio for a living."
"I've actually worked on a few talk shows. There's not much job security. You get fired a lot. Either the station format changes or the management just decides to replace you without warning. And radio stations haven't really been able to compete with online podcasts and blogs for years."
"Yeah, I've heard that. I wouldn't like going to work every day knowing that someone else might have already moved into my office." He shrugged. "I'd rather keep doing the podcasts with Shakira, but there's not enough money in it to make a living. We just get a few dollars from sponsors and affiliate programs."
"What else do you do to make ends meet? You had to have some way to pay the rent for your previous apartment, buy food and so on."
"I do a lot of hacking." Otto took a few of his gadgets out of the backpack and placed them on the desk, then took out his scrolltop and put it beside the other devices. Should bring my desktop unit on the next trip. "Freelance stuff. I'll write code for whoever hires me, and sometimes I troubleshoot programs that have already been written."
"Yeah, I guess that'd pay pretty well."
Otto nodded and took a few more devices from his bag. "I got my apartment because the building's owner lets me stay there rent-free as long as I code for him and his friends; I wrote all the software he's currently using in the Event Horizon, for example. And sometimes I enter gaming competitions if the prize is big enough."
"That's pretty good, given your age. How do you balance all of that with school?"
"I haven't gone to school since first grade." Otto took one more gadget from his pack, a scanner for detecting cameras and audio bugs. He swept the room with it and nodded when it only detected Eddie's camera. So far, the showrunners were keeping their promise of leaving cameras and microphones out of the bedrooms.
"Really? Wish I could've done that."
"Yeah, from everything I've heard, I haven't missed much." Otto returned the scanner to the backpack and shrugged. "Even before I dropped out, all the crap they had us do was stupid and boring. It wasn't about teaching us as much as getting us to conform – sit down, keep your back straight, keep your arms and legs in a certain position, shut your mouth and do what you're told. And not only that, but the only way to get through the day without being picked on or beat up was to be exactly like all the other kids. I got sick of that really fast."
"Huh. Your parents didn't make you go to school?"
"Well, I never knew my dad. And my mom…eh, there were things going on at home that I couldn't stand anymore. So one day I just left. Crashed at a friend's house, then moved on to another, then stayed in a shelter for a while before going somewhere else, always trying to keep a step ahead of anyone who might've been looking for me." Which no one did; once his mother learned that he wasn't lost or hurt, she hadn't exactly gone out of her way to bring him back.
He hoped that Eddie wouldn't pry about any of that. There weren't many subjects that he was unwilling to talk about, but this one was an exception.
"Hmm," Eddie said. "How did you learn to read, much less learn programming, without going to school?"
"TV, actually. I learned the basics by watching educational shows when I was really young, then one day I figured out that I could watch movies or shows with the closed-captioning on. Maybe I just had a natural aptitude for reading, because it wasn't that hard. As for learning how to program, that was something I got hooked on when I found out how video games and other software are made. I read voraciously – technical manuals, programming languages, the works. It was the most fascinating thing ever." He grinned and arched an eyebrow. "Well, until I reached puberty and the female anatomy became far more interesting."
"Yeah, that always trumps everything else, doesn't it?"
"Oh, hell yeah." Otto sighed. "I'm really gonna miss my teenage horniness when I outgrow it."
"Huh. Once I got past that stage in my life, I never really missed it. Always caused too many problems, made it hard to concentrate on anything, and just generally made life awkward as hell."
"It's a phase of your life that only happens once. I intend to milk it for all it's worth." Otto chuckled and plopped onto the mushroom chair. "Anything else you wanna know?"
Before Eddie could say anything, screeching tires and a roaring engine made both of them turn toward the window facing the street. Otto stood and hurried to the window, wondering if he was about to witness an accident.
Out on the street, a huge, battered old Ford truck with a lift kit and giant tires jumped the curb and skidded into the driveway. The engine sputtered as the driver shut it down, then the door opened. A twenty-something guy in tight jeans, a hickory shirt and a yellow baseball hat dropped to the pavement and stood for a moment, staring at the house.
Otto frowned. "Who's that hayseed?"
Eddie looked out the window and laughed softly. "That's Dale Halvorson – one of your new housemates."
Otto stared at him for a long moment, turned back to the window and watched the new arrival take a case of beer out of the truck and saunter up to the front door. Otto shook his head. "You gotta be fuckin' kidding me."
Fifteen Minutes is available as an ebook from Amazon, and there's also a print edition.