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And Then They Were Robots

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==> Be Hot Rod

Okay, first of all, the name's Rodimus. Rodimus Prime, if you wanna get technical. So frankly, this command is nonsense.

==> Be Rodimus

You are Rodimus Prime, captain of the Lost Light and general all-around badass. You've been summoned to one of the many empty rooms aboard your very large ship by the ship's psychologist, Rung. On account of a mysterious phenomenon that you're totally not freaking out about.

"Yup," you say. Nonchalantly. "Those are definitely sparks."

"You are, as ever, adept at stating the obvious," says Megatron, your 'co'-captain, recently-ex-genocidal tyrant, and general all-around asshole.

"If you have anything more constructive to suggest, feel free to share with the class."

"Given our track record with such...surprises - we should preserve them in stasis and hand them over to mechs who are actually qualified to nurture them."

You scoff at him. "How's about we ask Brainstorm about them, first."

Megatron scoffs back. "And why would our resident maniacal scientist know anything about the matter?"

Rung finally speaks. He's kinda quiet, for such an accomplished dude. "We ignited a spark field on Luna 1 during the Tyrest affair, and Brainstorm acquired a rare spark." He gestures to one of the sparks on the floor: the unmistakable electric green of a point-one-percenter. "It's possible that he took more than one while we were distracted, and has been storing them here."

"I see," says Megatron, with noticeably more respect than he ever shows you. "Would they not have already assumed their protoforms under such circumstances?"

"I'm sure that Brainstorm could've devised a way to delay the process," says Rung.

As if on cue, the green spark begins to coalesce into a cylindrical protoform. And then, rapidly, into a fully-grown Cybertronian. Surprisingly small, considering it's a point-one-percenter. But then, Minimus is tiny in his irreducible form. Another 'load bearer', maybe.

The 'bot has features that you recognize as typically belonging to people who use 'she' pronouns. (Something you're totally adjusting to with grace.) Her frame lacks any vehicle kibble. Her paint job is peculiar: grey on the legs and neck, black on the torso and helm, with a striking splash of red on her feet. There is also a curious symbol in the center of her torso that resembles a spiral galaxy.

Her optics open and activate. They are an unnerving shade of green.

"Oh geez," she says, and floats - floats! - upright. She has no visible equipment that would allow for such a feat. Is this her super special point-one-percenter thing? Is she, like, a 'floater'? She touches down on the floor, her optics falling on each of them in turn. "Um. Hi," she says.

"Hello," says Rung, cautiously.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" asks Megatron. Because he's Like That. Why would a newly-forged 'bot know how to answer those kinds of questions?

But maybe Megatron is onto something, because her expression sours slightly and she says, "My name is Jade. And I have no idea why I'm here!" Her optics are drawn to the sparks still on the floor, and her mouth drops open in surprise. She holds out her hands, and the sparks start to float up in front of her, forming a rotating, vertical ring. "But if you give me a minute, I think there's somebody here who can answer your questions."

Megatron has a look on his face. It's the 'if I still had my fusion cannon, I'd shoot you with it' face that you're becoming pretty familiar with. You're not sure if it makes you feel better or worse about this whole situation. "Are you a blacksmith?" you ask. Under normal circumstances, it would be very silly to ask a newborn something like that. But it seems relevant, somehow.

"Well, I did have to stoke a forge," she says. "So, I guess I am!" As if to prove the point, the sparks float to the far side of the room and begin to move rapidly through their stages of development, just like Jade had done. Only this time it's clear that Jade is directing the process. You have no idea how.

There are six new 'bots, in total. Three 'he's and three 'she's, by the looks of it. One of them steps forward - a minibot about Rewind's size, painted in shades of orange. She has a symbol in the same position as Jade's galaxy, only hers appears to be a stylized yellow star.

"Did somebody call for exposition?" she asks.

"Fucking fuck," says a flyer. A seeker, actually, by the looks of him. You didn't think seekers could be forged. But then, you also didn't think that sparks would manifest on the Lost Light. Or that Tyrest would go nuts. Or that Megatron would be your prisoner-slash-co-captain. So, you should probably expect the unexpected at this point.

"I concur with that sentiment." This one's a motorcycle, also with green optics. (Is this going to be a thing, now?) She exudes elegance and poise. You're not sure how that makes you feel.

"Pretty sure that's Megatron, yo," says a speedster. He's about the size you used to be, before the Matrix reformatted you. "Fuck it. Guess we're transforming robots, now."

"Aww shiiit," says a dark blue microscrope, about Perceptor's size. "That's totes Megatron. But like, from the original cartoon. Not the movies with the explosions." She turns her fuchsia optics to the 'bot beside her. "Oh em gee, Callie. You look adorbs ay eff."

The 'bot in question is the largest of the bunch. A spacecraft, you think. And yup, green optics are officially A Thing. "Thank you. You look rather fetching, yourself," he says. "But I must confess that I find this all quite disconcerting."

There's quite a bit to unpack here, and you're quickly running out of patience. "So, are you guys gonna try to kill us, or what?" They know who Megatron is. Maybe they think you're the bad guys, since he's with you.

The orange minibot gives you an arch look. "I imagine that's a fairly standard outcome for these kinds of situations. But no, we aren't." She points to the Autobrand on Megatron's torso. "Unless I'm mistaken, that symbol means that none of you are planning to engage in universal conquest."

"You are correct," says Megatron.

You resist the urge to make a snide comment about how he'd been planning to do exactly that only a year previously. But you don't think it would make a good impression on your apparently-not-homicidal guests.

"What was that you said about a cartoon?" asks Rung, which startles you. You'd honestly forgotten that he was there.

"Not sure you're ready for that info just yet," says the speedster. "It'll blow your minds. We're talkin' brains spattered on the walls, here."

"I think it should be fine, actually," says the minibot. "This iteration of their reality bears only a shallow resemblance to the stories that you and Roxy are familiar with." She turns to Rung. "We all originate from a different universe. Indeed, from an entirely different multiversal cluster. Some of our number are familiar with your species and its more notable members through narratives aimed primarily at children, presented in the medium of animation. And, if Dave's hyperbolic imagery of 'brain spattering' wasn't enough of an indication - we were all organic beings up until a few minutes ago. At least, from our subjective temporal perspectives."

"And you expect us to just take this at your word?" asks Megatron.

She gives him the barest hint of a smirk. "I don't expect you to take anyone at their word."

You can't help but laugh. "She has you there, Megs."

To Rung, she says: "But I think you may be able to corroborate our origins, if Roxy undoes the Voidy Thing."

"I was wonderin' about that," says Roxy, walking over to Rung. She faces him, holds out her hands, and closes her optics. "Someone got ya real good."

Megatron whirls on you, optics blazing. "Are you really going to let this farce proceed, Rodimus?"

"Chill," you say. "I just want to see how this plays out. Rung seems okay with it, yeah?"

"Aaaand yoink!" says Roxy, then steps back with a grin. "There ya go. Totes de-voided."

It's the strangest thing. Rung has been there this whole time - you know he has - but it almost feels like he's just arrived.

"Oh," he says, and reaches up to take off his glasses. His optics are wide.

"You remember the Game?" asks the minibot.

"I wasn't a player," Rung replies. "But I knew the players. I was...a tagalong, you could say."

"We're all players, from three interconnected session," says the spacecraft. "Though I admittedly never actually played in my own session, so I could also be classified as a 'tagalong'." To Roxy: "Perhaps we should introduce ourselves properly?"

"Oh, sure. I'm Roxy!"

"I am Calliope," says the spacecraft. "But I prefer to go by Callie."

"Rose," says the minibot.

"Kanaya Maryam," says the motorcycle. She moves closer to Rose in a decidedly protective fashion.

"I've already introduced myself!" says Jade.

"Dave Strider," says Dave.

The seeker glares, crossing his arms over his torso. "This is fucking asinine," he says.

There's a burst of green light, and Jade is suddenly beside him. So she can float and teleport. "And Mr. Grumpypants over here is Karkat."

"Firstly - in case you haven't noticed - none of us are wearing any pants! Because we're all fucking robots!" He actually sounds a bit like Starscream when he yells. Which might get very annoying, very quickly. "Secondly: I'M NOT GRUMPY, I'M FUCKING PISSED! WHICH IS A TOTALLY REASONABLE RESPONSE TO WAKING UP AS A ROBOT AFTER ALL THE SHIT WE JUST WENT THROUGH!"

"Check out those bomb-ass First Guardian powers, though," says Dave Strider. "Hot damn. Also: not in a coma or possessed. Which is pretty fucking awesome."

Karkat rounds on him. "CAN YOU NOT BE SO FUCKING COOL ABOUT THIS?!"

Dave sighs. "Hey Jade? How's about we use those hella-awesome-not-in-a-coma powers to take Karkat somewhere a little less crowded."

She sighs, too. "Yeah, okay." She gives the room a wave. "See you guys later!"

The three of them disappear in another flash of green light.

"It would seem that we're in a universe that spawned before the Green Sun was destroyed," says Rose.

"It gets destroyed?" asks Rung, sounding surprised.

"Eventually, yes," says Kanaya. "Though we do not know precisely how."

Rung rubs the back of his helm. "I'm - well, I suppose you should just call me Rung."

"And I'm Rodimus, the captain!" Megatron shoots you a dirty look, so you amend: "Fine. Co-captain. With Megatron over here."

Roxy gasps. "Rodimus Prime?"

"Technically yes," you say, puffing out your torso.

Megatron says, "The half of the Matrix in your possession was destroyed, was it not?"

"In the process of saving half of all Cybertronians," you remind him. "You're welcome, by the way."

"So this is like a whole story, huh," says Roxy. "Just one question: when you opened the Matrix for the first time, did an epic pop rock anthem start playin'?"

"What's 'poprock'?" you ask her.

"Enough of this," Megatron cuts in. "What are we going to do with them?"

"I say we let them stay, if they want," you say.

"Their arrival doesn't bode well," says Rung. "But I think they'll be instrumental in preventing the worst possible outcome."

Megatron examines Rung, frowning. "How do we know that this 'Roxy' didn't compromise you in some manner?"

"If she has, one must wonder why she stopped with me. Why not enthrall the captains of the ship, as well?"

Megatron sighs. "Very well."

Rung smiles. "I do have one condition, though. If you'll indulge me."

Chapter Text

==> Be Jade Harley

You take the boys to the outside of the ship, since you don't really know where else to go. As far as privacy is concerned, you figure the vacuum of space is a pretty good bet. You always found it peaceful, at least.

"So I guess we don't have to breathe anymore?" says Dave. "I mean, I'm pretty sure god tiers didn't technically have to breathe, but it always felt weird when I didn't. Now it's pretty much okay."

Karkat has calmed down, marginally. "Fuck Dirk," he says. "Fuck him up his waste chute with a spiky fake human dick." Dave opens his mouth to say something, but Karkat cuts him off. "And yes, I know it's called a dildo. I just think the word sounds fucking ridiculous. You don't need to keep reminding me."

"Actually I was just gonna jump aboard the 'fuck Dirk' train. I'll even put on one of those old-timey hats and sound the fucking horn. We are the Fuck Dirk Express, running nonstop to Fuck Dirk City. We don't even need any coal. We're shovelin' the metric fuckton of bullshit generated by Dirk's antics into the furnace. Choo choo, motherfuckers."

You think you may have been repressing a few things, when you first woke up. Or maybe it just took you a while to 'settle' into your new mechanical body. Dirk's name brings forth a wash of memories, from many different versions of yourself. This happened to you before, when you woke up from your coma. Before the ghost version of Calliope possessed you. But it's somehow less invasive this time. Easier to parse. You want desperately to go to Dave and Karkat and fling yourself into an embrace, but you keep your distance.

"Jade?" asks Karkat. "Oh fuck. I think it's happening again!"

You shake your head. "No. It's not her. It's just me." You think you're crying, because robots can apparently do that. Or at least, these robots can. And it reminds you too much of being Jadesprite. You promised yourself you'd never be that pathetic again. "Are you not freaking out anymore, Karkat? Because I think I actually need to be alone."

It's hard to even look at them, honestly. You remember things. They don't quite feel like you, but you still remember doing them, and it's horrible.

"I'm still definitely freaking out," says Karkat. "But I'm an adult. Just zap us back if that's what you need to do."

Your robot heart clenches with how much you love him. With how much you love both of them. And that just makes it worse.

You teleport them back inside the ship.

You teleport yourself somewhere very far away.

Chapter Text

==> Be Karkat Vantas

After Jade deposits you in some random hallway, Dave turn to you and asks: "Who the hell is 'her'?"

"How the fuck should I know?" you say. "I've still barely processed what the fuck even happened before we woke up here!"

"Yeah," says Dave. He doesn't have his shades, so you can see his eyes. They're glowing and completely red, but they're still expressive. You can see that he's hurting. "It's all completely fucked up. Like, how long has Dirk been fucking with our lives? How much of what happened was just him playing us like a game of the Sims? Oh, what's that Dave? Your fun bar is going red? Let's go watch some shitty movies!"

You know he's not really talking about his benign everyday habits. But you also know that what he's really talking about isn't a conversation you can actually have right this second. "Being betrayed by someone you care about is fucking horrible," you say. You never really cared about Dirk, if you're being honest. He was only relevant to you because of Dave. But you do know what betrayal feels like. All too fucking well. "Especially after you've given them a second chance."

"...Fuck," says Dave. "At least he didn't lock me in a fucking fridge, I guess." Which you know is a thing his Bro actually did to him, and that it really fucked him up. But it's also another reminder of Gamzee, which is just...too fucking much. For years, you've done a stellar job of not dwelling on Gamzee. You'd rather not ruin it now, when everything else is so fucked up.

Unless...it wasn't actually you moving on at all. Unless it was all just Dirk being 'helpful'. You feel another panic coming on.

"So: are you guys goodies or baddies?" says somebody, and you find yourself absurdly grateful for the interruption.

You turn around to see a robot. Because this is a spaceship full of nothing but fucking robots, apparently. This one is different from any of the others you've seen so far, though. It has no face to speak of: just a kind of eyestalk. It also has claws instead of hands.

"I think that's British for 'good guys' or 'bad guys'," says Dave.

"Yes, Dave - it was obvious from context," you grouse.

"We're good guys, obvs," says Dave. "Dude, are those guns on your tits?"

The robot narrows its - his? - eye. "Yeah. Want to see them in action?"

"Hells yeah," says Dave.

You facepalm, wondering if Dave is deliberately ignoring that this is an explicit threat, or if he's actually hoping for a fight. It's not his usual coping mechanism, but hey. Everything else is fucking weird and terrible right now. Why not this too?

"Cool," says the eyestalk robot. Then, to your surprise: "But it'll have to wait until after the meeting. I'm as disappointed as you are, trust me." He begins to walk back the way he came. "I'm Whirl, by the way. You guys should follow me, since you're new."

Honestly? You're more than happy to shelve this conversation with Dave for a time that isn't now. So you follow Whirl without even token bitching. Dave follows too.

Chapter Text

==> Be Jane Crocker

Who the hell is Jane Crocker?

==> Nickel: Remember

You wake suddenly from your recharge cycle, a surge of memory data rushing into your processor. You shoot up and pull out the recharge cable with shaking hands - something truly notable, given how steady they normally are.

There's a notification blinking on your datapad. You pick it up to find you have a text message waiting.

timaeusTestified [TT] ==> gutsyGreaser [GG]

TT: Sup.
GG: Go fuck yourself, Dirk.
TT: So you do remember. It only took you, what? Ten thousand years?
GG: Give me one good reason why I shouldn't block you.
TT: Because I'm basically omniscient, and you're insatiably curious.
GG: Maybe that's not enough, after what you did to me!
TT: I only nudged you in a direction that you were naturally inclined to go.
TT: From the perspective of this universe' linear timeline, I showed up here a couple of days ago.
TT: So I couldn't have had anything to do with you joining the robot Gestapo in a fit of xenophobic pique.
TT: That was all you, Jane. Or would you prefer to go by Nickel, a name without such unfortunate organic implications?
GG: THEY DESTROYED MY ENTIRE COLONY!!!
TT: Yeah, and the Condesce destroyed humanity as you knew it.
TT: And I know for a fact that the Black Block Consortia has some traumatic shit of their own to be bitter about.
TT: Everybody's a hero in their own narrative, and everybody's got excuses.
TT: Well, almost everybody. A few of us know better.
TT: Just to be clear: I don't actually give a shit about your quest to rid the universe of meatbags.
TT: You do you.
TT: I just think that it's time you stopped lying to yourself.

You throw the datapad across the hab suite, shattering it against the wall, then cover your face with your hands. 

Chapter Text

==> Be Vriska Serket

You're not having the best night, if you're being honest.

The last thing you remember before waking up on this incredibly shitty planet was being on an even shittier planet. You killed a clown, met a clone of yourself, watched a bunch of weird John-related clouds, trolled Terezi for the first time in forever, and then...

You're drawing a blank about what happened next.

You're also a giant robot now, you guess? You're not going to dwell on how weird that is, like some boring fucking loser. Being a troll was never super important to your sense of self, at the end of the night. You're still you, and you're still awesome, and that's all that really matters.

Even if you're not actually feeling like you're particularly awesome at the moment. It just has nothing to do with suddenly being a robot, is all.

You can see a city in the distance. Maybe you can find some food once you're there, because you're pretty sure you're hungry. Like, you keep getting an alert that you're running low on energy reserves in addition to the physical sensation of hunger. Which is weird.

You're not dwelling on it. You're not.

Anyway. You're god tier, so it's not like starving can actually kill you. But being hungry still sucks.

The city, once you reach it, is full of robots. Probably a good thing, actually, since it means you'll have an easier time finding whatever it is that robots eat. Some of them are pointing at you, which you guess is because you're flying without any wings or visible means of propulsion. And here you are, with no convenient rocket boots in your very empty sylladex. Like a chump. With a sigh, and a silent resolution to get yourself some new loot as soon as possible, you descend to the ground. You like being the center of attention, but not for stupid reasons like inexplicable god tier powers. When these suckers take notice of you for real, it's going to be because you're being amazing in a completely unmysterious fashion.

The thought doesn't fill you with nearly as much excitement as it might have done before your showdown with Lord English.

The best cure for this kind of pathetic malaise, you've found, is putting some irons in the fire. And fortune favors the bold. You boldly reach out with your powers and steal yourself some nice, juicy fortune. Your dice are another item you've lost in the transition to robothood; you'll have to settle for the passive buff to your luck stat, for now.

You keep walking, and the interest you stirred up dies down on its own. You take the opportunity to see if your other abilities are still in the cards. You successfully get into the pans of a few randos, picking up mostly surface thoughts. Though you do manage to make one big robot hit another big robot in the head. You stop to watch the ensuing fight, because one of the robots turns into a tank, while the other one turns into an armored four-wheel-device. Which you have to admit is pretty fucking cool. You wonder if you can turn into something else, as well. You'll investigate the possibility later.

The fight gets boring quickly. If there isn't at least one unstoppable monster being bombarded with fraymotifs from all conceivable fronts, then what's even the point?

Okay. So maybe SGRUB has left your expectations for combat a little too high.

You walk away, dour thoughts creeping back into your thinkpan despite yourself. You wish you had some kind of palmhusk. Though you guess it wouldn't do you any good without anybody to troll. That other planet you'd been on had been fucking horrible, but at least there'd been some familiar faces around.

There's a loud clang as something smacks into you. You look down at the responsible party - a robot with features resembling that of a stinging buzzbug.

"Wazzzpinator izzz sssorry," it says, from where it's sprawled on the ground.

"Are you, now?" you say, as a grin spreads across your face. You know that tone of voice, that body language.

It looks up at you with fear in its buggy eyes. "Pleazze don't hurt Wazzzpinator..."

"Hurt you?" you say, as you hold out a hand to help it up. "I wouldn't dream of it! You and I are going to be the best of friends!"

The universe has delivered you a grade-A sucker. It seems your luck is looking up, after all.

Chapter Text

==> Be Rose Lalonde

Ultra Magnus, the ship's third in command, accepts the co-captains' decision with a look of grim resignation, then insists on having a shipwide meeting.

Dave and Karkat arrive with a mechanoid who breaks the standard mold of Cybertronian physiology. Jade is nowhere to be seen, as you anticipated.

Kanaya hovers over you like a shadow, tense and wary. You might have attempted to reassure her that Dirk's influence in this reality is circumscribed, if you thought it would provide her with comfort. But you suspect that it would simply make things worse.

Rodimus explains the situation to the crew, omitting some details but generally sticking to the truth. He is a talented orator, though he lacks something in the way of gravitas. He ends with a proclamation of "'Til all are one!", which earns him a few snickers and eyerolls. Indeed, the only one who is at all moved by the proclamation is Roxy.

He leans over to Calliope and says, "He actually said it!"

"It is a very powerful phrase," Calliope says, indulgently.

The crew disperses, going back to their own business. They are apparently so used to the unusual that this particular incident warrants little concern.

Rodimus turns to you. "Do you know where the floaty one went?" He doesn't know you are the Seer of Light, but he has clearly surmised that you are the one who Knows Things.

"Jade is on Earth," you tell him. Which is the truth. To be precise, she's on an island in the Pacific which is very much like the one she inhabited as a child. But you doubt very much that he cares about the specifics.

"She can teleport that far?" he asks, incredulous.

"She can teleport anywhere in the universe," you tell him. "Distance isn't a factor." You don't mention that she's not the only one of you with the power to levitate. You'll save that as a fun surprise for later.

"How does that even work?"

You quirk eyebrow - eyeridge? - at him. "Convoluted shenanigans."

A grin spreads across his face. "Cool," he says.

You had a feeling that he'd appreciate brevity.

Megatron doesn't, of course, and is glowering at you. You ignore him, but only because you already have plans to speak to him privately later.

"So when are we gonna start on that mandatory therapy biz?" Roxy asks Ultra Magnus.

Karkat and Dave have come to join you, navigating through the thinning crowd. Karkat overhears Roxy's question, and comes to a dead halt. "Oh, fuck no."

Ultra Magnus frowns, probably at Karkat's profanity, but keeps his attention on Roxy. "You will have to be in contact with Rung to work out a schedule."

"Yeah, I gotta go with 'fuck no' on this one, too," says Dave. He shoots you a look. It probably wouldn't register as such to anybody else, but you have become quite adept at deciphering the nuances of non-verbal Strider communication.

"This wasn't my idea," you say. "Rung was quite insistent. Given his close association with another group of players, he is all too familiar with the deleterious psychological fallout of participating in a session."

"This is not up for negotiation," says Ultra Magnus. "You will comply so long as you remain on-board."

Karkat scowls. "And Jade just had to go and fuck off without us," he says.

"We could have them drop us off at the nearest spaceport," Dave says. "Shoot the shit with some triple-boobed aliens, or whatevs."

Karkat deflates. "It figures," he says. "There's no escaping the endless parade of bullshit that is my life. You'd think that getting stuck as a robot would mean not having to put up with the shitpanned fixation on sharing your feelings with complete fucking strangers. But no! Welcome to the Fruity Rumpus Asshole Factory, part 'fuck you' out of infinity!"

"So that's a yes on the mandatory head-shrinkage," says Dave, typically deadpan.

Kanaya finally moves away from you, walks over to Karkat, and puts a hand on his back. You suspect she'd put it on his shoulder if it didn't require quite a bit of reaching. You wonder how long it will take for Karkat's sudden increase in relative stature to register for the ex-troll himself. He looks down at her, startled.

They say nothing to each other, but Karkat visibly relaxes.

"I'm hungry," says Roxy, breaking through the awkward silence. "Let's get some energon up in this shiz."

You realize, suddenly, that you're hungry as well.

"I will escort you to the dispensary," says Ultra Magnus.

You glance back at Megatron as you leave, making sure to catch his eye.

Chapter Text

==> Megatron: receive a visitor

Being on the Lost Light has gotten you accustomed to a certain level of nonsense. There's no discipline. There's nothing resembling respect for chain of command. Your 'co'-captain - which is not even a real rank - is glib, prone to grandstanding, and vain. As vain as Starscream, in many ways, though admittedly less murderous. This is bad enough on its own, of course. But you've also had more encounters with the bizarre over the past six months than in the preceding four million years. And that's if you include the Dead Universe and your conflict with the D-Void in those millions of years. It's as if Shockwave, in his attempts to warp the nature of space and time, has fundamentally changed the structure of the universe. And the fallout has somehow landed directly in the path of the Lost Light.

But this whole matter with the hot spot on the lower levels, and the 'bots with distinctly non-Cybertronian names who claim to be from another universe? It's a new level of absurdity. And frankly, you don't have the energy to muster up much in the way of skepticism. You're feeling your age as you never have before.

If somebody had told you a year ago that the shining beacon of sanity in your life would be Ultra Magnus - that you'd actually look forward to seeing him? - you'd have laughed at them, then shot them with your fusion cannon.

You wonder, sometimes, if this is all an elaborate punishment orchestrated by Prime. Then you forcefully remind yourself that Prime, for all his brilliance, is not actually omniscient.

You hear the alert of somebody requesting access to your hab-suite. You already know who it is, because she's the only person on the ship who has taken to visiting you of their own volition. You open the door to find both Rose and Kanaya awaiting you. This is the third visit since Rose 'arrived', though this is the first time her conjunx is accompanying her.

"I'm only here to make sure she's safe," says Kanaya, noticing the expression on your face. You don't remember precisely what her original color scheme had been, but you're fairly sure she's changed it. Her frame is now mostly red, with black accents. It creates a striking contrast with her peculiarly-colored optics. "I'd have done so sooner, had I known your history."

"I will not harm her," you say. And you mean it. Perhaps the Fools' Energon is to blame; perhaps you're just tired. Whatever the cause, you find that your violent impulses have all but vanished as of late.

Her cool, wary gaze makes it clear that she isn't inclined to believe you.

"Kanaya has had traumatic experiences with people going off the rails and resorting to murder-slash-kidnapping in the past," says Rose. She's also changed her colors: she is now shades of purple and grey, and the peculiar symbol on her torso is gone. The more subdued colors suit her better, you think. "As you are so much larger than I, and have a history of violence, my assurances were insufficient."

"I certainly can't begrudge such caution," you say. Though Kanaya is hardly a large 'bot herself, so you're not certain what protection she could hope to provide. Even weakened as you are, you're fairly sure you'd have no trouble facing both of them alone. "But need I remind you that I am not the one initiating these meetings?"

Rose just gazes at you, impassive.

You sigh, cursing your own curiosity, and say, "Come in."

Your hab-suite isn't exactly set up for guests, but it has two chairs in addition to its two recharge slabs. You and Rose sit; Kanaya leans against the wall. The chair is almost comically large in comparison to Rose' tiny frame.

"Have you discovered your alt-mode?" you ask her.

"I'm a memory stick," she answers. "It's proven to be alarmingly useful, given my particular talents. A boon I could've never conceived of on my own."

"The Functionists would've classified you as 'disposable'," you tell her.

"And forbidden me from speaking, yes. Rung has been most forthcoming on the history of your species."

Rung has also been acting oddly ever since Roxy had 'stolen the void enveloping him', in Rose' words. "It's our species. Whatever you were in this other universe of yours, you are now a Cybertronian."

"I was human," she says. "From an iteration of a planet called Earth. I believe you're familiar with this universe' version of it?"

"I am." You make the words as neutral as possible.

"Oh, I'm quite aware of your attempted invasion." You try not to bristle at the word 'attempted'. "And that almost a billion humans died as a result. I'm also aware that this is merely the tip of the iceberg with regard to your crimes."

"And yet, here you are."

She pauses for a moment, considering you. "My version of Earth was bombarded by meteors that originated from the Game I was destined to play, killing all but myself and a handful of other players. Approximately seven billion died. " She'd explained this 'Game' during her first visit. On one level, it's patently ridiculous. But on another, you suppose it's not any more ridiculous than the existence of the Dead Universe. "The intent was not malicious, however. Indeed, it was an inevitable part of the process by which Paradox Space creates new universes." She gestures to Kanaya. "Kanaya's original species was likewise exterminated in the process of initializing her session. Casualties in the tens of billions." She pauses again, perhaps to give you time to process this information. You say nothing, sensing that she hasn't finished. "Leading up to our session, and eventually during it, a series of predestined mishaps led to the creation of a foe for which we weren't prepared. The culmination of this disaster was that our foe destroyed most of our universe - and the untold trillions of beings who dwelled within it." Kanaya shifts, looking uncomfortable. If Rose notices, it does not deter her. "This, moreover, was an act of malice. And yet, it was still an inevitable step in the creation of a new universe, and ultimately the result of impersonal forces.

"So you see, my perspective has by necessity become much broader. Over time, as the true scale of reality became apparent, I've found that terms like 'good' and 'bad' are no longer adequate. They are...emotional. Value judgments. I've come to use a different heuristic: that is, there are things which are 'essential', and things which are...the opposite of that."

"Irrelevant?"

"When I care to think about the appropriate term, 'doomed' more often comes to mind," she replies. "Cooperating with you is essential. That you've done 'bad' things is not in question. What matters is that you are necessary to prevent doom on an even grander scale."

What she's saying is absurd. More importantly, it's disturbing. You chose the wrong path; you know that now. But it was still a choice. You're not some unwitting agent of this 'Paradox Space' she keeps blathering on about. If the price of her acceptance is the belief that you lack agency, then you want none of it.

Still, you decide to humor her. "Let's say for the sake of argument that I don't think you're insane. What is this 'doom' we face?"

"All I will say is that it's coming from multiple fronts," she says. "I loathe to be vague, but specificity in this case will only lower our chances of success."

"And you really expect me to believe you?"

"On the contrary: I know that you won't. Not yet, anyway."

You gaze at her for a few nanokliks, trying to read something from her expression or frame language. But she gives absolutely nothing away. At length, you say: "I fought a war for four million years. Engaged in countless battles. Encountered thousands of species. And yet, in less than a decade, I've been faced with an unprecedented level of escalating absurdity. Do you suppose there's an explanation for it?"

She smiles a small, knowing smile. It isn't a warm expression. "When you get right down to it, war is rather boring. Long stretches of waiting between flourishes of activity. Even the battles are mostly just about waiting."

You consider it. "I suppose I agree."

"Well, boring things don't make for engaging stories," she says. "As such, those four million years were the out-of-focus context for the actual narrative - which is what you catalyzed with your infiltration of the Earth. You only noticed how abrupt the change was because your species is so long-lived. In contrast, I had to deal with just over a decade of relative mundanity before the shit hit the fan."

"Are you implying that this is all fictional?" As if dealing with Brainstorm's insistence on developing 'metatextual weaponry' isn't obnoxious enough. "Like those children's stories you claim existed in your universe?"

"Whether it is or isn't fictional is immaterial. The relevant takeaway here is that Paradox Space operates in a manner that resembles a narrative."

You want to maintain as detached a demeanor as she does, but you can't help but glare at her.

"You find my explanation unsatisfactory," she observes. "Do you have a superior alternative?"

"You're wasting my time," you tell her.

She takes it as the dismissal it is, and rises to her feet. "We'll speak again later," she says, in a manner which suggests she knows it for a fact. Then she exits your suite.

Kanaya moves to follow her, but lingers by the door. "I don't agree with her about reality being a narrative," she says. "But framing things in such a manner helps her to process the visions. And their implications."

"Are you trying to convince me to trust her, when you have so little trust in me?"

She sighs. "I don't really care about your opinion. But if Rose says you're essential, then you are. I just want this to be over with as quickly as possible." A very dark expression passes over her face. Pure hatred and rage. It's not directed at you, which is something of a novelty. "I have hunting to do, and this all strikes me as a distraction."

With that, she exits as well.

Chapter Text

==> Roxy: reach out

tipsyGnostalgic [TG] ==> timaeusTestified [TT]

TG: hey dirk u there
TT: Huh.
TT: At this point, I really shouldn't be surprised that you can catch me by surprise.
TT: There's probably a lesson about hubris in there, somewhere.
TT: I can't fucking fathom why you'd want to speak to me, though.
TG: i mean
TG: i am super mad at u
TG: but mostly im just rly fuckin sad
TG: and
TG: i dunno
TG: i feel responsible
TG: all the ppl i care bout were goin off the rails and i was too caught up in my own damn self 2 do anything bout it
TT: No.
TG: no what?
TT: No. You're not doing this. I'm not going to let you do this.
TG: lol hate 2 break it 2 u dirk but im p sure u could nvr control me
TG: voidy powers are hella nifty like that
TG: im not like the others
TG: i cant look at my choices and go oh shit i guess that was dirk
TG: i was just bein a shitty-ass friend all on my own
TT: That's complete bullshit. I wasn't 'going off the rails', for one thing. I was ascending.
TT: And the same thing was happening to Rose. I had it under control.
TG: no dude u were totes goin off the rails
TG: i shoulda known by then that the more ok u look on the outside the less ok u r on the inside
TG: like the way u were actin on tv was such a transparent cry 4 help
TG: i mean just look at janey
TG: she was obvs goin thru some srs shit and using her biz as a coping mechanism
TG: but i was happy so i guess i convinced myself that she was happy too
TG: her dad was still alive so she couldnt possibly b having a mental breakdown
TG: lmao im so fuckin good at lying 2 myself
TG: i know u pushed her in that direction but u probs didnt have 2 work super hard
TG: bein productive 2 hide how much shes hurting is classic janey
TT: Let me be perfectly clear, Roxy: you bear absolutely no responsibility for the choices I made.
TT: Yes, Jane was an emotional wreck. Yes, I exploited that for my own ends.
TT: There was fuckall you could have done to stop it.
TT: And, for the record? I'm not sorry.
TG: lol k
TG: if u say so
TG: btw is janey here too?
TT: Why do you think I'd know something like that?
TG: b/c rose let me in on how ur rockin the omniscience these days
TG: somethin bout u communing w/ ur splinters
TG: and how 1 of em was this creepazoid puppet man who manipulated her in2 creating the green sun
TG: i could ask rose i guess but idk
TG: talkin 2 her is kinda uncomfy rn
TG: it took me days 2 work up the balls 2 ask bout u
TT: You find it less awkward to talk to me?
TT: That's...unexpected.
TG: i dont get it either tbh
TG: everythings p fucked up
TG: anywayz
TG: janey?
TT: Fine.
TT: She's here. But she was 'born' into this world a few millennia earlier than the rest of us. At this point, she's lived much more of her life as a robot than she ever did as a human.
TT: And for most of that time, she had no idea that she'd ever been anything other than a robot.
TG: so shes not the janey i remember
TT: I'll leave that up to you to decide.
TT: Though if you'd like things to go more smoothly, you might want to call her Nickel.
TT: Let's just say that she's not fond of organic lifeforms.
TG: oh :(
TT: Her home colony was destroyed by a robophobic protection racket called the Black Block Consortia. Her conditional immortality ensured that she was the only survivor.
TT: She took it even harder than she took the aftermath of the Session.
TT: Do you still want to contact her?
TG: ye
TT: Why?
TG: same reason i contacted u
TG: b/c i love/miss her obvs
TT: If this is you trying to manipulate me into feeling guilty, it's not going to work.
TT: I'm way too anime for petty-ass mortal emotions like regret.
TG: um
TG: ok
TG: i still love u tho
TG: whether u feel bad or not
TG: just fyi

timaeusTestified [TT] is idle.