The machine only ever worked once.
It was in the late afternoon. Sans had been tinkering with it on and off during the day, long past the point of ever expecting it to work, but not quite at the point of just giving up and throwing a tarp over it for the next ten years to gather dust. Working on it was more akin to a nervous twitch than trying to get some progress going.
So when he absentmindedly twisted two wire-ends together he was completely unprepared when the whole thing suddenly powered up.
The sudden buzz of magic startled him so bad he jumped away from the open casing, his feet getting tangled up in some tubing and his own slippers, causing him to land flat on his coccyx. And still the machine built up power.
Lights were flashing, faster and more frantically, as the hum grew to a loud and steady whine, approaching a whistle. Sans was suddenly hit with a mental image of the thing exploding, here, directly beneath their house, where Papyrus was busy making notes in his puzzle book.
Sans hissed several curses as he sprung forward, arm outstretched as he slammed the very large, shiny red button on the thing’s main control panel just as its magical build up reached a frenzy and long white arcs of energy crackled around it.
There was a sudden drop in sound, a low, drawn out tone, and then a burst of light and a sound Sans wouldn’t have been able to describe beyond ‘loud’.
He felt himself hurtling, as if he was still reaching to hit the power switch, but he kept falling and falling, seemingly refusing to hit the ground. He couldn’t tell if the burst of light had temporarily blinded him, or if he really was in some all encompassing dark void. The sensation of tumbling over himself endlessly was making his non-existent stomach turn, and he started wondering if throwing up would rob the moment of the gravitas it was going for.
Luckily before he could make up his mind, his feet landed on solid ground, rather than his head as he’d been anticipating. He stumbled several steps forward to try and keep his balance, noting the squeak of his rubber soles on what must have been a tiled floor. Light and colour gradually returned to the world. Well… light did, at least. The endless void slowly folded itself away, replaced with the indoors of a brightly lit, white area that appeared sterile like a hospital.
Sans finally managed to slow his drunken stumbling to a stop. He stood, panting with both panic and sudden exhaustion. His magic felt frayed at the edges, and although there was nothing to see, it felt as if energy was crackling off of him, tearing away at his magic as it did so like a finger would pick at lint in a pocket.
The hum of magic faded away and the only sound left was Sans’ heavy breathing as he looked around, trying to figure out where exactly he was. A hospital? No. No he recognised this, but only barely. It was a lab. The labs. The ones in Hotland that were no longer used. The ones sealed off that even Alphys stayed away from and which hadn’t been opened in decades. But here they were. Bright. Clean. Used.
Sans wondered where he’d been flung. Were these really the Hotland labs? If the machine had merely warped him there, they wouldn’t be this clean or ‘in-use’ looking. So what then? Somewhere else in Hotland? Somewhere else entirely? Where was he? A ripple of fear ran through him. When was he?
The room he was in was square shaped, with white walls and tiles floor, fluorescent lights making everything so bright it almost hurt to look at. Around his feet lay coiled tubing, but not ones he recognised. He followed them with his eyes, turning to look behind him, and nearly choked.
Behind him was the void he’d just fallen through. It stretched out behind him seemingly forever. But far in its distance, further than between the peaks of Snowdin forest, he could make out a point of light that looked familiar. His own basement. The void yawned just at the edges of him, as if allowing him to see this room beyond it, but not leaving him enough for him to actually step into it properly. The darkness just at his heels, no matter how he stepped or shifted. He wasn’t really in this new reality. Not completely.
He turned back to it, now with a curious frown. Why was he here? Or rather ‘almost’ here? It seemed too specific a location to just be by chance. If it was anyone else he’d have believed it, but not for him. Not with his history. Apart from the coils, the rest of the room was filled with what looked like giant computer RAM units. Well cared for and blinking their lights in rapid succession. He could hear the blowing air as they tried to cool themselves from an apparent spike in processing power.
Before Sans could wonder if this had anything to do with his own machine’s misfire, a figure rounded one of the towers closest to him. Sans’ eyelights snapped to it, his nerves too shot and his magic too raw to try and hide his defensiveness behind a masked smile.
He wasn’t sure what kind of threat his imagination has wanted him to picture, but it was lightyears away from what was standing in front of him. Sans’ shoulders sagged in open disbelief, his frown dropping away as he just gaped at the other person.
“huh,” said the skeleton in front of him, staring back with round, surprised eyelights. “uh… so… this is new…”
Sans had no way of responding to that other than to stare. His hands, operating on auto-pilot, found his hoodie pockets, mirroring the other person’s pose as they both seemed at a loss for words.
“so…” the other skeleton recovered first, breaking out into a lazy but strained sounding chuckle. “i’m guessin’ ya got the thing working on your end too, huh?”
Sans couldn’t think of anything else to do but nod. “wait… no.” he shook his head. “no wait! i was just messing around with it and it…. it turned on.” He gave a slightly delirious grin. “gonna guess whatever just happened… wasn’t really supposed to.”
“huh weird.” The other skeleton said, taking a tentative step closer to Sans. They were wearing a white lab coat several sizes too big for them over a blue hoodie that’d been zipped up. Black shorts. White socks. A pair of well-loved sneakers. A perfect mirror image. And by the lazy but guarded smile and tension they held in their shoulders, it seemed like the clothes weren’t the only resemblance.
And yet they looked tired. That would not have been different if it was not the complete opposite of the constant weariness Sans felt in his bones. His doppleganger’s eyes shone with purpose, interest, and seemed dragged down by fatigue. Overwork.
“so…. sans?” the other skeleton asked, quirking a brow.
“sans.” Sans nodded.
The other Sans chuckled, a little easier than before. “weird…”