The Return of Talking Time

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Old 05-04-2017, 11:03 PM
Volt Alessandro Arcade's Avatar
Volt Alessandro Arcade Volt Alessandro Arcade is offline
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----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 291: "One Last Look Around Miranda City":



I'd spent a lot of time in the Underground by now. According to my instruments it's been a few months. Frisk has had a while to think about finishing the "game". I'd come to the conclusion it would be any day now that they'd try do so. I had to be there to make sure it went well.
I'd grown to like it here, but I knew I'd have to let go of my attachment to it eventually. It really was hard to let go.


But after all this time...the lifetime...the many lifetimes I'd come to Fontraile...
I was hurt. Really hurt by them. Even my own family didn't have time for me. Maybe I was blind to something and maybe I did take it too personally. But really...maybe they were the ones who took it too far, not me. They all know what kind of life I live. What being an immortal space-time-dimension traveler entails.


I'd blown off steam a long time ago.


I should at least give them another chance before "The End".


Yet...why was it...that when I tried to reflect on it...I felt...?


I took the Delorean back to town, but I kept it hovering high enough so I could slip in and do some reconnaisance. If I was back in town, I wasn't going to tell anybody. I wasn't about to walk face first into an act, if everyone was in on the secret Asriel was keeping.


How had my suspicions on my family and friends grown so much? This...had to be part of Madam Fate's scheme somehow. I'd had my life toyed with in similar methods in the past either through her mischief or through the proxy of the Council...sometimes even directly through...him. I'd name dropped Adonis several times during the course of this collection of logs. Why be subtle about it, now?


I was taking after Vi, too much, using this many resources to listen and look in on them from afar. I filtered the conversations for any mention of me. Time passed and I had nothing. Lack of evidence is frustrating. And really...what I was doing wasn't healthy or particularly ethical. Definitely in bad taste. I was disgusted with myself...I was becoming Al Dente. I knew it but I still went through with it, accepting the consequences. Wasn't I owed at least an explanation, though?


When nothing turned up by the end of the day, I gave up the long-range method. I would have at least wished to catch an instance of my own twin daughters say "when is Daddy coming home"? It didn't look good.


This much time. My crew at least had to know I left on bad terms. I wasn't exactly expecting them to have comfort or apolgies ready should I make my presence known. But...someone should at least try to resolve this, right?


A day or two passed and I'd wandered around, with the Hazard Card still active. Back in the Underground, I did this same proceedure as a social experiment and gotten numerous instances of people, especially the Boss Monsters, talking about me and wondering when I'd return. Here...I couldn't even find one person who even said my name just offhandedly. Yeah. I think I'd fallen about into the same psychological pit as Alphys.


I watched Bunnie spend so much time with Asriel. It was like he didn't even notice I was gone. I'd already practically accused her of stealing away our friendship. I wanted to apologize for it...but not if I wasn't going to get an apology in return. For all the loyalty she'd shown me...did she really just trade it in for the loyalty to the active UCIAT commander? I wasn't going to hate Miles for that, even if it was true. I sure wasn't going to hate Asriel for forgetting me so easily. How did I really feel about Bunnie at this point?


"So you've returned."


Oh. Right. NInja with psychic powers.


"I'm not expecting a Hello from you." I said as I yanked the card.


"You remain as bitter as when you left."


"And you remain as beligerant as when I last saw you." I wasn't imagining her tone. She was DEFINITELY attempting to keep me away.


"Is that all you have to say for yourself?"


"I was hoping to grant you mercy, but I can see it would be wasted."


"Again, you remain blind to what you don't understand."


"Yeah. I do. Funny how someone who doesn't have psychic powers just can't pry the understanding out of the other person's head. But they can do the same to you."


"You would dare imply such a thing?"


"I'm just stating the facts. Why don't we discuss if Goat Son has any desire to see me?"


"You need not concern yourself with that."


"So that's how it is."


"After all this...how do you really feel?"


I tightened my fist and turned away.


"I can't feel...ANYTHING." I walked away from her making sure I deliberately turned my back on her. The same way she turned her back on me.


"VOLT!"


"At least you had the decency not to call me Commander. Don't bother telling Miles I was here. Furthermore...if you mention anything about this conversation to Asriel..."


"You are in no position to make demands."


"Am I?"


I turned, my hands crackling with electricity. Her nanites made her frighteningly more vulnerable to electricity than anyone else in town. All it would take is one jolt and her pain would be as excruciating as my own. But...no. She wasn't worth it.


"I never would have imagined you'd decide his path. I guess if his home world is going to lose a prince, it's going to gain a time-traveller."


I stormed off and took the Time Machine back to the Underground.


"...he was here, wasn't he?"


"He was."


Asriel looked off to the side.


"It's for his own good. And ours. It will work out in the end."


"Just a little longer..."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 292: "Back to New Home"



My mood was shot. I was in no shape to be attempting this. This was a mistake. It was a mistake and I was making it willingly.


What's left to say. I'd finally gotten word that Frisk had chosen to finish what they started.


I wanted to join them in just to encourage them and alleviate any anxiety before meeting Asgore.


I had so many questions I wanted to ask them afterward.


"How many Frisks were there before you? How many times did you reincarnate? Did Chara-Wraith really collect the souls of other Frisk incarnations? They hadn't collected the previous Genocide Frisk's soul. But why the sudden change to a Pacifist Frisk without explanation if it WAS the same soul?"


But mostly...


"Why so many resets?"


I had used the Save Marker as a Homing Beacon. It auto-programmed the Time Circuits to arrive at that point, outside of New Home.


As soon as I had landed in the Underground again...I sent the Time Machine back to the X-Vault. The only way back now was if I went crawling back to S.T.C. and requested the techs beam me out of there.


Kommand had gone silent. I had no more lifelines. Nothing but my own immortality to fall back on.


"Why did it come to this?"


I was ready to make the Underground...and perhaps the surface world my new home. The True Pacifist ending awaited.


I went back inside New Home. I should have taken a load off. I should have cleared my head. Wow. Getting pretty self-absorbed, Volt.


Just one more sentence starting with "I" and you could safely consider your ego out of control. Think about the bigger picture.


I headed for the basement...and noticed the locks on the chain had been undone. That meant...


"Oh crap...when did Frisk get here?"


Frisk had a headstart. And I let it happen. If I had never returned to Miranda City and confirmed I was forgotten and thrown away like trash...I could have been here ahead of them.


I couldn't leave it up to chance. If Madam Fate tampered with the plan somehow, this Pacifist Ending chould somehow be aborted. It was just the kind of thing she'd do for her own amusement. Not for any grand purpose of reason that mortals understood. No. It was pretty much the same as why Lord Beerus destroyed entire worlds on a whim. That's what Gods of Destruction do. There's no logic to be found, no wisdom to behold; and no reason it had to happen.


"Frisk, damn it! Don't you dare do something stupid! Asgore, don't you dare strike them down or let them strike you down!"


I wasn't expecting any calls from the other Boss Monsters. Should I have? No...this would happen only after the reload and afte Frisk visited the True Lab...and got that strange message from.......someone before the Elevator made its last stop.


Dashing down the corridors drew serious wind; that is it would easily mean being out of breath by the time the doors opened up into the path to the Judgement Hall. I paid no attention to the monsters who were telling Asriel's tale. If anything, their story was making things worse.
It was like getting salted rubbed in the wound.


The paths up and down and around the walkways and towers of the Castle finally led to that one place. Every time I'd come down this way, it would be empty.


Just my luck. Now was the first time it wouldn't be. For there he was...in my way.


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 293: "The Judgement Hall":



Sans.


After all the times I came through here...there he was.


"So--"


"You know. It was a fun ride."


"Don't tell me you're giving up--"


"Shhh. I'm talking here. We'll get to that soon enough. Why don't you get comfy...or don't."


"Sans. The human--"


"...will be fine on their own. But uh...that issue that you're implying will be addressed. They've certainly had their fun. Playing around with this world like a big sandbox...meeting and greeing...sometimes defeating us."


Okay. He was definitely hinting at the other timelines...that last crack was most assuredly about the genocide runs.


"So you're just going to stand here and--" THen it hit me what he said.


"...You've already judged them. Then went ahead to Asgore."


"Hey, give the wolf a prize."


"Must you be a jokester about everything?"


"It takes practically no effort to make a joke about the world. And hey, no one spares effort as much as me."


"Well if that's the case, I'll be on my way--"


"No. I don't think you will."


"Excuse me?"


"What, you fart or something?"


"Hilarous."


"Let's cut the crap. I appreciate that you kept the old lady behind the door happy and you certainly put Paps in good spirits. And while you did fight Undyne, you did at least save that armless kid so. And then there's the Royal Scientist. On top of that you cheered up the King so. I guess you didn't gain any LV."


"Am I being judged?"


"Call it what you will."


"I've met the requirements for--"


"Hold on a minute. You have, however been putting on quite an act. Got a lot of people wrapped around your finger."


"Now hold on--!"


"Hold onto what? There's nothing in this hall to grab."


"Sans..."


"Getting to the point." Sans finally stopped with the jokes. "How should I approach a time-traveller?"


Ohhhh. Smart skelly.


"I didn't come here to cause trouble."


"And yet so much trouble has gone on around here."


"Hey. If I hadn't intervened, we'd be down a Royal Scientist, and I'm pretty sure the a lot of boss monsters--your brother included--would be dust right about now and Chara would...!"


"Yeah, let's talk about the brat. She seems to be missing. Word is...you took her off world and disposed of her. What a pal, huh?"


"Sans, I know you're not being vindictive. Do you really carry that much of a grudge for them?"


"After so many timelines dealing with her...him...them...it's hard not to care anymore."


I narrowed my eyes.


"What do you want from me, Sans? I'm an over-glorified librarian for an agency, trying to do the right thing, despite them being content with me watching grass all day and erasing the night a senator got caught with lipstick on his collar; and it wasn't his wife's."


"But you have been abusing the timeline just as much as the kid. For selfish reasons, right?"


"You don't know what you're talking about--"


"How's the little goat?"


"!!!"


"And before you answer, I'm not going to accept that you did this all for him. Maybe you did and maybe you didn't. You still took someone out of his timeline and left everyone else to die. That's kind of a dick move.


Still...who'd thought that you've been caring for the Prince of All Monsters all this time?"


"Did you learn about this from Gaster? You know you're a real soft spot wound for him. I wonder if he's the same for you?


"Wrong thing to say."


"So. What. You going to lecture me on how I shouldn't try to save anyone if I can't save everyone? I think you have me confused for a god. I have limits. I acted within the boundaries of what I could do given a timeline that was coming to an end. I. Saved. SOMEONE."


"Maybe you shouldn't have saved anyone."


"WHAT?"


"I did say maybe. It would have been a choice. You could have made it."


"You've been talking to the other Sanses in the other timelines...and I'm not even sure how you did it."


What he implied about not saving anyone...this stunk of Geno Sans' timeline. Was he really prepared to conclude that there was no better way to save Papyrus than by letting it all come to an end? Finally putting an end to the resets? No. I wasn't about to hear this crap!


"Timelines shifting to the left...and to the right. ANd then all of a sudden it all just comes to an end."


"Don't. Just don't." I pointed at him. "Don't you dare say this is my fault."


"No. But you're still an anomaly. You still don't belong on this world."


"So this is your reasoning for distrusting me? Because I'm a time-traveller who saved a child's life and raised him somewhere else? I'm here on the authority of an organization that's been established for a lot longer than you can fathom. On whose authority do you think you can pass judgement on me?"


"You. The weed. And the kid have things to answer for."


I wrinkled my snoot. "You were never kidding when you said they'd be dead where they stand. What a friend you've been to the eighth fallen child."


Sans closed his eye sockets. "Now that hurts. Really, it does."


"What about you, Sans? What do you have to answer for? Who made you judge, jury, an executioner?"


"We gotta accept the roles we were given. Otherwise we'll just break the game, won't we?"


"You had the gall to say I didn't save everybody. Yet, where were you all those times that Chara-Wraith had the kid kill the keeper of the ruins...or Undyne...or even Papyrus. Wasn't it in YOUR power to stop them?"


Sans opened his eye sockets. They were completely empty; the tiny light dot pupils unable to be found. It was creepy as Hell.


"What I've done or failed to do isn't up for debate."


"We both feel our sins crawling up our backs, don't we? How sickening. A sinner judging a sinner and vice-versa."


I was filling with rage over this.


"You're making a mistake. You know the rules of a Pacifist Run. Chara broke those rules. Are you going to do the same?"


"Whose rules are you breaking, time-traveller?"


"We're just going to keep turning this around on each other until someone concedes, aren't we?"


I narrowed my eyes.


"If this were a genocide timeline, what you're trying to provoke me into would leave you too tired out to face Chara. Speaking of...she had things to say about the time she escaped the King's Castle and when she snuck aboard the Delorean. I don't even have to ask how your battle went."


Sans continued to stare holes in me with his non-existent eyes.


"So where does this leave us? You know how the script goes from seeing the other timelines. You know that--"


"That's where your wrong. No one's going to show. It's going to be the kid and Asgore. One dies the other goes on. They're not going to show up until the kid loads their save data after crossing the barrier. They'll try to get a better ending out of it and jump start Undyne and Alphys' dating."


"That always bugged me about you, Sans. How not just self-aware but super-aware you are. You know exactly what this world is."


"Won't deny it."


"Sans...do you know how many times the "brat" as you call her has been reincarnated throughout the timelines of this AU? How many times the prince has been recycled into it. How many times you and everyone else have just been copied into and randomized to almost unnoticeable degrees every time the world is recreated around you?"


"I could give you an estimation if I felt like it."


"That doesn't count for something?"


"They'll have their day. Somehow they'll have their day."


"I'm not about to let you get in the way of my job, Sans."


"It seems to have escaped you that I'm a sentry. I have a job to do, too."


"We're really doing this?"


Sans opened his eyes a second time. There was the blue glow in the left socket--!


Then I felt i in the core of my being as I saw a large blue heart over my chest..and then I felt myself being tossed and thrown in every direction with each wave of Sans' arm.


I was taken by surprise but I was quick enough to react to the walls, floor, and ceiling of bone-spikes before unceremoniously lifted up and telekinetically dragged through a tunnel of bones all around me. Immediately afterward I heard the unmistakeable sound of Gaster Blasters charging up. I got to dodging like a mad-man, narrowly escaping massive shafts of plasma lasers in FOURS.
I dropped to the floor in an ugly belly-flop splash.


A groan and I looked up.


"So that's how it is, is it?"


"The fact is, buddy...I just don't like you meddling around in our world. So with all due respect...you're just not welcome here."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 294: "Volt Arcade vs. Sans the Skeleton":



"The secret life of Comic Sans." I sneered. "What Papyrus doesn't know doesn't hurt him, does it?"


"Low blows don't help your case."


"I'd tell you not to do this, but you won't stop, will you? Why don't you tell me what position you REALLY hold in Asgore's ranks?"


"Clever, aren't you?" Sans stood directly over me.


"Just being here in the time stream, trying to get you your happy ending bugs you that much?"


"You say that but I don't really have any motivation to let you prove it. It's easier to just eliminate you and remove all the complications from this timeline."


"You're really willing to bet removing me will improve your chances to make it out. You gave up on trying to go back. And going to the surface just doesn't appeal to you any more, does it?"


I narrowed my eyes.


"Even if you do...you'll just end up right back here without any memory of it. Or that's the case for everyone else. But you're different. You remember. You remember everything. Does it come to you in nightmares or is it in your conscious memory?"


"Wow. YOu've been here before, haven't you? Funny...I'd think even with the resets, I'd remember you being here. Which leads me to believe...you've seen the other Sanses. You've been to the other universes."


"Just the one that started it all."


"Well. That's enough for me." Sans closed his eye sockets. "Your journey ends here--"


In that moment, while he wasn't paying attention. I winged what dropped out of my sleeve into my hand. It burst in mid-air releasing an oily compound that completely covered him. How's that for an "Ink Sans"?


"Jeeze, guy. I appreciate a practical joke as much as the next comedian, but I don't think that action is going to save you here. You also ruined my hoodie parka. If that was your idea of a first attack, it's not very impressive."


"But it got the job done. That compound is pretty hard to clean out on the fly. But I guess it's what's mixed in that's the real danger. Ask yourself...how many iron filings went into mixing that compound?"


"Huh...?"


"Do you think the mixture is enough to make a skeleton...very ferro-magnetic?"


"!!!"


"My turn."


I suddenly cranked up my magnetism and yanked Sans off his slipper-wearing feet and hurled him into the very wall he tried to smash me into. I could see his eye light up and I felt an opposing force try to cancel my magnesis. He just barely saved himself from a hard impact, as I suddenly reversed direction and slammed him again and again toward the ceiling, floor, and walls. Each time he managed to repulse his momentum before impact. Just the same as I had done with my soul.


After the last attempt, I tried to hold him still but in that moment he teleported to a different spot. The ferro-kinetic coating made it easy to sense where he'd reappear.


"Wow. I didn't peg your for the revenge-seeking type."


"You're not the only one who can't afford not to care. Whether or not I have a home to get back to, I made a vow to keep the prince alive and well. But most of all I intend to make sure he has a home to come back to some day. And that means getting you all to the surface."


"I want to believe it. Really I do. But talk is cheap. And you've kinda pissed me off."


The Gaster Blasters came out again.


I retaliated with the XBTOCLC's. My shots met air as he teleported out of the way. I wasn't a teleporter so I had to use different method.


"What? Did you really think--"


"That you were going to just stand there and take it? No. I'm not that naive. But you're not dealing with a human child armed with the Real Knife."


"You keep trying to convince me you're here for everyone's benefit."


"I never put it like that. I'm here to try to keep things the way they were meant to be. Chara's interference--" I started as I blasted the bone attacks out of the way. As much as I was fighting back I had no intention of turning Sans to dust. Even if he was pushing me to think he deserved it. But he didn't. I just couldn't get through to him. I guess for experts on time and space...we were just never going to understand each other any time soon.


"I won't deny they screwed things up for everybody. But you interfering...poking the demon brat. Have you really done the right thing? Have you really made things better?"


"What do you want from me, Sans? I did the best I could!"


I dodged the walls of bones and dove through the gaps in them. If I was having this much trouble playing keep-away from the bones and the blasters, how did Frisk manage it in the Genocide runs?


"How much did it torture you to fake it, eating Paps' spaghetti?"


"You mean like the human did?"


"Again...I appreciate that you humored Paps and kept him cheered up and all. I'm glad you spared Undyne and kept Alphys out of trouble. You were even there for the King."


Sans didn't mention Toriel. He still hadn't met her (face to face). That was still on track.


"Let's face it. Your mission is a failure. You didn't save the kid's life. You stole it."


His words echoed of Hideo Kuze. Was I really reflexively making a comparison to Ghost in the Shell at this point?


"Tell me, Sans. Did Asgore do his own dirty work...it did he delegate the harvest of human souls to someone else?"


"That's a serious accusation."


"They'd be dead where they stand, comedian?"


The bones were hard to dodge by this point, and I was most certainly in a handicap match; I couldn't score a direct hit on Sans or he'd be dust. I wasn't about to ruin this Pacifist Run. Frisk had come so far and I wasn't about to take that away from them or the Monsters.


By this time it was becoming a war of twisting time and space. It almost seemed like Sans was chopping up time itself; putting me in between his different patterns...almost like a Wario Ware game.


I was also getting severely pissed off. Both of us were running out of time. I estimated that within a span of 10 minutes or so, Sans would be tiring out. It was hard enough to pull my punches. It would become all to easy to land a death blow on him if this went in a bad direction. I wonder how long he could keep "Skele-porting".


"You've done many things that I don't agree to. But you know what the thing is that I can't afford to let slide most?"


"Enlighten me." I seethed.


"You reek of...him."


Gaster?


"So you and W. D. Gaster do have history. What's the connection, Sans? What's the official canon?"


"Uh-uh-uh. You don't get spoilers."


So the feeling was mutual. No one was going to answer the mystery of the previous Royal Scientist.


"What gets my goat is that you found the prince in his company."


"So what?" I was grinding my teeth and fangs.


"Buddy chum pal friend buddy pal chum bud friend fella brother amigo pal buddy friend chummy chum chum pal--"


"Skip whichever Sans you're channeling and get to the point." I roared as I plastered the field around him with lightning bolts. "But I'm warning you. I'm really trying to keep Papyrus from becoming and only brother. You push me and you're not gonna like what happens next."


"You like turning things around on people, don't you?" By this point Sans was blinking us both out of time and space and right back into it at different points. It was like he was loading save states all throughout the battle and putting me in attack barrages that didn't or shouldn't exist.


"For all your hatred for Gaster...you should hate yourself for how much you're acting like him."


"That's not funny." Sans glowered as I electro-morphed and spiraled around a Gaster Blaster laser.


"If it's not true, why are you trying so hard to extinguish the last hope to give Monsters a happy ending? Do you think Monsters DESERVE to be stuck in this prison? You may not care about going to the surface, but for you to steal that dream away from everyone else? You're no better that W. D. Gaster!"


"This isn't about Gaster. This is about you, the Brat, and the Flower."


"You certainly caused Flowey his fair share of resets. How much do you know about--"


"If I had known the weed was the prince all along...if I had known he'd been with Gaster all that time? Well...I guess I'd have to make sure they both got dunked on--"


At that my temper soared into the stratosphere and I snapped.


"YOU LAY A BONE ON HIM AND I'LL--!!!"


There was the sound of a deafening thunderclap as I nearly ignited the air itself and electromorphed like I had never done before.


"!!!!!!"


Sans was completely caught off guard.


FIrst I saw white...then I saw red.


I landed and whirled. Sans dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. This had never happened before. What had I done?


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 295: "The Final Meeting with Asgore":



"Sans...stop this. I don't want to fight but I can't make it any clearer than I have if you still press this."


Sans was still stunned by the hair-line slice across the jowel of his skull. Red peeked out from it.


My scanner glass was reading 0.9 HP. I had done a tenth of a point of damage to him.


Sans sighed.


"You're really serious about this, aren't you?"


"If you don't move you're going to end up failing Asgore as a sentry and...well, whatever real purpose you serve here. Whatever you've hidden from Papyrus."


"It wouldn't be the first time Fluffybuns has been dusted. If this has been going on as many times as I think it has...the resets and the erases and the in-betweens..."


"Sans, don't. I have a chance, a real chance to find a way to stop the resets and make all this last. I want a place for the kid to return to. Once both he and this world have had time to mature...for humans and monsters to grow used to each other. For the ways of the old to be brushed away for new thinking."


I admitted. It wasn't as cut and dry as I made it sound. There could still be consequences. There would likely be bumps in the road. Things like...addressing all the children Asgore had murdered to get their souls. If equality was possible between two races that had gone to war in the past. What issues would they have integrating into society?


"Determined, aren't you? You and the kid have that in common."


"Sans if we keep fighting, I can keep going on. I might tire out too, but you've seen this." I pointed to where the bone had pierced through me, now healed up.


"I can go on forever but sooner or later, no matter how much I keep the kid gloves on...that one HP of yours is just going to drop to zero. I can't do that to Papyrus. I can't take you away from him."


"Huh. Sounds like I should have trusted you in the first place. But...it's too late for that, I guess."


"Sans. Get some healing. Put some trust in the kid. And maybe me."


"THe kid earned the benefit of the doubt."


"And yet you're still afraid they'll reset."


"I hate promises. So I'm not going to make you promise to stop the kid from doing the deed."


"Look. They're so close to the ending. They've probably been in battle with Asgore for a while now. I have to be there to make sure nothing unexpected goes wrong. I have to make sure they reload and get to the happy ending that you all deserve."


"No promises. I have one too many as it is."


"I'll do what I can." By now my confidence was shakey. Even though I had no danger of dying, Sans, really took me to school. It was the sloppiest battle I'd ever fought.


I turned and charged through the door into Asgore's throne room. Nobody here. They'd already gone ahead to the barrier.
I rushed through the doorway and down the hall.


One last doorway...and there I was. In that endless hallway of strange, pulsing white light.


I heard Asgore's trident clatter to the ground as he took a knee. He was wounded but not fatally.


There was Frisk. In that brief instant, they tossed asside the stick.


I saw the H.U.D. come up...the MERCY button was...fractured. The pieces of when it had been shattered by Asgore were barely sticking together. This was Frisk's mercy.


"I remember the day after my son died. The entire underground was devoid of hope. The future had once again been taken from us by the humans. In a fit of anger, I declared war. I said that I would destroy any human that came here. would use their souls to become godlike... ...and free us from this terrible prison. Then, I would destroy humanity... And let monsters rule the surface, in peace.

Soon, the people's hopes returned. My wife, however, became disgusted with my actions. She left this place, never to be seen again. Truthfully... I do not want power. I do not want to hurt anyone. I just wanted everyone to have hope...
I cannot take this any longer. I just want to see my wife. I just want to see my child. Please... Young one... This war has gone on long enough. You have the power... Take my soul, and leave this cursed place."


Frisk pressed down on the SPARE button.


"After everything I have done to hurt you... You would rather stay down here and suffer... Than live happily on the surface? Human... I promise you... For as long as you remain here... My wife and I will take care of you as best we can. We can sit in the living room, telling stories... Eating butterscotch pie... We could be like... Like a family..."


I breathed a sigh of relief...but then he said started speaking again and I felt the situation start to fall apart.


"No. That's just a fantasy, isn't it? Young one, when I look at you... I'm reminded of the human that fell here long ago... You have the same feeling of hope in your eyes. There is an ancient prophecy among our people... One day, a savior will come from the heavens. ...I believe the one that was prophesied was you. Somewhere in the world outside... There must be a way to free us from our prison. It pains me to give you this responsibility, but... Please. Take my soul... and seek the truth. Ha... ha... I'm sorry... I couldn't give you a simple, happy ending... But I believe your freedom... ...is what my son... ...what ASRIEL would have wanted."


No. This wasn't right. This shouldn't be happening. Something was wrong. Something's changed. Was this because of Chara? Was this MY fault? I have to--


Asgore looked up and saw me standing in the entrance. Frisk noticed me as well.


"Doctor...I--"


Suddenly I felt a presence.


Then I saw the ring of Friendliness Pellets.


"No!"


This was necessary for the Neutral Ending to run its course and lead into the True Pacifist Ending. But something wasn't right.


The pellets encircled Asgore's throat...then collapsed inward. My eyes widened as the fatal blow was struck.


I heard the dreaded sound. I watched the unknown breeze blow through. Asgore's form dissoved away into dust which fell to the floor.


A single upside-down, white heart lingered behind in front of Frisk moments before a final Friendliness Pellet appeared...and pierced it.


Meanwhile...far, far away in Home, in the Ruins...


"...Tch!" Toriel covered her heart.


Tears started rolling down her cheeks.


"Asgore..."


Back at the Barrier...


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 296: "The King Is Dead. Long Live the Prince of this World's Future":



I stood aghast as Asgore was now a pile of dust. I knew it was coming but it just didn't set it that it had to be this way. I respected him. I cared about him. I felt like I should have intervined...but I didn't. It was opposite of what I had done with Asriel. I knew I shouldn't have intervined...but I did. This time I knew not to intervine.......and I didn't.


"Flow--" I started.


But then something happened that wasn't supposed to. The mass of a barbed, spikey vine streaked toward me...and missed?


No. It didn't miss. It struck--


"FRISK!" I cried out as the child was smashed against the wall several times before being thrown out the door.
This wasn't supposed to happen. This wasn't supposed to happen!


"No!"


I gaped in horror.


"I don't understand...! Why--"


"You IDIOT!"


"Flowey...!" I whirled.


I was an idiot. All this time. I convinced myself that Chara was the the threat...no...my mistake was convincing myself Chara was the ONLY threat. I had left my guard down to the weed all this time.


Yet...that wasn't what made my mistake bad. I forgot...this vessel. This wretched, souless vessel. It carried the memories of Asriel and was injected with large doses of Determination. Enough that could have influence over time and space.


"That's right. It's me. Flowey the Flower."


"But...! The--"


I should understand. I should realize what he had been pounding into me all along. He had no soul. He had no regret. He felt himself above the consequences. Yet...I was stunned...completely catatonic down to my core as the realization had set in that he murdered his own father.


"You really don't get it. I've been doing this dance for so long. I take the souls, I unload Hell on Earth, I watch the human die and die and die again. I save over their death. And somehow...I end up losing. I get spared. I run away. I contact the human outside of their perfect little life outside the barrier, and get them to reload and come back."


"Flowey..."


"I convince them to cheer up Alphys--something you tried to do but obviously it didn't work out, did it?"


He was speaking of something that shouldn't have been put into motion yet.


"..."


I screwed up.


"The funny thing is that it all could have worked out sooner if I wanted it to. If I had only told Papyrus to bring everyone together, then the human wouldn't even NEED to reload. We could just get right down to the stealing of the Human Souls and every Monster Soul in the kingdom. The one chance to ascend to a god."


"But why would you throw away that chance?"


"Because. Something else has been bugging me."


"...what...would that be?"


"You. Every time I followed them...you were there watching. Talking about how you care. Only one person ever truly cared about me. But you already knew that, didn't you?"


"..."


"What's you're deal? What's your obsession with me? You don't know me."


"But..."


"He was right about it all. I'm not even the original, am I? No. I was just a substitute for this endless game that keeps being restarted over and over. But you...you know what happened to the last one, don't you? That's what the Wraith went after you for?"


Things were going from bad to worse. Things were falling apart faster and faster.


This Flowey. He KNEW about the endless resets and reincarnations. The times that one of the major souls couldn't be salvaged and recycled...the Goddesses simply replaced them. But the previous Chara...the one in the Soul Society refused to let their role end. They pushed aside the new Chara soul in the pipeline to get to an Asriel...any Asriel. He knew I rescued his predecessor. He knew Chara...the one he only thought was his own...followed me to my home world........and never came back.


This Flowey/Asriel was completely aware of what was apparently stripped from my Asriel's memory. My Asriel honestly thought that what happened to him happened for the first and only time. That was the nature of the Unstable Timeline at work. That was Lady Destiny and Madam Fate's rewrite of the rules.


But that wasn't what was on my mind. I was beating myself up for what I had overlooked.


I focused entirely on Chara-Wraith...that I was completely distracted from the most obvious of threats. Mabye...it was because I didn't want to remember him. Maybe...I was too convinced to focus on Asriel as a completely different person than Flowey that I denied they were one and the same...at least they should have been until a single fluke prevented that from happening. A complete fluke in a doomed Genocide Timeline. A fluke that if I hadn't intervined...would be as if it had never happened at all. Everyone including Asriel would be gone and the timeline would restart in another configuration with unstable variations.


"But I know what you did. He told me what you did. You're the reason. You're the reason Chara is gone, isn't it?!"


Flowey was supposed to mistake Frisk for Chara. It was all for nothing. I had no chance. What did I even accomplish?


"Please...I--"


"I'll never forgive you. But I won't kill you. No. The brat out there can wait their turn. I think I found someone better to play with..."


That was when the six souls rose from their shattered containers and joined with Flowey.


The laughter. The unholy laughter.


Everything went black--


CRYPTOSMASHER ERROR.
LOGGING MALFUNCTION...
TEMPORAL ANOMALY.....


I found myself in the Ruins when might sight and hearing came back. But it was so dark an empty-- SOmething was wonky about it. Maybe it was the [LOAD] "screen" before me. But...where was Frisk? They should be at this "screen", not me.


A massive impact reverberated through the area. Then again...and again. And I saw...reality seem to crack...and shatter as the message [LOAD FAILED] quickly tore itself apart as I was confronted by a giant Flowey hovering before me.


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 297: "Omega Flowey":



"Well. We've certainly dragged this out long enough. So why don't we just get to it. I'm sure you know this by heart now...hee hee... *ahem*


Howdy! It's me, FLOWEY. FLOWEY the FLOWER! I owe you a HUGE thanks. The kid really did a number on that old fool. But you distracted them both with your arrival that they never saw it coming. Without you, I NEVER could have gotten past him. But now, with YOUR help... He's DEAD. And I'VE got the human SOULS!"


"But...he was your--" I started. Flowey cut in before I could practically drive it home that I knew who he really was.


That image was covered with micro-glitches. The area was unstable.


"Boy! I've been empty for so long... It feels great to have a SOUL inside me again. Mmmm, I can feel them wriggling... Awww, you're feeling left out, aren't you? Well, that's just perfect. After all, I only have six souls. I still need one more... Before I become GOD. And then, with my newfound powers... Monsters. Humans. Everyone. I'll show them all the REAL meaning of this world."


The whole thing about passing up the last human soul. It was a lie. He didn't want Frisk's soul...he wanted mine, now.


"Golly, if only you had a SAVE FILE you could run away to... But you were just too STUPID to make one! But don't worry. Your old friend FLOWEY... Has worked out a replacement for you! I'll SAVE over your own death. So you can watch me tear you to bloody pieces... Over, and over, and over..."


I tried to speak but--


"...what? Do you really think you can stop ME? Hee hee hee... You really ARE an idiot."


This feeling. What was this feeling?


I was...afraid. I was afraid to confront him. I knew who he was. Who he really was.


My best friend had betrayed and abandoned me. I was hurt. I was alone. I was scared. I was completely wired. As much angst as I felt...I had vented it with my fight with Sans. But more than that......I came to the realization....


I couldn't raise a hand to him. I couldn't face my best nightmare. Whether Asriel or Omega Flowey......I couldn't bring myself to fight back.


From the depths of the darkness he slowly lowered down from above. Huuuuge, spike-covered, cactus-y arms with red, clawed finger-spears. Two, enormous masses of what appeared to be continuously growing vines--each as big around and more spike-covered than his "arms"--poured out of a leafy mass underneath the main...er...head?


A fleshy...face which resembled Gyfftrot's...or the DT Extraction machine sit directly above the cushion of leaves; a bulbous bloodshot eye in each socket. The nostrils were pushed up well above the eyeline. But it was the jaws that were most disturbing. They weren't like a normal beast's. No. They were turned 90 degrees so that each set of jaws was like a set of pruning shears...but far more toothy and saliva-dripping.


The pattern of...metal, flexible hoses encircled the main head in a six-petal...vaguely flower shape. A second pair of eyes filled the outer-most hoses. The lowest set of hoses fed into the side of each jaw. The last pair of hoses, forming the top petals, fed into the main head--a classic-looking CRT-type television set. And from the whole mass, a spaghetti maze of veins, tendrils, hoses, pipes, and bio-matter poured out of it and into the ceiling somewhere above.


The screen turned white and on it I saw Flowey's face...at least it started as Flowey's face until the mouth widened to impossibly large and toothy. Then the eyes...split open and a bulbous, red orb popped out of each one. The whole creature looked like a science project gone wrong and then gone completely to the tenth level of Hell.


With a loud, and disturbing laugh, he deafened me.


I had a price to pay. It was time to pay what I owe. There was only one course of action...


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 298: "Volt Surrendered to Fate. But Fate Would Not Allow a Game Over":



I spread my arms out and closed my eyes.


"What's this? You really think sparing me is going to work. Aww...I guess I should take pity on you..."


And then I found myself riddled with X-shaped bullets from the lower eyes followed by maniacal laughter.


"...You really are a special kind of idiot!"


And then triple waves of X-shots from the upper eyes.


I couldn't count how many times they struck me. There was searing pain. I spasmed from the impacts.


"Urgh..." I staggered, the breath knocked out of me.


"Flow...ey....!"


As my vision cleared I saw the red targeting lines. Then I felt the scores and scores of vines pierce. Repeatedly.
I felt wet and looked down to see the holes and the blood. I gasped for breath as I staggered back.
I saw it to the left...and I saw it to the right. I felt only a brief moment of something warm incoming...


Then I felt myself ignite.


My scream echoed through the room. Eventually the flamethrowers shut off and the flames died down. Oh gods...oh gods, no...


I had been stumbling backward. I blinked and I saw the energy buildup in the second head. Then the resulting beam flooded the room and blinded my vision...everything kinda blinked out of existence for a moment.


I was too out of it to look how badly my body was torn up from just this much.


It didn't matter though. As soon as my eyes opened...the Friendliness Pellets encircled me.


"You...and the old goat...with the same murder weapon."


And then I felt it pierce into my throat--


CRYPTOSMASHER OFFLINE
LOGGING INTERRUPTED

LIFE SIGNS NOT DETECTED...
LIFE SIGNS DETECTED

LOGGING RESUMING


"Ugh..."


"Well, well...it seems you don't NEED a save file. This is verrrrry interesting. I guess our game won't have to end so soon! If you can do that...then this can go on forever and ever and ever! Hee hee hee hee..."


"Flowey...no...don't...do this..."


My vision was blurry. As soon as I blinked everything seemed to go to black and I was seeing knives fly all around.


No. Toy knives.


I could hear a girl's voice in the distance. I couldn't make out what they were saying but I could see a cyan light around.


This was the soul that represented patience!


The souls! They were starting to resonate...they were starting to rebel. But...


I didn't have Frisk's...! I didn't have what our Asriel had gotten from the previous Frisk.


I thought the voice said "I...can't find you......please......I'll keep searching......for as long as it takes..."


That was the Patience soul speaking to me!


The ACT button wasn't showing. She couldn't find my soul in all this darkness. I couldn't call out for help. Or...maybe I didn't...


Back to reality.


More of Flowey's barrage.


I faded out of consciousness again...this time...


"Gloves...?"


Tough gloves.


An orange glow. And a voice.


"Hey! Mister! What are you scared? C'mon, stop hiding and fight this guy! Show yourself so I can help you out!"


Bravery, now.


They couldn't see me or hear me. Was I even calling for help? No. I wasn't.


By now Flowey switched strategies.


By this time Flowey had started to ramp it up and added to his arsenal.


His "hands" started to mutate, growing Venus Flytraps. And then came the flies. Flies that swarmed me; their vomit threatening to digest me. Ewww. And OUCH! FREAKING OUCH! Acid really, really hurt!


I looked up.


"Oh come onnnnn..."


That was when I saw the bombs drop. LITERALLY. Bombs sporting Flowey's face.
Explosions. Pain beyond pain.


I then saw the plant stems with the finger-guns suddenly sprout up. On the ends of each were Flowey's image. And they all converged upon me like javelins.


As if that weren't enough...the Dentata rushed at me; cactus-like snakes with mouths. If they missed, they ricochetted off the wals and tried again.


When I conked out this time there were stars around. I didn't have time to stargaze because that was when the giant ballet shoes came down in a ballet "jette" to each side of me, one after the other.


"If you keep up this way, you won't last. You're not being very true to yourself! This isn't you, Mister! Please! Stop running from the truth!"


Integrity.


More attacks came to snap me out of that darkness. I was regenerating as fast as they were coming in but...for how long?


Which sent me spinning into the blackness yet again.


A purple haze among two giant books to the right and left of me. I was being bombarded by a plethera of negative words.


"Mister! You're backed into a corner! Why are you giving up? It doesn't make sense! This isn't the logical path! You gotta survive! You gotta think of a way out of this!"


Perserverence.


By this next round Flowey decided to turn up the "meta" factor and prove to me that this WAS a game. And that's when I felt time and space jump around me...and saw the brief image of the dreaded "File 2 Loaded". This happened every time one of his vines missed me.


When it reloaded I was reloaded directly in the path for a bulleye that never happened.


"Wha...what?!?"


He had multiple save files. If ever there was a greater cheater on this world...


Oh, Asriel...how did you become...this?


The blackness overtook me.


Green now. I was tumbling among frying pans. Frying pans that were spitting out fire. Heh...out of the frying pan and into the...yeah...you know...


I think by that point I was getting a little loopy.


"I don't want to see you hurting like this. Please...let me help you! Where are you?! Come out so I can heal you! I can feel your pain...it hurts! Let me stop the hurting!"


Kindness.


I was losing track of how much I was being bombarded. The grotesque form of this Photoshopped Nightmare was fading in and out. I was barely sure of where I was.


One more blink out of existence and...


"Oh...its this one..." I looked down the barrel of the gun moments before the boom.


"Tarnation! What in Sam Hill are you doin', par'ner? Git' up and show that ornry critter who's boss! You ain't gonna let that varmant get away with that, are ya?"


That could only be Justice.


But it did me no good. Six virues...and I was letting them slip by.


The real problem was...after all that happened...I had lost the one virtue I needed now more than anything.


However...I had made my choice. I was already taking action...by not taking action. By not acting at all.
This was my fate. This was my punishment. Is this what you wanted, Asriel? Does this make it right? Tell me when I've paid for betraying you...whatever it was I did......can't...think.....straight....


It was fading to black...


CRYPTOSMASHER OFFLINE
LIFE SIGNS NOT DETECTED
LOGGING INTERRUPTED...

*static*

----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----



Sub-Entry 299: "Why, Dr. Arcade?! Why Won't You Fight Back?!":


How many times now....has it been... Hundreds of death-and-revives? Thousands? I didn't know. I didn't care. All I could do was take my punishment. Over and over. I wasn't trying to commit suicide. I was...just...letting him win.


But with each death...Omega Flowey's excitement...his smugness...his enjoyment of the situation began to fade.


The badly digitized images of...what vaguely looked like a monochrome Game Boy Camera image of a human either laughing maniacally or having a siezure. stopped showing up and Flowey's bloodshot eye image stopped popping up as much...leaving his golden flower image to emote.


He started looking bored...then annoyed...then frustrated...then downright pissed.


"What are you doing?"


"..."


"Fight back!"


"..."


"Do something!"


"..."


"Are you really so stubborn that you won't fight me out of spite?! You're mocking me! You're--"


"No. That's not it."


"Why?! Why, Arcade?! Why are you DOING this?!?"


Omega Flowey tightened his vines around me and squeezed.


"WHY?! WHY WON'T YOU FIGHT BACK?!?"


"..."


"What has anyone ever accomplished by not fighting back?! What do you think you're going to prove--" Flowey stopped short.


"That's really a question...you once knew the answer to..." I looked up.


The memory was coming back.


I was using...that against him...not intentionally, mind you. It was just...how it was.


I had reminded him that a monster prince who had absorbed a human soul...who just needed six more to give monsters their freedom...wouldn't fight back when the humans murdered him out of fear.


But what I had really hit home with was that I had proved a point.


"You're figuring it out, aren't you? All that power... It's happened. You've become strong. Too strong. Being this strong is.......pretty boring, isn't it?"


Was I really quoting Saitama at a time like this?


"What?!"


"Where's the challenge? That's what you're really thinking."


"No, no, NO, NO, NOOO!"


"All those times...you begged "Chara" to let you win. Well. You're winning. What else is left?"


"I won't win until you're dead! Why won't you DIE?!?"


"It's because...that's the one thing I can't do...as much as I want to at this point...I'm so sorry.......Asriel."


Flowey just stopped for a moment.


The flower image on screen suddenly drooped, hanging its head.


"No. I'm not him. I'm NOT. What you're talking to is the husk of someone that's already died. I'm Flowey! I'M FLOWEY! I'M JUST A BALL OF MEMORIES WITH NO SOUL!"


"You need help. You need--"


"I don't WANT help!" Flowey raged.


"You already have him. Why are you reaching out to me?! What, are you trying to save every "him" in existence? Am I just one more to add to a collection? You're a freak!"


"..."


That wasn't it. It wasn't. You've got to believe me, Flowey. That's...not true... That's...not.......


"I'm sorry, Asriel. I did everything wrong in the end...all of my good intentions...they backfired drastically. That's why...that's why I'm letting you take your revenge on me. In the end...I'm a coward. I've lost my way. Just like you have."


"I'm nothing like you."


"Yeah...the fact is...you were better than me. When you were still him...you were always better than me."


"Gaaah....stop being so sickening."


"I get it. I'll never be Chara."


"How dare you speak her name...how dare you! You don't know her! She was the only one who knew me! And you...you...you made her go away!"


"I did. And...I'm sorry."


"Stop saying that! I don't forgive you! I hate you! You're ruining everything!"


"It wouldn't be the first time..."


I stood there, limply. My clothing was having trouble completely reintegrating. Everything Omega Flowey put me through started to erode the regeneration image stored in the Bracer. While the Contracts of the Sisters--the Genie's Lamp and Pandora's Box--wouldn't let me die...it had its limits to respawning anything that wasn't part of me; clothing and equipment. Which, the bracer, extended to my being. The deaths were starting to erode its residual memory of my attire's last intact image of its entire molecular structure. Heh...so this is what it's like to be Son Goku after a battle that finally cashes in his training gi...? What an inappropriate thing to cross my mind at that moment.


"Then I guess we'll just repeat this over and over until you break! Until you give up!"


"Flowey...don't do it. You've already abused the timeline enough...if you keep pushing it, you're going to--"


"Shut up! I'll show you."


I shakily stood my ground.


"I'll just use ever save file in my possession to--"


And that was when Flowey got the ERROR message.


"What? How'd you...? Well, I'll just...Wh... Where are my powers!? The souls...? What are they doing?"


I looked up and saw the souls tear free from Omega Flowey's body.


"N-no! No, stop! Don't...! I can get through to him! I can--"


With that...the souls rebelled.


"NO!! NO!!!!! YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO OBEY ME!! STOP!!! STOP IT!!!!! STOOOOPPPP!!!!!


The destruction. The carnage. This time it wasn't my own.


I begged the souls to stop. I tried to convince them that I was in no danger. I pleaded to listen to me. Despite everything...I wanted to protect Flowey...Asriel...but...


This was the end.


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry: 300: "Flowey Defeated/Frisk's Choice"



Quiet. So quiet. And ominous.


There was the weed. It hung like it had wilted. Flowey was in bad shape. Bleeding...something. Liquid determination? Without the six souls, everything...even the barrier became so colorless.


"..."


Omega Flowey was nowhere to be found.


But regular Flowey...


There he was. Looking wilted...and torn up...


I approached.


I tried to comfort.


"... What are you doing? Do you really think I've learned anything from this? No."


I refused to lay a hand on him let alone hurt him.


"Sparing me won't change anything. Killing me is the only way to end this."


I shook my head.


"If you let me live... I'll come back. I'll kill you."


"You know that isn't true. You know I can't die."


"Just end me, Arcade!"


There was a thick...black...something coming from his mouth. It wasn't blood. It looked like...could it be...? Was this......spent Determination? Was it Determination that had gone inert?


"..."


I refused.


"...?"


I wouldn't do it.


"... why?"


A tear rolled down my furry face.


"... why are you being... so nice to me?"


"Because despite it all...it's still you. You're still Asriel. Even if you don't know it...I will always want to be your best friend." I said, voice breaking.


"I can't understand. I can't understand! I just can't understand..."


Flowey ran away.


"Flowey! Asriel! Please! Come back! Don't.......don't....leave me....again..."


I hung my head.


I heard a noise behind me.


"Hmm?"


I turned. "Oh! Frisk! You're here! Thank goodness you're alright. The souls are going to open the way forth. You can do it! You can go home--"


That's when I noticed.


"Frisk?"


To my horror...I suddenly realized what they were doing.


"Frisk, NO!" I strugged to stand back up from where I had knelt down to tend to Flowey.


"No! No! No, Frisk! You can't do THAT!"


I could see it plain as day. That was the H.U.D. And that was the [RESET]!


"Frisk, please! You can't take those memories away! We came so far! If it's about Asgore, we can bring him back! You know this! You know all you have to do is reload!"


I stumbled and tried to run toward them.


"FRISK! FRIIIIIISK!"


They looked up at me with sad eyes.


"I don't want to let go! I don't want to lose their friendships! Why would you?! Why would you take their hopes and dreams?! You haven't even finished this run yet and you're just going to throw it away?!"


Frisk started crying.


And then...they spoke.


"I'm...sorry. He said it was the only way..."


He?! HE WHO?!?


"Nooooooooooo! Don't do it!"


I grabbed onto them...but a moment too late. I reached for the H.U.D. hoping I could stop it somehow.


Their hand touched the RESET...and the shock wave erupted outward...but something felt off as I felt the energy release tug at me.


My Bracer's screen started glitching out. Then giving error messages. Then it started flashing red as a static discharge leaped from the device and across the H.U.D.


Microglitches, binary, and wire frame blinked in and out of it moments before it warped and twisted for a moment.
In a moment the spherical blastwave swallowed us both up.


As we were lifted off the dissolving room...the dissolving reality...I felt the child being pulled out of my grasp and sucked away from me.


As I tumbled out of control into the abyss of white light I could see everyone in the underground...fading away.


It started with Sans.


He looked at me with defeated...eye dots, hands shoved into his pockets.


I looked at him with tear-filled eyes. "Sans...I..."


"Heh...I guess...the joke's on both of us..." He was joking but I could hear the depression in his voice. "Guess we all get dunked on because I couldn't trust you. Well. Guess it was the kid I shouldn't have trusted."


Then he was gone.


"D-Doctor..." Alphys looked at me as she was slowly pulled out of reality. "Are we...going back?"


I nodded, sadly.


"W-w-we j-just weren't w-worthy of the surface after all.."


I couldn't protest. She was already gone.


Undyne looked at me, her ear frills drooping.


I couldn't look her in the eye. I'd never be able to explain this.


"Hey...anime's still real...right?"


I nodded before she gave that silly grin...and disappeared.


"I...I don't understand..."


No. Not Papyrus, too.


"Paps...I..."


"I still believe..." was all he got out.


No...this was cruel. This was horrible.


It was then I turned to face Goat Mom.


"Volt."


"Toriel."


We faced each other as she started fading away.


"You'll be good...won't you?"


"I'll be on my best behavior. I'll be my very best."


She waved...with a pleasant smile that seemed to say "until we meet again" while making a heart-sign with her hands. One last secret handshake to remember her by...


As the Underground twisted and contorted into a vortex of pure time and pure space I saw Gaster for a moment, hands behind his back. He shook his head, then turned and vanished.


Frisk appeared in the center of the storm, tangles of electricity pouring out form the epicenter. Was this what a reset looked like form the inside.


"Frisk! Stop this! Please stop this! You have to stop!"


But I knew they couldn't. I knew it was already too late.


"Why, Frisk? Why?"


Frisk didn't answer. They were ashamed. They were regretting their decision immediately. They knew they had been lied to by now. But who? Who lied to you, Frisk? Who put you up to this? Was it Flowey? No...


"Friiiiiiiiiiiisk!" I felt myself being yanked out of the timeline as its unstable nature collasped and disppeared into the cosmos.


"You can't do this! You can't do this! You can't..."


TO BE CONTINUED....



A message from Asriel:

Milestone 300th Sub-Entry! I know things look bad. I know how the others and I must seem to you. But hang in there. Things have to get worse before they get better. The story is not finished. All will be revealed...soon.

Thank you all for staying with us this long. The end of the beginning is coming...
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  #62  
Old 05-24-2017, 07:10 PM
Volt Alessandro Arcade's Avatar
Volt Alessandro Arcade Volt Alessandro Arcade is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2015
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----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 301: "The World Reset/The Council's Punishment"



"...you can't...do this..........why, Frisk? Why...?"


I was too catatonic to take in my surroundings.


I was on the transport platform within STC-Agency Headquarters.


That was when the security doors opened and the room flooded with soldiers in tactical gear, pointing their guns at me.


"Dr. Volt Alessandro Arcade, you are under arrest by order of the Council."


It was happening again. No...this was worse than the Mobius End Game.


I was lead directly to the Council Chambers.


I passed by a number of other agents.


Some considered me friends. I was sure I saw Dr. Persiphone. She looked as though her heart was breaking. I could tell she wanted to do something but...there was nothing she could do.


Dr. Nicodimus. An elder even by my standards. The look in his eyes...he knew I had done nothing wrong. He could sense my judgement was sound and he would support me to the end.


Dr. Daedalus. It was good to have a fan, especially within your own agency.


Others...looked at me like I was an obstacle to their research.


Dr. Phoenix. Pompous jerk. Skeptic. Opportunist. And in all probability as ambitious as Starscream.


Dr. Orion. A total suckup. He's been wanting the position I SHOULD have had, had the council not reduced me down to this.


Even now I called them all doctors. Scientists. Even the ones I didn't respect (or had no reason to) and the ones that didn't respect me deserved at least that much. Rather than be reduced to time-hopping librarians and janitors.


"......."


There they were. The darkeness and the overall size and scope of the room just over-inflated their already overglorified positions.


I once considered them friends. Friends I entrusted with the secrets of my research. But they were just the first to turn their backs on me.


The charges were read off. I just tuned them all out. I wasn't even technically supposed to be logging this. I guess part of me was hardwired to always have a record of my greatest failures. This was far bigger than the "Graveyard" where I housed my Miranda failures--such as the aforementioned propane tank I spoke to Toriel about.


My data and logging system were being decrypted and decoded, slowly but surely. Photos. Audio recordings. Complete video in real time. Everything. It was all being paraded around the every-increasing number of holo-windows.


"..."


"...furthermore the life form in question, known as Asriel Dreemurr, is to be erased from existence."


No. No, you can't!


I raised my head to speak in Asriel's defense. I was beaten down but the Council was not going to erase so much of a molecule of him. Over my dead body--


ZAAARK!!!


The bailiff smashed me in the back of the neck with the stun rod. I didn't even get a word out.


"Sentencing is to commence immediately."


Well. I knew what that sentence was. It happened before. When you're an Agent of S.T.C., you don't get fired. You don't get burned like a spy. You get erased...from existence. From EVER existing. Everything you've ever done is replaced with a placeholder soul. A nameless, faceless entity that adapts to whatever role you filled in your life; an entity which becomes forgettable. Not just in metaphor but in the literal sense. No matter how hard anyone tries, they'll never remember this...person's name. Just that he...exists.


Then they replace you with someone who'll do the job without question, without opinion, without objection. In short...without humanity.


"As of this moment your life, existence and attachments to space, time, and dimension comes to an end--"


*KA-BOOOOOM*


The explosion and teleport and the sudden hijacking of all the computer systems in the room took everyone by surprise.


And that's when the stuff REALLY hit the fan.


CRYPTOSMASHER ERROR...
LOGGING NOT AVAILABLE
ACTIVATING EXTERNAL PERIPHERAL MEMORY STORAGE DEVICE...


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 302: "Saved By Kommand?"



"What's up, b--(FLOWEY CACKLE)--es? Am I interrupting!"


Gasps all around the Council.


"Kommand is in the house."


Sure enough, Kommand had shown up, in a cybersuit and cloak that resembled something out of Overwatch. Which was the one that looked like a cybernetic grim reaper again?


"GUARDS!!!"


"I don't believe they'll be joining us. In fact I don't think they'll be leaving their rooms. Furthermore, you'll find all of your security quite FUBAR."


"You...you...!"


"Annnnnd that's not even all. I've completely hijacked A.E.O.N. Don't believe me? Check those outdated holo-viewers at each of your round-table stations."


"...this is...!"


"IMPOSSIBLE!!!"


"You damn TERRORIST!"


"Somebody sieze her!"


"Ah-ah-ah!" Kommand drew her plasma pistol and held it directly under my jaw in a head shot. At that angle it would pierce my brain stem. Still wouldn't kill me.


"You fool! Is this your attempt at a hostage situation?"


"Don't overthink this, Councilor. Who exactly is qualified to restore A.E.O.N. back to operational capcity and give you control over the power you've coveted for centuries?"


"......"


"That's right. Who could say what kind of effect cerebral trauma might have on his memories. Especially when subjecting all of his neurotransmitters to the shock of an unidentified type of energy?"


Kommand wasn't lying. That energy pack contained super-compressed chronotons in a xenon isotope matrix. Previous experiments in the R & D lab had caused a lot of...large scale issues with the technicians' memories.


"You wouldn't."


"I would. And I will. So I guess in the name of my unspecified demands which I may or may not reveal in the near future, your founding father and most important field agent is coming with me."


"You won't get away with this--"


And just like that, we were teleported outside of time and space to her secret base. And hovering in our place was a neon hololyth that spelled out in big bold letters:


"I already have."


I was barely conscious; lucid at best. Any drop of Determination I had had dried up.


So this was it. I was removed from the STC-Agency. I was a fugitive; kidnapped by a wanted temporarl terrorist. Knowing them, they'd try to paint me as a conspirer with Stockholm's Syndrome. My life's work. Destroyed.


"Hey. You awake in there?"


"..."


"Wow...I guess the situation kinda did a number on you. Sorry about that."


That's all you can say? Sorry about that?!


"Well...it's still too soon... "


What were you saying...?


"So I guess I have one more thing to apologize for..."


One more?


"What...?"


"This." And then everything just felt like it was imploding I don't know if I was screaming or not but all my...conscious...thoughts........were..........


CRYPTOSMASHER OFFLINE
EXTERNAL LOGGING SYSTEM OFFLINE
LOGGING INTERRUPTED

----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 303: "Awaking Once Again in the Medical Bay"


"...open your eyes."


"He's barely responsive, Doctor."


"He's just being stubborn."


Sounded like...Velaska...and Elektra.


"What are we going to do with you?"


"Can he understand us?"


"Unlikely...but possible. It'll be up to Callista to make the final judgement."


Rattling of tools and equipment.


"For now..."


"Urghh...!" I felt the injection pistol touch my neck, a needle prick and---


The world went dark--


...


...


...


...how....long has it been?



My eyes fluttered open.



"...you..."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 304: "Paradise Lost"


It was a few minutes before I could speak with some coherence.


"...are you happy, now...? You stand before a broken man... I was your Commander...your friend...your family......you took Asriel away from me... You got my friends to abandon me...my own family has no time for me...


You just...replaced me.....you and Miles promised...it would never get awkward...that I'd always have a place here...but then......then I wasn't even allowed to be happy for his return. You just shooed me away...then treated me like you were someone trying to shove their grandparent into a retirement home...


Now, I've lost everything. Frisk reset the timeline...all those friendships...all that hard work...everything I ever did in that timeline is gone...


It was all for nothing...that's what a failure deserves.....nothing--"


I was cut off at that moment as Bunnie unsympathetically slapped me across the face. Hard.



"...ha....ha...so I guess you're making it official...you're finally making it tangible--"


"Baka." Bunnie's eyes narrowed. "You don't know anything."


"I'm finished trying to get a straight answer from you. I'm tired of you not making any sense. I'm just tired. And to be honest...I'm done with you."


"You think you lost everything. You whole life's work isn't some timeline. It's standing there outside the door."


"I think we know who he chose. Whether you intended it or not what good is my life's work if my work doesn't want a place in my life?"


"So that's how it is."


"We're done here. Leave."


"..." Bunnie turned and walked away.


"Go. GO!!!" I shouted. "GOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" I grabbed the metal tray and winged it as hard as I could. Now Bunnie was a good enough ninja to sense it coming a mile away, side-step it, or even snatch it out of midair without even looking back.


But instead she let it smash her into the back of the skull. She lurched forward with a grunt. She didn't wipe the blood from the growing stain in the back of her blond hair. She didn't look back. She just exited the room.


I saw Asriel out in the hall. He looked like a scolded dog from my outburst.


He made his choice. I didn't need the salt rubbed in my wounds. I wouldn't hate him for it. Flowey had punished me enough for seven of him--one for each virtue. I didn't want to know why. I just wanted to disappear.


The dream was dead.


I had looked forward to a True Happy Ending. In time it would be the past. And what was past was prologue to what would have been greater things to open up. I was sure that time would heal everything within the Dreemurr family. This was proof that happy endings don't just happen.


I wasn't trying to force one. If that were the case I would have taken Frisk's place a long time ago...impersonated a human and just played the "game" myself as their replacement. But I wasn't about to stand by and do nothing...let Chara-Wraith make a mess of a timeline...I just knew they were getting outside help to rewrite what should have happened. I just knew there was a conspiracy that I couldn't see......heh...who would have believed it...I became Rotor.


"It was right there..."


To call it paradise in the making was arrogant. I knew that humans and monsters would have their complications integrating; that society would have ups an downs and age-old prejudices to overcome. But the theroy was still sound. It could have been even better.


"I guess you really are home, Asriel."


I couldn't even get help from Neo Arcadia. The thought of having my name legally changed to distance myself from the Arcades crossed my mind. This is what the Council wanted, right? For all their agents to no longer have a past...have attachments. Shame. I met the requirements but now they had complete control over my work. Kommand was the only one who could access it now.


In the end I had no one left to turn to.


"I don't want or need anyone..."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 305: "I Would Not Call For Help. But Someone Else Came to Ask For Mine"


The injections and the treatments came regularly. I refused to look anyone in the eye. Madam Fate finally won. Her champion...her black knight was out there, laughing at how far his mortal enemy had fallen...how far I had fallen.


Days were passing. Weeks. Of all things, time was the one thing I never lost track of...until now. I was constantly woozy.


I had no visitors. None whatsoever. Nobody cared. My past was under the microscope. My present was in shambles. My future no longer existed.


It stung.


It hurt.


It was a horrible feeling; day and night. To what ends was I being medically treated? I couldn't die so it wasn't a matter of keeping me allive. Sometimes...it felt more like it was a matter of keeping me in constant punishment.


"So. This is how my story ends."


Where did I go wrong? For the record, that's a rhetorical question. I knew what mistakes I made. I knew what led to this. What I didn't know was...why was I always so powerless against them in the end.


"In the end...I'm glad it was you, Asriel. I'm glad it was you and not him."


I wasn't really sure what I was saying at that point. I was just...killing time and saying...whatever came to mind. Probably borrowing a movie quote...something like Donny Brasco or the like. Whatever.


"Frankly...at this moment I'd rather be W.D. Gaster than Volt Arcade. At least that way no one would remember I exist."


I wasn't sure if the things I was seeing were real, hallucinations, or if I was asleep and just dreaming.


The nightmares stopped feeling like nightmares...they stopped feeling like anything at all. Just numb visions that I had no idea if they'd come to pass or not. I started pondering things...like if Lisa was going to just...leave me behind and re-marry.


Months ago...I would have NEVER thought this way...would I have? It was...hard to tell what I would have done. It was...hard to put certain thoughts together.


I was seconds away from attempting to find out if I could even demorph as drugged up as I probably was.


The scent was unmistakable.


I opened my eyes to see Miles. Orange furred. Blue-eyed. The jeans, the jacket, the high tops. Even the familiar white gloves. Took after Garfield, he did. As I had said before, he'd grown to be 6 feet since the Ecotropians last saw him. He had about my build, with more muscles. Two, big, long fox tails. I still wasn't sure how he could spin them and provide enough lift to get airborn...even at his adult size. Out of all the Ecotropians who had Mobian counterparts...the difference between Miles and Tails was vast.


"Don't try to move. It's still in your system--"


"......"


"Not very talkative, huh?"


"......"


"I've...tried to take care of them all as you asked me."


"I'm sure you've done well."


"Well...not as good as you."


"Don't patronize me. I'm not in the mood for flattery."


"Yeah...uh...well..."


Miles shifted.


"You know--"


"Just answer me this. How long have I been in this prison?"


"...well......you've away from Miranda for a month or so and it's been another month or two down here."


"Terrific."


"Listen...I know I'm not in any position to ask for help but..."


You ask for help, Miles?


"I could really use advice. Being a better leader. I know I spend a lot of time on the frontines. I'm just compelled to be both sword and shield for my team. I have to be active. You...you were always able to stay behind when you could. Let your team handle things--"


I know what he was trying to say but...how it was coming across was insulting. It was like he was just copying my notes in class so he could properly take over. And further more I know he was trying to say that I had more faith in my team's abilities to protect themselves...but he was making it sound like I wanted to have a cushy desk job to foist all the work and danger onto my team.


An awkward silence. The silence was then broken by the chirp of Miles' TAO link. I recognized the tones. It mean that it was a notice for all members in UCIAT.


Miles put his TAO away and looked a bit uncomfortable for a moment.


"I'm sorry...I can't do this anymore."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 306: "The Revelations That Changed Everything"



"I know you're not quitting on--" What I was saying was an echo of what I said to Sans. But I didn't have time to finish. Miles cut me off.


"No, that's not what I meant. The alert said it was safe now and...I know someone else wanted to tell you before--"


"Tell me what?" I narrowed my eyes.


"The reason we all drove you away."


"Start talking, Prowler." I was about ready to lose it.


"First of all...it wasn't Bunnie's choice to do so." Miles looked off to the side. "There's always a choice but...it's never an easy one."


"Why?!"


"Actually...we should start with...who."


"What are you--"


"Bunnie didn't set this in motion. It was Asriel."


"........."


That hit me like a ton of bricks. Well. The knife was in. What a twist ending. I was the punchline of a god awful M. Night Shamalayan movie. I should have seen the "signs".


"You don't understand."


"I understand enough."


"No, let me explain."


"Let him explain." It was the closest I'd gotten to hard feelings against Asriel.


Miles squeezed his eyes shut. "Will you just listen! He did it to save you. To save all of us! This whole world was in danger and you were the trigger."


"Start making some sense. Quickly."


Miles started pacing. "This was done at the behest of this...Kommand person you know."


So that's how far the betrayal went. I was played from the beginning, full circle?


"Volt, I hate to ask about classified info but...what do you know about the Pico-Machine Virus?"


In that very moment everything just came to a screeching halt and suddenly things were a lot less clear than I had dismissed them. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. With just three words he made my living nightmare pull a 180. I suddenly had a deep fear pop up in the recesses of my mind...a memory which I thought was dead and buried.


If it seemed like this was just something pulled out of left field, need I remind anyone reading this that the unstable UTPR timelines were not my first case assignment. Far from it. By now...it was a number so large most people don't learn them until algebra and calculus. This was a dark corner I had forgotten. One that I poured all my efforts into forgetting.


"Where did you hear that term? No...nevermind. Kommand must've leaked it."


"She told Asriel about it."


"Why would she do that?" I backpedaled a bit to give him the benefit of the doubt.


"Asriel...was the closest we had to an S.T.C. agent. He's not even in training yet. But he was also on your side. He served as liason to Kommand, bring Bunnie and me in on it first, then others. Kommand...told me about many of the others in the Council's pocket. Anyway...she warned Asriel about it and he confided in Bunnie and from there they brought everyone into the circle, informing them to varying degrees of need-to-know."


I addressed the Pico-Machine Virus issue.


"That's forbidden technology. A confiscated super bio-weapon that many claim only a 13th level intelligence has any hope of fully comprehending. While not the scale and scope of the Ultimate Annihilator, it could be programmed to be just as bad. Fully customizable, machine colony that's even smaller than nanites and can be tailored to be far more advanced and sophisticated. You can't detect it without the kind of equipment and software that Kommand has. Even STC-Agency would be clueless about it.


A life form infected with them can become an infinite number of science projects. Living weapon. Mindless or even completely aware puppet; the former for if you want your doll to have amnesia and no recollection what they did, the former to make sure they remembered every second of it, thus breaking their mind. Mutations, super-powers, just about anything."


"For the last month or so, you've been...going through a massive treatment and withdraw of the virus."


"What?! That's impossible. I was never exposed to it."


"Actually...that's were you were wrong. It was in you before the Unstable Timeline missions began. Even before you found UTPR-3224."


"...how?"


"I'm getting to that. This machine colony was coded with very intricate layers of programming, each layer set to accomplish a number of tasks...each layer triggered by intelligent thought. Certain things in your own psyche would have lit the fuses. One neurotransmitter out of trillions upon trillions upon trillions could have done the job."


If what he was saying was right...this was a far scarier catch-22 than anything I'd ever encountered. If he was going where I think he was going...


"Okay...take it slow. Where does this begin?" I glared. Miles handed me a report with Kommand's logo on it.


"You can safely read this now."


Safely read it? Was that a trigger?


"This may be the next generation in nano-electro-mechanical hypnotic suggestion...and much much more. It starts on the first page."


I read and became disturbed by what I read. "Do you remember our ties to Section 9 Public Security?" He asked.


Immediately the Laughing Man case popped into my head. "Interceptors?!"


"Yes. This started as something the Council secretly put into operation. It was supposed to tighten the leash on their operatives to prevent further...anomalies like you from happening. And...hopefully reign in the anomalies that were already out in the field. Ones like you and the agents you've inspired to think for themselves."


I thought back to some...actual allies. I knew them by their pseudonyms. I refused to call them "agents' but rather address them as I addressed myself. I thought of Dr. Simon Aegis Nicodimus...Dr. Silus Wolfgang Faraday...Dr. Mary Alia Persephone...Professor Kimberly Luna Copernicus. Dr. Magnus Alexander Daedalus. Actual comrades I had when the chips were down. If their names sounded made-up, they were. With the exception of myself...agents of STC couldn't remember their birth names or much else of their past.


"The anomaly they're trying to eradicate is choice. This is right out of those Matrix movies. I never would have thought the Council would give any weight to a plan out of one too many works of science fiction. Are they so desperate to enforce their images that they have to prioritize total obedience?"


"Well it gets worse. They already put the interceptors in you and were going to use it as reliable real-time surveillance. You were the Council's alpha test."


All it would have taken was a mandatory health screening and they could have slipped them in under the guise of a placebo.


"This is Al Dente grade right here." Suddenly I didn't find his idea of video camera suppositories so farfetched. Why take pictures of your colon for drugs and weapons being smuggled in when you could tap all five senses of a person. The ultimate surveillance tool.


"Kommand discovered they'd become active once you returned to Miranda. The memo you received was supposed to initiate the first layer of programming; it was supposed to collectively copy all of your memories and experiences here in Miranda City and prepare them for a massive upload to a private planetary serve at the Council's behest. They planned to go over them with a fine-toothed comb so they could go on record with every one of your actions they considered a violation. They'd be able to confiscate all of your unauthorized wares in the X-Vault. And...they were hoping your memories of the time you spent with Asriel would be enough for them to consider the entire AU something to amputate from the Axis of Reality."


"Those--"


"But then it took a nasty turn. Someone else discovered them and hijacked them to put additional layers of code into them. The Interceptors became perfect unaware hosts for a much smaller scale pico-virus colony--infecting them not just at the bio-electronic wash level, but down below atomic and sub-atomic level. Quantum tech that might be a generation or two beyond Scott O'Conner's."


"Someone else--" I cut myself off sharply. "...HIM." My temper suddenly flared even hotter than Sans' threat to dunk Asriel...our Asriel.


I had all but flat out directly said his name and stated explicitly that this was his doing. I dropped his name over and over in my reports but just now I finally accepted that the grace period was over. My arch-enemy had officially caught up to me from the last time he made my life Hell.


I guess...having this long oasis of home...all the good times just made it easy to deny he'd never take this away from me. There was no chance I was going to catch up to him any time soon to settle the score. Wherever he was now...he was long gone and gloating. Maybe he was never there; just his followers working behind the scenes as always.


There's nothing more aggravating than a sworn enemy who won't even show himself. Heck, that shape-shifting wizard demon thing that plagued a samurai at least personally handled torturing him and destroying the time portals that lead back to the past.


"Yeah...the new layers of programming would have...opened up a lot of options. A lot of remote-activated options."


"Like what?"


"Well...one of those is a beacon for a transport signal--"


Suddenly the danger level became clear. Very clear. Too clear. And all of a sudden my reservations about my entire crew dissolved away.


"Allowing someone in the Council or even...an STC traitor to jump straight into my only safe haven. Let me guess what the trigger was; the moment I became aware of this in my system? Just a warning from a friend, my bosses, or even a suggestion from an enemy? Even reading something offhandedly like this very report?"


"Yes. The moment Kommand or anyone else informed you...the moment you discovered it on your own...the moment you figured this out, it would have gone into effect. The conscious thought would trigger the body to begin its defenses. The virus would activate in retaliation, becoming a chain-reaction of any possible processes. As long as you were here in Miranda City, it was primed and ready to go. As long as you were in the Underground it would be dormant. But...it was engineered to block out contact from anyone. Especially Kommand while you were off world. A way to make sure you couldn't be warned by any method."


It made sense now. What better way to cause chaos than to put you in an unwinnable situation. A virus embedded into your atomic structure that could do just about anything if not everything; and the trigger was you becoming aware of it. All someone would have to do was just say a trigger word or show a picture or something. Who could say how much it would have taken for the right neurotransmitters to fire?


In short...the idea was to cause isolation. That many friends looking out for you. It needed only one of them to warn you for it to be Game Over. It only needed me to figure it out on my own for it to be Game Over, too.


"What other things could it do?"


"We found a whole slew of downloadable bio-terrorism options, a gateway generator, various time and space modifying tools, mind control, and other nasty implements that could have turned you into a living bomb. It's like a Russian Roulette of city or even continent-wide calamity."


I finally understood. I finally realized how hard it was for Asriel...for EVERYONE to push me away without telling me why. They needed me to feel unwanted and leave of my own volition. Furthermore, if that surveillance programming was on the level...it meant that they needed the enemy to think my team and my family no longer cared about me...and for the feeling to be mutual. But...I shouldn't have been able to be swayed that easily.


"Bunnie and Callista...had to break their solemn rule about entering a person's mind without permission. They've...been psychically altering your thoughts and emotions to try to de-fuse the mental link to the Pico-Machine Virus Colony (PMVC)."


The Major and Asriel's mother were the reason my thoughts and feelings were so radically different? Of course. They rewired my psyche. I really WASN'T myself all this time. Since April began...it was more than just a case of the blues. This was mood-altering. Brainwashing. Memory-restricting. All things that reputable psychics could or should be excommunicated for. Things that I could have disowned them first for if they didn't have a good reason.


Miles handed me back my holo-tablet full of mission logs and showed me the last couple dozen entries. This person writing...I didn't recognize them. Was this really me?


"Kommand spent a long time trying to come up with a cure and a way to remove the Interceptors. Plus a way to make sure the collective data didn't find its way off world. And finally...the last few months have been administering a cure to get the entire pico-machine collective out of every atom in your being. Only now is it safe to let you back in, Volt."


I felt like a heel. Granted it wasn't entirely my fault but...I still felt bad. This whole thing was meant to protect me. It made sense. With me disabled, Asriel was the only one who could take up the STC-Agent mantle.


What a horribly complicated evil plot! This really was a super villain's work.


Suddenly it made further sense why he gave me back the Bracer. Obviously it could be tracked. I didn't need the Council or my enemy tracing it to Asriel's doorstep. In close enough proximity, the PMVC colony could not only hack my Bracer, but his. It could be used as external peripheral sensors and scanners; a way to extend its reach beyond my eyes, ears, and other three senses. If it could reconfigure my body chemistry to manufacture any number of bio-hazards...wow. This was TRULY terrifying tech.


My enemy really thought this through. No. That wasn't right. He had someone else think it through. If this was who I thought it was, then he wouldn't plan anything. He just...did things. Like Heath Ledger's Joker. He was an anarchist. So the question was...


"He didn't do this alone, did he?"


Miles turned to the doorway. "Bring in the prisoner."


That's when UCIAT security, dragged someone in. Someone in a lab coat...someone with STC-Emblems on their person.


I didn't have to ask who. I knew exactly.


"Dr. Judas Benedict Archimedes." My expression doured further as I climbed out of bed with some difficulty. If ever a more fitting, more obviously-untrustworthy pseudonym. So why was I the only one in S.T.C. who saw it a mile away while the Council practically threw me out of the room for suggesting it?


All of a sudden a lot of elements from the world I protected my world from were raining down out of nowhere. All of a sudden the things out of left field were revealing themselves as being very connected. Hidden dangers I wasn't even aware of...that I wouldn't even think to bring up all those log entries ago...it was all unfolding here and now.


"He's apparently been sneaking around town for some time. Since the last time you dropped in from your previous ongoing mission on Mobius. Asriel discovered him trying to hide outside of space-time during one of your visits to the Underground. Kommand positively ID-ed him. He's been a plant all this time."


It all made sense. A felllow agent of STC. The doctor designation was superficial. We were supposed to drop that title when we became agents in order to distinguish us from "The Doctors". But anomalies like me held onto the title. We were scientists not monkeys volunteering to be shot into space.


"The only question now is...why?" Miles scratched his head.


I didn't need to ask why.


"Here's why..." I grabbed a hold of his STC-Insignea and ripped it off only to find...!


"Adonis' Crest. He's become a follower of Chaopolis." I sneered.


"The universe has to return to the state it belongs in...without rules, without laws, without structure! An endless cycle of chaos!" Judas snarled at me.


The response of someone truly brainwashed. But even without that much...Judas Archimedes was a greedy d***. A real Chill Penguin type. Money was always the object.


I shook my head. "What he seeks is impossible. The InfinityVerse doesn't stay in a state of chaos. Sooner or later it reaches equilibrium and then...entropy. But even that doesn't last forever. Life happens. Rules get made and broken. Forces unbalance. The whole thing starts all over again. Another big bang. Face it. No world can exist without Fate's sister as her polar opposite. As long as there is Fate, there is Destiny. Time is infinite in both directions. Accept it."


"That's not what the Lantern Corps believe. There IS a Beginning of Time and there has to be an End of Time. It's only a matter of time before he breaks it all down into everlasting chaos at the end of it all!"


I picked up some gauze from the table and some cotton swabs. I shoved the cotton in his mouth then began wrapping around Archimedes' head, only covering his mouth, leaving his nose open. Not like suffocating would kill him. Another person that had no business opening the Genie's Lamp and Pandora's Box. I bet he lied about which of the sisters' contracts he signed.


"I think you know what happens next."


That was when Kommand warped into the room, this time wearing the Nameless Man/Codename V (for Vendetta) getup with the Guy Fawkes mask. Her ears were tucked under the wig and hat pretty well. Old movie-theft habits were hard to break.


"He ready to go?"


"Almost." I growled. I picked up my Neuralizer. "Just a few questions before he's off. I'm going to set this for a random amount of time with each question. Simple yes or no answer. First time I don't like what response I get, you have that many years of your memoires taken off."


Kommand issued each of us ray ban shades.


"First question. Are you operating alone?"


A nod.


"Second question. Were you the one that infected me with this abomination?"


A nod.


"Third question. Was I the only one you infected?"


A nod.


"Fourth question. Are there any double agents active in STC besides you?"


A shake of the head. No.


"Fifth question. Were you being paid handsomely for this?"


A shake of the head no. I didn't really believe him, knowing Archimedes in past encounters.


"Final question. Did you really think you were going to get away with it?"


A nod.


"Wrong answer. By the way...that part about a random number of years. I lied." I showed the indictor. His eyes widened.


"The number of years you've been immortal plus your age before then. That amounts to a total memory wipe. Even down to the first things you learn as a new-born. Get the picture?"


He tried to scream through the bandages.


"Yeah. You understand. So I leave you with this one final thing to reflect on for the next couple of seconds. I liked you better when you were just in it for the money. At least then you were straight about your intentions."


And with that...a flash. And his mind was gone. I had given him the ultimate punishment for scientists. What every scientist feared. Oblivion. It was why the Council chose erasing a person from past, present, and future as the final punishment. No one wants to be forgotten. No one wants to cease to exist. No one wants it all to end.


"Kommand...get this trash out of my sight. I need some time alone to reflect."


Kommand teleported out with the prisoner. Security left the room. And Miles soon bid me fairwell as I climbed back into bed and rolled over. I think...that's when the hurting finally stopped. But I still didn't feel any better about any of this. I still lost the Underground and my place in STC. And right now...I was in a vacuum in the only home I knew.


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 307: "Dear Old Dad"



Velaska didn't announce any visitors after Miles got everything squared away.


But there was one person who didn't NEED to conform to visitor rules and such. If he walked in...you let him.


"Dad."


"Hey, champ."


"I was starting to think you'd never call me that again."


"Ooo-wee. Bunnie really did a number on your psyche. I raised you better than that."


"Excuse me if I don't exactly sound like myself. I'm not sure how much of me is the genuine article after they neuro-hacked me."


"Don't be too harsh on them. We all took a vote and decided it was the best way to go to keep you protected."


"With protection like that who needs enemies?"


"Volt, I don't expect you to come around that quickly. Even I don't want to admit to how much we all sacrificed to put this plan into motion. Miles tried talking me out of it for a while. Part of why he stayed on the front lines was that he didn't want to show his face. He felt kinda...disgraced by his role in the grand scheme. Disrespecting his hero like that."


Me? Miles' hero? But I guess it was a matter of perspective. I always felt he surpassed me a long time ago.


"This plan has been in action for a long time now. Kommand has been sitting on it for quite a bit."


"Of course she has..." I rolled my eyes. "So I guess you know the story about her."


"Only a very small circle know." He assured. "Bunnie and Asriel are among that circle."


I didn't really want Garfield bringing up their names this early on. I'd have to...let it all sink in first.


"It sounds like you know a lot about what happened while I wasn't here to overhear."


"Yeah...I've..been keeping tabs on everyone."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 308: "After I Left Bunnie..."



"...so...why don't you go ahead and tell me what happened after I left Miranda City. I know I'm not going to get it from Bunnie. So rewind the clock for me. This plan took off the moment she passive-aggressively kicked me out of town."


"Well...it's like this..."


~~~~~~~~


"I can't feel...ANYTHING." I walked away from her.


"VOLT!"


"At least you had the decency not to call me Commander. Don't bother telling Miles I was here. Furthermore...if you mention anything about this conversation to Asriel..."


"You are in no position to make demands."


"Am I?"


I turned, my hands crackling with electricity. Her nanites made her frighteningly more vulnerable to electricity than anyone else in town. All it would take is one jolt and her pain would be as excruciating as my own. But...no. She wasn't worth it.


"I never would have imagined you'd decide his path. I guess if his home world is going to lose a prince, it's going to gain a time-traveller."


I stormed off and took the Time Machine back to the Underground.


"...he was here, wasn't he?"


"He was."


Asriel looked off to the side.


"It's for his own good. And ours. It will work out in the end."


"Just a little longer..."


Asriel tightened his fists and squeezed his eyes shut.


"This is wrong!" He sobbed as he choked up a sobbed. "Why is this happening to him? Why do we have to do this to him?"


"Asriel...there's no other way. He's been put into a situation where he's a danger to everyone in this town and doesn't even know it. If he learns that truth, then the trigger is pulled. Kommand isn't sure what will happen but the likelihood is Volt will revive to see its aftermath. And knowing he caused it......it will do far more permanent damage than the temporary damage we're causing him. He doesn't need ANOTHER major failure on his conscience.


What we're doing is horrible. But until we diffuse it we can't be close to him. None of us can put on a happy face without him figuring out something is wrong. As long as he things we've turned on him...as long as my psychic circuit breakers hold, the evil that's been fused with his atomic structure will not activate."


"This is.....*sniffle*....*sob*...the second time I've betrayed my best friend." Asriel hugged his knees to his chest and let the tears flow. "I don't deserve his forgiveness."


"...neither of us do." Bunnie turned away. "My ancestors curse me for breaking my code of servitude. All of us will have our own Hell to pay for our common enemy's gambit."


Asriel looked up at her.


"When this is over, Asriel...when we overcome this...I vow that this injustice will one day be rectified. The one responsible will not remain above the consequences."


Asriel's eyes turned yellow. "You never give up on true friends...you never give up on family. Some day...whoever did this to us...I'll make sure they never do it to anyone else. Not for revenge. For justice."


Bunnie nodded.


"We must update Miles on the situation. And report in to Garfield-sama."


"Has he found the enemy's servant, yet?"


"He's closing in from afar. The virtual paper-trail is almost reaching its end. Seems their liason has been closer than any of us could have ever imagined." Bunnie narrowed her eyes. "I know you won't understand the reference, but the Commander will not be happy we have another "Jack Hanos" case.


"Mr. Red mentioned that name before. I guess I'll learn about it when he feels like explaining it?"


"Or any of us for that matter." Bunnie lowered her gaze.


"Come, Asriel. We have to prepare for--"


"Yeah. That."


~~~~~~~~~~~~


"I think it's about time I heard the rest of the story. At the very least the stories of at least some of my crew who were in on it."


"I think that's only fair."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 309: "Behind the Scenes":



"Let's start with Violet."


It must've been quite a dance to get her into the circle without telling her who Kommand really was. Someone this crucial to making the counter-plan to Archimedes' gambit had to know just enough without learning too much and endangering her own future.


"Yeah. Let's."


"So...after you left Computer Valhalla..."


~~~~


"...dammit." Violet's expression doured.


"He's out of hearing range. We can talk now."


Garfield emerged from the back room as Violet came up out of the trap door behind her desk and consoles. The trap door that led through secret tunnels to Rabbotou Dojo and UCIAT HQ.


"I've been looking at the programming for this thing that this Kommand person sent Asriel. This thing is VERY real and VERY evil. It took a lot of all-nighters just to begin to make sense of it and finally I'm starting to decode it."


Garfield crossed his arms.


"A single thought could trigger this mess. It's been unpacking itself for a while now. I'd say it accelerated the process when Elektra did the tests on him and found the dust and blood in his system."


"Which alerted the virus that it was in danger of being discovered."


"We wouldn't have discovered it with our technology level. But as long as the Pico-Drive engine foresaw the danger, it was ready to adapt at a moment's notice."


"But not a full trigger."


"No. Not enough time had passed for that. It finished completely decompressing and interweaving with his sub-atomic structure by the beginning of April."


Garfield frowned.


"I've made enemies in my lifetime but none who've every gone remotely this far. I knew when I turned Volt loose on the world he'd follow his own path. Make his own legacy. And make as many or more enemies as I have."


"Oh this just screams sadistic lessons in life that don't need to be taught. We both know what the end game of this is."


Garfield sipped his coffee.


"It's not the end result but the by-product that was the goal." He narrowed his eyes. "The isolation. The rejection. Everything we had no choice but to put him through to keep him and everyone around him and us safe...this thing was designed to put him in a situation where he was walking alone. This wasn't just an attack on him. This was an attack on ALL OF US."


"It put us in a situation where we had no choice but to abandon him. I don't think the virus ever meant to be triggered. This guy...he's stripping our ex-commander down to the bone."


"A feeling I'm sure he, she, or it is all too familiar...and comfortable with."


"A sociapath, megalomaniac, and mysonthrope in one. It took a special kind of screw-job by the S.T.C. Council to create this."


"Volt protected us for years by keeping as much S.T.C. details from us as possible. But this Kommand person is pretty much a well-spring of what he does behind the scenes."


Violet paced.


"I know I haven't had the most experience with friendship...with being a friend. But I gotta tell you. My role in this...it feels like a massive step back. I'm not the easiest person to put up with, Garfield. I get that. I know that a lot of what I do hugs the line.


Seriously...abandoning him even temporarily? This is not friendship. This is disgusting. I've done something I don't approve of. I look in the mirror and the person that looks back is stained with betrayal. How am I going to make it up to him? I'm his third in command and he deserves better than this. I swear...when I find the dirt bag that did this to him...did this to ALL of us......"


"There is no simple answer, Vi. I'm the closest he has to a father and I shut him out. And it just burns me up that this was the only option we were left with. I wasn't going to sacrifice my son and a city full of people for his enemy's sick and twisted game. We have a long road ahead if we're ever going to earn back the trust we threw away just to keep him safe. Just to defuse that bomb inside him."


"This magna-code...I don't even have a name for something this advanced......this is something way beyond my pay grade."


"Then it's good you're not working for a paycheck on this one. This one is--"


"For family." Violet nodded. "How long are we going to have to save him by betraying him? We've been pulling a reverse "Fate of the Furious" on him for months now. Honestly. I could throw up right now with how each of us has to treat him just to keep Bunnie's mental inhibitors stable...from keeping that one thought out of his head that will do the deed."


"As long as it takes for Kommand to make the antivirus."


"Whoever Kommand is...they're good. REALLY good. Like...my Hybrid ability times a million good."


If Violet only knew. But that's the reason even after all this blew over she couldn't know. But Bunnie...she would figure it out. It would be her, Asriel's, and my secret.


~~~~~~~~


"So. Mitzi?"


~~~~~~~~


"...That's all I'm getting at. You don't have to drop her out of the nest all at once. It's not like birds learning to fly. But you do have to grow out of it, just as she has to grow into it."


I could't believe I wasn't getting any more sympathy than this. I guess I should have kept that in mind considering I was talking to someone who wasn't even dating let alone had kids of her own. Maybe it was a little rude of me...but what did she know about being a parent?


Whoah. Where did that come from? I'm...just a little stressed. That's all.


"Commander, she'll be fine."


I left in a huff.


A while later after I was long out of the area...


A knock on Mitzi's back door.


Mitzi opened the door...and let Gadget in.


"....I did a bad thing. I lied to big brother about going out with friends."


"I know...we...did what we had to do." Mitzi hung her head.


Gadget threw her arms around Mitzi and cried her eyes out.


"I'm a horrible sister!"


"We're all horrible. We're driving him away and there's nothing we can do about it until this blows over."


"I hate it! I hate it so much!"


"I wonder if Nermal will look at me with the same eyes again. This is no better than what Helen did to me. He deserves better than us."


"What if...what if we can't get him back? What if he stays in that place forever?"


"He won't. He'll come back. He has to. He has to if we're going to cure him."


For the longest time the Twice As Nice Mice cried in each other's arms.


"Why...why is this happening?"


"I don't know, Gadget. I just don't know..."


~~~~~~~~~~


"So...Team Acorn?"


"Sally was the most pissed out of all of us..."


~~~~~~~~~~~~


"DAMMIT!!!" Sally had cratered the wall and the ground.


"Take it easy, Sally!"


"I'm just so volcanic! So nuclear! So friggin' livid! Who does this guy think he is turning us against our ex-commander? Giving us the choice to stab him in the back and keep this world safe or turning him into a bomb or a black hole or a teleport beacon for who knows how big an invasion army with as little a single sentence uttered?"


"Makes me hot under the collar too, but I don't want to be filing a report as to why the E.R.R.O.R. team has to suddenly do city maintenance."


Sally stormed back and forth. "Someone crossed a line. You don't screw with family! Immediate or extended. Or even metaphorical blood brother! There is going to be Hell to pay when I find out who made jackasses out of all of us!"


This was probably Sally at her most Undyne. Normally it wasn't this easy to get her to lose her temper. In the past it was Violet who would REALLY make you regret making her angry. This was a side to Sally that came with the reboot of her life.


"I do have good news. Garfield struck a deal with Galvan Enterprises and Cerebrocrustacean Incorporated. We'll be having a joint effort between the most technologically advanced super-conglomerate industries on the planet to hopefully create the pico-colony proto-culture that we can refine into progressive layers of antivirus pico-machines. Keep in mind this goes beyond our world's current progress level. Pico-machines are the next evolution of quantum science." Willie explained.


"That's a start. How long will it take to synthesize?"


"Each one is going to take a month to several months. If all goes according to plan a total cure sometime by fall."


"Going on half a year's worth of treatment?"


"In which he has to be kept in a coma."


"Mode."


"Very mode."


"This is scores of un-shway. I hate feeling so helpless in the midst of this while treating the Commander like trash!"


"I feel like a Kopy Kat." Honey smoldered.


"How's Asriel taking it?"


"The worst out of all of us."


"I don't blame him. He was the one who pulled the trigger on the counterattack. He was the one that Kommand trusted to break Volt's trust in all of us."


"He's never going to live this down."


"Are any of us?"


~~~~~~~~~


"And Rotor?"


"You need to ask?"


~~~~~~~


"...that's your tenth one. Maybe you should slow down a little."


"No offense. But I'll say when I've had enough."


"Yeah...but you do realize you're not going to get drunk off virgin blueberry daquirris, right?"


"...I know."


"Bro?"


"Yeah, Skeetz? Need a refill on your root beer float?"


"No..." Skeeter looked away. "Are we trash?"


"Yeah. We kinda are."


"Will it be too late to say we're sorry?"


"...I hope not."


~~~~~~~~~~


"So. Everyone, huh?"



"There are a lot more I'm leaving out. Everyone on the planet who knows you and knows the situation is basically beside themselves. We've even let a few off world in on it. Just the ones we trust most, mind you."



"There's a flaw in this thing. How the Followers of Chaopolis know I wouldn't trigger it while in the Underground?"


I think that was a more pressing question to me than the possibility that Alphys could have discovered it in one of her scans. But then I reminded myself that even with all of her greatest technological developments, with the very peak of her creative talents, the gap between her progress level and the one of those who created the Pico Drive Engine in the first place was immeasurably large.


Like comparing Galvan Enterprises to the Tetrimand Corporation; one which specializes in next generation nano-tech and gravity science vs. one that made bulldozers and weight-lifting equipment. Actually when I put it that way it was more like I was comparing us to Undyne than Alphys. But the point still stood. There was no chance she was going to discover it. It was a miracle that Kommand figured it out in the first place.


"I don't think it would have mattered one way or another. We don't even know if it COULD trigger in the Underground. While the goal was to strike at your home, another ruined dimension to the pile would have still been a victory for them. You don't need another Unversal City hanging around your neck."



"But hypothetically, if the virus was meant for Miranda City, what was to stop Kommand from rerouting me to an unoccupied place and warning me and letting me take the fall where it couldn't do any harm? Just letting me re-spawn if it was a bomb or trapping the invasion fleet in limbo? I'd find a way out of it...somehow."


"You're dealing with a lot of theoretical situations. We didn't know if the virus would stay active upon leaving Miranda City. Our only fail safe was that nobody in the Underground knew about it. Alphys was the only one who even knew a portion of your secrets. It was a very slight gamble one way or another if she'd discover the virus on her own. Either way, boom...someone's world gets wiped out. Either way...they gave you the love and attention that we couldn't until Kommand came up with the antidote. We...just didn't count on the Reset."


I thought back to what Frisk had said. I couldn't prove it...but I knew it was Adonis' handiwork. He set that up, too. If the virus didn't trigger in Miranda City...he'd take this away from me...from Asriel. How cruel. How disgusting.


"Yeah...his followers thought of everything so he wouldn't have to."


I sighed.


"Well. The comfort comes...better late than never."


----RECOVERED DATA FRAGMENT FROM THE RESEARCH LOGS OF SPACE TIME CONTINUUM (STC) AGENCY FIELD AGENT AND FOUNDER, DR. VOLT ALESSANDRO ARCADE-----


Sub-Entry 310: "I Was Never Forgotten":



In the week that followed, my strength and sanity started coming back. The first to visit was Callista. She explained to me the different psychic circuit breakers and prods to certain parts of my brain such as the apoplaxia region that controlled rage.


"I'm so sorry, Ex-Commander. I feel so ashamed having to resort to something so...unforgivable. I won't make excuses. It was touch and go trying to keep your mind from triggering the cyber-virus."


Of course I forgave her.


Scott was next. He related to me his tales of feeling betrayed. Of what it was like to not know who your real friends and enemies are.


As a sort of...closure to his own sorrows, he offered one of his old army pins. It didn't feel right taking it from him, plus it did come from Vorostovian Military...but I accepted and we shared a salute. Even though were were technically both civilians. But Arlene insisted Scott keep his rank, and the thought of being a former soldier of STC and a retired UCIAT commander just didn't mesh with me.


"Thank you, Colonel."


"Thank YOU, Commander."


A shared salute and he was on his way. I didn't ask him or Callie about Asriel. I think it was best if I didn't think about it until I was ready.


"It was totally mode of us snubbing you like that, Commander. We're total bojos." Sally offered me a multimedia player and headphones. "I hope Willie's and my latest remix is at least some kind of a start to steer us back on track."


"I'll give it a listen."


Lupe came by.


"Lupe? Seriously? Buttercups?" I looked dismally at the flowers.


"Too soon?" She asked.


"The...ironic sentiment is appreciated but...really...I think I want to avoid flowers for a bit."


Well. I was in Goat Son's sandals, now. Guess I'd be spending time in the Nature Preserve getting over my fear, huh?


One by one, I'd get a visitor, practically every 20 minutes or so. Apologies and gifts.


"...I've been a lousy son-in-law. To make up for it, I'll sneak a steak or a burger in for you every day."


"That's...a bit overkill. Especially if you make one of your multi-decker specials. But...thanks."


Even my own family was in on it. My twin daughters almost squeezed the life out of me, hugging me and crying and begging for me not to be mad at them.


Lisa was equally downtrodden. I could tell she was about to lose it from pushing me away for so long. Asriel had really done a good job explaining just how grave my situation was.


I even got a few unexpected visits.


"Mentor."


"Ray and I have been briefed. My condolences." Egon and Ray had come all the way from 1980's New York, off world.


"It's okay, Egon. I can still fall back on the X-Vault if I ever need to do some ghostbusting around town."


"I think that seems extraordinarily unlikely."


"Yeah. It really does."


I ended up getting a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man plush out of it. I think it was Slimer's idea.


At the end of the day, Splinter was the last to visit me. He used some of his martial science techniques to speed my recovery. He also offered some advice and disdain for Bunnie's methods. I should have known she didn't get her plan from his side of the martial arts training. It was...comforting somehow.


"Find peace now, Volt-san. Even a stormy ocean may become a still lake."


But the ones who stayed away were...the ones I needed to talk to most.


The area was piled up with gifts from friends...and bribery from some who were trying to get in my good graces in the hopes of getting his way. Not going to work, Al Dente. I had no control over your psyche evalutations, Antoine. Also I was going to make sure the both of you got what was coming to you once I was out of here. While everyone else was in it for the greater good, you two were in it just for fun...or semblance of fun, in Al's case.


Maybe it was true. Maybe he really did choose his sensei to be his best friend over me. Maybe...it was just the psychic circuit breakers that hadn't quite worn off or broken down. Callista would begin removing them as time went on. I began to feel a lot more...clarity of thought. Honestly...looking back on what I wrote in my logs...I was beginning to remember what I said about Monsters back in the Unstable Genocide Timeline. I had become just that...a person with so little faith and hope in his own.


Some of it was outside influence. Some was just psychically amplifying what doubts were already there and turning them against me. Bunnie was right all along. It was for my own good.


Oh well.


I could wait a little longer for Asriel and Bunnie to come around.


It looked like I was going to have plenty of time on my hands now that I was out of a job and still technically retired.


Worry about it later, Volt. This was a good time and place to rest your brain.


TO BE CONCLUDED...
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