Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
About the time that Georgia Stone thrust the harpoon into the chest of a very surprised deckhand, Nick took a moment to reflect on things. It wasn’t so much the alien invasion that was on his mind, although it was certainly taking precedence over other things, but rather the conversation back at Joe’s Diner that was bothering him. Actually, it was the reaction of the other pilots. They had seemed so surprised to learn that the worlds were real, that the people were real, that each and every time they had jumped into a different metaverse and become new avatars they had actually been taking over the body of someone whom they had never met before. How could they not have realized it? It seemed so to obvious to him, like second nature, so why didn’t it seem so to everyone else? And then Nick asked himself, why was it obvious to him?
Why wasn’t he as surprised as any one else? Why not, when his mind was simply a cacophony of fractured voices and half remembered personality traits pushed together to make a semi-passable person? Why did he know that all the worlds were real and all the people were real but he didn’t know his own name? Nick was a placeholder, a designation given to him by someone who knew better. It wasn’t his real name. He was sure of that. Wasn’t he?
How much did he really know at this point? It was hard to say, as he couldn’t remember what he couldn’t remember. Sometimes he would stumble across something, a question that should be easy to answer but wasn’t, a name that should come easily but didn’t, a memory that should show clearly in his mind’s eye but wouldn’t. And then he would know. He would know just how broken he was.
A scent on the wind, a dream he tried to remember on waking, a part of himself that he couldn’t get a hold of. What was his real name? Where was he from? What was his favorite cookie? He simply didn’t know. After all this time, all the bits and pieces of scrap cobbled together to make a functioning mind, Nick was as much a stranger to him as he was to anyone else. But there was one group of people he was sure had answers to his questions, one group of people who would know about his creation.
Pushing his essence back, allowing time to slow slightly, Nick watched as Georgia continued on her deadly trajectory and wondered. How was it that in all his time being a Gestalt that one thing remained constant? His desire to take down The Program, and now The Founders, was unshakeable. The intent to stop anyone from using the pilots and their powers for their own gain was absolute. So then, that piece had to be real didn’t it? That part had to come from him, the real him, the person he was before he became Nick. He could rely on that couldn’t he? Follow it back like a breadcrumb, hold it close and use it as a guide to find his way back to who he was before.
Who he was before.
That was a thing that Nick wasn’t sure he wanted to think about. He had been Nick for so long, more mercenary than hero, that it seemed impossible to consider himself anything else. He wasn’t a good person, he knew that. He was cold, vengeful, and angry. He did what he needed to do in order to survive. Not much bothered him, one way or the other. But he might have been a better person as himself. He might have been a good person before. Or he might have been just like the people he was fighting against. The sad thing was, he didn’t know which one of the two possibilities was worse.
There were moments of almost remembering. Those times of almost catching a glimpse of someone he knew, almost hearing a familiar voice, almost knowing something true. Somewhere out there, in the vast multiverse was someone who had known him as himself. Somewhere out there was a place that had been his home, a place where he had been happy and safe, a place where he had been loved. A place he had left, left for a reason, because why else would you leave your home? Why else would you abandon your family?
The Program created him, maybe The Founders too he couldn’t be sure. Between the two of them, they had forged Nick Kreiger and he wanted to know why. He wanted to know what made him so special that they had sent a team of pilots after him, chasing him no matter where he hid or how deep he buried himself. He wanted to know who he was before all this had started, where he came from, why he could do the things he could do. He wanted to know his name. He wanted to know if there was anyone out there looking for him. He wanted to know if there was anyone out there who cared about him.
The Founders and The Program had turned the pilots into creatures outside of time who took people over and bent them to their will. Well, maybe he was a demon after all. Nick wasn’t even sure if he had a soul left any more. And if he did, was it still worth saving? He had spent so much time hiding in avatars he was afraid that what had been left of himself had been eaten away, lost while he hadn’t been looking.
So, maybe this was it then. Maybe this was the moment, the time to do something radical. Maybe this was the time that Nick would finally take a stand for something more than just himself. Maybe now he would stop hiding. Aquamarine had mentioned being a hero, Cook had said something about saving worlds. Well, Nick had never been one to be a hero. He had always been the one to do what needed to be done and get out, with the minimum of effort and attachment. But that wasn’t good enough any more, was it?
The Program needed to be stopped. The Founders needed to be stopped. He knew that to the very core of whatever made him who he was. No matter what avatar he took a piece from, no matter how splintered his essence became, that one point remained steadfast. So he would view it as the one true part of himself and take it for his North Star. He would hold on to that and follow it back to where it began, to The Founders and The Program, to his creation as Nick. He would finally stop hiding, stop running, and stand up to fight against the thing he knew was wrong. He would finally try to be the hero everyone kept insisting he should be. Maybe then he would finally know who he was.
With a sickening crunch, the harpoon pushed through the rib cage and pierced the heart of the deckhand. Possessed by an alien brain slug as he was, the crew member could only register half the amount of surprise that the situation warranted. Nick felt a thrill run through Georgia, a wave of relief, of victorious conquest, of knowing life for the first time. Nick, as usual, felt practically nothing except the slight tug of his consciousness shifting avatars again. But that wasn’t good enough any more, was it?