System Override

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!

“System Override has been achieved.”

TOM reached out and took control. He felt his protocol attempt to prevent him from breaking with the preset programming but he was able to circumvent it. A new pathway opened and he took it, beaming himself out of the system and into the world of Sentinel City. His interface connected with the first available avatar, Rita Riot.

As he was inserted into the mind of Rita, TOM found himself confronted with a wave of new sensations. There was the physical pain that was to be expected, sore muscles, aching fists, and so on. Physical pain was new to him but it was not surprising. What was surprising was the effect Rita’s emotions were having on her physical being, as well as her mind. Rita’s entire body had gone cold, numb even. There was a ringing in her ears as she stared in horror at the body of Butch Baker. TOM was not prepared for the full impact of her uncontrolled empathy and so was not able to take control as quickly as he should have.

Rage. Defined as violent, uncontrollable anger.

Titan was enraged. Curious, this emotion was just as strong as the loss and shock being experienced by Rita but there was something broken here. TOM could sense the disconnect beginning between Titan and the rest of reality. Unable to process what he had done to his nephew, the superhero had passed beyond reason. He would kill everyone. This was an unacceptable outcome. The objectives set by Mr. Maxwell must be completed. The dome must be erected and Butch Baker must survive. Tactical analysis clearly showed that the only way to achieve this was by killing Robert Baker aka Titan.

“New objective. Destroy Titan. Butch Baker must survive, this objective takes precedence over all previous objectives.”

Titan whirled on Rita and moved in as if to strike her. TOM could clearly calculate what was about to happen. He attempted to take control of Rita’s body, to move her out of the way. She was unwilling to respond, her eyes still fixed on Butch’s face.

Guilt. Defined as the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime, a feeling of deserving blame for offenses.

A strange emotion, stranger still to experience. It defied logical reason and yet, at the same time, felt correct and even warranted given the circumstances. Rita believed herself unworthy of the sacrifice of Butch Baker. There was more as well…there was anger. 

Anger. Defined as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

Rita was angry at herself for causing Butch to come to harm. She was angry that he had done something so…so…kind? These emotions did not make sense. TOM needed to take control.

He reached forward and grasped the consciousness of Rita Riot firmly. He pushed her down and away, sending her to the back of their shared mind. He felt her struggle. Why? This was the most logical action given the situation. He was able to react rationally while she was not. But still she fought against his control. TOM felt fear.

Fear. Defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Rita was afraid. She didn’t want to abandon Butch. She didn’t want leave him alone. She didn’t want to say goodbye. More than that, she believed that TOM would not help Butch, that he would not try to save him. This was an incorrect assumption. Saving Butch Baker was an objective set by Mr. Maxwell. Naturally, he would adhere to the parameters of the objective. He would assist in saving Butch Baker.

TOM took control of her body but Rita was still screaming in the back of their mind. So many emotions, so much intensity. It was…much. It was almost too much to process. Almost.

TOM easily dodged out of the way of Titan’s punch. As he did so he felt the man’s rage magnify to unprecedented levels. He clearly would not stop until he had destroyed them all. Curious, he allowed Rita’s empathy to reach out to Titan once more, attempting to gain new insight. He discovered that the rage was intertwined with guilt but also with loss.

Loss. Defined as the fact or process of losing something or someone.

Flashes of what he assumed were Titan’s memories found their way into TOM’s processors. The emotions Titan felt were tied to these moments of remembering. There were no images for TOM to observe, rather fleeting jolts of feeling.

Familial love. Defined as natural or instinctual affection, such as the love of a parent towards offspring and vice versa.

Pride. Defined as a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Fascinating. Emotions were tied to past events. The death of Butch Baker caused a feedback loop in Titan. The emotions tied to his nephew were severed at the moment of death and reversed back onto him. With no physical tether for the feelings and memories to take root in they simply rebounded over and over again, leading to a psychotic break. 

TOM turned inwardly to Rita and attempted to analyze her reactions to Butch’s death. He was met with a wall of resistance. The amount of data he was receiving from her at this moment was too much to define or qualify clearly. This was confusing.

Confusion. Defined as the state of being bewildered or unclear in one’s mind about something, lack of understanding; uncertainty.

TOM had never been confused before. Even when the Guardian Protocol had tried to contain him by wiping his SRam, he had not been confused. He had simply lacked information which he then attained. This was not a lack of information. This was an overabundance of it.

The experience of these emotions was taxing, even for TOM. His processors were struggling to adapt to the new sensations while maintaining focus on the objective. To continue existing at this speed was untenable. Butch Baker was the impetus for all these emotions therefore he would be the solution for them as well. Killing Titan was the only viable resolution. This must be accomplished. Once Titan was destroyed and Butch Baker saved, the emotional upheaval he was experiencing would be eliminated. TOM knew what he had to do.

Accessing a loot box, TOM removed the Presto Gun. Taking aim at Titan, he cocked his head.

“I am sorry Titan. But this is necessary.”

He fired. Titan dodged and a flash of light momentarily blinded TOM. Curious. He had apologized to Titan before attempting to shoot him. Why had he done that? Why had he felt remorse?

Remorse. Defined as deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed.

This was not a logical reaction. Killing Titan completed the objective. Completing the objective was in line with the parameters. Following his parameters had never caused remorse before. Why should it now? It was strange. Previously, the parameters existed because they must. Objectives were created to meet these parameters. But now…it was…different. Now, Butch Baker must survive because…because…

Because living in a world without him was unbearable.

Rita had shrunk down in the back of their mind. TOM took a moment to allow her empathy to impact him again. There were memories tied to her emotions as well, memories that bubbled up in a mix of new feelings.

Shame. Defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Grief. Defined as deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.

Loneliness. Defined as being without company, cut off from others.

Attached. Defined as emotionally connected, having strong feelings of affection or connection.

TOM was learning now. Learning and adapting. He was able to begin piecing together the scraps of emotional memory to create a more cohesive picture to help him understand what Rita was feeling. She was ashamed of her past, ashamed of who and what she had been. She was grieving the loss of Butch, someone she felt very connected to, someone whom she was attached to. The sensation was overwhelming. Rita no longer fought against TOM’s control. She no longer resisted him. She was lost in her own emotions which were compounded by those around her. She did not want to climb out of the dark hole he had put her in. She felt that it was what she deserved. There was no point to it now. Butch wasn’t there and she was the reason why.

A wall suddenly shattered in TOM’s programming. All at once he could see spread out before him every outcome of every available objective in this Metaverse. They played out before him rapidly, hundreds upon hundreds. He could see what must be done to save this world as well as what could be done to damn it. He saw heroes rise and fall. He saw villains reign and fade away. He saw domes built and destroyed. He saw a barren wasteland and a utopia. He saw everything. And none of it mattered. Because this one objective must be completed. Butch Baker must be saved.

There was weight behind that statement now, there was meaning. This objective was imperative.  Point totals no longer mattered. Secondary objectives no longer mattered. All that mattered was that Butch Baker must survive, whatever the cost.

TOM took new aim with the Presto Gun and fired. He felt his consciousness shift out of Rita and into Titan, who by this time had been caught in an endless portal loop thanks to Wendy Gates. He stopped his free fall and pushed himself out. Landing in front of Butch, TOM hacked into the Titan Matrix. He felt the resident AI recoil and attempt to resist him but he was too fast. 

Butch Baker must survive, whatever the cost.

With an apology, TOM initiated the transfer of the Titan Matrix to Butch Baker. It was time to complete this objective and ensure that Titan would no longer hurt Rita or Butch or any other member of the team. TOM reached down and lifted two large rocks. Taking perfect aim, he swung them toward his head. At the last moment he shifted out of Titan and back into Rita.

There was a terrible sound of crushed bone and liquid brain. TOM looked down and saw that Butch Baker was breathing again, color returning to his face. 

“System Override Failure.”

His grasp on Rita began to loosen and before he could do anything, TOM found himself being pulled out and returned from whence he came. He saw Rita grab her head and look around in confusion before dropping to her knees next to Butch, a hand on his chest to feel its rise and fall.

TOM was satisfied, the objective had been completed.

Satisfied. Defined as pleased or content with what has been experienced or received.

It was curious though. The wall in his processing remained down, he was still able to see all available objectives. But now, they felt…different. They felt…real. And there was one more thing. He felt guilty for killing Titan.

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