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!
Rosie crested a hill and approached the evening’s campsite. She dropped her water bottles next to the fire pit and glanced around. Aquamarine was no where to be seen while Jenika was nearby dismembering The Arena’s equivalent of a bird. Crash was crouched next to the fire, arms wrapped tightly around his knees.
Rosie walked over to Jenika and lowered her voice, “How’s it going?”
Jenika glanced up with a vaguely annoyed look on her face and used the back of her hand to push her glasses higher up onto her nose.
“If you’re referring to me, I would say that I am less than enthusiastic. I haven’t used my medical school training for a very long time and this situation is very much out of the box of what was covered. I’m not even sure what organ this is.”
She thrust the half flayed corpse toward Rosie who stepped back and squinted into the chest cavity.
She shrugged, “Liver?”
Jenika sighed and used her fingers to forcefully remove the questionable organ. She tossed it over her shoulder and continued working.
“What about Crash?” Rosie asked.
“Oh Crash.” Jenika paused and looked over toward the fire, “Well, in my professional opinion I would say that he is having a mild to moderate nervous breakdown. He’s far out of his comfort zone and established routine. It’s giving him a lot of stress. That coupled with the inability to access any avatars…well, I’m concerned that if we don’t find a means of helping him deal with things he’s going to move on a to complete nervous breakdown at which point we’re going to have to carry him because he will likely go catatonic.”
Rosie stared, “That’s your professional opinion?”
Rosie started off toward Crash before stopping and turning back to Jenika.
“Where’s Aquamarine?” she asked.
Jenika jerked her head to the right, “Hunting. She’ll be back later.”
Rosie nodded and continued over to Crash, who visibly tensed as she approached. Rosie slowed her pace and tried to think of soothing things to say.
“Hi Crash.” she said, as calmly as possible.
Crash didn’t respond.
“How’re you doing?”
“Crash? Crash, are you okay?” Rosie reached out to touch his shoulder.
“Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” he cried, his voice bordering on a shriek as he twisted away from her.
Rosie froze, shocked at the violence of his reaction. She had never seen Crash like this before. It scared her more than a little. He was clearly having a harder time adjusting than the rest of them, she just hadn’t realized how much harder until now.
“Okay, okay.” she raised her hands and stepped back slowly, “I’m sorry Crash. I’m not going to touch you okay? I’m just going to sit next to you. Is that all right?”
Crash paused and then nodded.
“You can sit next to me but I don’t want you to touch me.” he said.
Rosie sat down slowly and watched as Crash began to relax just slightly, moving away from the edge of panic.
They sat in silence for a while before Rosie said, “This must be hard for you.”
Crash nodded miserably, “I don’t like it here. I don’t like to be outside like this. There’s too much light. There’s to much air. There’s too much…everything.”
Far off in the distance there was a sudden, horrible screech from an animal. Aquamarine had obviously found her quarry. Rosie saw Crash grab his ears and begin to rock slowly.
“Crash.” she said, “Crash, listen to me. It’s okay. We’re going to get through this, all right?”
He shook his head, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t like it. I want to go back to the metapods. I don’t like being here without an avatar. I don’t like being here as myself.”
“Because the avatars are better at this than I am. They have abilities to help deal with this. I don’t. I don’t have what I need because I have to be myself.”
Rosie considered for a moment, “Well…when you were in Kid Titan how did you feel?”
Crash looked up, “Depressed, run down, ignored.”
“Aside from that?”
“Strong. Loyal. Brave. Knowing that I could jump off a building and not take any fall damage was cool.”
Rosie chuckled softly, “All right. Can you pretend that you’re in Kid Titan then? Pretend that he’s your avatar and you’re feeling those things?”
He looked at her doubtfully.
“What about Gatling? What did you feel when you were in Gatling?”
“Brilliant but frustrated. A little repressed because of society. Charming. Confident. I liked that.”
“Right, so why not pretend you still are him? Sometimes, just when you need to be. And maybe sometimes you can pretend you’re Kid Titan, if you need him. Sort of like…like…” Rosie trailed off trying to come up with an example.
“Like an RPG?”
Crash thought about it, “I don’t know. I don’t have a character sheet.”
“Make one up.”
Crash seemed to be considering the idea as he sat back slightly. He wrapped his sweater closer, his sunglasses reflecting the noon day sun. He pushed a homemade ear plug back into position.
“And if you need any help or anything you can just ask me.” said Rosie, “Any time. I’m here to help.”
“I don’t know. You’re angry a lot.”
Rosie looked surprised, “Well, I’m…I’m…I am angry Crash. But I’m not angry at you.”
“Then who are you angry at?”
She made a frustrated gesture, “The Program, The Founders, the people who put us in this place. I’m angry Crash, because we’ve been run pillar to post by people who don’t seem to care about who we are or what we want so long as their mission is completed. A mission they won’t even tell us about, they won’t even trust us with. I’m angry because at least one of those groups has literally murdered people to get to what they want. I’m angry because we’re stuck here on our own because The Founders and The Program want to fight each other. I’m angry because this whole time nothing we have done has been our choice. No world we’ve gone to, no mission we’ve taken on. I’m angry because we’ve been taking over and harming real people who don’t have any more say in the matter than we do. But mostly Crash, I’m angry because I don’t like being lied to. And I feel like since day one we’ve been lied to more than anything else.”
She paused and glanced over, “But none of that is your fault. None of it. And even when I’m madder than anything it’s never at you. My loyalty is to my team and right now that’s you, Jenika, and Aquamarine.”
“What about Nick and Nathan?”
Rosie nodded, “Yeah, them too. And Thomas. But they aren’t here right now, you are. So that means that you’re my priority. The four of us are all we’ve got out here. I promise you, I will do anything I can to make sure that you are safe. And I promise that I will do everything I can to get us out of here.”
She reached out and touched Crash’s shoulder. This time he didn’t pull away.
“I know I’m not really her. But maybe out here I could be sort of like your sister? Someone you could rely on to help you with things?”
“You’re not my sister, Tessa is. My Dad said Tessa was the smartest girl in the world.”
Rosie sighed, “Well, I know I’m not Tessa and I’m not the smartest girl in the world but – “
Crash cut her off, “You’re not the smartest girl in the world because that’s Tessa, that’s what my Dad said. But you are smart. I think my Dad would say you were smart too, you and Jenika and Aquamarine. And you tell me things. Not everyone tells me things. People like to whisper when I’m around but I can still hear them. I don’t like when they whisper. You don’t whisper around me. You talk to me and I like that.”
Rosie smiled as Crash continued, “Nick was my best friend but then he left. And then Nathan was my best friend and he left too. I thought Thomas might be my best friend but I don’t know where he is. And I don’t think Jebediah is my best friend any more. Does that mean you’ll be my new best friend?”
He looked up at her, the direct eye contact taking her by surprise.
“Yes Crash. I would be honored to be your best friend.”
Crash nodded, looking back down, “Okay. Just try not to go away like Nick and Nathan and Thomas did.”
Rosie stood up and gestured to him, “Come on. I’m going to teach you something really useful.”
“Is it how to poop outside? Because I already did that today. I didn’t want to but my stomach hurt.”
“No Crash, I’m not going to show you how to poop outside.”
“Good. Because that would be weird.”
Rosie smirked, “Yeah, it would be. Let’s go. I want to show you a plant that’s really tasty. It’s called a Yum Yum Leaf.”