Cognitive Dissonance @hexmage
Chapter Three Jayce's moral crises continue. Finding someone to give him decent advice about the situation is harder than he expects.

Jayce is silent as he exits the Institute by way of the portal to Piltover. He’s silent as he rides the light metro to his stop, only nodding vaguely when someone compliments his practice match today. He’s silent as he walks to his home. It’s only when his front door is shut and locked behind him that the emotional weight on his shoulders finally causes him to slump forwards.

A week ago - hells, even a few hours ago - he would have written off Viktor’s rant as something designed to manipulate. Just another way for him to preach his cause and cast those in the way of his “progress” in a negative light. He still wants to. It would be so much easier if he could just let the rage he’d seen slide off his memory like water off of a duck… but he can’t. Something in there was genuine, and that’s making him reconsider a lot of things.

Maybe a shower would help. He smells of dirt and sweat and charring (for some reason, the atmosphere of the Fields sticks with champions even if their deaths don’t) and just wants to lean against something and think. He has a lot to think about.

Maybe a shower would help. He smells of dirt and sweat and charring (for some reason, the atmosphere of the Fields sticks with champions even if their deaths don’t) and just wants to lean against something and think. He has a lot to think about.

He hangs up his coat and stows away the Mercury Cannon. Could Viktor be telling the truth?

He shuffles to the bathroom and flicks on the fan. Could his acolytes be there of their own wills?

He turns on the shower and begins to undress. Could they really hate me that much?

He steps into the stall as the room begins to steam up. Could I be the one in the wrong?

The last question hits him like a sack of bricks, and he finds himself bracing against the shower wall as if he’d actually been struck. The scab on his head twinges in pain - or maybe it’s just a headache coming on. He couldn’t be the Bad Guy, right? He’s the Defender, the Hero. People cheered him on after he’d first gone to Zaun! Sure, the government had first condemned his actions as those of a vigilante… but once he’d joined the League, he’d been lauded instead! Even Elizabeth Ferros, the mayor, had pulled him aside to say that she had appreciated what he’d done, although she had had to publicly disagree with his actions at first. He couldn’t be in the wrong. All of Piltover would have to be, then.

…What if they were? Did that make what Viktor was doing - his self-surgeries, his idea of a future only fit for machines - right? It couldn’t. He wanted to cut away from humans their very humanity: their emotions, desires, passions. It didn’t matter if he said that the Evolution was optional now… it wouldn’t be in the future, once he’d gotten more power and more technology. That was why Jayce had gone to Zaun and fought him. Not for revenge. Not for the present. For the future.

But you hurt people in Zaun, a voice in the back of his mind says. You knew what you were doing when you batted them aside. You saw more than just metal.

Maybe he had! But it was for their own good, wasn’t it? So they wouldn’t be forced to become full converts to Viktor’s vision?

You made at least one of them lose a limb, the voice continues, and he shuts his eyes as if that would help free himself from his conscience - or whatever part of his mind this is coming from, so much for preventing their robotization.

He wishes he could argue against that. Argue against the part of him that’s well-aware that he had fucked up. That he hadn’t listened well enough. That he had assumed. That he had been so content with being seen as a hero that he’d never stopped to consider if he truly was, or if he was just a man grappling against something he didn’t understand.

But he can’t, can he? So what can he do? He was a solutions-focused man. Fight the bad guy. Save the city. Simple plans that were all out of alignment now… all due to Viktor having something that sounded an awful lot like a heart. He didn’t have an answer for this. Maybe someone else did.

That was a problem for tomorrow, though. Right now he needed to drag himself through the motions of showering, make dinner, and go to sleep. That was a plan. That was something simple that he could do.

Right. Just to do it, then.


The sun rises far too early for Jayce’s liking. It doesn’t help that he’d forgotten to close the blinds on his east-facing window… but he’s up now, and there’s no use in trying to go back to sleep and delay the day. Right. Now he has to figure out who he’s going to ask for advice about the whole situation. He runs through a mental list as he shaves away his stubble in front the bathroom mirror. Who in Piltover can he ask?

His thoughts immediately turn to his friends - both from his former lab and those he’s had longer, but… truthfully, they’d probably just agree with whatever he said. It wasn’t that they didn’t have their own thoughts or ideas, just that he knew that they thought similarly to him. That’s what friendships were built on, after all. Mutual agreements, whether it be over sports teams or personal ideology. His parents would be much the same, with the addition of worrying endlessly for him. So… what about other champions?

Heimerdinger? No. His head is too far in the clouds… or, at the very least, swaddled by his hairdo.

Ziggs? Unless he wants to be informed about the best way to blow his problems up, no.

Ezreal? The boy’s hardly in his twenties and spends his time pretending he’s not infatuated with Lux. (Nevermind that Jayce is still in his twenties, albeit in the latter half by a few years. He can pass judgment, surely.)

Orianna? No.

Vi? He wouldn’t hear the end of it.

Caitlyn. Oh. He really doesn’t want to talk about this to Caitlyn. But she’s really his only choice out of anyone in this city-state. She knows more of the situation than anyone else, and he can count on her to be logical to a fault. If anyone could dissuade him from his realization and let him sink back into the nice, comfortable norm… it’d be her.

She’s also the most likely to make him plunge head-first into the predicament he’s found himself in, which is an alternative he doesn’t want to think about.

 

Jayce makes himself a small breakfast and brews himself a cup of coffee before he leaves for the day. It’s spring in Piltover, the season gifting flowers and blossoms to the leafy boulevards of the city. It’s nice to get out in his civilian clothes - he likes to think that they make him less recognizable, clad as he is in a polo shirt and dress pants, but it’s more of a placebo than anything. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to being a celebrity. It’s a nice feeling to be recognized and cheered for, but the constant visibility gets to him…

Caitlyn’s probably at her office in the city center, unless she’s already out tracking down a criminal. Maybe it would be C - then he’d have an excuse not to talk to her. She was always so focused whenever the thief made an appearance, her attention refined to the mental equivalent of a perfectly-calibrated scope. Even Vi knew well enough to leave her alone then, or risk getting dressed-down for an interruption.

Jayce hopes some expensive device has been stolen, and he hopes that a color-coded calling card has been left in its place. It would be easier for him and Caitlyn both.


For the fortune of Piltover - and the personal misfortune of Jayce - there is no crime. Caitlyn is in her office in the precinct as she is most days, with Piltover’s crime yet again at a record low. Jinx’s pyrotechnic habits have been contained by her very recent induction into the Institute - the woman hardly seems to know the difference between her delusions and reality, much less explosions on the Fields or in Piltover.

Jayce knocks awkwardly on the open doorframe, causing Caitlyn to pause before she takes her first sip of a fresh cup of tea. “Hey, Cait.”

“Good morning, Jayce,” she replies, lifting her eyes to his. “Another kidnapping to report?”

“I- oh, do I look that bad…?”

She snorts gently, shaking her head before going in for her first sip of tea. “Forgive me - I just have to find my humor where I can. What can I help you with?”

“…How did you know I came here for help?”

“You rarely stop by to just chat. And you’re looking quite worried. What’s on your mind? Take a seat.”

Jayce does as such, sitting in the chair with the air of a schoolboy about to get in trouble. It’s not that Caitlyn is intimidating, per se, although she certainly is to her quarry… but that he’s going to ask her something that she might react poorly to. Maybe he can couch it in a way that she won’t know what he’s talking about. Good luck with that.

“So… hypothetically,” he starts, and immediately regrets it. “If someone were to have done something wrong, you’d tell them, right?”

He catches just a hint of an eye-roll before Caitlyn decides to play along. “If that hypothetical person were my colleague, yes.”

“So. Hypothetically, with your hypothetical colleague,” he is well-aware of how utterly ridiculous he sounds, but this farce is somehow less embarrassing than telling the straight truth, “if they had… maybe misjudged someone, you’d tell them. Right?”

Caitlyn nods, looking rather bored. “Is this about V-“

“Viktor?! Yes! Uh. How did you know.”

The Sheriff doesn’t jump out of her seat or do any other over-the-top expression of shock, but her eyes widen as she slowly sets her teacup back onto its saucer. “…I was going to say Vi. We’re talking about the Viktor in the League, yes? The cyborg?”

Oh! Fantastic! Jayce had truly outdone himself this time! He’s been making a fool of himself for what feels like the entirety of the previous week, and now this… He looks towards Caitlyn, sheepish. “…Yeah. That Viktor.”

“The one who kidnapped you.”

“Look, it’s… complicated. I told you about his lab, right?”

“I think everyone in Piltover knows that you destroyed it. That’s why you’re a Champion, remember?”

“I… there were other people there. Some followers of his. They tried to stop me, and,” Jayce pauses, looking at the edge of Caitlyn’s desk rather than her eyes, “I. I thought they were brainwashed or something, I don’t know. So I… wasn’t careful.”

He doesn’t lift his gaze back to Caitlyn, but he can feel her confusion… and her shock. It’s well-earned, isn’t it? He’d done something wrong and people - perhaps they weren’t fully innocents, but they weren’t machines - had gotten hurt.

“…What did you do, Jayce?”

“I. I don’t know. Viktor said that a lot were injured, at least one lost a limb… I swear, Cait, it wasn’t- I didn’t mean to, I’d just made the Hammer and I didn’t know that it had that much power,” as soon as he says it, he knows it’s a lie. He’s got six years of engineering schooling, after all, and that means he should know damn well about the specifications of anything he makes, “-no, I… I did. I just thought it was necessary and I didn’t think of them as…”

Caitlyn waits a few moments after he’d trailed off before speaking. “Viktor could be lying.”

“I know! I know, and I hope he is, but he was angry. More than when I saw his parents’ room, or whatever that was, and more than when we fought and… I think he cares about them. His followers. Acolytes. More than he cared about all the work I delayed.”

He looks up at Caitlyn, shoulders still hunched. The realization he’d just had is still rippling through him - that Viktor cares about something other than the Glorious Evolution, and that of all the things for him to care about it’s people. It explains the cyborg’s anger far too well, but gives Jayce more questions than answers. Why? Why would a man who wants to become a machine care about other people? Why would he be angry on their behalf when his entire thing is about removing emotional weaknesses? Why had it taken a kidnapping for Jayce to realize all of this?

“…Cait, please. Just… tell me I’m wrong and that he’s nothing more than a crazy Zaunite bent on world domination. Or that he can’t have emotions, that he did somehow get rid of them and I just… somehow misunderstood. Please.”

1. Prologue 511 0 0 2. Chapter One 2197 0 0 3. Chapter Two 3090 0 0 4. Chapter Three 2314 0 0 5. Chapter Four 2635 0 0 6. Chapter Five 2371 0 0 7. Chaper Six 1845 0 0 8. Chapter Seven 1291 0 0 9. Chapter Eight 1188 0 0 10. Chapter Nine 2996 0 0 11. Epilogue 667 0 0