Cognitive Dissonance @hexmage
Chapter Four Caitlyn offers some advice. Jayce plans his attempt at an apology.

The Sheriff’s voice is soft as she continues. Jayce isn’t used to her playing the role of a compassionate friend, and it takes time for the dissonance to fade. “You have a strong sense of justice, Jayce. You’re not someone who easily confuses right from wrong… for me to tell you, based off of the information I know, that you are wrong would be a lie. Neither of us have all of the relevant information, of course. But you know more than I, and even if I cannot possibly imagine that man being anything but the archetypal Zaunite scientist, I trust your thoughts and intuition.”

Going to Caitlyn had been a mistake. But he’d known it most likely would be. “I’m not you, though. I didn’t become a vigilante at fourteen and the head of the police force at twenty-five. I’m not… I’m just a guy with a master’s degree, like most scientists in Piltover,” it’s not a lack of self-confidence or pride that’s speaking - it’s just that comparing anyone to Caitlyn Eckhart had them come up short. It’s hard to top “nearly eradicating crime in a bustling city-state by your mid-twenties”, after all.

“You also made an entirely new invention to go take back Piltover’s property when I couldn’t interfere. Not the smartest move for a lab rat,” she quirks her eyebrow, a hint of humor in her voice, “but certainly one influenced by your own morality.”

“You also made an entirely new invention to go take back Piltover’s property when I couldn’t interfere. Not the smartest move for a lab rat,” she quirks her eyebrow, a hint of humor in her voice, “but certainly one influenced by your own morality.”

“And I probably hurt more than I helped. I get to be the hero off the backs of…” he sits in silence, expression sour.

“We all make mistakes. You think my early days were flawless? There’s still a bullet hole in my parents’ dining room wall, from when I didn’t check that my rifle was unloaded before cleaning it. We could have had it fixed, of course, but my father believed that it would be an effective reminder to always check things twice. It is.”

The mental image of a teenaged Caitlyn nearly blowing off her arm with her own gun makes Jayce pale. “That’s different.”

“Maybe so. But what’s done is done. Your bullet hole will remain. You may as well learn from it,” she says with a small shrug, lifting her nearly-empty cup to her lips. “If you truly believe you did the wrong thing, you achieve nothing by hating yourself for it.”

“So… what? I apologize? I try to make it right? I listen to him?”

Caitlyn shrugs again - it’s obvious that she’s not going to lead him to any answers. “Those all seem like reasonable ideas. Perhaps not the listening, though. You’ve done more of that than anyone else I know of.”

“Right. I don’t think he’d ever convince me that he’s right, though.”

“You stick to your guns in regards to your morals. If you ever changed your stance on his Glorious Evolution, I would assume that something quite traumatic had happened to your brain. How is your injury?”

He really shouldn’t be surprised at Caitlyn seemingly knowing everything. She has keen eyes and a mind as sharp as a knife. “…It’s healing up. Uh… thank you for the advice.”

“I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. But… it is sometimes nice to have someone else hear your thoughts. You’d best get to it, then.”

Jayce gets to his feet, fiddling with the cuff of his glove. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Oh, Jayce?” Caitlyn asks as he turns to leave. “If you do choose to help him… don’t tell me about it. Can’t have it come out that Piltover’s Hero is trying to make it right with a Zaunite, especially that one.”

“I’ll do my best,” he says tentatively, exiting her office and closing the door.


His walk back home feels lighter than his journey to the precinct did. Colors seem just a bit brighter, and Jayce takes his time to stroll along the streets as he looks about at the scenery… and think about what he’s going to do next. How does one apologize to a cyborg and his small-yet-loyal army of followers? It’s not as if all would magically be forgiven if he showed up in Zaun with a cake that had “Sorry about potentially breaking and/or causing your limbs to have to be amputated!” written on it. Probably the opposite, in fact. So… what to do to? What to give to or do for a man with such a single-minded focus as Viktor? How was Jayce supposed to show that he was truly apologetic? He thinks back to the library, to Viktor’s outburst… the library.

Papers. That’s the answer. Piltover and Zaun did not collaborate, so there would be a wealth of research that the man had never seen - unless he had someone in Piltover’s academia working for him, of course. But that seems unlikely. Viktor’s not the type for cloak-and-dagger sorts of affairs.

Jayce turns on his heel and heads towards his alma mater.

 

The Piltovian University of the Sciences stretches out before him, gleaming buildings sparkling in the afternoon sun. It’s weird to be back on campus - Jayce has to stop himself from reaching to adjust a non-existent backpack. He’s not stopped by after he graduated with his Master’s, since any articles he could need he could have requested through his lab. Now that he’s on his own, however, he’s got to go straight to the source. A few students are lounging about on the green, studying or talking or taking a nap in the springtime air. It brings a smile to his face to remember doing the exact same.

His thoughts turn to Zaun and their counterpart to the University. With the air quality there, do students spend time out in the smog-shrouded sun? What does the campus even look like…? Was Viktor a graduate from there, or was he some sort of self-taught mad scientist?

Jayce’s legs had seemingly directed him to the library without any conscious thought. The building is a thing of glass and light-colored steel, windows taking the place of walls. It looks quiet enough inside - the quarter is just starting, after all, and no one is feeling the pressure to study just yet. Of course, that’ll all change by midterms… but for now, everyone is free to enjoy the early days of spring. He remembers doing much the same.


The woman manning the library’s front desk looks up as he approaches - her expression changing from mild interest to overwhelming curiosity in an instant. “Oh! You’re J- ah, er, how may I help you?”

Jayce smiles good-naturedly at her recognition. In this case, his heroic persona might help him… “Yeah, the one and only! I was wondering if I could check out a few journals.”

“Of course! We allow all our graduates to use our collection - the cap for simultaneous check-outs is increased to five. We’ve been moving to microfiche for some in-library use and for archiving older media, but everything new should still be in print.”

Five. That’s not nearly enough for an apology. One issue might only have one or two articles of interest, and… Jayce bites his lip in thought. “There’s no way I could check out a few more, right? I’ll get them back in under two weeks, I promise,” he feels like a student again, sitting in this library and copying down information and quotes for his studies.

Well…” the librarian says softly, looking around as if worried someone will overhear, “I might be able to let you have ten. ‘Cause of everything you’ve done for Piltover. We have the ability to override the checkout limit for special circumstances.”

Oh. He hadn’t expected that. It feels wrong to get this special treatment for no other reason than being himself, but… ten would go a long way to help to apologize. But… he’s using his position as a Champion of Piltover to give knowledge to a Zaunite. The whole situation feels like a funhouse mirror. He can’t stand silent for too long.

“I… yeah. If you can, that would be great.”

“Of course! Head on upstairs and I’ll check you out when you’ve found what you need,” she says with a nod, beaming.

Jayce nods back, says a quick thanks, and heads up the polished stone steps. If memory serves, he’ll find the area that houses all the journals in one of the corners of the building, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the center. Academic literature is dense, after all, and so requires concentration to parse.

The section is deserted - with the quarter just beginning, no one’s been assigned any research projects that require journals. That’s good… he doesn’t really want to have to be the Hero right now. He’s just Jayce, looking for papers for his enemy-turned-weird-acquaintance. (Are they acquaintances? Considering the last time he saw Viktor, the man had been full of seething rage… maybe not.) What should he look for?

Articles on prostheses, of course. He knows that Viktor claims that his are the most advanced on Valoran, but Jayce has no idea how they actually function. Maybe they’re just modifications on a current method. It takes some searching, but there’s a series of the Piltovian Journal of Orthotics and Prosthetics tucked away in a corner shelf. Jayce sits down on the carpet and pulls out an issue, marveling for a moment at the fact that it looks brand new. But he’s got reading to do, and so he begins.

 

By the time Jayce finishes one issue of the journal, his head is swimming. This stuff is clearly outside of his knowledge base, and while he can understand the general concepts… gods, he’s happy he’s just a mechanical engineer. Biomedical engineers have to deal with the body and technology, and he’s not sure if he’d be up for that task. His reading has given him something approaching a begrudging respect for Viktor - and even more questions about how the man even functions. He’s perfectly able to move on the Fields, which is not true for any of the case studies Jayce just read about. Anything above the knee means limited ankle movement, but considering how the man is able to turn on a dime and run through the jungle of Summoner’s Rift… what sort of technology is in those prostheses? And the damn third arm? How did that even work? Was there some sort of sensor in his mask that read his thoughts and moved it accordingly? It was obviously removable… how did it attach? Was it just on his pauldron, or did it attach to his body somehow?

Reading those articles was easier than all of these thoughts. Jayce sets the first issue aside and picks up the second, vowing to skim the articles rather than fully read them this time.

 

He goes through the full catalogue of the PJOP in another hour, setting aside five issues to check out. The titles and abstracts of a few articles in each seem of use. That leaves another five journals to find. He stands up, back cracking at the change, and carefully puts away the journals he didn’t find of enough importance to check out. What else could Viktor want? Jayce considers looking for journals of medicine - maybe surgery - but decides that Viktor must have some training there in order to not have killed himself by now. Surely no untrained individual would perform surgery on themselves. So that leaves… robotics, maybe. That’s a field near prosthetics, if he squinted… and might have some use for Viktor’s whole “putting his consciousness into a machine” thing. Jayce really doesn’t like the idea of aiding Viktor in that quest, but he rationalizes his discomfort by choosing to believe that Viktor would probably find out this information either way.

Robotics is a much wider field than prosthetics, so he pulls a few promising-looking journals from the shelves and gets to work reading. A lot of what he finds is about industrial robots - great, heavy things designed to automate tasks like loading freight ships, and these articles he skims over. There’s an article or two on Orianna, of all things, written by her creator/father Corin Reveck. They’re tinged in emotion and something that reads as desperation for her to be accepted, but there’s decent information in there on some of her inner workings. Nothing vital, but enough to get an idea of what makes her (literally and figuratively) tick. Jayce isn’t sure how they passed the peer-review process with that writing style. Maybe some academic had taken pity on Reveck.

He continues on in his reading, finding that a few Zaunite-published journals have made it into the library. He reads these with great interest, curious to see how those across the Bay write. It’s very similar in style, but with significantly less additions about where funding came from… or sign-offs from ethics committees. One article by a Stanwick Pididly, PhD. catches his eye. It’s on the Great Steam Golem of Zaun, the world’s very first (and for now, only) sentient robot - Blitzcrank. Jayce has seen the robot many times on the Fields, and is far-too-familiar with his right-handed grab. He grimaces at the memories, but reads on. Maybe he can find something of use here, like what precisely turned what was supposed to be a waste-disposal robot into a sentient being. Maybe it was something in the way his “brain” was constructed? He doubts that Viktor hasn’t already looked into Blitzcrank - maybe even asked to run some tests on the robot - but Jayce doesn’t mind preparing for unlikely possibilities.

The article is frustratingly vague about the making of Blitzcrank’s AI, preferring instead to talk up his construction and Pididly’s achievements. Maybe the man doesn’t want anyone to copy his work. Considering Zaun, that’s a perfectly reasonable concern… Jayce adds the journal to his pile anyways, hoping that maybe Viktor could find it interesting if not informative. He checks through a few more journals, finds a few more promising articles, and realizes with a start that he has ten… and that it’s been three hours. Hopefully there hasn’t been a shift change since he started his quest. Asking yet another person to bend the rules for him is too much.

He ventures down the stairs, finding that the same woman is still at the front desk, and checks out the journals with a bit of smalltalk. Watching his name and the due dates being written in the checkout-cards in each journal makes him nervous - even though he’s well-aware that this is simply an analog backup for the library’s digital system of checkouts and tracking. It makes what he’s doing feel even more visible. Jayce Merriweather stands out like a sore thumb amidst the student ID numbers… but Jayce still takes the journals, hugging them to his chest with one arm, and bids the library assistant a good afternoon.

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