Cognitive Dissonance @hexmage
Chapter Five Jayce goes to Zaun, again. Hopefully this time it will go better.

Jayce spends his evening pouring over the journals he chose between bites of homemade chicken polenta. Maybe reading loaned-out works of academia at the kitchen table is a mistake, but it gives his mind something to do as he eats - and has the added benefit of stretching out the time before he needs to wash the various pots and pans he used. A couple articles are definitely not conducive to a good meal, considering the nature of the PJOP. The included pictures are clinical, yes, but still quite unsettling. He flips past them as quickly as he can. The robotics journals are easier on the stomach and the mind, as he finds the content understandable with his knowledge. Robots were a mild interest of his in college, due to automation in Piltover picking up, but he never did much with it other than take a few elective classes. They’re coming in handy now.

Say thank you to previous Jayce, Jayce, he thinks, and snorts to himself. He’s nothing if not easily amused at his own brand of humor.

Eventually he can’t procrastinate on the dishes anymore - even under the guise of “letting them soak” - and so he closes the issue of Robotics in Piltover he was looking at and shuffles to the kitchen sink. At least he made enough for a few nights of leftovers, because if he had to clean up this much every night… he might as well try to build a robot to wash dishes for him. (Or he’s just been influenced by what he’s been reading.) He mulls over what he’s learned as he starts to scrub at a pan. There’s at least a small business for prostheses in Piltover, with several doctors that frequently publish their work and ideas. It’s odd that he had hardly considered that field until this current fiasco… maybe he can do something to bring awareness or funding to it. Not to try to hasten scientific progress to “beat” Viktor, or to try to make it right with him, but just… because it seems like a good thing to do. Clearly very few people at the university are going into prosthetics, since his name is the only one in most of the PJOP checkout-cards. An optimistic part of him hopes that it’s simply because these are newer reprints of well-used journals, but there’s a point where optimism becomes stupidity.

Eventually he can’t procrastinate on the dishes anymore - even under the guise of “letting them soak” - and so he closes the issue of Robotics in Piltover he was looking at and shuffles to the kitchen sink. At least he made enough for a few nights of leftovers, because if he had to clean up this much every night… he might as well try to build a robot to wash dishes for him. (Or he’s just been influenced by what he’s been reading.) He mulls over what he’s learned as he starts to scrub at a pan. There’s at least a small business for prostheses in Piltover, with several doctors that frequently publish their work and ideas. It’s odd that he had hardly considered that field until this current fiasco… maybe he can do something to bring awareness or funding to it. Not to try to hasten scientific progress to “beat” Viktor, or to try to make it right with him, but just… because it seems like a good thing to do. Clearly very few people at the university are going into prosthetics, since his name is the only one in most of the PJOP checkout-cards. An optimistic part of him hopes that it’s simply because these are newer reprints of well-used journals, but there’s a point where optimism becomes stupidity.

As for robotics, Blitzcrank seems much less like a hissing steam-machine that pulls him through the brambles of Summoner’s Rift and more like a person. The robot had been granted personhood in Zaun, after all, and while they were rather lax about their legal proceedings… that was still quite an achievement. Blitzcrank seems to be a trailblazer in more ways than one, even if Jayce personally finds him a bit off-putting due to past experience.

Oh! Through the wonders of deep thought, he’d managed to get through his dishes while hardly noticing. Perhaps he should read academic literature at dinner more often, then…


Getting through the rest of his nightly routine is quick enough. Jayce showers, checks to make sure all the lights are off in the rest of his house, and heads to bed. Getting to sleep, however, is another story. His mind seems dead-set on replaying the events of today intermixed with his future plans. Is he going to board a ferry to Zaun tomorrow, journals tucked into a satchel? Is he going to hand them off to Viktor with only the request that the man returns them? What if he doesn’t and the University comes to ask where their copies went? He’s pretty certain “I gave them to a Zaunite Champion” would go over poorly, and admitting to giving them to Viktor even more so. Could he get in legal trouble? Was this even a good idea? Jayce presses his face into a pillow as if that will magically solve yet another internal crisis. It doesn’t.

Well. If he doesn’t offer the metaphorical peace treaty to Viktor, who knows what will happen. If his acolytes are as half as persistent as he is, Jayce is pretty sure he’ll end up with yet another head trauma… or something worse. Potential kidnapping or potential legal action? There was also the matter of the right thing to do, which he was rapidly finding out didn’t always line up with the legal thing to do. Caitlyn seemed to know it, which was a fact he’d been pointedly ignoring until now. Someone who symbolized law and order as much as she did had told him to lie to her if he talked to Viktor. Did that mean she approved of his choice, or just that she was looking the other way due to his Championship? (Or perhaps even their friendship, if he could call it that. They didn’t hang out or do anything he did with his college friends, but calling her an acquaintance felt far too distant. He guessed they were coworkers, technically, but even that felt wrong.)

Things had been much simpler when he’d been convinced that the law was usually right. Now it seemed that the law twisted and turned and only sometimes intersected with doing the right thing. Was it right to try and fix his wrongs in regards to Viktor? Would giving him knowledge be a good enough substitute for healing what he had broken? No amount of learning would heal a broken bone or reattach a removed limb, but… Jayce had to try. He had to show through Viktor that he had learned, because he certainly couldn’t directly apologize to his acolytes. He had no idea of their names, locations, or… gods, they had to have jobs. Friends, maybe even families. The realization is one he’d had earlier, but it doesn’t get any less odd. They were fully-fledged people he knew nothing about! Except for how he’d wronged them!

Eventually he manages to quiet his racing brain with the knowledge that he will go to Zaun tomorrow. He will give the journals to Viktor, and he will try to explain that it is to apologize for all he’s done. Maybe he’ll even ask if there’s anything he could do - something low-key that wouldn’t send the media after him. If his image as the Defender of Tomorrow were to crack and tarnish, he’s… not sure what would happen. So it has to be quiet and secret - but he can at least ask.

He falls asleep soon after that train of thought, determination having replaced panic.


The next morning is mildly overcast, and it takes several false starts for Jayce to get out of bed and prepare for the day. He gets dressed, makes some toast to settle his stomach, grabs a light jacket, and heads out into the cool morning air. The journals are in a bag slung over his shoulder.

He feels like an outlaw as he makes his way to the docks. Except this isn’t the fun sort of outlaw, like if he were a child playing cops and robbers, but the actual sort that might end with him in jail. He clutches the strap of his satchel tighter as he pays for a round-trip ticket to Zaun. The ferry is relatively empty today and Jayce finds a seat at the corner of the vessel, where he can stare out the window at the grey-blue waves. The view isn’t great today, but the repetitive nature of the Bay's waves usually takes his mind off of things. Things like how Viktor might very well kill him rather than speak to him. Or that this is definitely a crime. Or that he really, really does not like the idea of giving this knowledge to Viktor due to the ends it might lead to. Is he helping the man? Or just speeding up the inevitable?

Huh. The waves sure didn’t help.


Zaun doesn’t help much either. The overcast skies in Piltover translate into pure gloom in its rival city-state, with smog pressing down as if it had a physical weight. Jayce isn’t enjoying the idea of walking to Viktor’s house - it was much further into Zaun than his laboratory had been, and he’s rather jumpy about alleyways now - so he purchases a railway ticket from a kiosk for what he’s pretty sure is a markup due to him having only Piltovian currency and climbs the metal stairs to the station. It takes a good deal of squinting and considering the grimy plastic-covered map display to figure out what stop he has to get off at, but he still has plenty of time to stand awkwardly and wait. Does he stick out like a sore thumb in Zaun? He can’t tell any specific conversation from the din of the crowd around him, but what if they’re talking about him? Do they recognize him?

He’s dragged out of overthinking by the train arriving with a screech of brakes and metal. There’s graffiti on the car that stops in front of him, some blocky phrase in what he’s pretty sure in Zaunite. Has there ever been graffiti on the light metro back in Piltover…? Besides when Jinx had shown up and splashed hot-pink paint across anything that she could. He doesn’t think so.

The inside of the car isn’t much better. Jayce takes a seat on a hard plastic bench and looks up at the advertisements. Most are in Common, advertising various businesses… or so he thinks. It’s hard to make out what they’re for, since it looks as if a lot of them have been ripped down by various Zaunites. He has no idea why someone would do that, or if there’s any reason to it at all. Maybe they just do it because they can.

Why do so many people choose to live here? Jayce holds his satchel on his lap, shoulders stiff and legs pressed together. He doesn’t take up space on Piltovian transport out of politeness, but here it’s more out of fear. Considering that his last two ventures into Zaun had ended with him leaving metaphorically licking his wounds, he’s pretty sure he has a right to. Maybe focusing on the scenery - or lack thereof - would help.

Brick building. Concrete building. Brick building. Brick building. Steel building. Even as the train hurtles past a residential area in the distance, with actual houses instead of tall apartment blocks, it’s still brick. He hasn’t seen any wood in Zaun. Does the atmosphere rot it away? Do they genuinely prefer concrete and brick and steel over it? Or perhaps lumber is a difficult import… It’s not as if there are any forests near the city-state. There never has been as long as Jayce has been alive.

He comes out of his thoughts to the sound of the doors hissing open. A female voice, first in Zaunite and then in Common, announces the stop’s name - it’s the one he has to change lines at. Jayce gets to his feet carefully, glancing around one last time at the rest of the car, and leaves.

 

The process continues on the next line. Sit down. Stare out the window. Have a mild panic. Hear the stop he needs and get off the train. Jayce is as close to Viktor’s home as Zaun’s public transport allows, and so he sets out on a walk through less-crowded streets. He’d not taken the time previously to truly observe the area (except for how to leave as quickly as possible), but a few interesting things are coming to light now. If he had to guess, he’d type this area as firmly upper-middle-class - or at least the Zaunite version of it. If Viktor’s house is inherited (or stolen or taken or…) from his parents, that means that they must have had jobs that paid relatively well. Businesspeople? Scientists?

It’s profoundly bizarre to consider the fact that Viktor has parents, even though he’s seen physical proof of it in that photograph. The man seems like he was spawned into being by the technology he promotes. But he, just like Jayce, has to have had a childhood. Has he always been a zealot about removing humanity’s flaws? The mental image of a grade-schooler standing on a step-stool, shouting about emotions, comes to mind. It would be funny if the boy had a face in Jayce’s imagination. Instead, his head is as indistinct as a barely-started oil painting.

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