Cognitive Dissonance @hexmage
Chaper Six Viktor is mediocre, at best, when it comes to receiving houseguests.

There’s blurred movement behind the frosted glass that flanks the front door, then a pause. Viktor must be trying to puzzle out who his visitor is. Jayce crosses his fingers as if the motion will actually bring him luck. The door opens after the sound of several locks clicking.

“…Merriweather.”

That is not what he expected Viktor to look like. The man is still wearing his customary mask, but instead of his odd armor and what Jayce is pretty sure is an undersuit, he’s wearing… a turtleneck and slacks. He looks like the Zaunite equivalent of a hopelessly-out-of-date professor. The third arm is still visible over his shoulder - Jayce’s idle speculation about it being attached to the man must be right. The thought makes him shiver.

That is not what he expected Viktor to look like. The man is still wearing his customary mask, but instead of his odd armor and what Jayce is pretty sure is an undersuit, he’s wearing… a turtleneck and slacks. He looks like the Zaunite equivalent of a hopelessly-out-of-date professor. The third arm is still visible over his shoulder - Jayce’s idle speculation about it being attached to the man must be right. The thought makes him shiver.

“Viktor. I-I’ve,” and now is not the time for him to freeze up, so he shoves the satchel at the other man, “Journals.”

Viktor cocks his head. “You’re… giving me diaries.”

“No! No, it’s academic - from our University of the Sciences,” he feels better now, talking about technology, and so he continues, “There’s five issues of the, ah, Piltovian Journal of Orthotics and Prosthetics, then a few on robotics… It’s…”

“What are you doing.”

“I’m… trying to apologize, I guess. Look. Just. Just take them, and get them back to me in two weeks or the university library is going to hunt me down and then if they find out I gave them to you Cait’s gonna throw me in a jail cell overnight and-“

“You are behaving incredibly irrationally. Get off of my front step.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll... I’ll go n-“

“I meant for you to come in, Merriweather,” Viktor says with a sigh - and Jayce notices that he’s propped the door open with a metal foot. “You are clearly trying to do something, and standing out here ranting into the air about it helps no one.”

Jayce looks about nervously, as if there’s hidden cameras that are recording this exchange, but eventually steps inside.


The lights are off in the front hallway as Viktor closes the door behind Jayce.

“From your alma mater?”

“I… yeah. Wait - how did you-“

The cyborg glances at him, and Jayce is pretty sure that he can feel the disdain from behind Viktor’s mask. “Your information is very public.”

Well. That makes sense. “…And yours isn’t,” he replies with a sigh. “Is there… somewhere to sit down? Since you clearly want me here.”

“Want is a strong word. Follow me.”

Viktor turns and walks away, towards what Jayce vaguely remembers as the kitchen. He follows, pleasantly surprised when it turns out that his memory is solid - this is the kitchen, with its four-chaired table. He’d only caught a glimpse of it before getting kicked out last time. There’s only one placemat on the table, he notes, and the rest of it is covered in books and papers.

“You don’t have guests often, huh?” he quips, nodding to the clutter.

“You have little reason to care.”

Gods, alright. So much for humor. “So. The journals.”

“You still have them. Put them on the table.”

Jayce does so, only holding onto the earliest issue of the PJOP. He holds it out to Viktor as if the man is radioactive. “So, uh, this one’s got a few interesting articles… I bookmarked them! There’s one on a-“

Viktor takes the journal without a word, already opening it up to the first marked article. Then the second. Then the third. The man either has incredible reading comprehension, or…

“…Nothing in here is useful to me.”

“Not even the paper on that nerve-impulse prototype? I mean, it’s years out, but it looks game changing…”

“Oh. No, that method won’t work. I tried something similar for my first prototype.”

“Oh, of c-“ wait. No. Viktor couldn’t possibly be implying that he had cracked how to interface prostheses with the human nervous system. That would be decades ahead of his time, not to mention incredibly invasive if that paper was anything to go by. “I’m sorry, what?”

“It won’t work.”

“You’re saying that like you’ve made a prosthesis that does.”

The disdain he’d previously felt the last time Viktor looked at him was replaced with the sense of a withering look. “Four of them are on my body right now, so I would say that I’ve made one, yes.”

Jayce feels the need to sit down, or at least lean against something. He steadies himself with a hand on the back of the kitchen chair instead. Four… but he’s got a human right hand. Left hand, who knows how much of his legs, and… it’s got to be the third arm. That’s wired into his nerves, somehow. How… who did that for him? Viktor was a lot of things, but there was no way the man could have cut open his back or whatever he’d done on his own.

That’s wired into your spine?” he eventually croaks out, pointing at the arm.

“It is not a direct connection to the spinal cord, as I would have had to cut through the meninges for that. It connects to several dorsal rami, instead,” Viktor responds, as if this is a lecture and not him talking about his own body. “This allows control after significant training to re-map the brain’s mental schema. It also allows sensation, but that has limited use.”

Surely he’s joking. Viktor has to be joking, using a funny bone that he hasn’t amputated yet, because that’s absolutely insane. What’s a rami? Is it a nerve? It has to be, and Jayce is suddenly thankful he never took any advanced anatomy. Having a vague understanding of what is going on is assuredly infinitely better than knowing the details. Surely Viktor is joking. Which is why Jayce can’t bring himself to laugh at the incredibly obvious joke.

“…You can feel with that?”

“Only the hand itself. Pressure. It has quite the grip strength, so caution is warranted.”

He feels sick at Viktor’s newest disclosure. There’s metal in there, interfacing with nerves and flesh and who knows what else, and the other man is simply nonchalant about it. As if the surgery involved was nothing more complex than getting a tooth pulled. Maybe he shouldn’t think about it anymore.

“Okay… I. You could read the others?”

Viktor turns his gaze to the small pile on the table, picking out another PJOP issue and flipping through it. He seems to pause a bit longer on each article this time, but… he’s still obviously skimming, which means Jayce has struck out yet again. The same goes for the third. And the fourth. And the final issue. The entire experience is viscerally uncomfortable - standing silently and awkwardly in the kitchen of a man who definitely qualifies as his enemy. Waiting for him to finish the academic journals he’d smuggled into Zaun.

Jayce clears his throat. “So.”

“What?”

“What did you think.”

The cyborg’s head tilts up, as if he hadn’t thought to elucidate Jayce on the subject. “…I believe I appreciate your effort, although the information in this journal is entirely unhelpful to me.”

That’s as close to glowing praise as he’ll get! “That’s… good? There’s a few robotics journals, too. If that’s something you’re… interested in.”

Viktor nods and picks up the next journal. Jayce mentally curses himself for stating the obvious.


It’s due to the final journal that Jayce gets thrown out onto the streets of Zaun again. Everything had been going swimmingly! They’d exchanged something that might count as pleasantries if someone squinted very hard! Viktor had acknowledged that he’d tried!

And then Viktor’s hand clenches at the pages of the journal, crumpling them slightly.

“Hey, uh, be careful with that.”

He doesn’t respond, instead seeming to freeze as he looks over the words on the page. Jayce isn’t great at reading upside-down, but he recognizes enough to know that it’s that strange ego-stroking article by Professor Pididly. Maybe the man isn’t a fan of Blitzcrank? He can’t imagine why - a sentient robot is proof that a machine can be imbued with personality, after all, and that’s clearly something Viktor wants - but Zaunites are just weird often enough.

…Is Viktor’s hand shaking? “Look, I’ve got to get these back to the library in the condition I checked them out in. Don’t do that.”

The other man is on him in an instant, left hand grabbing at his throat. Jayce hardly has the chance to breathe in, much less recoil away. “Did he put you up to this?!”

“I- who-“

I was unaware Piltovians cavorted with thieves,” Viktor says lowly, mask making each word as sibilant as a hiss of steam, “much less an upstanding citizen such as yourself!

“Viktor- I don’t know what- what you’re talking about!” he can barely breathe in, oh gods he’s already almost died to Viktor once and this could very well be finishing the job and-

The cyborg practically rips his hand away and Jayce wheezes. “Take your journals and leave. Whatever your goal was, you have not achieved it.”

He was not going to be cowed. Not this time, not after the library where he hadn’t been able to say a word in response, not when he had so much to say. “You can’t just jerk me around like a- like a puppet! I’m risking my livelihood here to try to apologize to you and all I get is you choking me over something I don’t even know!”

“I owe you nothing. Leave-“

“I’ll leave when I want to!” maybe he’s crossing the border from heroic to stupid, but Jayce can hardly find it in himself to care. “Is it Blitzcrank? Is that what all of this is about? Are you angry that someone figured out how to make a robot with a personality? Stole your thunder?”

Judging by the whining of Viktor’s third arm charging up, he’s stupid. Really stupid. Jayce grimaces, rage disappearing from his face and replaced with a hint of fear. This isn’t how he wants to go.

“…Fine. I’ll leave. Give me the journals.”

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