Determination Cubed: Chapter Eight
Posted January 16th, 2019 by Gracithe1andonly
in wardly searching
chapter eight: lines of doom and scary numbers
Sans had a habit of checking his little machine on the twentieth of each month, so one night after work he unlocked the door to his basement and flipped the light switch, going to the covered machine in the corner and lifting the sheet that covered it. He did not take the sheet off; he dislodged a vaguely cube-shaped contraption in the middle and took it out, the only part that was still functional.
He called it the resonator. It had been his hope for directing the power of his larger, broken machine, and undoing his worst mistake. There had been no such luck, he reminded himself, but the resonator remained his way of checking for major disturbances in the time-space continuum-his way of keeping track of anyone losing their existence. Except for one occasion, when there had been four small anomalies in the readings, they did not waver from a simple, straight line. He took that to mean that no one else had been lost.
But tonight, when he let the current of magical and electrical energy run through it, calibrated it and turned it on, it produced a line as always-but then the line ended, something that Sans had never seen. Not only that, the machine produced another line below it, which began at a different y-coordinate but shared a few x-values with the first line. This second line ended too, and a third line, much fainter than the first two, appeared beneath them, spanning the same x-values as both lines combined, and a few more to the right.
Sans swore in utter confusion. This anomaly was massive, and the first explanation Sans came to was that his little machine was broken. It wasn’t impossible. This machine was the child of more minds than his own, and engineering wasn’t his strong suit. Unfortunately, theory and mapping theory to reality was his strong suit, and as he stood there he realized that one of those lines fit the facts. Sans had experienced a “blip” in time-a little rewind before everything continued as normal.
This in mind, Sans traced the lines with a finger-here we go, an ordinary linear timeline, and then-hey!-a small setback, then continuation. It mapped to reality.
Dread creeping into him, he traced the fainter line. It didn’t match up with reality, did it? If the first two lines were evidence of a theory, then this line disproved it. He almost relaxed before his mind relentlessly took into account the faintness of the line.
“Maybe it hasn’t happened yet,” he murmured aloud, “from our perspective.”
He perceived an existing experiment. If there was a serious setback in time within two months, then he knew that his resonator was trustworthy. If there was not, then it was most likely broken.
If Sans had been told seven months ago that he would be praying for his machine to be broken, he would have laughed.
Sans found out that Mrs. Drake and almost the entire older generation of Snowdin’s dogs had perished when Mr. Drake knocked at his door, his shocked son under his wing, and asked for help gathering his wife’s dust.
Alphys got the news when Undyne came to her door and asked loudly and bluntly if she knew why everyone was dying. Aaron’s brother, an older Moldsmal, and Lis’s mother had all disintegrated, and Waterfall looked to her for answers. Alphys had none.
The Underground spent that weekend scattering dust and mourning. Many had been lucky enough not to lose family, but everyone had lost a friend.
Alphys harbored an unspoken accusation that Sans did not know. Determination was the will to live. If he hadn’t been so afraid of it, she thought, perhaps no one would have died. Perhaps they could have saved everyone. Sans could not know what was in Alphys’s head, but he felt its effects. So, when they returned to work the next day, they avoided each other. Sans knew he needed to turn and face the music, but he wasn’t ready yet, so he let it go and faded into his own world of numbers and insoluble old mistakes, not rousing until he heard Asriel and Alphys talking upstairs.
It took an embarrassingly long time for Asriel to notice that something was off with Sans and Alphys. They were so much more quiet than usual, mostly because instead of collaborating, they were working on their own projects without consulting one another.
Sans, who was usually less difficult to get answers from then his co-worker, seemed to be having a difficult time registering that Asriel was trying to talk to him. His attention remained on that blasted red book, and Asriel didn’t fancy putting him in a worse mood by snatching the book or yelling at him to provoke a response. As a result, he left the flowerpot, and climbed upstairs to Alphys, who, to his surprise, was crying at her desk.
It did not occur to him that it was inconsiderate to grab her chair with a vine and demand, “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
She gasped, slapping her hand over her mouth. Asriel withdrew.
“D-don’t, don’t, don’t-” she began to shake with emotion that Asriel could no longer understand. “Don’t do that!”
“What’s wrong?” Asriel asked again.
“So Sans hasn’t told you,” she huffed. “There’s been an outbreak of Falling Down among older monsters. They’d been sick for a while, but they’ve just…given up, I guess. I lost a few really old friends,” she choked, and began to cry once more.
Then Sans came up the stairs, his eyes focused on something else, in a reverie he was brought out of by the sight of Alphys sobbing. He refocused, hesitated, then went forward, grabbing her hand.
“Al,” he murmured, his eye beginning to glow as tears began to come. He said nothing else as he closed his eyes, and Asriel guessed he was trying not to collapse under a wave of emotion. The flower watched apathetically as the two consoled each other, wondering if this turn of events would change if he were to reset, remembering that Mr. Drake monster whose wife had been sick. Asriel guessed that she had died, and hated the part of him that told him he should be feeling sorrow.
Well. He could still hate. That was something.
The fourth meeting of the Flowey Fan Club was not going well. Papyrus met Sans’s eyes often in a quick communication of worry, and Sans was talking and acting a little more than had been needed the last three meetings. There was exponentially less laughter, and Asriel was only going through the motions, seeming to want to be anywhere but at Sans and Papyrus’s house. The three agreed to let the meeting end early, and Sans took a shortcut to bring him and Asriel back to the lab, hoping it would wake him up somewhat, but no such luck.
The rest of the Underground had perked up from the tragedy a little bit after Asgore offered a speech and Undyne offered a training day for kids who were thinking about joining the royal guard one day. Life went on, somehow. Mr. Drake began to work his own shifts again, leaving his son with whatever monster would watch him. Sans and Papyrus ended up babysitting, the former trying to help the kid with his humor. His jokes were low-caliber, and he didn’t have the humility or the charisma to bring them off anyway.
At work, he and Alphys were bickering a lot less and working together in silence a lot more. They had grieved together, now, and the thing about him she couldn’t bring herself to trust seemed meaningless in comparison. Sans looked at the Resonator that evening, wondering if maybe he should show someone, explain to someone, ask for help. He sternly told himself to wait. He didn’t yet know that his Resonator was trustworthy, and he hadn’t lost Asriel yet. As the days passed, however, he felt as if his King’s son was slipping away from him, shutting him out, refusing even to go through the motions and refusing the few methods Sans had to help him. He was unready to reveal the Resonator (and its tragic origins,) so he used the one other thing he had left in his arsenal. The fan club.
“So, do you want to make spaghetti?” Papyrus asked with an uncharacteristic amount of hesitance. Asriel was behaving strangely even by new standards, and it was throwing Papyrus off his game.
“Gee, willy,” said the flower, “Didn’t we do that last time, Papyrus?”
“Well, yes,” Papyrus acknowledged, “but we can always do it again! It’s a bit different every time!”
“But still boring,” Flowey dragged out his words. “Let’s do something more interesting!”
“Sure,” Papyrus started to say, then Flowey cut him off. “Something more…dangerous.”
“I can’t imagine anything more dangerous than cooking spaghetti,” said Papyrus with a wry note to his voice only someone who knew him very well could have caught. Sans snorted, and both turned to look at him.
“Nothin’, nothin’,” he waved them off. “If I have a better idea, I’ll tell ya.”
“Let’s jump off the roof or something,” said Flowey. “Or better yet, into the CORE.”
Sans choked on his water, and Papyrus, of course, ran to hold him as he coughed his nonexistent lungs out.
“I heard of someone who took a trip into the CORE,” he said with levity, and then with grimness, “Not pleasant.”
“I guess we can’t do that then,” Flowey sighed, “if it’s not pleasant.”
The informal Flowey Fan Club meeting passed uncomfortably, and even worse was the fact that when Sans returned to his desk in the lab, his red book was missing. He started searching for it, noticed Asriel watching with a very bright smile, and even though his soul stuttered within him, he resolved not to give him any satisfaction.
“Good night, Asriel,” he called as cheerily as he could, and shortcutted home to Papyrus. They cleaned up a little and then sat next to each other on the couch in a pensive silence until the taller of the two chose to break it.
“That wasn’t good,” Papyrus observed.
Sans grunted in response. “You don’t say.”
“Something is very, very wrong here. Or will be soon. Has anything awful happened?”
Sans laughed ruefully. “Mrs. Drake and the Dogs and the others are all Fallen Down. But you knew that. I don’t think that’s what you mean.”
“No,” Papyrus responded, “unless seeing people Fall Down has had an effect on him.”
“He was like this before, just hiding it as well as he could,” Sans dissented, “I think the worrying thing is that all of this hasn’t had an effect on him.”
“Strange,” Papyrus noted. “Well, at least he’s such a little thing. We’ll be able to stand up to him if he goes wrong, won’t we?”
Sans was disconcertingly quiet. Papyrus looked and saw his eyes dimming, and beseechingly touched his hand. “Won’t we, Brother?”
Sans looked at him, anxiety written in his face. “That’s the thing. I don’t know.”
Papyrus looked at him skeptically, and Sans shook his head to clear it. “I’ve…observed things. Made guesses.”
“They’re never just guesses with you,” Papyrus prompted.
“Well, for one thing,” the smaller skeleton opted for honesty, “those vines of his. They could be wicked if he chooses to use them that way. His magical power isn’t negligible either. His bullets aren’t exactly…impressive…but they pack a punch. And one other thing…” he lapsed into silence, and Papyrus nudged him.
“Basically, he’s a powerful being already,” Sans said, deciding to tell the truth, but not the time-travelling part. That was too complicated to explain to anyone at two in the morning. “I don’t want to know what he can do if he goes bad.”
“Should we have tried harder?” Papyrus wondered, and Sans shook his head.
“We’ve done our best. We haven’t lost him yet,” he said, trying to instill a little hope into himself as well as his brother.
“We haven’t lost him,” Papyrus agreed. “Let’s go to sleep, Sans.”
Sans assented, and they climbed the stairs to their respective rooms to sleep, both of them with a vague foreknowledge that this would be their last night of sanity.
shoot i can't stop writing this
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