Chapter 18 : Raison d'être

Lance teleported back to the satellite, exhausted. He sat down on the sofa, holding his head in his hands.

Ernest was right. This mission had been the most difficult thing that had ever happened in his life. Inside, he couldn't believe he had done this. He knew he had saved Astrid… or rather, JT Lazer. He saved him twice now.

However, this time, he saved him because his past counterpart chose his own freedom and let the boy die instead of saving him like he should have done… what did it mean?

Before, he couldn't have cared less about it… now, he was ashamed. He was ashamed at the possibility that he could have let the boy die because of how selfish he was.

He frowned, watching the clock. If he had done it right, JT Lazer would be back soon.

Why couldn't this have been a dream?

Indeed, three minutes later, JT Lazer returned. He entered the lounge, giving Lance a warm smile. "Hello, partner!" He put his things down. "How was your evening?"

"…" Lance headed for the kitchen, preparing dinner. He made sure that JT Lazer got a bottle of wine. He almost put some oil on table. He felt he would need it. "How was your sister?"

"Sydney?" JT Lazer smiled, sitting down at table. He poured some wine in glass. "She was doing fine, actually. Same old… always about her laboratory. Her work. I'm sad she is still single. She needs to get laid indeed."

Lance closed his eyes. He fixed it. He fixed the glitch. Everything was back to normal. He sat down, pouring some oil as well. "…I'm glad you are fine."

"Of course I am!" JT Lazer cried out, a bit confused. "Why wouldn't I be fine?"

He took his tablet, going on their website. "Look. Many fans liked our video of Rasputin's capture. That's very good."

Lance stayed silent. He took a long breath. He needed answers. "…Now I know what this mission Ernest gave me was."

"Hm?" JT Lazer stared back at him. "What was it?"

"I had to save you…" Lance paused. "…Or rather, I had to save Astrid."

This time, JT Lazer let his tablet fall to the floor. His expression was unreadable… somewhere between shock, fear, anger and… relief. Lance wouldn't know.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Lance asked. "…Why did you change your name, by the way?"

JT Lazer stood up. He didn't watch him anymore. He took another glass of wine. "…Because I needed a cool name. Only my family still calls me Astrid. Here, I'm JT Lazer. I'm known as this. That's all."

"…What happened? Is that the reason why you took me as your partner?"

JT Lazer nodded, giving him a sad smile. "Yes. That's the true reason. After I learned you would be transferred to Time Squad, I wanted to search for you. I wanted to find you." He paused. "I wanted to find Lance 9 Trillion, the robot that saved me when I was a kid. Because without him, I would have died… I wouldn't be who I am today."

Lance looked down. "I wanted to thank me. I wanted to fulfil my dream too: becoming your partner. So by becoming an ace, a great officer everyone would look up to… maybe I would have been able to convince Ernest to pair us up together."

It made sense. "I just don't understand…Are you from the future of… this future?" He asked, unsure of not being clear. "…Why are you returning to this time? Wouldn't you want to be with your sister?"

JT Lazer shook his head. "I'm from this future. I just thought that I would have a better chance of being partnered with you if I came to the time when you were assigned to Time squad. So I came back to the past, after using a time machine." He added. "Then, I wanted to see myself as a kid. I wanted to realize how wrong I was, acting the way I did. It put me in a dangerous situation."

Indeed. Everything… everything JT did was for him. Because Astrid wanted to find him. Lance wasn't sure what to think.

"Why? Why did you all this for me?" He sighed. "I'm not a perfect hero, JT. Or rather…Astrid. I'm not even a good partner. Do you wish to know why I had to save you a second time? Because I didn't, the first time." Lance closed his eyes. "I had preferred to live my freedom."

"What does it matter?" his partner asked him in a soft tone. "You still saved me. If you didn't care, you wouldn't have travelled through time to help me."

"Astrid…"

"No matter what we have done in past… what you are now, what you will do is what matters. People may think of you as a murderer or as a hero. To me, you will always be the person who helped me. And I know you want to change."

Lance nodded. He was right. Why should he blame himself for it? He had still saved him. He had saved this boy because he cared for him.

Maybe that was one of good things he did.

"If you are afraid of what people will think of you, Lance…" JT then moved closer to him, putting a hand on his shoulder, "I will be here by your side. Okay?"

"Ouch," Lance suddenly said, feeling awkward because of JT's proximity. "Well…if you say so."

"Furthermore, we are the greatest team here!" JT Lazer added, joking.

And this time, Lance chuckled. "Indeed."

They weren't aware that they were watched. Watching them through cameras, Ernest smiled at the screen.

"…Well done, Lance." He said, taking a glass of wine too. It definitely amused him… maybe it touched him in its own way. Lance definitely did a great job.

"Maybe should I leave you now, Lance," he said. "Maybe should I let you enjoy your new life from here… you deserve it, after all. Just don't disappoint me, okay?"

Then, he turned off his screen before leaving the room behind him.

Indeed, they were the greatest team. Everyone agreed. They were still the Time Squad Aces, and the number of fans increased. Larry 3000 even asked Lance out for a dinner. He immediately refused, much to the former's dismay.

They were accomplishing their missions perfectly. While Lance could call his partner Astrid in private, he was still known as JT Lazer. In any case, their life went perfectly well. Lance didn't even receive any other calls or threats from Ernest.

He kept his promise: he would leave him alone. Indeed, Lance had already suffered enough. He paid his debt. Now he could live his own life.

Three weeks later, Astrid and Lance went to visit Sydney again, intending to have dinner with her. After all, her brother wanted to introduce Lance to her. He wanted to introduce him as the robot who saved him.

They were enjoying a great time in a fancy restaurant, eating sushi and exchanging pleasantries.

"I was really hoping that Astrid would introduce me to his girlfriend!" Sydney complained. "Or his boyfriend," she chuckled, winking back at Lance.

"Huh…?" He could only say, wondering what she meant.

"Sydney!" Astrid cried out, embarrassed. "What about you, by the way?"

"Hmm… well, there is a girl I like," She chuckled.

What am I doing with them again? Lance thought.

"That's so funny… Astrid talked a lot about you, Lance." She gave him a smile. "I'm glad to finally meet you."

"Me too," Lance replied.

"Though… I can't help but wonder…" She paused, a dreamy look on her face. "I can't help but think that we've already met."