What I enjoy most about writing is being able to take anything I wish and shape it to how I desire. I love to create worlds and flesh out characters. What I love most is writing stories and characters that make others think. I want to create things that make my readers take a step back and wonder about the world they live in, the different possibilities there are, the way the world is and the way the world could be or should be. Take away from this one-shot as you will, my only hope is that it makes you think.
In honour of the holiday season, I wrote this fic for some of my most loyal readers. All new readers and reviewers are welcome, but there are some who have stuck with me from the very beginning, and they are certainly who have made this worth while. Every time I post a chapter to As We Come Together, or an expansion fic to the WE universe, or even peek back through the reviews of What Time We Have Left, I see these reviewers are smile. I love reading your thoughts and look forward to when you all leave a review. Since you've all been so good to me, I wanted to do something in return, so I did what I do best- I wrote something. Unusual as the fic may be, I wrote it with a lot of heart and thought, so I hope you all enjoy!
Bunnylass- I must say, I have always enjoyed getting reviews from you, whether it be to WE universe or Serendipity Kiss. You always have a particular cheery way about yourself that leaves me smiling for hours. Thank you so much for the heart and enthusiasm you put into your reviews. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!
Bluebird Soaring- You certainly have stuck with the WE universe for a long time, all the way back in What Time We Have Left, and I am honoured that you have stuck with the story for so long. Your reviews certainly add a certain type of insight into the story, and I simply love reading your thoughts about a particular chapter. You bring a kindness and thoughtfulness to your reviews that I enjoy immensely!
Jason M. Lee- Your reviews have always been short and sweet, but I have always enjoyed them for the smile they bring to my face. You certainly bring some interesting points to the table.
Elita One- I just have to take this opportunity to say how much I love your penname! I grin every time I see it! I grin wider when I see your name and then the review you left. Thank you so much for the love!
Theshadowcat- Like many others, your reviews have always been the short, quick to the point sort of deals, but nonetheless I have always looked forward to them. Thanks you for sticking with this storyline for so long!
Chloo- I sometimes have to laugh when I read your reviews. I don't know why, really. They simply are so bubbly and happy that they make me smile. Thank you so much so sticking with the WE series for so long, and I hope the love will continue to the end!
Silveriss- My sincerest thanks to you, as well, dear Silveriss. Your reviews are always something I look forward to. And, because you said you liked the way I wrote Nightbeat in chapter 18 of As We Come Together, perhaps you will like this, which a particular look into that mech's very unusual younglinghood.
Flameshield- Like many others, you are yet another dear reader who I look forward to reading your thoughts on a chapter. Your kindness and support are always worth reading and I am so thankful that you have stuck with the WE universe for so long!
Daebereth- Your thoughts on certain chapters have always been a source of great smiles for me. I look forward to your thoughts, especially on ones concerning my portrayal of Maggie. I'm just a Canadian who's never been far outside the country, so Australia is a little far off the map for me. I do my best not to fall into any horrible Australian stereotypes, since Canada has been known to have a few as well and I'd hate to induce the same form of annoyance I've suffered at the hands of, so I'm ecstatic that I haven't run you off yet with any heinous misconceptions.
Cassiopeia1979- I must say, I have taken quite a pleasure in the past in reading your reviews. The love and support you've given through your reviews has been immeasurably invaluable to me. Even when I have a short writer's block and groan about it in an A/N, I'm always heartened to see your review and the kind words you're pouring into it. Thank you so much for the love, sweets!
Freakish Child- What can I possibly say that hasn't already been said? You certainly have been one of my more perceptive and vocal reviewers, which I have been deeply honoured and entertained by. I've been more than surprised on occasion that you seem to have this remarkable ability to read between the lines of my fics and piece together the most obscure facts of the plot, laying them out in your reviews. There has been more than one instance when I've been completely blown away by your reviews! Thank you so much for your insightful and detailed reviews. I love and appreciate every one of them!
As for Violetlight, Litahatchee, Lecidre, and Lady Tecuma, I'll say I quick note of thanks to you all, but you have your own Solstice/Christmas/holiday presents coming, or they've already been posted. This fic is for my other loyal readers! But, well, thank you for the love and kindness and friendship you've given me over the time we've gotten to know each other. It's certainly been an adventure!
Thank you all so much!
Invisible Puzzle Pieces
"There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle." –Deepak Chopra
Nightbeat jumped, squeaking in surprise as a voice sounded close to his audio. The interface cable he was hooked up to jittered loose in his port, and for a moment he feared it would fall out. Thankfully, the youngling that had snuck up on him pointed it out quick enough for Nightbeat to react, catching it before anything happened. It was always a horrible experience to have a downloading session get interrupted by a cable falling out. Worst dizziness ever. Nothing gave a youngling a bigger headache.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to sneak up on you like that," the newcomer apologized, giggling. His pale optics sparkled strangely in the half-light of the alcove.
"It's okay," Nightbeat said, shrugging and readjusting the interface cable at the back of his neck. "You didn't scare me that badly." He was very rarely ever surprised by anything anymore.
"That's good. Good first impressions are always hard to make," the youngling replied.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Nightbeat said, chuckling. Curious of the other youngling, he squinted up at him, seeing a skinny creature by design whose paint was a curious shade of pearl that reminded Nightbeat of something he couldn't quite place at the moment. It was a pretty shade that caught in the light with ethereal beauty. There were many younglings in the Youth Sector and he had met all of them, and yet this little bot was unfamiliar. A newcomer? Or a transfer?
Nightbeat tipped his head, looking at the youngling from a slightly different angle.
"Hey, do you mind if I ask who you are?" Nightbeat asked with all the grace of a youngling. "I thought I knew every faceplate around here, but you don't seem familiar." He wasn't afraid of the newcomer. There was nothing to fear in a Youth Sector, especially from other bots. But, he was insatiably curious about the pearl-painted youngling. Sometimes he just couldn't resist a mystery.
The youngling shrugged, apparently taking the question as an invitation to sit down rather than to get lost. He lowered himself into the alcove Nightbeat sat in and leaned against the wall, a curious play of light and shadow skimming across his plating. He looked unreal, somehow. Not all there.
"I just came from Straxsis," the youngling said.
"Really? Straxsis? That's so far away!" Nightbeat exclaimed.
"I don't think it's that far," the other bot shrugged.
"Maybe not to you, but I think it's far," Nightbeat countered, pursing his mouthplates. "My Creator functions in the research core in Straxsis. He doesn't get to visit often because it's so far."
"I see," said the newcomer, unsure whether or not Nightbeat was sad or neutral over the fact that his Creator rarely visited. Not every youngling was so close to their Creator. Some grew far closer to the Caretakers or Guardians in Youth Sectors.
Nightbeat suddenly smiled broadly at the newcomer that would surely become his friend, dispersing any awkwardness he might have created with his off comment. "I'm Nightbeat," he announced, then winced, "…Or, at least, I will be Nightbeat when I get my adult frame. Right now, my designation is Pi."
The pearl-painted youngling canted his head. "Like the number?"
"Yeah, like the number." Nightbeat sighed. "My Creator, Twilight, is from the research core and he likes weird things like that."
"I don't think Pi is a weird designation," came the reply, said in earnest. "It'd be a really neat designation to have, but… I guess I'll call you Nightbeat instead, since you'll only be Pi for a little while longer."
Nightbeat smiled. "Thanks."
And suddenly it seemed as if the pearl-painted youngling came up with a designation for himself, or perhaps simply remembered it after forgetting. He clapped his hands together happily and announced, "How about you call me Daybreak?"
"Yeah, Nightbeat and Daybreak. Sounds nice, doesn't it?"
Nightbeat laughed. "Sure." There was a brief flash across his vision as his downloading session completed, a message scrawling up to announce that it was okay for him to remove the cable from his port now. He did so, reaching behind his head and jerking out the cable, letting it ravel back into the wall. Daybreak watched with a half-smile, settling more comfortably against the wall of the small alcove.
Not one to break a silence on purpose, Nightbeat got comfortable as well, leaning back into the corner of the alcove to study Daybreak's profile. He was so oddly familiar, and yet he couldn't quite place why.
You know why. Just think about it.
Nightbeat's mouthplates pursed, shaking his head. He didn't want to hear the voices right now, not when he just made a new friend. Nobody else ever believed him about the voices, and despite all the scans the medics ran on him, they never found a reason for the youngling to think he could hear anything at all. Nothing but curious programs and expanding data in his head to say anything was wrong.
But the voices had always been there, in his head, ever since he had first come online. Nobody ever believed him. No one else heard voices.
The youngling is special.
Daybreak cocked his head to the side, regarding Nightbeat carefully. "You hear them too, don't you?"
Nightbeat started, optics wide. "Hear what?"
Daybreak smiled soothingly. "The voices."
A wild thrill shot through Nightbeat's spark. His expression was enough to give him away.
"I knew it! Oh, I knew it! How wonderful!" Daybreak exclaimed happily.
Nightbeat frowned, far more suspicious than he had been before. "What do you mean?"
"I hear them too, you see. The voices." Daybreak's smile was wide as he spoke. "It's good you hear them. I knew you were special when I saw you."
Speechless, Nightbeat simply sat and stared, unable to think of something proper to say to a youngling who just openly admitted he heard voices. Of all the vorns Nightbeat had lived in the Youth Sector, he had never encountered another bot who heard the voices, and anyone he spoke to about what he heard ended up thinking he was crazy.
"Did someone put you up to this?" Nightbeat asked, frowning deeply. "One of the other younglings, right? They thought it would be funny to tease me like this, huh?"
Daybreak looked taken aback, shaking his head quickly. "No, of course not!"
"You're not the first youngling to think it was funny to tease me by saying you can hear them too. It's not funny, you know."
"No, no, no, you've got it all wrong," the pearl-painted youngling said, shaking his head desperately. "I really can hear them, though. They're what told me you could hear them too. I found you because of them."
There wasn't a smidgeon of deception on the youngling's faceplate; he looked completely sincere.
It's okay to believe him.
Daybreak leaned back against the alcove wall, smiling vaguely. "You can trust what they say. You can believe me."
Nightbeat's mouthplates dropped open on their own accord. "You really can hear them, can't you?"
"Well, I wasn't lying when I said it the first time."
Nightbeat canted his head, unsure of what else to say. He opted for the most obvious statement, "I've never met another bot who could hear them."
Daybreak seemed a little surprised, and then smiled guiltily, as if realizing a past mistake he had never admitted to. Quickly shrugging it off, he smiled. "Well, now you have."
"How long have you heard them?"
"Always. How about you?" Daybreak seemed genuinely curious.
"For as long as I can remember," Nightbeat admitted sincerely.
"We have that in common, then." The youngling looked well pleased.
"I guess…" Nightbeat looked away, curling his knees up to his chest and hugging his legs there.
Daybreak scooted closer, reaching out to touch Nightbeat's dark-plated leg. Their paint looked odd next to each other; dark and light. "What's wrong?" he asked softly.
"What if I don't want to hear them?" Nightbeat murmured quietly, reluctantly.
Daybreak drew away, confused. "Why wouldn't you want to? They're a gift."
"Because… Because nobody else can hear them. Hearing them is not a gift." He sighed, scuffing his foot against the floor. "Whenever anyone finds out, they think there's something wrong with me." He couldn't count the number of times he ended up in the med bay with one of the Sector's medics prodding around in his data banks looking for something to be amiss.
"You ever think it might be the other way around? There's nothing wrong with us hearing voices, and there's something wrong with everyone else who can't," Daybreak offered.
Nightbeat peered up with wide optics. "I never thought about it that way."
"Maybe you should start," Daybreak laughed. "There's nothing wrong with anyone who can hear them, it just makes them a little more special than everyone else. We're specialer than everyone else. Made for bigger things, maybe."
Daybreak's strange, sparkling optics brightened. "Yeah, haven't you ever felt it? That funny feeling like we're meant for something more?" He waved a hand gently in the air. "We gotta be different for a reason, so why can't it be an important reason?"
"I don't know…" Nightbeat sighed unsurely.
"My Creator was different, too," Daybreak pressed on. "He heard voices, but he always said it was someone else who made him hear them. Some funny mech with four legs or something- I can't remember…" he puzzled for an astrosecond, determined it wasn't important, and then carried on. "He had to promise that he would pass on the gift, though. That was the one thing he promised, so when my Creator made me, he copied his processor into mine so that I would have all his programs. He kept his promise, since I hear like he did."
"Twilight did that too." Nightbeat tapped his head for emphasis. "Well, sort of… I don't think he made any promises to funny four-legged bots, but he copied all his original programming into me. I just thought that was because he didn't want to go through the effort of programming me himself. He's always so busy with stuff that he hardly ever has time for anything else…"
"I'm sure he meant for more when he gave you his programming." The pained look that crossed Daybreak's faceplate was almost as if he'd been dealt a physical blow. His head bowed, he looked away. And then he said, "Sometimes older bots get so caught up in the things around them that they forget about everything else. He loves you though, that much I know."
"How do you know?"
Daybreak looked as if he wanted to say one thing, but stopped himself in time. Instead he said, "Just listen and you'll hear it."
He loves you. He'll always love you. You will always be his Creation.
Nightbeat clapped his hands over his audios, unwilling to listen to the whispers this time. "I don't want to hear it! I don't want to hear them!"
Daybreak jerked away in surprise, and then leaned forward to pry Nightbeat's hands off his audio receptors. "Oh, Nightbeat! I'm sorry! You don't have to listen. I'm sorry!" They managed a brief struggle before Nightbeat allowed his hands to be pried away, but he refused to look into Daybreak's optics. The youngling's optics were too eerily familiar to him.
"What are they?" he asked quietly, even as he listened to them whisper. "What are the voices?"
The thoughts that occur before you think
"I don't know," Daybreak answered carefully. He was watching Nightbeat with concern-filled optics. "They're too big to really understand, I think. I like to call them instinct though, cause they're always there saying things we already half-know."
"There's nothing better to call them," the pearl-painted youngling shrugged. He pondered for a moment on how to explain it better. "Like when you're staring down at a great big puzzle trying to figure out where all the pieces go; it's really hard trying to figure it out at first, but there's always that tickle at the back of your processor saying that you already know how to solve the puzzle. And after staring at it long enough, it'll suddenly click and you can put the first two pieces together. The voices we hear- they're the tickle in our processor."
"But where do they come from?"
"Who knows?" Daybreak shrugged. His own Creator had had many theories on the subject. "There's a theory out there that says energy can't be created or destroyed, only transformed. Our sparks are a form of energy, so maybe when our sparks are extinguished we get transformed into something new."
"I thought we went to the matrix."
"Maybe we do, but who says we stay the same when we get to the matrix? Maybe when we get there, we become something else that only bots like us can hear. Soundwaves are a form of energy too, you know? A part of us could be left behind as sound, like an echo, and we can hear it." Daybreak laughed a little at something he just thought. "Or maybe the voices are part of a very intelligent design," he offered. "I was told once that everything in the universe has its certain place and purpose, and everything moves in a certain clockwork to everything else; it's all so very perfect and strange for it to be all just random occurrences, so maybe the voices are part of the clockwork of the intelligent design that keeps everything running, and we're just able to hear the cogs turning."
"Maybe…" Nightbeat murmured, intrigued by the very idea that the universe was made up of one great big pattern. A giant clockwork.
Very close ideas. Everything is part of a very big pattern.
Daybreak crept close, laying a hand on top of Nightbeat's hand. "Is it okay if I ask you something?"
"Um… sure." Nightbeat watched the other youngling curiously as he sat back, shifting a little.
"I know you don't like the voices, but do you think you can keep on listening to them? For me?" he asked quiet and desperate.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm not going to be here for very much longer. I was just passing through and I'll have to leave soon, but…I really want you to keep listening to the voices, even though you hate them. You were given this gift for a reason, and it would be really terrible if you just gave it up and hated it for the rest of your life." Pearl-painted hands grasped Nightbeat's shadowed-painted hands. "Is it okay if I asked you to promise?"
Nightbeat frowned, trying to understand what was being asked of him. "What am I supposed to do even if I were to listen?"
Daybreak smiled briefly. "Do what you do best; solves puzzles. Really hard puzzles. Let the voices be the tickle at the back of your processor. Just listen to what they have to say and they can tell you things no one else can."
"Please promise me you'll listen. Please."
Before Nightbeat could summon a reply, a caretaker peeked his head into the alcove. "Pi, little one, are you done with your downloading?"
"Yes, I am," Nightbeat replied, cringing as his current designation was used.
The caretaker nodded, looking unusually grim. "Then can you come here for a moment? There's something very important that you need to hear."
"What's happened?" Nightbeat asked, perking up as the voices whispered. He may not have promised Daybreak yet, but he could still listen to the voices regardless.
"There's been an accident," the caretaker said softly, optics dim. He reached in and cupped Nightbeat, allowing the little youngling to curl into his palm.
"Who died?" Nightbeat suddenly asked.
Startled by the question, it took a few moments for the caretaker to gather himself. "How did you-," he shook his head, "never mind." His free hand came up to stroke Nightbeat's back. "The research core has been doing some new research into different branches of science, as I'm sure you well know. They were attempting a radical new experiment today when piece of equipment malfunctioned…"
Your Creator was involved.
And suddenly Nightbeat fit a few puzzle pieces together. "Twilight is dead?"
Yes. But he still loves you very much.
"I'm so sorry, little one," the caretaker murmured.
Nightbeat found himself at a loss for words. He sat in the caretaker's palm and stared up at him as if the poor mech has the answer to some question that was evading him. Finally, a question came to the youngling's vocal processor. "What kind of experiment was Twlight doing when he died?"
The mech mulled it over, gauging if it was appropriate to tell a youngling everything so soon after a shock. Nightbeat stared unrelentingly until the mech sighed, giving in. "He was experimenting in a form of astral projection, trying to project a bot's thoughts and spark beyond the frame."
"I see…" And a couple more puzzle pieces fell into place in Nightbeat's mind, causing him to turn back to the alcove.
"You knew about this, didn't you? That's why you wanted me to promise- Daybreak? Where'd you go?" Nightbeat squinted into the shadows, finding the small alcove completely barren. Not a flash of pearl paint remained.
"Who?" the caretaker enquired, concerned over Nightbeat's unusual actions.
"Daybreak, the other youngling I was talking to. He was right there an astrosecond ago."
A frown creased the mech's faceplate. "No one was there, Pi. You've been alone downloading this entire time. There is no youngling designated Daybreak in the Youth Sector."
"Oh…" More pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit together. "Could you… could you leave me alone for a moment?"
"Are you sure? I don't think you should be left alone at a time like this-."
"Please, just for a moment." The pleading in his voice was enough for the Caretaker to place him back in the alcove and bow away. Nightbeat straightened and took a few steps in, crouching in the place where Daybreak had last been sitting. He laid his hand to the floor and found it cold, as if no one had ever really been there at all.
One last puzzle piece left to figure out
"Ah, now I get it," Nightbeat murmured, even daring to smile a little.
He loved you very much. He couldn't leave without saying goodbye.
That was the reason Daybreak had been so familiar to him; his paint had been the exact same shade as his Creator's.