Icon used is a gift from tumblr's vladimirthecrimsonreaper, used with permission.
Idiot-Anonymous and I were discussing how there needs to be more Vlad/Ez in the world, and I was inspired by one of the Vladimir askblogs on tumblr. He promised me art in exchange for alternate future Pulsetech fanfiction, and I gave it to him. :)
"How is operation NP-082 progressing?"
"And its sister project? Does he suspect?"
"He doesn't suspect a thing."
"Good. The next subject is volatile, but valuable. We can't let him interfere."
Jayce, the world's second-greatest human-hextech network interface engineer, stared down at his gruel. The gray-beige paste was beginning to harden when his cell door banged open.
"Another applicant has made it through the testing phase," a man in a green uniform announced. "Prepare to be transported to a workspace."
Jayce sighed. He was much too used to this for his own liking. He stood, kicking aside the bowl of gruel with a worn black boot.
"Take the prerequisite beam transport safety stance."
"I invented the beam transporter, I think I should know what to do!" Jayce shouted at the man. He stood with his feet apart, hands out from his sides, and facing the ceiling. He wiggled his neck and shoulders to let the stiffness out, then cleared his throat and closed his eyes.
A light gathered around his figure, barely noticeable at first and then brighter than if a spotlight was pointed at him. He compressed as if he was being drawn through a straw, and then vanished in a flash.
His molecules reassembled with another blast of light. The buzzing in his ears faded after a moment of scrubbing his hand across his forehead, and with a deep breath, he continued his journey.
Before him was a vast workspace, the furnishings made of metal and the floor of polished stone. The high ceiling was comprised of a series of fluorescent lights, tinted blue and behind frosted glass to minimize shadows. Welding equipment, gas tanks, laser saws, and many other large tools lined the walls of the lab. As he walked, holographic blueprints came online, showing different iterations of humans in mechanized suits. Computer screens lit up the entire back wall, showing lines of code and complex diagrams of human brainwave identities.
A work bench raised from the floor, its surface covered in a touch-controlled mesh that could withstand heat, pressure, and the occasional coffee spill. Jayce laid his hands on the edge. Bump, clink.
He looked down and scowled.
"All systems operational," a pleasant female voice emanated from nowhere. Jayce continued scowling at his hands.
"Thank you OPAL, send newest subject's files to the workbench please."
"Only because you asked so nicely, sir," the AI responded.
Within seconds, the screen lit up with the icons of all sorts of documents. Jayce, using his left hand, scrolled through a few of them.
"Male, Noxian, blah blah, here's his MRI for cyber-fitting, anything useful? No, no... hmm, controls blood in battle? What a strange thing to augment." He muttered to himself for a few more minutes, quickly gathering ideas for suit design based on both function and form.
Jayce then began a first draft of the blueprints, effortlessly manipulating both images and code to fit his vision. He hadn't seen the subject in person yet, so he had to stop once he reached completion of the general structure. All suits had a nanobot woven mega-pliable thermal suit between skin and metal, both for the obvious protection it lended and because Jayce liked to sneak extra devices into the fabric. The alpha models, he remembered, had been strictly for comfort, and wicked away sweat while providing heat or cooling as needed. The beta models had been much more useful, as the addition of nano-bots allowed them to self-repair on the fly. But recently, he'd been working on a gamma model. It improved on the beta model by way of its auto-responding matrix system; if the wearer was threatened, sensors told the mega-pliable mesh where and when to rearrange into a rigid patch. This greatly lessened the weight of the suit, as Jayce no longer needed to add large metal plates to offer the greatest bodily protection.
All suits also had to have a power source. Jayce found that the least obtrusive way to attach them was on the wearer's back. Alpha models had a spine-like generator enclosed in a backpack of sensors and wiring and cooling agents, before Jayce had slimmed them down for the beta models. Now for the gamma, he'd reduced the size again and compacted the entire structure within the spine alone. The tiny Thorium reactor was 90% efficient at self-replenishing, and wouldn't need to be replaced for a couple of decades according to his tests. He remembered the old gigawatt conductors with a shudder.
The other important pieces of any suit were the boots. Jayce still preferred using metal plates for them because of the wear they would endure over their lifetime - the matrix system could malfunction after years of constant strain. But they held a plethora of technologies under their metallic surface. The sole and back of the boot held a non-Newtonian metal that Jayce had discovered accidentally in his younger years. It moved with your foot unless it encountered massive pressure over a short time, such as during a fall, and then it would become rigid and act like a spring. Tiny boosters in the sole also allowed higher jumps and faster acceleration when running, which he hadn't had time to upgrade in a while. They were identical all the way back to the alpha model. Maybe he could make them glow red and pretend like that was an upgrade.
But how could he augment the use of blood? He mulled it over while watching video records of the subject in battle. Thermal imaging? Synthesis of hemoglobin? Pointed objects on the suit? He shook his head. There was still time to figure it out. He was more worried about the subject's mental stability. Noxians were well-known for being crazy to some degree, so Jayce planned to sneak a hormone-injection system into the suit. It certainly couldn't hurt.
Function was easy. But Jayce also loved perfection of the form. After the hard work of putting together an array of technologies, it was the closest thing to fun he could have while stuck in this lab. He'd have OPAL send in the subject later to review any personal preferences he might have, but for now he'd have to make due with all these old photographs and videos to imitate the man's style. It was a form of art, really, breaking down one aesthetic and blending it into another.
"OPAL, run geometric algorithm on all visual data for this subject," he ordered, tapping his right hand uselessly on the touch screen.
"How far back would you like my search to go?" she replied calmly.
"Hmm, only about ten years. If findings are inconclusive, run them five more years back at a time."
Jayce watched the screens on the wall flicker with hundreds of pictures, amassing millions and millions of data points in moments.
"Preliminary results show that subject's preferred colors will be red, white, and steel," OPAL listed, still flicking through video stills from every angle. A couple of seconds later, she added "black" to that list, as it finally filtered through the algorithm. "Primary shape is triangular, point down," she announced, pulling up a few choice images showing pointed hair, pointed teeth, pointed trim and decorations. The stream of photos ended with no further comment from OPAL, meaning she hadn't found anything to refute that data.
Jayce threw together a few more ideas, adding a long coat with a slender cut and hanging in a point. He designed the spine with triangular segments, adding short metal ribs to hold it more stably to the suit.
He toggled through a few more pictures, making note of the subject's preferred jewelry. He didn't know if the claws were useful in battle or what, so he added them as sharp fingertips on a set of metal gloves. He threw on a few more decorations, and tapped his fingers on the desk.
"OPAL, compile a 3D blueprint for manipulation," Jayce stated after a moment of thought.
He raised his right hand to move the floating model a bit, and it passed through.
"Sir, your metal arm cannot-"
"I know, OPAL!" Jayce growled and slammed his fist into the desktop. His teeth were gritted, and the muscles in his neck stood out.
His accursed right arm was something he tried to forget. After those damn hextech creatures had began ruining entire towns and destroying much of Valoran, the Noxians had come looking for Jayce. They didn't want him to stop them, they wanted him out of their way. They fueled that horrible Viktor's research, sending him soldiers that would come back as powerful killing machines.
When the Noxians had tried to capture him, he hadn't gone down quietly. His arm had been ripped off at the shoulder.
The Noxians had plans for him, however, and sent him to Viktor as well. He thankfully didn't remember the day or more he spent in Viktor's clutches, but when he awoke, he was horrified to find a structure of that monster's design attached to his body. He now spent every waking moment trying to forget that he owed his life and livelihood to that madman.
"OPAL, I've told you before, don't remind me that my metal arm cannot interact with touchscreens or holograms. I am well aware of that fact." He exhaled heavily a few times, head in his good hand.
He had to get back to work or the Noxians would throw him back in Viktor's lab, conscious this time.
Hours into the process, the ceiling lights flickered. Jayce thought nothing of it at first, going back to typing lines of code. When the screens on the desk and wall started to black out, one by one, he turned to OPAL for an explanation.
"OPAL, scan for interference. Report."
"Sir, temporal anomaly detected."
Jayce stood, eyes wide. The last time Runeterra had seen a temporal rift on a macrocosmic scale, a Viktor prototype had appeared and set his hextech creatures on a collision course with every life on the planet. What could this be?
"Temporal rift forming, do not approach," OPAL reported.
A crack formed in the air behind Jayce's desk. It shifted reality, looking like a soap bubble layered on top of space itself.
The bubble popped, tearing a hole in the space-time continuum. Jayce took one step back as a man stepped through.
The man raised his hands to show he was unarmed. One flesh, one metal.
The two Jayces stared at each other for a moment, the time-shifted one slowly lowering his hands and then opening his mouth to speak.
"I don't have much time. I should say you don't have much time, but technicalities. There are a series of time rifts that are about to open, ending in a rift that will reach into the Void. It's a horrible place of creatures like you've never seen, a corruption that poisons the very land. The next time you see a rift opening, you must grab the nearest person and throw them into it."
Present-Jayce made a noise as if he planned to interrupt, but the time traveler kept going.
"Yes, I know it sounds absolutely homicidal but it's the only way. They must find the one who can save Runeterra. You got that? Tell them to find the one who can save Runeterra."
He began to fade, one foot still inside the rift.
"You eventually go through a rift yourself! That's how I end up here! Just make sure to push them through the first rift, you got it? The first one!"
Reality snapped back into place. The screens came back online, and the lights remained steady.
Jayce sat down hard in his desk chair, feeling too faint to function. His gut reaction was to write it off as a hallucination caused by too much work and not enough food, but why on earth would he hallucinate himself? It had happened, whether he wanted to accept that or not.
He put his buzzing head down on the table. Was he going to do what his... future-self?... said to do? He just needed some time to think.
Jayce woke to the same morning ritual as always: unappealing meal, loud interruption, transported to the lab. He'd made a lot of headway on this suit design, and decided it was time to call in the subject for a final fitting and finalizing other details.
"OPAL, please send in the next subject."
"Subject has been contacted and will arrive within the hour."
"Thank you," Jayce replied. He didn't have a whole lot to do within that hour besides work on a new AI for this suit, so he began recording his voice to be altered later and reusing code from OPAL and his prototypes.
He considered an acronym. It was his first Gamma model, so...GARNET. Gamma Art-intel Reciprocating NETwork. He typed that in with little thought, then began programming the AI to recognize the inputs and outputs of the physical suit.
A man dressed from head to toe in crimson blinked into Jayce's lab. He had arrived a bit earlier than expected, a scowl on his face and blood on his coat. Jayce was glad he'd planned the serotonin injection system from the start.
GARNET was just a paragraph of code away from being a working rough draft, one he'd snuck a learning algorithm into at the last moment in a surge of inspiration. He hadn't changed the voice much, but there would be time for that tomorrow.
"Excuse me one moment, sir, I have to close three loops before I lose my train of thought," Jayce explained coolly.
"I am not a patient man," the subject, Vladimir, grumbled.
Jayce pecked at the keys as fast as his fingers could fly, remembering that this man was high enough in the Noxian order to require a suit instead of surgery and robotic parts. He was powerful enough to pass the application process. He could turn his own blood against him.
He finished in mere minutes, saving and closing the process while Vladimir picked invisible lint off of his immaculate coat.
"Sorry about that, sir, let's start your fitting now. OPAL, please load nanobots with data from from file PH-046."
"Nanobots loaded," OPAL replied.
"Okay, I'll need you to take those clothes off. You won't need them underneath the suit."
Vladimir said nothing, but complied. He threw each article on the floor in a crumpled pile, kicking his boots off with pointed toes. He stared at Jayce, challenging him to make a single comment about his state of undress.
"You can leave your undergarments on," he said offhandedly as Vladimir's hands went for the waistline of his pants.
"Undergarments?" There was mischief in his voice.
Jayce had turned quickly away, trying to ignore Vladimir's amused gaze.
"OPAL, release nanobots and initialize suit construction," he sputtered.
The microscopic robots worked together quickly, sewing the mega-pliable thermal suit out of responsive filaments. The suit appeared to weave itself into being, anchoring on the shoulders and chest first and working its way out. Vladimir fidgeted a few times as the suit grew across his more sensitive regions, and Jayce told him to lift each foot so the nanobots could finish the soles of his boots.
It took five full minutes for the bots to complete the entire suit. OPAL emitted a short tone that signaled its completion, and Vladimir instantly began tugging at the collar and rolling up on his toes in the new footwear. Non-Newtonian metals were always the hardest to get used to because they had the density of iron but the flexibility of plastic.
"GARNET, boot and run self-diagnostics," Jayce commanded.
"Boot complete," came a slightly altered Jayce from inside Vladimir's suit. "Pulsehalt suit online."
Jayce tried not to laugh. He really needed to replace that voice as soon as possible.
Suddenly, the overhead lights flickered.
"What's happening?" Vladimir demanded.
"Temporal anomaly detected," OPAL announced.
"Oh no, you can't be serious," Jayce said to no one in particular.
A familiar crack painted itself over Jayce's lab. The bubble puffed out. The tear in the space-time continuum snapped open.
You have to push the nearest person into the time rift, he remembered his future self say. Here he thought he'd have more time to understand what was happening and prepare himself for the consequences. Could he do it? Was this man really supposed to save everyone? He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for only a moment.
Jayce grabbed tight onto Vladimir's lapels. Vladimir looked positively offended.
"You must find the one who will save Runeterra!" he shouted through the sound of crackling electricity.
And with that, he heaved a stunned Vladimir into the fickle flow of time itself.