Space L Clottey

It was him!

Heye's hands quivered as he realised with a terrible, drowning shock. _I've been annoying people my whole entire life_.

_And it hasn't been funny, or comical, or pleasant at all for anybody_.

He felt inside himself the terrifying feeling Floop had felt along the floor, the horrible anticipation as it built and built, and the tremendous, aching, horrifying _fundamental control_ Heye had endlessly _stolen_ from those around him his entire life.

It wasn't funny. It wasn't comical. It wasn't even neutral.

_It had been torturous._

Inside his mind he stared at the stupid, stupid smile plastered over the face of the Sokotian who had mocked Floop, staring at the creases in his smile.

And he could have thrown up, just then, as he realised with a disgusting twang that _he had known_.

Inside his own identical stupid smiles he had _seen_ the suffering he was causing, and in a pathetic, hidden effort to avert the pain he had just _ignored_ it, pressing down on the feeling and clamping it as far down as it could go...

And it had _worked_. For himself, he had gotten away with not having to confront the _real_ stakes of the _real_ stakeholders of him repeating himself a thousand times a day...

And even worse...

Heye didn't even get to say that was just who he was. The Sokotians had that: written in their DNA was the best excuse imaginable: a complete inability to not.

But Heye...

He _knew_ he'd said crap in his mind, stuff like "it's out of my control!" or "I couldn't help it!" or "that's _me!_"...

But as every tower inside of him came crumbling down in great thundering heaps, so did this one. He had always been able to choose. And he had chosen to pretend.

Even on his very last day on Earth, in its very last seconds. He'd _ignored_... everything...

He'd received the message "shut up" so many times, in so many different ways, and he'd _ignored_ every single one...

He'd received messages begging him to halt the cause of their suffering in so many different ways, and he'd _ignored_ every single one...

Every second of his life he'd been trapping people in his horrible one-sided game with no means to escape...

Heye stared at the Sokotian's crumpled body across from him, stuffed inside the chamber.

Goosebumps poured onto his exposed, bruised skin as the cold air wafted inward through the window.

Slowly, Heye turned his head towards the screens...

They were now tinted red, undoubtedly the fault of when they had stumbled upon the dashboard, breaking almost every lever and button, firing machines randomly.

And upon the screens the Sokotians were curled with their hands plastered onto their brains—

He could sense it a moment before it came.

His muscles locked as a brutal barrage of pain exploded down every part of him. He roared, and in his frozen state could feel the now hundreds of bots spreading out over his brain, as though getting in formation to finally start it.

Or finish it.

He stood locked, unbearably suffering, until finally it stopped suddenly and his muscles came back under his control.

He barely blinked his eyes open and saw Floop writhing in his own pod, and turned his head to the blood-red screens, to see the exact same behaviour on the only stakeholders Floop had designed the bots for.

Dazed, Heye tried to think as hard as he could.

_Think Mark! What will you still have after five hundred years?_

He'd gone into Floop's memories to find out how to turn it off...

But the nanobots had fatally interrupted the process before he could catch up to the present day. Had it all been for naught?

Heye brought his hands up against his writhing head, placing his head against the cool stone floor...

This feeling. This position...

_Haven't I... seen you somewhere before?_ asked his brain.

_I don't know_, he replied. _I don't get off planet much._

YES!

Heye opened his mouth and croaked upwards: "Machine. Off."

There was no signal he was being listened to. No whirring, nothing in sight. Just a voice. Ceasely mechanical, with clearly no effort whatsoever put into making it seem "human".

"_Authorisation?_"

Heye's heart did a flicker, as he tried desperately to remember what Floop had said to it...

Ah. What else would he say?

"I said what I meant."

A beep sounded, and the other broken screen clicked on. Heye watched attentively from inside the chamber, his breathing sharp. Through the shattered glass he saw a dot in the middle of the screen.

The voice spoke.

"_Do you wish to deactivate Project Terrain?_"

Terrain. Terraform. That had to be the nanobots. “Yes.”

"_Affirmative._"

A loading circle appeared on the screen, distorted by the cracks. Heye watched, his breath shallow and unbelieving.

"_Error. System instabilities. Unable to disable Terrain without full system shutdown._"

For a second he panicked, but then realised nothing was actually wrong. "Okay," he said.

"_Affirmative. Shutting down._"

The circle.

"_Error: Instabilities detected with Project Blueprint._"

Blueprint? What on earth was project blueprint?

Heye racked his brain for everything that had been of relevance so far, and realised that a start that _he_ was the blueprint.

But he wasn't hooked up to the machine. So the only thing it could be describing was...

The portal...

"_Instabilities: detected. Structural vulnerability: detected. Erratic firing: likely._"

Heye stared at the portal, its two metal spikes curling upwards. He only truly noticed now how it was incessantly flickering.

The voice went on.

"_System shutdown is likely to cause erratic firing. Safety level of Blueprint firing: fatal_."

A graphic appeared. Heye couldn't quite be sure what it was showing, the image distorted by the cracks in the screen. But he could make out the portal, and a chamber in front of it. Ah, he realised that the intent of the chamber wasn't for trapping creators, but a loading bay for the portal. He watched as the graphic visualised the purple in the centre of the portal widening, and finally exploding, whatever was in the chamber vanishing into it.

And when it finished, a slot in the floor opened up, rising from it a large lever.

Heye's heart began to pick up, more and more, compounding into a tremendous pounding within his chest.

The only way to disable the nanobots... was to shut down every system in the tower?

And doing so would make the portal fire?

And firing the portal was a one time thing?

The chamber Heye was in suddenly felt very small.

He hadn't been thinking of home, not even a little. But the feeling wasn't a resigned knowing that he would never get home, it had almost been more like a resigned knowing he _would_ be. What would have been the point of thinking about home, since it was such an eventuality that he would reach it?

But once he left, he'd never be able to come back... He'd never see the Sokotians again...

AGH!

His head exploded in another ghastly jolt of pain, the robots all still and ready, as though they were ready to apply final procedures any second...

Heye knelt over, clutching his stomach, breathing deeply.

Finally, stilled, his hands made his way to his pockets, taking out what he had taken so long ago. The useless, depressed button activating _Project Terrain,_ as it were. He flipped it over, expecting the minimalist screen that had shown the green bar, snaking its way upwards to be far in the red, the moment to project completion so very close...