In the middle of a small, yet comfortable room, with a cozy fireplace surrounded by bookshelves, and a couple of soft, cushioned chairs that would be incredibly easy to fall asleep in, two figures sat facing one another. One was Robin, the silver-bodied robot. Their eyes were currently green, indicating that the Medical One was active. Their fingers were steepled as they observed their companion in the other chair. That companion, at the moment, looked like a very shabbily-dressed, heavily scarred, and generally unkempt version of Denise Cartland. She was known as Feisty, the werewolf aspect of the recently-born Carnival System. She was also shifting a lot in the apparently too-comfortable seat, sniffing in the air while looking around to take everything in.
“It’s a lot to get used to, isn’t it?” Med asked gently. The rest of their System had agreed that they would be the best representative to start things off. They didn’t have a lot of experience speaking with others like them, those who shared multiple minds and personalities amongst a single physical body, but they did have some. Having Quip or Chat start things off sounded good on paper, but the former could tell a joke at the wrong time, while the latter could be a bit too intense in talking people up right off the bat. Both of which felt like the wrong approach to take with someone who was still so new to all of this, and who had already been through so much as it was. If there was one thing the Carnival didn’t need, it was to be even more overwhelmed.
As soon as they had spoken, Feisty turned her attention that way. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed again before quietly responding, “What’s a lot to get used to? Knowing that monsters and magic exist, that the original versions of ourselves were horrifically murdered and we’re all melded-together aspects of the our dead selves and some part of Denise, living on a space station in the middle of the sun, sharing a single body among all of us, that the good side of the person who killed the original Denise in the first place is also in our head, or something I forgot to include in that list? Because it sure would be easy to leave something out.”
Med offered a slight smile of understanding. “Yes, there certainly is a lot. Personally, I was referring to that last part. From what we understand, you have what amounts to an internal semi-physical space where all of you interact together, rather than simply doing so mentally, as it were. Even to the point where you may pull others in to see and speak with all of you at once.” They paused, clearly considering before adding,”That does seem helpful, in some ways.”
Shifting forward to sit on the very edge of the plush seat, Feisty gave a slow nod. “I guess it is. Besides, when we’re not in charge of the body, we can all play on the rides and games.” She gave a somewhat fierce smile, adding, “I’m really good at the dart game. And the knife throwing. I think–” She stopped, glancing away with a frown. “The original version of me, the werewolf I mean, I’m pretty sure I spent some time with a circus. I keep having memory flashes of that, and it’s definitely not from the Denise side.” A cough escaped her then before she turned back to the silver figure. “Some of us remember more of ourselves than others, you know. Do you think that’s because some of us were put together from more than one dead person? Maybe our memories have more broken pieces to sort through. Me, I’m pretty sure I’m just the one other person. At least, those circus memories are the only other ones I’m getting.”
“I’m afraid anything I say will only be a slightly educated guess,” Med carefully explained. “In our case, we weren’t created from combinations of other peoples’ memories, we simply… exist. It may be a result of our creators making us this way intentionally, sectioning off parts of our… processes into separate personalities for whatever reason. Or it could have been a result of the damage we took upon our arrival on this world. Or any number of other things. Suffice to say, we lack the specific comparison to your situation. But with that in mind, I believe it is a sound theory. If you are each drawn together from multiple similar… deceased people, it would make sense that having more source-memories to sort through would take longer.”
Rather than respond immediately, Feisty glanced away as though engaged in internal conversation. Then she focused on him. “Hang on, Loudpound wants–”
In mid-sentence, she shifted, growing larger as her skin turned rough and greenish into a pseudo-Orc shape. “Me, I got a bunch of different memories. Just flashes, but they’re all one of two things. Either fighting, or getting ready to fight. All the images I get are about being in the battlefield, in a barfight, in a wrestling ring, whatever. That’s all of it. So I was wondering, like…” Her hand waved a bit, face twisting into a frown as she struggled to think of the exact thing she was trying to say before shaking her head. “Fuck it, you do it. You’re better at that shit.”
She was not addressing Med, or any of the other Robins. Instead, her body shrank and changed into the blonde figure known as Letters. She offered them an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry for the confusion, we’re still… working some things out. Tailor is getting a lot of practice though.”
“Tailor is your shapeshifter?” Med asked, having heard a little bit about that whole situation.
“That’s right,” Letters confirmed. “Time passes differently inside, so when the message comes that one of us needs her to make an appearance shift, she can take her time to get there but it still seems instantaneous to people on the outside.” Having explained that, she added, “And what Loudpound was trying to ask was whether you think the chicken or the egg came first. Does she only have memories of fighting and violence because she’s intended to be the Aspect who fights a lot, or does having memories of fighting and violence make her more likely to be the Aspect who fights a lot?”
Med paused to consider, before holding up their hand. “I believe this is a question better suited for one of my other Facets.”
With that, their eyes shifted from green to red. “Hey, well I ahh, I’m Brawl. Kinda fill the same role as your… is there a term you prefer for your relationship with one another?”
“Headmate is fine,” Letters replied easily. “Some of us consider one another System siblings, Syslings. Others are closer to friends or roommates. Headmates. You’re the aggressive one?”
Brawl shrugged, crimson eyes flickering a bit as though he was considering that. “I guess you could put it that way. The point is, when it comes down to it, it’s my job to make sure that whatever’s trying to hurt us or our friends, stops doing that. Sec and me, that’s Security, we sort of… you might call us twins I guess? We used to be more of a single Facet–ahh, that’s what we call ourselves, Facets. We used to be one, then it was like… there was a difference between protection and attack, so we split up. Sec’s the one that focuses on safety. Me, I hit things really hard. Not sure why or… or how we went from being one to two, exactly, but it’s what happened.”
Letters seemed to consider that before holding up a finger. “Not to be rude, but someone else would like to speak.”
That time, they grew only a few inches, body shifting into a male-presenting form though their hair remained long. It also darkened from blond to black with a slightly shimmering effect. The new arrival wore a bright pink suit jacket, pants, and tie, with a white silk shirt, a long cape that was black on the outside and pink on the inside, and a black and pink top hat. He immediately sprang out of the seat to stand up, voice filling the small room. “Hi, hello, how are you?!” He took a step back so he would have room to sweep into a bow. “I came with no name to my face, but I opened my mouth and they all said I was ostentatious. So here I am, Austin Tasious. Such a pleasure to meet you, we thought we’d have to wait a long time to find someone who understood.” Even as he said that, Austin was stepping that way, taking the Robins’ hand to shake firmly with both of his. “It really is such–ahh ahh, wait, what’s that behind your ear?” Reaching back slightly behind the robot’s head, Austin snapped his hand back and opened his palm to reveal a small silver egg, which immediately cracked open to allow a flock of colorful butterflies to sail out in every direction. They soared around the room before vanishing.
Brawl, taking all that in, grunted, “You’re the magician.”
“That’s right,” Austin confirmed while offering a faint smile that was slightly tinted with something a bit less cheerful. Worry. Despite his outward appearances and showmanship, he was worried. “Look, we’re all basically hanging all over your words in there. You said you and Sec used to be a single personality. Well I’m like… my whole thing is magic, okay? That’s who I am. I’ve got all the memories and skills of all the spells Ammon collected from the people he killed. If the Carnival needs magic, they talk to me. But now, like… are you saying that I’ll start splitting up into smaller versions of me. Not smaller, you know what I mean. Am I gonna stop being me and start turning into three, four, however many other people that aren’t quite exactly me?”
There was a moment of silence while Brawl considered that before Robin’s eyes shifted from red to brownish as Hood took over. “Speaking as the first of us, at least as far as we can remember, one becoming several isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But we all understand what you mean, and why you’re worried about it. It can be complicated enough to share a body with others, let alone if you think you might be a…”
Their eyes shifted to light blue for Chat to find the right word. “Placeholder. If you think you’re a placeholder for others to show up. And yeah, we get why you’re worried about that. Since, ahh, your siblings are more about being created from the memories of specific people, and you’re more drawn from a general skillset.”
The eyes went to green for Med. “I would have phrased that differently, but yes. Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Austin muttered, making his cape billow a bit before adding, “Thing is, I like being me. It’s fun. I like standing out, I like my thoughts, my mind, my–me. I don’t wanna… disappear.”
Eyes shifting to yellow for Sprite, the silver robot rose from the seat and took a step that way before quietly asking, “Uh, can we hug you?” She danced just a little from foot to foot, her reactions and apparent impatience making it clear that it had been one of the others who reminded her to ask for permission first.
Austin agreed, and the two embraced for a moment, the Sprightly One holding relatively tightly (though not anywhere near as tight as their body was capable of) before adopting a cheerful tone. “I don’t think you’re gonna disappear, and neither does Med. You’re different from us. You were, you know, created differently. And… and even if you do change like Sec and Brawl, you’ll all still be who you are now, just with more of you, right?”
After hesitating to consider that for a moment, Austin swallowed before giving a short nod. It was clear that not all of his worry was gone, but he did at least feel a little better. The magician boy offered a thanks before adding, “I’m glad you think I won’t just die.”
With that, their body changed once more. The new arrival looked basically like Denny herself, but a, well, dead version of the girl. Her skin was pale, eyes sunken in, with visible scarring and rope marks around her neck. She offered a toothy smile. “He can’t be the dead one anyway, I’ve got that covered.”
As Sprite made a squeaking noise of surprise, their eyes shifted from her yellow to the pink of the Quipping One. Quip looked the seemingly dead girl up and down before offering, “Lemme guess, you’re the one who shapeshifts into animals.”
Then their eyes went back to green for Med, shaking his head. “More seriously, are you… Denise?” He was clearly worried that the girl was presenting herself as dead for more psychological reasons.
The girl, however, shook her head. The rope marks on her neck vanished, while her skin remained pale but took on a slightly blueish tint. Her hair became soaking wet, dripping onto the floor. She had gone from someone who had been hanged to someone who had drowned. “Nah, that’s not how she died. And neither is this.” Her head shook demonstrably, throwing water around in the process. “I’m like Austin, except that where he’s got all the memories of the magic that all Ammon’s victims knew, I’m all their memories of dying.” Despite her somber words and appearance of a somehow animated dead girl, she offset them with a bright, cheerful smile. “I’m Bucket. As in ‘Kick The.’” Her explanation was followed by an audible giggle. “Every single person Ammon killed, I’ve got the assortment of their memories of the… you know.” She drew a finger across her throat while making a cutting sound effect with her mouth. “But then again, I also have super-powerful regeneration. There was this one time that Asenath chick threw a knife right into Ammon’s heart and he was fine right after. That’s the power I’ve got.”
Her skin turned red and blustery, as if it had been horrifically burned, while her hair became almost non-existent, what remained sticking out in jagged strands. “Isn’t that funny? I get every memory of every death, but I can’t die. I just heal from everything. It’s like, ironic or something.”
Med absorbed that, looking her up and down before asking, “Are you afraid you’ll disappear, or grow into multiple people?”
“Nah,” came the casual response, “like you guys said, we’re not the same as you. Similar idea, but different. And even if we were, my whole job is to hold onto the memories of how the others all died. I mean, it’s a long list, but I don’t exactly need help doing it, you know? It’s all right up here.” Bucket tapped her forehead, even as her body shifted back to being almost normal aside from her too-pale skin and a single bullet hole right next to where she was tapping.
“Well, if you ever do want to talk about that, or even about any… questions you have about the deaths you remember, feel free to say something.” Med extended his hand once more, as a slot opened up in his palm and a small card appeared. “That goes for all of you, of course. Our personal contact number is there.”
Their eyes shifted to light pink, as Quip cut in, “And when he says personal contact number, he really means personal.”
Then the eyes were dark blue, almost black. “I’m Sec. And the card links to a communication device within our own head. You will be able to reach us in virtually any circumstance.”
As Bucket’s hand reached out to take the card, her body shifted and changed once more. The new figure was, again, slightly taller than the original Denny, though only by a couple inches. Their hair was light brown. Beyond that, the most obvious part of their outward appearance was that it was split in half. The left side of their body was clearly feminine, with longer hair that fell to their shoulder and slightly softer features (though their apparent age made that not quite as obvious as it might’ve been). The right side, meanwhile, had short hair that was somewhat messy and unkempt, with slightly more masculine features despite their young appearance. They wore a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved button-up shirt. The jeans were black, while the shirt was pink on the male side and white on the female side.
“Hey there,” the new arrival announced in a female voice, “I’m Tick.” As she said that, a small swarm of buzzing bees appeared over her shoulder and hovered there.
“And I’m Talk.” That time, the voice was male. “Or as they would’ve said in the Yupiltepeque region of Guatemala a century ago…” He repeated the same words, but in a language that was technically considered extinct.
“You’re showing off, Talk,” the female voice pointed out.
“Like you’re not, Tick,” the male voice retorted before waving toward the hovering bees. “I mean, hello?” He stopped waving and focused on the nearby robot figure. “In case you’re confused…”
“We’re twins.” Despite only one mouth speaking, both voices emerged in a perfect chorus.
Eyes shifting to amber-brown once more, Hood lifted his chin while regarding them. “Twins, Tick and Talk. That’s pretty fun. Do… you know why you specifically are twins? Are you linked like this in the Carnival space?”
“Nope, not usually,” came the response from Tick. “We’re separate in there. But we like to come out together.”
“Share and share alike,” Talk agreed. “And I think we’re twins because we came from the same source. I communicate with and understand people.”
“And I communicate with and understand insects,” Tick added. “Well, and control them. But Talk can control people too, in some ways. See, we think that’s why we’re so connected–”
“And in sync,” their voices chorused together.
With a faint smile, Hood nodded. “Well, that’s interesting. Wouldn’t you say?”
His eyes shifted to green once more, as Med agreed, “It certainly is. And it’s somewhat connected to what we were talking about before. If you both originated from the same ‘communication powers’ source, simply diverging into ‘people or insects,’ perhaps that means any diverging, such as what happened with Brawl and Sec, is already done.”
Hair shifting to blonde as her own choice of clothes (a white shirt and pants) reappeared, Letters carefully asked, “You meant what you said, about being able to call you whenever we want?” She was holding the card with the phone number. “We… we might need to do that a lot. You’re the only people we know like us. But we don’t want to bug you.”
“Hah!” That was Quip, as the Robin System’s eyes turned pink. “Bug us. Pretty sure that’s Tick’s job.”
“Ahem.” Their eyes shifted to green as Med took over. “Absolutely. Any of you can call us any time. We cannot promise that the one you wish to speak to won’t be… occupied in the moment, but the benefit of being what amounts to multiple artificial intelligences within the same body is that while one is physically occupied, the others are more than capable of carrying on a conversation.”
“Which,” Chat put in, eyes shifting to light blue, “is a fancy way of saying, we’ll talk any time you want. About anything. Believe me, some of us love talking.”
Letters nodded slowly. “Good. I mean, thanks. We could really use someone who can give us advice for… for all of this. I think… I think some people around here think it’s too strange, even for them. Or they think we’re all just Denny acting it out.”
“They’ll learn,” Med assured her. “Or they won’t, but either way, it is not a problem with any of you. Remember, there is a difference between not understanding and wanting to learn, and not understanding because you don’t want to learn. But either way, it is not your job to educate them unless you want to.”
As Letters slowly nodded, her figure shifted again. Soon, Feisty stood there once more in her shabby clothing. “Okay, but… do you ever wonder about your memories from before you were on Earth? Do you want them back?”
There was a brief pause, before the silver robot’s eyes shifted to amber-brown, the color for Hood. “If we’re going to talk about that, maybe we should sit down.
“Because I have a feeling it’s going to be a long conversation.”