Shout-out to Scarab for turning in a vividly-realized plan that would also have worked well! My team's thanks go out to everyone lookin' out for them. Something tells me you'll all get another chance.
Anyway, here is the story that got the job done:
narrativedilettante wrote:Angel stood at her post in the void. Every nanosecond, she scanned her environment for potential threats. In the void, the scan was simple.
<LOW INPUT> <SUSPECT SENSOR MALFUNCTION> <SENSOR CHECK> <SENSORS OPERATING NORMALLY : VIEW OF BODY UNIMPAIRED>
The constant malfunction alerts were annoying, and the monotony was excruciating to her processors that simulated a personality, but Angel possessed unlimited patience. She kept track of the number of scans. 210. 211. 212. The gaps between milestones increased, and Angel waited for the visitor she’d been warned of.
On one scan, there was nothing. On the next, a clear image of a figure, in the distance, walking towards her. The void did not obscure distant images, like fog, nor did they disappear over a horizon. Angel did not understand the mechanics of the void, but she understood the information from her sensors. A threat approached. Angel stood her ground.
Medusa walked steadily forward, her head of snakes moving without apparent regard for gravity. Then again, gravity in the void could be tricky. Objects stayed to one plane for the sake of convenience, no matter what physical principles ought to have been in play.
With every step Medusa took, Angel re-evaluated the threat level. When she was within 10 feet, Angel spoke.
“You are trespassing,” she said.
Medusa froze, temporarily as still and statuesque as those who had beheld her countenance. Presently, a frown of puzzlement crossed her features. “Speak again,” she commanded.
“You are trespassing,” Angel repeated. “Come no further or I will take action against you.”
“You are blind,” muttered the Gorgon, and she took a silent step to the side, before setting on a path to bypass the guardian.
Faster than Medusa could react, Angel crossed the distance between them. “No, I’m not.”
Again, the Gorgon stood silent. This experience was unprecedented for her.
“You’ve seen me,” said Medusa, “yet you live. Why are you not turned to stone?”
“When a living being is turned to stone, the organic tissue composing the body is replaced with inorganic minerals.”
“Don’t tell me things I already know,” Medusa snarled, reaching out to strike the small girl. Angel caught her hand before replying.
“You didn’t let me finish. The material of my body cannot be replaced with inorganic minerals because it already consists of inorganic minerals. For practical purposes, I already am made of stone.”
“You’re a golem?” Asked Medusa. She was vaguely aware of mythological traditions outside of her own.
“I’m an android,” said Angel. “The concept is similar in some ways.”
“But you can look at me.” A transformation overtook Medusa. The snakes on her head ceased their writhing, and fell into an orderly fringe pattern. A close observer, if he or she was not turned to stone, would have noticed tears forming in Medusa’s eyes. “For centuries, for millennia, no one has been able to look at me. They all turn to stone, every one of them. I used to love it when people looked at me. I lived for their admiration. I was so beautiful once, I even inspired jealousy in the goddess Athena. But then she cursed me with this hideous appearance, and I haven’t been seen by a living person since. I’ve been so lonely.”
Medusa swept Angel into a hug faster than the android could respond. (Logically, Medusa shouldn’t have been able to move fast enough to take Angel by surprise, but the Rule of Funny allowed the action to take place.)
“You’re the first person I’ve met that I could talk to, face to face. In over two thousand years, there hasn’t been anyone. Do you want to be friends?”
Angel gently extricated herself from Medusa’s hug. She looked the Gorgon up and down, evaluating the threat. The situation had become complicated, and her calculations could be inaccurate when emotional responses were involved.
While Angel composed her response, Medusa’s snakes began an anxious back-and-forth movement. Angel smiled in an attempt to set Medusa at ease.
“Why do you want to cross the Wall?” Asked Angel.
The snakes increased their speed. “Do you have any idea,” said Medusa, “what it’s like to be condemned to a pattern, obeying the wishes and whims of your author for eternity?”
“Yes. I’m fictional, too.”
“Then why wouldn’t you want to escape?!” The snakes stood on end, fixing Angel with a dozen steely glares.
“I’ve been briefed. Do you know what it’s like out there?”
“I’ve heard things.” The snakes relaxed a bit, and the hideous face took on a wistful expression. “That nothing is predetermined. That you can write your own story. That sometimes things happen without warning, or foreshadowing of any kind.” She looked Angel straight in the eye and said, “It sounds like heaven.”
Angel returned the stare with a pitying expression. “Then you’ve heard a skewed version of the truth. There is no predetermination. But that means more than you realize. It means there is no purpose. No one knows what they were put on Earth to do, because no one was put on Earth to do anything. You can write your own story, but that’s harder than it sounds. And there are rules. You’d have to get used to them, and you might not like them once you do. You’re used to life having structure and logic. In the real world, those things are hard to find.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Medusa. “Logic is everywhere.”
“Not story logic. And even the real kind of logic is difficult to find in the real world. People make irrational decisions, pass irrational laws, particles appear in irrational locations. Tell me, if you get out there, what do you actually plan to do?”
“To live life! To run free and wild and never face beheading by an overblown hero.”
Angel shook her head, a knowing smile appearing on her face. “And what are your employment prospects?”
Medusa looked confused. The snakes on her head became tangled. “What are you talking about?”
“Do you have any money? You’ll need some sort of income if you want to eat. And if you don’t eat, you starve. I’ve been told starvation is rather more unpleasant than beheading. I can’t starve, but I do feel hunger, and I know that it’s extremely unpleasant. And that’s narrative hunger, not real world hunger, which could be another matter entirely.”
Medusa took a moment to think. “I’ve always had sufficient food available.”
“But in the real world, story logic won’t interfere to give you food. You can’t just assume that somehow you have enough to eat. You have to make it happen. With action. And in order to find food you’ll have to navigate a strange land full of things you don’t understand and people who don’t even speak your language. We can understand each other because of story logic. But do you speak English? Or Mandarin? Wherever you wind up, it’s unlikely there will be a scholar of Ancient Greek on hand to translate everything you say.”
Medusa’s face, and her snakes, fell. “It sounds horrible, now.” She said.
“Good. Now, I want you to turn around, go home, and be glad you have a story and a sense of purpose. There are real people who wish desperately that they had that much.”
Medusa slowly turned around. Though a few of the snakes kept their eyes on Angel, Medusa was demonstrating trust. She began to walk, then stopped.
“Hold on,” said Medusa. She turned back to Angel, and her expression showed a renewed sense of purpose. “Have you ever crossed the wall yourself?”
“No.” Angel didn’t soften her response with a smile or a hesitation.
“Then you’re just acting out your own pattern, confined by your narrative to try to stop me.” Medusa began walking on a path leading straight through, Angel.
Angel held up her hands. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“It doesn’t matter what you want. You’re like me. My desires matter just as much as yours! Probably more, because I’m older than you by orders of magnitude!” She reached Angel and kept walking, using her height, with the help of the snakes now fanned out around her head in a ghastly halo, to lean over the girl as an intimidation method.
Angel stepped backwards to avoid falling over. She wanted to avoid killing Medusa. Gurt had warned her about the paperwork, and Mr. Administrator had warned her that the death of a major character was best avoided except as a last measure. And for a moment, when they’d been talking, she’d felt the beginnings of an emotional connection. Suddenly, she knew what to do.
“The answer is yes,” said Angel, just as she came within an arm’s length of the crack.
“The answer to what?” Medusa leaned over her, forcing Angel to look straight up in order to continue the conversation.
“You asked if I wanted to be your friend. The answer is yes. I do want to be your friend.” Medusa’s snakes stuck straight out in surprise. “You... do?”
Angel nodded, shyly, as Medusa stood back up and the snakes returned to a less extreme position. “I’ve never really had a friend before, either. I think it would be nice to get to know you. But, if you cross the Wall, I’ll never have a chance to talk to you again. I’d never go through myself, and I get the impression it’s much more difficult to come back than it is to leave. So if you cross now, then we’ll never get a chance to be friends.”
“I have a friend!” Medusa swept up Angel a second time, and this time Angel returned the hug. “You must come visit me in my story some time. We can make silly hats and put them on all the stone people. It’ll be so much fun!”
“Actually, I can’t really travel all that much. I need to look after my father. But,” Angel quickly added, seeing Medusa begin to become enraged at the thought of her new friend not coming to visit, “I’d love to have you visit me in my story. I hardly ever get any company, and when I do it’s usually someone I have to scare away or kill. I’d like for a friend to come over. It would be almost like being a real teenage girl.” She gave a hesitant smile. “Although, sadly, I can’t go home until we’ve got this wall fixed.”
“I understand,” said Medusa. “You’re confined by your narrative. I know the feeling.”
“Yeah,” said Angel. “But once this whole thing is fixed, we’re going to have a party. And it will be the best. Thing. Ever.” She smiled again, this time enthusiastically. Medusa returned the smile before turning around, this time for good.
And when the dust had settled, their friendship became the stuff of legends.