She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Fanfiction: Genetic Composite - 18. Interpersonal Relationship Algorithm
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Fanfiction: Genetic Composite
- 18. Interpersonal Relationship Algorithm
Disclaimer: I do not own She-Ra or its related characters. All is the property of Noelle Stevenson, Dream Works Animation, Netflix, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, Filmation, Larry DiTillo, and J. Michael Straczynski.
Chapter Eighteen: Interpersonal Relationship Algorithm
“…of course I haven’t been able to translate any of it.” Entrapta was saying. Speaking a mile a minute as she flitted around the control room. She pointed to the many consoles and terminals as she spoke, occasionally lifting her hair to indicate the main display screen –which was still deactivated. “But this is the most well preserved First Ones settlement I’ve ever seen! A complete structure, fully intact, and the technology untouched!”
She cackled happily, arms and hair being thrown up in the air with maniacal glee.
Scorpia offered a gentle smile. She didn’t quite understand everything her friend said, in fact, it had a similar feel to when she was talking about the Runestone network, or portal destabilization. Lots of fast words and high excitement. But Scorpia missed a great deal of what was supposed to be important. She was just happy her friend was happy.
“The whole building functions like one big machine!” She continued, speaking to no one in particular, as if she still had her recorder and was logging notes. “As an amplifier of some kind. The interesting detail is that I can’t decide what it’s meant to amplify. A cursory exploration of the compound indicates that it might actually go deeper than the two accessible basement levels. This would imply that it might connect with the network of Runestones that maintain Etheria’s equilibrium. If that is the case, then it might amplify the magic of the Runestone network.”
She cackled again.
Running up to Scorpia, Entrapta took the other woman’s hand in her hair and spun them both around the room happily. “Isn’t this exciting!” She exclaimed. “If the First Ones built this place to boost the overall power of the Runestone network, then that means the Runestones were meant to do more than just regulate the planet’s ecosystems and seasons. But what more!? That’s the mystery. I have no idea. Isn’t it exciting!?”
Entrapta would find unsolvable mysteries left behind by dead races exciting. The thing was, she was actually remarkably good at solving said unsolvable mysteries. She spent her whole life –that Scorpia knew of- studying First Ones tech, integrated it into Horde technology, deciphered the mystery of the Runestones and used that knowledge to hack and control the planet itself, she brought First Ones power to the generators of the Fright Zone, and cut a portal through the very fabric of reality. If anyone was going to unravel the mystery of why the First Ones might want to amplify the power of the Runestone network, it would be Princess Entrapta of Dryl.
But it was the ‘of Dryl’ part of her title that concerned Scorpia at the moment.
When she left to come and rescue Entrapta, she left someone behind in Dryl. A young child –younger than their physical age- whom Entrapta created. Entrapta’s child. Scorpia wasn’t sure of the scientist even knew the experiment lived or not. But she promised Baker, Soda Pop, and Bus Girl she’d bring their Lady back to them. She promised young Hordak Second of Their Name that she’d bring their mother back to them.
“Can you study this from home?” She asked. Then realized Entrapta might not know what place she was referring to when she said ‘home’. The Fright Zone? Dryl? Scorpia’s home? Entrapta’s home? What was ‘home’? “From your lab in Dryl? Can you study this from Dryl?”
“Well, it’d be difficult…” She tapped her chin with her hair in thought. “Inefficient and slow… why can’t I just study this place from right here? This is where it is, after all.”
“Yeah, but, don’t you wanna go home?” Scorpia pressed.
Entrapta did pause in her frenzied slitting around the room.
Lowering herself down from where she had been examining the connection cables between the main monitor and the First Ones consoles, she pillowed her hair under her. She did want to go home. Before. When she was trapped in a filthy cell that was tiny, contained nothing to hold her interest, was being slowly starved, and stank of her own organic waste. She missed her lab then. She wanted to go home then.
But things were better now. She was out. And she had this whole, and complete First Ones outpost to study. Why would she want to leave?
Besides, the island was pretty insulated. Part of the world, yes, but also remote, isolated, and apart from it. If she stayed on Beast Island, she wouldn’t have to face the rest of the world beyond its shores. She wouldn’t have to learn the conclusions to certain hypothesis about certain people she knew.
“Not really.” Entrapta shook her head, then lowered her welding mask over her face.
She moved back across the room, pushing a rolling chair out of the way, to bend down and examine the inner workings of a console. This was safe. This was easy. There was a kind of sterile safety in machines and technology. Machines and technology rarely betrayed you. If they did, it was a fault in their programming that could easily be fixed, a line of code that just needed to be trouble-shot. If a person betrayed you… if a person shocked you in the back and sent you to a gulag… if a person had the power to bring you back with a word, but left you to rot there instead… or if a person went back to their brother without ever saying ‘good-bye’ and had no idea what happened to you… Entrapta didn’t know how to trouble-shoot those kinds of betrayals.
As much as she didn’t actually want to know, and she knew she did not want to know, Entrapta had to ask. “What happened to Catra?”
“I don’t know.” Scorpia admitted.
“And-” she hesitated, she was more nervous about asking about her lab partner than she was about her ex-friend. “-and, Hordak…?”
Now it was Scorpia’s turn to hesitate. She drew in a long breath. She never presumed to understand the relationship between Entrapta and the leader of the Horde. But she did know that it was more than simple colleagues and friends. Entrapta created a child from her own DNA combined with Hordak’s. For all intents and purposes, they had a child together. That meant something. Scorpia didn’t know what –exactly. But something. They were significant to each other. Maybe not ‘lovers’ in the traditional sense of the word, but more like ‘mates’ in the practical application of the term. They had an offspring together.
“Lonnie and her team were in charge of clearing out the lab after the portal blew.” She began, unsure of how exactly she should phrase things. “She told me- Entrapta, I’m so sorry –but she told me that Hordak is gone.”
Sliding out from under the console, Entrapta sat up on her hair and lifted her welding mask. The expression of hope on her face was not what Scorpia was expecting to see.
“Gone?” She repeated. “Like, ‘gone home’?”
Without her. Without saying good-bye to her. She should feel sad, but… it was just a relief to hear that he was still alive at all. He hadn’t abandoned her on Beast Island because he was mad at her, or hated her. He left her on Beast Island because he didn’t know. Because he wasn’t here anyone. He went home. Like he always wanted. She hoped he was happy. Entrapta wanted Hordak to be happy.
Scorpia paused, suddenly unsure. As far as she had always known, the Fright Zone was Hordak’s home. She didn’t think he had any other.
But that wasn’t what Lonnie said.
Scorpia shook her head. “No. The other kind of gone. Lonnie told me that Lord Hordak is dead.”
For half a second, Scorpia had to wonder if Entrpata even heard her. The older woman just sort of froze. Sitting on her hair, staring at Scorpia.
An odd kind of silence dragged between them. Like the non-existent sound of a computer loading screen. Entrapta’s mile-a-minute mind needing to take extra time to process what she’d just been told.
Her shoulders began to shake.
Entrapta lifted up a tendril of hair to lower her welding mask back over her face, but the hair was trembling so bad it couldn’t connect with the metal visor. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“That can’t be right.” She muttered, more to the room as a whole than to Scorpia. “Hordak couldn’t…”
Except that he very easily could be dead.
He was frail. He was ill. He had a degenerative medical condition that made him weak and gave him fainting spells. Yes, the exoskeleton she made for him compensated for these handicaps. Enables him to continue to function and live as he desired. But the exo-suit was not a cure. Under the armor, he would still be sick and frail. He could still die. He could still be killed.
A battle with an enemy. The portal explosion. Falling debris fleeing the lab.
Any number of things could have killed Hordak.
And easily too. He was not as strong as he liked to appear.
Entrapta’s vision blurred and she reached her gloved hands up to wipe away the tears.
It was like when Micah suggested he might be dead, only worse. Back then, she recognized the real and tangible possibility that her lab partner might be dead. But Micah didn’t know him. She didn’t know if Micah ever met Hordak, like, back during the first Rebellion or whatever, but she did know that Micah didn’t know anything about him. Not like she knew him. All Micah suggested was a hypothesis.
A hypothesis she could easily deny.
But this time- from Scorpia- who heard it from the one that cleaned up the sanctum- Entrapta felt the truth of it in her bones. Hordak, her lab partner, a person whom she felt more strongly for than the rest of her friends, was… gone. Not gone like ‘gone home’, the other kind of gone. The permanent kind of gone. Dead, gone.
She didn’t realize her eyes were closed until she felt Scorpia’s arms wrap around her again. Her wet face resting on that hard scorpion exoskeleton.
“Hey, hey, it’ll be okay.” Scorpia muttered into her hair.
That was about the moment Micah walked in. He paused when he saw Entrapta crying in Scorpia’s arms. “I miss something?”
Lifting her head, Entrapta blinked dripping eyes. “My- my lab partner-“
It took the sorcerer a moment to realize what had just happened. He remembered her telling him about her beloved lab partner. The one with health problems that the Horde left for dead once before. Her young man that, when Micah asked if he had been killed, she instead of admitting that she didn’t know, started throwing out unconfirmable denials that he just went away somewhere else and didn’t know she was on Beast Island. It took Micah a moment to realize, but when he did, his expression melted into nothing but sympathy.
“Oh, Princess, I’m so sorry.” He tried to assure her. “I wish I’d gotten to meet him. He sounded like a very fine fellow.”
At that comment, it was Scorpia’s turn to lift her head and blink at him. But she did not offer a comment. But it was just so weird hearing –anyone- but especially a former rebel leader describe Hordak as a ‘very fine fellow’. King Micah must not have any idea who her ‘lab partner’ really was.
Entrapta pushed away from the other woman. “Why’d you have to tell me!?” She demanded, her mood taking a swing into anger –which was supposed to be a normal stage of grief, she was told. “If I didn’t know I could have just kept working on my own projects by myself and believing he went home!”
“But- you asked…” Scorpia was so confused.
“I didn’t actually want to know!” Entrapta snapped her welding mask down over her face.
This was just- this was too much. She could not deal with this. Using her hair, she leapt from one end of the room to the other, placing as much distance between herself and Scorpia and Micah as she could. Crouching down, she began fiddling with another First Ones console. Trying to get it to power up.
Scorpia just stood there, staring. Entrapta had always wanted nothing but the truth before. And Scorpia was pretty sure she would have been more upset if she had lied to her and told her Hordak was fine, only to have her learn some other way later that he was gone. Scorpia wanted her to hear it from a friend –and Entrapta had recently announced that Scorpia was her best friend.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see King Micah, his expression gentle and sympathetic. “Everyone reacts to loss differently. She needs to grieve in her own way. She’s not actually mad at you.”
“How do you know?” Asked Scorpia, turning to face him. “You’ve known her, what, like two weeks?”
Micah offered her a rueful grin. “In truth, I don’t know Princess Entrapta at all. I don’t think we really connected all that well during our time together. “But I know people. She’s a little… she’s not like most, but she’s still a person. She’s going to need time to process. Time to come to terms with her loss and her feelings about it.” A pause. “Did you know him?”
Sort of. He was her boss. They were not close. “Kinda…”
“It might help to have someone who also knew him to commiserate with.” He suggested. “Share stories and fond memories. Remind her of the good times to distract her from the bad.”
Scorpia opened her mouth to disagree. Her experiences with Lord Hordak were vastly different from Entrapta’s experiences with Lord Hordak. But King Micah of Brightmoon did not know that, neither did he need to know that. All that came out was a noncommittal croak of dismay.
“I’ll see if I can find some fizzy drinks in the Mess.” He added, moving to leave the control room. “Indulging in favored drinks and foods does help.”
Looking across the room, Scorpia wondered if she should go over and talk to Entrapta, or give the other woman her space. She decided to compromise. Halfway through the room, Scorpia sat on one of the consoles. It felt oddly like the last time they spent time together. Entrapta punching away at a computer keyboard, Scorpia sitting on some piece of lab equipment that was not meant to be sat on, talking about their feelings. Except this time, it wasn’t venting about frustration with difficult friends, and it wasn’t frantic double checking of a volatile experiment.
“I can’t say I know how you feel.” Scorpia announced honestly. “I’ve never really had a serious relationship before. The last woman I liked turned out to be… well, Catra. And –as it turned out- she and I weren’t actually as close as I thought we were. We weren’t as close as you and Hordak turned out to be.” That, and Catra wasn’t dead (she didn’t think), just missing in action. “I don’t even remember when my moms died. Not really. Like, I sorta remember when it happened. But, I don’t remember how it felt. I don’t remember the feelings. Just that it happened.”
She looked across the room to Entrapta to see if this admission had any effect on her.
The other woman’s shoulders slumped.
Her welding mask was still down, in front of her face. Scorpia saw one round eye-lens glowing fuchsia in her profile.
“I don’t think I felt anything when my predecessor passed away.” She finally admitted. “She… never approved of me showing much emotion. She used to get so mad when I would cry. By the time she died- I guess I was used to- just… not.”
“Oh.” Scorpia didn’t know that. Of course, no one in the Horde ever talked about their parents. The vast majority of people in the Horde didn’t have parents, so Scorpia never thought to ask, and Entrapta never volunteered it before. It wasn’t like parental passing was particularly relevant to what they were working on at any given time. Then she raised an eyebrow. “You call your mom ‘predecessor’?”
Entrapta shrugged. “It’s accurate. She never liked being called ‘mother’. She thought it undervalued her position of ruler. When she was alive I called her ‘my Queen’ or ‘Your Grace’.”
“Wow.” Scorpia blinked. “That’s pretty… wow.”
Her back still to Scorpia, shoulders slumping slightly, hair drooping, Entrapta went on to say, “That’s one of the reasons why really felt for Hordak. He might view Horde Prime as his ‘big brother’ not his father, but he was still a parent figure in his life. A parent figure that he desperately wants –wanted- to impress and make proud, but who –at least from the sound of it- was never satisfied.”
Scorpia opened her mouth to reply, then realized she had no idea what Entrapta was talking about. Who was this ‘Horde Prime’ guy? Lord Hordak had a brother? Lord Hordak had an inferiority complex? You wouldn’t know it from standing in on any given meeting in the throne room. He always seemed so powerful and imposing. Scorpia couldn’t even imagine someone ‘bigger’ or ‘scarier’ than Hordak that he wanted to impress and live up to.
“I guess you two got really close working so long in the Sanctum together.” She finally said instead. Obviously, they got close. Entrapta made a child from him. So… that was a thing.
“I don’t know.” Entrapta admitted, welding mask still down over her face. “I stopped inputting data in my interpersonal relationship algorithm by that point. When I was around him I just didn’t think about it. I’ve never had a relationship like that before. And then when he told me about his Brother I just- wanted to help him…” Finally, she turned back to face Scorpia, and lifted her welding mask. Her eyes were dry, but red. She had been crying. “I was building a new body for him when you and Catra came back with Adora and the sword. A healthy body. So he could go back to his Brother without having to worry about his defects.”
A new body? Was that what little Dak was supposed to be. Not their child, but just a spare case to house Lord Hordak’ brain. (Or mind. Or soul. Or whatever.) The idea disappointed Scorpia more than she expected it to. She had only known little Dak for a few days before she left them in Dryl. Most of that time, the little hybrid spent crying loudly, babbling non-sense, and pooping themself. Scorpia had to teach them how to speak, and use a toilet, and hold a fork to feed themself. But affection was a natural byproduct of care-giving, and Scorpia couldn’t help but for an attachment to the pseudo-clone. The idea that their mother –or, at least, the person she had decided was Dak’s ‘mother’ in her mind- didn’t view them as anything more than a custom made exchangeable part broke her heart a little.
“Listen, about that body you were making…” Scorpia began.
But then Micah walked back into the room and Scorpia promptly shut up. King Micah of Brightmoon, leader of the First Rebellion was blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Princess he’d been working with worked for the Horde, and the Princess to care to rescue her was a Horde Force Captain. There was no need for him to know that the person they were mourning was Lord Hordak, leader of the Evil Horde. Or that Entrapta tried to make a new clone body for him that –supposedly- would have made him stronger and more formidable than before.
Scorpia was friendly and talkative. She was not an idiot.
“They actually did had a carbon pressure fizzer in the Mess.” He announced, coming in with a tray holding a bottle and two empty glasses. “This is just sparkling water, but its fizzy. They only had regular sized cupcakes, I’m afraid.”
Standing from the console she was sitting on, Scorpia took the tray from him. “Thanks.” She offered a friendly smile. “Uh, we were kinda about to make a breakthrough. I don’t wanna be rude, but could you give us, like, five more minutes or something? Please.”
“Oh.” Micah paused. He looked across the room to Entrapta. Her eyes were red and puffy. She’d definitely been crying. But her cheeks were dry. Her best friend really was helping her much more than he could. Maybe he could go back and talk to Sea Hawk. He assumed the pirate from Salineas was going to be their ride off the island. As the younger man announced forlornly while under the influence of a truth spell, he was everyone’s ride. “I’ll just leave you two alone then.”
Scorpia waited until the doors had shut behind Micah to open the bottle of sparkling water and pore two glasses for herself and Entrapta. Crossing the space between them, she offered one grass to the other woman.
Reaching with her hair, Entrapta pulled a rolling chair over to her and sat down.
“You know, it’s strange.” Entrapta began, speaking between slurps of the bendy straw Micah was thoughtful enough to include. “Even with all the data I entered in my interpersonal relationship algorithm, the data just showed you as an average friend. But then, it showed Catra as my best friend and, well- we both know what happened. I guess I didn’t program it right. You’re the only one of all of my ‘friends’ who ever came to rescue me. And here you are trying to console me.”
She leaned back in her chair, putting her feet up on a console and selected a regular sized cupcake from the tray. Entrapta made a face of displeasure at it. She really, really, really preferred tiny food. But, if nothing else, her time on Beast Island did teach her to appreciate decent food even if it wasn’t tiny. Goodness knew, what the guards gave her in her cell was usually ‘food’ in name only.
“I guess that’s the thing about friendship.” Scorpia nodded. “Friendship is measured in actions, but actions are motivated by feelings. Catra is very good at acting like she cares about you. But… all those affectionate actions and smiles aren’t actually motivated by feelings of friendship.”
“I will never understand people or their motivations.” Entrapta admitted, speaking more to the frosting of her cupcake than to Scorpia. “Science tells us that organisms are motivated by the base needs of food, water, shelter, and the desire to mate. But none of the people I know personally seem to care about those things. At least, not in proportion to how important they are to an organism’s survival. You know Adora didn’t even serve snacks at the strategy meeting where we tried to plan Glimmer and Bow’s rescue. And I didn’t see Hordak ever hydrate as much water as I think a being in his condition should.”
“People are more complicated than a basic organism.” Scorpia mumbled.
But then, Entrapta already admitted that she would never understand people. Not from lack of trying, just from a lack of ability to connect. Entrapta tried very hard. She observed, and studied, and tried to learn. But she could only reach so far. She needed people –not everyone, just the people in her life- to reach back and meet her half way.
“But, um…” Scorpia began, suddenly feeling inexplicably awkward. “Swinging back to that whole, ‘organisms are motivated by mating’ thing. That body you were building for Hordak… was that the one you mixed your own DNA into…?”
Entrapta nodded. “To fill in and replace the corrupted lines of code in his DNA, yeah. That’s all DNA is, really. Just lines of code, no different than a computer program. If I line of code becomes corrupted, you just go in and rewrite it. Easy fix.” There was another forlorn pause as she remembered that Hordak was dead. “I wish I could see him one more time…”
Then she forced a shrug, lifting the regular sized cupcake to her mouth, Entrapta braced herself for the unpleasant tactile sensation of frosting and crumbs all over her face. There was a reason she preferred tiny food.
But she didn’t get the chance to bite into it.
Because, at that exact moment, the ceiling above them cracked, then broke open as someone burst through.
“Entrapta! I’m here to rescue you!” Shouted She-Ra, in all her golden, glowing glory.
“There it is! Down there!” Adora pointed at the only structure on the island that looked man-made.
A large complex close to the shore, with an attached harbor. It was big, obvious, and hard to miss. There was no need for her to point it out as if she was the only one who saw it.
“Swift Wind, drop me off on the roof.” She commanded.
“Wait, how are you going to get through the roof-?” Bow began to ask.
But his concerns were cut off by her shouting, “For the Honor of Grayskull!”
There was a flash of light and they felt her weight leave the horse. Then She-Ra was in freefall. Plummeting down through the otherwise empty air. Sword extended in front of her to break through the roof below.
Leaning precarious far over Swift Wind’s side, Dak peered down at the legendary warrior princess. “Since she was the one making a plan, I thought the plan would be better.”
Heaving a sigh, the only thing Bow could do was shrug. “This is about as good as most of our plans.”
Perched on Dak’s shoulder, Imp squawked something with a bit of a tone. Ruffling his wings and crossing his tiny deamon arms in contempt.
“Reluctantly, I agree.” Swift Wind sighed, disappointed in himself for actually sharing an opinion with Hordak’s minion. “It really is a wonder how they managed to beat the Horde at all.”
Dak glanced from Imp to the horse, then back at Bow. “These bad plans of yours, they actually… work?”
Bow heaved another sigh. “Amazingly, yeah. Actually. They do.”
The hybrid nodded, as if coming to a decision. “Okay.”
Then jumped off Swift Wind after Adora.
“Wait! No! Don’t-!” Bow shouted after the young clone.
Imp’s suddenly hysterical screeching echoed the archer’s sentiment. The little deamon fluttered his wings and dove down after master’s heir.
Swift Wind tried to turn his head to look at Bow. “You gonna jump too?” He asked. “Everybody’s doing it.”
Bow only groaned.
Then leapt down too.
Putting the sword in front of her, She-Ra made a rough landing on the roof, cracking the not-quite-concrete construction. It took two more smashes, but between the sword’s magic and She-Ra’s own brute force, she was able to break through the roof and burst into the building.
She wasn’t quire sure what kind of room she’d just entered. It was the top of the prison, so the expected some kind of command center, or office.
It was dimly lit.
But Entrapta was there. She’d recognize that mass of thick lilac hair anywhere. “Entrapta!” She shouted. “I’m here to rescue you! I left you behind in the Fright Zone, I’m not doing that’s again!”
“Oh.” Still sitting in her chair, holding a cupcake in her hand, and her drink in her hair, Entrapta just stared wide-eyed at the legendary Princess of Power. “Thank you.”
She-Ra blinked back at her. That wasn’t how people normally reacted to a rescue.
“Scorpia already came to rescue me.” Entrapta indicated the woman sitting next to her, pointing with her hair. “But it was nice of you to come too.” She glanced at the regular sized cupcake in her hand. “Snack?”
She-Ra just stared at the offered treat, not understanding what was happening here.
Then another body fell on her. The two collapsing on each other in a disorderly heap of glowing eight-foot tall Princess, and thick mohawk of blue hair that moved and thrashed as if it were an arm or a leg. Then Bow fell on them, adding even more limbs to the tangle.
With some unnecessary expletives, the tangle of limbs and hair eventually straightened itself out to once again be the three separate bodies of Bow, She-Ra, and…
“Hi. I’m Hordak.”