Actions

Work Header

The Afterlife of Liam Cipher

Chapter Text

"... Wait, an experiment? They used pieces of executed Irregulars to make you?"

"They did that a lot. I found out in prison."

Bill turned back to see that Kryptos had reached them and was hovering a few feet away from him, his mouth set in a tight line. Further back, Hectorgon was trying - without much success - to catch his breath after the race.

"What were they even trying to do?" Bill asked, but deep down he didn't really care about their reasons: all he could think of right then was Liam, all he could do was wonder whether his body had been used for something like it, too.

Kryptos shrugged, and turned to glance at the remains of the prison where he had languished for the seven years Bill had spent in the Infinetentiary. "Guess they were trying to figure out how to give people extra sides with better chances of success. Or how to fix Irregulars."

Fix them, of course. There was a lot of talk about fixing Irregulars. Bill remembered Liam talking about that from time to time, how he had hoped some way to fix him may be found before the Inspection came for him. He had always shrugged those words off, certain as he was that no one could possibly be stupid enough to think Liam was anywhere near expendable.

--Flat Dreams, Chapter 13 "Trapped"



Liam was Inspected and taken away with very little incident. He was brought to the Irregular Hospital and 'admitted', though he was routed to the mysterious Audit Ward. This is where every Irregular is taken once their Inspection is over.

In the Audit Ward, every patient is reevaluated, his measurements double-checked and confirmed. Once admitted to the Audit Ward, a person loses their personhood, they become the property of the state.

They are no longer a Person.

They are a Number.

A thing.

An Irregular.

Audit promises the Irregular two fates. Death, or 'consumption' as it is more delicately put in Flatland. Or Testing.

This second option is more recent. Those considered suitable for experimentation are designated Test Subjects and sent to the Laboratory beneath the hospital and prison complex. Irregulars aren't the only ones who end up in this facility, some convicts do as well.

Liam had been evaluated off and on throughout his lifetime. Having been sent to the Irregular Hospital at one time when he was a child, there were extensive records on William 'Liam' Cipher. One doctor's note in particular discussed how intelligent the Scalene was, not only for an Irregular but for a Triangle of any status. It bemoaned the fact that the 'poor child' was Irregular and that he'd never be able to put his extraordinary intellect to any kind of good use.

When he was finally Inspected and brought to the Audit Ward, these notes were taken into consideration when he was being re-examined. It seemed a pity that something like Liam would just be tossed to the fires when there were other uses to which he could be put. Particularly in the new experiments that were being developed with those Irregulars and Criminals being kept in the Testing facility.

The scientists needed an assistant they could send into possibly dangerous situations who was at least intelligent enough to complete the tasks they were unable to. It was common for the various methods they'd developed to 'fix' Irregulars to be 'somewhat' harmful, or possibly even deadly, and it made no sense to risk their valuable, highly intelligent scientific minds in such situations. Not when there were Irregulars being tossed away, well ones like Liam, at any rate. Something like him could be quite useful.

And this is how Liam Cipher was saved from the fires and 'put to use' in the science facility below the hospital and prison.

No one ever knew this.



The young Scalene spent the next several years being the dog of the Scientists. Though he now had no name, only his number, his masters had taken to calling him 'Librarian'. Initially this was due to the fact that when asked if he wanted anything, the only thing he'd asked for was a book to read.

This nickname was one of the things that saved him in the end.

Not too long after he arrived in the facility, he was approached by his masters with a strange job. Both the hospital and the prison maintained small libraries of books for patients and prisoners of better status. It made more sense for Liam to manage the combined library than for them to pay someone to do the job. Particularly since this job was ideally suited for the Scalene in between his work for the labs. It would keep him busy, less likely to think overmuch. So he became 'Librarian' in truth, which was a lifesaver for him, since he did have an opportunity to work, rather than sit in his cell until his services were required.

If they thought this would stop him from thinking, though, they were sadly mistaken.

Liam began keeping a journal in the covers of an old book he cannibalized for the purpose. He took notes in the book as well. He had very little as the facility librarian, but he did fare a little better than the test subjects.



When things finally broke, Liam only heard whispers at first. But he'd heard his brother's name and he knew that whatever had happened outside the thick walls of the facility compound, it had been Bill who'd done it. He'd found the letter Liam had left and the books, which meant he'd met the others and learned about the reality of the Third Dimension. This knowledge made Liam happy, at least for a little.

Until more information made it to him through the strange prison brotherhood of solidarity that he'd found himself included in. (And through him, it extended to the test subjects as well.) People had died... important people had died. And that row a few weeks ago? That'd been Esther and her children.

Nora's sister.

Nora, who'd murdered her father and set Bill's shop aflame, dying inside it and taking several members of the Isosceles Guard with her.

Nora became something of a martyr in the whispers of the prison.

Liam simply mourned her and his friends, most of whom he'd never actually met, he'd only written notes back and forth with, or Randall had spoken of on the very occasional visits he'd been able to make to his bookstore.

He'd known Nora. Liked her.  She was kind, sweet. Didn't see him as broken, strange, malformed.  When he'd heard what she'd done, he'd cried.
When he'd heard that Bill had gone with her...

He was silent for days.  It was hard, but he couldn't even bring himself to cry for Bill.
Not for a very long time.

When he did, he was inconsolable.  His friends in prison argued with the guards, exclaiming his illness and protesting on his behalf.
Liam curled in his cell, sobbing silently and when he finally lifted his eye to the blank walls of his cell, he was quiet, finally, in his mind.

Then Kryptos was thrown in the prison. Liam was not allowed to go anywhere near him. He figured it was because he shared the same name as Bill, and they didn't want him getting any 'ideas'. He did try to make contact, but he was never able to find out if he had or not.



Seven years went by.

Liam wasn't idle, he just watched and listened and studied everything that happened around him. Perhaps he was lucky the Hexagons still spoke to him as though he were an idiot. Perhaps he was lucky that some of the Circles even treated him as a pet. Since he was no longer a person, he had no rights.

He continued to write in his journal and keep his profile low. Something had to change. Somehow.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

He was asleep when it happened. It seemed as though the entire universe had been torn one end from the other. He'd never expected this to be the way the change would happen. He was confused, trapped deep within the complex and unable to do much of anything except wait.

So he did. He waited silently, curled into a ball, while the sounds of doomsday exploded around him. He waited for freedom... whether through death (finally) or ...

He'd fallen into an uneasy doze when the door to his cell just kind of... fell off. The clang awakened him and he found himself sitting in absolute silence. Not even the sounds of the running facility pierced the thick layer of absolute silence that settled around him now.

Nervously, Liam made his way to his feet. He quickly gathered everything that was of worth to him. It wasn't much; his cane, his journal and a few special books, including the very book that started Bill down his destructive path... the subversive journal of A. Square, called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Not a copy, this. It was the actual remaining journal which had been copied down meticulously during the Renaissance, a time when such things were enjoyed as quaint tales of fantasy, allowed to be published as storybooks to delight, rather than scientific journals of the extraordinary. He'd discovered it shoved in the ancient stacks of the prison's old library, when things were moved. He'd been quick to hide it in the shell of another innocuous book ('101 Delightful Recipes for Stewed Tripe', if he remembered correctly) when he was boxing the books to be moved. No one gave it a second glance.

Precious cargo in hand, stashed in his satchel, Liam crept out into the half collapsed corridor, stumbling over the rocks, dirt and fallen bits of rubble. It was silent still and he couldn't see anyone.

Knowing better than to call out, he instead made his way to the labs, hoping that the poor unfortunates in the testing area had either managed to make it out or had mercifully been killed in the attack.

He'd taken to calling it that, as he had no context for anything that had happened, he was too deep in the facility to have heard much of anything other than loud crashes, explosions and booming sounds that might have been voices, but they were too muffled to be sure.

He saw no one.

Wars amongst the Flatlanders were common. Usually petty territory disputes, between ruling families of Circles and most of the time it really didn't seem to affect the people, as it was rare for the fighting to get so far into the Cities. So though a direct attack on the Centre was rare, it had happened from time to time.

He still saw no one. Not even dead shapes. He heard no one.

It was creepy.

Still he continued towards the labs.

He recalled a newer 'project', a poor soul-souls..? who'd he recently been assigned to work with, a quiet, sad creature who'd been one of the facility's most ambitious projects yet. He was a ... well, the only word Liam could really think of was 'amorphous', being, composed of several ... parts of Irregulars. Ones that, unlike Liam, hadn't been able to avoid the deadlier fate of the Audit. What had stunned Liam was that the poor thing was alive, they were sentient. It was a dark, evil future that awaited Irregulars if the Scientists could do such a thing and coax some kind of life out of a monstrosity like that. He'd had to fight very hard to keep his horror buried deep inside when he'd been ordered to work with them.

Even so, he'd developed an affection for the tortured creature. He made a point of calling them 'them', rather than 'it', as their masters did. He'd come up with a name for them, who couldn't recall their names, a name they were pleased with as well. He worried for their safety in this frightening new world. He wondered if they'd even managed to survive the apocalypse.

He finally picked his way across the battlefield of the demolished labs, working his way up, towards the hospital's levels, the labs proper, where the test subjects were kept.

"Poly?" he called, "P-Poly are you alright?"

There was a soft moan from the wreckage up ahead. He hurried as much as he could with his limp, using his cane to push aside debris as he went. "Poly, it's me, it's Librarian, I'm coming to help you!"

Poly could only ever make soft moaning and groaning sounds. They'd been unable to speak otherwise. Liam suspected they might have telepathic ability, but whenever he'd suggested it to the Hexagon who was in charge of that project, it was laughed off.

He made his way into the twisted corridors of the detention area for the test subjects. Looking around, he winced. This was where the dead shapes were. So many of the test subjects were crumpled, shattered and broken in their cells. They'd had no chance, no way of escape. The masters had made these cells quite secure and escape-proof. Thus sealing the fate of anyone unfortunate enough to call those cells home.

Liam had to stop, to lean against a wall, closing his eye, trying to collect himself. He hated waste and seeing these lives snuffed out was hard. He'd never seen carnage like this and he'd spent several years in the facility. Granted, he'd never had to do a shift in the furnace; for which he was eternally grateful; but he'd been employed to carry out the corpses from the labs on many, many occasions.

Swallowing hard, he opened his eye. He had a job to do.

"Poly, I'm here," he said and continued across the rubble towards the cell Poly was in.

It was then that the multiverse played its grandest trick on Liam.

A crack in the fabric of the second dimension ripped across the landscape. It was the first of the 'dimension quakes' that Bill Cipher's chaotic and destructive presence would begin to cause Flatland.

If Liam had been a scientist, a physicist, he might have been able to reason out what was going on.

Maybe.

As it was, Liam wasn't a scientist, though he had a solid understanding of physics as it related to Flatland.

The entire facility shifted, rocked, shuddered as it was cracked and stressed in ways it should never have been. Things vibrated around Liam, warped and wavered, shook and exploded into color. It was too much for Liam at first and he squeezed his eye shut, clutching his cane and his satchel tightly to his frame. He stumbled, trying to just stay on his feet, as the world continued to quake around him.

When he managed to ease his eye open, he saw things he'd only ever read about.

I always wished I could see the colors.

He stared, watching the flashes and swirls and bouquets of color that exploded around him. He was entranced by them for a long, long moment. Many colors seared themselves into his brain in that sliver of time.

Another hard tremor shook the facility, sending more of the walls crashing to the ground, opening up a hole to the sky above him. He trembled, wobbling on his feet as that tremor was followed up by several others. The building would collapse and it would take him and anyone else still alive inside with it. Liam swallowed hard, trying to stumble quicker across the destruction.

And below him, a crack opened up in the debris of the floor.

And the wall.

And what remained of the ceiling.

It glittered and fluoresced in a million colors in front of him. He knew, almost by instinct, that this crack was some kind of temporal anomaly, most likely caused by all the destruction. He knew this, just as Liam knew

it was his salvation, his way out of this chaos that would most likely kill him. He had no idea where it led, only a hopeful guess that it was out of the second dimension and at the very least, away from here.

Clutching everything that he owned, Liam Cipher held his breath and jumped into the crack in space and time.

....

Chapter Text

Spiraling, down, down, down...

No!

Up? U-up, up up! Wait, do I even know what 'down' and 'up' are?

Colors... so many... I-I don't know what they are called but there's so much bright color... I-I don't know what... what it is! A softer, more normal but gentle, soothing... ~grey~ ... color draws me, I reach out... I-I fall ...

 

***

 

Lavender. That was the color which drew him away from the bright, painful color that he later learned was:

Yellow.

 

Liam awoke lying in the grass, in what seemed to be the same world as that he'd left. Flatland, but not. For one thing, this dimension had color . Another was that this world was not on fire, nor was it destroyed.

"Oh dear, are you alright?"

Liam looked over to see a young triangle, about his own age, actually, looking at him quizzically.

"I-I think so," he said shakily. "Er... what happened?"

"Oh, just another Chaos storm," the triangle said with a shrug. "They've been happening a lot lately. Circles know why." He chuckled a bit. "I say 'Circles' but they're no different than the rest of us, now are they?"

"Er, well... um alright," Liam said, sitting up carefully. He wondered what the Triangle would think once his imperfection was revealed. "Never heard anyone say anything like that, to be honest."

"Well, maybe a hundred years ago," the Triangle said. "back when everyone thought having more sides made you some kind of god." He laughed. "Let me guess, you came from a parallel dimension, where it's still priggish."

"Er, well..."

"Women are stupid and can't be educated, anyone who's irregular should be destroyed--"

"Yes."

The Triangle blinked and tilted sympathetically. "Sorry, mate," he said gently. "My name's Nick. Nicholas Nix. Nice to meet you."

"Liam," the scalene said softly, "Liam Cipher."

"I'm a scientist-- before you say anything, yes, triangles can be scientists in my world-- and I have been hoping to discover the reason for these Chaos storms for a while now. It seems you may have come from the source. Is there anything you can tell me, Liam?"

"Yes, actually..."

 

 

Nick was Scalene as well, to a much lesser degree than Liam. He was a soft shade of warm blue, what might be called 'Marine', which Liam found rather engaging. He was smart, friendly, and apparently comfortable enough financially to own his own home and occasionally host some very interesting cocktail parties...

 

***

 

"Oh I really don't believe that," Laura said, laughing lightly. "Women are fighting for their rights, and have been since time immemorial, Nick. Obviously Liam's dimension was just a bit more backwards, but I don't doubt that the girls he talks about were fighters!" She laughed again and Liam couldn't help but smile a bit with his eye; something he'd rarely done back home.

"Peace cry, good circles! Just another excuse for polygons to suppress feminine superiority!" Another Line, Margot, had slipped in beside Laura and gave a bit of a derisive snort. "Liam, did they really insist on such a thing in your world?"

"Well yes," Liam said slowly, "but the practice was dying out in my time. They did when A. Square was alive though."

Nick just chuckled, sipping his martini. He leaned against the side of the bar casually and surveyed the elegant party gathered in his house. Liam caught that look. Nick was popular and well-liked, wealthy and, well, classy as his friends like to say.

Much like Liam figured Bill would have turned out.

He paused, sighing softly.

"Liam? Are you alright?" Laura said gently, "oh... I should have remembered how you dislike politics... come on, let me show you my latest piece, I think you'll really like it." She put a hand on his angle and softly nudged him along with her, away from Margot and some of the other polygons who were, by now, up to an enthusiastically heated discussion about the upcoming presidential election.

Liam felt Nick's gaze on his back as Laura led him off.

He debated looking back but one thing Bill always liked to point out in their favorite stories; looking back never ended well.
That's why I don't do it!

Liam shook his angle a bit.

"What's wrong?" Laura asked, gazing over at him.

"I was just thinking about my brother, to be perfectly honest," Liam said as they paused in the atrium of Nick's house, where Laura's sculptures were being displayed.

"William, right?"

"Bill, yes."

"You miss him."

He nodded. "I wonder about him. He... he was always clever, smarter than anyone else I knew, and for the most part, I don't think he knew it, at least when he was young and I was with him. Later though... well. All kinds of crazy ideas have occurred to me, Laura. Bill wasn't stupid enough to die in a fire. I-I just know it."
"Was there any evidence to the contrary, though, Liam? Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that he's gone. I know you loved him. I loved my brother. He was sweet and smart and he didn't deserve to die, but he did."

Liam cast her a softly sympathetic look. Laura was kind of amazing. She was kind, sweet, everything his society said a good Line should be, but she was so much more than that. She was fiercely intelligent and creative. She was fun to talk to and they'd hit it off right away. It also so happened that Laura was Nick's half-sister. After an accident that killed her father and her younger brother, another triangle, Laura's mother eventually remarried Nick's father, who'd been divorced (also something that didn't happen in Liam's Flatland). This world was so incredibly modern. Liam loved it and he was certain Bill would have as well.

"Laura..."

She gave a toss of her eye-end and laughed softly. "Oh Liam, come on, look at my art!"

She reminded Liam a lot of Bill as well.

He supposed everyone did, really, in some way.

 

Laura was a respected artist in the modernist community of this Flatland, which he'd learned was Dimension /x7 (slash-ex-seven). Her sculptures were abstract, which was quite an accomplishment for second dimensional beings. He loved to gaze at her work. She'd incorporated Color in ways he'd never dreamed of seeing. Her art just called out to the greater universe, it brought the ideas and fantasies of what second dimensional people believed the universe might be like.
Like his own Flatland, this one had yet to achieve third dimensional contact, but this one was enthusiastically exploring and learning about the other two-dimensional worlds close to them.

They knew the third dimension existed, as did more beyond that.

 

"So, what do you think?"

"It's so bright."

"It's supposed to be, silly."

The figure was something close to a triangle with an eye, like a typical Equalateral. It was a bit free-form, but he could see what she'd intended it to be. It was brightly colored in a shiny, sun-like color and the little figure looked happy. "Is it wearing a top hat, Laura?"

"Yes! I thought you'd like it."

"What's it supposed to be?"

"Your brother... your brother as an angel, Liam," she said softly. "Don't worry, no one else knows about the real meaning of the sculpture besides you and I." She pressed her hands together and glanced down. "I-is it alright? Do you like it?"

Liam gazed at the figure. It did look like Billy. His Billy. He was bright and happy and wearing a top-hat and bow-tie, items he'd always admired in their father's shop. He swallowed hard. Laura had listened to him, so much so, she'd been able to extract his baby brother from Liam's increasingly fragmented memories and... create ...

"It's perfect , Laura," he said, reaching out to tip her end up, so her eye fixed on his. "It's beautiful ."

Her eye lit with happiness. "Oh, good," she whispered, stepping closer to him.

Warmth suffused him at the sound of her delighted voice. "Laura, I-I don't even know what to say--actually I do."
She blinked. "Oh?" She sounded slightly nervous. Worried.

Liam laughed softly. "Could you please tell me what color that is?"

Laura giggled then. It was like soft, bells, tinkling in the gentle rain.

"Oh! It's yellow , silly!"

 

Yellow .