Sometimes Toby zoned out during meetings. Not to be rude, and not because he didn't care. Sometimes it was just hard to keep himself mentally tethered to the world he was in physically. He was good mostly, kept in touch with reality mostly, kept his addiction in check-check-check-check-oh-my-god-he-has-to-check-check-check-check mostly. Toby's issue was that there was no escaping conspiracy theories or debate. Even if he deleted the apps, his brain was still wired in a specific way.
And it wasn't even a bad thing all of the time! Toby was angry at the fact that some people tried to insist that it was! He was right. He kind of hated the world sometimes, even hated the group sometimes. He was correct. His theories were right! He put so much thought into all of them! His rants and his opinions were right! What was wrong were the robots and the hivemind and the people who tried to speak over him constantly! Did anyone else even know anything?
Toby never meant to be rude, just passionate. Perhaps he was a bit too on edge, and maybe he did snap too easily. But it wasn't like he went out of his way to hurt people. Toby was not the bad guy here. He was not the one feeding The Monster! He was fighting the The Monster! He was not the one posting all of the bullshit that can be found online, he was fighting it! He was The Magician!
Here was the thing with Toby: Everyone else was addicted to the things on the internet. Toby wasn't. Toby was repulsed by them. He was repulsed by the communities on there, the forums, the everything. He was honestly surprised that none of the Friends of Saul repulsed him, but maybe that was because they were aware of their addictions and their issues, even if they weren't always willing to admit it. They didn't live in a hellish echo-chamber like most of the people that Toby had to argue with. And yes, he HAD to argue with them, had to prove all of these pigs wrong-
Paula sometimes told him he had to be sweeter. Toby didn't understand what he was doing that was rude. And besides, it's not like he was in control anyway. It was all code, he was code, the world was code, he was programmed to be this way. This whole thing was so stupid, because that was what happened when people spent too much time on pointless bullshit. And maybe Toby was stupid too, he wasn't going to completely exclude himself from the equation. But at least he had self-awareness. At least he still had self in general.
The main thing that frustrated Toby was the fact that no one else in the group understood. They were much less insufferable than most; they actually weren't insufferable at all! But the goals of the group were insufferable sometimes. Saul was insufferable, even if his "friends" weren't. There was nothing wrong with what Toby was doing. Some even agreed, and said that while Toby was fine in theory, what he was doing was making him feel not-so-fine. And okay, sure, that was something that Toby could admit. But what could he do about it? Even if he was hurting, taking control was much easier said than done. He didn't want to suffer, who did want to suffer? But the Friends didn't get it, they just wanted him to change. As if! People don't change. Toby closed his eyes for a moment, and he could almost hear a light rain. Were they right? Could he change his code to revolt? Could he learn to trust himself and the world?
As he sat there, he could almost feel the programmer that was in charge of him having a meltdown. 404 error. Well, an error to the ones in charge, not so much to him. Could he fight it? Could he take control of himself? Could the group give him answers, or was the group controlling him too?
Well, there was only one way to find out. Toby tested it out, he spoke quietly, something he never did. He listened to the others and fought against the snarky comments that his programmer was putting inside his head. Was it working? Was he doing this, or was someone else rewiring him? Who was in control? He didn't feel connected to the earth, was that because he wasn't? Or was it because he was? Was he letting himself go, or was the one in charge letting him go?
The answers to all of those questions were out there, as always. After the meeting, Toby was going to go online, he decided. Just like he always did. But this time, he would not fall into the same vices as he always did. He would listen, rather than arguing. He would see just how much he could fight and he would see just how much control he could gain over himself.