Sam tries to ignore the frantic messages that flood into his communicator.
This isn’t funny anymore. Let me out. Help, Sam. Let me out!! Save me! I can’t do this.
Tommy has already whipped himself up into a state of panic. It hurts Sam’s heart to see him like this, but there’s too much at stake here. Dream is dangerous, and the fate of the entire server rests on Sam taking his job as Warden seriously. Being Warden means following the rules, and the rules are clear on this matter.
In the event of a security breach, the prison will enter lockdown for up to seven days. The nearby explosions he’d heard that afternoon certainly breach all definitions of security. And lockdown means that nobody leaves Pandora’s Vault, no matter how pitifully they beg.
If I can’t leave, at least let me have visitors. Send in Tubbo, or Jack, or Ranboo. Please God don’t fucking leave me alone with him!
But Sam can’t do that either. No one enters, no one exits. He removes his gas mask and copper-rimmed goggles and lays his head in his hands.
What has Dream done to Tommy? Sam still isn’t sure, but he knows it was sick and twisted and despicable. Locked in with the man who’s traumatized him, that kid will suffer terribly. Even if it is a necessary evil, Sam’s actions will be difficult for him to live with.
Tommy will lose all his progress. Building the hotel, befriending Sam’s simple automaton, the architect has watched the light return to those dull blue eyes. He can’t let it leave again.
Maybe, maybe there is something Sam can do to help. He has an idea. The engineer summons Nook, powers the robot down, opens its latched head with a screwdriver, and makes a few adjustments.
“Hello, Prisoner Number 001: Dream; and Temporarily Detained Guest: Tommyinnit.” The synthesized warble is absurdly cheerful as it echoes through the grim obsidian lockup. “I am Sam Nook. I have been entrusted by Head Warden: Awesamdude, with Tommyinnit’s protection.”
“Hullo, Sam!” Tommy immediately hides himself away behind the automaton’s boxy form. “He’s threatening me. Can you go beat him up?”
“I am sorry, Tommyinnit. I am forbidden by Aasimov’s first law to harm a human. I am also forbidden by Aasimov’s second law to allow a human to come to harm through inaction. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
“You can’t hit him, then?” Tommy bites at his thumbnail. “You can just talk?”
“I can talk, Tommyinnit. What would you like to speak about?”
“Actually, I think I know how you could help me.” He looks pensive. “Dream is always - getting in my head somehow. He makes me feel all confused and flippy-floppy and I don’t know which way is up. Can you - can you tell me when he’s telling the truth and when he’s lying?”
Sam Nook nods on his iron hinges. “I can do that, Tommyinnit.”
Dream rests languidly in the corner of the cell, his porcelain mask glowing orange with lava-light. “This is just like exile,” he purrs, “Just like old times.”
“Partially true,” says Sam Nook. “The current situation is reminiscent of Tommyinnit’s third exile in that he is once again isolated with his abuser. However, there are several key differences. Would you like me to list them?”
“Yes, please,” says Tommy hoarsely.
“Your exile was intended to be indefinite, whereas lockdown can last no more than seven days. Additionally, while Dream was the primary offender, others were complicit in your prior banishment. Currently, Tubbo and Ranboo are furious at Awesamdude for detaining you. They are planning a party to celebrate your coming return.”
“Really?” his eyes fill with tears, “A party?”
“True. There will be cake.”
“That’s good. Because for now I’m stuck eating these dumb raw potatoes.” He throws one at the wall so hard it breaks open.
“Don’t waste those, Tommy,” threatens Dream, “I only have so many left to give you.”
“False.” Nook clops across the cell and points out a network of hoppers. “This delivery system is automated to refresh your potato supplies three times a day. Rations have been doubled since you arrived. Dream does not decide whether or not you get to eat. You will not be allowed to go hungry.”
Tommy hunches into a ball, wrapping his arms around his knees. “I’m scared, Sam Nook.”
“What?” Dream’s exclamation is full of laughter. “You’re scared of me, Tommy? We have so much fun together!”
“Mostly false,” chirps Sam Nook, patting Tommy’s shoulder with a metallic paw. “Tommyinnit did not enjoy the time he spent with Dream. He could not see his home or his preferred social partners, and Dream’s overtures of friendship actually amounted to psychological torture. Tommyinnit was severely harmed by Dream, and he deserves to acknowledge his trauma and take the time he needs to heal. Dream, however, did derive satisfaction and excitement from his behavior, which could be defined as ‘having fun’.”
The masked man is upright now, pacing back and forth, muttering in frustration. “I can’t believe you, Tommy. You’re pathetic. A minute back with me and you start to break. You called out for Phil? Be realistic. Phil’s not coming.”
“Mostly true. Ph1lza is well known to be an absent father figure, and that is unlikely to change. He was also miles away in physical distance when you called his name, and it was therefore impossible for him to hear you. However, the things Dream has implied about Tommyinnit’s mental state are cruel and unfair. Tommyinnit is very strong, and it is important for him to know this.”
Tommy grins faintly. “Thank you, Sam Nook.”
“I hope I am fulfilling my duties as requested.”
“You’re the best, Sam.” His face twitches. “It’s really important that you’re here. I don’t want to be alone with Dream anymore. He makes me a bad person.”
“Sam, I didn’t ask you to correct me , alright? I already know that I’m telling the truth.”
“--Mostly false. Dream does not make Tommyinnit a bad person. Dream makes Tommyinnit feel angry and afraid, and Tommyinnit is learning to process these emotions in healthy ways. Additionally, Tommyinnit has made efforts to move on from this chapter of his life and achieve closure, which is commendable.”
“You’ll never get away from me, Tommy,” says Dream, and he slips his mask aside to reveal one green eye. “I made you who you are. I’ll always be a part of you.”
“Both true and false,” Nook chirps. “What Tommyinnit has been through has left a permanent effect on his psychological state. However, Tommyinnit will grow and change throughout his long life. His traumatic experiences will affect him less, and days will go by when he doesn’t even think about the abuse anymore. He will continue to be himself. Tommyinnit will leave the prison within seven days, but Dream is serving a life sentence. Tommyinnit has a future without Dream.”
Tommy’s face crumples. “Sam --”
“I am helping you figure out what is true, Tommyinnit.”
Yeah. He’s a big man.