Inside the Inner City, Nala Prime stood before the Council of Masters in the Spire at the center of the Inner City.
“Nala, you stand before us once more.” The First Master smiled with approval.
The Second Master continued. “Your last report indicated that you located a Bug Hive and requested reinforcements. Special Team 1 answered your request. Upon your return, one of that team had disappeared entirely. Furthermore, your report indicated that you and Special Team 1 destroyed that Hive- but only through the use of unauthorized techniques and protocols.”
Nala nodded affirmatively.
“So,” the Third Master said, “you admit that you defied our ban?”
“Not your ban.” Nala answered, “I had sanction to act as I did.”
The other Masters looked at the First Master, and their bubbling rage turned towards their peer.
“The matter needed proper resolution.” the First Master said, smugly, “You could not bother to fulfill your responsibilities, so tied to your fears as you are, so I did it for you.”
“But the loss of Special Team 1-“
Green Prime entered the chamber. “I am.” Green said, “Whole and better than new.”
The other Masters looked at Green Prime, shocked. “But the reports of your behavior-“
“I was wrong.” Green said with a shrug, “Thanks to Nala’s discovery, I am here to tell you myself of that fact.”
The realization of what this meant—of what the process of transference between the Inner and Outer City meant, and how it related to the constructs and programs that they created in the Inner City—filled the other Masters with utter horror.
“GUARDS!” they cried, and the chamber filled with security programs- programs that halted as soon as they recognized Nala and the First Master.
“Seize the other Masters.” Nala cried, and then he turned to Green Prime: “Execute System Upgrade Protocol.”
Green Prime left the chamber. Within moments, echoes of commotion across the Inner City could be heard as backdoor commands throughout the system went into action.
“If we are to win against the Bugs,” the First Master explained, “then we must embrace all of our advantages and negate all of our weaknesses. As we sit on a font of endless power, power that we are the masters of shaping, not only can we match the Bugs for numbers- we can surpass them.”
Now held fast by the guards, Nala went to each of the Masters in turn and hacked into their brains.
“This Bug brain we took back revealed a lot of secrets.” Nala said as he hacked away, “Such as whom amongst our own were in league with our enemies, and how it came to be in its position; when we saw the Bug swarm coming for that Hive, and saw that it held not us as its primary targets, that’s when all of the weirdness within and about it started to come together.”
“You lot,” the First Master bellowed as he pointed at them, “thought to play them against us.”
Just then, Nala finished the hacks. “Access procured, Master.”
The First Master entered a program into each of his peers and executed it, causing them all to go into convulsions and collapse into unconsciousness. The bodies of the Masters began to change in appearance and form, becoming wholly robotic, faceless and without means of speech.
“Your fears undid you, my former peers. For your folly, I shall compel your service as penance; nevermore shall you be Users, but instead nothing more than Programs yoked by a master protocol that I know none of you could comprehend, let alone defeat.”
The faceless former Masters now arose. Lithe, once more youthful of form—if robotic, android-like—and clearly capable of deeds brutal and graceful alike they were. Yet, despite their aura of power, one with the eyes to see could sense the caged wills within straining at their prisons.
“Kneel!” bellowed the First Master, and—haltingly—they did.
“Behold, Nala, our success. The link that you made between ourselves and our creations has come to its fulfillment at last.”
Just then, Green Prime returned to the room. “Master, Nala: our plans proceed as foreseen, with the expected pockets of resistance.”
The First Master, now simply Master Prime, looked over to his rectified former peers, and he smiled once more.
“Order them to hold position and keep them pinned down.” Master Prime said, “I shall send these programs to finish the job.”
The Sky-Blue Republic won the Bug War a year later. The peace took much longer.