Any fool could have predicted thatwould strike back at some point. If one weren't a fool, one might predict the exact date and time of an attempted counterattack.
was not a fool.
He stood in his workshop, bathed in sun rays from his skylight, surrounded by dozens of artifacts of his own genius: Gearwork boots that could cling to any surface. A knapsack with articulated limbs that always kept the user's tools within easy reach.
Greater than all these inventions, however, was the weapon that Jayce now held in his hands. Powered by a Shuriman , Jayce's transforming hextech was renowned throughout Piltover, but he tossed it from hand to hand as if was any other tool from his workshop.
Three sharp taps echoed from Jayce's door.
They were here.
Jayce had prepared for this. He'd run experiments on Viktor's discarded automata. He'd intercepted the mechanical communications. Any second, they'd beat down his front door and try to rip away his hextech hammer. After that, they'd try to do the same with his skull. 'Try' being the operative word.
He flicked a switch on the hammer's handle. With an energetic sizzle, the head of Jayce's masterpiece transformed into a hextech.
He took aim.
Stood his ground.
Watched the door open. His finger tightened on the trigger.
And he almost blasted a seven-year-old girl's head off.
She was tiny and blonde and would have seemed adorable to anyone who wasn't Jayce. The girl pushed the door open and walked in with shuffling, tentative steps. Her ponytail swished to and fro as she approached Jayce. She kept her head down, ever avoiding his gaze. He had two hypotheses regarding why she might refuse eye contact: she was hugely impressed to be in the presence of someone so acclaimed, or she was working for Viktor and about to surprise him with a chem-bomb. Her blushing indicated it was likely the former.
"My soldier broke," she said, proffering a limp metal knight, its arm bent backward at a perverse angle.
Jayce didn't move.
"Please leave or you'll probably die."
The child stared at him.
"Also, I don’t fix dolls. Find somebody with more time on their hands."
Tears began to well up in her eyes.
"I don't have any money for an artificer, and my muh–-- ," she said, stifling a sob, "mother made him for me before she passed, and--- "
Jayce furrowed his brow and, for the first time in quite a while, blinked.
"If it's so precious to you, why did you break it?"
"I didn't mean to! I took him to the Progress Day feast and somebody bumped into me and I dropped him, and I know I should have just left him at home--- "
" –--Yes, you should have. That was stupid of you."
The girl opened her mouth to speak, then stopped herself. Jayce had seen this kind of reaction before. Most everyone he met had heard the stories of his legendary hammer and his unyielding heroism. They expected grandeur. They expected humility. They expected him to not be a massive jerk. Jayce inevitably disappointed them.
"What is wrong with you?" she asked.
"Most facets of my personality, so I’ve been told," he replied without hesitation.
The child furrowed her brow. She shoved the broken doll into his face.
"Fix it. Please."
"You'll just break it again."
"Look," he said. "Little girl. I'm very busy, and--- "
Something flitted across the skylight, casting a quick shadow on the two of them. Anyone else would have assumed it was nothing more than a falcon passing overhead. Jayce knew better. He fell silent. A wry smile spread across his face as he yanked the girl toward his workbench.
"The thing is," he said, "machines are very simple."
He lifted a large, thin sheet of bronze and began to hammer its corners with sharp taps. "They're made of discrete parts. They combine and recombine in clear, predictable ways." He beat the sheet over and over until it took the form of a smooth dome.
"People are more complicated. They're emotional, they're unpredictable, and - in nearly every case - they're not as smart as me," he said, drilling a clean hole into the top of the dome. "Now usually, that's a problem. But sometimes, their stupidity works in my favor."
"Is this still about my doll, or--- "
"Sometimes, they're so insecure in their inferiority - so desperate to take their revenge - that they make a foolish mistake." He grabbed a shining copper rod, and screwed it into the center of the dome.
"Sometimes people fail to protect their most precious assets," he said, nodding at her tin soldier before holding aloft the newly formed metal umbrella. "And sometimes, that means instead of assaulting my workshop through the more obvious front door, they try to take... "
He looked upward, " ...the more dramatic approach."
He handed her the umbrella, which took all of her meager strength to keep aloft.
"Hold this. Don't move."
She opened her mouth to respond, only to yelp in surprise as the skylight shattered above her. Glass bounced off the makeshift umbrella like rain as a half-dozen men leapt down to the floor. Tubes of bright green chems protruded from the base of their necks, connecting to their limbs. Their eyes were dead, their faces emotionless. They were definitely Viktor's boys, alright: drugged punks from Zaun's sump level whom Viktor had pumped full of hallucinogens and hypnotics. Chem-stunted thugs who would follow Viktor's every whim whether they wanted to or not. Jayce had been expecting to see automatons, but Viktor likely couldn't have gotten so many through Piltover unnoticed. Still, these chem-slaves were just as much of a danger. They turned toward Jayce and the girl.
Before they reached the pair, however, Jayce's hextech blaster exploded with voltaic energy. Anof hextech-powered lightning shot out of its core and detonated in the middle of the group. The chem-slaves slammed into the workshop's immaculate walls.
"So much for the element of surprise, huh, Vikto---"
A hulking brute of a machine leapt down amongst the pile of unconscious chem-slaves. It looked, Jayce thought, like a cross between aand a very angry building.
"Watch out," the girl yelped.
Jayce rolled his eyes. "I am watching him. Stop panicking. I have the situation well in--- ow!" he said, interrupted as the metal beast rammed him in the chest.
The beast sent Jayce hurtling backward. He landed on a rolling cart, his back cracking from the impact.
Grunting, he pulled himself to his feet as the beast charged again.
"That's the last time you touch me," he said.
Jayce swung his hextech weapon as hard as he could, transforming it back into a hammer mid-swing. The minotaur lowered its head to ram Jayce again, foolishly ignoring the weapon's arc.
The hammer found its mark with a resounding. The minotaur, its head caved all the way back into its metal neck, collapsed to the floor. A cloud of escaping steam hissed from its carcass.
Jayce pulled back the hammer again, readying for another attack. He watched the skylight. A few minutes passed. Soon enough, he seemed satisfied the assault was over.
He tried to step back toward his workbench, only to double over in pain, grasping at his stomach. The girl rushed to his side.
"Still hurts where he tackled you, huh?"
"Then maybe you shouldn't have let him," she said. "That was stupid of you."
Jayce raised an eyebrow at the kid. Her eyes widened, unsure if she'd crossed a line. A slow smile crept across his face.
"What was your name?"
Jayce sat at his workbench and grabbed a screwdriver.
"Gimme the doll, Amaranthine," he said.
A massive grin broke out on her face. "So you can fix it?"
Jayce smirked at her.
"There's nothing I can't fix."