Everyone's (least) favorite know-it-all from 'Nier: Automata' learns a lesson.
Header art by Leah Goren
Welcome to Waypoint's Pantheon of Games, a celebration of our favorite games, a re-imagining of the year's best characters, and an exploration of the 2017's most significant trends.
Content warning: This story includes forced gender change, gender dysphoria, and the use of a gendered insult.
Update: An apology for the content of this story has been published on Waypoint's forums.
When 9S opened his eyes, he was standing in a steel-paneled elevator, climbing with a consistent speed. He wasn’t quite sure when he had entered the carriage: the most recent elevator he’d seen was in a dilapidated basement, long neglected by its human creators.
Through the window, he spotted a concrete paradise, with blinking signs and illuminated skyscrapers complementing the setting sun. Crowds of a size he could never even imagine flowed through the sidewalks like schools of carp. Fixated by the nightlife, 9S never noticed the door opening behind him. A pair of squeaky leather shoes stepped inside.
“Kristin? Oh, thank god you’re here! The meeting starts in five minutes, and…Kristin? Kristin. KRISTIN!”
9S suddenly turned around and snapped to attention: an irate young man in a business suit was glaring at him.
“Did you…” 9S ventured a guess. “Did you mean me?”
“No shit! Do you see any other Kristins here?”
Confused, 9S looked down. His shorts and vest were gone, replaced with a velvet red pencil skirt and a matching suit top. The nails were filed in a perfect, crimson manicure. The hair was still short, but it was chestnut brown, and a well-kept bun in the back held the rest in place. His mind raced, searching for a rational explanation where none existed, and could only conclude he was in a dream. For now, he played along.
“Guess not! …so, where’s this meeting again?”
A loud, exasperated sigh was the only response.
When the elevator finally stopped at floor 59, the man grabbed 9S’s wrist and yanked him into the hallway. He tumbled face-first onto the tile, outstretched hands softening the blow.
“Did you forget how to walk, too?! Come on, we don’t have time for this!”
Stunned, 9S stood in silence for a full minute...
9S wobbled to his feet, staring down at his shoes. Heels. Of course. As he took one step after another, inching across an invisible tightrope, he followed the man into a nearby conference room. On the opposite end of its lengthy table, a well-dressed senior dabbed his cigar in a nearby ashtray. 9S’s escort spoke up, handling the introductions.
“Mr. Taylor! Our deepest apologies: Pauline is away on an urgent matter, and asked us to speak with you in her stead. I’m Sam, and this is Kristin. I’ll let her fill you in on the bridge’s progress!”
Oh no. 9S’s eyes darted across the room, landing on a manila folder labeled “Bridge” on the table. He scooped it up and began reading its contents aloud, pretending he knew them by heart.
“Well, the bridge is progressing smoothly! We started in…February, and are on track to complete it by… December, as promised! The project hasn’t breached our targeted budget, and holds a, um, an 80% approval rating among our—”
“Stop.” Mr. Taylor raised one hand, and 9S fell silent. “I expected a chat with the mayor of New Donk City, but she sends her bitch and lackey instead? If you’re going to rely on your crib notes, sit down and let your partner handle this instead!”
Stunned, 9S stood in silence for a full minute, staring at the ground as an unspeakable anger coursed through his body. His tongue unfurled.
“Her bitch? I’m up here, doing my best, and you call me a bitch? Forget my friend over there: Let’s see how well you handle this presentation instead!”
Sam was frozen in terror as 9S stormed over to the startled businessman, lifted him from the chair and pinned him against the wall. The folder sat between 9S’s outstretched palm and Mr. Taylor’s palm: it crinkled as more force was applied.
“Make one more remark like that, and I’ll rip you apart, starting with your—”
A white light blinded 9S, sending him sprawling onto the carpeted floor. It was an oddly familiar sensation, but the light’s intensity arrested his thoughts. He would be awake soon, and this all-too-realistic nightmare would be behind him.
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As the light faded away, 9S took another look. He saw a familiar waterfall sitting in front of the resistance camp. I’m… home. It was a dream after all! But something felt off: a light breeze chilled his chest, and he was certain his line of sight wasn’t this high before. Taking a deep breath, he took measure of himself again, and instantly froze in fear. The leather, knee-high heels, the ornate dress with a slip on the side, the feathered sleeves, the chest’s window displaying his…his…
“9B!” A familiar voice rang out. “Stop ogling yourself and come spar with me!”
9S swiveled to his left and saw 2B, arms crossed, waiting for his response. He simply nodded, then scrambled to her position. She grabbed her sword from her back, and 9S followed suit: the two stood several feet apart, then crossed blades.
“I saw everything,” 2B smirked as she swung at him. The weapon and statement both tested 9S’s balance. “…Everything?” “Mm,” she replied. “I’ve seen you lose your cool before, but that boardroom was something else!”
His katana fell to the ground. “Wait, wasn’t that—”
Her sword suddenly rested beneath his chin. “Keep. Fighting.”
9S did as he was told, shaking with fear.
“Look, you weren’t sleeping. You’re trapped in a series of trials, each designed by women you’ve ticked off. You visited Pauline’s office, and now you’re here. Have you guessed why?”
His voice quivered, mixed with fear and anger. “Change me back. Change me back right now!”
2B sliced his cheek, blood dripping from the slight gash. “You haven’t learned a thing! 9S, the brightest boy in the room, can’t discern why dozens of women hate his guts? Day after day, you insist your advice will help solve our problems! ‘Zelda, have you tried fighting Ganon for once?’ ‘Pauline, men will only treat you seriously if you assert yourself!’ Which reminds me…”
With a simple flick of the wrist, 9S’s skirt flew away: he had seen this happen to 2B enough times to remember what was and wasn’t covered. His cheeks burned with embarrassment, and he dropped to the ground, doing his best to cover up as an unseen crowd broke out into laughter. A long blade slammed into the ground inches from his nose, and he froze as 2B went on.
“Ever heard of Tiresias? He struck two snakes as they mated: Hera responded by turning him into a woman until the lesson sank in, seven years later. We could do this for seven years, but why not shoot for a hundred? It’s all up to you.”
“I’ve…” 9S sputtered, pushing down his humiliation and pain. “I’ve learned my lesson. Put me back! …please.”
2B shook her head. “No. You still aren’t ready. We’ll speak again later.”
Her sword connected with 9S’s neck, and he was once again blinded by light.
Over the next few months, his trials continued. The Phantom Thieves plopped him in a bikini to lure shadows. He sang in an idol band, then served drinks to leering patrons in the following evening. Twice, he found reprieve in a cat café: the food was prepared off-site, and the felines calmed his nerves. He even caught himself thinking as “she” in the occasional, docile moment.
As he sat in a Hyrulian dungeon, awaiting today’s misery, Zelda appeared before 9S and crouched to meet his gaze. “So,” she began, “when I designed this test, I think I got carried away.”
A loud snort came from the hallway, and Zelda hastened her speech.
“I’ve observed you over the last few days, and honestly, you seem ready for this to end.” Her face was stern. “Are you ready?”
9S eagerly nodded.
“All right. And please behave yourself, OK?”
Zelda touched her palm against 9S’s forehead, and he was blinded by an all-too-familiar light. When his vision returned, he stood before a gathering of every woman he had insulted. He looked down once more, and couldn’t believe his eyes: his shorts, vest and flat boots were back, and everything else seemed to be in order.
“I…” 9S faced the crowd, voice trembling. “I’m sorry. I never should have pushed my advice on you like I knew any better. It was hard enough to make it through a single day, yet each one of you have trudged through this shit for years? I was clearly out of my element, and I’ll think before speaking again!”
As the makeshift council silently filed out, 9S made his way to 2B and nodded.
“So,” he began, “I read up on Tiresias, and noticed a discrepancy: wasn’t he also asked to judge whether a man or woman derived more pleasure from—”
2B frowned, and 9S was once again blinded by a white light. He instantly wished he had kept his mouth shut.