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The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune Cowell was still gone. It had been nearly a week and Tommy was getting worried. In the approximate six months that he’d known him, Cowell had barely even left the bar, let alone for this long. It wasn’t as if Tommy couldn’t run the bar himself, he’d seen Cowell do the books enough that he could limp by. He was just worried about him. They were friends, at least Tommy was pretty sure; Cowell was near impossible to read. Sitting alone in the bar really didn’t help, though that was what Tommy had to do most mornings, all except Monday, because Cowell was a dick who liked to mess with people after a hard start to the week. Barring any meetings Niko had, most of Tommy’s mornings were free, and he didn’t like sitting around an empty bar. Cindy was gone for a few weeks, his mom had work, and Mike was doing... whatever he was doing, so more often than not, Tommy found himself wandering down to the East Branch to say hello to Aurum and Servus. The domed exterior had become very familiar to him over the last few months. Servus seemed to get depressed if he stayed away for too long. Tommy didn’t mind it, he liked hanging out with the little dude. He seemed confused and lost at the discovery that he possessed more human emotions, and of all the people in his life, and dragon and a vampire were probably not the best guides for him to have. So it was up to Tommy. “’Lo,” he called out as he entered the cool interior. It always felt very heavy in here, what with all of the very old books, and Tommy could never quite get used to it. Servus poked his head through one of the doors and his mouth rose an inch into a semi-smile. The expression still didn’t reach his dull, blue eyes, Tommy hadn’t quite been able to explain the prospect to him, but the kid was making a good effort. “Hey, buddy,” Tommy rustled his hair as Servus ran up to him. Funny, he’d never really noticed it before now. Servus, on the outside, looked human. Why had they—whoever his creator actually was—bothered to make him that way? Were they just a really twisted fuck? Tommy shrugged to himself. He supposed he may never know. “Hey... buddy,” Servus repeated. He still had trouble speaking, but the more he practiced, the better he got, like a little kid. Unlike a child, however, Tommy could tell that he could think and feel much like a person about the age he appeared to be, but he just couldn’t quite get it out. Tommy found the best way to help him was to treat him like a functioning human being, and just gently help out when he struggled. “What have you been up to?” Opening his mouth, Servus formed several different shapes before deciding. “Research,” he said. “Research?” Tommy shook his head a little. “Aurum going off on one of her nutty knowledge voyages again?” He nodded, looking a little tired.

“She isn’t working you too hard, is she?” After a pause, he shook his head, trying for another smile. “Can she spare you today? Thought it’d be fun to get you out of here for the morning.” Whoa, Servus almost got it, eyes starting to crinkle just a little around the sides. “She can, though very reluctantly,” Aurum appeared through the door as well, her owl-like eyes piercing into Tommy’s. “Actually, Tommy, I’m glad you’re here. I have a favor to ask.” “Shoot,” he shrugged. It took her a second to figure out how to begin. “Recently, I have regained an interest in the ancient land of Atlantis. I wish I could have asked our Atlantean acquaintances more about it, but with everything that was happening there just wasn’t enough time, and now who knows when they’ll be back. But Servus seemed to know Muirne, and I believe he may be of Atlantean construction. I’d like to delve into his memories to see for sure, but I need some help. Specifically from someone he trusts.” Tommy frowned. “This all seems pretty interesting, but did you ask Servus how he feels about this? I mean, if he can’t remember his past now, there might be a reason he doesn’t want to.” “Well,” she stuttered. “Sort of, I suppose. I didn’t really go into specifics.” Sighing, Tommy glanced down at the automaton, who was seeming a little lost. “Think about it, Tommy,” Aurum blathered on, filling the silence. “If he can remember who made him, and how, it may help him. He may be able to become more human.” Servus perked up a little at the word. The air was thick as Tommy pursed his lips in thought. “Alright,” he said finally. “I’m gonna take him out today and actually bother to explain this plan of yours, and if,” he paused as Aurum’s face lit up. “If he agrees, then I’ll help you.” “Fine,” she said, nodding like a bobblehead. “I’ll agree to that. Have fun!” she waved as Tommy turned with Servus in tow. “Don’t be gone long, I’m so very anxious to hear your answer.” Outside, the air was a little more clear, and Tommy shuddered despite the warm day. He liked Aurum, but sometimes she just seemed so... inhuman. It seemed strange to him how easily she treated Servus more like an object than a person, despite how human he looked. “You... okay?” Servus gripped Tommy’s arm briefly. “Yeah,” Tommy nodded. “Just thinkin’, that’s all.” He couldn’t help noticing how slightly confused Servus looked at the last word. “You want some ice cream?” he asked, changing the subject, and Servus’ eyes lit up like Christmas lights as he nodded vigorously. Tommy laughed. “Alright, let’s go.” They went to the usual place, the place everyone in Ede Valley went to get ice cream, the Ede Creamery. You just sort of dealt with the deaf old man behind the counter because his wife made such damn good ice cream. You could tell simply by glancing over at his triple-decker caramel fudge supreme that Servus really liked ice cream. Tommy was unsure how he actually digested it, being made of gears and all, but the feisty little automaton managed it all the same. Tommy slurped on his comparatively conservative chocolate milkshake—which he absolutely hadn’t spiked with a shot of Irish Baileys shhh—in thought. They sat on a bench at the nearby park in a comfortable silence, but Tommy’s mind was not as at ease as it usually was. It was a question of just human Servus really was. Could he genuinely make a conscious decision for himself? Or was he only capable of doing what others told him? And if so, was it right of Tommy, or Aurum, to ask him to let them invade his brain? Or the equivalent thereof? Looking up at him inquisitively, Servus frowned, almost as if he could sense Tommy’s disquiet. “Okay?” he asked again, more pointedly this time. After a pause, Tommy sighed and shook his head. ‘Servus, I have an honest question for you.” The little automaton perked up and tilted his head. “If I told you to do something, could you say no? Like if I wanted you to hurt yourself, would you have to do as I say?” Servus’ eyebrows crinkled. “Don’t know,” he said finally. “Haven’t tried.” “Do you mind if we do a little experiment?” He made a little shrug of consent. “Okay, uh...” crap, he hadn’t thought this far. “Slap yourself. Gently.” Servus raised his hand to obey without thinking, and then paused. “Don’t... have to...” He seemed to mull over the thought briefly, like it surprised him. “Don’t have to. Don’t want to.” Slowly, he put his hand down by his side, and took a big lick of his ice cream cone. “I’m... good, thanks.” Laughing, Tommy had to winge at the Tommy-ism. When had he picked that up? But this meant that Servus could disobey if he wanted to. Wait though, what was that weird Asimov thing about the something-something-robotics? A robot couldn’t follow any orders that would cause harm to itself? “What about something more... indirect?” he asked then. “Like, if there was just something you didn’t want to do? Could you just say ‘no’?” There was another minute of silence as Servus mulled it over. “Pr... probably,” he nodded. ‘Alright then,” Tommy took a deep breath. He still felt weird about all of this, but he had told Aurum that he would ask. “I have to ask you to do something, and the instant it makes you uncomfortable, you let me know.” “Okay.” “Aurum wants to... go inside your head, try to find your past, I guess. She says its to find out more about Atlantis but I’m not really sure I believe her.” Servus nodded. Tommy didn’t know if he actually understood what all this meant. “I’m not sure why you can’t remember where you’re from,” he continued. “Mostly,” Servus suddenly interrupted. Tommy glanced over at him sharply. “What do you mean?” “Uh...” he opened his mouth, but seemed to have trouble describing what he needed to. “Little parts,” he said finally. “R... reminders. But then... I... forget again.” “Do you ever think there might be a reason for that?” Tommy leaned forward. “I mean, it could just be a screw loose or something,” he knocked Servus on the head playfully. “But when people have something really bad happen to them, they just sort of... forget sometimes. Does that make sense?” A pause, and then Servus nodded. “I don’t want to... dredge up anything that you might not want to remember.” There was a long silence as Servus licked his ice cream thoughtfully and Tommy watched him. Finally, Servus looked directly at Tommy, even met his eyes. “I think...” he began. “I think I would like to know.” Tommy sighed. He still wasn’t sure the kid knew what he was agreeing to, but it wasn’t his choice to make for him. “Alright,” he said, and Servus gave him another one of his half-smiles. Looking up, Tommy saw that the sky was getting a bit dark. It looked like rain. “We’d better get back to the East Branch before it gets too wet,” he stood. “Wouldn’t want to you rust.” “Don’t rust,” Servus frowned. “I’m just kidding with you,” Tommy smiled, rustling the kid’s hair. “But I seriously hate being wet so let’s go.” When they arrived back at the East Branch, Aurum was practically vibrating with anticipation. “So? Did you ask him?” Her eyes widened comically. “Not even a ‘hello, how was your ice cream?’” Tommy grumbled. “Sorry. ‘Hello how was your ice cream terrible weather we’re having.’ So did you ask him?” “Yeah...” Tommy said. “And?” He shrugged. He felt gross, but a deal was a deal. “I’m in.” He wondered, briefly, what Cowell would think of all this.

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