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Shepard Tone Remix


RedSpine

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Kord Dorms, Floor One, Claremont Academy

Monday, September 7th 2020

First days of class were always a fine mix of hectic and pointless to Zach. Everyone shows up, says hello, goes over a syllabus that everyone only pretends to be interested in and on and on and on. Who could blame him for matching wits with the clock as if will power alone was enough to hasten the steps of time. All things however do come to an end eventually and Zach had made his way out of the class and back to his room quick as one could. After all today he had a purpose, he had a plan. Today 'The Board(tm)' was making it's triumphant return.

Sliding his bag under his desk Zach took the moment to really size up his side of the room. On the desk itself laid a small assortment of tools, bits, bobs, components and spare parts whose only organization seemed to be 'within arms reach'. At the desks side his silvered armor sat loosely atop one of the teens suitcases. Easily reachable for any tinkering that may need to be done to it. A stand would honestly be better but this was only week one. He'd have time for more projects later, even if he'd have to find a dark corner of the schools basement to shove the stand into over summer break. Looking at the empty space on the wall however Zach knew he had his spot. Big enough to get all the corkboards up and far enough from a corner that you could stand back and get a good view without risking having to lean on a wall or something. It was perfect.

Corkboards the size of the average school text book came out of their hiding spaces in bags and promptly made their way onto the empty wall courtesy of easy-to-remove double sided tape and a little patience. He'd gotten a third of his pile up before the thought occurred to him.

"Aw heck I probably should have double checked with Pol before putting this up."

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For Pol, the first day of classes was terribly exciting! True, there was always a bit of awkwardness when he brought his custom-made desk into each classroom and set it up, but once he was settled in, things went very smoothly. It was interesting to see the different levels of interest among his fellow students; some were just as excited as he was, but others clearly struggled to maintain even the appearance of engagement. Pol had to remember that for many of these teens, school, even one as special as Claremont, would always be a chore. They'd been doing it for years because human society expected. As he'd studied their bored, slack faces, he hoped that one day they found something to ignite their passion.

 

But now, the school day was over and he'd stowed his heavy folding desk in the storage area the school provided him, and Pol was heading back to his dorm. Currently he was expressing a male identity, the tall blonde youth he'd been favoring since the first day, in a plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers. He typically chose a human form during classes to allow his teachers to see his attention and interest in his eyes. In the future, they'd experiment a bit more in terms of identity, depending on how they felt in the morning.

 

Pol gently knocked on the door before opening it. "Hey, it's Pol. I hope your decent!" He was half-joking, but a bit of extra courtesy early on seemed like a good idea. Noticing the corkboard on the wall, the robot's eyebrows raised. "Oh, are you working on a project? I can help, if you want."

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!!!
Zach didn't jump out of his skin when Pol knocked but considering the timing of it he came close.

"Oh wow speak of the devil. Yeah i'm good!" He called back before setting another piece into place. This wasn't anything to be embarrassed about, it wasn't childish at all. They had stuff like this on crime dramas all the time!

"Oh uhh.. yeah. Kinda? I used to set these up back home whenever I wanted to get a big picture view of things i was trying to figure out. If you want to help uhh...just a moment". Moving a bit down the wall he lined up two pieces as  best he could as corners and affixed them. "There we go. Just gotta backfill the space now to form a decent enough square, the tape is over there on my desk, a piece on the backside of each corner should be enough to hold it in place. Honestly It's more like a project to prepare for other projects down the line."

This felt stunted and jerky even for him. Taking a moment to mentally step back he turned to face Pol directly. "I'm sorry man I'm getting caught up in my own bull. First day of class go alright? Oh also I heard you got dragged into the senior robotgirls room. You work astonishingly fast!"

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Pol chuckled a little at Zach's embarrassment; he would continue to knock for a bit longer. As he continued to take in his roomie's project, he put his hands on his hips and nodded in appreciation. "Are you going to start putting up pictures and red string, like in the movies? I love detective stories! Edgar Allen Poe is my favorite author."

 

Zach's playful ribbing left Pol confused for a few seconds as he began to tear off short strips of tape. "What? Oh that! That was just two robots meeting for the first time. Eira's going to help me get some upgrades. I'm looking forward to it! I should have wireless and Bluetooth after that."

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Pol didn't think this was weird. Nice!

"Well I plan on using more than just red string so that I can tell which bits match up to other bits but yeah! I started doing this years ago when I got into Augmented Reality Games. It made it easy to put down and pick back up when uhhrrrmm let's just say I had to take breaks quite a lot. So it helped to pin everything up so I could get right back to it when I was able. It's just kind of a habit now. If you're a big fan of detective stories though have you ever tried your hand at an ARG?"

Pol's explanation about Eira made sense but still it sat a little uneasy for him. Maybe it was just low key paranoia popping up but who just offers a free upgrade just out of nowhere? Not only that but from what little he'd heard Eira wasn't exactly someone who screamed charitable. Pol did seem excited about it and Zach didn't want to be a downer but he had to at least offer something as a just in case.
"Are you two doing the upgrade on campus? Need any help with it or anything? Cause if you need me to or want me to keep an eye on things I can get pretty much anywhere in this city pretty quick if I armor up. Ah that's if you're going someplace off campus. Not saying I'd need to throw on the silver just..sorry rambling."

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"No, I haven't," Pol said with a shake of his head as he handed Zach a piece of sticky-back corkboard. "That uses the same GPS technology as Pokemon Go, right? Where your location determines how you interact with the game?"

 

"No, we're going to ArchTech to see Miss Americana, the superhero. I guess Eira knows her due to Miss A's work in robotics. As far as why Eira's being so generous." He paused and sighed, then shrugged. "To be honest, I think it's like charity work for her. She sees me as the poor robot who grew up with nothing."

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"In some cases yes. Most of the time no. Hrm, I guess in this context I could have also used Alternate Reality Game even though that also doesn't fully match the full breadth of...Okay let me start again. What I'm referring to is a kind of interactive fiction you, usually, find online nowadays that hides it's story behind context clues, puzzles, and codes and relies on the audience to solve them in order to advance the plot. You can get all sorts of neat puzzles out of it, like for example hints buried deep in a web pages source code, or what sounds like an audio distortion making a picture containing more clues or puzzles when run through a wavelength to video converter. Some of the most devious ciphers I have ever seen put to paper. And of course depending on the author they also take advantage of the real world, doing things like dead drops requiring people to use GPS cords to go out and physically find them. And all that's not even getting into monsters like Cicada 3301. Sadly most of the noncorporate sponsored ones end up stalling out for one reason or another leaving mysteries that just can't be solved due to lack of evidence. Heh I did hear a story a year back of some wannabe Raven down in New Mexico stumbling into an ARG and thinking it was actually some supervillain taunting the world with graphic videos. Turned out it was just a couple of theater majors who really liked horror movies and wanted to experiment with what you could do with an interactive format". Zach really couldn't help but gush. It was rare enough that he could talk to someone in person about his hobbies at all, but to get the chance to explain it to someone who'd seemed like they'd enjoy it had him near tripping over himself to get the words out. He certainly was more animated now that he'd been all day in class.

Listening to Pol while putting up the next piece of board did nothing to settle his unease. Archtech? Really? It made sense if the robotic senior was connected to them in some way to be sure, parts alone would cost a small fortune unless you had serious backing but then why would she be here? Some kind of A.I. experiment? AGH all he had was the barest scraps of information and none of it could form anything concrete. Not yet anyway. That'd be for later however, in the meanwhile meeting someone like Miss Americana was a huge deal even with the miasma of Archtech hanging around her.
"Miss Americana? You sure you don't have luck manipulating tech under there somewhere? Make sure to get her autograph if you can, two if you can swing one for me also". He paused for a moment thinking of what to say next before deciding to go with full honesty and hoping it didn't come off as catty or campy. "Well Pol if shes hung up on how much money you grew up around than i'd bet you grew with more of what matters than she did. Which now that the words have left my mouth sounds like i'm tossing her under the bus. Not knockin' your friend, just don't let her boss you around."

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"I'll be honest, one of the first things I thought of was a supervillain's plot," Pol said with a chuckle. "Or the Saw movies, though I haven't watched any of them. I've just seen clips and memes. My parents wouldn't let me watch scary movies." The blond robot rolled his eyes

 

When Zach said his piece about Eira's possible snobbery, the shapeshifter shrugged. "I know my parents loved me, and did everything they could to give me a life, an actual life like any other sapient entity. If anything, I feel bad for her. I think her life has been much harder than mine, even with all that money."

 

 

A sudden idea struck Pol, and his eyes lit up as he put a hand on Zach's shoulder. "We should make our own ARG! Or at least plan one as an intellectual exercise. It sounds like you've played a lot of them, so you probably have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. We can set it here in the school, maybe even submit it as a senior project!"

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Zach could hardly believe his ears so he stopped what he was doing and turned to look dead on at Pol just in case he could spot some small smirk or something that would signal he was being messed with.
"Whoa hold up, full stop. You've never been allowed to see any scary movies? Not a one? Okay we're hijacking the common room for a movie night one of these days and you're going to get a crash course in the rich history of movies with great opening entrees followed by terrible sequels. Where to start where to start, I'm actually going to have to think about this. What seems more interesting to you? Supernatural horrors? Serial Killers? Tension so thick you can cut it with a knife? Schlock? Or maybe I'll track down the really old black and white stuff for the classic monster movies and The Twilight Zone."

Deciding not to trust himself with saying anymore about the robots meet up zach just nodded in agreement. He'd seen how much care Pol showed what little belongings they owned so he had no doubt that there was a deep reciprocated care and love betwen Pol and their creatures.

Oof okay yeah, robot hands were heavy. He wasn't going to admit it but it was surprising. Like picking up a box you thought was empty really.
"Make an ARG? That could be a ton of fun. So hell yeah let's do it. Can't be hard to get into the maintenance tunnels or even build a whole scene in the Wreck Room down below. And with your shapeshifting we can have just about any character we can think up be in it."

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In response to Zach's horrified response to the lack of horror in his upbringing, Pol held up his hands and laughed. "I know, I know, but in their defense, they'd never been parents before, so I think they were just trying to be extra cautious. Plus it's not like there are a lot of books on 'how to raise your AI child' on the market; they did the best they could based on the knowledge they had." The robot sighed and picked up the framed picture he had of his parents, a wistful smile on his lips. "They made me feel safe and loved, in their own dorky scientist way. And from what I've read, not every kid gets that."

 

Looking to change the subject, Shift want back to their earlier discussion. "Here's my suggestion. You come up with a list of scary movies we can watch, maybe with some of the others here on the first floor. I also want to see all the Terminator movies, even the ones people say are bad." He solemnly put a hand in his chest, but then winked. "As a genuine robot, I feel I have the right to form my own opinions. Then later we do a haunted house in the Wreck Room. What do you think?"

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If Zach had to admit anything about his roomie it was that they were more emotive than some people he had met over the years. He could practically feel the affection the robot had for it's parents rolling off it in waves which made  the change it subject all the more awkward. He wanted to offer his help in tracking them down but how do that? Hey pal let me just casually show up the police like a boss. So Zach bit his tongue and resolved to look into it on his own later so that when Pol was ready he'd have a headstart on the whole process and have a lead worth following. If he found something urgent sooner well... he'd figure that out then.

"Well for a good list hrm. Nightmare on Elm street one and three, Halloween and its 2018 sequel are also good. Scream has to be included if we're doing a slasher night. If you want to go less slasher and more high tension 1408 and Night of the Living Dead, some choice episodes from The Twilight Zone. Maybe break it up with some Tales from the Crypt for the endless puns from the Crypt Keeper. Woman in Black is also great as a ghost story. Actually could make a whole 'TV Horror Night' really easy if we also toss in Crypt TV even if it's for no other reason than to show off the Look-See. Trying to  move it all down to a night or two is the hard part really."
 

It probably wasn't surprising Pol wanted to watch the Terminator movies if anything Zach wanted to see what they thought of them. Well..the goods ones anyway.
"Bad Terminator movies? Nah for a trilogy it's a really good. Well okay the third isn't as great but it's still okay. Anyone saying there was anything after that are just pulling your leg. They don't exist. Like the rumors about a Highlander movie on mars. Total bunk. Cough. We'll get those on the list I promise."

Between the two of them the Sleuthing Board was coming together nicely, a few more panels and all that would be left would be to loop and hang the different colored string up for future investigations.

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"You can't stop me from watching things you don't like when you're not around," Pol said with a smile. "I'm going to watch all kinds of things!" The robot prepped the last of the corkboard, then paused to look at their handiwork so far. "This looks good!"

 

He looked over his shoulder at the blank walls near his chair. "I need to buy some things to decorate my side of the room. It's so bare!" Then his eyes lit up, but not literally. "Maybe I can get some Terminator posters up there. But only the good ones!"

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