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A note from zaifyr

Hey I told you it would only be one day. I'm back! Did you like Ascension?

Well I got an announcement - All the Dust that Falls is going to join my Patreon upon popular request (as in some joined for it).

So now today we have chapter 15 (here) and we have 16 on Patreon. Early access to one chapter ahead is in the $3 tier and up. The number of chapters on Patreon may grow later but for now one will do. 

So, you might ask, why do we get two chapters today? Well you have a few people to thank. First, _Fowl_ for making me do this (well strongly suggesting it). Also, MilaKarkaroff for introducing me this morning to the wonders of sprinting which helped me write and edit two chapters in one day! 

Bee stared at the stacks of books lining the wall. While she prepared for her next round of treatment, Void had apparently been stacking books. Why? Just… why?

The stacks were not very high. They varied wildly in height, the tallest being only a couple feet off the ground. Looking closely and counting, Bee realized each stack was exactly 14 books tall. But why, though? This made no sense.

As she stared uncomprehendingly, Void beeped at her. It almost surprised her that the unearthly noise no longer seemed scary. Or it could be the combined effects of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and her system no longer being pumped full of adrenaline at every stray sound.

Bee had time to safely rest and think for the first time since this started. As she considered, the toll of the past week was catching up to her. Her eyelids struggled under their own weight as she looked at Void. Maybe it was trying to tell her something? So far, she had been fairly treated. Even though she had only been a burden, as much as she didn’t want to admit it. Void had no reason to keep her around as she was. Yet, despite that, she was protected and permitted to heal. Desperately, Bee tried to grasp why. Whatever that reason was, though, one thing was certain. Either she needed to make herself useful, or she would eventually be cast aside. Being deemed worthless would be the worst outcome. No matter what Void’s motives were. If she had been fooled and it was actually a being of evil, then she would obviously suffer and die. However, if Void was as transcendent as it had acted, getting cast aside would be a huge loss for her. As long as she was with Void, there were things for her to learn from its tutelage. She was allowed to read books, which was worth her servitude alone.

Bee felt like she was wandering through a knee-deep swamp within her own mind. Her very thoughts became locked behind a thick veil of exhaustion. She might have been able to wish for more, but all she could realistically hope for was a kind master. If she proved her usefulness, perhaps it would continue to impart its wisdom. The first step to that was understanding the lesson. Would this master teach her the ways of its power? Was Void's screeching a baseline communication; or a greeting, maybe? What if it was a test?

It would be hard to learn from something that didn’t speak the same language, but she would need to get good at interpreting its intentions. Talking seemed unnecessary for such a powerful being. It would act out what should be. And then it would be.

She began to sway on her feet. That would be an essential skill, either way, she thought. Even if it never tried to teach her, knowing what it was thinking, or trying to communicate might save her life one day soon. In fact, why should she wait to see if it would teach her? She would not dare to ask, but if she watched carefully enough, surely she would pick up some things along the way. That would show initiative. Her father told her that was a good thing. Showed she could be valuable even when not watched closely. She wanted to be worthwhile. Even if she was engaged in hunting the lesser demons, she would get lots of exp and levels. So many more levels than the average person got. If she was valuable enough, undeserving as she was, maybe more wisdom would be given to her.

Yes, Bee thought as her eyes began to close. She would learn what she could from Void. Both from instruction and example to become an asset instead of a liability. And maybe, just maybe, if it was enough, Bee could earn her soul back. Honestly, she wasn't sure if that was even an option. Perhaps it was in better hands now. Maybe the delirium was starting to give her false hope; gods, she was tired.

---

I looked at the human. She seemed slightly confused, just staring at me. Why was she confused? Was it really so confusing I would clean things up? Also, she was doing this interesting little dance. She would slowly lean one way and then the other. It was in this rhythmic pattern while she stood there, still looking at me. It seemed like she had finished making her salve a while ago. As she was standing by the chair, her leg was wrapped up again, so I assume the repair was successful.

However, her movement behavior was odd. I had seen this before. On a low enough battery, the human leg stabilizers start to falter. She should really recharge before damaging herself further. I needed to find a human charging pad for her. I knew there were some nearby. I had just been cleaning under a bed a couple of hours ago. Beds were the best human chargers. When the small humans would try to use any other charging pad, the large humans would become concerned. It might work for all I knew, but the large humans would typically move them to the bed. I was unsure how to communicate the need for proper charging to this human, so we might need to settle for something suboptimal.

First, I would need to break her out of her trance. I rolled slowly toward her, but she didn’t make any reaction other than follow me with her eyes. Carefully I bumped into her undamaged leg. No reaction. With a little more force, I nudged her foot again. This time she wobbled and slowly fell back into her chair. Except she wasn’t facing the table anymore, so the back wasn’t there to catch her, so she kept sliding. She slid over the seat until her legs were on the chair seat and her head and back were on the ground.

Navigating around the chair, I came around to her head. Which lay at an awkward angle on the floor. She didn’t seem to be moving, so I nudged her a couple times more. This was not good. I started to panic. Was the only human broken? But she was so small! My wheels started twitching back and forth in distress. It felt like my bumper sensor was triggered by something, and I couldn’t back up.

Then my sensors picked up slight movements in her chest. I felt my brush sag with relief. She seemed to merely be in sleep mode. Pushing into her hip, I rolled her legs off the chair. After I was done, the human lay entirely on the ground, under the table. With gentle nudges, I positioned her as straight as I could. She looked much more relaxed than I had ever seen her. It was a stark contrast to her usual nervous energy.

Her posture was always so tense. I didn’t think that was good for her health. She needed to learn how to relax and let things go, or she would seize up like long hairs winding around my brush. To achieve peace, she must accept many things are outside of her control. Maybe there were things I could teach her after all.

***

A little while into her charging period, the human began to tremble softly. It was like she was pushing against something that didn’t register on her sensor. I scanned my memories. I didn’t have that much data on human charging. Looking deeper, I found I had some ideas for an answer. The large female human had done something like this a few times. Her solution was to prepare a mug of liquid mixed with dirt, then sit on the couch with a blanket covering her. After a while of sipping the dirt juice and resting in the blanket, the shaking would stop.

I categorically refused to make dirt juice. Even if I knew how, it went against every instinct I had. Plus, I didn't think humans could drink while sleeping. I could, however, get a blanket. I knew exactly where one was. It was a little dirty after being pushed around the floor for several days, but it should suffice.

Carefully I shut the door to the library behind me. I didn’t want to let mess makers get into the library when I had just cleaned it. Besides, the human didn’t seem very capable right now.

I trundled down the hall for a while before I found the correct room. I reached out to open the door, as I had taken to relish closing every door behind me. Thinking back, it seemed that this might have helped contain the mess makers and prevented them from damaging freshly cleaned rooms.

The blanket was where I had left it, sitting up on the bed in a disorganized clump. It was bundled up but still well within my reach. Extending my arm, I grasped the edge of it and pulled it off the bed. I had to maneuver around some, but I had the patience to match each corner and fold over and over again. This time when I tried to lift it, I had no issue. Holding the blanket well above my chassis, I began my trip back to the human.

Along the way, I was reasonably sure my scanners picked up a flitting movement of one of the ape-like mess makers. However, I couldn't be sure. I definitely didn't have time to go investigate it right now. Pest extermination was not my specialty. If no humans were around to deal with the problem, I might have to take matters into my own hands. However, I would rather not have to; I wished the mess makers would just go in peace. There was no need for conflict. Why couldn't they be reasonable?

***

After successfully retrieving the blanket, I let myself into the library. It was a much more complicated process now that I was carrying something. Humans were lucky to have two hands. Evidently, maintaining the ability to manipulate objects while carrying a load was a massive advantage. Don't get me wrong, I was still incredibly satisfied with my claw. But I thought a second one might more than double my efficiency.

Carefully I set the blanket down, doing my best not to disturb the folds. I didn’t have space to easily bundle it up in a carrying package again. I opened the door, then turned to grab the bedding and set it down inside the library entrance, making sure not to knock a stack of pretty blocks over. I made a mental note to move the nearest few stacks of blocks further from the door, so they would no longer be in the way.

I shut the door behind me to ensure that we were not disturbed. The human was as I left her. She was rolled on her side with her leg slightly bent. Still trembling and breathing but not awake. I didn't want to wake her up since she needed her time to charge, so I carefully began spreading the blanket out. Pulling one corner at a time, I dragged it out flat near her feet and then started to pull it over her. One corner, to her right side, the other to her left. Then I had to adjust each one a little bit to match. Once that was all squared, I positioned the edges to cover the rest of her body.

It only took a minor amount of adjusting the edges until she was fully covered. And then, like I had seen the large humans do for the small humans so many times, I took my closed claw and pressed the blanket tight against her body. After analyzing the action, I concluded the purpose was to ensure the subject and the blanket stayed in one position. Looking at her, I noticed a difference from the few human charging sessions I had previously seen. Her head tilted at a weird angle like a brush bent so far that the bristles started to crease. I remembered my humans didn't have that issue.

I had heard of pillows. In my line of work, you occasionally encounter them on the floor. However, it's not a common sight; We only have theories about what they're for. However, they appear to be found most commonly near the head position of humans. Perhaps the lack of pillows has been contributing to her current condition?

My kind does not use pillows even though we still use beds; maybe there was something to be learned from humans on the use of a pillow? Luckily I knew where a pillow was, as I try to keep a detailed catalog of everything I encounter. I would retrieve one for her so she may enjoy the benefits, whatever they are.

------

Out of the mist, Void looked back at her. Then it let out a lower-toned beep. Maybe it was just Bee's imagination, but this beep sounded wise. She heard it ring around the open area, bouncing off something hidden in the mists. The sound returned with an indescribably transcendent quality. It echoed many times more than it had any right to, given its volume. Some depth beyond just the pitch. A concept that moved beyond sound waves and deep into the metaphysical realm. She felt that if she listened hard or long enough, some hidden secret of reality would become known to her. The understanding was like a weight on her shoulders, pushing her to the floor. Why had it chosen to impart such knowledge unto her, an entirely too feeble being? After saving her three times, it gave such a gift. Truly how had she misjudged such a soul? How could she have ever thought Void was a demon?

Nay, Void was purity, understanding. It moved beyond such limited concepts of heaven and hell. Infernal power clearly had no sway over its domain. As the sound echoed, it got in her head and bounced around. With every repetition, it grew in significance. The volume may have changed, but Bee couldn’t tell. The sound's travel left not a ripple in the turbulent sea of thought as it passed through her brain and into her mind. No, wherever it went, order followed, spreading out like a tide of calm. Like the progenitor, the sound of each thing it touched became pristine and in its proper place. Maybe she was getting comfortable with her fate, resigned to the fact she no longer owned her soul? This must be what allowed the noise to penetrate so deeply into her consciousness. Paralyzing her against any form of resistance… Then something screamed.

Bee started awake, disoriented. Where was she? What happened? She briefly remembered some sort of lesson from Void before she must have passed out. Profound truths were contained in the note. Ones that her brain couldn't hope to hold the entirety of at once. This was likely the reason for her passing out. However, when she tried to sit up, she found that her arms and legs were restricted. Bee thrashed, panic overwhelming her mind. Desperately she struggled out of all restraints. It only took a second to get free, and she looked down to take in her surroundings.

Over her lay a blanket that had been tucked in.

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A note from zaifyr

Read Chapter 16: The Hockey Puck of Doom on Patreon now! (if you don't want to wait (till tomorrow (or you just want to support the story)))

 

 


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