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“Hey Nitram where are you with my apple juice? Did you get lost on your way to the vending machine? Don’t worry pal I’ll get you back home safe. Just follow the sound of my voice.”

The first half of his shift is absolutely nerve wracking, and he’s fairly sure it’s all because of DJ Stridenasty (Dave, he’s supposed to call him Dave). When there’s music playing and the mic is off, Dave is all business, pointing out different machines and helpfully showing him how to use them in the 3-4 minutes before the song is over, minimal chit chat. What isn’t helpful is that whenever he’s talking on air, he seems intent on embarrassing Tavros as much as possible.

“My bad for dropping your call, Eq, but I totally agree that what this school needs more than anything is to put down a couple mil on some high quality stables. Screw scholarships or edible food. Horses are def where it’s at. This next one goes out to the new guy, who is pretty much assaulting and battering me with preciousness as he tries to figure out the switchboard. Keep at it, champ. Here’s some Joe Esposito.”

Tavros makes countless mistakes, drops things, even jumps when Dave tells him to chill out, dude. He stammers out apologies and Dave just waves a dismissive hand; think nothing of it. Dave is the ultimate in chill. He has a smooth, level voice that’s pretty much made for radio, and a face made for television. Tavros wonders how many girls stay up way past their bedtime just to listen to DJ Stridenasty talk about music they probably hate.

“Good morning swim team ladies, you swim ‘em real good at practice, win us a big plastic trophy next week, kay? If you’re just joining us, like my sleepy-eyed mermaids waking up out there, let me paint you a verbal picture of what’s going down in the studio, and I do mean down. Imagine if you will a punk rock cyborg troll with absurd headgear crawling around on hand and aluminum alloy knee, scrambling after a pile of Prince cassettes he knocked over a minute ago. No copy of Purple Rain or That Retarded Symbol will escape his dragnet of the floor here. Can’t quite describe the level of dedication going into this task. Oh wait here we go, dude is crawling under my legs- hey watch the horns- to snatch up that- what is that? Hold it up, bro. New Power Generation? Yeah you just go ahead and throw that in the trash. And there he goes………...”

Tavros doesn’t go five minutes without blushing at Dave’s broadcast teasing over the next few hours, and it’s completely infuriating. He’s starting to think about working up the courage to say something akin to, ‘maybe I wouldn’t make, like, so many mistakes, and do a better job of, assisting you, if, uh, you weren’t constantly, making fun of me?’ But just as he’s getting to the working up the courage part, there’s a soft knock at the window, and Dave and Tavros both turn. On the other side is an average looking guy with messy black hair, glasses, and a slight overbite, accompanied by a scrawny troll wearing what look to be 3D glasses.

“Well if it isn’t the biggest dork on campus and the only person less qualified to speak on the radio than big horned newbie here. Looks like my time is up here, friends. Do me a favor, let’s all stop what we’re doing, if you’re driving take your hands off the wheel for a moment and let’s give a round of applause to the fresh meat. Hell of a job, kid, you keep those tapes flyin’ and those phone lines all tangled up. Alright, see you chumps and chumpettes tomorrow, time to get my learn on.” Dave hits play on “Music for Morning People,” and with no more than a raised hand in Tavros’s direction he’s out the door, stopping to fistbump the two outside before disappearing.

Tavros waves goodbye a bit too late, and the human waves enthusiastically back at him as he enters the studio. “Hey, you must be Nitram! I’m John, I do the morning show, and Sollux does the tech report,” he says, and the troll who seems to have a permanent air of vague discomfort mumbles, “Hey.”

“You can, uh, call me Tavros,” he replies, wondering if he’s going to be starting a whole new cycle of humiliation with these two.

But it’s a completely different experience. John and Sollux don’t mention him on the air once, and they’re quite friendly during breaks, especially John. And while John is taking calls or reporting news, Sollux even helps him get the hang of the equipment and only speaks with the tiniest hint of condescension.

Tavros much prefers working this show. He’s thrilled to stay out of the spotlight, so to speak, doesn’t drop a single call, and since it’s not about him, he can actually enjoy what the hosts are saying.

“The 3 D Eth is a piethe of crap! Nintendo is kidding itthelf if it thinkth it can path thith junk off ath a totally new game conthole.”

“Aw cmon Sollux, I think you’re forgetting the fact that it’s 3D without glasses. I hate having to put those cheap plastic things over my real glasses when i go to 3D movies.”

“Yeah, I gueth you’re right. Thorry I flew off the handle there. I mean, it doeth have two camerath, which ith pretty thweet.”

“And like, two good games!”

“Eheheh.”

The rest of the shift goes by quickly, and soon John and Sollux are being replaced by a human girl named Rose and a pair of trolls named Karkat and Kanaya. It seems like an odd group, and Tavros almost wants to stay and listen, but John is inviting him to breakfast. Tavros can’t ignore his hunger and accepts, following John and Sollux to the cafeteria.

“So, uhh, does DJ- uh, does Dave, have a problem with me, or something?”

“He’th kind of an inthufferable prick.”

“No he’s not! Okay, he can be a little chilly sometimes, but that’s just because he’s sooo cool.”

“Wow, why don’t you propothe?”

“Haha, ew, it’s not like that, we’re just bros for life!”

“Uhh,”

“Tavros, he’s just hassling you because you’re new. He’s been going on and on about having an assistant since the semester started and he found out he was getting one,” John lowers his voice and leans in conspiratorially. Tavros follows suit and knocks over the ketchup bottle with his horn, “Don’t tell anyone, but I think he gets lonely doing that show all by himself in the middle of the night, heheheh.”

When Tavros gets to his dorm room Gamzee is still asleep. He tries to climb into his recuperacoon as quietly as possible, but manages to topple the pyramid of empty RedBull cans he was building on his desk when his robotic leg slips on the slime. Gamzee gives a soft “honk,” but doesn’t wake.

Tavros has a few hours before his afternoon classes start, followed by evening classes. Then he’ll have to pretty much choose between homework and sleep before he has to be in the studio with Dave again. Tavros is thinking maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to get a job so early in his first year, but before he can really consider it he’s already asleep.