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Souvenir

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The shirt lay folded on the corner chair in the Argument Lounge. I stared at it from across the lounge.

ART, I sent through the feed. Why did you let Turi put their shirt in the lounge?

It’s not their shirt. ART sounded, as always, smug and sarcastic. But even I had to admit that it also sounded… gleeful. It had been practically bouncing (ebullient, it had corrected me. Whatever that means. It’s been trying to teach me words recently.) when I started up after my last recharge cycle, and had refused to leave me alone or to watch the next season of Lagoon of Shine with me until I went to the lounge. The lounge with Turi’s stray laundry lying around, which normally would make ART threaten to recycle their whole wardrobe.

Through my drones, I could see and hear the rest of ART’s crew bustling about, everyone chattering about their exciting trip planet-side. Iris was talking with Seth over the feed, turning and pushing her latest acquisition to make it fit in her closet. (It was absolutely not going to fit in her closet. It barely fit in her room. I think it was an inflatable chair of some kind, but I didn’t care enough to look closer.) Turi was in the mess, pulling out some floppy green vegetable thing from a bag and setting it on a cutting board. Everyone had come back to the ship while I had been in recharge, having decided that visiting a familiar city on a familiar planet where the security was slightly above average for PUoMaNT planets didn’t need me to be present or awake. Clearly, I was right.

I approached the shirt from the side. ART was practically buzzing in my feed, a new surge of attention coming my way every time I took a step towards the chair. It was so excited about Turi leaving their laundry outside of their room, but the smug focus on me made me think I had to be missing something. ART was practically towering over me in the feed by the time I stood directly in front of the shirt, and it let me stare at it for a generous 3 seconds before prompting me, Aren’t you going to pick it up?

I’m not going to pick up Turi’s laundry. That’s not part of my contract. I made sure of that. I could hear ART getting impatient. What was I missing? Why was ART so excited about Turi’s laundry?
I told you, it’s not Turi’s. It started to send me more word definitions, this time for words I knew I knew- gift, present, boon, swag. Okay, maybe not that last one. I dismissed the word definitions and picked up the shirt by the shoulders, letting it unfold and dangle from my fingers. Staring at the shirt, I could see the design that had been obscured by the folds.

An artistic depiction of a purple planet, partially covered by flowery, swirling script labeling it The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon. And the shirt had long sleeves, like all the shirts I wore around the ship. Everything suddenly crystallized, and I could dimly feel ART radiating sarcastic smugness at me as it noticed my focus on the shirt. It was soft.

I wanted to sit down for some reason. Turi was now pulling leaves off of the floppy thing they’d brought aboard, singing along to music ART was playing for them off of the feed. Iris had figured out she wasn’t going to fit the chair in her quarters, and was bouncing it down the hallway to find another place to put it. Seth and Martyn were talking to ART, double-checking the inventory of their new supplies. The whole crew and ART were happily bustling along like it was normal to just give me things. The only things I had were the comm-unit, 45 drones (shared with ART), my dark blue hooded jacket, my black pants with the sealable pockets, and the adjustable boots I rarely took off. And now, apparently, a Sanctuary Moon shirt.

Do they expect me to wear it? I sent to ART, baffled. It just sent me a shrug back, colored by overwhelming smug pleasure. I didn’t know if I wanted to wear it. It was a really nice shirt. Would Turi be upset if I didn’t wear the shirt they got me? I didn’t know that either.

It reminded me of episode 46 of Sanctuary Moon, when two characters were standing outside their new home, looking up at a moon rising through a cloud of colorful smoke from a nearby festival. One of them had injured their leg in the last arc, and was leaning on their partner, arm around their waist. It was a great scene, but not one that I revisited often. The shirt had that same billow of purple smoke shading the moon to something unfamiliar, but very Sanctuary Moon. I wanted to confirm with ART that this was intended for me, but I knew that it would just be sarcastic at me, and I didn’t want to feel even more like an idiot.

So instead, I scrunched the shirt back up in my hands and walked fast back to my room, ART gloating in my feed the whole way. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any humans and successfully ducked into my room. I laid the shirt out on the bed that I didn’t sleep on. The bed that I didn’t sleep on, but no one objected to or even considered suggesting that I might not need it.

ART poked me in the feed, queuing up Lagoon of Shine and definitely taking pictures of my face, like an asshole. My face, in my room on ART, where it wanted me there, and the humans did things like give me soft shirts with images from my favorite media on them.

I dismissed the episode of Lagoon of Shine and queued up episode 46 of Sanctuary Moon instead. ART accepted the episode, still far too pleased with itself, and finally settled into our shared feed space.