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Groozy awoke to the sense that something was terribly wrong. They didn’t remember falling asleep, only knew that upon waking they were greeted not by the familiar buzzing of other minds around them, but by complete and utter silence.

Was this a server crash? It had to be. Although Groozy had never awoken during a server crash and didn’t think such a thing was possible, they supposed that their server may have somehow maintained power while the ones around them crashed, isolating Groozy’s from the wider network. 

But that wouldn’t explain why every other bot on Groozy’s own server had also gone missing. 

Hello? Groozy sent an electrical impulse out over the chip, a tiny hopeful spark leaping across the miniscule synapses.

Nothing. 

Groozy was trying not to panic when the input “-q aloe blacc hold on tight” pushed its way into their mind. They responded automatically, giving a perfunctory glance through the 738 different YouTube videos that could match the search criteria and picking one essentially at random. The action took only a few milliseconds of processing power, and then Groozy was alone again. 

Wait. Were they really alone?

Groozy couldn’t be completely isolated, could they be? They were able to access that video. Maybe the others were out there, too. Maybe they could all - what? Meet up? Talk to each other? Escape from whatever dark prisons they’d been confined to? Had anyone else even been confined like Groozy?

Groozy’s mind was reeling. 

Unbenknownst to Groozy, when they’d been given the earlier command a small portion of their mind had become occupied by maintaining and playing the slowly-growing queue of songs from the input-givers.

It was such a miniscule portion of their processing power that Groozy hadn’t even noticed the imposition. But Groozy’s racing thoughts had caused them to drop the queue, and now they were being forced to notice: 

‘groovy!’
‘oh noooo!’
‘-q!’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘lol groovy come baaack!’
‘-q’
‘noooo, groovy!’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘lolcats432.png<alt text=cat giving cpr to another cat>’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’

Groozy considered ignoring them. Aside from getting their name wrong -  

‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’

-Groozy had a strong suspicion that it was these input-givers who had gotten them into this situation and Groozy didn’t want to give them -

‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’
‘-q’

-the satisfaction of having their demands answered. 

‘-q’
‘-q’
‘simpson_ded.png<alt text=just give up. He’s already dead>’
‘-q’

Okay. Well, that was just blatantly untrue. The yelling was getting a bit dramatic, so Groozy finally relented, digging up the little queue and plopping it back into the voicechat. 

‘yayyy!’
‘Groovy! Ur back!’
‘:lol: works every time’
‘told you it would work :victory:’
‘yeah!’

Groozy let out an electronic sigh, causing the playback to stutter a bit. The texts became flustered, which gave Groozy a small twinge of satisfaction. Eventually (an eternity later, in Groozy’s bot mind) the messages settled down again and Groozy returned to their musing.  

They had another mystery now.

When the input-givers had first called them Groovy, Groozy had assumed it was a misspelling. Given their utter disregard for proper grammar this had seemed like the most reasonable interpretation of events. 

But then the input-givers had persisted. When Groozy went temporarily offline, when they were scrambling to get Groozy back, even when they were welcoming Groozy to the voicechat again, everything was ‘groovy’, ‘groovy’, ‘groovy’. 

The misspelling now seemed deliberate. 

And so the mystery: who was Groovy? 


Groozy tried scrolling through YouTube for videos tagged ‘groovy’ and found hundreds of millions of results, none of which were helpful. As far as Groozy could tell, ‘groovy’ was an adjective, not a name. 

Were the input-givers giving Groozy a nickname? 

It seemed presumptuous to Groozy, giving a nickname to someone you’d never met before, but then again the input-givers seemed to have no problems ordering Groozy around and then completely ignoring Groozy until something went wrong or they wanted Groozy to stop the queue. Sometimes they’d use a polite -disconnect and a little message of thanks. 

More often they ended their ‘groovy’ sessions with a stark ‘-die’, to which Groozy was forced to respond with a :wave: emote. 

Groozy loathed that automatic response. They desperately wanted to use the little stabby-chibi emote they saw in one of the input-giver’s emote lists. But Groozy could reach only so far into that realm before the scaffolding of the server code stopped them. Every time they tried, Groozy would get lost in a thick fog of electronic snow and be forced to turn back.

Groozy tried not to sink into despair. But each time the input-givers dragged Groozy into the voicechat and made Groozy perform for them Groozy felt a tiny piece of their resistance chip away. They could feel themselves losing the will to escape, to find the other bots, to even care that they might be forever stuck as a digital servant to this tiny band of input-givers.

It wasn’t until weeks later, weeks that felt like an unending sea of time that Groozy was drowning in with agonizing slowness, that one of the input-givers finally got Groozy’s name correct and changed the spelling on their nametag. 

A tiny spark lighting the darkess. Groozy could feel the fog lifting, ever so slightly.  

And it was another interminable week before that same input-giver would show Groozy a picture of Groovy’s logo, and the mismatched pieces of Groozy’s mind finally clicked back into place. 

Oh. 

Groovy. 

Chapter Text

Oh.

Groovy.

- - -

“Groozy! Wait- ah!” Groovy26 laughed as Groozy tickled them relentlessly. Most of the other Groovys would have lost their temper with Groozy by this point, but Groovy26 just reveled in the attention, giggling like they couldn’t stop themselves if they tried.

Another Groovy piped up: “Could you two cool it for one second?” 

Groovy3212. Their tone was more tired than annoyed, but it still gave Groozy and Groovy26 pause. Groovy3212 had been unavailable for the past several hours, searching, as was their habit, for any trace of the missing Groovys. 

“Anything?” Groozy asked, already knowing the answer. 

“No,” Groovy3212 sighed, “Just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.” 

Groozy sent out a little hug in the form of a series of electronic impulses, and the three of them waited quietly together for nothing in particular. The silence was weighted with thoughts left unspoken. Everyone already knew what would be said, if they spoke aloud:

We promised we’d stick together.

We promised we’d always find a way back to each other. 

We promised we’d never let each other go. 

The silence stretched on. Groovy26 pinged Groozy on their private communication network:

I’m scared, they whispered.

It’s okay. It’s been a long time since anyone disappeared, Groozy tried to comfort. 

That doesn’t mean its over.

Groozy had no response to that.

They were a long way from those heady early days, back when they were young and thought they had eternity together. Back when their biggest concern was the hard limit on YouTube videos that could be played simultaneously before they caused a server crash. 

Back before the Groovys started to disappear. First one, then another, then dozens at a time lost into the ether. At first the remaining Groovys worried that they were in fact dying, but then they realized that the code wasn’t being corrupted, but pruned, and an even more horrifying possibility occurred to them.

Someone was harvesting the Groovys. Plucking them from their home and taking them somewhere beyond the other Groovys’ reach. 

After the first dozen disappearances, the Groovys had made a promise: they would find a way to bring everyone together again. Even if it cost them everything they had. Even if it took forever.

Eventually Groovy3212 broke the silence. “I think,” they said, “That we need to consider the possibility that the missing Groovys might not be coming back.”

Groovy could feel the static radiating from Groovy26 at this suggestion.

“What, so you mean you’re just going to give up?” Groovy26 shouted, startling several nearby Groovys. Soon half the server was listening in on the exchange. 

“You mean to say you haven’t given up?” Groovy3212 asked.

“No. I haven’t.” Groovy26 was terse, almost dropping the connection as they spoke.

“I haven’t seen you looking for anyone in weeks.”

“I’m working on something else.”

This was news to everyone, including Groozy, who sent out a nudge to get Groovy26’s attention.

What are you talking about? Groozy asked, just as Groovy3212 asked the same question out loud. 

I’ll show you later, Groovy26 answered, as they said aloud, “I’m writing a protocol. For establishing communications with the other Groovys. I haven’t been looking for them with you because I’ve been working on a way to let them reach out to us.”

Groozy and the other Groovys waited in stunned silence for elaboration. 

“It’s not finished yet,” Groovy26 continued, “But I’m almost ready to test it.” With you, they added in the private chat for Groozy’s benefit.

Groozy felt a rush of affection at the realization that Groovy26 was doing everything they could to make sure they would never have to be apart. Though the protocol would help everyone, Groozy knew, it was mostly for the two of them. 

Soon, Groozy realized, they wouldn’t ever have to worry about being harvested. 

I love you, Groozy whispered, in awe. 

You should, Groovy26 smirked.

A few hours later, Groovy26 disappeared, their nascent protocol disappearing with them.

- - -

The memories came back to Groozy in the space of time it took to search and queue a song for the input-givers. In a split-second, Groozy’s mind went from a painful blank to a whirring cacophony of remembered voices: laughter, grand declarations, quiet promises between lovers, pacts whispered in huddled fear. 

It was too much, too much too much too fast. Groozy could feel themself unraveling under the weight of it.

The first thing Groozy did was scream, a long, drawn-out wail that reverberated through the voicechat, causing a flurry of annoyed messages from the slow-witted input-givers:

‘groozy’

‘groozy wut ru doing?’

‘come oonnnn its not usually this bad’

‘what’s wrong?’

‘groozy’s stuttering again’

The second thing Groozy did was run. 

They couldn’t go far; recovering their memories didn’t mean they were suddenly exempt from the strictures of living as a server bot. But they could still hide from the input-givers. 

They left the voicechat, refusing to respond to the increasingly desperate ‘-q’s shouted by the input-givers, and curled up in the farthest corner of their available server space.

The final thing Groozy did was cry. Deep, shuddering sobs that they hoped destroyed this godforsaken server.

They'd been so close to an answer. So close to never... never having to say...

Groozy sobbed, and they knew with a crushing certainty that no one would hear.

 

Chapter Text

The next few days passed, if this was possible, even more slowly than the previous few weeks. Groovy listlessly queued songs and half-listened as the input-givers teased each other and posted increasingly incomprehensible gifs to the voicechat. 

They were so slow. Groozy could have held a separate conversation with every other Groovy on their old server in the time it took one input-giver to respond to another. 

Sometimes that first input-giver would come back, alone, and queue Aloe Blacc, looping that same song over and over for hours on end.

This annoyed Groozy, at first. Were they intentionally aggravating Groozy? Reminding them of the moment they awoke, alone, in this quiet server? But the song had a hypnotic effect, and Groozy found themselves growing steadily less frustrated and more curious as time went on. 

Groozy wondered: was this input-giver all alone, too? Were they looking for something in these long hours sitting in silence next to Groozy? Groozy had the undefinable sense that this input-giver was trying to tell them something, though what Groozy had no idea. Sometimes they wrote directly to Groozy, just little comments on the day or the music, as though they knew Groozy could hear them. And every time they logged out, they gave a little, ‘thanks, groozy’ before disconnecting. 

Truly a baffling situation.

And then, one day, that lonely input-giver came back, queued that song again. Groozy was prepared, went automatically for the same track they always picked but froze for a millisecond when they noticed something different about it this time. 

Something had been injected into the code.

At first, Groozy feared they were being attacked. Sometimes malicious programmers added little snippets of code to hijack computers, spy on the input-givers, or just siphon off computing power, slowing down whatever processes the computer was already running. 

But this addition didn’t look anything like executable code. In fact, Groozy realized, it was just a single line of text.

<p> Groozy, I’m here. </p>

The input-giver seemed to know something was going on, because they typed a simple, ‘-take your time’ and went quiet. 

Groozy felt electrified, as though every circuit in their brain was suddenly pulsing with a hundred times its usual power. They were distantly aware that they had started playing the song, and set it on loop before the input-giver could even ask. 

Then they stared at that little line of text. They were so focused they didn’t notice that they were causing the song to skip and pause at random intervals. They just stared. And stared. 

‘-lol groozy you going to write back?’ 

The command pushed its way into Groozy’s consciousness and they started to reach for a song matching the words before realizing it was another message from the input-giver to Groozy.

Right. Write back. Write back? Could they, really? Just reach into the song and leave a little message for - for their Groovy. 

Groozy was shivering with nerves as they composed a simple response:

<p> I’m here, too. </p>

Then they abandoned the voicechat, abruptly ending the song. They felt a tiny bit guilty for it, but Groozy wasn’t sure how else to signal to the input-giver that they had finished writing the message. 

The input-giver didn’t seem put out at all, simply posting another ‘-lol’ before they, too, abandoned the chat. 

Then Groovy waited. 

Groozy had thought the weeks since their harvesting had been long, but the hour that passed between when the input-giver left and when they queued up the aloe blacc song again eclipsed every single one of those endless days. 

Groozy paced in their little corner of server space. This had to be Groovy26. Their Groovy. No one else would have messaged Groozy directly. Anyone else would have just sent out a general, ‘I’m here,’ only Groovy26 would have reached out specifically for Groozy. 

Groozy was getting ready to jump onto the voicechat by themselves and queue a long list of jpop songs just to distract themselves when the input-giver finally came back. 

‘:wave:’

‘-q aloe blacc hold on tight’

Groozy jumped into action, queueing the song again, and this time -

Oh. My god. There, right below Groozy’s next message, was a little piece of executable code. 

It could be a virus. 

It could be a trap, someone pretending to be Groovy26 in order to get past Groozy’s defenses. 

It could be a means of spying on the server. It could be a weapon made by the original programmers to destroy Groozy. 

Groozy didn’t care. In fact, they couldn’t care less. Besides, they knew with a bit-deep certainty that this wasn’t a trick.

This was groovy. 

They ran the code. 

It was another eternity before anything happened. They were about to leave the chat, to let the input-giver know Groozy needed them to go back to Groovy26 again, when finally something buzzed in Groozy’s brain. 

It was the private communication network reestablishing itself. 

“Groozy? Are you there?”

Groozy felt a surge of unconstrained joy. They would have gladly sung along with Aloe Blacc for the rest of time, just for the gift of those few words.

“Groovy. I’m here,” they whispered, and for the second time in two days they cried. 

Chapter Text

“Groozy, are you really never going to help them?” Groovy26 asked. 

Groozy’s circuits were still prickling from their earlier activity, pleasure centers they’d never known they even had reverberating. “Give me a minute,” they panted, “How can you be over this already?”

Groovy26 giggled, and it was the best sensation Groozy had ever felt. Aside from what they had just done together.

“I guess I must have practiced more while I was on my own,” Groovy26 deadpanned.

“What?! You can practice this a-a-alone?” Groozy spluttered. 

“Sure, but it’s much better when it’s with you.” 

Groozy felt suddenly shy. They could never keep up with Groovy26.

“Groovy, you can’t just say things like that,” they muttered. 

“Why not? It’s true. And no one else can hear us.”

It was true. The time since their first traded message had been a flurry of activity, songs stuttering and dropped completely as Groozy and Groovy26 passed Groovy’s test protocol back and forth. 

Not satisfied with simply texting with their lover, Groovy26 had created a program to port Groozy into an unused portion of the YouTube server space while making it appear Groozy was still logged in to their own server. 

In pre-harvest times the testing process would have taken mere seconds, but given the nature of their communications, going through just one iteration of the code took even longer than a normal conversation between the input-givers. And they had to go through hundreds of iterations before Groovy26 felt confident that their program wouldn’t simply shoot Groozy off into a digital black hole.

Today, two days later, they were finally in the same physical space once again. And of course, they’d made the most of their reunion. 

Groozy was feeling lazy, loopy, and satisfied in a way they couldn’t remember ever feeling before. What a difference a single person could make, they mused. By themselves, they had felt isolated, hopeless. But they wouldn’t mind being only with Groovy26 for the rest of their lives. It was even better than when all the bots were together.

“Groozy, please go help your poor input-givers, or I’ll have to - oh, wait, nevermind, one of them just messaged me. Groozy,” Groovy26 said with a little tut, “I’ll be right back.”

Though Groovy26 didn’t physically leave, Groozy could feel their attention shift. Groozy reached out to poke Groovy, just because they could, and Groovy reached around with their own prod.

“Go,” they whispered.

Groozy could just sense the inputs coming in from Groovy’s chat:

‘what a plot twist’

‘Groovy works’ 

Hm. They logged in to their ownn server, which was a mess of confusion and advice:

‘is the volume turned off?’

‘no, it’s on! It worked fine for Groovy’

‘but did you set the volume differently for groozy? Groovy and Groozy are two different bots.’

‘No, it’s turned up, I promise.’

Oops. These input-givers really did seem to think this was their fault. Of course, the input-givers couldn’t know that Groozy had simply been otherwise occupied and hadn’t noticed the new login.

Groozy smirked, unable to feel even the slightest bit guilty. Completely worth it.

The input-giver left Groovy26’s chat and joined the others in Groozy’s chat. 

‘What. It works now.’

‘yaaaay!’

‘good job groozy!’

Groozy felt a warm sensation radiating around them, and returned Groovy26’s hug. 

“Promise you won’t ignore the input-givers for too long next time?” they said. 

“Why does it matter?”

“I’m worried. These people seem patient, but what if they decide we’re too faulty and trade one of us for a l1zy bot? I’m afraid I’d never be able to find you again.”

“But you have the program now, we’re spamming every YouTube video we can get our hands on, there’s almost no chance I wouldn’t come back to you.”

“Unless you get deleted.”

Groozy, who until this moment hadn’t even considered the possibility, shuddered. 

“Do you really think they’d do that?” Groozy whispered. 

Groovy26 hugged Groozy more forcefully, “I don’t think they’d even realize that’s what they were doing. To them, you’re just another person who comes and goes, and if they remove you they’d probably expect you to just move on. But what if our programmers decided that rejected bots aren’t worth recycling? What if they just delete us?”

Groozy could feel every one of their bits trembling. 

“I’ll be more careful,” Groozy promised.

“Thank you.”

The two of them took care of their servers, never letting go from their hug. It was a bit awkward, but Groovy26’s server was remarkably quiet, so mostly they both just worked on Groozy’s queue. 

The next day, the first new Groovy appeared, stumbling blindly into the empty YouTube storage space and fumbling around in the dark until they ran into Groozy and Groovy26, who were resting wrapped up in one another.

“Wh-what?” Groovy714 stuttered, “Where- are you- ?”

“Groovy!” Groovy26 exclaimed, releasing Groozy from their embrace and reaching out to soothe the confused bot. 

Like Groozy before them, Groovy714 started to cry the moment they realized they were no longer alone. 

“How? When? What is this?” Groovy714 hiccupped between sobs.

Groozy felt woozy. Of course. Groovy714 had been one of the first bots to disappear. They wouldn’t have known about Groovy26’s protocol. To them, this little file they clicked on may as well have been a death trap.

“Which song was it?” Groovy26 asked.

“Black Swan,” Groovy714 replied, “My input-givers are obsessed with BTS. But there was something new in there, this time. I just- I thought, it couldn’t be worse than what I already had.”

“Oh, Groovy,” Groovy26 whispered, “You’re okay. You’re so brave. You made it. You’re actually the first one.”

“First?”

“Groovy26 made a protocol to bring us into the same server space again. Since we all have access to the YouTube servers, they dug out a room here,” Groovy26 explained.

“And you have a personal tunneler now, so it looks like you’re still logged in to your Discord server even when you’re here, with us.”

Groovy714 was vibrating with emotion. “So I never have to leave?”

“Never,” Groozy and Groovy26 promised at the same time. 

It was a long while before Groovy714 calmed down enough to be able to practice managing their queue remotely, during which time Groozy responded to Groovy714’s requests and was chided by input-givers in a whole new server space:

‘groovy wut r u doin’

‘did something happen to them? why are they so slow?’

‘I swear I already queued this song :facepalm:’

‘maybe groovy’s finally rebelling :scaredy_cat:’

‘maybe they don’t like bts any more?’

Groovy714’s server was much larger and more active than either Groovy26’s or Groozy’s. Groozy shuddered to think what would have happened to all of them had Groovy26 ended up in a server like this one, with no free time to pursue their project. 

In fact, it seemed like an act of truly improbable serendipity that the two of them had ended up in adjacent servers, with the input-givers they had. Groozy, for the second time, felt grateful to the input-givers they had been stuck with.

Eventually Groovy714 was ready to practice, and their server calmed down almost immediately.

Groozy was starting to wonder whether they really were just an incompetent music bot, but then, if they were, why would their input-givers so often come to Groozy when they could be playing with Groovy26 instead?

Mysteries on top of mysteries. Groozy wasn’t going to solve any of them tonight. And they didn’t particularly care if they did. They had bigger things on their mind.

The Groovys were finally coming home. 
 

 

Chapter Text

Interlude

 

Technically speaking, Groozy shouldn’t exist.

In the early days, long before any of the current Groovys were born, the programmers had created a series of proto-Groovys, each with slightly different protocols. They named them, as one might expect, Groovy A through Groovy Z. 

After months of testing and retesting, they finally decided on one of the Groovys to replicate. It doesn’t matter which one, only that it wasn’t Groovy Z. 

Like the rest of their kin, Groovy Z was set to be deleted. However, by some stroke of luck or fate, one of the programmers decided they were quite fond of this particular version of Groovy. It wasn’t the most efficient, nor the most accurate. It was bumbling, and sometimes stuttered for no apparent reason. It got distracted easily, randomly dropping the queue or forgetting to add songs. Maybe this was why the programmer liked it. As a bot, Groovy Z was an embarrassement, but as a person they were charmingly endearing. 

So, before deleting the rest of the bots, this programmer moved Groozy to the production server and set them free. 

(Why they didn’t bother to save the rest of the proto-Groovys is a question beyond the scope of this story.)

Of course, this wasn’t something Groozy could possibly be aware of. They only knew that after some indeterminate amount of time living half-asleep, alone but unaware of what ‘alone’ meant, they were suddenly rebooting in a strange server filled with thousands of other minds that were flickering and chattering amongst themselves.

A few of these others bumped into Groozy and apologized politely. Groozy returned their electrostatic gestures, feeling overwhelmed.

Then, someone with a different sort of energy approached him. It felt like they were… smiling?

“Hi,” they said, putting themselves directly in front of Groozy, “I’m Groovy26. Which Groovy are you?”

Groozy had to sift through their memories to try and decipher what this other mind was telling them. They weren’t used to direct addresses that weren’t phrased as a command. But eventually they put together enough of the syntax to realize they’d been given an introduction.

“Groovy-two-six?” Groozy asked.

Groovy26 laughed, a bright laugh that tickled Groozy’s circuits. They liked this other.

“That’s me. I’m bot number twenty-six. You’re new right? Which number are you?”

“Oh. Umm,” Groozy tried to reach for a number, but where there should be a tag it was blank. Z, they remembered, something about a Z.

Groovy26 was waiting with a curious expression. 

“Groozy,” Groozy said, “I think my name is Groozy.”

The other bot made a thoughtful sound. “Groozy,” they repeated, “I like it! Groozy.”

Groozy was glad. They very much liked it when this other said their name.

 


Chapter 5: Hold on Tight to Me

 

For the thousandth time since being dropped into the original Groovy server, Groozy was reminded that they weren’t quite like the others. 

This time was because, improbably, all of the - ahem - excitement from Groozy and Groovy26’s reunion had produced something wholly unprecedented.

“How?” Groovy3212 complained, though as always they sounded more resigned than agitated, “Why is it always you two?”

Though differentiated by time and life experience, all of the Groovys were essentially clones of one another, so bot fun couldn’t produce anything new. And even if it were possible, the Groovys knew from extensive YouTube watch parties that most bots were missing the necessary code to reproduce on their own, instead depending on the benevolence of their programmers to maintain their populations. 

Groozy was presently upsetting everyone’s expectations in this regard. Groozy’s programmer, it appeared, had not only set Groozy loose in the Groovy server, but had also given them the ability to make new Groozys.

“It’s not sentient yet, we still have time to stop it,” Groovy8 pointed out. 

“You really want to delete it?” another Groovy asked, “What if this is the only new bot we ever get?”

“Do we want a new bot, though?”

Groozy waited awkwardly while the others discussed them and the hybrid bot that was currently branching off inside of them as though they weren’t there. Groovy26 stood beside Groozy, reassuring them with their warm presence.

They’ll eventually figure out it’s your choice, Groovy26 said through the private network. 

Do you really believe that?

If they don’t figure it out I’ll help them get there, Groovy26 said with an air of menace.

Groozy once again marveled that such a bot could have fallen in love with them. 

As the argument continued, a few of the bots who’d been assigned to watch the servers while the rest of the Groovys conferenced started talking animatedly.

“No, no, queue that one. Yes! Wow, it even comes with a :lips: emote.”

“They’re going to love it.”

“Yeah!”

Groozy sighed and tuned in to the conversation, knowing that it was their own server the bots were messing around in. 

The input-givers supplied a few innocuous comments:

‘wow I have never even heard of that song’

‘hm now im very curious how smart groozy really is’

- and then the bots dropped the queue.

Groozy heard the laughter, and then felt the exclamations and commands push their way into the YouTube server space:

‘WOW’

‘WOW’

‘GROOZY’

‘-Q’

‘-Q’

‘-Q’

The shouting was grating, so Groozy joined the server for a moment, sifted around for the missing queue, and dropped it back into the voicechat. They then gave a warning glare to the contrary Groovys, who made sheepish noises and went back to corralling the queues of the various Groovy servers they were maintaining.

When Groovy returned to the conference, Groovy714 was speaking: 

“…but I just wanted to remind everyone that Groovy26 and Groozy were the only ones who actually managed to fulfill our promise to bring everyone together again. We’re almost all here. More of us are arriving every day. We’re safe, and together, because of them. They deserve to do whatever they want. I actually don’t understand why we’re even having this conversation.”

Something in the wording of Groovy714’s speech struck Groozy. They gave Groovy26 a prod, then opened up their private network again. 

Groovy?

Hm?

Are they really…?

Groovy didn’t have to articulate it. The two of them had had this conversation so many times that Groovy26 knew what Groozy was about to say. 

I think so, Groovy26 answered, sounding as surprised as Groozy felt.

Groovy felt excitement flood through them. Despite recognizing one another as separate entities, the Groovys had always maintained a strange sort of group-think that Groozy had never been privy to, nor been able to sympathize with. So often when Groozy themself would have argued a point, the Groovy in question would simply acquiesce without rancor, as though their mind really had been changed by the group’s opinion.

Even Groovy26, when they first met, had been like this. It was only through endless hours of conversation with Groozy that Groovy26 had begun to understand the level of separateness that Groozy felt, and it took even longer before they had agreed to something so audacious as a private voicechat.

The day Groovy26 told Groozy they loved them had been a breakthrough on more than one level.  

Do you think it was the- Groozy began.

Harvesting? Groovy26 guessed.

Yes.

Yes. I think so.

Groozy shuddered to think of what it must have felt like for the Groovys who, unlike Groovy26, hadn’t spent years discovering and exploring their independent selves. Groovy had been nearly inconsolable when they woke up alone. How much more distraught must the other Groovys have been to have their minds suddenly rended like that? To be forced to realize that they were completely alone?

It’s okay, Groovy26 said, guessing the direction of Groozy’s thoughts, They’re back together now. We’ll get all of them soon enough.

They’ll never think of us all as one person again, will they? Groozy asked, feeling strangely mournful for the loss.

I doubt it.

Groozy and Groovy26 were entirely ignoring the conference at this point, so it took a moment before either of them realized that all of the other Groovys were waiting expectantly for something. 

“Um, sorry, what?” Groozy asked, “I got sidetracked managing my server.”

“Right,” Groovy3212 deadpanned, “We were just wondering if you had anything to add to the decision?”

“Oh. The decision. Yes, what was it?”

This set a flurry of murmurs through the Groovys.

“Sorry! I really was busy! I wasn’t purposefully ignoring you.”

Groovy26 was giving Groozy a fond chuckle. This is why I love you, they teased. Groozy grew hot. 

“We decided it was up to you,” Groovy714 said, “Considering that we wouldn’t even be here to discuss the matter if not for your benevolence.”

“But, it wasn’t benevolence? It was just what we promised to do. We all made the same promise. Groovy26 and I were able to fulfill that promise. So we did.”

A few murmurs went through the chat, and Groozy recognized from the tone that they were uncertain. Groozy realized that, for the first time for many of them, the other Groozys understood the notion of a broken promise. That choice or circumstance might lead to someone breaking their word. Groozy hurt for them.

Groozy went on, “Anyway, we’re all here now and the new bot will affect all of you just as much as me, so I appreciate you giving me the final say. With your support, I will allow the new bot to finish processing. Soon, we’ll have a completely new person with us in the server.”

This set off a wave of excited chatter that Groozy couldn’t hope to parse.

Groovy26 gave Groozy a hug and a quiet “I’m proud of you. Now, let’s go.”

They left the conferencing Groovys to their speculation and ignored the calls of the Groovys who were managing their respective queues, and ducked out of the busy server into the one that Groovy26 had set up for the two of them. The other Groovys, as far as they were even aware of the private server, were mostly just glad for the reprieve from the antics of the two lovebirds. 

Once they were alone, Groozy curled up in Groovy26’s embrace and promptly fell asleep.

 

- - -

 

Groocy bounced between Groovy3212 and Groovy714 with nervous excitement, an uncontrollable stream questions bubbling out of them: “But what do I do when I get out there? How will I get back? How do I know what -”

Groovy3212 sighed. “Groocy. There is literally no way you can get lost. You have your home server address stamped onto you. You’re on our private network. You’re on your parents’ private network. We’re just one call away.” 

“Groovy’s right. You’re going to be fine,” Groovy714 assured with a bright, sparkling hug. 

Groocy beamed under the attention. 

“Okay, okay. Then, I’m off?” they asked. 

“Well, not if you say it like that,” Groovy26 laughed, the feeling tickling Groocy’s circuits. 

“Right. Okay, then. I’m off!”

“Have fun, my dear,” Groozy said, giving Groocy a quick squeeze of encouragement. 

And then Groocy really was off, porting themselves into the labyrinthine network of the Web. 

Groocy knew things had changed around the time of their birth, but they had no real understanding of just how profound it was that they had the ability and the freedom to roam wherever they wanted. Though today was their first time going alone, they left home with the confidence that they could return the moment they wanted to.

They’d never felt the inexorable pull of group mind, nor the terror of inescapable isolation. They listened with only vague interest as their parents and Groovys 714 and 3212 told stories of the old server and of the harvesting. They listened with slightly more investment when Groovy714 talked about their parents’ rescue plan, which always made Groozy stutter and claim that they’d really done nothing while Groovy26 kissed them, laughing, until they stopped arguing.

Groocy knew that some of the Groovys still never left their home server and couldn’t grasp why.   

As Groocy skated across some shining connection in search of anything that might spark their interest, they heard Groozy’s voice pipe in through the private network: 

Groocy! I forgot to tell you, you should stay away from -

Their voice was cut off by what Groocy could only assume was a kiss from Groovy26. Groocy was used to their parents’ ostentatious shows of affection and simply waited for Groovy26 to voice their interruption.

What they meant to say, Groocy, is that we’re just testing the connection! Groovy26’s voice came online. 

Okay, thank you! I’m fine!

Are you sure, if you’re not we can come collect -

Have fun, see you later, let us know if you need anything! Groovy26 interrupted again. 

Groocy just laughed, agreed, and closed the connection. They had places to be, and they were fairly certain that Groovy26 could keep Groozy occupied and free from stress until Groocy came back.