References events from other stuff I've written- all you need to know is this is a thing written before the new DST lore, so instead of the ANR events, Wilson beat adventure mode and went missing for a few weeks while he was stuck to the naughty chair and then Wendy went in and beat adventure mode herself to replace him, because she was bored that day.
Webber raised his head and found WX-78 standing there very close.
“Oh, good morning,” he said. “We’re just making-”
“YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED,” said the robot, who had a habit of interrupting. “COME WITH ME RIGHT NOW.”
Webber wasn’t doing anything important, just making mud pies, so he shrugged and said “Okay.”
The three of them- Webber, his other half, and WX-78- headed down the path, with the robot keeping a close eye on their surroundings. It always seemed to expect something to sneak up on it.
“What are we going to do for you today?” Webber asked. The answer was usually ‘move some spiders around’.
“I WILL INSTRUCT YOU UPON ARRIVAL.”
“Okay.” Probably move spiders.
They arrived in a meadow with a lot of beehives and butterflies fluttering about. “How nice!” said Webber.
WX-78 handed Webber four bug nets. Webber counted them again: four. “We think you gave us an extr-”
“CATCH ALL OF THEM.”
WX-78 pointed into the meadow. “CATCH ALL OF THE INSECTS.”
“Not all of-”
“ALL OF THEM. I AM PROGRAMMED TO SPEAK CLEARLY AND ENUNCIATE.”
Oh! Miss Wicker had been talking about setting up a bee farm. She must have asked WX-78 to start on it.
Webber starting catching bees while WX-78 attacked the hives and took the honeycombs. A while later all of the honeycombs and bees were in WX-78’s backpack, along with a lot of butterflies to plant into flowers.
WX-78 picked up the backpack and started walking away. When Webber followed, it turned and said: “DO NOT FOLLOW.”
When Webber got back to the meadow, Wolfgang was charging in. He screeched to a halt and looked around. Mr. Higgsbury was sitting on his shoulder, looking very secure and comfy.
“Where is bees?” Wolfgang asked, looking around.
Mr. Higgsbury was holding a piece of paper. He looked at it now and said: “They should be here. Don’t tell me the darn things migrated.” He looked up. “Webber!” He waved.
“Hello, Mr. Higgsbury, Mr. Wolfgang,” said Webber. “WX-78 and I just got all the bees already. Sorry you didn’t know!”
“Hmm,” said Mr. Higgsbury. “I suppose our plans have changed. What’re you up to, Webber? Anything you need help with?”
“We’re not doing anything, really,” said Webber.
“Hm,” said Mr. Higgsbury. He looked down at the ground, then up at Wolfgang, then at Webber. “Perhaps we should give you a turn.”
“Wolfgang has TWO mighty shoulders!” Without putting Mr. Higgsbury down on the ground, Wolfgang scooped up Webber and put him on his other shoulder. Mr. Wolfgang sure was tall! Webber could see forever from up here!
Mr. Wolfgang started taking them back to camp.
“Why, hello, dear Webber,” Miss Wickerbottom said to Wolfgang’s left shoulder. To his right shoulder she said: “Did you relocate the beehives?”
“According to young Webber, the robot beat us to it,” said Mr. Higgsbury. He slipped down to the ground. “You might have told us you’d assigned it that job before we went out…”
“I did not assign it,” said Miss Wickerbottom.
“WX-78 probably decided to do it because it wants to help us and it didn’t ask first because it’s shy,” Webber guessed.
Mr. Higgsbury cleared his throat. “Sure.”
“Hmm.” Miss Wickerbottom looked serene. “I shall speak to it later. In the meantime, you and Mr. Wolfgang might do a little mining.”
Mr. Higgsbury looked a little strained. “Yes, of course. You don’t need anything crafted, or…”
“We desperately need rocks.”
“Right. Well, whatever we need…”
“Wolfgang will smash rocks with fists!” Wolfgang boomed.
Mr. Higgsbury looked up at him. “Oh, we have plenty of pickaxes.”
“We can help!” Webber said.
Miss Wickerbottom turned to him, shaking her head. “Not you, young arachnid. To your lessons.”
Mr. Higgsbury reached up and tugged at Mr. Wolfgang’s unitard. “Let’s go, friend.”
Mr. Wolfgang picked up Mr. Higgsbury and put him on his shoulder and they started walking away.
“It’s nice of Mr. Wolfgang to give everyone rides, isn’t it?” Webber said.
“Mm. Yes,” said Miss Wickerbottom. “Although sometimes I wish he would ask one’s permission first. Now, your sums, dear.”
Aw. Playing with rocks and getting rides from Mr. Wolfgang sounded more fun. But Miss Wickerbottom was in charge, so it was time for school now.
Webber looked up. His head-legs twitched and pawed at the air.
WX-78 scowled at him. “WHY DO YOU TOUCH THAT HORRIBLE SUBSTANCE.”
Webber looked down at the toy boat bobbing on the surface of the water. “It’s only bad for us if we drink it without cleaning it first or fall in and get drowned by the giant hands that live inside. Miss Wickerbottom said.”
WX-78 peered at the surface of the water. “VILE.”
“It is a little bit stinky.”
“COME AWAY FROM THERE. I HAVE WORK TO DO.”
“Um,” said Webber. “Is it bad?”
The robot led Webber down the path a way before stopping. “WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS SECRET,” it said.
“IF YOU REVEAL MY SECRET I WILL PUT OUT YOUR EYES. ALL OF THEM.”
“Ouch!” It was a joke, of course, but that was a scary thought!
“DON’T SAY A WORD,” said WX-78. It led Webber through some thick trees.
They headed into the swamp, deeper in even than Webber liked to go. Webber began to notice a loud buzzing sound.
WX-78 led him to rows and rows of bee boxes. “YOU WILL HARVEST THESE,” it said, “AND GIVE ME THE HONEY.”
About four bee boxes in, Webber noticed WX-78 was not harvesting anything. It was just sitting and watching.
Gee. It must be tired! Did robots get tired? They must get tired.
Webber lost count of how many boxes there were total. He was out of breath when he lugged the huge vat of honey over to WX-78.
“DO YOU THINK,” said WX-78, “THERE ARE ENOUGH BEES HERE TO KILL THE STRONGMAN?”
“Why would you want to kill Mr. Wolfgang?!”
“I DO NOT,” said the robot. “HE IS A CONVENIENT UNIT OF MEASUREMENT.”
“Oh, okay! Well, I don’t measure things by whether they can kill our friends but… there’s enough bees to kill a whole pack of hounds!”
WX-78 tapped its fingertips together with a soft mental clinking sound. “I WILL DISCOVER HOW TO CONTROL THE BEES.”
“HOW DO YOU CONTROL THE SPIDERS?”
“Um, we don’t! They just like us, and they like it when we feed them, so they help us…”
“THAT IS USELESS TO ME,” said WX-78.
WX-78 made a rude sound. “YOU HAVE DONE YOUR ‘BEST’.” It rooted around in the backpack sitting at its side. “YOU HAVE EARNED ONE (1) TAFFY.”
“NOW GO AND TELL NO ONE,” said WX-78.
“Okay!” Webber wondered if maybe he should tell Miss Wickerbottom, but… he’d promised not to. “Have a good day.”
“I WILL HAVE A VERY EVIL DAY,” said WX-78.
“Whatever you like.”
Webber woke up with WX-78 staring into his face.
“MY HONEY HAS BEEN STOLEN,” it said. Before Webber could answer, one of his friends jumped up onto WX-78’s head. “AAAA-”
Webber wrestled his hissing friend’s furry body down off of the robot.
“YOU ATTACK ME,” said WX-78.
“You woke him up and he’s upset!” Webber pointed out, keeping a tight hold on his naughty friend.
“YOU TOOK MY HONEY,” said WX-78.
“We did not!”
“THERE IS SOME MISSING.”
“We don’t steal! Look in our backpack if you want!”
“YOU ALREADY ATE IT,” said the robot.
“Nuh-uh!” Webber opened his mouth wide. WX-78 peered in.
“HMPH,” it said.
“Maybe the bees took some of the honey back,” Webber said.
“I WILL BERATE THE BEES.” WX-78 turned and started walking away.
“Mr. Higgsbury has been gone for a while. Have you seen him?”
“WHY WOULD I SEE HIM.”
“We don’t see you for a long time sometimes,” said Webber. “We thought maybe you and him were at the same place.”
“I WOULD NOT ALLOW THAT,” said WX.
“Okay. We just wondered.”
WX paused a moment and then said quickly: “I HOPE HE NEVER COMES BACK. I HATE HIM.”
“Oh! He’s a little rude sometimes but he doesn’t mean it-”
“HE IS TERRIBLE AND IT WOULD BE NICE IF HE WAS DEAD FOREVER,” WX-78 said.
Gee… that had to be a joke, right? Although Webber couldn’t see why it was funny.
“U-um, there was something else,” said Webber.
“You have a lot of bees and we haven’t been able to have enough for everyone,” said Webber. “So we thought perhaps you could share?”
“YOU DID STEAL IT,” said WX-78.
“No… we just think everyone could use some. Why don’t you like to share?”
“BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL AWFUL.”
Webber had never been spoken to like that. He was very quiet.
“I WISH ALL OF THE HUMANS WOULD GO AWAY.” And with that, WX-78 left.
Shortly After That
“Where did you get that, dear?”
Webber looked up from his sums. He could not see what was happening because Miss Wickerbottom and Miss Willow were both behind the wall, but he smelled something powerfully sweet.
“I’m making cookies,” Willow said. “He’ll smell them and come back.”
Webber looked over at Wendy.
“He cannot return from where he’s gone,” said Wendy.
“Where’s he gone?” Webber asked.
“Death,” said Wendy, eyes wide.
“Oh… why hasn’t he come back to a statue, then?”
“I know not. We know not, don’t we, Abigail?”
Abigail floated around by Wendy’s shoulder, saying nothing.
“Where did you get enough honey to make so many cookies, dear?” Wickerbottom was asking.
“He can’t be dead cuz he’d’ve come back,” said Willow, “so he must be lost and he will come back when he smells the cookies.”
“But where did you get-”
“I found it,” Willow snapped.
Uh-oh! What if she’d taken it from WX-78? Then the robot would be awful mad. Would it do something bad?
Wendy set her slate down. “I’ve finished.”
Webber was pretty far from being finished. “That was fast!”
“Numbers suit me,” said Wendy. “They are cold and dead. I must away now, Webber.”
“But Miss Wickerbottom said not to go anyplace…”
“She said it was quite alright. I wouldn’t go, otherwise. We’re good girls, aren’t we, Abigail?”
“Oh, alright,” said Webber. “We want to go with you, but we must finish…”
Before he could get to what he was going to say, which was that he could finish faster if Wendy helped him, she said: “Very well,” and jumped up to leave. Okay then.
Webber bent his head over the math.
“I hate him!” Willow yelled, making Webber jump. “How can he just leave? Ugh! If he comes back, he’s not gettin’ a cookie.”
Something slammed. Wickerbottom came in shaking her head. She gasped. “Where is Wendy?”
“She… she said you said she could go.”
“Oh, dear,” said Miss Wickerbottom, and began to look around the camp. She looked down at Wendy’s slate. “She didn’t even finish her sums! Tsk!”
“She said she did…”
“Yes, dear?” she said.
“Why would… Willow say she hates Mr. Higgsbury? They’re friends, aren’t they?” Webber looked down at his slate. He didn’t like fighting and people hating each other.
“She didn’t mean that, Webber. They are friends. She is very upset that she is gone and saying things she doesn’t quite mean.”
“Why do people lie? Wendy lied.”
“Willow is not lying,” said Miss Wickerbottom. “She is only confused and upset. I believe it frightens her to care about someone so much. Do you understand?”
“No, but we’re glad she doesn’t really hate anyone,” said Webber.
“Wendy, on the other hand, will need a talking-to. Which way did she go?”
Wendy would get in trouble… but she shouldn’t do dangerous things. Webber pointed out the big door. Miss Wickerbottom nodded and headed away.
A Few Days Later
WX-78 was staring at the sign by the big door.
“HAIL! Well met!” Wigfrid called.
Webber turned to her. “May we go talk to them in private, please?”
“Certainly,” said Wigfrid. She was really nice for offering to take Webber places. Even if she was loud and kind of stinky. Miss Wickerbottom didn’t want Webber going anywhere alone anymore, so if no one took him places he was stuck in camp.
“CHILD,” said WX-78 as Webber approached.
Webber needed to tell it about Willow stealing that honey. At least, he thought he needed to. WX-78 was being very selfish by keeping all those bees and all their honey… but maybe it was just upset. Everyone was upset and scared. Even if WX-78 really didn’t care about Mr. Higgsbury or want him back safe like Webber did, it must be scared because it wasn’t normal for someone to disappear forever on a small island with only a few people and no one knew if maybe it could happen to everyone else as well.
Webber should tell… even if WX-78 was being unfair, Miss Willow shouldn’t steal.
Before he could think of how to approach the subject of the honey, WX-78 said: “THIS SIGN HAS BEEN VANDALIZED.”
The sign was one that had been posted by Miss Wickerbottom. It read Please avoid this location for your own safety.
WX-78 pointed to the side of the stick holding the sign up. LONG LIVE THE KING was scratched into it. Huh.
WX-78 pointed to the fence. “THERE IS A GAP.”
Oh, so there was. Miss Wickerbottom had fenced off the scary door a long time ago, saying that it must be a trap. Webber hadn’t been back since, at least not for long, and had never noticed the gap in the corner of the fence. “We should tell Miss Wickerbottom.”
“YOU COULD FIT THROUGH THERE,” said WX-78.
“Miss Wickerbottom wouldn’t like us to go through her fence…” It occurred to him that Wendy could probably also fit. Wendy liked scary things. Maybe she was playing by the door when she shouldn’t! He should tell Miss Wickerbottom about that too.
“THE SCIENTIST WAS A RUNT,” said WX-78. “HE COULD FIT. THAT DOOR IS VERY POWERFUL. MAYBE HE WENT IN TO STEAL THE POWER AND GOT STUCK AND IS IN THERE DECOMPOSING. GOOD.”
“Um.” They would definitely smell that if it were true and all Webber could smell was the pine trees and warm metal. Also Wigfrid. “What will you do when you find out who took your honey?”
“I WILL KILL THEM,” said WX-78.
“But that’s mean!” Webber blurted. “Why are you so mean? We won’t keep helping you anymore if you’re so mean!”
WX-78 just looked at him.
“We know who took your honey,” said Webber, “and it wasn’t us, but we don’t want you to kill her so we-”
“THE VIKING,” said WX-78.
“THE WICKERBOTTOM?” It sounded incredulous.
Webber frowned deeply. He was being tricked into saying things he didn’t want to say.
“OH,” said WX-78. “IT WAS THE FIRESTARTER. WELL I DON’T CARE ENOUGH TO KILL HER.” It looked away.
“Good. I guess. You’re mean.” Webber turned aside.
“I LIKE TO BE MEAN.”
”I don’t like it!”
“BUT YOU LIKE ME,” said WX-78.
Webber was unwilling to tell anyone right to their face that he didn’t like them. He bit his lip. “I- I won’t like you if you’re mean.”
“YOU WILL, YOU LIKE ME,” said the robot.
“I don’t like mean people!”
“BUT YOU LIKE ME,” said the robot. It studied Webber. “YOU LIKE ME LOTS AND WE ARE ‘FRIENDS’,” it said.
Webber looked down and didn’t say anything.
Suddenly Wigfrid was there. “The young arachnid is distressed!”
“I’m fine but I want to leave now,” said Webber.
“Shall I battle this armored wretch?”
“No, we just would like to leave now,” he said.
They walked away. WX-78 watched them go. It seemed, for once, not to know what to say.
Quite A Bit After That
“I HAVE FOUND THE SCIENTIST.”
Webber rubbed his eyes. “Oh, we’ve already found him, but thanks-”
“I FOUND HIM WHERE HE OUGHT NOT TO BE,” said WX-78.
Webber heard someone breathing. He turned on the lantern. WX-78 was holding a flushed and disgruntled-looking Mr. Higgsbury by the ear.
“Oh!” said Webber.
“I DID NOT KILL HIM. YOU OWE ME NOW.” WX-78 pushed him towards Webber. Mr. Higgsbury stumbled and turned towards the robot with a scowl. “NEXT TIME,” said the robot, “I WILL NOT BE SO LENIENT.”
“Are you all right?!” Webber asked. He smelled blood.
“NO, I AM VERY MAD THAT I HAD TO SPARE THIS STUPID HUMAN. THIS IS A SPECIAL FAVOR. I AM LEAVING.”
WX-78 was already leaving and clearly didn’t want to wait.
“Are you all right?” Webber said to Mr. Higgsbury.
He swallowed and said: “I’m fine, Webber.”
“Did WX-78 hurt you, Mr. Higgsbury?”
“No, it didn’t hurt me, Webber.” His voice sounded scratchy and weak. “Nobody did, I… well. It was an experiment. It didn’t work out so well. Are your friends around?”
Webber looked around the spider nest. “They are all out hunting, but perhaps you should go home. We can walk you back to camp, if you like.”
“I have a torch, but thank you.”
Webber followed him onto the path anyway
“You seem to have some power over that robot,” Mr. Higgsbury said.
“Oh, er… not really. Why is it so mean?”
“It’s a machine, Webber. I doubt it was programmed with ethics. It could actually be quite dangerous.”
“Sometimes friends can be scary,” said Webber. “It doesn’t mean they’re bad. Miss Willow stole its honey, so it’s probably still mad. That’s normal, isn’t it?”
“Hm,” said Mr. Higgsbury. “Just be careful, that’s all.” He rubbed his chin. “If you ask me it needs a bit of tweaking, that machine.”
Mr. Higgsbury could look very cold and calculating. He could remind Webber of WX-78.
“Maybe it has a reason not to trust people,” said Webber. “Mr. Higgsbury, why did you go in that door?”
He jumped guiltily. “What? It was an experiment, Webber. It failed. I was trying to help, but it didn’t work.”
There was a light up ahead. Willow came running up. “WHERE DID YOU GO?” She grabbed Mr. Higgsbury by the shoulders. “Don’t ever go away again!”
“S-sorry, I was trying to-”
“You make me so mad! Why did you leave again?!”
“I just, er…”
Willow hugged him. That didn’t seem like something someone who was mad would do.
Mr. Higgsbury froze in her arms, confused. Willow turned and pressed her lips to his cheek.
Webber did not think this part was any of his business, so he left.
WX-78 was sitting in its camp watching the fire when Webber walked up.
WX-78 tilted its head. “YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHERE I LIVE.”
“Um. Sorry. Just wanted to say…” Webber took a deep breath. “People will like you if you try to help…”
“I DO NOT CARE IF THEY LIKE ME.”
“Do you care if I like you?”
“YOU DO LIKE ME.”
Webber looked down.
“YOU DO LIKE ME,” WX-78 repeated.
“Everyone would like you if you were nice…”
“I DO NOT CARE.”
“We all like each other because we help each other… we like Mr. Higgsbury and were sad when he was gone because he tries very hard to help everyone even though he doesn’t always quite manage it,” said Webber. “People only want you to want to help. You just have to try.”
“I WANT TO BE AS LITTLE LIKE HIM AS POSSIBLE,” said WX-78.
“All right,” Webber said quietly, and he turned to go.
“WAIT. I HAVE DECIDED TO GIVE YOU SOME HONEY BECAUSE YOU ARE MY MINION AND WILL STAY BEHOLDEN TO ME.”
Webber looked back at it. WX-78 held out a rather large jar of honey.
“Wow! That’s a lot,” said Webber.
“I EXPECTED YOU TO FOOLISHLY SHARE IT WITH YOUR HORRIBLE FLESHLING FRIENDS. THERE IS EXTRA.”
“You’re sharing your honey with everyone?”
“NO. IT IS A BRIBE. FOR YOU. AND YOU MIGHT SHARE IT BECAUSE YOU ARE STUPID.”
Webber looked back at WX-78’s expressionless eyes.
Miss Wickerbottom had said some people were afraid of caring about others. Like Miss Willow, who could scream at someone and say she hated him and then hug him and kiss him.
He took the honey. The vat was really heavy. There was definitely enough here for everybody. “Thank you, WX-78.”
“I AM GENEROUS.” WX-78 nodded and said: “GO AWAY.”
Maybe Webber didn’t have to understand. Maybe he could just be happy that he wasn’t afraid of loving people.