“How could you?"
“I trusted you and, and you played me!”
“Like the cheap kazoo you are” -- Anon Guest
Some tasks are harder than others. Some efforts are purely emotional. And by the end of this mission to Zangress Four, Arlo was feeling weak as a kitten despite having all her health stats in peak range. The explorer she'd been hired to escort, Thuxx, had managed to make it through all kinds of potential hazards, including being one of those types who were too smart to know when to eat. Five Standard Months of constant worrying can drain the body and soul just as effectively as nigh-constant battle.
Arlo's battle had been with the elements, constantly protecting the cute, fuzzy, teddy-bear-looking Thuxx against the slings and arrows of a world apparently loaded with every kind of hazard imaginable. According to the records, Planet Thrillseeker was allegedly supposed to be a deep-time colony to make an entire world into a gigantic potential death trap for wealthy investors to have the time of their lives in. The creator of said thrill world did not go down into deep time with the colonists and had forgotten basic essentials like: how the staff was expected to survive. Or a decent breeding population. Or what the staff were supposed to live on after the wormhole closed. But they had remembered to make certain all the death traps and elaborate puzzles would remain fully-functional after thousands of years' worth of neglect.
Thuxx was safe, now. Back in his offices where he could catalogue relics and arrange bidders for them. And that was an immense relief. Arlo smiled just to watch him putter about the offices and write entries into his catalogue. "Your account has been credited, Human Arlo. You may return to your business or pleasure."
"You're sure you're not going to starve without me?" Arlo teased. She knew from their long association that Thuxx would sit and study until faint from exhaustion or hunger.
"Correct. You are no longer required. I'm perfectly capable of self-maintenance, it merely tickled my fancy to have a known Deathworlder bringing me meals like I was a Pack Alpha."
There were so many options for a reaction to that statement that Arlo's brain fused. All she could think of to say was a flat, "What?"
"I was... how do you humans put it? Acting." At this point, Thuxx threw off his competant, businesslike mien and resumed the cute, soft-spoken, and helpless Thuxx that Arlo knew too well. "Oh. I seem to have forgotten my meals again. Arlo, can you be a dear and fetch me a nutrition packet?"
Her entire body spasmed with the instinct to go get it. But now she knew it was a ruse. "How could you?" she asked.
"It was amusing. Now it is no longer amusing. Your service is done. You may leave."
"I trusted you and, and you played me!"
Thuxx was treating her like temporarily inconvenient and rather noisy furniture. "Like the cheap kazoo you are. Leave now, or I will be forced to call Security to eject you."
Arlo stormed towards the door, which was automatic and couldn't slam in a satisfactory manner. "This won't be the last of this," she vowed.
"Your threat has been noted and logged, Human. You can't commit violence against me without getting caught."
Arlo let the door close on him, tears streaming down her face. She wanted to scream. To run until her legs failed her. To attempt to consume her own weight in chocolate. To burn her skin off in the hottest and most fragrant bubble bath she could accomplish. And then maybe drown in it.
She did, however, wash up at an Unsuitable Food restaurant and ordered a bad day blow-out. It came with sparklers and a smilie face made of candy. Which was so Powers-damned cute that she almost started bawling all over again.
The Gyiik staffing the counter read her like a large-print book made for toddlers. "Messy divorce?"
"Close," Arlo croaked. She cleared her throat and ate some of the candy face. Starting with the red-rope liquorish smile. "Messy termination." Arlo detached her data reader from her vambrace and brought up one of the very many pictures of Thuxx Being Cute. An act. A lie. A base canard. A gross misconduct of emotional proportions. "Cute, isn't he?"
"Adorable," agreed the Gyiik. Her name-tag declared her as Fyel.
"LIES!" Arlo pounded the counter, making several nearby cogniscents jump. "IT'S ALL A BUNCH OF FILTHY LIES!" And then she fell to messy sobbing against the counter. When she had the power of speech again, she added, "I worked my ass off, and worried about him, and cared for him, and stressed myself out for four months... and it was all an act so he could be entertained..."
Murmurs rippled through the restaurant. Fyel, a good restauranteur, cleaned up Arlo's spilled fluids and sent the cleaning cloth to the biotainment incinerator. Then handed Arlo a big box of tissues.
"You are allowed to feel rotten about this," said Fyel. "It is a betrayal of the worst kind. Counselling has been called for and you will receive the first ten sessions for free. As a public service."
"...'nk you," Arlo snivelled. "Y'r so nice..."
"And remember. What goes around comes around, especially when you make it happen."
Fantasies of revenge danced like visions of sugarplums in Arlo's head. "I don't have to do a damn thing to him," she said in alarmingly quiet revelation. "I can let word of mouth do it for me. Fyel, you're a genius."
When the counsellor reached Fyel, she was most of the way through the ice cream and had made a dent in the cheesecake. Thanks to her mission armour, she had footage of Thuxx being an asshole to share with every human who cared to look at the fid she'd put together.
Cheesecake helped soothe her emotional wounds. Therapist Gram helped begin to heal them. Knowing that a thousand people had already heard about this lying, cheating, son-of-a-bitch teddy bear was a balm to Arlo's shattered nerves. And the 'cheap kazoo' line wasn't doing him any favours. She shared her personal logs from the mission on advice from her counsellor.
At which point, a host of other humans turned up who had experienced the same betrayal on the same planet with the same Evil Teddy Ruxpin motherflakker. And before a week was over, the Galactic Lawyers' League was suing Thuxx for emotional damages in a class action lawsuit. That, and none of his former clients wanted his treasures.
All because he had made a human cry.
 This is my pet peeve with Indiana Jones.
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