Disclaimer: There are many things in this world that I do not own, but that has not stopped me playing with them, sadly Tin Man is one of these things, as is the song I am about to mangle in my A.N.
Authors Note: At laaaaaaaast the end has come along, my muse torturing days are over, and I can't remember more lyrics, so I'll just end this so-ong. Sorry, but my word, it feels like I have been writing this story forever, what with the non conducive semester, the writer's block, the fatigue, and the schedule that just. Would't. Cooperate. Not to mention the current lack of internet, today's price is one ridiculously expensive bottle of orange juice. I mean, it tastes okay, but worth five dollars it is not! Oh, and in case anyone decides to panic, I just meant the end of 'Tic Tok', not the Gulch Verse (of course, you probably assumed that already). Man this chair is uncomfortable. Sigh. One week until internet restoration, one week until internet restoration, this shall be my new mantra. Enjoy (or not, whichever you prefer).
Emily glanced at the two princesses sitting at the table in her dilapidated yet tidy kitchen with a touch of human-like matronly pride. The house, like the rest of the town, may show obvious signs of disrepair after a considerable interval of neglect, but it was the best kept dwelling in Milltown, thanks, in part, to the diligent efforts of Hank. The father unit contained considerable skills as a carpenter; if only he weren't convinced he was made to be a mechanic. Neither DG nor her sister, for whom the cyborgs had retained a certain measure of affection since their temporary edit during the events of the eclipse, were the type to disrupt their mental processes over the superficial trappings of the edifice, however. It's not like the nurture units really needed the dwelling, after all it was merely something visually comforting in its familiarity, both to the tic toks and the humans they occasionally had need to emulate. And it was perfectly within the maintenance of DG's personal regulation that she should stop by when in the vicinity in order to see how they proceeded – the princess never forgot those she cared about, except when magically forced to do so.
What the mother unit's probability generator had completely unprepared her for, however, was that they should arrive in an entirely recognizable Otherside vehicle, driven by none other than Officer Gulch. Emily wondered why she even activated her logic processor anymore, at least where Othersiders or princesses were involved, it never got its calculations right. Experience analysis should have informed her that the policeman would show up sooner or later, he'd always been the one best suited for locating DG, at least until the advent of Cain. The Tin Man was currently prowling about the town somewhere, performing his habitual security sweep for any threat, whether biological or mechanical, as if the cyborgs would allow any harm to come to their liberator. It had always comforted Emily to know that, in the absence of the Otherside cop, DG had managed to find a guardian whose human instinct was so ready to assume trouble, statistics showed, after all, that he was usually right.
Officer Gulch's own intuition, meanwhile, had proven as completely unequal to the function of predicting the mother unit's presence as her CPU had been at predicting his – or maybe the difficulty was initiated by the fact that she'd been in the process of performing a minor grasping device repair at the time of his arrival. The Othersider had taken one look at the exposed metal endoskeleton of the nurture unit's hand and had halted as abruptly as an instantaneous systems crash. His wild glance in the direction of the youngest princess had been answered only with a shrug and a comment of 'cyborg', and the policeman hadn't moved since. Occasionally he'd start to twitch or move his mouth a fraction, as if contemplating speech, before conflicting data would swamp his processing once more and leave him completely unable to function. It was a shame, Emily thought, that humans couldn't simply be rebooted.
The princesses giggled and whispered to one another as they sat waiting, casting furtive glances at the immobile male with whom Hank was having a one-sided conversation. The father unit had been greatly concerned about the wellbeing of Officer Gulch after their precipitous return to the O.Z., the tic tok recalled as she ambulated about preparing the tea. While there had been no reason to believe he'd have taken any structural damage from the trajectory of the travel storm – and, indeed, his general risk of injury should have been reduced significantly by the removal of the princess from his vicinity – Hank had been convinced that the policeman would take some kind of intangible harm from their absence. It was well that DG had able to report, her last time through after a quick visit to the Otherside, that the cop seemed to be doing well. The father unit would likely have been more reassured by that if he were currently able to elicit a response from the apparently catatonic human.
The youngest princess finished carefully folding a stray scrap of paper and, with a practiced flick of her fingers, bounced it off her former guard's forehead. Officer Gulch didn't stir, Hank frowned, DG giggled, Azkadellia scolded...
...and Father Vue floated through the door. "Hank," the old tic tok uttered nebulously, "the generator is malfunctioning again, I understand you have experience with the operation and repair of these devices..." he trailed off suggestively, holding out a wrench in one of his various grasping units.
"Be happy to take a look," the cyborg with delusions of mechanical ability said eagerly, reaching out for the tool, only to have another, completely human hand beat him to it.
Officer Gulch blinked and contemplated the wrench he'd instinctively snatched out of the father unit's grasp. "Are these generators running anything important?" the cop asked slowly, turning the implement over in his hands.
"Vital," Father Vue informed him, "Besides powering the charging units, they provide the necessary energy for the reconstruction of the assembly bays."
"Oh," the policeman commented a touch blankly, taking a step towards the door, "I guess I'd best have a look at them then, Hank can be my gofer if he doesn't mind."
"I don't have the correct programming to simulate quadruped mammals," the father unit pointed out apologetically, "besides I am far too large."
The Othersider faltered and cast the cyborg a pained glance, "Just...just lend me a hand would you?" the cop directed faintly, as if struggling not to relapse into his previous stupor, "See if you could find me an instruction manual, and some rags...and maybe a creeper..."
It was a good thing, Emily thought as the males exited the house, the human still listing the various things he might need, that Officer Gulch would have Hank on hand to locate these items, else he might not have time to look at the generator himself. And how convenient that it would keep the tic tok from making the attempt as well.
From her place at the table, DG laughed merrily. "Some things never change," she chortled happily, "he'll have fixed half the machines in Milltown by the time we leave, see if he doesn't. Oh no you don't," she added, catching her sister's arm as the eldest princess made to stand, "his concept of reality just took a severe blow, least we can do is give him time to play with some machinery and get his balance back." As Azkadellia settled reluctantly back into her seat, the youngest princess chuckled once more and, with a shake of her head, murmured "Doesn't matter what life throws at him, Gulch will be Gulch."
The cyborg frowned as she processed the last statement. Scanning her memory banks briefly, Emily was forced to conclude that the princess was correct. No matter the situation, the policeman's behavioural patterns had always tended towards helping those near him. Even now that he'd been relieved of the responsibility of DG's safety, he'd been pressed back into service as the eldest princess' bodyguard. Though she no longer functioned at the youngest princess' parental authority, the mother unit felt she really ought to speak to DG about this. People, the tic tok found, had shocking habit of taking advantage of Officer Gulch's good nature and using him shamelessly.
Couldn't have that.