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what if you wanted to ruin your health working on science, but gummy said nah

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Beep

The sound of a mechanical keyboard and muffled swears. A louder key press, and another harsh beep.

Errors. Again. And, as it was often the case with C, the command line just wouldn’t give him the location of the real issue. “Why did I choose this life,” Dr Edwin Glum groaned and reclined in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose with an irritated sigh. The love of science and discovery, right. Wish science wasn’t such a cruel mistress right now.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d spent slaving over this one program, but it was starting to take its toll on his sanity. And of course, like the stubborn bitch he was, he didn’t want to quit until he put his finger on whatever the hell was wrong with his code. His very clean, definitely not spaghetti code. “Computer?” A soft chime answered his call. “Run some related searches on StackOverflow. This might take a while.”

“Request queued up. For your information, you have been working on this for exactly six hours, forty-two minutes and fifteen seconds.”

“Damn. Not even a pee break? Humans are tougher than I thought.”

“GY-AH!”

 

The doctor jumped in his chair, one hand flying up to grasp over his heart as he whirled around. He came face to face with one hulking, neon-colored creature vaguely shaped like a wingless dragon, who peered at his computer screen like it held a mysterious secret. “Gummy!” Edwin hissed, his heart beating hard against his ribcage. “You impudent- what are you doing here? I told you to never enter my lab while I’m working!”

“No you didn’t.”

“Excuse-me?!”

Gummy raised a hand-paw. Thing. “You said, and I quote…” Their body morphed and rippled, shrinking and shifting into a very familiar visage. Edwin leaned back in his chair, jaw dropping as he stared at a near-perfect, neon pink and green copy of himself. “Don't come and pester me while I’m busy furthering human knowledge. I’m Doctor Glum and I’m very smart and sexy, science, computers, molecular atoms and stuff.

Another ripple, a sound similar to that of jelly being squished. And Gummy was back to their normal appearance, looking affably smug. “I didn’t come to pester you, but to ask for your help with something. So I didn’t break the rule.”

“...Please never do that again,” the scientist shivered, unnerved by the previous display. “How did you even get past the door anyway?” I thought I was done Gummy-proofing the stupid thing.

The alien pointed upward. Edwin looked up, blinking owlishly at the vent grate hanging open from the ceiling. “...Computer.”

“Yes, Doctor Glum?”

“Set a reminder: we need to increase security in the ventilation system.”

“Very well.”

“Aw, come on Doc,” Gummy chuckled, batting their eyes, “I really don’t mean to bother you.”

“Well, right now you are,” Edwin huffed indignantly, turning his back on the alien to glare at his computer screen instead.

…The indentation was off on line 5633. Fuck. “So, unless you actually need something,” he hissed, rubbing his fingertips against his forehead, “I’m going to ask you to leave. Me. Be.”

 

One of Gummy’s pink, floppy ears flicked. Mmmh, this would ask for subtlety. A concept they weren’t very used to, but that proved to be much more effective to get the doc to take care of himself than just, you know. Actually telling him to. “I do,” they retorted calmly, suppressing a conniving smirk. “And there’s nobody else around to help me, soooo…”

Uuuuuuuugh. “What is it?” he took the bait, already regretting getting up this morning. The alien looked down at him with their dark, shiny beady eyes- were they trying to act pitiful? “So, I’m playing this one game right now, and there’s this one boss fight where I keep dying,” they explained, like it was a perfectly normal and reasonable demand to make. “I just can’t get past it! I thought you could maybe do it for me?”

The doctor stared at them. Gummy’s tail swished left and right slowly, patiently waiting for a response. “...Is this one of your pranks?”

“Nuh-uh. I’m serious, I need help here.”

“And why on Earth would you even think I’d be able to help with- that?”

“Oh! That’s an easy one,” Gummy raised a paw and started to unroll their fingers one at a time. “You’re very smart, that’s a given. You got nice, long fingers that’d work better than mine on the controller.” Granted they could just. Shapeshift themselves longer and thinner hands. But they had a plan here. “Also, your hair smells nice today. I like that new shampoo you got.”

“What does that have to do with anything you just said?!” the human’s voice cracked indignantly, a slight flush to his cheeks. Hehe, adorable.

“Right, sorry. So, that a yes?”

“Wh- y- NO! It very much isn’t, not even close!” Edwin groaned, clutching at his hair in frustration. “Tch, why am I even indulging your nonsense right now. I have so much shit to get done, and you’re not helping. You need to leave.”

“What if I sweeten the deal for you then?” Gummy spoke quickly as Edwin pushed them past the door - which was a funny sight in itself, as the creature easily towered over the human in their base form. “I’ll make it worth your while, promise.”

“I highly doubt that, and you’ve already wasted enough of my time! Now if you’ll excuse me-”

“I’ll morph myself into that form you like, next time we have fun.”

 

The scientist stilled, his hand hovering above the button at the side of the door. Gears were visibly turning in his mind, an opening that Gummy immediately exploited. “You know. The one with the big boobs? The huge set of badonkers? Humongous mommy milkers-”

“Oh my god, please stop talking.”

Edwin’s face was steadily darkening the more words came out of the alien’s mouth. Said alien smiled triumphantly. “Knew that’d get your attention,” they preened at their looming victory. “C’mon, please? I’ll make the boobs extra big and squishy too, just for you~"

 

For a few moments, there was only silence. It stretched out into the ether, into the smell of hot plastic and chemicals permeating the lab, only broken by the occasional whirr of an obscure machine somewhere.

(Fun fact: at least a third of said machines had originally been intended for sexual fulfillment. Doctor Glum had once been a very, very lonely man.)

 

“...How extra is extra?” the bespectacled man asked, in a tone that so obviously wanted to sound casual and failed.

Gummy smiled innocently. Hooked and reeled in~

 

***

 

“Wow,” Gummy whistled, dark beady eyes wide. “I didn’t actually expect you to be that good.”

Edwin huffed, fingers moving and pressing methodically across the controller. “Please. It’s really all about pattern recognition and timing, nothing more.” Essentially, it was all math. And he was very good at that.

The two remaining mantis creatures danced around the screen, perfectly synced with each other and the music. The doctor manoeuvred his character around them expertly, dodging sharp mandibles and chipping away at the bosses’ health until, one after the other, they succumbed to the little white-faced warrior’s needle-like blade, black smoke pouring across the screen. Edwin let out a heavy sigh, the tension of the fight escaping his body. “And there you go.”

 

He put the controller down and stretched his arms up with a high-pitched sound, halfway between a groan and a squeak- his joints popped satisfyingly. Gummy stifled a remark about how cute that sounded, instead smiling easily. “Well, thanks a lot for helping me out. I’m usually pretty good at games, but this one was really giving me a hard time.”

It wasn’t a lie per say- the Mantis Lords boss fight was known to be on the tougher side. But they would’ve gotten the hang of it after a few more attempts -or a few more dozen- but hey. Their genius plan had worked out~

“Well, I am good at problem-solving,” Edwin boasted, whipping his phone out of his lab coat. “Alright, I should- shit!

The numbers on the screen glared up at him- time had slipped past him while he’d been busy learning the patterns, getting a little further in the fight each time and getting in that special focused headspace where everything came in sharper focus. In the end, he had spent almost an hour playing this game. He’d just been so… in the zone, he hadn’t felt time pass at all.

 

Edwin wordlessly got up and briskly walked out of Gummy’s room, making a beeline for his lab as the alien trotted up behind him. “Why the long face, Doc?” they asked, their body rippling idly as they followed him into the lab. The scientist huffed and whirled around, almost making the other crash into him. “You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” he glared at Gummy, pointing an accusatory finger at them. “Pulling me away from my work for- gah! Did you even need my help at all?”

Gummy tilted their head- the human almost sounded... hurt. Did he think they were being demeaning? That hadn’t been the plan. “I mean, I did! I might like video games more than you do, but of the two of us? You’re the most skilled at them,” they replied honestly. “It’s really impressive.”

The doctor pursed his lips, but was visibly mollified by the compliment. The shapeshifter noticed the subtle change and gave the other a shit-eating grin. “Aaaaand that means you’re gonna come back to your work with your brain all reset and revved up, right?”

Edwin had to admit it- his, guest had a point. The headache that had been starting to take root between his eyes was gone, and his head felt less heavy and cluttered. It… would make sense that focusing on something completely different, with minimal reflexion needed, had had a beneficial effect on his workflow. “...I suppose,” he sighed, before shaking his head and straightening his posture. “Still! Enough time has been wasted.” Edwin smiled, a fierce, sharp smile that promised chaos. “When it comes to science, time is of the essence! That death ray’s not going to program itself, and if that hack over the west coast manages to make one before me I swear to god-”

“Alright there Doc,” Gummy chuckled, their tail-mouth-thing wagging placidly behind them- every single one of the Doc’s rare smiles was like a little treat for them alone. “I getcha, I getcha. I’d offer to help, but uh. I don’t want to, that stuff’s really boring. Have fun, hotshot~" they gave a little wave and turned tail, walking out of the room.

Edwin rolled his eyes as the door closed after Gummy with a quiet hiss- the alien really had no appreciation for the epitome of logic and elegance that was programming… although that particular field could easily drive one to the brink of madness, with one too many nights ending with the doctor just pressing the enter key over and over again, desperately expecting a different result than a red error message spat out by the command line.

Mh. Maybe Edwin was somewhat of a masochist after all. No matter. “Now, let’s see here…” the scientist mumbled, sitting back in his seat and scrolling back up at the very beginning of his code. His head felt less cluttered than before, and he found himself going over it a lot faster. “Huh. I guess Gummy was right about this, this is much-”

 

Wait a minute.

 

Edwin stared, and stared. And stared some more at a specific line in his code, something dawning on him like a pantheon of deities laughing at his misery.

 

if(sizeof(*ptr) <= maxAllocSize) {

float *pptr = malloc(sizeof(*ptr));

}

 

It was like a kink in a usually well-oiled machine was suddenly being expelled, shooting off into the distance with a cartoony sound. Pointers… “Pointers that point to a pointer,” the self-proclaimed genius muttered with growing dread. Something so basic, something people learned within the first weeks of C programming.

And so, without a single word and his face stony, Dr Edwin Glum typed on a single key on his keyboard. No way. No fucking way, not like this.

 

    float **pptr = malloc(sizeof(*ptr));

 

He hit the run button. And the code compiled without a hitch, a pleasant little ding echoing in the room. Like vicious, 16-bit mockery.

 

It is said that Doctor Glum’s screech of frustration was heard for miles around the lab that day. Although the soon functioning death ray would ward off any potential gawkers that’d try to investigate the source of it.