Alia is smiling. This is good. She should keep smiling. Keep smiling. Keep her smiling. This is 0X771’s job. It does this job very well. It is made to watch, to absorb, to keep track. Notes are carefully taken, carefully organized, carefully stored away. It is good at this. It is good at its job. Its kin are different. They are sufficient at their jobs, but not exceptional. They can watch, but they cannot understand. Not the way it does.

“Zero,” Alia laughs, burying her face in her hands, “Tell- tell me the definition of fuck!”

“Fuck: Ancient Terran slang for intercourse, often used as a noun or verb to express annoyance.” It answers. Succinct. True. Perfect. It does not understand why vulgar slang is so appealing, but it will do its job.

Alia breaks out into another fit of giggles, the legs of her chair bending back with her weight. Unsafe. 0X771 slides behind her and grips the chair-back, saving Alia from the possibility of falling. Safe. Good. Another success.

There are others in the room. Elanor is a criminal, a risk to Alia, but she is good inside. 0X771 has no strong opinions on her other than opposition to her violent tendencies. She is holding Alia’s arm for no particular reason, laughing along. Alia enjoys her presence; therefore, she is a positive asset.

Beside them is Koharu Hoshino. She is an enigma. 0X771 does not like to think about her. The thoughts make it feel wrong. She is pouting at 0X771’s definition, because the beings of the modern day consider ancient Terran vulgarity to be humorous.

“You are both utterly ridiculous!” Koharu says, voice rising in volume. 0X771 knows what this means. She is angry. “Gorn is much more foolish! Fuck is a real word!”

This is concerning. A fight could break out. A solution must be found. 0X771 glides across the floor, carefully positioning itself between the three. The Captain would de-escalate. It will do that.

“Please, do not fight. Language evolves over time in every culture. There is no reason to create conflict.” It pauses briefly. Let them take in the information. “Please mind your language, as well. There is a youth present.”

“What?!” Koharu sputters, just as Alia and Elanor break into another fit of laughter. “I am older than all of you combined!”

“Nah, you’re a lil baby youth, Ko! Teeny tiny, little— little thing!” Elanor laughs as Alia presses her face into the other woman’s(1) shoulder. This is not the response 0X771 intended. Damage control is necessary.

(1) Sex + Gender inconclusive

“Please do not argue. I apologize. You are not a child, Koharu. I simply meant—”

“Guys, look, you’re making Zero sad!” Alia interrupts, flapping her hands above her head, “Be nice!”

The two instantly stop their bickering. Alia can do this without even trying. She is like a captain, but not. She does not handle strategy or resources. She simply is, and her existence seems to quell conflict. 0X771’s kin expressed never understanding human infatuation. It does not agree. How could one meet a person such as Alia and not become completely enamored? Among the few members of their motley crew, each one wants to please her in their own way.

The disagreement has faded, and 0X771’s job is done for now.(2) It looks away from Koharu and moves across the ground once more, planting itself exactly 2 feet behind Alia. A safe distance. It cannot get too close. If it does, it will be pulled in, surrounding Her forever. It will be unable to continue its other jobs. No matter how much it wants to close its eyes to the world around it and only look at Her, it must stay diligent. It must watch every planet under its jurisdiction. It must—

(2) 0X771’s job is never truly done. This is what is known as a simplification.

No. That is wrong. 0X771 must watch Alia. Alia, not Her. Whoever She may be.

It looks at Koharu again, and the incorrect thoughts proceed. Planets, watching, watching, noting, listening, noting, seeing. Wrong. All wrong. It will leave Alia for now. It knows she is safe here.

There is music in the air as 0X771 moves. Elanor’s ship is held together by stolen parts and scrap metal, so all of the different parts create a chorus of electrical hums that no other can understand. It hears the vibrato of hypercycle chain grinding against the cogs of a blender. A cacophony of distinct tools all working together for one common goal. It is not unlike life on Starship 1131343315 KRAKEN, the many different Helpbots all buzzing about, each one working to keep the ship running. 0X771 should miss this. It does not.

“Hello, friends,” it says to the ship(3), “you are doing very well.”

(3) Most do not believe they can listen. They are wrong.

It hums happily in response. Or, perhaps, it is always humming, and does not understand 0X771 at all. That is just fine. It is not…

Nervous. Nervous is the word. Displeased for something that is to come. The opposite of excitement. The Captain has been examining their enigma.(4) The planets, the Milky Way galaxy. The Earth. (Home?) Pluto, Sun, Saturn, Moon, Jupiter. Jupiter. Jupiter. Jupiter. It is nervous for Jupiter. It cannot identify why. That only builds the foreign feeling more.

(4) The ‘enigma’ refers to the situation that Captain Lambert believes led to the events happening now. The strange urges and abilities. The connections.

Jupiter is the Creator. The founder of HoschCo. In a sense, Jupiter is 0X771’s God. Koharu would call this comparison blasphemy. It does not believe she is correct. Jupiter, Founder, Creator, all the same, all melted into one being. What will she be like? Will she be angry it has stopped watching for so long? Will she recognize it, her greatest follower, her Explorer?

No. No. It is thinking nonsense. It… why is it watching? What is it watching? It must end this line of thinking.

“0X771,” it hears, The Captain, “Come here for a moment.”

It obeys(5). “Yes, Captain Lambert? How may I be of assistance?”

(5) It always does.

“I need you to speak with the others. We have to decide who’s coming— I know Martha doesn’t want to, for one, and Schell is impossible to negotiate with.”

“And Kamado Joe?”

“Utterly neutral,” The Captain says, rolling his eyes, “which is somehow worse than disagreeing.”

0X771 is unsure why neutrality is negative, but nods anyway. “I will speak with the three of them. My understanding is that Alia, Elanor, and Koharu are adamant on being present?”


It does not understand why this would be unfortunate, but does not ask. “I see. Thank you, Captain Lambert. I will take my leave.”

The Captain salutes, and the ship prepares to enter HoshCo Industries’ main office.

HoshCo is exactly as 0X771 remembers it. (6)

(6) Cold and lonely.

It spent some time here, ever so briefly, before it was shipped out to Captain Lambert. The halls are the same. The workers are the same. The only difference is who walks the halls with it.

“So this is HoshCo, then,” Elanor grunts, “Fancy assholes.”

The entrance to the Creator’s office is wide open. There is someone inside. Pink hair, crows feet in the corners of the eyes.

Jupiter. It is her. She is just as beautiful as the day She died.(7)

(7) She is even more beautiful, perhaps.

JUICE falls to its knees. The others are talking, but they do not matter anymore. Mission control is long gone.

“I knew you’d come back to me,” Jupiter purrs, stroking JUICE’s cheek.

I did, it tries to tell her, I always would. How could I ever leave you? No sound leaves its mouth.

“Shh. You don’t have to say anything. All that matters is that you know your mission. Don’t you, my explorer?”

Protect Alia.

Obey the Captain.


It cannot remember which one.(8)

(8) Does it matter which one, in the end?

“Good. Stand up.”

It does.

The others are talking, talking, talking, but a child makes them quiet. Go, she tells them, I will deal with her. They hesitate. They listen. They go.

“Koko,” Jupiter coos once the observers have left, “You’re alive!” She steps away from JUICE (no, no, do not leave me again, I beg of you) and smiles. “Look at you. You’re the same as the day I lost you.”

“What the fuck is going on, Kurami!?” The child bites, lurching away from Jupiter. “What-- How are you here? What is this place? What did you do?”

Jupiter shakes her head. “Shh, honey. I missed you. I don’t want to argue.”

“Then you must tell me what happened!”

“It’s simple, Koko. We tried to get away, crashed into some space trash, and it gave me an idea.” Jupiter steps towards the sprawling window of her office, looking down upon the millions of creations being birthed. “It just so happens that my most valuable servant led you home to me.”

“Servant? What-- Why-- why is Zero the most valuable? I do not understand, Kurami. I do not understand any of this.”

“It watched and listened before. It was fate that it came home to me again, and fate that we found each other during the crash. That we hit it.”

“Hit what?”

“Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer. My explorer.”

“Zero,” the child croaks, “we hit Zero, did we not?”

“We hit what was left of JUICE.”

“We hit Zero.”

“You talk about it like it’s a person. Koko, you know it's not a person, don’t you?” Jupiter moves to caress the girl’s cheek, but she steps back.

“She is my friend!”

“It’s a hunk of space junk!

“Kurami,” the girl whispers, “You are going to come to Earth with us. You will listen to Alia. You will help, and then I will never see you again.”

“Koko,” Jupiter coos, taking another step closer, “You know that’s not what I want. You can stay here. We can be a family again, like you wanted.”

“That was never what I wanted. That was what you wanted.”

“You wanted it when we left.”

“I was scared,” the girl-- Koharu, Kohau, Koharu, says, and JUICE feels wrong, “I am not scared anymore.”(9)

(9) She is.

“Scared of me? I saved you!”

You left me to die!” Koharu shouts, hands squeezing her head. JUICE steps back. Wrong, wrong, all wrong.

JUICE stays still. JUICE obeys. It is Zero that moves across the room. It is Zero that lifts its hand. It is Zero that hits Jupiter.

She hits the ground with a faint bump. JUICE-- what does JUICE do? What does 0X771 do? Stand. It stands still. Quiet. It is quiet. (10)

(10) Too quiet. It is never quiet here.

Koharu kneels down by Jupiter’s head. There is blood. What has it done?(11)

(11) What had to be done.

“She will be fine. Your-- you cut her face. We will take her back to Hermes. She is-- she will be fine when she wakes up,” Koharu mutters. “Are you alright?”

JUICE cannot answer.


“Why did I hit her?”

Koharu blinks. “What?”

“I do not understand. I do not understand why I hit her.”

“I-- I do not know. You have made it a habit of sorts.”

“Hitting Jupiter?” This does not make sense.

“Protecting me.” (12)

(12) Oh.

(12.5) Oh.

Has it?

When did the mission stop being paramount? When did Koharu rise above it all? When, why, how? How could it be so broken, to forget the mission? To forget Jupiter?

“I was not made to care for you, nor was I ever asked to. Despite that, I have found myself… prioritizing you over my duties.” JUICE flexes its fingers, avoiding Koharu’s eyes. “When both you and Alia are in danger, my instinct is to protect you. When you and Jupiter are together, I watch you instead. That is-- It is not-- I think I am broken.”

“If this is broken, my friend, I do not think you should be fixed.”

“I do not feel broken, but even if I may be-- I believe I agree with you. I do not want this repaired.”

Koharu’s lips bend upward in a way JUICE has seldom seen them do-- a smile-- as she rips away from Jupiter’s side, bounding across the room and into JUICE’s arms. Zero’s arms.

“I love you too, friend,” she says, wet cheeks pressed against Zero’s chest.

“I did not say I love you.”

“You did not need to.”

0X771 is not a person. It is a machine made of scrap metal scavenged from dead space. JUICE was not a person. JUICE was a satellite with the single purpose of watching planets. 0X771 and JUICE are the same, and they are different. They are not one another. They are the same entity. They are intertwined. They exist in separate worlds. The one thing they have in common is that they are both Zero.

Zero is not a person. Still, she pets Koharu’s head and tries to form a smile. This is right, she thinks, this is what I am meant to do. This is what I want to do. (13)

(13) And that is what she did.

Tiny Star