To them, it was like waking up suddenly. They opened their eyes and they could in fact recognize themselves in the reflection on the glass before them - their thin face, the steady curve of their jawline that worked down to the narrow, pointed chin. Their nose, like the nose of all the other synths, was more like a snout without color, flush against the protrusion of their jaw. Their thin lips had the slightest tint of purple of to them, deepening as their upper lip formed a little triangle just under their snout. Their big black eyes reflected the light from the devices around them, and their large ears flicked in confusion in the liquid of the development pod. Like all synths, they had long necks to accommodate for their three sets of vocal chords. Like all synths, they had no hair anywhere on their bodies. Like all synths they had a pair of bat-like wings that sprouted from their shoulders and draped over their arms. Like all synths, they woke from their simulation knowing only one thing for a fact: King Decan created me, and as such, I belong to King Decan.
The liquid in the tank started to drain, and they felt the cold of the air on their bluish-white skin which had never touched air before. They shivered, and hugged themselves to keep warm, tightening their wings around themself. The pod opened, and they were pushed out, standing on unsteady legs that were kept from atrophy by constant electronic stimulation through their development. There were two other synths before them, each of them bearing a pin over the center of their chest - just over their hearts- that resembled the very pod that the newborn synth had just stepped out of, signaling them as the individual production officers that maintained the pods. They threw a plain robe over the newborn’s shoulders to protect them from the cold.
“...Who am I?”
The two production officers looked at each other quickly, their ears flicking with brief surprise as they frowned. Normally, a newborn synth would stay silent until given orders, or if they were particularly keen they might ask what King Decon would want them to do.
They didn’t ask who they were. Personal Identity wasn’t necessary unless it was beneficial for King Decon.
The synth on the left, who had a wider jaw and narrower ears glanced at the back of their hand. A screen lit up under the skin and a few quick gestures of their fingers they were able to bring up some data.
“You’ve been detanked on the 9th day of this period, and you were grown on level T.” They checked their notes, “You are also the 107th synth to be detanked today. As such, your designation is 09T07.” They glanced at them, "Do you understand?”
“Yes.” they said, “I am... 09T07.” They looked around, and they knew where they were. They had seen this before, or at least, they had seen this in their dreams. This was the Synth Production Room- a grand cylinder with multiple floors, each one holding 500 viable synths, all in different stages of development. 09T07 looked to their right, and saw an empty tank, the fluid still dripping from the inside. To their left, they saw another synth who was still asleep, their ears flicking.
The other production synth, the one who had the biggest snout they had ever seen (Or dreamed, anyway) took a tag from the pocket of their white uniform. They wrote in careful print the number they had just been assigned, and put the tag around 09T07’s wrist. They then pointed to a door at the other end of the room,
“Go out that door.” they said, “Follow the hallway, turn right, then enter the fifth door on your right. You’ll be assigned a station and set to your training.”
09T07 nodded, pulled their robe tightly around themselves, and started towards the door.
“A moment.” The other production synth said, their voice flat and uncaring, “Tell me, 09T07, what is your purpose?"
Their purpose. Of course they knew their purpose. That had been hammered into them for as long as they could remember. Or... As long as they thought they remembered. They had thought the dreams were real until the minutes before they woke.
The dream. A life they had lived which was slipping from their memory with every second.
“Why…. To serve King Decon, of course.” they said.
The production synth nodded and turned from them, “Very good.” they said, “You may leave.”
While stretching on a grey mat in the physical training room alongside 100 other synths, 09T07 considered how long they had been out of their tank.
That was only 3 periods. Two periods short of a span. Their time in the tank seemed so distant; it had been a full life, filled with people and experiences. 30 days ago, and they had realized that their life was false, a simulation programmed to teach them the basics they’d need to function as a perfect tool of King Decon. 30 days ago that life, the people, and places had faded away to fragments of dreams, insignificant and forgotten, leaving them only with the sense that they were missing something.
09T07 stretched forward as the instructor on the screen before them demonstrated their exercises. Every morning it was the same now. Get up, eat the same food every day, then go to the physical training room. Stretches and weight training were performed in silence with 100 other synths who all dressed in the same light blue uniforms- a tight, one piece suit with a wide open back to accommodate their wings. They each had an egg pinned to the center of their uniforms -marking them as still being in training- along with their number right over it. They all moved in unison as though their exercises were some kind of dance performed without music. It was unnaturally quiet every day and it left 09T07 feeling uneasy.
The instructor on the screen led them to stretch out their backs and spread their wings, and 09T07 obeyed. The instructor told them to lean forward and stretch their legs. 09T07 obeyed. They knew that they could and should obey. They were obeying the orders - though indirect- of King Decon and as such the orders were good.
But… Did it have to be so quiet? Did they always have to be silent? And did it have to be the same exercises every single day?
With the stretching finished, the bands around their wrists started to adjust, creating artificial weight for them to start working their muscles. It would take a moment for that to finish calibrating. As 09T07 waited, they turned to the Synth to their right - one that was taller than they themselves were, and whose ears were a little longer and a little more pointed.
“Do you not find,” 09T07 ventured, “That the same exercises every day get rather tedious?”
The other synth was silent for a moment before realizing that 09T07 was talking to them. They turned, and 09T07 could see that the number on their one-piece uniform read 08H03.
“I do not.” they said, their voice stiff, their ears flicking back with irritation as their eyes narrowed, “I should hope that you are not growing bored already. I should hope your mental capacity is such that you can manage some repetitive tasks.
“Oh! Of course!” 09T07 said quickly, looking away as their ears flicked down in shame, “Just… It would be nice to do something different.”
“Yes. Or at least… Maybe something not so quiet.”
The other synth turned away from them, refusing to respond to their chatter as their ears flicked in irritation. 09T07 sighed and tested the weights on their wrists as the instructor came back on screen telling them to get up.
30 days. 30 failures. Today’s failure wasn’t as bad as the others had been. The first day had been the worst. They had made the mistake of asking the synth next to them if they remembered their life before coming out of the tanks. They had been firmly informed that before the tank was just an hallucination, and if they wanted to dwell on such things they were welcomed to do so, but there were more important things to focus on. They had glared at 09T07, their ears twitching in disgust, their black eyes narrowed and angry.
Lesson learned. Do not talk about before. Every day was a new such lesson. Do not talk about the future. Do not talk about the past. Do not discuss the quality of their food. All attempts at smalltalk had been met with confusion, disdain, or depending on the subject - disgust.
They wondered, as they got up and started extending out their arms, if the real lesson was that they should attempt no smalltalk. Talk was fine, but it had to have a point. Transfer of information. Nobody else seemed bothered by this, but 09T07 felt strangely isolated by it.
They took a breath, and tried to ignore the loneliness eating away at them. They got a glance from the synth next to them as they felt their ears flick downwards in sorrow. They knew this was nothing to be sad about, and that if they were to bother to look carefully at the other synth they would have that expression; The look that one might give if they just found something inedible in their food- what are you, what are you doing here? Their ears would be flicked out in confusion at the strange creature that was 09T07.
You don't belong.
Oh well, nothing they could do about that- the movements of the ears were entirely involuntary. Theirs seemed to move more than others, and it was starting to draw disdain.
09T07 would have to get used to it. Maybe if they stopped trying to make this small talk and stopped trying to fill the silences, then they would stop missing such communication. Maybe this would get easier. Maybe all the others had at some point felt the same and simply grew out of it.
They shifted to balance exercises. The first one was a hard one in which they had to stand on one foot and keep their balance on a slightly bent knee with their hands spread out and their other leg extended behind them. Often, synths would fall down during this. That was fine - they were still developing their muscles properly - it would take time to reach the levels of perfection required of them by King Decon; He had done his part, now the synths had to work hard to do theirs and bring out the full potential that King Decon had given them.
09T07 stretched, their arms spread out, their single uplifted leg stretched behind them, their wings outstretched as though they were flying. They wobbled, but for the first time they managed to keep their balance! Pride swelled in their chest as the Synth that had chided them fell over. Maybe they didn’t understand how they were supposed to interact with these other synths yet, but they were growing faster, developing better.
They could be better.
There was a sudden commotion. Somewhere, a synth fell over - not a strange occurrence- and they heard someone say, “Are you ok? Here, let me help y-“ followed by another synth shouting, “Do not touch me!” With such venom in their voice it took 09T07 by surprise. They stood upright before the exercise was over and turned to look.
Closer to the middle of the physical training room were two synths that seemed to be in some kind of struggle. One synth held another -A synth with a more rounded jawline and more rounded ears than they were used to seeing- by the collar of their uniform before throwing them down to the ground. The one on the ground flicked their ears down and back in fear, their black eyes wide and confused as they looked up at their assailant.
“Do not touch me.” The standing synth said, “Do not come near me. I will teach you if I must.” They raised up their arm, preparing to strike the other with the added force of the weighted wristband.
09T07 didn’t know why they did it, but the moment the other synth was pushed to the ground they rushed over. They got there just in time to stand in front of the assailant, pushing their fist away before they bludgeoned their victim.
“I do not see how this helps.” 09T07 said, “You should not attack King Decon’s property.”
The other synth hissed, their ears pinned back in anger, “That one is broken.” They snapped, “They talk of foolish, needless things. They keep loitering around me for no reason. They keep touching me- grabbing my arm to gain my attention, I tell them to stop. They pick lint off my uniform, I tell them to stop. Now, I fall down and they rush to grab me and pull me up. They do not listen. I will teach them to listen.”
“You will do no such thing.’
“And who are you to tell me what I will and will not do.”
Why were they even here? What did they think they were going to do? They didn’t know this strange synth, and they had no authority here. They had no authority anywhere. But they had seen the synth looking so scared, so startled. So sad.
They took a step forward, “I am simply one who has learned their place.” they said, “And I know that we are not to attack one another. Injury would hinder development, and create problems for King Decon.”
The other synth was glaring at 09T07, but their ears were now twitching slightly. They were uncertain, unsure. The door opened, and another synth- one who had a pin of a closed fist over the center of their chest, walked in and started to make their way to where they were standing. That synth was in charge of the physical development rooms, and wouldn't be pleased to see infighting among those in training.
09T07 held their arm out for the fallen synth, helped them to their feet, and started pulling them back to their own mat.
“What are you doing?” They asked.
“Getting you away from that one.” 09T07 responded. When they got to their mat, they turned to the synth next to them, who was now looking at 09T07 with confusion.
“Switch.” 09T07 said, “With this one. Go over to their old mat.”
“So this one can continue their exercises and that other one doesn’t attack them.”
The synth frowned, looked like they were going to make an argument, then turned away, “You talk too much anyway.” They snapped, “And your ears move too much.”
Once they were gone, 09T07 gestured for the synth they had rescued to continue the exercises on the now abandoned mat. They nodded, and for a few minutes the two continued their workout in silence.
09T07 was determined that they would not ruin this now. They would be silent, and only talk when necessary, they would keep their thoughts to themselves, their questions in their head. They would not make it so that this one looked at them funny like all the others did.
09T07 was almost surprised to hear another synth talk to them. They turned and looked at the other synth who’s ears were flicked down in shame, a light blue flush running over them.
“It was nothing.”
“It was a lot. Nobody else would have done anything. Why did you?”
“I am unsure.” they said after a brief pause, “I think... You looked scared?”
They other synth nodded and fell into silence, though a few minutes later, they asked, “What is your designation?”
They had never been asked that before. All the other synths looked at the number on their uniform, “I am 09T07.” they said, then without bothering to check the other’s uniform, asked, “Yours?”
“70H67… But..” They looked around carefully, then looked back at 09T07, “I prefer, ‘DH.’”
“DH?” They asked, “I do not understand."
“Well… the numbers seem so strange, don’t they?” Their ears perked up, “I mean, we have designation numbers, then when we get proper assignments, we have designations that go with the position, but we never have names, correct? So, I choose a name; DH.”
“Why DH though?” They enjoyed listening to DH speak- they had a more fluid way of speaking that they themselves had not yet mastered.
“Oh!” They smiled, “That’s easy. Seventy-H. Sounds like 7-D-H. So… DH.”
“I see!” they said, their eyes widening, “That is clever!”
“Thank you!” DH said, beaming. Their ears suddenly dipped down, “Though… Everyone else thinks it’s strange.”
“I don’t see why. DH is much better than 70H67..” They frowned as their instructor demonstrated an exercise where they held their arms out and lifted them up as the weights increased. “Could I perhaps go as TO?” Their tone was cautious, their ears tilted down slightly, expecting DH to snap at them for some reason. 30 days, 30 failures. They didn’t want two failures in one day.
DH didn’t snap. Instead, they gave the newly dubbed TO a broad smile, their ears twitching with joy.
“That! I would like that!” they said, “I shall call you TO. May I work next to you from now on?”
“Of course!” TO said, unable to keep their own broad smile off their face, their own ears twitching with joy as well.
30 days. 30 failures. 1 success.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell