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TO realized that the order in which their meals were called depended on when they entered the cafeteria. A scanner around the door picked up the signal from the chip implanted in the back of their hand as they entered  and put their number into the system which would prepare their meals. As such, if TO were to wait for DH outside the cafeteria and they just happened to walk in together, then their meals would be called around the same time. If their meals were called around the same time, then they could sit together without needing to cause any disruption.

 

“I don’t see why it’s such a problem.” DH grumbled when TO pointed this out to them after their sixth flight training session. “It doesn’t actually hurt anyone if I just slip ahead of them to sit next to you.”

 

“Probably not,” TO said, “But it draws attention, and we do not-“

 

“Don’t”

 

“-don’t want attention.” TO said, “We don’t want people to notice we’re acting strangely.”

 

When TO said this, DH’s ears drooped down in sadness even as they tried to keep their expression neutral. TO frowned, “What is it?”

 

“It’s nothing.”

 

“You are sad.”

 

“You’re.” they said absently, “It’s nothing, I apologize-“

 

“DH, why are you sad?”

 

DH looked aside, their ears twitching with anxiety. They nibbled on their lower lip before they finally looked up at TO, “Are you ashamed of me?”

 

“What? No!”

 

“But you always try to be so quiet around others when we’re together. If we’re talking, and another synth passes by, you suddenly go silent.” They turned away, “I understand if you’re ashamed of me, but don’t lie to me about it. I’d rather just know.”

 

TO blinked at DH, their own ears drooping down as well. “I’m not ashamed of you!” they said after several moments, “I... I admit I do not- don’t like being stared at but that’s not about you!”

 

“Then why do you try to keep me so quiet around others?” They shook their head, still not looking back at DH, “I don’t mind being stared at- I’m used to it. Why should it bother you if I’m stared at?”

 

TO had not told DH about what 55H70 had said about correction or repurposing. They didn’t want to scare DH, and they didn’t want them to feel the same fear that they themselves carried whenever they were seperated. They didn’t want DH to suffer the worry of wondering if they’d never see them again; the anxiety of wondering if that day was the day an Overseer would look at them and decide that they needed to be dealt with.

 

They didn’t want DH to have the same fears that they themselves did; that they would suddenly end up alone again.

 

They also didn’t want DH to feel like they were ashamed of them.

 

TO put both hands firmly on DH’s shoulders. DH always seemed calmer when they had some form of physical contact, and if TO were to be honest, it made them feel calmer as well. “I’m not ashamed of you.” they said firmly. DH’s eyes flicked from their face to their ears, then satisfied that they weren’t lying, back to their face.

 

“Am I too loud?”

 

“No! I mean, not for me.” They shook their head, “But… You are for others.”

 

“I don’t care about others.”

 

“No, but you should care about your own safety.” TO said. DH looked up at them- they were a little shorter than TO was, though not by much.

 

“My safety?”

 

“If you’re found to be too different, they will try to correct you. Have you seen other synths come back from being corrected?”

 

DH’s eyes widened, their ears flicked down and back in fear, “But… But I wouldn’t be corrected. I work. I’m not incompetent. I’m not as good as you-“ They glanced away, “But I can do things. I’m as good as any average synth.” There was fear in them now, TO could tell by the twitching of their ears, the way their brows furrowed in the center, how they pressed their lips together so tightly that they paled. “I’m not... that strange, am I?”

 

“Do you want to take the chance?”

 

DH looked away, shaking their head, “No.”

 

“I’m not ashamed of you.” TO said again as they gently squeezed DH’s shoulders, “But I worry about you. We should keep quiet until we’ve passed our training at least.” They smiled, “Once we’ve passed our training, it’ll be far less likely that we’d be corrected, and we’ll be too useful to simply be repurposed.”

 

“You think so?”

 

“Yes. And when we’re done our training, we’ll be sent for off-planet service.”

 

DH’s ears lifted up, twitching happily as they beamed at TO. When they passed their training they would be assigned to a planet somewhere in the galaxy to assist the planetary government in keeping King Decan’s peace. It was mostly for show, to have more visibility of King Decan’s troops, but it was also a chance for the synths to experience the galaxy before they came back for their true assignments. It was a learning opportunity.

 

“And you think we’ll go on assignment together?” DH said

 

TO put their arm around DH as they led them to the door, “Of course.” they said, “I’m certain we will-“

 

“You’re lying.” DH said as they watched TO’s ears. TO frowned as their ears drooped.

 

“Well, let me rephrase then. I’m positive that I can convince whoever assigns us to put us together for our service.”

 

“I hope so.” DH said, “If I were to be assigned with anyone else... That might be a problem. I don’t know who would hate it more, me or them.”

 

TO knew it would be DH and themselves who would suffer more than their partners if they were seperated. They had now known each other for only 6 days, and in that short time they had gotten used to being around one another. They were separated during their flight training and their mental training, but other than that they spent all their time together. They had quickly grown accustomed to the easy conversations, pleasant company, and casual touches. They were spoiled by one another and if either of them had that suddenly ripped away for cycles on end…

 

TO chose not to think about that, “I’ll do everything I can.” TO said, "We won’t be alone again.”

 

“I wish there were more of us.” DH said in a soft, quiet voice as they reached the door.

 

“Of us?”

 

“You know. Synths who are strange. Like we are.”

 

TO gave DH a sad smile, as their ears tilted down, “Me too,” they said, “But I really don’t think there are. Don’t you think we’d have seen them by now?”

 

DH sighed, their ears drooping, their wings sagging slightly as they nodded. “Yes.” they said, “Yes. We would have. I just wish there were more of us.”

 

There was a sudden pain deep inside that TO couldn’t explain; a hurt. DH noticed the sudden flicking of their ears. “Are you ok?” They asked.

 

“I am, I think.” TO said as they opened the door, “And… I don’t know if we’ll find anyone else. What are the chances that there would be more strange ones like us?”

 

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TheWitchOfTheRock

Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell

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