TO was the one who spotted the smaller synth the next day when they and DH were on their way to the cafeteria. They walked side by side as they normally did, making sure to keep very quiet as they made their way through the crowd of other synths. TO saw the smaller synth walking and nudged DH as they gestured to them. Together they maneuvered their way around until they were just behind them. The small Synth turned around at one point, distracted by something they saw and TO was able to see their call number: 45G70. They whispered this number as quietly as they could to DH
“What’s the plan then?” DH asked back, their voice similarly quiet as they leaned in.
Plan? Was TO supposed to have a plan? Sure, they had a plan for most other things that had happened around them, but did they have a plan for this smaller synth?
Did they want a plan? They thought about how relaxed they felt when they were spending time with DH either in the flight training room or in their own pod. Three of them wouldn’t fit in the Pod at once.
“I don’t have one at the moment.” TO finally said, feeling their ears droop, “Maybe they’re not even different. Maybe they were just confused by the music we were playing.”
Maybe. Unlikely though, now that TO thought back on it. 45G70’s ears had been twitching with the music- happy twitches as the ears were perked up -and their eyes had been big and bright in the second before they caught TO’s eyes. They hadn’t been confused, they had been enjoying it.
“Then we just watch them, and see how they act?”
“Correct for now-“
“Why don’t we sit with them at meal time?” DH said, their ears perking up suddenly at the idea, “You could sit on one side, I could sit on the other, and we could watch them and maybe talk to them while we eat, and… TO? What’s wrong?”
Their ears had drooped down again. They could mask their expressions, but they couldn’t stop their ears from drooping as they felt their stomach drop at DH’s excitement. They tried to think back to when they and DH started talking. Had DH looked this excited when they started spending time together?
“I’m a little worried. That’s all.” they said, though they didn’t mention what they were worried about, “Even if they’re strange, that doesn’t mean they’d want to be around us.”
DH’s ears dropped down as they frowned, “I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” they said, “I mean, you and I were happy enough to have some company.”
“Were?” TO hadn’t meant to say that, but it was out now.
“Well yeah!” DH said, “Weren’t we? It was nice to find someone else I could relax around.”
TO nodded as they looked ahead. Maybe they had been too hard on DH. Maybe in trying to keep them from being as outgoing as they’d have liked around the others, they made DH feel like they couldn’t be themselves even when they were alone.
They messed up. Again. It was a whole new kind failure this time.
“Do you not want to talk to them?” DH asked as they watched TO. Their ears drooped, “I mean, if you don’t want to-”
“No no.” TO said quickly, “No, We’ll talk to them.”
“Are you sure?”
Another synth was starting to look at them strangely. TO wanted to gesture to DH so that they’d stop the conversation for now, but was that part of the problem? Was that why DH was so desperate to find another synth that they could connect to? Did they need someone who didn’t shush them and try to force them into silence.
With their ears flushed blue, TO put a hand on DH’s shoulder. They had wanted to put their arm over their shoulders- a now familiar gesture when they were alone- but they lost their nerve as the other synth was looking at them.
“If you want to. If it makes you happy.” they said as they flashed DH a nervous smile. DH’s ears perked up happily for a second, then caught the nervous twitching and the flush to TO’s ears.
“Thanks.” they said as they gently slipped out from under TO’s hand, “We’ll talk to them. And thanks.”
Another failure. Two in one day? And with DH? TO had thought the days of failure were over but it seemed like they were just messing up all over the place today. They sighed, nodded, and continued to follow 45G70. At this rate they’d all walk into the cafeteria around the same time.
45G70 sat between DH and TO, silently picking at their food. TO hadn’t said anything to them yet; they didn’t know what to say. They didn’t need to think about what to say when they were talking to DH, they just talked! Of course, they didn’t need to make conversation at first; at first they just protected DH from that other synth, and DH did most of the talking.
45G70 wasn’t in danger, so how did they open up conversation with them?
TO took a breath, bracing themselves to comment on something - anything- the music they had been listening to or the bigger synth that had pushed them, but as they turned to speak they saw DH looking at them expectantly, their ears twitching with excitement. They saw 45G70 focused on their food, their brows knit together.
They lost their nerve, looked away, and shoved one of the cubes into their mouth as their ears pinned back.
Too nervous. They knew if they tried to say something they’d trip all over their words and make a fool of themselves. This new synth would probably give them ‘the look’ and then they’d have had another failure. Three in one day. They really didn’t want that.
“897.78” DH said without looking up from their plate. TO and 45G70 turned to look at them, confused.
“E-excuse me?” 45G70 said, their ears flicking out. They had a soft, tentative voice.
“897.78” DH said again, slowly and clearly, “That’s the frequency that TO and I were listening to on our speaker yesterday.” They looked at 45G70, “TO said that you seemed like you were enjoying the music.”
“Tee-Oh?” they said, confused. DH gestured to TO.
“Yes. TO. Their number is actually 09T07, but we shortened it to TO, and I’m 70H67- so I shortened that to DH.”
45G70’s eyes widened, their ears perking up, “You made your own name for yourself?” they said in awe.
“Well-“ DH looked aside, flushing slightly, “I just came up with a shortened version for myself, not really a name. TO came up with theirs on their own.”
They turned to look at TO, then suddenly recognized them, “Oh!” they said as their ears flicked down and flushed, “You’re the one I saw the other day!” They dipped their head, “I’m so sorry for listening, I-“
“It’s no problem.” TO said, glancing away, “I was the one staring down at you.” They glanced back at the new synth, “You...That other synth pushed you rather hard yesterday. Were you injured?”
They shook their head, “No...No, and I’m used to it anyway. I tend to just…” they waved their hand, “Sometimes I start thinking about something, and I lose myself. It’s a problem.”
DH shook their head, “I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem. What do you think about?”
How could DH do this so easily? They didn’t even know this synth, and here they were just talking to them as though they had been spending time with them since they came out of the tank.
“Oh! Well. It depends. I mean, Yesterday, I was listening to the music and I was just thinking about how nice it sounded. I didn’t know the language that was being sung, so I was trying to make up meaning in my head from how the music sounded-“
And this new synth was so much more talkative than TO was! They were going on about the music they had overheard, and DH was listening, their ears perked up and attentive, their eyes wide and bright.
TO turned to their food, feeling their ears droop down as they picked at their meal. They didn’t feel hungry at all. They worried at first that DH would notice that their ears had drooped down, and that they would get worried or upset. DH seemed to be having so much fun talking to this new synth, TO didn’t want to disrupt them.
They didn’t notice. They listened intently to 45G70 as TO slowly ate their food, focusing on each bite. As DH declared that 45G70 should have their own nickname (GiDi) TO realized that while they would have felt guilty if DH had noticed they were upset, it would have been better than feeling like this. It would have been better than this feeling of being on the outside, of somehow being pushed away from DH.
It was just because you were the only one that tolerated them. A voice in their head said, this new one - GiDi, is far more talkative and doesn’t seem bothered by the looks they’re getting. They’re far more suited to be DH’s friend than you are.
TO felt like it was three failures now in one day, but they had never experienced a failure where they hadn’t said a single word.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell