At first, TO thought that maybe they would find other synths down in maintenance that were strange as well. They figured that if they were strange enough to stand out, but not strange enough to be corrected then maybe they could have ended up down in the lowest levels of the training center and put to work fixing and cleaning things.
TO might have been right, once. Unfortunately most of the synths down in maintenance were already corrected. TO would have known this without the tell-tale scar on the center of their forehead - a perfect round circle of silvery skin. The synths that had been corrected never seemed quite right afterwards. They walked about as though in a dream, and never quite had the same reflexes and instincts as they had before
Well, it was to be expected. Brain alteration surgery while the brain was still in early stages of development was one thing, but modifying the mind of a fully grown synth was another.
Oh well, no matter. They had work to do anyway and didn't have time to try to find others like them. TO was finishing work on a series of pipes that needed to be fixed. They were carrying hazardous materials and if TO wasn’t careful they could easily burst, but that was why the Maintenance Officer - a black-clad synth with a wide jaw and narrower eyes- had assigned the task to TO.
“You should be grateful.” The officer said, “Most of you young ones have no ability to contribute. You eat. You use resources. You take the the valuable time of-“
“Officer.” One of the maintenance synths said as they slowly walked out from around a corner. “I finished running the water purification system.”
“Good. Did you turn off the machine?”
The synth looked like they were trying very hard to remember, but just couldn’t, “Go back and check.” The officer said, “If it’s still on, turn it off, and write down that you turned it off.”
The synth nodded, and walked off down the hall.
“Right.” The officer said as they continued down the hallway, “You take up so many resources, and despite being perfectly capable for maintenance work you’re not allowed to participate. Not unless it’s a punishment.” They gave TO a hard look, “Do you feel as though you’re being punished?”
“No, Officer.” TO said, but their ears told a different story, flicking to show their deceit.
“Well, I can hardly blame you for that.” The Officer said, “This was presented to you as a punishment. Still, you should feel honored that you’re being allowed to be useful to King Decon before your training is even complete.
The Officer brought TO to the pipes, gave them the tools they’d need, and left them alone to do their work. It was a long job, and after the first few pipes TO was certain that this would be their job for the duration of their punishment. The Officer didn’t seem to want to get any of the other synths in maintenance to do it, though TO didn’t blame them; if something had gone wrong they doubted that the others would be able to react fast enough to protect themselves, or others.
For the next two days TO would rush down to the underbelly of the training center and work on those pipes. They were only halfway through the second day when they finished up, surprising themselves by finishing up sooner than expected. They climbed down the ladder that they had used, put it away, and started to clean their tools hoping that the maintenance officer wouldn’t decide to give them a quick- but doubtlessly messier and nastier- task for the rest of their time.
At least they were serving King Decon, right? Being productive in any form was a glorious thing in the service to King Decon.
“I know you.”
TO looked up and saw a corrected synth looking at them with those dull, dreamy eyes. They didn’t recognize them, but the tag on their dull green uniform read 06T08.
“We must have been in the same training?” TO asked. “ Though. I don’t recall-“
“You.. I think.” Their ears pinned back as they tried to focus. Their brow-ridges furrowed together as they tried really hard to bring back the memory, “You. I think... you talked a lot?”
TO felt their ears droop. Great. That’s what they were remembered for.
“Yes, I did, but-“
“I think… Oh well.” They started to walk away, “I think I wanted to talk to you. I don’t know why now.”
TO watched them as they started to leave, then jumped up and went after them. They walked so slowly TO didn’t have to rush.
“Wait.” they said, “You wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes. Apologies. I do not know why.” They looked past TO at the tools that had been left unattended. It was almost as though something had turned on in them, like a program was starting to run, “You need to put away your tools.” they said in a scripted tone, “Tools must not be left dirty or unattended.”
“I...” TO looked at them, confused by their sudden shift in tone. “Yes. I’ll put them away now.”
The other synth nodded, almost seemed to relax, and walked off.
TO went back to their work, fastidiously cleaning their tools and putting them away properly in their case. Even though they were corrected now, TO could tell that 06T08 had been strange like they were, and like DH and GiDi were. They knew it, they could tell… but 06T08 weren’t strange anymore. They had been corrected, and while they remembered wanting to talk to them, they didn’t seem to have that desire anymore.
What did they do to correct synths anyway? What exactly did they alter?
TO put the last tool away and checked the implant on the back of their hand. They had a little time left, but if they started walking back to bring the tools in now, then by the time they got there they were unlikely to be given much else to do - there was no time for them to be sent off anywhere else to take on another job
As they made their way down the hallway, they saw 06T08 just a little ahead of them. They kept a slow pace, which was likely why TO had caught up to them. TO kept pace behind them since they weren’t in any kind of rush. After a moment, TO realize that they were checking gauges on the pipes as they walked.
TO started to catch up. Maybe they could try to talk to them again.
06T08 stopped at another pipe, and leaned forward to check the gauge. As they leaned, TO saw the pipe behind them shaking. They frowned, wondering why 06T08 didn’t notice.
“06T08.” TO called out as they got closer, “Behind you!”
06T08 looked away from the gauge and glanced at TO. Then, with agonizing slowness they turned around to see the malfunctioning pipe. Their eyes widened in surprise, but they didn’t move.
The pipe began to rattle and shake dangerously. TO dropped the tool kit and ran to the other synth. They grabbed them and spread their wings out to protect them from the spray that came from the pipe. They felt something hit their back, splattering them. The fumes hit their noise, and they fell to their knees, coughing and gagging.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell