TO ran to the flight training room. They didn’t normally run through the halls because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves. Running meant that they were more likely to bump into others or even barrel right into another synth.
As they did.
They turned a corner, and ran right into someone. They backed up, apologized and started off down the hallway again.
“Stop.” An imperious, confidant voice said. TO froze in mid-stride. They turned on their heels, and stood to attention.
An Overseer. Not just any Overseer- their own Overseer.they had just ran right into their Overseer.
“My deepest apologies, Overseer!”
Their Overseer took two wide steps and stopped to stand before TO. “You.” they said, “You’re 09T07.” They tilted their head at TO, their eyes narrowed as they considered them, “You were supposed to be in mental training today. You were not. Explain.”
“Overseer… I-"they didn’t know what to say to them. They looked over the Overseer's slate colored uniform, their eyes lingering on the pin in the center of their chest - a seed with a sprout coming out of the top, and the letter T under it. They were in charge of any synth with ‘T’ in their number. Truth be told, even without looking at the pin TO know that it was their Overseer- their Overseer had narrower ears than the others, and their cheekbones were slightly less pronounced. They were also wider in the shoulders than the others were.
“Explain.” they said again.
“I was not feeling well.” they said, “I thought to lay down during my second meal, and fell asleep.” It wasn’t entirely the truth, but it wasn’t a lie. If they lied to their Overseer, then their Overseer would see it in the movement of their ears.
“Is it something I must be concerned about.” they said. “Do you require an examination?”
“No Overseer.” TO said, “I’m feeling much better now. My deepest apologies for sleeping through mental training. It will never happen again.”
The Overseer frowned as they looked over TO. Please don’t ask why I was sick, They thought, I don’t know what I’d be able to say if you ask me why.
“...I would be more worried if you were not so far ahead of the others.” They finally said, “However, I cannot allow this disrespect to stand.”
“No disrespect was intended, Overseer.”
“Perhaps, but your negligence reflects poorly upon me, and I consider that disrespect.”
TO felt the worry flood through their veins like ice. Not only would they suffer punishment from their Overseer, but if they were kept here much longer then maybe DH would leave the flight training room, thinking that they didn’t care if they were waiting, thinking that they were angry.
“I understand, Overseer.” TO said quickly, “I will gladly take any punishment you consider necessary.”
The overseer cocked a brow at them, their ears flicking in confusion, “No excuses?” They asked, “No pleading?”
“No Overseer.” they said, “My lack of diligence was unforgivable.”
In truth, pleading would waste time. TO could only hope that the Overseer wouldn’t demand that they be punished this very minute.
“Very well.” they said. “For the remainder of this period, you will report to the maintenance synths for duty after your final mealtime. You will work with them, then head to your pod for sleep. Understood?”
“Yes Overseer.” TO said, “Understood.” They still had more time until their mealtime was over, but not much. If they ran the rest of the way they could still get to the flight training room and talk to DH before they had to go to work with the maintenance synths.
They were suddenly very grateful for the food that GiDI had given them.
The Overseer looked at them carefully, then nodded, “Very good.” they said. “You may start tomorrow.”
“...Overseer?” They were confused; if they didn’t work today, then that meant that they’d only have to work in maintenance for two days - a very mild punishment.
“I can respect your hard work and your skills, and generally I believe you’ll make better use of your time in self-training. However, you must still suffer consequences for your actions.” They stepped past TO, “Do not miss training again and make me reconsider my judgement of you.
“Overseer! I will not.” They turned, saluted, and walked off down the hall until they could no longer hear their Overseers footsteps, at which point they broke into a run. They only hoped that DH was still waiting for them.
As they got closer to the flight training room the hallways got emptier. TO ran as fast as they could until they turned the final corridor to where DH was supposed to be waiting for them.
The corridor was empty.
They slowed to a walk as they continued to the door of the flight room, then sat down heavily on the floor. They leaned back against the wall as they caught their breath.
They were too late.
They had taken too long and DH had left. They knew that they would go and find GiDi who would tell them what happened. TO also knew that before they got to GiDi they’d think that they had abandoned them. They’d think they were still angry at them.
They put their hands up to their face and let out a long sigh. How had they messed this up so badly in the span of a single day! They hadn’t wanted to upset DH so they said nothing, but they had managed to upset DH and themselves, and they were sure they had upset GiDi as well.
TO jolted up, pulling their hands down from their face. DH was standing at the other end of the corridor holding a bottle of water in one hand. Judging by the water dripping off of it, it had clearly just been filled.
TO stood up, “DH, I’m sorry, I-“
They didn’t get to finish what they were saying. DH dropped their water bottle and ran up to TO, grabbing them in a crushing embrace that caused them to stumble backwards a little. Their wings wrapped tightly around TO as they pressed their face into TO’s chest and started to ramble.
“I’m so sorry I was just so excited I didn’t know you were upset and then GiDi said they thought maybe you were and then I felt awful, and then you weren’t at second meal so I thought you were mad at me, and I know you were trying to make me feel better this morning but I just shrugged you off because I know you don’t like being affectionate around -“
TO tentatively put their arms around DH, just under their wings and around the small of their back. “I’m sorry.” they said, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I did everything wrong!” They insisted, “I didn’t even notice you were upset! GiDi noticed you were upset and they hardly know you!” They looked up at TO, “Why were you upset?”
TO felt their ears flick down, “No. It’s stupid, I-“
“It’s not stupid if you were bothered.” They pulled away slightly as they looked up at them, “Please, tell me! What did I do!”
“You didn’t do anything! I promise!” TO said, “I just…” They frowned, feeling their ears and cheeks start to burn. It was so stupid now that they looked back at it. “I was being stupid.”
“You’re never stupid.”
TO frowned and held DH tighter. They were stupid. They had messed up everything today. And why?
“I… I was worried that I wasn’t good enough.” they said finally, their voice soft and unsure.
“Good enough for what?” DH asked as their ears flicked forward and their brows knit in confusion.
“For you.” TO said, “I...Well, you seemed so anxious to find other people, I thought I wasn't good enough for you. I kept trying to keep you quiet. I kept pushing you away when we’re around others-“
“You’re trying to keep me safe.” Dh said, “I mean, I don’t like it, but I understand it.”
“But you’re not happy like that.” TO said, “And I can’t be as talkative and relaxed as you- not around other synths. I get worried. Anxious.” They shook their head, “And GiDi is more talkative, and they don’t seem concerned at all by what other synths say or see, So I thought that maybe you’d…That if you had GiDi…” They trailed off. It was so stupid.
“That if I had GiDi…?”
“...You wouldn’t need me.”
There it was. The stupid thought that had been plaguing them. “You only stayed around me because you had nobody else.” they said, “And now that you had someone better-“
TO was cut off as DH gave them a tight squeeze, almost causing TO to squeak as the air was pushed from their lungs.
“You’re supposed to be the smart one.” DH said, “There’s nobody better than you. GiDi is different, but not better.” They looked up at TO, “Please, tell me you like them too?”
TO hadn’t given much through to their personal opinions on GiDI up until this point. “They seem kind.” They finally said, “They found me in the dormitory-“
“Dormitory?” DH pulled away, “You were already in the dormitory?”
To frowned, “I went there after I saw you and GiDi leave the cafeteria-“
“You missed your training?” DH’s eyes went wide with fear, “TO, what if the Overseers decide to punish you, what if you get corrected, you-“
TO shook their head, “I was already approached regarding that.” they said, “I am to report to maintenance after the third meal for the next two days as punishment.” They gave DH a quick smile, “My overseer went easy on me, since I’m apparently ahead of the rest of the group.”
DH’s ears drooped, “That.. that means we won’t have much time together the next couple of days.”
“Correct.” TO said as they glanced at the door to the training room, “No extra flight training.”
“I’m so sorry, TO.” DH said as they pulled away, slowly unwrapping their wings from around them, “I.. I tried to catch you after I saw you earlier. You looked…” They frowned, and shook their head, “I never want you to look like that again. Not because of me.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“I didn’t help!” They insisted, “Next time… Next time please tell me if you’re worried.” They gave them a smile, “About anything. I’m not as smart as you are, you need to be blunt with me.”
TO couldn’t help the low chuckle that came from their throat as they said that. It suddenly felt like the rest of the day hadn’t mattered, like they had been worried for nothing.
The hunger that had eluded them all day crept back. They held up a handful of the cubes to DH, “From GiDi.” They explained, “They were worried I’d be hungry.”
“If we rush, we can probably still get you some food from the cafeteria and eat it back in the dormitory with GiDi.”
“I’d like that.” TO said as they started walking back toward the cafeteria. They glanced quickly at the door to the flight training room and decided that for now, training could wait.
TO and DH ran to the cafeteria and got food just before they ran out of time.They went back to the dormitory and to TO’s pod to share the cubes between them as they studied with GiDi.
TO had been correct- it was hard to fit the three of them in the same pod, but they were also right when they said that they’d figure it out. Now the three of them were sitting side by side, with TO squat between DH and GiDi as they went over the tools they’d be using next span when they started their combat training, some of the scenarios they might be faced with, and enemies that they might be put against. The speaker in the corner played soft music as they worked, making GiDi’s ears flick as they listened.
With the music playing, and them all sitting close together as they went over the information that TO had on the holograph displayed before them, TO had the sudden thought that this was perfect, that if they could stay like this then the three of them could make it through their training. If they had each other, then this probably wasn’t quite so bad.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell