It was odd to take a shower in the middle of the day. They were all rushed and a little disoriented by the break in their routine, and although nobody had questioned C12 about it in the moment, a few synths commented that coming to the showers was pointless since they wouldn’t have time to have their uniforms cleaned, and thus would still smell in the afternoon because of that.
There were comments about it being a waste of water; a waste of time. Shouldn’t a Retiree know better?
“Perhaps-“ TO cut in as they got sick of the complaints, “They are testing us to see how well we follow orders, regardless of what we think is best.” They gave the other synth who had last spoken about it a withering look, “Unless of course you think you know better than a Retiree.
There was no answer, and the complaints stopped- at least they stopped around TO’s hearing. They didn’t know why they felt they had to speak up. Maybe it was because they wondered if the Retiree was strange. If C12 was strange, and was still being judged and criticized as a Retiree, then was that a sign that it would be something that TO would have to deal with no matter what they did, or how much they excelled?
Well, it didn’t matter. TO was just glad for a chance to get all the sweat off of their bodies, to let the hot water wash over their screaming muscles, and to give their uniforms a chance to dry off a little in the lockers. Maybe they were irritated that they had all basically been given a gift, and the others were complaining about it being wasteful.
After their shower all the synths headed to the cafeteria for their second meal. Some of them got confused by the change of their schedule, and started down the hallway to the dormitory before they were stopped by others and redirected to the cafeteria.
For their first meal of the day, the three strange synths still went to the cafeteria and sat in silence with all the other synths. For the second and third meals though, the routine changed for TO and DH since GiDi had joined them. Instead of subtly trying to sit next to one another in the cafeteria, they now took their meals back to their dormitories and ate in TO’s pod.
It was crowded, yes, but it was better to be able to relax and spend time with one another as opposed to sitting in the cafeteria under scrutiny and judgement, and having to be so careful with how they acted and what they said around everyone else.
They went to the cafeteria with the rest of the synths of course but as they retrieved their food they went outside the cafeteria and waited for one another. TO had been questioned about this once by another synth, and had replied that if they ate in their pod, they’d be able to study while they ate and therefore they made more effective use of their time. True, they hardly studied while they ate but the point was that they could if they wanted to.
Maybe TO didn’t need to make the excuses anymore. Most of the other synths seemed content at this point to leave them alone; to ignore them when they could. Even the Overseers were content to allow them to do as they pleased for the most part since GiDi and DH had not only improved since their association with TO, but they weren’t considered as disruptive around the other synths. The synth that had warned TO away from DH back in the flight training room that day had been right about one thing - because they excelled, they were allowed to be strange. It still wasn’t easy of course, the looks from the others, the disdain, the constant judgement was difficult to manage at times, but DH and GiDi made it easier. DH and GiDi made it worth it.
They had only just regathered outside the cafeteria and were heading to TO’s pod when GiDi stopped them and pressed their meal into DH’s hands.
“Bring this ahead.” GiDi said, “I’ll catch up.”
“What’s wrong?” TO asked.
GiDi pointed at an overseer that was walking away from them, “That’s my Overseer.” they said, “I know because they have shorter ears than the others.” They smiled and then started after the Overseer, “I’ll be right there! Wait for me!”
They watched GiDi take off and round a corner before they continued on.
“Hey, TO?” DH asked as they made their way to their dormitory, “Do you notice stuff like that too?”
“Stuff like the ears?” TO asked.
“Yes. I mean, is that also something that makes us strange?” They frowned as they glanced around, “Everyone else seems to need the tags, but we can tell people apart by how they look. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing; it seems useful.”
TO nodded. “I do notice things like that.” TO admitted, “All the time.” They gave DH a quick smirk, “Maybe there are some benefits to being strange.”
“Why are we strange though?”
The question took TO aback, “Why?” They asked. They had never considered the why of all this. They never questioned why they were strange.
“Well.. King Decon made us, right?” DH asked, “I mean, His programs, His computers, they made us.”
“Then.. If there’s something wrong with us, why?”
It had never occured to TO that they should wonder why they were strange.
“Well…” TO said as they pulled on knowledge they had implanted well in their head before they awoke, “King Decon gives us everything we need, right? And it’s up to us to make the most of the lives He’s given us…” They frowned, “Those that don’t are corrected.”
“But we’ve always been like this.” DH insisted. “We’ve always been different. We’ve always been strange. Broken. Defective. Were we created to be like this?”
“Maybe…” TO said, piecing together some logic in their head as they spoke, “Maybe we’re part of an experiment?” They frowned as they looked down at their food, “Like you said, being able to recognize the differences between other synths is a benefit. Maybe we’re something like the first wave of a new type of synth?” They looked up at DH, “If we succeed, maybe there’ll be more of us later.”
DH gave TO a smile as they put their arm over their shoulder. “Well, regardless of the reason, I’m glad I’m strange.” They smiled, “It’s hard sometimes, but if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have you and GiDi. I suppose that’s worth it.”
TO couldn’t quite name the feeling that made it feel like their heart was swelling, but they knew it was a good one, and they felt their face break into a large smile as they headed to their dormitory.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell