TO  and DH were actually starting to worry about their friend when GiDi finally got back to the Dormitory. Lunch was just over halfway done by the time they  scurried up the ladder and crawled into the pod next to TO.


“We were starting to worry about you!” TO said as they passed them their food. “You were gone a long time! We thought you’d just catch up with us!”


“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” GiDi said as they leaned against TO and started to eat, pausing between mouthfuls to breath and talk, “Like I said, My overseer likes to give more information than necessary but I got a lot of information about C12!”


“So are they strange?” DH asked, leaning over TO.


GiDi chewed thoughtfully as they considered this question, “Yes.” they said eventually, “But I don’t know if they’re strange like us.”


“What do you mean?” TO asked, “They’re strange or they’re- “


“Well. They’re strange. Generally. They think differently than others from what my Overseer said.” They glanced up at TO, “Like you, to an extent. They solve problems differently.”


“The three of us think differently.” DH pointed out, “Wouldn’t that make C12 strange like us?”


GiDi shook their head, “Well, apparently they only think differently in the sense of coming up with ideas. I wasn’t told if they talked more, or acted strangely, or if any of their supervisors or overseers ever thought they were particularly different.” They tried to swallow another cube of food without quite chewing it all the way and ended up coughing. TO had their hand on GiDi’s back, ready to help them but GiDi was fine after a moment.


“Take your time.” TO said with a frown, “Don’t try to shove it all in your mouth at once.”


GiDi gave TO a reproachful look, but took their time to chew their food before they continued, “Apparently, they were designated for front line combat after their placement.” GiDi Continued.


“So they didn’t seem to excel in anything else in training.” TO said. Generally if you were particularly good at something you were spared front line designations and assigned to work in a more specialized part of King Decon’s empire, and were thankfully spared the brutal experience of combat and bloody death at the hands of one of the many insurgent groups that stood against King Deacon.


“Apparently not, but that’s where they excelled.” They shoved the last few cubes into their mouth and started chewing as they broke apart the plate.


“You don’t go to combat to excel though. Nobody does. Nobody lives long enough to excel.” DH said, “I mean, not unless they’re designated as a General, but Generals don’t actually see combat.


“C12 wasn’t sent as a general, just a foot soldier, but they excelled, according to my Overseer.” GiDi said once they managed to swallow their food, “Apparently, the group that they were in got separated from their main group and immediate squad leaders in a battle on a colonized moon. C12 got most of the other synths with them to follow them, and led them out of danger and through an enemy ambush. They lost three synths, but that wasn’t because of their direction, that was because those synths didn’t want to follow them since C12 wasn’t a general or a leader or anything like that.” they took a long drink of water before they continued, “When they got back, they were promoted to a Squad leader.”


“Promoted?” TO said, confused.


“Yes! Promoted! There’s not many synths that end up moving up from their original designation, are there?”


DH and TO shook their heads. As far as they knew once you were assigned, that’s where you were until you couldn’t perform your duty anymore. In extreme circumstances one might  get transferred  to another location, but it was rare.


“Their squad apparently became known for being unpredictable.” GiDi said, “But in a good way. They could adapt better than others, and would sometimes disobey orders-“


“What?!” TO Couldn’t keep the shock from their voice. “They disobeyed orders, and they weren’t corrected or-“


“They might have been if they weren’t so successful. Whenever they did that, they ended up making things better. It was apparently a very close call. A few times the judgement went right to King Decon, and He decided that since the outcome was favourable that C12 could continue their work. They were promoted again to General, but refused to stay behind on the ships when their troops were out on the field.” They stacked the pieces of plate and took a bite, washing it down with more water, “They apparently led several campaigns that simply weren’t supposed to work, but which ended up being amazingly successful. In their last mission they lost their leg. Instead of being properly repaired or repurposed, they were granted the title of Retiree, and tasked with training new synths.” They tapped their own leg, “That’s why they limp. They have a prosthetic right leg.”


“Why not just give them a proper new leg?” DH asked, “we have the ability and the resources-“


“If they’re not going into combat again, or even on patrol, then I suppose there’s no need." TO said,  "They can manage just fine on a prosthetic, and the resources can be used on synths who need to be able to move fast and fight.”


DH frowned at this, their ears pinning back against their head, ‘You’d think,” they said, “That if they thought highly enough about C12 to grant them the title of Retiree, they’d be willing to give them a new leg.”


“I imagine that if C12 couldn’t perform their current duties then such a thing might be considered. Still, they're a Retiree,so they're more likely to be given an easier job in that case.”


“Alright, but what happens if they get injured now, and they can’t perform any duties?” DH pressed, “Retirees don't get repurposed, and the title of Retiree isn’t just taken away.”


“There’s been too few for me to be able to say.” TO said, “Most of the ones I’ve read about have simply gotten sick as they aged, and either died suddenly, or were euthanized before they were in too much pain.”


“Maybe if they couldn’t any resume their duties for some reason, they would fix the problem?”


“Perhaps.” TO said, but in truth they had no idea. They turned back to GiDi. “Did your overseer think it was strange that you were asking?”


“Oh no.” they said, “Apparently C12 is a source of much curiosity, and I’m not the first to ask about them.”


“So they must be strange ” DH said.


“We still don’t know.” TO said, “And I don’t know if it’s worth the risk to ask. I mean, even if they are, even if they were just like us, there’s no reason why they would talk to us. No, trying to find out more might just be too risky.” They glanced at DH, but didn’t want to explain it properly with GiDi around. Yes, they wanted to find another strange Synth, but they wanted to find one so that GiDi might be assigned with someone like them.


“It doesn’t matter.” GiDi said, “If they are strange though, that’s really good, right?” They beamed, “They’re strange, and not only did they not get corrected or repurposed, they excelled! They achieved the highest honor a synth can achieve!” They beamed, “Maybe we -can- do that! I mean-“ They looked at TO, “They didn’t even stand out in their training from what I heard, and they excelled. You’re smart. You excel! You can do the same, I’m sure!” They clapped their hands together, “You can be a Retiree one day! Maybe-“ their ears started to twitch with excitement, “Maybe we all can!”


TO felt their ears burn as they focused on their water bottle, “So long as we can get through our training and -“


“No no, we can do this!” GiDi said, “I know it! We can Retire one day! All three of us.”


“Unheard of.” TO said.


DH shrugged, “Well, then let’s go for it anyway.” they said, “I bet they’ve never had a group of strange synths working together before. If we stick together, I know we can do it!”


TO wanted to say that it wasn’t possible. They would eventually be separated because of their assignments anyway, and even after that, they would likely be given different jobs when they were done. The best they could hope for was to be assigned to the same area so they could spend their rest time together. That was so far away at this point that TO tried not to worry about it.


Still there was something about how excited and hopeful GiDi was, and how certain that DH was that made them think that maybe they could do it. Even if they couldn’t always work together, maybe one day they could at least be Retirees, and live out their days without having to worry about eventually being seperated.



A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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