TO brought GiDi and DH back to their dormitory. They had an idea and wanted to get started on it right away– even if that meant heading to the crowded, still very active dormitory. The three of them settled into TO’s pod, ignoring the looks of disdain that came from the other synths. TO found that it was easier to ignore the others now that they had DH and GiDi around them.
“I’m positive that there must be synths who have made a real, memorable difference in King Decon’s army.” TO said as they searched for something on their implant. “Synths that have been remembered in one way or another for their contribution.” They summoned up a long list of changes that had been initiated over the years, starting from the most recent and trailing back through eons of King Decon’s reign.
“And... You want us to find them?” DH asked, their eyes trailing through the very long list.
“Correct!” TO said, “We’ll go through them three at a time!” They beamed at GiDI, “We will find proof that synths can and do have a lasting impact!”
DH opened up one of the articles and skimmed through it quickly, “These look painfully dry.” They grumbled as they flicked their eyes to the end of the page.
“We don’t have to read through them all.” TO said, “Or at least, we don't have to absorb them all. We just need to find synth designations and assignments.” They looked at GiDi again, “Even if we just find an assignment number that’s been reused, that’s still something, right? That’s still a synth that’s been remembered.”
GiDi nodded slowly, but their ears flicked down, “I’m sorry,” they said, “I didn’t say any of that to cause you two more work-“
“It’s research.” TO said, waving a hand carelessly at GiDi. “I’m excited! There’s lots I could learn doing this!”
DH sighed and started skimming, “I only have to skim, right?” they said after a moment.
“Right.” TO said. “But I’m sure we’ll find something before very long!”
A few hours later they had managed to work through a decade of articles that retold the advances conceived of by King Decon, and the changes He made to His training, His army, and the kingdoms over which He ruled.
Thus far, not a single individual synth had been mentioned.
GiDi finished another document, sighed, and turned off the holographic display from their implant. “I'm going to get more water.” they said, grabbing their empty water bottle. They glanced over to TO and DH, “Want me to fill yours for you?”
“Sure.” TO said, half engrossed in a document that told of changes to the composition of their food– specifically, the addition of the edible plates. TO passed over their half empty water bottle without looking up. Taking DH’s bottle as well, GiDi went off for more water.
They had been gone only a few moments when DH finally turned off their display. “I can’t do this anymore today.” they grumbled.
“Bored?” TO asked.
“Just… I need something different.” they said. They scooted up to the screen on the wall, and started looking for something on the universal database. After a moment they had a video playing; one with a beautifully costumed creature singing on a stage.
“Cultural research.” DH said, grinning, “I wish to better develop my sense of the universe. Also, I like the sound, the lyrics, and the way the singer dances. Look at her!” They pointed to the woman on the screen, “It’s like watching music!”
TO had to agree that DH was right, and after a moment their own document was discarded and forgotten. They allowed themselves to be pulled into what appeared to be some kind of romantic drama set to music. They were absolutely entranced until they heard a commotion from across the dormitory; until they heard GiDi cry out.
TO immediately looked over the edge of their pod to see what was happening. They spotted a crowd by the water fountain at the other end of the dormitory and though they couldn’t see GiDi, they were certain that their cry had come from that crowd.
“What’s going on over there?” DH asked, leaning over to look. They had turned off the music to better listen, and though they couldn’t make out the words they could now both hear GiDi saying something from the middle of the crowd.
TO leaned further out of the pod and spread their wings. It was dangerous to fly around in the dormitory– The hallways were too narrow, and there were too many people for everyone to be flying around all at once. TO didn’t care about that at the moment; nobody else was flying, and for all they knew GiDI was hurt. They glanced around, plotted their course, and before DH could stop them TO jumped from their pod and soared over to the crowd, landing heavily nearby.
“What’s going on.” TO demanded as they landed. A few synths turned to look, surprised that someone had been flying in the dormitory. They moved aside to let TO into the center of the crowd to see what was happening.
GiDi was on the floor. The water bottles that they had so kindly offered to fill up lay empty next to them. There was water all over the floor, and all over GiDi.
“Needless!” Another synth shouted as GiDi started to pull themselves back up to their feet. TO only had to glance at the other synth to realize that they remembered them– they hadn’t paid attention to the number on their uniform before, but they did now; 01Q10. They were the one that had pushed DH to the floor back when TO had first met DH.
“You wander about like you're half asleep most of the time!” 01Q10 snapped at GiDI, “Going into a daze at the water fountain, taking up everyone’s time! If you’re broken, you should either report yourself, or-“
They didn't finish what they were saying. GiDi stood up, their ears pinned back against their head, their eyes narrowed. Their upper lip pulled up slightly to reveal their pointed teeth.
“I. Am. Not. Broken.” They hissed in a quiet, dangerous voice.
“Q10.” TO said as they stepped forward, “Are you attacking other synths again?” They frowned as they stepped between GiDi and Q10, “You could be reported for that.”
“You will call me by my proper assignment!” Q10 snapped, “01Q10.”
“That seems ‘needless’ to me.” TO said. “A waste of time. Or, are you not smart enough to know I’m talking about you if I happen to shorten your assignment?” they quirked a brow in mock concern, “My apologies; I didn’t mean to confuse you.”
Though Q10’s ears pinned back in anger, they couldn’t help the light flush that started just at the tips. “I happen to take pride in the assignment given to me by King Decon.” they said, “Not like you and your little collection.”
“.. Collection?” TO asked. “What collection?” They frowned, letting their eyes flick over the other synths around them. Their eyes landed on the one that had warned them about DH so long ago: 55H70. They looked from TO to Q10, then to GiDi who was now standing behind TO. They gave TO a quick look that said very clearly, “I warned you.”
Q10 made a disgusted noise and gestured to GiDi. “That one.” they said, “And the other. You seem to collect broken synths.”
By now, DH had managed to climb down the ladder and run across the dormitory to catch up to TO.
“I’m not broken.” GiDi snapped once more.
DH took a few steps forward, and looked like they were about to say something but the moment they caught Q10’s eye they stopped and looked away. Their ears flicked down, their wings tightened around their arms.
It took TO a moment to remember the hurt that this synth had caused DH. They remembered how quick DH had been in assuming that TO didn’t want to be around them; how accepting DH had been of that idea. They remembered the first time they had seen DH cry, and it had been because of Q10 and 55H70.
TO’s eyes narrowed, their wings puffed out behind them, their hands clenched into fists. “You will leave them both alone.” TO hissed. “You will not speak to them. You will not talk about them. You certainly will NEVER touch either of them again. Understood?”
Q10 sneered at TO, but their ears flicked back as they regarded the aggressive stance that TO took. “You’re all broken.” They snapped. “If you had any real sense of duty, you’d report yourselves. You’d be corrected so you might be normal-“
“We don’t need to be corrected.” TO said, taking a step forward, “We’re just as capable as you. Maybe more.”
“Are you now?” Q10 said, “Last I saw, didn’t you fall down before me when we were running?”
“Last I saw, didn’t you get half your hand sprained because you couldn't make a proper fist?” TO sneered at them, “Maybe I can’t run as long as you, but at least I can follow basic directions.”
They glowered at each other, both sets of wings puffed out, ears back, teeth showing.
It was TO who pulled back first: Slowly, and without breaking eye contact. They weren’t backing down– they refused to do that now; if they did, they’d leave DH and GiDi open to being bothered by the other synths again.
“It’s not right that Synths should fight one another.” TO said, keeping their voice as cool as they were able. “I will not lower myself to your level. I will not attack a tool of King Decon.”
To their surprise, Q10 smirked, “Very well.” they said, “I agree. There is little to be gained from attacking one another.”
“You’ll leave them alone, then?”
“Oh no.” they said, “You three are deviant. Strange. Broken.” They took a step back, “For the glory and honor of King Decon, you must be inspected and corrected.”
“And you’ll ensure this by what? You’ll report to the overseer that you attacked us?” TO crossed their arms, “Yes, I’m sure that’ll work well for you.”
Q10 shook their head, “No no.” they said, “You want to prove that you’re all just as good as we are? That you’re better? Fine. We will work it out through a test of skill.”
“I see.” TO said, “And what did you have in mind?”
“The combat simulator.” they said, “A simple team battle; The broken tools against the proper ones. You defeat us, and we’ll never so much as set a wingtip on you or any of your little friends again.” They gestured around them, “In fact, none of us will; We’ll ignore you completely. Whatever you do, whatever you say, we’ll act as though we don’t see it or hear it. If you can beat us, then clearly we have no place to challenge your skill and worth here. They tilted their head, smirking, “But if we win, you all report yourselves as broken. You undergo testing and correction.
A stupid risk. Yes, it’d be nice not to worry about DH or GiDi being bothered by other synths. It’d be very nice to be left alone…But still, the risk was too much. It was far too much, even if Q10 already had that self-satisfied look on their face that said they knew that TO would refuse; that they had already won this little challenge.
“We accept.” TO said.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell