“I have been informed.” C12 said once all the synths were all lined up for the next day’s physical training class, “That my order for you to shower after training yesterday was considered ‘inefficient’ by many of you” They paced before them with their strange limp, glowering at the synths standing before them in the front row and observing those whose ears started to twitch with anxiety.


“Well… My apologies for this lack of forethought.” they said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable, “I’ll ensure that I make the most of every second from now on.”


TO wanted to find the synths who had been complaining and smack them over the head. It had been good to get out of the training room early and have a chance to shower. What was their problem? Why did they complain?


“Take position.” C12 barked. They all stood as they had been taught the day before, their feet shoulder width apart, their hands in very proper fists.


“Now.” C12 said, “Show me how you punch.”


They Synths were made to punch the air over and over as they had been taught the day before. Then they were taught to kick. The assistants went around as they had the day before, finding any weaknesses in form. TO got caught this time, their kick not quite fast enough. The assistant grabbed TO’s leg as it came out, and in a move that was too fast to follow they pushed back and caused TO to fall backwards onto the floor behind them. DH was ready to dash over to help, but a quick warning glare from TO kept them in their position. TO pulled themselves back up and corrected their kicking.


“That could have really hurt you.” DH grumbled once the assistant was out of earshot.


“It didn’t though.” TO said, though their ears twitched as they said that, “Ok. It hurt a little, but I should have been faster.”


Halfway through the class, training multi-guns were brought out, and targets were set on the walls.


“Normally I’d wait to bring out the training guns.” C12 said as the guns were passed out, “But since you’re all so desperate to train, I figured we’d start early.” They held up their own training multi-gun in their hand. Bit by bit they tediously showed them every part of the gun, and the precise way they were supposed to hold it and aim. TO was certain that learning some weapon proficiency was going to be similar to learning how to punch properly - tedious and slow.


They weren’t wrong.


After two more hours of learning just how to hold the multi-gun, learning how to aim, and learning every aspect of multi-gun safety, they were all allowed to take a single shot at the targets at the opposite end of the training room. They all missed. The multiguns handled far differently than the lasers in the simulations; they were harder to control and aim.


“Excellent. “ C12 said, their tone flat, their hands behind their back as they watched every shot miss. “None of you managed to shoot yourself in the foot.” They checked their implant, “Now then. There’s two minutes until our training is complete for the day. So, Go ahead and do two minute planks for me. Now. “


Wordlessly, they all got down to do as they were asked. Well, wordlessly, but TO was cursing the other synths in the back of their mind every second of the two minutes. When they were finally dismissed and sent to meal time, their muscles aching, their bodies dripping with sweat, and TO’s silent ongoing rant still going on.




After TO, GiDi, and DH got their lunch, TO led them not to their dormitory, but to the empty showers.


“What are we doing here?” DH asked as they entered the cavernous room, their voice echoing in the emptiness.


“Showering. Eating.” TO said as they pulled off their uniform. They didn’t bother put it into a locker this time, they wanted to hang it up to dry somewhere. They draped their uniform pipe that ran in front of an air exchange before they sat down naked on a bench and started to eat. When DH and GiDi simply stared at them, TO shrugged, “Look, I’m not going to work all afternoon drenched in sweat. I’ll eat fast, shower, and hopefully my uniform will be half dry by the time I need to go to my assignment.”


GiDi and DH exchanged looks, but then wordlessly changed out of their uniforms and hung them up before sitting down and eating their own food.


“You’re angry, aren’t you?” DH asked TO.


“Yes, I’m angry!” TO snapped, “We had a great thing. Yes, Training was tedious, but we got to leave early for our second meal. We got to shower and get all the sweat off of ourselves before we went to our next assignment, and we had longer to eat! But because those… those…” they growled as they shoved food into their mouth, frustrated by their inability to think of something to call the other synths that had complained.


“Those short-sighted automatons!” TO said finally, “They were so damn concerned over the schedule, over the use of water, and over efficiency– they didn’t think it was probably more efficient long term to let us go and shower and have a longer break.”


There was silence from the others. TO frowned and looked over to them, “What?”


“You’ve never been this mad before.” GiDi said. TO suddenly realized that GiDi, with their ears pinned down and their eyes big and alert, looked frightened. "I thought you'd be happier since we were being left along now."


“I’m not… Well, I am mad, but I’m not angry at either of you.” TO said, “And I am glad they're going to leave us alone, I’m just… Frustrated.” They finished their meal, feeling as though they hadn’t eaten anything at all since they had eaten so quickly, “I’m supposed to be one of the weird ones, right? We’re the strange ones, but it’s the normal ones that ruined everything.”


“You realize that normal is another word for mediocre, yes?”


TO, GiDi, and DH froze as the voice of another synth echoed through the showers. TO hadn’t expected anyone else to be there but as they turned to the source of the noise they saw C12 striding into the showers, heading for the closest one.


“Retiree C12.” TO said, standing up and to attention. GiDi and DH followed their example, but stayed silent. “My apologies, I-“


C12 waved them off as they stepped into the shower and turned on the water, “Don’t bother.” they said. They let the water flow over them, and then looked over to the three synths, “Eating in the showers? That is strange though.”


“We didn’t have time to eat and shower, and our uniforms were soaked with sweat, Retiree.” TO said, “So I figured it would be better to eat here while our uniforms dried, and take a quick shower before we had to go to our afternoon assignments.”


“Fascinating.” C12 said in their dry, deadpan tone. They looked away from the three synths , focusing on some spot high above them. “Still strange. Though, some would call it problem solving.” They glanced back, frowning, “What, do you need my permission to sit down?”


TO could only stare back, unsure how to respond.


“Oh for…” C12 growled as they looked away again. “Go ahead, sit down. I don’t care if you sit in my presence.”


Exchanging worried glances with DH and Gidi, they sat down. Even though TO was done with their own meal they didn’t think they should use one of the showers while C12 was. They didn’t even consider that C12 would use the common showers– they figured that Retirees had their own showers hidden away somewhere.


“Are.. Are you going to report us, Retiree?” GiDi asked, their voice quiet and scared.


C12 didn’t even look at them as they responded, “Now why would I do that?”


GiDi’s ears twitched, their brows furrowed in confusion as they tilted their head, “Uh… we’re not supposed to be in here?”


“Technically, it doesn’t matter where you go during your meals, so long as you eat.”


“But…” GiDi looked at TO and DH, who could only mirror the same expression of confusion, “But… Normal synths don't come to the showers during meal times.”


“As I said, normal is another word for mediocre.” They grabbed the soap, and quickly scrubbed themselves. “And here’s a fun fact for you three, at this stage of your training? So long as you follow orders and don’t make a nuisance of yourselves nobody is going to care much about what you do– you’re considered at least partially useful at this point.” They gave they a quick glance, "Especially after that little trick in the simulation. Good to see a synth use their brains for a change."


"You saw that?" TO said, their ears flicking down, "Why would you-"


"I like to keep an eye on potentially promising synths. All the simulations are recorded for observation."


“But… If we’re...” TO felt a sudden jolt of fear go through them and they changed what they planned to say “If a synth behaves abnormally, won’t they be corrected? Or repurposed?”


For a moment there was silence in the shower, save for the constant spray of water. “To an extent.” C12 finally said, “If it’s considered that you won’t be able to perform your duties effectively, you’ll be made effective one way or another.” They glanced at them, “Why? Do you worry about being corrected?”


GiDi, TO, and DH looked at one another, confused and scared. Were they supposed to actually answer that? They knew that the proper answer would be a lie for them; to be corrected meant that they’d be more effective as tools to King Decon, and that should be a cause for celebration, not concern… But if they said that, C12 would see their ears twitching as they lied…


“Are you worried about being corrected.” C12 asked again.


“...Yes.” TO finally said, “We’d rather not be corrected.”






“Yes. Good.” C12 turned off the water and turned to leave, “If you don’t want to be corrected, you’ll work harder to prove that you’re useful as you are. That means we’ll get more out of you.”


“Even if we’re strange?”


DH had asked the question, and TO could feel their own ears tilt back in fear as they heard the words leave DH’s mouth.


C12 didn’t seem to care as they strode past them, “I said normal is another word for mediocre. ‘Strange’ can be good or bad. Strange can mean you excel, or you fail spectacularly. Part of the reason I like to keep an eye on anyone I think might have some extra promise.” They cast a quick glance at them as they passed by, heading to the lockers, “Just make sure you excel, follow your orders, and you can be as strange as you want. Mostly”


C12 paused as they were about to leave the showers and looked back at TO,“Oh, and you.”


TO stood to attention, “Yes, Retiree?


C12 sighed as TO rose to their feet, but they didn’t say anything about it. “You were saying that long term, it’s more effective to have this longer break after training, correct?.”


“Y-yes, Retiree.”


"I assume you have an arguement behind this?"




“Interesting. Write up why.”


“... Pardon?”


C12 smirked at them, “Write up why you think that, and send it to me.” they said, “I wish to see your arguments.”


Before TO could ask anything else, they were gone, leaving the three of them alone in the showers.

A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

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About the author


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

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