PQ03 led TO to the back of the lab and through a second door. The room they entered had the strongest, sharpest scent of disinfectant that TO had ever experienced. The bright lights here were a cool white-blue color instead of the red that TO had gotten used to; it hurt their eyes and they found themselves squinting.
“It takes getting used to.” PQ03 said as they started blinking against the glare. “I used to use special goggles when I started here, but they were more trouble than they were worth. Also, it was harder to see the actual work when I had them on.”
“Why is it so bright in these labs.” TO muttered. They hadn’t meant to complain, but the brighter lights of the production labs in general were starting to bother them. Day after day, they felt as though their eyes were under attack. The red light was bad enough but the blue light felt like it was stabbing their brain through their eyes.
“When your eyes adjust, you’ll be able to see the tiny materials that we work with far more easily than with dimmer lights or red lights.” they said as they led TO towards a table. They pulled out two stools, and sat down and gestured for TO to sit as well. “We need the brighter light to see properly.”
This wasn’t seeing things properly, in TO’s mind. Everything seemed too sharp around them, like they could see every little detail of the room, the texture on the walls, the faint creasing of the skin on their hands and the tiny, interlocked lines on their mostly smooth skin.
It was too much detail; they felt like they were taking in everything at once. Still, they sat on the stool that PQ03 had provided for them. Despite how the light irritated their eyes, they wanted to see this. Maybe seeing the production, the very start of the synths would remove their sudden doubts.
No. Not doubts. They just wanted to know.
“We have a new set of synth’s to initiate today.” they said. They tapped on the surface of the table, and a digital control console lit up. PQ03 activated the controls and entered some commands. A moment later a panel opened on the wall and a tiny vial– identical to the ones that lined the walls in the previous room– was gently set into place. With careful hands PQ03 took it out of the panel and clamped it carefully to a ring stand, leaving it’s jelly-like cap in place.
“That cap,” PQ03 said as they gestured to the top, “It doesn’t come off until the whole thing is transplanted into the larger tanks. You’ve seen similar caps, if you recall.”
“Yes.” TO said, remembering the same kind of jelly seal that PQ12 had pierced with the syringe to feed the embryos, “Yes, I recall.”
“It allows us to activate the embryos without risking any contamination.”
TO frowned as they leaned forward, looking into the vial, straining their already hurting eyes, “But there’s nothing in here.”
“Are you certain?” PQ03 asked. “Look very closely. It should be near the bottom of the vial.”
Frowning, TO leaned forward and focused on the buttom of the vial. The pain in their eyes nearly made them give up before they saw it. They thought it was just a speck on the vial at first, but the closer they looked the more certain they were that it was something inside the vial: A miniscule speck, clear as the liquid it was resting in and visible only by a slight distortion of the light around it.
“Do you see it?” PQ03 asked.
“That… That tiny speck?”
“That tiny speck is the DNA that will form the embryos. Eventually. It’s in statis right now. “ PQ03 entered another command on the table and a small, clear glass bottle filled with a strange blue liquid came out of the wall. The care that had been taken with the delivery of the vial was not taken with the bottle- it came faster, and PQ03 took very little care as they grabbed it.
“When King Decon creates the base proteins, He is making the very DNA that forms us.” PQ03 said. “It is the very creation of life and we are privileged to see it from its activation.”
“But how does He do it?” TO asked, immediately regretting their words. They felt their ears flick down. “Apologies.” they said, “I know. That’s beyond our comprehension.”
PQ03 gave them a quick look, followed by the barest hint of a smile, “You’re curious, and excited. I can hardly blame you for that. But yes, the methods behind the creation of the DNA is beyond our comprehension, as is the method of preservation. King Decon could create hundreds of these in a day, and have them preserved for decades until they’re activated.” They passed the bottle of blue liquid to TO. “That’s what this is for.”
TO held the bottle up to the light, trying to see something in the liquid as they had for the first vial, but it was cloudy and opaque. “What is it?”
“Unknown.” PQ03 said, “King Decon puts the DNA in stasis after He creates it. This activates it again and allows growth.” They held out their hand for the bottle. Gently, TO returned it to them.”
PQ03 took a syringe out of a sterile tray and plunged the tip into the activation fluid. They drew up the plunger until the syringe was full. Then, with careful, steady hands they eased the tip of the syringe into the clear vial and gently pushed a small amount of the activating liquid out with the slowest of movements.
“You have to be careful.” PQ03 said, “We want to use as little activating fluid as possible, and we don’t want to put too much pressure on the embryo. Watch.”
TO watched as the blue liquid gently eased into the vial like a thick fog. It dispersed slowly, and the vial now looked like it was filled with a light, twisting smoke.
“And that’s it.”
“It’s done?” TO said, frowning as they looked at PQ03, “Just like that? It’s activated?”
“We’ll know in a few days.” PQ03 said. “Using our microscopes, we can see growth early on, but we won’t know if we did it right until...Well, basically until they’re ready to be transplanted.” They gestured at the others, “Each of these has something growing in it. That something could stop, and we won’t know why.” They frowned, “That’s the frustrating part of this. Did I use too much activation liquid? Too little? Was there a temperature fluctuation that I didn’t notice? Did I hold it in my hands too long and increase the heat too much?” They shook their head as they gently unscrewed the vial from the stand and held it by the edge of the mouth, “All different things I might have done to cause King Decon's work to fail.” They got up, and TO followed them as they gently placed the vial in a dark container with tiny, padded compartments. They gazed at it for a moment longer, then went back to the table and sat down. They entered a command and another clear vial was summoned through the panel in the wall.
“Go ahead.” PQ03 said to TO, “Your turn.”
Before TO was done for the day, PQ03 said that they had done so well, and they were so pleased with TO’s work that they would allow them to observe one of the vials that was a little further on in its development. They retrieved one from shelves of vials, and placed it in a specialized microscope.
“Let me find it for you.” they said as they pressed their eyes to the viewer and started fiddling with the controls, “Finding them can be a little troublesome sometimes, and the controls here are tricky... They’re so small, and the vial they’re in at this stage is unfathomably massive to them; Or it would be if they had brains to comprehend any such- Ah! Found it.”
They were silent. Slowly, almost inperceptably they adjusted the knobs on the microscope. “Yes...Yes, this one seems healthy.” They made a few more adjustments and then pulled back to make room for TO. “Go ahead. they said, gesturing to the viewer, “Take a look, but do not touch anything.” Their gaze suddenly became very sharp, “A physical jolt might disrupt it and cause it to fail. Touching a knob will bring it out of focus, and I’ll have to fiddle with it to refocus it.”
TO nodded, honestly feeling a little nervous as they approached the microscope. They held their hands behind their back as they leaned forward, not pressing their eyes onto the viewer for fear of moving it. They hovered just a tiny bit away from the lenses so they could see clearly without touching anything.
They had expected to see a tiny little synth, much like the ones they had seen in the first lab. They expected something they would recognize, but no: All they saw was a strange mass, almost like a very thin crescent moon with it’s tips connected, and a slight bulge on the inside.
“Do you see it?”
“I see..” They hesistated. Was this what they were supposed to see? “A… A ring?”
“Yes. And in the ring?”
“There is nothing in the ring.” TO said. “Unless you mean this little bump?”
“That little bump.” PQ03 said, amused, “Is exactly what you looked like at this stage.”
TO lifted their face from the viewer and looked to PQ03. They had expected to see something more.
“I thought…” They trailed off, thinking it unwise to question this.
“I thought that King Decon made each of us.”
“He does.” PQ03 said, “the strand of DNA, the proteins that form you were created by Him. The raw materials that make up a creatures’ DNA? He created that for each and every one of us. We simply grow them here.”
TO wanted to ask again how he made them, but knew that they would not be given the answer. They looked into the viewer again, observing the crescent moon that cradled the mass of cells. They knew everything now. Well, everything that a Synth was supposed to know.
Still. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know how King Decon did it.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell