TO kept their eyes closed as DH scooped them up and carried them down the hallways to the medical center. Even being jostled in DH’s arms, and the sound of DH and GiDi’s feet hitting the floor sent waves of pain through TO’s head. TO wanted to get up and walk on their own, but even the idea of opening their eyes made them feel sick again. They ended up just pressing their face into DH’s chest to block out the dim light of the hallways.
“Is TO going to be alright?” GiDi asked. The moment they spoke the noise seemed to hit TO, piercing through their head. They groaned in pain, and tried to turn their head away from the noise. The only sound they seemed to be able to manage was the dull, light humming of DH’s heart.
Thankfully, DH and GiDi seemed to understand that the noise caused TO more pain, and kept silent.
It felt like ages later when they finally made it to the medical center. TO heard GiDi run ahead of them, and the woosh of a door as it glided open.
“Medical Officer!” DH cried out, causing TO to wince and whimper in pain. “Sorry, sorry.” They whispered as they held TO close
Another door wooshed open and TO could hear new footsteps approach. “I am here.” TO heard a new synth say, “What happened.”
“They collapsed.” GiDi said, “And started throwing up. They complained of a headach, and -“
“Set them down over there.” The synth - TO assumed it was the medical officer- said. There was no urgency in their voice, and no concern. They just gave the order.
A moment later TO was gently set down on a bed that was a little larger than the one in their pod. There was a nice, cool pillow under their head and it would have been comfortable if it weren’t for the light filtering through their eyelids and attacking their sensitive eyes. They pressed their palms to their eyes again, trying to block out the light as they whimpered in pain.
“Medical Officer!” DH exclaimed with clear panic in their voice, “What’s wrong with them?”
A chair scraped across the floor, the noise causing TO’s ears to flick down protectively. They heard the officer sit down next to them.
“Move your hands.” They ordered as they roughly tapped on the back of TO’s hands. As they pulled their hands from their face something heavy and cool was placed over their eyes and forehead.
Their head still hurt, but it suddenly felt like cool water was being poured over their burning eyes. TO brought their hands back up and pressed down on whatever it was– it felt like plastic with some kind of gel inside.
“Better, correct?” The officer asked. TO could only nod, not wanting to risk hurting their head more with their own voice.
“What’s wrong with them!” DH demanded. A moment of silence passed before TO heard DH mutter, “Sorry, Medical Officer.”
“We’re just worried about them.” GiDi said, “They just started throwing up and they couldn’t stand up properly afterwards-“
“I’m guessing you all started your vocational training.” The Officer said. There was a long silence, followed by the Officer’s deep sigh, “You’ve been assigned to different parts of the training center to learn how to do jobs.”
“Oh! Yes.” DH said.
“And I guess this one was sent where?” Their voice sounded irritated, “Programming? Metalworking? Lab-work?”
“Production.” TO managed to mutter. The pain was still there, but not nearly as sharp, “Synth Production.”
There was another irritated sigh as the Medical Officer got up. “Eye strain.” they said. TO heard a cabinet open up and a moment later something was set down on their stomach. They reached down and felt what they had been given: a large pair of goggles.
“The production labs are the worst for eye strain.” The Officer said. “Wear these from now on when you work there. “
“Will they be ok though?” GiDi asked quietly.
“They just need to rest their eyes.” The Officer said, walking away, “They can leave as soon as they feel like they can stand on their own two feet again. No further treatment should be necessary.” TO heard the officer walk away again, and heard the swish of the door opening and closing.
“Eye strain?” DH said as they sat heavily on the edge of the bed, “Eye strain?! That’s all?”
“Please be quieter.” TO whimpered
“They didn’t even give you anything for pain!” DH said. “I’m going to-“
TO reached out blindly and grabbed DH’s arm, holding them in place.
“GiDi.” TO said softly, “Please. Keep DH from doing anything reckless.”
GiDi sat down next to DH. “What were you going to do.” GiDi asked, “Ask for painkillers?”
“Yes!” DH said.
“I don’t need them.” TO said, “I don’t have any tasks to attend to. I can lay here until I feel better, then go lay down in my pod.”
“But…” They felt DH shuffle on the bed, “You’re in pain.”
“It’ll go away.” TO said. They hoped it would anyway. They didn’t know for certain. “The Medical Officer didn’t seem concerned. If it was something that wouldn’t just go away then they’d have pulled up my files.”
“The officer knew what to do fairly quickly.” GiDi added, “And they knew that TO had been working in a lab.”
“Or programming. I work in programming, and I’m not in pain like this.”
“Maybe you should ask for some goggles as well.” TO muttered. Their head was starting to feel a little better; the pain was dripping away
“They didn’t even ask for our designations.” GiDi said.
“That might be best.” TO said, “I’d not want it on record that I was ill.” It was a minor sickness, one which the Medical Officer didn’t seem concerned about in the least. They still didn’t want to show any kind of inability to work, at least while they were unspecialized and with relatively few resources spent on training them.
There was a moment of silence. DH got up from the bed and walked away.
“You two go back to the dormitory.” TO said, “I'll find you when I can-“
“We’re not leaving.” DH said as they opened the cabinet. TO heard bottles clink as DH started rummaging around. “We’re staying here until you’re feeling well enough to leave. I’m just looking for goggles like those for my own work. Just in case.”
TO felt GiDi lay down across the foot of the bed, just next to their feet. “I’m fine with waiting here.” GiDi said, “I managed to find a novel in the cultural resources from a nearby planet. It’s a good story. I will sit and read.”
“And I’ll just go over my programs.” DH said, “It’s all connected to my implant now.” They sat back down on the edge of the bed, shifting up so that they were reclining next to TO with their back against the wall. “We can wait.”
“Is that a good idea?” TO asked, “I mean, if-”
“Shush.” DH said, “C12 said so long as we obey orders, and so long as we’re produtive, we’re unlikely to get corrected.”
“That’s no reason to take risks.”
“And we’re being productive while we’re waiting for you, so I see no problem.” They felt DH set their hand on their head as they continued their gentle scratching once more. “You just relax, and when you feel better we’ll go.”
Despite the pain, TO felt very comfortable. With DH scratching the back of their head, it was hard to protest, or to make more arguments about being careful. TO made a noise that could have been acceptance or irritation and then fell silent. As they drifted into a light sleep their breathing turned to a light, chirping snore.
It was hours later when a very sleepy TO was woken up. They sat up, confused as they started to remember where they were. GiDi and DH were still there, GiDi stretching their wings while DH was gently shaking TO awake.
“Come on.” They whispered. “We should go back to the dormitory. How’s your head?”
TO stared blankly at DH for a few moments, their memories rushing back to them as they recalled where they were.”
“What time is it?” TO muttered, rubbing their temples.
“Late.” DH said, “Your head?”
“Better.” they said as they pressed their palm to the center of their forehead. It wasn’t the same kind of harsh pain they had suffered earlier, but they still had a decent headache. They let GiDI help them up, took the goggles they had been given and the compress that they had been given; they’d sleep with that over their eyes, and keep it handy in case this headache came back another time.
As they returned to their dormitory, GiDi and DH kept to either side of TO, both watching carefully in case they fell again. They didn’t though; The three of them got to the dormitory without issue. Most every other synth was already their pod with the barriers up. It was quieter and dimmer than normal.
All the better for TO.
GiDi started heading to their own pod, stopped, turned around, and gave TO a quick hug.
“I was worried about you.” they said. They wordlessly hugged DH before they scurried off to their pod.
“We were both worried.” DH whispered as they led TO to the ladder. They kept a close eye on them in case they fell or lost their balance as they climbed. But there were no problems. TO got to their pod without incident, crawled in, stripped off their uniform and sent it down to laundry. They tossed the goggles to the foot of their bed since they didn’t have any space in the pod for personal items.
Flopping down, they pulled the thin blanket over them and put the compress back over their eyes. Movement had made their headach slightly worse, but it still wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been.
“You sure you’re going to be ok?” DH asked from below.
“I’m sure.” they said, “I just... Need to rest and sleep. I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re still in pain tomorrow, I’m taking you back to medical, and I’m not leaving until the Medical Officer gives you painkillers.”
“It’s not! I don’t like seeing you in pain!” They felt DH reach up, their hand clasping over their own, “Please… If you’re still hurting, you’ll go to medical again?”
There was so much worry in their voice, and they were clutching at TO’s hand as though they might slip away.
“Alright.” they said, “I’ll go.”
There was a relieved sigh, and slowly DH’s hand slipped away from TO’s
“Ok… Sleep well.”
“You too.” TO said. They reached out and fumbled around for the button to close the barrier.
They were asleep before their pod was sealed.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell