There were more synths wandering about as they headed to the Flight Training Room. Some were heading back to the showers, to dormitories, or to the combat simulators for training. Even though they all paid no attention to TO and DH, the two made sure to walk instead of hurrying along to catch up to GiDi as they actually wanted to. Rushing around wasn’t necessarily a problem, but TO was still a little on edge about their meeting with their Overseer.
As they drew closer to the Flight Training rooms, the traffic dried up and they were alone. It was only then that TO realized that DH was acting odd; like they were still being observed. They were being far more careful than normal; avoiding the chatter that TO normally enjoyed around their friend. At first TO thought that DH was just being extra careful since TO had just had a meeting with their Overseer– maybe DH was on edge as well!– but it somehow felt like DH was in their own little bubble and apart from TO. They focused on the hallways before them, seeming to look through the world.
Was DH still angry? TO hoped not.
TO glanced around to make sure that they were alone, and then linked their arm with DH’s. DH seemed to snap back to the present as they looked up at TO for a second before glancing away, flushed.
“Of course!” DH said, looking back at TO suddenly, their ears twitching with worry “Just thinking about stuff. Was off in a daze. That’s all.”
TO glanced at DH’s ears, and saw - thankfully- that they weren’t lying. They gave a smile. “Good.” TO said, “I was a little worried you were maybe stll angry…”
DH shook their head, “No. no no, I promise I’m not. I’ve nothing to be angry over.” They smiled at TO, “Maybe I’m just a little worried about you.”
“Yes. What was the meeting with your Overseer about?”
“OH! That.” It was almost comical how their meeting, while still a concern, had suddenly seemed so inconsequential compared to DH’s feelings, to the possibility that they might be angry. “I’ll tell you when we find GiDi.”
DH nodded, then looked down at TO’s arm linked in theirs, “And this is fine?” They asked as they glanced around the empty hallway, “I mean, you’re not in trouble for anything like this?”
“I’m not.” They said. Their ears suddenly perked up with realization. “Oh! That’s why.”
“You were being kind of distant.” TO said, “And I didn‘t even think you’d be worried that I was in trouble for being close to others synths!”
“That…Was among my worries, yes.” DH said, “I wouldn’t want to cause you trouble.”
TO shook their head, “Being close to you and GiDi wasn’t mentioned.” They grinned, “At least, the only thing mentioned about it was how you two have improved since I started spending time with you.” They pulled DH a little closer and wrapped a wing around them quickly. They realized that they were being more affectionate than normal. “I mean, they didn’t say anything about us being close, and I’m almost led to believe that to the higher ups it doesn’t really matter?” They frowned, “At least, not how we are. We’re not distracted from our duties. We’re not causing problems.”
“But…” DH frowned, their ears flicking out in confusion, “But... I mean, we know other synths aren’t like us. We know that we bother other synths-“
“Maybe so long as we don’t cause others unnecessary distress, it’s fine?” TO said, confused. They hadn’t seen anything that suggested their friendship with GiDi and DH was a problem in their report, but now they were starting to worry. They hadn’t read their entire file, so it was possible that they had missed something. They started to loosen their grip on DH’s arm, but DH finally just smiled and pulled them closer.
“Well, We’ve not been corrected so far.” They said, “So we’re probably fine.”
“I don’t know…” TO said as worry started to build up. “I know that normal synths aren’t supposed to be like us. Normal synths could spend their whole lives alone, and be fine, so long as they’re serving King Decon.”
“Which seems awful to me, honestly.” DH said, “Almost every intelligent species in the galaxy has some need for friends, family, mates-“
“We’re not like all the other species.” TO pointed out with a grin, “We’re synthetic. Designed.That’s supposed to be better, right?”
“Would you prefer to be like that?” DH asked as they looked away, “To be like a normal synth and not need any of that?”
“... There were times.” TO said as their ears drooped, “When I thought that I’d never find any other synths to be around, or when I thought you were done with me… Yes, then I wished that I was like other synths. That kind of stuff wouldn’t bother them, right?” They shook their heads, “One of the benefits; if you don’t need to be close to anyone else, you’re not hurt by anyone else.”
“Do I hurt you?”
“...I hurt you.” TO said in response, their ears dipping low. “Would you prefer to be normal, and not have to feel sad?”
DH was silent for a few moments as they seriously considered this, an almost troubled expression coming over their face “I don’t think so.” They said after a while. They shook their head, and looked to TO, grinning, “Anyway,. Come on, tell me what the meeting was about!”
“Not until we get to GiDi.” TO said firmly, “I don’t want them to feel left out. I already feel bad that they felt left out because you stayed with me last night.”
DH looked at TO, then shook their head with a smile, “Fine fine.” They said, “I’ll wait for you to tell me what happened. First a surprise from GiDi, now you’re holding potentially vital information from me?” They put a hand to the center of their chest, “My heart may not stand the surprises!”
“I’m sure you’ll survive.” TO said as they turned into the hallway with the Flight Training room in it. GiDi was standing by the door to the training room with a large box at their feet. As DH and TO came into view, they beamed at them.
“I was worried.” They said as they stood up from the wall, “You were gone a while.” They glanced at TO and DH, and smiled, “I'm guessing everything is fine?” They asked.
To TO’s surprise, DH slipped away from them and looked at GiDi, their ears low and flushed blue, “Yes, yes.” They said, “You were right. TO wasn’t actually angry at me; not really.”
GiDi smirked, then gave them both a hard look. “You two are supposed to be clever-“
“TO is the clever one.” DH interrupted.
“-But you can both act a bit dumb sometimes.” They nudged the box at their feet with their leg. “Here.” They said, “One of you can carry this for me.”
DH grinned and stepped forward to take the box as GiDi started to walk further down the hallway.
“Wait… We’re not going to the flight training room?” TO asked.
“Not today.” GiDi said, “I want to show you two something different. Follow me!”
DH and TO exchanged glances before they followed after GiDi: they didn’t know where they were going, but TO knew that their ‘abnormal curiosity’ wouldn’t let them protest the discovery of something new. They remembered as they recalled the report that the traits that had been listed hadn’t been marked as good or bad. Was abnormal curiosity a good thing or a bad thing?
They didn’t have to go to far for TO’s abnormal curiousity to be satisfied. A few turns later GiDi stopped in front of a door that TO had never seen. There used to be a panel on it to say what it was, but all that was left now was a slight discoloration where the panel used to be, and four holes where screws might once have kept it in place.
GiDi went to the keypad at the side of the door, and started to pry their claws along the edge. “It’s disabled.” TO said as they noted the light-blue screen atop the pad, “You can’t use it.”
“I can.” GiDi said with a smirk. A moment later, a piece of the wall popped out and revealed a tiny pin pad hidden under it.
“How did you know THAT was there!” TO asked.
“I already told you once that before I knew you two, I was more or less ignored by the higher ups. They didn’t really notice what I was paying attention to. I once saw an Overseer do this to open the door on one of the combat simulation rooms. It had glitched out, and they just popped the panel out, and …” They pressed a series of five numbers on the pinpad. The panel flashed green for a moment, then went grey again as the door slid open.
GiDi beamed as they stood to the side, Gesturing grandly for DH and TO to go in before them. When they caught their surprised faces, they laughed.
“I saw the first three numbers of the code they used.” GiDi explained, “And when I found this door, I spent some time trying to see if I could open it up by myself, and I figured out the rest.”
“But why?” TO asked as they stepped into the room.
“Just to see if I could!” GiDi said as they followed in after once DH was in, “And I’m glad I did!”
Despite being in space, the synths in training never really saw the cosmos. Sure, they saw simulations and pictures, but they never really saw what was around them. Higher up synths in engineering had access to observation decks, but unless a synth was placed with them for vocational training they were unlikely to actually see space until they left the training center.
That’s probably why the only thing that caught TO’s attention once they entered the room was the huge window that looked outside. They had expected space itself to look not that grand – sure, the vastness of it was unfathomable, but everything was so far away that TO thought that if they were to actually see space, it would mostly be cold, black, empty nothingness. Maybe that was mostly true, but where they were it was not. The window looked out into a grand, blue and green mass of gas and dust that swirled around in luminescent ribbons. Smaller, bright masses within the bright and colorful cloud circled and swooped, some spinning around one another and leaving entwined trails of color in their wake, some crashing together and forming a tiny explosion of blue fire and green sparks. Deep in the center was a brighter, bigger ball of purple light.
TO walked closer to the window with the reverence of one approaching something sacred. They placed their hands on the glass once they were close enough, and could feel the coolness of the nothing outside. The window was slightly curved outwards, and they could see the gasey wisps of color extending over and under the window – and TO had to assume, all around the entire training center. They were so awed by the color and the light that it took them a moment to realize that general power to this room seemed to have been cut, and the only light avaliable was coming from the glow outside.
They turned around, their eyes wide and sparkling from the beauty of it as they looked at GiDI and DH. GiDi was beaming, their own ears twitching with glee as they enjoyed TO’s reaction. DH was staring past TO and to the window, taking in the color and light, their flushed ears lowered in awe, their eyes wide and shining from the display outside.
“I think,” TO said after a long silence, “that the training center is located inside a nebula!”
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell