TO worried for a brief moment as they approached the labs that maybe they wouldn’t be able to get inside. They pressed their hand to the implant reader which beeped after just a moment as the door slid open, revealing the empty laboratory. They froze as their eyes landed on the synths in their tanks, then with their eyes down they ran to the back and towards the room where they had been working with PQ12.
Though the lights were all still on and bright in the main part of the lab where the more mature synths were in their tanks, the lights in the smaller lab were off, save for the ones directly around the tanks. The unfamiliar darkness startled TO– they had never seen this lab without the main lights on, and at first they thought they had somehow gone into the wrong room.
The lights being off made them hesitate; It made them think that they weren’t supposed to be here. It made them wonder if PQ03 and PQ12 were also finished for the day. Maybe they had their own dorm for officers that they had retreated to.
What did they do when they weren’t in the labs?
TO hurried back down to the other end of the laboratory. Their questions could be easily asked the next day, so they had no reason to linger on it now. They got to the back, and rested their hand on the reader. It beeped, and the door slid open.
Oddly, the lights in PQ12’s lab were still on. TO froze, looking around to see if PQ12 was still there, but they weren’t. Their goggles were there though, sitting right on the table where they had left them earlier that day. A long breath of relief left them as they took their goggles and hung them from the neck of their uniform.
A low laugh left their mouth. Why had they experienced such panic over just misplacing their goggles? Why had they been so worried about it? Now that they had the goggles again, any anxiety they had had seemed so foolish and silly.
Well, no matter. Time to get back to GiDi and DH and laugh about it.
They turned to leave, but something on the desk where PQ12 had been working all day caught their eye. It had only been a short while ago when they left, but they figured that maybe PQ12 had started working on something else once they were alone. A microscope was out on the desk next to the computer, and next to the microscope was a small vial of the activation fluid that PQ03 had shown them.
TO froze. While PQ03 had said that the activation fluid wasn’t as delicate as the primary base DNA that King Decon made, it was still in short supply. Wasting it was very bad, and it seemed to TO that putting it under a microscope would be wasting it. Unless, of course, there was something to it that would allow PQ12 to improve the feeding solution? How did PQ12 even get it? They had to be requested specifically for activating synth DNA.
TO walked towards the microscope, eying the half-empty bottle on the table. They were curious as to what the activation fluid actually was and how it worked. If some was already on the slide then looking wouldn’t do any more harm than had already been done. Maybe it would provide a clue as to how King Decon actually created the base DNA, or at least how he managed to put them in stasis. Alot had happened since TO had been able to consider the puzzle of how King Decon was able to create the synths from scratch, but the mystery still bothered them, still lingered on the outskirts of their mind. They were desperate for any clue to it’s answer and having a clue so close to them, unguarded and unprotected, was just too inviting.
They leaned down to look, being careful not to nudge the microscope with their face– they knew better than that thanks to PQ03, and they didn’t want to do any potential damage to what PQ12 was looking at. With their heart humming in their ears, they squinted and peered at the image before them.
Dots. The slide was covered in many tiny dots that seemed to be shivering or vibrating as they moved. It reminded TO of illustrations of electrons that they saw in basic science books, but they knew that that couldn't be what they were looking at, not with such a low-powered microscope.
Whatever it was, it was moving around as though it was alive.
TO’s mind was throwing around ideas, and they were so absorbed in watching the little dots moving, their mind racing with new theories, that they didn’t hear the door slide open. They didn’t realize that they were no longer alone until they heard an angry shout from behind them. Startled, TO jolted up and almost knocked over the half full bottle of activation fluid. They caught it just as it rolled off the table, and quickly set it back down.
“What are you doing here.” PQ12 hissed at them. They sounded angry, but their ears were pinned back in fear, close to their head.
“My apologies.” TO said quickly, “I was just... I left my goggles-“ They reached up to their collar and felt their goggles under their hand, “And I was just-“
PQ12 ran towards them, “I don’t care about your goggles! What are you doing here!” They grabbed them by the wrist and pulled them forcefully away from the microscope. TO yelped in pain and fell against the table as PQ12 pulled them, falling down and striking their head off the edge. They curled up on the floor, clutching at their head as they whimpered in pain, only distantly hearing the sound of something shattering against the floor.
PQ12 cursed again, and knelt down to pull TO up. TO pulled away and tried to stand up on their own but they felt dizzy and disoriented. All they could managed to do was to push themselves away from PQ12, clutching their head. They felt something on their hand and when they pulled their hand away they saw blood.
They felt sick. Blood on their hands. They were in the lab. They could smell the disinfectant used everywhere but they weren’t sure if they were actually smelling it or if they just thought that they could smell it. Their breathing came fast and ragged as PQ12 said something to them that they couldn’t hear, not at first. It took a few minutes for their mind to start to translate the sounds being made as actual words.
“Come on now. You’re fine.” PQ12 said as they tried to help TO up. TO felt their hand on their arm,and pulled away as though burned. They looked up in confusion at PQ12. They were scared; both of them. Their ears were pinned back, their eyes wide. TO was terrified of PQ12 in the moment, but TO didn’t know what PQ12 could possibly be afraid of.
Slowly, PQ12 offered a hand to TO. “Come on.” They said, “You’re fine.”
“I’m bleeding.” TO said. Their voice sounded small and weak. They still couldn’t breathe quite right. They were in pain. They had blood on their hands. They could smell disinfectant. They could see organs laid out on a table.
“It’s just a little cut.” PQ12 insisted, but the way their ears twitched, they didn’t seem sure. “It’s fine. Just get up, and I’ll clean it and you can go on.”
TO reached up to the throbbing spot on their head and pulled their hand away again. More blood. They didn’t know why they had checked, they didn’t know what they had expected.
“What’s going on in here.”
PQ12 and TO froze and looked towards the door. PQ03 stood there, panting as though they had just run over.
“I was checking the monitors to make sure eveything was fine. What’s going on here!”
So they did stay in the labs.
“It’s nothing.” PQ12 said quickly, “This one left their goggles here, and came back to get them. They fell. They’re fine.”
TO looked up, and even they could see their fear-flattened ears twitching as they lied. PQ03 looked over them, over TO, then finally let their eyes linger on the broken bottle on the floor, and the wasted remains of the activation fluid.
“... 09T07.” PQ03 said quietly, “Are you seriously hurt?”
“I’m sorry, I-“
“Are you seriously hurt. Do you need medical assistance?”
“No.” TO said quickly. They didn’t want to go back to the medical bay. They didn’t want another medical note on their file.
PQ03 eyed them for a moment, then nodded. “Very well. Go. Get cleaned up. If you feel disoriented, or if you end up with a headache or odd pains, then do go to medical. Understood?”
“Go on then.”
TO took a deep breath and managed to pull themselves up to their feet. They stumbled slightly, then walked as quickly as they could manage out of the laboratory.
As they passed PQ12, they couldn’t miss the absolute terror that seemed to scream from their pinned down ears, or the look of fear in their eyes. They’d never forget how their balled up fists were shaking at their sides.
TO had thought that Officers were above such fear.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell