Gasping and dizzy, To ran from the labs until they had to stop and lean against the wall to catch their breath. Their head hurt, and they felt so confused and scared and, honestly… they felt a little hurt. They hadn’t been friends with PQ12, of course, not, they were an Officer, and TO was just in training. TO had looked up to PQ12. There were so many ways in which they were alike that it made TO feel a little better to think that even someone strange like them could do well. PQ1 2had even worked to keep TO away from having to do operations. Now they were here, alone in the hallway with tears burning at their eyes as they tried to figure out what they had done that was so wrong. They hadn’t put the activation fluid in the microscope, and they hadn’t broken anything until PQ12 had pulled them away.
What had they done wrong?
They caught their breath and stood up, wiping at their eyes with bloody hands. The sight of the blue on their hands, the smell of blood so close to their face almost sent them to their knees again. They took several deep breaths, and slowly walked to the closest bathroom where they quickly washed their hands, then took some napkins and carefully cleaned away the wound on their head.
The lab was very well sterilized–TO wasn’t worried about infection. They strained to see the mark on the back of their head but it was just out of sight. They couldn’t feel the wound itself, but they could feel a bump where they had struck their head off the desk.
They’d have to get DH or GiDi to check. They’d have to tell them what happened. TO didn’t want to worry their friends; they were already worried enough about them, but it would be hard to hide this wound
They gently cleaned the blood away and leaned forward, taking long, deep breaths. It occured to them that it was twice now in as many days that they ended up cleaning blood off themselves in one of the washrooms.
“Bad Habit.” TO muttered to themselves. They tried to give a laugh at their little joke, but they just couldn’t.
Why had PQ12 been so angry and scared?
The warnings from earlier echoed into TO’s head; the warnings about curiosity, and knowing things that maybe they shouldn’t know. Maybe they were doing the same kind of research that TO themselves wanted to do; research into how King Decon created the synths. Maybe TO had been seeing something that PQ12 didn’t want to get caught researching.
TO rolled the idea around in his head. Yes, that made sense. It also made TO feel a little better; They hadn’t done anything wrong, PQ12 was just scared. Still, the way they shouted at them. They way they grabbed them. TO looked at their arm, pulling the sleeve back so they could see, and frowned as they saw the bruising starting to show on their pale blue skin. They rubbed their arm, then pulled their sleeve back down.
It didn’t matter. They were more or less fine. They’d see PQ12 tomorrow, and tell them that they wouldn’t tell anyone anything. That they wouldn’t ask them any questions about it.
They left the bathroom, and were halfway to the flight training room before they realized that PQ03 had seen the remains of the bottle as well, just before they had sent TO off. They recalled the shaking of PQ12’s hands as they stood still before the other officer.
Could one officer discipline another? TO wasn’t sure. Still, if they were both strange, maybe PQ03 wouldn’t say anything. Even though they were different, they were two strange synths working together; They had to be friends at least to some degree, right?
TO hoped so.
TO got to the Flight Training room and flapped up to the platform where GiDi and DH were resting.
“You took your time.” DH said as they ate the last few pieces of their plate, “Did you find your-“ They glanced up, and their ears fell as they looked over TO. “What happened?”
TO dropped down next to DH, leaning against the wall behind them. “I hit my head.” They said. “It’s bleeding. Can you see how bad it -“
TO didn’t have the rest of the words out of their mouth when DH pulled them into their arms and turned them so that they could see the back of their head. They relaxed as they felt DH’s fingers run over the bump so gently that there wasn’t any pain.
GiDi slid in front of TO, and pushed their food towards them, “Does it hurt a lot?” They asked.
“Not really.” TO said, “It hurt at the time, and I think I was more shocked than anything else.”
“I don’t think it looks too bad?” DH ventured, “It looks more like you must have scraped the skin against something.”
“The bottom edge of the desk.” TO said, “I smacked my head off the underside of the desk.”
“How did you manage that?” GiDi asked.
TO allowed DH to hold them, leaning against DH’s chest as they told their friends about what had happened in the lab. They told them how they just wanted to look at what was in the activation fluid, and how PQ12 had reacted.
“They hurt you.” DH hissed, “We should report them.”
“They were scared.” TO said, “I don’t understand why, not really… but I think maybe they were looking at something they weren’t supposed to be looking at.” they shook their head, “Or at least they could get in trouble for wasting activation fluid, especially since I knocked over the whole bottle when I was pulled away. It broke, and-“
“That wasn’t your fault.” DH said, “That was your Officer’s fault.”
“Anyway, PQ03 came in shortly after that, and they sent me off. PQ12 looked really scared though.” They shook their head, “I’ve never seen an Officer look scared like that before. You should have seen their ears; they were pinned right back against their head.”
“They were probably more afraid because they had hurt you.” GiDi said as they sat next to TO, getting a better look at the back of their head, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to medical?”
“I’m sure. It doesn’t even really hurt.” They were about to say that their nose still hurt more than the bump did, but they didn’t want to make DH feel bad about that.
“They should be afraid.” DH said, “They’re an Officer! They shouldn’t hurt us. They should be better than that. I mean, even other synths in training-“
“They’re still just synths, right?” TO ventured, “And strange ones too. And they didn’t mean to hurt me.” TO sat upright, and started to pick at their meal. “They were just scared. And they warned me earlier about… well, about looking for answers I don’t really want” Their ears perked up, “Oh.. that reminds me; Before I started my work today, I overheard PQ12 and PQ03 talking about… well, talking about me.”
“Oh?” GiDi said, “Anything good?”
“Not really?” TO said, “PQ03 really wanted me to help with surgery. PQ12 said I wasn’t suited for it. They fought about it for a bit, but that wasn’t the interesting part.” They paused as they went over the conversation in their head, “They…” TO frowned, “They saw something. I don’t know what. They saw something that worried them. Something about me. They just …” TO was still unsure of what they had actually heard, and unsure of what it could have meant, “They said that they saw something, and it had to do with me. Then they said something like ‘you know how many there were.’”
“How many what?” DH asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe how many incidents I've been involved in? I have no idea. They didn’t say anything to give me any clarity, but then they said they should have caught it earlier, and that whatever it was was their own fault.” Now that they were saying it aloud, an idea flickered into their head, “You don’t think they mean they should have caught how strange I am? And now they think that it’s too late to report me because they might get in trouble?”
“I doubt that.” GiDi said, “You work better than DH and I, so if you should have been reported by now, then so should we.” They frowned, their ears pinning back, “Maybe...Maybe they mean us?”
“Us. Strange synths. Like you, like me, and DH.” They glanced up at DH, “Maybe… maybe the ‘how many’ is strange synths? Maybe that’s something that they should have seen before we even left the tanks.” They looked back to TO,”You mentioned once that the lab your in is the lab you were detanked from, yes?”
“Right. I remembered it. I think they remembered me too.”
GiDi nodded, “and you said that they allow some differences between synths, some variety is needed. But maybe there’s a way to catch synths that are too different, and they didn’t.”
“Maybe.” TO murmured, “But… but from what I understand, that’s not their job. That’s the computers that are supposed to take care of that.”
“Maybe something was wrong with the computers, and they were supposed to deal with that.”
“Maybe…” TO said. Was that possible? Was it possible that there had been something wrong with the way the computer had shaped their mind? “That… that would make sense then, I guess? The ‘how many’ would be how many strange synths came from that lab.”
“Can’t you ask them?” DH said.
“Not without admitting that I overhead them.” TO said, “And I don’t think they’d like being overheard.”
“Well, if PQ12 is worried about being reported for violence, maybe they’ll be so grateful if you don’t report them that they wouldn’t mind if you asked them a few questions?” DH gave a wicked grin, their ears perking up, “I mean, it’s the least they could do after giving you this bump on your head.
“...Are you suggesting, DH, that I blackmail my officer?” TO was half scandalized, but in truth, it seemed like a decent tradeoff. Maybe not exactly blackmail, but if TO went to PQ12 tomorrow as they intended to, and told them that they were fine, that they knew it was an accident and that they didn’t need to report anything, then maybe they would be so grateful that they might let TO ask a couple of questions.
“Maybe.” DH said with a grin, “I prefer to think of it as them being very grateful for you not reporting anything.”
TO grinned. “That might work.” They said. They suddenly felt like they had a proper appetite again so they started eating quickly, desperate to get into the air and stretch their wings.
Everything would be fine. They’d talk to PQ12 tomorrow, and maybe get some answers. Maybe PQ12 would even apologize for yelling and hurting them!
Everything would be fine.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell