“Today is the last day of your first period of combat training.” C12 said as the synths all stood at attention before them. C12 normally started training right away, getting them to warm up with punches and kicks before they got started with combat maneuvers. Today was different; Today they apparently had something to say. “After today, we move from the basics that you’ve learned here to combat scenarios.” They paced before them, their limp a little less pronounced today that it had been the day before.
TO wondered if C12 was given painkillers for their leg. They imagined that a retiree could have as many as they needed to be comfortable.
“These combat scenarios will be basic. You’re simply expected to take what you’ve learned here, and start to apply them naturally in combat. This will include hand-to-hand, and weapons training.” They looked over the synths, “You are not expected to have mastered the skills you’ve just learned. You’re expected to have some basic proficiency.” They stopped their pacing, and stood in front of them, their eyes scanning the crowd standing at attention before them.
TO caught it; They weren’t sure if anyone else did, because it was so quick and subtle, but C12’s ears flicked down, and slightly back. C12 was worried! Worried about what?
“This training will last for another four periods–forty more days. After that time, you will undergo a test before you are allowed to pursue more advanced training.” They fell silent as they looked over them, their eyes flicking from synth to synth. TO was certain that C12’s big black eyes lingered on them for just a moment. TO glanced over at DH, who gave them a worried look, their own ears down and twitching. They glanced past TO and towards GiDi, their ears sinking.
TO knew exactly what they were thinking; Would GiDi pass the test? TO reached out and took their hand, giving then a quick, subtle squeeze and a smile before letting go.
“We’re going to be fine.” They mouthed, “All of us.”
“Those who do not pass their examination will not be allowed to go onto more advanced training.” C12 said, “So I suggest you work hard.” They looked over everyone once more, then nodded to their assistants who were standing to the side.
“Alright.” C12 said, “Positions. Start with basic jabs.”
As soon as the lesson was over, TO, GiDi, and DH dropped to the floor in exhaustion, though to be fair most of the synths did just that. Those synths that kept to their feet at least doubled over, gasping for breath as they dripped sweat onto the floor. C12 had been strangely distracted all day, barking out orders without really noticing how much everyone was struggling.
Even after C12 dismissed everyone, many of them stayed where they were to catch their breath.
“Well.” DH gasped, “That was harder than normal.”
GiDi couldn’t speak, they could hardly breath. They nodded, gasping for breath as they did.
TO stumbled to their feet with their legs shaking, and helped GiDi and DH up, “Come on.” they said, “Showers. Food. sitting.” They made their way towards the door
“09T07.” C12 said, “Stay behind.”
TO stopped suddenly as they heard C12 speak, causing one of the synths behind them to stumble into their back. TO apologized and got out of the way, followed by GiDi and DH as the others filed out of the room and towards the showers.
C12 approached them once everyone else was gone. They glanced over DH and GiDi, “You two can wait outside.” They said, “You’ll have 09T07 back shortly.”
TO nodded to their friends and, “I’ll be fine.” They said.
“We’ll be waiting just outside the door.” DH said as they followed GiDi, casting a worried look back at TO just before the door shut behind them.
It was just TO and C12 in the training room. TO was a little taken aback at how quiet it suddenly was, but also at how much smaller it somehow seemed now that the room was empty. It was still a big room, but not nearly as big as TO would have guessed it was. It surprised them that it could hold so many synths for training.
“You took a hit to the head.” C12 said, pulling TO out of their thoughts. TO reached up and gently touched the cut on the back of their head.
“Oh. this.” They said as they gently rubbed around the wound, “It’s nothing. An accident, that’s all.”
“I see.” C12 said, “And you’re not unwell? No concussion?”
“No, Retiree.” TO said, “Thankfully; I think I’ve spent enough time in the medical bay as of late.”
“Yes. quite a few medical visits as of late, though none of them too serious, or with lasting implications, right?”
“Now… Out of curiosity, if your Overseer were to ask you what happened, would it still be an accident?”
“Clearly, you view it as an accident, you’re not trying to lie to me.”
TO’s ears flicked out in confusion, “It was an accident.”
TO frowned, “I was at my vocational training, and my officer pulled me away from something. I stumbled, and fell, and hit my head.”
“I see.” C12 said. They looked over TO for another moment, then turned away, “That’s all. Dismissed.”
TO turned to leave, then stopped. They were so confused, there was so much going on that just didn’t make sense. They needed something to make sense. They needed some kind of answer to lift their confusion.
The word rang out in the room, echoing off the walls, leaving silence in its wake. TO turned to face C12, and watched them turn back to TO, their eyes wide and staring their ears flicked out in confusion.
“Why are you asking about my head! About what I’d say!” TO said, “Did I do something wrong? Because I don’t think I did!” They took a step forward, only just holding themselves back from letting their tone slip into actual anger, “Please, tell me what’s happening. You know what happened, don’t you? What’s actually going on!”
C12 was silent as they looked over TO. “You know that’s dangerous, yes?”
“If you had done that to a higher up, to a commander, or even another Retiree, you know you’d be dealt with, yes?”
“For outright disobedience? I dismissed you, you said no. Depending on the person, you’d be killed on the spot. I’ve seen King Decon himself kill synths for less.”
That was the first time that TO heard anyone talk about killing a synth. Synths were corrected, disciplined, or reprocess. People were killed, synths were not.
“Even if there were other officers around right now, there would be limited things I could do to help you.”
“I’m sorry.” TO said, taking another step back, “But I need to know. What happened? What did I do wrong?”
“...You did nothing wrong.” C12 finally said, “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and allowed your curiosity to take over.” He gave a half shrug, “Something to be controlled, but nothing that you did wrong, necessarily.”
“But what was it? What happened?” TO reached up to the wound at their head, remembering how scared PQ12 had been the day before, remembering their flicked back ears and their shaking fists, “Is PQ12 in trouble because I got hurt?”
TO relaxed, their shoulders drooping, their wings sinking down for just a moment before they frowned and said, “But they are in trouble.” They glanced up at C12 and noticed how their ears were pinned back and down. Their arms were crossed as normal, but it seemed like they were clutching at their arms a little harder than normal. “....And you’re worried about them.”
“I’m worried about a lot of things.” C12 said.
“Why are they in trouble?” TO asked as they took a step forward, “Is there something I can do to help?”
C12 looked carefully at TO, clearly confused, “Why would you want to?”
“I… Don’t know?” TO said,feeling as confused as C12 looked, “I think… I think they’re good synths? I don't want them to get in trouble.”
C12 nodded, “You’re right. They are good synths.”
They were friends, TO realized suddenly. Maybe they still were. TO had never seen them together but they never saw PQ12 out of the laboratory at all, and outside of physical training they had only seen C12 in the showers that one time. For all TO knew, they spent most of their free time together. Maybe they were like TO was with GiDi and DH; Maybe they even slept close to one another and worried about one another. “
“What do I do?” TO asked.
C12 shook their head, “Nothing.” They said, “aside from saying as little as possible.”
“But there has to be something more! Why are they in trouble? If I knew-”
“Do you think you could do more than I could?” C12 snapped, and for the first time, TO saw C12’s wings start to puff up behind them, making them look bigger and more imposing than they already were. Their ears pinned right back to their head, their eyes narrowed, their lips turned up into a snarl.
They had a chipped fang; somehow, that was something that TO noticed at that moment.
TO took a step back, their own wings wrapping tightly around them, their ears flicking down in fear. C12 took a long, deep breath and settled themselves, letting their wings sink back to normal as their ears slowly returned to normal.
“You can’t do anything.” C12 said, “And even if you could, I wouldn’t put you in a situation where you might get hurt.”
“How would I get hurt?”
C12 sighed and turned away from TO, “Look.” They said, “Hypothetically, say I get you to help. Let’s pretend that doing that involves telling you things that you shouldn’t know. Things that could get you hurt.”
“Who would hurt me?”
C12 looked back and gave them a pitying glance, “This is hypothetical. Let’s say it’s information that simply by knowing it, you could be deemed as useless. You could be reprocessed, at worst.”
A quick, disbelieving laugh escaped TO’s mouth, “You can’t get reprocessed just for knowing something.”
“Again; this is hypothetical.” They turned away once more, “If your overseer questioned you, would you be able to lie to them.”
“Why… But…” TO’s ears flicked out in confusion, their brows furrowed. Why would they lie to their overseers? Well, if they knew something that could cause them to get reprocessed, or get DH or GiDi reprocessed, then they’d want to, sure.
But, the Overseers were there to help them, and to train them. What information could they possibly know that might cause their overseer to have them reprocessed. What knowledge was that dangerous.
And did C12 have that information right now? Did PQ12? No, impossible! A Retiree and an Officer? They had proven themselves through training and their devolution to King Decon! C12 especially had proven themselves as excellent tools to King Decon!
“I… I would want to do the best thing to better serve King Decon.” They finally muttered, though it almost felt automatic while their head was still spinning.
“That is the correct answer.” C12 said as their ears drooped, “And the way you can serve King Decon best right now, while helping PQ12 is just to keep quiet, to stop asking questions. If you want to serve King Decon, that’s what you have to do.”
TO was very quiet for a moment, then turned to leave. As they reached the door, they turned back, “PQ12 will be ok, right?” They asked, “I mean… they’re not going to be reprocessed or corrected, are they?”
“I don’t think so.” C12 said, “They’re too valuable for that.”
TO nodded, “Understood.” They said. They felt a little better now as they left to go meet up with GiDi and DH. even if PQ12 was in trouble, they wouldn’t be reprocessed or corrected. Maybe they’d just end up working in maintenance like TO had once.
That was awful, but tolerable compared to the alternatives.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell