“What happened?” DH said as TO left the training room, “Is everything alright?” They grabbed TO’s arms, holding onto them tightly.
“Everything is fine-”
“Everything is fine with me.” TO said as they put their hands on DH’s shoulders, “Relax, I’m fine.”
“What happened?” GiDi asked.
“And are you sure everything is alright?”
TO gently took DH’s hands in their own and gave them a quick squeeze, “Everything isn’t alright, but I’m alright.” They said. They started to head down the hallway towards the showers with DH and GiDi at their side.
“What did C12 want?” GiDi asked.
“They wanted to know about the bump to my head.” TO said, “They wanted to know how I got it and…” They stopped, wondering if they shouldn't even say anything to GiDi and DH about their concerns about PQ12, but then realized that since they had told them about the incident with PQ12 already it probably didn’t matter.
“They seemed worried about PQ12.” They said
“Wait.” DH said, “Wait, they know your officer in the laboratories?” DH asked.
“I think they’re friends.” TO said, “Like us.”
“Really?” DH asked, “Are you sure?”
“You should have seen how worried C12 looked. Yes, I’m positive.”
“Well… We knew that C12 was strange.” GiDi said as they considered this, “And you know that PQ12 is strange… “ They trailed off, frowning, “Hey, wait... C12 was worried?”
“Yes.” TO said, “I think that’s what kept them worried all day. DIdn’t you notice how off they were in training?”
“Well, I knew they were acting differently.” DH muttered, “I was a little more worried about the test they were talking about.”
“Ok. Wait.” GiDi said, “What are they worried about?”
“Apparently, PQ12 is in some kind of trouble. They could be disciplined.”
“Corrected?” GiDi asked.
“C12 doesn’t think so. C12 Doesn’t think they’ll be repurposed either.”
GiDi let out a long breath, “Well, that’s good.” They said, “Maybe it’s just because that bottle of activation fluid got broken. I mean, you said that it was valuable stuff.”
“Maybe? But… No, the way C12 was talking, they said stuff about hypothetically knowing things that…” They trailed off as finally they felt the pieces click in their head. They stopped in the tricks and groaned, smacking their hand to their forehead.
“What is it?” DH asked,
“I’m an idiot.” TO said, “PQ12 was warning me about my curiosity, and knowing things that maybe I shouldn’t and about knowledge being dangerous. C12 was basically telling me the same thing.” They sighed and looked at DH, “You know I'm an idiot, right?”
“You’re not an Idiot.” GiDi said,
“I feel like one. I can’t see what's going on in front of my own two eyes!”
“I’m well aware.” DH muttered.
“PQ12 was looking at something they weren’t supposed to be looking at.” TO said, “The activation fluid. Maybe they did something to it that they weren’t supposed to do? I don’t know, but that’s why they didn’t want me looking it at. This explains their fear, the warnings; everything.” They shook their head “They were doing something that they knew could get them in trouble. It had nothing to do with wasting the activation fluid or the bump on my head.”
“Well, you can ask them what’s happened when you see them, right?” DH asked.
“... I don’t think I should.” TO said, “What if it’s dangerous?”
“How could it be dangerous?” GiDi asked, “I mean, whatever happened, PQ03 saw it too, right?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know, but…” They stopped. How much of what C12 said might be dangerous information in itself? Could saying anything more hurt PQ12?
“...But C12 seemed to suggest that there could be information that’s dangerous. Information that could make you useless.”
GiDi frowned, their brows furrowing, “Well that doesn’t seem right.” They said, “It’s important to know things, right? It’s important that we get smarter. How could learning more be dangerous?”
“I don’t know.” TO said, “And I don’t know that I want to find out.”
“You can still talk to them!” DH said, “I mean, you can still tell them that everything’s fine, right? That you’re not hurt and don’t intend to make a problem of it all. And you can ask them about what they said to PQ03.”
“TO felt their ears flick down, “But what if that’s dangerous information?”
DH shrugged, “They wouldn’t tell you then, right?” They smiled, “You said PQ12 and C12 are friends, so there’s a chance that C12 would have warned them not to tell you dangerous stuff, right? Just like you warn me to be careful?” They linked their arm in TO’s arm, “If it’s something you’re not supposed to know, then they won’t tell you.”
“And you already saw what they were looking at.” GiDi pointed out, “If they got in trouble just for looking, then wouldn’t you be reported too?”
“I suppose….” TO said quietly.
“C12 is severe.” DH said, “Very intense. They probably made a bigger deal out of it than it actually is. I mean, they’re strange too, so that’s a possibility, right?” THey shrugged, “You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t overreact if you thought I was in trouble, right?”
“Also.” GiDi said, “PQ12 was probably poking at stuff they’re not supposed to, but I doubt it’s anything that would..” They trailed off, “What did C12 even say that information would do?”
“They strongly suggested I’d need to be reprocessed, or at least corrected.”
GiDi wrinkled up their snout, “How can any information do that?” They said, “What, does it break your mind?”
“I don’t know.” TO said, but the way that GiDi said that, they couldn’t help but smile, “I’d be kind of interested to know what kind of information could break one’s mind though!”
DH groaned, then shot a playful grin at TO, “Knowing you, you’d probably think of something like inverted gravity or time that doesn’t work like it’s supposed to-“
“Imaginary time is real, theoretically-“
“Then it’s not real, it’s a theory.” DH cut in.
“And it’s complicated, and…” They trailed off, “You know, I think if I actually understood imaginary time, it would break something. I don’t think we’re meant to understand it.”
“Well, if we don’t hurry, Imaginary time is all we’ll have left to shower and eat.” GiDi said.
DH hurried down the hall, pulling TO behind them, “Come on.” They said, “You need to eat before you go to your vocational training.”
“I know,” TO said as they allowed DH to pull them along. Somehow, since GiDi and DH weren’t worried about it, neither was TO. They felt like maybe C12 was being a little dramatic. Maybe they worried just like TO did, and got anxious over nothing when it came to their friends.
“Hey.” TO said, “C12 and PQ12 are friends!”
“Yes?” DH said. “You said that already.”
“They did it. They managed to get to where they are, and they stayed friends. C12 even managed to retire! Maybe we can all do it! Maybe it’ll actually be fine!”
Sometimes, TO wondered how GiDi and DH managed to make them feel better about almost anything. Nothing seemed quite so bad when they were around. Even when TO thought about the dissection, and chills ran through their spine as they remembered the way the bones cracked when they snapped open the synth’s rib cage, things weren't’ so bad so long as GiDi and DH were nearby.
It could still be awful, but it was never so bad as it was when they were alone.
By the time they got their food from the cafeteria, TO was already wondering if maybe they hadn’t overreacted to the whole thing. Well, no, they hadn’t; They had been hurt, and they had been warned by PQ12 and C12 about potential dangers of knowledge. Maybe PQ12 had overreacted, and C12 was just worried.
By the time they got to their dormitory to sit and eat with GiDi and DH, they were certain that they had overreacted. They were almost ashamed of how worried they had been. No, the thing with the microscope was nothing.
“I still think the bigger question is what they were talking about before they knew you were there.” DH said as they finished their meal, “That seems important to me. That seems like the information that might be interesting. Maybe they did something they weren’t supposed to.”
“Then I shouldn’t go digging, right?” TO asked.
GiDi was very quiet. They had finished their meal first and were digging through files on their implant. “If it didn’t involve you, I’d say that maybe you shouldn’t.” GiDi said, “But from what they said, it sounds like it does.” They glanced up from their work, “If it involves you, then you could already be at risk, so you should know, right?”
“I guess.” TO said, “What are you looking for today anyway?”
“Going through some political stuff.” They said,
“No. Current events.” They sighed, “Aren’t you following current events?”
“I’ve been a little preoccupied with my own research.” TO said. Their research into how King Decon could have created them was still their major extracurricular research. It was possible to create DNA, to synthesize it, from which TO imagined they got their name of synths, but they weren’t sure yet that it was possible to create a whole person from scratch. To alter one, yes; but to create one?
“There’s a cluster of planets that have been in rebellion.” GiDi said, “They’ve been working to support a planet that’s been newly discovered.”
“What do you mean?” TO asked, “In rebellion of what?”
GiDi frowned as they looked up, “In rebellion of King Decon.” They said, “Insurgents. There’s a cluster of planets with active insurgencies, and they’ve been working together to keep this new planet from joining King Decon’s empire.”
TO Shook their head, “Why would they want to.” They said, “Being out of the empire means being isolated. You don’t have the same resources, or access to medical resources, or food.” they shook their head, “It’s foolish. Why are they fighting?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.” GiDi said, “All the reports I’ve been finding, at most they say it’s old aristocracy from the planets, but there’s never any real details. That’s what I’m trying to figure out… Well, mostly,. Not today.” They turned the screen to TO and DH, “There’s stuff happening today. There was an attack on the Galactic embassy, and there’s been a big raid in response. Stuff’s happening fast now.”
“Good.” DH said, “Maybe they’ll surrender before the end of the day.” They shook their head, “Why would anyone want to be independent from the empire?”
“Well the main planet, Arkane-“
“Ar-Ka-ne?” DH echoed, “That’s an odd name.”
“Yes. Well. That was originally the name of the kingdom in their solar system. They had colonies on most of the other planets, but when King Decon took over, to make things more efficient the biggest planet was turned into the citizen planet, and food and resources were produced or mined on the smaller planets. Apparently there’s been a lot of tensions because of the different peoples that have been thrown together- different races, different cultures, different types of people thrown into environments that-“
“I’m sure King Decon knows what they’re doing.” TO said with a frown, “I mean, it’s probably not ideal, but I’m sure it’s the best solution, right?”
“I suppose…” GiDi said as they glanced over the reports, “But… I just feel like there’s more. I feel like they have to believe in what they’re fighting for, right? Putting a whole planet at risk, it can’t just be for selfish reasons, right?”
“It can be.” DH said as they glared at the screen, “We’re trained, we’re taught to put the empire before ourselves. They aren’t. They just live their own little lives. We’re part of something bigger.”
TO nodded, but they couldn’t help but catch the way DH’s ears flicked just slightly - a little bit of uncertainty.
What GiDi said made sense, but still…
“I’m sure they have their own reasons.” TO said, “They might only be good reasons to them, though.”
GiDi nodded, and went back to reading the scrolling updates that rolled over their screen, their ears flicked back in concern.
As TO approached the labs, they felt a little bit of that anxiety creep back since they were away from GiDi and DH, but they clung to how silly they had felt when they realized that all these problems were just overreactions. They made sure to keep their head down and look at the floor as they went from the main lab to the back lab to join PQ12 for their training.
They weren’t sure if they would ask about what they had overheard. If they wanted to, this was the time to do it; they wouldn’t be back here after today. Besides, GiDi was right– if they were implicated, then they needed to know what was wrong.
They got to the back lab, which was empty. TO cursed to themselves as they went to the smaller back lab– they had hoped that they’d be able to help with feeding before going back to the tedious work with the feed tests.
They got to the back lab, scanned their chip, and opened the door.
The lab was dark. When TO turned on the lights they saw that it was also empty. It was as though nobody had ever worked there before.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell