“Good, you’re here.”
TO turned around at the sound of PQ03’s voice, their movements slow and confused, their eyes wide and scared. “What happened?” They asked, their voice cracking as it echoed through the empty room.
“PQ12 is getting reassigned.” PQ03 grumbled, “And because of that, I’m left without an assistant.” They moved out of the way and gestured for TO to go back into the room with all the embryos, “I do not have time to deal with feeding the embryos along with tending to the synths. You do the feeding today.” They started to walk away, heading back to the main lab, “Hopefully PQ14 will be assigned before I have someone else to train.”
TO wanted to ask who PQ14 would be, but realized quickly that it could be anyone; PQ14 was just the call number that would be assigned to the next synth to work here. It occurred to TO that PQ12 wasn’t PQ12 anymore. They didn’t have their original call number. What were they? Who were they?
TO stood where they were, frozen in shock for a moment as they watched PQ03 walk away. It was only when the Officer was close to the doors that they moved, running up to them, “Wait, WAIT!” They said as they caught up, “What do you mean ‘reassigned.’?”
PQ03 looked at TO in confusion, “What do you think I mean?” They snapped, “They’ve been moved to another location… Or, I suppose.” They checked their implant, “There’s a very good chance that they’re still in meetings with their superiors, so-“
“You have Overseers. We have higher Officers that we answer to.”They said with a frown, “They’re in meetings with them to decide where they should go.”
TO felt their stomach drop, “It’s because of me.” They said, “Because I entered the lab when I wasn’t supposed to-“
“It had nothing to do with that. This was…” They frowned, “This was coming for a long time; This isn’t the right place for them, even though they were being very useful. No, they’ll be better off being reassigned.”
“Where do you think that’ll be? TO asked as they took a step forward, “Do you think it’ll be here?”
“No idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to work to-“
“But… What if I want to talk to them?” TO blurted out. PQ03 frowned as they turned to face them. “I… I wanted to talk to them, but now they won’t be PQ12 anymore, right?”
“Correct.” PQ03 said, “They’re given a temporary call number until they’re reassigned. I am unsure what their current call number is, so I don’t know how you might find them.” They frowned, “And likely by the days end they’ll have a new call number after that as well, so there’s no keeping track of them. Anything important to do with their job here was left on the computer systems.”
“So you’re not even a little worried about how you’re going to get in touch with them?” the idea that they would be just moved and lost that quickly scared TO. They knew that they would have their call number taken away eventually, and given a proper assignment, but what if they lost track of GiDi and DH? What if their two friends got assigned elsewhere, and were given new names? How would TO find them?
“Why would I be worried about that?” PQ03 asked, their ears flicking out in confusion, “I’m more concerned that I have to deal with all this on my own today. Anything I’d need to know from them is still on their computers so I have no need to speak to them directly.”
“But weren't they your friend!?” TO demanded, “Don’t you care if they’re here, or if they're sent off somewhere else in the galaxy? You might never see them again!” TO remembered what PQ12 had said about being sent on those exploratory missions, and they wondered if that might be the case for them. They remembered C12, and how worried they had been. Would they be assigned together?
Would C12 never see their friend again?
“Of course I care.” PQ03 snapped. TO relaxed, but then PQ03 started talking again, “PQ12 and I were accustomed to one another. I knew how they worked, and they knew how I worked. We were very efficient. Now, even if I am assigned a very good assistant then I still have to get used to them. I still have to teach them how things are done here.”
“But PQ12 was your friend.” TO said, their voice soft and quiet.
“...I didn’t hate them.” PQ03 said, “We worked well together. However, reassignments sometimes happen, and it’s best to get on with one’s duties.”
“You two, you’re different from others though, right?” TO pressed, “You argue together. You debate. I heard you the other day-“
“....and what exactly did you hear.”
TO felt a chill run through them as they realized what they said. “I.. I mean, when I came in first thing yesterday, it sounded like you were arguing. I didn’t hear much, You were both-“
“You know I can tell when you’re lying.” PQ03 said, “So tell me, what did you hear?”
TO took another step back, their stomach churning. “I… You were talking about me.” They said, “PQ12 didn’t want me to do the dissections-“
“Here’s some advice for the future.” PQ03 said, “When a synth has been stripped of their assignment, when they’re between assignments, it’s best to just use ‘N’. It’s for nothing.”
“Nothing? Why nothing?”
PQ03 tilted their head at TO, “They’re not active right now, they’re nothing. Now continue.” They crossed their arms, their wings puffing up around them slightly, “What else did you hear?”
TO stepped back, hitting the will behind them. “You said something about there being more? About seeing something?” They took a deep breath, shifting their wings so their joints weren’t pressing against the wall. They had come this far, and if they were in trouble then they were already in trouble now, they might as well try to get some answers. “About seeing something wrong with me? And others?”
PQ03 took another step forward, staring TO down with an intense look. Their ears were pinned back - angry, but also flicking with worry.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to hear anything, I just-“
“You’re smart.” PQ03 said, “Very intelligent. You have a good mind, you’re observant, and you possess a decent combination of wisdom and knowledge, though perhaps too much.” They flicked their eyes over TO, taking in how their ears were flicked down, how their wings were wrapped tightly around them, “But you lack discretion, and you have no control of your curiosity. You need to be careful, or you’ll end up wasting all this potential you have.” they turned on their heel and started heading to the door again, “Feed the embryos, and then you can leave; I have no time to babysit.”
“Is there something wrong with me?” The pathetic and scared tone to their voice took even TO by surprise. The Officer turned back around, their ears down slightly. For the first time TO caught an expression of pity on their face.
Pity. They had never seen that on an Officer's face before.
“Please.” TO said, “Please, is there something actually wrong with me? Was there some kind of mistake when I was being made?” They wanted to ask about GiDi and DH also, but they didn’t want to implicate their friends
“If there was a mistake,” PQ03 said very quietly, “Then you’ve have been corrected by now, yes? If something happened while you were developing, I would have caught it, and fixed it. Even if I didn’t, by now if something was truly wrong, you’d have been corrected or reprocessed, yes?”
“But mistakes can happen, right?” TO insisted, “PQ12 told me that there’s some variety allowed in us, so what if there’s too much variety in me!”
“Then the computers would have caught that and corrected it while you were still developing.” PQ03 said, but TO couldn’t help but catch the way their ears pinned down every so slightly with fear.
“But what if something went wrong? What if something happened to the computers, and they didn’t correct anything, or - “
“There’s a million things that could go wrong.” PQ03 said as they took another step forward, “This is a delicate work - it’s almost a type of magic to turn these tiny clumps of cells into fully functional synths! Yes! Things go wrong!” They narrowed their eyes, “And every synth that doesn’t turn out right - that has some defect, or sickness, or some unsurpassable abnormality -is a black mark on my work.”
“That’s all you care about? That’s more important than-“
“Serving King Decon well is the ONLY important thing!” PQ03 snapped. Their voice echoed around the room and seemed to reverberate through TO’s head in the ensuing silence. After a while, PQ03 took a deep breath, and turned away once more. “If I thought something was wrong with me.” They said, finally breaking the silence, “I’d not want to know. I’d just work hard, and keep out of trouble, and do my best to serve King Decon. Sometimes, knowing is overrated. Sometimes, it’s better to just not know. Sometimes, it’s dangerous to know too much.” They glanced back at TO, “That’s why PQ12 isn’t here now.”
“But why.” TO pleaded. They were scared by their Officer, but they were more scared of not knowing. They could feel this danger around them suddenly, but they didn’t know the source. They didn’t know how to protect themselves, or their friends.
PQ03 just sighed, “There is some knowledge that just isn’t for us.” They said, Information that’s dangerous to us, and in our hands. Whatever is going to happen to PQ12, it’s for their own good, and for the safety of every other synth here. Do you understand?” PQ03 frowned as they shook their head, “You even got hurt by N because of all this. Imagine if they knew more. Imagine how violent they might have gotten. Do you want to do that to other synths?”
TO shook their head.
“Good.” PQ03 said. “Feed the embryos–I’ve not started that job yet– and then you can leave for the day. I have nothing more to teach you here.”
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell