TO rushed down the aisle that the other synth had pointed them towards, and as soon as they turned the corner, they could see and hear the commotion.
Q10 seemed to be having some kind of breakdown. They were alternating between clutching at their arms, and clutching at their head with their claws digging into the skin and drawing blood. They were shouting at the synths that had gathered around them, backing away from them as though they were terrified of being attacked. When Q10 wasn’t shouting at the others to stay away, they muttered almost chaotic things to themselves.
TO’s first thought was that Q10 had broken; that the scene they had witnessed with King Decon had snapped something in their head. TO slowed down and watched them from afar, unwilling to get closer.
“This might well be the end of them.”
TO turned, and saw 55H75 standing nearby, watching Q10’s breakdown.
“Go help them!” TO snapped, “They’re your friend, aren’t they?”
Q10 looked at TO, confused. It was the same look of confusion that PQ03 had given them when they asked in PQ12 was their friend.
“I will gladly assist any synth, and help them meet their potential for King Decon.” They said in a flat, monotone voice, “But Q10 is clearly not suitable. They lack control, They’re too emotional, and unlike you, they don’t excel.”
TO remembered the numbers on their records. They remembered how their number had been higher than Q10’s. They remembered being so confused as to why Q10 didn’t get painkillers.
Was it just because they didn’t excel like TO did?
TO was just about to run off to get their overseer, when they saw why the other synth had told them to rush over. Many synths were standing around Q10, trying to get them to stop screaming, to stop pacing, to stop digging their claws into themself. As Q10 screamed at them they all backed off, keeping their distance from the crazed synth.
There was one synth that kept trying to approach them; DH was standing before Q10, their hands up before them with their empty palms facing Q10. Whenever Q10 would start muttering, DH would take a few tentative steps towards Q10, and each time Q10 would shout at them.
“Your ‘friend’ is going to get hurt.” 55H75 said, “They really should be staying out of this.”
TO didn’t respond, they just rushed over. As they got closer, they could start to make out what Q10 was saying – or at least bits and pieces of it. “It’s all messed up, It’s all messed up. Everything’s wrong. Everything’s broken.”
“It’s fine.” They heard DH say, “It’s going to be fine, you heard what the Commander said-“
Q10 Looked around, their eyes wide, their ears twitching frantically. They caught sight of TO rushing towards them and their ears pinned back, flushed with shame and twitching with panic, confusion, and fear.
“You need to stop.” DH said softly as they took a few steps forward, “Sit down. You need to go to medical.” They took another step towards Q10.
Q10 took a step back from the approaching TO, not noticing that DH had come closer. They turned to run, and banged into DH, nearly knocking them over and falling back themselves. They screamed, “Get away from me!” And lashed out. There was the glint of light on claws that were already bloody from the way they had been digging them into their own flesh. DH spun out of the way just a little too late. DH screeched in pain, their three vocal chords releasing a feral cry as they fell to their knees. Their scream subsided, turning into gasping whimpering breaths that cut through the silence as they pressed their hand to their face. Blood dripped to the floor, bright blue against the dull grey tiles.
Blood. DH was turned away from TO and the damage done to their face was hidden. TO could only imagine the torn flesh-
–the crack of bones–
–the blood smeared across their face–
–The smell of disinfectant–
–And the pain that DH had to be in. They felt their heart struggling to escape their chest. The same feeling they had back in the auditorium, like someone was pressing on their skull and pulling them up, returned.
They blinked, and suddenly they were standing between DH and Q10, their wings spread out, their ears pinned back. They were just about to draw their own claws when it was like their mind suddenly caught up to their actions, and they stopped. They don’t know what stopped them exactly- maybe it was DH, who had reached out and grabbed at the sleeve of TO’s uniform to pull them back.
Or maybe it was the look of abject horror in Q10’s eyes. Maybe it was the way Q10 fell silent and sunk to the floor.
TO took a breath to try to calm themselves, then turned away from Q10; they weren’t important right now. They turned to DH, and gently took their chin to move their face towards them. Dh whimpered slightly, still holding their bloody hand to the wound. Whispering soft, gentle words of reassurance, TO slowly managed to pry their hand away.
It didn’t look good. Q10 had caught them with three claws, slashing against their face and leaving ragged looking wounds in their skin. One gash was very close to the eye, and becuase of the blood TO wasn’t able to see if the eye had been damaged. Dh didn’t seem to be able to open their eyes, and the way the blood was pooling and dripping it almost looked like they were crying blood.
TO felt their chest tighten. It was bad enough that DH was in pain, and bad enough that this would most likely scar. What if their eye was damaged beyond repair?
How valuable was a synth with only one eye? Could it be fixed?
Would it be fixed?
TO tried to get a closer look, but their hand was starting to get slick with blood, and DH’s whimpering breaths were too hard to bear. TO drew away, looking at their blue-stained hands. Their heart vibrated in their chest, and they stopped breathing.
Blood. The cracking of bones.
“TO?” DH’s voice was weak and shaky as they called out to TO, their hand grasping for TO’s hand. That drew TO back to the present. They looked over DH’s ripped up skin, the blood trailing down their neck, the tears of pain from one eye, blood from the other. They wanted to make it better. They wanted to somehow fix this so that it had never happened.
They gently helped DH up , and led them away towards the door. “Come on.” They managed to hiss out, “You need to get to medical.” They pulled DH after them, wishing that they had kept the painkillers. They hated that they had given them to Q10 since Q10 was the one who did this.
DH would need stitches at least, judging by how deep and ragged those cuts here. What if they weren’t given painkillers? The thought of DH unable to sleep becuase of the pain made TO want to scream and cry.
They should have kept the painkillers, just in case.
“TO, no!” DH managed to whimper as they pulled back.
“You need help!” TO said as they turned on their friend. They snapped at them more than they intended to, and felt instant regret as they saw DH recoil from their, them ears dipping low.
DH shouldn’t have gotten involved with Q10 as they had made it abundantly clear they didn’t want anything to do with DH. Still, DH was injured, and being angry with them wasn’t going to solve anything now.
“You need help.” TO said, forcing themself to be calm, “We need to get to the medical bay. You need stitches. Your eye might be hurt. You-“
“If we go, They’ll be in trouble!”
“Who, Q10?” TO asked as their ears quirked forward in disbelief. “They should be in trouble! Look what they did to you!” They reached out, and gently put their already bloodsoaked hand over the hand that DH held to their wounds. Their voice softened, and cracked as they whispered, “Look what they did to you!”
“They didn’t mean it.”
“They looked like they meant it.”
“TO… look at them.”
TO was about to say that they didn’t have time, but as they glanced over at Q10 they saw again the look of horror in their eyes, the way their ears were flicked down in fear as they just stared after TO and DH.
“They needed help.” DH whimpered before gasping in pain.
“WHy? They pushed you before! They pushed GiDi! They wanted us to report ourselves! Do you remember that! Why did you try to help them!”
“Why did you give them the painkillers!”
TO took a step back at the sudden fierceness in DH’s tone. Why had they given Q10 the painkillers?
“If we go to medical, they’ll get repoted.” DH whispered, “You got in trouble for just drawing your claws-“ They hissed in pain as the movement of their mouth irritated the cuts on their face.
“You’re bleeding too much.” TO said. They put their arms around DH’s shoulder and gently led them forward as they. looked them over. Did they like paler than normal? Did they seem dazed? “They’ll probably be reported anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if an overseer already knows.”
“We have to do something!” DH pleaded, “They’ll be corrected. Or-“
“I have to take care of you.” TO said.
“They’re scared.” DH pleaded, “And.. they’re strange.”
TO stopped and stared at DH, “They’re strange?”
“Like us. Just… I don’t-“ They winced and their eyes lost focus. The pain was probably too much for them; it was possible they were going into shock. TO didn't have any more time to argue with them, they needed DH to go with them.
They let go of DH and stalked over to Q10 who was still sitting dazed on the ground, looking at little droplets of blood on the floor. TO reached out, and grabbed their arm as they pulled Q10 to their feet.
“I swear, if you claw me, I’ll leave you here. I’ll let you get corrected.”
Q10’s eyes flicked from TO to DH, but they let themselves be pulled along. TO Dragged them over to DH, who was still holding onto their bleeding face. They put their arm on DH’s back and gently guided them towards the medical bay as they pulled Q10 behind them.
They didn’t know what they were going to do, but they knew that DH wouldn’t stop arguing unless they thought of something, and they needed to get DH to the medical bay.
“You found your friend?”
TO looked around, and saw the synth that had told them that DH needed ttheir help. For the first time, TO looked at their uniform, and at the number assigned to them.
That was the next synth to be woken up that day, the one that had been floating in the tank next to them when they woke up cold and shivering.
“Where’s GiDi– I mean-“
“Your other friend, right?” They asked, “I brought them to their old pod. They needed to sit down, and they wanted to look over the news. They’ll be fine.” They looked over DH, and took in their wounds, “You need to get them to medical. Now. I’ll tell your friend where you’ve gone.”
TO nodded, “Thank you.” They said quickly as they hurried out the door with DH at their side and Q10 trailing behind.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell