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A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

thanks again to my Patrons, Cannot Account and ColdAu!

and a reminder that I'll be streaming Episode 3 and 4 on my twitch tomorrow at 6:30 EST

https://www.twitch.tv/thewitchoftherock

DH’s Overseer arrived first, and with only a glance to TO and Q10, who were still sitting on the floor in the hallway, they rushed into the medical bay. TO took that as a good sign; if it had been decided that DH was too injured to warrant medical help then they doubted that the overseer would be rushing. Even as they told themself that, they weren’t certain. Yes, they had taken DH right in and started work immediately and yes, they had called for their Overseer. It seemed like DH would get the help they needed.

I haven’t a clue as to the extent of the damage.

What if it was discovered that there was too much damage done? Or what if their Overseer said not to bother? TO didn’t think they’d be convinced that DH would be properly treated until after the procedure was done.

In the meantime, TO had to help Q10. The other synth had fallen still and silent once more, the dried tears staining their face. How had this gotten so confusing? How had everything gotten messed up so badly? How had Q10 gone from being DH’s friend to acting like they hated DH, to sitting here in tears on the floor next to them?

Of course, TO knew exactly how — 55H75. Unlike Q10’s recent treatment of DH, 55H75 had seemingly no malice behind their actions; they didn’t dislike DH or GiDi, and they didn’t even seem to like Q10. They were entirely uninterested in them outside of their value to King Decon. Even given that, they had still caused all this.

Though, if Q10 hadn’t pushed DH back in the training room, and hadn’t been so awful to them afterwards, or if DH hadn’t approached Q10 in the dormitory, then this wouldn’t have happened.

If TO had really considered Q10, they would have realized that of course Q10 was strange like they were, otherwise they wouldn't have been friends with DH in the first place! So many things that might have happened that could have stopped it.

It was all too much to think of right now. TO’s head was swirling with the effort of trying to fit this all together and have it make sense. Now wasn’t the time for that— the past could be and stay as messed up as it was; TO had to sort out the future.

And they had an idea.

“It was an accident.” TO said simply. When Q10 didn’t respond, TO gave them a quick nudge, “Right?”

Q10 didn’t say anything, they just nodded. TO watched their ears carefully and was relieved to see that there was no sign of them lying.

“We beat each other up all the time in training.” TO continued, “And nobody gets in trouble because it’s all accidental” TO fell silent as another lone synth scurried past them and into the medical bay, clutching their arm. “And lots of synths are getting injured right now; I doubt that everyone did it to themselves. The situation with King Decon has everyone a little crazed. It’d be hard to punish everyone, right?”

Q10 didn’t respond. TO grabbed them by the arms, turning Q10 to face them. “You need to speak.” TO snapped, “You need to beg. You need to tell your Overseer it was an accident, that you didn’t mean to do it. That you were clawing at yourself, and you ran into DH…”

“Why?” They said, their voice so quiet that TO almost didn’t hear them.

“Because that might be the only way to keep you from being corrected!”

“...And why is that important.”

There was such a flat, dull tone to their voice that it took TO by surprise. The crying and wailing was over, and it seemed like all the emotion and energy that Q10 had had just seeped away.

“DH doesn’t want you to be corrected.” TO insisted

“Why should they care.”

TO didn’t know. The only reason they themselves cared was because of DH.Or… At least it had been. Seeing Q10 snap, seeing them just break down in front of them, seeing them scared and distraught…

“I don’t know.” they finally said, “Me… I don’t want to see anyone hurt. I don’t like it.”

“You looked ready to hurt me back in the dormitory.” Q10 said.

TO looked down the hallway, and saw two more Overseers heading towards them, TO’s own Overseer, and another one that TO had never seen before — they assumed it was Q10’s Overseer. As they got a little closer, TO could see the Q on their uniform.

“We can argue later.” TO hissed, “Just do what I tell you for now. It’ll be better after this is all over.”

“Will it?”

“Yes.” TO promised.

TO stood to their feet as the Overseers approached, grabbing Q10 by the arm and forcing them to stand up as well. The Overseers didn’t even slow down as they passed them. “With us.” TO’s Overseer said as they continued down the hallway and away from the medical bay.

TO started to follow them, stopped, then turned around to grab Q10’s wrist and pulled them along as well.

=======

Their Overseers led them down the hallway and into an empty room; It was clearly some kind of advanced training room for synths who needed further occupational training after their placement in the galaxy. There were a series of desks before a wall which, though blank at the moment, TO knew could be used to display charts, information, and videos. The desks would work with the implant of the synths using them to display the needed information, and receive feedback when necessary.

It was all shut down when they entered; no training at the moment.

“Sit.” Q10’s Overseer snapped. TO and Q10 both sat in the closest chairs quickly, almost frightened by the tone of the overseer.

“Explain.”

TO fell silent, waiting for Q10 to tell them what had happened, to explain that it had all been an accident and that they had never intended to hurt DH. Q10 didn’t say a word. TO looked over to them, hoping to catch their eyes and encourage them to start speaking, but they were just staring down at the desk. As they looked up at the Overseers, TO saw that their own Overseer was staring at them with their eyes narrowed, their ears flicked back with impatience.

“I… I just brought them to the medical bay.” TO said quickly. “I just saw DH-”

“Who?” Overseer Q snapped as they turned their attention to TO.

“Apologies; 70H67. I saw them get hurt, and-“

“Did you see what happened then?” Overseer Q asked.

“Not all of it.” TO said, speaking slowly and watching the Overseer’s reaction, “I only saw the end of it-“

“Did you see how 70H67 was injured.”

“Yes.” TO said, their ears flicking down.

“Tell me what you saw. Everything.”

TO looked down at the desk, and after a moment of silence they told the Overseers how they had gone looking for DH, and how they saw Q10 in the middle of their breakdown. They focused on how erratic Q10 had been acting, how they had been clawing at themselves and muttering.They really wanted to stress that Q10 was not acting like themselves, that they were in distress. “I think that the ordeal with King Decon-“

“I don’t want your opinion.” Overseer Q snapped, “I want what happened.”

TO looked up at their own Overseer again, who remained silent but who at least didn’t seem as angry at Q10’s Overseer. TO told them how they had run up to Q10 to get DH away, and commented on how many other synths were trying to do the same. The Overseers didn’t need to know that everyone else gave up quickly.

They described Q10’s frightened eyes, and how they ran into DH.

“Their claws were already out. They were clawing at themselves. Look-“ They glanced at the dried rivers of blood that ran down Q10’s head, and stained the sleeves of their uniform, “When they bumped into DH, they just lashed out, they didn’t draw their claws to use them on-“

“That’s enough.” Overseer Q said.

“Why did you get involved?” Overseer T asked. It was the first thing that TO’s Overseer had said since they got to the room.

“I was worried about D- 70H67.” TO said, “I didn’t want them to get hurt-“

“So you had reason to believe that Q10 might hurt them?” Overseer Q snapped.TO felt a tremor of fear run through them, and a pang of regret. What they said was the truth, but they hadn’t considered how that would sound.

“If I saw anyone else acting like that, I think I’d feel the same.” TO finally said, each word careful and slow, like footsteps on cracking ice.

The skin under Overseer Q’s hand lit up. They raised their hand and with a quick gesture caused a screen to project before them. It was another Overseer: DH’s Overseer.

“Overseer H.” Overseer Q said in a terse greeting, “Is there an update?”

“The damage to the face is superficial.” Overseer H said, “Stitches are required. Given 70H67’s progress, that’s well within the parameters for treatment. However.” They frowned, “The eye is a complete writeoff.”

TO’s heart froze and for a moment, time stopped. Talking continued, but TO didn’t hear it — later, they might vaguely remember that the conversation was about the damage to the eye, how Q10’s claws had cut right through it.

DH’s eye was a writeoff. DH was blind in one eye. What was the value of a half-blind synth?

“-and at their current level of proficiency, repairs would not be considered an option. The recommended course of action-“

“A moment.” Overseer T said as they brought up DH’s file, “If I may, I think an argument could be made for a transplant, if one is available.”

“Unsure.” Overseer H said, “It would have to be a viable eye, harvested in at least the last two spans-“

“There is one!” TO said suddenly, perking up and sitting up straight in their seat. The other Overseers turned to TO, confused at the sudden interruption. TO felt their ears flush blue as they felt all the eyes on them, “I was working in Synth Production this period.” They explained, “There happened to be a juvenile synth who’s lungs proved to be non-viable.” Even as they spoke about it, their mind played back the blood, the peeling back of the skin, the sound of the bones cracking. TO did their best to ignore that, they had to tell the Overseers this. “The eyes were fine. The eyes were perfect. Fully developed. They should still be in storage!”

“Overseer T.” Overseer H said, “if that eye is still available, perhaps something can be done. What is your argument.”

“As of this moment,” Overseer T said, “70H67 is not a candidate for transplant given their performance. However, if we look at their performance overall, their improvement has been exponential. I would even go so far to suggest that if this incident had happened in another period or so, then 70H67 would in fact be a viable candidate. If we were to consider potential cumulative progress, then I would say that an ocular transplant would be fully justified.” They pulled up some other stats, “As well, from what I understand their capabilities in combat training has proven to be exceptional- marksmanship in particular. If they were not to receive a transplant then that skill would be wasted.”

“Very well.” Overseer H said, “I will present this to the Medical Officer, and hopefully 70H67 will be approved.” They flicked their ears in confusion, “I am surprised you keep such close track of my synths though, Overseer T.”

Overseer T closed the file, “I believe that the improvement of 70H67 is linked to the improvement of several other synths, one of which is mine.. Have you not noticed that? I’ve been keeping a close eye on the situation.”

“ I have not. I’d like your reports afterwards.”

“Confirmed. Please respond with the final decision.”

The feed cut, and there was silence in the room once more. Overseer Q looked back at Q10, their eyes narrowed, “Do you have anything to add.” They demanded, “For instance, why were you causing such a fuss in the first place? Why were you apparently ripping at your own skin?”

“...I was upset about King Decon.” They said softly, not looking up.

“There are lots of other synths being brought to the medical bay because of what happened with King Decon!” TO added, “We’re all concerned.”

“But not all of you ripped yourselves apart or gouged out another’s eyes.”

TO looked at Q10 again, hoping they’d say something to defend themselves, hoping that they’d say that they didn’t intend to do it at the very least. When they didn’t, TO cleared their throat again, “01Q10 didn’t mean to do it.”

“How would you know that.”

“They told me. They’re upset over it. They didn’t want to hurt DH-70H67!”

Overseer Q frowned and opened up Q10’s file, going over it quickly, “That doesn’t change the outcome.” They muttered as they let their eyes go over the information.

“And they didn’t even intend to do it! It was accidental! A result of emotional distress at the prospect of King Decon being hurt!”

Overseer Q’s eyes’ narrowed as they read over the notes, “Perhaps.” They said, “You make a good argument, one that might be taken into consideration for other synths if this situation were to repeat… But not for 01Q10.” They looked to Q10, “You have a history.”

Q10 didn’t look up, but their ears twitched back in horror, and their hands grasped the table.

“A history?” TO thought, “I’ve never heard of them getting anyone else with their claws.”

“Right.” Overseer T said, “The incident in the training room.”

Oh. They didn’t mean that Q10 had attacked anyone with their claws before, just that they had attacked another synth. They were talking about the time that Q10 pushed DH over during physical training!

“And another incident a while later in the dormitories, though there was confusion on that so it was never followed up on. There have been witnesses who have stated that violence was a potential expected reaction from 01Q10.

TO’s ears flicked down and their stomach dropped as they realized what Overseer T was talking about. They wanted to cry as they heard their own words from their meeting with their Overseer repeated back to them, “‘I did see 01Q10 attack another synth though, so I wouldn’t have put it past them to do it again.’ Was the actual statement.”

Q10 nodded, still clutching at the desk. They closed their eyes tightly as the tears welled up.

“This one is still physically capable.” Overseer T said as they looked over the reports, “The other issues are nothing that a simple correction won’t fix.”

“But is that-“

“I understand.” Q10 finally said, their voice soft and cracking as they interrupted TO’s question.

“I think they’re being treated too lightly, given the damage done to 70H67.” Overseer Q grumbled, “But you’re right. They’ll be more use to us like that.”

“Will it be done now?” Q10 asked as they stared down, watching their tears drop to the surface of the desk

“Yes.” Overseer Q said as they closed up the files, “It’s a relatively simple and painless process. It can be done within the hour.”

Q10 nodded and stood up. They wiped the tears away as they walked towards their overseer.

“Wait.” TO said softly. They stood up and looked to Q10, “Say something. Say-“

“I… I’ll be happier if I’m corrected, yes?” Q10 asked their Overseer.

“Happiness is not a concern.” Overseer Q said, “You will be content in your work for King Decon.” They tilted their head, “Are you not content now?”

“...No.” They said after a long pause, “I’m not. I’m lonely. I’m sad. I get angry. I get jealous.” They glanced at TO, then back to their Overseer, “If I can’t be happy, then at the very least I’d rather not be miserable.”

Overseer Q stalked forward, and took Q10 by the arm, “You’ll have less of that talk when you’re fixed.” They said, “And you’ll be more useful.”

“Wait.. just..One moment?” They asked, pulling back. Overseer Q looked at Q10 in surprise. Q10 ignored them, and turned to TO. “I… I’m sorry.” They finally said, “And when DH is better, please tell them I’m sorry too. I don’t know if they’ll care.” They gave a bitter grin, “I messed everything up… This is better for me.”

They allowed themselves to be pulled from the room then without another word.

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TheWitchOfTheRock

Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell

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