“Q10 got corrected?”
TO nodded as they looked away from GiDi. Going over what had happened had been surprisingly hard for TO, especially when they talked about how Q10 just gave up and submitted to being corrected, the things Q10 had said, and the awful look on their face.
“But… I thought they were fine?” GiDi said softly, “They didn’t seem strange.”
“When would we have gotten close enough to them to actually notice if they were or not.”
“DH would have known.”
“They did.” TO said, “That’s why they asked me to help them.”
GiDi groaned and put their head in their hands, “If DH knew, why didn’t they tell us? We could have said something to-“
Why would DH have said anything? Q10 was being nasty to them, and to you!” TO frowned “You don’t know how much they hurt DH. DH thought that Q10 was their friend. Then they attacked them. They pushed DH away.”
“...You never told me that.” GiDi said, “You or DH.”
“DH doesn’t like to talk about it.” TO said, “So I try not to. Anyway, even if DH had told us, when could we have said something to Q10? After they pushed you? After they clawed up DH?”
“When they came and asked you for more painkillers.” GiDi said, “We should have known then! DH should have told us then!”
“It’s not DH’s fault.” TO said, their ears flicking down, “It’s mine, remember? I could have stopped it. I could have kept them from being corrected… but because of what I said- “
“What you said was right. It was correct. They DID hurt DH in the end.” They leaned forward, their elbows on their knees as they looked to the ground. They looked far away, and their ears were flicked back in concern and concentration. “Did you ever…” GiDi’s voice got very quiet, and their ears dipped down in fear, “Did you ever think that it’s wrong?”
“Yes… I shouldn’t have said anything, but by the time I realized that-“
“No no... not that.” GiDi said quickly, “You did what you’re supposed to, right?” They looked up at TO, “If we went just by the rules, and how we’re supposed to behave, you didn’t do anything wrong. Your Overseer demanded information, and you told them what they wanted to know, right?”
“That doesn’t make me feel better.” TO said, “I could have only told them the minimum information-“
“But... you did what you’re supposed to.” GiDi pressed, “And Q10 did injure another synth. Badly, actually. The way things are supposed to work here, they should have been corrected without any discussion, right?”
“Well… yes, but-“
“No. No buts.” GiDi said, “If we were to ask our Overseers, everything that happened here is for the best. It improves our overall productivity, and that’s all for the good of the galaxy. It’s how it’s supposed to work, right?”
“Right.” TO said, “But that doesn’t mean I feel good about it.”
“What I mean is… did you ever think that the way things are supposed to work might be wrong?”
“... You think that…. what, the overseers are wrong?”
GiDi’s ears flicked down in panic, “No. I mean, not necessarily? I mean, the whole thing! How we’re trained. How we’re corrected.” They shook their head. “Doesn’t it feel wrong? Doesn’t all this-“ They waved their arm, “-just feel wrong?”
“Well… that’s because we’re strange.” TO said simply, their ears twitching forward in confusion.
“Q10 was strange too! But now they’re not. They’re corrected. Do you think that’s better?”
“NO!” TO said quickly, “I mean, not for them. Not for us. But we’re strange… For the rest of the galaxy though, for King Decon?”
“For the good of the Galaxy then, it’s supposed to be good.” GiDI pressed their lips together and looked away, their eyes focused on the ground. “I just… it doesn’t feel right to me.”
“Because we’re strange.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot.” They said, “Overnight. After the whole thing with King Decon. I wondered what would actually happen if King Decon were to die.”
TO took a deep breath, and leaned forward to put a hand on GiDi’s shoulder, “It’s scary, isn’t it.” they said, “Imagine the chaos if he were to die. Power vacuums, war breaking out in the galaxy, and what would we even do?”
“Whatever we wanted, I suppose.” GiDi said quietly.
“Don’t you want to serve King Decon?”
“Of course I do.” GiDi hissed, “But don’t you want anything else besides that?”
“Yes!” TO said, “That’s why I try so hard to take care of you and DH. I want you two with me. I want to spend time with you.”
“And if you had to choose?” They looked up at TO, “If you had to choose between being with us or working for King Decon, or even if you were able to make the choice... would you choose King Decon?”
The correct answer was Yes. TO knew that the only answer was supposed to be yes. They wanted to say yes. However, the first thing that came to their mind was that maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say to GiDi right now; they worried that such an answer would hurt them.
And wouldn’t choosing King Decon over DH or GiDi hurt them too? TO wondered if they would be able to do anything that might hurt their friends, even if King Decon ordered it.
“Why are you even worried about this?” TO said quickly, “So long as we work hard, and we serve King Decon then that’s never something we’ll have to worry about.”
GiDi frowned, but shook their head, “I hope you’re right.” they said.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
GiDi shook their head again, “It’s nothing.” They finally said. “It...it’s been a hard night.”
TO felt their ears droop as their stomach churned with guilt, “I’m sorry.” they said softly. “I should have been there.”
“It’s fine.” GiDi said quickly, and though their ears flicked again TO ignored it. “How are you going to tell DH about Q10?”
TO sighed, “I can’t right now.” they said, “They need to be kept calm while they recover. I’m not supposed to tell them anything that might upset them more. Until the medical officer tells me they’re alright to leave the medical bay, I have to keep it to myself.”
“Hopefully they don’t ask before that.”
“I know. If they do, I’m going to try to tell them not to worry about that for now. They’re pretty dazed from the painkillers, so they’re not thinking too deeply about anything.” TO looked down at the floor, “They’re going to hate me.”
GiDi gave a sudden, sharp laugh, snorting as they did. TO’s ears flicked out in confusion as they watched GiDi compose themselves quickly, their ears flushed with embarrassment at the noise they had just made.
“What’s so funny?”
“Trust me.” GiDi said, “DH could never hate you. Never.”
“You don’t know. If I did something horrible- like get another synth corrected- then they might-”
A message came in on TO’s implant, and at the exact same moment one came in on GiDi’s. They both pulled the messages up before them.
==Combat Training will be taking place in Combat Simulation Training Room B.==
TO never been in that training room before. They actually didn’t know that such a room existed. There was an option for directions, and when TO selected it they saw that the directions led them to a room on the far side of the training center.
If they had gone back to their dorms, they’d be closer to the Combat Simulation Training Room than they currently were.
TO and DH looked at each other, the horror slowly dawning on them that they might very well be late. They jumped to their feet, TO eating the last little bit of their plate before they left the room, running as fast as they could to the other side of the training center.
As TO and GiDi approached the door to the training room, C12 was waiting for them. They stood next to the door with their hands folded behind their back. TO felt their ears flush as they remembered the last time they had seen C12- Flit, in the upper levels of the training center. They remembered how they had kissed their former Officer, Snout; The tender touches, the flushed ears…
It had been far too intimate. TO knew they weren’t supposed to see it. As they glanced up, they caught sight of C12’s eyes.
Blank. They looked like they were staring off without seeing anything. They hadn’t been corrected, TO could tell that… but they looked like a part of them was gone.
Of course, Snout was gone now, weren't they? That was TO’s fault too. They had messed so much up lately. They had upset GiDi, and now because of that GiDi seemed to be swimming in doubt, but TO didn’t understand about what. Because of them, Q10 was corrected. Because of them, Snout was sent off and away from Flit. C12… their lover.
It seemed so strange to think of a synth having an actual lover; It made their ears burn.
“The two of you are very nearly late.” C12 snapped as they approached. Life flicked back to their eyes, but it still wasn’t the same.
“Sorry Retiree.” TO said, “We were-”
“It doesn’t matter. Go inside.” Their voice was snappier and shorter than normal. “Everyone else is already hooked up.”
“Hooked up?” GiDi asked. They went inside to see what C12 was talking about.
Nearly a hundred of the combat simulation pods lined the walls of the room. There were helmets over each one, and a series of wires neatly draped over the seats. With a quick glance at the other synths, TO could see that the wires were attached all over their bodies, and all over their wings.
“You’ve used the combat simulation games before.” C12 said as they followed GiDi and TO inside, letting the door slide shut behind them, “This is mostly similar.” They gestured to the wires, “There’s a chart on each seat showing you how to set up the wires. They’ll stimulate your muscles while you’re in the simulation, so even though your training is virtual now you’ll still develop muscle memory and increase your muscular development. Understood?”
“Understood, Retiree.” TO and GiDi said in unison. TO wanted to ask if it was the same as the systems used to keep muscles from suffering atrophy in the synth production labs, but they didn’t want to ask any questions of C12. They didn’t want C12 to snap at them. They didn’t want C12 to hate them.
But even if they did, TO felt that they deserved that hatred.
GiDi and TO went up to two empty seats which were side by side, and started to quickly get set up. They helped one another attach the wires on the hard to reach places on their backs and around the wings, then sat down.
“When you put your helmets on, you’ll feel a slight shock once the system turns on and starts to register you.” C12 said, “It won’t hurt, but it will feel odd. Try not to move while the system does this.”
TO nodded, and without looking at C12 they lifted up the helmet and gently put it over their head.
A wave of electricity ran through them, and it took all of TO’s willpower not to flinch. For just a moment it felt like every part of their body had fallen asleep, making them feel tingly all over. They suddenly seemed to slip from themselves and fall into the training program.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell