For the rest of their training on that first day, TO was alone in a variety of high tension scenarios. There were no grand tasks or stories given to them, no information, no greater directive. In the middle of grand battles, they were given simple, mundane tasks.
They were thrown into a battlefield where other armored synths fought a strange species of scorpion-like creatures. TO’s job was to scour the battlefield and retrieve dropped weaponry.
A city was on fire, and civilians shouted for help, but TO’s only job was to run messages to and from various commanders. They never learned what the messages said, and they never found out why the city was one fire. They had slipped once, and asked if they should stop on the way to their destination to help civilians.
They were sharply told to do their job- nothing more, nothing less.
In the last scenario, they were set to running heavy packages across a battleship in the middle of combat.
They never got to see the results of their labor in any of these situations–the scenarios would just end and they’d be thrown into a new one. When the battleship scenario ended suddenly, they didn’t realize anything was different until they realized that they were staring into the darkness for a moment longer than they needed to. It was only at that moment that they felt themselves starting to slip from the scenarios and back into their own body in their seat. They pulled their helmet off, and looked around groggily. Everyone else was already up out of their seats, pulling the plugs off of their bodies.
“- and your training will become more specialized, and more focused depending on what’s needed.” C12 said. Apparently they had been speaking before TO was allowed to exit the simulation.
GiDi put their hand on TO’s arm, their ears flicked back in worry, “Are you ok?”
“I’m… I’ll be ok.” They said. They started to pull the wires off, allowing GiDi to help them with their back once more. They looked up to glance at C12.
They still had that empty look on their face, and they weren’t looking towards TO.
TO wanted to talk to them. They wanted to apologize for having a hand in Snout being gone. Somehow they wanted to know if there was a way they could make things better. They didn’t know C12 as well as they did DH or GiDi, but they could tell that they were hurting, and TO had come to respect and admire them.
But... C12 likely hated them, and TO didn’t think there was a single thing they could do to make things better.
“Let’s go see DH.” TO said quickly, looking away from C12 as they pulled the rest of the wires from their body.
“Shower first.” GiDi said as they wrinkled up their nose, “We hardly moved, but we’re all covered in sweat, and my muscles ache all over.”
“As I said-” C12 snapped as they approached, “Though you’ll be stationary, your muscles will respond as though you’ve actually performed the tasks you’ve done in the simulation.”
TO looked to the ground, not wanting to look at C12. They were alone now. TO remembered how C12 and Snout had kissed, and suddenly felt bad and embarrassed and awkward all at once.
There was silence between them for a moment. GiDi apparently expected TO to say something, and when they didn’t they chimed in with “Yes, Retiree, I am just still surprised.” they looked at TO, confusion causing their ears to tilt out.
C12 gave a sigh, “Go.” They said, their tone slightly softer, “Get cleaned up”
“Yes Retiree.” TO said as they pulled the rest of the wires off.
“I understand that 70H67 is in the medical bay?”
There was another moment of silence that dragged on. Other synths nearby glanced at TO- Some of them were whispering, likely talking about how C12 had yelled at TO in the middle of the class.
“Go and give them the basic information about today’s lessons; It’s less I’ll have to explain when they return.” They turned and limped off, their ears still down as they went around to check the chairs.
GiDi gave TO an intense look, then took them by the arm and started pulling them out of the room.
“What happened there?” they whispered to TO, “What’s happened?”
“I’ll tell you that later.” TO muttered as they scurried out of the training room alongside GiDi, their eyes to the ground so they wouldn’t catch sight of C12.
“Ah, good, you’re here.”
MO-6’s ears relaxed as TO and GiDi entered the medical bay with their meals in hand. MO-6 had three synths on three separate beds, each one moaning in pain from burns. They didn’t have their uniforms on because of the burns, so TO couldn’t tell if they were in training, or if they were already assigned placements; they could have been Overseers as far as anyone could tell. MO-6 gestured carelessly to the injured synths. “There was an issue in engineering.” They said, “I don’t have time to make sure that 70H67 eats.” they pointed to a plate with the little cubes on it, “You can take care of it.”
“They’re not eating?” TO asked as they took a step forward, their ears pinning back in worry.
“They’re too affected by the medication to be trusted to eat on their own.” MO-6 said as they took a spray from a nearby cupboard. They walked over to the closest burned synth and sprayed a fine mist over the blistered, bright blue skin. The synth gave a choked cry of pain, muffling the sound in their pillow, “There is a chance that they may choke, but they’re more likely to simply forget that they’re eating and drop food. You can help them if you’ve simply come to check on them.” They frowned as they glanced up, “That’s why the two of you are here, right? To see 70H67?”
“Yes, Officer.” TO said as their head and ears dipped down.
“I don’t care why you’re here. Do what I say and you can visit them all you like.”
TO nodded quickly, and then took off down the back hall towards DH’s room.
“And don’t go into any other rooms!” MO-6 demanded.
“Understood, Officer!” TO said. Of course they wouldn’t go into any other rooms, they had no need to.
The door opened, and revealed a long hallway. TO and GiDi made their way down the hall, as the door to the general section of the medical bay closed up to block out the sound of the other synths moaning in pain.
“I hope they’ll be ok.” TO muttered.
“They’re getting treatment.” GIDi said, “I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
TO hoped they would be. They also wished that MO-6 would be a little more gentle with them. Even if they would be fine, they didn’t need to be in more pain than necessary.
They got to DH’s room, and the door slid open to reveal DH sitting up on the bed, cross legged with the blankets thrown off themselves. They were in the process of trying to peel the bandages from their face
“I was too warm.” They grumbled as they swayed on the spot.
TO stepped forward and set the plates on the table next to the bed, “That’s fine.” they said carefully, “but you should lay down.”
“In a minute.” They slurred as they kept pulling at the bandages, “I need to get these off-”
“No no, no you don’t.” TO leaned forward, gently took DH’s hands and pulled them away from the bandages. “You need to leave the bandages on.” they said as they sat down next to DH, “You need to let your face heal.”
DH gave a low whimper, “They changed the bandages earlier, but they wouldn’t let me see.” They protested, “they wouldn’t even let me up out of bed!” Their ears flicked back in fear as they looked at TO with wide eyes, “I missed combat training!”
“They really are loopy.” GiDi said as they slowly took a seat next to DH, “I didn't think it’d be this bad.”
TO gestured to the spider-bot on DH’s arm, “That keeps them filled with painkillers and accelerant. If they’re in pain then that might affect the healing of the eye, so they’ve got them on a lot of painkillers.”
DH leaned against GiDi, wrapping an arm around them, “You didn’t say anything, right?” they said, “You promised.”
“Promised what?” TO asked.
“Promised not to talk about their love of romance.” GiDi said carefully, “They’re still a little insecure about that.” They looked at DH, “And no, I haven’t told anyone.”
TO gave a low laugh as they brought over DH’s plate, “Well, if you eat up, you’ll be stronger, and you’ll heal faster. If you heal faster, then you can leave the medical bay and make sure GiDi doesn’t tell anyone!”
DH practically grabbed the plate from TO and started eating. They nearly choked after the second cube, so TO took the plate back and passed them cubes one at a time to eat. After a moment, DH leaned against TO, slowly eating the cubes that were passed to them.
“Was C12 angry that I wasn’t in combat training?” They asked, “Am I going to be punished? Am I going to work in maintenance?”
“You’re healing. You’re excused from combat training for now.” TO said.
“I'd rather be in training.” They grumbled with their mouth full, “I was lonely here.”
“I know.” TO said as they put their hand on the back of DH’s head. At least when they themselves had been stuck in the medical bay, they had only been there for a single day, and they had been in the main section where they at least saw other injured synths and the Medical Officer. DH was stuck in a room all alone while they healed. “Leave your bandages on, eat up, and you’ll get to leave soon.”
They hummed as they ate, suddenly seeming far away from where they were as they allowed TO to scratch the back of their head. Given everything, they seemed oddly content.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell