“Did you get your new assignment?” GiDI asked as they left the medical bay. They had been sent away a little before lunch had properly ended because MO-6 needed to change DH’s bandages and check up on the new eye. TO checked their chip to see if there was a new message, but there wasn’t one yet.
“Not yet.” TO said, “You?”
“No. Last time the new assignments came in just before meal time ended. It’ll probably be the same this time, right?”
“Probably.” TO replied. Their stomach churned as they thought about where they might be put next. They didn’t even realize that GiDi had asked them a question until a small, boney elbow nudged them in the ribs. “Sorry, what?”
GiDi sighed, “What happened?” They asked, “I mean, with you and C12. Yesterday you told us PQ12 was C12’s friend, and potentially in danger, and now today you’re acting really strange around C12.” They frowned, “And C12 really seemed... Broken.” they stopped as they watched TO’s ears flick down suddenly. “TO… what happened?”
“... Do you watch those romance shows?” They asked, “The ones DH likes?”
“I’ve watched them.” They said, “I don’t necessarily mind them, but they can get predictable.”
“Do you think synths can be like that with one another?”
“What do you mean, ‘like that’?” GiDi’s flicked forward with interest, “You mean...Can synths love one another?”
“Romantic love.” TO said, “Specifically, romantic love. I mean, I told you and DH that I love you, but it’s different.”
GiDi frowned and looked away, “Yeah, it is.” They said.
“And we’re not designed for it.”
“Well… I think if you feel romantic love for another, then your design doesn’t really matter.”
“And if you saw two synths kissing. I mean, kissing on the lips. And…” They looked away, flushing, “Stroking each other's ears. You’d think they’re being romantic, right?”
GiDi looked at TO, confused for a moment. It only took them another few seconds of consideration to get at what TO was implying.
“No.” They said softly, “No... I mean...C12?”
“Yes. And PQ12.”
“You just... You saw them acting like that!?”
TO felt their ears burn, “I didn’t mean to!” they insisted as they looked around, being very careful to make sure nobody was in earshot, “I didn’t mean to! I was dismissed from my vocational training early, and I went looking for PQ12!”
“And you found them… with C12.”
“... and they were kissing.”
“... Did you think that was weird?”
“I thought it was weird that I was watching it!” TO protested, “It was private! I shouldn’t have been there! And I didn’t want to just speak up and let them know I was there, because…” They frowned and looked away, “Because PQ12 is being sent away.”
“One of Arkane’s moons.” TO muttered, “I only remember that because of what you told me, otherwise I wouldn’t have recalled the name.”
“Why is PQ12 going there?”
“I don’t know. It sounded like C12 managed to set it up?” TO rubbed their forehead with their hand, “And it sounded like they’d never see each other again, and I didn’t want to ruin things.” they gave a derisive snort, “Well, ruin things more. I’ve already ruined everything.”
“I don’t see how you ruined anything.” GiDi said, “You said it was the activation fluid that got PQ12 in trouble, not your little bump on your head.
“I shouldn’t have gone back to get my goggles.” TO said, “Or at the very least I shouldn’t have peeked at what they had in the microscope. If I hadn’t, they wouldn’t have reacted as they did, and then they wouldn’t have been caught-”
“TO. Has anyone said that it was explicitly your fault?”
“No, but I didn’t help! I know it’s not just my fault, but if I hadn’t been snooping around, then-”
“You were curious.”
“And I’ve been warned about that! I’ve gotten people in trouble!”
GiDi took TO by the arm, stopping them in their tracks and turning them. “Look.” GiDi said, looking TO in the eyes, “You’re not at fault for this! This is…” they let go of TO’s arm and looked away, their ears drooping, “That’s just the way this place is.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that strange synths are found, and corrected. Or they’re put out of the way.” they frowned, and then looked at TO again as they put hand on TO’s shoulder, “I honestly don’t think that it’s your fault, and I don’t think that Q10 is your fault.”
“I didn’t help.”
“... You helped me.” GiDi said quietly, “And you helped DH. You can’t help everyone.”
“No…” TO said quietly, “But I can keep quiet. Keep my eyes to myself. I can do as I’m told and follow orders. Maybe I won’t put anyone else in danger that way.”
“Follow orders?” GiDi frowned, “Where did that come from.”
TO shook their head, “I messed up in the combat simulation.” They said, “I didn’t tell DH because I didn’t want to worry them, but-”
“What do you mean you messed up?” GiDi frowned, “Did you get your troop killed in the simulation?”
“No. I wasn’t the leader.”
GiDi’s ears flicked out in confusion, “If you weren’t the leader, how did you mess up?”
TO sighed, their ears flicking down, “I went off on my own and found a way to finish the simulation faster and easier than the leader did.”
“...And nobody got hurt?”
“No. But I didn’t follow orders. In fact, I lied to the leader” TO’s ears pinned back in frustration, “So C12 had me in these awful simulations for the rest of the session.” They sighed, “I think that C12 hates me, and when I tell DH about Q10-”
“I assure you, DH will not hate you.” GiDi frowned as they turned away from TO, “Honestly, you really are dense sometimes.”
“But when they find out about Q10-”
“I won’t lie and say that they won’t be disappointed,” GiDi said, “But give me one situation where DH would hate you for something that happened to Q10.”
“But I said I’d help them, and -”
“And you did your best. You can’t control everything here.” They turned on TO again, “You can’t control anything! None of us can!”
“That’s not true!” TO protested, “I mean… I control some things.”
They took a step forward, giving GiDi a sad look, “I like to think I’ve helped keep you and DH safe?” They asked tentatively, “Even… Even if I’ve ended up making you feel bad in the process. Still, I can change things, and I just… I failed. DH wanted me to do something, and I failed.”
GiDi shook their head, “That’s not the point!” they said, “Look... You did your best, right?”
“To help Q10; You did your best, right?”
“I did…but because of what I said-”
“No, forget that.” GiDi said, “You couldn’t have known that telling your Overseer the truth would do anything but protect us. But, you did your best to help Q10 when DH asked you to, right?”
“So DH won’t hate you. Even if you didn’t do your best, they’d not hate you. They’ll love that you tried.”
“I hope so.” TO muttered as they started walking down the hallway again, “I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“You never do.” GiDi said, “I just don’t think that you can help everyone.”
TO gave a little hum as they thought about DH in the medical bay, wondering how they’d tell them about Q10 without causing them to get too upset.
“So...” GiDi said after another moment, “PQ12 and C12.”
“Yeah.” TO said, their ears flushing blue again.
“You didn’t think it was strange though, did you?”
“No?” TO said, “I was surprised though. Synths aren’t supposed to be like that.”
“So you’ve never considered being like that with anyone?” they probed, “You’ve never wanted to kiss anyone?”
“I’ve never really considered it.” TO said, “I’m only just learning that some synths can feel that way.” They glanced at GiDi, “But… you don’t seem as surprised… Have you?”
“What.. thought of kissing someone? Or kissed someone?”
To TO’s surprise, GiDi’s ears drooped down and burned blue as they looked away from TO.
“Once!” GiDi protested, “And it wasn’t romantic!”
“How could it not have been romantic!”
“It was pure curiosity!” They said, their ears limp and bright blue, “They wanted to know what it was like, I… volunteered.” They looked away, “It was nothing.”
“It wasn’t nothing! It was something! That other synth, that synth was probably strange too! GiDi, they-” TO leaned in, “Maybe they think you’re special! Maybe they like you most!”
“They don’t.” GiDi said, their voice firm and flat, “And I don’t feel that way about them. There was nothing to it.”
“Who was it!” TO pressed, “Was it that synth from last night? 09T08?” TO wondered if maybe this had all happened last night, and that was part of the reason that GiDi was so thrown today.
GiDi looked back at TO, their ears burning, “Whoever it was,” they said, “I swore I’d never tell anyone about it. I feel awful even telling you! It would be an absolute betrayal if I told you who it was… So please, don’t press me.”
TO wanted to know. If there was someone that liked GiDi, TO wanted to see them together. They didn’t know about synths and romantic feelings, but if GiDi had romantic feelings, then TO wanted to help! Maybe this other synth was like C12 and Snout, and could feel those kinds of romantic feelings too!
And the way GiDi dodged that question, TO was certain that it was 09T08. But… they didn’t want to put GiDi in a bad position.
“Alright.” TO said quietly, “I won’t press you.”
GiDi instantly relaxed, their blue-flushed ears flicking back to a neutral position, “Thanks.” They said.
“Do you think DH ever wanted to kiss someone?” TO asked.
“You should ask them that.”
Before TO could respond to that, their implant beeped. They brought up the message and frowned as they read their assignment.
“I’ve got food preparation?” GiDi said, “Odd. I thought that the machines did all that.” They glanced up at TO, “You?”
“Shipping and receiving.” They said with a frown, “That sounds riveting.” their ears pinned back, “Shipping and receiving; I wonder if C12 had a hand in this as well. More punishment.”
“I doubt C12 is punishing you.” GiDi said, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think.”
The shipping and receiving center was on the same level as the maintenance floors, but there was an elevator that TO was able to access from their floor to get down where they needed without having to go through the maintenance hallways. They were at least grateful for that; if they had to go through maintenance, they knew that they’d have to shower for an hour before they felt clean again.
The shipping bay was at least clean. TO stepped through the doorway, and was presented with a large grey-walled room with grey metal shipping crates piled up all over the place. Unlike in Synth Production, where it was just TO and the officers, in the shipping bay there were dozens of plain-uniformed synths running around, pushing boxes on trolleys or carrying bags in their arms. Among them all, TO saw one who was standing in the center of the floor reading something. Their uniform was a plain brown color, unlike the neutral greys of the others, and while everyone else had silver pins over their hearts, this one had a gold pin.
“Officer?” TO asked as they approached, “I am 09T07, I-”
“You’ve been assigned to shipping and receiving for vocational training, yes; I am aware.” They sent a message off on their chip and then went back to what they were doing without another word.”
“What would you like me to do?” they asked after the Officer had been silent for a while.
“I don’t have time to train you.” they said, “I have another coming to deal with you.” They closed their file and started to walk away, “Stay here until they come to fetch you. Don’t touch anything, and don’t move anything until you’re told to.”
“...Understood, Officer.” TO said, but the officer was already heading away and likely didn’t hear. TO sighed and let their wings wrap around themself. Maybe GiDi said that they weren’t being punished, but it certainly felt like it.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell