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A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

Thanks again to my Patrons, ColdAu and Cannot Account!

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“09T07?”

TO turned to face another synth, one in a light grey uniform with the assignment SR45 written under a silver box pin in the center of their chest.

“Yes, that’s me.“ TO said. SR45’s eyes flicked to TO’s nametag, then they nodded.

“You’ve been assigned to work with me. Follow me.” They started walking off. They were so sudden in their arrival and in their commands that TO was left feeling confused, and just stood on the spot for a moment before they ran after SR45.

“Are you going to be my training officer?” they asked.

“I am not an officer.” They said. Their tone was dull and flat, and their ears didn’t move that much. “I am simply assigned to Shipping and Receiving, and I am competent enough that I am permitted to work on my own.”

“Right.” TO said, “So you’ll be teaching me today?”

“No. You will be assisting me today.” they said, “Receiving is behind due to an influx of deliveries. We could use the extra hands, regardless of how inexperienced and untrained they are.”

TO felt their ears pin back as a sudden wave of anger washed over them. It wasn’t their fault that they were inexperienced and untrained, that’s why they were currently in training! They took a deep breath, and keeping their voice very neutral they asked, “But you are going to be training me, yes?”

“I am going to be showing you what I need done, and then I expect you to do it.” they said. They looked back at TO, “You won’t need to know any more than that; there is not much about this job that’s overly complex.

“But… the Officer was working on something, yes?” TO ran to SR45’s side, “What were they working on?”

“No idea.” SR45 said, “I simply do my job, and nothing more; I am not an officer.”

“Understood.” TO said as they fell silent. They had an idea that this would be just as tedious as their training this morning had been, and they were certain now that C12 had a hand in their placement; that it was punishment. They didn’t know if it was for their hand in Snout being gone, if it was for their behaviour in the simulation, or both.

They followed SR45 to the far end of the shipping bay, and to a large dock. There was a giant closed door in the wall, and a large platform just before it. To the side were piles of boxes all stacked up neatly one on top of the others. Some of the stacks reached all the way up to the ceiling. There were tables and control center nearby, and a series of smaller platforms next to the wall.

“I’ll get a box down, and we’ll get started.” SR45 said as they went up to the control center off to the side, well out of the way of all the boxes. TO followed to watch them.

“Oh, you don’t need to come with me here.”

“I’d like to watch, if I may.” TO said. They didn’t want to stand around and do nothing; they hadn't even started and they were already finding the job tedious.

“Doesn’t matter to me.” SR45 said idly as they scanned their chip on the control panel. It beeped and lit up, projecting a series of buttons before SR45. They moved the screen around so that they were facing the crates, and started to press buttons.

High up overhead, a panel shifted in the ceiling and a large claw-like device descended down. TO watched carefully, taking note of what SR45 was doing as they maneuvered the claw and used it to select a crate and gently set it down on the floor. Wordlessly, they went up to the crate and swiped their hand against it. The lid seemed to dissolve into a million pieces and receded into the edges of the crate.

“Alright.” They said, “What you’re going to do is check the deliveries.” They opened up a list on their own chip, and put TO’s number in it. A moment later, TO’s own chip beeped.

“There.” They said, “You should be able to access any deliveries now.” they closed their own file, “When I bring a new box down for you, go through it, and check that everything’s in it.” They pointed to the smaller platforms by the wall, “The list will instruct you as to which platform each thing goes on. Different platforms will send deliveries to different parts of the center. There’s trolleys over there.” they pointed at some folded up trolleys, “Go ahead. Get through as much as you can.” they turned away and started maneuvering another crate down. After a moment they glanced back and saw TO watching them. “Are you confused as to your instructions?” they asked.

“No, SR45.” They said, “I just wondered if I could watch you take down another crate. Or if I could try?”

SR45 turned away from TO, “That is not needed. It would take too much time for me to teach you everything. Just deal with the shipment.”

TO sighed, and started sorting through the items. If SR45 didn’t want them to learn, then they’d at least have to show them that they could work fast.

======

“Maybe you could put the next crate closer to the platforms?”

SR45 took a sharp, irritated breath at TO’s suggestion. To be fair, that hadn’t been their first suggestion of the day, and SR45 had shot down every one.

“It’s just that we’d save time if the crates were closer because we wouldn’t need the trolleys. We could just-”

“You already said that using four trolleys was a time saving maneuver!” They snapped. “And you put all my trolleys in use!”

“Apologies.” TO grumbled. They had been right through; SR45 had been putting piles of items on the floor, separating them by where they had to go, and then when the crate was all empty they would put each pile on a trolley and bring them to the appropriate platform. TO just figured that using several trolleys and piling stuff on them in the first place would save time. They were right, of course, but SR45 seemed more irritated by the sudden need for more trolleys, and told TO to stop.

“Just do the work.” SR45 snapped as they continued working through their own pile.

“Yes, SR45.” They said as they approached the next crate. They opened it up, and pulled up the list of contents. As they glanced over everything their ears flicked in confusion. They had gone through three boxes so far, and each one had a variety of items- cleaning supplies, medical supplies, tools and fabric- all set on the platforms that would take the items to various places in the training center. This last box had every item in it marked “Disposal.” TO looked into the crate and let their eyes glance over the many small, well sealed boxes and packages.

“SR45?” They said, “I think there might be a problem with this crate.”

SR45 sighed and dropped the package they were checking before coming over to check on what TO was looking at. They glanced at the checklist, then at the contents of the box.

“What’s the problem?” they asked.

“It’s all marked for disposal?” TO said, “You noticed that, yes?”

“Of course I did.” SR45 snapped. “I assure you, I’m relatively capable at my job.”

TO took a step back, their wings tightening around them. “It’s just… Why is it all marked for disposal? Why would anyone send us garbage?”

For a moment, SR45’s expression softened, and their ears perked up, “Oh. That. Yes.” They turned and headed back to their own crate, “It’s offerings from nearby planets to King Decon.”

“Offerings?” TO asked, looking back into the crate in confusion, “Why send them here?”

“It’s easier to send them to the nearest of King Decon’s stations to be sorted. Most of what’s sent to us is useless.”

“And all this is useless?”

“From what I see it appears to be food. The amount of food offerings that King Decon is sent from around the galaxy is overwhelming, and storage itself becomes too much of a problem. As such, it’s all slated for disposal.”

“I see. What kind of food stuff?” TO asked as they looked back at their list, reading names of foods and drinks that they’d never heard of before.”

“Most planets send planetary specialties. There’s likely a variety of things. Just record that we got them; even if they’re to be disposed of, they must still be catalogued. Lists of what various planets have sent are kept, even if what they sent isn’t of any use to us.”

“Right…” TO said slowly, “So... this whole crate will be put in the garbage, basically.”

“Exactly. Still, record everything.”

TO’s ears flicked as they considered the pile of food in the crate. They nodded, and wordlessly started checking the contents, making sure everything was there.

“Understood, SR45.”

======

For the rest of the long, tedious afternoon, TO was careful not to make any more suggestions or comments. They did their work exactly as they were told, and even though they found several more ways to make things work more efficiently, they kept quiet. When the training was done for the day, SR45 hardly looked up as they dismissed TO, and as such they took no note of how tightly TO’s wings were wrapped around themselves.

TO left the loading bay, and made their way not to the cafeteria, but to the observation deck that GiDi had shown them. They pried open the control panel, and popped in the code that they had been shown. They didn’t have much time as they didn’t want to leave GiDi or DH waiting, so they simply ran to a pile of boxes in the corner, hid the small collection of food and drink that they had smuggled out of the receiving bay, and threw an old tarp over their new stash to ensure it was hidden. They weren’t worried about it going bad or getting dirty, because it was carefully vacuum sealed and had been covered in special preservatives to keep it fresh despite the long trip through space.

Satisfied that everything was hidden properly, TO ran off to find GiDi.

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TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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