DH glanced up only momentarily as TO entered the medical bay, then turned back to Q10 with their ears flicking down as they focused on their work. They were applying some kind of strong-smelling liquid to a deep gash on Q10’s leg. Q10 hardly seemed to notice that TO had entered the medical bay; they were looking away, their dull, glazed expression only twitching with pain for brief, sparse seconds as DH swabbed at the wound.
“Very good.” MO-6 said as they watched, “This kind of injury is very common among the newly corrected. For the first few periods there’s a significant drop in their motor skills. Add this with the fact that they’re all sent to maintenance to work where there’s a lot of things that one could hurt themselves on and… Well, you can understand why there would be a lot of cases like this.”
“Of course.” DH said, but their voice seemed flat and uninterested.
“You’re doing a very neat job though.” MO-6 said, “Fastidious. If you like, I’ll let you do these stitches as well.” They glanced up at TO, “You’re here far earlier than expected.” they said.
“I finished my tasks in Shipping and Receiving, and was allowed to leave early.” TO explained, “I thought I would come here right away.”
“I see.” MO-6 said, “Very well.” They looked back to DH, “When you’re done here, you may leave. You taking care of this patient will allow me to catch up on some reports that have been neglected.”
“Of course, Officer.” DH said, “I’m sure I can stitch this up without incident.”
“Very good.” MO-6 said before they left the room, leaving DH and TO alone with Q10. TO went over to DH, wanting to be near them but as soon as they got a little closer they could smell disinfectant, and they could see the blood oozing from the long gash on Q10’s leg. DH had the same gloves on that TO wore when they had to do the dissection.
TO suddenly felt dizzy. They stumbled backwards, putting their hand out to keep themselves from falling. Their vision blurred as they heard ribs cracking. They felt a hand on their arm, and they were pulled up and helped to a bed. As they lay down, their vision slowly came back and they saw DH standing over them. Their eyes went to DH’s hands, and they saw that they had removed their gloves.
“Lay there for a bit.” DH said as they went to get another set of gloves from a nearby cabinet, “You looked like you might faint.” they pulled the new gloves and went back to Q10, who was watching TO with faint interest.
“I know you.” They said in that slow, dull voice. TO let their eyes flick to Q10’s forehead, and saw the deep blue circle there. Soon, it would fade to silver.
“Don’t worry about them.” DH said as they finished cleaning the wound, “I’m about to apply the stitches. Please stay still.”
Q10 kept still as DH worked, but they kept looking at TO. “Right; you are 09T07.”
“You remember me?” TO said, surprised that they did.
Q10 nodded, but there didn’t seem to be a change to their expression. Their ears hardly moved. “Yes. I am sorry I worried you.” They tilted their head, “You are alright though, yes?”
“I… yes?” TO pushed themself up to a sitting position as they watched Q10. No. not Q10. 01Q10. The shell of Q10. Q10 was never this dull. Q10 was full of anger and fire. They snapped. They shouted. They glared. Even at their lowest they were filled with emotion- tears and sorrow.
“That is good.” They had that slow, deliberate tone to their voice which TO didn’t like.
“Are you alright?” They asked.
“I am not.” They said as they gestured to their leg, “I have scratched my leg on an exposed piece of metal. It needs stitches.”
“It’ll be done soon.” DH said quickly, their ears flicking as they focused, “Please stay still.”
TO watched DH’s ears, watched them focus on their work as they placed neat, perfect stitches in the gash on Q10’s leg. They pulled their gaze away from them and looked back to Q10, “Aside from that though, are you ok?”
There was a half smile, and the slightest twitch of Q10’s ears, “Oh, I am very well, thank you.” they said, “I am much better than I was.”
“I am.” They said, “I was so angry. Scared. I don’t feel like that anymore.” the slightest of frowns passed over their face for just a second, “I don’t feel much.” Their eyes glazed over, their expression slackened, and then they looked up again with this almost blank look, “But I am content to work and earn my place in King Decon’s galaxy.”
Was Q10 still in there? There was an emptiness to them that left TO unnerved. They had their memories it seemed, but that was all; an automaton with Q10’s memories. Could they even still be considered alive?
“There.” DH said as they finished with the stitches. They selected a spray bottle from a collection of bottles on a nearby table and sprayed a clear liquid over 01Q10’s leg; it quickly adhered and formed a layer over the fresh stitches, “That should do it. I’ll send care instructions to your new Overseer.”
“Understood.” 01Q10 said as they got up off the bed. They put weight on their leg, then nodded, “I will return to my work then.”
“It’s meal time.” DH said as though they had explained this already several times, “You don’t go to your work, you go to the cafeteria, and then to your pod for rest.”
“Yes. Correct. I will leave now then.” They nodded to DH, then to TO, “Apologies once more for making such a commotion the other day.” They said to TO before they turned back to DH, “And apologies again for my violent outburst. I promise that it will never happen again.” They turned, and left then without another word.
There was silence between DH and TO. After a moment, DH got up from where they had been sitting, and went to the cupboard.
“You’re feeling ok?” They asked, their ears flicking back with concern, “You looked like you were going to pass out there. I’ve seen three synths pass out today, so I know what it looks like!”
“I’m fine.” TO said as they sat up, “Just... the blood does that to me sometimes. DH, I-”
“Well, I should still do something, I think?” They said as they looked through cupboards, “though… I don’t know what you need. You didn’t actually pass out.” they frowned as they pulled up what looked like a flow-chart on their chip, “Maybe-”
“DH, I’m sorry!”
DH stopped, and turned around to face TO, “Sorry?”
“For not telling you about Q10. For not being able to help them. I tried! I really did! But I couldn’t do it. I failed, and now they’re corrected and they’re gone, and it’s my fault, and-”
DH came over to TO and gently pushed them back down on the bed, “You’re panicked.” They said, “Lay back. You need to relax, alright?” They gave them a soft smile, and sat down next to them on the bed, “Or I’ll have to give you a sedative. You’re ranked for sedatives, did you know that? Did you know there’s rankings?”
“I'm sorry I didn’t tell you.” TO said as they tried to sit up again, “I should have, and I… if you hate me it’s ok, but just tell me-”
DH put their hand on the back of TO’s head and gently startec to scratch just where the neck joined the head, “I don’t hate you.” they said, their brows knit in confusion as their ears flicked out, “Why would I hate you?”
“Because I couldn’t keep Q10 safe?” They shook their head, “No it’s my fault they’re like this now. It’s my fault they got corrected.”
“Really? Because I thought it was my fault.”
TO looked up at DH, “How would it be your fault?”
“I left them alone, knowing they were different, and then I was awful to them when they came up to you for those meds, and then out of nowhere I went up to them when they were throwing a fit and already slashing at themselves with their claws. Of course it’s my fault!” They stood up and turned away, their wings wrapped around them, “And I’m honestly surprised you don’t hate me for putting you in a situation where you’d have to try to help them! If I hadn’t been so awful, or if I had told you something more about them, or -”
“...Why did you go to them?” TO asked.
“Because I saw them freaking out, slashing at themselves, and… and I knew it was my fault! I just wanted to get them to calm down. I figured maybe if I could make them stop, if I could calm them down and maybe talk to them…” They trailed off, and TO could see their ears sink low. “I realized that they never hated me when I saw them like that, you know? They were scared, that’s all. They didn’t want to get corrected, and they thought that being around me would get them corrected. When they slashed at my face-” They lifted their hand up to touch at the still healing scars on their face, “-then I knew that I messed up. That it was my fault. If I had kept my distance from them, if I hadn’t been close to them in the first place, then this wouldn’t have happened. And of course, I went back to them; I tried to help, and I just made it worse. Now they’re corrected… And it’s my fault.”
“... I almost stopped it.” TO said, “I made a good argument, you know.”
“I’m sure you did.” DH said, though they still refused to turn and look at TO, “You always do. I thought if anyone could help them it would be you.”
“You know what did it though? What made them decide to correct Q10 in the end?”
“When my Overseer wanted to see me that time, to talk about how I drew my own claws on 55H75, I told them that Q10 was a dangerous person. I told them that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to actually attack another.” TO clutched at the fabric of their uniform, “I told them that. It went in their file, and was flagged. They would have let them be because of everything that was happening with King Decon… but because of me-”
“That wasn’t your fault though!” DH said, turning around on their heel to face TO again, “You did everything you could! You did what you thought was right-”
“You did too!”
DH fell silent, then slowly sat back down on the edge of the bed. “...I still feel like it’s my fault.”
“I know.” TO said. “I do too.” They reached out and gently put their hand over DH’s, “But… I am sorry I didn’t tell you earlier.”
“I didn’t even remember them until I saw them just now.” DH said with a humourless chuckle, “I was so caught up this morning with this-” They pointed at the scars, “-that I forgot all about Q10. I don’t even remember much before the pain really set in either.” They frowned, “I remember you helping me up in the dormitory… But then everything is weird. Fuzzy. Then there was pain.”
“You were on a lot of painkillers.” TO said, “They had to take you off when the eye was better.”
DH reached up to touch the eyepatch, “Right.” They said, “Even if you had told me, I’d not have remembered it.” They turned their hand and tightened their fingers around TO’s, “I don’t want that to happen to you. Or to GiDi.” they looked back at TO, their expression almost flat, “I don’t want you to get corrected, I mean. Not at all, but especially not because of me.”
“I already told you, I’d rather be around you, have you as a friend for a while and be corrected than-”
“No, you don’t understand.” DH said. They looked away, but they didn’t let go of TO, “If you ended up like that? If you ended up like Q10 because of me? I’d never forgive myself.”
“We’re working hard.” TO said, “We’re excelling. You got a new eye! You qualified for a new eye, and the Overseers have high hopes for you! GiDi is-” they looked away, “Doing better in combat training than I am to be honest. They’re going to be fine. You’re going to be fine. I’m going to be fine too.” They looked back up at DH, “We’re going to work hard, and get through this, and when we’re assigned, we won’t have to worry about being corrected!”
“I want to believe that.” DH said, “I really do. If I thought you’d end up like that, I’d … I’d never talk to you again. I’d try to never even see you again. So long as I knew you were safe-”
“And if I was alone, I wouldn’t be safe.” TO said.
“...You didn’t do this to Q10.” DH said after the silence had drawn on uncomfortably long, “It’s not your fault, you did your best.”
“And it’s not your fault. You did what you thought was best. You tried to help them.”
“And you don’t hate me?”
TO gave a weak smile, “I don’t think I could.” They said. They remembered in that moment what GiDi had said, that they didn’t think that DH could ever actually hate them, no matter what they did. TO tried to conjure up the worst possible situations in their head, the worst things that DH could do.
No. They could be hurt, they could be sad or angry, but they didn’t think they could ever hate DH, no matter what they did.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell