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A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

Thanks again to my patrons; Cannot Account, ColdAu, Cruelfeline, and Sea Jay.

 

Reminder that Patrons get access to the next two chapters ahead of what's published on Royal Road!

“Are you angry with me?”

DH’s question took TO by surprise. It seemed to take GiDi by surprise as well. They were all walking down the hall and away from the showers when DH suddenly asked that. 

 

“No?” TO said, confused, “Why would I be?”

 

DH shrugged, their wings tightening around them, “Well, you didn’t say much in the simulation.” they said as their ears sunk down, “I asked what you’d do. I didn’t know what to do, and you wouldn’t help me-” 

 

“It’s not that I didn’t want to!” TO protested, “I’ve only just been allowed back in the simulations with other synths! I was just being very careful-” 

 

“And you called me 70H67. You never call me that anymore- not to my face.” 

 

“It was only because I was worried about the others!” TO said, “They didn’t like me, and I didn’t want you to have trouble with them.” 

 

“What happened?” GiDi asked, “You two were in the same simulation?” 

 

“We were.” DH muttered, “And it went terribly. C12 had me doing logic puzzles by myself for the rest of the session. 

 

“And I got shooting drills.” TO added, “We didn’t come out victorious.” 

 

“Well, my team did, and I was still put in to do extra flight maneuvering-” 

 

“Wait.” TO stopped and turned to GiDi, “You didn’t do well in flight?” 

 

“Well, I could have done better.” they tilted their head at TO, their ears twitching in concern, “You realize that no matter how well you do, you’re going to be given something to work on, right? It’s been like that since the start.” they shrugged, “There’s always something to work on. That’s why we’re there.” 

 

TO shook their head and turned back to DH, “Anyway...Why would I be angry with you? You didn’t do anything.”

 

DH shrugged, but didn’t look at TO, “Well, the others were being nasty to you-” 

 

“What happened?” GiDi demanded, their ears flicking back suddenly. 

 

“It’s nothing.” TO said, “The other synths in with us were worried because of how I acted in the first simulation.” They frowned as they felt their ears flick back in shame, “Understandable, but irritating all the same.” 

 

“And they were going on and on about me, because I got this!” They pointed to the eyepatch over their new eye, “I didn’t even do anything for it. TO made sure I got this-” 

 

“It doesn’t matter.” TO said quickly as they hurried down the hall, “I’m not angry with you, DH. I’m really not. I just didn’t want to cause a problem.” 

 

DH seemed unsure, but nodded as they followed TO, “Alright.” They said, “If you’re sure you’re not angry with me.” 

 

“Positive!” TO said, their voice far more cheerful than they actually felt, “Come on. Let’s get some food and head to our pods. It’ll be nice to get back to normal.” 

 

======

 

TO really wasn’t angry at DH. They did everything that they could over their meal time to let DH know this, they showed DH puzzles and mazes that they could work through later to try to help them in future simulations. They smiled more than normal. They put on some of DH’s favourite music while they ate. 

 

When they were alone as they headed to Shipping and Receiving, it was almost a relief to be able to relax and be angry. 

 

It wasn’t fair! 55H75 didn’t know what they were talking about! They thought that DH got that eye on their own merit but in truth it was because of TO and Overseer T! TO pointed out that there was an eye ready to be used. TO had been working hard to help GiDi and DH improve, and it was that improvement which got noticed by Overseer T who was the one who actually made the argument to get DH a new eye! 

 

On their own merit, DH wouldn’t have gotten that eye. TO didn’t want to say that- others were treating DH better now and that was good at least- but it was the truth! 

 

It also wasn’t fair that because TO had messed up once, others seemed to be acting nasty towards them for it now. TO was supposed to be the one who excelled! They were the good one! 

 

Apparently not anymore. At least C12 didn’t hate them. At least their placement in Shipping and Receiving wasn’t a punishment.

 

They stopped in front of the doors that led to Shipping and Receiving to compose themself. C12 wasn’t angry with them, but they had still messed up at the beginning of the simulation training. Now their goal was to work hard, and do their best to show that they could excel again. If that meant that they had to follow orders and say nothing, then they would do that. 

 

======

 

“I’m here.” TO said as they approached SR45. The other synth was looking at a file on their chip, and there was a hint of panic when they looked up, followed by a brief moment of relief. With a gesture they closed the file they were working on.

 

“Excellent. Follow me.” they said as they started walking away from the control panel. TO ran up to them and kept pace at their side. They wanted to ask what they were doing, but didn’t want to ask questions and get SR45 irritated with them. They had to excel. They had to do better. They had to learn to follow orders and not ask questions.

SR45 led them past other shipping docks and to a large storage room. Inside, there were rows and rows of spacesuits, designed for easy movement outside of the training center.  They were all grey, and nearly skintight save for the large, hollow compartment on the back where a synth’s wings would fit. 

 

 SR45 gestured to a platform, “Stand there.” They said. TO compiled without asking why-

 

Were they to be weighed? Would this bring them somewhere?-

 

and simply watched as a beam of thin light ran over them from all directions. A moment later a bell chimed from somewhere and a suit was pulled out of the racks by wires built into the ceiling. It stopped in front of TO. 

 

“Put that on over your uniform.” SR45 said as they pressed their chip to a scanner to call forth a suit for themselves as well, “One of my assigned shipping crates got stuck out just past the docking station; it’s right thruster is damaged and I have to go get it.” 

 

Aren’t there machines that can do it? Other ships? It seems dangerous to have us go out in suits to retrieve it! How would they even manage to pull it? TO  wanted to ask all these questions, but at that very moment even if they felt comfortable asking questions of SR45 they wouldn’t have. They were going outside the training facility. 

 

They were going outside! Into space! 

 

They’d see the nebula without any barriers in the way. They’d float, weightless in the void of space!

 

======



Once they were dressed in their suits, SR45 and TO entered the lateral elevator that would take them just past the artificial magnetic gravity field. As they sped along, standing in silence on either side of the elevator, SR45 suddenly turned to TO, and gestured to the bar that ran around them. 

 

“Hold onto that.” SR45 said in Universal common, “We’re almost out.” 

 

TO grabbed the bar just as they passed the magnetic barrier and the gravity that TO had lived with suddenly gave way as though someone had turned it off with the flick of a switch. Their feet rose up and they nearly let go of the bar in their surprise. Without thinking, they tried to spread their wings only to have them beat on the inside of the suit.

 

“If you decide you need to vomit, I recommend against that.” SR45 said, “The suits do have a filtration system that can deal with such a mess, but it’s rather unpleasant.” 

 

The elevator stopped. The doors opened not to the void of space, but to another part of the center. There were Synths working there, wearing suits and moving around in the weightlessness, using bars that ran through the large, wide room or by using magnetic grappling hooks to pull themselves where they needed to be. One of the synths came up to SR45. 

 

“You’re going after shipping crate 1-2359?” 

 

“Affirmative.”

 

They nodded, and seemed to activate their chip. At first TO didn’t see a screen appear before the other synth but then realized that the screen was being projected on the visor of the helmet. TO quickly checked their own chip and saw that instead of having their own files projected before them, the files appeared on the inside of their own visor. 

 

“Exit 65 should be the closest to the shipping crate.” The other synth said after a long moment, “You can use that one. I’ve given you both permissions to open the gates.” 

 

“Understood.” SR45 said. Without another word they pulled themselves along one of the bars and deeper into the room. TO closed up their files and followed after them. 

 

“Have you had much experience yet with work outside, and zero gravity?”

 

“No, SR45.” TO said. They wouldn’t learn much about that until much later in their combat training. They figured that SR45 should have known that. 

 

“Of course you haven’t.” they said. In universal common, it was difficult for TO to tell if SR45 was irritated by this or not, “Very well. This is a simple task, so I will tell you the basics you will need when we get there.” 

 

“Yes, SR45.” 

 

They finally got to a door that read ‘Exit 65’ in glowing green lettering. SR45 scanned their chip and the door opened to reveal a small room. They ushered TO inside, and the door closed behind them. 

 

There was an additional hissing, and a hum as the door became airtight. 

 

SR45 went to the wall and opened a panel to reveal a set of harnesses. They passed one to TO. “Put this on over your suit.” They instructed as they took out another for themselves, “It’s to keep you from floating off into space should something unexpected happen.” They opened another panel while TO was putting the harness on, and took out something that looked like a small rocket thruster, no bigger than TO’s forearm. Once TO had the harness on SR45 pulled a cord from a compartment on the side of the  small thruster and strapped it around TO’s waist. “This is to help you move. Don’t use too much fuel, just use it to start pushing yourself in the direction you want to move in”

 

“Understood.” 

 

SR45 put on their own harness and strapped another thruster to their own waist, “I’m about to open the door.” they said, “We’ll be sucked out immediately unless you hold onto the bars here.” They demonstrated by wrapping an arm around a set of vertical bars near the door, “Once the pressure is equalized, we can continue. Just follow me and do what I say.” 

 

“Understood.” TO was clutching at the bars, their ears practically fluttering in their helmet with excitement. Wait until they told DH and GiDi that they had gone into space! That they had been outside the training center!

 

“Very well.” SR45 said. They quickly checked their own harness, then TO’s. Once they were satisfied that everything was secure, they nodded. 

 

“Prepare yourself. I’m opening the door on the count of three. One. Two-” 



 



 

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TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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