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A note from TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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

It was difficult to focus. TO was sure they were conscious, but they couldn’t seem to focus on anything save for the pain all over their body. They were vaguely aware of other synths around them. They were carried somewhere, and then they were blissfully unconscious. They drifted for a bit, coming close to wakefulness but never fully getting there. The few times they got close, the pain came, but thankfully it was slightly less and less each time. They didn’t so much wake up as they did suddenly realize that they were awake .

 

The room they woke in was one they had never seen before; a blissfully dim, steamy room that reminded them of the showers. Perhaps that was more because they were placed in a special kind of tub, one with an inclined bottom that allowed them to rest with their face just up over the surface everything else was covered in the warm water. Still parts of them felt cold. They pushed themself up slowly, rising from the water for just a moment before they quickly dropped back down.

 

They were so cold! They had never experienced cold like this before!

 

“They seem conscious.”

 

TO hadn’t even realized that anyone else was there. They turned, and saw MO-6 and DH standing nearby and going over charts. As soon as DH looked and caught TO’s eyes, they dashed over.

 

“Check them for blistering.” MO-6 said as they turned away, “Don’t let them out of the bath yet.”

 

DH got to the bath and knelt at the edge. They looked at TO for a long time, their ears down, their eyes brimming with tears.

 

TO gave a weak smile, “I’m fine.” they said, “Just cold.”

 

DH suddenly laughed, and a few of the tears spilled over. They wiped them away quickly, “Just cold. You managed to get frostbite-”

 

“Very mild frostbite.” MO-6 called over, “The worst of it was the wings, and I’m fairly certain that we’ve managed to save those.”

 

“-You managed to get frostbite.” DH said, they reached out and put their hand atop TO’s forehead, “You got sucked out into space.”

“There was…” TO frowned, still unsure what had happened, “An explosion? I don’t-”

 

“We saw the footage.” DH said, “I can show you later. One of the ships you were working with exploded. They’re out getting the pieces to examine them, to see what happened, and -”

 

“I don’t mind you talking, but make sure you’re doing the examinations?” MO-6 called out. To TO’s surprise, there was almost a hint of amusement to their voice. DH flushed, and put on a pair of gloves before they went to the far end of the tub and reached in to take TO’s feet in their hands.

 

“If anything hurts, tell me.” DH said as they started checking the toes. TO nodded, and couldn’t help but smile as DH worked. It made TO feel so happy that they were doing so well in the medical bay. They seemed to be on good terms with MO-6 and seemed to enjoy their work. They had such an expression of serious focus on their face, despite the flush to their ears.

 

They looked so endearing when their ears went blue. TO felt their own ears flush, but did their best to ignore that.

 

“What are you checking for?” TO asked.

 

“Blisters.” DH said, “Apparently, the sudden change from cold to warm can cause blisters.”

 

“Correct.” MO-6 said, “And what did we do to prevent that?”

 

“We measured the patient’s body temperature, and set the water temperature only slightly warmer. As the circulation improves and the temperature of the extremities increases, we increase the temperature.”

 

“And when do you think that the patient will be allowed to leave the tub?”

 

DH’s ears flicked as they considered this, “When the temperature of their extremities is closer to average synth temperature. We’ve been measuring every ten minutes, and increasing the temperature each time by a few degrees....” They moved onto the calves as they checked some notes on a screen nearby. “I’d say another half hour?”

 

“Excellent. Now; should we keep them in the medical bay tonight, or no?”

 

“Well…” TO watched DH’s ears flick as they considered this, they quickly checked TO’s thighs, then moved on to the fingers, “Probably not.”

 

“Probably? Explain.”

 

“Well, you said that the complications after this, since it’s a mild form, could involve some blistering. That’s nothing we can treat until it happens, and it may not. Keeping them here would be needless. They can self-observe, and -”

 

“Can they be trusted to come back if further symptoms arise?”

 

DH winced as they looked up at MO-6, “From a personal view, or a professional one.”

 

“From a professional one, clearly.”


“...’never trust the patient to be smart?’”

 

“Correct. They should stay here for the next day -”


“What if they just checked in for examinations between meals and training?”

 

MO-6’s ears flicked as they considered this “That would be a better solution indeed.” they said. “It would clear a bed and save some resources.” They finished up some notes, and went over to another tub nearby.

 

“Is SR45 in there?”

 

“They are.” DH said, “They’re in worse shape than you.”

 

“I watched the video feed of what happened.” MO-6 said, “They were out in space for longer, so it’s to be expected. I’ll want further observation on them.” they glanced over at DH, “Any blisters?”

 

DH was checking around the arms, “None of the legs or arms.” they said, I’m about to check the wings, then the torso-”

 

“Unnecessary to check the torso, there wasn’t enough damage there. Check the wings, then move onto this other one.”

 

“Understood.” DH said as they moved onto the wings. They gently ran their fingers over the still-numb membrane of TO’s wings- It was an odd sensation to feel the pressure without actually feeling the touch.

 

“I was really worried when you came in.” DH whispered, “You were covered in blood.”

 

TO frowned, “How was I covered in blood?” they asked, though just as the words left their mouth they remembered the glass that had broken around them. They must have been so cold that they hadn’t felt the cuts. They shifted slightly and saw a collection of cuts over their feet and hands, and larger gashes on their legs, their torso, and arms.

 

“The bigger cuts are where larger bits of glass tore through your uniform.” DH explained. They gestured to TO’s side, “That one was a big one, and it was bleeding a lot. It needed stitches and it might scar… still, all the cuts on your face should heal easily-”

 

“On my face?” TO reached up to touch their face, and indeed they could feel some cuts along their skin.

 

“And… And your wings will heal too! I’m sure of it!”

 

“... my wings?” A jolt of horror went through TO. They sat up in the tub, ignoring the cold as they turned to see their wings.

 

There was a relatively large tear in one wing. It was stitched together and there seemed to be a clear glaze over it but the sheer size of the wound made TO feel dizzy. It was so shocking that it took them a moment to see the other holes scattered about their wings. Some were small and had been left alone while others had to be stitched up as well. “MO-6 says it’ll all heal!” DH said as they saw TO’s face, “No flying for two periods-”

“Two periods!?”

 

“Outside of the simulations, that is. Your wings will be strapped down while they’re healing-”

 

“Two periods!” They felt their chest tighten, “I can’t not fly for two periods!”


“You’ll have to if you want to continue flying at all.” MO-6 said as they came over. They looked to DH, “Why is this patient not submerged.”

 

“Sorry.” DH muttered as they gently pushed TO back into the water. They gave TO a quick smile as they did, “You’ll be fine if you rest.” DH said.

 

“Rest. Full meals. Keep well hydrated. These wings should heal up nicely if you do that. There will be major scarring, but it won’t affect functionality.

 

“... I didn’t even feel that tear.” TO said, their voice soft and quiet.

 

“Your wings were frostbitten worst of all, so I’m not surprised that you didn’t feel it.” MO-6 said. “ We had to remove some badly damaged membranes in places because of the frostbite, but that will heal back as well. Most of the damage was done by glass shards being sucked out of the warhouse and running through the membrane, leaving puncture wounds of various sizes. The largest cut must have been from a shard of glass that got stuck. Still, you’re lucky; it’ll all heal.” They checked the temperature on the bath, fiddled with a dial, then turned away to go back to SR45.

 

“See. it’ll heal.” DH said. They reached out and put their hand on the back of TO’s head under the water and gently scratched at the back of TO’s neck.

 

A part of TO wanted to move away. They didn’t want DH to be accused of excessive fraternization. Despite this, they didn’t move. They felt so shaken, so distraught by the damage done to their wings that they leaned into DH’s hand, allowing themself to enjoy this bit of comfort for a few minutes at least.

 

======

 

They left the medical bay much later, dressed in one of the thin robes. Their wings were held down with a special strap that fit around their chest and waist. They pulled the robe tightly around themself since they still felt cold and couldn’t wrap their wings around themself.

 

In the main room of the medical bay, GiDi was sitting and reading something on their chip. They looked up as DH and TO entered the room and then ran to TO, hugging them tightly.

 

“I was so worried about you!” they said, “DH said you were covered in blood when you came in!”

 

TO wrapped their arms around GiDi. their wings strained to wrap around them as well but of course they couldn’t. “I didn’t even feel it. And it’s all going to heal.”

 

“Even the wings?”

 

TO’s ears flicked as GiDi mentioned the wings. “Even the wings.” they said as they held onto GiDi tightly. “Wait… how long have you been waiting.”

 

“...Since I got out of my vocational training?” GiDi admitted, “I went to the cafeteria to get food, but then I came right back here...It’s been several hours.”

 

TO turned to DH, “Your vocational training ended hours ago! Why are you still here?”

 

“As though I’d leave with you in the med bay. I volunteered to help with you and SR45.”

 

“MO-6 didn’t find that odd?”

 

“Actually, they said, ‘If I say no, I suppose you’ll just wait out in the main room.’ and then said If I was going to be here anyway, I might as well help.”

 

“They’re saying it was an attack.” GiDi said, “An attack from the insurgency. Was it really?”

 

TO frowned, “I don’t really know what happened. They’re saying what about it?”

 

GiDi pulled away from TO as they pulled up a notice on their chip, “Well, news about what happened got around quickly – there’s a lot of synths working in shipping and receiving, so word of an explosion got out quickly. Shortly after there was a report saying that it was an attack by the Despair Insurgency, and that it was being investigated for collaborators.” GiDi. frowned, “But why would they be looking for collaborators? Do they think a synth helped?”

 

“...well it was one of our ships.” TO said, “And it’s a bit hard to program them to do anything without clearance, but I don’t know enough about the ships to say if it’s impossible to hack them. Do they really think it was an attack? It could have been just a malfunction?” Still, even as TO said that, they remember how SR45 said it had been missing paperwork, and how it was an unexpected shipment. “Why would we be attacked?” TO said, “King Decon isn’t here; this is just a training facility.”

 

“They’re looking into it.” DH said, “And unless they want to talk to you, it’s nothing to worry about. You need to worry about resting and eating full meals.”

 

TO’s ears flicked with amusement, “You’re not at your vocational training anymore.” they said,

 

“No, I’m not, but I will be your private attendant if that’s what it takes to make sure you get rest.” They frowned, “And with that, we’re getting you to bed; it’s late.” they looked to GiDi, “you’ll be staying with us tonight?”

 

Wait. with us?

 

“Of course!” GiDi said, then as their ears fell slightly, they asked, “I mean, if you want me with you.”

 

“Of course we do!” TO said, not even thinking that by saying that, they had just agreed to having GiDi and DH in their pod. They hadn’t shared a pod with DH since their conversation with C12. They thought of the way their mind tended to drift when they were half asleep and thinking about DH, and they felt their ears flush and dip down. “But… you don’t have to stay with me if you don’t want to.” TO said quickly, “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

 

DH gently took TO by the arm and started leading them towards the dorms, “It’s more for us, honestly.” they said, “ You have no idea how worried we were-”

 

“I have an idea.” TO said as they glanced at DH’s eyepatch. DH laughed, “OK, fair.” DH said, “But I do believe I stayed in your pod the night after I was released? And even before that you spent two nights with me in the medical bay, didn’t you?”

 

TO grumbled something as they let DH lead them. Maybe the issue of excessive fraternization was something they didn’t need to worry about– if they had already spent so much time with DH in the medical bay, then maybe sharing a pod wouldn’t be considered too bad. Even when DH had rushed to them once they had woken up, MO-6 seemed more amused than anything else.

 

Maybe it was only a problem if synths were like C12 and Snout; mates. Well, they could ask C12 what exactly constituted as excessive fraternization. As for the other stuff, the thoughts they had been having...well, they’d just have to try harder to control where their mind went.

 

They had a vague fear that controlling their thoughts would be impossible.

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TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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