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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!

 

There was a certain restlessness in the dormitories on the last day of each period since they had started their vocational training. There was perhaps a little more chatter than normal, though all of it was what you would expect from normal synths; what was your placement like? Where do you hope to be placed next period?

 

TO noticed a slight difference this time; as they walked along through the dormitory the other synths grew quiet, and if they spoke it was in low whispers. TO did their best not to listen to what they were saying as they had gotten tired of hearing others say that they were the synth that couldn’t be trusted. They walked purposefully through the halls, staring straight and ignoring the whispers until they got to 09T08’s pod.

 

“How was your vocational training?” TO asked as they approached. 09T08 had been deep into reading something and was actually startled when TO spoke.

 

“Sorry... What?” they said as they calmed down.

 

“I didn’t mean to startle you…” TO said, “I just… wanted to know how your -” No. that wasn’t why they were here. They didn’t want to make 09T08 think they were deceptive. “How was your training?” they asked instead.

 

“It was alright. I was in electric this period. I learned a lot.”

 

“That’s good. I’m glad you were productive” TO said, “Are you busy?”

 

“I… well, I’m not busy…” They looked at the document they were reading, “Do you need something?”

 

“Need… well, no.” TO glanced around at the other synths, some of which were watching them, their eyes shooting from TO’s face to their bound wings.

 

“You’re the subject of some talk today.” 09T08 said, drawing TO’s attention back to them, “Everyone’s talking about you.”

“Are they still saying how deceitful I am, because I worked very hard in the last-”

 

“No no. I mean, not everyone. That’s nearly forgotten now.” they gestured to TO’s wings, “Everyone’s talking about that.”


“The others don’t think my wings will heal.” TO said, frowning. To be fair, it was a concern that they shared. Sure, DH and MO-6 assured them that the wings would heal, but what if they didn’t! What if they healed wrong and they could never fly again?

 

“No no. well, some have wondered if they will, but no.” They tilted their head at TO, their ears perking up with curiosity, “They’re saying you stopped the attack in the shipping bay.”

 

“What?” TO felt their ears burn, “They’re saying I did what?”


“That you kept the attack from being carried off as intended. I mean, there’s no announcement on what was intended mind, but-”

 

“I… I didn’t stop anything.” TO said, “There… The crate was held up because it didn’t have the proper documentation, and SR45– they’re a synth that works in shipping and receiving– they opened up the bay doors to get the crate out before it caused real damage.”

 

09T08 frowned, their ears twitching as they considered this, “But… I heard that you had saved a bunch of people”

 

TO couldn’t help the snort that left them, “I didn’t save anyone… Well...” Their ears flushed, “I… I didn’t. I just happened to be in a position where I could grab SR45 and keep them from getting sucked into space… that’s all.” They sudden realized that everyone around them was very quiet. TO looked around and saw several synths listening to their conversation, but they all quickly turned away, focusing on their screens or some document they were reading.

 

“I suppose that piece of information got a little exaggerated.” 09T08 said, their ears twitching in amusement.

 

“If you want more details…” TO said softly, “I was hoping you’d want to come and spend some time with DH, GiDi, and myself.”

 

09T08’s wings suddenly tightened around their arms, and they focused back on their document as their ears flicked down, “Right now?” they said, “I don’t know. I mean, I have a lot of reading to do-”

 

“You can bring it with you?” TO offered. They didn’t want to push too much, but they really wanted 09T08 to come with them, “You can sit away from us and read if you want. Just… consider it passive company? And you can leave any time…” TO watched as 09T08’s ears twitched, as their hands gripped at their legs. “... I’m sorry.” TO said as they stepped away, their ears tilting down in disappointment. They had really wanted 09T08 to come with them and spend some time with them – specifically with GiDi. “Sorry… I just thought I’d offer-”

 

“No… no it’s fine.” 09T08 said. They took a deep breath, and closed their document. With their ears flicked down with anxiety, they looked up to TO, “I… I’ll try.”

 

TO beamed, “I’m glad!” They said, “And don’t worry, we’ll be somewhere quiet.”

 

======

 

“It’s about time you got here!” GiDi said as TO finally entered the old abandoned observation deck, “I wanted to go after you, but DH said that I had to wait, and they wouldn’t tell me-” They trailed off as they saw 09T08 follow TO into the observation deck, “...You brought company?”

 

“Yes, well, I wanted 09T08 to come too.” they frowned a little at GiDi’s confused expression. They had expected GiDIto seem happier, or maybe even nervous at the prospect of 09T08 being there. “I thought it would be nice.”

 

“I have no issue with it.” GiDi said slowly. They turned to 09T08, “You… you’re not going to tell the Overseers about this place, are you?”

 

“As though they don’t already know.” DH muttered, “They probably saw us come in on cameras somewhere.”

 

“...Are we not allowed to be here?” 09T08 asked as they looked around nervously. They had their wings wrapped tightly around them, and their ears were already twitching with anxiety. TO was worried that if something else happened to add to their nerves that they might take off and run back to their pod.

 

“We have not been told that we can’t be here.” TO said, “And DH is right... There’s a good chance that they know we’re coming in here and just don’t care. It’s a quiet place where we can more comfortably do cultural research.”

 

“... cultural research?” 09T08 asked, “I didn’t know I was being brought here to study…”

 

“You’re not.” DH said with a grin, “It’s just that ‘cultural research’ is what TO says whenever we’re watching any shows from around the galaxy-”

 

“And… I found an interesting one.” TO said. They waved 09T08 into the room and finally the door closed behind them. TO rushed to get the old, broken speaker working, “I was hoping to find a projector as well, but I couldn’t. Still, I think-”

 

“...What is this place?”

 

TO turned and looked at 09T08, who was now staring out the window at the glimmering light show before them, gazing in awe at the beautiful colors and the vivid light show outside. Despite how beautiful it was, TO shuddered as they saw the lights darting about far off in the nebula– Edacaeli. TO think that those tiny dots were such fierce monsters.

 


“We think it’s an old observation deck.” GiDi said, “Maybe used for guests once; that’s why there’s comfortable seating here.” They moved over to make space for 09T08 to sit. “Though I don’t know why TO was making this such a big surprise”

 

TO gave DH a quick look as 09T08 sat down. Well, maybe GiDi hadn’t been as excited as TO had hoped when 09T08 had stepped in, but them sitting together was good!

 

“Well, the added company is a surprise!” TO insisted, “And I got a musical for us to listen to. I was lucky, and found one that came out this period, so I don’t think you’ve heard it-”

“Is it the new one from the Trypto solar system?” GiDi asked. TO instantly felt their ears sink down.

 

“...Yes, that was what I chose.” They muttered. “I thought that-”

 

“I still wouldn’t mind hearing it again!” GiDi insisted, “Honestly! And… and I love seeing your reactions to the musicals I like, so that’s going to be new. And I always like to listen to musicals a few times, in case I’ve missed something. Besides, this might be the first time 09T08 has heard a musical…” They turned to the other synth, “Is it?”

 

“... I do generally prefer written media.” they said quietly, “But I am not opposed to listening to it while I continue reading.” They glanced at TO, “You did say I could read if I wanted to.”

 

“You can!” DH insisted without waiting for TO to answer, “But… do you mind if I ask you a question?”

 

09T08’s wings tightened around themself once more, their ears pinned back, “Go ahead.”

 

“Is there another name you might prefer?” they smiled, “I’m DH, because-”

 

“GiDi told me. 70H. seventy-H. Sounds like Seven-D-H if said right.”

 

“Right…” DH said, their own ears sinking slightly at having the explanation stolen from them, “Well… We already have TO... Do you have any idea what-”

 

“Avery.”

 

Their voice was so quiet, and the response so quick that TO nearly missed it. “Avery?” TO asked, “Can I ask why?”

 

To TO’s surprise, Avery’s ears sunk back and flushed, “It’s nothing, really. It’s a character I like from a series. Sometimes… well… nevermind. But, I’d like it if you called me Avery. If you think I should have another name, that is.”

 

“I have no issue with Avery.” DH said, “I’m just surprised that you had it ready so quickly. I suppose maybe you were calling yourself that for a bit?”

 

Avery didn’t respond but their ears did flush a little deeper. TO clapped their hands together to get attention back on themself, “Well, DH was involved in helping me find a musical, And for getting GiDi here.” They grinned “But… they don’t know about the other surprise I have.” TO’s ears twitched with excitement as they went to their stash which was hidden under old blankets among the random assortment of stored garbage, “I’ve been sneaking this away all period.” They said as they pulled the armfull of food and drink from hiding. “Food offerings that were sent to King Decon, but slated to be disposed of.” they came forward and dropped the packages on the table before the others. “I’ve taken time to research each item, so it should all be safe for us to eat!”

 

“....You stole King Decon’s offerings?” DH said, sounding both terrified and awestruck at the same time.”

 

“I did no such thing!” TO insisted, “I just… I was supposed to record them and then see that they were disposed of... They’re just not going to be disposed of in the same way as the other things that got disposed of.” They leaned forward and adjusted the speakers before syncing them up to their chip. A moment later, soft music started to play. They looked to GiDi, “I … wanted to do something special for everyone. Especially you. And the shows that DH likes to watch, they often have a meal and a show being something that… friends enjoy?” they gave a meaningful look to GiDi, letting their eyes dart quickly to Avery.

 

GiDi’s ears twitched as they listened, first with confusion, then disbelief, then- to TO’s surprise- with amusement.

 

“Dinner and a show for synths in training.” GiDi said with a chuckle as they reached out and took up one of the vacuum sealed bags, “What do you think DH, Sounds good to you?”

 

DH gave a low noise that could have been taken as acceptance. TO focused on selecting a bag to try, hoping that DH wasn’t made too uncomfortable by this, that DH wasn’t upset that TO had gotten them involved in a romantic set-up for their friend, and that they didn’t notice the blue tinge to the tips of their ears in the iridescent light that came through the window.

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TheWitchOfTheRock

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

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