Chapter 13 - Episode 130: Midnight

Author's Note


There were many systems to go over in the computer systems, and TO was more than happy to sit next to DH as they showed them how everything worked. “I know you could figure it out on your own!” DH Insisted at one point, “But it’s faster if I show you, isn’t it?” Even if TO knew how to manage the computer, they would still have let DH teach them. Even after several hours the only reason they stopped was because of the sudden grumble that echoed from DH’s stomach. They stopped mid-sentence, their ears flicking down and flushing. “I suppose I forgot to eat our second meal.” They said with a soft chuckle, “I didn’t even notice the time!” “Me neither.” TO admitted, “Without the schedules of the Training center, I feel like I’ve lost time!” They pulled up their chip and checked, their eyes growing wide as they realized how late it was. “Well.” TO said, “At the training center, we’d be late for our third meal… Supper, as they say on Arkane. Evening Meal.” “No wonder I’m so hungry! I’m surprised I didn’t get hungry earlier.” They gave a little laugh, “I suppose it’s because I was so excited to be picking at these systems.” “We should be careful of the time,” TO warned, “We should set alarms-” “Wait!” DH reached out and took TO’s wrist, stopping them before they activated their chip, “No, we should adjust to Arkane time!” “Right!” TO said, “Yes! We were told to do that! Ark-1 mentioned it.” DH gave TO an odd look, “Are you alright?” they asked, “You’re more likely to remember this stuff than I am! You’ve been a little off lately.” “Well…” TO felt their wings tighten around their arms, “I don’t like space travel-” “No, even before this!” DH said, “You’ve been distracted lately.” “OH! I… I have a lot going on in my head!” TO said, the words tripping over one another as they fled TO’s mouth. “We’ve been learning so much in the last week.” The information wasn’t what was running through TO’s head and keeping them distracted. They couldn’t tell DH what distracted them - not yet. “Fair.” DH said, “I’ll change us over to Arkane time and Calender.” They turned back to the console and started typing furiously. A moment later, the lighting in the ship changed, shifting to a deep, low blue light. It was bright enough for TO and DH to see, but some things were fuzzy and obscured by darkness. The light from the computers illuminated DH’s pale skin, making it almost seem like they were glowing. Their eyes were deep pools, reflecting dots of light back to TO. They were certain they could see a thin ring of light around the pupils. “Oh...” DH said as they looked back to the glowing screen, “I guess it’s nighttime.” “It must be!” TO said as they realized they had been staring. “We’re in the local time zone for the city we’ll be in.” DH said. they reached out, their hand fumbling on the wall next to them before their palm pressed against a small square on the wall which suddenly flickered with dull illumination. “I had to check the lights earlier.” DH said, “One of my tasks was to make sure they worked. The squares on the walls are lights.” TO’s eyes adjusted to the dimmer light quickly. “That’s useful.” They said as they checked their chip, which was syncing to the ship. The new time came up. “Oh.” They said, “it’s near uh- the 28th Hour.” Arkane ran on a 28-hour clock, and though the hourly number system was simple enough, they had odd words for certain times. “Midnight, as they say planetside.” “Right. Midnight, morning, afternoon, evening, night.” DH said, “Planetary clocks are so odd. Why don’t they use the normal Galactic system?” “Day-night rhythms and seasonally aligned solar cycles might make that confusing,” TO said with a grin. “The galactic time system makes no sense planetside.” DH signed and got up, “Well then.” they said, “I suppose we should eat and then sleep?” They headed to the table where the food dispenser sat, “I’m not tired, but we’re supposed to get used to the time change.” “Right.” TO said, “And it’s best if we get used to it fast. There’s less time to sleep on Arkane, so we need to be ready for that.” They went to the table. They got up and headed to the food dispenser. As they pressed their hand to the chip reader, it rewarded them only with a small, hard looking block that fell onto the table with a dull thunk. The piece sat on the table for a moment before it suddenly expanded; it wasn’t the cubes they normally ate; it was a single block of food. Confused, TO poked at it with a finger. “... Is this food?” DH asked as they copied what TO had done. Another small, hard block landed on the table and then expanded. “I think so? Where’s the plate?” TO frowned as they waited for a plate to drop out of the dispenser. It never did. It was then that TO realized what was going on with their food. “It’s condensed,” TO said as they picked up the block of food. They pulled off a corner and squeezed the slightly squishy substance between their thumb and forefinger before they ate it, “I suppose we don’t need plates if the food is in bar form.” “Why is our food in a bar though!?” “If I had to guess-” TO said as they recalled how the little block of food had expanded into this slightly squishy, dull tasting thing they were now eating, “It’s easier to vacuum pack the food for transport in space.” they looked around, “Think about it; the ship looks big from the outside, but it has to hold all the machinery that lets this machine fly, food, fuel, water, and air. That all takes space, so they probably condensed the food to save room.” DH gave a deep sigh, then picked up the food. They sniffed it, wrinkled their nose, then ripped off a piece and started eating. “This tastes like dust,” they said. “How does it taste worse than the stuff we’ve been eating?” “It could be leftover from the last trip. I’m unsure what its shelf life is.” TO said. “At least we don’t have to eat this stuff when we get to Arkane.” DH said as they forced themself to eat another piece, “I can’t wait to try new foods though!” They suddenly brightened, “Do you remember though? The first conversation we ever had was about food.” TO’s ears perked up as they remembered that first day that they spent with DH. “I remember.” They said, “I was so confused when you sat next to me. Happy, but confused, and-” “And scared because everyone was staring.” “A little!” TO said, their ears flushing, “I was more nervous back then. After we beat Q10 and the others in that simulation, I calmed down.” “Well, they said they’d leave us alone if we beat them,” DH said. Their ears sunk as they chewed on their food. “Hey… Do you think there’s a way to...” they glanced down at their food, “To reverse the whole ‘correction’ thing?” TO nearly choked on their food. They dropped the bar and worked to dislodge the piece that had gotten stuck in their throat. “I... Fix it?” they asked, “I mean-” “I mean, For Q10,” DH muttered. “I still feel a little bad-” “It wasn’t your fault!” TO protested, “It… it was no more your fault than it was mine! If anyone was to blame, it’s 55H75; Hur-13 now, I guess.” TO remembered the Commander’s reaction to being called by their trainee number, and didn’t want to call Hur-13 by their old assignment accidentally. “It was their fault!” “.... Fault or no.” DH said, “I still feel bad for them. I-.” They sighed, “They were awful to us, I know… but in the end, they just looked so scared. I don’t think they deserved what happened.” TO gave a deep sigh. Ages ago, they had wondered the same thing. They had done some research on the topic, but it hadn’t been promising. “Potentially, there are ways.” TO said, “Depending on the brain. However, it’s all…” They hesitated as they fished for the right words to say. Dangerous? Untested? “Experimental.” they finally settled on. “And it’s very specialized. It’s not something that could be done in a training facility. One of King Decon’s Advanced Medical facilities MIGHT do it... But I don’t know.” “And a synth like us wouldn’t be sent there for treatment anyway,” DH said. “Right. Especially not a corrected synth. We’d have to get them out of the center and then find someone capable who would try a very dangerous procedure that may or may not work… and corrected synths don’t leave their stations.” DH gave a deep sigh, “I... I knew it was impossible.” they said, “I thought about it when GiDi was being taken away. I thought, Maybe we can fix them if they get corrected-” They gave a panicked glance to their chip, then seemed to recall the work they had done. “After that, I just wondered if we could repair anyone else.” TO frowned, “It’s funny, isn’t it.” they said, “We talk about fixing corrected synths, but the very act of correcting a synth… well, it’s called a correction. It’s how they ‘fix’ Synths that don’t suit King Decons needs.” DH was quiet for a long few moments, their ears flicked back in concentration. “Do you think..” they said slowly, “That Q10 should have been corrected? Or that GiDi should have been? I know we didn’t want them to be, but…. If it’s for King Decon, that’s better, right?” “If King Decon wished for you to be hurt.” TO said, their eyes narrowing as their ears pinned back, “I wouldn’t comply.” “I know. I don’t mean that.” DH said, though their ears flushed “I mean… I mean, outside of just us, and what we want. Is it better for synths that are too strange to be corrected?” “I don’t think I’m able to judge that.,” TO said quietly. “I… I would imagine... Well, if King Decon does something, it’s good, right?” “Right,” DH said. “I mean, we’re tools of King Decon. We have to function a certain way.” Whenever TO heard any synth referred to as a Tool of King Decon, they could just hear GiDi’s voice echoing out, the way their ears pinned back, their eyes narrowed, and their lips curled up to show their teeth. I am not a tool. “We must all make certain sacrifices,” TO said, parroting one of the many things they must have learned in the tank. “I imagine that running an entire galaxy is a taxing job, and He created a species of his own to assist with that. We have a job to do, and a purpose we were designed for; we can’t just do as we please.” They reached out, hesitated, and took DH’s hand. They could feel the heat rising in their ears, but DH had held their hand earlier. This should be fine, right? They just didn’t want DH to look so sad. “I guess there are some things which are good for the galaxy that can still upset some people.” TO said. “Like when civilians have to relocate. They don’t like it, but we know it’s for the best, right?” DH didn’t respond. They gently squeezed TO’s hand before letting go and returning to their food. TO looked down at their food, but they weren’t hungry anymore. It was for the best. They were designed to serve King Decon. It was a privilege to serve King Decon. Correction, or being repurposed, was a way that otherwise useless synths could serve. Even as TO told themself this, the one thought that always scared them bubbled up in their brain. It was the one thought that scared them more than the way DH made their heart swell and there was fire under their skin. If anyone tried to hurt DH, even if that someone was King Decon, TO knew that they could fight to stop them. Still, they wanted to serve King Decon; there was no greater privilege. I am not a tool All TO wanted was to be with DH as they served King Decon.