Chapter 218 - Episode 220: Offer

Author's Note


TO had entirely forgotten about the message from ARK-1, and only another message reminded them of that. Though there was nothing they could do at the moment, they still hated turning away from the screen that projected the path ahead of them. They felt like they could make the ship go faster, so long as they didn’t take their eyes off the horizon. “Ark-1” TO said as they sat down, “How can I-“ “I received an emergency newscast from Arkane.” They said before TO could finish, “It said that there was an attack in are of course located there, but you did NOT respond to my first message. Now I see that Ark-88’s communications are offline, and I see your ship is moving without such a thing being cleared with me.” “Apologies, Ark-1.” TO said, their ears flicking back in irritation, “I believe it was in fact an insurgent attack. They took DH-” Their ears flicked down, they knew, but there was no point in hiding that at this point; Ark-1 already knew, so any sorrow they saw from TO at the loss of their mate was to be expected. “-And I believe excessive insurgent activity will occur in Okoia presently.” “Enough activity to change your plans entirely in an instant?” “Of course.” TO said, “I intend to find the insurgents. I intend to find DH and get them back.” Their eyes narrowed. “I will not let them hurt another Synth.” Their ears flicked - disgusted- but at the same time they seemed pensive. “… So, what is your plan?” “The insurgency abducted many indebted people who were working at the site of the attack. Apparently, they sometimes do this, and take the civilians off the planet. If they want to leave Arkane, they can only do that on Okoia. Once there, I expect an examination of the docks and launch-sites should reveal suspicious activity, allowing me to find them and apprehend some of them.” Find the insurgents, and rescue DH. If DH wasn’t there, then TO would take as many of the insurgents as they could and drag them back to the ship. They didn’t like the idea of having to interrogate someone, but they’d do it for DH. “… While I do not agree with what seems to be your driving force in this, I agree with this more decisive action. I do, however, have issues with the fact that you act3ed without reporting-“ “I felt as though it was important to get to Okoia quickly and acted based on that.” TO said. Ark-1’s ear twitched as they eyed TO through the camera. “I will expect a full report on the events in Thalassa, as well as your plan from here on out. Hur-13 and Hur-14 will arrive early morning planetary time. I will extend their placement there temporarily. If you do not find Ark-88, or you confirm them out of commission, we will make other arrangements for Hur-14” “I will find DH.” TO said, their name slipping from their lips. There was this long, agonizing period of silence where Ark-1 simply looked at them through the camera, watching them. “Do I assume that’s some nickname you’ve created for Ark-88?” “Yes, Ark-1.” TO muttered, their ears flushing blue. It was just how Ark-1’s ears moved that made them feel as though they had done something childish and idiotic; something they should be ashamed of. “There are no nicknames. There are assignments and call numbers.” “Yes, Ark-1.” Ark-1’s eyes narrowed as they examined TO like they were a machine that was working, but perhaps making a funny sound while it worked. “… I’ll be completing a more thorough examination of the situation as well.” They said, “And I may make more changes to my plans as needed.” Were they planning to call TO back? Would they correct them? No, unlikely. Synths who finished their training didn’t get corrected; they got reassigned or sent into combat or sent off into the nothingness of space to find new wormholes. At least, they hoped they didn’t correct synths who passed training. There was a brief, confusing moment of relief where TO realized that if they never found DH, then they would never correct DH. Of course, being captured and tortured by the insurgents was far worse. Lendulin’s comment that the insurgents would never do that, and that brief spark of home flashed again before DH snuffed it out in their mind. No, the insurgents would kill DH after they got what they wanted from them. They’d torture them until they agreed, then they’d work their mate until they died or simply had no more use to them. “Do you understand, Ark-87?.” “I understand.” “Dismissed.” The screen went blank. They looked to the other screen that showed the horizon before them, where distance hid Okoia from sight. How were they supposed to write up a report when DH was missing? How would they write a report when all they could think about was DH being in trouble, and ‌that even if they found DH safe and sound, Kei and Avery would be here by then, and just as soon as they reunited with DH, they’d have to say goodbye. At least DH would be safe. Right now, all that mattered was making sure DH was safe. With a low growl, they turned from the view before them, and sat down at the consol; their consol, even though DH’s was closer. Despite how they felt, they knew that staring at the horizon wouldn’t help them reach Okoia faster. ====== The landing in Okoia was far less of a show than it had been the first time they came here. Of course, it was late at night and they arrived with no warning. It occurred to them also that Noss wasn’t here, and it appeared he had arranged the whole thing last time. Well, that was fine; TO didn’t have time to deal with Noss, or to deal with the various formalities that seemed to crop up whenever they did anything here. No, they had to implement their plan. At least writing up the report for Ark-1 had helped them solidify a plan that had started as ‘Personally stand in vigilant at the public space port on the north- coast of Okoia until they saw something’ now involved planetary law enforcement, and increased security and scanning of Arkane’s skies. They had already tried to contact the minister of space travel on Okoia, only to be told that he was asleep. TO wouldn’t leave word of their plan to anyone but the minister. They weren’t entirely certain that they were trustworthy; they didn’t trust anyone in the Arkanian government, and while they knew they’d need help, they refused to tell anyone their plan unless it was absolutely necessary. A few harsh words and solid insistence that they speak to the minister. The aide in charge said she’d wake him. That was the call they were waiting for as they left their ship, so it did not surprise them when a call came through. It surprised them when their visor said that it was DH calling them. They were alive. DH was alive, and they were somewhere on Arkane. They answered the call quickly, answering in Synth as soon as it connected. “DH! Where are you?!” There was a beat of silence on the other line until a heavily modified voice came back to them. “DH is with us, and if you want to see them, you’ll do as we say.” TO’s ears pinned back, their lips pulled forward and bared their teeth under their helmet. They even felt their claws try to extend, despite the hard gloves over their hands. If this person - whoever it was- was in front of them right now, TO knew that they’d rip them apart. There would be no interrogations, no questioning, and no mercy. They’d rip them apart slowly. “The Despair Insurgency, I take it.” TO hissed, flicking back to universal common. “I hate that translation, you know.” The voice on the other side said. “I always thought it was odd that we’d be called the ‘Despair’ insurgency. The actual word isn’t actually from Universal Common; it’s from the old Arkanian language. The language is ‌archaic and nobody really speaks it, but it’s Dez-par, and it just means ‘rebellion’ and the difference between a rebellion and an insurgency is just how the government identifies the rebels. Really, you’re just calling it the ‘Rebellion Rebellion’. Of course, it’s translated as ‘Despair’ in all other languages too, so that’s what people see it as.” “I don’t care.” TO hissed, “I don’t care what you call yourself-“ “I know, Apologies. You care about DH, correct?” The answer was yes, but they wouldn’t say that to the insurgent. They wouldn’t give them another whisper of information. “Well, you don’t have to answer.” The voice on the other side continued, “I have a proposition for you, regardless.” “And what makes you think I’d do anything you want me to do-“ “It’s nothing like that, it’s just an offer.” The voice said. “Will you listen?” Maybe they could use this opportunity to get information. Any scrap of information might help them. “Who am I speaking with?” TO demanded, “Am I expected to listen to ‘offers’ from a disembodied voice?” There was silence on the line, long enough that TO worried that they had disconnected. Finally, the voice came back. “You can call me Joe Mama.” Another growl escaped TO’s throat, but they knew ‌the helmet wouldn’t send that. “I see. Is this the same Joe Mama who seems so adept at hacking local AIs? Or is that just the name that the insurgency uses? Perhaps this Joe Mama is the leader of the insurgency?” “You flatter me… Tio.” TO did their best to suppress the panic that jolted through them, reminding themself that they knew ‌the insurgency knew who they were. The insurgency had chased after them in the Outer Ring already, and had information on them even before they met Pearla. “What do you want?” TO hissed. “I only intend to make you an offer.” They said, “Since you’ve come back to Okoia, I assume you’re chasing us, and I also assume that you intend to involve other authorities in finding us.” TO said nothing; they’d not confirm anything. “Well, my offer is just this; don’t contact the authorities. Our plans involve helping people, not hurting them. People will only get hurt if there’s resistance.” “This is an offer, you said.” TO snapped, “What are you offering me?” “Two things which I think you want, and which I think will make this easy for you to decide on.” ‘Joe’ said, “The first, of course, is DH; safe and unharmed. I believe they're your mate, yes?” They had to know about that as well if Pearla was giving them information. “And the other thing?” They demanded. “A meeting. You want to meet some higher ups of the insurgency. Well, we don’t have quite the rigid command structure as you synths do, but I can offer you a meeting with someone I think you’ll be happy enough with.” “You’d give up one of yours in exchange for me simply doing nothing?” “From what I’ve heard, I thought a synth would best understand one person’s sacrifice for the masses; not that such an ideology actually works on Arkane, or on many other planets.” A low chuckle, made disturbing by the distortion. “But at any rate, we won’t be giving up one of our own. We’ll be arranging a meeting. You’re welcome to try and capture them, but somehow I doubt it’ll be much of a worry.” This had to be a trap, right? Obviously it was. The proper thing to do would be to. Contact the authorities, collect the civilians the insurgents had captured, and track them the way they originally intended. But, they had DH. DH was safe, so said ‘Joe’, but were they, really? And would they stay that way if they didn’t comply? Not only that, but the opportunity to get to an insurgent who might have caught GiDi, might have tortured them for information, or hurt other synths to get work out of them. The insurgency wouldn’t do that TO didn’t believe that. “… When will this meeting take place?” “Tomorrow evening - 23:00. Security district. At the place where you lost the trail.” The call cut off.