“Room 1, right there. Choose the seat with your name on it and sit down.” The proctor reminded Debbie of the guards at their first prison, except that, instead of a uniform, he wore a shirt and tie. She had no doubt he could be just as rough, though, so she found the seat with her name on it – just Debbie, like everything else here, like she’d left her last name at home with her freedom. She wondered what they’d have done if they had more than one Debbie.
She didn’t ask, though. She sat, instead, tugged her uniform skirt down, and looked at the notebook on her desk. It had her name on it, too, as did the pen sitting at a precise line parallel to the top, just above it.
So they were back in school. She ought to be upset, she supposed, but it was the first thing since she’d gotten kidnapped that made sense. Classroom, notebook, uniform, pen. Nun?
The woman that stepped in to the classroom was almost certainly not a nun, at least not of any faith Debbie had ever encountered (“The Faith” was on her schedule as her third hour class, however, so she imagined she’d be encountering at least one new religion pretty soon). She looked more like something out of a Sexy Teacher video: tight skirt, tight blouse, steel collar.
The proctor hadn’t seemed to be wearing a collar, although his shirt and tie could have covered it; the matron who’d greeted them yesterday certainly wasn’t. All of her fellow students were – identical bands of metal gleaming under their uniform shirts. Was it a good sign or a bad one that the teacher was, too? She’d be more patient with them, right? More forgiving? She turned to find Jill, sitting catty-corner behind and to her left. “Maybe this won’t be all bad,” she murmured.
The ruler came down hard on her hand before she even noticed the teacher had moved. “There is no speaking in class unless you are spoken to. Do you understand?”
Debbie gaped, staring at the woman, and the ruler cracked down again. “Do. You. Understand?”
Tossing out any hopes of another slave going easy on them, Debbie nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Miss,” she corrected. “But you’ll learn terms of address in the next hour.”
By the end of that hour, Debbie felt as if ‘terms of address’ were leaking out of her ears. She had filled three pages with complicated diagrams of who was above whom and who the should acknowledge first – with the oft-repeated, “but remember, with whoever you are dealing with, you are beneath them. You are beneath everyone.”
That had made Steve complain. More than complain; he’d shouted. “Fuck that shit, lady. I’m as good as the next guy.”
Debbie had bitten her tongue on anything except a warning “Steve…” but it had been enough to get her another smack across the hand. He, on the other hand…
The teacher had grabbed the proctor from the hall. Steve wasn’t a small guy, wiry and athletic – all six of them were the sporty sort, actually – but the proctor was slabs of muscle, and had a food of height on Steve. He’d bent him, struggling the whole time, over his desk, and pulled down his pants so the teacher could lay the rule down, hard enough leave welts, eight times across his ass.
“If anyone in this class makes such an outburst again, you will not only be caned, you will be gagged. This is your only warning.”
Shaking, Debbie had kept her eyes forward and her attention firmly on the teacher for the rest of class. Steve, miracle of miracles, had been quiet, but when they escaped the classroom at the hour bell, he was muttering curses under his breath.
“it’s not right, not fucking right,” he told her. “We’re not beneath anyone.”
“No,” she agreed quietly. “But they’re bigger and stronger. It might behoove us to play along for a while.”
“You play along,” he grumbled. “I’m not going to let them indoctrinate me.”
She was pretty sure that indocrination was more or less the point of the school, but Steve would either learn or he wouldn’t. Right now, there wasn’t much she could do to help him.
She went through her classes, soaking up their lessons, writing down everything, trying not to catch the teachers’ attention, not to be bad. It was hard, sitting quietly through every class when her friends were right there, but it took only two more welts before she got the knack of it. Instead, she wrote down in the margins everything she wanted to say, notes for later discussion.
That night, in her dorm with Jill and Indira, a pretty girl who barely talked, she stared at her first marginalia.
Acculturation. They’re training us to be them.
It wasn’t a comforting thought.
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