“So Who Are You?”

“So who are you?”

Blaecleah had been answering that question all day. Some people said it like an invitation, some people said it like a challenge. Some people said it like he was in their space – like this guy, too tall and too lean and with too white of teeth.

“I’m Blaecleah. Who are you?” It was a novel situation; before now, everyone had known him and he’d known everyone.

Instead of answering, too-tall just grinned. “Hah. I like you.” He grabbed Blaecleah’s arm – he tried to grab Blaecleah’s arm, seemed unsurprised when Blaecleah dodged, and somehow managed to get a hand on him anyway. “Very nice. Creche kid?”

“Yeah, what of it?” Blaechleah blinked up at the guy. The grip was too tight to break with a simple twist; did he need to start a fight?

“You guys are always tougher than the ones of us from outside. Sort of. Tougher and softer at the same time.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He shifted his body as far as too-tall’s grip would allow, and got his feet into fighting stance.

The guy just grinned even wider. “Look at you. Ready to knock my teeth in. And yet you’ve never lived a day without electricity in your life, have you?”

The creche was in the Village; the Village was within Addergoole’s wards. “No? Why should I?”

“Because you won’t be in the creche forever.”

“Obviously. I’m here now.”

“You are. And how will you survive here?”

Blaecleah looked around. “That’s a joke, right?” Soft carpeting, paneled walls – down here, you’d never know there’d even been an apocalypse.

“Is it?”

“Oh, you’re a barrel of laughs.”

“Look.” Too-tall did something, and then he was holding both of Blaecleah’s arms. “You’re quick, and you’re a smart-mouth, and that’s a good start. But that’s not gonna be anything but the bare basics, here.”

Blaecleah snorted. “I can take anything you can. I can take absolutely anything you dish out.”

“Oh, really?”

Something in Blaecleah set off alarm bells, but he’d come this far; he wasn’t going to back down now. “Really.”

“Anything.”

“Anything. Duh.”

“Say you’ll belong to me.”

What? Blaecleah glanced away. He’d grown up in the Village; he knew what that meant. He’d seen enough people wander through collared. He scoffed to cover his pause. “That’s the best you got? Sure, I’ll be yours for a year.”

“Then for the next year, you Belong to me, Blaecleah. Come on.”

Head spinning, Blaecleah went where he was tugged.

Next: Bug


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