Archive | November 24, 2016

Knocking over pieces

This comes about 7 days after the last post, here:

Luke had been Kept for eight days, and he had spent 2 evenings with his Keeper. The rest of the time he had spent with Leo’s army, doing the job he’d been assigned to – or, at least, the way Leo had chosen to interpret the job Cya had given him.

The army was quite impressive, aside from the whole godhead issue, and there really was quite a bit Luke could do to help. He liked being out in the field again. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed that: talking to troops, strategizing, scouting. He’d forgotten how much he’d enjoyed being a soldier.

Forgotten – or had the memories pulled out. He’d spend 2 evenings with his Keeper, and she’d spent both of them untangling memories locked up in his mind. Luke didn’t want to examine that too closely – or think too hard about why his crewmate, his friend had torn apart his memories and left him with a mind like Swiss cheese.

He glared at the map in front of him and indulged in an overblown wing-flap, knocking over a couple of the figures on the board.

“Why don’t you go home tonight?” Leo suggested cheerfully. “It’ll still be impossible in the morning.”

Luke shook his head. “I’m fine. If I just look at this a little bit longer, I’ll figure out what I’m missing.”

“No, you’re not fine.” Leo shook his head. “Come on, you know how this works.”

“How what works?” He made the effort to hold his wings in place and not flap, and very carefully put two of the pieces back upright. Pawns. Like Regine treated everyone; like Cya treated everyone.

“Being Kept. Go home, spend some time with your Keeper. You’re getting cranky.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” This time, Luke didn’t control his flap. The little pieces went tumbling again. “These people…!” Leo’s order was already pressing at him, though. He fought against it to pick up the poor little pawns. “I’m supposed to be helping you,” he tried instead, and hoped it didn’t sound too much like a plea.

Leo was looking at him oddly. He cleared his throat and finished straightening the pieces on the board. “Something with the dry creek bed, here, I think that’s the solution.”

“Go home, Luke. Be with your Keeper before you’re unbearable to be around.” Leo’s voice sounded a little too perky. Luke looked around; there was nobody else in the tent. What…

“I’m just irritated with the map,” he lied. He was irritated with Regine, and with memories that he didn’t know what to do with, and the nagging sensation that he was doing something awful.

“You know how this works, Luke.” There was the briefest hesitation. “Right?”

“Keepers.” Luke folded his wings. “You need some sort of proximity.” He’d always figured that had a lot to do with the Kept and not so much with the Keeping itself. “I haven’t done this before,” he added, defensive and not knowing why he was feeling that way.

“You haven’t… been Kept before? Cya’s your first Keeper?” Leo signaled someone outside the tent.

“Yeah?” Luke shrugged. “I never expected to be in this sort of situation.”

Leo’s teleporter came in. “Sir?”

“Take Luke here back to Red Doomsday, then return to your normal duties.” Leo wasn’t looking at Luke. “Go home, Luke.”

“Sir.” Luke bowed stiffly and let the teleporter take him.

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Desmond Goes to School

After Slaves, School


::Report to the Central office at 1 First street at 11 a.m. today::

Desmond touched the collar around his neck; the voice repeated itself.

“Okay…” He didn’t know if he was supposed to talk back to the collar. How did that work, anyway? “Will do?”

He touched the collar again and got silence. Well, maybe that had worked.

“Mo-om!” He tossed his robe on over his pyjamas and hurried out into the main center of the house. “Mum. I–” He fell silent, because his mother was talking with someone in the foyer.

She’d already turned around to look, though, and stopped mid-sentence. “Oh, Desmond. Darling. Oh…” Her hands went to her face and she turned back to the person in the foyer before turning back to Desmond.

“It’s okay.” He dropped his voice to the sort of volume he was supposed to use inside. “I’ll wait. I’ll start on something for breakfast, all right?”

“Oh, honey…” She looked back and forth between the door and him again before deciding that she had to talk to the person in the doorway.

Des squashed a surge of jealousy and unhappiness. He’d just told her to go talk to the stranger in the doorway – the way she was standing, he still couldn’t see who it was — he couldn’t do that and then be upset that she had.

“What’s going on?” His younger sister bounced down the stairs, wiping sleep from her eyes…. “Oh. Oh, Des, that’s great.” She hugged him, something she hadn’t done since she turned eight and put away her dolls. “Oh, Des, you’re going to get to go somewhere fabulous! That’s what the teacher said, last week, that the collared people are the lucky chosen of the fates. You’ve been chosen.” She touched the collar gingerly. “What does it feel like?”

“Like… not much, I guess.” He patted her shoulders carefully. “I have to be to First Street by eleven. I should eat, and get dressed, and…”

“Your best suit, I hope?” She gave him an arch expression that she had copied from their father. “And your shoes should be polished, I can do that. And we’ll get Annelle to do your hair, she’s always the best at it. And — where’s Mother?”

“In the foyer, talking with someone. She saw the collar, though.” She hadn’t been nearly as happy looking as Therese had been, though. “I’m going to start breakfast. My best shoes are in the bottom of my wardrobe…”

“…collecting spiders and dust, as always. They’re not that bad, Desmond, not really.”

“You say that because you’ve never worn them. Go on, let me make breakfast.” He patted her shoulder again, not as eager as he might sound to send her away.

Collared people did not have families, as far as he could tell. Collared people did not have anything that he knew about, but nobody had ever said “my cousin, who’s collared, visited last weekend.”

Then again, he knew nothing at all about collared people, except that it appeared he was one now, and it appeared that his collar spoke to him.

That ought to be disturbing him, but Desmond found that it was all a part of the whole package — he had a collar now. He was going away in a few hours. His collar spoke to him. When he did finally have his break-down, it was going to be an impressive one, he imagined. He hoped he was there to see it.

He made breakfast by rote, although he found he put a little more cheese and spices in the eggs, a little more butter on the toast, a little more cream in his tea. He was leaving; nobody chided him on the waste.

His sisters dressed him as if he were going to meet the Potentate or the local Judge. Their mother fussed around him, not saying much, fluttering out a hand to brush against his shoulder before pulling it back. Finally, when he had pulled himself together, when his shoes were laced to Anelle’s satisfaction and Therese had declared herself pleased with Anelle’s work on his hair, when he looked as perfect as a too-thin, too-pale someone like him could manage to look, his mother tugged the collar of his shirt under his cravat, patted his shoulder, and sighed.

“Go with the eyes upon you and the hands guiding you,” she murmured. “Go as my son, and if you return, return as my beloved kin.”

Desmond felt a chill. They said the same thing when a sailor went on one of the boats leaving sight of the coastline, when a voyager went through the Bastion Pass northward, when a glider strapped on wings from the Yorthmouth Tower. It meant they expected him to return only as a ghost.

He bowed and managed the return words as well as he could. “I walk into the unknown lighter and yet steadier for your blessing. If I return, I will return as blessed kin.”

That was it. He was gone from the family; they would mourn him quietly, as if he’d vanished at sea. Des hugged his sisters again, even if it wasn’t exactly what was called for in this situation, and stepped out the door and towards whatever came next.


Even if he hadn’t known where the Central Office on First Street was — and how could you not? It was in front of the Potentate’s Palace! — the collar certainly did. When Des took a slight detour to wander through one of this favorite parks, the collar gently reminded him that Genderon Road was a quicker route to the Central Office. When he paused for a while in front of the giant duck pond, the collar gently reminded him of the time. When he paused across the street from the Central Office, looking at the library where he’d spent more than a few stolen afternoons, the collar suggested he turn around.

“Are you going to keep doing this for the rest of my life?” he muttered.

The collar said nothing for a moment, long enough that Des felt silly talking to an accessory. Then it answered slowly.

::There is going to come a time when I am quiescent. And you can always ask me to be quiet before that. But, for the moment, my job is not to answer to you but to the people who want you in the Central Office at eleven.::

“You sound very alive,” Des muttered. He didn’t want to be seen talking to himself. He didn’t want to be seen at all, not with a collar — and so far, he hadn’t seen a single person he knew. Still.

::That is a matter they’ll teach you later. Now, into the Central Office. There’s someone coming I don’t think you want to encounter.::


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