“It’s not supposed to be a fucking yoke.”
The voice trickled into Vester’s consciousness. She did not look up, could not look up. She had work to do. She stared at her table and kept working, kept Working.
“Get that fucking thing off of her. Get it off her or I’m going to break your fucking face.”
She was listening now. It made her Working lumpy and clumsy, but exhaustion did that on its own.
She didn’t speak except her Workings. She wasn’t allowed to speak, any more than she was allowed to stop.
But she could listen.
“You don’t understand.” That was Him. “I’ve got a business here. I’m just running a business. And she volunteered.”
If she could have spoken… Vester might have told the shouting person that He was telling the truth. She might have told the shouting person more — but probably not. She had seen what happened to his producers who spoke out.
“Let me say this slowly. Get. The Thing. Off of her. Or I will break every bone in your body.”
“She’s Mine. You can’t tell me what to do with —”
Vester was Working on whispers now, so she could hear everything. She heard the crunch as a body slammed into the wall.
“Give her to me or I destroy you.”
Vester heard bones crunching, and then He was screaming. He was screaming, he was screaming… “She’s yours! Vester, you’re his! You belong to him!”
Another thump. Vester stopped Working.
“Get that thing the fuck off of her.” The growling man was coming closer. Vester wanted to turn to look at him, but the yoke and harness wouldn’t let her. “Now. It’s not supposed to be a yoke, you bastard. It’s supposed to be a collar, it’s supposed to protect her. You fucking bastard.”
Vester found that she could speak. And, as He — no, just he, her former master — unlocked the yoke holding her in place, she found she knew what she would say.
“There’s three more in the back,” she informed the shouty man. “Behind the hidden door. There.”
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