First: Slaves, School
“No, but really.” Talia followed Des into the lunchroom while Doria flanked him on the other side. “That’s a good question, Des. Where do the collars get their energy from? Is it from us? Oh…” Talia winced and her eyes went a little crossed for a moment. “My collar’s talking to me again…”
::We can take energy from the person who is wearing us, but it is considered a bit uncouth and, also, it causes problems for both us and the person in the long run,:: Desmond’s collar informed him. ::Talia’s collar may be going on about the uncouthness. Some care more about that than others. In the Old Times, when collars were only a punishment…:
“Oooh.” Des swallowed. “But – oh, there’s so many questions.”
::Save most of them for later, when the one who would abuse their collar isn’t around.::
“But where do you get food from?”
::You’ll see. I assure you, I will not let you starve me. Nor will that one’s collar let them do the same. We’re programmed with some control::
“That…. that’s a bit creepy.” Desmond put both his hands to his collar and gave it a little tug, feeling chilly.
::I know. And I apologize, but it is true. The collar is a collar – as I said, these things, the collars, were a punishment at one point.::
“Things?” he whispered, but Jefshan glanced at him anyway.
::Things. There is a collar, and there is me. I am not the collar, I am merely in the collar. Do you follow?::
“Not… really… like I am not my body but am in it, in Yetheran philosophy?”
::That is… close.::
“Are you talking philosophy with your collar?” Jefshan smirked down at Desmond.
“Yeah, a little. We were talking about it getting energy and stuff. And the end result is – I’ll see, I guess. Like everything else here.” He was a little short, he knew, but he was beginning to get frustrated with that attitude. “So I guess we’ll see. But let’s get food into us first, hunh? Like Talia said, they might have us running laps of insane stairways again.”
“What did your collar say, Talia?” Jefshan looked like there was some sort of fishing expedition going on mentally, but Des couldn’t quite see what it was supposed to be yet.
“Mine gave me a lecture on inappropriate things to say, and uncouth things to suggest, with a helping along the side of ‘be a good Collared Person, because you don’t want to be a Bad Collared Person.” Talia gave Cataleb a disgusted look.
“But what’s a Good Collared Person and what’s a Bad Collared Person?” wondered Doria. “I mean, what are the rules? Don’t eat with your elbows on the table, pick up after yourself…”
“Smile when smiled at but don’t smile too long at anyone who doesn’t seem to want to smile back,” offered Talia.
“Excuse yourself when your body makes noises you didn’t intend,” Jefshan puts in, “help those who need help and don’t ask for help you don’t need…”
“Do everything you can,” Desmond said slowly, thinking of his father, “and find yourself a way to be productive…”
“Oh, come on,” Cataleb scoffed, “they put collars on us. Do you really think we’re going to have trouble finding ways to be productive? You know what they do with collared people. They put them to work. Labor sort of work, not counting coins. And that magic in us? They use that, too, as hard and as long as they can. There’s nothing about being productive in being good, because that’s all just letting yourself be a harnessed horse.”
“Oh, be real.” Talia sent a pointed eye-roll at Cataleb. “Do you really, honestly think that they’re going to educate us for years just to work us to death?”
“What do you think the collars are for then? Decoration?”
Meshron and Helinna reached their group about that time. Meshron grabbed Cataleb’s arm and Helinna grabbed Talia’s. “No more of this,” Meshron hissed. “You’re making a scene, and we might be impulsive but we’re not stupid, do you hear me?”
Everyone in their little group of new students stared at the two older students.
“We’re serious.” Helinna’s voice was just as much of a quiet hiss as Meshron’s. “No scenes. Not on your first day of classes. No talking about being put in labor camps, or any of that sort of nonsense. If you get the Brutes worked up, it’s going to be a mess, do you understand?”
“I… understand,” Talia answered slowly.
“It’s all nonsense anyway,” Cataleb muttered. “I can shut up about it being nonsense for a while, fine.”
“Good. Now.” Meshron’s arm moved to an affectionate position around Cataleb’s shoulders. “Let’s go get breakfast, all of us, like a good Impulsive House, why don’t we?”
“As you say,” Talia muttered. It was a bit awkward, heading off to the lunch line, all of them sharing glances.
Des hadn’t thought they were making that much of a scene – if he were being honest, he thought Meshron and Helinna had made more of a scene than Cataleb and Talia – but for some reason, they’d crossed into don’t-ask territory again.
He wondered what would happen when they crossed into don’t-ask territory around an adult, a teacher or one of the testers, instead of around one of the older students. He had a feeling, with the group they had, he would find out soon. Kayey or Wesley or Talia – or Cataleb – would probably find that limit before the day was over.
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