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Desmond's Climb: Collar Rapport!
First: Slaves, School
Previous: Collar Rapport?

After the relatively unhelpful Communing with your Collar class, they were shepherded into the dining hall for lunch. Today there were Blue people at the food station. Desmond felt like he was being measured up by all of them - a lanky person with sandy hair and pallid skin, a round person with darker skin and reddish hair, and a smiling-bright person covered in freckles with their blonde hair cut very short. Even the smiling one seemed to be judging him.

“Desmond,” he offered. The first two ignored him, except to ask what sort of lunch he wanted. The smiling one bobbed a curtsy.

“Ailia. This is my third year. And I hear you’re the one that was last in?”

“Yeah.” He looked off to the side, then decided he should stop being stupid and looked back to Ailia. “So, uh, Communing with Collar class…?”

Ailia made a face. “Just uh, think about math or something boring if you have to.” The advice was conveyed in a soft whisper. “Or even like… other students. You’re gonna have to work out your collar on your own time. I don’t know why that person is still in charge of that class. I imagine blackmail or bribery. Maybe both. Good luck. What we did, we spent some time every night in the dorm coming up with things to ask our collars, and going around in circles doing that. It’s - well, your collar is a person. Just remember that.”

That was the best advice he’d gotten so far. Desmond gave Ailia a broad, happy smile and thanked her not once but three times. Only when Jefshan nudged him with her tray did he remember to move along.

“Do you think… Well, do you think that there is dating between collared people?” Desmond muttered to Jefshan.

“I don’t know, but I bet we could ask Meshron. We’d get a lecture, but it might be a useful lecture.”

“Or we could ask one of the teachers. I’m sure somebody would have something useful to tell us, tucked in there around all of the lectures. And the frowning. And the goop.” Desmond rubbed his hands on his pants. He was never going to get the feeling out.

“Oh, you had goop, too? Ick, isn’t that the worst?” Jefshan wrinkled her nose. “Can you imagine being out on a mission somewhere and messing up and ending up leaking goop all over your clients?”

Desmond hadn’t even thought of that until Jefshan mentioned it. Does that…? He was picturing it, now, dripping and miserable and the clients - who looked like High Street people in their perfect clothes - glaring at him.

::That gets better pretty quickly. It’s an artifact of, um, well, collar rapport connection issues? To start with?:: If the collar’d had tone of voice, it probably would have sounded sheepish.

“So in other words, I have to-” Desmond coughed. “Sorry, collar.”

“I think we’re all used to that, no matter what that awful professor said. I mean, some of us, our collars don’t really get all that talkative, but maybe that’ll change. Or maybe it’s like people, some people don’t like talking much?”

::Little of one, little of the other,:: Desmond’s collar opined.

“Sometimes, maybe? So… the splashing is supposed to get better?”

“Once we work more comfortably with our collars. So uh. We need better rapport and I get this feeling we’re not getting it from classes. Maybe what your new friend there offered. Maybe we just sit around the room talking to our collars.”

“No thanks.” Cataleb hadn’t been invited to this conversation, but that, of course, didn’t stop them from butting in. “I can think of a thousand things I’d rather be doing than talking to my collar.”

“Then you don’t have to participate.” Jefshan’s tone was chilly.

“What, and sit around listening to the rest of you? Then mine will want to join in and talk my ear off. No thanks.” Cataleb made a face, nose wrinkled and mouth twisted.

“Those are your options, yes. Participate or don’t. You could, of course, go somewhere else.” Jefshan appeared entirely immune to Cataleb-face. Maybe she had younger sisters.

“You’re kicking me out now? Nice.”

Jefshan rolled her eyes. “No. I am saying that your lack of interest in an activity does not mean that the whole dorm will ignore that activity. Some of us want to do well here. Some of us want to succeed.”

“I don’t know why. They’re sucking up poor kids and using them to power their empire. How is that anything you want to participate in?”

“Because,” Jefshan answered, with the sort of calm that sounded like a storm was on the horizon, “this is the option I have. I haven’t been given any other options, and it’s not like we have a choice to leave anyway. So since I’m stuck here, I want to do well here. IF you don’t, then kindly get out of my way so that I can.”

“And what if I want to stay in your way?” Cataleb’s chin stuck out in a way that reminded Desmond of a five-year-old.

“Why would you want that?” Jefshan was still trying to be reasonable. Desmond was beginning to think that was a lost cause with Cataleb, but if she could get somewhere, more power to her.

“Because you’re all being stupid.“ Cataleb’s glare was not doing anything to make them look less like a child. “You’re just going along like, like sheep with this plan they have for you, and you’re not asking any questions and you’re not fighting back.”

“Who, exactly,” Desmond should probably have let Jefshan handle it, but he butted in anyway, “do you think isn’t asking questions? I mean, aside from you? We’re asking questions. We’re finding answers. And if you’d shut up long enough to listen-”

“Desmond.” Jefshan put a hand on Desmond’s chest. “It’s all right. Let Cataleb think what thought they will. It doesn’t change what we’re doing. We’re not actually going to let Cataleb interfere with us learning. I’ve dealt with younger siblings before, and I believe there’s a closet near our dorm. If we have to fold Cataleb in half, I’m pretty sure we can fit them into that closet. And then with your force-fields, you can keep them in there, right?”

Des had no idea if Jefshan actually meant to go through with this plan or not. “Sure. That’s easy. And I don’t think Cataleb here was paying attention during portal class…”

“Fine!” Cataleb huffed at both of them. “If you want to be idiots, be idiots. See if I care!”

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