Author’s Note: I’m sharing this as incentive to keep me working on my edits.
Back to the beginning, sort of, with the Collector’s training.
“The world is founded on one basic principle—you cannot hide what you have done. This echo you leave behind, in this moment, will always carry with it the truth of your actions and what you have done, what you have felt, and what you intend to do now,” the trainer said as he led the boy out onto the balcony, showing him the city.
The boy studied it for a long time. It seemed to come up from the clouds, a shimmering land of pale cream towers, each a different height, jutting up from the ground, separated from each other by vast courtyards of marble with a few pieces of intha in between. He knew that there were many more colors mixed in and blended among the cream, but he could not really pick them out from where he stood. He wanted to. He wanted to see so much more than this. From up here, the people seemed tiny, small blurs of blue mixed with other colors as they hurried about their days. Occasionally, the light glinted off something metal, reminding him that the machines were among them as well, robots that had very nearly come into their own sentience. These machines were helpers and some considered them… friends. Yet they were not allowed on their own.
Like him. He was like a machine to them, that was all. They would give him orders, tell him to listen to the trainer, and they expected him to do it as mindlessly as the robots followed their programming.
Though he knew it was rare for them to be outside, and he wanted to see more of the people and things that were real, he turned away from the trainer and walked toward the door.
“Where are you going, child?”
“I do not see what you want me to see. I refuse to see it. I want to go out there, to be down in the city. I do not want to watch. I do not want to stay here—and I do not care about your stupid memories! What good are memories to anyone? They’re not… They’re not real.”
“The memories are forever. They have always been, and they will always be,” the trainer said, and the boy looked back at him, folding his arms over his chest. He did not care. He was sick of looking at things but never touching them, hearing them but never speaking to them, seeing emotions but never feeling them, not for himself. “It was the Collectors that came later. Their true nature and importance was misunderstood at first.”
“I do not want a history lesson! I do not want another lesson at all! All you ever do is talk or drag me into the memories, and that is not living! The world is out there! It is not in our minds.”
“That is not true. It is both.”
The boy shook his head, but his trainer caught hold of his arm before he could return inside. “Have you learned nothing from what I’ve taught you? Do you still fail to understand what you really are?”
“I know what I am! I am a prisoner and a slave! You give it a fancy name, you make it sound better than what it is, but it is still slavery! It is not collecting anything. It is watching. Always watching. Endless watching. Answering questions that other people ask. Doing what I am told. Always what I’m told and never what I want. Never what those people out there are doing.”
“They are not like you. You are special.”
“This is special? Then I do not want to be special! I want to be normal and ordinary and free.”
The trainer shook his head. “That is not possible. You are a Collector. You will always be unique. You more so than any of the others—you are the last, and you are unlike any that has come before you. That makes you all the more valuable.”
“No,” the boy corrected coldly. “It just makes me a prisoner. Forever.”