Author’s Note: So… it’s interesting adding new content to stuff that’s been finished for a while. I have been extending some random quotes into larger pieces, parts of the Collector’s training, but I don’t really have an audience for them since I’ve already “completed” this story.
This particular section was done to explore his physiology as a Collector and the effect that has on him, but I fear the first part is too confusing…
Also, please enjoy the divider art created by the other half of the Kabobbles team. It is quite nice, and separates the scenes rather well, doesn’t it?
Everywhere all over him, crawling and claiming and drowning. He couldn’t get free. He was caught in the memories and he would never get free. They had him. He was dying. Drowning. He had been swimming, but he did not know how to swim. He did not know water. He hated water.
This wasn’t water.
Where was he? He felt so strange. He was caught, so tangled up and twisted. He did not feel as he should. He hated this. He could see things, hear voices, but they are not his and not ones he knows—but they are. He knew they were. He’d been in the memories. He knew them from the memories. He knew all of their lives.
“You love me. You know you love me.”
“No! I never loved you! Let me go!”
The pain, the pain, so much pain. He could feel it. He could still feel it, but it wasn’t his. It couldn’t be his. The pain belonged to the woman, but he was not a woman. He didn’t understand. He could not hurt like this…
The son, being held by his father. “This is your legacy. Do you understand? Do you know what all of this is? What we have built for you?”
“We’re rich, aren’t we?”
The father laughed. He embraced his son, pleased with the young child’s comprehension. “No one is poor anymore, but we have much more than most do.”
Not his father. He didn’t have a father. He was born of the vat, and he never knew a father or a family. He did not have anyone. He was alone. Alone and drowning and…
There was blood. He can smell its strange odor, can watch it cross the floor and drip down the side of the steps. Drip, drop, the color was wrong, and he was wrong about everything. No murders had been committed in centuries, and he knew that. He was too far back in the memories.
No. Wait. The blood belonged to someone with Rashon heritage. That was why the color was wrong. No. They lied. They said no murders, but the Rashon were still hated, and they had killed this one because he carried that legacy within him.
Murder. He could feel the pain, that fear, that outrage. He had been killed, but he was not dead. He did not understand. He did not see this. He did see this. He felt strange, so strange…
“Who gave him a sedative? Don’t you know better than that? He is not like other children.”
“He was trying to escape. He was violent and abusive. He had to be restrained. He might have done harm to himself or someone else.”
“He is a Collector. He cannot be drugged.” That voice he knew, and not from the memories. The trainer. “Yes, that’s it, young one. Listen to my voice, let me guide you out of the memories now.”
“He’s not in the memories, though. He’d look different if he was.”
“He’s trapped between the two worlds, and he might not come back thanks to you. Never sedate a Collector. Now go. You will be dealt with.”
The boy moaned, trying to fight the tendrils. He couldn’t get free. They were dragging him under again, and he no longer heard the trainer. He could hear nothing. All he could feel was pain. He thought he smelled something, but nothing was real here.
Everything was real.
He didn’t know what this was. He didn’t know where he was. He was sick. Must be sick. He could not be sick. He could not feel pain. No, that was a lie. He didn’t know what was happening. He wanted the tendrils to let him go.
They would never let him go.
He would never be free.
“Open your eyes. Do you know where you are?”
“No. Yes. No.”
The trainer gave the boy a small smile. “I know you are upset, but you must try and sit up. Physical movement will help reorient you to this world, help you find your way again. You have been dealing with a lot of images, haven’t you?”
The boy swore that he could still feel the tendrils. He shuddered, pulling his legs up against his chest and cursing when he bumped the nodule on his side. The trainer frowned. “Language.”
“I’d say a lot worse. I hate you.”
“I did warn you what would happen if you tried to escape. I told you it was an ill-advised decision. I tried to stop you, but you would not be stopped. You had to try and leave. You know the consequences of your actions now.”
“What, torture? You can torture me and pretend that it is nothing?”
“It was not torture. The guard made a mistake. You are not supposed to leave, and for most people, a sedative is a suitable deterrent. You are not like most people. Your body reacted unfavorably to the sedative—something the guard should have known—and the drug blurred the lines between your reality and the memories, between your past and the truth. You could not tell the difference between the realm of the memories and your own world.”
The boy looked at the trainer, still shivering. “Was… Was any of it real?”
“I cannot be certain. I had to draw you out, and you were quite resistant.”
“I do not remember that.”
“You would not,” the trainer said, sitting down next to him. “The doctors say that you are well enough physically. Your training is expected to resume—”
“No! No, you can’t—I don’t want to go back in the memories. I won’t go back in the memories, not ever. I won’t. You can’t make me. That was… It was…”
“You were frightened.”
He drew his knees tighter against his chest. He tried to keep himself calm, but his body would not stop with the shaking and shuddering. His mind kept going back to the things he’d seen, and he felt the tendrils pulling at him. “Am I not allowed to feel fear, either? Is that it? Must I always be like one of the robots and obey all commands without thought or emotion?”
“You brought this fear and upset upon yourself. You were warned.”
“You are… punishing me?”
The trainer adjusted his robe. “You know the rules. You have been told of our guidelines from the day you were born.”
“I was not born. I was engineered.”
“True, but the principle is the same. You knew the rules, yet you chose to attempt escape. You must learn to live with the consequences of your actions.” The trainer rose, and the boy stared after him. He was about to be left alone, and that was what he wanted—most of the time. Not now. No, not now.
“We have no training to do today. You need to recover.”
“No! No, you don’t understand,” the boy said, shaking his head, rising from the bed. “You can’t leave me alone with the tendrils. They’ll pull me in and under, and I’ll drown all over again. I can feel them. I don’t know how to get away. Please.”
The trainer stopped at the door. “The drugs are gone. You are in no further danger. Your training will resume when you are in a fit state to proceed.”
“You… You don’t care about me at all, do you? How can you walk away when I ask you not to, when I beg you not to? I know I have been difficult, but I am scared, and I don’t want to be alone. Please.”
“You may be a child, but you are also a Collector. You must be able to overcome whatever you experience in the memories, and you brought this fear upon yourself. It would not be proper for me to indulge you when you knowingly broke the rules. We are held to higher standards, and we must be. You cannot escape your own actions.”
The boy bit his lip. “If you would have let me see the world, I wouldn’t have tried to escape. I tried asking. You wouldn’t let me. Now you tell me it is all my fault and I should suffer because your rules are intolerable?”
The trainer shook his head. “When you are told no, that does not give you the right to go against it. You have had a lesson, whether you like it or not. You must learn from it.”
He turned, stepping through the door. It closed behind him, and the boy sat back down on the bed, shuddering as the tendrils tugged at him. He tried not to cry. If they wanted to make him a robot, then he’d act like one. He would.
Being a robot had to be better than being a Collector.