Two days later I again waylaid Marc on his way to his Konjässi’s room, and was delighted to see that this time he was fully dressed. And as soon as he saw me he flung himself into my arms and kissed me.
“I don’t know how you did it,” he said, “but whatever it was, it worked. Rusta got me on his own a couple of days ago and asked why I’d had the skin cut off, and when I told him he just said ‘I see’ and walked away. And then yesterday he told everyone they should stop using me as their slave because I didn’t deserve that, and that I wasn’t the failure he’d said I was before. Some of them weren’t very happy, and a couple argued quite a lot, but Rusta is dorm leader and in the end everyone had to go along with it.
“Then last night Marlo got me on my own and tried to make me suck his thing, only Rusta came in and caught him. And Marlo got stripped and strapped the way they used to do it to me. So now everyone in the dorm knows that Rusta was serious about them leaving me alone. I think I’ll be okay from now on.”
“Great!” I said. “But if you do have any more problems, come and find me.”
Marc went on his way, and I went and found Rusta and said ‘Thanks’ to him.
“No problem. Now I’ve talked to him a bit I think he’s a nice kid, actually. I’ll make sure he’s okay from now on.”
“What about Radu?”
“I’ve told his dorm leader to leave him alone, too. I’ll go and make sure it’s happening in a day or so.”
So at least that problem had apparently been resolved, I thought.
Over the next two or three weeks I met some of Harlan’s colleagues. This wasn’t a lot of fun because each of them wanted to try forcing me to do something, and I already knew how unpleasant it could be when someone else took control of my body. The first one was brutally efficient, but at least didn’t make me do anything worse than stand up, walk around the room and then sit down again. The second one took a few seconds to get a grip, and I thought I was going to be able to resist. But then he clamped down and took over, and he made me jump up and down and then bend over, at which he kicked my bum hard enough to knock me onto the floor.
The third was a little weedy kid that I thought I’d be able to resist easily, which just goes to show that you should never judge by appearances. I was even stupid enough to make a rude remark when he came in (what I actually said was “What’s this little weed doing here?”). The shrimp then demonstrated what he was doing here my making me strip naked and run up and down the corridor outside Harlan’s room until I was too tired to keep going, at which he allowed me to return to the room, though not to get dressed.
“I apologise,” I said, once I was able to speak again. “You’re good.”
“He is, isn’t he?” said Harlan, grinning at me. “This is my cousin Terraxian ved Merlian of the Clan of the Founder, but you can call him Terry.”
“Bloody hell, if I’d known he was related to you I’d have kept my mouth shut!” I commented.
“You’re mouthy, for a slave,” commented Terry.
“He is, isn’t he?” agreed Harlan, grinning some more. “What do you reckon we should do to him, Terry?”
“Well, we could seal his lips for a day or two.”
“Wow, could you do that without glue or something?” I asked. “You could just force me to keep my mouth shut for two days? Wouldn’t your instructions wear off if you didn’t keep repeating them?”
“Not if we do it properly,” said Harlan. “Of course, you’d get pretty hungry if you couldn’t open your mouth for two days, so perhaps it would be better to freeze your vocals cords instead. Or we could just beat you in relays for a few hours, but that would get tiring.”
“I think beating him would be fun,” said Terry. “And he definitely wouldn’t be rude to me again if I whipped him a couple of hundred times.”
I was feeling pretty nervous by now, but then Harlan told me to sit down on the bed and sat down beside me, putting his arm round my shoulders.
“It’s my fault if he’s a bit too talkative,” he said. “I like talking to him – he’s not really like any other slave. So we shouldn’t be too cruel to him.”
“We shouldn’t spoil him, either,” said Terry. “Still, if he’s generally a good slave I suppose we could let him off…”
“Thanks, Terry,” I said. “I swear I’ll never be rude to you again.”
“If you are you’ll be sorry, because I’m going to go away now and think of hundreds of super-brilliant tortures to try on you, and when I do I’ll use them all, one after the other. And I won’t even let you scream – you’ll just have to lie there and suffer!” And he put his tongue out at me.
“Don’t worry, Jake,” said Harlan. “I won’t let him go overboard with you. And if he does I’ll hold him down and you can spank him.”
“That’d be fun!” I said.
“Try it and see what happens!”
“Jake, would you like to go and get that piece of equipment out of my cupboard?” said Harlan. “Then you can spank my stroppy little cousin if you want.”
“Come near me and I’ll make you pull your own balls off!” threatened Terry.
I went to the cupboard and put the metal band on my head, and Terry promptly started to panic.
“That’s not fair!” he yelled. “Come on, Harlan, you can’t let him do that!”
“Try to stop him,” advised Harlan, and Terry’s face screwed up as he tried to force his will past the metal. Once more I felt something, but it wasn’t doing any good. I advanced on him, trying to look threatening.
“Why don’t you both try stopping me at once?” I suggested. “If you can combine your efforts it might be enough to get through.”
They looked at each other and then I felt more futile tickling. I kept advancing until I was able to grab Terry, who shrank away from me looking nervous… but then I let go of him.
“Why don’t you try… you know, like you did with me that time?” I said to Harlan. “If one of you tries to stop me and the other acts as a fuel tank, maybe you’ll have enough power.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked Terry.
“I’ll tell you later, but I think he’s right. Just relax completely – I’m going to try borrowing some of your mental energy.”
Terry looked as if he wanted to argue, but instead he closed his mouth again. Harlan took his hand and stared at me. And this time I could definitely feel something – it was like insects buzzing round my head and occasionally flying into the front of the metal band. It wasn’t going to stop me, but I was aware that they were trying.
I decided it had been worth giving them the idea – even if they had been able to stop me it would have been worth it, just to see what their limits were. As it was I now knew that even working in pairs they wouldn’t be able to stop one of us if we were equipped with metal bands. They kept it up for quite a long time, but it didn’t make any difference.
“That seems to be better,” I said. “I’m definitely aware of you trying, even though it’s still not getting through. I think if you practise like that and get used to working together you might develop enough power in the end.”
“See?” said Harlan to his cousin. “Now you know why I treat Jake better than the average slave – he’s clever, and he comes up with helpful ideas. Shall we let him get dressed now?”
“I don’t think so,” said Terry. “I like keeping slaves naked – that way they don’t forget their place and start getting lippy. Besides, Jake’s got a funny-looking cock.”
“I bet it’s bigger than yours, though,” I said.
“Well, obviously it is – I’m only eleven. And you’re being mouthy again – take that band off and I’ll show you what happens to mouthy slaves.”
“No, thanks. I’m happy to wait until you’ve dreamed up all those super-brilliant tortures you were talking about – that should take about ten years, I should think.”
“I can think of plenty right now.”
“Too bad, I’m not taking it off.”
“You wait – I’ll catch you outside this room sometime when you’re not wearing it, and then you’ll be sorry.”
He was grinning while he said it, and I was confident that he didn’t really mean it, and in any case I thought Harlan wouldn’t want me damaged. But I still thought it might be sensible to stop teasing him.
“Do you think you could combine with more than one other person?” I asked Harlan. “If three or four of you could sort of link together it would probably make you stronger than all of you acting individually. Maybe if we’re really going to do that expedition you could start practising with the ones who will be coming with us, and then we can go on practising all through the holiday. By the time we get back, maybe metal won’t be a problem any more.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked Terry.
“We might be going on a trip in the summer. I was going to ask you to come anyway, since you’re family, but I haven’t asked my father for permission yet, so we might not be able to do it. Still, since the subject has come up I might as well go and sound out a couple of my colleagues. You two stay here – Jake, tell Terry about the portals and about the Greys.”
So I sat on the bed beside Terry – without asking permission – and told him the basics, about how we had been travelling with three reptilian boys, and about what portals were and how they worked.
“And Harlan wants to see if he can control the Greys,” I finished. “That’s why we’re thinking about going to Europe. And since the Greys will probably be in this hot, sunny country we visited, Harlan thought we might as well have a holiday on the beach at the same time. He’s taking me and my friends to do all the work, and you and a couple of others to help keep us under control.”
“Then I want to take control of you personally – I’ll spank you every day unless you behave!”
“I’d like to see you try!”
He grinned and grabbed me, pulling me onto the floor and trying to pin me down. I was handicapped by still being naked, but I was bigger than him and soon ended up on top. And then he did something that Harlan didn’t do when we were wrestling: he got an arm free and knocked the band off my head.
“Hey, that’s cheating!” I cried, freezing.
“So? You’re bigger than me, so it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. Now, stand up!”
I couldn’t feel anything, so I stayed where I was.
“I’ll do it by force if you make me,” he warned me. “I’m just being nice to you at the moment. Now stand up.”
“You know what?” I said to him. “I think you’re too tired. Harlan was really trying hard just now, and I know from when he did that with me how exhausting it is. Okay, you can probably withstand it longer than me, but I still reckon you’re too tired to force me. Go on, prove me wrong!”
He glared at me. “You just wait five minutes!” he said.
“Thought so. Come on, I’m not going to fight you while you’re too tired. I’m not a bully.”
I got up and helped him to his feet, and then we sat on the bed once more.
“You’re strange,” he said to me. “Pretty much any of the other slaves I’ve used would have beaten me up if they caught me like this.”
“I’m not any of the other slaves. I don’t mind wrestling with you, but not until you’ve recovered. But please may I get dressed while we’re waiting?”
“No,” he said, grinning at me. “I like you being naked. And why is your cock like that, anyway?”
“Because I’m Jewish. My foreskin was removed when I was a week old – all Jewish boys have it done. It’s called circumcision.”
“I thought that was just some old religion from ages back, and that it was only people from West Asia somewhere who followed it?”
“In my world there are Jews all over the world. I come from the country Harlan calls U-Pretannia, and where I used to live in the capital city there are thousands of us.”
“You’re really from a different world? I thought you were making up all that stuff about portals just to see how gullible I am.”
“No, it’s real, and I’m surprised Harlan hasn’t told you. We really don’t come from this world at all, which is probably why I don’t know how slaves are supposed to behave.”
“I could teach you!” he offered, smiling broadly.
“Yes, I’m sure you could. Do you torture all your slaves?”
“Not really. But most of them are so wet they deserve to get hurt.”
“And yet you’re complaining about me being too mouthy. How do you want your slaves to behave?”
“Well, they should be obedient, but they shouldn’t act terrified all the time.”
“But can’t you understand how it is for an ordinary boy like me to be faced with a Konjässi like you? In about five minutes’ time, unless I put the band back on, you’d be able to make me do anything you want, even though you’re at least two years younger than me and even more weedy than I am. That really is scary, Terry. Imagine how you would feel if you were exhausted and I was wearing a band on my head and had the power to force you to do anything I want. Wouldn’t you be scared?”
He shrugged. “It’s hard to imagine, because I’m a Konjässi, and we’re different. Why haven’t you got dressed yet?”
“Because you said I couldn’t.”
“Yes, but I couldn’t stop you, could I?”
“I know, but I’m still a slave, and slaves are supposed to obey their masters. Besides, if I did get dressed you’d only force me to strip again as soon as you got your breath back.”
“No, I won’t. Go on, you can get dressed.”
So I did that, and once I was dressed I picked up the band from the floor and put it back in Harlan’s cupboard.
“You could have put it back on, and then you’d have been safe,” he commented as I returned to the bed and sat down.
“Slaves aren’t supposed to be safe. And if you ordered me to take it off I’d have to, or you’d really punish me later.”
“You really are strange – most slaves would… all right, I know, you’re not like most slaves. So, tell me the truth: do you like my cousin?”
“Yes, I do. He scares me sometimes, but I suppose that’s just because I know what he can do. I think he’s nice, and I’m trying to be a friend as well as a good slave.”
“A friend? Someone like you can’t be friends with someone like us!”
“Well, because… we’re so different: we can do so much and you can do so little – why would one of us want to be friends with one of you?”
“Well, that’s what I thought, too. But Harlan says he thinks we can be sort of friends. Not like you and him are friends, obviously, but still… After all, don’t you ever get lonely? You’re surrounded by kids so far below you that we’re like a different species, and you can’t relate to them – and yet you Konjässiem all have to shield your thoughts from each other. You must sometimes want to have someone to talk to, even if it’s only a slave you can trust.”
“Well… yes, I suppose that is true sometimes. I mean, I can’t even trust Harlan really, because we’re from different branches of the same family and there are political differences – if my father was Chancellor he’d do things differently from the way Harlan’s father does them. But it isn’t safe to confide in a slave – any of us could retrieve the information easily from inside a slave’s head.”
“I suppose so. But you wouldn’t have to tell your slave anything important, just tell him how you’re feeling and why, and if you’re unhappy he can sort of hold you and make you feel better.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll show you.”
I got him to lie on the bed and then I lay down beside him, put my arms around him and tried to project feelings of warmth and support, though apparently I didn’t get it quite right.
“You pity me?” he said, sitting up and staring at me.
“Well, not exactly. But I do feel kind of sorry for you – it’s difficult being so powerful, because it makes it so hard for you to have real friends.”
“But wouldn’t you like to be able to do the things we can do?”
“Not if it cost me my friends.”
“You really are unbelievably strange! But… I’m starting to see why Harlan likes you. Maybe I won’t bother thinking up hundreds of tortures for you after all.”
Harlan came back with two of his colleagues, one of whom I’d already met earlier that morning, and they spent the rest of the time until lunch trying to co-operate and to join their power together to defeat my metal band. They didn’t succeed, but they did produce a sort of humming in my head that was faintly uncomfortable.
“If you work on it, I think you’re going to get there,” I said as we went to lunch. “You’ve got plenty of power between you; you just need to find a way to use all of it at once and focus it.”
Of course I would be happier if they didn’t manage to break through, but knowing that it would take all four of them to get past one metal band was nonetheless encouraging: there were, after all, eight of us as well as the three Greys (and if we caught up with them in Vogesia we could probably expect help from Eddie and his friends as well), so unless Harlan was going to bring around forty colleagues with him they’d never be able to handle all of us, provided I could find enough metal bands to go around. And I thought it highly unlikely that Harlan could mount an expedition that large.
During this period Harlan continued to allow me and Stefan to spend time together, and as before he permitted us some time on our own in exchange for being allowed to sit in on some of our activities, during which he would connect to one or other of us mentally in order to experience what we were feeling. Stefan still wasn’t very keen about it, but I thought it a reasonable price to pay for being able to spend time together. And on one occasion when Harlan wasn’t with us I brought up the subject of metal.
“I don’t know what sort of supervision you have at work,” I said, “but there must be metal around in a garage. We need as much as you can find, preferably stuff that’s thin enough to be cut and bent into shape. If we’re going to get everyone along on this expedition I’d like as many of us as possible to be protected by metal when the time comes. We’ll get Oli to carry it somehow: they can’t penetrate his mind anyway, so he won’t give away that he’s carrying it. You and I will have to do our absolute best not to think about it, and it would be best not to tell anyone else about it until we get back to the portal.”
“Do you really think they’ll let us all come?” he asked. “If it was me I’d make sure at least half of us were kept here, starting with me. That way they’ll think the rest of you will behave. But if that does happen you have to get away with as many as come with you. If you miss the chance, probably none of us will ever get away. Better three or four make it than nobody.”
“I’m not going without you,” I said, flatly. “How do you think I’d be able to live with myself if I got back to Elsass but knew that you were going to be a slave for the rest of your life?”
“No, Stefi,” I interrupted. “I’m not going without you, and that’s the end of it. If I get a chance to send Alain and Oli back, or Radu and Marc, or Tommi and Nicky, or even all six of them, I will, but if you’re kept here I’m coming back for you, and that’s all there is to it.”
Of course I was just digging myself further into a hole here, because I’d already decided I couldn’t betray Harlan, and that meant I’d be asking Stefan to go and leave me behind, something I thought he’d be no more inclined to do than I would be to leave him behind. But I decided I’d worry about that when the time came.
“And now let’s just make the most of being on our own,” I went on. “I don’t know how long Harlan’s going to give us, so we’d better get on with it. Let’s get these stupid clothes out of the way, for a start.”
So we got undressed and climbed into Harlan’s bed, and there we held each other, kissing now and again and rubbing our bodies against each other – and I was just about to wriggle down into the bed and say hello to Stefan’s special part when the door opened and Harlan came in – and today he was not alone.
“Ah, it’s the lippiest slave in the school,” commented Terry.
“Hello, shrimp,” I replied. “You’re not staying, are you?”
“Yes, I am. Now introduce me to your friend.”
“Stefi, this is Harlan’s cousin Terry,” I said. “Terry, this is Stefan. Right, you’ve been introduced – you can go now.”
“You’re being cheeky again,” he told me. “Can I whip him, Harlan?”
“Not right now. You and I are just going to shut up and let them get on with it Jake, is it okay if we ride along with you while you get each other excited?”
“What do you mean, ‘Is it okay’?” asked Terry in astonishment. “They’re slaves – you don’t ask permission to do something from slaves! You order them to do it, and that’s it!”
“Not in this case. You already know Jake’s different – and, besides, you can’t force two boys to do sex stuff if you want to find out how it feels for them, because if you force them they won’t enjoy it and you won’t get the benefit. When Jake and Stefan are together something special happens, and we’ll only get to share it if they let us. So, may we, Jake? Please?”
In reality I couldn’t say no – Harlan might not punish me directly, but it would put a chill on our relationship for a bit, and I needed him to be sympathetic if I was going to persuade him to take all of us on his expedition. Besides, I was fairly sure Terry was right: slaves didn’t normally get treated as gently as Harlan treated me.
“Of course you can,” I said, ignoring Stefan’s stifled groan. “But try to keep quiet and be gentle in my head – it’ll work best if we aren’t constantly aware that you’re with us.”
“We’ll sit back from the bed and keep quiet,” promised Harlan, and he got up and moved the chairs halfway across the room.
“Do we have to put up with this?” asked Stefan.
“Probably. But if we give them a good show and they get a kick out of it, it’s far more likely that they’ll let us both come on the expedition.”
“Well, I suppose so. But it feels perverted to me.”
“It’s worth it if it helps us get away from here together, though – isn’t it?”
“Of course.” And he smiled at me and kissed me, and we tried to forget the audience, and gradually we relaxed. And it helped that we were actually under the covers and so not visible, even though mentally we were wide open.
For the next half hour we cuddled and handled each other, and finally we took it in turns to suck each other, and there were audible gasps and moans from across the room as we climaxed. And afterwards they came back and sat on the edge of the bed, and they were both breathing heavily.
“That was pretty amazing,” admitted Terry. “It was almost like actually having it done myself, only better in a way because the emotions were so positive. When I make slaves do it to me it’s usually pretty obvious that they don’t like doing it, so I have to block out what they’re thinking and just concentrate on the physical feelings. But that – that was what sex should feel like, I think.”
For a moment that seemed like a rather ridiculous thing for an eleven-year-old to say, but I supposed that these boys learned about sex a lot faster than ordinary kids like me.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” I said. “We certainly did.”
“I could tell. I’d like to be able to sit in on that again, Harlan, if it’s okay?”
“I should think so.”
At the end of that week Harlan told me he was going back to Sanöve for the weekend to see his father and to ask permission to mount our expedition.
“Do you think he’ll say yes?” I asked.
“Probably. It would be a useful learning experience, even if we don’t find your reptiles. Controlling slaves over a long period outside the confines of the school is something we all have to practise, and a trip to the German border would be a perfect challenge. I should think my father will certainly be willing. Anyway, I’ll be gone for a couple of days – it’s quite a long journey – so while I’m gone I want you to stay with Terry. It’ll do you good to see how another of us operates. And you’d better behave – you know Terry thinks I spoil you, and I’m pretty sure he won’t do the same. And don’t underestimate him because he’s younger than me – he’s probably at least as good as I was a year ago.”
“Okay. Do I sleep in his room, or should I go back to the dormitory – assuming I even still have a bed there, that it?”
“That’ll be up to him. All you have to do is to behave yourself and do what Terry tells you to and you’ll be fine. I should be back by Monday, but if I’m not you’re to stay with Terry until I do get back, okay?”
Harlan took me to Terry’s room after lunch on the Friday and left me with him, and then he headed off towards the station. I did ask why he didn’t fly, and he told me that there was very little civilian flying in this world except for very long distance journeys, and those were prohibitively expensive.
“So,” said Terry, once Harlan had left, “I’ve got the mouthiest slave in the school to play with for a couple of days. You’d better behave while you’re with me, Jake, because I won’t put up with your stroppy behaviour the way my cousin does. Now, I’m going to get on with some work with another slave. You can watch, but keep quiet and don’t interfere. Go and stand over there out of the way.”
I did as he told me, standing at the foot of the bed, while he continued to do something on his computer. Five minutes later there was a knock at the door and a young slave came in. He had the mousy brown hair of the Republic, and I supposed that Terry found it easier to work with slaves who had the same native language as he did.
The rest of that afternoon was a complete eye-opener. So far I had only seen glimpses of the way other Konjässiem worked with the slaves, but I was about to see something far more typical than what I had experienced myself.
“I’m going to try to take control of your body,” Terry told the slave. “I want you to try to fight me off – resist as hard as you can. If you succeed in keeping me out I’ll get you exempt from duties for a week. Ready? Go!”
Within thirty seconds it was clear that Terry was controlling the boy, who was made to slap himself hard in the face and then walk briskly into the wall. For maybe ten minutes Terry made the boy hurt himself, pulling his own hair and punching himself in the balls, which had him writhing on the floor straight afterwards. I stared appalled at what was happening, but at least I had the sense not to intervene – though if it had been one of my friends instead of an unknown boy being used as a puppet I don’t think I could have restrained myself.
At the end of ten minutes or so Terry ordered the boy to lie on the bed and then told him, presumably with mental back-up to the spoken order, to forget what had happened during the previous few minutes. The slave got up, looking dazed but generally okay, and Terry dismissed him.
“Did you have to make him hurt himself like that?” I asked, once he had gone.
“Obviously. Look, Jake, we’re trying to practise control here, and the only way to find out if you have full control is to make the subject do something he otherwise wouldn’t. Punching yourself in the nuts is something nobody would do if they had a choice, so it’s a good test. And now he won’t remember doing it, and once the ache wears off he’ll be fine. Not all of us bother with the memory wipe, but we’re supposed to if the slave is likely to get traumatised – slaves cost money, after all, so we don’t want them going off their head and killing themselves.
“And if you think that was harsh… come with me.”
I followed him along the corridor to the room of one of the other Konjässiem I’d met previously when they had tried to combine with Harlan to defeat the metal band. We arrived to find him alone.
“Hello, Terry,” he said. “I’m just waiting for my second subject. What can I do for you?”
“I want Jake here to see you in action,” Terry told him. “He doesn’t seem to realise what we’re about.”
“Really? Okay, then – just keep him out of my way.”
This time the slave was slightly older, and when the Konjässi started by ordering him to strip I thought this experiment was going to be sexual in nature.
“No, it isn’t,” said Terry, quietly, accurately seeing what I was thinking. “Dervoran just doesn’t want to get blood on the boy’s clothes – it has a negative effect on the other slaves he might meet later. Now shut up and watch.”
At first there didn’t seem to be anything to watch, but then the slave started to tremble, and then he got a nosebleed, and then he fell on the floor and started to thrash about. I stared in horror, but the moment I opened my mouth to protest Terry clamped me and I couldn’t speak.
The slave jerked about in convulsions for a few more seconds, fouling himself and losing control of his bladder in the process, and then Dervoran released him and he lay still.
“Go and get some cleaning materials and clean the floor,” he ordered me. “Terry, give me a hand getting him into the shower.”
I ran off to the cleaning cupboard while the two Konjässiem dragged the slave in the direction of the shower-room. By the time I got the mess on the floor cleaned up they had revived him, and he managed to walk back through the door into the bedroom, though he was leaning on Dervoran and didn’t look completely aware of where he was. They helped him to get dressed again and then parked him on the bed for five minutes to recover, and after that he was able to walk again unsupported. Dervoran dismissed him and turned to me.
“You didn’t like seeing that, did you?” he said.
I shook my head.
“Well, you’ll have to get used to it. He was lucky I hadn’t got him signed off by the senior instructor or he’d be leaving here feet first.”
“What do you mean, ‘signed off’?” I asked.
“I mean that slaves cost money, and so if we want to push an experiment through to the end we have to get the senior instructor’s permission in advance. If we kill a slave without permission we get into trouble. But sometimes it’s a job to know where to leave off… still, I suppose it helps us to develop better control. And now you’re really unhappy… Terry, take him away and explain the facts of life to him – I’ve got another slave coming in a couple of minutes.”
I felt stunned as Terry led me out of the room, but he hadn’t finished with me yet: next he led me down into the basement.
“We can’t do everything in our rooms,” he explained. “The rooms down here are soundproofed, and sometimes we need that if we’re not going to disrupt what’s going on around us.”
I didn’t want to ask, but I found out anyway soon enough. When Harlan had first spoken about controlling me I’d had visions of being made to stab myself or hold my hand in a flame or something, and that afternoon in the basement I found that if anything I’d been underestimating the dangers. What I saw actually made me vomit – it was the boy being made to paint acid onto his own chest that did that, though knives and flames were also in evidence. Once I’d cleaned up the mess I’d made Terry hustled me back to his room, and I’ve never been happier to leave somewhere.
“What the hell is this place?” I asked, once I was able to speak normally again.
“Nobody’s told you what we do when we grow up, have they?” he replied.
“I thought you worked as advisers to the great and the good, and as consultants to the police and justice departments to find out when a suspect is lying. But I didn’t know you worked as torturers.”
“Harlan’s different, Jake: he’ll succeed his father one day and become Chancellor, unless he fails his manhood tests, in which case his kid brother will get the job. But a lot of the rest of us will end up working in Intelligence. Have you any idea what that means?”
I thought of the TV series Spooks and any number of Hollywood thrillers. “You mean you’ll be working as spies?” I asked.
“Sometimes. But some of us will be working as interrogators. Just because we can generally see someone’s thoughts doesn’t mean there aren’t techniques ordinary people use to seal information away inside their heads, buried deep where we can’t get at it. You can imagine how necessary it is to be able to do that in a world where people like us exist. What you saw downstairs are some of the techniques we use to break the shielding and get at the hidden information. Pain will do that, but self-inflicted pain is best from a psychological point of view.
“As for what Dervoran was doing, some of us will end up working as trouble-shooters – or assassins, if you prefer – and it’s better to have someone die of apparently natural causes, rather than shot full of holes. Dervoran will eventually be able to induce a fatal grand mal seizure in someone – he’s almost there now, actually.”
I stared at him, unable to reconcile the words with the cute eleven-year-old uttering them.
“You mean, you’re training to murder people?” I said, appalled.
“Well, it depends how you define ‘murder’. But in general terms, yes.”
“But… how can you bring yourself to do that?”
“To be honest I’m not sure I could do that just yet. I’m still a bit young. But the first step is to recognise that ordinary people are a different species to us – it’s harder to kill an equal than an inferior. Which is why you’re a bit of a nuisance, actually, because it’s hard not to like you. I hope they don’t ask me to use you as a test subject, because I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.”
“But you’d do it anyway?”
“Of course. We have to do what we’re told, just like you. Oh, dear, now you’re almost as unhappy with me as you were with Dervoran. Look, would you like me to wipe the last couple of hours for you? It’s probably a bit much to take in at one go. I could let it seep back slowly if you like – perhaps you could cope with it like that.”
“No, thanks – I’d sooner hang on to it.”
“Suit yourself. If it makes you feel any better, not everyone here is doing stuff like that – a lot of us are still working on less harmful stuff like trying to infiltrate ideas into people’s heads unobtrusively, or simply trying to read emotions and states of mind. I’m probably mentally capable of doing that sort of work, but I wouldn’t take pleasure in it the way some students do. Actually I think taking pleasure in that sort of thing is a sign of a lack of professionalism.”
“You really don’t sound eleven years old when you talk, you know.”
“You’re forgetting that our intelligence is higher than yours – we learn stuff much earlier than you, and I suppose that includes vocabulary. But that doesn’t stop me acting eleven when I’m not studying: let’s stop working and have some fun. I’ll get a couple of slaves in and we’ll play some sex games, shall we?”
“I’m not in the mood.”
“No, I can see that… look, Jake, I know you’re upset, but you have to know how things are. I think Harlan was wrong to try to shelter you – if you were my friend the way you seem to be his I’d prefer you to know the truth.”
I nodded. “I appreciate it, Terry, really – I’m glad I know now. But it’s hard to deal with, you know? To me this just seems wrong.”
“The morality is different, that’s all. Humans use lower mammals for their experiments; we use humans. It’s just a question of what you’re used to, I suppose.”
He sat down beside me. “There’s no point in worrying about it,” he said. “You’re protected by Harlan, so you won’t end up on the wrong end of any of those experiments. And if anything happens and he has to leave – like if his father died, for example – I’ll make sure nothing happens to you, too. So just relax a bit.”
And I did relax a bit, though I’m sure that was because he was manipulating me again. The problem was of course that, although I might have been safe, my friends weren’t. The idea of Radu being forced to have a fit, or Alain being made to burn himself, was more than I could handle. And then Terry did something else inside my head and I relaxed a bit more and forgot to worry for a while.
“Get undressed,” he said. “You might as well relax properly. In fact you can get into bed and rest for a bit while I go to supper. I’ll bring you back a sandwich or something.”
“I’m not really very hungry,” I said, removing my shirt.
“No, but you might be later. And if you’re not I’ll eat it myself.”
I finished undressing and got into his bed, and I suppose he did another of those little mind tricks on me because I went to sleep almost at once.
When I woke up he was lying next to me, wearing nothing but his briefs – I could tell despite us being under the covers because he was pressed up against me.
“Feeling better?” he asked.
I thought about it. I remembered being upset about something earlier on, but the details escaped me.
“Terry, do you really like me, or are you just pretending?” I asked.
“I really like you. I suppose it’s because you’re different from the other slaves. I don’t really understand it, because we’re completely different, but…” He shrugged. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I don’t want you messing about with my memories and stuff. Harlan’s promised me he wouldn’t do that, and I don’t want you to, either. See, I’m scared of… well, being changed. I like being me.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t do anything permanent to you. So, earlier on you were thinking that I’m cute. Did you mean that?”
“You know I did.”
“Good. Then let’s have some fun. What sort of sex things do you like doing?”
“Ones with Stefan, mostly.”
“Yes, I know, but he’s not here, so you’ll have to make do with me – unless you’d prefer me to get a slave in? I mean, if you like hurting people I’ll have to, because you’re not hurting me.”
“Yes – some people’s idea of fun is hurting other people. Like I said earlier… oh, probably you’ve forgotten that bit. Well, some of us are like that, but a couple of the slaves are, too. There’s one kid from my country who gets hard when he whips someone. And some people like getting whipped… actually, there’s a story there. See, back at the start of the school year – that’s around six months ago now – this new student turned up. He came from some little town out in the sticks somewhere where there probably weren’t any other Konjässiem, so he’d been taught at home, and he thought he was God’s gift. You’ve never seen arrogance like it – he waltzed in here telling everyone how brilliant he was and how he was going to show us all how things should be done, and stuff like that.
“Anyhow, after a couple of days of this everyone had had more than enough of it, and so Harlan decided to see how good he was – and it turned out he was hopeless. His shield lasted about five seconds. So Harlan made him strip and run about the place in the altogether for a bit – not that he had anything worth looking at: he even made me look big – and then released him, hoping he’d got the message. Only it turned out he was stupid as well as arrogant, because he set a couple of slaves onto Harlan and managed to rough him up a little – not much, because it didn’t take long for Harlan to override their orders, but they landed a couple of blows first. So then Harlan got really angry and did some rather more drastic mental surgery on the kid. Now he’s no trouble to anyone – he’s polite and docile, and he spends his evenings being abused by slaves. And he likes it – at least, now that Harlan’s finished adjusting his thinking for him, he does: it turns him on getting whipped and pissed on and fucked. Harlan’s locked him into it and made it self-reinforcing, so the more he gets degraded, the more he likes it. And the moral of that is, don’t cross my cousin: when Harlan gets angry, you don’t want to be the cause.”
“Doesn’t it interfere with the boy’s studies if he lets the slaves do stuff like that to him?”
“Strangely, no – in fact he’s a good student now. He’s got a couple of slaves who share his room and have fun with him in the evenings, and a couple of others who join in from time to time, and they’re free to do what they want to him – they all have metal bands to wear, just in case he decides he doesn’t like it after all. But he can still control slaves who aren’t protected by metal. His studies and his sex life are kept apart, same as anyone else’s – after all, I suppose most of us have used slaves for sex, one way and another. Most of us are decent enough to wipe the slave’s memory afterwards if the slave doesn’t enjoy doing stuff like that, though some of them are really enthusiastic. In fact…”
He got out of bed, got dressed and went out, returning five minutes later with a red-haired slave of around thirteen.
“This is Caradoc,” Terry told me, speaking Arvelan. “Caradoc, tell him what you enjoy doing most.”
“I like sucking,” said the boy, happily. “When I’m good I’m even allowed to suck our masters.”
“Get undressed, then,” said Terry, starting to take his own clothes off.
The next hour or so was a lot of fun: Caradoc sucked both of us twice, and he was extremely good at it – and the erection he had himself made it obvious that he really was enjoying this, not doing it because Terry was forcing him to. And when he had finished we rewarded him: I wanked him while Terry added the mental stroking that amplified the experience for him. When Terry dismissed him he said enthusiastically that he’d enjoyed it and that he’d like to do it again next time we were in the mood.
“See?” said Terry, once he had gone. “We don’t always have to make people do things. Anyway, I suppose you need to get back to the dormitory now, don’t you?”
“I’m not sure I have a bed there,” I said.
“Huh? Where do you sleep, then?”
“In Harlan’s room.”
“What, on the floor?”
“Well, I started on the floor. Now I share his bed.”
“Wow! Gods, Jake, he really must trust you – I mean, you could easily kill him while he’s asleep.”
“Why on earth would I want to kill him?”
“Some slaves would, just as they’d like to kill all of us.”
There was a pause, and then I remembered everything that I’d seen during the afternoon.
“Sorry,” he said, “but I thought you needed to relax a bit, so I walled that stuff away for the evening. But that’s why a lot of slaves would like to kill us. And I suppose that from a slave’s point of view it’s easy to see why. Okay, maybe not all of them feel like that, but even a slave like Caradoc won’t enjoy the afternoons the way he enjoyed this evening. If we all lost our powers overnight and the slaves knew about it, very few of us wouldn’t be at risk of serious retribution.”
“That I can understand,” I said, remembering what I’d seen.
“So for Harlan to let any slave sleep next to him shows amazing trust. Even though nobody has hurt you too badly, you’re still a slave and you’d like to get out of here if you could, so…”
“Terry, I like Harlan – okay, he’s controlled me a couple of times, but he’s never deliberately hurt me, except for one time when I deserved it. It’s the same with you: you’ve never hurt me, either. Okay, I don’t like what you do with the other slaves, but I don’t want to hurt you, let alone kill you. Look inside my head and see if you don’t believe me.”
“I do believe you. And I do like you, too – it was fun sharing Caradoc with you, and I’ve never shared him with a slave before… all right, Jake: if Harlan can trust you, I think I can, too. You can stay here with me tonight. But… do you really share his bed?”
“Really. But I’ll sleep on the floor if you prefer.”
“No. I’ve never shared a bed before, but I think I’d like to find out what it’s like. Do you wear anything in bed?”
“No, Harlan likes us to sleep naked.”
“Then we’ll do that, too.”
So we did. We cuddled for a bit, and then Terry proved that he trusted me by falling asleep quite quickly. Asleep, he just looked like a normal eleven-year-old, sweet and innocent, but what I’d seen that afternoon proved that appearances could be very deceptive. And it was now even clearer to me that, one way or another, I had to get my friends out of here as quickly as I could.
So now Jake knows what is really going on at the Academy. Whether he will be able to get himself and his friends away from it, however, remains to be seen.
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