July 19, 2016 by Lyn
Life is the key,
what you want it to be
Release your mind
Release your mind
Open yourself to the universal truth
Free your mind
Free your mind
Second to last week in March, 2000
“How do you think Tolly is managing?” Io looked up from her book, her hand thoughtfully over her still-flattish stomach. “I mean, he’s still smiling, but… not as much, you know?”
Shahin lounged carefully on the bed next to Emrys, her own stomach nowhere near flat anymore. “I know Kai’s trying, but she’s, well, Kai.” She frowned faintly. “I would have expected she would have let him go.” Kai kept twisting in loops.
“He told me he wouldn’t let her free him.” The tension was masked in Emrys’ voice, but Shahin could feel it. “To protect her from Agatha. What is she up to, anyway?”
“Agatha or Kai?” Ayla joked. “I mean, Kai’s obvious, right? She’s up to trying to get around the mind control.”
“Mind control?” Io frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“…” Ayla stared at her girlfriend for a moment, then looked at Shahin for support.
“Mind control,” Shahin confirmed. “Kai mentioned that Conrad and Mabina told her about it, the day she collared him.”
Xaviera looked up from her book, over in the corner. “With all due respect, your friend is nuts.”
“Nuts,” Io agreed, as Shahin chewed on her lip, and Emrys nodded.
“I suppose Kai means well, but is that what all this was about? Some sort of mind control?” Shahin could tell from his tone of voice, from the echo of amusement across the bond, that he thought this was complete bunk; she tried to control her distress. Wasn’t that…?
Trust Yngvi to come back with the sharpest answer, as she and Ayla stared at each other in confusion. “Her goal with that little packet, as I understand it, was to get around the mind control keeping upperclassmen from telling new students about the… less pleasant aspects of this school.”
“They generally find out anyway, don’t they?” Emrys smirked in reply.
“They do,” Shahin answered, “but Kai believes the good in everyone, and truly believes that people would share everything they knew if only they could. It’s why she and Jamian did that whole project.”
Emrys shook his head. “I knew she was blindly idealistic, but… that’s insane, Sheen. Why didn’t you mention this before?”
She blinked at him. It came up, didn’t it? When we were all talking about this? “I thought you knew.” The three upperclassmen were acting very oddly about the mind control, almost like they’d been mind-controlled, she couldn’t help but smirk. “Look, we know Kai’s an optimist, and sometimes all we can do is hope it doesn’t get her flattened too badly,” she offered, hoping to change the subject. She looked over at Ayla and Yngvi, meeting their eyes, hoping they’d get the point too.
“I don’t know,” Emrys frowned. “She doesn’t really stand a chance against Agatha, and she’s certainly gotten on her hit list.”
“Bowen seems happier, though.” Ayla rescued Shahin from having to say it. Sometimes she wondered if there was mind control going on in the way Agatha’s crew responded to her. “Seems like Keeping doesn’t have to be horrible, but a lot of people here abuse their power; I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be something we stop.”
“I agree,” Io murmured. “Callie…”
“Yeah.” And now they had wandered into an entirely differently uncomfortable conversation. Shahin changed the subject back to History, which was, in theory, what they were working on, and tried to lighten it up a little bit, joking about their classmates – the safe ones, Nikolai, Melchior, Nikita, Elfred, people who smiled more than they frowned and seemed to be in safe situations.
Laying in bed that night, between her husband and her Kept, Shahin found herself thinking. First about her position. She kept meaning to let Xaviera go, but a whisper in the back of her mind suggested that she was going to need the girl for something soon, so she held on to her, trying to make her life better, but definitely holding on to her against later need.
Great. Her mental voice was wry and amused. I’m turning into a people horader.
Among things that she never thought she’d have to worry about, that was on the list. That, and her son, making his presence known, and her husband.
I have a husband. That certainly made it on the list. But, more than that… a year ago, she never thought she’d be making distinctions like “classmates who look like they’re not being abused.” Or “which girls in my grade aren’t pregnant yet,” that was another one (She was pretty sure that was down to the “A” section of the alphabet and Channing).
Or “Is my husband being mind controlled by the school, by his crew, or both?” Considering that the crewmate in mind was the Director’s daughter (and their half-sister, but she really tried hard not to think about that part), it seemed a logical concern, if a particularly creepy one.
She was still pondering the question the next day in the locker room, so she decided to pull aside the experts. “You mentioned mind control,” she said, less casually than she wanted, to Kai, keeping her voice quiet.
Kai jumped anyway, not clumsily because she was somehow never clumsy, but laden down with her increasing belly. “I did,” she hissed, “but all the upperclassmen…”
Shahin nodded. “I’m noticing. They don’t seem to acknowledge there’s a problem.”
“She means,” Jaya interpreted in a soft voice, “that she’s gotten a lot of backlash from the upperclassmen for our little project. So she doesn’t want to talk about it here, I think?”
Kai nodded urgently.
“Okay.” Shahin tried not to feel too defeated by this. “Urm… is there a time we could talk, then, without any upperclassmen around?”
Jaya bit her lip. “I might be able to get free, if Ty’s in a good mood.”
“You could come over to my place,” Kai offered. “I mean, Conrad will be there, but he doesn’t really count, does he? He’s not going to yell at us.”
“I’ll try. Tonight?” What would Emrys think? “Do you mind if I bring Ayla?”
Emrys, as it turned out, was a little skeptical of her “night out with the girls” excuse (what emotion reading the Bond seemed to give probably showed him how much she was hedging the truth) :
“A girls’ night out with the succubus, Ayla, and Kai? I want to watch that.”
She deflected him with a smile, and a reminder that that left him alone with Xaviera. Not that she was exactly pleased with that circumstance, but she really wanted to figure out this mind control issue.
As if reading her mind and deciding to punish her (the first was more likely than the second, the way the mutual Bond went), Emrys pressed Xaviera to him with a leer as Shahin left. “Enjoy yourself. We’ll be doing the same.”
Shahin graced him with her brightest smile, the one that promised murder. “I’m sure you will, darling.” Mind control. Focus on mind control.
Mabina, balancing two babies and seeming like she could use another pair of hands, let them in with a smile. “Shahin, Ayla, good to see you. Ah, here comes Jaya, too. Come on in, dears, can I get you some tea?”
“No, no, that’s all right,” Shahin demurred. “We’re here to see Kailani?” She leaned in to smile at the yellow-clad of the two babies and cooed, a noise she’d been surprised to hear out of herself the first time and was slowly getting used to. “This is Hadassah, right?”
“Very good.” She could tell she’d pleased the older girl; her broad smile took on a more genuine tilt. “How can you tell?”
“She smiles more, and she’s got this little dimple her brother doesn’t. You seem very good with them, Mabina.” They were genuinely adorable babies, and it wouldn’t hurt to butter up Kai’s recalcitrant crew-mate.
“I tell you, I think I was born to be a mother. Now you kids go on in and enjoy yourself, and I’ll bring in cookies in a bit.” She shooed them towards Kai’s room, leaving Shahin echoing her smile.
The smile faded quickly once they got down to business, the four of them gathered on Kai’s bed. “I’ll just… wait outside?” Conrad offered nervously. “This much estrogen can’t be good for my health.” He grinned to lighten it, but it was clear he was uncomfortable. Worried Kai was plotting again? That was between the two of them, so Shahin let it lie.
“Mind control,” she said instead. “Is it real? There has to be something that’s keeping the upperclassmen from admitting the possibility of it.”
“You mentioned it in front of older students?” Kai squeaked.
“Well, yeah.” Ayla cut in. “My girlfriend, Sheen’s husband, their Kept.”
“Oh. Oh, well, that’s probably safe.” She was still frowning. “So… I don’t know much about the mind control. I know that it’s part of why we don’t freak out over stuff that really ought to.”
“Like being magical fairies?” Ayla asked.
Jamian sniggered at that, and then, blushing, pointed at his horns. “It’s what Niki called me, when I first Changed,” he explained quickly.
“Like being fae,” Kai agreed. “Or like being pregnant. Or being…” She handwaved uncertainly. “There’s a lot of stuff we don’t really think about, but I think it’s worse for the upper cohorts. I think it just wipes stuff entirely.”
Shahin pursed her lips. “Then we ought to figure out why, and if we can stop it. Before that happens to us, too.”