“That was painful,” Kahrim let out a forced breath after they piled into the SUV. Egoly and Felder sat in the middle row, while the siblings crowded into the third row.
“Are you ok, little guy?” Egoly asked, turning to Kasim. The child nodded and grabbed his sister’s’ hand.
“I can’t wait to get to the village!” Kasim exclaimed. There wasn’t the slightest hint of sadness in his voice. “I’m the youngest person ever chosen to train in service to the city.”
The phrase sent another chill down Kaleigha’s back. She gave Felder a dark look.
“How do you hope to serve your city?” Felder turned and beamed at the boy.
“As a walinzi,” Kasim’s chest puffed up with pride.
The adults looked at each other blankly.
“A walinzi?” Egloy raised his brows and acted impressed. “Why?”
“To keep out the evil overlords of course,” Kasim said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You must be very brave,” Egoly said encouragingly, “Those overlords are very brutal.”
“We drove them out once,” Kasim said, “And we will keep them out. They will never reach their queen as long as I live.”
Another minute of tense silence settled over the group. A feeling of dread crept up Kaleigha’s gut and into her chest.
“And the Labor Leaders?” Fleder asked, suddenly.
“Labor is Liberty and Liberty is Life, so strive for a Life of Labor!” the boy chanted in response.
Kharim and Kaleigha gaped. The slogan was part of the indoctrination from their childhood. The old one. It was the means by which the wealthy convinced the poor to willingly work themselves from the cradle to the grave.