Chapter 10

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Two smoldering heads lingered in Til'trius’ mind: Davo Keelin’s and Margo Wata’s. He remembered their tears and muffled pleas before blaster bolts fired by Krul crisped their skulls, igniting their hair on fire.

Did I cause those murders? It seemed possible. Krul might have freed them with the others later. Til’trius shook his head. Dalen, being a “cajala chupa,” Krul would have killed eventually. But Margo? Her death might be on him.

Til'trius shifted uncomfortably in his recliner and pulled on a cheek fold, ignoring the soap opera his mother was watching. Had his brief cyberattack proven anything? He preferred to think it signalled to the galaxy that not all sat idly by while a lunatic tried and executed people. The news had at least discussed his efforts.

Hopefully, others would act. It would be tragic if the SKYE employees had no more friends on Rodia than a slicer in a downtown Iskaayuma apartment.

He wondered how else to help. He’d resisted the temptation to overload SKYE servers with denial of service attacks, to prevent Krul’s cancerous holofootage to spread across the holonet. More hostages would die, and holofootage might leak anyway.

He really needed to return to the dataverse and consider more sophisticated solutions. Whatever his approach, he needed to work cautiously. Krul was aware of him now, and the Rodian would likely have someone monitoring for suspicious activities.

The soap opera over, he got up and helped his limping mother out of the living room. With a mind prompt he turned off the holoplants illuminating the area. On the way over to his mother's bedroom, Til'trius gave her a goodnight kiss. She grabbed his pale ribbed forearm, and smiled a broken, injured smile. He nodded back and told her he would see her in the morning. She walked into her room.

In the hallway, he paused at a family photo and frowned. His mom had looked so much happier then, her skin a richer yellow, her long, sharp fingers more delicate. And dad? Best not to think of that.

You need to spend more time with her, not let pet obsessions get in the way. Having mother at his home for five years had been burdensome. Not just in physically taking care of her, or the intrusion in his privacy, but in seeing her struggle with depression.

It hurt to lie to her about his job, to pretend he'd ended his military career, when he was secretly funded by the Cyberwarfare and Espionage Department to disrupt terrorist activities in cyberspace. In that world, he went by many aliases -- DarthPwnage, MyPetWampa, but most popularly as 5entinel, the patriot slicer.

The work disrupted his ability to care for his mother, but she was the reason he did the job. Terrorists gave her the limp, and made her a widow.

Til’trius turned away from the family photo. With mom now in bed, he stopped feeling guilty for splitting his attention. He walked into his office, jacked into his desk chair and activated his invasive cranial implants.

His vision swam as his consciousness sunk into the dataverse, enwrapped by its vast trellises of logic.

Til’trius found his avatar in front of the datamap he'd made of Pijo's activities. He'd have to put aside tracking down that scum. At the moment he needed to focus on SKYE and Krul.

With a wave of his hand, the datamap wrapped up, and was replaced by a basic representation of a galactic map, his dataverse home state. He selected Rodia on the map to reduce all data to information related to the planet, and the rest of the galaxy evaporated in a cloud of pixelated dust.

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