2.2 Theft, pt 2

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The Servants of All offered a (requested) gift to the Upward Governess. Thomas leaned forward, trying to widen his telepathic range, to catch everything he could. The Upward Governess was beyond his range, but nearby Servants of All heard her thoughts via the galactic network of minds, and they relayed (want) (give it to Me now) her impatient greed.

One of the Servants snatched Thomas's NAI-12 briefcase out of the wheelchair pocket. Thomas forced himself to remain silent as the Servant trotted it to the girl and laid it on her stomach. The Servant unlatched the case, allowing her to inspect its contents.

Even with the briefcase facing away from him, Thomas knew exactly how many vials remained full of pale green NAI-12. He knew exactly how much was left in the injection pen. His next injection was due in three hours, fifty-two minutes, nine seconds, and counting down.

A warm hand held his. Cherise emanated sympathy and determination to help him survive, no matter what. She guessed that he had Torth heritage . . . and it didn't matter. Not to her.

Thomas squeezed back. She was his true family.

The Upward Governess twiddled her fingers in a command, and a slave hurried to roll up her sleeve, revealing copious amounts of wobbly flesh.

Thomas held his breath as she lifted the injection pen exactly as he would, with reverential care. Surely the Torth were medically advanced enough to cure neuromuscular diseases. She'd have to be crazy to actually take an injection. NAI-12 would damage the nervous system of an able-bodied person.

She pressed the pen into the crook of her thick arm, gazing at it as if it held the key to immortality . . . trembling from effort that Thomas recognized all too well. This girl was suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the same as him. They might have been born with the same atypical variant of the mutation. Either this high rank wasn't allowed to use whatever cure existed, or the Torth had no cure.

He nearly sobbed when the girl injected herself. She had no right to touch his supply.

That doesn't belong to you, he thought.

Margo squeezed his thin shoulder and glared at the girl whom she considered a spoiled, greedy, disgusting bully. Would she feel the same disgust for Thomas, once she realized that he must share genetic kinship with this obese girl and other Torth?

A Servant of All grabbed Thomas's arm and began to unfasten his wristwatch. He jerked back, surprised—he couldn't anticipate anything from their smoothly emotionless minds—but the Servant gripped hard enough to leave bruises. All Thomas could do was grit his teeth in silent fury while Torth stole his wristwatch and his phone, and carried both to the obese girl.

None of that is yours, he thought. It's mine.

The Upward Governess received each "gift" as if she was entitled to it. Thomas was certain that she could hear his thoughts, since their galactic network of minds would relay his thoughts to her. But she ignored him. She examined the phone and wristwatch for two seconds apiece, then let each item fall, apparently expecting someone else to catch them. Sure enough, slaves did. Her slaves wore crisp gray uniforms rather than gardening rags, and they looked proud.

Thief. Thomas gripped the armrests of his wheelchair in rage. That medicine is mine. I invented it.

Agony drilled into his skull. Biting knives tore through his brain, and his mouth worked in silent torment. He had assumed they needed a slave collar to cause a pain seizure. Apparently all they needed was focus. The Swift Killer was focused on him with laser-like intensity, like lava funneled directly into his brain.

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