An imaginary orb materialized above her hand, spinning into a glowing blue planet. Since the miniature planet was imaginary, the nearby slaves had no idea it was there, but Thomas and the Swift Killer could see it.

The first trait that defines Us is Our superior communication, the Upward Governess silently explained.

We have evolved beyond the languages of the tongue and hands, many distant minds chorused.

All Torth are connected,

on every habitable planet

throughout the galaxy

in the Megacosm;

A network of pure imagination.

Thomas reached for the spinning orb, amazed by how real it looked. How wondrous. His ability to subitize a lot of data allowed him to imagine things with the vividness of reality, but until now, he had never met anyone else with the same depth of imagination.

We share everything, the distant minds whispered.

No lies.

No deception.

That was impressive, but Thomas doubted they did much with their vast knowledge. They apparently couldn't even cure neuromuscular diseases.

Distant minds echoed a dull sort of surprise. Doesn't he realize?

The Upward Governess created a miniature imaginary galaxy above her hand, finely detailed. We can cure any disease, she let him know. We can invent anything. All that holds Us back are laws. Lesser species are ruled by lusts and passions, whereas We are ruled by facts and logic. We value intellect above all else. That is the second trait that defines Us. We have evolved beyond the need for emotions.

The distant chorus of Torth swelled, leaping ahead of each other. He can read minds, but he seems overly emotional.

Slave-like.

His stability (his sanity)

remains in doubt.

The Swift Killer cut into their melodious discussion, harsh and triumphant. Watch this. She pictured Cherise and Margo suffering from shock collars. They will make obedient slaves. In her mind, countless billions of humans trudged into slave pens, all wearing collars. Humankind is overripe for enslavement.

Thomas guessed she must be baiting him, but he felt as helpless as Cherise against her schoolyard tormentors. The Torth had no right to label him as a "savage" when they were a bunch of brutal, overly entitled slave-owners. They were the savages. And they felt plenty of emotions in their galactic network of minds. He didn't know how to join them, but he sensed a range of moods in their silent opinions of him, so if they wanted to pretend that they lacked emotions, then they were lying to themselves.

Oh, very perceptive. The Upward Governess rubbed her pudgy hands together in approval. See? He is bright. I am going to relish his company.

Thomas glared at her, trying to peer through the whirlwind surface of her mind. She wasn't a god. Far from it. She could tell herself that she was superior to slaves, but she had plenty of flaws, and she almost certainly had the same emotions as a slave.

I never feel rage, she thought to him. Or grief. Or terror. Or pain of any sort.

Her inner audience chorused in agreement. None of them felt pain. No loneliness. No sense that they didn't belong.

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