2.16 Schooled, pt 2

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Yellow Thomas chewed his lower lip, trying to mask his doubts about the danger he was in.  After all, the Swift Killer had failed to get him killed.

The Swift Killer is (an idiot) clumsy in her maneuvers, the Upward Governess thought. Expect subtle elegance from the Commander of All Living Things. One does not attain Her position without earning it. As soon as you seemed likely to pass the Adulthood Exam, She took measures. If you make one misstep, She will leap upon you like pisanvi on a bloody carcass.

Pisanvi were hairy creatures with massive jaws that could unhinge, known for chomping through garbage with their serrated teeth.

What measures did She already take? Yellow Thomas demanded.

The Upward Governess sent him an image of the golden cuff around his ankle. That is not just a medical patch. You are not as free as the rest of Us.

Yellow Thomas looked down at the cuff, and guessed that it might contain a surveillance device. Someone else would know his whereabouts at all times. Local Torth would probably wait for him to slip up. They'd keep an eye on his ankle cuff ... and in fact, they might even try to trick him into slipping up. They might do it to curry favor with the Commander of All Living Things or the Swift Killer. 

Correct. The Upward Governess glowed with approval. You see the danger.

Yellow Thomas tamped down an illegal burst of frustration. What did I do to make such enemies?

The Upward Governess wound between thick hedges, through a path so narrow that no one else would be able to squeeze past their hoverchairs. It is a great honor, to be elected to the office of Commander of All Living Things, she thought, but it is also a great responsibility. The One who holds that title cannot afford to make a mistake. If She errs, then the Majority will sentence Her to death by torture, and elect a new Commander of All Living Things.

Yellow Thomas thought that sounded like a dangerous job.

Torth who vie for a lofty rank are risk-takers, the Upward Governess silently affirmed. Our current Commander of All enjoys rocketing above volcanic eruptions with a jetpack. She is a thrill-seeker, which is why She always has a large audience in Her mind. She has earned more clout than anyone else in the known universe. She could have swayed the Majority to block you from taking the Adulthood Exam, but instead, She didn't bother to participate in that vote. I suspect that She (wrongly) assumed that you would fail the Adulthood Exam and die. That was an error in Her judgment.

It didn't seem like much of an error, to Yellow Thomas. More like a forgivable potential lapse.

Forgiveness is a slave concept, the Upward Governess pointed out. The public has not noticed Her error, but that will change if you become a criminal (if you free slaves or wreak havoc). If that happens, then the Torth Majority will blame Our Commander of All and sentence Her to a horrible death. She is trying to preclude that possibility. That is why She wants you dead.

Yellow Thomas studied his mentor. If I free slaves, he thought, would You be executed as well?

Probably. She floated past fragrant flowers, untroubled. I am confident that you won't become a criminal. You're too ambitious to throw your life away.

She considered criminal behavior to be suicide. Criminals rarely survived for more than a few minutes in the Torth Empire, unless they exiled themselves from the Megacosm. And even then ... they never succeeded in hiding for long. Any Torth could peer through the eyes of any other Torth, or a nearby person. Any Torth could riffle through the memories of any slave or animal. Everything with eyes was a potential spy.

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