3.7 Superiority

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She could get him killed with a thought. All she had to do was ascend into the Megacosm and reveal his illegal thoughts about freeing slaves. Yellow Thomas longed to escape her, to ascend into the rush of knowledge that was the Megacosm, but he dared not tune out her colossal mind.

What do You want? He tried to dissect her goals. NAI-12 was often near the top of her mind. Life. Ambition. A future. She would probably do anything to gain more years of life, even break a law, except nobody could break a Torth law.

She had proven capable of bending them, though. She had persuaded the Torth Majority to allow Yellow Thomas an opportunity to become a Torth citizen. She had leaned on the highest ranks, like the Commander of All Living Things, pressuring them to vote against their own judgment. She must have used up a lot of her own credibility, vouching for Yellow Thomas every time he made a faux pas or did something borderline illegal. Even now, she protected him, when it would be easy and safe for her to turn him in.

You need Me, he realized, absorbing her reaction.

A primitive could figure that much out. Her mind seethed, almost illegally frothy, before settling down to tranquility again. Yes, she admitted. I need a high ranked super-genius ally. Before I knew that you existed, I had hoped the Twins (the second and fourth eldest super-geniuses) would rise high enough in rank to request ingredients from Earth. But they are not ambitious enough. They want to live, but not enough. Not the way you do. She searched his mind with raw desperation. The way you should.

Their reflections in the water showed how sickly they were, with distorted bodies. Yellow Thomas almost felt sorry for his mentor. He knew exactly what it felt like to spend every day under the shadow of an anvil that would fall and crush him. He used to stay up all night, working on his laptop until his vision blurred and his neck ached, desperate to cure himself.

The Upward Governess was older than him by more than a year. Every second she breathed must feel like borrowed time. Nobody in the Torth Empire cared about the fate of super-geniuses, except for other super-geniuses.

Ingredients from Earth, he thought. You need someone else to request more NAI-12. The Torth Majority won't approve another batch for You.

She silently affirmed his guess. I used up all My requests (a lifetime of requests) to gain this batch of medicine, she thought, mentally indicating the NAI-12 case in its honored place within her reach. It has given me a few extra months of life, but it's not enough. The supply is already running out.

Yellow Thomas leaned back against the cushions on his end of the boat, and gazed up at the clear green sky. I'm sorry.

Fantasies unfurled beneath her surface, like roots beneath a forest. Don't you understand how more medicine will benefit both of Us? she thought. It will benefit all super-geniuses. She envisioned many futures, and in all of them, she'd replaced her obese body with a robotic shell of ionic tungsten-carbide. Layers of armor would protect her flesh-and-blood brain.

Yellow Thomas reassessed her. That future had to be impossible.

It doesn't have to be, she insinuated. All I need is one or two more years of life.

She allowed him to glimpse her secret schematics. Theoretically, she could engineer an indestructible body, given enough time. All she needed was a year or two. And then, once she made herself invincible, she would launch herself into outer space, so no one could execute her if she displeased the Majority. From there, she could take over space stations and create robots to conquer the galaxy. Everyone in existence would worship her as The Eternal Commander of All Living Things. She would explore unmapped galaxies, perhaps with Yellow Thomas by her side in his own indestructible robotic replacement body.

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