3.15 Betrayed

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Pained anguish roared off the slave, like a tsunami, far more pain than Yellow Thomas had anticipated, more than he had punished her with. It almost felt like she was hurting him. She stabbed her duster at him. He cringed with illegal terror, but no one would feel it, because he'd been obliged to drop out of the Megacosm in order to mete out the punishment.

Alone and miserable, he cowered on the bed. It took him a few seconds to realize that he was safe. His multi-armed govki slave had fast reflexes. It had dropped the tray of refreshments and seized the violent slave (Cherise) so she could not stab his face.

Of course he was safe. He was a Torth. A slave's distress should not affect him at all, but he continued to feel miserable and hurt, as if he was a victim too, like the slave.

He searched for an explanation, a solution to make himself better and stronger, but that line of thought led to a dangerous precipice in his mind, and he backed away fast. He had to stay tranquil. That crevasse in his mind contained anger and fear and loneliness and all the pain he'd ever known, and to plunge back into his human legacy would be suicide. Intense emotions meant insanity.

The Torth Empire would expect him to kill the violent slave. KILL KILL KILL, the Majority would insist. He should pull on his blaster glove and do his duty.

She (the slave) (Cherise) watched him as if she had never seen a more pathetic and despicable creature. Although she wore filthy rags, and her hair was a mess, and the govki restrained her arms behind her back, she somehow looked noble. She was the living, breathing embodiment of an entire civilization. Relics and carvings were static and unchanging, but she was dynamic and multi-layered. Her perceptions were infused with wonderment than only she was capable of. Even her primal rage was unique.

Surely some Torth could be persuaded to recognize that this particular slave was more than mundane. But not if she struggled to harm a Torth, silently challenging him to kill (to murder) her, as if a part of her understood that her death would be just as painful and deadly to himself as it was to her.

Yellow Thomas forced himself to close his eyes, to stop seeing her defiant face. His blaster glove was within reach, in a pocket of his robe. He was trembling too much to pull it on. His throat tightened in an alarming way. That was surely just an involuntary reaction to something he'd eaten, not an illegal emotion.

Do you want someone (Me?) (Me?) (Me?) to kill the bad slave for you? neighbors offered.

Yellow Thomas realized that he had ascended, blindly trying to escape his situation. Hundreds of thousands of Torth crawled though the back of his mind.

Why do you hesitate? many wondered. Kill the disobedient, violent, bad slave.

Cold sweat covered his body as he struggled to work his glove onto his frail hand. If he failed to destroy this slave, then the Torth Majority would throw him into a prison and torture him to death, just like they'd destroyed the renegade (mother) who'd birthed him. He reminded himself over and over that slaves didn't matter, that he wasn't supposed to care, and anyway, this slave was doomed no matter what he did or failed to do. Yet still he hesitated, because an undercurrent burned through his mind in the opposite direction.

The Torth Empire had promised his younger self, Thomas Hill, that he would never need to harm his friends.

They had guaranteed it via the Upward Governess. The Torth Majority had made a point of assuring him that this exact situation would never happen. And he had believed them, because there was no such thing as deception among telepaths.

He had trusted them.

The huge audience in his mind swelled in a lecturing chorus. That was then,

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