3.17 A Great Honor

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Yellow Thomas soaked in warm water, inhaling the soothing fragrance of his spa, thinking about how crazy he would have to be to reject the enlightened civilization that valued his mind. Sometimes insane Torth tried to (escape) unplug from the Megacosm, but they were clearly traitors, and they never survived long enough to steal slaves or to threaten innocent Torth citizens. They always got hunted down and killed. Alone and cut off, they lacked new information and could not anticipate the swiftly changing battle tactics of many minds.

A few hundred Torth listened to his thoughts. Yellow Thomas sculpted foamy bubbles, and tried not to wish he had no audience. That would be insane. He was already dangerously unpopular, and he really ought to stop exploring dangerous lines of thought.

But ever since he had lost the Upward Governess's mentorship, he hadn't been permitted so much as a single second alone inside his own—


His nearby slave threw itself down in a posture of subservience, facing the doorway behind Yellow Thomas. Several imposing figures had just entered his relaxation spa.

The foremost figure was skeletal, with an enormous mantle that rested on her body armor, with horns that twisted upward from her shoulders and ended in sharp points far above her head. A white shroud hung from the horns, framing her.

!!! Every Torth in his inner audience surged with exclamations and deference. Everyone recognized the Commander of All Living Things.

Yellow Thomas struggled to sit up, splashing water. She might command him to kill himself. That was how she dealt with high ranked failures, or anyone whom the Majority denounced as a traitor to the Empire.

I am loyal, he assured his audience, making a point of not reaching for his blaster glove. Only a guilty person would try to defend himself. The Commander of All and her entourage of Servants of All had much faster reflexes and better weapons. Not that that should matter. Weapons were irrelevant. Loyal Torth never killed loyal Torth. He went through a series of meditation exercises.

He is afraid, their minds whispered as they glided to a stop at the edge of his spa.

He should be.

If he should be afraid, then his fear was rational and therefore permissible.

Uh, welcome to My suite, Yellow Thomas thought, trying to be polite. Had I known that You (Commander of All Living Things) would visit, I would have arranged a banquet in Your honor. He gestured for more bubbles in his spa, hoping that his nerves would cam down once his nudity was covered.

The Commander of All Living Things stared down at him with empty eyes. She stood behind him, so her inner audience had a full view of him. His inner audience only had a ridiculous upside-down view, as he was too weak to sit up fully or twist around.

Did you (Yellow Thomas) sabotage the inhibitor serum? she inquired.

There was no way to lie to to her, of course. Yellow Thomas could hear the thump of his heart. Every Torth within his range, as well as the thousands in his audience, could hear how much adrenalin he had in his system.

Such an action would be nearly impossible for Me. He offered all of his memories, like a dragon opening its maw for a tooth count. Witness.

If he'd had a normal mind, his secrets would be laid bare, but his mind was too large, too cluttered with trivialities, for anyone to absorb it all. It would require lifetimes. The Commander of All Living Things made an attempt. She dropped out of the Megacosm in order to focus on his activities as a Yellow Rank, studying one memory after another. She went over his final exchange with the Upward Governess. She examined his encounter with the human slaves, then cross-examined it.

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