4.6 Conspirators

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Pung stared at his owner with incredulity. This Yellow Rank had always been odd, but his behavior had slipped to downright bizarre. Why pack so many supplies into his hoverchair? He was not an adventurous Torth, and the middle of a sleep cycle was a strange time to pack for a trip.

And what sort of nightmare could make a Torth wake up screaming?

"Obey Me," his owner commanded in a dangerous tone.

Obedience was all that a good slave should think about. Pung rushed to adjacent rooms, gathering supplies and doing his best to ignore the implications of what he was doing. Slaves who made a habit of speculating about their superiors never lived to old age. Soon his work-shift would end, and he would hurry to his bunk-room and enjoy some sleep while his coworker took over matters here.

The Yellow kept pointing to things and giving orders. "Fetch my extra painkillers. Add the portable light. Add the folded thermal blanket, and three of my outer garments. Fill the remaining room in my hoverchair with nutrition bars."

Just when Pung thought he was done, his owner said, "Put me into my hoverchair."

Pung would rather be sweeping floors. He was good at mindless tasks, which allowed him thinking time to invent new gambling strategies. He struggled to carry the small Yellow, who was the size of a grown ummin. This task was really better suited to his govki coworker.

Once seated, his owner did not stop giving commands. "Fasten that cloth around my leg cuff." He indicated one of the ornate linens used to blot his hair dry after a bath. "Wrap it around three times. Make sure it's tight and covers every part of the golden cuff. Then make sure it's secured with pins."

A chatty Torth seemed unnatural. Pung tried not to wonder why his owner wanted to hide his shiny ankle ornament under an ugly wrap. It was not his place to speculate.

"Wrap me in my outer robe," the Yellow commanded.

Suppressing a yawn, Pung dressed his owner. The thick golden cloth, shimmery with geometric patterns, hid his bulked-up ankle.

"Accompany me." His owner sped away. 

Pung scurried to keep up with the hoverchair, watching his owner's hands for a dismissal. But apparently his owner had no intention of relaxing like an ordinary Yellow Rank. No. Instead, he seemed preoccupied with his data tablet.

He stopped at his favorite workstation and used his tablet to make a glowing hologram to appear. "This is a map."

Pung backed away. Bizarre commands were one thing, but Torth knowledge was off limits to slaves. Any ummin who tried to poke a data tablet or drive a vehicle would be tortured to death. This must be a trick or a trap.

"I won't hurt you." His owner sounded impatient. "Now pay attention. Here's where you'll enter." Part of the holograph blackened, growing more solid than the rest. "It's a ventilation shaft." He used his data tablet, and a glowing line appeared. "Memorize this route." The end region glowed. "Here's where you'll find the three items I require."

Maybe his owner had suddenly developed a sick sense of humor. This had to be a joke. 

"You'll be going into the bedchamber of the fat Indigo Blue girl," his owner said, as dispassionate as any Torth. "You know which one I'm talking about. I need you to collect her data tablet and her wristband." He tapped his bony wrist to demonstrate. "The third and most important item is a rectangular case. It's about this big." He indicated its size, and Pung recalled the case wedged in the fat Torth's hoverchair.

"I'll make sure you're protected," his owner said. "Fetch the case, the wristband, and the tablet."

Pung took an involuntary step, instinctively obedient. Then he stopped. This was highly illegal. If the Indigo Blue caught a slave sneaking through her domain with the criminal intention to steal, she would surely have him thrown in prison. He'd be skinned alive.

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