1.9 Anomalies

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The Upward Governess lounged on a floating cushion, oiled with tanning lotion and drifting on her indoor lake.

She slurped from a frosted nectar smoothie. At least the Servants of All had allowed her to keep her palatial suite, and they had not retitled her as the Fat Fallen Blue or something equally demeaning. They had their priorities. Everyone was aware that her demotion was not yet enacted, and it might be canceled. She was on probation. She just had to locate the Betrayer and the Giant.

Find them. The Torth Majority seethed with chagrin. Their trust in the mighty Megacosm was shaken. They had expected immediate results, and instead, the search was dragging on for hours.

Kill the Giant.

Capture the Betrayer.

Do it now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

Popular demands were a distant drumbeat for the Upward Governess. Most of her focus was on the hunting troops. She poked in and out of individual perceptions faster than a stitching machine, gaining rapid updates.

Pilots soared above deserts, jungles, lakes, and canyons. They skimmed close to cliff walls, and hugged shorelines, using high-grade metal detectors to scan for a stolen hovercart. Their ummin slaves looked for giant-sized footprints or anything anomalous.

Red Ranks led troops on foot through shadowed terrain, such as steep hills and dense jungles. They tore through industrial complexes, mines, factories, and shanty villages, probing the minds of every slave they encountered. They shook hapless ummins, hoping to jar loose a hint.

None of the farm slaves had encountered armored Torth until now. They flailed in panic, hyperventilating. Their thoughts buzzed like trapped bugs. Their heads seemed empty.

Slaves lived narrow little lives and could not process anything that broke their routines. They were pathetic. The Upward Governess could not understand why anyone—especially the Betrayer—would want to live among them.

As Torth shook slaves, they caused widespread panic. A Red Rank found a child cowering inside a cauldron. When he began to probe its mind, the child began to scream.

The ugly, terrified noise stirred an unknown feeling inside the Upward Governess. She suspected that a slave child's death would only make her feel worse. So when the Red Rank thumbed his blaster glove to killing mode, she whispered in his mind, Don't get distracted. Keep your glove set to neutralize Yeresunsa.

The Red Rank stomped on the child, unmindful of its choked cries.

More than a few troops were slaying terrified slaves and their children. The Upward Governess sent a strong command to avoid killing. It's counterproductive, she reasoned. Traumatized slaves will panic again, the next time they encounter a Torth.

Children, especially, ought to be left in peace. They had the freshest mnemonic recall, and less life experience to dig through. Unusual encounters would flare bright and fresh in their young minds. It was in everyone's best interest not to make children fear mind probes.

A silken thought cut through the distant listeners. Your hunt isn't going well.

This mind was not in the Megacosm. The Upward Governess rotated her floating cushion, slow, forcing the Swift Killer to wait for a face-to-face confrontation.

The Servant of All could feel smug. She'd been vindicated about her assessment of the Betrayer. But that didn't make her wise, or any more special than other Servants. Everyone knew she was identical to a Servant who had gone renegade.

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