2.11 Renegade

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Thomas swirled the green potion. The vial could be a symbol for the riches he'd rejected. It was more durable than any plastic made on Earth, and the rare chemicals within were imported from specialized laboratories on alien worlds.

Ironic that he had created it for a chance to escape and live, rather than to die.

Why had he subconsciously wanted to escape the Torth? Had he secretly believed that he going to magically transform into a hero, like Jonathan Stead? Did he think Cherise and Margo would forget their enslavement and forgive him, as if it had never happened? Was everything supposed to turn out all right, with rainbows and unicorns?

He should have learned better by now.

Well, he was done deceiving himself. He didn't deserve happiness or forgiveness, and as a mind reader, he was incapable of being anyone's friend, especially non-telepaths. He was not their equal. Even if his unknown father had been human, Thomas had spent three months in the Megacosm. That changed his perspective on everything that mattered. He would never again find satisfaction in simple pursuits, like teaching Cherise how to play chess, or ingratiating himself to the news media so he could gain funding.

Thomas unscrewed the cap of the vial. He had to hold his breath, or he would fall asleep before he could drink it.

The chasm of loneliness in his mind felt closer than ever. Death might feel like that. An endless plunge into an eternity of lonely despair. No one knew whether or not there was an afterlife; not even the Torth Empire.

Well, it would be one last thing to learn.

Thomas raised the vial to his lips, and...

Lynn snatched it from his grasp.

She realized the cap was loose, letting the toxic aroma waft out, so she smashed the vial to the floor. It shattered into pieces, and she kicked sand over the glowing liquid, panicking.

Thomas lit it on fire.

Lynn jumped away, but the fire was small, just enough to devour the toxic fumes. Soon the potion was gone.

Thomas forced himself to pull his awareness back into himself, but it was difficult, because he was shaking with rage. He glared at Lynn and considered lighting her on fire.

But that would be cowardly, petty, and not how he wanted to be remembered.

He should have sensed her approach. He would have, if he had been in a better state of mind, instead of fully absorbed by his own final thoughts.

"Why did you stop me?" he asked. "You're one of the people who would celebrate my death."

Lynn leaned against the soot-smeared wall and folded her arms. "Why are you condemning us to die?"

"I ..." Thomas almost denied it, almost reminded her that he had saved their lives.

But his death would doom everyone else. He hadn't expected Lynn to realize it, but Alex was bound to make some stupidly fatal mistake, without guidance. And when Alex went down, so would everyone else.

"It doesn't matter," he told Lynn. "Death awaits everyone, no matter who we are. I'm done waiting my turn."

"Do you see Alex over there?" Lynn subtly gestured.

Her gigantic son watched from a distance. Margo, Kessa, and Weptolyso were with him, and they all wore looks of concern.

"He would have stopped you, if I hadn't," Lynn said. "He's not going to allow you to die." She leaned closer, and lowered her voice. "I'm willing to help you. Tell me how to keep Alex alive, and I'll be your suicide doctor. I have nothing to fear."

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