Margo walked away from the dead Red Rank, mainly because she didn't want Alex to linger and feel guilty about what he had or hadn't done. Nor did she want Cherise to stumble across the remains.
A few weeks ago, Margo would have tried to protect Thomas's sensibilities, too, but now she knew that he'd never react to things like a normal child. Not much would faze him if he had absorbed the worst atrocities of the Torth Empire.
"Let's see if we can figure out the controls on one of these things." She ran her hand along the smooth, mirror-like hull of a transport. She had spent enough time in Torth places, with Torth-engineered devices, to understand how much they liked things that were easy to reach, and hidden within plain sight.
Sure enough, her hand encountered an indented area right below where a door should be.
She pressed it. The shiny door slid aside, carrying away the reflection of herself and Alex, and revealing an interior that glowed like a palace.
After experimenting with a few other ergonomic buttons that blended with the overall vehicle design, she got a ramp to unfold. It moved silently, glowing with merry lights and studded with well-engineered traction pads. If only the Torth would show as much care for slaves as they did for their other possessions.
"Get in and make yourselves comfy," Thomas called from a distance. "We leave in two minutes."
Alex seemed reluctant to fold himself inside the vehicle. Not that Margo could blame him. It was a lot smaller than the hideout cave, and there wouldn't be much leftover room once Weptolyso and everyone else got on board.
She hesitated with one foot on the ramp. "Want to get the departure crew?" she asked Alex. "I'll check out the controls."
He gave her a grateful nod.
Entering the vehicle gave Margo a shiver that was more disgust than relief. Torth places always had a clean, ergonomic, hyper-engineered look and feel. Her nightmares featured seamless designs and silence.
She missed angles that didn't make the most efficient use of space. She missed her red van, even with the bits of garbage on its floor mats, and the imperfect suspension that caused it to rattle when running over potholes. At least humans knew how to install stereo systems.
The control panel was a lot of holographic displays in front of a wrap-around windshield that offered a panoramic view. It looked impossible to figure out.
A few ummins scampered up the ramp, laden with supply packs. They began to bounce on the luxurious cushioned chairs and giggle.
Everyone chosen for the departure crew was an adolescent; the age group most at risk of being abducted and collared as city slaves. They carried seeds and roots, along with food supplies, so they'd have a chance to start a self-sufficient village.
It seemed like a flimsy hope. There were hardly enough ummins in the crew to populate a house, let alone a village. They would all need to survive the journey ... on top of discovering some uninhabited haven overlooked by the Torth Empire.
Alex stood near the open door. Margo saw his guilt as he watched families hug their adolescents goodbye forever, exchanging tearful promises.
"We can't save them all," Margo reminded him.
"We dishonor them by leaving," Alex said.
Margo couldn't argue with that. Down below, the chief elder studied the scene with serenity, neither resigned nor regretful. She was simply going to accept injustice. She would endure it like a queen.
Margo figured that if she were in that same position, she would be crying and begging for salvation.
Kessa exchanged words with the chief elder. Both of the elderly ummins peered up at Alex, and Kessa translated. "The chief elder says that you brought hope and honor to the people of Duin. You showed the people that they are better than Torth."
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Colossus Rising [#SFF] [#Galactic] [#Complete]Science Fiction
All spacefaring civilizations are absorbed by Megacosm users, or else enslaved by them. Anyone who dares to question the elected rulers of the Megacosm--or worse, defy them--will suffer death by torture. Only Thomas escaped that fate. He severed hi...