Epilogue: Sweet Secret

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The Upward Governess commanded one of her bodyguards to fluff up her pillows. After many sleepless hours, she still couldn't find a comfortable position, no matter how many pillows she used, or which way she reclined.

Uniformed slaves entered, bearing a tray of gourmet snacks. The Upward Governess bit into a berry tart. Her abstinence from the Megacosm made her both uncomfortable and ravenous. She couldn't imagine how the Betrayer had survived it for as long as he had. Entire days! Was he even sane, anymore? He must have an astronomically high tolerance for austerity and discomfort.

The door of her solarium slid open again. This time, an elderly Blue Rank stepped inside.

How did you get in? the Upward Governess demanded. Her nussian guards should have barred any color ranks from entering her palatial suite.

But, judging from the minds of her nearest bodyguards, they'd let this Blue Rank in because he'd threatened to kill their loved ones if they continued to block his way. Of course. Threats were always effective on slaves, even on loyal nussians. 

It made her wonder why she bothered to own nussians. She ought to swap the lot of them for a few packs of well-trained Algypaean battle beasts.

I did not intend to interrupt Your meal, the Blue Rank thought once he was with range.  I apologize.  He bowed his hooded head; he liked to conceal his grossly misshapen ears. You (Superior One) are sorely missed. Local matters require Your attention.

At least he was contrite. The Upward Governess nibbled on her tart, and decided that if this man failed to leave within five seconds, she would have her mostly useless bodyguards escort him away.

The Blue Rank reprioritized his thoughts. An aqueduct pipe broke in Rare Moonrise MetroHub, after the disaster caused by the Giant. It will take days to repair the damage.

The countdown in her mind concluded.

Wait! he thought. Slaves in New GoodLife WaterGarden City are getting sick from dirty water. He eyed the plentiful waterfalls of her open terrace. Will You use Your governance tablet to reroute key aqueducts?

The Upward Governess tapped her data tablet, adjusting the flow of water throughout her city. The fountains and waterfalls in her solarium slowed to a trickle.

Thank You. The Blue Rank emanated relief. It seemed he didn't want anyone promoted to replace her.

For good measure, she dialed up the breeze turbines throughout the city, to take people's minds off the lesser water flow.

The Blue Rank lingered within telepathic range. He clearly had questions that he didn't dare to think about.

It occurs to Me, she thought, that I have struggled for much of My (short) life with entirely too much responsibility upon My shoulders. Few super-geniuses (in history) have been so eager to contribute to Our Majestic Empire. Perhaps My time is misspent.

The Blue Rank's mind spiked with concern. The Empire benefits greatly from Your contributions. In fact, he hastened to add, some research projects cannot be completed without You. The details of an estimated 680 theorems exist only in Your mind at this moment. It is important that We (the Empire) catalogue Your vast knowledge before You die. He lowered his gaze. I would like to record some of Your knowledge, (if You approve), Great One.

So he wasn't one of the many Torth who was hoping that she would die sooner rather than later.

I will continue to contribute, she assured him. Right up until the hour of My death. But I suppose I have been neglectful of My duties, so I want you to govern My metropolis and province, starting now.

His mouth dropped open. Me??? A savage emotion, shock, flashed through him. It was a good thing that neither of them were in the Megacosm, or he might have suffered a death sentence for it.

Yes, she assured him calmly. Govern in My stead while I am indisposed.

If he did a good job, she supposed the Servants of All were likely to promote him to her own lofty rank, someday. Or higher. Unlike her, he wasn't held back by a debilitating mutation, so it was possible for him to become a Servant of All.

The Blue Rank ducked his head under the weighty idea of such great honor heaped upon him. With all due respect, Governors and Servants tend to get promoted young. I am old. If I was meant to rise that high, surely the Servants of All would have promoted Me decades ago.

There are exceptions, she reminded him. Stranger things have happened.

After she triumphed in capturing the Betrayer and getting the Giant killed ... well, she might be able to get anything she desired. She would certainly get to choose her own replacement.

Now go and be My temporary governor. She removed the protective algorithms on her tablet and offered it to the Blue Rank. Do not contact Me again, and do not allow anyone else to do so. I shall rejoin the Megacosm, but I must abstain for a while.

The Blue Rank bowed in respect. He did not question her abstinence from the Megacosm, which meant he understood why it was necessary. He did not speculate on what enormous secret she must be keeping. Instead, he accepted the governance tablet and thought, If only You could live long enough to become the Commander of All Living Things. You would be worthy of that grand position (unlike Our current Commander).

The Upward Governess stopped chewing long enough to watch him go. Part of her longed to call him back, to make him stay and keep her company.

But no. That would undermine the security and success of the Torth Empire. She could not allow herself to have companions. Other mind readers had to be off-limits to her. For now.

Won't the Betrayer be surprised, she thought, when he understands the trap he's in.

A nearby slave noticed a trace of a smile curving her lips, and he was so surprised, he fumbled with a nectar drink. He caught it before it could hit the floor.

She pretended not to notice. Punishments cost effort, and anyway, a slave in pain always soured her mood. She could almost taste her upcoming triumph, with all the honors she would be showered with. The Majority might even feel indebted enough to gift her with an endless supply of NAI-12 medicine....

Well, that was a fantasy. No one wanted to help her live to adulthood.

But she knew exactly what reward the Majority would readily grant her. They would give it to her the instant she made the demand. It was something to look forward to, even better than a sweet desert.

She would gain access to the clearest memory of the Betrayer's face in the exact moment when he understood the inescapable fate she had engineered for him.

Her smile widened, and she pushed the rest of the tart into her mouth.

✰✰✰✰✰

Thanks for reading!!! 

The saga will continue in Torth Book 3: Nowhere Nation.  I'll start posting that in a few weeks, once I throw together a book cover.  

Read on for a short excerpt from the next book ...

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