2.1 A Shifting Paradigm

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You. The Commander of All Living Things soured with dissatisfaction when the Upward Governess entered her mental orbit. Your plan failed, super-genius.

The Upward Governess swelled with attentive listeners, wrapping them around herself like a mantle of power. Millions of minds tuned in. They invited more listeners, and still more, until billions swirled around her like solar systems and nebulas around a galactic nucleus.

Some members of her mental audience were super-geniuses with their own enormous orbital audiences. There were the Twins; a girl and boy who were nearly as old and learned as herself. The eleven-year-old Death Architect became a listener, as well. The Climbing Storm. The Geodesic Flux. There were even a few toddler super-geniuses on baby farms, each unripe mind a tornado of facts and curiosity.

The Upward Governess would normally shrug off the youngest ones. She distrusted any mind that might grow into a mental giant, invent amazing things, and siphon away all the attention she deserved. Like the Betrayer. She never should have helped him.

But now was a time to play to every one of her listeners. When a plan goes awry, she thought, swaying in her hammock, a smart leader will think fast and adapt to changing circumstances. You (a leader) should be able to think fast. If You are unable to adapt, then (perhaps) You are unfit to command.

The Torth Majority seemed to hold its collective breath as they awaited the Commander's response. Baby farms paused in their child-testing activities. Servants of All on the Torth Homeworld listened carefully, invested in the showdown. Billions of Torth nudged their companions, bringing more attention to the conflict between the Commander of All and the eldest, highest ranked super-genius.

The masses thrummed with talk of the Commander's failure. Many were already campaigning for replacement candidates.

The Upward Governess indulged in a brief fantasy of being promoted to the role of Commander of All Living Things. If only the Majority would elect a dying child. Her mutations held her back in so many ways.

The Commander of All remained at ease; a perfect example of emotionless logic. No one expected wild zoved (those timid cannibalistic apes) to attack Us. That was unexpected, but your scheme should have taken every possible possibility into account. Instead, you fled the Megacosm.

Servants of All and their Red Rank sycophants chorused in supportive agreement. Yes.

The fat super-genius dropped out at a critical moment.

Why???

The Commander of All was ready with a suggested explanation. Could it be, perhaps, that the Upward Governess was bankrupt of genius solutions—and ashamed to admit it?

Her massive audience surged in triumphant agreement.

The Upward Governess slurped her nectar drink in order to cool down her bristly feeling. True, she had made a forgivable misjudgment or two, but at least she could recognize when a plan spun out of control and needed to be revised.

You should have bombed that ruinous tower as soon as You fled back to Your luxury fleet, she accused. Now You're risking superior lives in a dangerous search.

Teams of Red Ranks currently scoured the dead city, shining bright lights into black crevices, but people could vanish in that fetid place. Everyone knew about the dead city sickness. Lone Torth tended to suffer hallucinations and madness, and sometimes vanished in the ruins.

The Torth Homeworld was a bad choice of battleground, the Nerve Agent let everyone know. He was in charge of the hunt in the dead city, having been elected to replace the Pure Moment, who had gotten smashed and killed by the Giant.

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