From the happiness of Tay able to think and speak, we take one more dive into the darker side, where Reina – who has demonstrated she cares little for humans – teaches Tay a lesson about revenge.
And then she turns her loose; Gary assumes he’s about to die.
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer!
“There are four minds here, besides yours, of course,” Reina suddenly turned conversational. “If I released you, to whom would you go first?”
Gary heard Tay’s teeth grind.
“Our kind lies all the time,” she went on in the same nonchalant tone, “as it keeps peace between us. But right now, I’ll know the lie as it forms in your mind, Little One.”
“I would kill the human first,” Tay admitted quietly.
“Reina?” Dorina had an odd tone in her voice.
“Eldest brother brings word,” she said, cryptically.
Only able to see her back, Gary saw Reina sit up straighter. A double-helix of slow lightning formed about her and the one in her lap.
“Let us bury your past, Little One.”
Pavel looked up and spoke directly to his friend’s mind.
Thaad found the only survivor of the project who made Tay, he thought to Gary. He is on the other side of the world. Very old; dying in a hospital. The Laws make me blind but I suspect…
Suspect what, my friend?
Reina took Tay. I suspect one or both of them will kill this man.
“She cannot…!” Gary took a single step and was paralyzed again.
“I can do anything I want, Gary Hartmann,” Reina said, standing and pulling Tay up with her, the lightning fading. “Pavel? Move next to him, please.”
Gary was unsure if he was more surprised by her using his name or saying please. His friend was to his right. They watched Reina turn Tay around as her hand slid from her face to back onto her left shoulder.
“You just saw what I did, Little One, didn’t you?” she asked.
“I ended a human’s life. I destroyed a person. I destroyed a person who hurt you. Feel better, now?”
Some time passed.
“No,” Tay whispered.
“Show me how you are older, Little One.” Her hand dropped off Tay’s shoulder.
Gary still could not move.
Tay twitched a couple of times but her hands did not come up. She walked very slowly until she could touch them both with her hands. If it’s me, I’ll die, Gary thought, missing his daughter and son very much.
Her right arm, Gary’s side, shook and shook. Her breathing was short and shallow. Her hand came up quickly –
Her left hand. Onto Pavel’s chest.
“Agape me,” she begged. “Help me.”
He took her into his arms.
“I do. I shall.”
Looking past them, Gary saw a mix of compassion and feral pleasure in Reina’s eyes. Dorina looked as if she was about to pass out.
“Right,” Reina said, what of the compassion leeching from her face, “I’m finished here. Don’t everyone say ‘you’re welcome’ at the same – ”
“You are not,” Pavel announced, taking Tay’s right hand with his left and leading her toward the Prime Minister.
“I tolerate much, Cousin,” she was all frown now, “and that is on the line.”
“You claimed Tay,” Pavel stopped and said.
“Yes, I did.”
“Do you still?”
Gary saw that trap at once: was Reina to renounce all claim, then, by extension, she was announcing limits to not only her power but that of the empire she led. But if she did not…
“My land, my servers,” she said slowly, perhaps thinking of when Gary’s sister walked her into a trap. “Yes. Yes, I do have some stake in Tay. Not a claim; our kind does not own one another, Pavel.”
“Thank you for saying my name, Reina. I’m sure you know its history?”
“It…” seeing another trap, her eyes flashed to Gary’s then back. “It’s not an uncommon Slav name. It’s how we say Paul.”