The Death Sentence
Neo, seemingly unfazed by the cosmic calamity and perhaps having set a record for the lack of post-crash attire maintenance, made a beeline for the Mother Superior’s office as soon as the Suk Doctor gave them the cosmic green light. Alathea, still nursing a post-impact haze, attempted to rein in her zealous comrade just before they reached the door.
“Show some respect,” she urged.
“Respect? For murderers?” Neo scoffed, shaking off her hand and barging into the office as if he were on a mission to confront the universe’s most formidable adversaries.
Alathea, adopting the submissive posture befitting a Ghola, trailed behind Neo as he stormed into the office.
“...Speak!” Neo demanded, standing defiantly before Mother Superior Jessica’s desk. However, the wise Mother Superior continued her work, seemingly unfazed by the interstellar tempest in her office.
In frustration, Neo slammed his hand on the desk. “Respond! I know you can hear.”
Mother Superior Jessica finally lifted her head, her gaze fixing on Alathea. “You’ve disappointed me,” she said without sparing a glance at the irate Neo.
Alathea lowered her head in contrition. “Mother Superior, I attempted to thwart Duke’s people, but the damage to my ship...” Her words hung in the air like a somber interstellar symphony, echoing the cosmic challenges she faced.
Mother Superior cut in sharply, “So you’re so dimwitted that you can’t even identify your own mistake? I thought Mentat training from your previous lives would have drilled some sense into you.”
Alathea, now standing more erect, exchanged glances between Neo and Mother Superior. An unsettling feeling gnawed at her consciousness, signaling that something was off, like a rogue asteroid disrupting the cosmic equilibrium. She inhaled deeply, readying herself for the Menthat trance.
“Not now. Save your analyses for later,” Mother Superior interjected once more. “At this moment, focus on controlling your enthusiastic protégé.” The interruption halted Alathea’s attempt to dive into the depths of Mentat's analysis.
“Control me? People are dying as we speak. We couldn’t halt that ship. Do something. Millions are perishing!” Neo’s tone shifted from fiery anger to a desperate plea, his volume now tempered.
Mother Superior shifted her attention toward him. “Freedom demands sacrifice. We’ve assessed your people, and they’re hardly worth the effort—incapable of thriving in the real world, mere remnants of functionality even as peasants.”
“They can adapt,” Alathea felt compelled to interject, a defender of Terrans rising within her.
Having spent considerable time among them, she knew their resilience. They had forged a delicate truce with the AI that once enslaved them, a situation that remained under wraps until the Empire uncovered the plight of Terra.
Mother Superior fixed Alathea with a piercing gaze. “It’s a matter of resources. The majority in those towers harbor gross tumors that need extraction. Then we’d have to invest in training them to achieve even minimal usefulness.”
“We’ll remove the tumors, and we’ll train ourselves,” Neo declared, his eyes locked on Mother Superior.
She dismissed his suggestion with a wave of her hand. “That would be too time-consuming.”
Neo’s gaze darted between Mother Superior and Alathea. A realization dawned in his eyes. “You don’t care about us. Restoring Earth was never your plan. You intend to claim it for yourself.” The words hung in the air.
Fists clenched, Neo stormed out of the room, leaving a trail of cosmic turmoil in his wake. Alathea pivoted towards Mother Superior, bowing in a customary gesture of deference. A formal acknowledgment was in order before she could attend to her next crucial task—chasing after the distressed Neo.
“Leave him,” Mother Superior commanded, a dismissive wave accompanying her words. “Your mission here is concluded.”
Alathea swallowed hard, her composure momentarily wavering. The sentence bore a weighty implication: her own demise. As a Ghola, she was a mere instrument, crafted for a specific purpose and slated for disposal upon task completion. Ever since Duncan forged that ill-fated pact with the machines, plunging humanity into another protracted and bloody conflict, a law had been etched into the cosmic code—an unyielding decree that each Ghola served as a tool, devoid of rights, destined for termination upon fulfilling its designated role.
Alathea closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to steady herself. “So, can you at least enlighten me why you’re condemning the Terrans to death?”
“Duke Anjila has deemed our population sufficient for our objectives. Terrans, in his estimation, are expendable. Duke plans to bring in his own people for the final stages of terraforming, aiming to restore Earth to its former glory before presenting it as a gift to the Emperor. According to him, a million useless Terrans are more than sufficient.” The cold logic in Mother Superior’s explanation cut through the room, leaving an unsettling silence in its wake.
Mother Superior rose from her seat, encircling the table with a purposeful stride. Alathea braced herself, wondering if this would be the moment of her demise. Mother Superior retrieved a small black box from the desk and activated it, revealing a minuscule metal comb. It was a DNA sampler. The signal was clear—Alathea had reached the end of her current existence. Swallowing hard, she maintained eye contact with Mother Superior, watching as the box was lifted towards her mouth.
Alathea was familiar with the procedure, complying by opening her mouth. Mother Superior thrust the metal comb inside, pressing it against the inner cheek and scraping for a sample. The process unfolded swiftly, and Alathea closed her mouth, detecting a metallic taste and the subtle hint of blood. A shiver of uncertainty ran through her—was there a lethal dose of poison hidden within?
“Return to your quarters. I will retrieve you later,” Mother Superior commanded, the tone leaving no room for negotiation.
Alathea departed, a mix of relief and foreboding swirling within her. No poison. Death wouldn’t be delivered in such a straightforward manner; that would be too merciful. Alathea had made an error, and now, the impending conclusion of Alathea’s current existence promised to be a protracted and undoubtedly painful affair.