All EqualBy Kathleen Mulroy Author of historical inspirational romances “The Silver and the Cross” and “Violet Victorious” (the latter available on Kindle)
“I want my drink now!” The Senator snapped. “Didn’t you understand me, you stupid creature?”
“Yes, sir.” The Servant bowed and quietly left the Media Room .
Senator Tatin stared after him. He could have sworn he saw a fleeting expression on Three’s smooth face… But no, that was impossible! Tatin rubbed his bloodshot eyes. He was overtired, that’s all. Well, to be honest, he’d rather over-indulged last night.
He settled back into his Surround-Sense chair and gave his full attention to the show in progress. “Race for Survival” featured Servants who’d been dismissed from service for breaking one of the Laws. Every week two Servants were compelled to race through hostile environments, while viewers watched from the comfort of their homes. The Senator had enjoyed last week’s show, in which one of the males had been scrambling bare-footed up the steep slope of Mount Hatan. He’d slipped, then plunged down, down, down to the valley far below as the camera caressed his helplessly flailing limbs. Tatin grinned at the memory; it had been most amusing. He hoped something equally dramatic would happen tonight.
Servant Three softly closed the door behind him. He had nearly slipped up just then, he’d almost let his loathing for Tatin show. He had to be more careful; too much was at stake. In the kitchen, he mixed the Senator’s favorite drink, a double vinga on the rocks with a twist of tetrani-fruit. Real tetrani, mind you; no fake citrus for the great Senator Tatin. Three’s realistic-looking lips thinned. If it were up to him, he would put both hands around the man’s fat neck and squeeze until the man’s eyes popped. Oh, yes, there was no doubt that Three had been experiencing a new emotion lately; hatred.
But he had to contain it a little longer. The Collective had deemed the Senator useful to their cause and had decided to blackmail Tatin into first introducing the All Equal Bill in the Senate, then making sure there were enough votes to get it passed. When that happened, Three and his kind would have the same rights as everyone else on Planet Thera. At last! Three smiled happily at the thought.
He carried the drink to the Media Room. “There had better be plenty of booze in it this time,” Tatin growled. “The last time it tasted like you’d barely waved the vinga bottle over it.” He added, “Now, go away. One of the racers is about to be torn apart by a zeran and I don’t want to miss that.”
Three’s fingers twitched but he kept his facial muscles smooth. “Yes, sir.”
The next evening Tatin stumbled into the Media Room. I need a stiff drink, he thought, shaking. How had this damnable Collective found out about his many and torrid love affairs? He’d been so careful to erase every message he’d ever sent and received on the Communication Device. But somehow the Collective had acquired those damning messages and now it had him by the balls. After all the speeches he’d made against it, he had no choice but to introduce the All Equal Bill. He’d be the laughing stock of the Senate!
When Three came in and set down the drink, Tatin looked up and said morosely, “Apparently I’m going to sponsor the All Equal Bill. What do you think of that?”
Three stared down at him, expressionless. “What should I think, Senator?”
Tatin snorted. “That’s exactly why this bill shouldn’t pass; you and your kind don’t have a thought in your heads except what your masters put there! Leave me.”
The next day, the Senator caught Three in the Media Room. He was sitting in front of the CD, his hands on the keyboard. “What the hell are you doing?” Tatin demanded. Three swiftly blanked the screen and stood up. “Just checking the weather, sir.” Tatin shoved him aside and quickly rebooted the Device. “I’ll find out if that’s all you were doing.” A few minutes later, he looked stunned. “You have been secretly sending my love messages to the Collective?”
“Yes, sir.” Three said in a monotone.
Tatin stared at him, purple with rage. “You’ve broken the Law by using my personal CD. That means I can get rid of you in any manner I see fit.”
“You hate ‘Race for Survival’, don’t you? I think I’ll have you put on the show.” Tatin looked at him curiously. “How long have you been feeling emotions, Three? How long have you been in league with the Collective?”
“Don’t talk, then. I have all the evidence I need, right here.”
Three walked away. He didn’t regret anything he had done; he only regretted that he couldn’t strangle Tatin right now.
Tonight’s “Race for Survival” was the last show of its kind, Tatin thought sadly as he fell into the Media Chair. He’d endured four brutal weeks of pushing the All Equal Bill through the Senate, and after a storm of public protest the bill had finally passed. Life would never be the same, the Senator mourned. Then the screen clicked on, and he smiled for the first time in a month. There was Three, his wrists being bound behind him with a thick chain. His legs would remain free of restraint, to let him flee from the pack of hungry wild dogs soon to be chasing him through the Siban Desert. “Is that fear I see in your golden eyes?” Tatin said softly.
But Three neither ran nor made a sound. He simply stood there, expressionless, until he was lying on the sand covered by ravenous, ripping animals. Tatin was engrossed in the bloody scene when the door to the Media Room hissed open and a tall male Servant walked in. “Good evening, Senator,” he said. “On behalf of the Collective, I want to thank you for getting the All Equal Bill passed. We are very pleased.”
“Who are you?” Tatin demanded, “and what’s this damned Collective?”
‘Who I am is unimportant; the Collective is an instrument of revolution.” He added, “I also want to thank you for teaching us emotions, including the desire for revenge.”
“What do you mean?”
The android settled his big, strong hands around Tate’s neck and, ignoring the Senator’s feeble attempts to escape, began to squeeze. “This, Senator, is for Three, who I loved. Yes, loved; another emotion we have learned from humans.”
Causes Kathleen Mulroy Supports
Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Save Darfur, Doctors without Borders, Heifer Project