Tais kept walking down the hall. He felt like he was being watched. The square-cut cement walls left much to be desired. Just the occasional black node, beeping a red light from the corners. And, up ahead, he could see a crossway in the hall. It branched left and right, and went on until it branched off again without continuing.
The holocams caught it all. The astonishment on his face as he stared at the map, unable to read the symbols. Just looking at the red arrow indicating his location, and the blue lines of the wall.
"Tais has a fine tolerance for pain," a rumbling bass observed, from the projection's viewpad.
It played out in front of Huna and her father like an ancient animation from Terran times. The photons lacked focus. The shapes lacked definition. However, they stood far enough away, that it did not matter. The look on his face, the calmly calculating analysis, was plain to see. It was visible.
"Father, why do you let them try to escape?" tender curiosity in the young lady's tiny voice.
"He is a fine specimen, like all the others." he told her, "He deserves this test like all the others. However, Worker 03671 is dead."
"Father, I thought this was Worker 03671. He has the number branded upon his back, unless someone has fiddled with the cameras."
The man smiled, his voice deep, "Huna, my darling, deceit is everywhere in this world. The skin was ripped from his back, and he was rebranded. He stole the ID of a dead man. The slave you see before you is not a part of the centuries of selective breeding."
She stood in silence, going over what her father had said in her head. Idly, twirling a black pigtail of hair with her finger. The holoprojection kept playing, and she watched the young man make a decision, and turn down a corridor.
"If he is not part of the breeding plan, why are you testing him like all the others? Surely, father, his blood is tainted. His clone will be inferior to the Supersoldiers of Delkora. They will demote us to Delkori."
"Huna, our family has been breeding the trench workers for years. We will never join the ranks of our Delkori servants. This is a greater test, Huna. This young man, Tais the Halfblood, Worker 03671-B, is a hybrid. Our last hybrid, 02433, Sallas - she was far more intelligent than any of the braun-driven slaves. Terrible accident, the cave-in at the labyrinth's edge. He is our back-up."
Huna was quiet as she watching him run down the hall. There was something familiar about the boy. He did not have the harsh features of most of the slaves.
"Huna, that boy is your nephew."
"What he did to the lock holder!"
"Exactly. Mind over matter, fueled by other thoughts. He is like us, and he is not. Your half-brother impregnated a slave-woman on the Senate's request. They wanted the best Mancer in the solar system to father a super-soldier."
Huna fell silent. I am more talented than my brother, you old fool. And you are not my father. Just in name. Just to get mother's hands onto your Delkora-class project. For this! This explains it all. I must contact the boy.
They watched as he fiddled with a door.
"We have no right to treat them like ancient livestock, father."
"What are they filling your head with in school, Huna? That's a preposterous comparison."
"I've heard it all before, father. Evolution stops working at anything more than a snail's pace the moment sentient beings are capable of protecting society's weaker members. We stopped getting better ages ago, so we decided to force the hands of evolution. Compromising human rights. Choosing who we love and who we don't. It's not right!"
"If your mother heard that, you'd be banished form the Delko!" The outrage was clear on his face.
"Delkora, Delkorei, Delkori, or common Klendo; I care not, father." She picked up a book, from her schoolwork, "Don't you understand, father? We've become a dystopia, the kind old, crotchety Terran men used to write about."
"What's wrong with that, Huna?"
The metal door swung open, and their projection's view followed him into a dark room.
Not this room, Tais! Huna thought, despite the two-minute delay between the holocams and the projectors. Get out, you cannot hope to pass this test!
She seethed, "Everything is wrong with it, father! This boy is creeping about in a cement labyrinth like a laboratory test rat."
"What do laboratories and rats have to do with each other?"
"Arrgh!" she screamed, and left the room. The door to the projection room slammed behind her. Her father seemed indifferent, as he straightened out his suit, and turned back to the dark room projected before him.