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A Bad Idea 85

Shade knew she was confused. She stumbled away from The Golden Man, grabbing her head and muttering, “No, no, no.”

The Golden Man looked different, scarier. She couldn’t have placed what’d changed, especially not in her current state, but his face had actually changed shape — just slightly enough to not be discernable consciously, just strongly enough to make a subconscious impact.

“You’re a murderer,” The Golden Man said. “According to laws both earthbound and galactic, murder is bad. Murderers are bad. Murderers must be punished.”

He drew from his many experiences absorbing the emotions of others. He remembered the outrage at genocides, at murders, at the most despicable things lifeforms had ever done to one another.

But he also drew on an entirely alternate form of outrage: the baseless ones, the ones based on cultural norms as opposed to true ethics. Though he had never met the Puritans, some of the aliens whom he’d seen were a reasonable enough approximation.

“Get away,” she said. “Go. Leave.”

“You’re bad, aren’t you?” he asked. “You at least agree that you’re bad, right?”

Shade’s mind flashed on all the many bad things she’d done in her life. Most she actually didn’t feel so bad about. But the murders?

Well, she wouldn’t admit it to anyone. But sometimes the murders kept her up late at night.

“I’m,” Shade said, searching for the rest of that sentence, “a bad person.”

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