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Sometimes, they cum back. . . .
"The Problem," Maksa said suddenly, for there was only one 'Problem' when it was spoken this way.
"When you discuss it, you sound almost guilty."
"Yes," she said.
"Why?" Maksa asked. "If it was something that was caused by the old breeding program, you can hardly be responsible. That programme was started hundreds of years ago."
Pussy pursed her lips thoughtfully and the three Officers gathered round the large table paused in their work.
"I suppose," she replied, "that I view it as a collective responsibility. They were of my Discipline who forged that programme. In the administrative sense, I am their descendant and the responsibility of cleaning up their mistakes is mine."
Maksa looked at her Mistress. Without the aid of those mysterious Facial powers, she couldn't read anything in the other woman's emotions, so she had to go on the logic of the thing alone.
"That's not enough," Maksa said. "I know what it's like to clean up someone else's mess. I cleaned up after those Virgin girls in more ways than you can imagine. I know what that feels like. It involves eye rolling. Your eyes don't roll when we talk about this. You look at the ground."
A Facial woman, Maksa supposed, might have picked up more subtle clues. But something as obvious as guilty eyes tilted to the ground? Even Maksa could catch that.
"Indeed," Pussy sighed.
There was another pause; almost pregnant, one might call it, if the word weren't so loaded with meaning in this particular room.
The Sorceress's eyes met Maksa's.
"What it comes down to is that I would have done the same thing in their position," she explained. "I would have chosen the same programme, likely the exact same breeding matches. I would have ignorantly played the game they played, with too little testing and far too little information. I would have created the same mess with which we now find ourselves saddled."
Saddled. Like a horse, or an ox. Burdened. Assigned involuntarily.
"How can I claim to have any less responsibility than they if, given the opportunity, I would have done the same as they did?"
She waved her hand over the table full of parchment before them.
"In that sense: this is my mess, your mess, and our mess."
Deep breath. Firm nod.
"Now let's be about cleaning it up."
The Bazaar was the oddest thing Talla had ever seen. The event took place in a square that seemed even larger than the one in front of Endowment Hall.
"They use this place for military training," Tina had whispered at one point. "You'll see when it's your turn."
It was hard for Talla to imagine, despite the size, that this place could be the stage for one of those immense historical battles she'd been taught about. There was nothing violent or militaristic about it at this moment.
The centre of the square was filled with row after row of little booths, displaying all manner of clothing and jewelry. Poles had been erected and lines had been strung from them. From these lines hung all the colours of clothing. There were pure whites and whites tinted with the lightest of blue and even pink. It was hard to imagine that these colours were allowed, but Tina had sworn that anything you bought here was okay to wear. The yellows could lean into green, but not much toward orange. The oranges, meanwhile, pressed on into peach and other shades of lightly tinted red.
The tables seemed to be arranged randomly.
"Wouldn't it make more sense to put all the white stuff at one end?" Talla asked. "Everything is all over."
"Not really," Tina said. "It's sorted by who makes it. So if you find one piece you like, the other pieces will be nearby, right?"
"Plus," Yua pointed out. "The women who make the stuff want to be near their own clothing, and take credit for it."
Talla wondered, but only briefly, what the women of Form did with the coins their wares brought them.
"When are you supposed to meet your friend?" Tina asked.
"My sister," Talla corrected instantly. "Around eighth bell."