Something clicked and the Sage jerked, but said nothing. His eyes widened and he uttered a little scream, his arms and legs tugging hard against the restraints that held him fast.
Bishop Sonje glanced at his flimsy. A one appeared beside the Sage’s name.
“How many times have you returned here, High Sage?”
The creature was panting, near to hyperventilating. Fear shone in his wild, rolling eyes.
“How many times, Sage?” repeated Sonje.
Good. It was part of the ritual, asking the heretic to number his deaths. On Earth, humans had fought the process. Convincing the subject to volunteer information about what was happening was tantamount to having them admit guilt: a first step towards repentance.
“It never happened,” said Bishop Sonje.
The High Sage goggled at him.
“What you remember happened to an Alter-Self: a version of you who died in an alternate timeline. None of us in this room have any recollection of those events.”
“You killed me!” said the Sage, his earlier calm melted in a torrent of anger and effrontery. His long ears rose half erect as he spoke.
“No, sir. You are quite alive.”
“But I remember it. That man suffocated me.” The Sage cocked his fuzzy head at one of the human guards.
“We of the All-Church do not kill living creatures if we can avoid it, High Sage. And we never murder sentient beings.”
“But you –“
“– used a tool at our disposal. Your death never happened. And it may never happen again.”
The High Sage froze, the implications dawning in his overlarge eyes.
Sonje watched him, willing the creature to submit to the All-Point. When he first gained his Investiture, receiving in the process his own Time-Tag, Sonje had never imagined he would be forced to one day administer Severe Unction. It was not something a bishop of the Church could ever relish, but if it brought even one consciousness out of the Void and into the All-Point it would be worth the sacrifice.
“You would kill me again?” whispered the rabbit priest.
“Confess the All-Point, High Sage. Lead your people into our fold.”
Bishop Sonje shut his eyes, bowed his head forward, and sighed. With an effort he schooled his expression, ensuring that when he looked back at the Sage, the creature saw nothing there but determination.
“You force my hand,” he said.