Soth has his own room (his cough kept the other Psychlos in the dorms up at night), and that's where Jonnie finds him. The elderly alien immediately concludes that Jonnie is here to have him transferred again, and I have to boggle at him for a moment. The Psychlos know their planet got blown up, right? Their empire has collapsed, their entire civilization is gone. And they're all treating things like business as usual, as if Jonnie got promoted to their superior instead of taking them all prisoner. Their whole world has been turned on its head, and yet they assume everything's going to continue as normal. I mean, why would Jonnie transfer Soth? To where?
Jonnie evades the question, of course, and comments on Soth's collection of books, then asks how Soth's string of transfers got started. The answer, of course, is those damned catrists, who had him exiled for being impolite to one of their number. Or more specifically, one of Soth's students got yelled at by a catrist who insisted that they were all animals, but Soth shouted back denials. Soth's mom was in an "underground church group," you see, and taught him heresies like "sentient creatures have souls."
Soth goes on to describe the rise of the catrists from what he's pieced together of his people's history. 250,000 years ago they weren't known as the Psychlos yet, but there were fears of an invasion that allowed a group of "carnival performers--you know, mountebanks, frauds" who hypnotized people on stage--to gain the favor of the emperor. And "the next thing anyone knew, they were in charge of the schools and medical centers." The entire race was renamed the Psychlos after that original group of hypnotists.
We can only imagine how galactic history would have turned out if the ventriloquists or fire eaters had gained power like that instead.
Oh, and "Psychlos" means "brain" (or in an older dialect "property of"), while "catrist" means "mental doctor." What little subtlety that existed has now been kicked out the front door to sob in the rainy gutters. After this bit of preaching Jonnie flat out asks Soth if he'll teach him mathematics, and after a dazed moment of overcoming his lingering mental servitude, Soth agrees. End chapter.
Back to Chapter Three