The hidden tunnel had a smoky scent, mixed with the musky scent of ummins. Margo felt her way ahead in the dim light, single file after Lynn and Thomas. She held a protective arm above her head, to keep from smacking into low parts of the ceiling. Her other hand trailed along the crude rock wall.
"Alex?" she asked. "Are you doing okay?"
She heard him moving behind her, forced to crawl because the tunnel was sized for ummins. After a hesitation, he asked, "Do you have any more of those painkillers?"
He sounded reluctant. Margo pulled out the bottle of Torth-grade painkillers, aware that someone who had spent time in a prison arena probably had a high pain tolerance. "Here." She had given him a few pills earlier, but she handed him two more. "I have no idea what dosage might be dangerous, but I figure you can handle a larger-than-normal dose."
"Thanks." Alex sounded ashamed.
As he dry-swallowed the pills, Margo pulled off the luxury robe she'd tied around her waist. "You can use this to cushion your knees."
In the darkness, she could barely see Alex. But he sounded more grateful than anyone should. "Thanks."
If he was in that much pain, maybe Margo ought to check him for injuries. Then again, maybe he was just grateful that someone other than his mother was showing him kindness.
She was careful to keep her footing on the steep path. The scraping sounds came from Weptolyso, crawling at the end of their single-file line. The nussian had to contort himself to fit through the tunnel, and Margo tried not to imagine how they would handle a situation where he got stuck.
She thought that Alex might be able to use his powers for any dire problem. "Bringer of Hope," the chief elder had named him, and hope was exactly what Margo felt when she considered what he might be capable of. She kept thinking of his storm-like powers and the story of Jonathan Stead.
According to slave gossip, Alex had managed to kill two Red Ranks with his bare hands in the prison, without any powers whatsoever. People in the Tunnels must still be talking about that event.
"So," she said, trying to sound casual. "Do you think we have a chance of stealing into a spaceship and flying home to Earth?"
Alex laughed softly. "That's a nice idea."
She didn't press the matter, but she smiled. There was hope in his tone.
"You have a beautiful home, that you must be missing," she said. "I loved the stonework. Did Jonathan Stead—I mean, Garrett—design it?"
"Yeah." There was no humor in his tone.
The revelations about his ancestor might have shaken his sense of identity. Margo tried to think of how to change the subject.
"He made it imposing," Alex said. "With winged lion statues to guard the front steps. Everyone knew him as someone formidable. I couldn't live up to that reputation. I've always been the opposite of brave."
Margo wanted to argue against his poor self-assessment. "Garrett was hiding a big secret," she pointed out.
"Yeah." Alex sounded bitter. "I guess he didn't want to be a Torth."
"He sounded like a good guy." Margo glanced back at Alex, to show her conviction. "And you're not a Torth at all. One eighth doesn't count."
"I guess not." He sounded doubtful. "What about Thomas? Is he fully Torth, or just part?"
"I don't know," Margo admitted. If Thomas had learned any facts about his biological parents, then he had not seen fit to share that knowledge with the rest of them. He might have as much human ancestry as Alex.
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Colossus Rising [#SFF] [#Galactic] [#Complete]Science Fiction
All spacefaring civilizations are absorbed by Megacosm users, or else enslaved by them. Anyone who dares to question the elected rulers of the Megacosm--or worse, defy them--will suffer death by torture. Only Thomas escaped that fate. He severed hi...