2.2 Survival of the Fittest

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His mind kept surging upward, straining towards the glowing nirvana of the Megacosm. It was so close, he could almost get there by accident.

You can never go back, Thomas inwardly reminded himself, again and again, because his flawless memory wasn't enough. You are unwelcome in Paradise. You are exiled from Eden.

He bit the inside of his cheek and tasted coppery blood. He'd chewed his inner mouth raw, but despite the pain, the relentless craving came back.

He tried to distract himself with the mysteries that had begun to arise in his mind. It was strange that Alex wielded his power with such gentle precision, despite his utter lack of training. Yeresunsa were widely known to be tempestuous. The earliest memories within the Megacosm—preserved by hundreds of generations of Torth—came from telepaths who had suffered under the moods of Yeresunsa tyrants.

Was it possible that those ancient memories were inaccurate, or overreactions?

If Thomas were in the Megacosm, he would never dare question the common knowledge of the Torth Majority. Everyone knew that Yeresunsa powers were nearly impossible to control. One should flee from a Yeresunsa, the way one might flee a tsunami or tornado.

But here, in the darkness of a cave, severed from the Majority ... he found himself reexamining what the Torth masses thought they knew. He considered impossibilities, hypothesizing what information he might be missing, or misinformed about.

Alex's very existence was hard to believe. Baby farms and pedigree programs had existed for millenniums, and they had eliminated a lot of unwanted mutations. Yeresunsa mutants were at the top of the list of undesirables. Controlled breeding should have ensured that powerful Yeresunsa like Alex Dovanack and Jonathan Stead got bred out of the gene pool.

Thomas, too, for that matter.

He felt the golden cuff around his ankle, attached to his skin. It dispensed a steady stream of inhibitor serum into his bloodstream. He wasn't going to risk destroying a village by accident.

Maybe he was wrong about that risk, though.

Maybe everything he'd learned about Yeresunsa was wrong.

The collective minds of trillions of Torth glowed above him. Beckoning. He even missed the background audience of admirers interested in his life. 

If only he dared to scan the Megacosm for a few more answers.

He forced himself to focus on Cherise. She sat well out of his range, sorting beads alongside an alien child. Her skinny knees poked out of her rag-dress, a sign of how thin she'd become, but at least she was safe here. For now. She could forget about mind readers for a little while.

He wasn't going to ruin that. He would rather die screaming in pain.

He drifted further towards the rear of the cave, studying the petroglyphs layered on every hard surface. They implied stories, but they all boiled down to one message. We are people. Every ummin who had every entered this cave had left a mark, showing that down here, they were not slaves.

They should not help Thomas dress or bathe, or tend to his bodily needs. He was going to need to beg Margo for help fairly soon. He just wanted to catch her when she wasn't next to Alex or Kessa, or anyone else. They already thought little of him. He didn't want to add disgust or derision for how helpless he was.

He felt so weak all the time. And bored. Time passed hellishly slow without the Megacosm. Reality felt like a straightjacket.

He reminded himself that he had escaped from abusive foster homes, as well as from a city governed by a Torth super-genius. Not only that, but he had invented an effective treatment for his neuromuscular disease, defying authorities and common knowledge in order to do so. Surely he could ignore the collective minds of trillions of Torth.

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