2.5 Uninhibited

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Alex heard the first few things Thomas said—they couldn't save anybody, they might as well give up—and then his mind refused to take in any more. None of it was acceptable.

"I have powers," he said, interrupting the tirade of doom. "What can you tell me about how to defeat Torth?"

Thomas looked offended by the rude interruption, not even bothering to close his mouth.

Alex waited, silently begging for Thomas's advice. He could spread his awareness right now, just to see how far he could go, but any advice would be better than taking risks.

"All I can tell you," Thomas said, "is that I don't want to be in your vicinity when you're in battle." A dark, closed-off look came over his face. "The knowledge of how to use these powers has been gone for eons, before the Torth colonized this planet. The last fully trained Yeresunsa died more than six thousand years ago. No one alive knows how to use Yeresunsa powers."

"So ... you're just giving up?" Margo stared at Thomas as if she didn't recognize him.

"If you don't mind," Thomas said, "I'd like to get some more of that sleeping potion." He began to float away.

Alex remembered when Thomas in a wheelchair rather than a hoverchair, with purple eyes instead of yellow eyes. That version of Thomas would have explored every option before giving up. That Thomas wouldn't be afraid to offer all the knowledge he had.

Afraid.

That was the right word for the way Thomas was behaving, although he didn't show much emotion in his body language or his face. He kept running away from discussion about Yeresunsa powers. He was avoiding Alex, the same way Alex used to avoid people in general.

"What are you afraid of?" Alex asked.

Thomas kept moving.

Alex extended his awareness through the air and the rocky cavern floor. Solid objects felt more comfortable to inhabit. He became the stone floor without a second thought, and followed fissures and layers, as if they were roadways made just for him. His awareness leaped into the hoverchair in less than a second.

"Let go," Thomas said in an icy tone, as soon as his hoverchair jerked backwards.

Alex let him go, slightly ashamed. "You're afraid of something. Is it me?"

"I'm not interested in having this conversation," Thomas said.

Their situation would be infinitely better if only Thomas would act like the renegade he was. Why couldn't he be more heroic?

"You're not a Torth," Alex said. "Why are you making things easy for them?"

"There's no dignity in thrashing against an opponent who's already won," Thomas said, callous.

Alex's awareness spiked out, and he had to reign it back in. Had Garrett ever felt this alone? "I'm just asking for a little bit of advice." He kept his tone patient, aware of his friends listening. They needed to believe he was a competent protector, and not too desperate.

"If you're not going to teach me," Alex said, "then I'll have to teach myself."

Thomas ignored him. So Alex spread his awareness into the ceiling, and kept going, further and further through solid rock. Some layers felt different, more porous, or more delicate. He closed his eyes for better concentration, zigzagging upward until the outer bulk of his awareness became air rather than anything solid.

He pushed outward from there, skimming surfaces, sensing light and shadow and sampling textures.

"What you're doing is dangerous."

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