4.1 Slaves Again

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"You elected Me. You adore Me. Whenever You whisper Your needs to the Servants of All who serve the public good—it is I who ensures that they carry out Your every desire and whim. Any who fail shall be executed.

"For I am more than a mere humble Servant of All. I am their head.

"And now that mind readers command every world, every ocean, every heaven ... and I command Your Servants ... I, in essence, command all living things."

- Audavian, the first Commander of All Living Things


Everyone seemed to talk at once, but to Thomas, the babble was a hundred times worse than what the other passengers perceived. He sensed the thoughts of everyone crammed within his range, which was most of them, and unlike in the Megacosm, he couldn't simply shift his attention to someone calm. Their panic, their sparkling hopes, their most gripping fears, all formed a jarring disharmony as every individual mind clashed with every other mind. The cacophony was overwhelmingly discordant.

"How can we get past the checkpoint?" That was the top question everyone kept asking, voiced or thought by Margo, Pung, Lynn, and a lot of other people.

All the passengers were affecting Thomas's mood, no matter how hard he tried to remain aloof and emotionless. They reeked. They climbed or sat on each other. He longed for a tranquility mesh, or a soothing dip into tranquil minds.

The Megacosm glowed within his reach, a doorway ajar inside his mind.

All he had to do was stretch upward. A nanosecond was probably all he needed in order to learn about the checkpoint ... and grab some sweet, sweet knowledge while he was there.

Maybe he could do it fast enough so that other super-geniuses wouldn't detect him. He practically needed it, didn't he? Traffic blocked the checkpoint platforms from view, so he had no idea how many Red Ranks stood there, or how well-armed they were, or how thoroughly they were scanning each vehicle.

Thomas chewed the insides of his cheeks, forcing pain to remind himself that the Upward Governess was undoubtedly waiting for him to do something irrational and fatally stupid. He had to control his urge to ascend. He had to, or he might as well give up now and die without a shred of honor.

How he wished someone else was in control.

"Do you need me to knock a hole in the traffic?" Alex's deep voice was full of deadly determination.

"No!" Thomas whirled, and hoped his glare looked fearsome enough to make Alex hesitant. "Don't do anything."

"I'm open to better ideas." Alex watched him hopefully.

Thomas took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. "We need to buy ourselves more time, not less. If you're stupid enough to draw attention to us, then it's over. We can't blast our way through a militarized city."

"Do you have a plan?" Alex asked.

Their engines whirred, struggling to keep their overburdened aircraft afloat. Other transports crowded closer, floating mere inches away. Thomas sensed minds inside the nearest vehicles—relaxed minds, bathing in the Megacosm while slaves tended to their bodily needs.

They detected the mental cacophony inside his own vehicle. Thomas tensed, but they seemed to dismiss it, chalking it up to typical slave silliness.

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