1.18 Telepathic Cannibals

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Thomas sniveled, his chest hitching. He was beyond dignity. He had none left, laying in filth, and he sobbed like a child.

Armored Torth bustled around the battlefield. They tested the chains on their victims and also administered squirts of healing foam to wounded Torth. The battlefield foam, used for temporary sterilization and stabilization of wounds, would keep injured victims alive for a few hours, until they could receive surgery or whatever medical procedures they needed in order to recover.

Margo received the foam. So did Alex.

Thomas stared in disbelief. Alex's punishment should be over, and he should be allowed to die ... but his rampage must have changed popular opinion. The Torth Majority must be clamoring for additional retribution. It seemed they intended to keep the Giant alive for prolonged torture.

And whatever punishment they doled out to the Giant, they would double for the Betrayer. The Torth Majority would undoubtedly blame their renegade super-genius for every setback they'd suffered.

Thomas curled in on himself, unable to escape.

The Commander of All Living Things made proud, stately strides towards Alex. She deliberately placed one boot atop his chained-up body, and posed like a trophy hunter for her galactic audience. Teeth flashed in her skeletal face.

"That was quite a chase," she said in English.

Thomas cringed. Her choice of spoken speech served as a reminder, to every Torth, that she had been stationed on Earth three times during her eighty-year stint as a Servant of All, for a total of three months. That made her an expert on the primitive culture which had sheltered more than a few renegades.

Her deposed predecessor had failed to destroy the renegade known as Jonathan Stead. The current Commander of All Living Things, in contrast, stood triumphant over not just one, but two threats to the Empire. Not only did she possess the elite clearance necessary for covert missions on wilderness planets; she was fit to lead a conquest of humankind.

blood a feast of meat smell it this way

Stray thoughts tickled the back of Thomas's mind. Not words, nothing with structure. These minds were primeval.

hunger mmm but wait too bright too warm just wait

Thoughts bounced between several individuals, the way Torth communicated. Thomas sensed telepathic animals prowling in the darkness directly below him, navigating past rubble.

This was too unexpected to ignore. He strained to explore the alien minds, unable to shut off his innate curiosity, ignoring his own dire situation for the moment.

Wild zoved, a nearby Torth thought with disgust, sensing the creatures through Thomas's perception.

Servants of All closed in around him. Their eyes served as windows for billions of viewers on a myriad of planets. While Thomas lay helpless on a broken tower in the cesspool of the dead city, distant Torth lounged in holographic parlors, or soaked in spas. They got massages, sipped nectar drinks, or wore meshes that altered their brain waves, so they could feel at peace.

Thomas ascended to join them.

All of his reasons to resist the temptation were gone. He could no longer protect Cherise or anyone—but he could escape his terrible situation for a few minutes, as long as the Torth Majority would tolerate it. So he catapulted himself into the galactic symphony of many minds synced together, tumbling through wondrous currents of knowledge.

They avoided him, unwilling to get near someone so toxic and criminal. But more than a few Torth were curious about a renegade super-genius, and they went into orbit around his gargantuan mind, inspecting his thoughts, which in turn opened avenues of knowledge for him to explore.

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