For the first time since the Snaughians captured me at Fogslef VII, I felt at peace. The constant pressure of sharp, Snaughian minds at the experimental military lab where they studied me drove me half mad.
Since I woke up in this cage, though, I had not sensed another intelligent mind. Instead, I sensed immense pressure and depth, hidden pockets of heat and water, and veins of ore twisting into the distance.
The glow of plants and small animals filled the cracks and crevices, following the flow of water through stone. My mind flowed with them, expanding for the first time since the Snaughians had torn me from my peaceful retreat from the crush of a civilization-level concentration of minds.
The galaxy turned out to be a harsh place for my people.
I laid on the floor of the cage, relaxing into the subterranean world around me. My cage sped through vast tunnels, crossing a continent. While I assumed the cage had a destination, I had little desire to arrive just yet.
This may be the first time in years I’ve been able to relax. I sense no cities, no villages, no hamlets…only the peaceful hum of a wild world.
I drew a deep breath and let my mind drift in the moment. Thoughts came and went, some my own, others wisps of the small creatures which lived in the dark places. My cage ascended and I drifted into new, more complex minds.
Small rodents and deep taproots, insects and soil, and a huge sense of green, of interconnected life, flowed past me. Then I heard a call ring through all the rest. I opened my eyes. My cage came to a stop.
Entirely open, I sensed a being with an entirely new mind, a mind I had never before experienced. It shone like a star on the horizon, calling to me, piercing through the green haze of the rain forest surrounding us.
The cage opened, solid side panels falling away from the rolled steel bars of the cage. I stepped out, eyes confirming what my mind already knew. Trees towered into the sky, draped with vines. Thousands of life forms called to each other through the air.
Her voice sliced into me. I gasped. Her cage had tilted and fallen. I sharpened my focus, trying to tune out the background noise of burgeoning life around me.
She is trapped. She is injured—arm…hurt.
I grabbed a handful of vines and yanked them down, tearing them from their moorings among the wide-leafed greenery. The vines fell into a heavy pile. I picked out the thickest and dragged it over to the other cage.
I threw one end over the top and set my end of the rope around my body. A moment later, I felt her tug. She groaned with the effort of the climb, but she managed to get to the top. She thrust out a hand. Before thinking, I grabbed it and pulled her all the way up, next to me.
Her touch seared my flesh like a star. A jumble of memories, fears, life experiences, desires, and the purest compassion I had ever seen slammed through me, knocking all the air from my lungs.
She jerked her hand out of my grip. My knees buckled and I crashed to the jungle floor. Air flooded my lungs.
What the fuck was that?
I heard the thought—but it wasn’t mine. Having sensed no danger, and being so much more completely open to the world than I had been in years, I had forgotten to turn on any filters, or bring up any walls or shields to block out the constant flood of psychic information I usually filtered.
When we touched…
When we touched, what?
I slammed my shield into place, raising my hand to her to keep her back until I could think again. She tilted her head to the side and leaned against a tree, cradling her injured arm.
“Your people…are telepathic…”
Her eyes widened with surprise and she pointed at her chest.
“My people…you mean, Humans? Ha. Some people think so, but we certainly have no proof. Maybe your people are telepathic? Is that what that feeling was? Like touching the sun…or are you like an electric eel? Will it always feel like that to touch you? Do you—”
I held up my hand again, still panting too hard to respond.
She must be. Perhaps she has a latent talent…
She stepped closer, reaching out a hand, coating it in soothing energy. I scrambled back, shaking my head. I grabbed a tree trunk and pulled myself to my feet. I closed my eyes and begged softly.
“Please… have you never heard of the Zorberu people?”
“No. Is that your species? Zorberu? Honestly, I found out life definitely existed outside of my home planet when I was abducted right before this. It’s hard to tell how long ago that was. I have memory gaps. I think they knocked us out for transport—”
“Wait. Slow down. Yes, I’m Zorberu. We are telepathic. I have never met a Human before. It was, uh…an overwhelming experience.”
She nodded at me. A small smile spread across her lips. Her essence threatened to pull me in. I could see her glow in the ancient way of minds and souls.
I don’t think she even realizes she does it…that she reaches out with her soul every time she tries to connect…but…I thought only Zorberu—and then, only between…could it be—or is it just Human?
She laughed, deep and strong.
“Oh, honey. I’m from Texas. No one knows what to do with us and we pride ourselves on being an overwhelming experience.”
I blinked a few times, working my jaw, trying to decide how to respond. Eventually, I laughed.
“You may be the first being I’ve ever met who proudly self-applies such a description. I am Lor and please have patience. I’m still recovering from the torture the Snaughians put me through.”
She gasped, hand flying to her mouth.
“Oh, that’s terrible!”
Once again, her compassionate instincts sent her hand reaching for my shoulder to offer comfort. I flinched back.
“Please, not yet. I’m still recovering from your first touch. With some rest, I will be far less sensitive.”
She smiled and stepped back, nodding.
“I’m Alyssa. My sister Emily was abducted with me. We have all been forced to play some stupid intergalactic reality game, apparently, and you’re my partner.”