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I believe the human race has finally managed to be able to explore the solar system. They begin inhabiting whatever they can find. Eventually an alien race with superior technology meets the starpeople - called something similar - and while most other species give in, the humans fight back, or at least some of the different variants do. Because of this the alien race transforms them into various new beasts. Those that fought back the most are transformed into flesh bricks.(?) And they live like this for thousands if not millions of years before they evolve.

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This is All Tomorrows by C. M. Kosemen writing as Nemo Ramjet. The story has already been asked about here: Web story about aliens who twist humans into various sub-humans

The bit you remember is a description of the subgroup of humans called the Colonials:

Their world had given the toughest resistance against the Qu onslaught. So tough, in fact, that they had turned back two successive waves of the invaders, only to succumb to the third.

The Qu, with their twisted sense of justice, wanted to make them pay. Even extinction would be too light a punishment for resisting the star gods. The humans of the rogue world needed a sentence that would remind them of their humiliation for generations to come.

So they were made into disembodied cultures of skin and muscle, connected by a skimpy network of the most basic nerves. They were employed as living filtering devices, subsisting on the waste products of Qu civilization like mats of cancer cells. And just to witness and suffer their wretched fate, their eyes, together with their consciousness, were retained.

For forty million years they suffered; generation after generation were born into the most miserable of lives while absorbing the pain of all that they were going through.

When the Qu left, they hoped for a quick extinction. But their lowliness had also made them efficient survivors. Unchecked by the Qu, the colonials spread across the planet in quilt-like fields of human flesh. After an eternity of tortured lives, the human fields tasted something that could almost be described as hope

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