Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 18
“Discomfort feeling now you should not.” The R’Thann scientist said matter-of-factly.
I felt there were considerable grounds for me to disagree, but I suspected he meant from the procedure itself. Strapped down by form-fitting metallic shackles to a pallet at the center of a nightmarish array of emitters, sensors, processors, field-generators, and other devices, injectors integrated into the armlocks, I was far from comfortable and, despite all Sooovickalassa’s reassurances, not at all relaxed.
It had taken me two days to decide what I was going to do — two days made more difficult by the fact that I had to maintain a reasonably cheerful façade in front of Taelin and the others, since I couldn’t discuss anything with them. This decision had to be made entirely on my own; the Prime Monitor wasn’t pressing me one way or the other, and that was probably the right way to handle it. But that didn’t make it easier.
In the end, I made the decision I’d known I would. My family’s been Navy for generations — according to tradition, since the days of Atlantaea itself, though that’s of course almost impossible. We’ve served the Reborn Empire faithfully ever since Korealis was brought in and restored to interstellar capability by the Tenth Survey Fleet, almost three thousand years ago. Turn down a mission of such importance, even with all its risks? Kattasi for me, no matter what Shagrath or anyone else thought. The important thing would be that I would know that I had failed the Empire when put to the final test.
“When will I feel something?” I asked finally.
“Nothing during procedure feel should you.” He continued by saying that once the actual work began, I would probably be unconscious for most of it, and that until I actually was psionic, I didn’t have the senses to detect the changes being done. Unless, of course, I deliberately brought up that somewhat-effective defense of mine, but his guess was that if I was stupid enough to do that, I’d probably die or be rendered seriously brain-damaged; pitting one’s untrained and unpowered mind against Dimensional Tap powered generators wasn’t the brightest idea. I assured him I had no intention whatsoever of trying to oppose the procedure. I was just nervous.
“A relaxant will be given in a few moments, Commander.” Shagrath said. While there were other people aware of the program — the Emperor, of course, some of the current crop of psionic agents, a few high-ranking Monitors, and possibly a couple of others — here there were just the three: myself, the Prime Monitor, and Doctor Sooovickalassa. “We do not want you to even inadvertently try to resist the process, which in semiconsciousness you may.”
I felt a faint coolness on one arm, and the room almost immediately looked warmer, the surrounding instrumentation less clinically menacing. “Yeah, that’s better.”
“Well, then, I bid you farewell, Commander. The fewer minds nearby, the less potential for interference. Doctor.”
The glittering golden gaze followed Shagrath to the door, only returning to the readouts after he had left. “Begin now shall we.”
As twin emitters, vaguely reminiscent of DD-drive focal hypercones, began to hum, the world started fading away. I drifted into a dreamworld of gray and green and black, vague shadows, twinges of undefined sensation, distant voices of unknown origin. Currents of falling gravity tumbled me languidly, and I tried with only the feeblest sense of self to move within them.
Slowly, to my very sluggish surprise, things lightened. I heard muffled voices… the Prime Monitor and Sooovickalassa. I couldn’t lift my eyelids, they felt heavier than an entire bulkhead, but I was aware, in a disembodied sort of way, of the conversation. Of the intensity of emotion in the voices.
“… stage as I ordered you, Doctor.”
“Determined safe grid exponential stage is not.” The scientist protested, the sounds falling on my consciousness but having no immediate meaning. He went on, saying that the time for that would come later, after verification of success. Vague feelings of wire-edged nervousness and caution echoed from somewhere, but it didn’t feel like me.
“And what of the fact that after-the-fact processing has been shown lethal or ineffective, depending on the subject? No, Doctor. He is the only candidate of nearly this quality we have gotten, and you will apply all possible methods to get me the best results.” A heavy foreboding resounded with those words, odd given that my own feelings seemed almost nonexistent.
“Negative. Refusal absolute.” I felt a very slight surprise. Given his position — basically utterly dependent on the Empire, no homeworld to go to — Dr. Sooovickalassa was taking a hell of a risk to oppose Shagrath.
“Absolute?” The voice was almost conversational. “No refusal is absolute, Doctor. You will change your mind.”
I did not hear the next sentence.
For just a moment — a fraction of a moment, a splintered second of Eternity — the anger within the Prime Monitor focused entirely on Sooovickalassa, and burst forth into my mind, a mind that must have just now begun to receive impressions from outside. And if I had not been shackled, held by alloy and drug and suppression field, I would have screamed until my throat tore.
Once, during the Ghek’Nan Extermination, in the jungles of Xhaltine, I’d come into a wrecked room and seen a figure seated across from me. Relieved to find even one survivor, I’d started forward. But the poor tzil had been caught in the worst part of the jungle without a mask, without immunizations, and what rose slowly to its feet in my shaking light had been an oozing, slick-black mass of writhing semi-fungal growths, a shambling mockery of a man made of parasites and symbiotes dedicated to nothing but consumption and decay.
The space-black fury of Shagrath was the very essence of that image, cold yet burning darkness, repellent, a loathsome hunger lurking within the shell of a human mask, screaming silent rage at the little creature before it that dared balk its plans. The R’Thann exile died a thousand horrific deaths in that timeless instant, before Shagrath got his… its anger under control. “You will change your mind. Or I will have someone else complete the experiment. Despite the risks. Decide, Doctor. Now.”
My drugged consciousness was running in panicked mental circles, and I barely heard the reply; Sooovickalassa acknowledged that if someone else ran the rest of the procedure, they’d be more likely to kill or hurt me even without this additional stage than he would even going through with it. “Agreed. Protesting however.”
“Protest noted. Proceed.”
There was a faint humming, and once more consciousness faded.