Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 29
Restraint. Restraint. Patience. Are these not the lessons I have learned over the years of my penance? Do not let them be lost. Shagrath repeated this to himself several times until he was sure he could maintain control. Such things were so contrary to his people’s nature. Yet there was no choice. So much had been lost before due to impulsive actions. That was why he was still here, with these creatures, following their actions and mimicking their behaviors. He couldn’t – didn’t dare – return yet. It would be a long time, he knew that now.
But the incompetent Darkness-damned soul-weak fool! He has failed me again! Aloud, he said, “Explain this to me, Doctor.” His voice was cold, though far from as cold as he wished it to be.
“Reversing itself psionic development rapidly is,” the R’Thann said. Though he had little physical expression, his concern and, yes, fear were plain to sense. Doctor Sooovickalassa went on to explain that the degeneration appeared to be orderly and, other than the loss of power, nondamaging. There might, he said, be some minor capabilities left at the end – probably enhanced mental shielding or something of the sort – but no active psionic abilities.
“Why? WHY?” demanded Varan. The Commander was amusingly distraught with the loss of powers he had but a short time ago reviled. He had begun just recently to realize his true nature as a superior being, and now he found himself being cast down to live among the ordinary mortals once more.
Dr. Sooovickalassa rippled his crest apologetically. Shagrath’s sensitive sense of scent picked up the aroma of fear. It appears that the process as it currently exists requires some method for stabilization. To use another analogy to describe the situation, it is as though we may make an impression in some sort of elastic medium; the powers develop all through the “stretching” of the medium, but degenerate during the rebound. The greater force provides a greater “stretch”, but the times involved actually do not vary greatly. Some method of stabilizing the process – halting development at the point of maximum “stretch” – would be needed.
Varan had been straining to catch this conversation; his telepathic abilities were now very weak, and there were actual tears in his eyes as he realized how little time he had remaining. “Then you might be able to fix this?”
The R’Thann’s eyes met Shagrath’s for a moment. Shagrath considered telling the R’Thann that he wouldn’t have any opportunity to blunder again… but there was Varan to consider. He could actually still be a useful tool. Few were the humans that Shagrath could have trusted in any capacity, but he knew this one’s mind intimately. He would be resentful of Sooovickalassa’s failures, but willing to assist him in any additional research on the chance of regaining his abilities. He was completely convinced of Shagrath’s ultimately benevolent aims, and while bereft of his own special powers could be a useful agent; one disadvantage Shagrath had was that many of his regular agents couldn’t be used around certain sorts. And with this blow to his pride and confidence, he could be even more easily brought around to the right sort of attitude. Who knew? He might even survive the end of Shagrath’s plan. What a deliciously ironic outcome that would be!
So instead of a stony glare, he gave a very brief, almost imperceptible nod.
Dr. Sooovickalassa’s relief was palpable even to Varan; a ghost of the old smile flickered on the Commander’s lips as he realized how close the alien had come to death. Perhaps. I make no guarantees, but the fact it worked at all shows we are on the right track. We could begin at once –
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Doctor. I have other projects that require this space. War with Zchorada – real war – appears closer than ever.”
But… I thought you meant that I could continue my research…
“You are correct. But not here. You are a scientist of considerable achievements in dimensional fields as well as in psionics.” Yes, thought Shagrath. The idea was coming together. It would work. It would make Varan unbreakably loyal to him, keep the R’Thann working while under a watchdog who’d never let him escape… and, just to be sure, he’d put another watcher of his own with them. And, as a side note, it solves a minor staffing question the Emperor had posed to me.
He turned to Varan. “Commander. I cannot offer you sympathies that would be sufficient. Of all the people we know, I’m the only one who understands what you’ve lost.”
Varan raised his head. Hollow-eyed, he still managed to stand and face the Prime Monitor with a courage that instilled even more loathing in Shagrath. “Yes, sir. And I understand… that you’ll have to make me forget it. Maybe that’s best. I’ll be better off then.”
Paragon indeed. But one on my side, now. The thought made the sunlight smile easy. “Forget…? Normally, perhaps, yes, Commander. But… I can’t do that to you. Or for you. You actually can protect your mind to some degree. And you, almost alone among those I know, I can trust fully, for we know each other. I need people I can trust. A Navy Commander on the frontier, even a good one, is not all that valuable a commodity. A man who understands the thoughts and powers of a psionic, a man who understands fully the dangers the Empire faces, and one who has an unswervable loyalty to the Empire – and who has the courage to keep the pain of his memories – is much more valuable.”
A spark of faint hope, mingled with the vestiges of his pride, returned to that disquieting gray gaze. “I serve the Empire as it requires, Sir.”
“Forget the formalities, Sasham! By the Towers, I can’t undo what’s been done, but I can by all we hold dear make sure you don’t pay more of a price for it. Remember what you said to me – how you loved the thought of directing research here, yet couldn’t see yourself tied down to a single location?”
“Yes, I remember.”
Shagrath grinned. “Then how about doing both?”
Varan’s eyes blinked. “Excuse me? Kerlamin, I don’t quite get you.”
He pressed a few controls; the image of a great, shining vessel of ancient design faded into view, the crescent-shaped, three-spined curved wing-and-dagger shape of an immense Atlantaean warship. “How would you like to be Captain Sasham Varan, Commanding, Imperial Research Vessel Teraikon?”
The look of joy rising from hopelessness was answer enough. I have your very soul now, Captain. And the most wonderful part of this is that to gain it, I’ve given you nothing more than what you would have earned anyway.