Being a god of small physical stature had nothing to do with the Thaarn's obsession with ruling the universe and having all creatures bow to him. Particularly anyone taller than one klach in height, by the old Auron measurements. Or those who showed any hint of intelligence.
He detested computers. The thought of all of those cold processing chips trying to rival his intelligence. They were an abomination. As were any sentient beings who dared to compete with the mighty god Thaarn rather than worship him. The audacity of such creatures.
The Thaarn realized he should have killed Avon when he had the chance many years ago. The speed with which this human seemed to understand a technology that should have been light years beyond him, had been disturbing.
But the Thaarn had other priorities then. He had become obsessed with a daughter of Auron, as he was now. He had been alone, without another to touch his mind, for such a long time.
Such emptiness as no human could possibly understand. Cally understood. She was as much of an outcast amongst her own people as the Thaarn was without his brothers. The Thaarn burned with righteous anger against those who had tried to imprison him beyond the threshold of time and space.
This universe would be his and his worshippers would burn across the stars, conquering every world that held life. The Thaarn had waited a long time for his revenge.
He had discovered more of the eternal secrets and he was rebuilding again. The first few experiments had been great successes. The ship crews had embraced the darkness within themselves. Humans were such easily manipulated creatures. They were prisoners to their own lusts and ambitions. The Thaarn knew how to feed those desires.
First, he must deal with Avon. Tear him down in the eyes of the woman who would be the queen of a god.
The Thaarn cackled with glee. A blind man with a mind that was damaged. It had been great fun running Avon around in circles. He could almost taste Avon's growing frustration and anger. And a sliver of fear slicing away at his confidence.
It was time to check on his other experiments.
The Thaarn laughed as Avon found himself in the engineering section instead of the flight deck. The look on his face was priceless.
The Thaarn was glad that he was having the experiments recorded. When he needed some entertainment, he would replay this moment with Avon. The point in time when the man began to doubt his own sanity.
There was not much else of interest here. Avon would undoubtedly try to reach the flight deck again. The man refused to give up.
Scanning through the monitors, the Thaarn found another one of his test groups.
Drawing! The Thaarn was nearly apoplexic. For a moment he thought he had accessed the wrong room. The last time he had observed this group, they had been at each other's throats.
They were soldiers. Violence came naturally to them. They should not be…sketching! Not when he had accessed the dark things that troubled their psyches.
He hoped the other groups were doing better.
It was the stuff of legends and nightmares. A creature who was part man, part animal. With his superior mental abilities and technology, the Thaarn had brought out the beast and gave it control. The man called Argus was buried deep within his own mind. Most likely screaming at what he had become. The Thaarn smiled and watched.
The creature had singled out a prey. Its ears were pricked up at attention and its nose twitched. The Thaarn admired the raw power in the creature's body. He could use this one in his army.
The beast took a step forward and almost fell over. It gave a yelp of surprise and then a low grumble emanated from its chest.
This was so comical that the Thaarn laughed at the clumsiness of the normally graceful creature.
The beast took a step again and this time fell to its knees. The Thaarn sat up in alarm. Something was wrong. The creature began making other sounds. It was almost as if it was communicating with someone.
Do wolves speak to themselves, he wondered with amusement. He wished he could read the creature's mind. His own psi abilities, although far superior to Cally's, wasn't fully compatible with the human brain. The ability to read their minds was intermittent and the thoughts had to be strong.
He could sense the darkness easily. The Thaarn had a special affinity to it. But the rest, especially thoughts that did not carry a strong emotional impact, often eluded him.
The creature was on the move again, running after the one called Vila. It seemed as if it was only a momentary lapse. The Thaarn was looking forward to a display of ruthless efficiency.
The Argus creature caught up to its prey.
The Thaarn leaned forward, his eyes eager with anticipation.
Why is it trying to talk again? Why isn't it killing Vila? Is this normal behaviour for a wolf?
On the Thaarn's monitor, Vila said, "There's a fleet out there. It's coming this way. I didn't know what to do."
The creature straightened up in alarm and immediately ran in the direction of the flight deck.
The Thaarn wasn't surprised at the news of the fleet. He had been tracking this particular group for several hours. He was certain that they had been sent to investigate the strange happenings on the other three ships.
More resources for his army. He wasn't quite ready for them yet but it was convenient having them here. They were hardly a danger to him. Their scanners were blind to his ship's presence.
The Thaarn was disappointed. He had been looking forward to some old-fashioned blood and violence. Never mind, there were other experiments.
The psychostrategist said, "I will never be able to stop caring about you, Reya. But…I think…I can let go of you now."
The naked woman beside him said, "I'm glad."
The Thaarn nearly fell out of his chair. What happened?
On his monitor, more words were exchanged between Reya and Sester and then they began getting dressed. There was no hint of lust or anything interesting.
The Thaarn was not pleased. This group was proving to be a failure.
Sester asked, "Can we still be friends?"
Friends! The Thaarn ran a diagnostic on his machines. They all reported to running at one hundred percent efficiency. These two should still be caught up in their own desires. Obviously he needed to fine-tune his technology. And boost the wave distributor.
"No. Nothing like that. I think something's wrong," said Sester.
The psychostrategist suspects something. They had a reputation of being feared for their intellect. It appeared that it may be true. This was another man the Thaarn could not allow to live.
A check on an adjacent screen lifted the Thaarn's flagging spirits. The creature was nearing. This may not be a complete failure after all.
As Reya and Sester left the room, fully clothed, the Thaarn had an expectant smile on his face.
The Thaarn watched with great satisfaction as the beast gave a menacing growl and launched itself at Sester, knife in hand, ready to do what it did best. His heart beat with excitement as a drop of blood gathered at the sharp tip. One slice and it would be over.
He had to wake Cally up to witness this.
Reya shouted for Argus to stop.
The Thaarn was about to rouse Cally when he hesitated. He didn't want Cally to miss this but…there was something wrong again. The creature seemed to be talking to itself.
What is it doing? The Thaarn had a bad feeling about this.
The woman on the screen shouted, "Argus, you're going to kill him!"
The Thaarn was mesmerized by the unfolding drama. The creature looked at the woman and then it whined and gave a mournful howl.
Reya fell to her knees and put her arms around him. "I will never love anyone else. No matter what else happens. I need you to believe that, Argus."
The Thaarn slumped in his seat. He was starting to develop a severe pain between the eyes. It was a good thing that he hadn't woken Cally for this. This was intolerable. The experiment on this ship was proving to be a total failure. What could have gone wrong? Why did it work on the other three ships and not this one?
Perhaps another thought wave. He began the laborious task of setting up the power grid again. This time a stronger one.
It might cause some of the weaker minds to overload. No matter. The weaker ones would have been killed eventually.
Perhaps he could clone the creature. An army of those would be invincible, minus the pesky human element. He was certain that Argus had somehow influenced the creature. It was inconceivable but so had the other things he had witnessed on this ship. If he could not suppress the human part of its mind, then that part would have to be destroyed.
There was still one annoying limitation of the machine. The subjects had to be conscious in order to affect their minds. A brief check told him that everyone was currently awake.
As the Thaarn prepared the machine, Argus stopped the mishap with the boarding party and met up with Admiral Tarkov. They were all heading towards the flight deck for a conference.
Reya touched Argus's arm. "Can I talk to you?"
Argus said, "If you will excuse me for a moment, Admiral."
"Of course. Security matters are important."
Argus hung back and asked, "Is there something wrong?"
"You don't have to say anything. I believe you," he said simply. "Was there anything else?"
Glancing to make sure that the others were out of sight, Reya placed her palm on his chest. The strong beat of his heart and the warm energy of his body were reassuring. "You might want to stop by our cabin."
Argus covered her hand with his and said, "Maybe later. We don't have time now."
Reya sighed. "You need to put some clothes on."
He looked down at himself. "Oh. I suppose I should."
A smile of affection softened Reya's normally hard face. "You should."
"Alright. Have you seen Avon or Cally?"
"No. That was the other thing I wanted to say. I will look for them and Vila and Corinne and anyone else missing."
"Get one of the teams to help you."
As she left, the Wolf remarked with approval, Reya-mate is concerned with one's dignity and she is very wise. She is a good mate.
Argus said wistfully as he headed towards his cabin, Yes she is.
If one must wear clothing, can one find less restrictive coverings?
Avon's finger was poised over the button that would send the noxious gas throughout the ship.