Jenson took the last drag from his cigarette before cryosleep. He flicked off the non-necessary systems one by one on the dash of his small vessel with one hand. The lights dimmed. Outside the cockpit there was nothing but black.
This starless expanse was a new route he was trying for smuggling powerful narcotics to an impoverished world on the outskirts of The collective control. It wasn’t his high moment, being a drug dealer, but the money he was making would keep him going.
He put the cigarette out on the dash. There was a spot where there were no buttons or dials. It was meant for calculations or note-taking. But Jenson never did any of that. He ground the burning filter into the stainless steel, another circular mark joining the hundreds before it.
The cryochamber gave a gentle beep and it opened towards the ceiling. Inside the vertical chamber were an uninviting array of straps and cold medical pads.
Jensen stepped in and waited for the machine to respond.
“Place your arms and…” it cut itself off, the sensor realizing that he was already in place.
“Please remain still while you are secured.” the woman’s voice cooed.
The straps went around his upper arms, wrists and ankles. Another lightly secured his head. He cleared his throat and started to relax. Even though he knew that the sedatives would take care of everything.
It filled with an invisible gas, and Jensen’s breathing began to slow. A light euphoria came to him and he was asleep within seconds.
There was a pleasant ding, and Jensen forced his eyes open despite weeks’ worth of build-up. The straps on his right arm came undone and a HUD formed in front of his face.
The computer was alerting him that there was a vessel approaching. He swiped in the air to navigate the computer, inquiring more.
Chances were it was another smuggling vessel, or a stray piece of rock. Either way he wanted to steer clear. He set the computer to send a prerecorded message meant for other smuggling ships. It was full of coded speech that informed them of his non-violent intentions and non-desire to do any business. Jensen charted a course around it, and went back to sleep.
This time the beep was not so pleasant. Red lights blinked on overhead in the cabin. Both arms became free and the HUD came up immediately. The other ship was on a collision course. It had no identification and wasn’t hailing.
He sent out a feeler message.
The voice seemed to explode from inside his head, directly between his ears.
His grogginess was gone, and his hands shot to his head restraint, scrambling to get it off faster than the computer.
“Who is this?” he realized while speaking that he had no communications up.
“No need to speak, I hear your thoughts,” it informed him.
Jensen pushed the door open and his emaciated legs dropped him like a stone. He fell to the floor and struggled to right himself.
“Computer, half-gravity,” he shouted.
Normally he would proceed with exercises but he needed to get to the control panel fast. He did a mental checklist of available weapons. There weren’t many. The more you had on board the longer you got sent to the mines if The Collective caught you.
“Your weapons will be ineffective.”
Jensen ignored that this was in a desolate area of space, that it was talking in his head, and that it knew his intentions before he pressed a single button.
He raced to the dash and readied weapons.
“I would advise you. To stop.”
He flicked on the outside lights and only a vague black reflection shone. There were tentacles. There was flesh. This was not a vessel.
Jensen’s whole body grew cold. His limbs felt numb, he simply watched as several of the dark appendages extended towards the hull of his ship.
He slammed his fist on the large button. Rockets fired. Machineguns vibrated the ship.
A groan was conveyed to him. The bullets were as ineffective as the rockets.
His ship rocked, he fell backwards. It was being grabbed.
“Obtain a suit.”
He froze on the floor, through the only window he could make out more and more tentacles unwrapping themselves from the outer layer of whatever was in the void.
“What do you want from me?” he spoke out loud.
“If you refuse…”
Waves of pain radiated from every nerve in his body. His muscles tensed as if he were electrified. He fell back; his whole body arced in a pose of pure anguish. Every neuron in his brain screamed “No”.
And in an instant it was gone. His breath came back and he shot glances around the ship for any sign of entry.
“If you comply…”
All of his discomfort floated away. A smile came to him as a euphoria so powerful it reached lengths that exceeded the best sex he’d ever had. He floated in pure bliss for too short a time.
It stopped as abruptly as the pain.
His body and mind reeled from the confusing array of opposed sensations.
“Spacesuit and pleasure. Pain and death. Those are your options.”
Jensen rose with purpose, heading towards the small docking section at the rear of the ship.
“After you are dressed proceed to exit your ship.”
He paused only briefly but the memory of pure pain compelled him to proceed. A light euphoric feeling came over him, and his head became clearer. In minutes he had secured his suit and the small docking doors were opening to vastness of space.
Red lights swept across the inside of the ship. The white lights ceased. This was a precursor to being boarded.
But as the doors opened a single tentacle crept in with purpose. It wrapped around Jenson’s torso, pulling him gently out of the ship.
There was no way to see where the tentacle came from. The ship’s lights illuminated a small section of the enormous being. It was more tentacles. As his eyes became more accustomed to the lack of light, he could make out a precipice. Or orifice, he wasn’t sure what to think of it. Tentacles were parting to make way for him.
Although there was no change in pressure from the suit, Jenson felt himself move deeper into the creature. There was twinge of pain in his head, and if this creature was as powerfully telepathic as he could imagine, going deeper inside it meant that he was getting closer to its mind.
Farther still, and the darkness gave way to a slight blue light. Large protrusions resembling stalactites in a cavern emitted the glow. He passed them slowly. He felt the tentacle holding him loosen a bit. It slid from around his torso and another came from deeper inside to take its place. Jenson was now being pulled into the thing, rather than placed.
The blue glowing was getting more intense, and the protrusions were getting more numerous.
After around half a minute Jenson found himself in a large spherical chamber. His nose began to bleed. He could see the blood floating in his helmet.
The tentacle released its grip, and he was left floating in the center of the chamber.
“What do you want from me?” Jenson thought.
“You learn quickly. This could be troublesome.”
“What are you?”
“To you? A god.”
“That doesn’t tell me much.” Jenson thought.
“You push me,” it sent a shot of pure pain through Jenson, “And you receive one of my thoughts.”
Jenson recovered. His eyes opened to nothing but large blood globs. He closed his eyes. After all, what was there to see?
“You are going to be a host.”
“A host for what?”
“A little bit of me. I cannot show myself to your kind.”
Jenson’s brain did flips, going from one thought to the next as fast as it ever did. Immortal? How old was this thing? What was its motive?
“I can assure you my motives are simple. Survival. Now. Remove your helmet.”
Jenson did as the creature asked, hoping a small amount that he was simply going to die.
“Oh no, Jenson. I would not bring you here to die. You arrived at a serendipitous time. I needed a host, and you decided to enter my domain.”
After removing his helmet, a smell hit him. It was an acid. There was decay. There was sweetness like flowers.
“What do you eat?” Jensen felt.
“Be thankful you are needed for other things. Now. Be still.”
The blood was grabbed away. Writhing tentacles “cleaned” his head and neck. Jensen opened his eyes to see a single tentacle emerging from a mass of the glowing blue stalactites. At its end was a spike of sorts. Just from a single glance its purpose was obvious: Injection.
“It usually goes better if the host never sees the parasite.” It thought.
“Just get this over with so I can leave.”
“Jenson, you do not understand. You can never leave.”
Tentacles grabbed every one of his limbs, wrapping around his neck and head. They pushed his head forward and the next moment his body was filled with pure bliss. He could feel his neck being invaded, stabbed, and something being inserted into his body. His eyes bulged, and he ceased to care about anything. He forgot about where he was, and what was happening. After a few moments he was asleep.
Jenson opened his eyes. He was on his ship. White light cascaded around him. He moved and felt gravity. It was on full, and he raised his torso using all of his muscle-power.
He slid his way over to the controls and halved the gravity. Relieved, he stood up nicely and checked over the systems. Everything was in order; he was still going in the right direction.
It was a dream. It had to be.
“You’re awake,” came a voice from inside his head.
His eyes shot open, he grasped his ears. Jenson began hyperventilating. Only a moment passed before calm came over him. It felt like a drug.
“You remember the rules?”
“I remember the tentacles!” Jenson laughed.
Immediately he crumpled into a ball form the pain.
“You disobey, and you get pain. You obey and you get pleasure.”
“What are you?”
“I am a representative of the being. I am a copy, and I am in your head. You are the host and the slave. You will assist me in learning, and subverting any opportunities your people have in detecting my kind.”
“What do I do?”
“I will let you know when I see it.”