It drifted slowly through the vast wilderness, knowing little of its destination. Somewhere, far ahead in the blackness was a soft, golden light that beckoned it onwards, but before that there was food, and the brief touch of warmth and light in the cold dark. Around it bustled other, smaller creatures, their lives impossibly short and frantic by its glacial standards, as well as a few others of its own kind. Their company was neither welcome nor unwelcome. It was merely there.
When food was close, the tiny creatures became even more excitable. They hurried and bustled around, swarming in their haste to begin the preparations. Dimly, it was aware of countless millions of the little ones as they were spawned deep within its gut, before the gentlest of contractions hurled them away to their doom. It was of no more import than was a sneeze to a man. That the last few million miles to the food passed the slowest was barely noticeable to it, but in its own way it enjoyed the feeding, anticipated it. Every so often it would arrive only to find a cold, dead rock, and there would be the merest tinge of disappointment before the journey began again. There were less of the little ones in those times.
Very rarely, it would be attacked on the way. Tiny beings that were not of its body would invade the massive form, savage battles erupting in capillaries and veins, the alien sounds of language and gunfire echoing through bivalve and gland. Usually, these events went completely unnoticed, as hordes of antibody-beasts rushed to the site of the infection and swiftly excised it, though occasionally it would be irritated enough that a vast muscle would contract and crush the interlopers, or a tide of digestive bio-acid would sweep them away. Even then, it paid little attention and the event was soon forgotten.
Now and again, there was the touch of something greater. Another mind, one mightier and more powerful than any the galaxy had known, would touch upon it, gently, and steer it. Usually, this brought it closer to the food, but every now and then the great mind would make it turn away. There would be the faint sensation of danger, or of revulsion, of an overwhelming need to avoid some place or thing. It obeyed without argument or hesitation. There was never any question of doing anything else. But then came a new command, or at least one it had not received for thousands of years.
At that impulse, instincts long-dormant stirred into action. Sensory feelers, pheromone receptors, ocular organs too complex and wide-spectrum to ever be called mere eyes and ancillary brains sensitive to the merest psychic disturbance quivered out of aeon-long torpor. Ahead was another, much like itself, but this one smaller and made of the cold, dead metals of the invader. The Other too, was attended by many tiny forms, similarly lifeless but each containing faint embers. And then, for the first time in a millennia, there was pain, pain in every colour and flavour, glaring, flaring beams of light, speeding slugs of ceramite and adamantium, barrelling, diamond-tipped projectiles. All over its body, great chunks of precious flesh were torn away into the void even as it and its fellows fought back, weapon-sphincters gaping open. Back towards the Other flew gobbets of mucous-wrapped bio-acids, mindless ultra-borer drones, and blasts of sheer psychic agony. Metal joined meat, spilling into the blackness.
As the two swarms closed, they began to die. One of its fellows, leading the herd, shuddered in its death agony, and with a last, terrible convulsion lashed an Other in two before finally rupturing. A great cloud of its juices spilled into space, fogging augurs and clogging guns even as it screened the hordes of tiny creatures that rushed in to harvest the precious bio-matter. Seeing, feeling the death of its brood mate, it went berserk, tentacles the size of star-bases uncoiling and whipping in languid frenzy through the mass of the Others, smashing them, rending them, tearing them apart. Amid the confusion of a melee too chaotic to ever be called a battle, its mighty mind suddenly found a tiny tendril of thought. Still raging, it followed it back to the source, to a tiny, self-important speck of flesh at the heart of the largest Other. The weak little thing had the briefest of seconds to register the shock of contact before the full force of its furious hatred struck fatally home. Moments later, and it was upon the Other, seizing it in a fatal embrace, crushing the semblance of life out of the thing even as the little ones stormed in to begin their own work, scuttling through dark metal halls and slaying all they found. Plasma fire blazed into the void as the Other was ripped in two and then a sudden flare of panic- beware, flee! It hurled the remains of the Other away, even as the metal beast's flaming heart went critical and fire blossomed one final time in the darkness. And then, once again, there was silence, and peace.
The herd stayed there for a while, as the little ones went back and forth, stripping flesh from metal, their own fallen and the Other alike. Much had been lost, and it would need to feed soon. But the soothing touch of the great mind was there, had always been there, and had plucked a single, succulent morsel of knowledge from the speck. Baal.
The journey would be long, yet as nothing compared to the long trek to the golden light. It returned to its slumber, sense-organs hibernating, weapon-sphincters closed. Soon there would be calm, and quiet, and peace, and food.
It would have all it ever wanted.