Where were the ape-things? It did not reach out to them often, but the last time it dreamed couldn’t have been more than a hundred cycles of the planet around its star. The ape-things lived short insignificant lives, but they could not all die out in such a short span of time. They had spent millions of cycles evolving from four-legged beasts into two-legged beasts, tens of thousands more casting off their primitive impulses and urges and building rudimentary societies. They were individually fragile, but as a species, they had proved surprisingly resilient, recovering from the brink of extinction more than once.
So what had become of the damn things?
Pimoa wandered from grey place to grey place, a sensation of unease steadily growing in the core of its being. It crossed oceans and deserts, jungles and frozen plains, and there was no trace of the ape-things anywhere. Everywhere the planet was the same, the air tasting of ionizing radiation, the water replete with countless invisible pathogens, the night sky twinkling with debris that spoke of artificial satellites. Everywhere there were traces of the ape-things, but no sign of the living creatures.
All of Pimoa’s plans had hinged on their existence. In chains, they would build cities for its spawn and monuments to its glory. Their souls would fuel the engines of its exodus. It would take them with it on its conquest of the neighboring stars, the galaxy, the galaxies beyond, breeding them and keeping them like chattel.
Its spawn were all dead, sacrificed so it could wait and dream. The life left on this planet was inadequate to its tasks, and it would take epochs for the vermin to evolve to the level of the ape-things. Pimoa would have to wait and dream once more, and there was no guarantee that there would be adequate servants the next time the stars were right.
It needed servants, it realized. It needed servants in a way it had never needed anything before.
In the instant that the planet turned away from its star, Pimoa glanced at the dark sky, at the twinkling of stars and planets and galaxies beyond. Never before had the inky blackness of the heavens felt so cold, so lonely.