For a time the signature particular to living things was so faint that he wondered if it was only hope that made him believe what he wanted to believe, that, at long last, he was drawing near life forms from which he could take more than sustenance. He began to wonder if his wanderings had robbed him of his sanity and left him with nothing but the imaginings of a mind deprived too long of anything to feed upon beyond itself.
Regardless of his doubts, though, he turned to follow the faint ripples that called to him. There could be no harm in checking. He had nothing to lose but the loneliness that ate at him and seemed to drain him of will as quickly as he drew sustenance from the energy around him to maintain his life form.
The closer he came to the star system across the vast ocean of nothingness, however, the more certain he became that it was not his mind playing tricks upon him, filling him with hope that he had found a harbor when there was none for him.
There was life here.
He would be content, he told himself, if it was no more than the fragile beginnings of life. Even microbes would give his mind a challenge, would give him something when he had had nothing for so long that he could scarcely bear to look into his own mind any longer. He would study them and, once he understood the seedlings, mayhap he would experiment with them for a time, see what he might do to coax them into evolving.
Mayhap he would even build his own world, he thought.
That thought appealed to him as nothing had in eons.
His own world, a place in the vast universe cunningly contrived only for him where none would challenge his right to exist, where he need not forever concern himself that he trespassed. A place where he must always carefully guard what he was to keep from frightening the primitive beings that had claimed it first, or that he need worry that he might inadvertently crush.
Mayhap he could mold it into the image of his own world--lost so long ago that his memories of it had begun to dim and he had begun to worry it might be lost even to his memory.
It was born in upon him, however, even as he began to consider that possibility and to toy with the puzzle of how he might bring it about, that the life forms he had sensed were much more advanced than mere microbes. These were complex organisms, life forms with intelligence, far more advanced than the race of beings he had left behind.
It wasn't a world at all. They had devised a habitat to support their life forms far from their own world.
How clever of them!
The realization sent a surge of emotion through his mind that he had not felt in so long that it took him a time to figure out what it was. Excitement, he finally decided, almost disturbed that it sent such a powerful ripple through his psyche that he nearly produced a heartbeat, became aware of his corporeal form as he had not been for ages.
He tamped it.
The meager energy he could draw was barely enough to sustain the spark of life within him. Until he understood what sort of beings they were, he could not afford to allow them to discover him when he was so weak. He was vulnerable. In his current state, it would be all too easy for them to extinguish the life force he had so carefully husbanded throughout his long travels.
Intelligence did not necessarily eliminate the possibility that they would be hostile to another life form, he reminded himself.