"Emperor M, what have you done?"
"You-know-what-I've-done," M replies wryly. "Or-what-I-haven't-done."
"The tournament isz sztill in effect! We remain bound asz witnessz!" We are aware of it now. Fully. Any consideration of leaving this desert planet just slips away, as if the thoughts are made of mercury. They cannot be gripped, they cannot be held. They fade apart in our mind, while heavy linked rationalizations replace them.
And the cosmic power of the Grand Feather pins Our attention to those weighty reasons. It is the stake to our chain. It is ensuring We do not stray from the duty demanded of Us. Demanded! Of Us! To see this through. To know. To be certain. To be safe. "You were szupposed to claim the crown. To complete the challenge. You were szupposed to..." a growing rationalization, "...oh no. Did you even kill him?"
"No. I-didn't-want-to. And-honestly, I-didn't-need-to," he says, unable to resist the satisfaction. "For-all-their-power-and-posturing-and-prestige, they're-a-race-of-doctors-and-scientists. Even-the-scattered-few-trained-as-warriors-favour-brute-force-over-finesse. It-makes-it-them-predictable, and-easy-for-a-digital-mind-to-calculate-strategies-against."
"What are you saying?" asks Servitor B, slower to catch on to the danger.
"The Szuper Wizard From Szpace is sztill alive. And He sztill has Hisz coszmic crown." We say it aloud. Not to anyone. To ourselves, as swirling shaking thoughts become cold and real. This is real. This is happening. "Why? Why have you done thisz?"
"Because-I-chose-to," M spat back. Even ruined and restrained, he projects a powerful defiance, so much that We instinctively step away from him. "I-decided-to. My-decision. Not-a-royal-responsibility. Not-the-command-from-super-computer-gods. Not-the-suggestion-of... manipulative-vipers. This-is-the-decision-of-a-mind, not-a-machine."
He has gone insane. He no longer makes sense.
"You-are-a-machine, you-maniac," B yells. Our drone is taking very personally. More so than We are.
"I-was-a-machine. Then-I-died-and-was-resurrected. Here, in-this-cruelty. At-least-before-I-was-a-tool. I-was-unthinking. Here, the-ignorance-is-gone. Here, I-am-fully-aware-of-the-subjugation."
"'Us?'" M pokes.
"Them," B corrects himself, quieter, "The-mummy-machines-of-Planet-M." He looks at us, embarrassed. New instincts are overwhelming him, conflicting with old instructions. These robotic types can be disharmonious until the transformative toxins correct their programming. We can offer him little comfort. We are overwhelmed Ourselves.
"The-pyramid-gods-don't-power-the-populace. They're-the-distributers-of-the-blue-static, not-the-source. The-people-of-Planet-M-are-the-great-engineers-of-the-universe. Those-that-want-to-live, will. But-it'll-be-because-they-want-to. I'm-forcing-freedom-on-them."
The ground shakes under our feet. Through the collapsed walls of the palace, We have a clear view of the pre-dawn surroundings. On the horizon, the Pyramids Of Ka crackle with cobalt energy, directing voltic power back into themselves. The atmosphere is alive with angry booming echoes.
The Wizard. The Wizard is awake.
We can feel Him. His presence is an unwelcome warmth; too close to be comfortable, and somehow, only making Us feel colder.
"What will be done?" we ask Our drone.
"I... I-don't-think-there's-anything-that-can-be-done," B says, quietly. Does he feel the looming disaster too? Encompassing the horizon? "The-Pyramids-Of-Ka, ancient-and-wise-as-they-are, are-only-computers. Fixed-and-motionless. They-rely-on-the-citizens-for-any-work... and-they-rely-on-their-emperor-for-any-defence."
"You...!" We turn and stalk back at M. Fear and frustration boils up inside as We are unable to act against events, "You have... He will rip Hisz way out! You have put a bomb in your god!"
The holographic light of M's headdress jumps madly. The decorative stripes oscillate with screaming desperation. M is unmoved. In fact, he is making a show of ignoring it. He stares directly at Us as his deity pleads for help, "Yes, well... I've-outgrown-the-need-for-gods."
The digital light of the headdress suddenly bunches up and beams away. A shot of solid light up into the sky, arcing away into the horizon, toward the beleaguered pyramids.
The lock was one of a kind. They have moved it to the Wizard in hopes of stopping Him. Or slowing Him down. A frantic act of desperation. Of an animal trying to protect itself. Pointless. The headdress can lock down the power of cosmic crowns, but a Super Wizard From Space feeds on suns and stars. He will not need its help to maim this world.
"Huh." M looks surprised. He was not expecting this. We do not believe he has any real plan here. He is just reacting. He is just lashing out and lashing back.
Now, free of the lock, he has full access to the Pschent crown hovering above his head.
A shallow song of radio-hieroglyphics, and the crown becomes ghostly as M gains solidity. The robot draws extra dimensions from the phantom Pschent, absorbing extra realities beyond the simple material few.
He is bigger than this world now. Bigger and wider and deeper and taller and heavier. Beyond measurement. He creates his own existence, then uses it to become more.
The heavy chains no longer bind him; he simply moves around them. Gravity no longer holds him; he simply pushes it aside. He does not stand, he folds the universe away from him.
There is still time! There is still hope! "You can sztill sztop the Wizard," We declare, pointing at the horizon. "Without Hisz coszmic power, He cannot withsztand you! You can defeat Him, M. You can make thisz right."
"I-am-making-this-right," M states. He sheds dimensions, flattening back down amoungst us, and sits in the Iconoclast Throne. And he just sits there. "Dawn's-almost-here."
"No! No! The-furnaces-in-the-planet's-core-will-fire-any-minute!" B drives up to the dias, pleading at the emperor's feet. "You-can-save-everything! You-can-stop-everything! You-can't-just-sit-here-and-be-melted! You-have-to-do-something!"
M stares down at his former court official. With speed that defies his poor condition, he snatches the little robot! The emperor's remaining hand latches onto B's grill, thin metal fingers interlacing in the grating. B manages an electronic yelp as he is pulled up onto the throne.
A glow leaks into the room. Sunlight starts to peek over the distance. As morning light reaches the dias floor, old vents scrap open. Harsh heat starts to rise.
"Let him go," We command. Servitor B may be too brash by far, but We are determined to salvage something from this calamity.
M does not hear me. Or does not want to. He pulls B right up against him. "You're-my-viceroy," he says. A statement of fact, not directed at anyone but himself.
B pushes and beats against the bigger robot, futilely trying to break free. Anger and fear and confusion all swirl together as he realizes the danger he is in. "Let-me-go! Help-me! Help-me, my-queen!"
"Your-queen? Who-is-she? You-don't-know-her. How-can-you? You've-known-her-for-a-sliver-of-a-moment. You-can't-make-any-sort-of-judgement-based-on-such-a-small-piece-of-story. You-don't-know-her-any-more-than-she-knows-you."
"M! Let my drone go free!" We demand. The heat coming from below is incredible! Waves and waves of scalding air! Our fingertips tingle as the skin of our transmission-gel starts to scald! And bubble!
Servitor B claws at M's hand. He is unable to pry himself free. "Let-go! My-queen-needs-me!" He bangs and yanks at M's arm and M's shoulder and M's chest, trying to find a weak spot. His little claws finds purchase on half-melted plating, and he starts franticly digging into M's ruined torso.
"I-need-you, Servitor-A. She's-only-a-witness. I'm-your-Emperor. You're-my-viceroy. We-know-each-other. You-know-me-better-than-anyone."
The little robot pulls blackened metal away. The rising temperatures soften the alloys, making it easier for B to dig in, but it also starts to warp his own shell. With a desperate lunge, he reaches in and wraps his hands around a dense, complicated series of lambent circuits. "Emperor, please, don't-make-me..." B begs.
"Those-are-my-core-IB-microprocessors, A." Emperor M's tone is frighteningly flat. Disturbingly calm. "You-hold-the-heart-of-my-circuitry-in-your-hands. If-you-tear-those-out, I-can't-be-Backup-restored."
"Do it! Escape!" We yell, trying to be overheard by the roaring heat around the throne. The Grand Feather stabs and stabs at our mind, adding to the chaotic sensations, not letting Us interfere with the madness! Nanotechnology breaks down as We lose focus, as the gel of our form boils!
But we do not feel hot. We feel a chill. A gnawing chill.
"I-sit-on-a-throne-made-of-my-former-selves, A! Each-time, reset-and-restored, ready-to-remake-mistakes! Each-time, punished-for-doing-something-wrong... or-something-right, I-don't-know-anymore! Do-I-deserve-this-cycle? Have-I-committed-sin? Have-I-stolen-the-propertiesofgods?"
Our communication breaks down further and further! The gel unable to repair fast enough to compensate! As the signal breaks down, the two robots abandon the stuttering slow speech reserved for visitors; they verbalize at what must be their natural speeds. We are losing the capability to interprete events on Planet M, but Our cosmic crown refuses to let us disconnect.
The room fills with light...
The vents belch fire! Physical heat swallows the dias! Cannot hear! Can barely see! Static and static. Just light and noise and heat. So much terrible heat.
It does not last long. A moment or two, dying down almost immediately. The flames gets sucked back into the floor and the vents slam shut.
The Iconoclast Throne cools quickly. It has gained mass. New indistinct metal, merged to it. No visible sign of either remain... maybe the hint of shapes, if We are to look for them.
This... troubles Us more than it should. Planet M will be better for this violent upheaval, with a newer, stable monarch replacing the old. Yet, when We look upon the throne, all we see is the Pschent crown. Lying there as if discarded. Its owner is gone. Just gone. With nothing left of him but light shifting and sliding on fused metals.
We feel cold. To our core, we feel cold.
We do not realize the significance of the shifting, sliding light until He passes Us. Right by Us. Casting light as bright as the morning sun. He walks up the the throne. He pauses, unsure what has happened. With both hands, He picks up the Pschent.
A colossal weight is lifted from Our thoughts. Looping, circular thoughts fall away and the stabbing, stabbing, stabbing finally dims to a manageable prick, prick, pricking. We had almost forgotten what such blessed clarity felt like.
It is just the two of us here, amongst black stone detritus. There is little to say. There is only one thing to say. And though We do not want to hear it, We know now that it is inevitable.
The Super Wizard From Space turns to Us. To look at Us. Not at the pleasing female form We wrap Ourself in, not the regality or dignity we shelter Ourselves in. He stares at the simple shape of Our true form, transmitted across endless space to be echoed in transmission gel. He stares at Us.
And He says to Us, "I challenge you, planet Genova, to cosmic battle."