Raccowrimo

The Super Wizard From Space #43

"The Secret History Of The Seven Cosmic Crowns, part 2" by

It can be lonely, I admit, being the Farthest Wizard From Space. There's
also something to be said for a little company now and again. Especially
here, at the very edge of the universe! Oh, I know, I could turn back at any
time and return to my own kind. But, like most of my wizardly race, I'm a
scientist at heart. I can't resist the searching, and the examining, and the
discovering.

How's your tea? Ah? Good. I added some peppermint and ionized hydrogen. I
find it adds a little more 'zing'.

Now, I was halfway through a tale about countless doomed lives... and yes,
my friend, I do know the difference between 'countless' and 'seven'.
Those
tragic academics were only the first direct victims of these newly formed
cosmic crowns. What happened next was intended to prevent more loss of life,
but it actually placed the entire universe in peril.

* * *

The Dean of the Galactic University wiped his feathered brow with an
engraved handkerchief as he hurried down a hallway. "Thank goodness! Thank
goodness you could take time away from your lecture circuit for this! I know
you take your teaching obligations extremely seriously, but this
situation... its completely unprecedented! Very much outside my experience."

"No trouble," replied his ghostly guest, floating alongside him. "Good to
be
here. Good to help. Good working relationship, your school and mine."

"Its just that, well, with the Super-Space-War going on, I tried to keep
word of happened here what from spreading. We've managed to stay neutral so
far. I didn't want to give anyone involved any reason to involve us. But
these blasted academics! They just don't know when to keep their beaks
shut!" The Dean paused, glancing at the massive size of his companion.
Turning away nervously from the ghost, he added, "No offense intended,
naturally! No offense intended."

"No offense," the ghost said in passive yellow waves of emotional telepathy.
It was meant to be reassuring, possibly, but it came with a broad grin of
razor sharp teeth. "Where are they? The objects? Still here?"

"Yes! Yes, in the very same room. They haven't been moved. We want to
examine the caps in more detail, but with our astro-philosophy department
wiped out to a man, our options are limited."

"Caps?"

"Thinking caps," said the Dean, tapping the one on his own head. "We
eventually concluded that's what they are... or used to be. All our race has
them. Marvellous things. I wouldn't be able to find my keys without mine!"

"Much more marvellous now," said the ghost, pensively and blue.

They finally arrived at the super-science laboratory. The large room had
been cleared out of all tables, chairs, blackboards, and equipment. The
melted remains of the anti-rationalism machine had been moved across campus.
Even the students' workbenches and the counters along the walls had been
disassembled and removed. Everything had been stripped away, and still there
was barely room for all the powerful people gathered inside.

Packed into the room were leaders and representatives of the great
super-races of the universe. Each individual was known and feared throughout
known space. Each faction wielded enough power to given galaxies pause. Each
had brought with them a contingent of supporters and advisors.

They had split into two groups, the two sides of the war. To one side, a
small swarm of Monster Bees bunched up closely to their new queen. At the
insects' side was six senatorial robots, many rusted and bandaged,
representing the Mummy Machine republic. Across the room, five members of
the Super Wizard race stood with a titanic dragon with golden eyes and a
bracelet of thick glass beads.

The only one who stood alone was a crimson skinned giant with cloven hooves
and lava spilling from his eye sockets. He seemed to be the center of a loud
argument that was threatening to turn into blows, a fact he was obviously
enjoying.

"Where isz your deczidedly lessz crassz counterpart?" demanded the Monster
Bee queen, a small teenaged girl made of translucent yellow gel. She had
thick piles of black furs dragged over her, but they couldn't hide her
sickly thin appearance.

The devilish red creature sneered. "He got himself on the losing side of a
violent disagreement. The dickwad belongs to Double-Hell now, which means he
belongs to me. Which means all his crap is now my crap. And that includes
his invitation to this little circle-jerk of yours."

One of the gauzed robots stepped forward and spoke through a crackling
loudspeaker centered in its face. "Watch-your-forked-tongue, fiend! We-
would-never-have-extended-group-access-to-this-workgroup-discussions-had-
we-known-the-you-would-be-the-administrator-answering!" Another robot joined
in, extending an accusatory finger across the room. "This-is-your-fault.
You-have-already-file-deleted-Adelburge-Buzz, now-we-find-out-your-kind-
has-file-deleted-the-Devil-as-well!"

The super wizards bunched up their fists and began glowing with star-power,
but the massive dragon chortled through long thing fangs. "Hoo hoo hoo!
Adelburge shouldn't have started this war, and she certainly shouldn't have
been on the front lines of it." He turned his attention on the transmission
of the girl while running his serpentine tongue across his lips. "I see her
replacement has learned that lesson at least. I wonder if she'll taste as
sweet?"

The arguing escalated fast. Shouts and yells and insults. So much that it
just was a soup of angry noise. The Dean waved his hands, trying to get
everyone to calm down. No matter how much he raised his voice, he was
ignored.

But the room instantly fell silent when the ghost entered.

The ghost floated past the throng to the center of the room, and there, he
finally got his first good look at what was causing all the commotion. Seven
headpieces lying on the floor, looking nothing like the metal caps the
Dean's owl-faced race wore. They have been transformed into different
shapes. Charged with incredible power. Incredible potential! No wonder these
super-races had converged on this place; any one of these instruments could
decisively end the war.

After a silence, the dragon puffed up its chest and snarled, "What is this
ghastly thing doing here? Is it not intolerable enough I must surround
myself with these dregs?"

"How-dare-you?" blared out loudspeakered machine. "Do-you-not-recognize-
our-prestigious-guest? This-is-Sharkasaurus-Rex! One-of-the-wisest-and-
most-trusted-beings-in-the-known-universe?"

The dragon looked down on the brave little machine with contempt. "I trust
no one, Senator M, especially those I cannot sink my fangs into."

The Dean managed to get to the center of the room. He waved his arms
desperately and said "If you please, my lord Dharma! If you please, my most
honorable guests! Because your first choice of arbitrator was..." he did his
best not to look at the hoofed demon, "...was unavailable, I took the
liberty of inviting Sharkasaurus Rex! To resolve this. Peacefully. And
without violence!"

The mummy machines scoffed in unison. "You? You-took-the-liberty?
Without-consultation-of-vote? What-do-you-think...", and they were cut off
the young queen. She looked at the robots and they looked back at her. They
shared a silent moment, wireless communicating between her transmission gel
and their internal systems. Afterwards, the robots said, "You-may-have-
overstepped-yourself, Dean Strigiform, but-under-the-circumstances-your-
decision-logic-is-acceptable-to-ourselves-and-our-apian-ally. Sharkasaurus-
Rex-is-knowned-to-be-fair-and-just, he-is-a-more-than-
suitable-replacement."

The wizards whispered to the dragon, and with a reluctant nod the beast
declared, "It seems my collaborators also have some respect for this
ghoulish apparition and, tsk, have convinced me to let it mediate."

The Dean dabbed his brow with his handkerchief and breathed a sigh of
relief.

"You are no longer needed here, Szuper Devil," the queen waved. "You are
diszmisszed."

The Super Devil howled with laughter. "Dismissed? I don't think so! Not by
you, you stuck up spare tire. Hell, you losers don't have any idea what
you're even arguing over!"

One of the super wizards finally spoke up. "And you do?"

"Yeah! Double-hell yeah! One advantage of living outside your raggedy-ass
realm is getting an outside perspective. I know what they are. And what they
can do."

"Tell us," the wizard insisted.

"Ha! Hahaha! Just tell you, just like that? What kinda Super Devil do you
jack-holes take me for?" He waggled a red claw at the seven objects. "Now,
if you wanna make a deal, if you're willing to give me a handful of them,
then maybe I'll tell you everything I know about these cosmic crowns."

"Crowns..." the dragon said, astonished.

"Cosmic crowns... my word!" the Dean muttered.

The swarm of Monster Bees beat their wings in fury as their queen spat back,
"Give them to you? You think Usz foolsz? We may be ignorant of their
purposze, but their power isz szelf evident. We would never szurrender even
one of them to the likesz of you."

"Why not?" asked Sharkasaurus Rex with strict grey emotion.

The room again fell silent. Even the Super Devil was caught off guard.

The Dean was the first to clear his throat. "Well, now, before we start
jumping to any sort of arrangement, I'd like to remind you all that these
crowns are the property of the Galactic University and..."

With a first slammed down on the floor, the dragon cut off the Dean's
yammering. "This is the respected wisdom I have been told of? Giving away
weapons of mass destruction? To demons? By my ancestors! I would splay open
this megalodon and strangle it with its own entrails had it any more
substance than its ridiculous proposal!"

"But I don't have substance," said Rex, unintimidated. "I am free. Of
my
flesh. Of your threats. Of your war, even. Not part of your fighting.
Outside the conflict choking you all. Listen to my proposal, and you can be
too."

The great dragon huffed and growled, but the super wizards managed to calm
him enough to let Rex explain. "I don't know what started your war. Doesn't
matter. Not to me. Not to any of you. Not any more. Once wars start, only
important thing is how they end. You all want to win. By winning, you get
something. By losing, you lose something. So, war. But you are fortunate!
Here is your answer! These crowns! These incredible crowns! with incredible
power! Incredible potential! Here is the end of war. Without winning,
without losing, but all still getting want they want.

"These crowns are powerful. Terrible. Destructive. Dangerous. Cannot be
trusted with one group. Too much power for one people. Others would never
trust. Others would never feel safe. So war. Again war. But if crowns split
up? If everyone shares? No one gets too powerful. All are powerful. No one
has advantage. All have advantage. So no one wants war. No one needs war.
Power gives each what they want. Gives each what they need.

"Split up the crowns. Each race gets power. Enough to do whatever they want.
Without winning. Without losing. End your war. Right here, right now."

The dragon gestured at the Super Devil. "And what of him? Even if he keeps
his word, even if he shares what he knows, you can't seriously be suggesting
we hand over a crown to this infernal creature?"

"Why not?" asked Rex. "Just one. No more than you. No more than anyone.
Power to do what he wants. But no advantage over anyone. If one gets greedy
or dangerous, others can step in. Six to one. Power of crowns. Power to
force peace. If not peace, force arbitration. Even to him. Crowns would make
sure. Checks and balances."

The super-races started discussing amongst themselves. The war had been long
and bloody and costly for everyone involved. But that same cost demanded a
resolution. This could be the perfect answer; a way out without losing face.
And a way to ensure another war didn't take its place. One by one, they all
came to the same understanding.

"We-find-this-proposal-agreeable," announced Senator M., "under-one-
conditional-statement: the-first-unit-to-gain-a-crown-during-resource-
distribution-might-turn-their-new-cosmic-might-on-the-other-units.
We-suggest-Sharkasaurus-Rex-be-allowed-a-crown, and-he-be-the-first-unit-to-
be-system-updated-with-this-new-power. He-has-proven-his-file-system-just-
and-wise. He-will-be-our-system-administrator, setting-the-conditions-
required-for-equal-crown-circulation."

The others agreed. Some with more reluctance, but in the end, they all
agreed. They watched with nervous anticipation as the great shark approached
the center of the room and made slow circles around the crowns. Allowing him
to go first was more than honorific. The crowns had already killed seven
highly-intelligent men, masters of the original thinking caps and best
qualified to understand these new forces. Who knew if it was even possible
to wield this unfathomable power? Better to let the already-dead try first.

They backed away as Rex tightened his circle. Round and round he went until
one of the crowns caught his eye. It was shaped like a laurel wreath and had
a hypnotic gravity to it. It was a whirlpool. Pulling his thoughts and
dreams, smearing his memories and intentions against its sides. It wanted
him. It wanted him as much as he wanted it.

With a snap of his tail, the megalodon dived down through the floor, flipped
around, and crashed back up under the wreath.

The universe shuddered in relief, no longer having to bear a burden alone.

The moment stretched, ragged and paper thin, fearful of what would happen
next.

The wreath contracted, threatening to swallow this upstart reality into its
own.

The ghost clamped its jaw shut. He took ownership of the foreign force. He
demanded its obedience!

And it finally submitted.

And everything slowly relaxed.

The Dean cleared his throat. "Um, mighty Rex... are you okay?"

The ghost noticed the Dean. Then the other people in the room. Saw them for
the first time, really. They looked so small now. So simple and solid and
flat. Stuck in their widths and heights. Funnelled along their straight
restrictive paths. "I am Sharkasaurus Rex. I claim my cosmic crown. With it,
possibility is my school house. Potential is my lesson plan. Life is my
student."

"Swell," said the Super Devil, rubbing his hands in anticipation. "Now,
about that bargin..."

The others muttered some protests, but Rex ignored them. He swam up above
everyone and looked down on the red demon. "There are stronger laws in these
crowns. Stronger Rules than your own practices. Stricter measures. Grim.
Power that commands servility and respect from its bearers."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. A deals a deal. Jeez. Now, are gonna give me
one of those things or not?"

The ghost nodded. "Very well. Double Hell, take up your mantle."

The demon leered and leapt at the crowns. But like Rex, he encountered an
irresistible attraction that was unexpected and addictive and hypnotic. His
intentions were grabbed and pulled and held. Almost guided, he picked up a
black circlet, placed it on his brow, and said, "I am the Super Devil. I
claim my cosmic crown. With it, I'll reveal the secrets of the immaterial,
of the unreal, of the limitless." The demon frowned in realization. "Hey!
Why'd the double-heck I say that? What didja do to me?"

"You will keep your word," answered Rex. "All will. All must. If desiring a
crown. There must be Rules. There will be no war. There will be no secrets.
All intentions will be made clear. To us. Our mightiest. Our champions." Rex
circled around the room, around the room's occupants. "If you want this
power, you must want peace. Shun war. Claim glory."

The two factions stared across the room at each other in disgust. Then they
stared down at the remaining crowns. And the weight. Such incredible weight.

When none of them spoke, Rex turned to the Dean. "You have suffered for
these prizes. You have claim. So you will share. Galactic University, take
up your mantle."

The Dean heartily agreed and hurried to the center. He picked up a crown
shaped like folded triangles, but couldn't place it on his head. He couldn't
even raise it up past his chest. The closer it got to his brow, the larger
it looked. Overwhelmingly large. A tidal wave, with him the lone loose
pebble on the beach. He shivered at the immense strength in it. The immense
independence. He struggled to find his voice, "I... that is... the campus
claims this crown. I will... I mean, we will investigate it. The Galactic
University will investigate it."

"Your astro-philosophers are dead," Rex pointedly reminded him.

"Oh. Oh yes. I remember," the Dean said with a gulp. He put on a diplomatic
smile. "These aren't inanimate objects. There's a presence to them. A very
clear presence. I think we'll have the bio-philosophers study it. Yes.
Perhaps... perhaps they can learn something."

"Sztudy?" said the queen with a mix of surprise and disgust. "Thesze giftsz
to be acted on! To be unleashzed. Bah, szuch power isz waszted on you."

"Crowns enforce Rules," stated Rex with a light wash of caution.
"Doesn't
need to wear. Only needs to have. To be peaceful. And to do as he pleases.
As can you. Monster Bees, take up your mantle."

The swarm of bees actually shoved the small queen into the center of the
room. She seemed sad but determined. In one crown, she saw her short destiny
mirrored, her legacy ensured. Picking up a grand feather, she placed it upon
her head. "I am Sibylla Buzz. I claim my crown. With it, my race will find a
new home and a new queen. Stronger than I. Mightier than I. Immortal and
beautiful."

Rex turned to the other side of the room. "Alternate factions. To be fair.
Ensure balance. Amity, take up your mantle."

The great dragon sported a great hungry grin as he stepped over the smaller
people. He reached for the most glorious crown, but could not reach it.
Frustrated, he tried again, and still could not reach it. Growling, he tried
a third time. But it seemed impossibly far away. Pushed away, shoved away,
by the humblest of the crowns. The one that called to him, that refused to
be ignored. With a snarl, he scooped up the straw douli and sat it on his
head. "I am Sidney Dharma! I claim my crown! With it, my great line will
live in honor! My ancestors will be revered! Respected! Great lizards!"

Rex swept over to the gauzed robots. "Planet M, take up your mantle."

The group of robots huddled together and talked in a fast paced, coded
language. A quick debate was held, a vote was cast, and one of them was
elected. The chosen mummy machine picked up a tall pschent, placed it on his
metal head, and announced, "I am Senator M. I claim my crown. With it, our
grand republic will bring order to our world. Calculation and logic and
efficiency. Guided by the best of us." The other robots clapped in organized
agreement.

Rex faced the last super-race. "Only one left. Super Wizards From Space,
take up your mantle."

One of the wizards stepped forward. "Now wait here a minute! We ain't never
agreed to these terms. These rules you done imposed has us telling our
intent and our names. Our names! My race's science-sorcery is built upon
keeping that a secret. You'll have us risking our safety and security."

The ghost shark loomed over the complaining wizard. "The Rules. Not mine.
Not just mine. The crowns'. Conditions and requirements."

The wizard glowed brightly, liquid fusion dripping from his clenched fists.
"This is... this is unacceptable!"

"Then do not accept."

The wizard glared at the ghost. Then turned to the other wizards. They could
take the crown without wearing it, as the Dean did. Assuming he did so of
his own volition. They could take it back to Hoag, home of the Super Wizards
From Space, where it would be studied. Observed. Safe.

And unused. While others wielded power. Dangerous power. Unleashed.

Unacceptable. "I'll make the sacrifice," he said to his fellow wizards.
"Someone has to. The protection I lose with my name, the cosmic power will
compensate for." He strode to the center of the room and picked up the last
crown. "My choice is made. My path laid before me. With this, we will heal
this universe. We will be surgeons." He placed the crown on his head. "My
name is Gavrilo. I claim my cosmic crown."

* * *

Well, there we are. Not the high point in my race's long history, I admit.
But history is nothing but the actions of men in pursuit of their ends. And
we know how it all ended, don't we?

What? You don't? Good heavens, there seems to be no respect for their
lessons these days! Tsk tsk. Have you never heard the old saying about
history repeating itself?

I recommend you finish your tea and hurry on your way. I feel you will be
getting a first-hand example of just such a thing!

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AUTHOR'S NOTES

This second "half" clocks in at approximately 3600 words, more than twice
the previous issue. Though I could have split this into two, I decided to
leave it as a massive chunk. There is only so much expositional flashback
readers can digest, and at least this way it is only one bitter pill.

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Wil Alambre, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wilalambre