"The Secret History Of The Seven Cosmic Crowns, part 2"
by Wil Alambre
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
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'.
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
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."
"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
"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-
we-known-the-you-would-be-the-administrator-answering!" Another robot joined
in, extending an accusatory finger across the room. "This-is-your-fault.
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
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
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-
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
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-
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
"You are no longer needed here, Szuper Devil," the queen waved. "You are
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
"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
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
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-
and-wise. He-will-be-our-system-administrator, setting-the-conditions-
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
The wreath contracted, threatening to swallow this upstart reality into its
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
"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.
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
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
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!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wil Alambre, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wilalambre
"Hurry, uni-scribe! We have less than one space-hour to get to the
negotiating table before the Great Disaster arrives!" The desperate uni-diplomat paced back and forth in the room. He kept
looking at the space-clock, watching the moments tick away and
whinnying quietly under his breath. The light in the room was starting
to fade away as ominous clouds rolled in, covered up the twin suns. It
was as if the very planet understood the impending doom and was losing
"Very well, we agree. A tournament, then, to end this rampage. But you have witnessed the power at his disposal. He has a billion billion years of our science-sorcery at his command. Will all you great super-civilizations commit your super-champions to this?"
On a distant world, a mummy-robot and a brown-robed monk silently made their way to the center of a blasphemous cathedral. Though the robot lurched ungainly, it's servos making an uneven whirring sound as they moved the broken machine through black-stone hallways, it held it's bandaged head high, the ghostly
Cocytus the demon-glacier had the Super Wizard From Space engulfed in its icy grasp, forever to be a frozen prisoner of the ninth circle of Hell. Meanwhile the victorious Devil stood atop the massive field of ice, grateful to be back home. The Devil tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and just basked
On a filthy cobblestone hell-road outside the infinite walls of Double-Dis, the Super Wizard From Space stared up at the triumphant face of the Super-Devil. The monster's massive grin dribbled thick lava as he shouted out "Hey there, jerks! Welcome to Double-Hell!"
In the ruins of an ancient city of pillars, an alien octopus pointed eight dangerous looking ray-guns at a white-bearded hermit. "You best be giving me that there data-cylinder, Gavrilo, or I'll vaporize you right where you stand, I done swear it!"
Two figures hurtled through a scarred green warp tunnel underneath the skin of the universe toward the lost planet of the silver skull machine. The Super Wizard From Space was leading the way, encased in a cocoon of hard light that protected him from the rigors of space travel. His companion, a filthy bearded hermit,
The Super Wizard From Space and the Hermit Wizard From Space were trapped in an asteroid belt by a swarm of gigantic space-bees! As it's fellow drones circled uniformly, one particularly grusome space-bee broken from the formation. It was as massive as any of the drifting asteroids, it's gigantic yellow black body big enough to drag smaller free-floating
A monstrously giant bee made of hollow electricity used its clawed legs to peel open the hull of the crashed rocket-ship. It glowed brightly with a pale light, partially transparent and seemingly fragile as it opened up the armored cockpit as if it was made of tinfoil. The ship's two occupants didn't even have a moment to shake off the shock before
The two super wizards stood stock still as the two floors of the building above them were eaten by the ghost of a cosmic megalodon. Bigger than a rocket-ship, it nonetheless hung effortlessly in the air, it's fifty-five rows of cleaver-like teeth surrounding their room as it floated vertically above them. The daylight of the alien sky shone
I am Theodor. I am a rainbow blue fish. I lived on a planet far away. Then I died. But that is was not the end. That was the beginning. I became a ghost. I became part of the infinite school. Thanks to wise Rex. This is the story of Rex. He is big fish. A big shark. Many sizes big. From a far away blue
It took nearly every ghost fish of the infinite school to confidently herd Sharkasaurus Rex into the depths of the invisible galaxy. The megalodon's monstrous instincts were near impossible to fully understand, a hundred million space-years of predatory instinct and insatiable hunger. The spectral school's entire telepathic concentration
"Oh dear me!" shouted Brody Dharma to the marble diamond hall, his gecko eyes spinning in shock as the ghostly forms of Geisel and Theodor circled over the sticky yellow remains of Queen Buzz. "Fish! Please! Contain yourselves!" "Tyrant!" flared out Geisel angrily, telepathically sharing horrific
"Master hero! Master hero!" cried out the young boy, frantic enough to ignore his disciplined training. "A terrible occurrence! The infinite school have lost their hold on their grisly teacher! The cosmic crown reacted suddenly and cut off their psychic leashes! Sharkasaurus Rex is loose!". The young boy wildly rang the same small gong all the monks in this
Geisel was gone, his phantasmal form torn apart in savage fury by the recently de-crowned Sharkasaurus Rex. The equally ethereal Theodor watched the entire sudden rending in still shock. As did the rest of the infinite school, millions of fellow ghost fish that had all gathered to psychically leash the mighty megalodon.
"Sharkasaurus Rex is feeding on the simple people of this planet," said the
Super Wizard From Space, pointing to where a sticky-looking red hue spread in
the red mist for a space-minute before the fin moved on. "He's converting their
psyches into spiritual mass, growing exponentially. This incredible instrument
is our only hope."
He was lying on the ground. Still at the top of the mountain
monastery. Yes, he was certain of it. There was no mistaking. He
remembered the feel of these particular stones. And the scent of that
particular moss. But he could not remember how he had came here. It
was like his mind was rattling around in his head while at the same
time trying to swell larger than his skull could contain.
I warned him not to use the Gong Ago, as the volume required from that sacred instrument would have unintended side effects. But like an old mule wearing ragged blinders, he rung it out anyway. And that powerful pitch has freed me and my like-minded brethren. My name is Andy Dharma. I am the master villain of the Invisible Monks.
In a clearing at the center, a nine-foot lizards bowed respectfully to his duplicate. He dressed the same way. He moved with the same simple grace. He stood with the same relaxed posture. And he looked back at him with the same calculating eyes, measuring the short distance between them, judging the smallest of movements.
"You are unbalanczed. You cannot be truszted with coszmic power." Her hand closed into a fist and squeezed. From every direction, the spectral fish tossed out their determination in crisscrossing grey lines, trying to ensnare his mind.
"Andy, don't do this," whispered Brody, "You can't." "Yes I can! Yes I will!" he shouted back at him. "No more bad habits disguised as tradition! No more of yesterday's rules deciding today's fate! I will show you what change can accomplish!" He spat on the floor in disgust, and backflipped off the balcony.
On the side of a small lake, a simple man was fishing off the end of a rickety dock. The lake was usually a clear blue, filled with many delicious fish. It was not so now. It was murky, tinted pink and red, the fish preferring to stay closer to the bottom, where the water was cleaner and lines could rarely reach. It meant the man would be lucky for even a small catch, but that would be enough. He lived alone on this shore, in his cabin up the hill, and had only himself to feed.
He wiped his hands on his bloody apron, then stroked his long grey beard with a smile. It was with great experience that he could judge the quality and balance of a blade and in all the experience, he had never worked with such magnificent instruments.
A portion of empty space bubbled and bulged, like plastic melting in a fire, then peeled away to reveal the spitting green end of a warp tunnel. Wrapped and protected in a cocoon of pale starlight, the Super Wizard From Space blasted out of the tunnel opening at incredible speed. The wound in black reality mended behind him with a practiced flick of
Sharp super-lightening split across a sick dry sky as a lone yellow cab pulled up in front of a long abandoned university. The pale driver scratched at his unkept beard. Hunched over the steering wheel, he got a better look through the windshield at the derelict campus. "You sure this is where you wanna to be?" he gruffly asked the passenger in the back seat.
"I will not tolerate your
presence here. Nor your trickery. I will burn away every molecule. I
will crack every atom. I will unravel your infernal form down to the
minimalist components and grind the remains under my boot."
"Once upon a time, five dark lords of multiple underverses made the mistake of signing a series of magical contracts in an attempt to insure some level of trust between them. Inevitably, all five of them went back on their words and now the tangled wording of those contracts have trapped them in the stone sepulchres of Quinto-Hell."
The ashen remains of the gorgon sunk into the circling river of molten rock and disappeared down the sinkhole in reality, pulled toward the punishments of Triple-Hell. A bleating car horn sounded. The Devil tugged at the wizard's shoulder. "Come along, guv. Our ride awaits."
Somewhere in the dank musky darkness swamp, a single snapping growl was followed up by a chorus of hungry grumbles and hollers and howls. Jagged trunks of twisted trees creaked and cracked as something massive pushed through. Huge lungs filled up and expelled, making for a thunderous breathy bass echo.
Black glass and brittle shale and oddly shaped boulders all bashed against each other in the tornado ferocity of the space between conceptual realities. Every small piece was both nonexistant and an immense solidity to itself, dragging and throwing and colliding with its surroundings as the entire mess fell through infinite layers of fractal
Looking about, he could see endless desert interrupted by black stone squares, similar to the one they were taking refuge on. A long wind was blowing, picking up loose dunes, shifting them up and over and around in an ever-moving landscape. It gave everything a burnt look, a rising sea of sand that just faded without an horizon. The only thing cutting through the leather-colored sky was the sun, massive and oversized, ten times larger than it should be.
The Devil, The Secret Living Language, and the Super Wizard From Space stood upon a massive square of black stone half buried in blistering desert sands. "This is it, end of the line," the Devil announced.
In the seedy bowels of a seedy mining camp, Cephalo Paul roused from blurriness to found himself at the mercy of an unkindness of anthropomorphic ravens. The lot of them stood on four clawed talons, spoke through horrifying beaks lined with serrated edges, and had too many ruby-coloured eyes.
"My name is senior lieutenant Yuri Gigan Topithecus, last survivor of the once-mighty space-sasquatch race. I was a hero of my people and a triumph of my government, becoming the first of my planet to journey into outer space... and as I completed my first orbit in my prototype capsule, I helplessly watched the Super Wizard From Space destroy my world."
The Super Wizard From Space towed his wounded prisoner to a dying system in a lonely constellation. It was a place that had been full and vibrant when the universe was young, a very long time ago. Now, it's small, dense white star bled away its diminishing heat and weak light into empty space.
Across the vastness of galaxies, a nameless forager bee achieves a stable geosynchronous orbit with distant Planet M. The ladened insect has been in contact with appropriate representatives, has deposited it cargo. It now maintains a microwave relay with the surface, and only awaits permission from the Hive to open communications.
In the clarity of the desert night, a single point of light smolders against the blue-black curtain. And it slowly grows the closer it gets, falling toward Us through immense distances. The Super Wizard From Space is coming to Planet M.
Emperor gestures back to the great monolith and declares, "At-the-behest-of-our-electronic-ennead, I've-entombed-the-Super-Wizard-From-Space-within-the-Pyramids-Of-Ka! His-power-will-feed-our-preservation-batteries-for-countless-cycles."
"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?"
If you'll indulge me, I'll tell you a story about how some people ( who were much too smart for their own good, I'm afraid ) tried to find an easy, quick solution; by doing so, they doomed countless lives to AGES of suffering.
"A swarm! A monster swarm! Oh! Oh gods, they were everywhere. They killed everyone. They stabbed them and killed them. And the dead changed into more and went to do the same. Stabbing and changing and stabbing. Everyone's gone!"
Long spear-length stingers, glints of wet toxin at the tips. Wide crystal wings banging against torsos, making thrumming thunder. It's a *blanket* of angry buzzing. Getting thicker as they crawl over each other. At me. Looking to smother me. Kill me. If I'm lucky.
"What I'm doing, it has to be done. Because someone has to do it. Because no one else is doing it. They're scared of what might happen. Scared of what they could lose. Scared of things they can't change. We can't live like that."
Do you have any idea how this looks? We aren't at war anymore. The tournament is supposed to *prevent* this exact sort of conflict from flaring up again. You can't just go around dropping armies on the *home planets* of the universe's seven super-races."
His ancient race long ago unravelled the laws of physics, and they then learned how to redefine them. They harvest fusion fire to sustain themselves, and they hollow out suns to build their private strongholds. They are guardians of the spaces they know and explorers of the spaces they don't.
Reality stretches like canvas pulled taut. Time stutters and scratches and skips, between moments and months. The Wizard takes refuge within the umbra of the system's innermost planet, little more than a corner to be backed into.