My name is Brody Dharma, master hero of the Invisible Monks. I am an honoured guest in the great ringed galaxy of Hoag, the capital city of the Super Wizard From Space race. And I am witnessing what may be the last days of the august and resplendent empire of the Super Wizards From Space. I take this moment to preserve from decay the remembrance of all they've done, so any sentients that follow us do not lose them the due meed of their glory.
"Quiet! Silence!" yells out a lone Wizard as he strides to the middle of the floor. The rank and respect due him is not questioned by the thousands of his fellow Wizards in assembly, as he wears the silver and ivory colours of a parliamentary representative. "I've been elected Speaker of this House, and will act as the presiding officer. It is my pleasure to invite our visiting dignitary to speak at our momentous caucus."
I join the Speaker, bow to him, then turn and bow to rest of the assembled Wizards. "I greet you all with innumerable cordial returns! It's been an age since the Super Wizards From Space so diplomatically courted a master hero! In gracious consideration of our super-races' past alliances, it would have been unforgivable of me to refuse.
"I'm certain we've all heard the troubling news… but to ensure I've not made the long journey only to fall victim to misunderstanding, let me be plain. Your exiled General has reformed the Red Hand! He's made militaristic treaties with both Mummy Machines and with Monster Bees! It seems, despite our most venerable efforts to the contrary, the entire universe finds itself on the verge of super-space-war!
"When Andy and I received your invitation, we assumed it'd be your wish to reestablish the old treaties between your super-race and my own. I rarely see eye to eye with my brother… why, he even scoffed at me for insisting on replying in person (as if forgoing such a formal courtesy wouldn't bring shame upon us)… but in the matter of joining forces with the Super Wizards From Space against the Red Hand, the two of us are in perfect agreement. We must respectfully decline."
The audience breaks into a rumbling outrage. "The Red Hand? Impossible!" "How was this allowed to happen?" "Where is this information coming from?" "Super-space-war? No one would dare!" Their indignation isn't surprising. The Super Wizards From Space see themselves as the conservators and custodians of our endless macrocosm. They take any rebuffs to their self-imposed responsibilities as an unforgivable affront. I cannot imagine how shocking it must be coming from one of their own.
The Speaker calms his fellow Wizards, then says, "Yes, thank you, Brody. Our best politio-mathemagicians calculated that that would be your position. And we do respect it. Truly, we do. However… some recent circumstances have arisen that we believe can alter the arithmetic. A prisoner, which might sway things back in our favour…" He makes a motion and the crowd parts, allowing a strangely opaque sphere to roll to the middle of the floor. It's no more than a few meters in diameter, and it's of a black colour so dense it absorbs the light and the shadow around it. How peculiar. I sense… nothing from it. It's as if it lacks a presence…
Oh! Oh my!
It's a black hole!
It's been long known that the Wizards' science-sorcery gives them unparalleled mastery over space, distance, light, and gravity… but these ghastly phenomena defy control. They defy definition. They defy everything. Even time itself strains in proximity to them, stretching thin, making moments feel like eternities. It's astonishing enough the Wizards might be able to manipulate black holes at all… but to construct a cell out of one?
I am stunned. And sickened. "Good heavens, man! Do you have someone in there? Who would need such a horrifying dungeon?"
"He's one of us," the Speaker says grimly, laying a hand flat the sphere's event horizon. "He's a Super Wizard From Space." The impossibly black surface clears in liquid ripples as reveals a round, cramped interior. Within is a Wizard wearing a military red uniform long forbidden by his super-race. I've no way of knowing how long he's been held in that frightful cell… and who knows how long the experience must have felt to him. The isolation has obviously gotten to him; there's a maniacal look in his eyes.
"Look upon him!" the Speaker says loudly, to me and to the other Wizards. "Know that his name is Trifko, and by knowing his name, know he is powerless. We found him manning the frozen prisons in the expatriated zones. He's agreed to surrender and confess his crimes, so long as he could have his say." The Speaker nods to Trifko, gesturing for him to speak.
The prisoner looks out at his fellow Wizards. His voice is stilted, held back, as if afraid the words would eat him up as he unleashes them. "Look at you. Look at all of you, looking at my uniform with… disgust.
"How dare you.
"We protected you. We did the worst of your work. And for that, you turned on us, just to save face. You turned on poor Gavrilo, abandoning him after he sacrificed his secret name. And you turned on our General; you exiled him after he rid us of the Super Warlock scourge. And you even turned on our super-champion… for doing the work you yourselves wouldn't do.
"I spent years wondering… what went wrong? How were we so blind? But now… now I realize the problem is with our whole damn race. We are so poisoned with our own grandeur. We are so sure of ourselves. It's all our responsibility. We know best, we have to, we need to. By the time we realized our unhealthy hubris had transformed into an… unnatural obsession, it much too late. Too late to tell anyone. Too late to acknowledge it, even amongst ourselves.
"But I acknowledge it. I do. Because it is there. It's in every one of you, in every Super Wizard From Space. And we have to own up to it; the first step to every solution is admitting there's a problem.
"The Super Warlock race were double-crossing, horse-faced bastards. They created a cosmic crisis and they damn well deserved everything they got. But they weren't the sole perpetrators. They didn't spread space-greed into the universe… we did! The Super Wizards From Space!
"We're carriers. As living reactors, our selfish conceit broils up in us and leaks out as radioactive emotion. It's in every shield we conjure and in every beam we fire and in every tunnel we carve. Every where we go, everything we do, we leave contamination. And yet the doctors refuse to diagnose themselves.
"Well, no more! No more!" The prisoner's voice cracks with fanatical rage. "I'm not here to give you warning. I'm not here to give you help. I'm here in spite. Penance is coming, and I am its herald! The Red Hand is coming, and I am its manifesto!"
The Speaker places a hand on the cell and its surface immediately turns opaque. "I think we've heard enough," he says in disgust. "Our Red Hand. Our Red General. Traitors. What we've seen them do in the past, and now hearing of their intent… all measures need to be taken for our defence."
I stare at him with astonishment. "Is it true? What this 'Trifko' says?" I see the answer in his eyes, and in the eyes of all the Wizards surrounding me. "It is true. You knew. You all knew. By the souls of my ancestors, this is… unthinkable. Space-greed is a dangerous, virulent plague… its release upon our fragile cosmos ushered in an unfathomable age of darkness! It wiped out ancient species and star-spanning civilizations. It was so dangerous, we gave your super-race unconditional authority to cleanse it from wherever it spread. We trusted you! And now, not only do I discover the Super Wizards From Space have not overcome this insidious pathogen, but I also discover you yourselves are secretly carriers of the disease… and always have been!
"Is this 'justice' you've been dispatching your super-champion upon? Have you used him to eliminate proof of your contamination? Did he crack that planet in half on your orders?
"And, to think, you had the gall to invite me here! To expect me and mine to ally ourselves with you! What astonishing arrogance!"
"No, Brody, we didn't expect you to assist us. Not willingly." The Speaker gives me a small smile. There's a terrible sureness in him that I find suddenly disquieting. Despite my height, it feels as if he looms over me, a blade about to be dropped. The other Wizards close in on us. Thousands of them. On me. "We use politio-mathemagics to calculate optimal paths through crises. And though it looked like the arithmetic pointed to failure, as I mentioned, a recent circumstance shifted the odds back in our favour. You are that circumstance."
The crowd parts. A second terrifying sphere rolls up beside us. It stops right beside me and unravels like an orange. Unlike Trifko's, this sphere is unoccupied.
Cold realization crashes upon me. "I'm to be your hostage."
"You'd allow the Red Hand to annihilate us just to satisfy your strong sense of duty and tradition. But the philosophies of your unconventional brother go against your own. He would do anything to ensure your safety. With his assistance, we will prevail.
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this uprising, the Super Wizards From Space, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. With confidence, with the unbounding determination, we will gain the inevitable triumph!"