Genovefa Buzz scuttles on the wounded world, balancing on a egg while waiting for it to burst underneath her. Each step of her soaring legs carve ragged canyons along the equator. Each beat of her vast glacial wings throw the atmosphere out into empty space. The shifting of her behemoth mass rolls the planet off its axis. Landmasses burn, oceans boils, all unprotected from the sun’s deadly radiation and fiery temperatures.
On the dying planet’s surface, the Wizard scrambles to stay in the shadow of the celestial bee. He can’t stay here; this world can’t long suffer Genovefa’s presence. He has to think offensively.
Asteroids and satellites still litter the alien sky. The stolen moons of Genovefa’s earlier victims, along with the smashed remnants of their corpses, all swinging in erratic orbits. The Wizard focuses on the largest he can see, on the amount of moonlight dancing on its tumbling face, on all that potential energy, all out in the open. He reaches up, grabbing at the moonlight’s slippery silver edges, and yanks it down.
The sudden intensity draws Genovefa’s attention just as the weaponized moonlight slams into her in wide flat waves. Compound eyes a hundred miles in diameter are instantly blinded. She falls over with a vivid cry of surprise.
There’s grotesque lurch of gravity as the two planetary masses collide. Crust and mantle and primeval mountain ranges shatter into cyclopean shards along the impact, flung out into space.
The Wizard is thrown up into orbit, up amongst the encircling debris. He makes a quick survey of his surroundings, while she’s disoriented, while there’s an opportunity. Choosing the asteroid nearest to him, he slices open the space-field around it, then he makes a similar incision directly atop Genovefa. A warp-tunnel forms between the two points, swallowing the aberrant rock and firing it over three hundred thousand kilometres, at just under the speed of light.
The projectile punches into Genovefa’s side with a blinding explosion. Her atmosphere ignites, and she’s engulfed in fire.
The Wizard doesn’t pause. He immediately opens another warp-tunnel and launches another asteroid. And then another.
Rock explodes against rock. The firestorm is blown clear by shockwaves of cinder and debris. Primordial lightening arcs outward from the impact sites, like curled hands slashing out at the depths of space.
Genovefa screams out in visible spectrums. Pain and beastly fury. She lurches over the side of the planet, taking cover from the bombardment. Gravity lurches over with her. Reality distends in her wake. The remaining satellites are torn in the distortion, creating a spinning, mangled rubble that chaotically pin-balls off itself.
Caught within the whirlpool of boulders, the Wizard is helpless to act when Genovefa rears up on the mutilated planet and stabs at its ruined surface with her monstrous stinger.
The victimize planet contracts for a moment, like it might collapse into itself. Its lava takes a sickly, black pallor as Genovefa’s toxin spreads throughout its lithosphere. Then, with an animalistic roar, the planet explodes open, unfurling into its new bestial shape that crudely mirrors Genovefa’s own. Its frayed crust stretches out as vast beating wings, leaving the new drone’s body a flayed mess of exposed mantle and bleeding magma.
Genovefa lovingly strokes its head despite its horrific appearance, and the drone instinctively submits to its maternal queen. “Poor thing, poor thing, liszten to Usz,” her tone mournful and patient. “I know, I know. It won’t hurt for long. Too drasZztic a transZzformation over too much masZzz. Without cosZzmic power, your life will be brief… but it will be blazZzing and pasZzzionate, I promisZze you.”
Then they turn on the Wizard. The two monsters layer warped alien gravities atop warped alien gravities, multiplying the distortion of local spacetime. Reality stretches like canvas pulled taut. Pinpoint stars elongate away as twisting wet swirls. Time stutters and scratches and skips, between moments and months. Its everything the Wizard can do to stay free of the dimensional perversion. Working together, the gigantic beasts herd him deeper into the system centre, closer and closer to the poisoned sun.
He takes refuge within the umbra of the system’s innermost planet, a small burned thing that still carries scars of earlier assaults. No atmosphere, no magnetic field to speak of, nothing to provide cover. Its little more than a corner to be backed into.
Too new and too eager, Genovefa’s drone leaps forward, hurling gravity at its prey. An invisible pressure bashes down the Wizard, snaring him within the planetoid’s tattered orbit. The drone twists it abdomen to bring its stinger to bear, a rocky spear the size of a comet, and charges at the Wizard.
The Wizard rends open a warp-tunnel. The hole tears open along the drone’s back and snaps closed again. The beast’s tegula is torn away with a wrenching shriek. Its wings break free.
The wounded beast screams, twisting and thrashing in shock and in pain. It loses control of its trajectory. Its unable to slow its gigantic speeds. It cannot avoid crashing into the smaller planetoid.
Misshapen and wounded, neither survive the collision. The celestial forces split each apart with explosions of rock and bursts of liquid cores. The savage gravities of their death throes rip them both apart, creating a new asteroid belt ringing the system’s sun.
Caught in tumbling tidal forces, the Wizard pinballs amongst boulders and asteroids, clawing at rocky surfaces as he smashes against them. And between each collision, slashing agony as the sun’s unimpeded light bites into him. When his ragged grip finally holds, he crawls along its rolling surface, desperately keeping to the shadows.
Genovefa approaches, hovering near the shattered remains. If she is distraught over the drone’s destruction, she doesn’t express it. Instead, she uses her mass to keep the asteroid field together, preventing any individual piece from drifting too far afield, like a mother cat rounding up curious kittens.
Its when the rock under him shifts that he understands. The venom, still potent in the surrounding rubble, force new shapes on it all. The smaller asteroids are the first to wrench into their new alien lives, opening into new wings and new eyes and new legs, swimming in an overwhelming sea of genetic memories and antediluvian instincts, sharing a mind with their monstrous queen mother.
Genovefa’s affectionate cooing… falters. A silent moment is shared between her and her new swarm. Then she turns to whispered pleading as the new bees begin abandoning her. They work to break free from her orbit, to escape her influence into open space. She stretches out her legs and her wings, trying to hold onto them. “No, no, no, pleasZzse. I can do thizz. I CAN do thizZz…”
It doesn’t matter if she can convince them or not. Without cover, he won’t survive the poisoned sunlight for long. Only one desperate play. With the asteroid writhing under him, he crawls until has a clear line of sight to the sun. This close, the light hits him like a sandblast. His uniform tears away. His skin turns a dangerous red. Blisters widen and burst as his cells desperately try to expel the contaminant. His eyesight blurs as his blood boils around his sockets.
He reaches a shivering hand out. Feeling for the sun’s burning centre, an ancient fusion fire buried deep within its convection. He finds it, shaking and fluttering, unstable due to tampering, erratic due to Genovefa’s strange gravitational distortions. The Wizard calls up everything left of the Schrivener’s folded power, of the Stringer’s nuclear conclusion, as much of the poison sunlight as he can bear to hold… and injects it as deep as he can. An overdose of adrenaline straight into a heart attack.
The sun flits a hellish crimson before crumpling into a blue-white pinprick.
Genovefa screams in ultraviolet, desperately wrapping herself in magnetics.
There’s a moment when the pinprick disappears.
Then it flares! Five billion times brighter! Tossing aside the blackness of space! Its entirety explodes outwards, a wrathful wall of force and heat, bulldozing the void surrounding it.
The floundering asteroid field vaporizes. The shockwave flattens rock and drone alike, grinding down molecules under its heel before thundering on.
The few remaining planets burst. The supernova slamming each like an egg, and then slamming into the scattered shells. Anything not crushed in the onslaught burns in atomic fire.
Initially, Genovefa withstands, a cliff face against a furious, conflagrant ocean. The shockwave breaks against her gravities, nuclear fire sloughs off her magnetics… then the cliff face collapses… the impossible heats, the immense forces, it bowls over her defences. Her grand wings disintegrate. Her long stinger is ripped off. Curled-in legs are pulverized. The wave peels away her tectonic plates, then flays layer after layer of living mantle, flinging it all into cold space. Genovefa’s scream intermingles with the devastating wave, a cry of unimaginable agony that carries with the dead star’s own roar.
The collapse of its core unravels whatever sabotage the sun suffered. The initial flare hits the Wizard like a flood of ice water. A shocking wash of illumination, clean and pure and cold, tearing his grip and carrying him in its wake. Its all he can do to stay in the shockwave’s crest, tossed through the heliosphere like flotsam on the tide. Only when the force of the supernova finally spreads thin is he capable of kicking-out safely.
He drifts in blackness, letting his aching muscles drink in the echoes of distant constellations. A spreading waft of ash sticks to him as it passes. Grimy. Grey. Lifeless. The cremated remains of half a dozen worlds.
He can’t afford to wait. He refines what starlight he’s collected. He dives back into the corpse of the system. He goes straight at Genovefa.
Genovefa’s mutilated form falls away from space-time, away from everything, retreating down a self-created gravity well. The Wizard chases down after her. Time shreds in their backwash. Light dilates into hellish crimsons.
She senses him. She curls up, trying to shield her beating core. Faster and faster, falling into extended nothingness. Landmasses shed off her, leaving her exposed and liquid.
The Wizard pushes at her faster. Wrapping speed around him, his shield rifles and reddens.
She punches down and farther down. Into impossible amounts of gravity. Super-compressed reality hugs her tightly.
The Wizard opens a warp-tunnel and pushes in. It opens where all direction ends up in this plunging pit; he bursts within her spinning core. A crushing, beating ball of fluid nickel.
Embedded in the centre, tangled in flowing veins of naked gold, his Cosmic Crown. He grasps hold of it.
The fluid nickel pulses once. Then it relaxes. And stops.
Gravity deflates. Weight falls away, and the pit starts to lazily float upward, back toward normal space. Genovefa’s liquid shape shudders, and goes cold. Reality unknots, her magma cools and quickly hardens. She crumbles apart as blackened charcoal.
He uses the Crown to call its now-freed twin. Out of the carbon blackness, a sliver of white light slips toward him. Like an arrow, blooming into a soft blanket barbules. With his free hand, he takes it.
The last of seven. Finally.