"The Secret Of The Silver Skull Machine, Part 2"
by Wil Alambre
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,
followed close behind in a similar light cocoon, though his seemed
discolored and misshaped around the edges.
"Are we getting close?" the hermit asked with anxiety. "Pete's old
rocket-ship is slow, but he had a long head start! We might still
beat him there taking a faster path... do you think we're almost
"Yes, Gavrilo. We will be arriving in the hidden galaxy in mere
space-moments," the super wizard said in an authoritative voice.
He looked back over his shoulder at the hermit. "Now tell me about
the cosmic tournament and why its being kept a secret from me."
Gavrilo hesitated, that firm stare causing him to rein back a bit.
An unflinching stare that had witnessed the death of worlds. But
he swallowed back his fear, remembering that he was armed with the
knowledge of the super wizard's name; his harrowing powers were as
harmless to Gavrilo as Gavrilo's own powers were to him.
And he remembered the silver skull machine. The time machine. His
chance to literally erase all his past mistakes. Soon.
"The great super-civilizations of outer space were on the brink of
super-space-war over your... I mean... your act against the
space-unicorns and the space-sasquatches."
"The genocide," the super wizard acknowledged.
Gavrilo shivered. "Um, yes. The planet cracking. Instead of
super-space-war, a tournament was suggested. A cosmic tournament.
"All of them. All other space-champions. Against you."
"And our own race, the Super Wizards From Space, they didn't warn
The super wizard turned away before Gavrilo had a chance to meekly
nod in agreement. No one had warned him. No one had wanted to warn
him. And had Gavrilo not made a deal with him, he wouldn't be
warning him now.
Another mistake that could soon be undone when he got to the
"But the cosmic tournament has rules," the hermit wizard offered
after a silence. "Four unbreakable rules. The Invisible Monks
The super wizard frowned, and looked back.
"The first rule is that space-champions must accept a challenge
from any other space-champion. They wanted to make sure you
couldn't avoid it, you see..." Gavrilo started to explain before
biting his tongue. "The... the second rule is that each challenge
is a battle between the two super-civilizations. The others cannot
interfere." Not that their own race had any intentions of
assisting the super wizard. "The third rule, each challenge must
be witnessed by a space-champion. A third one. That is not
involved in the fight." To be sure, when it was over. To be
certain. "And the fourth rule, the winner of any challenge is the
The green tunnel boomed with deafening thunder and twisted
chaotically. Red space-laser reflected off the edges and
splintered into space-lightening arcs around them. The already
invasive warp tunnel bubbled around the edges and unravelled in
tears and chunks, suddenly expelling the two wizards back into
In the fresh blackness, more red lines bolted past them
terrifyingly close. Rocks and boulders tumbled randomly around
them lazily, providing some make-shift cover. The shredded rags of
reality mended the burned green tunnel slowly, the fading warp
effect causing the rock debris onto erratic paths that threatened
to squash the wizards.
"Asteroid field!" shouted the super wizard, trying to orient
himself. "Take cover!"
Another red space-laser. An especially large boulder split in two.
Gavrilo and the Super Wizard From Space scrambled behind an
egg-shaped rock as various chunks spun off in every direction,
starting a deadly chain reaction of crashing rocks. A shallow
crater on the crater provided a temporary hiding spot from the
debris and laser fire.
"Ha ha ha," a transmission crackled to life, "I ain't done no
sniping since I was a little larva, but you hafta admit, my aim is
nigh on incredible! Ha ha ha!"
"Pete?" Gavrilo spat back in radio waves. "Is that you, you
"Course it's me! Who else'd be ambushing you out in an unmapped
nowhere? I knew you to be a penniless coward, but I worried you
could be a persistent penniless coward. That's why I had someone
keeping an eye on you, in case you found yourself some gumption!"
Gavrilo cursed silently under his breath. Looking beside him, he
made pretend-gunfire motions to his companion. Gavrilo's power was
completely powerless against the alien octopus because Cephalo
Pete knew the hermit wizard's name. But he didn't know the Super
Wizard From Space's.
The Super Wizard From Space shook his head and whispered, "He's
moving around, keeping the sun directly behind his rocket-ship. I
can barely see him." He pointed to the far end of the boulder they
were on. "I'll get a better vantage point. Get him to fire again,
the space-laser beams will show me his position."
"You want me to be a target?"
"Only if you really want to get to that time machine before your
former friend," the super wizard tossed back as he crawled away.
The silver skull machine. It wasn't too late. Pete hadn't made it
down to the planet yet.
"You ain't died over there, have you?" Cephalo Pete taunted.
"I'm still here, Pete." Think. Think. There was one thing that got
Cephalo Pete to lose his temper. Only question was whether he
thought the hermit wizard had come alone, or saw that he was being
baited. "Still here. Alive and uncooked."
A long silence on white static.
"That's how the smart ones stay alive, isn't it Pete? We stay in
our hole when danger is about? You'd have to be pretty damn stupid
to go crawling out of your safe hole when there's who-knows-what
"You best quiet up now," was the sharp reply.
"I'd have to be damn blind to not see danger outside my hole. To
just go crawling out onto the rocks when someone's out looking for
me. I'm liable to get myself bagged up and carted off, ain't I
"I done told you to shut up, damn your hide!"
Gavrilo risked a peek over over the rim of the crater, letting a
smirk free. "Bagged up and weighed up and carted off? Kept in a
tank? Or was it on ice? The smart ones, they stay in the holes.
The stupid ones, they get kept on ice? Until someone gets hungry
"Shut up! Shut up about my mother!" the furious screaming was
almost impossible to make out over the transmissions. Straight
line bolts of space-laser fire sliced around the rim. Gavrilo
yelped and dived deeper into the asteroid's crater. Red light
burned his skin. Sharp stone shrapnel cut and bashed him, flung
From the far end of the boulder, the Super Wizard From Space swept
his hand toward the source of the red space-lasers, a gold arc of
solar flare bursting from his hand and stretching across space to
slash at the bottom of the rocket-ship. The weapons disintegrated
instantly, a third of the ship melted and distorted in the fusion
heat tossed at it.
Cephalo Pete's transmissions became panicked. Alarm bells were
clamoring over his angry cries. "No! No! I know you! You can't do
this! Gavrilo! I know your name, Gavrilo!"
"He iszzn't alone."
Gavrilo's blood went cold when he heard the new dripping voice,
crystal clear but for the stretched out, vibrating consonants.
Some of the larger dark shapes in the asteroid fields stopped
their erratic movements, sprouting wide clear wings that beat in a
blur. The shapes moved in a circular pattern, rising from the
cover of the asteroid belt to form a slow moving ring around the
rocket-ship. In the light of the sun, the yellow-black striped on
their massive misshapened bodies and spear-like stingers came into
"You can go now, octopuszz. Leave the szzuper wizzzardszz to
uszz... the Monszzter Beeszz of Queen Buzzz!"
If this issue seems off, then you're not alone. With a busy
schedule over the last couple weeks, I found myself with next to
no time to finish this issue before my self-imposed Tuesday
deadline. I kind of find the end result a little exposition-heavy
and not much forward progress in the plot (it kind of ends in the
same place as the previous issue). I'll try to do better next time.
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!"
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.
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.
"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.
Playing tour guide's certainly been more agreeable than playing babysitter. As far as pointless distractions go. If nothing else, its been interesting visiting old haunts, if only to see what's left of them.