"The Secret Of The Silver Skull Machine, Part 4"
by Wil Alambre
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 bright buzzing shape changed position and jammed down into the
breach with its spear-like stinger.
Cephalo Pete was already badly wounded, thick ink and sticky blood
seeping out of wounds sustained in the crash landing. The stinger came
down and skewered him in a single vicious stroke. He made loud gacking
sounds and clutched futilely at it with his tentacles. The electrical
space-bee ignored the flailing and let the venom of the stinger soak
into the alien octopus's body. The octopus's gaze was filled with
helpless fear. "Gavrilo," Cephalo Pete choked out, trying to reach out
with a broken limb, "Help me. Pleeaass... sss...
Gavrilo retreated into the rocket-ship, unable to do anything but watch
the toxins transform his former partner. The mass grew exponentially,
becoming fat and round. A pair of clear wings ripped out from the back.
Two long powerful legs came from the front. And the tentacles elongated,
hardening with grey brown carapace into eight deadly stingers.
"Oh Pete. I'm so sorry," whispered the hermit wizard as Cephalo Pete's
form was twisted into another monstrous drone of the lycanthro-bee swarm.
"Don't be szzorry," came the low rumbling reply from the new terrible
shape. Its striped body expanded and contracted slowly like it was still
getting used to it's new shape. Eight antennae stretched into the air,
catching signal scents being broadcast from it's electrical brethren.
"There'szz a szzting of pain... but alszzo a szzting of... of fresh
realizzzation. Before I waszz aimlesszz. Now I got me sharp purposzze.
To my hive! To my queen!"
Gavrilo raised his hands and let science sorcerous powers well up in
him. His fingertips glowed with blue white sparks. "Don't make me kill
you," he said, taking a step back.
"You cain't hurt me. I szztill got your name, wizzzard!" Wings became a
blur and the Pete-bee jumped in the air. It zigged and zagged in a
complex communicative dance before joining up with the electrical drone.
Both then looked down on the Hermit Wizard From Space menacingly,
stingers almost shaking with anticipation.
Gavrilo gave up the bluff and ran into the depths of the ship. Whatever
that new horror was, it had all of Pete's memories on top of any
instincts the change granted it. It knew Gavrilo's name, and was immune
to his power.
The hull rang out from numerous thuds as the pair of space bees banged
against the outside. As Gavrilo made his way toward the rear airlock,
eight pointed stingers cracked through the shell of the ship in unison.
However the Pete-bee was stabbing blindly, the stingers were spread wide
rather than bunched together, and Gavrilo was able to squeeze between
the deadly barbs.
But as the stringers were drawn out, Gavrilo saw the purple venom left
behind in the puncture holes already soaking into the walls and the
floor. The metal skin of the rocket-ship screeched as the shape started
to change. Using the warping walls as footing, Gavrilo crawled out of
the airlock just before the hatch closed behind him the rocket-ship
turned into a metal reflection of the other space-bees.
The rocket-bee fluttered up heavily, fat thrusters on it's back instead
of wings, eyes of portal glass, transmitter dishes drinking in the
overwhelming attack pheromones in the air. The mechanically jointed legs
bent with a creaking sound, the laser turrets at the ends warming up.
A sonic boom blasted from the sky above them. The Super Wizard From
Space accelerated straight downward, the energy cocoon around him
flaring with bright power. He pushed his hands straight in front of him,
and the energy formed a pointed cone, tearing straight through the
transformed hull like a bullet. Inside, he spread out his arms,
expanding the bubble around him. The solar-powered bubble flattened the
rocket-bee's mechanical interior against the armored skin. Gavrilo
watched the rocket-bee suddenly bulge into a sphere, computer panels and
piping and wiring oozing out between the hull's seams before it crashed
to the ground, dead.
With a hard kick, the deformed hull split in half and the Super Wizard
From Space marched out of the rocket-bee's corpse. With a closed fist
and a jabbing motion, a ball of force hit the wall beside Gavrilo,
collapsing the aged concrete inwards. "Quickly inside," the super wizard
said, motioning to the opening.
Both ran into the dark building, crossing a dusty room into a
long-abandoned hallway just as angry buzzing and grasping legs jammed
through the hole. Electricity from the shield-bee arced madly, lighting
up the area in strobing bursts, but the opening was too small for either
"You can't run, wizzzard! We have you trapped inszzide!" yelled the
Pete-bee so loudly the vibrating sounds caused the structure to shake
and bits of loose plaster to fall.
"It won't take them long to find another way in," the Super Wizard From
Space said grimly.
"Doesn't matter." the hermit wizard said excitedly. He threw a beam of
light up and down the hallway, overgrown with strange moss. "We're
inside. The silver skull machine is here. I can still make this right!"
"No, you can't. Listen to me."
"The hallway is clear this way! Follow me!" Gavrilo said with a smile,
running further into the ruined complex and leaving footprints in the
thick dust. He didn't know where he was going, but he aimed for the
centre of the building. He was so close, it was like his goal was
tugging at him.
He eventually got to a large entranceway. The wooden doors were rotted
away but above the frame in red paint, a collection of unknown words and
a distinct skull-shaped symbol. This was it!
He flooded the cavernous chamber with blue white light. Banks of rusty
machinery lined every wall. A green ivy-like vines had infested the
entire ceiling, a few lines of leaves hanging at random intervals. In
one corner, a handful of skeletons, tall with too many ribs and overly
narrow shoulders. They looked huddled around broken burnt crates.
And in the centre, attached to shattered screens and piping and
conduits, a gigantic silver skull, the hermit wizard's light gleaming
off it's tarnished surface. It was hollow, it's massive empty cranium
filled with a chair and controls and buttons and levers, enough room
remaining only for a single occupant. The eye sockets had been filled
with tinted glass, the jaw closed with a black metal grill, allowing fat
wires to spill out. On the side, an airlock door had been crudely
attached, invitingly open.
He leapt across the room and peered into the eye sockets, pressing his
face against the dirty glass. His heart skipped a beat. The console was
glowing. Lights were shining faintly. A hum resonated from inside.
"It still works," Gavrilo said.
"No, it doesn't," said the Super Wizard From Space. He crossed the
large room, ignoring everything but his companion.
"They must have tapped directly into the skull itself! There's still
power! Look! I'm certain I can..."
"No, Gavrilo, you can't!" said the super wizard loudly. Sharply. With no
more patience. "The time machine doesn't work! It never did!"
The hermit wizard stopped. The words hung in the air.
"Look around you," the super wizard said, a hand sweeping across the
room. "Does it look like this civilization was able to save itself?"
Gavrilo turned to look at the super wizard with unbelieving eyes.
The Super Wizard From Space frowned, like a parent breaking a child's
heart. "Yes, the Argentonian scientists were able to tap into the
god-giant's magic for their time machine, but the power could never be
directed within. It's why King Argentum couldn't save himself.
"The technology works, but the silver skull radiates the effect outwards
rather than into the machine. The entire universe that travels through
time, with only the pilot chamber actually changing. The time machine
works inside out."
Gavrilo was shell-shocked. "But... no, it... "
"Any pilot gets shunted away as the machine's limited interior realigns
to a different time period. But since the controls are always here with
us, they're trapped forever. The machine is useless. It always has been."
The Hermit Wizard From Space stared at the super wizard. Then at the
silver skull machine. Then at the super wizard. He felt his entire long
age upon him. All his mistakes suddenly hung heavily on his shoulders.
There was nothing he could say. There were no words.
A breaking snapping sound came from above them. Ivy vines snapped,
girders and concrete crumbled. Long ruined supports and age weakened
materials gave way. Rows of triangular teeth faded in from the corners
and bit through the ceiling. Two or three entire floors above them were
yanked up and into a wide gaping blackness. Sunlight suddenly burst in
as the five layers of powerful hexagonal plates linked in from
phantasmal nothingness to form a set of building-sized jaws.
The pair of super wizards stared up at huge ghostly shape, easily three
or four times larger than Pete's rocketship. It's long sleek shape was
transparent, the rubble of the research centre visible within as it was
crushed by ectoplasmic forces. Though it hung in the air, the wind
visibly rippled past its massive fins, the shimmer rolling along a
gigantic blade-like tail that only occasionally existed.
And floating above it's forehead, set just behind it's golden eyes, a
wreath of bay laurels made of interlocking branches and tangled leaves,
radiating with a sickly green pallor.
"That's no monster bee," said the Super Wizard From Space, grimly,
the ghost of Sharkasaurus Rex. And he looks angry."
I'm having too much fun with were-bees. This issue was over 2200 words
before I realized it was too long and wasn't going to wrap up the silver
skull machine arc. So it got the biggest series of rewrites I've done to
any Super Wizard issue so far. Unfortunately, I did more of those
rewrites after I had a friend go over for spelling and grammar, so if
there's choppy parts, that's entirely my fault, not his :)
The action sequences and the various ridiculous transformations have
been chewing up a lot of word-count, more than expected. But next issue
will wrap this arc up, regardless of the length of the post. I'm excited
to move onto the cosmic tournament and I want to be prepped for whatever
the next high-concept challenge is.
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
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.