"The Secret Of The Silver Skull Machine, Part 5"
by Wil Alambre
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
through it's phantasmal body, the only full solid part of the terrible
apparition was the laurel wreath floating above its forehead, radiating
wildly with a sickly green light.
Flanking it was a pair of rainbow-finned fish, each as large as a
full-grown man but just as insubstantial as the giant beast. They
wavered beside the gigantic shark as if the slow breeze was a liquid
stream they were coasting in. Their milky white eyes had an eerie
spectral weight to them but also carried an innocent freedom.
"Don't move," the Super Wizard From Space warned the Hermit Wizard From
Space, placing a firm hand on his companion's a shoulder. Not that there
was anywhere they could go. There were rows and rows and rows of
monstrous teeth in all directions around them, each tooth a vicious
triangular bone larger than their torsos. "Try to stay very still."
"These aren't bees," whisper the hermit wizard.
"No, Gavrilo, these are not bees," said the super wizard. "It's some
the Infinite School. And they've brought their space-champion,
The ghostly megalodon seemed to recognize it's name, a maddening hunger
flitting over it's golden eyes. The surrounding jaws flexed slightly
tighter, the jagged teeth leaping toward them. The super wizard
outstretched his arms, spread his fingers, pale solar power leaping out
around him and Gavrilo to form a protective bubble of energy. The wall
of giant teeth poked and tore through the edges of the shield near
effortlessly, arcs of shredded electricity jumping inward.
The two rainbow-finned fish darted down toward the super wizards, their
ghostly forms easily passing through the energy shield, and positioned
themselves between the megalodon and it's meal.
"No! No!" thought the red-green fish aloud, it's short staccato
telepathy hooking into the forebrains of everyone around it. It wasn't
crying, it wasn't pleading. It was excited, the words rich with the bite
of anticipation. "Great Rex! Mighty Rex! Not these! Not them! Not yet!
Up! Up up up! Look up! See up!"
Far in the sky above the ruined building, the swarm of monster bees flew
in wide circles. All of them different shapes, different materials,
different colours. All of them in perfect formation, moving at exactly
the same speed. Round and round, their wings making a low constant
rumble, like a waiting storm.
"Terrible Rex! Harrowing Rex!" thought the other transparent fish. His
scales were several shades of wonderful blue, but his mind slashed out
words coldly and cruelly. "Up! There! Them! Them! Vengeance! Vengeance
on the bees!"
There was a pause, then the laurel wreath's green light flashed brightly
and the megalodon dived straight down. The energy shield popped like
soap as the ghostly beast moved through the fish, through the wizards,
through the ground. The remains of the building quaked, even
insubstantial the great shark caused civilized structures to shake with
the fear of it's passing. Gavrilo's blood went cold and his bones felt
hollow as the beast dove into the planet. Then after a long heavy
moment, a blast of vertical wind as it rose up again in a rising ragged
Sharkasaurus Rex flew straight up toward the swarm. The drones blasted
out panicked scent-transmissions and scattered. The one monster bee of
purple-tinted electricity swerved in the wrong direction and quickly the
cavernous jaws slammed shut around it. There was a crackling pop of
lightening and it was gone. Rex swum around, already hurling through the
sky toward the next victim.
"Formidable Rex!" thought out the one fish.
"Fearsome Rex!" thought out the two fish.
"Stay here. With Rex's help, I can end this," said the super wizard to
Gavrilo before he wrapped himself in the remains of the shield's pale
light, flying up into the air.
The swarm grew smaller as the monstrous drones got picked off one by
one. They occasionally managed to get behind the crazed brute, their
superior maneuverability allowing them to jabbed at the megalodon with
their toxin stingers. But the quick attacks just passed through the
spectral form, striking nothing.
The Super Wizard From Space flew alongside the giant shark, ambushing
the confused drones as they emerged out the other side. A clench of his
fist, a snap of his arm, and a blast of solar fire stretched out like a
flaring whip. The bees vaporized instantly before the whip finished
snapping, the fusion arc erasing a mountain with a deafening roar.
"Wondrous Rex!" thought out the red fish.
"Murderous Rex!" thought out the blue fish.
Gavrilo watched the carnage in the sky, a motion of super-savagery. As
much as the ghostly megalodon filled his heart with terror, it was
overwhelmed by his fellow wizard's bleak ruthlessness. And all the time,
a loud and pounding cheering in his head, the pair of fish psychically
throwing around acclamations to their space-champion. Clapping his hands
over his ears did nothing to keep the broadcasts from slamming against
his own thoughts.
The fish swam around the room randomly, the air shimmering behind their
ghastly bodies, their rainbow fins leaving half-seen trails of color in
the corners of his eyes. Rainbow fins. "Hey," Gavrilo called out to
them. "I've seen you two before, haven't I?"
The two fish froze, blind white eyes wide, then dashed to the hermit
wizard. "Yes! Yes! Quite recently! Just recently! I am Geisel!" said the
red fish excitedly.
"I am Theodor." said the blue fish. "The rocks. The reef. The infinite
ocean. You wizards killed us."
"You wizards freed us!" agreed Geisel.
"You mean the asteroid fields? You two were some of the drones. Out when
we were ambushed."
"Yes." thought Theodor, trailing his words with pictures of the vast
blackness of space, white-hot fire, melting flesh. "Stabbed. Changed.
Long mad with instinct. Long crazed with need."
"Yes!" thought Geisel, trailing his words with sensations, the release
of flesh and freedom from reality. "Freed from poison! Freed from body!
Freed to swim the infinite ocean! Freed! Returned to Rex's school!
Returned to Rex!"
"Returned with Rex. For revenge." dripped Theodor's black thoughts.
"By ourselves! Rest of school did not understand! Rest of school did not
agree!" thought Geisel.
"Rex agreed. The teeth of Rex agreed." thought Theodor.
The telepathic bursts of the ghost fish were like sharp sudden headaches
in Gavrilo's head. The hermit wizard winced and waved a hand at them to
get them to be silent. Instead, then sway up through the air, watching
the frenzy in the upper atmosphere. The drones never stood a chance
opposing the two space-champions, their numbers were dwindling rapidly
against the combined powers of two cosmic crowns.
In an attempt to ease away the jackhammering thoughts of the fish,
Gavrilo moved to the edge of the room, toward the main entrance. It was
like trying to fight an excitable unpredictable migraine. The extra
distance seemed to help, as did the dimness of the hallway beyond it.
But the darkness seemed to shift. Like something too big was trying to
squeeze through. And with a sudden lurch, it charged the hermit wizard.
Gavrilo held his hands in front of him, an unsteady energy shield
forming between him and the shape. But eight long spear-like points
pierced it. And they pierced his abdomen. Shock. Excruciating pain. The
taste of bile. The taste of copper.
"You wouldn't szztray on old Pete, would you?" asked a mocking thrumming
voice. The monster bee limped out from the hallway. It was suffering
from burns and it's sides were crushed and its wings had been torn off.
But the vibrating of it's consonants and the spitting of it's vowels
were full of satisfied confidence. "Szztill szzo much to szzee. Szztill
szzo much to do."
"Pete..." Sticky wetness everywhere. An invasive burning in his middle.
The toxin started to seep into his flesh. "Don't do this... please..."
"We gotta, partner. All thiszzz, all that up yonder, we have to have
szzomething to show for it." The Pete-bee's voice cracked, getting
sickly and uneven. It's own wounds were probably fatal. Even so, it was
almost gentle in tilting it's stingers, letting the hermit wizard slide
off them onto the floor.
The concrete floor felt very very cold. "It doesn't even work," Gavrilo
managed to choke out.
"What, the szzkull? That waszz szzmall time. That waszz the old me. I
szzee thingszz clearly now. I'm part of bigger thingszz now. Part of a
hive. Part of a szzwarm. And thiszz szzwarm never wanted no szzkull.
"We wanted you. We alwayszz wanted you. And all of them nameszz in that
there thick head of yourszz."
Geisel and Theodor came rushing. Suddenly. Like a haunting. Mouths wide
and minds racing. "Here! Here! One of them! A monster bee!" Thoughts and
images of distress and hatred came out like tidal waves, washing over
the Pete-bee. "A race of thieves! A race of slaves! Help! Help!" They
hit like jackhammers against it's already cracked skull. The bee tried
to slash at the spectral assault, but it's stingers cut only through
empty air, and the erratic motion caused an already broken leg to give
out under it.
Gavrilo coughed up blue blood. He could feel the dire poison working
it's way through his body, tugging and stretching at his bones and
muscles. Names. Cephalo Pete had sold him out to this swarm for names.
The names of every one of his race. The knowledge of that name made
Gavrilo completely immune to the science-sorcery any super wizard of his
race could throw at him. Including the super wizard space-champion.
And when the poison in his system rewrote his form and shape, when it
made him into a monster bee like the other drones, his loyalties would
change in an instant. He'd tell their entire hive all those names. He'd
tell their dread queen those names. And no super wizard would hold any
power over them.
There was a rush of air and a cracking of concrete, and Gavrilo was
knocked half-way across the room and slammed into the side of the
machinery. But there wasn't as much pain as there should have been.
Already he was being overcome by a rushing numbness throughout. His
entire body felt tight, the stingers' poison was closing the wounds...
in preparation to warp him into a new beast.
Looking at the hallway, the Hermit Wizard From Space could see the Super
Wizard From Space standing over the Pete-bee. He had come straight down
on the monster drone, landing like a meteor strike on the creature's
back. It was probably dead instantly, but the super wizard beat it
anyway. Struck at the body over and over. Hammering with concentrated
He didn't stop until he had completely pulped the corpse. That's when,
in the silence, the super wizard heard the clicking of the metal door
sealing on the silver skull machine.
The Super Wizard From Space took a moment to breathe deeply and slowly
before turning around. Through the tinted glass of the eye socket
portals, he could see Gavrilo inside the machine. The controls were
untranslatable, the settings unknown, but a single large red lever was
clearly waiting to launch the entire device into the time stream.
The Hermit Wizard From Space gripped the lever with both hands. He
stared out the portal. His eyes were wells of regret. And resolve.
The Super Wizard From Space nodded.
The red lever was pulled. The entire machine shook. The ancient
computers fed the silver skull's immeasurable power back into itself.
The interior went pitch black for an instant. Then it was empty.
Reality jolted. The entire universe tilted to one side in one moment,
but smoothly righted itself in the next.
The wraith-like rainbow fish looked up into the clear sky. In the
thinner higher parts of the atmosphere they could still make out
Sharkasaurus Rex prowling the cloud banks, looking for prey that might
have slipped away. If the massive megalodon had had any interest in the
silver skull machine or the sudden unnatural shifting of the universe,
he didn't let it interrupt his lazy hunting.
Geisel drifted to the skull, circling and peeking into the tinted glass
and looking at his reflection in the tarnished surface. Theodor hung
limply by the super wizard, broadcasting his thoughts in a mournful blue
tone, "Gone. Dead. The other wizard. He killed himself."
"No. He left," the super wizard replied. "Given enough stellar energy,
he could stall the transformation, but inevitably he would succumb. He
left. While the decision was still his own to make."
"But where?" asked Geisel. "He is outside everything now. Outside the
stream of time! Outside the ocean of space! He is no where!"
I think I mentioned this before that this arc was originally supposed to
be a single issue story with a gag about an inside-out time machine for
my high-concept challenge. Now here I am at the conclusion, five issues
later. In the future, I'm going to try to stick to smaller arcs, closer
to two issues I think. They tend to be punchier, more to the original
feel I intended to the series.
As promised, I have tossed a character into the machine to see if he
appears outside his universe and somewhere else. He is free to appear in
any other RACC imprint, if anyone is interested, and free to be used in
any manner anyone sees fit. Enjoy...
ALIAS: The Hermit Wizard From Space
APPEARANCES: The Super Wizard From Space #6-10
DESCRIPTION: Looks like a taller human with white hair and scraggly
white beard. An old face, sunken heavy eyes, a leathery skin long used
to taking hard beatings. Wears the blue-and-gold uniform of his race,
though it's torn and ragged and faded with age and neglect. Taken to
wearing a cloak or coat to hide under.
ABILITIES: Mastered the secret science-sorcerous powers of the super
wizards from space, allowing him to absorb and manipulate stellar power
with fearsome god-like results.
WEAKNESSES: Knowledge of his name makes any person or thing completely
immune to his science-sorcerous powers.
PERSONALITY: Penitent for past actions. Poor judge of character. Makes
rash decisions. Is cyclic in nature, making bad choices and sinking into
guilt about it, then jumping right into more bad choices to try to make
up for it.
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
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.