The Super Wizard From Space #20

"The Echo People, Part 4" by

Andy Dharma donned the douli hat of light, and though it floated inches above his head, he immediately felt an astonishing weight collapse upon him.

It was like an entire other reality had been tucked inside, that it all poured out and soaked into his pores, muscles, and bones. The very heart-stuff of galaxies and nebulas, ground down into a near invisible mist, latching onto every one of his atoms, turning each into a condensed solar system of themselves. His skin felt like it was a stretched membrane trying to hold this new everything inside while still keeping the old everything out.

He clutched at the brim with both hands. He shut his eyes tight. He gritted his teeth. He emptied his mind, and the cosmic energy just filled it up. He instinctively dropped into the blankness of his calming zen, and the cosmic energy just filled it up. He drew on decades of training, on centuries of teachings, on whispers and theories of long dead masters, expanding out into the meditative spectrum, down past the x-zen and plummeting into the dangerously nonexistent gamma-zen... and the cosmic energy just filled it up.

"What have you done?" came a sugary, poisoned voice from beyond the confines of the new power.

It was like a lifeline, something he could cling to and pulled himself out of the immensity of his new self and back to the balcony and the valley and the world. When he opened his eyes, it felt like the first breathe of a drowning man accidentally learning to swim. Everything old and comfortable and familiar was seen with a new desperate appreciation. The weather aged wood of the balcony, the mossed covered stone of the mountain monastery, the black blue of the evening sky illuminated by a sliver of a far away moon and pinpricks of distant stars.

Transparent shapes swirled around him. Ghastly, milky eyed, opened mouthed, their scales dull and aged, their fins torn and ragged. The ghost fish swum through the cool night air like they did in the seas of their long abandoned lives, a thick school of over a dozen. And amongst them, her golden liquid form radiating instinctive authority, the shocked angry stare of Queen Buzz.

"I've claimed what is mine," he said slowly, hearing his voice again with new ears. "The cosmic crown of the Invisible Monks, bequeathed from father to son down the line of the Dharma family."

"It doesz not belong on your brow, villain. It isz the burden of the maszter hero, Brody Dharma."

"For what?" he spat out, his fury unconsciously manifesting as a burst of rippling wind that scattered the phantasmal school. "To be kept and hoarded? To be hidden here atop this mountain, as he hides our martial order and our sacred teachings? While the simpler people beneath the mist scrape by unenlightened and unseen?"

"You have not earned the right."

"And he did?" he said, pointing at Brody's prostrate form, still paralyzed from Andy's flurry of nerve pinches. "Doing what he was told, believing what he was taught? He is me. I am him. We are the same."

She held out her gel-shaped hand toward him, palm up, as if to hold him within her grasp. The ghost fish started to regain their courage, their minds' eyes envisioning psychic nets. Even in this temporary form, transmitting from vast distances, her presence was like a gravity sink to the leaderless school.

"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 reached out and grasped at the mental tendrils, wrapping them around his fingers and tugging sharply. Cosmic energy flattened the universe around him, making the spiritual forms of the dead sea life as real to him as the wooden floor under his feet. The school recognized the risk, flooding the area with panicking purples and reds, but they could not escape the sudden pull. Andy turned in a half-circle and, envisioning a whirlpool with no bottom, he dragged the unlucky ghosts into the infinite nothingness of his meditative state, stoppering it with his chi.

The surviving fish circled in widening rings around him, against the current of his pull. Queen Buzz raised her chin, frowning, and held her other hand palm up beside the first. The fish glared at Andy as she started to form a fist. Their milky eyes hollowing, their simple forms becoming jagged fearsome reflections of their anger.

"No more of this," he said. Standing to his full nine feet, he pointed directly at Queen Buzz and declared, "I challenge the Super Wizard From Space in cosmic challenge and you shall bear witness."

The douli hovering over his head shone with a blinding energy, wrapping chains of white light around him as the weight of the challenge manifested with electrical rigidity. He felt crushed. He felt confined. His shoulders felt a pressure on them, like the words had shackled him to the planet.

And though her form was a transmission, no more real that a long, far-off whisper, Andy could see her buckle under the same sudden weight. The liquid gel almost collapsed, losing its grip on her appearance. It rounded into a simple sphere for a moment before it pushed back into the female shape. Her eyes were filled with heavy troubles, her mouth a promising frown.

"I am as much Brody as he is me," Andy said, cutting off any response from her, "I have worn the crown as long as he has. I know how to use it as well as he does. And I know of your vengeful tournament. I am no amateur.

"You can no longer harm me. Not while I am engaged in my challenge. The crowns prevent it. All you can do is watch." He couldn't help a feeling of gloating as he saw her face try to repress some very ugly frustration. It was so satisfying to see that normally beautiful visage lose control.

"But do not fret, your majesty. I will give you exactly what you want." He leapt up onto the railing of the balcony, easily balancing on the the thin rail. He looked down into the valley between the two tallest mountains, staring at the mile wide metal disc wedged between them. It had come down with such force that it had dragged and scrapped the sides of the peaks, but eventually settled flat, nearly parallel to the ground, stuck just above the ever present mist like a varnished plane. "I will fight your dread wizard. I will take his crown. And more, if need be."

Her frustration broke and there was a wide eyed surprise that slowly melted into a careful calculation. Andy decided it best to wear his motivations on his sleeve; she would never trust him, but he expected she might agree with him if his goals advanced her own. "I want you and your ilke gone. I have a world to change, a zeitgeist to be on which to be the forefront. You are the troublesome stones lurking in the leaves of my autumn raking. What do I have to do to have Amity to myself?"

There was a straggling mumble from the floor between them. Brody was trying to slide toward him, only having regained some control. The Twenty Bandit Pinch that Andy had struck him with was feared throughout the invisible galaxy for its ability to do permanent damage to not only its victim, but to the victim's immediate loved ones, so great do the blows resonate. Luckily, their father had confronted the original bandits one at a time, developing an instinctive countermeasure that he had taught his offspring. { The Adventures of Buddy Dharma #44 }

Queen Buzz looked down at the struggling lizard, then stepped forward, standing between him and the railing. This close, Andy could look right through her semi-opaque form. He could count the right angles of the circuitry in the honey-tech, and could see the blurry form of his brother behind her.

"Don't do this..." Brody managed, reaching out an unsteady hand toward Andy. He looked so small now. Did Andy seem that way to him when he wore the power?

"Kill him, Andy Dharma," demanded Queen Buzz. "Kill the Szuper Wizzard From Szpace."