The Wonder Worlock: Star Blazers: Aquatain
created 12/27/2013 - 11:23pm, updated 12/28/2013 - 12:28pm
(Cover and co-plotting by Jim O'Riley)
All is calm.
Above the mighty methane seas of Nautica, a world in the far reaches of the Threlkellian Empire, moons natural and manmade shine their illumination down upon the quiet waters. Here and there, bubbles rise through the liquid methane to the surface, attesting to life beneath the waves.
On this planet, methane is water and water is life.
The stars shine especially brightly this night several cycles ago, as those in Emperor Traven's dimension figure time, seeming disappointed at the lack of promise here, the lack of something spectacular.
All is calm.
All is silent save the methane-kissed winds. And then ...
And then SHE crashes the silence above the surface, like a beautiful blue dolphin in a mariner's lyric.
She is Aquatain, a mutant of sorts on this netherworld. For the methane her undersea peoples breathe, the element that drives the world, is hers to command!
As her body soars above the waves, she mentally commands the waters to form seven concentric circles hanging in midair. No sooner do they form than her lithe form slices through them like a rocket, not a single ring disturbed before they fall and lose their shape as she too plays victim to gravity and plunges into the ocean of methane below.
Her gymnist's form twirls ten times before her feet land on a solid structure made from the molecules of methane around her. Not a surfboard so much as a half-scooter sans wheels, a device that carries her into the deep, leaving the illuminations of the moons and their reflections far behind.
Long and far has Aquatain's scutterbug brought her. She was really in no hurry, because the darkness of the realm she approaches is almost claustrophobic to her.
This is Korre, the capitol city of Aquatain's undersea peoples. Virtually the exact opposite of the Golden City of Oceanus dimensions away, the sole light that can be seen anywhere on the ocean shelf where the city lays is a beam of brilliance spotlighting a gigantic statue of Traven, a gift from the warrior king when Nautica accepted membership into his empire.
Aquatain is not a freak in this domain. She is in fact held in high esteem not only because of the powers that became hers during her teen years but also because her father is Nautica's best-known diplomat and himself sits on the august Council of Allies on Throneworld (aka Threlkel).
But despite her notoriety, the darkness of the underwater world has never felt like home. She comes alive in her secret cove, where the stars above the surface shine bright and faraway worlds beckon.
Like the secret joy of her father, Aquatain takes pleasure in nothing more highly than when she is off-world, off Nautica.
"Arrives the daughter of Darkus!" screams the chief guard at the front gates. "Make way for Aquatain!"
Although the ancient gates ceremoniously open, these days the guard's call really makes the force field overseer aware of an approved arrival, lessening the shields.
As the scuttlebug vanishes beneath her paddling feet, Aquatain makes ground near the Light of Traven in Korre Square where daughter meets father in a warm hug.
"Father!" she whispers humbly but with obvious love.
"Daughter, your wanderlust will be the death of me yet! Hahaha ... How are things among the dolphins and fishes? Or should I rather ask among the moons and stars, eh?"
"Do you speak to your daughter or to a mirror, Father? For who was it who showed me the secret cove when I was but 3? Hm?"
"Ahhh, Aquatain, I ..."
And just then:
All is brilliant light and cloying darkness, simultaneously.
Then nothing …
She awakens hours later to the smell of burning methane, a third of Korre destroyed and, at her right, the lifeless body of her father.
The illumination station and central control are dark. Even darker than the city's usual shadows. Only the Light of Traven and the statue of the Emperor remain virtually unscathed, reenforced as they are of minerals from otherworldly mines.
"... father ..."
Aquatain has no time for grief; that will come later.
A natural tracker, this young Nautical has a trail to follow, an enemy to conquer, a city and father to avenge.
As she departs through the old gates, she helps the centurion who announced her arrival earlier in the day to his feet.
"Tell the Magistrates I am going after the enemy," she says, his voiceless objections showing on his face. "Just get the power working, the Magistrates to safety and the defenses back up. I shall return."
She swims a yard and then she stops. "And please," she says, a tear in her eye, "please make sure someone removes my father's body from the Square."
Half a world away from Korre's domain sits a behemoth, one not largely known outside the small worlds neighboring Nautica.
He is Felthor, and he rules his side of Nautica with an iron hand since Traven's grandsire was a lad.
"They think they rule the waves, do they?" Felthor asks no one in particular. "Then they woke me up, got my people all involved in some foreign war with those in faraway Olympia.
"The people who work the methane kelp fields, who catch the great scrodfish, all to feed me ... they never came back! They took refuge on the thousand worlds of Traven and now old men, women and young boys do their labors instead.
"My land needed refurbishing. How was I to know Korre's strongest were out among the stars now? All that were left were the guards, the politicians and the women. Women! Bah. Have enough of them.
"But the smell of death has invigorated me. Time to look for a woman for mysel ..."
"If the smell of death invigorated you, giant, know that Aquatain, daughter of Darkus, member of the august Council of Allies and Friend of Emperor Traven of Threlkel, is here to see to your own death. I want you to think of my father when I kill you!"
Felthor rises, the thorny crown atop his head slightly comical when the size of his huge head is fully seen. Blessed as a mutate in his own right, standing almost nine feet tall with the strength of twenty mermen, he starts to speak but ...
... there is no seafloor under the behemoth anymore. And before him he sees ... Aquatain, with water swirling around her in the form of a thick rope.
"Girl, you ..."
But he is again silenced as the methane rope transforms into a scutterbug and away she goes!
Before the ruler of Nautica's underbelly can gather his wits, the waters around Felthor begin to squeeze him like a vice. It IS a vice, under the control of the diminutive Aquatain.
"Ummppff!" he grunts.
"You may be faster than I am, girl, but you are not stronger," the monstrous monarch roars, bursting free.
"I do not have to be, Majesty," Aquatain says. "For you see, there is methane all throughout your being. I could command it all to rush out, leaving you a virtual prune ..."
SSWWOOOOOSSHH!!! (She does just that.)
"Or I can ..."
The methane in Felthor's system begins to grow and expand, expand until ...
For you, Father, she thinks, as from everywhere amid the cloudy waters come old men, children and scantily-clad women, all not knowing of the good life they will soon have thanks to this woman, back in the safer shadows of Korre.
Months later, mask in place to assure a supply of breathable methane, Aquatain kneels before Emperor Traven and the Council of Allies.
She is on volcano-laiden Threlkel, and it is hot!
"Because of your valor in representing your people and freeing brethren from the shackles of slavery, your now-united world of Nautica has seen fit to turn your late father's seat on the Council of Allies over to you, Aquatain," Traven says, to the usual applause. "It is a decision with which I heartily concur."
As the tip of Traven's enchanted blade Memorell hits her scaled shoulder, she stands and speaks, very uncommon and shocking all the natives and outworlders.
"Thank you, Your Highness," Aquatain says. "And as a member of this honored body, my first official decree is that Aquatain shall also be ...
"... an active member of -- the Star Blazers!!"
They say you could hear a pin drop.