The Wonder Worlock: Truth Decay, Part 1
Posted by: Byron Brewer, Managing Editor
May 05, 2011 17:57 | Updated: 2 years 6 weeks Ago
May 05, 2011 17:57 | Updated: 2 years 6 weeks Ago
Everywhere around the lush jungle, the signs of life are evident. Wild cow-things walk about under the canopy of the verdant vegetation, their young ones constantly nosing their milk sacs for more jungle juice. Small rabbit-like creatures hop to and fro, seemingly unafraid of any predators that might be hiding in the tall grasses nearby. Giant saurids 50 feet tall or more nibble on the lower leaves of this magnificent forest, barely scraping the lifelines of these noble plants.
All is calm, all is at peace.
Even the Intz, the Old Ones who watch after the flora and fauna of the Shirewood, do not move about much this day. They allow their limbs to blow in the breeze, placid in the knowledge that there is no violence here … and has not been for sometime.
Tokeen, the eldest Intz, tries to recall when all the plants of this wood were but seeds, the animals practically non-existent. Tokeen is a large, almost troll-like figure, at least fourteen feet high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it is clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that is his hide, is difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, are not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. Tokeen’s large feet have seven toes each. The lower part of the long face is covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends.
Tokeen and his eldest son, Boughbo, saunter over toward the gorgeous babbling brook which runs out of the mammoth lake that feeds all this side of the Shirewood. Bending low, the Intz partake of its sustenance, its nourishment, without fear of attack or worry of injury. After all, except for a clumsy saurid, what could damage an Intz?
Not that the Intz could not take care of themselves. In the Old Times, there were plenty of days of battle. Sturdiness was the secret weapon of the Intz … that and an ability for patience, vast patience sometimes spanning decades. There is no such creature as a hasty Intz!
But the Old Times … During those days when the Shirewood was less peaceful, Intz were like guardian giants fending off would-be antagonists of the lush jungle world. And well were they suited for the role: Intz are tall and very strong, capable of tearing apart rock and stone. They can toss great slabs of stone about, ripping down the former Jerichowall like bread-crust; no army stood a chance against these soldiers. At least in the Old Times.
But a green fury is making its way through the Shirewood this day of days, moving from plant to plant almost like a rumor being spread by elementary school children – or like a virus?
Brown suddenly begins to tarnish this verdant oasis, this place of peace in a small solar system near the Mephistoff Nebula. Strangely, as they slowly – slowly! – make their way back from the brook, Tokeen and Boughbo seem unaware of the abomination that is tearing at the molecules of the Shirewood’s circle of life. It is not only affecting plants but animal life as well, for there are no longer any carnivores on this world. Every animal on the planet is herbivorous, and with the plant life’s approval for the fertilization does nothing but benefit their existence, benefit the Shirewood.
The brown badness creeps forward and into the bodies of the Intz population, Tokeen being the first to succumb. The brown smooth skin on his arms becomes black, cracked and decaying. Most of the other Intz follow suit, if slowly.
After a month, maybe less, as time is reasoned in the Shirewood, there is no life at all, just decay. The animals have returned to the soil; the plant matter is pickled in some kind of gelatinous mire … this includes the bodies of Tokeen and the Intz.
It is this ooze, this green sorbet that is sucked up, fly-like, by the creature known as Plantagenous. Plantagenous Rex!
PART THE FIRST
In a quadrant of outer space far from the Shirewood, a white dwarf and its close companion star have begun to change, to metamorph. It is a spectacle the Wonder Worlock has awaited for some time. The white dwarf steadily accretes gas from the star's outer atmosphere in the shadow of its companion, an aging and expanding red giant. These captured gases consist primarily of hydrogen and helium and are compacted on the white dwarf's surface by its intense gravity, compressing and being heated to very high temperatures as additional material is drawn in. The white dwarf consists of degenerate matter, and so does not inflate at increased heat, while the accreted hydrogen is compressed upon the surface. The dependence of the hydrogen fusion rate on temperature and pressure means that it is only when it is compressed and heated at the surface of the white dwarf to a temperature of some 20 million kelvin that a nuclear fusion reaction will occur.
For most binaries like this, the hydrogen burning is thermally unstable and rapidly converts a large amount of the hydrogen into other heavier elements in a runaway reaction. The enormous amount of energy liberated by this process will soon blow the remaining gases away from the white dwarf's surface and produce an extremely bright outburst of light: nova!!!
It is one of the true spectacles of the universe, and the Wonder Worlock has enjoyed watching several of these phenomena as he charts their rate of decay. A fast nova will typically take less than 25 days to decay by 2 magnitudes and a slow nova will take over 80 days.
Watch them? Hell, he rides them like a “light cowboy”!
Zootalaris! But this nova is going to be one for the ages, the cosmic conjurer thinks as his protective shield-sphere rides the wave of this nova like a skiff in a tidal wave. But make no mistake: the mage is in complete control. The nova-bubbling is merely his fun way of extracting scientific information for further study, further knowledge.
In the cold void of space, knowledge is your best friend.
Outward into the star clusters the space the sorcerer rides, his sphere reacting to the speedy light waves as a kayak to churning white waters. Along the way, the Wonder Worlock hurls bolts of bedevilment from his white-hot hands, deeply grooving asteroids, moons and other heavenly bodies as he fashions a trail of cosmic breadcrumbs. The key to this jaunt is not in reaching a destination; it is in observing what effect the nova explosion had on the worlds in its wake once the tide is turned, the white waters calmed.
For days on end, the black mage rides the nova wave, his body sometimes needing to transform itself to purest light itself. There is a certain joy in this method of studying one’s surroundings, the Wonder Worlock has found. It is the uninhibited pleasure of – discovery!
A mere four parsecs from the burgeoning trail of nova light being ridden by the Wonder Worlock passes the Neptunian ship Good Fellow. Unlike the internal atmospheres of most spacecrafts, gas is not the primary livable component here. The Neptunians are of an ancient underwater world, but being such has not hindered their innate curiousity about life among the stars. So generations ago, they left behind the waves and underwater wonders to explore those bright and shining lights above the waters’ surface, and in so doing crafted magnificent space ships which carry metric tons and tons of water … water like that of the planet Earth … because that is the atmosphere in which Neptunians exist. They are water breathers, riding a highly sophisticated aquarium through the heavens.
“Mr. Skrill, have we reached true space again?” barks Ship’s Captain Gar, who has more stars on his dress uniform than are in the firmament surrounding them.
“Aye, Cap’n, outta hyper. And there appears to be a serious rise in temperature as we did.”
“Continue to monitor.”
Gar eases back in his captain’s chair as his bridge crew swims to and fro in the unique craft. The crew is a good one, he thinks again to himself. They have almost completed their five-year mission, albeit without much success. The spaceborn water-breathers are in an unanticipated danger: extinction! Inbreeding has become rampant among the species, as has genetic decay. Without the discovery of some water world like their own, and soon, the Neptunians may go the way of the Sh’zam.
“Ship’s hull indicating continued rise in temperature, sir,” Skrill reports. “Captain’s pleasure?”
“Veer aft, Mr. Skrill, and we will …”
The ship goes into automatic security and defense mode as the wave of nova energy bombards their vessel. Just as quickly, over 250 crewmen begin to have breathing problems as their H20 evaporates from the craft.
“Hold ballast, Skrill!” Gar says. “What can you give me atmosphere-wise, Mr. Halbat?” The chief engineer is silent. The chief engineer and 16 others are dead.
Then, to the amazement of the captain and his surviving crew, storm clouds begin to form right within the emptying fish bowl. Little lightning strikes signal a downpour on all decks of the life-giving fluid as security and defense mode go amber. A visage warbles in front of the Captain’s Chair and, as all computers come again online for the Good Fellow, gray light becomes ebony solidity.
Gar drops his pipe, and the crew are aghaust. They have never seen it separate from his lip.
“I am the Wonder Worlock,” says the cosmic champion. “May I be of service?”
TO BE CONTINUED …