The Wonder Worlock: Winds of War, Part 2
Posted by: Byron Brewer, Managing Editor
August 13, 2012 14:51 | Updated: 44 weeks 5 hours Ago
August 13, 2012 14:51 | Updated: 44 weeks 5 hours Ago
PART THE SECOND
Van Wyck floats through space like some plankton upon a vast ebony sea. Yet this creature, this monstrous son of an unknown race is not a multiple; he is quite alone in his existence, the last of his kind as far as even his ancient memory stretches back. He is also not, as plankton, at the bottom of his food chain.
Make no mistake: This piece of flotsam is a predator with a capital “P”!
Alone he floats – or is he soaring? hard to tell in space – his hawkish eyes watching the whole of eternity as his powerful frame absorbs the energies of the stars, the nebulas, even the black holes which themselves are power suckers. Power is his entire reason for being, this Van Wyck – and there are few more powerful than he in this quadrant of the galaxy.
Then he sees it, a ship. It is the Good Fellow, orbiting the liquid blue gem he knows as Oceanus. There are those pesky carbon-based units infesting the vessel. No matter; their astral selves will be scrumptious. Van Wyck will then be at the zenith of his strength.
Then, the scent of familiarity hits him. Why, these are not carbon units native to this realm -- at least, not some of them. And with that realization comes a memory, one Van Wyck had buried deep in his brain for some time. It is a recollection of combat, of planet-wide ruination, of inbreeding and slavery and a thousand other sins.
These, he finally remembers, were his people, the ones who created Van Wyck through their science of “cumulation,” which allowed their species to become as one while sacrificing the individual for the collective. And the savage invaders that forced them to do this, almost as long ago as Van Wyck can recall – and that is, indeed, a long time – were the star-faring Neptunians! The Neptunians and their evil leader -- What was his name? Vargas?
Entire solar systems were shattered in this war, and the peoples of Van Wyck’s world became one: a living, breathing vengeance machine that somehow, some day forgot that fact and became just more flotsam and jetsam of the universal tides. Just one more cosmic entity eating his way through eternity.
And now -- here passes to his right the Good Fellow. A second chance to do what he should have done millennia ago?
So he reaches out with his powerful mind, this Van Wyck, and seeks the most destructive carbon unit on the vessel, the one that has the least in psychic shielding.
Bingo! Van Wyck licks his lips as his mind locks upon the rapid-fire thoughts and brain patterns of the Inhuman Tornado, bizarre hero from the Threlkellian Empire!
For whatever reason these carbon units are gathered, it is time to introduce Van Wyck into the circle, he thinks. And you, Wind-in-Water, shall be Van Wyck’s calling card!
Dimensions beyond Oceanus lies the Ghost Sector, a pocket universe virtually unto itself where for centuries, as they figure time, the Neptunians have imprisoned their most dangerous criminals – evil doers whose goal was not the mere robbing of a thrift center but the destruction of their world, their society. And among them, the greatest of these was Vargas.
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 starships 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 highly sophisticated aquariums through the heavens.
But the Neptunians have a present-day fear, even greater than Vargas, sentenced to the Ghost Sector eons before those great spaceships of water rose from the tides and pursued that which beckoned beyond. No, the spaceborn water-breathers are in real 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.
That was before the Wonder Worlock aided the Neptunian Gar and his great ship’s five-year mission to find such a world. That was before -- Landry!
Even now Neptunian ships, not reunited with their fellows for decades, have been in orbit around the world of Oceanus for months. There, the ruler of a great undersea kingdom, Queen Arema, welcomed these hue’aurad’Gar – these friends of Gar – as tests by scientific cadres from both populations have demonstrated that the Neptunians are indeed a match to Oceanus genetic compatibility.
The future looks bright for both these worlds, now one, and that did not hold well with Vargas, whose pocket dimensional prison allows scrying access to all things Neptunian -- especially good things, thought at the time of his sentencing a fit punishment.
Vargas, it was, who began the expansion of inbreeding among his kind, a great advancement in their society, he believed, to extract all the negative aspects of the species and to distill that into a Master Race, one ready to conquer the universe! Not explore to see how other fish-folk and air-breathers do things differently.
Vargas, it was, who centuries before Gar’s grandsire was born led Neptunian warbirds to nearby populated worlds, to colonized planets like that of the Sh’zam. How could it have gone so wrong, Vargas asked himself after the last of the inbred Sh’zam perished in a tube. How?
Vargas, it was, who blamed the Sh’zam’s own efforts of prison escape through their science of “cumulation,” which allowed their species to become as one being while sacrificing the individual for the collective.
Yes, Vargas told himself all those centuries ago – and now, in the whirling mists of his Ghost Sector prison – it was the damnable Sh’zam, that damnable Van Wyck that caused all his problems. Van Wyck and the weaklings among his own people -- like Skrill, like Gar.
But Vargas believed he did have the last laugh. He had been sentenced to not death but the Ghost Zone, there to plot not one but two eventual returns. Meanwhile, the universe left behind was subject to the attacks of Van Wyck, always seeking vengeance – for such was his purpose as programmed by the Sh’zam.
Inside the Good Fellow, Wolfin tries to calm down his good friend, the Inhuman Tornado, who is on the verge of destroying the fragile floating fish bowl that contains almost 5,000 persons.
Man, I have been on some wild berserker rages in my time, but this guy is takin’ the cake and eatin’ it too, Wolfin thinks. How’m I gonna control in the Tornado what I can barely control in myself??!
Lashing out with the intensity and aggression of a tempest storm, the Tornado sees these water-breathers – especially the Neptunians – as slaving assassins trying to harm his loved ones (although the Inhuman Tornado, always the most alien of the star-faring Star Blazers, has never mentioned loved ones) and strikes accordingly.
But as Wolfin hangs onto what human form he can find in the Tornado for dear life, counter-winds begin to swirl in the fragile starship as the balance of the environment and all interiors is slowly corrected. The Wonder Worlock, having safely teleported the baby Landry, her mother and others to the Throne Room planet-side, has summoned the great Winds of a Thousand Worlds to literally beat the Inhuman Tornado into submission.
Thunder cracks, and cosmic lighting strikes at the heart of the Star Blazer, shocking Wolfin at the same time. But still the gruff SB hangs on, which causes his mentor, the Wonder Worlock, to smile beneath his black cowl. Amid the stellar storm, the shaman sneaks in the Vortex of Vipers, whose whirling winds and snakelike tentacles wrap themselves about the still-human form of the mad Inhuman Tornado and squeeze him into unconsciousness.
As the winds around his form slow to normal progression, the wizard releases his breezes but keeps the Tornado bound by the Ruby Rings of Randak.
“Wassamatta with you, man!” Wolfin yells at his friend. “Ya coulda killed the baby -- and me!”
The Tornado is speechless, his eyes as blank as those of the wizard. Psionically, the Wonder Worlock probes the youth, wishing his friend from Olympia, the powerful telepath Zavar, were here to assist.
“Sh’zam? Vargas? Van Wyck?” the mage picks from the whirling dervish’s mind. “Vargas, I know. Does any of the rest of this mean anything to you, Captain?”
“Aye,” Gar says, as he tells the Wonder Worlock yet another shame of his people brought about by their personal cancer -- Vargas!
It takes little more than half a second for the cosmic awareness of the Wonder Worlock to locate such a powerful entity among the glowing worlds of Oceanus’ star system. As the cosmic nostrils of the Wonder Worlock fill with the stench of decay, of Van Wyck, like a fine hunting hound the sorcerer cues in on the scent and teleports to open space above the barren world of Ufratus in a direct spatial arc from the orbit of Good Fellow around Oceanus.
As he faces the cosmic power bleeding from Van Wyck among the stars, he cannot help but think of Kat’Wallidur, and the Wonder Worlock’s body shivers involuntarily.
“Ho, Van Wyck, a word with you!” the mage shouts. “You cannot be blamed for that which is your nature, Van Wyck – vengeance for your people, your world -- but you must find a manner in which to justify yourself without endangering intelligent species both plant and animal. The Wonder Worlock has himself known the red emotion of rage, of anger, of vengeance, but it is said you do this with a vicious joy.”
“Whoever you are, you meddle in matters not your own,” the conjurer’s foe answers. “So discover who it is you deal with, caped man. Van Wyck!”
It is then that energy in the form of electronic tendrils plows from Van Wyck’s arms into the form of the Wonder Worlock, barely allowing time for the galactic guardian to raise his primary shields. The tendrils of cosmic force ensnare the shaman in their grasp, squeezing the life from him while making it difficult for brain and action to be as one.
Hellfire shoots out of the crossed hands of the Dark Mage, evaporating most of the energy tendrils. He then hits Van Wyck full-force with the Hellfire, causing the being to be blinded by light and to reel back for the first time in his existence as a composite entity.
Bending space around him, the wizard becomes momentarily intangible while at the same time summoning the Seven Suns of Synester! These seven orbs, ranging in color from white to deepest black, heat the area and begin to literally wither the age-old Sh’zam collective.
Thorny leaves grow from his limbs and Van Wyck swipes at the caped marvel, unbelievably piercing the Wonder Worlock’s physical and psionic shields while at the same time diverting his concentration as the suns burst into nothingness.
The cosmic champion floats in the cold of space, injured gravely. But then again, we are talking of a being that can heal living organisms, raise the dead (on a limited basis) and proven capable of revitalizing and evolving organic life on a planet-wide scale! It is no time at all before the thorns are being mystically removed from the mage’s body and thrown instead at Van Wyck -- with deadly accuracy!
Before he can recover, the Vortex of Viruses wafts around Van Wyck. Caught in the whirlwind, the alien feels his insides being pulled outward. As he suffers, Van Wyck hears the low chanting of his opponent. Then an explosion of energy without light around his frame.
As a veil of purple smoke clears, standing on the surface of Ufratus under an artificial atmosphere provided by the Wonder Worlock stand the Sh’zam, a thousand or so strong. Confused, tired, they look to the ebon shaman for explanation. He bows his head.
“It is done, good folk of the Sh’zam,” the Wonder Worlock says. “Behold! You are returned to life and the collective creature called Van Wyck is no more, his sole purpose having long since died as Vargas was imprisoned – by his own people, by the same ones against which Van Wyck was about to release untold wrath!”
“What does all this mean for us, O Sir?” spoke finally a dazed Y’llb Satbon, leader of the scientists that formed the collective. “Our land is --”
“Forgive my interruption, but there are many landmasses of such size as to sustain you on the world beyond, called Oceanus,” he says. “Queen Arema is willing to meet with a delegation of Sh’zam even as we speak to welcome you to her world. You would live under her banner – her folk are water-breathers – but as an allied colony. Is this fitting?”
“If true, magician, you have freed us from a slavery the Sh’zam brought upon themselves,” Satbon says, to the roar of an awaking throng.
It is not too long before the arrival of hundreds of air-breathers to the world of Oceana, thanks to upper-end Goff and Neptunian technology, the product of a science-share effort started by the Dark Mage. On the Good Fellow and each Neptunian craft in orbit about the water world are uber-transporters, allowing instantaneous transportation to and from anywhere in the universe via a “Continuum Cortex.”
As the hue’aurad’Gar – the friends of Gar – help the Sh’zam settle and old racial hatreds are themselves decayed, the Wonder Worlock and Queen Arema tuck in Landry after a big, big day.
“You have a new papa now, girl, and a proud and noble dad he is,” Arema says, looking at the miracle child. “You are our future, and long has it been that our planet has felt so ... full.”
“True enow, my Queen,” the shaman says, putting his finger near the babe to see if she will grab it; no soap. “We now have the Oceanans, the Neptunians (who are now Oceanans), the water-breathers of underground Gaza IV as well as its sister species on Gaza
“And don’t forget our Sorcerer Supreme from the Sol system,” Arema smiled. “What was his name? --”
To the amazement of wizard and queen, Landry suddenly gurgles, and quite clearly: “Waa-lok. One waa-lok --.” <coo>”
Both sit in the babe chamber the rest of the evening in awe of the “Gem of the Worlds.”