Part I: The Two Castles
The shadowy night engulfed the entire suburb, the more mysterious, Billy Blaze thought to himself, and the less delightful the universe seemed. The neighbors, however, did not seem to think so. The two kids were running around their backyard, screaming, and their parents were watching them enthusiastically. Billy decided not to meddle in affairs too big for him.
Even though it was in no way “big”, considering the adventures he had already been through. Freeing the Vorticon race from mental enslavement, saving the galaxy, and eventually the entire universe from total destruction would make his homework problems alone seem very pointless (and not to mention unnessesary).
But, he thought, and knew slyly, though he would never admit it to anyone else, he would not, could not understand the small things such as his own life, it seemed a lot more complex than all the technological advancements in the galaxy combined. He did not, for example, understand why the whole world was, why his parents, brothers, why he himself was here, if not for a pointless purpose.
And he definitely did not know where to start, he thought, as his mom finally called him down for some dinner. Eight year old Billy Blaze was not the most social person, especially when it came to the vegetables that came at dinner. He went down slowly.
“BILLY!!! WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG??” His mom semi-shouted at him. “It must have been five minutes already!!”
Billy started to protest, but the thought of if he protested everyday came to him and stopped him. Everything was always exxagurated with his parents, he thought.
“Nothing.” He replied innocently.
“Nothing!” His mom said, trying to be calm. “NOTHING?!?!” She sure wasn’t being successful. “Well, go have some food before it gets to your bedtime, Billy.”
He walked over to the table, ignored something his mother muttered about grounding him, and sat beside his dad. In front of him was the usual vegetables that he now mostly forced himself to gulp down, but there was also something unusual: A delicious-looking hamburger meat. He started to eat the hamburger when his dad muttered something about the news being good for him.
Billy didn’t pay much attention, but some words from the television got to him anyway.
“Geeze!”, his dad shouted to the world in general. “These superstitious freaks, getting the police to block up someplace because of ghosts…ridiculous folks, wasting all our tax money for a bunch of S—”
“Dad…” Billy’s mom quickly said.
Billy’s dad shrugged angrily and picked up a newspaper, it seemed that he could do many things at once.
Getting tired of this, Billy quickly gulped down his plate and said: “Going to feed Spot now” while running out.
Billy ran into his small clubhouse, opened a cupboard, and partly emptied a large sack of Martian food supply into a plate. He ran out and handed it to Spot, his pet Yorp (a creature from Mars).
Spot took the food, but not without a comment. “Hey!” He said. “This is DRIED food, you need to add water and microwave it for a few minutes.”
“Can’t you do it yourself?” Keen paced. “My mom’s gonna get suspicious, she’s always suspicious.”
“Yeah sure…but I’ve found something very interesting when monitoring the news.”
Keen grunted annoyingly and said “What?”
“Well, theres a large house in the countryside, not more than 10 miles away from here. A lot of people have got the police on it, they say ghosts and witches live there, ridiculous really. That was a week ago.”
Keen paced on. “And…?”
“Yeah, but just this night some policemen have entered the house to investigate. Most of them don’t believe it, of course, but I guess they finally got annoyed of all the reports and wanted to clear it once and for all. They never came back.”
Keen was pacing until the last sentence. After a second of slight disbelief and automatic rejection it echoed in his mind. They never came back.
“What??” Keen asked on, suddenly extremely interested.
“After that”, Spot continued, “They sent another task force to find out what happened. Larger this time, with guns and radios. After a few minutes of constant monitoring there were sudden shreaks and bright lights were seen from observers near the house. Then everything apparently exploded in fire, and came back, as if nothing happened. Meanwhile through one of the radios there was laughter as a final sound, high-pitched like the witches’ voices in movies. We have confirmed video coverage of this.”
“Now they’re all crazy over it. Helicopters, many guns, all this stuff, and they’re waiting for orders of what to do next.”
“Do you suppose--”, Keen inquired.
“I don’t know anything about this.”, came the interrupted response.
“—That this has something to do with the revolt of the magical community, as predicted by the high preist of Mars?”
Spot fingered his fingers. “It’s possible…” he finally said, “but either way, we have to check it out.”
The conversation was interrupted though, by a loud shout “BEIIILLLLLEEEEYYYY!!!! WHATS TAKING U SO LONG!?!??!”
Keen quickly leaned and whispered “Tonight, when they think I’m asleep. Probably 10 o clock. Be here and get ready.”
It was quite later than 10 O Clock. In fact, it was very nearly 11:20, and finally Billy Blaze donned his brother’s football helmet, slipped out of his room and opened the door. He quietly went down the stairs, freaked out a little as he forgot to jump over the creaky one, then tripped over nothing at the insanity of it and went rolling down. Despite this, though, his parents didn’t seem to have woken up.
He quickly opened the door and walked out.
“You’re late”, came a stern voice that was, of course, Spot. “We better hurry, panic is beginning to escalate. Its saying that there is increased activity in the ghost house.”
“Okay then…the ship’s too big to be concealed so we’ll take the hoverboard. It should be big enough to hold us both.”
Keen began to move, then noticed the other’s silence. “What?”
“Well…hoverboard? How about the Deathboard?” The Deathboard had been given to Keen’s inventory a few adventures ago, but—
“That’s no good, its just a skateboard…it wont go fast without…wait a minute.”
“Yes, before you ask.”
“YOU MOVED THE GRAVITIC MOTOR!?!?!?”
“Well, the hover’s a little limp now—”
“Very good” Keen muttered. He was still panting angrily though.
They walked into the clubhouse, and saw the blue over-sized skateboard in front of them, except without wheels now. Spot pressed a button and it started to rise above the ground.
They stepped onto it.
“How do you steer?” Norp asked.
“Lese, there’s crude steering, which puts out a wheel like thing…but I haven’t installed it in this board, only the hover.”
“And there’s the normal steering, just lean the way you want to go.”
“We’ve wasted 5 minutes already. Lets go. Forward.” Norp said.
Keen put his weight onto his left foot…
They kept off the road, for fear of being discovered. The Deathboard rushed forward at nearly 16 meters per second, leaving a trail of exaust; steam, in back of them. They would have been flying off by now if not for the magnetic attraction between an artificial board magnet and a device inside their shoes.
The essense of flying was only too encompassing in their thoughts. Freedom, of course, but it also gave you a light feeling of semi-invincibility. Keen still did not understand—
There were bright lights in front of them, from a distance.
Not magical lights, but police lights. Though the police were much easier to deal with, Commander Keen had not thought of what he should do, thinking of the probably much deadlier ghost house that lay ahead.
But alas, this was a barrier that needed to be crossed, and he had to do it without arising too much suspicion.
“Board Computer, slow down and stop.” He commanded. The Deathboard started to decelerate, until, a few meters later, it pulled to a full stop and slowly lowered its passengers to the ground.
“What should we do?” Norp said, seeing the lights and sirens for himself.
“You stay here.” Keen commanded. “They’re probably not used to seeing aliens. I’ll see if I can convince them.” He did not, however, have any idea of what was to be done.
Keen walked several hundred meters until he got a sight of the policemen. There were several cars, a one meter high barrier all around a certain radius, as far as he could see. In the distance, a small light that signified a chopper was taking off.
And the policemen noticed him.
They seemed to consult each other for a small while, then one of them, a woman, approached him.
He looked around, thinking quickly, and not managing to think of anything.
The policewoman approached slowly, nicely, and said in a nice voice “Hey.”
Keen replied with a weak (though not too weak) “Hey.”
“What’s your name?” The policewoman continued. “Are you lost?”
“Um…no. In fact…um…” What the hell, just say it. “I was wondering if I could go for a brisk walk to the house over there.” He pointed at the one in the distance, undoubtly the ghost house. It was about 4 stories high, with a tower extenging another story and a separate tower of the same height. “I have been told that no one lives here, and that its pretty much legal to visit anyway.” Keen continued hastily.
And Keen realized that she must be feeling very foolish talking about ghosts and witches to a KID, for zark’s sake.
“Well, its off limits right now.” She finally said.
“Why?” If foolishness was to be her undoing, then so be it.
“Well…some people of us disappeared there, and we’re still trying to find out what happened—”
“Well, it might not be safe. Now, how far is your home? You’ve better be getting to sleep soon. I’ll be happy to escort yo—”
Suddenly there was a lot of shouting. Another policeman ran up to them.
He shouted: “We’ve picked up something on inferred, a third of a kilometer, that way.” He pointed toward the direction that Keen had came from.
And troops were already rushing toward that place.
“NO!! NO!!” Keen shouted. “That’s my…friend!!!”
But, in the distance, there were flashes of red light, undoubtably Norp’s magical defense, and some screaming
The policeman picked up his radio and shouted something like “We Have a 361 at grid G9….”
And the Deathboard was rushing at him. Through his radio Keen heard Norp shout “GET ON!!!”
The police pulled out their guns, but Norp activated the hidden Deathboard Slash (a short range weapon that pulled out a rotating mono-molecular edge from inside the board) to intimidate them. Keen jumped on when they were close enough, and the magnetic attraction pulled him on tight.
“Too late now!” Norp said. “We’ll have to make for it!”
They rushed toward the barrier.
Hitting the 1 meter tall, concrete barrier at nearly 16 meters per second, of course, would have some very disasterous results, Keen knew. The Deathboard’s hover height was barely half a meter. Keen wondered how it was that they were going to cross it, or anything. But Norp was at the controls now. He told himself not to think about it.
The barrier was barely a hundred meters away.
What would happen, he wondered, if a disaster awaited them on the other side anyway? But before them, there were policemen (and women). They were probably arming guns right now.
The barrier was barely 30 meters away.
Keen shut his eyes.
But then, before he knew it, he felt a great exileration, unlike what he ever felt before. The board was now soaring very high, the barrier a stone blockade, way under him. And then the sensation ended as the board desended to its normal height of 0.5 meters.
Approching them was the haunted house, or so they said. It seemed a lot larger here, since they had to take account of the third dimension as well, and it seemed to be a giant, towering, eating them.
The board landed on the front door, and Norp ordered a full stop.
They went off, depositing and hiding the board. They would not need it anymore; hopefully it would still be there when they came back for it.
They opened the door…
The First Castle
Behind Commander Keen, the door creaked (even worse than his stair) as Norp closed it.
Norp sniffed the air. Keen pulled out his Enhanced Sensors v35.
“Upstairs.” They both said.
According to Norp, there was a light funny smell in the air coming from the floor above. According to Keen’s sensors, there was a high probability of a temporal disruption in the fifth dimension of the fabric of the universe.
And when they went, there appeared to be a shudder in the ground.
The vortex seemed to be emminating a gray light from it. It was spinning very rapidly. Norp could see it clearly; Keen could only precieve it with the help of some computerized goggles, since humans can’t notice the fifth dimension.
Well, they SAID this was the bedroom.
Despite this enormous discovery, though (and one that would probably have rocked the entire scientific community of the Earth) they were still in square 1. They had no idea what this dimensional vortex specified, and they could not destroy it without being sure if it was safe to be destroyed.
“Well?” Norp asked.
“Bah, we still do not know what all this is about. We need some clues.” Keen walked absentmindedly into the kitchen.
They both looked at each other. Keen was about to ask Norp if he heard that too, but thought better when seeing his expression.
BOOM. Slightly louder.
“Spot…try the door.” He did not have much hope, however, and his suspicion was confirmed a few seconds later.
“WHHHHHEEEZZZ.” Came an even louder noise.
And a secret passageway in the kitchen opened. Smoke started coming out of it.
“Poison Gas!!” Norp shouted. “Of course, the policemen had guns, but no gas masks?” When they were safely covered with their masks they stepped in the passageway.
It was a long one, made of stone, winding in some places, with no other paths Keen’s sensors could detect, until finally they came upon the other side of the house. There was a separate stairway going up.
“Geeze. I must say, that passageway just led here, while walking through the rooms would have brought us to this location much faster? Time to search these rooms.”
But in the middle there was a force field, apparently of contained deadly radiation. They would not have been able to cross if they had gone the short way.
So they went up the stairway.
It was a computer. A very large one, at that, but a computer.
“Oh man.” Keen said.
“This computer…its almost like the advanced Vorticon ones, only configured for English words. Let alone the fact that this house has been abandoned for 80 years, before computers were invented.”
Indeed the comp did look old. It also had apparently no power source. Keen plugged it up on a small battery (which was, nevertheless, capable of holding enough energy to power a small town for a day), and to get past the passwords he used one of his memory scanning gadgets.
The data it had, though, was disappointingly very little. In fact, it was more like a diary.
Keen started to download the memory core into another of his gadgets, and he took the time to read an entry from 1960, way after this house was supposedly abandoned.
“It has been a long time since my young self took the time to build this ghost house to scare little people. Sure enough, the computers these days are getting advanced enough to rival those I built when I was nine. I am forced to chuckle, but I find my life lacks little purpose here. I will keep thinking of it.
Keen skipped the dates and went to December 2000, the latest entry of this.
“Spot, come look at this.” He said.
The download was almost complete.
Instead of words, a voice came out of the computer. It was a young voice.
“We Cannot Contain it!!! The vortex is not expanding, but the creatures coming out of it are! We are attempting to get away, evacuate all our work. I do not understand how they could be coming out, I put a powerful lock onto the vortex, but it is expanding. The screeches are horrible. The dungeon…we do not know what is happening. It seems that another vortex is opening, though we do not know what is behind it. We have evacuated it…
“We have killed some of the creatures with certain dimension shields, but we lack hope…I wish…
“Oh my god.”
Static, then a final crackle.
And then a beep, signifying that the download was complete.
Keen recovered his devices, but his hand was shaking.
And there was a great shreak.
And a BOOM!
BOOM. It seemed to get louder and closer.
Keen and Norp knew what to do. There was another stair going up, then another, and they finally reached the very top.
And a wooden rope bridge, leading to the other, separate tower.
And the BOOMs and a feeling of dread were coming over them.
They quickly crossed the bridge. There was a trapdoor. They opened it. Norp started to go in.
And on the other side of the bridge, a horrible creature, sort of like a giant bird without wings, but great claws.
Keen fired his gun at it, to no effect. Norp looked out suddenly, then fired a red laser from the eye. The bird zapped, then fell.
And more were coming. “HURRY!! GET DOWN!!!” Norp bellowed to Keen, who quickly complied. They shut the trapdoor and sealed it. Keen hoped it would last long enough.
They ran down a long, winding stair, and then, after what seemed like forever, they came to the bottom. A great corridor.
And Keen and Norp realized.
“This isn’t a house.” Norp said. “This is a freekin castle, most of it being underground.”
And as they ran across the hallways, deeper into the depths, they saw it was very true. The walls were stone, the floor a sort of concrete. And they ran.
In front of them was another vortex. This one was very visible, even to Keen, and despair seemed to emminate from it.
And before they knew what was happening (and they won’t know for some time) they both passed out.
The Second Castle
Keen woke up. He sure didn’t want to, sleep seemed to be far better than reality…
And he remembered what was happening again.
Commander Keen, defender of the universe, was crouched on the roof of the main body of a castle, this time what actually looked like a castle from the outside.
He was suddenly alert. Standing up, he felt for his flask of Vitalin, and gulped down a little of it.
It was a world of darkness, everything was engulfed in shadow, and the castle looked no less than dark gray.
He looked down from the castle hall. There were knights in armor, though they looked nothing close to human, with very square, and very large, bodies.
Slowly, Keen jumped down from the castle wall. He landed behind a crate. Nearby was a company of two knights.
Sighing, he took out his Decoy Projector.
Commander Keen ran, at incredible speed, from the front of the castle to the cover of the side. The knights in armor follwed him, at also very incredible speed, he thought. Dealing with them would be harder than he thought.
Keen pocketed his Decoy Projector, walked to the castle door from the crate he was hiding behind, and opened the castle door.
The great hall was empty, except for a sole, sleeping knight on the table. Keen quickly walked past him and opened a door.
Even though he had no proof, he had no doubt now that this was the doing of the magical revenge for the Origin of Curses.
The Necromancer, on the Crayen System of a spiral galaxy called Elexis, was the master. His true name was Reohert, but no one remembered that now, except for the computers. He was the all powerful, and the whole universe would soon know it.
But the destruction of the creature responsible for just less than half of all the magical transistions in the universe would now limit his power.
One of his subjects entered, a promising young magician. Of all the people in this galaxy, the Necromancer knew, those who met him, the greatest Sorcerer in the entire galaxy (and just maybe the universe), most were the most lucky, and yet they were the ones who least appreciated the luck.
There was a small pond in this thoroughly fresh and clean room. The Necromancer reached his arm out and stroked it…
Three heads appeared inside it. Each head was very large, about 2 feet in diameter, but the Necromancer knew this was because of the difference in sizes of the two viewers. If one looked, they would also see that each head was connected to a neck, which went out of the pond, where to be unseen.
These anomalies were explained by the fact that the point of view the pond was looking from was from that of a cauldron (a magician pot, or whatever), and that the heads were those looking into it from above.
“Well…” the Necromancer said disapprovingly. In audiences, he did not resort to time consuming titles or anything, he was just addressed as “Sir.”
“Sir,” one of them said. “We have isolated the Yorp. He is safely in containment, and cannot do Sh!T until the spell is broken.”
“You have accomplished the feat?” came the cold reply.
Another one spoke up. “Yes, our magic has finally done the impossible: capture one of the most powerful creatures in the universe itself, the creators OF magic.”
“Well…very good. But have you have any idea where the Yorp’s accomplice is? A horrible Commander Keen, I believe. We know he is on this planet, and yet something went wrong with the teleport.”
The last person hesitated. “No, my lord. We are still investigating as to why the teleportation was not accurate. Our guards, are, however, searching for him, and we have no doubt that he shall be recovered soon. This Keen has no power in magic, he will not be able to withstand us.”
The Necromancer thought for a second. “Well then, continue your search. I will await the results!!”
The pond stirred, and went back to its original transparency, and the Necromancer thought he saw one of the three give a sigh just before all was gone.
As had Commander Keen, who had used his Paradox Interceptor to decode and view the message.
Now there was finally a way to go. The triangulation of the message had traced the three wizards to a room deep inside another corridor. Sensors indicated multiple NMEz inside it.
Oh, what the hell, Keen thought, pulling out his gun.
Very fast (and possibly magical) arrows fired through the space Keen was about to go though. Firing his gun (set on Disintegrate) at the place where the arrow came from, Keen blew up a wall, as well as all except the feet of a knight.
A long corridor was in front of him now, and soldiers were piling out of the doors. His gun still blasted the living (are those soldiers living? That would make a good debate question) daylights out of them. But still they kept coming and kept coming…and his gun would run out of ammo soon.
The Necromancer’s page ran in what he thought was slow motion (since nothing could possibly need to delay no longer) up the stairs and burst into the room of his Lord. He stood their for a few moments, gasping, then finally rushed out a few words.
The Necromancer, still calm, muttered “So, he’s very close to the room where they are keeping his accomplice? Keen seems better than I thought.” He covered his chin with his hand.
The Necromancer touched the surface of the pond once again. Ripples shown through, then a single face materialized in it.
“Yes, my lord?”
“Esher. We begin Seed B now, password is rottenpig.”
“What?” The voice of Esher was very different than when the conversation started. “You cant mean it! Seed B needs at least one more week of testing…”
“The machines are absolutely qualified, Esher. They have passed your own standards a week ago, and yet you resume testing them?”
“Sir, we are dealing with a power—”
“Yes, Esher. I grow impatient. The power is strong, and I will take whatever little chance there is that things might go wrong.”
Esher’s eyes still were wide open. “I will activate the machines,” he said in a sollem voice.
Commander Keen tossed a grenade into the last room with enemies. Shrapnel and acid flew around, and finally all was destroyed. Apparently there had not been an infinite number of enemies after all, and as the rooms got cleared he got closer. Now there was one last non-opened door. Grenade in one hand, he turned the knob.
The three wizards, startled, looked back, but Keen nailed the grenade in the middle of the trio, shrapnel giving them some minor wounds. One of them raised his wand, but Keen was a faster shot, and before the sorcerer could do anything he was fried and flopped onto the ground.
The other two were now holding up their wands. Keen activated his dimension shielding. He did not have much confidence in his device, but now it was his only hope as they both aimed their wands at him.
The dimension shielding DID help, after all. It did not shield against the powers of the wizards’ spells, but it seemed to deflect them a little, so that Keen got out of the way just in time.
One of the wizards held up his wand and coming from it seemed to be some kind of energy field. The other was slower, as Keen nailed him in his chest. There was no screaming of agony, though Keen knew he undoubtly felt that.
Two down, he thought. But on top of the wand of the last one, even as he was shielding himself with it, a ball of flame was beginning to gather, and Keen could guess was he was about to do with it.
Commander Keen, recognizing his last hope, tossed a grenade at the last wizard.
The wizard seemed to chuckle, despite his desprateness, probably meaning that the grenade would not harm him.
Nor did it, but as it hit, a web of dimension shielding wove from it, canceling out the poor man’s shield.
Keen wondered if the wizard knew what was coming, and waited for the end, or if he tried to rush the process of the flame, or if he was making one last desprate attempt to regain his shield.
Certainly, he did not move, and did not move ever again, as Keen tossed a real grenade, and blew him up.
The fragments of his enemies scattered around the room were ugly sights.
And then Keen saw his pet, encased in what looked like a stasis field; blue bars like a jail. The Paradox Tracer revealed its power to be coming from the pot.
So Keen tossed a last grenade into it.
An awesome set of fireworks blew out, and Norp was freed.
The Yorp called Norp stood up from the ground that was the cage of the magical stasis field, stretched his muscles, and looked blankly at Commander Keen. Finally he said: “Well, my friend, it looks like you’ve 0wned the entire castle, as well as some members of the magical community. The same ones that had me imprisoned here, in fact. Good job.”
Shrug. “Yeah, but the problem seems to be now, my ammo supply is very low, a few more shots would empty it, and all I have other than that is a few flower power grenades, no firepower, I remember how horrible it was in Trubia.”
“Bah”, came the reply. “Have you not learned anything from turning witches into frogs with magic wands? At least that you can as easily make them turn this bloody mess into some ammunition.” And he picked up a wand and did just that.
“How much time do we have left?” Keen inquired.
Norp sighed darkly. “I am not sure.” He said. “But I sense a new dark power at work. Nowhere in this castle will be safe soon. We must make haste!”
They bounded out of the room in great strides and soon were rushing out of the corridor. Soon Keen began to feel it too: a sense of bright darkness, much worse than when he had encountered the birdlike creature in the other castle.
Keen quickly checked his sensors. “There’s a hell of a lot of creatures heading for us.” He muttered. “And there is a lot more guarding the back enterance, for some reason. We better not head back down there.”
At this Norp stopped walking.
“The back enterance?” He said. “I have a weird gut feeling we should be heading there right now, I suppose its some sort of trap.”
“A most unusual one at that, I hope you can contain your emotions until such time that we manage to get off this planet, and of course I haven’t a single idea of how to possibly do that.”
But it did not seem that Norp was listening anymore. “OH MY GOD!!!” He shouted suddenly. “It is true, but it may be their undoing.” He stopped, then started to run the other way…
“SPOT, STOP!!!” He picked up his gun and tried to stun his pet, but he was illuded.
Billy groaned under his brother’s football helmet. This was going to be a pain in the neck, he thought, then took after his Yorpie as fast as he could.
As he ran past, he saw a wake of dead, bloody knights, undoubtly left by the magic of his pet. It looked like he was, at least, still counting them as an enemy. But still no sign of him.
Finally, after a very long walk, he came upon the Yorp, standing straight and staring blanky at the wall. “SPOT!!!” He said. “WTF HAS GOTTEN INTO J00!?!??” He thought he was shouting, but apparently his instints had taken over and he was whispering.
But Norp ignored him, and muttered “This is the wall where the secret passageway is. It has to be, it mathematically aligns with the one of the other castle. Once we cross it, we should bypass most of the guards.” Despite Keen’s protesting, he stared down the wall, and, within 10 seconds it fell, revealing another hallway identical to the first secret passageway. Their masks were gone, but they would not need it in this castle, they found out as the sensor measured quantities of good air.
Through this passage they ran through. The distance, when compared to the first, was equal, but it seemed a lot longer; an eternity, until they finally emerged from the other side. It was not the outside yet, but they could sense it to be very close.
There were two doors, and from one some knights suddenly came in.
After some mild confusion they pointed and said “That’s them!!! KEEL THEM!!!!”
Keen vaporized some with his gun, and Norp finished off the rest, but more were now coming.
And the weird feeling of powerful darkness was coming closer.
“Go!” Norp said. “The other door, I will hold them off.”
Keen ran to the other door, planted some mines, then ran through it. The path kept going straight, and he killed the few knights that were guarding it. Suddenly, there was a rush of feet behind him, and he turned around, gun in hand, but it was just Norp. He seemed to be tired, and Keen did not take that as a good sign.
“Defeated,” he muttered. “There is a very weird, and yet vaguely familiar force at work. I do not know, lightning and frostbite striked all along the way, and we must hurry. They thought to lure us into a trap, but the lure will be their undoing. We will get away. Rush…NOW!”
As if an alarm had just been triggered, Keen felt a spurt of energy, and ran, this time keeping up with Spot. He obviously knew something useful (or else was so motivated that he would lead him to their doom), and this was now the only chance. Keen quickly opened his flask and gulped down a little more Vitalin, and he seemed to get strengthened even more.
After a while they came upon a large circular room with a thin red carpet running through its middle…and sunlight shining through the other side.
“Almost…” Keen prompted.
And there was suddenly a loud pitched noise from behind them.
Keen realized that as fast as they had ran, the knights, with their awesome speed, as Keen had seen earlier, would run even faster. How could he be so stupid? But they were so close to the end now…their destiny seemed to be certain now…just this room.
And knights started coming from the other side. They seemed to pile on the left and right, like welcoming someone else. No problem…Keen pulled up his gun…
…And instead found despair leeking though him…
…As what seemed to be a horrible nightmare came through.
And there was no other word for it. It did not exist in three dimensions, and therefore could not be seen, but it seemed as if despair and other signals came from it, and they conquered Commander Keen’s vision and manifested a horrible, slithering, yet gliding in air, creature that was not a creature.
And as for Norp, he was staring at it with pure horror, eye opening wide, mouth suddenly very open. “A Furrent!” He whispered fiercely. “A creature from the magical dimension, but who could have manifested such a creature into here? It would take much more power than that offered by all the Yorps who ever lived!”
“A Furrent!” He continued. “This nightmare is not good, and I am weary already. Keen, flee!”
But Commander Keen, Defender of the Universe, was not to be taken off by a monster with a ridiculous name. Grenade in one hand, his gun in the other, he walked up and stood by Norp, ready to do whatever he could against this horrible thing.
And to his horror he suddenly saw some pulses of light, and heard a voice…a voice that seemed to be coming from himself.
“HaHaHa!” The Furrent said. “Your weakling race has peered into our dimension for millennia, and has hidden, seeing and moving as you fit the power you call magic. But that power has only been manifested through the stripping of our fabric and its existence to power your weakling society. Now, finally, I and your betters will have their revenge!”
“NEVER!!!” the Yorp shouted, and let loose a stream of red laser, but the Furrent only seemed to chuckle: a soft version of the words “That tickled!”
And, out of the fabric of the universe itself, mysterious powers combined and struck like lightning through the hall; Destruction itself compared to the Yorps’ now seemingly weak magic.
Keen tossed a grenade, and then a flower power grenade, to, of course no avail.
The monster now laughed even harder. There were more strikes, and all the while the despair in the universe seemed to increase.
But something seemed to gather on Norp’s single eye. Like the ball of fire of the last wizard, but it was white-hot, and seemed to have unlimited strength.
Even the despair of the Furrent seemed to decrease.
And suddenly Keen realized what it was. Norp had described it to him before: the End of Honor: The most powerful defense of a Yorp; A death thro that would bring the end to its enemies.
And now he knew why it was called “honor”.
“SPPOT!!! NORP!!! NO!!!” Billy, himself, shouted again. “Help.” He said in a dying voice. This was more than even the Furrent could have done, and now was doing.
Spot ignored him. The ball grew of brightness and radius. He finally said: “Your ship is outside the castle, and your last hope too. Fly, F00.” Keen backed off the red carpet, and ran.
A sudden explosion rocked the castle that Keen just ran out of, and a great circle encompassed more than half of it. Ether ran through the atmosphere. There was no more hope. He saw his BwB Megarocket, ran inside it, and started the launch mechanism. It started rising, very slowly, it seemed, and then it totally stopped, and Keen saw a dying world, a dying universe that could never come again.
And when he opened his eyes again the ship was in deep space. The planet was out behind him, and they were ready to make a Jump into hyperspace.
Not even the Iron Courage of Commander Keen could withstand the sadness of the loss of Spot/Norp: his pet and, now that he thought of it, dear friend.
Very dreadful came the end. Keen knew this all the time but, of course, he, as everyone, was plagued with the possibility that the end might not come…somewhere…somehow…
And even as his ship drifted soundlessly in space, even as he mourned over his loss, he knew there was only one thing left to do.
Keen started to record a message to send to the Vorticon government via hyperspace, and he prepared his ship to Jump.
Part II: The Infiltrators
Commander Keen opened the door, preparing to walk into the hangar bay, but, before he knew what had happened, he was overwhelmed…and put on a stretcher with a speed that would have caught the best surprise-attackers off guard.
There were many voices. “His condition critical?” “Rush to infirmary” “Get sick bay ready” were some of them. The dominating one, however, was the one in his head.
Sure, sure, they’re rushing, rushing, but do they care about my poor Yorpie? Nooo…I wouldn’t be here if not for him. Why the Yorpie…I picked him up on Mars, he didn’t deserve this…
Keen suddenly sat up in his chair.
“Yeah, I’m all right.” He said to the Vorticons surrounding him. “How could I be here if my condition was critical?”
The Vorticons looked at each other in sudden realization….
“Hot damn,” one of them said. “Command said that we should be here with all sick bays ready.”
“That’s Command’s job, to say that. In the meantime what I really need is a shower and a few bandages.” And hopes that my Yorpie will be happy.
Keen hardly heard the orders coming out of the nearby Vorticons for a room and a quick car. He hardly heard the car coming, and then lost all of reality in more unhappy thoughts. When he woke up again the car was rushing around the hangar bay…with no one driving.
Keen panicked and reached to grab the steering wheel, then he realized that this car was computer controlled and passed out again.
“This is bullshit,” the Necromancer angrily said. There seemed to be a weird aura around him, not one in physical form, but one that stated if you piss me off, you die.
And, with his powers, he was an intimidating wizard, especially in this angry state.
He wasn’t communicating by form of whatever that pond was, but this time in was in person, in a larger room. The wizard he spoke to was on his knees, partly because of some of the Necromancer’s willpower and mostly his own imagination.
“Si—sii—sir,” he stuttered. “W—we had no idea…it’s a dimension we didn’t know enough about—”
“Ha, I told you myself that I was willing to take risks. They were risks in control, Esher, not in incompetence.”
Apparently, there had been convincing theories that, since the Furrent or any other creature manifested from the magical dimension, was not actually there, but just a power of paradox, there had been thoughts that it could not be destroyed by any means, since after all, it didn’t exist.
But instead, the potential power that the Yorp had apparently used to destroy the Furrent had stabbed through it like a relay and blown up the machine that had been used to create it. After the signal of destruction had been sent by the machine to the magical dimension, all the circuts had fused and the weapon made useless.
“I’m disappointed, Esher,” the leader of the wizards continued. “But I admit that I myself had not seen this obvious…thing. I should forgive you this once…but the computing power that your incompetence destroyed was too much. Good-bye, Esher.
As he raised his hand to magically strangle him, Esher tried to plead for mercy, knowing that his power could never match that of the most powerful wizard in the galaxy. Then suddenly a whiff of thought caught the Necromancer.
He quickly released the fear-stricken scientist.
“Esher, what was it that you said about a new possible plan, just before we tried out the machine?”
The smaller wizard tried to speak softly, but croaked and after a second of breathing and swallowing, muttered “My lord…”
“Don’t spoil me with flattery, I want your answer. It might save your life, methinks.”
He croaked again. “My journal, my lord…in my journal.”
The Necromancer sighed hard and, with a twist of his wand, summoned the scientist’s journal in a way very similar to normal teleportation devices. Then, with another twist, absorbed all of its knowledge.
“Yes…yes. It will be your doing, Esher. Very well, I will give you one last chance, to execute plan…B.
Esher bowed…well, collapsed would have been a better describing word.
“Go now, and work the new plan out. I warn you, though, one more failure and…GO!!!”
Almost unconsciously, his hand made a swipe in the air, and Esher’s limp body suddenly got thrown across the room. The scientist quickly got up to his feet and ran the back few meters to the door.
The one known as the Necromancer sat back down and prepared to meditate. Then he thought better of it and, with an impatient wave of his wand, opened a secret door and walked a few paces into his throne.
He should, of course, have had inquired about Esher’s thoughts a long time before. Very well, though, it couldn’t be helped now, and the intimidation he had gave him might as well be useful.
But he was the Necromancer; the most powerful person in the universe…right now anyway. Or rather, he would be, once the new stage was completed. In either case the current relays (that is, the Yorp race) would be enough for now.
He prepared to make contact with his officials to plan the next step.
That was what Commander Keen had been through. In only two days back with the Vorticons, it seemed a lot longer than his eternal (or so he thought at the time) adventure.
He longed to go back to Billy Blaze again, without the care and non-stop fighting. Without that football helmet too, his head was beginning to ache, and of course, one of the Vorticons would then provide him with some medicine or whatever it was they gave him.
And, of course, he hadn’t forgotten about Norp.
All in all, he was getting tired of this.
Keen was brushing his teeth when suddenly a buzzer sounded.
Crap! He’d forgotten about the 11 o clock meeting!
He quickly struggled into new clothes and ran toward the Conference Room. The High Priest of Mars was long since summoned to the conferences and had been involved in them for even longer. Aside for him there were no familiar faces (since to Keen the Vorticons all looked the same).
“No helmet?” one of the Vorticons asked. Keen shook off the question.
“Very well,” the high priest said. “Now that we’re all here, lets begin. Commander Keen has told his story 13205174519245 times already, so lets skip that.”
There were several near protests, then a murmur of agreement. These Vorticons were either careful logictians or extreme worshippers who wished to hear from the person who was an archtype.
“We have new technologies.” A Vorticon said smugly. “We can now detect if magic is being used, if we can carefully monitor the metabolism of every Yorp.”
The high preist shook his head. “We already know when somebody is accesing us. It’s a feeling, so constant that we’ve learned to ignore it, but we can watch for patterns of evil powers.”
The Vorticon who started the meeting now began to get exited. “Of course! We can have an entire network of workings, and communications…and—”
“STFU, I already have an entire network right here, in my pocket.” He took out a weird looking remote control, and no one bothered to question him.
Keen said “Any evil powers at work?”
“Yes, of course. There are always evil powers. But we have no idea how a Furrent could have been produced. I know not of anything that has such a capability. Certainly none of us.”
“An artificial machine, maybe?” The exited Vorticon cried out in even more exitement.
“Possible, but unlikely. No one we know so far has been able to crack the code of the magical dimension…still, the galaxy you came from was based on magic…with enough scientific advances—”
A shudder came out through the Yorp.
“What, ya all right?” The Vorticon asked.
“Yes,” came the reply. “I don’t know…I guess I’ve got a weird feeling. It will hopefully pass.”
Suddenly, however, there was a Beep, Beep, that came from the remote control.
“I don’t know.” The high priest said after consulting it. “It seems that a lot of magical forces are at work at this moment…we may need to expect an attack soon.”
And at that moment, there was a sudden alarm, and an even more sudden voice in the Conference room.
“Admiral Feenet, Captain Resolet, Commander Keen! Report to the bridge immediately, we have enemy ships on sensors!”
The Vorticons quickly left, and Keen was alone with the high priest.
The Yorp that was the high priest smiled.
“We’ll take care of this.” He said in satisfaction while pointing at himself. Obviously there was something that the Yorps, some very powerful creatures, after all, were planning.
The high priest left the room, leaving Keen in thought.
High-Ranked Magician Olan Broxxe stepped forward to the Necromancer’s throne. His leader got right to the point.
“Olan, Olan, my young man (and, in case you are wondering, there are no family relations between them closer then their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma). You have been very stuble in your rise of power…to me, and you have a lot of ability, and much more potential.”
Broxxe bowed, though he was heard to mutter “Whatever.”
“And I am pretty sure you will eventually be qualified to such a high post as my successor…well assuming I die, of course, which isn’t going to come any time soon.”
He replied. “I believe I shall never be qualified, my lord, cause there will never be a place to succeed you in.”
“Bah, I know. It’s the potential of magic that we do not know. Maybe it shall allow me to live 4eva, but…just in case, and, in either case, you will have an extremely high position anyway.”
“It is so high a rank, though, that I need a test, something you can organize—”
“Get right to the point. What do you need me for?”
Normally it was a breach of formality to interrupt the highest rank in the galaxy, but the Necromancer smiled. He had just, after all, passed another test.
“There is a separate mission from the attack you are planning. You shall plant one of the machines in the Milky Way, so that we have a source without too much distance between it and the enemy.”
After an extremely short time, Olan the magician accepted.
“Very good. Your ship is quite ready now. You should reach there in a few hours, at the most.
The nme ships were heading for Vorticon VI at incredible speeds. They old ships, and were undoubtly (and as confirmed by sensors) powered by a series of constant paradoxes that was magic.
The Vorticons, with three Motherships, thirty-three moderate-sized support ships, and nearly two hundred smaller fighter craft, seemed to be the ones with the advantage, but they knew that the attackers had extra powers at their disposal.
Keen knew this. He also knew that there were over 400 small enemy ships, plus the very small number that his advanced scanners were unable to detect. But magic, magic! He had beaten three grown magicians back on the enemy planet, but he had no doubts to what 400+ ppl could do at once to a single target.
The Vorticons were still transmitting warning messages. On the radio of his BwB Megarocket, he caught the words “Approching ships—” then cut off the radio as he thought listening to it was a waste of time.
Screw it, they obviously would not turn back. The only way they were going to be driven away was by being beaten.
And, from far away, Keen’s paradox sensors detected an extremely large distortion of space-time. He saw the picture: a large swirling mass of red, being powered by the passengers of the ships.
**** it, he thought, and let loose the full furry of his Tantalus Ray at the invaders. It took light to travel between his Megarocket and his spread out target (about 10 seconds), but the enemy, of course, did not expect an attack while they were still being warned! As the Tantalus Ray hit, a blast radius the size of a planet got blown, all ships within it destroyed, and the shock wave troppled some other ships outside.
But we are dealing with space, and very large measures here. In a radius the size of a planet, unless there are special circumstances, there will probably only be several (30-40) ships, and that is the number that got destroyed.
Like a heavy weight had just been let loose from the gunners, Tantalus and weaker energy cannons started firing at the enemy fleet by the hundreds, most of them missed but there were several hits, and the magical shields did not make little of them, indeed.
But why would this be an easy victory for us? Why would the enemy just do this for nothing, or, if they honestly did not know what was to happen, retreat at this moment? Certanly none of them were firing back.
And suddenly a field of teleportation was all around them, and 300 enemy ships apparated right in the middle of the fleet.
Unless they suddenly decided to blow themselves up as well, there was no use of Tantalus Rays in such a crowded space. There was pandamonia and radios of “Evasive Action!” Keen himself drove the ship all around the nmes that were flying all over, and destroyed a few with plasma cannons.
But he saw about fifty ships surrounding a Vorticon Mothership. The gunners worked desprately to clear the realm, but the remaining ships assigned to that one fired some sort of magical beam…
…And totally vaporized the Mothership.
“ARRRG!!!” Keen shouted. He rushed his ship at those that had destroyed the Mothership and fired his plasma cannons like a single bee trying to sting an entire hive…
And madness proved itself as they all went down in explosions and flames where oxygen leaked out of the hull.
But even more were swarming…and getting assigned to him: a small little ship.
He saw at least a hundred of them…they started firing…
…And they hit!! The magical field was beginning to overwhelm his structural intregrety, and he knew engine failure would probably come first when dealing with paradoxes, but this was too much to run away from. He started firing like mad, dealing little hope…
It was an unusually large enemy ship, and an unusually small one (even smaller than the BwB Megarocket) docked on to it’s wall. Extreme stealth combated even the most magical of sensors, and the occupants of the smaller ship managed to drill a hole through the armour…leading them to Corridor 5.
The Infiltrators were very small with sleek, hiding, bodies, but nevertheless, they were very powerful indeed, for they were Yorps.
They worked quickly but silently, rushing through the hole. Suddenly a magician came through the corridor bend. He cried “WTF!?!?” and held up his wand, but was quickly stunned by some Yorp magical powers.
They had the entire ship, with its corridors and rooms, memorized, and a small group of 3 went one way, and an even smaller group of 2 went the other.
The group of two passed the way and found a set of doors leading to Main Bridge. They opened the door with some secret Yorp “persuation”.
As the hole was created by the lights coming from their eyes, a sudden alarm “INTRUDA ALERT!!!” sounded. They finished blasting and went through…
…To find 10 robots waiting for them on the other side.
One of the Yorps sidestepped toward the wall and the other pulled a jump as massive amounts of firepower headed for the spot they had occupied, damaging the door even further.
The Yorp that had jumped hanged at the ceiling and blasted a robot that aimed its gun at him, while the other cartwheeled around the room, narrowly avoiding robotic guns, and blasted several more. Within seconds the entire room was a mess of robotic parts.
They entered a final door.
Three wizards were eating lunch. One of them realized what had happened, and picked up the wand lying on the table, but he was zapped before even the Yorps knew it.
“Deactivate Security level B,” the Infiltrator named Aladra said. “NOW!!!” Not wanting to fight some of the most powerful creatures in the universe, one of the wizards hastily punched some codes into a command pad, and then both fell heavily to the ground.
“Force fields down,” the leader of the other group said. “Lets go!” The three ran through and saw the engine room. Absolutely unguarded.
They looked at each other.
“Um…why does it take three of us?” One asked. The leader signaled impatiently and they soon found out: There were magical force fields that they couldn’t shut down. It took almost ten minutes (compared to the usual seconds) to beat through them.
In front of them was a large cube. The magical field generator. Within seconds it was fried to a dust by the obvious means.
There was a magical security system that not even the Yorps were able to penetrate in such a short time, and which was powered by the MF Generator. Now the Yorps in the bridge bypassed it easily.
Self Destruct: 3 minutes, they typed.
The countdown began, and they rushed back to their ship. The magicians would wake up dead.
All in all, with the exploding ship behind them, it was the first victory for the Infiltrators.
“Again…another loss.” The Necromancer said.
“They,” Secro (his Fleet Commander) replied, “were bound to discover that our ships did not have any magicians on it, but were powered by a Magical Field Generator on a hiding ship. Once they destroyed the MF Generator, pure physical force was able to defeat our ships.”
“They shouldn’t have found it, with all their resources put in the battle, but nevertheless, it was a gamble that I approved, and I will not blame you this time.”
It was the right thing to do, of course, though not quite expected from a near-dictator.
“Still,” he continued. “I wonder about those who destroyed the MF…they couldn’t had discovered it so easily…”
“Does your newest plan have some resistance to anything that can go wrong?” The Fleet Commander inquired.
“Yes…My Olan is a powerfully skilled magician. He should be able to deal with anything that might come up…
“Well, that is my hope, anyway.”
Though they denied it, and did not reveal themselves, Keen, of course, knew who was responsible for the recent victory.
“Commander Keen is.” The high priest said. “He has destroyed easily the most ships that attacked us, and saved us many lives.”
Keen sighed. Was he destinied to become a figurehead from now on? In either case, the lives lost numbered 48,549, nearly 50,000 from the recent battle—”
He better not get another Big V for such a BS thing…
And when all the others left, the two stayed.
“Why?” Keen asked the high priest.
The high priest shrugged. “The nme have no idea what to make of us. They know that we infiltrated and destroyed their control ship, but they do not know who we are. A Vorticon may be corrupt enough to imform them that some of us, some of the most powerful creatures ever, are going against them. We don’t want to risk big things, as they might reply to this knowledge in any way possible. Eventually, of course, they will use their utmost strength against us, but uncertainty gives us time…for hope.”
“And you do not worry that I will become corrupt?”
“Your strength is very unusual,” he sighed. “Even for a human being. It seems to be a flow of rightousness…and we have supported that with a few trinkles of our own magic.”
Keen was getting a headache. All this for a figurehead! Blind justice, lame power! “When will the next action be?”
“In…” He consulted his watch. “Twelve minutes. I must be going to meet this new foe myself.”
“Great.” Keen muttered.
The clock struck Nine…
And it wasn’t time yet. One minute left.
But the small Yorp Infiltrator ship apporched the blundering enemy, once again. There were more of them, a party of eight this time, including the high priest, who had hurridly boarded their ship.
This time, though, there was a great eye that watched through the whole ship, sensing any irregularities, searching for them.
The eye, though, was artificial, and therefore more focused in some places than others, and, as it turned out, to be inconspicuous (though normally it would mean disaster) would prove the best strategy.
With a Vorticon Bypass code, they convinced the Hangar Bay Computer to open the air-lock doors to let them in.
Of course, this would mean eventual discovery, but the eye was looking mainly for breaches in the integrity of the ship, in other words, a forced entrance. For some time, at least, it wouldn’t consider what appeared to be an authorized entrance a big threat. It bought them some time, and hopefully overconfidence in part of the enemy would be their undoing…
But it would be easier this time, since their target did not require any security measures. They could rely on a force attack.
But we have little time for more explanations, as the doors opened, and the group stepped into the hangar bay. The hangar was quite unstaffed, for some reason, and they stepped through the door…
…Only to find a magician right on the other side of it.
It was not a trap, but the magician happened to had just been passing the wrong place at the wrong time, and, just before he was zapped, he managed to press a strange-looking button on his wand.
The shrills and cries of “INTRUDER ALERT!!! INTRUDER ALERT!!!” filled the air all around the ship.
“Damit!” The high priest said. “There goes our surprise entrance! We must hurry, before they plan against a full assault!”
Unknown to most people in the universe, Yorps could move very fast when they really need to, and, though they didn’t really need to right now, they were moving fast anyway. They went through a maintenance corridor, bypassing the guards that were undoubtly being dispatched from the main corridors to their ship. They didn’t really worry about the ship. After they found out about the eye some of Keen’s most powerful defense mechanisms had been donated to them. It was doubtful that the troops could withstand a torrent of machine guns and plasma when a light dimension shield was in operation.
As he thought this, the high priest, for the first time in days, realized the difference between him and the other Yorps, at least in attire. It was the necklace he wore above his neck: a very unusual one, crafted not for beauty, but for safety, as each of the crystalline diamonds emminated an Anti-Paradox field that prevented certain kinds of magic from occurring within its range. Such crystals were very rare, he knew, and to mass-produce these fields machines had to be used: artificial energy fields instead of those generated from rare jewels.
This kind of necklace, one that blocked evil magic, was the only one in the universe…that he knew of anyway, and the Yorps had searched far and wide to find another, without success. They had despaired over finding nt of anything that could help those who were good, but it would be unnecessary now, or after the artificial technology was perfected, anyway. But he could tell that for this mission this would come useful.
Bright sunlight accompanied a jerk back to reality, the end of the dimly lighted maintenance corridor. He was aware of the sirens and “INTRUDER ALERT!!!”s now…wouldn’t somebody stop them? He was going to get a headache soon.
They went out, and saw that they were very close to the bridge. Deciding against the traditional way of opening a locked door, the high priest entered a security waffle into a slot to bypass the codes.
Wizards were ready on the other side, though, and they put stunning spells upon two of the Infiltrators. They had not, though, planned for such a large force, and they were all down in almost an instant.
Another door, and there were two more. One of them led to the bridge, and the other to the room of the important representative who accompanied the wizards in this mission. The bridge would be heavily guarded, they knew, both by robots and by wizards.
“All of you go! I will deal with him.” The high priest said and rushed toward the door. Some wanted to protest, but the high priest was now gone and the bridge was, after all, the proper place to be…hopefully he could deal with him.
Olan Broxxe: Apprentice to the Necromancer, was on the other side, and did not seem at all surprised. Nor was he looking at the newcomer, on the contary, he had his back to him, sitting in his chair, sipping some coffee.
“Yooorp. Yorpie. Yes, yes, it explains it all, that last defeat. Though they didn’t have any experts on that ship, no amateur could have walked out of there alive.”
He turned around, now, and revealed the object in his lap: a crystal ball…except that it was floating a few inches over it. He walked up and the high priest saw a 3D figure of an eye at where he was going. Olan deposited the ball into the retina section and it realistically turned black.
“Not much for such a sensor device,” he continued, “but nuff for this ship…and to tell me that none of you will walk out of this alive.”
“In that, at least, my lord, you are mistaken.”
“My lord? I certainly doubt that you worship me?”
“Your rank, sir.”
“Aaah yes. High priests are always impressively respectable. A shame that I have to kill you, you Yorps can make some very powerful allies. But you are the enemy, and, though I hope to be respectable to you too before you die, I will have to cause it.” At this point he raised his wand in preparation of duel. “Prepare to die!”
Almost immediately, Broxxe pointed his wand at the high priest and shouted “TORTEUR!!!” (The traditional torturing spell), but the Yorp dodged the yellow light that came out at him. The high priest responded in turn, firing the red eye light that had long stunned many wizards, except this time hot enough to kill…
…And found Omar holding his wand out at the shot like an umbrella, except that it was an umbrella…the shield light that emmited from it looked like one, anyway. The Yorp’s magical powers seemed to diminish at contact.
At this the magician said: “I promised to be respectable to you before your death, high priest, and I must say that, though your powers can not penetrate my shield, your dodging and speed is just as great. It has been an honor to see something different than what the wizards usually provide.”
“That ability you speak of…I would look like an amateur if compared to Commander Keen. But alas, did you not notice my necklace? I have a shield too!”
At this point, Omar Broxxe scored a dead aim upon the Yorp…
…And it diminished to nothing at a point about one and a half meters away from him.
The wizard was undoubtly shocked, and he blasted the high priest a second time…and a third, to no avail. Now the high priest began to advance…
The now-helpless Omar backed away from the oncoming terror, but his back bumped into the wall after a few steps…and behind the wall…an empty void he suddenly realized.
The high priest still advanced, and Broxxe began to see his life as he had lived it. He could undoubtly still escape, but despair got provoked inside him suddenly, and he awaited his fate…
…As the Yorp took off his necklace and, close enough to the wizard, placed it upon his heart.
And, with a full furry, blasted the chest through the gap in the jewelry.
The high ranked wizard Omar Broxxe lay dead, and with him lay his mission. It was now time to help the others, the high priest thought, as he walked out to do so.
“We have no doubt now,” Secro said. “The attackers are Yorps.”
“And our latest plan is in great danger.” The Necromancer continued for him.
“Yes…we’ll need a modification of the plan.” They seemed to be coming up with a new plan every chapter here, though the question now lay in how many would work.
“Could they have discovered everything already? It can not be, and we can not resort to desperate thinking…but what if it were true? Then I would be very desperate here indeed.” He laughed.
The calm, cool general came out from Secro. “We will need a plan against that too.”
The Necromancer laughed even louder. “Why…I already have that plan taken care of. I will go with them.”
With all the humor in the air, Secro caught this as a not-so-funny joke. But, after a moment’s silence, he knew. And was shocked.
“Are you shocked, Secro?”
“My lord…you c—”
At this the Dark Lord actually sighed. “Secro, I am the most powerful creature in the universe, or shall be in a short time. This power was enough to conquer me a galaxy, but, and I tell you the truth, Secro, since then I have been sitting here, rotting…no purposes but that of ruling! No accomplishments!”
“And after nearly five decades here, I open up my realm to the rest of the universe, only to find that magic would soon be a debunk force. In the five decades that we have remained in this galaxy, other races have propped up to try to destroy our only hope.
“No, Secro. It is time. Time to move on. I know the complaints you already have: that it would be too risky for me, myself to do it, that I could be more needed at home, etc.
“But you do not worry! I am only supreme dictator here, the galaxy is run by a democracy. All of them are, or else they fall in fire with lack of efficient rule. And I can take care of myself onboard the ship; that is the last thing you should worry about. I am no less safe there than here, Secro.
“And as well as well. It is finally time for the hurricane of change to come upon us. Let us hope it will change in the way we like.”
The conference room was totally empty. That was the way Keen liked it, he thought. This time the meeting took place in his room.
It was not a formal or Vorticon meeting, of course. They would insist on the conference room: the last place he wanted to be. Bah, this was an unusual meeting indeed.
And everything was being thrown out of his grasp.
The high priest gave Keen the most recent report of the raid. It was a very detailed one, and very boring. That’s the way they probably like it. Uninteresting.
Why am I being given this anyway, if it’s their operation?
Keen already knew, though, that he was the only hope if they died, or for any reason had to stop. The consparicy of Infiltrators was not very large, he knew.
“I don’t know,” he finally said. “This is a small band, and they have many ships. Could you really be that effective?”
“We attack their indispensable points,” came the smug reply. “If there were none our group would, yes, be useless.”
“Do you know when you will strike again? I would like to bear witness and help to your group.”
“No, for, with no insurance, we would risk either loss or corruption. But…” and at this he thought a little. “If there were an occasion where some of us could stay back, that can be arranged, yes. We can tell that they are massing their forces right now. We do not know where, how, or if to strike, but we should know by tonight, and I do not think that the next crisis will allow you to stay. You will have to wait.”
This meant the obvious. He was not as good as the fellow Yorps. It might also mean that he was more indispensible, but that was doubtful.
That night, of course, the Vorticons sent a note to his room, saying:
I wouldn’t think it to be good, and
the probabilities of success cannot
be calculated. Wish both of us luck.
They were gone once again. He had seriously hoped to be in one of their adventures…soon, and the hope continued. Still, he was Commander Keen: Defender of the Universe! He should be the one taking risks. This was spoiling him!
What he did not know was that there would not be any more of their adventures to be in.
The enemy ship was to be the final force. The high priest wished he had invited Commander Keen. He would be an extremely valuable addition to this mission, and couldn’t he have kept the secret in a secure place, to be revealed after death? And he knew what Keen was thinking. He longed dearly to help him, but they had been forced to act on short notice, and this was the result.
The ship in front of their scopes was not any ordinary inconspicuous one with a valuable cargo. It was, of old, one of the latest and most powerful ships. Its physical force could not defeat that of a Vorticon Mothership, but it had once been the most advanced of its kind. It would be enough, the high priest thought, after the full powers of magic were granted to it.
And it was large! The ancients might not have had good technology, but they sure were as good at wasting resources! How were they, a meer eight Yorps, going to navigate the many miles of it? Now he really wish he had brought Keen.
“We have plans,” the high priest said in the final briefing. It seemed that he himself could hardly remember them, but he knew them by knowledge, and that was nuff. “This might take us some time, but we shall divide in groups on two and go for it. Good luck.”
They used the traditional method of blasting the hall, dropped through over 4 meters of armor, and went their own ways.
They did not detect any eye, but there was one, more intense than any they had encountered before. It had sensed their approach from a thousand miles away, and let them land. Then it kept track of all the Infiltrators who entered.
The Necromancer, smiling, planned his attack.
This was the one who had killed Omar, he knew. He could somehow feel it in his veins. The others could wait; it was a big ship. But this one…intense somehow…
“The hell?” the companion of the high priest said. There were two doors in front of them. “Our target should lie in front of us…and there should only be one door.
They did the obvious thing, of course, except the high priest warned “We tell each other right away if we find something. We can’t lose any time.”
And shortly after the companion opened the door he was assigned to and entered the darkness…a sudden and quick spell was shot and he fell, dead.
“Why…high priest Tocler…I have been expecting you…and the last chance ever to say your true name while you are living.” This was not the room he had expected at all, and he turned back to join his companion…only to find the door locked and closed.
As dim lights came on, the form of the Necromancer himself took its place on the other side of the room.
“This is a mistake,” Tocler (finally) said, without the usual formalities. “You have made a mistake, facing me personally.”
“Yees, but no. Your necklace, I presume?” The high priest quickly made a grab for his necklace, half fearing that it wouldn’t be there, but it was.
“Your necklace?” He continued. “That is what killed the faithful Omar, I presume? Nothing else could have done so.”
“Yes, indirectly, forgive my grammar.”
“Is this how you speak to your will-be-killer?” Tocler mocked. But it seemed that the better of the two were always more composed, more respectful, and like he had been over Mr. Broxxe, the Necromancer was now over him.
“My dear high priest…you are dearly mistaken in that part. I have ancient, long forgotten magical powers that not even Omar, my would-have-been successor, knew of. It takes but a little common sense to reveal them, but a sorcerer, or most of them anyway, can’t have everything.”
“We shall see.” Then he quickly started the duel.
After deflecting one of the Yorp’s blows, the Necromancer established a perminant shield around himself, then struck back. He pointed his wand at the high priest and took a deep breath, seeming very deep in concentration. After several seconds a continuous spell (continuous light) came out of the wand, went through the normal barrier, and stopped a very intimidating one foot away from the Yorp.
After a few seconds he stopped it. “Your jewelry is stronger than I anticipated,” the Necromancer said calmly. “But it will not stop me.”
And with that he let loose fireworks. The spells this time stopped a meter from the high priest, but they seemed to explode in heat/radius damage, and burnt his skin.
The Yorp decided to make an end to it. He put his hands out in front of them and used some extra magic to ward off the blast, but they seemed only to increase in power. Nevertheless, Tocler kept advancing, and then suddenly another spell was put onto him.
It was the same radius damage, but it was a repulsor, and aimed right near his feet…
…And it blew his necklace right off.
The high priest made a grab for it, but before he could move an inch he heard a sound “Stupefy!” A stunning spell was put on him and the necklace flew across the room.
He was completely helpless, in the same room as the deadliest person he would ever meet in his life.
But then he started to move!!!
This very surprised the Necromancer. Unlike the spell put on Keen by the witch doctor some weeks ago, this was an expert stunning spell. It did not wear out for days, and no strength of willpower could combat it.
But the Yorp was fighting it! It was certain, now, as he started, slowly but surely, moving toward his enemy.
And he was resourceful too. Out of a hidden pocket he pulled a stabbing knife, though small and no ordinary one. It was an electric stabber, and if you pressed a button at the bottom part of it (opposite of the blade), a 400 volt current went through the other side, making for unusually deadly stabs.
The Necromancer watched as the struggling Yorp came to him in a last desprate attempt…
…And attacked, swinging the blade in an arc right at him…
…And right through him. The blade continued its arc…
…And went right into the high priest’s stomach.
Electrically charged blood came from the wound. The high priest did not let go, but convulsed and finally all his muscles were in an electrically charged cramp.
The Necromancer shook his head and walked away from the dead body. The cleanup crews would almost instantly be here, and he had more work to do.
In very similar ways, all the other Infiltrators died, on that ship, in the space of a few hours. It was the end of a short-lived legacy; the last hope, and the end of the universe as anyone had known it.
The old mothership, meanwhile, started its course for Vorticon VI.
Part III: The Siege
Preparation for War
A planet orbited a star, the star orbited the central black hole of the galaxy, and the galaxy orbited the universe…if that was possible. It was the same…all the same.
Or was it?
The Yorp called Norp sat up in his bed suddenly. The fruit trees outside gave a wonderful smell. This better not be heaven when I’m more needed on Earth.
He decided to explore the house. After coming to the living room he saw a young lady. She had the feel of a nurse but not the usual clothes for it.
She said suddenly “Not on Earth, Vorticon VI. But j00 need rest right now, and it can wait.”
He said: “Where am I?”
“You will find out soon enough.”
There was no more use for secrecy. The plan was revealed to the Vorticons…what was left of the plan, anyway.
“The problem,” Keen concluded, “is that they managed to kill the Yorps. It means that not only are they no longer dependent upon them, but they can master them as well.”
There was a murmur throughout the small audience.
There was a cry of “Will they attack Earth?”
Keen sighed. “Earth used to be a strategic location, but now it is no longer that. They will take my planet eventually, but now the greater threat is here!! Where Anti-Paradox fields that could render them helpless are being developed! If only they had waited long enough for the shield to at least be reasonably impenetrable, we might prevail. In this universe, however, we can only hope.
“And magic is now getting even stronger. It is no longer dependent on superstition, now that they’ve broken the code to the magical dimension and can tap its energies directly, and with a lot more efficiency.
“They are still weak, as they have not unleashed 10,000 Furrents into Vorticon VI, but they are and will be getting stronger. We must call upon all our forces…and all our allies.”
The Vorticon King, now present in the meeting, now spoke. “It has been a decadent time. I’m not sure how many of our allies could, let alone would, help us. We have, of course, contacted them. The Federation on the other side of the galaxy is sending nearly a half of their fleet to help us. Several others are contributing, though not as much. The Nulls, though, one of our best allies, are sending nothing. There are rumors that they’ve been corrupt and are going to send their cloaked ships against our planet.”
“That would be a big mistake,” Keen said. “For they will then send them against my newest sensors.”
The Vorticon King shrugged.
“When are they gonna get here?”
In another universe, another meeting was also taking place. There was the late Norp, or so he thought, and several other representatives of the universe he was in. Only one was human, and the human was probably only there to give him something familiar to look at (or so he also thought).
After a few minutes of formalities, Norp quickly got to the point. “Where am I, and how did I get here?”
The human, names Esla, shrugged. “We don’t know as well. You performed the End of Honor, but maybe it dosen’t kill you after all, just takes you here. We don’t know. Several others of your kind did the same feat, and died in the attempt.
“It is quite possible that, for most deaths, if you die you just die, but if you die a right and particular way, it will not end in a burning of everything, but you will go to the other side, where peace, prosperity, and etc. prevail.”
“So you’re the other side?”
The lady shrugged again. “We don’t know; we’re just a universe. The people here die, and we don’t know where anyone goes.”
“So, if you’re just a universe, we need some clues. For example, why did I get here, instead of any other infinite one? The probabilities are one in infinity, so there has to be a reason.”
“Paradox, but we’ll give you a description of where you are. This is the magical universe.”
Spot stuttered. “Www—ww—ha—t?”
Another person, probably in the role of explaining this, took over. “The magical universe. Everyone and everything here is devoted and powered to magic. There is infinite minus one happiness, infinite minus one joy, and no entropy. We could also all join forces with each other to overpower whatever is after us, which has happened several times.”
“Not really, we could theoretically use our magic to let us live forever, but that’s the problem. We’re still mortal, and we’re meant to be mortal and our brains were engineered to believe that we’re mortal. After a while we know our time is gone…and…” he pasued, as if not wanting to say the rest. “Well, we also have accidents.
There was too much more to ask.
“Come, get a refreshment first. You will not be needed for several relative days.”
Keen drank a cup of water, then began preparing his conciousness.
Finally, he thought. It is what I have always wanted, taking risks…big risks. I control my destiny, and there is no longer any figurehead. If it is good enough, okay, if not…well…
Now, finally, the real Commander Keen was back again. It was secret powers that would help him: intuition, initiative, and anger, which led to the all powerful power of efficiency.
Would he ever grow from longing this? It had served him so well, over the past months, but would something new ever be needed? Might efficiency become as dead a power as political games was now?
Of course…but now was not the time to worry about that.
He admit it.
“This is too much,” Norp said.
“You can not defeat the magical empire by yourself,” Esla replied. “They have powerful computers and relays, more powerful than Yorps and beginning to get powerful enough to rival even us: a whole universe. You must strike, but first you must accept this.”
“How? How am I to join my power with that of this entire universe, and transmit it to my own?”
“It has never been attempted before, and yet your race is one meant to do just that, within the dimensions of a single universe. Now you must concentrate, feel the paradox all around you, your galaxy, the other universe, the hyperspace itself.
“You must at least try. We have one more day.”
“Should the federation be coming in time, I would be a lot happier. They would increase the amount of ships by more than 30%.”
The Vorticon King was sitting with Commander Keen, who replied: “Surely we can last two hours?”
“You do not know that battles in space are very fast? It’s a charge, then whoever is destroyed is destroyed. By the time they reach us, chances are it will be too late.”
The Vorticon King prepared to make a speech and get ready to depart into the relative safety of his castle, but Keen suddenly grabbed his sleeve. “No.” He said. “There is a way…”
The planetary shield, for use in defenses, could theoretically last several Tantalus beams for nearly an hour before its energy storage ran out (the greater the demand the greater the energy usage). Even then all the fusion reactors in the world could continuously power it 60% efficiency, unless the demand of shielding became too great and the shield collapsed, charging energy back into the reactors and making for devastating explosions, one of the reasons why most fusion reactors were stationed in space.
There were two shield generators, which was lucky, since they could also activate a giant Anti-Paradox field in addition to one that protected against physical weapons. It was not even close to perfect, but the prototype supported by multiple layers of dimension shielding would provide the best defense they have. Hopefully it would last long enough.
The ship came, rushing faster than light, into the Vorticon system. It slowed down and made a stop, then used normal impulse engines and approached the sixth planet.
Now the sensors detected it: many moderate sized masses, accelerating and joining the enemy mothership. They were many smaller ships, at least 100.
The fleet defending Vorticon VI was many times multiplied than the number from last battle: eight motherships, one hundred and eighty support ships, and nearly two thousand small craft. The allies supplied a total of one extra mothership, 38 support craft, and three hundred fighters, making for [do the math yourself!].
As well as the obvious one fighter, supplied by a neutral that the Vorticons had once tried to destroy. Even so, this was the most valued, and it, especially with its pilot, could easily defeat a large portion of the fleet at once.
But the enemy was also many times stronger than last time, as no one had any doubt that there were magicians, and maybe many MF Generators, on board the ships.
They were not, of course, going to submit any warning messages.
All the ships were huddling 6,000 miles from Vorticon VI, at the very most. When the enemy approached firing range, they all let of a volley of their most powerful weapons (sometimes very powerful indeed).
But a flicker of a bubble encased the mothership through even the most powerful Tantalus Rays, some even more powerful than Mortimer McMire’s wrath (and there aren’t many of those, believe me).
In his Bean with Bacon Megarocket, Keen shook down his controls and sighed. He had contributed, to find the result he had expected, and now he realized that he hadn’t a plan of what to do now.
If only the radiation machine were completed, but Keen had neglected to work on that, in the recent rush for Anti-Paradox fields. He should have, really. The planned maser-like weapon would allow heavy energized gamma rays to travel through anything, for a very long distance, poisoning anything in its way.
His stellar rays could probably do just the thing; after all they already broken the law of relativity by going faster than light, but the law was not broken: it was bypassed. It still obeyed most of the others, and it was proven that it would detonate energy on contact, like many of modern laser weapons.
In front of him, a blue bubble suddenly encased all of space except the planet of Vorticon VI and its many satellites (most of them rocks or ships).
As the seconds pasted and the enemy ships came, they probed the shield, then tested some weapons on it, and it, of course, held firm.
This was the one way to buy time: delay the battle. From now on the planet of Vorticon VI, home planet of the most powerful military force in this galaxy, was officially in siege, and the news was posted in channels, boards, and newspapers throughout the galaxy. Hopefully the siege would last long enough.
Nor did the invaders seem to care. They kept probing for weak points, and the few magical powers that were used failed in the wake of the strong if imperfect Anti-Paradox field. They waited, one small force on one side, a powerful force hiding on the other.
“If they want time, then so be it.” Secro said to the small audience of high ranked wizards. “Even if the Federation comes they will be no match for us.”
“But…why delay?” Asked the captain. “Now is as a good time than ever, especially if the rest of the defenders aren’t here yet.” He hoped that the fleet commander wasn’t submitting to blind honor…
But he wasn’t indeed. “If we attack in full force now,” he replied casually, “We can break through without much trouble, but we will tire. There will be many more casualties, and I will not permit that. In an hour, on the other hand, the shield will be at barely one half the normal efficiency, and then we shall stand a better chance. We will only delay until then.”
And so an hour passed, and even Keen got himself into some Paddle War games. Finally a command through the radio came: “Get ready!”
And then the shield seemed to flicker and dim to half its original brightness. Almost immediately a torment of magical fields and some physical weapons came upon it. After about 20 seconds a voice came through the radio again: “Shield holding, 98% new efficiency.”
But the paradox shield was now very weak, and, though we know that any kind of teleportation can’t work through a force field due to the compactness of the energy structure, we also know that paradox can do many weird things to what we think of as reality, and, as sudden as ever, enemy ships appeared inside what was thought by the Vorticons to be their section and a battle began.
The fighters, this time, were very hard to defeat, as they had magical shields and even more magical weapons. They seemed, however, to be going more for the shield generators than for victims.
Keen watched as an nme force, beyond his reach, almost came upon weapon’s range of one…and got blow up as all the ships hit disguised “asteroid mines” the size of a baseball and went in explosions.
No one noticed the ever-increasing bombardment of the shield.
But suddenly there was an explosion as they got a shield generator!
“Shield down to 46% efficiency,” the radio voice announced.
But, as sudden as if a brush fire came upon them, more shield generators came down and, in the mess, Keen barely noted the new “32%”.
Ships were heading for his location, now, and he blasted a few with his plasma cannons, but thought better of it when they suddenly opened magical fire on him, that the Megarocket was barely able to dodge. He transferred all power to his dimension shielding, and switched his weapons to HE Guns.
One-foot diameter explosive shells came out from the main gun and blew in great explosions on impact with the enemy. The attack force that had come for the generator his force was guarding was soon destroyed.
But, before he knew it, his generator was the only one left, and pure physical force upon the shield was enough to strain it above the limit. Just as fast as a warning had been radioed, the fusion reactor exploded in a devastating blow, though thankfully with minimum casualties.
All this was forgotten, however, as the blue protection around them went down totally, and the enemy mothership went in.
It seemed to glow with an aura that disintegrated ships upon contact, and multiple energy beams came from it, with an area effect weapon and blowing up two Motherships very easily.
His repeated HE and the fleet’s repeated plasma cannon bombardments did nothing. It was soon so hopeless.
The art of bending space-time was a very old trick, as well as one of the first forms of space travel. Though the hyperspacial jump was also installed on Keen’s ship, he found this drive useful sometimes, also equipped with an anti-bending program.
This bending had come in very useful many times, he had used it to disarm the bomb that had threathened to destroy the universe, for instance.
He now would use it to combat one of the oldest powers in the universe itself. A 30 page long encoded message, filled with more symbols than letters, was sent all over the fleet. When translated it stated this: Move Away.
He started to bend the fabric…in some places more than others…
And the vaporizing aura caught a sudden gravitational pull and moved, turning on the ship’s own shield. It was an extraordinary sight, the fireworks that came with the reaction. The peoples of the ship were not stupid, though, and they shut down the aura within several seconds.
But the damage had been done, as shown by the effect of the plasma cannons and heavy HE rounds that came upon it. It started to damage!!! And there was a sudden burst as their own weapons were joined by another, who had just came.
The Federation had come at last.
A force equal to about 30% of the Vorticon fleet was sent by the Federation, and that is all that we have the time to explain at this particular moment. How they came at the exactly right moment is probably coincidence, though it had its share of rumors. What happened shortly afterwards was that the shield was restored, though with some generators (magical stuff) destroyed by the physical force that had temporally dominated.
It was what could be done at the time, Commander Keen thought. But now new ideas had to be figured out, now that they’ve undoubtly figured out some spells against the gravitational force.
It was satisfaction! Even for such a temporary triumph. It was life!
But—and now he thought of what else could be done.
He didn’t have to, however.
“My god.” The Vorticon Commander said. After an almost silent radio of “NOW!” was intercepted from apparently nowhere, there appeared ships…many ships, directly flanking the enemy…or was this the enemy?
As more decloaked it was instantly obvious that these were the Nulls. They had finally come…for a purpose.
And that purpose proved obvious as they opened fire against the magical mothership from behind. Several shots of Null advanced phase field technology gave Keen the impression that he had wanted to make with his radiation machine. The missiles, traveling through solid objects by means of this miracle (remember, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”), detonated on the other side, providing more devastating effects than the worse Tantalus Ray.
And then his sensors suddenly indicated that the ship traveled along a microscopic punch in the fabric of space-time, and Keen thought this was to be another Null miracle.
But instead he found a universal miracle.
“SPOT!!!” He shouted. It was unmistakably his pet, even though all the Yorps looked alike to him. All the tension from the last week got suddenly and satisfactionly released.
There seemed to be a dull but intimidating light coming from the Yorp.
“Hurry!” He shouted back. “We must be fast, before they recover!”
“Can that be? Look at the Nulls!”
“The home planet, sending magical signals that can more than make up…any minute now. Hurry now!” He suddenly touched the computer screen and closed his eye, seeming deeply in concentration. A glow of light suddenly appeared around the ship next to the shield.
The ship headed on a direct collision course with you-know-what.
Before anyone could contemplate what had happened, a glow of light surrounded the ship that was owned by Keen, a glow much brighter than the usual shield. The ship suddenly rushed in…and collided with that of the enemy.
There was dead silence as even the Nulls stopped firing their Phase Missiles.
Suddenly, from inside the ship, explosions sounded out, then finally the entire mothership burst into flames, and finally the entire structure collapsed and, since there was no gravity to dictate its fall, scattered around in all directions of space.
The BwB Megarocket emerged from the ruin, unharmed, unscratched, but most of all very surprised, even though it was but a machine.
Part IV: The Return of the Keenest
“You were very wise.” The new voice (at least, not seen before in this story) spoke to the Necromancer’s body with awe, such as awe that was to be long forgotten. He even seemed a little sad.
The Necromancer, however, was not dead. Nor was he even injured. “Asetes…” he said. “My fellow adviser, do you think I was wise not to go with that ship? If I had, the powers granted by me would have been invincible. And my eye can detect Null Fields, that crisis, at least, would have been averted.”
“Your support, my lord, from here even, would have been enou—”
“Yes it would have been, but it takes time…time, my dear, to bring the support to the front lines. Not even magic has crossed the hyperspacial barrier yet, though many ships do so.
“But,” he continued, “That Yorp, which the Furrent supposedly killed, came back, it seems, with even greater powers. He is the reason my ships failed…
“And I will face him myself, eventually.
Vorticon Lead Mothership: The War is Won!
That was what was said on the sign to the nearby door, which the representatives of the many races that had helped the Vorticons crossed.
They sat down on a larger round table, however, and found another news.
“Well,” the Vorticon King said. “I am afraid that some of us are more enthusiastic than others…let me tell you first. The war is not won, just the battle, my friends. Just the battle.”
There was a sudden and unexpected groan throughout the room.
“We’re here to discuss our next move. In the next few months, the nme will be attacking us. They will attack here, and perhaps all over the galaxy for helping us. It will be nearly a year before the Anti-Paradox field is completed, and such attacks rendered pointless, and until then, a whole year, we are vulnerable.
“We’ve already seen what a single ship and some fighters could do to all of us, and there are undoubtly more of them.”
“Attack first!!!” Some people from the crowd interrupted.
The Null Admiral stood up. “We have only been able to help through surprise…after this attack, we will be incapable of that. And, if we attack, we shall be a loosely allied fleet facing an entire galaxy.”
“We’re a galaxy against a galaxy!” One of the representatives shouted. There seemed to be fewer agreeing, however.
Keen decided to reply to this. “We are not the fleet of an entire galaxy. There are many enemies within, and they will gladly take this distraction to vulture us should we leave.”
“Vulture?” The Vorticon King asked.
“To attack us while we’re gone! To kill us while we have no defense! To slaughter us when we have no army! They can even declare peace with the enemy, saying that they already did good for them.”
“Well the solution is obvious…” The Vorticon King said.
“Yes, yes. Leave a few ships behind. But that only proves further my point. The enemy has the resources of an entire galaxy, and, though they are undoubtly weaker than us, they have magic in the air, while we have but distrust.”
The Federation representative suddenly stood up with a force that rippled the clothes of nearby peoples (their a bit strong). He said:
“Not necessary. My peoples have been through many transistions to get to our current state…and we have learned. There is a way…
The Vorticon King passed Keen along the way to the shuttle bay. “Three days!” He said to him. “Three days…should be more than enough.”
Meanwhile, the entire fleet started moving in a particular direction…then went faster than light…
“Stupid fools!” The Necromancer said. “Well, at least I think so, though, all things accounted, it is the only option…but such a low-probability one! The chances of them succeeding in an attack…”
“This is what your wiseness made possible, my lord.” Asetes said.
“Yes, yes. But…I do feel sorry for such a bunch of helpless robots leading themselves into distruction. Never mind that, though. Its politics, politics!”
He got ahold of himself. “Anyway,” he continued. “Your fleets all across the galaxy are all ready to intercept them and force them out of faster-than-light?”
“Such businesses are taken care of by your inferiors, and are already taken care of, sir.”
“Well then…I would complement you…indeed, I think I should. Let me send a message to the council about that then.”
And even as he led himself to the communications room he thought: Politics!
The attacking fleet rushed, at what a human (besides Keen and Mortimer, of course) would have thought mad speeds (hundreds of millions of times the speed of light) toward the galaxy controlled by magical beings.
This was the last meeting.
“We should be getting there,” the Vorticon Admiral said, “in barely two hours. We have the most direct route from the edge of the galaxy to controlling planet, Indewor.
“Of course, we will not be attacking Indewor, which is only the political capital. Our true destination lies in Askebar, the true capital. There, a magical culture grew and flourished, a thousand years ago. From there, they rose in FTL ships and went on a path that would end in the conquest of a galaxy. In the many battles that followed, it was forgotten and deserted, all of its inhabitants having flew to the other worlds. However, when the Necromancer saw his rise to power, he rendered Askebar as his home planet; a planet of magicians. He was, in fact, very unlike all the others before him, and, using his great powers and enormous cleverness (especially for a sorcerer), united the galaxy in a dictatorship/democracy, and destroyed whoever opposed him.
“That planet, was, of course, that of the second castle Keen was captured into. It has been confirmed, not only by his stellar maps, but by his description of the surface. He shall head back there too.
“Should we totally sack Askebar, we will win, for the other worlds will stand no chance, and will be very fearful of us…fearful enough. They will lose their morality, and whatever they had to fight for.
“The process will be very painful, however. Many of us will probably not be living when the day is over.
“And the rest of us had better hope there will be a new one.”
The Coming Revealed
They were stopped by a very large fleet, which pursued them and knocked them out of FTL with engine disruptors. Keen was about to fight when, suddenly, his entire ship was suddenly summoned and teleported into a large stone room.
“What the hell!” He shouted, but the next instant, he was teleported away, and landed in a smaller stone room.
A wall opened, and on the other side was the Necromancer himself.
“The old dueling league, my archeologists tell me. I shall, indeed, need to face your Yorpie sometime. But I always wanted this. You, after all, are the fabled all-powerful Commander Keen, Defender of the Universe. But, from all my eye has seen, you are but a FiGuREHeD to the real powers. I would, for once, like to test j00.
“After all, your fleet will die in this battle, and I suppose getting rid of you would probably help a little.”
Keen shrugged with true curiosity. “What makes you think the fleet will get blown?”
“Hmm haven’t thought that you would in this much denial. You know, its basically a galaxy verses a small fleet…well, okay, large, very large fleet. But this is a galaxy, and there are ships. This is very near the center, and therefore there are many ships that are within range…in fact, 30 fleets will get to the battle within six minutes, and nearly a hundred more within the hour. Your ships will hold out, of course, but against all the magic in range, chance equals zero.”
This time, Keen looked up with pure surprise.
“What?” The Necromancer said. “I know that you can accept that its true, so I haven’t an idea of what your thinking.”
“Haven’t you heard?” Keen muttered.
This time Keen laughed a cold, hard, one, even though it would probably not help him survive, he couldn’t help it. “Your planets…you’ve controlled them for nearly fifty years. But through what? Tyranny, conquest, fear. They are not really loyal, you know, but for the magical threats you put upon them.
“And now,” He laughed even more. “There are rumors that a fleet of the enemy is going to attack the ruling planet. Rumors that the fleet is even going to liberate them. Rumors from us, of course, but it dosen’t really matter where they’re from. Anyway, these rumors are accompanied with a stiffening by the government, a readiness for war all over the galaxy.
“One person hears the news from his uncles from the other side of the galaxy, that everyone is preparing. Everyone knows, and everyone spreads it on. Eventually, there are more rumors, not made by us, that a holy, or liberation, or whatever day is planned, right for the time that our ships come in. They are rioting, sir. Your magicians cannot enforce mind control, and they are having a lot of troubles, I can tell, at this very moment, when we are talking death. Your magicians will not come to the rescue, Mr. Whatever-your-name-is.
“Still, I don’t get it. I know that each individual item in the galaxy is too small for you to look upon, but you control the damned thing, man, and if a galaxy-wide revolution is too little for you to know about…well…is there a transmitter somewhe—”
The Necromancer, suddenly, almost impatiently, waved his wand, and in front of him came a sort of TV vision (except it didn’t have a screen to support it) that looked to each person (along 360 degrees) like it was facing them. It was a very cool technology, but Keen didn’t have time to worry about that.
What came up was a news broadcast…but instead of the usual reports, people were in the news station…lots of people.
They were shouting things like “Government, go away magic, go liberators,” and the newscaster was saying: “We demand our release at once, magicians! We demand freedom, true democracy instead of your tyranny—”
Then the channel seemed to change (this was, apparently, some thing based on radio waves). There were people signing ancient songs about freedom, happiness, etc…
Finally they came upon a government channel. The male newscaster said: “The entire galactic spiral is in the flames of revolution! All the planets in red here,” as a picture of the galaxy came up, “are destabilizing. Individual loyal yellows are almost impossible to see, and the largest group is in the Tricius Sector here.” He pointed at a barely visible section of yellow.
The TV thing shut down, and, while Keen gloated a little, the Necromancer was thinking deep thoughts. It must have been happening for at least an hour now…but nooo…Its Asetes’ fault, of course. That f00 thought I didn’t need to be pestered; that I was just a puppet who needed not know. He will be executed, of course…
He was suddenly aware, once again, of the kid that he had summoned to him. He opened his eyes.
“Yes?” Keen said. “Are you going to say that you can hold the galaxy and our ships off? I sure hope not, and doubt it.”
The Necromancer struggled to be cool and calm. “Yes,” he said. “The fleet that I had sent will be destroyed easily without support, to tell you the truth. But the revolutionaries have no ships of their own. All of them belong to us: the magicians, and the few they might have stolen cannot be a match for our own physical force, even without magic. And an attack upon this planet can only be in vain. When the people find out that your galaxy has attacked ours and gotten defeated, they will suddenly feel helpless in light of everything. They will be even more fearful, and, though we cannot, of course, execute all of them, we will not need to. They shall remember this forever, and remember that they are dealing with a force too strong to compete it, and too strong to be rescued from.”
“So we are dealing with a very balanced knife here, but one that can be easily turned to slaughter either of us? If we defeat you, your magicians will give up, and if you defeat us, your galaxy will give up?”
The Necromancer put his hand to his chin for a few seconds, and then said: “Yes, that statement sounds very accurate.
“In fact,” he continued, “I will humor you. Our duel shall be rescheduled, and I will let you live until you find out that everything you came here for was hopeless anyway…or the other way around, to make it fair. We shall accompany each other, and all the necessities of life are around the corner there, though I suppose you’ve already eaten…oh a bathroom too, yes.”
Keen might have been disgusted, or he might have been faking it.
The Break Through
“A teleport signature where he was.” Ensign Coarn concluded. “We’ve gotta make haste now, there’s no since of taking an entire fleet to search for him, and he’s probably at our destination, anyway.”
“Means a ransom? Or just a insurance so that we cant fire upon them?” The Admiral asked.
“Most likely, but Keen, of course, made it clear to us that we are not to allow him to be ransomed or make us hesitate to destroy the enemy.”
They were approaching the mother planet of magic in this galaxy now. Its sun was now relatively bright on the scopes.
There was a fleet defending the planet, and many of the smaller ships were heading toward them.
A swarm of enemies, like many annoying flies, attacked and fired magical rays. Plasma Cannons were fired back by the hundreds, and several of the enemies propped down in flames. More were coming directly from the main ships, though, which were floating in space above the shield.
“Crap,” the Admiral said as he thought this. “Charge up Tantalus, fire at the shield, right near the enemy main ships…NOW!!!”
Without warning, and without hesitation, the Tantalus Rays were charged (a period of five seconds) and shot at the shield. Before the enemies knew what was happening, the deadly planet-destroying laser hit…
…And the blast engulfed the entire enemy fleet. Temperatures of tens of thousands of degrees Celsius were attained, and none of them came back out.
At this, with the source destroyed, the small enemy ships stopped coming, and the current ones took nearly 5 minutes to destroy.
The fleet approached the shield.
The second siege was begun, between opposite forces. Tantalus Rays were fired, but the shield didn’t seem to care…it didn’t put up any radiation or evidence that stated that it was weakening, unlike the technological Vorticon one.
The Nulls used their phase field missiles to fire through the shield to destroy the generators, but, also unlike the Vorticons, there were many of them, neither one mattering but all combined, very powerful.
The Nulls fitted the phase field on a nuclear missile (advanced fusion this time, capable of blowing thousands of miles) and shot it through. They fitted another one, two others, and most of the shield generators were destroyed.
The Vorticons all fired their Tantalus rays at the same time. The others overloaded and they were through.
Ten minutes after the battle had started, they had apparently won!
“Are…are you sure?” Captain Frago muttered sadly.
“It sounds like robotic emptiness, just an assurance. But…we have no choice.”
The officers on the bridge sadly concluded their hero worship with cross-smiles.
“Prepare to move the fleet away.” The Captain called through the radio.
The Lieutenant on the firing controls hovered his hand over the red button. Now was the time; the time to destroy the foundation of the enemy…now! Now!!
And he hesitated.
The Admiral also hesitated, over what he should do at this moment. He made up his mind, and said: “I understand the strain you’re in. I will do it.”
And he took the controls (something someone of his rank hadn’t done for quite some time) and got ready…
But for what?
If I do this, I will be forever be remembered as the one who slew our hero. I will be remembered as the one who took the controls and performed this blasphemous act, despite that my crew could not.
He also hesitated.
The captain did not have the authority to take over command of the fleet, but he felt that he’d better do that at this moment.
“Soo…I guess your presence here did help the world after all,” said the Necromancer.
“Bah,” his companion said. “They should have just blasted. I told them to just blast, but nooo…”
“Never mind that.” The Necromancer said in a shuffle. “They wouldn’t have done anything anyway. You see this mist?” He pointed at the fog that penetrated the windows and went up the sky. “That inhibits enemy bombardment of nuclear or plasma weapons.”
“And,” he continued. “It just happens to be that my newest nightmare weapon is completed, in the nick of time.”
“Uh-huh,” Keen said.
“A television screen would be good to watch it.”
Keen cursed under his breath and said nothing.
With surprising speed, ships came down from space and started unloading their cargo of warriors and weapons. At every castle they landed, and were met by an army of knights…this time pretty much helpless against the onslaught. Magical weapons were almost no match for a volley of guns and occasional ninjas. Castles fell, even true magicians were defeated, and the whole damn thing was slowly falling into the hands of the invaders.
Meanwhile, up in the Vorticon Mothership, several high officials were having a meeting…
“This cannot be true,” said the Federation commander. “They can not be losing…so easily.”
“But it’s not your imagination, Ambassador,” said the Vorticon Admiral. “In fact, I would want to sip some fine alcoholic beverages right now, if I had the heart for it.”
Just then another Vorticon entered the briefing room and took control of the display screen. He started presenting with exitement (as a picture of the planet came up):
“We’re winning. So far their resistance hasn’t been worth anything. Castles are falling all over the planet. We’ve taken about 70% of them now.” An extremely large green area came up upon the world that was in the display, with the obvious signification.
“Several of them are holding out,” he continued excitedly. “This single fortress here (pointing), is one of them, very strange indeed. The largest area is around there, in the equator, with nearly thirty castles seriously resisting us, but we’ll be in soon.”
“Casualties?” The Null commander asked.
“Minimal. Nearly ten thousand, but it’s a world we’re talking about, not a small place to conquer indeed.”
The Null Commander nodded in agreement.
“Well,” the Vorticon Admiral decided to mutter. “How about some wine after all…”
And meanwhile, there was another meeting, between two much more knowledgable people. One of them was very confident and the other didn’t have any idea what to be thinking.
“You’re losing,” Commander Keen said.
The Necromancer shrugged. “I wonder what’s gotten to my engineers. They’re supposed to be finished right now, now!”
He seemed to be getting ready to call them when suddenly there was a Boom coming from the scene they were watching.
“Hmmm,” the magician master hummed. “Now what might that be…”
Suddenly, out of nowhere, huge lights, except that they weren’t lights, but darknesses, came out, bringing death and, even more so, superstition with them.
“Furrents,” Keen muttered, as someone who gravely dislikes a food or insect would say. “I hate Furrents.”
The Furrents on the screen, exactly like the shadows in Norp’s movie (could Yorps make nightmares come true? He would have to investigate that…) made Keen shiver, but that was only a memory effect, they weren’t really close enough.
“I do not like them either,” the Necromancer muttered, oblivious to Keen’s emotions. “They carry bad feelings with them,” he continued. “Plainly. That’s all they’re made of, and they’re annoying sometimes, even if they’re powerful allies…but—” He droned off.
Keen saw it suddenly: hundreds, thousands of Furrents, coming from apparently everywhere. The army retreated before them, and could not destroy them. In fact—
But something was happening!
Norp the dork (no, I mean Yorp) came out of a passenger ship that had just landed. But he was not alone. Something came out in back of him; an unusually large canine, though without its tounge licked out of anything like that. It walked down comfortably, then seemed to get agitated at sight of the Furrents.
“Hmmm,” the Necromancer said at this point. “They’re gonna speak, I’ll have to translate it through the TV, since they usually only communicate using thoughts and emotions…shuddering really.”
With a wave of his wand, a voice suddenly sounded. It was a very deep voice, croaking, but commanding at the same time. It spoke in a barely understandable accent…
“So…” it said. “This is the one who apparently sacrificed his life. I guess he will do it again, except that they’ll be nothing to sacrifice it for! Bwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwa.”
“Really?” Spot asked. “Do you really want to take that chance?”
“What chance?” More laughter, though it did not last long.
“For at that moment, the Yorp said “Up and at em, Sparky!” and the dog jumped up at one of the shadows and, breaking any law that Keen knew, started fighting with it, eventually biting it all over and making it tumble onto the ground. Norp, meanwhile, laser eyed two others (with an apparently more powerful laser). After ten more seconds all the Furrents were gone, the dead ones spreading their darkness to join the even greater one of space.
But, though this saved one castle, Keen had no doubts that Furrents were being dispatched too all of them, and there was only one Norp and one dog. Keen knew that something else would have to be done…
…And he would do it.
What? What was he thinking of? Why was he, of all the attackers (and mainly the magical ones) to be in a position to do anything?
Well, maybe because this boss of the enemy is sitting
right in front of me?
But how? He was in the right place, but with the wrong powers.
And then he realized that it all didn’t matter, as suddenly another layer of truth was revealed to him. The layer came from watching Norp fight, but also from everything he had saw: The Vorticons worshiping him, the high priest wanting them to be deceived…
That was not my battle. This is my battle!
And he ignored the Necromancer inquiring about whether the machine was holding due to the new improvements and receiving a yes.
“My very lame lord,” Keen said.
“It is over.” Then, unconsciously remembering what he just said, he added “It doesn’t matter…in fact, all the better for it.”
It was time.
Two ships suddenly flew over and came, quite unexpectedly, into the middle of the twenty castles that still resisted. One was picked, but not randomly. A shimmer of gold flickered in its place as they landed and opened its bridges to unload its troops. And true enough, the Vorticons who came out were the gold elites who had visisted Keen in his dreams, and would now visit him again. Vortininjas wearing gold jumped out from the top windows. Last to come out was Norp himself, and his inconspicuous looking dog.
They lined up in a very organized formation of triangles, and started onto the castle, approaching their destiny. Doors and windows were alike to them, and they marched in as the armory was drained and the battle began.
The Necromancer, for one, seemed genuinely surprised, and, though he tried to hide it, it shone like a glow in the darkness (measured through a time perspective, i.e. He wasn’t like this for all we can remember).
“What do you mean its over?” He said. “You’re mad, mad, boy.” This Keen sounded too much like he believed it…
“If you are afraid that this has been too much stress for me, I assure you that I have not become insane.”
“Thhhen…How?” Why was this guy so afraid? Did he already know what Keen was about to say?
“It is a matter of philosophy,” Commander Keen replied. “You probably know my accomplishments throughout the ages, if you study your opponents carefully, as most wise people do.”
“Yes, I know the ones that aren’t secret.”
“Then you know them all, for I have none that are not well published. I wonder if you’d take the time to analyze all the content, Necromancer. I’ve traveled to such and such a world and jumped across such and such a place and opened new paths so that I could come and go freely…” He sighed darkly. All the same things, over and over again.”
“It is very old,” he concluded with dissatisfaction.
“But I did not realize that, and then magic came into my life. I was…I was hopeless. Magic was an unidentified factor in all this…I cannot fight it.
“I knew it all the time, and went crazy when a book offered a possibility of what I believed to be a possibility: a solution. The Anti-Paradox field theory came…
“But then you also came. I don’t know if you know this…and don’t care, but at that point I was no longer the driving force. I was surrounded, and the real doers left me, to hide in my shadow. I didn’t get what could, what would, happen.
“But, throughout it, there was something that I didn’t realize. Something that I couldn’t realize. It had been there all along. It was the reason I had become famous in the first place, the reason for it all.
“It is the keen decisions, you see, that determine the outcome. The brain is my strength, and not my fighting. And knowledge is the next step; brains are. New inventions, cleverness…the true keen powers, are what makes the difference as it is.
“We have seen what your Furrents could do, sir, and now we shall see what turrents, or rather, turrets, can also do. And—”
But suddenly there was an interruption.
Ten Vorticon Gold Elites broke down the door with Hyperrifles and grenade launchers. They were closely followed by Vortininjas.
And the door on the other side broke down, making way for the mysterious dog, followed by Norp himself. With remarkable sureness, he took his place in the formation of Vorticons that was just created.
“Surrender now!” One of the Vorticons said.
Both the Necromancer and the Commander sighed.
Keen was the first to react after that.
“My friends,” he said. “I must congratulate you on finding me, way in these reaches in the middle of…this planet (he had almost said “nowhere”). But…you have come at the wrong time…it is OVER!”
The Vorticons looked at each other at this unexpected outburst. Norp gave a focused look and then became quizzical, as if he had just scanned for any sign of mind tampering and found none (and in fact that is a reasonable hypothesis).
Norp regained his senses, and said: “Tell us what you have to say, Billy.”
Billy didn’t wait. “The solution came a long time ago, in some ingenious thinking that I knew would be important but, strangely, never played any role in my travels. It was, of course, the book Origin of Curses, not the original, but the such-and-such version of it. No one talked about it when it came to the original, and I have but to know if today’s minds have the ability to come up with a spark of creative notion after all. I wish I knew the guy who thought of it. It states:
“Magic controls paradox by paradox.”
“Such a thing becomes obvious if one puts enough thought into it, but then again, very few people would. Nevertheless, it spawned the beginning of a solution. I began to think that it would lead to something.
“At that same time research was pouring into Anti-Paradox fields. They tried; experimented in an unlimited number of combinations, never knowing that the solution was staring at them right at their face, or on the tops of their heads anyway.”
At which point the Necromancer interrupted: “And what does this come to, Commander Keen? We know the truth: any anti-paradox field can be countered by a stronger piece of magic. We know that energy flows from our computers and transistors as well as it does from your nuclear generators, and we can enhance that by what you used to term as ‘supernatural means.’ So I ask why you are exited. No anti-paradox field you developed could possibly help.”
And Keen sighed as the excitement coming for weeks that had climaxed in the last few hours released itself. “My lord, we did not stumble upon the secret of the anti-paradox field. As my speech about creative thought undoubtably stated to you, we can not possibly do such a thing, sir. It is you who have stumbled upon the secret of the anti-paradox field, and it is that that shall liberate you from your undoing.”
They were two people, seated in not-so-comfortable conditions. One was trying to explain his knowledge to all, and the other was gloating over his confidence against that knowledge. There were others too; many guards supported one of them, but, even for their host, they were worthless nothings. What really mattered was that suddenly the appropriate person’s gloating had stopped and was replaced by doubt. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a low-pitched squeal and an air of questioning.
Keen spoke, replying to the unasked question. “Sir, none have stressed the obvious. We have tried to rebel, if you wish to use that word, with force fields, that is, the atom. Our theory was that, if the field was shaped in a certain way, it would do a job of blocking paradox. And it did, but, as it was, our limitations were clear. Force can be countered by more force, and now, finally, more force was present. We have found, throughout all our limitations; the theory of relativity, the size of the universe, and all of everything, that mere force has a limit. To break it, we have to bypass it, not make more.
“There is only one true anti-paradox field, Necromancer, that actually works. That is: the magical field itself.”
There was a deadly and shocking silence, even by those who already knew the answer and did not have to accept it. And meanwhile, Keen pulled up what looked like a remote control with an antenna. It would not be useful for this debate, but it would be eventually, in its own way.
It was finally broken by the obvious debater. “How…HOW? Magic is not an anti field; in fact it is essentially a paradox fie—
“Yes,” said Keen. “And in your researches, you have not only found the key to magic, but the shield to it too, since they are one and the same, under different points in the same dimension. And now…why, I don’t think I should call it ‘turret.’ Its basically only a relay that will access your computers and make them do the appropriate thing, but—”
And suddenly, several things happened at the same time. It would normally be happening faster than an average human could realize, but Keen seemed to see it in slow motion, and at the same time his body seemed to be locked into slow motion; not responding to his speeded up mind.
Without warning, the Necromancer’s wand flew up in a charge of magic, spun around three times, and launched itself into his outstretched hand.
Seeing this, the mysterious dog barked harshly, and threw itself at the Necromancer…
The spell he was aiming at Keen was broken when it hit the dog, and it apparently fell in blood.
Norp put his head on his eye, as if all the spell’s energies were being concentrated painfully through him. Then suddenly he looked up with a force and the same spell (same color anyway) launched from his eye and hit the Necromancer himself.
The target fell down in pain, bleeding.
And finally everything sped up in fast forward motion and Keen finally pressed a button on the remote.
A signal came from the remote, and got sent to the BwB Megarocket, where a transmitter lay. The relay that intercepted it intensified the signal, and put some series of codes into it. The signals then were sent, one final time, into the midst of the magical computer complex itself.
At the new programming, the computer started sparking, causing panic to Esher and all others working on it. Transistor processes resulted in negative results to counter the positive ones, paradoxes contradicted themselves, and everything that ever was, is, and will be about magic resulted in nothingness.
The effects spread not only through the programs, but through the magical dimension itself. What was something became nothing, and what was nothing became something. It continued on, altering paradoxes of all kinds, and finally the whole damn thing sprouted out of existence.
Norp put his hand to his head, as if he had just gone blind. And perhaps he had, perhaps he had.
The Necromancer lay there, alive without life, dead without death.
And he said, in one final hope; one final gamble, “What is that…thing you brought with you?”
The dog stopped bleeding and stood up. To the shock of Keen and maybe Norp, he said “I represent the entire universe of magic, where all the dimensions are in unity with it.”
The Necromancer, in even greater shock, grasped for his wand in one final wish. Keen knew that it’d be useless, so he didn’t bother to stop him. But he was not his target. Instead, the great wizard brought it to bear upon himself. There was one spark, and—
“My god, he’s dead!” Cried one of the Vorticons.
Keen shook his head in disbelief. He would need a lot of vitalin, and possibly everclear, after this.
He decided not to go on the everclear, what with being underage, but he did sip a very small cup of it. Hopefully that teaspoon wouldn’t make him too drunk to fly.
Earth was full of oceans on the window, and he was finally going home. Without ceremony, alas! He had only convinced the Vorticons to let him go by his “much needed rest.”
With him was Norp, who had not quite recovered from his loss. Earlier in this journey, the Yorp had asked: “Why? Why did all this have to be destroyed?”
Keen had replied “It is what you lost that will see what you shall gain. The Yorp species has much potential, I see. Magic can help, but it is a dead end, and shall become obsolete. You must learn to survive without it, and that shall be your victory; a victory you could not have achieved if you still had magical powers.”
“And what if we don’t survive?”
Keen had shrugged. “Darwinian evolution,” he said. “But I am sure you will. Your race, after all, destroyed the Garg tyranny that was dominating you. And before you ask, don’t say that it’s because of that spaceship that crashed into the king. The king isn’t the only Garg, and he would have been replaced, but for you guys, Spot. All that was done without magic.”
“Then how come we didn’t fight back when the king was still living?”
“Who knows? Maybe he was a special Garg. We probably won’t find out.”
And now Norp seemed to look, to concentrate upon something. Then it flashed before his eyes and he slumped again. He said smugly: “I thought I saw the dimension once again, but it passed before my eyes.”
Keen muttered something like “phantom limb.”
Keen spoke as he was piloting. “Oh, the phantom limb, that amputees get. They seem to feel that their hand is still there, for some reason or another, but it really isn’t.
“What?” Spot asked.
“Just maybe…you know, a dimension or reality destroyed isn’t exactly a light thing. There is probability; the probability that something has not been destroyed exists in one of the dimensions, I think. And maybe, just maybe, there is a certain probability…that you can precieve if you look at the right spots…Why…yes, I think it’s true.”
“You mean magic isn’t destroyed after all, but it’s a lot harder to use?”
“Uh-huh. In fact, I was hoping for something like this. It would mean there is a backup plan—”
The ship was beginning to reach the ground now. He could see the neighbors’ children playing endlessly. What luck they have, he thought to be ignorant of all this. To be ignorant of what the darkness has cost me…and Earth. But with knowledge comes responsibility, I guess. It becomes a burden.
There is also such thing as a lack of adventure in this universe, and they compensate by moving blindly, and even succeeding. Like those children down there. But I am through with that. The whole thing is over.
If he had his ninth birthday right now, it would have felt appropriate.
And he looked at his pet Yorp for one final question.
“Spot, why do you think the Necromancer got it on the first shot, if it’s very low probability?”
Spot shrugged gravely and said: “He was very skilled.”
“Yes he was,” said Keen without a trace of emotion, as the ship opened its docking clamps and prepared to land.