Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

Captain Comet in:

The Wandering Ruin

by "Murmur The Fallen"

Blake hadn't bothered naming the planet yet. Despite the noxious atmosphere there was a chance that sentient life was there. He had seen life flourish in stranger places: beautifully contorted towers rising out of the centers of black holes and glittering crystal palaces sliced between the hearts of stars.

Out of sentiment Blake still kept his ship's chronometers on Greenwich Mean Time and on the Earth's calendar system and had been amazed at just how much time had passed since he had been on Earth last. When he had first gone to space and breathed in the air on alien worlds, there was always a strange taste of something foreign biting the edge of his tongue. But now he hardly noticed it. And, from the news that he had gleaned from travelers and nomads such as he, Blake knew that he would feel even stranger on Earth than he did on worlds whose natives resembled humanity in no way or upon worlds whose natives' differences between themselves and humanity was a certain unreachably different quality to their thoughts and cultures.

With practiced ease Blake put on his large red space helmet and with a thought sent an electric impulse into his ship's computer, actuating the teleportation system, sending him down to the planet's surface.

In the eternal instant of perfect white that lay on the outside of the universe, Blake existed completely still. Adam Blake was a mutant, a human whose traits were thought to have been a potential precursor to future humanity, his birth heralded by a strange comet. His genius was obvious from his birth, but the stranger talents had not shown themselves until he was in his twenties. The powers of the mind were his, telepathy and telekinesis, and his body was made faster, stronger, more resistant to temperatures and pressures, able to maintain homeostasis under extreme and prolonged circumstances. His body was ideal for space. And so he had gone there, and made a home there. But not before making some small impact as a hero on Earth.

After a brief stint with an alien police force, Blake returned to space, the hunger for new experiences causing him to venture further and further away from the known routes. The familiar, relatively-nearby galaxies were behind him and he ventured to the far places. Blake was surprised and pleased by the variety of experience this voyage afforded him.

Though of prodigious mental abilities, Blake was unable to travel intergalactic distances using only his powers, of course. Rather, he used a spaceship of a sort. He called it the Cometeer, the fifth, or possibly sixth of that name, a vessel that was as far removed from the first Cometeer as it was from the unshaped rocks thrown in anger that were its distant ancestors. To any outside observer it was a softly glowing object much like a roughly cut diamond, but this hid the true dimensions of his craft, a trail of softly lit afterimages following behind its movement much like a comet's tail. It was his own solar system, powered by an unfamiliar star and with more land than a billion, billion Dyson Spheres stretching outward like a multitude of glittering wings, a Fractal World hidden in its own universe. Blake could no more bring his ship onto a planet than he could dance on the head of a pin. Much in the same way, Blake could no more survive some of the extreme environs that he often exposed himself to than an ordinary man without the protection afforded by his suit. He had designed it with Robert A. Heinlein's story Have Spacesuit, Will Travel in mind, the cover of the first edition his father had bought him still vivid. And so his suit was bulky, not at all streamlined like the costume he had worn in his home galaxy but more reminiscent of that which he wore when he first decided to do good, fitted with emergency gadgets and survival gear and weaponry. He didn't need it to be sleek, just tough. Space was glorious but dangerous and only a fool had no redundancies in place.

There; now; Blake arrived on the planet and was shocked by what he saw. Towering structures of incredible beauty lay scattered, toppled all about him, their ruins holding that ineffable quality of grandeur and an almost holy beauty still and dwarfing him into silent humility even now. A once great and proud people had lived on this planet and built wonders but were now obviously gone to where dead peoples went.

Then Blake's eyes widened, for he realized something about those gone people; if the scales were correct, then they truly did dwarf him by a factor of at least a hundred. Then he narrowed his eyes, and noted clues that in his surprise and delight and sadness at this strange dead world he had observed only subconsciously. This was a newly killed world, relatively. As much as a couple of years, perhaps only as little as a few months, before had this been a living world of giants. It was impossible to tell how long ago it was without taking samples and making forensic analysis; it was obvious that the fouling of the air was new and though the structures were hardy the corrosive nature of the atmosphere gave the ruins an aspect of age.

There were signs of war, perhaps from without, perhaps from within, though given that they were as far as he could tell on the edge of all things and neighbors few and far away, it was likely from within. He mourned the passing of these people whom he had never known and would now never know, wishing that he had come sooner and possibly helped them to avoid their ignominious end as he had done before on other worlds.

Before he began the autopsy of the planet, Blake decided to look for survivors. There was a chance that some had survived the ruining of their world; he had seen it before. Hope was never misapplied, though disappointment needing guarding against.

Blake decided to use his powers to fly around the world and use senses both artificial and natural to search the world. And soon enough he came upon a single solitary Brobdignagian. He was a biped, and incredibly human in appearance if one discounted his incredible size. He was a deep electric blue, an energetic appearance that gave the impression that while he was the same all the way through his being and not merely skin-deep. Lightning arced across his black-clad body and his surroundings. Despite holding himself perfectly still, this blue giant gave the impression that he was always moving. With eyes of blue-tinged white the giant turned his attention to Blake. When the man tried to read his mind for communication purposes all he got back was sparkling blue.

"My god," whispered Blake.

"Greetings," said the blue giant. His voice crackled and sparked as he spoke.

Marshalling himself in the face of such an overwhelming figure, Blake returned the greeting. "Hello. I am Adam Blake, called Captain Comet, of Earth."

"I am the Glimmer and I know of Earth and its armies and champions."

Blake smiled, but then frowned a bit quizzically. "Are we speaking or telepathically communicating?"

"Either, both. I know no barriers, not mind nor speech."

"What was this place called?" Blake asked, but for all his directness he asked it with a certain circumspection and delicacy.

"This was once Wonderworld, base planet of the Theocracy, which patrolled space-time and protected it from the archeo-technology that lies fitfully chained in the Abyss beyond the rim of existence. Champions from tens of thousands of worlds came to Wonderworld to defend all life. Only, in our greatest challenge, we failed in our sacred charge and fell to warring amongst each other. Our minds, which in our hubris we thought unassailable, fell all too easily to the toxic presence of the Anti-Sun. And so Wonderworld is no more, Omnitropolis is in ruins, the moons that rose from giant columns along the axis mundi sheared away by cosmic friction. Where it once strode vigilantly, it now wanders," pronounced the Glimmer.

"I have heard of Wonderworld and the good it did," said Blake. And with the same mixture of tact and forcefulness he asked, "How did you come to survive?"

In that same booming sonorous thunder the Glimmer said, "Long before the coming of the Anti-Sun, the twisted primal demon of the Anti-Spirit realm waged war on all existence, annihilating spirit with anti-spirit to empower himself and the dread weaponry he plucked from the depths of the Abyss. Using the power and speed that is my right, I sacrificed myself to destroy the weaponry of Anti-Spirit. Lost was I, skirting the interface of existence and the Abyss, hearing the loosening chains and horrible rumblings of the Anti-Sun, beyond the reach of even my Hyperwheel. It was only ended by the coming of a champion from Earth, one Flash, who took me to his planet via a circuitous route through the Hypertime and told me of the fate of my home. There I helped to empower the armies of man and defeat that which was the killer of my comrades."

Blake nodded; he had heard of a terrible destroyer that threatened the universe being stopped at Earth; more than one, come to that, but that was Earth.

"I returned here, after searching through much of space-time, to find the ruins of Omnitropolis and the scattered, rotting bodies of my poor comrades. And so I have buried them in the grand mausoleums and waited."

"Waited for what?" asked Blake.

"For you." The Glimmer seemed not to have moved at all, but rather with a soft blur of indigo light the world restructured itself into the Glimmer sitting upon a fallen column as if he had been thus since the beginning. "You are the Comet; this I know. Though the great threat of the Anti-Sun is gone, and no beast in the Abyss matches its evil and destructiveness, still is there terrible death machinery from the previous universe lying within the Abyss, waiting to break free. I will not leave this murdered world, for my time is now gone. We will sit and we will speak and we will wait."

"Wait for what?"

"Until another monster is loosed from its cage and goes through the universe doing what it was built to do. You will go before it to worlds that lie in its path, a fiery herald warning those peoples you find of the evil that shadows you. And you will join those peoples together to save their lives and destroy the beast. And then you will come here again and we will sit again and we will speak again and we will wait again."

Blake said nothing. By this time he had gone down upon the ground and moved away from the Glimmer enough to reduce his size. Blake sat down. They began to speak. They began to wait.

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