Silver Surfer: Playing God - Part Two of Two
Written by Rick Lundeen, Edited by James
(continued from Playing God Part 1)
The friends I had known for so many years were now isolating themselves from me. They were making weapons in which to defend themselves. Against me. There seems to be a universal constant in that "you shall fear and hate that which you do not understand." It's quite common that I would experience more of this than most beings, considering my previous occupation. I did not hold it against these fine people.
It did present me with a problem though. I was ready to spend the majority of my remaining days here with these friends. Perhaps someday, I would even have taken a wife. This place was very special to me and now, not only had I destroyed my reputation here, but any 'stranger' who may ever set foot on these lands will be looked upon with far more suspicion. In one small step, I'd taken away these peoples' innocence. I found myself with nowhere to go...no one I could trust. Except one.
Bahrnul was a philosopher who, on several occasions, actually made me laugh. I speak the truth. He had told me of love's many quirks and taught me a number of things that I will always bring with me wherever I end up in the cosmos. One night, as I lay amongst the heavy shade trees near the outskirts of town, Bahrnul approached me. His expression spoke volumes. He stood before me and voiced his concerns.
Are you the man I knew? The man I spoke to for hours on end, night after night over bottles of Zhin wine? He asked.. Are you Norrin Radd?
I have and always will be Norrin Radd, my friend, I said, trying to reassure him, I simply tried not to alarm you with my true appearance.'
He nodded his head, it seemed to appease him somewhat. He sat down next to me. We looked at the city for quite awhile and when enough time had passed, we spoke of crops and people, beginnings and endings, humanity and the power cosmic. We spoke longer that night than ever before. I smiled when he brought out the Zhin wine and we talked and talked and talked.
Bahrnul told me of the townsfolk and what the mood was like there. I said that I understood and could appreciate their apprehension, their fear. I'd seen it before, a hundred-fold. I told him of my plans to move on and he disagreed with my decision vehemently. He said the townsfolk would come around eventually and I should stand my ground and wait. In truth, I wasn't in any hurry to do anything at the moment, so I agreed to wait and see.
Over the days that followed, more and more people were brought to me by Bahrnul and when any of them would protest, he'd either cuff them on the neck or just shame them about their attitude. He really was working above and beyond the call of duty on my behalf. Although, it was difficult to tell, Bahrnul was one of the elders of the town (the black, bristly hair and pale, taught skin seemed to change only slightly as the majority of years went past for the Elysians) and he generated more respect than almost anyone. He asked if I would help with various chores for certain people as an act of good faith, acts that would be easily manageable with the power cosmic but would be impossible for the ordinary Norrin Radd I had presented to them before. I of course agreed to anything that would help mend the situation as long as the people themselves didn't mind. Over time, uneasy friendships had been struck with people who had been the best of friends with me not too long ago. I believed, given time, that things may have worked themselves out. I might still have been able to call this world my own. Perhaps I was too naive.
On one particular afternoon, I had been working to construct a silo for one of my new/former friends with the power cosmic when a construct of roughly humanoid proportions materialized at my side. I asked the construct to identify himself. Greetings, Norrin Radd. I am WORLDSHIP. I come in advance of......GALACTUS.
In orbit around Elysia, I viewed the entirety of "Worldship". It truly was a massive construct, nearly the size of Galactus' home itself, some 500 billion parsecs from that very spot in which I stood. The 'humanoid' messenger reminded me of the main computer on that of Jupiter's Titan moon, 'Isaac', to an extent. A rather thin frame with the mechanical equivalent of pronounced cheek bones and brows. I'd wondered if this was intentional or by chance, as I stood looking at the main body of the ship. More than anything else, it reminded me of a either a short sword or a rather long hunting knife with very few protrusions except for the rear of the ship, with it's varied propulsion/ion drive sections. It seemed to be built primarily for speed but knowing my former master as well as I did, there was much more to this ship than mere speed.
"Galactus will be consuming this planet, former herald. You may take one standard day to settle your affairs and depart.", Reported the ship's primary digital communicator which I'd attached to myself for a dialogue in an effort to reason with it.
"Professional courtesy, construct?" I enquired.
"Negative. It will be one of this planet's days before the master arrives to do what he must."
"Ah, I see. You realize that I cannot let Galactus take this world? That I will do everything in my power to stop him?" "Worldship realizes this fact. Worldship is also aware of the level of power cosmic the Silver Surfer holds and knows that it cannot defeat you in battle. Galactus will however, defeat you and consume this world. There is nothing you can do to prevent this course of events." I saw at that moment that he was right. There was no help to be found on the surface and the nearest planet would be days away even at my fastest speeds.
"Go to Galactus and tell him I await him, construct." I turned and headed back to the surface. The Worldship did as I said and it was gone. That night, as I lay in my usual spot, all I could think of was that I was tired. One of the most powerful beings in the galaxy and I was about to be brushed aside like a bothersome flea, simply because I had to cosmically 'paint myself in a corner' as it were. Were I on most any other planet, I might seek help in one of the other star systems. Not here. Other worlds might have a way of evacuating into space. Not these people. Even if I had the energy needed to create ships for all these hundreds of thousands of beings, I wouldn't have enough to enable them to survive the long trip. In truth, most would die from fear, if not from old age. Enter Bahrnul.
"Greetings my friend! I see it's another night of contemplation for the traveler of stars, eh?" He chuckled as he sat down beside me with a fresh bottle of wine.
"Yes, I'm afraid I've a lot to think about tonight, old friend..." 'Should I tell him', I thought? What purpose would it serve? Would he really want to know that he'll most likely be dead by this time tomorrow night? I could not bring myself to tell him.
"You rushed off mighty fast today during the building of the silo, Norrin, is....something wrong that we should know about?" He was good, I had to give him that. Even though Worldship appeared only to me, with full psionic dampening shields so no one else would see it, somehow, Bahrnul knew.
"My friend, you know us space travelers, we're an eccentric bunch. Listen, perhaps you've had a bit too much Zhin tonight. Why don't you go home and rest?"
"Very well, my friend, I'll take that advice" He slowly got up to go and just before he left the edge of the field, he turned. "You know something, my friend?" he said quietly, "Whether you're Elysian or not, I feel I know you pretty well, after all this time. Whatever it is, I know you'll do the right thing. I'm happy to have been your friend." With that, he turned and left.
In that moment, I knew what I had to do. Give Galactus what he wants.
When I began that final day, I fully expected the weather to reflect my mood. I wasn't disappointed. It was dreary outside. I said my farewells to some of the people I had known, those who still excepted my friendship and even more who had turned their backs to me due to recent developments. Again, I could not blame them. I had gone to see Bahrnuld, only to find that he had passed away during the night. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't very surprised. I'm not sure what I really felt. I was numb. I looked to the overcast skies and ascended.
Upon reaching the upper limits of the atmosphere, I saw the giant orb which was the traveling base of my former 'master', Galactus. Farther into the distance was Worldship. Silent. Processing. Scheming? Unknown. Surprisingly, Galactus was the first to speak.
"You have not departed, my former herald. Do you truly intend to do battle with Galactus?" Behind him, Worldship had initiated weapons systems. It was the moment of truth.
"No," I said calmly, "nor have I come to let you casually rape this world's abundant life energy." I was unable to tell if the slightest hint of expression on his face was irritation or amusement but knowing the world-devourer as I did, I knew that my imagination must have been playing tricks as Galactus was allegedly above common emotion.
"You speak...as if you've a choice, Norrin Radd. WORLDSHIP!" The next instant, the artificial herald moved into an attack position and energized it's weapons. Moving quickly, with the power cosmic at my disposal, I tried an often unused method for battle. One nanosecond before the firing of it's main guns, I had placed an ion pulse shield around the whole of Worldship. It halted it's attack immediately, recognizing the shield for what it was. Had it fired, it would have damaged itself beyond repair. Galactus was unmoved.
"I have a proposition for you." Would he listen to reason? Would he destroy me on the spot? No, he would surprise me once again.
"Yes, Galactus accepts you as his herald once again. That was your proposal, was it not?"
"Now, more than ever," I muttered, "Galactus does indeed know all. Am I that transparent?"
"The situation is. You, Surfer have always been a soul who has given of himself no matter the cost. This time is no different."
"I am curious as to your seeming unconditional acceptance. Make no mistake, I will not willingly have my memory tampered with as was the case in the beginning. I believe that I can lead you to several different spiral arms of this galaxy alone that will not compromise sentient life." Being bold has never been a particularly successful gambit with Galactus but I felt at the time, I had nothing to lose.
"Beware, my herald. Galactus has no need of a conscience. It would only impede that which Galactus is. What happens on that fateful day when we arrive at a world whose destruction offends your sensibilities?"
"If my plan is successful, that may not happen for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. This is why it is vital that my mind be my own. In this way, I can plan ahead, charting a course for you to many of the uninhabited planets that I know of. While you sustain yourself with them, I would travel to inhabited worlds and give what warning I can. If these inhabitants can leave, I will show them it is imperative that they do so.
"In other cases, with outside aid, it may be possible to evacuate planets who do not have the capabilities to do so themselves. But it is very possible to bypass the senseless deaths of so so many. I've seen so much, encountered so many. The Silver Surfer does not travel for the centuries he has without observing the universe around him!"
Silence. Galactus pondered. A moment passed. Then another. "Very well. This plan has
merit. If you are content in your duties, Galactus need not worry about treachery at every
new planet Galactus travels to. Indeed, treachery has abounded in most heralds that have
been in Galactus' service. No herald has been as valuable to Galactus as you, Surfer.
Almost every other has been
tainted with true evil, or some aspect of .....emotion that has been anathema to Galactus." Was it my imagination, or did Galactus actually seem ...sad at that moment? Was it Nova who he spoke of? I decided it was wiser not to ask.
At that moment, the unexpected had occurred. Worldship had produced a proton cutting beam that was slowly penetrating the ion pulse shield that surrounded it. When it did, it sliced through the vacuum of space, centering on a spot right between my eyes. Another millisecond and I would have been dead if not for the another ion pulse shield formed directly in front of my face.
"No one harms the herald of Galactus! Especially another herald. SO SPEAKS GALACTUS." The feedback from the proton beam lanced back, destroying the warp-core of Worldship. For a second, the explosion was brilliant and blinding. Worldship was no more. Galactus absorbed the energy from the blast. He turned, going back to his ship.
"Come, my herald, we have much to do and you have much to prepare." With that, was within his ship, awaiting my lead. It was gratifying that the energy from Worldship would now sustain Galactus until we reached the first of the new worlds I'd had in mind. At that moment, I felt a sort of peace. If my plan truly worked and I believed it would, I could protect the future of an untold number of worlds. Not having to worry about someone leading Galactus to world after world, caring nothing for life itself.
Perhaps if it works out satisfactorily, some day I'll come back to Elysia and visit the ancestors of my friends. I will be interested to see how I'll be thought of through time, if remembered at all. What I do now, I do for Shalla-Bal, Bahrnuld and those like them. But most importantly, I do this for me. And the stars streaked by.
Hope you enjoyed this special reprint of one of our first fan fictions! Now, go check our WarlorTVor's sequel to Playing God, titled Tainting Eden.