By Matt Hamilton (Mab)
As Norrin Radd glided through the depths of space, his intake of the
universe around him was not limited to the five senses that humans, or even Zenn-Lavians,
enjoy. Sensitive cosmic senses continually scanned in all directions, working on a
subconscious level. Originally his master Galactus had given him these senses to detect
the presence of life-rich worlds. Nowadays he used them to detect trouble.
At this particular moment, just like so many others, he was taking in the grandeur of the cosmos. As the stars streaked by, however, he became aware of a spike in the background cosmic radiation ahead. Not strong enough to be coming from a cosmic being like him, yet too strong to be the result of a solar flare or the like. A beacon, perhaps? Intrigued, he corrected his course and headed on to investigate.
"Ever the curious one," muttered the lone figure standing atop a city-sized asteroid. "Your contentment gnaws at the core of my being, Surfer. It's time we put a stop to it." A tattered cape flung around the humanoid form. For a second it was lost in the folds, and then nothing remained.
The Silver Surfer was on the asteroid within seconds. The cosmic
glow was gone, but he knew that there was something not right here. He dismounted from his
board, and knelt down, placing a gleaming hand on the ground below.
"The rock is but a façade," he thought. "There is some sort of containment unit buried within this asteroid!" With that, he stepped back onto his board, and pulled back a few kilometres.
"Let us pull back the veil!" he spoke, and spread his arms wide.
As if in answer, the rock began to quiver, and slowly crumbled to minute particles of dust, which floated harmlessly away. When the cloud cleared, an immense, crystalline, football-shaped object hung in space where the asteroid had been.
The Surfer landed once again on the object, and surveyed the newly revealed surface. "As I suspected, this is a vessel of some kind," he mused. "There doesn't seem to be an opening, but something drew me to this object, and I am determined to discover its contents!" With that, he focused a tight beam of cosmic energy on the crystal. Slowly he opened a hole wide enough to fit through, and flew inside.
"That's it, my Silvery friend. Onward and downward!" The shrouded figure sat untidily on a rocky throne. He seemed to be staring at an oversized crystal ball resting on a pulpit in front of him. "You made a terrible Zenn-Lavian - always too adventurous; too many human qualities. Who knows? Perhaps today that will be your undoing "
Within the crystal cocoon was what appeared to be a huge
life-support system. The strength of the shell had surprised the Surfer, and he had
noticed upon entering that it was blocking much of the cosmic radiation he needed to
absorb to keep up his strength. "It would be best," he thought, "if I find
what I am looking for and exit immediately."
He continued to the vessel's centre, where he found a coffin-like container attached to the life-support unit. A quick scan of the unit enabled Norrin to guess its workings, and he was able to duplicate the energies feeding into the container after he had disconnected it. Hurriedly he flew back to the hole he had made. Only to find that it had healed over.
He was trapped, and had barely enough power to burn through. He released the coffin temporarily as he gathered his strength, and began burning another hole in the shell. Slowly it widened, and he could feel himself weakening. When at last it was wide enough to fit his board, he fed it through and clambered after it.
He was halfway through when he felt a steely grip on his ankle.
The strength of the being inside would normally be no match for the Surfer. In his present weakened state, however, Norrin was able to do little to stop himself from being dragged back inside.
"To me, my board!" he yelled, and obediently the board flew back towards him. He grabbed it with both hands, and without conscious thought his molecular structure bonded with that of the board. There were few who could break that grip. Slowly he let the board pull him free of the crystal, ever aware that the grip on his ankle had not loosened. When he was sure he was well clear of the crystal cocoon, the Surfer turned and faced his antagonist.
The being was humanoid, although taller than a man by perhaps a foot. He seemed to be completely encased in a metallic-blue and ebon suit of armour, although Norrin was quite aware that this may indeed be the creature's true form - some sort of android. The Surfer was about to speak, when he was surprised to hear his attacker speak first:
"You will not escape me, wraith! I have been waiting here for almost a century, and I am eager to continue the hunt!" With that, he released the Surfer, pulled back, and reached over his own shoulder. From somewhere on - or in - his back, he pulled forth a staff of the same blue metal he was clad in. As he clasped it in both hands, it's end began to glow, forming a spear of energy.
"It is at last time again that you foul creatures felt the sting of my ionic lance!" he cried, and lunged at the Surfer.
"Hold!" shouted Norrin, as he pulled back onto his board. "I fear that you mistake me for someone else! I am the Silver Surfer, and I would know your identity!"
The creature withdrew into a guarded position, and looked the Surfer up and down. He reached for an apparatus on his belt, and pointed it at the Surfer. Norrin sensed that it was not a weapon, rather some sort of scanning device. As the scan proceeded, the creature spoke. "While my scanner determines whether you speak the truth, I will tell you who I am. Long ago my people were all but destroyed by a foul species to which I suspect you belong. To preserve our race, select members of our population had our essences transferred into these armoured bodies. We were known as the Spaceknights, and I am Gygus, last of their chapter!"
The scanning stopped, and Gygus looked up. "Enough talk! My scanner has confirmed my suspicions! You are indeed a Dire Wraith, and I will end your life forthwith!" He holstered his scanner, wielded the lance in both hands, and let loose a barrage of ionic energy at the Surfer. Weakened as he was, the Surfer could not withstand the assault, and was forced to pull back to a safe distance.
"The energy burns! This Gygus obviously has fantastic technology to harm a herald of Galactus! But I remember the Spaceknights, and I know that the Dire Wraiths no longer exist! Why would his scanner betray me so? Other forces must be at play here!"
His strength rapidly returning, the Sufer flew back to the cocoon and faced the knight. "I do not wish to fight you, Gygus! You are being deceived, and I would inspect your scanner before you continue with this foolish battle!"
"Spoken like a true wraith! Always the deceptor!" Again Gygus lashed out with his lance. This time, however, the Surfer was ready. A hastily erected shield of cosmic energy repelled the blasts. "Where do you get your power, wraith? I see no weapons!"
"As I said, knight, I am no wraith!" The Surfer focused on the scanner on Gygus' belt. "Now," he thought, "if he'll just hold still for a second -"
In a flash the Surfer was on the Spaceknight. He grabbed the scanner and pulled back before Gygus knew what was happening. "Return my scanner, beast!" called Gygus.
The Surfer studied the apparatus. It looked to be functioning correctly. However, there was something radiating from it that caught his attention. An energy signature that he recognized.
Norrin now recognized his predicament. Gygus was not going to see him as anything but a Dire Wraith, particularly now that the Surfer had handled his scanner! He needed some way to convince the Spaceknight of his identity.
"Listen to me, Gygus! You have been tricked by the King of Lies himself! Mephisto has lured me here and made you think that I am your mortal enemy!"
"Your lies bounce off me, wraith! Now prepare to die!" He flew towards the surfer, lanced pointed and preparing to fire.
"Enough!" cried Norrin Radd, and spread his arms wide. The Spaceknight was suddenly encased in a glowing capsule. "I have covered you in solid energy, knight, so that you may accompany me to learn the truth!"
D'gnarr stood up from his terminal, and removed his identity card
from its slot. He had suspected that the information he needed was stored in the Skrull
library computer, and he was not disappointed.
As he turned to leave, however, he was greeted by a sight one doesn't see every day on the Skrull homeworld.
Hovering behind him stood the Silver Surfer. Both enemy and saviour to the Skrulls - the herald had fought with them often enough, yet was responsible for the return of their shape-changing abilities. D'gnarr did not recognize the being that rode with the Surfer, and thought it best not to ask.
"Skrull," spoke the Surfer, "I am in need of your aid."
Gygus spent nearly an hour reading the Skrull's historical texts. He
learned of the crusade of the Spaceknights, and the defeat and the eventual genocide of
the Dire Wraiths. He looked down at his scanner, and back to the screen. Then he turned,
and faced his Silver companion.
"It appears that my scanner has lied to me, Silver one." He fumbled for words. Ever the chivalrous one, he rose from his chair and bent down on one knee. "Forgive me, friend."
"You need not ask for my forgiveness, Gygus," smiled the Surfer, "but tell me: What will you do, now that you have woken from your sleep? The wraiths are no more, and the Spaceknights are but a memory."
"Then I will make it my duty to keep that memory alive," declared Gygus. "When last I was awake, the universe needed all the heroes it could get."
"Some things never change," sighed the Silver Surfer.
In his fiery abode, Mephisto snarled. Once again his plans had gone awry. Still, there was always next time. He did, after all, have all eternity.
Be sure to also check out Matt Hamilton's Straight Lines!
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