Brainiac Five mumbled a string of numbers to himself, and shifted slightly on the ground, as Glorith continued her incantation. The fragments of the time sphere floated around her like a constellation, linked by sparkling lines of arcane luminescence, rotating around her as her voice steadily sang the notes of the spell she wove.
She heard Dream Girl cry out behind her, and moved to see the stricken Legionnaire’s back arcing as another vision of some terrible possible future wracked her body and soul. She felt a twinge of guilt, but steeled her resolve. The Naltorian and Coluan Legionnaires were the only two threats to her plan, and she had crafted spells specifically to turn their greatest assets against them, expanding Dream Girl’s consciousness to prevent her from filtering out the thousands of dead end prophecies and alternate timeline futures that lay ahead of her every moment of the day, trapping her in a cycle of endless visions, while similarly ‘enhancing’ Brainiac Five’s memory, so that he was stuck reviewing every moment of his life in excruciating detail. Even accelerated by the staggering power of his Coluan mind, it would take hours for him to complete this task, giving Glorith the freedom to draw upon the chronal energies saturating the shattered time sphere and use them to call Oaa back from the dead.
The words poured out of her like a living thing, as if the spell itself yearned to be cast, and her body hung suspended by the magic of the spell itself, until she could no longer feel the place where the magic ended and she began, all thrumming in time, a single organic machine bent to one purpose, like a spider trembling at the center of her web.
She found the technology the Legion relied upon to be alien, at first, but the time sphere itself, or it’s remains, in this case, were integral to her working, as was information coaxed from the perplexing and frustratingly organized computer systems. She had learned that, like most humanoid species, Jaquaans shed dead skin cells throughout their life, and that, in his tragically short life, Oaa had shed approximately ten pounds of tissue through this process, as well as likely many more pounds lost to medical testing and similar processes. Using the chronal energies of the time machine, and the small fragment of his silver hide that had remained after his death at the hands of the villainous Cosmic King, she would draw all of this lost tissue to this point in time, to recombine and form into the form of his infant body. Again, using the powers of the time sphere, she would cause the body to age prematurely, and grow to the cusp of adulthood, creating a suitable vessel to house his consciousness, grown from his own abandoned tissues.
Her divinations had failed to locate his spirit in the afterlife, but she was no expert in the arts of necromancy, and so she knew that she had to use this new body as a touchstone, an anchor, with which to draw his wandering soul back to the mortal realms. His spirit would be drawn inexorably to the new body, built cell by cell from his own cast off tissue, awaiting his return.
The silvery fragment of hide had grown warm in between her clasped hands, and she could feel the spell taking effect, reaching through time and space to draw the invisibly small cells left behind by Oaa’s passage through this living world to accumulate in a sparkly layer over the silvery tissue, dulling it’s brightness and causing it to take on a softer form, slowly transmuting and reconfiguring into a sad little homonculous of a thing, barely recognizable as the seed that would someday grow into a man. Her arms should be tired, and her voice raw, but she felt invigorated by these signs of success, and tears streamed from her eyes as she watched the tiny manikin develop visible legs and arms, it’s oversized head still only having suggestions of where there would be eyes and a mouth. The spell was now maintaining itself, power feeding upon power, like some arcane machine, and the silence as her voice fell silent was startling, so disconcerting that she continued to mutter the words unnecessarily, just to fill the void left behind by their absence. The figure continued to grow, and finally reached the size of a toddler, surprisingly advanced and fine of features, indicating that Oaa had lost more cellular tissue throughout his life than she had expected. The figure slumbered in her arms, lacking an animating spirit, and she suspended him in the web of arcane forces before her, allowing the light to cradle the small form and keep it safe, as she turned to the next stage of the spell, to speed the years forward and grow his body to that of the young man she remembered.
A gesture caused the tank of nutrient solution she had brought with her to amble forward, and send snaking tubes to join to the body suspended before her. If she were as powerful as her mentor, she could perhaps transform raw elements into sustenance for the rapidly growing body, but she was already going beyond any magical limits she had before matched, and she relied on technology to provide the nutrition and proteins and fluids necessary to fuel the magically-accelerated growth of Oaa’s new body. Perhaps her mentor would be proud that she had so integrated the cold iron magic of science into her great working, perhaps not, but it was a necessary thing, as she knew that she must husband what remained of her strength now to send forth the call for Oaa’s soul to return to his flesh.
Long minutes passed as her will maintained the spell, drawing upon the powers of this time-violating machine to cause cellular growth and division. Oaa’s body twitched and shifted as it drew fluids and nutriment from the machine’s, and grew so swiftly that she imagined that she could see the changes right before her eyes. Finally she released her concentration and slumped slightly as the weight of the young man’s body finally rested fully in her arms again. She lowered him carefully to the workbench, and draped her robe over his nakedness. The web of light flickered and faded, and the many dozens of fragments of the time sphere lowered to the ground, spent of their energies.
It was only now, no longer surrounded by a web of magically-orchestrated chronal energies, that a similar source of power drew her attention. A unfamiliar voice, rough and deep, startled her as she turned, hands flying into defensive positions, although she knew that she lacked the energy for a serious confrontation.
“It is an impressive working, Legionnaire.” said the gruff voice, as she beheld the form of her former playmate, Harlack, now a grown man, as muscular and intimidating as any of his race, clad in rune-inscribed armor and robes similar to her own and cast in shadows.
“Harlack! How is this possible?” she began, shocked at the changes to his appearance, and suddenly fearing that she had somehow failed her spell, and thrust herself decades into the future.
The Khund laughed suddenly, surprising her, “You recognize my sire in my features. I am honored to be Tondark, son of Master Mage Harlack. I have come from the future to witness this moment, and to warn you not to proceed.” the large man said with a slight bow, his eyes never leaving her upraised hands.
Her arcane sight keenly attuned to temporal forces, Glorith felt the chronal energies eddy and swirl around him cautiously, like beads of water skating across a hot surface, marking him as an outsider to the Eternal Now. She recognized as well that, while he bore Harlack’s features, his skin was slightly darker, as was his braided hair. Clearly he spoke the truth about having crossed through time magically, and she recognized that this feat was beyond her. If indeed he had performed such a working himself, she was far outclassed, and yet, perhaps he was as depleted by his workings as she by hers? “You will not stop me. I have come this far to see a life unfairly taken restored, and I will defy you with all the powers at my command!”
“I raise no hand against you, Legionnaire,” the Khund said simply, raising a magenta hand to activate a series of warding spells that she watched warily as they delineated a ritual space, cutting off the laboratory from outside forces. It seemed eerily like a dueling circle, where two wizards would pit their forces against each other, and she drew a breath in warning as forces coalesced around her hands like serpents.
“The warding is to contain evil, not to restrict your movements,” the Khund said simply, drawing forth from his sash a red crystal which filled her with anxiety. She did not recognize the crystal, it should have meant nothing to her, but she felt some premonition of disaster, and her hands trembled with the urge to sunder it to dust with a spell. Years of training and discipline allowed her to recognize that this feeling was a false sending, and she gritted her teeth and asked, “What is that thing,” while her nerves screamed to destroy it, and her hands trembled with the exertion of containing the forces she had gathered.
“The shadows know it for what it is,” he said simply, and the crystal remained floating in the air as he released it from his grasp. The wards at the edges of the room flared, as some force tested them, and she realized that *something* was present, and trying to escape, as the crystal’s light grew brighter, casting the room in an eerie red light. Terror floated across her, but, to her arcane sight, she recognized that the Khund spoke truly, and that the only magics upon the crystal were to bind evil spirits.
A scream passed through the air, although she heard it with her soul, instead of her ears, and the crystal grew dark and fell to the floor with a clunk. The fear had gone in the wake of whatever force the crystal had drained from the room, and she uncoiled the energies she had gathered, allowing them to return to their resting place in her aura.
“You will explain these deeds,” she said, hoping that her voice carried the confidence that she lacked. Suddenly, the events of the day seemed far more fatiguing than before, when she was heady with success, and she feared that the source of that energy was not entirely of her own doing.
The armored alien sorcerer knelt down and grasped the crystal, now black and pulsing with some confined malevolence. “Years before you came to join the Legion, another man did, displaying powers of illusion, which came from a corrupted malevolent spirit that had possessed his body. The Legion managed to drive the possessor from the body of this ‘Command Kid,’ and return him to his home, but the spirit itself drifted free, unable to possess the forms of the native humans and resident aliens, or to leave the magical biosphere of Earth itself.” He turned the crystal over in his hands, and returned it to his robe. “This ‘demon,’ as it fancied itself, could only show it’s images to the minds of those deeply asleep, as twisted dreams, and, through this medium, spread wickedness and discord for its own amusement, causing lovers to dream of infidelities, the antisocial to dream of revenge, and the proud to dream of oppressing those they saw as lesser than themselves. A hundred crimes, small and large, can be attributed to the dark dreams in the night that this creature has whispered to those unable to resist its pleas.”
“It has been in your dreams, young one, and it has touched them and twisted them, so that instead of seeing the noble sacrifice of Oaa for what it was, and being proud of his heroic nature, you awaken chilled at the injustice at it all. This demon wanted nothing so much as to possess a body again, so that it might exercise it’s full power upon the world, and, in your dreams, it found a vehicle for these ambitions. Once you began to reach out for the soul of Oaa, opening this body up to be filled, the darkness would instead slither into this fine vessel you have crafted, trusting to its own skills at deception and powers of illusion, as well as your own exhaustion, to maintain the charade of being your friend, returned to life.”
Glorith processed this quietly, filling with anger at the thought of having been used in this fashion, but eager to seize opportunity. “And yet, the spell can now be completed. With the dark entity imprisoned, I can summon the soul of Oaa to this body.”
“You have, of course, contacted Oaa’s spirit and ensured that this is what he wishes as well?” the alien warrior-mage said in the tone a teacher would take with a student.
Bristling at the implications, Glorith stood her ground, “I have tried, but I am no necromancer, and if his spirit is dispersed or has travelled far from the site of his death, it would be beyond my skills.”
Tondark smiled and nodded, “I am a necromancer, and I assure you that you have not failed, because Oaa’s spirit has not passed on to any afterlife that our magics can reach.” A gesture causes light to shimmer and play above his palm, and the image of Oaa’s death is replayed, a quiet and unreal seeming mockery of the actual events of that terrible day. “His body was transformed, and the results were explosive, as the hydrogen gas ignited and scattered his spirit across the room, sundered into ten thousand fragments. His powers should have allowed him to survive in a gaseous state, as they had before, but the effects of the explosion, dispersing his body, sent him into a catatonic state. His spirit has not passed on, because your friend yet lives, in a comatose state, drifting across the world as trillions of atoms of hydrogen, unable to recombine or awaken.”
Glorith slumped at the thought. The chronal energies she had tapped from the time sphere’s broken shards would be of no use in calling together a vast cloud of hydrogen from across the world, and the body she had worked so cleverly to assemble was meaningless, as Oaa’s true body remained present in the world, if transmuted into a state which could neither be seen nor felt. “There is no hope,” she muttered, shuddering as if the room had suddenly grown chill, and casting a glance at the body of Oaa she had grown, breathing quietly behind her, as if merely asleep.
“Neither you nor I has means to draw his components together, but perhaps, with assistance, you can *awaken* him, and allow him to reconstitute himself?” Tondark says.
The weight of the day rises from her as she seizes on this new hope. “Together, we can…”
“No. I have done all I can do, in coming to this time and imprisoning this spirit. My power was all-but spent when I arrived, and this time is resisting my presence with ever-increasing force.” the alien sorcerer says, cutting her off. “The help you need is in this room,” he adds, gesturing at the Coluan sitting like a broken puppet in the corner, reliving every moment of his life at a thousand times speed.
Glorith felt small and out of her depth again, having never considered how she would respond to her teammates after failing in this task. Had she succeeded, she could have pointed to Oaa reborn and said, ‘It was worth it!’, but now, she had to awaken her bespelled colleagues and ask for their assistance to complete a task that led her to deceive and assault them in the first place… All her success once again turned to ash in her mouth, in these few moments, her pride stripped bare and recast as arrogance.
“There are many Titanian refugees on Earth these days, looking for meaningful work,” Tondark says, as if out of the blue, “with the Coluan guiding their efforts, I’m sure they could reach the slumbering mind of your friend…”
A rise in chronal energies startles Glorith out of her doubts and she looks up to see the Khundian warlock fading from view, the forces of this universe pushing the irritant away and back to its proper place in the timestream.
“Haven’t you changed the past?” she asks suddenly as he recedes across incomprehensible gulfs of space and time.
He smiles and is steady for a moment, as if the world has paused to allow him a response, “Our records of the past indicate only that you were stopped this day. For all I know, I have just followed a predestined path.” He flickers again, and space itself seems distorted in his presence, as if reality bends at his weight. “I must go, before my presence causes more harm than good. It was an honor to meet you…”
Like an iris, space folds in around him and he is gone, before she can hear his final word.