Back to the Series & Stories Page · Back to the Omega Home Page
THE KILLER OF GODS
by Matthew Rossi
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
The broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
I know I'm heading for the bottom,
But I'm riding you all the way
And death shall be no more;
Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne, Death, Be Not Proud
Eric felt the last Marn die. He could have saved it, but its dying thoughts were full of the thoughts of ending, it did not want to live with the rest of its race dead, and he respected its wishes. Now he was alone, staring at a dead world, an artificial construct that had outlasted its makers. And he didn't want to leave the entire race to rot.
But what could he do? He didn't have time to dispose of them all. The armor he wore, that artifact of the Harrakin Royal Caste, was still scanning through the records of the Harrakin Empire for some entry that would tell Eric what this God Killer the Marn had mentioned was. The armor stored nearly the entire records of the Empire. Amazing what technology can do, Eric thought as he stared at the scintillating skin of the machine world. He let his mind bend, feeling along the very molecules of the planet, searching for an answer. And then he felt it, the buried power source of the planet, sheathed in the glittering metal skin. An enormous fusion reactor, almost a mini-star, blazing away. Generating enough power to continually run the world. There were, of course, tens of thousands of safeguards to ensure that nothing could go wrong.
In a blaze of green light, Eric released them. All of them. Then he flew away from the tomb of a world, knowing that it would take a few minutes for the reactor to consume the metal husk. Once he was a hundred million or so miles away, he turned to watch. The same silvery ball hung before him for a few moments. Then a sudden shock of light, and a yellow-red tide surged over the silver, consuming it. A protostar formed. A fitting pyre for a world.
The armor began feeding images into Eric's mind. Images of a time in Harrakin history when a being attacked Harra Prime. The then-Emperor, ancestor of the being now on Harra's throne, lead a massive army of about a million against it...and almost all of them died. They managed, barely, to drive it away, and even the Emperor had been mortally wounded. By the Void-Beast, a black shape with stars in its mass like a shard of the ebon come to terrible life. It flew in a massive craft built of rubble and wreckage nearly fifteen miles wide.
Eric realized that he was only a few weeks from Earth.
That thing was heading away from the core of the Galaxy.
Earth was in its way.
Anything that got in its way died. The Harrakin lost millions fighting it, with superpowered troops and starships.
Earth didn't have a chance.
All of these thoughts ripped the hesitation out of him in seconds. He was no longer reluctant to go home. He HAD to. He had to catch the thing and destroy it before it got to Earth.
Instead of the exhausting process of ripping a portal in space, which would get him there instantly but might leave him unable to fight, Eric simply employed a trick he'd learned. He envisioned the universe as a mass on an axis around him. Then he moved that axis, faster than light. He knew it was a lie enabling him to get around the problems he had in defying the laws he'd known, getting around Einstein. He didn't care. The trick worked. He bullshitted the universe. It moved.
Eric followed the black empathic null-wake of the creature, that killed worlds and their gods.
The planet Wolda spins around a blue-green mid-size star some 22 light years from Earth. It was a beautiful, serene world, whose culture was based on a kind of Ancestor worship. When the Ancestors died, they imparted their essence in a kind of ritual, collecting their energy in special crystals. If Allan Covenant saw it, he might call it magic. If Free Spirit saw it, he might say it was the pure elemental power of life. The power was venerated and utilized with great care by the Wol, who picked special members of their races to handle the power. These Wol were called Maaranth, and were similar to priests, and scientists, and leaders all at once. If a human had to describe the Wol, he'd probably see a great deal of similarity between them and nine foot tall red-scaled dragons.
Right now Axxa, Maaranth of the Morr enclave and keeper of the light, is dying a slow and painful death as the God Killer plays with its food by beating him to pulp. Luckily for his race, they never learned to build up, so the casualties in Morr were less than they'd be in New York.
Axxa, bleeding from a dozen deep cuts on his upper torso, dragged himself to his feet. The Killer of all Things, a black nothingness studded with cold stars, waited for him and laughed an ugly mirthless mindless laugh. It had taken his shape as a taunt, a form with six limbs, two wings, two arms and two legs. A parody.
A parody of Axxa.
:By the light of our honored dead!: The short incantation released a torrent of the chromatic glare, the soul-light. It wrenched out of the gems on Axxa's gauntlets and into the Killer. The Void-Beast seemed to ignore it as it came forward, relentless. Then it drove its club-like hands into the ground, which shrieked in protest and sent a wave of stone and grit into the beleaguered Priest-Warrior. He used his wings to avoid most of it, but a few large fragments buffeted him. Then it was on Axxa, driving a claw into his chest. The thick metal of his ceremonial breastplate bent along its cerulean seams, the only thing that kept him alive.
Axxa knew that he and his world were dead.
Eric pushed himself until he felt it. The black armor he was wrapped in kept feeding him astrogation, and he kept on the sick trail of the God Killer, the trail of death and hate. It was easy to follow, but it had lead time, and he had to catch it, to stop it, no matter where it was or what he had to do. Memories of Kali crawled into his head, his near defeat due to hesitation. And powerful as the bitch had been, the God Killer made her look like chump change. Did he have a chance?
What difference did it make? Who else, if not me?
Finally he began to close in on a bluish star on a line with Earth. Earth, a few days away. He dropped into real-space and headed for the only inhabited planet in the system. Life. It seeks to crush all life, and I can taste its trail. Malevolent, willful hate. The trail of the God Killer.
He plunged into the atmosphere as fast as he could without destroying some of it. The armor, rather than grow hot from the friction, absorbed and funneled the heat. He let himself fall, not even guiding himself, saving all the power he could.
Then he sensed it, was falling right on it. He altered his path so to be dead on target. It tossed some kind of red alien it was fighting and screeched, a noise like grinding metal on stone. Then it turned and saw him.
The impact was the sound of a world screaming.
Axxa had been expecting the death blow. Then he'd been flung away from the beast and had slammed into the side of one of the enclave's larger structures. Then a shockwave pinned him to the wall. He was too weak to fight it, but the crystals managed to protect him from most of it. He collapsed, barely conscious and alive, kept in one piece by the drained light of his ancestors. He felt hands pulling him away from the dancing jets of flame that had roiled up from the ground where the great pavilion had stood. He shook them off.
:What happened?: He rasped, his beak broken in two places.
Margras, the other male of his mating pod, was there to answer him. :It came from the sky. Struck the Killer of all Things. I think it was a Harrakin in full armor.:
:That's insane. Why would a Harrakin travel all this way to aid us?:
:Nevertheless, that is what we saw.: Margras sounded as puzzled as Axxa felt.
Then he realized with horror his entire mating pod was still in the enclave. :You must all depart Morr! The creature...:
:Will kill you!: Kliatr, the oldest female, spoke now. :You are badly wounded! Maaranth or no, it will kill you!:
:If I do not stop the Killer of all Things, we all die. Have you forgotten the scream of the Marn, that reached us across the stars? If an alien to our world can battle here, I must.: Axxa managed to regain his feet unsteadily. :If the light cannot protect me, we are already doomed.:
Then the air shrieked as an indigo lightning strike blasted from inside the flames.
Eric felt the Green Fire screaming for release, but he held it at bay. He wanted to wait, and gauge his attacks. The God Killer was no longer shaped like the draconic aliens...now it was HIS shadow, mocking him from the other side of the crater that his impact had torn in the skin of the enclave. Eric waited for it to attack. It did, laughing deeply from some unseen hole in that picture of night as it cast black shafts that seemingly ate the light between them. Eric raised a PK shield that the beams splashed off of.
[That the best you can do, smiley?]
 Nothingness flew back at him, the opposite of thought, a void more horrible than the Lokar Madness Wave. That was at least a motive, a SOMETHING. Eric was fighting nothingness that moved. The dark of eternal death, the end of all things on legs. Eric shuddered, and the God Killer leapt at him, a blurred wave of dark.
He called the electrons and ions that sheathed the planet, pulling the electromagnetic field of Wolda as he had once pulled on Earth's, bending it to his will. The fury of harnessed electrons ripped into the God Killer, hurling it back against the fused walls of the pit their collision had made, silicates smoothed into glassy hardness by the explosive force. A web of cracks trailed out behind the Killer where it hit the wall.
[I'm not that easy, you dumb son of a bitch.]
The stars in the creature flared, a sign of something new to it. Frustration. The Green Fire was clawing at the back of Eric's eyes, demanding to be let loose.
He released it.
No sound, no warning, just heat.
The ground shook under Axxa's feet. The Wol had managed to evacuate the Morr enclave, and the cataclysm unfolding had undoubtedly added haste to the evacuation. Axxa managed to get into the Ecclesiastical Chamber, despite the cracked walls. In it pulsed the Morr crystal, where most of the energy of the ancestors rested. It had been the source for almost all the daily needs of Morr. Now Axxa needed it for something else. He knew that to take it all meant death. He also knew that the stranger was yanking on the world unawares of the harm he was doing to it, and that if the fight did not end soon than Wol would be rendered lifeless in the saving of it.
Still he hesitated. Multi-hued incandescence blazed at him from inside the million facets of the Crystal.
Then the world shrieked again as the stranger pulled, using the power heedless of the cost, most likely unaware of the damage. Even if he could beat the Killer of all Things, the planet Wolda would be lifeless when he was done.
An explosion tore through the heart of the enclave.
Axxa cursed the day his pack was hatched, and placed his hands on the crystal.
:Great ones, hear me.:
The light surged into him.
The Killer smashed his fist into Eric's face, snapping the helmeted head back, and a kick to his chest sent his spinning into another of the cave/buildings around the two of them. The stone crumbled all about him. The armor was absorbing some of the impact, but Eric still felt groggy from the ceaseless use of his power over the past two days. He was unable to focus his will, between the strain of opening the rifts, sending the fleets away, keeping the Harrakin and Lokar separated, and getting here in all-out flight. He heard the telepathic null-cackle as the God Killer approached.
Earth is the next stop on the Nihilism Express.
Eric grabbed the particle stream again. If he had nothing left inside to throw at it, then he'd have to make do. He found it easily, tore it to his will again. The God Killer lifted the crushed mass off of Eric and grinned that faceless grin.
Ions ripped the air apart into its components. The God Killer had never been hit with that much power, and was nearly torn apart as the blast smashed into the glittering void it was made up of. The Void-Beast was flung away, destroying another of the buildings. This time, Eric sensed something...a quivering in the ground. Instead of following up the attack, he let his mind range, attempting to understand.
And then comprehension brought nausea with it. He couldn't use the planet's EMG field. Every time he did, the planet screamed as the strain nearly tore it in half. He couldn't use the most powerful attack he had.
He was as big a threat as the Killer.
And then the Void-Beast threw a thousand tons of stone at him.
Axxa felt the latest violation stop abruptly.
:It must know what it was doing. That means it will die for sure.:
The light of the crystal had suffused Axxa with a chromatic glow of power. All the ancestors of the Morr enclave were in him. Of him. Were, in fact, him. He spread his wings, burned with the power of creation, the pure light of parental love. He was eighteen feet tall now.
He swept through the green stone of the roof, blasting it into shards as the spectrum of light blared from him. As he swept down on the Killer of all Things, he saw an unbelievable sight.
The Killer ripped the Foundation Stone from the ground, a mass of crystal that was too large and durable for the Wol to move when they arrived at Morr a few hundred years ago, and hurled it at the stranger. But that was not what he could not believe.
What strained his sanity was the sight of the stranger leaping into the air and smashing the Foundation Stone into powder with his fist.
:Ancestors, that was all IT, nothing from the world. What kind of creature..?:
There was no time for the doubt. Axxa unfurled his spectrum- riding wings and threw soul-light at the Void-Beast. It screamed as the boiling white enveloped it. The power of the true children of Wolda was a chorus of photons, a hymnal inside Axxa.
But the Killer did not die. It was surviving, in intense pain but still alive, and Axxa could feel the power consuming him alive. It was not going to be enough, his sacrifice. The Void-Beast would survive. Despair began to overtake him.
[Can you understand this thought?] The telepathy, while not a racial talent, was not something Axxa had never experienced before. For a brief, frantic second, he feared it was the Killer of all things, but there was too much rationality to it.
[We have to get it off of this planet. If I go whole hog here, I have no idea how much damage I'll do. Can you keep it there?]
:I think I can.: Axxa had thousands of questions, why was the alien doing this, what was it to gain, but there was no time. He focused all his will on the beast and kept firing the stream of rainbow light.
Eric, meanwhile, was grateful of the reprieve. Euphoria was burning in his head, the reaction of overtaxing his power magnified. He'd never gone this far before, and only a constant struggle kept him aware of what was going on. He HAD to hold on. Had to use the time the light-alien...it's HIS world, you're the alien here...was buying him to get that thing into space somehow. Had to...
[ITS SHIP.] The thought had blasted out of his skull, so weary was he that telepathy was hard to keep under control. [How did it get down here?]
:Like you did. Like a meteor.:
[THE SHIP'S IN ORBIT!]
Eric launched himself up, ignoring the cacophony of protest in his skull as he went to new levels of strain. Sure enough, floating in the LaGrange point between Wolda and its larger moon was a nothingness in space. A fifteen mile wide hole, this nothingness that was powered by...an Anti-Matter reactor. Power to spare. Eric reached out and sent THIS engine to critical as well, this time waiting nearby. Then the annihilation reaction happened, and Eric was there to siphon what would have been an explosion seen all the way on Earth into himself. He felt the power begin to set his nerves in overdrive. Then he reached out to the planet and grabbed hold of the Morr enclave.
[If you want to stay on the planet, get away now.]
:It would escape.:
Eric tore the enclave out of the planet Wolda, roots and all.
Axxa was right. The only thing holding the Killer of all Things to the spot was the crushing light he was pinioning it with. As the enclave rose from the surface of the planet, atmosphere and all, Axxa allowed a fatal distraction to bubble to the surface of his mind.
:Ancestors and Forewalkers, what IS it?:
The Killer saw its moment. It was enraged by the pain, and now the light eased off. Perhaps by as little as a micro-joule, but it was enough. The Void-Beast hadn't earned the name Killer of all Things, God Killer, or the Slayer of Time by being tentative. It raised its head and let loose a narrow shaft of anti-light.
The stream of Anti-Photons pierced the chromatic Axxa, and the pain tore his mind apart. He lost coherence as the power of his ancestors flooded out the hole in his frame, and collapsed, landing on the chunk of the enclave. At the Killer's feet.
It stood over Axxa. It laughed its empty mouthless mirthless laugh. It prepared to crush the dying Maaranth. Then out of the space that was now surrounding them came a single thought.
Everything at once...ions, electrons, positrons, pyrokinetic heat, plasma, kinetic force...it all tore into the Cold Stars of the Killer. Blasted it off and away from the drifting piece of the planet Wolda which was now locked in a Geosynchronous orbit of the world it came from. Morr drifted in the sky now.
Before the Killer could get far, Eric slammed into it, absolutely ecstatic with the power of the Void-Beasts own ship slamming through him. He pounded the night shape that it was made of, driving the Harrakin Spike Armor again and again and again in a blur of borrowed speed. Every place on the armor that had spikes hit the Killer. Fists, knees, forearms, shins, shoulders, the helmet. He pulled again on the particle flow, this time the solar wind of the blue star at his back, and ran the power through his hands as he kept pounding on the obsidian blob of motile nihilism.
Finally something gave. Maybe the ancestors of the Wolda were impressed. Maybe he got lucky. Maybe the time was right. Eric drove the right gauntlet all the way through, into the void that made up the Killer, through the bubble of power that held it in shape. The seething dark that made it up began to escape.
 The Killer had been driven off three times. It had been outsmarted five times. It had even been momentarily outmatched. It had never been beaten, and it had never been wounded. It had never felt pain before today. Now it had felt it twice, and was wounded. It tried to fire the anti-energy streams, tried to flee.
Eric blocked the trickle of energy. He felt the raw power dancing in his veins, pushing at his eyes, and then it happened. In a stroke as unexpected as snow slipping off a branch, the power erupted out of him and tore into his enemy.
And when the light was gone, so was the Killer of Gods.
Eric floated for a few moments in space. All the stolen energy was gone. He had never felt as tired in his life. He drifted back to the empty, floating city. He had barely anything left.
As he got there, he saw Axxa, standing as the light began to eat him alive. Eric reached out with his mind.
:I am going to join my ancestors. Do nothing. It is our way. Thank you.: And then the spectrum was gone, and so was Axxa.
Eric was alone. And he never learned his ally's name.
He turned and pointed towards Earth, the direction the helmet fed into his mind. He shook the creeping black out of his eyes and waited.
Second star on the right and straight on till morning.
Then he moved the universe.
Time bled. Eric had no idea how long he was pushing himself, or how close to the edge he was. Something beyond pain was dragging at his will, but he ignored it. Was it penance at not being able to save the alien? Depression at having left things with Sharra unresolved? Apprehension at seeing Earth? Sheer, stubborn rage? He didn't know, didn't care, didn't stop.
Finally he reached both his absolute limit and his destination. The universe screeched to a stop, and Eric saw that he was plummeting towards a blue ball of some kind. For a delusional moment, he thought it was the Wolda sun, burning cerulean in space. Then he recognized the moon as he passed it, and realized he was almost home.
Arcing, falling out of control into the atmosphere, plummeting into unconsciousness for the first time in months. The armor didn't heat up, but diffused the friction. The blue rose, and rose, and rose endlessly. He dimly realized that it was water.
Then he hit it.
Home comes the Prodigal Son.
Guest-starring the Seekers and the Cadre.
Let's get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmmmbbbbbbblllllleeeeeeee!
Slugfests vs. Characterization, or, Why was this whole issue a