This article is a written account of what happens to the Warden after his death in the Aer-May Storyline.
The Story Edit
The Third Awakening Edit
The Warden opened his eyes. It had happened again. Having just died, he awoke in some kind of goop.
The same goop.
"Bleh..." He remarked, emerging from the vat and relieving himself of its fluids. He was once again fully clothed. Last time this happened, he hadn't thought about it much and got out of Home as fast as he could. This time, he noticed a towel, which he dried off with. He needed to think of a plan.
Presently, he came up with one. He would just wing it, as always.
"Let's see what you've done to my ship..." He murmured, walking out of the room. In the next room he found the FedoraMan, laying beaten on the floor. Nearby was an open compartment emitting the familiar glow of the artifact. He went over to it, looked inside, and began to retrieve the pieces that were in there-- three in all-- however, before he could get the last one, some goons entered the room and moved to stop him. Unaware of their weakened state, the Warden fled the room, right past the goons. He pocketed the two pieces and went for the door.
Prehistoric Earth Edit
Upon exiting the door, the Warden found himself looking at a prairie with long grasses. In the distance he could see a forest consisting mostly of conifers and ferns. He closed the door behind him, deciding not to worry about what might come through it. The forest, he figured, was as good a place as any to start his quest.
For those listeners just joining us, the Warden has been on a serious of spectacular quests to find a set of glowing, yellow-green artifacts. He assumes that since the door lead here, one must be here.
As he moves into the dense brush, a large, three-horned creature with a beak stepped out to block his path. Thinking it must be a territorial issude, the Warden turned around to avoid conflict. Behind him were a bunch of small predatory Beasts with sharp teeth and claws. Realizing they must be intelligent, the Warden raised his hands in innocence.
"Hello." He said.
The Triceratops grunted in response, moved over to him, and hefted him up on its head.
The raptors followed along as the Triceratops took him to a large clearing with fires burning around an altar. On the altar, he couldn't help but notice, was a piece of the artifact. The Triceratops snorted at him, and he got off.
"What is this, then?" He asked it.
"This is the ever-respected stone!" Came a multitude of voices.
He turned to see that many Troodons, another form of raptor, had gathered around and were now somehow speaking to him through the harmony of their voices. He recognized them as primitive versions of a species of raptor-like creature in his database.
"This is going to sound ridiculous, but, can I have it? It's rather important."
The Troodons sang and out of the brush came larger creatures, including the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rexes of the area. One among them was far larger than the others. This was the one he approached.
"Is it safe to assume you're in charge here?"
The beast glared down at him as if daring him to change his mind and address the other ones. It grunted, nostrils flaring. The other Tyrannosaurs began to growl their protest. As the noise-level increased, the larger Tyrannosaurus growled threateningly, eyeing all those present at the clearing. The other Tyrannosauruses immediately quieted. The Warden noticed that all the other creatures in the clearing were bowing. He bowed slightly himself, then posed his question again.
"Can I have the ever-respected stone?"
The massive predator unleashed its full sonorous abilities. The Warden was momentarily completely deafened. Before he could say anything, however, the ground began to tremor and into the clearing lumbered an even larger creature. The head on the end of its long neck loed at the Tyrannosaurus as if doing so would keep it in check. The latter snapped at the head, which quickly withdrew to avoid the attack. Once the Titanosaurus had fully entered the clearing, it swung its long tail into the trees around it. The snapping sounds of their trunks asserted its towering presence. The Tyrannosaurus glared at it in frustration, but made no further move to attack. The other Rexes sort of barked their support of their leader, but the Titanosaurus looked at them as though unamused. Presently a Pterosaur swooped down from above and landed next to the Warden, assuming a quadrupedal use of its wings. It had a large crest on its head, indicating that it was male. Its exact genus was Quezalcoatlus, and its length while flying was almost twice the Warden's height. It looked at him curiously.
"Oh. Hello everyone." The Warden greeted the newcomers, realizing that this must actually be some kind of council.
The Titanosaurus' head hung down nearby. It nodded its head slightly in greeting.
"You may pose your question to the leadership council." The Troodons sang.
"Well, others like me have taken my... vessel, and are using it to travel around looking for objects like the ever-respected stone." He looked around to see if they were following him. Most of the dinosaur leaders just looked at him like he was stupid, or like they were confused. The Quezalcoatlus just cocked its head in curiosity.
"The Stone is one of a kind. We have searched far and wide for others, but in vain..."
"I have two others right here." He said, pulling out the two he had out of his pocket.
The Quezalcoatlus leapt to defend him as the Tyrannosaurs surged forwards. The Triceratops and Titanosaurus also took up his defense. The whole argument stopped when the Titanosaurus table-topped one of the larger Tyrannosauruses with its tail. The other Rex underlings moved to help it up, while the lead Tyrannosaurus verbally posed its opinion.
The leaders seemed to consult before returning their attention to the Warden.
"We have observed others of your kind, they arrived shortly before you did. However, as you appeared less hostile we decided we would take you before the council. The others, those you claim to be your enemies, were not so lucky."
The Tyrannosauruses all smiled and growled, revealing their blood-stained teeth. Bits of armor were stuck to their serrated edges. The velociraptors all hopped up and down making whooping noises.
"That's fortunate, because on other worlds, people died at their hands."
The jeering continued.
"You need not worry about our people in that regard. Tell us, why do you need the stone?"
"I need all the pieces so that I can use it to bargain with them. I was told to guard my ship, and right now I can't think of any other way to do it."
The leaders consulted. The Rexes seemed against it, and the Quezalcoatlus appeared to be monologuing. Eventually, some kind of agreement was reached and the Troodons addressed him.
"We see reason in your proposal. However, we require the stone in order to survive. It is the stone that has given us our prosperity."
"I'll trade you." The Warden offered. He needed all the pieces, yes, but it would appear they were markedly safer here than with him.
The Troodons looked up, confused.
The Leaders discussed, but quickly agreed to the bargain. The Quezalcoatlus retrieved their stone and took his larger one.
"Thank you. Now, would it be possible for me to be taken back to the door I got here through?"
"The Meeting of the Leadership Council is adjourned."
The leaders all turned to go. The two herbivorous leaders stuck around to make sure the Rexes made it out safely. Then they, too, turned and left. The Quezalcoatlus remained. "Krawk?" It said to him.
"Hello." The Warden said, slightly confused as to whether or not he was going to be given directions.
The giant Pterosaur turned around and looked back at him. It took him a moment to realize it was offering him a ride. He climbed onto its back and, to his surprise, it began to walk in somewhere besides where he came in.
"Can't you fly?" The Warden asked, curious as to why it wasn't.
"And isn't it the other way?"
"Where are we going?"
The Quezalcoatlus took him to a small mountain, which it carried him part way up. When it reached the top, it stood up and spread its wings.
"Um..." Said the Warden after a while.
The great winged beast purred lightly in response. At length, it leapt from the peak and soared through the air, carrying him with it. When they reached the great plain the door was in, the Warden looked down and saw that the once peaceful field had become a battle plain, dotted with the ones who'd taken his ship. He noticed that the door was open.
"I need to get through that thing." The Warden explained to the Quezalcoatlus, pointing. The Quezalcoatlus looked where his finger was aiming, and began to descend.
"Wait. It's guarded by our enemies. Can you-?"
He didn't get a chance finish. The giant pterosaur screamed a battle cry and bore down on the door. There was a clatter of armor as its head clobbered the intruders immediately in front of the door.
"Thanks!" The Warden called, jumping from his mount as it flew past his intended destination. He landed harder than he would have liked, but managed to rise to his feet in a matter of seconds. He ran through the door and straight for the control panel that controlled it. He could already hear the footsteps of his enemies as he fiddled desperately with the controls. He rarely used this panel at all, and only really had a faint idea what he was doing. As his foes drew closer, it gradually became more and more difficult to ignore the corpse lying to his left. It was his own, and as he spun the last dial and punched in the final code, the terrible feeling came upon him that he was about to join it.
Earth: Modern Day Edit
In the dim room of a ship, a man awoke. He was about to wonder at his sudden birth, but before he could he discovered that he whatever it was he was in wasn't the proper thing to be going down his throat and so decided he should probably find something else to submerge himself in so that his neck and torso would stop convulsing.
Thinking quickly, the man flailed his arms wildly. Soon his head broke free of the substance and entered a new one. He climbed out of what he perceived to be a vat of some kind and sprawled on the floor, hacking up whatever he'd been submerged in. Once he was rid of it, he looked around. He realized he had been in some kind of liquid and that what he was in now was air-- the proper thing for him to be breathing. He grabbed a towel and dried himself off. Then, a voice spoke to him.
He seemed to remember hearing the voice before. It was completely indescribable, for any adjective used to do so could also he used to describe what it wasn't.
"Hello." He said.
"Before we begin, do you have any questions?"
"Very well. As you come upon things you need to know, you will find that you already know much of it. Now, exit this room and go through the next door you see. You will have entered a strange world, and things may not make sense to you. Use the bravery you were given, and you will have no fear. In order to learn and remain a step ahead of those who oppose you, you have also been blessed with an infallible memory. Now, you must go with haste, before time has run out."
He paused, taking in what was said to him, then shrugged and ran out of the room. He aimed for the only door he could see. It was on the other end of the room. Lying on the floor to his right were two corpses. They were identical. But, he had been told not to delay, so he set those thoughts aside for another time.
Upon exiting the door, he found himself on a hill looking down over a plains. As he looked around, wondering what he should do, a shadow passed over him. He looked up to see what it was.
"Kraw!" Cried the source of the darkness.
As he analyzed the beast, he was able to identify it almost exactly.
"Animal Chordate Reptile Pterosaur Pterodactyloid Azhdarchid Quezalcoatlus Northropi..." He rattled. He was about to wonder why he knew that, but stopped himself before he'd delayed too long. The great winged reptile swooped down and greeted him as though it were a dog and he were its master. "Oh, hello! Do I know you?" He said, patting it. He noticed it had a yellow-green glowing object hung around its neck. "What've you got there...?"
"Fire!" Someone barked.
"English, given as an order to indicate that now is the time to use a ranged weapon on a previously designated target." He stammered, looking up and seeing a man aiming a gun at the Quezalcoatlus. He crawled out from under it and threw himself in front of the bullet. "No! Don't-!" The bullet hit him in the chest.
A man woke up in a vat of goop and quickly hauled himself out of it. He didn't have much time, he knew. He ran straight to the main room and began working the controls. He did so fluidly, and then ran out the door.
"Fire!" He heard someone bark.
The man dove, pushing another man, who was an exact replica of himself, for reasons he knew, out of the path of a bullet he knew would come.
"Move!" He shouted to the large winged reptile that the one he'd saved had been protecting.
There was the sound of a single shot. Nothing more.
Earth: Modern Day, cont. Edit
The man was confused. He had just been tackled by another man who looked identical to the corpses he'd seen earlier. More importantly, however, was that someone had just taken a shot at him!
"You bas****!" He cried to the one who'd fired on him.
"I-... I'm?... Who the hell are you?" The gunman said, lowering his weapon. The other men in his squad had already lowered their weapons. The first man's appearance had not been expected.
"Uhm...." Said the man.
His rescuer stood and walked over to the gunman, extending his hand. "I'm called the Warden."
"Colonel Vance Rayen. I'm more worried about the other guy."
"He's also called the Warden."
"I am?" Said the man they were referring to.
"Yes, you are." Said his rescuer. "If you'll excuse me, I have other business to attend to. Good day, Colonel." He walked over to the man he'd saved and whispered to him. "Take the dinosaur, go through the door. I need you to find the same pterosaur and get it to a safe place. You'll know what from when you get there. Be warned that there are enemies there, and that you don't have much time to complete your task." Then he went over to the door and pulled out a key. Before he could do anything, a third man, identical to the second, came through it. The new arrival greeted the first man warmly and handed him a smaller object much like the one the Quezalcoatlus had. "Attach that to the one Quezal has and keep it safe. His past self will have one, too. Don't get the sets confused." The second man seemingly aimed the key at the door before putting it away.
"Quezal?" Said the first man.
The third man pointed to the Quezalcoatlus.
Glancing quickly at the reptile, who seemed eager to help him, he opened the door and stepped through. It followed close behind him. The second man, the one who'd rescued the first, used his key again, looked at the newest arrival, nodded, then stepped through.
Balle Ne'ier Edit
The last man to leave, the rescuer, arrived on a beautiful planet. It was known as Balle Ne'ier, he'd been told. Exiting the door in an ornate ballroom, he left the room and began to walk down the street. For this chapter, the man will be known simply as the Warden.
He wore a stern expression. He'd been told about the current state of the universe, and it worried him greatly. He needed to hurry, or else everything could fall apart.
He stopped and compared several streets, then turned down the one he determined to be the correct way. He was going to a house in which someone named Aer-May lived. He'd been informed that that was where he should begin his search for the three artifact pieces this on the planet. Eventually, the house came into view, and he sped up his pace.
As he stepped up onto the porch, he discovered several angry-looking men arguing about something or other. He was certain that whatever the problem was, the universe was more important.
"Excuse me?" He said, cutting one of them off mid-sentence. All eyes turned to him, almost unanimously confused.
"What?" He said.
"...You died a few nights ago. What the--?" Said one of the men.
The Warden remained stern. "I what? I d- Oh, yes. Yes I did."
The man he cut off, who was clad in a military uniform and had a handlebar mustache, turned sharply to the other. "You misinformed me?!"
"I-- Chief, he--" Stammered the other man.
The Warden decided he would ignore them. He looked over to the one who had not yet said anything. He appeared to be some kind of law enforcement official. "Um, could you tell me if this is the..." He looked at a slip of paper in his hand. "'May' residence? Wait, no... The Swi... Swiss? Swizz..."
"Swizër?" Said the sheriff, as his badge read.
"Yes, that's it. Sorry, I can't read my own handwriting." The Warden was referring to the Warden from "Prehistoric Earth", but the Sheriff had no way of knowing that.
"Yes, it is." The Sheriff replied, in answer to his question.
The Warden made his way up to the door and knocked. It opened almost immediately. The man who opened it seemed familiar to him, but he couldn't quite place him.
"...Young man... Are..." The man began.
"My, god. Warden." Said another voice. He looked and saw that it was a young blonde girl with her hair up in a bun. She also seemed familiar.
He looked between the two of them. "Which one of you is Aer-May?"
"... It's...me, Warden." Said the girl.
"Inera! Ana! Malcolm!" Called the man who'd answered the door.
"I have a message I'm supposed to deliver." Said the Warden. "Can I talk to you?" He was speaking to Aer-May.
"Y-yes, but, Warden... Don't you remember me?"
"Uh... I'm a... different... Warden. Well, not entirely, but, still different. Can I come in?"
"Please." Said the man, motioning for him to come in.
The Warden entered the house. "Thank you."
There was some vague shouting from outside.
"He doesn't sound very happy." The Warden remarked in passing, turning to face his now larger audience. "Anyway... The Warden you knew is currently still dead. Well, not still-- again-- but, the concept remains the same."
"Oh?" Said Aer-May.
"I'm actually a complete mistake." The Warden continued. "Or, that's what the computer has to tell its master if it ever sees it again."
A young boy came down the stairs, appeared surprised, then ran back up the stairs calling for his sister.
"I am the Warden recreated to serve a different purpose." The Warden explained.
"A different purpose?" Aer-May said.
"So, what's your purpose?" An older woman who'd entered the room before he was let in the house asked.
"Right now, I need to gather the scattered pieces of the artifact."
"You gave them to Wolf..." Said the man. "Or, another you."
"Yes, I have his memories." The Warden confirmed. "It's rather like having seen a movie, though. It needed to be in order for me to better succeed. I also know a lot more about what's going on than him. Which is why I'm going to ask you... Do you know where the artifacts are?" He looked at Aer-May expectantly.
"They're still with Wolf..." She told him. "And he's in town."
"Oh." The Warden said. "I'm sorry about the circumstances. But if I succeed, the Warden you knew will return to life."
Aer-May was obviously excited at that comment.
"What circumstances do you mean?" The older woman asked.
"Well. I'm trying to save the universe, so I can't stick around, and you people understandably want answers." The Warden responded. Then, turning to Aer-May, he said. "How can I find this Wolf?"
"I'll bring you." She replied.
"Alright. Do we have to go through the angry people?" Aer-May was already grabbing the keys to the family pickup truck off the kitchen counter.
"Wait, what angry people?" The older woman asked, moving to peek out the front door.
"...The angry people outside the door?" The Warden said as though he were politely asking a stranger for directions.
"Anyhow, love you mom and dad. Warden, follow me." Aer-May said. The Warden moved to do so. She went around the kitchen to a door leading out of the side of the house. The garage was only a few yards away. The Warden trailed along behind her, looking around as though something bad might happen any moment. Inside the garage was an old pickup truck. Aer-May opened the passenger door and without a pause, began walking around the back of the truck. Soon she was seated in the driver's seat, plunging the keys into the ignition. The pickup rumbled contentedly. The Warden quickly joined her in the vehicle, sitting in the passenger's seat.
Aer-May drove the pickup out of the garage and onto an inclined, dirt road. It was covered by trees, but the afternoon sun shone through illuminating everything with a golden glow. The road wound and twisted. The trip was almost like a rollercoaster.
"This place is very beautiful." The Warden remarked solemnly.
"It is." Aer-May replied.
The dirt road suddenly leveled out and straightened. At the end of the tunnel of trees, a brick road was visible. She sped onto it, making a sharp turn at the next intersection and pulling into a parallel parking space, most of which were empty. She turned off the truck and quickly got out. She was very excited now. The Warden got out as well.
They were outside what appeared to be a general store.
"Um..." Said Aer-May.
"Is this where he is?" The Warden asked.
"I-- I'll call him. He should be in town somewhere."
People were walking past them, and the occasional car drove past. Just as Aer-May pulled out her data pad and began to dial a number, someone came out of the store.
"Aer-May?" Said the newcomer.
She dropped the datapad, but managed to grab it with her other hand. She looked up at it.
The newcomer looked to the Warden. "... W-Warden?!"
"Yes, Hello." The Warden began.
"Baby, you still have the artifact, right?" Aer-May said, cutting him off.
The Warden guessed this must be Wolf.
"Yes, I do, but... Warden, you're... You died." Clearly, he was confused.
"Yes." The Warden said. "Can I have it? I'm in a bit of a rush..."
"Um-" Wolf began.
"He says the-- Just, give him the artifact." Aer-May cut in again.
"... Oh..kay." Wolf carefully retrieved the pieces from his pocket and held them out to the Warden, who took them gently.
"Sorry I can't stay and chat." The Warden said in an attempt to console him. "Universe to save and all. But if it works, he'll be back. Aer-May can explain the previous statement."
With that, he waved, and ran off.
Earth: Modern Day, cont., cont.Edit
Back on modern day Earth, the third arrival was in an ATV with the soldiers. He'd learned they were a special forces unit sent to track down reports of dinosaur sightings. They were heading to the rendezvous point to get picked up by a helicopter, which would take them back to their base.
"So you're also the Warden?" Vance asked. He was sitting next to the Warden.
"Yes." The Warden replied. He looked markedly different from the other Wardens, for reasons he was putting off trying to fathom. There'd be time to worry about that later.
"And you're here to find a bunch'a glowin' rocks?"
"You're sure you're not from Doctor Who?"
The conversation went on like that for a while, until they finally arrived and boarded the helicopter. Then it slightly shifted focus and continued similarly all the way to the base.
As they were walking in, the Warden decided to get to the point.
"Right, then. Have you found any strange fossils?" He asked suddenly.
"...What?" Said Vance.
"Fossils. Skeletal matter from dead organisms that was assimilated into the rock, causing it to mineralize."
"Have you found any that were strange?"
"I think you'll need to talk to our science director."
So Vance lead the Warden to their science director. He wore a large nametag that said "Dr. Tou" on it.
"Tou, this man wants to know if you've-"
"That's the man from the fossil!" Tou exclaimed upon seeing the Warden.
The Warden smiled matter-of-factly towards the colonel. "Yep, that's me. Can I have what I'm holding?"
The doctor looked at him as though he were crazy. "Are you mad? We haven't even finished examining it..."
"Yes, but, if I don't get it you may not get a chance to live for very much longer."
Vance and the guards in the room immediately readied there weapons and aimed them directly at the Warden.
The Warden looked around, confused. "...Uh..."
"Was that a threat, Warden?" Vance growled.
The Warden scowled. "Threat. A group of words implying that the vendor will cause harm to the patron...? Wha-? Oh. No, no, no, of course not."
Vance looked suspicious and caustiously lowered his weapon. He motioned for the other guards to do the same.
"I meant that the universe might end if I can't get ahold of it."
Dr. Tou looked a bit relieved. "Oh." Relief followed directly into disappointment. "I guess I won't be finishing these tests, then..." He walked over to a nearby counter and began to disconnect the artifact from a machine.
"Wait." Said the Warden. Dr. Tou stopped. "I'm going to have to invent intergalactic travel after I get it anyway, so, you can continue running tests until I have to go."
Dr. Tou blinked. "Will you take notes?"
The Warden shrugged. "Sure."
So the Warden set to work, using the knowledge he'd been given to construct a vessel that would carry him to the coordinates he'd been given by his rescuer. In the process he created new technologies that had the special forces' best scientists stumped. He even took notes like he said he would. It was an odd feeling-- whenever he did something, he wrote it down along with the reasons, but when he looked back at it later, he didn't really know why it made sense, nor could he go back and think through it. Nevertheless, he blessed the planet-- Earth, the people called it-- with faster than light travel, shielding technology, and ways of manipulating particles in ways people hadn't honestly thought of manipulating them yet. When he had finished, he looked upon his creation. It was a small pod that would carry him to his destination. While it had the potential to get him where he was going in a matter of minutes, the special forces didn't have the resources required for him to provide it with enough energy to do so. But that didn't matter. He'd died before, and was resurrected without so much as a psychological trauma. Besides, he wasn't the real concern-- all that mattered was that it got the artifact where it needed to go.
"Get me Doctor Tou." He said.
A man stood over a brightly burning candle. It was the only light in the room, and if he weren't blocking its light it would send forth a fiery glow to dance across the walls. Clad in the grand, yet simple robes of his station-- the Prior of the Followers-- he stared at the candle intently. However, there was something about him that he had never shared with anyone: Long ago he had been the Warden who rescued the Warden from a death that had already occured. He still was.
Presently, the flame shifted.
"He has arrived..." He murmured to himself. Turning, he left the room. His time of waiting had ended, and the time to act had come.
The Warden from two chapters ago stepped out of a door. It was situated just outside what appeared to be a town. He whipped out his scanner and began to search for signs of the artifact. If all had gone well, it would be here. The scanner was picking up large amounts of theta waves coming from a concentrated point. That, he knew, would be what he was looking for. He ran off in the appropriate direction.
Eventually he arrived at a crater on the border of the grassy plains he'd arrived in and a desert. The impact had happened recently enough that whatever was in the crater was still smouldering from its encounter with the planet's atmosphere. When he finally arrived at the edge, he found that this was indeed the place where the pod had crashed (it was still there). He wasted no time. Plunging into the flames, he found his own body burning next to the artifact. Nodding his respects to the dead, he grabbed the artifact and scrambled out of the wreck. Once he had reached safety, he looked down at the artifact. He gradually realized that he had no idea what he was supposed to do after he had it.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something burning. As soon as he figured out that it was his own clothing that was producing the flame, he panicked. However, instead of jumping around and screaming like a normal person, he just sort of dropped the artifact and stood there trying to figure out what the hell he was supposed to do about it. That is, until the skies suddenly opened up and drenched him with what seemed to be every drop of water on the planet. It went on for a a few seconds before it subsided as quickly as it had began.
He blew the water out of his mouth as it ran down his face. "What was-?" He looked around and noticed that it had apparently only rained in a two foot radius around him, because everything other than that was completely untouched. He was at a loss for words.
"I take it you've never heard of stop drop and roll?" Said a voice.
"What?" The Warden replied, looking up. Standing on the lip of the crater was a man clad in grand, yet simple robes. He was carrying a staff taller than he was, and was looking down at him.
"Stop drop and-- oh, never mind."
The Warden tried to move, but he found that he was stuck in the now very wet sand.
The man came down to him and helped him free of his sandy prison.
"Thanks." Said the Warden. "Is rain usually extremely concentrated around here?"
"No, I did that." Said the man.
The Warden looked at the man in disbelief.
"You were on fire. What was I supposed to do?"
The Warden nodded sagely. "I see where you're coming from..." Then he looked up at the man. "You seem familiar..."
The man pulled down his hood, revealing the face of his rescuer.
"Oh." Said the Warden. "It's you."
The Leader of the FollowersEdit
The man and the Warden arrived in the same room from two chapters ago. The man, who had related that he'd taken the name Greg and was now high in the ranks of a religious movement, moved his hand over an organic-looking device on the wall, causing it and the room to light up.
Greg handed the Warden his staff and moved over to the wall.
"Where are we going?" The Warden asked.
"I'm taking you to see the Leader. There is work to be done."
Greg held his hands over two more wall-mounted devices and soon they found themselves in some ruined chamber whose location was shrouded in the cobwebs in the past. The architecture was strange; almost as though they were inside of a living being. However, the walls and cieling seemed to be deteriorating, and the whole placed smelled of rot. All around them were various overgrown funghi accompanied by monstrous vegetables the like of which the Warden had never seen before.
"What is this place?" The Warden asked, dumbfounded. Turning, he found the wretched corpse of some humanoid creature, sitting at what looked to be some kind of console.
"This is my domain..." Rasped an aged voice.
The Warden turned, trying to find the source of the voice. He slowly came to the realization that before him was a chair, albeit shrouded in the foliage. And, equally covered in greenery (that's sort of the right word-- the stuff was purple, but the concept still holds true), there was a person sitting in it.
"Who are you?" The Warden said, surprised.
"The people of this world know me as the Leader..." The creature sighed.
"But there is more." The prior said. "He used to be the leader of a great race, before it fell. The people of this planet are the descendants of that race."
The being in the chair turned its head to look at the prior, moving very slowly. "That is not your story to tell..."
"The people of this world, and indeed the universe, are in danger, Leader." The prior bowed. "The failed experiment that kept the planet in limbo for so long-- it has left a rift between this universe and the next."
The being closed its eyes. The Warden thought it might have just died, but then it slowly nodded. "I knew something was amiss.... I have known for quite some time... but I have not been able to place it..." It's eyes opened. "Until now. But, I'm afraid it cannot be undone."
"That is not why we have come, Leader." The prior explained. "We came for your assistance, not your guidance. The people of the other universe have come through searching for this artifact, which fell through the rift. And now that it is here, this planet is in grave danger. It would be unable to repel any attack from space."
"....Mmmmmm......." The being nodded as it said this. "And what is it you would like me to do?"
"There is only one craft on this planet, Leader, and that is yours."
The Leader blinked slowly, then sat back in his chair. "What good would come of intervening if the end result will only be the same?"
"It won't. We are soldiers created by the second great experiment."
The being suddenly sat up. "The Computer? It... it made you? Sent you here?"
"Yes. You yourself told it to defend its own existence at all costs... So, here we are."
"So this is the work of the Computer..." The being sat back again and gazed off into the distance. The Warden was ready to believe it had actually died this time, but again it sat back up.
The Great DefenseEdit
The Warden, having returned to the previous chamber and exited the complex, turned at a noise. It was a low hum, so loud it was soft. It seemed to be coming from a nearby mountain, and it was causing the ground to shake.
Then, before his eyes, the mountain moved. The entire range, in fact. It shifted and began to crumble, and out of the dust rose a metallic purple monstrosity of a ship. It groaned as it slowly took to the air, shaking off its long sleep.
He hurried on towards his goal. The prior sent him back to aide the natives in the ground defense of the planet, and that was precisely what he was going to do.
On the ship, the being was struggling to get the beast aloft.
"This ship... has not flown..... in a very long time...."
Somehow, the Leader was making the ship fly through sheer force of will. Bits of terrain were sloughing off the exterior of the colossus, and bits of the cieling were raining down here and there on the inside.
In time, the behemoth managed to leave the planet's atmosphere, and primed its weapons to repel the attack it had risen to defend against.
"Now we wait?..." Rasped the creature.
The prior nodded regally, eyes fixed on the view port before them.
Soon, they faded into view-- thousands upon thousands of warships headed straight for the planet. The Leader bowed his head, and presently the ship's giant cannons began to fire. Like the steady beat of a war drum, pulse after pulse of penetrating energy connected with its target. Pattering an accompanying beat were the shots of its opponents.
Boom patter patter patter boom patter patter patter boom patter patter patter..."
Down on the planet, the Warden was in a firefight. He didn't know how he knew how to use the weapon at his disposal, but he did-- and use it he was. He was prone behind a bag of what seemed to be something akin to flour, and his weapon was a rapid fire weapon with a spinning barrel. His barricade was set up just outside the village. The door was in his sights. It hadn't taken long after the warships appeared for swarms of infantry to come charging through it. Even with the help of the several villagers that were also stationed at his barricade, he knew there was no way he could defeat all of them. But those weren't his orders.
He fought valiantly for what seemed like, and probably had been, hours. When he ran out of munitions, he decided it was time. Nodding to his allies, he rose up and charged across the field towards the door. Shots whizzed past him as he ran, both those of the enemy and those of his comrades. Eventually, he reached the open door, and, hefting the artifact, threw it as hard as he could.
The Leader's ship was taking a beating. Having been buried under the earth for billions of years, its systems were failing.
"I... cannot hold out... much longer..." Gasped the Leader, struggling to keep the ship kicking.
"Your race once relied on the life of others to remain healthy." The Prior began.
"I... have not fed... on another's life force... in more than... a trillion years."
"You must again feed, great Leader, or the universe will be doomed." He knelt before the Leader. "I am filled with the life incited in me by the Computer. It is yours to take."
"The life of another being is never mine to take!" Shouted the Leader in defiance. His ship groaned under the stress of battle and his anger.
"Great Leader, I have been devout to you for over thirty years."
"I am not a god! You knew that from the beginning!"
"That is not the point, great one. God or not, I intend to serve my master."
The Leader looked at him, puzzled. The Prior nodded sagely.
"You are the bravest man I've ever met."
"...Perhaps." Greg replied.
The Leader thrust his arm to the prior's chest. Gradually, youth returned to the Leader, and to his ship. The cieling regenerated, the foliage receded, and the cannons became possessed of a much greater energy.
"Stop." The prior said suddenly.
At the expertly uttered command, the Leader wrenched his hand away. "Thank you."
"You have done more of a service than you know."
The artifact hit the floor of the Warden's ship and slid across the floor. A man wearing a fedora watched it go by and, smiling, went to pick it up. However, before he could, the Warden-- the original Warden-- stepped out and beat him to it.
"The game's over, FedoraMan. You lost." Said the Warden, gravely.
FedoraMan laughed. He'd already begun to regain his strength from the presence of the artifact. "You think you can beat me alone, fool?"
"No." The Warden replied.
The other Warden stumbled through the door and closed it behind him. FedoraMan looked between the Wardens. It was obvious that the tables had been tipped just enough for him to be worried. The Warden didn't wait for him to make a move.
"Now. You're going to tell us what makes this artifact so important that it's worth risking the lives of everyone in an entire universe to get."
"That artifact is what gives our people life and strength." Said the FedoraMan. "Long ago, we used to feed on the life force of other beings, but then we invented that device. It provides us with the energy we require to remain healthy. Without it... our great empire would dwindle and die."
The Warden's eyes narrowed. But then he relaxed completely. "Good enough."
"...What?" Said the FedoraMan, confused.
"You can have it, as long as you call off your forces."
"I would have just given it to you-- even helped you find all of it-- if you had just asked in the first place!"
The FedoraMan considered his words, then bowed his head in shame. "I... I never considered..."
"Call off your troops!" Called the other Warden, seeming panicked.
"Oh, yes, of course." The FedoraMan activated something on his wrist. "All forces stand down and return home. Mission accomplished."
The Warden tossed the Artifact to the FedoraMan.
"Thank you." Said the FedoraMan, suddenly becoming much less dark and sinister.
"No problem." Said the Warden.
With that, the FedoraMan opened the door and left.
And so it came to pass that the aliens and their fleet returned to their own universe, and the Warden's universe was safe.