Prisoner of Empire (aka The Infinity Beach)

The distant future

An unknown world

Our reality

Mother and daughter, looked along the beach with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. A distant silver form came slowly from the Infinity End of the beach. Even at that distance Lorea was certain sure who it was. An almost universally recognized figure. Their first visitor since before the young girl Clovella was born.

"It cannot be," thought Lorea "no one can come from that direction. Even the Empress herself would only come here by faster than light starship."

The silver humanoid form seemed in no hurry. Hovering on his board, basking in the magnificent early morning sun, the golden sands and the seemingly tranquil waters. Stopping from time to time to take in the view.

Finally the entity acknowledged his audience with a smile and a wave of the hand. Common, if not universal, gestures among human types and understood by Lorea and her daughter.

The three sat at a crude but comfortable table outside the residence. The entity happy enough with the simple fare offered. Though he did not need it. His energies came from the stars themselves.

"This world is our prison," said Lorea sadly "more; we are restricted purely to our residence and the modest gardens that you see the pathway down to the beach, and the beach itself."

"I perceive that the surrounding forests and beyond and even the waters are inimical to almost any form of life," said the visitor "a starkly beautiful yet incredibly dangerous world."

"You seem happy mighty one" offered Lorea respectfully.

"I feel very optimistic my lady Lorea," responded the entity with equal respect. "That a long search is finally coming to an end."

The visitor pointed to the Infinity end of the beach.

"A star gate was once there. Part of a closed system it has been removed and the star gate at the other end sealed, resulting, in this case, in an unusual effect. But you know all this."

"Clovella and I once took provisions and walked along the beach for what seemed like Eternity. The view, though magnificent, is always the same. Eventually, almost starved, we returned."

The visitor nodded.

"Yet you came from the infinity end?" enquired Lorea.

"This is a difficult place to get too, even for me" he replied "and that was the easiest way to come here."

The woman, the young girl, and their visitor man spent some time together. A time of happiness for all three of them. By whatever powers he possessed and they seemed to be a great many, the visitor was able to affect a re-engineering of the immediate geography and beyond. Making the unlivable, pleasantly livable. Lorea and Clovella, mother and daughter, first apprehensively but with growing delight were able to walk in the beautiful forests and even swim in the waters near the residence. Though they were both too cautious to stray far.

The visitor saw evidence aplenty to support his earlier feelings of optimism. That the long quest might finally be approaching success. However he would have to be sure. Certain sure, before he summoned his old friend.

The arrival of the starships was no surprise to them. Lorea felt they were overdue and more he had predicted their arrival. A small yet powerful fleet, as the Queen/Empress of the Krython Empire would never rely on the protection of a single vessel. One of her most infrequent visits, to check personally on her internee and to delight at first hand in Lorea's continuing confinement.

The Empress and the few of her entourage that descended from the starships were stunned by what they found. A child they did not know existed and an entity thought to have been more of legend than an actual physical form to be encountered. More, a recently introduced bio re-engineering process was making alarming progress.

None of the three bowed before the Empress. Even Lorea had overcome an instinctive reaction to do so. The Silver Surfer, former herald of the once great Galactus, was not in the habit of bowing to anyone.

The Empress's greeting, an odd form of communication, part sound, part telepathic, and part reaching for the soul dripped with hatred and malevolence and an intention to intimidate. The implied threat that all of the power of a great empire was at her disposal. All of which she knew, in present company, was purest bluff. The Surfer, completely unbowed, stopped her basically before she started. Cautioning her on any assumptions as to the inequality of their relative positions.

"I have far more than the power of an empire to draw upon," he stated simply. "and that power is immediately accessible right here, right now. All of the power of a name that the Universe itself once trembled at the mere mention of. All of the power of he whom they called Galactus, destroyer of worlds!" It was not a speech he had to make often.

Had the biological computers on board the Empress Fleet still been present they might well have crashed. Yet the starships that housed them had already gone. With a little prompting.

The Silver Surfer pointed in the direction of the Infinity Beach. "There is no place for you and your entourage here upon this world Empress. Yet the way is open to you to walk home. It may take you a while, but you will have much time for reflection."

The Infinity end of the beach contained no horizon. The figures of the Empress and her small entourage on a journey far, far longer than their individual life spans eventually became too small for the naked or even enhanced eye to see. Though of course the Surfer still saw them.

The Silver Surfer saw the Empress visit as just a distraction. Despite his seeming ruthlessness he knew the best minds of empire would find a way to recover her. That is, if they cared.

Later the Silver Surfer decided the time had come, to summon an old friend and seek final confirmation.

The three of them traveled for what seemed only moments along the Infinity Beach. Yet it might as well have been another Universe. The strand of beach and adjacent portion of ocean a very narrow but endless filament suspended among the stars.

It may have been only a few seconds or it may have been an eternity but the gentle telepathic communication came even before the form of its author was apparent. "You are right old friend Clovella is the one."

"Lorea, little Clovella, this is my friend, Times Guardian, whom you may now better as the Living Tribunal, he will take care of you, protect you now, as I have explained, until that protection is no longer needed."

The Silver Surfer reflected that it had been a long but noble search.

Some time ago, he who is above us all, greater even than Times Guardian, had left us. Yet not before spreading his seed among the stars. Only one of those seeds had borne fruit and the fruit had now, finally been found.

The Silver Surfer, cosmic policeman, smiled.

End

Garth