and everyone he ever met realized he could be great, in some way or another, so they tried to befriend him. on the whole, they were successful. he had lots of friends who he liked, and who liked him. still, there was always some little part of himself that was unsure of who he really was, and whether anyone could ever really like him, whether he could ever really fit in. he tried to all the time. and it seemed to him and to others that he did. in fact, he was the only one who had any doubts about his being a full member of any group he was ever in. and he knew this, and told himself so, but still the doubts persisted.
and after all, what did he ever really do? nothing. he didn't have grand adventures. he didn't really know if such things happened in reality. so he wrote about them in stories, as did many of his friends. what he really wanted to be was a writer, he thought, and he worshipped Writers as gods, and even called God the Great Writer. still, sometimes... often, he wished it could be more, that it could be real.
and then, one day, it all became terribly real. he was strolling down the street, essentially oblivious to the world, aware only of where he was going, and making sure not to run into anyone, or into traffic. he was on his way to the comic shop, to pick up his weekly comic books, and to see how sales of his independently published black and white comic were going, in his favorite shop in town, Memento's.
suddenly he found himself flung against the wall as a dark skinned man in a trenchcoat and fedorah, carrying a stick, ran past him in an incredibly hurry. he wondered momentarily what the rush was, until he was knocked to the ground by the next thing to pass him. it seemed to be some sort of terribly large robot, but he would later learn that it was in fact a vulgar bootman of the Teknophage.
all of a sudden, the dark-skinned man stopped in the middle of the street, and turned to face the bootman. the man pointed his stick, and suddenly the robot-thing fell to the ground. he (the original he i was talking about) looked down at it in astonishment, and wondered now why that man had been running from this thing in the first place, if he could do that. he soon got his answer, as a full troop of bootmen ran up not far behind, and the man started running again. He could have waited for the odd procession to pass out of sight, and continued on toward Mementos. but he didn't. what he did was to start running as fast as he could, after the mysterious man. he barely stayed ahead of the robots, and suddenly realized the man had vanished. he didn't dare stop running,though, because the robots were still coming. suddenly, rounding a corner, he found himself floating up to eventually land on top of a small cliff. he looked down as the robots passed, eventually stopped, and suddenly a large wheel shaped portal appeared in the air. the vulgar bootmen returned to Kalighoul.
then he turned and found himself face to face with the man the robots had been chasing, who he now saw had some weird paint streaks on his face. "And what exactly do you think you are trying to do, friend?" asked the man. "you are very lucky you are not dead."
"No," he said. and he didn't know exactly what he was saying or why, but he let the words come just the same. "no, not lucky. i couldn't have died just now, it is my destiny to meet you. to have you train me. and to take up your fight against... against who or whatever it is you fight."
The man looked at him funny for a minute. then he said. "very well. i see you are correct. i'll tell you about myself, and my fight. if you still like, you may stay with me, and i will train you. My name is Adam Cain. And you are?"
Cain took him somewhere, to talk to him, to train him. He didn't know where they went, or if it was even necessarily still on Earth. That evening, they sat around a small fire in a large cave.
"Do guys like you really say stuff like that?"
"No, not really. I just thought it would amuse you."
"I thot so. Well, carry on."
"Thank you. Now, first, I'll tell you of the Teknophage. Or Mr. Henry Phage, as he's taken to calling himself these last few millennia. He was born roughly 65 million years ago on a world called Kalighoul. I believe his parents killed each other, as well as a number of their children. Those that remained, gradually killed each other off. After awhile, only the Phage remained. He was far cleverer than the others, and had developed certain mental abilities, which he's honed over time. He has a number of abilities; he is telepathic, can read or take over any mind, many minds at a time, if he chooses; he can create psychic blasts of energy; he can use the mind to travel thru the dimensions of space & time; and more. He is a large old lizard, larger than a Gorn, far more fearsome..."
"You watch Star Trek?"
"Well I can't spend all my time fighting monsters."
"As I was saying, physically, he is very dangerous. he has killed many beasts of many sizes. You are not likely to find any monster in the Multiverse that could better him in a fair fight. But he does like to try to find such creatures. The harder the kill, the more delicious the meal, for him. But, you see, he eats far more than merely their bodies. His primary sustenance is their souls. Any soul he devours becomes one with the Teknophage, and makes him stronger. But his favored souls are human, provided those humans have the proper attitude. He finds the souls of mentally strong individuals taste best.
For several million years, he explored the multiverse, thru wormholes which can be entered thru the mind and the will (provided you have a mind as strong as the Teknophage-not a common thing, to be sure). He did much exploring, but for millions of years, he had no control of where the wormholes took him. Every leap was a leap of faith, so to speak. The first world he landed on was Avalon, I believe. The first world he thoroughly corrupted and controlled was Albion. He gave them teknology they weren't ready for, and steered their history as he saw fit. As it happened, the barbaric way he ran things had a side effect of producing a number of individuals of great moral character. They tried to fight him, and made very nice meals. He does like his souls defiant and bold. Albion now is largely in ruins. They have no real hope there. Their heroes have all risen and fallen, save one. Lady Justice lives on. She fights for...well, justice, as her name would indicate-- though not so much on Albion. Mainly, on Earth, she temporarily bestows her powers through the donning of a blindfold on women who will be her avatar, one at a time, and right some personal wrong which has been done them."
"Justic may be blind, but it can see in the dark."
"Sorry, Mr. Cain, just a line from a show I used to watch. Go on."
"Well, now I'll talk of Earth. when he was first exploring the multiverse, before he could control the wormholes, he occasionally landed here on Earth. He even claims to have been the very serpent who tempted Adam and Eve, and I tend to believe him. Oh, he's been responsible for a few more things here thruout history. But really mainly in the last few centuries has he been focusing on corrupting this world, to take over. He has many agents here, among us. They have been responsible for many developments in the recent history of this world, little things like electricity and television."
"If the Phage is responsible for TV, he can't be all bad."
"And now he is taking over the satellite feeds to all the networks of the world, to send subliminal messages thru television."
"I suppose, if you must know, there have been people who have tried to fight him by using his own tools against him, but I won't tell you any more of that now, it is unimportant. But he has many people here working for him, in many sorts of positions. It could be soon that he has this world completely in his claws.
"But now let me go back aways. After he had explored for a long, long time, he began to develop his own breed of teknology- a hybrid of steam hydraulics and alchemy. From this teknology sprang what most see as his greatest accomplishment: the Wheel of Worlds. With the Wheel, he can control travel thru the wormholes, to any world in the multiverse. The wheel is located in his immense, roving fortress on Kalighoul, from whence he rules over his great empire. However, the Wheel can be opened from any of the wormholes on any world. On Kalighoul is his power its strongest. In fact, he cannot be harmed by anything produced on Kalighoul, and so offworld artifacts are forbidden there. And they manage to fetch a high price on the black market, if one can smuggle them in.
"But Teknophage and his minions aren't the only ones who can use the Wheel. Some of his enemies, like myself, can divert its power when we need to.
"Let me see, now, there is much to say about the Teknophage. What next? Ah, other uses for souls. You see, he doesn't eat them all. He lives in the Phage Building, a giant rolling monstrosity which runs on steam from the Alchemy Furnace. the furnace gets its power from the human souls which are fed into it, after being stewed in the Vats. But not all of the soul is burned; a portion of it remains, and fuses with the others, and slowly, they are developing into...something. Something which may well some day be the downfall of Mr. Henry Phage. Of course, some souls don't make it to the Furnace. some escape along the way, and join the Zebulons. the Zebulons are rather mysterious beings, who apparently serve mainly as the caretakers of the being which is developing in the Furnace. Not all souls are intended for the Furnace. Some are put into the robotic, steam-driven bodies of the Vulgar Bootmen, some of which you saw earlier today. The Vulgar Bootmen are the modern evolution of the old Mercurius Units. Those haven't been made in a couple of centuries, but one does remain in active service, sort of. Primus was sent to Earth hundreds of years ago, and was for a time inactive, until discovered by some people on a farm in Sussex, England. They eventually sold him to a Magician, name of Maskelyne. But one day something went wrong with his left hand, it seemed to take on a life of its own. it hit a man, and so Maskelyne disassembled the robot he had dubbed Mr. Hero, and so Primus lay in a crate till about a year ago, when he was discovered and reassembled by Jennifer Hale, in Los Angeles. ...Except for his left hand, which escaped from the crate early on, and slowly made its way to the nearest wormhole, the one thru which Primus had been transported to Earth. It wreaked a fair amount of havoc along the way, but finally made its back to Kalighoul. It currently works for Mr. Phage."
"Uh- yes, it is similar, I suppose... Now, currently Primus is only slowly regaining lost memories of his true origins. It will take some time before he remembers everything. Oh, I should mention that all Mercurius Units had two heads, one, for in depth thought, called the Racionator, and one, for fighting, which is often referred to as the Pugilist. It is a simple matter interchanging these heads, and when they are on the body, they will immediately activate (provided the body is full of water and the furnace in the chest is stoked with coal) and become aware of all that the other head has done while it was the active one. Soon, Primus and Miss Hale will be making their way to Kalighoul, for a confrontation with Teknophage. I will of course try to prevent it, but I doubt that I will succeed. If I do not, I will accompany and guide them. It is a mission I may well not return from, so it is best that I finish your training as soon as possible. But now it is time to sleep, I will tell you more in the morning."
And so they slept.