Suddenly, Jack found himself within his own mind. A masculine Russian accent spoke as images appeared.
My name is Captain Vladimir Gagarin. I am a cosmonaut of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was widely known that I was secretly the first man in space, but what isn’t known is that I was also the first man on Mars.
When I arrived on Mars, I found the ruins of an alien empire. The local Little Green Men scavengers and I created a pidgin language, and they told me of the planet’s past.
Mars used to be a fertile world.
It was fought over by three races: the burly and four-armed Green Martian warriors, the beautiful and horned Red Martian mages, and the squat and pointed tailed Yellow Martian rogues. Over aeons, the Green Martians came to dominate the Red Martians and the Yellow Martians on the battlefield due to their superior physical strength. Fearing extinction, the Red Martians and the Yellow Martians formed an alliance. They sought help from the place even the greatest of them feared to tread: the Dungeon Universe.
The Red Martians and the Yellow Martians selected two champions to lead an expedition into the Dungeon Universe. The first was Hastur, a Yellow Martian prince who had been kidnapped and raised in the Red Martian Kingdom as a hostage before escaping and returning to the Yellow Martian Kingdom, becoming a rogue-mage because of it. The second was Gwydion, a Red Martian-Green Martian hybrid who had been raised among her father’s barbaric Green Martian tribe before escaping to her mother’s scholarly Red Martian tribe, becoming a mage-warrior because of it.
Hastur, Gwydion, and their expedition ventured into the Dungeon Universe and discovered Cthulu, the Old God of Eldritch Life. They asked him for help. Cthulu offered to teach them how to use the Zone, a type of magic that would let them wield the power of the Dungeon Universe, on the condition that they spread the worship of him in their conquests and sacrifice sentient beings in his name. He had been trapped in the Dungeon Universe aeons ago by the Three Great Gods and now needed faith to survive. They agreed.
Hastur and Gwydion used the Zone to conquer lands in the Space Opera Universe, the High Fantasy Universe, and the Cyberpunk Universe. They came back to Mars with a grand multidimensional army and vanquished the Green Martians. To make sure the Green Martians never threatened them again, they used the Zone to turn them into the Little Green Men, a physically inferior slave race suited only for menial labour. Hastur and Gwydion were wed and crowned the King and Queen of Mars.
Hastur and Gwydion governed conservatively, and Mars flourished as a multidimensional melting pot. Over aeons, however, they stopped spreading the worship of Cthulu and sacrificing sentient beings in his name, seeing the practice as archaic and savage. This angered Cthulu greatly, but he could take no direct action against his former crusaders due to being trapped in the Dungeon Universe. Thus, he decided to wait for an opportunity to present itself.
Hastur and Gwydion had a child together: Sandraudiga, a Green Martian-Red Martian-Yellow Martian hybrid with red skin, horns, four arms, and a pointed tail. The Red Martian Archmage prophesised that Sandraudiga was destined to unite the divided Multiverse, so Hastur and Gwydion raised her as a warrior-mage-rogue in preparation for her becoming the Monarch of the Multiverse. During Sandraudiga’s coming of age party, though, a Yellow Martian noble gave her a gift: the Dagger of Life and Death, a weapon created through the Zone that granted the user the ability to kill any being with a single cut as well as immortality. Cthulu whispered to Sandraudiga through the Dagger of Life and Death, encouraging her violent Green Martian tendencies and telling her she was fated to conquer the Multiverse in his name. He told her that her parents’ perpetual conservative rule had led to an age of listlessness on Mars, that she needed to take the throne by force if she wanted to fulfil her destiny.
Sandraudiga led a Little Green Man revolution against Hastur and Gwydion aided by the Dagger of Life and Death. Her parents, not wanting to fight their daughter, went into hiding on Jupiter. With Mars under her rule, Sandraudiga then led a campaign of conquest across the Multiverse. Ultimately, though, she failed. As powerful as she was, there were greater monsters in the Multiverse: the Overlords, the Three Great Gods, and the Dungeon Master to name but a few. At her lowest point, Cthulu abandoned her. Sandraudiga was driven mad by the fact that she wasn’t fulfilling her destiny. She used an immense magic spell known as a Zone Ultimate on Mars to punish the population for its weakness. It rendered the planet a wasteland of red sand.
Hastur and Gwydion came out of hiding on Jupiter and led a Little Green Man counter-revolution against Sandraudiga. Sandraudiga, weakened in mind, body and spirit, killed her mother Gwydion with the Dagger of Life and Death before being overpowered and disarmed by Hastur.
When I arrived on Mars, Hastur was hunting Sandraudiga across the planet. I returned to Earth on my spacecraft, but what I didn’t know was that Sandraudiga had stowed away with me. She used the last of her Zone power to disguise herself as a human and went into hiding again. Once Hastur realised what had happened, he came to Earth to kill his daughter.
Ever since then, Hastur has been hunting Sandraudiga as the King in Yellow. Lately, he’s been working on something mysterious through the Death Game. I am too weak and stupid to kill Hastur and Sandraudiga, so I have been destroying manned missions to space so that I can at least ensure the human race can’t bring any more horrors back from the dark. I have done many evil things in my life. Slashers have killed thousands across the world because of my actions. Tens of thousands of Russians died in the gulags creating the technology that sent me to Mars. Perhaps this way, though, I can make some small amends.
Jack returned to reality.
He turned to Marilyn. She was looking at the Moon.
‘Marilyn?’ said Jack.
Marilyn’s voice was oddly calm. ‘I finally understand, Jack. I’ve been supressing my memories so that Hastur won’t find me. I’ve been supressing them for so long that I actually forgot who I was. He’s obviously using the Death Game as a giant sacrifice to fuel a Zone Ultimate. He’s going to destroy Earth so he can finally kill me. We have to get the Dagger of Life and Death and kill him first.’
Sam held her arms up. ‘What the heck are you guys talking about?’
‘It’s complicated,’ said Jack.
The rocket headed to Mars lifted off.
The Cosmonaut reached his hand out. The hand fell, and he went still.
‘Here he comes,’ said Marilyn.
From out of the Moon, the King in Yellow descended.
Marilyn was stone still.
Yet the King in Yellow didn’t pay any attention to Marilyn or even the Cosmonaut. He just stood there watching the rocket flying to Mars.
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