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Wizard – Prologue: Fairest of the Fair

For three million years Gaea turned in solitary splendor.

Some of those who lived within her knew of a broader space outside the great wheel. Long before the creation of the angels avian beings flew the towering vaults of her spokes, looked out the clere-story windows, and knew the shape of God. Nowhere in the darkness did they see another like Gaea.

This was the natural order of things:

God was the world, the world was a wheel, and the wheel was Gaea.

Gaea was not a jealous God.

No one had to worship her, and it never occurred to anyone to do so. She demanded no sacrifices, no temples, no choirs singing her praises.

Gaea basked in the heady energies to be found near Saturn. She had sisters scattered through the galaxy. They too were Gods, but the distance between them enforced Gaea’s theology. Her conversations with them spread over centuries at the speed of light. She had children orbiting Uranus. They were Gods to those living inside them, but they hardly mattered. Gaea was the Supreme Titan, the Fairest of the Fair.

Gaea was not a distant concept to her inhabitants. She could be seen. One could talk to her. To reach her, all one had to do was climb 600 kilometers. It was a formidable trip, but an imaginable distance. It put heaven within reach of those daring enough to make the climb. She averaged one visitor in a thousand years.

Praying to Gaea was useless. She did not have the time to listen to all those within her, and would not have done so if she could. She would speak only to heroes. She was a God of blood and sinew whose bones were the land, a God with massive hearts and cavernous arteries who nourished her people with her own milk. The milk was not sweet, but there was always enough of it.

* * *

When the pyramids were being built on Earth, Gaea became aware of changes going on within her. Her center of consciousness was located in her hub. And yet, in the manner of earthly dinosaurs, her brain was decentralized to provide local autonomy for the more prosaic of her functions. The arrangement kept Gaea from being swamped with detail. It worked very well for a very long time. Around her mighty rim were spaced twelve satellite brains, each responsible for its own region. All acknowledged Gaea’s suzerainty; indeed, at first it was hardly proper to speak of her vassal brains as separate from herself.

Time was her enemy. She was intimately acquainted with death, knew its every process and stratagem. She did not fear it. There had been a time when she did not exist, and she knew another such time would arrive. It divided eternity, neatly, into three equal parts.

She knew Titans were subject to senility–she had listened as three of her sisters degenerated into ravings and fantasy, then fell silent forever. But she could not know how her own aging body would play her false. No human suddenly throttled by her own hands could have been more surprised than Gaea when her provincial brains began to resist her will.

Three million years of supremacy had ill-prepared Gaea for the arts of compromise. Perhaps she could have lived in peace with her satellite brains had she been willing to listen to their grievances. On the other hand, two of her regions were insane, and another so darkly malevolent that he might as well have been. For a hundred years the great wheel of Gaea vibrated with the stresses of war. Those epic battles came close to destroying her and resulted in huge loss of life among her peoples, who were as helpless as any Hindu before the Gods of Vedic myth.

No titanic figures strode the curve of Gaea’s wheel, throwing thunderbolts and mountains. The Gods in this struggle were the lands themselves. Reason vanished as the ground opened and fires fell from the spokes. Civilizations a hundred thousand years old were swept away without trace, and others fell into savagery.

Gaea’s twelve regions were too headstrong, too unreliable to unite against her. Her most faithful ally was the land of Hyperion; her implacable enemy, Oceanus. They were adjacent territories. Both were devastated before the war became an armed truce.

* * *

But revolt and war were not to be enough disgrace for an elderly God; elsewhere worse disaster approached. In the wink of an eye the airwaves were flooded with the most astonishing noises. At first she thought it was a new symptom of encroaching dotage. Surely she had invented these impossible voices from space with names like Lowell Thomas, Fred Allen, and the Cisco Kid. But she eventually caught on to the trick. She became an avid listener. Had there been mail service to Earth she would have sent in Ovaltine labels for magic decoder rings. She loved Fibber McGee and was a faithful fan of Amos and Andy.

Television hit her as hard as talkies had stunned audiences in the late 1920s. As in the early days of radio, for many years most television was of American origin, and it was these programs she liked best. She followed the exploits of Lucy and Ricky and had all the answers to The $64,000 Question, which she was scandalized to discover was rigged. She watched everything, something she suspected not even the producers of many of the shows did.

There were movies and there was news. In the electronic explosion of the eighties and nineties there was much more as entire libraries were transmitted. But by that time her studies of human culture were more than academic. Watching Neil Armstrong’s performance confirmed something she had long suspected. Humans would come calling by and by.

She began preparing to meet them. The outlook was not good. They were a warlike breed, possessed of weapons that could vaporize her. They could not be expected to take lightly the presence of a 1,300-kilometer living wheel-God in “their” solar system. She recalled Orson Welles’s Halloween broadcast of 1938. She remembered This Island Earth and I Married a Monster from Outer Space.

All her planning came to naught when Oceanus, ever eager for a chance to sabotage Gaea in any way he could, destroyed DVS Ringmaster, the first ship to reach her. But the humans failed to fulfill her worst expectations. The second ship, though armed and ready to destroy her, stayed its hand long enough for explanations to be made. In this Gaea was aided by the surviving members of the first expedition. An embassy was established, and everyone politely ignored the ship which took station at a safe distance, never to leave her neighborhood again. She did not worry about it. She had no intention of ever provoking it to loose its deadly cargo, and Oceanus’s range of mischief was limited.

Scientists came to study. Later, tourists came to do what tourists do. She admitted anyone as long as he signed a statement absolving her from responsibility.

In due time she was recognized by the Swiss government and allowed to establish a consulate in Geneva. Other nations quickly followed, and by 2050 she had become a voting member of the United Nations.

She looked forward to spending her declining years studying the endless complications of the human species. But she knew that for real security the human race must need her. She must become indispensable, at the same time making it clear that it would be impossible for any one nation to claim her as its prize.

She soon found a way to accomplish that.

She would perform miracles.