The Earth was, at the moment, a coiled spring, waiting. All seemed dead, a fine grey desert of sand and dust and ash, but all around were signs of life: a thick cloud of black smoke rose out of the hills in the background, contributing to the heady stench of sulphur in the air; the air crackled with fierce electrical energy, just waiting to be released; tiny pools of thick glutinous liquid bubbled quietly to themselves.
‘Primordial soup,’ the dark stranger said, dipping his hand into the pool, letting the viscous jelly coat his glove.
‘Marvellous,’ sparked his companion. ‘And now its all over your hand.’
The dark man looked up, a mischievous glint in his slate grey eyes. He looked completely at home in his bizarre environment, despite his clean black clothes and neat Devil’s beard. His calm neatness seemed to act as natural contrast to the pensive mood of the Earth, which was more than could be said for his companion. His light blue eyes were constantly darting across the dead landscape, the dust invading his cool brown clothes and light blond hair. The electricity in the air seemed to ground itself in him, infecting him with a nervous humour.
‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ the calm stranger said, his arms encircling the blank vista.
‘Beautiful,’ his friend echoed, nervously. ‘Are you sure we should be doing this?’
‘But what about the Academy?’ he asked, looking over his shoulder as if naming the devil would make it appear. ‘What about Bruiser? You know what he did to Drax.’
The bearded man laughed, short and clipped.
‘Drax landed on a class five planet and declared himself a god. We were sent here to study the area. There is something of a difference, yes?’
‘What about the law of non-intervention?’
The dark stranger stood, wiping his gloves on his long black robe. He gave his companion a solemn look.
‘We’re not intervening,’ he said firmly. ‘We’re . . . mingling. Come on, let’s see how it all turns out.’
‘Hmm,’ said his companion.
Lightning crackled as the two strangers paced off towards the hills, one following in the steady strides of the other. A fierce wind dragged the dry dust across the plains, and the pits bubbled happily to themselves. A fierce, elephantine howl filled the air, coming seemingly from everywhere at once. Within seconds, it died away and the planet was alone with its thoughts again.
Then came the explosion, and the spring began, slowly, to uncoil.