Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths is a 24-issue American comic book limited series (identified as a "24-part maxi-series") and crossover event, produced by Marvel And Comic Book Resources.
Story By PtachMadripoor
The Watchers stop watching and get involved, warning most of the Marvel multiverse of what is going on. To give them an example of hust how bad things are they show the Secret Wars Beyonder going toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor and loosing. As the Anti-Monitors forces begin consuming other universes, the Captain Britain Corps and the allegiance of Kang's prepare to hold down the front-line, and are decimated. The Guardians of the Galaxy, the Squadron Supreme and the Invaders, gather at the Fantastic Four headquarters as the heroes try to piece what is going on, as history changes both in the past and in the future. Visions of the Kang's transmission across time and space pleading for help are seen to the most powerful heroes and villains, and they plan to meet. The Inhumans, Mantis, Adam Warlock and the heralds of Galactus are send on a recon mission through the Negative Zone, gaining allies with Blastarr and Annihilus against the Anti Monitor. Annihilus betrays them and sides with the Anti-Monitor as the loss of most of the Inhumans, the Heralds and Blastarr, but it is a feint as Annihilus conveys the Anti-Monitor's true plans to the injured Mantis, and through her to Adam Warlock.
The X-men are kidnapped with Xavier and Jean Grey as the Shi'ar assert themselves in this role of universal level conflict, claiming Earth as their own and throwing the plans of the assembled defenders to hell. Earth's defender fall into further disarray as the demi gods and gods are pulled away from Earth's defenders during their conflict with the Shi'ar. The human population is stunned until the Shi'ar surrender to Namor, lord of the oceans in a secret treaty to protect their greatest secret. Meanwhile, the Kree, Skrulls and most space races die defending Shi'ar space as the Anti-Monitor, aided by the Annihilation wave and the techs-infected Magus tear through deep space. The Shi'ar ploy works, moving the M'Kkraan crystal and the heart of the multiverse to the swamps of Florida and that Nexus of realities with the X-men as it's guardians. The ploy cost the original X-men their lives fighting the Wave and the Phalanx.
Adam Warlock begins suffering from his link to Mantis and hers to Annihulus, as much as Annihilus hates serving the Anti-Monitor, the AM is granting his deepest desires. Annihilus communicates that the Anti-Monitor plans to turn the negative zone "inside out", folding it onto known space but lacks the crystal to do so. But he has found an alternative: The In-Betweener. With a series of black holes the AntiMonitor is force feeding everything there is in the Negative Zone into the In-Between via a device similar to Galactus' feeding machine. Everyone notices that they have no more reflections in the mirror, but too late. The Anti-Monitor is aware of the link between Annihilus/Mantis/Adam Warlock and sends out energy blast killing Annihlus and Mantis, and triggering the change from Warlock to the Magus, and the Magus let loose among the assembled heroes and villiains. She-Hulk, War Machine, Alpha Flight and various Avengers and a host of villains are killed in the fight, with Doom finally killing Warlock/Magus.
The stolen gods of earth find themselves at a gathering at the foot of Yggdrasil, organized by Gaea of Earth, with all the mystic gods and lords assembled with their people. She feels that earth's children will not hold, but knows that her survival is critical now that the M'Kraan is residing on Earth. As a united force of Skyfather's and armada they stand a better chance as Gaea commands Odin to show them what is happening with Dorammu, using the eye of Vishanti for his missing eye.
The gods realize just how bad things are as the Vishanti are shown (in the sap of Yggradsil) to be dead at the feet of the Anti-Monitor and Dorammu left alone, wounded and yet defiant. The In-Betweener is about to burst as they fight in the white of nothing. About to die, Dorammu produces a flaming sword and plunges into himself, much to the amused shock of the Anti-Monitor. But it is no ordinary sword, it is Surtur's Twilight sword. The Sword glows bright and the halls of Olympus, Asgard, the realm of Osiris and other home of the pantheon's are engulfed instantly in flame. The branches on Yggdrasil burn and fall, but the tree lives and as the eye of Odin/Vishanti projects, from the body of Dorammu bursts forth World Serpent, aflame, shooting through the Anti-Monitor and straight into the In-Betweener, killing him but bringing enough mass/positive matter to counter the Negative Zone.
Odin is blinded and deafened by these events and Heimdall volunteers to become his eyes and ears. The assembled gods are enraged that their realms are gone, but that was what Gaea offered as a deal with Dorammu to slow down the Anti-Monitor: Rule all of the mystic realms, even for once second, in order to channel them as weapons against the Anti-Monitor. Olympus, Asgard and the other realms are no more. But the threat is not over, as the star-filled sky over Yggrasil turns red and the Skyfather's sense the Anti-Monitor reassembling himself.
The Skyfather's confer and agree to marshal their forces, and leave for Earth and their followers to make plans for a final defense. As the gods leave, Gaea confers with Thor and Loki. To Thor her son she sends to Earth to summon Atum and to bring news of the passing to the remaining Earth's defenders, and to Loki she gives a cosmic cube, much to his shock. With foreboding words she says, "you know what to do" and they are off.
Gaea is left alone with Yggdrasil, and wonders if they will survive. It looks like she was talking to the tree, but from the shadows steps out Set and the gods of death: Hela, Pluto, Anubis and Death herself leading them. Silently they stand on the dead leaves of Yggdrasil and Thanos steps out from their shadows, stating that when the gods fail they will be ready.
Back at the Fantastic Four building, Reed, T'Challa, Doom and the surviving brain trust begin planning the defenses of Earth with the surviving Shi'ar forces. Thor is teleported in and reports the turn of events with the gods, and Doom and Strange confer with Juggernaut and Morgan Le Fey, as magic has become unpredictable and the rules have changed, and they dare note summon mystic shields for loss of control or management over them.
Mephisto springs up amongst them, saying that some magic and their rules still do hold as he offers the usual deal. Sell your soul for the power to overcome their enemy. Many of the assembled villains argue for while the heroes argue against and a near fight breaks out until Doom mentions that if Mephisto had the power to overcome the Anti-Monitor, he would have done so already. Mephisto defers and knows that Doom's soul will be a prize worth having once he dies, "if there is a hell left." Mephisto activates on of the deep space probes just as the alliance of the Eternals of Earth and Titan send a report: The Shi'ar Imperial Guard and Nova corps defenses have broken around Pluto and the Wave is sure to overtake them. The Eternals will make the final stand at Jupiter, but they won't hold against their former allies, now Phalanx fodder.
With that bad news comes worse, as Victor and the other mystics sense it. Reed zooms in on the surface of the moon as it looks like it is swirling. The mass of the moon begins to rise, as the surface of the moon begins to smooth out with the untold millions of leaderless Mindless Ones teleporting in, now under the control of the Anti-Monitor. Spiderman's spidey sense double's him over with pain. All of them looking up as one towards the Earth. Mephisto smiles and says "times up" as thousands of beams race towards the Earth.
"Sold!" is a scream from within the heroes ranks and a hand grasps Mephisto's.
"Done." says Mephisto without looking, and before the beams hit the Earth they are blocked at the edge of Earth space by an invisible barrier, as the Invisible Woman sells her soul. Her shields extend far and beyond, covering the planet and protecting it. The impact of all that force is too much, and she is knocked backwards. Johnny Storm catches his sister in mid-fall, but they hold someone that they cannot see. No one can, except the mystics. As they mystics move as one to summon shield spells, their magics intermix and go awry becoming chaotic as it expand over the earth and absorbs the second blast, turning the sky red. But the mystic barrier keeps growing and growing and thins out into nothing, allowing some beams to get through and devastating the South American continent and Australia. Some heroes make for Quinjets as Sentinels fly over disaster areas and offer aid.
"Won't work a second time" says Mephisto, and it is true. The Magicians cannot even say the magic words, let alone use the symbols. "What do you want?" Speak up a commanding voice from within their ranks, and Magneto and the Brotherhood stand as one, along with other mutants.
A new Watcher, not Uatu, steps in and ads his own updates. There is a wave of fear raging through the cities of the world, from small town homes to the great capitals. The Mole Man has slaughtered all of his beasts; factions or various national armies and militias are turning their weapons on themselves; and neighbor turns on neighbor as their comrades as fear of futility and utter oblivion begin to consume them all. The assembled heroes can barely cope and people are loosing faith.
This is the work of D'spayre, feeding on the Fear energy projected the Anti-Monitor. Reed is startled by the news and contacts Johnny to pull Quasar from the shielding duties and to run some tests. The telepath's of the world reach out and try to calm people down. From within Mount Wundergore the howls can be heard of the Evolutionary's ani-men. Even now he can feel the fear upon him, almost overwhelm him and Franklin cries on his father's shoulder. "It's too late."
"No, it's not too late. Not if you can summon the courage." Shaking, but rising to his feet turns to the new Watcher. "Do it." The High Evolutionary crackles with energy, but it hides the Watcher flashes his eyes and a wave generates from him. On the World Ship Mojo screams as the computer screen showing the Anti-Monitor this scene goes blank. The Anti-Monitor contemplates this.
Reed turns to the High Evolutionary. "Set it up... for two."
Father looks at his son: "I am going to ask you to be strong and to grow up in ways I've never known you could. What ever happens, we will stand and protect the people we love as father and son." One final hug and Reed leaves Franklin in the e-Isotope chamber. As the chamber fills up with terrigen mists and begins being radiated with the e-isotope beams, Reed extends his thoughts to his son. Visions of the family good times and celebrations fill his head, and in the shield in the skies above, the light bends to reveal the face of Susan Richards looking down on her son.
"Mommy!" as Franklin, as we knew him, ceases to be.
Reed Richards then steps into the other chamber.The High Evolutionary explains that there is not enough of the mist that the Inhumans provided. Reed knows and from within the Fantasti-car he lowers comes from the cargo hold onto the table. Reed strips and lays inside the coffin like object. A places a communicator to his forehead and nods to the Watcher. The new Watcher begins to seal it up as Reed lays within Adam Warlock's birthing cocoon.
"Reed, I have never seen this done on a living organism. We know what Franklin may be, but what will YOU become."
The new Watcher steps back and begins to bathe him in energy.
Past the Mars orbit at the asteroid belt, the Phalanx Wave pauses.There are many many more asteroids than before and they suspect a trap. The begin blasting their way through and work their way through. With a clearing made, the begin to power up to full speed. They move through the debris and a few ships get through. They pick up a small subspace signal but it is too late.
From one of the small rock steps out Ant-Man and clicks a signal. On Mars, the massive Master Mold's eyes glow as he continues to churn out Sentinel after Sentinel made out of Martian materials, not Earth, covered in red soil.
"By your command."
The robots blast from the Martian surface and charge into space to engage the Phalanx Wave, led by the Crimson Dynamo. As the wave passes through and begins cutting into the Sentinels, Ant-Man sounds out a second signal and from within the remaining asteroid debris, the Earth Sentinels spring to life and are lead in two waves by Ultron and the sentinel of the future Nimrod.
On earth more and more watchers gather at various sites. At San Francisco Goliath and the other size changers begin to raise the Dreaming Celestial up from the ground while Iron Man confers with T'challa how to get it into the battle. In China another Watcher observes the Mandarin gives a rousing speech about his past as a villain and tyrant, but in his heart he felt he could do more for his people than anyone else could o would. He admits his cruelty and his needs, but goes further than that and speaks of his will to live, to succeed and to triumph when all the heroes and powers of the world opposed him all came from his people, a quality he shares with the assembled masses today. He is FROM these people, and they have managed to survive him. Now he stands before them not as their conqueror but as their champion, of his people, united as they were by their first emperor against a common enemy.
It is said that the Great Wall can be seen from space.
The unified cheers of action by the assembled masses could also be heard that day.
The Mandarin turns from the crowd turns to his attention to the warriors he has gathered to follow him.
"Prepare to hunt down and dispose of D'spayre."
The Hand bows, squads dressed in battle colors following the banners of Psylocke (Purple), Elektra (Scarlet), Wolverine (Black) and Daredevil (bright red). As one they say "Show no fear." bowing and disappearing into the shadows
At the beaches of French Normandy yet another Watcher observes the scene before him. It is hard and raining and there is a massive army gathered before it. They are assembled through time and space, the various armies from the timelines where Germany won World War II. Kaptain Blitzkreig and other leaders of their various time displaced soldiers stand at the top of the ridge at the beach looking down at their assembled forces. Behind them Daimon Hellstorm and Johnny Blaze walk among the assembled weapons of various times light them on fire. Among the beach the Red Skull commands and speaks of Reichs come and gone and of the crisis before them. Then he speaks of their assembled might and out of all the armies they have not shown any of the fear that has claimed the others throughout the world. Of the courage and willingness to do what they have done to rise to power. The demon lords of hells have been beaten and defeated or claimed by the enemy, so they hold no fear for them in the afterlife. They cannot be defeated by any force on Earth, but now Earth asks for something more. Something only they can provide.
Only now they are called to defend their Reich, and their right to live and to have been. From the waves walks up the Elder of the Universe the Gardner, with a bowl of green clippings. The Red Skull commands them to all take a knee, and they kneel as one. He kneels before the Gardner and looks up at him. The hate burns behind his eyes, and the Gardner acknowledges him. The Red Skull lowers his head and removes the mask. The Garderner feeds him a piece of the green leaf, as sacraments of old, and the human eyes of the skull burn with fire. The face begins to melt and peel and the TRUE Red Skull light up, now engulfed in bright red flame. The agony is overwhelming and the silent scream is more terrible than any heard before.
The Gardner passes along the soldiers and they also light up and burn. But they do not flinch, they do not move - they remain kneeling as Blaze and Hellstrom look on. Finally they overhear the brief prayer the Gardner speaks to the last of the burning soldiers.
"Those that know fear BURN at the Man-thing's touch. Those that spread fear and hate the Man-thing shall consume them, but when hate and fear are burned out, what is left behind shall rise like the phoenix and ideals you have always wanted to be."
It is done says, the Gardner. Johnny now kneels on the sand and Daimon with his pitchfork ablaze stands before behind him. Johnny erupts in flame as the Ghost Rider comes out and with his eyes the Penance Stare reaches out like lightning into the burning skulls of those assembled before him. Damon plunges his trident into the skull of his friend, his heart breaking inside.
"One for the many."
As the Ghost Rider falls, from burnt and purged ashes of the soldiers rise the Skull Squadron, led by the flaming Red Skull, their uniforms changed to reflect the one who gave his existence to redeem theirs. They walk silently by their fallen benefactor and Daimon who cradles him in his arms. The Skull Squadron walk to their weapons and vehicles and from their remains reassemble terrifying weapons of war, with the Red Skull atop Ghost Rider's bike.
"As Roger's defended his people, so must we defend ours! RIDE!"
And the gigantic Skull Squadron lifts up into the sky and tearing red flame into the skies above.
At Castle von Doom several Watchers gather, as Doom and and his time platform reemerge with allies, one last time.
"He almost had us, the wretch!" Screams Doom from his broken armor. Spider Man in tatters and a his arm in a sling is so shocked he can't think of anything funny to say, to relieve his terror. Nightcrawler kneels and offers a silent prayer.
The last trip proved to be unfruitful, as the timelines of the alternate futures and past have been destroyed. Spiderman's spidey-sense and Nightcrawler's teleportation got them most of the way back, but only through Kronos' sacrifice did they manage to escape. Doom turns and blasts his time platform.
"So he cannot follow us."
Nightcrawler leads Peter from the lab and through the gathered scientists gathered among them, among them Spiderman 2099 and Nathaniel Richards, Reed's father. Out into the halls Doom strides before he arrives to the assembled hall of Castle Doom. Awaiting him are the heroes gathered from various timelines (minus the Nazi victors) and villains, as well as Apocalypse from the his Age with his four Horsemen. But to none of these powers does Doom speak to, but to the other Dr. Doom's has gathered before him. As Victor approaches, the other Dooms begin to repair his armor and tend to his wounds. The time for pride hand hubris has come to an end.
"The timelines to and from this point have been rendered null. There is no one else to gather. We had found a timeline where Franklin Richards and Rachel Grey had a son, a power we could use against the Anti-Monitor. As he agreed, convinced by this timeline's Spiderman, his timeline became to unravel. He fought the Anti-Monitor's minions from his timeline, and died. He bought us time to escape. The cascade throughout the timelines was devastating beyond comprehension, and only through the Kronos' sacrifice were we able to seal our own timeline from the cascade. We are truly alone now.
"But we are Doom."
The Doom's nod. The Doom with the brighter armor gives him a startling updates of his own.
- The Red Skull and his like have left to make peace and ascends, whatever that may portend. Less filthy rabble, but their might will be missed.
- Word comes from America that the Sentinels won't hold the 2nd line of defense, and that scout ships have already tried to penetrate the Captain's Shield."
The Doom with the hybrid Iron Man/Doom armor follows: "The bad. The mutant Kitty Pride complains of having to focus her strength to "stay with us", and through the willing experiment with the Vision we have found something... disturbing. The walls between worlds is thinning, per the sorcerers, and the tests your Reed has asked for from Quasar reveal the truth of it."
The Doom with the medieval armor finishes for him. "This universe is breaking down on the Quantum level. The cost of the knowledge cost the Vision his life, and Quasar's benefactor Eon has perished examining it."
The 616 figures it out "The Anti-Monitor may or may not have the Ultimate Nullifier, but he is destroying the Microverse, and verses in between theirs and ours, all material with it. The building blocks of our reality. An excellent strategem with only one recourse. He is forcing us from our walls and drawing us to his realm to confront him on his terms."
The Doom's turn as one to the assembled masses. They look at the power and might gathered before them from various timelines and realities, good and bad. It is enough to make the heavens tremble. It may not be enough.
Doom 626 summons Spiderman, passing a disk with their plans to Lilandra and Roma of Doom's plan to send this massive force against the Anti-Monitor in the Microverse.
"What of Richards, Parker?"
"Any messages for him?"
Iron Doom steps in: "He will get it, but he won't be able to respond. He has begun the Ascencion stage for his son and taken the step himself in Warlock's coccoon."
"Such courage - he decides to wrap himself up and suck on his thumb back in the womb."
The Doom's stand pause, shocked.
"What? I've been in his presence during battle." Points to Spidey. "Some of his charms rub off."
"We are Doom."
"Yes, we are Doom."
Spidey is about to leave as Doom steps forth and brings everyone up to speed. In space the returning Ant Man piggy backs home undetected on the battle damaged hull of a scout ship, the sentinels finally fallen. From Europe red burning stripes come to greet the Phalanx Scout ships.
- In South East Asia, Starfox's eyes glow, as do the eyes of Ikaris, Sersi and Makkari as they power the shields in the Savage Land, and the also on the severed head of Zuras now in the hands of the Anti-Monitor. Mojo has been blasted to shreds as his screens have all gone blank, and the Anti-Monitor looks for new means of information.
- In California the Dreaming Celestial stands ready, great powers attempting to life him up and onto the SHIELD helicarrier for transport.
- At Mount Wundergore, the e-Isotope beams have stopped and gestation begins.
- in deep space the Phalanx parts ways of their still gigantic army as the Technarch Magus plunges in to lead them.
- Before the Living Tribunal, Uatu the Watcher has plead his case, and it is now Mephisto's turn.
- in Florida, Loki sneaks by the Shi'ar guards as in disguise and enters the chamber of the M'Kraan crystal, it's many facted forms now gone as it stands as one giant scarlet pilar.
And as Peter boards the Shi'ar piloted ship back to the America's he catches the last part as Victor von Doom (plural), in all his pride and surving incarnations, gives Doom's war speech...
"... for we are the powers of other realms gathered to defend the one last bastion of hope for our existence. We shall be saviours of our existence! (The roars grow louder). The enemy will fall before this assembled might! For we are Legion, we are Power, we are
...THE LEGION OF DOOM.
An 8th Watcher stands over the skies Siberia as a SHIELD platform keeps afloat at it's highest level, the Winter Guard (Darkstar, Ursa Major, Vanguard, Red Star) and leads the host of the Russian air and space defenses to await the piercing of the Roger's Shield. as they observe the attempts of the Phalanx Wave scouts trying to pierce the various shields. The siblings would rather be at the Savage Land, lending their power to reinforce the shield. They look to the Watcher among them for guidance, and his inexperience with offering advice out does not help. He is not Uatu. Their decision will be a costly one.
In the presence of the Living Tribunal, Uatu the Watcher steps back and Mephisto, still on laying on the floor, attempts to rise. The mark of the Anti-Monitor's hand glows on his face, and a pained Mephisto cannot move. He stays put and begins his testimony.
The defense calls to witness the Celestial Host.
With a wave of his hand, the Living Tribunal summons before his presence the entirety of the Celestials. The Celestials, when summoned, appear to be in combat with one another, and fall back to opposing factions, arms and weapons trained on each other.
"Order." speaks the Tribunal and the Host stands down. Barely.
"Our story begins at the end. The end of Time, the end of All Things. The passing of this world and this very existence. The dying breathes of Eternity, as he prepares to pass. The Celestials of the future, having gathered as much knowledge about this existence and the previous one of Galactus, have survived their own designated destruction, are curious about the existence to come. The Phoenix Force and Galactus come together at the end, at the Big Crunch as the universe collapses into their fiery union. In the void of nothingness left behind the Celestials from the past have gathered, (outside your judgement, Tribunal) and decided to see what laid beyond.
None of their probes or subservient minions were able to pierce the Crunch, but as the Galactus finally died, they remembered the one ship who's design did survive to pass onto another existence. The ship of Galen, he who would be Galactus. As the existence collapsed to mere star system size, the Celestials yanked Galactus's Worldship from existence and found the original designs still within it's records. It seemed the part of Galen that was still within Galactus retained some a touch of nostalgia. The great ship was moved and redesigned to it's original specifications, and powered with half of the might of every Celestial present so that it may survive it's journey. And into the Crunch it went.
Through their connection with their essence to the ship, the found an existence much like ours, with rules and physics akin, but not identical. A universe in constant flux, unstable, recreated, splintered and made whole and unified, only to be destroyed and recreated again. And a lone figure, suffering figure caught in between the existence, an entity the Celestials thought as a kindred, one of their own. And they made an effort to pull him back through Galen's ship, through their time and space. So much of their energy was invested in this endeavor, that they were hooked. They would either pull the the probe back or risk being lost with their discovery. It was until Arishem himself reached into the Crunch and closed his hand upon the probe and pulled back did Galen's ship and it's contents did this event conclude, at the cost of Arishem's mighty hand.
Depleted, the Celestials rested and examined one who would appear to be their peer. Dead but not dead, the Celestials examined what they had pulled back from the next existence, and from it's recent memories they found visions of imprisonment, torment and being leeched of essence and energy to fuel other's needs. Sympathy for it's plight they sent it back in time when life and energy were most abundant. In a reverse of Galactus' rebirth, the Anti-Monitor cascaded back through the variety of the multiverse backwards until it arrived to the main timeline under the care of the Stranger, where it began to regenerate. Awakened, the Anti-Monitor killed the Stranger, then challenged other powers of our cosmos, reestablishing it's primary function for being: Destruction of all positive matter life, antethema to it's existence. With it's first assault it slew Order and Chaos and usurped their power, keeping him from out of your view until things escalated to where they are now. It sought out familiar surroundings, and with the presence of the Word Ship of Galactus, he found the very vessel that brought him here. When Galactus came "home", he found a squatter who had settled in, and had violently "evicted" Galactus, and in a show of power he turned Galactus' own servants on him, changing them so that Galactus could not fight back.
The Celestials of the present, aware of what their future selves had sent back, are at war with what to do over. The Anti-Monitor has not harmed them, for his own reasons, yet they struggle against one another. Do they let this being, who they thought of as another Celestial, complete it's function and create a destroy this existence so that they may escape with the Anti-Monitor back to it's own existence and learn and grow beyond the limits of THIS existence, or do they accept the inevitable and let all that they have learned and become cease to be.
The existence of Galactus has always been a thorn to their understanding of how the cycle of existence, how there came to be 'one survivor'."
The Celestials nod. No words said of their culpability in this crisis.
"And speaking of the Big G, witness #2 should be arrive... just about.... now."
A broken and shattered Galactus pops in, falls to his knees before the sitting Living Tribunal and reaches out with one hand.
As Uatu watches in horror, the mighty and proud Galactus, lone survivor of the existence before this, the Devourer of Worlds, he who is beyond good and evil, is barely able to stay on his feet, as his form would be interpreted of being. By sheer will alone the cracked face behind the ruptured helmet retains it's shape, and Galactus has cracks on his form, his body erupting bleeding energy.
Mephisto gloats as he leans back and takes a casual lying position. Uatu moves to help before Galactus falls, but Galactus waves him away. He manages to straighten up and redefine his form, but his armor pulsates with dark splotches as if alive on it's own. Galactus asks for the meaning of the assault upon his being, the usurption of his role in the universe and the allowance of the corruption of those who serve his purpose, as he tosses the slagged body of the Silver Surfer to the Tribunal from his fist. The Living Tribunal swats the Surfer away as Mephisto cackles at the fate of his former enemy. The Surfer disappears from their presence, willled away from these proceedings.
Galactus, still barely able to stand, demands to know why all of this was allowed.
The Living Tribunal stands and walks to him. He places a hand on Galactus and "walks" around him, restoring the Devourer of Worlds to from his damaged form to the Galactus we know.
"Up until this time in all of creation was there anything like you, mighty and proud Galactus. There were beings born at the beginning of existence, and beings born from the fabric of it's edges and from it's end. But until now Galactus was unique, the lone survivor of the previous universe. Then, as the Tribunal stands again facing Galactus, and then steps back towards his chair, behind him stands the Anti-Monitor, in full armor, stands facing Galactus, breathing menace and woe upon the Devourer.
As Mephisto cringes back, the Tribunal takes to his chair.
"Now there are two. And he does the job much better than you, Devourer."
Hovering over the Hudson, a Watcher observed another front on the defense of Earth take shape. Aboard the Shield Helicarrier, now codenamed the Chariot of the Gods, Tony Stark and the members of Avengers, X-men, New Mutants and Power Pack take their places near the left hand of the Dreaming Celestial. The X-man Havok, the Chinese Radioactive Man, Avengers Jack of Spades and Photon and Energizer of the Power Pack assembled themselves near the tips of the Dreaming Celestial it's fingers.
Iceman kept cooling down the equipment, Polaris maintained the magnetic stasis fields as the Power Pack kids kept their little sister ready. Without making physical contact with the actual Celestial, they would channel it's power into them and out into the oncoming Wave. They were the purest, the most powerful. Other energy channelers were standing by at within the hanger to replace any of them, should they burn out or fall. The Radioactive Man was leading them through Tai Chi, so that they would breathe and fight as one.
Back at the Baxter Building, someone else was thinking of shooting off into space. Ben pulled it out of the garage, a last minute rescue mission. From deep n the garage the might Thing pulls out the original ship of the Fantastic Four, with Johnny Storm inside, checking it's preflight.
"We're doing what again, Ben?"
"When the Celestial's 'Hand of Glory' would clear a path, and some buddies back in the Army have pulled the munitions we can't use (lest we poison the earth) so that we have little something special to so that you and I can pull our allies butts out of the fryer."
"They're immortals who put it all on the line for us, kid. We can do no less. For them. Besides, how am I going to get my rematch?"
As Ben suits up and climbs aboard, Johnny fires up the countdown as the ceiling above the opens up to blue sky.
"Sue is going know?"
"We go when the shield compressed and we have to be on top of Roger's own shield before they close it up."
The rocket throttles up.
"Uh huh..... Ben, you know the seat belts haven't been tightened since we first used this?"
"And bathroom in the back wasn't fixed in time."
"And we need four people to pilot it back?"
"And the shields may not hold."
"Didn't stop us the first time, and this can't make me any prettier."
The friends look at one another and Johnny places his hand over over Ben's as Grimm fires up the boosters.
"For the world."
"For the worlds."
"For Reed. .....Four.... two....ONE!!"
In the Amazon, in hidden labs, Mr. Sinister and the Jackal check the fresh supplies brought in from Atlantis and Oscorp. They tirelessly work away, now that the clock is against them. It will not be enough. Alicia Masters is also working away her hands moving as fast as they can with technology she never knew could help her. Still blind, she looks up and pauses for a second, feeling that pull on her heart towards the heavens.
And in the Florida everglades, the Gardner passes on his staff to his new apprentice. Too soon, he thinks, to change caretakers for the wondrous ManThing, but he has learned trust that humanity will find a way.
"Where do you go, Master?"
"I leave you in charge now, Black Tom. Take care of our Guardian, as he will be needed in the climax to come. I have to see to my brothers, tend to their needs"
...he looks up with his galactic vision at the arcing rocket.
"..and I have a pane to catch."
And in the distance, beyond the rocket and shield, through the oncoming Wave, the planet Mars is no more
As the numbers of Watchers continue to gather around Earth and observe mere mortals perform the feats of gods in preparation of the arrival of the Phalanx Wave and it's master, in deep space the richness of the universe ends. Huge nebulae and galaxy clusters have gone silent and dark, their hum of star song and brightness of fiery life ends. In it's place as the last universe grows smaller and smaller at it's edges the only sound in the void is the mechanical screeching and grind of metal upon metal, and horrendous swirling black and red clouds of Phallanx and insect wave hybrids chirp their newborns heirs. The few hidden or scattered survivors do not last long. The powerful, the fast, the few who stayed to Watch, all get consumed. From the microscopic to the forms the size of continents they whir and burr into each other in these clouds, turning all that is into their army. Like locus of pan-galactis scale they swarm and close in on their prize, the will of their master their only programming:
On Earth political leaders and dignitaries gather round the city once known as Miami, now the Gateway, as proud Lemuria and their people, along with the Deviants, offer tributes to the wedding ceremony of the world leaders. Namor, King of Atlantis and the Oceans of the World, takes as his bride Lilandra of the Shi'ar. Deathbird is her matron and maid of honor, and as wedding gifts the Lemurians offer the Vial of the Dreaming Celestial that houses it's spirit, and the Deviants offer the prayers of Awakening. Despite the blessings of the goddess Gaea herself at the ceremony, there is a empty feeling in this ceremony, as the gods of Earth do not attend. Charles Xavier fights back the heartbreak consuming his heart as his mind is torn between what he is here to witness, and the search for D'spayre.
Prayer and unity throughout the Earth have weakened D'spayre's hold, but more troubling was the numbers who have passed beyond desperation and acceptance of the End. D'spayre needed to stopped and soon. Psylocke and her band of the Hand have already fallen in the last clash with D'spayre in Genosha as that populace had turned on itself through the corruption of Viper and the Shroud, only with a last minute save by Daredevil with his mixed band of Hand and the Chaste. Fleeing east across the Indian ocean, D'spayre could do great damage to their cause amongst the great populations of India and the Asian continents.
At Madripoor the Mandarin and Elektra's faction of the hand watched the wedding ceremony. The Watcher at their location filled them in on all that was not visible to on the camera's, the guests in attendance, the unification of generals under the Earth, Sea and Sky treaty (cleaning up the planet and preparing it, should there be any survivors), and of Xavier's discussion telepathic discussion with Logan about heart break, as Logan and his faction of the hand stood at the X-men's Australian camp at pre-dawn, with the mutant Gateway opening up a portal into the 'dreamtime' and Nightmare standing on the other end. Logan and his ninja's would go through and meet D'spayre in the astral plane, while Nightmare would take the exchange and step through to our world, "to guide the child."
At Stonehenge, M13 and the members of Excalibur rebuilt the ceremonial structures, reinforcing the stones of eldritch power with virbanium. All over the world, along the ley lines, vibranium tuning forks were set up, similar to the design in Stonehenge. Banshee and Siryn, along with Klaw, coordinate the tuning and position of the vibranium tuning forks, with Rictor synchronizing them to the planet and showing where they must be placed.
In New York, the humming of the world underneath the Shield of Roger's began and through the humming there formed a barely visible figure, like Atlas holding the world. The standing figure of the statuesque Captain America coallesced, his form connected to the Shield of Rogers as his physical body and shield disappeared before the assembled magicks keeping the Shield in place. The ethereal image of Captain America could be seen along most of the eartern seaboard, from Massachsetts on down to Virginia. Ben Grimm and Johhny Storm, now barely above the image of their friend holding up the heavens, looked down from their climbing arc as the friendly face they have fought along side turned to them and silently nodded: Mission go. And burning above them, the Skull Squadron circled the red rings of the Shield of Rogers, adding their own red blaze to it's rings. Beyond them, the stars kept fading out, one by one
In the presence of the Tribunal, Uatu covered his face and being as best as he could, but could not turn away his eyes from the engagement before him. The whole of Galactus, the true power hidden beyond the mere humanoid avatar known to mortals, finally came out, his full power unleashed upon the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor made no move to defend himself, and even it's mighty form could not stand up the the incomprehensible power of Galactus. Shattered, broken and nearly disinegrated, the massive opponent finally fell before the feet of Galactus and Galactus finished him off with his own hands until his wrath was spent.
As the Celestials stood.
As the Watcher watched.
And the Living Tribunal weighed in.
"Compose yourself, proud Galactus. You have demonstrated again why this wretched being before you should take your place."
Galactus's eyes glowed from the rebuke, but feeling the depleted anger rise once more. The Tribunal rose once more and the Celestials closed in on Galactus in an arc behind him, the body of the Anti-Monitor still at his feet.
And Mephisto, lay, too. Mephisto, who should be free of his bonds but unable to rise. And from the shards of the Anti-Monitor, life sprang and he began to reassemble himself.
"Did you notice, mighty Devourer, that Mistress Death is not in attendance? Nor has she been? Why is that? Because this one possess part of Death's 'charms' and has brought them from his universe to ours, much like you brought life from your universe. No need for two when only one will do.
No, mighty one, you acted upon your own, let loose your protest upon a witness to these proceedings and gave way to emotion. To your ... humanity. The part of you that is still Galen. You have given in to your wrath, that I have seen and understood, to other's who dared challenge your place in the universe. But your compassion has made you weak, and distorted your purpose."
"Is this your Judgement, Tribunal?"
"This is our proclamation. He who once was Galen of Ta'a, your compassion has disrupted the function of this universe and corrupted your purpose. Though you union to the power that once was, and your caretaking of what it to come, you have of recent been negligent and unfit for your role. Unable to come with an alternative, we have let you carry on, until now."
The Anti-Monitor was almost fully regenerated, and took menacing steps towards Galactus. It walked beyond him and picked up Mephisto, now transformed to his decadent demon-lord form and tried to scamper away like a lizard on it's belly. Grabbing Mephisto with both hands it raised him up high above him....
... and bit off Mephisto head.
His hands glowed and the wildly wriggling form of the demon lord charred black and were inhaled as smoke as the Anti-Monitor was finally complete and whole. Even Uatu is taken back by this horror as the Anti-Monitor turns to Galactus and the Tribunal.
"The Anti-Monitor is a being pure of purpose, with no ties too mortality and it's failings. No emotion, no compassion, unable to be stopped, not even through utter destruction. Even then, from utter oblivion it came back and attempted to fulfill it's purpose: to cleanse the prime universe of all tangents and return the weaving of what is back to harmonic form. Only with the being lost in the warped chaotic transitions of it's universe were they, the Celestials, able to find it. And now it is here, able to fulfill the purpose you cannot."
"And what does Eternity say in this, great Tribunal?"
"I speak for Eternity, Galactus, as he is unable to speak for himself. In the past, Eternity has been injured by those who take Eternity's place in the scheme of things. He has been healed, but never made whole. Now, the damage done by those you have deemed fit to live have left him damaged beyond control, the fabric of his being diseased and torn asunder. The pocket universes in him a cancer as more and more are created and grow. The existence of timelines that exist and are cease to be leave gaps of the tapestry of his being. And worst of, the cross-contamination of the alternate universes within him leave Eternity in a state that can only be called schizophrenic. A state multiverses that questions what it is and what it isn't. "
And the Tribunal waves a hand and an avatar of Eternity floats before them, silent and still but with a tortured look on it's face and emptiness inside. Part of his body are gone or disfigured horribly, or with gaps of nothing inside the blackness of space.
"I have allowed the Anti-Monitor to have his way, cutting away the cancer and silencing the voices tormenting my peer Eternity. The Monitor's harsh measures bringing back this still peace to him rather than the madness of before. Before, I allowed you some compassion, as you selected a Herald for companionship and efficiency to your duties."
"Why have you given him such power? Such tasks are mine." said angrily.
"When you took my role, mighty Galactus. When you decided for Sol's humans to live despite your various visits, when such decisions of the grand scheme are my jurisdiction.
The Anti-Monitor will not have compassion. Already his servants close in on the speck where all this cancer started from, finally able to cleanse it way, like maggots over diseased tissue. I have given him your role, Galactus, and your Heralds. Did you not question how they were able to be remade in his image, for his purpose?"
"I knew it was you when I destroyed my own creations and they came back to haunt me with his marks and corruption."
"They will not haunt him."
"I will not take this lightly, Tribunal!" as Galactus powers up. "I will not back down!!!"
"You backed down before the Nullifier. And before your own death you asked for aide from the mortals. He has been utterly destroyed several time and keeps coming back and keeps to his purpose. You are not fit for duty, Galactus."
The Anti-Monitor finally speaks.
"Before I finish you as you finished me, where is the nullifier, 'mighty one'?"
"Beyond your corruption, you abomination."
"Tell me, how does it feel to be on the part of the food chain?"
I have died before, at the end of my universe, Monitor. I do not cower as I meet my end again."
The Anti-Monitor nods.
"As a courtesy to my predecessor, I give you a final respite. You will not meet oblivion alone. See, I have gathered your children to watch you go, Galactus."
With a wave of his hand, before each of the assembled 12 Celestials, the nine surviving Heralds appear, still twisted and corrupted in the Anti-Monitor's image.
Before the Anti-Monitor can turn back to him, Galactus strikes for the last time. Already depleted when he cut down the Anti-Monitor moments ago, all that is left in Galactus is channeled into one blow to the Anti-Monitor's head.
'Eat this and remember GALACTUS!"
As the blasts decapitates the Anti-Monitor, the monster's hands reach out and take Galactus by the wrists and the Monitor begins to drain the Devourer, his anti-matter and anti-life energies charring the contact points with Galactus.
Through the agony, Galactus speaks. "You are not the only one that feeds."
His hands now on the Anti-Monitor's chest plate, they glow white and the torso of the Anti-Monitor turns to burning white slag. The two continue to drain the other, Galactus now cinder black and crackling, the Anti-Monitor fading in white hot heat into the whiteness of the nothing around them, the feedback of energy between them disrupting the very nothingness around them.
Then a blast from behind cuts the battle and fates are decided.
The crumbling form of Galactus falls, rising to look at the Tribunal, expecting the blast from him, but it is Uatu's own hand that dealt the blow.
Uatu speaks one word. "Mercy." and blasts him one more time. As the last energies of Galactus leave him, he turns back towards the Living Tribunal and speaks his last "...til the end of time."
The Celestials and Heralds power up and turn their arms towards the Watcher as he moves to the broken form. As the Anti-Monitor reassembled himself , incorporating parts of Galactus into his design, the Watcher lifts the helmet and energizes it back to it's pristine but empty state. The Celestials continue to train their weapons on him as the Watcher steps back.
"Why?" Asks the Monitor, as the Tribunal already knows.
"It was my fault that the humans gained the Nullifier, my judgement that made the mighty Galactus spare them, and my counsel that saved them from his hunger. I am as responsible for Galactus' judgement as Galactus himself. I will take his helm and his memories and honor him."
"I have not given permission to leave this hearing, Watcher."
"I am not asking, Tribunal."
"Judgement had been made and found long before I showed up for these proceedings. All you needed was defendant, your witnesses and his executioner to justify it to yourself. I go to await finality with my brothers and the people I have sacrificed the mighty one for. "
The Celestials begin a discharge of energy, but new Anti-Monitor stops them.
As Uatu fades, he gives one last shot.
"In the end, Tribunal, how will YOU be judged?"
The Tribunal looks toward the Celestials, who have not lowered their weapons and to the Anti-Monitor, who collects something small from Terrax.
"You will not go after him, Devourer?"
"In a moment." From within the blackness of the Anti-Monitor's eyes comes a white glow and in his hands the eyes of the beheaded Zuras glow too.
"When Galactus spoke his last, he wasn't questioning the change of his fate."
"No, Tribunal he was not."
"The fight between the Celestials is a sham, to get them before me to judge on the matter."
"Yes. Although this proved to be more expedient. I will have to thank Mephisto and his scheming for that." He burps.
"You mean to challenge me now, now that I have elevated and secured your place in the cosmos."
"Your cosmos, not mine, and yes, it is my nature."
"I will DESTROY you for your impudence."
As the Heralds and Celestials move against Tribunal, the Anti-Monitor gloats.
"You may destroy me, but as you have said, I come back. I am from beyond your realm and do not answer to it's rules. And as for what Galactus meant, I was there at the end of time. So where the Celestials behind me. So was Galactus (who I believe was me) and the final heir to the Phoenix force of your universe. But you weren't, Tribunal. I wonder why?"
And the Anti-Monitor smiles.
On Earth, the protective shield of Earths defenders is compressed as the Fantastic Four ship begins it's run into the stars. At the Savage Land, as Darkstar and Vanguard are being added to the might of the powes generating the shield, the surviving members of the race of the Eternals scream as their eyes glow white. So sudden is their self-detonation that not one of the psychic's on Earth caught on until it was too late. Where once lay the wonder of the Savage Land, now sits a smoking ruin crackling with energy out of control.
The goddess Gaea screams and falls before the royal wedding court, and the planet Earth is suddenly without its southern magnetic compass point.
And in the void of shadows, Thanos of Titan, last Eternal, smiles
At the throne command deep within Castle Doom, warning lights ring off throughout the Castle. On the computer screens, the South Pole ceases to be. But Doom's planetary sensors indicate the seismic shock being felt over the edges of Australia, Peru, New Zealand and southern Africa. Not that it mattered, as the castle walls shook from tremors of it's own. Outside, in the castle courtyard, stable, hanger and turrets, Watchers had gathered and were bringing everyone up to speed, speaking with one voice. Not that they were paying attention. In the cloudy grey mountains above their Egyptian allies have had a falling out. The Sphinx of Egypt fought the Age of Apocalypse's En Sabah Nur, with Hyperion and to everyone's surprise, the Maestro attempting to hold them back and provide the voice of reason. Only The Legion of Doom did not attend the proceedings, as they knelt in silent prayer to the portrait of their mother, Cynthia. Only Medieval Doom was absent, praying at the small grave of Werner von Doom. Silently did a Watcher await for their solemn ceremony to finish, then did he begin to update them. They rose as one and turned towards the landing bay, awaiting their emissary from Muir Island. Above, the sky cracked with energy and thunder, neither powerhouse backing down. The Avenger Quinjet touched down and it's passengers disembarked. PIlot Pietro Maximoff, his twin sister Wanda and the apprentice of the Gardner Black Tom Cassidy. Bows were exchanged and then Pietro excused himself to set up the equipment that was needed, while the lords of Castle Doom led their guests to the courtyard.
Medieval Doom walked from opposite side of the fountain, the towering Living Monolith of another era walking behind him, with Apocalypse's Horsemen in tow. The formerly still and blue pool boiled and foamed over and lights waved from within the pool. Quicksilver was seen as a blur assembling devices and unpacking boxes from the Quinjet around the edges of the pool. Meanwhile, a long line of hundreds of Doombots marched towards the pool and jumped in. The scientists at the edge of the pool updated Doom as to the progress through the Quantum foam of our scale and that access to the Microverse had been reached. The Doom's had modified the time platform to pierce the layers between worlds to the Microverse, and that the bubbling liquid was concentrated Pym particles.
The Doombot expedition had been completely destroyed, but the fifth and sixth wave had managed to make a beachhead within the Microverse. The telemetry being brought back indicates that the Microverse is on the verge of collapse, and that the conditions of that realm would drive sentient mad. Wanda speaks, her purpose to help fix that. She nods to Black Tom Cassidy, and wooden torches are carefully brought out by Cassidy from the crates and handed sparingly to the Doombots. She then gingerly lights them from the flames of a containment orb, their light and fire reasserting the area around them. The pool within the cast off of light from the now lit torch begins to calm and clear and the dark madness that is now the Microverse could be seen. As she works her hex magic as the first Doombots with the torch make their way in. Once on the other side, they land and the light brings back order and shape to the chaos of the Microverse, the previous Doombots a hill to climb down. Black Tom explains the nature of the torches to the Legion of Doom, but they have already surmissed. The wood torch are splinters taken from Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Cassidy confirms, and explains that Moira MacTaggert gathered the expended energy of her only son, the mutant Proteus and harnessed his remains and powers to reset reality and order, where her living child would only bend it to his will.
The mission was clear. Find the source of the disruption and stop it while the Vibranium tuning forks still held. But no only a fraction of their force could go, since the assembled might would be needed to repel the Wave, now that the world shield had fallen. The Doom's thought for a moment, traded knowing looks, and Victor 616 gave the signal to the Monolith.
The Monolith raised his hands and sent out energy towards the battling combatants overhead. Caught unawares, they were quickly drawn towards the Monolith as he began channeling their energies into himself. Once within arms reach, the Monolith tucks the two powerhouses and plunges into the veil between this world and the Microverse.
"Alrighty lads, everyone into the pool."
In New York, already things were not going well. A single scout had managed to survive landfall and began corrupting the area it landed in, the Bronx. Local authorities were doing their best to handle it along with the local street levelers, but it was a heartwrenching battle, as those who fell in combat rose against them now, infected.
Overhead at the edge of space, the Human Torch and Ben Grimm wildly swung around the old shuttle, trying to stay away from the swarming scouts while the Skull Squadron trying to clear them a path.
In Chicago, Colossus held his beloved Katya Pryde one last time as they were married quickly under the quick traditions, as she was fading from our reality as the Microverse fell. The ceremony completed, he grabbed at air and heartbreak as he could no longer touch his new bride, her wedding dress form now fading like a dream from our realm.
In Sri Lanka, panicked beggars in the street ran from the shadows that moved in their own, as through the midday a figure of shadow with a skull for a face ran from shade to shadow on the run of l other living shadows with long blades made their pursuit, their leader a shadow that looked feral and wild and a gleam of metal that could be seen within its shadow and a SNIKT here and there.
At the Martian front, the dying Ego the Living Planet looked over the remains of what was Mars and it's heart broke. All hope was lost, and the Elders still fighting or held on his surface could not save him. At his best speed he lumbered toward Earth, with the mass of the old Wave in tow.
At Jupiter's edge, the technarch Magus beaconed to his new children at the edge of space. The known universe now no larger than the Milky Way Galaxy.
To make matters worse, in Connecticut, Dr. James Power, father of the Power Pack, shut down his own work with anti-matter before it could full power up as his colleagues looked on and the particles of white standing still in the air in the lab. Alternative means to attack the Anti-Monitor were being made, but now as the universe collapsed and he had run through his numbers, he realized too late what was happening. He turned to the Watcher at the window and passed along his dire warning.
"Tell THEM! Tell them all!! No more teleporting! No more jumps, no more folding! Holes made in space aren't CLOSING!
Throughout the network of Watchers the words was spread to the defenders of Earth. Warps, jumps, space folds, all were now destroying the last vestige of reality still remaining intact.
"Great", thinks Iron Man, "add something else to the list." as he leads a squadron of his Iron Man suits on "cleaning duty" around the Chariot of the Gods helicarrier. The Phalanx Wave had at first began to swarm in on them, but upon proximity to the Celestial they fell back, unsure of what to do. The helicarrier itself, however, held no such fears. Their hope to channel the energy of the Celestial to defend themselves was not working, for the 5 people tasked to channel it could never find the right "harmonics", one or two of them shorting out the others as at most they could produce a mere light show. That's how Forge was explaining it to him. And the Wave was adapting to their attacks.
In Miami / Gateway City, Gaea called a modified pool of healing, Shi'ar and Atlantean priests and physicians caring her for. The newlyweds watched over their matron and while they heard also took in the updates. Namor's forces were holding in the Carribean, as were the Shi'ar forces in the Himalayas. The surviving alien refugees were not faring as well over Mexico City, as the Wave had established a beach head there and were quickly converting the masses to a capable strike force. In her tortured breathes, Gaea called forth to have Ororo Munroe, the depowered mutant Storm, to be brought to her.
In the Amazon, this world's Apocalypse watched as his Celestial ship, the one that had given him such powers, was being finally loaded. In a way, he was being given what he had always wanted, but not under the circumstances he could control. His ship was made now transformed into an ark, the last refuge of life should Earth fall. And he was it's caretaker. Such hollowness and utter sense of helplessness sickened him, when he would rather be fighting for life. He was chosen because of his millennia long struggle o fight and survive. He would be strong, he would persevere, and En Sabah Nur, 'he of the first light', would finally be worthy of his name.
In the Microverse, the Legion of Doom have arrived and began to spread out. One precious square mile had been stabilized, and it was a start. But the utter dark madness of raving, distorted space beyond was growing worse, the cacophany of chaos a tornado made of madness fractured by blinding nothingness. Through acts of will on the torch wielders, the light scattered out further and further beyond, reclaiming this lost wrecked world. But as the challengers test with the broken Doombot fragments, to step beyond the light means disintegration. Doombots aligned like street lights, forcing a path towards the center of the destruction. Other doombots acted like prisms, magnifying the light out beyond their range, slowly settling reality back together. But one dark corner did not bend to the light, one corner continued to roll and dance as the assembled might, as it was the source of this chaos. Blinding flashes continued to slash at the healing reality around them. Black Tom Cassidy channels his powers through his Torch of Proteus and bathes the figure in light, and the creature reels back. It's attention is now focused on the trespassers.
The armored Doom's carrying torches in one hand, step as one and draw a line, the legion behind them. One one voice, they speak, their echo carrying on with more force and resonance the screaming chaos around them.
"Minion of chaos, hear the words of Doom."
"Know that you threaten that which is Doom's."
"Know that none may defile that which is Doom's."
"Know that the word of Doom is law, and Order shall be that of Doom."
"Doom has come, Doom will claim what is Doom's."
As one..."Doom has come upon you."
The figure of chaos solidifies and takes it's twisted dark form, a fiery sword in it's hand pointed at them.
"Know then Doom, that you have come upon my triumph, my masterpiece of being, and with this sword passed on to me by my Master you and yours shall no more. This is the Twilight Sword of Surtur, the blade that brings about the end of all things, and know that your allies face the one true enemy. Here in chaos unfettered or unrestrained, you face the Adversary!"
"Let there be light."
Within the presence of the Living Tribunal, an angered Tribunal cast his hand out in judgement, but was overturned again. The Anti-Monitor seemed to fade from existence, but kept popping back, first in his old form, then solidifying into his hybrid form of after his succession of Galactus, and each time he came back faster and stronger. And it kept stalking the Tribunal as for the first time in existence, the Tribunal took a step back.
"You cannot 'dismiss' me, Tribunal. Although I have come to this plane of existence at your summons, I came because I chose to. I am[b] not [/u]from your universe and am not bound it's "laws". Destroy me now as many times as you can, it doesn't matter. I was there at the final moment of your universe and have come back across how you define the properties of "time".
At last the Celestials strike, not letting up in their onslaught for one moment. For the first time in it's creation, the Living Tribunal is hurt. Not accustomed to experience suffering upon it's being, the Tribunal reacts more than strikes back at the silent Celestials that mean to be it's terminator. The Tribunal gather's its strength and bursts forth a shockwave that flings the Celestials in different directions to the for corners of creation. But it the Tribunal has left itself open, it's covered face bearing the impact as the Anti-Monitor has smashed the High Chair of Judgement upside it's head. The supreme symbol of laws in the universe reduced to the most primitive means of determining an argument: blunt force tool. The destruction wrought blinds all sense of awareness, save for the cold voice of the Anti Monitor.
"From my ruined husk my essence cascaded from me as I flowed backwards in time. From the moment your Celestials reached and pulled me here, to the moment the Stranger plucked me from time-stream, I have existed in the future of all timelines and your alternative universes, the billions of years that will all lead to the end. I have been and will be.
Each of my death transfers my energies to my future self, and I take more and more of your existence with me. As more time passes, I grow stronger, collecting more of my essence that was expelled when I arrived. At the end of time I will be at whole and omnipotent, able to traverse through your Crunch to MY existence, and rule once more. Powering me beyond even your measure.
And you are not at full strength, Tribunal. Within one of your 'perspectives' you know I am right, you have erred and that punishment is that you will not BE at the end of time. You battle us as you battle yourself. Self-doubt deserves no place when we play for the highests of stakes."
With a final blow of the fragments of the high chair, the Tribunal is wrecked beyond comprehension. The head removed from the dissipating carcass; the cosmic carnage no different from the most disturbed of serial killer. From the flattened and hooded face the Tribunal speaks it's last.
"Who will judge when I am gone?"
"Those who were your peers. Where there was one voice of judgement, now a Jury of Twelve will decide." as the Anti-Monitor sweeps it's arms at the reassembled Celestial Host. He steps back and lets the Celestials finish it.
Exitar the Exterminator speaks.
"Living Tribunal, you have been found guilty of corrupting the universe to your vision and abuse of the powers created in you. You have terminated Galactus from the great scheme of things and handed power to his usurper. We the Twelve find you.... wanting."
As one, their arms are raised and the thumbs go down. Exitar delivers the final blow.
They turn back to the Anti-Monitor.
"You twelve who have/will have plucked me from the edge, the might of the Dead Tribunal has been passed to you, so that now you may judge. You who have called me "brother" when you knew me not and plucked me from oblivion. Your purpose and mine are aligned. We will bring the disharmony of your universe together and be supreme til it's end. And that end, we shall escape the destruction of this multiverse and bring harmony to my dominion, righting wrongs and setting things in the beyond of mine, passing on from that multiverse to those beyond. We are beings of infinity, and we will survive lies beyond, passing beyond the rituals of creation, destruction and recreation until the cycles are ours to command. The true infinity of the omniverse. What say you?"
The Celestials pump their fists in frightening agreement.
"What SAY you?"
"So say we all."
"So say we all."
Above Colorado, a dozen of the surviving Watchers observe a genuine wonder and marveled at it's meaning. Aboard the Chariot of the Gods helicarrier, something amazing happened. The silent and dark Dreaming Celestial raised it's right hand, palm out, the universal symbol to stop, and in a voice heard all over the world it said one word.
Even the swarm of the Phalanx Wave paused to register the event, and the Earth defenders took advantage of moment and rallied. At last the energy channelers on the Celestial's left hand felt the harmonics in their power in a surge and they cut loose. The energy they were channeling was like nothing they could percieve of ever coping to live through, but live through it they did as the skies of the North American continent were purged of the scout force of the Wave. They had always been able to blast out and release the energy, but once escaped Havok and the other could not control where it went. The streams of energy they were expending however, did, as if was tied to their life force once it escaped them. They could feel along the beams of their own radiated energy, sparing ally from enemy with bought a thought. With the skies clear, they turned their energies to the planet below, destroying hive colonies set up Phalanx Wave that had gotten through across the globe . And in their awareness they could feel the Dreaming Celestial flow through them.
At the New Mexico underground Hulkbuster bunker, the hero Rick Jones felt first what the Earth telepaths were barely aware of.
"The Dreaming Celestial is awakening."
Behind him, Thunderbolt Ross, chomped through his cigar.
"Good, let's give him his wake up call. Sterns, fire when ready."
The Leader reached out with his mind towards space the Fantastic Four shuttle, now in position over the Colorado/New Mexico border.
"Ready when you are, Thing."
While the shuttle began to deploy a makeshift parachute behind it, the hinged turned to face earth on autopilot, Ben and Johnny looked back at their stowaway, deciding what to do or say.
The Elder of the Universe, the Gardner, smiled and nodded, and sent the telepathic signal back to the Leader.
"Carpathia One is go."
The Leader was stunned by the response and telepathically informed Ross, then he informed Lilandra, Namor, Stark and the other world leaders of the roster addition.
"Good", thought Lilandra "one who can balance the scales".
"Go", spoke the Leader, passing the message to Iron Man at the Chariot and to it's living weapons. As one, the channelers reached deep within the awesome might of the Celestial and fired up and beyond, tears of rapture pouring from their faces.
"There's the shooting gun, Johnny. Fire up this hot-rod."
"Gamma base, GO!"
From within the protection of the gamma base, particle weapons that were meant to stop the Hulk were enhanced and charged. The total of Earth's gamma powered arsenal meant to stop the Hulk was tapped and poured into charge.
"Fire!" thundered General Thaddeus Ross.
A green beam of gamma energy erupted from the cannons, aimed at the shuttle. The Thing and Johnny Storm saw the blast from at them face first as the shielding lowered.
"The shields will hold, Ben?"
"They will with me on board, mortal" assured the Gardner.
In a split second the blast was upon them. The force of gamma energy battered and shook the Fantastic Four shuttle and passed behind them, catching the makeshift parachute and blowing it wide open. The parachute stretched to its limits in space, but held, the blue green symbol of the Fantastic Four glowed green as a solar sail was cast and the shuttle hurtled into space.
The Gardner spoke over the turbulence inside to the Thing.
"You used Richard's pajamas?"
"You ....try ......finding a ...an unstable molecule solar sail for a last minute rescue."
"Spidey's.... never... going to let... hear the end... of this.....
Above Colorado, a dozen of the surviving Watchers observe a genuine wonder and marveled at it's meaning. Aboard the Chariot of the Gods helicarrier, something amazing happened. The silent and dark Dreaming Celestial raised it's right hand, palm out, the universal symbol to stop, and in a voice heard all over the world it said one word.
Even the swarm of the Phalanx Wave paused to register the event, and the Earth defenders took advantage of moment and rallied. At last the energy channelers on the Celestial's left hand felt the harmonics in their power in a surge and they cut loose. The energy they were channeling was like nothing they could percieve of ever coping to live through, but live through it they did as the skies of the North American continent were purged of the scout force of the Wave. They had always been able to blast out and release the energy, but once escaped Havok and the other could not control where it went. The streams of energy they were expending however, did, as if was tied to their life force once it escaped them. They could feel along the beams of their own radiated energy, sparing ally from enemy with bought a thought. With the skies clear, they turned their energies to the planet below, destroying hive colonies set up Phalanx Wave that had gotten through across the globe . And in their awareness they could feel the Dreaming Celestial flow through them.
At the New Mexico underground Hulkbuster bunker, the hero Rick Jones felt first what the Earth telepaths were barely aware of.
"The Dreaming Celestial is awakening."
Behind him, Thunderbolt Ross, chomped through his cigar.
"Good, let's give him his wake up call. Sterns, fire when ready."
The Leader reached out with his mind towards space the Fantastic Four shuttle, now in position over the Colorado/New Mexico border.
"Ready when you are, Thing."
While the shuttle began to deploy a makeshift parachute behind it, the hinged turned to face earth on autopilot, Ben and Johnny looked back at their stowaway, deciding what to do or say.
The Elder of the Universe, the Gardner, smiled and nodded, and sent the telepathic signal back to the Leader.
"Carpathia One is go."
The Leader was stunned by the response and telepathically informed Ross, then he informed Lilandra, Namor, Stark and the other world leaders of the roster addition.
"Good", thought Lilandra "one who can balance the scales".
"Go", spoke the Leader, passing the message to Iron Man at the Chariot and to it's living weapons. As one, the channelers reached deep within the awesome might of the Celestial and fired up and beyond, tears of rapture pouring from their faces.
"There's the shooting gun, Johnny. Fire up this hot-rod."
"Gamma base, GO!"
From within the protection of the gamma base, particle weapons that were meant to stop the Hulk were enhanced and charged. The total of Earth's gamma powered arsenal meant to stop the Hulk was tapped and poured into charge.
"Fire!" thundered General Thaddeus Ross.
A green beam of gamma energy erupted from the cannons, aimed at the shuttle. The Thing and Johnny Storm saw the blast from at them face first as the shielding lowered.
"The shields will hold, Ben?"
"They will with me on board, mortal" assured the Gardner.
In a split second the blast was upon them. The force of gamma energy battered and shook the Fantastic Four shuttle and passed behind them, catching the makeshift parachute and blowing it wide open. The parachute stretched to its limits in space, but held, the blue green symbol of the Fantastic Four glowed green as a solar sail was cast and the shuttle hurtled into space.
The Gardner spoke over the turbulence inside to the Thing.
"You used Richard's pajamas?"
"You ....try ......finding a ...an unstable molecule solar sail for a last minute rescue."
"Spidey's.... never... going to let... hear the end... of this.....
go the Living Planet was running deaf, dumb, near blind and dying, the Elder's unable to fulfill their oaths to protect him during the battle. They were now trapped or dead within his very surface, their failure would madden him if it could think beyond the agony of the feeding of the Phalanx Wave upon his body. The only thing it could remember as to Earth position was how close its warm sun was to the meek blue sapphire of world, and maybe in some bit of mercy the defenders would remove the parasites on him.
On his surface, the Elders experienced worse suffering, as the Collector had been torn to pieces, his energy feeding the Phalanx; the GrandMaster almost giving up as the Deviant Maelstorm strong armed him to the ground and Death Urge's impalement began to consume his mind; and within the new and vast ocean of green on Ego, the Elders Champion an Runner flowed in and out of the system, ripping apart their inside molecule by molecule, their respective powers unable to clear the imp's abilities to grab on a molecular level as they writhed deep within the ocean of the Impossible Man's body.
All of this was explained to the Thing and the Human Torch by the Gardner, overheard by the pair of Watchers trailing them and passed onto through the Watchers on Earth. The Celestial fire would scour as many of the Wave off Ego as it could, but would only send them to space, not destroy them. The Gamma charge would take them as close to the continent where the Elder's were bound suffering. So long as Ego would not stray of course. And Ego was now writhing chaoticly. With all of his telepathic might, the Gardner reached out to Ego and tried to break through the great pain, as he realized the Phalanx infection had almost reached the planet's core.
"Keep him steady!"
From Ego's point of view there came a second point of view there was a second sun being born, with an emerald corona. Then suddenly Ego was bathed in white light, the blast scouring most of his surface, but bring relief some. He didn't feel the green gamma burst that fatally cleaned his inner core. All Ego knew was that peace was almost his at last.
The white Celestial blast had cleaned much of the millions of Phalanx Wave drones, but a few hundred still lingered on it's surface. As the skies above the impact point upon settled from white to nighttime, the sky turned emerald green as the gamma burst barrage roared through the skies and struck the planet. The shuttle lurched and was turbulent with in, with Johnny trying to get the control to pull up and the Garnder added his telekinetic might to the ships attempts NOT to crash.
"What, you kids never went sailing before?" The Thing rose from his chair, fell back into the cargo hold and punched a hole overhead, fumbling around until he finally caught what he was looking for and pulled HARD. The solar sail began to pull as Ben yelled "HARD TO STARBOARD!" The craft turned finally out of the gamma particles stream and out of direct impact from the planet, but wobbled hard and out of control , finally careening around the planets surface.
For the most part, it was for the best, because it shed most of it's outer exterior as it skipped, contaminated to death with gamma radiation levels far beyond lethal and instantly poisoning the straggling Phalanx Wave hordes that had pursued it. Still, they were miles off course, but close enough to their targets. The fragments of their shuttle finally stopped, they were protected by telekinetic shield of Gardner. They finally landed and the Gardner let them down roughly as he fell, exhausted. The surface of Ego looked chaotic, reflecting the agonies the planet had suffered earlier. Within eyesight though, lay the ocean that was the Impossible Man's prison.
"Couldn't you have done a better job parking, Ben?" said Johnny as he removed his suit.
"Always a back seat driver, matchead?" said a he got up.
"With your big cabooze you lug... Ben, you hand?!!!"
The Gardner rose finally as Jonathan Storm approached his long-time friend. When Ben had reached out, the suit had protected him..for a while. The force of reentry had burned away the protection, exposing the Thing. Now the right hand still contained it's rocky exterior, but was blackened, it's cracks glowing gamma green.
"Huh... green's not my color."
Ben had never let go of the solar sail, and it had shrunk back as best it could to it's original form. He wrapped it around his hand and proceeded to move on, waiving back Johnny not to come much closer. Even the bandage had turned color, from Fantastic Four blue mixing with the gamma green to form a glowing turquiose. The Gardner spoke what they knew.
"Gamma poisoning. Your previous exposure has dampened it's fatal effects, but it will spread. We do not have much time."
The Gardner led and they followed, Johnny at the edge of tears unable to help his friend. But he knew Ben would not ask for help. The needs of many more outweighed his needs, and Ben would be up to the task. At the top of cliff overlooking the solid flat ocean they stopped. The Gardner pointed in one direction deep into the ocean.
"Torch, the Runner lies one mile out, two miles down. The Impossible Man is trying to move him further away but the Runner knows we are here and he is fighting back. Hurry, before he gets beyond your ability to reach."
As the Torch fires up he turns to Ben one more time. "Stay alive big fella. Reed will find a way."
"See ya soon, Johnny."
The Gardner created a sphere of concentrated air with his telekinetics and shot it out as a cannon ball into the Impossible Ocean. Johnny plunged in after it. The sick odor of charred impossible man rising behind him.
"Turn and BURN!!!"
Now the two were alone. In the distance, the metallic chirping of the Phalanx Wave could be heard, the were on their way and quickly.
"Champion is 3 miles in the direction, and half a mile down. He is doing a better job of swimming to through the Impossible Man than the Runner, though he is paying for it as the Impossible Man is tearing him apart in the inside."
"Like burning out the lungs when swimming, huh? Well, he is a champion. He never backs down."
The Gardner reaches out towards the wreck of the ship and pulls back and brings forth the item in the cargo hold that they had brought with them from the Baxter building. Lodged onto the gleaming silver case was part of the wreckage, glowing green with gamma radiation. Ben takes the handle with his wrapped hand as the Phalanx Wave are now within eye sight, swarming in from all directions.
"No time to clean up this hunk of junk. How do I get to Champion, fighting through that?"
"I'm sorry my friend, but you get there the hard way."
To Ben's shock the Elder of the Universe boots him between his cojones and Ben rises up and over the incoming swarm and beyond eyesight. Part of the swarm rises and attempts to follow him, the other closes in on him.
"We are coming, my brothers. Hold on."
And in the fraction of the second where Gardner once stood now lies a hole in reality, a hole which the assaulting horde of Phalanx Wave drones cannot stop falling into
In the dark chaos below, the battle was not going as expected. In the first broadstroke the Advesary had brought down some of the fastest and mightiest, most of the Squadron Supreme fell in one swoop, as well as Magneto from the House of M, Holocaust and X-man from the Age of Apocalypse. Void of the same Age of Apocalypse had managed to slow down the Adversary's strikes as he entangled him, but he was lost when the Adversary stepped fell out of reach of the light, back into the utter madness and chaos from which it came.
The Advesary was trying a new and better tactic, flowing through the mad chaos and popping up when least expected near one of the Torch bearers and cutting them down, then stepping back into the darkness. As the torch bearer fell the light went dark with him or her passing, and those around that were not able to reach the light of other torches were lost to the chaos. And the Adversary striked, mowing down back the path from which they came, the fragile reality they were striving to reinforce began to break down as the floor underneath them trembled. From all around the Adversary's maniacal laughter permeated into what little ground was left. Wanda, keeping the doorway back the the normal universe, becomes aware of the plight as some of expeditionary force run back.
Pietro Maximoff takes the Torches from those who flee and plunges in. Most of those who have come have pulled back or fallen. The only ones still standing are the Maestro,the Sphinx and several Doombots and the Legion of Dooms. The Sphinx, through it's own willpower begins to channel his might into the ground below and the ground solidifies and holds its place. The Doombot lighting up the area near the Sphinx is brought down and as the Sphinx is about to be taken into the darkness, Pietro throws one of the Torches at him in rapid speed. The Torch goes beyond the Sphinx and with it's speed makes contact with the Adversary, burning him with agony. The Adversary plunges back into the darkness, but the maddening chaos has begun to call down to mere swirling chaos, silent now. Pietro runs back and forth between the hill of fallen Doombots and takes their hands, recreating the path of of light. As the Adversary attempts to come in and cut down the hands holding the torches, Quicksilver rushes in and jabs the flames of Proteus into the Adversary's face. Again the foe falls back, burning and screaming longer this time, swinging the sword of Surtur wildlly but missing him. To everyone surprise, the splinters of Yggdrasil still remain on the floor where they are dropped and Pietro relights these too in quick succession.
Now the swirling madness is still and an actual sense of perspective and distance takes hold. Within the dark madness the sound of the Adversary can be heard. Here, there... everywhere. Pietro, for all his speed, cannot track him. Nor can the Sphinx with it's mystic might, as he retakes a torch. Nor can the Doombots with their technology. The Doom's do not give an indication of such failure, but they encircle themselves, one hand carrying the Torch of Proteus, the others a blast or spell ready to release upon the the first sign of attack. Only one person stood still, not having acted yet, but within his eyes and awareness of things, the Maestro...he who was once the Hulk, tracks the Adversary's movements. And he is tired of this. With a mighty roar he manhandles two Doombots and roars!
The Doombots fail and the Maestro spins his mighty frame madly, savagely yelling his challenge out into the darkness as the light around him fades. The Doombots finally stop working and before the torches his the floor, the Adversary strikes.
A miraculous thing happens.
Where a moment earlier the titanic Maestro was about to plunge into darkness, and the Twilight Sword would plunge into him, then there was a sound of thunder and now stood the Maestro, with the flatness of the Twilight Sword caught in between his palms and held by the metal of the Doombots he had crushed. Above him, lighty singed and with shrapnel embedded painfully in it's skin was the Adversary, bent over the sword that was still trembling from the shock. Lighting this sudden turn of events as Pietro, diving at top speed to catch the Torches the Doombots had dropped and lighting them in the same instance.
"What, did you think I was stupid?" smiled the Maestro.
He forces himself up from his prone position on the floor and stabbed into the Adversary with the Torches. The Adversary finally relents and lets go of the sword. It runs towards the receding darkness with madenning speed, but is stopped by a burst of blue / white energy. The Sphinx has channeled his own energy into the torch and shot out a flame of Proteus and found it's mark on the Adversary. Still, the Advesary rises, part of it's eye and face and belly consumed in blue white fire. The chaos fades and now smoking ruins can be seen in every direction. The Adversary, aware of it's certain failure, changes shape and screams wildly!
It begins to spin and whirl madly, like the Tazmanian devil of cartoon fame, and pounces on the mighty sphinx, despite taking another shot over energy from Sphinx. It is upon him and shreds and cuts and cleaves away, and Pietro with his speed rushes in and batters the Adversary with the pair of lit Torches, but it will not release it's prey. Finally when the Sphinx is mere pink mist and bone does it rise and set it's eyes on Quicksilver, until it shot by FIVE bursts of flame.
"Step away, Peitro. Leave here for us to do what we must." speaks Doom. Pietro acknowedges and runs back towards the entrance to the Microverse, with the whirling Adversary in hot pursuit. Some shots miss or fail to hit the Adversary and it is almost upon him until a gigantic armor hand rises from the ground and blocks him. It almost closes on him and the Adversary turns and slams into a force field. Hurling itself into the air to fly and escape the Adversary sees to it's horror the glowing face of Doom filling the sky above.
"Foul filth, AWAY with you!" booms the voice and the Adversary falls back to Earth, only to be hit with more blasts.
The Maestro wipes his blood from the shrapnel on his hands off the sword and walks up to Medieval Doom.
"The Sphinx had the right idea, but no follow through. It's Magic Wand 101. Will it, and it shall be done."
Medieval Doom speaks "Do you know WHY you die, demon? Take this to your master as your last thoughts. Today you did not face mere mortals or heroes, you faced TYRANTS, people who have taken and commanded the world. We who have risen above the common and deified the powers that be to rule. We who by sheer will alone can hold back the strength of chaotic multitudes, who have conquered all that they survey and rise to more. What are you compared to the will power of billions of individual chaotic souls and their mighty champions who challenge you. Less than Nothing! For when facing the will of DOOM, there is no equal."
"Good speech, Victor. I am moved." as the Maestro comes to end it. The Adversary is small, shriveled and burnt, but still within it's mad eye there is still burning defiance.
"I find it ironic, thing, that you were allowed to wield this sword. Did you know where the word "sword" comes from? The meaning behind it? It means to cut, to separate what is known from what is unknown. To establish order. Now, pitiful adversary, I give you order."
With a mighty slash the Twilight Sword burns bright in the Maestro's hands and cleaves the Adversary, the shriveling until it was no more
Ben Grimm has never found himself to be thankful for the changes in the anatomy of his structure when he became the Thing. Sure, the super strength and endurance helped, but he's always had more heart to than actual raw power. The hands, the toes, the readjustment of his body to this state ,those were difficult to adjust to, but he's Ma Grimm's boy. Life changes, you adapt and move on. Now, though, he is grateful for the rocks he carries,because he barely felt anything as he was kicked upward beyond the reach and speed Phalanx swarm. As he reached the apex and lost acceleration, he finally stabilized himself enough to look down. Part of the swarm had come chasing up and after him, while the other larger swarm, crazy as it may sound, began to disappear into nothing at the point where the Gardner had stood a split second earlier. Then the Wave changed directions and began to focus on him. Instead of coming up to meet him they stretched and flowed over the surface of the green lake of the Impossible Man's body to intercept him. Ben stopped flailing around remembered his airforce training, the jumps. He stabilized his spin as he began to descend and held on to the case embedded in the piece of wreckage that had been flung with him. He would use it as a shield as he hit the Wave, and then hopefully punch through the Impossible Man's body towards Champion. He just wondered if the solid green would be liquid, mushy or hard metallic,the Impossible Man could change his density. The only thing Ben was sure about was that he hated the color green.
Johnny was having his own problems. There is only so far down a concentrated ball of air would go before before the density would stop it all together. It broke apart over 5 seconds ago and he took one long deep breathe and continued to dive. Johnny wasn't a genius like Reed, but he wasn't stupid either. All the times he's gone after Namor for chasing after his sister have taught him a lot about diving, and the pressure was already getting to him. And what he kept burning through was turning into ash behind him, cutting off already valuable air and space. 10 more seconds in his ears popped and the pounding in his head and heart were real. Another 10 seconds in and he knew his nose and ears were bleeding. 5 more and the he could feel the green ocean nip and pull on his feet. He would not last for much longer. Already his head was dizzy and only the Fantastic Four training kept him sure of direction. And the Impossible Man was making it impossible to get through this, as eyes, ears, fanged mouths took shapes from the dark green depths before him. Johnny knew he would never sleep right again, and now before him, as his conciousness began to slip away and his fire fade, the Impossible Man swirled like a whirlpool to take his momentum and redirect him another way.
The Garnder teleported onto a distant point on the opposite side of Ego, a side on the night side. He quickly stepped forward and made a hard effort to push himself away from the small hole in reality he had just made. The few phalanx wave bugs that had managed to make contact as he jumped appeared with him, and dug deep into his flesh to latch on. His robes were torn from him and the bugs flew back into the void of nothingness behind him. He pushed through, his primordial strength barely enough to keep him from being sucked into its event horizon. Finally a decent distance away, the escape became easier, but the sight before him troubled him so. In screams of agony that could be heard from miles around, above the whir and digital chirping of the phalanx wave,the Grandmaster lay on his knees, the Deviant Maelstorm standing over him with his hands glowing from his absorbption of the Elder's might. The Deviant held on to the outstretched elbows of the humanoid Elder, for the hands and wrists are gone. Behind him, Deathurge continued to spin and turn the self-generated axe into the skull of the Grandmaster, the hair of the blue head already falling off and his skin shriveling. The strain was almost too much for the Grandmaster, for he was beginning to show signs of splitting apart. Beyond this gruesome into the night sky a Watcher stood by, observing as they do, and beyond it more stars kept fading from the night sky. With a blast from his staff the Gardner knocked back Death Urge. But like an undying terminator the black spectre rose back up and pulled a fresh axe from his body, unfazed by the assault. An entity that nurtured life faced off against an entity that nurtured death. Without sound or quarter they charged one another.
On Apocalypse's 616 Celestial arc the ship moved beyond Earth orbit. The cloaking technology from various worlds incorporated or stolen had been incorporated into it's systems, and it was set on silent running. Various powers had strained to contain it without destroying it's precious cargo. His first mate Deathbird had provided the diplomatic means to launch the vessel, and their argument had won over against the protests of the world, for the Shi'ar had initially sponsored the concept of the Ark. Should Earth fall, life must prevail, and a Celestial ship may survive whatever the Anti-Monitor had planned for the universe if it was hidden enough. So even the Watcher's, the only beings who could see the Ark, chose to ignore it rather than give away it's position as it moved away from Earth's orbit. As Apocalypse turned back on his homeworld, he knew his decision was sound. The planet had paid dearly for it's defense, loosing it's southern magnetic point and now slowly but surely the planet would tilting. Soon it would fall out of orbit, headed into deep space or into the sun. Suddenly, there was this feeling of sweeping cold throughout the ship. The Celestial systems did not indicate a change in the environment, but he felt it deep in his being. Deathbird, familiar with this sensation, hailed him.
Deep unease filled him as he and Deathbird rushed back towards the modified cargo hold. Upon entering the vast chamber, everything looked fine. But something was amiss, he felt that down deep inside him, on the edge of awareness of his psionic powers. Something was within the chamber cold vast sterile chamber. It was upon close examination of the nearest collection of specimens that he realized what was amiss and made for a communication console. He set off the alarms within the ship. Ignoring the Ark's commands, he commanded all hands that they were under attack. He broke radio silence, the one rule all had agreed upon when this pilgrimage had begun.
"Earth, come in. The is the Ark. Come in, dammit. If you can hear this, respond!!!"
Then all power things went silent on this ship, except the movement of the volunteer crew. Then those went silent. In the huge chamber, a figure began to coalesce from the distortions in the lights. A titanic figure took form, bending down in the corridors, too immense even for this vast chamber. Deathbird and Apocalypse stepped slowly back out of the cargo hold as the figure of the Elder God Set continued to make his examinations, uninterrupted nor uninterested in the pair. Back at the bridge, the found the bodies of several crew and the mutant Genesis along with the Atlantean Krang, chief security officer. As Apocalypse psionically scanned the bodies, the result was shocking. They had died from fear. Deathbird tapped his arm.
"We're being hailed."
En Sabah Nur turned to the monitors and saw nothing. But he heard tapping... no.... felt it, echo across the ship. He lowered the bridge's cloak screens to get a clear view of the outside and there, tapping on the force fields, floating causally in space was the norse death goddess Hela herself. Behind her, like an mirage, coalesced a titanic vessel, so massive it dwarfed Celestial Ark. White as clean bone and with a fearsome head on it's mast, it looked of norse sailing design, modified with armaments and features of vessels that came after it. It was Nafalgar, the ship of the dead. A hailing signal was received on console as the ship's energies were restored to full, and Deathbird hit the receive. On the screen a sight chilled them more than anything in their experience. The lady Death was sitting silently upon a throne at what looked like the captain's chair, the greek Charon at the wheel and Thanos of Titan approached the monitor, eyes flashing that dark twinkle and a smile on his face. The sight of it terrifying Apocalypse more than anything else in his own horrific life.
"Greetings Apocalypse. We come in peace."
"What is the meaning of this? Why have you stopped us? Why are Sinister's horrors aboard my ship? Where is the precious cargo of this Ark?"
Death raised her hand to silence him and instantly he shut up.
"We shall skip the parlay for now since time is off the essence, Egyptian. Let's just say were taking your ship
At mount Wundagore, under the care of dozens of Watchers, the High Evolutionary silently watched over dials and monitors in his laboratory, and scanning the two metamorphasis occuring with his own unique abilities. At the Terrigen chamber, a single lone figure sat at the door of the chamber in which Franklin Richards resided. The chair was simple and from a time when the Evolutionary was a mere mortal man, and the person sitting in this chair also took one of the older and darker suits of he was used to be Herbert Edgar Wyndham as his own. Stacked around him, in piles high that obscured wre children's books of simple stories and tales. The entity nightmare had never known exhaustion, but when he traded part of his existence for Wolverine and his faction of the Hand, he gained mortal failing as part of the package. This was the only way he would be able to approach the child, Franklin, and guide him through what must be done. Vulnerable and with compassion. Nightmare put down the last book he had read to the boy through the door and in an earnest and heartfelt voice, he picked up another, one of his own selection.
Herbert Wyndham, looked over the man who lay on the table before him, with respect and admiration. In his time, Herbert was the equivalent of Reed Richards, so far thinking and advanced beyond his years and ken. He had taken the great steps to further the cause of man's evolution, through great sacrifice, and became the being he is today. Now, the man who's intellect was the greatest for his generation lay at his table, taking the same step to ascend the plane of existence. Not out of scientific curiosity, but for love of a family and of his people. A love that even now he could feel emanate from the cocoon and into the chamber, where equally powerful forces were reforming Franklin Richards and calming the boy through his change. Where the Evolutionary had failed and had lost his core humanity, Reed Richards would succeed.
Nightmare grabbed a book of poetry, and from the first words, Wyndham knew the poem well. It was famous when he mortal, and held it close to his heart. With a voice smooth and tranquil to tame raging dragons, Nightmare spoke."
"Child, I have read to you these tales of children, let me read you one of my favorites, something appropriate. It was from your American William Blake.
'Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In the chamber, the beyond the range of the comforting words and the psychic love of his father, Franklin dozed between states of concsiouness. In the stages of dreams as his awareness expanded, Franklin saw himself in front of a ruby mirror, on the other side, the menacing face of the Anti-Monitor attempting to reach through to him and claim him. And Franklin whimpered.
Ben figured by the time he could see his shadow, he should hit with impact. Too bad he couldn't see his shadow over the dozens of Phalanx Wave drones waiting for him at the surface of the green ocean. But he could feel the buzzing of the ones pursuing him nipping at his heels. Moment of truth.
"Kowabungaaaaa!!!" as Ben hit like a cannonball and splashed into the wave below. Phalanx and green goo receded quickly before him and the splash of his wave spread high and above, taking a few of the technovirus bugs with him into the deep. The shuttle wreck still glowed green from the gamma burst, and the goo that was the Impossible Man shrieked as it plunged into him, receding almost instantly. Hot knife through butter was never a more appropriate analogy. The few bugs that had managed to dig into Ben were also dying from the gamma radiation, but they still attempted to pierce and bite the Things tough hide. The whirlpool expanded as Ben plunged deeper into green darkness. He hoped Johhny was doing as well.
Johhny was not, as he was about to be caught in the swirling riptide of hundreds ahead of him would through him off course and the hundreds of tons of pressure would claim him. His flame and his breath were almost gone. The pressure finally caught up to him and behind him the sheer mass of green goo had caught up to his feet, crushing them flatter than a sheet of paper. Only the unstable molecules of his suit kept the hungry molecules of the Impossible Man from eating him ruined limbs. The pain woke him up and Johnny gave when last final effort. On instinct alone he reached to that last depth of strength in him and went supernova. The glow of Johnny's blast could be seen bright overhead as the ocean that was the Impossible Man churned like a mighty storm was upon it, from the compound attacks on his person. Johnny had managed to burn the smallest of spaces and Johnny plunged into the dark ash, the tons of green goo on him instantly upon him.
The Gardner and his staff parlayed and matched the long swinging axe of Death Urge. For his surprising and humble old appearance, the Elder fought well. But the match was a draw, neither gaining on the other and the Grandmaster was dying. No attack he could do to the living entropy of Maelstorm would harm him, only add to the strength Maelstorm has stolen. It was time for a desperation play. Hooking his staff with the staff of Death Urge, he plunged Death Urge's black axe into himself. But he managed to hook Death Urge with his own staff under the neck and he painfully fell back towards the Grandmaster. With the Death Urge's axe still piercing through him, he fell back upon the kneeling Grandmaster. Maelstorm laughed at the spectacle before him and at his most apparent success. Then the Gardner spoke one word to the Grandmaster.
At the high chair of the Dead Tribunal, the Anti-Monitor looked deep into the head of Zuras and gave instructions to his remaining spy. His agent had found the proper resources to carry out his plan.
On Earth, Lilandra and Namor were consulting with the logs. Apocalypse's Ark had failed to signal from a checkpoint. Things were not going well.
At the pick up from the Battle of the Bronx, Spiderman helped bury those who were once his foes. So many of his mortal enemies had fought beside him now, and then died out here amongst these streets defending the people of this metropolis. Now he helped bury the remaining surviving villains. The illusions of Mysterio and disguises of the Chameleon had spared lives at the cost of his own, illusions great enough to fool the Phalanx. Now SHIELD had arrived, and against his protest they claimed the bodies of those two, as well as Hydroman and Sandman. Spiderman would not let the bodies leave, but he was asked to come along with them, to ensure their sacrifices were for not.
And at the X-mansion, Cain Marko bowed humbly before the torches of his masters. His step-brother had been the link as Elektra, Wolverine's lover Yukio, Iron Fist, Shang Chi and a host of others had poured their skills and experience into his mind. His masters returned Marko's bow and the brothers left the dojo that was the Danger Room. Humbled and vastly different now, Cain joked to his brother. "I know kung fu
As Ben plunged further down, from below him came a rumbling, a shaking in the goo below. The the whirlpool deepened, something big was coming up. Something massive. Something blue. After so long a time, the mighty Champion arose from the deep green. He ripped at the green that clung to his face, and with great effort and he pulled out yards of the olive green strands from his mouth, eyes, ears and nose. It still clung to him, but as Ben and the Champion got closer, it faded away. Champion began to swim towards Ben. Ben looked excited to see his former sparring partner, that was until one of the dying bugs attempted to bite his face off. Ben crushed it with his good hand, leaving part of it's teeth broken off on his cracks. Even the technovirus infection did not take hold, due to the excess gamma radiation from the wreckage. The whirlpool above opened up wide and wider as the Impossible Man began to pull in his massive form and escape the radaition. They finally hit bottom together and and Ben rolled along the rough surface of Ego, shaking off the bugs that still clung to him. He managed to swat a few away, while Champion tuned his attention to the receding man. With his might hands the Champion slammed together, and much like the Hulk the powerful thunderclap had managed to disinegrate everything in its path like a bomb blast, pushing the the receding Impossible Man even much much further. But now the plunging swarm was upon them.
Champion turned to the Thing, a mess himself. The scalp was gone and from the blood vessels on his skin Champion was pulling away strands of the Impossible Man that had managed to get in through his cuts. One eye was missing, but Champion still looked happy and eager to fight.
"Ha! Mighty Thing, you have come to rescue the Champion?"
"Only way I am going to get my rematch."
"Ha! We will need to plod through your 'adoring fans' to get that chance." motioning to the Phalanx Wave that plunged on top of them.
Champion was doing well against the wave, due to his recent successful experience against them. Ben was doing amazing well, himself. using the embedded wreckage as a shield and club, he applied it as a shield, covering himself and Champion at times when the swarm pounded upon them. You don't fight besides Captain America without learning a few things. The fight turned yet again, as the receding wall of green goo turned into the insane face of the Impossible Man and multitude of hands began ripping at the surface of Ego and hurling it at them. Champion dealt with the boulders as Ben dealt with the bugs. Some of the boulders hit Ben, taking some of the wreckage embedded on the case with it. Some of the bugs were hit and the Phalanx almost turned on their ally in response. This gave Ben an idea. It was time to use the 'secret weapon'.
"Champion, cover me!"
The Thing knelt down and smacked the rest of the wreckage off the frame of the case, allowing him to open it.
"When Reed last met you, Imp, you left samples of yourself all over the Baxter Building. Reed wouldn't allow me to flush it since he thought it would clog the toilets. But he was smart enough to think that this might be used against ya. I'm guessing in your current state, yeah, it might."
The case opened up, and Ben tossed the adamantium shell towards the massive green wall. At first the face recoiled and pulled back, but then it's eyes went wide and the boulders stopped. Even Champion was dumbfounded at the sight, letting a few boulders hit him on the head without registering the impact. Ben kicked the last of the wreckage at the phalanx bugs so that the contents of the box would work it's magic.
Inside the box, Ben had assembled pieces of Susan Richard's beauty kit. Powder, eyeliner, lipstick, perfume. And in the center was a small mirror with mini lights at its edges. But before the mirror, sitting on top of one of the mirrors, sat a tiny female Imp, applying make up and adjusting it's wig, making itself presentable since it had been battered about within the case. It looked up and looked at Ben and then at Champion, and then its eyes met those of the Impossible Man and cooed. The Impossible Man, stuck out his purple tongue and it's eyes went wild, and it showed just how far the Anti-Monitor's corruption had gone.
"LOVE LUST POSSESS RAPE MURDER KILL!"
The female Imp screamed and scampered straight out of the case, running forward up the surface of Ego, only to be gobbled up by a swooping Phalanx Wave drone.
And screetching EEEEEEEEK escaped the Impossible Man and it changed it's face into a duplicate of the Phalanx grim toothed bug face and attacked the drones, purple maddening rage his bug eyes. In an instant the total of the Phalanx were swallowed up, and gone. Then the purple and green bug face turned to Champion and the Thing.
"Yeah, yeah, come gets some." Beckoned Grim with his bandaged hand. The Impossible Man opened wide and chomped down on Ben and Ben plunged his bandaged hand into the mouth of buzzing green teeth. Ben pulled his hand back as the Impossible Man gagged and tried to spit and cough it out, but was unable to do so.
Champion, confused, rushed over to Ben as Ben covered his wounded hand. Much of it was gone, but Ben chuckled.
"Champion, do you know what happens when you bite through a gamma-charged unstable molecule knuckle sandwich?"
"Well, the Impossible Man does now, and I don't want to find out."
In the shrinking, writhing mass, the chain reaction of the broken suit corrupted the molecular structure of the Impossible Man. Before it could split or expel any part of it's disintegrating body the instability spread, faster than any chemical reaction, affecting even the Phalanx drones trapped within the Impossible Man's dying body.
"Let's get out of here. I don't want to know how this ends."
Champion put one mighty arm under Ben's shoulders. Ben pointed the general direction where he came from, and like the Hulk Champions mighty legs carried them high and far away.
Johnny fell into the ashes of the charred insides of the Impossible Man, a golden hand pushed up from the ashes and caught him. With a firm grip it quickly pulled him inside the cover of the dark ashes, and in the darkness a voice spoke into Johnny's mind.
"Torch!" Wake up! I need you!"
In a blur of motion, the Runner was grabbing the ash around them and pushing it to edges of the spinning sphere he was creating. Zipping back and forth, with his speed and strength the Runner pushed back the hundreds of tons away from the safe bubble he was creating, but only a few mere inches before another spot needed his attention a few microseconds.
"TORCH!" he spoke into Johnny's mind.
A quick slap brought Johnny around to awareness, but Johnny was choking. The Runner began to push/pull/spin/reinforce every inch of the sphere in one direction, back to where Johnny had come from, while trying to avoid hitting johnny with his super speed. An almost impossible task except for the infinite patience and concentration of one who had millions of years to practice it.
Taking a precious split second, the Runner gave Johnny mouth to mouth and then returned to his task, trying to be the precious space he had lost in that instant. Johnny came to surprised to be alive in the darkness.
"Johnny, wake up! I need you! You have to recreate your Nova blast and burn us out of here."
"...whuh.... what did you....kiss me... with....."
"Not a kiss. I resuscitated you. Wake up, mortal, we are not going to last long here! The Impossible Man is reabsorbing his charred remains into himself!"
"What do you need to do? What can I do... I can't ignite... I can't... my LEGS"
"You legs are unimportant now, we are about to DIE!! Focus!! The breathe I gave you will finish soon."
"I need air! I need light!"
"No you do not. You barely have tapped your true powers. GUH!"
In the black darkness of the protective sphere, the guck of the Impossible Man had managed to pour through a small hole and get stuck to the Runner.
"Forgive me Johnny, we are out of time."
With a blur of speed he took off Johnny's bloody boot and stuff it in the crack. Johnny was in too much shock to feel it, but it registered in his brain through the telepathic connection.
"Unstable molecules, your Reed is a genius."
"Running out.. of... air..."
"Johnny we are out of time, feel my thought and understand what we must do. When the Anti-Monitor altered the Impossible Man, he made the substance of the Impossible Man able to stick to me so that even at my accelerated speeds I cannot remove it. He has not done so for human skin."
More gaps could be felt through the sphere.
"Johnny, we are out of time. Forgive me, your uniform is our only protection and will block what we must do."
The sphere collapsed to within touching distance as in a blur Johnny Storm was stripped bare, the uniform clogging the gaps as the Runner worked. Beyond the pain of the friction burn,as skin was ripped from him, Johnny began to understand with terrifying clarity what the Runner would do to ensure their survival.
"This.. doesn't mean... I'm... gay."
"What is 'gay'?"
And the protection collapsed around the pair. The suit was torn away and the Impossible Man once again began to tear them apart on the exterior. Through their pores and orifices the Impossible man poured through, the hundreds of tons of mass making it impossible to resist. The pressure and agony were unbearable, and it wasn't until then that Johnny understood what the Runner had done. Now, the two acted as one. As one mind now, the Johnny/Runner understood that the Human Torch's powers were psionic, allowing him to control his molecules and those around them to accelerate to high enough speed to ignite them. Heat was just a mere by product of that control. Johnny's memories continued to speed by in their shared mind. Johnny's ability to absorb heat to cool things to near-absolute zero showed he had control to speed up or slow down said molecules. Now, with the essence of the Runner inside him to fuel him. Johhny was able to accelerate his OWN molecules at superspeed. To maintain stability and control, the Runner had vibrated his own form at incredible speed and merged completely with Johnny Storm, harmonicly reinforcing their injured forms into one more powerful being. The unstable molecule suit just got in the way.
"Oh yes, now I understand, Terran. You are so [i]'flaming gay'[i/]. Now realize that your Impossible Man is upon us and has entered our shell body/blood stream and means to rape/kill/murder us. You have to ignite our body, every molecule from within and burn him out. It is taking all my might to stabilize our form."
A shockwave like a nuclear blast rocked the remains of the blacks sphere and pushed back hundreds of tons of Impossible Man up and out of the way. Rising from the depths, purging the Impossible Man in a trail of smoke behind him, a golden Human Torch rose from the churning green sea, a trail of white hot fire behind him. Above in the air, the new being looked down at the receding sea that was the Impossible Man. The Impossible Man's face formed across miles of the ocean looking straight up at them with madness and murder in it's purple eyes. The Runner, through their link pondered why they hesitated.
"Wait for it", thought Johnny. Miles underneath them, as the goo pulled back, the Human Torches costume could not bear the intense stress of heat and pressure that was on it and it broke down, instantly exploding into mass of unstable molecules. The Impossible Man fell back into flat green goo as unstable molecules began to consume him from here. Then the hybrid being burned bright across the sky looking for their allies. On a distant shore, another wave of unstable molecules could be seen consuming the Impossible Man.
"Looks like Ben had the same idea
The Grandmaster, for all of millions of years of being had developed a very intricate and disciplined mind. Although he preferred mind games the best, being the Grandmaster of Games throughout the known universe meant he was also a master of all riddles, puzzles, performance and physicalcontests. The Champion needed someone to spar with every now and then. And that meant being able to step back and plan things through while his body reacted to physical stress. He was skinny and ancient beyond all measure, but he knew how to fight. For the thousands of years of Maelstorm's experience, the Grandmaster had billions of years on him.
Marshalling the tiny reserves he had been holding back throughout the agony, the Grandmaster pitched forward, bowing straight down, focring Maelstorm to bend forward off balance. The Gardener, self-impaled into his fellow Elder, kicked forward off the ground and with Death Urge in his clutches he head-butted Maelstorm with his attendant. Malestorm let go, physical contact with companion always 'releasing' him to leave one body and slip to another prepared clone. This time, he had absorbed enough raw power from the Grandmaster to stay the death of his body, but it left a nasty mark on his face.
Free of Maelstorm, the Grandmaster kicked his legs out from his kneeling position, flattening himself out. The Gardener freed Death Urge from the choke lock he had bound him in and kicked him free. Outstretching his arms fully, the Gardener pounded the surface of Ego and pushed himself off the back of his fellow Elder, still impaled with Death Urge's long axe in his body. Before he knew it the hands of Maelstorm were upon his neck before the Gardener could remove the axe. The Gardener clawed at the hands as if they could pop his head, but they had absorbed the energies of from the Grandmaster. But now the Grandmaster was free to act. As Death Urge produced yet another of his long axes from his body, the Grandmaster stood up. He waved with the stumps of his arms to Death Urge, grim determination on his face.
Again Death Urge charged, but he forgot whom he was fighting. Beams of energy burst from the eyes of the Grandmaster hitting Death Urge full force at the optimal center point of his body. Following up with a spinning kick to Death Urge's knees, knocking him to the floor. With a stomp and several kicks and impressive feats of twisting and dodging, the Grandmaster played soccer with Death Urge' still attached head, regaining his strength despite the pain of physical contact with the silent Death Urge.
"Fool, you this is no contest! I can take you with my hands behind my back... if I had any."
The Gardener knelt, no longer able to stand as Maelstorm kept draining more and more of his energy away. The more he fought, the stronger Maelstorm grew. Time for a new tactic. Summoning his disciplines of million years, he began to pump his energies directly into Maelstorm, focusing them on his opponents being. Maelstorm took the energies that were now pouring into him and acted upon them. With optic blasts from his own as, akin to the Grandmaster's own energy signature, he blasted the Grandmaster. The beams hit, giving Death Urge a moment of respite. Black spikes and porcupine quills exploded from Death Urge's body, the Grandmaster barely able to optically blast the bulk of them on his own. Several quills were embedded into his skin, but still the Grandmaster rose to fight. He loved a challenge.
A third blast erupted from Maelstorm, but this time the Grandmaster played a feint and moved out of the way as the beams hit Death Urge full force. A hole was exposed within Death Urge's form that had begun to seal up, and the Grandmaster blasted him at that exposed weak point. Maelstorm saw this and attempted a third eyeblast but the beam exploded in his face before he could release it. Through agonizing rasp the Gardener spoke as Maelstorm released him, as Maelstorm clutched at his face with agony. The Gardener took the time to pull the long axe from his frame.
"Maelstorm, your body is a living sponge of entropy. Your body absorbs any and all energy directed at you at amazing levels that you do not burn out. But you are of biology, while we Elders are beings of power cosmic, the vestiges of the big bang of this universe still within us. We harness it and channel it into and alter it to fit our needs. The Grandmaster and Collector are energy powerhouses, the Champion channels it into his physical might while the Runner into his acceleration. I, I like to grow things. Preferably botany, but with botany comes knowledge of biology, and in my mastery of biology of all things I positive on one thing. That is one nasty bruise you have their, Maelstorm.
I am channeling my power into you, you can feel it make parts of you stronger, but I am only feeding the bruise on your head, accelerating the damaged biology's absorption rate faster while slowing down the rate for the rest of your body. What happens when I stop feeding it energy?"
The Gardener finally stands straight, exhausted, as Maelstorm falls. Maelstorm turns an ugly purple, the color of his bruise as it spreads all around him, and Maelstorm dies.
"It eats you alive from within. And with no attendant to release you, the faint life energy you transfer from body to body burns out within this shell. Welcome to oblivion, Maelstorm."
The Grandmaster was doing as well, never relenting on his attack, even as Death Urge tried to escape by sinking into the core of Ego. The Grandmaster kept blasting him, never giving Death Urge another chance generate a defense. All he could do was fall back,and that became easier and easier. Too easy. Before he knew it, the ruptured form of Death Urge stood before the hole in this reality, too weak to reassemble itself and fight the pull into white nothingness. The pull was too strong and what little of his form poured out from his wounds and fell into the white hole, it became grey and dissipated, the nothing overwhelming his nature. The Grandmaster finally relented his attacks. Death Urge watched as the Gardener stepped up. He knew all was lost.
"Less than nothing."
And both Elders watched Death Urge finally fall back into the whole, what was left of him stretched to the event horizon and fading to grey and blackness, the hole itself began to shrink and 'die', Death urge claiming one last victim.
"I assume that means no more 'folding' to get from place to place, Gardener?"
"Thank you for the rescue, brother. The campaign?"
In a brief telepathic bursts the Grandmaster knew all that the Gardener knew, and made his own deductions.
"Yes, and we still have to gather the fragments of the Collector from the Phalanx Wave, and recover our human allies."
"Is that all?"
"Before the suns rises for the last time on this planet."
And over the horizon, dawn came, more brightly now with the lack of stars in the sky, more brightly now because Ego had passed beyond the orbital tract of Venus and accelerated towards Mercury and would soon plunge into the sun. And despite humanities best efforts, the planet Earth gave up it's position in the stars and began to fall towards the sun, too.
In the Microverse, the Legion of Dooms had made significant progress. The world had been stabilized and the city began to reform. The microverse capital city even had been found, and much of its technology and history were recreated. But the people were gone. No survivors. The Dooms had come to an agreement of sorts and in a ritual of technology and the archane, the four Dooms from other realms had stepped into the greyness that lingered between the dark chaos and the white light of Proteus' orders. There, in the border point between chaos and order, anything was possible. The Doom's grew into titanic towering statues of armor, and made immortal. Doom 616 had conducted the right and his position became the centerpoint at the gateway between the Microverse and the doorway at Castle Doom. The Castle had been transported, stone by stone, to it's new location and then the total of the Torches of Proteus were placed in to the armored hands of each of the Doom Monoliths. They were then sent out and began to reinforce the four corner of this Microverse, their immortal and total will channeled through the flames and lighting the way beyond the madness.
As the Maestro lumbered about and sought plunder in the pleasant solitude of the Microverse, the Twilight Sword vibrated in his mighty hand. The Maestro followed the pull on the Sword and came upon a vast valley, where what looked like the last battle of the Microverse defenders against the Adversary had occured. Alone, he walked forth, and moving tons of debris and fallen war machines, he found what had drawn the Twilight Sword. Buried in the sands of this lat great battle lay 'the Sword in the Star' blade, the housing of the great Enigma Force. What was lost was found once more.
In New York the assembled mages and sorcerers were conducting a search of their own. When the great shield protecting the Earth fell, their focus over maintaining the Shield of Rogers was lost as they lost their focus. The towering form remained solid and had participated in the Battle of the Bronx, destroying massive enemy cruisers and holding defending Central Park, and fighting all the way through the island of Manhattan like a vigilant ghost, after the fight was over, the gigantic form of Steve Rogers coalesced and smaller as more of the energy that had kept him together began to dissipate, and in his sightings of Steve Rogers he had caught falling war planes that had been attacked while in mid air and set them down peacefully at JFK before dissipating and fading from sight. No sign of him was found, nor of his wonderous shield. Most of the sorcerers were sent see about correcting the axis of the planet, no time to look for one man. As Dr. Stephen Strange returned to his home to gather magical tools for the task ahead, it was a disturbing surprise when a doddering old man in a wheel chair halted him on his doorstep. Strange was about to push off because of the urgency of saving the world, but he looked back when the old man called his name. Strange looked back at the happy smile of the old timer and the twinkle and confidence in his eyes told Strange all he needed to know.
Steve Rogers nodded and pulled up the blankets cover his legs. There, solid and majestic and true as ever, was the Shield of Captain America.
Off the shores of Africa, another wonder was being performed. King Namor and select heads of state attended the ritual. Lilandra could not attend, because she was not of this earth, and she in turn searched for her lost love to talk to him about the politics of the wedding and her undying love for the man. Wakandan, Genosha and Atlantean scientists working with the mutant Forge deep within the ancient volcanic underwater caves. Inside, the goddess Gaea lay in a cooling nurtient bath, unable to meld back with the Earth because of the agony the planet was in. The High Evolutionary could not attend, as he was watching over Reed and Franklin Richards. Nor would the other gods of the world come to their summons, and that was more troubling than anything else. Gaea was dying, and something had to be done. It was Gaea who had proposed the plan and everyone had agreed, except Forge, for his own will. A scientific and magical birthing chamber was made, resembling the large huts of the first men of the earth. The alchemist Diablo labored alongside Forge to prepare this room. There, in the pool within the deepest cave in the bottom of the ocean, life had begun when the earth was young and this cave was shallow. Here Gaea birthed the fundamentals of life. Here, in this same sacred spot, a new life would begin from old ones.
Ororo had been terrified of confined spaces since she was traumatized as a child, and her time with the sewers with Morlocks did not help. This was far, far worse than anything like that, miles underwater and deep underground. She longed for sky and fresh air, but without her powers that joy was denied to her. She was chosen, then, as an natural elemental to take a great step forward, as mother is replaced by a child. Once she had been a goddess in the plains in Africa, and she thought the calling of her life would be to follow Charles Xavier. It turns out there was a calling, but it was for this purpose as Ororo Munroe caressed the African land that had been her home. Upon seeing Gaea, Ororo kneels in the tradition of her African people and offers words of prayer and worship.
"It is time, we cannot delay any further before the planet spills out of control." spoke Diablo.
"The world must be set right, my love." the words tearing a whole in the shaman's heart as Forge undressed Ororo. Diablo helped Gaea out of the alien healing pool and as soon as she made contact with the world, she cringed in agony. But she stood strong and stepped into the primordial pool. The wounds on the earth appearing as cracks and a large burn on her body.
"Take my hand child." spoke Gaea, lovingly, her voice barely masking the pain.
Storm rises. Forge undresses the beauty that has captured his heart. Ororo stepped into the pool with, her skin alive and an awareness of the elements settled on to her. Senses on the scope she had never been privy to through her experience as a the mutant Storm. The warmth of breathe from herd of buffalo. The mists of the jungles of the amazon. The taste of frost on a single snowflake in the Icelandic fields.
Forge began to chant, and activate the chamber's energy matrix. Diablo attended to his duties and the contents of two large vials into them.
"There can be no worship of gods without some sacrifice. These two children of your Earth, mother Gaea, died defending it. He was was Morris Nech, the Hydroman, and he who was Flint Marko, the Sandman, your sacrifices will be for naught. From your essence we gather the strength to heal our new mother Earth, she who was Ororo Munroe, child of princess N'Dare, child of David Munroe, heir to Sorceress Surpreme Ayesha."
""Listen to my voice as my life flows into you. Above all, remember to be patient with your brothers and sisters." speaks Gaea as she sinks into the pool.
"Forge!" Ororo calls out as Gaea cringes again from the agony and Ororo begins to feel the pain, as her form becomes fluid, she sinks/dissolves into the pool, no voice available to her. Forge does stop his chanting for all the agony the ceremony brings to his soul. Atlat Ororo is gone and the pool looks like ordinary mud. Forge stops and falls to his knees before the pool, now his tears come. As his tears hit the mud a face takes form, the face of his beloved Ororo Munroe. Forge bends down and kiss the ground and the ground kisses him back. And then she is gone.
Diablo pulls him up gently.
"Come, Shaman, her world still needs saving."
They step outside the chamber to the group of world leaders who await the news.
"It is done
It is done." a voice spoke to the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor approved of the selection of agents.
"Proceed." the otherworldy voice of oblivion commanded. From the edge of what was left of space, the Anti-Monitor watched as the new Phalanx Wave hatchlings consumed the universe. Most of the last galaxy, the Milky Way, was consumed. All that remained as vast blackness and chirp and chick of the Locusts of Reality. From what he consumed from Mephisto he took knowledge that the heroes of Earth were clever, as his own experiences in the world to come had proven. Schemes and plans were made against him, but all was playing into his hands.
At a bar in Madripoor, in lowtown, seedy with people living their last vices as if the world would end, and it just might happen. The rich mingled with the desperate of this world, objects traded and only pleasures the last true commodity, for money had no meaning in this place for those about to die. People becoming desperate reached out and took what they could not have, but were cut down by the establishment's enforcers, Bullseye and Sabretooth. Rules of conduct still were enforced, deals, no matterhow distrubed or dark they were, were honored and nothing was taken if it was not offered. The Kingpin was right at home in this place, this bar he had procured with his silent partner. Within the upstairs, halls and basement of this bar, sins were committed and scores were settled. But the Kingpin honored the traditions of the Princess Bar. Here, one broken soul dressed in traveler's leather and khaki lingered and waited for the right drink that would wash his wounds away, but none came. Through all the ruckus about him, none dared disturb his clean table, and the Wilson Fisk, in his fine grey suit of the finest Asian silk, let the man drink his fortune away. The man wasn't drinking now, he just bowed his head and let the shadow fedora playing tricks with the shadows on the glass on whiskey before him.
Finally, someone dared cross the threshold of the bar, someone dressed in an immaculate white suite eve, well tied black bow-tie and crisp black pants. Someone reflected upon the glass before the slumped and weary traveler. Bogart would be proud. The man sat down across from the lone wounded figure, more real for all his dashing than the grey people around him. He sat at edge of the light, the dark room concealing him and only the lights above the table revealing the sharpness of the outfit. Even as he lit his cigar the darkness kept her secrets. Not until he spoke did the man register that someone had set down before him.
"Hiya, Chuck. Fancy meeting you here of all places."
Charles Xavier raised his head.
"What do you want, Logan?"
"Chuck, are you that drunk? You called for this little sit down. You asked, I came. I don't do this for anyone anymore, only for you."
"Fine. Logan, have a drink with me."
"I've got a reputation to uphold, Chuck. Sorry."
"For old times' sake."
Logan blows smoke at Xavier, and Xavier coughs.
"... for fallen friends. Fine."
A drink appears, exactly like Chuck's whiskey, where none was there before.
"To those who went before us." as Logan raises his glass.
"To those we lost." and Charles Xavier shoots it down and slams the glass face down. "Barkeep, another round for me and my friend here."
"Chuck, I've never seen you drink like this."
"Never have had to. I've picked this up from Cain, my brother... all those hours teaching him and fighting with him inside his mind, breaking him down and rebuilding him back up, and all those memories and experiences, it wears a mind down. You remember the Juggernaut, right, Wolverine? He's pounded on you a few times."
"I don't like your tone, Chuck."
"It's Charles and it always will be Charles, you mongrel. The fine suit won't change the bastard you are."
"You haven't touched your drink yet, Logan."
"You know I can't."
Xavier grabs the drink from Logan's grasp and throws it at him. It passes right through him and splashes the people across the way. They look and rise and the bar begins to stirs at the smell of a fight, but Charles exerts his incredible powers and everyone sits down and continues their business. They even ignore that they have alchohol running down their face.
"I'm a wraith now, Chuck. When Nightmare came here and we went there, parts of us were exchanged to complete the transaction. I needed to hunt down D'spayre and sanction him, he needed to watch over Franklin. A deal is a deal, like this place."
Charles Xavier bows his head again.
"Charles, what ever is bothering you, you need to snap out of it now."
"My oldest friend is dead saving the world, my prize students are dead bringing the last hope of the known universe to our doorstep to protect, my beloved has married someone else for political unity and I have been kicked out of my family home to house refuges from distant stars."
Logan sips on a drink that was not here anymore. "But humans and mutants are living in peace, Chuck."
"Oh yes, that, my dream, Logan. Of course we have to, we don't have to worry about killing ourselves, as the Anti-Monitor's about to do it for us. Thank you very much my friend."
"Get over, yourself. The issues are bigger than you."
"All of reality is about to cease to be, yeah, I know, everyone knows and it fills the head of every last sentient being alive. Of course I know. It's maddening that I can't do anything about it."
"Chuck, get over this 'poor me' crock! Look at me! I am here and not here. Only you see me, these people do not. I exist between daydreams and nightmares of people. You know me and how much I fiercely loved living part of the world. I was impossible to hurt or kill, and now I cannot die. I cannot smell, cannot taste, and can barely feel except for what other people dream about and remember, with no memories of my own to base it on. Andif they know I am in their heads they wakeup in screaming fear. I can never touch a living body again, and I am alone here with the Hand."
"You're lying Logan."
"Well, yeah, I am, looks like you could sense that part of me that still, Chuck. Let me give you something to focus on.
Someone is dreaming of the Anti-Monitor. Someone who serves him. I can't tell who it is because they may be sleepers and do not know that they are, or it's someone who can influence others. Whatever it is I sense on my end, I sense big targets and someone capable of gettin' to them, Chuck. I can't focus on it because the mind changes, spreads out and then becomes whole and forgets. All i know it is someone who is close to us and has access. "
"The Shadow King?"
"No, we took him out as favor to you. Actually, more like preemptive strike. He was running around the background as a bogeyman of poor refuge kids, feeding and getting stronger. But when he gave up the ghost, literally, he confessed he wasn't working for the Anti-Monitor. Search Chuck, before they hit. They plan to hit soon, fast, and hard, and more of our loved ones will fall. I will be here if, ya need me."
"I can't do it Logan. I'm not together."
Wolverine pounces across the table and pops out his claws and tucks them under Charles chin. Charles tries to defend himself, but Logan was hard to get to when he was a mere mutant, now he was impossible to access. Now he was more fearsome than ever, a living nightmare with claws and feral wildness. A Hunter in Darkness. And the points of the claw felt VERY real.
"Get it together, or if any of our friends are hurt I will make this thing you feel -"
"ENOUGH", scream Xavier, and cut loose with the full psionic power. Logan flew away from him and hit the far wall like black sand. He dissipated into black smoke and formed back in his nice suit and puffed on the cigar. No one in the bar flinched.
"Yes, Logan, thank you. I will make sure that our friend's don't get hurt or or I will die trying."
"Yeah, about that.... I need you to do me a solid, to repay this tidbit, and for the Shadow King."
"What do you want, Logan?" spoke Charles Xavier, now more composed and sure of himself.
"You were right, Charles. I was lying. There is someone else here. Tell the Russian that his Kitty is safe. She's alive."
"Kitty Pryde is alive? Where is she, Logan!"
"Here in the shadows.... she says she's sorry. Tell him I'm sorry. We didn't expect to...., but there is no one else here."
"Bit of a bastard yourself, Logan." Logan rushed across the table and slapped him.
"Charles, WAKE UP!
Charles Xavier rose from his drunken slumber at the table he was at. His head ached like the worst hang over he had ever had. The entire Princess Bar had gone quiet and still, as the Shi'ar Guard kept everyone back at bay. Lilandra slapped him awake.
"Charles, wake up my love. You've cut yourself."
Charles reached up and felt his chin. From the points where Logan had pressed his point during the dream, trickles of blood flowed here in real life.
"Lilandra! You are here! This is real!"
"Yes beloved, you never gave me a chance to explain."
"Explain on the way, we have to hurry."
He linked his mind with those around him, the people who led the fight.
"We have sleeper agents! Saboteurs!!!"
The Anti-Monitor had given the signal and his agents moved into place. And now he stood, at their last refuge, confused in what he was witnessing. He came here at full power, expecting the powers of the heavens to stand against him. But here, in the darkness at the void grey void he stood before the great tree Yggdrasil. It was old, ancient and dying, and the sight pleased him. This would be much easier than he thought. He stepped up to examine his kill, taking pleasure in break some of the roots as he walked towards the base. With this gone only the M'Kraan would remain and his agents were seeing to that. He looked up at the few frail leaves, down to the few branches, the soft moss on it's shell and gnarled roots. Putting it out it's misery would be a just deed. And reached back to give the deathblow and ignite the tree, some part of his experienced recalled something. Trees don't have moss.
Erupting from the trunk a gnarled green hand shot out and choked him. The roots he had so casually walked by whipped up and wrapped his feet and the branches overhead caught the fist as it was pulled back. All of these parts of Yggdrasil were covered in living moss, and behind the hand that shot out the face of the Man-Thing took form.
As Spiderman began fumbling about with the extra gadgets he had assigned to master with hours ago. He played back the whole scene in his mind and the utter shock of what had occured after the Battle of the Bronx until this moment. He had arrived at the Avenger's mansion, what was left of it. As this was the command center for the New York defense, it was the most attacked property on the plane. A bug ship, barely infested with Phalanx technovirus, still lay on the street. There was a mass exodus of the city fears of having the Wave Phalanx drones survivors lurking about. And they had been right.
After the Battle a homeless shelter opened up to take refugees, only to find a Phalanx Bug in the refridgerator. Another bug was found inside the police tow yard. Each of them killed a dozen people before it was brought down. Now as he entered the familiar grounds of the Avenger's mansion, he could get a better of what had happened beyond New York.
The first sight that greeted him as he passed the quad was the induction of several former super villains into the ranks. Taskmaster, the Wizard, the Scorpion, as well as various other minor league heroes. Firestar, Vance Astro. Then there was the wall of remembrance, filled with friend coworker and family member who had fought and died. War Machine,the entire roster of both the Serpent Society and Zodiac groups, the Hellfire Club, along with Emma Frost and her students the Hellions. Many, many street level guys: Night Thrasher, White Tiger, Hammerhead, Tombstone; the unknown ranks of the Morlocks and some of the undead: Blade, Morbius, Hannibal King. And the pictures of many cops, firefighters, soldiers and family members who had died.
Beyond that, in the main meeting lecture hall were many similar but different looking heroes. The people he and Dr. Doom had gone to recruit and who had survived the last battle. Versions of the X-men, the mutant Mimic, the mutant Thunderbird, a She Hulk who looked more like Ben Grimm, a female Man-Wolf. All of them being granted citizenships and going through this universe's history through video cassettes, since they would not be able to return to their own timelines, which no longer existed. Most troubling was the nerd with the six arms who had been granted access to help rebuild the Avenger's science department. Peter Parker. Spidey almost fainted upon seeing him again, all six right hand arms waving their greetings to him.
Below, in the med center, were the injured. Their spy who had communicated the actions as Wave scouts had hit the Shield of Rogers, Ant Man, lay in a forcefield, his body shaking from seizures. The amount of effort he spent growing and shrinking and growing again had left him unable to control his size once the fight was over, and only the forcefield kept him stable. Members of the Skull Squadron who could not find their limbs were given cybernetic parts, making them more terrifying. And there was the most troubling sight, Eddie Brock. Gutted and partially consumed by the bugs, the Venom symbiote kept trying to patch him up, keep him whole and alive. Spiderman himself had witness the sacrifice as the bugs had gotten within the tunnel systems, pursuing the hundreds of New Yorkers who had fled their for safety. Fighting a swarm on his own, he could not help the ones who had barricaded themselves in a underground train, and found it's meager defenses useless. Venom rushed into the train immediately after the dozens of bugs. Trapped within close quarters, no one should've survived.
But to a man, woman and child they all made it out unharmed; none of the bugs did. Neither did Venom. Spidey returned after he had disposed of his assailants and saw the pitiful sight of the symbiote dragging the body of Eddie Brock up, a trail of black ooze covered organs in it's wake, with none of the humans they had saved willing to lend a hand. Spiderman stepped in, scooped them up and out of harms way, taking them to a veterinary and left back to the battle. Seeing them now brought out the pain he had not experienced during the carnage.
The next shock of was what he had heard was being planned with the remains of Hydroman and Sandman. He could NOT believe, despite present company and everything he had seen and experienced.
And then Nick Fury, and Black Widow approached him with the Atlantean royal guard and took him to a dark corner to talk, Peter Parker the Amazing Spiderman finally fell to the floor.
"You want me to WHAT?"
The Grandmaster and Gardener where also quite stunned at the task before them. Both of them still injured, they fought the Phalanx Wave that had torn apart their comrade the Collector. Parts of him were scattered all over the battle field, mixed in with the creatures of his collection which had been used as cannon fodder. So many last survivors of other worlds lost, so many extinct. More disturbing, the bugs had actually tried to EAT the small portions of the Collector they had managed to tear away. What they could not eat they tried to infect with the technovirus. None of it took, but it was no less gruesome. They waded through and sought out the bugs who had ingested their brother, while fending off the attack of the wave, energy blasts slowly become weaker as they Elders grew exhausted and the Phalanx adapted. They felt the presence of their brothers coming and took heart, and soon they felt the floor rumble and a familiar battle cry filled the air.
"IT"S CLOBBERING TIME!"
The Thing and the Champion burst through swarms of the monsters and made their way to the center of the action. Still injured, Ben and the Champion took on much of the grunt work as the Elder's pinpointed and brought down the last of the creatures still carrying parts of the Collector. The monsters were disembowled and the parts brought back to order. The Grandmaster took off his own robe and used it to carry the pieces of the Collector together. Dawn approached the planet and the size of the sun was immense. The cool air they had experienced earlier quickly ignited and scorched the surface of Ego. Quickly the bugs fled, leaving the heroes on their own.
"We gotta go!"
"We can take it, Ben!"
"Neither can we, mighty Champion. We are all to tired, and the Collector won't last after so much. We will need millenia to recover from this damage. Their star shall rip us and this planet apart."
"'Nuff said, we gotta go!"
The Gardener took Champion and the Thing under his arms, and the Grandmaster held tight to the Collector. Already the robe began to squirm and get stronger, but in the Gardeners arms Ben was getting weaker. The damage and the gamma poison would soon claim him.
"We need to get this mortal off this world fast."
The Collector's ugly face popped out of the robe.
"We don't have enough speed, we will not get clear before the solar radiation hits us."
A blur of white light rushed up to meet them, a double-voice echoing.
"Heeeere I come to save the daaaaaaayyyyy!"
"In the flesh...er, of sorts. Benjamin, hold your breath!"
The hybrid being that was Johnny Storm/the Runner picked them all up and burst off high into space. The planet Ego finally got his wish and all the bugs were off his surface, and he plunged into the sun. The Grandmaster noted the direction the Phalanx Wave that had survived the fire, not towards Earth but somewhere else. Somewhere without planets. Far off beyond them, the grand Siredam of the technarky, the Magus processed all the information that was brought to him, the destruction of Ego, the escape of the Elders and that the last of the old generation of Phalanx Wave had surrounded every possible form of escape from this small, small solar system
Dozens of Watchers have gathered in Rio de Jainero, as well as much of the world eyes. All have come to observe the benefit concert to unify the world, to pour money and heart into the to try to bring hope to the last defenders of the Earth in its greatest hour of need. It is simulcast throughout the world and at other locations. They also gather at Atlanta, Paris, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Moscow, Berlin and smaller cities, artists of all kinds and types have gathered to plead for world unity in this trying time. The people have lost hope, the gods have deserted them, a gold god hover over Colorado, Nazi bikers from hell have been sighted overhead in Texas and rumors spread of the Earth itself dying. At the Daily Bugle, reporters still come to work, but only a few as they have no families to get to, or some bring them to work, should any moment BE the last moment. The concert is the news, and that is what J. Jonah Jameson's office, the old newspaper man, chews out his staff for printing those stories without facts to back them up, and he will not touch the end of the world stuff. Robbie Robertson, still loyal leaves the office and packs his things. He quits and is going home to spend the last days with his wife.
"Jonah, why won't you print anything about the end of the world?"
"Why waste money printing that news? Everyone can look out the window and see the world is topsy-turvy."
Jonah points outside, and it is obvious. The moon no longer orbits the planet correctly as for the first time the dark side of the moon can be seen, the sunrise is crossing over the north, birds do not know which way to fly and they just sit there and most troubling the sun is CLOSER. "Jonah, go home. Let these people go to their families or to a service." "Hmph! You don't have faith in the heroes, Robbie?" "I don't think they can solve this one. People say it's the rapture, and we're the damned." "What was it that used to be said? 'Keep the faith, brother.' " The concert starts and bands that had broken up and sworn never to perform together ever again start the show in Vegas. The current flavor of the month artists sing with the classic old timers. They sing songs of unity, of hope and prayer and spirit. In Rio, the mutant Dazzler is on stage and performs one of her hits, and then leads the crowd on Queen's "Under Pressure", giving it her all and pouring it out from the thousands of fans in attendance. She ends her song and the fans roar, this is her finest moment as she begins to glow from the unity of the crowd. Hope lives. She truly believes she can inspire- Dazzler blows up in blinding bursts of light, taking the stadium with her and half a mile radius of the venue. The shockwave hits like a nuke and the city of Rio de Jainero is no more. Fans at the venues large and small see the destruction broadcast across the world, and then suddenly similar destruction occurs at their event as they realized they may be vulnerable. Major parts Las Vegas, Atlanta, Hong Kong, Paris... gone. The rest of the world watches on. J. Jonah Jameson bend's down to the TV. Cries are heard from staff behind him and he trembles at the horror he has witnessed. "No...." And its not just the concert. Major cross religion events are hit. Parts of Rome, Jerusalem, Tibet, Mecca, Lemuria also go. SHIELD goes to full alert, increasing security around the world at important sites. But it is too late. At a secure location, the Omniversal Majestrix Roma makes her decision. Out of all the candidates of this universe and others who are before her, Rachel Summers is the best candidate to host the Phoenix Force. Applauses are heard all around from the other candidates from across the time streams and then the death of all the people hits the psychics in attendance like a freight train. Before they can get up to recover, the shapeshifter Meggan of Excaliber screams and smiles as she explodes. At the Chariot of the Gods, the place goes on lockdown, but not before Electro detonates and causes an electromagnetic pulse. The helicarrier begins to plunge from miles on high, most of the people on the landing pads falling away. Xavier takes in all the news and knows he is too late, the warning came too late. High above on the Shi'ar, just over Hawaiian airspace, the news of the disasters hits. Quickly Professor X scans the minds of the Shi'ar among them, trying to detect anything that may give the assault away. Nothing. Sure of the crew he expands his mind out and across North America. Nothi---wait, a mind that was there and now isn't slips by his awareness. Then there are others, all with the exact same pattern, all with the same psychic defenses. There and then not there, as Logan had warned him. "Logan, I need help" Xavier screams into the psychic plane. "Already on it". Lilandra signals to the Watcher flying beside them. "Watcher, you know who did this. Why won't you tell us?!!! As Shi'ar Queen I command you to tell us or be shot down!" But the Watcher is strains to remain silent, but he blinks, rethinks the value of his vow now, at the end of all things, and breaks it. "Madrox. Mystique. Rogue. Under the thrall of Starfox." Xavier eyes go wide, as it makes sense and the horror is upon him. The Avenger has had access to every bit of knowledge passed along by all parties. The Uni-Mind links all Eternals together, and protects them from ordinary psychics. And Rogue with her fractured mind and training makes her hard to see for a psychic. And the Eternals were present when the Savage Land erupted. "Where are they?" At the Lincoln memorial, at top the lap of Lincoln, the bodies of Starfox, Mystique and Madrox lay crumpled in a pile, drained. Rogue laughs and slaps herself, her mind nothing more than controlled madness now at the thrall of the Anti-Monitor, through Zuras. Starfox had found it so easy to seduce her with spoken words where psychics had not, and then she sought out Mystique. Madrox was the last step, and she got to him easy posing as one of his own dupes. Now, following the Anti-Monitor's last directive, Rogue and her Rogue Army spread out at super speeds through out the world, the powers of Madrox and Mystique fully integrated into her, along with Starfox's Eternal capabilities and his thrall to the will of the Anti-MonitorWithin the gravestones at Cypress Hill Cemetery in New York, the faithful and the respectful gathered to pay there last respects. So many of the fragile and weak had died in the past few days, and the cemetery was full, despite heat as sunset blissfully came. Had the attendees known of the horror around the world, they would have lept into the graves of their recently passed. They still were blisfully unaware. Something in the graveyard did feel the effects of the tragedy and marshalled. As the sunset turned the sky blood red, the heat off the stones and metal around bending light and shadow, and the figures seemed to come to life. There was a thundering on the floor and from the waves of heat the mirages solidified and burned black and red. The blood of the innocent called and the Skrull Squadron answered, their machines rumbling like thunder in the deepest trenches. Up to the top of the hill they rode and terrifying the attendees in their passing. But something ran after them through the shadows now as the sun set. Something unafraid. Something fast and furious and feral in nature, made of shadows with claws and eyes which gleamed of moonlight. As the Squadron took to the air, the figure lept after them, surprising their leader as it wrapped it's darkness around the Red Skull's waist. "Got room for one more, bub?" The Red Skull turned his head back in silent red menace. "Figured. We're going to need a sidecar, then, Mein Herr." The Rogue Army spread out across the central Eastern Seaboard, with a many agents already in place around the world. Targets in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America were hit. Multiple tactics were involved, stealth and subterfuge to access location, power duplication from other super-humans and straight forward blitzes, the Rogue dupes invulnerability magnified by Starfox's Eternal durability and energy reserves. The destruction left scars on the Earth that only geologic events would heal. The armies and militias dared not fire upon her as any impact duplicated their problems exponentially. Few places were able to hold back the tide. M.O.D.O.C. and his A.I.M. forces in Argentina, the Mandarin in China, and the one man army of the Taskmaster worked wonders alongside the Trapster with contain the Rogues in New York. The few ground forces of New York, heroes and villains alike fought to hold the burning Avenger's Mansion, knowing the eventually they would get tagged by a winking Rogue as she killed them. At Castle Doom, one Rogue had managed to Penetrate the defenses there making her way to the Courtyard. The machines and magic holding acting as the pool into the Microverse failed and the Maestro ran for the opening. With mighty leaps he made it just below the opening, the light fading from the normal world. He looked up and jumped towards the portal, he realized his massive frame was too big. At the Atlantic Ocean, the underwater cities began were constructed as refuge camps from the sun and future attacks were also assaulted. The Gamma Base in New Mexico fell. All of this occurring while the ash of the Rio tragedy still falling to the ground. Upon the surface of the Sun, Heimdall and the scout gods looked on at Earth and it's dire peril. The suffering had escalated beyond their expectations, as they had not expected this gambit. Their labor and sacrifices would be for not if there was no one to save. They could spare only one at this critical juncture of their work and already adjustment would have to be made.Thor stepped forwarded, arming himself with his Belt of Power and full battle armor. Blind Odin and the Skyfather's behind him. It would have to be now. The dominoes would begin to fall. Thor slammed Mjolnir on the golden architecture of the Cradle and vanished from them. They would miss his strength. They all returned back to their work that had to be finished soon, for the Yggdrasil-Thing would not hold for much longer. All except Odin. Despite his inability to see, he stepped out onto the surface and held high the Casket of Ancient Winters and turned the locks. It was all or nothing now. At the void beyond the edge of the universe, the Anti-Monitor was thrown and swayed, writhing in the vines and branches of Yggdrasil. All his might meant for not as the great tree,though dying, proved to be his equal in might and power. The simple and solid tree became something Lovecraftian in horror. For all the time that people assumed what the Man-Thing was, a simple beast of the swamp protecting it's portion, few truly understood what Guardian of the Nexus of Realities meant. The simple creature was but an avatar, a small form so it could interact and view the universe. This true titanic, spiraling space god of star-stuff was the true power, bonded to Yggdrasil. Still the Anti-Monitor pressed on, the vines burning even his mighty form. He returned burn back, but never got clear enough to truly attack. They could go on like this for eternity, burning one another. And then the truth hit the Anti-Monitor. The cosmic tree was meant to delay him. As Earth was moments away, the Grandmaster looked on at where the poor planet they had promised to defend had fallen into the sun and saw mighty Odin. Odin raised up the Casket and would soon open it. His understanding was instant, seeing the big picture for what it was now, all the players and pieces in place. His thought shot out to the others. "My brothers, we must stop. We are needed elsewhere on the gameboard. Right nowStark was standing right next Electro as the man cut loose. His armor became stuck exactly in the position where it stood, a silent statute. But the armor that bound him protected him from the rest of the damage, and the person who was Electro shifted shape. No one around him was able to put up much of a fight, they had shocked to death or unable to think properly as the figure switched from Electro to the blue tint of Mystique to the swamp rat figure of Rogue. She took cascaded fire from her hands in every direction, felling the Radioactive Man. Her next volley met with resistance as a groggy Polaris set up a magnetic shield to protect the rest of the energy channelers, especially the child Energizer. Then someone was brave enough and stupid enough to blast right by them and knock the Rogue duplicate off her feet. The mutant cannonball charged in, his blast shields saving him from shock. He had managed to scoop up Rogue in his arms, but he had left another Rogue behind, and that Rogue dupe was getting to her feet. Now Havok and Polaris turned their awesome might on her when the helicarrier's equipment finally failed and the flight deck pitched forward and downward. Havok, still tied into the equipment reached out to Polaris and caught as she slid down the deck. Cannonball was already redirecteding his movements as soon as he heard the helicarrier groan and the woosh of it's plunge. He saw Sunspot fall off the already flight deck and into freefall, and one of the jets ran over poor Wolfsbane as she had dug into the flight deck in wolf form. His speeds picked up and then he was going faster than he thought possible. He looked up and felt the Rogue dupe speeding him up. "Hiya, sugah! How about a kiss?" Rogue punched through Guthrie's blast shield and yanked his head straight back and up. The young mutant man was no match for her strength and his neck snapped, with Rogue kissing him goodbye as they slammed into the falling helicarrier. But it wasn't exactly falling. More like listing in a downward spiral, as the gear that was used to hold the Dreaming Celestial in place now kept the damaged helicarrier aloft. The Celestial lay prone, floating, it's hand still up towards the sky. But the bindings keeping the carrier up were buckling under the strain of combat. One of the three Rogue acted as a battering ram, ramming head first through the carrier and into the engine room. Another dueled in the sky with the Avenger Photon while the third Rogue went through the SHIELD recovery teams like butter, frying them with Electro's power. This Rogue walked up to Iron Man with a smile on her face, her beauty making her all that more horrid. "Got a valentine for me, playboy?" Wedging her hand through his chest piece, like diamond through glass, Rogue began to open up Iron Man like a tin can, as Tony could do nothing more but watch and scream inside his suit. "No!" came a scream from behind and the third Rogue went bright white and disappeared. Katie Power stood on top of the finger of the Celestial she was assigned to, and began directing energy directly from the Celestial into the blasts. One more shot and the dupe disappeared, shocking the second Rogue from which she had sprung from, the one dueling with Photon. Photon took advantage of the pause, turning into light beams and shooting herself straight into this Rogue's eyes, coming out as ultra-violet on the other radiation. This Rogue burnt out and popped back to her source. But from within the listing ship, her 'source' was coming out to respond. Dozens of Rogue's appeared overhead, ripping through the floor with heavy machinery or charged energy. "That wasn't nice, deary. Let me return da favuh." they said as one. As the words had finished the Rogue Army's mouth, the energy cables that had were connected to the Radioactive Man and Photon sprung to life. So did much of the wiring of the machine tapping the Celestial's might. Like coiled springs they all whipped up and latching on to each of the Rogue's overhead. "Self has heard enough! Self ends this now!!! Self will deliver final reprimand!" No technology on Earth or extraterrestrial, was able to access the energies of the Celestial, so far beyond was this entity. But Warlock, the mutant technarch organism, could, by acting as a benign symbiote rather than hostile parasite, channeling lifeglow energy to Havok and the others. It had been unable to act immediately to the pulse scrambling his awareness. Now he was coherent and he was no longer in the benign mood.
As the Rogues tried to peel or blast the technovirus cables from their bodies, Warlock channeled their mock life force into himself, assimilating the Rogues. In his short time on Earth he has only had to kill to feed, and never out of anger. Now, even that innocence was lost. The New Mutants were here to watch and care over him during this trial.
"Self friends function fail. Self unable to comply with salvation. Self- "
Warlock scanned the damage around him, and the looming earth as they fell. Then a look into the stars commanded his next actions.
He arched his form over the Dreaming Celestial, and with the Rogues he had absorbed, attacked it.
"Activation required, dreamer! Self must save new self-friends and all life, life glow must go on! The Siredam unit will strike, and self must defended!!!"
What he had so benignly shunted now he began to leech and feed on hungrily and with great pain. Polaris and Photon attacked Warlock as he destroyed attacked their one true 'big gun' and to stop the destruction to the ship. At last the Celestial defended itself, incinerating the infected Rogues as they struck him. Now the sleeping giant awoke and reached out to choke the Warlock and Warlock smiled.
It shape shifted out of it's hands and reassembled out of reach. The Celestial still clung on, holding to Warlock's essence more than to the physical being of Warlock himself. The alien technarch ran, and the Celestial followed into the heavens above. The ruins of the helicarrier finally plunged to earth in freefall, and in space the Magus moved his children forward. The Celestial that had made the Earth off limits was no longer in residence
Johnny, in all his experience with the Fantastic Four, had thought he had seen everything to see in this world and the next one. But the exeprience of sharing accelerating at such speeds across space, the awareness of cosmic stellar bodies, was new and exciting. He would never be able to ride a race car again. But speed was now of the essence, as Ben no longer responded to Champion's prodding. And something flashed in the Runner's part of their shared mind, and they stopped in open, empty space.
Johnny insisted on moving forward but the Runner reasserted himself, though weakly. Runner had not shown just how damaged he had been during his trappings within the Impossible Man. It was getting difficult to fight the Runner and maintain there form, and the Runner bade him to wait while he consulted with the other Elders. On a level more primal, faster and powerful than mere telepathy the Runner listened quickly to the rush of thoughts. The Runner passed as much as he could to Johnny through the united mind, as much as Johnny could hope to understand.
The Big Bang, the Anti-Monitor destroying universes, the M'Kraan on Earth, Eternity, Galactus, stopping the end of this existence of being, Odin and the Casket of Ancient Winters, echoes of the expansion of the universe, the solar system.
Johnny sensed agreement, even a chortle from Champion.
"Universe is too small now, anyway."
"Nothing left to collect."
"I never liked being a pawn."
"No where to run to", Johnny found himself saying.
More consultation about ideas where tossed about, survivors and collectors, and then the shared link with the Runner was gone. Also gone was the sensation of acceleration, as the stability broke down and Jonathan Storm could feel himself burn up, as he did when the cosmic rays first hit him. As Runner's hands began to virbate and separate from his own, the world went white and the link gone. Johnny was passing out to whiteness as the Elder's became darker than deep space, and his last visions he saw with his own eyes Uatu appearing before them, wearing the helmet of Galactus.
"I will take them."
In New York the tide turned, as the injured Skull Squadron members joined the fray. They could tell friend from foe, object from shapeshifter based on the blood they could sense on Rogue's hands. Their blunt force tactics only compounded the numbers against them but then they had a break through. A Penance Stare was performed on one of the Rogue's as she was bound in hellfire, and the shock cascaded down to everyone of the Rogue's that emanated from her, bringing them back to her. And damaged caused to any of the Rogue's spread up to the one from which she came. Around the world, the Rogue's were disappearing back to their source.
In Washington D.C. the battle turned. Shi'ar star fighters had been able to hold the Rogue Army in the air with tractor beams and stasis fields. They had better experience working as one than someone who one who actually was fighting as many. And with each loss, Rogue's concentration broke and strained. Only through Mystique's shapeshifting had they been able to keep their edge.
And then the Skull Squadron appeared, and that advantage had fallen. Nothing the Rogue's could do could stop them, hellfire and penance stairs and mystically charged weapons mowing each and everyone of her down faster than she could create dupes. Each rider a match for in strength, a few more powerful. Disguising as innocent bystanders didn't work, nor taking hostages. They just kept COMING. She the Prime Rogue fled the scene, she could feel she was being pursued. The terrifying figure riding in the coffin-made-into-a-sidecar kept pointing at her, EXACTLY where she was. Dressed in smoking black leather and burning with a terrifying face, was rode what only could be interpreted as the Black Skull.
Spiderman kept going over and over the plan, tinkering around with the trinkets on his Spidey-belt. He hated that his 6 armed "buddy" had given them to him and had to explain to HIM of all people how they worked. The thin container he was in didn't leave much room to do much else, and he was nervous as hell. And scared. Scared of not knowing how things were progressing. Scared of dying before he even had a chance to truly start the mission. Scared of the silent red man who resembled Daredevil in the twin chamber next to him. ('Erik the Red' indeed. He looked like Matt, walked like Matt and was armed like Matt, but that outfit was just not Matt's style. There they were, Fat Man and Little Boy, piggy backing on the back of the Super Adaptoid, the robot their only means of communication back to Miami, er... Gateway City.) The "Mission Impossible" theme played in his head, anything to get rid of the nerves. At least his Spidey sense wasn't blaring, only mildly active with "danger, death imminent,thank you for playing." Peter Parker thought of his friends, his heroes and the world depending on his mission going flawlessly. Hah! Too late, they chose him instead of someone else! But the responsibility was his, and he would bear it.
The mission? Oh yeah. Pass through dangerous interdimensional space that may or may not still be there and dodge impossible obstacles that would boggle the mind. No, that's not his job, that's the adaptoid's, using his powers as a template besides it's own.
Peter Parker's job was to: enter Galactus' World Ship, follow the notes left by Johnny Storm (of all people), bypass Galactus' defenses (INCLUDING the maid service), and steal the Ultimate Nullifier.
"My God, I'm going to attack the Death Star!" he whispered to himself
In the matter of seconds since the Celestial departed after Warlock, what little that was left of the helicarrier plunged to earth. Most of the western Colorado mountains were barren or uninhabited now, as people flocked away to military bases for safety in this part of the country. Hundreds of burning tons of floating aircraft carrier had plunged below, still much more up in the air above. Polaris, for all of her magnetic might, was no Magneto. She did managed to contain the bulk of it as it slowly went down. And that was second priority to catching whatever few survivors still were aboard the carrier and were about to slip off. All of the spy tech gear didn't work do to the proximity and intensity of the pulse. The kids of Power Pack were helping, god bless them, Zero-Gee and Mass Master trying to eat away at the main weight of the bulk of the ship, while Lightspeed tried to keep survivors from falling. Katie Power was seeing to Iron Man. But there were so many pieces to keep track of.... and no great place to set it all down.
Photon also did her best to keep the debris from raining down off the parachuters. One of the parachutes did get much more flak than it could handle and the SHIELD agent plummeted to the ground. Monica Rambeau did catch her just hit the ground, but it was an ugly landing. The Contessa was alive, though. As Monica made her way to get airborne again from the mountainside, Vanessa Fontaine stopped her.
"The armory deck!"
And Photon registered what she had meant. One of the most well protected rooms on the helicarrier was the weapons station, multiple layers of shielding and protection against any threat. But all those nice little spy toys might go boom if something pierced its hull, like a plasma blast or hundreds of magnetically crammed tons of crushed helicarrier. She had to make sure the safeties were not released by he pulse or Rogue herself.
Tony Stark had the same idea, and same fear. Most of the weapons on board were of his design, and he knew what they were capable of. They were able to hold off a Phalanx Wave attack with his toys, and he was able to resupply much of his armor and weapons from what he could cobble on the fly in that room.
"Alright, Katie, I need you to melt this piece here while you place my power disks in the sunlight. Good girl... ahh...ssssss!!!"
The system on his armor were rebooting, having had enough experience with enemies who had shut down his armor before with electric weapons. Just the proximity to Electro did the more than what the suit was meant to handle. The armor would be up and running soon, but he knew by the way the ship was tilting and that they were all still alive, the weapons deck had not been breached. Yet. He had other problems to worry about. Rogue had taken out his chest piece repulsor when she cut looking for his heart, and most of the power was routed through the center. He would have to reroute the power with what he could scramble from the wreckage here on the flight deck, NOW, and that meant sodering onto his open chest. The burns he would live with. The voltage on the exposed flesh was directly over his original scar. Curse that girl Rogue, she knew what she was going after. The suit that was meant to keep him alive would kill him, if he ever got it moving again.
"Now Katie, take that table and absorb it. You need to make small... controlled bursts onto the discs, and once they are charged place them back onto the armor..."
The thought of risking the kids did not come into his mind. If he could get them out of here he would, but they are helping save lives and that they have powers-
Something blew up down below and knocked Katie off her feet. The shockwave passed through the rubble and out to the Polaris, as she felt it her magnetic fields buckle. No time.
"Katie, what ever energy you have left, pour it into the discs!"
The little girl was scared but tough and she complied. She handed them to Tony.
"We have to get you someplace safe."
"Was that from the gun closet, Mr. Iron Man?"
"I have to make sure no more guns go off accidentally, Katie-girl. Can you help your brothers keep this boat steady? So the people below don't get hurt."
He grabbed the discs and was amazed he could feel the energy even through his armor gauntlets.
"This is going to sting."
He placed his charge discs back into there racks on his hips and the suit powered up to full power.
The gash on his chest burned. No time to seal it. Iron Man made his way out from the upside down hangar and tested the flight gear. Yes, still function. Reliable old Stark technology takes a beating. He swept up Energizer in his arms flew out towards Polaris and Havok. His flight instruments told him more than he wanted to know. Still 2 miles up, 55% of the bulk of the ship intact, missing crew members and super powers and the undeniable red light of the damage on his chest. He kept Energizer at arms length so she would not get exposed to the damages circuitry, and shut down all rerouted almost all of the chest plate functions. Except for life support, but that was toast already. Rogue knew what she was doing.
The Runner, in what little good condition he was in had managed to take his brothers to the distant corners of this solar system. Penetrating the Phalanx wave was easy with their combined might, but the sheer scope of the forces coming in as the universe now needed before his eyes in the biting faces of unknowable of biting mouths and tearing faces of the new Phalanx Wave breed models. He had passed on the best qualities of himself off to his heir, and now it was time to be one with what was left of the universe. Desolate and alone facing the maw. He never thought it would end, and never like this. But It was a good run.
"Last piece is in position. I am here. Tell Odin he can begin."
Heimdall heard and passed along the message. The gods within the sun began their great plan. Mikobashi, dark god of the Japanese pantheon, released Cloak from his care and spread him out before the assembled gods of night. The gods of night reached into him, and pulled with all their might.
It is thought that the universe is 10% matter, 90% other matter... dark matter. The Phalanx Maw had consumed all but the last .000000001% of the universe, this solar system being the last of the raw matter. Now, the other 90% of the universe rushed to catch up.
My name is J. Jonah Jameson, reporting straight from the streets of New York City. As I walk these empty streets I see the signs of people fleeing for their lives from the horrors that have our world has experienced. I am accompanied as I walk to my home by one of the alien Watchers, an alien I once I would have marked as a conspiracy hoax. I have taken this tape recorder and I document these words so that any possible future may here the last recorded words of the people of earth. Others may be doing the same, but I as a reporter I cannot trust others to give the facts. These are the facts.
In the last 96 hours the world has seen remarkable changes as we approach the much prophecised end of the world. King Namor of Atlantis has, by marriage to Imperial Shi'ar Empress Lilandra , has become the undpisuted ruler of the world. Not much of the world has been left, as the Shi'ar and many space refuges of her mighty empire have come to our humble Earth. What we have been told is that a force from outside our universe has come to end it for reasons unknown. In this reporter's opinion I would not take the words of invading aliens, except for the horrors I have seen with my own eyes. I have seen the rampage of the robotic insects and the infection they carry with them. I have witnessed local police officers and soldiers fight and die along side known hereoes, villians, underwater and space defenders. I have seen the moon go red and rain destruction upon us. And my god I have seen the stars go out from the night sky.
Our signs of hope and inspiration have gone and faded for reasons none of my reporters or I have been able to find out. The towering figure of our greatest hero, our greatest inspiration, Captain America, is gone. The rallying concert to bring hope to the people has instead been a source for terror worldwide. The hidden hand the enemy of all life can be felt all over, choking the will to live from us. The gods of old have not answered the prayers of our plight, the newly converted or the oldest followers rising from the shadows all loosing faith. Even the demons of old do not show themselves, cowering or worse as we are now at the world's end. There is no god. We are on our own.
But from our despair we have seen hope rise. We have seen some of the most cruel dictators turn and rise to true world leaders and saviors. Distant armies have united against a common enemy, and the I see common man helping common man. The old grudges and ill will of the world are dead, and we have held back the enemy's vanguard at great cost. But we have held the line. We are still here. As the end comes, we will as a people will stand strong, even as we fall into the twilight. For full disclosure I walk home to be with my family, for I wish to be with the ones I love. This Watcher can attend, too, if he wishes the company.
As I sign off, for what may be the last time in all recorded history, I hope what scientists say is true. Nothing can escape a black hole, but information remains, and these words may find find some echo as the world ends. The Earth has spun away from it's axis and we hurtle down the gravity well towards the sun, the days going by faster now. Which doesn't mean much, in this reporters opinion. I sent everyone home when we found out the star Sol, our sun, has begun to collapse."
At the South Pole, the former antarctic refuge for time lost creatures, the environment has turned into a true savage land. The Earth screams here in this wounded place, lightning storms and frost and harsh wind winds continue to assail the air as the earth shifts and rumbles below, mountians rise and sink under volcanic activity with no discernable pattern. Rocks and frost stay afloat in the air, the traces of vibranium in them giving them chaotic properties. None have been able to come close to inspect what has happened her, none have prevailed to traverse the harsh conditions. None now except the mighty Thor.
"Mother," as he overlooked the harsh wasteland.
He looks on at the land, the terrain resembling the home of the Storm Giants of the former Asgard. He brings out mighty Mjolnir forth and holds it steady, already the torn land reacting to its presense and pounding him with lighting and magnetic forces. The thunger god wished he was standing strong by his mortal allies, guiding them through this darkest hour, lend his might to the defense of dark foes. But he was needed here. This place, for all it's destruction, was perfect for what he needed to do, and he attuned the energies of the hammer Mjolnir to raw magnetic forces being torn asunder. The thunder god began to crackle and glow and gold lightning sprung from him and began to bounce and interact with the harsh blue/white lightning of this torrid place. He chanted in the long forgotten Norse tongue and also offered a prayer to his mother. Or mother(s), now as he sensed a two earth mothers.
He stopped his ritual as he felt a disturbance in the area. He was not alone. He commanded the winds to calm down. Nothing. No one was around. But still, an unmistakable presence could be felt. He raised up his mighty Hammer overhead.
"Hold, spectre! Thor Odinson knows you are here. I bid you greetings and means no ill will. You who are out here in this forsaken place of mortals, show yourself if you are friend. Or face my wrath if you are foe."
The very air around before the began to coalesce as the blue/white air crackled, a being of blue/white energy formed, then hung their, a lady made of near transparent glass.
"I who was in life Susan Storm Richards, greet you, fair Norse prince.
The World Ship was vast, at the meaning of the word not doing it justice. It was filled with scientific wonders beyond his geekiest-dreams. Everywhere Spiderman looked, tools and devices that he couldn't begin comprehend. And the place just worked on his mind. Peter could feel he was actually able to see beyond normal sight as his mind wandered to the distant corners of the ship, taking in all that glorious information. Tesseracts. Architecture that defied scale. What looked like two massive computers were the size of moons and he knew that to be true, despite the lack of perspective. And he could seearound them! "Also Sprach Zarathustra " indeed.
The adaptoid had managed to get them in through the dock where Galactus' orb traverses through. He heard 'Erik the Red' get out first and signal the all clear signal, then Spidey came out. Erik, in full ninja stealth pose, signaled quiet and began to move out once Spidey had gotten his bearings. The extra gear was strapped to Spidey weighed down a little, but his alternate universe twin did rig it so it would he could move silently. Even the lumbering Adaptoid developed a soft outer edge to the nuetralize noise. Sounds that had to come from technology but were far more than mere machine echoed around the place, even in his teeth and in his mind.
"Gotta stay focused", he thought. "I'm on the clock, and all of reality is counting on me. ....again."
The Adaptoid led the way, programmed with the record logs of Johnny Storms solo trek here to recover the Ultimate Nullifier when Galactus first visited Earth. On the little earpiece he had on in his ear, he could hear the comments of Johnny Storm debriefing the FF over his mission. He even heard the story directly from the man himself a few times, and now those memories played in his head. He wondered where the FF were in this crisis, and why Johnny wasn't with him instead of the Big Red One. How did Johnny do this? How was Johnny doing now? How was Mary Ja-
Erik the Red stopped him, as if reading his mind. "Focus", the look on his face told him. Who ever he was he certainly wasn't Matt Murdock. And the fact that he didn't know who is partner was on this mission troubled him deeply. But he was good, keeping up with Spidey and the Spiderman copying Adaptoid. Passing security and avoiding dangers. They didn't stop but quickly kept moving towards there goal. Nothing would stop them. Nothing could stop them. Existence depended on their success.
They soon reached a point where they had to fly across. The droid silently dove out into the air and both latched on to it with their respective tools as it quickly floated towards their goal. The place was having an effect on Spidey, as he became aware of the modifications on the back end of the Adaptoid. The robot was larger, thicker, currently resembiling Iron Man more than anyone else it had adapted to. Behind it it was vacuuming up dirt and fibers they left behind. Leave no trace, the beings that guard this place can track a particle of dust across the cosmos. Mission time so far, 49 minutes. And the made contact with the far side of the chasm. So far so good. Spidey sense mildly tingling with no major alarms. Halfway there.
Almost got her, thought the Red Skull. The squadron had cut down the number of Rogue's to the prime source, the original Rogue. She had been able to escape them, plunging down solid earth and rumbling through it like a swimmer through water, each little hit releasing a dupe that was quickly and easily dealt with using hellfire. The destruction of each dupe must have proven agony mixed in with feedback of hellfire in her mind. But it was the Black Skull she truly feared, not knowing why. She made it out to the Potomac and the river waters helped cool off her flesh from the fire, but not her soul. She could hear their rumbling pursuit still. She deliberately shot towards the Pentagon when the water hardened and compressed around her, the spat her out of the river flow. Mere water!
She was hit with several bursts of hellfire and fell to the ground, she rolled and before chains could wrap around her she was off, again, trying to force her body towards the heavens. She never looked back through out the chase and never saw the as hellfire from the Red Skull himself hit her hard. She was done and she knew it. Time for the final act of willingness to serve the Anti-Monitor. She began to glow, as Dazzler did. She would take as many as she could with her.
"Never again" boomed the Black Skull. Black flame leapt from his head as the Black Skull brought his fingertips to his temples. Black fire that had eyes of white moon and claws that glinted of crisp night. One slash and the being cut into her mind. The black fire burned directly into her eyes. and passed through them into her mind.
"I'm in" signaled Logan. The Black Skull, revealed to be Charles Xavier channeling Wolverine's nightmare form, slumped back into his seat. Logan's old black leathers were pushed back as Xavier released his astral form continue the pursuit into Rogue's mind.
"Get past her defenses, Logan. There must be some telepathic footprint, or feedback to draw upon. Overriding a mind like her's does not occur without some traces to know what we are up against. "
The wraith who was known as Wolverine began to cut and slash through all the absorbed personalities inside Rogue's mind, with Xavier's astral form following right behind
Within the realm of Rogue's mind, Wolverine cut his way through Rogue's defenses that she had developed during her time with the X-men. Charles followed behind him, lighting a patch all the way to find her core being. At her core, they found her trapped in torturous bondage like puppets, with Mystique, Multiple Man and Starfox chained long side her, each in their own personal hell. Madrox's one mind attached to multiple bodies, Mystique's shape changing horribly out of control, Starfox an ancient feeble corpse.The scene was of hell inside her own mind. And they were not alone. An avatar was within Rogue's mind, a female version of the Anti-Monitor wearing Rogue's clothes. The avatar stood ready to defend itself as Logan pounced. Xavier followed up and tried to release the others.
"....professor.... you're here....no......."
"Relax child, I am here free you."
"No, Charles, Ah've seen what the Anti-Monitor has done. To me, to our world. See to... Starfox.... he made me...ah..... got tah me... but he's the connection. All the Eternals are."
"Professor ...the Anti-Monitor.... using the Uni-Mind against us. The Monitor has ... our most powerful under his thrall or possession, commanding the rest of us."
Behind them, the dark wraith form of Wolverine continued to savage the Anti-Monitor avatar, but it was indeed powerful, bursting him into shade fragments that quickly reassmbled themselves with each hit.
"Whatever ever you're going to do, do it FAST Chuck. She likes it rough! And I may not be enough to satisfy her."
Charles put one hand on the Rogue's shoulder and turned his attention to the Anti-Monitor. A psionic blast erupted from the mind of the most powerful mutant on Earth, but it nothing against the avatar.
"Put some heart into it, Chuck!" roared Wolverines, attacking the avatar from behind. He dug in his claws and just twisted and turned his wrists, tearing whatever insides it had. The avatar changed, and became more like Starfox now. The blasts were having an effect, but not the desired ones.
"Enough of this. Blood demands vengeance....." a burning voice spoke from the distance. The astral plane began to burn in fire and from the red flames rode out the Red Skull. The newest ghost rider pointed towards the four.
and bore his penance stare upon them. Professor X moved to block the assault with psychic shields, but it passed him through him and lit up its intedend targets. They screamed and burned. But so did the Anti-Monitor avatar, the pain of the millions it had killed coursing through it. Wolverine plunged his claws into it's neck and ripped.
Charles hated to do so, but he began to unleash his the power mind of the stolen essence of Starfox, and through him the Anti-Monitor burned. Charles glimpsed fragments of it's plans, the horrors it has unleashed on countless timeline and alternate universes, the Living Tribunal and it's longing to return to it's own mutliverse with the power it has stolen. They had not known the full scope of what the Anti-Monitor was planning until now. It was just not this existence that would suffer, but the one after it, and the one after that. The returning universe would all suffer. And there was no stopping him.
The assault was too much for this miniscule fragment of the Anti-Monitor, and this portion died inside Rogue's mind. The Red Skull proceeded to torch anything fragment that might be left, while Logan and Charles freed the others.
"Logan, is that really you, sugah?"
"Only in your dreams, darlin'."
They recovered only to face the Red Skull, dismounted off his bike and with his mystic chain burning in his hands, glowing red from heat. The bike chain was pulled taught and menacingly.
On the World Ship, Spiderman paused before what looked like the command center. The huge head of a giant serpent lay dead on what must have been the command chair, while he recognized the Psycho-Man's Fear Device, as well as a familiar severed head on the console. The gods Zeus? No, but he sure as heck recognized it. Galactus was definitely not home, and it looked like someone else had taken up shop here. From bad to worse. But so far they were not and had been careful not to trip any alarms. Spidey-sense was not tingling.
Suddenly, the head of Zuras exploded in fire. It shocked Peter because it did not register on his spider-sensel, but not one of the three had moved to cause it to burn.
He turned to his companions, the Super Adaptoid and Erik the Red.
"What did you do?" he asked?
The warrior finally spoke, with a voice very familiar. "Nothin', web head".
What creeped out Peter more was that the Adaptoid shrugged its shoulders. And then they were upon them. The Heralds of Galactus. Well most of them. They had come to investigate as what caused the ruckus in the cavernous room and were perplexed by the burning head. They didn't expect it, but they acknowledged that something was wrong. It gave them the chance to scramble and hide. Still no danger and just a mild tingle from the spider-sense. Then his spider-sense went all to hell on him.
He was barely able to keep silent from the shock and pain, and something on the adaptoid clicked on. Someone was stupid enough to break radio silence.
"....can I call you back? can't talk right noooooow...."
Erik the Red peaked from his hiding location and slowly began pulling out his weapons, a like a samurai slowly drawing out a sword and ..yes, boys and girls, beginning to swell and get a little larger. Oh-no oh-no oh-no. Peter dared not peak to see what the 'Big Red One' had seen but this was bad bad bad bad bad.
Something clicked within the Adaptoid. Something muted spoke from within the Adaptiod. Then the adaptoid turned, opening up it's ports and pulling forming weapons, and faced Peter.
"Change in plans, webhead."
"What?!" He said aloud before he could stop himself. Nuts.
What?!" screamed out Polaris over the roar of exploding rumble over the ship. She and the Power Pack kids had managed to do it. The great bulk of the ruined helicarrier brought down now at the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. The faster day was now over and night had settled here. In an hour. And minutes ago the had helped Iron Man and Havok tear the munitions room away from the bulk of the ship. Photon an exhausted and sleeping Katie Power in her arms. Polaris thought it was over when they got the room clear.
"He's right, I can feel the build up from here and I know we can't contain it." spoke her lover Havok. Photon concurred. They indeed had been able to bring it down, and Tony and a few surviving technicians entered the munitions room and deactivated the weapons and war heads. But the space weapons from their alien allies, that was still active, and there was no way to figure out how. When Rogue had on a tear, some of the dupes created had taken the memories of the special agents on board and activated all their toys, and damaged them beyond repair. Even a simple interstellar pod-skipper could cause devastating damage with the classic 'Star Trek' catastrophe: Warp Core Explosion.
"But how is he going to lift it?"
"The same way we did Krakoa. We're going to chuck them into space."
The Heralds had moments ago gathered in the astrometrics summoned not by their master but by the odd mechanations of the great machines of Galactus. They felt something was going wrong with the universe. Something wrong with space. The part of them that was still connected to the power cosmic made them feel ill, beyond the infection and corruption of the phalanx infection. They had been guarding the World Ship to scan for possible intruders, and to prepare the ship to take them and the Celestials through the Big Crunch and into the next existence. Impossibly, the Big Crunch was happening now, but based on what astrometrics told them and what they felt, there was no denying it. The whole of black empty space would come down on them soon, and they were not ready.
It was just at that moment that the Adaptoid had managed to pass through the dimensional barrier portal from the Baxter Building and was dropped into real space right near the bay where the Eater of World's sphere ship would come and go from. How this was possible had stumped them and their collective phalanx mind/programming did not come up with solutions. Something else out there was acting outside of the Anti-Monitors commands, is all they knew. Firelord debated with Terrax about their next action. The Celestials were not aboard and there was no sign of the Anti-Monitor. Nova began the systems to move the great World Ship, as Air Walk continued to track the end of the universe. It would soon begin to crush the newborns, the pure breed of the Phalanx.
The true purebreed of the technarchy, or rather, prime mutation met with the infected bugs of the phalanx some 90 million miles Mars to Earth. The energy Warlock had drawn from the sleeping Celestial he channeled into shields and blast weapons, plowing through the star spanning swarm like a bear through a cave full of bees. And these bees stung right back. The Celestial cared not for the bugs, they were far below it in the scheme of things, his main goal was to take action against the thieving Warlock. Every time he caught the techno life form it splintered in it's grip, changed shape and shedding part of it's mass so that the main organism would survive. But now among the bugs, the Celestial saw Warlock rebuilding himself from what little swallow during his path of destruction. And the biting of the bugs on his being began to irritate him. So bright was the destruction of billions upon billions of explosions that it could be seen from earth. A fine line in the sky. They caused a trail of horrendous collateral damage in their wake through the phalanx. No phalanx bugs survived their passing, not even the tiniest microbe version of the things. When Warlock was sure that the Celestial was good and frustrated he broke from the ring, 3/4 through the 2nd wave and went jumped to hyperspeed, aiming himself straight for his father. Warlock prayed he had enough energy left to get there, or enough of his was left before he burned out.
At the rear of the new breed, the slowest of them began to feel the push of empty blackness upon them. Before they could register what had happened to them the dark matter had overwhelmed them silently and mercilessly. The last universe was indeed collapsing in itself.
In Limbo Volstagg had thrown a great feast for himself and for his fellow gods. Myths of their powers and legends of the gods had been sung and all the pantheons of godhood celebrated for the first and final time with one another. Even Volstagg managed to help. He had sat earlier with the various Fate covens of the major religions and even added a few stitches to the new weave of fate, from the edges of Limbo itself. A great warrior was he, yes, but he had managed to surprise even the Fate sisters at his handy work with the thread and needle. Fandrall and Hogun laughed at first, then decided to aided him a bit, a trinity of their own among the trinities of Fate. They grew bored quickly and Volstagg followed, sowing a hole into his "I *heart* New York" that he wore with pride. The feast was glorious and then it ended all too quickly, with Volstagg giving the final toast to the assembled Skyfathers and their children. With a clap of the Egyptian gods the food was away and those gods who were not working on the Great Works armed themselves for battle. Ragnarok was now. Odin asked for his great treasure and Loki brought to him the Casket of Ancient Winters. They left, with Voltstagg handing S'ym the last drink, a gift for his hospitality. S'ym looked down at the golden goblet, from the finest houses of the gods and the finest wine Olympus could produce. He cherished and took long gulps. He smoked his very last cigar, puffed it and set it out. He blew out the lights in the great hall of Limbo and walked out towards the formerly endless fields.
"It was fun while it lasted."
As the surviving defenders of Earth looked on at their fading sun, as the planet fell towards it, the yellow passing through orange and approaching red, a few took the time to look at the heavens to see the Planet Venus as it loomed closer. it would pass beyond the moon, but with telescopes they beheld such wonders. Man, alien and beast who had not given in to despair and took their own lives had finished crying their last. Soon the Van Allen belt would soon fall, and the aurora borealis seen all over the world would consume the surface. A bit of beauty before the final end. In western North America, some even saw a bright flash in the sky followed by a shooting star.
At the void, the Anti-Monitor had figured out how to defeat the Yggdrasil-Thing. It was as strong as he was because he was a part of it now, part of this universe. Or part of him was. Shedding the usurped might and powers of Galactus and those he had devoured, the Anti-Monitor in his lessened form unleashed anti-matter upon the cosmic tree and it's defender. No longer could it draw strength from him, and the tree burned. He was not aware that the universe where it had gotten it's might was growing smaller.
The gambit worked, thought Tony. The male kids had reduced enough of the ships mass and gravity enough to make their weakened forms move it. Photon and Katie Power surged their last reserves into Havok, and Havok into Polaris. Iron Man took the ride into the sky with the massive bulk, getting to near suboribital levels before the true effects of mass and gravity reasserted itself. It was then up to him, all of his brains and strength and science now had led to this moment. He had become a weapon, another one of his own creations. This time as the first time, as the original plan had when he donned the Iron Man suit, it was to save them. His repulsors, at full power, pounded on the protective hull of the ship and sent it into the absolute blackness of space. He bore the burn on his chest and agony as he cut loose with all that he had left until it reached escape velocity. Sure that it been pushed far enough, he finally began to rocket back to Earth, to escape the explosion. That was the plan, as he had told the Power Pack boys, was to pull an 'Iron Giant', only this time the hero comes home in one piece. As the explosion light up the sky under him like the sun, he saw the earth one more time before the burns on his chest and original damage to his heart claimed him. Tony Stark never got to slow down, dying as he had lived: fast and furious.
Industrialist Tony Stark, Iron Man, is dead."
The unfeeling and cold news broke hearts at the assembled conference, spoken by half a dozen Watchers. They were waiting for Tony to join them before beginning their plans for a final attempts to rescue them from this situation. The assembled tele-conference included the High Evolutionary in Wundagore, Namor in the Carribean, T'Challa in San Francisco Bay area, Lilandra in Miami, Morgan Le Fey in Scotland, Havok from somewhere in Utah, Forge and Diablo in west Africa, the Mandarin in the new Pan-Asia, Colossus somewhere over Siberia, Clint Barton in Canada, all reporting to Nick Fury in New York.
The news was grim. Doom was trapped within the Microverse, not enough time to attempt a rescue. Most of the most powerful allies Doom had gathered were lost with him in the attempt to reclaim the Microverse, and Wanda and Pietro Maximoff died during the Rogue attack on Castle Doom. Dr. Strange was nowhere to be seen and the magic in Avalon and other powerful spiritual places could barely keep the world together was beginning to ebb. Storm had not emerged from her transformation yet, and the Dreaming Celestial had chased into space. No true great power was left to stop could stop what was almost inevitable. The Arc was still missing, as and the rescue mission of the Fantastic Four had been a failure. The candidates for the Phoenix Force had all perished, and the force of life in the universe was not coming despite Shi'ar calls. The sun would explode before they penetrated it's sinking core. And worst of all Xavier passed on the true plans of the Anti-Monitor to the assembly. This horror would be spread their own universe and existence as we know it.
The only hope in was that the link between the Super Adaptoid and it's mission team still existed with the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android here in New York. Spiderman could still reacquire the Ultimate Nullifier, and if not use it to force the Anti-Monitor's hand, then take him with them to spare the future that lay beyond this existence.
Rounds of talks and plans were made for the next 10 minutes as Fury watched the mission clock for Spiderman's snatch-n-grab mission (T-plus 34 minutes and ongoing), but all agreed at the end - even with the Nullifier, they were denying the inevitable. The Anti-Monitor had defeated the Living Tribunal. What chance had they?
Clint finally asked.
"This may be a stupid question, but do the Watcher's have a solution?"
"To survive this you, Terran, have to die." Spoke the Watcher behind him.
"Not really inspiring, buddy."
"They will not lift a finger to help us, Clint. They will watch to the bitter end." commented Lilandra.
"Not so, your Majestrix. Where there is life, there is yet hope." retorted the Watcher behind Clint.
"Do you bring your empty words now, when all life in the universe is gone, you and your race of voyeurs?"
"No, we await the first and last of our brothers."
"And your patience has been rewarded my brothers", as Uatu's kind face appeared on all the screens. Appearing from the his home on the blue area of the moon, Uatu the Watcher was a welcome sight, all who beheld him silent from the shock.
" I have returned from the corners of creation, in this darkest time, to bring our final hope." To everyone's shock, the Watcher no longer wore his ceremonial robes. Instead, Uatu was ready for war, wearing the armor and power lance of the former alien threat Terminus. Perched over the shoulder under which the helmet of Galactus was tucked in, the mighty raptor form of the Phoenix Force burned. Standing beside him, stood Johnny and Ben Grimm, smiling back to the assembly and bursting with power, Johnny still in his golden Hyperstorm form, and the Thing now sporting more human features and the orange-red color of Champion's hair. And hovering in the background behind the other shoulder was an alien humanoid on the Silver Surfer's board."
"Galactus the Devourer of worlds is dead. Long live Galen of Taa."
At the lobby of the Baxter Building Dr. Strange helped held the door for an elderly Steve Rogers. For some reason Steve was now resistant to some forms of magic, and only way to physically move him was the old fashioned way. Stephen had not been able to manifest any form of magic while under Captain America's presence. Nor could the star-spangled shield hidden under his jacket not loose contact with him, as if it was now a part of his being. Behind them they heard a cough as rushed for the front door.
"Excuse me, could you hold the door, please?"
Dr. Stephen Strange turned to see a bearded, balding middle-aged man wearing clothes of mountainous European countryside and dark sunglasses try to catch the door. A strange face here in this desolate city was strange enough. What was most odd was that he easily was hefting what looked like a blade 3 times his size on his back. Upon looking at it the blade began to generate heat and power.
"Here, old timer, you could use this. I think it has your name on it."
The bearded man reached back and pulled out a 2nd wrapped and much smaller sword. Wrapped in what looked like the cloak of Dr. Doom, like the one on the man's back.
"Trust me, it beats a walking stick, Steve."
Dr. Strange held the door open to let him in.
"Dr. Banner, I presume?"
The bearded man lowered his sunglasses and smiled as glowing green eyes winked back at him.
The corrupted Heralds had heard the muffled words within the large chamber. It was not an echo from the burning head now overturned in the control console. Something or someone else was among them. Airwalker stepped forward and began to scan the room, his cosmic awareness expanding his senses while the rest of the Heralds spread out behind him. Movement in the far corners of the control room. Too small to be one of the Phalanx. No cosmic energy or electric feedback. But there was something more subtle and softer. A heart beat. One. and the aura of bio electric hiding behind on of the consoles. A mortal. And by the double-heart beat, a Terran. The intruder must have rigged the head of Zuras to ignite. Then the figure in hiding breathing got faster, the heart accelerated and to anyone else it moved like a blur. The Heralds tracked him as if he was a sleep walker, compared their accelerated speed. Airwalker moved to catch him, and then the figure ricocheted from one solid surface to another, never letting up and then returning back to the same original corner. Airwalker had the
same idea as the others. Trapped and scared. You could even smell it. He moved in.
Spiderman turned to where Erik the Red to see what he was up to, but the Big Red One was gone. Not a sound or shadow. Spidey was alone. Or... maybe not....
Spidey was indeed scared, but the wonderful toys in his possession could even up the odds. Erik the Red had actually proven to be very good at what he does, because he moved faster than Matt could. He was there one second and in a blink he was done, leaving Spiderman alone with the Adaptoid. Having fought the Super Adaptoid himself, he knew the machine was calibrating itself to match up against the Heralds, but he needed to buy time. Time to see if he was as smart as he thought he was.
Spiderman bounced around the walls, just as Air Walker and the others had tracked him. The fact that they had not given him an optic blast meant that they were curious and didn't consider him a threat, and he would take advantage of that. He paused to hide and sulk for am moment, then a bounced around again. With next set of jumps he began setting up his trap, his web of mystery. Two more and another spot was selected. They were still underestimating the little guy.
One more set of leaps and he was back with the Adaptoid. He hoped it was enough time. It wasn't, at least for the Adaptoid, but another one of the party favors was done baking. He just needed a way to move in close without getting killed....*Spider-sense tingling* DOWN!
The head of Zuras, now a mere skull with ash, lit up one more time. The eyes glowed and the mouth opened. The Heralds turned to see it as hellfire burst forth from the mouth.
The fire erupted throughout the room. Every one of the Heralds felt pain, the agony of the billions that had died during their service to Galactus and now the Anti-Monitor, erupting right through them.
"Couldn't ask for a better cue" thought Spiderman.
The Heralds quickly recovered. Standing before all of them stood the Amazing Spiderman, arms crossed, confident and in command.
"If you surrender now this will go easier on you."
They all looked at each other, and then back at Spidey. And then the Heralds of Galactus engaged him.
Back on Earth, outside of Rogue's mind, Charles Xavier and the Red Skull were combining their powers onto Rogue, redirecting the psychic feedback to her Eternal connection to the head of Zuras. The initial plan was to be rid of the head for all time, but the opportunity arose to give an assist.
The Red Skull had given as much as he could. His real face was visible,the flames gone, but slowly his face began to churn and cinder. His powers would return.
"Vill it be enough for the boy?"
Xavier's, who's bald head was steaming from the exchange, nodded. Rogue head was burning, but she welcome this torture, penance for what she was forced to do.
"We gave him a chance."
Xavier contacted the assembly through out the world. Spidey had gotten the message and he had come up with back up plan. Resourceful as ever.
Clint didn't get it, why Nick Fury changed the mission at the last minute.
On his monitors, the armored Uatu spoke up. "We need him to steal something else. Something bigger."
Behind him, Galen, now glowing with the fire of the bonded Phoenix Force, worked on the corpse of the Silver Surfer. It was bitter work, for Galen was still proud of the hero the Surfer had been. But he needed to extract what he had hid inside him. The folds of the crumpled up Silver Surfer expanded and Galen pulled out the Ultimate Nullifier. Uatu and Galen knew it would not be enough
The mighty Thor returned to the golden refuge of Sol. The cradle had worked so far, working exactly as planned, and the gods, all of them, were at work. The size and scale was massive, even more so than the architecture of the Cradle itself. And Thor wanted to lend a hand, as he had heard the tales, but to actually be doing what the gods were... but he was needed here. Odin was not present, but Thor knew where his father was, on the opposite side of the sun, about to work his own divine magic. No, he needed to be here to help offer salvation to the mortals. And at this moment, even the mighty Thor needed a little guidance himself.
"Ho, mighty Apollo! I have need of thee, Prince of Olympus."
"I'm a little busy now, Odinson. The sun and all. What need may I address for you?"
"I ask thee for one of thy golden arrows, a ray to trace guide my aim for yon target. The mortals cannot afford for me to miss, and mother Earth is spinning out of control. My aim cannot be off."
Apollo looked down from the sun and did the calculations. Thor spun mighty Mjolnir, waiting for his cue. A golden ray of sunlight emanated from Apollo's eyes. "Follow this beam, Odinson. With all your might, throw it ....NOW!"
Thor hurled his fabled hammer from his place within the sun. The sun erupted a new solar flare, to cover the flight from prying eyes. 10 seconds. Normally light travels from the sun within 8 seconds, and the planet Earth was much much closer. The mighty Hercules, the Celtic goddess Morrigan, the Egyptian Hu, the Wakandan Panther God and even Beta Ray Bill stepped up behind Thor Odinson, should he need their awesome might. The heavy moving was done, all that was needed now were the smaller, finer touches.
- The hammer flew across space and the Celestials took notice. Much was not right. The M'Kraan was still on Earth, despite it's certain doom. The Shi'ar had not fled the planet, as the sun would soon go nova as it died. Their brother the Dreaming Celestial had not joined them as they had hoped, as it pursued Warlock through the orbital rim into the soup of the swarm.
- Even the Anti-Monitor new it to be true. Yggdrasil/Man-Thing had finally succumbed, the great cosmic tree reduced to ash and scattered into the void. The life force of the Man-Thing fled,or was cast out, taking a small living portion of the tree with it. Now he was here alone in the void, and he began to gather back the might had to cast off to defeat Yggdrasil.
- On Earth, at the Savage Land, Thor had hoped to be able to find his mother Gaea and present the plan she had started. He was not aware of the process of her...succession... but had found a worthy and familiar substitute. Susan Storm, of the Fantastic Four, had died when the Eternals were overloaded and took the shield with them. But with Mephisto dead before she died, her soul was hers again. And it was clean and free again, redeemed by her sacrifices, but unable to cross to the realm of the dead. Her spirit returned to the scene of the great trauma, to the chaotic savage land. The Mighty Thor had been able to pull her together spirit from the turmoil, and together they had worked to give her ghost form and function. Now she was in a vessel completely made out of her hyperspace force fields, still being able to access them from the ashes of what was her body. The quantum bands survived, where Randall Vaughn had not, as well as the hammer and sickle of Vanguard. These she brought together with ashes of the other who died with her. Magneto, Darkstar, Umar the Untouchable, Vanguard. Though they were truly dead the trauma that claimed their lives still resonated within their ashes, and as she could access her powers she would learn to acccess theirs, their 'voices' still in the ash. Thor explained the plan of the gods and they pondered how divine intervention may have led her to be here, with her talents, and to tap the powers of the others. She agreed to the task and what it meant, and the Thunder God bound her spirit to her form, bestowing form and title with what divinity he possessed himself.
That was almost an hour ago, and now as she began to tap the assembled might, the great shield that had defended the planet earlier in the crisis invisibly manifest itself across Antarctica and the southern hemisphere. Within her ghostly frame she, who had been Susan Storm, who had been Susan Richards, who had been the Invisible Woman in life and now the Shield Maiden of Midgard in spirit, prepared to catch Mjolnir.
- Uatu observed on the moon and was pleased. So was the new Hyperstorm, Jonathan Storm, the former Human Torch with the talents passed on to him by the Runner.
"Plans have been made, forces have been gathered, now the world will be made safe." spoke Uatu.
Behind them, Ben Grimm looked with awe at his returned hand, and to the new might he possessed and form he possessed on the reflection on the Surfer's board. The might of Champion, as he had been 'handed' the title, in word, spirit and in power. Had he known the might he faced when he got into the ring the first time, even he would've backed down.
"Dang. Wait, did you just say 'Susie', Johnny?"
Still more wonderous but morbid was the acts of Galen. Galen of Taa, who had died bonded to the Phoenix Force/Eternity of the last universe and stolen from the body of Galactus just before he 'died', hidden within the helmet when Uatu claimed it. They were lucky that once the Anti-Monitor used something, he did not come back to claim once it was spent.
On the floor before him, the spent and ruined form of he who had been Norrin Radd. Now the Phoenix Force of this existence was bonded to him, and he welcomed the burn of life rather than the need to consume it. With that power he took what was left from his old form, the 'silver' of the Silver Surfer, and it rose and encased himself in it, adding much the Surfer's power to his own.
"My servant, my companion, my friend. I will take your place and serve, a knight in shining armor." spoke Galen, in the voice of the Phoenix.
The board responded to the call of it's new master and was pulled from the Thing's mighty hands (barely, with a "Hey!" from Ben) and it passed into Galen. The fire red wings of the Phoenix now a burning cloak on his back, the silver a living armor and the emblem of the Phoenix, of life, burned on his chest.
Complete, Galen made his way to the video screen, and attempted to access Fury in New York.
"Fury, can you still reach you young man Parker."
"Yeah, the link between the droids is still working, although this droid is displayin' some unusual feedback. He looks like some of you old crew."
"Tell him he needs to find my ship."
"He's on your ship right now, scraping it up with your boys and girls. You sure do know how to pick them."
"No, not my World Ship, my original ship. It's within the vessel. The Stranger found it and brought it to me. I had attempted to analyze it, the paradox of a second ship existing at the same time, but in it's original and smaller form. We opened the time lost vessel and the dead form inside attacked the Stranger, killing him and then set loose on my ship. He claimed my current Herald, Nova and fled, beginning this crisis. That is what we need. The Anti-Monitor has powers from his two existences, beside the might he has stolen here. We need something that has been in three
Before they even took a first step, Spiderman was upon them. Or, rather, Peter Parker. HUNDREDS of Peter Parkers. A hundred Peter Parker, his mask off, and his flash camera up, calling for them.
"Over hear, please! Look this way!"
Bright lights, hundreds of them, flashed and burned as the Heralds stepped back, covered their faces, expecting the flashes to sting as weapon discharges. Just mere light, nothing more. But where did these clones come from? They were loud and annoying, disorienting like all swarms of paparazzi.
*flash* *flash* *flash*
"No no no, I need more. Please look this way! That's it! Show me a smile! Give me some love! Beautiful!"
*flash* *flash* *flash* *flash* *flash* *flash*
"Terrax became lost patience and cut loose with his axe, took a slash at them. It passed right through them without doing anything. More bright lights.
"Smile pretty for the birdieee......."
The real Spiderman hit him with an uppercut and knocked Terrax flat on his ass, then stepped back into the crowd. He adjusted the dial on mini console and winced at the pain in his hand. *ouch ouch ouch* Rolling up his mask over his eyes, Peter hoped it was enough. As the Heralds were now used to bright light, they intensity rose. Moving blind among them, Spidey let his trusted Spider-sense guide him while the more intense light, now packing a wallop, covered him. He even made the Parker's more annoying. Damn Mysterio was good.
Nova cut loose with an omniblast and most of the Parker's in the front disappeared. One of Mysterio's emitters was hit.
"Solid light holograms, actually", as Spiderman popped up behind her. He ducked straight to the floor just as she swung back and blasted him. The discharge hit Air Walker instead, who had been adjusting his vision to look for the bioelectric aura of Spiderman, the photons too overwhelming. Behind her one of the Parker's took his camera and bashed her across the face with it. She felt it, but all it did was annoy her and she cut loose again. More emitters were hit, and more of the smiling Peter Parker's vanished. Now some stopped taking pictures and began to fight en masse while the bulbs went off on their own. Just more annoyances.
"Get the emitters!"
"I got him!" grumbled Terrax from the floor. He blasted away a shot at the crouching Parker, who jumped over it and the blast missed, across hit Firelord on the back of the head. More Parker holograms pounced on top of Terrax.
"C'mon guys, my Aunt May hits harder than you."
Terrax let out his own omniburst, destroying the pounding Parkers on top of him. Some equipment around him was damaged as other emitters fell.
"Tsk tsk, can't have you destroying the gear here. What would the boss say? And do you know the bill for tech support out here?"
Spidey realized they were pulling their shots, they had to hold back unless they destroyed something important here. Peter shot some webs from his hiding place and hit Nova on the foot. Pulling hard he yanked her back, and pulled her onto the ground, on her chin.
"Ugh!" she said as she hit. She kicked and pulled Spidey from his corner, as he still held the web line, and then she began to cut loose. Uh oh, time to move!
Spidey moved briskly through the holograms, the Heralds attempting to blast him but his amazing leaping ability and spider-sense keeping him just out of range of the blasts. Morg really has had it and charges, pushing through the punching holograms, chasing after the Spidey. The chase is fast as Spiderman continue to dodge duck and cover before the onslaught of blasts, with Morg destroying everything in his path. Then Spiderman jumps up and over a control console towards the ceiling above just as Morg is about to catch him. Then Morg hits face first into a wall of nothing. The hologram fades and the empty air reveals one of the rooms power pylons.
"Sorry, Wiley." think Spidey.
Spidey chuckles to himself as he hides behind the first obstacle he had ducked under from Nova's blast. All the time they were shooting up the room chasing another hologram. Another change to Mysterio's gizmo and the few Parker's remaining also chuckle and then they are off, bouncing around the room as full Spidermen, dodging or charging and hitting evading
"I love a good party." and Peter jumps into the fray. Now the Heralds do loose it and cut loose. They aren't looking for Spiderman, they look for the emitters he planted. They tried to remember where he jumped to in his first pass, but Spidey has gone and moved them, placing a few he could reach into some of the debris caused by the fight. The Heralds begin to move and attack at faster rates, cutting at thin air or hitting walls that were not there. Spidey jumps into them, catches Air Walker with his feet and kicks him into a blast from Morg. Another bit of webbing and Terrax's axe is pulled as Terrax swings it, redirecting the axe swing at poor innocent equipment and Spidey rides the pull across to the other side of the room, landing and sets up a webbing that catches Firelord in a clothesline across the neck. Spider pulls on a web he had setup and broken debris caught in a web above Morg falls down on him.
"And for my next trick...." taunts Spidey and jumps again among them.
The Heralds get smart and gather together, stalking as a unit. They ignore the jumping and leaping Spiderman holograms and train there eyes looking for Spidey. And they find him, getting up from behind debris.
"THERE!" And they all unleash their power on the rising figure.
"NO!!" Screams the figure and is hit. They pour it all on, their rage unleashed. It is then the Chameleon's device that was planted within the debris bursts, and the illusion is destroyed, the bits falling down with the smoking body of Morg.
The Heralds look shocked, and as they turn to one another there are two Firelords now among them where there once stood Morg, when smiles meekly and raises his shoulders
and then hits them with webbing in the face and pulls their heads to smash together as he ducks to dodge the blast attacks of the other two.... who do not duck and take the hits. Spidey moves among them, the Chameloen's technology working well with the X-men's mutant image projector, mimicking the Herald bio-energy signatures.
"C'mon adaptoid, I think you got enough foooootage for the X-mas show at home." think Spidey as he continues to play them against one another. Firelord tears the webbing from his face and sees Spiderman pounding on a pinned back Nova. He shoots a blast at the Spiderman, only to watch it pass through the hologram as the bent painfully backwards Nova puts more webbing on his face
At Wundagore, Franklin Richards begin to stir awake from his hibernation/chrysalis. All around him he could feel the embrace of his mother, Susan Richards, and the bad dreams began to fade away to love and hope.
- At the New York Baxter Building (SHIELDS acting headquarters) friend and ally, former foes and stood up and saluted, each in their own manner of race, species or nationality. Walking down the corridors a feeling of excitement and hope filled them as two middle aged men followed an elderly man up through the corridors.
Despite his weariness and age, the mere presence of Steve Rogers, Captain America, inspired hope and courage among those who were prepared to die. Behind him followed two being of immense power, Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Stephen Strange and Dr. Bruce Banner (alternate timeline), the Maestro. Despite the raw power radiating from both men, neither of the two commanded the immediate presence and loyalty that Steve did, and they did not mind. As the war room of the Baxter Building opened up, SHIELD, American, international, Kree refuge Atlantean and Shi'ar forces all stood at attention without prompting or salute. Even his oldest friend Nick Fury got a little misty eyed.
"Where've you been, soldier?"
"Dead. Scattered across the world. Got better. Where do we stand?"
"...and that thing, 'old man'?"
"A get well gift from Bruce back there. He had an extra sword and it's evidently calling to me. I couldn't walk before I got here, now I can feel it mending my body. Bring me up to speed, Nick."
"Good to have you back, Steve."
- At the moon, Galen was busy creating schematics and passing then on to the crude technology that was the Awesome Android back at Earth, and while the Android sent the information to the Adaptoid, the Adaptoid downloaded what he would need to pilot Galen's Ta'an ship.
Now the time came to decide whether to assist Spiderman or to take advantage of the distraction Spidey provided to get to the ship.
Once the calibration was complete and the information fully downloaded, the Adaptiod took off, leaving Spiderman to fend for himself.
- Spiderman was getting exhausted now, so much effort spent to stay ahead of every blast and strike from the Heralds, and when he saw the Adaptoid make a run for it, his luck ran out. He took everyone into account except for Morg, who was tougher than he looked. Morg played possum and waited for Spiderman to step close enough, and despite the spider-sense warning Peter wasn't able to move his foot away in time and Morg grabbed on and held him. He was able to dodge Terrax's blade from taking his head as he arched back, it was a set up as Firelord came down hard on his chest with his staff, breaking the collarbones and pinning Spidey to the ground.
Trapped, and knowing he was done, he yelled out "Marko!"
And below him came the answer. "Polo."
From beneath the floor erupted a hand and caught the axe of Morg that would behead Spiderman, and held. Peter could feel it's edge bite into his neck, but it got no further. Then it pushed it away and Erik the Red erupted from the floor beneath them. Grabbing the Firestaff of Firelord, he lifted the amazed Firelord off the ground, up over himself and slammed Firelord on top opposite side. Then taking the staff from the fallen Herald he spun it about, just above himself and the Spiderman and deflected the energy blasts intended for himself and the flat Spidey. Releasing the spinning staff at Air Walker, the Big Red One grabbed Spiderman and pulled him into the hole he was still standing in, before Terrax's axe could come down upon him. Then he shot straight up and high into the ceiling gear as Nova and Terrax filled the hole with their power cosmic. The guy was fast.
Setting the wounded Spiderman a into the cabling above the ceiling, Erik the Red gripped the ceiling in a ninja pose.
"Catch your breathe and go after the Adaptoid as soon as you can. I'll hold them back as long as I can."
"You will?" asked Spiderman as, he caught his breathe. Erik the Red hurtled himself straight down and crushed Air Walker through the floor before Air Walker could get his hands up to blast them. Rolling with his moment backwards he dodged one, two,three blasts from and airborne Nova and pumped himself up into the air with his arms at her, hooking his feet behind her beck and crunching his stomach up and brought a double-axe handle onto her face. She crashed against the far far wall, he landed like a cat on the floor and then he brought out two black nightsticks, like Daredevil, ready to pounce on who ever was next
The Super Adaptoid was not completely heartless. Part of it's mission programming was to bring them back alive, if it could. Duplicating the web shooters of Spiderman, he left tell tale signs where he was headed so that Spiderman could follow, should he manage to survive. Part of it's mission programming was to bring them back alive, if it could.
- Spiderman was in awe as Erik the Red manhandled brutally the Heralds of Galactus. He seemed to be a match for them in terms of strength, taking and deflecting blows from more than one Herald at a time, and he was as graceful as any fighter he had ever faced. Most of the Heralds, before they were Heralds, were not trained warriors, with possibly Firelord. Red was. Peter was concerned when the Herald Nova fell back to the far side of the room and bade her time, building up a charge. Then she burst out just as Erik had planted a foot upside Terrax's head, spinning him silly. The webbing she shot to try to catch her missed and he speed blitzed across the room, fists first. She bounced off him hard and actually managed to stagger Erik, but she was worse off.
Then Erik did something unexpected and new. Still reeling from the hit, he pointed out his index and pinky finger at her and tucked in his thumb. The gesture produced the familiar crimson bands of Cytorrak, and after balancing himself the bands caught her before she hit the wall, hurled her right back towards him and he let her have a full right an left cross before finishing with one of the black sticks, hitting her through solid walls that had been earlier able to withstand charging high speed hits from the Heralds. Spidey recognized the black staff from it's unusual shape. A shortened version of the "pool cue" of the engineer / criminal 8-Ball, who was able to channel massive kinetic force through it. In 8-ball's hands it had been able to hit the heavy-hitter hard. In Erik's, with his might, it was devastating.
As the Heralds adapted to him, the crimson bands became a new strategy and he used them well, as defensive shields and offensive weapons, constantly moving, constantly striking, keeping the Heralds off balance and hurt. Erik was doing well.
Spiderman did a quick mental check. He refilled his web shooters, rechecked his equipment. Seeing the Psycho Man's psychotron still intact, he snatched the fallen gadget and gingerly went off to pursue the Adaptoid.
- The hammer came, lead before by a bright beam of light from the fading sun. Sue pulled back the shields and let the hammer drop straight down towards her. It came so fast she almost let it hit her, before it slowed down and was cushioned by her shields. Unable to truly physically grab it, her force field caught it and would not let go. Then with her might held the hammer, felt the amazing pull of it on her self and on the shield, but she would not give in. There was no more death for her to fear, and she put all of her heart and love into holding the hammer before her. Nor would she let it take her away.
She felt herself slipping, being torn from this tormented place that had kept her being grounded. The hammer would come to the call of it's master,and she would go with it. Even the Earth on her feet began to tear away, then a hand rose up and caught her foot before she was pulled. Smooth soft but strong coffee colored hands reached up, and pulled the Shield Maiden down while pulling herself up from the ground. The new spirit of the Earth, Ororo Munroe, the goddess/X-man Storm, arose and pulled down with all of her might on Mjolnir. This reinforcement allowed Susan to reestablish the shields to keep the planet intact. The hammer yieleded and both women held their place, naked raw energy cascading about them as they acted together as an anchor to keep the hammer here. If the god of thunder could not come to the hammer, the hammer would come to the thunder god, and bring all of Earth with it.
- At the sun, Thor was slowly sliding inches away from the Refuge and would soon be within the Cradle itself. The gods of might strained to keep a hold on him and pulled with all their being as Thor kept summoning the hammer Mjolnir. The chaotic plunge of the Earth into the fading sun became more graceful under the effort
The Heralds had finally gotten smart. Firelord collected the fallen Nova and took her out of harms way. Air Walker also began to back off and just kept blasting at Erik. Erik had managed to sneak inbetween Terrax and Morg and just kept dodging, then managed to use the bands to bring the two Heralds closer to him, grabbing their axe handles and redirecting subtly their direction as they swung their axes. Morg cutting Terrax apart from the underpits up and Terrax's axe practically cleaving Morg in two on the left side of the neck. Airwalker and Firelord's unleashed their wrath upon Erik the Red. The mystic shields held but were breaking, and then they finally got through just as Nova recovered, adding her power cosmic to the battering onslaught. Erik the Red trembled as he did his best to hold back the blast. His staff disintegrated under barrage of power, the floor of the control room already buckling under the unbelievable power unleashed inside.
They finally noticed someone was missing. Firelord looked for Spiderman and saw the strands left over from the webhead swinging away.
"Go!" shouted Air Walker, also noticing the absence of annoyance.
Firelord charged after the webhead, as Nova finally was fully awake, snapped out of her disorientation. Raising an arm, Erik the Red reached out and grabbe the torso of Terrax,lifting it up as a shield. But the body was no good now that is was dead, the power cosmic escaped it and it disintegrated from the damage. No good. He trembled and fell to his knee, the energy burning him bright and scorching his skin, his armor glowed red hot from the battle. But the Big Red One began to swell, to enlarge himself. The armor glowed pink and reformed, the simple costume made to look like a his martial arts masters combined with the war armor of his dead benefactor, Cyttorak himself. Now the heart of Cyttorak, the gem, appeared on his chest and and thefull armor of Cyttorak encased him. No more controlled focused attacks, no more being graceful and agile. No more mister nice guy.
Channeling his will and power as he had been taught, Cain Marko, Erik the Red, charged his fists with the wholeness of his awesome chi and indomitable will. He began to punch at the energy unleashed at him, and it broke back. Energy that could shatter continents had been deflected back. He punched again and now the was pushed back. He kept swinging until he was standing up right again. Punch after punch Cain Marko rose to his feet and the collision of powers shook even the mighty World Ship to it's foundation. He was finally able to take a step forward and he redoubled the speed of his punches, knocking power hurled at him in every direction, the room filling with the boom and thunder of the colliding forces. Another step and another and Marko was able to build momentum, despite the raw power aimed at him. One good swing and the feedback finally got to Air Walker, the deflected blast hitting him in the legs. Now alone Nova had no choice but to fight or flee. Her mistake was to stay and fight. Now Cain Marko, the charged at her, her cosmic power having no effect on the mortal. As she fell back in shock as something truly unstoppable leapt up into the air and massive hands came upon her.
"Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!"
Marko's mighty fists came down on both sides of Nova's head, the former mortal Frankie Raye,and her fire was extinguished forever.
- Spiderman had been able to get a good head start before his spider-sense tingled with the approach of Firelord. The Adaptoid had followed back the original path they had taken to get here. He didn't really need a warning, emergency claxons were ringing throughout the ship and the World Ship shook from the battle. Repair and security drones had come out to clean up and investigate, but most of them were lying in wrecks among the webs. Yup, the Super Adaptoid had been here. Could practically say "Killroy was here." Spiderman arrived to the great chasm that had they had to fly over, and to his shock the webs stopped. He couldn't believe it. Spidey looked down, into the smoking dark abyss, and saw a few of them. Spidey shot some webs in random directions to possible through off the trail and then plunged straight down towards his target.
5 kilometers down the tesseract/chasm, the Super Adaptoid had landed and found Galen's sleek ship, hovering in a stasis bubble within the laboratory Galactus. Galen had provided the codes to deactivate the field and the ship settled onto the floors surface. Had the Super Adaptoid any emotions, the alien goop on the walls that once was the Stranger would have troubled it. What it did notice was the properties of the ship. For a moment, as it analyzed the structure, the Adaptoid was momentarily lost, contemplating the construction of the marvel. Some of the alloys did not register on any of it's elemental table, and even with the Heralds' ability to be aware of power cosmic, this ship had something... more. As it was more real than real could be. Now more than ever it wanted to be inside the ship. As it was the Adaptoid just moved in, the World Ship rumbled with the sounds of battle. Cain Marko must have made his move. The mission clock was running and it was time to go.
The Adaptoid entered the ship and shrunk down a bit, the equipment not meant for to be piloted by someone it's size. Smaller, the Adaptoid stood between all the ships seats, it's fingers extending in coils and began to activate the prelaunch sequences, as instructed by Galen. Even at his top speed, the ship would still need a few minutes to power up and be flight ready. Mission prep required it to check in. Ship acquisitioned. Preparing departure. Mission operative status: unknown/lost.
- Half way down, Spiderman knew he had caught up to the Adaptoid. He heard the rumble of the ship begin to power up and saw it down the violet glow of it's engines through the darkness. The ship was the size of half the chasm, sleek and beautiful. Something humans might make in a few thousand years. Or Reed in 10, if he had nothing better to do.
Peter saw bright light enter the chasm from overhead. Firelord was blazing up very fast behind him. Here we go again.
Spider-sense was tingling with two mixed signals, the Herald behind him and the approaching floor below. Aim down and left from where he was free falling along the face of the wall, Spidey let out a particularly strong shot of webbing to the wall above him. Before he could tell if it would even stick to the polished walls of this chamber, he was already in motion. The webbing hit and it stuck. Peter tucked and concentrated his weight at one point, then bungee corded straight back up to meet the Herald head on against the wall surface. Webbing up
his left wrist into a shield, he emptied out one of his cartridges going full out as Firelord poured it on. The webbing barely held as they passed one another in their midair joust, Peter would have a nasty burn once he could feel his arm again, but Peter had left a little surprise floating in midair as Firelord redirected his energy to pursue the wallcrawler. A slow descending glob of pure web fluid was left in mid air, and Firelord smacked right into it. The penny floating in mid air trick. Firelord hit it and the distraction was enough for him loose focus and fly straight into the floor.
Spiderman kept going up, once his momentum had expired he used his amazing speed and leg power to sprint upside the wall, discarding the burning glove/webbing and gaining as much altitude and distance as he could. Gloves off, he put in his last two cartridges into the webshooters and kicked hard, up and out straight into the middle of the chasm. He could almost see the rim of the chasm as he began to plunge back down, once again. From below, a intesne blast of heat and bright light. Firelord was going to burn through him without making contact. Even the chamber shook from the power, the dark ship below a silhouette in the brightness. Nothing better like a plan coming together.
Peter used the hot air to ride out and slow himself down. The chasm, what he could now see as a mere cargo chamber, was not as wide as he thought it was when the flew over it in the dark. Still he began to work. arms open wide, the spectacular Spiderman let fly with the webbing. In 6 seconds the roaring fireball that was Firelord would be on roast him alive. In two the webs hit the wall. The third,he twisted with his amazing agility and brought his hands together, crossing the streams. The fourth he reinforced his center and got ready. The fifth was just icing on the cake.
"You want some? Come GET some, punk!"
And between seconds five and six Peter Parker hit the Psycho Man's psychotron to full power.
When Firelord finally caught up the awaiting web it a rush of fear and doubt overwhelmed him. Spiderman was waiting for him and the loud scream that he let out increased his fear ten fold. He lost his full power and he flew smack dab into the web. Spiderman shook and trembled, but turned to him and concentrated his voice.
"Welcome to my 'web', little fly."
The Spider stalked across the web, the terror filling Firelord with paralyzing fear. in his mind he could see the mask unhinge and giant venomous pincers drool, the glinting metal of the web shooters sharp and strong claws,strong enough to rend him to shreds. Had Peter not even hit him, the effect would've worked. But as soon as he felt booth feet against his face, the momentary clarity brought on by the pain reminded the Herald that he was fighting just a man, no matter what he saw.
Firelord freed up the hand closest to Spidey and smacked him solidly before Spiderman could swing a knee onto his torso. The hit pounded the wall crawler back and through the webbing. The hit would've plunged him into freefall had it not been for the random pattern of the web. Firelord freed up his other hand, and attempted to haul himself up on top of the web, his efforts lighting it on fire.
Whatever Firelord was feeling, Spiderman was feeling it worse, as the psychotron made no exceptions. With absolute fear he was going to die when he saw the flaming eye of fire, he still had the will and courage to face the worst. Pounding on the caught Firelord was more out of primal fear than will power, but the pain he felt now across his chest from the hit he took from Firelord snapped him back. As he got up, he saw his precious web ingited, with Firelord wrapping one knee over a crossing on the web. In his mind, the webs were cracks on the floor to hell, and Firelord was the worst demon his mind could summon, crawling out to take him and his loved ones. Firelord saw the bleeding mouth and burned chest of Spiderman as the wounded body of Galactus, with the head of Zuras ready to open up his mouth and let all the souls he had ever led to their deaths claim him to the black cracks of reality of the web. He knew it was an illusion, still he could not help but see. Both beings were not cowards, and they trembled and fought the overwhelming fear that psychotron was unleashing. Spiderman got up and shivered uncontrollably as he stood his ground, the temptation to turn off the infernal machine and free himself of this hell was almost too hard to ignore. Firelord stood up and began to pulsate with heat, his cosmic nature giving in to more primal nature of the mortal that he used to be. But the psychotron was the one true leveler of the playing field. Peter knew, my God , he knew, behind the fear he was experiencing, he could beat Firelord.
He's done it before, he would do it again.
And they charged one another
Juggernaut, a.k.a. Cain Marko, a.k.a. the current Erik the Red, was having a nightmare. Some people just don't know when to stay dead. The Devourer of Worlds, Galactus, could have told him that. Stay away from the Heralds. If the powerful Eater of Worlds couldn't stop his own creations, how would two mere mortals? But when Galen did pass along the information to the Super Adaptoid, the Adaptiod had taken the message to heart and understood what it meant. Confronting them meant a sure death. Because they were certainly more than mere Heralds now. When Galactus asked for sanctuary from the Living Tribunal, it was his own creations that did him in, the ones who knew him most intimately.
Now Juggernaut was facing a similar dilemma. Foes he thought he just took off the gameboard now rose to stop him, and the nature of the very environment turned against him. One word: technovirus. The Heralds had all been corrupted by it, with the Surfer only being purified in actual death when Galactus tossed him away to hide the Ultimate Nullifier within him. The rest, however, were still infected, still capable of doing much hard. The Juggernaut was almost done working through Air Walker when he felt a slash across his back, an almost impossible feat due to his mystic shields. But Morg had gotten up, and pulled Terrax's blade from himself and sown himself up. The virus extended out and mended the portions damaged by the fight. The technovirus was made dormant while the Heralds once they were on the ship. The World Ship world have rendered them unclean and defense mechanisms would repel even their might. The World Ship technology to get them past the Big Crunch could not afford to be corrupted by techno infection. With the most of the command parts of the ship damaged.
He had managed to outright kill one, the former Terran Nova, but the upper torso of Terrax the Tamer had launched himself back upon Juggernaut as Juggernaut wrecked Air Walker beyond repair. But piece himself back together the Air Walker did, taking debirs and parts of the ship with him as he rebuilt his damaged body. Juggernaut was so stunned he did not see Morg come up behind him and return the favor with Terrax's blade. The axe penetrated the auto shields, and the virus tried to infest Cain Marko. The only thing keeping them out was the powerful magic within. Regardless, the Heralds continued their assault.
Air Walker began to absorb wreckage of the ship into him, using the material of the room to generate tentacles and energy blasts to fell the unstoppable one. Juggernaut was able to plow Terrax's upper portion of and dodge some of Morg's swings, until Terrax in his new form got to him. The top portion of Terrax found the damaged but intact headless body of Nova. The technovirus united both of them until a merger of the two came forth, having four arms, her body and his head. The Heralds never relented their attack on Marko. Air Walker morphed the technovirus infected room to pin Marko down. And Morg absorbed both his axe and Terrax's axe into his own hands. And they kept coming.
- Spiderman locked up with Firelord. All forms of elegance and form were gone from the fight now, as the two rolled and tussled on the webs. Firelord was unable to get a firm hit, but the smashing of his limbs against Spiderman did some damage. Likewise Spidey could not escape the proximity from which they fought, but was able to get in very good elbow and knee strikes. They rolled around on the web, trading leverage and shots. Spiderman was able to block the arms from truly crushing him, head-butting Firelord. Firelord returned the favor with a chin hit of his own, and Peter Parker would never see correctly from his left eye again. Fists to the head were beat back with a blurring speed of fists on him, faster than Speed Demon or Quicksilver had ever rained down upon him. Multiple fractures on his jaw, internal bleeding and a damaged lung. Spiderman still kept coming for more, the fate of the universe resting on his ability to delay Firelord before Galen's ship would escape, with or without the team assembled to steal it.
The worst part of the whole fight was that Peter could turn off the damn machine and attempt to make this more graceful, as he was fighting himself and the overwhelming fear and self-doubt, but the psychotron around his waist kept the Herald fighting as a mortal, punch for punch, blow for blow. Turning it off would be suicide. Time to get into Firelord's head and f' up his gameplan. He had to scream to get heard above the World Ship's alarms. Up close now, Spiderman set in a flurry of elbows elbows to the waist when Firelord missed his footing on the web and attempted to readjust himself.
"Do you know how many people on my planet do not believe I beat your punk ass six ways from Sunday?
Despite the Avenger's reports? Despite the police reports? Insurance claim photos?
A cartwheel attack: straight upper cut as he rolled backwards, with his feet connecting to hit Firelord off balance, then plunging down through the webs tucking, rolling and kicking back up and out to continue his assault as Firelord went flying through the air.
"I've beat you before, Firelord. I know how to take you down, your over-rated, second-rate, Human Torch knockoff."
Leaping of the Herald as he sits up and tries to kick at Spiderman, using his feet to "cling" to Firelord and whip him out spinning towards a wall, and then bouncing off the webbing like a trampoline and laying solid left hook across the face.
"For all your strength, you waste it and hit like a girl. For all your faster than-light-speed, you suck at the windup. You telegraph your blows so badly that I don't even need my spider-sense to see them coming."
A battering of fists up down and all over Firelord, so fat that it made Peter look like he was hitting him with eight arms, pounding Firelord into the wall.
"But I know, the worst part, you got no heart. All emotion on the surface and no depth to you. No passion, no love, no spirit to reach down into and pour into on beyond what you feel. That's why you get so hot-headed and your temper gets the best of you. Your all show, no depth."
Spiderman finally backs off, the Herald beaten into the metal of the wall. The fear is gone and Spiderman stands panting, but truimphant.
Then the spidey-sense sings like never before.
As Spiderman looks on, the bloody face of the Herald begins to heal. Wait, check that, it's Spiderman's blood from his fists. The technovirus can be seen moving and absorbing Peter's blood from the face of Firelord and "sucking it in". He looks at his hands and already the technovirus is on his bruises, it's on his burn on his left arm, and the completely spent wrist-shooter begins to bend and change at will, infected. Ignoring the pain he is now so badly aware of, he snaps off the web shooters, both of them. This is worse than the symbiote, Venom. And as he steps further back, he sees it. The psychotron is in the Heralds hand, and the once prone and still body crushes it and absorbs it into phallanx infected Firelord.
"MOVE!" thinks Spidey.
In the spit second between though and action, even with Spiderman's great speed, the Herald went from being crumpled inside the wall to gloriously blazing, standing straight before him and already his hand outstretched, grasping at Spiderman.
"And you talk too much."
Spiderman had managed to move just far away avoid being chocked, but Firelords grip caught the mask and the tip of his nose. Peter yanked with all his might and fell, leaving part of himself and the mask with the Herald.
"Got your nose." grimaced Firelord and smiled.
Then his head was blown clean off from an energy discharge from below. Galen's sleek dark ship began to rise from the depths and on the top of it stood the Super Adaptoid, catching Spiderman by the leg and channeling the might of the Heralds in the other. Firelord's body fell back, but the technoinfection started to spread about the webbing above. The Adaptoid cut loose with a wide angle shot and burns most of it to hell. Then he trains his sights on Spiderman.
"You are infected. I am of technology and to jeopardize this mission I cannot allow you to infect me."
"Gimme a shot of penicillin, and call me in the morning."
The android weighed it's options, and the hand that held Peter began to glow. They had now cleared the chasm and were above the rim, this moment deciding the fate of the universe. Then, to Peter's surprise, he was placed in a stasis field.
"Ship acquired. Team member located. Completing mission. Long term goal: sustain life."
"We don't leave anyone behind." said Peter.
"There will be nothing to leave behind, soon, Spiderman. Galen's ship and my cosmic senses indicate space around us collapsing."
Spiderman's spidey-sense confirmed this. The alarms about the World Ship were not for them, they were for the proximity of collapsing space.
"Don't leave....anyone... behind... 'duex ex machina'... never got it until now....." and Spiderman passed out.
The Adaptoid had taken on some of Peter Parker's powers to get them here, and some other characteristics as well. His form morphed from mixed Avengers/Heralds to that more of Spiderman, with colors to match. Then with the hand that was still charged up with power cosmic he shot down the long, long corridor to the main control room. With a piecing voice now available through the duplicated powers, he yelled down the halls of Galactus.
"This is Red Leader to Red Five, begin your attack run NOW
The unstoppable one, Cain Marko, the Juggernaut, tapped back into the lessons he had learned from his masters. The situation had drastically changed against him, his foes adapted to his style. Instead of solid humanoids, he was facing fluid phalanx infected Heralds, hitting him with energy blasts and remaking their damaged bodies from the technology around them. Morg had absorbed part of the skull of the World Serpent into his frame and the command chair. The others just fully let the virus take over their shifting shapes and forms. It was hard to focus with a piece of Morg in his chest, the axe piercing the magic protection and even cracking the crystal gem that fueled him. He was bleeding mystical energy.
But the lessons came back to him. He focused his mind beyond the pain and onslaught about him. Understand what he knows...
...what he can use...
Or how to turn his enemies strengths against them. And then it hit him in a moment of clarity. Not the right course of action, but the energy blast from the Super Adaptoid, straight back from the corridor they had original infiltrated from. The blast poured through the living wall of techno-virus that was Air Walker, and ricocheted off him, scattering into the blast around him and onto the Heralds about him.
The Juggernaut got up, taking advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself, as his masters had shown him. Crossing his arms around him and invoke the signs of the crimson bands. Concentrating his chi to his core and the gem, the crimson bands surrounded him and he spread his arms wide, sending a sphere of the bands out before omniversally around him, increasing the clearing afforded to him by the well placed discharge from the Adaptoid. The shockwave rumbled around him, forcing the fluid techno forms of the Heralds back and away from him. Even the axe embedded within him was pulled loose. He pushed everyone as far back as he could, then the wounds got to him and he released the spell. By himself now, as the flattened forms of the Heralds reassembled themselves, he prepared for the end. He thought the blast would bring herald the cavalry. No help was coming.
Then the heard the metallic voice ring out with Spiderman's familiar and now welcomed sarcastic tone. He got the message and even chuckled a little, and then began doing what the Juggernaut does best. Lowering his head, putting the full might of his legs into motion and pumping his arms and hitting his stride, the Juggernaut plowed through reforming phalanx obstacles before him. The Big Red One was a streak of red, applying whathe had learned of the Iron Fist into this battering ram head and his feet, a solid crimson line going through walls, conduits and equipment in his path, the Heralds giving chase behind him. Not even the blasts he felt alongside his back could stop him. Nothing stops the Juggernaut.
Already he could see the rim of the great chasm ahead of him and in the distance a magnificent dark ship was gliding down the vast chamber back towards the docking bay from which they had come. More blasts hit him in the back, stinging but to no effect. A few blasts went by him and into the floor ahead, and now he had to bob and weave as huge chunks of the structure were torn apart before Marko, giving him nothing to run on. He bounced around exploding wreckage rising up from the floor, using it to propel himself further instead of loosing his footing on it. Good old Daredevil skills. Terrax had managed to rush ahead of him at sublight speed, only to get hit back by a blast from the Adaptoid.
The Adaptoid appeared on the exterior of the ship and began laying cover fire, letting loose a full devastating barrage down the corridor. It was obvious the ship would not be coming back for him, so, once upon the edge of the chasm Cain Marko channeled his great speed and power into a hurling himself across the open space. He was three quarters of the way there when he got tagged by a blast and began to fall. The blasts continued to by exchanged overhead and Marko looked down, seeing tendrils of phalanx reach up for him from the material that used to be webbing, and then he was plucked from his fall and pulled back, hauled towards the departing ship.
Peter Parker, Spiderman, had managed to free up one of the hands of the Adaptoid, while the Super Adaptoid switched to optic blasts. It had morphed into one of his web shooters, and Peter aimed the Adaptoid's arm at the falling Juggernaut. Once the line had caught, he fell back into the ship, shivering as the virus began to work through his system. The Adaptoid hoisted the dangling Juggernaut up and back towards the ship, taking a few hits, but never relenting. The energy bounced off the shell of Galen's ship with no effect, it's unusual properties keeping it intact. Cain was roughly thrown inside and the Adaptoid pushed his way back in, sizing down again. to fit into the cockpit. Immediately the vessel closed up behind them and it shook from the hits they were taking. Moving once again to the center of the piloting compartment, the Adaptoid activated flight and the ship rocketed down the launching bay, and out the oval portal back towards real space.
Marko took off his helmet and looked towards the Adaptoid.
"And the Nullifier? We came all this way for nuthin'?"
Feebly Spiderman spoke up.
"No, domehead, ....*HAK* we traded it in for this *cough cough* cool ride."
"Mission priorities change. Objective changed during mid mission. This vehicle will serve us better, as the Nullfier hs already been acquired.
Extraction is now expedient."
Turning one of the walls into a viewscreen, the Adaptoid pull up the rear view behind them. Already the vast World Ship began to break apart at it's far corner's. The swarm was on top of it, trying to out run it and then the black wave of darkmatter overtook that. Like watching it being erased into blackness.
"Okay, I get it, we need to go."
"We cannot. For me to guide this ship through the dimensional maestorm, I need the precognitive alarm powers of Spiderman for the duration of the flight. And at present, he is infected and will die and then turn on us.
For this universe to live, Spiderman must survive
On Earth, people who dared watch the stars saw the planet Mercury with their naked eye, as best they could. The sun had condensed to a burning red ball, one thousandth of it's size and still falling. The mutant Forge worked outside other great minds left among the Earth to try to come up with something, some thing way to save life. No space shisp air alien vessels were able to lift of. Lilandra and the alien refuges that had committed to stay gathered around the M'Kraan, hoping that it would grow back to for, but had shrunk now to the size, no bigger now that a fire hydrant. It's bright light inside now just a mere crimson pulse.
But incidences of hope began to spread like wildfire through the world. Where the Van Allen belt should've burned away to scorch the planet, the aurora borealis grew in intensity but did not penetrate beyond the sky. The world's clocks began to spin wildly, and the magnetically sensitive beings on the planet felt as if they were swimming. Something was blocking it out. No animal, no birds, no insect, no plants were dying. As if time was beginning to stand still. Rare few people understood what was going on and remained silent, lest the enemy figure out their plans. Even then they did not truly see the big picture. All they knew was that the rapture would soon be upon them.
- Cain Marko was beside himself. His one time foe lay before him, beaten worse than he had ever seen him before. Peter would never recover from this, even as a super-human. He should be in hospital, instead he had defeated the Herald in hand-to-hand combat in this condition. Now Peter Parker was paying the price for it, for underestimating the phalanx infection on Firelord that he was now ravaging his system. The Adaptoid cowering away from Spiderman, wary of the infection to his vulnerable systems and compromise his ability to pilot them back to Earth. Spidey had stopped coughing up blood and now was coughing up globs of the transmode virus, which seeped back into him. It was visibly active through his wounds. It would overwhelm him in seconds, and the Adaptoid had yet to configure back in time to use the reactivate the spider-sense, so much of it's programming had gone to duplicate the much superior power levels of the Heralds as a defense.
Being inside the ship did not help. For all of it's wonders and the Super Adaptoid's abilty to handle it smoothly, they were not going to make it. The tesseracts within the World Ship had begun to collapse, and parts of the Taa II, began to appear and disappear randomly and without order, and the Adaptoid had just learned how to fly this crazy thing. The flight had been a true trial by fire. Worse yet, the Heralds were coming up behind them fast behind them. Space was what they were designed for. The Adaptoid was doing his best to zig zag through the colliding matter as best he could, buying time they did not have. It was up Marko now, and he had no clue what to do.
Not exactly true. He remembered how Cytorrak had passed on his full power to him, and how his sifu Iron Fist had acquired his powers.
And his own wound had almost finished healing. Summoning the crimson bands to subtle generate talons, he remember the medical field experience that had been passed downloaded into him ad prayed he didn't kill everyone in what he was about to do.
- Spiderman's spidey-sense was barely registering in the Adaptoid. The android was trying to recall his "settings" for Spiderman, just getting a buzz of the danger the World Ship debris provided. Reducing their odds worse were the Heralds, popping up and the energy blasts of the speeding Heralds. Then behind him, a bright flash of crimson and a hiss from Cain Marko, and then Spiderman's spidey-senses came back to him full throttle. Galen's sleek rocket finally moved with great speed, skimming the edge of the encroaching dark matter and the World Ship.
Terrax had fallen/crushed into the blackness, the hybrid body not working well enough as a unit and dealing with damage. More groans of pain came from behind him and the dim crimson behind him got brighter and brighter. There was the portal and the Adaptoid pushed the ship through. Morg had attempted to get ahead of them and block them, but they plowed right through him as they entered the zone. Morg knicked the edge of the collapsing dimensional stargate and was ripped apart, collapsing the gate.
They were through, and flying through the dangerous sub-space between worlds. It had been a swirling zone of dimensional torment before the Anti-Monitor had destroyed much of the multiverse, now it was a true tempest. And the much larger ship was harder to navigate through sub-space. The ship spins in impossible directions and manuevers through the field. Air Walker does not make it, getting hit on a strand of dimensional rifts. They were almost free and clear.
"Ugh, who spiked my drink?" said a familiar and friendly neighborhood voice. Passed out beside him lay the prone body of Juggernaut/Erik the Red, passing out from the traumatic experience. Peter looked at his hands, with two good sets of eyes and felt his face. He had been restored.
"Must be magi-"
Something triggered his spider-sense, and was trying to crawl up into corner and look for away into the console. At first Peter thought it was the Venom symbiote, but his memories came back to him, and he realized he was looking at his own technovirus infection, now out of his body. He reached out to grab it before it infected the Super Adaptoid, and caught it. The infection tried to penetrate his skin and escape his hands, but it could not, a glowing crimson shell had formed on his hands. Peter looked for the garbage shoot, but remembered where he was. Without knowing how he did it, Peter had managed to form red gauntlets over his bare hands.
He looks down on his wounded benefactor, who is breathing easier.
"OUT!!! NOW!!!" yells the Adaptoid, and opens up a door towards the sub-space field. Peter steps out into the harsh environment, the crimson on his hands now spreading out to protect him from harm. And then he just tosses out the infection to the dimensional winds.
"Via con Dios."
As Peter is about to close step back inside as they near the entrance back to their space, he sees the dark matter overtake the dimensional strands they had just come through. From the erupting chaos behind them, there rises a voice of thunder and anger.
"SPIDERMAN... I AM NOT DONE WITH YOU!!!!!" as the burning head of Firelord chases after them , the dimensional distortion and black nothingness raging just behind him.
"Oh, shut up."
Parker makes the hand-gesture to trigger his webshooters,the action second-nature. He has no webshooters now, but a straight hard beam of crimson light shoots out and whacks the head of Firelord on the forehead it falls back into the darkness.
"Huh", says a puzzled Peter Parker, as he steps back from the void into the ship. He went out Peter Parker, he came back the Scarlett Spider
Wundagore Moutain. The High Evolutionary had cleared out the Genesis chamber off all the expended gases and energies used to advance Franklin Richard's transformation. Now, as he checked the monitoring systems, he was unable to register anything actually being inside the chamber. The safety locks would not open within the chamber, either. Even with the elevated state of being, the High Evolutionary could not get the doors open. Neither could Nightmare. Both men were talking through the door, to a young boy who may or may not be there, despite the equipment tell them that there was no one there. Even the Watcher in attendance could not tell them if the boy was present, his powers being blocked by static. Their last, desperate hope from plunging into the sun did not want to come out of his room.
So focused where they on getting the door open that they were not aware of the figure who rose from the table, covered himself in a lab robe and bent down before the door. Reed Richards bent down and called out for his son, ignoring his presence had on the others around him. Richards had was taking in all the lighting the room and radiating it off of his head, silver strings of light raining up and down as his now all white hair stood up. His eyes resembled was akin to a looking at reversed-color photo, with the stars in the black of his eyes.
"Son..... Franklin.... you have to come out now. "
"No..... the bad man is still out there.... he's eating the big plant...."
"Yes son, he's out there. And you can feel it, too. We're all scared right now, but we need to stand strong against bullies. Do you remember what I told you about bullies? About the Mole Man and von Doom, Franklin?"
"We need to be big, strong and brave. Your uncles all alright, and they are big and strong now, as are you and I. But we need you to come out, I can't be brave and face this bully without you. We face him together, as a family."
The doors unlocked, and the huge chamber within Mount Wundagore opened. The still and dark chamber bore it's secrets, and there were none to be there, even to these assembled individuals.
"C'mon champ. Come out now. I could really use a hug."
From nothing the child form of Franklin Richards solidified and scampered to his father's arms. The boy clung tight to Reed Richard's neck, and Mr. Fantastic stood up and gently rocked his boy. He turned to the others.
"Okay, we're good here. Time to start a new day."
His eyes flashed white for a second and across the other side of the world Susan Richards, the Shield Maiden, knew that her son had come out okay. Whatever waining strength that had faded from her now redoubled once more. The rumbling of the planet stopped as it moved through space towards the sun. Everyone who had survived til now was calm and still, as they began to descend into the sun's corona.
Even from space, with the sun so close, the Scarlet Spider, Peter Parker, tending over the wounded Juggernaut, loved the hell out of the blue speck as it raced towards them. They made-reentry over Indonesia, penetrating even the mighty shield with ease, the sun so close now there was no night anywhere in the world, even through the massive solar flares of the fading star. As Galen's ship arced to arrive at Gateway City, Peter looked at the astrometrics, to see how far ahead they had gotten of the incoming dark matter cascade.
'Why aren't the other planet's falling in after us?" Peter wondered aloud, and that was the last words said by anyone before the third planet, the Blue Planet, of the solar system Sol plunged into the sun
he Elders were in place, at the outer rim of the planetoid Pluto's orbit. Runner had used the last of his reserves energy to rush everyone into place, as coordinated by the Grandmaster. There was not much left of the Elder. most of it channeled into funneling their abilities and passing on some of their gifts to the two who had risked their fragile mortal lives for them. Had to be worth something. Champion provided the power, Runner the speed, Collector pulled those individual essence of the two they had rescued into the mortals. Grandmaster helped redesign their already altered cosmic structures to contain the harvested energy and Gardener helped healing and growth of life force. Uatu, fresh from his scavenging of defenses across the cosmos, came for them and took them to his base. Grandmaster then moved them to take their place on the great cosmic chessboard. They had one last task to accomplish. The individuality of their different races was almost gone now, freely sacrificed for the two mortal who rescued them. The Elders took in one last moment as individuals, then they rumbled with the dark primordial power of the origins that linked them to the beginning of time.
- The Celestials were consulting themselves, going over Uatu's message and found it troubling to their own plans. The Anti-Monitor had not yet returned from his assassination of Yggdrasil, and the universe had begun to collapse. In their silent communications they sensed other hands at work. Something had slipped by them, the great planners of the universe. The plan was for the Dreaming Celestial, their last brother, to join them and claim Earth as their own. Now that Celestial near the end of the solar system, locked in combat with the phalanx swarm that were their minions. Nothing was going right. They set forth to Earth to claim the M'Kraan, and thwart the wrench that had been thrown into their plans before things got worse.
- The Dreaming Celestial had finally caught up to Warlock, just at the edge of the incoming Phalanx swarm wall that encompassed all. Using the primal scream/code of his species, the Warlock activated one of the most primal directives within his species. Attack on the hive/defend/attack the invader. The new breed of Phalanx Wave, unable to override their most core programming, complied. A true, unstoppable wave of ravenous mouths and metallic claws crashed upon the him. Where tooth and claw failed, particle beams, magnetic fields, molecular disruptors and laser torches went to work. The Celestials' first omnidirectional blast to these "locusts" would have normally destroyed a star system, all it did was just kill Warlock and the Phalanx wave within the close proximity. There were just so MANY the charge barely got to beyond a hundred mile radius of him. Already this purer breed quickly adapted to the assault, and continued to swarm in.
The Dreamer's defense rose in intensity, and the Wave matched him. Taking the offense now than mere defense, the Celestial generated various EMP pulses ahead of him and plunged along the edge of the storm of Phalanx hordes. The Wave adapted. He went into hyperspace and cut through them with particles blasts, but then was stopped by null fields. The Wave adapted. Sensing the true scope of what was upon him the Celestial turned to hyper jump to safer space, but the Magus, highfather and source of this plague had finally come. They grappled and exchanged blows that would have rent galaxies apart, except for the numbers. Champion was the closest to the action and approved of the conflict, the glow of battle visible even from the depths of the swarm. Behind them, the black emptiness of the universe closed in
Odin had wondered how the dark elf Malekith and his people had been able to find this treasure, or if they knew what they had managed to contain, but only Odin truly understood what was in the Casket of Ancient Winters that lay in his hands. The mortals scientists of earth had been listening to cosmic noise and deep space for the echoes of the big bang. Had they know what he knew, they would have been shocked. He had pieced it together himself, when his son Thor had told him about the origin of the space-god Galactus by Galactus himself. The mystic runes Odin himself uses to change the very nature of things were very powerful, but when the ones in his hand, were assembled into certain words, they were the most powerful of all, and even he feared use them. Now, as he cast them out into space, uniformly rushing out from the sun across to the orbital path, Odin would let loose the last echo of the previous existence upon this one. He was one of the few to know. Uatu would be one. The Elder's, the Grandmaster most likely, would be the other.
Odin had wanted to say a final farewell to his son Thor, but he passed the message to Loki, for the great effort had the mighty Thor was drained beyond rising. He opened the Casket wide, spilling the contents of the coldest ice, the first ice, the ice that had been when the universe cooled after the big band. the mortals had been able to come up with something akin to this, developing the ability to burn sound into plastic crystals. This was far more powerful amd more purer. Skyfather Odin, Lord of Asgard took the crystals into his lungs, inhaling the ice beyond absolute zero and breathed out his last, the words he learned to recite by heart:
" 'Hear me, last son of Taa -- I am the sentience of the universe! Like yourself, I am dying! In mere moments as I mark time. I shall draw the matter of the cosmos into my bosom and collapse beneath my own abysmal weight!...."
At the edge of the solar system, as the dying five Elders beheld the Phalanx wave being overwhelmed by the true wave of crushing dark matter behind them, and the end cascading universe behind it, they finished the words the frozen form of Odin could not
"...But though we must die, we need not die without an heir! Come, surrender yourself to my fiery embrace. And let us become as one! Let our death throes serve as the birth pangs for a new form of life!"
The runes and the words of Odin hit the Elders just before the dark matter had, and their essence disintegrated and spread out. The dark matter did not stop for anything as Phalanx swarm, Technarch god or Dreaming Celestial overwhelmed them all, like an avalanche. The echo of the words of the universe before mingled with the last of the power primordial within the Elders. The edge of the universe stopped before the power of the final spoken words of the last universe touched it, released from the mouth of Odin. A new Cosmic Egg had formed, an impenetrable shell of absolute dark matter protecting the last solar system with a dying sun
The Anti-Monitor looked over the black pearl before him, the whole of Eternity condensed to this small point. The ashes of Yggdrasil was still covered his hands, an experience had failed to accomplish during his previous existence. The last universe had been able to defy him. Now, he was faring much better. Instead of an entire universe, all that was left was one lowly star system, the solar system of Terra, also known as Earth. It was all so close. This small dust mote of reality was all that lay between him and the conquest of the omniverse.
But even this miserable speck resisted him. It still clung to life, defiant to the end. The Earth gods of this last universe had exchanged the vastness of black space to claim this feeble system for this small cosmic egg, but it would not crack in his hands. Much of the power he had given up to defeat Yggdrasil was not coming back.
Clever ploy, this one. What powers he had shed to make him outside of Yggdrasil's influence had not come back to him, but instead fell in with the rest of the universe. The might of the In-betweener, the Beyonder, the Stranger, elder gods, even most of the might of the absorbed universes, dimensions, timelines were not coming back to him. Only the might of the Galactus, which had been passed on to him in title by conquest before the Living Tribunal, came back to him. He could sense that within the feeble cosmic shell of what remained of Eternity the vast power he had usurped lay again, like a fruit waiting to be plucked.
Previous defeats with another altogether different Earth still lay inside in the Anti-Monitor's memory. Those memories made him consider that taking this gem would not be as easy as it would appear to. The might he currently wielded would not be enough, especially to cross over. He must have the full power if he is to successfully survive the end of this universe and the dawn of the next one.
The gods had managed do him a favor be reducing the space of the universe. Now weilding the cosmic egg, the Anti-Monitor began to condense time, hastening the end of this reality. He would draw back his essence that the Living Tribunal himself could not erase, and once at full power at the end of time he would crack the cosmic egg and end this existence, once and for all.
- All of existence is summed up within the dark cosmic egg. One fading sun, 5 surviving planets, scattered fragments of debris that was Mars, a few comets, asteroids and one lone silver gleaming speck at the far, far edge of Uranus' orbit. The silver speck is a glow of deathly huanting lights. The dark Elder gods of death, looking out from deck of the deadship Nafalgar, as the silver ship made of all the nails of the dead skirts at the edge of blackness. The dark lords sense what transpires beyond. The absence of light in this solar system pleases them greatly, as they stare into the abyssmal black wall that keeps them within the cosmic egg.
Thanos of Titan smiles.
- From the fading sun, a fireball erupts from the surface of Sol. The great fireball escapes the red star's gravity, being pushed further and further out, beyond Mercury, beyond Venus. As the fireball cools and the blackened exterior falls of as this planetoid begins to spin. Soon it falls into Earth's old orbit and begins it's rotation. A blue planet with great oceans and mountains, intact and showing no scars from the previous conflicts against the hordes of the Anti-Monitor.
- The Celestial Jury, the nine who helped slay the Living Tribunal, make their way to investigate this new Earth. From the edge of Jupiter's orbit they move to claim the prize that they sense still residing within the planet. As they move that light speed towards the blue planet, their great cosmic awareness sensing a line forming across the edge of space before them. At the orbit of where Mars stood, a line has formed.
Wearing the ruins of the Sentinel robots as armor, the Watchers of the Universe stand together. Gone are the robes of peace and wisdom, replaced by the metallic shells to reflect the ancient Spartan army of Earth, in honor of the dust cloud which was the planet Mars. At the forefront of this massive force, at their front, stands Beta Ray Bill on the bow of the warship ship Skuttlebutt. And before him, ready to lead his assembled forces against the oncoming jury, stands Uatu, a Watcher no more.
Clad in the armor of Terminus and raising the power lance high above him, Uatu issued his challenge.
"Here me, traitors! Here the war cry of the Watchers, the cry of all existence whom you have betrayed! I am Uatu, assigned to watch and record the great events happening on the world called Earth. I have seen the humblest of beings rise and take charge of their fate. I have had the honor to see great individuals amongst these people rise and become something more than what you, the great Celestial Host, have deemed them to be. And I have marveled at the wonderous twists and turns of their lives. You who have stolen the very purpose and being of me and my kin shall know that we will defend the last of our charges to our dying breath. Lo, Celestial Host, the Watchers watch no more!"
The wraith, formally known as the mutant Wolverine, walked the face of the Earth once more. Walking among the streets of a small New Jersey town, he and his genin ninja dream guards entered a small restaurant & bar. He had never actually known who the men who had pledged the rest of their entire existence to follow his lead as ninja, but that was then when time didn't permit. As they entered the bar, he noticed the few old timers who had decided to end their days with one last rowdy drink were all silent and still. The hole town was, as they had seen, and maybe a good portion of the planet.
Making his way to the back of the bar, Logan grabbed some glasses, surprised that he could still hold them, and ruffled through the bar. It was a pleasure to be able to smell real scents again, even for now. He was surprised to find good saki in a joint like this, and he set out some glasses and set them up. To the genin's surprise, except to Logan, someone walked through the bar. Actually a group of them. Aryan's from the look and smell, and their leather clad outfits indicated bikers.
"May we join you, Herr Logan?" spoke Hauptman Englande.
"End of the world, and you're at this small bar, of all places. Why not? Be careful with the furnishings, boys. They're fragile."
The Skull Squadron, with their human faces back, entered the bar. They made the front and gently carried some of the sleeping patrons of the pool tables.
Logan passed around beers and saki, loving the feeling of cold glass on his hands. Seeing the Red Skull's acutal face for the first time, Logan recognized him by the smell.
"Strange allies, eh, Herr Wolverine?"
"Yeah, Skull. War makes for unusual allies."
"I find that being able to food, drink and sleep is no longer a luxury for me and mine... I take it the same is true for you, no? We are the sleepless and the dreams that cannot wake."
There was a horrendously loud boom from high above and the entire bar shook. The mixed forces continued to wait for Logan to finish pouring while the bottles continued to rattle. Everyone was amazed. Logan spoke up.
"War in heaven. We'll be up, soon enough."
"Pardon, mein herr?!" asked one of the cybernetic Skull members.
"The Watchers have just engaged the Celestials. All the way out where Mars used to be."
The silent genin traded glances, as did the Skull Squadron members.
"How can you tell?"
"Thor is passed out from exhaustion, and with his pappy gone he's entering the 'Odin-Sleep'. He's dreaming of what they are saying around him. If he can hear it, I can hear it."
The rumble continues, shaking up bottles.
"Like old times, Corporal?"
"#@%& you, Johann. We may be at war and we may be on the same side, but some shi-."
"... ah hell. Okay, not the way I thought I would do this. Gentlemen, may we not go quietly into that good night."
The warriors silently raise their glasses and drink their shots down.
"Alright, let's go make some noise."
- In the Baxter Building, Reed had gathered begun calibrating the equipment in his lab to the new rules of physics of the universe. No longer did he have to work with his hands, but he did it out of habit. Whatever he could think up, he could do. And Reed's intellect was already astounding before his transformation. He would soon welcome the return of his family. Then the rumbling started, and he knew instantly that the Celestials had been engaged. Having cosmic awareness helped.
The magic shielding held, protecting them safely within the sun was able to withstand the awesome forces of the interior of a star, but the forces unleashed in the clash were being felt even here. Everyone would need to finish soon. In this moment frozen in time, his instruments were indicating time was accelerating at the edge of the cosmic egg. The end of time would be near.
- Ares look out from the Refuge of Sol. With the Skyfather's still working, it was up to him and the other wars gods to coordinate the defenses. Things were going bad quickly. The Watcher's had managed to separate split up the Celestial forces, the weaker space gods had been pushed all the way to Neptune, causing the rings around the planet irrevocable harm. Saturn had lost several moons as the two Celestials there were using them as battering rams while some Watchers fought them along the rings. Skuttlebutt and Beta Ray Bill were held back, to recover the wounded. Many had fallen in the initial clash, but there were no surviving wounded.
For all their power they were not used to fighting. The Watchers were loosing,
"Okay, call in Beta Ray. We need to buy more time before the Anti-Monitor gets here. Have him pick up the Destroyer
- The great ship of the dead Nafalgar made landfall. To any who capable of surviving the terror of the site, they would've witness the only silver star out in the dark sky glide with menace upon the shores. The seas parted to avoid it's touch, and the shore hardened at it's touch. With the creaks sounding like the wails of banshees the ramps lowered. From the deck the gods of the dead looked as their ghastly crew began to disembark. Mere transparent shadows walked down the plank, but as soon as they made contact with the ground the began to resemble the form they had in life. The dead walked out spread out across the globe, the mark of the Anti-Monitor glowing a a ghost-light on their chest.
- The world's superhuman's were still 'awake' during this frozen moment in time. The surviving defenders, both heroes and villains, have been plucked and hailed from the far corners of the world. Again, they assembled at within New York, the Baxter Building. The teleporter Gateway bringing the masses together. The aliens refuge fleet and their warship crews also assembled overhead, the lights of their ships adding to the only lights available in this darkness. Alongside them the remainder of the Atlantean and Lemurian fleets wre being retrofitted for flight/space travel.
Natasha Raminoff, the Black Widow, coordinated the tactical dispersion of information. She had qualified to remain with the superhumans by bonding to the Venom symbiote, truly becoming the Black Widow and adding might and stealth to her powers. Clint Barton and Forge worked with munitions and supplies for this final conflict. Nick Fury and Elizabeth Braddock, Psylocke, coordinated communication and intelligence while the leaders of the human superpowers met with their 'divine' benefactors. Galen of Taa, the current host for the Phoenix attended the Council of End Times with King Namor, Reed Richards, the new Earth Mother Ororo Munroe, Charles Xavier, T'Challa the Black Panther, the High Evolutionary, Nightmare, the Maestro, the de-aging Steve Rogers, (middle aged now, in military jacket and command uniform, rather than his colors).
The gods Athena, Isis, Frigga, Sif, Balder and Narya the Snowbird were part of the other half of the council, the council of the gods who could attend.
"We the gods of Earth bid you greetings, our children." began Isis.
"We thought you have abandoned us." spoke Ororo, her new status of divinity the right to speak to the gods as equals.
"We left you to your care to prepare this refuge. You have shown to be quiet self-reliant, our children, and have handled yourselves well." answered Frigga.
"There so much that could've been done, so much that could've been saved." asked Captain America.
"And all the lives and sacrifice would have been for not if you did not have this sanctuary to fall back upon." replies Balder.
"It pained us to know how much you would suffer, but all life in all of it's existences was at stake. And still is."
"We were dispensible." mused the High Evolutionary.
"You are mortal." replied Sif.
"Cannon fodder." retorted Bruce Banner, his eye glowing green.
"No, just ordinary mortals who can appreciate making the best of what precious little time you have left in the world. As we do all. Our time is almost at an end, and we will face this blasphemy that dares sunder what we have struggled for so long to balance." spoke Snowbird.
"As we speak, two of those forces that have been intricate to the balance now clash among one another" adds Galen.
A bright light lights up the last vestiges universe now, resembling the classical diagrams of the solar system. The darkness of black was the edge of the universe was showing white, what remembled stars.
"The Anti-Monitor gather's his strength as time ends. He will be through the shell soon." spoke Mr. Fantastic, his cosmic awareness answering the curious onlookers.
Skuttlebutt is sending battle telemetry as well as adding her significant firepower to the battle. All over the five planets, the Watchers clashed with the Celestials. Jupiter is truly a storm giant now, tossing out gases and rolling with visible explosions on it's surface. The planet Saturn has been laid to waste, it's once brilliant gleam and rings now just a the rolling cosmic dust cloud.
"The Celestials forgot about the technology and arsenal still in place on Titan. We did not."
"So far only Jemiah and Gammenon have fallen. The space gods have managed to decimate half the Watcher's-"
They are interrupted by the broadcast of Beta Ray Bill. The Destroyer was in place and ready to attack. He wanted to follow it into battle. The gods agreed to let the hero meet his end in his own way and his own choosing. The modified Destroyer with armor enhancements from the Egyptian, Greek, Japanese and MezoAmerican pantheons went out, wielding he Japanese blade Grasscutter, with Beta Ray Bill at his side into the fray.
"And you my lords? why do you not join the fight?" asked Nightmare.
"You mortals are to be the last line, the survivors of Ragnarok. As the reign of the giants fell before the Titans, and the Titans to us, so shall the reign of the gods pass and the you will be the last line, as all children are.
We will face the being that slew the living embodiment of justice, the Living Tribunal, to return the favor. We face him and the armies of death."
- At the edge of space, Thanos took note of the clash around him. With Pluto and Hela digging their hands into one of the cracks, Thanos added his own considerable might and the small tear into blackness opened up, and a gigantic hand gouged it's way into space. The hand shrank and another pushed it's way through. The Anti-Monitor was forcing his way in, and even the gods of death cringed back. Only Thanos held his ground.
"Greetings, Anti-Monitor. Welcome to the end
The first target of the Destroyer was the almighty One Above All, the most powerful of all the Celestials. Already hundreds of Watchers had perished hunting down the Celestial , separating him from the rest of the host as they drove a wedge between them and divided their attack. Divided the other Celestials would fall. The limited amount of space within the solar system made sure that the battle would be "close quarters", as best could be afforded. The Destroyer had been released within sight of the planet Venus, and immediately pulled a speed-of-light charge at The One Above All. Three Watchers perished in the initial slash, caught in the backslash and released energy as for the first time in it's creation the One Above All bled. The Destroyer did not relent on his run as his speed increased, slicing and cutting through portions of the Celestials. The members of the Host dealt with the Watchers swarming on top of them, moving through the solar system within the ticks of a second, looking for the blind spot from which to cut and run. He cut through Ashema, gashed He had to hurry, there were not many Watchers left to distract the Celestials.
- Uatu had been the first Watcher to break his vow, to act, and the one who had best prepared for the fight ahead. He had chosen his weapons well, having plucked them from the dead Terminus, an early victim of the Anti-Monitor. The power lance itself was cosmically charged, independent of his own power. And the self-regenerating armor soaked up the damage he withstood as he led the fight against the Arishem. And taking a page from the Taskmaster himself, the Watcher applied every fighting technique he had ever witnessed against his opponent that outclassed him in raw power. The leader of the Watchers was holding his own.
- Nightmare had given up all of his being, his immortality for this moment. His kingdom would perish if the last sentient mind would stop sleeping, stop dreaming, and as lord of his realm he took steps. Part of the gifts granted to him by providence had been passed onto Logan and his assistants. The rest he kept with him, the precious few and best. He knew of the province of the mind, it's bright hopes and beauty in creation as well as unspeakable horrors.
While his favored the ability to turn nightmares to reality, now he planned to make his greatest masterwork, as he sat crossed legged before the M'Kraan crystal, open an open dark field in Gateway City. On the other side of the crystal, equidistant from his place sat his one of his collaborators, Franklin Richards. His family, the Fantastic Four, stood behind him, to offer encouragement and focus. On the remaining glowing red shard of the M'Kraan, the heir to a legacy of power relaxed and sat back and opened his mind wide to wonder. Nightmare, from his pouch, took out the last green leaves of the great tree Yggdrasil, cupped them in his hands and blew them out over the M'Kraan. The M'Kraan glowed and pulsed, and Franklin looked on.
"In the beginning there was nothing but darkness.... then there was light...."
Franklin looked on, and as his family was sure he was focused, they steppe back into the darkness as his friends in Power Pack stepped up and offered their presence and support. They too were caught by Nightmare's storytelling. Nightmare had caught them in voice and in the tale and begin to spin, and the only person in existence who could still see his reflection began to see his reflection form in the solid pylon of the M'Kraan. Nightmare knew all the stories, from all parts of creation, from all alternative timelines, realities and universes. And now with Franklin's help, he began to dream it all up again. The silent aborigine mutant aptly named Gateway began to slow spin his bullroarer, adding sound to the story, and began to channel the awesome building force within Franklin into the M'Kraan.
- While one group was beginning to dream another was showing nightmares. The Anti-Monitor did not care for the fight amongst the Celestials and the Watchers. He already knew the outcome. They would be at the end of time to pull him back. They would win. Meanwhile, he was being led by Thanos through a dark world which amused him. Never much for caring for tribute, he saw the temples and structures devoted to him and the sacrifices of suffering beings made to appease him. With but a glance of his eyes these structures were destroyed, it's nihilistic priests praising him as he destroyed them utterly. Thanos led the way, showing him the horrors of this world, this world a dark distorted version of Earth, and the other dark gods walked behind. Everything that had been shown to him amused him and he destroyed it. Great armies bearing his banner prostrated themselves to him, army upon undead army at his command. The final showpiece was at the center of the open fields, the core structure resembling the agonized figures of foes slain by the Anti-Monitor himself, the Vishanti, Galactus and others. At the center was a great chair meant for him, with Lady Death herself in a subservient seat below his.
"Why do you show me this, Titan? What do you wish?"
"We seek to go with you, to be reborn in the next existence."
"The ship of Galactus can only take one across the threshold, and I do not plan to take others with me."
"If not in body and spirit then in mind, so that as you traverse the veil beyond life and death and into the next world you. Remember us as you see us and recreate these to serve you in the next existence, so that you may rule above all. We will aide you wipe out those that still defy death and your the bliss of your destruction."
"And what do you seek demi-god?"
"To make sure you never recreate me. I grow weary of this existence, Anti-Monitor, and as my nature I would see it burn."
"And for me to grant this boon, what do you offer?"
"Three things. First, I present to you the goddess of life of the planet that has defied you for so long, the goddess Gaea."
The unholy ground spills open and the Elder God Set and Anubis hold the captive Gaea, bound and ready to be slain.
"Second, the M'Kraan crystal, the last piece of fortitude that denies your will to end all existence. With it you can bring the about the end of all there is as you end time."
From his belt holder Thanos produces the small shard of the crystal.
"Last I give you the secret that you will need to cross over back to your realm, dread god. Without it you cannot pass, even with your great might."
The Anti-Monitor raises his hand towards the exposed crystal, and it begins to glow. Thanos hand glows too.
"You want the satisfaction of destroying it, don't you?"
The Anti-Monitor lowers his hand, only to raise both hands up. With a blast from both hands he destroys Gaea, the blast also taking Anubis and Set with her. The other blast hits Death herself, before she even rises from her chair. The undead sit silently and begin to wail but silence as the Anti-Monitor lowers his hands. Thanos' eyes glow, as do the Anti-Monitors.
"You shall worship no other before me. "
Thanos grimaces, looks over where Lady Death herself used to exist. This turn of events was unexpected, and he was backed into a corner. Yet he kneels and grudingly offers the M'Kraan as tribute to the Anti-Monitor.
The Anti-Monitor takes the tribute and looks deep into it, the last piece of the nexus of reality in his hands. He could feels it's power from there.
"And the secret, before I killl you, Titan?"
"That's the catch. If you remember, when Galen crossed over to this existence to become Galactus, he was dead. When you crossed over from your existence, you were dead. You aren't dead... yet. We think we can help with that problem."
And Thanos rose to his feet, smiled, and transformed his shape.
"And don't call me demi-god, you blasphemy. I am Loki Laughinson, son of Odin
The battle in space raged on, both sides of the conflict accelerating their attacks. Skuttlebutt's hull was taking a pounding but the war ship was holding her own. She was built to sail through galactic storms and harsh novas. Her guns silent in space but thunderous in their devastation unloaded on the Celestial Ashema, staggering the giant space god. The simplest tactics were working best - hit and run. Best to avoid the Celestial counter attack was not to be there in the first place. The Celestial's attempts to alter and distort space a vain effort. This space had been made secure and free from compromise or distortion by the efforts of Earth's gods and the dark force they commanded. The surviving Celestials wondered where was the Anti-Monitor in their time of need, as they were being hunted down.
- The Anti-Monitor was facing yet another turn on him, the forces that had sworn fealty to him now had amassed against him. If he had kept the power of Mephisto, he would've realized the plot and treachery. Thanos bows to but one, and she was no more, at his own hand. Now the dead powers he himself had killed were upon him. The M'Kraan had turned out to be the cosmic cube, a simple but clever disguise. The last possessor of the cube, Loki, had turned the cube's power on itself, forcing it to act as a power damper and trap the Anti-Monitor's in place. Dead mortals and dead cosmic forces attacked him without remorse of revenge, just pure need for his destruction. Even Hela and Uranus applied their powers against him, Hela with her bare Hand of Glory flaying the life force away from the Anti-Monitor, and Uranus forcing the dead to pour in and out of the Anti-Monitor, taking as much life away as they could. The Anti-Monitor raged in silent protest, trapped by the cube.
Loki gloated over him.
"Trust us, please, "great one". This is for your own good. You must be dead to cross over, dead like so many you have slain in your pursuit of oblivion. The dead and dark gods do not like for their efforts in life and death to be turned to nothing before their time, and your is running out. We will make sure you face the end of time as dead as dead can be, beyond resurrection."
The Anti-Monitor began to once more pull in the essence of himself from the timestream, accelerating the end of time and regaining the strength that was being killed off by the death gods. The Anti-Monitor's might began to return as he regenerated himself, and he crushed the cosmic cube that held him in place. Now the whole of the dead rose up against him, and the vicious Anti-Monitor strike back. The In-betweener, the Vishanti, the Stranger, and the untold number of dead poured forth from this world. And even the world itself began to attack him, for this was not Earth he was on, but the planet Ego, altered to resemble Earth as bait for him and the Celestials. Still the Anti-Monitor raged and was worn, and the dead kept coming from depths of Nafalgar. The dead were dead and did not care for the petty damage. All they cared about was just that the Anti-Monitor would join them in death.
Loki got in some good shots himself and began to fall back towards the fading sun, now just a small sphere just twice the size of Earth itself that was hidden inside it. The Anti-Monitor pushed through the bog of the dead trying to catch up to him.
"Come, varlet, come take the bait." Loki thought as hurled back towards the solar refuge.
The Anti-Monitor had made his way through the planet's surface, bringing destruction upon it as the dead still kept coming. Nafalgar set sail with Hela at her bow, slings and arrows of death and outrageous misfortune flying true from her broadside at the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor took it all and kept coming for more. They could not hope to outdo the level of destruction the Tribunal had wrought upon him, but ghosts and spirits and dead warriors were doing as much as they could. At last the Anti-Monitor had drawn back enough of his essence enough to be beyond the harm they brought upon him and cut loose, his might lashing out across this globe and the dead. Blinding white deathlight spilled out from the Anti-Monitor and corpse of Ego, wreaking great havoc along the surface and deep into the once-living planet and all those that fought on his surface were no more.
- At the edge of deep space, a cloaked ship sent out a silent signal to Skuttlebutt. With many of the nearly lifeless clones being used as props for the gory show put on by Loki. Thanos now in commanded the Celestial ship, the Ark. The Ark now stalked the stars and kept out of harms' way from the war between Watcher and Celestial, seeing the forces whittled down to a few precious few. Soon it would be last man standing. En Sabah Nur, the ship's second in command, was impressed that the calm and peaceful Watcher was able to wage war so efficiently. Now it was their turn to join the fight for existence. Time to prove himself worthy of being, and to have been.
"Skuttlebutt, clear a path
The warship Skuttlebutt broke off combat against the last two Celestials, Arishem the Judge and Eson the Searcher. Skuttlebutt powered up and began an arcing run through the debris, using it's tractor beam to grab chunks of Watcher and Celestial debris and magnetically charging it's hull to mount them onto itself. Beta Ray Bill, hurt badly but still fighting, looked on as his long-time companion prepare for her journey.
"Godspeed, dear friend." and rushed to finish the last Celestials standing, with Uatu and the Destroyer and the three remaining Watchers.
Building speed and mass the ship launched itself into a hyperjump. It's destination: back of the Anti-Monitor, as he had finally gotten through the barrage erupting from Nafalgar and the boat screamed as he grabbed hold. As it rose from the surface and tried to escape back into space, the Anti-Monitor tore the ship into pieces with his bare hands, making short work of the remaining dead defenders. Hela allowed herself to be caught in his mighty grip as she was crushed to her own death, her final death touch spread out and caught the Anti-Monitor in agony. But he would not let go.
And then the Anti-Monitor was pierced, the warship Skuttlebutt pulling off a high-speed ramming attack onto his back, the Celestial armor piercing the Monitor's own. Skuttlebutt pulled herself away from the jagged shrapnel she had embedded into her foe, the Anti-Monitor turned to face these attacks from a new quarter. Unloading the sum of her remaining ordinance, Skuttlebutt got clear of the ship as Nafalgar listed away in fragments into space.
"Teleport", commanded the true Thanos, his fury manifesting itself around him as he stood outside the Ark's bow. The Anti-Monitor had claimed his love, the embodiement of Death, and he could not live without her. He awaited to join her soon, and meant to take a big piece of the Anti-Monitor with him.
From Pluto's edge the Ark turned, decloaked, and flung herself at hyperspeed, Thanos straining to remain at the front of the ship, he would be the figuredhead of the starship himself. His dark eyes glowed at full strength, his power and will ready for the task to come, ready to rain down his fury onto the Anti-Monitor upon impact. The Anti-Monitor sensed their approach and turned their direction, his own fists charged and read, ready to meet their wrath with his own. Hate filled his eyes and that hate was translated into raw devastating power cosmic, directed at the ship.
"Teleport." commanded Thanos, and the ship jumped again, leaving him hurtling through the barrage at the Anti-Monitor spewing forth from the Monitor's hands, mouth and eyes. The horror from another existence had focused his might upon the where the bulk of the ship would, not sensing the true threat of Thanos. The mad Titan's profile was to much smaller, harder to focus on. The technology of his personal shields soon gave out, but Thanos had been charging at faster than light speeds, and now moved to a mere hundreds of miles power hour, more than enough time before the Anti-Monitor could readjust.
His speed inertia and his might were enough to weather the onslaught and to hit the Anti-Monitor head on. The Titan's blow jarred the Anti-Monitor. The Monitor reeled back, actually being hurt despite being near full power. Thanos ricocheted away into the vacuum of space. The Anti-Monitor recovered quickly and would set upon after the Titan, but his mind remember his initial threat, recognized the set up too late. As he attempted to straightened himself up from overcommitting his energies, the Ark came ramming him from another direction. Thanos had set him up and Apocalypse came through with the knock out blow from the blindside, jumping into the exact position of the starting run. He was fooled by the same move twice.
The heavy cruiser capital ship of the Celestials, the Ark, hit true. The broken body of the Anti-Monitor hurtled at amazing speeds, spinning out of control. As the Anti-Monitor began to regenerate a bar was painfully placed over his face, over his mouth, discharging cosmic energies through it and keeping him in a chokehold. The scarred face of Uatu loomed over his shoulder, the Terminus armor soaking up the damage the two beings exchanged on one another. Without a word Uatu guided the Anti-Monitor towards to yellowing sun, and that star Sol exploded once more to it's full regal might.
Thanos floated in space, battered but not beaten. From his perspective the fight beyond his reach. He had wanted to do more, and he had been left behind to expire in space. Soon a warm glow began to bathe him. Sol had come alive again, and for a few moments two other smaller stars were born and then quickly faded. A tractor beam locked in on Thanos and he was pulled onboard Skuttlebutt besides the wounded Beta Ray Bill, and the ruins of the Destroyer in tow. The Celestials were no more, finally being slain by the machine designed to kill them. Now they pursued the two combatants towards the expanding sun, it's recharged bright rays carrying the armies of the gods forth to meet join them in combat head on.
And although he could not hear it, Uatu felt it through the bar. The Anti-Monitor was laughing.
In all the alternate universes that he had destroyed upon arriving to this existence, it was all the same. The final great ploy of every alternate timeline or universe was the last stand of the gods. They had become so predictable, and here they came again. It actually amused him, the Anti-Monitor, for he knew this signaled the destruction of this final, last universe before begin his reign of annihilation across the omniverse.
- The riders came out, on horse, on dragon, on clouds, on fish, on war chariot, on birds of all kinds, on centaurs,all riding beams of light from the sun. They road in gleaming golden armor, the same charmed gold that protected them from the harsh environment of the sun. Uatu burned inside his armor, as he was not so protected. He was determined to hold his captive at all costs, even if it meant dying to keep him steady he would do so. More was at stake than the mere survival of the last of the Watchers. The riders came and bore down on them, hitting them with everything they had. The Anti-Monitor twisted and turned to make sure Uatu would get his fair share of the damage. Spear, staff, arrow, sword and bolt all found marks. No quarter was given. Both figures writhed and squirmed under the horrendous attack, but neither of the two would give. And the Anti-Monitor was enjoying himself.
When the Anti-Monitor had felt the cavalry of the gods come out far enough, he let go of the lance holding him and turned his own energy in his hands against himself. Destroying the upper part of his face, the Anti-Monitor freed himself from the Watcher's grip. As his body went limp with freedom and stood up, the riders stopped their charge, the onslaught he Anti-Monitor inflicting upon himself, far more than any damage they were doing. As the face of the Anti-Monitor began regenerating, the assault continued began again, but with less hope of doing more damage to the Anti-Monitor than he had done himself. Uatu came up behind him to hit him with the lance. The Anti-Monitor bent down and bit it and blasted Uatu with his free hands, and bit through Terminus' power lance. Taking the ends of the staff, he channeled his might through it and incinerated the riders. The Celestial armor shards that had pierced his back were all violently expelled, the shrapnel tearing into Uatu through the armor.
The Anti-Monitor grinned, as this happened just as before. As it has been repeated time and again for the destroyer multiverses. The gods became so predictable. When the cavalry forces fell, the true powers of the gods would step up, rising to face him. As the Anti-Monitor regenerated and began stalking through the solar flares of the sun. He will show them what he has learned from destroying them over, and over, and over again.
- "Anthony? Anthony Stark? Wake up."
A soothing but firm female voice shook Tony Stark awake. Anthony Stark, the man who was Iron Man, woke up to find himself in a golden hall with beautiful half-naked women around him. Tall, powerful, sexy. They removed the ruins of his armor and bade him rise. Tony stood up naked in shock and wonder, his last waking memory was feeling his heart explode in his chest and he went into blissful death just as the fires of re-entry and his damaged armor incinerated him.
The maidens rubbed and oiled his body clean and Tony thought aloud to himself.
"I'm in heaven, and I'm not even religious."
He closed his eyes and waited for nirvana, then felt the cool push of metal on his chest. Unusually familiar. Tony opened up his eyes and looked on as some of the maidens attached more armor to his pelvis, ankles, knees and wrists. Some of the other maidens began to fully undress and bind leather and armor onto themselves, the bright plumage of their headpieces giving them away.
"Valkyries." he whispered aloud.
"Very good, Mister Stark, quick and sharp. You have earned your 'great reward', your place along side the honored warriors Valhalla." spoke a weary and wise voice from behind him
Tony turned to recognize Odin's Grand Vizier, chief council and scientist, from the number of time's he had been in the presence of prince Thor and the noble court of Odin. Beside him stood the proud Hephaestus, from the Olympian pantheon. Behind them the armor clad Brunhilde looked over her care. He almost face-palmed himself except for the beautiful valkyrie adjust a replica of his gauntlet to his hand, finally taking in his situation.
"We must admit, it was not a true warrior's death in noble combat, but you did get the viking funeral part of it right."
"Why am I brought back? Is the threat over? Does Lord Odin know I am technically agnostic?"
"Much has happened while you have... transitioned... and All Father Odin leads no longer amongst the immortals. All Father Thor, however, now rules in his place. Even as he dreams the Odin-Sleep, he has called for you, back from where ever your beliefs take you."
"Thor brought me here?"
"Lord Thor requested you specifically, even from his dreams, and we got you on a technicality. Your death fit most of the criteria. Now you serve in the Einherjar, the chosen warriors of Valhalla. Although your role as Iron Man has given you special experience which we need you to take once more."
"You will serve as body guard to a V.I.P.,as you one did to "Tony Stark". Care for the All Father Thor until he reawakes from his Odin-Sleep. (which must be soon, I am afraid, since we will sorely miss his might.)"
Hephaestus broke in.
"I've taken a look at your mortal designs and did the best I could to duplicate your original armor craftsmanship. Not bad, mortal. I've made some.. enhancements. Some stuff you will not need, since you are no longer mortal. The Vizier has added his own additions, as well, Golden Avenger."
The nickname took new meaning now as Tony beheld his new armor, it's capabilities
"Athena, Enki of the Sumeria and I have done some research upon the Anti-Monitor. Reviewing his methods and his conquests and found disturbing enlightenment. We gods will meet him and work our craft to insure his terror ends. But the undeniable truth is that Thor is at his mightiest when on Midgard, mortal. You must take him to your world, and help him move it back to where it once was.
The adorned bed rose, the armored form of Thor laying within. Mighty Mjolnir held tightly to his chest. His sleep was troubled and he clinched tightly to the mighty hammer. Tony Stark, now full dressed in a gold and black hybrid of his armor and the original Destroyer's, looked over his friend. The valkyrie and Defender Brunnhilde motioned to the gathered craftsmen.
"Now if you will excuse us, the Twilight of the Gods is upon us." bid Hephaestus, a smile of pride in his work as he limped off to battle.
"We got meet our end, to fight and fail, Anthony. You must not. Avenge us, son. Avenge us all."
- The true armies of the gods rose up from the bright surface of the sun. All encased in golden armor that protected them from the sun's harm, the vast force with shield and spear and sword and axe stood ready. The Anti-Monitor picked up his pace as he stalked down, flowing down the path of a solar flare. Tyr and Ares, the war gods gave signal. The assembled gods began beat on their shields as their foe quickened his step. He made for their center.
Belatu-Caldros of the Celtic gods called forth the forward motion, as Athena and Brunhilde marched along side Sif. Hero upon hero of legend knownand forgotten fell in rank and file to face this destroyer from another existence, one who wuld claim them all. The pace of the Anti-Monitor quickened and the clanging of sword-on-shield quickened to match it's footsteps. The rumbling was louder than the thunder of the burning star itself. In silent space the Anti-Monitor charged and the war cry of all the gods rang out, felt all the way to the edge of the expanding solar system. The drumming died and the gods charged forward to meet certain doom head on
Nightmare had taken the loud rumbling and banging clash heard across all that remained of existence and used it for his story, hoping to keep Franklin Richards focused on the task before him through his stories.
"... and the great suns of the world were born from gases and the sky was lit up with their fire and light, the thunder of their birth roaring through the heavens...."
And Franklin, the only being in what little but expanding bit of creation who could see his own reflection, saw the M'Kraan crystal grow, his reflection more clearer inside.
- Peter was explaining to Johnny Storm and many of the gathered heroes what had happened within the Taa II, Galactus' World Ship. Johnny could not believe it as behind them their stronger partners-in-crime, Juggernaut and the Thing, tested their might against one another. Johnny kept trying to interrupt Peter, but Peter kept singing "anything you can do I can do better..." and continued with the story. The High Evolutionary and Forge were looking over the data feed from the Super Adaptoid, wondering how the exact same ship in different modes could be so vastly different. Galen broke up their concentration: "free use of tesseracts fields ovelapping". The part of Peter's story turned to the moment Juggernaut took a shard of the damaged Crystal Heart of Cyttorak and jammed it into Peter's body to revive and protect him from phalanx infection. Peter made a gesture of size with his hands, and Johnny followed it with a space between his thumb and forefinger, getting laughs from everyone, even the Maestro.
Reed, with his cosmic awareness, looked onto Galen's ship, studying it in loving detail. Galen looked on with his own eyes, never thinking to ever see it again and remembered his own time. The Phoenix inside him began to manifest itself as did Reed's cosmic awareness and Peter's spidey-sense. The gods had made violent contact with the Anti-Monitor. The great Refuge of Sol began to rock from the forces being displayed outside the Cradle. The image of Hodiak and Zeus appeared before them, intent on making war.
"Hear us, mortals champions of this world, you must make haste to flee this refuge. The undoing has begun and the Skyfather's will hold the last line as against this bane while we can. You must take this world back from where it was plucked in order to achi-"
The manifestation stopped and the world shook again, more violently than before. Reed continued where the gods had left off.
"We need to get the whole world out of here before the Refuge looses it's magic protection. The Sun itself will end up killing us before the Anti-Monitor can finish the job. "
Forge turned to Galen, the current host of the Phoenix force.
"Can't you cosmically shift us?"
"With no time to be gentle, I would crushing you in my grip, or burn your Earth beyond the scouring the sun could do. The phoenix force on that massive scale is not subtle. Not enough time."
Peter gestured towards Galen's ship.
"Hey, Big G, I saw two computers the size of moons and more in your ship when it was in mobile home mode. How much trunkspace does this baby have when it is in sleak mode?
Already the Anti-Monitor had passed through the gates of the Refuge. The gods had done their best, but with the usurped powers of Galactus adding to his own regenerating might, the Anti-Monitor was truly unstoppable. He began to look for the prize which he sought, the one exploitable weakness that had helped him deal with all the gods of alternate realities before. The refuge in the star was a new twist to the great fortress the gods liked so much, and he passed through with ease through the weblike architecture designed by Anansi, seeking the pillars where the skyfather's had worked so hard to turn Ego into a copy of Earth to attempt to fool him. Mikobyashi had attempted the trick in one other existence, and Coyote upon another. So predictable.
As if on cue the heavier clustered regions of the Refuge opened up, releasing the Great Beasts of the North American gods upon him, led by the Panther god of Wakanda. This gave the survivors of the armies, the precious few, time to regroup and reposition themselves within the Refuge. The gods who had fallen, fell into the sun itself without protection, feeding Atum, the god-eater, if and when his might would be brought to bare.
Loki looked on as he, Mikobayashi and Coyote began to collect the thin strands of architecture the Anti-Monitor had come to pass or fight through, and rushed them to Mercury, who would pass them onto the awaiting Fates Coven, weaving it into their tapestry.
- At the edge of the sun, the surviving crew of the battered warship Skuttlebutt looked onto the damage the Anti-Monitor had cleaved through in his wake. A badly injured but healing Uatu, the broken body of Beta Ray Bill, dented and cracked Destroyer and a bleeding Thanos stood upon her bow, Uatu explaining what he was seeing to the others.
"We have no protection against the power of the convection zone of the reignited sun, no more magic coating." warned Skuttlebutt, her shields and armor already damaged from Celestial battle. All of them were, even the silent Destroyer one-armed armor, had lost the gold cover during the fight against the Celestials. The Destroyer had lost his arm and the mighty sword Grasscutter when both were plunged deep into the last Celestial.
"At top speed will would barely see the gates of the Refuge before being crushed and burned simultaneously, and I can barely lift Storm Bringer, let alone summon a vortex to get us there." gasped Beta Ray through his crushed lungs.
"We're not planning on coming out, were we?" grinned Thanos.
They all nodded, the feeling mutual among them.
"To the bitter end. Hero, villain, neutral and machines."
Beta Ray Bill held his arm out through shattered arms out, through unendurable pain. The warship Skuttlebutt reached out with a gripping arm and clasped it's grip about Beta Ray's to keep him steady. The silent Destroyer reached out and added his own remaining hand and the three began to spin mighty Storm Bringer round, creating the vortex as Skuttlebuttcharged up and lunged into the sun after the Anti-Monitor
The shockwave of so much anti-matter meeting the concentrated solar matter nearly tore the star apart. Massive solar flares burst forth and stretched out into the expanding cosmos, claiming the planet Mercury in the devastation. Inside the ruins of the Refuge, Atum barely kept the star together, extending his will and powers he had absorbed from the dead gods into himself. But the strain was nearly impossible to bear, since the Skyfather's combined might was not available to him. Even with his will focused upon keeping the sun stable, he could feel the Anti-Monitor regenerate himself before him. The full power of his foe would bear down on him soon, and Atum could barely stabilize the star, let alone fight back.
But the Anti-Monitor didn't come for him. Instead he continued his hunt, something of more interest to him than the eater of gods.
And then he found them, still weaving, in a corner of bright light that did not destabilize behind his onslaught. Hidden in a whirling golden globe of bright light powered by Dagger, the partner of Cloak. The coven of Fates of the pantheons raised their hoods in awe as the Anti-Monitor stopped the globe in his hands and crushed the protective shell around them. They had not planned on being discovered.
And to the Anti-Monitor's surprise, the Fates were still weaving their great tapestry, the different groups now working as one. They were filling in the pattern of the fates of this universe, desperately weaving to postpone the end. This is what the Anti-Monitor searched for, the one true talisman that even the gods of this universe were bound to. He had destroyed the tapestries of fate, and now the last thread of the great multiversal weave would snap in his hands, and then he could shatter the M'Kraan and bring utter devastation to the omniverse. How they had been able to continue it after their respective realms had perished was a wonder he did not care for. Here they were, vulnerable, and finally his. Even the great Atum knew he was done for, the power that would bring back the dead gods found out. The Anti-Monitor truly knew what he was doing. He was leaving truly leaving no means of salvation, no backdoor clause to escape from.
Dagger stepped up and flung a torrent of her light daggers at him. The Anti-Monitor laughed, the gods were not able to stop him, how could a mere mortal do him damage? With a wave of his hand the great being incinerated Dagger and the spirits of destiny from the Earth pantheons. The perished before even one could let out a shreik. They were no more. Atum finally decided to act, the star finally stable. The Anti-Monitor reached down and grabbed the weave of fates and held it up before him, with Atum turning into the Demigorge and pouncing on his back and beginning to tear the Anti-Monitors arms off. But the Anti-Monitor breathed dark flame to the weave from his mouth, that contained the image of Atum, son of Gaea. The god eater vanished.
The Anti-Monitor began to heal and tear at the Weave of the Fates, and then the agony hit him. More so than just mere physical damage, the true agony tore at his very being, his concept of existence. The Anti-Monitor looked on as he could not add more damage to the weave and bare pain that could not be repaired. It was like tearing himself apart.
How was this done he wondered?
In the place where he had seen the face of Atum, he traced the images of the weave and found the Fates themselves written into the pattern of existence, and found his own image inside the weave. It was near one of the trailing ends that was blank, just short of the end. tThe Anti-Monitor could see parts of the fabric written in threads of gold, the same strands that he had passed through upon entering the refuge in combat with the gods. He found spiderweb like gleam of strands leading from him and mixed into the gold tapestry that hadhis face upon it. To his horror he found himself part of the tapestry. He had always found himself outside of the weave, since he was not part of this natural universe. Now, to his shock, he found himself in the place left for Thor and one other. And that voice spoke out behind him.
"Nothing is written....., except for your end, Anti-Monitor."
Behind him the Anti-Monitor turned, only to find receive a staggering blow. Thanos and the Destroyer pounced on him, venting their unparalleled fury against him. Thunder cracked from behind the two warriors and took out the Anti-Monitor's footing. Beta Ray Bill stood atop the ruins of Skuttlebutt, and the adopted Korbonite protector cut loose with Storm Breaker at the final support structures of the place. The great refuge finally fell apart, with no god to support it, and the gods inside burned battling the Anti-Monitor, Thanos and the Asgardian Destroyer unyielding in their assault as they plunged into the core of the star.
The exhausted Uatu had taken the edge of the tapestry of fates, the beginning and the end, and pushed on beyond the sun's surface after Galen's ship. The Anti-Monitor had played into the cunning god's trap vulnerable, but with no one able to take advantage of the vulnerability except the Earth's last defenders. He crossed across the black void and too hope, as he saw stars once again within near space as the universe began to return. Earth's heroes could yet salvage the great scheme to be rid of the Anti-Monitor, once and for all.
Tony Stark had managed to carry Thor upon his with one-handed ease, the might of this new armor was beyond what he theoretically able to achieve. The armor responded faster and with ease, yet for all of it's divine craftmanship still displayed like most recent state-of-the-art armor model. He had wondered how to best carry Thor to Earth, but when he had arrived to the Cradle, his homeworld was gone. Pulling up the armor's tracking systems, it gave him the signs that the planet was gone, what path it had taken, residual energy signatures of tesseract/warp activity, plotted possible course with intercept points and would you like the timestamp with that, sir?
It was beyond mere display for his headset, all the information was being fed directly into his awareness and as instantly as he thought it the armor responded. And the Cradle shook and began to crumble and the Monitor's anti-matter shockwave hit. He had seen tests of what a nuke would do to his armor if he was at ground zero. This was much much worse in size and scope. The blast kept hurling the two heroes spinning far out of the Refuge. As they hurtled from the core through the convection layer (thank you internal computers for the status, please reboot), Tony held on dearly to his friend who had given him a brought him back. He would not let go, could not.
The internal systems began giving off the all-too familiar alarms. The waves that would've disintegrated his original armor kept pounding on him, but still Tony lingered a little longer in this world. Tony was not going to go out like this again. Summoning his will of iron Tony forced his body and armor to stabilize, redirecting thrust and power to pull himself out of the tailspin. All the while he held dearly to the friend in the golden casket. As they passed onto the photosphere the Golden Avenger was finally able to work through the shockwave and correct his flight profile. The new armor behaved remarkably, able to with stand that and the solar damage.
Thor looked no more worse for wear, just some hair out of place at best. Bearing the casket of Thor to his before him, the Avenger burst forth from the sun leaving a solar flare in his wake. Breaking through into open space, he recalculated his position with what was left of the solar system. Tony had not been dead recent enough to marvel at the return of the stars, but his internal systems told him of the expansion and return of the solar system.
If the armor had incorporated star charts, then it had to possess interstellar capability. The Golden Avenger recalibrated for an intercept course, as he had exited onto the other side of the sun, different from where Galen and his craft had exited from. Bearing full bore, a solid golden ray arced across the orbital plane and followed after Galen. A proximity alarm alerted Tony Stark of something up ahead, and the broken shell of Terminus' armor lay sparking, Uatu's dead body floating limply through space. His head had been crushed, and streams of glowing emerald and silver flowing from his head into space. The recorded history of all life on Earth
Mixed in with the Terminus armor were scraps of the original but modified Destroyer armor. Tony looked on at the design of one of Odin's masterworks, and his own armor analyzed it and fed the information to his mind. It was almost overwhelming, but Tony began tocomprehend how to make one. But upon looking into the Destroyer's faceplate, at the armor's reflection, he could see what he had really become. A ghost in a shell.
As he came closer the armor detected solar plasma still lingering, just fresh from the sun. Whatever had happened he just missed it. Nothing left to do now but follow the residual plasma trails, as only one being could -
He was grabbed by shredded pieces of the Destroyer, the eyes inside it lighting up. Tony expected an attack as the eyes burst forth at his face, and recoiled expecting impact. No words were exchanged, but more knowledge was passed on as best as Tony could understand it. The spirit of the Watcher Uatu now lay within the Destroyer armor. He had escaped oblivion by going into the Destroyer body when the Anti-Monitor had caught up with him.
Uatu sensed the Anti-Monitor pursuing him. It was hard not to even with his powers, since the filaments that had been added to this delicate wave of tapestry were still connected to him, and there was a pull on it that began to become more and more lax as the Anti-Monitor caught up. Moments earlier the three mightiest beings left at the Refuge attempted to hold him while the sun collapsed, adding to the forces applied against the Anti-Monitor. Being aware of the Anti-Monitor's history, Uatu deemed sacrificing the stat Sol would be afiar trade now tht Galen could transport Earth to any of the new sstars. It had defeated him before, in the previous existence. Not so now. The Anti-Monitor was too strong, too powerful, and still had some of his essence scattered about the future
Thanos and the Destroyer were still battling him across space, clinging desperately and never relenting.The Anti-Monitor was far more concerned with the tapestry of fate, which he had been woven into. Being part of this reality and bound to it was too much, and the too powerful Anti-Monitor pursued Uatu even from within the star. Uatu had managed to tear the fragile tapestry slightly, doing further damage to the Anti-Monitor, while seeing some freshly reborn stars disappear.
Hiding the weave in his helmet, the Uatu hurled it towards Galen's ship and Earth's defenders, who could use it best as the Anti-Monitor plowed right through him in hot pursuit. The helmet had the slightest of leads, as Galen had already arrvied at Earth's orbit and would bring back Earth from tesseract collection.
Had Tony remained mortal, the knowledge would've killed him again. As his mind began to cope, the armor accelerated and hurled itself after the Anti-Monitor and Thanos who clung onto him. It had some programming of it's own.
- The androids were setting up there equipment in space when a gleaming object entered their sensors. Galen himself had been aware of it, and the approaching doom, and began to work fast with the might of the Phoenix to reassembled the equipment in time. The Awesome android caught the gleaming item, the helmet of war of Uatu and looked perplexed. There was something inside it, obviously wrapped in cloth. As he tossed the cloth away and looked closer inside he was blown apart by on energy blast. The Super Adaptoid had managed to get his own shields up as Galen collected the Tapestry of Fate, understanding what the robots could not. The shields cracked but it was enough to keep the ship and the tapestry safe. Another barrage roared by them, all of them missing this time.
The Anti-Monitor missed due to Thanos channeling his might through the Anti-Monitor's shoulder as the Anti-Monitor released an energy blast. Thanos had become truly annoying now, at this level so close to being complete, these attacks just raisedhis ire and nothing more. In between merciless attacks by Thanos upon the back of his head, he decided to end Thanos' troublesome distractions. Like an annoying flea the Anti-Monitor charged his head with anti-matter and the last blow Thanos dealt ended his existence.
Wondered how it had happened. With victory so close, and his awareness of their tactics through encounters with their alternate counterparts aiding him with their every move, they had robbed him of this sure victory. He had the power, he had the gods running, he had slain death itself and would destroy the objects that bond this last universe together, and now there were actual STARS out there defying him. His plans were slipping away. But he still held the winning hand, as he could sense the expansion of the universe slow down. He still controlled the acceleration of the end of time. The Anti-Monitor reached out with his being and pulled some of the few remaining portions of his essence scattered into the dim future and began to collapse time now. The universe expansion slowed, and reversed, as the final entropy began to kick in.
Within his extension of his being, of his cosmic awareness, the part of the Anti-Monitor that had been Galactus sensed it. He sensed the presence of Galen and stopped as the cascade of his anti-matter essence from the future coalated around him. Across space they could sense one another, facing off again.
"You..... you were dead.... I killed you."
"I got better.
The Anti-Monitor and Galen of Taa, the current host of the Phoenix force, squared off across terran orbit. The Anti-Monitor began crackling, radiating in and out of positive matter/anti-matter modes, as he began to draw in the last of his scattered essence towards him and bringing him to full power. Space around him began to collapse and the dark hybrid form of the Anti-Monitor/Galactus added the features of Eternity to his composition. Galen kept the burning Phoenix inside in check, the discipline of keeping the great appetite of Galactus in remission so important now. He had to buy time, to release the world and pass the tapestry to them. At the moment he was mere Taa'n, demi-god from another existence, last survivor of the universe before. He dared not risk fighting the Anti-Monitor with the Tapestry and the M'Kraan so close. And the Earth and it's defenders were vulnerable within his tesseract machine.
"The Terrans like the expression, and I find it fits, you abominiation."
"We are abominations, Galen. Bastards, beings who do not belong in this existence and yet here we are, probably the last two beings alive except for your automatons. The last two."
"There is yet natural life of this existence here, Monitor, life which will deny and defy you til the end."
"What is left to defy me? The end... is here.
Do you not feel it, Galen? Do you recognize the feeling? Entropy all around you? I take my time with you, Galen of Taa. I take these last minutes of existence before you I grow stronger as this last gasp of your universe dies. Part of you that was your powers and position that flows in me still holds a unique kinship. My own brother in my reality attempted to destroyed me, and the Celestials believed I was one of their own. But with you I share uniqueness, from opposite ends of creation and destruction we come. We come to claim, to conquer and to destroy without equal. Now only one of us will move on, and I do not believe it will be you. I was plucked from my own world in between it's destruction and recreation, while you were the true last survivor of your finality. You truly have ben utterly destroyed, while still have remnant of me that lingered and sustained me across time. What is it like to cross over? Tell me as I rip you to pieces."
"Something you will not know, Anti-Monitor. You need a few things still before you cross over. You need this existence to truly finally end."
"- moments away -"
"You will still need my ship to navigate the strands of oblivion and re-creation, before I destroy it myself."
"And you need to be freed from life and your bonds to this universe. Loki was playing you with the truth, goading you to enter the Great Refuge and entwine yourself within this existence. And with Mistress Death dead, you cannot die a natural death here. This existence will end and your reign of terror will end with us, and no further. Destruction is what you are made for, it seems self-destruction is also within in your nihilistic nature."
Galen flipped on the tesseract equipment and tossed in the long but fragile Tapestry of Fate. The Anti-Monitor, massive now and part of the receding cosmos stepped forward after it, only to be hit by power cosmic as Galen showed his own additions to his might, the fury of the Phoenix force now brought to against him and the remnants of Galactus's might within the Silver Surfer now channeled inside his armor. The emblem of life burned on his silver chest, the wings of fire roaring behind him. And the Anti-Monitor stopped in mid-charge, the resemblance to his most ancient and despised foe too hard to ignore.
The Anti-Monitor's thoughts were broken when twin beams of energy and a mighty hammer cracked wide his head, as Phoenix force tore into him on it's own. Thor and Tony Stark, the Golden Avenger, bore down upon the Anti-Monitor. Their speed far beyond anything they had known before, and All Father Thor struck mightily for his fallen fellow gods.
"Fiend! Thou shall pay dearly for the suffering you have wrought!"
The Anti-Monitor laughed as he began to reform, his head looking more cosmic than ever. Again, as before the stars went out, and this time Sol was dying the stars, too. Galen called them forth.
"GO! Follow the tapestry! Link it to the M'kraan! I will hold him as long as I can."
With a sweep of power of life in the universe, the Phoenix struck a blow that hurled the Anti-Monitor to the far edge of collapsing space. The Anti-Monitor crashed into nothingness, the nothingness that had claimed the Dreaming Celestial and burst forth from it burning with rage and fury.
Thor motioned to stay as well, but the Avenger positioned himself to back him. but Galen hurled them into the tesseract with ease. And where once might star Sol existed, where the gods had created their great refuge, the two beings from other existences clashed that filled the remaining existence with pure light and darkness filling all.
In the stasis field that encapsulated Earth, all was silent among the planets last inhabitants slept in tranquil hues of blue. The defenders and space refugees of Earth were in suspended animation within the tesseract container, stored for safe keeping. The most powerful consciousness, however, were still awake, still alert to every danger. They had been listening in from the astral plane as the Phoenix entity communicated to them the encounter between Galen and the Anti-Monitor. Turmoil was changed to joy as the hammer of Thor hit. The surviving heroes rejoiced upon the dawning awareness that their departed comrades had returned (no one stays dead for ever), and where hope had been a little glimmer it now burned bright, courage and inspiration filling them all.
Without even moving from the very spot he was transfixed in, Mr. Fantastic began to conjure machines from his silent lab, his mind creating anything he could think of, preparing for whatever may come. Anything he could concieve, he could create. Beyond telekinetics, beyond reality manipulation, the machines began to manifest themselves as fast as Reed could think them up, made up of the same pure force that his wife could manifest, pure with much much more intricate detail. The Phoenix's absence meant Galen the confrontation with the Anti-Monitor had escalated, and they needed to be ready. Ororo extended her own will out and beyond, her caressing "arms" of Earth's gravity catching the plummeting tapestry close to the Gateway City. Xavier kept the other leaders of the super powers aware of what transpired while the rest of the living earth slept.
The other minds welcomed contact with Thor and the Golden Avenger, as their still forms descended down towards them. Even with the full raw power of his father Odin now roaring inside him, mighty Thor could not move in the stasis field. No one could actually move within the tesseracts containment, save one. Franklin Richards looked on at the still world and walked, the glowing M'Kraan crystal held in his hands. Something of it's tremendous size should not be possible to lift for a boy so young, but lift it he could, as if it was a feather. Silent shadows followed him in the blue, faces manifest themselves within the darkness, but unable to move once light had appeared. One face he knew to be the ferocious Hunter in Darkness, he who formerly Logan. The other happier face was of the young girl he had known during his first encounter with the X-men, Kitty Pryde, the Shadowcat. Unable to speak, the kind and harsh faces kept guiding him from the unfamiliar royal pavillion of the Shi'ar Behemoth starship. It had been converted to Imperial chambers and the best place to defend the royal highness Lilandra, and it was meant to defend him. Now as he stepped out and could feel Ororo's warm presence on the very ground he walked on, he entered the open loading area beyond the ship and saw the tapestry falldown from the sky to him. Gently setting down the M'Kraan beside him feet the boy jumped up and caught the tpestry, which shrunk to fit his hands.
Even with his own vast powers the boy could feel the power of the talisman in his grip. The new but fragile weave told the story of the gods, the images telling him the story as it had been told to him by Nightmare. The fabric began to move and flow and come alive in his hands, stories of life and death and epics unfolded, but he silently pulled back as he looked down on the tears and damaged portion of the weave, then onto the from the material the image of the Anti-Monitor. The image was of his current form was sown into gold weblike threads upon the silver/white material. As he stared into the intricate details, the figure of the Anti-Monitor jumped out at him and attempted to attack him.
- The Anti-Monitor fought furiously against Galen, the very embodiement of life itself tearing housed by this being who had been the end of so many lives. Reality around them began to break and crumble, the burning red slashes of the Phoenix talons and psychic screams wounding deeply at the Anti-Monitor's being. The power of the gods had been external assaults, nothing to his core.
The Phoenix was attacking him on the level of life force. Galen also began channeling his will through the protective Silver coating towards the parts of the Anti-Monitor that had been Galactus, the link between master and Herald still strong. The attacks diverted the focus Anti-Monitor, but still the being from beyond pulled forth the matter fabric of the universe and attacked Galen with it. Galen could not allow this to continue for much longer, the fight damaging what he fought so valiantly to save. And he was not free to use the one tool that could help him, the Ultimate Nullifier still inside his ship.
- Reed's machines began to work and click away inside the tesseract, containment field or no containment field. Harnessing the blue fields that had kept the in stasis to for power, the machines began to work, gathering data. Reed's head began to glow, the cosmic awareness manifesting in silver strands free-flowing from his greying sides. His eyes glowed as his mind expanded to comprehend all that was occurring, all the power around him and he began to think, to calculate, the work out the solution in that great mind of his. At last, illumination hit him and his eyes glowed brightly.
His knowledge was passed onto the psychics and to his loved ones of what his plans would require, of what was being asked and what was being risked. The gods had a good plan, but it had not gone far enough. Where the immortals failed, they must triumph. Silent acknowledgement passed along. They had to be free of this escape route turned prison. And as the leader of the final strike was chosen, the sword that had resting on his hip glowed and flowed into the elderly form.
Franklin jumped back as the terrifying figure thrust out at him, but it could not escape the weave, the gold threads restraining it within the fabric. Franklin's eyes glowed and a blast of energy escaped the frightened boy, knocking the gripping figure back into the weave. Franklin was relieved until he saw what he had done and begun to panic. Some of the gold threads no longer were there woven over the avatar of the still Anti-Monitor, and the tapestry was damaged. The boy began to whimper and despair, with no one to help him, sorry for what he had done. A soothing voice entered Franklin's head, trying to calm the boy down. Reed Richards spoke to his son.
"Remember what we spoke out, about bring strong and brave before bullies, son."
The very air around Franklin began to waver and bend, the loving look of his mother Susan Richards, the Shield Maiden, saying more words of love and encouragement than a thousand gentle loving words. The very Earth beneath his feet also radiated out, Ororo sending out comfort. All of the heroes he had known reached out, tapped by the psychics and in his mid Franklin could feel their strength flow into him, their love and courage. His friends he had made during the recent crisis, his friends in Power Pack; the extended member of the Defenders; the extended X-men; the Avengers, his family the Fantastic Four and the man who decorated the very pajamas he wore as he listened to Nightmare's bedtime story, the Amazing Spiderman. The boy wiped away a tear and held back a sniffle and looked once more at the terrifying face of the monster once more. He dreaded it, but he could face it now.
"We all need you to be strong one more time, son. You need to free us before the Anti-Monitor recovers"
In his mind, his father spoke again. More, he projected his awareness of blue planet hovering within the blue statis field, the field within the tesseract machine, the battle outside the tesseract container, of Galen Phoenix gaining the upper hand as the Anti-Monitor had been hit hard by the feedback of Franklin's assault, of the large, dark and sleek ship of Galen, and the releasing controls within the command desk, right next to the Ultimate Nullifier.
"You can do it Franklin."
"I don't know if I can do it alone."
"You won't be alone. You will never be alone", the voice in his head spoke. And it echoed the voices behind him. "You have us."
Franklin turned to find Power Pack behind him, free from the stasis field.
"Your dad's machine drew in enough power from tesseract to free something small, so he freed us."
- Richards began to work again, his thoughts racing to figure out how to achieve his goal as his machies were reconfigured to work on the tesseract. As his mind and plans went through the rest of the assembled super powers. Peter Parker, the Scarlett Spider spoke in his head.
"You're sending your son to face that monster, Reed?"
"I am sending the most powerful child to face a bully, Peter. You should understand, and know how hard it is for me. But he will succeed. I don't want him or the kids in here once he does."
- The Anti-Monitor had at last drawn all of his essence from the end of time around him, as the Big Crunch had begun to manifest itself at the out edges of space. It did him no good, as did the absorbed might of Galactus, as the feedback from Franklin attack completely unhinged his ability to "be" coherent. Galen Phoenix took advantage of the weakness and tore into him, rending him laid low. Now the blazing form of Galen, looking very much like the power of the next existence that had rendered him low so often before, stod over him as he had stood over the fallen form of Galactus.
The idea sprung to him, and took advantage of it. Reaching with is might into the powers he had absorbed from Galactus, the Anti-Monitor channeled his agony through the bond of power cosmic into the finest of Galactus' creations, the sheath of Silver that was the Silver Surfer. The agony rattled Galen, burning out the power of the Phoenix as he experienced the agony the Monitor was going through using the link between the might of Galactus and Galen.The Anti-Monitor stood up, now complete, and slowly began to reassembling himself. No essence left to draw upon, but once he healed he would be at full power, and the Crunch grew bigger, beyond black hole intensity. Destroying the tesseract container would destroy the M'Kraan and the Tapestry of Fate within, and he would be free to take the Galen's ship into the next existence. Just a few motions.
The Anti-Monitor reached back and charged up his now healed hands to send anti-matter blast out towards the tesseract machinery, when something small crawled out of the swirling blue event horizon. A lone child pushed himself through the damage of torn space and stood up with fists clenched at his side. At last, Franklin Richards of the Fantastic Four faced off against the full power of the Anti-Monitor
Charles Xavier stood ready to lend a hand to the boy, the courage and inner strength of Daredevil; Odin Thor; Iron Man; Steve Roger's, the new Captain Universe; among the many lending their hearts to the boy. But the boy did not need the assist, to his credit. The titanic figure of the Anti-Monitor loomed before the boy and he did not back down. The ultimate David vs. Goliath confrontation, as it must have been so many thousands of years before. before.
- Part of Reed wanted to continue looking on in awe and pride as his only son faced off against the greatest threats to the universe before, the Anti-Monitor and the Big Crunch. The plan was still in progress and every second counted. Mr. Fantastic continued to accelerate the re-structuring of his machines he had earlier made to see beyond the confines of the tesseract. They would all need to be soon, as the stasis field began to break down in the presence of the Big Crunch. The laws of physics were going out the window and being here in the tesseract when the universe collapsed would not be an ideal thing. so much though rested on the members of Power Pack.
- The Anti-Monitor grimaced, it's scowl visible even through it's dark armor. The part of him which had been Galactus registered the unbelievable truth - this mere boy posed the greatest threat to him yet. So much power rested within the boy that the he even began to suspect the child to be part of whatever controlled the omniverse. Still, he was also just a mere boy. A boy standing in torrid space with no protection against the void of empty space and the gravitational pull of the Big Crunch with ease. No, nothing to be concerned about at all. The Anti-Monitor had bested god-kings and pantheon armies, even the Living Tribunal himself. The child should pose no-
A psychic blast erupted from the boy, and solidly hit the Anti-Monitor. At first there was no sign of any effect. The Anti-Monitor charged up his eyes and would begin to cut loose until an arm sprung out from his very midsection and the hand blocked his face. The hand of Galactus. The energy discharge still erupted from his eyes but it went no where but back in his face. The Galactus hand disintegrated away from him, and the modified form of hybrid form of the Anti-Monitor/Galactus became unstable. Galen had been knocked out by the feedback, still floating towards the Big Crunch, but he was not the source of this turmoil from within. Franklin had been able to manifest it from within the Anti-Monitor.
The Anti-Monitor recovered quickly, turned and lashing out his rage in a furious wave of cataclysmic energies that rocked what little was left of creation. Still the young boy stood his ground and hovered over the edge of the tesseract, the wave of destruction barely pushing him back. Franklin's eyes charged up again as the Anti-Monitor channeled anti-matter once more, the beams of creation deflected by the destruction of the union of matter and anti-matter at the command of the Anti-Monitor. The boy began to pour it on, hoping to push beyond the crackling energies shielding the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor let fly his all, the anti-matter universe inside him flowing forth, harnessed with Galactus' usurped energies to disrupt Franklin's assault.
- The Power Pack children snuck onto Galen's ship, their K'lyn space suits assisting them in the travel through tormented space. Lightspeed carrying them across during Franklin's first assault. Once inside Galen's ship, the unique properties of the craft kept them safe, having survived travel through absolute destruction between three different existences. The ship kept steady during this assault. From within the bridge, the children looked out in awe of the amount of power their friend now contained within, to power to freely create with ease. Alex and Julie power, remembering their father's own experiments with anti-matter, now marveled out the amount of anti-matter pouring forth from the crackling Anti-Monitor, what looked like a whole universe of it contained within him frothing out and churning like liquid lighting at Franklin. The universe expanded and contracted violently around them, space distorting and plunging into the Crunch.
Professor X's astral form kept them in contact to Mr. Fantastic. Reed guided Jack and Julie how to maneuver the ship to cover the tesseract entrance, so that the ship's remarkable structure could protect whatever emerged from withn it from the powers of creation and destruction colliding before them. Alex gathered the Ultimate Nullifier and held it warily, aware that any stray thought may trigger the mechanism in his hand and end them all. The children rushed to move the ship into place, Katie activating the release of the tesseract field. Then, with the assistance of her brother Alex (and Reed's guidance), she used the ship's tractor beam to bring in the comatose form of Galen Phoenix before he plunged into the Crunch.
The Anti-Monitor began using the Crunch to his advantage, using the Crunch to funnel off some of the vast cosmic energies released by Franklin and letting his anti-matter blasts push further and further past Franklin's defenses. The child actually began to glow and hover beyond the tesseract's edge, the glowing figures of worlds, beings and symbols flowing from his mind as he created them and hurled at the Anti-Monitor.
Initially the Anti-Monitor weakened under the assault, but the Crunch was getting stronger, swallowing up more of Franklin's creations with each passing second. The end was about to happen. The Anti-Monitor had finally been able to affect Franklin, as the boy got hit with an anti-matter cascade. Now Franklin screamed, his energies turned to saving himself from fading into nothingness as had the previous cosmic powers, willing himself to exist despite anti-matter corrupting with his own form.
From within the ship another fight broke out. Katie fought with her brother Alex over the Ultimate Nullifier, as she wanted to go out there and help her friend with the only other weapon that could.
"We have to help him!" she screamed over tears to her brother. The ship had no weapons of it's own, all they could do was just watch.
"Not with that! We don't know how to use that!"
The other two children began to alter the controls to possible ram Galen's ship into the Anti-Monitor, when the command school teacher's voice of Charles Xavier forced them to stop.
Xavier's form had gone, calming the children down and returned to his body. The tesseract container began to activate, and new players took to the field. Help was on the way.
Franklin's struggle against the anti-matter ceased as an invisible barrier began to encase the boy, then pushed out and threw back the anti-matter back towards the hungry Crunch. A bright beam of gold burst through from under the base of the Galen's ship and zig-zagged through the crackling anti-matter, missing every wave with ease until it was on top of the Anti-Monitor and then a bright burst power poured out, hitting the parts of the Anti-Monitor that were still Galactus' matter, turning the tide of anti-matter into a mere ebb. A second invisible blade of force pushed through the rippling anti-matter and cut agonizingly into the Anti-Monitor, rendering him whole and sealing off the anti-matter. From the tesseract a large hand of blue force pushed Benjamin Grimm onto the top of Galen's ship, with Mr. Fantastic flowing up from the containers surface to meet him. Reed's other glowing blue hand reached out and pulled his son to him.
The boy was fading in and out of reality again, when the form of his mother solidified next to him, and the combined powers of his father and mother made him solid once more. Susan Richards held her son close and brushed the exhausted boy's head. She turned her attention back to the Anti-Monitor, who seemed to be attacked by the Johnny Storm with Nova blasts from hundreds of different direction near simultanously. The force field blade she commanded turned once more inside the Anti-Monitor, keeping him from focusing his might.
"Ya did good kid. Now let the grown ups have a chance ta scold him for ya."
Both parents kissed their son's forehead and Reed moved him towards his awaiting companions within Galen's ship. From within his flexible form Reed plucked out the M'Kraan and placed it next to the silent but breathing form of his son, Franklin Richards.
"C'mooooon Reed, we can't let the matchstick have all the fun. The universe need's savin' again."
Mr. and Mrs. Richards held hands, united one more time to fight side by side along with their family. Using their combined powers the Shield Maiden pushed forth a channel through the remaining anti-matter while Reed used his flexible form to push the Thing through the Galactus' defenses wielded by the Anti-Monitor. Rocketing towards the Anti-Monitor, The Thing let loose his battle cry.
"IT'S CLOBBERING TIME!!!
Benjamin wound up and swung for the rafters. There is no clang in space, no sound that can be heard, but the connection of Ben Grimm's fist with the body of the Anti-Monitor caused him to vibrated horribly. The impact shock wave rumbled up the villian's body, concaving in and leaving a massive dent upside his chest. For all the force of the blow, the Anti-Monitor did not rock back, nor did Benjamin ricochet off as so many others had before. He kept pounding away on the same spot with speed and power Benjamin never knew he had before, the power primordial of the Champion within him let loose upon the Monitor.
Johnny continued a high speed hit-and-run maneuvers, running a speed blitz all about the Anti-Monitor, releasing incredible amounts of on the Monitor surface. He accelerated any elements to neutralize any anti-matter that began to form, burning the Anti-Monitor's dark armor and leaving visible glowing trails on his frame. Reed backed up Ben's barrage with weapon blasts from devices of his own conceiving rising out of the tesseract, and hits of his own energy-charged elastic fists. And Susan began to form constructs of spikes and spheres within the very body of the Anti-Monitor himself, not allowing him to focus any anti-matter at them. The Anti-Monitor began crouching down from the assault, but never did he move away, never did he step back or recoil from the attacks.
He began to stand up and fed on the energies they were expending on him, drawing in their power using Galactus' abilities. Johnny felt the strain first and rushed to reach Ben before he burned out. The pull and drain made rapid movement nigh impossible, gaining only a few hard-earned yards with every second as the Anti-Monitor began consuming them. Reed commanded one of his machines to hurl itself at the Anti-Monitor, and Ben was able to kick off the wreckage far enough so they were far enough away to reach an escape velocity. Johnny flew them over to the ship, with the Anti-Monitor chased after them, like a boxer moving in for the kill. Not even Susan force fields, Reed's manifestations made real, or Johnny's Nova blasts were able to hold him back. And he was upon them, his glowing form in sharp contrast over his dark features, with the Crunch directly behind him, taking their powers into himself.
The Anti-Monitor raised his hands over the ship and the Fantastic Four, nearly drained now, crumpled on the top of the ship. The Anti-Monitor blasted down and only Sue's shields keeping the assault at bay. There was an affect, as the four heroic individuals all went black, their bodies being scoured by the feeding process. Still Sue kept her shields up, no real life in her but the will to protect her family to the very last. Streaks of blue, gold and cobalt silver then flew out from the tesseract, staggering the Anti-Monitor, ceasing his draining of the four heroes. The blows were enough to pause the Anti-Monitor's attack, and he turned to see who else had come to die at this point.
The twin gleams of blue and silver, arced and returned to where it had come, the awaiting hand of red white and blue of Steve Rogers, Captain Universe. Behind at his side stood the other two members of the Avenger's supreme trinity: the All Father Thor in regal battle armor and the Golden Avenger Tony Stark, he who was once Iron Man. The shield was lowered as the Anti-Monitor's eyes flared bright, twin narrow beams cutting into the assembled group with anti-matter spewing from his mouth. The wonderous shield of Captain Universe deflected it all, the anti-matter redirected towards the yaw of the Crunch, which rumbled as it ate it up, flashing the environment with light. The steely resolve of Steve Rogers' eyes gleamed above all over the rim of his shield, locking eyes with the Anti-Monitor. Behind him the Golden Avenger and Thor cut loose once again, as mystic mallet and intensified repulsor beams let fly. The attack hit solidly, rocking the Anti-Monitor's steady footing, but the Anti-Monitor recovered quickly and charged Avenger's on rim of the tesseract, kicking Galen's ship out of the way and rushing to the new source of attacks.
The Avenger's trinity rushed out to meet him head on, simultaneously attacking him from three different vantage points, Captain Universe at the core of their counter attack, the shield taking much of the damage and applying most of his own. The mighty Thor waged war upon the Anti-Monitor from his left, the song of Mjolnir sung once last time at the end of all things. The mighty hammer Mjolnir came down up the left wrist of the Anti-Monitor, sending tendrils of lighting and force up and down the monster. Below, the Golden Avenger combined his might and repulsor blasts to upon the right should and face of the Anti-Monitor. As they trio fought, Galen's ship and the individuals who were aboard her moved through space out of control, quickly approaching the event horizon of the Crunch
The Anti-Monitor began to crackle again with anti-matter, one half of his body generating the hazardous material, the other attempting to focus and drain the life from the Avenger trinity currently engaging him. All Father Thor led the attack, having the most experience fighting giants of outragous power. They kept the fight close, within the extremities of the villain and not allowing him to focus his attacks. Whenever one hero would seem to be caught, the other two would launch a barrage to free the other up. Even when the Anti-Monitor began to generate a omnidirectional blast, the shield or hammer would strike and dissipate the energy within the monster before it could be released. And yet again the Anti-Monitor, now drained changed tactics. His massive size proving a liability to hide under, the Anti-Monitor shrunk and concentrated his vast powers, warping his armored body into a smaller, more compact version of himself.
A black field of nebulous energy began to froth from his glowing ports, and bleed out like a slow moving fog bak around him. The hurled shield pierced the dark fog, going through it at hit without any signs of loss of function. Mjolnir was slammed down again against his surface the mystic energies of Thor were redirected through the Anti-Monitor's body at his allies. The Golden Avenger simultaneously shot up a repulsor barrage from below, which prismed in and out of the Anti-Monitor and struck the two Avengers. The Anti-Monitor began channel and increasing the strength of the attacks on himself out towards the other Avengers. As he had copprupted and increased the energies launched against him. As he had increased and corrupted the abilities of his minions throughout his campaign for conquest, so he would do to these three. Energy attacks proved to be just as dangerous to the attackers as to the Anti-Monitor, turning their attacks against them. Now they had to come in close and fight him hand-to-hand, the dark fog around him making the smaller Anti-Monitor a harder target to see within, just the glow of his eyes, his hands and his armor.
They three heroes came in for close combat, the Anti-Monitor in between them, focusing his might on Captain Universe. The Golden Avenger and All Father Thor poured on their might from the side and from behind, but the Anti-Monitor did not relent his focus on Cap. Something about Cap defied his will to corrupt, he could sense it. Already though, the new tactic was working. Tony Stark was showing some tarnish on his armor, and Thor's assault on him increased with rage, soon a berserker rage would be upon him and corrupt him. And then it happened. The Golden Avenger came in close, reaching over the head of the Anti-Monitor from behind, pressing his hands against the Anti-Monitor forehead and releasing a barrage, hoping to stop the optical blasts pouring down upon Cap and his shield. The energy immediately bounced right back at him, ad then Tony bounced away, still shooting his repulsors out, hitting an enraged Thor. Thor no longer focused his rage on the Anti-Monitor but instead turned onto he who was Iron Man, Mjolnir let fly from his hands and clanging against his friend and comrade in combat. The two heroes turned on each other, leaving Cap alone to fight the Anti-Monitor.
- Galen's ship and the Fantastic Four had been caught by the pull of the Crunch. The kids had managed to bring Franklin's family in close to the hull using the tractor beam, but couldn't risk opening the craft up and bring them board without getting swept up into the Crunch. All power was diverted to tractor beam, keeping the Four together on the exterior of the hull, no power to make an attempt to break away. They circled for a second pass around the collapsing edge and began noticing their screams and actions slow down from their thoughts. They had come to the event horizon of the Crunch. Time dialation.
From the bridge they saw the Watcher's body, further ahead of them, spin ad distort as it was pulled into the Crunch, along with debris from the Destroyer. The main bulk of the Destroyer was also about the plunge in when a red strand shot out and caught him, and then the exterior of the ship was alight in red glow. The children in Power Pack had followed the lines out of the glowing strands and saw Dr. Strange emerge from the tesseract surface, lifting up a host of heroes on a glowing platform. The Juggernaut had his hand on the Scarlett Spider's should, channeling his energies to him as Peter Parker had been the one to catch them in his webs. Together, the two began pulling the ship, the Fantastic Four and the Destroyer armor back from the brink
Charles Xavier coordinated the next wave on the assault on the Anti-Monitor, wary of the cosmic villains mind and vast array of powers. The Skull Squadron rode out into the bleak oblivion, burning a trail to the Anti-Monitor over the raging and collapsing space. Mystic chain links of adamant and hellfire blasts burst forth from the riders, igniting the dark fog around the Anti-Monitor. Steve took advantage of the new distractions to slam his shield straight up into the Anti-Monitor's face then propel himself off of his foe after his two fellow battling Avengers, locked in a struggle against one another as they floated towards the Crunch.
These the Anti-monitor was more familiar with, following the old tactics of the Pantheon cavalry. Three fronts, three different sects of coordinating attack patterns. Three whirlwinds of motorized red hell swirling around him. To the Skull Squadron's credit when one of the riders was hit by the Anti-Monitor's attempts to repel them, the others did not crash either. Some had managed to rescue their fellow rider and had them ride shotgun (literally) on their machines, one drove, one would attack. A few were not recovered and they were blasted into the Crunch. The ghost riders were beyond the anti-monitor's ability to corrupt them, burning out the dark fog that had so corrupted so many others before them. The Red Skull, taking his own chain, rammed his vehicle down the Anti-Monitor's maw as the Anti-Monitor open up to spew anti-matter at his attackers. Using his chain as a hangman's noose, the Red Skull wrapped his chain around the Anti-Monitor and pulled himself in. The Red Skull came face to face with the Anti-Monitor. Hate was met hate, and the Red Skull let loose the Penance Stare.
At last the agony of all those beings and realities that the Anti-Monitor had killed, every life taken or existence ended completely washed upon him. The innumerable deaths of this exitsence and the next, all that pain and agony rolled into his being, burning him from the inside out. No words had ever been exchanged in space during the exchange by the combatants, but for the first time in it's experience of being the Anti-Monitor screamed, it's agony muted out by the roar of the Crunch becoming bigger and bigger. On any other foe such agony would overwhelm them, but this was the Anti-Monitor, who had destroyed himself just to be able to get beyond his enemies defenses. He was burning and bound in chains of hell fire, but still he kept coming. In his own way, he enjoyed it, feeling the intimate nature of the destruction he caused. It was the very nature of his being, and thrived on it, knowing that this was what awaited every instance of creation once he got past these insignificant fleas.
Professor X noted the psychic link established by the Red Skull, and took the opportunity. From his wheelchair body two figures leapt out into the void, the bright form of Xavier's astral body and Logan's dark shadow wraith. The followed the hellfire and plunged into the Anti-Monitor's mind.
- Peter Parker and Cain Marko, the bearers of Cyttorak's might, attempted to reel in the wayward ship from the pull of the end of all things. Even the mighty Maestro and Namor added their power to pull Galen's ship from the Crunch. Dr. Stephen Strange conjured spells to strengthen the temporal bond of the ship and it's inhabitants. The inch by inch they pulled the great ship from the event horizon. Some of the ship had already passed into the rim, but because of it's design it had not disintegrated nor fallen into the Crunch.
The mightiest beings pulled and the were barely able to keep the ship from plunging in, but the Crunch grew larger. It would be impossible to resist soon.
The kids inside the ship tried to wake up Galen to get him to help them with the ship, the Phoenix to break them free, Franklin to somehow save them. None of these powerhouses were able to come out of their trauma, the Phoenix still barely embers within the downed Galen. The stress on the ship was beginning to shake the ship, and something had to be done soon. Jack gave his siblings a silent look, and each nodded. They released the Fantastic Four from the tractor beam.
The release sent the Fantastic Four and the Destroyer hurtling back towards the awaiting hereos on the tesseract's edge, the Scarlett Spider motioning a desperate but silent plea to try to recover the kids, but the third crimson band did not make contact before the ship was sucked into the tempest. They, the members of Power Pack, Franklin Richards, Galen of Taa, the Phoenix entity, the Ultimate Nullifier and the M'Kraan hurtled into the Crunch
Namor caught the powerful members of the Fantastic Four as the heroes reeled them in. The Scarlet Spider leaped out from the platform into torrid space, one crimson band linking him to the platform the other reaching out into the Crunch for Galen's ship. It was too far gone.
Dr. Strange tended to their horrific trauma. In their original super human forms they would've perished under the ordeal, but each of their unique enhancement since the crisis began prevented the scouring of life force to do too much damage. With a some complicated chants the Master of the Mystic Arts blew apart their damaged out shells to reveal fresh living members of the Fantastic Four underneath.
Professor X and the Wolverine wraith were knocked back into Xavier's body immediately upon reaching contact with the mind of the Anti-Monitor. Theimapct was so hard the physical body of Charles Xavier was sent flying away from his chair and almost left the platform to be pulled into the Crunch if not for the Juggernauts speed and power catching them. The Penance Stare link was between the Red Skull and the Anti-Monitor alone, the fires of hate beginning to consume both combatants. The Anti-Monitor would survive. Johan Schmidt would not.
- Nightmare desired to fight alongside the mortals he had tormented earlier in life as a final act of redemption. When he understood where his charge, Franklin Richards, was, there was no second guessing the choice. The demon lord of dreams lightly tapped Xavier's recovered body and borrowed back some of his ethereal qualities from Wolverine, who now appeared solid next to Charles still form. With what little powers he still had as a dream, the embodiment of nightmares flew down the Scarlet Spider's crimson webbing and as quick as thought. Leaping from the arcing red web strand beam and leapt onto the ship, Nightmare plunged in after the ship into the Crunch. As soon as Nightmare made contact with the vessel his elegant but twisted form began to distort horribly within the Crunch, but his last words penetrated the hull of the ship and into the young mind traumatized within.
"Sleep well when next you rest, young dreamer, and dream me up all over again. But now you must wake and the end thisnightmare for all out sakes."
Pushing himself off Nightmare happily plunged himself into the Crunch, giving Galen's ship enough of a push out to spin once more around the event horizon of the large Crunch.
- At the other side of the Crunch, at the far end, two long-time friends and allies were locked in combat together, the Golden Avenger and All Father Thor, when a streak of blue light caught up with them. In a second something slipped in between the two warriors, a shield deflected mighty armored fists, a hand worthy of lifting the mighty uru hammer caught it as it was coming down. No words were exchanged int he raging vortex of collapsing space, the figure of Captain Universe reached out with his being and encased his two allies within the symbol of his shield as they touched the event horizon. The look in his eyes and compassion in his being reached out towards his friends as they began to swirl along the rim of oblivion. Gold and Silver were added to the colors of blue and the mighty core of the Avengers burst out from it, all reset on taking the fight back towards the Anti-Monitor.
- Within the vessel Franklin Richards awakened. As he opened up his eyes the hand of the young boy jumped out from one cargo bay pod to another over. His hand and grasped the hand Galen of Taa, host of the Phoenix and Franklin willed Galen conscious. Between the two of them linking hands together the ship began to actually pull itself out of the Crunch, from the very edge of time as the dark black outline burned with the power of the Phoenix. The command console light up with fire as Galen executed complex commands from the slab and the ship burst forth, escaping the pull of the widening Crunch. So strong was the force of the pull back out that for a moment once could peak across the Crunch to the other side. Only for the briefest of moments before closing back up. Galen rose up, gliding along to the bridge with Franklin at his side. The living embodiments of power opened up the portal opening and from the starboard bow they gazed at the Anti-Monitor.
The Anti-Monitor was returning to his full size, having emptied out the Red Skull of his fire and hate. His carcass was also tossed into the Crunch like a rag doll. Skull Squadron powerhouse Hauptmann Englande charged forth the spinning cavalry, his Captain Britain powers increasing his Skull Squadron/Ghost Rider abilities and managed to actually pull back the Anti-Monitor with the Red Skulls chains. From the platform the Juggernaut got a running start and hurtled himself out into the battle, the crimson bands increasing his already great speed and durability and turned him a missile. All of these coincided as the three returning Avengers took the legs from the Anti-Monitor and the Anti-Monitor was down in front of the tesseract opening, like Gulliver before the lilliputs. But the Anti-Monitor was not focused on the Earth defenders. he was focused on the ship. Before anymore people sacrificed themselves, the two great powers onboard acted in unison. Franklin Richards raised the M'Kraan crystal in his hands and Galen raised the Ultimate Nullifier and both being simultaneously triggered their powers as one.
And all was white.....
The white encased everything. Beyond sight, sound, touch, taste and feel, the presence of absolute nothingness permeated at. No up, no down, no far, no close. Beyond the astral plane or any elevated state of godhood the Anti-Monitor witnessed. But an awareness of being still. As he had been destroyed absolutely, he knew how to come out of this state of being and brought himself together, floating in the white. His experience with death and being outside of time and space were similar to this, but he knew he was still alive. And for the first time since being brought here...whole.
Had he won? Was this the blank slate of the universe to be manifested in his image. He could feel the power he originally possessed still in him, still fresh and at his peak as he had been in the previous existence. None of the might he had taken from this other universe now was accessible to him,even though he remembered it. It must have remained in the previous destroyed universe. But there was a feeling of absolute solitude and his vast powers remained. Even the crackling anti-matter within him.
Still, something was amiss. Perspective now began to manifest itself as he became aware of his size and position in things. Then the sensations of mass and gravity, all began being manifest without his permission. And there was a sound. A rumble, a crash muted from far away. It was the sound of the Crunch, he could recognize it from his proximity to it. And another sound mixed in. A crash of...waves?
The Anti-Monitor flew through the absolute whiteness following after the sound. He remembered what had happened before the white hot state of being hit. The Terran heroes and defenders had attacked him in unison and in their might brought him down and they heroes were upon him. He had been to transfixed on the boy with the M'Kraan and Galen with the Nullifier... was that it? Had he been nullified and brought into this state of being? His feet began to hit particles in the air and then his feet began to slide through fine white powder. The echoing boom of the Crunch was closer, as well as the sound of ocean waves.
How could this be? Where was he? He scooped up some of the increasing white poweder in his hands as he flew and examined it. Simple carbon/silica compounds caused by erosion, common in the universe. White, with some signs of discoloration now. And ... a smell? Sand? The Earth connection still was too hard not to ignore. His rage in his inability to explain the situation manifest as his powers disintegrated the sand in his hands and turned the thousands of miles of sand around him into black molten glass, which shattered ad broke in his destructive wake. The Anti-Monitor would have answers.
More connections were seen. A single Terran boatman's oar. Sea shell and long dead sea life. Microscopic signs of the ocean having been here. And the thunder of waves and the Crunch grew closer. Broken planks and sea nets. Fishing line and stray garbage, common to Earth in any reality. And vast, vast stretches of fine white dry sand. No sky above and no ground below, but now it felt like the planet Earth none the less. Actual air. All of this burned up behind the rage of the Anti-Monitor. Finally,some structures up ahead. The ruins of sailing vessels and flying ships. The sky above now beginning to radiate a blue-green aurora glow, and the sound of the Crunch grew closer.
And he was not alone. Out in the distance a single solitary figure walked in his direction. He would provide answers.
There were no powers being manifest by the humanoid, but power could be felt radiating from him. He walked, not flew, kicking up sand as he moved through the surface. This will be so easy. ANd he became of aware of the Anti-Monitor's presence and picked up his pace. It was one of the costumed heroes of Earth, the color scheme of his battle uniform disturbingly too much like Galactus. And where were Galen and Franklin Richards? Even from the hundred miles away, he could make out the figure unsling his weapon from his shoulders and pull a shaft from his back. A single Terran archer? The mortal man made his way to the cover of a wrecked derelict ship and climbed up to the top. As the bow was plucked and released, the simple arrow hurtled across the vast distance, far beyond the speed and power that any mere mortal should have. And as the arrow made impact, the small nuke warhead went of.
From the distance the golden bow of Apollo was lowered and the Avenger Hawkeye looked on as the shockwave stopped the Anti-Monitor, bringing him crashing down onto the sand. Pulling out three more shafts, each armed with unique warheads.
"Welcome to Florida, bitch. Where old people go to die. And your just frigging ancient. It's high time someone stuck a fork in you. You're done.
Three more arrows were flung the by archer Avenger, all hitting soundly along the shoulders. Each shaft of vibranium piercing his armor, dampening down the energy output the Anti-Monitor was generating. The Anti-Monitor rose up from the sand ground and got to one knee, his eyes filled with rage. Hawkeye jumped down and into the ships cargo hold as the optic beams cut through the very deck he was standing on. Landing in the fine sand inside Clint Barton rolled as he continued to fall, finally hitting the ships's worn hull. He kicked through it and jumped out into the cover of sand dunes as the ship disintegrated behind him. He looked up and spit out sand, no worse for wear.
"He's still got plenty of kick." He spoke up into his ear-piece.
"Let's take some of the air out of his sail, then."
From the cover of sand behind the Anti-Monitor, a dark armored form rose up, the black and white armor painted with a symbolic skull symbol. All weapons on the modified War Machine rig erupted as Frank Castle the Punisher peppered the Anti-Monitor with vibranium tipped munitions. The bullets exploded with the Trapster's most concentrated adhesive, as the vibranium shells stuck and began to absorb more energy. The Punisher war suit rose up, repulsors on full as he quickly moved to dodge the Anti-Monitor's breath. The Anti-Monitor stook up and reassessed his situation. With all these ships around, he had flown into an ambush.
Hawkeye rose up from the sand and let three more arrows fly, with different warheads. Upon hitting the Anti-Monitor concentrated Pym particles exploded from their tips,
causing the silver and blue shell of the Anti-Monitor to swell and distort as his parts of his appendages were shrunk and enlarged out of control.
"Beta team, go!"
Camoflauging herself as part of the sand Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, moved out, the Venom symbiote covering her exterior in a black and red version of her costume. Snagging a web line to the top of the anti-Monitor's head she pulled herself up and outward, the widow's stingers shooting more virbanium onto his head and armor.
The assassin Bullseye also rose from the sand, his hands a blur of speed as he threw out a dozen discs from the Wizard's arsenal, gravity disks that connected with the metal armor. Venom came around from her final and threw herself Bullseye, her speed taking him out of range of the Anti-Monitor's blasts. The Anti-Monitor energy discharge created black sand around him and he could see the buried disks within the sand hidden in the debris. The Punisher activated the disks below and the Wizard's machines began to apply concentrated amounts of focused gravity on him, keeping him from going airborne. More shafts of vibranium and Pym particles rained down on him from afar.
"Piotr, go!" screamed the Widow from underneath the mound of sand covering her and Bullseye.
A huge chunk of nearby metallic wreckage of an airplane was lifted up and hurled at the Anti-Monitor and he deflected it causally. The Russian Piotr Rasputin through more wreckage at him, and then charged the Anti-Monitor.
"Peter, what are you doing? Break off!"
"Fighting for reality with my all. Throwing wreckage it him will not slow him down. Clint... can you see me?"
"Yeah, I gotcha. You're at ground zero, Peter."
Hawkeye pulled out one of his Pym arrows and let it fly at his Russian teammate. The arrow hit squarley upon Piotr Rasputin's back and he enlarge to become a true Colussus, equal in height to the Anti-Monitor. Where a mere human gained superhuman strength at this size, the effects were tenfold upon Colossus. Standing toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor Colossus delivers a well placed blow to the midsection of his foe and then sweeps the legs with a kick to bring the Anti-Monitor down and begins to wail upon the downed Anti-Monitor with all his might.
"This is Castle, reporting in. We've engaged the Anti-Monitor at the Bermuda sands but we wont be able to hold him for long. All points converge! All points converge!!
At the edge of the tesseract, Mr. Fantastic began to tinker around with Galen's containment equipment. The silver colored burning form of Galen had pulled up his ship alongside the heroes mystic platform, and heroes exchanged quick hugs, grateful to see lost friends again. Galen was talking to Reed while Susan Storm comforted her son, proud of standing up to the Anti-Monitor. The Power Pack children talked to an amused Ben Grimm, who they had renamed the Champ. Johnny Storm coldn't help but snicker "chump" under his breath. Xavier kept in contact with the world inside the container, feeding back information to Nick. Reed's machines were breaking down the stability of the container is it released more and more super powered people from suspended animation. The Earth would need to come out soon or the containment field would collapse upon them, but the Crunch sat still waiting for them once the planet came out. And the Anti-Monitor still posed a threat.
Tony was explaining to Captain Universe and Thor what had happened. Franklin's M'Kraan enhanced powers hurtled the Anti-Monitor into the tesseract, the nullifier destroying much of what had been usurped or stolen within the great enemy. Ororo the goddess of the Earth made sure that the Anti-Monitor fell into the land mass of Florida, where most of the heroes had gathered, the star ships were close to and the natural existing nexus of realities still existed. The best way to send the freed super powers to fight the Anti-Monitor.
"So you hurled him into the Bermuda Triangle, right?" Peter Parker, the Scarlet Spider, quipped in.
"In a sense. We sent him to what you call Limbo, the space between realities, where all things can and cannot be. There we can finally defeat him."
Reed manifested another machine very akin to Doom's time platform, moving it over to the edge of the tesseract at it's very center. Galen stepped of the mystic platform and motioned for Tony and Dr. Strange to bring the remains of the Destroyer armor. No words were spoken, but the psychic message was passed onto to what was left of Uatu in the dread god-slaying machine. Uatu agreed, seeing that this what needed to happen. One end of the Tapestry of Fate was wrapped around the Destoyers neck, and clamped down with the visor, cutting off the Watcher from all information of the universe. Reed activated the machine and the Wacher within the Destroyer was tossed in, falling through the past eons on artificial time to the very beginning. Galen stood by with Franklink s both being began to apply their powers at the center of the Tapestry, and the other end was launched out and caught by the Crunch. The delicate fabric began to stretch and pull but Franklin's willpower kept it stable.
"Time to end this once and for all."
Franklin nodded silently. As his protectors and guardians stepped through the tesseract back into the Earth, Franklin and the Power Pack children stayed behind to maintain the tesseract's stability. Franklin could see their images become part of the weave, as he also saw the High Evolutionary and other known heroes and villains fight the Anti-Monitor in the weave. Then he focused his powers and burned out the gold filaments keeping the Anti-Monitor within the weave.
- The tapestry's images had been right. For all of Colussus' might he was next to nothing compared to the power that the Anti-Monitor unleashed upon him, finally able vent his fury on something. Colossus' mighy form took several hits and became permanently dented. Hawkeye sent out a mercy shot and hit Peter in a twisted shin, sending him back to his original size. Nightcrawler teleported in and recovered his friend, but Colossus lost an arm still within the Anti-Monitor's grasp. Nightcrawler teleports back in and out, placing more vibranium rods and gravity traps to replace the ones that were burning out. Taskmaster sets up next to Hawkeye and with a enhaned compound bow is able to match the Avenger archer, althought they get separated as the Anti-Monitor tears through more of the sand with optic beams. The Rogue Army and the High Evolutionary show up to the scene and being to apply keep the Anti-Monitor pinned down, but the gravity disks can no longer hold him back. The towering High Evolutionary falls back as the Anti-Monitor burns or swats dupes. Rogue after Rogue down. He finally steps beyond the trap and proceeds to where the attackers were originating from.
Then the Anti-Monitor keels over in pain, pain he has known and expected to come, but not at this time. He can now see the golden threads that bound him to a far off weave melt and fade into nothing, their enchantment on him lost forever. He stand up triumphant and at full power, the mortal devices no longer affecting him. He sends out an omnidirectional blast wave pushing back hundreds of tons of white sand and sending the nearby heroes scattered about from shockwave.
"I am FREE!!! Free to destroy all! Free from the confines of this reality! Come to me, one and all! Come to me and die, or I will come to you! It is all the same! We all end here now!"
From the scattered sand storm the Anti-Monitor can see the rocks and castle of Limbo amidst the scattered debris on far. Figures rise up along the walls, their shadowy profiles scattered by the settling sand and dust and wind. He recognizes the power on the other side of the castle walls, and behind them in through the white his cosmic awareness perceives the Crunch looming closer. This would be the last stand. And here came their response.
There is a snapping twang heard from the within the castle battlements and a small hulking object hurtles across the sand white plains before Belasco's fortress in Limbo. The object is porcelain white with silvery attachments. The Anti-Monitor prepares for the bulking contraption to explode in his face , but it just slams into him, porcelain and metal pipe and sludge slide down his face. The insult infuriates the Anti-Monitor and he charges forward.
From the battlements Peter Parker looks out, hands over his eyes as Hyperstorm stands beside him, his palm in his face. The crimson band slingshot dissipated and the Champ's (Ben Grimm) extended arms lowering back down.
"You had to let fly Belasco's kitchen sink..."
"Was worth a try. We hit him with just about everything else."
"Ooh, I'll go get the toilet. Ben's made a pit stop there before we came up top."
"Enough, you meat-heads. Cap's giving the signal."
Across the line of the rank and file, hero and villain alike, survivors al of this great crisis, they all turned to their natural leader, the very best among them. No words or speeches now, everyone understood that everything that ever was, is and will be was on the line.
"Now, one last time....' 'Avenger's Assemble
The Watcher within the Destroyer armor had finally arrived at that the end of his voyage, having descended through all known and forgotten history back to the great beginning, the Big Bang. The path he had taken to get here had been perilous, filled with initial and secondary shockwaves that he would not have been able to pass through as he approached the great beginning of it all. The ruins if the Destroyer provided enough protection through the tumultuous waves of time, and the reinforcement by Franklin Richards kept him steady. The Watcher opened up the visor enough to observer what occurred around him, the tapestry still caught tight in his visor.As stretched as the weave was, it held, part of the god's doing and part of Franklin's will to maintain it. And there it was, beyond the point of gravity or mass or all the rules of existence, the single retreating cloud that was the beginning of time. As all matter seemed to rewind back from the expansion zero point. And there is was, the Galen's incredible ship coming out of the fog of creation, something he was aware of but never seen. As the ship slipped backwards in time back the fog concentrated and condensed into one speck. Uatu made precise notes as to when and where it came from. Galen's plan and their hopes of finally being rid of the Anti-Monitor rested on this. The embodiment of Eternity shurnk down from adulthood to child to infant, from calmness to happiness to the shock of being created. And there it was, burning fog of all things condensed the single point gleaming beautiful point, beating the rapid heart beat of a newborn, burning with the fire of the Phoenix inside. It's rumbling as creation would soon begin. The explosion would kill him as would not be able to withstand the shockwave a second time, but he did not mind. He had seen the end and the beginning, it was time for something new to take his place. The Watcher bowed his head and let loose the visor, and the fabric jumped from his face onto the single point, vibrating as he could sense where the other threads of reality had been, before the Anti-Monitor snapped destroyed them. The vibration along the weave like a plucked guitar string would surely signal that he was ready. And he awaited the beginning.
The Anti-Monitor steadied himself for anything that might come before him. It did not matter, the effort of billlions of years through millions of realities at an end. And he was whole. Quickly approaching the Belasco's fortress in Limbo, his awareness of the Big Crunch behind them filled him with awe. This was it, his moment to cross over back to his own world. All that in front of him was a few troublesome defenders.
Not the original Death of his own reality, nor the embodiment of Death he had experienced and killed in this existence. No, before him stood someone else, someone new. The hood and robes were the same, but the pale white skin replaced the bones, and the harsh skull face were replaced with the loving features of another. This was the face of Mother Earth, Gaea, who had died at the same time the embodiement of Death had died at his very hands. Gaea now stood inbetween him and the fortress, she raised one hand her palm face up to sign for him to stop, then turning into a fist and pointed down. The Judgement of Death was "nay." He grimaces and blasted where she stood, she dissipated before the attack hit. All that was left as she faded away was the hand giving him the thumbs down giving him the middle finger before it dissipated too.
The fortress shook and the shockwave knocked back some defenders from their posts along the wall, but the blast did not hit them. The defenders did not see why the Anti-Monitor was distracted or why he missed them (except for a precious few who's awareness transcended mortal enlightenment) but they took advantage of the moment. The Shield Maiden led the arial attack, manifesting an invisible spearhead that punched into and through the Anti-Monitor's neck. Rogue manifested more of her dupes to recover the super powers still outside the walls: Black Widow, Bullseye, Hawkeye, the Punisher, and Colossus. The High Evolutionary increased his size and places an armlock on the Anti-Monitor, bending him down. Photon and the other flyers flew high and came straight down on him, most of them who could not discharge energy carrying weapons of Shi'ar or Atlantean design. From behind the fortress, great starships and atlantean vessels came forth, cannons blazing as the last warriors from space committed to the fight. They plunged into the glowing Caribbean waters and emerged here, under the command of Namor and Lilandra. The Anti-Monitor took it all unleashed his wrath, targeting the ships above the fortress. Few had enough strength in their shields to hold, others just disintegrated outright. The Rigellian ship with the last of it's people was no more, as Photon also perished, unable to pull up from her dive, thinking one of her energy forms would survive the blast. The High Evolutionary fell off the shoulders of the Anti-Monitor, burned to a crisp, his armor and energy falling behind the charging them. The Rogue's carrying Bullseye and the Black Widow did not make it on time, and they also perished at the wall's edge.
The second wave consisted of the few people who had been able to bring the Anti-Monitor down. Hauptmann Englande rode out the Skull Squadron on the ground riding down the face of the wall and out onto the battlefield, hellfire and burning adamant cutting into the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor trained a charged hand at them, but before the blast was released All Father Thor's hammer Mjolnir hit the armored palm, the feedback of energies rode up his palm and into him. Mjolnir returned to it's master and the assault continued. Hyperstorm carried Ben Grimm across the battlefield and dropped him on the Monitor's face. The beams of energy erupting from the Monitor's eyes scorched the Champ champs hide, but he leveled a devastating blow, twisting the face of Anti-Monitor from the impact. Juggernaut launched himself as a living bullet and followed through on Ben Grimm's blow, hitting him further back. The Anti-Monitor twisted to face these two attackers and his eyes glowed, but the beams bounced right off Captain Universe's thrown shield and cut into him. Before the shield returned the Wasp dropped from it's protective cover and dropped concentrated containers of Pym' particles down the maw of the Anti-Monitor.
The Anti-Monitor twisted his head back in agony, frothing with the particles that increased and decreased his insides within his armor. Thor's hammer hit once more, pushing the head back for the Juggernaut and Champ to deliver a simultaneous blow, and the Anti-Monitor was down. The hellfire chains wrapped around him and the powerhouses reached out hauled down to keep him there. The Golden Avenger and Hyperstorm flew overhead and began to blasts into the eye sockets of the Anti-Monitor, fully letting loose their own fury for their fallen comrades. The Anti-Monitor screamed, as he was stabbed with invisible blades, keeping the anti-matter within him from flowing out. The Anti-Monitor powered up and lifted his prone body off the ground, breaking the hold of the chains Skull squadron had bound him in and cut loose another omnidirectional blast. This time the heroes were prepared, the Shield Maiden and the warships extended their shields to hold back the assault.
The Anti-Monitor gained altitude and stood up, the mighty hammer hitting now but not having any effect. Disoriented, the Anti-Monitor unleashed his fury in every direction, his body pulsating and releasing his wrath omnidirectionally. The mutant Forge and the alchemist Diablo released crystals onto the shield walls, crystals that aborbed the directed energy. The smaller ones broke and could not contain the charges, but the larger ones held and glowed with power. Hyperstorm, the Golden Avenger and some of the fleet ships used their own energy to hold back the blasts overhead and the sky was lit up like thunder. Then truly lightning came down, as from on high All Father Thor and from below the earth goddess Storm (who rose from the sand) caught the Anti-Monitor in a blast of divine lighting in between the two elemental powerhouses. The goddess slipped back into the glass below her feet as the crackling body of the Anti-Monitor hit the ground hard, rippling with lightning. Havok stood out before the crystals on the walls surface and tapping their energy, and poured everything they had absorbed onto the Anti-Monitor in a blinding plasma burst. The blast knocked the Anti-Monitor's prone body back half a mile away, and the defenders began to push their advantage.
Hawkeye aimed at his new target, the vibranium shafts hitting solidly, impaling the shafts through the surface. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine came up from the shadows beneath the Anti-Monitor, his claws cutting in tears into the armor for her to phase more vibranium rods into. They also fell back as the Anti-Monitor adapted, his energy level output being contained by the metal. The Anti-Monitor got up an generated shield that barely held back the charge of Juggernaut, Champ, Hyperstorm, Captain Universe and the others.
"How?" he grimaced. The defenders emerged from the walls, as the surviving members of alternate universes began to add their might to the assault. The anti-matter the Anti-Monitor was bleeding had little effect, as the Pym' particles in his system kept them too small to interact with positive matter. Limbo did not have much of that to spare.
"How can this be?!! I have defeated gods and galactic empires! Destroyed your counterparts from thousands of alternate worlds, reduced the demon lords to ash and even defeated your supreme power. HOW?!!!!"
Dr. Strange's mystic disc appeared from behind the Anti-Monitor's shield, and he noticed too late as the Maestro leapt up and cut down his back with the Twilight Sword of the gods. The mighty green one channeled his rage through the sword, which quickly welded back the armor damaged armor behind it. Dr. Strange took the few golden threads of the gods that had bound the Anti-Monitor onto the weave and used them to bind him in place. The Anti-Monitor could not maintain his defenses as the Maestro raised him up to be hit by the full power of the assembled heroes. The dented and glowing armor was then attacked by the berserker rage of the Hulk with a sword. The Maestro rammed the Twilight Sword through one leg and left it there to amputate the Anti-Monitor, his gamma rage pounding it in until it was in down to the hilt. What was closed in the scarred metal armor was clamped up by the crimson bands of webbing, manifested by the quickly adapting Scarlet Spider. Peter Parker jumped up and swung through the rods of virbranium, dropping a special batch of web fluid across the Anti-Monitor's maw before making like a spider upside the Anti-Monitor face as the Anti-Monitor endured hits from the charging heroes. The spider sense allowed him to dodge the friendly fire until he got to a comfortable position to rub one in right on the nose of the Anti-Monitor, where the optic beams could not hit him.
"You know that itch that you can't scratch? That's me. Yeah, you beat demon lords, you beat gods, you beat space empires, you beat alternate timeline versions of ourselves. Guess what, chuckles? So have we. You were out-classed and couldn't measure up, loser."
The rage inside the Anti-Monitor swelled up and the vibranium rods began to glow. The gold bindings began to strain. Spiderman jumped up and over the Anti-Monitor's back as the twin beams of optical blasts darted out for him.
"Whoops, time to go, sore loser. Been fun visiting, but I got to get back to my adoring fans." Spiderman arched back and left whatever he had in his web shooters pour into the Anti-Monitor's eyes and slid down the back and the Earth defenders hit him with hammer, shield, energy and munitions. The Hulk looked satisfied at the scars on the metal and nearly amputated leg and Dr. Strange's disc returned, and the three heroes faded back down. The Anti-Monitor's bdingins were beginning to break and the Anti-Monitor turned back to the escaping heroes. The eyes burned fully with rage, burning through the webbing as the assault from the fortress now hit his sides and his scarred back. Even from the webbing muffle on his face the Anti-Monitor could be heard rumbling "SPIDERMAN!!!"
The Maestro looked down on the Scarlet Spider.
"I drove his own sword into him and cut apart his back and amputated a leg. And still he wants your ass. What did you do?"
"Just my usual charming self, I guess?"
The Anti-Monitor bent forward as some of the gold strands finally broke. Propping himself up on the damaged leg the Anti-Monitor tore off the webbing and his eyes sockets were a lit with fury as never before. Spidey waves buh-bye as they disappeared into the disc, the hands making the symbol of "taking a picture" and then just holding out the "L for Loser" shape as they fade away, the optic beams missing and hitting nothing.
The energy released by the Anti-Monitor didn't really miss anything. They energy he had released omnidirectionally had began to make the section of Limbo unstable. The Bermuda Triangle gateway into Limbo was closing. Even Power Pack knew it, as they read the displays within Reed equipment. Reed's cosmic awareness also was hit and he passed on the word to Captain Universe. Time to pull everyone back. This connection to Limbo was fallling apart.
- The sea and space ships got the message. Natural barrier closing, time to fall back stat. Tractor beams grabbed and pulled as many of the low level powerhouses out of harms way. Namor broke off one of the crystals and hurled it into the Anti-Monitor as vibranium began to burn out again. Diablo placed some of the crystals he and Forge had come up with onto the tips of a special arrows for Hawkeye , as he and Taskmaster and Daredevil (of all people) letting fly with the arrows. The virbanium finally melted away and the Anti-Monitor's rage burned through his bindings. Rising up into the air he took a direct hit from Captain Universe's shield, Thor's hammer and Shield Maiden's invisible construct and acted like nothing happened. The weapons tore into him but still he came on, rage overcoming any rational act for preservation. The crystals tipped weapons hit on him and expanded, absorbing the energy that was bleeding from him. He tore through them with ease, leaving some impaled upon his armor.
Juggernaut and Ben Grimm also hefted a heavy crystal and were prepared to toss them like javelins at the Anti-Monitor, but the Anti-Monitor focused his rage on the crystals and they exploded in their hands. Reed reached out to scoop them up and away from the battle field while Susan laid out protection. Polaris reached out for the debris of one of the Rigellian starship and used it to clamp down on the Anti-Monitor's wounded leg. But the Anti-Monitor still kept coming, the armor that held the leg falling off and the dark esssence of dark matter and anti-matter bleeding out, destroying the debris that was used to hold him. The rage was all consuming.
An optic blast hit one of the Atlantean ships and it broke up as it crossed the threshold, rising out of the water and crashing into an old Miami apartment skyscraper. The evacuation was getting ugly. Captain Universe launched himself at the Anti-Monitor the shield bearing down taking the brunt of the optic beams until Steve Rogers was good and close, and a cosmic powered left hook snapped off the helmet of the Anti-Monitor, twisting the head back, revealing the undead humanoid looking face, with nose plugs and all. A quick slash of the shield cut across the upper lip and then he began to transmute the nose plugs into charged positive matter. Steve flew way from the face of the Anti-Monitor as the Golden Avenger got into position ahead of behind him, using the repulsors to push down the metal on the nose into the bleeding anti-matter. The face of the Anti-Monitor exploded, all optic beams stopped and the burning broiled over. The Anti-Monitor covered his face with one hand and let loose with his others at the flying heroes. From on high Thor brought down the thunder and lighting upon the Anti-Monitor. The unprotected Anti-Monitor trembled furiously from the raw voltage running through him and still he called out.
"I want SPIDERMAN!!!!"
Peter Parker looked back as he was preparing to go through the portal. He had riled up the Anti-Monitor and now his friends were paying for it. The other heroes asked him to come with them as they made their way up and out, but he couldn't not leave the others to fight his fight for him. He turned jumped over the heads and shoulders of the retreating and called for Johnny Storm to pick him up.
"If Franklin can face him, so can I."
- Franklin could feel his presence being named, and he then felt the tingle along the tapestry that was stretched so as a mere spiderweb. Galen felt it, too, and stepped aboard his ship. He looked at one last time and the M'Kraan large crystal and placed it in between the grip of Franklin's hands.
"It's time. It has been a pleasure knowing you, young one. You do your parents proud and keep the balance of this universe."
The door closed and made compact. Using the Phoenix force to pull the ship along along Galen stepped onto the tapestry and walked up the thread, the dark ship positioned before him. The silver casing of the Silver Surfer and his board rose up and out of him coated the ship, which was now compact to the size of a extremely large bullet, Galen lit up and burning with the power of the Phoenix.
Hyperstorm raced around the ends of Limbo, with Peter Parker bound to him in crimson bands. The two of them zigged and zagged before the full fury of the Anti-Monitor's rage as the Anti-Monitor destroyed everything around him. Susan, Ben and Reed also stayed behind at the doorway, Reed and Ben to keep it open and Sue to shield the heroes escaping from the onslaught. The other heroes wanted to help but Peter Parker disagreed, through the telepathic link to Xavier. He was what the Anti-Monitor was focused on, he and the Torch would hold him back. The X-men, the Defenders, all surviving villains and heroes passed through as well as the war craft. Ororo was on the other side calming down the planet and keeping the world stable, with Polaris and the other elemental powers chipping in. Forge flew out from the Florida surface on the Shi'ar command craft, out into earth's orbit and through the tesseract. The Big Crunch was still looming before them. He was smart, but the technology was not of his invention. He didn't know how to pull the Earth out before the tesseract collapsed, as it had become dangerously unstable.
Reed let his mind expand, helped by Xavier and directed Forge on the proper release commands to bring Earth out of the tesseract. Galen interrupted, they still needed the Big Crunch to be rid of the Anti-Monitor, once and for all, instead of leaving him to escape Limbo. Reed agreed, as the duplicate time platform of Dr. Doom stood ready. He foresaw Galen taking this fateful decision. He passed the word into limbo as the Maestro was the last one out.
"Johnny, bring it home!
There was not much left of Limbo do fly through. The crystal erected by Diablo and Forge had taken all of the power they could and had exploded, though they had provided exceptionally good cover. But crystals like these could only take so much of what a galaxy busting power house could take. The Pym particles had also been digested/neutralized, because the Anti-Monitor was bleeding out anti-matter on a full scale, corroding what was left of Limbo. The Anti-Monitor could MOVE, popping up here and there, teleporting across the space. The Anti-Monitor had been able to move across galaxies with ease. Keeping up with Johnny was not impossible. There had been some close calls. Johnny's hyper speed nor Peter's Spidey-sense couldn't get them clear in time of a lined up shot, but the Scarlet Spider was able to conjure crimson bands fast enough to deflect the arms of the Anti-Monitor long enough for them to dodge and miss, although Peter would need burn treatment should he survive. Then they got the call from Reed, it was all clear to make their run for it.
So much anti-matter lay everywhere, existing freely and untouched in Limbo. They were dodging back and forth around planet size clumps trying to find their way back to the entrance. But each time they found a clear path, the Anti-Monitor was there to block it, still bleeding and dying but unwilling to go down. The nightmare that would never end would leave them trapped in here with the anti-monitor forever until it got them. Time to be proactive.
Looping around one of the larger masses of anti-matter, the duo kept barely ahead of the Anti-Monitor. Then he teleported before them again, and the two split up. Johhny charged straight up the face of villain, unleashing a nova-flame blast on the smoking ruins of the face of the Anti-Monitor. Spidey went for the sword hilt of the Twilight Sword. The Maestro had to pound it into the armor of the of the Anti-Monitor, how was he going to tug on it?He kept pulling and pulling on it, to see it if would come free when the mighty hand lowered down and came up on him. He could've let go and moved away or crawled. Instead he erected a cocoon of Cytorrak's energy, pushing the shard within him as much as he could. The Anti-Monitor could not break through the shield, crush as hard as he could. The pressure began to crush the breathe out of Spiderman and at last the blade began to move. The heat of the exposed blade was overwhelming and Spiderman expanded the bands as far as he could and finally let the protective bands drop from him, kicking free from the Anti-Monitor grasps, he fell a hundred feet down before Johnny caught him and they took off again.
The Anti-Monitor's blasted at them with his hands. When he had realized he had missed again, he flew off after them. The pursuit led to a far off big cluster of anti-matter and the flew in close to the dark, static clumps. The Anti-Monitor was immune to the anti-matter that had erupted from him, and so he flew in close, the anti-matter scraping his edges with no effect. When they could feel the Anti-Monitor's optic blasts behind them, then they hit the breaks and reversed course. Johnny pulled up hard and fast before the anti-Monitor realized what they were doing and Peter slammed the wounded leg into the anti-matter cluster. It did not affect the armor, the but Twilight Sword was another matter. Forged from the heart of the burning galaxy, the sword was forged from the concentrated mass of a hundred suns by Surtur himself. So much concentrated matter does not react well with anti-matter. Johnny turned on the speed, the hastily erected crimson exterior barely keeping the speed from burning him up. Behind them the sword that would end all things indeed lived up to it's reputation, exploding with the force of the galaxy that it consumed in it's making. The explosion destroyed the form of the Anti-Monitor and the shockwave was riding behind them, filling up all of Limbo in its wake.
There was the exit ahead and the would soon be through it. Susan saw Limbo burn up behind them, pushing Ben out of the way as the duo cam burning through. Johnny Storm yelled "yahooooo" while Spidey did his best Chewbacca impersination as they burst through the small opening, a gold streak gleaming behind them. Flying over the assembly area when where the heroes had gathered Peter's spidey sense kicked in violently and he urged Johhny not to slow down. Johnny trusted Spidey's sense and the continued their climb up into space and into the edge of the approaching tesseract surface. Behind them the ghost form of the Anti-Monitor, free of his armor burst out after them.
The spidey-sense kicked in strongly again and as they passed the tesseracts edge Spidey broke apart their pairing, hurling himself at to the edge of the tesseract and barely clinging on. Johhny arched back and dodged the gleaming silver thread, pushed out of the way by the Phoenix Force. The Anti-Monitor charged after them and the thread went tight before the opening of the tesseract, the Anti-Monitor calling out for Spiderman's blood. Then the ghost appirition hit the Tapestry and got caught in it, as Galen awaited him.
"Welcome to my web, little fly." spoke Galen, finding the situation once again oddly appropriate.
Galen burst forth with tremendous speed down the tapestry at the Anti-Monitor. In an instant he was there and then a blur of red, yellow and silver streak. The Anti-Monitor's ghostly body barely turned to see Galen looking very much like his most dreaded of enemies bearing down on him faster than a speeding bullet. They hit and Galen hurtled his ship and the Anti-Monitor forward before him, plunging back down into the time platform as across the tapestry. Franklin steady himself and channeled his might onto the M'Kraan as it began to expand. The tapestry thread went tight and the began to hum like a plucked guitar string, the vibrations encompassing the M'Kraan into the weave and the silver fabric turned red.
Down into the echoes of time Galen pushed the Anti-Monitor. The armor may be lost in limbo, but this is what he wanted to confront, the collected essence that had been scattered across the future, now the silver surfer coating glossed all over him, making sure no part of his essence escaped. Uatu instantly sensed the finality of his purpose approaching, he awaited the Big Bang and proceeded forward in time. The Big Bang occurred and Uatu the Watcher was no more, happily having witnessed creation itself forwards and backwards. He had seen it all and helped save it. He died happily.
The moment of creation erupted forward and for a few moments there was only the expanding universe. The tapestry held in place in time and began to form along this established pattern, woven by the Fates and reinforced by the creator of universes, Franklin Richards. Then the moment of truth came in, Galen's ship burst through into the moment of creation, the large vessel passing through the soup of matter. With all of his and the Phoenix's might the streamlined Galen plunged into the same soup, following the wake caused by his original passage to this moment in creation. Just as the his ship was finally clear he jammed the Anti-Monitor into the whole of creation, the boundaries of existence recognizing his ship as the one that had been let through billionths of a second ago. It was all the time he needed and creation began again. Galen looked out as the tapestry thread turned red with energy from the M'Kraan and began to virbate harmonically.
The multiverse was reborn where only one strand had existed. The cascading energy of creation ignited the Phoenix within him and Galen of Taa finally new peace, his final purpose of Galactus being served: to bring back life into the next existence once life ended in this on. As his life passed he heard the echoes of the voice of the previous Eternity say the dying words that created Galactus and with his dying breathe he passed on from this life. The shockwave sent him hurtling back in burning red flames along the Tapestry of Fate, destroying Reed's recreation of Doom's time platform. Franklin let go and picked up the M'Kraan off the thread as the burning husk of Galen plunged out of the destroyed time platform and into the Big Crunch. The Big Crunch began to slow down and fade away. Franklin and Reed understood this as the M'kraan grew larger and began to splinter and generate more crystals. As the multiverse expanded from this nexus moment the Crunch kept getting pushed back into the future, billion upon billions of years away.
Franklin let go of the thread and focused on the M'Kraan, as Nightmare had instructed him to. He could see reflections of himself within, reflections of everyone he knew. Some where similar, some were vastly different, but they reached out into the endless, reflection upon reflection upon reflection. And in the M'kraan Frankin could see the embodiment of this reality, Eternity wake from his traumatic state and stare thankfully at him. The Phoenix Force screamed as it plunged into the M'Kraan, the harvested life energies stolen by the Anti-Monitior released once into the multiverse.
Reed in the meantime had helped trigger the tesseract to release the planet Earth. With his son's help they did not need a projector to manifest the planet back into it's position. Franklin's mind and memories recreated the exact solar system based on his father's cosmic awareness and the tapestry of fat that he was aware of as to how it shouldbe, from largest black hole/nova mega clusters to the tiniest particles of all. And with that theboy finally passed out from exhaustion and settled into peaceful sleep. his father Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, carried him home back to Earth and the awaiting caress and care of Ororo the Earth Goddess. Life would begin anew, and humanity would help reshape the universe.
- The Anti-Monitor's ghost clung to the fragile broken shell that it was trapped in. He was not dead, he was not alive, but something horrific in between. He had been dead initially when the Celestials brought him over and had never understood the trauma of such a passage. The shock of being hit by Galen in one moment, then the horrific expereince of true destruction left him shell socked for... a moment? Minutes? Decades? He did not know, for all sense of time was fading from him. What he did know was that he was at the end of all things again. The sensations of the Big Crunch were before him, that much was familiar. But he had no power to draw upon, no will to act on. He was just another frozen part of debris floating in the last moments of space. The laws of physics felt strange again, and he even thought he was in his original cycle of existence. And as the Big Crunch pulled him forward into awaiting true oblivion he saw Galen's ship damaged under the strain of entropy, and the last three members of the crew perish. Only Galen survived and the universe spoke to him.
"No!" he screamed in his head, the Crunch catching him and his silver coating, the titanic pressures of all gravity crashing down upon him. Time slowed down and the agony of living through this was beyond suffering. He saw the face of this universe frown upon him and turn to Galen and his ship. Then the Eternity of this universe let Galen slip away, and he was rushed and crushed as this universe
- "This is J. Jonah Jameson, reporting in from what I thought would be my last report. I am grateful to say that I thought we were experiencing the what I had assumed this was the Rhapsody, divine salvation, and the promise of the great reward. Instead I am sure I am in hell now. This audio tape will be tranposed
News from the world coming in as cities are being rebuilt from the battle the super-powered people have brought down upon us. The planets are back and the sun is back, and even our worlds spinning has returned to the correct movement, based on our atomic clocks. Top-scientists of the world have no explanation as to how we returned to this state, nor do the world leaders or military contacts. Namor of Atlantis has returned power back to the world government, saying he is sick of the surface dweller interventions. In this reporter's opinion I say good riddance.
Some of the heroes and villains have disappeared and new ones have shown up. Namor has granted clemency to any and all who fought along side him, the battle which no one remembers but them. The Latverian Embassy has issued proclemations of the missing Doom and has instated a temporary government as caretakers until it's rightful monarch returns.
Among other political news the Asgardian Thor has been declared All Father of Earth, with the mutant Ororo Munroe, the X-man Storm is the new mother Earth. I do not know what drugs they have been taking for me to believe this malarky, but they share a throne, with Thor taking on the title of the God of Change. Industrialist Tony Stark, has been named Grand Vizier to the Asgardian, his liason to the mortal world and have taken up residence in the Antarctica in a refuge formerly known as the Savage Land. God of Change indeed. Many of the demi-gods from other parthenons (is it Parthenons or Pantheons, Betty please double check before printing) from alternative worlds have been welcome in to take roles in the affairs of the gods. And Ororo has become quite proactive in shutting down industrial level pollution. The old gods are dead, long live the new, and may we be worthy to take their place in the scheme of things, whatever crap that may be.
It should also be noted that the famed playboy of note Tony Stark is now blonde, bearing some resemblance to the missing famed Dr. Donald Blake, considered one of the lost during the crisis. (Betty make sure that the Style section does a column and Stark's doing a new 'do).
The Hulk has a new look, a new name and attitude and a new place to roam, within the Australian Outback, where the locals witness their dream manifest themselves. The psychic's at large cannot explain it, but no one goes into the Maestro's territory, except the brave and the foolish. (Ms. Brant, make a note: Send Peter Parker out for pictures. He is expandab-, inexperienced and inexpensive.)
Many more events have occurred since the Big Sleep, when the world was knocked out were all convinced that all these bad things have happened. Most startling is that there had been no deaths of animals, plants or people for 24 hours, and the few who have had near-life experiences say that a welcome mother figure brings them to her. It's not the tortilla Virgin Mary, Kali, Joan or Arc or any of the established religions icons. A new phenomenon is occurring and new religions are beginning to battle the established ones. This should be great, we stood divided as a people before all this, and then the big bad happens, and now that it is over and some of us fall back to the old bickering ways.
More troubling to me is the role of Steve Rogers to go out and lead a space faring force consisting of the Fantastic Four and family and a few other heroes, the X-men Havok and Polaris. Known star charts at the far ends of space do not match up to what is known, and they wish to see what has happened beyond known space.
But the biggest troubling of all is the memorial for those who fought and fell in the great "Battle of Bermuda". A battle no one knows about and I consider a great conspiracy by the wall crawler. The helmet of the space god Galactus is at the South Beach zones, off the coast of the southern Miami, and the names of the fallen are inscribed within.
And there is a big thanks engraved by the Majestrix Lilandra and Captain America himself for the assistance of the wretched wall crawler, Spider-man.
Yes, we are in hell, folks. There is no god."
- Whatever powers over creation that had been gained, the young Franklin Richards was loosing them as time progressed forward. They had burned out or been exhausted in the push to get the Anti-Monitor out of this cycle of existence, and to re-expand the universe.And he was grateful for it, his young mind beginning to comprehend the power and responsibilities that would've been placed on him. It had been a week now since the Crisis, and most of the refugees returned back towards the stars. Some races were lost forever, others were reborn and wanted to hear the news of how they had back into being. Still others decided to stay, and adopted the recreated Mars as their adopted homeworld. Counter Earth also took on some inhabitants, Namor moving his Atlantean people to this new world across the other side of the sun, along with his Shi'ar bride. He ruled the depths of the sea, she the high mountains of this world in Aeries. Some of the heroes and villains from alternative worlds who could not find their original Earth settled there, establishing new lives and relationships.
He knew of the dischord among the Earth friends. The alternate teen versions of the original X-men had gathered together and became Hollywood stars. Siryn stepped up to Dazzler's shoes as the show stopper, the singer for our times. Colossus and his Russian forces intruded deep into the northern Canadian borders looking for Wolverine and Piotr's wife Shadowcat, who lived in seclusion in the big bad north. Phantom's of Dr. Doom with a mish-mash of his costumes appeared in the European, South American and Peruvian mountian caves, heralding his soon return to claim what he had defended. Wakanda, with it's supply of vibranium depleted, began to trade in the other sciences and discoveries they had kept to themselves. The recovered Eternal Starfox and the X-man Rogue, now social outcasts, traveled along the south china seas, taking in their new roles as scoundrels and villains.
Sue and Reed had taken him out to Saturn's recreate moon Titan to reestablish a base from which to contact their star bound friends, and to protect Franklin from any people on Earth who would abuse his powers. Ben sought the stars to find and train the best fighters against future interstellar threats. Johnny could no longer be complacent with the speed of life in which he was living and also headed out for the stars, to see what lay in the recreated universe.
Eternity, healed and whole, had visited him and his father, in the company well as the new judge power of the universe, the Advocate Uatu. They were happy to have survived but more grim. Obviously they knew something Franklin and Reed did not, and were concerned. This was a concern beyond a mere mortal child having so much power. The Fantastic Four and the other defenders of the world would be ready for whatever came their way. Franklin did wonder what came beyond the Big Crunch, the final gateway that had brought such a monster among them, and what had happened to the last survivor of Taa.
- As Galen had been reborn in the Marvel Universe as Galactus, so had he been granted the right to exist in this new universe. From the moment of new cycle of creation he was brought into, to balance out the evil of the Anti-Monitor. He himself would not face the monster, but his children, his heirs would. His burning charred body began to collect mass around him and float into one of the key positions in reality of this world, eventually the billions of years of interstellar reaction igniting him into a burning star, as his time as Galactus had. He was reborn as the red star Rao, and life sprung among one of the small planets in his orbit, and a race of advanced and peaceful people evolved and lived on the planet, echoing back to his own people on Taa. From this world, their lone survivor take up his mantle, born with powers to be enhanced by the sun, and would echo the great people Galen/Galactus had known. He would lead other heroes and face the Anti-Monitor afterwards and defeat him at every turn in this existence, or an echo. For while the planet and the hero changed between different multiverses, the legacy of Rao would remain. The never ending fight would go on.
---the new Beginning ---