Infinity Assault #4
Continued from Infinity Conquest
And Infinity Assault #1, Infinity Assault #2, and Infinity Assault #3
Loki restrained a grimace of distaste as he clinked goblets with a grinning Mephisto, and tried to keep his eyes off of the towering immensity of filth that he knew loomed above them, dominating the skyline of Hell. The eyes of the gods are able to see through any falsehood, especially if the god in question were a god of lies and trickery; thus Loki was quite aware of the presence of the ‘real’ Mephisto, of which the crimson hued clownish being before him was only the merest pseudopod. Mephisto knew he was aware, which only increased his amusement, and made his grin even wider.
“Be joyous oh son of giants, soon our plans will come to fruition. The gem will be ours. Reality will be ours. Drink to us.” Mephisto purred, raising his goblet. Loki curled his upper lip and took a swig. It wouldn’t do to insult the essence of evil after all.
“Your agents are away I trust mine host?” Loki queried, peering warily over the rim of his cup. Mephisto nodded then countered.
“As are your forces mine ally?”
It should be noted that neither trusted the other fully. Both were considered the masters of deception with good reason, and they had crossed swords more than once. But with the fate of reality at stake, old grudges could be put away in favor of new conquests or assaults.
As for division of spoils, well, Loki had only ever desired what he felt was rightfully his-absolute control of Asgard. Easily accomplished with his own enchantments augmented by even a fraction of the power contained in the Reality Gem. Mephisto’s desires, or at least his true desires, were as always kept close to the vest, protected by a blanket of lies and falsehood.
These would be revealed in time. Likely to the detriment of all involved.
The Silver Surfer repressed a shudder of instant revulsion as the light of the warp gate faded and he entered the Dark Dimension. The air was heavy with bad magics and grim sorceries. He felt begrimed just standing upon his board. Looking at his six companions, it seemed they all felt to some degree the same. Wanda Maximoff looked pale and leaned against Namor’s broad chest for support. Both the Thing and the Hulk looked around suspiciously, flexing their fists. Even Strange, the only one to have been here before looked slightly ill. Of them all, only Doom betrayed no feelings. It could have been the mask. Or it could have been the Power Gem upon his forehead.
“Stephen, is it always like this?” The Scarlet Witch hissed, gesturing at the thick air. Strange shook his head wearily, the lines of recent ordeals etched into his face.
“No. Not this bad. Never this bad. Something is wrong here.”
“Doubtless Dormammu is the cause. Let us dispense with the needless chatter and proceed.” Doom rasped. The Hulk nodded and trotted forward.
“Metal-Face is right. We find Flame-head and smash him. Then we leave nasty stinky place.”
Namor grunted assent. “As much as I hate to agree with the tyrant and the clod, standing around whining about the weather will not defeat Dormammu.” With that, Namor shot into the air, swiftly followed by the Hulk and Doom. With a repressed curse, Strange motioned the Surfer to follow the hotheaded trio, and summoned up a bubble of transportation to carry himself as well as Grimm and Maximoff.
Several miles from the intrepid band’s point of entry, a war imagined only in the fevered brain of Heironymous Bosch was taking place. At one point, a race of humans occupied the Dark Dimension. The resurgence of Dormammu as titular head of the dimension had driven his former subjects to the furthest reaches of these lands, leaving him as emperor over a land of demons. It should be made clear that Dormammu hadn’t noticed.
Now amidst the sanguine dust of this infernal plain, his demonic legions battled others of their kind called forth by the singular agency known as Master Pandemonium. Pandemonium stood atop a nearby bluff, watching the war rage below him stone faced, his thoughts his own. Amongst his summoned hordes, his partner in this endeavor Sy’m, some time ruler of Limbo, battled in the center of the melee, leading the legions of Mephisto against those of Dormammu.
Dormammu, for his part, was largely ignoring the conflict. His troops were cannon fodder for the most part, merely giving him the time he needed to gain control of his new acquisition, the Reality Gem. As the possibilities inherent in the gem were revealed to him, he realized that he needed no troops to conquer the home-reality of that annoyance Strange. Only his own growing power. And soon it would reach its limit. Already he could force entry into any reality he wished.
And this was the contributing factor in Loki and Mephisto’s assault at this time. Distraction of Dormammu before he could fully attune himself to the complexities of the gem, allowing it to change hands more easily. Thus, at this time Loki waited impatiently in some fog wrapped minor dimension, surrounded by a legion of trollish warriors as well as his henchman Ulik and Urok the Uru Monster. He waited for Mephisto’s signal to begin the second of this two-pronged assault.
Mephisto watched from his own realm and thought secret thoughts.
It was this scene that the Defenders of the earthly realm came upon, or rather into.
Strange halted his bubble, and the Surfer his board as they took in the sea of carnage swirling below them. The Hulk, true to his nature landed in the middle with a bellow and began swatting demons. Doom abandoned any pretense of teamwork and fired his rocket belt, hurtling towards the distant rift upon which Dormammu sat, entranced by the swelling of his power. Namor flew back towards Strange.
“Do you have a plan my friend?”
“Not the best of one, but yes. Namor, you and Ben try and keep the Hulk out of trouble. Surfer, you and Wanda and I shall give what aid we can to Doom, though he wants it not. Regardless of where you are, keep your eyes open. I sense other magics at work here than Dormammu’s, as is obvious from the war raging below.”
Sy’m ducked a blow from the green monstrosity that had suddenly landed amidst the carnage. He dimly recognized it as one of the earthen creatures that had halted his attempt to consume sweet Illanya’s home dimension-the Herk? Hunk? The Hulk! That was it! Strong as he was, Sy’m was canny enough to know he couldn’t beat the creature brawn to brawn, so flight was in order. Especially considering the other two beings that suddenly appeared to either side of the Hulk.
Namor watched the large purple skinned demon leap away from the Hulk with faint stirring of memory. Shaking his head he waded into the squirming horde, trying to protect the great emerald lunk’s back…as always. Off to the side, the Thing batted demons away with his rocky fists, trying to do the same.
Doom landed silently behind an enraptured Dormammu, the Power Gem crackling at the nearness of its kin. His gauntlets hummed with built up energies as he prepared to unleash a powerful barrage against his heedless enemy.
Mephisto’s image suddenly blossomed into being before Master Pandemonium’s eyes. “More of your…children are needed below. Let those that interfere perish along with Dormammu’s legions.
Simultaneously Mephisto appeared before Loki in the nether realm in which he waited for a signal. “As Dormammu summons the rift that will lead him to Earth, you will be free to intercept his energies and use them to unleash your forces directly on top of him. Knock him off balance, and I will step in and do the rest.” Loki nodded, a sneer evident, as he grudgingly swallowed his anger at Mephisto’s brusque tone.
Sy’m saw his chance and began to push his way towards the base of the cliff that Dormammu stood upon. The Gem would be his, regardless of Mephisto’s feelings on the matter.
Strange set down with Wanda a little to the left of Doom. “I can feel the energies from the Gem…they’re affecting the surrounding aether. He’s doing it! He’s opening a stable portal into our world and he’s almost become completely attuned to the gem! Wanda, you and I must stop that portal from forming!” Strange hissed. The Scarlet Witch nodded and grasped Strange’s hand. Both mystics began to chant and gesture rhythmically with their free hands.
The Surfer swooped low towards Dormammu, as Strange had directed him to earlier. He was too unleash his attack at the precise moment Doom did, so as to stun the Faltine and provide Strange a chance to seal the dimensional rift already forming.
Doom’s gauntlets crackled briefly with a blue nimbus. Then with an electric snarl, a wave of anti-matter lashed out from his fingertips, striking Dormammu in the back.
The Surfer unleashed the power cosmic in a shining burst of golden light that mingled with the white energies of Doom’s own attack.
Dormammu howled as the terrible force burned into his unprotected back like a hot knife through butter. He fell to one knee, now fully aware of his surroundings for the first time since the gem had come into his possession. Smoke rising from his blistered form, he turned with a growl, focusing on the two beings facing him.
Doom lost his footing as the rock beneath his feet ran and melted like wax.
The Surfer screamed, as his form warped and twisted like some child’s plaything.
Dormammu turned back to the glittering warp before him as the Surfer fell heavily to the rock and lay stunned. Doom sank through the ground, disappearing into the depths like a drowned man beneath the waves.
The scant distraction had been enough as Strange and the Scarlet Witch finished their chant, disrupting Dormammu’s control of the portal growing before him.
Which was all the signal Loki needed, throwing all his godly might into ripping the end of the tunnel to where he and his forces waited.
As Sy’m began to climb the rock of the cliff, two orange mitts seized his thick ankle and yanked him away. “Now where d’ya think yer goin’?” the Thing muttered. S’ym got to his feet as Namor and the Hulk emerged from the still battling throngs of demons, scratched and bruised, but still eager for a fight.
“Aw crap.” Sy’m grunted.
Dormammu screamed in rage as he felt his control of the portal usurped. Seconds later he screamed again as a glittering Asgardian blade appeared out of nothingness and speared his shoulder. Loki grinned into the burning features of his foe.
As the Trolls began to slowly fade into existence behind Loki, Dormammu gave a grin of his own and the tiny neo-dimension in which Loki’s legions waited suddenly folded in on itself, collapsing like a house of cards. Loki’s smirk faded as he watched his forces pop out of existence, their atomic structure unraveled.
Strange hastily threw up a barrier to block he and Wanda from the massive arcane energies suddenly unleashed from the spot where Loki had appeared to do battle with Dormammu. The Surfer crawled groggily to his feet, but was knocked back down by a red hued palm. Mephisto hissed in pleasure, his eyes glittering like burning sulphur.
Doom slid through the bowels of the rock, vainly trying to find a way to brace himself. Sighing in disgust he realized his boot jets were clogged with liquid rock.
Loki staggered back, his features twisted in pain. Dormammu slapped the uru blade from the godling’s hands and, using the gem on his brow, began to slowly untangle the molecular makeup of the immortal before him. Loki screamed, clutching his torso as pain radiated up and down his spine. Mephisto watched as his erstwhile ally was tortured. Then he turned back to the Surfer whom he held by the throat, dangling before him. He raised one eyebrow as his hand suddenly exploded into its component molecules, freeing the dazed Surfer. “Waaanda.” Mephisto hissed as the Scarlet Witch suddenly interposed herself between he and his victim.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time demon.” She replied, features contorted in anger and hatred.
Strange could only spare a glance for Wanda as he masked his presence from the raging Dormammu and stalked towards the creature’s back. All of a sudden he was thrown off balance as the rock shuddered as if under assault. Two metal gauntleted hands burst from the ground beneath Dormammu’s feet and tightened about his ankles. As the Faltine looked down, surprised, Loki took the opportunity to strike back at his tormentor, slamming a mystic bolt dead through the center of the demon lord’s mass. Strange also took advantage of the surprise and swiftly darted forward, his fingers glowing, to tap the fiery forehead of his opponent. The backlash of energies knocked them all sprawling as the Reality Gem popped from its placement and rolled across the pitted ground.
Hexbolts exploded harmlessly around Mephisto, ripping gouges in his inhuman physiology, wounds he took little notice of. The demon laughed as he slapped the Scarlet Witch away. “Cow. You think your puny little magics can harm me? We have already danced this dance. You lost.”
“No. I can’t harm you. But he can.” Wanda shook her head, wiping the dribble of blood from her cheek, a cruel smile on her lips. Mephisto turned, but not quickly enough as a spear of cosmic force burnt its way through his shoulder, knocking him sprawling. The Surfer hovered over his oldest foe and cracked his knuckles menacingly. Mephisto hissed and rose to his feet.
Down below, Sy’m dodged out of the way of one of the Hulk’s blows, only to run into Namors fist. The Thing dragged the purple demon to his feet and belted him across the jaw. “…An this is fer making New York as bad as Jersey with that whole Inferno thing!” Before another blow could land however, green tentacles whipped around the Things arms and waist and yanked him off balance, hurling him into Namor. Master Pandemonium strode out of the shadows, tentacles retreating into his sleeves. Helping Sy’m to his feet he pointed towards the top of the rock.
“Our illustrious employer is in need of aid. His perfect plan is, as usual, going down the tubes.” So saying, he uttered several guttural syllables which caused a portion of the ground upon which they stood to shoot upwards towards the battle raging far above. As if in answer to this silent summons, thousands of demons, up until now occupied with each other, suddenly turned and rushed to scramble up the sides of the rock.
The trio of heroes looked at each other. Namor sighed and hefted the Thing, and shot upwards, following their foes. Hulk grunted and leapt close behind.
The Reality Gem rolled across the ground. Doom pulled himself partially out of the hole he had made and stretched towards his prize. Loki dove at the same moment. A crimson ball formed around them both as Dormammu, severely weakened crawled towards the gem. Strange shouted syllables that knocked the gem out of the demon’s grasp, but was halted in his own attempt to gain the gem as Doom’s hands burst out of the ball and yanked on his cloak.
Mephisto turned from his battle with the Surfer as countless numbers of demons spilled from Pandemonium’s cloak biting and tearing at the startled herald, covering him in a veritable wave of filth. Sy’m bulled into the Scarlet Witch as she tried to get off a spell. Mephisto grinned as he stalked towards the gem that rolled towards him. As he knelt, three heavy forms landed upon him, battering him a meter into the rock. Mephisto shrieked in frustration and his form began to expand hideously, throwing the three heroes from his back. Hell fire sprang up between the swiftly growing devil and all others upon the rock.
“NOW. AT LAST. IT IS MINE. AS IS REALITY.” The bloated creature crowed as it picked up the gem in two talons delicately. Time seemed to still as if reality itself moaned in fear. No one but demons moved.
Sy’m grimaced as the other hell lord grasped the gem. Ah well. He had never really wanted the blasted thing in the first place, and at least he got this red headed beauty out of the deal he thought as he tightened his grip on the Scarlet Witch’s throat and arms. Those were his last thoughts as two taloned hands snapped his bull neck. Wanda looked up into the glittering eyes of Master Pandemonium. “ Can you get him to drop that gem?” He grated harshly, yanking her to her feet. She nodded. “Then do it witch.” He turned to move towards the creature he called master, but turned back once more. “For what it’s worth…I’m sorry about your children.”
Wanda remained silent as Pandemonium charged towards the gigantic Mephisto.
All of reality unfolded before Mephisto’s greedy eyes. Limitless souls. Lining up out into infinity. All his. Forever. Below him, barely beneath his notice a tiny form leapt over his wall of flames. Then, the pain hit him. The gem glowed, burning his obese fingers like the hell fire he tossed around. He shrieked, shaking the very foundations of the dark dimension, the Reality Gem slipping from his fingers, down, down.
The gem landed in Master Pandemonium’s palm with a plop. Mephisto noticed him then, looking down with a scream of intense fury. Pandemonium looked back up, meeting the gaze of the ultimate evil. Memories washed over him. The car wreck. The bargain. His soul scattered into fragments. The long search, throughout the dimensions. The game of torment. The realization that the Scarlet Witch’s children were pieces of his scattered soul given form. The taking and dissipation of those children. Mephisto using him. Thog using him. Using everyone.
Mephisto knew what he was going to do even as he lifted the gem over his head. “NOOOOOO! YOU FOOL! STOOOOP! I’LL GIVE YOU YOUR BLASTED SOULLL! DON’T DO THISSSS!” He yelped, his giant hands reaching, pleading, with his servant.
“Too late. No more deals. No more souls. No more pain.” He whispered as he looked across at the Scarlet Witch. “I’m sorry.”
Then he unmade them all. Every infernal dimension or demonic shelter. Every Dark Dimension and Limbo…
Damien Hellstorm looked up as the wave of nullification rolled over his Hell. He smiled and opened his arms wide. “Patsy….” He smiled….
Thog shrieked as the nullification swallowed his infernal realm…
Pluto cursed and fled to Olympus as Hades collapsed in on itself. He wasn’t fast enough as the nullification rolled over and swept him under…
Belasco screamed the name of his love in Limbo as it faded around him…
In his own realm, the true Mephisto howled and wallowed in his lake of fire, too bloated to even attempt escape…
In the Dark dimension, that Mephisto slowly faded, his cries still on his lips. Sy’m’s body unraveled like an old sweater. Dormammu fought to hold his dimension together as all the others around him crumbled, and failed, weak as he was.
And Master Pandemonium, smiled in wonderment as his own essence slowly split and faded. For he was, in essence, a demonic dimension in his own right. For did not ‘Pandemonium’ mean ‘home of demons’?
It was over just like that. The gem tumbled into the outstretched hands of the Scarlet Witch. The seven heroes floated in a formless void of white. Strange, slowly, still in shock, summoned a mystic bubble that captured them all. In silence they sped back towards where the portal was supposed to be. Where they hoped it still would be…
Dormammu floated in a field of blackness. He looked up weakly as Loki touched his shoulder. The Asgardian, his face pale and drawn pointed to three figures across from them.
“Gentlemen…I have a deal for you…”
To Be Continued…
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