Elders Quest

Written by Mystic, Edited by Morfex
Logo created by Lord Thanos
Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group
Characters are the properties of Marvel Comics

Elder's Quest

Elder's Quest Prelude

On a nameless asteroid, circling a brightly-lit moon, the silhouette of a single creature stood. He was contemplating, though that was not necessarily his nature. A frown dominated his entire face. Deep thoughts coalesced within. Eyes darted about as he visualized the concepts madly evolving within his mind. How long had he been here? Hours? Days? Weeks? It didn’t matter. He never paid attention to time that closely. It was rarely of any importance to him.

En Dwi Gast raised his hands. Reality answered his request as sand and dust particles rearranged themselves into ancient symbols from a civilization long gone. With a mathematical symmetry to it, the symbols produced an answer that satisfied him.

He turned and raised his hand again. This time the dust particles and tiny stone seemed to move backwards or in a counter clockwise fashion as compared to the first time. Pebbles rushed diligently seeking to reach the destination he commanded.

The arrangement equaled the first. He did the same numerous times, confirming his answer. Next, he tried modifying the variables and introduced randomness to the equations he had created. The answer always came back the same.

Finally, he stopped. The Grandmaster was satisfied that his formula was correct. In the bright moonlight, a smile crossed his face as he looked up. For the Elder, it had been awhile since he played a game. It had been awhile since he had gambled. Gambling was his passion and what he lived for. It was time to renew his passions. It was time to call his brothers…

Chapter 1: Prized Theft

A golden haze flew over Monster Isle quickly landing upon a castle structure resembling a porch, located almost at the back center. Adam Warlock walked into the Infinity Watch's old headquarters immediately knowing something was wrong. He had sensed there was a problem with his now abandoned home base and without hesitation, had immediately come. How could he have been so foolish as to leave such a thing behind?

The dark hallways reminded him of the days before the Infinity Watch had disbanded. His memory shifted suddenly to Maya and how she had came to him here - requesting help. Due to a magical love potion, he would always love that woman no matter how much he fought it. Someday, he would find a way to break that spell. For now, he had more important things to worry about though.

Walking into his old room told the entire story. The room had been ransacked, and the hidden vault behind the far wall had been blown. There, his second prized possession, the Eternal Orb, had been stolen. Looking around, Warlock found no clues. The assailant could have been undoubtedly anyone. Adam slumped on a chair beside him. What would he do now? Across the room, his old staff reflected light from the window onto his eye catching his attention. Warlock rose and grabbed his staff as though it were an old friend. "It is useless to sit around and wallow in self pity," he thought. With a majestic handle on the staff, Warlock walked over to the balcony. There was nothing else for him here and he knew it. Without a second thought, Warlock took to the air leaving his old home behind…like he had done so many times before.

 Chapter 2: A Call for Revenge

The crowd gathered around. A summons such as this had not been issued in quite some time. The elite group conferred with each other on what the possible reasons could be. Was there something that threatened them? In the past, this had been one of the few things that had united them. Rampant speculation abounded. Some thought that the end of their existence was near; that after having lived so long, the end was finally coming. Others dismissed such thoughts and imagined this to be a meeting of no actual importance. Their questions were about to be answered as their leader stepped up to the podium and raised his hand to request silence.

"My fellow Elders," the Grandmaster began, "there has been a hideous crime committed toward us." The words echoed from the podium resounding across the vast desolate area. "Both myself and the Gardener, along with a handful of us have been wronged! The Elders’ name and title have been diminished by a vile creature...and this creature's name is Thanos!"

The crowd broke out in whispered talks. Everyone had heard of Thanos’ triumph over them to acquire the Infinity gems. It was a loss that had marred their long existence record. Never had the Elders been humiliated in such a collective fashion. It was a shaming each Elder knew, but rarely talked about. Now it appeared retribution might be at hand. It was an excitement few Elders could contain.

"I have a plan," the Grandmaster continued, raising his hand to quiet the crowd. "One that will not only give us our respect back," he paused to add emphasis to his words, "but will also gain us revenge on the foul Titan!" This time his words rose an extra pitch and with a frown on his face he continued, pausing almost after each word, "The Elders shall be revered once again as the dominating collective in the Universe!"

The crowd cheered. It would not take much inspiring to convince these Elders to follow their leader. The obsession of each Elder included some form of arrogance. And each of them, in one way or another, had been scorned by Thanos' triumph over their kind. They would welcome a defeat of the Titan by their hands over anything else. And as was their nature, they would be willing to go to extremes to accomplish this.

"I will select individuals who will assist me in this endeavor," the Grandmaster said calming his voice down. "When we are done," he paused looking over the assembled mass in front of him, "the Universe will fear our name once again!"

An explosion of cheers erupted from the crowd as he walked away from the podium. The Grandmaster was their leader, not because he had used any force, but because he had been elected their leader. He was their leader because they believed in him. For quite a few minutes, the crowd continued to cheer at decibel deafening levels. Afterward, they would go back to their previous occupation, wait, and hope that they were one of the ones selected in their quest to humble the nihilist. Thanos would regret having crossed paths with the Elders.

Chapter 3: The Challenge

Thanos sat on a throne, in the bridge of his several kilometers-sized ship. Small worker robots silently moved about, each with multiple tasks to accomplish. Even when virtually nothing was going on, the Titan had work for his servants. Whether it was maintenance or research, they were always busy. The Titan too was preoccupied. He studied a panel in front of him arduously. He placed the panel down on the right hand side of his throne as if expecting something to happen.

"Will you be observing me all day long, or will you actually materialize?" Thanos said in a firm voice.

Surprised, the Grandmaster materialized himself in front of Thanos. "I did not know your cosmic senses were so well honed," the Grandmaster said genuinely.

"Cease your prattling, Elder. What is it you want?"

"What else would I want?" the Grandmaster said, a smirk appearing on his face, "But to challenge you!"

"What challenge can there be from one whom I've already soundly beaten?" Thanos somberly replied.

The tone of voice surprisingly held no conceit that the Grandmaster could detect. Did this creature truly think himself above an Elder? It was a ludicrous statement that the Grandmaster chose to ignore.

"Because this challenge will be different from the previous. It will not involve you and I directly. Rather we will use players to determine the outcome. We will see how skilled you are at having others do your bidding!"

"Fool! You enter a game you cannot possibly win," Thanos said almost scolding his adversary.

"I have been doing this for far longer than the oldest existing civilizations," the Grandmaster said, finally getting angry. "If I can beat Death, I can certainly beat any inadequate minion of hers!"

This time Thanos responded, standing up immediately and clenching his fists. His eyes glared, as he contemplated how he would deal with this disrespect. Finally he spoke, "Very well, Elder. What are the stakes?"

"Simple. Since this challenge comes from all the Elders, we have chosen to make it race binding. If we win, the Eternals of Titan, including yourself of course, will leave this universe never to return."

"And if I win?"

"There is virtually no chance of that. However, for argument’s sake, if you were to win, we Elders would exile ourselves outside this universe."

"I see. I do distaste your perfidious lot," Thanos said thoughtfully. "Very well. I agree to your terms."

"Excellent. Since we are so close to Earth, you may choose two Terran groups as your team for our little game. It will be a simple confrontational challenge. I will transmit data to your computer about the locations and we'll decide on match-ups later." The Grandmaster disappeared, having gotten what he came for.

Thanos sat back down. "SR-32," he called.

A supervisor robot quickly stopped its duties and rushed over to face its master. "Yes, Lord Thanos?"

"We have work to do. Transfer power to my throne console and prepare to get the transporters online," Thanos ordered.

"Yes, sir!" the robot responded almost enthusiastically. He had seen his master get that gleam in his eye before. And it was a gleam this old robot knew well…

Chapter 4: Chosen Pieces

Warlock walked with Gamora alone, as she often liked to do. Quietly, they strode along a private man made beach close to Avengers Headquarters. He had wondered how he should handle her affection for him, but now was not the time. Serious consideration was being given to consulting with the Avengers regarding the Monster Isle theft. They possessed access to technology that could be useful. Perhaps their instruments might register something he missed. On Moondragon's recommendation, he had requested to speak with Captain America, but had been told to wait while they conducted a meeting involving their reserve members. The regular Avenger members were meeting with some of the reserves to decide their future status. He would have to wait until their meeting was over. It did not matter. This would give him time to think about how to approach and convince them of the importance.

His thoughts and privacy were interrupted as Moondragon projected a somewhat erratic mental image of herself.

"Adam! Gamora! We are under attack! Thanos has breached Avengers headquarters defenses. Need help! Please come quickly!"

The image quickly disappeared as she apparently joined the fight. Adam grabbed Gamora, a little annoyed that he did not have time to contemplate his thoughts. Taking to the air, he quickly arrived and blasted a hole through the roof with his scepter. The security had been disabled and Warlock was able to enter with ease. He placed Gamora down and watched as the Avengers and several Avengers reserves executed strategic attacks and withdrawals from the Titan in the center of the main hall. Being led by Captain America, they had divided up into teams, each attacking from different sides. Moondragon attempted a flying kick, while Thor shot his hammer from the opposite side. Thanos side-stepped Moondragon's attack, also allowing Mjolnir to pass through and narrowly miss her, avoiding what almost certainly would have been a broken leg. Warbird took to the air and blasted Thanos as she flew by, while Captain America threw his shield toward his feet attempting to undercut him. The shield bounced off his legs, ricocheting off the floor and back to the Captain's hands, as Thanos fired eyebeams to meet Warbirds' blast. Still looking up at Warbird, Thanos' hands blasted the ground Thor was on, causing the resultant explosion to knock him back several feet. Next, Quasar flew over Thanos preparing to form a construct. Thanos fired a plasma bolt at him. Quasar narrowly avoided the blast by turning his shoulder quickly. He was actually surprised he was able to avoid it.

"You had your chance, Tha-" Quasar was interrupted as part of the roof caved in on top of him, the result of Thanos’ blast. He fell to the ground hard and a bit shaken. Wonderman immediately joined the fight as he attempted to change the conflict into a more physical brawl. Before he could throw his first punch, Thanos backslapped him into a wall by his side, sending him through it into another room.

"Simon?" Wanda yelled. She ran into the next room worried about his condition.

"Are you two going to watch or join in?" Moondragon quickly turned to Warlock and Gamora, as the armor shell of Iron Man was sent flying through another wall. To her surprise, Gamora had a smile on her face. Irked, Moondragon yelled, "What is so funny?"

Gamora turned to Warlock as he observed the Titan with no facial expression change. He turned to look at Moondragon. "He is only playing with you."

"What?" Moondragon cried.

Hearing what Warlock said, Captain America turned around looking at him incredulously. After a moment's hesitation, he called off the fighting.

"Avengers! Stop!" he said raising his hand. "I think Warlock is right. Thanos is only playing with us, or we'd have a lot more damage and injuries." He favored his shoulder slightly as he helped Quasar get up with visible black and blue marks permeating his face and arms. The rest of the Avengers groaned a bit as they broke off their attack and joined Captain America at his side.

"Why are you testing them?" Warlock asked as he took several steps closer to the Titan.

"Your skills are severely lacking!" Thanos responded looking at them disgusted.

Some of the Avengers, including Vance and Firestar looked at each other, not believing he was scolding them all as children.

After a pause he turned his attention to Captain America. "I am in need of your group, and yours as well," he said turning to Warlock.

"For what purpose?" Warlock said as though he expected to hear what he heard.

A pause occurred as Thanos walked over to the main console. He punched a couple of buttons as though the new hi-tech computerized system Tony Stark had just installed was a mere toy. He quickly conjured up images in the Avengers' villain database somehow bypassing the security password lockouts. "Recognize any of these?" he said to no one in particular.

A figure appeared in the center. A tall blue skinned man with white hair and a white long robe. The words "En Dwi Gast" appeared under him. Surrounding him, more figures began to appear…

Quasar was the first to answer. "Those are the Elders with their leader, the Grandmaster, in the middle. They are wanted intergalactic criminals. When Captain -- err, Photon was the leader, she assigned me an extracurricular activity of tracking and bringing them in for trial..."

"Clearly you were not up to the task," Thanos interrupted looking directly at him. Despite the putdown, the Protector of the Universe said nothing. The Titan continued, "They are up to something big and I find that it might be in our best interest to work together."

The Avengers seemed stunned. No one spoke, as though they were contemplating what the Titan had just told them. Virtually all members found it hard to believe that Thanos would help them capture some wanted criminals out of the goodness of his heart. Captain America was the first to speak, doing so as he walked to confront Thanos face to face.

"And what is in it for you?"

"Relief that these annoying creatures are not around to pester me anymore. I believe this is mutually beneficial to both of us," Thanos smiled his eerie smile. It was enough to give anyone the shudders.

"I will need to talk to the team first," the Captain said.

Thanos opened his palm as he pointed toward their conference room. "By all means," he said.

The Captain turned around and signaled all to enter the room. All the Avengers walked over to the Avengers meeting room, thinking about what they would say.

Meanwhile, Thanos approached Warlock. "I will need you too," he said in a low voice. "The Avengers are too soft hearted. There may be times when...a sacrifice is needed to gain an advantage. I need someone capable of committing such sacrifices."

"I am not interested in playing your game," Warlock responded.

"No? And why are you here, pray tell? It would seem to me that you've been trying to gain the Avengers' trust lately. For whatever reason, what better way than to aid them in capturing some criminals?" Thanos smiled his eerie grin again.

"I hate when you spy on me," Warlock said annoyed. Realizing that there was truth to his statement, Warlock recanted. "Very well, if I must," he said.

"Good. I will need you to reform your Watch and include the Silver Surfer in your team for Maxam. If he can bring any friends, that would also be acceptable."

"They no longer possess their Infinity gems, but I suppose you know that already," Warlock stared at Thanos.

Thanos stared back.

Warlock sighed and looked away. The Silver Surfer did owe him a favor for his help in bringing back Shalla Bal from the dead, but Warlock had wished to save it for a day when he really needed his help. It appeared he would not have that luxury.

Meanwhile, the Avengers conversed.

"He just can't be trusted!" Moondragon shouted, annoyed that some were considering going through with this.

"Quite frankly, milady," Thor began, "The Elders do pose a threat that thine cannot ignore. Though the Titan be a most vile creature, he doth possess the word of a nobleman."

"If the Elders are up to something big, we may not be able to stop them if we wait too long," Quasar shared his opinion.

"Yes, but can we even stop them now?" Iron Man voiced pessimism.

Captain America stood up after having heard several people speak both for and against the possible new assignment. "Though this in no way demeans our friend Quasar here, it would appear that it is beyond us to be able to take out the Elders as a group alone. If you have studied the Avengers files, you will know that the Elders present a faction that have plagued us for a long time." He paused looking around to each member sitting around the table, "Though I am leery to pair up with a villain such as Thanos, past events have shown us that he does possess a sort of honor and that he keeps his word."

Everyone stood silent as usual when Captain America spoke. His beliefs were well respected by all and everyone would hear him out without interruptions.

"Anyone who does not wish to go may step down now," he said finally. The room's dead silence filled the air as each one looked around to see who would be the one not to perform what they and Captain America felt was their duty. "Excellent," the Captain smiled. He had hoped that the somewhat new team, with the reserves, would unite as one. He was proud that they had. Deep inside he hoped this would not be the last time.

Chapter 5: Double King Pawn Opening*

*Author’s note: A typical chess opening beginning "the game".

Having received coordinates from the Grandmaster, Thanos teleported all to a distant planet. Warlock had contacted the Silver Surfer, and he had enthusiastically agreed to help. This was partly due to a desire to help capture the Elders, which he knew were usually up to no good. It was also partly because he would no longer have the favor owed to Warlock looming over his head. With him, he brought Terrax and Firelord to aid in the battle.

Thanos, Warlock and Capt. America conferred about the strategies to best use as they planned their attack on the Elders. The rest waited anxiously, often squabbling with each other about how this situation should be handled. They were up against tough opponents and they knew it. On the edge, they continued to argue and point fingers at past incidents where each had failed or stumbled.

The Silver Surfer was the quietest. He was the least interested in conversation and seemingly meditated as though preparing himself for the upcoming battle. Thor joined him shortly. "May I join you, quiet one?" he asked.

"Aye," Silver Surfer said, a slight smile appearing on his face.

"Thou art in good humor," Thor said sitting down. "’Tis good! We shall need it for the battle that is looming!"

"How can humor serve me in battle?" the Silver Surfer asked, disinterested. It was clear he had things on his mind, but did not wish to talk about them. Perhaps he worried over the battle, or over Thanos leading them into one.

Still, Thor did perceive his disturbance. "’Tis not the humor in itself, but the fact that thou art relaxed in battle – ‘tis a subtle, but important difference."

"I would imagine you are right," the Silver Surfer.

"A filled mind can lead thee to a poor battle. Thou must put it all out of thy mind and be comfortable with thyself. Only then can the warrior in thee come forth." A battle lusty Thor spoke louder than he thought. Everyone had stopped to listen. He turned around a little embarrassed, "Pardon me. I speak with too much enthusiasm."

"No, Thor, you are right," the Captain said walking over. "Perhaps we should all take a page from your book and relax a bit. It will do us no good if we cannot concentrate on what we have to do. We have finished our strategy session. Let’s go through the assignments and then we can have some time to prepare."

They all sat in a circle as the Captain began giving the orders. They were Avengers after all and would be ready to perform their duty.

The three had agreed rather quickly on match-ups. All were brilliant strategists and quickly saw eye to eye with each other’s judgments. There was no doubt that they were severely outmatched. But with a little luck, they would overcome the challenges and come out on top.

On the other side of the planet, the Grandmaster finished speaking to his chosen Elders. They were ready for the confrontation and eagerly awaited their turn.

  Chapter 6: Black Bishop’s Opening*

*Author’s note: An opening in chess that is flexible for choice of movements.

"Ahhh! The Grandmaster was right. He thought Thanos would send the Asgardian after me," the Contemplator said standing in front of Thor and Warbird. Unworried, he remained floating approximately three feet off the ground, belly slightly protruding forward. His feet were crossed in a sort of indian stance.

"Base villain," Thor began as he twirled Mjolnir above his head. "Surrender now or face the fury of the God of Thunder!"

Not receiving an answer, Thor swung Mjolnir at the Contemplator. Simultaneously, Warbird took flight and blasted him. Not being able to see, Mjolnir shortly smashed into him. The force sent the Contemplator flying back before a mighty oak tree stopped him. He got up slowly as Mjolnir returned to its master. Standing straight up, the Elder seemed amazed. "The hammer is as strong as they say," he finally managed to voice. His somewhat flushed, chubby cheeks jerked up and down as he spoke, perhaps more pronounced due to his smaller stature. "But I have something that is mightier!"

"And what be that?" Thor said ready to send Mjolnir out again.

The Contemplator’s spirit left his body and entered a closed crate nearby. Within seconds, the crate blew open and a mightily armored figure appeared. "Behold, Asgardian! You will be defeated with a weapon of your kind! The Destroyer stands ready to destroy!"

Warbird flew down to Thor. "This wasn’t part of the plan," she spoke worried.

"Verily," Thor said still surprised himself. A moment’s hesitation was all that occurred as the warrior in him regained control. "Nevertheless, back down we cannot!"

"I thought that thing was indestructible?" Warbird said arguing. "We must retreat."

"No. The Avengers are relying on us. We will fight to the death if need be. No one shall e’er call the Son of Odin a coward." Thor spun Mjolnir above his head. Lightning crackled above in the skies. The very ground trembled as though in pain. The sky instantly grayed as Mjolnir’s energy seemed to build up within.

"You seek to frighten me, Asgardian?" the Destroyer mocked. "Your hammer is as insignificant to this shell as a pebble."

"The Destroyer be strong indeed," Thor yelled amidst the maelstrom he was causing, "But my plan be not so foolish as to wage battle with thee…but to transport thee away." Thor flung Mjolnir above the Destroyer. As if preprogrammed, Mjolnir flew directly above the Destroyer. Circling his form, it began forming a vortex.

Before completing its task, the Destroyer’s form opened its visor firing its incredible eye beam at it. Mjolnir was knocked off its path slightly, but attempted to continue its task. Another powerful blast was all it could take however, and with chips of Uru flying out, Mjolnir fell to the ground with a loud crash.

With incredible speed, the Destroyer turned around and blasted both Thor and Warbird. Warbird attempted to meet the blast in the middle.

An ill-fated attempt.

The Destroyer’s blast pummeled through her blast and through them. The weapon, designed to battle a Celestial, was far too powerful for either to contend with. Both Thor and Warbird fell easily and quickly as the Contemplator laughed.

"Grandmaster. All proceeds as planned," he said inspecting several broken pieces of Uru.

"Very well. Return," the Grandmaster replied, a smile appearing on his face. The first fight had been fought and won. All was going as planned.

Chapter 7: Philidor's Defense*

*Author’s note: A chess strategy in which Knight defends pawn.

"I’m not sure why I’m here," Iron Man spoke to the Silver Surfer as they flew over the southern hemisphere of the planet. "I mean it’s not like I have anywhere close to the speed needed to defeat this guy."

"I’m afraid we will need more than speed to defeat him," the Silver Surfer responded as he soared alongside the Avenger. "As it is, I was beaten last time this Elder and I faced each other."

"You were beaten?" Iron Man asked. "Then what chance do we have?"

"I believe, you are here in hopes that your creativity may win us the battle."

Iron Man did not answer. They were out powered easily by virtually any Elder. It did not help that this Elder gave you no time to…

A thousand, a million, a billion punches were registered on Iron Mans’ external sensors within less than a second time frame. The rockets abruptly cut off in mid air as his armor suffered a delayed reaction from the Elder’s assault.

The Silver Surfer turned around in time to see Iron Man beginning to fall. He rushed over to catch him but a blur immediately appeared obstructing his path.

He stopped.

The blur stopped.

The Elder known as the Runner focused into view. He smiled at the Surfer.

"Move out of my way," Norrin said beginning to power his hands. He would have to hurry if he were going to save his partner from a hard fall.

"I’ll tell you what," the Runner said. "I’m a sportsman. If you agree to race me for the winner of our match-up, there will be no need for bloodshed or any violence. Agreed?"

Watching Iron Man fall made the Surfer react quickly. "Agreed," the Surfer responded quickly.

The Runner shot up into the sky.

The Surfer rushed down at incredible speeds. At about two feet of the ground, his board slid under Iron Man’s limp armor mere moments from the ground’s crashing embrace. The Surfer arched his path toward a nearby clearing where he set the Avenger down.

"System’s rebooting," Tony said shakily. He had regained some movement of his arms as the backup systems engaged. He shook his head left to right. "That guy is unbelievable!"

Backup systems engaged. Tony stood up and looked around. His armor’s telemetry futile tried scanning for any trace of the Elder. "Where did he go?"

"He has challenged me to a race. I have accepted his challenge."

"Are you sure you can beat him?" Iron Man asked worried.

"No. But I have given my word," the Surfer said. With nothing left to say, he cleared into the sky heading into space.

A few seconds passed and a silvery figure approached a still golden one.

"I am ready, Runner."

"Great!" he said with his usual smile.

The Silver Surfer observed him. There was something so reminiscent in his smile. Eros and he would surely get along quite well. As it stood, the Runner was almost the anti-thesis of himself, if that were possible. Care free, with seemingly no worries. How unlike the guilt he rode with on a daily basis. His condemning of countless billions would never leave him, no matter how long he lived. But he had made himself a promise to never follow that path again. He would fight on the side of good and help others…save others. He would make up for what he had done in ignorance.

"I am ready," the Silver Surfer said poised, frowning, determined. His eyes closed slightly as he leaned forward, alert. His slender body was frozen with his knees bent forward.

"We follow the spiral edge of each arm of the Andromeda Galaxy until we come back to this point…Go!" he abruptly said and took off.

The Silver Surfer was not caught unawares as he himself took off. The Elders were all deceitful. Competitive and deceitful. They would do anything to get an edge.

Stars soared by quickly at velocities too incredible to imagine. Neck and neck, the cosmic duo, currently a silver and golden comet, hurdled through space tracing the paths of the very edges of the Andromeda Galaxy. Already they had traversed over a quarter of the entire path.

Now passing halfway toward their goal, the Runner slowly began edging forward. He turned to look at Norrin and laughed never breaking his running rhythm.

"No," the Surfer thought. "The Power Cosmic is mine to command. Galactus has infused me with the ability to channel a limitless power. I will do it!" he said to himself struggling. "I can do it!" Slowly, he began absorbing cosmic power from his ambience. His eyes began to crackle as he filled himself with untold amounts of the Power Cosmic.

The lead began diminishing as they both approached three quarters of the way toward their finish line. The Surfer tried harder, clenching his teeth. The lead diminished more.

The Runner looked at him, now almost neck and neck again. He had stopped smiling. A serious determination showed now on his face. They both hurled toward the finish line, both pulling from within, giving everything they had and more.

Space suddenly ruptured, creating a line directly in front of them. A hole in space opened thousands of light years in front of them extremely close to and slightly past the finish line. Glowing with energy, it seemed to pulse rhythmically.

The Runner and the Surfer were heading straight toward it. The Runner realized he would not enter quickly enough to close it and prevent the Surfer from entering. He looked over toward the planet they had been on, which having come full circle, was already in view. Iron Man had decided to come into space to watch the ending. He carried an oddly shaped gun, apparently made from parts of his own armor. It was clear he was struggling, as his suit was not one built for space. He had apparently modified some functions, and rerouted power to enable his other circuits to function temporarily.

The Runner looked at the Surfer and smiled. He lifted his hand and fired at Iron Man.

Iron Man did the same firing his gun light years in front of the Runner.

"No!" Surfer yelled as he broke off his flight path and intercepted the energy blast with his body before it could hit Iron Man. The blast knocked him off the board, but he was all right. It was clear the Runner had not intended for it to be a powerful blast. In fact, it was more likely that he knew the Surfer would take the hit and he wanted the Surfer to survive.

Iron Man’s blast exploded sending, in effect, a tachyon pulse disruptor shock-wave. The wave hit the Runner like a brick wall causing him to hurl back several hundred light years. He had underestimated the armored human, but a quick recovery enabled him to get back on his path and enter the rupture in space. It was lucky he had diverted the Silver Surfer from the path or the Surfer would have won.

Confused, the Surfer turned around to see the Runner enter the rupture. A blinding flash of light followed as though a supernova had occurred. When the Surfer looked again, the Runner was standing in front of him glowing.

"I suppose you’re confused," he said laughing. "The Grandmaster theorized of a new power source that existed in another universe. He then formulated that if myself and another could put enough pressure on one plane of space, we could possibly rupture it and gain access to this new source."

"So you manipulated me to get access to this source?" the Surfer said feeling used. Immediately he realized he should have expected some ulterior motives. He was dealing with people like Warlock and Thanos. Clearly they were all in the same class when it came to the game of deceit.

"The source is known in its native universe as the Speed Force," the Runner continued. "And my friend, I now have access to this power source added to the Power Primordial."

"And for what purpose do you want this?" the Silver Surfer frowned.

"Ah-ah," the Runner nodded smiling happily. "That’s enough answers." Abruptly, he took off toward a corner of the planet.

The Silver Surfer looked around. Disappointed, he picked up Iron Man on his board and headed back to the planet – to the temporary headquarters they had created.

He would report his failure.

Chapter 8: King’s Gambit*

*Author’s note: A chess strategy where one sacrifices a pawn for an advantage.

Warlock and Wonderman took the fight to Champion and the Gardener. In the middle of a jungle, Champion and Wonderman immediately rushed out at each other lashing out with punches. One of their punches met the other in the middle sending, causing both to fall back for a second. The two quickly locked into deadly one-on-one combat.

The Gardener’s staff shot several blasts toward Warlock. It was clear his heart was not in it though. Fired from an awkward angle, Warlock easily evaded them. Jumping behind a bush tree, Warlock vanished from the line of sight. The Gardener realized his mistake in being lackadaisical. The Grandmaster might be angry if he let one of them escape. How he hated getting involved with his brothers. But right now, he felt it was his duty to contribute to their cause. Worried eyes darted about looking for any movement. His full beard hung low and gave him the allusion of being wise. But right now, he did not feel so wise. He had made a costly mistake. Quickly, he ran over to where he last saw Warlock. His staff blasted some bushes in front of him. There was no one in sight.

As he entered further into the bush area, Warlock swung around a tree behind the Gardener. With his Karmic Staff glowing bright green, Warlock delivered a massive jolt to the Elder’s head. The Gardener fell instantly to the floor unconscious.

Warlock turned to look at his partner. Wonderman was in the fight of his life. Though fighting admirably, already he had black and blue marks, a swollen eye, and blood streaming from his nose. Champion’s hulking form showed no effects from their fight and looked as fresh as if he’d just begun.

Warlock knew he did not have the physical might to battle the opponent.

Wonderman charged Champion once more. This time, Champion used Wonderman’s own energy to slam him against a tree breaking through it and several others close by.

Adam took advantage and Karmic blasted Champion. It affected him slightly but not enough to down him. Clearly, like Asgardians, Elders had a fortified soul also. He lifted his head, red long hair rising along side. His massive arms formed a fist. Champion turned around to face Warlock.

"Tryco Slatterus cannot be defeated!" he snarled.

Wonderman lunged from behind catching him unawares. They both went to the ground.

Warlock began concentrating, building up a massive Karmic Blast. He had never attempted to release such a massive amount of soul energy in one burst. It would require time to build up to a sufficient power level.

Champion used his massive arms and spun Wonderman around on the floor, delivering a bone crushing punch to the jaw. Wonderman visually reeled at the force behind it. He yelled out, "Warlock…"

Champion continued to pummel him incessantly. His reddish hair swung from side to side as each fist connected to Simon’s face.

Warlock closed his eyes, continuing to concentrate on building up the Karmic Blast to extreme levels.

Champion continued his pummeling, laughing at each connection. Wonderman’s face had swollen beyond comprehension. Again he whimpered a cry for help, "Warlock…" He tried to get up, but Champion larger form pushed him back down, pummeling him again. With a final powerful bone-jarring blow delivered to the mouth area, Wonderman now lay motionless.

Warlock opened his eyes and blasted Champion. Green energy blasted forward relinquishing the Elder from consciousness immediately upon impact. The force of the blast knocked Champion several feet back off of Wonderman. Instantly, Champions’ body became limp as he fell backward onto the ground, his body still glowing green with energy from the Soul gem’s assault.

Warlock walked over to Wonderman’s body. He grabbed his hand and let it go. The arm fell down with no force on it whatsoever, other than gravity.

A flash abruptly occurred as the Grandmaster appeared.

Warlock took a step back, instinctively placing his staff forward in a defensive position.

The Grandmaster held his hand up, palm forward, as if in a friendly manner. "Much to my surprise, you have won this round," he said. He pulled a syringe out and injected it into Wonderman.

"What are you doing?" Warlock frowned. He remained tense still unsure of the Grandmaster’s motivations.

"I need to see and analyze the composition of this creature’s energy if I am to restore him."

"Restore him?"

The Grandmaster held the syringe and stared at it. He then placed his hand over Wonderman and closed his eyes for a brief period.

Abruptly, he stopped. "He will recover now, though it will take time. He has massive injuries."

"Why have you saved him?" Warlock asked.

"This is only a contest. There was no intent to kill anyone."

The Grandmaster waved his hand and he disappeared along with the two fallen Elders.

Warlock closed his eyes attempting to contact Moondragon back at their home base.

"Have Thanos teleport us back," Warlock said.

"What happened?" Moondragon asked while relaying the information to Thanos.

With no enthusiasm in his tone, he responded picking up Wonderman’s body. "We won our first battle."

Chapter 9: Giuco Piano*

*Author’s note: In the chess world this means Quiet game.

"What do you mean there was nothing you could do?" Wanda was irate beyond what anyone had seen in quite some time. "How is it that you don’t even have a mark on you?"

"You are hysterical, woman. It is clear that further discussion with you will be useless until you regain your rationality." Warlock turned and walked away from her.

Wanda was aghast. But there was no way she was going to let him go that easily. She speedily walked to pass him and obstructed his path. "We are NOT done talking yet!" Wanda continued. Her hand gestures, if not her tone of voice, made no attempt to conceal her current state.

Warlock stopped. "We ARE done," he said.

Wanda found the tone of his voice condescending. For a second, she lost control. She opened her hand and brought it up to Warlock’s face.

Before she could slap him, Warlock caught her hand. He held it firm and tight staring straight at Wanda.

Captain America walked up to Wanda, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Wanda?" he said softly, almost whispering.

She turned to look at him. His eyes…they were so calming. Such self control. Immediately she regained her composure. She withdrew her hand from Warlock’s grasp. "I’m sorry," she said clearing her voice.

"Not as sorry as we’ll all be if we continue to lose," Warlock replied.

"Why didn’t you bring back the Gardener and Champion?" Captain America began his own line of questioning.

"It would seem those are not part of the rules," Warlock responded casually.

The Captain turned to Thanos.

"Is it really surprising to you?" Thanos answered. "My good Captain, the Elders are an extreme group. It is all or nothing with them."

"Hmmm?" Steve frowned. Suddenly he was not sure which side it was better to be on. There seemed to be things going on in the background. And the Captain did not like it one bit!

"We must make the next matches count if we are to win," Warlock said to Thanos.


The Captain turned to Moondragon. "How are they?" he said with a genuine note of concern in his voice.

"Well, luckily, we have a large infirmary on this base they provided. I guess they figured we were going to need it." She turned to walk to the nearest table on her right side. "Simon is the worst," she said placing a damp cloth on his forehead, "but he does seem to be recovering slowly."

"We must continue," Thanos said leaning over a table.

"Maybe we shouldn’t," the Captain answered. "We are not strong enough to beat them on pure power. And that’s just how we’re fighting them. Why haven’t you joined in a fight?" The Captain lean forward on the opposite side of the table in front of Thanos. Eye to eye, they both remained motionless in front of each other for several seconds.

A test of will, perhaps, but one that Thanos saw no need for. He looked at them all. Then turned back to the Captain speaking in a tone as though what he was saying was obvious, "If I jump in, the Grandmaster does also. Does your group have anyone with the power to stop him?"

Captain America remained silent realizing Thanos’ words.

"Captain," Simon whispered.

Wanda ran to his bed. "Simon!"

Steve walked over also.

"Captain, please," he said having difficulty speaking. He was clearly in pain and his contorted face, still swollen, was making it more difficult to speak. "I don’t know if you’re…thinking of pulling out…" He paused to get his breath, "…but the Avengers…are not quitters!" Simon opened his eyes slightly and looked at Steve.

Steve’s eyes watered a little. Bravery could still move him. Simon had the soul of a true Avenger indeed. He looked around. The Avengers were waiting for a word from him. He turned to look at Wanda. She looked back at him clearly allowing him the final word.

"Let’s revisit our strategies," he said walking over to Thanos and Warlock. "I want to make sure we don’t make any more mistakes. And by my calculations, we must win the next rounds!"

"Indeed!" Thanos said pressing a button on his glove. "My ship has had to move location to maintain contact with me."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Moondragon asked.

"It means we are on Ego," Warlock answered for Thanos.

"What?" Moondragon asked still confused.

"The implication is that we are moving," the Silver Surfer explained to her. "Therefore we must be on a planet that is moving – namely Ego."

"Okay, so Ego is moving. Where are we going? And why is the sun still visible?" Vance questioned.

"Artificial Satellite," Thanos answered. "As to the destination…we’re apparently on a rendezvous course with the World Devourer."

"Galactus?" the Silver Surfer stood up. "What does he have to do with anything?"

"Whatever it is," Warlock responded, "it is sure not to bode well for us."

Chapter 10: Queens's Gambit Declined*

*Author’s note: A chess strategy in which pawns move forward to attack the larger mass.

"This is where we do it guys," Gamora looked back at the team chosen. "Is everyone ready?"

"I am," Quasar answered.

"I think we all are," Terrax spoke bluntly.

Wanda and Firelord nodded as well.

"We are to head east," Gamora began but stopped abruptly. She turned her head quickly to the side as her ninja-like senses picked up something. "They’re right on top of us!" she exclaimed.

Firelord and Quasar took to the air immediately as the Possessor, Astronomer, Caregiver, Architect and the Explorer all came out of the bushes.

"I’m afraid you will not have the time to think about your plans," the Possessor said as a blast of power primordial left his Rune staff. His slender form stood without care, torn tunic blowing slightly in the wind. His thin cheeks betrayed no emotion, nor did his eyes. How could they? For longer than he could remember, he had worn his visor. Long hair hung over his shoulders exuding confidence. He fired again.

Gamora quickly evaded the impact area, somersaulting out of the way. Wanda received the brunt of the impact and was knocked back from the resulting concussive blast.

With an energy shield around himself, a glowing Quasar retaliated by flying downward directly at the Possessor, pummeling him with such force with his body, that they both penetrated the crust of the planet several hundred feet in easily.

Meanwhile, Firelord and Terrax engaged the Astronomer and the Architect, firing blasts, temporarily holding off the two Elders.

The blue-skinned Elder approached closer to the field. He tipped his hat slightly up and brought his hands forward. He was now ready for the battle. The Explorer fired at Terrax, but a quick raise of his axe protected him as the impact sent him flying back. Terrax underestimated the Power Primordial. His axe didn’t feel like it would continue blocking those for long.

Wanda, still groggy, fired an ordinary hex bolt as a tree fell over the Caregiver. Her white skinned body angrily flipped back and forth attempting to escape her temporary prison.

Quasar had willed his quantum armor on, which was effectively protecting him from the Possessor’s blasts. As a gamble, he tried ensnaring the Elder in a quantum construct. It didn’t hold him for long. He would have to think of something else quickly.

A rumble came about as Quasar was sent flying in the air several miles away from his created hole. The Possessor emerged. Gamora swiftly threw herself on him before he could completely climb out and gave him a nerve pinch on the neck. Before he could react, Gamora flipped around him and quickly protruded her fingers through two spots in the upper back freezing him on the spot. "You can seek knowledge to the end of the universe now," she said satisfied.

"What did she do?" the Caregiver asked finally turning around and blasting the tree off of her.

"Thanos has given me access to your physiology on his computers," Gamora answered. "This fight won’t be as one-sided as you initially thought!"

The Astronomer’s ocular piece glowed as the elder fired a blast from it meeting Firelord’s power cosmic blast in the middle. Evenly countering each other, the Architect, a distinct and tall gentleman, turned his attention to Firelord and fired at him simultaneously along with the Astronomer. Firelord fell back.

The egocentric elder shot his regal tunic back. The Astronomer would play no more with these simple creatures.

"Something is affecting my staff," Firelord shouted. "They must have some type of dampening field for the power cosmic."

"Agreed," Terrax answered. "My axe is not delivering with the customary power level that the Power Cosmic commands!"

Flying back, Quasar emitted a construct to protect his fallen teammate, Firelord.

"In that case, this fight needs to become more physical." Terrax ran at the Architect and took a swipe with his axe. The Architect, surprisingly quick for his stature and demeanor, ducked and grabbed his foot tripping him."

"I have you now," he said as his hands powered up.

Using his power over the land, Terrax opened a hole in the planet under the Architect. Immediately he fell into the several hundred-foot hole Terrax had opened. "By the time you get out of there, this fight will be over."

Wanda began concentrating her Chaos magic. She knew the Elders were powerful and it would take something big to stop them. She began focusing all her energy on what would be a single Eldritch blast. Motioning to Quasar, he and the others withdrew away from the Elders. Becoming fully powered with energy crackling about, Wanda prepared to release her blast.

The Architect rose from the ground behind them, as the ground seemed to elevate him up. His hands were behind his back, confident in that nobody had seen him. All the way above ground now, he saw Wanda and fired at her knocking her forward and hitting her head on the ground. Left unchecked, her energy hit the ground exploding in every direction. Quasar blocked the blinding concussive blast with his quantum armor – still requiring to shield his eyes from the brightness. When he looked again, the entire vegetation in the area was dead. The heroes and the Elders all lay unconscious. A reflection of an armageddon if he had ever seen one.

"Yes, we did it," he said finally trying to muster some enthusiasm.

The ground began shaking, parts of it turning to quicksand, already swallowing up Terrax’s axe and Firelord’s staff.

"Ego?" Quasar yelled. Without hesitation, he quantum jumped each of his teammates individually back to their temporary home base. He came back when done. The fallen Elders had been devoured as quickly as the herald’s weapons. "Ego’s on their side. Why am I worrying about them?" he told himself frowning. "This is war anyway," he finished as he quantum jumped away.

Chapter 11: Benko Gambit*

*Author’s note: A chess strategy in which a countergambit sacrifices a pawn or bishop for long term play.

The Trader and the Collector appeared across a rocky cliff area. Drax and Moondragon waited on the other side.

"We stick to the plan Heather! Any signs of things going wrong and you retreat out of here. Understood?"

"Understood," she answered softly. She knew it was a lie when it left her lips. She would never leave her father again, nor allow him to come to harm. She must trust and concentrate in the plan. Thanos was someone she would never trust – even if he did seem to keep his word. But she felt she could trust Warlock and Captain America. Warlock could be distant and even weird at times, but he was a brilliant tactician and always came through with his strategies. She must learn to trust based on past experience.

The Collector and Trader were now advancing. An unlikely duo, as the old man seemed mismatched alongside the shorter Elder with the pointy nose. They exuded confident and completely ignored Moondragon as they surrounded Drax on opposite sides. The Collector raised his hands, each beginning to power up.

"The famous Destroyer – Kronos’ supposed best creation!" the Trader sneered.

The two gave Moondragon the impression of bullies more than cosmic beings.

"Let us see how indestructible you really are," the Elder originally known as Taneleer Tivan yelled. His old wrinkled face smiled as he released a blast of his Power Primordial. His blast penetrated through Drax and caught the Trader unawares, knocking him on his back viciously. He got up slowly, his body hidden within his small cape. His face was slightly contorted with both surprise and pain.

"An illusion?" The Collector, himself surprised, turned to look at Moondragon who also disappeared.

She appeared next to the Trader, bent over and grabbed his head toward her. She wasted no time mind blasting him. Normally, she knew he could resist her, but at point blank range, and their mind caught off guard, even an Elder could succumb to her mind blast. He did, as his form now lay sprawled on the ground.

She had practiced her mental powers extensively while with the Infinity Watch. At times, she felt the mind gem had increased her powers, despite her not having it any more. Or perhaps she was just more confident in her own abilities right now.

The Collector yelled angrily, "Very good, mind witch! But you will not get that close to me!" His eyes showed anger and he powered his hands preparing to fire.

From his side, and out of his field of view, a rock morphed into Drax as he stood up. Moondragon removed the illusion she had cast over him. Before the Collector could fire, Drax’s left connected to the side of his chin. The Collector went down.

"Kronos’ supposed-best creation is here," Drax spat at him.

The Collector rose. "Fair enough. I’ve always wanted to see how strong you really are!"

Initially concealing his hands within his brown robe, the Collector now showed them as they emerged sending out a blast. Drax was pushed back, dragging his own feet through the dirt by the sheer force of the blast. But he remained standing. His arms crisscrossed in front of him, blocked most of the shot.

Drax looked up. He was angry. The Destroyer was ready to fight. The Collector shot another blast. This time Drax was ready. He retaliated, returning his own blast and meeting it in the middle.

The Collector seemed a bit surprised. "There are very few energies that can counter the Power Primordial. The Power Cosmic is one of the few. What is your power source?"

"I draw power from Kronos himself," Drax replied.

"You will find, however, that none can overpower the Power Primordial!" The Collector engaged the Destroyer. Both countered each other’s energies in the middle. The Collector’s Power Primordial slowly asserted itself. The meeting point of their energies moved from the middle point of the distance between them, closer and closer to Drax.

Minutes passed. Sweat poured from Drax’s forehead as the Power Primordial approached his rapidly tiring form. The Collector concentrated his blast forward further and further.

From behind, a leg swept the Collector. Falling hard, a bald, woman’s face looked directly at him as Moondragon unleashed a mind blast. Caught unprepared, he attempted to resist. Moondragon was relentless. She knew if she did not succeed, they would lose the round. But the Collector continued to resist. Remembering her martial art training from the Cotati so many years ago, she grabbed the Collector by his wrist and placed it in a lock. The Collector screamed and she took full advantage of it, finally having broken his concentration. Quickly his mind succumbed to hers and he fell onto the floor.

"We did it!" Moondragon turned to her father, letting the wrist go.

"Yes, we did," he said sounding exhausted. "The plan worked," he smiled a small smile.

"Thanos was right," Moondragon continued. "The Elder’s mental obsessions allow them to concentrate only on one thing at a time. And frequently can leave them open." Moondragon walked toward Drax’s form, still with one knee on the floor.

Drax looked up immediately. The Grandmaster appeared behind Moondragon and with his hands powered, appeared to be readying to strike at her.

Purely on instinct, Drax shot a blast over Moondragon. She ducked and the Grandmaster absorbed his shot in his palm.

"No need for hostilities," he said holding his palm up. "I simply mean to congratulate you. You are indeed much more worthy adversaries than I gave you credit for."

The Grandmaster raised his other hand and disappeared along with the two Elders.

Moondragon contacted Thanos telepathically, letting him know of the win.

The next round would decide the outcome.

Chapter 12: Sicilian Defense*

*Author’s note: A chess strategy pushing forward a central pawn mass.

"Captain, can Warlock be trusted?" The insecure Avenger seemed even more nervous than usual. He had been pacing about since they got there and had shown no signs of slowing down yet.

"Vance, take it easy," his girlfriend told him. "Remember what Thor said about being relaxed."

"Yes, Vance. We need you to focus and execute on the plan," Steve said.

"It would help me a great deal if you could answer my question," Vance said attempting to take longer breaths and slow himself down.

The Elders appeared off the side through some palm tree-like bushes.

"I ask myself that all the time, son," Steve answered grabbing his shield from his back. "When I have an answer, I’ll let you know," he said running through some alien plant life located behind several trees opposite the duo of Elder partners.

The Obliterator and the Judicator advanced.

"Ready Avengers?" Steve yelled out.

"Ready," they both answered in unison.

Firestar fired a microwave blast directly at the Obliterator’s arm.

The Obliterator turned and fired back. Both Vance and Firestar rolled to opposite sides expecting him to react this way.

Steve threw his shield. It ricocheted so many times from multiple trees the Elder called Judicator never saw it coming when the shield connected to the back of her head. She fell forward, her heavy-set body falling hard on her hands.

The Obliterator looked down at his partner, "You all right there?" he snarled with little concern in his voice. Small beady eyes looked down. His large squared jaw seemed to emulate the caricature of a puppet’s jaw.

The Judicator looked up. Her eyes were as glassy as the triangular shaped eyeglasses she wore. Focusing on nothing in particular, her large form looked around still dazed.

"Don’t worry a bit," the Obliterator’s towering form turned to look at his enemies. "I’ll take care of them!" He blasted in multiple directions screaming savagely. Trees fell one after the other as explosions consumed the area.

"He’s crazy," Capt. America said ducking, his shield in front protecting him. "Let’s hurry up, gang. We won’t be facing a one man team for long!"

Firestar took to the air. Having cleared an area around him, she fired at him. Pinpointing her target, she blasted the guns on the Obliterator’s hands. She knew she could not destroy them. He had protected their molecular structure after the Silver Surfer defeated him, transmuting them to something harmless. Now they were made of sterner stuff. But they were already white hot from all the energy surging through them in the Obliterator’s mad blasting. And now she was doing what she could to heat them further. With any luck, the metal might bend. Even a slight bend would throw his aim off, giving them better chances.

With the timing of a skilled athlete, the Captain threw his shield directly at the Obliterator’s guns. The impact hit precisely at the point where the gun connected with the valve hoses that originated from the backpack he wore. It sent them flying from his hand onto the ground. As per the plan, Vance placed a telekinetic shield over them, preventing the Elder from re-attaining them.

"No!!!" the Elder yelled. He was crazed with anger. He would not lose again. He opened up his belt buckle. A contraption flickered with lights dancing about.

"Watch out," the Captain said. "Thanos mentioned that the Obliterator had acquired a static force field generator. It’s a last resort of sorts."

Firestar flew back down for cover behind a huge moss covered boulder.

Vance looked down as if making a decision. He moved forward toward the Elder.

"Vance, what are you doing?" Firestar said. "If you abandon the plan, he’ll fire up that contraption."

He continued forward. His part of the plan had been to stop the Elder from engaging the generator. He made no moves. Timing would be everything.

"Vance?" she yelled again. "Do it!"

"I have to wait, Angel," he answered.

The Obliterator quickly asserted the functions in the brief seconds he had been given.

"Wait for what?" Steve yelled. He looked over to see the Obliterator finishing the configuration of his weapon. He could not understand Vance’s hesitation, but he could wait no longer. He got up and ran toward the Elder hoping it would not be too late to prevent him from engaging the force field generator.

"Oh god!" Firestar said nervously. They were off the plan. With the Captain charging, she knew she had to go and do what she could. Quickly, she flew up and followed.

But they were too late. The Obliterator had activated his weapon. An energy field shot forward, encompassing them.

"Now!" yelled Vance. Sending a telekinetic force field forward himself. He focused intensively on enclosing the two Elders in a field. It was difficult to concentrate. The field of the Elder was having some effect on him. He did not know what the Obliterator’s energy was supposed to do, but within a few seconds, he undoubtedly would find out.

Chapter 13: End Game

"What?" Thanos and the Grandmaster exclaimed almost simultaneously at the telemetry of their respective computers. The indication was that of the outcome being a draw.

"A draw? How is that possible?" Quasar asked.

The Grandmaster’s computer seemed to comply with the request. It teleported all participants to the field where the battle had taken place.

Thanos and the Grandmaster looked at each other. They quickly turned to look at the combatants. Vance, Firestar and Captain America were frozen in a stasis field. Apparently, at the same time this had been generated, Vance had surrounded both Elders in a telekinetic field. In effect, both participants were frozen, unable to affect the others or themselves.

"A perfect stalemate," the Grandmaster finally spoke. "No winner can be decided until the outcome of this battle is ended. I wouldn’t have thought you would pursue such a strategy. "

"I didn’t," Thanos answered. "I play to win."

"Then who?" the Grandmaster turned around to the others.

Immediately, both he and Thanos turned their eyes to Warlock.

He stepped forward. "I did. It was clear that there were high stakes involved, and until I knew what they were, I did not intend to let either of you win."

The Grandmaster started laughing. "You think you can come into the game late and defeat me?" he continued to laugh. "This was a minor battle. It matters not to the overall scheme. While you pretenders have been busy engaging my fellow Elders, I’ve been amassing different energies. The combination of which will be the end of the universe."

"What does that mean?" Quasar said getting worried. It was his job to protect the universe, although currently he felt quite powerless.

"I have obtained a multitude of energies which I have calculated that combined are sufficient to destroy Galactus. We will kill two birds with one stone as the human saying goes."

With the wave of a hand, the Grandmaster absorbed the telekinetic energy of Vance surrounding the two Elders. Simultaneously, he released the trapped Avengers also. An orb formed around the now released telekinetic energy. The Grandmaster held it in his palm. Five other glowing globes appeared. A larger sphere appeared in the middle.

"Witness true manipulation, dark Titan!" the Grandmaster gloated. "Behold!" The Grandmaster pointed to one of the orbs. "The Power Cosmic of Firelord’s and Terrax’s weapons." Energy poured from one orb to the larger one. "The Speed Force…" The second orb blasted it’s energy into the larger one. "Ionic energy…" The third orb divulged its glowing energy into the continually glowing larger sphere. "Soul gem energy…" the Grandmaster continued as the next orb regurgitated its energy much like the others. "Drax’s chronal energy…the Avenger’s telekinetic energy," he said finishing up, as the last remaining orbs poured into the larger orb.

A melting pot of energies, the Grandmaster had collected and merged them. The smaller orbs disappeared as the larger one glowed intensely.

"Now," he paused to look at his group. "Coupled with all our Power Primordial energies combined, we can at last do what we’ve wanted for so long! Vanquish once and for all time, the being known as Galactus! The universe will become stagnant and collapse inward upon itself. And the Elders shall emerge onto a new universe as its masters. A clean slate to do with as we please."

The other Elders cheered. They all merged their power primordial energies into the sphere. The Grandmaster held the sphere up high. He closed his eyes and concentrated. The sphere unloaded a blast of energy shooting toward the sky.

"We will allow you to witness the fruits of my labor," the Grandmaster said. "And then, Titan, we will expect you to remove you and your kind from this universe forever!" With the wave of a hand, Thanos and his group were teleported to the bridge of his ship.

In space, Galactus prepared to devour a nameless planet. Ego speedily approached the location.

Activating his machines, Galactus settled back to wait. The planet began breaking up.

An explosion occurred as an unknown ray of energy traversed through the planet decimating it into subatomic particles.

Galactus looked at his machinery. No energy had come through. The computer had aborted and was retracting its mechanisms. According to the data, there was no longer a planet there.

Using his cosmic senses, Galactus turned to perceive an approaching planet. "EGO?" A deep base voice reverberated. "I HUNGER!"

The Elders flew out in front of the living planet with the Grandmaster leading them. "World Devourer, we would have you know your destroyers."


"No, Galactus," the leader of the Elders smiled. "You will stand no longer."

From the bridge of Thanos’ ship, the heroes watched. The Elders all focused their energy into the sphere, Ego included. They fired at Galactus.

Galactus let out a scream, as the energy seemed to cause his form to begin dissipating.

"We have to do something," the Silver Surfer jumped up.

"There is little you can do," Warlock answered never taking his eyes off the front screen. The entire cast of heroes had become as powerless as they ever had been. They stared in awe as the fruits of the cosmic chess game unfolded before them. Within, even the Surfer and Quasar felt helpless, though they constantly frequented the cosmic winds of space.

Galactus’ dissipating form abruptly stopped as he changed into energy briefly and then began to re-materialize. The Elders all stared in astonishment and renewing fear as the Grandmaster gaped in complete confusion.

"I don’t understand! I proved the formula mathematically myself!" The Grandmaster turned, looking at the other Elders.

Galactus’ head looked upward in anger. His eyes and hands simultaneously closed, his fist momentarily glowed. His head immediately bowed. The eyes had changed. They now glowed red hot, with energy seething at the sides as if a thousand lightning strikes were fading into a mist. Anger sprang from his mouth in words that impossibly traveled space, "THE ELDERS HAVE ANNOYED GALACTUS FOR THE LAST TIME…AND SHALL NO LONGER!"

The Explorer was the first recipient.

Galactus blasted him with a barrage of unknown energy. Light sprang from his hands, his mouth and eyes. Energy swirls erupted within the travel of the plasma-like white energy originating from his form. On the receiving end, the form of the Elder outlined itself in space as the inner material vanished literally into nothingness.

"We…we cannot die," the Grandmaster managed to say doubting what he just saw.

"NO, BUT NULLIFICATION IS NOT DEATH. OBLIVION WELCOMES YOU WITH OPEN ARMS!" he majestically spoke as though passing a cosmic judgement on the beings before him. He opened his hand, displaying the Ultimate Nullifier, a weapon of ultimate destruction unequaled in the universe. He closed his hand as his hands began powering up with the force and destructive power of the incredible weapon.

The Elders looked at each other, all frozen in their positions. It had been said that being nullified was the equivalent of being confined to an eternity of solitude. A worse hell none could imagine!

Galactus fired again, a new victim chosen this time. The Elders turned and scattered desperately as the Architect screamed a painful nullification. His scream seemed to echo as his form slowly vanished.

The Elders spread out. Most teleported away, erupting powerful blasts that flooded the area as their form vanished. The Runner sped the fastest, as the others awkwardly shot out multiple blasts in all directions. Thanos’ kilometers-sized ship rocked.

"Why are they doing that?" Vance asked. He had not been close enough to grab a steady object and had been thrown across the other side of the bridge of the ship.

"They are surrounding the area with different energies to make it difficult to track their positions," the Silver Surfer finally spoke. He had been happy to see his master survive but now knew he would retaliate. In most things, Galactus tended to be passive. But when directly attacked, Galactus would always respond as a predator would. And the poor fools would always turn and run. He had seen it countless times as Galactus’ herald. The Elders would regret their mistake.

The Surfer watched as Galactus summoned his ship and blasted forward, "Perhaps still able to track them?" the Surfer thought. He turned as Thanos spoke.

"I thank you all for fighting valiantly today." He walked slowly over to his throne with his hands behind his back and his head down, dejected.

The Captain wondered if Thanos would keep his word, having failed to defeat the Elders.

Thanos spoke again. "We did our best with what we had." He looked up, his back now facing them. "Computer. Return them."

Lights flashed as the heroes on the bridge disappeared one by one.

"The Elders don’t make mistakes," Warlock said to Thanos. "What did you do?"

"Eh?" Thanos turned his head behind quickly.

Adam Warlock stood alone with his gem glowing, his hands and body hidden under his bright red cape. A controlled sinusoidal-like soul energy pulse had not let the transporter beam lock on to him. "I would like my Eternal Orb returned," Warlock responded still not moving from his original position.

Thanos looked at him momentarily. Then he turned around nodding to a worker robot nearby. "How did you know?"

"You would need access to a library of massive information in order to develop a plan to counter the Elders and anything they might throw at you. A lot you played on the moment, but your overall plan appears to have been to tempt them to make a mistake for you to capitalize on. To understand them that well, you must have done some very complex psychological profiles on them."

"Not exactly to tempt them, but to force an error," the Titan said smiling.

"Is that where you switched Firelord’s staff and Terrax’s axe with duplicates?" Warlock questioned.

"Ahhh, you knew?" Thanos questioned.

"No, I just made the connection now."

"The first battles we lost were my measuring battles to see what they really were after," Thanos explained as though saying something obvious.

A large robot stopped and hovered by Adam. A bottom compartment opened as steel shards resembling fingers clasped the Eternity Orb and extended it to Adam.

Adam grabbed it from him. "Please leave me out of your future endeavors," Warlock spoke preparing to teleport.

"I can give no promises," the Titan smiled. He pressed a button on the throne and a beam of light transported Adam away.

On his throne, Thanos sat. "A worthwhile achievement," he thought, "and mildly diverting."

"SR-32," he called. The transporters came online as Thanos entered some coordinates. They energized and transported an object to Thanos’ side.

"Yes, Lord Thanos," the robot scurried over to his master’s command.

Thanos looked at the dark black screen of empty space in front of him.

"What day is tomorrow?" he asked.

The robot quickly searched a personal database it always held. Failure to respond quickly enough would mean termination.

"Truce Day, sir," it said finding an entry within.

"As I thought," he said softly. "Set course for planet Carus Frater," Thanos answered. "Send my brother the coordinates," he continued as he looked over the large energy sphere at his side.

"A nice choice for a desolate planet, sir," the robot answered in a soft, reverent tone. "And a very nice gift."

In the black sea of space, a spec within a solar system entered hyperspeed.

[The End]

Please send comments to cpufeedback@yahoo.com or leave them below...

E-mail Address:

I would like information on writing for Cosmic Powers Unlimited.

I would like information on creating art for Cosmic Powers Unlimited.

Issue #20 Cover Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #20 Letters and Comments
Elders Quest Chapter 13 Shards of Destiny #6 Defenders #3 Silver Surfer/Thor Chapter 4 Tales of Timeless #15 Drunk Thanos #10
What is CPU? How to Join Our Staff CPU Archives