The Last Herald of Galactus #4
Written by Dannell Lites,
Edited by Marvelite
The Last Herald of Galactus
Continues from The Last Herald of Galactus issue #1, issue #2, and issue #3
In the blink of an eye, he was simply someplace else. He braced himself for dizziness and disorientation that did not come. In fact, he felt, somehow, better than normal. The finely tuned instrument that was his body seemed to have acquired new vistas of energy and resource. Suddenly, the answer to a rather irritating puzzle encountered recently on a case sprang full blown into his mind and he smiled. The Riddler was in for quite a surprise when this was done and The Batman once again had time to devote to his capture.
The featureless metal corridor seemed to stretch endlessly before him for literal miles. Most probably, in fact, did so.
"'The journey of a thousand miles,' says Lao-Tse," he told himself firmly, "'begins with but a single step'."
With determination, he took that first step.
Slowly, he increased his speed until he was trotting at a steady ground eating pace that he could maintain for hours, to his certain knowledge. Briefly, he hoped that wouldn't be necessary. Time. There was no time. He increased his pace a bit. When he came to the branch in the corridor he took the right fork almost without thinking. It was only several seconds after his instinctive decision that he caught his first full view of the three dimensional map of the huge vessel he had breached that lived within his mind now, guiding him on his quest. He smiled and offered up a quick prayer of thanksgiving to the absent Kal-El.
Rounding another turn in the endless corridor, his mind was suddenly shrieking caution at him. The way before him was as featureless and inoffensive as any other stretch of this vast place. But beneath his boots he could feel the slight tremble of the metal deck; the sharp tang of the air in his nostrils brought him the feel of great power like ants crawling over his skin. Crouching, drawing deep, even, sustaining breaths, he placed his hand on the deck and felt the faint traces of the power surging there even more clearly.
Withdrawing a small glass marble from his utility belt, he lobbed it in the direction in which his internal map guided him. Hastily, he covered his body with his cape to shield himself from the brilliant flare of light from directly ahead.
Apparently, the way before him was well guarded as he's been warned.
Practiced hands removed the retractable batarang from his utility belt. In the harsh luminescence of the huge corridor, the tiny, soft blue light at it's center winked dully. Explosive charge activated, The Batman's weapon of choice waited patiently. The strike would have to be timed just so. Slowly, he began the mental countdown. He drew back, released it, and fell lithely to the floor, making as small a target of himself as possible, and covered himself once more with the kevlar-laced protection of his massive cape.
His ears rang for several moments with the batarang's explosive force, but another quick, careful marble tossed, unharmed, down the corridor told him the way was clear now.
Smiling, step by cautious step, The Batman continued his journey of, what he hoped, would be considerably less than a thousand miles.
The solar energies of this world's sun burned within him and, with a thought, he sent them spilling out his eyes. Under the heated assault a small part of The Machine flared red and melted itself into slag. Annoyed, Galactus turned, sweeping back the tide of heroes who struggled against him. Surely, thought Kal-El, the anger in that thunderous voice was only in his imagination. Like so many other things about his former Master.
"Of course!" cried Reed Richard, exultant at seeing the answer to a problem fall into place so neatly. "The machine! Concentrate on the machine he's building! That's the key!"
Gliding on the winds, Wonder Woman struck the mighty artifact with the Sword of Ares, sending sparks flying and filling the air with the shriek of metal.
"It's Clobberin' Time!" shouted Ben Grimm, The Thing, and smashed one rocky, orange fist into the smooth metallic side of the edifice, leaving the imprint of his huge hand there to mark his wrath.
"Go for it Matchead!" he bellowed encouragement to his young partner, the Human Torch.
"Flame ON!" cried Johnny Storm and unleashed a nova blast of heat and flame at The Machine.
"You trouble me, Herald," said Galactus to the hovering Kal-El, ignoring the others.
"I always did, didn't I?" returned Kal-El bitterly. "Why wouldn't you listen to me? Why are you making me do this?"
"We are as Destiny made us, Kal-El," replied Galactus.
The blast of energy directed at Kal-El was focused through the World Devourer's eyes, although that was not necessary. Just before it struck him and sent him careening far away from the battle, he came to appreciate the irony of that. The irony ...
And the rebuke.
It surprised him, vaguely, to be so unhurt. Battered and weary, he was; but unbloodied. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the building with which he collided. Whistling through the air at the speed of sound, he cannonballed into the side of the raising LexCorp skyscraper with force enough to rattle his teeth. His fall splintered the glaring, yellow UNDER CONSTRUCTION signs lurking at the bottom of the structure. When the building collapsed on top of him, burying him under tons of debris, he thought he heard the distant screams of horrified onlookers, but he was not really paying attention.
"Son of a bit - " began one Metropolite.
"He's street pizza!" cried another in dismay.
The gapping crowd fell back in hasty concern, retreating like an ebbing tide, when the ground began to shake. Exploding from his claustrophobic prison, Kal-El flew once more toward the Daily Bugle Building and the batterfield.
" - ch! Awesome superpowers, man! Kick butt, superguy!" finished the first astonished Metropolite and began a ragged cheer. The crowd joined him with enthusiasm.
"Did he say ... Super-man? Is that his name ... ?" inquired one cheering Metropolite.
"I *think* so ... " answered another, pointing to the departing Kal-El.
Kal-El's return was auspicious. He did not need his other senses to tell him that Galactus was besieged. He could see The Machine shake and tremble like an ancient with an ague under the assault of the helmeted leader of The X-Men.
"Keep up the pressure, Magneto," instructed Reed Richards, calmly. "I was right. It *is* made of metal he's leeching from his surroundings."
"And a ferrous one at that, Reed Richard," agreed the Master of Magnetism. Guided by Magneto's power, The Machine began to disintegrate, separating itself into it's component parts.
Galactus pointed and energy went roaring from his outstretched fingertip. When it struck the magnetic force bubble surrounding Magneto the shield blazed bright red as the two primal forces struggled for supremacy. Magneto's shields held, but like Kal-El before him, the concussive force of the clash sent him flying far from the fray. The Machine began to methodically reassemble itself, but Galactus turned his attention to his rebellious Herald.
"You have chosen to defend this world, my Kal-El. So be it. Then here you shall remain. No longer are you Herald to Galactus. No longer will you soar on the Cosmic Winds at Galactus command." Galactus waved his hand and the sky glowed bright, bright purple for an instant. By instinct, Kal-El shielded his sensitive eyes. When he lowered his hand it shook.
His body told him he had been stripped of his space-spanning powers, leeched of his ability to fly between the worlds. In his very cells he knew the Barrier just erected by Galactus would not allow him to pass. In the fullness of their destiny, the inhabitants of this would ply the stars, sailing among them with abandon. But not Kal-El. For him, the freedom of the stars was lost.
To frolic and explore among the wonders of the galaxy was his chieftest joy. At times, his only joy. Trapped and caged, now, he cried out in devastation. To be so denied ... so *confined* ... The loss was crushing, punishing.
As it was meant to be, of course.
The slender hand, its long nails carefully manicured and polished brilliant red, that tapped him lightly on the shoulder was most unexpected. Her pristine white costume bore several dark smudges to marr it's gaudy, sparkling perfection, but the masses of blond hair spilling over her shoulders in a leonine mane caught the light of the sun and fairly glowed. Kal-El blinked.
"Hi there, cutie," smiled Alison Blaire, the Dazzler. "What you do for all that tight spandex is probably illegal in at least forty-eight states. Love the cape ... but the rest has *got* to go. Too dark and gloomy. Maybe something in red and blue ... "
Kal-El's look of confusion must have been more than plain. Had he been insulted ... or complimented? It was difficult to tell. He blinked again and the Dazzler sighed.
"Look, stop me if I'm wrong here, Big Guy, but ... my powers tell me that you run off sunlight. Well, baby, we're a match made in Heaven. I convert sound into light --- any kind of light you want. Everything from lasers to plain old everyday *sunlight*." The beautiful woman entwined her arms around Kal-El's neck and whispered in his ear.
Her smile was joyous and wicked and the kiss was very through. Laughing, the Dazzler began to hum, at first. In the air around her, dust motes charged themselves with energy and began to dance about in time to the rhythms of her rising voice, in a, frankly, dazzling display of mutant born special effects. The Dazzler's stage act was always a big hit.
Her voice, when she began to sing, was low, throaty and powerful. She almost giggled as she decided on a song. Very appropriate. Singer Alison Blaire might have been rejected for the role in the Broadway production of the musical, but the Dazzler was going to leave her own, special, unforgettable mark on the song that sprang to her mind.
Feed me, Seymour. Feed me all day long... 'Cause if I feed you, Seymour, You can grow up, big and strong.
Concentrated sunlight struck him like a solid wall; flowed from the Dazzler into Kal-El, arching his back and making him groan in ecstasy. Warmth and power sufficed him until his body could contain no more of the sweetness ... the agony of it. And, surrounded by her brilliant, dizzying light show, the Dazzler sang on.
If you want a rationale, It isn't very hard to see. No, No, No... Stop and think it over, pal. The guy sure looks like plant food to me! The guy sure looks like plant food to me! The guy sure looks like plant food to me...!
The pain became exquisite, filling his world. He cried out with the joy of it, coursing through him, burning down his veins like fire .... almost as potent, in its way, as the Power Cosmic. Raw energy flared and hissed around him, crackling and flaming the air. Again, his back arched and he gave his desire for more a harsh, rasping voice. Smiling, Alison Blaire, the Dazzler, sang louder.
He's so nasty treatin' us rough! Smackin' us around, and always talkin' so tough! You need sun and I've got more than enough! You need sun and I've got more than enough! You need sun and I've got more than enough...! So, Go Git'em!
Glowing with power, Kal-El flew once more at Galactus.
"Hey!" exclaimed Spiderman, looking around uneasily, "What happened to the alien? Big Purple And *Hungry's* fly boy? You know, his Herald. That Kal-El guy." John Henry Irons frowned. But, of course, beneath his steel face plate no one could see it.
"That's a damned good question," he said slowly. "Did anyone see ... "
"I have an even better question," said Reed Richards, quietly. "Has anybody seen The Batman? He also appears to be among the missing." His teammate Ben Grimm rolled his eyes heavenward.
"Why ain't I surprised, Stretcho? Damned spook gives me the creeps," he proclaimed sourly. Ben Grimm busied himself lighting a large cigar between his rocky orange lips and so did not notice the look of agreement that passed between the others gathered in this place.
Agreement ... and uneasy trepidation.
The hands that held him, searching his body for injuries with light, skillful touches, were firm but surprisingly gentle. His blurred vision brought him the sight of ice blue eyes, softened now with concern, staring out of the midst of great darkness.
"Don't leave ..." he choked, "please ... Not again ... not again ... " Strong arms tightened around him reflexively. The voice that answered him was deep, low and soothing.
"I'm right here," it reassured him. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Cold ... " he shivered, "so cold ... "
Warmth enveloped him at once and he clutched the comfort of the huge, black bat-shaped cape closer to him. Safe, protected, and no longer alone, Kal-El tumbled down into blissful unconsciousness.
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