Infinity Conquest #3
Written by Josh Reynolds,
Edited by Marvelite
Continued from Infinity Conquest issue #1 and issue #2.
The huge asteroid floated in high orbit around the Shi'ar border world, lights glittering from the domed buildings that dotted its pocked surface. Within each of these, outlaws and rebels, spies and arms dealers, all manner of beings, all dregs of the universe, congregated and plotted and conducted illicit business upon neutral ground. Inside the largest of the domes, a game was taking place within a seedy, ill lit bar. A game with a glowing, purple-black gem as its prize. The game was simple, last man standing wins.
And Terrax, former herald of Galactus, intended to be that man. Terrax swept his glittering ax through the reptilian alien that lunged at him, slicing the pirate in half in a welter of gore and slimy intestine.
Finishing his swing, he snapped out a boot, smashing another opponent in the chest, crunching bone. Three more, representatives of various races, howled their battle cries and launched themselves at the granite form of the warrior in the center of the ring. Terrax smiled.
Two minutes later, it was over. And one minute after that, Terrax possessed the Space Gem, and continued to smile, plans forming in his cunning mind. Plans of conquest. Plans involving the Worldship of his late master.
The Mind Gem floated through the micro-verse, an azure beacon, solitary and tiny. A dark gloved hand closed slowly around it, and luminescent, white eyes studied the gem intently. "Interesting," whispered Maelstrom, a vicious grin curving his thin lips. "You look familiar little one."
Doom unclasped his great, green cloak and slid it from his shoulders, tossing it to a nearby servant. Then he slid a streamlined backpack onto his back, a slender cable extending from it to the futuristic looking rifle he clasped in one hand. One metal digit flipped a power switch upon the rifle's stock and the weapon began to hum menacingly. Turning, the absolute monarch of Latveria swept his iron gaze across the ranks of purple armored Doom-Bots that lined up behind him. "Come." He grated, touching the console upon his belt and opening a glittering portal into the Negative Zone. As the armor clad tyrant walked through the portal, his metal legion followed him to war.
Spider-Man knew something was wrong the minute the Baxter Building's top floors exploded in gout of black energy. Leaping from the ledge he was perched on, the crimson and blue clad hero landed in the street and sprayed his webbing into a protective shield over the few pedestrians he could get to before the debris began to rain down. That done, he began dodging flying building bits himself and attempting to reach those wounded by the flaming wreckage. "I can already tell I'm gonna be late for work." he muttered beneath his mask as he wrenched a young woman out of the path of a splintered girder.
At that moment, rips in the fabric of reality opened up all over the island of Manhattan and the denizens of the Negative Zone, eager for plunder, poured forth into our world.
Within the ruins of the Baxter Building, Annihilus laughed like some demented jackal and flexed his wings, rising above his forces while they poured from Reed Richards' Negative Zone portal, like a never-ending tide. The power of his new treasure flowed through him, rendering him invulnerable. He screamed with joy. Nothing could harm him, not Blastaar, not the Fantastic Four, nothing! Energy crackled off of him as he rose into the air, swooping out over the city. Cackling, he observed as the shockwave of Blastaar's self-immolation continued to rip the dimensional veil asunder throughout the city, and throughout the entirety of this world, most likely.
A new jewel to be plundered, a new conquest at hand. Sobering suddenly, Annihilus flew back to what remained of Richards' lab and landed lightly, flinging wreckage away to reveal the unconscious forms of three members of the Fantastic Four - Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, and the Human Torch, their costumes shredded and blood stained. He looked at them with cold insectile eyes. They had just been entering the Negative Zone via the portal when Annihilus had struck, still smoking from Blastaar's energies.
When the front half of their vessel had come through the portal, the Living Death had pounced and splintered the vehicle in twain, flinging the front end deeper into the Zone with his newly acquired strength, and shoving the back end back out into Richards' lab and into a wall. He used his enhanced energies to increase the force of the resulting explosion, and thoroughly demolished the top floors of this building as well as any resistance from his enemies. The Thing had been piloting the vessel and had had no time to escape it before he was hurled away by Annihilus. The other three had been at the heart of the explosion. Their present, still living condition puzzled him a bit, but when they finally awoke he would deal with them at his leisure. And those of his forces still within the Zone would easily overwhelm the Thing in time if he had survived. But for now, he had a world to conquer. At his screech, his troops began to descend the building's sides by any means at their disposal, and Annihilus flew at their head.
Captain America gritted his teeth and slammed a fist into the creature's face, shattering it's blue carapace into fragments. Energy blasts and weapons ricocheted from his shield as he battered through the alien ranks.
He had been fighting for almost three hours and fatigue was slipping into his muscles, draining them of strength. But he couldn't stop, not while innocent people were endangered by these interdimensional scavengers pouring forth from the Negative Zone.
"Damn! Cap's fighting on auto pilot and these bastards still can't touch him!" Spider-Man yelled to Iron-Man as he pummeled another creature into the pavement, muscles burning, costume ripped and stained. Iron-Man swooped over him, his red and gold armor battered and charred in several places, and fired his repulser beams into the horde that swarmed around them, scattering dozens and incinerating still more.
"That's why we pay the man, web head!" the armored Avenger replied as he landed beside the other.
"He gets paid?!?" Spider-man mock howled, slapping his forehead. Both men shared a brief laugh as they surveyed what was going on around them. Only minutes after the explosion of the Baxter Building and the initial assault by the Negative Zone inhabitants, the Avengers had been on the scene, aiding the NYPD in rescuing civilians and battling the interdimensional pirates.
Solo heroes, like Spider-Man and Daredevil had offered to lend a hand too, and their aid was gratefully accepted. Eventually, military and SHIELD units were sent in, adding even more firepower to the defenders side.
But there seemed to be no end to the invaders, nor the damage they caused. Even now, half of the city was in flames and hundreds were dead, despite the best efforts of the heroes. However, the impetus of the invaders had been halted here, in Brooklyn, and their army ground to a halt. But the fighting continued, and seemed like it would continue for as long as the portals to the Negative Zone were not closed. As night slowly fell, both sides halted their assaults upon enemy positions, and only sporadic combat continued.
As Spider-Man and Iron-Man caught their third wind of the day, the enemy forces fell back suddenly. Captain America whistled piercingly and held up one crimson-gloved fist. The other heroes made their way towards him. She-Hulk was there, as well as Hercules, Photon, and the Vision. Wonder-Man limped up, his arm across the shoulders of the Scarlet Witch. War-Machine landed nearby, his black and white armor as rent and battered as Iron-Man's.
The Black Knight leaned upon his ebony blade tiredly. The Wasp hovered over Captain America's head, and Giant-Man shrunk down to his normal size to stand beside him. "Where's everyone else Janet?" Captain America asked the Wasp without looking up, massaging his brow.
"Black Panther and Daredevil are with Code: Blue in Hells Kitchen, trying to hold up the invaders there. Thor is somewhere around. I think he's searching for the F.F. Everyone else is scattered throughout the city, doing what they can." The tiny figure replied. Captain America nodded tiredly.
"All right, listen up people. This is going to get worse before it gets better. In the past, these sons of bitches have been stopped when we took out their leader. I haven't seen Blastaar around anywhere, but Spider-Man said he spotted Annihilus earlier today, just after the Baxter Building explosion; others have spotted him as well. An hour ago I sent Hawkeye out to see if he could pinpoint where Annihilus was in the conflict. If when we find him, we need to take him down, hard. That'll be my job, but I'll need two others. Spider-Man, you've faced him before. I'd appreciate your help."
"You got it Cap." Spider-Man nodded sharply.
"And I will come as well, friend Steven." Rumbled Hercules, glaring about him for any signs of dissent. Captain America smiled slightly and clapped the Olympian on the shoulder.
"I wouldn't have it any other way Herc."
Suddenly, a bandaged SHIELD agent darted up, a radio clenched in one fist. "Cap! Cap! We got Hawkeye on the box! Col. Fury says that your guy's found that freak you were looking for!" Captain America snatched the radio from its owners grasp and turned the volume up so all could hear.
"Found him! I repeat, I've found the S.O.B! He's at the corner of Main and he's turning the place into a gravel pit! You better get over here quick!" Hawkeye's ragged voice grated out over the airwaves. Captain America tossed the radio back to the SHIELD agent and shouted, "Alright lets do this! Spider-Man, Hercules with me! The rest of you stay here, do what you can. Try and survive. Hopefully this will be over soon."
Ben Grimm roared hoarsely as he smashed his way through the ranks of foes that faced him. His rocky frame was covered in cracks and scorch marks and even his great strength was slowly waning as the great number of enemies began to tell against him. He threw his long arms wide, smashing alien warriors from their feet left and right, and grasped and crushed five in a bear hug of deadly caliber. Dropping their crushed, limp forms, he propelled himself forward, charging like a locomotive, battering and trampling several dozen in his mad rush. He had to get back. The others needed him. And he owed Annihilus a pounding he wouldn't forget. "Come on ya chuckleheads! I'll take on the whole blamed Negative Zone before I let cheap so and so like you stop me!" He grated as they swarmed about him, seeking to pull him down.
"I don't think that will be necessary
you puerile gargoyle." A cold, aristocratic voice stated as a
murderous beam of energy cut a swathe through the aliens facing Grimm.
Doom landed beside the Thing, his rocket belt screeching. His Doom-Bots
hammered into the Negative Zone forces, scattering
them after a few moments of furious combat.
"Well, well rusty, hows they hangin'?" Grimm chuckled, cracking his knuckles. "Didn't figure on you bein' here."
"Just as I certainly did not expect you, you cretinous ape. Where is Richards and the rest of your lamentable clan?" Doom snarled, leveling his rifle. Grimm shrugged.
"Bah! Answer me this then Grimm, why did you enter the Negative Zone? Did Richards get the same readings I did?"
"That he did, Doomsie, an we discovered what was causin' em ta boot! But I got a feelin' you already knew what that is." Grimm chuckled. Doom waved a gauntlet in dismissal.
"Of course. That is why I have fought my way across half of this disgusting backwater of a dimension. But where is it?"
"Well after blowin' up our ship, ol' bat wings himself, flew back through Reed's portal just over that away." Grimm pointed. Doom snarled.
"Blast! The energy source has
escaped into our world. That will complicate things. But I shall
possess it yet! So says Doom! You I leave to your fate."
The lord of Latveria fired up his rocket pack and began to ascend, just as the
Thing wrapped one orange paw around his armored boot.
"Uh-uh Vic! I got a feelin' whatever new power Annihilus has, it can't be as bad in his hands as it would be in yers. So.down boy!" Grimm slammed Doom down into the ground with all of his strength, then dragged him back up, still holding him by his boot and hurled him like a fastball into the surging ranks of Doom-Bots. "C'mon you overgrown tinker toys, let's throw down!" The Thing growled, crooking his finger to the Doom-Bots. They charged.
Thor dropped lightly to what remained of the top floor of the Baxter Building, ice blue eyes scanning for foes. His cloak was shredded and tattered and his winged helmet was gone, lost in one of the many skirmishes he had been involved in since the morning invasion. A groan drew his attention to a large pile of smoldering wreckage. Tossing it aside with godly might, Thor beheld the battered forms of the Fantastic Four. As the thunder god knelt beside him, Mr. Fantastic opened one bruised eye and attempted to sit up. Thor braced his friend's shoulders, helping him to sit upright. "Anni… Annihilus… Sue… shielded us in time. but…" Richards groaned.
"Aye friend. Rest easy. We doth know of the foul creature." Thor rumbled.
"No… don't know… gem on his… armor… Infinity." Richards collapsed, too weakened to continue, his hand reaching towards the unconscious form of his wife. Thor placed Richards back down upon the ground and reached for the SHIELD issue radio at his belt.
"Aye, I found them. They are mortally wounded and sore in need of the healing arts of Midgardian physicians. Send a helicopter to the top floors of the Baxter Building quickly." Thor stood helplessly as he clipped the radio back to his belt. He had information Captain America would need; yet he could not leave injured comrades. He would just have to hope that the chopper arrived soon, allowing him to confront Annihilus with his comrades.
Doctor Strange chanted in a voice hoarse with strain and eight hours of constant use as he floated cross-legged above the pentagram emblazoned upon the floor of his townhouse. His arms burned with muscle fatigue as he made intricate gestures and repetitive movements. Sweat flooded down his face, staining his shirt. He longed to enter the conflict he could hear just outside the walls of his home, to do what he could, to aid those he could, but it was not to be. Minutes before Annihilus' assault had begun, another of a mystic nature had commenced, pressing into our dimension, all around. Strange had stayed where he was, bolstering the mystic wards he had placed around this dimension, struggling to hold some unseen foe at bay. He was tired, exhausted. His energies were diminishing with every hour. Yet he continued to hold the barriers in place, praying for a miracle.
At the same moment, in the control room of the Sphinx-ship speeding through the time stream towards earth's early twenty first century, Kang the Conqueror received the signal he had been waiting for and reached over to type a code into the guidance systems database for the vessel. The great stone ship shuddered to a halt within the time stream, its engines cutting off abruptly. Kang stood and reached for the laser rifle he had placed beneath the chair. Smiling, he started down towards the laboratory wherein his brother time lords were studying the Reality Gem.
As he entered, the Scarlet Centurion turned towards him, annoyance upon his features. "What now Kang?" He snarled.
"Nothing, my oh so wise future incarnation, nothing at all. I merely wished to inform you that we have reached the end of our partnership." Kang, still smiling, raised the barrel of his rifle and fired a super heated plasma charge into the Centurion's chest, hurling him backwards.
"I knew you couldn't be trusted butcher!" Rama-Tut sneered, drawing his pistol and firing at Kang's head. Kang ducked away, and then lunged towards his past self, a gleaming bayonet suddenly appearing upon the barrel of his rifle. The Living Pharaoh had nowhere to go in the cluttered lab and was speared through his slim chest. He dropped boneless to the floor; uttering not a sound, blood seeping slowly from his open mouth and punctured torso.
"Barbarian!" The Centurion howled as he got to his feet, leaning upon the wall for support. "No weapon at your disposal will pierce my armor nor will it save you from my wrath!"
"Not at his disposal,
no." A voice like molten sulfur purred. The Scarlet Centurion
shrieked as crimson bands of mystical energy suddenly enwrapped his form.
"But I think that you will find the Crimson Bands of Cyrotak are more than
able to do the job." The Centurion had time for one final scream as
the mystic bonds suddenly contracted, crumpling his armor with ease and crushing
the frail form within, snapping bones and grinding organs to paste. The
bonds dissipated, allowing the convulsing wreckage to drop
to the floor with a meaty thump.
Dormammu, lord of the Dark Dimension, floated towards the floor and laughed wickedly. "Pathetic Kang. I certainly hope you are made of sterner stuff than your erstwhile allies. Otherwise our alliance has little hope of success."
"Have no fear Dormammu. I am not called the Conqueror for nothing." Kang grinned and reached out towards the Reality Gem, as it floated suspended over the sensors. "Now let us claim our prize and be on our way. We have a date with destiny and we wouldn't want to be late, now would we?"
To Be Continued.
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