Infinity Conquest #4
Written by Josh Reynolds,
Edited by Marvelite
Continued from Infinity Conquest issue #1, issue #2, and issue #3.
The plan was simple, yet the reward was great. That was how the Scarlet Centurion described his scheme to his past incarnations, Rama-Tut and Kang the Conqueror. The trio would marshal their forces and wrest the Reality Gem from Thanos of Titan. They would then bend the gem's powers to their own ends, using it to secure control of the Time Gem, their true quarry. With both the Time and Reality Gems, the three warlords could secure control over all aspects of time, making themselves equal to (or even greater than) the Time Keepers. They could eliminate all variants of themselves as well as their common foe, Immortus, thus gaining total control, divided but three ways.
However, the seeds of treachery lurked in the black hearts of all three members of that fragile alliance. And one of them allowed those seeds to sprout into full blossom. Kang, his lust for temporal conquest brightly burning, struck a deal with one of the darkest entities of reality-Dormammu, dread ruler of the infamous Dark Dimension. Kang would surrender control of the Reality Gem to Dormammu, and in return Dormammu would aid Kang in acquiring the Time Gem for his sole ownership. Dormammu desired the gem of Reality so that he could warp the dimensional wards placed around his dimension by his various mystical opponents, including Dr. Strange of Earth, allowing his legions access to other planes of reality. Kang, having no desire for the sort of cosmic near omnipotence that was most wanted by the Centurion, had no hesitation in offering to turn the gem over to Dormammu, once sole rulership of time was in his grasp.
Once the Centurion and Rama-Tut had served their purpose in discovering the whereabouts of the Time Gem, Kang contacted Dormammu, and, with his aid, eliminated his brother timelords. Then the duo prepared to journey to the coordinates discovered by Rama-Tut's sensors, Mount Wundagore, in Eastern Europe. The domain of the High Evolutionary.
Terrax stood aboard the bridge of the mercenary vessel Vo'rakash and bellowed laughter, shaking his ax overhead. All around his chosen flagship, several hundred smaller vessels, mostly pirate craft, hung in space, awaiting his orders. "Are we ready Vang?" He roared, whirling from the central monitor to face his newly bought and paid for second in command.
The heavily muscled Skrull grinned and saluted.
"Yes Sir! At your command!"
"Excellent. Tell all ships to prepare for transit! The greatest prize in the universe awaits!" Terrax grasped the bruise hued form of the Space Gem where it hung from a chain around his neck, and accessed its power, bolstering it with his own cosmic energies. In a flash of purple-black energy, the entire pirate fleet vanished, leaving nothing behind as a reminder of their existence.
The impact of the Titan's landing had scarred the barren landscape for several miles in all directions. An immense crater lay in the center of the devastation; smoke boiling over its rim. Odin surveyed the destruction with a pleased eye as he landed heavily, battered armor clanking, Gungnir clutched in one gauntleted fist. Thanos had been a worthy adversary, a challenge even for the godly abilities of the lord of Asgard. Now, though, the time had come to end his sinister existence once and for all, if he wasn't dead already.
As he approached the crater, Odin extended his cosmic senses, searching for some sign of his foe, only to find nothing at all. The interior of the crater was bare of all but smoke and debris. Odin snarled. Somehow the Titan had escaped death! "There will be a reckoning one day soon, Thanos of Titan!" He howled, eyes burning with deific might. "Sooner than you think, oh arrogant Allfather." Grated a deep voice from behind Odin. As he wheeled about the lord of Asgard was hit with a roiling wave of energy. It knocked him from his feet, rolling him into the crater.
Odin struggled to his feet, leaning upon his spear for support.
"You yet live, base one. I am almost pleased. You are worthy of my personal attention indeed!" Odin snarled as he leapt from the crater. "But how is it you have survived mortal?" he called, looking about him for any sign of his attacker.
"I have been banned from the realm of my mistress for my sins. Not even one such as you can rescind that ruling, powerful though you are. I only allowed you the upper hand so as to remove you from any aid you might receive from your loyal followers. Now our true battle begins!" Thanos laughed, his voice coming from everywhere and nowhere. Suddenly another power blast slammed home against Odin's broad back, cracking and warping his ornate armor. As he fell forward, thrown off balance, another beam struck him in his chest, burning his flesh. He was tossed backwards onto his back.
Rolling to his feet, he was struck again, this time upon his side, and was hurled into a rocky scree, imbedded in the debris. Thanos appeared before him out of thin air and grabbed Gungnir, wrenching it from his grasp.
Then the Titan unleashed his eyebeams into the stunned god's face, snapping his head back, before disappearing again. Odin pulled himself from the rocks and dropped to his knees, shaking his head to clear it. Thanos reappeared off to his left and shoved Gungnir forward, stopping just short of the stunned god's throat. "Now, either allow me to say my piece or die. Your choice." Thanos growled.
"Speak Titan. Though little you could say will prevent my wrath!"
"We'll see about that." Thanos spoke unhurriedly, detailing the assault upon his farm by the trio of time tyrants, the theft of the Reality Gem, and his transport to the Rainbow Bridge. Then he stepped back, allowing Odin to stand. "I could have used my personal teleporter to return to my world at the instant of my arrival here, rather than save it for battle with you.
However, I sensed something emanating from within the confines of your realm. A power akin to that which was stolen from me. One that should not rightly exist in this reality at present."
"Why should I believe any of what you speak, Titan?" Odin said slowly.
"Have you ever known me to lie? Deceive, yes. Murder, certainly. But never lie. At least not to any but myself, I am coming to realize." Thanos replied, handing Gungnir back to its owner, haft first. Odin accepted the weapon absently as he pondered the Eternals words.
"You speak rightly Titan. It has been my experience that lies do not fit themselves easily to your tongue, despite your other myriad faults. You have always been open in your ambitions. Still, I do not trust you nor your motivations, which is what precipitated my assault upon you. However, because you were at heart not at fault for these proceedings, I will allow you to leave without further molestation on my part. Be gone." Odin rumbled, pointing his spear at Thanos. The Titan smirked and bowed low.
"You are generous Lord Odin."
Suddenly an explosion spread across the skyline, illuminating the outline of Bifrost far above them. "What treachery.?!" Odin snarled.
"Not mine I assure you." Thanos murmured. "Perhaps we should investigate together."
"Aye, as you say." Odin growled, raising Gungnir lengthwise in both hands. With a flash of incandescent energy, both men disappeared.
The Soul-Taker howled deep within its emerald home as the Destroyer rampaged through the streets of Asgard. Behind it lay a trail of butchery and destruction stretching all the way from the wilds up to the golden palace of Odin. Hundreds of souls had been consumed, trolls, Aesir, and Vanir. The creature could feel its power increase; yet still it hungered for more. The Destroyer armor hungered as well, but for blood and slaughter rather than souls. The gray shape lumbered up the cobbled streets, energy writhing all over its uru form and enshrouding its brutal fists. Every so often it would stretch its arms wide and let loose a torrent of destruction, shattering buildings and fleeing bodies alike. Whenever it neared a charred form, the emerald gem upon its brow would pulse evilly and absorb the flickering Asgardian spirit before it fled.
Another building exploded before it, wood and glass spreading across its path and as the dust cleared two figures stood before it. The Soul-Taker halted with a clank. One it recognized. A being who had once held it briefly, had used it, had stolen from it its most prized possession-the soul of Warlock. The other radiated great power, akin to that of the Elders, but different, more bloody.
The Soul-Taker licked metaphysical lips. This would be the sweetest feast yet.
Adam Warlock floated a few light-years distant of the World-ship of unlamented Galactus and pondered the situation before him. A fleet of Shi'ar battle cruisers surrounded the immense vessel as it hung in high orbit over the throne world of the empire. Several orbital weapons platforms floated here and there as well, survivors of Galactus' recent assault. He also noticed the vessels of numerous other races in attendance; vultures ready to feast on a cosmic carcass. Warlock recognized a siege when he saw one. There was no question of that. But how was he to break it long enough to gain entry to the ship?
His answer came in a blinding flash of purple light. Warlock suddenly found himself a lone speck amidst a very large fleet of battle ships, armed and armored to the teeth. As he looked around, bewildered, the newly arrived fleet began to move forward, slowly at first, but then picking up speed as it made straight for the vessel of Galactus.
The Silver Surfer watched the encircling ring of alien vessels that orbited his late master's world-ship on the view screen and sighed. He had a feeling that the Shi'ar weren't going to let him move the Taa II from this sector any time soon. At least not without a fight. Of course he could always simply leave, but that would mean letting the dangerous artifacts stowed aboard fall into well meaning, but dangerously inexperienced hands.
Not a pleasant thought.
His reverie was shattered as the comm system blared into life. The strident voice of Gladiator met his ears, "Silver Surfer, this is Praetor Kallark. Please respond."
The Surfer reached over and activated the system fully, his response resigned. "Yes Gladiator? What is it you wish?" As if I don't know, he thought wearily. Ever since Galactus' passing, the Shi'ar had bombarded him every hour on the hour with demands that he turn over the ship's access codes to them or face the wrath of the entire empire. That they hadn't yet acted on those threats was less in regard to the way they felt about him, he supposed, than in the awe they held the technology of Galactus. However, this time, the pre-recorded demands did not stamp upon his weary eardrums. Instead, Gladiator continued to speak, his voice harried and harsh. "How did you manage this, you metal coated bastard?! Every pirate ship in the nearest four systems is bearing down on us, riding to your rescue! We've been monitoring your systems for the past few weeks. There's no way you could have gotten that many sub-space signals off without us noticing!"
"Friend Gladiator, this is not my doing I assure you! Even if I
did require aid, I would not ask it of the very scum I have always battled
against! You yourself said that I had sent no signals." The Surfer
"Then who?" Gladiator snarled, his purple features clouded in rage. The rest of the question was lost in the shock of silent explosions as the pirate fleet met the cream of the Shi'ar navy. Gladiator's signal faded out into static as the battle was joined.
The Silver Surfer stood in shock for a few moments, his mind whirling.
Then with grim features he raced towards the airlock, mentally summoning his
There is no sound in space. Death occurs in the quiet cold, with a flare of color, quickly absorbed into the black of the vacuum. Laser cannon pounded space born steel into scrap. Explosions gutted vessels left and right. Men died, flailing helplessly in the frozen dark, organs rupturing from pressure, blood coating cracked faceplates, draining from every pore.
Like two rival wolf packs the fleets hammered at each other with cold determination. The battle surged and danced around the motionless immensity of the Taa II, like an obscene dense macabre. Wreckage cluttered the field, causing almost as many casualties as laser fire.
Through it all sped the Silver Surfer, an angel cloaked in white energy, a beacon of salvation to crippled vessels. With his power cosmic, the former herald of Galactus maneuvered badly damaged ships, pirate and Shi'ar alike, from the field of combat, preserving what lives he could. There was no way he could halt the combat. In this he was helpless. But he would be damned if he would allow any to die needlessly, either friend or foe.
The Vo'rakash bulled through the Shi'ar lines, its cannons white hot, its
armor scarred and pitted. On the bridge Terrax stood poised, stock still,
ax clasped in both hands. The Space Gem gleamed upon his breast. The
world-ship of Galactus filled his vison, looming closer and closer. With
his new prize, he had managed to smack a fleet size distraction down upon the
heads of the Shi'ar navy and the Silver Surfer, the only obstacles preventing
his claiming of Galactus' legacy. Now the ultimate prize of war was within
his grasp. With a last look about him he grasped the gem in his hand.
Adam Warlock crouched upon the top of the pirate flagship as it sped towards the world-ship through the radioactive fire of the Shi'ar barrages, puzzled.
His cosmic senses screamed as he felt the familiar tingle of Infinity energy nearby, so close he could almost… there! It was if a large neon arrow suddenly pointed downwards ahead of him as he felt the activation of the Space Gem from within the vessel's control room. And if his instincts were right he knew where its bearer was headed. Swiftly he launched himself from the vessel, speeding through the vacuum, hands spread out before him, crimson cloak trailing, a look of determination upon his golden features.
A wave of searing energy washed over the forms of Odin and Thanos, hiding them from view within an obscuring cloud of smoke and flame. The Destroyer dropped its smoking fists to its sides and waited. Gungnir hurtled through the cloud of debris, triple prongs gleaming dully, and ripped into the cosmic metal of the Destroyer's torso, impaling the macabre entity and causing it to stagger back a few steps. As the Destroyer attempted to wrench the battle spear from its body, Thanos, wreathed in smoke, tackled it, unleashing his optic beams upon the featureless face of his foe. The two titans fell to the ground locked in combat, fingers clawing for throats. With a superhuman heave, the uru monstrosity threw the raging Titan into the air and unleashed its power blasts into his rising form, knocking him up and away.
The Destroyer got to its feet just as Odin barreled forward, lunging for his weapon where it protruded from the body of his creation. As gauntleted hands closed around wooden haft, the Destroyer brought both fists around in a converging arc and slammed them into the god's white maned head, cracking bone and crushing cartilage. Odin slumped, dragging his spear from the Destroyer's torso as he fell. The Celestial-killer stepped over the prostrate monarch and crouched, grabbing a fistful of snowy white hair and beard. The gem in the center of its barren faceplate glittered evilly, as sparks of energy crackled within it.
Suddenly orange-gloved hands wrapped themselves around the Destroyer's head and flexed tightly. With a keening shriek, the star forged metal warped and crumpled. The Destroyer threw both hands back, cosmic power bursting forth, trying to free itself from the grasp of Thanos. Odin opened one bloody eye and grinned through crimson stained teeth as he twisted onto his back beneath the still kneeling Destroyer and drove Gungnir's haft into the Soul Gem, dislodging it slightly and splintering the spear haft in the process.
The Destroyer froze and then toppled, limp, sliding from Thanos's fingers. Thanos dropped wearily to his knees and grinned at Odin, who snorted in reply. The Mad Titan dusted off the charred remnants of his costume and said, "Now what?"
Terrax appeared aboard the bridge of Taa II in a burst of radiance, a sneer of triumph upon his stony features. He surveyed his surroundings with easy familiarity and hefted his axe, striding towards the immense main computer. As far as he was concerned, it was all over but the shouting.
Adam Warlock dodged defensive lasers, shooting rapidly through the bowels of the world-ship. He knew he only had minutes to reach the control room of the immense vessel before whatever madman held the Space Gem decided to try and activate the ships offensive weaponry and bring it to bear on the Shi'ar fleet. That left only one course of action, tiring though it was. A grimace of concentration clouded his golden features as he unleashed a karmic blast up through the ceiling above him. The psychokinetic bolt hammered through the levels of the Taa II, ripping a tunnel through the guts of the ship. Warlock sped upwards into the tunnel, ignoring the exhaustion that threatened to overtake him.
The Silver Surfer immediately halted his attempts to stymie the course of the battle as the small wrist communicator he wore blared a tiny version of the world-ship's structural alarm. Anger rippling across his face, he spun his board around in a tight turn and launched himself towards the Taa II, the power cosmic boiling from his eyes and clenched fists.
Terrax whirled in shock as an invisible force smashed through the deck a few feet behind him. A few seconds later, Warlock erupted from the smoking hole, staff clenched tightly in crimson gloved hands. "You! What are you doing here you golden skinned freak of genetics?!" Terrax roared, grasping his axe in both hands and leveling the glittering blade in the general direction of Warlock's midriff.
"I want that gem. Now!" Warlock hissed, streaking forward, a red and gold blur. Terrax gritted his teeth and unleashed a torrent of cosmic energy from his axe tip, engulfing Warlock's hurtling form.
"No. I don't think so." Terrax chuckled as Warlock landed in a smoking heap on the charred floor. Satisfied as to his opponent's state of unconsciousness, Terrax turned back towards the console and began bringing the ship's weaponry online.
And the Silver Surfer sped closer, pushing himself beyond the speed of light as the tiny computer on his wrist began a weapons countdown.
To Be Continued.
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