Infinity Conquest #5
Written by Josh Reynolds,
Edited by Marvelite
Continued from Infinity Conquest issue #1, issue #2, issue #3, and issue #4.
Kang the Conqueror stepped from a glittering portal of blue light onto a snowy, desolate mountainside, armed and armored for war. The adamantine breastplate he wore bore the Reality Gem in its center, hidden amidst hundreds of other jewels. In his gauntleted hands he carried a long staff which pulsed with chronal energies at each tip. Behind him, his royal guard filed out of the portal, arrayed in Egyptian style armor of gold and bronze.
The archaic appearance of their arms and armor belied its lethality, especially in the hands of his elite.
As more and more troops were disgorged from the azure portal, Kang strode to the edge of the immense outcropping he had chosen as a staging ground for his assault on Mount Wundagore and used the Reality Gem to summon forth an image of his most recent ally-Dread Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension.
The flaming features of the faltine broke out into a hideous grin, as Kang's face appeared to him in his otherworldly realm. "You have reached the assault point with no trouble, my ally?"
"Indeed, dread one. All is in readiness for your part in our strategy are your forces ready?" Kang replied.
"Yes. My Mindless Ones are ready to pour forth into the very citadel of our unsuspecting foeman provided you manage to reach that hidden pinnacle and bend that most marvelous of gems to the aid of my spellcraft. For the past several days I have been exerting all my might towards weakening the dimensional bonds placed by that most pernicious of enemies, Doctor Strange.
With the help of the Reality Gem, I shall be able to burst forth from the Dark Dimension into this one-a moment I have dreamt of for eons." Dormammu hissed eagerly, eyes glittering with excitement.
"Have no fears. I shall breach the High Evolutionary's defenses mere minutes from now upon beginning the assault. After all, how much fight can one mad geneticist and a handful of mutated animals playing at chivalry put up? Then I shall liberate the Time Gem from Wyndahm's grasp and you from your prison, and shall deliver the Reality Gem up to you." Kang laughed.
The moment of his ultimate triumph was at hand.
Doctor Strange felt the weakening of his dimensional wards like blows to his
stomach. There was no subtlety to Dormammu's mystical attacks, only a raw
naked power mixed with cold arrogance. Strange knew at once who was
responsible, but something was different. Another force was at work there
as well, bolstering the magics of Dormammu. A force he had felt before.
Strange wiped the sheen of sweat from his brow and began to trace the source of the familiar energies.
Hawkeye gritted his teeth and dove under the hurtling wreckage of the burning truck, rolling to his feet almost immediately, arrow notched. He fired and notched another in one smooth motion as he leapt behind a stack of smoking rubble. The explosive arrow slapped into Annihilus' broad back with a resounding crack, pitching the alien warlord forward onto his knees.
Annihilus snarled and twisted from the ground, crackling energies bursting from his armored digits. Hawkeye was tossed backwards as his scant cover was reduced to dust particles. The purple clad marksman rolled across the debris-strewn street limply, his costume, as well as the flesh beneath, smoldering and his arrows spilling out around him. As he came to a halt, he blindly groped for an arrow, blood obscuring his vision. A shadow fell across his aching form. Looking blearily upwards, his distorted sight caught view of a blur of red white and blue standing protectively over his prone form. The glint of cold adamantium struck his eyes as he collapsed in relief.
"Rest easy Clint. You've done your job. Let me do mine." Captain America said softly, his jaw set in a hard line. Annihilus swooped into the smoky air overhead, power writhing off of his hands and out of his eye sockets.
Upon his green forehead, the Power Gem pulsed wickedly in the light of the
burning wreckage laying littered about Four Freedoms Plaza.
"Come little fleshling, come taste the power of Annihilus!" The insectile alien grated as he folded his leathery wings and swiftly plunged downwards towards the motionless Sentinel of Liberty. At the last possible second, Captain America threw his shield straight up and dove to the side, Hawkeye in his arms. The adamantium shield slammed into Annihilus' torso and threw him off balance, causing him to careen into several nearby parked cars. The shield bounced once upon the concrete before returning in a perfect arc to its owner's hand. Captain America strode over to Annihilus, leaving an unconscious Clint Barton hidden behind a melted chunk of masonry.
The Living Death heaved himself to his feet, flinging auto parts away in fury, and turned to face this latest annoyance. Captain America halted eight feet shy of the creature and waited, his face a stony mask. Annihilus shrieked and let loose a continuous barrage of cosmic energy from clenched talons. Captain America quickly brought his shield up, covering his upper torso and arms, meeting other worldly energies with hard steel. He strained against the energy beams, his crimson boots digging into the ground as he was slowly pushed back. Annihilus cackled and loped forward, increasing his power.
Suddenly a garnet and blue spandex covered form dropped feet first upon the warlord's armored shoulders from high above and hammered blows into his cranium. Annihilus staggered, his power blasts faltering and going awry. Captain America lunged forward, shield still out in front of him, smoke rising from its steaming surface, and slammed full tilt into Annihilus, driving him backwards. Spider-Man flipped off of the alien's shoulders, landing in a crouch just behind Captain America, as the otherworldly tyrant fell onto his back. Avoiding several wild blows, Captain America backed off to stand beside the wall crawler. Annihilus rolled onto his side, and twisted his alien features to glare at the heroes. "You dare!" He spat.
"We dare. Leave. This dimension. Now. Before I'm forced to take you into custody." Captain America replied in a voice like ice.
"And take your playmates with you when you go, bug boy!" Spider-Man said.
"No one orders about the Living Death, no one!" Annihilus hissed as he got to his feet, his wings stretching at his sides. Howling in rage, he hurtled forward like a living missile, clawed hand outstretched eagerly. Both heroes dodged out of the way as Annihilus shot past them and banked sharply, coming around for another pass. Spider-Man bounded lightly off of the hunks of rubble all around, attempting to distract the alien. As Annihilus closed, he leapt full into the creature's face, unloading his web cartridges and blinding his opponent. Annihilus closed his talons around Spider-Man's hands and tossed him away effortlessly before blindly colliding with an undamaged storefront. Spider-Man hit the street hard and slid a few feet where he lay groaning. Captain America rushed over to his side and checked for injuries.
"You all right son?" He asked, lifting Spider-Man to his feet.
"Yeah Cap, just got the wind knocked out of me, uh-oh. Looks like that refugee from a RAID commercial is ready for another go round" Spider-Man coughed, pointing at the shattered storefront where Annihilus rolled into a crouch, flinging glass and debris in every direction, his cosmic energies boiling off of his form like heat waves off a stove. As he opened his mouth to speak, a crumpled Buick smacked into him, shoving him deeper into the store. The car exploded seconds later, as gas tank met alien energy, and the entire shop collapsed in a huge cloud of dust and disintegrating brick.
Hercules strode forward, leaping across rubble, and dusting his hands, a smile on his bearded features. "Ho! A grand toss indeed, eh friend Steve?"
He roared as he neared his two companions.
"I'll say. And just in the nick of time too." Captain America laughed.
"You know Herc, if you ever give up your gig with the Avengers, I bet the Yankees could use you." Spider-Man smiled beneath his mask. Hercules grinned in reply, his eyes searching the ruined building for some sign of Annihilus. None was forthcoming.
"Zounds, our foe appears to have been vaporized by the explosion. A pity! I was looking forward to matching sinew with the beast." Hercules sighed, rubbing his chin. Suddenly, the street below the trio began to shake slightly. Two armored claws ripped through the concrete, wrapping themselves around Hercules' sandaled ankles and pulled him downwards, through the street surface in an explosion of rock and metal. Annihilus rose upwards out of the hole, wings beating, his armor charred and smoldering, but otherwise undamaged.
"Fools! I cannot be so easily bested! Not now! Not while I possess this!" He crowed, tapping the gem in his forehead with one claw. Power streamed through his form, illuminating every muscle in stark detail.
Captain America's eyes widened as he finally recognized the Power Gem once held by Adam Warlock, and before him, Thanos. "And now, you die!"
Annihilus snarled, leveling clenched fists. Energy boiled outwards in a wave engulfing the heroes, throwing them backwards, hard and burning. Spider-Man was hurled against an overturned car, and collapsed unconscious to the street. Captain America bounced several times before coming to a halt at least twenty feet down the street, where he lay unmoving and smoking, his shield laying several inches away.
In the Negative Zone Ben Grimm waded through the Doom-bots with practiced ease and a nonchalant grin, his huge orange fists crushing metal with every swing or punch. "Hey Doomsie is this the best you can throw at me? You really oughta fire yer quality control people."
"Arrogant beast. Prepare yourself for a long deserved death." Doom grated as he rose to his feet and charged his armors energy cells. Throwing forward his hands, Doom unleashed a salvo of energy bolts into the Thing's rocky hide.
"Eeow! That kinda stung." Grimm roared, twisting to face Doom. Doom ducked under a clumsy backhand and fired again, this time into Grimm's chest. The Thing reeled back, stony flesh smoking, and dropped to one knee.
Doom stepped forward, raising crackling fists towards the Thing's head and was suddenly struck full in the torso by an uru mallet. Doom flew backwards a few feet, hitting the ground and not moving again as the hammer flew back into the grasp of its wielder. "Well, good ta see ya goldilocks!"
"And to see you friend Benjamin.I had feared that thou were lost forever amidst this forsaken dimension. Still, happy as I am to seest thou, the presence of this vile creature doth confound me." Thor replied as he landed with a soft thump beside the Thing and pointed his hammer at the prone form of Doom.
"Long story pal. I'll tell ya over a beer some time. Now get spinnin' that magic sledge hammer o' yers an lets get outta here.I got the feelin' bad stuff's happenin' out in reality land. Otherwise Reed woulda picked me up by now."
"Thou speakest aright Grimm. Annihilus is loose in Midgard and he possess the Gem of Power, though how he came by such an artifact I cannot even begin to know.he hath already injured your comrades and e'en now engages my allies in the Avengers."
Thor said grimly as he began to whirl his enchanted mallet in preparation to opening a portal back to Earth.
"The gem must have been the power source what Reed's doohickeys were sensing comin' out of the Negative Zone not to mention the Tin Man over there. I knew we shouldn't a.wait a minute! Where the hell is Doom?!" Grimm cursed, spinning around. Thor grimaced.
"It matters not the varlet's fate is of little import at this moment of dire urgency. Come to Earth we must hide! And speedily!" With a flash of bright light, the two disappeared.
Doom shut off his personal cloaking device seconds later and opened his comm.-link to Earth. There were plans to be made and a gem to claim and those fools would help him do it. "Kristoff, report to the Latverian embassy in New York immediately via the sub-orbital lander. I require your assistance bring my teleporter beacon as well as several squads of Doom-bots. Oh, and the power-siphon. It may prove handy."
Annihilus lifted Spider-Man from the pavement with one claw and eyed his unconscious form. Then, with a hiss of disgust he negligently tossed the adventurer away from himself. No threat there. Further down, he nudged the charred form of the Avenger. No response forthcoming there either.
Annihilus crouched and prepared to ascend into the hazy air in search of other prey, when a roar of rage reached his auditory units. As he turned, a filth-encrusted fist drove itself into his maw. Hercules followed up immediately with a quick succession of one-two jabs to the alien's navel, throwing Annihilus backwards through sheer ferocity. Annihilus hissed in pleasure, darting forward, energy boiling around clenched talons.
Hercules' fall had been cut short by the New York sewage system and after spending precious minutes attempting to gain enough balance to crawl out of the hole Annihilus had made, he had arisen, but too late. This alien thing before him had already incapacitated both of his comrades, but he was determined that their sacrifice was not to have been in vain. "Have at thee!" He cried, charging forward like a runaway locomotive.
Both titans, one earthly, one alien, came together with a clap of thunderous proportions that was heard for several blocks all around. For several moments they stood, straining against each other, their only dialogue quiet grunts of effort. Then, inevitably, Annihilus began to shove Hercules back, bending his wrists to the breaking point. "You are mine fleshling no power can rival that of Annihilus, not even yours!"
"I beg to differ, hideous one." A haughty voice cut in. It was followed by a wide stream blast of crackling, white force that caught both of the combatants at waist level and threw them apart. Only Annihilus rose to his feet, and unsteadily at that, to face their mystery attacker.
"Doom." he grated, glaring at a mysterious figure that floated a few meters in the air upon a translucent platform.
"Not quite." The cloaked figure replied, shouldering the energy rifle it bore and once more aiming it at Annihilus. Around the figure several dozen emerald armored robots floated or stood atop rubble, the golden crest of Latveria prominent upon their torsos.
Suddenly, with a clap of inter-dimensional thunder, a swirling portal yawned open in the fading light of the Manhattan sunset and two figures leapt out onto the melted pavement. "Zounds, friend Benjamin! It appears that Doom hath somehow beaten us to this place." Thor rumbled, pointing with Mjolnir at the floating figure in front of Annihilus.
"Naw, that ain't Doomsie, Goldilocks. That's just his punk kid, Kristoff. I recognize his designer armor from when he was hangin' around with me an' Susie." The Thing chuckled, pulling a stogie from somewhere about his person and placing it in his mouth. "Though what the brat's doin' here."
"The same as you, you neolithic anthropoid! The Master wants that gem, and if I have anything to do with it, he will get it and you shall not interfere!" Kristoff snarled, snapping iron fingers. Several of the floating Doom-bots peeled off from the main pack and positioned themselves between Kristoff and the two heroes. Annihilus shrieked wrathfully and rose suddenly into the air. The remaining Doom-bots swooped towards the alien warlord, as did Kristoff on his hover-sled. The rest of the war machines advanced on Thor and the Thing.
Ben Grimm cracked his knuckles meaningfully, and said, "This going to be one hell of a rumble."
Within the rubble of Asgard, the Destroyer armor lay inert, the Soul Gem flickering weakly upon its brow. Thanos and Odin stood above it, looking down pensively. "It won't be long before it recovers from our combined assault Allfather. We need to dispose of it quickly." Thanos grated. Odin nodded in agreement.
"But how would you suggest going about it Titan? There is nowhere I know of in the universe built strong enough to cage the Destroyer, and I have not the capability to remove that fiendish gem from my creation's brow." Odin snarled.
"But I know someone who does." Thanos purred. "Allow me to take the armor to him or at least to his domicile. Even if he cannot remove it, the gem will do little harm there."
Odin looked askance at the smirking Eternal. "I trust you not,
Thanos of Titan. But at present, I have few options concerning this matter
for the safety of my people, take it. Take it and be gone!"
Thanos smiled and bowed low. "Don't worry Odin Allwise. I
will have the stolen souls of your people returned to you as soon as possible so
swears Thanos. And the Destroyer shall not trouble any again." Thanos
bent and hefted the Destroyer across his shoulders in a fireman's carry; then he
used his free hand to tap a coordinate into his personal teleporter. With
a flash of light, he disappeared from Asgard. To never return, hoped Odin.
Thanos looked about him in some surprise as the World-Ship shuddered like some celestial beast in pain. Debris rained down all around him as phased into corporeality. Tossing the still inert Destroyer aside, he rushed in the direction of the bridge, determined to discover what was unfolding upon the vessel of Galactus.
To Be Continued.
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