Infinity Conquest #6
Continued from Infinity Conquest issue #1, issue #2, issue #3, issue #4, and issue #5.
With a rush of displaced atmosphere a tiny pinprick of light opened over the crystalline ground of the nameless planetoid. From out of the floating mouse hole sped a thin beam of energy. The beam streaked out and over the horizon of the lifeless world, as if searching for something. It twisted off of its course as it neared a cliff face, and shot down into a great sloping valley. As it neared the bottom, the beam expanded and widened, forming itself into a lean, angular humanoid shape. Moments later, Maelstrom touched down lightly upon the glittering ground, a hawkish smile upon his thin lips.
A few meters away, the immense charred carcass of the being once known as Mangog lay where it had fallen months before, slain by Thor. Maelstrom floated over to the burnt remains and gestured slowly. Upon his angular forehead, the Mind Gem pulsed softly and the huge corpse rose slowly into the air. Behind Maelstrom, a portal of swirling light opened and the remains of Mangog disappeared within. Maelstrom followed moments later, still smiling. The first had been chosen.
The peaceful evening was shattered as the pinnacle of Mount Wundagore exploded in fire and ruin. The crack troops of Kang the Conqueror moved steadily up slope, despite the withering barrage of fire laid down by the automatic defense systems they encountered. Standing atop an armor-plated hover tank, the ruler of the 30th century smiled as he watched his finest roll over the paltry defenses of Wundagore's master like so many steamrollers. So far they had encountered no true opposition beyond remote controlled drones. This was going to be easier than he had thought.
Suddenly, a rumbling war cry filled the air as all around the time lord's small army, hidden passages bored into the very mountain surface were suddenly revealed. Armored troops mounted upon flying robotic steeds issued forth like so many locusts, pennons on the tips of energy lances snapping in the frosty air. The Knights of Wundagore had come forth at last to meet his challenge. Kang laughed in bloodthirsty delight-this battle was going to get a lot more interesting.
Thanos of Titan strode into the control room of the Taa II, his fists fairly bursting with restrained energies. He spared half a glance at the smoking form of Adam Warlock where it lay in an undignified heap, before concentrating his full attention on the broad back of Terrax in front of him. He grinned mirthlessly and raised his clenched fists.
The Silver Surfer sped towards the main armament of the world-ship as it began to light up, ecoming operational. He had witnessed first hand the devastation that weapon could cause during his initial service to the Devourer. He was not eager to see it again. If he could reach it quickly enough, he might be able to shut it down or damage it and render it inoperable. If not, the Shi'ar fleet, as well as possibly their homeworld would be destroyed in a gout of cosmic fire akin to the death throes of a sun. That could not be allowed to happen. He pushed his board to its limit, becoming little more than a silver blur trailing power cosmic.
Terrax smiled as he watched the Surfer near upon the immense view screen of the bridge of the world-ship. He recalibrated the targeting array, centering the flashing symbols directly over the hurtling form of his silver skinned foe. This was a shot he had been waiting years to make. As his red-gloved fingers brushed the fire control mechanism, a blast of superheated energy lashed across his unprotected back, throwing him forward into the control panel and melting the weapon controls to hot slag. Sliding to his knees, he twisted with a guttural growl to face his attacker. His eyes widened as Thanos strode towards him, his singular blue and gold costume ripped and blackened in numerous places. The Titan looked as if he had fought his way through an army, but his vitality was evidently undimmed.
Terrax rose unsteadily to his feet to face the demented Eternal, his axe grasped tightly in two hands. "I don't know how you got here mad one, and I don't care - not even you can stop me!" Terrax charged forward, his axe blade glowing brightly and raised overhead.
Thanos stepped aside from the mad rush and jabbed a fist into the back of the former herald's bull neck. As Terrax stumbled forward, Thanos brought both fists down upon his back, hurling him to the floor. Before he hit the ground, however, Terrax disappeared in a flash of purple pyrotechnics, reappearing behind Thanos and slamming the blunt end of his weapon into the Titan's ribs. Thanos groaned and fell to his knees.
Terrax lifted his blade overhead, fully intending to separate the Titan's head from his shoulders, when Thanos suddenly shot out one booted foot, snapping it into Terrax's kneecap. As the Tamer stumbled back, Thanos lunged from his position upon the ground and clamped vise like digits around his foe's stony visage, before bringing his own expansive forehead down upon the other's skull with a loud crack. Terrax went limp, and Thanos, still tightly grasping his head, slammed him face first through the floor paneling. Terrax lay still where the Eternal dropped him, and did not resist as Thanos wrenched the Space Gem from around his neck. Tossing the gem up and catching it idly, Thanos knelt down beside Warlock's unconscious form and slapped the golden features softly. "Time to wake up Adam. Thanos has need of answers."
Outside the world-ship, the Silver Surfer instantly halted his mad dash as he watched incredulously as the Taa II 's weapons powered down. More cautiously he arrowed towards the hangar doors of the immense vessel.
Something was going on and he knew he wasn't going to like it, whatever it was. As he entered the vessel of his late master, he spared a glance towards the battle that had been in full swing earlier. The Shi'ar fleet appeared to have everything under control. The pirates had been routed, most destroyed. That much at least was good news. The flagship of the Shi'ar fleet was already adjusting its course to bring it closer to the world-ship.
The Surfer could already hear the imprecations that Praetor Kallark was sure to spew his way, if he just didn't decide to blow up the Taa out of general frustration.
Back on Earth, amidst the war zone formerly known as Manhattan, Ben Grimm, the Thing, carefully lit his stogie on a burning doom-bot and stuck it back into his rocky maw. He winced as Thor barreled through the last two of the robots, turning them into sputtering piles of electrodes and wire intestines. Pausing to boot a spasmodically twitching head out of his path, Grimm clomped up to Thor and pointed at the battle raging before them. "Now that th' preliminaries 're outta the way, I think its time we hie'd our butts to yon brawl." He grated, puffing on his cigar. Thor nodded silently; watching as a half dozen doom-bots swirled around the Power Gem enhanced Annihilus, assaulting the alien warlord from all sides. Kristoff Vernard, the ward of Doctor Doom, floated upon a hover sled nearby, firing his laser rifle at every opportunity. Beside the young tyrant, a strange device pulsed softly, almost like a miniature airport beacon.
Thor spun his hammer by its leather strap overhead, and snapped forward his arm, hurling the uru mallet amidst the packed ranks of the doom-bots, rendering several inoperable. The Thing rushed forward, slamming into the few robots still on their feet, his huge fists mauling the organic steel into useless hunks. Annihilus hissed in pleasure, and, freed of the entangling robots, shot into the air after Kristoff. The young Latverian cursed and ducked under the creature's first swipe, touching a button on the glowing device at his feet as he did so. As Annihilus came around for another pass, Kristoff leapt lightly off of the hover sled, and landed in a crouch upon the street, between the Thing and Thor. Annihilus roared and dove down, grappling with Thor as Grimm and Kristoff dove out of the way.
Kristoff rolled to his feet and fired energy pulses from his
gauntlets, the wide beamed energies striking both Asgardian and alien, sending
them both to their knees, flesh smoking.
"You little son of a." The Thing snarled, grasping both of Kristoff's hands in one huge paw and wrenching him from his feet. "Go siddown punk. I'll paddle you as soon's I bash ol' bug face's teeth in." He snapped, throwing the ward of Doom into a burning Toyota with a flick of his wrist.
Thor brought his hammer down upon Annihilus' head, slamming
him to the concrete. Annihilus responded by yanking the Asgardian from his
feet and wrapping purple talons around his throat. Thor pressed Mjolnir's
haft against Annihilus' chin and pushed upwards, attempting to snap the beast's
spine. The Thing thundered forward and grasped Annihilus' head in both
hands, wrenching him away and slinging him across the charred pavement.
Grimm tackled him as he got to his feet, but was tossed into the air to land some meters away. Thor launched his hammer into Annihilus' face, crumpling the techno-organic flesh. Annihilus slumped as Mjolnir returned to its master's hand.
Thor grasped his weapons haft in two hands and aimed it at the reeling other dimensional despot. A glimmer of anti-force suddenly spread across Mjolnir's surface, fountaining into an eruption of snapping and writhing energy. Gritting his teeth, the Asgardian unleashed the wave of all consuming energy right into Annihilus. The alien screeched and collapsed to one knee as the anti-force roiled around his burning form, but refused to succumb to the writhing azure energy. "Zounds! You yet stand! Verily thou art a foe to sing of." Thor rasped, pouring more and more energy into the howling Annihilus.
"Don't sing to him blondie! Just fry th' bastard!" The Thing roared over the crackling energies as he ran towards the battling duo. Suddenly Kristoff lunged over the rubble and leapt atop Annihilus' back, his normal gauntlets covered by a thicker pair which seemed mostly composed of large clamps on the palms, and were connected by wiring to Kristoff's belt. He slapped his palms upon either side of Annihilus' insectoid head and held on for dear life. The alien shrieked even louder as the devices Kristoff bore began to siphon his cosmic energies and pour them into his armor. He attempted to shake the metal clad nuisance off of his back to no avail.
Thor sagged, letting the anti-force taper off.
"Struggle all you like you cosmically endowed insect, your rampage is over!" Kristoff snapped. Annihilus continued to fight the draining machinery, the Power Gem upon his brow feeding him almost limitless energies. Kristoff could feel his armor beginning to overheat as it attempted to drain the undrainable. As Annihilus attempted a final endeavor at freedom, both Thor and the Thing slammed pile driver fists into his green brow, snapping his head backwards. As Annihilus fell, Kristoff jumped away, his armor crackling with absorbed energies. The alien lay unmoving upon the ground as the three left standing eyed each other with caution. "I suggest we remove that gem from his possession, otherwise we will simply have to do this all over again when he recovers in a few moments." Kristoff said. The young man's armor was blackened and heat-warped in many places, his emerald cloak so many rent rags; yet he appeared to be little winded from the contest. Thor and the Thing however were both reeling with exhaustion from the events of the past twenty-four hours. Despite this, both men moved immediately to bar Kristoff's path as he made for the unconscious alien.
"Nay young varlet - neither ye nor your despotic master shall lay hands upon such an artifact." Thor rumbled, pointing Mjolnir at his young foe.
"Pack it up kid. Game's over, leastways for
you." The Thing grated, folding his arms.
Kristoff, incensed, charged the power cells in his armor, now infused with a portion of Annihilus's cosmic energy. Crackling power spread across the surface of his charred armor as he stalked towards the weary heroes. "Get Out Of The Way. Now!" He hissed, low and vicious. "Don't make me kill you both."
The two heroes looked at each other and smiled. "Naaaah." They said in unison, moving up to block Kristoff. "Yer outnumbered kid. An' ward a' Doom or no ward a' Doom, ya still ain't got what it takes to take us all on." Grimm chuckled.
"There's only two of you.and you're both exhausted, I should have no tro." Kristoff began.
"Don't count on it son." A steely voice proclaimed. Kristoff whirled to see Captain America, bruised and burnt, but on his feet behind him. Spider-Man, costume torn in several places, squatted beside him. And behind them both, Hercules stood, and cracked his knuckles meaningfully.
A sudden whoosh of atmosphere and the scent of ozone caused all combatants to turn towards Kristoff's abandoned hover-sled, where the strange device pulsed once, brightly, and a man sized door in the fabric of reality opened suddenly and a figure stepped through.
"No my dear captain, it is you who should not count on
it. That gem will be mine. So says Doom." Doom rasped
metallically as he stepped through the portal, gauntlets glowing with writhing
Warlock sat up groggily, slapping away Thanos' hand. "I don't need your help, Titan." The golden skinned man stood up, holding crimson-gloved hands to his temples. "The Space Gem, where?"
"Here." Thanos replied, holding the sparkling gem between thumb and forefinger. "I removed it from that buffoon Terrax's possession mere seconds ago. I am much puzzled by its continued existence. I assumed it lost forever when that macabre entity known as Rune made off with all six gems into dimensions unknown. I had understood that you followed him?"
Warlock ran fingers through his long hair and his features twisted as if in pain. "Yes... I followed... and... died... for my troubles. Somehow I came back, and there was a battle… Gemini… a seventh gem… Rune was killed? The gems were scattered, supposedly destroyed… somehow I found the Soul Gem… and it betrayed me. It disappeared, but not before it told me something. I just can't remember what! I only knew that I had to find the gems… all of them."
Distress was evident in his voice.
Thanos rubbed his chin thoughtfully, staring at Warlock. "Hunh. Obviously the gems were not destroyed. The Reality Gem reappeared several months ago back into my possession-a sub-clause I programmed into it when you gave it to me to guard, and somehow Terrax gained hold of the Space Gem, but how did the Soul Gem end up in Asgard and upon the brow of the Destroyer armor? And where are the other three?"
"The Destroyer, how? Asgard? Where is it now? And where is the Reality Gem?" Warlock asked dazedly, more animation than usual upon his golden features. Thanos watched him carefully. Warlock had evidently changed much in the last few years since their last encounter. More emotion for one thing.
"Stolen. But I am in the process of rectifying that. And the Destroyer is here, with the Soul Gem, I intended to use Galactus' machines to remove the gem and render the armor dormant again. Together they are too dangerous."
The Surfer flew slowly through the corridors of the world-ship, pondering recent events, trusting his board to take him unguided to the bridge. He did not notice until too late the immense black shadow as it sprang from the floor beneath him, smashing him from his board. He hit the deck hard, but rolled to his feet swiftly, the power cosmic springing from his fingers and illuminating the darkness. The Destroyer, armor charred black, lunged forward, wrapping uru digits around the Surfer's neck as it did so. The construct's mad rush carried both combatants through the far wall of the corridor with a tremendous crash of rent galactic metals. Rolling through the debris, the Surfer shoved his glowing fists into his opponent's torso, attempting to melt the Asgardian metal. The Destroyer's visor flipped down, a prelude to its use of its ultimate disintegration ability. Desperately, the Surfer pounded his fists into the construct's face. By chance one of his blows slammed against the partially dislodged Soul Gem. Instantly the Destroyer reeled back, a harsh, alien shriek springing from its mask.
"What was that?!" Warlock turned swiftly. The metallic shriek echoed slowly, hollowly, hanging upon the air. Thanos grunted in reply and stalked out of the bridge, still gripping the Space Gem. Warlock followed.
The Destroyer charged forward again, grasping the Surfer by arm and neck and flinging him hard through another wall. The Surfer shook his head, trying to clear it as he rolled to his hands and knees, and summoned his board. As the Destroyer stalked towards him, a silver blur slammed into it's back throwing it off balance.
Thanos dodged as the Surfer's inert form was flung towards him, ducking low. Warlock caught the dazed herald and landed heavily. The Destroyer muscled its way through the wreckage of the wall and strode towards them. Thanos walked to meet it over Warlock's protests.
As they came nose to faceplate, Thanos stopped short, a smirk on his face, and raised the Space Gem over his head, giving a slight wave to the Destroyer as he tapped into it's power. The construct disappeared instantly in a burst of purple light.
Warlock smiled mirthlessly. "Where did you send it?"
Thanos turned to face him where he crouched by a groggy Surfer. "To one of the stasis cells in Galactus' lab. Only place I could think of that might hold it."
The Silver Surfer rose unsteadily to his feet, and glared at Warlock and Thanos. "You both have some serious explaining to do."
To Be Continued.
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