Infinity Assault #1
Continued from Infinity Conquest
Mephisto leaned forward, a wicked smile upon his thin lips. Red fingers clasped one another under his chin as he surveyed the two beings before him. One was Sy’m, purple fleshed ruler of the demons of Limbo, sometime servant of Illanya Rasputin, and would be conqueror of the Prime Material Plane. The other was a more intimate acquaintance…dressed in bloody crimson robes and orange cloak and half-mask, Master Pandemonium, soulless servant of Mephisto and host to a legion of demons. Neither looked happy to be there.
“So happy you both could make it…please, make yourselves comfortable.” Mephisto hissed, his serpentine tongue flickering between slender fangs. He gestured lazily and the sulphur-coated earth behind his two guests reshaped itself with a shriek of almost human agony, forming twin chairs, a little smaller than Mephisto’s own throne.
“We’ll stand.” Master Pandemonium rasped, glaring red eyed at his host and crossing his arms. Sy’m grunted and scratched his chin, but also remained standing.
“Some of us are busy Mephisto…get to the bloody point. I’ve got places to go, people to rend…” the purple skinned being growled in a deep basso rumble.
“Very well…” Mephisto smirked, his eyes narrowing. “To the point then…it has come to my humble attentions that Dormammu, ruler of the Dark Dimension has recently acquired…an item of some power. Something that will allow him to breach the dimensional barrier between his desolate home and the lush bounty of the mortal realm.”
“The point being…what? So the flame brain can finally smack some humans around like he’s been itching to do since forever. Big whoop.” Sy’m chuckled as he hopped onto the seat behind him and stretched out, legs over one armrest. “None o’ my concern.”
“Oh but it is…for I intend to possess said item…and you will help me.”
“Says you…” Sy’m barked a harsh laugh, which was suddenly cut off as red talons wrapped themselves around his bull throat. Sy’m gurgled as Mephisto’s form grew to immensity, losing all pretense of humanoid features. The demon king of Limbo writhed futilely within a vast paw, which slowly squeezed all resistance from him.
“Yes, little imp…says me.”
Master Pandemonium watched emotionlessly as Sy’m was dropped negligently to the burning earth beside him, where he lay whimpering. “And just what is this item?”
The massive head looked down upon him…and smiled.
The enormous metallic cube sped through the swirling mists of the time stream as if pursued by all of the devils of hell. And perhaps it was at that. Behind it, the sphinx-ship formerly possessed by Rama-Tut, was drug along in its wake by the advanced technology of a time that never was. Aboard the cube, Zarrko, called the Tomorrow Man by some, studied the two forms residing in the cryogenic chambers before him. Behind him, the hulking form of his Servitor approached. “Master…are you sure this is wise?”
“No my friend…not at all. But what option do we really have? Unless I do this, all I have built will be swallowed up by Kang as he extends his dominion over the time stream.” Zarrko whispered without turning, his hands clasped behind his back. Suddenly, the view screen to his left flashed on of its own accord. The haggard features of Immortus stared out at Zarrko tiredly.
“Do you have them Zarrko?”
“Yes Immortus. They were right where you said they’d be…as well as in the condition you said they’d be in, unfortunately.” Zarrko replied.
Stephen Strange awoke to pain. Dried blood masked his features and beard. His head felt as if it had been compressed and his extremities were numb and limp. He sat up slowly, with a weak groan. “Where…?”
“Easy doctor. You’ve been through more than I thought a human could possibly endure and live.” The Silver Surfer said quietly, gently pushing Strange back down onto the examination table. “You’re on board the Taa II. The sensors picked up your bio-signature as we passed into earth’s atmosphere. By all rights, you should be quite dead. How did you end up floating amidst the upper reaches of the stratosphere?”
“Dormammu…we were trying to prevent Dormammu and Kang from gaining possession of two of the infinity gems…we failed.” Strange rasped, his voice raw from fatigue and pain. “Dormammu used one of the gems to hurl me into space…Doom was fighting Kang…God knows what’s happened by now…”
“Doom! This web grows more tangled…” the Surfer murmured as Strange slowly slid back into unconsciousness. “Rest, old friend. I fear we have great trials ahead of us…” he turned as the doors to the lab opened and Adam Warlock entered.
“How is he?” The golden-fleshed man asked softly.
“In pain…but alive.”
“Good…I fear we will need his abilities before this affair is over.” Warlock replied. Further conversation was halted as the communication system chimed with the hoarse growl of Thanos of Titan.
“Report to the bridge. Now.”
Thanos did not turn as his two companions entered the bridge of the world-ship. “Is the magician alive?” He grated, eyes intent on the view screen.
“He is…barely.” The Surfer replied. “Are we at the source of the signals yet?”
“Soon. And how are our ‘guests’ in the holding cells?”
“Terrax has been relatively quiet…probably plotting. And the Destroyer became inert the moment we entered Earth’s atmosphere. Almost as if it is waiting for something…”
“As I expected.” Thanos replied, still watching the screen before him. “It is attempting to pinpoint the location of the other gems.”
“But why? It makes no sense…it has no reason to do this.” Warlock murmured, almost to himself. Thanos turned, a fire burning deep in his dark eyes.
“That, my dear Warlock, is exactly what I want to know.”
Mount Wundagore had stood since the beginning of recorded time. In the first days, the elder demon Cthon had manifested there. Strange events found their center upon the cursed mountain. The High Evolutionary, as well as Magneto, had established bases upon its rocky slopes. Its very matter had been used by various individuals for various purposes. Wundagore had withstood the passing of the years, unchanged and unbowed. And now it was gone. Where once its sinister bulk had towered over the land…now only rubble remained.
Namor clawed his way from the snow-laden debris with furious strength, bursting out into the weak daylight like a human geyser. Nearby, a thunderous rumble heralded the almost simultaneous escape of the Hulk from the rubble as well. Both took in the site of the collapsed mountain silently, breathing heavily and occasionally rubbing at various aches and bruises gained in the avalanche. All around them battle wreckage and discarded technology dotted the slope of the diminished mountain. The remaining two Defenders looked at each other. The Hulk scratched his jade skull. “Now what we do…?”
“I’d suggest surrendering.” Came a harsh reply, swiftly followed by the piercing whine of energy weapons being charged. Namor and Hulk spun around, fist raised. Nobilus, former leader of the High Evolutionary’s Godpack and end result of extensive tampering with borrowed Asgardian DNA, stood amidst the survivors of the Knights of Wundagore and crossed his muscular arms across his chest. “Please…try something. I feel like hurting someone…”
Far beneath the ruins of the mountain, Doctor Doom rolled onto his stomach and thrust himself to his feet, dislodging the rubble that had been atop him. Calmly he looked about himself, his armor adjusting its sensors to compensate for the total darkness. Brushing snow and dirt from his ragged green surcoat and cloak he ran a quick self-diagnostic on his armor and weapons systems, assuring himself all was still functioning correctly, before taking a more careful study of his surroundings. He had been pulled beneath the crumbling mountain as it had collapsed in upon itself and borne down into the depths by a wave of rock and snow. He had landed in a section of what appeared to be an immense system of tunnels running beneath the mountain. These were not the steel hive tunnels of the High Evolutionary’s animal men, but rather true tunnels, hewn of the very bedrock and smoothed by their constant usage by some large being or beings. “Interesting…I never imagined such tunnels existed beneath this mountain.” He murmured, rubbing his armored jaw. Suddenly, a groan echoed throughout the tunnel. Doom turned, searching for its source, the gem on his brow casting a spectral light about him. A figure stumbled out of one of the tunnels, its stance bespeaking great pain. As the figure began to collapse, Doom rushed forward and caught it as it fell.
“Wyndham!” He exclaimed as he recognized the armored body in his grasp. The High Evolutionary’s crimson and silver armor was blackened in places, as if by stray energy blasts, and virtually shredded in others. “What has happened to you?” Doom had known he had been injured by Dormammu’s assault but certainly not to this extent. Something had attacked him. Wyndham groaned again in reply as Doom laid him down carefully. “Talk to me man! When did this occur?! How did it occur?!”
The tromping of many plodding feet gave Doom his answer, as out of the tunnel from which Wyndham had just staggered, a horde of gray fleshed monstrosities charged forth, energy blazing from the single great eye of each. “Mindless Ones…!” Doom hissed as the creatures clomped towards him, their energy beam ricocheting around the tunnel.
The quin-jet streaked across the European skyline, the light of the setting sun turning it from silver to blood red. Aboard the ship, Captain America turned his chair from the front window to face the armored form of Kristoff Vernard. The youth’s mask had been removed, leaving his adolescent features visible, as well as the ever-present smirk stamped upon them. Doom’s ward had been bound partially by a floating, crimson sphere which engulfed his form up to his youthful neck. Behind him, the Scarlet Witch easily maintained the slight concentration it took to manifest the sphere from where she sat. “Well, son? Are you going to cooperate, or do we turn around and take you back to New York for a lengthy deportation trial?” Captain America said easily.
“Why are we even asking the little punk? Let’s just dangle him out the cargo hatch ‘til he gives!” Triathlon snarled, smacking a fist into his palm. Kristoff turned slightly to face the newest member of the Avengers.
“Try it, and I’ll show you why the Master considers me a worthy successor.”
“Oh yeah, you’ve been doin’ real hot up until now! I’m real impressed!” Triathlon shot back.
“At ease Triathlon. We won’t get anything out of the brat like that.” Iron-Man said, putting a restraining hand on the young man’s shoulders. Easing Triathlon out of the way, the armored Avenger leaned over Kristoff, his golden faceplate inches away from the youth’s nose. “Now, I know that your armor has some built in tracking device so that Doom can keep track of you. And I also know that I can rewire that little piece of hardware so that it can pinpoint Doom’s location. The only question is whether or not you’re going to give it up willingly…”
“Mmm…no. No I don’t think so. I shall do nothing to allow you to interfere with the master. And be warned, should you attempt to take it by force, my armor has been programmed to detonate.” Kristoff grinned. Iron-Man simply nodded, then turned towards the Scarlet Witch.
“Wanda…if you please.” The Scarlet Witch gestured slightly and Kristoff gaped in stupefaction as his armor abruptly ceased to function and slowly clattered apart within the crimson sphere.
“H…how? That’s impossible!” He blurted.
“With Doom’s armor, yes. He’s just paranoid enough to place mystic bonds upon his own…but unfortunately he didn’t build yours with the same specs…probably so he could keep a tight leash on you if you ever got out of hand again.” Iron-Man chuckled. “Now about that tracking device…”
Outside the quin-jet, Thor kept pace, pulled along by his enchanted mallet, his thoughts racing. He had a nagging sensation that there was more to the current situation than any of the others surmised, but he couldn’t figure out what. Then, his suspicions were borne out as a tiny black form darted towards him from above. As he pulled up short to avoid a collision, the form resolved itself to be one of his father’s ravens…which one he couldn’t tell. The bird alighted upon his shoulder and squawked loudly and repeatedly into his ear in a language only a god could discern, about recent events in the realm eternal…about the razing of Asgard at the hands of the Destroyer, as well as the part Thanos played. It’s message given the bird winged away, higher into the clouds, and Thor turned to enter the speeding quin-jet. The recent events were connected…somehow. And his fellow Avengers must be made aware of them.
“Imperius Rex!” Namor roared as he hurtled towards the armored warriors of Wundagore. The Hulk blinked confusedly for a few seconds, then grinned and leapt after Namor.
“Fish-man want to fight metal-men! Good, because Hulk was bored standing around in snow!” Energy blasts struck and bounced from the green goliath’s flesh as he landed amidst the warriors, battering them aside easily. “Hulk knows metal-men…has fought metal-men before! But where is leader, shiny red and white metal-man? And where is stupid cape man who brought Hulk here to snow place? And other stupid cape man? And…”
“Silence clod! We are amidst battle here! This is no time for your childish whining!” Namor growled as he tossed soldiers aside effortlessly.
“Nor yours hybrid!” Nobilus said as he jumped forward and wrapped muscular arms about the Sub-Mariner’s neck in a headlock. The two titans struggled briefly ‘til a sudden shadow of immense size fell across the snow-scape, halting all combat.
The World-Ship of Galactus hovered silently over the rubble, its very presence melting the snow upon the ground. Suddenly, a bright beam of coruscating energy sped forth from the giant metallic vessel and struck the ground near the two groups. As the light of the beam faded, four figures stood revealed.
“Is cape-man! And shiny head! And…and golden man? Purple face? Hulk does not know these.” Hulk rumbled, casually brushing off several warriors who clung to him. Nobilus released Namor reluctantly and turned to face the new intruders.
“Thanos. And Warlock.” Namor snarled as he stalked forward. “Strange, what in the name of Father Neptune is going on?”
“That is exactly what we are all trying to figure out, mutant.” Thanos said, pushing past the outraged ruler of Atlantis. Strange shrugged at Namor’s wide eyed gaze, and walked a little ways off, fingers weaving in mystic gestures. Out of the rock and snow, his cloak slowly pushed its way upward, the Eye of Aggamotto glittering in the dying rays of the sun.
“One of the gems is close…” Warlock murmured, as he stood beside Thanos. The Titan turned.
“Yes. And getting closer.”
Below the surface, Doom battled frantically against the unyielding assault of the Mindless Ones. For every one that fell, two more rose to the attack. By his side, the High Evolutionary poured cosmic bolts into the teeming tide of slate gray flesh swarming around them. “Wyndham…we must flee! There can be no victory here!” The High Evolutionary nodded.
“I concur Doctor. But where do we flee to? I see no exits.” He grunted, pain from his wounds making his voice ragged. Seconds later he toppled as a fist smashed into his battered helm, knocking him senseless. Doom whirled and dispatched the Mindless One with an energy beam, obliterating its featureless skull instantly. Stooping quickly, he grabbed the unconscious Wyndham and tossed him over his shoulder. Straightening, he turned his face upwards and raised his gauntlets.
“As one of my more thuggish foes has stated on numerous occasions, ‘when in doubt…make your own exit!’ Doom muttered and unleashed the full power of the cosmic gem upon his brow.
Thanos and Warlock dove backwards as the ground in front of them suddenly ruptured in a geyser of searing force. All around the newly made aperture, the abused bedrock began to slide inwards seeking to fill the hole. From out of the dust and smoke, two figures rose on a column of power. As Thanos stood, Doom landed in front of him, sagging to his armored knees. Wyndham rolled from his shoulder and lay groaning softly upon the melting snow. Thanos grinned at the sight of the gem placed upon Dooms sinister mask. “And then there were two…” He chuckled, rolling the Space gem between his thick fingers.
Nobilus rushed forward to kneel beside the High Evolutionary. “Father! Are you wounded?” He cried, carefully removing his creator’s helm. Warlock leaned over Nobilus, concern writ large upon his usually placid features as he surveyed the damage done to the being he had considered a father. He turned towards Doom.
“What happened?” Doom looked warily at the golden-fleshed man before speaking. “Kang collapsed the mountain upon us. Wyndham and I were set upon in the lower depths by Dormammu’s mindless servitors. It was all we could do to escape. Though not unscathed as you can see.”
“And Kang?” Thanos asked. Doom turned towards him.
“Gone. With the Time Gem. And Dormammu possesses the Reality Gem.”
The Silver Surfer glided up, followed by Doctor Strange, Namor and the Hulk. “Now what Titan?” He asked.
“Simple Norrin Radd. We prepare to wage war.”
“Not without explaining what in the hell’s going on you don’t!” A metallic voice thundered from overhead. All those gathered on the ground looked upwards to see Iron-Man swoop overhead, followed by an Avengers Quinn-jet.
Mephisto reclined upon his throne of bone and watched bemusedly as his duo of pawns entered the softly glowing portal which would deposit them within the Dark Dimension. Seconds after they had disappeared, a shadow moved out from behind the throne. “The pawns are away.” Mephisto smirked.
Within Limbo, Immortus wearily leaned upon the balcony and looked out over the forces gathered below him. Three figures materialized behind him. Zarrko strode forward, followed by an armored Rama-Tut and the Scarlet Centurion. Immortus turned to look at them. “Prepare yourselves. We invade Chronopolis within the hour. And may He Who Remains watch over us.”
And as these two scenes played out, Red Shift turned towards his master, and said, “It begins.” The gigantic figure he addressed nodded silently, then gestured with one hand.
“Inform Maelstrom. I wish no mistakes.”
“As you command master.” Red shift bowed then blinked out of existence.
And the giant began to laugh, a roar full of all the malice and wickedness in the universe.
To Be Continued in Infinity Assault #2
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