"Lord Magneto," his voice less full of awe than it once had been, "the beings known as the Celestials have begun a full-scale assault on earth. Should we not gather the flock to save them from inevitable destruction?"
Magneto said nothing as he continued to look out the man-sized obeservation port at the flicker of colors and streaks so far away. A large armored form, nothing more than an irregular blotch from this distance, entered the crisscrossing energy field surrounding the planet. It shimmered, fading in and out of view for several seconds, before fading into non-existence.
Sighing heavily, but not turning to face his overzealous follower, he ran a hand through his white hair, "No, Exodus, we will not go to save the flock..."
Exodus' eyes flared with energy, "But, my Lord-"
"We will go to earth, and we will save them all."
"E, even the Flatscans?" Exodus questioned, his voice tight.
"Yes." Magneto replied simply. He slowly turned and strode to a pedestal nearby, his infamous helmet displayed upon it. Picking it up, he looked at it as if looking into his own eyes. Slowly, he donned it, pushing the helemet down onto his head, "Go Exodus, tell them that today we fight not only for mutants, but for the entire planet."
Exodus took a deep breath and said through clenched teeth, "Yes, Lord Magneto. I will have them take us to the battle."
He rose, eyes still looking at the ground, turned, carefully making his way down the steps, his face a mask hiding barely contained rage, and confusion.
Magneto looked at Exodus' receding back as he disappeared down the stairs, and shook his head.
Space warped, and vomitted daggers into the battlefield around earth, black and silver shapes already forming into squadrons and heading for the massive armored shapes heading for the shining blue world.
"Jam..." Mordrin began from the Shrike's bridge, watching as orbital platforms peppered aloof armored forms with particle beams and photon missles, having no visible effect. He took a deep breath and started again, eyes hazed over, "Jam all communication spectrums. Send the signal to Thanos. All ships...break and attack."
"Accomplished." one of the sleek droids said to confirm all of Mordrin's commands.
"Have Thanos' ships go to the asteroid belt and arm themselves." he said breathlessly, slipping farther down into his chair. His eyes glazed over, all concentration being devoted to the struggle within him. The droids did not seem to notice, their metallic fingers running over the controls.
The Shrike sped up, going to combat speed as it approached the nearest oblivious Celestial form. Its two huge gun barrels glowed brightly, turrets already releasing a torrent of fire down onto the cosmically tempered armor. The metal cracked and bubbled where it was hit repeatedly, but the Celestial seemed unaware, still making its way toward the planet.
The two great weapons fired simultaneously, hot white beams coming together and striking in a single point. The Celestial's chest exploded, huge pieces of armor flying out into space. It stumbled, leaning forward as if off-balance. A second barrage reduced the Celestial's head to steaming slag that immediately cooled in the vacuum.
The cosmic entity's deliberate motion ceased, its form starting to turn sideways in space. As if struck as one, the Celestials reacted immediately, waving away whatever ships were pestering them in tremendous blasts of arcing energy. They struck furiously, firing into the crowded swarms of ships, obliterating them.
Undaunted, the huge clouds of starships struck more quickly than before, weaving in and out of the huge blasts of cosmic energy, peppering massive Celestials forms with a thousand different types of weaponry. Those that got too close were reduced to debris by some type of destructive field surrounding all of the cosmic giants. And still they fought.
The Shrike became a wraith, shimmering in and out of view as it struck then disappeared at great speed, on its way to a new target. Celestials fell, crippled, missing an arm or a leg and the smaller ships fell upon them like hungry gnats sensing weakness. Despite their weakened conditioned, hundreds of starships fell before a single Celestial was neutralized.
The SHIELD weapons platforms fought valiantly with the primitive technology they possessed, firing down on the Celestial forms still dropping into earth's orbit.With no way to maneuver, thougn quickly fell victim to the cosmic onslaught the Celestials unleashed, most reduced to shattered bits with a single strike.
As the war continued, a large shape slowly made its way to the combat's midst, striking with technology taken from the 29th century. It struck with green plasma beams and glowing torpedoes. They plowed into Celestial targets, raising blisters in the armor and tearing sizable holes with repeated impacts. Avalon had arrived.
The Shrike's droids, now absolute commanders of the battle, gave Avalon a single glance and factored it into their equations and battle strategems immediately. Its presence no longer a concern, they returned to directing the flagship's activites as it tore a Celestial's leg off with a burst of cannon fire.
Six triangular ships swooped into view as the Shrike vacated. Absent from the battle, they were now fully-armed, having visited the asteroid belt between Mars and earth. Dual launchers fired up. The Mass Drivers hummed as they fired, sending twelve asteroids hurtling into the Celestial's body at great speed.
Two were reduced to dust motes by a cosmic blast before the others slammed into the entity's body, dismembering it. Their task accomplished, the six vessels veered off, already picking out new targets.
Weapons locked onto a Celestial's head, the Shrike fired, decapitating it. The droids pushed the ship to its limit, drawing more on the Zero Point Energy Field than it was designed for. As it fired on its next target, burning off an arm, this became evident. A small explosion tore out of the back of one of the cannons. More rippled across the cannon's barrel, the beam it was preparing to fire going dead. Off-balance, it tilted to the side, the other blast arcing off wildly.
The Celestial sensed weakness and raised its operative arm, burning a large hole through the Shrike's inoperative "wing." It pitched even further to the side, totally upended. Running lights flickered along the jet black hull, taxed systems beginning to fail simultaneously. The droids rushed to fix what their overzealousness had wrought.
The flagship's peril went nearly unnoticed by the fleet as they battled on, being destroyed by the thousands but slowly pulling the Celestials down along with them. In their bloodlust, no one noticed two dull orange orbs on the opposite side of earth as they grew steadily brighter, like two giant eyes surveying the scene.
People screamed in panic now, as they looked up at the cosmic giants floating above them, their armor shining in the great light of the sprawling city below.
"Arishem..." Reed Richards said as his gaze fell upon the crimson Celestial Judge, hovering in the distance.
"Arishem will make the Judgement, and the fate of this world will be decided." Esonn said.
"But you've already judged our planet, and found it worthy." Iron Man interjected.
"We did not think anyone capable of such an act. Arishem's original Judgement has been recanted. Your planet will die."
"Then why are you bothering to judge us, if our fate is already decided?" Captain America asked, his eyes narrow, shield still upheld a bit as if it would protect him.
"Arishem's Judgement will decide the how of your destruction, whether you will be punished by Exitar the Exterminator or Dyriad the Ravager."
"Dyriad the Ravager? I've never heard of-" Reed began but he was cut off as Iron Man shouted, finger pointing to the window, and past it, "Look! He's made his decison!"
They all turned to look, even Eson, as Arishem raised his mighty arm high in the sky, palm to the ground. His fingers curled into a fist, thumb pointing out sideways. Slowly his hand rotated downward until his thumb pointed directly at the ground.
"The Judgement is passed. Dyriad the Ravager, Prime Executor of the One Above All's Wrath will come and devastate your world over ten of your years. When his task is done, your world will remain uninhabitable for all eternity."
"What will happen, exactly?" Reed asked, seeming to more curious about what was going to happen to the planet then trying to prevent it.
"He will arrive soon and begin the process by surrounding your planet in a wall of fire. None will be able to escape. He will destroy all machines, leaving your people to revert back to what you once were. And then he will leave and allow you to adapt for two years before returning and leveling every man-made structure above and below your seas. His third arrival will melt your polar ice caps, flooding your world. His fourth return will boil all bodies of water on your planet. When Dyriad arrives for the fifth and final time, he will take the residual salt from your oceans and spread it over the planet, ensuring it never supports life again."
"My God..." was all Captain America said.
"There must be some way to stop this." the Vision said.
"Fewer than a dozen worlds have faced the manifested wrath of the One Above All. None have escaped it." Eson's eyes were cold as ice.
"Yeah?" Johnny said suddenly, flames dancing in his pupils, "Well I'm gonna send you straight to Hell right along with us!" His body ignited and he shouted as he launched a searing fireball toward the Celestial made flesh.
"Johnny, no!" Mister Fantastic yelled, but he was too late. The gout of flame exploded when it came within a foot of Eson's form, large sparks flying all over the room. He raised an open hand as Johnny prepared a second assault. Snapping it closed Johnny flew backwards at great speed into the small kitchenette, smashing into the upper cabinets with a crack of splintering wood. He slumped to floor, unconscious.
"Hey!" shouted a gruff voice from down the hall, "No one treats Johnny like that except Benjamin J. Grimm! It's clobberin' time, buddy!" The Thing rushed the Celestial, plowing through the other heroes without a second thought, flinging his cigar aside. Quasar, Hawkeye and Namor were right behind him, ready for a battle.
"Ben, don't!" Reed yelled, echoing his earlier warning. He was too late this time as well. Ben slammed into the invisible shield surrounding the Celestial at full speed and he was flung backwards down the hall from which he had come.
Hawkeye, an arrow already nocked, drew and fired in one smooth motion. It exploded harmlessly, showering the room in more debris.
His patience seemingly at an end, Eson waved his arm, energy firing from his hand the entire time. The flood of cosmic power knocked everyone off their feet and scorched even more of the already badly damaged room.
"Enough. The Judgement has been made. Your planet is forfeit. Accept this fact and make peace with whatever gods you worship."
"Like Hell, you bastard." Johnny Storm said, slowly getting to his feet. The flames enveloped his body again, glowing white hot this time. With a shout he flung himself at the Celestial, the light around him becoming too bright to stand.
Outside, the floating Celestials paid no attention as the top floor of Four Freedoms Plaza exploded in a massive ball of flame.
Continue to Chapter 11
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