"Lord Thanos," Prime Designate Alpha's voice resounded over the intercom system, "the signal has been recieved. Mordrin has engaged the Celestials."
The Titan said nothing for a moment, still lost in thought. Finally, he responded, "Bring us around the planet. Set course for the Celestial World Sphere."
There was a pause. The drone's burgeoning emotions were becoming tiresome. It finally said, "Yes, Master. Bringing the engines online and setting course now."
The deckplates rattled and there was a dull, distant roar as Thanos' orders were put into action. The stars outside slowly began to move and the dead planet's perimeter grew closer.
The great ragged palace passed into the great harsh tyrant's light with no ceremony and it kept moving like a dog fixed upon a piece of steak, willing to get there and devour it no matter what the opposition. Thanos' eyes were also fixed, but on the dark spot orbiting the northwest hemisphere of the huge burning giant.
"Magnify." Thanos said to seemingly no one. But, the viewport warped and Thanos was soon looking at a far more intricate view of the "dark spot." A small orb, perhaps three miles across, it was etched in typical Celestial design, circular and triangular patterns quite prominent with many warped lines crisscrossing it. Despite the viewport's magnification, exact details were hard to make out, the artificial moon being so backlit by the near blinding light of the sun behind.
The Titan had no difficulty making out the tall man-shapes floating near the orb, though, surrounding it. Sentries. Sentinals. Celestials. Their arms folded across their chests, they seemed to look out into space impassively, despite their lack of eyes, in typical Celestial fashion. With a quick pass of his vision, the Titan estimated seventy-five to one hundred guardians. They would be dealt with appropriately.
Thanos disappeared suddenly, reappearing immediately in the command chamber, "Activate weapons systems and bring the energy matrix online." he said, arms folded across his chest, looking past the drone before him.
The biological machine nearly jumped when he heard the Titan's voice, turning quickly to face his master, "Of course, Lord. You, you surprised me."
Thanos said nothing in response and the drone scurried over to a control panel, metal talons clicking on the assorted buttons, "Energy matrix has been activated, my Master. Weapons are also coming online. Target nearest Celestial?"
The Eternal nodded slowly, not bothering to look at the drone.
"Done. Should I activate this chamber's visual capabilities as well?"
Thanos' brow seemed to furrow with curiousity, "Yes."
The space around the two warped and shimmered, obscuring the mechanical cords composing the room. The harsh light of that great star was soon shining down on them both, the blackness of space just an afterthought on the edges of perception. The Celestial World Sphere was locked dead center in Thanos' vision.
"The first sentry is coming into weapons range, Master."
"Fire." Thanos said simply, his gaze never leaving his target.
Countless beams of white energy soon appeared on the wrap-around screen. They coalesced in a single point aimed at a great armored shape silhoutted in the distance. Building power it glowed ominously before firing, a thick beam cutting through light that seemed dull compared to it.
The Celestial was taken through the middle, the energy blast tearing that great armored form as if it were paper. Sweeping off to the side the beam broke through the Celestial's flank, already hunting for another target. The entity's torso slipped to once side, unable to support the great weight any further. The torso detached with what surely was the sound of wrenching metal. Spidery cracks spread over its armored form like wildfire. It shattered then, like a vase falling to a wooden floor.
The torrent of power quickly found a new target, and dispatched it just as easily and quickly as it had the previous Celestial. Prime Designate Alpha looked at the scene with awe, "How can this be possible, Lord Thanos? The Celestials are some of the mightiest creatures in the galaxy, and we treat them like children!"
Thanos continued to watch as another Celestial shattered while he responded, "The Celestials' armor is nothing more than a channel for their true forms, which exist in Hyperspace. Susan Richard's powers are nothing more than vibrations from this very same Hyperspace, and thus able to affect Celestial technology with far great ease than most. Amplified a billion-fold, as it is now, that power can destroy any Celestial with nothing more than a second's contact."
The drone's eyes widened in fascination and realization, "How did you discover this wonderous connection, Lord Thanos?"
The huge vessel rocked now, as the Celestials stirred, realizing their continued existence, and the sanctity of that which they protected, was actually in peril. Energy emitted from their armored fists tore huge holes in the Hades' hull, some of its majestic spires toppling. But the ship held and continued its assault, felling numerous Celestials with each pass.
Thanos continued as if nothing unusual were occuring, "I monitored a confrontion between the Celestials and the Watchers on another plane of reality several months ago. During this great cosmic mis-step, I witnessed Susan Richards break her way through Exitar the Exterminator's armor with seemingly little effort. I remembered this moment quite vividly."
"And kidnapped her for use in your plan..." the drone continued, "And a brilliant plan it is, Master Thanos." He caught himself as the Hades rocked violently as the Celestials struck with apparent desperation now, their number reduced to less than a dozen.
Several more seconds passed in silence, and that small number became a much larger one, albeit this one composed of nothing more than twisted shards of floating metal.
"The Celestial guards have been neutralized, Lord Thanos. Your path stands clear." the drone announced, just in case his master could not discern the situation.
Thanos' eyes glowed ominously, but he said nothing as he walked to the nearest control panel and began touching several buttons at a deliberate pace.
"Lord? You're resetting the targetting controls for...the World Sphere?"
Again, Thanos said nothing as that thick beam of power rose up above the artificial construct and then arced down at an angle, cleanly cleaving off a large portion of the orb's northern hemisphere. The cut glowed, then slowly the severed portion slipped off its moorings and out into space. Rounded silver shone beneath.
"Another sphere?" the drone questioned, eyes fixed on the screen.
"Open the bay doors in docking hive one hundred twenty-five." Thanos ordered, as if Prime Designate Alpha had not spoken.
The drone turned to enact his master's order, somewhat disappointed that his rhetorical question had not been answered. Claws clicking on the controls, he said, "Done, Lord." The drone looked back to Thanos for approval, and saw nothing but the wrap-around view screen and the chunks of metal spinning in the night.
The docking hive's doors stood open as Thanos piloted his chair vessel out into the harsh glow overriding the usual ebony of space. Tapping a finger on a control panel, the chair jerked slightly as it sped up, gathering momentum as it raced toward the now defenseless Celestial World Sphere.
Under normal circumstances, the vessel's teleportation system could have been engaged and shortened the trip phenomenally. But the angry star was far too close by to pay its gravitational pull no heed. Yes, he would have to go the long way, this time.
The great heat was nothing but a distant sensation as the Titan landed on the wide cleft burned into the orb by the Hades' weapon. Thanos paused a moment to consider the shining silver several meters away. Standing, he strode over, giving his surroundings not a second glance. His mind was focused on the task ahead.
Upon reaching the shining metal, he placed his hand upon it lightly, and felt the tell-tale signs of energy coursing through that silver globe, energy he recognized quite well. He channeled, then, calling upon the endless resources of the Zero Point Energy Field. The power surged through him, heightening every sense. He pushed the power into his extended hand, arcs of energy crackling up and down his arm. Slowly, carefully, he pushed the stream of energy into the sphere, drawing more and more power as it was expended.
Gradually, Thanos felt the energy coursing through the sphere fade, cancelled out by the Zero Point Energy he himself had injected into it. The Oracle had been correct, and stunningly so. The Titan couldn't help but wonder for a moment how good the ancient almost-god's information gathering services had been.
Slowly he pulled his hand away, excess energy trailing off his fingertips for a few more moments. Suddenly he threw his fist into the cosmic metal with a resounding blow. It warped and dented, protective energy field neutralized. He struck three more times in rapid succession, the final crack revealing a warm glow emanating from inside the sphere.
Tearing the whole wider, but no larger than it had to be, Thanos entered what could only be described as a thick, viscous liquid, golden in coloration. Globules of fluid floated by in well-orchestraed parades, glittering in that subdued light that pulsed from the center of the rounded chamber.
Thanos turned his gaze toward that light source and smiled, eyes flaring with power. Not daring to further disrupt the balance of the microcosm, Thanos slowly began to "swim" toward the center of the orb, and the final objective of his long quest.
He approached the towering figure, hanging in the fluid, motionless, with slight caution, in case the sleeping giant had been awakened by the Titan's efforts outside. Its dull grey form did not stir.
Thanos made his way down to the Celestial's amored thigh, where its hand hung, drifting impercetably in the cosmic current, bright beads weaving in and out of its titanic fingers. The Titan swam under its gigantic palm and hovered there for several moments, gaze fixed on the lines and marks marring the cosmic entity's hand. The equation seemed to be made of three parts, two outer sections connecting together with a larger central equation to form a single symbol of power. The Titan slowly pulled off his right glove, sticking it behind his belt buckle. Flexing his massive hand once, he braced himself mentally for the shock soon to come.
Its mind dormant, suppressed by the prison its entire form was held in, the Celestial did not resist as Thanos reached his hand forward and touched a portion of the central equation. Prophecies and potentialities beyond imagining flowed into the Titan's mind suddenly and he was hurled backward in a single great convulsion, his head snapping back suddenly.
Floating in the golden liquid, mind seized by enormous and unforseen possibilities, eyes seemingly dead, the Titan was barely aware of the bright, pencil-beam of white light that fired from the upper right-hand portion left equation carved into the comatose Celestial's hand. Slowly the stream of bright energy began to move, up and down the equation's lines and shapes, and wherever the light passed, that section of the equation was no more. The Titan dimly percieved that burning light as it etched into his hand, carving those very same disappearing lines and shapes into his own palm.
The light shut off abruptly when the left-hand equation was no more, transferred totally from the palm of the Celestial to the palm of Thanos of Titan. The great armor was unmarred, as if it had never been engraved with the great unknown pattern of lines and precise geometric shapes in the first place. But the pause was short-lived, as soon after another stream of energy launched itself from the right-hand equation, shooting across liquid space to begin carving into the Titan's hand at a diagonal angle. Thanos, his mind still enraptured in a fog, remained yet unaware of the great transfer occuring.
There was another pause when the equation on the left had finished its duty, leaving only the large, central equation on the comatose Celestial's palm. It had no stirred even an inch during the entire process that had come before.
The bright light appeared again, for a final time, as it began to trace itself upon the center of the Titan's palm. But, almost as if to mark this as the final transfer, the beam seemed hotter this time, to glow with the pulsating power of a supernova barely shackled. It was liquid fire that burned into Thanos' hand for the final time, and when it was finished, it surely would have left a multicolored residue on the Eternal's vision, had his eyes been open.
Silence reigned supreme for minutes after that bar of cosmic flame had finished its task and disappeared, leaving Thanos' huge palm nearly covered in the etching of what was once three cosmic equations, now one. The Celestial knew nothing of what had occured, its great body still gently drifting in the artificial tides of the silver sphere.
Time passed, and it seemed as if the Titan might never waken, but Thanos would never surrender his mind, his very existence, to the contemplation of endless possibilities and potentialities. No, ever so slowly, his eyes flickered open. Looking around in the golden murk, he regained his bearings quickly, peering at the unmoving Celestial last of all before daring to peek at his hand.
Holding his palm up to his eyes, the Titan smiled widely at what he saw, but it was a smile that could have chilled the bones of Mistress Death herself. Slowly lowering his arm to his side, Thanos waited for the moment of divine revelation to come, for all those possibilities and potentialities, so far off and impossible to obtain, to become second-nature facts of cold reality.
It came, suddenly, and Thanos jerked backward as if struck. His head leaned back, and his eyes saw the future as they opened wide and twin beams of power unseen in the universe for millenia fired from them, joined quickly by identical cosmic expulsions from his nostrils, mouth, and fingertips. A shockwave flew outward from Thanos' body, travelling at many times the speed of light. It was not a tidal wave of destruction, but merely a rippling of existence, of time and space. Invisible to the naked eye, it was a harbinger of things to come, detectable only to those with the most heightened senses.
The bolts of beyond cosmic force burned through the liquid at near lightspeed, frying it upon touch. The World Sphere shattered as a fishbowl does when dropped, and the great grey Celestial, still unaware of what was going on around it, was reduced to particles in nanoseconds.
Torrents of pristine power filleted the gigantic swollen giant of a sun, and it grew red with anger, beginning to expand outward, going suddenly nova with that sudden impact of divine power. Its outer reaches touched the Titan's body, and recoiled as if burned. Quickly the great mass shrank inward, collapsing upon itself and finally disappearing with a fizzle. There would be no black hole, so great were the laws of the universe warped in that sector of space.
Tyrant's great fortress was ripped to shreds upon contacting the bright beams, and those shreds were reduced to a quantum state when touched again. The dead world fell victim to Thanos' impromptu onslaught as well, and soon it was nothing more than pebbles pinwheeling in space.
Slowly the great torrent of divine power ended, shut off like a stubborn garden hose. The Titan righted himself and surveyed his handiwork for a moment. Seeing no reason to rectify what he had done, he reached the wreckage of the Hades with a single step. Looking over the wreckage, he clenched his right fist and it glowed slightly.
Matter and particles reformed themselves to his will, refashioning the craggy fortress into a palace five times as large, all in jutting spires laced in silver, black, and a deep midnight purple. It glinted in the light of distant stars, ominously more than beautifully.
Thanos nodded his head slightly, approving of his work, then looked down at the equation pulsating oin his hand. That simply action had not been immediate, had required a degree of thought. The Titan shook his head. Once again, the Oracle had been correct. Truly ultimate power would not be immediately forthcoming, it would take time for the equation to bond completely with its bearer's soul. But once it was done, the two would be inseparable, more powerful than any cosmic entity that had walked the stars in all the histories of all the multiverses. But not yet. He would have to be careful until the full spectrum of the equation's capabilities were open to him.
During the split-nanosecond journey to the center of his new creation, Thanos named what was now beginning to merge with him. The Infinity Equation. A fitting name for what what it would one day provide him with.
He appeared with no fanfare in the center of his new chariot. He took in his surroundings without a single glanxe, knowing his own creation as well as the back of his own hand. He had once had a taste for gaudy baroque architecture, but no longer. The large chamber was a simple, though irregular, elipse, as the ceiling continued high up into darkness in the exact middle of the room. The walls and floors were perfectly smooth, made out of a purple metal mottled with black stone. There were no furnishings, save a simple, high-backed throne, made of mostly ebon rock swirled with silver. It seemed to have grown right out of the floor. The large chair looked out onto an odd sight. From the great darkness above, where the ceiling curved into the unseen, a thick flow of water fell into a shallow basin positioned directly in the center of the chamber. The basin never filled, and the water never stopped flowing in an endless cascade of white.
Taking his seat, Thanos looked into the rushing water and willed his chariot into action. One minute it stood stalk still, the next it was moving at speeds slightly above that of light. It was heading toward earth, and what would surely be the Titan's final challenge. He would either succeed, and finally prove to himself and all others that he was no longer a flawed individual , or he would die, twisting reality so that he could enter the realm of Death despite her punishment. Either fate he welcomed with open arms, but as his quest had unfolded, he found himself desiring the former much more, Death's embrace no longer the temptation it once had been. He thought of these things and an infinitude of others as he flew toward his final actions, his mind slowly opening to encompass greater and greater depths of knowledge and power as the Infinity Equation wrapped itself around his spirit.
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