His attire had changed quite a bit during his small tenure as captain of the Shrike. Now he wore a dark grey coat, leather, which ended at his ankles. Double-breasted, he had it buttoned to about where is collarbones would have been, had he been flesh and blood. Spit-shined, sharp-toed black boots clicked on the deck and leather creaked whenever he walked. A monocle rested under the brow of his white eye.
Though it did fit his role as the Shrike's commander, he liked it. The fact that the very same outfit had been worn by the Nazi SS in the earth conflict simply called "World War II" did not bother him in the slightest. Mordrin thought it fit him well, and that was all that mattered.
"Has the scoutship arrived in earth orbit yet?" he asked the entire bridge itself, but keeping his eyes focused on the massive viewscreen before him. The fleet was assembling into battle groups of 10,000 ships each, and these groups were further dividing into squadrons.
"The vessel has arrived in orbit, Lord Mordrin." one of those sleek killer droids replied, not looking away from its task either.
"Has it cloaked?"
Modrin nodded with mock satisfaction, "Make sure it's scanning for the Destroyer's energy signature. Once that monstrosity shows up, the Celestials won't be far behind. Thanos estimated that they'd notice their little 'Black Galaxy' was missing in about three hours to a day after he took it. They're probably heading to earth right now."
"You will be notified when-" the droid cut off abruptly, then continued, "The Destroyer has appeared."
Mordrin's eyes flared, "Order the fleet to go to battle-readiness. Once the Celestials appear, earth won't have much time unless we move quickly." he sneered, and muttered in a low voice, "Not that it matters..."
"The signal has been sent, Lord Mordrin. The fleet is assuming battle-ready status."
"Good, g-" he stopped suddenly, learning forward, holding his head in both hands. His monocle fell to the deck and shattered. A single droid turned, looked at the offensive object, then returned to its work.
No. No! I won't let earth die! No! Norrin shouted in the back of Norrin's head. He beat at the unseen walls of his invisible prison. Had they been stone and mortar instead of synapses and neurons, they would have cracked.
Mordrin bared his teeth in a snarl against his foe. Through clenched teeth he said to himself, "You're dead Norrin. You can't escape, and you won't! I'll never allow you to live again. Ever." And with those words he ruthlessly crushed Norrin's howling voice, reducing it to muffled mumbles in his mind. None of the droids seemed to take notice of his internal struggle.
Leaning back into his seat, Mordrin let out a deep breath. He hoped Thanos' "gift" toward him when this scheme was over would allow him to crush the nattering insect of Norrin Radd forever.
Reforming the monocle, he directed his attention to the viewscreen, trying to forget that voice that would never go away in the back of his mind.
Spider-Man perched on a steel girder, looking down at what could very well spell his death. It had simply just appeared in a flash of divine light in the middle of the empty construction site, the workers long gone home to bed.
Seemingly disoriented at first, the huge metal suit quickly recovered, smashing down the nearest fence and impaled a passing car with another girder taken from a large triangular stack of them lying nearby. Thank God no one else had come by since then.
The area was a text-book construction site, tall red fence surrounding the zoned space, dirt instead of pavement all around with a cement mix parked in the corner and the building's superstructure a bare skeleton, scaffolding still attached. Low buildings squatted close-by, across the street.
Peter Parker sighed heavily under his mask as he saw approaching headlights. He'd been heading home and was looking forward to a good night's rest. Casting a web-line to the girder nearest the Destroyer's dull metal form, he thought absently to himself as he swung that he'd be taking a long rest if he screwed this up. He'd recognized the Destroyer from Avengers files, and knew exactly what he was up against.
His bellow muffled by his mask, it still turned the Destroyer's attention away from the automobile as it sped by, oblivious to what had nearly happened to it. The girder meant for that passing vehicle swung up like a baseball bat, Spider-Sense too late to dodge, and the arachnid-patterned hero flew backwards at great speed.
Spider-Man's last thought before slamming into the cement mixer's rounded back-end was how fast that suit of armor was. Then there was nothing but all consuming darkness.
Raising an arm to finish the one-sided bout, the Destroyer was stymied by an enchanted hammer slamming into its face-plating. It staggered backwards a step, but recovered instantly. Quickly it surveyed the new opposition.
"Strike pattern Beta-12!" Captain America shouted as he ran, veering off to help the wounded Spider-Man from any further attempts on his life. The other Avengers nodded, knowing exactly what to do.
Its hands becoming dual cannons of destruction, the Destroyer fired at the three airborne heroes, Quasar, Iron Man, and Thor. They dodged smoothly and easily, swooping about to lay into the Destroyer's chest plating with a combined quantum, repulsor, and lightning offensive. Its attention elsewhere, the great suit did not notice the Vision's red and green form fade from view, or Hawkeye and Namor beginning to flank it, the archer drawing one his famous arrows.
The Destroyer gave up another step as the trio pressed their attack, saying nothing but working together in grim purpose. It fired wildly, striking Iron Man with a glancing blow to the shoulder, another blast splashing off a hastily erected quantum shield. It was off-balance, Avengers teamwork taking it by surprise. But the small machine burrowed deeply into the Destroyer's head was already beginning to adapt and analyze. Soon it would be in control again.
A huge lightning bolt, thick as its caster's muscled arm, slammed into the Destroyer's chest. Systems momentarily blackened, the computer felt Namor's blow to its head, sending it slightly off to the side. Control returned just as Hawkeye's concussive arrow ripped into its side.
Its visual sensors registered Thor's form careening toward it with hammer held out in front, and it raised its arms, albeit a bit too late. The Thunder God slammed into the Destroyer's head at great speed, sending it back several more steps.
The Vision's ghost-like form rose from the ground mere inches from the Destroyer's unprotected backside and a powerful, though thin, laser bored into its armored back plates. The metal suit swung suddenly, catching the android on the side of the face with spiked knuckles. The hero toppled, a sparks shooting from the injured area.
Turning, it caught another quantum blast full in the face, quickly followed by Namor's fist and another grenade arrow. The computer had had enough. The great visor slowly lowered, crimson energy beams arcing wildly over the Destroyer's face plates. It fired at Quasar.
The guardian of the universe threw up a quantum shield, but to no avail. The beam shattered it and rammed into his chest, sending him flying. He landed in the dirt near Captain America.
Another bolt of Asgardian magic burrowed into the Destroyer's back and it turned, firing from its hands and visor wildly, ripping out huge chunks of ground, shattering the nearby fencing and blowing steaming holes in the pavement.
Dodging another bolt, Thor roared and careened toward the Destroyer at even greater speeds, madness starting to paint his eyes. The Thunder God's foe welcomed him with open arms.
And so the battle went.
The Hades floated listlessly in space, orbiting a massive brown, dead world which was far too close to its sun to ever have supported life. The oppressive glowing sphere's orange light was visible at the very edges of the dead planet, always lurking out of sight, but always ever-present as well.
Space blinked, and suddenly the Demeter was hovering nearby the Hades' craggy bulk, a dust mite compared to a giant. In the giant's control center, Prime-Designate Alpha waited anxiously for his master to arrive. Light shimmered, announcing the Titan's arrival.
"Master Thanos, I welcome you back to the Hades." the drone said hastily, but not darin to approach his lord.
Paying the greeting no mind, Thanos simply asked, "Has Susan Richards been wired into the energy matrix as I ordered?"
"Yes, Lord Thanos."
"And the weapons systems have been appropriately modified and hooked into the matrix according to the schematic I sent?"
"Of course, Master."
The Titan pointed at the nearest monitor, "Show me."
The drone quickly nodded and turned, metallic claws clicking away at the control panel for several seconds before a wireframe image appeared on the screen Thanos had indicated.
The Eternal studied the monitor for several minutes, eyes obviously taking in every detail, checking and re-checking. As time dragged by, slowly fear crept into the drone. When Thanos finally turned, Prime-Designate Alpha nearly flinched, but the Titan merely said, "When the signal is recieved from Mordrin, you will the Hades out of orbit and into weapons range of the Celestial World Sphere."
The drone hesitated, but said, "As you command, Lord Thanos."
"And have the Demeter tractored into the nearest docking bay, Prime Designate Alpha."
Metallic talons clicked on slick controls once again, "Done, Master."
Thanos half-smiled, "I can see that you have been experimenting with artificial intelligence, Prime Designate." His eyes flared silver.
The drone nodded uncomfortably.
"To better serve you, Lord Thanos. The commander of the Hades should not have to rely on mere programming alone." it answered
"An adequate reason, Prime Designate. You have secured your position. But never make the mistake of challenging me, even as your consciousness expands." The silver turned blood red.
The drone's sickly yellow eyes widened, "Of, of course not Master Thanos. I live to serve."
"As it should be." the Titan said with finality, beginning to stride away, exiting the control chamber. The drone steadied itself on the control panels once its master left.
Perhaps emotions and intelligence were not worth fully exploring after all, it thought.
Continue to Chapter 9
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