War Waged At
The Stroke Of Midnight
Part Two: Longest Night - Chapter
Follows events in The Twilight War,
Forged Before Nightfall, and Part One:
Continued from Part Two: Longest Night Chapter Five
Quasar glanced at Stakar as his newborn son hurtled through the air beside him. Wendell smiled for a moment, then turned his attention back to Kristoff, who took up the front of the flying trio plus one. The dazzling sunlight glinted off his armor, nearly blinding the hero.
"You got a ship for us kiddo, or are we gonna fly into that cosmic mess all by ourselves?"
The boy did not look back as he replied, "The Master has provided us with his personal spacecraft, Eteocles."
"Are we almost there?"
"Yes." Vernard said with exasperation, as though Vaughn was little more than child tugging at his cape.
"How much longer until we get there?" Quasar nagged, throwing his son another lop-sided smile. Stakar chuckled.
Kristoff’s teeth gritted together behind his mask as he passed through the thin streamers of a high-flying cirrus cloud, "Soon, now be quiet."
"If we’re so close, how come I can’t see it yet?" Stakar questioned now, sharing another knowing glance with his father.
"Because, fool, the vessel is cloaked." Kristoff snapped, the small vestiges of his composure flaking away.
"My senses are quite good - I should be able to detect it, even if I can’t see it." Stakar continued.
Kismet rolled her eyes.
"The genius of the master exceeds even your abilities, boy." the Latverian heir spat.
"How old are you, twelve?" the son of Quasar and Kismet asked with mock-earnestness.
"My age is of no import, as you should well know. How old are you - five days? A week?" Vernard retorted testily.
Stakar snickered as his father changed the subject, "You don’t know where you parked the ship, do you?"
Kristoff’s voice was tight, "We are nearing it now, you annoying insect. Now be quiet."
"How do you know?" Stakar asked, "Echo-location on your armor? Like a dolphin? Would you like some fish? Maybe it’ll help you find the ship more quickly?"
The Latverian’s head whirled around as he continued jetting through the air. From the slits in his armored mask Vernard’s eyes glared out at the cosmic family as he shouted, "Cease your prattling at once! I do not have time to hear such fools are yourselves -"
The boy was cut off by a loud metallic noise, as he was halted in mid-air, and the suddenly bounced off some unseen object. Kristoff twisted in the air, his boot-jets powered-down from the unexpected collision. Quasar caught the falling heir with a single arm, and hefted him back upright, the Latverian’s armor activating once more. Venard instantly knocked Wendell’s grip away and headed toward the section of space where he had experienced his unfortunate confrontation.
"Looks like he found the ship after all." Stakar chided.
"Silence, all of you!" Kristoff snapped as he opened a small panel in his gauntlet, his fingers dancing across the glowing buttons. Space shimmered before his eyes, revealing the organically curved shaped of the Eteocles, its smooth hull gleaming silver and deep purple in the sunlight. With another touch of the controls Kristoff opened a thin hatchway which led into the glittering craft, and he made his way toward it.
Quasar looked at his son, "I prefer a Mazda, myself."
Stakar nodded, "Me too. Wonder if Doom remembered the cup-holders?"
"There is no time for this foolishness." Vernard scolded from the vessel, his masked countenance peering out from the inner darkness, "Follow me, so we might undertake our journey."
Glances passed across the family trio, along with an innate nervousness that was swiftly overcome. Kismet and Quasar ventured in first, side-by-side, with Stakar taking up the rear. With a hiss the doorway closed, and moments later the Eteocles’ engines fired to live, and the Latverian craft was cutting through the atmosphere, roaring towards a confrontation with the unknown.
Mjolnir glowed with ferocity as it swung through the air, and with a hollow thunder crashed into the side of Champion’s bloodied skull. The blue-skinned Elder roared in pain as his legs fled from his control, and the Power Primordial could keep him in the effort no longer. The eternal warrior collapsed into the smoking wreckage of Chandilar’s capital city, and was still, his forced slumber as much a product of the Thunder God’s ferocious assault as the many days spent battling countless enemies in the shattered husk of that decadent civilization.
"Victory nears, my fellow soldiers!" cried Thor, as his black-flecked gaze turned to see Doom pummeling the In-Betweener with concentrated lances of energy, drawing rivers of deep-hued ichor from the entity’s already wearied body. Like persistent yet powerful flies the two remaining Spinsters and Jack of Hearts wheeled around the form of Tyrant, half his mechanical countenance torn off. The original creation of Galactus raged and shrieked at his foes, singing the air with relentless bursts of cosmic force, yet slowly succumbing to his injuries and the constant badgering of the airborne warriors.
The Thunderer looked back momentarily, and saw the high-cost of their looming success: the remaining Brethren were stymied by the faceless automatons conjured by Kubik, though the former Cosmic Cube now fought on his knees, the greater portion of his attention paid to the fallen form of his comrade. Kosmos lay within the fragments of bone and metal, her pallor a nearly transparent gold, a ragged crevasse painfully evident in her stomach, where a sudden bolt of force cast from the In-Betweener’s fingers had struck. Her fate was in doubt, but Thor knew did not spent much time considering it - there were casualties in war; they were to be accepted, not dwelt upon. Such was the grim lesson he had learned over the centuries.
The dual-shaded scion of Chaos & Order swatted Doom backwards with a wild blow, and with startling power cracked the Latverian’s faceplate with a well-delivered strike. The monarch wheeled as the In-Betweener attacked from other dimensions even as his physical self advanced, for even the great mind of Doom had not yet adjusted to the intricacies of multi-dimensional combat.
His mind quickly made up, the Thunder God launched himself toward the sphere of combat, mystic lightning erupting from the Rhinegold veins in his hammer. The In-Betweener shouted in painful surprise as the electric serpents burrowed their way into his sockets, momentarily blinding his senses both optical and more.
Thor landed and struck at the same time, a driving blow into the entity’s midsection which doubled him over. Mjolnir rose high in the air and flashed as it hurtled down onto the back of the In-Betweener’s baldhead, sending him to the rubble on his knees.
"Doom, the Gem!" cried the Thunderer, but the Latverian needed not the cue - he was rushing across the ground on booted feet the moment the In-Betweener fell, searing the being’s already-tarnished god-flesh with a flood of pilfered might.
The Asgardian drew the entity’s head up to present his ally with an easier target, harshly pressing Mjolnirs short haft across the In-Betweener’s throat to insure no resistance. The child of Order & Chaos choked blood as Doom plucked the emerald jewel from his forehead, quickly stowing it within some unseen compartment within his armor. The Latverian’s cold iron fist soon after crashed into the In-Betweener’s countenance, ruining it further, eliminating what little vigor remained in his celestial form. Thor let the body drop limply to the ground, his attention automatically shifting to the effort concerning Tyrant.
Victor Von Doom’s eyes were instead drawn to the distant skeleton of the Shi’ar Imperial Palace, rising out of the smoking debris like some hulking relic of the past. He reached out his infant senses, trying to locate Beta Ray Bill, but could not penetrate the interference generated from the massive confrontation above.
The bold proclamation of, "Fools! You cannot defeat me!" drew the cosmically powered monarch back from his observation. He watched from afar as the haggard creature called Tyrant knocked Thor aside as if the Thunderer was little more than a child, only to have twin photonic staffs driven into his glowing red eyes. The thing screeched from its half-mouth, and the burning retaliation was swift and merciless, tearing through Persephone’s body as though it were wax. The Spinster’s body seemed to float to the ground in halo of blood, finally coming to a peaceful rest.
Their teeth gritted and wills fired with even greater hatred, Jack of Hearts and Ganymede did not mourn aloud for their slain comrade - their prayers for salvation were embodied in renewed vigor their assaults, coupled with naked bloodlust.
Hart’s fist rammed into Tyrant’s features, spraying broken fragments of alien machinery into the air. Ganymede’s response was not one of praise, "Do not ruin his head, Jack - it must be intact and recognizable when I place it on a pike."
"I -" began the hero in reply, his words degenerating into a curdling shriek as a dark bolt of force took him in the shoulder, its momentum carrying Jack Hart into the ground. Instinct carried the gaze of all combatants into the air to see the origin of the brutal attack.
The monster in the shape of a man was a familiar, radiating a roiling darkness far darker than the jet armor he wore. Yet in that unmistakable tide of obsidian aura there was also a secondary emanation, one not recognizable to less sensitive, Thor included, but plain to the enhanced sight of Victor Von Doom.
"Vyer!" cried the Thunder God, hurtling in the air toward his hated foe, unable to see Tyrant drag Ganymede from her attacks. Jack of Hearts saw, his body wrapped tight and parlayed in cold-hot coils which sprang from the wound in his shoulder, saw as his love was thrown to the ground, her skull crushed by a single hateful blow. Hart screamed, captive in his helplessness, yet still could do nothing.
The Voice of Pain easily caught Mjolnir in mid-swing, the mystic electricity dying as it touched his black armor. He pulled Thor closer, and spoke through gritted teeth in a whisper to the Asgardian, "You were supposed to save me - you were heroes! How could you let this happen to me? All of you abandoned me to Mephisto’s flames . . . You let me burn when you could have helped me and now I shall make you suffer for it. You’re no better than they are." A twisted smile formed on the Son of Pain’s lips, "You’re not better than I am!"
Confusion slowed the Thunder God’s reaction, though his speed and strength were little compared that of the avatar’s. Vyer backhanded Thor away as he released the hammer, before unleashing a deadly strobe of force into the warrior’s chest, driving him into the ground near his fellow hero.
A second Asgardian mallet screamed toward the Voice of Pain’s mad features, charged with potent crimson power. It stopped in mid-air as it neared the avatar’s floating body, its enhancement flickering and dying, before the hammer too dropped silently to the ground.
Doom crashed into Vyer’s form, his metallic fingers reaching for the spined helmet. Cold fingers clenched around the Latverian’s throat and hurled him aside like so much garbage. The Latverian landed hard, far from the combat, able only to watch as Tyrant advanced on the grounded figures he knew to be Thor and Jack of Hearts. The monarch’s optics twitched upward, seeing Stormbreaker return to Beta Ray Bill’s hand. He could not hear what the Korbinite shouted, nor what his haggard ally Gladiator said - it was of no import.
The Latverian’s eyes flicked to the fallen forms of Kubik and Kosmos - he sensed their energies ebbing. He watched Vyer descended slowly, a blackened messiah, and felt the same emanation of familiar power. Doom’s body ached, and his own energies waned - he wobbled as he stood, the cracks in his lenses becoming more apparent.
The cosmic power surged in his body and the final images that flooded to his eyes were the surprised expression as his allies felt their bodies fading from the broken planet of Chandilar, and the reassuring warmth of the Soul Gem.
Despite the dizzying array of vivid colors, the nauseating scent of spent energies and spilled ichor, Wylig could not find his concentration. He saw his forces being swiftly pushed across the strange frontier of Dormammu’s Dark Dimension, the left line led by Valtor collapsing, the center under heavy attack by Magrashem, and the right still holding, albeit barely. The Dark Watcher found his mind drifting too often back to the puzzle of the Infinity Equation.
He was jarred into the present once more was the great hand of The Other flexed suddenly, surprised by the massive input of mental agony it received. As was The Other’s purpose there, that twisted entity passed the harrowing sensations of Wylig’s army on to Wylig himself, and the renegade cringed as he felt the pain, the suffering, the hopelessness of those who followed him.
On his fragment of mystic stone, the Dark Watcher took a step back for a moment, his eyes squeezing shut against the onslaught. He composed himself quickly as his flagging mental facilities allowed, and Wylig set about developing a new strategy. He examined the observations of Belial and Ikon, the Gardener and the Shaper of Worlds, and pondered what could be done to halt the crushing tide of Magrashem’s forces. The towering Celestial, Purifier by name and nature, led his troops well despite his ever-present silence. Phaedra and Ego-Prime stuck as one, knocking Brona unconscious, even as they rushed in through the gap, moving to attack Dormammu’s rear.
The dread ruler, despite his position as supreme master of the Dark Dimension, was hard-pressed now to deflect Magrashem’s assaults, so focused and practiced were they. Wylig felt the weariness in Dormammu’s spirit through their psychic link, as another blow from the Space God crashed down upon his flaming skull, staggering the mystic creature.
The Dark Watcher took a deep, long breath and began to move the pieces of his army about. He ordered without uttering a word, his thoughts transferred to his army through the channel forged by The Other.
Like ants they moved about, far below, plain for Wylig’s eye to see. The right flank under the Time Twisters suddenly shattered into chaos, allowing Brahmanes’ forces through the gap unmolested, trampling over the unfeeling corpses of the Mindless Ones. Simultaneously the frequencies used by those fighting in the collapsing left front shifted, taking better advantage of the strange make-up inherent to the Dark Dimension. Triumphantly and with due haste Valtor and his brigades pushed their foes back from the center, leaving a few insects to rage at Dormammu’s behind.
Wylig nodded solemnly as Valtor’s forces pushed those under Veritas back, swinging them into the larger mass under Magrashem’s direct command. Confusion erupted as the Sayge’s harried allies toppled into the massive Celestial’s battalion, stymieing Magrashem’s own attacks for a moment.
The lord of the Dark Dimension smiled wickedly as he drove forward at the distracted Space God, strike blow after blow before Magrashem could mount a hasty defense. Yet it was a short resurgence, as the Purifier quickly regained his dominance, knocking Dormammu backwards, even as the twisted entity felt the sting of a renewed assault on his backside, the march over the fallen bodies of the Mindless Ones quickly completed.
Wylig frowned as he watched his advantage crumble - the Mindless Ones had not responded as he had hoped. The Time Twisters renewed their attacks on the cosmic mob, but they were ineffectual now, as Dormammu sagged under the growing bombardment, his powers ebbing with frightening speed.
The Dark Watcher examined the field again, but found no further strategy - his miscalculation had cost his army the Dark Dimension, and perhaps a few of its members as well. Therefore, it seemed was the case all across the cosmos, as Wylig’s once brilliant mind clogged with doubt and grew more focused on puzzles than combat. He great victories in the past were now paling before his stunning defeats, and Wylig knew himself now to be a stunning failure.
Reluctantly he called for retreat, seeing no chance for a sudden shift in the tide of battle. Emotions surged from Wylig’s followers, and he felt a roiling mixture of hatefulness, sorrow, and praise as the various entities began to pull back from their positions, doing their best to take the wounded along with them. Like a river the Dark Watcher’s army fled from the confines of the Dark Dimension, a great flood of weakened and wearied power. The pursuit was genuine by Magrashem’s forces, but half-hearted - those under the Celestial’s command too were fatigued and tired of war.
Stray beams sliced the air near Wylig as his allies rushed beneath his rock fragment, yet none came close to striking the grand general. He turned to leave as a particularly potent lance burned through the void, ending its existence in a bright flash.
The Dark Watcher’s steps halted as he peripherally saw what the haphazard assault had revealed, his eyes unbelieving at first. The ether crackled violently in a rough pattern, the outline of the protective pocket, which had concealed the newly un-veiled figure.
Wylig’s optics grew wide at the sight and it was as if he looked in a mirror, which erased his flaws, and made his gifts shine like stars.
The Watcher’s said nothing, did not move for a moment, yet finally he nodded, uncaring of the streaks of damaging light which came dangerously close to his serene figure.
Memories flooded back into Wylig’s mind and he seemed to awaken from a dream he had never dared imagine he was trapped in. He took a step toward his son, who he not seen for thousands upon thousands of years.
"What are you doing here?"
"The Brotherhood has assigned us to observe the conflict, each of us assigned to a different entity, in order for us to see the war from every angle." His voice was cold and hoarse at the same time, "I was assigned to you."
Wylig’s brow furrowed, "The background emanations - the Watchers. How evident, I should have guessed." He took another step toward his child, and as he did so Uilig stepped away.
"I am changing events by speaking with you, father, I am interfering. I must return to my passive observation."
The Dark Watcher shook his head, extending a hand toward his son, "No, you must-"
A bolt of force struck the Watcher squarely in the chest, searing a black hole in Uilig’s golden armor. A curl of smoke twisted up, obscuring the frozen look of surprise etched upon the observer’s infant features. Uilig toppled stiffly, statue-like, to the cold stone below, and was still.
Wylig’s teeth gritted together, threatened to chip, as he raced toward his fallen child, feeling himself slipping into the dream once more. As he hefted Uilig’s limp form into his arms, he knew this dream was far different than the one, which had proceeded. As the Dark Watcher faded from that place, faded back into the dream, he knew this was not a dream but a nightmare, and one he would never awaken from.
Outside, the screaming winds of the Valles Marineris blew, and inside a small grey globe nestled at the very bottom of those unbelievable depths, sterile quiet remained, save for the ever-present hum of
wondrous machines. Nestled within that place, that silver environment, the High Evolutionary worked in
silence, his only companions being his great mind and his greater determination.
Herbert Wyndham sat staring as a genetic strand twisted before his unblinking eyes. That simple
yet infinitely complex shape would have remained an impenetrable enigma to the average man or woman,
yet it was as familiar to him as his own memories - it was the very driving ambition that had fired his long life.
This double-helix was different though, not the average fragment of DNA of a mere man, but rather something far more, or by some accounts far less, than human. In time it would become eclipsed by the majesty that Humanity was destined to become enveloped by, but in current times it was greatly superior. The genetic strand was a building block of the opposite side of the perfected forms of the Eternals - it was a piece of the hated race called Deviants.
The High Evolutionary studied that fragment simply by staring at, occasionally glancing down at the read-out his fantastic computer displayed. In the far background there was the unmistakable sound of construction, as dozens of mechanisms altered the devices, which the High Evolutionary once used upon himself, and sought to make Humanity into gods - little had he known that his own intervention was quite unnecessary. In time, as that machine was shaped to the contours of the Deviant genealogy, it would serve a much greater purpose, and indeed prove the salvation of his treasured Mankind.
Hebert Edgar Wyndham sat in his own self-imposed silence and studied, waiting for the time when he would be able to understand, and finally be able to act. That time loomed, a figure massive and welcome, silhouetted on the grey horizon.
The High Evolutionary smiled.
Uatu’s brow furrowed, "Doom is attempting to return."
Thanos turned from his star-gazing reverie, "Attempting?"
"He is unable to complete the extra-galactic teleportation; I will have to aid in his retrieval." The former Watcher's slim digits crackled with bright strands of power, "I suggest you step back."
The Titan did as he was asked, bright bolts of force arcing from Uatu’s fingertips and coalescing in the midst of the sloping chamber. The bright colors threw twisted shadows on the shining silver walls, and on the strange form of Orikal, who seemed bathed in deep shades of green and red. Like hungered Worms the curving shafts of light bit into the fabric of reality, daring completely to sunder the few remaining bonds left in the fragile universe present in the Watcher’s citadel.
Space roared like an enraged lion as the beams of energy crossed and shaped themselves into vaguely human figures, the identity of those half-men quite obvious. The strands knit together, passing in and out, stitched by a master craftsman, growing more and more recognizable, yet there were four shapes, not a mere trio.
The crackling faded swiftly and Uatu stepped back, calmly surveying his handiwork, and the four beleaguered figures that lay upon the mirror-shine floor.
His caped torn and burned to impoverished tatters, the Thunder God stood first, Mjolnir still gripped tightly in his massive fist. With confused, bloodshot eyes Thor looked around the chamber, dim understanding lighting his thoughts, before he turned his gaze downward, onto his three companions.
Fury rippled across the Asgardians ash-tinged features, and his optics seemed to bulge from their sockets, "Where is Jack of Hearts?"
Doom said nothing in reply, dusting his tarnished armor off and visually surveying the damage to his aegis where he stood.
"Where is Jack of Hearts?" Thor repeated as his hand fell heavily on the Latverian’s shoulder, spinning him around to face him. The warrior’s scarlet-etched orbs dared madness as they bored into Von Doom’s masked countenance.
The monarch swept the Thunderers hand away and nearly spit at him, "I could not waste the energy to transport one so badly injured - he would have been no use to us."
A trickle of dark blood oozed down from Thor’s hairline as he spoke in a soft tone, far more ominous than any battle shout, "You left him to die, at the hands of varlets without spirit or moral."
Doom did not shy from the building confrontation, even as the air seemed to shudder with palpable energy. Wary glances passed between Beta Ray Bill and Gladiator as they slowly edged toward the deadly two-man circle, even as they looked peripherally for support from Thanos and his duo of cosmic allies. Those entities only looked on, their intentions unreadable.
"My powers are drained, hammer-thrower, had I expended the additional energy necessary to transport Jack of Hearts, perhaps none of us would stand here now. He died in order for us to live."
The Rhinegold veins in the Thunderers mystic mallet pulsed with deadly energy, white as the embers burning in Thor’s honorable spirit. The muscles of his jaw grew taut, almost daring to pull back to Asgardians colorless lips into a savage rictus.
"Then we too should have died."
The Asgardians thick arm came up, Mjolnir gripped so tightly the knuckles of Thor’s fist were milk-white, and the air around him seemed to explode as Beta Ray Bill’s heavy hand fell upon his friend’s tense shoulder.
"Don’t do this, not now." The gleaming beads set in the horse-face turned to regard Doom harshly, "When all this is finished, he will pay for his dishonor, but not until then. We must end this war first, before we can combat the lesser injustices that fester in it."
Thor’s teeth grit together, and he glanced back at friend Bill, who only nodded at him. The Thunder God’s optics turned back to the Latverian, who remained yet unmoved. Mjolnirs star-hot glow dimmed.
The Asgardian warrior moved with speed and ferocity that could have been born only of berserker madness. The Last Son of Asgard shouldered away Beta Ray Bill’s restraining palm, even as he swung the Uru hammer up in a blinding arc to land solidly on the side of Doom’s helmet.
Surprised despite his power, the Latverian stumbled to the side, finally toppling as mystic lightning poured down upon him. He crashed to the floor with a great clangor, sparks firing inside his armor, the stresses of past and present accumulating into a single insurmountable obstacle.
Thor whipped around, breathing heavily, his eyes roiling with a madness borne of day after day of pain and anguish bearing down upon the Asgardian warrior’s spirit. He faced the Korbinite and the Strontian, daring them to do battle with him. The veins in the Thunder God’s arms bulged to near bursting, and he held a blazing sun within his hand. Thanos was a black shadow, silhouetted against star-filled window, his eyes glowing an ominous silver. The mystic light did not seem to touch the Titan as he looked on in silence.
Beta Ray Bill raised his hands calmly, but Thor shouted him down, "You would fight me, friend Bill? You would throw in with that wretched varlet ‘gainst your honorable ally? Must I lose you as well in these darkest of times, shall you go now too join the ghosts of those who were once my family and my countrymen?"
The Korbinite took a tentative step toward the Asgardian, and the Thunder God railed at him, brandishing his hammer dangerously, "Nay, back Beta Ray Bill! We dance ‘pon the strings of these villains and fight with all our strength, for only the promise of no more war. We have seen the ravages, all the dead, the dying, the broken warriors, and yet we fight, and the war does not end! We have been manipulated and I shall brook no more of this dishonorable trickery! I have lost too much to be so tampered with! I shall watch my allies be betrayed no more - and if you will not help me, then you have become my foe as well!"
"I have lost much too, Thor." Gladiator said, no hint of fear in his voice, "My Imperial Guard are dead, as is my Majestrix - all I have ever fought for is gone. However, I can still see that we must continue on this path, as Bill has explained it to me. Don’t be blind."
The Asgardians brow furrowed, and for a few fleeting moments the tension in his body seemed to slacken; Thor seemed to consider the former Praetor’s words, and the madness in his eyes dimmed.
Silver fingers crackling with power clamped down on the sides of the warrior’s head, digging into the Thunderers flesh. The rage re-ignited instantly within the wounded swad and with a guttural yell Thor spun ‘round, slamming his hammer into Doom’s head once more, dislodging the Doctor’s searing digits.
Unharmed, still charged with the energy stolen from Galactus vessel, the Latverian stumbled backward as the Thunder God turned, thick bolts of lightning pouring out of Mjolnir, tearing into the shocked bodies of Gladiator and Beta Ray Bill.
Like the streams of harmful golden power tearing from his mystic mallet, Thor streaked across the chamber, sending first the Korbinite and then the Strontian to the cold plates below. The Thunderer paused over Gladiator, his teeth bared, his memories and jumble, and he raised Mjolnir high over his head. The broken Praetor looked up into Thor’s frenzied eyes but did not move.
"We do not have the time for this." came the distinctive voice as a gloved hand closed on the Uru hammer’s head, halting the building power within the awesome weapon.
Thor’s eyes shifted in their sockets to see the familiar golden glove repressing the destructive might in Mjolnir, and he snarled animal-like at the Titan’s intervention. The muscles in the Thunder God’s arm bulged grotesquely as he attempted to free his mallet from Thanos’ unshakable grasp, but could not. Thor’s limb quake with the effort as he vainly tried to wrench Mjolnir free.
The former Closed Circle’s orbs shimmered coldly in their black pits, "In the past you were but my equal while under the dominion of Asgardian Warrior’s Madness, but I am no longer the same being I once was. You waste time with your futile struggles - you will not be allowed to strike, no matter how great your rage."
The Thunderer roared insanely, lashing out with his other hand, reaching back with his fist to strike a resounding blow against Thanos’ stony features. The Titan did not flinch away from the powerful stroke, and even in the depths of his unbalance, Thor noticed how it seemed he struck cold, invincible rock as opposed to a living creature.
"Enough." Uatu said calmly from his distant, detached station, gesturing at the unhinged Asgardian as he did. In that singular instant the warrior froze in his fathomless pain and anger, trapped into the form of a living statue.
A second gesture from the former Watcher eliminated Thor from the curving chamber in a flash, and save for the memory of destruction, it seemed as though the honored hero had never been tainted by madness.
"The Asgardians sanity can be salvaged at a later date." the observer said, his saucer-eyes turning to focus on the damaged form of Victor Von Doom, "You have the Soul Gem?"
The Latverian nodded, extracting the shining emerald jewel from his armor as he approached the placid entity, handing it over without hesitation, "The Reality Gem has also been located - it is in possession of Vyer."
Thanos’ eyes as he strode over to examine the Gem, "Intriguing. It shall require a great deal of skill and strategy to wrest out prize from the grasp of Eyalus’ avatar." He turned to the Doctor, "I suggest you heal yourself and leave soon after."
The monarch’s visage was invisible behind the broken contours of his faceplate, but upon it there was surely an expression of disdain, "Even the avatar will fall before my matchless intellect."
With a flourish of his charred cape the Latverian was stalking across the chamber, the damage to his armor knitting with every passing moment and each fall of his foot. The Titan and Watcher were unimpressed, their minds focused solely on the glimmering Gem, and the prizes held within.
"We should not attempt to retrieve Warlock’s spirit until Kristoff returns with a surrogate body." Thanos stated bluntly.
Uatu considered the Eternal for a moment, and then the sparkling artifact lying upon the golden valley of his palm. He nodded in the end, "Kristoff is nearing the Enclave’s Pacific stronghold - it should not be long until it is determined if the Enclave will grant his request."
Thanos’ eyes glimmered ominously, "If they do not we will be forced to provide Warlock with a currently occupied form." He regarded Gladiator and Beta Ray Bill carefully from the corner of his star-blast orbs, eavesdropped silently as they conversed with the Latverian, plotting a strategy for future engagements, "I merely human body will not be an acceptable host on this occasion - it will prove too fragile when we engage Wylig’s and Eternity’s forces."
The Watcher’s voice was placid as before, but beneath it ran an obvious undercurrent of foreboding and his infant-face seemed strangely threatening in the artificial light, "I will not allow any harm to come those we have gathered to aid us. If the Enclave do not agree to Kristoff’s request, an alternative option will be found."
The Titan’s brow raised at the statement and his own eyes bored into Uatu’s. In silence the wills of the observer and the manipulator battled. Orikal looked on with curious interest - had he still been in possession of his omniscience, he would not have known the outcome of the struggle.
"As you wish." Thanos relented, turning away, "But you will be responsible for procuring a replacement body if Kristoff fails."
The former Closed Circle surveyed his ranks, the absence of the Thunder God a great void in the miniscule army.
"Once again we can do nothing but wait." he said restlessly.
Continued in Longest Night Chapter 8
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