Gladiator and the Sentry grappled furiously as they plummeted towards Chandilar like a fiery comet. Despite the roar of burning atmosphere in their ears the two mighty individuals could hear each other clearly.
“You really are a glutton for punishment Kallark!” laughed Sentry cruelly, his long blonde hair blowing wildly around his face.
“I’ll kill you!” screamed the Praetor, insane with rage, before landing a savage punch to the Terran’s jaw. He laughed it off and retaliated with a punch to the stomach; shard of metals and circuitry flew off like shrapnel.
“How much of your brain did you lose when I beat you to death last time fool?!” the Terran mocked.
“Die!” the cyborg fired an energy blast from his one good eye, scalding the Sentry’s face and actually making him cry out in pain.
“Is that all you can bring to the fight?” he laughed after a moment’s recovery.
Intense white light radiated from his left fist and a blast of burning energy incinerated Gladiator’s entire right arm. The destruction of his mechanical arm caused him no pain, but it did distract him long enough for the Sentry to grab him by the throat and strike him repeatedly in the face.
The ground raced up to meet them, and both the Terran and the cyborg slammed into it with a tremendous boom. Dust and debris was hurled into the air, and when it settled a triumphant Sentry was revelled, standing over broken and battered Gladiator.
“I wonder if they’ll send to you the graveyard or the scrapheap?” her pondered cruelly, before shifting his gaze to his true objective nearby; the M’Kraan crystal. The massive crystal glittered in the sunlight, despite the layer of dust from the destruction of Chandilar’s capital. It was truly remarkable, and radiated with subtle power.
A brief flash of light followed by the sudden smell ionised air signalled a teleport and the powerful Terran spun about to face his possible foe. Instead he found himself face to face with a smiling Admiral Ikaris and the rest of the Terran Vanguard.
“Well done Sentry,” praised Ikaris, “but the Shi’ar have realised our goal. I fear they shall arrive any-”
He was interrupted by another teleport and the sudden arrival of the Exiles and Imperial Guard.
“Get away from the crystal Ikaris!” ordered Blink.
“Must we continue this game?” sighed Ikaris, “It’s an exercise in futility,”
Starbolt, who had stepped up as Praetor of the Guard while Gladiator was out of commission, was in no mood for forming a dialogue, and instead yelled, “Attack!”
For the second time in half an hour, both groups collided violently.
The Eternal Hammer
Richards placed a boot on Miguel’s chest and stood over him like a hunter stands over a prize buck. The cosmic cube was only inches away but he was powerless to take it. Reed’s use of the item had caused him too much pain to even move.
“The pain can go away if you just talk,” said Richard’s soothingly, though he was about as soothing as bag full of knives, “help me unlock the secrets to dimensional travel and you can go free,”
He wanted to scream at the man, “You have a cosmic cube you idiot, you can do anything!” but he couldn’t get the words out. It was likely for the best; Richard’s limit on this world seemed to be imagination, which was the key to using a cosmic cube.
“Ok…I’ll talk,” he croaked, causing Richards to lean in closer in order to hear better, “what you need to do is stick your head up your own butt, there’s a vortex in there to a world where you’re not a sadistic whackjob,”
The false warmth on the man’s faced washed away, leaving only hated and rage. Rather than use the cube or the shock prod he punched his victim in the face repeatedly, losing himself in the rage and frustration. Miguel meanwhile, ignored the assault and focused on the screen on the wall behind them. The words WARNING – IMPACT IMMINENT flashed repeatedly and displayed an image to the ship drifting dangerously close to another.
“Why are you smiling?” asked a confused Richards, halting his beating.
“Better brace yourself stretcho,” his perplexed look was almost comical.
The ship shook violently as it collided with another, hurling Reed face first onto the floor. He cried out in surprise when the cosmic cube when tumbling across the room. Almost instantly his hand was stretching across the room to grab it but he was too slow; a thin strand of webbing snared the item and it was yanked into Spider Man’s hands.
“No!” cried Richards.
Miguel was on his feet in an instant, the cube revitalising him with a mere thought. The power that radiated from the item was intense, so much so that it almost hurt him to hold it.
He locked eyes with Richards, “You don’t get to hurt anyone anymore,”
This time the battle was squarely in the Terran’s favour. With Ikaris and the Sentry’s might combined the Shi’ar side had their work cut out for them. In fact Zarda suspected the pair were just toying with them and could have ended this battle almost effortlessly. They were classic sociopaths, toying with their prey.
Ikaris was currently engaging Mam’selle and Earthquake, neither of who were having must luck. Earthquake’s land based attacks were essentially useless against someone who could fly and Mam’selle’s energy tendrils, which could cut or paralyse, seemed to have little affect on the Eternal. With a casual gesture of his hand Earthquake was destroyed by an energy blast. He didn’t even get a chance to scream.
Mam’selle would have been next but Longshot leapt to her rescue, hurling a useless blade at the Admiral’s face and distracting him long enough for one of the woman’s tendrils to strike true. It must have been due to Longshot’s luck, as the tendril, which had hardly bothered Ikaris before, dropped him like a sack of potatoes.
The Eternal was unsteadily back on his feet almost straight away though. Zarda stepped in immediately and tackled the man to the ground, with an impact like two Mack trucks colliding. While on the ground, the warrior woman wrapped her arms around the villain in a powerful bear hug and squeezed. Ikaris retaliated by head butting her in the face, thankfully her helm took most of the blow.
“You’re a powerful woman, wherever did the Shi’ar find you?” asked the struggling Admiral.
“I found them, and they’ll thank the gods for the day that happened,” she replied before striking with her own head butt, stunning the man.
Nearby, Morph had disappeared from the field of battle, having spied the battered and broken body of Gladiator. Surprisingly the alien still clung to life, albeit barely. He looked up at Morph, though he didn’t really see the man, as his mind was ravaged with pain and despair.
“You…you just burst out through the bridge without any thought about us,” said Morph, with a hard edge to his voice, “You could have killed us…you did kill one of us!”
Gladiator simply stared up at him, was that regret on what little remained of his face? It didn’t matter, Morph wasn’t himself anymore; his face had taken on an enraged, almost insane appearance. If any of his friends had been present they would have failed to recognise him.
“Ye killed me friend ye bampot!” he screamed with a voice that was not his own.
Before he knew what he was doing his fist, enlarged and hardened, slammed down upon the cyborg’s head. Mechanical components shattered, blowing sparks everywhere, and blood flowed freely from his mouth. His one good eye closed, possibly forever. Was he dead? Morph didn’t even care.
He wandered back to the battle in a dazed and confused state.
The Eternal Hammer
Reed Richards sneered in derision and he rose to his feet, “You don’t have the intelligence to wield such a device,” his hand stretched across the room in an attempt to snatch it but his entire arm suddenly turned to crystal and fell to the floor. The torturer cried out in shock more than pain as he eyed his crystallised arm.
“Cosmic cubes possess a semi-sentience, they’re influenced and shaped by the thoughts and actions of their bearers,” explained Spider Man, “Sadly, in the short time you’ve had your cube, you’ve taught it little more than the desire to cause pain and suffering,”
“Nonsense, it’s a device nothing more,” snarled Richards.
The cube flared in Miguel’s hand and Richard’s entire body suddenly matched his crystal arm. It appeared the cube grew tired of its former master, a frightening thought.
The ship shook violently once more, and a horrid screech of metal grinding against metal could be felt more than heard reverberating through the floor. Using the cube, he reached out with his thoughts in an attempt to view the battle outside. To his shock a visual view of the outside was just the tip of the iceberg. He saw things no mere mortal could ever dream of seeing. It was as if the cube was allowing him to witness the very fabric of space; energy fields, electro-magnetism, even people’s life forces.
It all bedazzled his eyes in an amazing display of technicolour more beautiful than he could ever have believed. A new clarity came over him, an insight provided by the aspects of the universe the cube allowed him to see.
I can use this
Each Terran ship was a brilliant beacon of energy; like fireflies in the night. With barely a thought and the power of the cube the quantum energy cores in each vessel detonated one by one, becoming gigantic fireworks illuminating the darkness of space. The Eternal Hammer was the last to go, exploding around him and yet not touching him at all. Soon, he floated alone in the vastness of space, with only debris and corpses for company.
The energy of the cube was burning through him now; he had done nothing to quench the desire for destruction and pain instilled in it by Richards. He had fed it and now it hungered for more. From the bridge of the Swooping Talon the Shi’ar could only see the outline of a man, radiating intense golden light.
It was too much power, he knew it, and soon it would consume his fragile mortal body. He needed to separate himself from the cube, before it destroyed him, but first he had to help his friends. To send them home.
This entire time, he could feel a tiny inconsequential ‘tug’ on his body and he realised it was Asher trying to teleport him away from Universe #180208 before he could return the Exiles to the Crystal Palace. The cube had been blocking the attempt as if it was little more than an annoyance.
He followed the trace across reality with his mind, until he could clearly see a frustrated and half mad Axel slamming his fists upon the computer and yelling at the Timebreakers, who cowered in fear. Asher did not look like a well man; his skin was pallid and eyes were bloodshot and rimmed by dark flesh. Every so often a nervous twitch contorted his features and he would glance around nervously, looking for some unseen whisperer.
An intense coldness invaded his insides, despite the burning power of the cube raging through his body. It wasn’t due to Asher; there was something else…something powerful, beyond the Panoptichron, beyond all reality itself. For the briefest moment he caught a glimpse of a small tear in the multiverse brimming with wild white power. Within was something that radiated so much malevolence he almost looked away. Summoning all his self control he gazed again upon the tear and witnessed a gigantic cluster of long obsidian crystals as big as a sun, radiating malice light like a sun does light.
It was searching for Asher. He didn’t know how he knew, it just came to him. Was this why he wouldn’t let any of them return to the Palace, because this mysterious force would track them back to him?
At the same time as he saw it he felt very certain that it saw him, and the thought didn’t fill him with joy. Perhaps it was his subconscious acting though the cube, for whatever reasons the connection was suddenly severed. His mind reeled from the revelations; was this what blasted Axel Asher across reality? The Monolith he mentioned so fearfully?
There was time for thoughts later, now he had to save his friends.