A long time ago
Eson the searcher seemed to be just drifting in space. The sheer size of the behemoth made him look almost like a starship dead in space and with no internal lighting. Neither hiding nor advertising his presence the Celestial was playing the role of observer, silent witness to the devastating end of a world.
Some modest ships of the planet's space faring race did escape its destruction. Several even sought to communicate with the space god. This served them no useful purpose. Are men concerned about a few ants escaping a destroyed nest? The pitiful few traveled past the Celestial and towards the blackness of interstellar space and a long lonely sub-light journey which ultimately none would survive.
This had not been a world under Celestial judgment, else surely even the great Galactus would not have come this way. Still it was a world known to the Celestials one they had intended to visit at a future time and carry out certain experimentations thereon.
The Celestials knew of the world devourer and of his relationship to Eternity and Death. They knew of his origins and also of how he maintained his existence and of his sometime use of heralds to assist in this process. It was not stated anywhere nor had it anywhere been agreed but the Celestials took it as a given that neither would interfere with the other. This action taken by Galactus now was the closest either had come to a breach of that unspoken agreement.
Eson watched on as all life energy was drained from the large planet. He saw the small silvery form of Galactus herald also witnessing this world's end. On this occasion for some reason Galactus did not employ his elemental converter. Never before had one of the Celestial race been so close when Galactus was feeding. Exactly what the enigmatic Celestial thought and what communication the entity conveyed telepathically to others of his race was not known even to Galactus. The devourer of worlds was aware of the Celestial's presence but there was no communication of any kind between them.
As Galactus stood fully satiated and bathing in the last dregs of life energies of the world, Eson finally departed.
A not inconsiderable time passed and it might have seemed that the matter was at an end.
The Silver Surfer continued his scouting duties for Galactus and on approaching the atmosphere of another suitable world he was met by what seemed to be a female counterpart of himself complete with board. Of similar size and build to the Surfer but golden in color and clearly female she indicated politely that they should descend to an area of the world below.
"I am a creation of the Celestial race" she indicated "made in your image." The message of her creators was short. They were concerned that Galactus had consumed a world they had identified for experimentation and hoped this would not happen again. Despite the (possibly) unusual method of communication (i.e.: proxy to proxy) it was clearly meant as a communication between equals. The Celestial creation made this clear. On her departure the Surfer felt she seemed almost human, quite a feat really for her creators.
If Galactus was irritated by the chosen method of Celestial communication he did not show it to the Surfer. Perhaps he felt a more direct communication would have been more appropriate or even through the good offices of Eternity.
There is a race of cosmic entities the existence of which is much less known than even the Celestials. The Aylon are energy beings that traverse the stars making worlds more inhabitable to intelligent life. Terraforming if you will but on a broader base. They travel as individuals and when a world has been transformed they remain there patiently for many millennia watching over the world and taking on the form of a natural part of that world such as a mountain, lake or forest. When the first intelligent indigenous life develops they do not interfere. However movements of the Aylon in their true form in these early days have oftentimes formed the basis of subsequent religions. The Aylon are not aggressive and will eventually move on – such as if a world is destroyed by alien attackers.
Never before had Galactus consumed a world that still contained a resident Aylon. He knew of them as did the Surfer but they were notoriously difficult to detect even by a great power. However it came to pass that Galactus weak from hunger fed on a world still containing a resident Aylon. The entity had taken the physical form of a mountain and was in a state of deep reverie. It did not notice the approach of Galactus until his feeding began. The Aylon reverted to its energy form and departed the world being consumed.
Later as Galactus (again satiated) and the Surfer prepared to depart from the consumed world they were suddenly confronted by no less than four Celestials: Arishhem the Judge, Gammenon the Gatherer, Eson the Searcher, and Oneg the Prober. Galactus immediately grew to the same size as the Celestials. Arishhem pointed to the form of the Aylon energy being which for some reason had returned to the vicinity. From the Surfer's viewpoint there was a definite air of menace with the Celestial presence. For his part Galactus seemed angry almost belligerent.
The Aylon energy entity moved between Galactus and the Celestials as if seeking to calm matters.
In the very early days of their association Galactus and the Surfer came to an agreement. If ever there was a time of great need the power of the Silver Surfer would be brought to another order of magnitude. This would not involve a transfer from Galactus as the power was already latent within the noble one. It would just require a remote signal from Galactus to trigger the effect.
With the close and seemingly menacing presence of no less than four Celestials Galactus deemed this to be such a time. Although not a power transfer nor even a telepathic communication, Oneg the Prober detected the trigger mechanism and interpreted it as offensive action. A single massive bolt of Celestial energy from Oneg lanced at the Surfer sending him reeling kilometers through space. Perhaps such a discharge might have killed or badly injured the Surfer but in his enhanced form he seemed to (almost) easily shrug it off. Perhaps, after all, the Surfer would be a factor in this confrontation.
Were Oneg's actions the trigger happy reaction of an individual or sanctioned by the team leader Arishem ? No matter, the great Galactus reacted immediately to what he perceived as an attempt to slay his herald. With bolts of the power cosmic lancing from his eyes and streaming forth from his hands he removed both the arm and part of the torso of Oneg. For the merest moment the colossal energies held within the Celestial armor were open to view then almost instantly the space god regenerated his lost arm and part torso.
The four space gods reacted instantaneously, bolts of Celestial energy in unison fired directly at Galactus. The personal force fields of Galactus held, but perhaps just barely, against this massive assault. Even before Galactus had time to take further offensive action the Silver Surfer came on in defense of his master. Waves of bludgeoning power cosmic energy hurled at the four Celestials. Whether in the Surfer's much enhanced form "master/servant" was still an appropriate term to describe his relationship with Galactus was at least now a matter for debate.
Caught squarely in the middle of this mighty exchange the passive energies comprising the gentle Aylon being, which sought only to prevent conflict, were dispersed to such an extent that the entity was unable to reform. This was death as the Aylon defined it. Formerly only a theoretical concept to the Aylon but now a reality. The first Aylon death since times aborning.
Among the Aylon there is no rank as we understand the term – all are equal. But the individual that was dispersed beyond his only ability to reform this day was particularly cherished among them. It was this individual Aylon that had helped make the Earth world habitable. It had been a great mountain range in the ancient Gondwanaland and had seen intelligent life commence in the great Australasian continent. As part of it's energy form moved on occasion it gave rise to ancient indigenous Australian beliefs in the great spirit warrior hailing from the time before time known as the dreamtime.
It can be no surprise therefore that at this moment no less than ten of the Aylon appeared before the warring parties outnumbering the Celestials more than two to one. Acting in unison they drew together the dispersed energies of their fallen comrade. By their own definition restoring life to it. The Aylon then in their most unusual communication form a type of gentle song impeached the combatants to cease. Conflict was anathema to these most gentle entities who normally would simply retreat from such actions.
When the Celestials seemed disinclined to cease hostilities a blanket of immobility descended immediately about them. Within the smothering blanket all were held immobile. Movement in either physical or energy form was impossible, indeed even telepathic communication was smothered. Each of the combatants seemed locked in their own minds. The Aylon are a most passive race, always the creators never the destroyers, but at days end none should interpreted this as weakness.
Eventually, as the effects of the immobility blanket seemed to lessen, and in response to just a slight movement of Arishem's head the Celestials teleported from the area.
Of all present only Galactus himself might have had the power to disrupt the Aylon blanket. But to what end ? Galactus knew that nothing had been resolved with the Celestials but for the moment at least the actions of the Aylon had acted as a circuit breaker.
"I will need to consult with Eternity" said Galactus "as yet perhaps the situation is not beyond redemption." "It is unfortunate indeed" responded the Surfer "that fellow cosmic entities should be engaged in battle." "If we can resolve this now perhaps safeguards could be put in place to prevent it happening again?" continued the Surfer.
"It would be best I think Surfer if you retain your current emergency powers" said Galactus "although in your current form our master/servant relationship no longer applies, so that I request your assistance rather than demand it."
"I must prepare for the worst" said Galactus "and assume the Celestials may not let the matter rest." "To this end" continued Galactus "I must not allow myself to again become weak with hunger."
"Surfer, if you will, I would have you search out new and different sources of energy for me" said the devourer of worlds "there are places, pocket dimensions and such containing entities that contribute nothing to the overall benefit of the Multiverse." "I speak of realms such as Mephisto's and Dormammu's and many others." "If needs be I will consider absorbing them, the different and sometimes mystical nature of these realms will add to my might and in the time to come that might may be sorely needed.
As the Silver Surfer started on his mission Galactus also left to converse with mighty Eternity. "He does not know that I am aware" thought the Surfer "of the modifications he made to the ultimate nullifier." "For the sake of us all I hope that it does not come to that." As he traveled on his mission the Surfer ruefully thought how trivial and avoidable the basis for the incident with the Celestials had been. "Did many major conflicts have such origins ?" he mused.
The Surfer did not respond to his own question – he already knew the answer.
Galactus meeting with Eternity was less than satisfactory. Eternity had already met separately and very briefly with the Celestial One Above All accompanied by mighty Exitar. Other great powers now aware of the problem including some among the Aylon had requested a meeting with Eternity. "Some think that the Celestials are no more than agents to do my bidding" said Eternity to Galactus "but you sibling - know different." "They will have regard to what I say but no more than this." "They are mightily concerned by events, more so than actual circumstances would allow."
Eternity seemed to lean towards Galactus, an inexplicably human gesture, as if trying to ensure that others might not hear him. "For the first time since they came to our Universe I detect a sickness among them" said Eternity "it is not severe but it is enough to explain their recent uncharacteristic behavior." "For the moment at least" warned Eternity "their anger appears to be focused upon you." Can the face of great Eternity show worry? – each must best judge that for themselves.
"It is my belief that the Aylon may be of assistance, the Celestials respect them and they seem ever to have had a calming affect" said Eternity "and there are others " Eternity tapered off.
Guided by the Silver Surfer in his new role the great Galactus sought out new and different sources of energy and power. "What is the theoretical limit of my ability to absorb energy?" mused Galactus. Of course the titan knew full well that it was well nigh infinite. However at some level there was the danger of losing conscious control. At first the criterion for the search was dark realms that contributed nothing to the balance and well being of the Multiverse. A highly subjective criterion at best and one that was relaxed over time.
Mephisto's realm was the first to be visited. Mephisto grew to the same size as Galactus but despite his best efforts in his own realm he seemed powerless to stop the world devourer from consuming the entire realm. Leaving him with nothing. Some may have felt that this was not such a bad thing. Dormammu's realm followed closely though this took longer. The dread one in his own realm was definitely a power to be reckoned with. From there though each additional acquisition seemed easier as Galactus grew involuntarily in size. Others to fall before Galactus were that nemesis of Asgard the Dark Gods and the unusual entity Desaak slayer of gods – himself now slayed.
Wherever the world devourer went he was always close to his Worldship and that greatest of all weapons the ultimate nullifier was always on his person. Not even the Surfer, indeed not even Eternity or Death knew exactly how Galactus had modified the nullifier. The Surfer assumed that the nullifier had been adapted to be used in a more limited way, such as to destroy a Galaxy and without harm to its user. The Surfer noted that Galactus seemed conscious of the possibility of Celestial intervention at any time.
As Galactus continued to grow and absorb predominantly dark mystical energies the Surfer saw him change. Not greatly at first but it was noticeable. More withdrawn, less companionable, more demanding. Gently the Surfer sought to lead Galactus to less dark sources of energy and power to somehow balance the affect of the aggregation of dark energies. The time came too, when Galactus was too large even to enter his Worldship but he continued to take it in tow with him.
But the time came when access to dimensional portals and destinations was increasingly denied the Surfer. He knew immediately this was the work of the Celestials. Even with Galactus present the duo found themselves unable to transport interdimensionally to some desired locations.
Galactus seemed not even to care of what progress great Eternity, the Aylan and others might have made in calming the Celestials. He knew there was some talk of the Watchers becoming involved but this seemed unlikely given the long standing enmity between that race and the Celestials. Eternity for his part and for reasons best known to himself chose not to keep the World Devourer fully informed of developments. Perhaps he was concerned at the affect of the dark energy aggregation within Galactus.
Finally the long anticipated confrontation came. It was of all places at the edge of that area subject to the control of the mystical entity known as Cytorakk who was next in line for Galactus attentions. Indeed the arrival of the Celestials was a great relief to Cytorakk. The Celestials materialized in what they presumably hoped was overwhelming force. Present were Arishem the Judge, Tefral the Surveyor, Eson the Searcher, Jemiah the Analyzer, Gammenon the Gatherer, Hargen the Measurer, Oneg the Prober, Nezarr the Calculator, Ziran the Tester, Ashema the Listener, Exitar the Exterminator, and Scathan the Approver.
The first casualty was the Worldship of Galactus – that proud vessel not merely melted but vaporised almost instantly by the fire power of no less than 12 Celestials. Among them the mighty Exitar.
If this action caught Galactus off balance it was nothing compared to Galactus response which caught everyone by surprise – even the Silver Surfer.
So it had come to this. No less than 12 of the Celestials, all now clearly affected by the an extra-dimensional virus that knows no boundaries to its transmissability and that was now endemic among its race had sought out Galactus. The World Devourer in his turn had unquestionably been affected by the vast amounts of dark energies he had recently absorbed. Thus neither of the opposing adversaries (except for the Silver Surfer) could be said to be in their normal "states of mind" Whatever that might be for them.
The fact that the Celestials were here now was testament to the fact that the efforts of Eternity, the Aylon and others at mediation had failed. Presumably the Celestials would have come even earlier but for those mediation efforts. The longer they left it the more raw energy and power Galactus absorbed. Already Galactus had grown so large as to totally dwarf even mighty Exitar in size.
Uncertain as to Galactus power level following his many acquisitions of vastly different life force energies, the Celestials had come in what they presumed to be overwhelming force. Others of their race watched on ready to teleport in if needed. The Celestials noticed that Galactus no longer carried the ultimate nullifier on his person rather it had been placed in the custody of the Silver Surfer. As they knew the nullifier to be ultimately an aspect of Galactus himself they may have pondered on the reasoning for this action.
Whether it needed as much as energy bolts in unison from all twelve Celestials present to destroy Galactus Worldship was a moot point. It was intended by the space gods to be an unmistakable demonstration of superior force. To bring the titan to heel. It achieved nothing of the sort.
Galactus knew full well that the primary source of power for the Celestials was hyperspace itself – the source of all energy in the Marvel Universe. The devourers existing capability to create hyper space derived force fields had been further enhanced by additional knowledge gleaned from his recent absorptions. Thus in a move that seemed to have been totally unanticipated using hyper space derived force fields he nearly succeeded in totally disrupting the physical forms of all twelve Celestials present. A formidable accomplishment by any standards. To the Silver Surfer the immediate witness to these events the sight was awesome to behold. 12 Celestial giants struggling to maintain the integrity of their physical forms, their hulking frames writhing about seeming in agony. But the effect of such a major disturbance in hyperspace meant that there were many more that were very much aware of events.
As the Celestials continued to flounder they were ultimately only saved by further reinforcements. Five more of their kind he two 'brothers' Devron the Experimenter and Gamiel the Manipulator; the Monolith Gatherer and the Red and Blue Celestials. With these "reinforcements" the Celestials seemingly facing defeat were able to bring the situation under control.
The Celestials present now no less than 17 strong again turned their attention to Galactus. Now there can be no doubt that even a single Celestial is an awesome entity. Even the cosmic cube beings known as Kosmos and Kubik are reported to have said that a single Celestial possessed power many orders of magnitude beyond their own. It might have been thought that even the great Galactus would be in awe of such a sight ! Not so !
As the Celestials prepared to destroy Galactus the Silver Surfer moved off a strategic distance. He then actually raised the ultimate nullifier in his hand pointing it in the general direction of the Celestials. Not unlike how Earth police might caution a criminal with a simple hand gun. The enigmatic Celestials took no action against the Surfer but probably they could not conceive of the Surfer's actions being threatening. Even the present circumstances simply did not warrant the use of the nullifier other than as an empty threat. In short they didn't believe it would be used. But already the Surfer's actions had achieved a result, namely that the space gods had not simply destroyed him – he remained a factor in the battle. They had not called his bluff, if indeed it was a bluff.
The Celestials then launched an attack against Galactus that defied description seething coruscating mind numbing energies gathering about the entirety of each of their individual 17 hulking frames then joining together in one all consuming, onrushing wave of near limitless power. Nor was this just some short burst, rather the Celestials were able and prepared to sustain the attack for just however long it took Galactus to crumble before it.
In response to this the great Galactus actually lowered his personal force fields and welcomed the onrushing avalanche of pure destructive power. Already totally dwarfing even Mighty Exitar the titan grew enormously to the point where the Celestials seemed little more than ants in comparison.
Still at a strategic distance and still symbolically pointing the nullifier at the Celestials the Surfer pondered at how Galactus absorption of so much energy might affect his mind. Possibly resulting in madness or at the very least a loss of conscious control. As no doubt the Celestials were only too well aware. But the noble one knew that if Galactus felt he was losing control then the devourer would remotely operate the ultimate nullifier for the more restricted purpose for which he had modified it. In short there was never any intention that the Surfer himself operate the nullifier. In this respect the Surfer might even be described as a "decoy" if that crude term could be used to describe his noble actions. If the Celestials thought that that Galactus somehow had to be holding the nullifier to use it then they were wrong. After all was it not in truth an integral part of himself.
And it was so. If anything the swathes of Celestial energy were even increasing in intensity as Galactus now of totally gargantuan proportions sensed a detectable loss of control. With that he activated what many would regard as the most truly formidable weapon in existence. Does anyone doubt that the ultimate nullifier is just that ? and further that if Galactus himself modified the nullifier for a more restricted purpose that it would not achieve that purpose ?
The onrush of Celestial energy ceased almost immediately and the Celestials were gone just as speedily from this place. Indeed there was not the slightest evidence that they had been here even though it was only moments ago.
The face of mighty Eternity. The Stranger, Uuaatu and other great powers appeared before Galactus and the Surfer "It is done" said Eternity ".the etheral virus infecting the entire Celestial race has been eliminated." With the virus eliminated the Celestials immediately perceived the madness that had overcome them and had simply ceased their attack on Galactus and immediately left the battlefield.
The problem had been to locate the source of a virus so powerful that even the Celestials were affected by it. The source of the virus was the original home Universe of the Celestials where the virus had spread throughout the entirety of that Universe and was now threatening to spread elsewhere. This is where the Ultimate Nullifier came in it can destroy a Universe or it can recreate one or both. But it doesn't have to be our Universe.
It had all been about playing for time, Eternity and the Aylon seeking to mediate with the Celestials, Galactus holding his own and at times more against the Celestials while other great powers such as the Stranger, Uuaatu, Mistress Love, Master Hate sought out with certainty the impossibly distant source of the etheral virus infection the original home dimension of the Celestials.
Galactus had used the nullifier first to eliminate and then to recreate that home dimension of the Celestials in such a way that in the newly formed Universe the virus had been eliminated. In truth the virus was so virulent in such an all pervasive way that this was the only way in which it could be completely stopped.