Against the Darkness - Rune Thor

Rune Thor - Against the Unknown

Rune Thor was invited to his first meeting of the great powers of the Universe who usually gathered only in the most dire of circumstances. Taking his leave of Zeus in Olympus, Thor teleported to meet his peers in a location known only to those invited.

" We welcome you Lord Thor " said Eternity "as an equal among us." "You would know, or know of, all those present" With that Eternity pointed to the assemblage which included among others Infinity, the great Galactus, the Stranger, Master Order, Lord Chaos, Mistress Love, Master Hate, Uaatu the Watcher, and two representatives of the Celestials. " We face a menace that may well require our combined resources to defeat.". "So little is known of our adversary that no name is generally attributed to them" continued Eternity "Although at different times and in different places some have referred to them as "the unknown" "the darkness" and "obscurity".

" The Living Tribunal is aware of events" voiced Eternity "but has chosen simply to observe at this point and leaves matters in our hands" "This is not to say that he might not interfere at a later time." " We do know", continued Eternity, " that our adversaries played the largest single part in the demise of the great civilisation once known as the Brell." "At the height of their power" responded Infinity "The Brell had mapped the Multiverse in its entirety and could teleport instantaneously virtually unlimited quantities of mass or energy anywhere in the Multiverse" " Any being or race of beings that could significantly contribute to the demise of the Brell must be taken seriously for this reason alone."

" We also know that since the demise of the Brell, the unknown chose not to take over the mantle of Brell dominance" said Eternity "but they have in an apparently totally random fashion continued to destroy major civilisations over vast tracts of the Multiverse." "The level of destruction carried out by the unknown has ebbed and flowed over time but always their attacks have been totally unpredictable and seemingly unstoppable." "Most recently the unknown had the temerity to attack one of us" continued Eternity , "as some of you will know the Stranger was attacked in his remote home base and barely escaped with his life." "I believe this may represent the first of other such attacks directed against the great powers."

' I was unable to detect their approach" remarked the Stranger "and my powers seemed less than useless against them."

"They once attacked Asgard" said Rune Thor "in significant numbers – but Odin drove them off - twas a time when Odin was young yet perhaps at his mightiest " "It is my belief" continued Thor, with all due respect to those present, that the unknown are more vulnerable to godly energies than attacks from the cosmic and abstract powers."

" I have a very limited sense of some of the capabilities of the "unknown" said Galactus "yet I know nothing of their fundamental nature, can you enlighten us on this Eternity ?" " I will tell you what I know" said Eternity "and perhaps Rune Thor can add more, as I know that many millennia ago the Brell had long discussions with great Odin on this matter." "The unknown appear to be a nomadic race of space wanderers existing in vast numbers (untold trillions) and travelling in seemingly random paths." continued Eternity "their fundamental purpose is unknown to me."

Eternity continued his discourse: "They do not appear to have anything that could be regarded as even a temporary home base of operations." "In addition individual units can link to form a larger entity seemingly without limit and even at the individual level the unknown are very difficult to destroy" "Furthermore they are very difficult to detect, particularly when they devolve from a swarm to smaller or individual units" The Living Tribunal believes that as an old Universe dies and a new one is born that the unknown move from the new to the old and that they are usually the cause of the destruction of the old Universe." "In effect they bring a Universe prematurely to it's end well before the more natural forces of entropy can bring this about."

" It seems to me Eternity" said Galactus "that you have still told us little of their basic nature – are they essentially energy beings or physical life forms, are they immortal or ephemeral but rapidly reproductive, what power levels and capabilities apply at the individual entity and smaller group levels ?" " In truth Galactus" responded Eternity "I do not have the answers to all these questions." "If I and others did then our adversaries would surely no longer be thought of as "the unknown" "

" I had hoped mighty Thor" continued Eternity "that you would have brought the Brell/Odin shield construct with you, the shield against which the dissident Celestial attack proved so totally ineffective." "Mighty as it was as originally constructed still do I know that it is mightier still as Odin in his unique wisdom slightly reconfigured the shield." "In their very last words to Odin" said Rune Thor "the Brell insisted that the shield not leave the precincts of Earths solar system." "In all truth, I do not believe the Brell thought that the great powers could defeat the unknown and ultimately when all else fell they foresaw the Sol star system itself surrounded by the Brell/Odin shield as the last great re-doubt." " Why would this be so ?" said an angry Galactus "the mortal men of Earth are less than gnats to such as we ?" "In mankind" said Rune Thor " the Brell saw their ultimate successors, unfortunately the time gap between the fall of the Brell and the rise of man was far too great for any succession to take place"

" I can also tell you" said Rune Thor "that the unknown in their wanderings often change between physical and pure energy forms and move randomly not just in our Universe but also interdimensionally and through time." "At one time the Brell greatly restricted the movements of the unknown in the time stream." Having remained silent until now, Uaatu, with a sideward glance to the two Celestials, suggested "perhaps some among us should have been more supportive of the Brell during their time of pre-eminence?" The Celestials stared back at the Watcher impassively.

As Mistress Love was about to make a contribution, Eternity cried out unbelievingly "we are under threat of immediate and massive attack both extradimensionally , and above and below us in the time stream, I cannot understand how I could not have forseen the attack earlier."

To their credit the great powers of the Universe live up to their name, reacting instantly to the threat posed by the unknown. Standing shoulder to shoulder they launched an energy attack of such magnitude that any of the unknown within a ten million mile radius of them were completely obliterated. To say these unknown entities were vaporised would not have been technically correct as this implies the existence of some residual gases however tenuous and such was not the case. In truth in that ten million mile radius sphere not even the smallest sub atomic particle of a single of the unknown entities existed.

Outside the sphere the unknown continued to gather in increasingly vast numbers. In addition to varying between physical and energy forms the individual entities of the unknown frequently shape shifted presumably taking forms that were somehow better adapted to combat those they would destroy. The initial form of individual entities of the unknown was elongated ovoid and totally non reflective. It was thus not difficult to see how some lesser beings had referred to them as "the darkness" or "obscurity".

The great powers acting completely in unison were able to shield against any and all extradimensional attacks and attacks from below and above their present position in the time stream. Kronos in a single act effectively negated the time travel capabilities of all the entities of the unknown involved in the attack. All the while the diameter of the "sphere of destruction" created by the great powers seemed to move out exponentially till in due course all of the unknown were obliterated.

" As best I can judge " said Galactus during the respite "as individual entities, they appear to be only slightly below herald level in raw power" "As such, there sheer numbers necessarily make them formidable adversaries." "More, in fact, than many of us could handle unaided." " I am unable to gauge their individual intelligence" continued Galactus 'but it may be more at a collective level" "Any attempt at telepathic communication proved useless as they are truly alien beyond anything even I have encountered." " I did note" said the Stranger to Rune Thor "that they seemed definitely more vulnerable to your godly energies than to the power cosmic and as such you have very much pulled your weight." "I for one am glad that you are now one of us Thor." "I believe we are all grateful for the presence of mighty Thor" said Galactus.

" I know the Brell were mighty indeed" said the Stranger addressing Lord Thor "but how were an essentially humanoid and mortal race able to resist attacks of this magnitude ?" " The Brell" said Rune Thor " were able to instantly teleport unlimited quantities of matter and energy anywhere in the Multiverse and also witness events and communicate instantly anywhere in the Mutiverse." " Thus an attack on even the smallest Brell outpost" continued Rune Thor "or a single Brell starship was a de facto attack on the home planetary systems and always met with an overwhelmingly devastating response." " The Brell approach was to never allow the unknown to mass" continued Rune Thor. " There were many other factors contributing to the demise of the Brell" Rune Thor went on " while the unknown were singly the most significant, the Brell would never have fallen to them alone."

"Master Hate and I tried to jointly manipulate their emotional states" said Mistress Love "but these entities appear devoid of any emotion whatsoever." "We had expected to find a kind of ravening hatred" said Master Hate "where instead we find no emotion whatsoever, or at least nothing that lies within the realms of our experience." "Master Order and I have been similarly unsuccessful" remarked Lord Chaos.

" Does anyone have a sense of their reproductive rates " asked Rune Thor "it appears to be beyond anything I have ever witnessed, either naturally occurring or otherwise."

" I sense" said Infinity "that in times of battle, the rate increases still further."

At that moment fresh and even greater numbers of the unknown begin gathered one light year from the assembled great powers. The unknown moved to link together in their energy forms and moved towards the great powers creating a barrier enveloping them. In turn the great powers move jointly to destroy the barrier but at a rate of attrition that initially only equalled the barriers formation as new entities of the unknown arrived at an exponential rate.

"Redouble your efforts fellow titans" called out Eternity but at that very moment significant numbers of the Celestial race arrived en masse and in due course all entities of the unknown detectable within the vicinity are completely destroyed.

Whether this was the result of the redoubled efforts of the great powers or the arrival of large numbers of Celestials or both did not really matter, the net result was to again afford a respite to all.

Again fresh numbers of the unknown began to arrive in the vicinity. "Track them to their points of origin and destroy them even before they arrive" called out Rune Thor "Let us adopt the Brell tactic of not even allowing them to gather in masses." " Their point of origin is hard to detect even for us" cried out Galactus. " Through the power of the Rune Magic, I see and sense all their points of origin" retorted Thor "if you cannot otherwise detect their source let the power of the runes guide you.

In but a further moment and with the help of the additional Celestials the great powers appeared to have stopped all attacks at source and completely prevented the massed formation of the unknown.

" They are not done with it" said Galactus "and now the hunger comes upon me" "One such as I must never fall before vermin such as these." " I must leave the field of battle fellow titans" continued the great one "but I shall replenish myself with whole star systems indeed Galaxies if I must, whatever it takes to defeat that which confronts us now."

" It is clear to us all Mighty Thor" said Eternity "that your godly powers are causing more damage to our opponents than any others of us are individually." " I wonder if we should consider requesting you fellow skyfathers to join us." "Alas it is too late" said Rune Thor "even as we speak the unknown have launched a colossal attack on the Sol star system with the clear intent of destroying the Brell/Odin shield' 'The destruction of mankind and of the Earth pantheons will be but a by product of this action."

"Indeed I do sense this Lordly one" responded Eternity "just as I sense a simultaneous attack on the home worlds of the Celestials". And as the other great powers watched on all Celestials then present left the area departing for the immediate defence of their home worlds.

" There are other attacks" said Infinity "in various key areas and against key targets of the Multiverse, all launched simultaneously." " There doth some little point in remaining here" said Lord Thor "I am pledged as the ultimate protector and defender of mankind and I must return to do what I can." "As will we all" said the Stranger departing for a destination known only to himself and to defend objects of importance again known only to himself." But as the entity known only as the Stranger commenced to teleport he was caught at the very instant of teleportation by a totally focussed attack from several billion of the unknown formed into a single awesome entity.

The dreadful manner of the death of the Stranger was too strange for any ordinary writer to hope to describe – suffice to say he was a Stranger in life and the manner of his death was even stranger.

Then even before the conglomerate entity could be engaged it teleported away with surely the intention of death and destruction elsewhere and elsewhen.

" Already it goes badly for us" said Eternity "Infinity and I both sense the vast damage done in such an incredibly short period of time – why have they chosen to act now ?"

" Can you not see ?" said Rune Thor "they seek nothing less than the destruction of the entire Multiverse, then as new Universes are created from the old, so some of them will move on and continue the cycle." " I am worried about Galactus" said Eternity " these entities have enraged him beyond anything I have ever seen." "I believe he will seek to absorb whatever energies he feels are necessary to utterly defeat them, theoretically there is no limit to this process.

" Where is the Tribunal " said Infinity 'If ever there was a time for him to act it is now !" " If he chooses not to act, and for whatever reason that may be" said Rune Thor "there is another thread of hope, perhaps not as slender as I first thought." " What is that" cried Eternity and Infinity together and in desperation "what hope do you speak of mighty Thor ?"

Rune Thor arrived in the vicinity of the Sol System to find it fully enveloped by the protective Brell/Odin shield but subject to a horrendous level of attack from the Unknown. Untold trillions of them amassed around the extremities of the Brell/Odin shield. Some attacked as individuals but many others formed up into large entities of gigantic size. The shield was being subjected to an overall energy attack of an entirely different and higher order of magnitude to that used recently by the dissident Celestials.

"There must be some basic strategy in the attack plan of the Unknown" mused Rune Thor "but I cannot determine it." "It appears to be just based on sheer numbers and inconceivably colossal energy output without thought as to efficiency"

Momentarily Thor was undecided how to enter the shield construct knowing that it would not prevent his entry but that the unknown lurked in adjacent dimensions and might even seek to force a breach as he teleported in interdimensionally or otherwise. He considered slipping back slightly in time and entering just before the attack of the Unknown but realised that Kronos negation of the time travel capabilities of the Unknown was local rather than absolute.

Mere moments later a small funnel reached out from the boundaries of the shield construct directly to Rune Thor (much as it had during the earlier battle with the dissident Celestials). Thor received the telepathic message " Welcome Son of Odin, please enter the funnel as the Unknown cannot follow you." " It is true then" communicated Lord Thor telepathically "that you are sentient" "I am what you would consider an artificial intelligence" came back the telepathic communication from the shield construct."

On entry within the Brell/Odin shield the mighty Thor realises in humble awe that despite the unprecedented nature of the attack, the shield was as yet totally undamaged."

"Unfortunately it cannot last" the shield construct responded to Thors thoughts" "As the Unknown fully or partially achieve their objectives elsewhere in the Multiverse, so they are being pulled in magnet like to Sol." "Eventually even that which is I, will inexorably buckle under an attack the magnitude of which I cannot measure."

"Though pleasure is not an emotion that could be ascribed to the Unknown, still the complete destruction of the last known artefact of the Brell would be a very high priority for them."

" What of the Celestials ?" mused Lord Thor "I sense they do not fare well atall ! " "Those who were once, the enemies of the Brell, still survive, but barely" came back the telepathic response. "The battle in that area of the Multiverse now winds down, with but a handful of Celestial survivors." " They would have done better to have allied themselves with the Brell and against the Unknown" mused Thor " This is true son of Odin" responded the shield construct but as you know even the Celestials and Unknown together (and they were scarcely allies) could not defeat the Brell." " There were many other factors, operating over a vast period of time that eventually laid the Brell low."

"I still sense" said Rune Thor "even after all this time the ambient energies of the Brell permeating all of the Multiverse." "This is true Odinson, but there is no way that I can effectively utilise it" communicated the Brell/Odin shield "and certainly not in any offensive manner as I am purely a defensive construct." " However I believe that I can" said Rune Thor. "I had not even considered this possibility" responded the shield " of all the mighty beings of this time it would only be you or your great father, that were truly worthy and capable of even attempting such a feat."

"This may indeed be the only hope of all who still live" said Rune Thor. Just at that moment the Brell/Odin shield finally began to buckle under the incessant, unrelenting and constantly increasing attack of the Unknown. With that Rune Thor left the protective confines of the Brell/Odin shield and attempted to mystically gather in some of the ambient energies of a long dead race that still somehow still permeated all of the Multiverse.

From outside the shield Thor now saw that it was on the verge of destruction and knew that the fate of all humanity hung in the balance. Although having absorbed only the most minute fraction of the ambient Brell energy Thor had no choice other to commence to attack the Unknown even as he continued to gather in additional Brell energy. The immediate effect of Rune Thors attack against the Unknown was to relieve the unbearable pressure on the Brell/Odin shield and prevent its collapse. The other immediate consequence was for the Unknown to focus their attention on Rune Thor.

In the merest of moments and before Thor could gather in any substantial amount of ambient Brell energy, he was completely surrounded by vast numbers of the unknown rushing at him at an exponential rate. For reasons not immediately apparent Thor found himself unable to teleport out of his current situation. "I cannot assist you at the present time" came a telepathic communication from the shield construct.

With that Rune Thor, mightiest of the mighty, grew to a size far surpassing that of even an Exitar class Celestial and with energies coruscating about the entire length of his huge frame he waded into the mass of the unknown. With huge balls of energy about his fists Thor began bludgeoning his way through the masses about him. Awesome Asgardian energies launched from his eyes began to blast a pathway through the morass of physical forms. Even so and just for the moment the result of the contestation seemed to be in some doubt until the outpouring of Asgardian energy from within the dense and rapidly increasing hemisphere of physical bodies of the unknown met with an inpouring of cosmic energy from outside the sphere. Rune Thor looked on to see the great Galactus, if anything even larger in size than Thor himself, move to his aid. "I wonder" mused Thor "just how many have paid the ultimate price so that Galactus might achieve such might."

Thus the two entities the inconceivably powerful Rune Thor and the great Galactus bloated from a massive feeding frenzy stood shoulder to shoulder blasting away at the multitudes about them. Still the unknown streamed in, in numbers beyond all hope of measurement. Yet now Rune Thor was freer to continue to absorb the ambient energies of the Brell and he did so thirstily drinking in and partaking of a power hitherto unknown even to him." " I perceive" said Galactus "that the struggle is winding down everywhere else in the Multiverse." " The Unknown have either achieved their objectives, or in the very few places that they haven't it does not really matter." " Indeed" said Thor "this is the final confrontation, we must draw them all in and destroy every last one of them, they must be made to pay in the fullest measure for what they have done." ' I do not know if, even in this form, I have the power" responded Galactus. " Do not despair great Galactus" said Thor "if thou woulds't but support me I will, with the benefit of the Brell energies I continue to absorb, carry the main load of the battle."

At that moment the Living Tribunal appeared finally choosing to intervene.

"Why have you left it until now" asked Galactus "when so much has been destroyed."

"It was the only way" said the Tribunal "the suffering and destruction that has taken place was a necessary part of the process" "I left my intervention until Rune Thor was able to access sufficient of the ambient Brell energy, that he and I standing together, could rid the Multiverse of the scourge of Unknown for all time.

With that the three great entities Rune Thor, the Living Tribunal, and Galactus standing together were not content to merely destroy the Unknown in the immediate vicinity of Sol. Instead they combined to launch a Universal wave of energy to spread through the Multiverse entire eliminating the Unknown down to the very last entity wherever they might be. "You understand Lord Thor" said the Tribunal 'that I could not do this on my own – I needed the full support of a Rune Thor boosted by the ambient power of the Brell."

" We can stop now" continued the Tribunal " the Unknown no longer exist anywhere or anywhen." "I cannot" said Rune Thor "the energies of the Brell continue to flow in to me, they cry out for the wrongs to be made right, I cannot stop this process even if I wished to, and I do not wish to" The Living Tribunal and a now much smaller Galactus watch on in awe and amazement as Rune Thor alone launched another Universal wave again spreading throughout the Multiverse. Except that this time the wave was one of healing, of reconstruction, of setting matters right.

" I never knew" said Galactus "I never truly knew, how ultimately powerful the Brell were, I feel humble as I have never felt before."

Eventually the wave ran its course and Rune Thor looked over at the Tribunal and Galactus. "It is over" said Thor "all is as it was" "Except" said the Tribunal 'that the Unknown are gone and neither this Mutiverse, nor any future Multiverses will ever again have to endure their depravations."

"Aye" said Thor "and I detect no residual Brell energy from any source, twas all used up in setting matters right." "I believe this is how the Brell would have wished it."

" The greatest civilisation ever known, the mighty Brell, have at long last truly passed on into history, may they rest in peace." said Thor finally.

With that the threesome looked over at the nearby Sol star system, and saw that the Brell/Odin construct was gone.