The Great Hall
Of all those present in the great hall of Thor, only the Lord of Asgard and the Silver Surfer sensed the imminent danger.
Scant milli-seconds before it's arrival, the duo combined to create a protective force field against the maelstrom. A force field that melded as one the power cosmic and the Thorpower.
Only those physically closest to Thor and the Surfer at that moment now lay within the field's protective embrace. Heracles Lord of Olympus and Iron Man.
It was not the Iron Man that you would know, Tony Stark being long since dead. You could even be excused for not recognising the highly advanced ultra light armour encasing his descendant.
Outside all was destruction for as far out as any and all of the four could sense. This was something far more than just the localised destruction of Asgard. Nor was it merely some type of annihilation wave passing on its way. No, Thor knew, deep in his soul, what was happening here was happening everywhere and at the same time.
As the destructive forces raged outside, tongues of unknown and unknowable energies penetrated the Thor/Surfer protective shield. Even though it was now reinforced by the son of Zeus. The energies lancing at the occupants within, curious to know what sort of entities could possibly have survived the unsurvivable.
As they did, Iron Man erected his own energy shield to protect the foursome. A shield within a shield. The inquisitive tongues of energy retreated temporarily. Something within the composition of the inner shield troubling them.
Seeing that even this might not be enough Thor and Heracles together created a pocket dimension. From within the buffers of the pocket dimension and their own combined energy shields the four rode out the universal destruction.
When the four titans re-emerged in what should have been our Universe they were inside a protective force bubble that was powered by them all. A most formidable combination of Asgardian and Olympian energies with the power cosmic and advanced 23rd century earth science.
What they emerged too was nothing, a total void with no evidence of existence. Not a star, or planetary or lesser mass was visible or detectable. Even the loneliness of deep space is usually punctuated by the light of some very distant stars. Here there was nothing. The Silver Surfers superb vision detecting not so much as one candlepowers worth of incoming light.
Within the relative safety of the near impenetrable force bubble the four traversed our Universe in large teleportation jumps looking for any signs of existence. Nothing was evident. Nor, without any supporting frame of reference, could they be certain that they had actually moved any distance at all.
At a break in their teleportation jumps, Heracles carried out an experiment. Placing his much vaunted mace just outside the protection of the force bubble. Only to see it immediately cease to exist.
Still within the protective force bubble the four began teleporting interdimensionally. Here too they were confronted only by non existence. There was no evidence that any of the Multiverse's myriad of different dimensions still existed. Though without any frame of reference none of the four, could be certain that they had teleported interdimensionally at all. At best they were simply teleporting inter-dimensionally from nowhere to nowhere.
At that moment all four within the force bubble had the same thought at the same time. That they, and they alone, might be all that remained of existence. "There must be others that survived" said the Surfer, "in the same way we have." His companions remained grimly silent. Not for the first time since the current train of events had commenced Thor and Heracles pondered on their supposed godhood status. Had they only been playing at being gods? and now were the real gods, those responsible for recent events, about to show who was really in charge?
The four speculated upon who or what could have been responsible for such an act. An act of a crazed Celestial with the infinity gauntlet or perhaps of the Living Tribunal himself? Yet what had happened here was on such a scale, of such magnitude, that it transcended even those possibilities. Bringing them back each time to only one possibility. One name and one name only came to them all.
Of the four the Silver Surfer, even more of a loner now than in our time, seemed the least affected and Iron Man the most. Far more so than his companions the former herald of Galactus was used to the loneliness of deep space. Which would equip him well now. By comparison the great great grandson of Tony Stark was only too well aware that underneath all the brilliant technology, he was a mortal man in a uniquely hostile environment.
Anthony Stark desperately hoped there would be no failures in either the power source or other technologies of his suit. Though he must have known that any one of his three companions could and would provide him with alternative power. Not for the first time, the latest iron man pondered on whether scientific and technological advances could ever one day make men the equal of the gods, or the cosmic powers. Perhaps not. Still there were capabilities in this 23rd century armour that even the mighty Thor didn't know about. Human ingenuity is a formidable thing. Not least among that ingenuity was an armour that could sustain him near indefinitely even in deep space.
Confronted with no signs of existence in the present, the four chose to travel into the past in search of answers. As they moved downtime, in what should have been our own Universe, the events of the past receded away from them. The very history of the Universe evaporating before them. Like the print of a two dimensional newspaper being removed to leave only the barren tabloid. Until, when they reached the time before time, there was no history left to recede away.
Travelling from our present into the future yielded the same result. Future events, future history evaporated before them leaving only blankness, until, at the end of time itself, there were no future events left to evaporate.
The only option now remaining was to explore the alternate future timelines. It seemed as if each timeline, each alternate future reality would yield the same emptiness. Yet finally in the far, far flung future of a single alternate timeline they encountered something other than emptiness. A whole Universe of existence. A squalid, foreboding and ugly place, full of the stench of evil that might have been created from the worst nightmares of man, god, or cosmic entity.
At this moment the Watcher appeared. Uuaatu levitated at a distance from the foursome. The normally impassive entity looked shaken by recent events, that had been far greater than any he had heretofore observed.
"How did you survive?" enquired the Surfer "when almost no one else has?"
"I am the last of my race" said Uuaatu "I was spared only so that I might do that which I do – observe and bear witness to momentous events."
Though it was clear that Uuaatu knew more he said nothing else.
At that moment the single timeline, a single shard of existence, began spreading backward in time. Forging a history and a past where there had been none. Solemnly the Watcher looked on at the bizarre act of creation. He continued to watch long after Thor, the Surfer, Heracles and Iron Man had departed.
'There is only one option open to us" said Thor. The others agreed.
"We must seek him out" said Heracles.
"Your father met with him once?" said the Surfer.
"Aye" replied Thor.
"How was that done Thor?" asked Iron Man.
"In the only way in which one may approach him" responded the Surfer "unless he comes to you."
Later (if time meant anything at all now) the four stood at the edge of the monstrous multi-dimensional black hole. The only known gateway to he whom they now sought. It had not been here when they came this way before.
It stood in a Universe of nothingness with nothing to be attracted to its awesome gravitational pull, save the four brave souls now near it. If for that reason alone, it seemed to pull at them with even greater attraction than any laws of physics might have suggested.
"We should all go" said Thor "Heracles and I for the gods, the Surfer for the cosmic powers and Iron Man for all of humanity."
The Surfer had been going to ask Iron Man how his suit might withstand the gravitational pressures but thought better of it. The former herald of Galactus had been gone a long time but he knew, well enough, that human technology had not stood still and that human ingenuity had not diminished.
Thor, Heracles, and Iron Man had all wondered how the Surfer was faring. With no external sources of the power cosmic available to him. They need not have. In the intervening years he who was once Norrin Radd had changed. He had had drifted well away from men and at the same time had become even more powerful. Something had happened over those years which was not common knowledge. None of the three cared to ask and the Surfer did not volunteer any information. Suffice it to say that there was no one else they would sooner have with them in this unimaginably dire situation.
Then the four allowed themselves to fall into the great gravitational well. Lingering for just a moment in the inconceivable density of its core before allowing themselves to be drawn beyond. To the other side of the multi-dimensional black hole where they entered the totally infinite and totally timeless eternal ethereal sea. That which surrounds all Multiverses' past and future and is the preserve of only one entity.
From there they teleported across a vastness that made our own Universe seem little more than a mill pond.
All were only too conscious that here in this place they could only rely on their own internal reserves of power. There existed no external well or reservoir of energy that they could draw upon. Nor could there be any assistance from any source.
The four reached their destination.
"Skyfathers, Surfer, Iron Man, I have been expecting you" came the less than friendly greeting.
He who is above us all took different forms depending on the viewer. For Thor he appeared as an even more majestic version of Odin seated on an impossibly large throne, for Heracles substitute great Zeus for Odin, for the Surfer substitute the one time authority figure of Galactus and part of the control room of his worldship. For Iron Man, his estranged father. Authority figures all, but there was nothing comforting in their presence. Nor was that the intent.
Yet all four saw the same entities in attendance with The One Above All. A sight to freeze the veins or chill the bone marrow for any entity that had veins or bone marrow. An assemblage of evil that included Tyrant creation of Galactus, Thanos of Titan, the dread Dormammu, Loki god of mischief, the death gods Hela and Pluto, and Perrikus of the dark gods to name just a few.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, the forces of evil had managed to gain the ear of the ultimate power in existence or even in non existence.
Certainly this explained a great deal, virtually all that had happened.
At that moment the Living Tribunal appeared. Did those visages look low and dispirited thought the Surfer though with the Tribunal it was impossible to tell. "Welcome my friend" said TOAA "we have missed you" in condescending tones which suggested that the Tribunal was anything but welcome and had not been missed at all.
"How could we ever have allowed this to happen?" Thor heard himself say as energies dripping with evil began crashing all around he and his companions.
To be continued if there is any interest.