Somewhere in Northern Canada

Northern Hemisphere Summer

Quite some years in the future

In all of her 36 years Kriz had never seen a storm like it. It had been raging now for nearly two days and, if anything, seemed to be gaining in ferocity. The thunder was deafening, at the point of physically damaging ear drums. The frequent lightning seeming to arc across the entire length of the sky. Sometimes it struck earthward with massive force. The rain had been very heavy just now increasing to torrential. Kriz had no way of knowing how widespread it was but something told her it was big, very big. Perhaps even across all of NorAm.

Looking through the cabin window she saw a man in the small clearing outside her modest cabin. Surely nothing human should have to be out in this. Partially opening her front door she called for him to come in. Though he came at her call he didn't seem to be in a hurry. "It's almost as if he's enjoying it," she thought. As he almost reluctantly came in out of the storm Kriz saw he was bigger than she had first thought. At least six and a half feet in the old measurements, maybe more and very powerfully built. He wore some sort of leggings, wrist bands and a most impressive and ornate belt but was bare above the waist. Long blond almost golden hair dangled on to huge shoulders and chest that seemed suggestive of great strength. He carried a large sack which she had not noticed when she first hailed him. Kriz herself was a smidgen over 6 feet tall and she had only once before met anyone taller. She felt almost dwarfed by this man.

He said something but Kriz could not understand him. His voice was loud, almost guttural and the language seemed ancient Scando. How she imagined some of the very ancient Vikings might have spoken. Kriz's small daughter Gab looked on fearfully as Kriz handed the man some crude toweling and offered him something hot to drink. As Kriz spoke some more the man adjusted his voice speaking more softly and in semi-understandable ancient Anglo.

Just then there was a fearful cracking sound above and Kriz thought the whole world was about to collapse in on her little cabin. The small girl ran crying to her mother's side. Seeing the cause of the girl's and her mothers distress the man seemed to make a very slight gesture and the colossal raging storm outside ceased even more abruptly than it had began. Kriz looked on with amazement "Did you do that?" she whispered.

"I don't know," said the man "I think so but I'm not sure." He was now managing to speak well enough in AmerEng the native tongue of most of Earth's survivors.

Outside the sky was blue and totally cloudless. A normal warm summer's day in the now temperate Northern Canada. As they settled down to a meal in the cabin Kriz looked at the man for an explanation. He had been through a set of experiences that had nearly shattered his mind and was just now recovering a few fragments of his memory. He knew though that he had been absent from the Earth for a very long time. The name Zunod came to his mind. He asked Kriz to relate her understanding of Earth's present position. She was happy enough to accommodate, sensing something of greatness in him, though she could not define it. Zunod listened quietly to Kriz and without interruption, though nodding at times. It seemed that man had finally done to himself what no would be extra-terrestrial invaders had ever succeeded in doing, finally laying his own planet bare. The Earth was now seen as a backwater world. Only the lowliest alien scavengers, scum of the scum came this way now. Earth was for the taking by any aliens who could reach it. Now though even they had almost stopped coming.

Towards the end of Kriz's discourse Gab came over towards Zunod seeming to warm to him. He noticed how pale and sickly she looked – a clear victim of the accumulated depredations these people had suffered. Kriz though was different, tall, attractive and athletically built – Zunod pondered on this.

As Kriz finished, Zunod motioned for Gab to come over just a little further. Smiling she obliged. For just a moment as Kriz watched on, Zunod touched the child affectionately on the shoulder as if she were his own. A soft yellow, gentle healing glow appeared at Gab's shoulder and radiated to the rest of her small, frail body. The child screamed with delight. The sheer joy that can only be known by a person who has experienced constant pain all their lives and suddenly been totally relieved of it. Kriz turned away for just a moment, wiping the tears away.

At that moment all three looked outside. There was no noise but all sensed something. A woman seemed to come up from out of the very Earth itself. Of indeterminate age she was beautiful in perhaps a slightly faded way. Still there was a great weariness about her suggestive of long suffering. Zunod seemed to know immediately who she was and moved to embrace her. He held her for what seemed to be quite a long time. At least to Kriz who, though she knew it was unreasonable, experienced a momentary jealousy. The woman move away slightly but did not leave. The great weariness in her had gone as she smiled at Kriz. Kriz wondered if Zunod was some sort of healer.

After the embrace Zunod returned to the cabin taking a few items from his "sack" - a helmet, a studded vest and something else. Kriz saw there was now a confidence about him that had been lacking – a purpose and certainty in his step.

"There are some things I have to do," said Zunod "but my mother will see that you both have what you need."

Kriz was slow in her realization. She could not be blamed for this. It had been so long since the son of Odin had been among men that there was no record of his likeness. No person still living knew what form the ancient gods of Asgard had taken. The legend of the one time protector of the Earth had persisted but no one seriously believed that he still lived much less that he would actually return one day.

As the mighty Thor took his leave he called out to Kriz that he would be back. Twirling his hammer mjolnir about him he soared skyward to view the condition of the Earth for himself. Thor traversed all of the continents and the major islands and the seas of the Earth. He saw that all that Kriz had said was true and more. The relatively modest population of the Earth now lived mainly in either very northerly or very southerly latitudes. The equatorial regions of the Earth were far too hot for human habitation. The continental part of the great southern land, once known as Australia, was no longer inhabited by humans. Only the spirits of ancient warriors from the dreamtime watched over that land. Less than a hundred indigenous persons lived on in the roasting heat of the island of Tasmania. The population of the continental United States was very small restricted to what had formerly been very cold areas.

At some places, formerly of significance, Thor stopped and descended. Among them were the crumbling ruins of a now semi submerged place that had once been the greatest city the Earth had ever known - New York City. Now no one at all lived here.

Though his mother had imprinted all of this in his mind, the son of Odin had needed to see it all for himself.

Thor made one final stop before returning to Northern Canada. At the rooftop of the world - Mount Everest. Structurally the great Himalayas mountain range was unchanged but the snow and ice that should have been in abundance were conspicuous by their absence.

Here on Everest Thor took a moment for reflection. His mind turned back to when the Living Tribunal had come and he had answered the call to arms. There had been no choice really. As the most powerful god in all of the Multiverse's pantheons his participation had been essential. Later all of the Earths pantheons including all of Asgard were drawn into the conflict. Very few of the great powers of the Multiverse, gods, abstract beings or other cosmic entities had survived. In some ways this had led to a ceding of authority to the middle level powers of the Multiverse – both individual entities and star spanning empires. The final battle for existence had occurred at the "All Place". A place where all the different realities converge. In the end and simply put victory could not have been achieved without the son of Odin.

Thus what had happened to the Earth had to be seen in context. Unfortunately mortal mans time frame is quite different from that of the gods or the cosmic powers. A human analogy might be the man who saves his country but fails to save his family.

Thor then summoned forth the elements bidding them to play their part in the long healing process of the Earth. Immediately gentle rains began falling where it was most needed across vast areas of the dry Earth. Caressing the deserts and steppes and other rid areas as the first step in readying them for when men might return.

Thor made two deviations on his flight back to Canada one planned one unplanned. First he flew to the Earth end of the rainbow bridge dimensional link to Asgard. He could see Asgard City still where it should be. Thor knew there should be no one in Asgard City. The life forces of all Asgardians without exception had participated in the final battle for the Multiverse. The Odin son could sense no life forces whatever within the City. However he could not bring himself to go into the City at this time – to walk among the long empty halls and rooms and courtyards. He would come back another time.

The second detour was unplanned but necessary. Thor had sensed the approach of an alien scavenger fleet. He made short work of them smashing most of their starships but allowing the survivors to return in two vessels. It enabled him to vent some frustrations. More importantly it would provide a clear message to other potential intruders that the Earth was once again under his protection. The word would not take long to get around.

Thor returned to Kriz and little Gab. He knew now the reason why Kriz was so athletic and vital in a world where the few survivors were usually the opposite. Gaea had whispered it to him during their embrace. Though even Kriz did not know it – she was the embodiment of the future of humanity in human form. Thor saw that already all manner of vegetables overflowed from Kriz's garden and well laden fruit trees were in abundance. He knew that Gaea had done much the same for all other people that still dwelled upon the Earth. Along with the rains he had started it was a small beginning and he and Gaea had much to do.

He looked at Kriz and smiled taking her in his arms as little Gab held on to his knee. If Kriz was in truth the living embodiment of the future of humanity, then from where he was standing that future looked pretty good.