The energy configuration had travelled far and at great speed. It was crossing Galactic systems in mere hours as humankind once measured time. By its own assessment the configuration had been gone hardly any time at all. Though others with a different frame of reference would have measured its absence in millennia.
Throughout its journey the configuration was constantly absorbing vast amounts of data from the galaxies it passed through. As its journey progressed a sense of urgency and even of foreboding came over it. Thought patterns it had no longer considered itself capable of. The entity increased its speed to the point where it was traversing Galaxies in mere minutes. Finally its journey came to an end.
As it moved into the star system of humankind the configuration already knew what would greet it. The Earth, the cradle of human civilisation, was no more. Where the small blue green world had once been there existed only swirling debris. Nor was the destruction in the Sol system confined to the Earth. The Earth's moon had also been destroyed as had man's one frail and disappointing attempt at inter-planetary exploration – the Martian colony. Evidence of the battle was widespread. The great sword of Odin shattered into small pieces. Apart of Asgard's Destroyer construct, its disintegration visor, pitted and scarred almost beyond recognition. Unbelievably a small portion of a shield that could only have belonged to Captain America. And more.
The configuration searched for evidence of the author(s) of Earth's destruction. The name Galactus came briefly to the configuration but it knew intuitively that the world devourer was not responsible. No, it seemed more likely that the events here were the result of a Celestial judgement. To confirm this suspicion the configuration looked back into the time stream and silently witnessed the last moments of mankind. A quiet anger and sadness arose within it in equal measure. The Celestial host was indeed responsible but the Earth had not gone quietly. The Celestial judgement and its subsequent execution had been carried out with one notable absentee among the Earth's defenders. Would the Celestials have still attempted this if he had been present? It was a moot point.
Where once had been the legendary interdimensional link from Earth to Asgard, the magnificent rainbow bridge, now stood an ugly sore. A permanent gaping hole in the dimensional barrier between Earth and Asgard. Barely recognisable figures scurried back and forth through the hole and between Asgard and the debris that was once Earth. These scavengers seemed to be a mixture of survivors of Hela's unliving legions, and assorted minor demons and trolls. All seemingly pressed into service by Asgard's nemesis the narcissistic dark gods. The new overlords of an Asgard that had been allowed to deteriorate beyond all recognition.
"Is this it then?" thought the configuration "is this how it all ends, for humanity, for the gods and for all who held the Earth dear?" "Judged unsuitable, all that men and gods had aspired to, crushed by little more than a Celestial whim."
The anger welled within the entity and it/he made no attempt to suppress that anger. His first act was to remove all the parasites from Asgard and the Sol environs. Both the dark gods and their sycophantic underlings. He did not much care where he sent them as long as it was far away from here. The other side of the Universe would be enough.
The energy configuration scoured the remains of the battle. Mostly there were just fragments left of the most durable weapons that the Earth defenders would have utilised. Anything else would have been vaporised in the conflict. Nearing the end of the search, impossibly, unbelievably he came across that which he knew had prompted the search. There it lay – darkened, pitted and fractured but essentially whole. One of the very greatest weapons in the whole history of the Multiverse. Feared by god, man and cosmic entity alike – the great hammer of Thor, God of Thunder and Lord of Asgard. Gentle fingers of energy passed over the hammer repairing it, making it whole again. Of the few recognisable remnants of artefacts and weapons to be found this was the only one that the energy configuration initially restored.
"But where" thought the configuration "where are the gods?, where is the mighty Thor?" The energy configurations brief look back into the time stream had not provided him with a clear answer to this question. It was time thought the energy configuration to devolve from his present form back to that which he once was. In truth he wasn't quite sure if such an act of devolution was possible anymore. Still it must at least be attempted and so with not inconsiderable effort that which had once been was so again.
The regal figure surveyed the destruction again, but this time in his physical god form of Odin the Almighty, the former Lord of Asgard and onetime Allfather to an entire race of gods. And with this devolution the Universe, nay the Multiverse itself, somehow seem to breathe just a little easier.
Even before he left us for places beyond our comprehension Odin was one of the great powers of the Multiverse. Now he had returned from a place beyond even Celestial experience. Let them be warned.
That which had again become Odin re-created Asgard in all its former glory with the exception that not a single living god stood within it. Then without so much as taking a breath that which was again Odin re-created the Earth.
It was an Earth as it would have been in the very earliest days of man – pure and unpolluted. Though again and for the nonce, not so much as one single living person dwelled thereon. The Earth's moon was restored in the same breath. Finally Odin repaired the gaping interdimensional breach between Earth and Asgard. The once and now again Allfather considered drawing together the remnants of the destroyed artefacts and weapons and creating a monument to the events of the past. But this would hardly be appropriate. Events had not yet fully run their course. The monument could wait until this time.
Were the Celestials now witnessing these events and might they not choose to intervene again? What was Celestial protocol if a world upon which they passed and executed judgement was subsequently restored by another power? Odin looked up – now there were more pressing considerations - the Celestials could wait – but there would come a reckoning !
After re-creating both Asgard and Earth Odin decided to again look back into the time stream and view the end of mankind for indications as to the fate of the gods. He watched and watched again the destruction of the Earth. Odin considered going back in time not to alter past events but to be there as they actually occurred and to render moral judgement on the Celestials at that time. This moral judgement to be followed by an actual physical judgement here in the present day. He decided against this course of action. He had already learned enough from viewing the time stream to hold some hope in his heart.
The former Lord of Asgard approached the Earth's sun and directed unusual energies towards its core. After a modest delay the entity known as Atum-Re came forth. As the mighty Demogorge he had been in the forefront of the battle against the Celestials. The Celestials had reverted him to Atum Re and rendered him unconscious in the battle but by some means he had been able to drift back into the sun's embrace. For whatever reason the Celestials had thankfully left the sun untouched. Atum lay only semi cognisant of events right up until Odin's return.
Atum had news of his mother and Odin's one time lover Gaea or Jord the Earth Mother. As Odin had determined she was languishing on Venus. It was impossible to imagine Odin's delight when he was able to gently escort the mother of mighty Thor back to Earth. The Earth mother the first sentient entity to take up residence on the re-created Earth. It could not possibly have been more appropriate.
"There is yet hope" thought Odin.
In viewing the past Odin had seen that mere moments before the Earth's destruction it had been uninhabited. In a truly prodigious feat, the mighty Thor had interdimensionally teleported not only all humanity but all living things upon the Earth to a pre-planned destination – a distant pocket dimension. To accomplish this great feat Thor had drawn on a knowledge of the rune magics he had retained and also absorbed some of the intrinsic power contained in the very land of Asgard. Even so this great act had drained him beyond all imagining.
Odin was initially unable to locate humanity. In his efforts to protect mankind from the Celestials Thor had chosen well. Asgard's former Lord attempted to filter out all relevant distractions and using his ability to listen interdimensionally he focussed on humanity. From a most distant and inaccessible pocket dimension he heard their faint cries. Thors spell had begun to wear off and humankind was awakening in the crowded location to which they had been transported. Odin re-created all of the trappings of civilisation of Earth (buildings, vehicles, infrastructure etc) as they had been immediately before the Celestial attack and then teleported all of humanity (including its super heroes and villains) and all other living things of the Earth back to their home.
Odin had the advantage over the Celestials in that both he and Thor had at times considered pocket dimensions where safe havens or dimensional prisons might be created. Though relatively remote and inaccessible this was one such location that had been considered by them.
Mere moments after humanities return to Earth the enigmatic space god, Arishhem the Judge appeared at a distance from Earth. The Celestial took no overt action but simply stood there impassive and unmoving. Odin ignored this for a time though it was an irritation to him. It was as if Odin had somehow crossed over a line in the sand that the Celestials had drawn. Returning humanity, who had been judged unworthy, to the verdant Earth was presumably that act.
When the Celestials obliterated the Asgardian Destroyer construct it was powered by the life forces of most of the Earth's pantheon gods. As most of their physical bodies were destroyed the pantheon god souls had nowhere to go and thus were set adrift. Even now Odin could sense those lost "souls" crying out for some form of release as they drifted throughout the Earth and Asgardian planes and other places.
The only part of the Destroyer construct that had not been melted into slag by the Celestials was the huge disintegrator visor. Gathering this to himself Odin used it as the basis for the re-creation of the Destroyer armour. He drew also on residual elements of the metallic slag that drifted nearby. Once created he drew together all of the pantheon god souls set adrift for so long and returned them to the Destroyer armour. This provided not only a temporary housing for them but readied the Destroyer for possible further battle. Still if the Destroyer construct had failed twice before against the Celestials why might it succeed now?
At the re-constitution of the Destroyer to near all pantheon power level the enigmatic and seemingly imperturbable Arishhem showed signs of movement and of being perturbed. He was then joined by another of his race, the space god known as Gammenon the Gatherer. The two moved slightly closer to Earth but took no further action. Still to anyone who might know remotely anything about the Celestials it was a very clear warning to Odin.
For his part the Allfather decided that it was time for a demonstration.
As the huge Destroyer construct now larger than an Exitar class Celestial looked on Odin launched an unrelenting energy assault against Arishhem. At first the Celestial appeared to ignore this, as if it were somehow beneath him to take notice. However it is very difficult for anything to ignore an attack from Odin that has returned from a place of higher existence. Arishhem's arm and part of his torso was disintegrated by Odin's attack exposing the roiling energies within that possibly constituted the true Celestial entity itself. Although Arishhem quickly regenerated the arm and part torso, Odin persisted and was able to effect a rate of disintegration of Celestial armour marginally greater than Arishhem's regeneration capacity. The consequences of this were fairly obvious. Eventually Arishhem and Gammenon moved away to a much greater distance from the Earth. A retreat or tactical withdrawal? – who knows how the Celestials would judge their own actions.
The demonstration though hardly conclusive was enough to satisfy great Odin for the moment. Shortly thereafter Arishhem and Gammenon were joined by two more of their ilk Eson the Searcher and Oneg the Prober. However none of the four made moves to come closer to the Earth.
While the fate of many of Earth's pantheon gods was explained not all had contributed to powering the Destroyer Construct. Notable among these was Zeus and Hercules – but especially the mighty Thor. Where was the Odinson now?
With the Celestials still present Odin could not afford to be distracted. He could ill afford to allow his consciousness to roam the Multiverse in search of his son. Thus Odin came to a decision. He raised the hammer of Thor, which he had attached to his belt, high above his head. Then Odin gave the hammer mystical instructions to seek out its master, at the same time empowering it to overcome all and any barriers that might seek to obstruct it. Not that there would be many barriers that might impede the great hammers progress even without Odin's further empowerment.
Then Odin threw the hammer with considerable force. Shortly thereafter the hammer breached dimensional barriers in the first part of its quest. The four Celestials looked on impassively but did not interfere with the hammers progress.
In search of its master the great hammer of Thor moved like a thing alive racing through myriad dimensions. Of those who saw it none sought to bar its path. The hammer seemed to have clear direction but to be on course to an inconceivably distant and remote destination. Odin registered the hammers progress but could not allow himself to be distracted with the Celestials so close. There was nothing further he could do to aid it. If Thor was so distant as to be unable to return then surely the hammer would guide him. Failing that if the hammer could but locate Thor, Odin would provide the interdimensional teleportation.
The Allfather considered re-creating the physical bodies of all those pantheon gods that had been eliminated by the Celestials. However to do so would expose them to further retaliation by the Celestials. Odin decided to forgo this until the battle was won or lost. Their souls were now housed within the Destroyer construct restoring to them a sense of location and purpose.
As the Celestials watched on from a distance Odin recreated the OdinSword from the shattered fragments about him. It was an act from which he derived not inconsiderable pleasure sensing that the act was in some way offensive to the Celestials. Growing mystically to Celestial size Odin wielded the great sword with obvious relish.
Shortly thereafter another two Celestials arrived Nezarr the Calculator and Ziran the Tester taking up a threatening position close to the rainbow bridge and the link to Asgard.
The Odin that existed before passing on to a higher plane would no doubt have been careful even circumspect in his dealings with a race as powerful as the Celestials. In some ways perhaps they had still remained something of an enigma to him. With the benefit of having existed on a higher plane for several millennia however he had no such reservations. The energy configuration that had devolved back to his/its physical god form understood the Celestials for exactly what they were.
As a further two Celestials, Tefral the Surveyor and Hargen the Measurer teleported in Odin decided it was time for a much grander demonstration. Otherwise just how many of the space gods might teleport in before they themselves took some form of action?
Before engaging in battle Odin noticed again the few shards that were all that remained of the shield of Captain America. "It was a mighty shield" thought Odin "mightier than many truly realised."
The great shield of Odin carried so proudly by his son in the battle against the Celestials had taken a direct simultaneous energy hit from no less than 3 Celestials and had been completely vaporised. Even for Odin it was easier to re-create an artefact if there was some small residual element of it. "Were they still alive I am sure neither the good Captain nor his successors would have objected" thought Odin . With that Odin used the shards to create a much larger version of Captain America's shield at the same time adding his own enchantments and something else. The shield would act as a surrogate for the Odin shield itself. As Odin gathered himself he could feel something of the courage and honour, the valour and nobility of the long dead Captain America in the shield. The feeling continued to grow such that Odin's very spine seemed to tingle. It was as if the good captain was with them now urging them on into battle. Then Odin knew it was so and why and for a moment felt deeply humble
With both Atum-Re now transformed to the Demogorge and a near all pantheon powered Destroyer flanking him the 2,000 feet tall Odin strode forward into battle. As an energy configuration on a higher plane of existence had he missed such moments? One could just as easily ask if night would follow day or if the tides would ebb and flow. For Odin though it got even better. At that very moment as battle was about to commence Thor, Odinson appeared before them carrying mighty mjolnor. With him Zeus and Hercules.
Arishhem, Gammenon and Eson each fired multiple bolts of energy, each in unison and all directed at Odin. The Allfather raised the surrogate shield and where the Odin Shield itself had failed the surrogate shield held firm. Energies from the three Celestials and then from Oneg the prober splayed over the shield some bouncing off, others cascading across the shield. The shield became heated far beyond what even the most enchanted metal should be able to endure but Odin's strong grip held. How is it that this could be so? That a makeshift shield created in haste could perform so well. What is the enchantments of Odin?, or perhaps the power provided from a higher plane of existence . Was it something else again? Can it be that the shield was even further fortified by the courage and honour that a long dead mortal man once represented?
Odin's complex mind struggled with two different battle plans. The energy configuration sought to expose the Celestials weakness to massive hyperspace interference while the physical god being lusted for a more direct confrontation. The warrior prevailed as Odin thrust the surrogate shield directly into Arishhem's face with such raw force that the Celestial team leader was shaken to his core. With the surrogate shield placed firmly on his back Odin then thrust his great sword into the stomach area of Arishhem. The sword went clear through Arishhem's abdomen impaling him as if he were a stuffed pig. However the Celestial appeared quite unmoved almost as impassive and unmoving as always. As if the matter was beneath his notice and his current situation no more than a minor irritation.
Using the OdinSword as leverage the Allfather lifted great Arishhem aloft but at that moment he was hit square on by a barrage of energy from all the other assembled Celestials. As if the Celestials could endure this affrontery to their team leader no longer. The energies roiled about Odin and Arishhem such that both were totally obscured from view. It being impossible to determine exactly what was occurring inside the energy barrage. The assembled Celestials were totally focussed on Odin who was undeniably their main adversary. However they were choosing to ignore the nearby Destroyer construct which was now powered by the souls of all Earth's pantheon gods save for Odin, Zeus, Thor and Hercules. As the Celestial barrage continued against Odin, the disintegration energies built atop the Destroyers visor and were suddenly unleashed.
The Asgardian Destroyer was created to combat the enigmatic but awesomely powerful race of space gods known as the Celestials. Inconceivably powerful though it is, the Destroyer had not been successful in the purpose for which it was created. Until today that is.
When the Destroyer fired off its disintegration beam Eson the Searcher was directly in its path and took almost the full brunt of the disintegration energies. Eson's capacity to regenerate his armour was totally and utterly overwhelmed in the process. All of Eson's external armour was completely disintegrated and the unusual energies that had been contained within the armour, and were perhaps the true Celestial, lay still. Two of the Celestials closest to Eson suffered damage to limbs but their armour was quickly regenerated.
As Eson died the Celestials ceased their barrage against Odin and fell silent. Used to sweeping away the populations of entire worlds they now endured the loss of one of their own.
As the roiling energies that had obscured Odin and Arishhem cleared Thor gasped. Only Arishem could be seen drawing the Odinsword out of his abdomen. But then they witnessed Odin reforming. The Allfather had temporarily resumed his energy configuration form and now resumed his physical god form. Odin grasped his sword from Arishem as the space god appeared uninjured.
Thor, Zeus and Hercules watched on from the Asgard end of the rainbow bridge. Still drained after the ordeal of their imprisonment, the journey home courtesy of mjolnir had only offered time for partial recovery. Still, conferring with Zeus Thor prepared to invoke two ancient rune spells.
For a time the Celestials did not move and Odin wondered if they would depart. Were they prepared to endure further loss and if so what price would they pay to ensure that their original judgement upon humankind was enforced? As the seven remaining Celestials stood impassive Odin received his answer. A further five Celestials teleported in, four of them in very close proximity to himself. These were Jemiah the Analyzer, Ashema the Listener, Scathan the Approver, and Gamiel the Manipulator. The fifth arrival Exitar the Exterminator moved to counter the Destroyer Construct.
As the Celestials menacingly closed in on him Odin cut loose with sword and shield. This was a contestation that could have been fought on many levels. Massive energy exchanges at distance, reality warping, even on a psychic level, but Odin chose a physical/energy battle at close quarter and the Celestials seemed happy to accommodate him.
Odin fought magnificently, with both sword and surrogate shield. Never could he recall his shieldmanship as being so good. Every physical Celestial blow or short range energy assault was blocked by the surrogate shield and the shield held firm. Odin sensed the essential spirit of the long dead Captain America continue to urge him on. But it was more than this. Somehow the spirit of Captain America had guided Odin's shield arm making it even more effective. At one point Arishem sought to wrest the Odinsword from the Allfather covering it with mind numbing painful energies designed to make Odin loosen his grip. But it was not to be so; the great sword and its master were not to be separated.
How was it that the essence of that which was Captain America sought to influence a battle taking place long after his death? The good captain had stood for honor, courage, nobility and valor just as much or more than any mortal man before or since his time. With all of humanity under threat of extinction the combined spiritual essences of all those heroes, superhuman and merely human, that had left the world of the living, had made their contribution to the Earth's defence. They chose the captain to represent them at this most crucial moment in Earth's history.
Still it was not enough. As soon as Odin slashed away a Celestial arm or leg it was re-generated. Outnumbered as he was and with this method of attack Odin didn't seem to be able inflict any appreciable damage on the Celestials.
Meanwhile the Destroyer launched a near all pantheon god blast that sent the leviathan Celestial Exitar sprawling. Still such an attack should have been enough to destroy the Celestial. The pantheon god souls within the construct were the souls of gods whose physical bodies had been destroyed and thus there was a deadness within them. Odin had tried to remedy this but knew that until the physical bodies of the pantheon gods were fully restored, and with that their essential life forces that the Destroyer construct would be somewhat underpowered.
Exitar and the Destroyer grappled like the two lumbering behemoths that they were. The Destroyer readying itself for another disintegration blast and Exitar attempting to stop this. Exitar grasped the Destroyers visor and threatened to wrench it away from the construct. In a purely physical sense they seemed reasonably easily matched. As they struggled the Destroyer launched another disintegration blast that "grazed" Exitar as he desperately sought to avoid it. Exitar's entire forearm was however completely disintegrated and for some reason it took him a considerable period to regenerate. For important moments Exitar left the field of battle. After "grazing" Exitar the beam hit Nezzar the calculator almost head on. Just as Eson would be doing no more searching so Nezzar would be doing no more calculating as a second Celestial died this day.
It seemed clear that the Destroyers disintegration visor was the one element in it's arsenal that was unaffected by the relative "deadness" of the pantheon god souls empowering it.
Very early in the battle Odin pondered whether or not to interdimensionally teleport all of humanity to a safe location again and with them perhaps the Earth. But he had only just brought them back from Thors earlier teleportation.
All of humanity watched the unfolding battle. But were the heroes of Earth just prepared to watch on while their fate was determined in the battle between gods and Celestials?
Fortunately the mighty Thor provided an answer to the dilemma's of both Odin and the Earth's superheroes. Casting two great rune spells. The first rune spell "phased" the Earth between our own and an adjacent dimension protecting it from all collateral damage if not direct Celestial attack. In the second great rune spell Thor found a way for all of the power and energies of every last one of Earths heroes to be focused through a single source. The sheer magnitude of the confrontation was such that even this might not be much more than a token gesture but at least Earth's heroes would felt they had contributed to its defence. As it turned out Thor selected the mighty Demogorge to be the focus of all this power and so perhaps it was not truly a token gesture at all.
After this Thor moved from the edge of the rainbow bridge back into Asgard and absorbed some of the power within the land of Continental Asgard which Odin himself had so recently restored. With this the Odinson mystically increased his height to Celestial level and with an enlarged mjolnor moved to stand at his father's side. Zeus was still recovering from his ordeal but agreed together with Hercules to stay on the rainbow bridge and protect Asgard with his own life if necessary.
Great Odin paused for just one moment and took stock of the battle. Two Celestials had died and one had temporarily withdrawn from the battlefield and the mighty Thor had now entered the battle alongside his father. Still the Destroyer seemed underpowered and an outnumbered Odin had not been able to inflict significant damage with his current form of attack on the space gods. Also more space gods might teleport in at any moment.
Odin raised his mighty hand high and placed a barrier proof against teleportation (interdimensional or otherwise) to either Asgard or the Earthly plane. It was never more timely as considerable Celestial reinforcements were on the verge of teleporting in. Among them the two brothers Devron and the red and blue Celestials.
Finally the urgings of his non physical higher plane energy construct form prevailed and Odin created a series of hyperspace derived force fields. The great weakness of the Celestials. This totally disrupted the physical forms of all Celestials that were presently near Earth or Asgard and inside the teleportation barrier. Everyone of the assembled Celestials floundered struggling to maintain the integrity of their physical forms.
Taken together the two acts were an unmistakable demonstration of power that will live on in stories to be passed down for all time. Not just as long as men and gods still live upon Asgard or the Earth but for the whole future history of the Multiverse.
With the Celestials lying helpless before him and flanked by the mighty Thor, the near all pantheon powered Destroyer construct, and a Demogorge acting as focus of all the power of the Earths heroes Odin moved forward. It was a clear message to the Celestials that in their hour of utter helplessness they could be easily slain. Unlike the Celestials in passing their judgment upon the Earth Odin withheld his might and that of his companions.
Finally reverting briefly to the higher level energy configuration that he now was Odin gave the Celestials a very clear picture of the future of humankind that totally contradicted the basis for the Celestial judgment. It showed man overcoming all his current problems and ascending to a greatness among the stars such that they would one day eclipse even the gods and the Celestials. As they witnessed this glimpse of the future of mankind the Celestials knew it to be so.
Eventually by sheer weight of numbers some of the Celestials forced their way past Odin's teleportation block and confronted the Allfather. But it was essentially too late. The Celestials already present signaled the new arrivals to move away from Odin.
Thus did it end. In a precedent unknown since times aborning the Celestials reversed their judgment upon a race of beings.
Ultimately neither side had to bow their knee to the other but as long as there were men upon Earth and Gods in Asgard, Odin knew that the Celestials would not come this way again.