When the Thunder Returns

A Sequel to The Hulk a Herald of Galactus

Deep Space

Some years in the future

The behemoth found the quiet of deep space very comforting.

Surprisingly he had stayed with the great Galactus far longer than anyone would have thought possible. Even the world devourer himself.

The Hulk did not know it, but back upon the Earth, he was remembered for his selfless act, rather than the deeds that preceded it. Not that he was ever likely to return.

The anger was still there, but Galactus himself was a welcome calming force. Except of course when there were worlds to be subdued for his master.

Now as he slowed to below light speed having located a suitable world, the greatest ever Herald of Galactus seemed almost content.

The Planet Gardas

A few days earlier

Sonod was unable to remember anything from more than two cycles ago.

It was never spoken of, but he was not of those whom he now lived among.

When the star spanning OverLords came Sonod was mining far below ground and in a distant location. It was some time before runners could bring him news of the invasion.

His own village had been destroyed and on seeing the destruction of the only place he could remember as home the fury welled deep within him.

The "old one" first elder of his village, whom he had come to see as a father, took his hand leading him to the nearby labrynth and an object at first unfamiliar. The object came alive flying through the cavern and into his waiting hands. Sonod grasped the handle firmly, hefted it, then tentatively raised it high above his head as slowly an awareness came upon him as to his and the hammers true nature and origins.

Still a little tentative Thor slowly and deliberately raised his hammer and commanded the storm to seek out the OverLord starships.

As the memories flooded in Thor of Asgard saw that he retained residual elements of both the OdinPower and the separate Rune Magics. In his wisdom Allfather Odin acting from some inconceivably remote plane of existence had decided that no one should take advantage of Thor in this condition and had hidden him by placing him with a kindred race at the other side of the Universe.

The OverLords seemed untroubled by the storms and the apparent godly status of the storms creator. Yet now and suddenly something else had indeed troubled them.

Thor watched on with growing surprise as, with extreme speed and efficiency, every last one of the OverLords implosively re-embarked on their star ships and moved away into hyperspace with embarrassing haste. Thor knew he was not the cause of this as he sensed the OverLords had been prepared to fight him to their last entity.

Twirling his hammer at fantastic speed the son of Odin overcame the escape velocity of Gardas and moved beyond planetary confines. There he saw a sight to give pause even to the son of Odin and Gaea. Coming in at considerable speed toward Gardas and dressed seemingly like a warlord was the green behemoth known mainly as the Hulk. Quite some distance behind the speeding Hulk was the huge form of the devourer of worlds the great Galactus himself.

Thor could see what was patently obvious, that something unimaginable had happened. The Hulk had become a herald of Galactus and granted the power cosmic to add his already prodigious strength. Still adjusting to the reality that he was not Sonod but Thor of Asgard the son of Odin was stunned at such a turn of events. The Hulk sped planetward at a velocity one would more usually associate with the Silver Surfer. Now imbued with the power cosmic the new herald of Galactus saw Thor and turned in his direction.

Galactus looked on with surprise and mild interest. While he bore the son of Odin no ill will, the hunger was upon him and he would brook of no inteference in his feeding. Sensing that Thor held only vestigial elements of the odinpower and rune magics Galactus concluded the Asgardian would be no match for a highly intelligent enraged Hulk that now possessed the power cosmic in abundance. Galactus waited and watched.

In the mere moments available to him before the Hulk's arrival Thor drew on the vestiges of the rune magics still available to him. In this form he could not achieve the near omniscience of Rune Thor. Still he was able to broadly discern the Hulk's selfless act for a world that perhaps did not merit it. The unquenchable anger and righteous wrath that had led to WW Hulk, his small band and subsequent allies laying bare the Earth. An Earth far to weak to countenance resistance when subsequently the great Galactus arrived. Though all the death and destruction had still not quelled the anger of the Hulk something deep within him could not abide the end of humanity . His choice was simple serve Galactus and the mighty one would spare the Earth.

As the Hulk came closer his speed increased and Thor saw the behemoth was on collision course for him. He saw also that the Hulk possessed some kind of battle armour and a fearsome axe appropriate to the behemoth's size. Twirling his hammer at a speed that defied description Thor threw it with all the great strength that his good right arm would allow directly at the Hulk. Coruscating with waves of bludgeoning Asgardian energies hammer and anger crazed cosmic powered axe wielding Hulk met head on.

At that precise moment that hammer and behemoth met time momentarily froze about them. As this happened Galactus noticed an unwelcome development. A barely discernable but very large audio-visual image of Allfather Odin appeared against the background of the stars. The Allfather was somehow establishing a tenous link between his and our own plane of existence and was observing the struggle between Thor and the Hulk.

Time was frozen locally just before the inevitable collision of the hammer of Thor and the power cosmic WW Hulk. Galactus looked to the visual apparition of Odin assuming the Allfather had been responsible for this event. But the Odin visual image said nothing. As suddenly and inexplicably as time in the vicinity of WW Hulk was frozen, it became unfrozen.

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object ? Sometimes the irresistible force proves just a little less than irresistible while the immovable object moves slightly. Just before mjolnor's impact WW Hulk twisted slightly raising his cosmic powered axe with the clear intent of cleaving mjolnor apart. Although moving with unnerving speed the Hulk missed and mjolnor struck a glancing blow against his shoulder. It may be that the power cosmic afforded the Hulk some protection but still the battle armour on his shoulder was smashed and he started to free fall. Mjolnor returned to it's masters hand but not without a slight wobble and the Hulk quickly regained flight.

Some might think that the odds of battling potentially both Galactus and a WW Hulk possessed of the power cosmic would be too great for Thor and he would be best served by departing the battlefield. Anyone who might think this knows nothing of the true nature of the son of Odin. For some two cycles now, as defined by planetary orbits about the Gardas sun, Thor lived and loved among the indigenous people of Gardas. If every Celestial in the Multiverse were to converge on Gardas at that moment the son of Odin would assuredly rise up to met them with nobility, courage and honour.

Realizing that Galactus was very weak from hunger Thor sought to teleport the Hulk from the battlefield. The son of Odin reasoned that with the Hulk removed he might be able to defeat or drive off the world devourer, much as he had done years ago. Especially as he still held small residual elements of the Odinpower and Rune magics. Thors attempt at battlefield removal failed. Whether this was through the direct intervention of Galactus or whether the Hulk in this form could resist battlefield removal was unclear.

From a short distance WW Hulk launched quite massive waves of the power cosmic at Thor. It was most strange thought Thor to see the behemoth fighting in this manner.

Twirling his hammer Thor created a spherical force shield completely encasing himself and, just barely, protecting him from the Hulk's assault. The power cosmic seemed to dance about Thor's force field for some time before finally abating. "Galactus has given him more power cosmic than any previous Herald" thought Thor "it may be something the world devourer will live to regret."

Thor responded with successive bolts of anti-force but the Hulk just came on against them. It was plain to see that the green titan considered fighting at a distance distasteful and closed on the Asgardian. Rays from the sun of Gardas glinted off the Hulk's axe which appeared disturbingly sharp. Swinging it with surprising skill and not so surprising power it seemed WW Hulk would be satisfied with nothing less than Thors decapitation. The Odinson parried the Hulk's swings with mjolnor, once, twice, three times. Thor then took to the offensive reigning savage blows which the Hulk parried with his axe.

Thor's entire body and his hammer coruscated with Asgardian energies just as the Hulk's body and axe coruscated with the power cosmic. As the struggle continued the Hulks axe – splendid weapon though it was – began to break apart – successive blows from mjolnor had undone it. There are many fine weapons in the Multiverse – but ultimately there is only one hammer of thor.

Disgusted with his axe's failure the Hulk tossed it aside and closed again on Thor. " I shall finish this with my fists" said the Hulk "as has always been my way in the past." Thor secured mjolnor in his belt. "So be it, let us fight as we did then." The Hulk launched himself at Thor with near devastating speed but somehow Thor was even quicker hitting the behemoth with a double fisted blow in the Hulk's back that sent the green titan reeling. The Hulk responded with a massive blow to Thors head that that the Odinson failed to block and that sent him tumbling end over end through space.

The purely physical close quarter battle seemed to go on for ever with neither Thor nor the Hulk gaining the upper hand and with neither giving any quarter. Almost without realizing it Thor drew on the residual OdinPower/Rune Magic to mystically enhance his strength and the Hulk did likewise drawing on the Power Cosmic. Still could neither gain a decisive advantage over the other. Thor pondered on the Hulk's ever increasing rage. While this was the way of the Hulk, still something was not right about it – he speculated that Galactus might in some manner be manipulating the Hulk's rage. It would be well within the devourer's capability to do so.

The Hulk grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of an outcome to the struggle. With his strength still seemingly growing through his ever increasing rage the behemoth grabbed Thor from behind in a massive bear hug. Thor Odinson strained almost to the limit to break free of that awesome grip the veins in his arms stood out, his muscles bulged, his teeth clenched. He started to feel the warriors madness come upon him and he resisted it. This would not be the answer, any temporary strength advantage he might acquire would be outweighed by the loss of intelligent fighting skill. At that moment Thor burst free from the Hulk's inconceivably powerful grip. The Hulk cried out in danger and dismay.

Fortunately the continuing battle did not descend to the planet Gardas below. If it had Thor and the Hulk might well have destroyed the planet. This did not matter to Galactus as he intended to consume the planet anyway. However by some method Odin had kept Thor and the Hulk at a distance from Gardas preventing them from wreaking havoc below.

As the battle continued still further Galactus began to lose patience and descended to Gardas where he started to set up his consumption machineries. This added new urgency to Thors struggle with the Hulk. Thor and the Hulk came together again hands gripped at each others throats. Throughout the length and breadth of their powerful forms their bodies hummed with power and glowed with energies asgardian, cosmic and other. There was a very real sense that their battle was leading to a climax, that here in just a few moments one of these great beings would perish at the hand of the other.

And then, at that very moment, local time around Thor and the Hulk froze again

Galactus busy preparing his machineries seemed not to notice. What he did not and could not fail to notice just a few moments later was a vastly powerful telepathic communication literally booming in his head. Odin, or at least that which was once Odin, had at last chosen to speak.

The huge visual image of the entity which was once Odin peered down directly at Galactus as it's powerful telepathic communication bored into his mind. There could be no blocking it out. " I ask you to spare the world of Gardas great Galactus" said the entity " If you grant me this I shall supply you with the energies you need to assuage your immediate hunger !" "He who was once my son has formed a deep attachment to that world and will give his life for it."

" What of my herald, you who were once Odin ?" asked Galactus.

"I will not let either Thor or the Hulk perish" said the entity "when it becomes clear that one of them is about to triumph I shall end the contestation." "As could I" responded Galactus. "I agree to your terms Odin" said Galactus" " provided only that I keep my herald ."

At that moment Odin unfroze time around Thor and the Hulk and their battle continued. Still it showed no sign of abating, no sign of either combatant gaining a clear upper hand. As the battle continued the visual image of Odin gave way to an actual physical presence. That which was once Odin made the great journey from his higher plane of existence. The entity was huge and appeared to consist entirely of a completely unknown and probably unknowable form of energy.

Galactus looked on wondering how much of the Allfather, if anything at all, remained in the entity's intelligence – certainly enough to be concerned about Thor.

Dwarfing the great Galactus the entity began to transfer energies to the titan. Although beyond anything in his vast experience Galactus saw that the energies were not incompatable with the power cosmic. Galactus bathed in the energies supplied to him and quite quickly his ravenous hunger was more than satiated.

As the energy transfer from the entity to Galactus came to an end, Thor began finally to have doubts about the outcome of his struggle with the Hulk beginning to fear that at some point his own prodigious strength might fail him. At that moment Thor sensed a slight weakening in the Hulk's grip. It seemed as if the monsters anger had begun to subside and with it an attendant drop in his almost limitless strength. While exercising caution Thor also slightly reduced the pressure in his own grip while the Hulk's grip weakened still further. Slowly the unbelievable happened as all the bitter anger seemed to flow out of the Hulk and he became calm almost docile. Thor released his grip on the behemoth.

"It is over for now" said the Hulk "the anger has left me and I have no quarrel with you Thor, you were not one of those that sent me away." "Are you allright Hulk" asked Thor genuinely concerned "I know what has befallen you but never did I think to see you as a herald of the devourer of worlds ?" "If you know what has transpired then you know there is nothing more for me on Earth" said the Hulk "with Galactus at least the anger abates at times – I will remain with him for a while, at least."

As Galactus and the Hulk departed that which was once Odin remained for a while. "I took most of the Odinpower and rune magics from you while you slept" said Odin "as they were capable of being taken from you by other powers of sufficient magnitude and you did not need them. I now return to them to you as I believe you are ready to use them again.

"What of the Hulk ?" said Thor "what will become of him? Sadly Thor could not bring himself to call this entity father even though it had his best interests at heart and some part of Odin still seemed to be present. The entity had come across the abyss for him.

"One such as he will remain with Galactus only as long as he chooses" said the entity " when he chooses to leave even Galactus will not be able to prevent it" "I registered your thoughts and agree with you that Galactus was unwise to give the Hulk so much of the power cosmic."

"Is Galactus manipulating the Hulk's anger?" asked Thor. "The anger is almost unquenchable" said the entity "but Galactus calms him much of the time." "Only when another world must be consumed does Galactus allow the anger to return - the Hulk is well aware of this and the arrangement suits him for the moment"

" Did the Hulk's anger run it's course through our battle or did Galactus or you intervene to calm him ?" asked Thor. For a while the entity remained silent, then " I do not know" it said "I did not intervene because the outcome of the battle remained unclear."

"Then even now" said Thor "we still do not know which of us is the stronger ?"

"Does it really matter ?" enquired the entity and seemed almost to smile if a 1,000 feet long cloud of energy can actually smile. With that the pure energy entity that had once been all father to an entire race of gods and whose name had been reveired throughout the Multiverse took his leave from for the last time from of our plane of existence.

Thors last memory of that which had once been Odin was a friendly wave from a visual image of Odin as he had been in his very prime and at the height of his power.