EARTHFALL

starring Captain Marvel
with Ms. Marvel, Hercules, Drax, and Eros

by Van Allen Plexico

This story first appeared in MV1's CAPTAIN MARVEL #63-69

CHAPTER THREE:

TROUBLE on the ROAD to TITAN...



"The players gather on the board, Master Order."

"Yes. But have we acted too late, Lord Chaos? Is there still time to correct the error, to restore the balance?"

"We can only hope that there is, Master Order. For is it not our own error we seek to correct?"

"As you say, Lord Chaos. We indeed acted in haste in selecting our champion of chaos, and in empowering him to such a degree."

"Still, Master Order, never could we have suspected that he would find so much success, so quickly."

"So true, Lord Chaos. And thus the Golden Age of the Universe, which we sought to delay, to temper, to restrict, now threatens never to be born at all. And once the Earth lies a dead and burned-out husk, the forces which opposed it will surely turn upon one another, in a great paroxysm of violence and death such as the universe has never witnessed."

Silence, for a time. Then, finally, the giant, bloated form of Lord Chaos spoke again:

"Yet still there is hope, Master Order. We have our new champion. And great Chronos has become aware of the situation, as well. Would the one known as Drax have entered play without Chronos's knowledge? And even now, Chronos acts, bringing yet another piece onto the board."

"Yes. We shall see, Lord Chaos. We shall see."



"Before we go any farther," Genis was saying, "Let's just get one thing out of the way up front."

They sat around a fire Genis had started amidst a pile of wood. Ms. Marvel had felt it best that they remain hidden in the woods while they discussed the situation. The huge flying saucer lay, half-buried from its crash, nearby.

"What would that be?" the Destroyer asked.

"Dad's records show that you once tried to kill him. Something to do with Thanos, I think."

"Ah, yes. I do recall that incident," Drax replied. "I mistakenly believed that he, rather than Warlock, had killed Thanos. And killing Thanos was the only reason for my existence."

"I'm just making sure you don't still hold a grudge," Genis continued.

Drax smiled wryly. "Fear not," he replied. "I settled my differences with Mar-Vell equitably, and bear no grudge against his progeny."

"Ummm.... Okay, then." Genis nodded.

"Was?"

Drax and Genis both turned to Carol. "What was that?" Drax asked.

"You said killing Thanos 'was' the only reason for your existence. Not 'is.' 'Was.'"

Drax seemed to consider the question, as if for the first time. Finally, he replied, "That is correct."

"But--and I hesitate to tell you this-- Thanos is alive again."

"I'm quite well aware of that. Just because it occurred during my brain-damaged, Alf-loving phase, doesn't mean that it escapes my recollection now."

Carol's eyes bored in on him. "And... you don't feel the urge to rampage across the galaxy in search of him?"

"... No. I do not." Drax frowned, as if pondering his own answer. "How odd."

Carol glanced at Genis; Genis shrugged. She refocused on the Destroyer. "So-- back to our original question. What were you doing on that ship? How did you become restored to your previous condition?"

Drax pursed his lips. "I'm afraid there are some things I cannot remember, after all. The last I recall, I was with... Moondragon...?" He shrugged. "Still, I'm glad to be rid of that bulky form I briefly occupied." He directed an index finger towards a nearby oak tree. Red energies surged around the finger, and a beam lanced out, annihilating part of the tree with a massive blast and scattering the rest. "And I see my powers are back to normal, as well."

"But you don't remember being taken prisoner?"

"...No, I'm afraid not," Drax replied absently. He gazed upward, at the star-filled sky, as if contemplating something... something
very disturbing...



Hercules stumbled into the men's room of the bar. He'd spent most of the evening regailing the ladies of the establishment with his heroic tales, while they fawned over his muscles and took advantage of his seemingly limitless Avengers-backed credit line. Now he found his way to the sink and peered into the mirror, splashing water into his bleary eyes and moaning.

"Uhhhrrrr.... How weak this mortal frame, compared with mine previous godly form. Such a tiny capacity for the fruits of the cask and the keg! Bah! Verily, I grow somewhat-- disoriented-- simply from the quaffing of only a tiny-- uh?"

Hercules peered into the mirror again, saw the colors swimming about, and blinked. "What manner of vision comes to me now? Bah--tis nothing but mine slightly-inebriated mind, playing tricks on me."

Ignoring the image forming in the mirror, Hercules shambled over to the urinal. The image in the mirror faded.

"Ahh. Mine immortal constitution would never have allowed such base indignity as to compell me to excuse myself to the men's room with such galling... frequency." Hercules glanced up, saw the sports page tacked to the wall above the urinal, and let his eyes play over the color photos of football players. "Verily, this is a sport for man and god alike! Would that Olympus's architecture could have better survived the last game I organized there-- eh?"

The photo swam, blurred, and changed. Steve Young's face darkened, swelled, grew to encompass the entire newspaper page. A look of anger clouded over it. "HEAR ME!" it cried.

"AHHH!!" Hercules stumbled back, then quickly regained his wits and zipped his trousers. "What manner of demon--?"

"I am Chronos, Olympian. Father to Zeus himself! And you are my... grandson."

"Chronos?" Hercules squeezed his eyes closed, mentally running over the list of beverages he had consumed earlier. "What--?"

"Listen well, son of Zeus. For I have a task for you."

At that moment another customer stumbled into the men's room. He glanced at Hercules, glanced away; glanced back at Herc, then at the stormcloud-shrouded face of Steve Young protruding from the sports page. He blinked, put a hand to his mouth, and dashed back out through the doorway.

"A task? But in truth, at present, I have little power. I am merely mortal now, upon the wishes of my father."

"Still you possess power, Hercules. And spirit-- though perhaps at times such as this, it lies hidden beneath an alcoholic haze."

Hercules bristled. "What task, Chronos?" he asked skeptically.

"One of truly heroic proportions, Olympian." Steve Young's face grew less angry, less godlike, and spoke again.

Two minutes later, Hercules was on his way to Avengers' Mansion, and twenty minutes after his arrival there, aboard a spaceworthy quinjet, outward bound.



"And that's pretty much it, Drax," Ms. Marvel concluded. "We're searching for this 'Enemy,' but we don't have much to go on."

Drax nodded. "Many could fit the profile you describe. Thanos, for example. Or a dozen others."

"We both feel strongly that Thanos is not behind this," Carol interjected.

"Yeah," Genis agreed. "He's been involved in a number of schemes since Dad first began investigating this. Besides, my cosmic awareness-- yeah, I'm still getting used to it, but I'm already picking up on when something's true and when it's way off base -- it just says, 'No Thanos.'"

Drax looked back at Genis a moment, then nodded and looked away.

"In any case, our next stop is pretty clear, now," Genis stated. "Titan."

"Titan?" Carol frowned.

"It is logical," Drax muttered.

"Because...?"

Genis shrugged. "This ship is our only clue so far. But the Zyrgor sure sounded like he was talking about our guy. And those two races-- no way they should be cooperating with one another. Something's up. Now that we have a tiny shred of evidence to work with, maybe Mentor-- or Isaac, the computer-- can come up with something."

Carol nodded. "Okay. Good." She smiled wistfully. "I wouldn't mind a trip to Titan, anyway. It only seems fitting, after all the time Mar-Vell spent there, that I should at least drop in."

"What about you, Drax?" Genis asked. "Any plans?"

"I have a subliminal, subconscious rapport with Chronos, the vast entity who exists throughout this universe all at once. Chronos, that enigmatic being who first caused me to become the Destroyer, and gave me my only purpose, my only reason for existence." Drax's cold, lonely eyes met Genis's, and bored in with lethal intensity. "Now I sense, with every fiber of my being, that Chronos has a new task for me. And it lies parallel with your own."

Genis's eyes widened. "So-- you mean you're going with us, then?"

"...Yes."

Genis glanced at Ms. Marvel; Carol frowned, but shrugged. "Okay," the young hero replied firmly. "We welcome the help." He held out a hand, and, hesitantly at first, but then with determination, Drax clasped it. Carol added hers as well.

"Things are looking brighter," Genis stated firmly. "I think we're finally on the right track."

"But how will we get there?" Carol asked.

Genis frowned. "First," he said, "we need the sun to come up."



Genis-Vell, Ms. Marvel, and Drax the Destroyer rocketed through interplanetary space.

"I hope S.H.I.E.L.D. has fun with that flying saucer," Ms. Marvel was saying. "I'd rather have turned it over to the Avengers, but they were busy, and I don't think it needed to sit there in the middle of New Jersey any longer than it did."

"Ahh-- S.H.I.E.L.D. is a government agency," Genis replied. "They'll just stick the ship in a warehouse somewhere and deny the whole thing."

Ms. Marvel looked around, at the mammoth planet Jupiter receeding behind them. "I have to admit, Genis, you were right about this. I wasn't sure I was physically up for a trip like this, but... Wow."

The golden sparkles of Genis's nega-bands surrounded both him and Carol in a bright nimbus, keeping them safe from the vacuum of space and providing the extra power to boost their personal means of propulsion to such a high velocity. Drax raced along nearby, under his own power.

"It was just a matter of borrowing enough energy from the sun, and storing it in the nega-bands, to make the trip," Genis replied. "I learned how to do it from one of Dad's recordings. He used it for this same trip we're making, at least once." *

*In the now-classic CAPTAIN MARVEL #58-59 -- Archivist Van


"Indeed," Drax added, "for I accompanied him on one of those journeys. I came to know him, and to respect him, during that time."

Genis started to reply, but suddenly his eyes widened, and he jerked his head around.

"Genis-- what is it?" Ms. Marvel asked. Then she jerked around as well. "Enemy! They're bearing down on us!"

"Wha--?" Drax stopped himself almost dead in space, crimson energies flaring about his fists. "Where?"

Genis pointed in the direction of an asteroid floating nearby. "THERE!"

A seeming army of armor-clad beings was swarming out of the asteroid, and rocketing towards the three warriors. Energy beams crackled through the void.

"We have to spread out," Ms. Marvel cried. "I have enough energy stored up, Genis--I'll be okay. Go!"

Nodding, Genis flashed away from Carol's side and swooped out to flank the attackers. A group split away from the main body and came after him. Drax had executed the same maneuver on the other side, moments earlier, and now the enemy was divided into three clumps; but still, each clump contained over a dozen attackers.

Ms. Marvel smashed the facemask of the first to approach within swinging distance, then darted beneath the next. "Any idea who they are?" she called, over the photonic link which still connected the three. "My seventh sense isn't giving me much clue."

"Degenerates from many races," Drax replied, ringing blow upon blow across the armor of the aliens closest to him. "The same assortment of scum and riffraff that served Thanos during his campaigns." As if fueled by a new hatred, Drax unleashed a titanic bombardment of energy into his adversaries. Reeling, the attackers on that flank fell back.

Genis continued to probe with his new cosmic awareness even as he battled. "They're agents of the Enemy, all right," he called out.

Carol glanced his way, even as she smashed the helmets of two attackers together. "But can you sense WHO--?"

"--No, not yet-- AARRHHH!" Genis reeled under the impact of twin bolts from his attackers.

"GENIS! Are you okay?" Ms. Marvel smashed through a wall of foes and raced towards him.

"Unhhh-- yeah, I think so. Serves me right for not paying enough attention..." He fired twin photon blasts in the direction of his attacker and was rewarded with a hit.

Having driven the attackers on his side back, Drax blasted away at the central group, upon which Ms. Marvel had already inflicted much damage. Genis handled the other side, his efforts redoubled after his wounding. Soon enough, the still-conscious portion of the attacking horde was reduced to a manageable sum, and the three warriors surrounded them.

Drax had one in an iron grip. "Who is your master?" he demanded. "Who--"

But the alien slumped forward, dead.

"They're killing themselves!" Genis cried. "Not again! Stop th--" He sighed. "Too late. They're all gone. All of them."

Ms. Marvel smacked her fist into her palm.

Drax hurled the corpse away, spinning into the night. "We must search the aster--"

The asteroid base exploded.

Genis yelled in anger. "What good is cosmic awareness if it only tells me things when it's too late to do anything about them?"

Carol patted him on the shoulder. "You'll get better at it. I'm sure your dad struggled with it at first, too."

Genis nodded reluctantly. "Well, Eon did say I was only granted a small portion of the awareness.* I guess he wasn't kidding."

* C.M. #63 -- Van

Drax pointed. "Titan lies ahead. Perhaps we had better make haste."

Genis and Carol nodded. The three rocketed toward Saturn, and its largest satellite just beyond.

And on a video monitor aboard a vast alien starship, a set of dark, calculating eyes followed them...

Go to Chapter Four