When it happened, it reached every corner of the galaxy and rippled across every plane. The fear, the sheer loss reverberated across time and space as beings crumpled to their knees as they felt the immense loss of life, like they themselves were dying with the thousands of innocents on that day.
Tony curled over himself, hunched on the floor, jaw cracked in a silent scream as the Fate’s echoed him. Their carefully bounded strings snapping loose and burning away with the echoes of the deaths of thousands of innocents. Long stretching lives were extinguished out of their time, taking with them millions of events that were foretold to occur.
A gentle hand was laid upon his shoulder and just as sudden as the echoing screams and pain had reached him, they bled away, though he could still hear the faint thrum of wrong that tugged on his very being. He looked up at the Mistress and met her drawn face. With a silent nod he carefully rose to his feet and after taking a short steadying breath, phased himself to the site of the devastation. A planet called Zen-Whoberi. He had no idea what he would find there, but whatever it was, it was powerful.
He arrived in what looked like a courtyard, remaining incorporeal he quickly swept his gaze, taking in the pile of bodies which lined one side of a walkway, and the empty adjacent. The souls were thick, and their forms jumped and wavered in their fear and anger, the emotions threatening to rip them apart and anchor them here.
He had barely taken a step in their direction when a voice spoke up behind him.
“I wondered when you would show yourself here. After all this time you can always count on your arrival. Why, it’s almost too easy.”
Tony spun, frantically reaching to draw a weapon from his small pocket dimension, but before he could fully open the rift he felt a hand grab the back of his neck. With a sharp yanking motion Tony was dragged fully into the corporeal plane and thrown harshly to the ground.
Flaring his wings and thrashing, he lunged forward and twisted unto his back, catching sight of his attacker for the first time. Gray-gold eyes pinned him in place as Tony craned his neck to look up at an impossible sight. Thanos’ lips peeled back into a malicious grin as he tilted his head up to sneer imperiously down his nose at the fallen man before him.
“So, pet, where is your Mistress? I worked so very hard to announce myself.”
“What have you done?”
Tony snarled back as he finally pulled himself free of his shock and in a blink was lunging towards the Titan, newly materialized blade gleaming.
Thanos huffed and before Tony could avoid it, had caught the smaller man’s arm and grabbed his left wing, using Tony’s own momentum against him to spin with the attack and slam him back to the ground, shattering the stones of the courtyard with the impact. Tony himself yelling out in pain as the joint of his wing snapped under the pressure of the other’s grasp.
As he hit the ground the Mad Titan released his grip on Tony’s arm, but kept a hold of his wing as he easily stepped forward to plant his boot firmly on Tony’s back between his wings, pinning him effortlessly. Tony snarled and squirmed like a rabid beast under the other and quickly tried to force himself incorporeal but screamed again as Thanos tugged on his wing in warning.
“Ah ah ah, you can’t fly away this time little raven, not when I worked so hard to get you here.”
The bones in his wing ground against each other and Tony grit his teeth against the pain. This was bad, he needed to get out of here. And the souls, they were already barely maintaining themselves, if they didn’t move on soon they would be trapped here.
He tried to move again, but the other kept him pinned.
“What do you want? Do you realize what you’ve done? What you have caused!”
The boot pinning him suddenly pushed down harder, his ribs beginning to creek in protest as the air was forced from his lungs. Suddenly the weight was gone and he was being grabbed again and hoisted from the ground to be held, dangling from the grasp of the being before him. His own dark eyes met the cruel ones of the Titan.
“Ah, the little reaper, it’s been sometime since we saw each other. Tell me, how is your Master? I do so miss her.”
Tony held perfectly still as he began to gather his powers as subtly as he could.
“And of course I know what I’ve done child, but you see I had to do it.”
Thanos smiled at him, almost patiently, as though he were talking to a naive child as he carefully began to stroke the feathers of Tony’s immobile wing, not damaging it more, but a clear threat all the same.
“The universe is not so infinite, you know this better than most little raven, and you must also see that she is reaching her limits.”
His power was gathering quickly into his hand, though invisible for now, but would it be enough? Thanos had always been strong, but something had changed.
“Every day there are more people draining her, stealing her resources and making more and more people, but it’s not enough. She is falling behind. You must have seen it by now? The wars, the poverty, the hunger, she has become over burdened with life and life is not slowing down. That’s why we- I must do this.”
“So, what? You think that just killing thousands of people is somehow going to change things? All of those people had a purpose, a reason for existing and you just murdered them!”
Anger flashed across the Titan’s face for a moment before it smoothed into a calmer and pitying expression.
“No, not murder. I didn’t choose who would die. There was no selection, no predetermined fates due to money or status or age. All are equal in death and therefore all have the same chance of dying. Don’t you see? This is the solution, this is how we will continue our existence.”
Tony breathed as he listened to the other.
“No, not insane, just no longer blinded by the reserves that have submitted so many to this fate. I can see the solution to all this turmoil, but I am one of few which means it is up to me to set this in motion.”
Thanos smiled at Tony gently, looking both pained but determined.
“I will wipe out half of all living things so that life may regrow and recover. I will do what is needed of me to ensure the survival of life itself.”
Tony was cold, his entire being felt frozen as he stared into the face of the Mad Titan and saw that he had meant every word he spoke. He truly meant to kill half of the universe because he thought he could save it.
Tony let his power fade away as he realized he couldn’t leave, not without finding out more, he needed more to know what Thanos’ plan was so he could stop him.
“You can’t, you may be ancient, but you are far from the strongest of beings, there are many who remain your greater and they will kill you way before you could even try.”
“You’re right, I’m not the strongest, but I don’t need to be, not right now. You see I have a plan and it may take centuries, but I know my purpose in this life and I will fulfill it. That’s why I brought you here little raven. You are old and strong as is your Mistress, so I made this lovely little offering for you both.”
Thanos leaned in closer to Tony’s face, his eyes and face smooth and gentle as he placed Tony carefully back on his feet and knelt before him, though his large hand still rested possessively on the back of the smaller man’s neck while his other cradled Tony’s cheek. A twisted version of a lover’s touch that made Tony feel violated and sick. These hands were washed in the blood of millions and yet they were so careful against his skin. It horrified him.
“I have long loved your Mistress, but for centuries she has denied me. I see now I was never worthy of her love. I was weak minded and foolish. I hunted for the thrill of the fight and high of the kill, thinking that by giving her so many I would draw her affections and she would be mine.”
Thanos huffed a small laugh.
“What a love-struck fool she made me. But I understand now. It was not meaningless offerings which would sway her favor, I needed to prove myself, to show I was worthy of her. This, this is my greatest feat, my magnum opus which will show her and all of the ancients that I am powerful enough to stand amongst them and reclaim my title and status. And you, my little raven, you can help me achieve this.”
The Titan’s hand squeezed gently on the back of Tony’s neck and the ancient being looked almost excited as he gazed into Tony’s eyes.
“I do not wish to stand alone in my victory, after all this will be a victory for every living creature, not just me. You have served your Mistress and the Fates for so long, but even you must tire of the chaos. Help me to remake the fate of this existence and begin a new path where the universe may be at peace and loss and pain and fear of the future will be no more. Walk with me Merchant and join me in my dream of a flourishing future.”
Tony was stunned. This, this went beyond anything he had ever witnessed, and Thanos wanted him to be a part of this, was asking him to help kill billions for his twisted crusade.
Tony backed away shaking his head slowly, carefully pulling from Thanos’ grasp, who allowed his hands to fall back to his side as he watched the smaller man with clear disappointment.
“I can’t, you want to kill billions, innocents who have lives and strings of fate and could do so much with their lives. How can you possibly expect me, the one who has to look at the faces of those killed and judge them, how could you expect me to ever want to help you?”
His power still thrummed in his hand, but Tony had become numb, the fight gone in the face of the horror of what Thanos was planning, what he wanted Tony to do.
“You know that this is the way to save everyone Merchant, you are just still too blinded by your ways, but don’t worry you will see. Once everything begins you will open your eyes to a new understanding and then, you will find me, and I will welcome you with open hand onto a path to a grateful universe.”
Thanos carefully rose to his feet and stared at Tony for a few moments longer before his gaze drifted to the bodies.
“Go on, little Raven, I will leave you too your work. The spirits of this place are very emotional, and I don’t want them to be trapped here because I was to selfish with your time.”
Thanos smiled at him again and turned to walk away, talking over his shoulder to the shocked reaper.
“Don’t worry my little Raven, we will meet again and when we do I will have begun my path and you will have seen a glimpse of a better world and we will meet as equals.”
A few moments later he was gone, having passed beyond sight and Tony still stood frozen. It was sometime later that he was finally able to force himself into motion again. Slipping onto the spirit plane he went about his tasks woodenly, some of his power working to heal the damage to his wing as he was able to help all of the spirits move on. When he was done he simply stared at the bodies a while longer, before he closed his eyes and travelled back to the plane of the dead.
As he arrived his Mistress was waiting her face blank as he slowly raised his eyes to hers.
“Was it him?”
Tony nodded, holding her gaze as her face became grim.
“Tell me or what has happened.”