Liberators Annual #1

The End of All Things, Part Three: War In Heaven

by Jess Nevins

What has come before: The M'krann Crystal, which has control over the Multiverse, has had the last of its defenses destroyed by the Nazi wizard Der Zauberer. This has attracted the attention of hundreds of other beings and entities from across the Multiverse, from many different time periods and dimensions, all of whom have come to the world of the M'krann to try to take control of the Crystal, and through it the Multiverse. After a confused and bloody battle, Apocalypse entered the Crystal and took control of it, and is now using it to attack Heaven, trying to impose his ideas of "natural selection" on all of reality. Looking down on the battle and the M'krann is a winged being in white; as Apocalypse began his attack on Heaven, the being drew his flaming sword and is now bringing it down, slowly but surely, on the M'krann and all of those inside it who were brought there by Apocalypse to watch his final victory.

[rated PG for language]

All around the Liberators the groups and beings snapped back into combat mode, the momentary lull--the vision of the enormous purple being taking control of the M'krann and then launching his attack on Heaven itself had been arresting, to say the least, and most of those watching it had, for a few seconds, forgotten why they were there--broken by the exigencies of battle. Every being found him- or her- or itself facing former friends and allies, resurrected--the dead come back, in literal fashion, to avenge themselves on the living.

The ground around the Liberators surged and rolled, hunks of stony soil seeming to move themselves, as more figures struggled to the surface and then threw themselves at the Liberators, following Mercury's lead. For a few brief seconds the human Liberators, stunned, saddened, and shocked at the prospect of their former friends and fellows-in-arms attacking them, were hard-pressed to do more than just defend themselves; the resurrected dead seemed not at all slowed by their deaths, nor to have lost any of their powers, and they were laying to with a venomous will against the still-living. Mercury used his godly speed to try to kill Captain America, and it was only the quick reactions of the Hurricane, Spitfire, the Whizzer, and the Super Sabre that saved the leaders of the Liberators from a quick and gruesome death. Microman's shrinking powers kept many of the Liberators baffled; he would appear behind one, strike him or her, then shrink and vanish before the others could attack him. The first Human Top's speed threw many of the others on the defensive, his fist or foot penetrating their defenses most painfully and before any of the others could stop him; even when someone like the Challenger could muster the concentration to counter-attack, the Top's speed was too much for them, and none of their attacks touched him. The Victory Boys, Tim, Rusty, and Monstro the Mighty seemed to have gained speed since their deaths, for they were much faster and more able to dodge attacks and land blows. And Mantor's magical onslaught was so fierce that even Monako and Dakor could do little more than keep their shields up and protect themselves.

It was finally the androids who were able to rescue the Liberators; not slowed down by human emotions like sadness or anger, they were free to act according to cold logic and/or their programming. The Human Torch fried Microman and Tim in mid-stride, Flexo and Electro tore the Victory Boys and Rusty apart, Marvex punched his way through Monstro, and the Dynamic Man's fields took hold of Mantor and crushed him.

Captain America spared a brief glance for the other heroes who'd momentarily helped the Liberators, and then shouted for Doc Savage, Monako, Davey (and his Demon), Magar, Major Liberty, and Silent Fox to gather around him and for the other Liberators to take up defensive positions.

When the six were crouched next to him he looked at them each for a moment and then pointed at the awful tableau in the sky and said, "How do we stop it?"

Their expressions were blank and discouraged; Doc Savage's face was neutral, but it was carefully composed, so as to not reflect the real feelings beneath it. Captain America had worked closely with him for some months and had seen him look like this only a few times: when he thought about Monk and Pat and his other, now-dead, companions; when he'd gotten word that the planeload of Liberators--Tim, Rusty, and the Victory Boys--had gone down during the Battle of Algiers; and when AlPanCom had been informed that Convoy PQ-EOE had been sunk. It was an expression that those who didn't know Savage would mistake for thoughtfulness; those who knew him saw it for the thin camouflage over despair that it was.

Savage said nothing, looking for Captain America to the sky and then back to Cap and, almost imperceptibly, shrugging. Captain America looked at Major Liberty and said, "Major, what do your ghosts say?"

The Major, who had been given the power to communicate with and command the ghosts of patriotic Americans, both past and future, said, "I...uh...I'm sorry, Captain, but they're no help. I've asked them, but...they're...well, they're afraid, Cap. I can't...I can't make sense of what they're saying. Even when they slow down and speak English, it just doesn't make any sense. Sorry," he ended apologetically.

Magar shook his head. "I wish my news was better, Captain. The dead are...reluctant to speak. What is occurring in The Beyond frightens even them, but they refuse to say more."

Cap nodded curtly and turned to Davey, whose youthful face, which had formerly reflected a gosh-wow feeling, had turned to hopelessness when he realised that it really was Heaven that was under attack. Cap opened his mouth, but said nothing as his attention was caught by the actions of the other Liberators, who were, unaccountably, disobeying his orders. Cap looked at the rest of his team for a long moment, and thought their actions over, and then mentally shrugged, deciding that they were right and that he hadn't thought things through enough. Cap said to Davey, "What does your...`pet'...say?"

"Golly, Cap, I can't make any sense out of it. Demon, you tell him."

Snarl "He usurps our privileges! He tries to take what is ours by right! I will destroy him for this! There is nowhere in the universe that he can run to where he will escape our wrath!"

Captain America looked at the fanged, snarling, muscular thing and thought hard. He knew something of its background; when Doc Savage had approached him, back in October, about forming the Liberators, he'd given Cap all of the Office of Naval Intelligence files on every active American and Allied paranormal hero and villain, and Cap had read and memorized every one of them, and so was aware that the Demon was, or claimed to be, a supernatural being. "Yours by right? What do you mean?

The thing glared down at him for a moment and sneered. "I do not speak to humans. Only to my...master." It spat something green and viscous which instantly began to burn into the ground where it spattered.

Captain America's right hand shot forward and grabbed it by the loose skin on its chest; caught by surprise, the Demon did not have time to brace itself, and was pulled forward, until its face was only a few inches from Captain America's. Captain America's voice was cold and angry as he said, "I don't. Have time. For this." With his shield hand he pointed at the sky, where Heaven continued to be torn apart. "We need to do something. Now. Or..." His voice faltered. "I don't know if that is really Heaven or not, or...or if God really exists. But that thing that brought back dead heroes is wrong, and needs to be stopped. And if you don't help us do it, I'll--"

The Demon pulled himself out of Captain America's grasp and spat again at Cap's feet. "I do not obey you, human."

Davey yanked with his hand, and although none of the others could see anything linking Davey to the Demon, the effect was very much similar to a large heavy man pulling the leash on his Chihuahua; the Demon was violently pulled off his feet, landing on the ground clutching at his throat and gasping with pain. Davey said, in an angry voice, "You obey me, you big jerk!"

The Demon, pulling at an invisible something around his neck, growled in a guttural language that sounded like something the human throat could not handle. He finally managed to gasp, "He...the one you humans call `Apocalypse'...he tries to replace The Presence. He tries to become the Master Of All That Is--the source of life and death, the beginning and the end. He presumes above himself, to be such a thing! He started out as a human! To overthrow The Presence and become the rulers of the streams of reality is our fate, not his!"

Captain America scowled. "`Our fate'? Who's...who are your brothers? Can they help us?"

The Demon sneered. "Those of us who were cast out from the Shining City after the Rebellion. And the others from before Time, from other universes. We are the ones who will overthrow The Presence, not a human."

This caused the Captain America, Davey, Doc Savage, and Major Liberty to recoil from the Demon, looking at the monster with a combination of repulsion, horror, and awe; Silent Fox looked at it with a serene contempt, seemingly secure in his own beliefs about what might have happened at the creation of the universe, and Monako kept a steady, neutral gaze on the Demon, his thoughts on the Demon's words not readable from his expression.

Captain America said, "You're a...a...."

Monako made a "stop" gesture with his hand. "This is a creature of lies and hate and evil, Captain. Pay it little heed."

The Demon smiled ferally, revealing its fangs, and opened and closed its taloned hands. "Yes, mortal, tell yourself that. I will enjoy relieving you of your innocence one day."

Davey again yanked with his hand, and the Demon fell onto his side, choking and in visible pain. Captain America said, "Thanks, Davey. Demon, will Can they stop...what did you call him...`Apocalypse'?"

A series of explosions near the Crystal made all but the Demon duck, and a short earthquake momentarily prevented the Demon from responding, but when the smoke cleared and the sounds of the explosions faded away, he snarled, "Of course we can, mortal! We are of the Fallen--none can defeat us save The Presence Itself!" He flexed his muscles impressively and gestured at the sky.

Monako sighed and shook his head. "He lies, Captain. It is what he does. Master Shannon, compel him to tell the truth."

Davey made a whipping motion with his hand, causing the Demon to wince. "Cut it out, jerk! Tell the truth!"

The Demon glowered, first at Davey, then at Monako and Captain America; it was a glare that seemed capable of melting stone. Finally he muttered, "No...not while Apocalypse has control of the Reality Gem. Before, while he was still mortal, I could possibly have defeated him myself. Now....he is beyond my power, or that of my brethren." He paused, and then brightened and spoke louder and more cheerfully. "And yours, as well. His victory is assured, but at least I will no longer be your slave. Master."

Monako was about to speak when something about the images in the sky caught his eye, and he craned his head around, curiosity written plain on his face, and stared at the enormous winged figure in white robes whose flaming sword was coming ever closer, almost imperceptibly slowly but also unstoppably, to the M'krann. Captain America was about to speak--he wasn't sure what to say, and he was out of ideas, but he knew that the Liberators needed leadership now more than ever, and Doc Savage's will seemed to be broken--when he noticed Monako concentrating on the sky. He said, "Monako, what is it?"

Monako's lips moved, as if he were whispering something to himself, and his face began to grow pale and tight, but whatever he said was too quiet to be heard over the chaos and noise all around the Liberators; he finally shook himself and said, "One moment, Captain; I must be sure before I say anything more." He turned and gestured at Merzah, who was one of several Liberators crouched behind the Blue Diamond and Stonewall, using them as cover. Merzah ducked into a crouch and scuttled over to Monako and the others. He nodded to the group and said, "Yes, Monako?"

Monako pointed at the white figure in the sky and said, "Do a scan of...that. Find out who it is, what its...his...its name is."

Merzah's brow wrinkled and he frowned as he said, " not sure that is a good idea, Monako. It might be shielded, it might--"

A touch of hysteria entered Monako's voice as he said, "Just do it, Merzah!" He sighed, then removed a silk handkerchief from a breast pocket and with a trembling hand wiped his brow as the others stared at him--Monako losing his composure was a rare thing indeed. "Please, Merzah, I would not ask this of you if it were not important."

Merzah nodded once and turned his head upwards, to look at the white being, obviously concentrating. A white aura instantly appeared around his head, immediately followed by a painfully bright flash of white light, and Merzah was thrown several feet into the air, landing on his back with a pained and surprised "Oof."

He was already climbing to his feet, rubbing his temples, by the time the others reached him. The look on his face was half-hurt, half-surprised, as if his pet dog had suddenly turned and taken a bite out of him. Monako said, "What is it? What did you find?" Silent Fox said, "Where does it hurt? Your head or your mind?" And Captain America said, "Merzah, are you okay?"

Merzah shook his head and said, "I...think so, Captain." He breathed deeply for a moment, then shook his head violently. "Monako, all I got was a name. I tried a surface scan, and even that was like trying to swallow the Atlantic. I got the feeling it could have done a lot worse to me if it wanted to. It...that was a friendly warning, I think."

Monako grabbed Merzah by his shirt-front and yanked him close. "It's name, Merzah, what was its name?!"

Merzah calmly and slowly extricated himself from Monako's grasp, smoothed out his shirt, and said, "Jehoel. That's what it calls itself."

Magar went white and fell to one knee as Monako whirled and, trembling, looked up at the sky. Captain America said, "Monako, what's wrong? Who's...Je-ho-el?"

Monako's voice quavered and shook with fear. "Jehoel, Captain. In other forms it is known as Metatron. It is..."

Monako stopped and compulsively swallowed twice, then drew a cigarette from a silver case and with a shaking hand tried to light it. He dropped the cigarette twice and finally had to be helped by Captain America.

"Jehoel is the mediator of the ineffable name, Captain. It is a prince of The Presence. It is...Jehoel was personally appointed by The Presence to oversee the mortal worlds; it is the guardian and monitor of the Cosmos."

Captain America said, "You's an angel?"

Monako pulled a chrome flask from an inside pocket and took a long pull. "Yes."

Davey said, "So what Reverend Craig told us about Hell is true? That if we...if we have bad thoughts, we're going to Hell?" His lower lip began to tremble and his eyes began to fill with tears, and Merzah whose powers had been momentarily increased by his exposure to Jehoel (at the cost of making him feel like the inside of his head had been abraded with steel wool), caught the flash of a very disturbing memory from Davey.

Monako said, "No, not exactly. It..." His words faltered, and he applied himself again to his flask, which gave off a pungent aniseed scent.

Silent Fox gave Monako a level look, then knelt next to Davey and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. In a tone of surprising softness, he said, "Little Buffalo, do not worry. What you see up there is moonlight on the water--only a reflection of something very different."

Davey, barely holding back the sobs, said, "I don't understand. I'm sorry."

Silent Fox whispered something in a strange-sounding language (its syllables somehow sounding...reassuring to the others, which everyone thought was odd) and lightly touched Davey's forehead once; Davey's head briefly glowed a faint yellow.

Davey broke into a huge smile, the tears gone, and said, "Oh, okay! Thanks!" Happy, he ran towards the other Liberators, saying, "C'mon, Demon, we gotta help the others!"

Silent Fox watched him go, his face grave, and turned to Captain America. "He should not be here, Captain. This is no place for him."

Monako tucked away his now-empty flask and said, "He holds destruction on a leash, Elder. His destiny is among us. If we send him back..."

Silent Fox nodded with obvious reluctance. Captain America, with the air of someone eager to get on with imminent matters but driven to inquire about something of great personal interest, said, "What did to him?"

Silent Fox said, "I healed his wounds, the ones in his spirit; he was hurt by this `Reverend Craig,' and the hurt had festered since then. And I led him to understanding. That--" and he pointed to Jehoel, whose flaming sword had moved incrementally closer to the plain, "--is no more its real form than `Jehoel' is its real name. It is a spirit that we cannot understand, Captain. It is a hand-picked warrior of Mother Earth and Father Sun; to the People it would appear quite differently than the winged angel that you see."

Captain America nodded, clearly relieved, and said, "So...its being here doesn't mean the Bible is true?"

Magar, hearing this, quietly snorted wry and cynical amusement, shaken momentarily from his fear. Silent Fox ignored Magar and said, "Not literally, Captain. The moral and spiritual truth of the Bible is...for you to decide."

Captain America gave Silent Fox a perplexed look, then shook his head and said, "I think...I think this isn't the time or place for this conversation. We have more pressing concerns. Monako, Magar, you both acted like you knew what it was and what it was doing. Explain it to me. Why isn't it fighting...Apocalypse, did he call himself? Why is he going to attack us?"

Magar slowly rose to his feet, shaking his head and momentarily looking very, very old and tired. Monako reached for his flask, remembered he'd emptied it--the alcohol had not taken the edge of his fear at all, and in fact he was feeling more sober than ever--and swore. He glanced at Magar, who with great weariness nodded. Monako said, "Jehoel is the guardian of the mortal worlds; it was personally chosen for that job by The Presence. Now a creature of the mortal universe has acquired enough power to break the gates of The Beyond and hunt through the streets of the Shining City for The Presence. Apocalypse seeks to overthrow God. Jehoel will not--can not--allow this, and is now moving to stop Apocalypse. He will do this by destroying everything."

Captain America paled still further--the plain they were now on was a place of uncertain, flickering light that left everyone on the plain looking pasty and tubercular, even those who were not human--and said, "How do we stop him? God can take care of Himself, I'm sure; we have to halt Jehoel and give God time to stop Apocalypse. Merzah, can you convince Jehoel to stop?"

Monako gaped, then, outraged, grabbed Captain America by his chain mail shirt and began gesturing wildly. "Convince Jehoel to stop? complete IDIOT! Jehoel has failed in its duty; a mortal threatens The Presence! Jehoel intends to make up for its failure by destroying everything, including Apocalypse--it means to wipe the continuum clean of all life! You can't convince it to change!"

Captain America drew back for a moment. Then, "So we beat him. We make him stop. We've got enough power here, we can--"


Captain America, seeing the flecks of saliva flying from Monako's mouth and the hysteria barely held in check, stepped back and very precisely slapped Monako once, with enough strength to turn his head around but not strong enough to throw him to the ground. As the Liberators who weren't otherwise busy stared, Captain America said, "Monako, I need you here, and alert, and not hysterical. Break down when this is over and we're back home; until then, keep it together."

Monako slowly picked his fez up off the ground and replaced it on his head. He ducked his head once. "Yes, Captain. I apologize."

Magar, frowning at the shield-bearer's treatment of his friend and fellow mage, said, "Young man, you do not understand. Jehoel would call it an angel. In its hand see it as a flaming sword, yes? You've been raised to see angels as slim young white men in flowing white robes and flowing white hair, with gentle faces and white-feathered wings?

"You must forget that image. Jehoel are many kinds of angels, and they are all creations of what you would call God. An angel is a...perhaps the best word for it is `spirit.' They are the personal servants of The Creator. There are several kinds of them. You have heard of Thrones and Cherubim and...?"

Seeing the ignorance on Captain America's face, he said, "Captain, just accept that there are different kinds of angel. There are those that announce The Presence, those that carry Its messages, those that counsel the sick in spirit, and so on.

"Jehoel is a warrior angel. Jehoel is the warrior angel; as Metatron it is one of nine Archangels. They are scarcely less powerful than Satan himself."

Captain America scowled stubbornly but said nothing. Monako said, "Captain...warrior angels are not men with wings and flaming swords. They are the deadliest of The Presence's creations, stronger and swifter and more terrible than any of us can imagine. They were designed to destroy the most evil beings in creation. You can no more fight them than you can hold back the dawn."

Monako looked once more at Jehoel's image. "This is the end, I'm afraid. We could hold off the armies of the dead, and stop our own enemies on this plain. But no single mortal can find a warrior angel and win. I'm sorry, Captain, but there is nothing we can do. I suggest you make peace with your own God, for we shall all soon be dead. Neither fighting nor surrendering is an option."

An image briefly appeared in front of Captain America, carrying with it the reek of sulfur; Mephisto's face sneered at Captain America, and he pointed one clawed finger at Captain America and said, "When you die, Captain, your soul will be mine. And then your protection will gain you nothing. Can you imagine a lifetime of only pain? Can you imagine an eternity of it?"

Captain America irritably waved away the image and said to Monako, "No."


"No. I do not accept surrender. I will not accept it. While we live, we fight; and while we fight, there is always a chance we will triumph."

He looked around, first at the Liberators and then at the other heroes, the groups led by "Major Mexico" and "Jacky Canuck" and the others, scattered around the plain. He snapped his fingers to get Merzah's attention and said, "Get everyone over here, Merzah. I don't care what you do--send a mental message, shoot a flair, ask them personally--but get all the heroes over here." He turned on his heel to look at Monako and Magar. "There are other magicians here, right? Talk to them. We're going to need them, and you."

Before Monako could open his mouth to object, Captain America went on. "There'll be time enough for surrender later, Monako. For now, we keep going on." Monako started to speak; Captain America snapped, "That's an order, Sergeant." Although Monako knew, intellectually, that Captain America had no magical powers, there was still something about his voice, when he put that force and emphasis into it, that compelled one to obey, and almost before Monako knew it he was sending magical messages to the mages on the plain, asking them to congregate near the base of the M'krann.

Captain America drew his Liberator and with four quick shots killed the creatures battling Major Mexico and Jacky Canuck. They nodded brief thanks at him and at his come-here gesture ran to him.

Captain America said, "Merzah, fill them in."

A second later Major Mexico and Jacky Canuck rapidly through surprise (at the invasion into their thoughts by the being calling himself "Merzah") and fear (at what "Merzah" told them about the figure in the sky, looming over all of them), ending up with determination (their joint reaction to the idea of surrendering and waiting for death). (Silent Fox, looking at the three with eyes that saw beyond the flesh, noted how similar the three were; they were not related by blood, but in spirit they were brothers and closer than brothers) Captain America said, "Ideas?"

Major Mexico said, "El Papa Grande can take care of himself. El Apocalipsis is not the threat; Jehoel is."

Jacky Canuck nodded. "Right. We may be no match for him one-on-one, but there are enough of us here that we could overwhelm him by force of numbers alone."

Captain America said, "Agreed. We need to get to him, though."

Major Mexico said, "The magicians. You've seen the other `Avengers' here; they probably all brought their Brujas Suprema, as I did. We use them to drag Jehoel down here."

Jacky Canuck said, "Ayuh. I bet there are others like Nelvanna, too--gods and goddesses and spirits. And--"

Captain America saw the direction in which Canuck was pointing and nodded. "I saw them, too. I bet they're angels, but farther down the ladder than Jehoel. We can use them."

Major Mexico nodded. "Captain, use your telepath to communicate with everyone; even the villains will want to help--their lives on the line, too."

Captain America nodded, and Jacky Canuck said, "Good idea. We still need to get rid of the armies and the animals between us and them, though."

Captain America said, "I have an idea about that. We can--"

Major Mexico grabbed his arm and pointed out at the plain.

A distortion in the air swept over the M'krann and the plain around it and over and through those on the plain. The vast numbers of men and women and other on the plain, the time-lost armies of men brought forward by the Master of Time and the sentient dinosaurs and insects trying to grab and eat anything that didn't have the computer beacon in their heads, the carnivorous plants and the undead heroes and villains, all of those things summoned to the M'krann, rather than having traveled through themselves--all were caught in the onrushing distortion and disintegrated, crumbled into whirling dust devils that consumed themselves. Unseen by the other heroes, Father Time smiled briefly to himself.

Major Mexico grinned and said, "That simplifies everything, yes? We have an unseen friend, I think."

Jacky Canuck said, "Best we not disappoint him or her, then." He snapped his fingers, attracting the attention of the Peacekeeper, the Schoonerman, and the other members of the Avengers of Earth-599, and started issuing orders, and Major Mexico quickly followed suit.

In two minutes (or the space of time it took for the flaming sword to dip still lower, so that everyone on the plain around the M'krann began to feel the heat from the sword) the crowd of beings, hundreds strong, was gathered around the base of the M'krann, where Captain America, Major Mexico, and Jacky Canuck were gathered. With the help of Merzah, the Alchemist of Earth-309, Franklin Richards of Earth-666, Moondragon of Earth-670, and a handful of other telepaths, a mental web was set up linking all of the beings. Instructions were sent to everyone; disagreements were hammered out at the speed of thought; those whose pride or intellect would not normally have allowed them to cooperate with others, much less heroes, found themselves both pleaded with (by those better-inclined or more eager to secure their cooperation without hurting their feelings) and threatened (by those impatient to save themselves and the Multiverse and by those who were indignant that any sentient being could place ego or self-interest above helping others), and quickly changed their minds--those doing the threatening were powerful, and some were gods or goddesses, and part of their threat was an implied promise of tracking down those who did not cooperate and punishing them at some later point.

The crowd separated into four groups. The mentats crowded together to plan their attack. The mages, including Monako, the Thaumist of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, the Kabbalist of the Golden Agency, Baron Mordo of Earth-443, the Muezzin of Earth-442, the Mage of Earth-309, Professor Imam of Earth-S, the Scarlet Witch of Earth-1000, the Sorceress of Earth-666, El Bruja Rojo of Earth-573, Fate of Earth-23, Shu of Albion's Crusaders, the Doctors of Earths-878 and -357, the Master Mage of the Chaos Dominion and several others, exchanged thoughts on which spell(s) to use. The most physically powerful individuals of each world, by tacit agreement, drew apart to plot their own attacks; they included several figures calling themselves Overman (among others, one from the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and one from Albion's Crusaders), Tzadkiel of the Golden Agency of Earth-S, the Thors of Earths -443, -14, -1000 and -878, Future Man from the All-Aces Squad of Earth-442, Mighty Mouse and Super Rabbit of Earth-997 (whose perky and upbeat demeanor and attitude drew perplexed and annoyed looks from several of the others), the Schoonerman of Earth-599, Huitzilopochtli of Earth-573, several different Supermen (including one who drooled and gibbered to himself and was clearly in the final stages of some horrible dementia or mental dysfunction), Marvel Boy of Earth-670, Kal-El of the League of Conquerors of Earth-879, Samaritan of the Honor Guard of Earth-880, the Supremes of Earth-881, Prime of Earth-882, and Majestic of Earth-357]

The fourth group were the other powerful beings, ranging from the Tyrant (still smarting from the interruption of his destruction of the Imperial Guard) to the Shiva the Swordsman of the Avengers of Earth-1000 to Appalla the Living Star of the Avengers of Earth-666 to Proctor to Sarahiel and Gaghiel, to both Magi--both the snarling techno-organic one so recently defeated by the Liberators and the Avengers of two worlds, and the humanoid with the purple afro and the glowing stone on his forehead.

After a minute's intense discussion, the groups--still in touch with the linked to each other by the telepaths, who knew that they would be ineffective against Jehoel, and so had relegated themselves to tactical support--readied themselves for the attack.

The sorcerers moved first, each linking their magical energies to each other in a series of glowing, multicolored beams; the beams linked in the air over their heads, became one large ball of colored flame, and shot up into the sky, striking Jehoel and enveloping it completely. The spell--the sum totality of each sorcerer's energies--detonated with a silent and colorless explosion that everyone on the plain felt in their minds rather than on their bodies. With a rapidly lowering groaning sound and a coruscation of colors, Jehoel fell to the plain of the M'krann, seeming to be sucked forcibly from the sky to the ground. It descended in a quick, tight spiral, touching down lightly, something about its stance betraying shock. It instantly whirled around into a defensive stance, its flaming yellow sword held high above its head at the ready.

For the briefest of moments those on the plain got a clear look at the angel. For the humans who'd been raised in Christian lands, it was ten feet tall, with alabaster skin, blond hair, and a face of such exquisite beauty that it hurt to look at Jehoel for more than a moment. Its halo shone with an actinic brightness, and it was surrounded by an aura of the purest white light. Those of good will felt the aura as intimidating, the feeling that a scrawny fourteen-year-old computer geek would experience when placed in a sumo ring with a 300-pound Samoan yokozuna and told, "Win or die." Those with evil personalities felt the aura to be furious and filled with the purest hate for them.

The moment passed and the glimpse ended as the other super-powered beings clustered around the Crystal leapt to the attack. Those with superspeed threw the stones and dropped or discarded weapons and whatever other objects they'd gathered from the plain, each projectile breaking the sound barrier as it shot towards Jehoel; those beings with the power to manipulate and project energies aimed those energies at Jehoel. The barrage, designed to pin Jehoel to one spot so that the Kryptonian-class beings could gang-tackle him, never reached its target, Jehoel's flaming sword spinning at super-sonic speeds as the angel shifted and dodged and blocked at speeds almost faster than light.

Several quanta-seconds later the speedsters ran to the attack, most of them so fast that they were already at Jehoel by the time the Whizzer took his third step. The speedsters had thought to land blows before the Kryptonian-class beings (who were already in flight) would arrive, to aid them and to further (they thought) disorient the angel.

Like the super-fast projectiles and energy beams, the speedsters never reached their target. Those of evil will rebounded off the corona of holiness around the angel and lay unmoving where they fell, much like what would happen to a sprinter who ran full-tilt into a brick wall. Those speedsters who deserved the title "hero" penetrated through Jehoel's aura but were either cut in half by the angel's sword (which did not kill them, the sword not being made to harm those of good intent, but punished the speedster's soul in a most agonizing way) or were struck unconscious by the angel's Divine Gaze (which did no harm to flesh but exposed the souls of the targets to beams of pure Good, making the evil, however small, in those souls to burn, an emotional, mental, and spiritual cognitive dissonance that mortal souls could only escape from in unconsciousness).

A few micro-seconds later the waves of Kryptonian-level beings hit the angel, preceded fractionally by a punishing fusillade of energy beings from their eyes and, in some few cases, their mouths and/or their hands. The sheer numbers of the metahumans allowed them to reach Jehoel, those who were evil hanging back for a crucial three micro-seconds to allow those who were good to penetrate the angel's aura, and then following them once Jehoel was sufficiently occupied not to be able to maintain the defensive aura.

The mages lay on the ground, drained and exhausted; the spell they had attacked Jehoel had taken every last iota of their magical energies and all of their skill, and it was only the fact of the mages' individually high levels of skill and power (many were Sorcerers Supreme, and those who were not were not far below them in skill and experience and power) that had allowed the spell to penetrate Jehoel's magical defenses and strip the angel's immortality and higher nature from it. Forcibly changing a warrior angel--a Prince of The Presence, one of the nine Archangels--into a mortal being was far beyond the abilities of any one of the mages, and even with all of them working together it was a very near thing. (In later centuries scholars would look back on the spell as being the toughest and most powerful magical working since the nameless Grey Mage of Susran, half a millennia before, had sacrificed her own life to stop the Mechanoid invasion of the higher dimensions, destroying the universe which the Mechanoids had conquered and from which they were launching their invasions.)

The mages, gasping and dizzy, watched as the Kryptonian-level beings swarmed around Jehoel, covering him like iron filings thrown at a magnet. The mages watched as figures were flung and blown away from Jehoel, with more beings throwing themselves into the fight, so that Jehoel was no longer visible, and all that could be seen was an enormous pile of struggling, multi-colored costumed limbs.

The pile surged and heaved and lurched until a coruscation of white fire exploded from within, sending all of the Kryptonian-class beings cartwheeling away, to land and lay still. Jehoel's face was expressionless, but it had lost its flaming sword, its aura was flickering, its white robes were askew, its wings distinctly more ragged, and it seemed nonplussed.

Jehoel had only a half-second of peace, and was already reaching for his sword, when the next wave of metahumans hit. The most powerful of the non-Kryptonian-level beings, they had all hoped (those that were capable of emotions) that their efforts would not be required, for while they were all mighty, and many were a match, individually, for a Kryptonian, they knew that something like Jehoel, which could take on dozens of Kryptonian-level beings and survive or even triumph, would also challenge them. So the gods and godlings, and beings with powers to rival gods, threw themselves into the battle, half hurtling forward to grapple with Jehoel while the others unleashed their powers, in all their varied forms on the angel, who instantly began dancing away from the barrage, but did not escape completely unharmed, being brushed by a spray of anti-tachyons from Immortus and a prismatic spray of Kzippa Particles by Nimrod. As the angel ducked and dodged and twirled away from the fusillade, moving in a super-fast (but somehow still beautiful) ballet, driven ever farther away from his sword (as had been the intention of those attacking the angel). Then the wave of bodies hit and overwhelmed Jehoel, carrying him to the ground.

Again, another massive surge of white fire emanating from the angel sent dozens of bodies flying in every direction, but the force of the explosion was less punishing than the previous one, and those who had tackled the angel had been forewarned by the example of what had befallen the Kryptonian-level beings, and so fewer of the attackers were rendered unconscious. Those firing on Jehoel stepped up the attack as they advanced on the angel, giving Jehoel no pause and not allowing him a moment to turn his Divine Gaze or Spirit Shout or any of his many other abilities on the attackers, and then the beings who'd survived the explosion returned to the attack. In the background the Flash of Earth-23, his left arm hanging limp and broken, ran from fallen speedster to speedster, and then to the unconscious and injured Kryptonian-class metahumans, lending each a dose of the Speed Force, temporarily accelerating their metabolisms and enabling them to heal and recover from their injuries much more quickly than usual, and as each regained consciousness they returned to attacking Jehoel.

Sarahiel and Gaghiel were the first to actually wound Jehoel, their own flaming swords darting in and slashing and jabbing twice each before they were knocked out by a blink-quick backhand. Jehoel ducked away from a blow from J'Onn J'Onzz, the former dictator of Mars, only to be rocked by a blast from the Staff of Sefiroth of the Golden Agency. Majestic and Supreme, their costumes in tatters, unleashed a furious combination of superfast blows and eyebeams, and then fell back as three Superman, and Overman and Overwoman of Albion's Crusaders, tackled the angel and brought him to the ground. Jehoel flung them away from him, but then was driven a hundred feet into the ground by a burst of unstable positrons and a focussed pressor beam from Life's Blood of the Aerie. Jehoel leapt from the hole in the ground, only to be clobbered by Super Rabbit and Thor of Earth-14, the latter's Kryptonian hammer driving Jehoel fifty feet across the plain. Jehoel rose somewhat unsteadily, only to be hit by three waves of superspeedsters, whose punches and kicks and headbutts landed at varying speeds from every direction at once. Finally the mentats, judging the time right, sent a massive burst of mental energy at Jehoel, halting him as he was reaching yet again for his sword; Tiki, the "first man" of the Maori and the "Giant-man" of the Avengers of Earth-1000, was closest to the angel, and with the strength that he had used to dig the world from the bottom of the Eternal Sea at the dawn of time, Tiki knocked Jehoel out.

After several seconds of silence, in which the crowd tense and aimed their weapons at the prone and unmoving angel, waiting for it to stir, members of the crowd began whooping and cheering, partly in triumph and partly in relief. Through the thought-web maintained by those telepaths who were still conscious, Major Mexico, Captain Americas of Earth-994 and 14, and the Midnighter of the Authority of Earth-357, all snapped (and a harshly-delivered telepathic message carries far more of an impact than a spoken one), "We're not done yet."

The cheering stopped and everyone turned to look at the image in the sky. The Shining City shone down on the plain, its light again regular and unwavering, bathing those around the M'krann with a soft light. Those looking at the City saw that the scene itself had not changed; the shimmering and almost translucent city, which was felt in the heart (as a swelling of joy) and heard in the mind (as a celestial choir of unearthly music) as much as it was seen by the eyes, still hung in the sky, seemingly abandoned, its streets and luminescent, multi-colored buildings torn and razed, but still looking very peaceful and inviting. The giant face of Apocalypse, still in energy form, roared through the streets and alleys and squares, looking for...something...and becoming increasingly contorted with rage.

Captain America of Earth-878 broadcast, "How do we stop it? Ideas?" His mental "voice" was self-assured and commanding, but he'd had little experience with telepathy, and so did not realize that his underlying thought--ideas on how I can take control of the M'krann?--would leak through as soon as he "spoke" to the others via the thought-net. The reaction of the listeners was anger and revulsion, and the shared good feelings of a moment ago, the camaraderie that had come from together fighting and defeating a much more powerful opponent, disappeared and was replaced by suspicion and distrust.

The Old Soldier, panting and leaning on his cutlass--he had slashed at Jehoel and missed, and then had had to move very quickly to avoid being knocked out by one of the angel's wings, which snapped about with great speed and power--turned to Sarahiel and Gaghiel and said, "You were sent here to defend the Reality Gem. Apocalypse has taken control of it. Bring us to the Shining City so that we can take it back from him."

The two angels exchanged brief glances, seemingly surprised that any of the beings on the plain, mortal or otherwise, might know anything about them. Sarahiel gave the Old Soldier a long, searching look, and finally said, outside the thought-web (neither of the angels were in touch mentally with the others), "Spirit, None But The Dead May Enter The Shining Realm. You Are Barred From It."

Batroc of the Avengers of Earth-621 said, "Zen ‘ow are we to defeat zis cauchemar and save le Dieu?"

Sarahiel said, "The Creator Is In No Danger. The Mortal Spheres Are."

As Sarahiel said this the image over the plain changed, as the face of Apocalypse began to dissolve and the darkness on the edges of the image and along the lines of the buildings began to dwindle. The figures over the plain who had been watching the image of the Shining City as Apocalypse moved through it stirred, including the Vision and another late arrival, a ghostly humanoid whose head hung at a bad angle to its body and was completely covered in a brown hood, and from whose neck trailed a long rope.

Reed Richards, Water of the Mighty Elements of Earth-309, said, "If the Prime Maker is not threatened, then why did Metatron attempt to destroy us all?"

Sarahiel said nothing. Gaghiel said, "Prepare Yourselves. He Comes."

The image of the city faded away, leaving the starless, untroubled black void and the figures in the sky, who had assumed attitudes of readiness. Then the darkness began to be split by a crimson light, which grew, spider-webbing across the sky. The heart of the web, the source of the light--a swirling red-black sphere--grew, and those with keen eyesight could see the face of Apocalypse at its center, growing in size.

At a gesture from the Ant-roid of the Avengers of Earth-997, the Flash of the League of Conquerors ran to him and after a brief high-speed conversation (the Ant-roid being equipped for transmissions in a variety of media and speeds), the Flash ran to each of the mentats and infused them with the Speed Force, greatly accelerating the speed of their thoughts, and via the thought-net, the thoughts of the others on the plain, no matter how alien (the thing from Cygnus-A, a black cloud of whirling, hyper-sharp molecular strands, had thought processes that none of the humans could understand beyond sharply-felt emotions only vaguely related to humans', and what was received from the shoggoth was almost wholly incomprehensible, although it made all the humans feel repulsed and disgusted and frightened). The thoughts and perceptions of the beings on the mental web speeded up, slowing down the external world.

Ant-roid broadcast, "I surmise that Sarahiel attempts to deceive us. Its master is or was threatened."

The Night Watchman of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard said, "I agree. I--"

The Phantom, of the Changelings of Earth-309, said, "How do you know? I mean, they're angels! Why would they lie?"

Fantasma, the Scarlet Witch of the Avengers of Earth-607, said, " protect us? I can not believe that what we are seeing is...`Heaven.' The idea that a book written by committee over several centuries should be accepted as literally true, and that some mythical god would exist, is obviously ludicrous...but these beings obviously serve some vastly powerful being, and if this ultimate capitalist you're calling Apocalypse truly threatens their master, it would be in their own interests to protect him or her or it."

Jack-O-Lantern of Earth-881 said, "No, Fantasma. They do serve The Living All, it is true. But they seek to deceive for other reasons. Apocalypse could have attempted to replace The All through the use of the Cosmos Crystal; for reasons of Its own The All made the Crystal capable of even that. But Apocalypse is little more than a human, for all his power and his centuries of existence. He has never attempted to broaden the limits of his perception. He remains obsessed with power and strength and weakness, his own and others', and so can not surpass his own origins and limitations. His thinking remains trapped in the four dimensions of space and time, and no such puny thing, however strong, can displace The All."

The Challenger growled (and the Liberators were somehow not surprised to mentally hear that even the Challenger's thoughts were hoarse growls), "How do you know all this? Who are you? Why should we trust you?"

Supreme of the Allies waited a moment, but on receiving a nod from the Jack-O-Lantern he said, "He is the...ghost, you might say, of a dead newshound. He fought alongside me for many years. I trust him implicitly. You should, too."

The Challenger said nothing, but his mental signature--the impression those on the mental net received when they telepathically "felt" for him--gave off a dour skepticism.

The Batman of Earth-23 said, "This is all irrelevant. Regardless of whether Jehoel is an angel serving God--" and he mentally said the word with extreme distaste, "--or merely a soldier for some powerful being, this `Apocalypse' is still in control of the M'krann, and we still need to separate him from it."

The Hawkeye of Earth-994 reached beneath his costume and nervously groomed himself; mutual grooming was a large part of the society of Earth-994, and the Avengers of that world had not had a chance to groom each other for several hours, something which they all found very distressing. Almost by accident Clint Barton broadcast, "He's too big to hit; we have to find another way to get to him."

90% of those on the mind-net felt annoyance, although most of them were too polite to point out that Barton had spoken the painfully obvious. The other 10% were taken aback as the implications of what Barton had said sunk in.

The Black Panther of Earth-14, who as both a Martian and a telepath was used to thinking and acting at much greater speeds than most "normal" people, broadcast, "If I might intrude...I think Mr. Barton has struck on a promising line of action for us. Direct attacks, whether physical or using various energies, will not do. This `Apocalypse' is too powerful for that; he would destroy us all. What is called for here is an oblique attack."

The Scarlet Witch of Earth-1000 privately sent a message of warm affection and agreement to the Black Panther--like him, she was a native telepath, and in her native Earth, in far-away Myth Space, she lived and moved at a much faster rate than normal mortals, and so she and the Panther had already had long conversations in which they'd established a mutual intimacy and warmth--and then broadcast, over the mindnet, "J'Onn is right. This is not an enemy to be overcome with fists or heat vision. Something much subtler is called for, the trickiest forms of magicks. I know a spell that will bedazzle his senses. It--"

A so-far unheard voice broke in. Sneaky Pete, of the Avengers of Earth-N, said, "No. Please excuse me for interrupting, ma'am, but that's not gonna work either. You're on the right track, but you didn't take it far enough."

Sensing that he had the attention of everyone on the mindnet, he paused, momentarily quailing under the weight of their mental "gaze," but his confidence impelled him to continue. "I have, I think, as much experience with traps as anyone here. Well, anyone human, anyhow. And the best trap works when it comes from a direction that the victim not only didn't expect, but didn't conceive of. Someone like Apocalypse, he's too strong for direct attacks, you're right. But even something like magic he'll be prepared for. And no matter how quick your spell is, he'll be quicker--he can control time with the M'krann, right? The instant he can tell that his senses are being attacked, he'll stop time and wipe us out. No, we have to attack him through a trap, something that he'll take for granted until it's too late. It...."

Pete stopped, his glance darting to the sky, as the translucent and ghostly figures in the sky above the M'krann suddenly looked down. At him. The cumulative attention of those on the mindnet shifted, following Pete's gaze, and then performed the mental equivalent of holding their breath; the group of figures had so far not acknowledged the efforts of those on the plain below them, and none of the heroes and villains and others on the mindnet knew how they would react or why they would suddenly pay attention what was happening below them.

A massive and powerful presence appeared on the mindnet, the cosmic beings above the M'krann suddenly inserting themselves onto the mindnet and making the heroes and villains feel like an ant caught in a tornado.

The Vision of the Liberators spoke over the mindnet. "I have had the most recent  experience dealing with mortals, so I have been chosen to communicate with you. Most of the others with me--Arishem, the Tribunal, the Guardian--are so far above you that even a shielded thought transmission from them would kill you.

"Mr. Petruski, you are correct. Apocalypse will only be stopped if you attack him in ways he does not expect and cannot conceive of."

The Maha Yogi of Earth-670 snapped, in a surly manner, "Why don't you do it, then, ghost? Why should we risk ourselves, if you and your allies are so much greater than we?"

Before the mortals and gods on the mindnet could respond, the Vision said, in an emotionless way, "We have been fighting on levels beyond your comprehension, trying to hold back his power. We--NO!HE COMES!"

The mental presence of the cosmic being instantly withdrew from the mindnet, but not before the heroes and villains caught a flash of almost unbearable agony, leaving many of them with migraine-level pain that only slowly receded. The images of the ghostly beings were suddenly flung away from the skies over M'krann, as if caught by an enormous explosion, and the M'krann itself and the ground under the heroes' and villains' feet reshaped itself into Apocalypse's face.

A last, pain-filled burst of thought from the Vision made it onto the mindnet--"He is only mortal!"--as Apocalypse began laughing. As the heroes and villains began moving to attack, Apocalypse roared, in vile good humor, "THE LOWER SPECIES OF BEINGS HAVE FALLEN! ANGELS AND CELESTIALS AND SO-CALLED `GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE' PROVEN USELESS AGAINST ME! BUT STILL THE INSECTS AND AMOEBA FIGHT ME! SO LET THEM TOO SUFFER THE FATE OF ALL WEAKLINGS--EXTINCTION!"

All of those with super-speed, whether naturally-based or derived from the Speed Force, immediately saw that Apocalypse was pausing to gloat, and held rapid conferences first with the mentats, who immediately severed the mindnet, and then with various heroes and villains, those who had been inspired by the words of Sneaky Pete and the final transmission of the Vision and had come up with ideas for attacking Apocalypse, and by the time Apocalypse bellowed the word "Extinction!" the heroes were moving into action.

As Apocalypse sent a wave of annihilation at the heroes, Air of the Mighty Elements of Earth-309 had changed herself into a sonic being, and in the form of sound waves had projected herself into Apocalypse's being; he had transformed himself into a creature of almost pure energy, but he could still hear and thus was vulnerable to Sue Storm in her sonic form. Appalla of the Avengers of Earth-666 changed into her energy form and propelled herself into his eyes, using the same logic as Sue Storm--logic whose conclusion was valid, for Apocalypse, extremely powerful though he was, had not anticipated attacks in the form of light and sound. Both distracted Apocalypse long enough for the assembled mages to cast a powerful defensive spell and protect the heroes from Apocalypse's disintegration beam.

By the time Apocalypse had dealt with Air and Appalla, killing both with a lethal thought, the next wave of attacks came, aided by the secret actions of Father Time. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four of Earth-878 unleashed his most awful weapon and Grzny RRR broadcast himself at Apocalypse. Richards' weapon was a metaphor beam, a quantum-based cluster-meme that, once inside a target's brain, would do untold damage, totally destroying the victim's thought processes and rendering him or her or it unable to think anything but the meme. Grzny RRR, a complex mathematical progression whose being was only a concept in anything less than three dimensions, worked on the same lines.

Apocalypse did not perceive the nature of the attack for two reasons: the first was that he had only anticipated and guarded against telepathic attacks. The idea that concepts themselves might be lethal was outside of his ability to conceive. The second reason was that, despite his complete control of the M'krann Crystal, and therefore his ability to manipulate all of space and time, he had reinserted himself into the four dimensions of space and time when he had exited Heaven. Apocalypse, who at the core was only a mortal human with an almost unimaginable amount of power, had no practice at freezing time and could not imagine a way to be of the four dimensions of space and time but not vulnerable to attacks from them. Nor did Apocalypse, used to living in the four dimensions of space and time and intuitively (despite his intellectual knowledge) seeing time as an unvarying constant, conceive of time as a weapon.

Which is why Father Time's attack got through. He first gradually slowed time itself to a stop, halting the moments in careful increments so that Apocalypse would not notice. He then created a new timestream, branching it off from the main Fourth Dimension and isolating it in a pocket universe which (he hoped) Apocalypse would mistake for the real thing. After making sure that Apocalypse had not noticed his efforts, he then froze time around Apocalypse himself.

After a few seconds of stunned amazement--it had all happened so quickly--the heroes and villains attacked, unleashing spells and mental force beams and every other weapon and offensive ability at their disposal. Those without the ability to hurt Apocalypse watched as enormous hunks of their enemy were disintegrated. They began, at long last, to feel the stirrings of hope that, just maybe, they were on the verge of defeating Apocalypse...

...when time resumed and his face reformed, filled with hate and outrage, and he snarled, "YOU WILL SUFFER AN ETERNITY OF TORMENT FOR THIS."

Without a gesture he froze time around them, unraveled the pocket universe, and forced the timestream to resume its course. He said,  "IT IS THE HALLMARK OF THE STRONG TO ADAPT AND EVOLVE. YOUR EFFORTS SURPRISED ME, BUT THEY COULD NOT DESTROY ONE SUCH AS I."

The heroes and villains, immobilized by Apocalypse, saw the matter of the void in the vacuum beyond the planet of the M'krann begin to congeal and solidify into a glowing and familiar shape.


The shape resolved itself in seconds, becoming a sight the surprised heroes and villains had feared only a scant half-hour ago: Jehoel, his robes ragged around him, his face a mask of angelic contempt for Apocalypse and his flaming sword held high. The massive, unstoppable wave of his thoughts, tinged with such fury as to make all those of evil intent cringe, hit the heroes at the same time it, and Jehoel's sword, hit Apocalypse.

The sword, and Jehoel's voice-borne spiritual attack--another weapon that Apocalypse had no frame of reference for and could not conceive of--swept through Apocalypse.

There was a flash of lightlessness and a wave of silence, and then the heroes and villains were again standing on the plain of the M'krann, in the positions they had taken up when they had first arrived on the planet. The dead had been brought back and the wounded healed. In all but two things it was as if the fight had never taken place. Apocalypse, however, was nowhere to be seen, and Jehoel now stood in front of the M'krann, his flaming sword barring the way. He brought it around again in a horizontal cut, slicing through every member of the crowd. As he did so he said,  "THE BEING THAT YOU CALL THE M'KRANN CRYSTAL IS NOW UNDER MY PROTECTION. ANY ATTEMPT TO TAKE CONTROL OF IT WILL MEET WITH MY WRATH."


And then the flaming sword reached the Liberators, and when their eyes cleared they were back in their tents in North Africa, their ears and minds still ringing from the words of Jehoel.

Author's Notes

For information on who these characters are, check out the following pages:

A Guide To The Liberators

The Cast List to "End Of All Things"

This is the last time I write an issue this long, I promise you.

Next issue: Liberators #26: My Name Is Hans-Jurgen Syberberg