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Jul 21, 2018 8:51 PM
or through the astral door
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a fingersnap in any other universe would sound as sweet
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Emperor Solekaran is undoubtedly a terrifying figure. The manner in which he appeared here suggests access to substantial power.

The smaller humanoids cower in his presence.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Thanos is aware that in his present weakened state there's a chance--a sliver of a chance--that he's not currently the most powerful being on this planet. However, this possibility does not concern him overmuch.

 

Thanos meets eyes with the emperor.

"Some time before the sun rose on this particular coastline, half of all advanced life forms died--at complete random, with no bias towards any particular kind or creed. It happened suddenly, ended just as quickly, and caused very little pain. It will not happen again, at least not for a great many lifetimes. Your people are safe."

 

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"Funny definition of 'safe' you got there."

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"Don't be obtuse." Thanos takes a breath, leans back, shakes his head slightly and spells out his meaning in more detail. "Your people will be safe, in the future, from the specific hazard that is currently under discussion."

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"Eh, fair enough."

He glances over at the townsfolk, who are edging away, and Viasarae's daughter, who is standing very still but doesn't look nearly as terrified. "Your mom says hi," he tells her. "Nice lady, I like her style."

Viasarae's daughter nods stiffly.

Solekaran sighs slightly and returns his attention to Thanos. "Why don't we go talk about this somewhere less crowded," he says, and summons another portal, this one big enough for Thanos. The shimmering oval is stable enough this time to show what's on the other side: a peaceful hilltop with a beautiful view of the ocean.

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Thanos likes peaceful hilltops.

 

He steps through the portal.

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Solekaran follows him through and closes it behind them.

"So. What the fuck did you do? And where'd you come from?"

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"I saved the universe."

 

Thanos sits down at the crest of the hill, reaching out a hand (not the one currently encased by tangled metal) and running his fingers through the grass beside him.

 

"To tell you which direction I came here from, I'd first have to know where 'here' even is."

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"Saved... the universe," he repeats slowly, with a mix of skepticism and confusion. "From what?"

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"Depletion, ruination, uninhabitability." Thanos glances meaningfully at the gauntlet molded to his left fist. "People talk a lot about 'Infinities' but the truth of the universe is that all things are, ultimately, finite."

The gems flicker intermittently, they've only retained a minute reservoir of cosmic power. Thanos coaxes a sustainable allotment of power from that reservoir, conjuring into the air around the emperor a projection of the local galactic supercluster--in which the Milky Way where he fought his battles is only a tiny blip.

 

"You wanted to know where I'm from? It hardly matters--it's a dead world. Overrun, overtaxed and now desolate." Scenes from earlier in Thanos' life play out amidst the illusory projection from the reality gem. In the course of these memories the planet Titan goes from a verdant paradise, to a strife-strewn warzone, to a graveyard. "I've sent survey teams to countless stars across a multitude of galaxies, and found the situation that claimed my homeworld was hardly unique. The universe was dying, to a threat no one in all the cosmos had the will to face head on. Perhaps it hadn't reached your world yet? But it would have."

 

Thanos heaves a long sigh.

"Someone had to do something. You understand that, don't you?"

 

 

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He frowns, thoughtfully.

"I've ruled this world for five thousand years and in all that time we've never come close to running out of even the amount of land we've got. And there's room for me to raise more continents if we did. Was the rest of everywhere really dying that fast?"

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"The people you rule. They're... humans, yes?"

It seems a safe bet. For reasons nobody can adequately explain, the species Homo Sapiens recurs upon more distinct planets throughout the universe than any other, and the small humanoids back in the city certainly resembled said genetic stock at a cursory glance.

 

"If so, their lives are probably too short to appreciate the imminence of the universe's depletion."

The illusory galaxies orbiting the two of them wink out one by one.

"But to beings operating on a longer time-frame, like you and me? Yes. Absolutely. The end was frighteningly close."

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"So my next question is, why do that about it?"

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"Because the perfect is the enemy of the good. I could have spent countless millennia searching for a more palatable solution, but during that time more planets would die and there'd be no guarantee I'd even succeed. To alter the destiny of the entire universe is no mean feat, and the few powers capable of enabling such a feat are not subtle ones."

 

 

 

 "So I did something unsubtle, unpalatable, but certain."

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"...I'm not seeing 'certain' here."

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"I don't mean that this is a permanent solution. Just that it is certain to push back the end by a substantial degree. If worst comes to worst, I'll do it again in a few hundred millennia. I'll buy us all time, and make quality of life that much higher for the majority of people living in the intervening era."

 

 

"And maybe someday in the far future, on a day that I bought with this sacrifice, somebody smarter than me will devise something more palatable or more permanent."

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He sighs.

"I'm not normally in the business of saving worlds, but I am gonna be annoyed if this happens again. So I guess I'd better get off my ass and do something about it."

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"Noble words," Thanos said. "Ones that, if acted upon, should be applauded wholeheartedly."

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He snorts.

"What'd you use to kill half my people, anyway? I've never seen magic like that."

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"I hesitate to divulge the precise methods necessary to inflict death on a universal scale."

 

Thanos frowns, and gives the emperor a sidelong glance.

 

"I'm sure you can imagine how horrible things could go, if knowledge of such a power ever fell into the wrong hands?"

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"Oh, I already have the power to kill half the people in the universe if I felt like it," he says cheerfully. "It'd just take me a while. But if you really did your thing all at once, everywhere, then maybe if I had something like that and I wanted to, say, give everybody a second planet, I could do it on the kind of scale you're talking about without having to spend five straight centuries conjuring rocks one at a time."

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"Five centuries?" Thanos blinks. "You really believe you have the power to reshape the universe to such a degree, in a mere five centuries?

 

Needless to say, in the meandering course of his cosmic quest the titan called Thanos has Seen Some Shit. But the casual claim that Emperor Solekaran just made has successfully roused his seldom used sense of skepticism.

 

"It is possible that you don't fully understand the scope we're discussing here. As we speak, there are one billion trillion stars systems contained in just the tiny sliver of the universe that you could survey from your present vantage point on this planet, and countless more cast radiance from so far away that their light has not even reached here yet."

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"That wasn't an actual estimate. I've never built a planet before, I have no idea how long it takes. But conjuring rocks isn't hard. Resurrection is hard, conjuring rocks is easy. I bet I could scale up much quicker than you think."

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If you really thought you had the power to help so many people, why haven't you tried to apply it yet?

Thanos has an uncharitable gut reaction to Solekaran's casual words, but he takes a second to think them over consciously before speaking a response aloud.

 

He casts his gaze out across the countryside beyond the hilltop, drinking in the unspoiled natural beauty with a slowness he he'd rarely allowed himself in the years of his earlier quest. The emperor had implied that this particular planet was in no immediate danger of overcrowding, and at a glance he certainly looks correct on that count. Provided he never traveled off-world, and that his planet was far enough out of the way that it hadn't yet encountered refugees from a less fortunate one, it's completely plausible that Solekaran never would have had any reason to suspect that conditions elsewhere in the universe were less idyllic than in his own back yard.

 

Yes. Thanos has spent his life in perpetual conflict with the willfully ignorant. But the gaps in his current host's knowledge do not seem a willful sort.

"Perhaps fate brought me here for a reason." Thanos rises to his feet and plods back to the emperor's side. "If you have the sort of capacities you claim to, I would gladly aid you in the pursuit of applying them at a universal scale."

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He laughs softly. "Until this morning, I didn't even know there was a universe out there with other people in it. What a day."

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Thanos steals a glance at his mangled infinity gauntlet. His gaze lingers on the soul gem in particular.

 

 

 

 

"Indeed. What a day."

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