No one on Earth is ready when the cosmic messenger first arrives. A tremendously powerful humanoid being, an idealised human form with polished, mirrored silver skin appears above the oversized, overstocked, unsleeping metropolis of the city of New York. The impossible cosmic being levitates above a gathering crowd in Times Square, regarding the people with an enigmatic visage, his eyes the same perfectly reflective silver as the rest of his physique. He stands on an elliptical silver board, as long as he is tall.
He raises a hand, holding it out in front of him, creating the impressive depth effect for which he will soon come to be known, casting deep, urgent black shadows. He speaks, effortlessly silencing the awed people with his words, and the deep, tolling significance of his intonations make it feel to all present as if every sentence he speaks, nay, every word, should be bolded, and accompanied with an exclamation point.
"People of this Earth!" he says. "Take heed, and still your hearts! Though you did not realise it, these past months and days, your world has been accelerating towards its conclusion. A final peace is coming! Three rotations from now, all that lives on this world will be destroyed! Every spark of brilliant life, from the greatest cetacaean to the most trivial bacterium, will have its light extinguished! Every colour in your immense gamut will become as grey as ash! All heat and joy will be drawn from your planet, and the world itself put to an end. Three days!"
Multicoloured bubbles fill space around him.
There is a breathless pause, and then an unintelligible roaring of numerous mutually conflicting responses: terror, anger, wonder, disbelief. The herald surveys the roaring people and listens to them all.
"I, ah," he adds. "I believed that there were those among you prepared for such threats. Super-individuals, heroes of science and reason, capable of confronting, comprehending and overcoming the cosmic. Will no one of this rare kind answer me? I was of the belief that this mighty city was where such people as your Earth had to offer made their home!" Aside, to himself, he adds, "Perhaps I was correct the first time? When I visited Milton Keynes?"
The shining figure waits, employing its Patience Cosmic, but a super-scientist makes no appearance, with or without an entourage of supporting characters. Nor does any other agency or unaffiliated hero deign to confront him.
He rallies to a conclusion. "Beware, then! A myriad worlds have fallen before yours! Summon your champions, if indeed you have them! (Perhaps I was misinformed.) Grieve and rage, while you may, for Galactus, the end of all, is coming! And now, I depart! ...Oh!"
The luminous herald hesitates, discovering that a small bird is flitting around him, investigating his distractingly reflective figure. He holds an index finger out, as a perch, and the curious bird lands there, and examines him intently, between nervous, rapid turns of the head to examine the rest of its surroundings— it is a prey species, after all. It is a red-breasted bird with a stout tum, feathers frothed up against the winter cold, and a little bill ideal for nipping at seeds and berries. Crucially, the herald's knowledge of Earth fauna is incomplete; he does not realise that this is a European robin, an ocean away from home. And there is much more which is strange about this bird...
"I depart," the herald says again. A slightest exertion of his cosmic power, and his board rises, taking him back to his orbiting starship, and his quarters.
The bird flits around the silver visitor's suite, chirruping at what it finds.
"Amuse yourself, bird!" the silver man says. "From time to time, I have seen fit to preserve fragments of these many destroyed worlds! Fractions of their art, samples of their plant life... animals. Here, see! This hall leads to my collection of their remnants! Many fought bravely, but none successfully! The Power Cosmic with which they confronted was beyond their comprehension... how could it not also be beyond their handling?"
The robin bounces down the hallway, which is lengthy, and tall, and truly stocked to the rafters with bewildering trinkets and entities. For some, it is difficult, at a glance, to ascertain whether they are living or dead, and whether naturally occurring or created.
"And if you become hungry, you may join me in my food preparation area. For I have developed a taste for... the sense of taste itself. Do not inform my master Galactus, but from time to time I permit myself to become mortal, and to become hungry, and to eat. Here, see? The silver leaves me, and I become as I once was, before I was a herald."
The bird returns to the Surfer's quarters. It explores the lavishly-appointed open plan. It is unclear when, if ever, the Surfer would have cause to make use of the soft furnishings for something as simple as relaxation. There are mirrors, ornaments, vases. The bird approaches a chest of drawers in one corner. And it peeps,
"These drawers are unstable!"
The Surfer returns from the kitchen. "Ah! Sapience. Or perhaps only sound reproduction? Are you able to carry on a conversation, bird?"
"I am, Surfer," the bird proclaims. "For my world does not contain the breed of brash, broadly characterised hero scientists you evidently expected, and might have encountered on alternate Earths. In their stead, my kin and I protect this world, using the immense power of diligent consumer products research."
"Your kin? Ah, I recognise your species now. European robins? They all converse on your world?"
The bird turns back to the drawers. "This item of furniture is improperly anchored to the wall. If a small child were to pull out one or two of these drawers, or attempt to climb its front, the drawers could fall forward and crush them. These drawers are from the Eenoon 40 people of the Sjici Cluster, are they not? Their manufacturer issued a product recall notice."
The Surfer laughs. "Upstart bird! The Eenoon 40 people are no more! Erased from the face of this cosmos, millennia ago!"
The bird nods sagely. "Indeed, and yet, a recall notice persists for as long as the product. Alternatively, it is easy to obtain and install wall anchoring straps."
"When, bird, do you imagine that a child would visit this place?"
"When you are defeated," the bird remarks, casually. "No, not all my kind speak. I am Handsome Ron. There are other birds of power on my world. If my comrade Bird Ben Franklin were here, he would be examining your dryer lint filter around now. What do you suppose he would find, Surfer?"
The Surfer laughs and returns to his expansive kitchen. "An excess of dryer lint, I imagine." He puts a pan on a hob and begins to cook.
"Hazardous, Surfer," Handsome Ron says. He follows the herald into the kitchen. He hops around the place, poking his little beak into each corner.
"Your kitchen is most impressive," he states. "And yet, it falls far short of any Earth kitchen. Here! Beneath your sink! Cleaning products decanted into unlabelled bottles instead of being kept in their original containers! And here, a window looking out upon the vasty brilliance of our Milky Way galaxy, but whose window blind features an easily snaggable cord. And here!" He flits up toward the ceiling, where there is a smoke alarm, and pecks at its "test" button. Little happens. "You should check your batteries twice a year. At Daylight Saving Time, when you put the clocks forward or back."
The Surfer laughs. "Handsome Ron, your advice is meaningless! In three Earth days, Daylight Saving Time, and even the very notion of the Earth year, will cease to exist."
"Improbable," Handsome Ron remarks.
"And what else do you see, Handsome Ron?" the Surfer asks.
"I see nothing," Handsome Ron replies. "I see a significant empty space... where, in every kitchen back on Earth, there is a fire extinguisher. And furthermore, I see a Surfer not paying attention to his treasonous cooking; a Surfer with his back to the pan. And a flame, out of control!"
The Surfer turns, nudging the overhanging handle of his pan, and coming close to spilling his burning food. He hurriedly moves the pan to a different hob. After some waving of tea towels, the fire is handled, but not well. The food is lightly scorched, and so is the towel.
"You are a bother, bird, but an amusement."
"I was warming up," Handsome Ron says. "I concede that your Power Cosmic protects you from such mortal concerns as these I have so far enumerated. However! You, too, are a consumer of unsafe consumer products. I see the structure of your starship. The vast waldoes, which you use to manipulate the engine and flip this ship between the furthest stars, are improperly stowed. If someone were to fall upon them, an unexpected jump could ensue, or some other inadvertent manoeuvre. Additionally, I sense that your cosmic energy drains are oriented improperly; were your gravitational plating to misfire, cosmic energy could be vented into a living area, with disastrous results."
The Surfer stops cooking and turns again, now genuinely perturbed. "This ship was designed by Galactus himself! He harnessed the primordial Power Cosmic itself to assemble it. I had always believed it took after a design by Galactus's own late lamented people! From the prior universe, of which he is the only survivor!"
"My comrades have superior insight into consumer products safety records," Handsome Ron chirps. "Even at this moment, my compatriots, the feline Dr. Copernicus Jackson and his daughter Dr. Jade Jackson, are creating navigable interfaces between our Earth internet, your ship, and the records of this prior universe. Before that universe was lost to its Big Crunch, before Galactus' people died out, two hundred and seventy-one of them died or were injured in accidents relating to, but possibly not directly caused by, misconfigured shipboard Power Cosmic flues. This endangers even you, even now, even your cosmically powered form."
The Surfer becomes silver again. He says, "...And your comrades. Powerful, are they? Capable of following you across space? Is that your plan? To intentionally sabotage my ship in such a way as to turn its cosmic energies upon me?" Aside, he mutters, "Dare I admit that there is a real threat?"
Handsome Ron fluffs his delightful red breast up again. "The danger is real, and my comrades are even now aboard your ship... disabling the dangerous equipment, and arranging for safe repairs to be made. We bear you no ill will, Surfer. Our priority is Universal Consumer Products Safety."
At that moment, the whole ship twitches, and the Power Cosmic illuminating it flickers, but becomes strong and steady again. And Handsome Ron's crew appear: an unlikely assemblage of cats (both big and small, both toothy and fluffy), canids, winged giraffes, astronauts and unicorns, and stranger things. Every one of them is suffused with a brilliant glow, yellow or cyan or pink. Bird Ben Franklin, a rotund northern cardinal in a small black top hat, bobs into view. And outside of the living area's bay window, in space, a snowy owl the size of a mountain swoops up, and then lands with an immense clang on the starship hull. It looks into the room, upside-down, and screeches.
The screech means, "Always keep your generator at least twenty feet from your house, and never indoors."
"Extraordinary," the Surfer remarks. "You have found an ally this day, friends! Galactus endangered me! Unwittingly!"
"No," Handsome Ron says. "Wittingly. As you know, in addition to the Power, Galactus commands the Knowledge Cosmic. His knowledge is far beyond yours, and encompasses two universes."
"Then not only have you found an ally, but Galactus an enemy!" the Surfer proclaims. "Your Earth is safe for now. We take the fight to Galactus now, the fight for safe consumer products!"