Powers Cosmic #0
Written by Morfex and Marvelite
Powers Cosmic #0: "Apprenticeship"
Special thanks to Mab, Janus, and Fenris Ulf for their suggestions!
(Note: This story takes place several centuries before Marvel's Modern Age.)
The Devourer of Worlds faced his sibling, the
representation of this universe summed up in the manifestation called Eternity. Eternity's
words were as worlds hurtling through the cosmos. "This summons is unusual and
unexpected, brother. Why have you requested an audience with me at this juncture?"
Galactus' tone was had a surprising urgency. "Eternity, Galactus has need of an heir, a friend, a confidante, an apprentice with whom to share the lonely eons. It was your predecessor's will that I maintain a fragment of my former existence. It is a curse I have borne too long. If I must continue to be bound to even a remnant of the morality of mortality, then I seek a salve for this ache within me. I have decided to contact he who shall become the Keeper."
"Do you not remember the last time we had this discourse? The result was the Tyrant, and the cancerous destruction of galaxies that are as my cells."
"You know the true circumstances of that event, yet you seek to twist them for your purposes. You surprise me, brother. I would expect you to applaud my current decision as one that favors life."
"Galactus, you serve a purpose, you are a Force of Nature. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I do not seek to raise the ire of my counterpart, our sister, Death."
"It is clear to me now that, in this matter, you will not stand as my ally. I therefore seek to address the Assemblage of Cosmic Peers."
"It is your right, mighty Galactus."
The Assemblage members observed each other warily.
Galactus was an ominous presence, even among the formidable Cosmic Beings gathered. His eyes never blinked, the rough rectangles that were equivalent to his pupils pulsated with the life-energy of the cosmos. His tone was hostile for one who stood among equals so rarely.
The Grandmaster stroked his azure chin with spidery fingers. His long, thin frame belied the stores of primordial power within him. His fellow Cosmic Beings noted that the Elder conveyed an air of cold amusement at the proceedings.
The Collector's craggy visage was one of many he wore, but one he preferred as indicative of his Elder status. His lips were almost imperceptible; his teeth appeared flat and smooth like those of an herbivore. Despite his status as a Cosmic Being, he was born at the dawn of all universal civilizations as a simple humanoid.
Mistress Death wore a simple velvety robe, elegant in its modesty. This day she chose the features of an attractive female humanoid, perhaps as a subtle mockery of the humanoid Elders that must ever fear her icy embrace.
Mistress Love was as glorious as Sire Hate was sinister. Their hands were held together as if by force. Hate understood that his existence would cease without his counterpart. Unlike Order and Chaos, these emotional Abstracts were aware that dominance would be forever denied them. With the elimination of Hate's opposite, there would remain no frame of reference from which the universe could define Hatred. Balance assured existence, power, and longevity. He despised this compromise, but despising was his favorite pastime, after all.
Eternity rarely made his presence known at such gatherings, for were not all Cosmic Beings aware that they convened within and throughout him? On this occasion, Eternity took form. His corporeal image displayed some of the greatest astronomical wonders imaginable. Supernovae, black holes, swirling galaxies, quasars, pulsars, white dwarves and red giants, all presented themselves among his limbs and torso. The Cosmic Beings present could sense astronomical wonders mere mortals could not, and it was truly a sight to behold.
Master Order and Lord Chaos hovered, disembodied heads resembling the Earthly symbols of comedy and tragedy. Order's features were precise and symmetrical. Chaos bore a disfigured and twisted expression.
The Celestial known as Arishem the Judge wore crimson armor ironically similar to that of Galactus. Unlike the Devourer, Arishem's entire head bore armor, leaving no opening. As with everything about the Celestials, their appearance beneath the thousand-meter armor was a mystery to all, even to most of the Cosmic Beings present. Arishem's hand was open, palm facing upward. On it stood the God-stalker, the mouthpiece of the Space God. The God-stalker appeared to be a miniature Celestial, with functional variations of the armor.
The Gardener appeared to be the most relaxed of the Cosmic Entities assembled. Comfortably adorned in a simple tunic, the Gardener seemed to lean on the curved staff he carried. His hair and beard were gray, for, like the Collector and the Grandmaster, he enjoyed displaying his Elder status. Among such timeless beings, however, humanoid signs of aging were meaningless.
The Hawk God was known on each sentient planet by a different name: Raptor, Predation Personified, Winged Huntress, Sharra and Kithri, Katar Hol. All worlds understood the survival instinct married to the thrill of the hunt. Songs were sung, epics written of the primal urges this entity represented. His appearance on this occasion was that of a humanoid bearing an elaborate helmet and armored wings the shade of a clear blue sky.
The Stranger dressed gaudily, all reds and yellows and greens. His facial hair was purposely kept angular, giving the impression of diabolical intent. His hair was as white as that of the Elders, perhaps indicative of his desire to be recognized with the respect due an ancient Cosmic Entity. Secure in his superiority among most beings, the Stranger's behavior became more defensive among his Cosmic Peers.
The Watcher called Ecce dutifully observed the gathered cosmic forces. His robes were similar to the Gardener's in their simplicity. His head was smooth and hairless; it appeared to be dramatically out of proportion with his body. His eyes seemed like glazed spheres, his face expressionless.
The In-Betweener stood between Order and Chaos, his form divided into white and black alternating swatches. His arms were crossed, his expression unreadable.
Odin wore his most formal Asgardian warrior's ceremonial garb: a furred cape covered the elaborate armor that covered him below the neck. His immense horned helmet nearly doubled his height. His spear, Gungnir, was firmly in hand. He represented the Sky-Fathers with lordly dignity.
Eon's face was carved into the surface of a tree-like stalk, a grim jack-o-lantern.
Kronos, also called Chronos, stood, a pulsing light violet humanoid with barely discernable facial features.
The Shaper of Worlds hovered in a technological construct that replaced his corporeal form from the waist down. His complexion was a chalky white, his ears and chin reminiscent of the Skrull race.
Mephisto stood proudly among the beings assembled. The pigment of his flesh matched the blood soaked hue of his attire. His cape surrounded his entire body, leaving only his head visible. Tufts of unkempt dark crimson hair framed his diabolical features. Any lesser being would surely consider him Evil Incarnate.
The Living Tribunal stood erect, a golden statue from the shoulders down. The being, second only to the Supreme Creator that is Above All Others, had no neck with which to attach his triptych visage to his cosmic body. The Tribunal wore a plain cloth on his head. One face was hooded completely by it, one was covered only past the eyes, and the final face was revealed for all to see. The Tribunal's stare bespoke power above and beyond all others present combined.
The Living Tribunal spoke first, as was his right.
"ASTRAL DEITIES OF THE UNIVERSE, YOU HAVE PETITIONED FOR THIS SUPREME COSMIC COUNCIL
TO CONVENE. PRESENT YOUR CONCERNS."
Galactus responded. "This is the first Council I have ever requested. I seek to approach a potential future cosmic entity for the purpose of offering apprenticeship under my tutelage."
Eternity interjected. "Please reconsider, Brother. Your actions might precipitate the oft-prophesied War of the Cosmic Beings! It will certainly divide my existence into its component parts of Eternity as Time and Infinity as Space."
Galactus responded angrily. "I am Galactus, I have as much right to make this decision as do any of you. I simply choose to do so before you, Brother."
The Watcher offered his opinion. "My people have considered many possible futures, World Devourer. This action is premature, uncertain, and ultimately hazardous. It will inevitably create further spheres of anti-omniscience. It can only complicate the course of the universe, making our task more difficult."
"I do not exist to facilitate your inaction, Watcher," said Galactus curtly. "You had your chance to thwart me once. Trust your initial assessment when you witnessed my incubation and hatching, Ecce, and seek not to oppose me."
Arishem the Judge stood in silent disapproval. His mouthpiece, the God-Stalker, contributed to the discourse. "You and my masters, the Celestials are judges by nature, Galactus, serving similar functions in the universe. The Space Gods determine who live, who evolve, and who discontinue. But there is a difference. They are charged by Eternity with conscious testing and decision. You are a Force of Nature, random by definition. This course of action you propose is not random. My masters judge it inappropriate, given your role in the workings of the Universe." Arishem confirmed the words with a movement of his other hand. The shortest digit pointed down as the remaining digits closed in a fist.
Galactus was quick to retort. "Judge lesser beings, Celestial, for such is your lot. Dare not to pass judgement over my actions."
The Grandmaster's amusement broke into a muffled chuckle. "I applaud your decision, Galactus. Existence without risk is ultimately pointless."
The Gardener addressed the Devourer as well. "I too feel Galactus has the right to sow these seeds, we may all reap the harvest if he is successful."
"I do not seek your approval, Elders," said Galactus. "I seek only to avoid unnecessary resistance from this Assemblage in future dealings."
The Collector seemed angered by this discourse. "Brothers, be silent! The Watcher is right, Galactus could undo destiny, and throw the cosmos into unpredictable chaos. Well-laid plans would unravel at the seams "
Lord Chaos spoke for the first time. "For this reason, I support your freedom of choice, Galactus."
Master Order also offered his decision. "I abstain, for despite my counterpart's words, I do not sense a loss of balance in either choice you make, Devourer. Perhaps your choice of apprentice will balance potential chaos with personal order."
The Stranger was quick to speak his mind after Master Order. "I abstain as well, for my own reasons."
The In-Betweener was careful to let his two masters, Order and Chaos, speak before him. "Lord Order states that the universal balance I protect is unaffected by your choice. Take the mortal and be done with it, World Devourer. You waste our precious time with this summons."
Mistress Death's voice sent a chill down the spines of those who might one day know dissolution. "Brother, Son, Husband, Father. To offer the Keeper apprenticeship is to condemn the universe to imbalance. He shall ever lead you away from death. That is not your purpose. Your actions will cause me to break down into my components as well: Death, as the absence of life, and Oblivion, as the absence of all."
Galactus' tone calmed. "I respect your input, Sister, Daughter, Wife, Mother. But the decision must be mine alone. If it will satisfy you, I will alter his spiritual essence to avert your concerns. Would this prove satisfactory to you?"
Death did not respond.
Eon entered the discourse. "To involve the Keeper prematurely is to force my hand as well, Devourer. I must then seek an alternate Protector of the Universe in the centuries to come."
Galactus turned to Eon. "There are other viable candidates beyond the horizon, Eon. You have adapted your choices before; you can do so again."
The Hawk God interjected at this point. "Loathe as I am to agree with Eternity, I am Predation incarnate. Your random feeding is as vital to me as it is to Mistress Death. If your apprentice curbs your random predation, he must perish. We are two of a kind, Devourer. Do not seek to make me an enemy."
"I take no pleasure in my cosmic function, Hawk God. You derive power from the thrill of the hunt. I could not be more dispassionately neutral in my unending quest for sustenance. But I can select to empower future allies who bear the instincts from which you thrive. Would this be a suitable compromise?"
The Hawk God considered the proposition and nodded.
Odin, All-Father of Asgard, offered his opinion. "Thy choice is clear, mighty Galactus. Take the Zenn Lavian as apprentice, teach him well the skills he will require to assume the mantle of his fate."
Eternity addressed Odin sternly. "You are observing at my behest, Sky-Father, and as a token courtesy. Do not seek to contradict me, lest you be unwelcome in future gatherings."
Odin responded with regal pride. "I represent the Sky-Fathers of the world through which the Celestial Axis passes, great Eternity. I cannot remain silent in a matter of such import. I am aware of the consequences. Still, my opinion shall be known."
Master Hate's dark grin displayed carnivorous teeth. "Galactus! Foment in this apprentice a lingering resentment for you that will haunt you until your final days. Thus my needs are served and I support the apprenticeship."
Mistress Love's voice was hypnotically soothing, but she knew not to affect her peers lest she risk future reprisals. "Take the opportunity to rekindle emotions such as friendship, Galan. I know a part of you still desires this, no matter what you tell yourself. If you do so, I will support you."
"He shall prove a worthy opponent to those I oppose. His ascension is only a matter of time. Why stand in Galactus' way?" Kronos uttered, wearing an expression of satisfaction.
Mephisto's voice was seductively obscene. "Indeed, why stand in Galactus' way? The sooner that Galactus tampers with his soul, the sooner that soul will be mine "
The Shaper of Worlds was the last attendee to present his opinion. "Creation is all. The apprentice will create, in any incarnation. Your influence cannot change this, Galactus. Therefore I shall not challenge your petition."
Eternity turned to the highest among the Cosmic Beings assembled. "And what say you, respected Tribunal?"
The Living Tribunal finally spoke. All those in attendance immediately grew silent. "I HAVE HEARD OPPOSING ARGUMENTS AND HAVE REACHED CONSENSUS. THE VERDICT IS UNANIMOUS. EQUITY, REVENGE, AND NECESSITY ARE ALL IN AGREEMENT. GALACTUS HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE HIS OWN COURSE OF ACTION IN THIS MATTER. I SPEAK AS THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ONE THAT IS ABOVE US ALL. THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER DEBATE. GALACTUS, MAKE YOUR DECISION. SO SPEAKS THE LIVING TRIBUNAL."
Galactus responded with the cosmic equivalent of anticipation relieved. "I choose to approach Zenn La and engineer the circumstances that will lead to his joining me. The Keeper will begin his cosmic apprenticeship now!"
The Tribunal spoke once more. "THIS DECISION SHALL NOT BE WITHOUT REPERCUSSIONS, DEVOURER. MISTRESS DEATH, YOU MAY PLACE YOUR CONDITION ON GALACTUS, AS BEFITS THE COSMIC BALANCE."
Death spoke for the second time that day. "Know you this, mighty Galactus. Your choice tips the balance away from me. Therefore, I seek recompense. From this day forward, your hunger shall increase; your need to feed will come more often. Within a few mere cycles you will be required to consume planets faster than you can find them. So speaks Death."
Before Galactus could respond, the Living Tribunal said, "SO SHALL IT BE. THIS ASSEMBLAGE IS ADJOURNED." With these words, the Cosmic Beings withdrew back to their spheres of influence, leaving Galactus to ponder the ramifications as he approached the star system of Zenn La for the first time in his long existence.
Check out the Protectors of the Universe Archive Page for past editions of the Powers Cosmic... And be sure to leave your comments below!