Powers Cosmic #3
Written by Morfex, Janus, and Marvelite
(Note: This follows Powers Cosmic #1 and #2)
Powers Cosmic #3
Voracity, Chapter Three: "The Lesser of Three Evils"
"I HUNGER!" Firelord's eyes began to glow wildly as he gazed about in a panic. He looked at the stirring Nova, then at his best friend Gabriel, in obvious desperation. He began to shake, as Air-Walker and the Silver Surfer approached and restrained him with firm grips on each of his arms.
Gabriel turned to the planet's master. "Terrax! We came to your aid at your request! If you know what is happening to Firelord, you must tell us!"
"I pay my debts, Air-Walker, whether you label me a villain or not. In the battle with the Anti-Heralds, Pyreus Kril released energy as he never has before. Now he is paying the price. I felt no hunger until I surpassed my previous power limits. The more power we use, the hungrier we get. We have become a group of smaller scale Galacti."
The horror in the Surfer's eyes was unmistakable. "That cannot be! Why has this never happened to us before?"
Terrax looked uncharacteristically pensive. "I have given that a lot of thought. The reclaiming of our organic bodies after the events of the Cosmic Union is the biggest change we have undergone since becoming Heralds. I suspect that is the source of our woes."
Starglow could not believe what she was hearing. "Why would Galactus subject you to such suffering?"
Air-Walker responded. "A question we shall pose to him once he arrives."
Terrax was quick to anger. "No! That is unacceptable! This planet will not suffer the Devourer's appetite!"
"What care you for a paltry uninhabited world?" Norrin Radd seemed indignant.
"This world is my only remaining possession. Galactus will not claim it." Terrax spoke with deadly earnest.
Shalla Bal offered a question. "What alternative do we have, Tyros?"
Terrax's eyes narrowed. "I created the barrier. I can create an opening in it. I regret ever involving you all in my plight. But I will not abide your cannibalizing my home. None of you shall seek sustenance from this world, nor shall our former master. I forbid it!"
Suddenly, Firelord broke free from his teammates' grasp. In the blink of an eye, he was gone, his fiery trail leading west.
Terrax did not have a moment to waste. He lifted his axe and commanded a small plot of earth to rise from the island's surface. It was clear to all that he intended to pursue Pyreus Kril.
The Surfer spoke first. "No, Terrax! He is not in his right mind. You should know that more than anyone."
"Out of my way, Surfer. I do not wish to reinitiate animosity between us, but the safety of my world takes precedence over everything else."
The Surfer continued undaunted. "Listen to me! I can bring him back without hurting your planet, but you have to trust me!"
Terrax grimaced. "Bah, you know nothing of the hunger that consumes him. I could not resist it, and neither can he. Now, stand aside!"
The Surfer stood his ground. "Terrax, unlike you, Firelord has a sense of morality. I can dissuade Pyreus Kril, if you but give me the opportunity."
Air-Walker held Terrax by the elbow. "Do not force our hand, Terrax."
Shalla Bal interjected. "Tyros, please. At least give Norrin a chance to try."
Terrax was clearly ready to use his axe to remove the Air-Walker's hand, but with a look toward Starglow, he lowered his weapon. "Very well, I give you one hour, Surfer. After that, I shall hunt him down myself, and put him out of his misery once and for all."
Air-Walker released the former Herald's arm. "Agreed. Shalla Bal will accompany you, Norrin Radd."
(Written by Janus)
"Good. It will afford us the opportunity to talk about something that came up in our battle with the Anti-Heralds," the Surfer said pointedly. "Shalla, step on my board, and we shall depart."
"I am perfectly capable of flying myself now!" Starglow huffed before taking off at supersonic speeds.
The Surfer caught up with her several hundred kilometers away from the island. As they flew, the Surfer turned to address his former love. "Shalla, we really must speak."
She let a long sigh escape. "Norrin, I know what you want to discuss. It is a very complicated situation. I am not sure I understand it all myself."
"Please, Shalla. I understood that you could not explain while we were engaged in combat earlier. Now I demand an explanation. How is it possible that the Dark Hunter, whom you called Roddan Bal, is our great-grandson? I do not understand your reluctance to explain this situation to me. I have surmised you bore my child and that it went on to have children of its own. Tell me of our family. I have returned to Zenn La several times in recent years. Why has it never been discussed before?"
"Oh, Norrin, I am sorry. I kept this all from you because there was nothing that could be done, and it is so painful to discuss. After you left Zenn La and became Galactus' herald, I discovered I was pregnant with your child. I did not feel it was proper to raise the child without his father, particularly since you were his father. I arranged for our son to be raised by my brother, Horan Bal."
"Why would it matter that I was the father?" the Surfer interjected.
"For a time on Zenn La, though the people were grateful to you for having spared our world from Galactus, many of our people felt that what you were doing for Galactus was evil. I wanted to make sure that whatever ill will was borne toward you was not visited on our son.
"Jasta Bal was raised as a member of my brother's family, where he excelled in his studies. He was so like you, Norrin, brilliant and thoughtful. Naturally, he sensed that he was different from his adoptive brothers and sisters, and there was no point in hiding his true parentage from him once he enrolled in the Academy of Science. The truth changed him, Norrin. He became bitter and cut himself off from the rest of our family. He never spoke to me or my brother again."
The Surfer placed his hand tenderly on Shalla Bal's shoulder. "I am sorry. I had no idea. But what happened to him? How is it that our great-grandson is in the thrall of Tyrant?"
"I do not know, Norrin. Years later my brother received news that Jasta was dead. According to Jasta's wife, he had become increasingly despondent over his lineage and took his own life."
"My father's curse," the Surfer whispered.
"The Bal family took in Jasta's widow and young son, Nemar Bal. Nemar was very much like his father, like you. Bright, contemplative, but filled with a desire to do and see more than he ever could on Zenn La. Nemar became a leading aeronautical engineer on Zenn La and taught at the Academy. We were so proud of him, Norrin. The Bal family has always been a powerful and influential one, and it appeared as though nothing could hold Nemar back. But he could never escape the pull of space. Simply orbiting Zenn La or visiting one of its moons was not enough for him, not even after he had a family of his own. Nemar and his wife died when a prototype interstellar drive he was designing malfunctioned. Young Roddan survived, but he was never the same. He became extremely pensive and sullen, prone to violent outbursts.
"A few months after the accident, he disappeared completely. We spared no effort in looking for him, but we found no trace of him. It was as if he had just disappeared off the face of Zenn La! Today is the first time I have seen him since his disappearance, over a century ago."
"Why? Why have I never heard any of this before, Shalla? You should have told me."
"Norrin, I saw no point in telling you of descendents whom you could never know and whose fates you could not change. You had enough problems. It was my burden to bear. These are old wounds, Norrin. Reopening them for you would have been pointless. Come, I sense Firelord has finally stopped to feed."
(Written by Marvelite)
The Silver Surfer and Starglow flew inland only a few meters above the surface. As they approached Firelord's location, they found small creatures, primitive animals that inhabited the planet, racing toward them. They looked further and saw a large forest being devoured by flames. A chill ran down Shalla's spine. Their presence there, especially that of Firelord's, was a threat to the evolution of this planet.
In the center of the flames, stood Firelord. The Silver Surfer had never seen him like this. His eyes were bulging, crazed from the hunger felt in his body. His fire-based powers sprang out of control from his staff, igniting everything in his path. Fortunately, he had not yet attempted to feed. It was as if he was internally wrestling with his famine, and losing.
Shalla Bal pleaded with her new friend. "Please, Pyreus, cease this destruction! You must control your hunger."
Firelord looked over at the newest member to join their ranks. "What do you know of this?!" he shouted, blasting her with a flaming burst of Power Cosmic.
Starglow went gliding backwards into several flaming trees. As she pushed herself back up, Norrin Radd cautioned her to stay back, still feeling like her protector. "Stay back, Shalla. Firelord is not in his right mind."
The Surfer then soared forward, blasting Firelord with a warning blast. "Firelord, you must stop this now! What happened to the compassion you once showed to all life? Do you remember the last time we fought, before the Cosmic Union? You punished an Earth woman for destroying an ecosystem much like this one.* I know you are not a hypocrite, Pyreus Kril. You must control your hunger, or you will become no different than Galactus himself."(* See Marvel's Silver Surfer #147)
Firelord stopped for a moment, clearly considering Norrin's statements, but it only caused his mind to become more cluttered, as the fury inside him continued and the pain increased. He flung a fiery blast of the Power Cosmic at Norrin Radd, but the shot missed its mark. "You do not understand, Surfer! The hunger is upon me, and I must feed!" This was a new experience for Firelord. In the past, he had seen Galactus when this hunger was upon him. Now Firelord was subject to that same curse.
The Silver Surfer then got up and charged toward Firelord, blasting him with his Power Cosmic. The energy sent Firelord sprawling, hurting his already weakened body. Firelord then flew back toward the Surfer, his powers still out of control. "You will regret the day you stood in my way, Silver Surfer!" He shouted incoherently, unsure of what he was saying. Starglow then flew in from behind and grabbed the former herald of Galactus. She pulled his arms back and whispered in his ear, "You must calm down. This rage is only causing your pain to grow. You must take control of it."
Firelord struggled at first to escape, but the pain finally took the best of him. He hesitantly nodded in agreement and ceased his struggling.
Taking advantage of his brief sense of clarity, Pyreus used his staff to absorb the surrounding flames. Smoke still filled the sky, but the blaze was contained.
The Silver Surfer and Starglow led Firelord back to the others.
(Written by Morfex)
Nova finally stood and shook off the effects of the impact with the barrier that surrounded this world. "I think I dislocated my head." She rubbed her forehead and jaw line.
Air-Walker spoke to Terrax. "So the idea of summoning Galactus to remove the barrier is not tenable."
"That is an understatement. I will defend this planet to the death."
The Surfer and Starglow returned with Firelord, who seemed quiet, but calm. The Surfer offered, "Terrax, other than this isle and a forest fire which we have contained, your world remains inviolate."
"I know, Surfer. I can feel it in my bond with this biosphere that I have nurtured. You have maintained your part of the bargain."
Air-Walker spoke. "I have agreed to honor Terrax's request as well. We shall not summon the Devourer. Nor can we simply remain marooned here for Eternity. From his last bio-energy consumption, Terrax believes he can open a large enough hole in the barrier to allow us a one-time means of escape, but we must hurry before Firelord's hunger overwhelms him once more."
Terrax rose into the air on a floating boulder, axe in hand. "Follow me."
Terrax reached the barrier and focused an attack of vast energies in one spot. Minutes passed, to no avail. Frustrated, he turned to the Powers Cosmic. "You do not have the right to feed off of this world. But I do."
Terrax descended to the surface again. The other Heralds followed. Terrax hovered above a nearby continent whose mountain range growth he had recently accelerated. The Powers Cosmic shuddered at the sight before them. Terrax began absorbing the rare life-energies of the continent. It was far too reminiscent of their former master's primal feeding methods.
The continent withered and died. Terrax glowed with power, as he had just before creating the barrier. His voice echoed with palpable force. "COME WITH ME."
They shot to the barrier in an instant, as Terrax focused his might through his axe toward the same pinpoint target area of the wall. Power as they had not seen since their last encounter with Galactus burst from the axe, causing the barrier to fluctuate. An opening the size of the head of a pin appeared, expanded to nearly the size of a small stone, and then contracted again. The might of an entire continent was clearly not going to be enough. Air-Walker shouted above the din. "My friends, we must help Terrax succeed! Give it everything you have! Do not hold back!"
The might of six of Galactus' creations burst forth inexorably. The pinprick grew briefly to about half a meter wide. "It's working!" Nova shouted exuberantly. "We've done it!" But the breach in the barrier ceased growing and began to contract once again.
"MORE POWER!" Terrax shouted with anguish. The six emitted more raw energy than any of them had ever done before. "NOW!" screamed the stone-faced axe-wielder. The hole slowly expanded, until it was nearly two meters wide. "GO!" Terrax commanded.
The Powers Cosmic quickly entered one by one. As each exited on the opposite side of the barrier, near exhaustion, they were unable to contribute their energies to keeping the rift open. Shalla Bal was the last. As she entered the barrier's small rift, it began to contract around her. "Tyros!"
With one final burst of energy from his axe, Terrax kept the barrier open another second by force of will alone. Shalla Bal emerged to space. Terrax fell from the sky back toward the surface.
Starglow took a moment to regain her senses, feeling exhaustion unlike any time before this. She looked about to see her teammates, Nova, the Surfer, Firelord and Air-Walker, convulsing wildly. With screams only she could hear across the void, the four organic Powers Cosmic stated the horrible result of their liberation in unison. "I HUNGER!!!" The four insanely voracious entities burst forth into hyperspace in four opposite directions, leaving Starglow floating in the twilight ether, too weak to pursue any one of them.
Starglow looked down upon the world she had just departed. Its entire surface was ablaze with bio-energy, cutting a fiery path around the curved horizon. Terrax had expended too much energy. As his world burned in its death throes, she knew that the barrier would hold him. Tears of plasma fell from her eyes. "Tyros "
Continued in Powers Cosmic #4: "The Enemies of My Friends..." Be sure to also check out our new POTU Continuity Reference Page. And don't forget to send some comments below!