Written by Janus, Edited by Morfex
Note: This story does NOT take place in the same continuity as any other fan fiction on this website, meaning it does not affect and is not affected by other fan fiction stories.
Wendell Vaughn looked down at the Earth from high orbit. He never tired of this view, of the blue green orb with swirling white clouds. Despite all the places he had been, all the things he had seen - cosmic grandeur that words could never adequately describe, the sight of Earth was among the most pleasing to him. It was his home. And up here, in the silence of space, he could think without fear of distraction or interruption. No ringing telephones, no silly disruptions to his thoughts and his duties as Protector of the Universe. Only Epoch or the Avengers could contact him in an emergency. Outer space offered a peace and solitude unlike that found anywhere else in the universe. Maybe that was the problem, he thought to himself. For months, he had kept busy jumping around space, establishing cosmic listening posts, battling injustice and militaristic aggression as a member of the StarMasters and Avengers, fulfilling his duty as Protector. But he wasnt satisfied. And he was tired. The last time he remembered feeling content, or at least somewhat at ease, was when he was living on Earth, when he was able to be Wendell Vaughn. And maybe, Quasar thought, I need to spend some time dealing with human concerns, reacquaint myself with a touch of normal life. He descended into the atmosphere, planning his reentry so that he would touch down in the vicinity of New York. There would be problems with returning to Earth, of course. The Presence, at last report, was missing, but if Quasar could come back without notice, so could the Presence. It was something to be dealt with, eventually.
The first thing Quasar noticed was Four Freedoms Plaza. It had been severely damaged. Its splintered, shattered form reminded him of a lightning struck tree he had once seen while growing up in Wisconsin. What could have caused that much damage, he wondered. Was it an epic battle between the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom? Did Galactus have a hand in its destruction? He could only speculate. He felt a tinge of sadness at the destruction of Four Freedoms. Good things had happened for him in that building. He had met Kayla in that building. No sense in dwelling on the past, though. It couldnt be changed. Technically, he knew it could be changed, but usually with dire consequences. And he didnt know any time travelers anyway.
He approached Avengers Mansion and showed his membership card to the security camera, which also scanned his retina and matched his fingerprints against the Avengers master database before letting him enter. The usual maintenance robots and support staff were buzzing about, paying him no heed. A superhero visiting Avengers mansion was nothing new to them. He had wanted to talk to Iron Man about ways to balance a civilian identity with responsibilities as a superpowered guardian. Tony Stark had managed to do it expertly, maintaining an effective presence as both CEO of a major corporation and as his own purported bodyguard, Iron Man. Quasar wondered if he had other people wear the armor sometimes. That wouldnt work with the quantum bands Quasar himself wore, of course, but it was important to find these things out.
"Mr. Quasar, it is an unexpected pleasure to have you visit us today. What brings you to Earth? May I get you anything to drink?"
Quasar smiled at the familiar and welcoming voice of the Avengers longtime butler. "Jarvis! Wow, its great to see you too. No thanks on the drink. Is Iron Man available? I needed to talk to him about something. Or Captain America. He always knows the right thing to do."
Jarvis smiled briefly at that last comment. "No, Im afraid the Avengers are responding to a threat in Eastern Europe at the moment. Something involving a giant radioactive mutated rat emerging from a recently decommissioned nuclear power plant in Romania. You are quite welcome to join them and assist, if you like. Shall I let them know you are coming?"
"Gee, that sound like, uh, fun. Sure. Give me the coordinates and Ill be on my way."
Jarvis gave a short bow. "Please wait while I ascertain that information for you." Quasar sat down at a large table in the living room and tugged absentmindedly at a thick beard that had grown since his last visit to Earth. Jarvis returned with a somber look on his face. "Bad news, Im afraid."
Quasar popped out of his chair, sending it tumbling behind him. "What is it, whats wrong?"
"The Avengers have subdued the giant vermin and are returning here. No adventuring for you today. They should arrive in approximately 1 hour."
"Oh, too bad," Quasar said while thinking to himself, thank God. He didnt really have the energy or inclination to fight a giant rat right now. "Oh, Jarvis, one other thing. Im planning to be staying on Earth for a while, but dont really have a place to live right now. I was wondering if"
"Say no more," said Jarvis, cutting Quasar off. "Ill have quarters prepared for you within an hour."
In the intervening time, Quasar relaxed by taking a shower and cleaning up his appearance. After months in space, he looked more like a bum than the Protector of the Universe. He could use the quantum bands to keep himself clean in deep space, but really, there was nothing like a hot shower and a close shave. While shaving, Quasar considered himself in the mirror. He frowned a bit at his reflection and tugged at his long blond locks. He pulled them into a ponytail, turned his head left and right, but still wasnt pleased with his appearance. Using his quantum bands to fashion a razor, Quasar cropped his hair close, in the fashion originally made popular by Caesar. Well, he thought, it doesnt look that bad. At least its different.
Quasar was just finishing tidying up detritus from his impromptu makeover when the Avengers returned. He went up to the roof and met them as they debarked from the Quinjet. Captain America greeted him warmly. "Wendell! How are you doing? What brings you to Earth? I thought you were on the other side of the galaxy. In any case, welcome home."
"Thanks Cap. I guess you could say I got homesick. Im going to be staying here for a time, until I get settled back on Earth."
Captain America nodded in understanding. "It will be nice to have you around the Avengers. I need to file my report for the Avengers logs, but come by later and tell me whats on your mind."
"Sure, Cap. Thanks," said Quasar. "Hey, Iron Man! Can you come over here for a minute? I have something I want to talk to you about."
"Id love to, Quasar, but Im already late for a very important meeting. Come by the offices of Stark Solutions tomorrow around 3 PM and we can talk then? Sorry." With that, he blasted off and headed for downtown Manhattan.
Maybe he doesnt balance it as well as it appears, Quasar thought. He went into the room Jarvis had prepared for him and slept fitfully, in a warm bead, for the first time in months. What had he been thinking, leaving the comforts of Earth completely behind? True, he could probably patrol the universe better were he not based on Earth, but the toll of traveling the space-ways on his psyche probably offset those gains. He fell asleep anticipating tomorrows business find a new space to rent an office, and meet with Tony Stark.
"Wendell Vaugn, we must speak at once." It was Epoch, contacting Quasar from her dimension through the quantum bands.
"Huh, oh, right, Eppy. Hold on a minute," Quasar said groggily. He fell out of bed, and in a split second and flash of light he was fully dressed in costume and in Epochs dimension. "Whats up?"
"Wendell Vaughn, I am concerned," Epoch began. "You have returned to Earth and intend to stay for quite some time. Does this mean you wish to cease your role as Protector of the Universe?" The creatures voice was pleading, childlike, and yet at the same time profound and awe inspiring.
"What? No! Epoch, I still want to be Protector."
"I am pleased, Wendell Vaughn. I feared you wished to end our relationship."
"Never, Epoch. Ill always be your Protector, until I am dead."
"Thank you for allaying my concerns, Wendell Vaughn. You may continue your rest now."
In another flash of light, Quasar found himself back in his quarters in Avengers Mansion. His relationship with Eon, Epochs progenitor, had been different. It had been a respectful mentor/student relationship, but Quasar had always been aware that he was the junior member. Epoch possessed Eons cosmic awareness, but not her eight billion years of experience. Quasar had to remind himself from time to time that despite Epochs vast knowledge, she was still a child, and she looked at him like an uncle, as well as an employee.
Quasar arrived at Stark Solutions at quarter to three, wearing a suit and tie. The day up to this point had been trying. Finding decent office space in Manhattan was going to be tough. Quasar was realizing just how lucky he had been with his spot in Four Freedoms, which had had difficulty finding tenants willing to share a building with the Fantastic Four.
An attractive red headed woman sitting at the reception desk made the day a bit brighter. "Hello," he told her, "could you tell Mr. Stark that Wendell Vaughn is here? I should have an appointment." The red head tapped away at her computer and looked up. Lord, she was beautiful.
"Im sorry, Mr. Vaughn. Mr. Stark had to leave the city and canceled all his appointments today. He said there was an emergency with a client in the Midwest." No doubt an emergency he needed to take care of as Iron Man. "Would you like to reschedule?"
"No. Thank you, Ms "
"Ames. Sarah Ames."
"Well, Ms. Ames, I should be on my way then." He walked half way out the door and stopped. He had faced down Thanos, uncovered Axi-Tun treachery, hell, he had come back from the dead to defeat Maelstrom, there was no reason for him to be nervous here. He swallowed and turned around. "This may be presumptuous of me, Ms. Ames, but, would you be interested in joining me for dinner, ever?"
She glanced over Wendell Vaughn for a few moments and pierced the silence. "Sure. But youll have to call me Sarah."
"Oh, right. Sarah, Im Wendell. Hows tomorrow night sound?"
"That would work, Wendell, but hows tonight sound to you?"
Jarvis had made them reservations in a small Italian café situated in the Upper West Side. The meal was excellent and Wendell found himself completely at ease in Sarahs presence. She was so open and, well, normal. Like Kayla had been before that incident with the Starbrand.
"So. Wendell. Its an unusual name."
"I guess it is. It means The Wanderer."
"Have you done much wandering in your life?"
"I guess you could say I have. Ive been some pretty amazing places, but Ive always known role, to help people, to keep them safe. Thats why Id like to restart my security consulting business."
Without warning, Quasars Avengers ID card, an amazing device no larger than a credit card that allowed full two-way communications, began beeping. "Im sorry, Sarah. That never goes off unless its a real emergency."
"I understand, Wendell. I work for Tony Stark, remember?" Wendell gave Sarah a puzzled look. "Hes always running from one side of the country to the next. I never know if hes coming or going. Dont worry. You can make it up to me sometime. By the way, whats your middle name?"
"Elvis. Why do you ask?"
Sarah giggled a bit and kissed him briefly on the cheek. "No reason."
With that, Wendell ran out of the restaurant, and in a flash transformed his clothes into his Quasar costume. He pulled his Avengers card out and answered the urgent beeps. "This is Quasar, whats the situation?"
Jarvis appeared on the cards tiny screen. "Sir, I am terribly sorry to have interrupted your evening." Not half as sorry as I am, Quasar thought. "We have received a request from SHIELD to assist them with a problem aboard their orbital station. The Avengers are presently assisting the Fantastic Four with a problem in the Negative Zone. As you are the most space-ready reserve available, I thought it best if you investigated. I will alert some more reserves and prep a Quinjet for orbit, if necessary."
"All right, Jarvis. Ill take care of it." Quasar rocketed upward, back into the cold vacuum of space. The SHIELD operated space station orbited approximately 250 miles above the planet. Quasar could see occasional bursts of light as he approached, which he presumed to be laser blasts. He used the quantum bands command of the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate with the space station. "This is Quasar of the Avengers to S3-Fury. What is the your status, over."
A crackly signal returned. "This is Colonel Jackson Pickett, commanding officer of SHIELD Space Station Fury. Were under attack from an alien vessel. Its using some kind of advanced laser weapon to slice open the hull. Our weapons and defense screens are useless against it. Several sections of the station have undergone decompression. The attacker has destroyed several fleeing escape pods. Please assist, over." The voice behind the message was confidant, despite the dire news it delivered. Having been an agent of SHIELD, Quasar knew the men and women of SHIELD with were among the bravest alive.
"Hang tight, Colonel. Ill be there in a few moments."
The colonels description did not prepare Quasar for the scene at which he arrived. Fluorescent lighting from inside the station spilled out of gaping holes. Bodies of agents exposed to the hard vacuum of space, along with severed limbs and spheres of blood floated randomly in zero gravity. It reminded him of when he discovered the remains of the civilization belonging to the Uranian Eternals. But their deaths had been a distant event, occurring before Quasar had been born. These men had died while he was eating dinner, maybe because he had been eating dinner, instead of patrolling space.
He charged towards the attacking ship, a small attack craft , probably containing a crew of three or four. The ship fired on its new target. The quantum energies at Quasars command absorbed and scattered the beams of focused energies. Directing his own attack at the alien craft, he punched a hole in the side of the craft. Seeing the telltale signs of gas escaping through the breach, Quasar knew the ship contained an atmosphere, and that the pilot probably needed it to survive. He fashioned a quantum patch on the ship, immobilized it by sealing up its thrusters, and broadcast a message to his attacker, "Surrender and no further harm will come to you or your vessel." The pilot responded by blasting his lasers at Quasar, which again did no damage but aggravated him. Valuable time was being wasted. Quasar rendered the patch in the side of the aliens ship permeable to himself and entered.
An alien with gray skin with maroon stripes sat alone at the controls. It aimed an energy pistol at Quasar, but he knocked it away with a beam of yellow energy. The alien uttered something in a language Quasar had never heard before and bit down on something inside its mouth. It convulsed for a second and died, apparently the victim of a suicide caplet.
"Colonel Pickett, this is Quasar. I have subdued the attacker. It killed itself before I could get any information. How are things holding up on your end?"
"Thank you for your help, Avenger. We have things under control and will begin repairs as soon as-" A huge fireball belched from the station, and Quasar observed with horror as the lights visible through the gashes and windows blinked out sequentially.
"Colonel Pickett! Come in, come in please."
CONTINUED IN QUASAR #2
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