Written by Morfex, Edited by Janus and
"Universal Truths, Part Three: Seduction of the Innocent"
(Note: This story follows Spinsterhood #2, see POTU Archive Page for more back issues!)
Special thanks to Janus for brainstorming the Ganymede segment with me. - Morfex
Mantis let the music fill her spirit. She swayed like a willow in the wind, curves rhythmically pulsating for the captivated audience. The exotic dancer that had gone on just before her had been constantly interrupted with hoots and howls from her admirers, but with Mantis it was different. Even the most raucous of hooligans was mesmerized by the flowing motions of her wrists, hips, and neck. The room was silent but for the eerie wooden pipes' notes played by the tavern's musicians at her request.
The music was like poetry, Mantis' every gesture a stanza. Her body bespoke an entire history, accurately summarized in mere minutes of self-expression. When Mantis closed her eyes and held herself in a firm embrace as the music ended, the silence stretched on for another few seconds. Her hypnotic movements having ceased, her audience soon recovered from the experience sufficiently to release an uproar of enthusiastic applause. Mantis smiled, genuinely surprised to have enjoyed the experience so. She knew that her target was in the audience, and her datapad's research had detailed every movement that would provoke his romantic interest. Mantis wondered how Epoch could have obtained such intimate information.
Despite protracted calls for an encore, Mantis retired to her private dressing room as agreed to by the proprietress of the establishment the night before, upon witnessing a private screening of her incredible dance technique.
As expected, the proprietress, Mama Alpha,* approached Mantis a few minutes after the performance. "You have a visitor, my dear. I told him I run a respectable place here, but he is a member of the Protégé's Grand Inquisitors! I couldn't refuse him or they'd shut my place down! He says he only wants to talk. Please say you'll see him!"
(*See Marvel's Warlock Special Edition #5 for details.)
"Do not worry, Mama Alpha, This One I will give this Inquisitor an opportunity to speak his mind."
As Mama Alpha left, she muttered, "It's not his mind I'd be worried about, dear."
A few moments later, a man entered the dressing room. He was a tall, handsome, muscular humanoid with light blue skin and a half-meter long, dark blue, braided beard limited to the growth from his chin. His head was clean-shaven except for a long braided strand of hair growth near the nape of his neck, the same length as his beard. "Forgive my interruption, milady. I am called Chief Inquisitor Brotus. I was in the audience for your performance, and I just couldn't help but think that your every movement was speaking directly to me. I'm sorry, I know that must sound terribly silly. I apologize. I will leave now." As Brotus turned to leave, Mantis noticed his hands, held behind his back, held something he was trying to conceal.
Mantis called to him. "Brotus, what are you holding?"
"Oh. This." Brotus was embarrassed as he revealed a small potted plant with a rare and intricate flower growing from it. "I thought you might like this. I was being foolish. Forgive me."
Mantis smiled warmly. Despite his horrific duties for the Church's Inquisitors, Brotus was clearly an innocent in the ways of courtship. Mantis gracefully approached him and laughed seductively. "A Rythallian lotus blossom! It is beautiful! Where did you find this rare treasure?"
"The Protégé maintains an elaborate green house within the Imperial compound. May I show it to you sometime?"
"That would be perfect."
The original Spinster Ganymede remembered what Epoch had told her: with time-travel, so many things could go wrong. She knew that the device he had given her was designed for one temporal incursion, genetically encoded to her physical form alone. She calibrated the device to precision, knowing that her time was growing short, in relative terms. Looking toward the mirror in the chamber that reached from floor to ceiling, she secured her traditional Sirusian garb. She rubbed her cheeks roughly, still tingling from the necessary temporary removal of her Spinster markings of rank.
She began to repeat the series of words that her teammate Moondragon pre-programmed in her mind to recognize as the trigger for temporary amnesia and belief in a complex false identity, just as the telepath had done with Kismet. Ganymede privately hoped that the process had been successful for Kismet, but there was no way for her to confirm that now.
She pressed her index finger on a sequence of buttons on the time-flux device, creating a dampening field to ensure that the time bubble could not be traced by the Universal Church of Truth. Her telepathic amnesia/new identity phrase nearly completed, she left the datapad with the antidote reversal phrase on the only table in the small room. Only her genetic registry could activate the datapad. She noted that, right on cue, someone was attempting to enter the room just as she finished the phrase and depressed the final time jump sequence of buttons. She smiled, then disappeared one year into the past. The temporal device instantly melted to slag.
The woman that entered the room was dressed in full Inquisitor uniform. Her name was Gehenna Midas, and she was a loyal and valued servant of the Universal Church of Truth. She felt compelled to enter the chamber, as if a long forgotten memory lay within. The overwhelming mental compulsion drove her further. She ignored the still-smoldering slag of metal and lifted the datapad before her to depress the genetic scanner. The pad lit up in recognition of her gene sequence, then displayed three simple words.
"I am Ganymede?" The Inquisitor read aloud, then collapsed to the floor as a lifetime of memories washed over her. Slowly lifting her head, she stared into the mirror across the room, hands and knees still on the floor. Tears of guilt and shame welled up in her eyes as she came to process her atrocities of the last year in service to the Church's Inquisition. "By the Cosmos " she wept. "I am Ganymede "
Moondragon found that the beginning phase of her initiation was not as unpleasant as she had dreaded. In fact, it was fondly reminiscent of her tutelage under Emlot, the Shao-Lom Monk on Titan.* She enjoyed the hours of meditation, the periods of required silence, and the simple tasks of non-technological gardening and writing with quill and paper. She even smiled once, thinking that her former teammate, Pip the Troll, would have termed her assignment "a cakewalk." Upon completion of her mission, she would discuss the calm-inducing effects of growing living things with her Spinsterhood teammate, Mantis.
(*See Marvel's The Life of Captain Marvel #4 for details.)
Danger was ever present, of course. Rumors indicated that a telepath had not only mind-wiped a Deacon of the Church, but an actual Matriarch as well. The telepath witch-hunt was in full swing, and she must ever be on guard from detection.
On her second day there, she had nearly made a crucial error. So engrossed in her meditation, she had begun to levitate mere centimeters from the floor; briefly, instinctively. A sudden gasp from behind her quickly reminded her of her self-imposed limitations, and she descended abruptly. But only one female neophyte named Ika had witnessed the miracle, and Moondragon planted an inconspicuous suggestion in Ika's mind that what she thought she had seen had been but a trick of the light. Ika's sense of guilt was also encouraged, as all neophytes were supposed to have their eyes closed during meditation under threat of punishment. Moondragon felt confident that Ika would not soon volunteer information that could expel her from the Church's ranks.
On the third day, Moondragon awoke to the subtle dawn chimes of service. She went through her Church-imposed hygiene and meal rituals, then headed for the chapel as expected of her. She knew that she was far more time-efficient than most of the other neophytes, but found it surprising that she was the very first one to reach chapel.
Her senses were suddenly on guard as she heard the chapel door close behind her. She spun around once, but there was no one behind her. The automatic lights of the chapel were far dimmer than usual, also very suspicious. Then a voice came from the direction of the altar.
"I knew it had to be you By the Void, you are more delectable than I remember. Come forth, former Gem-bearer, and meet your Dark God."
Moondragon prepared for battle in the darkness. The hackles of her neck and back stood on end at the rasping sound that was her adversary's voice. Her mind raced, attempting to place the familiar sound in her memory.
In a motion that would have been too quick to follow even in daylight, the humanoid figure standing before the altar took flight, the leathery sound of flapping filling the otherwise silent chapel. In half an instant he was upon her. Despite her training, despite her ability, despite even her vast mental power, she could not evade him.
The voice continued as limbs began to pin her arms to the large column behind her. "Ah, yes. Your scent is undiminished since our last encounter. Such potential that runs through your veins! But you have dared to affect the minds and memories of three of my devout followers. For that, I shall be sure to have my telepaths return the favor and to mark you in such a way that you shall never use your powers unbeknownst to others again "
Moondragon's eyes welled up at the onset of recognition. A nearby candle allowed her to confirm her suspicion. "YOU!!"
"You remember me? Impressive " Suddenly, the candle blew out with another brief leathery flapping noise. In the darkness, all else was silent but for the unmistakable sound of greedy slurping.
Mentor of Titan was surprised to hear Isaac, the Eternals' sentient world computer, report an incoming Universal Church of Truth vessel. Scanning it for life-signs, he was relieved to find that its one occupant was an old and valued ally. Mentor decided to greet her personally.
Isaac's voice filled the landing bay. "The vessel is free of all weaponry, but it is strangely on auto-pilot. The occupant does not appear to be conscious."
Mentor rushed to the vessel's entryway. Before the stairwell had even touched the metallic floor, Mentor was inside the vessel. His suspicions confirmed, he unfastened Heather Douglas from her seat and carried her to an infirmary. Two puncture wounds were prominent on her neck.
With Titanian technology, Moondragon's wounds were almost completely healed, and she soon regained consciousness. As she lay on a medical facility bed she turned her head to see the ruler of Saturn's moon. "Mentor...? What ? How ?"
Mentor dismissed the medical specialist in the area and turned to the woman before him. "Moondragon. What is the last thing that you remember?"
"I I remember defeating Morgana Le Fey with the Avengers and then and then nothing "
Mentor's face filled with concern. "Can you use your powers?"
Heather concentrated, and Mentor's eyes betrayed his surprise. "What is it?" she inquired.
Mentor passed her a mirror. Upon her forehead was a thin, black, elegant dragon encircling a red full moon shape. She also noted the subtle scar tissue of two punctures upon her neck. "What has happened to me?"
"Nothing that a few weeks of meditation won't cure, my dear. As always, this is your home. Feel free to stay here as long as you like."
Isaac opened a channel to Epoch on Io for Mentor. Mentor relayed the events as they had transpired.
Epoch concurred with Mentor's assessment. "It is clear that some force on Sirus X has erased Moondragon's memories of service among the Protectors. You were right not to reveal the truth to her yet, Alars. Such knowledge may trigger hidden traps in her mind set by our unknown adversary. I am quite surprised that it even allowed her to live, unless it felt she could serve some future purpose for it. If your offer still stands, she would do best by remaining with you until she feels she can move on."
"Of course, Epoch. She may remain as long as she wishes. Will you inform her father and her teammates among the Protectors of her condition?"
Epoch considered the implications to her long-term objective for the Spinsterhood and the Protectors of the Universe. "Consider it done. And thank you, Alars. Please keep me informed of her progress."*
(*See Marvel's Captain Marvel #1 and #2 for the continuing adventures of Moondragon.)
Continued in Spinsterhood #4, "Universal Truths, Part Four: Truth and Consequences." Be sure to also check out our new Cosmic Union Continuity Reference Page and Protectors of the Universe Reference Page for other stories in this continuity. And don't forget to send some comments below!
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