Cosmic Union (The Directors' Cut) Issue #21
Written and edited by the Silver Surfer
ISSUE #21: "FINALITY"
Cosmic Union Writers from the Silver Surfer
Message Board: Asterisk, Anomaly,
Azmodi, Brother Voodoo, Grim, Marvelite, Morfex, Mystic, and Number 6.
Part One - Loose Threads (Morfex)
Ganymede seemed pensive as she boarded the 'Io'. Jack of Hearts asked her, "What's the matter, Gan?"
"Oh, Jack, I was just thinking about Cyrus' incredible sacrifice. He was right. I don't know of one other being who would willingly choose the fate that he has chosen." As she said this, she recognized the still corpse on the bridge of the 'Io' lying in a pool of blood. "Cyrus? He's dead! Murdered! But if he is not the post-Union Tyrant, then who is?"
The Tyrant vessel suddenly sprang to life, disappearing in a burst of hyperspacial energy. The vessel was so technologically advanced, the jump did not affect the ships or planet around it.
Ganymede was enraged. "Cyrus' pre-programmed jump! He suspected that his Tyrant self would emerge from the Union back on his vessel, so he arranged the jump to protect us! The murderer is getting away! We must pursue!"
Jack held her arm. "Ganymede, I feel your loss too, but the jump was random and untraceable, and you know it. Nothing will bring Cyrus back to life. There will be time enough to avenge his death. We'll track Tyrant eventually, with the help of our new allies. It's what he would have wanted you to do. Remember, he freed you of your vow to hunt Tyrant single-mindedly, and asked you to protect the Universe from all tyrants. The Spinsterhood as it existed has outlived its purpose. It's time to evolve into something new and " Jack almost decided not to continue, but felt it must be said. "I can't help but think that Cyrus is somehow better off this way "
Jack lifted the lifeless form of Cyrus and, walking with Ganymede to the medical chamber, rested it on a bed there. As was customary on Earth, Jack closed Cyrus' wide eyes and covered his face and body with a sheet. He programmed the medical center for an automated autopsy to determine all possible clues to the cause of death and the identity of the killer.
Ganymede finally spoke again. "Then let us join our allies on the 'Star Master', and inform them of what has happened here "
As the rest of the heroes stood aboard the 'Star Master', Norrin Radd willingly relinquished the golden energies that Kismet had bestowed upon him before the journey to the Nexus of All Realities. He was once more a Zenn Lavian, powerless and yet empowered by a new lease on life. For it was his original life, and he silently vowed to cherish it as he did the lives of others.
Suddenly the Watcher, Oera, made herself known again. Epoch, who had transported from the Nexus directly to Earth orbit, approached her. But before she could ask Oera why had had manifested here, Galactus appeared outside the vessel and spoke. As often happened in the presence of Cosmic Beings, those gathered could hear him, even in the vacuum of space.
"MY FORMER HERALDS, I MEANT TO SAVE YOU FROM THE PAIN OF YOUR MORTALITY BY CREATING BODIES MADE ENTIRELY OF THE POWER COSMIC. IN THE PAST, I LET THESE BODIES' DEATHS SEEM PERMANENT SO THAT THE REST OF YOU WOULD NOT LEARN OF THIS HIDDEN FACT. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, I RETURN EQUAL LEVELS OF POWER COSMIC TO ALL OF YOU. FOR YOU ALL SERVE A VITAL PURPOSE IN THE UNIVERSE, AS YOU WILL ALL COME TO LEARN IN TIME."
Galactus stretched his hand forth and Norrin Radd, Frankie Raye, Pyreus Kril, Gabriel Lan, and Tyros the Tamer each became surrounded in auras of cosmic energy. "GO FORTH AS ORGANIC BEINGS, YET BLESSED WITH THE TOUCH OF THE POWER COSMIC. YOUR DESTINIES AWAIT. IN THE WAKE OF THE UNION, I GO NOW TO CLAIM MY NEWEST HERALD " With that, Galactus was gone.
Part Two - Missing in Action (Marvelite & Morfex)
Silver once more, the Surfer asked, "And what of Shalla Bal, Epoch?"
Epoch explained. "There has been an incident "
Norrin was in no mood for euphemisms. "What exactly do you mean?!"
"When Thanos released me from the orb, my private dimension remained within, still bearing the numerous cold-sleep chambers you saw. At the moment the Union passed, the infinite dimensions began returning to their proper positions. Some returned instantly, while others may take months to reposition in the wake of the Union. Some were damaged beyond repair and have ceased to exist. Dimensions protected by containment units such as Celestial armor or the orb simply transported back to their rightful places. Unfortunately, Thanos supplied me with a 'back door' which I was compelled to use when summoned to the Nexus. This 'back door' remained open during the Union's passing, so my dimension began pouring out uncontrollably "
The Surfer could take it no longer. "WHAT OF SHALLA BAL?"
"She must have regained a level of consciousness when the dimensional leak began. In order to save her people, she repossessed the Punisher construct, abandoning her organic body once more. Using her robotic form, she forcibly blocked the leakage. She saved them all, Norrin Radd "
Norrin's look of horror was unmistakable. "No "
Epoch concluded her tale. "I have been able to permanently seal the breach in the orb, but the cryo-tubes remain within. The dimensional damage was substantial and the Punisher armor " Epoch's side opened up, and from the aperture emerged the shredded metal that had served as protector of the Worldship. "This is what is left of her," she stated, with more sorrow than Quasar had ever heard her express in recent months.
Norrin Radd was desperate. "Look at this! The mechanism's higher functions have only a few more seconds of integrity. Epoch! Why did you not tell me sooner!?" Knowing that his anger would solve nothing, he deferred it to a later time. Practicality set in. "We must see if her true body is strong enough to survive!"
Epoch turned to Shalla Bal, whose soul was trapped in the damaged Punisher robot. "Shalla Bal, if you willingly shut down your remaining systems from within, your soul should attempt to return to your organic body in the orb, much like the souls of your fellow Heralds did when their Power Cosmic bodies were shut down."
The barely functioning Punisher robot managed a nearly imperceptible nod and then Shalla Bal shut down the machine she had presided in for so long.
Her spirit self glowed with the intensity of a star. It attempted to enter the orb, without success. Epoch spoke. "It is as I feared, the seal I was forced to place on the orb is impenetrable. We must transfer her life force into another container immediately, or all hope is lost."
The Surfer looked at Adam Warlock, deciding whether or not to petition him for aid. Seeing no immediate alternative, he asked, "Can you help her?"
A moment of meditation later, the star-glow that was Shalla Bal's spirit seemed to freeze in place, a delicate crystalline lattice surrounding it. Adam responded. "I have only delayed the inevitable. The Soul will dissipate within minutes. At least for the moment, my Soul Gem no longer contains the dimensional plane of Soul World. All that would await Shalla Bal in the recesses of the Gem is the vampiric Soul-Taker, truly a fate worse than death."
Terrax stepped in. "What if she were given a new non-organic physical form, consisting of the Power Cosmic, much like our own bodies were for years?"
The Silver Surfer turned to his former teammates. "Terrax is right. We have all been given a segment of the Power Cosmic ourselves. Though none of us could accomplish this alone, if you will each give a portion of your power, we can use it to save her life and make her one of us." Norrin Radd desperately looked at each of his friends for approval. They all nodded, accepting the proposal. Surprisingly, even Terrax agreed.
The Surfer used his mastery of the Power Cosmic to form the rough outline of Shalla Bal in miniature in the palm of his hand. Every curve, every facial feature that he had memorized a thousand times over contributed to his accurate depiction. As the Surfer stepped back, the other former Heralds offered up a part of their Power Cosmic to it, increasing the size of the new body and giving it a cosmic glaze, much like their own. Cosmic energy quickly swarmed about the newly created form, surrounding it, as it began to function once more.
Still, her body lacked the soul and consciousness of Shalla Bal. Adam Warlock interjected. "Though my Soul Gem need not function as a receptacle, my mastery over the soul may still be of use to you, Norrin Radd." Adam called out, "Shalla Bal, enter your new form!"
The fragile lattice that Adam had woven about the star-glow faded. The brilliant sphere dissipated to nothing.
Simultaneously, the eyes of her new Power Cosmic body opened. The new body began to glow with the same stellar radiance as her soul had. Relief covered the Silver Surfer's face, as he wrapped his arms around her.
Shalla felt energized like never before. She finally understood the exhilaration of being a wielder of the Power Cosmic, unencumbered by machinery. "I am so happy to see you, Norrin Radd!" She looked up to all the former Heralds of Galactus. "How can I ever repay you all?"
Air-Walker smiled. "You already have, Shalla Bal."
Part Three - Timely Departures (Morfex)
Terrax grinned a sinister smile as he observed the dozens of heroes that surrounded him. He spoke to the Silver Surfer. "Surfer, we have been both allies and deadly adversaries, but we have come to an understanding in recent times. I wish to continue this status and leave Earth space in peace."
Norrin nodded. "You have proven yourself, if not a hero, then a valued ally again. I will not forget your sacrifice this day."
Terrax nodded solemnly. "To thwart a plot of Thanos, you may summon me anytime. I have not forgotten his indignities against me in the past."
The Surfer added, "I too would maintain our détente, Terrax. Go freely with my thanks, and as before, give me no cause to regret my decision." Terrax lifted his newly recreated axe and, utilizing a stray asteroid fragment as a foothold, departed.
Epoch spoke. "Regrettably, the countless Zenn Lavians and Xandarians suspended within the orb must remain there until the orb's dimension stabilizes itself. My seal should dissipate when the dimension is ready."
Pyreus Kril spoke up. "Xandarians? You mean that Galactus saved the lives of Xandar's inhabitants as well? But why?"
Epoch continued. "Probably for the same reason he saved Zenn La; above mere mortals he may be, but the Devourer does ever demonstrate a subtle affection for his Heralds."
Gabriel Lan asked, "How long will it be before they can emerge?"
"Without interruption, they should be able to exit the sphere within mere months by Earth's standard of time. The pods will not be awakened until their return to real space."
The Silver Surfer digested Epoch's words about Zenn La, and the implications of Shalla Bal's return. He knew that they had grown apart, even accepted that their relationship had ended, but there was still something about one's first love
While Epoch had been speaking, Nova left the chamber and returned minutes later with Mantis at her side. Starfox and Mentor followed behind them.
As with most sentient beings capable of emotion, the Surfer knew that his passion for Shalla Bal was now but a fond memory for both of them. He was devoted to Alicia Masters now, and cared for her with an intensity he had felt only with Shalla Bal and two others.
"Hey, Silverado, look who I found among the Collector's things " Norrin turned to see the two others, Nova and Mantis, standing next to each other. He ran up to Mantis and lifted her off her feet. "Mantis!" he said, and Nova smiled warmly as she tucked her arm tightly around the arm of Pyreus Kril.
Mantis gave the Surfer a warm hug. "This One has missed you, Norrin Radd." Shalla Bal attempted a smile, knowing that the past was the past. The future was another matter entirely.
Gladiator was clearly pleased to see his beloved cousin Xenith again. She hugged him tenderly, to his dismay. Gladiator asked her if he could use the 'Star Master's' communications system. They laughed as they headed to the private communications chamber together, reminiscing of a wrestling match between them that Xenith had won in their youth. "Rematch, cousin?" Xenith quipped.
Gladiator eventually returned and addressed the gathering. "I have reported to Majestrix Lilandra that several of you are planning to remain together as a team. She has responded with a request for me to accept membership in order to demonstrate Shi'ar good will to fellow sentients of the cosmos."
Ever the blunt realist, Xenith offered her opinion. "A political decision to improve their strained public image, no doubt."
Xenith and Morfex approached Beta Ray Bill, hand in hand. Xenith spoke first. "Bill, as you know, we've both been considering a leave of absence "
Bill pretended to be nonchalant. "I understand. Where will you go? When will you be back?"
Morfex smiled. "We were thinking of exploring Calculex, and from there, who knows? We'll be back before you can miss us."
Bill smiled. "I miss you both already. Take the space shuttle 'Magellan' and have a good time."
"Oh, we intend to!" said Xenith jokingly. The two Star Masters bid farewell to the entire group.
Pip spoke up, still nursing his bruises. "Calculex, huh? Mind if I hitch a ride? I've been itching to visit an old friend of mine there."
Morfex gave Pip a mock stern look. "Just as far as the spaceport, troll. Then you're on your own." Morfex laughed, and Pip said his goodbyes as well. "Adam, Gamora, take care of each other. I'm sure you'll be seeing me again soon. I got this feeling."
Soon, Morfex, Xenith, and Pip departed for the 'Magellan', and were gone.
"I never had a chance to apologize for attacking you on board Galactus' ship." said Starhawk to Kismet. "I know my existence must be disconcerting to you. I shall depart, if that is your wish."
Kismet smiled at the young Stakar. "Nonsense, you are my son. We are a life form that develops differently than most humanoids, but your apparent adulthood makes you no less my offspring. You are the answer to my prayer of one day bearing children. Please, accept me as your loving mother. I offer this freely and sincerely."
The two embraced, then turned to face Quasar, who stood away at arm's length. Quasar felt foolish and had no idea what to do. Genis noticed Quasar's hesitation and nudged him forcefully in their direction.
Quasar was honest with them. "I know I'm your biological father, Starhawk, but we look and act practically the same age. It's going to take a little getting used to, this idea of us being father and son. But being a Marvel, this seems like one of the occupational hazards." He turned to Kismet. "But I'm sure I can learn to like it, in time." Soon the three were embracing together, a unique family unit.
The group was stunned to hear of Cyrus' fate from Jack of Hearts and Ganymede.
They compared notes to think who might have had a motivation for risking certain insanity and megalomania as the price of Galactus-level power. Several heroes suspected Doctor Doom. Others thought Maelstrom might be the culprit. Ganymede suspected Thanos himself.
Quasar created a coffin of quantum energy, and the gathered heroes were solemn as Cyrus' body was jettisoned into space toward Earth's sun.
Epoch, Scion of Eon, appeared before the gathered cosmic heroes aboard the starcraft orbiting the Earth. "The events that transpired during the Cosmic Union only confirm that the Universe needs Protectors. I call on you gathered here to accept the challenge and share in a new community as the 'Protectors of the Universe.' If all are agreed, I propose the following "
"Silver Surfer, Nova, Firelord, Airwalker, Starglow. You five will be the division of Protectors known as the Powers Cosmic."
"Beta Ray Bill, Quasar, Gladiator, Starfox, Captain Marvel, Jack of Hearts, Drax, Starhawk. You eight will be the division of Protectors known as the Star Masters."
"Ganymede, Mantis, Gamora, Moondragon, Kismet. You five will be the division of Protectors known as the Spinsterhood."
"Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel, Quasar, you three will periodically serve another role with reserve associates Adam Warlock, Thor, and Doctor Strange. You six will be the special reserve division of Protectors known as the Defenders."
"The teams are designed to encourage interaction. Each division will be called upon to serve the greater good of the Universe, both separately and as a whole. Special assignments may require mixing members whose abilities better suit the challenge. New members will be allowed, subject to majority vote. The time has come for a united front against the forces of evil that threaten the cosmos."
There came a time, a time unlike any other time, when a number of the most powerful heroes in the cosmos united under a common banner. Each hero joined with a different motivation, but all swore to protect the Universe against any manner of threat. Under the guidance of the Cosmic Being known as Epoch, they are -- the Protectors of the Universe!
THE END, AND THE BEGINNING.
We hope you enjoyed the Cosmic Union Saga! The story continued/continues in our Protectors of the Universe titles, which you can go back and rean now (if you haven't all ready) at the POTU Archive Page. If you have been staying up to date with our POTU titles, you can read the conclusion of their first story-arch in Protectors of the Universe #1, available in this CPU issue! And, also read the special alternate ending to the Cosmic Union, available in this issue as well! Now be sure to leave us some comments and suggestions below or by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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