Protectors of the Universe: Defenders #3
Written by WarlorTVor, Edited &
Co-plotted by Morfex
Protectors of the Universe: Defenders
"Future Crimes: Part Three - For There Shall Be Yet Another "
This story takes place after Defenders #1 and Defenders #2
Note: The Defenders is an alternate future to the current POTU titles
The tribal medicine man stood there under the hot desert sun alone.
His ancestors of many generations prior to this dark day had told of a prophecy, and Gray Fox knew it well, as did all members in his tribe. But unlike the other tribal people he knew the prophecy's origin as well as the man behind it.
Gray Fox's great, great, great, great grandfather, during the time when the white man was battling one another in an attempt to gain what they thought was their inalienable right to suppress another's inalienable rights because of their skin color, embarked on a Vision Quest. He left the village and journeyed on-ward into the steaming hot ruins that composed the wastelands that flanked the village on either side. He made the trek by foot with fairly little: a small knife, which was covered in thick rust; and a small water pouch, only enough for one day.
Now Gray Fox stood upon the very ledge that his ancestor stood upon, all those years ago, staring down into the darkness of the earth's core.
On that day his ancestor had seen an entire universe, the universe of what was to come, unfold before his very eyes. He had seen that universe give birth to marvels yet untold and how those marvels who were bestowed with the great responsibility of defending the universe turned into the pleasures of darkness. They destroyed the world that they had once been willing to lay their lives down for.
He had seen other events as well: the destruction of the earth; a war to determine the destiny of all creation; a young scientist cursed to live his days as a monstrous beast, a result of the ultimate weapon created by his hand; a being half-human, half-monster, that would become the slayer of those he hated; and through it all stood a man made of sheer gold. He bore three faces and no neck his head was covered in a purple veil.
All of this and more, much more, merged and washed over in a blur that threatened to destroy the sanity of Gray Fox's great, great, great grandfather, who had run quickly back toward the village. When he had arrived he had written it all down upon a simple scroll of paper.
And it read
"And in a time yet undiscovered it will come to pass that those who were charged with man's survival will become tainted by perverse pleasures. They will bring death and destruction to all those who were born differently from them. They will claim their intentions to be holy, but their actions will be anything but that. And then they men from the time that had already passed they will be mankind's only hope for survival, they shall be condemned for the actions that would soon transpire, and as a result be stripped of all their marvelous powers. But they will not have to face their selves that were yet to come alone. For there shall be yet another. A man a man born with great power from the darkest reaches of the sea of twinkling lights, he shall descend to the earth and the skies overhead will crackle with sheer energy and power. And he shall take up the mantle and fight for the humanity that he held in such scorn and hatred for so many years. Together they shall forge an alliance and defeat their evil born brethren."
For some strange reason Gray Fox found himself muttering those words that he had read over and over again for so many nights, but never held much stock in the words that seemed empty to him. The medicine man gave out a heavy sigh, and cast his gaze toward the bright sea blue air. He had not known what had drawn him to this place, but for some reason he felt compelled to come here. He stood there without moving for many moments longer and he had not known what - if anything - to expect.
Gray Fox had hoped that he might bare witness to his own vision.
But there was nothing. He had been a fool to think that something anything would happen. After years of coming to this very ground and waiting only to be disappointed every time that he had made the long and dangerous trek through the desert. Nothing ever happened and he doubt if anything would happen
He sighed once again and started to make the long trek back toward the village when it happened.
The blue skies overhead crackled with energy anew. Gray Fox swirled around to see what was happening in the great expanse before him. Lightening fingered outward, lancing forward, blackening the day sky with brilliant golden energy. Then the energy started to take shape; it was the shape of a man! Energy continued to stream from his muscular form, lighting up the blue sky. Gray Fox could hear the deafening cry, even despite being a good several miles away. But there was not only a man in the atmosphere over head. No there were three! Two others, whom towered over the one that he had first seen, were mounting what appeared to be an offensive against the first. Beams of energy crackled in the atmosphere, and Gray Fox watched, helpless but to wait for the outcome.
"For there shall be yet another," Gray Fox started to recite the last few lines of the prophecy. "A man a man born with great power from the darkest reaches of the sea of twinkling lights, he shall descend to the earth and the skies overhead will crackle with sheer energy and power. And he shall take up the mantle and fight for the humanity that he held in such scorn and hatred for so many years."
And it was at that moment that he knew that he was not meant to see a vision of his own
No, he was meant to bare witness to the fulfillment of one that had been seen many years ago
Captain Marvel was clad in crimson red silk robes that clung to his muscular form, a gentle zephyr washed over his body and the robes whipped around him tenderly, on his chest stood a massive golden star, much the same one that he had worn on his original costume. The gold Nega-Bands that he bore on his wrists glimmered broadly in the faint, dust plagued white light. His vision glazed over for a moment as he considered what he had just been told, his hands absently fingered the thin pure white goatee that danced across his squared chin. This was the man that he had once been merged with for mutual survival shortly after the Destiny War. Another hand dipped into the v-neck collar of his robes and he pulled out a silver flask. Slowly he removed the cap and downed the thick alcoholic contents. He let out a sigh of relief as the exotic liquor, which was ice cold, burned its way down his throat. Genis-Vell wiped his lips with the back of his hand. He uttered, "And why, pray tell, Rick, are you telling me this?"
"I want to make a deal, Genis," Rick Jones stated. He was submerged in shadows. A few droplets of rain dripped from the utterly destroyed roof over head. The two were standing in the main forum that once comprised the Avenger's Mansion. The once majestic building had been turned into nothing more than debris and flaming rubble, when all of Earth's mightiest heroes reunited under one common banner and launched an offensive battle against the "dark" Defenders of this time period. The conflict took place shortly after the memorial service for the Protectors of the Universe, when the Defenders attacked the event, thus killing all those who attended. Jones stood beside the twisted remains of the once towering chimney that now lay outstretched before him at his feet.
"A deal?" Genis-Vell laughed cruelly at that. When the laughter subsided and he took another deep, relishing swig from the flask, he asked, "What kind of " his voice dropped to a conspiratorial tone " a deal do you wish to strike?" He smiled crookedly.
"My wife " his voice trailed off.
"Marlo!" Genis-Vell felt his back stiffen at this, he had always been fond of the young woman she had her unique brand of charm.
"Yes, Genis," Jones turned his back toward the man that he once called friend, a noble spirit that had been tainted in a pool of alcohol and excess. Now Rick held him in nothing more than disdain. "She's dying of what, I don't know. It " Tears started to stream down his eyes. "During your battle with the Avengers that spilled out into Central Park, I noticed that Marlo was caught in the crossfire, while helping bystanders to safety We were meant to get together some time that evening and give another try at 'working things out.' I tried to get to her tried to " His fist slammed against the wooden railing over the fireplace. He winced and looked down at his hand, the thick blood leaked out from his cut palm. "I tried to get to her! But I wasn't fast enough! Wasn't good enough!" He bit his lower lip, fighting off the images of pain that flooded his mind's eye. His tone seemed to echo from a great distance away. "I arrived at the scene moments later, right after it happened. A mystical blast lanced forward from Doctor Strange. The blast was meant for the Thing but Marlo she was in the way and she collapsed in my arm. Her breathing was shallow and she started to cough up blood. I barely made it to a small underground lab that once belonged to Bruce a few years back. I was barely able to put her body in a containment unit, stabilizing her already critical condition."
"None. In fact her condition is degrading. That's where you come in, Genis. I tell you where your past incarnations of the Defenders are. I believe you are still a man of your word, Genis, like the man that I once knew you to be. Bring me Doctor Strange. This is his doing! And I know he has to have some sort of mystical enchantment to restore her to full health." Rick Jones could tell he was not swaying Genis with his pleas. He lowered his head, his hair obscuring his wet eyes, his eyes were drawn to something that was hanging upon a mantle over the fireplace. The faint light in the Mansion glistened brilliantly off the metallic surface of the swords that were placed upon the mantle. He looked at the metallic surface for a moment or two, and caught the image of Captain Marvel who stood behind him, flask in hand. "Please, Genis. I've " The image of his wife once again in the containment unit returned to him. He quickly shook the image away, pushing it back to the farthest reaches of his mind. "I've never been so desperate in my life I mean, every time I see her like that " he brought his one arm up, only to drop it to his side once more, in helplessness. Tears streamed down his eyes once more. He could not fight them, and did not even try.
"A shame. Truly a shame," Genis stated, downing the last of the flask's contents. He sighed once more as he screwed the cap back onto the flask and slipped the silver container back into his v-neck robes. "But you will not have to worry about it for much longer." Rick turned to him. A quizzical look danced across his angular face. Captain Marvel rose his hand and snapped his fingers. "After all death cures all worries." He smiled devilishly.
Melting from the shadows came two dark forms, that Rick Jones recognized instantly as the forms of Adam Warlock and Doctor Stephen Strange. He realized in his attempt to betray the Defenders who had arrived from the past as the prophecies had dictated, he had been duped. And now for his betrayal he was being betrayed. The irony did not escape him, in his last moments. "You bastard, Genis! I trusted you!" He charged forth, and then in a swift motion that was faster than the human eye could follow, Warlock was before him, the golden man's hands firmly grasping Rick's shoulders.
Warlock's eyes burned a bright blood red color. His skin started to change to a grayish shade, the golden hue fading away. He smiled hellishly. The Infinity Gem of the Soul upon Warlock's brow flared to life. A whirlpool of recently added crying and demented souls started to swirl into an abyss. Rick's triangular eyes widened greatly, then he could feel his soul escaping him. He tried to resist the power of the Soul Gem, but to no avail. On the metaphysical plane, his soul lanced forth from his mouth and was pulled into the whirlpool of the emerald gem, where it was devoured. Warlock let out a roar of ecstasy. His eyes closed, relishing the sensations that surged through his body. His hands released their grasp upon Jones and the lifeless body crumpled to the floor.
"Enough, Warlock," Strange commanded, stepping forth, his deadly stare boring down upon the vampire-like beast before him. "We are wasting time, the more our past counterparts remain in our time frame the more the Mythbreaker and our plans are in jeopardy. You can cherish your new acquisition later. For now "
"Still your tongue!" Warlock demanded, his head whirling around to face the Sorcerer Supreme, his gem flaring up much the same way as it had before Rick Jones' dark soul was absorb and merged into Warlock's life essence. "Or you shall join him!" His skin once more turned a grayish tint.
"You dare!?" Strange snapped. Green circles of mystical energy started to manifest themselves around his churning hands.
"Enough!" Genis-Vell demanded, placing himself in between the two, his hands stretched out separating the two that much further. "We do not have the time!"
"He is correct," admitted Strange.
"This is not over, Witch!"
"I do not doubt it, Warlock."
"Very well, now that we've got that settled," Genis-Vell stated, dropping his hands to his sides. "Warlock " he invited, his head inclining slightly toward the limp, now dead form of Rick Jones that had collapsed from Warlock's iron grasp.
Warlock nodded. His Soul Gem started to storm. Mystical lightening lashed through the emerald orb. Adam's soul lanced forward, striking Rick Jones in the chest. Jones body started to convulse, his fingers started to flex on their own with no discernible pattern, the muscles in his jaw started to ripple back and forth. His back arched heavenward, the muscles in his arms started to bulge outward. A scream tore from Rick's slack open jaw, the veins in his neck jutted outward. The scream at first was made of the merged voices of Jones and Warlock, as the vampire Adam Warlock battled for control over the vessel that was Rick Jones. Soon Jones' voice died out. Adam Warlock's body slumped forward and collapsed soullessly into Captain Marvel's waiting arms.
Warlock-Rick Jones arose to his feet, and started to laugh.
"Quickly, Warlock," snapped Doctor Strange stepping forward. "We are running out of time!"
"I am aware of that, Strange."
"Genis-Vell," Strange turned from the form of Rick Jones back toward the form of Captain Marvel. "Take Warlock's body to New Asgard, at once."
"As you wish," Genis gave off a half cocky salute and threw Warlock's grayish, gold body over one shoulder, and soared upward. He flew toward the nearest window. His muscular form shattered through the steel brim windows. And with that the two were no more, gone into the wild storms that raged outside the Mansions grounds.
"Now, Warlock, contact the Defenders and inform them that their dear friend Rick Jones is in grave danger," Strange laughed cruelly, a satanic smile danced across his lips. Warlock said nothing. A wise move, Strange mused to himself, but Warlock merely approached the nearest computer terminal, his fingers dancing across the keys.
And Strange smiled satanically once again. "All our planning is finally reaching fruition."
Adam Warlock slowly opened the small panel evaluator shaft doors manually, with little resistance.
The doors obediently gave way and the golden figure stepped out onto the roof of the small, abandon and condemned tenement building that the Defenders took for shelter when they arrived in this alternate timeline or whatever this "prison" of the Tribunals was. But this everything, just didn't feel right for him. Something was amiss, he knew that much, but could not tell from where the eminent danger lurked. He made his way toward the edge of the roof, and cast his stern gaze upon all of Manhattan. He wondered, How could this be? If the date on the newspaper, that Quasar discovered on his first trip into the open only a few hours ago, was in fact true, then all of this this destruction and mayhem would take place in only a few weeks. The end of the Protectors. Earth's heroes annihilated. Rick Jones' arm lost, everything. And in his time there was no foreshadowing of destruction on this scale, no devastation this great. And certainly none caused by the Defenders.
Something was truly amiss. Of this much, he was certain.
Warlock's eyes scanned the vista that was Manhattan, which in his time frame had been the exact polar opposite of what he now gazed upon. All across the city buildings were in ruin, and threatened to crumble down to their foundations, sending iron and brick spiraling toward the streets below. Lining the streets and sidewalks were a multitude of abandoned cars, creating an integral maze of debris all across the streets and spewing into the alleyways. Several of the shops and restaurants had had their windows shattered, more than likely due to looting. Most noticeably, there were practically no signs of life whatsoever. From time to time, Warlock would catch shadowy figures rummaging through the streets, but they merely emerged from one shadowy outcropping only to delve into another one across the way. With Warlock's power of the soul no more, he could not tell if it was merely a figment of his overworking imagination or not.
Manhattan was nothing more than a graveyard of death and destruction, Warlock concluded after a time.
He shook his head from side to side, slowly, grimly.
Then he heard something from behind. The crackling sound jerked him out of his personal musings. He knew the sound well, it was the sound of the lose gravel that rested on the roof, as it crunched under someone's footsteps, a small splash quickly followed the sound of shifting gravel. Warlock need not turn around to see who was approaching from behind. "Strange," he said, matter-of-factly, informing the new arrival that he was well aware of his presence on the condemned roof.
"I thought," Doctor Stephen Strange started, taking a stance slight behind Warlock's stoic golden form, "all of our powers were stripped from us when we entered this time frame, by the Tribunals, as was your power over the Soul. How could you "
Warlock slowly turned his head to the right side in order to face the form of Doctor Strange from over his shoulder, his long blond hair draped over to one side of his head, his hair was drenched, as was the rest of his clothes. The two Defenders were clad in simple attire, clothes that Quasar had obtained when he ventured into the open the same time that he had found the newspaper, which had shed only more mysteries rather than answers concerning the team's current whereabouts. "We have been through a great many things, you and I, Strange," Warlock stated, then he swept his gaze back over toward the vista of death and decay that was Manhattan. "And I do not need my powers to sense your presence."
Warlock's next words took Stephen Strange aback slightly. "Something troubles me deeply, Strange." The Sorcerer Supreme's eyes widened abruptly. For Warlock was not one who spoke freely of the inner workings of his mind, he was reserved and kept to himself, greatly. He was rather reserved with his thoughts, only bringing them into the light when he felt that they were of grave importance and demanded to be stated. It was one of the things that Strange had grown accustomed to from the man who was beyond simple words such as good and evil, with all their encounters. Quickly, Strange recovered his flawless composure.
"I'm listening, Adam."
Strange waited peacefully, the rain pounding against his body harshly, and his attention was abruptly caught when a bolt of lightening lashed out from the heavens only a few blocks away. The light fingered outward, then died down, just as soon as it was upon them. Thunder snapped into existence, merely amplifying the uncomfortable silence that had fallen between the two Defenders.
Adam finally opened his thin lips and spoke, after collecting his thoughts, "We are both aware that I am beyond the realms of Order and Chaos." Strange knew that all too well in fact, but said nothing. He merely waited, his hands clamped behind his back serenely. "And that I have no set Destiny, and yet " His voice trailed off for a moment or two. "So how can we be seeing the future? Let alone be in it?" His vision had become glazed over as he contemplated his words, carefully.
"I have been thinking along those same lines, ever sense we discovered that we were transported from our time to this one." He shook his head from side to side in a slow motion revealing his deep concentration; his right hand started to stroke his chin, as he pondered the situation. Strange sighed, "Alas, I am afraid, that all my musings have not turned up an answer to our current dilemma. Perhaps it is the Tribunals' doing. I'm sure that they are tied into all of this in some other way that they are not saying." Warlock's head nodded at this idea. "But I do know one thing," his tone became firm once more, in total contrast to how it had been when he entertained the notions of Warlock's inner thoughts. "This world is nothing more than Purgatory. And somehow, some way we are involved. Or at least a future version of ourselves are." He unconsciously corrected his posture, and - at least in Warlock's opinion - Strange's body stiffen somewhat, in much the same stance one would if one were taking up a defensive stance. His tone took on a bravado that drowned out the coming thunder. "And we will stop them! And put an end to this madness once and for all, Adam!"
"Brave words, Strange. But, in the end, meaningless, as are your actions in this time-stream!"
The reply had not come from Adam Warlock, and they had not heard any sounds of another from within the building coming topside in order to join them and brave the storms that continued to pound upon them. Warlock and Strange exchanged temporarily confused glances. When the familiar voice's words were over and they were both able to register them, they knew instantly who had spoken them. As one the two Defenders whirled around in order to face the owner of the dark, yet commanding tone, who stood there before them.
The sinister form of Quasar erupted in laughter, his body was encircled in a fluid golden light that gave off a faint green hue to it as it swirled around his body, vigorously. His hair was long and wildly grown, it was being picked up in the wind and faintly tossed to one side, where it continued to snap backwards and forwards as if it had a mind of its own.
"Now, in one quick strike I'll destroy you both and with your passing nothing shall stand in my way!" Quasar stated boldly. Power churned from his fist and lanced forward. When he quickly jerked his fingers open, the power stretched outward in the direction of the two Defenders ... who had no time to react. And with the release of such awe inspiring power, the building around Doctor Stephen Strange and Adam Warlock exploded around them.
Magneto hovered over the charred remains of two Sentinels who had attempted to hinder his escape from the Mutant Interment Camp, that was only a few miles away at an old abandoned U.S. Army Military Installation. He was not clad in his customary crimson red and purple body armor. No, his attire was much more simplistic. Magnus was clad in dark green overalls torn in several key areas. They were stained in blood, none of it his own.
Magneto turned his head toward the desert-like horizon. Rolling mountains jutted out of the reddish dust covered earth of the desert. His eyes closed for a moment as if to clear his mind, and cleanse his soul of the torment and hell that he and his fellow brethren had to endure over the past weeks. He could almost hear the screams of murder and death that had taken place, in the Mutant Interment Camp that he had been held in for the better part of a month until he managed to escape only a few hours ago. Only to be hunt down like a dog by the Sentinels that now lay stretched out at his feet.
The plan for escape was well thought out but executing the plan was murder ... literally. He had been one of a dozen and a half mutants who had managed to destroy the security field and tried to escape. The others now lay dead at the hands of butchers and murderers. The voices of the dead called out to him once more. Tormenting him, crying out to him to make sure that their deaths that their noblest of all sacrifices were not in vain.
Pain and agony surged through his body but he could not feel an iota of the discomfort that possessed him. For his hatred was much too strong. His eyes were turned to pure white, his stubble covered jaw started to ripple uncontrollably back and forth.
"How dare they!" he swore under his breath in a low monotone voice. "They shall pay for what they have done to my people! And I will be the one to make them pay!"
But first an alliance with the devils had to made A deal that would ensure his victory
Magnus turned away and started to rise from the ground, as if gravity possessed no effect upon him whatsoever. A sphere of electric energy encompassed him. Crackling white and crimson red energy danced across the surface of the sphere, it appeared to manifest itself around him at his whim, and he soared off toward the horizon.
"What was that?" asked the young man called Running Lightening, who had joined Gray Fox, his father, only a few moments ago. He rested one hand on the hood of his dusty tan jeep, the heat burning his hand greatly, but he did not make an effort to move it, for he was agape at what he and his father just borne witnessed to.
Gray Fox paid the young man with only a sidelong glance and in cryptic terms said, "A prophecy, son. A prophecy coming to fruition at long last."
To Be Continued
Now, go read Defenders #4. And be sure to leave us comments below or e-mail them to email@example.com, and be sure to check out the POTU Archive Pages for more information on this continuity and more stories contained in it.