Protectors of the Universe #3

Written by Morfex
Logo created by Lord Thanos
Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group in

Characters are the properties of Marvel Comics

Protectors of the Universe #3
"...To Stand the Test of Time!"

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #2.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

The Jovian moon of Io was the base of operations for the elaborate group of cosmic heroes and adventures known as the Protectors of the Universe. It was built millennia ago by an enigmatic group of female interstellar warriors known as the Spinsterhood. This group had mysterious ties to the Eternals of the moon Titan, orbiting the neighboring planet of Saturn.

The Spinsterhood Retreat on Io was an amazing yet haunting place. Despite the Protectors' best efforts at renovation, a sense of chill foreboding often stirred, as did subtle, frosty breezes that lent to the sense of a futuristic ghost town. This did not stop the Protectors from adapting the ancient place as best that they could into a semblance of a home.

Mantis began an arboretum. Moondragon created a Meditation Room similar to those on Titan. Both Doctor Strange and Adam Warlock made use of the area during their occasional visits. Adam offered his highest compliment to Heather Douglas, when he commented that the room had proven "adequate."

Quasar and Gladiator worked to develop a Strategy Chamber, utilizing information from the former's quantum beacons placed across several galaxies, and the latter's Shi'ar security grid infrastructure. Epoch and Ganymede assured that the Library was cutting edge in its content. Beta Ray Bill and Gamora enjoyed the task of refurbishing the Training Arena, although the long-lost Spinsters had certainly kept the Armory well stocked.

Kismet and Starhawk helped Starfox and Drax to enhance the stark and often cramped living quarters into something more tolerable. As Starfox had put it, "If one cannot rest in the lap of luxury, what was the point of saving the Universe?" At its maximum capacity, the Retreat had probably housed a thousand Spinsters. At Starfox's last count, there were twenty-eight Protectors. With possible guests, they assumed that fifty living quarters would be sufficient for their short-term needs.

At the onset of the Retreat's occupation, Epoch had requested that a section of it be sealed off to all but her. This was the area in which the Timeless could meet, unhampered by the other subdivisions of the Protectors. Epoch rightly feared that, following the Cosmic Union, the constant temporal rifts required by their missions might have an adverse effect on the time-space integrity of the wing, the base, and the entire moon. She erected a protective bubble within which time travel could occur regularly; she consistently cleansed the temporal radiation through means too complex for the other Protectors to comprehend. The difficult task required a substantial effort, and began to occupy consistently more of Epoch's time. Quasar assured Ganymede that her precious Retreat maintained reasonable low-level background temporal radiation only in every area but the Time Wing.

The Timeless was a group of Protectors with time-travelling experience, some from other eras: Nathaniel Richards, Death's Head II, Doom 2099, Justice Peace, and alternate reality versions of Century and Ripjak.

With the passing of the Cosmic Union* and the Destiny War**, time travel had become far more complicated. No longer were the Timeless free to move about the timestream at will; certain new temporal constants now applied.

(*See CPU's Cosmic Union Fanfic Saga.)

(**See Marvel's Avengers Forever #1 - 12 for details.)

One such constant was explained to Starhawk and Drax upon the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy, only days before. One of the Guardians had described the limitation as being "time-barred." Several Guardians had had to remain in the 31st Century because they had 21st Century counterparts that caused disruptions in the timestream and in both counterparts' biological functions. The 31st Century Starhawk, Kismet, Firelord, the Keeper, the Ancient One, Major Victory, Hollywood, Mainframe, Krugarr, the Spirit of Vengeance, and Phoenix IX were all time-barred from the post-Destiny War Reality of the year 2000.

The non-barred Guardians of the Galaxy arrived through a Union remnant, a tear in the space-time continuum that seemed to have a connection to the present-day Starhawk's origins and powers, he knew not how. Martinex, Replica, Aleta, Charlie 27, Yondu, Nikki, Talon, and Ripjak arrived on a crucial mission, but an unexpected side-effect of their time travel was a memory loss that ate away at recent experiences first, working its way slowly backward.

Martinex was a Pluvian, genetically bred for survival and work on the Sol System's most distant planet. His diamond hard skin seemed sculpted into multiple facets. He was one of the founding members of the Guardians, and he was instrumental in expanding the roster of the team into a larger amalgamation he dubbed the Galactic Guardians.

Aleta was the stunningly beautiful adoptive sister and former wife of the 31st century Starhawk. She had shared one physical body with Stakar for years, but now functioned independently of him. Her powers were related to the mysterious Hawk God. She was romantically involved with Major Victory, Vance Astro from their alternate future.

Captain Charlie 27 was a Jovian, genetically bred to withstand the pressures and atmosphere of Io's mother planet, Jupiter. He was also a founding member of the team.

Yondu Odonta was not of Terran descent. His deep blue pigmentation and the tall red crest growing from his back marked him as a member of the race of Centaurians. He was a holy man to his people, as well as a skilled warrior with non-technological weaponry. Another founding member, Yondu worshipped a deity called Anthos, whom he recently learned might actually be Thanos of Titan. The revelation was more than he could bear, and he fell into a state of complete denial, wreaking havoc with his delicate spiritual balance.

Nicholette, or Nikki, was a Mercurian, the last survivor of her kind. She was the first female member of the Guardians. With flames for hair, her body could reach the temperature of the surface of Mercury and still survive. She was the lover of Charlie 27, whose durable hide could withstand the heat.

Talon was an Inhuman, and a disciple of the 31st Century Sorcerer Supreme, Krugarr. His body had undergone various changes in recent months, relative to his timeframe. He now bore a sleeker feline frame, unlike the monstrously brutish form that had emphasized his bestial nature. His mystical possessions like the Eye of Agamotto, remained in the 31st Century to avoid the chaos of a multiple presence in one era.

Replica was a Skrull female, the youngest member of the team. She was a devout believer in the Universal Church of Truth.

Ripjak was the last of the Martians, considered for a time to be a cosmic serial killer. Instead, his motivations had proven merciful, as the euthanizing of several plague worlds did avert untold suffering and inevitable, drawn out deaths. He bore red, gold, and silver armor that made his physical form seem humanoid. The only human part of him was the genetic makeup of the final survivor of an alternate Earth's 21st Century heroes' last stand in the Martian War of the Worlds, the amazing Spider-Man.

The Guardians of the Galaxy expected a smooth arrival in the 21st Century. Instead, their memories were disappearing, their ship was a heap of useless slag in the Nevada desert, and Ripjak was suffering from massive temporal feedback. Only quick action by the mystically trained Talon saved his life.

Drax and Starhawk transported them quickly to Io, where Epoch arranged for them to be housed within the wing of the Spinsterhood Retreat reserved for the Timeless. Now, Aleta and Replica were assisting the Protectors with a mission on the planet Sirus X. The remaining Guardians could do little more than wait and hope that Epoch could find a means of reversing the effects of their ill-fated arrival, and aid them in recollecting the urgent mission that had brought them.

Within the protective bubble that Epoch had erected, the Guardians began to make the most of their temporal exile. They began recordings of their most recent memories, hoping to outpace the terrifying memory loss they were all suffering. Charlie 27 and Nikki had stumbled upon clues to their forgotten mission en route to Io. Epoch felt their findings to be momentous enough to allow them access to the top-secret Time Wing of the Retreat, despite the security risk.

Ripjak's condition grew steadily worse. Talon's makeshift protective sphere had served to get Ripjak to Io, and Epoch's larger sphere of protection slowed the deterioration dramatically. Still, Ripjak's body was destabilizing, causing untold agony to the Martian time-traveler. The 21st Century Starhawk supposed that it might be related to the presence of an alternate future Ripjak among the members of the Timeless. How Starhawk knew of even one entry in the top-secret membership roster of the Timeless was beyond even Epoch, or Starhawk, for that matter. His developing powers merited further study.

The Timeless were returning from a series of assignments throughout the timestream and alternate realities. The Destiny War's recent relative occurrence caused a fracturing of timelines and realities. One set of Timeless continued their confrontations with multiple threats to the time stream, where the Time Keepers still survived.* The post-Destiny War set of Timeless were abruptly detoured from their intended destination.

(*See Azmodi's & Anomaly's Tales of the Timeless, they're great! (shameless plug))

When the Timeless were detoured, shunted without warning back to their base of operations, they were momentarily disoriented. As they began to get their bearings, they realized their location; this was confirmed by the voice behind them, as Martinex spoke for the gathered Guardians. "You are in the Spinsterhood Retreat on the Jovian moon of Io. The Time Wing to be exact." Talon, Charlie 27, Nikki, and Yondu stood beside him.

Nathaniel Richards was the first to react. "What is the meaning of this incursion?"

The Timeless version of Ripjak, although not genetically related to Spider-Man, was similar enough to the Ripjak of the Guardians to feel the temporal impact as well. Ripjak fell to his knees, grasping his chest suddenly. Century began to clutch his neck as if he could not take a breath. Doom's armor seemed to seize up, perhaps attempting to redirect its energies toward life support. Death's Head and Justice Peace took the fall of their three comrades as an act of aggression on the part of the Guardians. They braced themselves for battle, instantaneously prepping their weapons and charging up their powers.

Richards attempted to avert a confrontation, thinking the Guardians were simply being misconstrued by his teammates. To his surprise, the Guardians of the Galaxy poised to attack as well. He had enough time to observe the three fallen members of the Timeless, whose bodies began to vibrate out of synch with reality. Richards called out quickly. "Epoch? What is happening?"

Captain Charlie 27 confronted the cyborg mercenary called Death's Head. "Our mission is simple: the elimination of the Timeless at any cost. The Future depends on it."

Gamora felt her flesh whither. Her eyes felt desiccated and heavy, bereft of vision. Her inner ears still seemed to function as voices entered and exited her range of hearing.

White Raven's voice was unmistakable. She addressed a man in the room where Gamora rested. "It's just as you predicted, my love. Your exquisite timing has saved us. The Dark God has been momentarily stymied, and Gamora and I yet live. With his feast postponed, his energies will wane. Soon the time will be ripe for you to take your rightful place!" Raven's tone seemed more ambitious than romantic, even to Gamora's deteriorating ears.

The response Gamora heard was a mere whisper. She could not recognize the man's muted voice from a distance. "Soon, my love. But hold, I believe Gamora may be regaining a semblance of consciousness."

Gamora felt a familiar hand squeeze her fingers reassuringly. "Gam, it's Raven, can you hear me? If you can't speak, then just tighten your grip." Gamora focused her will, and two of her fingers twitched in White Raven's grasp. "We have located your original birth body, revived to the peak of health. We intend to transfer your life essence from the corpse you inhabit to the form you once knew. I know it sounds confusing right now, but there's no time to explain. You'll have to trust me, but I refuse to let the procedure continue without your willing consent. I won't lie to you; there are terrible risks involved. I've sent word of your plight to your friends, but they may not be able to help you in time. Can we attempt this dangerous procedure? Please, move your fingers once for 'No' or twice for 'Yes'.''

Gamora did not have a moment of hesitation. She had an unbridled passion for life. The risk was justified. There was never a doubt in her mind.

Gamora refocused her will, and slowly, White Raven detected one faint twitch of Gamora's fingers, which were shriveled like those of a mummified cadaver. Gamora concentrated every fiber of her frame, but alas, she could not muster the second motion. White Raven would surely misunderstand, and leave her to rot within this anatomical prison. In her mind, Gamora screamed a thousand curses of frustration.

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #4!  Be sure to also check out our 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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