Protectors of the Universe #4

Written by Morfex and Mystic, Editing by Morfex
Logo created by Lord Thanos
Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group in

Characters are the properties of Marvel Comics
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Protectors of the Universe #4
"Heaven Can Wait..."

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #3.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

In recent hours,* Adam Warlock had taken the opportunity to undo one of the few admitted errors of his early Supremacy, the expulsion of the Good and Evil within him. He could have done it at any time during his tenure among the Infinity Watch, but he had opted to remain unburdened by such mortal traits in order to best serve his own purposes. The self-afflicted soul tampering had served his purposes for a time, but the dispassionate detachment was not to last. It was after Adam's foray into the Ultraverse** that his emotions had begun to surface once again, this time uncontrollably.***

(* Protectors of the Universe #1.)
(** Marvel's Ultraverse Unlimited #1.)
(*** Marvel's Warlock Limited Series by Tom Lyle.)

Adam recalled his time on Earth, just after defeating Syphonn in the Negative Zone. He and his allies, Gamora and Pip, had prepared for Syphonn's coming onslaught. During this epic rematch,* Warlock maneuvered the reemergence of Monster Island from the Atlantic. Around that time he had also consulted the mysterious seer Aquarius regarding his attempts to control his increasingly erratic emotional fluctuations. The cryptic being had chanted something about "reclaiming good, evil, body and soul once you find your parents". Aquarius had finished his bizarre vision by suggesting that Adam consult "the Unseen Woman" to learn of his parents' fate. Thus, at the end of the Cosmic Union affair**, Adam requested information about the Fantastic Four's recent encounter with the Enclave*** from Sue Richards.

(* In an untold tale of Warlock between Tom Lyle's Warlock Limited Series and the beginning of the Cosmic Union, to be posted, given sufficient interest.)
(** In Cosmic Union #20.)
(*** In Fantastic Four Volume 3, #12.)

Thanos' last recorded message* had been the presentation of a mystery for Adam Warlock. Why had the Soul Gem contained both a paradise and a vampiric entity? If the Soul World within had truly been a paradise, why would the vampiric entity even need to steal souls? Were the captured spirits somehow slowly depleted to something less than whole, or were they limitless sources of replenishing energy? If the Soul Gem had power over all souls, was that responsibility a conflict of interest with its hunger? What did using the Gem's power do to the souls that inhabited it, or the soul of the user? If a soul was innately perfect, can a master of the soul be innately flawed?

(* In POTU: Star Masters #2.)

They were all questions Adam Warlock had considered many times before hearing Thanos' message. For the answers Thanos learned, the Titan had referred Adam to the time after Thanos' entombment in living stone, but before Mar-Vell's death. Thanos had stated: "Seek epiphany, not at his grave, but at the place of his birth."

But who was "he"? Had Thanos meant Adam or Mar-Vell? Adam now suspected that Thanos had been referring to the former Counter-Earth grave marker and the Bee Hive, both of which now stood on the surface of the planet Sirus X.

If Adam was correct, then "the time between Thanos' entombment in living stone and Mar-Vell's death" was referring to Adam's activities during that period. Adam had appeared as the ultimate Golden Avenger*, back from the grave for one more act of righteous vengeance. He had turned the Mad Titan's Eternal powers back upon himself, forcing Thanos to imprison himself in the form of a statue, never able to truly die. Adam had returned to Soul World happy, contented, affectionate to his friends, well-adjusted and eager to reap the blessings of the idyllic Soul World.

(*Marvel Team-Up Annual #2?)

When next Adam had appeared on the cosmic scene, the Silver Surfer and Drax had entered Soul World to find him a somber, brooding recluse, a hermit preparing for a war he was certain would come*. But what had occurred in between?

(*Silver Surfer #45)

Mar-Vell's death had happened months prior to the Infinity Gauntlet affair. Mar-Vell's passing had been the first indication that Thanos was returning to an active form. It was Thanos' spiritual reemergence that had awakened in Adam the desperate need to prepare for the battle that was surely to come.

Adam reflected on his afterlife between returning to Soul World and learning of Thanos' resurgence. He had never been happier. Soul World had a way of accentuating every inhabitant's best personality attributes. In a world of peace and prosperity, even his former enemies befriended him. Who could begrudge Adam for stealing their souls when the resultant paradise brought unconditional contentment?

Again Thanos' questions plagued Adam's mind. Why did people not line up to join the afterlife of Soul World? They would end up in the equivalent of the Elysian Fields, with no sacrifice on their part except for giving up participation in the struggles of the imperfect Universe beyond the Gem. Was there a price that the denizens of Soul World could not perceive? Was that why humanity was so hard to return to for him? He had suspected that his decision to banish the Good and Evil within him would alter his soul, but had it already been altered by years of bearing the Gem, feeding the Soul Taker, and inhabiting Soul World? What if the idyllic world was naught but an anesthetic for those whose souls perpetually fed the Soul Taker's appetites?

Many of the questions seemed moot with the passing of the Cosmic Union. The Soul World dimension had been merged with the prime dimension, and the Gem's inhabitants had all passed on to afterlives beyond the influence of the Soul Taker entity.* The other Infinity Gems, including the Ego Gem lost eons before in the Ultraverse, had all been destroyed by Galactus. The Soul Gem's powers were still intact, and it continued to serve as a containment device for the Soul Taker, a deadly genie in an emerald bottle. Adam had hesitated to absorb the discorporate soul of Shalla Bal within the Soul Gem after the Union had passed**, fearing the horrific fate that awaited her therein, trapped in a featureless void with an immortal spiritual parasite. But now, Adam's plans might lead himself to that very fate.

(*Cosmic Union #15)
(**Cosmic Union #21)

 Adam's beads of sweat dried to nothing as his flesh began to flake. He knew that the gathered villains felt certain that they had left him with no alternative but to exchange bodies to that of his original form. He knew that they had not considered one alternative altogether. It was one that might well prove to be the last thing that Adam ever did. Although Adam had no fear of death, he certainly had no intention of seeking it out. His calculation must be perfect, there was no margin of error.

Adam knew that no other being in existence had the expertise to time his plan to the degree of precision required for success. He activated his Soul Gem to absorb the targeted soul within his soulless original body. Then, in the fracture of a microsecond it took for the absorption to take effect, Adam's spiritual essence left his withering form for his healthy original one. Almost instantaneously, he entered the Soul Gem for the first time since Soul World's passing.

The gathered individuals stared dumbfounded as two empty husks of Adam Warlock remained. The Soul Gem, bereft of a living host, detached from the physical form he had worn since the Infinity Gauntlet as the body turned to dust. The Matriarch known as Kismet approached the Soul Gem to lift it, but received a painful jolt of energy that slammed her backward. The others present hesitated in approaching the last of the Infinity Gems.

The Protégé Kireleon turned to Crucible. "This was not supposed to happen! We will need Adam Warlock for the coming conflict. This is unacceptable!" Kireleon's body began shimmering, nearly taking two distinct bodily forms once more. As he did so, he began to hack and cough, much like Rune had done only minutes before*. It was the first time the twin entities that made up the Protégé had displayed the symptoms of transuniversal rejection that plagued Rune after weeks of presence in a universe not of his birth. The condition was a direct result of the changes in the space-time continuum that had taken effect with the Cosmic Union's passing.

(* Protectors of the Universe #2.)

Kireleon's current two bodies (known as Noel and Erik, Kireleon backwards) had been created within the Ultraverse* using a genetic sample of the Universe that they now inhabited, specifically Adam Warlock's DNA. They thus bore aspects of both Universes.

(*Ultraverse's Rune #0.)

While merged, the two bodies shared their compatibility sufficiently to avoid the agony of the displacement effect felt by those not of this reality. The only reason Noel and Erik were bound as Kireleon was that each of them was, in effect, half from this Universe, and half from the Ultraverse. Combined, they were completely from both Universes. Kireleon abruptly focused on merging once more, causing the transuniversal rejection to cease.

Kireleon paced in a circular pattern at a safe distance from the Soul Gem. "All my carefully laid plans… Adam Warlock must return!"

Within the Soul Gem, Adam sensed nothing of the dimension once present. The Soul World had yet to reestablish itself as a dimension within the imperfect vessel. The Cosmic Union had caused it, and many other dimensions like it, to degrade and devolve beyond recognition. It would take time to heal the gaping wound that was Soul World.

In the interim, the gem did continue to function as a prison for the vampiric soul entity, now called the Soul Taker, that had vexed him for years. With Thanos' help, the creature had temporarily freed itself during the Union by possessing the soulless body of Count Abyss,* but had since returned to its incarceration.

(* See Cosmic Union #20-21for details.)

Adam Warlock was drawn to a smattering of activity in the void. He approached and watched the ethereal imagery as the vampiric entity essentially wove the beginnings of a new Soul World. Adam addressed the creature cautiously. "Soul Taker, it is I."

"Ah, my first guest, and my guest room is not yet completed. Stay nonetheless and tell me what has brought you once more to my domain."

Adam was completely on guard, ready for anything the vampiric creature might attempt. After years spent together battling each others' wills, the two knew each other well enough to eliminate much chance of surprise. "So Thanos was right, Soul World was just a sham all along. Rose colored glasses to blind your victims to their own suffering."

"Not at all, Adam. It was so much more than that. But that is irrelevant now. I sense you have more pressing concerns to engage you than philosophical debate. You seek to reclaim your soul in its entirety. I sense you know that reclaiming your Good, your Evil, and your original body is not enough. You must rid yourself of my insidious presence. Yet you feel obligated to bear the burden of the Gem, and my presence here feeds off of the gem bearer as much as his victims. So long as you take this responsibility, your soul can never be complete."

"You are wrong, creature. Now I finally understand what must be done."

"What do you mean? Where are you going? Come back!" The entity expanded to a green tinged supernova of dark energy. "I have not given you my leave."

Adam was blunt in his candor. "I did not ask for it. You cannot stop me. You may be this realm's sole inhabitant, but I am its sole master!"

The gathered individuals puzzled over how to approach the last of the Infinity Gems. Before they could reach consensus, it began to pulsate with life. Adam emerged in his "avenging" spirit form, much as he had upon turning Thanos to stone years before. He stepped toward the body that he had begun his existence in, and merged with it.

Adam stood up, fully recovered in his original body. He looked at the empty shell of the body that he had worn only minutes before. The cellular degeneration had increased once he had left the corpse. Only dust and bones remained.

Adam turned and walked up to his old form. He picked up his Soul Gem and placed it on his forehead. He closed his eyes, feeling complete once again. Fully bonded with the Soul Gem, his familiar staff began to materialize in his hand. With his back to the others, he spoke, "Long ago, when I was born, I sensed that my creators were evil. Slave laborers that would have me do their bidding. I rebelled and found my own path. Once again, my creators come to me seeking to use me in their schemes. And it appears that once again, I will have to deny them."

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #5!  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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