Protectors of the Universe #5

Written by Morfex and Mystic, Edited 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 #5

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #4.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

Epoch watched her teams from Io, their Jovian moon headquarters.  The former Spinsterhood training facility had proven more than adequate for housing her gathered teams from this timeline and others.  Each group of the Protectors was precisely in the position that Epoch had desired.

Phase One had been completed.  Each of the groups had a task to perform and was where they were supposed to be.  She had chosen to mix and match the teams on this occasion to maximize the element of surprise and take the extra-universal creature, Rune, and his Universal Church of Truth unawares.  Future missions would probably be less flexible.

The Church served as a platform for Rune from which to deploy his plans of universal conquest.  Of vampiric nature, Rune enjoyed employing brainwashing tactics - ensuring converts, slaves and guards for his already immense and still growing empire.  The planet Sirus X or "Throneworld," was the headquarters of the extra-dimensional creature, who reclaimed the godhead of the Universal Church after millennia away from this Universe, in the continuum referred to as the Ultraverse.

The Spinsterhood, consisting of Gamora, Ganymede, Kismet, Moondragon and Mantis, had attempted to infiltrate the Church. Both Moondragon and Mantis had been uncovered and removed from Throneworld. Mantis was now embroiled in the insanity of Galactus the Devourer.* The others still remained on Sirus X.

(*See Marvel's GTD #4.)

The Powers Cosmic team consisted in its entirety of the Silver Surfer, Nova, Firelord, Air-Walker and Shalla Bal, now known as Starglow.  Currently, only Nova, Air-Walker and Starglow were on Sirus X. Along with several others from among the Protectors' mightiest, they had thus far failed to breach the security shielding surrounding the Dark God's Throneworld.

This was precisely why Epoch had sent them there. Their containment would avoid their involvement in delicate matters across the cosmos. The only reason the three former Heralds were even on the Church Throneworld was that Epoch wanted to prevent their meddling in the cosmic conflicts against Galactus and Thanos that currently plagued the rest of the galaxy, and their teammates, the Silver Surfer and Firelord.

Epoch recognized that, should the Powers Cosmic ever become aware of this fact, they would certainly hold her accountable for the command decision. But the mortals' sense of arbitrary ethics was growing rapidly tiring to her. Cosmic concerns left little room for the petty judgments of finite humanoids. Even Heralds of Galactus must learn their place.

The Star Masters consisted of Gladiator, Drax, Captain Marvel, Quasar, Beta Ray Bill, Starfox, Starhawk and Jack of Hearts.  Gladiator, Drax and Captain Marvel were off-planet, on missions unrelated to the Protectors' conflict with Rune. The Shi'ar Praetor was by the side of the Majestrix Lilandra, deciding the fate of the Silver Surfer.* Drax and Captain Marvel were exploring the recently amalgamated Microverse.** The other Star Masters each had a role to play in the campaign against Rune. Epoch paid particular attention to the progress of Starfox, Starhawk, and Jack of Hearts in the conflict.

(*See Galactus the Devourer #5.)

(** See Captain Marvel #4.)

Adam Warlock of the special-assignment unit known as the Defenders was also involved. Warlock, along with Kismet gone undercover, was given the task of facing his creators and enlisting them to stop the Church from bringing about a new amalgam of the two universes that Rune sought to create. But Rune was not the only extra-universal invader on Sirus X.

The Protégé was the strange merging of the two beings forming the entity Kireleon (formerly Gemini). They/He would also be forced to return from whence they/he had come. No extra-universal being would be allowed to take up residence within this Universe and jeopardize Epoch's long-term plans. Epoch knew that this bi-universal amalgamated being was the key to Rune's plan, and to his downfall.

It was Adam's job to destroy the Protégé, or to convert him  to their cause and then betray him. Adam had placed himself back into his old body and appeared to be taking control of the situation.  The Champion of Chaos and Order was well adept at caring for himself.  He would not require help or direction to accomplish his Machiavellian task.

Epoch intended to send Rune and Kireleon back to their Universe of origin, dead or alive, before they could do harm to this Universe.  Although she was not allowed to interfere directly due to the cosmic implications, she could act indirectly. She had strained cosmic law to the breaking point since the Cosmic Union, taking full advantage of the shambles that was the Cosmic Hierarchy in its wake. But events unfolded on higher planes that would soon tip that scale back into balance once more. Epoch's time to act was now.

Rune's inexhaustible ambition would eventually allow him to threaten the entire cosmos. Already he had come perilously close to obtaining supreme power the last time he was in this Universe.  This time, more attention would be paid to stopping such ambitions from coming to fruition.  Her predecessor Eon had given Epoch a genetic directive to protect this Universe.  But Eon had not stipulated how. Epoch was fast learning that any means justified the desired results.

Epoch had given her team as little information as possible.  The Church employed many telepathic securities and psi-actives within their guard.  The less that each Protector knew, the better their chances of succeeding. 

The existence of the Spinster Moondragon's formidable telepathic defenses had ironically given her away already.  And she had paid dearly by means of a mental rape of sorts at the hands of the Dark God and his many telepathic minions.  Any further knowledge of Epoch's plan could prove fatal to each member as well as to its overall execution.  Nothing else must go wrong.

Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy had appeared, despite the Cosmic Union's and the Destiny War's fracturing time distortions, in an apparent mission to stop Epoch's original creation known as the Timeless.  It mattered not to her.  The original Timeless members were predominantly extra-universal like Rune, so they too must be expunged eventually. They had served their purpose in this reality, and the core Divergent Timeless would prove far better suited to crisis resolution throughout the multiverse. The Guardians were another matter entirely. The conflict between the two groups might well eradicate both challenges to Epoch's plans. Pitting rival factions against each other seemed a practical approach.

Epoch turned to watch a screen with Adam Warlock at the center. He was the key to Epoch's plan, the most valuable pawn on the board that was Sirus X. Phase Two would now begin…

Starfox relaxed in his elegant chair, facing the Dark God Rune and the Goddess Alevolen at the Imperial dinner table. While Rune devoured raw meat of questionable origin, Eros partook of the excellent selection of Sirusian liquors. The son of Mentor spoke in his typical devil-may-care manner.

"If you choose to consider the means I have laid out on this datapad, the three former Heralds, Quasar and Beta Ray Bill shall be neutralized in one fell swoop. They can then serve as batteries to empower your mechanisms and implement your plan. Their energies will ensure your success."

Rune briefly picked the hanging flesh from between two fangs with a clawed fingertip.

Alevolen sat beside the Dark God, intent on the conversation. "Why do you tell us all this, Eros of Titan? What do you achieve from this betrayal?"

Starfox grinned mischievously, a smile not unlike that of his brother Thanos. "I can make you both an offer that we might all find… amusing. Brotus, your Grand Inquisitor, was right to bring me here, rather than to the Protégé. Brotus' loyalties, at least, are not in question."

Brotus stood behind the Dark God, nearly two meters of indigo muscle. His pose and features were the equivalent of a military "at ease" position. They did not betray the doubts and fears that filled his mind. What kind of man was this that could betray Brotus' beloved Mantis and her teammates on a whim? Brotus knew his duty in bringing this Starfox to Rune, but he did not have to like it. Starfox seemed to get a great deal of gratification from playing at "cloak and dagger." Was his existence so tedious that he must endanger his former friends merely for entertainment? Brotus fought the urge to scoff aloud in disgust.

Rune lowered the shank of half-devoured flesh to his plate. Raw juices still dripping from his lips, he said, "Do continue, Eros. You have my undivided attention."

White Raven held Gamora's hand, waiting for the second squeeze that would indicate a desire to make the bodily switch from the decaying form she had worn since the Infinity Gauntlet Affair, to her original birth body. It occurred to White Raven that Gamora might not be able to muster the strength to signal her choice. It was a conundrum. Though many had assumed White Raven to be too casual in issues of life and death, she felt intensely about a person's right to self-determination. She had known Gamora for years; they had met under the tutelage of Thanos of Titan. As sparring partners, then friends, they had seen each other through intense life-altering experiences. Now, before her, a friend required a leap of faith.

Raven turned to Kireleon, Protégé of the Universal Church of Truth. "My love, I fear that Gamora may not be able to convey her choice. What if I am wrong?"

"The decision is yours, dearest. You know her better than almost anyone in the Universe. Stop trying to think for her, and think AS her."

"If I am wrong…" White Raven turned back to the near mummified remains of the corpse that withered further with each passing hour. "May the Space Gods help me… Gamora, if you want to transfer bodies, then say and do nothing! If you want to rest in peace and let nature reclaim this mortal coil, then give me a sign. Flutter your eyelids, breath deeply, vary your heart rate! Anything!"

Kireleon felt almost embarrassed for his paramour. "Darling, she is now incapable of responding. You know that there will be no answer."

Raven swung around, suddenly angered. "I do not care! I am the one who will regret this if I am wrong! You just want her as another pawn to exploit, like Crucible, Ayesha, and Kismet!"

Kireleon was unused to being addressed in such a manner. "Raven, you are distressed, so I will forgive this affront… once. If she does not wish to live, she can choose honorable suicide as befits a member of the Order of Astral Samurai. She will still have the power of choice…"

White Raven bit her lower lip, nodded, and escorted the horizontal hover-gurney bearing Gamora to the Imperial Beehive. The Protégé disappeared, reintegrating with that portion of his dual self already in the Beehive. Being in two places at once had its advantages, but he was not yet a full native of this reality, and must use the power sparingly.

Gehenna Midas and Binary left the Imperial infirmary, still shaken by Gamora's condition. Gehenna was, in actuality, Ganymede of the Spinsterhood under cover. She was doubly concerned because she feared that the Dark God suspected her of less than total loyalty. Her reaction to Rune's demand* demonstrated hesitation, and she felt that it may have spelled her downfall. She must find a means of undoing the damage, but she could not do so alone. She must find allies.

Perhaps Binary could be trusted. She had served with the Starjammers after all. But how much of that heroism was Carol Danvers, and how much of it was from the entity that now walked beside Ganymede? The Spinster had to find out, and quickly. She waited until they were alone in the Training Room, as Binary had agreed to a sparring match to take their minds off of the last few hours. When Ganymede was certain that all recording devices would receive false messages from her ever-present datapad, she spoke.

(*See POTU #4 for details.)

"Binary, White Raven mentioned that you were a former member of the Starjammers while your submerged consciousness was controlled by the Terran now known as Warbird. She said that, in recent months, you found that you could free yourself from that domination, and that you came to the Universal Church of Truth seeking purpose."

"And what concern is it of yours?" Binary responded to the personal intrusion with hostility, having expected nothing more philosophical than a battle-training session.

Ganymede did not want to draw further suspicion, but her options were limited. "None. Just making conversation. Mostly, I was curious if you had found the purpose you have sought."

Binary looked at Gehenna cautiously, attempting to discern an ulterior motive. "Very well, my first memory was that of being experimented on by the alien species known as the Brood. They grafted me onto the Human/Kree hybrid then known as Ms. Marvel. My consciousness filled the void that was her vacant mind, but her own identity eventually became strong enough not to need me anymore. In her sleep, I was evicted from her body. By then I had served with the Starjammers, and discovered the meaning of heroism and sacrifice. I took the Church's tenets at face value, and here I am."

Binary then considered Ganymede carefully. "You are a Grand Inquisitor, Midas. Have you found your life's purpose in that?" Binary's tone was surprisingly bereft of sarcasm. It lent itself a hint of genuine interest in the answer. This was not just a rhetorical question after all. Ganymede let out an internal sigh of relief.

Knowing that her next words could mean her death, Ganymede continued. "I have found purpose, and personal fulfillment, but not in the Church." She awaited some reaction from Binary, but none came. The red and white energy being merely listened intently. "I am, in actuality, a member of the Protectors of the Universe, and specifically the sub-grouping called the Spinsterhood. We are a unit of warrior women seeking to bring justice and freedom to the Cosmos."

Binary slowly shook her head in disbelief. "Why… why do you tell me these things? They are sacrilege! You as much as admit to heresy and treason!" Suddenly, the entity accessed the focused energies of a binary star system's white hole to blast Ganymede with a fiery beam of force.

Ganymede barely averted the attack. She knew that the onslaught had been less than Binary's full potential, but enough to hurt even a Spinster. Ganymede took a defensive position, her weapon of choice, a Spinsterhood staff, entering her hand as if from thin air. "True. I take a terrible risk in doing so, but I feel you would make an excellent addition to my team."

"Protector… of the Universe?" Binary was taken aback by the prospect. "But you do not even know me! How do you know I will not immediately turn you over to the Dark God?" Binary soared into the air, but the Training Facility's ceiling did not extend higher than thirty meters, so her maneuverability was less than in an outdoor environment.  She clapped her hands together and a wide dispersal beam of white energy approached Ganymede's position.

Ganymede tapped one end of her staff, and a smooth sheen of protective force enveloped her body like an oval about her. The energy wave bounced off the defensive surface, ricocheting back in Binary's direction. "Because, Sister, I sense in you a kindred spirit. Among my many powers is the ability to discern allies, and you are an ideal candidate for recruitment. Tell me, have I misjudged your character?" The staff shielding could not withstand another such blow. Ganymede had either just guaranteed her own demise, or forged a new alliance, she knew not which.

Binary was momentarily lost in introspection, hovering in the air. Ganymede would not take the offensive in this instance. Suddenly, the uneasy silence was interrupted by Ganymede's wrist communicator. Ganymede glanced at it, then addressed the Binary Star above her. "White Raven has summoned us. It is time to make your decision."

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #6!  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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