Protectors of the Universe #7

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

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Protectors of the Universe #7

“O what a goodly outside falsehood hath!"            
                                        - Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, I, 3

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #6.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

The Players:

Aleta – member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ex-wife of the 31st Century Starhawk. Paramour of the future version of Vance Astro (the Avengers’ Justice). Empowered by the cosmic entity known as the Hawk God. In her alternate future, former Matriarch of the Universal Church of Truth. Traveled with seven other Guardians from an alternate future on a vital mission she cannot fully recall, as retroactive amnesia slowly degraded her memories. She suffered from a variation of the extra-universal withdrawal symptoms all non-natives of the Marvel Universe endured after the Cosmic Union event. Her mission on Sirus X was unknown to all but Epoch, but it was important enough to assign a majority of the Protectors away from the threats of Galactus (in Marvel’s Galactus the Devourer) and Thanos (in Marvel’s Thor).

Alevolen – (Malevolence, in an alternate future, the daughter of Mephisto) In the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy, she was a Matriarch of the Universal Church of Truth. In the present, claiming to be a Goddess of Light, Alevolen helped Jack of Hearts regain a semblance of human physicality (at a price yet to be determined). Meeting the Protectors, she offered to help in the siege against Rune’s Universal Church of Truth. The Protectors accepted, despite the protestations of the departing Lady Sif of Asgard. She seemingly betrayed Starhawk and joined forces with Rune.  

Brotus – Chief Grand Inquisitor assigned as private security honor guard for his master and friend, the Protégé. Romantic target of Mantis for infiltration into the Imperial Compound. Torn between duty and honor, he must choose whether to obey his God and betray his friend, or follow his heart and seek out his lost love, Mantis, whom he already suspects of espionage. Recently recruited away from the Protégé by the Dark God himself for unknown tasks, he introduced Rune to the Protector known as Starfox, who seemed intent on betraying his teammates for entertainment.

Mantis (alias Mandy Celestine, exotic dancer) – Celestial Madonna. Former wife of the eldest Coatatl and mother to the Celestial Messiah. Member of the Spinsterhood division of the Protectors. Worked undercover to make contact with the Inquisitor Brotus, but abandoned her assignment to safeguard a sentient captive from the Imperial Arboretum. Mantis was able to depart Sirus X prior to the activation of the planetary defense grid (Currently engaged in the events of Marvel’s Galactus the Devourer #1 – 6 off-planet).

Protégé / Kireleon / Gemini / Noel and Erik – formerly, two brothers raised as an experiment in the application of Shu Ji energy in the Ultraverse. The twins later learned that Adam Warlock’s DNA sample was used in their creation. One brother was heir to the Curse of Rune after the Dark God’s apparent demise. The brothers can exist separately, although, like Rune, they suffer from extra-universal withdrawal symptoms if kept apart too long in the Marvel Universe.

Replica – shape-shifting Skrull female, member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Galactic Guardians. Believer in the Universal Church of Truth. Traveled with seven other Guardians from an alternate future, on a vital mission they cannot fully recall, as retroactive amnesia slowly degraded all their memories. They suffered from a variation of the extra-universal withdrawal symptoms all non-natives of the Marvel Universe endure after the Cosmic Union event.

Rune – the Dark God, Prince of Void, vampiric entity from the Ultraverse that fed off of superhuman souls, blood, and life forces. Establisher of the Universal Church of Truth on Sirus X during Earth’s Hyborean Age. Rune suffered from extra-universal withdrawal symptoms that can only be staved off by feeding off humanoids more frequently, or by somehow becoming native to the Marvel Universe’s present…

Starfox (Eros) – Titanian Eternal, son of Mentor, brother of Thanos. Former Avenger, less than ideal role model and foster father of Genis-Vell. Womanizer, hedonist and self-absorbed narcissist. Eros has apparently betrayed his fellow Protectors merely for the entertainment value and to allay the tedium of near immortality.

Convergences - Part Seven of Ten: “Pretenders.”

The Chief Inquisitor, Brotus, was a tall, strikingly handsome, muscular human with light blue skin and a half-meter long, dark blue braided beard limited to the growth from his chin. His head was clean-shaven except for a long braided strand of hair growth near the nape of his neck, the same length as his beard. In a different setting, Brotus might have been a farmer, a poet, or a philosopher. He was a gentle, caring soul in his private life. But Fate had placed him in a position of prominence among the Grand Inquisitors of Rune’s cult of personality, the Universal Church of Truth. As Chief Inquisitor, Brotus had faithfully committed atrocities in the name of his god. Now, he awaited his next command.

Brotus approached the Dark God privately in his Strategy Chamber. “My Prince, I have dedicated my life to your cause. What would you have me do next?”

“A test of loyalty, brave Brotus. Starfox and Alevolen both suspect the Protégé of treason and conspiracy. Bring me evidence of this, and his position of prominence in the hierarchy shall be yours.”

Brotus stifled a startled gasp. “You do me great honor, Milord.”

The ancient vampire barely suppressed a cough. “You must hurry, though, Brotus. Timing is of the essence. My window of opportunity is finite. The threat that any conspiracy poses must be expunged before the next crucial phase. Finally, millennia of planning begins to bear fruition!”

Brotus nodded, and respectfully took his leave.

Still reeling from Rune’s proclamation, Brotus returned to the garden where everything had changed. The Imperial Arboretum was adjacent to the Primal Temple of the Compound. This was where Mandy Celestine* had disappeared and where Rune had first addressed Brotus personally.

(Mantis, in Spinsterhood #5.)

Now the Dark God had chosen him to weed out the infiltrators and spies in their midst.

Brotus was fervently loyal to the Protégé, having been personally selected for his Honor Guard months before. But ever since the so-called Matriarch had arrived,* the Protégé had been acting differently. He no longer sought Brotus’ counsel or company. The sacred prophecies foretold her coming, but Brotus’ heart could not accept that she was truly the intended Matriarch come to life. It was as if the purple hued woman that Brotus had found in Diamaika Bay had bewitched Kireleon. Brotus even suspected Kireleon of purposely undermining Rune’s plans at her behest.

It had been the most difficult decision of his life, but Brotus valued his own code of honor above all else. The Protégé had sworn him in personally: “To protect our God, our Church, our Clergy and our Faithful,” in that order. Technically, Kireleon was a member of the clerical order. When Rune approached Brotus to investigate Kireleon, Brotus had no choice but to comply.

(* See Spinsterhood #2 for details.)

Brotus was feeding Rune and his newest fair-weather allies, Starfox and Alevolen, hourly intelligence reports on the events within the Beehive. Kireleon did not seem to suspect betrayal yet, but Brotus knew that both their hearts would break on the day that Rune publicly uncovered Kireleon’s machinations, and Kireleon uncovered Brotus’.

Brotus touched the ground where Mandy Celestine had last stood. Gently caressing the tall grass, Brotus imagined her lithe figure beside him.

“Brotus?” The voice was unmistakable.

“Mandy! You are back!” A multitude of emotions surfaced within the Inquisitor: anger, suspicion, passion, shame. But above all was joy. “Why… why did you have to leave me, Mandy?”

“Hush, my sweet.” The sultry form of Mantis pressed closely against Brotus’ muscular physique. “All will be revealed.” Celestine led the large Inquisitor by the hand away from the Arboretum, toward the oldest section of the Imperial Compound.

As Brotus followed in a daze, he became more wary of the strange circumstances. Was his loyalty being tested by Rune or the Protégé? There was something subtly different about Mandy. Was it her walk? Or her fragrance? He was suspicious, and thought to activate his wrist scanner, which emanated a localized null-cloak field and a shape-shift disruptor. But his heart was a difficult thing to overcome, and he wanted so desperately for this dream to be real. He rationalized that, whatever the reason for her return, he should investigate.

Brotus was unsure how Celestine knew the layout of the Old Compound buildings, but at this point, he did not care. He followed like a love-sick schoolboy, oblivious to all but the swaying, flowing stride of the woman that led him by the hand.

Finally, they arrived at an obscure room in a sub-basement of the Eldest Hall, the original Church structure founded by Rune millennia before. Brotus had been to this relic of a bygone era only once before as a child. His school had had a field trip to the Eldest Hall, inspiring him to become a Grand Inquisitor when he grew up.

Brotus was one of the few individuals on “Throneworld” who somehow recalled the brief reign of the Magus, who once usurped the Dark God’s preeminence.* Brotus was unsure why he retained the memories of the temporal loop, but never spoke of it to anyone, for fear of reprisal.

(See Marvel’s Warlock series, by Jim Starlin.)

When reality had eventually reasserted itself back to the Church worshipping the Prince of Void, Brotus had had a crisis of faith and conscience. Which of the Gods was the valid one? What was real and what was imagined? He had almost gone mad, but found respite in the diligence of work.

He felt that same unreality now, unsure if Mandy’s return was some cruel hallucination. Whatever the truth, he would see it through to the end.

Celestine entered the room, marked “Manuscript Chamber 22,” which smelled of decomposing parchment. The storage facility held some of the most ancient scrolls and texts in Church history.

A woman sat at a table with a recording device, her focus uninterrupted by their entrance, “… then the Galactic Guardians battled and defeated the being, and healed Eternity of the plague using the might of the Phoenix force...” She was a beautiful humanoid, with long flowing blond hair covering her shoulders. Her attire was Sirusian, but the fit of the clothes told Brotus that she was no mere local or librarian. She turned off the recorder and turned to the two new arrivals.

“Well done, Replica.” Said the blond woman.

“What is the meaning of this?” Brotus insisted. His hands went to his weapon instinctively, but it was nowhere to be found. Shocked and angered, Brotus turned to Mandy.

“Looking for this?” Celestine pointed the firearm at Brotus’ chest with one hand, as the other placed the gun on its “Stun” setting. She fired, and as Brotus felt consciousness slipping away, he saw Celestine’s facial features blur and shift into that of a female Skrull. Brotus held on to awareness long enough to utter a few words. “Skrull… I’ll kill you… for this…”

Replica stared at the man for a few moments after he fell to the ground. She was taken aback by his expression, a mixture of loathing and deepest betrayal. Her sudden sense of guilt and shame nearly overwhelmed her. This was a loyal servant of the Church. Was Replica being forced to betray her faith yet again?*

(*See Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy #40-50 for details.)

Aleta stood from her desk and addressed the young Skrull. “Please help me to bind him, Replica.”

Brotus listened attentively as Rune described the next phase of his plan to Starfox and Alevolen. “Using the most powerful cosmic heroes as a power source, I will unleash the entity Bubonicus from his dimensional prison and provide this world as an offering to his infectious appetites. In exchange, Bubonicus will give me the means to merge the two Universes permanently. At last, the pact we made millennia ago will soon reach its apogee.”

Brotus bowed humbly and exited the chamber at the first discreet opportunity. Rune smiled as Brotus departed. Did the Skrull girl truly think that she could fool a cosmic vampire whose sense of smell exceeded all other senses? He inhaled deeply through his nostrils again, marking the scent for future reference. It was Rune who once coined the phrase, millennia before, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Brotus, Kireleon, Alevolen, Eros. He grinned again, and his smile quite literally extended from ear to ear. Fangs protruded from behind bloodless lips. Truly, everything was coming to fruition.

Brotus turned a corner to an empty corridor, then began shifting in shape to that of a serpent. This creature slithered through several air ducts, turning at junctures with determined precision. Several minutes later, the serpent exited the air duct system and transformed once more, Replica adjusted her neck with a sharp crack, then turned to face her teammate, Aleta, and their captive.

Aleta read from various texts as she guarded their prisoner. Bound and gagged, Brotus’ eyes burned in fury as Replica appeared before him.

The look of hatred was penetrating. It was worse than any harsh words could possibly be. Replica could not avert her eyes. It was as if the glare was her penance for a guilty conscience. It reminded her of her former teammate in the Galactic Guardians, the Spirit of Vengeance. How long ago it seemed that she had last seen him, and yet it was nearly a millennium in this era’s future that they would meet.

“Aleta, your suspicions were right. Rune plans to unleash a cosmic level threat upon the Universe! It’s Bubonicus!”

Aleta pensively stared into nothingness. Her mind was clearly weighing their limited options. “The planetary defense grid must not be lowered, or Bubonicus will be unleashed upon the cosmos.  He must be contained, even at the expense of Sirus X.”

Replica finally turned away from Brotus’ penance stare. “Expense? There are over seven billion sentients on this planet! Not to mention us! We have to do something!”

“My memory of those experiences, at least, are still intact. In our future, you, Martinex, Ripjak, and the High Evolutionary each succeeded in thwarting him, but he escaped each time. The only being capable of truly defeating Bubonicus was Giraud, Phoenix IX.* In the present, the Phoenix force does exist. If we could only find a way of bringing it through the planetary defense grid without lowering it…”

(* In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.)

Aleta pondered the circumstances a while longer. “Replica, when the Dark Phoenix was reborn during the Cosmic Union,* whose body did she inhabit?”

(* See Cosmic Union for details.)

“It was one of the current members of the Spinsterhood… Gamora, I believe. I get it! You think some kind of link to the host might still exist?”

Aleta nodded. “The Phoenix is more than an entity. It is a fundamental abstract concept in all places at the same time. We must get word to the Spinsters, or any of the Protectors of the Universe we can, somehow. What did Epoch say about those in place undercover?”

Replica replayed the debriefing in her head, then burst out. “The Beehive!”

Aleta nodded once more. “Come, follow me, I know a hidden way.”

As the two Guardians of the Galaxy left the Manuscript Chamber of the Eldest Hall, Brotus fervently struggled with the Sirusian energy bindings used to contain him. Having used then on criminals and dissidents countless times before, he knew that the effort was futile despite his colossal strength. Somehow he must escape to inform the Dark God of the unfolding events.

He looked about, desperate for a solution. His range of mobility was minimal, but sufficient to inch across the room at a slow crawl, if he exerted all his might. Eventually he reached the undisturbed bookcase containing the forbidden tomes, guarded by a highly sensitive alarm system. He tried to rattle the transparent doors of the bookcase with a thrust of the back of his head. After four excruciating attempts, he rolled onto his side, drained of all energy. Exhausted but satisfied, he felt certain that he had triggered the silent alert, and that help was on its way. He must stop the two saboteurs before they thwarted Rune’s plan to… annihilate the planet’s populace? Brotus shuddered, then recalled his vow once more. “God, Church, Clergy, and Faithful.” If the Church must die to serve the Dark God, then what choice did he have?

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #8


Bubonicus – First appeared in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Cosmic entity; though humanoid in size, its full body armor was reminiscent of Celestial technology. Capable of causing virulent plagues specific to its victims. Actually succeeded at infecting Eternity, who was cured by Phoenix IX. Later hunted from planet to planet by the Martian “interstellar serial killer” Ripjak. The 31st Century High Evolutionary assisted in thwarting the death of one planet’s populace by evolving the inhabitants to be immune to the plague. Last seen being pursued by Ripjak and the High Evolutionary near the end of the Guardians’ series.

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #8!  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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