Cosmic Union (The Directors' Cut) Issue #13
Written and edited by the Silver Surfer
ISSUE #13: "HERALDS REBORN"
Cosmic Union Writers from the Silver Surfer
Message Board: Asterisk, Anomaly,
Azmodi, Brother Voodoo, Grim, Marvelite, Morfex, Mystic, and Number 6.
Part One - Time and Punishment (Morfex)
"I am Oera, the Watcher. I am charged with the task of bearing witness to the events known as the Cosmic Union. To better understand the forces at play among the former Heralds of Galactus, I have opted to review several details in the long and complex history of Zenn La and its most infamous son.
"The Silver Surfer was recently made aware of the shocking truth: the Punisher was Shalla Bal. For about two and a half centuries, Norrin Radd served faithfully as Galactus' Herald, and never guessed the nature of the Devourer's automaton.
"When Galactus created the Silver Surfer, he looked into the Zenn Lavian's memories and found a soulmate, the woman named Shalla Bal. Galactus retained this knowledge for future reference.
"Over a century and a half after Norrin's transformation, Galactus nearly lost control of his Herald on a dark, seedy, apocalyptic world. Galactus suspected it would not be the last time, and decided to bring a familiar part of the Surfer's life back to placate him. Galactus offered the soulmate a chance to join her love. After so many years of family tragedy,* Shalla Bal accepted. Galactus allowed her essence, her very life force, to be transferred to a complex mobile defense mechanism Galactus dubbed the Punisher. As with Norrin Radd, Shalla Bal's memories were tampered with to prevent premature knowledge of her true nature.(*See Powers Cosmic #3 for details.)
"For nearly a century, Galactus had the Punisher / Shalla Bal construct defend his mobile vessel, but Norrin Radd had never guessed its true nature. They served the Devourer of Worlds side by side. Although Norrin Radd and Shalla Bal were never supposed to have consciously known it, they were together after all. This gave Galactus' Herald an unconscious comfort, and the rebellion subsided for a time.
"Just over fifty years ago, an unstoppable force known as the Other destroyed Zenn La. A weakened Galactus managed to save the inhabitants at the microsecond before death by transporting their bodies into stasis pods on Taa II. Their bodies had been severely damaged, which was unavoidable. The Other must be convinced that they had accomplished their act of genocide. Galactus created the illusion of Zenn La's return, but ensured that the Other knew it was nothing more than that. When the Other departed, Galactus united the illusory masses with their actual suspended souls. In this way, Galactus' illusion bore the true essences of the Zenn Lavian people.
"Who can say whether this was any less of a life, when true spirits inhabited false bodies, but are unaware of the deception? Those souls thus inhabited Cosmic Power-derived bodies to complete Galactus' elaborate illusion of Zenn La's continued existence. The Devourer's motives were unfathomable, but might be related to his Herald's ultimate destiny.
"So detailed was Galactus' cosmic forgery, that over the years even Mephisto seemingly mistook Shalla Bal's physical form for her true body. Perhaps it simply mattered not to the Lord of Lies, since his concern was with the genuine soul that dwelled within, not the mere mortal coil.
"When the Surfer finally did betray his Master for the planet Earth, nearly half a century after the Other had destroyed his homeworld, Shalla Bal's true soul departed the Punisher construct. For a brief time, it remained with Galactus in another form, by the name of Ardina,* the Zenn Lavian term of endearment roughly translated to 'Starglow.' Soon thereafter, the spiritual essence reverted to the illusory Shalla Bal on the mirage that was Zenn La, partially amnesiac after a century of being missing. She soon returned to the life she knew, unaware of the deception that was Zenn La's continued existence.(*See Marvel's 1978 Silver Surfer Graphic Novel, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, for details.)
"When the Surfer later interacted with Shalla Bal over the next decade after his betrayal, he always encountered her true spiritual self, either discorporated by Mephisto, or inhabiting a physical replica from Galactus' elaborate ruse.
"In recent months, when Norrin Radd returned from his battle with the other-dimensional Unilord, he caused the illusion of Zenn La to dissipate, returning the souls of all Zenn Lavians to the life pods Galactus maintained on Taa II. Shalla Bal's soul returned to the Punisher robot for the first time in nearly a decade, to serve as protector of the suspension pods. Once more, her memories evaporated. Other robotic constructs served as defense of Galactus' mobile vessel.
"Now, the life pods had been freed from Taa II to inhabit the captive dimension of the Cosmic Being called Epoch. Shalla Bal had regained her memories in recent hours. She too, had seemingly been freed of servitude under the Devourer of Worlds. She still inhabited Galactus' robotic construct, but her original organic form was first among the multiple pods. She was now held in Epoch's dimension as well. Her fate and the fate of her people were swept up in the universal changes brought about by the Cosmic Union.
"I am Oera, the Watcher. I continue my observations with more relish than my brethren. Perhaps this is why I was spared, while many of my fellow Watchers discorporated with the Union wave that discontinued Abstract entities. Perhaps, they served not as Abstracts of Observation, but of Dispassion. Perhaps "
Part Two - Heralds Reunite (Marvelite)
Epoch successfully transported an immense segment of Taa II, along with Galactus' Punisher robot, to his captive dimension within Tyrant's data orb. Epoch then returned her attention to the heroes, leaving the Punisher robot in the vast complex.
The Punisher looked to its side and beyond a door, where six pods held the mortal bodies of Galactus' past Heralds. It then turned to view the unending rows of Zenn Lavian and Xandarian bodies placed in pods. They were lined up horizontally, one next to the other. Closest from the front row was a pod containing the physical body of the young woman, Shalla Bal.
The Punisher construct applied pressure to the panel that closed off the small antechamber that held the pods of the six Heralds. The robot then placed its mechanical hand onto the glass of the pod containing Shalla Bal. Her memories had returned. She now realized who she was and she no long wanted to live as a machine. Perhaps it was because of Galactus' recent mass re-absorption of the Power Cosmic. "It is now time I return to the life which was taken from me." She opened a small panel beneath the pod, removing the robes she bore the day Galactus first took her. Her finger then transformed to a form of an alien connector cable. It plugged itself into the pod.
Slowly, energies transferred from the robot. Galactus' Punisher was now an unliving heap of metal, while the unfreezing process to bring back the lovely Shalla Bal had begun. Unlike the other Zenn Lavians, Shalla Bal's body was already fully healed and ready to emerge.
But as one pod began its unfreezing process, in the adjacent antechamber behind the closed portal, another was completing its own. The pod that held the body of Morg reached its final stage of thaw, for Morg was the first Herald whose cosmic form had dissipated with Galactus' re-absorption.
As the process ended, the former Herald's body fell to the ground. He was cold and weak. But while the Power Cosmic that had once filled Morg's essence was gone, the mystical power he had stolen from a distant planet's artifact was still with him somehow, perhaps remaining with his soul rather than his Power Cosmic created body. He recovered quickly, using his powers to restore his strength.
He rose from the ground and looked at his surroundings. "Where am I? Who dares steal the Power Cosmic from Morg?!" Morg was filled with anger and confusion, ignoring the fact that he was without clothes.
The technology around him looked like that of his former master.
He was not sure who the bodies were in the pods surrounding him, though they had a certain familiarity to them. "What place is this?!" He asked with amazement. Then he found a door. He opened it, hoping to find an exit or some answers, but instead he found a hall the size of a starcraft hangar, filled with strange and varied objects. There was an alien craft, various clothes and weapons. Among the items he found the clothes he had worn on his homeworld as an executioner, and he also found his original axe.
"Ah! My axe! Now my captors will see the true power of Morg!" He dressed and armed himself quickly, constantly cautious of any potential threat.
Morg stormed out of the room, trying to find a way out, his mind becoming more cluttered with confusion.
He saw four other bodies had dropped out of pods that were next to his. Three were males, one female. "Who are you?!" Morg demanded. One looked familiar, like his enemy, Terrax. The others seemed familiar, although Morg seemed unsure.
The three beings were very weak. They were all cold and confused, without clothes, just as Morg had been.
A man named Pyreus Kril was the first to look up. He was cold, for the first time since he could remember.
"I demand that you answer me!" Morg was in no mood to be patient.
Pyreus could only stare. He then managed to look around himself and at his own naked, powerless form. "By Xandar, what has happened to me?!"
Another man rose up. His name was Gabriel Lan. He was from the planet Xandar, just like Pyreus. He could not remember much.
Everything was fuzzy, but he knew a lot had happened since he was commander of a ship called the 'Way-Opener'.
Next to him was a woman named Frankie Raye. The last thing she remembered was coldness... and death, but somehow she was alive again. She looked up, only to see the face of her murderer. "You?!"
And next to her was a large being, known as Tyros. He once was called Terrax, but the Power Cosmic no longer dwelled within him.
"What has happened to my skin?" He looked down to see his rock-layered skin had vanished and he was back to the purple-skinned creature he was before. He then looked up. "Morg! What have you done here?!"
Morg looked down at the four and suddenly he realized what had happened. "The Power Cosmic must have been taken from you as well!"
The other four got to their feet. They all felt dizzy, but began to realize they were without clothes. Frankie Raye, the girl once called Nova, quickly ran for the storage room she saw open to her left. Frankie knew she could not trust her executioner for long, but decided that he was presently outnumbered and less powerful than in their last encounter.
Morg allowed Frankie to go, knowing there was no exit from the storage space. He decided to allow the others to live a short while longer, should they prove useful to him.
Frankie entered the closet area and tried to find something to cover herself. She immediately saw her original outfit from her adventures with the Fantastic Four.
Outside the room, Pyreus looked around him, until he finally noticed that his old friend Gabriel was standing next to him. "Gabriel!"
"Yes, Pyreus." Gabriel scratched his head, "Where are we?"
"I do not know... Morg was just about to tell us, were you not, monster?!"
Morg laughed, "I do not think you are in any state to be making threats! While you have all lost the Power Cosmic, I still control my own mystical powers." Morg paused and then added, "The only reason I keep you alive, is because I don't know what threat lies beyond all this. You may prove of use to me yet."
Terrax walked up to Morg, "I can still defeat you using the power and strength I was gifted with at birth!"
"Guys, let's take it easy." Frankie walked in, with one hand covered over her eyes, fingers subtly separated, and the other hand holding a large amount of clothes. "Perhaps you should dress before starting a war."
The other three then noticed their nakedness and went for their clothes. They each found the same clothes they were wearing when they were first transformed into Heralds of Galactus.
They quickly dressed. "Where did you find these?" Pyreus asked.
"In that adjacent room," Frankie responded. Pyreus and Gabriel looked inside and found other objects from their past. They each found phaser guns. Just holding them reminded them of their past serving for their homeworld of Xandar. Morg ignored the arms, knowing they could neither harm him nor aid him.
Morg and Terrax remained outside. They were bitter enemies, but in this instance they knew an unspoken alliance was mutually beneficial. Morg spoke. "We must see what caused this. Whoever has done this has power which rivals that of Galactus!"
"Maybe it WAS Galactus," Terrax suggested.
"It could not be!" Morg quickly responded, but then recollection hit. "Wait. I remember now. Galactus motioned his hand toward me and then I felt myself fading away."
Pyreus jumped in, "Perhaps Galactus absorbed the Power Cosmic from each of us... but how would that explain us showing up here... and in our original forms... and with Nova and Gabriel physically alive."
A quick smirk appeared on Morg's face, but his emotions quickly changed back to anger. "Too many questions!!"
"Look! A body still remains in that pod!" Gabriel pointed out.
"That must be... the Silver Surfer," responded Frankie Raye, "Should we free him?"
Pyreus spoke. "No. I do not think it is safe. We all unfroze on our own. There may be a reason that Norrin Radd's body still remains in the pod."
"Yes. After all, he was Galactus' favorite..." Terrax noted with a tinge of envy in his voice.
Morg raised his axe. "The Silver Surfer is nothing compared to the power of Morg!" Morg took a few steps closer to the pod. "I say we crack him open!" He added with a smile.
Pyreus raised his gun and confronted him, "Back away, Morg!"
Morg quickly pushed him aside with the back of his arm and axe.
Gabriel then fired a blast from his weapon. Morg shrugged it off. "Do you really think that toy can hurt one powered such as Morg?!"
Terrax watched from the side, laughing.
As Morg came closer to the pod and pulled his axe back, Frankie Raye jumped forward and immediately burst into flames. She had almost forgotten that there was once a time when she had power over fire without the use of the Power Cosmic. She quickly threw a ball of fire at the feet of Morg, blocking his way to the pod that held Norrin Radd. The former Heralds did not know what would happen if Morg shattered the pod, and were unwilling to take any chances.
"How dare you attempt to stop me, you witch! I killed you once " Morg shouted, before swinging at the flying Nova with his axe.
Nova flew out of the axe's way, as Gabriel and Pyreus fired their weapons at Morg once more.
Meanwhile, the pod holding the woman Shalla Bal finished its unfreezing process. The woman's body fell to the ground. When she regained her strength, she heard a commotion. She dressed quickly with the robes held by the now lifeless Punisher construct, then placed her hands on the wall panel to open the expanse to the antechamber holding the Heralds.
She looked to find that the former Heralds of Galactus were involved in a brawl with each other.
The Heralds stopped what they were doing and looked when the expanse opened. They were all surprised at what they saw. Most of them did not even recognized Shalla Bal, but all stared at the countless bodies lying in pods beyond her. After all they had seen in their endless travels through space, none had seen anything like this.
As they remained in awe, Shalla Bal walked closer to the pod holding Norrin Radd.
She placed her hand on the glass, as a tear ran down her face. It had been so long since they had last embraced as two truly organic beings, but she was thankful that they would once again be in each other's arms.
Suddenly, Morg stormed around. "This ends now! The Silver Surfer is behind this madness!!" He charged forward at the pod.
He tried to push Shalla Bal away, but as his axe came diving toward the pod, she threw herself in front of it. "No! You mustn't!" she pleaded, before the axe cut her deeply, a diagonal swath across her abdomen. Shalla Bal began to slide slowly down the side of the pod, coughing blood.
CONTINUED IN COSMIC UNION #14
More of the Cosmic Union Saga is in the next issue of Cosmic Powers Unlimited. Be sure to also check out the Cosmic Unionverse Page for details about the Cosmic Union continuity, as it begins to shape into a whole new cosmic universe of Marvel characters! And go to the POTU Archive Page for stories of the various Protectors of the Universe teams which will emerge from The Cosmic Union. Now be sure to leave us some comments and suggestions!