Star Masters #1
Written by Morfex, Edited by Azmodi and
(Note: This title is a continuation of adventures established in Cosmic Union and the Protectors of the Universe. See those titles for reference to previous events. Also, you may want to read Azmodi's Obliterator Reborn One-Shot before reading this story.)
Star Masters #1 "Acquaintance." (by Morfex)
The Star Masters' "Township" combined vessel slid effortlessly through its hyperspacial environs toward its destination. Most Protectors of the Universe on board had worked together at least once before, but knew little of each other's lives beyond that. This was a condition Quasar intended to change, one Star Master at a time.
Starfox seemed characteristically casual to Quasar, leaning on a
galley counter tossing a half-eaten fruit up and down in one hand. It was hard for Quasar
to imagine that he and Thanos, conqueror of the Universe several times over, were
As the two men spoke, Ganymede of the Spinsterhood stepped into the galley. Clearly taken aback by the men's presence, she quickly retreated with a half-muttered apology.
Quasar turned to Starfox. "I knew this would happen! Ganymede came into the gym area earlier and saw me get out of the shower. She seemed more embarrassed about it than I was and got out of there so fast, I didn't have a chance to say anything. What should I do, Starfox?"
"Please, call me Eros, my friend. Ganymede is a Spinster after all. Raised and trained among women since her early youth, no doubt."
"But I thought that she and Jack "
"Limited to that containment suit? I think not. I know almost nothing of her ancient culture, but I'll wager she has seen little of unclothed males since her ex-husband Cyrus transformed.* (*see Cosmic Union for details.) Perhaps, not even then. They may have been betrothed at birth for all we know. I have seen many unusual marriage customs in my travels."
"But she dresses so provocatively. Can she hold such a double standard?"
"Perhaps her outfit is meant to distract male opponents, or serves a strictly functional purpose."
"She has fought side by side with guys like Ka-Zar and Wolverine. She's surely studied biology, even though we are technically different species. Why would she freak out now?"
"Well, Wendell "
"Please, Eros, call me Dell. I'm tired of feeling like a nine-year-old. These days, I would only let Epoch call me Wendell."
"All right, Dell. Maybe Ganymede's society distinguishes between everyday life and the field of battle. Why not stop this pointless speculation and just ask her?"
"No, I couldn't! It's just that "
"Dell, are you sure you don't harbor feelings for Ganymede?"
"No! I mean, no. I guess I just miss having what I thought she and Jack had."
"What about Kismet, Moondragon and Kayla Ballantine? Your exploits and conquests have reached even Saturn's moons!'
Quasar stared in disbelief at Starfox, then realized he was being teased. He relaxed and smiled.
"Kayla and I broke up after she got back from the New Universe I was telling you about; she's now engaged to be married. Moondragon was obsessed with me for a while, but that seems to have passed. I really have grown fond of Kismet, but I don't want to feel pigeon-holed by Destiny."
"Ironic, my friend. The rest of us dream of the day we meet the companion for whom we are destined."
"But I thought you and Genis' mom, Elysius "
"Then you haven't heard. She was killed at the gravesite of Mar-Vell some time back.* (see the Warlock Limited Series for details.) I miss her terribly. We loved each other, but it was never exclusive. I am, as you say on Earth, unattached, free to enjoy the myriad wonders of females throughout the universe. I'll wager your title of 'Protector of the Universe' made women flock to you!" Eros grinned mischievously.
"I never gave it much thought. Anyway, now I'm just one of the Protectors of the Universe."
"Does losing your unique status bother you?"
"I thought it would, but I actually feel relief more than anything else. I always thought protecting the universe should be a job for thousands or millions, not one man. But I tried my best flying solo and I'll continue trying my best with the group. I'm glad I was assigned to my old team, the Star Masters. Bill is a great leader. I've worked with him for a while now, and he's earned my respect and trust time after time. I hope his 'errand' is going well."
"Come then, Dell. Let us rejoin our comrades on the Bridge. Perhaps there is news of our esteemed leader ."
The Strontian named Kallark was better known throughout the Universe as Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. In recent days, he had been mandated by the Majestrix Lilandra Neramani to serve as a member of the newly formed Protectors of the Universe. He relished the opportunity, but took the responsibility very seriously. As Praetor, he served an empire spanning galaxies. As Protector, he served all of existence. It was not a duty he took lightly. He turned to the task at hand, the methodical re-calibration of hyperspace engines, complicated by the increasing size of the Star Master's mobile 'Township.' Already three ships had been joined together. This procedure could only be done while in hyperspace; their window of opportunity for repairs was finite.
"Again!" he shouted at Genis-Vell, the Protectors' Captain Marvel. Genis used his energy bursts with clock-like precision, as the process required. "Again!" repeated Gladiator, when the cyclic burst was required.
Genis' temper flared. " Back off, will you?! You're cramping my style here!" The younger man resented the more seasoned warrior, and would ask to be partnered with someone else as soon as they returned to the Bridge. He attempted to repeat the process, but his distraction was too great. The process failed, requiring both men to start over from the beginning.
"Inept. I expected nothing else."
"Would you just stop riding me? What's this all about, anyway?"
"About? This is about your failure today."
"I'm not buying that. You've been belittling me since our first meeting. I won't put up with it anymore. You don't intimidate me! Is it a fight you want?!"
"No, Genis-Vell, our battle would be pointless, and when I win, it would not change the fact " Gladiator hesitated, then decided to stop his words.
"What fact? You've gotta tell me what's eating you up."
"It would be pointless, but very well. Your father was a Kree captain. He earned that military rank with years of discipline and dedication. Then you usurp the title of Captain Marvel as if it were some heroic code-name! If you truly wanted to honor your father, you would learn to understand what the word 'Captain' meant to him!"
Genis' face flushed, half anger, half embarrassment. "I you're right. I never thought of it that way."
The answer surprised Gladiator. The Strontian relaxed his stern posture a bit. "The Shi'ar and Kree militaries have joined forces. If you really want to know I can show you. But you must learn to respect rank, to recognize authority. Do you think you can do that?"
"I want to. I'm no military guy, but I think if my father were alive, he'd want me to learn what you can show me."
"Good. Know that I will expect much from you, as much as I would expect from any captain in the Kree Starforce. I have been called a demanding Praetor. I will force you to earn your rank."
"Throw me everything you've got. I can take it." Genis smiled arrogantly.
"Wipe that smile off your face, soldier! Get back to work!" Gladiator turned away before Genis could see that he was smiling too.
The last Korbinite, known on Earth as Beta Ray Bill, stood before
Odin, All-Father of Asgard. "Respected sire, I call upon you this day seeking a boon,
something I would never have sought but for the fate of my people, and my new association
with the Protectors of the Universe. I wish to be Asgardian once more."
Odin sat at the forefront of his newly reconstructed banquet hall, carefully considering Bill's request. "And what of thy condition which required thy current altered state?"
"In recent days,* (*see Cosmic Union for details) I learned that my apparent illness was but a spell placed on me to force you to remove your enchantments. Thus was I unable to come to Asgard's aid in your time of need. My solemn oath does not allow me to name the perpetrator, but rest assured, justice has been served. The spell is broken, and my health is restored."
"Thou dost e'er act with honor and nobility, my son. Thy humility and self-sacrifice resound throughout my halls, humbling the boastful egos that abound here. I grant thee this request with a glad heart. Now and forevermore thou art of Asgard." Odin raised his hand toward Bill, closing his one patch-free eye briefly.
Beta Ray Bill felt a surge of Asgardian power flow within him, expelling all remnants of the cosmically powered equivalent he had used in recent weeks. His appearance was once more that of Beta Ray Thor, and his hammer, Stormbringer, resumed its Stormbreaker form, Uru metal glistening.
Odin spoke again. "Stormbreaker has returned to its heights of glory, a match even for mighty Mjolnir. It also retains the ability to return you to your original form, prior to your people's experimentation. Now let us all rejoice, for today is a time of celebration. The Union has passed,* (*see Cosmic Union for details) and an honored son of Asgard has returned home. Pour the flagons of ale 'til they spill o'er the Rainbow Bridge itself!"
"Thank you, All-Father. Although you know my motivations are unselfish, still does my heart rejoice at having a place I can call home."
Beta Ray Bill traversed space with ease, guided by might
Stormbreaker toward the Township's destination. His mind was still on the celebration in
Asgard. Although the hole in his heart from the deaths of his people would never go away,*
(*see Marvel's CPU #4-5 for details) this was the first time since that tragedy that Bill
truly felt joy again. He did regret not seeing his beloved friend Sif, who was on a
mission for Odin at the time.
Suddenly, his journey was interrupted by a vicious attack from an unexpected assailant. "I am the Obliterator. I am your doom."
Bill defended himself, then tried to put some distance between him and the Elder of the Universe. "Obliterator? Your appearance and manner of speech have changed dramatically since last I saw you. To what end do you attack me, and how did you recover so quickly from the effects of the Cosmic Union?"* (*see Cosmic Union and Azmodi's Obliterator One-Shot for details.)
"I need offer no explanations to you, mortal. You must be obliterated!"
The battle lasted hours as the two combatants faced off within an asteroid belt, pulverizing nearly a fourth of the area's larger planetoids.
The Obliterator took immeasurable pleasure in the destruction. Perhaps, thought Bill, his passion for it was the driving force behind his attack. But if the Elders were as powerful as Bill understood them to be, then why did this one not simply destroy him?
"Excellent! Our conflict unabated would destroy this entire stellar system and beyond, given sufficient time. I will grant you your wish, and make you privy to my motivations, you have earned that much in entertaining me. You are the last of your race. This makes you valuable. Before the Collector or the Stranger lay claim to you, I will see your race extinct! For obliteration is not only my function, it is my pleasure!" The Elder's assault renewed in ferocity.
"Will you attack Ganymede as well, last of the Spinsters?"
"Ah, she has not told you of Persephone*, I see. No matter! Die, Korbinite! This day you shall burn like the Burning Galaxy that birthed you!"
(*last seen in Marvel's Cosmic Powers Unlimited #3.)
Bill grew weary of the endless violence. He raised Strombreaker and began to spin it overhead, opening a portal to another plane. He leapt through it, knowing that the Elder would attempt to follow.
As expected, the Obliterator did attempt to do so. The agonizing scream he released filled Death's Realm as the Elder was summarily ejected from whence he had come. Bill knew that Elder's were forever barred from this plane.
Beta Ray Bill felt a sudden sense of foreboding, growing steadily into an uncontrollable panic. This was his first foray into the halls of Death itself. The realms of Hela and Mephisto were as nothing to the dread caused by Bill's presence here. He turned his head in both directions, certain he had heard something. But the dark chamber was quiet, except for a subtle scraping sound, as fingernail against bone. Bill attempted to lift Stormbreaker again, but froze when he saw a minion of Mistress Death approach him.
The being was humanoid, an unliving thing that was putrid in its mummified remains. Bill fought the urge to retch.
"Thou hast used this sacrosanct realm for thine own selfish purposes, Asgardian. For such trespass, there is always a price."
"I meant no disrespect, but I do have business with your Mistress, servant."
"What possible offer couldst thou make to Death herself?"
"She has taken my people into her cold embrace. I am alone in the cosmos. If she were to return eighty members of my species to life, then we would produce offspring that would eventually die too. Alone, my death is but one; with progeny, one millenium could produce generations of lives that would end. A short-term investment from her results in a long-term profit in total deaths. Surely, she can see the logic in that."
The minion of Death stood silently a moment, as if awaiting some unheard message from beyond Bill's senses. "My Mistress has heard this request countless times before. Do you think yourself the first to wish a spirit freed from this realm? Mistress Death does not bargain so lightly, Asgardian. She comes."
Bill's senses reeled. Mistress Death herself approached him. Still frozen in place, he could not turn away from her gaze. She appeared in her robed skeletal form. She raised her bony hand and touched Bill's chin, looked him directly in the eyes. Bill's panic made him feel ashamed. Where was his vaunted bravery now?
Mistress Death released him, then slowly walked away. The minion addressed Bill once more. "My Mistress shall consider thy offer. Begone for now, Asgardian, and trespass here no more, lest thy species become finally extinct with thy passing."
With those words, Death's Realm disappeared. Bill found himself floating in deep space, just beyond the hull of his former ship, Scuttlebutt.
"Scuttlebutt! Faithful vessel I have returned to you!"
The Obliterator appeared once more, having awaited Bill's inevitable return to real space. "Foul creature, you have caused me pain and for that you shall suffer slow agonies."
Bill was genuinely surprised by the Obliterator for the second time. "How did you track me so quickly? You are no herald of Galactus."
"Irrelevant, mortal. Now you shall pay for the pain you have caused me."
"You claim to attack me because I am unique, the last of my species, the Korbinites. But you are wrong! Odin of Asgard has granted me membership among his people. Now and forevermore, I am one of many Asgardians."
"Sophistry and semantics, Korbinite. Merely a vainglorious title. Your blood tells me differently!"
"And what of us, Elder?" A female voice could somehow be heard through the void, coming from the Scuttlebutt vessel. A panel opened, a metallic plank emerged. The Obliterator turned to see two female Korbinites, members of Bill's race, alive and well. "Mistress Death has accepted your offer of future generations, Betarebil. I am Deltaredon, and this is my sister, Alfarean."
The Obliterator stopped his assault. "But then, if you are not the last of your kind No matter. I will kill you all!"
"Away with you, Elder, " spoke the second female. "Your passion for destruction would only anger Death further. Do not incur her wrath again."
The Obliterator, furious, departed. The female calling herself Deltaredon spoke once more. "But Death has a timeframe, Betarebil. She requires that we both bear children within a solar cycle, or our lives are forfeit."
Bill was stupefied. "But three is not a viable population for creating more than one generation ! And how can a man of honor take two wives?"
Alfarean shook her head. "Apparently, Mistress Death has a sense of humor after all."
Bill remembered the words of Mistress Death's minion: "For such trespass, there is always a price."
Suddenly, another voice was heard. "Bill, I am so sorry I missed thy return to Asgard. I have missed thee dearly."
Beta Ray Bill turned to face the newest arrival. "Lady Sif?"
Continued in Star Masters #2
In Star Masters #2: "Decisions, Decisions!" Guest-starring Sif (uh oh!) Also, Jack of Hearts will not rest until he is permanently free of his containment suit. What price is he willing to pay (and to whom)? And where are Drax and Starhawk? Check it out now! Be sure to also check out our new Cosmic Union Continuity Reference Page. And don't forget to send some comments below!
|Cover and Introduction||Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #3||Send
|Cosmic Union Issue #3||Obliterator Reborn||Star Masters Issue #1||Tales
|Supergirl Part 2||The More Things Change... Chapter 5|
|COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #1||COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #2|