Tales of the Timeless #3
Written by Warren "Azmodi"
Entros, Edited by E.A. Morrissey
Tales of the Timeless
Part One: "Reaching for Tomorrow - Zarrko's Gambit"
Note: Please read Issue #2 of Tales of the Timeless if you haven't already.
Immortus' voice was tight, barely able to conceal the anger he felt, "You allowed this to happen? How could you have stood by and let such a useful tool as Century be stolen from within the very confines of Limbo itself?"
The lead Time Keepers' own tone was neutral, "The theft of your creation was discussed amongst ourselves and a contingent of pre-eminent entities who hold sway over the time-stream; it was decided that Century will be more valuable in his new capacity than the one you were to assign him."
The Master of Time sighed in disgust, shaking his head. The fear he often felt in the presence of these terribly powerful beings had waned due to his rage, but still did he choose his words carefully.
"What is this 'new capacity' you speak of? Since his disappearance I have not been able to locate, or clearly view any of the events he is destined to become involved in. Curse myself for designing him so well."
There was a pause, the TimeKeepers communing amongst themselves, deciding if it would be wise to inform their thrall of such details.
"A small group of six beings has been formed at the behest of He Who Remains, himself. Their purpose is to travel the time-ways and assure that no anomalies, be they natural or artificial, interfere with the necessary course of events. Century is now a member of this elite team."
"But, is he not serving now the way he would have had he continued to act upon his original programming? The Kang Dilemma is easily large enough to qualify as an anomaly unto itself . . . "
"Events of far more import occur within time than the existence of multiple Kangs'. Since the Union crisis there has been a proliferation of anti-omniscience null spheres spreading throughout the time-stream. The cause of this disturbance remains unknown, and we dare not intervene directly for fear that our powers will destroy the entirety of time itself. Thus, this group has been formed to roam about, learn the origin of this growing threat, and deal with it."
Immortus' brow furrowed as the Time Keepers spoke, greatly disturbed by the news; such was it always when he learned something of importance that he had not been aware of previously.
"This . . . threat, is it a dire one? Surely I would have known of such a grave danger long ago . . ."
"Your own abilities are far too limited to perceive these miniscule orbs of anti-omniscience. Currently they exist for only trillionths of a second before imploding. But their number and duration are both slowly increasing, and we must discover their cause and end it before the situation grows more serious."
"What am I to do, my masters?" the Lord of Time questioned, the issue of Century's theft now a distant memory.
Already the Time Keepers were beginning to fade from Immortus' citadel; their leader's voice was little more than a barely perceptible echo, "Watch carefully the tides of time . . . And do not interfere with Century's new task."
On that somber note the trio was gone, leaving Immortus alone with his thoughts; they were not peaceful ones.
As he examined Death's Head's cerebral cortex, Victor Von Doom felt a surge of unexpected envy shoot through his system. Ever wearing masks, the Latverian hid it well, the only sign of his jealousy being a single phrase, spoken without embellishment.
"How unexpected . . . "
Sitting upon the metal platform, the bounty hunter's eyes searched for the monarch, but could not find him. Instead he merely said, "Something wrong?"
Doom's eyes narrowed as he continued his work with the re-calibration of the cyborg's numerous personalities, "No, I was surprised by the level of technology which created this Minion construct."
The mercenary's pattern of ending nearly every sentence with a question was already beginning to grate on the Latverian. "It is more advanced than the majority of the technology available to me during my reign in the year 2099; most impressive."
"A.I.M. put a great deal of work into this body; too bad they didn't get to keep it." Death's Head smiled, his monstrous features making the expression ghastly, "Nearly done back there, Doctor?"
Doom's eyes narrowed with annoyance at the cyborg's request, but he held his anger. "Yes. All but two of the sentience inhabiting your physical form have been subdued; the only remaining personalities belong to yourself, and a barbarian named Lethdroxx."
The mercenary grimaced, "A foul beast, assimilated immediately before I was; get rid of him soon, yes?"
Von Doom did not dignify the request with an answer, instead doing his best to ignore whatever Death's Head said and focus upon his work. Meters away, Century stood ramrod straight, while Nathaniel Richards ran a small scanning device across his eyes.
"Immortus did a marvelous job of constructing you, Century. The Nanites in your tissue enable you to heal from nearly any injury with great rapidity, and they enhance your strength and reflexes to a level that rivals that of Thor himself! Once you learn to harness your skills and abilities, I believe you shall easily be the most potent member of this team."
"Yes, but . . . " Century replied hesitantly, like a small child. "How can I learn without Immortus to guide me? I was specifically designed to follow his input, learn as he wished me to learn . . . "
Richards smiled as he continued his task, "A great deal of the programming Immortus built into your DNA I have managed to suppress, if not outright remove. Your almost insatiable desire to destroy divergent Kangs has been significantly repressed enough that you should be able to carry out normal tasks without your instincts forcing you to hunt down temporal prey. Your natural loyalty towards Immortus has been somewhat more difficult to temper, but I believe that with time you will develop your own identity, separate from the purpose you were created to serve."
Century's face contorted with a look of questioning, "Then . . . I am not truly the being that was forged in Limbo? You have . . . changed the very fabric of my identity . . . "
Nathaniel gently shook his head, and addressed the former killing machine, as he would have a youth. "No, Century, I have only slightly altered your genetic programming, made you less extreme and more amiable to a natural existence. Had you remained as Immortus originally conceived you, I doubt you would have been able to form personal bonds or even exist in the company of others, while a single divergent Kang remained alive. I have broadened your horizons, Century made you a man instead of a machine."
The pale-faced being's brow contorted as he absorbed the information being directed at him, trying to understand what Richards was saying. The task was difficult, for he had only been alive for a handful of hours at most. Century told himself that he would need to grow and accumulate experiences before he would be able to grasp the full understanding of Nathan's words. Thus he did his best to put questions regarding his identity out of his mind, and concentrate on the present.
For a few more passing minutes the scientist went about his purpose, performing a final scan upon Century and assuring himself that the portion of genetic tampering he had done would bear no lasting consequences he did not desire. When he had finished, Nathaniel closed his small machine and placed it within the loose-fitting robes he wore, before saying to his new teammate, "We're through here, Century. I'll be aiding Doom with Death's Head, and then it should be time for us to embark upon our first mission."
"When will that be?"
Inwardly Richards smiled at Century's natural grasp of the word mechanics involved in time travel; "The chronal scanners in my armor have detected a low-level disruption in the latter portion of the twentieth century. I believe its being caused by a mis-calibrated time machine, but we'll know for certain when we arrive and investigate."
Century nodded as Nathaniel began to stride away, heading towards Doctor Doom and the hulking cyborg. Yet suddenly the artificial son of Immortus was struck with concern, and called out to the aged scientist, "Nathaniel. What . . . what should I do until we embark?"
Richards smiled, this time openly, at the innocence of the immensely powerful creature. "Perhaps you should speak with one of your teammates. Of them all, Ripjak's situation is the most similar to yours; he too was taken away from his parent.
Again Century nodded readily, immediately starting towards the armored Martian, though his steps began to slow the closer his proximity grew. Nathan watched for a few moments, thinking of Reed when he had been a boy and how difficult it had been for him to make friends, his intelligence intimidating everyone in his age group.
Finally the elder Richards pulled himself away and approached the Latverian, who still crouched behind Death's head, hard at work with his re-calibrations.
"Nearly finished, Doctor?"
Doom did not look up; his mind locked in concentration. His response was curt, "Yes."
"He's been saying that for quite awhile, Richards. Think he's having trouble with subduing Lethdroxx, yes? Maybe you should help him before we all die of old age?"
The monarch sneered beneath his mask, the urge to decimate the bounty hunter's consciousness growing almost overwhelming. His irritation grew by leaps and bounds when Nathaniel moved to his side, sharing his view of the scanner.
"There," Richards said, pointing to a seeming inconsequential reading, "you still have to change this inner resonance frequency."
"No." came Doom's reply, flat and heavy as iron, "The inner resonance frequency has nothing to do with Lethdroxx's resistance."
Nathan's own voice grew hard, "Do you ever learn from your mistakes, Doom? I would have thought having your face ruined by a miscalculation would have done something to temper your arrogance."
Beneath his faceplate Doom's eyes smoldered, threatening to ignite like wildfires. Yet reluctantly, the memory of that far off day springing up, he did as Richards bid. For seconds there was no change, the barbarian's personality remaining strong as ever. The Latverian prepared to turn and spit the failure back in Nathaniel's face, but the indicator suddenly read that Lethdroxx's consciousness had subsided, and that Death's Head was now in complete control of the Minion construct.
Nathaniel smiled widely, rising to his full height as he did, "Simple enough, wasn't it Doom?"
Had the image of his beloved Latveria being reduced to sludge not sprung to mind, surely the monarch would have cut the other scientist down in cold blood at that very moment.
"Much thanks to both of you." Death's Head said, standing as well, "Head feels clear for the first time. Been a long time since I was alone with my thoughts. Have my gratitude, both Richards and Doom. Would buy you a beer but no bar around here, yes?"
"No, not that I can see, Death's Head." Nathaniel replied. "I would advise you both to do some last minute weapons checks, as we should be heading into the time-stream in no more than a half hour."
"Of course. Have to always be in perfect operating condition. If I wasn't, I'd be dead by now, yes?"
Doom's voice was full of venom, "You did die; Minion killed you."
"Ah, but still here now, yes? Always find a way to survive. Like you Doctor."
The Latverian's eyes narrowed and he stalked away without a response, musing how he would keep his sanity long enough to restore his country's populace to life.
Zarrko pointed at the viewscreen, like a child picking out a Christmas gift, "There they are."
Servitor saw well the blazing sphere of chronal energy cutting through the time-stream like a galleon through the sea.
"Have you discovered the identities of those beings I was not acquainted with?" the Tomorrow Man asked, his feverish gaze never leaving the small monitor, "I don't want any surprises."
"Doctor Doom from 2099, Justice Peace, and Death's Head II had been previously identified. After perusing the data garnered from numerous timelines by the Time Cube's information filter, I was successful in determining the identities of two of the three remaining individuals."
"And they are?" Zarrko queried, now turning from the screen and walking across the small chamber. In the center there stood a large cylinder, running from beneath the deck through the ceiling. Deftly the Tomorrow Man manipulated the control bank situated at its side, his sensors searching for the chronal shadows which would allow him to lock onto his prey.
"One is the Martian/Eternal hybrid known only as Ripjak. He was the final and most successful of the High Evolutionary's creations, developed in the early 21st century on Mars. Data indicates he is well trained in various fighting styles and possesses an untested level of physical strength. He has also occasionally shown the capacity to emit concentrated bursts of energy from his hands."
"The other?" Zarrko asked, as light began to gradually fill the cylindrical holding cell.
"The other member of this corps is Nathaniel Richards, father of renowned scientist Reed Richards. He was the first human who proved capable of building a time machine unassisted, and disappeared into the time-stream shortly after its completion. Information on his life between his life on Earth and present status is somewhat vague, but some accounts place him as the ruler of a divergent Earth which eventually gave rise to Kang the Conqueror."
Zarrko's eyes narrowed at the very mention of his hated enemy's name, "Then perhaps we should time travel to the past and destroy Richards before he can create the society which will in turn birth my greatest foe."
"Unlikely, Lord Zarrko. Kang's entire empire seems to be protected by various chronal safeguards that prevent tampering with its inclusive timelines. Had that been a viable route to the Conqueror's destruction, someone surely would have taken it by now."
Grudgingly the Tomorrow Man agreed, the light in the holding chamber growing to nearly blinding intensity.
"Do any of the others possess anything I might find of value?"
"I do not believe so, master. None have technology in excess of your own, with the possible exception of Richards. It seems the source of their time travel stems from a device he has on his person."
Zarrko scoffed, "I have the Time Cube; besides, anyone bearing the name Richards is too cunning for me to trifle with at the moment. I shall only take Immortus' creation." He pointed to a console on the opposite side of the blazing cylinder, "Man the controls, Servitor. I nearly have a fix on the target."
Quickly the large machine made his way to the module, surveying its data in an instant, "Static disruption pulse is ready."
"Make sure it is on the highest setting. If we are fortunate, the rupture we create in the time field may be strong enough to collapse the chronal bubble in its entirety, and perhaps even cause serious damage to Richards' time displacement engine."
"Ready, Lord Zarrko." Servitor repeated, apparently uninterested in the specifics of what the Tomorrow Man wished would occur.
"Fire the pulse."
A crimson light and accompanying alarm blared loudly as the machine announced, "Static discharge is away."
The Tomorrow Man watched his display closely, "Time field breach in three . . . two . . . one. Locking onto the target's chronal signature."
"Secondary capture beam is locked on."
"Tele-porting target into stasis tube."
Zarrko punched the button with relish and then turned his sights upward to watch as a shape began to materialize within the light-filled cylinder. Within moments Century was there in full. For a second he struggled, flailing wildly against the reinforced transparent crystal, and then his movements slowed to none, falling with a loud clang to the floor below.
The Tomorrow Man smiled widely, while his Servitor looked on, incapable of taking pleasure in Century's capture, incapable of seeing the wrong Zarrko had perpetrated.
Continued in issue #4
Next week, be on the look out for another edition of The Tales of The Timeless in Cosmic Powers Unlimited. Now be sure to read this week's other new editions to the Cosmic Union continuity in Star Masters #1, and Protectors of the Universe Spotlight #4: Featuring Oblivion, and Part 3 of The Cosmic Union, the saga which lays the foundations for the Cosmic Unionverse! Be sure to also check out the new Cosmic Unionverse Page for details about the Cosmic Union continuity, as it begins to shape into a whole new cosmic universe of Marvel characters! Now be sure to leave us some comments and suggestions!
|Cover and Introduction||Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #3||Send
|Cosmic Union Issue #3||Obliterator Reborn||Star Masters Issue #1||Tales
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|COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #1||COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #2|