Protectors of the Universe #8

Written by Morfex, Edited by E.A. Morrissey and Anomaly
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 #8
"Assault and Battery"

"The old faiths light their candles all about, but burly Truth comes by and puts them out."

Lizette W. Reese, Truth

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #7.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

The Players:

Air-Walker (Gabriel Lan, Xandarian) former Herald of Galactus, former Captain of the Xandarian starship "Way-Opener," where he served with Pyreus Kril (Firelord). Recently reclaimed his original organic body. Leader of the Protectors division known as the Powers Cosmic.

Beta Ray Bill (Betarebil, Korbinite) former Defender of a fleet of refugee vessels from the Burning Galaxy. The Korbinite fleet has since been destroyed by the Axi-Tun. Granted Asgardian citizenship and power by All-Father Odin. Bearer of the Uru hammer Stormbreaker. Aboard his vessel, Scuttlebutt, Bill and Dawn, the last of their kind willing to procreate attempted to reestablish their species.

Jack of Hearts (Jack Hart, half-Terran, half-Contraxian) immersed in Zero Fluid, Jack developed energy manipulative powers. Until recently, he was forced to wear a containment suit to regulate the energies that coursed through his system. Although currently romantically involved with Ganymede of the Spinsterhood, Jack has an obsessive attraction for the goddess Alevolen, who helped him regain control of his fully human physical body.

Nova (Frankie Raye, Terran) former Herald of Galactus, former ally of the Fantastic Four. Current member of the Powers Cosmic.  

Quasar (Wendell "Dell" Vaughn, Terran) former Avenger, former SHIELD agent, former Security Director of Project: Pegasus. Assigned by the Cosmic Being Eon to serve as the Protector of the Universe, his various allies included Eon’s daughter Epoch, and Kismet (formerly Her). Active member of the previous and current incarnations of the Star Masters. Recently learned that Starhawk is his offspring.

Starglow (Shalla Bal, Zenn Lavian) former Empress of Zenn La, formerly inhabited the Punisher construct that defended Galactus’ Worldship. Member of the Powers Cosmic. Unlike the other four members, Starglow does not occupy her birth-body; her soul inhabits a Power Cosmic-created body, which, unbeknownst to her, is a time bomb of Cosmic energy building up toward critical levels.

Part Eight of Ten: "Assault and Battery."

Inside the Imperial Strategy Chamber, Rune listened with interest as Starfox elaborated on his proposed trap. "The goal is to avoid fatalities on either side… because those lives will be of more value when sacrificed later."

Rune smiled at the half-truth, no stranger to the manipulations of court. "Very well, the plan is a sound one. It will take your former colleagues off guard, and achieve the desired effect. Proceed. Utilize as many of my legions as necessary to accomplish the task."

Beta Ray Bill, Jack of Hearts, Quasar, Nova, Air-Walker and Starglow were six of the most powerful mortals alive.

Since discovering that the planetary defense grid of Sirus X was impenetrable, they were attempting to keep a low profile until such time that they received word from any of their teammates and allies currently operating on the Church’s Throneworld. Ganymede, Gamora, Kismet, Aleta, Replica, Starhawk and Alevolen were all engaged in covert activities. Adam Warlock and Starfox had gone missing, but that surprised no one, as both were infamous for agendas of their own. To the Protectors’ knowledge, even Moondragon and Mantis were present undercover.*

(* They are not. See Spinsterhood #3 - 4 for details.)

The six powerhouses were anxious to act against the tyranny of Rune, Dark God of the self-styled Universal Church of Truth. They knew that their level of power would be put to better use in a full frontal assault on the Church when the timing was precisely right. For now, they must bide their time and let covert operatives achieve the proper climate to ensure their victory without the loss of innocent life. Otherwise, they might inadvertently trigger the threat that Epoch felt was more deadly than Galactus the Devourer or Thanos, the Mad Titan.

Nerves were frayed and tempers were flaring, particularly among a certain former Herald of Galactus.

"You’re dead meat, pretty boy!" Nova and Quasar had been sparring to keep themselves at peak levels of their skills, but Frankie Raye had not expected Quasar to release his Quantum hold on her so suddenly. She had overcompensated and hit the Training Room wall with the force of a comet. Since the alien-constructed walls were purposely designed to absorb kinetic energy, avoiding damage (similar to the outer walls of the vessel). The sudden influx of energy caused the systems to overcompensate as well, trapping Nova in an energy draining feedback loop.

Quasar attempted to suppress his laughter, but unsuccessfully.

Upside down and feeling humiliated, like a struggling fly in an electrical spider web, Nova was clearly… annoyed. "That’s it! When I get out of this, your tail is mine!"

Shalla Bal and Gabriel Lan sat in "StarBack’s," a small café near the spaceport where they had docked. Power Cosmic glaze retracted, and wearing typical Sirusian clothing, they appeared to fit in among the people that frequented the establishment. For Shalla Bal, the organic appearance was but an illusion, a manipulation of the molecules in her body to appear human.

Even in this time of national emergency, the shops and restaurants of the district attempted to maintain a semblance of normality. The former Heralds attempted the same, but with dubious success. The fate of their comrades, the Silver Surfer and Firelord, had been foremost on their minds since the state of emergency was announced on Sirus X a few days before. However, for now, they sought to find some respite from their troubles, albeit momentary.

Air-Walker sipped from a cup of a steaming beverage, a popular Sirusian bean extract. "Hmmm. I am surprised by how much I have missed the simplest organic pleasures like this."

Shalla Bal bowed her head, averting her eyes. Gabriel immediately extended his hands across the table to hold one of hers. "That was insensitive of me. I did not mean to…"

Shalla Bal put her other hand on his. "It is not your fault, my friend. My physical body remains among the Zenn-Lavians and Xandarians in the dimension-containing sphere back on Io.* Nothing can be done about that for a time. I would not be a very good friend if I did not feel genuinely happy for you."

(* See Cosmic Union, final chapters for details.)

Gabriel Lan felt the vitality of the beautiful woman before him. Despite the circumstances, her smile filled him with a contentment he had not known in ages. Instinctively, he leaned in closer, as did Shalla Bal. The sudden attraction between them was completely unexpected by both. Slowly, tentatively, their lips began to approach each other’s. When they were mere centimeters apart, Shalla Bal said, "Gabriel, I…"

The Sirusian waitress that had served them their beverages approached once more, unnoticed by the distracted former Heralds. Clearly in a state of great distress, she looked about in every direction, as if for affirmation (or perhaps for an escape route). Finally, she quickly slapped a strange metallic adhesive strip to Gabriel’s neck. The sudden contact startled the two Protectors. Gabriel instinctively placed his hands up to his neck to remove the foreign object, then froze. Without warning, a multitude of Grand Inquisitor troops surrounded their table, weapons directed at them. The waitress ran away between the soldiers, bawling hysterically.

The commander of the group spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. "If either of you activates any fluctuation in use of the Power Cosmic in the immediate area, it will trigger the patch’s attack mechanism to the brain and kill you instantly. If you try to remove it, the same thing will happen. Surrender now, or commit suicide, we do not care which."

Bill analyzed Jack of Hearts with the medical scanner. "You are right, Jack. Your body, though still organic, seems to be slowly reverting to its energy form."

"I don’t understand it! I continue my chants, my herbs, and my meditation. What has changed?"

Bill ventured a hypothesis that he knew would not go over well with his teammate. "Alevolen?"

"…You’re right, of course. I have to find her, Bill!"

Just then, the emergency claxons filled the air with a shrill screech. Jack and Bill rushed down the ship’s corridor just as Nova and Quasar joined them.

"Attention! Evacuate the vessel immediately, by Decree of the Dark God!" The voice form outside penetrated the communication systems throughout the starship.

The external voice continued. "Your ship is surrounded by an amplification sheath. Attempt to breach it or apply force to it in any way and a similar sheath will begin to constrict about a group of children outside your vessel. The choice is yours."

"What do we do? Do we fight?" Nova, still riding an adrenaline rush from her combat with Quasar, seemed ready to take on the entire planet.

Bill considered. "Nay. We cannot endanger innocent lives."

"We’ll endanger far more lives by turning ourselves in. We need to be free to save them later!" Nova would not be swayed.

Bill was adamant. "Nay. We play along for now. Put your trust in me."

"Forget that!" said Nova. Having only regained her organic body recently,* she had grown unaccustomed to the internal changes of her body chemistry. She burst out through the ship’s exit hatch and hit the energy field surrounding the vessel with a full super-nova burst. She watched in shock as a twin bubble containing children in the spaceport began to contract. Screaming and crying, the children appeared terrified for their lives.

(* See Cosmic Union for details.)

"Repeat, do not resist or you will be directly responsible for their deaths. This is your final warning."

"Arrrrh!" Nova shouted in fury and frustration, but ultimately descended to the landing pad. She joined the others, who already stood outside the ship. "Bill, we can’t just give up! There has to be another way!"

Beta Ray Bill looked at the horrified faces of the Sirusian children and thought of Delta Ray Dawn.* Their attempt to create children of their species was the most precious of all their obligations. These Sirusian children’s parents must be disconsolate with concern for their whereabouts. "We surrender."

(* See Star Masters #5 for details.)

Quasar pondered the situation. "They knew where to find us. They knew how to force us to give up. They had to have had inside help…"

Bill nodded in agreement. "At least Shalla Bal and Gabriel Lan are still free…"

The immense device was reminiscent of one used by Tyrant to bind and drain a number of cosmic heroes long before the Cosmic Union event*. The siphon device used the heroes as a battery to charge the artificial aperture into another existence that stood beside it.

(* See Silver Surfer Vol. 3, #60 for details.)

Rune, Starfox and Alevolen stood atop a platform adjacent to the construct. At the base of the platform, Jack of Hearts activated the dimensional generator. The energy drained forcibly from the five heroes. The agony was unbearable, the heroes felt as though their blood was beginning to boil. Their brains were feverish, their tongues swelling, their hearts palpitating irregularly.

Barely conscious, Beta Ray Bill was not surprised to see Alevolen at the side of Rune. Sif had been right all along, and the Korbinite’s foolish pride caused him to miss the obvious. Bill chided himself in silence, convinced that he had no right to lead the Star Masters. Seeing Jack at the base of the platform, Bill knew that his teammate could not be acting of his own accord.

Quasar was shocked to find Eros on the platform. Had Ganymede been right about him? Was Starfox switching sides for some selfish purpose that Dell could not fathom?

The energies draining from the heroes swirled and collided. They were consolidated and refocused toward a gleaming circular mechanism reminiscent of a Shi’ar Stargate constructed in miniature. The energy created a shimmering yellow sheath over the empty center of the object. One moment passed, then another. Alevolen looked toward Rune, then back toward the gate. "Where is he?" she whispered impatiently.

Aleta and Replica entered the Beehive through underground passages. As they exited to the main chamber, they were met with an amazing sight. Starhawk, Adam Warlock, Kismet, and Gamora walked side by side with a group of people, many of whom were unknown to them.

Although Aleta and Replica knew of the Protégé, they did not recognize Crucible, Ayesha, the newly dubbed Him and Her, Gehenna Midas (Ganymede), Binary, or White Raven.

Aleta, pressed for time, cut to the point. "Stakar! Rune plans to summon Bubonicus!"

Starhawk’s eyes widened in recognition and horror. Adam Warlock spoke in a demanding tone. "Starhawk, tell us everything you know about this ‘Bubonicus’."

Stakar’s memories of the 31st Century were vague, having shared them briefly with his future counterpart at the onset of the Cosmic Union. Still, he knew the implications of her words. "Adam, there is not a moment to lose. Where?"

Just then, the main entryway of the Beehive burst open. "Seize them!" Brotus stormed the building with at least three thousand Inquisitors trailing behind him. "Kireleon! You and your companions are hereby charged with conspiracy, treason, and heresy!"

Struggling only caused the pain to strengthen.

Pain increased exponentially as his blood boiled, and his brain screamed. Gabriel attempted to relax his body but it was akin to  a memory he had had as a child when he still wore the human form. A swarm of insects made a nest in his body. When Gabriel attempted to relax, those memories came like torrents as the insect eggs hatched and began to nourish themselves. Never had his body experienced such pain until this moment.

Gabriel attempted to relax his body between convulsions caused by the siphon device. He managed to turn his head enough toward Shalla Bal to discover that she was glowing brighter than any of the others. "Starglow..?" he managed.

"Gabriel… something is… changing inside me…"

Beta Ray Bill attempted to reason with Jack of Hearts. "Jack, stop this! You have the choice!"

Jack’s human eyes shed human tears for the first time in years. "No! If this is the price of my humanity, then so be it!"

Quasar shook his head. "No, Jack. You… lost your human body… but never your humanity… until now…"

Slowly, a crimson boot tip appeared through the human-scale Stargate.

"Ah," beckoned Rune, wringing his gray-brown claws in anticipation. "Finally, my ascendance is assured!"

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #9!  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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