Protectors of the Universe #9

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 #9

“We classify disease as error, which nothing but Truth or Mind can heal.”

– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health.

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #8.  For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

For more on the characters in this story, see our new
Official Handbook to Protectors Universe

Part Nine of Ten: "Pestilence"

Brotus could not bring himself to look the Protégé Kireleon in the eyes. Throngs of soldiers stood behind Chief Inquisitor, awaiting his next command.

Kireleon, The being formerly known in the Ultraverse as Gemini could not disguise his sense of betrayal. “Brotus, my once loyal friend. I have called you brother and shared my innermost thoughts with you. You know me to be on the side of Right. Stand by my side, brother!”

Brotus’ response was a mixture of guilt and anger. “You also know me well. I must live and die by my Oath, it is all that I have now! I cannot join you against my God and… my God!” Brotus seemed dumbfounded as his gaze fell upon the male twin of Ayesha and Crucible. “…the Magus returns…”

Adam Warlock’s left eyebrow rose suddenly at the Grand Inquisitor’s words. He whispered suddenly in Gamora’s ear. “He knows. Somehow he recalls the time-loop we wiped out years ago here on Throneworld. This may be the answer to our little dilemma…”

Gamora nodded, imagining the implications.

Realizing his exclamation might undermine his authority, Brotus quickly regained composure before his troops and addressed Gehenna Midas and Binary. “Inquisitor Midas, Lady Binary. I know you both to be soldiers of honor and loyalty to the Faith and to our Oath of Service. Step forward and join us against these heretics.”

Gehenna spoke first. “I… cannot, Chief Brotus. With all due respect, their cause is the just one. I have learned what Rune intends for this planet and for our Universe. I must oppose him.” Gehenna looked toward Binary, anxiously awaiting her reaction as well. It was only recently that Binary learned of the fact that Midas was actually the Spinster known as Ganymede. Would she betray that trust and rejoin the forces of Rune?

Binary paused, and both sides held their collective breaths in anticipation. “She… is right. Join us, Brotus! Your forces will follow you! They know you to be a man of conscience. My heart tells me that my faith in the Church is misplaced, if its Dark God can intend such horrors.”

Brotus had already wrestled endlessly with that issue in private, and so he gave no hint of hesitation. “Let those words of blasphemy be your epitaph. Attack!”

Crucible had had sufficient forethought to design the Beehive for most any contingency. With a press of a button on his armored glove, a 3-meter thick wall of solid sirusium arose between the two forces. “It will only buy us a few moments!” he exclaimed.

Adam Warlock pulled his long red cape about him. “Sufficient time to take the battle to Bubonicus… and to Rune. Let us make our way back to the laboratory, quickly.”

Back in the original laboratory of the Beehive, labeled Lock 43, the gathered revolutionaries hurriedly considered their next course of action.

Aleta quickly explained to Gamora her theory of the Phoenix. “Despite the planetary defense grid in place, I believe the Phoenix force is everywhere at all times. It can be contacted through a former host, I’ll wager. Gamora, you have the means to defeat the Plague-Bringer, Bubonicus, just as the future Phoenix IX will. You have been a host for the Phoenix’s energies.”

Starhawk corroborated Aleta’s tale. “It is our best hope of defeating Bubonicus, Gamora.”

Gamora gave it due consideration. “I am willing to try.”

At the dimensional aperture, the emerging being was a tall humanoid. Its body was completely covered in armor reminiscent of Celestial technology. It bore a long staff, clearly related to the armor’s design.

Rune, Starfox, and Alevolen witnessed the entity’s arrival from a slightly raised platform. At the base of the platform, Jack of Hearts operated the device that fed cosmic energy of sufficient combined intensity to puncture the barriers between dimensions, despite the planetary defense grid in place. Jack’s mind was not his own. He was a thrall of Alevolen’s influence.

The battery for the gateway also served as a rack of imprisonment for Beta Ray Bill, Quasar, Nova, Starglow, and Air-Walker. Despite Starglow’s increasing energy output, all eyes were momentarily fixed on the emerging entity.

Rune faced Bubonicus. “I give you liberation, and this world as well, to slake your thirst for holocaust long unquenched. My part of our ages-old bargain has been met, Plague-Bringer.”

“So it has, Prince of Void. Very well, here is my gift to you.” Bubonicus extended his left arm, and handed Rune what looked like a hovering pinpoint of a black hole, plasma energy crackling about it. “Behold! This is a Union remnant from the Cosmic Union cycle before the one that allowed your current access to this Universe.* In combination with the most recent Union’s organic host, it can open a rift between universes large enough to superimpose them upon each other.” The hovering remnant shifted in space toward Rune, stopping in his grasp. Bubonicus rose, suspended several meters in the air. “My incarceration has lasted millennia. I am anxious to return to my cosmic duties. I accept this world as a token of your appreciation.” With that, he rose into the sky and flew off toward the north.

(* See the Cosmic Union Saga for details.)

Rune seemed perplexed. “Organic host?”

Starfox mused on the words. “Of course. Starhawk!”*

(*See Star Masters #2 for details.)

Rune trembled in anger. “Starhawk?! To think, Alevolen handed him to me as an offering, and I discarded him to the Protégé for entertainment. I must have Starhawk! But if we cannot bring Starhawk to the remnant… then…” His grin broadened once more. “Starfox, I have one more task for you…”

Alevolen was quick to remind her allies of Bubonicus’ intentions. “But what of the coming pestilence?”

Rune turned to the disguised Malevolence. “Flee if you will, but I must have Starhawk, at any cost. Or soon I will discorporate from the extra-universal malady I now suffer, regardless. Bubonicus’ powers are species-specific. Unless you are a native of Sirus X, you have nothing to fear unless he targets you or your species specifically. You told me it was in your best interest to see my plans reach fruition. Let us see this through to the end together. Starfox and I will recoup the Union host, you and your thrall remain here and keep the dimensional gateway open in case we need an escape route from the coming plagues.”

Alevolen nodded acceptance of the plan, and Rune and Starfox were off.

Bubonicus extended his staff into the atmosphere. His ability to create diseases was limited by specificity toward a given species or individual. Sirus X bore multiple sentient life forms, making his task more challenging. Still he sensed that the majority of the sentients across the continents, the native Sirusians, numbered in the billions. It was a place for him to begin.

Gamora recalled her time as host body for the Dark Phoenix during the Cosmic Union. “But I have returned to my birth-body. The host body is the shriveled cadaver that you see before you.” She indicated the desiccated corpse before them in the laboratory where she and Adam were recently resuscitated.  

Aleta would not be dissuaded. “There must be a means of summoning the Phoenix Force through this physical link.”

Ganymede added another possible consequence. “There is no guarantee that the Phoenix will not be an even bigger threat to the Universe than Bubonicus or Rune. We are supposed to protect the Universe, not gamble with the lesser of three evils.”

“Perhaps,” replied Adam, “but Bubonicus is a menace that cannot be tolerated.”

To this, Starhawk added. “The Phoenix Force is not evil by nature. During the Cosmic Union, it was surely the taint of Thanos that ensured the prominence of the Phoenix’s darker aspect.”

Adam then turned to Gamora. “At the end of the Cosmic Union, you battled Dark Phoenix for control of that body. If you were to re-enter it partially and summon her…”

Gamora considered. “It’s worth a try…”

White Raven spoke up, “Gam, I know you’re a thrill-seeker, but this is suicide! I thought I had lost you twice, and that’s enough for me! I know I can’t talk you out of it, but you’re not going in there alone.”

Kismet agreed. “I can reanimate the mummified corpse to full health, but it will be soulless and revert to its original human form, as it was before Adam helped you restructure it at the onset of the Infinity Gauntlet Affair.”

Ganymede committed to the plan. “Then we do it together, Sisters. The more of us that participate, the better chance each of us has of surviving.”

Starhawk added, “I am willing as well.”

Gamora interjected. “One complication. The Phoenix Force seems to have an affinity for female hosts.”

“Not so,” added Binary, who recounted Professor Xavier’s brief link with the entity during their joint service among the Starjammers.*

(* See Dave Cockrum’s Starjammers #1 & 2 for details.)

Aleta concurred. “The 31st Century Phoenix is a male also, a mutant by the name of Giraud.”

Ganymede stood firm on the matter. “This corpse was a female host focusing a female spirit. We will have a greater chance of success with female summoners.”

Adam deferred to Gamora’s judgement on the matter. Gamora’s composure was decisive. “Agreed. The rest of you can serve as a line of defense against Brotus and the coming tide of soldiers. Is everyone ready?”

Ayesha greedily stepped forward, anxious at the prospect of affecting the nature of the newest incarnation of the Phoenix. The Goddess referred to by Kireleon as Her stepped forward too, still apparently somnambulant. Gamora pulled out her knife, symbol of the Interstellar Assassin's Guild.

 “Back off, ladies. And I use the term loosely.”

Ayesha eyes blazed with fury at the insolence, but Crucible’s touch on her shoulder caused her to avoid confrontation for now. Crucible spoke. “Come, my love. Our parts in this drama have yet to be played out. Leave them to their parts.”

Again, the being known as Her followed Ayesha and Crucible away from the gathered heroines. Kireleon had returned to Him and Her a semblance of normal functioning, but it was a far cry from active participation. Crucible wondered silently of what use they would be in the coming conflict.

Gamora, Binary, Ganymede, Replica, Aleta, Kismet, and White Raven each laid their hands on the newly resuscitated body of the young blond, Caucasian woman of Earth.* Adam Warlock, using his Soul Gem, allowed each woman present to have partial access to the receptacle of the soul in there midst. Divided seven ways, each bore a majority link with their own respective bodies as well. When the link was securely established, Warlock removed himself from the process.

(*See Infinity Gauntlet #1 for details.)

Adam turned to the Protégé. “I will require your access to Rune’s legion of faith-programming telepaths.”

Kireleon was impressed by the golden being before him. “How do you even know of them? They are one of the Church’s most confidential secrets.”

“I know that Moondragon is a cosmic-level telepath who could not be easily overpowered or defeated.”

The women stood in a circle around the cadaver, which rested on a raised laboratory countertop. Moments passed. Suddenly, from the heart of the corpse burst forth orange tinged cosmic flames, a firebird effect that, though warm, did not burn. It filled the air above them. “What do you wish of me?” asked the fiery entity. The voice was like an echo, though strong and feminine.

Gamora was the first to respond. “We know you as an entity of passion, life, curiosity, and healing. We understand that your history of possessing humanoid form has led you down dark paths as well. We seek a boon, and make an offering.”

Kismet continued. “The offer: we know of your desire to regain physical form, but your hesitation to possess or replicate a fallible host. But you can create a new body for yourself, one that cannot suffer the base depravities of humanity. We offer ourselves as templates for a wide range of human emotion. Pick from among us those traits you desire in yourself and discard the rest. The result will be a daughter, sister, and mother of us all.”

Binary added to the bargaining. “Reach out across this world and touch the countless souls of the faithful that, despite their misguided beliefs, live to do good. We know you have been misled before by manipulators and corrupters, but this is your chance for redemption! Absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but the burden becomes lighter when shared by a multitude!”

The Phoenix Force pondered the bargain. It’s longing to return to humanity was evident. “Very well, your suggestion has merit. And what do you wish of me?”

Aleta spoke. “In an alternate future, you eliminated a blight on Eternity caused by a creature named Bubonicus. We know you are capable of eradicating his taint on this world.”

The Phoenix’s avian head nodded, then its body expanded, engulfing the women of the circle. From the center of the swirling energies arose a stunningly beautiful female form, distinct from all those present. Her costume was reminiscent of the traditional green she wore as a member of the X-Men, but her angular facial features and dark brown hair pigment bore no resemblance to Jean Grey. “From the ashes I am reborn! I am fire, and life incarnate! Now and forever I am Phoenix!”

She reached out and felt the deadly plague that struck at each native individual throughout Sirus X. Within hours, the world would be nothing but a necrosphere. Imagining every molecule and genetic structure without disease, the Phoenix’s fiery wings enveloped the world, a gesture of nurturing and healing. Within moments, the threat was obliterated. Winded by the effort, the newborn woman before them nonetheless asked angrily, “I go to confront Bubonicus.” She disappeared in a shimmer of energy, a firebird consuming itself to nothing.

The gathered circle looked at each other incredulously. Aleta was the first to speak. “It worked! Thank the stars…”

“And not a moment too soon,” proclaimed Starhawk. He pointed to the portal from which they had entered. A deafening noise exploded from the other side. “The Inquisitors are outside the door.”

Phoenix confronted Bubonicus in the clouds above a northern city of Rune’s Throneworld.

“Bubonicus! You who are the plague of worlds, disease-bearer. This world and all its inhabitants are now under my protection! Be gone from this plane of existence, for my allies and I have sworn to protect this Universe!”

Bubonic roared with laughter. “Bah! Of what consequence is your desire? I am the End-Bringer! I am to Mistress Death what the Celestials are to Eternity! Simple mascot, your efforts merely inconvenience!”

Bubonicus used his staff to imagine a disease specifically designed to kill Phoenix. He attacked her with the staff, sweeping its full arc horizontally across her waist, making passing contact. “I sense you are the abstract embodiment of passion, but with newly found resolve to maintain absolute control. My cure for your existence is a plague of wild abandon, a cancer on all moral and ethical limits within you!”

The Phoenix’s first reaction to contact with the staff was dread, buy a moment later a satisfied smile crossed her face. “Foolish vermin, I already carry antibodies against your dark plague from exposures to corruption I have had to endure in the past. You have no power over me. I on the other hand…” The flaming wings of the Phoenix spread, but not in a nurturing embrace as before. Now fiery claws extended to grasps at Bubonicus.

The faceless plague-bearer’s body language gave away his sudden concern. He turned toward space and rushed at a vector away from the Phoenix. Unknown to him, the planetary defense grid was still intact. The collision was visible from nearly half the globe, in daylight, twilight, or night. Bubonicus recovered sufficiently to see Phoenix approach him once more. Thinking quickly, he made his way back to the dimensional gate from which he had emerged. Phoenix was still in close pursuit.

Just before Bubonicus reached his escape route, the dimensional aperture flared.

Starglow’s body was burning itself up at an alarming rate; the increased power output melted the bindings of the siphon to slag. Gabriel turned to Shalla Bal, half-conscious with pain. “Shalla, release us…”

Starglow burst suddenly from her shackles, her body supercharged and clearly ready to burst like a Nega-Bomb. Desperate for a means of powering down, she instantly rushed toward Air-Walker. By the time Alevolen could react to Shalla Bal's liberation, Gabriel was almost free, one of his shackles melted to slag as Shalla's had been. 

Beta Ray Bill, Quasar, and Nova watched in helpless frustration as Alevolen dropped from the platform with the stealth of a jungle cat. "Destroy her!" she commanded to her thrall, the Jack of Hearts.

Bubonicus noted that the dimensional energy fluctuations meant a different destination. He knew not where, but he knew that any realm was preferable to the threat he faced here.

He proceeded to jump back through and disappear. The portal began to shut behind him as the final energy sources, the captive Protectors Nova and Beta Ray Bill, were freed. Phoenix forcibly kept the portal open and followed closely behind.

Phoenix immediately recognized the location of Bubonicus’ arrival. The prison realm of Hyperstorm, grandson of the Fantastic Four’s Reed and Sue Richards, and the X-Men’s Jean Grey and Cyclops. In what Phoenix felt was a twist of cosmic irony, Hyperstorm was the son of future versions of Franklin Richards and the Phoenix Force-wielding Rachel Summers. Her energies instantly recognized the kinship, extended tendrils of maternal compassion toward Hyperstorm.

In recent weeks, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange, and Starglow managed to negotiate a settlement with the Living Tribunal for usage of the near infinite energies that swirled within this Hyper-realm. * Power siphoning devices were implanted within the base of the skull of the now-organic former Heralds, the Silver Surfer, Nova, Firelord, and Air-Walker. These four heroes now suffered from the Hunger of Galactus whenever they used power levels above a certain degree. With the implants, that Hunger was constantly staved, though the mechanisms also implemented an upper power limit approximating that of the Silver Surfer during his time on Earth.

(*See Powers Cosmic #5 for details.)

The source of the limitless Hyperspatial energy was the comatose Hyperstorm. Bubonicus knew nothing of these events, but as a cosmic entity, he sensed the connection between the prisoner and the Phoenix entity before him.

“Stop, or I shall infect your son with a particularly horrific pestilence tailor-made for his anatomy. I give you one warning, let me depart with your oath that you shall not follow, or Hyperstorm will suffer an excruciating demise.”

Phoenix understood the threat that Bubonicus posed, but as a creature of passion, her maternal instincts were compounded a billion-fold by the women that contributed to her persona. The sense was overwhelming. How could protecting one’s child ever be wrong?

“Very well, depart.” The Phoenix opened a rift into another dimension. “You have my word, I shall not pursue.”

Bubonicus’ armor made his emotional response to the statement unreadable. He stepped forward into the aperture, his staff-bearing his hand the last thing to remain in the Hyper-realm.

From beyond, his words came. “It is a pity that you did not procure my word of honor that I would not harm your child. A parting gift…” The staff extended suddenly, piercing Hyperstorm through the leg. Instantly, boils and swollen pustules began protruding from his exposed flesh.

The Phoenix’ reaction was instinctive. She instantly sealed the dimensional rift, Bubonicus’ hand still on this side. The severed hand and staff fell onto Hyperstorm’s containment apparatus. The Phoenix extended her wings toward the sealed scar that remained. Knowing Bubonicus could still hear her through the scar, she addressed him. “I shall not pursue, but nor shall I allow you to escape the confines of your new unpopulated dimension.”

She immediately turned to her “son”. Extending her fiery wings again, she attempted to purify him as she had done with the populace of Sirus X. Phoenix’ efforts went on for long, but amazingly, to no avail. She thought of another recourse, telepathically sharing her “antibodies”, her experience in dealing with the corruption of her past.

This only served to awaken him from his coma, as Bubonicus well knew it would, she thought. Hyperstorm screamed in agony as the plague’s pain drove him to further madness.

Fiery tears began falling from the eyes of the Phoenix as she touched the cheek of Hyperstorm. “Jonathan Richards. I am sorry. Bubonicus’ disease is beyond my ability to purge. It must be because you are a descendant of my energies and somehow immune to my powers. Or perhaps it is due to your unrepentant corruption and madness from before Galactus brought you here. But I can at least end your suffering…”

Mercifully, the Phoenix snuffed the life from the being before her. Her ethics rationalized that the euthanasia was truly an act of kindness. She knew that she could not bear her child suffering another moment of unrelenting torture. Still, she felt it did not bode well that her first hours of regained humanity included the ending of a sentient life, and a family member’s, no less.

Phoenix lifted the staff and armored hand of Bubonicus. The glove bore no organic material within, only the last smoldering fumes of some discharged energy. She melted the weapon and gauntlet to slag, then to atoms, then to nothing. Bubonicus would not threaten the Universe again while she was alive.

A dimension away, in real space, the former Heralds instantly felt the change. Their implants no longer tapped Hyperstorm’s energies. The Hunger threatened to overtake them again…

Continued in Protectors of the Universe #10

Conctinued in Protectors of the Universe #10!  Also see POTU Spotlight #5: Delta Ray Dawn, which also leads into POTU #10!  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!





I would like to join the CPU staff and help write or edit stories and/or create covers!

Issue #31 Cover Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #31 Letters & Comments
Defenders #6
Defenders #7
Protectors of the Universe #9 Thanos: Dead Men Tell No Takes #4 War of the Blood Gods #3
Dusks End Chapter Seven The More They Stay The Same Chapter 9 Praetor: A Tale of the Imperial Guard The Long March of Ares #3
What is CPU? How to Join Our Staff CPU Archive

E-mail feedback/submissions to