POTU: Guardians of the Galaxy #2Written and Edited by Morfex, Contributions by Mystic, and WarlorTVor
Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group in
THE COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED FANZINE ISSUE #33
Characters are the properties of Marvel Comics
of the Galaxy: Emergence
Part Two of Two: “Due Date"
((Note: Reprinted from segments of CPU’s Star Masters 1-5 and Protectors 1-5. Drax’s appearance precedes Marvel’s Captain Marvel series by PAD. For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)
more on the characters in this story, see our new
Official Handbook to Protectors Universe
The Jovian moon of Io was the base of operations for the elaborate group of cosmic heroes and adventures known as the Protectors of the Universe. It was built millennia ago by an enigmatic group of female interstellar warriors known as the Spinsterhood. This group had mysterious ties to the Eternals of the moon Titan, orbiting the neighboring planet of Saturn.
The Spinsterhood Retreat on Io was an amazing yet haunting place. Despite the Protectors' best efforts at renovation, a sense of chill foreboding often stirred, as did subtle, frosty breezes that lent to the sense of a futuristic ghost town. This did not stop the Protectors from adapting the ancient place as best that they could into a semblance of a home.
At the onset of the Retreat's occupation, Epoch had requested that a section of it be sealed off to all but her. This was the area in which the Timeless could meet, unhampered by the other subdivisions of the Protectors. Epoch rightly feared that, following the Cosmic Union, the constant temporal rifts required by their missions might have an adverse effect on the time-space integrity of the wing, the base, and the entire moon. She erected a protective bubble within which time travel could occur regularly; she consistently cleansed the temporal radiation through means too complex for the other Protectors to comprehend. The difficult task required a substantial effort, and began to occupy consistently more of Epoch's time. Quasar assured Ganymede that her precious Retreat maintained reasonable low-level background temporal radiation only, in every area but the newly dubbed "Time Wing".
The Timeless was a group of time-travelling Protectors from other eras: Nathaniel Richards, Death's Head, Doom 2099, Peace (formerly Justice Peace), Century and Ripjak.
With the passing of the Cosmic Union* and the Destiny War** in the Primary Universe of Marvels, time travel had become far more complicated. No longer were the Timeless free to move about the timestream at will; certain new temporal constants now applied.
(*See CPU's Cosmic Union Fanfic Saga.)
(**See Marvel's Avengers Forever #1 - 12 for details.)One such constant was discovered upon the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy, only days before. One of the Guardians had described the limitation as being "time-barred." Several Guardians had had to remain in the 31st Century because they had 21st Century counterparts that caused disruptions in the timestream and in both counterparts' biological functions. The 31st Century Starhawk, Kismet, Firelord, the Keeper, the Ancient One, Major Victory, Hollywood, Mainframe, Krugarr, the Spirit of Vengeance, and Phoenix IX were all time-barred from the post-Destiny War Reality of the year 2000.
The non-barred Guardians of the Galaxy arrived through a Union remnant, a tear in the space-time continuum that seemed to have a connection to the present-day Starhawk's origins and powers, he knew not how. Martinex, Replica, Aleta, Charlie 27, Yondu, Nikki, Talon, and Ripjak arrived on a crucial mission, but an unexpected side-effect of their time travel was a memory loss that ate away at recent experiences first, working its way slowly backward.
The Guardians of the Galaxy had expected a smooth arrival in the 21st Century. Instead, their memories were disappearing, their ship was a heap of useless slag in the Nevada desert, and Ripjak was suffering from massive temporal feedback. Only quick action by the mystically trained Talon saved the Martian’s life.
Drax and Starhawk transported them quickly to Io. Now, Aleta and Replica were assisting the Protectors with a mission on the planet Sirus X.* The remaining Guardians could do little more than wait and hope that Epoch could find a means of reversing the effects of their ill-fated arrival, and aid them in recollecting the details of the urgent mission that had brought them. Charlie 27 and Nikki had stumbled upon clues to their forgotten mission en route to Io. Epoch felt their findings to be momentous enough to allow them access to the top-secret Time Wing of the Retreat, despite the security risk.
(*See Protectors of the Universe #1-10 for details.)
Within the protective bubble that Epoch had erected, the Guardians began to make the most of their temporal exile. They began recordings of their most recent memories, hoping to outpace the terrifying memory loss they were all suffering.
Ripjak's condition grew steadily worse. Talon's makeshift protective sphere had served to get Ripjak to Io, and Epoch's larger sphere of temporal protection slowed the deterioration dramatically. Still, Ripjak's body was destabilizing, causing untold agony to the Martian time-traveler. The 21st Century Starhawk once supposed that it might be related to the presence of an alternate future Ripjak among the members of the Timeless.
How Starhawk knew of even one member of the top-secret roster of the Timeless was inexplicable. His developing powers merited further study, although Drax the Destroyer had hypothesized that his abilities were somehow entwined with the very nature of the cyclic Cosmic Union events.
The Timeless were returning from a series of assignments throughout the timestream and alternate realities. The Destiny War's recent relative occurrence caused a fracturing of timelines and realities from the Primary Universe of Marvels. One set of Timeless continued their confrontations with multiple threats to the time stream, where the Time Keepers still survived.* The post-Destiny War set of Timeless were abruptly detoured from their intended destination.
(*See Azmodi's & Anomaly's Tales of the Timeless, they're great! (shameless plug))
Interlude by Mystic & Morfex
Epoch considered recent trans-temporal events from the dimension bequeathed to her by her parent, Eon.
The original Timeless members were predominantly extra-universal like Rune, so they too must be expunged eventually. They had served their purpose in this reality, and the Divergent Timeless would prove far better suited to crisis resolution throughout the multiverse. The Guardians of the Galaxy were another matter entirely.
The Guardians of the Galaxy had appeared, despite the Cosmic Union's and the Destiny War's fracturing time distortions, apparently on a mission to stop Epoch's Timeless. Epoch had secretly expected them. Indeed, that was why she had sent Drax and Stakar on a separate mission from the rest of the Star Masters. Knowing that the Timeless had outlived their usefulness in this Primary Universe of Marvels, she agreed to help the 31st Century visitors.
The conflict between the two groups might well eradicate both challenges to Epoch's plans. Pitting rival factions against each other seemed a practical approach. If only one group survived, at least some of her precious time, cosmic energy, and effort will have been conserved.
Interlude by WarlorTVor
Doctor Victor von Doom knew, as every time-traveler did, that time traveled much like a stream of water. As with a stream of raging water, whirlpools took place, rapids occurred, the tides shifted and ran in an opposite direction than it had intended to in the first place. Time, much like rivers, dispersed outward, creating new streams. On occasion, a tributary merely collided into a barrier and would stop from there. Periodically, it would enter a pool of standing water never to move forward again.
The timestream worked in much the same way. All these instances created ripples in the "set" timestream and created parallel Universes. Alternate timelines would be given life, and focal points in the timestream would cause this, be it a time-traveler's interference in an important event or a watershed event completely of its own accord.
Doom was quite familiar with the theory, even before he became a member of the mysterious Protectors of the Universe team that called themselves the Timeless. Since he was literally a man out of time, Doctor Doom familiarized himself with all theories of time travel and its effects, no matter how archaic the theories seemed to him. But even though, through his infamous exploits in time travel, he was responsible for creating alternate timelines and parallel Universes, he had never actually witnessed one form right before his eyes. And nothing, not even all the knowledge of time travel that one could accumulate through a lifetime of study, could prepare Doom for what he witnessed in that moment.
The events of the last few minutes played back in Doom's mind. He, alongside his fellow Timeless, had been locked in mortal combat in the ancient corridors of what would one day be called Castle Doom. They were battling no less than a version of Doctor Doom from the past and an army of Doombots. The Timeless were being overrun at every turn by his past self's forces, and defeat was on the horizon. That was, until the dark form of Black Axe, a minion of Kang the Conqueror, whom the Timeless encountered during one of their past exploits, appeared from a fissure that tore away at the very fabric of space and time. Black Axe offered a means of trans-temporal departure.
Doctor Doom felt a wave of uneasiness wash over him, moments before he lunged into the fissure of space and time, then again in the instant that he witnessed an alternate timeline take shape. He turned his head to one side and saw himself! He blinked. And once again opened his eyes, and there by his side stood himself, or rather a divergent version of himself, more accurately. Through the shafts of green, blue and pure white light that blurred past him, he watched his divergent self take note of his presence as well. A glassy shine separated the two, and that was when Doctor Doom noticed a divergent version of the entire Timeless behind the other Doom. Suddenly he took note of something that was gravely wrong! Not on the side of his divergent self, but on his!
For Black Axe, the one who had summoned them away from the battle, was nowhere to be seen! He looked on his own side of the looking glass, in order to find him, but to no avail.
Where had he gone? But that was not the only thing that was out of place on his side. Justice Peace was there! He was flanked on either side by Century and Nathaniel Richards, but the fissure had closed behind Doom. He, in fact, had almost been left behind, for the fissure had closed at an extraordinary rate. During the chaotic battle, Justice Peace was shuffled out of the fold, nowhere to be seen. Doctor Doom looked onto the other side of the glassy shine to find that Justice Peace was not among that divergent team of the Timeless.
"What is transpiring here?" Doctor Doom hushed.
He turned to face the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. They would soon arrive at their destination, wherever and whenever that might be. Doom looked back toward his divergent self, and his obsidian armored hand reached out toward the glassy surface that separated him from his divergent self. He watched as the other Doom did the same. His hand only a few inches away from the glass barrier, he hesitated. A dark thought raced through his mind.
What if we are the divergent ones, and not…?
Doom never had a chance to finish his last question, for a blinding white light washed over his version of the Timeless as well as their divergent counterparts, and the fissure of white, green, and blue streaks of light was no more. It was replaced with darkness.
The only words that seemed to remain with him kept repeating in his mind like a whisper from the halls of time itself: "The Destiny War. The Destiny War."* Unsure what that meant, he instinctively knew that it was the cause of the divergence he had just witnessed.
(*See Marvel's Avengers Forever for details.)
All the questions that ran through Doom's mind all at once were no more. He had no remembrance of the encounter - if it could be called that - with his divergent self through the looking glass. All he remembered of the experience was arriving in the darkness that now seemed to encompass them. The blinding golden light from behind them instantly imploded into nonexistence, the telltale sign that the fissure had collapsed in upon itself. Doom staggered to his feet and attempted to survey his current unlit surroundings, unaware that what he had just witnessed had even taken place.
"Where are we?" rumbled Death's Head in disdain in the darkness.
"A better question, Death's Head," Nathaniel Richards started, "would be when are we?" Richards concluded after a long pause. Stepping forward, he reached into a compartment on the silver armor he bore and pulled out a small device. He activated the miniature tool and a thin beam of golden light lanced forward illuminating the darkness. He waved the device back and forth.
Doctor Doom stepped forward and also removed a scanning device from his obsidian armor, his prior feeling of uneasiness nothing more than a distant memory. He waved the device back and forth and made mental notes, as he input commands. "From the temporal emissions that my device is detecting, we are in the early 21st Century, a few days after Richards assembled us as the Timeless."
"That answers the when," Peace stated, looking around the darkness. "But not the where, Doom, or the why."
"You are in the Spinsterhood Retreat on the Jovian moon of Io. The Time Wing to be exact."
The words had not come from any of the Timeless members. They instantly turned behind them in order to face the voice’s source. Richards shined his device in the direction of the voice, just as the area’s light mechanism was finally activated.
Before the Timeless, far across the now familiar chamber, stood five members of the Guardians of the Galaxy!
When the Timeless were detoured, shunted without warning back to their pitch-black base of operations, they were momentarily disoriented. As they began to get their bearings and adjust to the bright illumination, they realized their location; this was confirmed by the voice behind them, as Martinex had spoken for the gathered Guardians. "You are in the Spinsterhood Retreat on the Jovian moon of Io. The Time Wing to be exact." Talon, Charlie 27, Nikki, and Yondu stood beside him.
Nathaniel Richards was the first to react. "What is the meaning of this? No one else is allowed in the Time Wing by order of Epoch herself."
The Centaurian archer Yondu responded for his teammates. "Epoch brought us here to meet you. You must know that there is no other means of entry."
"But why? And why the abrupt arrival, with no warning?" Richards noticed that his team stood on a large floor grid that extended halfway to where the Guardians stood. "Are we prisoners in our own base?!" he asked with heavy indignation.
With a mystical gesture, Talon disengaged the preliminary shielding bubble that Epoch had installed around the grid, allowing the Timeless to feel their presence in normal time.
The Timeless version of Ripjak, although not genetically related to Spider-Man, was similar enough to the Ripjak of the Guardians to feel the temporal impact as well. Ripjak fell to his knees, grasping his chest suddenly. Century began to clutch his neck as if he could not take a breath. Doom's armor seemed to seize up, perhaps attempting to redirect its energies toward life support. Death's Head and Justice Peace took the sudden reactions of their three comrades as an act of aggression on the part of the Guardians. They braced themselves for battle, instantaneously prepping their weapons and charging up their powers.
Aware of the heroic exploits and motivations of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Richards attempted to avert a confrontation. To his dismay, the Guardians of the Galaxy poised to attack as well. He had enough time to observe the three fallen members of the Timeless, whose bodies began to vibrate out of synch with reality. Richards called out quickly. "Stop! Nobody initiates battle!" Then, to the air, Richards raised his voice further. "Epoch!!! What is happening?"
Captain Charlie-27 addressed the time-traveler. "She’s not here. Look, our mission is simple: the elimination of the Timeless threat at any cost. The Future depends on it!"
"This is intolerable! We are both on the same side!" Nathaniel Richards’ anger was palpable.
"Are you certain?" responded Martinex. "Then why did Epoch assign us to stop you?"
Richards ignored the words. "Madness! We are this Universe’s defense against temporal incursion!"
Yondu addressed the silver-haired adventurer once more. "We believe that you are not the defense -- you are the incursion!"
Richards defensive reply fired rapidly. "Ignorant semantics and sophistry!"
Talon had heard enough of the man’s arrogant tone. "Oh, you think so? Then let’s test your theory, shall we?"
Talon disconnected the next layer of temporal shielding in the isolated grid upon which the Timeless stood. Suddenly, each of the Timeless, even the comatose ones, began to glow a different color. Surrounding them, six portals appeared, each matching one of the colors nearest to it. Doom’s aura was red, Century’s was blue, Ripjak’s was yellow, Peace’s was green, Death’s Head’s was gray, and Richards’ was white.
Yondu attempted to reason with the Timeless once more. "You may not be aware of this, but each of you harkens from a different alternate Universe than the others. Save your selves! Save all six Universes. Return from whence you came."
Nathaniel Richards was uneasy with the revelation, and with the portals that surrounded them. "But I… I am from this Primary Universe!"
Martinex seized the opportunity. "Then step through your portal with nothing to fear and you will return to the moment from which Epoch approached you. You have done your duty; consider passing through the portals as your honorable discharge."
Death’s Head’s weaponry clicked with anticipation. "And if we refuse?"
Nikki responded with hostility, hair flaming. "Then you force us to use whatever means necessary to make you go."
Yondu, hearing Nikki’s words, searched for a bridge upon which to build understanding. "Of course, we had hoped that it would not come to that."
Richards’ haughty manner was uncurbed. "We are the Timeless! We outgun your team a hundred to one!"
Martinex surveyed those standing. "At full power, perhaps. But you are three men down. They’ll die if you hesitate much longer. This Primary Universe has just recovered from a Union event. In the coming months, everything foreign from this Universe will be summarily rejected like a mismatched organ donation. Forcibly remaining only harms this existence, as well as your native ones."
Peace let his opinion be known. "Then why did Epoch bother to gather us in the first place?"
Yondu countered with unmistakable sympathy. "Because the eventualities you have already affected during your brief time together would have proven grave threats to this Universe later on, were it not for your actions. Now that your mission is accomplished, you can disband knowing that you have fulfilled your purpose."
"And what of Epoch’s promises to each of us?" Death’s Head was quick to interject.
Yondu continued the dialogue. His sincerity was clear even to strangers. "All kept. You have but to return to your Universes, and you will see…"
Although Death’s Head and Peace seemed to consider this last statement, Richards tone became more hostile than any his teammates had ever heard before this. "You expect us to believe you?!"
Martinex took a step forward toward the grid’s edge. "Epoch agreed to involve us because we brought memories of a Universe we visited on our journey here. It was a Universe where you did not return to your rightful places. Of that reality… there is nothing remaining. Just as we departed, we saw that version of Eternity torn into a thousand shreds."
Richards eyed his teammates suspiciously as they lowered their weapons. Turning back toward the Guardians, he barked, "Proof! We demand evidence!"
"Very well, here." Martinex tossed Richards a device. It passed through the final layer of temporal shielding without a problem. "It measures temporal radiation readings. See the fluctuations! If you do not decide within a few more minutes, the temporal feedback will bleed into this continuum, wreaking untold devastation, as well as your deaths. The shielding cannot avert this, not even at full power. Epoch confirmed this."
Richards read the device’s readings, then knew the truth. His demeanor changed suddenly to a distant haze reminiscent of somnambulism. He turned and lifted Doom, his own armor enhancing his strength. He pushed Doom’s near-comatose form through the crimson portal that matched the aura about the dictator from 2099. Instantly, the gateway sealed. The readings on the temporal radiation detector decreased by precisely one-sixth, but then quickly began inching up again.
"Doom first? Machiavellian to the end, Richards." Peace commented with a hint of admiration. "Very well, let us work together one last time." Peace carried Century, Richards lifted Ripjak. Death’s Head left voluntarily, with a nod and a grin. Soon Peace left as well. As each of the Timeless left, the multicolored portals disappeared. Soon, only Richards and the white glowing portal remained. The radiation monitor decreased dramatically, but began its ascent at a much greater velocity than only minutes before.
Richards facial expression awakened suddenly, his keen intellect apparent once more. He gave a nod and a smirk of admiration. "You sought to deceive me, Guardians. If I am indeed of this reality, then no portal would be necessary. But I know this to be the Prime Reality. I refuse to leave! Let this continuum’s Nathaniel Richards depart!"
Martinex appealed to his logic. "It would not work! You are unstable here! Check the readings! They do not lie."
Indeed, the temporal radiation-meter was entering dangerous levels.
Richards was adamant. "I am too small a portion of extra-universal matter to be significant."
Yondu’s once sympathetic tone had become deadly serious. "You are in denial. Depart, or we will be forced to make you."
Richards laughed aloud, a sound that echoed with the fringes of madness. "Oh? If everything you said is true, then why are you not contributing to the overload?"
Charlie-27 addressed this. "We… do not know. It may be the way we arrived. It may be because we may not have a native reality to return to. We’ve suffered unique symptoms from other extra-universals, but the primary reality seems to be rejecting us too, only much more slowly. At this rate we could last months here."
"If you can remain, then there must be a way for me to do so as well." Richards was clinging desperately to any sliver of hope, no matter how remote.
Charlie 27 shook his head. He wondered, given the same circumstances, if he would act any differently. "Professor Richards, you are leaving us with no choice. Depart now, or suffer the consequences. This is your final warning."
Richards considered his options in a near panic. "If my Universe must end for this reality to accept me, then so be it! It is not a true Universe anyway! The idea of being part of a pale imitation of the one true Universe is unbearable!"
Martinex finally realized that Richards was desperate beyond reasoning. "You fool! Depart before you become ground zero of a temporal implosion zone!"
Richards was no longer listening. His laughter became an insane cackle. Martinex gave the order. "Guardians, attack!"
But it was no use. Nathaniel Richards’ defenses were impenetrable. He had had enough time to adapt to their varied energy signatures during the discourse. His armor countered every energy attack, and the Guardians knew that organic life could not penetrate the final shielding layer as the radiation monitor and the energy bolts could.
The shielding would not hold much longer, but lowering it was not an option either. Suddenly, their teammate Ripjak appeared, apparently recuperated after the Timeless version’s departure. Beside him was the robotic Recorder that served as the chronicler of events related to the Protectors of the Universe. Ripjak spoke. "The Recorder recognizes the implications of a time-rupture, and has agreed to penetrate the grid. Allow his access, quickly!"
The Guardians stepped aside, frustrated by their lack of success with the final Timeless member. The Recorder quickly entered the shielding without apparent negative effect. He approached Richards with surprising speed, and attempted to push the raving time-traveler into the pulsating white portal. "Observation: Human desperation can be more detrimental than human evil."
Martinex checked the readings on his own monitor. "It’s no use! Time has run out! Guardians, abandon Io, now!"
The Guardians left for the emergency Spinsterhood shuttle that they had prepared in just such an event. As they blasted off the surface of the Jovian moon, an increasing bubble of force followed them, expanding exponentially around the Time Wing, then the entire Retreat, and finally ceasing expansion just beyond the Io’s surface.
Nikki looked on through the observation screen. "I hope that none of the Protectors were still moon-side."
Talon reached out with his mystic senses. "There are no life signs anywhere on Io."
Nikki considered Talon’s words. "Does that mean that Professor Richards is dead?"
"Dead, or returned to his reality. Or erased from the multiverse, or… transformed into something that can no longer be considered truly alive…" Talon shuddered at the thought, then turned back toward the screen in silence.
The shuttle bearing the Guardians continued away from Jupiter. Yondu turned to Martinex. "How long will it take for the temporal radiation to dissipate? How long until the Protectors can return to their base of operations?"
Martinex shook his head. "Hard to tell. A few months? A year? As trite as it sounds, only time will tell. Until then, the temporal chaos within will be impenetrable."
"Where to now?" asked Captain Charlie-27.
Ripjak’s sudden sense of desperation reminded them of his first anxious quest to track the cosmic disease-bearer, Bubonicus, in the 31st Century. "To Mars, Guardians! We must make haste to Mars!"
Charlie-27 looked with suspicion at the Martian, then turned to Martinex for any signal of affirmation.
Martinex considered. "We have to send word to Epoch and the Protectors about what has transpired here, and to Aleta and Replica to rejoin us upon their mission’s completion. But, since Epoch was having no luck stopping our memory degradation, I see no reason not to honor Ripjak’s request."
…And from within the "hot zone" of temporal radiation on Io, the Protector’s robotic Recorder spoke in a recurring feedback loop. "Exclamation! The Infinites are coming..."
Thanks for reading! Also read Protectors of the Universe #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!
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