Protectors of the Universe #15

Written and Edited by Morfex
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Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group in

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Protectors of the Universe #15
"Aftermath: Part Three of Three: The Long Goodbye"

(Note: This story continues from Protectors of the Universe #14.  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

See "The Story So Far" for information on events in #1-11

“The Story since Then”: Rune has been returned to the Ultraverse along with the Godwheel, and the rift in reality has closed. The Protectors have been reunited with their teammates throughout the cosmos. They have voted for Binary and Phoenix to join their ranks, as well as for a cessation of Epoch’s involvement with the team. The combined Protectors have updated each other on current events depicted in Marvel’s Galactus the Devourer #1-6 and Thor #20-25. Pip the Troll, Adam Warlock and Gamora have been reunited with their original bodies, only to learn that their life forces are too strong to be contained.

Aftermath Part Three of Three: The Long Goodbye

“There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”  – Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, IV

It was time.

Adam Warlock, Gamora and Pip the Troll would be consumed by the rampant life energies that coursed through their bodies if they did not enter the healing cocoons that were a trademark of the Golden Avenger.

The reconstructed Bee Hive laboratory that they occupied was adjacent to the one in which the former Goddess and Magus now convalesced. Kismet accompanied the trio with familial concern. The woman formerly known as Her addressed the former bearer of the Soul Gem.* “Dear brother, would you have us place your cocoons aboard the ‘Township’ for safe keeping?”  

(* For the current bearer, read POTU Spotlight #7.)

“No, my sister. We shall remain here, on Sirus X.”

There was a time when Kismet had been after only one thing: becoming Adam’s ideal mate. In part thanks to Quasar, Kismet had grown past that obsession, and had adapted her own genetic structure to become more sibling than spouse to Warlock.* Gamora took guilty comfort in their references to each other as brother and sister rather than as destined mates.

(* In their final battle with Syphonn over Monster Island, in an as yet untold tale, coming soon to POTU Spotlight.)

Adam smiled warmly at Gamora, something she could quickly get used to. “I look forward to seeing you when we all emerge.”

The Astral Samurai thought of her time with White Raven, and of her goal to distance herself emotionally from the emotionally distant Adam. But the Adam Warlock standing before her now was a different man, more like the one she had known prior to his hermitage in Soul World years ago. She felt that she deserved a chance to learn if happiness was possible with him at her side. Her reply was clearly heartfelt. “As do I.”

Gamora had used the time since Pip’s bodily transference* to take her leave of White Raven and of her fellow Spinsters. She was prepared for the next phase in her ongoing journey of metamorphosis and self-discovery.  

(* Last issue.)

Adam and Kismet extended their hands toward Gamora. Kismet whispered, “Be well, Sister.” Gamora nodded at this, and closed her eyes. Soon the energies pulsing and swirling about her began to tighten their grip, but Gamora did not struggle against the flow. In seconds, the golden-brown chrysalis was sealed, and Gamora began the integration process between body and soul.

“Well, I guess I’m, next.” Pip’s lack of enthusiasm was understandable, for though the promise of continued existence was worth the process, the cocoon’s healing would take a few months, many days of which would be spent with the inhabitant conscious. As the energies swirled and tightened about the Lazidaxian, a voice suddenly pierced the room. “Pip! Baby!!”

It was Mama Alpha, proprietress of the club in which both Heater Delight and Mantis had been dancers.* She and Pip had been involved years before, and Starfox had recently discovered that she still harbored feeling for the Troll.  

(* See Spinsterhood #3 for details.)

In a swift sprint that belied her prodigious girth, Mama Alpha leapt to embrace Pip as the energy cocoon tightened about them.

As the cocoon sealed about the pair, Pip’s voice could be heard piercing the last remaining opening. “Noooooooo….!!!” The sound was cut off in mid-scream by the cocoon sealing completely.

Kismet turned toward Adam, concerned. “Adam, should we reverse the process?”

Warlock shook his head. “No. Tearing the cocoon now would do more harm than her presence ever could.”

Starfox stood by the laboratory entrance, grinning, the access codes still freshly imprinted on the laboratory’s entryway. “Ah, true love!” He chuckled as he departed with a final wave to his friend Adam Warlock.

Kismet turned to Warlock. She could not be certain, but was her brother amused? Before she could decide, his tone returned to usual. “Despite the security of this building, I see that defending it against intruders will be no simple task. Perhaps Quasar would choose to aid you in the task.”

“Perhaps,” responded Kismet cryptically. Changing the subject abruptly, she continued. “Adam, do you really trust Reon to lead the Universal Church? Can you be certain of his motives?”

“I am certain that he has the best chance of keeping the empire together. As for his motives, he has the additional incentive of knowing that the Protectors of the Universe acted to overthrow one despot. They would certainly topple another. No, the Protégé will not repeat the path of the Magus. His course will be an entirely novel one, thanks in part to Aleta’s powers of suggestion.” With that final comment, Adam felt his life energy about to expand beyond his body’s ability to contain it. Adam Warlock gave his sister a final parting glance, then closed his eyes and said, “Farewell.” His body began to emanated a golden glow that solidified about him. Kismet fortified his energies with her own prodigious power. She concentrated, closing her eyes as well.

From beyond Sirus X, a dark wind blew. It cast a chilling shadow over those sensitive enough to perceive it. Its trajectory was purposeful, its timing precise. Within the few instants it took to seal Warlock’s cocoon, it had arced across continents and entered Adam’s healing container with pin-point accuracy. Kismet opened her eyes suddenly, aware that the fine hairs on her back and neck were standing on end in terror. She looked about, but there was no visible reason for her sudden reaction. Startled, she composed herself and completed the procedure.

Soon, three cocoons inhabited the chamber, each pulsating with the promise of future change, for better or for worse.

Chief Inquisitor Brotus reported to the Protégé, still accompanied by Replica. The young Skrull was happy to see Aleta by the Protégé’s side, and greeted her with a smile. White Raven stood at the Protégé’s other side.

Aleta noted that Replica’s ankh symbol was no longer around the young Guardian’s neck, but rather around Brotus’.

The Protégé noticed that his friend Brotus was unusually quiet, but decided not to pry in front of the others. They would have time enough to talk another day. He addressed Replica instead. “Could you help us with one last service before you depart, to ensure that Throneworld will reestablish its stability?”

The young Skrull female nodded enthusiastically, still guilt- ridden over her part in the civil unrest within the Church of which she was a member. Replica recalled her service as companion to the future entity also entitled the Protégé. “I am at your disposal, Sire.”

The Dark God Rune addressed his people via the Universal Church telecommunications array that reached across the interstellar empire. Standing closely beside his folded bat-like wings was the Protégé. Rune addressed the holo-cameras. “My loyal followers. The prophesized Day of Reckoning has passed, and so too must my time among you. I understand the sense of overwhelming upheaval that has struck at your very hearts, but our trials are at an end. The Time of Bloodshed, the Age of Sacrifice is behind us. Look to the future, and to my heir, for the Age of Enlightenment.

“I shall now return from whence I came, content in the knowledge that my peoples are safe in the capable hands of my hand-picked Protégé. Honor, cherish and obey him and his chosen circle as you would me. With my departure, the Universal Truth is now made known to all through him. Bless you.” Gesturing to the Protégé, Rune stepped back and allowed him to address the empire.

“My beloved people. Our Deity has given me a most holy honor. Now I must live up to his expectations. My first act as his chosen successor is to reveal to the Faithful a Prophecy fulfilled. Many of you now remember the Hidden Time, the Reign of the Magus. With that in mind, review your Scriptures.

“Sunlin 14:1-4 states, ‘The one who ruled and was forgotten shall be remembered once more, reborn as a mage of balance. His sister shall be the embodiment of his paradigm shift. His father shall be the vessel of change. His mother shall be the matron to us all.’

“Behold, the Magus, the Paragon, the Crucible, and the Matriarch!” The cameras cut to the Bee Hive. Shinski and Ayesha were shown tending to their dormant adult amethyst-skinned twins with obvious parental concern.

The cameras returned to the visage of the Protégé. Reon concluded his remarks. “I ask your patience and trust through this time of transition. Together, the future is ours to claim!”

With that, the recording devices ceased, and Replica could return once more to her natural form. Rune melted away to reveal the young female Skrull.

The Protégé turned to the young Guardian of the Galaxy. “You have done a great service to your faith this day. You have minimized the potential for instability in these coming days of change, and for that you are always welcome among us.”

Replica was blushing a darker shade of green at these words. “Thank you, sire. But I think it is time for me to return to my teammates.”

Aleta, who had been observing the scenario from behind the cameras next to Brotus and White Raven, stepped forward at this.

The Protégé smiled at the other Guardian. “And thank you, Aleta for your… special insight. I will keep our conversations in mind in the time to come.” White Raven smoldered at this, an edge of jealousy taking herself by surprise.

Replica and Aleta bade a final farewell to the new leaders of the Church. They proceeded toward the spaceport for their ride back to Earth space.

Replica pondered the Protégé’s final words. “Aleta, did you reveal the future to him?”

“You mean our future? No, but he doesn’t need to know that. Let’s just say that I gave him incentive for staying on the straight and narrow. We wouldn’t want another Magus, now, would we? He is kin to Adam Warlock, after all. Ironic, since it was Warlock that gave me the idea.”

By the time Aleta had finished her words, the two Guardians had arrived at the spaceport. Replica would have to ponder Aleta’s words another time. “Morfex!” Replica increased her pace to meet her fellow Skrull first. “It’s a pleasure to meet a fellow Skrullian good guy!”

The former Star Master smiled at the young Skrull woman’s enthusiasm. “Same here, young lady.”

By this time Aleta had caught up and was offering her hand in friendship to the man who had earned the rank of Captain posing as an Axi-Tun. “Captain Morfex, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I understand you have volunteered to return us to Earth space. We appreciate it.”

“It’s no problem, I am taking Thor and Doctor Strange back to the Sol System anyway. My shuttle, 'Magellan', is a bit cramped, but it will get us there in no time. We depart in a few hours, enough time for you to say your goodbyes.”

Aleta seemed relieved. “Good. I did not want to leave without seeing Stakar once more.”

“Will your companion, Xenith, be joining us?” Replica realized immediately that she should have held her tongue.

The Skrull male before them took on a more somber tone. “I… don’t know.”

Xenith sat on a park bench, watching the horizon and contemplating Ganymede’s offer of membership among the Spinsterhood. She replayed Ganymede’s words over and over in her mind. “The Protectors need you. The Spinsterhood needs you. With Gamora, Kismet, and Moondragon on leave, only Mantis and I remain of the first line-up. Binary and Phoenix make excellent additions, but you have worked with Gladiator, the Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill and Quasar before. We need your experience and your abilities. Since you were a member of the Star Masters before the Protectors was formed, you do not even require a vote. You are already one of us! And now, you will be in a sisterhood unlike any the cosmos has known in millennia. Please say you will consider.”

Xenith thought of Morfex, and of their time together on Calculex. He had asked her to marry him only hours before Pip’s condition had set in. He was still awaiting her response.

From the skies, a form appeared in the distance, drawing ever nearer. Soon her keen vision made out the visage of her Strontian first cousin, Kallark, Praetor of the Shi’ar Imperium and Gladiator of the Imperial Guard.

“Xenith! I have been looking for you, cousin.”

“Well, you’ve found me. What’s up?”

“Serving with the Protectors of the Universe is a great honor, but the Majestrix has just sent word, she requires me at her side once more. It was she who required my presence among the Protectors, but now that she is recalling me… for the first time in my life, I hesitate. You have always been the only person I could confide in for advice. What do you think I should do?”  

Xenith thought through every possible solution to their similar dilemmas. Then, quite suddenly, she made up her mind. She knew it would alleviate Kallark’s sense of guilt, and resolve her own conundrum as well.  “You go. I’ll stay in your place.”

The Protégé and White Raven watched as the Grinner entered the audience chamber where Starhawk had been betrayed by Malevolence.* The throne of bone that Rune had utilized had been replaced with a more practical, less fear-inspiring seating arrangement. 

(* See POTU #4 for details.)

The Grinner had his customary facial expression firmly in place. “Complete success! Now we can reap the rewards of our efforts!”

The Protégé was quick to deflect the crime lord’s naked ambitions. “Before you jump to any conclusions, Grinner, we have an offer for you. How does the title ‘Minister of the Interior’ sound?”

“Somehow, that seems a step down from ‘Emperor of the Galaxy.’ Why should I settle, with my forces in such a position of power?”

“If you took this empire by force, the Protectors of the Universe would dispatch you as readily as they did Rune. Ultimately, I offer you an opportunity to legitimize your business and reap the rewards of the inherent opportunities that now arise. It is the same opportunity that they have afforded me. Come, let us not work at cross purposes or hopeless causes. What say you to this?”

At Ganymede’s request, Binary accompanied Thor to reclaim the Asgardian Destroyer armor and transport it to Morfex’s shuttle 'Magellan'. Far from refusing the aid, the Thunder god took the opportunity to address Binary. “Thou dost claim to be the entity Binary, yet I know that she has taken the name Warbird and resides on fair Midgard. Explain thyself, maiden.”

Binary’s first instinct was defensiveness, but she recognized that Thor had a right to an explanation after all. She did not want their relationship to be adversarial from the onset. “I never claimed to be Carol Danvers. I was grafted onto her by the hated Brood when the X-Men observed her transformation into Binary Star. In recent weeks, I was able to free myself from the bonding while she was asleep. I do not blame her for my time in captivity, I was thrust upon her as much as she upon me. She probably never realized that the loss of her Binary powers meant the separation of our forced symbiosis. Unfortunately the process has affected all of my memories from just prior to the grafting. I wish to know who I was before the Brood captured me. That is one of my goals among the Protectors.”

Thor contemplated Binary’s account of events. “Very well. The others believe thee, and so too must I, for the nonce,  give thee the benefit of the doubt. But have a care. Thou dost bear a most noble namesake. Honor well its reputation.” With that, the Destroyer armor was successfully aboard the ‘Magellan’, and Thor and Binary parted amicably.

Returning from his visit to Mama Alpha and the Bee Hive, Starfox sounded the door chime to Starhawk’s quarters aboard the vessel that would soon depart the surface of Sirus X. “May I come in?”

Stakar interrupted his meditation. “Enter.” With that word, the portal quickly slid open with a barely audible whistle.

Eros complied, then waited until the door closed behind him to speak. “Stakar, about my abducting you and turning you over to Rune… I wanted to make certain you understood…”

“Eros, I have learned for myself that you are a manipulative rogue, but you are no traitor. I suspected that your ploy must either be the plan of Epoch or Warlock. I do not blame you for your part in the drama.”

“Did contact with this latest Union remnant cause you pain?”

“Pain? Yes. And pleasure too. And knowledge, and insight, and epiphany. I now more readily understand what I am and what I am not.”

“And what is that?”

“My birth coincided with the Cosmic Union event. I am somehow able to tap into the energies of the Union. Quasar was chosen by Eon to be the Protector of the Universe. I have been chosen by the Union to be Protector of the Space/Time Continuum and all adjoining dimensions until the next Union cycle. I can now better sympathize with my father’s sense of awe and near-panic at his overwhelming responsibility. But as per his example, I shall endure.”

Eros nodded. “Well, then…”

The door to Stakar’s quarters still open, Aleta peered in. Noting that Starfox seemed about to depart, she spoke. “Stakar, may I have a word with you?”

Starhawk’s heart skipped a beat. He knew that he had no right to the feelings he bore for this woman from the future, but his communion with the Starhawk of her future had engraved the sentiments within his psyche. “Of… of course, Aleta.”

Starfox looked back and forth between the two and smiled. He departed without another word, merely a wave to both and a none too subtle wink at Starhawk.

Once Eros had gone and the door had slid shut behind him, Aleta reached for Stakar’s hand. “You know, in many ways you are the ideal man. You embody everything that I came to love in my Stakar without all the emotional baggage, the bitter history, the distance that grew as a result of the loss of our children, or of his being ‘The-One-Who-Knows.’ You are an innocent, beginning your ascent into adulthood for the very first time.”

Starhawk could see where this line of reasoning was leading. “And since you are already a mature adult…”

“…Then I would be taking advantage of a naïve young man whose interpretation of his feelings will one day, in retrospect, be seen as nothing more than a ‘school boy crush.’ I know I may never see my Vance Astro from the future again and I realize the changes that this Universe has undergone with the Cosmic Union. We Guardians of the Galaxy may spend the remainder of our lives here. But none of that matters. My feelings for him are as strong as yours are for me. Can you understand and respect that?”

A long silent pause followed. “I don’t see that I have a choice.”

“Please don’t hate me. Perhaps in time…”

“No, let us not part with the seeds of false hope sown. You have committed yourself to another. I must honor that fact. You owe me nothing. Please do not feel any obligation or pity for me.”

“It is not pity…” but Aleta recognized that Stakar’s feelings were deeply hurt. He was minimizing his anger and sorrow successfully out of respect for her, but she knew that she had just broken his heart. “I hope that we can still be…”

“Friends? We don’t even know each other. Please, just go.”

“Alright, Stakar, but… I have one final question. I understand your powers are intimately linked to the Union remnants like the one that brought me here. Did you… did you strand us here on purpose? Are you the reason we can remain when all other extra-universal entities are being summarily ejected from this continuum?” The question stung in her throat. She knew that his heart would be doubly broken by the query, but she had to know the truth. She could no longer ignore her doubts.  

Stakar’s response was one of bewilderment. “I… I honestly do not know…”

Chief Inquisitor Brotus bowed before his master, the Protégé. “You summoned me, sire?”

Reon descended from the throne and gestured for Brotus to rise to his feet. “Yes, my friend. Replica told me of your… encounter with the Ritual Sword. I wanted to make certain you were… where you wanted to be. You have served the Church’s best interests, and if you wish to take a leave of absence, I would certainly understand.”

Brotus took a step forward and placed his firm hand on the shoulder of the Protégé. He stood nearly twenty centimeters taller than Reon. “My place is ever at your side, sire. I am only sorry that it took me this long to realize it."

The Protégé smiled in genuine friendship, and Brotus knew that despite his master’s recent transformation, that which Brotus cared for in Kireleon remained in Reon.

“I am happy to hear that, but before you make your final decision…” The Protégé signaled to the guards at the entranceway of the audience hall. The two Grand Inquisitors opened the portal to reveal a vision of stunning beauty: Mantis, in all her celestial glory, entered the chamber.

Mantis stepped forward. Brotus was caught in mid-breath. She placed her delicate hands on his immense chest and stared up into his indigo eyes. Her words were filled with emotion. “Brotus… What we shared… was…”

Before Mantis could finish, Brotus lips and hers met. The kiss lingered eternally in their minds, and ended all too abruptly in their reality. Brotus said, “I know. I understand what you did, why you did it, and how you genuinely feel. You are everything I want and need in my heart… but your obligations lie elsewhere. I have my work, my purpose as well. But I will be waiting for you if you ever decide to return to me.”

Starfox was still chuckling at his matchmaking efforts between Pip and Mama Alpha, Stakar and Aleta. He was feeling very pleased with himself as he returned to his quarters. His door slid open, and Eros was startled by what awaited inside.

“Eros!” Heater Delight covered the Titanian Eternal with kisses. “I’m soooo happy to see you, baby! Oooh, that fiery red hair of yours just turns me on! You know what red does for me, don’t you, lover?”

Starfox had grown weary once more of the young woman’s smothering attentions. He knew it was not the honorable thing to do, but he must be true to his own nature. He instantaneously altered his molecular structure and caused his hair to become brown in coloration.

“Eros? What have you done? I…”

“I’m sorry, Heater, I should have told you. Every few years, my hair returns to its natural color. It will remain so at least another two hundred years. But enough superficialities! Come, kiss me!”

“Well, um, it was great seeing you again Foxy! Drop by again in a century or two!” With that, Heater gathered her discarded brassiere and left abruptly.  

With a loud “Oooof!” Starfox fell into a pile of pillows he kept in a corner of his quarters. He looked up at his reflection on the mirror that covered the entirety of the ceiling for almost any occasion. He ran both hands through his newly brown hair. “Hmmm… Not bad…!”

As the media reports indicated, the external threats of Galactus and Thanos had been resolved as well. Publicly, details were sketchy as reports had had difficulty passing the planetary defense grid while it was up. Among the Protectors, however, the events were now well known.

The day after the Dark God’s fall, Quasar called a meeting of the entire Protectors team aboard the docked Spinster vessel ‘Io’ on the surface of Sirus X.

With the threats of Rune, Bubonicus and Malevolence resolved, and the extremes of the Magus and the Goddess diluted, many of the heroes were anxious to depart.

Quasar turned to his allies, many of whom still seemed concerned by the departure of Epoch. “We don’t need my god-daughter to continue the Protectors, right, gang?”

Jack of Hearts stepped forward. “Malevolence hinted that the Rigellians might be able to help my condition. I’m leaving to investigate that possibility. I… don’t know if I’ll be coming back.” Jack turned to Beta Ray Bill. “I meant what I said the other day about Bill nodded somberly and offered Jack his hand in friendship, which Jack quickly accepted with his own. With a parting glance toward Ganymede, and a wave to all, Jack flew off.

Beta Ray Bill spoke up as well. “Delta Ray Dawn has departed aboard ‘Scuttlebutt’. She remains alone and unprotected somewhere in the vastness of cruel space. I must find her. I have agonized over being torn between two obligations long enough. The future of my species is at stake. I hereby resign from the Star Masters.” He waved his departure as well, and headed off toward the docking bay of ‘Shuttlebutt’, the small vessel that had brought the Star Masters to the surface of Sirus X.  

Gladiator agreed. “Pressing matters of import must still be addressed on the Shi’ar Homeworld. My commitments to Majestrix Lilandra must take precedence, at least for the time being. The alliance ceremony with Spartoi fast approaches,* and there is the matter of the new star that was the Devourer of Worlds. My cousin Xenith has agreed to stay in my stead.” The Praetor Kallark turned to Mantis. “Will you return with me as well?”

(* See Marvel’s Inhumans #1-4 for details.)

Mantis considered it, then shook her head. “No, Kallark. I have unfinished business among the Spinsterhood. But we will see each other again soon, of that I am certain.” She smiled warmly at him. With that, Gladiator departed.

Starfox was the next one to address the gathering. Starhawk noted the change in coloration of his hair, but decided not to inquire. “With Drax, Firelord and Genis gone… I’d best return to Deneb and see if Tigra has had enough debauchery for one lifetime…”

Quasar could not believe his senses. “Genis, Drax, Bill, Jack, Gladiator, and now you too, Eros? The Star Masters can’t continue with just two members.”

Starfox grinned. “We will be together again soon, Dell. Of this I am certain. But the idea of a few months of pleasure appeals to me after your sound thrashing. Consider it my Protectors’ Compensation Plan.”

With that, Starfox kissed the hands of nearly every female teammate present before reaching Ganymede. Ganymede was quick to elbow the Eternal in the ribs brusquely, ending the attempted kiss. Undeterred, Eros proceeded to the last woman, lingering on the hand of the Phoenix. His eyes made smoldering contact with hers, clearly inviting more than a kiss.

Phoenix smiled at Eros and said, “I am ten billion women in one. I doubt that a man like you could handle more than four at a time.” Starfox staggered backward, pretending to reel at the friendly jibe. He convinced himself that she would one day be his next serious conquest. He departed for the ‘Township’, intending to reach Deneb in his Titanian spacecraft, a similar design to Moondragon’s ‘Sensia III’.

Starhawk turned to Quasar. “Father… Dell, mother has asked me to remain here by her side. Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Pip have imparted upon her a most serious responsibility, guarding their prone cocoons. I am sorry about your Star Masters, but I must stay. But you could remain with us…”

Quasar seemed dumbfounded. “So that’s it? The Star Masters are disbanding by default? Fine, as Epoch was so kind to point out, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with my interstellar listening posts anyway. Goodbye.” Clearly agitated, Quasar flew off.

“Should I go after him, mother?” asked Starhawk of Kismet, visibly upset by his father’s angry outburst.

Kismet shook her head. “No, my son, let Dell be. He will return to us when he is ready. For now, he is right. His duties must be accomplished as he sees most fit. Just as ours must.”

Oera appeared in the newly assigned quarters of the Phoenix just prior to takeoff. “Phoenix, your teammates did not bear witness to your final action, just prior to Kireleon’s sacrifice. What was it that you did?”

The Phoenix’s new female corporal form levitated above her bed in a cross-legged position of meditation. Without opening her eyes, she responded. “I ensured that our two Universes would have a far more difficult time crossing over again, Watcher.”

“How so?”

“I used the remnant rift to re-enter the Ultraverse and excise every visitation in that Universe’s history by beings from our Universe. Adam Warlock, the Black Knight, Juggernaut, even my Phoenix force; our realities’ natives no longer affect the evolution of that existence. Their rightful progression has been restored.”

“This is indeed an interesting turn of events. Are you capable of doing so again?”

“Watcher, you need not worry about my tampering with your preciously documented past continuity here. I did not affect change, I undid tampering that should never have happened.”

“Fascinating. Is this why you were too weak to heal Sirus X alone.”


“So the Ultraverse continues on, a nearly exact parallel to our space/time continuum.”

“No, actually. The reversion effect had an unexpected side-effect.”

“And what was that?”

“Our reality, as dated on Earth, is currently the year 2000. As I left the Ultraverse for the final time, Earth’s date was 1994. It was mere months after the ‘Jumpstart’ effect that began the Age of Ultras. It was only days prior to Thor’s visit to the Godwheel and Rune’s possession of the Infinity Gems.”

“But Sirus X remembers Rune!”

“And it will continue to do so. It is Rune that will not remember Sirus X, nor his visit to our Earth’s Hyborean Age.”

“I see. So Warlock never died at the hands of Rune centuries ago."

“Precisely, though Warlock remembers the event as if it had happened, much like the closed time loop of the Reign of the Magus.”

“And what of the seventh Ego Gem, lost in the Ultraverse for eons?”

“Like the other Gems, it was sent through time and space to the beginning of the recent Cosmic Union. The Abstract Entities that inhabited them were all freed by the first Union wave, and the Gems were obliterated by Galactus.* The timing was precise. The Gems that the Devourer ‘recovered from another dimension’ came from other times.”  

(*See Cosmic Union for details.)

“You did not attempt to unite the Gems for your own use.”

“I am aware of their imposed limitations. In any case, the Gems cannot give me what I desire.”

“And what is that, Phoenix?”

“Belonging. Friendship. Companionship. Love. A home, unforced by imposing my will on others. Is that not what you desire as well, Watcher?”

The varied vessels of the Protectors of the Universe received special clearance from the office of the Protégé for immediate departure. The ‘Township’ was reunified, though missing some of its familiar components. Bill had taken ‘Shuttlebutt’ to seek out the Korbinite ship ‘Scuttlebutt’. Morfex had taken Thor, the Destroyer armor, Doctor Strange, Aleta and Replica to the Sol system in the space shuttle 'Magellan'. Starfox had taken his Titanian vessel to return to Deneb for Tigra. Jack, Gladiator, Quasar, and the former Heralds had all departed on their own power. Adam, Gamora, Pip, Starhawk, and Kismet had remained on Sirus X. According to Epoch, Drax was in the Microverse, while Moondragon accompanied Captain Marvel on Earth. This left the new Spinsterhood: Ganymede, Mantis, Phoenix, Xenith, and Binary.

Ganymede watched from the observation deck as the ‘Township’ withdrew from orbit about Sirus X. She had sacrificed a year of her life, her ethical code and her sacred Retreat to Epoch’s machinations. The Protectors team was in shambles, with only the Powers Cosmic subdivision remaining whole. With Epoch, Bill, and Air-Walker departed, she was the default leader of those remaining on board. She knew that she still believed in the Cause, but her faith had been badly shaken. Where would they go next, with no one to guide them? To hunt down Tyrant? Thanos? Malevolence?

Mantis anxiously entered, dispersing Ganymede’s reveries. “Sister, forgive my interruption, but This One must speak to you of the Phoenix! Something is terribly wrong!”

The End (For Now!)

More POTU adventures are coming!  Check out this week's Cosmic Announcements for details on what's to come with the POTU Department!  Then check out Powers Cosmic #6!  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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