Written by Morfex, Edited by Anomaly,
Grim, and Mystic
"Universal Truths, Part One: Sibling Rivalry"
(Note: This tale immediately follows the events of Cosmic Union: the Directors' Cut, and the Protectors of the Universe Spotlight: "Introductions.")
Gamora stood in the Central Forum, where the Protectors
of the Universe had given their interviews to the Recorder construct the day before.* She
tried the symbolic hood of the Spinsterhood on with trepidation and discomfort. She was a
warrior, born and bred, but this quasi-religious atmosphere reminded her of
" Soul World?" Moondragon interjected.
(*See Protectors of the Universe Spotlight #1 for details.)
Gamora was annoyed to find that her teammate had approached her unnoticed. She was doubly annoyed because she should have noticed. Her distraction must quickly be replaced with the proper focus, as taught to her years before by her foster-father, Thanos of Titan. Anything less was certain death sooner or later. She must regain her edge for her new role here. She must find a way to put Adam warlock out of her mind. "Moondragon! I thought being a former bearer of an Infinity Gem left me immune to your telepathy."
"True, Gamora, I can no longer read your thoughts unbidden, but this particular thought you broadcast as if you had spoken it aloud."
"I'll have to remember that. Yes, something about this retreat of Ganymede's does remind me of Soul World, of the one time in my existence..." Gamora's words stopped suddenly, and this time Moondragon felt almost embarrassed by the echo in her mind of Gamora's unspoken words: " that I knew peace and love." Gamora slowly lowered the green hood to her shoulders, then crossed her arms and shivered despite the lack of cold. This time, Moondragon showed a modicum of discretion and decided not to complete Gamora's thoughts aloud.
Ganymede approached the two women. "It is my hope that this holy place will come to mean as much to you as Soul World clearly did, Sister Gamora."
"I doubt it." Gamora's abrupt response reflected her darkening mood.
Moondragon almost smiled at Ganymede's look of disappointment. Usurping her position as presumed leader was only a matter of time. Gamora and Moondragon had shared an extended period together as teammates, something Ganymede could not claim. Mantis and Kismet would be another matter entirely.
Kismet saw her teammates gathering and joined the conversation. "That is exactly how I felt when I first came here, Gamora. But I've learned to accept that I was brought here for a higher purpose. When I first met Ganymede, I had just condemned my creators, the Enclave, to lose their cosmic abilities. Despite months attempting to rehabilitate them,* I learned that their apparent benevolence was a ruse to acquire still more power. I was disillusioned and wanted to leave my past behind me. That is when I first came here, at the suggestion of Mentor of Titan."
(See Marvel's quarterly Cosmic Powers Unlimited #2 for details.)
"Yes, the Spinsterhood and the Eternals of Titan have a long history together, Sister Kismet.* I am glad that Mentor thought we could help each other." Ganymede seemed genuinely content with Kismet's words. This was a point that Moondragon would have to work on soon.
(See Marvel's Cosmic Powers Limited Series #3 for details.)
Mantis turned from tending the newly reestablished garden to join the gathering. "Gamora, this one too sense the spiritual nature of this realm."
Gamora nodded at the former Celestial Madonna, but did not respond with words. The two women shared little else in common besides a greenish skin pigmentation and membership in the Spinsterhood.
Moondragon thought it time to sow a few seeds of dissention. She addressed the first Spinster. "Ganymede, what ever happened to Persephone? I understand from Jack of Hearts that she too was a Spinster, revived by the villainous Jakar." *
(*See Marvel's quarterly Cosmic Powers Unlimited #3 for details.)
"Sister Moondragon, you are not to mention that name in my presence again!" Ganymede turned and left in a cloud of anger, leaving the others to ponder her words. It was just the reaction Moondragon was hoping for from the Spinster.
Mantis turned to Moondragon. "We share many things in common as a result of our training by the Priests of Pama, Moondragon. Please share more. What else did your former thrall Jack of Hearts tell you about this other Spinster?"
Heather Douglas was surprised that Mantis was aware of her history with Jack of Hearts.* She took the opportunity to cast some doubt on Ganymede's loyalties. "Jack said that Ganymede once left him with Persephone to track down Tyrant, but by then, Tyrant had apparently fallen victim to the Ultimate Nullifier. Beyond that, Jack knew nothing of Persephone's whereabouts. Ganymede simply returned to Jack alone one day, asked him to understand why she left, and never mentioned her again. It sounded to me like Jack assumed Ganymede had had to kill her."
(*See Marvel's Quasar for details.)
Mantis responded to the information. "The next time we see Epoch, this one shall ask her about Persephone. This one cannot imagine one of the original Spinsters betraying her cause."
Moondragon smirked. "Perhaps it was not Persephone that betrayed her cause "
Kismet responded angrily. "Even as you claim the title of Spinster, you blatantly seek to undermine Ganymede's authority here. Do you desire leadership for yourself? Don't think that I have forgotten what you did to me and Jack of Hearts when you sought Quasar for yourself!"*
(*See Marvel's Quasar for details.)
Gamora, still solemn, muttered under her breath. "Moondragon, you never change."
Moondragon eyed Gamora reproachfully, but Gamora ignored her. Moondragon then turned to Kismet. "As I recall, 'Her', you wanted Adam Warlock as much as I wanted Quasar."
Kismet glared at the former Avenger. "I owe you no explanations, but if you must know, in months past, I thought I was evolved to be his ideal mate. Time and experience have brought me to consider him more like a brother. He too has acknowledged a level of kinship with me. But Adam has made it clear that, until his current state of emotions evolve to maturity on its own, he is not ready for regular interaction with anyone. And yet his need for solitude concerns me. Perhaps I can console him somehow."
Gamora's gaze was deadly serious. "Kismet, leave Adam alone, or I'll make you regret it."
Moondragon jibed, "Anyway, you have enough men to handle with Starhawk and Quasar."
Before Kismet could respond to either verbal attack, Ganymede returned, clearly more serene than when she departed. "It was obvious to me as I listened to all of you that what you needed was an assignment. Very well, Epoch has chosen one for us all."
Moondragon raised an eyebrow. "Why is it that you were told but we were not?"
Ganymede's steely gaze met Moondragon's. "Epoch has assigned me as field leader for the time being. If you have concerns with this, take it up with her."
Moondragon lifted her chin at the Spinster. "Perhaps we should engage in ritual combat for the title. It is my right as a Spinster."
Ganymede spoke. "Moondragon, I have enough power to give pause to the likes of Tyrant and the Silver Surfer. You are a mere mortal human woman. You cannot hope to best me in hand-to-hand battle."
"Use all the power at your disposal, as will I. Mantis and Kismet can vouch for my abilities, I have bested them both in the past as well."*
(*See Marvel's Fantastic Four Annual #25 and Quasar series for details.)
"It would be childish and pointless, but perhaps you do need a lesson in humility, Moondragon. And as you said, it is your right as a Spinster "
The training arena was cleared and Ganymede and Moondragon stood ready for battle.
Both combatants wore similar Spinsterhood garb.
Ganymede's was a light mauve in shade, while Moondragon's was the same shade of green she
had worn in the past. Each had a Spinster's staff in hand.
Gamora, Kismet, and Mantis stood above the training area in a spectator booth. Mantis spoke to the two combatants. "Let the contest begin."
Moondragon used her telekinesis to levitate, knowing Ganymede would fly to follow. She purposely left her staff on the ground, noting telepathically that Ganymede was more intent on her than on the discarded weapon. As Ganymede approached her, she levitated the staff at astounding speed to strike Ganymede directly in the base of her skull with the precision of a master telekinetic. Ganymede lost her grip on her weapon, overshot her attempt at reaching Moondragon, and crash-landed onto the arena floor with a resounding thud. Moondragon summoned both staffs to her. One staff in each hand, she descended for a quick victory blow.
Ganymede stood, rubbing the back of her neck. She closed her eyes for a moment, seeming to focus beyond her disorientation and current surroundings. Moondragon hesitated for a brief moment, then proceeded to strike with both staffs simultaneously.
In a motion that could not be followed by the human eye, Ganymede's hands grabbed hold of the incoming staffs, palms outward. Her eyes still closed, she concentrated to channel energy through the weapons, throwing Moondragon back ten meters. Rather than landing on her back, Moondragon flipped with her hands touching the floor briefly. She pushed off of them and landed on her feet again. Clearly pleased with herself for a split instant, she did not notice that Ganymede was no longer in front of her. When realization struck, she pivoted in a defensive martial arts stance. She was just in time to avert Ganymede's dual-staffed assault. She levitated herself once more, this time, feet skyward. She pulled Ganymede's hood forward, temporarily blocking her sight. In that split instant, Moondragon boxed the Spinster's ears, then returned to land on her feet on the arena's surface.
Ganymede recovered, and removed the hood in one swift pull. Her angular features were accentuated by the red stripe markings on her cheeks that signified her level of rank in the former Spinsterhood. She tossed one of the staffs back to Moondragon, who picked it up telekinetically without looking down at it.
The combatants circled each other again. Moondragon was considering which offensive strategy to implement. Ganymede used her staff to press a frontal attack. Moondragon attempted using telekinesis to push Ganymede away, but the ploy did not succeed. Ganymede's momentum was too great. Both women fell to the floor, Ganymede on top of Moondragon. The former Avenger's staff flew from her grip. The Spinster pushed her staff against the hairless woman's neck, cutting off her breathing.
Moondragon's eyes widened. She attempted a concentrated telepathic burst against her assailant. But it dissipated before it even began, as Moondragon's world began spinning dizzily.
"Surrender, Moondragon, before you pass out. You are defeated."
" Nev never rrrrrrr" Moondragon lost unconscious.
Ganymede spoke again. "Come, sisters, the 'Township' awaits to transport us to our destination. Mantis, Kismet, please take Moondragon to the ship's infirmary."
The amalgamated vessel had been dubbed the 'Township' by Quasar. It consisted of numerous smaller spacecraft, each detachable as necessary. The Spinster vessel 'Io' could have made the journey alone, but Epoch insisted that safety in numbers was to be the norm whenever possible. The Spinsterhood mission was on the way for the Star Masters' quest. So the 'Township' would release the 'Io' upon arrival at their destination.
The journey was, for the most part, uneventful.
Each member of the new Spinsterhood kept to herself, pondering the various confrontations
that arose on Io's surface. All felt their first gathering dubious at best.
Ganymede went from the ship's galley* directly to the infirmary at Mantis' behest, for Moondragon would soon regain consciousness. As Ganymede entered the area, she noted that Moondragon lay in the same test pod that had done the autopsy on Cyrus only days before.** She found it difficult not to crusade off on her own and find the culprit that had murdered her former husband.** But Jack had been right, Epoch knew how to prioritize crises. Tyrant was not the only threat to the Universe. And justice would one day be served. Ganymede remembered the last time she impetuously ran off on a search for Tyrant. She nearly lost Jack, she was duped by Jakar, and then there was Persephone ***
(*See CPU's Star Masters #1 for details.)
(** See Cosmic Union for details.)
(*** See Marvel's quarterly CPU #3 for details.)
Just then, Moondragon began to stir. Ganymede turned to Mantis. "Sister Mantis, may we please have a moment alone?"
Mantis responded with a nod. "Of course, Sister Ganymede. This one will be in the next room if you need her." She departed just as Moondragon's eyes opened.
Moondragon lifted herself by her elbows quickly, then dizziness made its presence know. Her smooth, symmetrical head fell, resting again on the pillow beneath it. "Ohhhhhh " She rubbed her neck with one hand, her forehead with the other. "Ganymede You won the challenge, you are our leader for now."
"Sister Moondragon, I have decided to ask Epoch to transfer you to another team of Protectors. I cannot have my rightful authority constantly undermined. I just wanted to tell you that it is not personal. I simply have a job to do, and baby-sitting your ego is not it."
"Another team? But I thought "
"What? That you fit in with the Spinsterhood? I had high hopes when you first came to me, but ever since the Cosmic Union, you have been acting selfishly. I do not know what being a Protector of the Universe means to you, but to me it means putting my personal agenda aside for the greater good. Until I know that you honestly feel the same, I don't want to work with you."
Moondragon was indignant. "How dare you question my loyalties? I have served as a member of the Avengers and the Infinity Watch before you ever reawakened in this era. You need me, and I'm going to prove it!"
Ganymede was inwardly pleased to have elicited the exact response she sought. "Very well. Prove it. I had intended to speak with Epoch about your transfer after this mission. This is your opportunity to prove just how invaluable you are to the Spinsterhood." Ganymede turned and left the infirmary.
The Protectors' vessel came into view of the Spinsters'
destination: the planet Sirus X. The 'Io' was ready to disengage from the rest of the
Ganymede watched as Quasar and Kismet said their good byes. She wished that Jack was back from his personal quest.* She understood his motivation for departure, and they had parted affectionately. Still, she could not help but feel that, on some level, he left to get back at her for leaving him months before. She now sympathized with his grief. She hoped for the day when he would return.
(*See CPU's upcoming Star Masters #2 for details.)
Ganymede genuinely wished Kismet happiness. She was not full of guile like Moondragon, no chip on her shoulder like Gamora. Kismet was the closest to a Spinster this group thus far had to offer. Now that the Spinsterhood had evolved as a division of the Protectors of the Universe, celibacy was no longer a requirement. Ganymede shuddered, remembering her initial confrontation with Persephone over her embrace with Jack.* Had she abandoned the most basic tenet of the Spinsterhood? She prayed not. Ganymede left Kismet and Quasar to afford them some privacy.
(*see Marvel's quarterly Cosmic Powers Unlimited #3 for details.)
Kismet and Quasar held both of each other's hands.
"Take care, Dell. Watch over Stakar for me."
"Of course, Kiz, and you take care of yourself too. I have a good feeling about your team. I think you'll do great, and learn a lot too."
"Perhaps we should ask to serve on the same team?"
"I like what being part of the Spinsterhood has done for you. In just these few months, I already see an improvement."
"Are you saying that I needed improving? What was so terribly wrong with me before?" She released his hands and crossed her arms.
"That's not what I meant! I meant that you have matured and become disciplined."
"I see. So before that I was immature and undisciplined? Perhaps I should be courting Captain Marvel instead?"
"Kismet, why are you blowing this out of proportion? I just meant that "
"Save it, Dell. I'm late. We can talk when I get back." Kismet turned abruptly and walked away.
Quasar was speechless as she strode toward the 'Io's' hatchway. He tried to muster the phrase rolling around in his mind. "But I " His words died in a whisper.
As the 'Io' detached from the 'Township', the gathered
Spinsters, Ganymede, Kismet, Mantis, Moondragon, and Gamora, watched the starscape with
awe. Each had traversed the cosmos before, but the beauty and wonder of the nebulae before
them impressed even the most jaded among them.
Planetfall was also breathtaking. The remote pilot was coordinating landing patterns with the Sirus X spaceport traffic controllers. Soon, the 'Io' was docked in a bay mere minutes from the capital city's center.
Ganymede addressed the group. "Sisters, per Epoch's request, I have kept the details of our mission secret until now. These datapads," Ganymede handed each Spinster a palm-sized devise, "will detail the nature of your individual missions. They are gene-recognition activated to preserve security. Make sure you study and understand your instructions. The key is to remain inconspicuous, something few of you have succeeded at before."
Despite her somber mood, Gamora almost smiled. Had Ganymede just made a joke? Perhaps there was hope for this team yet.
"Your clothes are waiting for you in your quarters: conservative attire, appropriate for the culture and weather. This is a nexus for thousands of species, so our varied skin colors, face markings, lack of hair, antennae and such should not draw attention. This is a low profile information-gathering excursion. I'm sorry to say that the likelihood of seeing battle is small.
"Maintain a low profile. Contact the informants listed on your datapads. The pads also contain sufficient credits for your expenses here. Our goal is to uncover details of the activities of the Universal Church of Truth on this planet."
Gamora skipped a breath at Ganymede's words. Of course, Ganymede thought. Sirus X the Church's Homeworld!*
(*See Marvel's Warlock Vol. 1, #10-12 for details.)
Ganymede continued. "We meet back here in one planetary rotation. Are there any questions?"
"Yes." Moondragon interjected. "Is lethal force sanctioned if necessary?"
"We are not assassins " Ganymede looked at Gamora, " anymore. We wish to avoid drawing attention. Homicides usually attract unnecessary intervention from the local authorities. Self-defense is always a priority, of course. But given each of your unique abilities, I challenge you to succeed in your missions without permanently damaging anyone. The Silver Surfer said it best: the Protectors of the Universe stand for all life, not just the lives of the innocent."
Heather Douglas turned to her former Infinity Watch teammate. "Gamora, you once mentioned your experience with the Universal Church of Truth. Could you fill us in?"
Continued in the Spinsterhood #2, "Universal Truths."
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