Adam Warlock is... THANOS II #2
Protectors of the Universe: Adam Warlock is...
(Note: For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)
Continued from Chapter 1
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“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
- Shakespeare, As You Like It, II, 7
What Has Gone
Before (see last chapter for details):
On the planet Sirus
X, once Throneworld to the evil Magus, Adam Warlock emerged from his most
recent cocoon claiming to be Thanos, and appearing identically to the
alternate universe Warlock recently encountered by Genis-Vell* This newly
self-proclaimed Thanos’ first task upon rebirth was to break free of Sirus X
and travel to the planet Earth.
Captain Marvel Vol. 3 #11 for details.)
His goal was clear:
to reclaim the Soul Gem from Doctor Stephen Strange, the interim Gem Bearer
assigned by Adam at the conclusion of their confrontation with the
Ultraverse’s Rune.** The original Thanos of Titan, joined by the newly
regenerated Gamora and Pip, were in close pursuit of the corrupted Thanos II.
See Protectors of the Universe # 1-15 for details.)
Note: This story takes place just prior to the appearance of the Walker in Marvel’s Captain Marvel series.
the events of the last few weeks. First, she had reunited with the Avengers
against the threat of Morgana Le Fey. The next thing that she remembered was
awakening on the moon of Titan under the care of Mentor, its ruler. Meditation
had helped to regain her peak prowess, but did little to explain the
unaccounted time, or the new dragon tattoo-like mark that appeared emblazoned
upon her forehead each time she now used her telepathic powers.
Mentor would not
speak of it, insisting that the information could prove dangerous to her.
Moondragon had ultimately decided to bide her time. She had sworn to herself
to eventually solve that particular mystery regardless of Mentor’s warnings.
It was in her nature to be fully self-aware, and partial amnesia was
Heather Douglas had departed toward Earth to help in the training of Genis-Vell,
the son of a former colleague. She felt that his new-found Cosmic Awareness,
once tamed, might prove useful in deciphering the mystery of her missing
memories. She was unaware that the new Captain Marvel already had complete
recollection of her missing time, from the Cosmic Union to Rune’s violation
of her memories.*
Cosmic Union and Spinsterhood #1-5 for details.)
Her time back on
Earth was eventful. Moondragon had even joined with a group of Avengers to
confront the Infinites, and later, the extraterrestrial perpetrators of the
Maximum Security event.
resolved that particular conflict, the “Avengers Infinity” team learned
that Earth was given a temporary stay of sentence to be addressed once the new
Kree conflict was settled. Moondragon was free to do as she pleased once more.
What pleased her was returning to her ministrations of Genis, especially after
the kiss he had given her upon concluding the Skrull Intelligentsia affair.*
Marvel’s Captain Marvel Vol. 3 #9-11 for details.)
Genis had given her
the romantic gesture after meeting with an alternate reality version of his
father, whom he had helped to defeat an evil Adam Warlock that called himself
Thanos. Genis had told her of the Ebony Sword that had ultimately defeated
him, and of the alternate universe’s now inert Infinity Gem currently in
Genis’ possession. As former bearer of a Gem, Heather Douglas knew the
deadly implications of its non-native presence in this reality. Multiversal
crossover always created dangers beyond which most mortals could even
Heather Douglas had
chosen the name Moondragon after believing she had defeated the Dragon of the
Moon, an entity of ancient malevolence.
shuddered at the memory of the Dragon’s later influence on her psyche. Half
of her flesh had appeared a deep ebony, a mark of the Dragon’s taint. The
cosmic being known as the Beyonder had enhanced her powers as well, and
Manslaughter’s madness had unhinged her. Those were dark days, in which she
was manipulated by the Dragon into attacking her allies. The thought still
gave her a sense of consternation.
The Dragon was
thought to be banished by the sacrifices of Moondragon herself, the Eternal
called the Interloper, the human Manslaughter, the Gargoyle, Andromeda, and
Valkyrie of the Defenders.* Most of the heroes sacrificed had managed to
survive and resurface in one form or another. Was it so incomprehensible to
imagine that the Dragon of the Moon could reappear as well? She had heard
rumors that had caused her spine to tingle, but otherwise she had seen no
proof that the Dragon was free once more.
(* In Marvel’s
New Defenders #152.)
She was surprised
by her bout of unease, a characteristic unbecoming of so evolved an entity.
She must regroup and reconsider how best to convince Genis to aid her in her
quest to free the women of the Kree Empire from forcible mutilation of their
precious birthright, the right to wield psychic power, something for which she
could truly sympathize. In addition, she intended to gain further intelligence
on the state of the latest Kree / Shi’ar conflict, something she knew the
Earth had not seen the last of.
Genis had refused
to accompany her. He had disappointed her before, but this was different. He
could be so infuriating! This cause was just. Perhaps she should simply modify
the telepathic dampers that she had placed on him to…
But no. Her days of
altering the wills of others were over. She had had only the best of
intentions in establishing the dampers in the first place, something she did
not regret. She liked to think of them as training wheels. She would not leave
them there indefinitely. Perhaps if she told Genis about them he might begin
to see reason, to realize just how much he owed her…
She shook her head
in frustration. She knew what his reaction would be. That stubborn,
pig-headed, immature…! Again, Genis caused her emotions to swell as few
others could. She had just departed from Rick Jones’ apartment in a cloud of
(* This story
takes please immediately after Marvel’s Captain Marvel Vol. 3 #15.)
she sensed his presence. Thanos of Titan, who had robbed her of a normal
childhood. The Mad God who had killed her father, then become his reason for
unliving. Thanos, former bearer of the Infinity Gauntlet, and later the
Moondragon. It would appear that you are most fortunate. Thanos of Titan comes
with an offer to lift you from your spiritual depravity.”
“Have a care, Mad
One! I am no longer the self-aggrandizing woman who left Titan all those years
ago. I now seek a higher Purpose.”
predictable.” said Thanos, whose polished smile was so sharp it could have
sliced her throat with the corners. “Thinking that polishing the headstone
changes the contents of the grave. Tell me, why does your kind consistently
make such lofty boasts? Is it guilt, fear, or perhaps the burden of mortality
itself that is your undoing? Consider if you were truly immortal, would you
still be making such altruistic statements? Or would you be a worse monster
then I ever was?” His voice echoed as if off tombstones and his tone was
thick, like an untilled patch of midnight ready to reap a deadly harvest.
“That remains to
be seen, Titan.” she countered. “What of your own pitiful efforts at
trying to win over an abstract concept like Death, or your many futile
attempts at claiming ultimate power? Answer me, Thanos! I want to hear what
you have to say, Titan, before I turn your mind into a gelatinous mass!”
“Like you did to
your father, Heather?”
“YOU DARE TOO
MUCH! Thanos, rivers of the mind are mine to steer as I see fit!”
“You may control
the rivers of the mind, Moondragon, but you are about to release the
kaleidoscope of strange images buffeted Moondragon like a large hammer against
her psyche. Heather
tried to scream but she could not. If not for her considerable mental skills,
she would be instantaneously reduced to madness.
closely, Moondragon, as the curtain of reality is pulled back. What do you
see? Images you thought you buried so long ago, resuscitated.”
Moondragon was in
horror as the denizens of the planet she once enslaved held her fast. She
tried to defend herself by using her powers, but it was no use, as the
inhabitants seemed immune to anything she could do.
“Guilt can be a
terrible jailer don’t you agree, Heather? However, it appears that you can
no longer hear me as you are probably somewhere between shock and
to struggle as she heard a different voice calling from the shadows. It was
her father, Arthur Douglas, and he smiled as he held her close. Upon seeing
her father, her troubles seemed to melt away. For a brief moment she gave in
to the illusion as she rested her head against her father’s shoulder and
broke down into tears in his arms.
“It would have
been alright, Heather, but you just wouldn’t listen, my baby girl.”
“I tried to be
“Don’t lie to
me, Heather! You know you’re not supposed to manipulate the minds of
“I am learning.
“Then why, when I
tried to punish you on Ba-Banis, did you kill me?” A black bile came from
her father’s mouth in great torrents, and the word “Why?” kept ringing
in her mind.
Heather screamed as
she closed her eyes, trying to make the images vanish. A great beast of
obsidian, whose shape was that of a great black worm with small tendrils
extended and probing, appeared to wrap her in its coils.
Many cultures had
legends of such beasts: Jormangand, Uroborus, Satan. In Titan’s culture, the
Dragon was the ultimate expression of the mind, and according to legend, it
could take shape from dark matter, a material of which both black holes and
the human psyche were theoretically comprised.
There was very
little she was afraid of, it was one of her greatest strengths and her
greatest weakness. Courage was a good thing, but lack of fear could prove
fatal even for an Eternal. Eternal, she thought? Since when was she an
became very confused. Whose thoughts were these in her head? Apparently, they
had seeped in when she had let her guard down upon seeing her father.
Then it dawned on
her as the Dragon embraced her in its icy grip. Who was the woman whose
thoughts had somehow found there way into her mind? Whatever the woman felt,
so did she. Moondragon could feel great pressure as her hand went through the
obsidian worm like an apparition.
Then came clarity.
These memories were being fed from Thanos’ own mind, but it was more than
that. Somehow there was a symbiosis between her and the woman. From the
images, both had given themselves over to the Dragon of the Moon in a similar
“The life force
in you is strong,” it whispered with the tongues of insanity, its breath as
cold as the yawning reaches of the void. Moondragon could both feel and
observe Sui-san, whose name she unexpectedly somehow knew. It was the selfsame
woman who was now being put in a near-cryogenic state.*
“Dead Men Tell No Tales” for details.)
She watched as Sui-san’s
body temperature began to fall rapidly and then she felt her own mind going
numb as well. She awakened in a cold sweat, trying to catch her breath. Her
teeth were chattering as she tried to speak. “Wwwhhooo issss Sssuuii –ssssaaannn?”
Thanos’ voice immediately. “Perhaps you will not be so eager to rush into
the flames next time, my dear Moondragon.”
stopped her teeth from chattering. Oblivious to her surroundings, she did not
desist from her inquiry. “Who is Sui-san?”
“She was my
mother,” said Thanos, “and the first in the Dragon of the Moon’s
lineage. You are the twelfth in a line of Dragon priestesses.* Now, let us
discuss why you are here.”
Heather could not
understand what it all meant. Or what connection she had with a former member
of this supposed priesthood. Suddenly, Heather felt a numbing cold that burned
her, and when she looked at her reflection in a nearby surface, her tattoo was
throbbing up and down as if alive. She suddenly became aware of her
surroundings. She was aboard some kind of vessel by the incessant low-level
hum of engines.
Moondragon!” Pip was clearly pleased to see his former teammate through the
observation window. “The old Infinity Watch, together again! This is great!
Only Drax and Adam are missing!”
Gamora whispered in
Pip’s ear, “Remember, Heather has had her memories altered. She will not
recall her time as a member of the Spinsterhood or the Protectors. Don’t
bring it up, or I’ll have to gut you like a fish.”
Pip stuck his
tongue out at Gamora in mock disrespect. “I bet you say that to all the
guys,” he whispered back to her.
Gamora ignored the
troll’s response as they entered the medical laboratory aboard Thanos’
vessel. Arms crossed, she turned to her foster father. “I assume you
arranged this little class reunion for a reason.”
“As former bearer
of the Reality Gem, am I not entitled to a sense of nostalgia?”
Gamora knew Thanos
better than to think that pathos was a motivating factor with him. “Then I
can assume that we all continue to be functional pieces on your and Adam’s
tilted his head slightly at his foster daughter’s insight.
her surroundings groggily. Thanos of Titan, Gamora, and Pip were gathered in a
room that could only logically be a part of the Mad Titan’s space vessel. A
stellar backdrop could be observed through a view port, with the planet
Earth’s horizon visible in one corner. Using discretion at the sight of
several former allies, Heather Douglas refrained from continuing her conflict
with Thanos for the time being.
Gamora first, having the most respect and familiarity with her from their time
together in the Infinity Watch. Still dizzy and head throbbing, she spoke.
“Gamora, what is the meaning of this abduction? I could have thirty Avengers
here in a matter of minutes if the answer does not satisfy me.”
Gamora had little
tolerance for the other woman’s presumptuousness. But given the
circumstances she accessed her shallow reserves of patience. “Moondragon.
Adam has emerged from one of his cocoon cycles convinced that he is the one
true Thanos. We suspect that he was infected with, for lack of a better term,
a taint that serves as a template for Thanos’… unique outlook on life. He
desires the Soul Gem that the Earth sorcerer Doctor Strange now bears, and
will not rest until he possesses it. With it, he will be virtually
Heather turned suddenly to face Thanos squarely in the eyes. “Something
about you has changed, Thanos. Something that always felt so familiar…”
Thanos knew that
Moondragon was an important part of his plan, and so, like Gamora, showed her
more patience than he was usually wont to do. “Yes, you and I do have
something in common, though I am loathe to admit it. We have both been touched
by the Dragon. But enough of this. One more ally must be recovered if we are
to stop Adam Warlock.”
Strange hovered above the plush carpeting in his study, legs crossed and
fingers twisted in a complex mystic positioning. Magical senses enhanced by
the Soul Gem he bore, Strange’s astral self ventured further into uncharted
domains of multiple
spiritual planes than he had ever dared before. This Infinity Gem was the last
of its kind, and though it had a sordid past embroiled in countless cosmic
struggles, surely its current use was as the Universe had intended,
safeguarding dimensions from unwanted incursions.
were far more commonplace after the event known as the Cosmic Union.
Inevitably, the dimensional overlap’s unnatural protracted length at the
hands of the dread Dormammu led to unintended transference of beings between
realms. Strange’s efforts to rectify this were intended to ensure a safer
multi-dimensional habitat for all. But something was clearly amiss. For every
multidimensional incursion that he succeeded in reversing, two seemed to take
its place. And not merely other dimensions, but other Universes had begun to
bleed into this one. According to Starhawk of the Protectors, that should be
impossible. The Cosmic Union event was like a universal reset button, forcing
non-natives of this primary Universe of Marvels back from whence they had
exceptions abounded. The Guardians of the Galaxy, the Buried Alien, Nate Grey,
Bishop, Cable, Rachel Summers, Valeria Von Doom, Haywire of the Squadron
Supreme, Captain Marvel’s extra-universal inert Infinity Gem. Even ones he
chose not to reveal to his supposed allies among the Avengers, Fantastic Four
or the X-Men, such as Blink and the Exiles, or Yellowjacket. Non-natives had
been cleansed by the Union, only to proliferate like unwanted weeds once more.
What caused some beings like Rune and Gemini to be summarily ejected, while
others thrived? And what was so blasted interesting about this particular
Eternity that merited so many visitors?
Perhaps it was
Dormammu’s tampering, perhaps it had to do with Galactus’ recent death.
Whatever the cause, Doctor Strange had his work cut out for him.
extended stay in the higher planes of existence, many mystic battles were
fought, new alliances forged, and new enemies earned. As time did not progress
equally among the varied strata, only weeks had passed since the Sorcerer
Supreme had taken upon himself the burden of the Soul Gem.
Oddly, it was no
real burden at all. Adam Warlock had spent nearly a decade, in Strange’s
opinion, whining and complaining of the terrible cost of bearing the artifact.
Why had Strange not felt such torture? The doctor knew full well that the slow
healing of the gem’s inner realm called Soul World progressed. He also knew
that the Gem remained the prison of the vampiric soul entity that Adam had
called the “Soul Taker” during the Cosmic Union event.* That internal
paradox of both Heaven and Hell was one of the many mysteries of the Gem that
he fully intended to solve. Until then, the most important fact was that the
spiritual abilities of the Gem had come without a discernable cost to the
See Cosmic Union for details.)
It was amid these
varied forays through countless tiers of reality that Strange first recognized
the mystic summons from his native plane of existence. It took several leaps
from dimension to dimension in order to retrace his steps back to the Earthly
dutifully by the doctor’s form as he re-merged his astral and physical
selves. “What is it, Wong?” Strange spoke curtly.
Wong was not phased
by Doctor Strange’s tone. He knew that the Master’s work was vitally
important to existence, and that Strange would tolerate only the most urgent
of interruptions. “Doctor, there is a priority message for you, from the
Protector’s communicator implant you had removed upon your return from Sirus
Strange had no need of allies or interruptions now that the last Infinity Gem was his. The communicator's removal was a natural reaction to that fact. "Well, don't just stand there, activate the relay!"
Wong bowed his head at the jeer, then proceeded to do as the Sorcerer Supreme commanded. The communicator hummed as it began to slowly form the beginnings of a blurred holographic image.
Just as Strange was losing his patience with the coalescing hologram, a tapping of the window drew his attention. Hovering before the second story window was the golden hued Adam Warlock, bedecked in garments hearkening back to the days of the Infinity Gauntlet affair. Given the house's special means of protection, Warlock could not enter uninvited.
"Wong, quickly, open the window for our guest!" The communicator laid on the desktop, discarded and momentarily lowered in priority. Wong obeyed the command, and soon Warlock was within Strange's study.
"Adam Warlock, I see that you have emerged from your self-imposed recuperation. I trust all is well?"
"Indeed, Doctor Strange. I am once again prepared to take on the burden of the Soul Gem."
"Again you refer to it as a burden. Would it surprise you to know that during my caretakership, I have not felt its sway once?"
"Ah, but years of experience have taught me just how insidious its effects are. You will not know how much you have come to depend on it until someone asks you to remove it. As a test, allow me to ask: Will you now willingly return the Soul Gem to its rightful possessor?"
"This is quite unnecessary, my friend. I would not seek to inflict such pain on you, especially one to which I seem immune. Perhaps it is my extensive experience in the realms of the spiritual that spares me the agony."
"Perhaps. Nonetheless, I wish to reclaim my property, as was our arrangement upon our last encounter."
"Very well, if that is your final stance on the matter."
Finally, the communicator that lay upon the Doctor's hand-carved desk completed the up-link of the holographic display. Starhawk and Kismet, two of his fellow Protectors of the Universe, appeared within the hazy image. "Doctor Strange, Adam Warlock is not who he seems! Do not, under any circumstance, surrender the Soul Gem to him!"
began to alter in tone to a dull amethyst. “I see we are going to have to do
this the hard way after all.”
“By the hoary
hosts of Hagoth! What has happened to you, Adam?”
“The name is
Thanos, and my name means Death.”
positioned his fingers and quickly mouthed the appropriate words to summon the
one thing that might end it before it began. It formed out of the air itself,
stopping Adam dead in his tracks.
“You seek to bind
me in the Crimson Bands of Cytorak.” Adam did not even attempt to escape
from his mystic holding cell, but only seemed to study its arcane nature with
“Wong, we must
summon the Avengers quickly. Apparently some misfortune has befallen my former
Wong was besieged
with a look of horror. Strange turned to see the Crimson Bands of Cytorak
firmly in place, but Adam was nowhere to be found within their boundaries.
Adam appeared next
to him like one of the eastern ninjas of lore, who disappear in a cloud of
smoke and reappear ready for the kill. “It is a simple task for one who is
beyond Chaos and Order.” said Adam as he struck Strange. The Doctor’s last
ditch effort to block the physical attack was met with a shattered hand.
Strange. How important is it for a sorcerer to be able to make the appropriate
manual gestures when doing a spell?” The fingers of the Doctor’s right
hand contorted further, snapping like twigs. The agonizing jolt of pain was
nearly overwhelming, but the Sorcerer Supreme would not be so easily defeated.
Amid the searing
pain, the Sorcerer Supreme unconsciously used his good hand to reach up to his
forehead. “There are other avenues, my friend.” But when Strange tried to
use the Soul Gem, it simply would not work.
“The Soul Gem is
vampiric in nature, but like a dog it is loyal to its true master.”
darted about wildly. “Liar! It loves me now! It never loved you!
Adam was impassive
at the response. “Very well, then. Let us put your claim to the test.”
Suddenly, there was
a bright flash, and then Doctor Strange was gone. The sorcerer found himself
on a star ship with Pip the Troll, the Astral Samurai Gamora, the former
Avenger Moondragon and one other.
“Welcome to my
Sanctuary, Doctor Strange. It is good that you remain in possession of the
Soul Gem, or our cause might already be lost.”
Back in Strange’s
Sanctum Sanctorum, Wong stared in dismay at the self-proclaimed Thanos. The
amethyst form of Adam Warlock turned to meet his eyes. “It is a pity your
Master has departed. A pity for you, that is.”
To Be Continued!
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