Adam Warlock is... THANOS II #3
Protectors of the Universe: Adam Warlock is...
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The Devil's Due
Continued from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2
Has Gone Before:
Adam Warlock emerged from his cocoon claiming to be Thanos.
His first destination was the planet Earth, to reclaim his Soul Gem from
Doctor Strange, the interim Gem Bearer. The newly regenerated Gamora and Pip,
joined by the true Thanos, were in close pursuit. They added a reluctant
Moondragon to their ranks, as Adam confronted the Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor
Strange was surprised to find that the Soul Gem would not obey his commands in
the presence of Thanos II, but was teleported to safety aboard the original
Thanos’ vessel, leaving his assistant Wong to the Dark Warlock’s whims.
Of course, any activity involving Adam Warlock, Thanos, and
the last of the Infinity Gems was bound to attract the attention of others…
“O Death! The poor man’s dearest friend –
The kindest and the best.”
Burns, Man was Made To Mourn
In a realm beyond three-dimensional description, sometimes
referred to as the Universe of Magic, two disembodied heads floated. One
appeared smooth and symmetrical, the other a mass of misshapen distortions.
Lord Chaos and Master Order observed the Universe of Marvels, as they were
often wont to do.
Chaos spoke first. “Our agent is following our… order
Order smiled at the double meaning. “Yes, this reminds me
of our first dealings with the departed Sui-San.* Our infinite patience will
soon be met with success. Every manipulation, every subtle influence, since
our first contact with Thanos, Warlock, and Moondragon. I am almost
disappointed to see it end, even in our favor. The symmetry of the game was a
See Dead Men Tell No Tales for details.)
“Yes,” replied the entity’s polar opposite. “It has
been a fine few millennia planting the wanton seeds of each of their ascents.
The Infinity Gauntlet’s supremacy was far too fleeting, despite our feigned
opposition, but this time nothing will bar our way. Galactus’ death was
blissfully unforeseen, though potentially disastrous, but ultimately
providential. Our agents are in place. Our varied plots converge, my
co-conspirator. Our equilibrium will be ensured once and for all. Allies and
enemies alike will soon bow to our slightest whims.”
Doctor Stephen Strange surveyed the room cautiously, not
wanting to act in a rash manner given the complexity of what had just
happened. Thanos, Gamora, Pip, and Moondragon observed his arrival with
varying reactions. Strange attempted to create an invisible sphere of mystical
protection about himself, then groaned in pain at the effort. The multiple
fractures in his hand did not allow the spell to reach fruition, and the
piercing pain forced a wave of nausea over him.
Thanos shook his head. “That will not be necessary, Doctor.
Allow me to see to your wound.”
Strange knew that Gamora was a trusted ally through their
association with the Protectors of the Universe, so he cautiously deferred to
the offer of assistance. The Gem on the Sorcerer’s forehead reacted to
Thanos’ presence, giving Strange an unpleasant aftertaste in his mouth, as
if aluminum had made contact with metal fillings. Combined with the nausea
brought on by his injury, he was concentrating not to vomit.
The healing process lasted only long enough to brief the
Sorcerer on the quest of the former Infinity Watch members to rid Adam of the
taint that corrupted him. Very soon, the Titan’s alien technology had left
his damaged hand as good as new, with the exception of a lingering ghost pain.
Pip was the first to state the obvious. “Uh, guys, won’t
Adam eat the Doctor’s servant for breakfast?”
Surprisingly it was Strange that responded. “Unlikely, and
irrelevant. Warlock would not bother with so insignificant a speck, and Wong
certainly knew the risks inherent in working for me.”
Pip mumbled under his breath, “Man, I’d hate to be that
Moondragon noted the Infinity Gem on the Sorcerer’s brow.
“How did Doctor Strange come to possess the Gem? And why doesn’t the much
vaunted Sorcerer Supreme simply use it on the self-proclaimed Thanos?”
Doctor Strange spoke for himself, his hand still clenching
and unclenching as it echoed with pain. Strange had been fully informed of
Moondragon’s unique amnesiac condition after the Dark God’s violation of
her mind,* and knew not to refer to her association with, or the existence of
the Protectors of the Universe. Strange could hardly be bothered with such
trifles given his weighty purpose, but he decided that Moondragon might prove
useful in the coming conflict and honored his oath of secrecy. “I was chosen
by Adam to bear the Soul Gem for the duration of his hibernation while you
were still on Titan. Apparently, in close proximity to Adam, the Gem will not
obey my commands. It is as if the blasted thing has a mind of its own. I
thought the Gem a prison for the vampiric Soul Taker, not a tool for his
See POTU 1-15 and last Chapter for details.)
The Sorcerer Supreme turned to the Mad Titan. “Thanos, do
you have a means of ensuring that the gem’s vampiric entity temporarily
experience… sensory deprivation?”
Thanos grinned at the mystic. “But of course. You do not
think I wanted to share the Infinity Gauntlet’s might with a parasitic
squatter, do you?”
all means, make it so.” The Gem began to glow on the Sorcerer’s head in
seeming protest, but Strange had mastered its usage sufficiently to focus
it’s energies back into a state of calm. It was releasing the energies
against the entity’s will that seemed beyond his current expertise.
As Thanos stepped away momentarily, Pip was again the voice
of the obvious. “Uh, doesn’t Thanos want to take the Gem from Doctor
Gamora jabbed the troll in the ribs with her knee. Her
whisper was for his acute ears only. “If he had wanted to, he would have by
now. If he had wanted us all dead, he would have killed us all by now…”
Pip could not help himself from finishing her thought, in as
low a volume as hers. “…Like he did the first time.”
In moments, Thanos equipped Strange with a bracelet similar
to the one he wore on his left hand opposite the Gauntlet during his dalliance
“The Soul-Taker can no longer hear your words or thoughts,
“Then I must make one small detour before we confront
Thanos the Second.” Thanos nodded almost imperceptibly, and Strange chafed
at the hint of permission granted. As the Sorcerer began to hover cross-legged
before them, his astral form departed abruptly with the ease of countless
years of experience.
Doctor Strange’s astral form made its way with the instinct
of familiarity to the domain of the Vishanti. “Mighty Agamotto, Hoggoth, and
Oshtur, I beg of you, grant me this audience.”
In a realm of brimstone and pain, Mephisto sat upon a throne
of agonized souls, contemplating his next foray. His active Cosmic Cube
lovingly in hand, Mephisto gazed into a crimson, nether-worldly sphere to
observe those whose souls he would one day claim.
Recognizing the taint within Adam Warlock, the Lord of Lies
decided to amuse himself by insuring the involvement of others as well. His
initial destination was the place that held the Dragon of the Moon, but first
he cloaked his Cube from all perception. For what need did the Embodiment of
Evil have for more power? No, it was not the power itself that amused him, but
the temptation of power he could inflict upon those whose souls he coveted.
The Dragon of the Moon was a mysterious entity of madness,
power, influence, ambition and instinct. It’s hidden past was somehow
intimately bound to the moon of Titan, and Eternals like the Interloper knew
of its existence. Several former Defenders perished in the effort to render
the Dragon captive once more. Beyond that, little else was known to the heroes
The Prince of Darkness needed only to know that the Dragon
would wreak havoc on Thanos and Warlock, and that was enough for him. His past
dealings with those two demanded retribution for multiple affronts. They did
not fear or respect him, and the Cosmic Union event further exemplified that
point.* This was a matter Mephisto intended to rectify.
See Cosmic Union for details.)
Mephisto’s words were a combination of honey and sulfur.
“Mighty Dragon! Did you known that your taint has been purged from the soul
of the Mad Titan? It now lies in a vessel not conducive to your long-term
agenda. The true target has evaded you!”
The Dragon wore its shackles wearily. It did not respond to
the Demon’s taunt with ire, but with frustrated resignation. “I am aware,
Mephisto. I would respond accordingly to the affront, but for my captivity.”
“Know, then, Serpent, that the taint’s relocation and the
passing of the Cosmic Union have weakened your shackles to a level which I can
easily overcome from the outside…”
The Dragon knew what must come next of his twisted visitor.
Indeed, it would be almost disappointed were it not so. “…for a price.”
“But of course! I think you will agree it is a minor one.
Pledge to me that you will never use your might against me, and I will ensure
your release. A small price to pay, I would think.”
“Very well, Father of Evil. I commit to this bargain of
yours. You have my word.”
Mephisto used the smallest iota of his immense powers, and
the bonds of containment burst in a spectacle of multi-colored light.
Grinning, he departed with a final mockery. “Enjoy your retribution, Wyrm.”
The Dragon of the Moon immediately departed. “I shall,
Mephisto. I shall.”
The Lord of Lies was not yet done with his machinations.
Thanos and Warlock would certainly rue the day they belittled Evil Incarnate.
Again Mephisto stepped between dimensions. This time, he traveled to the Realm
of Mistress Death. “Milady, thank you for receiving me!”
A minion of Death spoke in her stead. “Have thy say, Demon,
and then be gone.”
“Thanos of Titan has been your most loyal advocate in no
small part due to the Dragon’s taint he bore. He bears that taint no longer.
Tell me, what does your Mistress think Thanos will do now? But wait, do my
senses deceive me? Milady, your vast powers and influence wane! But of course!
The Death of Galactus!”
The Lord of Lies knew many truths, and one was that the
passing of Galactus the Devourer had a profound affect on the Universe at
large. Galactus was the sole mortal survivor of the previous Universe, and had
been relegated to the task of serving as the great Balance between Eternity
and Death, abstract concepts that comprised the greatest forces of existence.
With his passing,* the Universe knew no balance. Or perhaps, like everything,
it would find a new basis for equilibrium in time. Regardless, Eternity and
Death lost much in the Devourer’s demise. Just how much, and how Mephisto
could use it to his advantage, remained to be seen.
See Marvel’s Galactus the Devourer #6.)
Mephisto considered all these events, and more. “It is
perfectly logical. I was too preoccupied at the Devourer’s wake* to notice,
or perhaps the onset has been imperceptible until now. If you have changed
this much, than Eternity must also… I see. That explains his distraction
during the coming of the Infinites.** Another mystery solved.”
See Cosmic Powers # 10 and future issues of POTU Spotlight for details.)
See Marvel’s Avengers Infinity #’s 1-4 for details.)
Mephisto briefly awaited a response, but none came. Perhaps a
different tact would evoke a reaction. “I suspect that those who eternally
seek your eradication will have a far better chance now than ever before. Tell
me, will you retreat once more to your periodic mortal host on Earth?”*
this story takes place just before Marvel’s Captain Marvel #17.)
One of Mephisto’s infinite schemes had been the distancing
of Beta Ray Bill and Delta Ray Dawn.* He had wanted Dawn to be isolated for
easy observation and for the lack of interference by the thrice accursed
Asgardians. What fascinated the Lord of Lies about the Korbinite female was
that she was one of the rare few beings whom Mistress Death had actually
allowed to return to life from true death, not just from the limbo so many of
Earth’s Marvels visited upon departing their mortal coil. The only
stipulation to the resurrection that Mephisto could detect was Mistress
Death’s requirement that the female procreate, although that only benefited
Life as well.
See POTU Spotlight #9 for details.)
Dawn’s sister was held under the same condition, but had
chosen not to do so.* As a result, her days were numbered and she would soon
return to Death. But even this year-long reprieve from the abyss seemed unlike
Mistress Death. What had changed?
See Star Masters #5 for details.)
That had been Mephisto’s motivation in his involvement with
Dawn, to learn what convoluted plot Death had in store for the two women. But
observing them over the past few months led to only one conclusion: Death had
had no real ulterior motive. She was showing mercy! The thought made Mephisto
cringe, but he knew that the knowledge was vital to his long-term plans.
For the embodiment of an abstract concept to show
anthropomorphic characteristics was unacceptable in the Cosmic Scheme of the
Universe. Unless…could she actually be under the influence of a mortal? Or
more ominous still, bonded to one? In all the Universe, the most despicably
noble and patronizingly merciful mortals could be found on Earth. It was one
of the many reasons that he spent so much of his effort there. The greater the
heights of morality and ethics, the more savory the fall from grace into the
pits of the damned.
Mephisto did not know precisely whom the Abstract Concept of
Death was using as a hiding place, nor where, but in a game with stakes this
high, he was willing to attempt a calculated bluff. The Grandmaster himself
would have been envious, mused the Devil, and internally contained a chuckle.
Mistress Death turned to the Master of All Evil and addressed
him personally, as she had done only a handful of times before. “I do not
know how you have come by this fateful knowledge, but you will not reveal my
escape route to anyone. That is my command to you, and I shall not bargain a
favor in return. Do not forget, little one, that our realms are inextricably
bound. Without death, there can be no souls to claim…” With that, Death
Mephisto’s crimson eyes widened at the implications of her
words, attempting to gauge the success of his risky gambit. Quickly, he
departed as well.
Doctor Strange’s astral self returned without incident to
his corporeal form.
Suddenly, Moondragon’s forehead began to throb painfully.
Lifting her hands to the point between her eyes, she felt the raised outline
of a shape. She thought that the Dragon mark appeared only when she was using
her telepathic skills, and never so prominently. Why did it do so now?
The vessel jolted suddenly, shaking everyone within. All but
Pip managed to maintain their footing. The Troll flipped sideways, crushing
his newly lit cigar against a wall. “Hey! That was a Cuban!”
The vessel fell from the sky as if under the control of an
unseen hand. Its entry into earth’s atmosphere caused the ship no harm, nor
did its brusque landing upon Monster Island. Thanos’ construct was seemingly
built of sturdy material.
Gamora nodded at the location as the vessel’s doors opened.
In the distance their former home, the Mole Man’s castle complex, loomed.
Turning to Thanos, one of the Deadliest Women in the Galaxy spoke. “What was
that you were saying to me about a sense of nostalgia?”*
last chapter for details.)
Within the Soul Gem once lay a realm of utter serenity known
as Soul World. Over the eons it had amassed a multitude of souls, each knowing
true peace for the first time upon arrival. The irony was that the arrival
typically meant their physical demise beyond the Gem. Soul World had become
one with the outer universe during the conflict known as the Cosmic Union.*
All the blissful captive souls had been released to a higher order of
afterlife as appropriate for each soul’s beliefs.
See Cosmic Union for details.)
The Soul Gem was also a prison for the vampiric entity that
had dubbed itself the “Soul Taker.” Although
some thought it an abstract being representing the soul, many knew that this
was impossible. For the soul was a thing of purity unblemished by the evils
brought on by physical existence. Logically, the abstract entity of the Soul
must be a thing of purity as well. But the other Gems had borne abstracts of
Power, Time, Space, Reality, Mind, and Creation. What had so corrupted the
Soul entity? Or was it merely a festering parasite on the true Soul entity?
Was it a dark reflection of another, sanctified entity yet to be encountered?
It was this vampiric creature’s thirst for souls that often
caused past Gem Bearers to absorb the life essences of sentients throughout
cosmic history. The irony was that the entity’s unholy thirst was somehow
slaked by additions to Soul World, which seemed a place of peace and
happiness. This dichotomy was one of the many mysteries that surrounded the
Since Soul World’s liberation, the Gem was slowly weaving a
nascent dimension within its mystic lattice. It also remained the site of
captivity for the vampiric Soul Taker. It was unknown if the new Soul World
would reflect the idyllic Elysian fields from its past. Nor was it known if
the vampiric entity would take up visible residence in the new dimension,
something it could not, or possibly chose not to, ever do before.
One thing that had not changed was the ambition of the Soul
Taker. In the past it had always sought out the most worthy host. In the
Ultraverse, it had abandoned Adam Warlock in favor of the Prince of Void,
Rune. In the Negative Zone, it did the same with Syphonn. Although Adam had
reclaimed the Gem each time, he had never forgotten the feeling that the
Gem’s captive no longer approved of its host. It was a constant struggle
from within and from without to maintain possession. It was one of the
exhaustive circumstances that had strained Adam’s emotional state over the
Still, Warlock’s control was sufficient to override the
creature’s will and to decide upon a successor at the end of the Sirus X
affair.* But despite Doctor Stephen Strange’s natural proficiency with
mystic talismans, he simply did not have sufficient preparation to master the
beast’s will. And so its subtle efforts made their way deep into the
Sorcerer’s soul, where it nourished itself on the rich pastures there
without the host’s knowledge.
See POTU #13-15.)
The Soul Taker now knew whom he must have as host. It was
becoming clear that the Adam Warlock of old was no more. Now, his former host
called himself Thanos, but the Soul Taker knew better. From experience, it
knew that this second Thanos was the first stage in Warlock’s ultimate,
inevitable corruption. Adam was said to be without a Destiny, but the Soul
Taker knew Warlock better than anyone ever had. It had observed the most
intimate recesses of Warlock’s psyche countless times during their
As an unwilling passenger, the Soul Taker was aware of the
newest version of the Magus developing on Sirus X.* That false Magus did not
interest the vampiric entity. It wanted as its eternal host the one true Adam
Warlock, willingly corrupted. At the sight of Thanos II, the Soul Taker knew
what must be done.
POTU 1-15 for details.)
Now, just as the Soul Taker’s ideal host sought it out,
Doctor Strange and the original Thanos had conspired to deprive the Soul Taker
once again of its awareness of the outer world. This was unacceptable. Drastic
measures had to be taken.
Sunrise over Monster Island was usually a time of tranquility
even in so chaotic a place. But this day, tranquility was not to be.
The man that had once been Adam Warlock addressed the group
of former allies before him. “You shall all submit to my will, for I am
Thanos. I have more than enough power to deal with the likes of you.” Adam
turned to the Mad Titan. “Do not dare to contradict me, pale doppelganger.
Surrender the Gem to me now.”
The visage of the original Mad Titan was unwavering. He
turned to the Sorcerer Supreme. “Do as he says.”
Doctor Strange’s expression transformed into one of outrage
at Thanos’ words. “What?! Vile betrayer, you said you would help me! The
Gem is mine! I will never give it up! Never!” With a brief incantation, the
Doctor vanished, leaving behind only the faintest odor of brimstone.
“I will follow him wherever he goes. He cannot prolong the
inevitable indefinitely. The Gem no longer wants him.” Thanos II vanished,
the former Infinity Watch seemingly undeserving of even a second glance.
Thanos turned to his three temporary allies. “Report.”
Gamora knew better than to waste time arguing protocol with
Thanos. She gave Moondragon a brief glance to ensure she felt the same way,
then spoke. “I observed a possible weakness in Adam’s defenses that could
be penetrated with my Paradox Dagger if need be.”
Pip was next. That was the first time he had ever heard
Gamora consider killing Adam since before their time in Soul World. But she
was a realist, and the existence of two Thanoses was unacceptable. “Doctor
Strange left us an easy enough trail to follow. I can take us there whenever
Moondragon spoke lastly, glaring at the troll angrily for
having preempted her more important reconnaissance. “Adam’s mind is
formidable but so are my abilities. The taint still hovers about him, not yet
permanently bonded. But time grows short. My familiarity with the Dragon’s
influence will indeed be crucial to our victory.”
“Enough of this. I tired of purposely leaving Thor one step
behind me during my quest for Finality, and now I tire of purposely allowing
Warlock to think he is one step ahead. Let us expedite this conflict to its
only inevitable conclusion.”
To Be Continued!
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