POTU: Adam Warlock is... THANOS II #3
Written by Morfex and Anomaly, Edited by Morfex
With Concepts by Anomaly, WarlorTvor, and Morfex

Logo created by Lord Thanos
Published by the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group in

Characters are the properties of Marvel Comics
Click here for black&white text version (good for printing!)

Protectors of the Universe: Adam Warlock is...


(Note: For other stories taking place in this continuity, see the POTU Archive Page.)

Please send feedback to cpufeedback@yahoo.com or morfex@aol.com 

The Devil's Due

Continued from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

What 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

Cosmic Interlude One:

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 precisely.”

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 pleasing pattern.”

(* 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 guy’s chauffeur.”

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 whims.”

(* 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?”

“Excellent.  By 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 Strange?”

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 with omnipotence.

“The Soul-Taker can no longer hear your words or thoughts, Strange.”

“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.”

Cosmic Interlude Two:

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 of Earth.

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?”*

(*Note, 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 disappeared.

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?”*

(*See last chapter for details.)

Cosmic Interlude Three:

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 Infinity Gem.

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 years.

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 symbiosis.

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.

(*See 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 we’re ready.”

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.”

While Thanos set his vessel back into orbit on auto-pilot, Gamora, Pip, and Moondragon each gave one last look at the Island that they had once called home. With no more words shared between them, the four departed in pursuit of Strange and Warlock.

To Be Continued!

Be sure to also check out our Protectors of the Universe Reference Page for other stories in this continuity.  And don't forget to send some comments below or e-mail cpufeedback@yahoo.com.  You can also e-mail this story's author at morfex@aol.com 

Please leave your comments below:
If you want to be contacted or have e-mail included.
Leave name if you would like it in our letter column.

Issue #54 Cover

Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #54 Archives

Soul Food #2:
Fractured Psyches Pt. 1

Adam Warlock is THANOS II #3 Silver Surfer/Red Shift: Conflicting Agendas #2 Silver Surfer Vol. 1 #31 Infinity Assault #2
What is CPU? How to Join Our Staff Cosmic Powers Website

E-mail feedback/submissions to cpufeedback@yahoo.com