Powers Cosmic #2
Written by Morfex and Janus, Plot by
Morfex and Marvelite
(Note: This tale immediately follows the events of Powers Cosmic #1: "Creation's Price." Also, see the Cosmic Unionverse Reference Page for links to other stories in this continuity.)
Powers Cosmic #2
Voracity, Chapter Two: "Identities"
The island was devoid of life, save for twelve individuals. On one
side stood the Powers Cosmic: the Silver Surfer, Nova, Firelord, Gabriel the Air-Walker,
and Starglow. On the other side stood a group of six beings who claimed to represent
Tyrant, Galactus' first creation. At their feet lay Terrax, still recovering from their
initial attack, and from an overwhelming hunger that drained his precious island of all
life, leaving only barren rock formations. (See Powers Cosmic #1 for details.)
Each of the six beings was clearly ready to do battle. All were humanoid, their races recognizable. There was a Skrull, carrying a baton with a blackened sphere on one end, a glowing white sphere on the other. There was a Xandarian, dressed in a dark and twisted parody of the uniform worn by the Nova Centurions. There was a Shi'ar female who appeared to be a more primitive evolutionary throwback than typical members of her race. There was also a woman who looked strangely like the Mad God Thanos. The Surfer recognized the Kree warrior, Ronan the Accuser. Finally, the aggressor who took a step forward was an ebon-coated male Zenn Lavian with nearly waist-length charcoal colored hair.
Recognition struck Shalla Bal. "Roddan? Roddan Bal, is that you?"
The Zenn Lavian chose to ignore her comment. "Former Heralds of Galactus, each of you has contributed to our sovereign's agony through your service to the World Devourer. Further, you have become a direct cause of pain in recent days. For that, each of you must pay. We are the Anti-Heralds, each remade by Tyrant for the sole purpose of destroying you. Our will cannot be denied."
Starglow addressed the spokesperson of the six self-proclaimed Anti-Heralds again. "Roddan Bal! Don't you recognize me?" She willed her form into that of her former Zenn Lavian semblance, despite the fact that she consisted only of pure, solid Power Cosmic. Unlike her organic teammates or Terrax, Starglow's original physical form was recuperating in a stasis dimension. (See Cosmic Union for details.)
Her ability to manipulate her own energies was equal to any teammate, however, so her appearance was clearly Zenn Lavian once more. "Roddan, it is I, Shalla Bal."
The Silver Surfer was the first to respond. "Shalla, you know this miscreant?"
"Of course, Norrin. He is our great-grandson." Shalla did not turn to see Norrin Radd's mouth gape open in disbelief.
The ebon figure seemed visibly distraught at this comment. "No! No longer am I Roddan Bal, nor do I consider you my progenitors. Now and forever, I am the Dark Hunter!" The longhaired youth concentrated, and a small snowboard-shaped construct materialized at his feet. He promptly mounted the board. "Die, Galactus-spawn!" His force blast pushed the Silver Surfer ten meters back, pulverizing the wall of rock that got in the way. "Attack, Anti-Heralds! In the name of our sovereign!"
The Skrull Anti-Herald flew toward Firelord, his own baton at the ready. "I want you to know your destroyer, puppet of Galactus. I am Talos," (See Hulk #419 for details) "and I am your doom!" The Skrull's baton held an orb at each end. One end seemed darker than blackest midnight; the other appeared as a pure white singularity that could easily damage the retina of mortal beings. Talos twisted the handle at the center of his weapon, and Pyreus Kril felt a strange pulling from its blackened end.
"What is the meaning of this?" Firelord shouted, as every flame on his body and weapon began to flicker in the direction of Talos, as if drawn to the black hole the Skrull wielded.
Simultaneously, a female Anti-Herald lifted the fallen form of Terrax by the neck. "Long have I waited to meet you, Terrax. I am called Terraxia! Once, I was molded to be the ideal consort for Thanos of Titan." (See Infinity Gauntlet for details.) "But I was discarded for dead, then forgotten. Tyrant found a means of returning me to existence." Terraxia raised her voice in conviction. "I owe Tyrant my life. And your death!" Terraxia's pigment and furrowed chin indeed resembled the Mad God, Terrax noticed as he fought to regain full consciousness and bodily control. He gasped at the immense pressure the female applied to his throat.
Starglow returned to her cosmically powered form. She swung her arms upward from beneath Terraxia's grip, forcing the Anti-Herald to release her opponent. "Terrax! Get up! We need you!"
Just then, the second female Anti-Herald bared her talons. She appeared to be a humanoid bird of prey. "Shalla Bal, I was told that you had returned from the dead yet again. I will ensure that your latest life is a brief one!"
Starglow responded. "Deathbird! Last I knew of you, you still served as a lackey to your insufferable sister, the Majestrix Lilandra Neramani. Has your short leash been extended?"
"Presumptuous pretender! Tyrant has granted me power beyond imagining. There is no price too high to pay for ascending to godhood."
Starglow spared an instant to see if Terrax was recovering. He noticed her concern and nodded reassuringly as he stood to grapple with Terraxia, his eyes set on his fallen ax. Deathbird flew into the air, and then shot down like a hawk, mutated opposable talons on her feet poised to strike. Starglow focused her energy in a broad dispersal pattern directly above herself, hoping to stun her newest opponent.
Elsewhere, Gabriel the Air-Walker rose above the din to face his allotted adversary, the Xandarian Anti-Herald. The man was dressed in a dark version of the Nova Centurion uniform.
"I am Garthan Saal, but you can address me as Supernova. Your life is forfeit in Tyrant's name." (See New Warriors #42 for details.)
Gabriel decided that reason must be the first approach. "I too am Xandarian, friend. I have news of our people. They are all alive and well and slowly emerging from months of cold-sleep hibernation. Once ready, they will traverse the stars again. Will you open the way with us, countryman?"
Supernova hesitated for the briefest moment, but it was enough for Gabriel Lan to see that his effort had not been in vain. Whatever the outcome of this conflict, a seed had been sown for this madman's potential future rehabilitation. With this thought in mind, Gabriel Lan was pummeled by the force blast of the wild-eyed Supernova.
Frankie Raye measured up her default adversary, the enormous Kree warrior, Ronan the Accuser. He wore a variation of his armor; though still green, it was very nearly black. Nova also felt a strange aura around Ronan, as if he were absorbing all joy from her. It reminded her of death, something with which she was all too familiar. The Accuser spoke slowly in a mechanical, authoritative tone. "I am Ronan. Where once I served the Kree Empire, I now serve Tyrant. You have been designated for destruction. Compliance with this command will be my pleasure." Ronan raised his once hyperbolically named Universal Weapon, modified by Tyrant to draw upon the Power Cosmic. He aimed it at Nova and calmly fired a disintegration beam.
Nova quickly took to the air and dodged the beam. "Not today, creep. I didn't return from the dead to be killed again by a second-stringer like you." She blasted cosmic fire toward her attacker, who stood still and mocked her with a smile.
Ronan nonchalantly pushed a button on his Universal Weapon and remarked, "Predictable. You maneuvered yourself right where I wanted you." He activated the gravity altering powers of the weapon. Unable to escape the Accuser's trap, Nova fell from the sky into the sea surrounding the island. She was pinned underwater, and though she did not need to breathe, her instincts as an organic being drove her to complete panic. She truly felt as if she were drowning. Ronan entered the water to retrieve her.
From beneath the waves, Frankie Raye began firing bolts of cosmic energy wildly and randomly. Most beams raced harmlessly through the sky, but one wayward blast was fired at such an angle that it struck the dark Nova Centurion squarely in the back of the head. Air-Walker recognized the opportunity to strike while Supernova was disoriented. He rushed toward his opponent and rammed his shoulder into Supernova's belly, lifting the Xandarian off his feet and into the Skrull's back. Air-Walker then used the Power Cosmic to bore into the Earth and sank below the soil.
"Clumsy fool!" Talos barked as he turned to address his fallen teammate.
"Tread carefully, Skrull," Garthan Saal shot back as he returned to his feet. "We shall have words when this mission is complete."
With Talos' attention momentarily turned to Supernova, Firelord struggled to escape the pull of the Skrull's black hole-powered weapon. Through gritted teeth, he called out to Air-Walker. "Captain!"
Gabriel Lan shot out of the ground at Talos' feet and attempted to seize the binary rod from the stunned Skrull's hand as he rocketed into the sky. The rod snapped in half, which left Talos holding the now useless and vacant white-dwarf half, while Air-Walker held the likewise useless black hole half.
"Thank you, my friend," whispered Firelord as he too took to the sky to recover his wits. "You Anti-Heralds may be a team, but you have much to learn about teamwork," he taunted Talos and Supernova as he escaped.
Elsewhere, Terrax, the Silver Surfer and Starglow battled against Terraxia, the Dark Hunter and Deathbird.
"Die! Die! Die!" the Dark Hunter shouted as he wildly and enthusiastically pounded the Silver Surfer with force blasts. "It's your fault! All this is your fault!"
The Surfer defended himself, but was still too distracted by the knowledge of their alleged kinship to do much more than that.
Starglow shouted, "Norrin, focus! Our lives may depend on it!" Remembering the fact that Ganymede of the Spinsterhood sought the identity of the new Tyrant, (See Cosmic Union for details), she turned to Deathbird and spoke. "Where is your master now, while he lets you do all his dirty work? Is he afraid to face our combined might, or does he simply consider you his errand servants?"
Deathbird responded with a grin. "Oh, you aren't going to learn anything that easily, 'Empress'. Come and earn it! And who said Tyrant was a 'he'?"
The Dark Hunter blasted at Norrin Radd, heedless even of his comrades. Terraxia was hit by a force bolt and staggered momentarily. Roddan Bal screamed at the Surfer. "You do not deserve to live! After everything you have done, you do not deserve to live!"
"Silence, boy," said Terrax as he recovered his ax, aimed it, and encased the Dark Hunter in hundreds of tons of stone.
"Thank you, Terrax," said the Surfer. "Now, while we have the other two outnumbered, press the attack!"
Realizing the odds were against her, Deathbird disengaged from battle with Starglow and promptly retreated. Meanwhile, Terraxia, still slightly dazed, attempted to hold off attacks by the Silver Surfer and Terrax. "Cowardly woman!" Terraxia shouted after Deathbird.
"Only a mad fool like yourself would fight when the odds are so obviously against us," Deathbird retorted. "Withdraw! We shall return when our numbers give us strength instead of weakness."
"I will never surrender," Terraxia declared, but she was still disoriented by the force of the Dark Hunter's blow. The Surfer took the opportunity and quickly bound her in bands of cosmic energy, leaving her no leverage for movement.
"Ronan! Help us!" The Dark Hunter cried out, having freed his head from the constricting grip of the earth. Terrax pointed his weapon and completely enveloped the Anti-Herald once again in stone. One could see the young Zenn Lavian struggle against the shifting rock layer, as though it were a form fitting blanket from which he could not escape.
"I'll have to use more pressure this time," Terrax remarked with a smile. The Dark Hunter's exertions against the rock ebbed and finally ceased.
"Please, Terrax," said Starglow, "do not hurt him anymore than necessary. He is family."
Terrax nodded. "If he is as powerful as he thinks he is, the boy should survive. Maybe."
There was a small respite between battles, but enough for Norrin Radd to speak a few words to Shalla Bal. "Shalla, our great grandson? How is this possible?"
"Not now, Norrin! There will be time enough for explanations when this battle is done if we survive!" She turned away from her former love and resumed her concentration on the task at hand. Starglow and the two former heralds pursued Deathbird's energy trail to the other side of the island.
En route, they tracked Air-Walker and Firelord to a sheltered crevice. The heralds landed and began to appraise the situation they faced. "I am pleased to see you all alive," Air-Walker began. "Pyreus and I have done some scouting. Talos, Supernova, and Ronan are about 2500 meters to the south of our present location. We saw Deathbird flying in that general vicinity and presume she has joined her teammates. They have captured Frankie, unfortunately. It is imperative we work together to rescue her and subdue the Anti-Heralds as cleanly as possible. Surfer and Starglow, I want you to take out Ronan. He seems to be the most powerful, and since we have the advantage of numbers for now, we can use both of you against him. I will cover the one called Supernova. Firelord, you take care of Deathbird, while Terrax nullifies the Skrull, Talos. If someone is in trouble, switch off and help your teammates, but make sure your objective is completed. Is everyone clear on their responsibilities?" The other four cosmically powered beings nodded, feeling they had done well in electing Gabriel Lan as their leader.
Upon engaging the Anti-Heralds, the plan began to disintegrate. Ronan intercepted the band while they were in-flight. Moving rapidly for a being of his size, Ronan delivered a punishing blow to Firelord's head. He then bedeviled Starglow with disintegration beams from his Universal Weapon. She was too busy dodging blasts to return fire of her own. Supernova used the semi-conscious Nova as a living shield, making Air-Walker hesitant to press the attack. Talos and Deathbird harassed the Silver Surfer, preventing him from assisting his brothers-in-arms. Further complicating matters, Terraxia and the Dark Hunter were rapidly approaching, having freed themselves from their respective bonds. Air-Walker felt sick; this did not look like an easily winnable battle anymore.
Firelord, still reeling from the punishment the Accuser had inflicted upon him, seemed violently enraged. Around his head grew a fireball that threatened to surpass the intensity of a galactic core. Air-Walker had never seen Pyreus display such vast energies and feared the worst. In a move he might live to regret, he threw the half of Talos' weapon he still held back to the Skrull. Instantly, Talos reassembled the device and aimed it at the energy manifestation, absorbing its intensity.
Terrax stood to see the battles raging around him. Each of his allies fought valiantly to protect him, despite the clear risk to their lives. He must end the combat quickly, before there was a repetition of the costly battle with Morg during the Herald Ordeal.
Terrax concentrated, and his physical form began to expand to the height of ten meters. His enlargement caught the attention of most combatants, who paused briefly in surprise. Terrax's eyes glowed wildly; his voice quaked with an all too familiar echo, as with that of Galactus. "I am Terrax. This is my world. You have trespassed here for the last time, presumptuous 'Anti-Heralds'. I hereby banish you from this planet for all time!"
With the outstretching of his hand, Terrax literally pushed the six interlopers through miniature controlled wormholes in space-time, causing their immediate departure. Supernova released his grip on Frankie Raye as he fell through the portal. She fell to the ground, then slowly began to stand on her own. Firelord, still rubbing his aching head from the blow Ronan had given him, flew quickly to her side to offer assistance.
As a result of the Anti-Heralds' departure, the air was thick with the smell of ozone. The planet's outer atmosphere glowed briefly, as a barrier was created akin to the one Galactus used to keep the Silver Surfer on Earth so many months ago. Terrax shrank suddenly to his normal height, then stumbled to the ground. Starglow was the first one to his side. "Terrax, how have you done this thing?"
"I do not know, Shalla Bal. I do not know. It is as if I have become a reflection of the World-Devourer himself."
Gabriel the Air-Walker spoke next. "Terrax, where did you send the Anti-Heralds?"
"I am uncertain, but I believe they are each on their respective stellar systems."
The Silver Surfer entered the conversation. "Terrax, we initially came at your request. What happened to you before their attack?"
Terrax proceeded to describe the nature of his experience with the creation and destruction of the island. (See Powers Cosmic #1 for details.)
Firelord and Nova rejoined their teammates. Once briefed, Firelord commented. "How is it that you could create a barrier around this world specific to the energy signatures of the Anti-Heralds? Are they empowered as we are, by the Power Cosmic?"
"Again, I am unsure. I was reacting on pure instinct. Perhaps we can test the barrier?" Terrax seemed to lack his usual confidence, as if the experience had unnerved him, and not surprisingly.
Nova flew upward, apparently none the worse for wear despite her rough treatment at the hands of the Anti-Heralds. "I'll go check it out!" She sped ever higher.
The Surfer shouted out, "Nova, no!" He leapt onto his board to follow.
Starglow was surprised. "Norrin, what possible danger could there be now?" But before she could get a response, the Surfer was gone.
High in the upper atmosphere, Nova flew. She reached out her senses to determine the exact whereabouts and nature of Terrax's barrier. Suddenly, it was upon her. She slammed into the invisible barrier as if she were a rubber ball against a stone wall. She immediately lost consciousness and began to plummet.
Just as I suspected, thought Norrin Radd. He caught her easily, compensating for her angle of trajectory and the velocity of her descent. He returned her to his teammates, his expression grim. Pyreus Kril flew to meet him. "What happened to Nova?" His words expressed an anxious concern the Surfer had never heard before this.
"She impacted with the barrier. It is as I feared, the barrier affects us as well. It seems impervious to penetration. I even witnessed harmless meteorites being deflected back into space. Terrax, can you remove it?"
Terrax closed his eyes, concentrating. Nothing happened. "I do not have enough power. It is as if I used up the excess energies from the island in one powerful burst of creation."
Gabriel's brow furrowed. "Well, I can see two options. Summon Galactus to this world to remove the barrier at the risk of his consuming the planet, or remain trapped here forever. Are there any other suggestions?"
Just then, Firelord turned to his comrades, concern on his face, and his energy expenditure finally taking its toll. "I HUNGER!"
Continued in Powers Cosmic #3: "The Lesser of Three Evils." Be sure to also check out our new Protectors of the Universe Continuity Reference Page. And don't forget to send some comments below!
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