Written by Morfex, Edited by Anomaly,
Grim, and Mystic
"Universal Truths, Part Two: Infiltrators"
(Note: This tale immediately follows Spinsterhood #1)
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?"
Ganymede was about to ask Gamora to debrief them on that matter as well. The first generation Spinster allowed Moondragon this one interruption, having humiliated her enough in the past few days.*
(*See Spinsterhood #1 for details)
Gamora seemed reluctant at first, but Ganymede nodded encouragingly. Recognizing the indispensability of the information she bore, Gamora proceeded. "The Church I remember was erased in a temporal paradox Adam Warlock caused several cycles ago. That Church murdered my people, the Zen-Whoberis, in a Grand Inquisition to convert them, some eighteen cycles in what would have become your future.
"The Church's leader was a corrupted Adam Warlock from the future, who traveled back in time and called himself the Magus. This was not just the evil half of Adam from the Infinity War; this WAS Adam gone bad. He had several lackeys, including the Grand Inquisitors and an influential woman with the title of Matriarch. His base of operations was 'Throneworld,' the planet Sirus X.
"Our Adam managed to erase the Magus' timeline, but another Church had retroactively taken its place, this time without a corrupt Warlock as leader. Adam, Thanos, Pip and I remember the temporal shift because we were at the center of it.
"Our brief investigation of the new Church indicated that it posed no threat to Thanos' plans, so we quickly ended our observation and left. I don't know anything about the Church or Sirus X after that."
Ganymede turned to her teammates. "Thank you, Sister Gamora. Starhawk has informed me that in his alternate self's future, the Guardians of the Galaxy have encountered the Church as well, worshiping a young boy they called the Protégé. That Church also had two Matriarchs, called Aleta and Malevolence, to assist their god. Starhawk remembers few details beyond that.
"Review the datapads thoroughly for the specifics of your individual assignments. Epoch and I chose the missions to make best use of your specific skills and knowledge. We are not to discuss our whereabouts with each other in case any of us are captured. Please return to your quarters to prepare for disembarkation. Any other questions? No? Very well."
Gamora turned toward the mirror to adjust her brown and beige blouse
and cloak. She was unused to disguises since her days of espionage, intrigue, and
assassination. She felt almost ashamed of the rush she felt delving headlong into her
first vocation after all this time.
Ganymede buzzed Gamora's quarters as the latter finished buckling her thigh high black boots. "Come in," Gamora responded to the signal.
The door slid open, and Ganymede stepped inside. "May I have a word with you, Sister?"
Gamora turned to Ganymede. "What is it?"
Ganymede looked at the Astral Samurai before her, warrior to warrior. Like her, Gamora was capable of ending a life as the need required. But Ganymede hoped that, like her, Gamora understood the higher standard expected of them as Protectors of the Universe. Ganymede noted the skin pigment alteration device on Gamora's nightstand. It was an excellent tool for disguise. "Sister Gamora, I know that I told the others to remain anonymous in their assignments, but I think in your case we may want to consider a different approach."
"I haven't been to Sirus X in several cycles, Ganymede. I doubt anyone remembers me."
"You are entirely too hard on yourself, Sister. If this is because of Adam Warlock "
"YOU KEEP ADAM OUT OF THIS!" She yelled angrily. "Why is it that every time I speak, someone feels the need to psychoanalyze me, or to define me as a function of him?"
"If you had let me finish If this is because of Adam Warlock erasing the timeline wherein your vaunted reputation was established, I would like to know about it."
"Oh. Sorry. I just No, after Adam's success erasing the Magus, but before I discovered Thanos' plans to destroy the Universe, I 're-earned' my reputation a hundred fold. As you alluded to in the briefing, I was an assassin. One of the villains, I guess you could say."
"I know something of your time in the service of Thanos, Sister. I believe you have more than atoned for your wrong doings in the cycles since. Despite your bravado, I have faith in your desire to do what is right. You are my Sister now, and that affords you a measure of trust. As for your anonymity "
White Raven turned the corner into a dark alleyway. She knew she was
being followed, and her list of enemies was long. She stealthily scaled the alien
equivalent of a fire escape to reach the top of a five-story tenement building overlooking
the twilight skyline of the capital city of the planet Sirus X. She removed the hood she
was wearing, revealing her stunning features, chalk white complexion, and flowing tresses
of auburn hair.
Suddenly she swung around, energy pistols in both hands. Gamora smiled. "I never could get the drop on you, Rave."
"Gamora!" White Raven said in surprise. She re-holstered the pistols simultaneously and gave the Astral Samurai a firm embrace. Gamora pushed her back gently and said, "What has it been? Two cycles?"
"More like five, you knife-wielding witch! How have you been? I've followed your exploits through a former client of mine "
"Thanos. I know. He told me about you too."*
(See Marvel's Silver Surfer: Dangerous Artifacts for details.)
"So what have you been up too since leaving the Infinity Watch? Still hanging with the good guys, Gamora? You never used to!"
"I hung around with you, Rave."
"Oh, yes. I am surely the pinnacle of ladylike propriety and demeanor." White Raven threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin in a mockery of etiquette.
Gamora laughed aloud, something she had not done since Adam left Earth before the Cosmic Union. "That hero bit wasn't for me. Not enough living on the edge. It does my heart good to see an old partner in crime. I'm looking to pick up where I left off."
"Well, I've got a job for you if you want it. The Church is moving their 'Dark God' from the Primal Temple here in the city to the pilgrimage site in the Corzel Mountains. I've been hired as added security. I can choose my team of additional guards. If they like what we do, the job might be extended. Interested?"
"Sound ideal. When is departure?"
"The day after tomorrow. Just enough time to get you back in the System and licensed to kill again."
"Just like old times. So, Rave, what will we do tonight?"
"I have a safe-house near here, equipped with hot and cold running men. Interested?"
"Well I do need a place to sleep "
"You're right, just like old times!"
The next morning, the two women entered a passage into an underworld
nest of illicit activity to take care of Gamora's reprocessing. Several subtle glances
toward them and hushed whispers began to make Gamora think that perhaps Ganymede had been
right to make use of her reputation.
"Look! It's the deadliest woman in the galaxy " Before Gamora could complete an expression of annoyance, the man speaking continued, " White Raven!"
Gamora looked with surprise at the pale woman next to her, who shrugged. "It wasn't my idea!"
Gamora did not know how to feel about the loss of her reputation. "It seems like cycles since I last worked as an assassin. I'm surprised I kept the title for as long as I did."
"Are you angry with me? The title came up when you were thought to be dead. Now that you are here again, you probably want it back "
Gamora was surprised to find she did. She kept silent.
White Raven continued. "You gave me an idea. I have a substantial debt I need to repay. If we agree to a battle for the title, we could publicize it in the underworld circles and make a fortune, win or lose."
"I don't need wealth anymore, Rave. Just thrills."
"Then give your half to me! All the better!"
"I was trying to keep a low profile until I get my bearings back "
"You? You are Gamora! Your reputation precedes you everywhere you go. Most people here only know rumors and whispers about Warlock and the Infinity Watch. The last thing they remember is you breaking their face. They don't know that you've gone "
" soft?" finished Gamora.
"You said it, I didn't. If you want to reestablish your rep here, this might be just the thing."
"What would it do to your rep when you lose?"
"Who said I would lose?" White Raven's broad smile lit up the dim corridors as they progressed toward their destination. "At least say you'll think about it."
"All right. Back off. Where are we going now? These turns are unfamiliar."
"Some things have changed since you've been gone. There's a new lord we report to. Calls himself 'the Grinner'. He gets fifty percent of all our takes."
"What? Why? I thought the Church hired you?"
"Everything goes through the Grinner now. The Church uses his resources for all sorts of fun stuff: narcotics, torture, brothels, you name it. And the Grinner's criminal empire is as wide as the Church's. They've been in bed together since the Grinner took over just after you left. He owns the Interstellar Assassin's Guild. He'll own you too, once you're re-registered in the System. There's no avoiding it."
Gamora thought, what am I getting myself into? And why am I enjoying it so much ?
Heather Douglas was accustomed to being a high priestess. This
initiation was the ultimate indignity, certainly arranged by Ganymede as retaliation for
their recent conflict.*
(See Spinsterhood #1 for details.)
She watched as the other initiates had their heads shaved for the coming ceremony. The brown humanoid with ridged eyebrows before her was called the Postulant by the other clerics. He moved on to her and admired her perfectly smooth scalp. "Excellent, Initiate. Your zeal will soon be rewarded." He moved on to the next candidate for admission to the Church's clergy.
Moondragon was careful not to probe too deeply into the clergyman's mind. The Church apparently instilled careful telepathic barriers in its ministers. The first Deacon she scanned hours before was slowly recovering from a coma at the local Church hospital. By now they must suspect that there was a telepath in their midst. She must use caution at ever juncture, not exactly her specialty.
She would force herself to show restraint, because she wanted to keep her place among the Spinsterhood. Not because of Ganymede's feeble attempt at manipulating her in the infirmary earlier,* but because, she was loath to admit, she wanted to belong somewhere. And not just among the Protectors of the Universe, but among those she considered her peers. Mantis was the Celestial Madonna; Kismet was a goddess; Gamora was a former bearer of an Infinity Gem; and Ganymede
(See Spinsterhood #1 for details.)
The Postulant interrupted her musings. "Initiates, proceed to the Edifice of Revelation."
The Grand Inquisitors brought the large, brown organic cocoon to the
private quarters of the Protégé, as they had been ordered to do. It took four of them to
lift the warm, furrowed thing. The Chief Inquisitor, Brotus, was a tall, muscular humanoid
with light blue skin and a long, dark blue beard limited to the growth from his chin. His
head was clean-shaven except for a long braided strand the same length as his beard.
Brotus bowed deeply before his master. "Sire, the pod was located exactly where the
prophecies foretold. Deep in the waters of Diamaika Bay. It was not there when we scanned
for it yesterday."
The Protégé, Cireleon, was a young man, perhaps twenty-two years of age. Human, with shoulder length, light brown hair and brown eyes. His gold and red robes bespoke the dignity of his title. He looked from the cocoon to the guards, then back. "Leave me now."
"But, sire, there could be danger!"
"Brotus, you seek to protect me, as is your sworn duty. But as you have seen before, I am fully capable of defending myself. Do not contradict me again."
"Yes, sire." Brotus clearly looked more hurt than afraid.
The Protégé smiled. "Come Brotus, do not be upset. You have proven yourself invaluable to me countless times. But you must know when obedience supersedes instinct."
"Yes, sire." With that, the four Grand Inquisitors departed.
Cireleon circled the cocoon curiously. His hands were clasped behind his back, his head tilted toward the organic form at his feet. He approached one end of the globular shape, leaned over and slowly touched it. The pod began to glow and crack, causing him to take a few steps back. From within emerged Kismet, a vision of divine beauty reminiscent of Boticelli's Venus. But unlike Venus or Kismet's prior form, her skin coloration was strangely purple, her hair a stark contrast of long, flowing white.
The Protégé took a step forward. "By the prophesies, the Matriarch!"
Continued in Spinsterhood #3, "Universal Truths, Part Three: Seduction of the Innocent." Be sure to also check out our new Cosmic Union Continuity Reference Page and Protectors of the Universe Reference Page for other stories in this continuity. And don't forget to send some comments below!