Star Masters #3
Written by Morfex, Edited by Marvelite
Star Masters #3: "Remnants"
(Note: This story directly continues where Star Masters #2 left off. Check it out and other stories of the Protectors of the Universe teams at the POTU Archive Page.)
Eros turned to the door of Thanos' modest, now seemingly abandoned
dwelling. "I should have known. Adam Warlock! How did you get here, my friend?"
Warlock was not unfriendly to Eros, whom he tolerated better than most in recent days. Still Adam was characteristically to the point. "That is of little consequence, Eros. Epoch asked. I agreed. Let us proceed."
Eros knew not to be offended by his friend's curt demeanor. The emotional tempest within Adam took constant vigilance to contain when around other emotional beings. "Agreed. Kallark, would you do the honors?"
Genis and Dell turned to Gladiator, whose datapad scanned for further energy readings. "As Quasar mentioned, the Surfer outlined his initial visit here. His report indicated that the entrance to the lower complex was right " A panel slid open at the datapad's remote signal. "Here!"
The five Protectors of the Universe stepped onto an elevator platform that began descending rapidly. Gladiator addressed the group. "The Star Master's null field generator will ensure that no signal leaves the planet to alert the Titan of our presence."
Quasar's experience in high security made him wonder aloud. "Wouldn't the cessation of all regular signals also alert him of something unusual?"
Adam was quick to add, "We would not have gotten this far unless Thanos had wanted it so."
Eros agreed. "My brother would not leave his base undefended unless there was nothing left here to defend. He is not coming back."
When the elevator came to a halt, the five comrades exited to a vast complex, though dimly lit and deathly silent. As they stepped forward, bright lights filled the chamber. Reflections glistened against the dozen mechanical battle-sentry drones that approached to attack.
Gladiator shouted as laser pulse fire began to spray about the area. "Warlock! Starfox! We will take care of the complex's defenses! Proceed to the inner sanctum without us!" He tossed Starfox his datapad.
Gladiator, Captain Marvel, and Quasar used their various capabilities to maximum effect, opening a path that Eros and Adam quickly utilized. They continued on to the complex's inner chambers.
The gem Adam bore on his forehead glowed an emerald hue. The long golden staff he carried also seemed to emanate an eerie incandescence. Although they were still alert to potential defenses, the two teammates spoke as they walked.
Eros began. "I know your time on Earth before the Cosmic Union did not help you overcome your emotional turmoil as you had hoped. My offer still stands, Adam. My abilities could help you contain your raging emotions enough to interact more often with others."
"No, Eros. I must conquer this challenge without artificial assistance. I do not want to become dependent on anything or anyone."
"I understand. But if you ever change your mind "
"I know where to find you. And thank you, my friend."
Using Gladiator's datapad, the two Protectors found the former resting place of the Reality Gem, which they expected to be missing, given the events of the Cosmic Union.
Starfox looked about. "All my brother's books and acquisitions are also missing, picked clean as if never to return."
Adam instinctively touched the Gem's display column, activating a pre-recorded message. Thanos' image appeared. "If you have reached this message, then the Union event has passed. I suspect that you are Alars, Eros, Adam, or Gamora (or some combination thereof). In any case, your search for me is in vain. I no longer inhabit the realm of the living. Your justice has been served, and my final triumph achieved: I have received the Death Sentence. The irony pleases me. The universe and I, for once, were not working at cross-purposes.
"I leave you with a mystery. Why did the Soul Gem contain both a paradise and a vampiric entity? If the Soul World within were truly a paradise, why would the vampiric entity even need to steal souls? Were the captured spirits somehow slowly depleted to something less than whole, or were they limitless sources of energy? If the gem has power over all souls, isn't that responsibility a conflict of interest with its hunger? What does using the gem's power do to the souls that feed it? If a soul is innately perfect, can its master be innately flawed?
"All questions I am sure Adam Warlock has considered. For the answers I have learned, I refer you to the time after my entombment in living stone, but before Mar-Vell's death. Seek epiphany, not at his grave, but at the place of his birth."
Warlock and Eros pondered the meaning of the message in silence.
Thanos' recording continued. "This complex will self-destruct in twenty seconds. Think of it as my fond farewell."
Adam and Eros looked at each other, then back at the screen, which now displayed a countdown. "19 18..."
Adam was placid. "I suggest we inform the others."
The explosion rocked their vessel even at a great distance. The Star
Masters watched as the smoke cleared to display the charred rubble and twisted metal that
was once Thanos' home.
Adam looked on. "The finality of it. Thanos' optimism surprises me, believing he will not return. Mistress Death is a fickle love. If he has embraced her once more, it will not be for long "
Eros responded. "Adam, Thanos' little riddle made me realize. He has never actually died before. You trapped him in stone, but then he returned. And what does Mar-Vell's death have to do with Thanos?"
Genis turned to Starfox. "Mar-Vell? What does my dad have to do with any of this?"
Eros proceeded to repeat Thanos' recorded message to the others.
"Interesting," commented Gladiator. "Perhaps we should follow this mystery once we have reunited with the others at the rendezvous point."
"If Epoch doesn't object," said Quasar, "then let's do it."
Scuttlebutt took a brief detour to the planet Calculex, per Bill's
request. Upon entering Calculex space, Bill took the two Korbinite women to the surface in
a four-person shuttle Deltaredon nicknamed 'Shuttlebutt.'
After landing at the appropriate site, Beta Ray Bill, in his Korbinite form, accompanied Deltaredon to see off Alfarean. At the spaceport exit, the two sisters embraced briefly, as Bill stood awkwardly nearby. When the two women separated, Bill addressed the latter. "Are you certain you will not reconsider?"
"Bill, Mistress Death's sense of cosmic irony goes beyond my revulsion toward your metamorphosis. I never wanted children. I certainly don't want to raise a child without it's father, as we were raised. The gene bank we found aboard Scuttlebutt changes nothing. I just want to be left in peace for the remainder of my days."
Bill nodded painfully, knowing Mistress Death must be enjoying every moment of his regret. "I have friends here on this bustling world. This datapad contains their names and last known whereabouts, as well as enough credits to get you started."
"Thank you. I may look them up someday."
There was an uncomfortable silence followed by a hasty goodbye wave from Alfarean. She departed into the crowded streets without a glance back.
Back aboard Scuttlebutt, Bill asked the ship to resume its course
and heading to the rendezvous point. He turned to Deltaredon. "How goes the
"It is complete, Bill. Three viable embryos have been implanted successfully. The risks are great, and the likelihood of even one embryo reaching term is less than 35%, but I must try. The remaining genetic samples aboard may also produce embryos that we could attempt to incubate artificially. In a sense, Mistress Death showed our race some mercy, for I am a trained prenatal geneticist. My return to the living may grant our people another chance after all, if I can survive long enough to use my skills."
"That is indeed fortuitous. Whose genetic information did you use for the embryos?"
"I chose your gene data from samples taken just prior to your transformation. Our people chose you wisely, you were the pinnacle of mental and physical health before the procedure that changed you. You may soon be a father, Bill. Have you considered the implications of that responsibility?"
"The only implication I understand is that our race has a chance to continue. Your safety is paramount. I will personally guarantee this. To that effect, I have decided to resign from the Protectors of the Universe."
"Bill, your obligations as a Protector supercede even our race's future. I cannot allow you to be diverted from your primary cause."
Bill tried to contain his anger and pride. "What do you propose, Deltaredon? I sacrificed everything for my people! You want me to turn my back on a lifetime of obligation?"
Her voice was composed. "If I remain with you, I will use my skills as a geneticist aboard this vessel to attempt the re-population of our kind. If I deem that my presence in any way affects your performance, I will leave with Scuttlebutt to find an anonymous safe haven where I can bear and raise our race's children. These are my terms, Bill. Accept them or not. You cannot change them."
Bill lowered his head in abject silence. He knew there was no simple answer to this situation. He turned and walked away.
Bill returned to his quarters, where Sif waited as he had pleaded with her to do. No words were spoken between them. They held each other tightly, an embrace of total trust and sympathy. Bill clung to Sif, his head leaning on her shoulder. The emotional turmoil of the past few days finally took its inevitable toll on the brave warrior. Bill began to heave long breaths, holding Sif ever closer. Tears welled in his eyes, something that had not happened since before his transformation.
Sif embraced him more tightly as well, surprised by her own instinctive desire to comfort him. Tears still flowing, he lifted his head to look deeply into her beautiful wide blue eyes. Without hesitation, they kissed suddenly and passionately. Bill's tribulations seemed to fade into the background as he gave himself completely to this moment he had privately wanted for so long.
Drax carried the other seven unconscious passengers off the damaged
vessel. He had to force several doorways open. It was as if the ship had been fused in
time at the moment of entry into this era. The mechanical workings of the futuristic ship
would remain a secret in the present. Drax wondered why technology from the future had
never been reverse-engineered on Earth before, at least to his knowledge. The point was
moot in the case of this hunk of fused metal.
Ultimately, the desert evening bore eight new individuals from the future: Aleta, Yondu, Martinex, Charlie-27, Nikki, Talon, Replica, and Ripjak.
Aleta began to compose herself, shaking off her semiconscious haze. She looked up at Starhawk, surprised. "Stakar, I thought that Mainframe said you were time-barred! How can you be here?"
Starhawk managed to contain his sentiments, knowing that this vision before him believed that he was another. "I am not from your future, Aleta. I was born in the late Twentieth Century. But I am familiar with your Stakar's experiences through a brief meeting we shared."
Martinex groggily stood up and looked toward his fallen teammates. He was shocked to see Ripjak's form begin to spasm suddenly. He interrupted the others. "Aleta, Starhawk! Ripjak's body has started to convulse with temporal feedback. It's as if he's partially time-barred. How is that possible? We chose our team specifically to avoid early Twenty-first Century counterparts."
Starhawk responded. "Martinex, in the present, Eon's offspring Epoch has amassed a group of time-travelling Protectors of the Universe. Ripjak, or an alternate counterpart, is among them."
Drax turned to Stakar. "How do you know that, Starhawk? Epoch has kept their identities secret to us all."
"I don't know how I just know "
Charlie 27 shook off the air deprivation that had incapacitated them all. He looked up to see Drax towering over him. He stood hastily and yelled, "Guardians, take down Drax the Destroyer!"*
(* Whom they battled in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy #53.)
Continued in Star Masters #4: "Rendezvous with Destiny." Now leave us comments below, and be sure to check out the Cosmic Unionverse and POTU Archive Pages for more information on this continuity and more stories in this continuity.
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