Silver Surfer #4
Norrin Radd, The Silver Surfer, was summoned by The Lady Death to seek out an ancient object, The Arani Stone, said to be older than the Universe and hold the power to augment reality. He was sent to prevent this object from falling into the hands of Thanos The Titan. After discovering that the stone had been removed from its resting place by a thief, The Surfer returned to Earth to enlist the aid of Reed Richards, however during his visit he was called away to assist the Lady Death once more, this time with the help of the supernatural team of heroes known as The Defenders. Meanwhile Thanos had made a deal with a world in a doomed solar system. He saved them, and in turn he was promised a means to the love of The Lady Death, with whom he was obsessed…
This story takes place after Defenders #6.
The Silver Surfer raced towards his destination with Reed Richards’ words on his mind. “There is no biological evidence, because the thief wore a space suit, however, all sentient beings radiate a faint cosmic energy called a life aura. It’s the thing that makes each individual who they are and every aura is unique. Some argue that the aura is the same as what the spiritual among us would call a soul, although that is yet to be proven. I was able to detect a faint trace of your thief’s aura and I’ve determined that he came from the planet Buscemia, a world absorbed by the Shi’ar Empire.” A museum curator on that world had confirmed that twenty years ago, their records showed that a xenarchiologist had attempted to sell an object fitting the description of the Arani Stone, but that they were unwilling to meet his asking price. Further investigation led him to a peer of the xenarchiologist, who believed his colleague had eventually found a buyer on the planet that the Kree call Enfant and the Shi’ar call Morphus. It rested on the border between the two empires. Without any resources or strategic value, the planet remained neutral as neither empire viewed it as being worth fighting for. Due to its unusual position, the planet served as a galactic port and trading post, between people of both empires as well as peoples originating from all over the quadrant.
Planet Waves Part Four: Black Metallic
Browny stepped out of the shadow into the yellow cone of light from the street lamp and produced a pouch of tobacco from the pocket of his black blazer. The tobacco was imported from Rigel, every form of produce was imported on Enfant. Nothing brought in from anywhere else could grow on the planet, and the native vegetation was inedible and, oddly enough, even inflammable. You couldn’t eat it, you couldn’t burn it, you couldn’t even build anything from it. From the trees to the grass to the bushes, everything that grew in the ground was sturdy, but malleable. It had this consistency like indestructible putty. No wonder The Shi’ar and the Kree didn’t care about this place. It would be a baron rock if not for its wax-forests, but even baron planets often had valuable minerals. There was nothing on Enfant except rubber plants and a bunch of rejects, rejects like Browny. He licked the edges of his freshly rolled cigarette and lit it with a match.
The planet Enfant had no value to the two hawkish empires that perpetually puffed their chests as they sized each other up but rarely came to blows, but it had value to a loser like Browny. On his home planet, Browny was a petty criminal. He failed at school, then he failed at working and finally failed at crime. He skipped bail after he was arrested for snatching an old lady’s purse, then stowed away on a merchant ship that dumped him on Enfant, and it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Enfant was a world of shadows, all the people constantly coming and going allowing the criminal element to hide their doings in plain sight, and a corrupt law enforcement force that were easy to outfox, and even easier to buy. On Enfant, Browny was a fence, a crook and a smuggler, but best of all, he had his own gang, and that made him a king among men.
As he stamped out the butt of his cigarette, someone suddenly covered his eyes from behind. Normally, this could get a person killed, but he immediately knew who it was. One of the privileges of his position was the women. Browny was powerful and influential on his little world, and that meant he could have any woman he wanted on Enfant, and he usually did. In the past he went through dames as fast as he could tire of them, until now, because he had finally found one he could never tire of. It was Bevelyn who had snuck up on him undetected, just as she had somehow crept into his heart unnoticed until she had him under her spell. Normally Browny would smack a dame silly just for keeping him waiting this long, let alone creeping up on him and covering his eyes, but not Bevelyn. She had a hold on him, and everyone knew it. This was not good for his image, and he’d deny that she was anything more than just a dame, but he couldn’t stop the whispering on the street that Bowery Browny was soft for a skirt.
He spun around to face her and she giggled and kissed him on the lips. He stepped back and exclaimed, “Now cut that out you crazy dame.” But what that meant was Let me take a look at you beautiful. He drank in the sight of her. Her long, straight hair matched her slinky violet dress with a slit up the left side revealing a smooth green leg all the way up to and including her voluptuous thigh. “I’ve been waiting for you.” He said.
“Always keep a man waiting.” quipped Bevelyn, “That’s my motto.”
“C’mon Toots,” he retorted and gave her a firm slap on the ass. “It’s almost time for the meeting.”
They arrived at the abandoned warehouse on Peer 19, that the Bowery Gang used as their meeting space. Their real headquarters was Stug’s Bar, where most of the gang’s R&R took place, as well as business, but when a formal meeting was called, it happened here. Twelve men that comprised Browney’s gang stood on the floor listening for their orders. Browny stepped up onto a crate and addressed them.
“A vessel will be using Enfant’s orbit as a slingshot to its destination Wednesday night. This is a private vessel hired by a Kree banking institute. Space pirates have been hitting their armored vessels, so they’re trying the incognito approach. Here’s the plan. Over the past month I had Shiell and Cooley steal a couple of shuttles from the local customs authority, which I’ve had carefully hidden. We board the ship pretending to be customs agents, pretend we’ve found something of concern and round up the crew. Then we ice them. No one will know we were there, the Kree will blame pirates.”
“What’s the loot?” asked Cooley from the floor.
“Five metric tons of rhodium.”
A chill spread across the room. Rhodium was a precious metal used by both the Shi’ar and the Kree as the standard for their currency.
“Five metric tons?” shouted Shiell, “They won’t roll over for that.”
“That’s the beauty of the plan.” The Kree bankers thought that the loot would be safer if the crew transporting it didn’t know what they had. They think they’ve got a load of Rigellian wheat.”
On Hephaestus Xi, in the capital city there was a room, like many others, crammed wall to wall with computer consoles operated by volunteers and government employees working frantically on the same problem, how to appease the Titan Thanos. A month earlier Thanos had saved the Xi solar system by collecting antimatter dust that threatened to collide with the sun. For his service he’s been offered the one thing he desired, a means to the affection of the entity, Death. Of course, this deal was made under duress and the Hephaestians had no way to deliver what they promised, so Thanos granted them thirty days to come up with payment, or else he would return the antimatter to its collision course with their sun. Now only five days remained. Many had evacuated, but resources for escape ships were limited. Only the wealthiest one percent could afford escape. The rest stayed behind and waited to die, or searched for a way not to.
Collectively these operators scoured tirelessly, every computer network and database they could access, looking for something, anything to appease this Pied Piper of Titan. A university student named Olesa, who had left her studies to dedicate her time to this urgent matter, was scanning briskly through material in an ancient, outdated Kree database. She was sifting through files that hadn’t been accessed for thousands of years, when something caught her eye. Wait a sec, what’s this? she thought. She quickly did a search on a few names and dates. I may have something here! The room supervisor was Peria, the head of Hephaestus’s Council on Astronomy. She had told Olesa to alert her if she found anything no matter how vague.
“Chief Peria!” called Olesa.
Peria looked up from her own console and rushed over to Olesa’s. “What have you got?”
“Take a look at this.”
“My god, Olesa, I think you may have saved us.” She pressed a button on the communicator in her ear. “This is Chief Peria. Put me through to Ruler Ettes. This is top priority.”
Purple and green, purple and green, those were the two words that described the landscape the silver surfer looked over as he circled the globe. There was a booming metropolis in the northeastern hemisphere, the rest of the world was mostly…no, entirely undeveloped and carpeted with bi-colored vegetation. He lit in an empty back ally. He couldn’t do much to disguise himself, but he had the ability to adjust the reflectiveness of his surface area to absorb more light. In a place like this, between two of the galaxies biggest empires, inhabited by aliens from all over, word of Galactus, and his herald, would have reached. He went as dark as he could. He’d always be silver, but at max absorption level, his appearance took on a black metallic sheen. By The Power Cosmic, he molecularly reformed the contents of a near trashcan into fibers that wove themselves into clothes; grey slacks, a white button up shirt with a black tie and a brown raincoat. He also made a pair of oxfords for his feet and a wig for his head. His board presented a different problem. It was a part of him, and yet not. Did he have the power to alter its shape? He placed his hands on the board and concentrated. Yes! It was changing its shape to his will. He gave the board the shape of a great falcon, which promptly flew up to perch on his shoulder.
In an apartment above Stug’s Bar, Browny rolled off of his lover and lit a cigarette. Still sweet from love making, Bevelyn turned her head and whispered in his ear.
“See how I take care of you? You could let me take care of you outside of the bedroom too?”
“What are you on to you crazy dame?”
“Remember what I offered you on your job last night? It wouldn’t have gone wrong if you’d taken me up on it.”
In seconds he was sitting upright with his arm swinging through the air, smacking her across the face with great force. Any other broad would’ve flinched and cried out, not Bevelyn. She took the full force of the blow like a statue and then grind tauntingly, as if she felt no pain.
“Listen here,” Browny said, “You’re my girl and mine alone. I don’t share you with anyone, not to distract my enemies or for any other reason.”
“Your men could’ve died because of your jealousy. ‘Ice ‘em’, that was your plan. Did you think they’d roll over without a fight. Now you’ve got the fuzz looking for you, you wasted weeks planning a heist that could have lost you men and didn’t get you nothing. You’d be five tons richer if you’d listened to me. Besides, do you think your the only man who’s ever touched me? Ask yourself how much you know about me, you know nothing.”
“You seeing someone behind my back?” he could not hide his rage.
“No. I’m seeing you behind someone’s back. For one thing, I’m married. You didn’t know that did you?”
“Don’t worry though, even if he suspects, he let’s me do whatever I want.”
“Who is he,” Browny was trying to stay calm, “who’s your husband? Is he a hood, like me?”
“No”, she said casually as she examined her fingernails. “He’s a clown.”
“A clown?” he began to laugh hysterically, “My girl married a clown!”
“Well,” she kissed him on the lips, “don’t be jealous, I haven’t seen him since I started seeing you.”
“All right, all right. I can live with that.” He couldn’t though, this revelation was tearing him up on the inside. He was used to being able to control broads, with fear and the seductive draw of power. But with Bevelyn, it was always her who held the power, she could walk out that door anytime and wouldn’t look back, and damned if he didn’t put up with her lip just to keep her from doing it. The truth was that’s what turned him on about her, that and her being so damned mysterious.
“You’re right I don’t know enough about you, so tell me something. I’ve never seen a dame like you, where are you from.”
“I already told you,” she said, “I’m from here.”
“I mean originally.”
“Originally.” She made a goofy face at him.
“Oh, I give up!” He threw up his hands, got out of bed and started putting his pants on. “You know, you are impossible, woman!”
“I like that, I think I’ll keep it.” she said out loud, but too softly for Browny to hear.
The Morphus Museum of Galactic Science and History was little more than a curiosity shop. Nardo, its Shi’ar curator was an example of a class the Shi’ar didn’t want outsiders to know about. As much as they wanted the galaxy to see a race of warriors, someone had to pave roads, grow food, research chemistry and in some rare cases curate museums. Actually curating this place meant sitting on his keister and occasionally selling tiny, “authentic” alien mummies that were actually manufactured on Rigel for small amounts of money to the rare person who wandered into the place. Nardo was not a proud man, Shi’ar propaganda constantly reminded him of how fat and soft he’d grown, he was resigned to the fact that it was far to late to ever become the warrior his empire wanted him to be, but he wasn’t living with it very well. One day the strangest alien he’d ever seen walked into the place with a big bird on his shoulder. Called himself Norrin, Norrin Radd. He claimed to be a Zen-Lavian, but Nardo had met a Zen-Lavian before, pink skinned folk they were, not all black and glossy like this fellow. It didn’t matter though, his job wasn’t to be suspicious, his job was to push Rigillian knock off mummies.
The alien didn’t want no mummies though, he wanted to ask a lot of questions, Hell, thought Nardo, why not? This is a museum after all. He wanted to know about a rock, a rock that was soft like mud, even when cool. Well, I’ll be damned thought Nardo, he actually knew what this freak was talking about.
“Decades ago, when I’d only just started working here, this was actually once a legit museum, there was actually some valuable stuff in here, nothing like the Imperial Museum on the Throne World, but still there were a few pieces you wouldn’t sneeze at. So one day this guy comes in, says he’s from Buscemia, says he’s got this rock that’s an essential piece of the history of the universe, he says he’ll sell it to the museum for a mint. I tell the guy I don’t got the budget for something like that, which I don’t but I wouldn’t buy the thing anyway, because I can’t find a thing on it in any database. But I tell the guy what, it’s a unique rock, I’ve never seen nothin’ like it, and some tourists (yeah tourists, people used to sometimes still visit Morphus in those days) might be interested in looking at something strange like that, so I made the guy an offer, a small fraction of what he was asking, but the guy reluctantly took it, admitting it was more than any other museum had offered him and he didn’t have anywhere else to unload it.
“Anyways, ten years later, I come in to open up shop one day and find a clean house. We’d been burgled over night and the thieves got everything, including the weird mud rock thing. I never saw another one since then. Good riddance to the thing though, it never brought in a tourist, and it never helped me sell no mummies to no suckers.”
So this freaky alien, this Norrin Radd, he wanted to know where he could find out about who robbed the place. Nardo told him “You didn’t hear it from me, but there’s a guy, a Rigellian, around town called Browny who heads the Bowery Gang, the one guy I know of who knows everything that goes on in the underworld. He’s easy to find, but hard to approach. He hangs out in Stug’s Bar, but his thug’s ain’t gonna let no freaky alien talk to him.” He wished the freak good luck.
Bevelyn handed her purple handbag to Browny and went into the dressing room, under her breath he cursed himself for letting her domesticate him this way. First she insisted he take her shopping at Bandello’s, and now she had him holding her damned purse for her. He sat on a bench next to a Kree man and struck up a conversation. “I see yours has you trained too.” he said nodding at the green purse the man clutched.
“Can you believe it,” he said, “When I was young, I was one of the top warriors in the First Imperial Fleet, and today I run the Enfant branch of the Imperial Security Office, but here I am holding her purse while she tries on a dress. It may as well be me wearing the dress, while she tries on pants, am I right my friend?”
“Boy I know that feeling brother. Say, what’s this Imperial Security Office do?”
“I could tell you that, but then I’d have to kill you.” The Kree man laughed heartily at his own joke. Browny smiled politely and nodded. “Actually, in a sense that’s true. We are counter intelligence. Just here to make sure nothing’s going on on Enfant to threaten the Empire, but I must be pretty bad at it, since there always is!” He let out another belly laugh, “Seriously though, neutral planets in no man’s land are breeding grounds for terrorism and espionage. Enfant is no exception.”
“Say, if a fella’ like you needed ears and eyes in the underworld, would there be any money in that, for say a fella’ with a crew?”
The Kree man became visibly uncomfortable, “We recruit from within The Empire and my men do a fine job in the field. I also can’t be associated with any criminal element mister…”
“Bowery Browny?” The Kree man’s face lit up, “Why didn’t you say so, for a moment I took you for a small time mug. The help of a powerful local like you could be very valuable to The Empire.”
“Let’s meet somewhere more discreet and we shall discuss it.”
“I can usually be found at Stug’s Bar.”
“Then Stug’s Bar it is, tomorrow afternoon, say four o’clock?”
“Hey, four o’clock sounds great, it’s been a pleasure talking to you…”
“My name’s Bel-Dann.”
Just then two dressing room doors swung open and the women emerged from them. Bel-Dan’s girlfriend was a purple skinned alien, tall with a long, narrow face, in a slinky green dress. Bevelyn wore a similar dress in green.
“Come, Jimba,” said Bel-Dann, “you can wear it out. Or shall I wait for orders from you?” He gave up another of his deep laughs.
“You sure love purple.” said Browny, “Why is it always purple?”
“Yours loves purple, mine loves green!” laughed Bel-Dann, “But don’t complain, Purple on a green skinned girl looks almost as good as green on purple!” and he kissed Jimba on the lips. “See you tomorrow Browny!” and they walked off.
“I think you’ll be pleased. We have discovered a forgotten legend, of an object of cosmic significance. The holder of this object is said to have the power to bend the very laws of nature to his will. Our research shows that an ancient ancestor of the Kree, named Tam-Borr, discovered this object and literally altered the history of the Universe to allow the Kree Empire to flourish. apparently in Tam-Borr’s alternate timeline, a timeline that no longer exists, the Kree were a timid and primitive race, who would have died out quietly eons ago. Do you see what you can do with such an object! You could augment reality to fulfill your…desire, it’s called The Arani Stone and we know where it is!”
“I am pleased indeed, Mr. Ettes.” said Thanos, “You know where it is. Is it in this room? Do you have it for me?”
“Well, we haven’t had time to retrieve it yet. It’s on or near a forgotton planet called Conness, in an unnamed section of space where the Kree’s ancestors hailed from, but an expedition has been sent to locate it.”
“Oh, well that’s unfortunate for you.” Thanos turned to his slave escort. “Pass on the order to release the antimatter.”
“What!?” pleaded Ettes, “You can’t! We had a deal!”
“And you have not fulfilled your end of that deal. If this legendary object exists and if it holds the power you claim, you haven’t presented it to me. Our deal was for the solution to my conundrum, not an unconfirmed lead.”
“If you only wait for my expedition, you’ll see for yourself if it’s real. Or if you can’t wait, I’m sure you can retrieve yourself faster than my people can.”
“I know I can, but the fact remains that you have not fulfilled the bargain and your time is up. Thank you for the information, it certainly sounds promising, and this system will make a lovely gift for my beloved. I do hope it pleases her.”
The room filled with a blinding flash of light as Thanos teleported away.
“Come, Ruler Ettes, we must leave immediately. If we all not in interstellar space by the time those particles touch the sun, you will die.”
“I’m going nowhere. I have failed my people, it is my duty to stay and face their fate with them.”
“Give my spot to the woman.”
“Remember the beggar woman with a child we passed on the way into the building today. Find her and give her and her child a new chance at life, the baby won’t take up an adult space on the transport.”
Bel-Dann was right on time, not surprisingly accompanied by Jimba.
“You ladies order some cocktails and go talk lipstick, we have business to discuss.” Browny told Bevelyn. The two women went over to the bar and quietly sipped their drinks.
“My agents have hacked a high security section of the Shi’ar defense departments database, and have discovered plans for a new weapon being developed outside their empire. It’s compact and highly destructive, but…we don’t know exactly what it does. The specifications are encrypted, and we can’t break it, but we know that a prototype is being delivered to a Shi’ar ambassador named C’efn. I believe your crew have the ability to make sure it gets to us instead of him, but this must be done quietly. I can’t have a public scene. They won’t want to reveal this weapon exists, so no public crime means no public accusations. Understand?”
“I get it.”
“I’m prepared to offer you half a ton of pure rhodium in bars for this.”
“I’ll do it for two.”
“One ton, that’s my final offer.”
“Okay one ton it is.”
The two men shook hands when they were suddenly distracted by a commotion in the barroom. Browny turned in time to see a bizarre, glossy black alien with a huge silver falcon on his shoulder sock Shiell knocking him out cold. Cooley leapt from his chair producing his handgun from his shoulder holster. He pointed it directly at the alien’s head and fired a round. The bullet left no wound, but it neither ricocheted or passed through the alien’s head. It just seemed to vanish. The alien snatched the gun from Cooley’s hand and snapped it in half, meanwhile his falcon had pinned down two more of Browny’s men with its talons, while several others were rushing toward the alien.
“What the Hell is goin’ on!” Shouted Browny as loud as he could. Everyone froze.
“Well,” said Cooley, “This mug, y’see, he came in and he said he wanted to talk to ya, and Shiell said no mug talks to ya’ except us mugs, and he said ‘Then how do I become one of you mugs?’ and Shiell said ‘You don’t. You turn around and walk out that door.’ and he said, ‘I’m serious, I want to join the gang.’ and Shiell said, ‘Then you gotta prove that Browny has a use for you.’ and then out of nowhere he just…”
“He just proved how useful he is. Thank you Cooley you can shut your trap now. You, what’s your name?”
“Radd.” said the alien.
“Radd, you passed your audition. Sit down and have a drink.”
“To me, my bird!” called Radd, and the silver falcon let up the two men it had pinned and lit on Radd’s shoulder.”
“Hey, I think your bird better stay outside!” said Browny, looking like his patience was about to run out.
Radd simply nodded at him and the falcon flew out through the swinging doors without even being given a command.
Browny sat back down with Bel-Dann. “I’m sorry about that.”
Bel-Dann smiled and said, “Not to worry. I’m a Kree. I know these places can get rough. C’efn will be at The Muni on Friday night. You know the place?”
“Swanky night club, one of the classiest in town.”
“Someone will deliver it to him in a plain black suitcase at some time in the evening. Get it without being noticed, and be warned. Although C’efn is an ambassador, diplomacy is not in the Shi’ar philosophy. C’efn was a commander in the Shi’ar army who successfully conquered more worlds than any other Shi’ar officer. His ambassadorship was a reward. He is one of the greatest warriors who ever lived. Furthermore, he will be accompanied by his bodyguard and lover Ava’Dara, “The Warbird” whom is almost as dangerous. Come up with a plan, but don’t dare be noticed and don’t let them catch on to you.”
There was no panic on Hephaestus or any of the three colonized moons in the Xi system. Only despair, calm resignation and melancholia. Ruler Ettes’s voice rang out over loudspeakers and video receivers throughout the inhabited worlds.
“My dear people. It is with great regret that I address you today. As your elected leader, it was my duty to protect you from disaster, and in that I have failed you. It is now that we must together face our inevitable doom, and find hope in this, our darkest hour, that there is salvation in whatever lies beyond life. This is the end. Forgive me.”
Browny led the gang through the back door into the kitchen of The Muni brandishing guns. Shiell handed out paper money to the staff. “This is to keep quiet, and remember we know where you work.” he said. “Cooks keep doin’ what you’re doin’, waiters take the night off and leave your uniforms.”
After the wait staff was gone, Browny spoke up. “Okay, listen up everyone. Here’s a layout of all the tables. We didn’t know where the ambassador was going to be sitting until he arrived. He’s here now, and he’s at this table. Shiell, head down to the basement.”
Shiell nodded and left.
“Radd, You stick out like a sore thumb, but you’re here in case things get hot. Stay in the kitchen and watch us through the doors. If you see real trouble, use those special talents of yours to get us out of here alive.”
“Yes, Browny.” said Radd.
Wealthy merchants and businesspeople, socialites, officers from both empires and local politicians populated the white and pink room. Balloons and imported flowers decorated the round tables that seated the guests, and red and pink streamers hung from the ceiling. Those that weren’t enjoying Rigellian champaign and other top shelf beverages were on the dance floor, moving to the sounds of the house’s Altrusian swing band.
Browny and his men played the role of waiters for the night until shortly after eleven o’clock, a man deposited a plain black suitcase with C’efn. It was too big to inconspicuously leave on the table and he left it at his feet. Cooley, who had been waiting on C’efn, waited just long enough not to seem suspicious and walked up to the table. “Is everything alright over here ambassador?” as he asked, he pushed the suitcase under the table with his foot.
“Get lost!” replied C’efn. Shiell reached up from under the floor boards through the hole he had made with his laser cutter and pulled in the suitcase, then replaced it with the ringer. and pushed it out from under the tablecloth.
“Very good sir.” said Cooley an hastily returned to the kitchen.
About a minute later, a few confused guests noticed that the entire wait staff seemed to be vacating the floor.
When everyone was gathered in the kitchen, Browny said, “Okay, we’ve got it, let’s go.”
Shiell who was the first one to the door, was headed off by two Shi’ar warriors with tommy guns. “There’s nothing in the box, Browny.” said one of them.
“Dann set us up!” exclaimed Browny.
“Actually,” said the other, “no matter how much we tortured him, he refused to talk. It’s a good thing we already knew what he was up to.”
Cooley reached for his piece and the first Shi’ar ventilated him. Several of the men ran for the dining room while others tried to fire back. Bullets filled the air and Shiell caught three in the back and hit the floor. Radd’s falcon snatched the first Shi’ar’s heater. Radd put one arm around Browny when the second Shi’ar took aim directly at him…yet somehow, the bullets missed their mark.
“Come on Browny,” shouted Radd and ushered him into the dining room.
As the surviving men spilled out of the kitchen, several of the patrons produced weapons and started firing at them. “Shi’ar plants!” exclaimed Browny, as the music stopped and the band ran for cover, but to browny’s further surprise Bel-Dann had planted men of his own. Hidden in the rafters, Kree gunmen began firing back at the Shi’ar. People were screaming and running in every direction, (except for a group of Kronans who casually continued to dine as bullets bounced off of their stone hydes,) Kree, Shi’ar and innocents were eating lead all over the place and Browny suddenly realized that Radd was his only man standing, yet strangely, no bullet seemed able to find Browny or Radd. Browny pulled out his own piece and pointed it squarely at C’efn and put a slug between his eyes. “See you in Hell, Rat!”
Ava’Dara screeched piercingly and darted at Browny, but was intercepted by Radd’s falcon. “Come on, let’s go!” shouted Radd and they left the two birds locked in close combat as they dashed for the front door. Somehow bullets seemed to magically miss them as they made their escape and drove off in Browny’s car. They were soon joined by the falcon who’s talons dripped blood.
“You’re the only man I don’t know inside and out. It was you, you set us up!” said Browny.
“If I did, why would I save you.” replied Radd, and Browny couldn’t think of a reason.
As the antimatter particles made contact with the sun, each atom they touched exploded and each atom touched by those then exploded, and each atom touching those causing a chain reaction that tore through Xi turning her into a meganova that consumed each of her planets and any other heavenly object that existed within her gravitational pull, each one consumed feeding the fire. This all happened in a matter of seconds, but as Ettes’s body went through this instantaneous process, it felt like it took more than a minute, and he was never so aware of the macro-activity of his own body as he seemed to be able to feel every molecule, avery atom bursting one after the other until his brain was destroyed and he could think no more, and those last few thoughts were of the billions of subjects going through the very same ordeal at this moment because of his failure to serve them competently. A moment later there was nothing. Sun, planets, moons and lives all transformed back into the cosmic energy that no longer vibrated at exactly the correct frequency to hold the shape of matter.
In her realm the Lady Death laid back on her black bed. Her skeletal hand rested between her thighbones and a moan escaped her slightly parted jaws as she felt the massive influx of souls flow through her, and she couldn’t help but allow her dark heart to soften for Thanos, just a little.
Browny shook Bevelyn’s shoulder. “Wake up! We’ve got to get out of here.” Browny was standing over her, that new man, Radd, and his bird were with him. We were set up, my men are all dead and the Shi’ar are gonna kill me. We’ve got to leave the planet.”
“I can’t leave the planet, it’s my home.”
“We have to, we’ve got to get off Enfant or I’m dead.”
“Browny neither one of us is leaving this planet, and it’s not ‘Enfant’ and it isn’t ‘Morphus’ either. This is the Planet Poppup! That is the name its true people have always called it, long before you aliens ever settled here.”
“Poppup? Bevelyn, what are you talking about? There are no natives on this planet, there never were.”
“Browny, you’d be a lot smarter if you listened. Haven’t I always said I’m from here, originally?”
“But, where are your people?”
“We’re all around you. You see us every day, everywhere you go, and yet you don’t even know we’re there.”
There was a loud “POP” sound and where Bevelyn had stood was a tree.
A patch of grass.
“We are an ancient race.” the grass spoke in Bevelyn’s voice. “We’ve survived so long, we have perfected the evolutionary process to the point that we can adapt instantly to deal with any threat, including you Browny.”
Jimba stood there. “I told you you weren’t the only man I’d been with. I wish I could have been there to see it. It must have been beautiful. You see, It was me that made sure that you and Bel-Dann would meet, and that Bel-Dann’s and C’efn’s men would be ready for each other…and that you were not. As long as you aliens are too stupid to see the people right in front of your face, we…I will be free to pull your strings until every last one of you is off..my…planet!”
“It’s impossible!” Brownie’s mouth gaped. “I saw you both together!”
“Well, you’ve always said I was impossible, and that’s what I am, an ‘Impossible Woman’ and we are an impossible people. We reproduce asexually. We don’t know the pleasure of conception or the pain of childbirth. When we require greater numbers, we simply divide ourselves. It is impossible to kill us, so when our population grows too high, we simply reincorporate. By the way,” she put a finger on Browny’s chin. “I was faking it, every time.”
“Amoebas! You’re a bunch of overgrown, blasted amoebas!”
“Once I was a single organism, a membrane that covered the entire planet, my food came from the sun. There were animals, and plants here too, but as the animals evolved over the eons, the eventually, began eating from me. I was a thing of instinct then, but just as they had evolved I gradually began developing defenses, until eventually I was the aggressor. As the millennia went by we killed them all off. As I evolved I developed rudimentary intelligence that eventually became sentience and in order to survive I learned how to divide myself into smaller beings. As I became many, our minds took different paths. We all share a memory of when we were one, but every time we split off, we become unique individuals and a pleasant side effect of this was company, comradeship. I never knew I was lonely until I became we. We are sexless, but we form close emotional bonds. I told you once that I had a husband, and it’s basically true. After the animals were all gone, the plant life spread unchecked, and we had to evolve even more to survive. By the time all the plants were gone we had developed the ability to make any evolutionary adjustment to ourselves instantly and at will. By the time the aliens arrived, there had not been so much as a germ on this planet for millions of years. Perhaps we are amoebas, Browny but amoebas don’t build empires. Amoebas don’t start wars.”
A nine foot creature like a praying mantis with a lion’s head appeared and said, “Amoeba’s survive!” and impaled Browny on scythe shaped claw. She got him right through the heart. After all, she’d spent enough time softening it up.
“Don’t worry.” said Radd, “I won’t tell anyone your secret.”
“No you won’t” the Impossible Woman replied and swung her other claw at his neck, connecting with a clang, like steel against steel.
“I think you’ll find,” said Radd, “that you aren’t the only one in this room that can’t be killed.” He reached up and removed his hair, which was just a wig to reveal a smooth bald head. the tone of his glassy black skin brightened until it was silver matching his bird, which had now morphed into a board that he held under his arm.”
The Impossible Woman had returned to her “Bevelyn” form and fell to her knees She clasped his right hand between both of hers and pleaded with him. “No! Not here! Not now, when I’m so close to getting the aliens off the world!”
“So, you know who I am. Well you can relax. Galactus isn’t coming here, I’m no longer in his service. I came here looking for an object that was once in this planet’s museum. It’s important to the survival of the universe. I know you see everything that goes on here, can you help me? It’s a malleable piece of stone that doesn’t hold its shape at any temperature.”
“Yes I know what happened to it, If I tell you what I know, you must promise he will never come here.”
“If you tell me what happened to the stone, I will do everything in my power to prevent Galactus from ever coming here.”
“The object was brought here about twenty years ago by a xenarchiologist from the planet Buscemia. Five years later, the museum was ransacked by treasure hunters. They split up their booty and your object was taken by a man from the planet Artemis Phi. He left on a ship headed there. Once he was off Poppup, he ceased to be my concern.”
“Thank you, this is very helpful.”
“Before you leave let me ask you one thing. Why did you protect Browny during the gunfight?”
“I planned to earn his trust and eventually get the information I needed from him. I needed him alive.”
“Then why did you let me kill him?”
“I didn’t need him anymore. I make a point of not killing anyone if I can avoid it, but Browny didn’t deserve my protection. I left him to his just deserts. When you revealed who you really are, I realized you must know far more than he did, and unlike Browny, it seemed like asking you a direct question would be productive.”
“Be on your way, Herald, and remember your word. Never return here. Poppup if for Poppians, no one else.”
With his board under his arm, Norrin Radd walked out of Stug’s Bar and looked around. The purple-trunked trees that lined the streets, with their green leaves and inedible purple fruit, swayed gently, but he now new that it was not the wind that moved them. The Silver Surfer shuddered as he set his board on the ground and stepped onto it. In an instant he was gone. He didn’t look back.
Ava’Dara lay in her hospital bed. C’efn had trusted her to plan the sting and his trust in her had got him killed. He’d informed her that the Kree had hired a gang of maggot hoods to intercept that prototype and honored her with the task of coming up with a plan to catch them. It should have been simple, but she had failed. She didn’t count on the Kree supporting these thugs with their own men, and she hadn’t counted on that mysteriously powerful bodyguard. Her failure had cost her C’efn, and as a Shi’ar, her only course for redemption now, was revenge. If she failed at that, she must destroy herself.
After treating her wounds, the doctors couldn’t understand what kept her alive, but she knew. Anger kept her alive.
Well, Reboot Rebels, did you see that ending coming, I sure didn’t and I WROTE IT! Be back next time for “Refuge”!