Department H Status Report: Heather Hudson, Guardian, reporting: When I last filed a report, two days ago, I said we weren’t prepared for the battle to come. I was right. It started with a woman simply named Her landing in Toronto with an intergalactic corporation hot on her heels. We decided to help Her. The words I had said to my husband Mac - Vindicator - rang too true. Our job was to protect the innocent no matter what the cost. With the city in ruins and Alpha Flight on the brink of defeat, the United Nations super human task force - the Avengers - arrived to bail us out. Then we found out what the real cost of our actions would be…While unknown to us, events unfolding in space would soon have drastic effects on all of us in Toronto….
Deep in space, somewhere, Frankie Raye a.k.a. Nova wakes, confused, she recalls that one second ago she is in the atmosphere over the planet, the next she is getting over a major headache. Frankie flies down towards the green planet nearby, joking that it feels like her head is on fire (because of course her head is on fire), and supposes that the only way to figure out what happened is to ask the natives. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’ She announces that she is the Herald to Galactus and asks what has happened to the planet.
The dozens of beings floating around the planet in a circle approach Nova, introducing themselves as the Qwrlln, they reveal that they know who she is. One of the Qwrlln explains that to save themselves from the World-Devourer, the shunted their planet to another dimensional plane. ‘No kidding?’ asks Frankie Raye. The Qwrlln reveal that over the millennia their entire civilization has been predicated on divining the means to protect themselves from the coming of Nova’s master, and this planetary safeguard was their final option.
‘You’re not kidding!’ realizes Frankie Raye, remarking that having their entire planet running away from Galactus is a little absurd. The Qwrlln reply that they choose to live and point out that they have avoided the grip of Galactus. Frankie Raye asks the Qwrlln what it is that makes them think moving their planet to another dimension is going to keep Galactus from finding them? The Qwrlln state that it would take Galactus an eternity to scan every aspect of every dimensional plane in existence.
Frankie Raye asks the Qwrlln if they took into account the possibility that Galactus could home in directly to her. ‘No…’ the Qwrlln begin to say, when a booming voice interrupts them: THAT IS UNFORTUNATE…FOR YOU HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FLEE FAR ENOUGH FROM THE COMING OF GALACTUS! declares the World-Devourer as he makes his presence known.
In Toronto meanwhile, the battlefield has expanded in scope and participants. ‘We’re in big trouble!’ As one of the Consortium space ships approaches the sultry Avenger known as Sersi, she blasts it with her powers, boasting that it is nothing a little Eternal molecular reconstruction can’t handle. The cause of the battle, J’Ridia “Her” Starduster takes in the sight of more Earth heroes fighting for her safety and wonders if she has the right to endanger them any longer.
Wendell Vaughn a.k.a. the handsome Avenger Quasar realizes that this battle has escalated into a real war, and as he is the appointed Protector of the Universe, wonders how he can reconcile that with all of this carnage. James Hudson a.k.a. Vindicator of Alpha Flight calls to the heroes, suggesting that they do not fight the Consortium individually or one ship at a time, as the Consortium will outlast them that way, adding that they have to coordinate a planned joint defense. The android Avenger, Vision, replies that Vindicator has a point, but that the sheer quantity of the attacks craft prevent them from finding the time to do so.
On the ground below, Captain America, the United States of America’s symbol of hope, struggles to protect the panicked civilians. Cap urges them into the subway stations, but all around him the effects of the devastation are showing, as one woman carrying her daughter is knocked aside by a blast. Steve Rogers thinks to himself that there is too much going on - too many people caught in the middle of it - too much destruction. He ushers more people down to safety, reminding them not to panic.
Suddenly, Heather “Guardian” Hudson lands by Captain America, thanking him for coming as they needed the help badly. Captain America asks his Canadian counterpart what has happened here, who the aliens are and why they are decimating the city. Heather informs her American counterpart that the aliens call themselves the Consortium and are an intergalactic corporation after a woman named Her.
Cap reveals that the Avengers have a file on Her and asks why the Consortium want her. Heather replies that she has no idea, before discovering that her battle suit is severely overheated, and explaining to Cap that they haven’t had time to find out yet. Captain America asks Heather if she is certain that Her warrants their protection, to which Heather tells Cap to look around him - if she wasn’t certain would she have let things get this bad?
‘Of course not,’ replies Cap, before pointing out that the situation may be beyond their ability to control it. Heather reveals that she asked herself the same question - to what lengths are they willing to go in order to save one single person? As flames burn bright around them, Captain America replies that he doesn’t know the answer to that, and supposes that they are going to find out.
Back in the air, J’Ridia Starduster flies over to Quasar and asks him how he is faring. As the cosmic Avenger engages in battle he introduces himself, before explaining that he finds this kind of full-scale war sickening, he is not faring too well. However, as Wendell displays his powers, he reveals that his ability to battle effectively is faring just fine.
Down below, the Olympian Avenger Hercules and the jade giantess known as the She-Hulk a.k.a. Jennifer Walters smash their way through reptilian agents of the Consortium. Quasar watches his teammates from above, remarking that it is typical of Hercules to actually enjoy all of this, before telling himself to concentrate on stopping the incoming assault and protecting innocents - while trying not to notice the legs on Her.
As Walter Langkowski a.k.a. Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch uses his incredible strength to kick a tram into a horde of Consortium aliens, he wonders who is going to pay for all this damage, while back in the air, Quasar flies towards the underbelly of a ship and discovers that it looks like it contains a fuel nacelle, so suggests to J’Ridia that she strikes to impair, not destroy. J’Ridia reminds Quasar of his previous comment about too many civilians remaining in danger on the ground, while on the ground, the She-Hulk grapples with several aliens at once, telling them that there is plenty of her to go around. One of the aliens mutters something in its native tongue, to which Jennifer tells it to be quiet as she is talking. In the air, Her and Quasar manages to disable the space craft.
Nearby, the sultry Lillian Crawley a.k.a. Alpha Flight’s Diamond Lil has engaged an alien in chase, ‘Get back here ya scrawny little alien dork!’ she yells, as the alien replies ‘Stay away!’ Lil is intrigued that the small alien speaks English, and backs the alien up against a mesh fence. Cornered, the alien reveals that he has a universal translator implanted in his brain. Lillian reminds him that his gun fired something that penetrated her skin. Twisting the alien so he has his back to her, Lil exclaims that she needs it, wants it and is going to have it.
The alien replies that it would not be possible. ‘And why is that?’ asks Lil as she grabs the alien’s arm and shoves the gun in the his face, only for the alien to reply that the gun is biocybernetically attached to his mind and body. ‘SO?’ asks Lil loudly as she lifts the alien up and holds him above her, The alien reveals that to remove the gun without proper procedures would kill him. Lil asks where she would have to go for these “proper procedures”.
The alien explains that they would have to go to his home planet, as it is the only place the necessary surgery could be performed without causing him irreparable damage. Lil remarks that it is ridiculous before asking if the gun doesn’t have a manual trigger. The alien reveals that the gun does, but that many of his race became cyber linked to the guns in order to better serve the Consortium. Lil shoves the alien, calling him an idiot, she declares that she needs the gun and asks him what he is forcing her to do.
Meanwhile, back in space….the Qwrlln can only watch in horror as the planet-devouring equipment is assembled. The Qwrlln realize that they have become as unto a grain of sand on an endless beach. They are no longer a people with a time-honored sense of history and importance, but merely another statistic in the numerical conquests of Galactus. Knowing Galactus’ equipment is not yet completed, they wonder if they have time to contact their agents.
One of the Qwrlln asks if their signal could even pierce the dimensional void to reach the planet Earth in time. Another of the Qwrlln explains that Earthlings are the only species to repulse the World-Devourer, and reminds his fellows that their agent was recently resurrected with this contingency in mind. Another of the Qwrlln asks what choice they have, before declaring the signal to be ordered - ‘Call the super humans to aid our cause!’
Back on Earth, Vindicator destroys one of the Consortium’s ships, but points out that for every one he destroys, five more take its place. Sersi approaches Mac, remarking that she has noticed this also, and admits that even an Eternal has her limits. Vindicator replies that everyone has limits, to which the beautiful Sersi asks how much longer they can continue at this pace before everyone reaches their limit.
Vindicator destroys another ship, only for five more to appear by him. ‘Not too much longer I’m afraid’ he remarks angrily. Sersi points out that they seem to have been granted a momentary respite, to which Mac remarks is interesting, when he suddenly receives an incoming call from Guardian, asking him to come down ASAP. Mac informs Sersi that everyone has to regroup on the ground.
Moments later, Mac and Sersi meet up with Heather, Captain America and the others. Cap asks for a topside status report, to which Vindicator reveals there is a momentary lull in the airborne assault, and supposes that the Consortium might by refuelling or rearming. Heather remarks that either way, it means they are getting closer to ending this nightmare.
From a wall nearby, Natasha Romanova a.k.a. the Black Widow of the Avengers informs everyone that they are surrounded by troops in a three perimeter block, explaining that the Consortium are closing them off from any means of retreat. Madison “Box” Jeffries asks the Black Widow who said anything about retreating. Sasquatch agrees with his teammate, before encouraging everyone to dig in and settle this once and for all.
Vindicator remarks that it may very well come down to that, and Hercules exclaims that it will be a battle of song and glory. ‘Maybe a battle of song and gory, Herc’ She-Hulk suggests. Mac announces that Northstar and Windshear are coming down, and on their way, the handsome Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier asks his teammate Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear if he also sees the aliens gathering below. Colin does, and suggests to Jean-Paul that they get some protection to the “chaps” below, and arriving at their teammates meeting point, Windshear creates some hard-air screens to protect everyone for a time.
Hercules invokes the name of his father as the Consortium’s next attack begins, before everyone engages in battle again. Suddenly, a blast is fired at one of the aliens, and Diamond Lil makes her presence known - asking everyone if they need a hand, she boasts that the one she has works like a blast. Everyone gathers around Lillian, and as Quasar announces that the alien troops are scattering, Heather asks Lil where she has been.
Lil reveals that she was nailed by the alien zap gun she is holding, and explains that it actually cut her. She reveals that she went after the alien who wore it and reminds everyone that she has had problems getting something to cut through her skin to do a biopsy on her tumor. Lil holds the gun up and apologizes to Sasquatch for running out on him, but states again that it was something she had to do.
Vindicator interrupts Lil, remarking that it seems they have a temporary cease fire and pointing out that they have some difficult decisions to make. Solemnly, Her steps forward and tells Vindicator that she understands, as neither the heroes nor this city could withstand another full-scale Consortium assault. J’Ridia announces that she will leave Earth immediately and take her burdens too. However before Her can take flight, Quasar steps forward and exclaims that pretending this is not their problem is not the answer. Wendell claims that he has seen enough of this universe to disagree with an isolationist mentality, so asks Her to tell everyone exactly why the Consortium is after her.
(Shown with Flashback illustrations)
Her explains to Alpha Flight and the Avengers that it began during her wandering of the cosmos in search of fulfilment. She encountered a technological nightmare of a planet called U’sr’pia, which was ruled by a petty despot of minimal metahuman abilities. Her understood that this world had been a paradise, so she brought the despot’s rule down about him and returned power to the people. J’Ridia then stayed on the planet and helped the people slowly restore its ravaged eco-system, and for the first time in her confused existence, she began to feel a sense of purpose…and then the Consortium came.
J’Ridia clarifies that the Consortium are an intergalactic business conglomerate who have done extensive business with the planet of U’sr’pia and were not at all happy with the planet’s return to an agricultural state. The Consortium informed J’Ridia that the planet was in violation of legally binding contracts and would forfeit their self-determination to Consortium control. Her tried to repel them, but she was limited by her need to protect the planet as well, so she fled, not only to elude the Consortium, but to draw their attention away from U’sr’pia.
Her brings the story full circle by explaining that she came to Earth - her planet of birth - seeking the aid of the super human community here, and tearfully declares that she had no intention of bringing this battle with her, just gaining needed assistance in her dealings with the Consortium. Captain America remarks that they now know what happened, and Guardian declares that they also know the Consortium must be stopped - no matter what the cost.
Suddenly, the booming voice of the Consortium make an announcement to the heroes, ‘People of Sol III, you have proven yourselves very worthy business adversaries!’ Everyone looks on, slightly unsure, as Vindicator remarks that this is probably the time for negotiations. A blue-skinned alien begins to descend from the mother ship, introducing himself as the Chief Executive Officer of the Consortium, he informs the heroes that he has a three-fold business proposition for them.
First point is that he wants J’Ridia Starduster handed over immediately, and all hostilities will then cease. Point two states that honor barring such a transaction will allow Her off Earth and continue their personal negotiations with Her beyond the confines of Sol III. Point three…’Repudiation of points one or two will result in total planetary take over!’ The Consortium informs the heroes that they have ten seconds to decide.
Alpha Flight and the Avengers look at each other, Quasar looks at J’Ridia, then Her declares that she will surrender - but Heather turns to Her and exclaims that it is not the answer, that they cannot abandon her to those scum. J’Ridia tells Heather to look around herself, pointing out that their options appear very limited.
Suddenly, a blast of energy strikes Vindicator, and a message is relayed through his body: ‘Your assistance is required off-planet’. Sasquatch asks Mac what he is talking about, when he replies ‘I am the vehicle through which transportation will be implemented’. Heather asks Mac what has happened to him, why he has allowed his mechanical components take control.
‘Billions of beings require immediate assistance’ states Mac, before revealing that “this unit” is instructed to remove agents from Terran-sphere. Guardian tells him to wait, pointing out that millions need them here on Earth. Hercules backs her up, but it is too late, as Vindicator, Guardian, Box, Windshear, Sersi, Quasar, Hercules, Vision and Her suddenly vanish. Northstar, Sasquatch, Diamond Lil, Puck, Captain America, She-Hulk and the Black Widow stare at the space their friends and allies stood, and Sasquatch asks where they went.
Judd points out that Vindicator teleported half of them away, but is unsure why. Captain America is about to state a more pressing concern, when She-Hulk interrupts, asking her leader why he has to be so calm about it, before pointing out that Her vanished with the others. The Chief Executive of the Consortium leers down at the remaining heroes, asking them how they can dare disrupt a Consortium negotiation, ‘You have illegally absconded with company holdings!’
The Consortium declares that for the affront, they are now commencing a full-scale corporate take-over of this world’s assets! Hundreds of Consortium ships appear seemingly out of nowhere, as the remaining heroes look up, Judd whispers that he thinks he just wet himself.
Meanwhile, in inter-dimensional space, the planet Quwrll to be precise. Vindicator, Guardian and the others are teleported in, and Mac states that the beings responsible for the continued functioning of “this unit” require super human assistance. ‘So do the people of Toronto!’ exclaims Heather, asking Mac how he could do this to them and where they are. Vindicator reveals that they are on the planet Quwrll, and several of the Qwrlln approach the heroes.
The Qwrlln apologize for the abruptness of their request, and explain that assistance is necessitated in altercation with the World-Devourer. The Qwrlln state that only super human interference has deterred the path of the World-Devourer in past confrontations. “World-Devourer”? asks Hercules, asking the Qwrlln if they mean who he thinks they mean. ‘Affirmative, Olympian’ replies Mac, before informing everyone that they must defeat Galactus! Everyone turns to see Galactus, now linked up to the planet Quwrll. ‘Umm…do we have any say in this?’ asks Box.