Reality is a series of coincidences strung together by accident. Or, to put it another way… reality is an accident waiting to happen. There is one happening now. ‘AAIEEEE!’ screams Kang as he is tossed about through a burst of energy. ‘I’m alive! Alive! But where - where am I?’ the villain wonders. Before his eyes he sees the Time Streams diverging spontaneously - Time Streams of Earth. However, as suddenly as they appear, they vanish. Kang realizes that he is still trapped in the surface of that wretched time bubble, and once he was ejected from the probability envelope that surrounded the Avengers’ Quinjet in the maelstrom, he cased to exist in any substantive reality. He knows that even now, his existence can only have been produced by a confluence of random probabilities, and that when those probabilities shift again, he shall be gone like smoke.
Kang watches as more, alternative Time Streams begin to regenerate. But, suddenly, the randomness disappears, and Kang realizes that something is wrong. The Time Streams disappear and there are fewer and fewer options. He sees demonic beings of some kind ravaging the planet at will across the Time Stream, with none who can withstand them. Kang ascertains that it is the Earth of the Avengers, and wonders where they are and why they are not at the forefront of Earth’s defense. The demons attack civilians and ravage the city. ‘Where are any of the super powered beings of the past who have plagued the Time Stream so often?’ Kang wonders. He tells himself that there can only be one answer, that such beings must already be dead - not only have the demons destroyed them but like a virus infecting the Time Stream, they are steadily destroying alternative futures of Earth as well.
‘This cannot be! I already know that at some point in Earth’s future, the Avengers are destined to enter the bubble. And my sole chance of escaping this non-existence is to enter their probability envelope as they pass!’ Kang thinks to himself. ‘They will be the only genuine reality in this shifting miasma of illusion’ he knows, realizing that if this demonic possession of the Time Stream goes unchallenged, there will obviously be no Avengers. Kang laments that in the most bitter of ironies, he must help his deadliest enemies to save himself - and for that, he must activate his harness and seek the source of this demonic invasion. There is a surge of energy as Kang vanishes, then re-appears, seeing demons around him, he realizes that he has arrived too late - the invasion has already begun. He dare not risk another jump, as every move he makes puts more and more stress on his already tenuous existence.
‘How ironic that Kang, the Master of Time, should have so little of it left!’ he remarks, deciding that he must move like the wind and see what he can see, while praying that the Avengers are not already destroyed. He puts his scanners at full power, to learn what is happening. He sees buildings covered in some sort of grime and realizes that this city is the source of the diseases, the buildings are even infected with the demonic plague. Further south, he sees a growth atop the matching towers, with demons swarming into it like insects. ‘Within this foul-smelling hive, must be the masters of the demons!’ Kang tells himself.
Indeed, within the diseased towers, several demons race to tell N’astirh that S’ym is about to leave Limbo and that the Goblin Queen is preparing for the sacrifice. ‘Good! Soon the game shall be mine!’ N’astirh declares, while images of Madelyne Pryor the Goblin Queen and the demon S’ym are projected in portals nearby.
‘And I shall be lost! What of the Avengers? Still no sign on the scanners!’ Kang declares, before his scanner shows him hope: ‘Who? The face is familiar, but - it is him! Captain America! But in different garb! And accompanied by two of the Fantastic Four as well! Engaged in battle in the park in the center of the city!’ He soars through the city, ‘Faster! Faster! Each move I make stretches me thinner and thinner!’ Kang knows that he must succeed while he still has enough substance left to affect this time and its inhabitants. ‘Below me! I’ve found them!’ he exclaims, as he sees Reed Richards and Susan Storm-Richards a.k.a. Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, respectively, battling a being in red armor that is breathing fire at them. ‘Sue! Your force field! Now!’ Reed calls out, to which Susan throws her force field around has the fire nearly strikes her. ‘Don’t yell at me, darling! I’m quite capable of protecting myself!’ Sue exclaims, before asking what they can do, as somehow, their son, Franklin, is trapped inside that horrible armor. ‘And he’s trying to kill us!’
The Eternal known as the Forgotten One strikes the armored Franklin Richards from behind, ‘He shall not have the chance! I have traveled half the world to slay monsters and slay them I shall!’ he exclaims. But, Franklin barely flinches at the punch. He turns to the surprised Eternal, who declares ‘That blow would have stopped the bull of Heaven and it has no marked effect! Except to alert the one called Franklin to my presence!’
A few feet away, the heroic Steve Rogers, now known as the Captain, shoves his armored foe, known as the Orphan Maker. ‘I don’t recognize our new playmate there and I don’t think Reed does either. But I’m betting he may be able to damage Franklin if he really uncorks’ Cap thinks to himself, referring to the Eternal, he knows that they have got to finish this fight fast, before Franklin gets hurt. ‘Head’s up, tinker toy! I’m still nursing a grudge after your boys nailed me from behind! So let’s try a little applied leverage!’ Cap exclaims as the Orphan Maker falls to the grass, hard, and starts crying, and calling out for Nanny. ‘Peter! No! That nasty hurt you!’ the bizarre egg-shaped villainess called Nanny declares as she waddles over to the Orphan Maker.
‘That’s it! We’ve all been fighting a holding action up till now… because we didn’t have a handle on our enemies! We just found one!’ Reed thinks to himself as he stretches towards the egg-shaped space ship where Nanny stands near and wraps himself around the Orphan Maker, while reaching down with an extended arm towards Nanny, he tells her that the game is over - that she and her partner have run out of options. ‘No! You let Peter go!’ Nanny retorts, but Reed tells her that he will only after the reach an agreement. ‘I think you value the safety of your “Child” here a great deal. As I value mine. Free him’ Reed declares. Cap approaches the two and tells Reed ‘Nicely done. Looks like you’ve fund the lever’. Calling Nanny “Humpty Dumpty”, Cap suggests to her that she had better release Franklin, now.
‘Franklin! Stop!’ Nanny calls out with urgency. The giant red-armored Franklin comes to a stop. ‘Franklin? Franklin?’ Susan calls out from behind her force field. Franklin says nothing. ‘Reed, he’s not saying anything! He’s just standing there!’ Sue declares. Reed explains that he is still entranced, and stretches back towards Nanny, still wrapped around the crying Orphan Maker, Reed warns Nanny that he wasn’t kidding when he said to free Franklin. ‘I don’t want to hurt you or your boy, but where my child is at risk, I’ll be just as bad as I have to be. Don’t make me do something we’ll both regret’ Reed declares.
Back in the tower, a blue-skinned demon holds a portal open before the drooling N’astirh: ‘Master, see what Klytus has found! It looks like a robot, but Klytus knows different! There is a child inside it! A special child! Full of power! A dark childe!’ the demon declares. ‘Klytus thought -’ the demon begins, to which N’astirh tell the demon that he has thought clearly - another dark childe could be very useful to them. The horse-faced N’astirh turns to a portal showing an image of the Goblin Queen and remarks that the time is near when the Goblin Queen will play her all important role in this on-going drama, little reckoning that she shall be a sacrificial lamb instead of a ruling tiger.
N’astirh adds that she may not relish the change in tole, and though she lies in the hollow of his hand, she is worrisome. ‘Too much power. Too little obedience. This…dark childe you have found could aid us, Klytus’. N’astirh adds that power is their weapon, and the power of such a child is infinitely corruptible in their service. Klytus asks about S’ym, to which N’astirh looks at the portal depicting S’ym’s image and declares that he is barely worth a candle when the drama is finished, that he shall be an eternal prisoner in Limbo, while they will rule the world. ‘I go to fetch this new and most interesting childe!’ N’astirh announces.
And in Central Park: ‘Nanny?’ Orphan Maker asks as he enters the egg space ship. ‘It’s all right, little one. We’re leaving’ Nanny tells him, while singing ‘Ride a cock-horse to a Banbury cross, to but little Peter a galloping horse, it trots behind and it ambles before, and Peter shall ride till he can ride no more!’, before instructing Peter to get inside while she leaves a rhyme behind for Franklin. Standing in the doorway to the egg space ship, Nanny looks at Franklin and sings ‘See saw, Margery daw Frankie shall have a new master! For Nanny will say that Frankie must slay, until he can’t kill any faster!’ As she slams the door to the egg space ship, Nanny adds ‘I mean all of them, Franklin!’ Susan calls out to Reed, who stretches over to their hovercraft and assures Sue that it is all right, that he thought it might end like this, only now instead of Nanny and a potential arsenal, they have only Franklin to deal with.
‘And this time, I’m ready!’ Reed exclaims as he pulls a cable from a panel in the hovercraft, he swings it like a lasso and tells Sue to keep the others back, as a high energy stream of electrons will fuse his armor and stun him. ‘But you may hurt him - even kill him!’ Sue calls out. Reed tells her that they must take that chance, for as long as he is under Nanny’s mental control, the entire world is in deadly peril. As the cable strikes Franklin’s armored form, there is a loud noise, and energy crackles around Franklin, as Reed points out that it is fortunate Nanny seems to have been unable to unleash Franklin’s full power - or they wouldn’t still be alive! Franklin then falls to the ground with a mighty KLANG!
‘Franklin!’ Sue screams. ‘Reed! Is he -?’ she begins, to which Reed tells her that will know in a moment, as he has some probes in the air-sled. Cap tells Reed that they have another problem, Nanny and her companion are considering a quick and unheralded departure. ‘Perhaps we should -’ Cap begins, but Sue releases an invisible force beam, ‘You don’t have to say another word, Captain! Nobody’s going anywhere!’ she exclaims as the beam latches on to the egg-shaped space ship that has sprouted legs, before scuttling off into the air. ‘Least of all the murderous scum who kidnaped my son and tried to use him to destroy us!’ Sue shouts. She struggles as Nanny increases power to try and pull away. ‘But I’m not going to let them go! I’m not!’ Sue declares. Cap tells her to be careful, and suddenly, the egg space ship explodes into hundreds of pieces!
Susan knows that the shrapnel might hurt someone if she isn’t fast enough, and catches all of the pieces in a force bubble, before dumping them out of harm’s way in a nearby body of water. ‘How light the wreckage seems now compared to the ship as it tried to escape!’ Sue remarks, before rushing over to Reed, who holds a probe up to the armor, ‘Are you sure -?’ Sue calls out, as Reed assures her that Franklin is all right - his heartbeat is strong and his pulse regular and respiration normal, but that they need to get him home to remove the armor safely. Reed announces that the armor is filled with an energy absorbing network that powers the machinery and it seems to have been constructed around him. Reed supposes that Nanny did not expect to let Franklin out again, and admits that there is technology here that he is unfamiliar with. ‘A pity it died with its builder’ he remarks.
The Forgotten One looks out over the water and declares ‘It didn’t! There isn’t enough wreckage here to account for that entire vessel!’ He remarks that however she did it, Nanny managed to jettison a decoy and escape. Cap points out that Franklin could still be in danger, and Reed announces that he will attend to that, and they won’t have to worry about Nanny breeching his home defenses again. ‘Good’ Cap tells Reed, before remarking that he is puzzled. ‘I may not know the names but I know a lot of the faces…and I don’t recognize you’ he tells the Eternal. ‘Nor do I’ Reed confesses. The Eternal informs the Captain that they fought together once before, the two of them ,against the renegade Celestial. ‘Though even as you, I wore different garb and I bore no name’.
Someone asks the Eternal if he has a name now, to which he replies ‘I have had many. I woke when the world was new and slew dragons. Enkidu was my brother! Achilles my friend! I helped Aeneas set his standard upon the Palantine Hill…and strove beside David in the Mountains of Judah’. Cap then realizes who they are speaking to: ‘You’re the Nameless Eternal, the Forgotten One!’ he declares. ‘Indeed. It’s nice to be remembered’ the Eternal replies. Reed suggests that if Enkidu was really his brother, then perhaps they should call him Gilgamesh, mankind’s most ancient monster slayer! ‘You are well read, Mr Richards. It was my name…once. Not the first, but it will serve’ Gilgamesh replies. Cap points out that it may be appropriate, as the city is under attack, and there are no Avengers to defend her. He adds that he is convinced more than ever that the Avengers must live again. ‘If you intend to hunt monsters, I would join you’ Gilgamesh announces.
Reed explains that he and Sue retired from the Fantastic Four to devote more time to Franklin, and points out that there are a lot of heroes around now, not like it was when they first created the Fantastic Four. ‘How many have your experience, Mr Richards?’ Gilgamesh asks. ‘Should you not reconsider -’ he begins, when suddenly, ‘REED! SUE! Behind you!’ Cap shouts as a portal opens above Franklin, whom everyone had turned away from. ‘Something’s taking Franklin!’ Cap exclaims as N’astirh appears through a portal and grabs the armored child. N’astirh tells the heroes that they really don’t have time for introductions. ‘But the day will come when you shall remember the name N’astirh…and worship it!’ he exclaims. Cap leaps for Franklin, and N’astirh tells him that he is fast - but not fast enough. ‘NOOO!’ Cap calls out as N’astirh and Franklin vanish through the portal.
‘Franklin!’ Susan cries out. Reed stretches over to the air sled and tells the others ‘Quickly! Before all trace of it vanishes, I’ve got to activate my sensors to try to track it!’ Reed presses a button and remarks ‘Incredible! Whatever sort of teleportation that creature employed, it’s without any sort of energy signature!’ A horrified Susan asks Reed if this means he cannot find Franklin. ‘I don’t know yet, honey. But rest assured, we aren’t going to stop looking until we do’ Reed assures his wife. Cap tells Reed that he is sorry he didn’t react in time, but Reed tells his friend not to blame himself. ‘You did your best and none of the rest of us even had time to move’. Reed adds that now they are going to have to do their best.
And shortly, the hovercraft has taken to the skies over the infected city, Reed and Sue are in the front, while Cap and Gilgamesh are in the back compartment. Reed declares that he may not be able to track that demon, whatever it was, but that Franklin is another matter, as the power he is generating should lead a trace, provided that the suit he is wearing doesn’t absorb it completely.
Up above, Kang hovers, and realizes that even Richards will have difficulty locating his son amid the static being generated by this inferno. Kang knows that his existence here is almost at an end, as he is fading away to nothing as the probabilities in the time bubble shift. He tells himself that if the Avengers fail to reform, the demons may triumph, destroying all future time lines - and he shall be left a non-existence phantom forever! Kang suspects that he knows where N’astirh has taken the Richards’ son, and in his last seconds of existence, decides to insure that these “proto-Avengers” stand a chance of finding him - thereby fighting together and maybe helping to create a bond between them. He fires an energy beam from a device, and there is a burst of light, as Kang admits that this is his only chance, as well - before he vanishes.
‘Funny, for a moment, I thought -?’ Cap begins as he stares out across the sky. ‘A phantom of the imagination, I guess. What’s happening here doesn’t have anything to do with him’ Cap adds. ‘Who, Captain?’ Gilgamesh enquires. ‘An old Avengers’ enemy who certainly wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines rooting for the home team if he were really around somewhere’ Cap replies.
At that self-same instant, somewhere in Alphabet City in a dirty corner of New York, the last desperate cast of Kang bears fruit…here where the hopeless live and the dreamers die…in the darkened basement of an abounded tenement. There is movement. A pink and orange robot-like toy, an action figure, comes to life. It passes though the bars leading to the outside, ‘Yes, master. It shall be done’ the toy declares.
Moving in the shadows along the sidewalk, striding purposefully with tiny steps through the twisted city, the “Doll” ignores the screams of the raging inferno about him, until, a demon swoops down from above: ‘Oh ho! What have we here?’ the demon calls out. It grabs the toy and exclaims ‘Little person? You don’t smell like a human’. ‘Desist! I must -’ the toy begins, before it is slammed into a brick wall. ‘Don’t run away, little fellow! We want to play!’ the demon declares. It watches as the toy starts to increase in size, ‘What? Bigger? Good’ the demon remarks, before reaching out, it exclaims ‘Now when I tear out your heart there will be something large enough to find!’ The toy replies that it has its master’s orders, ‘Nothing it to stand in my way’ it states, before smacking the demon as it attempts to grab it once more, and sends the demon careening backwards, where it lands on a lamppost. ‘Nothing’ the toy adds.
And though the city is screaming nothing does. Increasing in size, the “Doll” walks past a pile of cars on fire, and recalls that its master insisted that it must not be recognized. ‘Therefore, it is necessary I affect some disguise before proceeding to my primary targets’. The “doll” adds that Lord Kang’s initial scan of the Empire State Building suggests a method, and remarks that preliminary analysis of the metastasized structure indicates an increasingly radicalized function…capable of transforming living beings into its own image. The “doll” walks into the demonically-infected Empire State Building, and passing through the muck, it emerges, its body matching the gunk covering the buildings. ‘Excellent’ the “toy” states, adding that its surface configuration is sufficiently altered that no one seeing his previous form would identify it with this one. Its sensors continue to function perfectly, and it carries on through the ruined city, commencing wide scanning for target acquisition.
Meanwhile, at the southern tip of Manhattan, high above ground level, at the top of the World Trade Center, ‘My Lord! You have him!’ the demon Klytus exclaims as N’astirh steps through a portal, dragging the armored Franklin Richards with him. ‘Klytus! Quickly! His armor must be removed and the dark childe secured!’ N’astirh orders, adding that the power within him is even greater than he suspected. ‘Already he begins to stir within and should he chance to awake before we can harness him…well, we have enough to occupy our time already! Move!’ N’astirh bellows. ‘Yes, Master’ Klytus responds as he and another demon start to remove the armor, beginning with the helmet covering Franklin’s face. The other demon remarks that the armor is well made, but that it cannot long resist the cutting energies of Limbo. ‘Careful! We don’t want to damage him!’ Klytus scolds the other demon. When Franklin has been removed from the armor, Klytus holds him up before N’astirh, ‘Master, hurry! His blood quickens!’ Klytus calls out.
‘Let me have him’ N’astirh replies, taking the boy, he puts him into a demonic pod, ‘Well done! Still he sleeps and now shall sleep forever, a tool at our command!’ N’astirh declares, explaining that the walls will draw off his power, and he shall be much more than merely a pawn to be used against the Goblin Queen. N’astirh announces that he wants to increase the power of the pentagram energizing the stepping disc that is bringing the demons into this world. ‘We’ll be able to move our entire army to Earth in an instant! And he is the means!’ N’astirh tells Klytus to watch closely, as the child’s being is fully subsumed by the walls, open a sympathetic pentagram and let his energy be directed into it. ‘We’ll rip open the sky and drown the world in demons!’ N’astirh boasts, as he steps through a portal, and energy radiates from the cocoon that Franklin has been placed in.
And further north, above Manhattan, Reed, Susan, Cap and Gilgamesh look out each side of the sky craft, ‘No sign yet. The entire city seems covered by a blanket of atmospheric static that makes readings nearly impossible’ Reed declares, adding that they will search the city building by building if they have to. Suddenly, dark clouds roll in, and there is a crack of lightning and a roar of thunder. ‘What!’ Cap exclaims. ‘It’s him! It has to be!’ he adds, before instructing Reed to head for the lightning on the West Side. ‘Dead center, ground level! And hurry! Unless I miss my guess, we’re about to find another ally!’ The Captain explains. ‘In a thunder storm?’ Gilgamesh asks. ‘You’d better believe it, Mister!’ Cap replies. Another roar of thunder and clash of lightning, and Susan turns to her husband: ‘Reed?’ she asks. Reed points out that there is an inordinate amount of lightning, and they are not equipped to survive a direct strike. As he lands the hovercraft, he confesses that if he had to trust anybody, it would be Cap. ‘Let’s hope he knows what he’s doing’.
‘Up ahead, Reed! It is him! I’d recognize that storm anywhere!’ Cap declares, as his long-time friend and fellow former Avenger, the Mighty Thor, is up ahead, surrounded by fire and demons, which he swats aside with his trusty hammer. ‘Have at thee, demons! Thor is no toothless dog whom you might slaughter at your whim! The Earth and all who inhabit it are in my charge!’ he booms. Thor boasts that though their legions may be numberless, he shall still triumph, and the berserkers of Valhalla will weep that they were not here to share this glory. At Thor’s feet lies Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, motionless. Thor remarks that although his companion is helpless, the demons shall not have either of their souls. ‘That’s the Black Knight! What’s happened to him?’ Cap wonders. ‘Time enough for questions and answers later, Captain!’ Gilgamesh declares as he leaps from the hovercraft, pointing out that now is the time for action.
‘I have seen the God of Thunder and his name is battle’ Gilgamesh declares, before joining Thor’s battle against the demons, he punches several of the back at once, ‘Hold back, friend, that Gilgamesh may join the fray before the game is over!’ he exclaims. ‘Od’s blood! A prodigious blow, stranger! There may be a place in Valhalla for thee someday’ he remarks, while asking how such a warrior as Gilgamesh can live and not be known to him. ‘You’ve met before, Thor, but you wouldn’t remember him’ Cap calls out as he walks over to his old friend, asking him how he is. ‘Well met, Captain. I am only just returned to Earth to find these creatures everywhere! What chances?’ Thor asks his friend. Cap tells him that it is a long story, so he will try to give the short version. ‘We’ve got a lot on our plate, not the least of which is a missing child’ Cap adds.
And, one short version later, the five heroes father close together, as Reed informs Thor that his attempts to track Franklin’s energy signature have failed so far. ‘The Captain was right. There is much to be done’ Thor agrees. He assures Reed that they will find his missing son, before Cap turns to Dane and asks Thor what happened to him? Thor declares that he must attend to his fallen comrade, and reveals that he has been struck by the curse of the Ebony Sword that he carries, but in a manner that defies cure. ‘It is as though he has become the blade’ Thor remarks. The Asgardian spins his hammer and declares that he doesn’t know whether Dane is even conscious within his shell. ‘Mayhap I must seek out the help of Dr Strange, who knows much that is hidden’ Thor adds that there will be time later to try to remedy his malady, but for the nonce, lest his condition deteriorate even further, he shall create a stasis vortex around him. There is a screeching sound, ‘He’s disappeared!’ Gilgamesh exclaims, while Reed tells everyone to stay back, for if that whirling form is really some sort of time dislocation, it could be dangerous to touch.
A moment later, Thor emerges from the stasis vortex, telling Reed to fear not, as it will spin harmlessly, invisible and intangible to all eyes save his until he returns - or dies. ‘Now, to battle!’ Thor exclaims. The five stride off together, as Reed asks The Captain what their next move is. ‘It is a problem, isn’t it, Reed? Find your son… or try to help the countless lives in danger in the city’ Cap points out. Reed tells Cap that he thinks they should split up. ‘We can’t ask the three of you to aid us in finding Franklin while the city is under siege. But we can’t abandon the search ourselves’ He offers the hovercraft to Cap to see out the source of the demons. ‘I’ve got a portable energy analyzer to help us locate Franklin’ he explains.
Suddenly, the strange demon-gunk-covered-robot locks its tracking device onto the heroes: ‘Target acquisition!’ it states. Cap tells Reed that self sacrifice is okay, but they need to think clearly. He points out that between Thor and Gilgamesh, they have already got flying capability, and he can hitch a ride with one of them. ‘You take the air car’ he tells Reed, while the strange “toy” watching them registers Thor and recalls that Thor has known it in the past. It adjusts its voice to disguise itself entirely. ‘According to the master’s plan, I must attack their attention’ the strange being reminds itself, when suddenly, it picks up a car and heaves at towards the heroes. ‘Great Zuras! Duck!’ Gilgamesh calls out. Thor and Gilgamesh turn their attention to the now massive creature looming over them. ‘The demons just increased the stakes!’ Gilgamesh remarks, pointing out that their immediate problem could be simply staying alive.
‘The problem of staying alive is not ours!’ Thor announces, throwing his hammer, he declares that it is the demon’s. ‘Die, creature of evil!’ ‘Hah! My reflexes are the equal of yours, Thunder God!’ the strange creature responds, still covered in the demonic gunk, it ducks the hammer, and boasts that in the end, all of them, including the parents of Franklin Richards, shall die. ‘Then the child will belong to the demons forever!’ the creature declares, ‘Follow me if you dare’ it calls out to the heroes. ‘Captain!’ Reed exclaims, while Thor retrieves his hammer. ‘I heard him, Reed’ Cap replies, while Susan announces that it must be a trap. Reed tells her that it probably is, but that they cannot afford to overlook the possibility that this creature may lead them to Franklin. Reed adds that the demons may find them more difficult prey than they suspect. ‘After him!’ Cap instructs the others. ‘If he leads us to monsters, so much the better!’ Gilgamesh exclaims.
The creature walks into the side of a building, causing the wall to start to give way. ‘Beware! The wall collapses!’ someone exclaims. Reed tells everyone to flee, quickly, while Thor holds the war up. ‘Susan?’ Cap calls out. ‘I’ve been around, Captain’ the Invisible Woman replies, telling Cap to get out of here while her force field deflects the flying debris. ‘You too, Thor’ she adds. But, up ahead, the creature strides into another building, and it, too, starts to crumble around them. ‘Is he just playing hard to get or does he really want to lose us? Keep your heads down!’ Cap declares. Susan tells him not to worry, as her force field can shield all of them. ‘But if we keep having to duck while he plays hide and seek by knocking over buildings, he may shake us!’ Cap points out, before alerting everyone to the creature heading south. Cap adds that there is no time to return to the air car, and tells Thor and Gilgamesh that they need an airlift, and quickly.
And shortly, as the “demon” approaches the southern tip of Manhattan, in ruins, fires blaze, buildings are half-demolished, abandoned cars are strewn about. The robot-like-creature states that it is about to acquire its secondary target, and that the demon nest in the World Trade Center is locked in. The creature acknowledges its thermo-graphic reading that indicates the proto-Avengers are closing in at three hundred feet. It states that its mission is nearly complete, and begins to climb up the gunk-covered building, remarking that it has led the proto-Avengers to the demon nest as Kang commanded and now they shall find their goal and his master’s may well be achieved. ‘One final task remains’. The heroes look on, and Thor sees the “demon” climb the wall of the Tower itself. ‘He seems to be making for that thing on top of the building’ Cap points out, while Thor wagers that the vile growth is a demon’s nest.
‘Now is his purpose clear! To lead us here to our destruction!’ Thor declares, taking Cap’s hand, he lifts his friend and flies upwards, ‘Come Captain! Before yon demons can attack, let the Avengers of yore take the offensive!’ Thor exclaims, boasting that they shall teach their outrider the meaning of danger. Cap bids Thor caution and instructs him to circle above the nest, as they need a scouting party before they go calling. Susan clings to Reed’s back as he stretches skyward, and reports that his instruments are picking up a strong signal from the structure on top of the Center, overriding local static. ‘Whether it’s a trap or not, Franklin is really there! We’ve found him!’ Reed exclaims. As Gilgamesh flies alongside them, Reed tells Sue that their son is waiting.
Thor moves up the tower quickly, and approaches their foe. ‘The miscreant seeks to avoid battle by melding into the very substance of the building itself! But no such ploy can be effective against the hammer of Thor! I shall blast him free!’ Thor declares as the creature ahead vanishes. Cap tells Thor to ignore him and alerts him to a situation higher up: ‘Somebody’s just discovered they’ve got company!’ he calls out as several demons peer down at the approaching heroes. Cap adds that they don’t look happy to see them. ‘What have we here?’ one of the demons snarls. ‘Mortals! Or some variation!’ another declares. They leap off the top of the building, ‘Slay them! Protect the Dark Childe of N’astirh!’ one of the demons exclaims as he leaps onto Thor, causing the God of Thunder to fall backwards, but the demon flies higher, dragging Thor and Cap with it. Cap knows that if Thor has to carry him it will only slow him down, and sees the nest below, he tells Thor to throw him down to his right.
Thor does so, and raising his shield overhead to use it as a balance and brake, Cap has one chance to make this work. He flips mid-air, and as he comes down onto the nest, he kicks one of the demons, causing it to fall backwards into the others. ‘Perfect! Hit the roof and cushioned my dive at the same time!’ Cap thinks to himself, while calling out ‘Stay loose, boys! We’ll keep practicing till we get this maneuever right!’ Thor smacks his opponent far away across the sky with is hammer. ‘Away, foul creature! Thor hath no time to deal with the likes of thee!’ he exclaims, adding ‘Thou hast many brothers and Thor must speak to each of them in turn!’
At the same time, Reed, Susan and Gilgamesh reach the top of the building. ‘Excellent! Monsters! Good hunting!’ Gilgamesh calls out. ‘Reed!’ Susan exclaims, clinging around Reed’s neck, Reed tells his wife that she sees them ‘Get ready to shield us! But first…’ he begins, while one of the demons calls out ‘Look! It’s them was on the view screen! The Dark Childe’s parents! They should be dead! Kill them!’ Reed responds to this by extending a fist towards the demon and smacking it over. ‘Mister, you just said the magic words!’ he declares, boasting that there aren’t enough of them in all the world to keep him from his son now. ‘And in the words of my best friend, “It’s clobbering time”!’ Reed exclaims, and as another demon is knocked back, it calls out for N’astirh’s guards to be summoned.
‘ATTACK!’ a demon roars as a horde of them move forward to the heroes. ‘Slay them!’ another calls out. ‘Death to the mortals!’ another snarls. Thor engages the horrid creatures, ‘Thou doth sorely mistake me, demon, to call Thor mortal! But Thor is of a just and forgiving nature…and he doth grant thee dispensation for thine ignorance!’ Thor declares, smashing the demons with his hammer. ‘Nice left hook, Thor’ Cap tells his friend, adding that he doesn’t know that they have a quorum right now, or even a legitimate team, but he is willing to skip the formalities. ‘I think we’ve pretty well captured the spirit’ he points out, before shouting ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’ Gilgamesh punches several demons back and tells the Captain that is an interesting battle cry, alliterative but lacking somewhat in heroic grandeur. ‘Yet it does have a certain…cachet!’ he admits, suspecting that it is something about the tone of voice.
Frantically, Susan tells Reed that she can’t see Franklin anywhere, when suddenly, a look of horror falls across her face. As Reed’s extended body wraps around another demon, Susan sets her eyes across Franklin, his body melded into the demon nest. ‘Baby! What have they done to you?’ she gasps. Franklin’s head is sticking out of the demonic crust around him, his eyes blazing with energy that crackles up towards a star above him. ‘Energy flowing out of him into that star! Just like the big one above Times Square’ someone remarks, while Susan realizes that they are draining him, sucking his life force out to feed their horrible machines. Susan supposes that it must be some sort of sympathetic magic connected to the pentagram over the city. ‘This has to stop! Now!’ she declares, creating a force field around Franklin.
‘Fight it, Franklin! Don’t let them steal you from me!’ Susan calls out to her son. ‘Mama…’ a weary Franklin utters. Susan tells him to hold on, that she is coming, while deciding that she has to contain Franklin’s energies, cut off the flow into the star and destroy the wall that binds him. ‘His output is incredible!’ she remarks, realizing that her force shield is almost stretched to the limit, she can’t hold Franklin’s energy in any more. ‘Mama…’ Franklin calls out again, when the energy contained in the force bubble suddenly explodes, and destroys the wall surrounding Franklin. ‘But is he…?’ Sue wonders, before Franklin calls out to her. ‘He’s alive! He’s still alive! Oh, my baby! My darling! My precious!’ Susan cries as she picks Franklin up and holds him close.
And, high above Times Square, there is a piercing sound, before the star vanishes.
‘Uh oh’ one of the demons utters. ‘Pentagram destroyed!’ another exclaims. ‘That means the stepping disk from Limbo gone!’ a third points out. One of the demons declares that N’astirh will be plenty angry and blame them. Another demon suggests that they kill the humans, as they did it. ‘And would do it again if necessary, creatures of evil!’ Thor declares as he, Cap and Gilgamesh stand ready to battle again. Thor knocks several demons over with his hammer and points out that their lessons, it would seem, are incomplete. ‘Thor shall teach thee the difference between mortals and gods!’ he boasts. As Cap punches one of the demons, he adds that a few lessons in hand to hand combat probably wouldn’t be amiss, either. ‘But you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t provide them!’ he jokes. ‘Mortals! Immortals! The destruction of evil is the duty of every moral being no matter what his lifespan! And the destruction of monsters is the destiny of Gilgamesh!’ the Eternal declares, pushing several demons away from him.
Reed stretches forward and announces that these are the last remaining demons, and after he has swept them towards Gilgamesh, he doesn’t think they will be kidnapping any babies again. And shortly, the heroes stand over the defeated demons. ‘That’s that’ Cap announces. Thor points out that the demons are emitting a strange radiation, while Gilgamesh remarks that they are disintegrating, turning to dust. ‘Stand back!’ he suggests. Thor and Cap turn to Gilgamesh and Thor remarks ‘Thou doth bear an heroic name of legend. And in this matter, thou hast acquitted thyself with honor’. Thor adds that he is proud to have fought with so valiant a warrior. ‘Thor says it with flowers but he speaks for me as well’ Cap remarks, telling Gilgamesh that it was nicely done, and asks if he will be sticking around for a while. ‘Will there be more monsters?’ Gilgamesh enquires. ‘Mister, fighting monsters is what the Avengers do best!’ Cap declares.
Reed crouches beside Susan who is holding Franklin and asks her how he is. ‘Already asleep. But unharmed, I think’ Sue replies, before remarking that they must get him home as soon as possible. She adds that he will need to see a doctor. Suddenly, there is a loud noise. ‘WHAT?’ Reed calls out. ‘It’s the whole building! Shaking as though it were an earthquake!’ Sue declares, while Thor remarks that he though they had seen the last of the demons. ‘Yet look there below’ he adds, as they peer over the side of the building, and see the strange creature from before pushing against the building. It roars, while Reed realizes that it is the “demon” who led them here in the first place. ‘He’s trying to shake the entire building apart!’ Cap points out. ‘Then Thor shall give him pause! Let him join the rest of his brethren in the dust!’ Thor boasts as he throws his hammer downwards, and it strikes the creature, who just roars again, and, to Thor’s surprise, the creature just roars again, and then doubles in size in an instant, as though he merely absorbed the force of his blow. ‘He doth feed on blows till he stands like a colossus against all who oppose him!’ Thor declares.
The Captain wonders what Kang has to do with these demons, to which Reed suggests they uncover that later, as right now their “friend” seems intent on destroying the foundations of the World Trade Center. He adds that it appears their “friend” is running wild. Reed tells Cap to hold the fort, and not to strike if they can help it. Reed then stretches from the World Trade Center, forward, and onwards, to his elastic limit so that he can reach the West Side. Reed tells himself that if their opponent really is able to absorb kinetic energy, then Thor and Gilgamesh are the last people they need attacking him. Looking downwards, Reed sees that his hovercraft is where they left it, and knows that he must work quickly,, for an ordinary frontal attack is certain to fail. He climbs into the air car and it takes off. He hasn’t got time to return to the lab to construct an anti-gravity stasis chamber that could hold their opponent, but if he is running wild, then he may have somehow been caught in whatever has been affecting the city.
‘And that may give us our opportunity. Some phase adjustments to the front thrusters… along with high energy surge enhancement…and we may get lucky. If only we’re not too late!’ Reed thinks to himself as he drives towards the towering creature who continues to punch at the World Trade Center. Reed realizes that he has almost knocked enough of the foundation apart to topple the building. ‘All right, android! Let’s see what you’re made of!’ Reed calls out, as the hovercraft starts firing at the villain, who stumbles, the blast penetrated his demonized skin, but, to Reed’s dismay, he starts to heal over already. ‘Before that happens, I’ve got to reorganize enough of his body structure to give Thor and Gilgamesh a fighting chance!’ Reed exclaims, continuing to fire from the hovercraft, the creature screams.
‘And quickly! The Thunder God isn’t known for his patience!’ the Captain calls out. ’Richards hath done his best but still the thing moves!’ Thor remarks, deciding that it is time other hands joined in the fray. ’Come, Gilgamesh! The monster awaits!’ Thor tells his companion, and they both leap off the edge of the rooftop and plummet to the ground, where they land and face their foe. ’Then he’ll wait no longer!’ Gilgamesh calls back, as Thor notices that the android’s skin is burning with energy. He starts to district the creature, while Gilgamesh grabs its head, attacking. But, Gilgamesh is shocked that under the impact of his fall, the Growing Man has grown smaller. ‘That was Richards’ doing! The creature is no longer the Growing Man…but the shrinking man!’ Tor declares, realizing that Mr Fantastic has turned his own energies against him.
The Growing Man holds onto Gilgamesh, ‘Unhand my comrade, creature of evil…and let the hammer of Thor speak for the Avengers!’ Thor exclaims as he flies towards his opponent, and strikes it - causing the creature to shrink beyond belief. ‘Again I must strike with all my might!’ Thor calls out, but the creature then vanishes. ‘The monster is reduced to nothing! The threat is over!’ Gilgamesh points out.
Up on the roof, Susan alerts Reed to Franklin who is starting to wake. ‘Mommy! Mommy! Monsters! I dreamt lotsa monsters!’ Franklin alls out. Sue tells her son to hush, as everything is okay, and that Mommy and Daddy are here. ‘It was all a long nightmare, Franklin’ Reed tells his son, and as Sue and Franklin climb into Reed’s stretched out back, he extends himself off the rooftop.
Thor tells Gilgamesh that he fought well, but wants to know how it is that such a doughty warrior is unknown to him. ‘Perhaps I am not. I have fought beside many heroes in the past. Under different names and in different guises’ Gilgamesh replies, to which Cap points out that as an Eternal, he would have a long time to learn his craft. He then informs Gilgamesh that he is putting together a team of warriors, mighty fighters who will stand between man and the dark. ‘Will you join us?’ he asks. ‘Will there be monsters?’ Gilgamesh enquires. ‘There always have been’ Cap replies. Gilgamesh remarks that it has been long since he was abroad in the world, and would like to see what mankind has made of itself - and he has little else to do right now. ‘I accept’ he announces.
‘Pegasus, Reed?’ Thor asks as he flies alongside the hovercraft. Reed explains that it is Franklin’s name for the Fantasti-car, that they have been reading him some Greek mythology recently. ‘I remember Pegasus. A noble steed’ Gilgamesh remarks from where he sits in the back with Cap, adding that he was difficult to ride, quite a high flyer. ‘I’ m never quite sure, Gilgamesh, whether there’s a smile in your voice or not when you say things like that. But I intend to find out’ Cap remarks.
And shortly, at the Richards’ home in Connecticut, the five heroes are in Franklin’s bedroom, as Sue tucks her son in. Thor points out that he is already asleep, to which Sue explains that he is completely exhausted but that he seems to be all right. Cap tells Reed and Sue that they haven’t had a chance to talk much, but that after tonight, he is more convinced than ever that the Avengers are not only useful, but essential. ‘They’re needed. That’s why I was coming to see you originally. You’ve got the team experience…and the leadership qualities. Will you join us?’ he asks. Reed and Sue frown at Cap, as Reed reminds him that they had thought to retire from the world for awhile to watch their son. ‘Now it hasn’t worked, has it, Reed?’ Sue points out, adding that the world is too small a place to hide in anymore. ‘I thin I can speak for both of us, Sue’ Reed tells his wife.
‘For the sake of our child, and the world’s safety, the answer is yes. But if anybody starts shouting “Avengers Assemble” and wakes up my baby, he is going to be in big trouble!’ Susan warns everyone. Reed tells her that they don’t have to raise their voices, while Gilgamesh announces that the helpless will soon know that the Avengers stand ready to aid them. Thor boasts that their battle cries will shake the citadels of their enemies, and those practice evil shall be cast down beneath their heels. The five heroes stand over the sleeping Franklin, and put their hands in together. ‘Then… the Avengers are reborn!’ Cap announces. ‘So be it!’ Thor agrees.