He is fully one and a half million miles distant when it explodes. And all hope within him dies. His name is Wendell Vaughn a.k.a. the young Avenger called Quasar. Flying through space, he stares in horror as it rushes relentlessly toward him, obliterating everything in its path. He has perhaps a second or two to whisper a silent farewell before he is blown away.
A moment ago, this proud star cruiser of the Imperial Kree Fleet was returning home after a three year mission in deep space. It is a homecoming that is destined to never happen. ‘Captain, we’re registering a massive anomaly on the Omni-Wave Band…and sensors are picking up an energy force of enormous proportions emanating from the very heart of the Empire!’ one Kree warrior announces. The captain of the vessel orders the warrior to notify Hala and put it on the screen. The screen shows up with a blinding light, ‘By the Great Pama - what has happened to the Empire?’ one of the soldiers gasps, while a recording announces ‘Alert! Alert! Plasma wave on intersect vector! Collision imminent!’
The female captain orders the helmsman to turn hard to port - but the vessel is decimated by the approaching energy. A moment, the space between one heartbeat and the next - so short a period of time. But for the star-flung Kree, conquerors of a thousand, thousand worlds, proud masters of destiny, it is all the breadth of time between existence, and obliteration.
A moment ago, sacred Hala, homeworld of the Kree and capital of their vast empire, orbited its sun, Pama, as it has since creation. Hala - a planet boastful of its history and feared throughout known space for its power. But that was before the first shock wave hit, ripping away the planet’s famed defensive rings like so much chaff in the wind, before the lordly towers of Kree-lar, built over the millennium to remind those who passed beneath their massive structures of the glory that is all things Kree - it falls amidst the roaring winds of destruction. Before the Kree loked up in horror and confusion as they saw their world end around them - like Kree heroes Captain Atlas and Dr Minerva - crying out for salvation from unheeding gods even as their lives are ripped apart. And even those who know where this terrible retribution truly came from - like the Shi’ar princess, enemy of the Kree, Deathbird - can only stare in shock at what the wrath of her people has finally wrought - as Hala, famed Hala, falls.
But this fate was not meant for Hala alone. No, the blast wave travels far and fast, engulfing all the thousand solar systems that bowed before the Empire. Nothing is spared that called itself Kree. On those worlds, far, far from the epicentre, it sweeps across the face of each planet like the angel of death. Silently, whole populaces die, never knowing their day was done, their time finished. Not so other planets nearer the center of the Empire. They do not die quietly, as the shockwave rips through their atmosphere, leveling proud cities and humble hovels with indiscriminate contempt… these worlds fairly scream out their death cry. But nothing is absolute in this universe. For on world after world, pitiful survivors look up at blazing skies and wonder - what have the Kree done to deserve this?
Far beyond the borderlands, on the outer fringes of the great Magellanic Cloud, lies a ring of cloaked interstellar listening pods, stealth craft sent from the Kree’s great enemy, the Shi’ar Imperium, to spy upon the Empire - a task that is rapidly becoming obsolete. ‘By Sharra! I need tactical - now!’ a Shi’ar captain orders from within inside the space station. ‘Data from our long range probes report extreme energy fluctuations across the spectrum, Milord’ a Shi’ar officer replies, adding that scans indicate negatively-charged energy matrices appearing throughout the Kree territories. The officer adds that raw gravimetric readings detect no stellar or planetary disintegration at present, so in short, all is within the parameters expected from the detonation of the Nega-Bomb. ‘So it is done’ the captain remarks as he stares out into space. The captain orders communications to open an insta-link with the Imperial Center and report to the Majestrix-Shi’ar Lilandra. ‘The news she has so long awaited…the Kree Empire is no more!’
And, in the aftermath, among the flotsam and jetsam of a destroyed civilization, Quasar rouses as the young hero floats through the cosmos. ‘Uhhnn…musta been swept a coupla million miles…only my quantum force field saved me…’ he tells himself, in disbelief that the bomb went off. He regrets that he couldn’t stop it, that he should have been faster. ‘The Avengers! Were they caught in it? Gotta find them… might need help…gotta concentrate…maybe get a fix on ‘em’…’ Quasar tells himself, touching his head. Suddenly, he goes wide-eyed, ‘It can’t be’ he utters quietly. ‘IT CAN’T!’ he then shouts, and, in the blink of an eye, he is several hundred thousand miles away thanks to a quantum-jump - and, for the second time today, he feel his heart break - as floating motionless through space are several Avengers - Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Hercules, Sersi, Crystal, Dane Whitman the Black Knight and Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye. ‘NO!’ Quasar shouts.
Hala, where there is only a mournful wind blowing across the remains of the metropolis city. A constant wind, blowing through the ruins, nearly drowning out the murmuring of a wandering lost soul - the madwoman called Deathbird. ‘O wretched Lilandra, my sweet, gentle sister…did you in truth order this?’ Deathbird asks as she wanders across the remains of the city, bodies scattered around her. ‘How bloodthirsty you’ve become, sister. How like me, your hated rival’ Deathbird comments, recalling how Lilandra fared the Nega-Bomb, how she feared it would cost her her immortal soul. ‘And still you used it…!’ Deathbird declares, wondering if Lilandra found in her heart that cold hard place all leaders must have. ‘How I wish I had witnessed that’ Deathbird laments. ‘But, no - I walk along among an Empire of corpses and yet I still live!’ she exclaims, wondering if this is punishment perhaps, for this crime is Shi’ar, and her sins are legion.
‘O, Aerie, we have brought the Kree low, indeed…but need we have killed them all?’ Deathbird calls out as she climbs over some slabs of rubble. She continues on, ‘Here in their shattered citadel, I shall beg forgiveness…Lilandra, how like you I now become…for I suddenly find myself fearing for my soul’ Deathbird comments, before suddenly, she sees the lifeless body of Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, fallen on some rubble up ahead, shield at his side. ‘Even here in the Kree Imperial Chamber there is death’ Deathbird remarks to herself, while telling Captain America that he should have stayed on Earth and lived to an old age - for this ancient war had nothing to do with him.
Back in deep space, Quasar bears a heavy burden. He carries a quantum-sphere behind him, while recalling how he found the wreckage of the Quinjet - not that there was much left. ‘The impact must have been incredible’ he decides, while deciding that this should not have happened - that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, as the Avengers were going to stop the war - not die in it. He doesn’t see a figure approach him from behind, while Quasar wonders how he is going to tell Jarvis - and Luna - just a baby, she has now lost her mother. ‘Hey - hey - hey!’ the voice calls out from behind, as Quasar is suddenly grabbed and embraced - by Eric Masterton the new Thor. ‘Wendell!’ Thor calls out. ‘Man, are you a sight for sore eyes, buddy!’ he exclaims. Quasar tells Thor to let him go. ‘Hey - sorry’ Thor replies.
Tears are falling from Quasar’s eyes, and he tells Thor ‘You don’t understand. The others - the Avengers who went to Hala - they were caught in the Nega-Bomb explosion - they were killed, Thor! Don’t you see? They’re dead! DEAD!’ Quasar exclaims. ‘No. All of them? I can’t believe it’ Thor utters. ‘Believe it’ Quasar tells him. Quasar adds that he could not find Cap, so he must still be out there, alone. ‘But you guys pulled through okay?’ Quasar asks. A Quinjet appears overhead, as the voice of Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Captain Marvel can be heard, informing Quasar via the communicator that they are battered and bruised, but that they rode out the last eave with minimal damage. ‘Then at least the Shi’ar envoy made it’ Quasar remarks.
Inside the Quinjet, Captain Marvel is at the controls, while Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch sits beside her, hanging her head. Starfox sits behind them alongside Living Lightning a.k.a. Miguel Santos. ‘I only wish that were true, Wendell. But Wonder Man and the Vision were trapped on the Nega-Bomb when it detonated…’ Captain Marvel reveals, explaining that they were on their way to the blast’s epicenter when they picked up Quasar’s ID beacon. ‘It was like music to our ears’ Captain Marvel adds, while wishing that Cap and the others could have been as lucky. A panel opens underneath the Quinbjet as Captain Marvel tells Quasar to bring their friends aboard, so they can take them home. The new Thor and Quasar, with the quantum-bubble carrying the bodies of the other Avengers, fly towards the Quinjet, while Captain Marvel adds that they will find out what happened to the Vision and Wonder Man.
Shortly, the Avengers have located the damaged body of the android Avenger known as the Vision, and Simon “Wonder Man” Williams, whose body glows with ionic energy. Quasar, Thor and the Living Lightning have exited the Quinjet and fly towards their teammates, ‘Awww, no, it’s them. I was almost hoping we wouldn’t find ‘em - then we could always hope, y’know’ the new Thor remarks. Inside the Quinjet, Monica asks Wanda if she is all right. ‘This can’t be easy on you. I mean, the Vision’s your husband, and Simon -’ she begins. ‘Thank you, Monica. But this is hard on all of us. We’ve lost some very dear friends today’ Wanda replies. However, as Quasar, Thor and Living Lightning return to the Quinjet with Wonder Man and the Vision, Quasar announces ‘They’re alive! They’re both alive!’
‘Thank Heaven! But how - oh, who cares? This is incredible!’ Wanda exclaims as she rushes over to Simon and the Vision. She tells them ‘I couldn’t dare hope. I just thank God you’re both all right’. The Vision tells his estranged wife that their survival had more to do with the detonation’s directional force than any divine intervention. He explains that the concussive blast radiated out from the Nega-Bomb, leaving a vaccuum at its center, so they found themselves in a situation not unlike that of Hiroshima’s Peace Building, which survived intact despite being at the very heart of the first atomic bomb explosion. Simon rubs his head and tells the Vision that this is some time for history lessons, and asks Wanda if she is taking notes.
Wonder Man adds that the Vision got what he wanted - genocide - but Earth is safe. ‘Yes, indeed…who cares about the Kree anyway?’ Simon adds, while Wanda looks at him, concerned and sees energy flare around him. She then asks the Vision what has happened to Simon. The Vision points out that Simon is obviously disorientated, and adds that he would hypothesize that Simon’s body’s ionic molecular structure is attempting to absorb the substantial amount of nega-radiation it was exposed to. The Vision adds that a mutagenic response to this assimilation is statistically possible. Simon announces that he is starving and asks if anyone has a pastrami sandwich.
Captain Marvel goes over to where Starfox is kneeling beside Sersi, whose body has been lain next to the other fallen Avengers. Monica asks Starfox if he wants to come and join the others, as there is nothing he can do here. Starfox replies that he knows, but admits that he can’t shake the feeling his is missing something. Suddenly, he goes wide-eyed, ‘Of course!’ he exclaims, before taking Sersi’s hand, and energy starts to glow around both the Eternals. ‘Sersi, you clever girl’ Starfox declares, remarking that the Eternals played this game as children centuries go. The energy starts to transfer to Hercules, Crystal, the Black Knight, Iron Man and Hawkeye, as Starfox tells the Avengers that it is time to return to the land of the living.
They all sit up, as Starfox welcomes Sersi back, telling his cousin that she gave them quite a fright. ‘Just as we used to give our parents, eh, Eros?’ Sersi smiles. Soon, all Avengers are gathered together. Sersi and Crystal are wrapped in blankets, while the Black Knight sips a hot drink, as Sersi explains that it became apparent they could not outrun the shock wave and death was a certainty, she used her transmutation power to sonically change the molecular structure of their bodies into basic inert matter, gambling that in that form they could survive both the explosion and the exposure to space. She adds that the down side, of course, was that they would be left in that state drifting through space for eternity - unless another Eternal happened to stumble upon them, and reverse the process. ‘A part of your plan I happily fulfilled, Sersi!’ Starfox declares.
The Scarlet Witch looks at Sersi and asks of the whereabouts of Captain America. The Black Knight turns to Wanda and tells her that they wish they knew, revealing that they were separated back on the planet. Hawkeye points out that they would have known if Iron Man hadn’t ordered them off Hala. Iron Man looks at his teammate and tells him that he knows that if they had searched for Cap, then they would have been on the planet when the bomb went off. ‘It was the toughest decision of my life, Avenger, but it was a far side better than suicide’ Iron Man declares, while Quasar asks if Cap is still on Hala, and exclaims that they have to go get him. Iron Man turns to the young Avenger and points out that they don’t even know if Hala still exists, so the chances that Cap is alive are remote at best. ‘So that means we give up on him, Shellhead?’ Hawkeye asks. ‘Of course not!’ Iron Man replies, explaining that he wants to make the reality of the situation clear so that there is no false hope. He adds that Avengers always take care of their own, and instructs Captain Marvel to plot a course for Hala.
On Hala, ‘You were a noble warrior, terran’ Deathbird remarks as she kneels beside Cap’s body. ‘A man of spirit and mettle who did battle bravely against the Kree and - blood and fire! You still breathe’ she gasps. She holds his head up and wonders if the fates relent in their cruel judgment. ‘Am I not to be left alone to rule a dead world?’ Deathbird decides that Captain America is fair of face and pleasing in form. She moves her lips towards his, telling herself that he is a fitting consort, to one who was once Majestrix Shi’ar, as she kisses him. Suddenly, Cap’s eyes open, ‘Deathbird - what’s going on, lady?’ Cap demands as he pushes the villainess away from him. Suddenly, the Supreme Intelligence, in all his green-head-glory, appears, ‘Why ask such a question to one who has been as much a pawn in this affair as you, Captain America?’ and tells Cap that all he needs to know is that the long stagnation is over, and the destiny of the Kree is now assured. ‘The Supreme Intelligence?!’ Cap gasps.
Light years away lies the administrative hub of the galaxy-spanning Shi’ar Imperium, the throne-world called Chandilar, where news has arrived that will forever change the course of history. Shi’ar soldiers and civilians bustle about, as this is news that must be brought to her who is the heart and soul of this Empire - Lilandra, Majestrix-Shi’ar! The powerful Empress stands on a platform and gazes out into the expanse of space before her. Several Shi’ar stand before her. ‘You sought an audience, my Executive Council?’ Lilandra enquires, adding that she trusts there is word. One of the Council members replies that there is, and that it is one of joy. ‘For never was there such a day in Shi’ar history’ he adds, stating that their righteous cause has triumphed, the war is over, thanks to Lilandra’s doomsday weapon, they have achieved an unprecedented victory over the Kree, who will threaten the Shi’ar no more.
‘Nor, I daresay, will any other power the pre-eminence of the Imperium has been assured throughout the galaxy’ he explains. Another of the Council informs Lilandra that the fleet is being made ready even now, for the glory of this day belongs to Lilandra. Lilandra offers no response, so the Council members call out to her. Her back is turned from them, as she replies ‘Victory, noble lords, can have a bitter taste. Leave me now to revel in it’, as tears fall down her face.
Back on Hala, ‘The Supreme Intelligence, who is appearing via a monitor projection, asks Captain America if he thinks he has won this day. ‘Poor, limited fools. Everything has gone as I wished!’ he declares. ‘Are you insane? Look around you! Your people are dead!’ Cap exclaims through gritted teeth. The Supreme Intelligence replies that Captain America has a vision - limited by concepts of morality and time, so he cannot begin to understand the subtlety of his design. The Supreme Intelligence admits that billions upon billions of Kree, fully ninety-eight percept of the Empire’s populace, died this day. ‘It was a painful sacrifice’ he remarks, adding that it is one worth the price, for on most worlds, pockets of those sturdy enough to survive are even now emerging from the ruins.
Indeed, survivors start to gather themselves, while the Supreme Intelligence adds that little do they realize they, the survivors, are the jewels of his Empire, for in not succumbing to death, they forever change the very nature of the Kree, that their genetic structure has had to quickly mutate and adapt to the Nega-Bomb’s radiation, and in their loins, the seeds of greatness now lie. ‘By suffering through the crucible of the Nega-Bomb, the Kree have at last escaped their evolutionary dead end and begin once more the climb to glory. ‘You are mad. The bomb was a Shi’ar weapon of death!’ Deathbird snarls. The Supreme Intelligence replies ‘Of course’ and explains that he knew such a deadly device was needed to push his people through the threshold, and that he also knew it unwise to be directly involved in the creation of such a doomsday weapon.
The Supreme Intelligence continues, stating that his people are also limited in their conceptions and would not understand the need for such extreme measure. He states that he found it expedient, then, to reach across the stars and plant the idea for the Nega-Bomb unawares in the consciousness of the Kree ancient rivals, the Shi’ar. The Supreme Intelligence states that then, by intensifying long-suppressed suspicions and hatred that lay dormant in the minds of the leaders of their individual Empires, he engineered the start of the war and insured today’s outcome. ‘You used me! And you dared use my people!’ Deathbird calls out as she rushes over and starts scratching at the Supreme Intelligence, but Cap tells her that it is no use. All she succeeds in doing is creating some cracks in the large screen.
The Supreme Intelligence states that the Kree may have lost this day, and their name may fade from the annals of history, but that his is the eternal vision, and in millennia to come, they shall evolve into the race they were meant to be. ‘And on that day - the universe will tremble!’ he boasts. ‘And billions died for this? You pitiful, pathetic -’ Deathbird shrieks, but Captain America tells her to let it go, and suggests they leave the Supreme Intelligence to his conscience - if he has one.
Outside, the Avengers make their return to Hala, as the Quinjet lands and the weary Avengers step out into the ruins of the city. Crystal and the Black Knight lead the way. Quasar, Wonder Man and Sersi follow them, while Starfox, the Scarlet Witch and Hercules are next. Iron Man, the Vision and the new Thor follow, while Captain Marvel, Hawkeye and Living Lightning are the last. ‘Sweet Agon! This was a city - vaster than any I’d ever seen! And now - now - oh, sweet Agon!’ Crystal gasps. Iron Man instructs Captain Marvel and Living Lightning to scout ahead and see if they can find anyone alive. The two switch to their electrical forms and take off as requested. Crystal is kneeling beside the body of one of the fallen Kree, hanging her head. The Black Knight goes over to her and asks her if she is all right, suggesting that she return to the Quinjet.
Crystal tells Dane that this is a woman and her child - a child just like Luna. ‘How can intelligent beings hate each other enough to do this?’ Crystal wonders. The new Thor turns to Hercules, and admits that he isn’t sure he can take all this. ‘Maybe I’m not tough enough for you big guns. Maybe I oughta just bow out of the Avengers’ he suggests, but Hercules tells Eric that he should not, as his is a noble and true soul. ‘On the morn you doth gaze upon such carnage and not be sickened to thy very soul…that will be the day you should come to me and leave our staunch fellowship’ Hercules adds. The powerhouse trio of Sersi, Quasar and Starfox walk over to some bodies, strewn about the ruins, while Hawkeye goes over to Iron Man, and tells him that back on the Quinjet, he said some things that he didn’t mean. ‘I can be a real dunce sometimes, y’know’ Hawkeye admits.
Iron Man turns to Clint and reminds him that they have been friends a long time. ‘If we can’t disagree, who can?’ Tony replies, looking over to where the Scarlet Witch sits, leaning over, clutching herself. Wonder Man stands near her, while the Vision calls out, ‘Are you unwell?’ to which Wanda announces that this is so overwhelming, and that she needs a minute. Suddenly, two legendary Kree heroes appear - Captain Atlas and Doctor Minerva. ‘Take all the time you need, Avengers…why shouldn’t you?’ Captain Atlas snarls, pointing out that the Kree lie defeated at their feet, their civilization destroyed. ‘You have your precious victory’ he mutters. Hercules, Thor, Iron Man and Wonder Man ready themselves for battle, ‘Atlas and Minerva - alive?’ Wonder Man exclaims, while Hercules tells the Kree to hear him when he says this is no victory for the Avengers. He reminds them that they sought to prevent this disaster. ‘To our ever-lasting sorrow, we failed. We can but offer our sympathy and assistance in this awful aftermath’ Hercules adds.
Minerva frowns, while Atlas asks Hercules if he thinks he is a fool. ‘My people are dead - and you of all people offer us pity?’ he calls out, before shouting ‘Murderers!’ and leaps towards Hercules - but before he can strike a blow, ‘Atlas, you idiot! We’re telling you the truth!’ the new Thor calls out as he lunges at Atlas, grabbing him, although Atlas eventually gets a punch in, striking Hercules in the face. Iron Man tells Hawkeye to come with him, as it looks like the “god squad” could use a hand. Hawkeye, using his Goliath power, shifts to a larger form and rushes forward, while asking ‘What about his playmate, Minerva?’ Captain Marvel has returned, and tells Hawkeye not to worry about Minerva. ‘Sersi and I have matters well in hand’ Monica points out as she and Sersi have captured Minerva and hold onto her.
Hercules and Hawkeye both attack Atlas, ‘That joker’s got some hook!’ the new Thor remarks, rubbing his face, while Hawkeye tells Atlas to give uip, as there is no point to fighting any more. ‘Then kill me, assassins…for without my people - I do not want to live - kill me!’ Atlas pleads. Hercules wraps his arms around Atlas’s neck, when suddenly, ‘STOP!’ a voice booms - and everyone turns to see Captain America standing on some nearby rubble, Deathbird just in front of him. ‘There’s been enough killing today’ Captain America tells his team. ‘So - behold the evidence that makes mockery of your words…your leader and Deathbird together. ‘Fool!’ Deathbird calls out as she reaches out and grabs Atlas by his face, she tells him that there was no alliance save for the unwitting one they all participated in at the hands of the Supreme Intelligence.
‘Look around you and see the culmination of your leader’s dreams’ Deathbird adds, before shouting ‘It was he who did this. He who created events that led to the Nega-Bomb. He who killed the Kree!’, to which Atlas tells her to stop this blasphemy, or he will rip the words out of her mouth. ‘Try, Kreeman, and it will be the last thing you ever do!’ Deathbird warns him. Captain America steps between Deathbird and Atlas, ‘That’s enough’ he tells Deathbird, while asking Thor to take care of her. The new Thor puts a hand on Deathbird’s arm, while Deathbird asks Captain America to tell Atlas how his beloved leader slaughtered his own people, how he gloated in his victory. ‘TELL HIM!’ she shouts.
Quasar moves forward while Captain America informs Atlas that he knows it is hard to believe, but Deathbird is telling the truth. He states that the Supreme Intelligence had this planned from the beginning - the Nega-Bomb was meant to mutate the Kree to jumpstart their evolutionary dead-end. Captain America explains that apparently, it worked, for the Supreme Intelligence is up in his citadel, basking over his “triumph”. Atlas rejects this revelation. ‘Who could believe such a tale?’ he asks. Cap turns to Minerva, ‘Tell him’ he asks her. Minerva remains silent, while Cap remarks that Minerva knew all along - it stands to reason, as she was the only scientist on the Starforce team, and she has dedicated her life to “improving” the Kree. ‘Is this what you wanted?’ he asks her.
Minerva looks smug and announces that she wants the Kree to survive, as simple as that. ‘It is unfortunate that such a sacrifice was asked of our people…but, trust me, the results will be worth it’ she explains, revealing that the offspring of the survivors shall be the first of a new breed, and that everyone will fear them. ‘Oh, you will fear them’ she declares. ‘In Pama’s name, woman - how could you? You are a traitor to our people!’ Atlas tells his lover, lunging towards her, he breaks away from Hercules. ‘Atlas, listen…’ Minerva calls out as she pulls away from Monica and Sersi and places a hand on Atlas’s arm. Minerva explains that their DNA has been changed, that the potential is unlimited now. ‘And you were meant to be my mate…think of the wondrous generations to come! The glory that will be theirs! Don’t you understand? The weak had to die!’ Minerva explains.
‘No, they did not’ Atlas replies quietly, before pressing a button on his belt, and announcing that they shall join them. Atlas turns to Captain America and suggests that he and the Avengers seek cover, revealing that he has engaged his battle-suit’s self-destruct program, and the blast shall be quite violent. ‘Good Lord, Atlas - don’t do this!’ Cap calls out, but Atlas replies that he must. He explains that he sees now, that his life has been a lie, that he has served a monster with all his heart and soul, and in doing so, he is as culpable as the Supreme Intelligence for what he has happened here.
‘I salute you, Avengers. You are indeed worthy of respect’ Atlas announces, before begging them to do what they can to make the Supreme Intelligence to pay for his crime. ‘Destroy him so his victims may rest in peace’ Atlas asks. There is a humming noise, as his self-destruct device starts to engage. ‘Att-Lass! You don’t understand!’ Minerva exclaims as she leaps towards him, and wraps her arms around him as she is caught up in the ensuing explosion, and they are both seemingly disintegrated.
‘Good Lord’ Captain America utters as he and the other Avengers look at the energy that rises from the ground in the aftermath of the Kree warriors’s destruction. The Black Knight readies his energy-sword, ‘You heard him, folks. Let’s kill that scum’ he tells his teammates. ‘Dane - no! Stop!’ Captain America calls out. ‘What? Cap, you can’t mean to let that murderer go!’ Iron Man asks his friend. ‘Don’t you think I’m sickened by what’s happened here, Iron Man?’ Cap replies. ‘But kill? In cold blood? The Supreme Intelligence is a sentient being…to kill him is…unthinkable’ Cap points out, suggesting that they let the Kree survivors handle this, as the war is over, and the stargates won’t be used again - Earth is safe. ‘There’s nothing more we can do. Dear God, we can’t bring back the dead’.
Hovering above the others, the Vision announces that he is not persuaded the Supreme Intelligence meets the criteria for artificial life, which seems to be disturbing to Captain America. ‘Thus, the word “kill” would be inappropriate in this situation’ the Vision explains, adding that the Supreme Intelligence can also be defined as nothing more than an extremely complex computer. ‘Seen in this light, there can be no moral compunction in shutting it down’ the Vision remarks. ‘The Vision speaks the truth, Avengers!’ Hercules declares, stating that the Supreme Intelligence is an evil that must be stopped - that no plainer course has ever stood before them. He adds that it is monstrous that they even debate this when the bodies of the Supreme Intelligence’s victims lie around them. ‘Billions have died this day!’ Hercules reminds his friends.
Eyes wide, Crystal gasps ‘But Hercules… if he is a living thing… we don’t have the right to simply… kill’, to which the new Thor asks ‘And if we don’t, Crystal… what if next time, his plans include doing this to Earth? What about humanity’s rights, then?’ Adding to the debate, Sersi declares that Hercules is right. ‘Look around you, man! By Zuras, this was genocide! Is there ice in your veins?’ she asks Captain America. Cap tells the sultry Avenger to believe him when he says his gut wants the Supreme Intelligence to pay as much as she does, but they cannot kill. ‘We are not judge, jury and executioner. It is as simple as that’ Cap explains. ‘It is as simple as vengeance, Captain! A matter of right over wrong!’ Sersi retorts.
Suddenly, Iron Man fires a repulser ray at Cap’s feet. ‘Okay, that’s enough!’ Iron Man calls out. ‘Iron Man?’ Cap asks. Iron Man’s eyes are narrowed behind his face-plate, and he points out that he is the only original Avenger present, and announces that he is pulling rank. He tells Cap that he doesn’t agree with him - for he believes that the Supreme Intelligence is a machine - a soul-less piece of hardware, that they will destroy so that nothing like this will ever happen again. ‘Who’s with me?’ Iron Man asks. Hercules, Sersi, Wonder Man, the Vision, the Black Knight and the new Thor all go over and stand with Iron Man. The Black Knight tells Captain America that he is sorry. ‘Maybe we can’t bring the dead back…but we can at least avenge them. Heck…it’s our name!’ Dane points out. ‘Well said, Knight! Well said!’ Hercules agrees. Iron Man asks the other Avengers if they agree with Cap.
Looking unimpressed, disappointed with their teammates, Crystal, Starfox, Hawkeye, Living Lightning, Captain Marvel, Quasar, the Scarlet Witch and Captain America gaze at their teammates. ‘You understand correctly, Iron Man’ Crystal replies, while Hawkeye asks him not to do this. ‘We cannot join in a killing expedition…no matter what the provocation’ the Scarlet Witch states. ‘Yeah. We’re the Avengers…we don’t do things like this!’ Quasar remarks. ‘Where is your pride, terran?’ Deathbird asks. ‘you, no less than I, were used in this affair. This is about revenge!’ she exclaims. Iron Man corrects her, explaining that it is about justice. ‘And it’s strictly an Avengers affair. Butt out’ he warns her.
The Scarlet Witch calls out to Wonder Man, reminding him that they all made a vow never to kill. ‘If you are wrong about this, an you deal with the consequences?’ she asks her friend. Simon frowns at Wanda and tells her that they are not wrong, and that he wished she could see that. ‘Let’s go, people. We have a job to do!’ Iron Man orders as he and Sersi take flight, into the windy air. Quasar rushes over to the new Thor, warning him that he is getting into very muddy waters here. Quasar adds that Cap is right, the Supreme Intelligence is a living thing. Thor remarks that Quasar always thinks Cap is right. ‘That’s your problem. One day you’re gonna have to learn to think for yourself’ Thor adds.
Hercules turns to Captain America, ‘I honor thee as our leader - but today, thou art grievously misguided. To let this menace live dishonors us all…and brings shame to the name Avenger’ Hercules states. Deathbird declares that she sees now at least some of the Avengers know what it means to be a warrior. ‘Shut up, Deathbird!’ Quasar tells her as he holds her by her wrist. Quasar then asks Cap if he wants him to stop the others, but Cap tells Quasar to let them go.
Shortly, Iron Man, Sersi, Hercules, Wonder Man, the Black Knight, the Vision and the new Thor arrive at the Citadel, where they find the Supreme Intelligence, who tells the “renegade Avengers”, as he calls them, that they were expected. The Supreme Intelligence announces that he monitored their spirited debate, even as he now senses their doubts. ‘You present a face of moral certitude, but you don’t really know do you? Am I a construct - or am I alive? You fear the answer!’ the alien declares. Iron Man tells the Supreme Intelligence that he - it - is dreaming. ‘We’re not afraid - just determined to end your madness now!’ he exclaims. ‘I don’t think so, little man’ the Supreme Intelligence replies as he fires a beam of energy, which encases the Avengers. ‘What’s happening?’ Thor calls out.
The Supreme Intelligence explains that he is protecting himself, as any life form would, when under attack. The Supreme Intelligence points out that his Star Force is off-planet, but he wouldn’t leave himself totally undefended. ‘From your memories I have found the seeds of your defeat!’ the Supreme Intelligence declares, ‘That’s Thor! The real Thor!’ Eric gasps when he sees the original Thor standing alongside the Mandarin, Kro, the Grim Reaper, Ultron, the original Black Knight and Cerberus the three-headed dog. ‘What’s happened to him?’ Eric asks. Iron Man tells the new Thor to calm down, and assures him that this isn’t the real Thor, that they are all just images plucked from their minds to confuse them. The Supreme Intelligence declares that they are more than mere images, that he has given them form and substance to destroy them. ‘Yeah… but did you have to go and pick my brother Eric?’ Wonder Man asks as the phoney Grim Reaper moves towards him.
‘The Grim Reaper, eh?’ the Black Knight calls out, telling Wonder Man not to worry, as this reject up here from central casting is supposed to be his uncle, Garrett, the original, slightly felonious Black Knight. ‘So, cheer up, every family’s got their share of embarrassing relatives’ the Black Knight points out as he knocks the replica of his uncle backwards. A furious Sersi slams her fist into the face of Kro the Deviant, and announces that he was no member of her family, but admits that he presented a far more intimidating foe than this conjuring. As Hercules forces the three-headed dog to the ground, he agrees with Sersi, remarking that the true Cerberus did guard the gates of Hades against his entry most savagely. ‘This replica fight pales in comparson’ Hercules adds, while the new Thor agrees, as he sends the copy of the original down for the count.
While Wonder Man disposes of the Grim Reaper copy, Iron Man fires a repulser beam at the Mandarin copy, taking him out. Iron Man asks the Supreme Intelligence where the supreme intellect is in picking foes that they have already defeated. ‘Can you be slipping?’ he asks. The Vision fires a solar beam at the Ultron copy and announces that Ultron is also defeated. Sersi, Hercules and the Black Knight move towards the Supreme Intelligence, while the Vision informs Iron Man that he shares his dubious view of this challenge, as victory has been too easily obtained. ‘The Supreme Intelligence is unquestionably capable of defending itself much more effectively’ the Vision points out. The Vision adds that the question is why the Supreme Intelligence has chosen not to.
Hercules tells the Vision that he thinks to much. ‘The foul murderer stands before us. Let us not question providence!’ Hercules declares. Iron Man tells the Vision that he agrees with Hercules, and suggests that perhaps the Supreme Intelligence was damaged in the explosion, but it doesn’t matter, as they have their chance and must take it. Iron Man fires repulser rays at the Supreme Intelligence and Thor releases energies from his hammer. Sersi and the Vision fire beams from their eyes, and someone shouts ‘Pour it on, Avengers - give it everything you’ve got!’ - before Thor tosses his hammer forward, and the screen in front of the Supreme Intelligence shatters. ‘We did it!’ Iron Man declares, while Sersi asks what lies beyond.
‘The very heart of the Supreme Intelligence, Sersi. Apparently we have found his life support system’ the Vision declares, adding ‘Fascinating’ as they all look up at a very large brain, encased in a globe, with tentacles that extend from the brain, into machinery. The Vision states that this structure seems to be an amalgamation of organic tissue and cybernetic material. He adds that the technology that designed such a construct is most impressive, and that it is regrettable that the Kree did not pursue a less aggressive path. ‘Did he say organic…as in living?’ the new Thor asks. ‘What does it matter? It is a matter of semantics. We came here for a purpose, Thor - this is not the time for doubts!’ Sersi declares fires energy beams at the tentacles. The Vision does the same, while the Black Knight readies his sword, and remarks that the tentacles seem to be some sort of last defense, but that his sword is having trouble cutting through.
Wonder Man tears some tentacles apart, and tells Thor to come on, that he heard Dane, they need his help. Looking confused, Thor replies that he isn’t sure, and announces that he thinks the Intelligence is really alive. ‘And I can’t kill. I can’t. Sorry’ Thor tells his teammates. Iron Man blasts the last of the tentacles, ‘There you go, Knight…that takes care of the last tentacle’ Iron Man announces. ‘Much obliged’ Dane replies, standing on a platform, he looks down at the brain. Iron Man, Sersi, Wonder Man and the Vision stand at his side, while Hercules is down below next to the brain. The Black Knight announces that it is defenseless now, and adds that he hopes they are right. ‘Dane, if you have a single doubt…then stop!’ Thor calls out, while the Vision remarks that there can be no absolute certainty at this point. ‘Just do it!’ Wonder Man shouts. ‘Remember what he did!’ he adds.
‘How could I forget?’ Dane asks as he leaps onto the globe encasing the brain, and slams his photon-sword into it, breaking the case, and stabbing the energy-sword into the actual brain. An image of the Supreme Intelligence displayed in the sky appears to scream, while some sort of concentrated energy beam is directed at the Black Knight, who manages to leap to safety before it strikes him. A plunged sword…the awesome unleashing of a vast, untapped power that was the Supreme Intelligence…the collapse of the Kree Citadel. Again it takes but the space of a heartbeat. But it is the scream, the cry of agony that echoes across the fallen city that will haunt the Avengers for a lifetime. As the Citadel begins to crumble around them, Hercules, the Black Knight, Wonder Man, Sersi, Iron Man, Thor and the Vision rush for safety. ‘I suggest we make haste, gentlemen’ Sersi tells her male companions. ‘You don’t have to tell us twice’ Dane calls out to her. In the chaos, no one looks up to see a tiny point of light rise up from the tower’s ruins and race into the darkling sky.
Shortly, the seven Avengers return to where Captain America, the Scarlet Witch and the other Avengers are waiting for them. ‘Home are the hunters, home from the hills’ Wonder Man remarks. ‘I see you all made it’ Cap tells them, adding that he assumes they accomplished what they set out for. ‘The Supreme Intelligence won’t threaten anyone ever again…he will never kill again…if that’s what you mean’ Iron Man replies. ‘Iron Man, are you -?’ Cap calls out, but Tony turns away from him, ‘Not one of your homilies, not now. I’m not in the mood’ he declares. Hawkeye turns to Wonder Man and shakes his fist at him, ‘I can’t believe you did this! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!’ he tells him. Wonder Man frowns back and tells Clint that it is done, and to get that through his thick skull.
The Scarlet Witch hears a noise, ‘What now?’ she asks as the rumbling from above descends downwards, as Deathbird announces that it is just her little sister, come to claim her reward. The Shi’ar vessel lands with a roar, and Lilandra steps out, holding the Shi’ar flag, she is accompanied by Araki and other Shi’ar officers, as well as members of the Imperial Guard Oracle, Tempest, Electron, Titan and Impulse. The members of Star Force also return to the Kree home world aboard Lilandra’s vessel, from their assignment in Shi’ar space - Korath the Pursuer, Ultimus and Shatterax. ‘Know ye all, gentle beings…by right of conquest, by ight of precious blood and in the names of the Gods, Sharra and Ky’Thri…I, Lilandra Neramani, Majestrix Shi’ar…take possession of this planet and all her dominions in the name of the Shi’ar Imperium!’ Lilandra declares.
Lilandra continues, announcing that from this moment forward, all who bowed before Hala shall be subject to Chandilar, and all that was Kree is now Shi’ar. ‘So have I spoken, so shall it be done!’ she shouts. Turning to the Avengers, Lilandra tells them that it pleases her to see they have survived the cataclysm. Lilandra adds that the universe would have been a poorer place without beings of courage and spirit like the Avengers. ‘I see now such traits are not as unique among terrans as I once thought’ she adds, before noticing her sister amongst the Avengers, Lilandra orders her sister to step forward. Deathbird does as commanded, and Lilandra tells her that it is time for their rivalry to end. ‘Months ago you renounced all claims to my throne…in return, this day I name you my vice-roy to rule this fallen Empire in my name’ Lilandra tells her sister. Majestrix! Is this wise?’ Araki gasps.
‘Silence!’ Lilandra tells him, before informing Deathbird that Star Force will serve as her Imperial Guard. ‘Answerable to me’ she adds, before telling Deathbird to rule these people well for the Shi’ar have done them grievous harm. Confused, Deathbird asks Lilandra why she is doing this. Lilandra replies that she shall sleep easier at night knowing her sister is here on Hala under her careful watch, rather than hiding unseen in the shadows of Chandilar with a dagger in her hand, ‘And my death in your heart’ Lilandra adds.
Lilandra turns back to Captain America, while Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch stand nearby. Lilandra announces that much remains to be done - much pain to be redressed, and tells the Avengers that none of it is any longer their concern. ‘You have my word that the stargate near your sun will never be used again. Your world…home of my heart…is once again safe’ she assures them. Lilandra points out that they live in a universe that has been irrevocably changed, and such change always carries a price. ‘The Shi’ar must face the consequences of our actions. But we face them alone’ Lilandra declares, instructing the Avengers to return to Earth and to leave the Shi’ar to their destiny.
Captain America tells Lilandra that the Avengers wish her luck, pointing out that she has assumed an awesome responsibility. ‘Today, you’ve become one of the most powerful beings in the universe’ he states, adding that this is a day in which they witnessed the expression of authority so absolute that the sanctity of life meant nothing before the destiny of Empires and the cause of self-righteousness. Cap states that it is a story as old and sad as time and one that must end now before there are more Nega-Bombs and more dead. ‘You have a great opportunity to do that…to be powerful enough to cherish life…not destroy it’ Cap tells Lilandra, while he turns to Iron Man, Sersi, Hercules, Wonder Man, the Black Knight, Vision and the new Thor, who are standing together. They just stare back at him. Cap starts to walk towards the Quinjet, and tells Lilandra that she was right on one point - things will never be the same again.
Meanwhile, aboard a vessel somewhere else in space, a Skrull reports that scanners are picking up the capsule at the exact co-ordinates they were supplied with, while another alien announces that they have locked onto it with their tractor beam, and are bringing it in. The Skrull initiates a transfer to their computer core, and exclaims that he has never seen such a complex data flow. ‘What did you expect, fool? It is the knowledge of a thousand millennia’ the other alien points out, before telling the Skrull to do as instructed, put him on the screen. Both aliens look up at the screen, as a voice is heard: ‘Ah! I see that I survived and you were punctual’ the mysterious voice declares, before instructing the aliens to take him to the appointed place where he will await the fruits of this day. ‘My plan went perfectly…and I can afford to be patient’ the voice calls out, as the ship takes off into the blackness of space….