Seti Tatola IV, a dusty, wind-blown planetoid located somewhere in the backwash of the vast galactic federation known as the Shi’ar Empire. It is a place of rogues and thieves, a haven of the desperate and the displaced. Seti Tatola IV is a place all proper Shi’ar shun...and fear. Two cloaked figures walk across the rocky landscape, and enter an establishment. Various alien forms are going about their business, drinking, relaxing, while one man sits in the shadows, ‘You’ve come. Good’ he greets the new arrivals as they approach him. He tells them that this is a fine place they have chosen for their little meeting and adds that it needs a proper airing, as it stinks of unripened Meduvian sweet grass and bad Skrullian ale – not quite the type of establishment a former admiral of the Kree Imperial Fleet ever expected to find himself. The man’s blue-skinned face is badly damaged, some scars down one side, and a patch over one eye. The new arrivals remove their cloaks, and the Kree states that this is a place in which Mam’selle Hepzibah and Raza Longknife of the Starjammers must feel quite at home.
As Hepzibah and Raza seat themselves across from the Kree, Raza tells him to have a care, as this tavern has offered the Starjammers safe haven time and again, ever since he discovered it in his youth when he was but an apprentice to the great smuggler, K’Qill Vor Don. Raza then asks the Kree why he contacted them. ‘Simple. I want you to kill this man’ the Kree replies as he holds a small projector, which shows an image of the Black Knight. He informs the Starjammers that the man is a Terran called the Black Knight, and that he killed their leader, the Supreme Intelligence. ‘And for that crime, he must pay’. Raza tells the Kree that the earthling did him a kindness, and points out that all Shi’ar know that the foul Kree leader butchered his own people. ‘Propaganda of Chandilar! Lies of your harlot queen, Lilandra!’ the Kree retorts. Raza raises a dagger and points it at the Kree, reminding him that Lilandra is now his queen, too, as the Kree lost the war.
Hepzibah keeps a watch over the Kree while telling Raza that they don’t need his blade, as she is intrigued by the Kree man’s offer. She asks him why he thinks they would betray the Terrans, as the Starjammers are their allies. The Kree points out that even loyalty has a price, and asks her if she didn’t learn that when Lilandra betrayed her by making Deathbird, their greatest enemy, her regent over the Kree people? Hepzibah assures the Kree that she is no friend of Lilandra. ‘Good. My compatriots and I will pay you two hundred million credits if you do one little thing. Come now, it is only a terran we speak of’ the Kree replies. Hepzibah smiles, but Raza states that the Starjammers are not assassins, no matter what the price. ‘Of course. You are “noble” pirates, I forgot!’ the Kree responds, while pointing out that he noticed Hepzibah’s eyes lit up at his offer. He then informs Raza that for him, they offer a different form of compensation, and pulls out from inside his jacket a pendant. ‘You gave this to your son... just before he was dragged into the slave pits of D’Ken Neramani, did you not?’ the Kree asks.
The Kree continues, ‘He was but five years old, was he not?’ as Raza holds up the pendant and stares at it, while the Kree tells him to do their bidding, and he will be reunited with his family. ‘For we know where they are!’ he reveals. Raza turns to Hepzibah, ‘This is madness! We cannot... we...’ his voice trails off. ‘Why not? Nothing is this terran to us’ Hepzibah points out. Raza tells Hepzibah that Corsair will never agree to this, and as she raises a glass to her lips, Hepzibah tells Raza to fear not, and to leave Corsair to her, as he loves her. She tells the Kree that they have a deal.
Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion on Earth: Less than twenty-four hours ago, Professor Charles Xavier, world-renowned expert in mutagenics and secret leader of the outlaw band of mutants called the X-Men requested a summit meeting, between himself, members of the government mutant team X-Factor, and the Avengers. Charles Xavier is not a man one refuses easily. With Xavier is Scott “Cyclops” Summers, who stands behind Xavier’s hover-chair. In the meeting room, standing directly across from Xavier and Cyclops are X-Factor’s Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff and Dr Valerie Cooper. Quicksilver stands with his wife, the Avenger known as Crystal, who holds onto their infant daughter, Luna. Eric Masterson who is also known as the new Thor, Hercules, the Vision and Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow are present from the Avengers team, as is their guest Carol Danvers a.k.a. Binary, a former associate of Xavier’s.
Xavier thanks everyone for coming and explains that he asked for this meeting because he fears there is a potential threat which may affect members of each of the teams. He reveals that months ago, the X-Men encountered a fanatical group called the Acolytes, mutants who deemed Magneto to be their savior, indeed the savior for all of mutant kind, and although they fought and defeated them, recent events suggest that a cadre of Acolytes survived, determined more than ever to worship the memory of their fallen leader. The Professor adds that it is that mentality that caused him to fear for Pietro and Crystal, but most of all, Luna. Concerned, Crystal asks the Professor why, as their daughter is human. ‘What possible use could she be to these Acolytes?’ the elemental enquires. ‘None. That’s the point, isn’t it, Professor?’ Quicksilver remarks, adding that the fact Magneto’s granddaughter is merely human might be considered an impediment to the effectiveness of his legend – an embarrassment some would like to remove. Cyclops tells Quicksilver that it is possibility that they cannot ignore.
Valerie Cooper points out that the Acolytes have not been heard from since they hijacked the space orbiter, before suggesting to Charles that perhaps it is time they disclosed the information the Bureau of Mutant Affairs received. Charles tells Val that he agrees, and tells the Avengers that the data Dr Cooper refers to was delivered to the BMA yesterday by persons unknown, and confirmed rumors that had come to him indicating that the Acolytes had indeed resurfaced. He asks Cyclops for the disc, and when Scott gives it to him, inserts it into the computer console. An image of Magneto appears on the monitor, with the words “Beware, humans! His sacrifice will not be in vain! The purity of his mutant legacy will endure”. ‘Avengers – behold the man. Magneto, the late Master of Magnetism’ Charles announces.
Quicksilver reads the words on the screen and declares that he wished he never learned Magneto was his father. He then excuses himself from the meeting, explaining that he and his wife have much to discuss. Pietro, Crystal and the baby then leave the room. Charles turns to Carol and tells her that at least there is one bright spot to this day, as he has heard she is fully recovered. ‘Charles...there are things you should know about –’ Carol begins to say, before Charles interrupts her, ‘Lilandra. I sense her in your thoughts’ he tells Carol, before asking her to speak in private with him.
Back in space, this time Zhylian Cascadhel, a fringe system on the edge of Shi’ar space, where a sleek star-faring privateer has just run a heavily patrolled blockade. It is heading to open space, and the crew are the intergalactic freebooters and galactic buccaneers called the Starjammers. Besides Raza and Hepzibah, their number includes Corsair, Ch’od and Cr+eee and Sikorsky. The large reptilian alien called Ch’od announces that it is most unusual that those Shi’ar scout craft should fire upon them, as they are committing no crime in leaving the Empire. ‘Are we?’ he enquires. ‘Not the last time I checked’ Corsair responds, before pointing out that things have been a little testy since the war. ‘For Lilandra, perhaps, too much strain ruling Kree and Shi’ar both, eh?’ Hepzibah suggests. Corsair asks her if she is gloating.
Corsair tells his lover that they wouldn’t be testing the Majestrix’s patience if she and Raza had not insisted they visit Binary on Earth. Raza asks if it was such an odd request, pointing out that Carol Danvers was a Starjammer in both name and deed, so such a bond cannot be ignored. ‘It is important we go, lest the ties of friendship fade’ Raza adds. Ch’od announces that he suspects Raza seeks to hide his true objective for this journey. Hepzibah feigns surprise and asks Ch’od what he means. Ch’od explains that he has always suspected their cyborg compatriot, despite his toughened exterior, was somewhat enamored of their terran ally. Raza gets to his feet and warns Ch’od that if he values his affection, to keep such observations to himself. Raza starts to leave the bridge of the vessel, as Ch’od protests, explaining that he only meant it is as a jest.
Later, Hepzibah goes to Raza. ‘Sloppy that was. Careful you must be… or lose everything we will’ she tells him. Raza tells Hepzibah to fear not, and holding up pendant that K’Qill Vor Don gave him, tells Hepzibah that her reward, and his, he knows what he must do. He adds that in his life he has killed many times, and assures Hepzibah that when they reach Earth, he shall kill once more.
Back on Earth, in Avengers Mansion, the handsome Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight is working out in the training room. The shirtless hero leaps between two large robots, ‘YESS!’ he shouts, photon-sword overhead. ‘The crowd goes wild, ladies and gentlemen - as the Black Knight takes out yet another armored behemoth!’ Dane then flips through the air, ‘Is there no stopping this man - or what?’ he calls out, before slicing one of the robots with his photon-sword. ‘Unbelievable! A reverse gut-thrust - and the monster is down! The crowd roars! They get to their feet! They -’ Dane calls out, when suddenly, his workout is interrupted by the arrival of Hercules and the new Thor. Hercules asks his teammate where he has been, and if he forgot their council with the X-Men. Dane replies that he didn’t forget, but he decided to skip it. The new Thor tells Dane that this Xavier guy is not exactly the social type, that he doesn’t show up unless something really serious is about to break. He adds that from the look of things, Crystal is going to need all their support.
‘But, y’know, I gotta tell ya, her husband’s not half as obnoxious as I was expecting’ Thor remarks. ‘Really, Thor?’ Dane frowns, narrowing his eyes, sweat dripping down his face. ‘That just makes my day!’ Dane exclaims as he shoves his photon sword through one of the robots, destroying it. Dane then calls out to the computer, terminating the attack sequence and instructing the computer to transport the droids to the repair bay. Dane then turns to Hercules and Eric and informs them that he didn’t go because he didn’t want to. Dane then strides past them, so Eric turns to Hercules, ‘Whoa. What’s eating him? He didn’t even notice you shaved your beard’ Eric remarks. ‘Aye’ Hercules agrees, adding that, fortunately, his feelings are not easily bruised.
Quicksilver and Crystal are in a corridor, talking, and Pietro tells his wife that that they must do what is best for Luna, that they cannot take anything to do with his father lightly. ‘I agree, Pietro, but - Dane!’ Crystal gasps as Dane walks past them. ‘Wha -? Pietro. I didn’t mean to interrupt’ Dane tells them. Crystal watches him as he walks past her, towel draped over his shoulders, Crystal tells him that it is all right, and that they missed him at the meeting. ‘Sorry’ Dane replies, adding that he was busy.
‘I was busy? Nice, Whitman… real nice!’ Dane thinks to himself as he starts to walk up a staircase. ‘A friend needs your support, and what do you do? You act like a cold fish and pull away! Man, with friends like you, who needs enemies?’ he tells himself, before arriving on the rooftop of Avengers HQ. He stands on the edge of the roof, one foot on the raised ledge that runs around it, he tells himself to be honest for once - ‘What I feel for Crystal is more than friendship, isn’t it? And it can’t happen! It won’t happen!’ he knows that Crystal wants to repair her marriage and make it work, while it tears him up that he keeps hoping Crystal fails. ‘Some friend. Some hero’ Dane tells himself, when, suddenly, ‘Penny for your thoughts?’ a voice calls out. Dane turns his head and sees the glamorous Sersi, sitting cross-legged as she hovers in the air. ‘Where have you been for the past two weeks, Avenger?’ Dane asks her. ‘Oh, here and there. What ails you, handsome?’ Sersi replies.
Sersi drops down to the rooftop and walks over to Dane, who replies that there is a lot on his mind, and that he has been thinking he might leave the Avengers again. Sersi tells Dane that would be foolish, before asking him whether the recent events on Hala have anything to do with this melancholy. ‘Partially’ Dane confirms, before asking Sersi if she ever doubts whether they did the right thing out there. ‘Not for a moment’ the Eternal replies as she sits on the ledge near Dane. Sersi reminds Dane that the Supreme Intelligence was a construct that deserved destruction - and she thinks several billion dead Kree would agree. ‘Cap didn’t’ Dane reminds Sersi, adding that he left the team because of it. ‘Captain America is a noble man, sadly out of touch with today’s reality’ Sersi replies
Dane puts his hands to his head and tells Sersi that he wishes he could be as sure, and admits that he keeps wondering if he killed a living being. ‘And I keep hearing that last scream echoing in my mind!’ he reveals. Sersi puts a hand on one of Dane’s arms and tells him that the past is immutable. ‘You have to let it go…and enjoy the present’ Sersi points out, as she leans into Dane and wraps her arms around him, kissing him. Dane is surprised, he goes wide-eyed, and when Sersi pulls away he asks her ‘What was that about?’ Sersi tells Dane that he is a big boy, and asks whether she has to explain. Sersi smiles, ‘You can’t deny it…you’re as intrigued as I!’ Sersi declares. Dane starts to tell Sersi that she doesn’t understand, when suddenly, ‘What the?’ Dane asks as he and Sersi look at the spaceship descending above them. ‘It appears we have visitors’ Sersi points out, adding that someone should inform Jarvis that he should set more plates for dinner.
And, soon, the Avengers, their guests and the Starjammers are in the banquet hall. Tables of food have been set out, as the heroes mingle. Professor X is with Corsair and Binary, and tells Corsair, addressing him as Major Summers, that this is a most delightful surprise. ‘For us as well, Charles. You and Scott were the last people I expected to find here’ Corsair tells his former shipmate, while his son, Cyclops, takes a drink that Jarvis serves. Cyclops tells the Avengers’ faithful butler that he hopes his father’s arrival has not upset plans. ‘Of course not’ Edwin Jarvis replies. The Black Widow speaks with Crystal, who holds Luna, while Val Cooper engages Hepzibah in conversation. Hercules, Sersi and the Vision stand together, while Quicksilver stands at the side of the room, away from everyone else, and Ch’od and Thor stand at one of the tables of food. ‘Surely you jest! Pigs in the blanket?’ Ch’od asks. ‘What an appalling name for such a scrumptious delicacy!’ he exclaims. ‘Did you actually say… scrumptious?’ Thor asks.
Jarvis tells Cyclops that a true butler meets such challenges with equanimity, as Corsair reports that things have not been easy since the war ended, that there have been reports of pockets of resistance by the Kree, although there is precious few of them left to make a difference. Binary listens as Corsair informs Charles that Lilandra will want to know about his injury. ‘Yes. I suspect Lilandra and I will have much to discuss when we next meet’ Charles agrees, before Cyclops goes over to his father and asks if they can have a minute alone. He tells him that they have to talk. ‘About Maddie and Nathan? Of course, son, of course’ Corsair replies, and they move to one side of the room.
The Inhuman called Marilla, who acts as nanny to little Luna enters the room and walks towards Crystal and Quicksilver who are holding Luna and speaking to the Black Widow, who assures Quicksilver that they can provide Luna with more than adequate protection here at the Mansion. She adds that she and Professor X have already discussed several new security measures. Crystal smiles and thanks Natasha, as Marilla announces ‘As much as it breaks my heart to take Luna from both her parents, it does…’tis time for our precious wee one’s bedtime’. Suddenly, as Marilla takes Crystal in her arms, she gasps Randak’s bones!’ when she sees Ch’od walk by. ‘But isn’t he the odd one, Lady Crys?’ Marilla remarks. ‘No more strange, I’d wager…than we Inhumans appear to outsiders, Marilla’ Crystal replies. The Black Widow then asks Marilla if she has seen the Black Knight. ‘That one! Getting as moody as the Vision, he is!’ Marilla quickly replies, adding that more than likely, the Black Knight is in the dirty hangar bay. Marilla offers to fetch the Black Knight, and as she takes her leave, complains that her work is never done. Ch’od stands with Hepzibah and tells her ‘Speaking of absent guests…Hepzibah, do you have any idea where Raza is?’ but Hepzibah casually replies ‘No’, and tells Ch’od that Raza’s business is his own.
At that moment, Raza moves through a ventilation duct in Avengers HQ. Referring to the Starjammers’ onboard computer, Waldo, Raza tells himself that Waldo has scanned this edifice, mapping out its air-shafts and conduits, locating his quarry in the maintenance area. Raza admits that he bears the Black Knight no grudge, but decides he did play a dangerous game on Hala, and all who have known the Kree, know they do not forget, not forgive. Raza tells himself that he is their emissary, their pawn, who have ever hated the bluelings, so it is a surprising thing, life, but to find his son, he would gladly dance with the Devil himself. In the hangar bay, Dane is working on some equipment as Raza moves about above him. Raza thinks that in his hand, he holds the proof he needs that the Kree know where his son is. ‘And if thou must die, Dane Whitman, so that I may find him again, then I beg thy forgiveness… but… by Kythri’s bloody claws, die ye shall’.
Suddenly, Dane looks up from where he is working, ‘Is someone there?’ he calls out. ‘Sersi?’ he asks. But it’s Raza, who is still in the air duct, and looks pained, wondering why he hesitates. ‘With the moment nigh, does the inky shadow of doubt threaten to overwhelm me? Nay! I reject it! It is my son’s life at stake! My son!’ Raza tells himself. Dane decides that no one is there, and supposes that he is feeling kind of jumpy. ‘Funny, I was almost hoping it was Sersi. Maybe I should take her up on her offer. Maybe all I need is a little distraction -’ but his thoughts are interrupted, when suddenly, Raza bursts forth from the air vent, ‘Avenger, prepare thyself! For thy day is done!’ Raza booms, sword ready as he drops down in front of Dane. ‘Who the -?’ Dane asks as he prepares himself by leaping away from Raza. ‘Thou hast made mighty enemies, Black Knight - enemies who blame thee for their Empire’s end - and want thee DEAD!’ Raza shouts as he prepares to slice the Black Knight - but Dane leaps and rolls to safety, as the Black Knight’s sword slams into some equipment.
‘Buddy, I spent a week refurbishing that beauty - and you just totaled it!’ Dane exclaims as he reaches for his photon sword. Dane grits his teeth and turns his sword on, ‘Let me tell you…that was not a smart thing to do!’ Dane declares. ‘Not smart at all!’ Dane shouts as he leaps towards Raza. ‘Thou hast found thy weapon. Good. Tis then a more fitting end for thee, as a warrior born’ Raza remarks, before assuring Dane that this battle brings him no joy. ‘Thy death is not of my choosing - for thou art Binary’s teammate - her friend - a relationship I do not take lightly!’ Raza explains. As he and Dane take another swipe at each other, Raza claims that he only does what he must, may Sharra forgive him. Dane’s sword swipes a column in the hangar bay, and replies ‘Let me get this straight - you have nothing against me - you don’t want to hurt me - but someone’s forcing you to kill me!’
Dane knocks Raza back and tells him ‘You gotta learn - don’t give into peer pressure!’ as Raza falls to the ground. Dane stands over him, and asks Raza what is going on and whether the Starjammers have attacked the other Avengers. ‘Nay - only thee’ Raza responds. ‘Oh. Well, I guess I’m flattered’ Dane replies, moving forward as Raza leaps up. ‘Thou doth jest? Or is it mere bravado that masks thy fears?’ Raza asks, before kicking Dane in the face, causing Dane to fall backwards. ‘Surely thou didst know the Kree would never allow thee to live…after they learned ‘twas thy sword that didst slay the Supreme Intelligence’ Raza remarks. ‘The Supreme - ? But - you’re Shi’ar! Since when do you go around acting like the Kree’s personal hitman?’ Dane enquires as he steadies himself. Raza reveals that once, long ago, he lost something infinitely precious, and he has carried the ache of that loss all the long years since. ‘The Kree found it, and in their cruelty they dangled its deliverance before me. On that day, thy fate was sealed’.
In the banquet hall, ‘Good Lord!’ the Black Widow gasps as she and the others hear a rumbling. The Professor asks the Black Widow if the disturbance is unexpected, to which she replies ‘Most definitely’ and tells the Avengers that they have a problem. ‘Let’s take care of it, shall we?’ the Black Widow suggests, as Crystal, the Vision, Hercules, Sersi and the new Thor follow her out of the banquet hall, leaving Hepzibah to watch them go.
Back in the hangar bay, Dane ducks for cover as Raza takes another swipe at him. Raza decides that Dane did deserve to know the reason for his death sentence, but announces the time for speeches has passed. Dane rolls under a Quinjet, ‘Well, so much for the old talk-’em-out-of-it routine!’ he thinks to himself, realizing that he and Raza are too evenly matched as swordsmen, he knows that Raza outclasses him in the strength department. He decides that it is time to try and even the odds, so adjusts his photon-sword’s energy field as Raza starts to tear up the Quinjet, telling the Black Knight not to hide from him, as such cowardice ill becomes him. ‘Raza - enough with the insults, okay?’ Dane replies as he bursts forth from under the Quinjet and slams the handle of his photon-sword into Raza, knocking him back.
Dane’s arm is encased in the sword’s polarity field, as he figured Raza would not be prepared for hand-to-hand combat, while the sword’s neural paralysing effect should make up for their strength disparity. Dane slams Raza with the handle once more, and realizes that the only problem is he cannot keep this up for long. Raza falls back, and admits that Dane is a skilled fighter, before boasting ‘But so am I!’ as he takes a swipe at Dane, knocking him backwards. Suddenly, ‘By the Trikon! What is all this racket - about. By Gorgon’s hooves!’ Marilla gasps as she enters the hangar bay carrying Luna. Raza turns to them, and Dane looks up to see them, before urgently instructing Marilla to get out of here. ‘Nay, Inhuman. Stay awhile’ Raza declares as he rushes over and grabs Marilla by her wrist.
Raza then grabs Luna, and holds her out of Marilla’s reach. Marilla begs him not to hurt the little one, as Raza replies that it is not up to him. ‘But to him’ he explains, turning to the Black Knight. Dane is horrified and tells Raza to let her go, as she is just a baby. ‘Aye. One child’s life in exchange for another. There’s a symmetry in that, eh?’ he suggests, his sword held close to Luna. Dane moves closer, and tells Raza that he is insane. ‘Perhaps’ Raza admits, adding that perhaps no man who has spent time in D’Ken Neramani’s slave pits can ever claim to be sane, which is why he will do anything to rescue his loved ones still there. ‘And I promise thee - I will do anything’ Raza warns Dane, who suddenly rushes forward, ‘NO!’ he roars, lunging at Raza, who grits his teeth and smiles as he shoves his sword into the Black Knight’s stomach. ‘Forgive me, Knight - never would I hurt the child. But the ruse was needed - to end this dance macabre’.
The Black Knight goes wide-eyed, an he falls on his front to the ground at Raza’s feet, as Raza stands over him and asks ‘By Sharra’s burning eyes - what have I done? Is this what I hath become?’ Marilla has since picked up Luna and holds her closely, as a voice calls out to Raza ‘Pray to the gods, alien! You’ll need them!’ as Hercules grabs Raza by his ponytail and yanks him backwards. Hercules places his hands around Raza’s throat and tells him that he has killed an Avenger, and for that, he must die. The Black Widow, the new Thor and the Vision turn their attention to Hercules, while Quicksilver frowns as Crystal and Sersi both look in shock and awe at the motionless body of the Black Knight….