The Isle of Crail, on the outer Hebrides, off the Coast of Scotland. The engine’s roar of the descending Quinjet is all but lost amid the howling winds that sweep off the cold green-grey waters of the North Minch. As the Quinjet descends near an Avengers tracking station, while the Vision drops out of the sky like an ominous specter as torrential rain pours down around him. Visitors inclined to charity call Crail are isolated. Others, perhaps a bit less elegant, certainly far less kind, find it a desolate, barren rock of a place. No one, however, would call it a place of destiny. They would be wrong.
Twenty-seven hours ago, this tracking station, one of several the mighty Avengers have erected across the globe, ceased transmitting data. This group of heroes has journeyed here to find out why. ‘Couldn’t you Avengers have found a more pleasant spot to build your trackers, Vision? I’ve seen dead suns with more appeal!’ the Shi’ar alien called Deathcry mutters. The Vision phases into the tracking station as he informs Deathcry that locales are chosen for a variety of reasons, however a pleasing surrounding environment is not one of them, before he begins his interior inspection.
Magdalene sees her lover the Swordsman clutching his head asks him if he is all right. The Swordsman replies that he is just a little dizzy. The warrior from another world explains that it hit him as soon as they landed, and Magdalene, also not of this Earth, confirms that she felt a slight disorientation as well. The Swordsman remarks that it was a rough ride in, outracing the storm front. He picks up a communicator to contact the Avengers back in New York and report in - but the Swordsman finds that he can’t get a signal, and supposes it is the storm. However, the Vision returns and disputes the Swordsman’s conclusion, as Avengers radio bands would not be affected by this weather system. ‘The signal is, however, undisputedly lost’ the Vision remarks, adding that his probe revealed that the damage to the tracker was both deliberate and exacting, so it could not have been caused by natural phenomenon as they had speculated.
‘But who -’ Deathcry begins, when suddenly she is shot in the shoulder be an assailant up on the surrounding cliffside. Swordsman and Magdalene rush over to her, and the Swordsman raises his sword to deflect another shot. The Swordsman tells Deathcry to stay down, while Deathcry exclaims ‘Sharra’s claws - I’m bleeding!’. The Vision flies to the cliff and tells Magdalene to attend to Deathcry, as the alien warrior mutters that she hates bleeding. Reaching the top of the cliff, the Vision finds a man with a shotgun. ‘You are not even hiding? Interesting’ the Vision remarks, before the man starts shooting at him, only the bullets just go straight through him as the Vision turns himself intangible, before re-solidifying his form and knocking the gun from the man’s hand.
The Vision then uses his solar beams to destroy the shotgun so that it can’t harm anyone else. The Vision grabs the man by his jacket and asks him why he fired on them. Deathcry, Swordsman and Magdalene climb to the top of the cliff and Deathcry exclaims thaty there is a question she wants answered. Magdalene tells the Vision that she couldn’t stop Deathcry, that she insisted her would was slight at that he must not face this menace alone. The Vision tells Magdalene that he understands, before announcing that the mystery deepens, and reports that he recognizes the man from the Avengers file - James Campbell, an engineer hired by the Avengers years ago to oversee the Crail tracking station. The Vision adds that Anthony Stark himself suggested Campbell with the highest recommendation.
‘Nothing in his record would suggest this aberrant behavior’ the Vision remarks, but a frightened Campbell asks ‘Don’t ye see? I had no choice…none! She was with ye! Shi’ar!’ he gasps, pointing at Deathcry. ‘This is illogical’ the Vision remarks, explaining that only a handful of people on Earth know of the existence of the Shi’ar race. ‘How could you have learned of them?’ he asks. Campbell shouts out in agony, before muttering ‘O Lord - he knows! He knows!’. The Vision shakes him and tries to get some sense from him, while Campbell exclaims ‘Listen, man - I didn’t mean to hurt ye! I didn’t! Ye’ve got to help us! He has us all!’ The Vision enquires as to who “he” he is, and how the Avengers can assist.
‘Too late…’ Campbell utters as he falls backwards into a puddle of water. ‘Mr Campbell…?’ the confused Vision calls out, before announcing that he is dead, although he can find no physiological reason why. ‘Curious’ the Vision remarks. The rain continues to pour down, and Magdalene exclaims ‘A man has just died in your arms, synthesis…and all you can feel is curiosity? By the rings, Vision! But your blood runs…cold’, before the warrior woman notices Deathcry is now standing on a ridge nearby and she calls out to her, before rushing over, ‘Child, what is it?’ Magdalene enquires. Deathcry replies that she thought she sensed something when they landed here. ‘But I never thought…never dreamed…’ she utters.
‘What are you saying, girl?’ Magdalene asks, before exclaiming ‘By the Fifth Ring!’ as she sees something out ahead. ‘So you see it, too’ Deathcry remarks. On the other side of the ridge, Magdalene sees the strange ship embedded into the side of the cliff-face. She comments that it is immense, before asking Deathcry if she recognizes it. ‘I do. By Sharra’s bloody claws, I do!’ Deathcry replies, before turning to the Vision and clenching her first, explaining that because she knows it, they have to get out of here as quickly as possible. The Vision tells Deathcry that she seems uncharacteristically unnerved by her discovery. ‘What frightens you?’ he enquires. ‘Does it matter, Vision?’ Deathcry snaps. ‘Just trust me - if we stay here, were dead…all of us’ she exclaims, when suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Have faith, childe of Shi’ar.’. Deathcry spins around - ‘NO!’ she screams, as a Shi’ar warrior in majestic armor and extravagant wings appears on the ridge above.
‘Does my appearance truly terrify you so?’ the Shi’ar warrior asks, before confessing that he finds Deathcry’s unexpected presence in this desolate place most comforting. ‘I have prayed to Sharra for many things, but you are a gift unlooked for - and thus, doubly appreciated’. Deathcry scowls and exclaims ‘By Krythri! It can’t be…but it is! You are T’kyll Alabar, admiral of the First Imperial Fleet, aren’t you?’, before T’kyll drops down from the ridge onto the same level as the others. ‘I am’ he confirms, before asking Deathcry how she came to this planet. ‘From the stars, I know we are both far from home’ he points out, before putting his hands on Deathcry’s wrists. Deathcry recoils, ‘This can’t be! This is a dream, isn’t it?’ she exclaims.
‘Because if you live then he - he!’ Deathcry gasps. ‘Yes, child. The Mephistoid is free once more. But you must not give in to fear - for fear has ever been their key!’ T’kyll replies. Deathcry drops to her knees and bows before T’kyll, ‘Forgive me, milord’ she asks him. ‘That’s better’ T’kyll tells her, before asking how long it has been. ‘Near twelve-hundred years’ Deathcry replies. ‘By Sharra! So long! The Empire owes me much!’
Four kilometers to the east, lies the small village of Ailsa, where the rain still pours down. The unnatural oppressive silence that has blanketed the rain-soaked streets is suddenly broken, ‘I’ve got to see the Chief! Let me in t’him!’ someone calls out as they run down a water-covered street. ‘Are you insane, Ian? You’ve left yuir post!’ someone calls out. ‘The Chief won’t like that, Ian!’ another man remarks, holding a gun. Ian exclaims that he had to leave, as something has happened. He reports that others have come, the Avengers from America, he saw them on the beach, and that Campbell went after them. ‘But they brought a Shi’ar with them’ he reveals. Ian looks at the gun one of the others is holding and asks what has been done to it. ‘The Chief’s made some improvements one of the men explains.
‘But enough of that - are you sure it was a Shi’ar? Was there any sign of him?’ the other man asks. They approach a building and Ian explains that this Shi’ar was a female, so the Chief will want to know. The men agree, and Ian is allowed to enter the building. It is a pub, and once it was the heart of Ailsa. How many times Ian MacAndrew came here to lift a pint or two he cannot remember - it was a happy place. It is dark now, a place of shadows, and in the air, a hint of decay. ‘Youuu coommme?’ a voice calls out. ‘Information have yuuu thinnnl I’ the voice adds. The voice is as old as time, and Ian looks scared. A figure whitish-silver in complexion, with large bulky gold armor emerges from the dim corner of the room and into the half-light with a grace that belies his large form.
Ian thinks that the Chief’s voice is as smooth as glass, soothing. He notices that in the air, something about the air changes as the Chie comes into the half-light. A scent just beyond perception lingers, and Ian MacAndrew suddenly knows he would give his life for the Chief. ‘Seen him, have you? Out od hiding hole Alabar comes?’ the Chief enquires. ‘Defeat me once that Shi’ar did - now pay him back shall I!’ the Chief exclaims, before once again asking Ian if he has seen Alabar. ‘Tell me now!’ he orders. ‘Aye, Chief…back on the beach near yuir ship. He was with some super heroes and a Shi’ar girl’ Ian reveals. ‘Another Shi’ar? Then not so isolated this world may be? Seek this world as well they do’ the Chief remarks, placing a hand on Ian’s shoulder, he declares ‘Fools they are! Arrogance ever their way and their weakness’.
The Chief raises a hand, his clawed fingers glimmering, as he thanks Ian MacAndrew for the information. ‘But post you did abandon…and for that crime, one punishment there is!’ he exclaims, before shouting ‘DEATH!’ as he slashes Ian’s throat with his claws. However, Ian MacAndrew dies, grateful for his fate.
Back at the beach, the rain has stopped, and the Vision, the Honorary Avengers and Alabar gather around a fire. ‘Deathcry says you are a warrior of legend, Admiral Alabar’ the Vision calls out, asking if the Shi’ar often send their legends into deep space on hibernation ships. T’kyll Alabar replies that he is no legend, merely a military man in service to an Empire he both loves and serves. ‘Rather, loved and served. Much must have changed in a millennium’ he adds. ‘Yes, T’kyll, it has’ Deathcry snarls. ‘But not the Empire’s debt to you. Whatever you think, you are a legend!’ she tells him. ‘And here we thought the Vision your only hero, girl’ Magdalene smiles, before asking Deathcry to tell them of this Shi’ar legend. ‘Don’t make fun of me, Magdalene!’ Deathcry exclaims, before adding that if they want to know, they may learn something of the Shi’ar. Deathcry stands, notes the Vision, very much like a school girl at recital, which in many ways she is, a young girl exiled from home…and once more the Vision notes, they haven’t the faintest clue why - which concerns him.
Flashback images, narrated in the present by Deathcry:
Deathcry explains that when the Empire was very young, their exploration fleets searched the starways for worlds to colonize, or to invite to join the Imperium, for many peoples would benefit from the Shi’ar way of life. ‘We brought culture to the heavens’ she explains, adding that many races welcomed the Shi’ar arrival, thankful to be embraced by them. ‘But there was one exception - the Mephistoids’ Deathcry reveals, telling the others that the Mephistoids were an evil, cruel race of unspeakable barbarism, who had no use for the Shi’ar, for they, too, sought to build an empire. The Mephistoids were vicious fighters who slaughtered the Shi’ar advance scouts in a spectacular battle fought across the stars, decimating the Shi’ar fleets, taking over world after world, committing atrocity after atrocity, and destroying everything the Shi’ar had accomplished. In time, the Mephistoids threatened the very heart of Shi’ar itself.
Deathcry continues, revealing that in battle after battle, the Shi’ar finest warriors fell. The sons of ancient families, the very flower of Chandilar, lay dead across dozens of far-off worlds - and their grief was great. In time, the Shi’ar learned of the Mephistoid leader, and though the Shi’ar do not understand the Mephistoid language, finding it too crude for their tongues, so they never learned the creature’s true name, so they simply called him the Butcher. In their darkest moment, with their leaders gone, a young man, the son of a lesser family, rose through the decimated ranks - T’kyll Alabar. In the final battle, legend says, he single-handedly inspired the weary Shi’ar troops and led a final counter attack against the Mephistoids, and there on a nameless world, T’kyll defeated the Mephistoids and saved all Shi’ar.
‘A rather remarkable turnaround, I’d say…but that’s the stuff of legends’ the Swordsman remarks, before pointing out that happened eons ago and light years away. ‘How did you and this Butcher end up here and now?’ Swordsman enquires. Alabar explains that they won the war, but at a great price. He explains that they found the Mephistoids a dangerous foe, even in defeat, and quarantined them on their homeworld - but their leader, they took to Chandliar in chains.
Flashback images, narrated by Alabar in the present:
The Butcher presented a problem to the Shi’ar war-weary council, for it was feared that execution would incite the Mephistods to revel and the quarantine was too fragile for so soon a crisis. It was decided, therefore, to send the Butcher into space in stasis far from Shi’ar, to drift for eternity, not dead, surely - but not quite alive. Ana elegant solution in the very best of Shi’ar tradition. And, as guarantee against the remote possibility that systems would fail and the Butcher would awaken, the man who defeated him was chosen to join him in stasis and protect the Imperium in perpetuity.
Alabar gazes out across the ocean and states that it was an honor he could hardly refuse. ‘An odd story’ the Vision comments, asking if they are to surmise, then, that Alabar’s stasis craft ended its journey by crashing here on Earth. ‘The evidence lies on yon beach, does it not’ Alabar replies.
Flashback images, narrated by Alabar in the present:
Alabar announces that he can still remember Emperor’s words to him - “If the Mephistoid ever awakes, remember the honor the Empire has bestowed upon you this ay…and make certain he never again threatens the Imperium…even if worlds must be forfeit”. With visions of blood battles in his mind, this Alabar did swear.
‘Is there a bitterness in your voice, T’kyll Alabar? Why?’ Deathcry enquires. ‘Think, girl! Think!’ Alabar exclaims, pointing out that her own tale hinted at the truth - he was the son of a lesser family, his presence as the victor of the war embarrassed the court as much as the Butcher threatened it. ‘An exile for both of us settled the matter quite nicely’ Alabar explains. ‘No! You lie!’ Deathcry retorts, while Alabar turns his attention to the stars, ‘Do I, girl? Do I indeed?’ he asks her. ‘I do not lie about this. We quarantined the Mephistoids for many reasons…not the least of which is their ability to control other life forms. They emit a certain pheromone that holds all others in their thrall…and this night he holds many in his power’. Alabar declares that he is duty-bound to stop them all, no matter the price.
Meanwhile, in New York City, at the recently restored Avengers Mansion. Hercules, Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow, Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Giant Man and Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff are fathered in a communications room. Hank is at a console and tells Natasha that it is not good - he can’t raise the Vision or the others at all. Natasha asks Hank if it is the equipment again, to which he replies ‘What else could it be?’ and points out that the programming is totally alien to him, the frequency modulators are all off and the files are all wrong. ‘It’ll take weeks to get things back to the way we had them!’ Hank complains. Natasha tells Hank that she knows things have been confusing since Ute transformed the Mansion, but things will work out, they have to.
Natasha turns to Cap and asks to speak to him for a moment. They leave the others, and Natasha tells Steve that the loss of the Black Knight an Sersi has everyone on edge, that it hit them hard and she is worried about the team. ‘I think you have a right to be, Tasha’ Cap tells his friend, while looking at Crystal, who approaches her estranged husband, Quicksilver. After Quicksilver calls out to Crystal, she asks him if there is any word on the Vision and the others. Pietro replies that he is afraid not. ‘But I - I wanted to know how you -’ Pietro begins, ‘I mean - how were the plans for the memorial service?’ he asks. Crystal closes her eyes and reveals that she and Cap talked last night, and they think a simple service in the garden would be appropriate.
Crystal puts a hand to Pietro’s face, and he puts his hand on hers. ‘You’ve been so kind these past few days…’ Crystal begins. Pietro replies that he is merely concerned about someone he cares very much about. ‘I - I know -’ Crystal begins, before hanging her head and walking away, asking Pietro to give her some time, a little more time. Hercules sees what has transpired, and watches as Quicksilver tells Crystal to take all the time she needs. ‘Good Quicksilver…you have but lately rejoined our fellowship, but know I have ever been thy friend’ Hercules tells him, before informing him that if he ever feels the need to talk, or for advice in matters of the heart, then he is here for him. Quicksilver thanks Hercules, before asking if he is to win back his wife, how he can fight a ghost.
Back in Scotland, the Vision tells Deathcry that she seems upset by Alabar’s revelation. ‘I have found that legends rarely live up to expectations’ he adds, explaining that reality is always much more complicated. Leaning against a tree, Deathcry replies that she is not upset, and tells the Vision that she doesn’t know what he is talking about. ‘Really? Then you have my apolo -’ the Vision begins, before he notices a figure appear on the ridge overhead. The Vision alerts the Swordsman and Magdalene that they have a visitor. ‘By Sharra’s claw - the Mephistoid!’ Deathcry screams. The Vision tells his companions to stand back, for if what T’kyll told them is true, then any proximity to the Mephistoid can lead to enthrallment.
Noticing that there are many civilians following the Butcher, the Swordsman suspects that he must have brought the entire village with him. ‘Yes…all the soldiers have I on this paltry planet!’ the Butcher exclaims, smiling. ‘More than enough are they! But always room there is for more!’ he adds Magdalene and the Swordsman suddenly appear strange, and they turn to the Vision, ‘You know what you have to do!’ the Swordsman exclaims, while the Vision points out that it appears the Mephistoid’s pheromone effect is nearly instantaneous. ‘Silence, android!’ Magdalene shouts as she fires a blast from her staff, which knocks the Vision away from them. ‘Vision!’ Deathcry gasps as she and Alabar leap into action.
The enthralled civilians grab the Swordsman and Magdalene, ‘The Chief wants ‘em!’ someone points out. ‘Where are the Shi’ar?’ someone else calls out. ‘We are here, you -’ Deathcry begins, but Alabar grabs her and tells her to be quiet, while calling her a foolish girl. ‘What are you doing?’ Deathcry demands. ‘Saving your life!’ Alabar tells her as he takes flight. At that moment, the local townspeople bring the Vision, Magdalene and the Swordsman towards the Butcher. ‘What prize won we this day?’ he asks them. Examining the Vision, the Butcher exclaims ‘A synthetic life form! Wonders undreamt of this world offers!’ The Butcher declare that this is a world waiting for conquest, and announces that the Shi’ar pair must be found - and killed.
Not far away, Alabar lands as Deathcry tells him that he is a coward for running from battle. ‘You cannot be T’kyll Alabar!’ she exclaims. Alabar grabs Deathcry and tells her to listen to him, ‘There’s more here than meets the eye! We did not crash here. Someone brought my ship to this planet’ he reveals, adding that someone wanted the Mephistoid alive again, so they must find out who - or they are all doomed.