The Himalayan Mountains, once the site of the great Inhuman Refuge called Attilan. Now, it is home to the remnants of the one-time slave-race, formerly known as the Alpha Primitives. Emancipated years ago, the Alpha Primitives have since managed to eke out a meager existence amidst the unforgiving tundra. Several of them are sheltered in a tent under an overhanging rock face. For them, life has been reduced to a fundamental pattern of hunt and gather, consume and reproduce. Thus, the Alpha Primitives have no word in their simple gutteral language to convey the concept of surprise - as suddenly, there is a golden light, and from it, a man appears. He, too, is golden, and energy radiates around him as he gasps ‘I…LIVE!’
He sees the Alpha Primitives and announces ‘I am yet where once I was!’, but he sees that the Great Refuge is gone. ‘By Hala, how much time has passed since - pah! Enough of idle speculation! Whatever the answer it does not alter the paramaters of the operation’. He lifts open a pouch on his armor, where a panel glows, and he takes flight, declaring that it is his charge to deliver the fruits of their genetic experimentation - the Inhumans - to the homeworld, to serve as foot soldiers in the coming way of three galaxies. ‘And no matter where upon this misbegotten mudball they may now reside…none can long elude Arides of the Kree…he who is the Shatterer of Stars!’
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, specifically the gardens surrounding Avengers Mansion. This day, more akin to purgatory than to Eden. At lease, as far as the young Inhuman woman called Crystal, is concerned. Wearing her black and white costume with the Avengers’ jacket overtop, she stands amongst the trees and wonders when life became so complicated, recalling that back home, in the Great Refuge, the Inhumans were mercifully shielded from the motherworld’s complexities. ‘Things like war…politics…and even…dare I think it…love’. Suddenly, ‘Crystal?’ calls out Quicksilver a.k.a. Pietro Maximoff, Crystal’s estranged husband and teammate. Quicksilver tells Crystal that they need to talk about what has transpired - about them and the Black Knight. ‘But if this is a bad time…’ his voice drifts off.
Crystal turns away from Quicksilver and replies ‘Perhaps…that’s part of the problem, Pietro. I was so young…so very young when we first married. Neither of fully realized what such a commitment would entail’ she points out. Crystal tells Pietro that times change, people change, but perhaps whatever bond they once shared, they may yet share again in the future. Quicksilver acknowledges that change is inevitable, but points out that growth in and of itself can be an enriching experience, and that people can just as easily grow together as apart. ‘Clearly the woman who stands before me, so filled with fire and sprit, is a far cry from the sheltered naïve young girl I first encountered. And, though circumstances have conspired to create their fair share of obstacles between us…such obstacles can be dealt with - and overcome!’ Quicksilver exclaims, telling Crystal that all he asks is for a chance, merely a chance, to prove to her what he already knows in his heart.
‘Pietro, I -’ Crystal begins, when suddenly she screams, as she and Quicksilver are both knocked to the ground by a surge of energy. ‘Excellent! It would appear that certain variables have remained stable during my absence!’ a voice calls out, it is Arides, who appears hovering over the Avengers. ‘Most notable the attraction this backwards civilization holds for the young Inhuman princess and her mongrel mutant consort’ Arides remarks, before telling them to impart to him the current coordinates inhabited by their sorry sub-species, otherwise they will risk his wrath. ‘SHATTERSTAR!’ Crystal gasps. ‘Yes, that was my former designation, was it not?’ Arides replies, explaining that he is now unworthy to claim that, until such time as he has fulfilled his obligation to the Empire. ‘For now, you may address me as Arides!’
‘A fool by any other name, Arides…remains exactly that!’ Crystal exclaims as she casts elemental energies towards him, knocking him back, she announces that she has not so soon forgotten their previous encounter. Nor forgiven the myriad cruelties he inflicted on her people. ‘A most spectacular display, child’ Arides smiles when he composes himself, before telling Crystal that she should prove a valuable commodity in the coming conflict. ‘However, against one whose body has, since childhood, been subjected to the rigors of photo-mesonic energy…you are as straws in the midst of a hurricane!’ he boasts as he releases energies towards Crystal. Suddenly, Quicksilver speeds up to Arides, who declares ‘I have no interest in you, Earth-spawn’ and knocks him aside.
Arides takes hold of Crystal and announces that Quicksilver will remain behind. ‘But the princess may yet lead me to -’ Arides begins, when suddenly, his life-matrix indicator glows, and he understands that another Inhuman has spontaneously materialized in their general locality. He finds this curious, and decides that the phenomenon must be investigated at once. As he takes Crystal in his arms, Arides tells her to rest well, and as he takes flight, states that when she awakens, it shall be beside her brethren, en route to Kree-Lar! On the grass, Quicksilver looks up to the sky, and vows to get his wife back - recover her - or avenge her.
Meanwhile, in Soho, the home and headquarters of the recently established Fantastic Force. ‘Aw, Franklin…why do I always get stuck with the heavy lifting?’ complains Devlor as he lugs heavy equipment about. Surrounded by psionic energy, the teenaged Franklin Richards a.k.a. Psi-Lord points out that it is mostly because Devlor is built for it, and with both Huntara and Vibraxas off in Wakanda, the clean-up crew is a little short-handed today. ‘You can’t expect me to do the entire job telekinetically’ Psi-Lord remarks. With the equipment in place, Devlor shifts to his humanoid form, while Psi-Lord remarks that now that the new tele-security monitor has been installed, they should be safe from unwelcome incursions.
Suddenly, there is a strange energy, and Arides, with the unconscious Crystal, materializes. ‘Impossible! The bio-pattern lock has been lost! But not before I’d followed the signal to this edifice!’ Arides exclaims, deciding that he is near, he can sense it. ‘Surrender the cloaked Inhuman…or suffer the consequences!’ he warns Psi-Lord and the humanoid Devlor as he turns to them. ‘This that seeker you told me about, Dev?’ Pis-Lord asks. ‘No way! I’ve never seen him before in my life…’ Devlor replies, but as Arides puts Crystal on the floor, Devlor announces that she is another matter entirely: ‘She’s a member of the royal family!’ he exclaims.
Psi-Lord remarks that Devlor is turning out to be a popular guy, but that since this “character” has just vaporized a good day’s work, he can’t think much of his fan club’s recruitment standards. Psi-Lord attacks Arides, but Arides retaliates with the same energies that have destroyed the security monitor. ‘Franklin!’ Devlor exclaims, shifting to his other form. ‘If you’ve hurt him…you’ll learn firsthand why Devlor is the deadliest Inhuman of all!’ he warns Arides, only to be knocked aside by the energy emitted from Arides, who exclaims ‘Yes! At last, all becomes clear!’ and as he picks up Crystal and Devlor, he makes his escape, remarking that in the time he has been away, the Inhumans must have discovered how to mask their genetic signatures in order to elude pursuit and capture. ‘Or perhaps the creature is some new breed of hitherto unrecorded chromosomal archetype’ Arides supposes, deciding that in either event, both the princess and the bestial one are now his.
‘Uh…Devlor…!’ Psi-Lord mutters as he tries to get up off the floor. Suddenly, ‘This is the place!’ Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Giant Man announces as he appears in the large hole in the wall, along with his teammates Quicksilver and the Vision, as well as inactive Avenger Eric Masterson - better known as Thunderstrike - and the Avengers’ associate, Deathcry. The Vision asks Giant Man if he is sure this is the place, to which Giant Man points out that something bad came down here, not to mention the photo-mesonic energy readings match those he took back in the courtyard. Thunderstrike raises his mallet and tells Psi-Lord that if he makes one move, he will wind up on the business end of a hammer headache.
‘Now tell us where Crystal is, or -’ Thunderstrike begins, but Quicksilver tells him to hold, that he acts with undue haste. ‘Whoever this man might be…he is not the one who attacked us’ Psi-Lord thanks Quicksilver for the vote of confidence, and announces that he didn’t relish the thought of taking all of the Avengers on by himself. He taps a panel on his armor and it vanishes. Psi-Lord turns to Quicksilver and exclaims ‘You’re Quicksilver, right? I’m Franklin Richards, Psi-Lord! We met at your wedding, remember? Course, I was kinda young then…’ his voice trails off. Thunderstrike watches the others and thinks to himself ‘Chalk another one up to the old Masterson panache! Sometimes I feel like a doofus when I’m with the Avengers. It’s all I can do to keep from tripping over my own two feet!’ Giant Man announces that he has recalibrated the sensor to compensate for the photo-mesonic flare-up that momentarily blinded it, they should have no problem picking up Arides’ trail again. Quicksilver asks Giant Man to lead on, and boasts that once they have unearthed their enemy, fist blood is his.
Less that a klik from Cape Canaveral, there lies a second, clandestine installation with direct ties to outer space - the abandoned Kree military outpost once manned by the late Colonel Yon-Rogg. Arides is in a large chamber and exclaims Aeolis, 14-Umbra! Aeos, 14-Umbra! This is Arides! Request immediate transport to the homeworld! Please acknowledge! Are you receiving this transmission?’ he calls out, before shouting ‘This is madness! The Omni-Wave Projector I fashioned from these scavenged materials is without fault…a flawless recreation…and yet…the homeworld does not respond’. He tosses the recreated Omni-Wave Projector aside and exclaims ‘There is nothing but white noise on all secured frequencies! How is such a thing possible?’
‘HOW!?’ Arides shouts as the Omni-Wave Projector smashes on the floor, in front of a stasis tube where Crystal and Devlor are captured. ‘Our captor doesn’t seem any too stable, Princess Crystal’ Devlor begins, adding ‘If a devout Kree soldier would do that to a piece of valuable equipment -’, before Crystal interrupts him, telling Devlor that there is no need for the honorific, that “Crystal” will do just fine, and that panicking isn’t going to accomplish anything. She adds that if Shatterstar wanted them dead, they already would be. ‘That’s supposed to make me feel better?’ Devlor mutters. Crystal turns to her foe and calls out ‘Shatterstar - Arides - listen to me!’ and explains to him that the conflict between their peoples has ended. ‘There remains no reason for you to -’ she begins, but Arides tells Crystal not to cloud his mind with her honeyed words.
Arides declares that he is a soldier, pledged to carry out any and all directives of the Supreme Intelligence with due speed and diligence. He explains that currently, his orders demand the acquisition and retrieval of the Inhumans, thus that is what must be done. ‘You know where the others hide! Tell me! You will speak…or suffer the agonizing consequences!’ Arides exclaims, releasing energies which strike Crystal and Devlor. Devlor cries out in pain, while Crystal knows that the rest of the Inhuman Royal Family has left Earth in response to an urgent message from the moon. But Crystal also knows that she cannot reveal that fact without leading Arides right to the Great Refuge. Furious, Arides tells Crystal that he has all the time in the world, for the Kree are masters in the arts of interrogation as well as war. ‘Eventually, be it a matter of hours or days, I shall either loosen your tongue - or still it!’ he boasts.
‘Best you should spare yourselves the torment and -’ Arides begins, when suddenly, there is a rumbling noise. ‘Great Pama!’ Arides gasps, as the roof is torn open by Giant Man, as he, the Vision, Thunderstrike and Psi-Lord reveal their presence. ‘It would appear the recalibration of your tracking device has reaped a substantial dividend, Doctor Pym!’ the Vision states. ‘That’s putting it mildly, Vision! Crystal and Devlor are in cold storage - and there’s the guy who put them on ice!’ Psi-Lord exclaims, to which Thunderstrike suggests that he best thaw them out, pronto, and shouts ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’
‘The Avengers?’ enquires Arides, remarking that they are known to him - and calls them dogs, thanks to their unwanted interference in their holy war against the Skrulls. ‘But now a fresh crusade looms on the horizon! And your actions, misguided though they be…are immaterial!’ Arides shouts as the Vision floats up through the floor behind him, then grabs his wrist, only to cry out in agony, pulling away. The Vision keels over and remarks that there was no matter for his partial solidification to disrupt, merely energy. ‘Photo-mesonic energy, in a highly rarified form! But how could -’ the Vision begins, but Arides looms over him and exclaims ‘I will not pretend to understand the nature of your action, synthesis…but the intent is all-too-readily apparent!’
‘You seek to liberate your colleages! A noble goal…but one which runs counter to the wishes of the Kree high command!’ Arides exclaims, turning to Giant Man, Thunderstrike and Psi-Lord, he raises his hands overhead and releases darts of energy, ‘Therefore, it is an action…I can neither condone, nor allow!’ he declares as the energy spills around the three heroes, trapping them in web-like strands, he tells the Avengers that he realizes, like himself, that they merely heed the clarion call of duty and honor, but that in any conclict, there needs to be the victorious and the vanquished. Giant Man, Thunderstrike and Psi-Lord suddenly fall to the floor, while Quicksilver is at the stasis tank, he sees this, and regrets that in the wake of his recent injuries, there is little he can do save trying to free Crystal from her transparent prison.
Suddenly, ‘Hold, man of the Kree!’ Deathcry exclaims, firing a weapon at Arides, which releases an energy that wafts around him. ‘I am Deathcry! Like yourself, a warrior! Heed my words, and know them, though painful…to be truth’ the alien begins, before informing Arides that the war of three galaxies which he spoke of in his coded broadcasts has already been fought and lost. ‘That which was once the Kree Empire…is now a protectorate of the Shi’ar Imperium!’ Deathcry announces. Arides spins around: ‘No! You lie!’ he shouts. ‘On the blood of my ancestors, I swear that it is so’ Deathcry tells him. ‘How else would one Shi’ar have access to your Omni-Wave transmission frequencies?’ Deathcry asks.
Arides points out that even if he chose to believe her, it would make no difference, as he is a Kree soldier. ‘So long as I live…I am sworn to the service of the Empire!’ he boasts. The Vision rises behind Arides once more, and tells him that his servitude is at an end, for he no longer lives. ‘A brash retort, construct! Is that a threat?’ Arides asks. ‘Merely a statement of fact’ the Vision replies, announcing that the corporeal entity known as Arides is no more, having been supplanted bu a being of pure photo-mesonic energy. ‘More lies! But these, at least, are easily disproved!’ Arides exclaims, announcing that once he has removed the photo-mesonic regulator, they will see. He starts to pull the regulator from his brow, and suddenly, ‘No! NO!’ he screams as he sees the truth for himself. ‘It’s true! Hala help me…it’s all true!’ he exclaims, dropping to his knees. ‘Or is it?’ he wonders, before taking flight, he bursts through the roof of the building, and announces that he must venture homeworld and access the situation. ‘And should all not be as you have said…I shall return!’ he boasts.
The Avengers watch Arides leave for the stars, and with his departure, the stasis field holding Crystal and Devlor collapses. ‘Crystal? Are you all right, my love?’ Quicksilver calls out. Crystal tells Pietro that she is fine, before suggesting that they shouldn’t blame Arides overmuch for his actions. ‘In a way, he’s not so very different from us’ Crystal points out, with sadness iner her eyes, she adds that he failed to keep time with the march of history, and thus is doomed to remain a prisoner of the past….