Near La Roche-Sur-Yon, France. Strange orbs drop from space at impossible speed - by the dozens, by the score - they drop and brake sharply, and warp open - to disgorge their cargo - a mere fragment of the greatest army known to human history - the scourges of more worlds than any of them can remember. They are feared in entire galaxies, and virtually unknown on this world. Their birth world. Their past. They will not remain long. They are the shock troops of Kang the Conqueror. Fifty thousand strong. With one voice, they roar. As if with one mind, they charge.
But the massive army is no unopposed. France’s defenders wait on fortifications, hastily built, like so many others, in the past weeks. These are the strongest, best-armed ramparts in all the country, and have been manned at great sped, as soon as the invasion ships were detected. The soldiers at the walls are French, German, Austrian, Spanish, Italian and more. For this is not just France’s fight, but the world’s. France and England are also represented by two members of the super-human community - Le Peregrine a.k.a. Alain Racine and Scott Wright, the former member of Excalibur known as Micromax.
They are not the only super heroes here today though, as four powerful members of the Avengers stand with them: the Mighty Thor! The Heavenly Firebird! The Incredible Hercules! The Sensational She-Hulk! Thor stands determined and fierce, while Firebird a.k.a. Bonita Juarez looks at him, concerned. Jennifer “She-Hulk” Walters remarks to Hercules that Thor looks like he has a lot on his mind, but Hercules tells her it will be nothing, that he simply awaits the call to battle, and the joy of striving against the foe. Suddenly, the call comers: ‘A l’attaque!’ a general shouts; and the battle is joined. Thor, She-Hulk and Hercules engage Kang’s warriors in physical combat, while Micromax increases his form, making him stronger. Firebird holds back Kang’s forces with her flame power, and the troops engage in battle also.
There are other forces Kang could have brought to bear. More destructive, that carried less risk to his men. He could have attacked elsewhere as well. But it has always been his way to strike with numbers, with force - and his enemy’s strongest point. There must be a face to the invasion. There must be confidence broken, mighty walls reduced to rubble. And victory must be paid for with blood. Or what is it worth?
Meanwhile, in Boston, Massachusetts, Kang is not the only threat the world faces. Overnight, ring-walls half a mile high and a quarter mile thick have sprung up around most of the major cities in North America. They are the work of the self-styled Master of the World, who claims to be defending his property against Kang. He is not being welcomed as an ally. While several United States Air-Force jets fly over the massive ring wall, at the base of the wall, Carol “Warbird” Danvers and Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight are investigating the structure of the wall. ‘Any luck?’ Carol asks. ‘Sure, Warbird - if you can call finally getting an access panel to open and stay open luck’ Dane replies, explaining that he is starting diagnostics now, but that it is anyone’s guess how long it will take to get even an inkling of what runs this thing.
One of the pilots in the jets contacts the Avengers, announcing that there is a bogey alongside them, and that readouts say it came from orbit. ‘You might want to get up here’ the pilot suggests. Warbird replies that she is on her way up and remarks that it looks like Kang is checking out the new décor, before reminding the pilot that he has his orders. ‘Yes, ma’am. Target acquired. I have missile-lock - and am firing…NOW!’ he exclaims, but as Warbird makes it to the air, she sees the two missiles strike Kang’s monitoring device - but the explode against a force field which suddenly surrounds the device. ‘Not a scratch!’ Carol exclaims, remarking that the device’s force field is as good as the one around Kang’s orbital base. ‘No way we can break through!’ she declares.
However, as they circle the hovering sensor-pod for another attempt, one of the ring-wall’s towers opens up - the device swivels smoothly - and the a weapon fires - destroying Kang’s device. ‘What? Unbelievable!’ Warbird gasps.
At Avengers Mansion in Manhattan, Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, is monitoring the situation in the communications room. ‘…and whatever it’s packing, it’s impressive. It popped Kang’s force field like a soap bubble!’ Carol tells Janet over the communicator. Janet thanks Carol, before turning to another monitor, where Simon “Wonder Man” Williams is seen hovering near the famous Hollywood sign. ‘No go, Jan’ Wonder Man tells the Wasp, explaining that he has been trying to bust up the Los Angeles ring-wall all morning as requested, but while he can damage it, it just heals itself somehow - as if it is as much organic as it is metal. He adds that he cannot get a sample for analysis.
A worried Wasp exclaims that she doesn’t like this one bit. ‘As if Kang wasn’t enough, according to Dane and to Alpha Flight’s files on the Master, that’s alien technology - but what’s he after? Why the story about protection? Why so many cities?’ the Wasp exclaims, as Edwin Jarvis brings her a hot drink, suggesting that, perhaps, this is a stroke of luck after all, the defensive walls seem able to do what this “Master” claimed - leaving the continent well protected from Kang. The Wasp looks at a map of North America, with many glowing red markers, indicating a ring-wall. ‘If that’s all he was up to, it’d be find. But there’s more going on. We’ve been getting reports all day…’ the Wasp begins as she tells Jarvis what she knows so far:
Flashback scenes narrated by the Wasp
‘The same scene, repeating itself in dozens of Governors’ or Mayors’ offices around the continent’. One such official told his staff that he doesn’t know what Is going on, as he motioned to the ring-wall which could be seen from his office, but that he is not going to sit on his butt and wait for the feds. ‘I want to know what that blasted wall is, and now!’ he declared. But whatever was happening earlier today, it was interrupted, by something that looked like the same technology as the walls, suddenly rising in the offices of the Mayors and Governors - and then a strange alien creature emerged from it.
The official called for his security guards to get into his office, while the Plodex creature exclaimed ‘No…you wear breath-mask…you come with. Your presence…commanded by your Master!’ the alien exclaims, swatting away the two guards, before the official was taken with a breathing device clamped over his face.
Luckily, Stingray was on the scene when it happened in Boston, conferring with officials about the wall’s underwater extent. ‘Good Lord!’ Dr Walter “Stingray” Newell exclaimed, before contacting the Wasp as the official was taken by the Plodex creature. Walter explained to the Wasp that there is an emergency situation, before following the Plodex, explaining that it was apparently sent by the Master, and that it has the Mayor of Boston, entering a water-filled tunnel. ‘Hm? I don’t believe it! As soon as it hit the water it took off like a rocket! It’s fast - incredibly fast!’ Stingray announced.
Walter reported that his onboard sensors cannot clock the creature’s speed, but he would bet that it would leave even Namor in it’s wake. Despite the Plodex creature churning the water up in a major way, Stingray set his suit’s sensors to track the ripple effect, and set off in pursuit.
Janet concludes by telling Jarvis that she is still waiting to hear back from Stingray, and declares that they have to do something about this. ‘Got to be ready to move!’ she exclaims, before excusing herself, announcing that she has some calls to make.
Boston, half an hour later, Carol still hovers over the massive ring-wall, when an Avengers Quinjet soars towards her. ‘Quinjet one to Warbird - prepare for rendezvous. Opening roof hatch now’ a voice announces. ‘Acknowledged’ Carol replies, in position, and an instant later, she drops down through the Quinjet hatch. ‘Hola, Warbird!’ Maria De Guadalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw exclaims. Carol greets Silverclaw and the other two Avengers aboard - Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff and Dr Hank “Yellowjacket” Pym, before asking them if they know what this is about. Hank smiles as he tells Carol to take a seat and join the party, as their fearless leader is on the monitor.
The Wasp appears on screen, apologizing to Carol for being so brusque in setting this up, explaining that she had to conference with the Security Council to clear it. She announces that it is an espionage mission, and that as Carol has the most experience, she is in charge. The Wasp reveals that the Black Knight has traced the control signal to the ring-walls north, to somewhere near the Arctic Circle. She adds that the locator signal from Stingray is headed that way as well, and she wants this squad to link up with Stingray and infiltrate the Master’s base, either convincing the Master to put his armament at the service of the Avengers, or take control of it from him. ‘Either way, we need it against Kang’. Carol replies that she understands and declares that her squad will take care of it. ‘I knew you would. Wasp out’ Janet concludes, before turning to another monitor.
‘Captain America - how are things going with your squad?’ Janet asks the legendary hero. From the Bolling Air Force Base in Washington DC, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America replies that they are almost ready, and motions to Wanda “the Scarlet Witch” Maximoff and Jack Hart a.k.a. Jack of Hearts, announcing that they stand prepared for the assault on Kang’s base. ’As for the ship…’ he begins, while Tony “Iron Man” Stark exclaims to a technician ’No - secondary grav-generators in compartment four!’
‘..Tony’s working on it’ Steve tells Janet. Tony, wearing a lab coat and protective gear instead of his Iron Man armor assures the Wasp that the ship will be ready.
Tony declares that the problem will be getting through Kang’s force field. ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do that yet’ he admits, hoping that they will have some more data soon, when Photon gets back from her recon mission. ‘I’m sure you’ll find a way’ Wasp tells him encouragingly, before remarking to Cap ‘I don’t have to tell you how crucial this mission is. If we can’t take the fight to Kang…’, Steve cuts in: ‘…then the government will launch the Sentinels, and we’ll have that to deal with too. Maybe not the problem we’re fearing, but I won’t count on that…’ Steve adds.
Meanwhile, in Calleyville, Texas, the Avengers’ attention is not solely focused on Kang and the Master of the World, for it is here, at the world headquarters of the Triune Understanding, the spiritual organization the Avengers have clashed with in the past, that two Avengers have arrived to investigate. ‘…and here, our outdoor ampitheater, where we hold public functions and more’ Jonathan Tremont announces as he and other Triune Understanding officials give the android Avenger known as the Vision, accompanied by his teammate and Triune member Delroy “Triathlon” Garrett, the tour. Tremont announces that it is good that even Avengers are capable of seeking out enlightenment. ‘And that I hope you find it here, Vision’ Tremont adds.
The android Avenger replies that it is true he has been troubled of late - in both mind and heart, adding that Triathlon has been generous in arranging to bring him here. ‘Of course, of course. Delroy has long been one of our most loyal and conscientious followers’ Tremont replies, before turning to two men in suits and asking them to arrange guest quarters for the Vision and an attendant to familiarize him with the Triune procedures. The Vision whispers to Triathlon that he is of two minds about this. ‘We had agreed not to ignore concerns here, after reports of a spaceship - and of danger to the Triune believers. But perhaps we should put it off, until the Kang crisis has -’ the Vision doesn’t get to finish his concerns, as another suited man calls out to Tremont, announcing that the great triple-evil is coming. ‘Sensitives have registered its arrival in the solar system - and it will reach Earth within days!’ the Triune member exclaims. ‘On the other hand, Vizh old buddy - maybe we’d better stay’ Triathlon smirks.
Back in Avengers Mansion, the computer alerts the Wasp to an incoming message from Stingray, located north of Tehek Lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada. ‘Go ahead Stingray. Wasp here’ Janet declares. Walter explains that he has set the A-Red unit for an over-the-shoulder shot and tells the Wasp that he hopes she is seeing what he is, because he has found the base and made his way to the nerve center. ‘And to the Master himself!’ Stingray exclaims quietly as he stands in the doorway to the Master’s “throne room”, where, the Master sits and looks at the trapped government officials, all in glass cages before him.
‘Good, Stingray - real good. Don’t approach him solo - there’s back up on the way. In the meantime, scout the area - find out as much as you can’ the Wasp orders. ‘All right’ Stingray replies, before announcing that the Master is talking. ‘Good afternoon, gentlemen - and ladies, of course. In the interests of repelling Kang, I have instructions for you’ the Master begins, announcing that, among them, they represent the Chief Executives of major local governments across the continent. ‘I am circumventing your now-useless federal branches -but I do need to maintain order, to maintain some table of organization, top keep the machineries of society running smoothly. And that means you!’
One of the officials retorts ‘”Instructions”? Who do you think you are - how do you expect to get away with just…kidnapping us like this?’. The Master smirks, and replies ‘Who am I, Governor Darras? It is quite simple. ‘I am your MASTER!’. Alpha Flight’s arch foe announces that it is understandable that the officials are unaware of his existence, as he prefers to maintain a low profile. ‘But now I must act. And you must know from whom your orders come, so…’
Flashback illustrations, narrated by the Master:
‘Forty thousand years ago, I was an ignorant human like you, caring for nothing but my own wants and needs’. The Master explains that he was cast out by his own tribe and drawn north, ever north, by a call he could neither understand nor resist. ‘Finally, I reached the source of that call I approached warily…and the crashed star-ship reached out, and drew me in’. Trapped inside the strange vessel, the nomad known as Eshu experienced sheer agony as he was analysed, studied - and dissected until all that remained of the man was his brain.
The Master reveals that his brain was preserved by the ship, connected to its systems and eventually asserted its will, taking control. ‘I recreated a body for myself - a genetically-perfect body I have since improved upon…and now, through this helmet, I control what this ship has become. A vast complex stretching below the ice - and reaching out in an intricate web throughout the world!’
The Master gazes over the cages of captured government officials, declaring that, through his base, he is aware of all that transpires in his world, through this base, he rules from the shadows. ‘I wasted some time in battles with super-humans, but have decided of late to work more subtly, to order the world as I wish it - whether its people are aware of me or not!’. The Master adds that, to that end, he has destabilized human society - seen that the wrong people get elected, that tensions rise and disasters strike. ‘Because humanity must be culled. The population must be smaller, much smaller…for this globe to support it in comfort!’ the Master announces.
‘But while Kang’s assault will aid in that effort, it does me little good if Kang actually wins this war!’ the Master declares, explaining that is why he has had to step forward and take an active hand. Referring to the ring-walls, the Master boasts that he has taken the liberty of defending his property, defending the planet - or at least, part of it. ‘Let Kang strike, with all his might. He will not gain a toehold on North America!’. The Master declares that for the rest, he is content to let Kang’s war rage. ‘I will guide it, choreograph it…and allow it to kill off millions, if not billions of excess humanity, much as the ice age of my birth-era performed a cleansing of its own’.
The Master continues, exclaiming that only then shall he turns his might to Kang, and crush him utterly. ‘The result will be a better world. A scarred world, perhaps, needing centuries to recover. But what of it? I am immortal. I have time!’. The government officials begin banging on their cages: ‘You - you’re insane! You’re a total raving lunatic!’ one of them shouts. The Master smiles: ‘Ah yes, the bray of the stupid and terrified’ he remarks, before exclaiming that to business, each of the officials will be fitted with control technology and released - returned to their offices with instructions, and with enough control discs to recruit others into his new order. ‘And rather than keep you in suspense, I inform you now…the process is quite painful!’
Meanwhile, inside the sword-shaped Damocles Base in Earth’s orbit, the Scarlet Centurion sits before several monitors, watching Thor and Firebird battle Kang’s forces in France, while a computer gives him an update: ‘Assault update delta-nine. Battle reaches stage four two minutes, seven seconds behind schedule. Casualties 62% of expected level. Beachhead firmly established. Heavier weaponry being shuttled down. Indigenous forces being forced back as expected. Resistance strongest from superhumans - notably those identified as “Thor” and “Hercules”. Current deployment patterns as follows…’
The battle is going well. And why should it now? All contingencies have been planned for, all forces perform their assigned tasks efficiently. There are no surprises, and he does not expect any. The Scarlet Centurion watches, and grows impatient. He is nominally in command of the invasion, but he is not needed here. It would proceed as smoothly without him. The screens before him shimmer and change as he commands ‘Change visi-display. Show Program Three, SC Personal’. With that, numerous images of Carol Danvers appear before him.
Time passes, a few minutes, perhaps, and then, with a hydraulic hiss, a door opens, and Kang, adjusting his mask, steps into the room. ‘Good day, my son. I saw your combat exercise tasks from this morning. Fine work’ the super-villain remarks. His son thanks him, before motioning to the chamber which closes behind Kang, and remarks that he spends a great deal of time in there, ‘But I have never been inside it. What does it hold?’ the Scarlet Centurion asks. ‘Nothing of importance. Do not concern yourself with it’ Kang replies, before asking his son how the assault proceeds. ‘It goes as well as expected, Sir. All units performing as commanded’ the Scarlet Centurion replies, announcing that he itches for more than this - to be involved in the thick of it, and to take part.
‘There will be a time for that, Marcus. But we must not waste it’ Kang tells his son, adding that they must make their presence felt at the moment of greatest effect. ‘Besides, I think I know what it is you truly itch for, eh?’ he declares, referring to Warbird. Kang tells Marcus not to waste his time with thoughts of women. ‘Time to have any woman you choose after the victory is won, hey?’ Kang declares, suggesting that in the meantime, Marcus need focus on the battle, and to be as bold and fearless as he, and then there is nothing in the universe that will be denied to him. ‘Yes, sire’ Marcus replies.
Back on Earth, in the Keewatin Region, Northwest Territories, Canada. Carol, Hank, Pietro and Maria leave the Quinjet on the snow-covered terrain as they look at a map of the region, ‘That’s the center of it, under the ice. It extends out for miles. Micro-thermal resonance shows the parts nearest the surface. We’ll be making for the nearest of those. All right, Avengers…let’s go!’ Carol exclaims. They leave the warmth of the Quinjet, their insulated costumes providing only partial protection from the bitter cold. And each, in their own way, makes swift time across the ice and snow - Warbird by flight, Quicksilver by running, Yellowjacket on a flight-disc and Silverclaw by transforming into a human-bird hybrid and flying.
The four Avengers find an opening in the snow, and Carol suggests that the shifting ice must have cracked it open, practically ripping the door off its hinges. She tells her squad that it is time to head in, as the jamming field should shield them from detection at least for a while, adding that the hand-held scanners should lead them to Stingray. ‘Just remember, all of you. If we’re attacked, the goal isn’t to beat the foe, but to get past it - to reach the center of this base and take controls, at all costs’ Carol orders.
However, only half a mile in, and the four Avengers come to a sudden halt. ‘Eh? That sudden light!’ Pietro exclaims. ‘What caused -’ Carol begins, when suddenly monitors begin popping out of the walls, all with the Master’s laughing face on them. His evil laughs resounds through the corridor as he asks ‘Did you really think you could hide from me, Avengers? In my own base? An extension of my very self? I sensed you from the moment you approached! I opened the way to you! And more - I arranged a welcome for you!’ the Master of the World exclaims, when suddenly, several Plodex wolves thunder forward, moving as fluidly as lions, but more swiftly and more powerfully than any land-creature the Avengers can imagine - and without slowing, they leap at the four Avengers.
‘Quicksilver, move! Flank left!’ Carol shouts. ‘But -’ Pietro begins to protest. ‘I said move!’ Carol shouts, as one of the Plodex wolves attacks her, she holds it back, but it talks to her: ‘Master say kill intruder! So you d-’ it doesn’t finish its sentence as Carol holds onto its mouth, exclaiming that these things are hellaciously fast in water. ‘I don’t know how fast they are on land, but as powerful as they are - I want someone on the outside, don’t want to let them surround us!’ Carol declares as she unleashes her bio-blast, burning the alien.
‘Get…back!’ Silverclaw tells one of the Plodex wolves as she transforms into a large mammal to better battle the alien. Quicksilver speeds around the outer, telling Warbird that she made a wise choice as he is position to observe, and tells Silverclaw to shift to her human form as he sees a Plodex leap at her from behind. ‘Uh?’ Maria remarks as she does as Pietro told her - Pietro catches her, and the Plodex lands on its face behind them. ‘I shall sweep you from danger!’ Pietro exclaims, offering Maria a word of advice: ‘Pay attention to what is around you, not just what is before you’. Pietro adds that Marie reminds him too much of another, at her age, for him to want to see her injured.
‘There, Fido! Bite down and the feedback shock will knock you’ Hank exclaims as he leaps over one of the Plodex, which them chomps down on his flight disc, ‘Whoa, MAMA! What big teeth you have!’ Hank shouts as he is confronted by another Plodex wolf, though before it can bite down on him, Hank uses his Pym Particles to reduce himself to the size of a large insect, and fly to safety. ‘I’ve been preferring to fight at full-size these days, but lucky for me, I can still shrink down itty-bitty - all the better to avoid being lunch!’ Hank exclaims, before telling Carol that the Plodex don’t like their energy bolts. ‘We can -’ he begins, but Carol blasts another of the aliens, and tells her squad to scatter, to split up and go. ‘I’ll hold them here! Remember the mission!’ she exclaims.
‘Okay, just don’t get eaten!’ Hank tells her, remarking that the Wasp would be really ticked with them. ‘Enough, Pym. Just go!’ Quicksilver exclaims as the three Avengers leave Warbird to battle the remaining Plodex alone. ‘Okay, okay. You go left, she’ll go right - and I’ll pop through the vent-grate up there…’ Hank suggests. ‘All right, creatures. You want past me - you’re going to have to make it through a few tons of scrap metal first!’ Carol exclaims, firing upwards and causing the ceiling to collapse. The Master has observed this of course, and tells Warbird that she is very resourceful, and has stymied his Plodex wolves. ‘But my base is vast, woman - extending in branches and nodules under all the Northern Hemisphere. Do you think that the small part you and your fellows occupy now - cannot be scarified without a moment’s hesitation?’. And for long moments, there is no sound for miles, but the rolling echo of the blast as that part of the complex explodes - with the Avengers inside it….
Back in Washington DC, ‘Photon! You’re back! Any luck?’ Tony asks as Monica “Photon” Rambeau materializes in the hangar. ‘I’m sorry Mr Stark…but I couldn’t analyze the force field. It’s just too far beyond anything i can visualize’ Monica replies, before announcing that she did however manage to absorb a bit of it. ‘If I can successfully transfer it…’ she remarks as she carefully places the energy into a capsule, while Tony exclaims that he will run a full battery of tests on it, pronto.
Captain America exclaims that they cannot wait for that, as there time is running short. ‘Everyone aboard ship!’ Cap orders, telling Tony that he will have to send them the test results once they have reached orbit. While Wanda, Monica and Jack all enter the ship, Tony says to Steve ‘You know I wish I could come along, Cap…’ to which Steve replies that he knows, but right now they need Tony Stark’s brains more than Iron Man’s strength. ‘I know, but -’ Tony begins, when suddenly, a holographic projection of Kang appears before them. ‘What -?’ Cap begins, while the hologram exclaims ‘This is an automatic notice. My base’s exterior shields have been tampered with - and phasio-telemetry traces to the culprit to this location. Be warned, as I have stated before - that any attack on my person will be seen as an attempt to circumvent the field of battle. Repercussions will be swift - and thorough!’. Cap looks stern as the hologram swiftly vanishes.
And, minutes later, Cap pilots the jet into the air. The Scarlet Witch sits at his side, while Jack of Hearts and Photon stand behind them. ‘Cap, what he said - he’s not bluffing…’ Jack of Hearts exclaims. Captain America replies that he knows. ‘But the world’s counting on us, we have no choice. So we fight - and we win. There are no other options…’