The Asteroid Belt, where a large pyramid floats. It appeared at the fringes of the solar system, without warning or fanfare. How long or how far it has traveled is utterly unknown. It slides solemnly and majestically though space, dwarfing asteroids even hundreds of miles thick - neither slowing nor shifting in its passage to acknowledge their existence. Not all that it passes returns the favor, however - as, on the Avengers Deep Space Monitor Station, its presence has been detected by Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn and Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning. ‘You getting all this, Quasar?’ Miguel calls out from inside the asteroid-shaped base. Miguel exclaims that the volume, mass and structural scan indicates it may not be solid all the way through. ‘And the energy it contains - it packs more power than the sun!’
‘Got it, Living Lightning’ Wendell replies, adding that he is transmitting the data to Earth and the Mansion via their quantum link-in. ‘Uh-oh’ he mumbles as a messages flashes up on the screen: A-Priority Avengers Operation in process. Interrupt only in case of Emergency Alert. ‘Great. Should’ve figured’ Wendell remarks, before announcing that he will set the link to pipe the info into the Mansion’s systems, and their Government Liaison’s, automatically, then they can check it out when they have the chance. ‘As for you and me, Lightning - we’d better investigate that thing now!’ Wendell exclaims. And in an instant, Miguel has transformed to his lightning stage, and zaps across the darkened space, while Quasar soars along in a beam of quantum energy.
‘Is it speeding up?’ Miguel asks as they approach the pyramid. ‘Looks that way. Let’s pour it on, before it’s out of range!’ Quasar replies. Wendell thinks to himself that he doesn’t know where that thing came from, or why it is here, but he sure hopes it is not a drop-everything-and-come-a’running emergency, because the rest of the Avengers are already awfully busy!
At that moment, in Earth’s orbit, Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers, wearing an environment suit for space, as is his teammate Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, tells his teammates that they are only going to get once chance at this - so they need to do it right. He tells Jack of Hearts a.k.a. Jack Hart and Monica “Photon” Rambeau that he wants them outside, pronto, before telling the Scarlet Witch to take her station at the hex-induction core. ‘We’ll be there in minutes - I want everyone in position and ready to go. Wait for my signal and…ATTACK!’ Cap cries as they arrive at Damocles Base, Kang’s sword-shaped base, pointing at Earth.
If there were air in space to carry sound, the thunder of the attack would be heard worldwide, so great are the energies unleashed here by Photon and Jack of Hearts, aiming their power directly at the base, while the Scarlet Witch’s hex power is transferred through the hex-induction core. But even so, the target’s force field holds - and Captain America finds himself gripping the fire-controls tightly, painfully, as he scans the readouts for any sign of damage - nothing. They are targeting Kang’s base because the Conqueror has declared war - and launched an assault on Earth. If the Avengers fail here, in this desperate counter strike - the end result could be the fall of an entire planet.
Monica calls out to Jack of Hearts, suggesting they concentrate their power together. ‘Maybe we can create a harmonic pattern that’ll disrupt the shield - shatter it! I’m on it!’ Jack replies as he aims his power at the same location as Photon. Monica tells Jack to pulse his blasts, set up a rhythm. ‘I’ll establish a counter-rhythm, and maybe -’ she exclaims, but, as Wanda remarks inside the jet, ‘No good, Cap! I’m trying to reach out through the ship’s repulsor-blast - tap into the force field with my chaos magic! But it keeps shifting in frequency - altering its energy structure!’ Wanda exclaims that she cannot manage to engage it fully. Cap tells his long-time teammate to keep at it. Cap announces that Tony Stark is working on cracking the technology behind the field, and he may come through for them at any moment. ‘In the meantime, we can’t let up for a second! If we fail to break through…’ his voice trails off as Wanda exclaims ‘Don’t even say that, Cap! Somehow - some way we’ll do it! We have to!’
And on Earth, tense eyes follow every moment - every iota of feedback - both in Avengers Mansion, where Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp holds her breath, and in the Pentagon, where General McGinty watches with anticipation. One of his officers informs him that Flight S-1 is ready for launch. ‘C’mon, Cap! Go! Go!’ the General exclaims.
In Northern Canada, above the Arctic Circle, in the base of the self-styled Master of the World, another squad of Avengers moves stealthily, led by Carol “Warbird” Danvers. Carol leads Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff, Hank “Yellowjacket” Pym and Maria De Guadalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw through a tunnel. ‘I don’t like this’ Quicksilver exclaims, crawling behind Warbird. ‘What’s not to like, Pietro? The cramped quarters? The stale air?’ Carol asks. ‘You know what I mean as well as I do, woman. We’re deep within this “Master’s” territory - and his security is better than this! But there’s been no reaction - not for hours!’ Quicksilver exclaims.
Yellowjacket agrees that Quicksilver has a point, and announces that he has been scanning for detection fields and they are all around them, fully active, but not registering them for some reason. Silverclaw suggests that the security systems might have been damaged in the explosion, or in the damage Warbird caused before they connected up. Carol replies that she was in a genetics section, and doesn’t think security would run from there. ‘No, it’s something else - and let’s just hope it keeps up!’ Carol exclaims, unaware that the four of them are being watched. ‘Bio-scan interference remains active. Continue?’ a computer asks. ‘Yes, continue interface’ replies someone watching them.
Meanwhile, in France. Kang said Europe would fall within three weeks - and so far, his schedule holds. His armies advance everywhere - their advanced technology raising fortifications in minutes. Fortifications from which his soldiers can launch the next wave of attacks. Only at a few points do Earth’s defense forces stand firm - points such as this one, where two of the most powerful Avengers currently aid the combined armies of nations. ‘Ho, varlets! Bring the tanks - thine infernal war machines! Bring them by the dozens, the hundreds - thou shalt still not pass the Mighty Thor!’ booms the God of Thunder himself.
But though Thor battles valiantly, ferociously, his heart is sick, and his soul weary. ‘How long, All-Father? How long before all here - the triumphant and the slain alike - are as dust? An eye blink? The quick flare of a candle flame guttered out by the wind? How long ere all that happens today is lost in the sweep of time?’. Suddenly, Bonita “Firebird” Juarez calls out to her teammate while she keeps several of Kang’s warriors back with a wall of flame. Bonita tells Thor that she knows what he is thinking. ‘But look at them - look at them fighting for their homes, their freedom, their families! Look at the price they pay! It may be an eye blink to you - but it’s everything to them!’ Firebird exclaims passionately.
Thor returns to battle, swatting Kang’s soldiers away with ease, while Bonita continues her flame attack. ‘Our lives may be short, Thor, but that doesn’t make them meaningless! We’re still worthy of notice, of friendship, of love…’ Bonita exclaims. Thor looks at Firebird: ‘”Our lives”, Firebird? Nay, say rather “their lives”! For if thou art as immortal as I, as thou dost suspect - then thou too wilt watch all thou dost bond with, as they crumble before thee! Thou hast a fine spirit, and dost mean well - but think on that, milady - think on that!’. Bonita swallows hard. Her eyes drop. She has set out to make a disheartened Thor see the error of his ways - to get him to stay with the Avengers when all this is done. But will she succeed in changing his mind, she wonders, or will he change hers?
Meanwhile, in Calleyville, Texas, at the World Headquarters of the spiritual group known as the Triune Understanding. It hasn’t been long since two Avengers traveled here in search of answers - only to find a crisis - and more questions. For one of the most basic tenets of the Triune beliefs is that a great evil is coming - and evil that must be opposed. ‘I’m not so sure about this…’ Delroy “Triathlon” Garrett remarks. The Vision informs Jonathan Tremont, leader of the Triune, that agrees with Triathlon, and motions to the massive space ship that the Triune has constructed. The Vision explains that they have information that the craft is psychically-powered - that it draws on the mental energies of the Triune followers.
‘And you propose to launch it without a test? If it draws too much power - if it works at all - it could hurt them, kill them -’ the Vision exclaims, before Tremont interrupts him: ‘Please, Vision. I understand your concern. But understand this, as well - the triple-evil is real, and it will reach Earth within days’. He adds that if it is not stopped, all life on Earth will be forfeit. ‘The prayer-ship is safe, I assure you, it will harm no one’. ‘But if -’ Triathlon begins, but Tremont interrupts, declaring that they have hidden nothing, as he should know. ‘Why would we start now?’ Tremont announces that they even knew the Avengers had sent spies to infiltrate their ranks, and did nothing to prevent it, preferring that they would discover there was nothing to fear.
Tremont motions to the Triune followers, all in brown cloaks: ‘In fact…Justice, Firestar - please!’ he exclaims. ‘Huh?’ ‘Uh…’ come the replies from under the brown cloaks. ‘Join us on this most crucial mission. All help is appreciated’ Tremont declares as Vance “Justice” Astrovik and Angelica “Firestar” Jones are exposed.
And thus, soon, the great prayer-ship hums as it prepares for flight. The trill of its engines beginning low, then building to a chime, a song - and then, as it wrenches itself free from the bounds of gravity, that song becomes a shriek - a scream of pain and birth, as below, the Triune followers scream in agony, and begin to fall - first in twos and threes - then by the dozen - the hundred - they fall and do not rise.
Inside the prayer-ship, Triathlon points out the window: ‘Jonathan! The people below - your people! You swore -!’ he exclaims, but Tremont tells Delroy to calm himself, explaining that their medical staff is doing whatever they can. ‘The acolytes have done what is necessary, as do I. As I hope, we all will - soon’. Tremont tells the pilot to stay on course, as many have given much of themselves to see them this far. ‘To honor them, we must not stop now!’ ‘Y-yes, Sir!’ the pilot replies nervously, while the four Avengers sit in the back of the prayer ship cockpit.
High above, Captain America’s squad continues to pour their power against Damocles Base. ‘More, Photon - more!’ Jack of Hearts exclaims. ‘Maybe I’m just kidding myself - but I think I feel something giving!’ he remarks. Inside the ship, Wanda tells Steve that she doesn’t think she can keep this up much longer, but Cap tells her that she can, he knows she can. On the monitor, Tony “Iron Man” Stark announces that he thinks he has got something. ‘A specific series of counter-modulations - it might work!’ he declares, adding that he is transferring it to the ship, while the Wasp announces over the monitor that the joint chiefs are getting antsy.
At that moment, within Damocles Base, at the operations center, the Scarlet Centurion is watching Warbird’s movements on his monitor, while is computer announces ‘Absorbing exterior assault and resequencing shields temporary weakened, but are now restored to full strength’. ‘Excellent. Just keep at it, defense module alpha’ Marcus replies. Suddenly, ‘How goes the battle, Marcus?’ Kang asks as he enters the operations center. ‘Father!’ the Scarlet Centurion gasps nervously, quickly switching the monitor with Warbird’s image off. Marcus replies that the battle goes well, and the attackers are hopeless - nothing the automatic defense modules cannot handle.
‘I see. You have been monitoring the situation, of course’ Kang remarks as he stands behind his son. ‘Of course, father. What else would I be doing?’ Marcus replies. ‘I do not doubt you, my son. I merely inquire…because versatile as they are, automatic modules cannot anticipate everything’ Kang declares. He grins wickedly as he adds, ‘For example, those “hopeless attackers” seem to have introduced a new series of sub-harmonic variable-flux frequencies to their attack - and it looks as if - yes. The Avengers have just broken through our shields. Not the desired result, wouldn’t you say?’ Kang declares as blue energy surrounds Damocles Base.
‘Ah…of course, father. You’re right. I should have been more attentive. Should have expected something like this. I’ll…’ Marcus replies, but Kang tells him not to concern himself overmuch. ‘After all, it is a minor lapse - and easily fixed’ Kang presses a button on the control panel, and a green burst of energy flashes from Damocles Base and surrounds the ship with Captain America and the Scarlet Witch inside it. Wanda is knocked to the ground, while Steve calls out to Jack of Hearts and Photon, announcing that they have been hit, he orders them to get into Damocles Base immediately. ‘Wish we could, Cap - but some sort of stasis ray -’ Photon replies as she and Jack are also struck with the green energy beam.
Back in the Pentagon, ‘I’m sorry, Madame Wasp. I know you’re opposed to our plan, but… this hologram-transmission - you can hear me, right?’ General McGinty begins. ‘I hear you fine, General McGinty. And I wish…I wish there was something I could say. God I hope they’re all right’ the Wasp exclaims. ‘So do I, Ma’am. So do I’ the General replies before telling one of his officers to give the launch order.
And in moments, 75 Sentinels are launched from three locations around Washington. The Sentinels were originally created to combat rogue mutants, but more and more, they have become an important part of the Federal Government’s contingency plans against super-normal threats. Seventy-five Sentinels, each with the power to level a small city. And each with one programmed goal - reach Kang and neutralize him at any cost.
Back in northernmost Canada, an alarm sounds. ‘Ah well. We made it this far’ Pietro remarks. ‘Right - so there’s no need for stealth. Let’s bust out - and make our presence known!’. With that, the four Avengers burst through the wall panel. Silverclaw transforms into a human/bird hybrid, while the Master of the World stands with several Plodex wolves, while the Government officials still remain trapped in cages along the walls. ‘Ah, the Avengers. Welcome to my home, all of you. Welcome to my global seat of power!’ the Master exclaims.
The Master tells the Avengers that they may be rebellious subjects, but let it not be said that the rightful Master of the World is not without manners. ‘But now, however, that the niceties have been observed - we have intruders, my Plodex wolves. Please…deal with them!’. The alien beasts lunge forward, faster than any four-legged creature native to Earth - but these Avengers have faced them before, and counter their attack with confidence. The mutant speedster Quicksilver takes evasive action, dodging his opponent, which then smashes itself into a wall. Silverclaw shifts into a giant sloth form, her most powerful incarnation, and tackles her opponent, while Yellowjacket makes good use of his bio-disruptor blasts. ‘Down, Fido! How many times do I have to tell you - not on the furniture!’ he jokes.
Warbird however, flies towards the Master of the World, who pulls a massive sword from its sheathing. ‘Your team fights well, my dear. So are you here to “rescue” the bureaucrats I’ve been meeting with?’ the Master asks. ‘Freeing the men and women you’ve kidnapped is our secondary goal, yes - but only secondary!’ Carol replies as she tells the Master that the defense walls he created - that he made spring up around dozens of American cities overnight and the weaponry in those walls is their primary goal. She reveals the weaponry may be able to hold off Kang, and if so, they want it. ‘And want them under our control - not yours!’
‘I’m afraid I can’t allow that’ the Master replies. ‘Didn’t think so. So…’ Carol replies, unleashing a blast of energy, she attacks the Master. ‘Ah, my dear - I’d be remise not to be prepared for you’ the Master replies, boasting that his body armor absorbs energy attacks. ‘And so - to battle!’ he shouts, taking swipe at Carol with his sword.
In space, Monica and Jack are unable to move, trapped within the green energy beam. A holographic projection of Kang’s face appears, and greets the Avengers, telling them that his sensors inform him that there is a flight of Sentinels on the way. ‘Sentinels. I wouldn’t have thought you so foolish. Your Government, perhaps. But not you’. The projection turns into a full body projection, as Kang tells the Avengers that they have faced him before, after all he is a time-traveler, and has been active in one way or another, in time periods ranging from ancient Egypt to the far future. ‘One of those time periods was the early part of the previous century. I was active in the guise of Victor Timely, scientist and businessman - and I had quite an influence over a then-dawning industry’. Kang smiles as the mass of Sentinels arrives. ‘Specifically, the robotics industry’ he declares.
Back in the Master’s base, the battle has been brief thus far, but has taken its toll. The Plodex wolves are powerful, for all their limited intelligence - and have stretched the Avengers to their limits in combating them. Though they fight on, the Avengers have visibly slowed. As for Warbird, her costume and body are showing signs of contact with the Master’s sword. Carol leans over, while the Master remarks that she has not broken through his guard once and points out that it seems she is getting tired. ‘I should warn you that I have genetically engineered myself to be the perfect man, with reflexes and stamina far beyond human levels’.
‘And since you are bound by the Avengers’ policy against lethal force, and I am not - I should offer you a chance to surrender honorably’ the Master declares as he takes a swipe at Carol’s face, causing her left cheek to bleed. Carol screams, before telling the Master that he is making a mistake. Carol quickly takes flight and blasts the ground around the Master, telling him that he is expecting them to act like nice-nice super heroes, to treat him like a bank robber or your average megalomaniac lunatic. ‘The floor!’ the Master calls out. Carol catches a shard of metal that springs up from the floor, exclaiming that the world is at war. ‘At war! And that means - the rules have changed!’ With that, Carol shoves the jagged piece of metal through the Master’s chest - pushing it through as far as she can. The Master falls to the floor with a WHMP, and Hank, Pietro, Maria and the Plodex all turn and look at Carol.
Without their Master, the Plodex wolves are easily defeated, and the call goes out. Choppers arrive, and someone exclaims ‘That’s affirmative. Computer and munitions technicians are on the way to start work on those weapons controls - and Alpha Flight will secure the base. Good work, Avengers’.
Above, the holographic projection of Kang declares that he was not so foolish as to avoid planting safeguards in all the technology that descended from his world. ‘Safeguards - and controls’. He declares that a few robotic beings have escaped that control - including the Vision and the android Human Torch. ‘But alas for you - the Sentinels have not!’. With one swift gesture, the Sentinels change course, as Kang overrides their programming. ‘I really wouldn’t have thought this of you, Avengers’ Kang smiles, the myriad Sentinels hovering behind him.
‘Wh-WHAT?’ General McGinty exclaims, shocked. ‘What have we done -?’ he whispers, hanging his head as he monitors the situation from Earth. ‘Cap - Cap warned them!’ the Wasp exclaims, while a solemn Edwin Jarvis stands behind her in Avengers Mansion.
Kang looks down at the Avengers trapped in the green energy beam and tells them that he did say that if he or his forces were engaged other than on the battle field that there would be retribution. ‘And I am a man of my word’ he declares, before turning his attention to Earth. ‘You have attacked my command center. Thus, I will obliterate yours’ he announces. And, in a spectacular display, Kang turns, and begins his tread measured and precise to walk downward - with the Sentinels following him back to Earth. But suddenly, Kang turns back, remarking that he is forgetting something. He points a finger at the Avengers’ ship - and it explodes! ‘There’ he declares. ‘Come along, my Sentinels’. And this time, when he turns away, he does not turn back again, leaving Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Photon and Jack of Hearts, floating unconscious through space….