Seventeen hours from now:
‘Feel sticky. Why am I so sticky?’ Spider-Man wonders to himself. ‘Is this…this is blood’ he realizes as he tries to open his eyes, only to find the cosmically-powered Colossus standing over him, flames all around. ‘Stay down’ Colossus orders. Spider-Man wonders where all the blood has come from, while Colossus once again orders him to stay down. ‘Afraid I…can’t do that’ Spider-Man replies. ‘You will’ Colossus warns him. Spider-Man suddenly realizes that it is his own blood, before Colossus slams his form into Spider-Man’s, keeping the hero down.
The mystical city of K’un Lun. It has been eight days since the fall of Wakanda. Eight days since the Avengers came here with their tail between their legs, and every day since, it has only gotten worse - everything time Spider-Man hears the mystical portal start to open, his heart sinks. He hasn’t cracked a joke in weeks - there is just nothing funny about the end of the world. Spider-Man is perched on one of the temple roofs, while Hope Summers hover near him, balancing buckets of water on a pole. ‘Oh, no. Oh, man, here they come’ Spider-Man mutters. Hope tells him not to be so gloomy, and points out that he acts like he hasn’t already been through a million different scrapes like this. ‘The good guys always win in the end, right?’ Hope states. ‘Tell that to my Uncle Ben’ Spider-Man mutters. ‘What?’ Hope asks, but Spider-Man tells her to keep training.
Spider-Man swings down to where the portal is opening, he knows that means the Avengers are coming back from a mission, out searching for their missing teammates who have been taken prisoner by the X-Men. Never once since they came here have the Avengers come back from a mission with anything remotely resembling good news. Wolverine and She-Hulk emerge from the portal, aiding the Red Hulk. ‘Smash…gonna smash…so hard…’ Red Hulk utters. ‘Maybe next time, big guy’ Wolverine tells him, while Iron Fist follows them through. Captain America emerges from the portal, while Spider-Man calls out ‘Wait, is that it? That can’t be it. Where’s…’ he begins, knocking that sometimes the Avengers don’t come back at all. ‘We lost him. We lost Thor’ Cap announces, as Thor was felled by the combined efforts of Colossus and Magik.
‘You lost…Thor? How did you lose Thor? You know we only had one of him, right?’ Spider-Man exclaims, realizing that he made a joke. ‘I’m so darned proud of myself’ he tells himself. Captain America closes his eyes, his face is covered in blood, and he states that they were getting killed out there, that the Phoenix hosts are more powerful than ever, and half the team is either laid up or missing. ‘Where the hell is Tony?’ Cap demands to know, referring to Iron Man, who is slumped over a table, surrounded by books and computers. ‘The Phoenix. Wanda’s hex magic. Hope. The Iron Fist. Somehow it all fits together…somehow…’ Iron Man mutters to himself.
‘Is that all that came back? Where’s the big guy with the hammer?’ Hope asks as she rushes over to Spider-Man, who tells her to get back to her training. But Hope replies that she is sick of balancing with buckets and doing one-handed push-ups and hearing all about the 36 chambers of what-the-hell-ever. ‘All anybody ever wants me to do is train. I’m ready to hit something real for a chance’ Hope insists. ‘Iron Fist says you train. So you train. One thing I’ve learned being an Avenger…your moment will come’ Spider-Man tells Hope, adding that it is a big group, with a lot of moving parts, and a lot of awesome people doing awesome things. ‘They don’t always have time to stop and take a knee to explain to you what the heck is going on’. Spider-Man tells her that you learn to follow the guys who always seem to know where they are headed, and you wait for your moment.
Spider-Man tells Hope that it doesn’t matter how many gods or super-soldiers or Hulks you have on the payroll, once you are an Avenger, it never fails - sooner or later, the time comes when it is your turn to step up to the plate. ‘You just gotta make sure you’re ready’ he points out. Hope frowns and replies that she is ready, that she just doesn’t know what happened on the moon. ‘But I know I’m ready to prove my -’ she calls out, but Spider-Man swings away on some webbing, telling ‘No more questions. Daniel-san. Wax on, wax off. Paint the fence. Sand the floor. Don’t let Johnny sweep the leg. God help us all’.
Wolverine and She-Hulk help the Red Hulk into the infirmary, where the Scarlet Witch, the Beast, Captain Britain, Mockingbird, Daredevil, Giant Man and the Falcon are recovering from recent injuries. ‘We can’t go on like this’ Captain America tells Iron Fist as they look at their friends and teammates in the infirmary. ‘Tell me we’re making some progress’ Cap asks, but Iron Fist simply wishes he could. He informs Cap that Iron Man hasn’t left his room in three days and no one has seen the Black Panther since the fall of Wakanda. ‘Despite the training all day every day, the girl Hope still isn’t ready’ he adds. ‘Nor do we even fully understand what will happen once she -’ Iron Fist begins, but Cap interrupts: ‘You’re saying you need more time, but we don’t have it. At this rate, we won’t make it another week. Not with what we’ve got. ‘If we’re gonna keep fighting…we’ve got to find out missing people’ Cap declares.
In the meantime, in Russia, specifically the Verkhoyansk Mountains, one of the coldest places on Earth. The volcano seeps molten lava onto the snow covered ground around it, and Storm, Gambit, Pixie and Armor stand nearby and watch as Colossus and Magik lower the imprisoned Thor into the volcano. ‘Welcome to Siberia, God of Thunder’ Colossus remarks.
‘It’s happening to all of them now, isn’t it?’ Armor asks. ‘I thought Namor was just being Namor, but now they’re - dear God, they’re all being corrupted by the Phoenix, aren’t they?’ she exclaims. ‘Damn it, this time we were in the right. We were actually gonna remake the world. And now we’re throwing Avengers into volcanoes!’ Pixie exclaims. Gambit points out that nobody has seen Professor Xavier for days, and he hears that mutants are already leaving Utopia. ‘So what the hell are we supposed to do?’ he asks. ‘You should leave too’ Storm tells her friend. ‘All of you should leave. NOW’ she insists.
At that moment, in Ethiopia, the Danakil Desert, the hottest place on Earth, Emma Frost hovers cross legged in the air, when Cyclops appears overhead, and tells her that she picked a lovely spot for a meeting. ‘It’s the most inhospitable land I could find. No other minds around for miles. I enjoy…the quiet’ Emma replies. Cyclops asks Emma why she is here, and points out that since Namor went rogue, everything is on the verge of going to hell, so he needs her back at Utopia with him. ‘I could end this all in the blink of an eye, Scott’ Emma tells him. She closes her eyes and states that since Namor fell, since they received his portion of the power, she has been reaching out, touching every mind on the face of the Earth, including the Avengers. ‘I could reach inside their heads right now and simply turn them off. Just like flicking a switch. I think…think part of me wants to do it’ Emma reveals.
Cyclops tells Emma that she is sounding like Namor, and points out that this isn’t a war. ‘They want to make us look like the bad guys here, but we’re the ones who are changing the world for the better’ Cyclops states, adding that the Avengers will come around. ‘We won’t give them any other choice’. Cyclops tells Emma to get it together and come home. ‘Let’s finish what we started’ he remarks, before Emma reveals that she knows where the Avengers are keeping Hope. ‘What did you say?’ Cyclops asks as he takes flight. Emma announces that she has been peeking inside so many minds. ‘And some of the things I’ve found…’ she utters. Cyclops tells her to focus and asks where Hope is. ‘It sounds made up, but apparently it’s real. It’s called…K’un Lun’ Emma informs him. Cyclops doesn’t say anything, he just flies away, despite Emma calling out to him, asking him to stop. ‘Don’t go…I’m worried about…about what I might do next…please…stop me’. Emma hangs her head.
Later, a man is sitting a the dinner table with his family, when he suddenly screams, clutches his face, and falls into his plate of food. Emma stands over him, ‘1987. You were flying over the Gulf. You hit something. Someone. His name was Daniel Mantego, 13 years old from Honduras. He’d grown wings three days before. You never stopped. You never called it in. I see it all in your mind. He was a mutant, and you killed him. And all these years, you thought you’d gotten away with it. You thought it was your little secret’ Emma tells him. She scowls, and declares that no one has secrets anymore, not from her, as she walks away, leaving the family confused about what has just transpired.
Wakanda, at least, what is left of it. The Black Panther and his people are in clean-up mode, searching the devastated streets for survivors and salvaging what they can. ‘Is today the day you’ll speak to me?’ a voice calls out from above. Without looking up, the Black Panther replies ‘You have to stop coming here’. But Storm points out that they are her people as well, and she wants to help them rebuild, just like he does. ‘They’re not your people anymore, since the attack. The X-Men have officially been branded enemies of Wakanda’ the Black Panther states. Storm drops to the ground and tells her husband that she would have fought beside him, if she had known this was happening. She explains that she has only stayed with the X-Men to try and stop something like this from ever happening again.
T’Challa tells Ororo that she is free to stay with the X-Men for as long as she likes, and then reveals that their marriage was annulled by the High Priest of the Panther Clan. ‘You are not my wife anymore’ the Black Panther announces. ‘The High Priest of the Panther clan? But…you are the High Priest!’ Storm exclaims. The Black Panther asks her to not come here again. Storm suggests they don’t talk of personal matters now, as there will be time for that later. ‘I came here today to try and put and end to this entire ordeal. Please, just tell the Avengers…tell them I want to help’ Storm asks, hanging her head.
Back in Russia, the volcano glows on this dark and stormy night, as a portal opens. From it, Captain America leads Wolverine, Spider-Man, Dr Strange, the Black Panther, She-Hulk and Iron Fist. He reminds his team that they are here to grab their people and get out, and to avoid combat if at all possible. ‘So how do we know this isn’t a trap?’ She-Hulk asks. Wolverine assures everyone that Storm wouldn’t sell them out. Captain America turns to the Black Panther and thanks him for coming, before promising that once this is finished, he will have all the resources of the Avengers to help rebuild Wakanda. The Black Panther just replies that Tony Stark had better find a way to open that rigid little pebble he calls a mind and find himself some answers outside of science, or Wakanda will be but the first to fall. ‘Please do tell him I said that’ the Black Panther adds.
‘Smells like Hell. Literally’ someone remarks, while Dr Strange states that this volcano is unnatural and that it teems with demonic energy. ‘And Phoenix fire’ someone adds, before they hear a voice in their head: ‘This way, Avengers’. The Avengers follow the voice into cave, where they find Storm, with Professor X, who tells them that they must move quickly. The Avengers and Professor X move deeper into the volcano, and find hideous demons moving about. ‘This…this is unconscionable. Magik has raised a portion of Limbo to the earthly plane’ the Black Panther exclaims. ‘Hell on Earth’ Iron Fist adds, while She-Hulk mutters that it makes for an effective prison, and suggests they find their people.
Dr Strange casts an invisibility spell over everyone as they rush forward, but he warns them that it will not cloak them long from the manner of eyes in this place. Professor X tells everyone to maintain telepathic silence for as long as possible, at least until he can locate the minds of the other Avengers. However, ‘You smell what I smell?’ a demon calls out. ‘Dinner!’ one of the others exclaim.
At Cape Dezhnev, the Bering Strait, Colossus and Magik stand in the water. ‘It’s happening’ Magik tells her brother. ‘They’re coming for their friends, just like I knew they would. We must hurry to greet them’ Colossus exclaims. Magik asks her brother what he has been doing here, looking at several whales floundering in the shallows. The whales have strange limbs attached to them, and Colossus explains that he thought the whales might like it if he gave them legs, but then he forgot that they weren’t very good at breathing on land. ‘For what it’s worth, I like them better this way’ Magik tells her brother, before suggesting that they need to go. As they depart, Colossus asks Magik if she can help him make more whales.
Deep in the volcano, the cloaked heroes have found their teammates, handing from rocks, tied in a demonic mucus as if they were wrapped in cocoons. ‘Oh my God. Are they even still alive?’ someone asks. ‘Barely. These creatures are feeding on their minds. Perhaps their very souls’ someone explains. ‘Let’s get them out of here. Now’ Captain America orders, but as the Avengers begin to free their friends, Iron Fist reports that he cannot open the portal to K’un Lun in this place, as there is too much demonic interference. Dr Strange adds that his teleportation spells are being blocked. ‘We’ll have to carry them out by hand’ he tells everyone. ‘Um…guys? Who’s gonna carry us?’ Spider-Man asks, as Magik and Colossus appear, and being their attack.
The invisibility cloak falls, and Captain America raises his shield to deflect Magik’s Soulsword, while the Black Panther falls backwards thanks to a punch from Colossus. Spider-Man sees that the Avengers outnumber the Phoenixes five to one, but the Avengers are fighting with their backs to the wall. He knows they don’t stand a chance. Wolverine, She-Hulk and Iron Fist try to attack Colossus, while Dr Strange combats Magik. Spider-Man knows that this will end like all the other missions, that when the portal opens back in K’un Lun, only bad news will step out of it. Captain America it tossed aside into Professor X, who tells Colossus and Magik not to do this, that they are better than this.
Colossus knocks all of his opponents aside with ease. Spider-Man fears that the portal will open and none of them will step out, but then remembers what a very wise man once said: ‘Once you’re an Avenger, it never fails, sooner or later, the time comes when it’s your turn to step up to the plate”. ‘Just make sure you’re ready’ Spider-Man tells himself, before turning to Iron Fist and asking him to tell Hope that he meant what he said. ‘What?’ Iron Fist asks, confused. As Wolverine and She-Hulk prepare to attack the Rasputin siblings once more, they suddenly find themselves pulled back by strong webbing. Spider-Man then kicks the rocks above them, and they begin to fall to the ground. ‘Get everybody out! I’ll hold them off for as long as I can!’ Spider-Man calls out as he is sealed off from the rest of the team. ‘Don’t be crazy! You can’t!’ Cap calls out.
Magik and Colossus frown at Spider-Man. ‘Hold us off? How exactly do you plan on doing that, little man?’ Magik asks. ‘Why, the power of laughter, of course!’ Spider-Man exclaims. ‘Knock knock?’ he asks them, leaping out of the way when Magik attacks him. ‘Gah. Nobody appreciates the classics anymore’ Spider-Man mutters.
At that moment, Storm casts a mighty lightning bolt at the volcano’s outer, creating an exit for the Avengers. Dr Strange alerts everyone to the exit, and they follow him, carrying their rescued teammates. Wolverine has Thor over his back, and Iron Fist exclaims ‘My God, Wolverine, those chains are burning your -’, but Wolverine ignores him, and just tells him to get the portal open. She-Hulk carries the thing, while Hawkeye has been rescued by Captain America. Professor Xavier keeps a demon at bay, while Storm and the Black Panther fight side by side against the demons.
In the sealed-off area of the volcano, Spider-Man falls to the ground. Magik tells Colossus that the others can’t have gotten far, and decides that they will drag them all back in chains. ‘The Hell Worms will eat well tonight’ Magik adds. Colossus begins punching away at the rubble that blocks them off from the escaping heroes, but Spider-Man leaps into the air and throws webbing around the Phoenixes. ‘Hey, where you guys going? We were just starting to get to know each other’ Spider-Man exclaims, adding ‘Let’s see, you’re both into spelunking and barbeques and punching really hard. I prefer quiet dinners and moonlight strolls along the Hudson’.
The webbing breaks away with ease and as Spider-Man swings towards Colossus, the behemoth raises a fist and punches Spider-Man hard in the face. ‘Cripple him and be done with it’ Magik exclaims. Colossus tells Spider-Man to stay down, as he doesn’t want to hurt him - he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. ‘At least…I don’t think I do’ Colossus adds. Blood drips from Spider-Man’s face, and he fears that something in his face is broken - it hurts to breathe and hurts to lie still. ‘But staying down is not an option’ Spider-Man thinks to himself, so he leaps up and punches Colossus in the face, before jumping backwards and clinging to the rocky wall of the volcano. ‘Okay, good job, you’ve punched me in the face a bunch of times, so now any minute the crowd will start cheering my name, and by the end we’ll all be tearing down the Berlin wall together. You guys have seen Rocky IV, right?’ Spider-Man mutters.
When he sees that Magik is turning away from him, Spider-Man leaps on her shoulders. ‘This is where the party’s at’ he tells Magik, who spins around, and grabs Spider-Man by his ankle and slams him to the ground. His spider-sense is buzzing non-stop, like a migraine. His web shooters are crushed, and as Colossus stands on his back, he thinks his back will follow. ‘GAARGH!’ Spider-Man cries out. His mask is full of blood, and legs feel like they’re made of melted cheese. ‘I said stay down!’ Colossus booms. ‘Afraid I…can’t do that’ Spider-Man utters as he tries to get up. ‘You will. Whether you want to or not’ Colossus tells him as he punches Spider-Man’s bloody face once again. The good news for Spider-Man is that his migraine has stopped - but the bad news is he cannot feel his head anymore.
Magik tells her brother that this is pathetic, and asks him why he holds back. ‘All this power and you don’t even have the guts to use it. Finish him, already, before I finish you both’ Magik warns Colossus, who asks his sister to stop saying things. ‘You are beginning to worry me’ he remarks, adding that he worries what this power is doing to his sister, worries that she is giving into the darkness. Perhaps you should let me carry this burden for the both of us’ Colossus suggests. ‘You simple-minded child! You barely know what to do with your own power, let alone -’ Magik begins, but Colossus interrupts, exclaiming that he is not a child, that he is her older brother. ‘You would do well to remember that’ he adds. ‘You would do well to remove your hand! I will not tell you -’ Magik begins, when Spider-Man tells them to keep this civil.
Spider-Man screams as Colossus casts the cosmic Phoenix energy at him. ‘All this fighting between brother and sister is just so…so unseemly. You guys gotta learn to get along. After al…l. You both know what would happen to all that power if one of you was to fall, right?’ Spider-Man asks them. Colossus and Magik look away from each other. ‘I’m sure neither of you wants to see that’ Spider-Man adds. Suddenly, there is a massive surge of energy, and the volcano explodes in spectacular display.
The portal opens on K’un Lun. Luke Cage, Quicksilver, Thor, Spider-Woman, Ms Marvel, the Black Widow, the Thing and Hawkeye have all been rescued. The Beast, Scarlet Witch and Hope are on hand to help the returning Avengers to safety. Hope looks back at the portal and asks where Spider-Man is.
Captain America, Wolverine, Storm and the Black Panther remain in the volcano, ‘Spider-Man!’ Wolverine calls out. They find Colossus and Magik, returned to their regular costumes, and Spider-Man hobbing towards his teammates. ‘They took each other down. I think I…might have helped a bit. Did I…did I do good, Uncle Ben?’ Spider-Man utters, before announcing that he is going to collapse into a pile of goo now. He collapses, and Captain America grabs him. ‘If they’re both down, that means their power just went…’ Wolverine begins. ‘Yes. Yes it did’. the Black Panther exclaims.
In K’un Lun, a blinding light appears overhead. ‘What in the world is that?’ Hope exclaims. ‘That is what it looks like when someone tears their way through dimensions. I am sorry, Hope. I truly am’ Iron Fist tells her. ‘Sorry, what do you…oh, God…’ Hope utters. ‘I am sorry we will never get to finish your training’ Iron Fist replies, before a voice booms ‘HOPE!’, and Cyclops hovers overhead in a cosmic haze. He extends a hand and tells Hope that it is time to come home….