‘NO! NOOOOOO!!’ screams Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the mighty Scarlet Witch as she stands in the palace of the diabolical Master Pandemonium who has appeared before her and the rest of the Avengers West Coast, only this time, he has replaced his demon-arms with the children of the Scarlet Witch. Pandemonium tells Wanda to protest as much as she wants to, but it will not change what has come to pass. ‘Master Pandemonium is now utterly unbeatable!’ he boasts. ‘Mt babies! What have you done to my babies?’ a distraught Wanda exclaims.
Wanda’s brother-in-law and dear friend Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man tells Wanda to be careful, that she shouldn’t do anything until they know what Pandemonium is up to. He points out that with the unpredictable nature of Wanda’s powers, one of her hexes might kill her own children. Pandemonium smiles and tells Wonder Man that he shouldn’t fear on that account, for now that he has reclaimed the missing pieces of his soul which constitute Thomas and William, they can never be harmed again. ‘But you can!’ he snarls, before unleashing a beam of fire from one of the children, aimed directly at the Scarlet Witch.
Simon leaps in front of Wanda to protect her as Iron Man declares that he is going to take Master Pandemonium’s word and assume Wanda’s children will not be hurt as he blasts the demon with the full force of one of his repulsor beams. Pandemonium just laughs as he stands firm throughout the full force of Iron Man’s power. Iron Man is shocked and exclaims that there was enough destructive force to level and office block, but it washed over Pandemonium like spring rain. Pandemonium calls the West Coast branch of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fools, and declares that they still do not understand.
He explains that he kidnapped the children of Wanda Maximoff and the android Vision to use their young souls to replace the missing pieces of his own. ‘Imagine, if you can, my joy upon discovering Thomas and William are pieces of my stolen soul!’ Pandemonium adds that as the children are invigorated with the mutant energies they drew from their mother, they have increased his own power a thousandfold!
Demons suddenly spew from Pandemonium, ‘Well don’t just stand there gaping! Demons they may be, but we’re the Avengers! Let’s show ‘em what that means!’ the handsome USAgent declares, leaping into battle with his trusty shield. Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. the winsome Wasp flies away from a giant bat-like creature, thinking that for a moment, the USAgent sounded almost as impressive as Captain America. Turning, she blasts the demon with her sting, only for it to shatter into a hundred smaller versions of itself. Hank Pym, her lover, comes to her rescue, telling her not to worry, and pulling from his pocket a needled gun, he uses his Pym Particles to return it to its regular size and fires it at the bats, exclaiming that it should be enough to shred their unliving wings.
The android Vision remarks that his human partners seem to be holding their own against the demonic horde, and turning intangible, he is reminded that the demons cannot harm him in that form - until suddenly, a demon places his hand on the Vision’s head, and it does not phase through. ‘No, synthezoid? Think you not?’ the demon asks as he cracks the Vision’s neck, causing the ghostly Avenger to fall to the ground. Wonder Man announces that his brother is down, and points out that it will take hours for his internal systems to repaid such major damage.
Wonder Man decides that he cannot just lie here like a lump of beef, so thinks he should carry this fight to the source. Sneaking up behind Pandemonium, Wonder Man then puts all of his mighty weight into leaping upon the diabolical villain, pushing him to the ground. Simon tells himself to be careful, that he has to pin Pandemonium’s arms so that he cannot use Tommy or Bill again, when suddenly, one of the children, now looking very demonic, leaps up, still attached to Master Pandemonium, and begins to put his stretched mouth over Wonder Man’s face.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, high above the Avengers West Compound in Palos Verde. The original Human Torch surveys the area, and assuredly decides that he cannot see any sign of the demon things, and suspects that they all vanished when Pandemonium left. The Human Torch drops to the ground, reverting to his handsome human form, he thinks that it was a mistake to let the Avengers go off to Pandemonium’s dimension without him, for although Pandemonium may be more powerful than any villain he has ever faced in his career… - suddenly, the Human Torch is startled, as a small orange and black cat streaks out in front of him before quickly going under some brush. The Human Torch thinks that it was unlike any cat he has ever seen before, before reminding himself that the Avengers said he would find the world changed a lot since the 1950’s, and decides he can ask Hank Pym what it was later on - if he ever sees Hank again that is.
The Torch enters the Avengers West Compound and asks Ann Raymond, the wife of his deceased crime-fighting partner Toro, if there is any change. Torch and Ann both look at the aged witch Agatha Harkness, and Ann replies that there is no change, that she just stands there staring off into the infinity. The Human Torch bets that the old woman Is doing more than that, and informs Ann that the Avengers say she is a powerful witch, and he believes them. Ann admits to the Human Torch that she doesn’t understand any of this, and asks who Master Pandemonium is and why he would kidnap the Scarlet Witch’s children.
(Shown with Flashback Images)
The Human Torch informs Ann that according to Hank Pym, Pandemonium is really a movie executive named Martin Preston who was involved in a terrible auto accident that tore off his right arm. As Martin hung there in his car, suspended only by his seat-belt, the super-demon known as Mephisto appeared and offered to replace both of Preston’s arms with powerful demon limbs. Preston accepted, but the next morning, he found that there’d been a catch - his new arms looked human enough, but Mephisto had torn out his soul, leaving a mystic star-shaped scar. Becoming Master Pandemonium - pandemonium meaning “the place where demons live” - Preston set out to find the five pieces of his lost soul. He even found one not long ago, replacing one point of the star.
‘That’s incredible!’ exclaims Ann, before asking how it all connects with the Scarlet Witch’s children. Agatha suddenly speaks, announcing that she can answer that. The old woman explains to the newcomers that when Wanda married the Vision she desired no more than to create for herself a normal home, which to one of her upbringing, meant having children. Agatha points out that Wanda could not have done that with the Vision since he is not human but a very sophisticated machine, so Wanda used her power to alter probabilities to make it possible for the two of them to start a family.
Agatha explains that Wanda’s offspring were born of a combination of the magic she herself had taught the young mutant, and Wanda’s own mutant power, but lately, an imbalance has developed in that matrix, and whenever Wanda is not consciously thinking about her children, the creatures disappear. Ann asks Agatha what she means by “creatures”, so Agatha reveals that the children are not real, but manifestations of Wanda’s will - one small step beyond illusion, however, Agatha adds that there is still something more about them that she is not aware of.
Agatha remarks that Dr. Strange officiated at their birth, and even he, the world’s Sorcerer Supreme, detected no aberration in them. The Human Torch exclaims that it must make them real then, to which Agatha tells him that there are many kinds of reality, and Wanda’s power is so great - greater than even she suspects - but not so great that she can create life - that power is reserved unto but one force in this universe. The aged witch turns from the Human Torch and Ann Raymond, telling them to be still as she has other matters to attend to. The Human Torch asks Agatha of the Avengers - is she still keeping an eye on them? Agatha replies that she herself isn’t, and tells the Human Torch to fear not, as they are being watched - and if the Avengers need help, the three of them will know.
And in Master Pandemonium’s realm, Agatha’s cat, Ebony, skulks around, keeping to the sidelines of the important battle that rages on. Hank Pym finds himself being torn in two directions by his demonic foes, while the Wasp fights for her life in the jagged-toothed mouth of a very frightening creature. Only the legs of the USAgent can only be seen as the rest of his body is engulfed by some glob-like creature. Iron Man is held in stasis by some sort of energy demon, while Wanda is attacked from behind by an enormous brute - and Wonder Man still has his head trapped inside one of his nephews.
Suddenly, Pandemonium raises his “hands” and Wonder Man falls unconscious to the ground. Pandemonium laughs, ‘The mighty Avengers! How easily they fall before my untrammelled power!’ Pandemonium boasts that in this place he truly is lord and master, adding that nothing happens here unless he wills it to be. Master Pandemonium orders his demon servants to bring him the Scarlet Witch, assuring them that she cannot harm them if her arms are pinned, meaning she cannot summon her powers. Wanda is held in place before Pandemonium who remarks that the souls of her offspring will serve him well.
Pandemonium stretches out one of the children before Wanda as he exclaims that they shall see what happens when he infuses the twins with Wanda’s own soul. Before he can do so though, Hank Pym calls out to Pandemonium, telling him to stop, that there is something he hasn’t taken into consideration in this mad scheme of his. Pym reminds Pandemonium of how he said that Thomas and William are parts of his missing soul, and points out that they were born before he had his encounter with Mephisto.
‘Indeed, they were, Doctor Pym!’ Mephisto exclaims from his realm where he sits watching the saga of the Avengers West Coast unfold. The uber-demon exclaims that he is rightly called the Prince of Liars, and that nothing he told Martin Preston has even a shred of truth about it.
(Shown with Flashback Images)
Mephisto recalls how some time ago he himself was destroyed by the mutant son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman of the accursed Fantastic Four. However, that moment of un-being was temporary, for so long as there is evil in the world, Mephisto shall always endure, thus he recombined over time. But it wasn’t long before Mephisto discovered that he was diminished, for the Richards brat had shattered his essence into six parts - and five were still scattered across the world. So though he was restored, it was at one sixth of his full potency. One sixth of infinity to be sure, but Mephisto did not want to waste that precious energy in a search for his missing elements, so he conceived the means by which he could transform a human - Martin Preston - into his unwitting gudgeon.
‘It was never his own soul for which he searched, rather I made his a receptacle for my own missing quintessence!’
Back in Master Pandemonium’s realm, Pandemonium declares that Pym is lying, for the children are truly part of his soul, therefore they must have been created after his encounter with Mephisto. Wanda exclaims that Hank is right, that Thomas and William were born long before Pandemonium first attacked them. Master Pandemonium exclaims that he sees it all now, that this is some kind of ruse, that the Avengers seek to delay the inevitable by confusing the issue. Suddenly, the Human Torch enters the dark realm, ‘Hold it, Pandemonium!’ he exclaims. Pandemonium is shocked at seeing a portal back to Earth, and asks who it is. The Human Torch replies that he has been called a few things in his day, ‘But I guess right now you can call me…the Soul Bringer!’ Holding two pieces of a soul in his hands, the Human Torch remarks that he believes they belong to Pandemonium.
Pandemonium creeps towards the Human Torch, ‘The last two fragments of my soul! Give them to me!’ he shouts, but the Human Torch pulls back, ‘Not so fast!’ he exclaims, telling Pandemonium that he wants something first. ‘I want your promise that the Avengers will be released unharmed!’ ‘Yes, yes! Anything! Just give me the fragments!’ Pandemonium cries urgently. USAgent cries out to the Human Torch, telling him that Pandemonium cannot be trusted, and as Pandemonium takes the two missing fragments of his soul, the Torch tells Agent not to worry, as he has got every angel covered.
‘Do you?’ Pandemonium asks as Billy and Thomas place the fragments into Pandemonium. ‘If you think that, then you are every bit the fool you seem!’ The diabolical villain exclaims that with his soul restored, he does not need to be bound by the promises he gave mere mortals, and tells the Human Torch that by turning the fragments over to him, he has just signed his own death warrant. Suddenly, Pandemonium looks at his torso, and is shocked to see that the center of the star is still missing. ‘feel…so…strange!’ he mutters, before his entire form is sucked into the hole in the center of the pentagram on his body, screaming ‘Nooooooo!’ as he goes.
The demons and Pandemonium’s entire lair all disappear too, as Wonder Man points out, while USAgent stands in awe at how Pandemonium collapsed into the space left by the missing piece. Pym asks the Human Torch if he knew that would happen, to which Torch replies that he didn’t, and explains it was Agatha Harkness who had another way of dealing with him if he turned nasty. Wanda asks where Thomas and William are, when suddenly, Mephisto appears before the Avengers West Coast, telling Wanda that that her children are in a place where they will be of no further concern to her. ‘They are restored to their proper place as a part of me!’
The Avengers all look at Mephisto, when Wonder Man asks what that is behind the demon. ‘Ebony!’ Wanda exclaims, before remarking that it must have been how Agatha was able to trace them and send the Torch after them. Suddenly though, the sleek black cat transforms into an enormous giant cat, and the Avengers watch in shock as Ebony begins attacking Mephisto. ‘Oh! I can’t look! His claws are slashing Mephisto to ribbons!’ Janet exclaims. Pym points out that Mephisto’s wounds are healing instantly, and the demon now has Ebony. ‘He’s pushed his hand down the cat’s throat!’ Iron Man points out, and Wonder Man cringes as Mephisto begins to turn Ebony inside out.
The Scarlet Witch declares that Ebony must be trying to save Thomas and William, but that Ebony isn’t nearly powerful enough. Suddenly, there is a voice in Wanda’s head - it is Agatha Harkness. Wanda asks Agatha if she cannot stop the battle before Ebony is killed, to which Agatha replies that her dark familiar is not so easily destroyed, pointing out that if he were, he would never have travelled to this place disguised as one of Pandemonium’s demons, nor agreed to stage this diversion should it become necessary. Wanda asks Agatha what she means by “diversion”, to which the old witch reveals that there is only one way to end this battle and return them all safely to Earth
‘You must open your mind to me, Wanda…and your soul!’ with that, Ebony slashes away at Mephisto, and both Wanda and Mephisto scream out in unison. Suddenly, there is a blinding white light, Wonder Man calls out to Wanda, while Pym asks what happened, remarking that both Wanda and Mephisto cried out at the same time, and points out that Mephisto has now vanished.
The Avengers, including the still unconscious Vision, find themselves back in their Palos Verdes Compound, and the USAgent asks ‘how?’ Agatha, stroking Ebony who sits in her arms, reveals that it was her doing, that she brought them all here as soon as the last vestige of Mephisto’s power faded from that place. Wonder Man picks up an unmoving Wanda in his arms as a shocked Pym exclaims ‘Miss Harkness…? You defeated Mephisto? You have that kind of power?’ The old woman replies that she does not, but that Mephisto laid the ground work for his own undoing when he reabsorbed the portions of his essence which had become Thomas and William.
Agatha explains that as she knew the “children” were still bound by the spell Wanda used to create them, she was able to erase them from Wanda’s memory, and the resultant shock to Mephisto’s system was enough to disperse him again - for a little while at least. An angry Wonder Man asks Agatha what she meant by “erased” Tommy and Billy. The aged witch tells Simon to remain calm, as she will explain.
Agatha reminds the Avengers of how Wanda longed all her life for the kind of normal existence forever denied to her by her mutant powers, that she has so greatly desired a family - in her mind, the perfect symbol of a peaceful and happy life - that she suffered what in a human woman would have been a hysterical or imaginary pregnancy. Agatha explains that in such cases, there is usually no child to be born, but Wanda’s power to change probabilities created Thomas and William, twins to double the fulfilment of her dream. Since Wanda’s power cannot create true life, she reached out unconsciously to snare anything which would function as souls for the newborns - what she caught, still much weakened by their recent separation, was two of the missing pieces of Mephisto.
The Wasp flies over to Agatha and asks what will happen now. ‘I know Wanda! When she returns to consciousness, her first thought is almost sure to be of her children!’ Agatha looks at her motionless former student and tells the Wasp that it will not, for to spare Wanda that pain, she has closed that corner of her mind for all time. ‘The little creatures are gone, restored to their original state. For Wanda…it will be as if they never were’.
The USAgent declares that it is inhuman to make a mother forget her children like that. ‘If it happened to my mother, it would kill her!’ he adds. Agatha calmly replies that it was the course which afforded the least opportunity for continued harm, and tells the Avengers that they must trust her on this one. Agatha goes over to Wonder Man and exclaims that in the time she has known Wanda, she has become in her heart the daughter that she never had. Agatha claims that she would not have done what she did if there were any other way, before telling Wonder Man to take the Scarlet Witch to her quarters, to let her sleep, awaiting the restoration of the Vision. ‘She will need peace and quiet if she is to fully recover from this ordeal…’.
Elsewhere, the Atlantean warlord known as Ghaur tells the vamp Llyra that the time has come to seek out the Seven Brides of Set!