The Machine that is Earth summarizes what happened recently, how new Prime Eternal Druig declared war against the mutants, how he unleashed Uranos the Undying to devastate the mutant settlement on Arakko, how Jack of Knives was barely prevented from winning the war by destroying the means of mutant resurrection on Krakoa, how Druig released the ancient skyscraper-sized war Eternals the Hex against Krakoa.
In Lemuria, the capital of the Deviants, the two priests Ajak and Makkari as well as Sersi have just brought the other renegade Eternals – Sprite, Ikaris, Thena, Kingo Sunen and Phastos – up to speed. Sprite simply states, that’s bad. She likes the mutants. What are they going to do? Simple, Ikaris replies. They fly to stand against injustice. Phastos grimly points out this is bigger than mere justice. Druig released Uranos! Satan was freed for his gain. That was his first step. What’s his next? Hopefully they won’t find out, Sersi replies. They’ve been consulting with the Avengers and they have a plan…
“Consulting” is Sersi’s shorthand for “the Avengers beat her and captured her, but they’ve since kissed and made up.”
Ajak continues that they have a plan to bring a new god to earth. A Celestial who can rewrite their nature and set the Eternals free. Makkari signs that their first act would be to end that war. Ajak continues they have convened a team of humans and a mutant specialist to use the corpse of the Celestial the Avengers live inside as a structure for their new god. To finish it, they need certain parts. When they have them they can…
Phastos interrupts, reminding them they already showed him their plans. He told them they would risk war. They say they have a mutant expert: Nathaniel Essex, who gutted the Dreaming Celestial. Did they kidnap Mr. Sinister?
The priests are silent. Ajak glares. Of course, they did, he accuses them. Did they even wait for the war to begin to put their plan into action? Are they just lucky there was a war for them to take advantage of? He walks toward Ajak threateningly. Did she know the war was coming and merely took advantage? She talked to Druig and made him release Phastos. What else did he tell her?
She makes a stop sign and tells him enough. He can judge her by the result of this. At the end, they will have a god and deliverance. She has faith in this. Along the way, they can save the world. Judge her then.
Phastos swears, then asks what they need him to do. She tells him to be a smith of gods and he accedes, seeing he has no choice. As the three leave, Thena asks what about the rest of them. They march to war! Ikaris announces. Perhaps later, Sersi replies. There is one little thing the priests need them to secure. It will require another séance in the bowels of Lemuria. She asks Thena to talk with Kro and gain them access. And what will everyone else do? Thena asks. When they have access, they’ll need bodyguards, Sersi predicts.
Later, the group, joined by Kro, stands at the crater where the Celestials once showed their rage. Kro tells them to be swift, this is the Deviants’ most sacred and profane site. There are many Deviants who would judge him for letting them step where their gods lashed out. It happened here? Thena asks. It happened all over the city, Kro corrects her. The Second Host of the Celestials returned to Earth and found the Deviants in the fullness of their power. Kro was young. He remembers how proud they were. This is where its first strike was made, in all their rage and majesty.
The Eternals jump inside. Kro continues. This is where they first learned in all certainty that their gods do not love them.
The Eternals float down into the darkness. Sprite muses it is so peaceful here. Sersi corrects her, not peaceful, just quiet. This is the furthest place from peaceful. She switches on a device and, suddenly, they find themselves surrounded by what seem to be pain-wracked ghosts of Deviants, actually just shadows burned into the firmament of reality by the Celestials’ hate. Ajak’s theological technology gives them a little form.
The shadows attack them and the Eternals gather what they need: eyewitness testimony to the nature of the Celestials. Sersi thinks, “Our gods did this. The only gods we have ever known.” And then she has two contradictory thoughts: “Why would we make another?” “How could we not try to make a better one?”
Their job done, the Eternals return back to the light where Kro is waiting. Sersi is horrified and Thena expresses compassion and amazement that Kro lived through this. Kro just hopes the new god will be more clement than the old ones.
Ikaris remarks, now they are free to express their displeasure with Druig’s leadership. Oh they are free, are they? Kro replies acidly. They go to fight Druig’s Eternals, and guess what happens next? A clue: look around! They get to play the hero. The Deviants get to pay the price. Chastened, Ikaris admits that Kro is right but then pronounces Druig’s actions are not right. Kro clarifies: he didn’t say don’t do it but don’t let Druig know their identity. Why not do something out of character, he suggests to Ikaris: be clever. He leaves. Ikaris thinks and, to the surprise of everyone, announces he has an idea.
A little later, Ikaris enters the Eternals’ subspace tunnels calling out “friend.” A moment later, a masked Eternals surprises him and wrestles him to the ground. Ikaris greets the Forgotten One as Gilgamesh and asks how many stealth suits the Forgotten have.
Olympia, the War Room:
Druig watches the Hex in action against Krakoa and is impressed. It had been so long since Uranos hid the keys to his weapons’ arsenal, he had almost forgotten what the Hex can do. He asks the Machine that is Earth how long they can keep it up. The Machine is disgusted by his actions but has to obey. It replies that five of the Hex are deployed. Syne is being resurrected.
All running at maximum combat potential, maintained by live-connection to Celestial armories.
Druig enters another room where former Prime Eternal Zuras stands concentrating. Druig asks how the psychic siege is going. Zuras calls him a stupid boy. It is hard. He leads part of the Uni-Mind attacking the Quiet Council.
The Machine figures that, while the mutant psychics are grotesquely powerful, they have only fleshy bodies. Eternals don’t have the top-level talent… but they are not fleshy little things. To put it in gamer language: mutants do a lot more damage. Eternals have a lot more hit points. The Eternals are not trying to win the psychic war. They are trying to tie up the best X-players.
Druig remarks that, when Syne has recovered, it will likely be enough to finish Krakoa. It must be frustrating for them being attacked by something they can’t attack back.
The Machine thinks that is the case because Eternal cities are secret cities with closed doors. Someone finding a way to change that sounds like a good idea…
The Exclusion guarded by Kalos the Destructor of the Oceanic Watch, a seemingly unassuming Eternal:
He spots Ikaris’ team of Eternals in their stealth suits. When they try to take him down, he unfolds a hydra-pattern from his infra-caverns to attack.
The Forgotten, Ikaris and Kingo fight the monster, whereas Sprite sneaks to the computers and uploads a Forgotten special temporary override to the armory access. It won’t deploy until the safeguards are neutralized. The group telepathically inform the X-Men that the way is open after having taken down the hydra.
The Machine alerts Druig to the intruders in the armory. Show him! he demands and sees an image of Magik and Wolverine II entering. “Mutants!” he shouts, then corrects himself: “Deviants.” Domo points out that, with their supply disrupted, the Hex will run out of power and weaponry. Who would let their foes have access? he wonders. Druig points out the Forgotten, missing the fact that there are only four Forgotten. He orders internal defense units to the Exclusion to get them before they escape.
His mistake is assuming his foes think like him. He would hit and run. But Gilgamesh and Ikaris would not. They would hit and then hit again.
Ikaris attacks Zuras from behind, his weapon temporarily teleporting a small part of Zuras’ brain away. Zuras can’t think, so he can’t fight. And he doesn’t die, so no human dies to have him resurrect.
And so the telepathic siege on the mutants is over.
Druig and Domo find Zuras. Domo points out the Hex are running on fumes. Druig figures with Syne retuning they can still win, unless something else interrupts. Druig is to be disappointed.
At the North Pole, Stark’s team makes the final touches to the new Celestial. The Machine shudders as the Celestial - the new Progenitor - awakes. Then Earth’s new management is here.
The Celestial speaks to all sentient beings. It is different for those who are a part of the Machine like the Eternals. To them it speaks more directly. Till now, the Eternals had three principles. The Celestial dictates a fourth: You have 24 hours to justify yourselves.
The Eternals look to their leader, who has no idea what to do. Retreat, hold up. Get their defenses working, Druig sends. Take a beat. See what happens next. The Eternals obey but a thought is bounced around private PSI-chats: “Uranos wouldn’t have said ‘let’s take a beat’.” Druig’s mask slips and everyone knows how unsuitable he is for the role of Prime Eternal. Including Druig.
He orders Domo to consult the archives while he speaks to Uranos. And most of all: make sure the Forgotten don’t escape!
Elsewhere in the Exclusion, Gilgamesh and Ikaris each take out one of the Delphan Brothers. Justify themselves? Gilgamesh asks. This world bleeds because of the Eternals’ arrogance. They hurt humans by existing. Even he who tried to protect them, hurt them indirectly. If an Eternal dies, a human dies. The Principles have always been riddles. He knows the answer to this one. He thinks he does too, Ikaris agrees and blasts a message into the wall.
By the time Druig’s people find the message, Gilgamesh and Ikaris are long gone. It will be added to the many things Druig has to think about. The message is “Death to the Eternals.”