Mentor, leader of the Titans, appears in a giant monitor. He urges Rick Jones - and through him, Captain Marvel – to heed his words. Rick is relieved to see him: he got back into his king-thing quick, then. He asks him what's the latest. He's been camping out next to the Avengers' tele-communicator so long, Jarvis was starting to dust him! He's about to croak from curiosity!
Mentor tells him he exaggerates - as usual. In truth, Mentor's galaxy-spanning war with his son, Thanos, ended but one of Rick's earth-days past. Still, the recently imprisoned men of Titan have already begun to rebuild its beauty – while those who fought to free them partake of well-deserved relaxation. His second son, Eros, has understandably led the way, but he feels Moondragon, having returned to the Shaolin monastery for a period of contemplation, has made a better choice. Their one dilemma is that they are as yet unable to locate the Destroyer, since he’s lost his life’s meaning with the destruction of Thanos. Yet with Kronos once more unbound to subtly shape their ends, he has complete faith that all will be well. He asks Rick how he fares. Fair-to-middling, Rick replies. He can’t complain. He thanks Mentor for the call and wishes he sees him around sometime.
Rick hears the voice of Captain Marvel in his head, the Kree warrior who is dimensionally separated from him by use of naga bands. Why the lie? he asks Rick. Their souls, though vastly different, are co-mingled enough for Mar-Vell to feel Rick’s sadness. “Why, Marv?” an upset Rick rejoins. He’ll tell him why! It’s because they got sucked into a war of the worlds when Thanos Rick… and got out when he was done in by Mar-Vell. It’s because Rick Jones, boy sidekick had to… well, heck, he’s not even a sidekick. He sits it out in the Negative Zone whenever the hero gets it on. Darn it – what is he doing with his life?
For one thing, Mar-Vell replies, he’s providing to himself – a prisoner of the Negative Zone – with a gateway to his Positive Universe, which has, as Rick says, been of some value for inhabitants there. But in regard to Rick’s personal life, Mar-Vell’s only suggestion for Rick would be to keep his six o’clock appointment with Mordecai P. Boggs!
“Mordecai?” Rick suddenly remembers. “Oh, cripes!” What with all the confusion, he’s forgotten he’s supposed to start singing for him tonight! Before he hastily departs, he thanks Marv and tells him that, if he ever starts crying again, Mar-Vell knows where to put the boot!
Meanwhile, in a certain room, in a certain hotel, over 800 miles away…
The Lunatic Legion contact their agent, Nitro, via radio and order him to answer at once. “Ahh, stuff it!” Nitro grunts. Is that answer enough for them? The Lunatic Legion warn him it is not wise to mock them, as his Earth-body may recall! They recognize that Robert Hunter – Nitro – was the most difficult of their converts… but he did convert. He should not fancy that his return to the planet of his birth removes him from their complete authority! This is his assignment: tomorrow, in the nearby city of Gary, Indiana…
“Ga-ry, In-di-a-na…” Rick sings while playing the guitar back in Mordecai’s café. “Hot licks from the “Music Man”? Ain’t that wonderful?” a woman mocks him as she comes in. Here they tell her there’s a big rock-star-in-the-making at the café and she finds a Broadway-musical freak! “Yeah, and it’s pouring outta yours ears, miss…?” Rick tells her. The woman introduces herself as Ms. Rachel Dandridge – Dandy to him.
Yes, Mordecai agrees as he appears: and soon Dandy to the milling throngs of all-American adolescents who move and groove to the rock and roll! He tells Rick she’ll be his partner. Rick is surprised: partner? Who said anything about a partner?
Mordecai explains that he… did just now. Surely if Rick accepts Mordecai P. Boggs as his magnificent manager, he must allow him to set his feet on to the stairway to the stars. And eureka! Mordecai has found the stairway! It begins in Denver, one week hence, where the dynamic duo of Rick ‘n’ Dandy shall enliven the crowd for the larger acts to follow on the bill… and then continue with said acts on a 14-city tour! As she leaves, Dandy advises Rick to get himself an ax… because she likes to boogie!
Frowning, Rick admits that the last thing agreeing to was singing for Mordecai here… tonight… alone… not teaming up with some slick chick for a grand tour! Mordecai smiles: that’s show biz! He’s certain he won’t let them down!
Back at the Avengers mansion, Rick packs his things and bids his farewells to the team. He shakes everybody’s hand and tells them this is goodbye – again. He urges everyone to listen for him on the radio. Iron Man tells him to send them tickets when he plays the Garden. Sure thing, Rick replies.
Now has come the time for Rick to say goodbye to his girlfriend, Lou-Ann. Much is said in this dim-lit room… and much more is left unsaid… but nothing need be said. For they both know this is goodbye. They silently embrace, as tears flow from Lou-Ann’s eyes.
Rick exits the mansion and goes over to Dandy’s parked car. She urges him to hurry: the sun’s been up for over an hour. As she drives on, Rick thinks that he and Lou-Ann never had anything really. Thanos pulled them apart too soon. Nothing, he repeats to himself. Then why doesn’t he want to leave?
800 miles west, and ten hours later, at a secret air force base, some soldiers are unloading a cargo from a van. One of them tells his colleague to go easy on it: drop this canister and he might as well drop the bomb. After they finish, one of them reports to their commander – Carol Danvers – that Compound Thirteen’s safe and secure. He doesn’t mind telling her that he aged five years just now! He addresses her as Carol, but Carol corrects him: Miss Danvers. She can’t be head up security on this job, and be his friend, too! Ever since the Walter Lawson/ Captain Marvel foul-up at the Cape, she’s been on the spot with some four-star chauvinists, so she’s running this show tight.
Yeah? Nitro thinks as he hears those words, standing outside the outer fence of the base. Blowing himself up with his power, he makes his way inside and sneers at Carol: “Don’t look now, blondie, but you’re on the spot again!” He announces he’s come for Compound Thirteen! One of the soldiers deduces he’s crazy: he hasn’t even got a weapon! Nitro assures him he doesn’t need a weapon – he’s got himself! Saying this, he blows himself up again. Carol lies stunned on the ground, and the last thing she sees before her eyelids slip shut, almost looks like a man… reforming. She is spared the sight of the armoured truck crashing out of the base, under the command of the unharmed Nitro. Nitro is thrilled: no one can stop him – no one!
Elsewhere, Rick, Dandy and Mordecai are lost and have stopped the car at a crossroads. Nowhere: Mordecai huffs that’s where they are! Dandy grumps that they know who’s fault it is: the kid doesn’t read a map any better than he reads music! Rick rejoins that if she wasn’t a girl… He’d what? Dandy retorts. Form up the Three Muskeeters and go swashbuckling across the Midwest? Or maybe he was considering the Three Stooges.
Rick wonders what’s up with her. She’s been on his back since before he even knew her! Dandy replies that maybe he wasn’t the only one who didn’t want a partner… maybe Dandy wanted to be Tina Turner without Ike… and maybe Mordecai P. Boggs shucked them both! “My dear young lady!” Mordecai intervenes. He has nothing but their best interests…
Suddenly, the armoured truck driven by Nitro appears. Before either car has the time to pull the brakes, the vehicles’s sides crash against each other. Nitro’s truck loses a wheel and finally topples. “That fool!” Nitro rages. He’ll never be able to get this truck upright again! Approaching Dandy’s stopped car, he exclaims that somebody owes him some new transportation! “Faantastic!” Rick remarks. The only guy in miles runs them down and then comes looking for revenge!
Mar-Vell’s voice advises to better trade atoms with him. Rick refuses: he isn’t coping out of any fight – not after the way Dandy’s been sneering at him. Besides, she and Mordecai would see the change.
Scared to death, Mordecai tries to cajole Nitro. He gets out of the car and tells Nitro how wonderful it is to see him looking so well. He’s delighted to inform him he has a no-fault insurance, so…
Nitro punches him without a word and knocks him out. Shocked, Dandy tells Rick that Mordecai’s not moving! “So now it’s “Rick, huh?” Rick refers to the way she addressed him now. He tells her to stay here and gets out of the car.
As Rick stands before Nitro, Captain Marvel informs Rick that this being is too strong for him. There’s something unearthly about him. Rick assures him that, before he ever heard of Captain Marvel, he was working with Captain America, and he’s seen every episode of Kung-Fu! With this, he kicks Nitro’s face in Kung-Fu style. Nitro retaliates with a fierce punch. Trying to get himself together, Rick admits that he might need just a little help. Since, as he notices, Nitro is pulling Dandy’s full attention… and since Rick’s jaws are not as tough as his mouth… the creep is all Mar-Vell’s! Clanging his bands together, he achieves the switch and is replaced by Captain Marvel.
Dandy tells Nitro to get his hand off her. Living for the city taught her how to deal with his kind! “Don’t make me laugh!” Nitro sneers. What mugger did she ever meet who could blow himself up?
Captain Marvel cuts in and remarks that sounds like a self-defeating power – and simultaneously trusses Nitro up with a metal pole! Nitro is surprised: who’s this now? Mar-Vell turns to Dandy and tells her to see to the older man who accompanied her. He assures Nitro won’t bother her anymore. “Says you, mister!” the shackled Nitro snarls. He didn’t believe him before, but he’s about to discover that he means what he says… that he can blow himself up… as sure as his name is Nitro! And then, he does just what he professes to do and indeed blows himself up!
Mar-Vell narrowly escapes the explosion. Thanks to his cosmic knowledge he was aware – as Eon phrased it. He hurls his Kree-bred body away, crests the shockwave and survives. And he is also aware he is not the only survivor, as the tendrils of dust twine together before him. He is aware that the foreboding he felt at Nitro’s approach was entirely justified. The congealing gray masses twist into solidity… and Nitro assumes coherent form again; he literally regenerates himself.
Seeing Nitro standing there tranquilly, with only a look of calculation in his eyes, Captain Marvel knows this may be the most dangerous foe of his life… and acts accordingly, immediately kicking him in the face. Seeing Nitro crouching in the ground, he notices he isn’t even perspiring. Detonating his atoms and then reassembling them is as natural to him as breathing! He turns back and tells Dandy and the now conscious Mordecai to get back – run!
He realizes Nitro can’t conceive of losing. To him, it’s only an obstacle he’ll eventually bull over… and the longer it takes him, the more it will infuriate him. He again punches fiercely at Nitro, sending him flying. “You freakin’ creep!” Nitro screams with rage. He then blows up again. Mar-Vell hears Rick’s voice in his head, telling him to hang on. Mar-Vell assures him he shares his concern, but he thinks he can continue to outmaneuver Nitro. Hearing this, Nitro doesn’t know to whom his opponent is talking, but he knows he’s lying to him! He lunges at Mar-Vell and blows himself up again.
“So much for the hero,” Nitro jibes, seeing him lifeless on the ground after that last explosion. He notices his friends escaped, but that’s point for Nitro’s side. He had no use for them. His needs are simple. The canister of Compound Thirteen, because he must serve the Lunatic Legion, and his enemies’ car, because he must serve his ego! Taking the canister, he drives off.
Mar-Vell slowly rises. He aches in every fiber of every muscle of his body. Carol Danvers shows up just then and is surprised to see Mar-Vell here. She hasn’t seen him since he saved her from that madman, Yon-Rogg. She hasn’t had the chance… Mar-Vell interrupts her and politely points out it’s not he who’s important at the moment. Carol agrees: of course he’s right. Compound Thirteen is all that matters now. Mar-Vell is surpised: is she saying it’s more dangerous than Nitro?
“Yes!” Carol confirms. Compound Thirteen is the ultimate achievement of biological research. The final nerve gas – instant death! The Compound in that tank, if released at this spot, would destroy every living thing in the state of Indiana. Enough of it could depopulate the planet in a day!
But Carol Danvers is now talking to a whipping wind, and a glittering, golden haze. Captain Marvel is already gone, soaring toward his prey. As he flies above the car Nitro has hijacked and is currently driving, the villain spots him at the car’s mirror. He is initially in disbelief: it can’t be him…! But soon he decides that it is! “You never learn, creep!” he howls and blows himself up again. Mar-Vell, once again, was expecting this tactic and is hardly scratched.
But just then, Mar-Vell notices the tank landing somewhere close by after the car blew up. The tank has sprung a leak! There’s no time to be fancy with this – he has to plug that canister! With renewed determination, Mar-Vell moves to action. He begins kicking and punching Nitro continuously but quickly realizes it won’t work: Nitro’s too strong, too determined to fight him to the death… and he notices he’s going to detonate again. He comes up with a new, desperate plan: Captain Marvel can’t stop him... but perhaps Rick Jones can! Before Rick can object, Mar-Vell slams the bands together and trades places with Rick.
Rick is horrified to find himself there: “Holy crud, Mar-Vell!” What in the world is he doing? Rick can’t leapfrog out of this dude’s range! Mar-Vell’s assures him he doesn’t want him to. Nitro is too powerful to surrender – but his is not ultimate power. He must have limitations. And their sole hope of keeping Compound Thirteen is to take Nitro beyond his limitations. As Nitro closely approaches Nitro and is about to explode again, Mar-Vell urges Rick to touch his wrist bands.
The ensuing blast rumbles farmhouses ten miles away, and tosses Carol Danvers head over heels. A steady rain of crumbling debris pelts the dust-choked countryside, and in the midst of it, a figure rises – Captain Marvel. And Compound Thirteen continues to leak. Rick’s voice in his head and surprised and happy: they made it. Marv retorts that Nitro didn’t. Like so many before him, he couldn’t cope with too much power. If he could have only thought of another way! Rick assures him there was no way and urges him to keep his mind on the job at hand: close off the gas!
Mar-Vell finally succeeds in sealing the canister. Rick congratulates him – but wonders if Marv is all right. He notices he doesn’t sound very together. Mar-Vell can withstand that gas, can’t he? Can’t he? Without an answer, Mar-Vell collapses on the ground. The sun sets in the horizon of our world, and in the Negative Zone, Rick feels his one chance of ever seeing the sun again slowly, slowly cease to breathe.