Alchemax executive Christian L’Argent has gone insane. Angrily, he tells Doom and the others that they have violated the temple grounds of the Black Sun and that, for this, retribution will be exacted, and taken in blood – their blood!
With bright, angry eyes, L’Argent says that their technologies are worth nothing here and that process is a hollow illusion that keeps him and the other Children of the Black Sun from the darker reality. L’Argent says that the Swamp Tribe knows this. That’s why Doom and the others have no use for the Unified Tribes. L’Argent claims that between birth and death, there is only blood and pain. He reveals that is the truth of the Black Sun. That this is the truth before Doom and the others die.
Doom laughs, telling L’Argent that he claims to dismiss technology, though his men are carrying twenty-first century gun weapons pointed at their heads. Doom thinks L’Argent as simply another spiritually vacant Westerner flirting with primitivism. L’Argent denies that, explaining that he has been invited into the Black Sun by the tribal shaman. But he doesn’t expect Doom, or anyone else, to understand that. Liebowitz protects Doom to be careful, giving him advice his father used to tell him: “never argue religion our politics when guns are within reach.” Liebowitz knows that some arguments you just can’t win.
Bloodhawk regains consciousness and asks L’Argent if he can’t see the damage he brought to this place. Bloodhawk tries to explain to L’Argent that his drilling equipment gouges and scars the earth. Bloodhawk says that the Savage Land is a far greater treasure than any metal mined from it. L’Argent doesn’t listen and threatens Bloodhawk to better be quiet, because he knows a lot of Bioshops who would be interested in him!
Whispering, Doom tells Liebowitz that he wishes that he could reach his armor, which is still spiked against a tree near them. Liebowitz whispers back to Doom to better not hope too much that L’Argent will give him that chance. L’Argent hears them talking and asks Liebowitz if he thinks that he is mad. Liebowitz tells L’Argent that he thinks that his drilling is responsible for the recent seismic activity. “The will of the Gods,” L’Argent answers. Maybe, Liebowitz says, but he knows that God didn’t bury the geological survey that concluded drilling there. As they talk, nobody notices that Bloodhawk tries to free himself from his bonds.
He succeeds and attacks L’Argent at full speed. Kincaid wants to shoot him, but the muscled L’Argent tells his employer to hold his fire, as he is sure that he can handle the mutant. And he can. L’Argent easily grabs Bloodhawk by his throat and throws him hard on the ground, and then punches him a few times until he is unconscious again. “Kill or be killed,” L’Argent adds to that. Liebowitz commands L’Argent to stop his punching, as Bloodhawk is already down. Liebowitz never saw anyone take Bloodhawk down that hard. Doom suspects that L’Argents unnatural speed and strength are the result of an adrenal stimulant. Zarr believes that too, and believes that L’Argent took a sample of Dragonflower. Zarr explains that Dragonflower swampers mix lotus and glandular extract from a young Stegosaurus. If that formula doesn’t kill you, Zarr says, it makes you strong, fast, and crazy.
L’Argent reveals that Dragonflower is a sacrament administered by the Swamp Tribe’s shamans. He claims that only the pure of body and mind survive it. Zarr notices the shaman standing at the back of the group, without saying a word. Zarr asks the old man why he allows L’Argent to do this to him and his people. Zarr wants to know since when the Swamp has begun to make deals with outlanders. The shaman doesn’t answer. Doom is more interested in what L’Argent gains from this. Doom is certain sure that L’Argent’s Alchemax employers didn’t send him here to experiment in local pharmacology. L’Argent says that he doesn’t obey to Alchemax anymore. He explains that there in the Savage Land, he has found a deeper meaning to life than just money. Impatient, Doom asks L’Argent what he intends to do with his armor. “Your armor?” L’Argent smiling replies. “You jest.”
Another earthquake begins, but this one is even heavier than the last one and yet another basilisk collapses. An angry Kincaid shouts at L’Argent that if he is still in charge to let him shut down the operation. Kincaid doesn’t want to risk his life just because he has gone insane. With an evil smile, L’Argent says that the drilling isn’t the cause of the earthquakes. No, it’s the Gods! And they demand sacrifice.
Some time later, the group enters the temple of the Black Sun. They descend a lot of stairs without saying a word, until Liebowitz opens his mouth. He says that he has got two problems with all of this: the first problem is that the company sanctioned defensive action against hostile locals, but not out and out murder. The second problem Liebowitz has, which is a more important one, is that if another earthquake occurs while everyone is inside this temple will mean their deaths.
L’Argent heartlessly replies that Liebowitz’s complaints have been noted, but overruled. With pride, he tells the group to behold the Eternal Flame. L’Argent makes clear that beneath them burns the fiery geothermal heart that warms the Savage Land. He states that by this light, all souls are revealed. Doom whispers to Liebowitz that he notices how L’Argent’s second in command is clearly unnerved by his superior’s Black Sun conversion. Doom believes that fact could work into their advantage. Liebowitz agrees. L’Argent tells his captives to be grateful, because their deaths will be quickly in the pit, and their deaths will have a purpose. L’Argent is now ready to begin the Prayer of Oblivion. His second in command hands him over a special-made helmet. Zarr tells Liebowitz that he’s scared.
Liebowitz tells Zarr that he would be crazy if he weren’t scared. Liebowitz asks L’Argent to spare them the ceremony and to just let them die in peace. L’Argent doesn’t let himself be distracted from the invocation. He reveals that in the outland, people have forgotten the very tangible nature of ritual. L’Argent knows that it gives man focus and power. L’Argent begins his speech, in Atlantean dialect. Everybody stares at him, but Doom is interested in L’Argent’s knowledge of the dialect. Doom remembers the words L’Argent says from an old grimoire in the royal library of Namor’s palace. Doom finishes the speech, in the same language! L’Argent can’t believe it and wants to know who Doom is, because nobody but the initiates of the Black Sun know the correct words. Doom introduces himself and tells L’Argent that the tribe appears to have an Atlantean ancestry.
L’Argent believes that Doom lies, because according to him the real Doom never leaves his island fortress. He wants to know who sent Doom. With him not answering, L’Argent asks the shaman to bring him the Lotus to break Doom’s resistance. L’Argent suspects him to be one of Doom’s pawns, sent there to discover how much he has uncovered about his master. Doom tries to say that he has no master, but the shaman blows the Lotus drug into Doom’s face. Doom begins to feel like being caught in a centrifuge that spins around him, and goes faster with every second. L’Argent explains that once everything slows down, Doom will tell him everything he needs to know. Everything! Doom tries to resist the Lotus effects, but fails to. He falls and tumbles and spins through a haze of confusion and self-doubt.
Doom thinks to himself that he is Victor Von Doom: a scientist, scholar, gypsy and monarch, who has returned to this area after a long unexplained absence. Doom’s memory has remained lamentably incomplete since his return to Latveria. He cannot ignore his surprising youth for a man that is born in the twentieth century. Lately, Doom recalls that he has begun to experience fragmented memories of another life. But he doesn’t want that to be the truth: he is Victor Von Doom and won’t be anyone else.
With Doom still not giving him any answers, L’Argent grows impatient. Suddenly, another hard earthquake shakes the ground, and the temple as well. Kincaid and the other hunters run to the exit, leaving their boss and the others behind. Liebowitz takes his chance, and tells Bloodhawk to set himself free. He does, and Bloodhawk frees Liebowitz, who releases the others. They too try to run to the exit, but Doom is still confused, thanks to the drug. Liebowitz tries to bring him back to himself, but Doom keeps on mumbling that he is the real one.
A wall collapses, which separates Doom from the others. Liebowitz hopes that Doom is okay. Zarr thinks that nobody comes out of that temple now without the use of explosives. Bloodhawk agrees and, at the same time, notices that the drilling crew has left the equipment that causes these earthquakes behind. Bloodhawk suggests to the group to do what they called him for and shut this operation down… permanently!
Standing on top on of the towers of Castle Doom, Kaz mumbles the words Doom used to warn Liebowitz about the collapsing wall. Fortune begs Wire to do something before her brother kills himself. Wire concludes that Kaz’s time with the aliens have damaged his brain. Wire knows that Kaz has been acting like a zombie since they returned to Latveria. Fortune just wants that her brother be whole again. Kaz recognizes Fortune and climbs down from the tower. Kaz mumbles again, and says that he doesn’t know the truth, but promises that soon all will be revealed.
The Savage Land…
The Alchemax hunters wonder what could have happened to L’Argent. They believe that he probably died and find that to be the best for the madman. One of the hunters says that they could go search for him, but realizes that rescue work doesn’t stand written in his contract, so he refuses to do so. The hunters agree to wait until word comes from New York what they should do. Suddenly, one of the hunters notices that his plasma gun is gone. What could have happened to it? Bloodhawk flies at top speed through the hunters, telling them that they have brought enough damage to the Savage Land.
Bloodhawk wonders if there exists a place that mankind doesn’t seek to rape and destroy. But at least Bloodhawk is glad to see that the hunters’ equipment will soon be destroyed. Bloodhawk sets the gun he took on overload and throws it down onto the machines. The resulting explosion detonates the drill’s mainframe battery and will be destroyed completely.
Meanwhile inside the temple, Doom is revealed to be still alive. Adrealine rush cleared Doom’s head and now… he remembers! Doom remembers that he was a mercen—no, his former self was a mercenary during the Corporate Conflags, he was a soldier. Doom tries to remember it all, but his memories quickly slip away from him again. L’Argent has survived the blast as well and commands Doom to stand up: the gods want his blood. Doom tries to tell L’Argent that he has spent too much time in the jungle, which causes him to act deliriously. L’Argent denies that remark, saying instead that he has never been more lucid in his entire life. L’Argent says that he controls his own destiny here and that the shadows don’t reach this far.
“The shadows?” a confused Doom asks. L’Argent explains that above and beyond the MegaCorps are men and women who truly control the world. L’Argent tells Doom that he is clearly as much their pawn like he once was. Doom picks up a rock and smashes it into L’Argent’s face, angrily telling him that nobody controls him! L’Argent isn’t damaged and tells Doom that his attempt wasn’t enough to kill him.
L’Argent grabs Doom, who tells him that they don’t need to die here. Doom offers L’Argent asylum in Latveria, if he truly has broken his bands with Alchemax. Doom promises L’Argent that, with or without his armor, that he is a man with considerable resources. L’Argent finds Doom’s arrogant performance to be most convincing: he actually believes that he is the one true Dr. Doom. L’Argent throws Doom away, telling him that he is not that shadow. Standing triumphantly over the fallen Doom, L’Argent tells him that truth can be a dangerous and volatile thing to process. L’Argent knows that people would kill him if they found out how much he knew.
Doom asks L’Argent to tell him the secrets. L’Argent agrees, because after that Doom will be dead anyway, as L’Argent will kill Doom by himself. L’Argent reveals that, while at Alchemax, information from Myridian databanks fell into his hands. It showed conclusively that neither Alchemax, Stark-Fujikawa, nor any of the corporate giants wield the power they believe they have. L’Argent adds that they are merely castles on the shadow’s chessboard. L’Argent knew that having this information marked him for death. So, he came to the Savage Land, pretending to be the driven and loyal Alchemax executive, while fortifying himself against the time when the shadows would come after him! Doom notices that L’Argent speaks in generalities. He asks L’Argent if he knows the names of these “shadows.” “Yes,” a growing even more upset L’Argent says, and “Doom” should know, he says: One of the shadows is the man who L’Argent’s enemy pretends to be: Victor Von Doom! Impossible, Doom says, because he is that man!
Suddenly, L’Argent is shot through his chest! He and Doom look up and find Kincaid, who was left behind while the other hunters were able to escape. L’Argent says that he thought that he had carefully chosen his crew, but this proves him wrong. Kincaid says, in another voice, that he terminated and replaced Marcus Kincaid in Tierra Del Fuego. The man now revealed to be pretending Kincaid reveals that his mission was to watch L’Argent and terminate him if he was proven to be a risk. “Kincaid” overheard L’Argent’s revelations and concludes that L’Argent has said too much. “Kincaid” gives L’Argent a final shot, killing him. “Kincaid” wants to kill Doom as well, but Doom, not wanting to become a target, takes a knife L’Argent dropped and throws into “Kincaid’s” chest and kills him.
Doom walks over to the “man,” and finds out that he is an android. But there’s something odd about the machine: Doom recognizes the design. Hold on… Doom notices the body is radiating an unusual amount of heat. This can only mean one thing: the android is going to… EXPLODE! And it does, but Doom can jump into safety and is unharmed.
Outside, Liebowitz, Bloodhawk and Zarr have destroyed the final Alchemax machines. They hear the explosion and discover that the tunnel entrance has been blown up. They see someone coming out and it’s… Doom. Liebowitz asks him what happened to L’Argent. Doom explains that he was killed by one of his own men. Doom is glad that he survived, like he always does. To himself, Doom wonders that if L’Argent’s revelations were true, and not merely delusions caused by the Dragonflower drug. He has now left Doom with a mystery he intends to solve. Doom promises that if there truly is another man who dares to call himself Victor Von Doom, then he will find that person.
The South Pacific…
The mysterious man laughs at the mysterious woman, knowing that her machinery has failed to serve her. The woman says that the official report will blame the Swamp Tribe for Kincaid and L’Argent’s death. But the woman will miss L’Argent. She says that feeding his paranoia made for an entertaining diversion. But, the woman says, L’Argent held such a tiny fraction of the truth in his mind.
Still, the man concludes, even a small truth might unravel the tapestry of deception he has so painstakingly woven. The man tells the woman that her player now threatens to do that and even more. Evidence, the man tells his love, of her cunning and resourceful game playing, but the man says that now the time has come for him to remove the fake Doom once again.
“I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. ”
- the Book of Psalms