A Force Works Hex Ship hovers in the dark-blue sky. Inside, representatives from both Earth Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, and Earth’s newest super team, the proactive Force Works are assembled. ‘What’s our location, Crystal?’ someone calls out to the elemental Inhuman member of the Avengers. Crystal announces that they are over Chatwin Falls, and that they are coming to a freight yard. Crystal turns to Iron Man a.k.a. Tony Stark, of Force Works, who declares that the non-terrestrial radiation signature of the Kree is a clinch to track. ‘We’re close’ he reports. The Olympian Avenger Hercules remarks that it is about time, to which the aggressive Force Works member John Walker a.k.a. USAgent asks him mockingly ‘Gee, sorry, Herc. Were we boring you?’
Iron Man tells his teammate to stop sniping, before turning to the Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff of the Avengers, as he realizes something is wrong. Quicksilver quickly reports that something is powering up on the ground. Suddenly, there is weapons fire, and the Hex Ship’s right wing is blown apart. ‘Emergency stations! Someone just tanked us but good! Everybody out…unless ya especially enjoy nose-dives!’ USAgent orders. Iron Man takes to the air, while Crystal lowers herself and Quicksilver to the ground on a gust of wind. Hercules leaps to the ground, his super strength to cushion his fall.
Iron Man orders USAgent to get the Hex Ship down the best he can, while telling his former Avengers teammates that it looks like the Kree have got their hands on some weird off-world hardware. However, as he fires some repulsor beams at the Kree soldiers, Tony tells himself that going into action with the Avengers again after all this time feels strange - almost weird. ‘Who does Iron Man think he is? Giving orders to the Avengers?’ Quicksilver mutters to his wife, who reminds Quicksilver that Iron Man is the most experienced person here. Crystal asks Pietro to just do as Iron Man says, as they need to work together if they are going to stand a chance against these aliens.
‘Cursed Kree butchers! I know not from whence you obtained your killing machines, but by Olympus, I shall crush you all the same!’ Hercules boasts as the heroes near the four Kree warriors, three armed with various weapons, and the fourth inside a large pod-like tank. ‘The human warriors have found us, Bo’sun! How did they manage that so fast?’ the warrior inside the tank enquires. ‘Who on Hala cares, Zamsed! Shut your trap and burn their bones!’ Bo’sun shouts, reminding his comrades that they are Starstealth, baptized in blood and that the stars themselves hide their faces when the four of them pass by.
At that moment, upwards from Earth, the Skrull Tribunal Ship is nearly two miles from its rounded nose to its fluked stern. It coasts through orbital space like some mythic leviathan basking in the tides of light. Several beings materialize on the ship, and the Skrull, Major Algol is greeted. He is accompanied by the mysterious aliens called the Quo Modari, as well as five heroes from Earth - Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter and Century, all of Force Works, and two Avengers - Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Giant Man, and Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow. They blink at the harsh light of the tele-mat excursion bay. Despite the many wonders they have seen in their illustrious careers, the sheer scale and power of the Skrull technology leaves them awestruck.
Major Algol tells his crew to register their bio scans in the central database, and explains that they are here to formally witness the extradition proceedings. ‘Perhaps the Quo Modari would care to supervise their stay on this vessel?’ the Major suggests. One of the Qui Modari looks down at the Earth heroes and replies ‘Certainly. You shall now meet the other delegates. Each represents a race that has suffered at the hands of the Kree Starstealth’. Wanda looks up at the tall alien and asks him to lead the way, remarking that they will have plenty in common.
In the Tribunal Ship’s laboratory, a Rigellian is monitoring the defective Recorder, who is strung up to various pieces of equipment. The Rigellian states that the sub-cortal matrices have been customized, as he thinks the human term is. ‘These implants are not standard Rigellian components’ he remarks, adding that they seem to be behavioral “inhibitors” and countermand relays placed in series along the primary command-ware. ‘You mean someone has stripped out the Recorder’s central net and hot-wired him into the maniac we know and loathe?’ Giant Man asks. ‘That would explain / disclose / account for a great deal’ Century remarks. The Rigellian states that it is upsetting, and turns to Major Algol, stating that as the Rigellian delegate, he requests permission to relay these facts to his people at once.
‘As you like, delegate’ the Major replies. The Rigellian announces that the Rigellian command will not take kindly to such abuse of on of its Recorder units. ‘The entire passive nature of its objectivity parameters has been perverted!’ the Rigellian declares, while motioning to Century and Giant Man the causal adjunct to the cerebellum which has been blocked. Major Algol turns from the others and speaks into his wrist communicator, asking for a report. Another Skrull replies that the Kree fugitives have been located and engaged planet-side. Algol orders for his strike-elite to be assembled at the tele-mat, and he will join them momentarily.
Elsewhere, Wanda, Julia and Natasha are taken to one of the refugee bays aboard the ship. The Quo Modari regrets that conditions are poor, explaining that it is all their meager resources can afford. He adds that in the dying days of the Kree-Shi’ar War, when Hala had fallen, the Star-Stealth made certain they would not be the only race wounded and homeless amid the stars. He adds that the dispossessed of a dozen worlds shelter here, and that they have suffered immeasurably at the hands of the Kree. The Quo Modari tells the powerful trio that as the Tribunal mission passed through the out-worlds, the refugees flocked to them, nursing their manifold woes and begging them for aid.
‘God…it’s appalling!’ Spider-Woman gasps. A young alien child rushes towards them, carrying an empty bowl, while another alien pulls him back. Julia and Wanda don’t understand the language the aliens speak, so the Quo Modari explains that the fatherless child craves food. ‘And his mother -’ he begins, but Wanda interrupts: ‘I get the picture’ she states, while the Black Widow asks the Scarlet Witch if she now sees why they agreed to extradition. ‘I…’ Wanda begins, before her communicator goes off. She excuses herself from the Black Widow, while USAgent announces that they have found the Kree, and that everything is hitting the fan.
‘Understood. I’ll grab the others and beam down immediately’ Wanda replies. Walker tells Wanda to make it snappy, just as the Hex Ship Pegasus crashes into the freight yard, but with minimal damage to anything thanks to Walker’s experienced piloting skills. ‘Perfect parking’ Walker mutters as he emerges from the ship unscathed. Walker sees some of the freight yard workers nearby and tells them to take his advice and run for it. They do so, as the battle between Iron Man, the Avengers and the Kree soldiers moves closer. ‘Burn them! Blister their souls!’ Bo’sun orders his men. ‘Make them scream all the way to the after-life!’ he shouts as he fires a weapon at Iron Man, striking the amored hero as he flies down towards him.
Iron Man is blasted back, and smacks into the wall of a nearby building. Hercules sees this happen, and attacks one of the other Kree. ‘You’ll pay in blood!’ he shouts. The Kree struggles back, and Crystal calls out to her teammate, telling him not to be a fool. ‘He’s too dangerous’ Crystal begins to say, but Hercules smacks the Kree over, using his mighty strength to grab the Kree’s flaming weapon. ‘Is it foolish to avenge the fallen, Crystal? Are we not the AVENGERS?’ Hercules asks. He forces the alien backwards, asking ‘Is it foolish to best the foe in combat…and crush the weapons that he wields against us?’ Eventually, Hercules’s strength destroys the Kree’s flaming weapon. ‘You have defeated and disarmed me, warrior. But I shall not yield!’ the Kree warrior booms as he initiates his self-destruct sequence.
The resulting explosion sends Hercules careening backwards. Crystal rushes over to him, but another of the Kree steps between her and the unconscious god. ‘…has fallen, pretty one…and left you alone on the battlefield!’ the Kree warns Crystal. He tells her not to make him spoil her eye-pleasing figure and give up, assuring her that she will be treated well. Energy beams burst from the Kree’s armor, but Crystal is able to dodge the beams, and tells the alien that she cares neither for his offer, nor his patronizing tone, before announcing that she is far from alone. Crystal announces that she can call upon the elements as allies, and casting her hand, causes beams of geothermal energy to rise from the ground beneath the Kree warrior, knocking him backwards. ‘Two down…on both sides. I wonder how Pietro is…?’ Crystal thinks to herself, before looking over to where her husband speeds around the Kree inside the large tank. ‘Bo’sun! This human moves too fast!’ the Kree calls out. ‘Then use your blitz-laser, Zamsed!’ Bo’sun retorts. ‘If you can’t it him with a clean shot…bury him in debris!’
Zamsed fires the tank’s weapon system, and sends beams of energy directly at the ground, and at full force, they cause the ground to break up and knock into Quicksilver, striking him in the face. ‘PIETRO!’ Crystal screams. USAgent rushes over to her and asks ‘Lemme guess! We’re taking a pasting, right, Crys?’ Suddenly, ‘Agent! Behind us!’ Crystal exclaims as Major Algol and several Skrulls arrive via teleport. ‘I thought you Skrulls were meant to stay outta this?’ Walker asks, turning to them. ‘And I thought you humans were meant to be capable of taking the fugitives down’ Algol replies, before telling his strike-elite to fan out and engage the foe. ‘I suggest you two stand back - and leave it to the experts’ the Major suggests to Walker and Crystal.
‘Hey! No little green man tells me what to do!’ USAgent shouts. ‘Xenophobic bigot! We are trained for situations such as -’ the Major begins, but he is interrupted when one of his squad is shot by the Kree in the tank. ‘Now Skrull-spawn hound us too!’ Bo’sun exclaims as he unleashes weapons fire too, while telling Zamsed to fall back. ‘Aye, sir…but…to where, sir?’ Zamsed enquires. Bo’sun orders Zamsed to wipe his defeatist tone from his voice, and to scan this locale and find a building that they can defend, or a route out of here. Zamsed replies that he has tried that, but that the Skrulls are all around them. ‘Then we fight to our last breath -’ Bo’sun begins, when suddenly, they are tele-matted away.
‘That’s impossible! They have no base ship…and we know not of any tele-mat technology on this planet!’ Major Algol declares. ‘Impossible, maybe, but they’ve done it, Major!’ Crystal points out. Algol tells her to be silent, and orders one of his men to contact the ship at once, to see if the Kree can be traced. The Skrull informs the Major that the ship is not responding to his hails. ‘Eh? But that’s…’ Major Algol begins, to which USAgent shouts ‘Impossible? You keep using the wod, but I don’t think you know what it means!’ While Crystal goes over to the fallen Quicksilver, and Iron Man and Hercules nurse their injuries and walk towards the Skrulls, USAgent tells the Major that perhaps the Skrulls are not quite the experts they thought they were.
In the silence of high orbit, one of the Skrulls announces that they have lost contact with Major Algol’s strike team. ‘I cannot explain this!’ the Skrull announces. Wanda, Julia, Hank, Natasha and Century are gathered around a console, and Wanda tells the Skrull to see if he can locate them using the ship’s sensors. Natasha adds that Algol had no business transporting down in the first place. ‘He swore he’s leave this operation in our hands!’ she declares. ‘What’s the matter?’ Wanda asks one of the Skrulls, who exclaims that the controls are not responding. He adds that either the central computer has shut down, or they have been denied access to it. ‘Where have we heard that already today?’ Spider-Woman mutters. ‘I hope you’re not thinking what I’m thinking, Spi…’ Wanda tells her good friend, before turning to Hank and Century, and asking them where they left the Recorder. ‘In the tech-lab’ Century explains, while Hank tells Wanda to take it easy, as the Recorder was in pieces. ‘Since when has that stopped him?’ someone asks.
‘Oh, man’ Hank mutters as he and Century return to the lab, only to find it trashed, and the Rigellian delegate lying motionless on the floor. Century contacts the Scarlet Witch, informing her that the Recorder has gone and that the Rigellian delegate is dead. Wanda orders Century to search the area, while they see if they can re-establish control here. Wanda rubs a fist against her forehead and remarks that they could sure use Iron Man’s technical knowledge right now, and that she could use a break from this migraine, as it seems to be getting worse by the minute.
Back in the lab, Hank examines the Rigellian. ‘The poor guy, didn’t deserve this’ he remarks, when suddenly, the sliding door to the lab closes automatically, locking Century and Giant Man inside. The Recorder’s image then appears on a monitor overhead. ‘Life-forms…your attention, please’ the Recorder states. ‘Like we have a choice’ Hank mutters. ‘We could block our ears’ Century suggests. ‘That’s not what I meant’ Hank explains. The Recorder’s image appears on the monitors on the deck, and Wanda, Julia, the Black Widow and the Skrulls are forced to listen to him. The Recorder announces that he has seized control of this vessel, and that all of its command functions are now under his authority.
‘Statement: I now desire the security codes needed to release the star-stealth prisoners. I will then give the ship to them’ the Recorder declares. Wanda calls out to the Recorder, asking him to reconsider, she points out that this is contrary to his basic programming. ‘Silence! I no longer answer to those simplistic Rigellian directives! The Kree loaded new commands into my brain-stem, and I am following those to the letter’ the Recorder explains. ‘Observation: If you wish to negotiate, do so with the star-stealth I am T-matting to guard you’ the Recorder Suddenly, Bo’sun and Zamsed materialize on the deck. ‘Oh, God! The renegades! He’s brought them here!’ Wanda gasps.
Bo’sun calls the women “human fools” and declares that they should have executed he and his men when they had the chance. ‘Al the while we live, we never relent!’ he declares, adding that their ally the Recorder has given them a new chance to complete this mission, and that with this ship’s firepower, they will exact their blood-vengeance on planet Earth. One of the Quo Modari steps forward and tells Bo’sun that he feels this matter may be resolved without further life-loss - but before he can continue, the alien screams in pain as Bo’sun fires his weapon at him, close range. Some of the Skrulls ready their weapons, while Bo’sun raises his gun to the Scarlet Witch and asks ‘Who’s next? You perhaps, woman? Will you, too, waste your last breath with timid pleading?’
Wanda stands her ground and replies that she wouldn’t waste her breath on Bo’sun, period. ‘As you seem intent on killing all of us, I may as well be next’ she remarks, daring Bo’sun to pull the trigger on his weapon. ‘If I dare? I’ll show you what I dare!’ he exclaims, as he rests his finger on the trigger. Julia urges Wanda not to provoke Bo’sun, ‘Well?’ Wanda frowns, when suddenly, Bo’sun’s weapon explodes in his hand. ‘Next time you don’t point your weapon at a hex-mutant, Kree - don’t give her time to alter the chances of that weapon misfiring!’ Wanda suggests.
‘Not that you’ll be doing much pointing after this!’ Wanda adds, while Bo’sun cries out for his hand. ‘Skeps’ ghost! Kill them! Zamsed - kill them all!’ Bo’sun order as crouches on the ground, nursing his maimed arm. However, Century teleports into the room, and up onto the top of the tank. ‘I’m afraid Zamsed is a little busy right now!’ Century declares, while Zamsed cries out for Bo’sun to help him. He adds that he cannot angle the cannons, as Century is too close, before shouting ‘NOOO!’ as Century shoves his staff, Parallax, through the tank window. Wanda thanks Century and tells him that his timing, as ever, is impeccable.
Century pulls Zamsed from the tank, and tells him to stop struggling. ‘My blade is still sharp’ Century warns the Kree. The Recorder speaks up over the chaos, ‘Observation: To think I once found your heroism entertaining, Century! Qualification: Curse you! Curse you and the Scarlet Witch’ he shouts over the monitors. Wanda smiles, before asking Century if he can identify the Recorder’s location. Century informs Wanda that Parallax has already traced and mapped the Recorder’s energy signature, and announces that he is in the auxiliary computer annex on deck sixteen. ‘Take me to him’ Wanda orders.
And instant later, Century and the Scarlet Witch teleport to the computer annex. ‘Salutations, Scarlet Witch! And Big Blue, too! So nice of you to drop by!’ the Recorder declares, before making an observation, suggesting they watch their heads, as this chamber as designed with the stunted Skrull physique in mind. ‘Spare us the amenities, construct. Disengage your hardware links and surrender!’ the Scarlet Witch orders. The Recorder tells the Scarlet Witch that he never thought of her as the team’s clown, but that she does say the funniest things. ‘Evaluation: You can’t touch me. I have spent the last year studying you in detail’ the Recorder announces.
The Recorder tells the Scarlet Witch that he knows her powers and abilities inside out and back to front, so there is nothing she or stick-boy can do that he will not anticipate. ‘It’s you who should surrender’ the Recorder declares. Wanda moans and touches her forehead once more, causing Century to as her what the matter is. ‘My headache. It may just kill me before this robot freak does!’ Wanda replies, before asking the Recorder why he is doing this. The Recorder replies that he was close to terminal dysfunction when the star-stealth found him, floating in orbit above the corpse of their world. ‘Someone had left me there, loaded with new orders for the star-stealth…orders to locate and exterminate the architects of Hala’s destruction: Wonder Man and the Vision!’ the Recorder reveals.
The Recorder explains that when the mission failed, he hid among Force Works, orchestrating dramas that he could study and ingest - the Mandarin, Slorenia. ‘If only you’d known…’ he remarks, adding that he lives for experience, and that was experience undreamed of. ‘Then you locked me in the Vault and I sensed the approaching Skrull ship…my primary programming overtook me again: free the star-stealth and ensure they could complete their mission’ the Recorder announces. Wanda and Century look shocked, and Century declares that the abhorrence of the Recorder’s crimes is matched only by their senseless nature! He has played games with us from the start!’
Wanda is furious, and goes wide-eyed as she tells the Recorder that toying with them as he has resulted in death and untold pain - all because of some second-hand motive he doesn’t understand. ‘It shall stop, Recorder. Right here. Now!’ Wanda declares. The Recorder grins wickedly and asks ‘Oh, really? And who’s going to stop me?’, to which Wanda replies ‘I am’, and suddenly, his robot-form begins to crack, and he nervously asks ‘What are you doing to me, Witch? Stop it!’, before he screams ‘Noooo!’, and Wanda stands her ground, replying ‘Natural obsolescence, Recorder. Someday, even you would wear out and break down. I’m hexing the natural stress and fatigue in your body from a probable when to a positive now’.
‘Goodbye, Recorder’ Wanda announces, as she drops to her knees, continuing to release her hex power against her foe. It takes everything she has and more besides. It is the most powerful, most comprehensive spell she has ever conjured. She exploits every minute crack, every tiny flaw in the machine’s body, and rattles it apart. In five seconds, the magnified wear and tear of give thousand years takes its appalling toll. Explosively. And with that, the Recorder shatters and scatters into dust. Wanda looks up as Century announces ‘I am impressed / startled / awestruck’. Wanda tells him that he is not the only one, as she wasn’t sure she could do that. ‘My hex has never been so focused. So entire’ Wanda explains, before announcing that her headache has gone, as if it was never there.
Forty minutes and a tele-mat transmission later, Force Works, the Avengers, the Skrulls and the Quo Modari are gathered. ‘With mine bare hands!’ Hercules boasts to Spider-Woman as the heroes mingle. ‘Gee…you don’t say…’ Julia replies, unimpressed. Crystal fawns over her husband and tells him that he should get the medics to look at him. Giant Man tells the Quo Modari that their gratitude is much appreciated, but that Century and Wanda deserve the lion’s share of it. ‘Please explain the involvement of this “lion”?’ the Quo Modari asks. ‘Don’t look now, Shellhead, but I think old Algol there is sulking’ USAgent tells Iron Man, while Algol hangs his head and mutters and expletive.
The Black Widow tells Wanda that there is still the other matter to deal with, and turns to Force Works. ‘Now look, Widow…’ Iron Man begins, but the Scarlet Witch points out that the Widow was talking to her, and steps forward to the Avengers’ leader, telling her that she has decided they must abide by the Tribunal’s ruling and allow the star-stealth to be extradited. ‘I realize it’s essential they’re made to face the off-world charges against them’ Wanda explains. ‘But for the record, I want you to know that my previous objections were prompted by shock and hurt. Force Works had a right to know about this before it happened. I hope this kind of oversight won’t occur again’ Wanda declares.
‘As if we dare!’ Giant Man exclaims, while the Black Widow puts her hands on the Scarlet Witch’s shoulders and thanks her. ‘You have my word it won’t’ she adds. Iron Man and the Black Widow step away from the others and Tony asks Natasha what this means - a new spirit of cooperation between their teams?’ The Black Widow replies that it is for the best and is long overdue. ‘You’ve got a remarkable leader in Wanda. She did things today I didn’t know she was capable of’ the Black Widow admits. Natasha reminds Tony that they have known each other for years, so she is sure he won’t mind her saying this, and suggests to Tony that he start giving Wanda some more credit and freedom. ‘You wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side…now would you?’ the Black Widow smiles. ‘Or her on mine…’ Iron Man mutters cryptically.
‘Hey, there, party pooper! You did good today…real good!’ Julia exclaims as she goes over to Century, who has remained away from everyone else, staring out the window of the ship down to Earth. ‘Why so thoughtful?’ Julia enquires. Century replies that this is the first chance he has had to actually see the world that has become his foster home. ‘I am wondering if my home is as beautiful as this’ he adds. Spider-Woman asks Century if he was thinking of leaving them. ‘Just when we’re getting used to having you around?’ she asks. ‘Of course not, Julia. After all…where would I go?’ Century asks, and they both smile.
Coda…eight parasecs from Earth, a great ship hangs in the gravity of the gas giant Arabellum. Probing ribbons of coherent energy lash down through the cloud cover, sucking super-heavy elements from the planetary core. The planet shudders as it’s life-blood’s leeched away for fuel. The atmosphere boils, and apocalyptic storm-cancers flare and seethe. The great ship pulls in its fueling beams and swings around out of orbit. There is a majesty in its vast, silent progress. There is no majesty in the way Arabellum dies. The plundered world convulses…and spits out a shock halo of expanding gas and meteoric rubble, which flows through open space. A warp gate opens and the great ship soars away towards it’s appointed destiny. In its wake, there is nothing left of Arabellum but dissipating clouds of dust….