Hong Kong, sunrise. It is a fine, clear morning on this island-state where high-technology lives side by side with ancient tradition. Just west of the high-rise banking district, Hong Kong’s most advanced workplace hums to busy life. Star Industries’ Far East Division, home of the corporation’s cutting edge cybernetic research facility, and the scientific prodigy who runs it.
Deep inside the facility, cybernetics scientists go about their tasks, when suddenly, one of them calls out to Suzi Endo, announcing that they have a problem with the modem link to Beijing University, and remarks that he thinks the link went down overnight. Another worker informs Suzi that it appears they have a wide-spread problem. An assistant approaches Suzi and asks her if she wants coffee, but Suzie doesn’t answer as she stares at a monitor and another worker motions to the links to Kowloon and Shanghai, pointing out that they are also down. ‘This can’t be right. The monitor shows no electromagnetic activity on the mainland at all!’ Suzi exclaims, before asking her staff to run a systems diagnostic. ‘Let’s see if we’re -’ she begins when suddenly the room is plunged into darkness. ‘What the?’ someone gasps. ‘Oh Lord! The building just…’ another calls out. ‘I felt it too! Was than an earth tremor?’ Suzi asks.
The staff of Stark Far East will soon wish it was just a tremor, for in the rush hour streets below the sprawling Stark Industries facility, all hell has just broken loose - five of the Mandarin’s Avatars have appeared and are wrecking havoc throughout the city. In their native Mandarin Chinese, the Avatars speak as they cause destruction. ‘Rejoice my Avatar kin!’ the woman in the blue dress calls out as she hovers in the air. ‘No longer must we restrain the powers that burn within us! In the name of our master, let this cess-pit fall!’ she cries. A horrid skeleton-like man in a traditional armor calls the woman Butterfly and tells her to cease her prattling and practice what she preaches, while he rips the roof off of a car.
A large being with a monstrous appearance smashes the ground beneath him, causing the tremors and calling the skeleton- like Avatar Lich, tells him to beware, or else Butterfly might let her curse-shadow fall on his fetid bones. A watery Avatar calls the monstrous Avatar Q’wake and tells him he would laugh to see that, as he could do without the rotten stench of Lich assaulting his nostrils. A golden-armoured Avatar smashes away at a nearby building, and the watery Avatar calls out to him, addressing him as Foundry. Foundry just tells his teammate, Deluge, to be quiet and drown the wretches, and Deluge complies, releasing a surge of water across the street.
Gazing out the window, Suzi sees the Avatars and wonders what they are, while telling her staff to run and evacuate the building. Back on the street, Deluge causes water to burst through the pavement, while telling Foundry to keep his wretched flame away from him, as he cannot concentrate with his furnace heat in his face. ‘Don’t taunt me, Liquid-Man, or I’ll turn you into steam!’ Foundry boasts, before releasing a burst of flame, which catches on to several nearby civilians, who scream in agony. Q’wake sees several police cars pull up nearby, and smashes his fists against the ground. ‘Let the ground consume them all!’ he booms, while Butterfly hovers overhead and points out that some police officers have escaped Q’wake’s seismic shock.
‘No matter - the ill-luck in my shadow will deal with the rest!’ Butterfly announces, and her shadow looms over the escaping police officers, causing their guns to suddenly explode and maim them. Lich suddenly lashes out at the officers, and Butterfly asks him why he does so, to which Lich asks her if his visceral methods shock her. ‘Not at all’ Butterfly replies, adding that she is just annoyed he is wasting time when there are others to kill. Back inside Stark Industries, Suzi tries to contact help over the communications monitor. ‘If anyone can hear me -’ she calls out. ‘We are under attack by…by indestructible monsters! Repeat…urgent assistance required in central Hong Kong! We are under attack! We are -’ but Suzi is interrupted when Q’wake bursts into the room. ‘Ohhhh!’ Suzi gasps.
At that moment, inside the Chaos Computer Vault of the Works HQ in Ventura, California, home of Force Works. ‘And that was all she wrote’ John Walker a.k.a. USAgent announces as the monitor with Suzi’s distress call ends when the transmission is cut off. Walker tells Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter and the holographic Plato that it was a direct call to Stark Enterprises but that the emergency flagging system relayed it here. He adds that the link went dead ten minutes ago and he was not able to raise the link since. Plato suggests that this incident may be connected to the recent anomalies his systems have detected in the Far East. He adds that as far as he can ascertain, a considerable section of the Chinese mainland has been silenced by an inexplicable electromagnetic event.
‘WHAT?’ Spider-Woman asks as she sits on a meeting table. ‘Surely the Chaos Computer should’ve alerted us to something like that?’ Julia points out, before asking Plato what is going on. Plato replies that cannot answer that with any confidence, as his memory shows no record of the alert, but that the Chaos Computer clearly registered the problem several hours ago. ‘Looks like it’s turning into one of those really cruddy days’ Julia mutters, while she leaves the room, she tells Walker and Plato that one of them should find Century while she locates the Scarlet Witch.
Julia does not have to look far to find her long-time teammate and friend Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, who is talking via the communications monitor with Bethany Cabe, head of Stark Security. ‘Very little to go on, Wanda. The two fools, War Machine and Iron Man practically destroyed Stark Enterprises during their fight - but they seem to have vanished. There’s no sign of them anywhere’ Bethany announces. Wanda replies that it seems Iron Man was right to be concerned about War Machine. ‘We don’t know what has gotten into him…’ but Wanda is interrupted by Julia, who calls out to her. Wanda asks Beth to keep them posted, announcing that they need to get hold of Iron Man as soon as possible.
‘You’ve heard about the Far East crisis?’ Julia asks. Wanda replies that Plato flashed her a report on her monitor, which is why she was trying to reach Tony. ‘So…where is he?’ Julia asks. Wanda doesn’t respond, so Julia calls out to her, asking her what is going on and where Iron Man is. Wanda replies that he has vanished. ‘Whatever this problem in the Far East is…we’ll have to tackle this without him’ Wanda announces.
In the quarters of the alien Century, Force Work’s newest member sits hovering in the air as Plato enters his room and asks him if he didn’t hear the alert signal, pointing out that he is needed. Century apologizes and explains that he was in a deep meditative trance attempting to recover his lapsed memories. Plato asks Century if he has had any success, to which the alien raises his staff, Parallax, over his head a rainbow of colors streams from it as he replies ‘None whatsoever’, before asking Plato to inform the others that he is gating directly to their position. ‘Perhaps you’re not the only one with a faulty memory, alien. Why didn’t I know about the Chaos alert?’ Plato wonders while Century vanishes…
…and reappears an instant later in the Hangar Bay. ‘About time. We nearly left without you’ USAgent tells Century as Force Works enter the Pegasus. With Wanda, Julia and the Century inside the ship, USAgent follows them in and prepares to close the door. Julia announces that she is initializing the Hex-Engine start-up, while USAgent declares that it doesn’t feel right leaving without Iron Man. ‘Too bad, Agent’ Wanda replies as she orders him to close the hatch. But just as Johnny prepares to click the door into place, a robotic voice calls out ‘Please wait’, and a hand grabs USAgent’s. It is the enigmatic Recorder, who announces that he will be accompanying the team, and enters the Pegasus.
‘Get your butt out of this card right NOW, Recorder!’ USAgent commands. But the unimpressed Recorder replies ‘Statement. My operational systems have fully repaired the damage that I sustained during the incident with the Kree’. He continues, announcing that he has dedicated his function to the recording of this team’s endeavors, so in pursuance of this dedication, he will be accompanying them. ‘This is insane, Scarlet Witch!’ USAgent shouts. Wanda turns to Johnny and tells him that they do not have time to argue with the Recorder ‘Just strap him into one of the rear seats and get this ship moving!’ Wanda orders. An instant later, the Pegasus takes to the sky.
Meantime, somewhere in the Chinese interior, ‘Helpless’ remarks the Mandarin, arch for of Tony “Iron Man” Stark, who stands several feet in front of the Mandarin’s throne. At Iron Man’s side is James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine. To the Mandarin’s left stands three more of his Avatars - Ancestor, Old Woman and Warfist. ‘Mandarin…you son of a -’ Iron Man remarks, unable to move. ‘Hush, old foe. Ironically, you are both prisoners of that corrupt genius which you have wielded against me so many times before’ the Mandarin remarks. The Mandarin announces that an aura surrounds this castle for many leagues, and within it, all technology - including their armor - ceases to function.
The Mandarin frowns as he declares ‘You have cast yourselves in iron, Westerners, and now cast iron statues are all you are’. The Mandarin moves his hand towards Iron Man’s helmet and announces that he longs to know his identity. ‘I long to strip away that impassive mask of metal and enjoy the despair etched on your revealed face. But…I will not spoil that delight with the anticlimax of unmasking this dull pretender to your role’ the Mandarin declares as he turns to War Machine. ‘Let us first see who you are - by relinquishing you of your mask!’ the Mandarin announces as he removes War Machine’s helmet. ‘Remember me, Mandarin? Been awhile, hasn’t it?’ Rhodey remarks, frowning. ‘Yes. The black man who defeated me in the guise of Iron Man. I have not forgotten you, impostor, not shall I ever’ the Mandarin replies as he sends a surge of painful shockwaves through War Machine, causing him to scream in agony. ‘Rhodey! In the name of God, Mandarin -’ Iron Man calls out. The Mandarin frowns and tells Iron Man to know this - ‘There is no God here - but me!’
Back in Hong Kong, the island city shakes and writhes as if in pain. Dense black smoke coils from wounded streets, and those citizens still alive turn and flee, pushing past each other to try and escape. Behind them, the architects of this destruction level city blocks and demolish high-rise towers. The burning air rings with their wicked cackles and the their howls of triumph. Lich literally howls as he crouches on several bodies, when suddenly, he notices something in the air above - Force Works have arrived!
Wanda orders the Pegasus to hover-standby, as she welcomes her team to Hong Kong. ‘Let’s got to work!’ she exclaims as she drops out of the Pegasus hatch. ‘Shields ignite!’ USAgent commands his photon shields as he drops out after the Scarlet Witch. Century follows him, while Spider-Woman has already lowered herself down on a psi-web. ‘I don’t know who you are - and I don’t want to know how you got so ugly…I just want you to shut up!’ Spider-Woman tells Lich, while the Recorder remains standing over the hatch in the Pegasus.
USAgent lands on the ground, he squats down and releases his photon shields’ energy beams at Foundry, knocking him back. ‘What the heck are these freaks?’ Johnny asks. ‘I do not the heck know, USAgent’ Century replies as he engages Q’wake in battle, adding that he will attempt to analyze them. ‘Is he getting smart with me again?’ Johnny asks, while Century raises Parallax to his opponent. ‘You threaten me, small one?’ Q’wake asks. ‘How presumptuous’ Q’wake remarks as he smacks his fists onto the ground - but before the attack can strike Century, he teleports away, and appears behind Q’wake. Century attacks Q’wake and remarks ‘A simple self-displacement and this creature is - how is it in Agen’s vernacular? Oh, yes - TOAST!’ as Q’wake falls to the ground. ‘Now I shall…’ Century begins, before Parallax’s analysis of Q’wake’s energy signature begins to show him something. ‘Please, no. Let this not be so’ Century utters, concerned.
The Scarlet Witch approaches Deluge and tells herself that he seethes with elemental power. ‘But if I can hex apart the molecular bonds of the water he’s -’ Wanda tells herself, before Deluge sees her behind him. ‘Another flesh-thing? Away with you!’ he shouts, sending a wave of water towards the Scarlet Witch, knocking her over. ‘He made a flash flood from that busted hydrant!’ Wanda realizes as she attempts to hang on to a nearby wall or else be swept away. USAgent commands his shield to re-ignite and he calls out to Wanda, telling her to stay with them while he aces Deluge. But Butterfly appears above Agent. ‘Eh? Outta my face, lady! What’re you gonna do? Kimono me to death?’ USAgent asks her.
Suddenly, Johnny is knocked backwards by a surge from his photon-shields, and Butterfly smiles. ‘How unreliable your toys become when the ill luck of my shadow sweeps across them’ she tells him. Wanda calls out to Agent, but she sees that Deluge will reach her in a moment. Desperate, she fires an unfocused hex-bolt at Deluge - and knocks him back, anyway.
At that moment, Lich lashes out at Spider-Woman. ‘You hurt me, Bright-Hair! Now you shall pay!’ he declares. Julia falls backwards, but sees a cable above her, and reaches out for it - managing to grab it, she swings her lithe body upwards and kicks Lich over. ‘Get away from me, creep! Get away!’ Julia exclaims. Dropping back down to the ground near where Lich has landed, Julia shouts ‘And stay away!’ as she fires her psi-web at Lich, hoping it will keep him down for a while. But Lich snaps through the psi-web like it was a twig.
Julia turns around and calls out to Century, asking him for some help. However Century still stands over Q’wake and holds Parallax, remarking that there is no mistake / error / misapprehension. ‘The signature is like a stain’ he declares, before raising Parallax over his head, and announcing that he must track this to its source without delay - and with that, he teleports away. ‘Century? I don’t believe it! He’s bugging out on me! Great!’ Julia exclaims, while Lich rushes towards her, growling. Suddenly, a photon blast courtesy of Walker’s shields knocks Lich backwards before he can attack Julia. ‘Thank, Agent! I thought I was history there…’ Julia tells Walker, who replies that one thing is for sure - ‘That chicken-hearted alien will be if he ever shows up again!’
Above, in the hovering Pegasus, the Recorder continues to look out the hatch at the chaos below, and states that it is with curiosity he notes that the alien Century has unexpectedly exited from the battle site. ‘His actions are inexplicable’ the Recorder ads, Suddenly, Plato radios the Pegasus, announcing that he has received an information update from Stark Enterprises, and announces that a thorough search of the Stark Facility has found no sign of Iron Man or War Machine. ‘They are officially missing’ Plato states. The Recorder replies that he will inform Force Works, before stating that this will not help the situation, as they are now two men short.
In China, ‘Enough Mandarin! You’re killing him!’ Iron Man shouts. The Mandarin turns to him and points out that is his intention. ‘To boil away his moral soul with excruciating slowness…before your very eyes!’ the Mandarin declares, adding that he will then do the same to Iron Man, before remarking that if War Machine’s weakening howls upset him, he will muffle them, and orders Warfist to replace his helmet. The near-naked Avatar does as commanded, but Iron Man just asks the Mandarin to stop this. As his helmet is replaced, Rhodes tells Iron Man not to give him the satisfaction. The Mandarin smirks at this and remarks that the pretender shows more courage than the original.
‘Have you softened in your declining years, old foe? Begging for your colleague’s life?’ the Mandarin asks. The Mandarin tells Iron Man that he has lost, that he is beaten. ‘After all these years… I have won!’ the Mandarin boasts, adding that he shall afford him no mercy and no quarter and no dignity. ‘Not even the chance to plead for your worthless existence’ the Mandarin adds, before telling Iron Man to watch as his friend burns. Suddenly, though, the blast of the teleport gate sounds like a depth charge in the enclosed chamber as Century drops out of nowhere. The Mandarin calls out to his Avatars and orders them to contain the intruder while he finishes this wretch. ‘The rings! Who here has the rings?!’ Century demands as he lashes out at Warfist.
‘Century! Forget about them! Protect War Machine!’ Iron Man orders. Century responds at once, hurling himself to War Machine’s aid. He arrives in front of War Machine - but the Mandarin is there already, and energy pours from his rings - War Machine and Century vanishing, leaving Parallax to fall to the floor. ‘Obliterated! Hah! Both of them, scorched to dust and nothing left save this metal staff’ Mandarin exclaims with glee. He tells Iron Man that he shall share this fate, boasting that he will leave nothing of Iron Man save the motel relics of his metal shell. ‘Century…Rhodey…you’ve destroyed them, Mandarin!’ Iron Man declares. Mandarin raises his glowing hands above his head and asks ‘Now how does it feel, Iron Man? How does it feel to be the LOSER??’….