Nighttime in the South China Sea, three speedboats make their way towards a freighter. Once they reach the freighter, the highly trained assassins board the boat and silently make their way towards the control room where the man driving the ship sings “and the Captain said Brandy, you’re a fine girl…”
Just then, he is shot in the back of the head and the assassins inform their bosses that the bridge is secure. Entering the Captain’s room, a young lady carrying two sais informs the sleeping Captain that he better wake up, his ship is being taken over by pirates. Waking up, the Captain asks “pirates?” The young lady tells him yes. She is one herself. Her name is Sai. They are opening the safe for harbor fees now. Also, they require stone warrior woman. Denial, refusal, is death. For him, for all ship, he will come now.
Inside the radio room, the ship’s radio controller calls out S.O.S., S.O.S.! The freighter Corto Maltese is under attack by pirates. Repeat, under attack by pirates. Bearings… Before he can finish his thought, the radio room is blown up. Once it has been, the assassins inform their boss, Lionmane that the radio room is secured and that the communications are disabled. The safe is also opened and the stone warrior woman is being transferred.
Lionmane replies excellent and asks about the crew. They inform him that all have been accounted for except for the cook. Lionmane asks the cook? Popping out of a smoke stack, the cook thinks to himself take out the leader, the rest fall and proceeds to shoot Lionmane in the back with his handgun. Once he does, Lionmane’s assassin followers unload on the smokestack, killing the cook. Turning around, Lionmane tells his brothers not to be worried. The bullet is not made that can harm him. He then tells them to take what they are after and ago. Time is not their friend and they have appointments to keep in Madripoor.
At the Heroes for Hire headquarters, the Captain of the Corto Maltese informs Jim Hammond, Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, Cat, and Jim’s female assistant that just like that, they were gone. Iron Fist asks pirates, in this day and age? The Captain replies yes. They are not the first to be hit in this manner, he assures him. Every harbor has its own fees and they must carry cash. Some places require gold or silver or jewels. He also knew about the stone warrior woman. Mr. Smythe, sitting next to the Captain, explains that it was a large stone statue depicting Mulan, a woman warrior on which many legends are based. The statue was taken to England in about 1900 and was being returned. It is culturally very important.
He then asks Mr. Hammond that he has heard of Mulan before. Hammond replies that he has never heard of her or it. He then says to Smythe to tell him what his clients want from Heroes for Hire. Smythe replies that he represents a consortium of insurance companies, all losing money to this Lionmane. Getting cooperation from the governments in the area is, ah, difficult. They suspect the pirates may be military units of one of the region’s governments doing a little, ah, shall they say… moonlighting? Iron Fist states that from what Lionmane said, they think the stone warrior statue is going to be auctioned off in Madripoor. Their sources suggest China believes Madripoor is behind the pirates. The Chinese are talking about mounting an expedition to retrieve that statue, and wipe out Madripoor.
Hammond quips that given Madripoor’s rep and history, maybe not a bad thing. Smythe replies no, if they are behind the pirates. His clients wish to be sure, and to see the pirates shut down. Iron Fist states to which end, they’ve started to assemble a special H4H team. He introduces himself as Iron Fist and he’ll be leading the mission. He then introduces Colleen Wing of Nightwing Restorations, one of his oldest friends and an expert swords-person. There is also the martial artist Shen Kuei, also known as the Cat. He has been active in the mercenary field and they may have contacts they do not.
Standing off to the side, Cat tells Smythe that it is so. In fact, they do not really need these others, only him. While he is not cheap, he will cost less than them. Is he interested? Shooting Cat a dirty look, Iron Fist says he thinks that’s unlikely. Given his somewhat checkered past, their clients were reluctant to have him on the team. He convinced them. He then tells Cat not to think of this as a solo job. Iron Fist then tells Smythe that they have one more member of their team. Someone who has recently been in Madripoor and knows what is going on there. He is a true master of kung fu, and most other martial arts. It is his honor to present Shang-Chi. Emerging, Shang-Chi tells Danny it is a pleasure to behold him once more.
Bowing, Iron Fist presents to Shang-Chi Colleen Wing, a sister in spirit. Bowing to her, Shang-Chi tells her that he has heard of her beauty and skill, it is a pleasure to meet her. As he walks by Cat, who has a cat tattoo on his chest, she doesn’t bow and says to him “hello Britisher,” she heard he got himself a tattoo. Shang-Chi replies “temporary only,” to blend into the world in which he then moved. He would not permanently defile his body in such a manner.
Shang-Chi then informs Hammond and the rest of H4H that as they may know, Madripoor was recently taken over by the former head of HYDRA known as Viper. The underworld itself, however, is still run by a woman calling herself Tyger Tyger. The stone warrior woman is to be auctioned off in Madripoor in 36 hours. Hammond proceeds to ask Danny how soon he can get his team to Madripoor. They’ll go as one of the potential buyers, spread out around the place, see who bids and buys, and what they can dig up about who put Mulan up for sale.
Thirty-five hours later, in a Madripoor warehouse, Colleen says to Danny that this stinks. Danny, in plain clothes, tells her it’s probably the harbor she smells. Colleen replies that she’s serious. Nightwing Restorations has seen a lot of illegal art auctions. It’s all done with computer hook-ups and wire transfers to unnumbered accounts. Central location, in person bidding, no one does it that way anymore. This smells of a set-up.
At that moment, a voice calls out well, well, the inestimable Shang-Chi. Jessica Drew then asks Shang-Chi if he remembers her, clings to walls, fires venom blasts, once known as Spider-Woman, working the private side as a P.I. now. She then asks him if he’s there on a “game of deceit and death.” Shang-Chi tells her that he is there with his friends. He assumes she is also there in regards to the stone warrior woman. Jessica tells him that she’s been asked by those who did own it to retrieve it or, at least, see where it goes.
She then asks him where “little Leiko” is. Facing her, Shang-Chi tells her that they are like two rivers, sometimes flowing together, sometimes flowing apart. Jessica says personally, she wouldn’t let him out of her sight. From the way he was looking around, he assumes someone he knows has gotten out of sight. Shang-Chi states Shen Kuei – Cat. At that moment, the auctioneer reveals the Mulan statue and tells everyone that bidding begins at 3 million dollars, no checks. If they are ready to begin… From the shadows, Wolverine watches the proceedings and pops his bone claws in anticipation.
Just then, members of the Chinese military burst through the wall of the warehouse. As they do, one of the commanders calls out attack, in the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of China. Grabbing the auctioneer by the throat, General Lo Chien states that they are seizing the stone warrior woman in the name of the Chinese people. When the auctioneer begins to protest, Lo Chien shoots him and tells him that he will be surrendering now.
At that moment, a number of thugs pull out their weapons and say “big mistake blowhard.” Madripoor’s their turf and they defend what is theirs. As the members of Heroes for Hire begin to battle members of the military and the Madripoor thugs, Jessica states that she’s certainly glad she’s been lumped in with all of them. This will do her rep there so much good. She then tells Shang-Chi to watch his foot. Shang-Chi tells her that his movements are precise. Stay where she is and she is in no danger.
As he fights, Danny remarks that he has one question – has anyone seen Cat? Standing behind on of the crates, Cat lights up a cigarette and watches what is happening. Shang-Chi answers no, but their opponents are many and they are few. Jessica says that they could use reinforcements. She doesn’t suppose the cavalry is coming anytime soon. Just then, Wolverine leaps into action and slashes through the members of the military and the thugs. As the heroes continue to battle, the Mulan statue suddenly explodes.
Holding a smoking gun, General Lo Chien calls out that the stone warrior woman has been destroyed. They, Heroes for Hire, blew it up rather than see it fall into their hands. He then orders his troops to fall back. They will return with their full forces to exact their revenge. Shang-Chi says to Danny that their covers blown and they’re going to be none too popular. They should get out of there. Danny agrees but asks to where. Wolverine tells them to follow him unless they feel like fightin’ the whole flamin’ island. With that, they make their way quickly out of the warehouse.
In a safe house that the mutant known as Wolverine keeps in Madripoor, Wolverine informs H4H that they are now persona non grata in Madripoor and the authorities will want to talk to all of them. Jessica remarks then they’re in a world of trouble seeing as how Mr. Logan there is married to the witch running Madripoor. Wolverine informs Jess that he ain’t there on Viper’s behalf. He still has friends there, even if she’s no longer one of ‘em, and Madripoor’s being set up. Danny then asks if anyone there knew the Chinese general who crashed the party. Jessica says that he is Lo Chien. He is a decorated general and very powerful man who inspires fanatical loyalty in his men, thought to be a man of intellectual gifts and great vision. If he says he’s coming back with bigger guns, believe him.
Danny thanks her for the information and then recommends that they pool their resources and work together on this. Jessica says they might as well, provided they really are Heroes for Hire. Her assignment went boom along with the statue. Danny then asks Logan what he says. Logan replies “no way he’s workin’ with you freakin’ amateurs.” When Danny asks “amateurs,” Logan tells him yeah, amateurs. They waltzed into a hornet’s nest without really thinkin’ things through. This is Madripoor, they play for keeps there. He’s surprised at Shang-Chi and Shen Kuei. They’ve been around the block long enough to know the ropes and Jess, she lives there. He then tells Rand that he’s a rank amateur in the spy game and that’s going to get him and everyone near him killed, no thanks. He’s outta there. They’re welcome to crash ‘til dawn but then he wants them gone. Try not to attract undue attention doin’ it and keep outta his way.
Once Logan leaves, Jessica remarks that she says they get out sooner. She’s not convinced Logan isn’t working for Viper, no matter what he says. She doesn’t trust him anymore; he’s not the man she once knew. Danny states that he guesses it’s time for Plan B.
The next evening, on the South China seas, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi stands on a freighter. Shang-Chi asks him that this is Plan B. Iron Fist tells him “yep.” Hire a ship and let word drift out that it’s trying to get valuables out of Madripoor before the Chinese move in. Crew it with mercs and them and Jessica Drew and see if the pirates rise to the bait. Shang-Chi tells him good plan. Iron Fist asks “for an amateur?” Shang-Chi responds that a good plan is a good plan and advises him not to let Wolverine’s words afflict him. He is gruff but his heart is good, like another he knows, Black Jack Tarr.
He then tells Iron Fist that he knows his name means “the rising and advancing of a spirit” yet his path, from dealing with his father onwards, has not often allowed his spirit to grow. Putting his hand on Iron Fist’s shoulder, he tells him that this “mission” is not so important as the growth of his spirit. He would prefer him to be an “amateur” than know what he knows. Iron Fist tells him thanks but wonders to himself what he would say if he knew about his summoning K’Un Lun and the danger it puts the whole world in.
Interrupting the two of them, Colleen informs Danny that word’s just come over the radio that China is preparing to invade Madripoor. Colleen then asks Danny why he thinks the statue exploded. There were no grenades or rockets and the auctioneer seemed to know Lo Chien. Shang-Chi states that Lionmane’s men strike with military precision and Lo Chien commands a precision military unit. Iron Fist then asks that they’re saying that Lionmane may be Lo Chien, what’s his real goal? Jessica says to wipe out Madripoor? China, like several other governments in the region, has been looking for an excuse. Colleen asks Shen Kuei what he thinks. Cat replies that he thinks their ruse is now pointless. Assuming Lo Chien is Lionmane and that his true target is Madripoor, he will have no interest in their ship. Iron Fist agrees and orders the captain to come about and make for Madripoor.
That night, Iron Fist mentions to Cat that he never did tell him where he went to during the Madripoor fight. Cat replies no, he did not. Iron Fist tells him to tell him now. Cat asks why, does he not trust him? Iron Fist replies that he can toss him further than he can trust him. Cat asks if that’s a challenge. Keep in mind, last time they confronted one another, it was he who beat him.
Just then, the Heroes for Hire freighter is attacked. Once it is hit, Iron Fist calls out to his teammates that it’s going down and to abandon ship. As they leap off the ship, Colleen asks if they think the pirates took the bait. Jessica asks where their ship is then. Jumping into the water, Iron Fist asks Shang-Chi if he knows what happened to Shen Kuei. Shang-Chi replies he has nine lives. Landing in the water and seeing three sharks heading towards them, Shang-Chi thinks to himself that they just did the aquatic version of “out of the frying pan, into the fire.”