Your shadow, the white one, whom you cannot accept, and who will never forget you.
Four Freedoms Plaza undergoes atomic urban renewal: the upper part of the building explodes spectacularly, owing to an atomic gamma bomb. At the epicenter of the blast, Invisible Woman, by way of her dynamic force field, strives to keep radical change to a minimum. Thor wonders if that force field of hers can really hold all that back. Sue explains she’s only redirecting it and it takes everything she’s got to do that. She tells Thor, though, that there’s going to be this little problem with nuclear radiation.
Say no more, Thor replies and spins his hammer, the Mjolnir, while all the other heroes watch, their mouths agape. Thor implores everyone to stand back: he’s got one cleansing whirlwind to whip up. Indeed, through his hammer, he generates a powerful cyclone that banishes the nuclear fallout in the outer layers of the atmosphere. Thor believes that ought to do the job and then flies back to the now devastated penthouse of Four Freedoms Plaza, informing everybody that the fallout is on its way into outer space.
“Good,” Sue replies. She then turns her attention to the counterfeit Mr. Fantastic and curtly declares that she wants to know what he’s done with her husband. “Do you know?” the faux Reed mocks her. “You want answers, try this one on for size,” he cackles as a teleportation portal manifests from behind him. “Stand aside! Let me…” Thor howls in the commotion. Too late, however: Magus and the Thanos doppelganger emerge from the portal. Thanos’ double uses his energy blasts to keep back the assembled heroes, just as the doppelgangers of Reed Richards and Iron Man disappear through the portal.
After Magus and the doppelgangers vanish, Captain America declares that they have to get up to speed on what’s going on here. The Vision asks Invisible Woman if she knows whether there was any truth to what the fraudulent Dr. Richards was saying earlier. “About the cosmic event he was studying?” Sue realizes. She conjectures that maybe the lab computer can tell them.
Shaman remarks it’s amazing. When Thanos and his companion appeared, he sensed deep waves of mystical energy. “Magic?” Scarlet Witch enquires. A feeling deeper than mere sorcery, Shaman clarifies. Something beyond the scope of his meager powers. They are in great need of a mystic whose talents far exceed his own. Hulk reveals that he tried to contact Dr. Strange on his way over here; he wasn’t in. Scarlet Witch thinks she knows a couple of folks who can help them out in that department.
Elsewhere, within an exponentially-moving shuttle, Galactus asks Dr. Strange what’s wrong. Focused on his mystic arts, Dr. Strange reveals that the trail he follows fades and reappears periodically the farther they travel this dimensional corridor. Galactus reminds him that he brought him along on this quest for results, not excuses. Nova tells her master that a little patience might presently be advisable. Silver Surfer, a former herald of Galactus, explains to Nova that this is something Galactus possesses little of. “Tell me about it, Surf,” Nova concurs in a lower voice. Galactus implores Strange to continue on the best he can. However, he asks him to remember that time is their enemy in this enterprise.
Unbeknownst to Galactus’ party, Dr. Doom and Kang are hot on their trail, following them with their own ship along the dimensional corridor. A displeased Kang protests that their present course will do them little good. Doom assures him he knows. They must not let Galactus beat them to the source of those mysterious and powerful energies. But can they find them without him? “Now? Yes,” Kang argues. On-board computers have determined Galactus’ position and locked onto it. Doom asserts that then their only problem is how to pass Galactus’ vessel without being detected. Kang doubts mighty Galactus would take kindly to having this particular prize snatched out from under his very nose.
In the interior of a cave of a barren island, Thanos and the Infinity Watch gaze upon some amazing energy manifestations. Thanos explains to his companions that the emanations are faint but enough for his sensors to detect. Their quasi-mystical nature will allow them to trace the broadcasts to their source. “And then?” Adam Warlock asks. Thanos wearily wonders if he really needs to answer that question. “No,” Warlock replies. “It is my guess that…” Thanos starts but suddenly pauses as he feels someone spying on him from behind: his doppelganger momentarily appears behind some rocks. Thanos quickly turns his back, but his double is already gone. Warlock asks him if there’s anything wrong. Many things, but nothing that need concern you for the moment, the Titan replies. “Then let us be away,” Warlock announces and Pip the Troll teleports them all away thanks to the power of his Space Gem. A moment later, a flash of light appears just above the rocky surface of a desolate planet.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, sifting through Reed’s archive of files in his computer, Sue finally exclaims she found it. Hank Pym brings it up on the enormous screen. Wonder Man enters the room and informs Captain America that they found Spider-Man and Hawkeye on a nearby rooftop. They’re both in pretty bad shape. Thor and the Hulk are rushing them to the hospital. Cap suggests he has Thor and Banner return as soon as they finish. He’s got a feeling they’re going to sorely need their raw power. “But Spider-Man and Hawkeye are going to need…” Wonder Man is about to protest. Cap completes his phrase: “I know, guards.” Black Cat pops up and volunteers. Cap tells her the job’s her and asks her to take the Black Widow along with her.
“Good Lord, will you look at this!” Hank exclaims just then. On the screen, he discerns massive energy receptors on each planet and star. Invisible Woman wonders what their purpose is. “Who knows?” Pym replies. Thanos concludes that their presence is most likely dire if Thanos of Titan is involved. Pym declares they’re going to find out where those emissions are originating from. Vision, however, doubts their technology is up to the task. “Then what?” Sue wonders.
“Wait a minute!” Pym suddenly shouts. He realizes Mr. Fantastic already pinpointed the transmissions’ location. The coordinates are here in a file… but getting there from here is going to be a problem. Wanda professes that it is one she might able to help with. Wary, the Vision notes that Richards couldn’t have traced those energies with this equipment.
“How perceptive of you, Vision,” Magus congratulates him at that moment, as he watches the heroes from his abode in outer space, through a monitor. He is well aware that, left to their own resources, the heroes would never find the way to where he wishes them to be. Thus, he most generously provided them with the coordinates they sought. The Richards impostor deduces that the gamma bomb was never meant to annihilate the gathering. Of course, only to confuse and stimulate Earth’s honorable defenders, Magus grins. Especially confuse – for that is the role he has chosen for them to play. They are the spoilers, the havoc reavers, the muddiers of water. They are of no real consequence; mere pawns.
But there are kings and queens in his game. Thanos and Warlock are major board pieces. Pip, Gamora, Galactus and Eternity are useful secondary players. With skill and daring, he shall manipulate them into providing him the ultimate prize. Their reward shall be destruction. “A just payment for such gullibility,” the sham Thanos cajoles Magus. “All my dreams come true…” Magus whispers, a maniacal expression on his face.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, the heroes have gathered in the War Room. Pym reminds the Scarlet Witch they are talking about a dimension some hundred or so levels over. A mere hop, skip and jump, Wanda insists. Invisible Woman ironically wonders who has Wanda brought them: Interdimensional Greyhound Bus? Even better, Wanda boasts. She introduces everyone to her friend and mentor, Agatha Harkness. She’s sure most of them recognize Dr. Druid. Wonder Man certainly does – despite the alterations. “Radical changes, to be sure,” Dr. Druid admits. Wonder Man asks Wanda if he can be trusted. He asks her to remember last time…
Scarlet Witch claims this is a truly changed man who stands before them; she will vouch for him. Besides, they’re in desperate need of his unique talents. It’s going to take all four of the mystics – Shaman included – to get to the source of those mysterious radiations. Together, they’re just as handy as Dr. Strange. “Well, almost,” she adds in a lower, less confident voice. In the same room, Beast uses the radio to order six vegetarian pizzas, five pepperoni and three with everything!
Wasp interjects and informs Cap she’s got a call coming in from Quasar, via those quantum bands of his. Wonder Man asks where he’s gotten to. Reality hopping for intelligence that only he has access to, Cap explains. He figured some of those cosmic entities Quasar knows might be able to provide them with a couple of leads as to what’s going on. Wonder Man wonders if the kid had any luck.
“Yeah, all bad,” Quasar replies at that moment via his quantum bands. Cap asks him what happened. Quasar explains that it took some doing, but he traced down an aspect of Eternity in this place described as the Dimension of Manifestations. Cap asks him what Eternity had to say. “Not a word. He’s catatonic,” Quasar reveals. Examining the being, he deduces that his catatonia appears to be induced by outside forces. He can’t imagine what power it took to accomplish this nightmare. It’s pretty obvious that he’s learned all he’s going to here. He asks Captain America what’s the next plan. Cap reveals they’ll be heading off in a half hour. If Quasar wants to be in on the action, Cap advises him to be there. “Count me in,” Quasar tells him. After he terminates his communication with them, Janet realizes it’s going to be bad this time around, isn’t it? Cap has a feeling this is going to be the worst.
Elsewhere, Dr. Strange informs Galactus that they’re no more than three planes away from their destination. “Excellent,” Galactus approves. But they may have another problem that needs attending to first. Rear sensors are picking up the cloak presence of a craft following them down the corridor.
In Magus’ abode, the Thanos doppelganger watches the monitor and informs his master that Galactus’ craft is about to cross into the relay level. Magus realizes he’s running too far ahead of schedule. He should have expected that.
In his ship, the otherwise stoic Galactus suddenly alerts everyone: scanners are showing an energy flux! They’re being… Before he has the chance to finish his phrase, his ship is engulfed in a dramatic explosion!
Watching from his abode, Magus gleefully states that should do the trick. The replica of Thanos realizes that his master has the might to destroy Galactus’ craft with but a touch of a button, yet he hungers for more power; he does not understand. Magus presumes that, to his lackey’s pathetic perceptions, his power seems infinite. However, Magus’ horizons stretch farther than the spurious Thanos’ horizons do. His dreams are grander, his vision clearer. “Do you understand what I say, minion?” he tells the pseudo-Thanos. “Not really, master,” the latter admits. “Why does that not surprise me?” Magus scoffs.
In the dimensional corridor, Doom and Kang, in their own ship, find it unbelievable: their secret foe has actually decimated Galactus’ vessel before their very eyes! It served its purpose, Doom coldly remarks. Kang agreed. However, he also suggests it serves as a reminder as to what dangerous forces they oppose. He suggests they circumvent befalling the same fate. As they advance along the corridor, Kang contemplates that the prize will soon be theirs. And then, Kang shall terminate their partnership, with deeply felt satisfaction! Unbeknownst to him, Doom shares the exact same thoughts. Kang’s technology he envies and covets but him…
In an Earth hospital, Black Cat and Black Widow ask the doctor about the two hospitalized heroes, Spider-Man and Hawkeye. The doctor assures them that with a little time and TLC they’ll both be as good as new. “But they’re…” Black Cat is about to protest, seeing both men senseless. “…Sedated. Pain killers,” the doctor nonchalantly explains. “Long as they’re the only killers we have to deal with,” the Black Widow jests. The doctor indeed imagines that both men have enemies who would… “... Get their butts kicked if they show up here tonight,” Natasha completes his phrase. “Of course,” the doctor replies and then excuses himself and leaves.
Left alone with Felicia, Natasha confesses she isn’t crazy about being relegated to the role of nursemaid. “Me neither, but…” Black Cat mumbles. Black Widow acknowledges that in a conflict like the one brewing, non-super-dreadnought types like the two of them don’t have what it takes to even sit in at the table. Black Cat argues they should be satisfied to help out, any way they can.
In Magus’ lair, the madman asserts that the power he now possesses is most finite. He can create doppelgangers, entrance Eternity, even destroy Galactus’ ship, but even such marvelous feats are not worthy of the heights he aspires to. The godly stature he currently enjoys is but a stepping stone to greater glory. He is truly unique in this or any reality. There is no denying this truth. His dreams are beyond containment.
“Master,” the Thanos doppelganger suddenly alerts him: Thanos and the Infinity Watch are approaching Point #2. Watching in his monitor with the faux Thanos, Magus thinks it’s excellent. He orders his servant to keep a close eye on them.
Somewhere else, Doom and Kang the Conqueror are both livid with anger. “Curse our secret enemy!” Doom blurts. “My sentiments exactly!” Kang concurs. Both men have landed on the rocky surface of a barren planet, observing some insane energy manifestations. Kang has already realized the configuration is obviously a relay transmitter. Their true goal lays further down the dimensional corridor. Doom wonders if they can track those energies from this point. Kang believes so. But it will take some time for him to recalibrate the sensors.
Suddenly, Doom alerts him that the scanners of their ship are picking up a rift disturbance; it appears they have more visitors! Kang tells him to quickly engage the cloaking system. As their shuttle is cloaked from sight, Thanos and the Infinity Watch materialize on the planet’s surface, emerging from a pool of light.
“Right on time,” Magus remarks at that very moment, spying from his monitor. It should take Thanos at least half an hour to realign his system and continue on. The pseudo-Thanos informs him that he’s picking up odd energy fluctuations around the relay area. Magus deduces they are caused by the configuration transmitter. He realizes in ecstasy that the unattainable is now almost within his reach. “You can’t imagine what it is like having a past that never was. To be denied all my yesterdays and my tomorrows,” he tells his underling, clenching his fists with anger. That was the doing of the accursed Adam Warlock and Thanos. But soon, ultimate power will be Magus’ and they shall pay for their indiscretions.
“And you, master?” the bogus Thanos confronts him. Can he really ignore Thanos’ warnings about gaining divinity? Magus realizes, yet once more, that even though he created this Thanos doppelganger, it is still the mind of the prototype, Thanos, that drives this creature – which is why Magus keeps him by his side. He tells him there are differences between them. The original Thanos betrayed himself when he finally gained omnipotence. He subconsciously felt unworthy of possessing the ultimate treasure. But Magus is not saddled with such a fatal flaw!
In an eradicated past, he once ruled a thousand worlds. The masses worshipped him as a god. He knows what it’s like to savor great power and bask in its grandeur; there lies the dividing line between Thanos and himself. Magus’ goal is the benefit of great power and not the power itself. Thanos’ fear and hatred drove him to seek omnipotence so that no one would have control over him. But Magus’ vision took him over that juvenile passion. That is why he shall not fall victim to the same snares that toppled Thanos’ divine hunger. That is why his yearnings will see fruition. His dreams are of a more durable weave!
“No dreams,” Adam Warlock murmurs just then, gazing at the stars, with his companions perusing the same energy relay transmitter that Doom and Kang did only moments ago. “What about dreams?” Thanos asks him. Warlock explains he hasn’t had any since his brief delving into omniscience – except for the one about the Magus. And he’s certain Magus somehow sent it to taunt him. Thanos conjectures Warlock probably lost his dreams when he expelled all good and evil from his system. Warlock imagines so. He wonders if the Magus dreams. Thanos replies about his own dreams: they have always been what he would call unappetizing; mostly about death. Warlock argues there are many kinds of dreams. “Perhaps for normal people,” Thanos retorts. Warlock confesses he’s always longed to be normal. Thanos retorts it’s not his lot in life. Warlock asks him what he sees to be his fate, then. Thanos believes Warlock knows that as well as Thanos himself does.
Warlock thinks it’s not right; completely unfair. As is all life, Thanos argues. Which I once gave up for the sake of the universe, Warlock reminds him. He did gain the bliss of soul world for a while, but that too was eventually denied him: this fragile reality once again needed saving from Thanos’ mad ambitions. Thanos reminds him that his reward was godhood. Warlock recalls that he had to forsake that godhood for the good of this wretched actuality. “Is it my fault you work cheap?” Thanos provokes him.
“I’m sorry. I won’t do it!” Warlock asserts in anger and sheers off. He’s already sacrificed enough. “Let someone else save the universe this time around,” he grunts. “No one else can,” Thanos confronts him. He opens his fist, inviting him to come aboard this adventure, but Warlock does not relent and remains firmly away, his back turned to Thanos and the others. Thanos closes his fist. Gamora tells him that when the time comes, Warlock will do what he must. Thanos tells her he knows – you can deny neither your white nor black shadows.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, the four mystics are preparing to cast the spell. Shaman throws the dust of the past into a cauldron of fire. Agatha Harkness uses her fingers to signal the sign of the never-ending. Scarlet Witch, in turn, makes the sign of the finite. And Dr. Druid cuts one of his fingers, casting blood into the fire. Watching them, Captain America wishes Dr. Strange were here. He just hopes these four don’t end teleporting them into some slab of rock on a faraway planet or something.
Just then, Quasar appears and greets Cap. Steve informs him he made it just in time and asks him if there’s anything new to report. “Nothing that’s going to help us!” Quasar dashes his hopes. Cap realizes he can’t worry about that now; they’re about to take off. Quasar asks him who’s in the expeditionary force. The most seasoned and powerful, Captain America replies and points him at the assembled strike force: Sasquatch, Strong Guy, She-Hulk, Hulk, Psylocke, Nova, Wonder Man, Vision, Iceman, Guardian, Hercules, Thing, Polaris, Havok, Rogue, Colossus, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Thor, Wolverine and Professor X. Quasar reminds Cap that they ought to be able to take care of any business that needs attending to. “Let’s hope,” Cap replies. He explains they’re the maximum the mystics could transport in one trip. He then announces to Wanda they’re all set. Scarlet Witch suggests they join the others within the circle.
The next moment, the room is bathed in a blinding light… and everyone is gone. Speedball burst in, yelling that the pizzas have arrived… only to see the room empty: where’d everyone go?
The fake Thanos patiently monitors the heroes’ journey along the dimensional corridor. He announces to his master that the expeditionary force should reach its destination in exactly 2 minutes and 31 seconds. Magus argues that’s more than enough time for them to assure themselves of the arrival of the final player in this little comedy of errors.
In another part of the universe, an explosion of searing light unfolds before the glassy eyes of the catatonic Eternity. The Living Tribunal, the being whose task is to sit in judgment of events on the far end of the cosmic scale, emerges. The Tribunal sensed the need for adjudication and came. He now awaits the Eternity’s appeal.
“As I knew you would,” Magus remarks just then, always watching everything through his monitor, in his remote headquarters. He scoffs that enlightenment and duty tend to breed predictability; in chaos there is more spontaneity. Speaking of chaos, he believes it is time to foment a bit of it. “You know what to do,” he tells the “shade” Thanos. “Teleportation sequence is instituted,” the fake Titan announces.
At Four Freedoms Plaza, the heroes left behind serve themselves some coffee. Crystal hopes the coffee’s strong. Wasp is certain that everyone’s going to need it. Crystal admits she hates waiting. Wolfsbane asks Janet what she thinks it’s going to happen. “With Thanos involved, Rahne, who knows?” Janet replies. All they can do is…
A deafening thud suddenly comes from the next room. “Trouble!” Wasp hisses and reverts to her tiny form at once. Wolfsbane knows it’s going to be bad. “Real bad!” Crystal agrees and they all storm into the room. “By the great powers!” Crystal exclaims in awe, as they see many of their companions already marching into the room, confronted with Magus’ army of doppelgangers – horribly distorted, ersatz versions of their own selves.
Magus believes that should keep them busy for a while and disinterested in interfering with Phase III of their operation. Thanos’ doppelganger informs him that Earth’s expeditionary force is about to touch down. Perfect timing, Magus rejoices: Adam Warlock and Thanos are about to receive a huge surprise.
On the surface of the barren planet, Thanos announces to his companions that recalibrations are complete: it is time for them to move on. Gamora asks Warlock, who’s still standing aside, if he’s coming. Warlock turns to face them and, for a moment, he remains silent, before he comes to admit, “What choice have I?” “None,” Thanos readily clarifies. “So be it,” Warlock succumbs.
Suddenly, Gamora wonders what’s wrong. Thanos notices that the power levels are surging; they have incoming! The party is momentarily drenched in a sweltering light… and a moment later, they are virtually surrounded by dozens of the Earth’s most prominent heroes! “Damnation,” Thanos curses. “Can we talk?” Pip cowardly proposes, seeing the lurid expression of indignation on all heroes’ faces.
Watching the imminent conflict through his monitor, Kang tells Doom that it is almost as if the fates conspire to aid them. Doom argues it’s best not to linger with such good fortune as an ally. He suggests they complete retrofitting the sensor system and be off to snatch their cosmic prize.
Somewhere else, Magus exults: “Nothing. Absolutely nothing can stop me now.”