For my heart could not flee away from my heart, nor could I escape from myself since whenever I ran, I should be following
On a plane of existence with little relation to our own
Every hero present stands in shock, after having witnessed Thanos handing the Ultimate Nullifier – one of the most destructive weapons in existence – over to Quasar. Captain America warns Quasar that it’s dangerous to play into Thanos’ game. Hercules seconds that: the Titan is not to be trusted. Quasar assures him he knows. But he also recognizes the truth when it is staring him in the face. Thanos admits it gladdens his heart that Quasar at least clearly grasps their situation. Decisions have been made in error actions begun that cannot be halted. For this universe to survive, drastic steps must be taken. Thanos informs them that he nearly has his craft’s interdimensional transport repaired. “Once it is, the rest is up to me, right?” Quasar realizes. “Totally,” Thanos nods – even as they speak, great changes occur.
New York City
Sleepwalker soars above the city and observes the people on the street. He finds it remarkably strange: it would appear that every soul on this planet has become entranced. His guess is it happened to facilitate a dreadful and all-encompassing takeover. Gazing at the sky, where two moons seem to inexplicably overlap, Sleepwalker admits that, for the moment, he sees no way a Sleepwalker can thwart this dark scheme.
Earth’s moon, the home of the Watcher
Thor wonders why he hasn’t been teleported back to the relay dimension by now. Uatu the Watcher informs him that he senses complex data still being transferred to that plane via Thor’s enchanted hammer. Thor recalls that Galactus said he wouldn’t return until all that info was sent. However, Thor has a feeling that his friends are going to be needing his power back there. The Watcher admits it’s true, but there is nothing Thor can do to remedy that particular dilemma. Any more than he can stop the insidious takeover of his world by the black forces of the Magus.
Thor is confident that Uatu has the power to throw a monkey wrench into that crazy scheme. Perhaps, Uatu replies – unfortunately, he is a Watcher and he is honor-bound to witness and never act. Small consolation to the folks back on Earth, Thor retorts. Uatu assures him he is painfully aware of this. The nature of what the Watchers are can prove a burden. And sometimes, a curse.
Within the Magus’ stronghold, many realities away…
Magus tauntingly announces that he shall now relieve his prisoner, Adam Warlock, of the Infinity Gauntlet and, indeed, he immediately deprives him of it. “A fitting conqueror’s bay wreath, is it not?” Magus gloats. Only a madman would think so, Warlock retorts. Magus cheerfully admits that there is a touch of insanity to his machinations. But if there weren’t, ultimate power would never be his! “Ultimate folly is more like it, Magus!” Warlock snaps back and accuses the Magus of being a crazed fool. He reveals to him that the Gauntlet is useless; the Living Tribunal saw to that! He ruled that the Infinity Gems could never again be used in unison!
Magus retorts that, fortunately, any judicial ruling is subject to review. All one need do is set up the proper series of events and all things are possible. If clever enough, one can even get his enemies to work to enhance one’s greater glory. All that is required then is patience. “You’ll see, dear Adam,” Magus promises. It’s only a matter of time before full power is restored to his Infinity Gauntlet!
Hidden inside the control room and observing Magus’ confrontation with Warlock are Dr. Doom and Kang the Conqueror. Kang finishes Magus’ last phrase in whispers: “But before that happens, we must ensure that it its Doom and Kang’s Infinity Gauntlet,” only to then maliciously ponder: No, make that just Kang’s. Doom whispers to Kang that they must hurry. The time to act is extremely limited.
In Galactus’ ship, the heroes watch the four telepaths, Professor X, Jean Grey, Psylocke and Moondragon, meditating. Captain America asks Nova how it is going. Nova explains that she’s linked the four of them to a psychic enhancement transmitter. It’s beaming back to their reality and Earth; the rest is up to them. Cap wants to know what exactly the Professor’s plan is. Nova thinks it’s a scheme he pulled off before, but more complex this time around. The four telepaths have succeeded in making contact with Earth by using a mysterious entity called Sleepwalker as a conduit. The psychics, with their enhanced powers, are then going to stir every mind on the planet to a level of telepathic resistance. The hope is that if any one portion of the universal takeover can be stopped, all sectors will be halted.
Cap wonders what their chances are. Nova admits that, even with the mystics that returned to that plane of existence to assist in this endeavor, the odds are against them. She stresses that they resist forces that are nearly beyond human comprehension. At best these efforts are but a stopgap measure; they must seek salvation in other quarters. Vexed, Captain America remarks that if she’s suggesting they work closer with Thanos, she should forget it. Experience has made it crystal clear that he is not to be trusted. The price they’d pay for his aid would surely prove too high.
Wonder Man suddenly interjects and warns Cap to come quickly: Thanos is sending Quasar off! “Quasar… no!” Cap shouts in vain, as he sees Quasar walking through an interdimensional portal, with Thanos wishing him good luck. He then turns to Captain America and informs Steve he’s too late: his ally has departed to do what must be done. “Pray he succeeds,” he concludes. “But the price he may pay!” Cap protests. “Is one he is willing to meet,” Thanos assures him. Quasar is one of the bravest souls he’s ever met – and one of the biggest fools! That’s why he may yet save the day where a more competent intellect would fail.
In another plane of existence, Quasar slowly opens his eyes… and finds himself floating in outer space, underneath the palace of the Magus, with the Ultimate Nullifier in hand. He wonders: should he try to get any closer… or blast the living nothingness out of the Magus from out here?
Watching Quasar from the monitors in Galactus’ ship, Thanos impatiently wonders why Quasar is hesitating. Captain America coldly retorts that only fools rush in. Vision conjectures that perhaps the activation sequence is more difficult than one might surmise. Thanos is at loss: can’t that witless buffoon, Quasar, fathom the firing mechanism? He fears that the Magus is aware of Quasar’s presence by now; alternative strategies must be implemented immediately.
Captain America asks him what he’s up to now. Thanos informs him he’s preparing to breach the Magus’ defenses with a direct assault. He can beam right into the heart of his stronghold. “A commando raid consisting of whom?” Cap asks him. “Drax and myself,” Thanos replies. “Works for me,” Drax concurs. “I’m not sure I like…” Cap is about to protest, before Drax cuts him short, announcing that first he stomps Magus, then Thanos. Thanos remarks that the Drax’s misgivings do not concern him.
The heroes gather together in order to decide their next move. Vision reminds them that the Magus obviously possesses a tremendous power source. Guardian alerts them to the fact that, if Thanos prevails, that prize is his alone! Invisible Woman agrees: she doubts Drax could stop the Titan afterwards. Making his decision, Captain America rushes over to Thanos and informs him that they are in on this mission. Thanos begins to protest. Captain America clarifies that the matter is not open to debate. They will all go or no one does! Does he make himself clear enough? “Exceedingly, Avenger,” Thanos replies. Conceding defeat, he announces he will make the appropriate adjustments to the teleporter.
In Magus’ stronghold, Magus and his Thanos doppelganger are behind a monitor, watching Galactus and Gamora negotiating with the Living Tribunal, next to a catatonic Eternity. Thanos’ double informs his master that he has the coordinates Thanos has his teleportation unit set to. Magus orders his thrall to prepare a cordial reception for their unannounced guests and attend to it immediately. The doppelganger complies.
Watching the doppelganger depart, still hidden in the control room, Doom is at loss. Such power at Magus’ command; how can he not be aware of the two of them? Kang explains it’s all a matter of focus. What the two of them have stumbled upon is obviously a very well-thought out and skillfully executed maze of schemes and plots. They come in at the completion of the mosaic. Fortunately for them, the craftsman is so absorbed in his work, the outside world no longer matters to him. Their enemy is not aware of them because they never were part of his plan. He hasn’t spotted them because he wasn’t looking for them. A fatal flaw in the design. And one that they are about to fully exploit.
Meanwhile, Magus asks his prisoner, Adam Warlock, whether he begins to perceive the pattern. Or is the complexity of his weave beyond Warlock’s meager mental skills? “We were all manipulated?” Adam surmises. Magus admits that from the beginning each piece was played with consummate finesse. He used Thanos to get the ball rolling. Through him, most of the secondary players were set into motion. He needed Galactus for his naked might and cosmic prestige. His conceit made him easy to handle. Earth’s defenders were brought in to keep everything so muddled that no one would have the time to discern his true goal. And Warlock’s task was to bring the Infinity Gauntlet to him so that Magus might right a grievous wrong done to him! “A wrong you attribute to my doing?” Warlock retorts. “Who else?” Magus snaps back. Touching the Infinity Gauntlet – his left hand glove, laced with the six Infinity Gems – Magus declares that his vengeance is only moments away. Galactus is seeing that. He calculates that Galactus should just be finishing presenting his case to the Living Tribunal right about now.
In another dimension, the Living Tribunal announces he has heard Galactus’ words and has duly considered them. He now stands ready to pass judgment on Galactus’ appeal. Despite the grave peril their reality now faces, he stands by his ruling against the Infinity Gems being used as one. It was Eternity who first brought this matter to his attention and whom he ruled in favor of. Laws set forth from above declare that only he may now reverse that decision. The fact that he is now catatonic has no bearing to that ruling.
Galactus asks if it is Eternity, then, that he must plead his case to. Precisely, the Tribunal clarifies. Gamora retorts that the Eternity’s zoned out! Galactus realizes that’s a malady they must remedy before they continue; a task he dares not attempt alone. If the situation could be avoided, he would do so. As Gamora wonders what he’s talking about, Galactus cryptically replies he shall be the surgeon. whereas Gamora will be the scalpel. Beams of searing light are unleashed from his eyes, targeting Gamora. In shock, Gamora wonders what he’s doing. “A bonding,” Galactus explains.
Suddenly omnipotent, endowed with Galactus’ cosmic power, Gamora, against her will, dives inside the essence of the being known as Eternity. “Go forth, woman warrior,” Galactus encourages her. He tells her that this day she is a healer. Her patient: all reality.
Watching this latest development from his monitor, Magus boasts that even cosmic giants are unwitting slaves to his will without even being aware of his existence. A massive amount of the Cosmic Containment Units’ power was channeled to insure his anonymity. He gloats that he is the great unknown conqueror! Also, he sees in his monitor that poor Quasar can’t get his toy to work. “Won’t you be surprised when he finally figures it out,” Warlock taunts him. “Exceedingly so, seeing as how I’m blanketing the area with a harmonic that should block the Nullifier’s activation,” Magus retorts. He tells Adam that Quasar is not destined to be his savior; he’s already old news. He believes encasing Quasar within a block of sound light might be fitting!
He’s about to ask Warlock what he thinks of that when they are suddenly attacked by Doom and Kang, both flaunting their ray guns and firing at them. Warlock immediately recognizes Dr. Doom from the Infinity Gauntlet affair, but not his companion. Then, from out of dim memories of omnipotent grandeur, a name spring forth: Kang the Conqueror. Their intent is painfully obvious: universal salvation is not their goal. Warlock considers the situation and makes a choice: better to deal with a devil you know than two who are strangers. Surprisingly, he decides to fight side by side with Magus against Doom and Kang.
Suddenly, Magus realizes that the initial blast of their attackers hit his control console and deactivated the jamming signal; that damnable Nullifier that Quasar carries is now operational! It could destroy them all – even Magus! Just then, he is blasted from behind by Kang. “You fool!” he roars and attacks him again.
Outside the stronghold of the Magus, Quasar is still indecisive whether to activate the Nullifier. He tries to encourage himself to go on; he knows as much as he’s going to know about this infernal thing. Time to do or die – or, if he’s not careful, do and die! He knows he’s got to do this carefully. The destructive force in this baby is enough to make the Nega-bomb that destroyed the Kree Empire look like a firecracker! Steady now, he urges himself – or he’ll flush the entire universe down the tubes.
Inside the control room, the fight continues. “Away from me, you blundering miscreant!” Magus howls in contempt and pummels Kang, sending him flying across the room. He realizes the only hope he has is to reach the Containment Units and directly use their wish granting powers!
As Magus flees, Doom manages to finally neutralize Warlock with a blast, rendering him unconscious. Struggling to recover from the strike he just endured, Kang instructs Doom to go after Magus. Doom promises he will. But first… he believes Kang just barked his last order his way. He tells Kang he owes him for making him king of all reality! He insists that, unlike certain monarchs, he always pays his debts promptly… and with this, he mercilessly blasts Kang.
Flying rapidly across his base, Magus realizes he can’t worry about radiation effects now. He must reach the Cosmic Containers; that blasted Quasar could fire the Nullifier at any moment! “What?!” he suddenly screams in shock as he sees the Containment Units are gone. At loss, he wonders how they could have…
Appearing behind him, Doom blasts him, raw energy emanating from his hand, arguing that the time for such questions will come later; now, Magus must pay for the error of his ways!
Outside Magus’ fortress, Quasar, sweating from the effort, has activated the Nullifier. He can sense its power building. He knows he has to keep concentrating on his target, clear his mind of all thoughts except the Magus. He can’t let a single extraneous thought creep in or the sphere of ultimate nullification will grow and mushroom out of his control!
Elsewhere, Gamora exits the body of the Eternity and rejoins Galactus and the Tribunal. Galactus realizes the woman warrior has been successful in her quest. “Blast you, Galactus! You used me!” Gamora curses him. “As I would anyone to save my reality,” Galactus angrily retorts. Gamora, however, swears that someday she’ll make him pay for this humiliation. Galactus retorts that her bruised ego is of no import at the moment. Confronting Eternity, he asks the entity whether he can hear him. A smoldering star emerges in one of Eternity’s eyes.
In Magus’ palace, Warlock wakes up next to the lifeless Kang and tries to figure out what transpired. He suddenly hears the sound of ray blasts and powers his way through the base until he finds Doom towering over the humbled Magus. Before Warlock even has a chance to come closer, Doom turns around and blasts him; Warlock collapses to the floor. Struggling to overcome his daze, Magus wonders what happened to… Doom interjects: he demands that Magus hand over the Infinity Gauntlet – now. Doom extends his left hand, waiting for the Gauntlet. His face radiating with hatred, Magus proceeds to remove his Infinity Gems-laced glove. Doom asks him to remove the glove from his hand slowly – very slowly.
In the Dimension of Manifestations, Galactus and the Tribunal watch as Eternity struggles to utter his verdict: “Let… let… let… the…Gems…work…as…one…”, before he collapses once more. “So be it!” the Tribunal concedes and his eyes sparkle. The next moment, a blatant display of energy emanating from the Infinity Gauntlet marks its resurgence of power, much to the sheer joy of Magus, who wields it.
At that precise moment, Quasar is about to fully activate the Nullifier. Magus… this is for you! he contemplates, just as light gushes out frantically from Magus’ stronghold… and then Quasar suddenly fades away, much to his surprise, while the Nullifier is materialized in Magus’ open palm!
Now resting at a makeshift throne, conjured out of nothing, with Warlock crucified on an energy cross, the omnipotent Magus gloats. With a thought, he turned the universe’s most devastating weapon upon its bearer. His every whim is a mere urge away from reality. He realizes this is how it feels to be omnipotent; he finds it interesting – but it will get a bit of getting used to.
Magus revels in the thought he now enjoys the full power of each of the seven Gems:
Time – Every moment that ever was or will be cascades over me.
Space – I am wherever and everything.
Mind – The thoughts of all beings mix with my own.
Soul – Endless spirits wait for me to sculpt the clay of their essence.
Reality – Too much for me to even focus in on just yet.
Power – So much of it everywhere and all me!
Magus concludes that supremacy will obviously be an unending pleasure. Astounded, Warlock realizes that Magus is adapting to godhood much quicker than either Thanos or he did!
In Galactus’ ship, Nova informs the heroes that the long-range scanners show incredible energy fluctuations within the target dimension. Vision deduces that can only mean Galactus has succeeded in his mission; the Infinity Gauntlet has been revitalized. Thanos argues that only desperate measures now remain to them. Captain America asks him to hold on a moment… Thanos stresses they have no time to waste in argument! With every passing moment, the Magus becomes more and more adept at wielding the awesome power he now possesses. They must strike now while some confusion still burdens him.
Thanos uses his teleporting device to open a portal in space and announces he shall lead them all into the coming battle. Cap tells him not to bet on it. “Who then? You?” the Titan scowls. Cap reminds him they nearly took him down when he possessed the Gauntlet and he had plenty of time to get used to omnipotence. Thanos retorts that was a fluke and he had geared down his power levels. Wonder Man intervenes and advises Cap not to waste his breath with Thanos. “We’re all behind you,” he tells Cap. What blind fools, Thanos contemplates. Cap instructs them all to move straight through the teleportation portal and then spread out when they hit the other side.
The heroes comply… but, when they come out to the other side, they realize they’ve been teleported outside the Magus’ palace and are now surrounded by Magus’ army of countless monstrous doppelgangers! At once, the heroes begin fighting them. The Thing realizes the monsters were waiting for them! Realizing they’ve been ambushed, Wolverine roars “Where’s Thanos?” Vision exclaims it’s a trap! Captain America laments he waltzed them straight into it!
Back in the dimension of the relay transmitter, Thanos mocks the heroes: they were indeed blind fools to think he would lead them to anything other than bloody slaughter. So easily manipulated, he concludes; the species will be better off without them. While they keep the Magus’ forces busy out in the stronghold’s courtyard, Thanos will reset the teleporter’s coordinates to deposit himself just outside the Magus’ control room. He deduces the fledgling god should still be vulnerable to a carefully aimed and unexpected laser charge. Deep fried he won’t object to Thanos relieving him of the Infinity Gauntlet!
The Titan indeed teleports himself inside the stronghold of the Magus. He realizes he must move quickly. Before he even has time to think, he hears a voice behind him welcoming him. Thanos turns to face his own doppelganger. “How did you know?” a furious Thanos asks him. The Thanos doppelganger explains why: because it was exactly what he would do if he had been in this situation. This makes sense to Thanos: “Of course.” “What now?” he enquires his double.
The doppelganger is confident that his prototype possesses data that he would find useful. Thanos, in turn, is sure his doppelganger, too, has knowledge he could use; he knows the Magus like no other being does… but Thanos suspects this familiarity has bred no loyalty within his breast. The doppelganger admits he plans to betray Magus the first chance he gets. After all, he inherited his prototype’s dreams of universal domination. Thanos suggests they act immediately before Magus adjusts to his newfound might. “We?” the doppelganger questions aloud. He reminds Thanos there is only one Infinity Gauntlet… and he is no Earthborn fool. “No compromise?” Thanos realizes – very well. The two Titans begin fighting each other.
Elsewhere in the stronghold, Magus taunts Warlock. He tells him that whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you; Nietzsche knew exactly what he was talking about. The moment has come for Magus to eliminate his own personal abyss – Warlock!