Inside his fortress deep within China, the Mandarin exclaims ‘Witness my Avatars, sweet triumph’ as he stands over the powerless Iron Man, his arch foe. Several Avatars including Foundry, Q’wake, Warfist, Butterfly and Old Woman stand at their master’s side, as he declares that Iron Man is trapped in his own useless armor, humbled and helpless - the defeated enemy. Iron Man is slumped on the floor, and reminds his deadly foe that this is not the first time he has thought that, nor is it the first time the Mandarin will turn out to be wrong. The Mandarin holds up his ring-covered fingers and declares that he has not forgotten those humiliations - particularly the last and greatest, which scattered his rings of power to the four winds and cost him his hands.
Energy surges from the Mandarin’s rings and he boasts that those days are past. ‘By the will of the Gods, I have been granted new hands. With them, I have reclaimed my rings and shall soon seize the world!’ the Mandarin boasts. ‘Gods?’ Iron Man asks, remarking that he had suspected genetic mutation induced by exposure to the extraterrestrial energies contained within the rings. He adds that there is no way of telling what kind of power the alien dragons who created them used to - but the Mandarin is not interested and interrupts ‘SILENCE!’ he shouts as he casts energy at Iron Man, knocking him across the throne room.
Iron Man lands and the Mandarin approaches Iron Man, and remarks that once he too was a believer in science, like Iron Man. ‘I turned my back upon the wisdom of my ancestors, adopting the decadent ways of the west’ he explains, adding that time and time again that faith betrayed him, led him to defeat after defeat. ‘No more’ the Mandarin declares, adding that he has been re-made, that he has seen that technology only begets only ruin, and that it is his destiny to bring about the world’s salvation from its corruption. ‘My God…you’ve always been a megalomaniac, Mandarin - but now - you’ve finally snapped!’ Iron Man
‘FOOL!’ the Mandarin declares, blasting Iron Man across the throne room once more. Mandarin tells Iron Man that it is he who is the mad one. ‘And those like you - blind technocrats, soulless tinkerers with that which should be sacred’. The Mandarin announces that he has been chosen to lead mankind back to the harmony of the past, and to rule over the new Golden Age to come. ‘Rubbish’ Iron Man replies. He tells the Mandarin that the days of conquerors are long gone. ‘Even you can’t fight progress’ Iron Man adds. But the Mandarin tells Iron Man that he cannot conceive of the powers now at his disposal. ‘Observe’ he remarks before calling out to a servant, ordering him over.
The servant stands before the Mandarin, who remarks that fate itself led him here, to this ancient citadel which lies at the intersection of powerful lines of Feng-Shui, forces he has drawn upon to restore China to days of old, and to prohibit function of such unnatural devices as your vaunted armor within its borders. ‘Magic? You’ve never had any mystical expertise before -’ Iron Man begins. The Mandarin explains that all that is necessary is knowledge and power. ‘Both are contained in this Heart of Darkness’ he declares, standing before the mysterious Heart of Darkness, he plunges his hand in to it.
Energy swirls around as the Mandarin, who declares that it possesses far more than the simple teleportation powers that Iron Man has already witnessed. ‘For millennia, it has awaited my coming - for the hand fast enough to pluck from it its secrets - for the mind fast enough to comprehend its meaning - for the will strong enough to grasp its power - and in so grasping, mold. Shape. Create’. The Mandarin pulls from the Heart of Darkness some energy, and shapes it into a mask. ‘to, for instance, make basic clay into a repository for a primal force of nature - to transform a worthless peasant - into an Avatar!’
The Mandarin places the mask on the servant, and energy surges around him, as the servant is indeed transformed. ‘Behold, Turmoil, living incarnation of the storm!’ the Mandarin boasts. ‘With him and his brethren at my command, I shall forge this world a new!’ the Mandarin exclaims, adding that all that Iron Man stands for, al that he is, shall be purged. The Mandarin fires both heat and cold rays at Iron Man. With all of his systems down, he cannot take much more of this. Iron Man knows that the Mandarin still has six rings that he has not used yet. Iron Man falls to the ground once more, and the Mandarin looms over him. ‘But first - the final triumph!’ he booms, before telling his Avatars to begone, as this moment is his alone.
‘When you die - you will do it nakedly, your features exposed - so that I may treasure the memory of your agonies in the years to come’ the Mandarin tells Iron Man as he uses a disintegrator beam to slice away at Iron Man’s face-plate. The Mandarin’s spindly fingers caress Iron Man’s helmet and he declares that all these long years Iron Man has cheated him of the pleasure of witnessing his moments of pain and anguish by hiding behind an emotionless mask. ‘Now, at last…I will have that satisfaction!’ the Mandarin exclaims, wide-eyed and smiling as the entire helmet and mask is removed.
‘All right. Blast you, take a good look’ Iron Man retorts. ‘But I swear you’ll get nothing out of me - except a face-full of spit!’ The Mandarin smirks and strokes his beard. ‘So...just as I often suspected, Anthony Stark was the one true Iron Man. How…fitting’ the Mandarin remarks as he eyes up Tony. The Mandarin wraps his hands around Tony’s neck and declares that in both of his guises, Tony is the embodiment of all that must be destroyed. The Mandarin adds that he and Tony are linked by the strands of fate. ‘We are yin and yang, east and west, black science and mystic purity. The living…and the dying!’ he declares as he smacks Tony against a wall, and laughs loudly as Tony appears unconscious.
Elsewhere in China, ‘Jackals!’ the alien Century shouts. ‘You are without honor! Your brutal pillage / rape / slaughter of this village ends NOW!’ Century exclaims, before uttering something in an alien language as something overtakes him. He is surrounded by several Chinese soldiers, and tells himself ‘No! Not again!’, urging himself to hold back the weakness / nausea / sickness. He knows he must ignore the memories. He punches a soldier in the head, and tells himself that he cannot afford another attack of that strange dementia.
Century wonders where War Machine is, when suddenly, behind him, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, in his re-modelled War Machine armor slices his way through some soldiers. ‘Coming through! Got your back, Century!’ War Machine calls out as he proves proficiently skilled with a sword, and comes to Century’s aid. Century thanks War Machine, who replies ‘Later for that. If we make it outta this one -’, when suddenly, the warriors all come to stand still when a voice booms ‘HALT, warriors!’ Century and War Machine turn and see a new arrival, on horseback. ‘Cease this battle!’ he demands. ‘What’s this @#*%!?’ War Machine asks. ‘Indeterminate / puzzling / unknown. But possible fortuitous’ Century replies.
‘You got something to say, chief?’ War Machine asks the soldier on the horse. The chief announces that he would prefer such warriors as they at his back rather than his throat. ‘Yeah, well, see, we got a little problem with your boss, the Mandarin’ War Machine remarks. ‘Feh! As the great-grandson of Puyi, last true emperor of China, I have no love for that pretender to the throne of Kahn’ the chief explains. ‘All right…we’re listening…’ War Machine tells him.
Back in the Mandarin’s fortress, Tony sweats profusely, and he knows that the anti-technology field is interfering with his artificial nervous system, as it is techno-organic, it is somehow resistant, otherwise he knows he would be dead. However the technology is degrading progressively, and soon irreversibly. Tony’s armor is a dead-weight, he has to get it off and find a way to get clear of the anti-tech field. ’Blast you, Mandarin!’ Tony shouts as the Mandarin appears before him. ’If I wasn’t trapped in this useless suit I’d -’ Tony begins, but the Mandarin interrupts: ‘You’d what?’ he asks. ‘Without your vaunted armor, you’re nothing - scarcely worth the effort of killing!’ the Mandarin declares as he blasts Iron Man once more.
It is a disintegrator beam and it cuts away at Tony’s armor, just as he had hoped. Tony falls to the floor again, and the Mandarin stands over him, remarking that Tony has been an honorable foe, and as such, deserves an honorable death. ‘Man to man?’ Tony asks as he gets to his feet. ‘No armor, no rings?’ Tony suggests. The Mandarin walks over to him and declares that, for this, he only needs his hands, and smacks Tony aside with ease. Tony gets up and lunges at the Mandarin, who ducks. ‘What a pathetic creature you are!’ the Mandarin booms as he punches Tony again and again and again. ‘Deprived of the crutch of your technology - a pale worm unable to defend itself against -’ the Mandarin declares, but Tony regains himself, and gets up, interrupting the Mandarin, ‘A superstitious madman - who talks too much!’ Tony booms as he punches the Mandarin hard in the face.
‘You arrogant…DOG!’ the Mandarin shouts as he knocks Tony back with ease. ‘I thought to grant you a clean death - but your insolence has cost you that. Now you will suffer - until you beg for my mercy!’ the Mandarin commands as he attacks Tony over and over again. Tony slams against a column. ‘Out of the frying pan. Into the fire’ Tony tells himself, before uttering ‘Beg, Mandarin? Never’.
Meantime, in the skies just above the Mandarin’s fortress, on board the Pegasus Hex-Ship, Force Works’ state-of-the-art aircraft. ‘It’s no good. Power’ gone, control’s dead!’ Johnny Walker a.k.a. the heroic USAgent announces as he does his best to control the falling Hex-Ship. The Scarlet Witch a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff and Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter are tossed about, while their bizarre associate, the Recorder, lies motionless thanks to the same anti-tech field that has struck the Hex-Ship. Walker tells the girls to fasten their seatbelts, as it is dead-stick time. ‘Here goes nothing - c’mon, Agent, don’t screw it up’ Walker tells himself as he concentrates hard on pulling the Hex-Ship up.
Inside, the Mandarin punches Tony in the face again, smacks his hand into Tony’s neck, and punches him in the stomach. The attack is brutal. ‘Doesn’t matter…others will fight you…after I’m gone. You can’t -’ Tony begins, but the Mandarin kicks him in the face, smacking him over. ‘And they too shall fall before me. It is the will of destiny that all that you and those like you have built - shall come crashing down!’ the Mandarin exclaims.
As if on cue, the Hex-Ship crashes into the fortress in spectacular display. USAgent emerges from it. ‘Haa!’ he declares, before discovering that his photon shield will not work. ‘Swell’ he mutters as several Chinese soldiers race towards him. ‘Scarlet Witch! Spider-Woman! Incoming!’ he calls out, but gets no response. ‘Okay. Gonna be like this then’ John tells himself, before grinning as the soldiers get closer to him. ‘All right, you primitive screw heads - who’s first?’ Johnny declares.
In his throne room, the Mandarin hears commotion coming from the floors above him. ‘It would seem - I have more pressing matters to attend to. And so, we must bring this dance to an abrupt end’ the Mandarin announces. Tony lies motionless before him, and the Mandarin reaches down to cover his face with his spindly fingers. ‘I have entertained myself long enough. Now, my oldest enemy, you die…at the hands of the Mandarin!’