Twenty-one lie dead among the ruins – twenty-one heroes blown to pieces by a bolt from the blue. Captain America, Thor, Wasp, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Professor Charles Xavier, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Magneto, Mister Fantastic, Thing, Human Torch, Hulk, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman… all are but carrion now. Blood oozing from the mangled remains of their flesh sizzles across the smoldering debris of their once-mighty fortress.
From a distant peak, denizens of the alien village, which once served as refuge to the heroes, witness the smoke spreading across the sky. Zsaji, the healer, who so often in recent days mended the heroes’ wounds and eased their pain, remembers the gentle caress of Colossus, who loved her so. She wonders if he is beyond her power now – dead and gone forever. She fears the worst.
Hundreds of miles away, in the fastness of a tower which probes the very fringes of space dwells the author of the carnage: Doctor Doom. Klaw asks him if it’s over: are they dead? Doom confirms they’re dead. And now? Klaw asks him. Now, Doom informs him, once again he shall draw the power in… contain in… seal it up safely within the depths of his being. “God’s might in a can! Thus, Doom is just another man!” Klaw remarks. “But why?” he asks him. Doom explains that, lest in a casual moment, a casual flick of his little finger might blacken a star system, or wipe out an intergalactic civilization. Lest, like Vishnu, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” He points out that the universe is too fragile. Klaw pities him: poor Doom! Such power, such weight upon his shoulders!
As Doom rests in a sofa, Klaw repeats that Doom’s power is bottled up. Now all the people on all the worlds can breathe easy and relax… and so can Doom. “Yes… now that my enemies are dead…” Doom remarks. Klaw asks him if he’s sure they’re dead. That’s what he said, but… Doom angrily demurs that of course they’re dead! They must be dead!
Meanwhile, several million miles away, a six-square-mile chunk of Earth hurtles through space. About a week ago, this suburb of Denver, Colorado was stolen from the Earth and transported trillions of miles to become part of the patchwork planet below, assembled by the Beyonder as a Battleworld. But, hours ago, it was ripped from the planet by the awesome power of Molecule Man who means to take it home.
In the modest apartment of Volcana, where various super-criminals reside, the Enchantress, supreme sorceress of Asgard, locks herself in the bathroom. Filling the tub with water, she remarks that it’s so convenient that the Molecule Man made this mortal contrivance work again. She then summons an elemental. The elemental – a vaguely feminine form – arises from the water.
The Enchantress requires information to plan her next move. First, she asks the elemental to tell her what she knows of the Beyonder. The water elemental finds it a tough question. If she answers, will the Enchantress grant her the power to walk through fields of flowers as mortals do? The Enchantress warns her to answer or she will freeze her solid! The elemental complies and begins giving her answer.
She explains she was gossiping with some otherworld spirit-essences a little – some of them know just about everything – and this is what she heard: In his realm, the Beyonder was everything and everything was him… and he was content. But, by chance, an event in their own universe opened a pinhole into the Beyonder’s beyond-realm… and through the pinhole he glimpsed the Earth. For the first time in his existence, the Beyonder became curious. So, he began to observe. For years, he watched the Earth. One thing confounded him above all else: this incompleteness beings of our universe seem to have… this thing called “desire!”
So, the Beyonder set about to study it. He sought subjects. His eye, naturally, was caught by beings of great power, presence… and palpable desire. Like the mighty Enchantress! So he reached right into the very golden realm of the gods and snatched the Enchantress right in the middle of an evil scheme to conquer Asgard and seduce noble Thor! The Enchantress warns her to tell her more of what she does not know… or she will suffer a rather… arid fate.
The water elemental goes on to explain that the Beyonder chose only a handful of beings from among hundreds he’d observed… like candles from a tray. Some he simply seized… some he simply opened the door for… and they came of their own free will. Those ones really puzzled him: can you imagine a total outsider trying to make sense of the way superheroes behave? Once he had his subjects, he sorted them according to the nature of their desires. That’s why Magneto ended up with Captain America’s group. Magneto’s desires seemed like theirs and unlike the personal desires of the others… of people like the Enchantress.
So, anyway, the Beyonder began his experiment by issuing his challenge. Sure enough, war broke out. But while everyone else was fighting on the planet below, Doctor Doom managed to get into the Beyonder’s realm, where he attacked the Beyonder himself. And Doom won, the Enchantress correctly surmises. The elemental confirms that he did… and stole the Beyonder’s power. Not long after that, the Molecule Man decided to rip this chunk up and fly it and everybody on it back to Earth. And here they are: the end! She politely asks the Enchantress if she can go down the drain now.
The sorceress points out that the elemental has rapport with every puddle, basin of water, every cloud… She asks her to tell her what transpires back upon Battleworld now. The elemental wonders if she’s flipped; she can’t do that! “Why, you brush little strumpet…!” the Enchantress hisses and grabs the elemental by its equivalent of hair. The elemental begs for mercy; she just doesn’t have the power to reach that far! “Oh, I’ll give you power, impudent one!” the Enchantress grunts and shoves the elemental inside the tub.
The water in the tub begins to churn and boil, and in the seething liquid, images take shape. The eyes of the Enchantress widen as events of the recent past are revealed. She witnesses the cataclysmic destruction of the heroes – even noble Thor, prince of the gods in her homeland, Asgard. Relaxing in his sanctum even now, she sees the nigh-omnipotent Doom, who so effortlessly caused that sudden slaughter. And she coaxes forth an image which shows his next goal: invading the realm of the dread demon Mephisto to free his mother’s captive spirit. A shudder rolls down her spine.
Suddenly, someone knocks on the door. The Absorbing Man asks her if she fell in! He angrily reminds her that some of them are not immortal! The Enchantress tells him to have patience; a few moments more! Pulling the elemental out of the tub, she asks her one last question: is the Beyonder dead? The elemental replies he isn’t. He is close to Doom, but too weak to act. He is hiding where Doom would never suspect, awaiting an opportunity… a moment of vulnerability.
Seconds later, the Enchantress exits the bathroom. “It’s about time!” the Absorbing Man grumps. He contemplates that he heard her talking to somebody in there… and she looks different than usual… scared maybe. He wonders what of. Women…!
At that moment, in the living room, the Lizard flips out. He wants out of this humans’ nest; he must be in swamp! He hates humans! Bulldozer suggests they kill this overgrown salamander! Volcana uses her fire blasts to prevent them from coming close to the Lizard and tells them to leave him alone. She warns the Wrecking Crew members to watch it. The Lizard doesn’t mean any harm… he’s just confused. Gently caressing the Lizard’s head, she realizes that nobody understands him. He tells him not to worry, they’ll be home soon.
Such idiocy, Doctor Octopus snarls. Don’t they realize the odds against their ever reaching Earth? An ant dropped in the middle of Sahara would get a better chance of getting to Hawaii! If, by some miracle, they’re headed in the right direction, it’d take them a billion lifetimes to make the trip from here! Volcana insists that Owie will get them home! Why can’t Octopus just have faith? “Faith?! In that… that little…” an exasperated Octopus snaps and crashes his tentacles through the outer walls of the apartment.
Molecule Man suddenly shows up and asks what the problem is. Octavio is surprised to see him. Volcana asks Owen where he’s been. Out practicing matter-energy conversion, Owen explains. It’s like Doom said… he can do anything. He asks Octopus if he’s upset about something. Octavius confirms he’s upset. He’d rather take his chance on Battleworld than die of old age on this rock while wandering blindly, endlessly through space! Doesn’t the Molecule Man understand? Even travelling near lightspeed, it’d take them billions of years to reach Earth. They’ve only gone a few million miles so far… they’re not even out of sight of Battleworld.
True, Owen admits, but he really can take them home. Doom thinks it’s impossible – and he believes the Molecule Man knows it. Molecule Man promises he’ll show him, if Octopus gives him a chance. “Show me what?” Octopus demands to know. “You’ll see!” Owen insists. “I’d better see…” Octopus grunts. Owen promises he will.
Amidst the commotion, Volcana hears a voice in her head that summons her… she cannot resist… the Lizard is the only one to notice her departure. Moments later, in a glen nearby, Volcana is surprised to find herself in that location. The Enchantress explains that she summoned her. The time has come to repay the debt Volcana owes her. She reminds her of their bargain. Volcana asked to be transported to her lover’s side, and she offered the Enchantress anything in return. Now it is the Enchantress who has need, for she has learned that the fates of all beings – gods, men and demons alike – are imperiled at this moment. She must return to Asgard immediately to warn her people. However, the distance is too great. She needs more power to teleport so far. Draining Volcana’s life-force shall afford her that power – killing, of course, Volcana! Volcana screams as the sorceress begins working her magic on her. A mystic covenant is binding; she cannot resist. “Prepare to die, sow!” the Enchantress tells her.
Elsewhere, the villains are standing outside Volcana’s building. Molecule Man indicates to the sky and tells Octopus to look. Octopus is confused: look at what? Then he realizes there are stars in the sky… but the Beyonder destroyed all the stars! Owen explains he just reconstructed them and reignited them! It was easy! He can do anything with matter and energy. He’s learning how to do spacewarps, too. That’s how he popped into Marsha’s living room so suddenly before. With just a little more practice…
“No!” Octopus snaps at him. He believes Molecule Man is lying; it can’t be true! His tentacles remove a large chunk of granite and hurl it against Owen. Owen manipulates a part of the concrete to shield himself from the attack. Octopus demands he admits it: it’s a trick! Owen asks him to take it easy! Octopus insists that no one makes a fool of him and promises he will kill him! “That does it!” an indignant Molecule Man snaps and manipulates the concrete under Octopus’ feet, ensnaring him in it.
Owen thinks Otto is not a well man. As soon as they get back, he’s going to deliver him – gift-wrapped – to the authorities. With any luck, they’ll put him into a nice institution for the criminally insane. It’s really for his own good; a good therapist can work wonders. “Isn’t that right, Marsha?” he remarks. Just then, the Lizard reveals that Volcana is gone – the witch-woman has taken her! But the Lizard knows the taste of Volcana’s scent and he will help Owen search for her!
Meanwhile, the Enchantress’ ritual is underway. Volcana wonders in agony how the sorceress can do this to her; how can she be so cruel? The Enchantress clarifies that Volcana’s life is forfeit in a noble cause. Doom means to invade Mephisto’s realm… and then, who knows? Golden Asgard itself may be next. She is no almsgiver… still, she is an Asgardian. She has a duty to her kind, to all-father Odin, and indeed, to life itself. Volcana’s time has come!
Suddenly, the Molecule Man and the Lizard lunge at her. Owen demands she stop that! “By the Norns… no!” the Enchantress growls. Molecule Man orders the Lizard to get her! The Enchantress drops Volcana, while cursing the two men: they know not what they do! She must away… to the only place within reach! Seeing her teleporting away, Volcana asks her lover to stop her! It is too late – still, the Lizard jumps at her and vanishes in a puddle of light, along with the Enchantress. The Lizard is bent on revenge: the Enchantress tried to hurt Volcana, so she must die!
Split-seconds later, the Lizard and the Enchantress rematerialize on Battleworld. The Lizard immediately claws the sorceress’ face. “Curse you, vermin!” the Enchantress screams and smacks him away. Restoring her beauty will cost her dearly in pain and sorcerous power. But this affront shall cost him dearly, as well. She needs no covenant, no consent, to rip away the life-force of a lower creature. His base existence is forfeit!
With that, she drains his life-force and wishes the dust of his rotting corpse to curse the ground it touches! And may the vile energies of his life-force prove to be enough! She realizes it’s uncertain… yet she must try. Struggling to concentrate for teleportation, she wishes she is taken to Asgard… or perhaps to death in the icy void. May Odin help her…
At that moment, in the tower of Doom, the Latverian doses on his sofa. Klaw slyly creeps towards him, his eyes glowing strangely. Just then, Doom gasps and wakes up. He realizes he nearly fell asleep and chides his servant: he told him not to let him fall asleep! Doesn’t Klaw realize what might happen if he slept? The power might rise… Controlled only by Doom’s subconscious, his dreams, it might throw all reality into chaos, or even cause the destruction of the universe. Or maybe he’d even accidentally revive the heroes, Klaw innocently grins. That could happen, couldn’t it? It’s not beyond Doom’s power, is it?
Not yet, Doom replies while cleaning his face with water from a bowl. He urges Klaw to speak to him no more of the heroes; they are dead! If Doom didn’t recreate them somewhere along the lines without realizing it, Klaw insists. Doom stresses he did not. He is in full control of his power. He knows what he has done… and whom he has undone. Klaw reveals there’s another way. “Another way they might yet live?” Doom wonders. Curious, he asks what it is. Klaw, being master of sound, decides to make 3-D images from solidified sound-energy. He’ll use them to act it out for Doom. It will be a play! Doom urges him to go on.
Klaw begins his visual demonstration of what has transpired. Doom watches, seated comfortably on his sofa. He first sees the healer Zsaji, as she witnesses the destruction. Hopping a cab, or what passes for one in her culture – a high-flying creature, she rushes to the scene, where she finds the gory remains of the bodies of the victims. Straining her healing power to the utmost – it’s really just a matter of moving energy – she feeds lie-force into each tattered piece of carrion she finds. All she can accomplish is to put into the stasis the cellular-level life which lingers, preserving the victims at the grey fringes of utter non-existence.
Finally, she discovers the body of her lover, Colossus – irretrievably dead by normal, human standards, yet less damaged than the rest. Captain America had warned him that a bolt from the blue might strike them dead, so he instinctively shifted into his armored form at the last instant. Zsaji pours her energy into him and succeeds in bringing him back from the very threshold of ultimate death. Made whole again, Colossus opens his eyes to see Zsaji breathe her last. Drained of every iota of her life-force, now, she dies in his arms.
But not for long. Though grief-stricken, Colossus knows what he must do. He locates the corpse of Mister Fantastic. Richards’ body, like Colossus’, is less shredded than the rest, due to its elastic nature. He takes what there is of it to the fortress’ medical chambers, where the healing machines are. He’s seen Richards operate them… and he manages to make one work. Thus, Reed Richards is restored. Working feverishly, Richards uses the alien technology of the fortress to invent and build a massive cell-regeneration device. Using it, he tries to save his comrades… and succeeds. And they’re on their way her right now! The end… maybe, Klaw finishes his enactment as he sports a mischievous grin.
Clenching his teeth with sudden fear, Doom protests what Klaw said is absurd. That couldn’t happen; the odds are impossible! Perhaps, Klaw remarks. But maybe Doom sort of helped things along. Maybe he secretly, subconsciously, wanted them to survive… to rise from the ashes and live again. Doom accuses him he speaks madness. Klaw asks him why he didn’t atomize them, then. The old blow-em-apart-with-a-bolt-from-the-blue trick suits Doom’s flair for the dramatic, but there must be dozens of super ways to kill them.
Doom insists he killed them surely enough. The mad scenario Klaw suggests is sheer nonsense. Klaw proposes an easy way to make sure: Doom could just turn the power on again and use his godlike omniscience to check on them. Doom gives in and decides to do so. However, seeing Doom pause with an expression of fear and uncertainty on his face, Klaw urges him to go ahead.
“Curse you, Klaw!” Doom snaps and hurls a pot from the table against him. Now that Klaw has told him his wretched tale, Doom may make it come true if he lets the power rise. His merest stray thought, the slightest doubt might alter reality! But if he does not let the power rise and refresh himself, eventually he shall grow weary and fall asleep. And then…?
He realizes this is madness! He must drive these thoughts, these doubts, from his mind. He repeats to himself: they are dead. And yet… how many times in the past has he thought that Reed Richards was dead? And if there were one man who might overcome the odds is it not Captain America? “No… no…” he grunts and again tries to convince himself that they are dead!
However, just then his claim is contradicted as the hammer Mjolnir crashes through the tower and soars above his head! “Then, again…” Klaw smiles wickedly at the sight of this. Doom immediately recognizes the hammer of Thor! He realizes they live! It is true! It happened! He must the power rise and destroy them again! As he allows the power to rise and flow from him, blazing flames manifest all around him and the entire Battleworld is engulfed in terrifying forces of energy which threaten to rip it apart. Klaw realizes in terror that Doom’s power is running amok!
“Close… very close!” a horrified Doom realizes as he immediately withdraws his fearsome power and puts it in check again. He nearly destroyed all reality. The power ran wild. He was barely able to rein it in! His mind is churning… thoughts racing… making difficult to govern the power. Klaw urges him to calm down and relax. He suddenly comes up with an idea: he will destroy the heroes for Doom. “You?” Doom asks in disbelief. Klaw cheerfully suggests that Doom just give him some of his power, and he will do it. In the meantime, Doom can take it easy!
Very well, the glowing Doom concurs. He tells Klaw to touch his hand. “Oh boy!” Klaw squeals with excitement. His and Doom’s pointers touch in their tips. “More! More!” Klaw encourages him. “Enough!” Doom barks and withdraws his finger. He has given him an infinitesimal micro-fraction of his strength. Enough to blacken ten thousand suns… far more than enough to slay them! He urges him to go and fight, while Doom himself will once again contain the power and compose himself.
At that moment, outside the tower, Cap spearheads the attack of the assembled heroes. Judging from the incredible upheaval they just saw, Reed surmises that Thor’s hammer got Doom’s attention. He instructs Thor to hit him again, quick! Spider-Man goes ahead of everyone and warns them that his spider-sense just kicked into overdrive. Something awesomely dangerous this way comes! Cap tells them to look alive and be ready for anything!
An enormous three-eyed monster with forked tongue suddenly materializes at the tower’s entrance and bellows at them. The Thing wonders where in the blazes that came from! Cap urges them to hit it… hard and fast! Further below the monster, Klaw is elated. Instead of just sound images, he can now create real things. He decides he’ll make an army of weird creatures. But first, he resolves to revive Ultron!
Indeed, by his will, Ultron becomes alive again – as alive as robots get anyway! He reminds the newly resurrected Ultron that he used to be Doom’s bodyguard. Now, Klaw gives him a promotion to captain of Doom’s army. His mission is to wipe out the attacking heroes. His army will be along any minute… but Ultron can go ahead and start without them. Ultron snarls that he needs no army! Maybe not, but you will have one anyway, Klaw cackles and generates an array of gigantic monsters.
The epic battle between the heroes and Klaw’s abominations begins. One of the monsters, a blue, medium-sized monster, jumps on the Thing. Ben, cocky as usual, promises he will ram the creature’s head and his tailpipe and…
Suddenly, he realizes in horror he’s losing his strength: he’s changing back to his human form, back to Ben Grimm! Seeing him in trouble, She-Hulk urges him to get out of here; she will hold this creature off! Indignant, Ben screams that this can’t happen now! He won’t let it! Taxing himself to his limits, he managed to reverse the change and fully return to his Thing form again, much to She-Hulk’s amazement! She didn’t think he could do that! Ben admits he couldn’t before, but he just did it – and he then pummels the Bejesus out of his assailant.
Ben tells Jennifer that ever since he came to this planet, he’s been flip-flopping without wanting to. Something about here must make that possible. But whatever it is… he can control it now! He knows it! Moved by this realization, he begins to cry like a baby. Startled, She-Hulk doesn’t know what to say. Ben tells her to just keep clobbering.
Nearby, Hulk wallops Ultron. He finds that Ultron was once a walking junkpile, but now he’s just junk! Nothing could survive a punch like that! Ultron is incredulous: Hulk managed to damage him… but not nearly enough. He responds with a blast concentrated on Hulk’s left leg. As Hulk screams and clutches his aching leg, Iron Man, Spider-Woman, Wasp and Wolverine cut in and engage Ultron. Iron Man tells Hulk to hang on. They’ll bust this clown up for him in no time. Wasp, who has had prior experience with Ultron, warns them not to grapple him: he’s too strong! “Now she tells us!” Iron Man exclaims as Ultron repels them all with a beam. Ultron promises that his next beam will vaporize them! But before he is able to proceed, he unexpectedly blows up before their eyes! Iron Man deduces that maybe his warranty has just now expired!
“Don’t be silly! It was pretty little me!” Janet reveals as she emerges from the remnants of Ultron. She got inside the space created when the Hulk dented Ultron a little and just started yanking wires. “Heads up!” Iron Man cautions them. They aren’t out of the woods yet – there’s more of these things! Indeed, one of the giant monsters tries to squash them with its foot – the heroes barely escape being splattered.
As the battle continues, Cap realizes this is hopeless. They’ll never win, unless he can get past these catspaws and carry the fight to Doom himself. As he makes his way across the battlefield, he finally reaches Klaw. Klaw knows what he’s thinking, but warns Cap that he’ll never pass him. He wields power beyond Cap’s imagining now! Cap defiantly retorts that power doesn’t impress him. “Out of my way, Klaw!” he growls as he maneuvers around him with impressive agility and kicks him hard in the face. With Klaw is seemingly knocked out, Cap hurriedly rushes into the tower. A moment later, Klaw stops faking his unconsciousness and rises, a devilish smile on his face. “Perfect, erfect, erfect…” he happily chants.
Seconds later, deep within the tower, Cap storms inside Doom’s leisure room and addresses the Latverian. Doom is less than shocked: if one among Cap’s group could get this far, it would of course be Cap himself. It does not matter, of course, that he has won his way in here. There is nothing Captain America can do to harm him – no way in all the infinite universe that a mere mortal could conquer one who is omnipotent. Cap rejoins that he wouldn’t be so sure about that. After all… Doom did conquer the Beyonder. And why would Doom have gone through the trouble of killing them in the first place, unless he was afraid!
“Enough!” Doom cuts him short. Cap shall not conquer him! He tells him to behold, as he lets the infinite power, the power which makes him supreme and invincible, rise. “…And let the universe beware…” he utters as he begins glowing more and more, the power surging through him. Perfect, a satisfied Klaw whispers as he secretly watches the scene from a distance. “Die, Avenger!” Doom howls as he blasts the assaulting Captain America… and reduces him to ashes. Doom stands triumphant: Cap is atomized; gone forever. Now, he must calm the raging storm in his soul… bring order to his thoughts, lest the random spillage of power cosmic caused by his inner unrest cause the unthinkable!
“Oh… no… no!” he screams suddenly as he sees emerging alive and well at a different part of the room and lunging at him. “You… you must die… and stay dead!” a terrified Doom shrieks and blasts him again to smithereens. Yet again, Cap materializes in another part of the room and renews his attack. “This is it, Doom…!” Cap exclaims as he maneuvers around Doom’s blasts.
Doom suddenly crumbles, without even being touched by Cap. Steve realizes he’s fighting another battle inside, to control his endless power. Has his winning this fight meant that the loser of Doom’s inner conflict is the universe?! Seeing Doom glowing and flipping out, he warns him he’s losing touching with reality; he needs an anchor! Extending his hand to him, Cap offers to help him. He begs him to let him help before it’s too late! “Too late? No, no, no…!” Klaw snickers as he watches this – the time is just right! A strange glow rises in his eyes.
And then, eerily, silently, the shimmering radiance that is all that remains of the once-omnipotent Beyonder issues forth, exiting the body of Klaw. A sphere of raw energy in the center of the room, the Beyonder reclaims his power with sudden savageness, absorbing it back from Doom. Doom instantly collapses. Klaw asks his master to forgive him. The Beyonder took over his body! He used Klaw’s guile, his wits, his cunning to engineer this! Klaw realizes it was he who set Doom up for this and asks his master’s forgiveness!
The Beyonder – still an impersonalized shape of energy floating amidst them – changes Doom back to his original form. Klaw realizes what this means for Doom: the scars in his face will return. “Out of my way, stupid!” he shoves Cap aside and rushes to Doom’s aid. He must be with his master! But then, the Beyonder engulfs both Klaw and the senseless Doom in blazing light and they both vanish. Shocked, Cap realizes they are both gone.
Soon, Cap exits the tower and rejoins the heroes. Reed informs him they drove Klaw’s creatures away and everyone’s all right. He asks him what happened in here. For the moment, it’s over, Cap replies. He promises to tell them the whole story later. Right now, they should get back at Doombase, where they have some important business.
A bit later, the heroes pay their respects to a newly-built grave for the fallen Zsaji. Colossus silently kneels before the tombstone, bidding his beloved farewell. As they begin to leave, Kurt asks him if he’s coming. He begs him to come; there is nothing more… Logan tells Kurt to cool it and leave Piotr alone. They begin to leave.
Soon, inside Doombase, Reed announces he’s got a lot a work to do in the lab if he’s going to find a way to get them home. For a while, everyone else might as well just relax. Spider-Man admits he’s starved and decides to find himself a snack. “You heard the man, everybody! Free time!” Cap dismisses them.
Spidey soon finds the good old pantry: alien food never looked so… edible, anyway. As he begins to eat it, he wonders why all this interplanetary fruit look like eggplant. If he had to choose right now between peace on Earth and a big Mac it would be close! At least, with this nifty new costume, he doesn’t have to take his mask off to eat. It just opens up where and when he orders it to!
Shortly after finishing his meal, he begins snooping around, until he hears voices from a room. He wonders what all the ruckus is. Maybe they’ve got a super TV in there that’s picking up the Muppets! When he enters the room, he comes across the costume making machine and a handful of heroes.
Storm and Professor Xavier are having an argument. Storm assumed that, once they returned to Earth, she would once again function as leader of the team. Xavier reassures her she shall… generally speaking. However, now that he is no longer confined to a wheelchair, he sees no reason not to occasionally assume a more active… and yes, combat-leadership role! That being the case, he considers it prudent to be appropriately attired! Ororo scoffs him: this is a game to him, still! She reminds him their lives are on their line.
Spider-Man notices something odd: they didn’t use the same machine he did when he made his outfit. He asks Human Torch and She-Hulk if their new duds do tricks, like respond to their thoughts. Johnny explains they’re just clothes. Spidey wonders why his own costume responds to his thoughts.
Meanwhile, in the lab, Reed has strapped a brace around Hulk’s wounded leg. He wishes he could use one of the healing machines to repair Hulk’s leg, but his gamma level seems to have risen sharply, lately. He’s afraid it would short out the machines. The crutch and leg brace should help him get around until he heals naturally, though. It’s the best he can do! Hulk naturally grouses.
Moments later, in a nearby corridor, Hawkeye across the staggering Hulk. Clint comments that it looks like Reed fixed him up pretty good. “What a guy, huh?” he speaks admiringly of Reed. He also showed Clint how to use some fabricating machines to make some new arrows! Bruce tells him to get out of his way and shut up! Clint realizes that Hulk has changed significantly in the past few days. He thinks Bruce is losing it… becoming totally savage and out of control again. He hopes he’s wrong. Maybe he’d make himself a few more arrows, some really heavy-duty ones – just in case!
Later, most of the heroes rest in a room, when suddenly a man, naked from the waist up, enters. Johnny wonders who that is. “Never mind that…!” Cyclops exclaims – where did he come from? Spider-Man recognizes Dr. Kurt Connors – the Lizard’s human form. He asks him what happened. Connors isn’t exactly certain. He woke up lying in a crater a few miles from here. He doesn’t remember how he got there – but he knows that the Lizard persona was somehow sucked out of him; it’s gone! He then saw this fortress and came here. Then – it’s strange – doors seemed to open almost magically for him, as if sensing that he wanted in… Peter finds that’s strange, but is still glad that Dr. Connors is here and okay.
Nightcrawler remarks that it’s good Dr. Connors found them before they departed this world forever. How horrible it would be to be stranded here. That reminds him – he wishes Kitty’s dragon would return.
Out of the blue, Kitty’s dragon does return at that particular moment, soaring cheerfully above their heads, in the company of another, similarly sized, green, female dragon. Rogue welcomes Lockheed and wonders where he’s been; they’ve been worried about him! Wolverine notices that, whatever Lockheed’s been up to, he’s managed to find time for some R and R with a local chippie! He teasingly asks Lockheed who his friend is.
Astounded, Steve tells Reed who has just entered the room that two amazing things just happened. Reed assures him he knows – and he thinks he knows why. He suspects it’s the same reason his lab work has been going so well lately. He believes that this “wish-fulfillment” phenomenon they’ve been experiencing is an after-effect of the battle against Doom. The planet itself seems to have been charged with residual energy which seems to respond to strong desire, or force of will. “Fallout!” Wolverine remarks. Something like that, Reed responds. Just then, Cap hastily departs from the room. Storm wonders where he’s going. Rogue doesn’t know, but he looks like a man with a mission!
Later, alone in his dimly lit chamber, Cap carefully arranges the shards of his legendary shield on his table – shards painstakingly sifted, one by one, from mounds of dust and debris, till every last splinter was accounted for. It was the product of a freak metallurgical accident, a metallic disc of unknown composition and unique properties, utterly impervious to any force or instrument which humans comprehend. But now it lies before him like a wounded friend. How many times has it saved his life? And now, its useful life is at an end, for no fire could melt it, no furnace could reforge it. It is forever broken, unless by force of will… or sheer desire… Cap can accomplish the impossible. Closing his eyes and wishing with all his strength, he achieves it. Smiling joyously, he grabs his shield, which is as good as new.
Shortly, they all gather on the barren wastes beyond the fortress walls. Cap tells everybody to pay attention. Reed’s going to explain how… Spider-Man interjects and asks Reed to just send them home. They don’t care how Reed’s gadget works! Reed insists this much he has to tell them. They’ll be travelling via the same alien construct the Beyonder used to bring them here. It’s still orbiting in space nearby. Once he beams them all up to the construct, it will teleport to Earth with them in it. It’ll land, as it did before, on Central Park, but it will project individuals to any destination they concentrate on. Reed also explains that they’ll have to enter the construct in small groups. Spider-Man, Dr. Connors, Hulk and Magneto will go first. Magneto announces they are ready. Spidey wonders why Magneto is not going with his buddies, the X-Men. Magnus explains that he must go his own way… for now. Reed then, who handles an apparatus, teleports the quintet back to Earth.
“First group away!” Mister Fantastic announces – now it’s the X-Men’s turn. Seeing Colossus sitting and brooding all by himself on a nearby rock, the X-Men wonders if he’s not coming. “No,’ he replies. Charles asks him to listen to him. He supposes it seems unfair. Zsaji brought Piotr back, but neither Reed’s machines nor Piotr’s fervent wishes, it seems, could bring her back. Apparently, at some point, death is irrevocable. Zsaji passed that point when she gave her life to Piotr. That is the tragic fact. All that remains in question is whether or not Colossus will fall into total despair and let it destroy him, thereby wasting the life she gave him.
Weeping, Piotr finally makes up his mind as he rises from the rock: he shall with them. Xavier is satisfied. He tells Reed they are ready. Just as Reed begins the process of teleporting them, Johnny points at the other dragon: it swooped in just as Reed pressed the button. The X-Men and the two dragons disappear in a blinding cacophony!
Johnny fears that didn’t look good. Reed explains it was just an energy fluctuation… albeit a rather dramatic one. He hopes it doesn’t cause problems with the X-Men’s rematerialization back on Earth! At least the device is still working! Cap announces that the Avengers are next, but wonders where She-Hulk is.
“Over here, Cap,” Jennifer shows up close by. In an unexpected turn of events, she announces that she’s not going with them – she’s taking Ben’s place in the Fantastic Four! To an already shocked Reed, the Thing insists he isn’t going back. Not yet, anyway. He figured the Fantastic Four needed someone strong to put them out of trouble, so he asked She-Hulk to take his place. Incredulous, Johnny asks him why. Ben guesses it’s because he’s got a lot to figure out. There’s something about this planet that lets him to change from the Thing to human. He can be regular old Ben Grimm again whenever he wants. He’s been dreaming of this day for years! And so long as he stays here, he’s got it!
Johnny urges him to come off: he’s got nothing and nobody here! Shifting back to his human experience at will, Ben rejoins that he’s got himself – his real self. Maybe they can’t understand that, but before he goes back to a place where he isn’t himself, and he knows he doesn’t fit in, he just wants to do some thinking. He asks Reed if he can leave him the gizmo – so Ben can come back later. “Yes, Ben, but…” Reed is about to protest. No buts, Ben retorts – it’s settled!
Shortly, the Avengers see the Fantastic Four off, and Captain Marvel bids her farewells to Jennifer, before they are all beamed away. “So much for the Avengers! So that leaves us!” Johnny remarks. Reed asks Ben one more time if he’s sure about this. Ben confirms he’s sure and urges them to go already! “All right, Ben,” Reed accepts his decision. However, he secretly wishes if he could only tell Ben what he suspects of his transformations – but it’s the kind of thing that might shatter a man… even a strong man like Ben. He decides better to say nothing… and hope he slowly discovers the truth for himself… or hides from it forever!
Ben urges them to get the show on the road! Reed reminds him that, whatever he does, he should not lose the device… His voice fades away, as Ben press the button and spirits them away. “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I read ya, mommy!” Ben jests. After every last one of them is gone, Ben soliloquizes that Reed is a nice guy… a little bit on the worry wart, thought. He’s going to be fine. A little lonesome maybe. Climbing on a rocky hill and resting on its peak, he recalls what that whut F.D.R. said once: “There ain’t nothing to fear…”