Reed Richards is standing in a darkened room. He is speaking to an off-panel audience about the inevitability of death. He says it will happen to everyone on Earth, and even the Sun, their galaxy and the universe itself will end. It’s how things are, he continues, casting a glance downward. When he faces them again he adds, “and I accept it.”
Wakanda, 26 hours ago
A large pillar, twice the size of man, writ with ancient glyphs stands in the center of a clearing in the jungle. A trio of Wakandans competing in the Games has found it. Kimo, wearing a thin white headband with white feathers in the back, an animal pelt around his waist and a toothed necklace happily tells his partners they’re the first.
N’Kono, clad in a red robe with vibranium braces on each arm, scolds Kimo for being so bold. He reminds his brother the Games are designed to find this generation’s potential Makers and seeing the finish line doesn’t mean they’ve crossed it.
The point is taken, but Kimo says they’re close. They’ve solved the Golden Paradox, found the Lost Tribe and decoded the structure of the Artificial Man. His words hang on the air as neither of his siblings responds. Then T’Dori, with feathers down the back of her hair and a blue cape slung around her shoulders, leans down to inspect the pillar and remarks that it’s all that remains between them and the prize.
Liking the tone of that, Kimo asks what she thinks the prize will be. He thinks it could be money, but T’Dori is set on getting a jetpack. It doesn’t matter, though, she says, as the Council of Progress makes a list of recommendations before the Royal Family decides.
The words on the pillar don’t make sense as T’Dori looks them over. It’s just a list, she says, guessing they may be locations. N’Kono says they’re names, a list of Griot Bards who formulated the existence of the Sundiata Code, a hidden cipher within the region’s oral history. He says it’s a theory about tradition and how Wakandan excellence has been passed down through generations, passed down through blood.
That’s when it hits him, “blood.” N’Kono draws his dagger and cuts open the palm of his right hand. He then places his hand above the top of the pillar and lets his free flowing blood drip onto it. “So we remember where we came from… on the way to where we’re going,” N’Kono explains.
The base of the pillar comes alive. Metal planks rise from the ground, surrounding the pillar in a perfect circle. A holographic map of the solar system appears from the tip of the pillar. Kimo thinks it’s their solar system, but T’Dori tells him to count, that there are twelve planets so it’s not theirs.
“But it is where you are headed,” a voice calls from behind them. The young ones kneel at the presence of their “king.” Black Panther, barely perceptible in the shadows of the jungle foliage, reminds them this is not Necropolis, therefore he is simply the Black Panther. He congratulates the three children and tells them to stand, that they are the finest of their generation.
The Panther steps out from the shadows and into the clearing. He tells Kim and T’Dori they’ve done very well and then turns to N’Kono and places a hand on his shoulder. His father’s, grandfather was T’Konda, the Black Panther of his time, also called “The Wall.” T’Challa says T’Konda’s spirit is within him like all previous Panthers. “I feel his pride when I look at you,” Black Panther states.
Then the King of Necropolis addresses them all, saying they should be filled with pride, and not the shame they feel for the outside world. Great societies are crumbling and the old men that run them are out of ideas, he explains. He says it’s up to the children to build something better.
The Black Panther points to a light blue planet in the hologram. He calls it M23-671A, an M-class planet circling an orange dwarf 241 light years away. Because the West has abandoned space and the East puts no effort into it, Black Panther says it’s up to Wakanda to keep its preeminent space program going, to do more, travel farther. He tells the Makers their prize is the stars themselves.
Both N’Kono and T’Konda are overwhelmed, but Kimo is otherwise distracted. He feels something like little micro-tremors and asks them if they feel it too. T’Konda doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary with her advanced visor, but Panther says he’s right, that something’s coming toward them.
Sure enough, a rhino comes barreling down on them. The weird thing is it appeared out of thin air, a shimmering wave of circles hang in the air where its body came through. T’Dori sees the ripples and asks Panther about them. He saw them too and steps forward to investigate, telling the kids not to follow him.
The Panther pushes his arm through the invisible portal watching his arm disappear, and then steps through. He comes through safely and appears to be in the exact same spot he left. Everything seems several shades redder, but that’s not the most disturbing part. When T’Challa looks up in the sky he sees an Earth-like planet orbiting dangerously close. He also spies about a half dozen humanoid shapes flying from the nearby planet to his own.
Those shadowy figures land not far off. They seem to be led by a pale woman, with blonde hair. There’s a blonde male wearing a black uniform at her side and a small crew of outfitted soldiers nearby. They are speaking to each other in another language.
Kids being kids, the three new Makers step through the portal to see what’s happening. N’Kono seems hesitant, but follows them anyway. Black Panther can hear their arguing and tells them to be quiet. He’s watching these new people, trying to learn what it is they’re doing.
The pale woman motions to the blonde-haired man and says, “Nadanu.” A form of energy erupts around his hands and a device appears.
Hidden nearby in the jungle, the kids and Black Panther whisper about the planet hanging in the sky. Panther explains that’s where the people came from. When T’Dori wonders aloud what they’re doing there the brash Kimo steps out from the foliage to ask.
T’Dori tells him to stop, but Kimo’s not listening. He asks what kind of future explorers they would make if they were afraid to make first contact. He then welcomes the travelers to Wakanda. Black Panther yells at him to stop, but Kimo’s caught up in the moment. So T’Challa leaves the jungle cover and grabs him.
“Suharrur!” the pale woman yells. Kimo asks if she’s speaking Akadian, but Black Panther says it’s high Sumerian. The pale woman hears them speaking in English and comments that it’s one of those Earths, speaking in English herself.
Black Panther faces this woman and asks if the world in the sky is her doing. This seems to throw her off. She agrees she’s a Black Swan, but tells him no man or woman can summon an incursion. They simply live with the loss and give the Great Destroyer his due.
The Swan’s words serve only to confuse T’Challa. He tells her as much. She breaks it down very simply for him, asking if he knew that she came here to kill a world would he try and stop her. Black Panther takes an offensive pose and assures her he would do more than try.
The Black Swan turns from him and motions to her men speaking in Sumerian. She changes over to English for the final two words, “Kill them.” Before the soldiers open fire, Panther presses a stud on his wrist and a shield appears from it, covering the four of them. The shield shatters along the left side and both Kimo and T’Dori are vaporized. N’Komo looks behind him in disbelief at his brother and sister’s smoky, skeletal remains.
Crying out he blasts one of the soldiers with energy from his bracers, most likely killing him. A different soldier creeps up on him from behind and unsheathes his sword from its scabbard. Black Panther wraps N’Komo up in his arms and teleports them both away as the sword passes harmlessly through where they once stood.
Unfortunately, the teleportation doesn’t take them far. One of the men spies them heading into the jungle and alerts the others. He then tells their resident sniper to switch to thermal.
Not far off, Black Panther and N’Komo are scaling a downed tree. T’Challa worries about their situation saying they should have teleported back to the royal city. He thinks that whatever this place is interferes with localized space-time. N’Komo doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to leave. They killed his brother and sister and he means to make them pay.
These words hurt T’Challa to hear. He urges the surviving Maker to return to the city and inform them of everything he’s seen. They’ve lost too much already, Panther explains, and he doesn’t want to forfeit their entire future. “…it seemed like such a perfect day,” N’Komo resigns before taking an energy blast to the head.
This time it’s the Panther who yells out. He cradles N’Komo’s head as he slowly drifts off toward death. “My king…,” N’Komo starts, getting in a few words here and there. He sees something and tries to get it out. It takes a few stops and stutters, but he tells his king he sees the stars.
Death takes N’Komo and T’Challa wails. However, with the enemy not far there’s no time for mourning. Grim determination crosses his face and he’s off like a predator.
Back in the clearing, Black Swan asks the Manifold if he has it. The device he materialized earlier is clenched in his hand. He hands it over as agreed, which Black Swan happily takes, jibing the man about paying the offering if he doesn’t. She asks if he could do it, pay the offering, and he grimly says he can’t. After taking the device Black Swan backhands Manifold, knocking him to the dirt. “Then what good are you?” she asks.
Nearby, the Panther is out of the jungle. He takes down one soldier swiftly and soon another. They are both unable to stand against his mighty claws.
The Manifold now fully understands what is to happen to him. He pleads with the Swan, saying he made it all possible, begging her not to do this. She tells him he’s wrong, that this is how it is. He looks up at her from his knees. He reminds her she said he would live and not die. “I said nothing of forever,” she responds coolly.
The Black Swan’s eyes light up like embers and red rays fire forth. Manifold is fried where he kneels, letting out an agonizing death knell before his life blood halts. “The wheel--it is relentless,” the Black Swan says with a coy smile.
Twenty feet away the Black Panther charges his final target. He recalls the words she said to him about destroying a world and if he would try to stop her. The Black Swan utters something in high Sumerian and then clicks a button on the device. The Black Panther’s too late to save the world, but he does manage to take the Black Swan down. He has just enough time to look up at the sky and see the falling, broken planet rushing toward him before the entire landscape is changed and everything looks as it once did, blue skies and a bright sun.
This brings back memories of a prophecy the Panther once heard from the Goddess. It spoke of a lost future and dying worlds, of fallen angels and lost souls. With what he’s seen and what he has been told T’Challa wonders just who to contact when faced with such dire prospects.
Necropolis, Wakanda, the next day
Black Panther is in his temple, his body bent over in respect to the goddess statue in front of him. The hall is dark and he prays to be saved from what the world demands. He has contacted his fellow Illuminati to help him with this problem and realizes the strange bedfellows he’s going to be taking on.
The Panther prays to be saved from the righteous men (Tony Stark), the thinkers (Reed Richards), the summoners (Dr. Strange), the midnight kings (Black Bolt), and from the devil himself (Namor). He finally asks to be saved from what they are about to do.
Finally emerging from the temple Black Panther sees his guards, the Dora Milaje, outside looking a bit unsettled. That’s because all of his guests have arrived, and at the head of the entourage is a stoic Captain America.