In a jet, en route to Paris, Billy Kaplan aka Wiccan listens to French news on his cell phone about Parisian men and women being transformed into crystal-headed, zombie-like, staggering creatures, grabbing hold of people on the street. The reporter explains one of them spoke to him a moment ago in the voice of his dead grandmother. The person asks for help. Not understanding any of it, Wiccan sighs. It’s times like these he wishes he’d learned French .
Also in the jet are Wiccan’s fellow New Avengers: Teddy Altman aka Hulkling, Ava Ayala aka White Tiger, team leader Melissa Gold aka Songbird, Victor Alvarez , the current Power Man and Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl (along with her squirrel sidekick Tippy Toe).
Wiccan worries about their speed. Escape velocity, Songbird who pilots the jet, explains. Orbital flightpath takes them from Avengers Island to Paris or anywhere in the world within twenty minutes.
Is he having one of his days? Hulkling asks his boyfriend. A little, Wiccan admits, and he’s out of practice. Songbird tells him he is with AIM now, Avengers Ideas Mechanics, the New Avengers. He wouldn’t be here, if he couldn’t stand the pace.
He’s still worried when Hulkling asks if he is okay and assures him he has his back.
Seriously, White Tiger considers that a good strategy. They should pair until the team meshes more -- like a buddy system. She and Power Man, Hulkling and Wiccan… her and Tippy Toe! Squirrel Girl announces enthusiastically (referring to her squirrel sidekick). Yes, White Tiger agrees, taken aback.
Songbird calls mission control, their boss Roberto DaCosta aka Sunspot on Avengers Island, to inform him they are five minutes from the dropzone. How are things on his end? Any word from the visitors? They are on their way here now, he replies. A SHIELD inspection in the middle of a mission; deep joy, Songbird sighs. What happens if they don’t like what they see? Then they are at war with SHIELD, Roberto replies calmly. He tells her not to worry. He is disgustingly handsome and – he’s wearing a suit. They’ll love him. He suggests she worry about Paris.
She asks if they have any explanation for the crystal heads. Not yet, he admits. Right now he’s got Max Brashear working on it. He’s got a good head for weird things, like his dad.
He has to go meet the inspectors. He tells her to keep up the good work and orders Pod to meet him outside. She’s needed. After she meets him outside, he calls Max Brashear, head of the theoretical physics division, and asks if there is any news on the crystal heads. He has no idea what the contagion is or how it spreads. Once the field team arrives, they can gather more data.
Roberto suggest putting Toni’s division on it to help but Toni Ho, head of the engineering division, protests. They have enough to do without handling weird crap too. Roberto tells Max to send Toni the relevant data and ask her to have a lookover. He’ll be busy with their guests. If they don’t hear from him, it’s because he’s under arrest.
‘Dum Dum’ Dugan gets out of the helicopter to greet Roberto. Should he be worried? Roberto asks. Just a friendly visit, he is told. He’s moved up in the world. Dugan scans the surroundings and tries to scan Pod. However, her powers don’t allow it.
While Dugan is still taken aback, Roberto asks him why he is really here. He knows SHIELD is keeping an eye on them but— He’s supreme leader of a secret cult of science crazies, Dugan reminds him. They live on an artificial island in international waters with a private army and a fleet of superweapons. He’s damn right they are keeping an eye on him. Lucky for him, they don’t know what to make of him - yet. SHIELD still figure him one of the good guys. Just to make sure, he’s been tasked with infiltrating DaCosta’s group. The plan is one of Dugan’s people joins the team, spies on them and DaCosta doesn’t know a thing about it. Simple and nice.
What part of the plan involves telling him all that? Roberto inquires. The part where he doesn’t treat him like an idiot, Dugan replies. Meet the new guy. With that, Hawkeye steps out of the helicopter and informs Roberto he’s the super-secret traitor on his team. Sorry.
Roberto scrutinizes him then asks if they could get the other Hawkeye. He really wanted the other Hawkeye, he mutters.
Speaking of the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, Hulkling figures she would have loved this. Paris at 10,000 feet… Of course he has wings, thanks to his shape-shifting powers. Wiccan doesn’t feel as happy, despite the gravity belts they wear which also make them invisible and inaudible, though not to each other.
They land in Paris amidst a crowd of crystalheads, who unfortunately almost immediately announce – first in French then English – that they can see them (despite their lack of eyes). Songbird orders the lightbenders off and to move to Plan B.
As in “B” very careful not to hit those totally ordinary peeps too hard, right? Squirrel Girl pipes up. Because they are being mind-controlled. White Tiger warns her they may need to incapacitate them. Squirrel Girl believes they can talk to them. “Hey, awesome new friends!” she greets them. She totally loves the gyro-elongated bipyramid look. It’s her third favorite geometric solid. Secondly, how do they breathe? She thinks science would like to know.
They are the dead, the Crystalheads announce. Life minus. Soon they will be too. Good talk, Squirrel girl replies then mutters she was lying. This was not a good talk and these are not awesome new friends. White Tiger decides she doesn’t understand her at all.
Plan C! Songbird announces, for “Clear a Path.” The team attacks the crystalheads. Power Man tries to use his chi vision to figure out what is wrong with them. He reels from the sight. Those crystals are the souls of the dead!
In another place, a lackey asks his leader, calling him ‘supreme one,’ if he thinks Power Man knows. About the nano-cams? his leader asks. He doubts it. They are smaller than dust motes. They won’t know they are being watched.
But the experiment! the lackey continues. Life minus… The excavation? He’d be surprised, is the reply. If the New Avengers figure it out though, they’ll have to kill them. And he knows he is new here, but he doesn’t like ‘Supreme One.’ Maker is fine.
On Avengers Island, Max Brashear and Toni Ho call Roberto with bad news. Roberto is displeased, as he is just giving their guests the grand tour (in this case the billiard room). Toni explains she did some hacking on European spysats to track the population. Paris is now 90% crystallized and they are moving in formation. When they are not dragging normals to whatever the source of this is, they are forming some kind of pattern, some kind of star-shaped energy lattice.
Dugan listen up when he hears Roberto’s team is in Paris. He swears and explains Director Hill put an enhancile team in the field for recon work. Gene modded, best of the best. So they’ve got help? Roberto asks. They don’t, Dugan replies. They lost contact with the squad ten minutes ago…
In Paris, Songbird demands what those enhanciles can do. If they shoot fire or optic blasts, they are probably ok. If they are supersoldiers… Worse. Far worse, Dugan replies.
Songbird sighs and announces Power Man has a theory. He explains he can see it. Lattices. Pentagrams, nets and grids. A web. They are turning the city into a circuit. A switchboard. A telephone to the dead. They are being invaded by the afterlife.
Listening in to this, the Maker tells his lackey that Power Man’s missed the finer details but he is mostly right. Sitting down on his throne, he decides that, if the New Avenger can’t come around to Life Minus, Life Minus will come around to them. He gives orders to someone named Evald, a strangely enhanced crystalhead, that he has lives for him to end.
‘Rise’ he orders. ‘My Neohedron.’