"This is it, everyone!" Nova shouts as he leads the Mutant Liberation Force into battle against the Sphinx. They fight not only to free their planet from the control of a goddess gone made, but also to recreate the very fabric of reality that the Sphinx tore asunder! Only one of them—the young man called Nova, the Human Rocket—knows their world is not as it should be. Mere moments earlier, Nova served on the government superhero team, the Avengers. Now, to stand for truth, he has betrayed both his teammates and everything in which he once believed.
As they approach the domineering deity, the Sphinx fires a scorching optic beam that incinerates an entire swath of the MLF. They push forth. Magneto laments the loss of his troops; how has the Sphinx already caused such casualties in their ranks? Emma Frost encourages him to press onward; every time the Sphinx uses such levels of energy, she weakens herself! Nova too senses a limit to the power of the Sphinx. That may be, Firestar says, but how many of them must die before she reaches it? Marvel Man tells her as many of them must die as it takes to free the world from the Sphinx's blind control.
He whips up a telekinetic ground wave to help topple her, both literally and figuratively. The Sphinx calls the MLF "useless, swarming gnats" and fires back at them with two searing beams. One of them incinerates yet another cluster of mutant rebels. Marvel Man fires a thick stream of rocks right into her face. These gnats fight back, he says triumphantly. Unfortunately, much to the grief of Firestar, he gets caught in the ensuing cascade of stones and boulders. Hulk tells her not to worry about Vance right now; they must keep attacking the Sphinx while she's unprotected! This cowardly attitude held by the MLF comes as no surprise to the Sphinx. She picks herself up and catches Hulk with a right hook as he soars toward her. The impact sends him flailing high into the stratosphere.
Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto behold the power of the Sphinx in awe. However, they knew of her power going into the fight, and cannot give up now. They must continue both for themselves and for the memories of their fallen friends. Magneto agrees, lamenting his friend Wolverine, who died obtaining information vital to lowering the defenses of the Sphinx's fortress. They have come too far to stop. If a war to the finish it will be, then the Mutant Liberation Force will go down fighting!
Nearby, Nova has doubts as fight continues growing out of hand. He asks Firestar for an update on Marvel Man's condition. He's alive, she tells him. Vance, still half-buried under the rubble, says his telekinetic field protected him. Nova tells him his survival won't matter for too long if things progress they way they have been. Perhaps joining up with the MLF wasn't his brightest idea, Nova says. If that's how he feels, Firestar asks, why is he helping them? "Because he knows the truth, Angelica Jones," says a mysterious voice.
Firestar and Marvel Man look around and see a shrouded, cloaked figure, whom Nova identifies as Sayge, the spiritual embodiment of the truth. While Nova admits he too had his doubts about Sayge, he reveals to his new allies what he learned from the phantom. This entire world isn't right, Nova tells them; the Sphinx augmented its true form. In the real world, Nova, Angelica and Vance are teammates who fight for the cause of right. Things suddenly click for Firestar; this how Nova knew their real names, and why he didn't reveal the entrance to their underground bunker! Vance asks how any of this will help them defeat the Sphinx. Sayge tells them the only way to make the Sphinx relinquish her hold on the world is to show her the truth of the lie she created. Only the truth shall set them free.
Meanwhile, in Midtown Maqaman, at the Chrysler Building, home of the Sphinx, the young Dwayne Taylor approaches a reception desk. The receptionist, a stern-looking man in a traditional Egyptian headdress, tells Dwayne he has no record of his supposed appointment for computer work. Dwayne tells the man he works for the Taylor Foundation in the systems analysis department and was notified of this job only twenty minutes earlier. After all, when the Sphinx says she needs certain classified information transferred directly into her systems, they don't stand around waiting to do it! Continuing, Dwayne asks the receptionist if he would like to deal with the Sphinx when she asks why it took Dwayne so long to arrive. Guess not, the receptionist says. He gives Dwayne back his I.D. card and lets him on his way.
Dwayne nervously walks down the hall toward the elevator, barely believing he just bluffed his way into the Sphinx's headquarters. He urges himself to stay calm; his family was just murdered by the Sphinx and her elite Assyrian guards. If he wants revenge, he will have to maintain his cool. He arrives at the control panel for the elevator and inserts his override keycard. This should allow him to freeze the elevator on the top floor, thereby preventing anyone from following him. Thankfully, his father's companies helped the Sphinx build her security systems. This inside knowledge should give Dwayne the edge he needs to tear down the Sphinx's empire.
He opens his duffel bag in the elevator and changes clothes. When the elevator finally arrives at the top floor, Dwayne emerges in a suit of black body armor with a red-lined protective helmet and a nightstick. The two guards outside the elevator look at him in disbelief. Catching them off guard, Dwayne clubs the first guard beneath his jaw with his nightstick, while the second, he clocks across the side of the face. With them down, he collapses against the elevator doors and catches his breath. He cannot believe he made it this far! The equipment he got from the security stockroom at the foundation has made it surprisingly easy. He feels like nothing can penetrate his body armor. Okay, okay, Dwayne tells himself, don't get cocky...
He finds the communications room, from which the Sphinx monitors television signals from around the world through a satellite network newsfeed. Dwayne scans the screens for a quick update on world events. What he sees surprises him. All across the planet, it seems, various resistance movements have undertaken simultaneous military action against the government forces of Cairo. In Northern Africa, the mutant-led Angloslavic Confederation has launched a brutal ground way, while the Pacific Asian Union has struck against the Egyptian Naval fleet. Meanwhile, it seems the Atlanteans have finally emerged from the depths of the ocean and are attacking the oil trade in the Persian Gulf. Dwayne also sees that on Maqaman Island, the MLF is taking the fight directly to the Sphinx in a bloody confrontation.
Dwayne cannot believe any of it; it seems the real world is falling apart the same way his personal world has. Deeming this the perfect time to strike, he searches for a way to truly hurt the Sphinx—if such a thing is possible. What could possibly matter to her the same way his parents mattered to him? He walks by a gray cat in the Sphinx’s penthouse. The realization hits him; this is the cat he has read about in his history books, the same cat the first Sphinx gifted with immortality so his successor could always have a part of his love. This cat is the last piece of happiness the Sphinx has left! Dwayne realizes. He can use it to get to her.
As Dwayne lunges for the cat, the Sphinx detects the intruder in her home. The MLF takes advantage of her momentary distraction and assaults her with everything they have. “I can no longer continue with this foolishness!” the Sphinx says. She teleports home, right as the Abomination dives at her face. He passes through her harmlessly. On the ground, the Juggernaut celebrates their seeming victory; they kicked the Sphinx’s butt! He doesn’t see Horus sneak up behind him with his talisman fully charged. He clubs Juggernaut over the back of the head and declares the battle has not ended yet. Captain Assyria calls for the Avengers to assemble and issues his team their orders. Today, the Avengers fight for honor unto death.
After complimenting his teammate Horus on his sneak attack, Iron Man fires at Vision. His energy beams pass through the synthetic rebel harmlessly, instead hitting Magneto, who was using his magnetic powers to keep the MLF afloat. With him down, it falls on Polaris to keep the team levitated.
From afar, Vance Astrovik watches this carnage, which has surpassed his expectations. The bloodshed must stop! He asks Sayge what he meant when he said the truth could end the battle. Sayge defers the question to Nova. He asks them to think about why the world has developed at it has; therein lies the answers they seek. Annoyed, Vance asks Sayge why he speaks in riddles, but before he can finish his thought, Angelica directs everyone’s attention toward the skyline downtown. They behold a massive cyclone of energy around the Chrysler building—the home of the Sphinx. Is that where she could have gone? Nova thinks so; no one else can emit that level of energy. Firestar and Marvel Man wonder why she fled the way she did. After all, the MLF had planned no attacks on her home. Sayge says the Sphinx senses the end has come; she returned home to deter the inevitable.
Vance asks if that is where they must go to defeat her by showing her the truth. Sayge nods in consent. Firestar asks how they can just leave their teammates. What if they need their help? “They are not part of this solution,” Sayge says. “They are part of the problem! It is you young heroes—you New Warriors—who must summon the courage to save the world!”
Meanwhile, in Springdale, Aknatonikutt, Robbie Baldwin tosses a football with his friend Dave. “Good throw, Baldwin—for a change!” Dave jokes as Robbie lobs the pigskin across the street.
As Robbie begins to take issue with this derisive comment, something resembling a meteor breaks through the cloud cover and crashes toward the street, ricocheting over the asphalt as it goes. “Way cool!” Robbie shouts. The excited teenage boys rush over to the wreckage and behold the battered body of the Incredible Hulk. Robbie wishes he could bounce like that! Suddenly, Mr. Baldwin opens his front door and orders Robbie to get inside right away. Moaning, Robbie complies, telling Dave they can hang out later—after the cleanup crews cart away this mess. Maybe later, he and Dave can pretend they’re fighting with all the muties against the Sphinx! That would be so cool, he says.
Back on Maqaman Island, the battle rages on, focusing now on the Sphinx’s home in the Chrysler Building. An astral projection of her head appears inside her penthouse and scolds the young Dwayne Taylor for intruding in her home. How dare he threaten her most cherished possession! Dwayne, holding the cat by the scruff of its neck, just barely dodges an energy blast from the Ka Stone embedded in her forehead. Boy, is he in big trouble, he says!
The Sphinx fires another shot at him. This time, she blows out the floor beneath his feet. He loses his hold on the cat and falls to the ground. Before the Sphinx delivers the final blow, she asks why he was foolish enough to commit the effrontery. Dwayne explains her guards killed his parents; he wanted to hurt her like she did him! “Then you die unfulfilled!” the Sphinx shouts, firing yet another energy beam at Dwayne. Out of nowhere, however, Nova appears and hoists the kid out of harm’s way. Dwayne can barely believe his luck. The Sphinx seems less surprised; she half-expected to see the traitor again. She grins at the prospect of facing him alone.
Fortunately for Nova, he is not alone. His new teammates Marvel Man and Firestar emerge and hit the projection of the Sphinx with their telekinetic and microwave blasts. Vance encourages Firestar to keep the Sphinx off-balance, as she cannot seem to withstand multipronged attacks. Enraged, the Sphinx declares she will have their heads for this. She demands they give the child over to her. She fires a beam at Vance, but he blocks it with a telekinetic shield.
Meanwhile, Nova asks Dwayne what he did to make the Sphinx so angry. He just took her cat, Dwayne admits. Of course, Nova realizes as he looks at the cat. It all makes sense! The cat symbolizes the love she shared with the original Sphinx; it proves the world she created is a lie! They can use it to make her face the truth. Nova propels himself over to the cat and scoops it off the ground. Taking the fierce, hissing creature over to the Sphinx, he holds it to her face. The Sphinx screams. Nova demands she get out of her energy form and face them in person—or else.
With no choice left, the Sphinx complies. She appears in front of the New Warriors in her physical form. She commands Nova to now release the cat—or suffer as no one has suffered in mankind’s history. Nova tells her that if she doesn’t accept defeat, return the world back to its true form and face the lie she has created, he will break the cat’s neck. It’s just an innocent cat, Firestar shouts! Ignoring her, Nova looks the Sphinx in the eyes and tells her he kids not.
Suddenly, Sayge appears above and tells the Sphinx that Nova knows there is more than personal honor at stake here. Nova knows the very fate of the world hinges on the Sphinx accepting the truth. He will go to whatever lengths necessary to make her do just that. The Sphinx is confused; she asks who Sayge is and what he is talking about. “Could it be that you have lived the lie so long it has become a part of your very being? See what these children fight for,” Sayge says, his face emitting a radiant, white glow, “…see the burning light of truth!”
The Sphinx screams. In her fury, she unleashes a devastating explosion that levels the top of the Chrysler Building. All that remains of its spire is a smoking heap of rubble. The Sphinx rejoices in her seeming victory; she no longer must endure the games Sayge played with her mind! Meanwhile, from within Marvel Man’s telekinetic bubble, Nova, reminds the Sphinx he still has the cat. Dwayne begs Nova to force the Sphinx to submit.
Once again, Sayge appears, this time to tell Dwayne that such force will not be necessary. The Sphinx cannot believe it; she killed him! Nova reminds her she cannot destroy the truth. “Indeed,” Sayge says. “You can only ignore it again and again—until you no choice but to confront it.” He bombards her with the white light of truth once more. This time, the Sphinx accepts it. She kneels before him, begging forgiveness. She did not realize what she had done. She only wanted his love; she only wanted to be happy.
Nova approaches, still holding the cat, and demands the Sphinx turn the world back to its true form. She asks to hold her cat. If she can hold it, she will do as he says—but only if he allows her to keep that small piece of her dream, that small piece of love she will never otherwise have. Nova agrees. He carries the cat to the defeated woman and gently places it in her arms. The Sphinx holds her cat close to her chest, asking herself what she has done.
A radiant, pink light begins spilling out from the stone on her forehead. The New Warriors watch in confusion as the light spreads out like a dome, eventually encompassing the entire planet. They understand that the Sphinx is merely altering reality once again, only this time, she’s changing it back to the way it should be.
“It is undone,” the Sphinx says with sadness in her voice. “Everything is as it was before I changed it.” The New Warriors, now wearing their traditional costumes and standing on an intact platform, look around in a haze. To them, it feels like they just woke from a bad dream. Their memories immediately begin drifting away. It must be this way, the Sphinx tells them. “Like a fugue state, the memories of the false lives you led will cloud your minds for all time.”
Marvel Boy asks Firestar if she feels okay. She does, but directs his attention back to the Sphinx. They watch as the Sphinx’s cat crumbles to dust in her hands. Horrified, the Sphinx asks why the winds of fate must be so harsh and cruel! Sayge tells her the cat was a lie, a symbol that could not belong in this reality. As its corporeal form finally withers away, the Sphinx says goodbye to her last love. Enraged, she lifts off the ground—a balcony of the Chrysler Building—and declares she may have lost her love and her dreams, but she has not lost her hope! Although she now understands that changing the past is not the way to achieve her dreams, she can still change the world to come by altering its course! This, she considers a challenge worth contemplating.
Sayge urges her to renounce the path of conquest. Accepting the truth, Sayge adds, will set her free. As abruptly as he appeared, Sayge vanishes.
Before she departs, the Sphinx informs the New Warriors she will never forget what they have done to her—and neither shall they! They have made a most bitter enemy this day. She tells them to think on this fact, knowing that their new enemy has all of time to contemplate her revenge. Revenge shall be hers, she says. The Sphinx vanishes into the ether.
The New Warriors, meanwhile, stand triumphant. Marvel Boy asks at what cost came their victory, but Nova reminds him they did what they had to do, and what they always do: the right thing. Night Thrasher believes they would have ended up losing no matter what choice they made. He merely hopes what they gained is worth what they lost—an answer only time will tell.