(somewhere beyond our dimension)
Pointing his rifle at Doctor Strange, the Punisher tells the doctor that he’s talking crazy. He suggests he stop. Seemingly unconcerned with the heavy firearm pointed at his head, Strange reminds the Punisher who he is. Crazy’s sort of his second language. But just because it sounds crazy doesn’t mean he’s wrong. To this, the Punisher rejoins that Strange doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about… that’s why he’s wrong.
He’s the expert when it comes to mass murder, Strange reminds the Punisher. So, if he has a better explanation for what’s going on around there, he’s all ears. His rifle still raised, the Punisher replies that someone’s been killing monsters. In Strange’s backyard. Someone’s been doing his job for him. Better than him. And that pisses him off. Narrowing his eyes, Strange replies that what pisses him off… is being lied to. Has it been so long since anyone dared lie to the almighty Punisher that he’s forgotten what it feels like? Or is he just too used to lying to himself? Gesturing to the giant creature on whose corpse they still stand, the Punisher replies that he bets this guy thought he couldn’t die from a gunshot either. Right up until the moment he did.
Turning and beginning to walk in the other direction, Strange says that it would appear their mysterious killer has been very busy for a very long time. And someone knew right where to send them to pick up his trail. All of them. They haven’t been told the whole truth. Finally lowering his firearm, the Punisher voices that Strange doesn’t trust anybody else? Good. Means he’s not as dumb as he thought. But right now, that person they don’t trust is exactly the one they need to be talking to. Now following Strange, the Punisher suddenly picks up on something Strange said and begins to ask about other groups, but Strange interrupts with a laugh. If he thought this little team-up of theirs was awkward, he says, just wait until he meets the rest of the gang.
On the Blue Area of the Moon, a portal opens, from which the Winter Soldier emerges. On his belt is the Watcher’s eye, affixed via the retinal nerve. In his left hand he holds the bloodied, severed head of Nick Fury and in his right a handheld device. Examining its readings, the Soldier tells himself that it can’t be far now, can it. Now speaking into his wrist comm. unit, the Winter Soldier tells an unseen party that he knows he’s out there. He knows he can hear him. He’s coming. Now holding up Fury’s head, the Soldier then adds that he’s bringing a friend. A moment later, the portal is reopened and the Winter Soldier is gone.
Beneath the Earth’s surface, the Black Panther’s tunneling craft quickly ascends. From a console within, Emma Frost announces that they are close enough to receive an Avengers global alert. One suspect in custody, multiple others at large. Reading over her shoulder, Ant-Man recognizes the name of Dr. Midas. Super rich. Super weird. He maybe buys him for the Watcher job, but not for what they’ve just seen. To this, Emma replies that wealthy men tend to get bored quite easily. Does he know what a very wealthy, very bored man is capable of? Absolutely anything, darling. Hunting underground monsters for sport? If only they were all so quaint. In the Hellfire Club, she saw people used as poker chips by men with more money than…
Ant-Man interrupts Emma in mid-sentence, spying a readout on Black Panther’s console some distance away. Calling out T’Challa’s name, he points out that they’re coming up on the surface. He might want to slow down. Not receiving a reply or recognition at all, Ant-Man inquisitively has only a moment to repeat T’Challa’s name before the Wakandan tunnelers erupts through the Earth’s crust and continues into the sky like a rocket. Immediately, the Black Panther manipulates other controls, which quickly report the expanding of orbital scans. All Wakandan satellites at full capacity.
As no vocal explanation seems forthcoming, Emma attempts to make telepathic contact, whimsically asking the Panther what he is up to, only to receive a painful backlash. Best stay out of there, Ms. Frost, the Panther instructs her. Still reeling, Emma remarks that his mind is like… a bear trap, wrapped in barbed wire… that someone set on fire. Asked by Ant-Man what he knows that they don’t, the Panther replies nothing. That’s what worries him.
As, the tunneler-turned-rocket continues on its path skyward, another alert comes in and is immediately met with disbelief. Nick Fury, it reports, is dead.
In Nick Fury’s monitor room, Wolverine and the Hulk find the decapitated corpse of the former spymaster. Crouching at the body, Wolverine sniffs twice and then mutters that he’ll be damned. Bucky. Standing back up, Wolverine remarks that he thought he was dead. And never liked him much when he was alive.
As Wolverine attempts to puzzle out what happened, a red portal opens, through which step the Punisher and Doctor Strange. Seeing their expressions, Wolverine quickly remarks that this ain’t what it looks like, fellas. Neither is this, Strange rejoins, his eyes glowing red and his hands gesticulating a spell. Immediately, Wolverine finds himself bound by crimson bands, at which point he instruct Hulk to “smash.” Before he can finish, the Punisher has already opened fire, hitting a grouping square in the Hulk’s chest. Visibly unaffected, the Hulk asks the “little man” if that was supposed to hurt. No, the Punisher replies, stone-faced and raising a handheld device. But this might. A click of a button later, the rounds in the Hulk’s chest explode, propelling him backward and through the Tower’s walls into the world outside.
Crouching at the corpse of Nick Fury, the Punisher whispers that there’s no such thing as retired, is there? Speaking again to Strange, the Punisher remarks that the Hulk may be an idiot, but that trick will only work once. If he has any ideas, he tells the “doc,” they better move fast. Working on it, Strange replies, in mid-cast of a new spell. When the Punisher then remarks that they should take the body, as it’s worth a closer look, Strange replies that it isn’t. But there’s something else there certainly is.
In short order, Strange and the Punisher stand before the still-manacled Orb, who greets the two and innocently asks if they’re there to kill him. Though Strange replies “no,” the Punisher offers a “maybe.” Ignoring his partner, Strange orders the Orb to get up. He’s coming with them. As his manacles are magicked off, the Orb asks someone stole the eye, didn’t they? To this, Strange quips that it looks like someone stole everything but his eye. Ignoring the jest, the Orb remarks that he did sent them. He can tell. But not to kill him. No one sent them, Strange corrects. They’re only there for the truth. To this, the Orb remarks that the truth is that they don’t know how they’re working for. They haven’t seen him. Not truth. They haven’t seen the Unseen. He has. He saw him…. in the eye. He saw his sins. He saw when he… He didn’t know one man could kill so many things.
A savage and incredible rrrrggghhh! causes the Punisher to announced they don’t have time for this. The Hulk is in the building. Now pointing his rifle at the giant eyeball which serves as the Orb’s head, the Punisher demands that he start making sense, or they see what happens when he goes blind. He hears it calling, the Orb replies. The eye. It likes him. It likes the way he looks at it. If he tries really hard, if he listens with all his might… he thinks he could lead them to it. As the Punisher lowers his weapon, the Orb adds that the only problem is that it’s going to want to show them the truth. And they’re going to want to look, but believe him… some things should never be seen.
In orbit, the Panther’s tunneler-turned-spacecraft reports a completion of telemetry and new coordinates determined. Whatever the signal is, Ant-Man adds, it looks like the Panther has been tracing it for some time. Her arms on her hips, Emma asks the Panther if he minds telling them what the hell is going on, or should they just start guessing. That signal was a call he received, he begins, the call that led to the center of the Earth. As Emma begins to understand what this means, Black Panther voices her thoughts. That would mean that all this time they’ve been searching for something unseen without realizing that all they needed to do was open their eyes… and look up. Suddenly before the craft is a giant satellite. The Wakandan craft quickly attempts to identify registration, but finds none. Launch history, undocumented. Point of origin… unknown.
In short order, their craft docks and the trio disembark. Walking through a large hallway, Ant-Man remarks that he doesn’t know what scares him more: the fact that this satellite was so hard to find… or so easy to break into. Ant-Man then asks Emma if she can use some of her “mutant brain powers” to figure out if they are alone in there or not, but she replies that her powers aren’t what they used to be. However, her common-sense still works fine. No way are they alone. They just followed the trail of a murderer from 10 miles beneath the Earth to 200 miles above it. If they can do that, he better believe… they’re not the only ones. They were never alone, the Black Panther interjects. At the moment, that is the only thing they know to be true. Even with the Watcher dead… someone is always watching.
As if on cue, the Punisher steps from behind the trio, his rifle raised. He orders the Panther to keep his hands and feet where he can see them. To Ant-Man, he informs him if he shrinks he’ll die. Believe him, he’s one hell of a shot. And Frost… don’t even think about it. The first to reply, the Panther tells Castle to put it away. He’s embarrassing himself. Appearing suddenly next to the Punisher, Doctor Strange replies to T’Challa that, believe him, he’d rather the Punisher twitch his finger than Strange twitch his. What are they doing there? And more importantly, whose side are they on? Not sure, the Panther replies, daring to walk towards Strange, who does the same. That’s what they’re there to figure out. Strange replies that they should hope it’s the right side, to which the Panther counters that they should hope there is a right side.
Asked by Strange what they found that led them there, the Panther replies the same thing he’s guessing he and the Punisher found. Lies. Lies and lots of bodies. Asked if he has any idea who killed them, the Panther replies that all he knows is where the lies began. And so does Strange or he wouldn’t be there. When Strange replies that he doesn’t even know where “there” is, the Panther asks how exactly he found it. He didn’t, Strange answers. The Orb did. On cue, the Orb steps out from behind Strange with a wave. “Hello! I talk to eyeballs.”
Taken aback by the newcomer, Ant-Man pleads to be told that he’s the killer so they can wrap this up before it gets any weirder. Ignoring the quip Strange admits that the Avengers did find him in possession of the Watcher’s eye. To this, the Panther asks where they found him. Looking away, the Orb remarks that the eye is close. Don’t they hear it screaming? Ignoring the remark, Strange reports that the Orb admits to being on the Moon when the Watcher was killed, but mostly he just speaks gibberish. Judging by his mind, if you can call it that, Emma interjects, gibberish is the best he can manage. He was working with Dr. Midas, right? Ant-Man asks. Do they have any idea where that guy is?
The eye, the Orb continues, muttering to himself as he looks around aimlessly. The eye is here. And… oh. It’s not alone. Seeing what he means, the others look up and spy the Winter Soldier, crouching above them. Just so they know, he announces, he doesn’t trust a single one of them. And he expects the feeling is about to be mutual. With that, the Soldier jumps down, holding in one hand the eye and the other Fury’s head. Immediately, the group is staggered at Fury’s apparent death, all but the Punisher who introduces the Winter Soldier to the others. Never like him, the Punisher informs “Barnes.” Now he knows why. His weapon raised, he orders the Soldier to get on his knees while he’s still got ‘em. To this, the Soldier rejoins that he’s not some corner dope pusher, and he’s not afraid of a man who can’t protect his own children.
Sensing the escalation, the Panther orders both to stand down. There’s nothing to be gained from them fighting each other. He sure about that? the Punisher asks. Ignoring the challenge, the Winter Soldier remarks that maybe all of them know something he doesn’t. Like why they’re all there. He’s the one holding the eye, Strange counters. Why doesn’t he tell them. Regarding the Orb, the Soldier quips that it looks like they found their own eyes. And his talks. He still can’t get a peep out of his. Forget about the eye, Ant-Man interjects. What about the head? Raising Fury’s severed head, the Winter Soldier remarks that the head is why he’s there. This head is the…
A loud BOOOOM interrupts, reverberating through the hallway. Another ship just docked, the Panther explains. In a hurry. His attention focused on the Watcher’s eye, the Orb voices that the eye would know what’s happening. If he’d just let him… hold it one more time. Grabbing the Orb’s arm, the Punisher threatens that “eye face” that, if he’s led them into a trap, he promises that he won’t live to see it through. Actually, the Winter Soldier interjects, he thinks this one might be on him.
A moment later, an enraged Gamora launches herself out of the darkness, yelling a guttural battle cry and holding aloft a sword in both hands. Yelling the Winter Soldier’s name, she attempts a slice, pronouncing him a traitorous bastard and ordering him to die. Fortunately for him, the Winter Soldier sidesteps the blow. As the two continue, Strange voices that they’ve got to stop this madness, but Moon Knight intervenes, telling the others that they might want to sit this one out. Bucky’s got it coming. Asked by the Panther what happened, Moon Knight explains that Winter Soldier blew up his ship. Left Gamora and him stranded in deep space. They had to catch a ride with a friend of hers. Looking down, Moon Knight motions to Rocket Raccoon, the sight of whom startles Emma Frost. Nice popgun, “skull boy,” Rocket quips to the Punisher, whose own weapon is smaller than Rocket’s.
Nearby, the fight continues, with the Winter Soldier using the only weapon at this disposal, Fury’s head. He’s not her enemy, he informs Gamora. Believe it or not, he was trying to protect her. Undeterred, Gamora launches a counterattack, asking if that was what he told the man whose head he wields. No, the Soldier replies. Him, he didn’t give a chance. She still has one. Suddenly, the battle is interjected by Emma Frost, who steps into the fray in her diamond form, delivering a right cross to Gamora, whom she calls “green cheeks.” Interrogation first, execution later, she quips. They should hear what he has to say.
Next to Moon Knight, the Panther tell the Spector that he needs to rein in his partner, or he will do it for him. Hey, he just met the lady, Moon Knight rejoins, but he already trusts her more than him. Back off. A short distance away, the Punisher and Rocket also trade threats. If this is a joke, the Punisher tells him, he picked the wrong guy to pull it on. Elsewhere, a sheepish Ant-Man asks Doctor Strange if this means they’re supposed to fight. When Strange remarks that he’d really rather not, Ant-Man replies okay. Good. Awesome. Cooler heads it is.
Meanwhile, much to Emma’s surprise, Gamora seems unphased by her diamond form, yelling that she chewed diamonds in her crib! Again, the Winter Soldier attempts to step in, asking Gamora to trust him. She really doesn’t want to… Oh, but she really does, Gamora replies. With that, Gamora arcs down her blade for the Soldier’s collarbone, only for him to use Fury’s head as a shield. A moment later, Gamora stands in shock as she spies the head of Fury, now stuck on her blade, buzz with electrical energy. What in the name of Thanos…?
It’s an LMD, the Winter Soldier explains. Life Model Decoy. One of the most sophisticated he’s ever seen. Continuing, the Soldier explains that he used the chip in its head to track where it came from. That’s how he ended up there. Wait, Ant-Man interjects. So how long was Fury an LMD? And where the hell’s the real Fury? Grabbing his stomach, the Orb announces that suddenly he doesn’t feel so good. If he had a mouth… he thinks he might…
Ignoring him, Moon Knight asks the group how do they know at this point there is a real Fury? How the hell do they know anything? This started with Fury, Emma interjects. That’s what she was told… by the Panther. To this, the Panther rejoins that none of them were told the truth. Look around them… Does she think they’re all there by coincidence? They thought they were chasing secrets. They were wrong. They are the secret? What the hell does that mean? Emma demands. Make sense dammit! He said they were working for Nick Fury!
They were, Emma dear, a voice announces. The whole group turns to the source of the voice and sees massive, metal doors opening, revealing an elderly yet living Nick Fury, flanked by four young versions of himself. Smiling slightly as he rests his hands on a cane, Fury adds that they still are.