A psychiatric hospital…somewhere…a dark-haired man with a crescent moon imprinted on his forehead lies in his bed in a padded cell. Since his discharge from the service over eighteen months ago, he has lain in the 12’ x 12’ cubicle, sleeping for twenty hours a day. Even when he is awakened for his meals, mandatory exercise and toilet, he keeps his silence, evincing no emotion…no need except to return to his bed. For in sleep, there are dreams - and dreams are where he would prefer to spend the remainder of his life…. When he was awake, terrible things happened to him. When he is asleep, the terrible things remain at bay…. It would take something horribly dire for him to voluntarily traverse the waking world once more. Then, suddenly, he wakes urgently, and screams ‘THEY’RE COMING!’
At that moment, far, far away, a star ship of the Shi’ar Imperial Fleet warps through the solar system’s major star gate. On aboard, an eclectic mix of Earth heroes - Quasar, Darkstar, Binary, Vanguard, Perun, Captain Marvel, Ikaris, Black Bolt and Lockjaw - stand gathered after commandeering the star ship to pursue an alien vessel through the star gate. The unidentified aliens have kidnapped a woman from Earth who possesses the most significant new power source in all the cosmos, not to mention also being Quasar’s significant other. The Shi’ar, however, so not suffer the intruders gladly.
Wendell “Quasar” Vaughan motions to the large monitor on the bridge and tells everyone that something is not right, as he has flown this gate-path many times and has never seen anything like this. Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Captain Marvel announces that it sounds like the ship is losing power, and asks if their quarry could have set some sort of booby trap for them. Starbolt stands with several of his Imperial Guard teammates - Moondancer, Smasher, Neutron, Solar Wind and Voyager - and tells his teammates that the sound is the engines cutting out. ‘The Earthers have done something!’ he exclaims. Quasar hands command of the team over to Captain Marvel as he announces that he is going to quantum-jump outside to check out what is going on.
But just as Quasar teleports out, Voyager opens a portal, which he and the tracker Moondancer quickly enter. Starbolt asks them where they are going, to which Voyager replies that this is their vessel caught inside the gate, and although they have allowed Quasar and his people to believe they are in charge, if anything happens to the vessel it is the Imperial Guard who will have to answer to the Majestrix. Moments later, Moondancer and Voyager have joined Quasar on the outside of the Shi’ar ship. But when Wendell is unable to ascertain what is stalling the Shi’ar vessel from immediately outside, he quantum jumps still further, with the Shi’ar warriors hot on his heels.
Quasar materializes outside the star gate from where they entered, and notices a strange device. ‘What’s that?’ he wonders, before noticing Moondancer and Voyager arrive. ‘I got company, I see’ he tells himself, before deciding that the device is some sort of power-dampener by the look of its energy signature. Wendell realizes that there is some sort of anti-matter device at its core, meaning it is a bomb - and he thinks his quantum probe he used on it has activated it. ‘Got to get it away from here - before it -’ Quasar thinks to himself, when suddenly, unbidden, Voyager helps Quasar open a space portal large enough to contain the device - so that when detonation occurs moments later, the device is light years from the opening of the star gate.
During this, Quasar protected himself, Moondancer and Voyager in a quantum energy bubble, and with the Shi’ar vessel free from the dampening device’s grip, it suddenly regains its inertia and careens down the warp tunnel. ‘Whoa! There goes the ship!’ Wendell thinks to himself, knowing that it is safe, in no small part, thanks to Voyager, and wonders whether he could have shunted it away quickly enough if he was alone.
Meanwhile, several light years away, but at that very moment, on the laboratory world of the enigmatic experimenter known only as the Stranger, the powerful cosmic being stands in one of his myriad labs, where Skeletron of the Starblasters and he examine Kayla Ballantine, the cause of Quasar’s quest. The Stranger motions to Kayla, in a tank of fluid, and boasts that he has analysed scores of Earth beings, so what interest is this one to him. Skeletron replies ‘Do not be so disingenuous, great Stranger! Surely your instruments detect the pulse of anomalous energy reading within its form’. The Stranger replies that they do.
Skeletron explains that they call it the Starbrand for it looks like a cosmetic body marking in the stylised shape of a star, behind her neck. Skeltron explains that this Starbrand, he believes, to be from another universe so far from this one that none of its physical properties resembles theirs. ‘How this Earth being came to acquire this power source has to do with the Earth being Quasar, you have heard of him I’m sure’ Skeletron replies, before exclaiming that this is a bargain he is offering him. ‘Use your vast resources to examine the power source - remove it from its host - determine where it is from and how I might get there - and you may keep the Brand!’
The Stranger asks Skeletron why the Starbrand’s place of origin interests him so much. ‘Do you expect that there are many such power objects there?’ he asks. ‘Perhaps. Perhaps not’ Skeletron replies, before asking if they have a deal. ‘We do!’ The Stranger replies, to which Skeletron exclaims ‘Good’ and announces that he will leave the Stranger to do his work, and asks him to summon him if he requires anything, as he will be waiting in his ship. ‘Acknowledged’ the Stranger replies as Skeletron leaves.
Ahead of Skeletron, at the space-port, several of his squad are stationed - Zardok and Threkker currently egging Codabac and Skar on as they battle. ‘Come on, Skar! Pin that four-armed freak!’ the rocky-skinned Zardok shouts. ‘Don’t let me down, Codabac! I have currency dependent upon your performance!’ Threkker encourages Codabac. Suddenly, the giant Nygorm approaches them and uses his abilities to levitate Codabac and Skar into the air. ‘Let is down!’ Skar shouts, to which Nygorn tells him that if they have so much energy to spare, then they should be using it to explore this curio-world.
Codabac explains that they are honing their battle skills and tells the giant that he should do the same. ‘Fah! I am as skilled as I ever need be!’ Nygorn snaps back, before dropping Skar and Codabac to the ground, while Threkker asks ‘Explore, large one? You do mean plunder, don’t you?’, before reminding Nygorn that Skeletron is here to negotiate, not plunder. ‘He would be very perturbed were we to -’ Threkker adds, before Nygorn interrupts, boasting that he does not fear Skeletron, as he goes to explore, and asks if there is anyone bold enough to join him. ‘I’ll go with you’ Zardok replies. Nygorn takes flight, using his abilities to lift Zardok alongside him, as he calls back ‘Feel free to inform on us to the mighty Skeletron!’
Elsewhere…a doctor stands beside his patient in the padded cell, while two orderlies guard the door. ‘ - a very disturbing dream, Doctor. I…believe it to be precognitive!’ the dark-haired man exclaims. The Doctor calls him Keith and asks what it was - what was so compelling that he brought it out of himself. Keith replies that it is going to sound weird, but he knows where they are - forces from another plane of existence on their way here. ‘I see’ the Doctor replies. ‘No, you don’t see! You’re just saying that because you’re glad that I snapped out of my vegetable state!’ Keith replies, agitated. ‘We’re going to be invaded, Doc! You must believe me! You know about my abilities -’ he begins, before the Doctor interrupts, assuring Keith that he will not close his mind to anything, not with all those preposterous paranormals running around, before asking if what he says is true, then what does he want him to do about it?
Keith gets up off the bed and lunges at the Doctor, exclaiming that they have got to warn the world, the president and their most powerful paranormals. The orderlies step into the room and call out to Doctor Clow: ‘You want we should -?’ one of them asks. But Doctor Clow remarks that he is happy Keith has become motivated once more. ‘After all these months, I was beginning to lose hope that you’d ever get over your guilt over what happened during the war…’. Keith sits back down on the bed, telling Doctor Clow to forget it. ‘What’s coming is going to make the war look like a picnic - and if you don’t think we should do anything, fine by me!’
Meanwhile, somewhere beyond the star-gate, Quasar stands beside Gladiator, leader of the Imperial Guard and announces that they are past the little booby trap, thanks to Gladiator’s fellow Shi’ars, before informing everyone that he just got a good look on the Starbrand signature trail. Wendell asks Gladiator to have his pilot set his course as follows, before giving the co-ordinates. Moments later, Quasar tells Gladiator that he is sorry about the hassle with he and the others Earth heroes taking command of his ship and all. ‘But you can’t believe how big this Starbrand deal is!’ Wendell exclaims, assuring Gladiator that if he gets his allies into the vicinity of the Starbrand, and they will leave him peaceably. Gladiator replies that he agrees, but warns Quasar that he may still be held accountable for his violations of Shi’ar law. ‘Right’ Quasar replies as he leaves the bridge, while thinking to himself that Gladiator is a jerk.
Moments later, Quasar arrives in sickbay, where Captain Marvel is monitoring their other ally, Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme. Wendell asks Monica how Hyperion is doing, to which Monica tells Wendell to ask him himself as he has regained consciousness. ‘Physically - I’m healing, but I feel rotten that I let you down and let that alien get the better of me!’ Hyperion replies from where he lies in a capsule, a neck brace around his neck. Quasar tells Hyperion that they all have their heads handed to them sometimes, and tells Hyperion to do him a favor and get better, otherwise Zarda will kill him if he brings her fiancée home all busted up! Hyperion smiles.
Captain Marvel motions to another capsule in the sickbay, where Manta lies, unmoving. ‘I wanted to mention something’ Monica tells Wendell who asks ‘Manta, wasn’t it?’ Monica reveals that she is responsible for the coma that Manta is in. ‘We were fighting...her power and mine - there was some sort of feedback effect - that as far as I can tell has somehow restored my control over the full electromagnetic spectrum!’ Monica explains, before displaying some power to Quasar. Monica adds that she cannot turn into electromagnetic energy like she used to though, when suddenly, a voice sounds over the intercom, asking Quasar to report to the command deck. Wendell excuses himself from Captain Marvel and leaves the sickbay.
A planet is displayed on the large monitor on the bridge, and Gladiator informs Quasar that this appears to be the world where the Starbrand was taken. ‘Already, huh?’ Wendell remarks as he looks at the planet, before announcing that it looks vaguely familiar. Solar Wind informs Gladiator that the planet is familiar to him also, before announcing that it is the world of the Stranger, where he, Moondancer and Voyager were imprisoned for countless rotations. Gladiator informs Quasar that they can go no further, explaining that they have an Imperial treaty with the Stranger, meaning if they leave the Stranger’s world alone then no Shi’ar citizen will ever be a subject of his experimentation again. Quasar replies that he supposes this is where they part company then, and announces that he will assemble his troops and get out of here.
Soon, the Imperial Guard look on as Quasar and his allies prepare to leave, with Quasar telling everyone to join hands with someone who can teleport. Vanguard takes his sister’s hand, while Ikaris approaches Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna and asks if she minds, to which Laynia replies that she doesn’t, so Ikaris takes her other hand. Captain Marvel and Carol “Binary” Danvers each take one of Quasar’s hand, while Perun approaches Black Bolt, who is holding onto Lockjaw, and jokes that he will walk his dog with him, before Captain Marvel points out that Hyperion Is still not in any shape to travel, so they will have to come back for him. Three teleport signatures engulf the heroes, while Quasar thanks the Imperial Guard for the lift, before they all vanish. ‘Impenitent earthman. I do not like him’ Gladiator tells his teammates.
Meanwhile, aboard Skeletron’s ship, in the chamber of his most trusted aide, Fabrikant, the alien notices incoming life forms on a scanner, and wonders if the Earthlings could have gotten through his star-gate blockade. ‘Skeletron must be notified!’ he tells himself.
Flying over the Stranger’s planet, Quasar, Darkstar, Binary and the others take in the strange surroundings, while Quasar tells his allies that he has been here before, and informs them that they are looking for a huge dodecahedron. Vanguard complains that the way Quasar constantly assumes command is annoying, to which Darkstar replies ‘Yes, my brother’, while Perun remarks to Black Bolt that they are making some bizarre visits. Suddenly though, the giant Nygorm appears before everyone. ‘Come no further!’ he booms. ‘Whoa! Where’d he come from?’ Quasar wonders, before telling Binary and Captain Marvel to subdue the new arrival, while he quickly flies past Nygorn, continuing on his journey.
Nygorn glances at Quasar, but cannot stop him, as Binary an Captain Marvel bombard him with their powers. Monica decides that this is the time to give her new energy manipulating powers a real workout, while Carol warns everyone that their opponent is attacking as he fires beams of energy at them. ‘Don’t hold back!’ Carol tells everyone. Vanguard asks if this is the Stranger, to which Darkstar replies it is not, as she has met the Stranger. Ikaris points out that Binary and Captain Marvel seem to have their enemy at bay, and suggests to Darkstar, Vanguard, Perun and Black Bolt that the five of them follow Quasar.
Nygorn screams out in pain as Binary and Captain Marvel’s energy strikes him, while Codabac, Skar, Threkker and Zardok suddenly appear in space crafts. ‘Fabrikant was right! The Earthers!’ Codabac exclaims. Skar remarks that he has not killed anyone in many rotations and boasts that he will relish the next few minutes. ‘Hostile aliens. What an unexpected pleasure!’ Perun exclaims as he, Darkstar, Vanguard, Ikaris and Black Bolt begin to battle the four Starblasters. Perun takes on Zardok, while Ikaris deals to Codabac, and Black Bolt confronts Skar. Threkkers lunges at Vanguard shouting ‘Morsels! Threkker shall feast!’, to which Darkstar calls out to her brother, but as Threkker forces Vanguard downwards, Vanguard assures Laynia that he can handle this beast and suggests she help someone else.
‘ENOUGH OF THIS IMPERTINENCE!’ Nygorn booms, blasting enery at Binary and smashing her against the Starblaster’s shuttle. Laynia calls out to Binary, before using the power of the Darkforce to create a blindfold around Nygorn: ‘Let’s see how well you shoot when you cannot see, giant!’ Laynia exclaims as she wraps the Darkforce around Nygorn’s eyes, confusing the cosmic being. Perun has been knocked to the rooftop of a building, and watches as Zardok rushes towards him: ‘Oh, woe is me! The rock creature has dealt me a resounding blow! Now he comes to finish me off!’ Perun mocks. ‘Oh, what shall poor Perun do?’ Perun continues to mock, before casting forth a bolt of lightning to strike Zardok down. Perun just laughs at the rock-skinned alien.
Vanguard finds himself in danger, unsure as to what is happening, for his power to repulse all energies used against him isn’t working, and he cannot bring it to bear against Threkker, who continues to force Vanguard downwards to the rooftop as Vanguard loses his power to fly. ‘What have you done?’ Nygorn booms at Darkstar, while Black Bolt continues to fend of Skar, and Ikaris finds Codabac a worthy foe. ‘As strong as you are, Earther, you cannot block all the ways I can attack!’ the four-armed alien exclaims.
Once more, an unimaginable distance away…Keith is curled up in bed once more, thinking to himself that Doctor Clow will not believe him. ‘He’s going to be sorry…everyone’s going to. Including me, I guess…’ Keith tells himself that he could just let the world go hang, but the catastrophe that will befall Earth will affect him, too. Keith knows that he could do something, but that would mean making peace with his other self, his dream form. ‘Putting myself in the position where once again millions of people could be affected if I mess up in some way!’. Keith tells himself that he doesn’t have a choice - if he fails to do something or if he tries to do something and fails, either way he will still be responsible.
‘Why I have to be in this position, I’ll never know! I didn’t ask for this responsibility!’ Keith tells himself, as he slips into his costumed dream form, and leaves the padded cell. Keith supposes he can hide away inside his own private dreamscape no longer, for he is going to have to act if he ever wants to know peaceful sleep again. ‘I’m going to have to summon Nightmask from the recesses of my mind, and pray he can do something to save the waking world!’
Meanwhile, aboard the Shi’ar star ship, Moondancer, Voyager and Solar Wind stand in front of Gladiator, who exclaims ‘No! I forbid you to go down to the Stranger’s world! I cannot allow the three of you to jeopardize the treaty!’. Solar Wind tells Gladiator that this is very important to them, reminding Gladiator that he, Moondancer and Voyager - and possibly others - were imprisoned and experimented on by the Stranger for almost three cycles. ‘He did unspeakable things to us!’ Solar Wind exclaims. Solar Wind reveals that, more than anything else in the universe, they would like to extract vengeance upon the Stranger - and they may never get another opportunity like this. Gladiator tells his teammates that he appreciates what they must be feeling, but that their duty to the Imperium must come first. ‘If that is how you feel, praetor - then tell the Empress that Solar Wind, Voyager and Moondancer hereby resign from the Imperial Guard!’ Moondancer exclaims as she and her male companions leap into a portal opened by Voyager. Gladiator frowns as he watches them leave.
Back on the Stranger’s planet, Nygorn tries to pull the Darkforce bonds form his eyes, while Ikaris and Black Bolt continue to battle Codabac and Skar, when suddenly a ripple in the air signals Voyager’s portal opening. Moondancer explains that she guided them to where the greatest concentration of Earth people were, and suggests that the Stranger might be nearby. Black Bolt grapples with Skar, and eventually forces him in front of the giant Nygorn, before whispering the merest syllable, which smashes Skar into Nygorn - a shocking equivelant to a ton of TNT. Solar Wind decides that if he aids the Earthlings in their skirmishes with the non-entities, they may assist him and his teammates in their vendetta against this world’s master.
Solar Wind proceeds to blow a bust of wind, separating Ikaris and Codabac - but Nygorn continues to fall backwards where Ikaris is about to land - until Voyager rescues Ikaris by opening a portal. ‘Don’t worry, blue one! You shall not be crushed!’ Voyager assures him. Darkstar and Captain Marvel help Binary down, and ask her if she is all right, to which Carol replies ‘Somewhat’. ‘Teleported? By whom?’ Ikaris wonders as he re-appears. ‘By me!’ Voayger exclaims as he, Solar Wind, Moondancer, Perun and Black Bolt gather together. Suddenly, Threkker reminds everyone he is still around as he holds Vanguard over his head and shouts ‘Surrender, Earthers! Or I will drain this one of every last speck of life force!’. A horrified Darkstar screams out for her brother.
Nearby, in his lab, the Stranger informs Skeletron that he is nearly finished with his analysis. ‘You are sure? I did not expect it to go so quickly!’ Skeletron replies as he looks at Kayla Ballantine. The Stranger replies that he has been doing such procedures for eons, before Skeletron asks him if he can tell where the Starbrand is from. The Stranger replies that he cannot while it is still on her person, so he will have to remove it. ‘Then proceed, great scientist, proceed!’ Skeletron replies.
Close by, Quasar flies through the numerous corridors, thinking to himself that they are maddeningly complex. ‘I have half a mind to burn right through them all’ Quasar tells himself, though is afraid he may hit a reactor or something. ‘Hold on, Kayla, please hold on! I’m going as fast as I can…and oh how I’m going to make your tormentors pay!’….