(next morning, Secret Avengers roving HQ)
Sharon Carter wakes up angry, with a splitting headache too, but mostly she's just angry. She taps away at a computer, feeling that there's no way they hacked the security feeds. However, the people who attacked her got into their ship which should have been impossible, so...
Her eyes widen when she spots something interesting. Video footage of the incident shows two characters in stealth gear, just like S.H.I.E.L.D. used. The cameras see just a digital blur. She gets up and wonders what to do now. Does she wait until Steve reports in from space or does she track whoever knocked her out and stole a highly dangerous artifact? She uses another computer, hoping that Hank did something she can use. She is pleasantly surprised. An image of the missing crown appears on screen. Hank had found its unique energy signature and managed to get a lock on it. Sharon sits at the ship's flight controls and prepares to follow this signature. She's on a mission. They've messed with the wrong ex-agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
(Mars, Roxxon's doomed mining base)
Steve's team lands and enters the seemingly abandoned base. Steve figures it's where Nova would have headed first to see what was left of the place. Hank is fairly impressed. The domed areas actually simulate Earth's gravity and atmosphere. War Machine wonders what kind of hazard pay they were giving their miners. Ant-Man agrees. How much do you get working on freaking Mars? Probably like a million bucks a year, he reckons. War Machine doubts that. The Black Widow asks Steve how long ago the operation was shut down. He replies a month, but Natasha thinks someone's been there recently. Some boot prints that she finds can't be more than a day old. Hank checks out the large machinery. To him it appears that some of it was dragged out of the way of something. He wishes he had an inventory of their equipment.
Moon Knight then calls to them. He's found something. He takes Steve Rogers into a large hole. It's wide; too wide for just looking for mineral deposits. Moon Knight leads him into a cave that the miners had discovered, and inside they find the skeletons of three people. Moon Knight presumes they're the missing workers. It looks like this is where they found the Serpent-like Crown or whatever it is. Steve shines his torch on a carved mural on the cave wall and chides himself. He suggests they go find Nova, now! He's sent the boy into a death trap.
Meanwhile, Hank picks up some interesting readings on his equipment but, as he speaks, Ant-Man notices someone approaching and he grabs Hank, pulling him clear of laserfire just in time. Several soldiers then spread out into the base and continue firing. Steve shouts out to his Avengers that they're under attack, and he leaps towards their assailants, defending himself with his shield. War Machine rockets in and grabs one of them, whilst Moon Knight and Steve wade in fists and feet first. Hank joins in too, using his agility and strength to take down another soldier. He is surprised that they were hiding in the base all this time and his sensors didn't spot them. Valkyrie puts down yet another foe and asks him to consider the quandary later... not during battle.
Steve wonders if these are supposed to be trained soldiers. Something's off. Natasha agrees. They're not communicating with each other at all. Steve adds that they're not even watching each other's backs. It's almost like they're sleepwalking or something. Before long there are just two opponents remaining. Valkyrie warns them that if they fire again they will stir her wrath further. Steve asks her to wait. He orders the soldiers to drop their weapons. There's no way out for them.
One of the soldiers turns to the other and says they have failed the lord of the shadows. They aim their weapons at each other and blast each other's heads clean off. Natasha wonders who they were. She doesn't recognize the uniforms. Hank takes a closer look and discovers that the soldier's eyes are strange. They look like they've been shot through with black ink. This fits Steve's theory that they were being controlled somehow. So what were they there for? he wonders. Moon Knight notices some mining equipment near where they were hiding and a rover by the bay doors. Steve slips his breathing apparatus over his face and prepares to head outside.
Outside, the team discovers some tire track, and from the looks of it there have been several trips into the mountains. Plus, there has been at least one trip to the desert. He asks War Machine and Ant-Man to head into the desert and report if they find anything. He asks Natasha, Moon Knight and Valkyrie to take the road more travelled and see who's at the end of it, reminding them to be careful. He and Beast are going to find Nova, whether he's dead or alive. He won't let him rot on this dead planet.
(Earth, somewhere over the United States)
A Shadow Council agent reports to his superior, a guy who looks just like Nick Fury. He thinks they have a problem on Mars. Their agents ran off the Avengers' scout last night, but an hour later they lost contact with the entire squadron. Now, their drone sensors are picking up energy readings. He thinks someone has activated the third crown. His boss orders him to put them in hyper-drive. He needs to see the board of directors, stat!
Back on the red planet, War Machine and Ant-Man discover some kind of base. It has a small surface entrance and a tall antenna. James doesn't find any sign of movement or heat signatures but still suggests that he take point. Whoever these guys are they have good tech. Ant-Man reminds him that he was at their last fight too so he knows what to expect. James opens a large door and enters the darkness with Eric close behind. He contacts Steve and informs him that he's found a structure with a few more rovers outside, but it seems deserted. Steve asks them to find any intel they can on their new friends. Ant-Man flies through the base and finds it awesome. He rounds a bend and comes across what looks like a round decorative window. However, as he approaches it, sparks of energy come to meet him which surprises Eric.
Steve calls James and asks how Eric's doing. James replies that he's tolerable so far but a bit whiny. Steve asks him to keep an eye out for him. He's a good kid underneath it all. Steve signs off and James looks around. Where the hell did Eric get to?
Steve and Hank arrive at a doorway carved into the side of a mountain. Hank picks up some residual energy readings from Nova. He's definitely been there. The shattered stones nearby were probably ancient doors, he presumes. Steve agrees. They head inside and ascend a long staircase which leads into a large cavern. They notice another staircase which leads to a small temple or tomb. It's all very interesting. Hank shines his torch at a hole in the wall and reckons it must be Nova's entrance point. They then make another discovery... Nova's discarded helmet lying on the ground. Steve sighs. Nova without his helmet? What has he done? Hank asks Steve to wait. He's picking up something else on his sensor. A split second later, a huge explosion throws the two Avengers to the ground. As they pick themselves up, they see a hulking figure standing before them. They have thick armor, large scary-looking claws and glowing eyes. "What have you done?" they ask, angrily. "Are you humans so foolish that you desire the end of all things? Where is the crown?"
Moon Knight, the Black Widow and Valkyrie are hiding in the hills with Natasha looking through some hi-tech binoculars. Moon Knight asks if she's sure it's him. Natasha replies that she's only met him twice, but it's definitely Nova. Valkyrie asks what he's doing. In the distance, Nova is wearing the crown. Energy sparks wildly from his hand. She informs them that he's wielding an unknown power source to keep the men below him under control. They are about to dig for something under the surface of Mars. Valkyrie already knows this, but she asks why?
Natasha replies that Nova may be controlling them, but she doesn't think Nova's actually in control of himself. His eyes look just like theirs do... all inky blackness. She then lifts her head up and her eyes widen. "Oh... that probably isn't good. Moon Knight turns and asks what the problem is. Natasha thinks Nova's spotted them. They turn to see Nova rocketing towards them, grinning.