Three Weeks later:
Valeria informs her father, the God Emperor Doom, that she doesn’t have very good news. Displeased, he replies that his world is in disarray. Recent disorder has escalated into open rebellion in some kingdoms. In that chaos, his Thors grow weary and an ill wind portends even worse to come… Nevertheless, he would have the truth from her… and he would have it now.
Valeria looks down on her tablet as she stands between two large tubes holding the bodies of two Incursion survivors. Val summarizes that the search for the people who killed Sheriff Strange has been a failure. Even if they are super patient, extrapolating their chances from what little success they’ve had, honestly, their chances suck. Their only luck was Apocalypse stumbling upon these two some days ago. The Baron and his Horsemen did quite a number on them, but they were still intact enough for the Foundation to get a look into their heads. They found out the beastman is called Corbis. The other is apparently his proxy.
Is she correct? Doom asks the Black Swan, who corrects that they are husband and wife, called Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. They are the surviving members of the Black Order. The generals of the tyrant Thanos.
Susan Storm interjects, confession is the manifestation of contrition. If this one has truly seen the error of her ways, why does he have to ask for information that should be freely given? Doom replies cryptically she was lost. The Black Swan is from another world. It will take her time to find her way. But she will find it, won’t she, child? She is home, she replies, calling him ‘my Lord.’ Annu Ersetu Damiq. Good, Doom agrees. And is there anything else she thinks they should hear?
She recalls there was the battle. They were all here with him and suddenly they were scattered. She then made her way here. She assumes Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight found each other. Of the rest… she does not know. But she does know who they are? Sue presses. Some. Not all, is the reply. Sue demands she tell them what she knows.
Doom remarks that is secondary to his primary concern. At the moment, he only cares where the rebels are now and that they are brought before him. He asks Val if in the recesses of the captives’ minds there was any hint as to where the others are. Do they know anything of their plans? Val apologizes, they don’t. They have no idea where they are. They have no idea what they are doing.
Later Valeria contacts her colleagues at the Foundation:
How are things on the God daddy front? Alex Power asks. Ever get the feeling you are being lied to? Val asks. Not really, no, Alex replies. That’s because he is an awesome liar, Bentley-23 points out. A super liar, actually. It might be his best trait. He thinks? Alex asks amused. He doesn’t know, Bentley replies grimacing. He could be lying!
Alex asks Val if she is okay. She’s got spiders in her head, she sighs. She’s having a hard time ignoring her normal instincts and keeping her nose from where it shouldn’t be.
Alex informs her they’ve had a little breakthrough in their experiment. They finally filtered out the background radiation and found the source of her father’s power. Val is standing on it. Before she can beg off, Alex adds the Night Machine found more of these drone things. Six this time. They added the locations to the others and found they extrapolate out to a geometric search pattern. Somebody’s looking for something. Val looks at the holographic image of the small globelike drone and sighs who’s building this crap?
Somewhere inside Battleworld:
Several flying drones are returning to this base. Inside are two very different versions of the same man. Reed Richards from Earth 616 and his counterpart from 1610, the “Maker.” Reed muses aloud if they treat this as another problem to be solved, then the question “can we” must be secondary to “should we.”
Examining a drone, the Maker retorts he would argue Reed is wrong. The primary problem - the only problem - is to find a way to defeat Doom. To that end, they need to locate a weakness. Some crack in that heavenly armor of his. What then happens to the world? Reed asks. All that remains of what was… does it just fly apart? Cease to exist? Or would it somehow remain? They have to be concerned about what’s on the other side of Doom.
The Maker calls his premise flawed. He believes that, no matter what, Doom is going to be able to hold it together. He tells Reed to look at the data he is downloading from the probes. The Prophet has raised an army, an endless legion of Doom deniers that marches toward the throne and his World Tree.
Is the Prophet another one if his side projects? Reed asks. Maybe, the Maker replies coyly. If he confessed all of his secret plans, would Reed also tell him his? No, of course he wouldn’t, the Maker mocks. Who could understand the machinations that go inside that head of his? So perhaps they should simply agree to focus on the problem that brought them together: how to kill a god.
Reed insists he is not ready to consider that. The Maker takes off his helmet. He muses that he looks at Reed’s face which is his own face and sees the age on it. He wonders how it became so sentimental? So soft? So weak. Refusing to be goaded, Reed tells him it’s easy once you learn to care about things other than yourself.
The Maker presses a button showing another image: Doom, Susan and Valeria. He means things like this? Reed stares at Sue then looks down. The Maker grins. Reed looks up determined. The problem as he sees it is determining how Victor came to possess so much power. He’s got his best people working on that…
The grounds outside:
The two Spider-Man, Peter Parker and Miles Morales, are in the gardens outside the castle tracking the source of the energy with one of Reed’s gizmos. They are puzzled that the trace seems to lead to the statue of the Molecule Man, or more precisely under it. Peter figures it could be buried underneath.
Actually, there is a trap door, a newcomer announces. She found it earlier, Valeria adds. They are looking for the source too, aren’t they? Is that really her? Peter asks. Is she supposed to know him? Val asks. She doesn’t know him. She had her people working on finding the source too.
She grabs Spidey’s device and examines it critically. Obviously made by the same person who built the drones, she scoffs: might as well have signed their name to it. This is embarrassing. Who built this? Reed Richards, Spidey gulps. Val has never heard of him. Tell him she said this is shoddy work and he should get his act together, okay? She hands it back.
Peter asks if she is coming inside with them. She’s spent the last hour thinking about it and has decided not to. End of the day, she is just a kid. She is not emotionally prepared for finding out these things about her father. The trapdoor is at the base of that statue. But they are going to have to answer a couple of questions if they want her to keep silent. Were they on the ship? The Vessel the Foundation found? One of them Peter, replies. It was a life raft. Okay, and none of them from the life raft killed Stephen Strange, did they? Of course not, Spidey replies. Didn’t think so, Val agrees.
The two Spider-Men enter and there is a blinding light. Can they feel that? a voice asks. Tectonic plates grinding at the edges, like pieces from different puzzles trying to form a single picture, but they never will. Understand? They don’t belong together. It’s going to fly apart. He knows it is. He devoured everything, but he is still hungry! Hellooo, Spider-Men, Owen Reece greets them. Did they bring him something to eat?
Spidey apologizes. He didn’t know there was anybody down here, so he didn’t bring anything. Miles finds a burger in his pocket. Owen demands it.
How did he forget he had a hamburger in his pocket? Peter asks. They were busy, Miles points out. It’s a burger! Hamburgers are what he likes. Puberty is rough. He is hungry all the time. No, where did he get it? Peter asks. From his Earth. So that is an eight years, three weeks old hamburger? Miles doesn’t think suspended animation counts. Still it’s a three weeks old hamburger. They realize Owen probably shouldn’t eat that. Owen finds it delicious though. He owes him one, he tells Miles. More chilled, he remarks they are following a certain tendril. A Spider scurrying along a very particular web. Spidey admits they were sent to find the source of Doom’s power. All he sees here is a big white room. Any idea where they might find that? They are looking at him, the Molecule Man replies.
Several of Doom’s barons – the Maestro, Apocalypse, Sinister and the Goblin Queen – have gathered (via holograms). Madelyne Pryor explains to Doom that their foe calls himself the Prophet. And he is the sole person behind the uprising? Doom questions. If he looks closer, he won’t find one of them standing in the shadows… propping him up?
Madelyne swears her loyalty. The Maestro scoffs that, if he wanted Doom’s throne, he would take it. Sinister decides to be quiet and Apocalypse chides Doom that the Prophet’s words have rung real in the absence of Doom’s. And they have spread like a fire through the kingdoms. He has raised an army. Two days ago, the Upper and Lower Kingdoms fell to his mob and it grows as he heads this way. Doom ignores him at his peril.
He holds the heavens up, just so the Earth can tremble beneath him, Doom mutters. He curses Stephen Strange for leaving him with all this. Does Apocalypse have more to offer than deference and posturing?
Only the counsel of the strong, Apocalypse replies. Doom is God and the very existence of those who say otherwise is an offense. Only the loyal should live. Kill the rest.
He sees, Doom muses. Power structures must be maintained. Dominance must be displayed. Raining an army of Thors down among them would meet his approval, he supposes. Certainly, Apocalypse agrees. He must act. But why waste his most loyal and worthy on a pretender and his mob? Doom questions. They do it. All of them. And he warns them not to tarry. He is losing what little grave he still possesses. The communication is over.
Sinister, holding a cocktail stands in his home. Well, that did not go as planned, he remarks chipper. What does she think they should do?
He is speaking to Carol Danvers, who now also wears a red diamond on her brow. She has some ideas but would like to hear him first. Okay, God Doom wants him to send a full complement of warriors to disabuse these nonbelievers of their sinful ways. He could send less. A pittance perhaps. Carol hits him.
Or he could send everyone, he decides. Because he’s a good, good boy. Another blow. He’s got it now, he holds up his hand. He knows what they should do. Let’s be naughty! Carol grins. Now he’s talking…
The Hidden Isle of Agamotto
Using an undersea tunnel, Namor and the Black Panther are entering Sheriff Strange’s former Sanctum. Sourly, Namor remarks they only had to cross the world seas several times before they finally found the Doctor’s hidden isle. He addresses T’Challa and asks what is the greater miracle: that they actually found it or that they found it without killing each other?
T’Challa muses that, with the enormity of all they have been through, he thinks he eventually realized that there was no avoiding what happened to their world.
They stand before the entrance. T’Challa continues that Namor is a king of ashes now. He is King of the dead. There is nothing left to fight over. Nothing behind them… and only this new world before them.
It’s just a door, Namor replies, and a locked one at that. He forgets Stephen left them a key, the Panther points out and takes out the Eye of Agamotto locket. An identical symbol appears on the door and it opens.
Inside, a hologram of Strange greets them and mentions that they have the Key of Agamotto, which they must have received from his dying hands. But was it given freely or was it taken without merit? Two black demon guard dogs appear on each side of them. The answer to this question will determine their true intent. Tell him: do they know the secret history of the world? Memento Mori?
Illuminatus, the Black Panther announces. The demons withdraw somewhat and put out their tongues on which small boxes lie. Good, the hologram tells them. He hopes his passing was of consequence. Something such as his knowledge of the world God Doom and he built together will be forever lost but some may be passed on. As such, he leaves them all the items of significance he truly owns, of which there are two.
Namor turns to one box and takes out a red, golden, square object. The hologram continues, this is one of the few artifacts which transcends the patchwork nature of this planet. This is the Siege Courageous, an object of power that will transport them anywhere they wish to go. As well as transform the traveler in a manner befitting—
My God! T’Challa interjects as he sees the object in the other box. The voice continues, the second item is geographically restricted to Doomstadt, home to Castle Doom, the Worldtree and God himself. They might not know this world has been constructed from remains of worlds destroyed in the multiversal collapse. Each section is a slice of a single native universe. Which is why, when he found one containing all the gems, he made sure that Castle Doom was built in that section. He leaves to them his most precious possession.
Reaching into the box, T’Challa asks Namor what he thinks. Don’t look at him, Namor retorts. They both know it can’t be trusted. T’Challa takes up the object, a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet…
The hologram tells them to use it wisely and quickly if they must use it. For it may be the only thing with which one may smite God…
Susan Storm calls her son Franklin to go to bed. He leaves his position atop Galactus’ hand and enters his room. Exited, he tells her that today he and Galactus went fishing and caught a Leviathan. She tucks him in and asks for a story. He wants to hear about the Fantastic Four. She laughs that she has told that one 1000 times already, but indulges him.
There were four of them: Sue, her brother Jonathan, their friend Ben Grimm and their father Doctor Franklin Storm. They went on what they thought would be an incredible journey but something went wrong and their ship crashed. But they were changed and gained powers. They became heroes and protected the Earth. But then one day the world ended, and the world they are on now began.
That’s when she met Dad, Franklin calls out exited. That’s when he saved them, she agrees.
When it was forged, this world was a frightening place. A dark and dangerous time. It was night and all that seemed to exist was war. That was when Franklin’s grandfather died, killed by an Apocalypse. They would have died as well. But there was a light, brilliant and blinding… it was Franklin’s father. He made a world from nothing. He made a world that was everything. That was the day the Fantastic Four died and was replaced with something better. His father helped her bury her father and then together they brought order to this world. His Uncle Johnny even became the sun, so there would be less night.
Sleepily, Franklin asks what became of Uncle Ben. She never says. She kisses him on the forehead and promises that’s a story for another day. For when he is older.
The Shield is actually what Ben Grimm has turned to. Inside a cell, Grimm tells the prisoner – Thanos – his story is crap. He wanna hear a real one? He’ll tell him… It’s about a guy who had to leave the only family he ever had behind because God needed someone to keep the nightmares out. So he said goodbye to Sue and Johnny and became the Shield, so the world could have some sorta peace. Some sorta chance. And now Thanos is telling him that it ain’t been worth it?
Yes, the mad Titan agrees. He is telling Grimm his God put him here to keep him out of the way. Because he fears him. Just as he feared the Torch and cast him out as well. He sits down opposite the Thing’s face. You see, he knows a secret… He knows who Ben Grimm really is. He is a warrior… a hero and, where Thanos is from, Grimm is the closest friend to Doom’s greatest enemy. They have shamed him time and time over. Doom is a petty usurper of power far grander than himself. Speaking as one who has felt the universe writhe in his clenched fist, this power should not be left to a mortal such as he.
He’s saying none of this is the real deal? Ben demands. No, it’s as real as anything, Thanos replies. It’s just not reality as it should be. Doom has convinced Grimm to live on his knees. This is a painful heartless truth and it begs one question: Is he going to lie here or is he going to stand up?
And, moments later, the Shield falls as the giant Ben Grimm gets up…