She-Hulk has just joined a fight between her partner, Jazinda, and the two mutants, Darwin and Monet. Recognizing Monet, she inwardly curses. She doesn’t need the hassle of dealing with the legendarily insufferable Monet St. Croix.
Little does she know that Monet, hovering several feet above her, feels exactly the same way about She-Hulk. She-Hulk angrily orders her down. Ignoring her order, M asks why she is interested in Darwin. She-Hulk doesn’t even know who he is. The one she is looking for, M replies. Obviously they are operating at cross-purposes here. She sees no point in pounding on each other until they inevitably settle their differences and work together. So she’s sorry as all get-out if this disappoints She-Hulk, but they’re not going to do this.
In response, She-Hulk pulls of the top of a hydrant and hits Monet with the full blown water stream. She smirks at her foe. Yeah, okay, Monet decides infuriated. Now they’re going to do it. She dives down at She-Hulk and hits her.
Inwardly, part of She-Hulk knows she is acting like an idiot because this is pointless and ridiculous. But part of her welcomes it, saying that Monet has it coming because she looks at Jen so condescendingly. And besides it keeps her distracted from She-Hulk’s partner Jazinda.
Nearby, Darwin has Jazinda in a headlock. He warns her she may as well stop struggling. He was taught this by the best. Did the best teach him how to cope with this? she asks, as suddenly her body becomes malleable. She squirms out of his grip and kicks him in the ribs. As she gets some distance from him, she shouts at him stay back and let her do her work. He is out of his depth!
Jazinda runs past the two fighting women. Jen knows she could just tell Monet what’s going on. Explain it calmly like any lawyer would. But dammit, this is just way more fun!
Outside Detroit, several hours earlier, Jen Walters and Jazinda were driving away from the airport. Jen asks Jazinda what’s wrong with her. She’s driving like she’s in the Indy 500, she’s suddenly started speaking fluent “cryptic”… Jazinda asks her to trust her. She does trust her, Jen stresses, but if Jazinda doesn’t tell her what’s going on, it tells her that she isn’t trusting Jen
Jazinda thinks for a bit, then reveals that the Skrulls are coming. When? Where? Jennifer asks. Soon. Everywhere, comes the reply. They’ll be stopped, Jen supposes. The heroes like the Avengers and the FF, they live for this stuff. No, comes the curt reply. What does she mean “no?” Jen asks. It’s the opposite of “yes,” Jaz deadpans. The heroes won’t stop it. This has been planned too long, too thoroughly. New York is ground zero. But it’s going to be simultaneous and worldwide and unstoppable.
And she’s known about this? Jen demands. Yes. What does she mean, “yes?” It’s the opposite of “no,” Jaz replies, stone-faced.
Jen makes a grab for the steering wheel, ordering her to turn around. They are heading to New York! The hell they are! comes the reply. Jaz insists on their going to Detroit. They struggle for the steering wheel and Jen turns into the She-Hulk, announcing that she’s done listening to Jazinda. Then her planet’s done along with her, the Skrull woman shouts
That moment, they go over and crash. Terrific! Jaz complains. She hopes Jen’s happy. She-Hulk slugs her outside and Jaz returns to her Skrull form. How dare she? She-Hulk demands as she comes after her. Jazinda acts like her friend and then she keeps this from her! She is her friend, idiot, Jaz complains, holding her aching chin.
Yeah? She-Hulk asks. ‘Kay, here’s a couple of guidelines to being a friend… One: friends don’t let other friends drive drunk. Two: Friends give you a heads up when aliens are about to turn your planet into a real-life version of “Space Invaders.”
She didn’t know, Jazinda defends herself. Now she’s changing her story? She-Hulk asks doubtfully. The invasion was conceived years ago, Jaz specifies, but there were factions in the Skrull Empire that opposed it. She didn’t’ think it would ever happen. Obviously, those factions changed their minds or were simply eliminated.
How is she supposed to believe her? Jen asks. Because if she didn’t care about this planet, she wouldn’t have told her at all, Jaz replies. Maybe she’s just trying to get her as far as possible from New York, so she can’t be any help, Jen speculates. Jaz tells her she’d fight and die. As they are standing on the highway, a wildly honking truck closes in. Jen holds it off with one arm, crunching its front. Hey, she’s talking here, she complains annoyed.
Turning back to Jazinda, she corrects her that she’d fight, but not die. In turn, Jazinda interrupts her. Yes, she would. That’s the plan. She’d die! Unless they’d think she’d be of unique use to them. Indispensable. And since the Skrulls aren’t going to be looking to sue anyone or round up someone who skipped on their bond, she’s guessing She-Hulk won’t fall into that category. They will kill her and Jaz will go back to being a bounty hunter, roaming the galaxy, trying to stay one step ahead of her own people. She can’t go back to that life. She just can’t.
Both of them keep silent for a moment. Finally, Jen asks why Detroit. What’s there? The Talisman, Jazinda explains. She acquired a general sense of him and knew he was close within range. The closer they are to him, the clearer her awareness of him becomes.
Who the hell is the Talisman? Jen asks. Returning to the caravan, Jazinda explains that his presence is what made her realize the invasion was imminent. If the Talisman appears on any world, a full-scale Skrull invasion is sure to follow. If they can capture him, they might be able to short-circuit the invasion before it even starts. She asks Jen to get them back on the road. Jen lifts up the caravan and apologizes for punching her before. Fortunately, she hits like a girl, come the reply.
She-Hulk flips Monet over and crashes her into a car. That all she got? Jen scoffs. Lady she’s always got more, someone announces. Monet’s teammate Guido Carosella aka Strong Guy literally beats her into the ground. More friends. More resources. And more goin’ for her than She-Hulk’ll ever have!
Looking up, She-Hulk remarks Strong Guy’s loyalties are commendable. But there’s more going on here than he knows. So how about she tell him all about it? he asks aggressively. He should know better, she replies. Rather than tell, it’s always preferable - she kicks him in the unmentionables – to show!
Several hours earlier:
Back on the road, Jazinda continued with her explanation. The Talisman’s name is Nogot. He is the holiest of Skrulls. One step below the gods themselves.
Skrulls have a religion? Jen asks incredulously. Ohh yes, Jazinda replies. Gods and everything. The Talisman is the representation of the gods and his presence is required to ensure the gods’ blessing on their endeavors… particularly major ones such as an invasion. All Skrulls can sense his presence, no matter how far away they are. It brings them security, peace, and a sense of rightness about their actions.
In her case, she is disconnected from her people, so it took her longer to become aware of his presence. But now that she is, it gives them an advantage that no one else in the world has. Her people keep the Talisman away from the main area of fighting because if anything happened to him, the loss to morale would be incalculable. It would mean the gods have abandoned them. Believe it or not, the invasion hinges on the moral certitude that their actions are blessed by the gods. Without that, they couldn’t proceed. Capture the Talisman, threaten the Talisman, hell, kill the Talisman if necessary and they can stop the invasion before it starts.
Longshot runs through a crowd, unheeding of the people he pushes aside. Suddenly, he is shot in the ankle and falls. Jazinda raises her weapon. So this is where she is hiding out, Longshot snarls, adding the word “traitor”. The gods have turned her over to them. Pointing her gun at him, Jaz remarks considering who’s holding the gun, it seems to her he and the gods might not be quite on the same page.
Suddenly, Darwin steps between them and asks Jazinda to please put the gun down.
Jazinda curtly informs him that Longshot is a Skrull. Yeah? And what does she know about it? Darwin pleads doubtful. More than he does, she retorts and shows her true Skrull face. Now step aside, she orders him.
Darwin is still doubtful. Impatient, Jazinda just fires at him. Big mistake as the bullet ricochets from Darwin’s chest and hits her.
She-Hulk tries to raise her via comm. Darwin anxiously asks Longshot where the rest of the team is. Longshot asks him to follow.
She-Hulk heads into the directions she believes Jazinda ran into when Madrox steps into her way. Oh now what? she exclaims annoyed. Now she stops acting like a curvier version of her cousin and tell them in a calm rational manner what the hell is going on. Madrox shoots back. Or what? she snorts. He’ll beat it out of her? Well, that’s not the “A” plan he admits, but he will if he has to.
Still crouching on the ground in pain, Guido moans a supportive “That’s tellin’ ‘er, Boss.”
Annoyed, She-Hulk informs Madrox that he is a boring guy whose power is to turn into a lot of boring guys. Here’s a thought: how about he take her word that the future of the planet is at stake and leave it at that? She runs past him. How about we don’t? another two Madroxes ask who step in her way and who are quickly joined by more.
As She-Hulk swats them aside, she announces this is getting old fast. He is still a normal-strength guy. And a bunch of normal strength guys are no threat. Then how about a crowd of boring, normal-strength guy? even more Madroxes ask as they crowd in on her, or a slew or an angry mob? Go ahead, he tells her. Tell him how she’s got the strength of a hundred men or two hundred. Hell, make it a thousand. Doesn’t matter how many she says, he’ll match that and add one more!
Buried under the Madroxes, Jennifer realizes that this is her fault. She should have done exactly what Monet suggested. Instead, she gave in to the impulse to slug it out and look where it’s got her. The planet is in peril and she is needlessly hampered by a dog-piling mutant. She wonders what is happening to her. First she jumps Hercules’ bones and now she leads with her fists instead of her head.
Monet catches up with them. One of the Madroxes reminds her of their first priority: find Darwin. A couple of his dupes are moving in on him, but he doesn’t want to take chances, Especially if Longshot is traveling with him. He asks her to round him up. She flies upward but announces she wants another crack at She-Hulk before this is over.
She-Hulk hears this and all thought of anything except more fighting go right out of her head. She is starting to wonder whether there’s more going on with her than she admits. It’s like she is becoming someone else. And she has to say, whoever she is, she kind of likes her.
Not far away, Darwin follows the running Longshot, wondering why that woman would accuse Longshot of being a Skrull. She is a Skrull herself, Longshot replies. Darwin saw that. Her kind will say anything to…
Monet lands, calling out to them. Darwin apologetically states he was going to cycle back to make sure she was okay. Touching his shoulder, she assures him she is always okay. She’s glad she managed to catch up with him. What she doesn’t get is him, she tells Longshot. Where the hell did he come from? Oh, he shrugs, his hooking up with Darwin was just one of those lucky things that happen to him.
Darwin, in the meantime, is in 7th heaven. Monet touched him. And she was glad. What? Monet asks irritated. Nothing, he replies quickly and tells her there was this Skrull woman who said Longshot was a Skrull. Skrull? Monet asks and looks at Longshot sharply. Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? he asks. Maybe not, she decides and touches Longshot’s skull, intent on telepathically scanning him. Longshot first protests that’s absurd, then agrees to it and allows her to scan.
Monet focuses and then announces she’s done. She doesn’t detect anything abnormal. He’s not a Skrull. Well, of course he’s not, Darwin agrees. If he were and he ever posed a threat to him or his survival, he’d probably evolve some sort of ability to see thought his disguise. Like… He doesn’t know, being able to jolt his molecular structure somehow with a touch so that he’d… lose control of his ability to disguise himself…
Darwin’s words trail as he sees what he as inadvertently done. Having touched Longshot, as if in demonstration of his words, Darwin’s powers have acted just as he mused, involuntarily deactivating the Skrull’s disguise. Now revealed, the Skrull immediately fires an energy blast at Monet.
“Someone… anyone… a little help?” Darwin shouts, all alone, while some distance away She-Hulk and the Madroxes still slug it out.