Space, onboard a battle-cruiser in the Shi’ar fleet, currently in Earth orbit, Gladiator, most powerful of the star-spanning Shi’ar peacekeeping force, the Imperial Guard, stands, holding the limp body of the greatest hero of another world, Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme, whom, upon his return to this vessel, Gladiator fought and defeated, even though Hyperion’s power rivals his own. Though he doesn’t know why Hyperion was in space, or why they even fought, the greatest mystery now is why, back aboard his ship even more earthly super beings have taken it over!
‘I command you all to leave this vessel at once!’ Gladiator booms, while the Shi’ar officers of this vessel remain imprisoned by bonds of Darkforce and quantum energies. As he stands at the rear of the bridge, Gladiator, still holding Hyperion, watches as Quasar, Darkstar, Binary, Vanguard, Perun, Captain Marvel, Black Bolt, Ikaris and Lockjaw go about their business aboard his ship. ‘Perhaps you didn’t understand me for the first time, Gladiator. We’ve commandeered this ship in the name of Earth!’ Wendell “Quasar” Vaughan announces, ordering Gladiator to put Hyperion down, gently. Wendell thinks to himself that he must act matter of factly about all this, as there is no telling what someone as strong as Gladiator can do. Wendell hopes that with all of his shipmates imprisoned, that Gladiator will be cool about things.
Quasar turns to Laynia Petrovna a.k.a. Darkstar and Carol “Binary” Danvers, and asks them if they have located the ship they were tracking. ‘Maybe’ Carol replies, telling Wendell that there seems to be something going on by the stargate near the sun. Gladiator suddenly lays Hyperion down, ‘I have done as you say’ he declares, noticing a golden platform appearing beneath Hyperion, Gladiator supposes it is Quasar’s doing. Suddenly, Gladiator is knocked backwards, and Quasar appears beside him, ‘Just a precautionary measure. Don’t have a cow’ he tells Gladiator. ‘If you’ve harmed a single member of this crew, you will live to regret it!’ Gladiator booms.
Wendell replies that he didn’t harm anybody, and warns Gladiator that if his friend Hyperion has sustained permanent injury, then he is going to be sorry. ‘Now explain hat you Shi’ar are doing in my solar system!’ Wendell declares. Gladiator replies that they were dispatched by the Empress Lilandra to this sector, to engage the human known as Nova in a trial by combat to determine his worthiness for the newly-formed Xandarian Nova Corps. Gladiator explains that, after doing so, they prepared to leave this sector, when they detected an alien vessel landing on the far side of the Earth’s only moon.
Gladiator explains to Quasar that he observed the alien vessel to determine who they were and what they were doing here. ‘They were trying to crash the moon into the Earth! You didn’t try to stop them?’ Wendell retorts. ‘I was there just to observe!’ Gladiator exclaims, to which Quasar asks who the aliens are. Gladiator explains that they appear to be part of the black fleet, an armada of miscreants who have been laying waste to planets for eons. ‘And your high and mighty Shi’ar never tried to stop them?’ Wendell asks. ‘They never dared to attack one of our worlds!’ Gladiator snaps back, asking Quasar if he is satisfied with his answers. ‘Almost!’ Wendell replies, to which an enraged Gladiator snaps that he has answered enough, before declaring that he wants to question Quasar, smashing through the quantum bands that Wendell had encased him in, surprising Quasar.
Meanwhile, ninety million miles closer to the sun, aboard the Starblaster, one of the crew, known as the Starblasters, announces to their leader, Skeletron, that they are nearing star-gate 9X-954. ‘Acknowledged’ Skeletron replies, before asking Zardok if there is any sign of pursuit, to which Zardok replies that there is nothing within scanning range. Threkker remarks that there will be followers, as he knows earthers, and they cannot let anything go. The yellow-skinned Skar tells Threkker to shut up, as no one is interested in his opinion. ‘Least of all me!’. Skeletron orders the four-armed Codabac to relieve Threkker on scanner surveillance. ‘All right’ Codabac mutters as he walks over to the console. Skeletron calls out to Fabrikant, ordering him to be prepared to launch the warp-mine on his mark.
Back aboard the Shi’ar vessel, Quasar tells Gladiator that it was a nice trick snapping his quantum bonds like that, and remarks that, next time, he will know to use maximum strength, before Gladiator tells him to explain who these beings are that he and his allies seek. Wendell replies that they don’t know, and that all they do know is that they are aliens. Aliens who kidnapped his girlfriend and a Watcher, and are heading in ‘that direction’ Wendell explains, motioning “that” way, adding that Gladiator’s star-ship may be quite useful in their pursuit. ‘Release my crewmen and we may be able to come to terms!’ Gladiator announces.
‘No deal!’ Quasar quickly replies, to which the ever-reasonable Darkstar asks him why not. ‘You saw what this guy did to Hyperion! I’m not willing to trust him!’ Quasar replies, before telling everyone to excuse him, as he suddenly grabs Gladiator, announcing he will be right back, he tells his allies to proceed with the plan. ‘He’s teleporting - with Gladiator!’ Ikaris announces as Quasar vanishes. Monica “Captain Marvel” Rambeau asks her fellow former-Avenger if she has figured out the navigational instruments, to which Binary replies that she has, adding that the Shi’ar ships have not changed that much since she last flew one. ‘Good’ Monica replies, adding that Quasar seemed to think this ship could make better speed than he could while carrying all of them, and orders Binary to head to head for the star-gate, certain that Quasar can catch up when he has finished with Gladiator.
Suddenly, ’What is this light?’ Perun asks as a blinding flash of light occurs on the bridge. ’More teleportation…and if it’s Quasar, I don’t think he’s alone!’ Ikaris exclaims as he sees several figures in the light. None of them however are Quasar. ’The hyper-spatial distress signal was true - this vessel has been boarded by aliens!’ exclaims Neutron as he stands with seven of his Imperial Guard teammates - Moondancer, Smasher, Manta, Nightside, Voyager, Solar Wind and Stabolt. ’Aliens from Earth, by their look!’ Solar Wind points out. Nightside asks Starbolt if he remembers any Earth language, to which the fiery Starbolt replies ‘A little’, and, in English, announces to the Earth heroes ‘We are the Imperial Guard. You’re Earth persons. What are you doing aboard an Imperial vessel? Where is Gladiator?’
Captain Marvel assesses the situation and realizes that there are almost as many on her side as there are of the Imperial Guard, so things could get ugly. Monica quickly informs the Imperial Guard that she and her allies have commandeered this ship in pursuit of a power that may put the entire cosmos in jeopardy. Starbolt warns Captain Marvel that she is risking an inter-planetary incident, and explains that, according to Shi’ar military code, any party who boards an imperial starship and harms or threatens to harm an imperial officer, soldier or citizen, shall be considered an enemy of the Empire!
Perun steps forward and pointing at Starbolt shouts ‘If you wish to call Perun, Lord of Storms, enemy, man of fire, that is fine by me!’. The blue-skinned Moondancer calls out to her close teammate Voyager, informing him that she senses Gladiator has been shunted into quantum space, and revealing that she can track him. ‘To my side, Moondancer! I’ll open the way!’ Voyager calls out as he opens a portal, which he and Moondancer quickly leap into. But, as they do, the Inhuman ruler, Black Bolt, soundlessly communicates with his canine companion, Lockjaw, who teleports the two of them away, in pursuit of Moondancer and Voyager.
Solar Wind tells the Earth heroes to surrender this ship to them at once, and they will ask the Majestrix to show them mercy. ‘Refuse and be prosecuted to the full extent of imperial law!’ he exclaims. ‘We are Earth’s mightiest! We don’t fear the likes of you!’ Vanguard shouts back as the others stand by his side. ‘Perun fight soon?’ the Russian God asks. Starbolt suddenly grabs Binary by her wrists, exclaiming that she is of the Starjammers, and asking her why she is with the Earth persons instead of the Majestrix’s friends. ‘Do not continue to touch ship controls!’ Starbolt warns Carol, who snaps back ‘Unhand me, Starbolt, or so help me…’.
In the quantum zone, Quasar tells himself that he hoped to be able to ditch Gladiator here, but realizes that may not be possible. Gladiator holds onto Quasar, telling hi that he knows how he once stranded his teammate Neutron with his teleportation tricks. ‘You will not do so with me!’ Gladiator exclaims. Quasar teleports again, thinking to himself that his only hope is to keep teleporting in and out of this zone and try to dislodge Gladiator’s grip. ‘Stop this! Return us to the ship - or I will crush your arm!’ Gladiator threatens Wendell, who grimaces as he feels Gladiator’s strength on his wrist, pulsing through his aura.
Suddenly though, ‘Good tracking, Myla!’ Voyager exclaims, addressing Moondancer by her real name as he motions to Gladiator and Quasar and exclaims that they have found them. ‘Cease your futile flight, Quasar!’ Voyager warns Wendell, who thinks to himself ‘Oh, swell…’ as he realizes that he is outnumbered. ‘Gladiator’s got a grip on me that won’t quit - and Voyager can follow me wherever I jump’. Things take another surprising turn though, as Black Bolt and Lockjaw arrive on scene. ‘Hey - the cavalry’s arrived!’ Wendell thinks to himself, hoping that Black Bolt and Lockjaw can deal with Moondancer and Voyager, while he is still stuck with Gladiator.
Quasar projects quantum spikes from his bands, stronger than steel, but even that does not dislodge Gladiator. Moondancer and Voyager fly towards Lockjaw, wondering what sort of creature this is. ‘I don’t know, Divad - avoid his jaws and claws!’ Moondancer tells Voyager as Lockjaw lunges at them. Black Bolt uses this moment to swoop around behind Gladiator, where he proceeds to whisper the merest syllable in Gladiator’s ear - causing the strongest of the Shi’ar to go reeling from the catastrophic disturbance of electrons near his eardrums, and in the process, Quasar is freed.
Back in real space, aboard the Shia’r vessel, Perun taps Starbolt on the shoulder, addressing him as “fire-headed one”, Perun warns him to release the “fair maiden” at once, before he is forced to douse his flame. ‘Perun, you needn’t -’ Carol begins, until Neutron tells Starbolt to relax, as he walks up behind Perun and pulls him away: ‘I’ll handle this unkempt barbarian!’ he exclaims. ‘Ho! Attack me from behind?’ Perun gasps before smacking Neutron backwards, suggesting he think twice before attempting so presumptuous an act again.
Darkstar thinks to herself that fighting in an environmentally sealed spaceship with powers as extreme as theirs is not a very bright idea, and uses her mastery over the Darkforce to create globes over the heads of the remaining five Imperial Guard, effectively blinding them. ‘Well done, my sister! Now we can subdue them with ease!’ Nicholai “Vanguard” Krylenko tells Laynia, to tells her brother to have a care, as they still do not know what capabilities the aliens have. Captain Marvel thinks to herself that she wishes Quasar would get back, as she feels like they are flipping matches in a tinder box.
Darkstar approaches Nightside, but is puzzled when Nightside shrinks backwards, as if she can see Darkstar approaching. Darkstar watches in shock as the Darkforce globe around Nightside’s head changes shape - into a shield-shaped panel, but Laynia is not causing this to happen. Nightside then head-butts Laynia with the Darkforce panel, knocking the Russian super-heroine unconscious, causing the Darkforce globes to dissipate, and pandemonium reigns! Captain Marvel is blasted backwards by Manta, while Ikaris soars towards Neutron. Binary and Starbolt throw blasts of powerful energy at each other, while Vanguard is smacked over by Solar Wind.
At approximately the same time, countless light years away, an ebony ship circles a Neptune-sized planet. Skeletron’s raspy voice sounds out over a loud-speaker, ‘Hailing the great Stranger. I am Skeletron, last surviving member of the ancient Turgentine Technenium. Skeletron declares that he is captain of the Dark Seed, and that his crew of fifty and himself are humble seekers of knowledge and traders of trinkets. Skeletron announces that they have onboard a curiosity of exceeding perplexity, and tells the Stranger that they have heard of his unrivalled analytical and scientific abilities and would like for him to appraise the object for them. ‘Do we have permission to land?’ Skeletron asks. Moments later, the Stranger responds: ‘Permission granted, Skeletron. I will beam you landing co-ordinates’. Skeletron orders his helmsman to process the co-ordinates.
Shortly, Skeletron, Skar and Zardok beam down to the Stranger’s planet, while Skar announces that he has heard rumors concerning the Stranger, and warns Skeletron that the Stranger cannot be trusted. ‘If we invoke his insatiable scientific curiosity, I believe he can!’ Skeletron replies. Suddenly, the towering Stranger appears, seemingly out of nowhere: ‘Which of you is Skeletron?’ he booms. ‘I am, great scientist!’ Skeletron replies as he steps forward. The Stranger ask him where is the curiosity with which he seeks to entice, to which Skeletron replies that it is still aboard their vessel, as they wanted to be sure he was ready for it.
‘How can I be prepared for it if you have yet to tell me what it is?’ the Stranger asks. Skeletron announces that the object is an Earther with a skin-mark containing vast extra-dimensional power, the likes of which he doubts even the Stranger has seen. Skeletron motions to a capsule being dropped from his ship, and remarks that this is his colleague, Fabrikant, with the specimen. ‘Hmmm…’ remarks the Stranger as he crouches down beside the unconscious Kayla Ballantine.
Back in the quantum zone, Gladiator is still causing trouble. ‘I thought for sure the number Black Bolt did on Gladiator would have taken him out of play - but the super-Shi’ar’s sloughed it off and is back to make my life…’ Wendell thinks to himself, determined to keep Gladiator off of him, when suddenly, Lockjaw chomps down on Gladiator’s foot, taking hold of the Imperial Guardsman and teleporting away. ‘Cool! Fido did what I couldn’t - he got Gladiator out of the way!’ Quasar thinks to himself. Black Bolt smacks Voyager over, which Quasar notices, and turns his attention to Voyager’s dance partner, trapping Moondancer in a quantum bubble. Quasar flies towards Black Bolt, telling himself that they must quantum jump back to the Shi’ar ship. Wendell thinks that Moondancer and Voyager will sit tight until they figure out how to get free of this place, but right now, he wants to know what is happening aboard the ship they commandeered, as he has been gone a lot longer than he anticipated.
Indeed, back aboard the Shi’ar vessel, the Earth heroes and the Imperial Guard are picking up the pieces of their recent battle. Binary helps Smasher lift Starbolt up and tells Smasher that his team showed her and the others that they are tough, and points out they have casualties on both sides. ‘Can we call it quits now?’ Carol asks. Nightside picks up the unconscious Manta and asks ‘What has happened to your light, dear friend?’. Vanguard crouches by his sister, and asks her to speak, but the weary Laynia just moans. Carol points out to Smasher that his ship is not going to take much more of a battering, and asks him why he won’t let her and her allies borrow it for their mission. ‘Why don’t you be reasonable and just leave?’ Smasher retorts.
Captain Marvel breaks the argument up by asking if they can work out a compromise, and suggests the Imperial Guard take back control of the ship, but they drop she and the others off where they need to go. Smasher ponders this, and remarks that with Gladiator away, he is in charge, and finds Captain Marvel’s suggestion acceptable. Suddenly, Quasar and Black Bolt return. ‘Were’ back! What’s going on?’ Wendell exclaims. Carol informs him that they may have worked out a compromise, explaining to him that they don’t get to commandeer the ship, but the Imperial Guard will take them where they want to go. ‘Great. Nice work. Guess I’ll go fetch some folks I left stranded’ Quasar remarks, telling everyone to continue on without him and he will catch up.
As Quasar departs, Lockjaw returns - without Gladiator. Black Bolt pats his canine companion to reward his work, then befuddles him by indicating that Gladiator should now be fetched.
A short time later, the Shi’ar battle-cruiser nears the trans-galactic star-gate near Earth’s sun. It’s astrogation crew restored to the bridge of their own vessel, expertly determines the portal’s precise angle of aperture - hit’s the hyper drive engines to enter the interstellar expressway - oblivious to the trap that the Starblasters have left - until the star-gate snaps closed around the Shi’ar cruiser, trapping Binary, Darkstar and everyone else….