There is space beyond the boundaries of our universe, Earths beyond our Earth. In a universe so distant from the one we know that no Watcher has ever observed it, the infrastructure of the very cosmos is different. What this New Universe has is the Star brand - and all paranormal powers on Earth derive from it. Now though, powerful aliens from another universe have learned of the Starbrand and have travelled to the world they believe to be its source. Today, reality will be rocked…. And, as the Watcher observes the Dark Seed - battle ship belonging to Skeletron and his invading aliens the Starblasters, the New Universe’s hero known as Psi-Hawk hovers in the atmosphere, and telepathically cries to his allies below: ‘Oh…my…God - they’ve come!’
Below, in a barn in Pennsylvania, a small band of the world’s most capable paranormals have fathered to serve as the Earth’s first line of defense against the alien invaders: All-American, Justice, Chrome, Captain Manhattan, Nightmask, Pit Bull, and Metallurge - who stands with Kayla Ballantine of our Earth. Another of their number enters the barn - Overshadow. ‘Where’s Psi-Hawk?’ Justice asks. Overshadow explains that he left Psi-Hawk at the edge of space on look-out duty, to which the aggressive Pit Bull exclaims ‘What’s the matter, pinky? Ya run back ‘cause you had to use the bathroom?’
‘No, you brutish simpleton - I have brought a prisoner!’ Overshadow explains as he lands beside Nightmask, who asks ‘Really? Where?’ Overshadow then forces the protector of the cosmos - Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn from his form. ’Um, hello. Where am I?’ Quasar asks as he looks around. Suddenly, Kayla screams ’QUASAR!’ and rushes over to her boyfriend, causing Metallurge to look unhappy. ’Kayla! Finally - finally - finally - I’ve found you!’ Quasar exclaims as he takes Kayla in his arms. ’This loser’s the boyfriend she’s been talking about’ Metallurge thinks to himself, before Quasar begins to ask Kayla how she got here - only for Kayla to slap him hard across his face.
‘You said I shouldn’t worry - that you’d protect me!’ Kayla exclaims. ’Hey, I’m sorry! I did my best, but - ’ Wendell begins to reply, before Overshadow tells them to spare him their quarrel, as they need to know about the invasion force - now. But, at that moment, Psi-Hawk’s astral projection appears before his allies, announcing that the aliens are here. ‘Get up here if you can - quick!’ Psi-Hawk pleads. Overshadow tells his companion that he will be there, before Captain Manhattan approaches Quasar and asks if he remembers him. ‘Never expected to see you again’ Captain Manhattan adds, before asking Quasar if the invasion is his fault. ‘Uh, no...not really’ Quasar replies, before telling everyone that if they want to defend their planet, he can take them, and quickly too.
Wendell turns back to Kayla and tells her that they will discuss what a big jerk he is after they nail her kidnappers. ‘Okay. Be careful’ Kayla replies. Then, after a heated discussion between the New Universer’s as to Quasar’s trust-worthiness, Wendell creates a quantum-dome, and carries everyone space-ward. ‘Okay, people, here’s what I know about the aliens we’re going to encounter…’ Quasar begins.
Meanwhile, inside the Dark Seed, Skeletron approaches his one remaining Starblaster, Fabrikant, and informs him that he needs the energy transmogrifier. ‘Is it done?’ he asks. Fabrikant replies that it will be ready for Skeletron’s mecho-morphic implementation in moments. Fabrikant continues to work on the device, while asking Skeletron where the others are, as the Dark Seed is uncharacteristically quiet. Skeletron replies that he jettisoned the entire crew, except for themselves. ‘They were organics, useful, but expendable. Now that my mission reaches its fruition, they are superfluous’. Skeletron remarks that as Fabrikant is a fellow mechanic, only he is worthy to share in his victory - the vindication of their mode of organism.
‘I do not know if you know this, but once the universe boasted as many biomechanical races as it had organic ones. We forged a mighty star-spanning empire - the Turgentine Technenium - and declared war upon all organics. Through means lost to time, the organics routed us’. Skeletron continues, revealing that those who survived became the Black Fleet, and have crisscrossed the galaxy ever since, raining destruction upon organic rases who cross their path. ‘We have, of course, coopted the services of various organic renegades along the way, allowing them to assist us in the extermination of their own kind’. Skeltron explains that the Black Fleet was all but annihilated by an organic employing the Star brand - which, ironically, Skeleton believes may have been the best thing that could have happened to them. ‘The transmogrifier is ready!’ Fabrikant announces, grinning.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, a world away from the New Universe, has partially thrust itself into the universe of the Starbrand, this New Universe. The world is the laboratory planet which for millennia now has served as home base for the enigmatic experimenter known only as the Stranger. When the Stranger removed the Starbrand from the Earth woman known as Kayla Ballantine, transferring it to himself, the alien power violently reacted to his own considerable personal energies - and caused the interdimensional planetary intrusion. At this stage, half of the Stranger’s world has arrived in the New Universe, but more of it is slipping in by the minute. Unaware of the planet’s predicament, a handful of Earth heroes have a more pressing concern - for they are part of Skeletron’s ship that he jettisoned, and it is moments away from impacting with the planet’s surface!
However, the silent ruler of the Inhumans known as Black Bolt, has a chance to stop their perilous plummet. The antenna on Black Bolt’s brow erupts - and he weaves a net of highly energized electrons around the jettisoned part of the Dark Seed, which manages to slow the craft only slightly - but, to Black Bolt’s astonishment, despite his failure, the craft suddenly decelerates and alights to the ground gently. ‘Way to go, Black Bolt!’ Carol “Binary” Danvers exclaims as she, Monica “Captain Marvel” Rambeau, Lockjaw and Perun - holding the cocooned two-halves of the Eternal Ikaris, emerge from the vessel. The mute Inhuman gestures, trying to deny credit, but the humanoid heroes do not know him well enough to understand him.
And while the Earth heroes determine their next move, three Shi’ar heroes have already decided theirs, as Moondancer, Voyager and Solar Wind teleport into the Stranger’s laboratory. ‘There he is!’ Voyager exclaims quietly to his teammates of the Imperial Guard. ‘His back is to us! We may be able to strike before he can bring his powers to bear!’ Moondancer suggests. But, the Stranger has detected their presence and booms ‘Solar Wind…Voyager…Moondancer…late of the Imperial Guard! What brings you to the Sanctum of the Stranger!?’ The trio of inter-stellar warriors race towards the Stranger, declaring that they seek vengeance against the Stranger for treating them like laboratory specimens when he imprisoned them five revolutions ago.
‘Feel our wrath, fiend!’ Voyager boasts, only for all three to drop to their knees as the Stranger hovers over them. ‘I think not’, the Stranger states. ‘I would rather you worship me for what I did!’ he tells them. ‘All praises to you, mighty Stranger!’ the three aliens exclaim in unison. ‘That is better’ the Stranger replies, before beckoning them to follow him.
An instant later, the Stranger and the three Imperial Guard heroes materialize at the location of Binary, Captain Marvel, Perun, Black Bolt, Lockjaw and Ikaris. ‘Earth beings…I am the Stranger, in possession of the Starbrand, I am stronger than ever!’ the Stranger booms, informing them that he is going to engage Skeletron, he tells them that they will accompany them, as there may be conflict. ‘I want all of you at the peak of your abilities!’ the Stranger declares. Turning to the energy-cocooned two halves of Ikaris, and uses his phenomenal powers to mend his cleft form. Black Bolt smiles when the Stranger grants him temporary control over his voice, before restoring the fragmented psyche of the surprised Binary. The Stranger next returns Captain Marvel her transformative powers, before returning Perun’s enchanted mallet to him, stolen by the Starblasters.
On the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, Skeletron’s ship orbits, watched by Psi-Hawk, who does not like the look of the pods that suddenly extend from the Dark Seed. Psi-Hawk sees that the pods are crackling with energy, and wonders if they are some sort of death ray. ‘Should I attempt to do something on my own, or would I just succeed in getting my ectoplasmic body obliterated?’ Psi-Hawk thinks to himself, wondering where, in the name of the White Event, the rest of his fellow paranormals are.
As if on cue, Psi-Hawk’s allies arrive, thanks to Quasar, who introduces himself to Psi-Hawk and explains that he is from another Earth, here to help them repulse the aliens. ‘He’s telling it straight, Psi-Guy!’ Metallurge assures his ally. Quasar begins to quantum-drill an entrance into the Black Seed, but Overshadow exclaims that he cannot wait, and that Quasar is not the only one among them with power, before Quasar’s drill-work is complete. ‘Okay, people - let’s go!’ Quasar exclaims, while thinking that he gave everyone who needed it a quantum-aura air-supply, as there is no telling what the atmosphere inside may be like.
Metallurge exclaims that the aliens are heinous electricians and tells everyone to watch out for the loose wires hanging from the ceiling. ‘Man, this is nothing like on Star Tre-eeeech!’ Metallurge exclaims as the loose wiring takes hold of his face. ‘Metallurge, what is it?’ Chrome asks, before she and All-American are taken hold of by the wiring also. ‘This is your fault, Quasar! You led them into a trap!’ Metallurge shouts as Quasar enters the ship. ‘What? Aw, man - Skullhuggers, like the ones in the moon thruster!’ Wendell complains, before assuring the others that he didn’t lead everyone into a trap, and turning to Overshadow, exclaims that they can free them all.
Quasar begins using his powers, explaining to everyone that he is expanding the protective auras he placed around them to pop the Skullhuggers off. ‘Couldn’t attach itself to my helmet’ All-American thinks as he pulls the Skullhugger from his mouth, while Captain Manhattan tells Quasar to save his efforts for the others, as the “metal spaghetti” as he calls it, could not penetrate his own psychometric field. Psi-Hawk adds that mere metal does not have any effect on his ectoplasm, ‘Or my dream-form!’ Nightmask adds.
Meanwhile, outside the Dark Seed, the Stranger arrives with Binary, Captain Marvel and the others. ‘We are here, my allies!’ he exclaims, informing them that he will remain outside while the enter the ship and subdue everyone inside. The heroes follow direction and fly towards the Dark Seed, shredding part of the outer hull to enter, while the Stranger confronts the front of the Dark Seed, its form altered to resemble the face of Skeltron. ‘I hope you do not seek to defy my, Stranger. We had an agreement, did we not?’ Skeletron remarks.
Inside, Quasar sees Carol fly towards him and exclaims ‘Binary! Great! Reinforcements!’. But, Solar Wind isn’t too far behind and uses his abilities to blast Quasar back across the chamber. ‘These are the aliens? They look like humans -’ All-American declares, before Perun slams his foot into All-American’s face. Black Bolt attacks Captain Manhattan, who is unsure what the Inhuman is doing, and just hopes that his force field is strong enough to withstand it. Lockjaw lunges at Pit Bull and sinks his teeth into the bulky paranormal - before his teleport signature appears, while Pit Bull punches the Inhuman animal. Psi-Hawk detects Captain Marvel flying behind him, and detects that she is human, so wonders why she is appearing to attack him. Monica unleashes energy beams, which simply pass through Psi-Hawk, though the paranormal knows that the beams would be devastating were he a material being, before he mounts a psionic counter-attack.
Binary finds herself up against Overshadow, bombarding him with energy, before Overshadow tells Carol that the more energy he absorbs, the more powerful he gets. ‘OH!’ Carol gasps as Overshadow’s increased mass lunges at her, boasting ‘Now you shall see why I, over-shadow all other paranormals!’. Ikaris the Eternal finds himself going up against Justice, issuing energy-blasts with a force that Justice has never before encountered. ‘My force shield is crumpling!’ Justice realizes. Metallurge confronts Solar Wind, and thinks to himself ‘Bogus! This guy’s a big bag of wind - can’t get near him!’. Metallurge wonders if he can send his flying saucer around him and conk Solar Wind from behind.
Nightmask has trouble against Voyager, who uses his staff to create a vortex, which wrenches at Nightmask’s dream-form. Nightmask realises that he cannot move, but is comforted by the fact that he doesn’t need to move to pull an image from Voyager’s subconscious - and prey upon him as his worst nightmare. Indeed, Nightmask shifts into a demonic-looking creature, which sends Voyager screaming and careening backwards, to where Moondancer and Chrome are engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Outside the Dark Seed, the Stranger blasts at Skeletron’s ship, only for Skeletron to tell him that he has no idea how disappointed he is in him, despite their agreement. ‘You proceed to oppress me, and here I deemed you a being of honor’. ‘Your value judgments are of less interest to me than you could imagine, machine’ the Stranger replies, before Skeletron increases the mass of his form and declares: ‘You say the word “machine” as if it were something inferior. But in point of fact, we are far superior to you pitiful organics!’. Skeletron asks the Stranger if he thinks he can destroy his energy-siphons then he is in error, because tech-entities are comprised of self-replicating adaptive microcircuitry, capable of instantaneous transmutation and reconfiguration. ‘And now I have attuned myself to Starbrand energy!’ Skeletron adds.
‘Blast me all you wish! It will only charge my power cells and make me all the stronger!’ Skeletron exclaims as the Stranger hovers beside him. ‘Have you not yet guessed?’ Skeletron asks. ‘This entire ship is my true body, the humanoid figure you thought me to be is merely an appendage!’ Skeletron suggests the Stranger watch him as he drains the world below of all of its Starbrand energy. ‘And there is nothing you and your paltry sliver of the Starbrand can do about it!’. The Stranger looks at the world below, and asks Skeletron what would happen if the source of his newfound power were to suddenly disappear? And, just like that, the New Universe’s Earth vanishes.
‘WHAT DID YOU DO?’ booms Skeletron, to which the Stranger explains that he transported the planet somewhere far from here so it is safe from his depredations. ‘Is that so?’ Skeletron asks, to which the Stranger declares that Skeletron’s absorption of the Starbrand energy is over. ‘Hardly. Now when I can drain you as easily as I can a planet!’ Skeletron retorts, before attacking the Stranger with energy beams from the Dark Seed. The Stranger cries out in agony, to which Skeletron asks him if he is surprised by the intensity of his grip and boasts that he has become superior.
Indeed, there are limits to even the Stranger’s power…and the effort of pushing a planet into another universe completely exhausts him…turning him into easy prey. For what seems to him like an eternity, the Stranger writhes in Skeletron’s clutches - then, gathering what is left of his rapidly dwindling energies - he teleports away! ‘Where…? He runs from me!’ Skeletron exclaims, before the Dark Seed races through the sky, with Skeletron boasting that he can follow the Stranger’s energy trail.
Inside the Dark Seed, the struggles between the Stranger’s disciples and the heroes of the New Universe is suddenly disrupted - and everyone is thrown about, as Quasar announces that they are jumping into hyper-space. ‘Hold on!’ he tells everyone.
Suddenly, the Stranger materializes on the world he calls home - he takes but a moment to catch his breath before staggering towards his citadel. What he hopes to do here, like nearly everything else about the cosmic scientist remains a mystery. Then, from out of hyper-space, Skeletron bursts - and recklessly penetrates the planet’s atmosphere at a speed that would have incinerated any other object of its mass not protected by the Starbrand. Skeletron has no intention of letting the Stranger do anything to thwart his total possession of the greatest single power object in the cosmos, and resumes the energy-siphoning process, trapping the Stranger once more.
But, the Stranger, rather than resisting, relaxes his grip on the alien power conferred by the extra dimensional tattoo. This causes Skeletron to jettison the beings inside him: ‘Get out of me, you insignificant organic flotsam!’ he exclaims, while the metal mass that is the Dark Seed shifts into Skeletron’s default form - only two-thousand feet tall! ‘Stranger, your end is at hand!’ Skeletron booms, boasting that he is instants away from wresting the final sliver of the Starbrand energy from the Stranger’s frail form. ‘And when I do, you shall pay for your duplicity with your life!’. Skeletron tells the Stranger not to feel badly however, as the rest of his organic ilk shall soon follow. Suddenly though, Skeletron finds himself standing not on the planet, but in open space. ‘What happened to the planet I was standing on?’ he exclaims. ‘Stranger? Stranger? STRANGER? Where are you? What have you done?’ Skeletron cries as he floats among the emptiness of space….
On the Stranger’s world though, all is calm as Uatu the Watcher observes Quasar, Binary, Perun and the other Earthers mingle with the New Universe’s paranormals. Seeing as the beings Skeletron disgorged where not his Starblasters, the Stranger releases his allies from their command to combat them. ‘What happened to Skeletron? Why did he blink out of the sky?’ Carol asks, to which Quasar tells everyone to wait while he asks the Stranger: ‘Hey! What happened? How did you get rid of Skeletron?’ Wendell asks.
The Stranger replies that Skeletron did it to himself, explaining that his world’s slide into the universe of the Starbrand was precipitated by the anomaly of trying to contain two great stores of energy from two incompatible universes in one body. ‘As Skeletron drained me of Starbrand energy, I became less and less of an anomaly, and my planet began retracting back into its rightful universe’ the Stranger explains, adding that when he surrendered the last iota of Starbrand energy to Skeletron, the aperture between dimensions closed - with Skeletron on one side, and he on this. ‘The universe is rid of Skeletron!’ the Stranger adds.
Quasar asks ‘What about the planet the Starbrand came from? My girlfriend’s still on it!’. The Stranger motions upwards, revealing that he has bought the Earth of the New Universe into this cosmos, and placed it in orbit around his world. ‘Skeletron and I have traded prizes - he has the greatest power in a universe devoid of all life save himself - while I have a world teeming with paranormal beings! Who would you say got the better bargain…?’