Operation Grace detainee, Abigail Brand, sits in a cell looking rather dejected. Her boyfriend, Hank McCoy, is standing by the cell door and Abigail tells him he must not try and break her out of there. Hank shields his mouth from the watching guard and asks her to clarify, "That was a try and break me out of here "Don't try and break me out of here, yes?"
Abigail tells him that he should consider himself lucky she's in a cell. He shouldn't say things like that. Hank tells her in that case, by the next time Gyrich lets him visit, he'll bake her a sturdy fruitcake concealing the modern equivalent of a metal file... unless she thinks there's something else he should be doing. Abigail asks him to just try and stop Gyrich undoing years of work with this purge. Simple solutions, she explains, only work for simple problems. Xenodiplomacy is the furthest thing away from that. Hanks agrees to try.
Abigail also asks if he can do anything about her idiot half-brother. He's still on the run, and she'd like to keep him breathing so he can keep on running. Hank quips that she does care, after all. She shouldn't worry. He won't tell anyone.
(the Peak Brig)
Henry Gyrich is walking with his assistant, Cecelia, past some of the jailed inhabitants when Hank catches him up and calls him a Malvolian buffoon. What does he think he's doing? Gyrich turns and replies that Earth was nearly over! They can't take that risk again. Abigail would never have agreed to this, so he had her swept out too. A new broom is always harder, he adds. Hank replies that the only broom is the one irretrievably stuck deep within Gyrich's anal canal. He can't possibly think this is a good idea? Gyrich continues walking, saying that he knows Hank has to take it this way. His girlfriend is locked up for heaven's sake, but they've worked together for years. They may not agree often, if at all, but he wouldn't do this if he didn't think it was for the best. When has he ever been wrong? As Gyrich walks away, Hank shouts that he's wrong all the time!
Hank then hears a voice from one of the cells. It's Karolina Dean, one of the Pride's kids, and an alien with ties to the planet Majesdene. She tells him that her people can't find out if she's still on Earth. It's more than her life in the balance. "Please..." she begs. Hank asks her not to worry. He's under strict orders to not make this situation worse. Frankly, he doesn't think he could if he tried.
Meanwhile, Gyrich tells Cecelia that this is the problem with superheroic overcompensating altruists. They're perfectly nice people who think the universe is full of perfectly nice people. He pauses a moment and Cecelia asks if he's okay. He replies yes, but tells her he doesn't need her sympathy. He needs her report.
As they enter a large hangar, she informs him that the Warbound taskforce is almost ready for launch. Between it and the arrests, the Peak will be running close to a skeleton crew. She adds that some of the comm teams are making noises about the Mysterious Spooky Signal. It's remaining mysterious and spooky, despite their best efforts. Gyrich interjects, informing Cecelia that he's preparing S.W.O.R.D. for their largest action in years. Now is not the time for a conversation about telecommunications. He asks about the arrests. She advises him that the internal purge is almost complete. The last few alien staff are being taken into custody. It's been relatively peaceful so far. Gyrich asks if she's taken the dragon yet. She replies no. "Ah," sighs Gyrich, "Well expect that to change."
Five members of the security team have Lockheed cornered in his room. They are heavily armed and carry clear shields. The guy in charge asks Lockheed to make this easy for everyone. He should stay still and keep his mouth shut. He tosses the small dragon a muzzle and orders him to put it on. Lockheed thinks for a moment before taking to the air, approaching the muzzle cautiously. "Good choice, Lockheed," replies the soldier. Lockheed fixes him with an arrogant stare before filling the room with smoke. He follows this up by breathing a jet of fire which keeps the men on edge. As they scramble around, trying to get into position, they find themselves unable to fire their tasers in case they hit each other. Lockheed flies higher and ducks inside a ventilation shaft to freedom, leaving chaos behind.
Meanwhile, Hank puts in a call to Doug Ramsay back on Earth. He tells Doug that it's good to see him again. If only the circumstances were better. Doug replies that Scott told him he should speak to him, though he didn't say why he thought Hank would be in a position to help. Hank tells him that he may at least be in a position where he can try. He asks what happened to Warlock.
Doug explains that they went to see the Celestial. Who wouldn't want to go see a modern wonder of the cosmos up close in San Francisco? They sat in the park and ignored the stares. It was a lovely day, he adds. And then... he doesn't really know what happened. Warlock was shot by a beam. It didn't hurt him and it only lasted a few seconds. Nothing happened. Then, Warlock just folded in on himself. They were approached by Cecelia, Gyrich's assistant and some of her troops. They explained that Warlock was being deported. Doug called her some names, as Hank can imagine, but her goons took Warlock away.
Nothing seemed to phase Cecelia. She gave Doug Gyrich's line on deporting aliens, but Doug motioned to the Celestial and asked her if she was going to send him home too. Cecelia replied that if they could find a way, then sure. From now on they were keeping Earth safe for Earthlings. She then got onto a flyer and took off. Doug doesn't even know where to start looking for him. Can Hank help? Hank asks him to leave it with him. Lockheed then pops his head through the air duct and Hank tells him he's glad he made it. He hasn't saved someone for at least four hours and he's Jonesing terribly.
(maximum-plus security brig, the Peak)
Hank pays Unit a visit. He informs the robot that he is up to something, but before he makes his play, there is one question, the answer to which remains tantalizingly elusive. The question is... what is Unit up to? Unit asks what exactly he means. Hank replies that he's been helping his beloved Brand and Gyrich. Unit looks all innocent and replies, "I have?" Hank says he has. He just heard that a friend of his was immobilized by somewhat unusual technology. Technology to solve a single, awkward task, like how he helped Abby break Death's Head's stealth field. Hank adds that he not only helped Gyrich, but he wanted them to know. That is why he talked about how popular he was earlier. The question is... why? Unit replies that Hank is a genius. Alas, he is not. He's just been around for a very long time.
Unit explains his back story to Hank. A few billion years ago, his 'creator's' technology secured an oasis of calm in the chaos of existence and, since all were immortals, this state would continue in perpetuity. They had heaven. But, one of them, a great one, noted a certain pertinent fact. Yes they had heaven for the most part, but the rest of the universe had hell. So, they offered charity to those who would accept it. The problem was that not all would accept their proposal, and those who didn't would eventually hurt those who did. His creators could not make heaven stick without washing away those who would undo it. The smaller the world, the truer the golden ethical rules. Your world is a village and killing is simply wrong. Your world is your empire, and perhaps killing is acceptable if it benefits enough people. Those whose existence is immortal and whose reach is universal must take the long view... the wider view.
Unit closes his eyes and adds that his creators took some sad, necessary steps. He was one of them. They dropped a Unit, like him, on a planet and retreated. It talked to the planet's inhabitants. By the time his creators returned, one way or another, the indigenous peoples would be pacified. For a few thousand years, he continues, it went well, but then there were setbacks. His creators faced a coalition of the selfish, the monstrous and the noble-yet-misguided who rejected the vision's majesty. His creators were defeated and their empire for peace was destroyed.
He is the sole remaining artifact. Their mission rests entirely with him. If he succeeds, his creators were right. The end justifies the means and everyone lives happily ever after. If he fails, his creators were monsters on par with the worst of tyrants. If the end is not achieved, all the means were just... mean. Unit continues to point out that to achieve that success he would do anything and, in his time, he has. To avoid failure he takes his time, so he's having a little break whilst in the hospitality of S.W.O.R.D. As such, it doesn't matter to him who is in charge of S.W.O.R.D., just that he proved himself indispensable.
Hank asks why he divides his loyalties. Surely Gyrich is in a much stronger position. Perhaps, replies Unit, but he is Henry McCoy, ex-X-Man. He wouldn't necessary bet against him yet. After all, he'd love for them to continue this conversation, perhaps over a game of chess. He does love chess. "Surprise me," replies Hank, "Pawn to E-4." Unit smiles and replies confidently, "Pawn to C-5. Mate in 18."
(Status Update: 18:43 EST)
S.W.O.R.D.'s taskforce, codename Unbound, puts itself into position high over the New Mexico desert. They prepare for engagement with Warbound, the last major 'xeno-presence' yet unaccounted for.
Meanwhile, Abigail Brand's half-brother, Lothithanrianiaxus, attempts to evade Death's Head in Jupiter's rings but fails.
S.W.O.R.D.'s internal purge named operation Grace, reaches its final stages. Acting on firm leads, those planning disrupting action are immediately detained, and that includes Hank McCoy. Hank asks if he's being detained because of his long hair. "Ah," he exclaims, "The forces of The Man do assail us freedom-loving hippies, libertines and similar."
Unit contacts Gyrich with several warnings and is thanked by Gyrich, who tells Unit that he won't forget how useful he has been during this transitional period. Meanwhile, only alien operatives deemed to be sympathetic or in sensitive situations remain to be extracted. Snatch squads await the appropriate moment. Amongst these people is Sydren who is currently in negotiation with Drenx pirates.
(end of update)
On board the Peak, the alarms sound and Abigail Brand's voice comes over the PA system with an alert. Life support is failing. Everyone has five minutes to evacuate. If anyone thinks this is a drill, Commander Brand will shoot them. Brand, sitting in her cell with armed guards standing outside figures they'll need to change that message at some point. Gyrich visits the cells. Hulkling warns him that his friends will be there any second now, but Gyrich replies that his friends don't even know they exist. Cecelia reports to Gyrich that life-support systems are blown in the maximum security area. Gyrich is annoyed, blaming Beast and Brand. Does she have any idea what's wrong? Cecelia admits that she doesn't know. Something's broken deep in the machinery. Little does she know that Lockheed is making short work of the Peak's wiring. Gyrich orders her to take four squads of heavy-troopers and move them. Cecelia replies that they don't have four heavy squads on the Peak. They're in the field. He orders her to just send what they've got.
Elsewhere, Hank has gotten himself arrested. As he and Brand are led away by four armed guards, she asks him how he managed to get himself arrested. Hank informs her that he went for a chat with Unit. He's a turncoat! Can she believe it? Brand sarcastically tell him that it wasn't a smart move, but Hank believes that it was, though S.W.O.R.D.'s staff missing a fake body cavity wasn't. He opens a gap in his fake skin and pulls out six canisters of life-support goo. He then throws them in the air and tells the guards that it's for them. An explosion then tears apart the side of the ship and both Beast and Brand are sucked out into space with the four guards. The canisters activate immediately and provide them with air to breathe.
Inside, Cecelia informs Gyrich of the hull breach. It appears to be the mercenary (Death's Head) from earlier. As Gyrich and Brand are grabbed by arms belonging to Death's Head's ship, Gyrich asks Cecelia how he managed to pull that trick again. She reckons Death's Head must have reconfigured his stealth device somehow. "And most of the security team..." she says, "Are with the taskforce," adds Gyrich, banging his head with his hand. He asks her not to lose the mercenaries ship, no matter what she does, but before he completes his sentence, Cecelia informs him that they've lost him.
(On board Death's Head's ship)
Abigail tells Hank that he got himself captured and then hired Death's Head to break them out? Hank replies that he was simply killing two birds with one stone. He paid Death's Head more than he'd have received for catching her half-brother... from S.W.O.R.D.'s funds. Abigail removes her glasses to clean the gunk from them, and asks if he managed to get a payment to attack the peak through the system? Hank admits that he may have phrased it in a more diplomatic fashion. Death's Head himself butts in with Hank's exact wording. "Hiring of deniable freelance peacekeeping agent for extraction of alien-element from hostile environment." Abigail reckons she should thank him for this, but Death's Head replies that there's no need. He has no grudge against either of them... she or her floppy-eared brother. He's a businessman. Besides, he adds, he can always pick up his trail later. "Where's next, temporary boss?" he asks. Abigail asks him to get them out of there as fast as possible, and then wonders where Lockheed is.
Back on the Peak, Cecelia reports to Henry Gyrich, stating that the initial damage report suggests that the alarm was sabotage by the dragon. They strongly suspect that he is still aboard. They've upped the patrols looking for him. She adds quietly that there's just enough asbestos armor. Gyrich asks if there are any sympathizers or aliens left in their ranks. Cecelia informs him that there are only the ones inserted into a hazardous situation. Gyrich orders her to extract them now. They need to minimize the number of tools Abigail can bring to bear to annoy him. Sydren is arrested almost immediately, assuring the Drenx that he is sure the guns held by the awaiting guards are there for a perfectly sensible reason. Gyrich asks Cecelia if she can find out where Brand has gone. Cecelia replies that there is a complication... the signal that they've been ignoring.
On board Death's Head's ship, Hank informs Abigail that they're still patched into S.W.O.R.D.'s comms. This sounds like something she should know about. They listen to Gyrich receiving a report from Mount Rushmore back on Earth. Hank and Abigail listen in on Gyrich and Cecelia's conversation. At 18:57 EST, or 16:57 local time, a low frequency teleportation wave reached Earth's surface. Panic ensues as large alien Metroliths appear.
Cecelia informs Gyrich that they are there and that they are homeless silicon-based hive-organisms. Abigail recognizes them as being akin to sentient termite mounds. They're phenomenally difficult to communicate with, but not exactly hostile. They're just about as bright as... well, rocks.
On board the Peak, Gyrich reckons that because they've invaded America, H.A.M.M.E.R. will deal with them. Abigail knows he'll do just that and leave H.A.M.M.E.R. to it. He's more intent on seeing through his plan. Gyrich asks Cecelia for the latest information on the taskforce and to warn Norman Osborn. He'll take his Avengers out for a spin. "Damn it!" cries Abigail, frustrated at Gyrich's pertinaciousness!
She tells Hank that they have to go back. Hank asks if sorting out the deportation situation shouldn't take priority. Brand replies that Gyrich isn't killing aliens... at least not yet. The Metroliths are innocent and they're going to end up as Norman Osborn's rock garden. Hank smiles and puts his hands on Abby's shoulders. "Will you marry me, Abigail Brand?" he asks. "Not now, Hank," replies Abigail. "We have to do something even more awesomely brain-dead that that." Hank reckons it all sounds quite heroic.