Norman Osborn, the Iron Patriot, is flying with his crew which includes Ms. Marvel, the Sentry and Venom, who sits on top of their aircraft. Osborn contacts Henry Gyrich, who has told him to go to South Dakota, and asks, sarcastically, if this is some kind of invisible invading xenoform. On the Peak, out in Earth orbit, Gyrich replies negative. The beings he's looking for are enormous silicon-based creatures.
Osborn's team circle Mount Rushmore and he asks Gyrich if he's identified the attraction as an alien invasion... because that's all that's there. Gyrich replies that he's got rid of any staff idiot enough to make that kind of mistake. There's always time to lose a few more, he adds, looking at Cecelia. He adds that the Metroliths teleported in, so it's possible they teleported out. He doesn't have the techs free to run a deep scan right now. They'll keep him in the loop. Osborn asks if that's like him keeping him in the loop about the deportation thing? He hopes he shouldn't expect a call for his little pet Venom in the morning. He has plans for him.
Gyrich assures him that he won't be disrupted. His resources are presently deployed hunting the Warbound, but eventually the symbiote has to go. Osborn asks Gyrich to remember who got him the job, but Gyrich replies that he's doing the job he gave him... getting rid of Brand. She's gone rogue and is as good as gone. He adds that Osborn knew all along why he took the job. Brand needed to be gone because she endangered Earth, and he's not going to allow anyone to do that. Osborn hovers in front of George Washington and informs Gyrich that when he gets a free afternoon, they're going to have a chat. He glances at the sculpture and wonders what he can do about getting his face on the thing.
Back on board Death's Head's ship, Hank McCoy notes Osborn's departure and asks Brand if things are busy outside the ship. She replies that she needs help, now. Hank tells her that he just needs to make sure the hypercharging of the stealth engine will stay stable for a few more minutes before going all Fourth-of-July. He'll be there in a moment. Brand orders him out there right away. Hank fiddles with the engines, replying that he can see portents of an ill future. "Hank, your hair is clogging up the shower. There's too many conditioners on this shelf. Do you really need seven hairbrushes? Abigail Brand's dark reign of the bathroom cabinet." Abigail shouts his name over the radio, and Hank informs her that he's finished. He leaps from the ship, dropping to where the action is below.
On the ground, Death's Head is fighting one of the larger Metroliths. Abigail doesn't know why they're attacking everyone. One child being carried by his mother comments that Mr. Iron Patriot will save him, but Hank leaps at them and grabs them both, shoving them out of danger. "Somewhat unlikely," he remarks. He reckons that Osborn will most likely make political capital out of his death or skin him and turn him into a particularly vile flag. He tells the child to run and leave this to the mostly grown-ups.
Hank mentions that he remembers something Abigail said about 'peace-loving travelling termite mounds.' Abigail replies that they're peace-loving, but dumb. She needs to work out what's got them so riled up. Hank asks her to speak to them in her heathen space gobbledygook. Abigail thanks him for the genius advice. She'd never have thought of that! Unfortunately, she doesn't speak Metrolith. Hank reckons they should turn to plan B. Speak English vvvvveerrrry sllllooww...
One of the Metroliths smashes Death's Head away and he narrowly avoids connecting with Brand and Beast. Death's Head grabs a rocket and inserts it into a socket on his arm. "No deadly force, Brand said." He aims it at the giant Metrolith and reckons it's possible it could live through this. Beast sees the danger straight away and leaps onto the Metrolith. The rocket fires and Hank arrives just in time, kicking the rocket away with his large feet to harmlessly explode in the sky.
Brand warns Death's Head that if he directly disobeys an order like that again he'll be docked pay. Death's Head replies that it wasn't disobedience. It was mild insubordination. She asks him to just keep the small ones contained while she gets through to the bigger boys. Brand first tries communicating with the creature using galactic basic, then High-Skrull, Debased Kree and then Shi'ar Prime. None of them appear to work. She then uses some merchant-slang Majesdanian and this appears to work: a good job really, as they are about to be crushed by one of the Metrolith's massive feet.
"You're thinking peoples," it replies. "Didn't the zap-guns give you a clue?" replies Abigail. The Metrolith says it thought they would be stings. Organics are very small and confusing to them. Towering over Hank and Abigail and pointing at Mount Rushmore, the Metrolith asks why they decapitated the noble creatures. Brand replies that they're rocks... carved rocks. The Metrolith pauses a moment, thinks about it and then stands. "Stop!" it shouts. "Stop, everyone. We've made an enormous mistake." Hank whispers to Brand and asks why, for those who didn't go to space-girl finishing school, were they attacking the Earth? Abigail replies that it's because they're enormously dense!
(the Peak, Diplomatic Room 1: ongoing Drenx negotiations)
Sydren is led away by S.W.O.R.D. soldiers, assuring them that he hasn't made any mistakes - at least ones that Brand would arrest him for. A solider replies that he's been in the room too long. Brand's gone. One of the armed soldiers feels sorry for Sydren, but does his job and asks his boss where they should take him. The brigs are full to breaking. He orders him to take Sydren to one of the maximum-plus cells without an occupant. He may as well put him in there. The soldier asks which one is free. "The one next to the yappy robot," replies his boss. He then enters the room and sits before the Drenx to pick up where Sydren left off. Hopefully this little hiccup won't disrupt the negotiations. "Indeed," replies the lead pirate, pulling out his weapon and aiming it at the agent's head. "Tell us more about this 'yappy robot.'"
Back in South Dakota, the now-friendly Metroliths play with the tourists. On board Death's Head's ship, Brand informs Hank and the bounty hunter that the Metroliths are incredibly embarrassed, offering reparations, anything they can do and all that. If only all invaders were as polite. Or, failing that, dumb. She's explained the situation on words of one syllable, so they're going to lay low until this is all over. Hank asks how, precisely, are fifty-foot aliens going to lay low? Abigail replies that they'll do it literally. They're heading to the woods and lying down. No one will care about these interesting new geological formations, at least until morning. She asks Hank how the ship is. He asks if she wants the good news or the bad news. She rest on his large shoulders and asks him to hurt her. Death's Head sighs. He preferred it when Abigail was insufferably shouty.
Hank explains that their stunt burnt out the stealth drive. They're no longer the feared death-dealing chameleon of the spaceways. Death's Head, still missing an eye, listens in, checking that this contract covers his expenses. Abigail assures him that it does, and she asks Hank for the good news. He informs her that the good news is knowing where previous bad news come from. He went through the files he downloaded before starting their thrilling new fugitive lifestyle and found that the Metroliths have been signaling since early morning. It was deliberately buried. The Drenx raiders too. Even Lothi's calls for sanctuary.
Abigail realizes the implications. The messages were hidden, and revealed just in time to make them miss the meeting where Gyrich made his move. Hank wonders why war by bureaucracy wasn't banned by the Geneva Convention. It's similarly inhuman and think of all the paperclips they'd save. Abigail says they should forget about aliens. When she gets back in charge, she's going to deport all the people like him. "Bureaucrats?" asks Hank. "And redheads," replies Abigail. She has to be sure. S.W.O.R.D. needs to know about this, so she asks Hank to patch her through.
In the Peak's maximum-plus security brig, the Drenx pirates take the S.W.O.R.D. agent to the cells, murdering a guard en route. Subliminal dampening? they wonder. Could it really be there? As soon as the agent opens the cell door, he is killed by a blast to the head. The Drenx have no time to torture him. They enter the cell and find Unit standing there. The robot welcomes them. He almost recognizes them. It's on the tip of his tongue. The extended nose, those deep-set eyes... the fact that they've disintegrated that chap's head... he'll put money down that they're Drenx. Does he win?
The Drenx are astonished that they've found Unit. Unit is pleased that his lengthy incarceration hasn't made him go to seed. He slips into something more comfortable by assuming the appearance of the Drenx, and asks what he can do for them. The Drenx inform him that they wish to crush the station's defenses with blitzkrieg speed. They wish to take their red tithe from this rich world and leave it seared and scoured. If Unit gives them counsel and leads them to victory adorned with torn flesh, they will free him afterwards. Unit smiles. "Oh, my dear Drenx. You know how to make an old droid feel special."
Meanwhile, Brand contacts Cecelia and Gyrich's assistant asks if she should send a team to pick them up now or wait until the end of the call. They've kept her cell just how she likes it. Abigail tells her to shut up and treat her like she was still her commander... because, by the end of today, she will be. She asks Cecelia to look at the data they've sent her. She's highlighted the key points. Lothi was small change, but ignoring the M.S.S. has just got Earth invaded. She's just managed to calm it down, but God knows what delaying the Drenx could have done. S.W.O.R.D. can't be acting like this. The high command needs to know and they will get it to them. "Yes," agrees Cecelia, "But I think it'd come better from you... commander." Abigail replies that they'll be in orbit five minutes ago.
Back in the brig, Unit tells Abigail that they will be ready for her ten minutes ago. He's assumed the role of Cecelia by interfacing with the Peak's computers and taking her appearance. Abigail and Hank will be walking into a trap. Unit then turns to the Drenx and informs them that she will be joining them shortly, and then S.W.O.R.D. will be theirs. Then, the Earth. Then there will be screaming, if he knows the Drenx. He asks how the rest of their scheme played out.
(the Peak, 20.01 EST)
Precision bombardment from Drenx torpedoes paralyzes peripheral sector life-support and Peak external communications. Two minutes later and a Drenx boarding party has secured the remaining life-supporting center. There is negligible resistance to their first strike due to limited on-site personnel. Unit provided human-tailored pheromone sedative which was added to the air flow. All humans, including Henry Gyrich, are incapable of aggressive action and are swiftly detained.
Fifteen minutes or so later, all communications are linked through the Drenx systems. The Warbound strikeforce orders are altered and moved to tactfully disadvantageous positions. When the ambush is sprung, the strikeforce should be decimated. The Peak, in short, has been neutralized.
The Drenx leader returns to the brig and speaks to Unit, informing him that the scheme went like the steady and soothing drip of gore from a productive torture wheel. And, on that subject, he adds, he thinks that swift mutilation followed by execution would be the correct course. Unit replies no. They have the freedom to choose, and it's no more cost to them. Choose healthy hostages, he suggests. They're easier to keep alive. Besides, they have no time for their pleasures. They need to prepare a welcome for Brand and her dashing little company. Of course, he adds, the simplest thing would be to turn off the subliminal dampening field and let him back on the communicators. He'll have her singing the Drenx reaving anthem, though he is ashamed to admit it, they'll have to remind him of the words. He loses track after the sixty-third verse about the joys of gutting.
The Drenx leader thinks not. They will be long gone when they remove the shackles. They aren't fools. Unit says they can't blame a robot for trying. He advises the Drenx that if they strike when they have their vessels mobility, they could escape. He should let them land and then make their move. They will find some E.M.P. cannons in the armory. They'll deal with the robot. They won't kill him though. He's a professional and could be of use. "And the commander and her furry concubine?" asks the Drenx. Unit suggests that they pack as many guns as they can fit into the bay and open up first chance they get. The lovely couple are far too dangerous to live.
(Sub-Dock IV - two minutes to docking)
Lockheed emerges from the ventilation shafts and sees Death's Head's craft approaching the Peak. Alarm bells ring inside his head. He makes his way quickly to Communications Station IV and clambers inside. Drenx guards are blocking the entrance, and Lockheed is forcibly restrained as he tries to get to the microphone. The ship docks and a message goes out to Abigail and Hank. 'Docking complete. Welcome to the peak. Please enjoy your stay.'