A long time ago. Tarsis, the Kree planet, in the outer rim of the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Judgment Day…
The coming of Galactus means the end of everything. Today, he stands, intently activating his elemental converter, while his herald, the Silver Surfer, staves off the defensive forces of Tarsis. For all their advanced weaponry, the Kree cannot seem to injure Galactus. Instead, they turn their attention to the Silver Surfer, but find him too wily and evasive to even hit.
The Silver Surfer knocks yet another aircraft out of the sky, adding to the smoking wreckage already covering the planet’s surface. The falling shuttle almost collides with a small squad of soldiers on the ground. They thank their good luck, but look at their ruined planet in anguish. Remember when this used to be a place of peace and beauty, a portly lieutenant asks? Mar-Vell, his superior, orders him to cut the chatter. They have duties to fulfill and need to make it to the evacuation transport as soon as possible!
Mar-Vell directs his men over the ridge to the transport, with the intelligence matrix safely in tow. About time they showed up, the shuttle’s pilot says. Mar-Vell and his men load the coveted intelligence matrix and climb aboard the ship. They successfully secure their load and strap themselves in, except for the portly lieutenant, who has difficulty securing his harness. Unfortunately, due to a planet-wide quake, the shuttle has to make a premature, emergency take-off. It lifts off the ground just before the entire planet seemingly crumbles away.
At this point, Mar-Vell notices that Ran-Deff, his squat lieutenant, has not properly secured his safety harness. It’s jammed, Ran-Deff cries! Suddenly, the evac shuttle collides with another aircraft. Its bay door opens and its poorly secured contents – Lieutenant Ran-Deff and the intelligence matrix among them – shake loose. Mar-Vell watches in horror as one of his men, and the object of his mission directive, tumble toward the searing ruins of Tarsis. Impulsively, he leaps out of the ship and flies after them. Without even giving it a second thought, he chooses to save his lieutenant, and reaches toward the screaming Ran-Deff, grabbing him by the hand. “Sloppy work, Lieutenant,” Mar-Vell says as he flies his quaking subordinate to safety. “You’re on report!”
As soon as he returns to the evac shuttle, Mar-Vell orders the pilot to get them as far away from Tarsis as possible. The mission is a scrub, and they had better not be anywhere near the planet’s ionosphere when it inevitably erupts. The entire fleet evacuates and watches, horrified, as Galactus’s consumption of their planet’s energy causes the entire thing to spew fire and explode.
Regional Command, Kree-Lar…
Captain Mar-Vell’s superior is trying to see if he understands the story. He recounts: Mar-Vell’s mission was to retrieve their intelligence matrix from Tarsis before Galactus consumed the planet. The matrix would have provided them with valuable telemetry, which, after given to the Supreme Intelligence, would have quite possibly led to the development of a defense against Galactus in the future. However, in the heat of the battle, Mar-Vell let this invaluable piece of intelligence plummet to its destruction, all so he could save the life of his own incompetent subordinate, a man whose martial duty requires he lay down his life for the empire when necessary? Is that right, he asks? Does Mar-Vell have anything to say in his defense?
“Colonel Hez-Tarr,” Mar-Vell begins, “in combat, a warrior must rely on instinct--”
“YOUR INSTINCTS REQUIRE CORRECTION!” the infuriated colonel shouts in his ear. He doesn’t know what to make of Mar-Vell’s record. For the most part, it displays excellence. He has many notable battle decorations and medals for his heroism. Every few months, however, he has these reckless lapses in judgment. If it were up to him, Hez-Tarr adds, he would strip Captain Mar-Vell of his rank and send him to live in the stockade for the rest of his days. However, that decision does not belong to him. It seems Central Command has something else in mind for the rebellious captain. Hez-Tarr tosses him a small, portable computer. Mar-Vell activates it, and as it begins detailing his next assignment, Colonel Hez-Tarr demands he leave his quarters immediately.
Shortly thereafter, Mar-Vell reports for duty at the Imperial Cruiser Pama. He arrives on the massive, orbiting space station and seeks out his new superior, Commander Zen-Pram. Upon boarding, he is greeted by the Pama’s second-in-command, Colonel Yon-Rogg, a man whose insincere smile betrays his sinister demeanor. The silver-haired Mar-Vell receives his greeting and shakes his hand; the honor is his, he adds. Yon-Rogg informs Mar-Vell that the commander regrets not being able to greet him in person; they will have to meet at the briefing. Mar-Vell compliments Yon-Rogg on his formidable space station. The Pama, Yon-Rogg asks? “Yes, she’s a feisty old girl! I daresay, once the enemy catch sight of her… they feel their hearts in their throats!”
An attractive woman approaches from behind and, after apologizing for the interruption, introduces herself to the new recruit. Mar-Vell is hardly a new recruit, Yon-Rogg states; Mar-Vell is considered a hero of the people. He introduces the friendly woman, a medic named Una, to Mar-Vell, who smiles affectionately. “She is merely a medic,” Yon-Rogg says, “but I’m sure you can see why we keep her around.”
“You flatter me as always,” Una says. Brushing this inappropriate comment aside, she turns to Mar-Vell and says she can escort him to his quarters; her own lie in the same direction. Besides, she adds, surely a lowly medic such as herself can be spared for a moment, instead of bothering key personnel like Yon-Rogg. He must have many more important duties to which he must attend, after all. Yon-Rogg scowls while Una leads Mar-Vell away, placing her hand on the small of his back.
Mar-Vell and Una reach the ship’s elevator and proceed to the quartering level. On the way, Una admits that Mar-Vell is not exactly what she expected. How so, he asks? Based on the reports she read about the battle on Tarsis, she admits she expected someone less rigid in appearance. She has never before met a Kree soldier who valued human life more than his military objectives. Mar-Vell tells her she is misinterpreting his actions on Tarsis. He acted on instinct, and apparently, his instincts require correction. “You make a model soldier, Captain…but a poor liar,” Una replies. She proceeds to remind him of the value of human life, and that their Kree society needs more people like Mar-Vell; men of conscience, men who can think for themselves.
Changing the subject a bit, Mar-Vell asks how Una chose her career as a medic. She explains it was never a choice; just as all people must choose to wage war for what they value most, Una chose to fight for life. Mar-Vell informs her that the popular opinion among high-ranking military commanders is that medics are considered non-essential, and assumed to be individuals too afraid to go to battle. Una scoffs. Everyday, she single-handedly combats foes that claim thousands of lives all the time: Blackgorge, Betath’s Plague, the Wasting, etc. These are the foes she faces in battle. “Is not the life of a Kree soldier of equal value to the death of an enemy, if not more,” she asks? Mar-Vell stares at her, puzzled.
They finally arrive at Una’s quarters. Somewhat curtly, she tells Mar-Vell he can find his own room just around the corner, and says she will see him later at the briefing. When she opens her door, however, Mar-Vell gets a glimpse of the interior of her room, and gasps. Una has a shrine devoted to the old Cotati religion, a religious practice outlawed by High Command and considered an act of sedition! What of it, Una asks? She tells Mar-Vell he would be surprised at what High Command permits on starships far away from home. Besides, they value her medical skills too much to discard her. As long as she keeps her religious leanings low-key, the High Command tolerates her beliefs. After telling Captain Mar-Vell he has much to learn, Una slams the door in his face.
Deck Twelve - War Room. 0730 hours…
Zarek, the Kree Prime Minister, appears via hologram in the briefing room. Behind this projected image, on a giant-sized computer screen, the Kree Supreme Intelligence reminds everyone present that disclosing to outsiders anything discussed within the war room will be considered an act of treason and punishable by death. With that disclaimer out of the way, the briefing begins. Prime Minister Zarek informs the six operatives present that, because the mission they are about to undertake carries such importance, they were each hand-picked by the Supreme Intelligence and himself from a pool of thousands of candidates.
He summons up an image to his left. Surely, he says, the people in the room will recognize the blue-skinned figure as Grand Admiral Devros, one of the Kree’s most valued and decorated officers. Devros was sent on a special assignment into the Absolom Sector two cycles earlier, and after sending a brief, truncated distress signal, he disappeared from their radar. They have not heard from him since receiving his distress signal. Worse, Devros is privy to much sensitive military knowledge. If enemies were to get hold of this information, they could cripple the Kree military. Their enemies must not be allowed to profit from the knowledge Devros possesses, the Supreme Intelligence says, interjecting. Therefore, the Kree must locate the missing Grand Admiral, and either rescue him, or terminate him, to ensure the end of his information leak. In order to minimize the chance of discovery on this mission, they have decided to send only one ship – the Pama – with a small, hand-picked crew of specialists. “One that includes dissident elements, and is obviously considered expendable,” Una whispers to Mar-Vell.
With that, the briefing ends, and both the Supreme Intelligence and the Prime Minister sign off. Commander Zen-Pram turns to his crew and asks if they have any questions. Mar-Vell certainly does. He reminds his commander that the Absolom Sector is considered a level-five risk zone, the most dangerous rating possible; not even the sector containing the Skrull home world warrants a level-five rating. Correct, the commander says. Therefore, the Pama will proceed with the highest level of caution. It will employ a cloaking device granted by the Aura of Negativism at all times, and follow a strict radio silence for the entirety of the journey. Commander Zen-Pram abruptly ends the briefing and dismisses his crew. As he exits, he gives a few responsibilities to Colonel Yon-Rogg and informs everyone they will be leaving in just over an hour.
“I think our colonel has been replaced by a Skrull imposter,” Una says as Zen-Pram leaves. She turns to the grinning Yon-Rogg and tells him she will crack his face in half if he keeps smiling. Yon-Rogg shakes his fist at her. He will forgive her ignorance, but only because she is a medic, he says. He reminds her of Devros’ awe-inspiring credentials, and admits he considers Devros a personal hero.
“He’s a fanatic and a racist, like all blue-skins!” Commander Zen-Pram sneers. Surprised by this admission, the crew turns to Zen-Pram and gives him their full attention. He explains that he served under Devros during the Montox campaign, and during that time, Devros made it known how much disgust he felt toward the “pink-skins”, and how little reservation he felt about throwing away as many of their lives as he saw fit for the sake of victory. “If fortune truly does fly with this mission,” Zen-Pram says, “…we’ll find Devros’ bones lying bleached in the starshine on the outskirts of Absolom!”
Yon-Rogg assumes the commander is jealous. Maybe so, Mar-Vell says, but the high command must think highly of Zen-Pram, if they hand-selected him to lead the rescue mission.
A short time later, the Imperial Cruiser Pama departs for the Absolom Sector. The ship engages its cloak and strict radio silence early in the long journey. Aboard, Commander Zen-Pram’s select crew begins eating, studying, and sparring together, soon becoming a single, cohesive entity. After a fencing match one day, Una jokingly accuses Mar-Vell of letting her win. Not so, he tells her; such behavior would undermine their dignity as warriors. He compliments her fencing form, which he finds unconventional and unpredictable. Does he always flatter his opponents this way, Una asks? “Only when I lose,” Mar-Vell says, smiling.
Suddenly, the ship’s security alarm sounds. Una and Mar-Vell drop everything and rush to their duty stations. However, Una cannot help but notice the sudden, condescending shift in Mar-Vell’s tone once the call of duty rises.
Captain Mar-Vell arrives in the bridge of the ship and asks for a status update. Apparently, the Pama wandered into the middle of a firefight between a Shi’ar scout ship and group of Skrull war saucers. Fortunately, the Pama remains undetected. The Shi’ar ship, meanwhile, continues to deal out disproportionate damage to the Skrull ships, but the Skrulls intend to put a stop to that, as evidenced by their deployment of a few boarding parties.
Why are any of these ships out here anyway, Commander Zen-Pram wonders? As far has he knows, neither group has any reason to fly this close to the Absolom Sector. Mar-Vell interrupts his train of thought and asks for permission to engage the Skrull warships. Why, Zen-Pram asks? Did Mar-Vell forget they are currently engaged in a vital, stealth mission? Mar-Vell reminds his commander of the important trade relations maintained between the Kree and the Shi’ar. Besides, the Kree are already at war with the Skrulls; is it not then their duty to destroy the enemies of their empire? He only wants one fighting unit, and the Pama can remain cloaked and hidden in a safe location. Commander Zen-Pram considers his proposal for a moment. Very well, he finally says. Elated, Captain Mar-Vell throws on his green and silver battle suit, tells Yon-Rogg to ready a fighting squad, and heads for the airlock. Colonel Yon-Rogg scowls at him as he leaves; as he sees it, Mar-Vell, the “People’s Hero”, is only doing this for the glory.
Mar-Vell and the Gamma Squad immediately disengage from the Pama. They do not take ships into battle. Instead, they fly, with no protection other than their battle suits and no weaponry other than their guns. Mar-Vell informs his crew of their prime directive: to free the boarded Shi’ar scout ship without revealing the presence of the Pama. “I want the Skrulls beaten before they even know we’re here!” he says.
One of Mar-Vell's men gasps at the sight of a fiery being flying above the fray. Mar-Vell, disappointed his soldier has not properly studied the available intelligence on the Shi’ar, informs his man that the fiery being is none other than Starbolt of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard! That explains how a single Shi’ar scout ship managed to stave off a superior Skrull force, Mar-Vell supposes. After ordering his men to uplink to Pama’s battle archives for on-demand tactical updates, he initiates a landing on the breached Shi’ar ship. Up ahead, he sees a hull breach, through which they can board.
Mar-Vell and the Gamma Squad fight swiftly and decisively. They ambush the Skrulls on the ship’s exterior, but one of them catches Mar-Vell off-guard and punches him to the ground. The shape-shifting Skrull then mounts the “filthy Kreeman” and, while holding him by the throat, taunts him and his race’s futile alliance with the Shi’ar. Before he can deliver the coup de grace, however, Mar-Vell grabs hold of his pistol and fires it into the Skrull’s face, killing him.
With the exterior Skrull forces defeated, Mar-Vell and the Gamma Squad proceed to the breach in the hull and catch the rest of the invading Skrulls off-guard. Once inside, Mar-Vell joins forces with the Shi’ar warriors, about whom he asks the Pama computer for tactical readouts. The computer reads to him its descriptions of each of the warriors, all members of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard: Fang, Oracle, and Smasher. The combined force of the Shi’ar and the Kree proves formidable; the Skrull captain orders his troops to fall back. Once at a safe distance, however, the Skrulls reorient their gunblock, a large, obviously powerful weapon, and fire it at Mar-Vell and Fang. The shot, and its fallout, appear to be fatal.
Fortunately, appearances can be deceiving. Fang and Mar-Vell safely crouch behind a nearby set of boxes. Close call, Mar-Vell says. Fang, meanwhile, overhears the Skrull captain ordering his men to turn the gun toward the command center. They mustn’t penetrate the door, Fang cries! Mar-Vell swears on his honor to protect the Shi’ar regent. He leaps out from behind the boxes and, just like a cannonball, hurls himself into the gunblock, completely obliterating it.
The Skrull Captain’s jaw drops as he watches the destruction of his unit’s primary weapon. Enraged, he marches over to the injured Captain Mar-Vell and draws his gun. “Wounded, are you?” he asks with mockery. He points his gun in Mar-Vell’s face, and while in the process of telling him his injuries will soon become the least of his worries, something pierces him from behind. A spike emerges from his chest, and he drops dead.
Captain Mar-Vell, still dizzy from the impact, looks up to see who, or what, saved him. He realizes the door to the command center has opened. Does that mean his savior is… the Shi’ar Empress? “Empress?” his intimidating, female rescuer says. “No, not yet. I am Deathbird!” The fierce, avian warrior draws her blade out from the Skrull’s back and lets the blood drip to the floor. “But as for the future, my fine, Kree warrior… who can say?” Mar-Vell stares at her for a moment as she speaks. Then, his vision blurs. Then, he passes out.