The past - a.k.a. now:
The Apocalypse Ark, where in the room shared by Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man and Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, the two long-time Avengers teammates and lovers lie embraced in each other’s arms. Wanda recalls that for her entire life she has been hunted - chased b one madman or another, a weapon to be used to shape the world to their vision. She realizes that it has defined her life, going back to her father, Magneto - they all think she is weak-minded, that she can be easily manipulated. Wanda knows that the Apocalypse twins are no different - another set of megalomaniacal egotists. They told her that the only way to save the mutants from the Red Onslaught is to rapture all of mutantkind into this ark. ‘These twins think me controlled, as did the others before them. And as the others before them - they will feel my rage’.
‘I just hope to get to be around to see the look on their faces. It’s not much to ask’ Simon utters to Wanda, who tells him that if they succeed, he will. ‘But if things go wrong… if some innocent mutant I rapture gets hurt… the mutants will hate me more than they already do’ Wanda points out. Simon adds that only the willing will fight, and that with an army of X-Men facing the heirs of Apocalypse, there is going to be plenty of willing. Simon and Wanda kiss, before Simon tells Wanda that it is dangerous, but the only way.
‘This will work. It’s a good plan, Wanda’ Simon adds, when suddenly, a voice calls out ‘No, it seemed like a good plan… only it turns to crap. Eimin knows what you’re up to’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan explains as he enters the bedroom. With him are Rogue and Shiro “Sunfire” Yoshida. ‘What are you -’ Wonder Man begins as he and Wanda get out of bed.
Wolverine informs Wanda and Simon that the twins have been playing them all - made it look like Wanda is working with them, set this up to turn them against each other so that an X-Man would think killing Wanda was the only option. ‘What X-Man would fall for such obvious manipulations?’ Wonder Man enquires. ‘That’d be me. I thought Wanda’d been taken over again… thought she was being used to wipe out the mutants. Almost let my anger win’ Rogue announces.
Rogue looks Wanda in the eye and admits that she was so mad at her, blamed her for M-Day and Xavier’s death. ‘I almost did something awful. Logan and Shiro went through hell because of what I was gonna do, but they came back to change it. To see that we stop the mistrust - to see that we unite. It’s the only way to stop ‘em, Sugah’ Rogue tells Wanda, putting her arms around her. A somewhat perplexed Wanda asks ‘You were coming to… kill me?’ ‘All in the past. C’mon, now, hug it out, sister’ Rogue replies.
Meanwhile, as the Apocalypse Ark hovers over Earth, so does the deadly Celestial known as Exitar, the Executioner. And at Avengers Tower, several Avengers and other heroes have gathered. Iron Man tells them that normally he would play the jester a bit to relieve tensions, but that any attempt at humor, even with a wit as dry and charming as his, will be transparent coddling given what they now face. He tells the assembled heroes, including Carol Danvers, the Sub-Mariner, Captain Britain and Dr Strange that as they all know, the only reason for the Celestial executioner to take this disapproving stance - ‘He mans to destroy our world, you windbag’ Dr Doom calls out as he and the Vision busy themselves at some consoles. ‘Yes, well, as you can see, our best and brightest - and you, Doom - are working on a way to create a barrier to protect Earth from the Celestial’ Iron Man remarks.
Iron Man motions to Dr Strange and announces that he is going to lead the rest of them up to the Celestial, where they will try and crack its hull, teleport it away or, maybe, reason with it. ‘Probably not in that order’ Dr Strange points out. ‘And probably we’ll all die trying’ Captain Britain adds.
‘Hate to rain on the sunshine, gents - but Captain Britain’s charming pessimism powers prove positive’ the Scarlet Witch announces as she, Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers, Wonder Man and Rogue drop down onto Avengers Tower. ‘She’s right, Tony. Your plan’s not going to work. You go up there and you’ll all die’ Captain America declares, while Rogue reports that there is only one way to save Earth from this monster. ‘We have to unite. All of us’ Captain America announces.
‘Oh, well, how nice of you to join us at this late hour and uproot our plans, Steve’ Iron Man mutters, adding that a heated debate between the two of them is just what the troops need to bolster morale. ‘No debate. We can stop this thing, but only if everyone does exactly as I say’ Cap declares. ‘Yes, well, that is how these things normally go’ Spider Man points out. ‘Anything, Cap. What’s the call?’ Hyperion asks. Rogue announces that it is simple - everyone just has to give their powers over to her. Simon turns to Wanda and asks her if she trusts them enough to give over everything. ‘According to Wolverine, if we don’t, we kill each other and the Earth dies’ Wanda responds. ‘Yeah, that Wolverine seems pretty trustworthy… you know, for a murderous razor claw guy’ Simon replies, before he and Wanda kiss. ‘One for the road’ Simon tells her. ‘I love you’ Wanda replies as Simon walks away from her. ‘Been trying to tell you that for years’ Simon shoots back, before announcing that they should put this “unity” thing to the test.
Simon and Rogue hold hands. ‘I trust you, Anna Marie. Take all I’ve got’ Simon tells her. ‘Thank you, Simon’ Rogue replies, as ionic energy pours from Wonder Man, into Rogue. ‘Oh, wow - I can see your thoughts - I can see -’ Rogue begins, as she completely absorbs Wonder Man. He is gone. Infused with ionic energy, Rogue announces that Simon is in, and she can hear him rattling around. ‘Who’s next?’ she asks. ‘We’re all of us with you, Rogue’ Captain America tells her, as he removes his glove. ‘No, Cap - we’re in this together’ Rogue replies.
Back aboard the Apocalypse Ark, Eimin and Uriel, the Apocalypse Twins, stare out at the Celestial poised over them. ‘What do you mean they’re gone?’ one of the twins shouts. Daken, one of their Horsemen of Death, stands in their chamber and replies ‘I mean, you know - they’re gone. I went to go get the Witch and her beau, and they weren’t in their chamber. They’re not on the Ark anymore. Splitsville - not here’. ‘This isn’t possible!’ Uriel exclaims. He turns to his sister, ‘You told me you saw how this happens, Eimin. That their petty squabbling ensures our victory’. Eimin calmly replies that they have changed the timeline - that somehow, they are attempting to rewrite events - that someone got through the Tachyon Dam. ‘Someone?’ Uriel asks. ‘Say his name!’ he shouts. ‘Kang! Kang got through! He’s playing us for fools- as he has our entire lives!’ Uriel declares, furiously. ‘My poor brother, you wet yourself at the mere mention of his name’ Eimin remarks.
Uriel turns to a console and contacts another of their Horsemen of Death, the Grim Reaper, asking him if he is at the Tachyon Dam. ‘Guarding it as ordered, your twin worships’ the Grim Reaper responds. Uriel informs the Reaper that something is wrong, that someone is helping the Avengers, and he believes they will come to destroy the dam next. ‘If they’re sending Wasp, like you say, we got nothing to worry about’ the Grim Reaper responds from his position at the dam. The Grim Reaper points out that the Wasp would have to kill him to get through - and they all know princess ideology ain’t gonna do that. Suddenly, the Grim Reaper turns to see Wolverine, Sunfire and Alex “Havok” Summers marching towards him. ‘Well, then I guess it’s a smart thing they sent me in her place, bub… I ain’t got no such compunction’ Wolverine declares.
Meanwhile, at the Jean Grey School, Storm, Iceman, the Beast, Psylocke and Kitty Pryde have gathered and are watching a news report that confirms reports that the giant may begin to lower itself towards Earth, and that the President has announced that the Avengers are working on a solution and for people to stay indoors and stay calm.
‘Goddess, please tell me we have a plan should they fail’ Storm utters. The Beast remarks that sending anyone up there is simply a suicide mission, when, suddenly, a portal opens, and a voice announces ‘Some good news, Hank… I’m the lucky contestant’. It’s Rogue, along with the Scarlet Witch, and the portal created by Dr Strange.
‘Rogue?’ Psylocke gasps. Wanda helps Rogue to stand as she informs the X-Men that Rogue has absorbed the power of nearly every Avenger on Earth, and that it is tearing her apart. She adds that there isn’t a terrible amount of time. Rogue tells Wanda that the X-Men don’t need an explanation, as they trust her. ‘I need ya’ll to give me your powers. Give my your sugar, Sugah’ Rogue declares, reaching out to the mutants.
‘Reaper, what is the situation? Respond to me!’ Eimin demands back in the Apocalypse Ark. ‘Appears Reaper isn’t home’ Daken points out. Eimin orders him to get to the Tachyon Dam and to guard it with his life. ‘Kill anyone who stands in your way’ she instructs him, before informing Uriel that the dam is compromised, and he must collect Jarnbjorn. ‘I’d love to - but your space-time synaesthesia has failed us again - the axe is missing!’ Uriel replies.
Back at Avengers Tower, Captain America and several others look up as Exitar looms closer. ‘I trust you, Steve, you know that, but [putting the fate of the Earth on a lone mutant -’ Iron Man begins, as Cap interrupts: ‘Rogue is an Avenger. And I trust her with this, Tony. You should, too. Like it or not…she’s the only chance we have’. Iron Man looks worried as he checks a monitor, and announces that the Celestial is lowering towards the surface. ‘It’s begun’ Cap calls out.
Rogue flies upwards from New York City, ionic energy bubbling from her hands, she tells herself that something like this - the fate of the world on her shoulders - is too big to digest. She decides that there is no emotion big enough to feel it. There are hundreds of voices inside her head, hundreds of memories. She remembers that there was a time when she couldn’t control five powers at once - but this - this is the big test. The test of everything that Charles taught her. ‘I can do this. Not for the mutants - not for the humans - not for the entire planet - do it for Charles’ Rogue thinks to herself as she suddenly starts to press up against Exitar’s foot.
‘Can Rogue handle that much energy? Can anyone?’ Iron Man asks. Captain America tells him that they better hope so, as they were given this plan from one hell of a source. ‘Why are you being coy? You hate coy - you never do goy - who did give Wolverine this plan?’ Iron Man asks, while Cap just frowns.
‘Shut up! All of you!’ Rogue calls out as she continues to push against Exitar, all sorts of energy coursing through her, upwards to help. But there are too many voices, too much power, tearing her apart. She tells herself that she just needs direction, and that she should use the Hulk’s gamma rays. ‘Stop fighting the power - grow with it’ Rogue tells herself, as she growls, and her body shifts into a Hulk-like state.
It’s not enough, Steve!’ Iron Man exclaims. He points out that every hero on Earth gave Rogue everything they’ve got, and it is not enough. ‘The Celestial is still sinking down, and in a few moments will break Earth’s crust’ Iron Man declares. ‘I know’ Cap replies. ‘Come again?’ Iron Man asks. ‘Rogue is only half of the equation, Tony’ Cap reveals, before pressing the communicator on his earpiece and asking Janet how things are coming in on her end. ‘It took some doing, but it looks like Thor convinced him, Cap. Though I think, when this is all over… we’ve got a big problem on our hands’ Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp replies as she flits through the air alongside the Horseman of Death called Sentry.
‘I am the heir of Apocalypse. I am the ancient mariner returned from his journey with clear vision. I am the protector of mankind - the destruction of these cancerous mutants’ the Sentry calls out.
‘Right on, Sentry’ the Wasp mutters. She tells him that she would love to subscribe to his newsletter and hear more about his insane ideas, but right now they have to save Earth - for whatever reason he likes. ‘I will protect mankind at any cost’ the Sentry replies, and suddenly, he reaches impact against the Celestial’s other foot, and starts to force upwards.
‘It’s working, Steve! Whoever the hell Wasp has holing that other foot - they’ve stopped the Celestial’s descent!’ Iron Man announces. Carol Danvers then asks ‘What the hell do we do now, though? We’re just standing here, powerless’ to which Sunspot adds ‘We’ve slowed his descent, how do we stop him?’ Cap looks to the sky, ‘With a god’ he announces, as suddenly, Thor appears above Exitar’s head. He raises the axe Jarnbjorn overhead, ‘I would bargain with you if I imagined any gain. I would plead my case that you are a pawn of a cosmic schemer. I would insist you listen. But you will not’ Thor tells the Celestial. ‘For there is only one tongue you understand, Exitar - the language of execution’. With that, Thor slices the ace down the side of Exitar’s neck, and cosmic energy billows out of the wound to bleed his cosmic life’s blood.
At the Tachyon Dam, Wolverine, Havok and Sunfire stand over the body of the Grim Reaper. ‘That sound - a god screaming!’ Sunfire exclaims. ‘Thor’s started the ugly work. Now it’s on us - we get one crack at this’ Wolverine tells his friends, before pointing at the dam, he tells them to blow it to hell. Havok and Sunfire then unleash the full fury of their power at the dam, causing it to explode.
‘You will not take life today - you will feed it. I will teleport your great energies to feed a dying star. To save a system that is home to trillions’ Thor tells Exitar as the cosmic blood continues to spill out of the Celestial. Thor assures Exitar that he takes no pleasure in his death, and admits that it was his hubris that set this in motion - his hand that created Jarnbjorn, Wrecker of Worlds. ‘You are merely a pawn in a great game’ Thor adds, as his mighty hammer spins.
Suddenly: ‘You have no idea… and manipulating a Celestial is no easy feat. So I’m brimming with self-satisfaction - as you can imagine’ Kang remarks as he appears near Thor. ‘What is this, Kang? What are you doing here?’ Thor shouts. ‘Finishing what I began’ Kang responds, as Abomination Deathlok suddenly grabs Thor, and then leaps towards the cosmic blood. ‘Release me, fool! You will destroy us both!’ Thor calls out. A look of horror spreads across his face, as Abomination Deathlok replies ‘As Kang has commanded. For the sake of a universe with order - let us burn!’ The cosmic blood burns around Thor, and an instant later, his helmet drops onto the platform where Kang stands. Kang sighs, ‘Can’t it be a bit challenging? My kingdom for a worthy opponent’ he remarks.
Back at Avengers Tower, Iron Man watches on a monitor, ‘Wow. Thor did it, Steve. He cleaved a hole in that damned Celestial!’ Iron Man exclaims, before informing the others that he can’t find any sign of Thor - that he has just disappeared. ‘He’ll be quite dead by now, I’m afraid…guess who will be joining him?’ Dr Doom 2099 asks as he, Ahab, Magistrate Braddock, Ma Parker and Arno Stark descend upon Avengers Tower.
Back up at the bleeding Celestial, Kang walks towards the cosmic blood, ‘I followed the true codes of honor. Gave them every opportunity to defeat me. Yet Kang emerges victorious’. He wonders what better sign there is that he is fated to reign omnipotent, the ruler of all. ‘Have I not earned my conquest?’ he asks, deciding that it is no challenge to change history and to steal control. ‘I have merely tweaked events and allowed my opponents to die by their own choices’. Kang raises a hand, the cosmic blood flows into him as he remarks ‘They are of no use to me dead. I take no pleasure from their bones rotting, for Kang is a conqueror, a ruler of men. My pride is subjugation. My conquest obedience’. Kang continues, stating that his joy born of the look on their faces as they swallow their last ounce of pride and bow before him. ‘And now - my prize - I drink the soul of a god!’ Kang shouts. Kang raises both arms overhead as the energy continues to flow around him. ‘The most powerful energy source in all of existence - the soul of the Celestial Executioner’.
Kang’s essence merges with the energy’s omnipotent well, and he boasts that this was preordained, as was his fate from the birth of this reality. ‘Reality itself, merely a puzzle for Kang to unlock, that he mighty claim - with honor - what is his!’ Kang grins and hovers over the platform, the cosmic energy billowing around him as he announces ‘That I might stand…´KANG, Conqueror of the Universe!’