‘Somebody make a decision, folks - here they come!’ Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter shouts as she stands with her Force Works teammates as they observe a massive army fast approaching them. The Mandarin is now in possession of the mystical staff Parallax, and has abandoned his foes, as at the moment they are in no shape to follow him, not are they likely to be if the approaching army is any indication. ‘Here we go again’ USAgent a.k.a. John Walker mutters, before asking Spider-Woman if she wants to take the fifty on the left and he will take the fifty on the right. ‘Suits me fine - but this is getting kind of old, y’know’ Julia replies. Tony Stark, without his Iron Man armor, turns to Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and remarks that John and Julia are real pieces of work. ‘Mm-hmm’ Wanda replies.
Tony reminds Wanda that she is in charge. TheScarlet Witch asks her friends to stand down, as this is one fight they are in no condition to win. USAgent smiles at the Scarlet Witch and asks her what is the matter. ‘You wanna live forever?’ Suddenly, the army arrives - with James “Rhodey” Rhodes in his re-modelled War Machine army leading the way. The alien Century is at his side. ‘Relax, folks - we’re the cavalry. You know, changing your name from West Coast Avengers to Force Works doesn’t seem to have kept you out of trouble’ War Machine declares, bringing his horse to a stop, Rhodey calls out to Tony: ‘Thought I was dead, didn’t you? Was it fun?’ Rhodey asks.
‘No more than it was for you, War Machine - when the shoe was on the other foot’ Tony replies, before the friends shake hands, and Tony tells Rhodey that he is glad to see him. ‘Me too, man. Me too’ Rhodey replies. War Machine explains that after the Mandarin sent them on a one-way trip out of his castle it took them a while to fight their way back. ‘Wasn’t for my man Big Blue here, we wouldn’t be here at all’ War Machine adds, motioning to Century. USAgent frowns as Spider-Woman tells Century that some of them were afraid he wouldn’t be coming back. ‘But we’re very glad you have’ she assures him, before telling him that he gave them quite a scare when he left them back in Hong Kong.
A young woman looks up at Mr Stark and tells him that it is pleasant to see him again. Tony realizes that the young woman is Su Yin, and smiles as he tells her ‘Yes, it certainly is’. A man in extravagant battle armor approaches Force works and announces that he does not wish to intrude on their reunion, but that there are battle plans to make. He introduces himself to Force Works as Chu Lo Yan and explains that he has joined with War Machine to dethrone the pretender who ravages his country, and that he has brought his army a considerable distance just to do that. ‘Still ready to throw in the towel, Wanda?’ Walker asks. ‘Not likely’ Wanda replies, before turning to Tony, who remarks ‘Agreed’, and telling Chu Yo Lan that he means no offense to he or his army, but that they will need more than brute force to go against the Mandarin.
Tony announces that the Mandarin is on his way to Hong Kong and that he has Century’s staff, Parallax, which he thinks he can use to spread his anti-tech field across the planet. ‘He can’ Century states. Tony informs everyone that there is a Stark Enterprises branch in Hong Kong which will give them access to weapons, but admits that he is not sure how to fight the anti-tech field. ‘I’m not even certain it can be fought’ Tony adds, to which Century announces that he has certain ideas about that. ‘The laboratory may have equipment sufficient to implement them, if -’ he begins, before the warlord shouts ‘All this talk of laboratories and weapons - do we stand talking, or do we fight?’
‘Your emperor commands you to take arms now!’ Chu Yo Lan booms. Tony looks confused, so Rhodey informs him that their new friend claims he is the great-great-etcetera-grandson of Pu Yi - the last real Emperor of China. ‘You challenge my birthright?’ Chu Yo Lan demands. ‘I tried to explain this on the ride over, man. We’re here to stop a dictator - not replace him!’ War Machine replies. Tony tells Chu Yo Lan that whatever the truth of his claim, he cannot defeat the Mandarin with horses and swords. ‘There’s a lot more at work here than you understand’ he explains. One of the soldiers remarks that Tony Stark knows the Mandarin better than they do, to which another shouts ‘Let him speak!’, but a third declares that he may speak all he wants, but he stands behind his warlord.
Chu Yo Lan raises his sword and announces that he will waste no more time here. ‘We march to Hong Kong now! Fight at my side - or be crushed beneath my heel!’ he declares. One of his soldiers approaches him and suggests that they can at least hear Force Works out, but the warlord retorts ‘Stand aside, fool!’ and knocks the soldier down. ‘Oh, swell’ Julia mutters, while USAgent points out that they are all the good guys here. ‘Shut up!’ one of the soldiers warns him. War Machine ducks as Chu Yo Lan raises his sword. ‘Just cool it a second, will you? This isn’t helping!’ Rhodey exclaims. ‘Kill the traitors!’ Chu Yo Lan booms as he prepares to kill one of his soldiers. ‘They’re your own men, you bas-’ War Machine declares, while Tony shouts ‘Stop. Please. If we kill each other, the Mandarin wins - without a shot fired’.
In the meantime, in Hong Kong, the Mandarin stands over his Avatars and shouts ‘Behold, my Avatars…Hong Kong: one of the great centers of the so-called civilized world - in ruins!’ He tells his Avatars that their earlier attack showed the people who fragile is their great fortress. ‘And now we show them the shape of true strength!’ he declares, while fire burns all throughout the city. The Mandarin tells his Avatars to go forth into the city and find what survivors remain, to prepare them for his coming. ‘Do not resist, my subjects!’ the Mandarin declares, assuring them that great days lie before them. The Avatars do as commanded, and begin to destroy any buildings that remain.
The Mandarin grins wickedly as he tells the Avatars that under his rule they shall know a kingdom far greater than ever seen, surpassing even the rule of his ancestor, the great Khan. ‘In his life, he held sway over but half of this world…while I - I shall hold it all!’ the Mandarin booms, boasting that from this time forward, this land shall be known by its ancient name. The Mandarin slams Parallax down on the ground and green light flows all around. ‘We proclaim the Empire of Cathay! It shall stand for a thousand times a thousand years - and be the greatest wisest kingdom in the history of man!’ A temple forms from where the Mandarin stands, and the Avatars form around it. ‘Cathay! Behold your king - the Last Emperor of Earth!’ the Mandarin booms….
Back in China, Force Works are now engaged in battle with Chu Yo Lan’s army. ‘Five it up, you two-bit Fu Manchu! Most of your men have come over to the winning side - and it ain’t yours!’ USAgent declares. Spider-Woman drops down beside Century and asks him if he is hurt. Keeled over, Century utters ‘My daughter! Where is my daughter…please, you must help me find -’, he is interrupted by Chu Yo Lan who calls to all those who still ride with him. ‘Retreat! We shall return to destroy these traitors!’ he declares. A small army rides off with the warlord, while Tony tells everyone else not to follow them, as they have more important things to worry about, and places to go.
Shortly, Force Works have found some horses for themselves, and lead the army onwards. Tony tells War Machine that he wished he knew what they will find when they reach Hong Kong - assuming they do. ‘You ask me, we just wait and see what happens’ War Machine replies. ‘That’s not a strategy I’m used to’ Tony replies, to which War Machine tells him that it is never too late to learn. Tony informs his friend that he has learned a lot of things lately - ‘About the things that have happened between us - I think you have an apology coming’ Tony announces.
But Rhodey tells Tony that he has already done more than his share. He adds that the fact is, he has been too busy nursing grudges to keep his own house in order. ‘I know what It’s like to have too much riding on my shoulders…and I’m not proud of the way I’ve handled it. I got no right to throw any more stones at you’. Rhodey tells Tony that if they get out of here alive, they should settle it like friends. Tony replies that he looks forward to that - when they get out of this alive.
Further back, the Scarlet Witch is riding alongside Century. ‘Spider-Woman told me something happened to you a few moments ago. What was it?’ Wanda asks. Century explains that it began after the Mandarin’s attack on him, but that he does not know the cause. He adds that he is troubled / bewildered / confused and frightened. Wanda tells Century that whatever it is, they will help him through, as that is what families are for. “Family” Century remarks, asking Wanda if that is what they are. ‘Well, not your average family, I grant you, but -’ Wanda begins, to which Century interrupts and tells Wanda that he does not believe USAgent shares her opinion. ‘I have angered him in some way’ Century remarks. Wanda explains that USAgent has been proven wrong. ‘He thought you wouldn’t return after you left us in Hong Kong. He’s angry at himself…not that he’d admit it’ Wanda explains as she looks at Walker. Century replies that he doesn’t understand, to which Wanda tells him not to worry about it, as it happens to the best of families.
Much later, civilians begin to gather at the Mandarin’s temple, and the Mandarin refers to his new army attending to their duties. He tells his Avatar Butterfly, kneeled before him, that a simple touch of magic to supply the livery of battle and they will see how easily men fall to controlling their own kind. The Mandarin calls out to Major Chang and asks him if his men are at the border. The Major addresses the Mandarin as Kahn and tells him that he has ordered them to watch for fleeing citizens and detain them. The Major sees an elderly man trying to walk out of a detention camp, so he grabs him and asks him where he thinks he is going.
Suddenly, ‘That’s no way to treat your elders’ War Machine declares. ‘You need to learn a little respect!’ he tells the Major as he knocks him to the ground. Force Works and their army allies engage the Mandarin’s army in battle. A restful trip across the sea, even on an abandoned barge, does wonders for constitution, as the Mandarin’s army discovers. Spider-Woman kicks her opponent over, while War Machine tells Century that he is looking good. Century smiles and tells his new friend that ever since they approached this island his condition has improved considerably, as he kicks one of the soldiers over.
‘Shell-head! Watch your back!’ USAgent calls out as he sees Major Chang approach Tony. ‘Never mind - I’ll do it!’ Johnny declares as he lunges at Major Chang, knocking him into a wall. Tony turns around and thanks USAgent. ‘nothing, boss. But I’ll feel lots more comfortable - when you get your steel underoos back on!’ USAgent declares, before asking where the branch of Stark Enterprises is that they are looking for.
Tony directs the hurried search through deserted streets, and soon they arrive at the Hong Kong branch of Stark Enterprises. ‘Jackpot!’ War Machine calls out, before announcing that they have casualties, as he sees a woman lying amongst the rubble. Tony crouches down beside the woman and sees that it is Suzi Endo. She wakes, confused tat seeing him. ‘The creatures destroyed so much…’ Suzi utters, while Tony tells her that there is no time to go into that now, and asks if there is a working commlink in the building.
Suzi takes Tony and Force Works to an undamaged computer, before Tony asks Suzi to take Su Yin to the medical lab where she can get checked for injuries. Tony asks Wanda, Julia and Walker to search for other survivors. Tony starts using the computer and tells Century and War Machine that they will be doing things that Suzi and Su Yin need not know about. Tony adds that it is a good thing the anti-tech field has not affected Hong Kong yet, before remarking that Century is the closest thing they have to an expert on the Mandarin’s bag of tricks. War Machine asks what today’s “experiment” is, to which Tony smiles and announces that it called “ordering up reinforcements”. He adds that he is contacting Plato at Works HQ and will have him send them a parcel, special delivery.
Meanwhile, smoke billows around the Mandarin’s temple, as the Mandarin exclaims ‘Giant weapons of mass destruction, man-made killing germs, rampant crime, alienation, nuclear war…these are things of the past. I bring you a better world!’ Civilians - prisoners - watch him and one of them shouts ‘Better?’, to which Major Chang orders them to be quiet. But the Mandarin tells Major Chang to hold, and remarks that a ruler must hear his subjects. ‘Speak’ he tells the woman. The woman is angry as she tells the Mandarin that his magic is no different from tanks or clubs. ‘Tyrants always claim to know best - to hide what bullies and cowards they are. To #$@% with them - and to #$@% with you!’ she shouts. The Mandarin just frowns.
Back inside Stark Enterprises, ‘Increase in phase’ Tony tells War Machine and Century who are busy working at a bench. ‘Um…hand me that wire’ Rhodey replies. ‘Temporal resonance cable’ Century corrects him. USAgent crouches beside a small craft, and remarks ‘Man…California to Hong Kong in nothing flat. Stark could make a fortune with this thing’. ‘What does he need with another fortune?’ Wanda asks. Tony is adjusting some machinery and announces that the only way they will knot for sure if these gadgets dampen the anti-technology field is with a field test. ‘No pun intended’ War Machine declares. Spider-Woman asks her friends what she thinks the Mandarin is doing right now, to which USAgent replies that he probably has the whole town bowing and scrapping, maybe feeding him grapes.
‘Silence - silence!’ the Mandarin booms as his “subjects” call out against him.
‘Just about ready -’ Tony begins as he adjusts some red and gold armor.
‘I will have SILENCE!’ the Mandarin booms, holding Parallax over his head.
‘Battle stations!’ Tony orders as he picks up more gold and red armor - a helmet, this time.
Energy flows from the Mandarin, telling his “subjects that he comes among them with a gift, perhaps the greatest gift their miserable lives have ever known. ‘And I am rewarded thus?’ he asks. ‘Very well, then - so be it! If you will not see what is best for you - then I shall demonstrate it. The Reign of Khan begins!’ the Mandarin declares.
Six heroes stand between the Mandarin and the world’s doom - Iron Man. USAgent. Scarlet Witch. Spider- Woman. Century. War Machine. They race towards the Mandarin’s temple, when suddenly, every single building around them begins to fall, destroyed by the Mandarin’s power. ‘See your concrete palaces crumbled to dust! See the world remade in my image! See the end of all that you knew, all that you held most dearly…and bow to the power of the Mandarin...’.