Approaching the frontier of the Kree Empire is the pirate vessel Starjammer chased by the Shi’ar superdestroyer Divine Principles of Immolation. Aboard the Starjammer, their leader Havok is hailing the Kree frontier. They are inbound and request they raise their bordershields now. Zero response, Korvus states glumly. The superdestroyer is only seconds away from reaching them and still the barrier is solid. They are all going to wind up very tall and very thin, Ch’od prophecies.
Havok wants to repeat again his statement, but Polaris makes a grab for the communicator instead. This is Lorna Dane aboard the Starjammer, she announces. She is sister-in-law to Crystal Amaquelin Maximoff of the Attilan Royal Family. She is here to attend the marriage of Crystal and Ronan the Accuser. She requests they let them through the barrier without delay.
Well, let’s hope their names are on the guest list, she mutters.
The frontier Guards move with great haste to phase open a portal in the barrier to admit the Starjammer. They do not, however, make phase adjustments for the superdestroyer five seconds behind it… which smashes against the shield. And that is how the Starjammers come to Crystal’s wedding.
Later on Hala, the Kree homeworld. Helped by attendants, Crystal is getting ready for the wedding ceremony, dressed in a beautiful ornamental gown, her face nevertheless melancholic. It’s… complicated, she tells her guest, Lorna Dane. She figured that much, Lorna who is playing with Crystal’s daughter Luna, replies. She’s marrying Ronan the Accuser. Let’s just hear that in italics. Ronan. The Accuser.
Things have changed since last they met, Crystal sighs. They’ve changed a lot. Again, she figured so, Lorna replies and hugs her niece. Luna’s grown so big, hasn’t she? And the city of Attilan is parked on the Kree homeworld and Black Bolt has apparently become king of the Kree. Plus, Crystal’s getting hitched to Ronan. The Accuser.
Crystal whirls around and demands she stop saying it like that. Things have changed. The Inhumans are not going to be victims anymore. They are taking charge of their destiny! Still calm, Lorna observes it sounds like something Crystal has been coached to say. Well, it’s not, her sister-in-law replies forcefully. They should have become this decisive years ago. Generations back, the Kree built the Inhumans to be their elite. So be it. They will lead the Kree and help them to shape a mutually beneficial future. They’ve been a royal family for a long time, she adds as she fixes her hair. They are very good at it. It’s about time they had someone to rule!
And do what? Polaris asks. Conquer the galaxy? The list of people who won’t like that starts with the Shi’ar. Black Bolt has not yet informed them of the policies they will pursue beyond Kree space, Crystal admits. Tight-lipped, huh? Lorna asks as she joins Crystal on the balcony. So typical of Black Bolt.
So this wedding is all about bringing the Kree and Inhumans closer together, is it? It’s a symbol of unification, Crystal explains. Besides, she was promised to Ronan anyway. Lorna reminds her that that’s the sort of promise a girl can choose not to keep. Royal marriages are about consolidating power and influence, Crystal reproaches her. She doesn’t expect Lorna to understand.
Neither of the two women is aware that Ronan is standing beneath the balcony with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Gosh, no, Lorna replies sarcastically, it’s quite beyond an ignorant peasant like her. She didn’t mean it like that, Crystal tries to calm her. She’s not marrying him for love. It’s about duty. It’s about state ceremony. It’s about lifting the morale of the people. Neither she nor the Accuser are foolish enough to think it represents any kind of personal relationship.
They are still unaware of Ronan, who throws away the flowers and silently walks away.
Crystal looks beautiful, by the way, Lorna states. Mollified, Crystal remarks that she heard Lilandra Neramani was aboard the Starjammer when it docked. That’s going to cause a stir. The deposed empress of the Shi’ar attending a Kree royal ceremony.
Lilandra kneels in front of Black Bolt’s throne, carefully watched by his Kree Guards. She respectfully asks the Kree Empire for asylum.
Standing next to his brother and his wife, Medusa, Maximus asks, if they say yes, won’t that make that psychopath Vulcan jolly annoyed with them?
As ever speaking for her husband, Medusa asks Lilandra to excuse Maximus’ unsolicited political commentary. She speaks for Black Bolt.
Lilandra asks for sanctuary form Vulcan’s regime. In time, she hopes, they may even oppose him. Conflict with the mighty Shi’ar is not something they intend to pursue, Medusa immediately clarifies. Lilandra observes that they may not be given a choice whether they grant her asylum or not. Vulcan has never seen a tract of space that he didn’t think would look better with his flag flying over it. So they have heard, Medusa admits. Lilandra warns them. The Imperial Guar—
Medusa interrupts her. The Imperial Guard, for all its reputation, has never met the new Inhuman Elite.
The Shi’ar flagship Hammer II:
Gladiator at his side, Vulcan meets the Imperial Guard one by one, each Guardsman or woman vowing that they serve at his pleasure, Neutron, Plutonia, Manta, Smasher… here Vulcan interrupts the litany. Didn’t he kill Smasher? Gladiator explains that Salac Tuur has been recruited to replace the late Vril Rokk.
Squorm, Starbolt, Mentor… Vulcan announces he’s bored now. Mentor remarks that all flight patches are enabled and all Guardsmen powers and skill sets are certified combat ready. Strike coordinates have been locked into the deep-range teleparture system and….
Gladiator interrupts, telling Vulcan means what Mentor means is that the Imperial Guard is ready to fight to the death at his command.
But Gladiator feels uneasy. He tells himself that he serves at the pleasure of the emperor and always has. He has served them all, good and bad. He is the one constant. Loyalty is what he does. Loyalty to the office, not the person. Loyalty is all that defines him, no matter what his private opinions of the one he serves. No matter that the emperor is not Shi’ar born, but rather a mutant human usurper driven by his own ambitions. He serves at the pleasure of the emperor.
He announces that intelfeed from the Kree homeworld informs them the ceremony is now underway. With a smirk, Vulcan asks if they won’t love his wedding present…
Gladiator still muses on his role. Today he serves his emperor by participating in the invasion of the Kree stellar empire. Most of the work will be undertaken by the Imperial fleet. They will begin a purification campaign of the Kree outworlds as soon as the barrier comes down. The Imperial Guard will be employed for a more specific purpose. An Ehs’tyl assault.
Intelfeed tells them that by tradition the Kree conduct their dynastic ceremonies on the Gon-ket glacier near the southern pole of the homeworld Hala. Kree icesmiths carve the glacier into a ritual palace. Airships ferry in a hundred thousand guests. Many of them are delegates from the interstellar community. No Shi’ar envoy has been invited. Ehs’tyl, by the way, is a Shi’ar word meaning literally bursting cranium. A headshot if you will.
The ceremony on Hala is underway. The groom, Ronan, is waiting. In the audience are the Starjammers, with Polaris taking care of her niece Luna. The bride’s sister Medusa seems happy as Back Bolt leads in a somber-looking Crystal.
The Babel spire in Hala’s principal city:
Two Guards approach an alien. Isn’t he the Gohmen Ahuud of the Aakonian delegation? They ask. He should be at the glacier by now. The ceremony’s begun.
“This is the famous spire, is it?” the alien asks, looking up at said spire. The spire that generates their empire’s protective barrier.
Has he been drinking? the second Guard wonders. He’s missing the wedding, the first one reminds him. He knows “Gohmen Ahuud” replies. He has more important things to do. He changes into his true from, the shapeshifting… of the Imperial Guard. I serve at the pleasure of Emperor Vulcan! he announces and presses the switch of a self-destruction device.
At the glacier, Crystal and Ronan hold hands as the ceremony continues. Suddenly there is a white-hot flare, leaving them to wonder what happened. Rachel suddenly moans. Huge, huge teleport burst, she announces. Sharra and K’ythri! Lilandra mutters. He wouldn’t dare.
The teleport transports the Imperial Guard smack over the glacier. Ehs’tyl begins.
On the flagship of the Imperial Shi’ar fleet, Vulcan is informed that the Kree shield barrier is down. The invasion has commenced. Battlegroup three has begun orbital bombardment of the Kree outworlds Feh-nen, Disradi and Jir-pon. Battlegroup nine has landed ground forces to take the Kree colonies at Cybal Magna and 66 Beta Tau. Fleet taskforce Wolfspider has engaged Kree Navy squadrons in the gulf of Sarenta. Battlegroup two is assaulting radius eighteen. Commander Fee’eyh requests permission to… Admiral Ka’ardum stammers… to use Nega-bombs.
What does he think? Vulcan asks him. He thinks nega-bombs are the most abominable device they have ever manufactured, comes the reply. Hmm, him too, Vulcan agrees. Let’s use lots of them. This invasion stuff is all well and good but tell him what he really wants to hear: How fares his Imperial Guard?
Quite well actually, taking care of Kree sentries. Havok swears while Lorna orders Lockjaw to get Luna out. How can Vulcan be his brother? Havok asks. How can he be related to anyone who could orchestrate this?
And then the Guard is among the crowd. Gladiator’s instruction to the Guard is no quarter. This is not a moment of holding back. So they do not… and kill.
But the Kree and Inhumans are not toothless. The Inhumans’ echo weapons which draw power from capacitors storing the whispers of Black Bolt are formidable. Nightside falls within the first fifteen seconds. A moment later, Karnak’s kick makes sure that Gladiator will have to find another recruit to for the Smasher uniform.
For the most part, the guests are too numb with surprise to compose a proper defense. For the most part. Marvel Girl uses her telepathy to lead the shocked guests out while Korvus fends off Fang and Starbolt with the Phoenix Blade.
Black Bolt and Ronan too rush to the attack with Black Bolt going for the leader - Gladiator. Having expected this, Gladiator gives an order to White Noise to attack. She hits Black Bolt with a cone of noise-cancelling sonics. Her power is not on his scale, but it’s enough to stun him for a second.
What has he got to say to that? Gladiator mocks and smashes the columns around the Inhuman king, so the roof collapses on Back Bolt. This causes Gorgon to go berserk. However, he is felled by a shot in the leg.
Lilandra tries to lead Ch’od out. He warns her to watch her back, but too late. The Guard’s genius member, Mentor, stuns her and then asks Voyager to create a jumpdoor. Before Ch’od’s eyes, Lilandra is teleported way.
Starbolt, in the meantime, fires at Crystal. Ronan shouts out her name agitated and beats him down, becoming the victim of several other guardsmen in the process who beat him savagely until finally Titan smashes him into the ground.
“Are they done?” he asks Gladiator, who quickly dispatches of another few Kree with heat vision. He believes they’ve made their point, he agrees and orders Bounce to execute teleparture. The Imperial Guard teleports out.
Korvus informs Havok that they have taken Lilandra. The injured Ch’od blames himself, even as Triton takes out a sword out of his leg. Crystal is horrified t see what they have done to her new husband who lies gravely injured.
Furious, Medusa’ expresses Black Bolt’sr age and her own, as she vows the Shi’ar will pay in blood!