Gladiator stares at a monitor, taking in the information. Radius eighteen melts on the first day of the war between the Shi’ar and the Kree. This is what a nega-bomb does. He watches the world cremate via intelfeed on the bridge of his emperor’s flagship. He is about to deliver the rebel empress Lilandra to him. The nega bombings have put the emperor in a good mood. He is Gladiator, praetor of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. And he serves at the pleasure of Emperor Vulcan.
His emperor expects him, asking if he has brought her to him. He has, Gladiator replies and orders the Guardsmen to bring her forward. Mentor and a colleague bring in the manacled Lilandra.
Lilandra Neramani, Vulcan croons. Sweet Lilandra. Sweet little Andra. Nothing to say?
Not to you, monster! she spits defiantly. Hmm, how he loves it when they fight. He cradles her chin. If she is not in a mood to talk, let’s just watch worlds burn instead, he suggests, just her and him. The emperor of all Shi’ar space and the pretender witch who thinks she’s better than him. Come on! They are only Kree worlds, they burn so very pretty when you drop a nega-bomb on them. It’ll give them something to do before the end of her life.
Gladiator looks down, not saying anything.
In the Kree Empire, Black Bolt (or more to the point Medusa, speaking for him as usual) makes a broadcast. Medusa tells the citizens of the Kree Empire that they have suffered an unprovoked assault by the force of the Shi’ar. The shield that once protected their star system has fallen. Shi’ar warships have struck at many outworlds and frontier colonies. The royal wedding at the Gon-ket glacier was interrupted by a despicable attack by their Imperial Guard. As a consequence a state of war exists between their empires. She instructs them to remain calm and attend to their duties. The wanton aggression of Vulcan and the Shi’ar will not go unanswered. Black Bolt has pledged to lead the Kree to their destiny and the Inhumans will not waver in the defense of…
In the streets of Hala, the message is cut short as a stone hits the screen. Crowds are rioting, blaming this on the Inhumans, not only on Hala but on several other heartworlds.
The Royal Family (without Maximus and Crystal) are discussing the situation. The Kree are angry, Karnak summarizes. Medusa protests that they spoke to the Kree in a public address. Karnak reminds her that Black Bolt’s rule is still very much a novelty to the Kree. They do not trust the Inhumans; they do not know them. Scarcely have they disrupted their lives by seizing control of the empire and war begins. They blame the Inhumans, Triton realizes and Karnak agrees.
Tempestuous as always, Gorgon hits the table and demands they fight the war – the sooner the better. To teach those Shi’ar /&%$ the meaning of pain. Is his leg still hurting? his cousin Karnak asks. Gorgon touches his leg brace. The Healer eased the break, but it’s itchy-sore, makes him irritable. A war would help.
And Shi’ar blood will spill, Medusa assures him. They will teach them the price of crossing Attilan. Karnak agrees, but reminds her they do not have time for a war. There is too much still to accomplish. The uplift program for the Kree alone is so complicated, they could lose years of lead time if they stop to persecute a long term campaign. Therefore, he suggests they strike hard and fast and end this dispute as swiftly and decisively as possible, They must bring the Shi’ar to term or, better still, maul them so badly their military capacity is hobbled for generations.
Gorgon agrees. They will not be able to advance any of their grand designs until the Shi’ar impediment is gone, he adds almost defensively.
So Karnak is proposing a righteous war? his brother Triton asks. A war to end war? This amuses him? Karnak asks. It sounds like the sort of fallacy a human would invent, comes the reply.
So how do they keep the Kree people in line? Medusa asks. Karnak reminds them the Kree’ve endured a great deal in the last few years. One invasion after the other. They need a rallying point. Unfortunately, the obvious candidate for that role is not in the best of health…
Said candidate, Ronan the Accuser, is in a hospital, badly injured. He should be dead, but he clings to life by sheer stubbornness. At his side stands the crying Crystal, his new wife.
Trying to cheer her up, Polaris remarks wryly that will teach Crystal to marry him. When the entire Shi’ar Imperium invades just to stop her wedding, a girl ought to take it as a sign. Ronan is her husband, Crystal replies. It is a union made to consecrate the future of their peoples, though she says it with little conviction.
Turning serious, Lorna informs her that Havok’s getting the Starjammer prepped for launch. They are going after Lilandra. They could really use her talents on a mission like that. Crystal is undecided.
Suddenly, Ronan weakly says her name. Agitated, she tells him not to exert himself. He’s been badly hurt. The Kree people, he stammers. They are praying for his return to power, she tries to calm him. No, he continues weakly. He would have fought the Inhumans to the death, but he believes they are the future. For that reason alone… for the Kree… he knelt to Black Bolt. He asks her not to make him a fool for doing it.
A doctor gently pulls Crystal away, telling her the Accuser must rest. They will escort her back to her transport. Why are they going that way? Crystal demands. And what is that noise? The doctor asks her to pay it no mind. The public wards are crowded and there is a most unruly element. Elements are what she does, she replies and turns to see what is going on in the other ward.
In there, she finds an injured, frightened crowd, asking about the fate of the Accuser, asking when the medics will come, asking for water. Seeing Crystal, one of them states accusingly that she is an Inhuman. They led the Kree into this.
They did, Crystal agrees somberly. Randac knows they did. She kneels down in front of a woman with a baby. The Krees’ ancestors created the Inhumans to protect them, she announces. It’s high time they started doing that. Her baby is sick. She will go and get a medic. Her husband is very sick too, But Ronan has not given up. He believes in Black Bolt.
She decides that clean water is needed and proceeds to get some, using her control over earth and water to create a well. She gives orders to open some vents, she wants to bring fresh air to these people. A bit more media-savy, Lorna orders a doctor to get an intelfeed on Crystal.
Crystal addresses the people. Her husband’s faith in Black Bolt was vindicated yesterday when the Shi’ar attacked. How? the Kree ask. The Shi’ar can see what the Inhumans and the Kree will achieve together. Vulacn is so petrified of what they will become, he’s gone to war to stop them. Imagine that, even their hated enemy, believes they will rise to become unstoppable. Now where are the meds? She has won the people over who stare at her with adoring eyes.
In the chamber of devices on Attilan, Maximus, working on some device, remarks to the rest of the Royal Family he heard Crystal excelled herself today. Karnak agrees that the Kree have warmed to her. Viral feed from the infirmary has spread throughout the empire comm.-net. A canny move on her part. She made it seem very natural.
That’s just simple statecraft, Medusa points out, they were all trained in it. They are already calling her the people’s princess, Maximus points out. Medusa scoffs.
Triton asks Black Bolt if the Starjammers’ request for assistance in their mission has been approved. They have agreed to it, Medusa informs him. The counter offensive starts tonight, Karnak adds. They will begin by targeting the Shi’ar’s second battlegroup at Radius eighteen. That is, provided the next generation of Echo-weapons are ready…
Yes, yes! Maximus exclaims with a smile. They realize he’s had to suspend work on the Terrigen Uplift program to get these done? He’s only got one pair of hands! They are a little rough around the edges but he believes they’ll serve. He thinks this brute Vulcan will hear their response loud and clear. He stands before a group of giant machines cast in the image of Black Bolt. He calls them Chorus Sentries with echotech weapon systems installed in their combat chassis.
The Radius system, Kree frontier. The Shi’ar second battle group is just leaving its anchor station above the ruins of Radius eighteen when their counter strike gets them. A hot war exchange lasts for about two minutes. By then, the Chorus Sentries, launched like missiles from their carrier ships are deep inside the Shi’ar formation. And they are singing. Their batteries charged with echoes of Back Bolt’s voice. Nothing can withstand that.
At about the same time, eight systems away at the Ehn-fol system at the Kree barrier, the Starjammer taunts death again, hunted by a Shi’ar vessel. In the gravity shadow of the gas giant Haski 346 they have run across the Shi’ar Ionclad Domination through superior firepower. The Shi’ar captain orders the comm.-officer to signal Chandilar. Tell them they have engaged Lilandra’s pirate allies.
“Tighter!” Havok orders on the Starjammer, or they’ll torch them with their main batteries. They are taking hits, Korvus warns him. Cascade Shield failure, Ch’od adds. Kill maindrive, Alex orders and tells Polaris to act now.
Lorna Dane summons her magnetic powers and the Starjammer is suddenly rushing backwards under the ionclad’s metal hull and inside the minimum traverse of her batteries.
The crew of the ionship realizes what has happened. The Starjammers are stuck to their hull like a tick. Magnetics just went off the scale, one crew member warns. The Captain gives orders to activate anti teleport bafflers. He won’t have them using any Inhuman port tricks to get aboard!
Of course, Havok doesn’t need them. He unleashes a stream of charged plasma that opens the Ionclad’s hull and fries the gravity generators. And that’s the moment when the Shi’ar commander realizes teleporters were the last thing he should have worried about.
Led by Triton, Inhumans enter. Zero-G-combat is a specialty rehearsed exhaustively by the new Inhuman elite. The discipline has been particularly mastered by those with the attributes to practice for hours in high-pressure water tanks. In the last few months, the Terrigen chambers produced an unusually high number of aquatic traits, the crystals as ever anticipating the Inhumans’ needs.
Facing the commander, Triton announces his king greets them with these words. He orders one of the Inhumans to check the helm-desks for auto-destruct systems. Albakor is to load up the intrusion code Lord Maximus wrote for them. “Hurry!” he urges. Quick as planned. Albakor obeys and accesses the Shi’ar naval datasphere. Triton reminds him he only has ninety seconds before they detect him and freeze him out. He gets the data.
Triton calls Havok to inform the Starjammers that they have pulled the information off the Shi’ar datasphere, the precise current location of Lilandra Neramani.
On the flagship of the Shi’ar Imperium vessel Hammer II, Admiral Ka’ardum informs Vulcan that they have lost the second battle group. You don’t lose a battlegroup, Vulcan replies. It’s not a set of keys, it’s not a puppy. It’s a sixty-five-ship fleet formation with a five point nine trillion ton void displacement. Try again.
Correcting himself, Ka’ardum explains that the Kree-Inhuman forces have obliterated the second battlegroup of radius eighteen. Entirely obliterated. None of their ships escaped.
Releasing energy from his hands, Vulcan shouts that he’s going to kill them all. All of the Kree! All of the Inhumans! Every last one of them! He order Gladiator to hold Lilandra. All the enemies sent to plague him are going to be put to death… starting with her!