Long-time Avengers ally Rick Jones was kidnapped by the alien Shi’ar. The tomb of Captain Marvel was raided by the alien Kree. Intergalactic war is erupting between two mighty empires, and Earth’s mightiest heroes are in the thick of it!
Space, around Earth’s sun, where, moments ago, a space station called Starcore orbited, manned by scientists from Earth eager to illuminate the mysterious of the sun. But that was before a massive solar flare engulfed the unfortunate ship, destroying it utterly. For its inquisitive Terran crew, there is seemingly no hope. Or can there be in the silent sound of thundr and the flash of lightning here in the depths of space…salvation in the form of four of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? ‘I did it! I really did it!’ Eric Masterton a.k.a. the new Thor exclaims as he holds his powerful Asgardian hammer overhead, and his teammates the ghostly Vision and the young Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn, along with the currently inactive Avenger, the sultry Sersi of the Eternals, arrive in deep space.
Eric tells his companions that he wasn’t sure he could make the leap from Earth, but that after Captain America told him the Starcore’s coordinates, all he had to do was concentrate ‘And…BAM! Mjolnir got us here! Fantastic!’ the excited Avenger exclaims. ‘Well, bully for you, Thunderer. But in case you haven’t noticed, we’re still a long way from accomplishing our mission’ Sersi points out, a deep-space breathing device on her face. Quasar wears one, also. The Vision states that Sersi is correct, and points out that they received Starcore’s distress call 12.6 minutes ago, indicating the crew was abandoning ship. Looking around, Vision remarks that there is no sign of the craft’s life pod in this vicinity, so it is conceivable that they did not succeed in escaping and perished.
‘You sure know how to bring down a good mood, Vizh’ the new Thor remarks, before turning to Quasar and asking him what his thoughts are. ‘I mean, you’re Guardian of the Galaxy’ Eric points out. ‘Protector of the Universe’ Quasar corrects his new teammate. ‘Whatever. Did they make it?’ Eric asks. Quasar explains that the Starcore crew knew that the flares were getting increasingly dangerous, that they were prepared. He puts his fingers to his head and tries to sense for any human life. ‘Bingo!’ he exclaims an instant later, before streaking off through space, telling his companions to follow him. They do so, although Sersi complains that someone ought to remind the Golden Boy Scout with the cosmic accessories, that they happen to be a team. ‘And somebody oughta remind you that you’re not God’s gift to superheroes, lady! Sheesh!’ the new Thor thinks to himself.
Meantime, on Earth, specifically, Avengers Mansion, New York, where in the communications room, Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanov a.k.a. the Black Widow are speaking with Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, of the Avengers West Coast, via communicator. Captain America reports that the latest flare was by far the largest, adding that they barely got Starcore’s message through the electromagnetic disturbance. Hawkeye asks Captain America how he figures the solar flares are tied in to what has been going on lately, but Cap replies that he isn’t sure that it is clear there is a connection. Captain America points out that Rick Jones’s dream indicated that there was a Kree presence on Earth again, which certainly was born out by their encounters with Captain Atlas and Dr Minerva.
Captain America adds that his battle with Warstar revealed the Shi’ar race is involved as well. He admits that the Avengers do not know a lot about the Shi’ar, but that Quasar witnessed a solar flare erupt when their star ship warped out of the solar system. Cap states that it would appear they are in the middle of some type of intergalactic power struggle between two alien super powers who don’t give a second thought to the damage they are doing to Earth’s sun. ‘So what else is new? Listen, the West Coast branch is just about ready to jet to New York for the big pow wow. See you in two hours’ Hawkeye replies, while the Black Widow informs Captain America that she called in all the reserves she could, and alerted Jarvis to be prepared for up to thirty guests. ‘And just the other day I was reminiscing about the good old days with a smaller team. Seems like I’m going to have to eat my words’ Captain America tells Natasha, who tells him to look at it this way: ‘At least this’ll keep you humble!’
Back in space, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Starcore life pod?’ Quasar exclaims as he hovers beside the vessel. Sersi tells Quasar that they are impressed, and promises to call him the next time she loses a needle in a haystack, before pointing out that the question remains - is the crew all right? The Vision announces that he will ascertain that by passing through the pod’s hull and asking them directly. The Vision becomes intangible and does just that, where he finds the crew gathered together. ‘The Vision! Thank God somebody heard our distress beacon!’ one of the Starcore scientists declares. It is Dr Corbeau, who adds ‘We were beginning to think -’, he starts, but the Vision interrupts him, getting straight to the point, he asks what happened.
Dr Corbeau reveals that there was a flare so sudden and powerful that it couldn’t have been natural. ‘We had no time to engage our thrusters’ he explains. ‘Indeed’ the Vision replies, before asking Dr Corbeau if he has a hypothesis as to why the sun’s solar activity has become so volatile. ‘Er…Vision…I don’t think now’s the appropriate time to…’ Dr Corbeau begins, while the pod is suddenly tossed about. ‘What’s happening?’ another of the crew gasps. ‘Unknown’ the Vision replies, before phasing through the hull of the vessel once more, stating that he shall investigate. He returns to the other Avengers, and announces that the Starcore crew appears fundamentally well, if somewhat shaken. ‘But this disturbance -’ he begins. ‘We’re way ahead of you, Vizh. Something’s about to happen!’ Quasar exclaims. ‘Look!’ Sersi gasps. ‘Omigosh…what the heck is that?’ Eric asks as energies begin to swirl before them.
The Vision announces that they are witnessing the formation of a wormhole. ‘You know it, Vision! It’s the birth of a warp…a rip in the time / space continuum!’ Quasar announces as the hole continues to form. ‘Space / time continuum? I knew I shoulda stayed home’ Eric mumbles, while Sersi motions to where another warp has suddenly appeared in the distance - out of which soars a very large fleet of space ships. ‘It’s a freakin armada!’ Quasar exclaims. ‘Whoa!’ Eric gasps.
Inside one of the ships, a Shi’ar officer informs the Praetor that the first leap has been complete and that the fleet reports it is prepared to enter the second wormhole. ‘Very well, commander. Proceed’ the Praetor replies, as he stares out into space. The Praetor remarks that the Empress does not want any Shi’ar presence in the terrain solar system and longer than is absolutely necessary. Another officer calls out to the Praetor and the commander, revealing that the bio-scans have detected life forms. ‘On the screen now!’ the commander calls out, adding that it is true, the scan confirms it. ‘To think…humanoid life forms…out here!’ he adds, while pointing out that the Majestrix was correct in being concerned. ‘These Terrans are extraordinary…but they are witnesses nonetheless’.
The commander tells the lieutenant to engage and eliminate the humans, but the Praetor tells them to hold a moment, for despite it all, this is not the Shi’ar way. ‘Have we truly come to this? In order to preserve our way of life, we adopt the practices of our most bitter enemies?’, to which one of the others reminds the Praetor that this is war. ‘These beings are more than likely spies of the accursed Kree who would report on the fleet’s maneuvers to Hala itself!’ he adds. ‘Why else would living beings be here…so near to the wormhole site?’ he asks. The commander asks the Praetor if he can, in truth, spare these beings and run the risk of bringing disaster to the Majestrix and the empire. The Praetor tells the commander that his words are cold. ‘But then, so is war, is it not?’ he adds, before instructing the crew to carry out their orders. ‘And may the gods forgive decisions made in times such as these’.
Back on Earth, at Avengers Mansion, the Mighty Hercules, the Inhuman Crystal and Dane Whitman the Black Knight are on the rooftop of the Mansion. Hercules remarks that their West Coast compatriots are due to arrive at any moment, and that it is an honor to greet them. He adds that it will be a moment of epic importance when all who bear the name “Avenger” are gathered beneath one roof once more. ‘I’m quivering with excitement, Herc. Too bad we forgot to rent the brass band’ the Black Knight remarks, before asking Crystal if she is nervous. Crystal replies that she is, but about what she is not exactly sure. ‘Is it some menace from deep space that threatens us all I fear…or is it being reunited with my estranged husband’s sister? I wish I knew’. As the Quinjet begins to descend, Hercules waves his arms about to guide it, while Dane tells Crystal: ‘Hmmm…intergalactic war…or domestic squabble. It’s nice to know you can keep things in perspective’, before deciding that choosing between an angry Scarlet Witch and a space battle with little green men - he would chose the battle.
Suddenly, in space, ‘Hey! They’re firing at us!’ the new Thor exclaims as the fleet of Shi’ar vessels opens fire on the four heroes. ‘Hercules is right about you, Thunderer! You do have an inordinate fondness for stating the obvious’ Sersi remarks as she dodges a blast from one of the vessels. Quasar points out that things could get ugly real quick, and encases the Starcore escape pod in a quantum bubble, announcing that this is no place for Corbeau and his crew. With the life pod encased, Quasar uses the force of his quantum bands to propel the life pod out of harm’s way. ‘And then we’ll deal with these invaders!’ he exclaims. ‘You know it, Quasar. These jokers are trying to kill us for no good reason, I oughta -’ the new Thor begins, but Sersi tells him to watch out for a photon torpedo. ‘First rule of business my mortal friend…don’t let your sense of indignation get you killed. It’s so counter-productive’ Sersi exclaims as she flies forward and pushes Eric out of harm’s way.
‘Why, Sersi, I didn’t think you cared!’ the new Thor replies, before thanking her for saving him. Sersi tells him that he is welcome, and points out that he is raw, naïve and headstrong, but that she does think he has possibilities. Sersi then calls out to the Vision, telling him that she thinks she made their neophyte godling blush. ‘I will store that information in the proper data bank, Sersi’ the Vision replies, before suggesting that they now retaliate against the aggression. ‘You know it, boss!’ the new Thor exclaims, before tossing his hammer towards one of the vessels, where it slams into the force field surrounding the vessel, hard. ‘Praetor!’ one of the officers exclaims, announcing that the Terrans have unleashed some sort of incredible weapon. ‘Our shields are buckling!’ he adds as they are tossed about inside the ship.
There is another hit, and one of the officers tells the Praetor that this cannot be happening, as they are the best in the Majestrix’s fleet. ‘We are her pride and glory!’ he shouts. The Praetor tells his officer that today he experiences the bitter side of life, and that no matter how powerful you are, you will always meet someone stronger still, and pride and glory mean very little then. ‘I pray it is a lesson our empire is spared’ the Praetor adds, while, outside, Quasar and Sersi dowse the force field of the vessel with their energies, when suddenly, Quasar exclaims that they have breached the force field. ‘Of course. Still, they’re down…but not yet out, Quasar. Let us move in for the kill’ Sersi replies. ‘Kill -? You’re sounding a little bloodthirsty there. That’s not your style’ Wendell tells Sersi, who asks ‘Isn’t it? What do you really know of the mind of an Eternal?’, before asking Wendell if her attitude frightens him. ‘Better by far, it terrifies the creatures within that ship’ she declares.
Inside the vessel, the lieutenant calls out to the Praetor, announcing that life support is failing. ‘Where is the commander? Is he hiding from the consequences of his actions?’ the Praetor enquires, unaware that indeed the commander is hiding behind a wall, thinking to himself that his people‘s intelligence suggested the terrans they encountered out here might be the met humans who have stymied their race for so long. ‘Now they hinder you, Shi’ar. And to think…all because of my “dedication” to duty’ the commander thinks to himself, deciding that he has a bitter lesson for his Praetor - that things are not always what they seem. ‘No, reality is all smoke and mirrors…and who knows that better than Hobgoblin of your precious Majestrix Lilandra’s Imperial Guard?’ the shape-shifter tells himself as he returns to his default form.
There is an explosion, and an officer is knocked backwards. ‘By the M’Krann!’ the Praetor calls out, before telling his crew to pray to their ancestors, as their hull is breached and they will not see their homeworld again. ‘Are these terrans mad? Do these barbarians mean to -’ the lieutenant asks, before the ship’s computer announces that the integrity has been compromised, and that there is atmospheric decompression in the bridge section. The Shi’ar are sucked towards the gaping hole in the vessel, when suddenly, they fall to the floor, and the computer reports that the integrity has been restored, and the atmosphere has returned to normal. ‘Praetor, we were dead men! How -?’ the lieutenant enquires, while looking up, he sees Quasar, Vision, Sersi and the new Thor standing over them.
‘Simple. The Avengers giveth and the Avengers taketh away’ Quasar announces, using his quantum power to block the hole in the vessel. The Vision notes the officers as Shi’ar and introduces himself, while stating that the Shi’ar attacked their party unprovoked while they were engaged on a rescue mission. ‘Such acts, which violate the norm of civilized behavior, cannot go unpunished’ the Vision declares, while Quasar points out that they blasted a hole in the side of their ship, which he is not covering up for them. The Vision informs the Shi’ar that the Avengers intend to bring them to Earth to investigate recent events on planet Earth which suggest that the Shi’ar are infringing on their sovereignty and indeed, could be a threat to their very survival.
The Praetor introduces himself and tells the Avengers that they are innocent victims of a conflict between two great powers, for which he apologizes. ‘Your anger is justified, but no Praetor of the Shi’ar has ever allowed his ship to be taken’ the Praetor announces. Sersi shakes a fist at the Praetor, and angrily tells him that he will make history and be the first, ‘Or, by Zuras, I swear, we’ll destroy you and your ship!’ she warns him.
‘You WHAT? You threatened to kill them? Good Lord, the Avengers don’t operate that way, lady!’ an angry Captain America tells an equally angry Sersi, back at Avengers Mansion on Earth. They are gathered inside a meeting room, along with a myriad of other Avengers - East, West and inactive. Cap and Sersi stare each other down over the round meeting table, as Sersi suggests to Captain America that perhaps the Avengers should operate this way. ‘And with all of us here, both East and West…maybe we should vote on it!’ Sersi demands. She points out that they were in deep space, having only just survived an attack on not only the four of them, but the Starcore scientists they were entrusted to save. ‘Forgive us, won’t you, if we neglected Robert’s Rules of Conduct! But I hardly think the Shi’ar would have extended us the same courtesy!’ Sersi declares. The Vision and the new Thor stand on either side of Sersi, as the new Thor tells Cap that he knows he is the new kid on the block, but points out that they were fighting a fully-armed battleship. ‘It was just a bluff…wasn’t it?’ he utters.
Quasar tells Captain America that he is not entirely comfortable with what they did, but that Corbeau and his crew are not back home and they got some captives they can question out of the deal. ‘I saw we came out ahead’ Quasar remarks. ‘Then I ask you all…if the Shi’ar Praetor had not given up…would you have been prepared to carry out your threat?’ The room falls silent, as all the Avengers consider Captain America’s words. Along with Cap, the Vision, the new Thor, Quasar, Hercules, Crystal, the Black Widow and the Black Knight of the current East Coast roster, Hawkeye was accompanied by his teammates on the West Coast - Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter, who stand near Hercules. Simon “Wonder Man” Williams, John Walker the USAgent, Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Miguel Santos the Living Lightning and their reserve member, Barbara Morse-Barton a.k.a. Mockingbird are scattered throughout the room.
Along with Sersi, other inactive Avengers present include Dr Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon, Gilgamesh the Forgotten One, Starfox a.k.a. Eros, Jennifer Walters the She-Hulk, and Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Captain Marvel. Breaking the silence, USAgent smiles and exclaims ‘Dum-de-dum-dum! A heavy pause! I love it! Dissention in the ranks!’ while standing nearby is Hawkeye, who tells his least-favorite teammate to button it, as Cap knows what he is talking about. ‘Button it yourself, Barton! I got every right to talk’ USAgent replies, remarking that, after all, the Avengers are one big happy family. Hawkeye just scowls.
Holding up a small container, Dr Pym tells Cap that whatever the ethics of what happened, they now have several prisoners from the star vessel, as well as the Kree Dr Minerva and Captain Atlas, whom he has shrunk and placed in the container. Cap spins around to look at Hank, and declares ‘That makes me equally uncomfortable! It reminds me of our old friend, the Collector!’, but the Wasp tells Cap that he is not being fair, pointing out that Iron Man requested Hank reduce the aliens in size. ‘After all, what were we going to do with them?’ Jan asks. ‘What, indeed?’ Cap replies, before announcing that he is urging caution, as it is a slippery, muddy road once you begin making death threats and incarcerating people. ‘And I don’t want to see the Avengers…despite the best of intentions…get caught in the muck’ Cap declares.
The Black Widow remarks that debate is good and well, but that they should attend to the matter at hand. Cap tells Natasha that she is right, and apologizes to Hank Pym, admitting that he was way out of line. Hank tells his friend that it is okay, and that they are all under stress. ‘Now what are we going to do about the situation?’ Hank asks. Cap announces that what he is about to suggest might seem as quixotic as fighting windmills, because their combined abilities are next to nothing against powers as vast as the Kree and Shi’ar empires. ‘But somehow, we’ve got to convince these two ancient races to stop this war before it gets out of hand’ Cap adds. ‘But why?’ Mockingbird ass. ‘I mean, who are we to go around telling other people…or aliens…how to run their affairs?’ she enquires.
‘What, have you been out to lunch or something, Bobbi? There’s the little matter regarding our sun’ Hawkeye tells his ex-wife. Spider-Woman runs a hand through her long strawberry-blond hair, while the Vision states that Hawkeye is correct: ‘Both the Shi’ar and the Kree are using the sun as an energy source in order to activate a normally inert wormhole’ he explains. The Vision adds that the portal, once open, serves as a bridge between their respective galaxies, cutting the distance their space fleets must travel to a mere fraction. The Vision reports that use of the wormhole causes gravimetric havoc with the sun, destabilizing its nuclear cohesion. ‘If the Kree and Shi’ar are not stopped, the sun will nova. And life in this solar system will cease’.
‘That’s why Cap says we have to get involved’ Hawkeye tells Mockingbird, adding that he hopes the Kree doesn’t think they are too rude, butting into their business. Mockingbird frowns at Hawkeye and tells him to stop smirking, while adding ‘While we were married, I always thought it was your least becoming habit’. Captain America explains to the Avengers that he is not advocating intervention, but diplomacy. He adds that what they could glean from the X-Men, the Shi’ar seem to be a far less war-like race than the Kree, so they might be able to be reasoned with. ‘The Kree are another matter entirely, of course. But we’ve dealt with them before’ Cap points out.
Turning to Quasar, Captain America announces that utilizing Quasar’s warp powers, he proposes they send two teams as envoys to each of the empires involved, while the remaining third of Avengers stay on Earth to act as the rear guard. With three pieces of paper on the table before him, Captain America claims that he, Iron Man and the Black Widow have gone to great lengths of deciding the membership of each envoy. ‘Experience, power level, scientific background, and adaptability to the rigors of space all came under consideration’ he explains. He points out that this is a tough mission, so if anyone wants to back out they can do so, with no questions asked.
Cap begins to read the teams out, starting with the team assigned to the Kree empire, which will consist of himself, USAgent, Iron Man, Crystal, Hercules, the Black Knight and Sersi. ‘Ariiiight!’ USAgent exclaims, while Sersi tells Captain America that she hopes her actions cause him no further embarrassment. ‘That makes two of us, Sersi’ Captain America replies, before announcing the team that will travel to the Shi’ar Imperium, consisting of the new Thor, Wonder Man, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, Starfox and Living Lightning. ‘Me?’ the new Thor asks, surprised, while the Scarlet Witch is worried that she is going on a mission with both Wonder Man and the Vision, her estranged husband.
Lifting up the final piece of paper, Captain America reports that the “Earth force” will consist of She-Hulk, the Falcon, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, Hank Pym and the Wasp, Gilgamesh and Hawkeye. ‘WHAAT?’ Hawkeye shouts, before storming off out of the meeting room, he strides down a corridor, muttering that Cap is out of his flipping mind. ‘I don’t have enough raw power, he says! What’s the USAgent? Mr Universe? I don’t think so! He’s a lunatic!’ Rounding a corner, Hawkeye recalls that Mockingbir almost burst out laughing when she saw the look on his face. ‘I hate when that happens’ he declares, adding that he has been an Avenger longer than almost anybody. ‘Where’s the respect, for Pete’s sake…’.
Hawkeye continues to mutter to himself, when he bumps into Hank. ‘Um…hi’ Clint calls out. Hank tells Clint that thinks got kind of hot and heavy in there. ‘Sersi seemed to have a real chip on her shoulder, wasn’t like her at all. I think Cap just got a little distracted’ Hank tells his friend, adding that Clint deserves to go into space if he wants. ‘You were involved in our first run-in with the Kree’ Hank points out, adding that he knows what it is like to be the odd man out around here. ‘And there was a time when you were more than just an archer, remember’ Hank remarks as he tosses Clint a small vial. Clint catches it and smiles. ‘Sure do, Hank ol’ buddy. Thanks!’ he declares.
Captain America meets with the Kree-team, informing them that the Silver Surfer has reported that the new Kree leaders, Generals Dar-Benn and Ael-Dan, are fanatical in their desire to expand the empire. ‘Which only makes our job…all the…more…eh, folks?’ Cap asks, as he realizes his team are not paying attention to him. ‘Good Captain, I suggest you take a look behind thee!’ Hercules exclaims. Cap turns around, ‘Wha -? HAWKEYE!’ he shouts, seeing Clint towering over him. ‘Nope. Not this time out’ Clint replies. Wearing a revealing blue and red costume, he points out that he was Goliath the last time the Avengers took on the Kree, so seeing as how they are running into them again, he decided to take a dose of Hank’s growth serum.
‘You know how nostalgic I get, Cap’ Hawkeye points out, adding that Hank ran a series of tests just now, ‘In this form, I could give o’ Herc a run for his money in the strength department. That power raw enough for ya? Clint enquires. Cap hangs his head, ‘I knew it was going to be one of those days…’ he mutters, before telling USAgent that they have to talk. An instant later, a furious USAgent strides down a corridor, ‘That red, white and blue fossil is outta his gourd! To replace me with that ex-carny barker just because he developed a super thyroid problem! There oughta be a law!’ USAgent shouts.
Three hours later, ‘OK, Avengers, we’re in deep enough space to safely make the quantum jump’ Quasar announces as he flies between two Quinjets carrying the Kree and Shi’ar teams. Quasar radios to Cap, ‘You still sure you want me to stay behind?’ the young hero asks. ‘That’s a roger on both counts’ Cap replies, explaining that they need someone to guard the stargate. In the other Quinjet, the Scarlet Witch frowns as she sits behind the Vision and Wonder Man, who reports that they are ready and willing as well. Quasar tells the two teams to sit back and relax. ‘Next stop - the Kree Empire and the Shi’ar Imperium!’ Quasar announces as he shunts the two Quinjets through a quantum portal. ‘And good luck and Godspeed, folks’ Wendell remarks to himself, ‘Because I think we’re all in for the fight of our lives’ he adds when suddenly, the enigmatic cosmic being called Her flies towards Quasar, telling him not to sound so pessimistic. ‘I’m here to comfort you’ she tells him. ‘Oboy’ Wendell utters.
Light years away, the planet once known as Aerie, now more grandly called Throne-World, the heart of the Shi’ar empire, and home to the Empress-Majextrix, Lilandra of the House of Neramani. The powerful Lilandra stands on a podium as she speaks to a Shi’ar officer via high-tech communication. The officer’s face appears before her, and announces that the fleet has passed through the stargate, and that the Kree remain unaware of their movements. ‘But I regret to report the loss of the Praetor Alake’s stealth craft near Sol-III’ he reports. Lilandra tells the admiral that she will grieve for Alake, as he embodied all the best that is Shi’ar. Lilandra reveals that Alake advised her against this undertaking, seeking a better way. ‘Would that I had the luxury of finding one’ Lilandra remarks.
Lilandra continues, pointing out that the delicate balance of power that has kept the peace all these centuries has been tipped. ‘My Lords Chamberlain seek vengeance for Shi’ar blood shed on the borderlands by expansionist Kree’ Lilandra exclaims, adding that she finds their two empires heading irrevocably to collision, with neither side willing to see that vengeance is ever a poor reason to start a way. The admiral asks Lilandra for her orders, and she tells him to proceed to the rendezvous point. Lilandra ends the communication, and hanging her head, utters ‘Sharra and K’ythri, pray for me’, when suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘Why beseech dead, dusty gods for aid, sweet sister?’ - Lilandra spins around, ‘YOU!’ she gasps, as standing before her, is her crazed sister, Deathbird.
‘Policies of state weigh heavily upon you, do they not, little Lilandra?’ Deathbird remarks. ‘The rule of empire was not meant for one such as you. No, you are a woman of conscience’. Deathbird remarks that the death of billions will sear Lilandra’s soul like a flaming brand - that her name will be cursed across half the known universe by those she sought to save - that her precious failsafe device will usher in the doomsday she so desperately fears. ‘You embark on a perilous course. But I, who have been your most bitter enemy…and also your most loving sister…offer you a better way…’ Deathbird swears to her sister, grinning wickedly…