The Kree home world. ‘I sense them. I feel them. The alien minds on my world’ a voice calls out, referring to the heroes known as the Avengers, five of whom grab a moment’s rest atop a citadel.
‘There it is, troops. Our destination…the capitol citadel of the Kree Empire’ Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America tells his teammates - Crystal, Hercules, Dane Whitman the Black Knight and Sersi. The mysterious voice remarks that these aliens have come far, but not yet far enough, not quite. He wonders, in his splendid isolation, would the so-called Avengers be so courageous, so foolhardy, if they knew how close to the precipice they all dance. ‘Or would it matter not at all?’ he asks.
Captain America states that he hopes Iron Man and Hawkeye are all right, as he doesn’t like splitting the team up.
‘Cap, I know that little scene with Shellhead won’t go down as one of the highlights of Avengers history…but the ladies are warm and snug in nifty jackets Sersi used her powers to create, and we’ve given Korath the Pursuer the slip’ the Black Knight points out. ‘Have we, Black Knight? Or are we being led to believe so?’ Crystal asks, while remarking that she finds it odd that they have come this far in the very heart of Hala. . The mysterious voice remarks that Crystal’s mind is the clearest to him. ‘And why not? Did not the Kree form and mold her terran forebears millennia ago?’ And thus give hope to these desperate days’ he decides. .
Hercules tells Crystal that she worries overmuch and states that in the long course of mortal history, empires such as this have ever overlooked the passions of free men - and often to their peril. Hovering away from the others, Sersi declares ‘Bravo, Hercules! Who knew you were so…deep?’ and announces that his speech has stirred her soul. ‘I feel as if I were about to storm the Bastille or dump tea in Boston Harbor! Or -’ Sersi is interrupted by Captain America, who tells her that they get the point, and asks if she is inspired enough to levitate them over to the citadel. ‘But, of course, mon Capitan…let us storm the ramparts together!’ Sersi smirks as she uses her incredible strength to carry all four Avengers into the air. .
‘Yes, Avengers…come unto my bosom. Come unto your destiny…while I look elsewhere, to the Great Hall of Kree-Lar, and see what transpires within…look at them: proud, Ael-Dan, heir to the true Kree, bloodson of sacred Hala…and Dar-Benn the Austere, living symbol of the racial mosaic that is the Kree Empire in all its glorious vastness’. The two figures stand on a platform, decked out in armor and each carrying a staff, the voice continues: ‘Joint rulers of our star-flung people, lords of all they survey. Yes, proud men, these. Alas, both shall be dead ones by day’s end’. .
Suddenly, Ael-Dan exclaims ‘Speak, Ronan the Accuser, and tell us - why have you failed?’ Dar-Benn asks ‘Why do the terran heroes remain at large in Kree-Lar? Speak quickly, or forfeit your life’. Kneeling before them is Ronan the Accuser, who is flanked by Kree warriors. ‘I beseech you, my Lords. It is but a matter of time. Even now, genetic scans are encircling all of Hala, programmed to target and isolate human life forms’ Ronan announces. He adds that such scans are the Empire’s insurance that Hala is always free of the taint of unauthorized aliens. ‘On my word as Supreme Accusor, Lords, this surveillance has never been known to fail’. .
‘See that it remains so’ Ael-Dan warns Ronan, adding that the unexpected interference comes at a delicate phase in their dispute with the Shi’ar Empire. ‘A chance to eradicate a major rival beckons. We do not wish to be unduly distracted. Is that clear, Ronan?’ Ael-Dan asks. ‘Of course, my Lords. Long live the Empire’ Ronan replies, unaware that the being the mysterious voice belongs to is watching him: ‘How Ronan quivers before these pups. Sadly, his vaunted bio-scans will fail him…for the Supreme Intelligence has made it so!’ the Kree behemoth declares, adding that all is almost at readiness, only the final player remains unchecked, which is a matter that he shall attend to now. He observes a battered and rusty hulk of a ship descend amongst the Empire, and realizes that will be the craft worthy of such a passenger. ‘Ah, it is so. And the endgame begins’. .
Two figures emerge from the vessel - a rugged humanoid male with a visor over one of his eyes. ‘You wanted Hala…and K’Qil Vor Don gave you Hala!’ he exclaims to the person shrouded in a large purple cloak who walks silently behind him. ‘Though I still say only a madman comes to this place without proper clearance. The Kree don’t take kindly to uninvited guests’ K’Qil Vor Don explains, adding that he never asks the business of his clients. ‘A wise man is an ignorant man, I say’. The mysterious client tells K’Qil Vor Don ‘I feared your reputation as the best smuggler in the quadrant might be the stuff of legend, but I see it is well deserved’. .
‘Aye, ‘tis. Now pay me quick, female. I want out of here fast’ K’Qil Vor Don announces, adding that if the Kree knew they were here, they would be dead a thousand times over. The mysterious stranger pulls a knife, and shoves it into K’Qil Vor Don’s back. ‘Fear not the wrath of the Kree, K’Qil Vor Don…I assure you, it is nothing like unto that of the Shi’ar the mysterious woman declares, strange markings can b seen around her eyes as he cloak slips back slightly. ‘Pity I could not trust your ignorance…but have learned to trust little in this life’ the woman remarks as she slips into the sprawling city, seemingly unnoticed - except by the Supreme Intelligence, who remarks to himself ‘Tremble in your sleep, o Hala, for this night Deathbird walks amongst us! And that is but the prelude to the nightmare’. .
‘But much remains to be done before the fragile threads of my grand design wind together to bring the Kree to their moment of greatest peril…or ultimate victory’ exclaims the Supreme Intelligence. He adds that the mad Deathbird, and her sister, fair Lilandra, in far-off Shi’ar, pompous Ael-Dan and Dar-Benn, and especially the accursed Avengers must each play out their role or all could be undone. The Supreme Intelligence decides to summon the catalyst to his plan, the last, best hope for the Kree - Star Force. Suddenly, six alien begins appear before the monitor on which the Supreme Intelligence displays his grotesque form. The team is comprised of Dr Minerva, Captain Atlas, Shatterax, Ultimus, Korath the Pursuer, and Supremor, one of the Supreme Intelligence’s own cyborg forms. .
‘To you, Minerva, and you, Atlas…my commendation on your escape from the hands of the terrans. You have done well’ the Supreme Intelligence tells Dr Minerva and Captain Atlas. Minerva thanks him, adding that his words humble them. ‘And you, Atlas? Have you no greeting to the entity you have sworn to serve?’ the Supreme Intelligence asks. Atlas replies that it would be a bitter one, for he has failed the Empire, and the Supreme Intelligence. ‘The Omni-Wave Projector is in the hands of the Shi’ar’ Atlas reveals. ‘Our Empire’s most zealously guarded secrecy - ripped from my memory by Lilandra’s mind-witch, Oracle. That they should have such a weapon! It would have been a kindness if the Avenger Quasar had killed me then and there’. .
‘But he did not, did he, Atlas?’ Shatterax calls out. Everyone turns to the armored warrior, who adds ‘No. He left you imprisoned in the Shi’ar Imperium…where you would have remained a mockery to the Empire and a comfort to our enemies…had I not teleported across the stars to rescue you’. Shatterax states that one cannot help but wonder if Atlas’s day as the Empire’s greatest warrior may not be finished - if indeed it existed at all. ‘Have a care, Shatterax -’ Minerva begins, but Atlas tells her to be silent, and to allow him the dignity of fighting his won battles. Atlas turns to Shatterax and exclaims ‘As for you, you armored throwback -’, however Ultimus steps between them and keeps them away from each other. .
‘Have you forgotten what it means to be Kree? We have been gathered by the Supreme Intelligence for a reason, for this is a turning point in our history, and we are needed’ Ultimus exclaims. ‘Heed the words of Ultimus, my Star Force. For unity is your only hope now’ the Supreme Intelligence tells his warriors, adding that, grievous indeed is the loss of the Omni-Wave, but an even more menacing threat awaits their people. An image of the sprawling city appears on a monitor as the Supreme Intelligence tells his warriors to behold the band of terrans known as the Avengers flying towards this very citadel. ‘Their insidious objective - nothing less than the overthrow of our Empire by the assassination of our leaders, Ael-Dar and Dar-Benn’. .
‘They would dare -?’ Korath the Accuser asks. ‘They dare much’ the Supreme Intelligence responds, announcing that the Avengers have allied themselves with their aviastic enemies, finding in Lilandra’s people a kindred hatred for all things Kree. ‘The Shi’ar…and the terrans?’ Minerva asks, surprised. The Supreme Intelligence continues, stating that the Shi’ar, masters of guile and subterfuge for eons, have used other races to do the deeds they consider beneath their effete dignity - and today is no different. ‘Hear me -I did not rule this Empire for one hundred millennia and more to see my heirs cut down by alien mercenaries. Nor to witness the proud Kree unmanned by Shi’ar chicanery. For the Empire, Star Force…for all that is good and proud and Kree - I command you - stop the assassins!’ And Star Force listen to the Supreme Intelligence’s words intently.
At that moment, ‘Good deal, Sersi…we made the citadel!’ Captain America exclaims as Sersi drops the Avengers down onto the main citadel. ‘Did you doubt we would, Captain America?’ Sersi asks, before enquiring as to how Captain America proposes they find the Kree leaders, never mind convincing them to end their way. ‘From what I’ve seen, they seem to be a bull-headed race’ Sersi remarks. Captain America tells Sersi that she is putting it mildly, and reminds her that stopping this war is a matter of Earth’s survival. ‘We don’t -’ he begins, when suddenly, Crystal shouts ‘Cap! Look out!’, and Cap somersaults into the air, dodging a blast of energy. ‘Avengers - defensive perimeter - now!’ Cap orders, while Hercules remarks that it appears this empire does not overlook free men - unfortunately. .
‘Looks like Korath went to find some buddies, Cap’ the Black Knight remarks, as he sees Korath and the other members of Star Force hovering overhead. ‘Earthers…you are prisoners of the Kree Empire! Surrender to Star Force!’ Ultimus orders. ‘Star Force? Please! It’s getting so we’ll need a scorecard to keep track of our ever-proliferating list of enemies!’ Sersi scoffs, before suggesting to Crystal that the two of them show “Star Force” what the Avengers can do. ‘With pleasure, Sersi!’ Crystal replies, as both women unleash their formidable energies against the Kree super team. ‘Be warned, outworlder - Ultimus has not learned of his true heritage only to see it ripped away!’ Ultimus exclaims as he swoops down and punches Hercules hard in the face. .
Captain America sees his teammate in trouble and starts to rush towards him, while Hercules dodges a punch from Ultimus and exclaims ‘Ultimus - if that is thy name - I assure thee, the Avengers have come in pursuit of peace!’, but Ultimus replies that he knows Hercules for a liar. ‘A LIAR?’ booms Hercules. ‘Thou darest question the honor of the son of Zeus? The veritable Prince of Power?’ he asks, smacking Ultimus in the face and shouting ‘Get thee from my face, Kreeman!’, while Captain America is unable to reach Hercules, as Atlas intercepts him, ‘You have journeyed far, Captain America - but by the Rings of Hala, I swear your mission will fail!’ Atlas boasts, although Captain America knocks Atlas aside with his shield. .
‘How did you escape the Avengers back on Earth? If you’ve harmed them -’ Captain America begins, surprised to see the Kree warrior, who replies that Captain America’s pathetic emotional attachment with his underlings will be his undoing, and calls him a Shi’ar pawn. ‘Shi’ar? Where’d you get that idea?’ Cap enquires, before telling Atlas that he doesn’t have time to tell him how far off the mark he is, and punches him hard in the face, ‘Pleasant dreams’ Cap remarks, before seeing that Hercules needs a hand, as Ultimus punches the Olympian in the face. Cap responds by tossing his shield, which strikes Ultimus and knocks him backwards. ‘That should take care of Ultimus’ Cap calls out. ‘And this - should take care of you, Captain!’ Minerva calls as she drops down from above and lands on Cap’s back, forcing him down. .
‘Well done, woman. By Pama, you make my blood run hot!’ Atlas grins. Minerva tells her lover that there will be time for that later. ‘Now take the Avengers’ leader so we…’ Minerva begins, before there is a rumbling noise. ‘What?’ Minerva calls out. ‘Seismic shockwaves?’ Atlas suggests, before some debris falls from the citadel and hits Minerva on the head, knocking her out. ‘It’s quite simple, Minerva…when one of the Avengers happens to be an elemental, fire, water, air and earth are hers to command!’ Crystal exclaims. ‘Impressive, girl - but your formidable display of power marsk you as the first Avenger who must be eliminated!’ Shatterax calls out as he swoops down towards her, blasting an energy bolt at her.
‘Crystal!’ Cap calls out, concerned, but Crystal tells him not to worry, as a hurricane force blast of wind will make Shatterax yesterday’s worry. Crystal unleashes the powerful gust of wind, while the Black Knight is engaged in combat with Korath. ‘You’re quick, Black Knight! But know this battle’s end is a foregone conclusion - for I was trained in the ways of the ancient Kree warriors, and no one in the long test of history ever bested them!’ Korath boasts as he dodges an attack from the Black Knight. ‘Ooohh, I’m scared, Korath! I guess I’m supposed to surrender in awestruck wonder, right about now, huh?’ Black Knight jokes. ‘You mock the Kree?’ Korath asks, boasting that one touch of his beta-baton will wipe the Black Knight’s smirk from all existence’. .
‘Korath! Beware!’ Shatterax calls out, before he falls from the air and crashes into both Korath and the Black Knight, sending Dane tumbling backwards. Crystal rushes over to the Black Knight and tells him that she is so sorry, before asking him if he is all right. Dane gives the thumbs-up sign and tells Crystal that he is having the time of his life. ‘I wonder what my shrink would think of that!’ Dane jokes, while, nearby, Sersi releases energy beams from her eyes as she tells Supremor that he is one of the least attractive foes she has ever encountered. Supremor lunges out and tries to grab Sersi, but the talented Eternal casually flies over him, telling him that, as a matter of fact, he makes some of the Deviants she knows look downright desirable. Supremor loses his balance, and crashes into the side of the Citadel. .
The Black Knight tells Capt that it is time for a reality check, and points out that without Iron Man and Hawkeye coming in like the cavalry, they have got another five minutes tops before Star Force overwhelms them. ‘It’s time for drastic measures…I’m setting my neural-sword on kill!’ Dane announces. However, Captain America swiftly shouts ‘NO! The day I countenance a move like that is the day I leave the Avengers! Understood?’ Cap orders. ‘Understood’ the Black Knight replies, muttering ‘Well, live fast, die young, leave a nice-looking corpse. What more could a guy want?’ as he returns to battle. The Supreme Intelligence continues to monitor the heroes: ‘Fight on, Avengers, come further into my citadel. The crescendo awaits…and it will be a climax long remembered!’ .
At that moment, two Kree warriors tand before Ael-Dan and Dar-Benn, one of them reports to the Commanders Supreme that the terran Avengers are engaged in battle with an unauthorized militia here in the citadel. He adds that security forces have sealed off the area, containing the encounter near the Grand Council Chambers, before asking what the orders are. ‘By the Great Pama! Has the entire world gone mad?’ Ael-Dan asks. ‘It is unthinkable that these out-worlders should defile the very core of the Empire!’ Dar-Benn declares. ‘So much then for Ronan’s precious scans! The Accuser’s life is forfeit for this unmitigated disgrace!’ Ael-Dan remarks. Dar-Benn agrees, and states that, clearly, all members of the old regime should have been eradicated long ago. ‘It is an oversight we shall not make again!’ he announces.
The two Kree soldiers follow their commanders, as Ael-Dan announces that they should get to the Council Chamber. ‘And show these “Avengers” the price that must be paid for breaking Kree law!’ Dar-Benn declares. The Supreme Intelligence watches them also, and remarks ‘Yes, go, my fearsome popinjays. Walk tall, resplendent in your vestments of power and might…strike fear in the hearts of all you pass. It is the way of our people. The way of the Kree. But this time, usurpers, you are but lambs being led to the slaughter’, for the Supreme Intelligence knows that Deathbird is watching them from the shadows. .
Outside, the Avengers move closer together as Star Force surrounds them. ‘Captain America…we’re losing ground! We’re fighting a defensive battle - unless we take the offensive, we’re doomed!’ Crystal calls out, urgently. Cap blocks a blast with his trust shield and tells Crystal that he is well aware of their situation, and tells his teammates thast he is open to all any and all suggestions, when, suddenly, Minerva, Atlas, Korath and the other members of Star Force suddenly become immobile. ‘They’ve stopped. Why?’ Cap asks. Black Knight suggests to Cap that he look upwards, as he thinks the big enchiladas have arrived. ‘Have a care, earther. If by that terminology you refer to us’ Ael-Dan calls out from a platform above. .
Dar-Benn introduces himself and Ael-Dan to the Avengers, boasting that they are sons of Pama, guardians of sacred Hala, Commanders Supreme of the Imperial Kree Empire. ‘None may even look upon us without our consent’ he adds, before suggesting to the Avengers that they tell him, now, before they are executed, why they have come to Kree-Lar. Atlas informs his lords that the terrans are allies of the Shi’ar. ‘Sent here to murder you both - had we not stopped them!’ Atlas claims. ‘Indeed, Att-Las? Your presence here is a further mystery. How comes a hero of our people to this place without the benefit of our sanction?’ Ael-Dan enquires, while asking ‘And more…who are your confederates?’ .
Star Force gather together, as Ael-Dan admits that some are known to them - the geneticist Minerva, Korath of the defunct Pursuers, and Shatterax, but the other two are strangers. ‘We find that profoundly disturbing, especially given the tentacled creature’s resemblance to our fallen predecessor’ Dar-Benn announces, while congratulating Att-Las on capturing the spies of the Shi’ar slime at last. ‘But the lapse in security is unforgivable. You shall die with them’ he states.
At that moment, the Supreme Intelligence thinks to himself ‘Ah, if ever there was a cue, Deathbird…’, and suddenly, a brilliant light engulfs the Avengers and Star Force. ‘Yes! I see you, too, are a student of drama’ the Supreme Intelligence declares to himself. ‘WHAT?’ Captain America exclaims as he and the others look around confused. ‘Fight all you wish, terran and Kree both. It will avail you nothing’ the Supreme Intelligence decides, knowing that Deathbird has smuggled in a most effective force field, never once wondering how such a powerful weapon fell into her hands. As Star Force and the Avengers all begin pounding on the circle of light that surrounds them, the Supreme Intelligence decides that both have served their purpose as both lure and bait adequately, but now what must be done must be accomplished quickly and without interference by anyone. .
Deathbird suddenly leaps from the shadows, as the Supreme Intelligence decides that an artist must be left to her craft, and that in matters such as this, none approach the mastery of mad Deathbird, late Majestrix of the hated Shi’ar. ‘Greetings o sons of Pama, o scions of ala - contemptible bloodwarts! Look long upon the last sight you shall ever see!’ Deathbird shrieks as she drops down in front of Ael-Dan and Dar-Benn. ‘You - here!’ one of them gasps in horror. ‘It is impossible!’ the other exclaims. ‘No - not for a Shi’ar - not when the blood of the Aerie cry out for vengeance! Your Empire shall fall before us - as easily as I crept into impervious Hala’ Deathbird exclaims, slashing her claws across Ael-Dan’s face, she tells him to remember that, as he dies - and he screams as she pulls his body down and slams her knee into his back, breaking it. .
Dar-Benn looks at Deathbird, who asks him if he is afraid, and tells him that he should be. ‘I face me fate as a Kree soldier…and spit on all things Shi’ar’ Dar-Benn replies. ‘How typically Kree - to di with empty boasts on trembling life?’ Deathbird remarks, as she grabs a spear and shoves it into Dar-Benn, announcing ‘So ends your “glorious” joint-reign. Go now to your afterlife, if you have one - I care not’. The spear falls to the ground, just in front of the force field, and shatters. The Supreme Intelligence knows that it is accomplished, and all in but a few beats of a heart - everything has changed. ‘Where now, my generals, are the vanities of power and station? What good did they do you? None. Your reach exceeded your grasp, sons of Pama…and all that is left is the quintessence of dust’.
‘By Agon…who is that creature?’ Crystal gasps. ‘A demon, methinks’ Hercules replies, while Deathbird stands atop the citadel and shouts down to the Kree below: ‘Hear me, people of Hala - this is but a warning! Your leaders paid for their crimes against the Aerie. Such will be the fate of all Kree if the Shi’ar Imperium suffers any further assault’. Deathbird takes flight and adds ‘Mark my words well and fear them - for we have power undreamt of! BEWARE IT!’
Suddenly, Ronan the Accuser enters the area, too late to save his liege lords, but just in time to witness the Supreme Intelligence’s return to power, as there is a loud noise. ‘That sound - like great machinery rumbling to life ‘neath our very feet!’ Hercules exclaims, while the Black Knight remarks that he thinks they are in real trouble now, as the platform, still with the force-field around it, is lowered down - into the great chamber, where the Supreme Intelligence is housing himself. ‘Behold now, o sons of the Kree, your once and present ruler, the Supreme Intelligence’ the behemoth announces. ‘I knew it’ the Black Knight mutters. A beam of energ is directed from the Supreme Intelligence, which releases the Avengers and Star Force from the force field. .
‘Know you that even as I speak in this chamber, I speak to all Hala and throughout the Empire…so that every Kree, from the highest born to the lowliest pauper may hear me words’ the Supreme Intelligence states, declaring that this is a grievous day, and the news he brings is black indeed, for their leaders are slain, cut down in service to the Empire by foul Shi’ar treachery. ‘Long will the names of Ael-Dan and Dar-Benn be honoured by the Kree’ the Supreme Intelligence states, adding that he grieves for his fallen sons and sadly, assumes once more the mantle of power. Kree warriors at their stations listen to the Supreme Intelligence, as do Kree citizens all over. ‘But those responsible for this insult must pay. And pay deadly. What say you, o Kree, of Lilandra, so-called Majestrix - Shi’ar author of this crime?’ the Supreme Intelligence asks. ‘DEATH! DEATH TO ALL SHI’AR!’ the Kree citizens chant. .
The Supreme Intelligence turns to Ronan the Accuser and commands him to journey to ancient Aerie, now called Chandilar, with Star Force at his side, and bring him the head of “gentle” Lilandra, so that all Hala and all Kree will know vengeance is indeed theirs, now and forever. ‘It is my duty and my honor, Supreme One’ Ronan replies, frowning. The Supreme Intelligence asks Atlas and Minerva to remain on Hala to guard the terran spies, for they, no less than the Shi’ar have the blood of the Kree fallen on their hands. ‘And tomorrow - in full view of the Kree Empire - they shall suffer a most painful death’ the Supreme Intelligence proclaims. The Avengers all looked shocked. .
The Supreme Intelligence’s grotesque form appears, looming over the Kree capital city and remarks to himself: ‘Bread and circuses. Bread and circuses. The people are enraged. My Star Force embarked on their long journey, the Avengers lie imprisoned and somewhere, Deathbird, my unwitting ally, skulks in shadowed alleys. This night, across a thousand, thousand worlds and more, the Kree gird themselves for the coming battle, content in their supremacy. Ah, my Kree, my ancient race…if you knew what the dawn truly brought, would you understand? Could your minds comprehend the reasons for it all? Or would you cry out in horror and rage, when you at last realize, on the morrow…THE KREE EMPIRE DIES?!’