‘The Kree Star Force must DIE!’ Lilandra, Empress of the Shi’ar, shrieks in a large chamber in her palace. At her side, is her advisor, Araki. In front of her are five Avengers. To their right are six members of the Imperial Guard - Smasher, Titan, Hussar, Astra, Earthquake and Hardball - who are watching over the imprisoned Star Force - Ronan, Korath, Supremor, Shatterax, Ultimus - while Shi’ar officers are dotted throughout the large chamber.
‘You can’t mean that, Lilandra!’ Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch of the Avengers West Coast calls out. ‘I assure you, Scarlet Witch, I am in deadly earnest’ Lilandra replies. Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Captain Marvel suggests that it would be better to negotiate with the captive Kree, rather than execute them. ‘Perhaps if I stimulated her brain’s pleasure centers sonically -’ Starfox whispers to Captain Marvel, while Miguel Santos a.k.a. Living Lightning whispers ‘That ought to mellow her out!’, while Eric Masterson a.k.a. the new Thor tells his companions to get serious, asking them if they think Lilandra would let Starfox onto the Shi’ar throne world if she didn’t have a shield up against his version of Love Potion #9?
‘You are a real spoilsport, you know that, Thor?’ Living Lighting mumbles, while Starfox decides that Thor is probably right, and adds that the five of them are here as a special envoy, not to try and take over Lilandra’s mind. Captain Marvel tells them to stop whispering, as they will just make Lilandra even more suspicious of them - if that is possible. Captain Marvel turns back to Lilandra and tells her that on behalf of Earth, she repeats their request that talks be initiated between the Shi’ar and the Kree. ‘Talk - with those who came to kill you, Majestrix?’ Araki whispers to Lilandra. Lilandra tells the Avengers that her advisor says there can be no negotiations with Kree assassins.
Captain Marvel tells the Avengers that they are getting nowhere this way, and decides that they should take another tack. ‘Yeah - and stick it right where her holiness sits down!’ Thor exclaims. The Imperial Guard turn to the Avengers, ‘Did you hear that comrades? For such disrespect, we of the Imperial Guard should crush the aliens!’ Titan exclaims. Smasher agrees, and points out that they have already protected their Majestrix from one alien assault today. ‘Hey, we weren’t exactly standing around with our fingers up our noses while that attack was going on, fella!’ Thor calls out, annoyed. ‘A real touch of the poet, eh, Eric?’ the Scarlet Witch remarks. Living Lightning tells his teammate that Thor is right, as the Avengers did as much as those Imperial Guard members when those creeps in Star Force crashed this “party”.
Star Force stand motionless and silent behind a force field, while Captain Marvel tells Lilandra that she doesn’t meant to skimp on the diplomatic niceties, but points out they didn’t come all this way just to push some “new cosmic order”. ‘It’s that Shi’ar stargate your side’s set up near our sun. Your spacecraft’s repeated teleporting through it is causing powerful solar flares - which threaten to roast Earth’s population!’ Captain Marvel urges, adding that there must be somewhere else they can locate it, somewhere that won’t endanger planet Earth. ‘I…perhaps…’ Lilandra replies, to which Araki exclaims ‘The effrontery of these troglodytes! The scum of some backwater world - daring to lecture us? Why, for all we know, they7 could be in league with the Kree - and “fought” the Star Force merely to integrate themselves with us!’
Lilandra tells Araki that it seems unlikely, before hanging her head and ordering her Imperial Guard to escort the terrans back to their quarters until she decides what is to be done. ‘Yes, Majestrix’ Earthquake calls out. The Avengers are surprised. ‘Can you believe these clowns?’ Thor mutters. ‘And yet - this is their galaxy!’ Captain Marvel points out. The Scarlet Witch suggests that they play along and give Lilandra time to think things through. As the Avengers are led away by the imperial Guard, Thor remarks ‘Well, if you two think so - but I still don’t’, when suddenly, Earthquake pushes him: ‘Move along, terran!’ he shouts. ‘Hey! Who do you think you’re pushing, fella? I’m Thor - at least, I am this week!’ Thor retorts, and swinging around, he smashes his hammer into Earthquake’s face: ‘And you’re going to be a whole lot thor-er!’ he jokes.
‘Avenger!’ Captain Marvel scolds Thor. ‘I know, I know - it’s the oldest pun this side of Asgard, but I couldn’t resist’ he replies. ‘You hammer-happy hothead! We’re supposed to be a peace envoy! Put down that croquet mallet before I -’ Captain Marvel orders, when suddenly, Hussar’s whip is wrapped around her neck. The red-skinned alien steps forward and pulls on the whip, causing Monica to fall to the floor. ‘you like giving orders, don’t you, Captain Marvel? Well, so does Hussar - and my neuro-whip makes me far more qualified to do so!’ Hussar boasts, adding that, of course it can also simply choke. ‘Release her, woman, before you force us to -’ Starfox begins, before Titan, in his giant form, picks him up into the air: ‘Before you what?’ Titan asks. ‘Titan went king-sized and grabbed ‘Fox! What do you say to that, Wanda?’ Living Lightning asks. ‘What I should have said before, Miguel…AVENGERS ATRTACK!’ the Scarlet Witch orders as she fires a hex-bolt at Titan, forcing him to release Starfox.
Lilandra and Araki stand and watch in shock as the Avengers engage the Imperial Guard in battle. Captain Marvel’s eyes roll back as she is slumped on the floor, Hussar standing over her. ‘Now you’re talking!’ Thor exclaims as he flies towards Astra, but she turns invisible and he passes through her. ‘Not talking, compa - doing!’ Living Lightning shouts as he fires a blast of lightning at Smasher and Earthquake, the lightning striking the wall near Hardball, who dodges the energy. ‘I’m shrinking - back to normal size - and beyond!’ Titan calls out. ‘I put a hex on you - and now, as they used to say in the Informer movies - I’m putting the finger on you!’ Wanda exclaims as she reaches down to the tiny Titan and grabs him in her hand, before flicking him with the other, knocking him out.
Suddenly, ‘You will cause no more trouble, mutant, once I reach through you intangible - then materialize my arm ever so slightly - just enough to shock your system to its foundations!’ Astra exclaims as she appears behind Wanda and shoves her hand through her. As the Scarlet Witch sinks into unconsciousness, for the first time, she knows how opponents of the Vision must feel. It is a thought she carries with her into the blackness, as she passes out. The Avengers haven’t forgotten the fallen Captain Marvel, as Starfox suddenly latches his legs around Hussar’s waist, but she proves fairly resistant to his psychic charms, and she throws him across the chamber. Thor calls out to Captain Marvel, who moans. Thor is relieved that Monica is alive, but before he can pick her up, he is knocked off his feet by Earthquake, who causes a seismic shock that rumbles down the floor. ‘Do not worry about your fellow assassin, godling…it is Earthquake who concerns you now!’ the alien exclaims, as rubble is thrown up, smacking Thor in the face. ‘Yeah…I guess it is’ Thor mutters as he continues to be tossed about.
‘Ah! Another terran to humble! I forget your name, but that hardly matters!’ Hussar exclaims as she cracks her whip, which wraps around Living Lightning’s waist. ‘Maybe it doesn’t - and maybe it does - when the name’s - the Living Lightning!’ Miguel replies as he transforms into his electrical state, and grabbing hold of the whip, points out that the fancy metal whip is a first-class conductor, he sends charges of electrical energy back up the whip, causing Hussar to scream. ‘If you persist in these attacks, Shi’ar, you’ll force me to prove, I’m a fighter, as well as a lover!’ Starfox calls out as Smasher pounds his fists into the ground, narrowly missing Starfox, who falls backwards. Thor suggests to Smasher that he listen to the Eternal. ‘He’s no wimp - he’s just sensitive!’ Thor exclaims.
‘Thor?’ Smasher calls out. ‘After our teaming to defeat Ronan, I would prefer not to fight you, but -’ Smasher begins, to which Thor replies that he feels the same, and points out that as there is no shortage of Shi’ar to tackle, he turns his attention to Earthquake, who causes the ground to rise up in shards, but Thor just pushes through it, and moves the large chunk of flooring towards Earthquake, who drops to his knees, cowering in fear, ‘ULLP!’ Earthquake utters after Thor tells him that he is the lucky one. ‘Since you and Smasher got this mutual-admiration-society stuff going, Thunder-Man - I’ll take him out!’ But Smasher pulls a large artistic pole from the floor and starts to whack Living Lightning with it. ‘Get that thing out of my face, loco!’ Miguel calls out. However, Smasher puts the end of the pole into a pool of nearby water and declares ‘Face - body - it hardly matters where it touches your electrified form, terran - when I stick the other end in water - it’s going to ground you - if I can just stand the pain of millions of volts passing through me!’ Smasher calls out as he holds onto the pole, energy ripping through it.
An instant later, Smasher looks up, but Living Lightning is nowhere to be seen - smoke rises around Smasher, while Thor has wrapped Earthquake up in the flooring. ‘So, Miguel’s done a splashdown - and your buddy here’s an egg roll. Smasher, can’t we team up again, to talk some sense into your fellow Shi’ar?’ Thor calls out. Smasher tells Thor to consider himself fortunate that he doesn’t smite him, adding that he is still angry about Thor’s attack on their comrade Gladiator, earlier. ‘My attack on him?’ Thor replies. ‘That second-rate Samson’s lucky I didn’t shave his Mohawk!’ Thor exclaims, adding that just because he bailed Smasher, that doesn’t mean he has to kiss up to every Shi’ar jerk with a nautilus machine. The two powerhouses move towards each other, fists ready, ‘You bailed me out - to use your crude vernacular - if that is how you feel about it - our truce is at an end!’ Smasher exclaims. ‘That’s fine by me, pal!’ Thor retorts, while thinking to himself ‘Me and my big mouth!’
At the same time, Living Lightning slowly drags himself out of the pool of water, while Lilandra observes the battle, remarking to Araki that it still rages - Shi’ar against terran, when their true enemies are the Kree - and the Skrulls, of course. Hardball bounds against Starfox, knocking him back, while Lilandra looks at Star Force, still held in stasis, and wonders if she should set one of them free and send him back to his masters with a message. ‘WHAT?’ gasps Araki. ‘Surely we must fight on, until we annihilate the last Kree!’ Araki exclaims, but Lilandra points out that it is her decision to make, and announces that she will speak with one of the prisoners before she makes it. ‘This is all the fault of those vulgar terrans…’ Araki begins, raising a hand, when suddenly, ‘You know something, old man - I’ve just about had it with you!’ Living Lightning shouts, releasing a charge of energy, that strikes Araki.
‘You murdering terran! I’ll have your treacherous heart for this!’ Lilandra cries out, but Living Lightning assures her that he pulled his electronic punches that time, and no way that bolt had enough voltage to kill him. Suddenly, Araki’s form begins to change - ‘Look! He’s changing - changing into something green!’ someone shouts. ‘Did I do that? I didn’t mean -’ Living Lightning gasps, shocked. Thor tells Living Lightning not to torment himself, as he thinks that is what they call a Skrull! ‘To my shock, terran - you are correct’ Lilandra exclaims as the Imperial Guard gathers around her. Astra asks Lilandra what she thinks happened to the real Araki, to which Smasher tells her that is of little import now.
Starfox announces that what matters is recalling that nega-bomb the Shi’ar launched at the Kree through the stargate. Captain Marvel tells Lilandra that the infiltration of her closest circle ought to convince her that she had the right idea before - negotiation. Lilandra replies that she has already freed one of the captives - the huge Kree super being known as Ultimus. Titan and Smasher guard the groggy Ultimus as he is led away from the stasis field. Titan reports that Ultimus is dizzy, but that he believes Ultimus and the others witnessed all that transpired. ‘Did you, Ultimus?’ Lilandra demands. ‘Yes, Majestrix Shi’ar. And though I have no more love for your world than you have for mine - I concede that this points up the possibility that the Skrulls may have stirred up the present trouble between us’ Ultimus replies. “May have”?’ Smasher quotes.
Looking down at the fallen Skrull, Ultimus points out that the Skrulls are the Kree’s age-old foes. ‘Compared to the bad feeling between our galaxies, the enmity between Kree and Shi’ar is but a flower in early bloom’. However, Ultimus states that the choice of war or peace is not his to make, but tells Lilandra that, if she permits it, he will return to his homeworld and report what happened here. Lilandra replies that she asks no more, but points out that in the meantime, of course, she will hold the rest of Star Force here, as hostages. ‘As we would do, were the situation reversed’ Ultimus replies. Lilandra tells Ultimus to go, but that he must tell the Kree also that there is one factor which may complicate any attempt at peace between them - one of which even the terrans are as yet unaware. ‘Oh?’ the Scarlet Witch frowns. ‘And what’s that?’ Captain Marvel asks. ‘The nega-bomb - has disappeared!’ Lilandra reveals.
Meanwhile, if that term has any meaning in a universe ruled by relativity, back on this island Earth…in the cliffs of Palos Verdes, California, to be more precise, a quintet of Avengers has come home to roost, at the home of the Avengers West Coast. The Quinjet docks in the Cliffside hangar bay, and the active members John Walker a.k.a. USAgent and Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter, are accompanied by reservist Bobbi Morse a.k.a. Mockingbird and inactive members Dr Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp. Hank tells everyone that he still doesn’t like letting that Kree, Dr Minerva free, but Mockingbird reminds him that was the deal, for helping them track the Shi’ar starship. The Wasp points out that with Dr Minerva gone, She-Hulk and the other eastern-based Avengers could handle the Shi’ar prisoners at Project Pegasus. ‘Let’s just hope we’re proved right in releasing Minerva, Jan’ Hank remarks.
The Avengers begin to go their separate ways, but USAgent tells Spider-Woman that he heard her say she had to split, and informs her that he does, too. He offers her a lift, but Julia declines his offer, explaining that she feels like taking a walk on her own. ‘Free country. They haven’t taken that away from us yet, anyway’ Walker replies. Julia leaves the building, telling herself that she couldn’t bear to be with the others now. She knows she is being selfish with the whole planet facing annihilation if the Avengers don’t stop the solar flares, but se keeps thinking that while she is playing second-string to heroes who are trying to save the world, what about her daughter? Julia know that Larry, her ex-husband, has custody, and keeps trying to poison young Rachel’s mind against her. It is easy to make Julia look like she doesn’t care about Rachel, when she is busying playing Spider-Woman instead of going to see Rachel.
But, Julia tells herself not to blame everything on Larry, not on playing super heroine, that she has to give Rachel a little credit, ‘She knows all about your double-identity - so she can guess you’re with the Avengers West’ Julia decides, before adding ‘Besides, if you save the Earth - you save Rachel, too, right?’ Julia spins around as someone - or something - appears in the bushes nearby. ‘Maybe you’ll just have to face the fact that, if you lose your daughter’s love - it’s all your own fault, and nobody else’s!’ Julia tells herself as she starts to walk away.
In the bushes, a voice whispers ‘If she saw us!’, one very large spider-like creature calls out. An armored being with a spider symbol on his armor calls the large creature Therak and tells him to take it easy. ‘Clearly, Spider-Woman was far too lost in her own thoughts - whatever they were - to notice us’ he assures his companion. ‘Maybe - but would’a been easy to kill her - real easy’ Therak replies. The third figure, a woman in fish-net tights with long white hair points out that they didn’t come here to kill her, not tonight, anyway, that they merely came to observe. Calling the armoured being Antro, the woman tells him to trapdoor them away from here. ‘You are right, Arachne’ Therak tells her, while Antro agrees that there will be more than enough time to eliminate the Avengers West Coast later. With that, the mysterious, eerie trio vanishes.
Somewhere else, a pale, ethereal Vision drifts silently amid the interior of the ominously missing nega-bomb…amid, and through it, the sullen Avenger returns to his “brother” Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man, who asks ‘So? Did you learn why the two of us were jarred by a sudden shift in direction a little while ago?’, to which the Vision replies that he did. ‘Well, then, let’s have it!’ Wonder Man exclaims. The Vision reports that the nega-bomb is being transported by a Skrull starship. ‘Say what?’ Wonder Man gasps. ‘I said -’ the Vision begins, to which Wonder Man tells him that he heard what he said, but that he is just trying to figure out what it means. ‘It means, of course, that the Skrulls have stolen the bomb from the Shi’ar who devised it from purloined Kree technology’ the Vision explains.
‘I know that, too! Why are you always so literal minded? Did you learn anything about how the Avengers are doing?’ Wonder Man exclaims, but the Vision replies that he did not seek such information at this time, as the Avengers are fully capable of taking care of themselves. ‘Wanda was your wife, back when you had human feelings! Aw, what am I wasting my emotions on an android for?’ Wonder Man mutters. ‘You don’t even -’ he begins, when suddenly, they are shaken about. ‘What’s that?’ Wonder Man enquires, while the Vision explains that the bomb has begun to vibrate with some violence, which may well mean that the Skrull ship is warping through space, most likely, the stargate near Earth’s sun.
The Skrull ship blasts through the portal and emerges in another galaxy, with the Vision telling Wonder Man that if that has transpired, the resulting black sunspots, such has Quasar observed before, will bring Earth one step closer to the brink of doom!
Back on the Shi’ar throne world, inside the quarters set aside for the Avengers, the Scarlet Witch sees a platoon of Shi’ar officers rush past the door. She tells her teammates that there is some sort of frantic activity going on out there, courtesy of Lilandra. ‘Though what it bodes for the Earth is anyone’s guess’ Wanda adds. Thor suggests that they have done about all they can here, and announces ‘Lightning and I were kind of wondering -’, to which Miguel concludes that they think they should go home, to be with their families. ‘We’re in the middle of a war, Miguel, we can’t just -’ Captain Marvel begins, before suddenly, her communi-card sounds up, it’s Wendall “Quasar” Vaughn who exclaims ‘Thank Heaven I reached you via my quantum bands!’, before Monica tells him that they heard he was a captive of the Shi’ar somewhere. Quasar replies that he was shanghaied way out of known space, but that he has finally made it back. ‘Anyway, here’s why I called ‘ Quasar begins, before revealing that he knows where the nega-bomb is….