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John Byrne (writer), Paul Ryan (penciler), Tom Palmer (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Howard Mackie (editor), Tom DeFaclo (editor-in-chief)
Captain America, Thor, Sersi, Spider-Man and Edwin Jarvis find themselves inside a communications chambers, floating in an empty nothingness – the whole universe seems to have vanished. After recollecting recent events, including strange fluxes that had been affecting everyone across the Earth, the heroes discuss the terrible predicament they find themselves in. Eventually, Spider-Man suggests they adjust a long-rage scanner in the communications chamber to look for the possibility of anything closer to them – surprisingly, the suuggestion works, as the heroes discover a laboratory called Polydyne floating on a chunk of earth within the nothingness. Captain America attempts to use the computers to find information on Poldyne, but the computers are not operational, so Sersi, determined to prove her worth as an Avenger, mind-probes Polydyne for any signs of life, and is shocked by what she discovers – evil at the center of the emptiness. Jarvis points out that their air supply is becoming stale, and Captain America knows that the communications chamber has no additional life support systems. Meanwhile, in the Polydyne laboratory, the powerful compressor device crackles with energy, to Nebula's delight. But when she tries to get in touch with Gunthat aboard her space ship, she gets no response, and discovers the emptiness outside of the laboratory. Demanding an explanation, Nebula attacks the old professor who created the compressor, who explains to her that this is the possibility of a genesis pulse, and that it's possible a vast quantity of energy was released that created a new universe in the midst of the old. Nebula lashes out at the old man again, before Captain America, Thor and Spider-Man crash into the lab, thanks to Thor using his hammer to create a magnetic field that linked the communications chamber to the Polydyne lab. While Jarvis looks after Sersi, who is recovering from her mind-probe, the furious Nebula attacks Captain America, Thor and Spider-Man. They battle for some time, with the skilled Nebula besting the heroes at every moment. Thor also tries to get the energies from the compessor under control, but they are too much even for him. The old professor reveals to Spider-Man how the compressor can be shutdown, before Nebula kills him. Captain America overhears this, and talks with another scientist as they set about setting in motion a plan to shut the compressor down – all it takes is a cable to be pulled out of the compressor. Captain America struggles, but Spider-Man is able to remove the cable. Almost instantly, the world re-appears around the Polydyne labs. Sersi joins the others after scanning the minds of the inhabitants of Earth – everything is back to as it was, with virtually no time having passed. The heroes congratulate themselves, but in the moment, Nebula appears to escape – only Captain America has a feeling Nebula will be returning to her space ship, which means a surprise is in store for her.
The main assembly hall which doubles as the communications chamber of the Avengers' temporary headquarters, where three Avengers – Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, the Mighty Thor, and the Eternal Sersi – along with their ally the amazing Spider-Man and trusted assistant, Edwin Jarvis, find themselves suddenly floating off the floor, as the entire chamber appears to float in a white nothingness. 'The gravity!' Jarvis calls out. 'What in the world has happened to the gravity?' he asks. 'Gone!' Thor exclaims. 'Swept away as tho' it ne'er existed!' he suggests. Captain America wishes that he could reach the instrument panel nearby, as he might be able to use it to figure out what happened. 'Leave that to me, Cap' Spider-Man offers, as he blasts a line of webbing – only as soon as he does so, he realizes that he forgot aobut Dr Newton's law of action and reaction, and the forward thrust of his webbing pushes him backwards. Spider-Man is quick to react, though, and even though zero-gravity is not his best environment, he flips backwards, boating that it takes more than that to get the better of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and clings to the opposite wall, while telling Cap to the webbing line and be careful, as it is sticky.
Captain America uses the webbing to pull himself over to the console and thanks the wall-crawler, while Jarvis looks over at Sersi and asks her if she is all right. Sersi reports that she is recovering, and tells him that using her control over atomic structure to hold this room together was a great strain. 'But worth the effort, Sersi' Captain America states, looking at the computer, he tells the others that if he is reading the view screen correctly, then that energy flux they felt was much more than a localized effect. Continuing to look at the monitor, Captain America sees nothing but emptiness and announces that the whole universe has vanished. 'Say it is not so, Avenger!' Thor gasps, boasting that he has stood on the very brink of Ragnarok, but never have such dark words been said. 'See for yourself, Thor!' Cap replies, reporting that the long range scanner shows the area of deep space immediately beyond Earth's moon – at least, that is what it usually shows, but now – nothing.
A look of shock falls across Edwin Jarvis, as he recalls thinking that things had become quite as bad as they ever could when Thor's evil half-brother Loki conspired with the most powerful super-villains on Earth to destroy the Avengers. Jarvis remembers how the Avengers defeated the forces of evil, and everything was basically back to normal, with the Avengers even on their way to rebuilding their destroyed headquarters, back on Central Park East, where it belongs – but then, this strange energy flux struck for the first time, striking Thor when he carried a huge sphere of dangerous debris over to a special dump site in New Jersey. Jarvis reminds himself about the abruptly truncated call from Starfox, which he only heard a small snatch of, but enough to send Iron Man and the Vision hurrying off to investigate, before the flux struck them again.
'There's no doubt about it! Sersi used her control of atomic structure to bind this room together...but everything else in the universe is gone!' Captain America announces, explaining that what they are seeing on this screen now is the best their human mechanisms can manage at showing absolute nothingness. 'But... but, Master Cap... if that's so... how long can we survive, with all the universe vanished around us?' Jarvis enquires. Cap hangs his head, before admitting that he doesn't know. He declares that he has spent all his life surviving – first as a boy growing up in New York's lower East Side, then as America's first and only super-soldier battling the Nazis in World War Two... finally as a member of the Avengers – but this, he doesn't want to sound like a quitter – but he has no idea how to deal with this! Thor admits that he has no idea, either, and he has lived a thousand times beyond Captain America's mortal lifetime.
Spider-Man climbs down the line of webbing and tells everyone that he might be grasping at straws, it wouldn't surprise him, as he is so far out of his depth, before asking Cap if he said this was a long range scanner. Spider-Man taps away at the console and tells the others that he knows a little something about cameras, and suggests that if they adjust the depth of focus, pull it back so they are not looking out so far, they might pick up something closer, something that is not registering – the way dust doesn't register on a normal camera lens. The others gather around, and are shocked at what shows up on the monitor – a large laboratory facility, floating on a chunk of earth. 'Od's blood!' Thor gasps. 'A mortal structure, floating in the void! And see, its shape doth form almost a perfect sphere!' Thor adds. 'You got it, Goldilocks!' Spider-Man agrees, announcing that if he is reading these dials and widgets right, it is about fifteen miles away, which puts it somewhere in Jersey – if there was a Jersey.
Spider-Man notices that there is a sign on the gate, and adjusts the camera to focus in on it – discovering that the sign reads PolyDyne Industries. 'Polydyne...?' Cap asks as he moves over to the console, telling the others that Polydyne doesn't ring a bell to him, and wonders if their computers have any information on it – but as he taps into the system, he discovers the computer system is done, along with the rest of their headquarters, there is no way to find out about that place. But Sersi tells Captain America that there is a way – although she hesitates to even suggest it. 'What... Sersi! Of course!' Cap declares, turning to the Eternal, he points out that with her telepathic abilities, she could reach out to that building and discover if there is anyone alive over there. 'I could... but...' Sersi starts to reply as she floats above Captain America, who tells her 'No “buts” Sersi – we must know about that structure. Our very lives may depend on the knowledge!' Cap tells his companion.
'Very well, Captain. I have accepted the responsibilities of Avengers membership. I will do what I can to...to...NOOOOO!' Sersi replies as she concentrates hard, before she goes wide-eyed and falls towards the floor. Thor leaps forward and grabs her, pointing out that she has curled herself up like an unborn babe, and her cry made him think of Sersi's similar scream when she probed the Negative Zone. 'No... no...' Sersi utters, going wide-eyed again, she tells Thor that it is worse by far, although she speaks in her ancient Eternal language. Thor suggests that Sersi is distressed, which is why she is speaking like this – even he can't understand her. 'At the center of the emptiness... evil!' Sersi gasps.
Spider-Man tells Captain America that this was a nice idea while it lasted, and that unless he can understand Sersi's gobbledygook, it doesn't seem like they are going to learn a whole lot more about Polydyne. Cap tells Spider-Man that he is right, and that he is sorry he got involved in this. 'You've assisted the Avengers in the past out of nothing more than altruism...' Cap's voice trails off, as Spider-Man tells him not to worry about it, and that there are more important things to consider. 'Not the least of which is our air supply' Jarvis points out as he floats nearby, suggesting that the atmosphere in here is getting rather stale. Cap looks up at Jarvis and tells him that he is right. Cap explains that his own super-efficient bio-system processes air better than another human being's might, but he can tell that the air is getting heavy with carbon dioxide. Cap alerts the others to the fact that they have no additional supplies – this was nothing more than a communications room, and it isn't designed for the functions they are demanding of it. 'You...you sound almost like you're giving up, Cap!' Spider-Man utters. 'Not yet, web-slinger!' Cap replies, announcing that if he has learned nothing else in his years of battle, he has learned the absolute truth of one old saying – while there is life, there is hope – so they are not done yet!
Inside one of the labs within Polydyne, several scientists are thrown about in the lab, including an old man called Professor Harker, and a blonde woman, while a large device in the center of the room radiates energy. 'The power! Never in my wildest dreams have I anticipated such power!' the blonde woman exclaims as she floats towards the device. 'It crackles still about the compressor! It surges through my flesh like a thing alive! Even mighty gravity seems twisted by it!' she utters. The woman is called Nebula, and holds up a comunicator, stating that she must contact Gunthar on the mothership, as he has been monitoring the effect from a stationary orbit on the other side of the world's single satellite, so he can tell her if it is indeed what she has been seeking. But as she calls out to Gunthar, Nebula gets no response. 'Gunthar! Respond!' Nebula shouts. 'I am transmitting on all frequencies. Report my signal!' Nebula declares, before she goes wide-eyed, looking at the windows, she sees the emptiness.
The emptiness scalds Nebula's eyes, 'What has happened to the world outside?' she exclaims as she drops her disguise, shifting to her true blue-skinned form, and her purple and black costume. Nebula floats over to Professor Harker and calls out: 'Old man! The atomic compressor is your invention! Explain what has happened!' she demands. But the old scientist, slumped against a console, admits that he can't say. Nebula grabs him by his lab coat and starts shaking him as she snarls 'Speak to me not of can't, Earthling! I am Nebula! Daughter of the Eternals of Titan! Granddaughter of almighty Thanos! Tell me what has happened!' Professor Harker announces that it can only be a genesis pulse, and explains that there was always a danger of this, but that it seemed so remote as to be beyond the need for considering. He tells Nebula that what his compressor does is concentrate the force of a one megaton nuclear explosion into an area smaller than the nucleus of an atom – and in theory, this should release a vast quantity of usable energy. 'However, there was a small chance it might duplicate the effect of the Big Bang... create a new universe in the midst of the old...' Professor Harker adds.
'FOOL!' Nebula shouts as she slaps the old man. 'That universe would annihilate itself and the original!' Nebula exclaims. 'I know, but I did not think -' Professor Harker begins, before the enraged Nebula tells him that he did not think, and that he is a squirming blob of insignificant protoplasm. 'I meant to use the energy your compressor created to make myself absolute ruler of the universe!' Nebula reveals, before starting to tell Professor Harker that he has left her without a universe – but she is interrupted by a strange sound, and one of the outside walls is blown open, revealing on the other side the communications room from the Avengers underground HQ, now linked to the Polydyne facility. 'Nice moves, Thunder God! Not only did you use that fancy mallet of yours to create a magnetic field to pull us over to the Polydyne building...you made us a nice little doorway into the building!' Spider-Man exclaims, as he uses his webbing to make sure the room doesn't drift away, sticking it to the Polydyne facility. 'Good work, Spider-Man!' Cap tells his ally as he follows Thor into the Polydyne lab.
'Behold, my friends! There be others yet alive in this place!' Thor calls out, pointing out that one of them is known to the Avengers. Nebula sees her enemies and exclaims 'The Avengers! Curse the spiteful god who deemed that they of all the creatures in the lost universe should survive to torment me!' before informing them that they won't for long, and fires a blast at them, causing Cap and Spider-Man to leap out of harm's way. 'Looks like Andromeda's picked up a few new toys since I last saw her!' Spider-Man calls out. But Captain America tells Spider-Man not to let the blue skin fool him – this is not Andromeda, but a very nasty lady who calls herself Nebula. 'Villainess! I know not how thou didst extricate thyself from the time vortex into which thou fell with Dr Druid...' Thor begins, '... but you'll find we're as ready to quash your schemes now as we were then!' Captain America adds as he uses his shield to block a blast Nebula firest towards him. 'You speak in riddles, earthlings! Sure you do not think such nonsense can distract me long enough to grant you victory!?' Nebula exclaims.
Nebula suddenly turns her attention to Spider-Man who is clinging to a nearby wall, and qho quickly darts across the wall when Nebula opens fire at him. 'Wow! When Cap said this babe was nasty I had no idea he meant she made Doctor Doom look like Mister Rogers!' Spider-Man jokes. As Thor spins his hammer, which creates a vortex to deflect Nebula's blasts, Captain America tells his friend that Nebula's blasts can't penetrate his shield or the force of Thor's hammer, but they need to bring Nebula down before she hurts spider-Man. 'Aye, and aye again, Avenger!' Thor replies, before asking Captain America what he thinks of Nebula's confusion at their words, pointing out that she sounded as if she had no memory of their last encounter. Cap suggests that there is time enough to figure that out once Nebula is subdued. He alerts Thor to the fact that Nebula is on the move, and Spider-Man is too disorientated by the absence of gravity to be using his weblines against her properly, watching as Spider-Man fires a line of webbing, but Nebula dodges it, and calls Spider-Man a “stupid human insect”, asking him if he dare pit his puny powers against a child of the Celestials.
'Well, yeah. Not my best idea, huh?' Spider-Man replies as he dodges one of Nebula's blasts, as Nebula calls him a worm and warns him that his agility avails him nothing, and that she will blast him into less than atoms. 'I think not, Nebula! You talk a good fight...but I don't think you can match a double dare!' Captain America calls out as he throws his shield over the head of a scientist, towards Nebula, who fires a blast at the shield, 'Idiot! Your legendary shield may be able to withstand my force blasts...but I can still deflect it!' Nebula exclaims as her blasts strike Cap's shield, knocking it away from her. 'Aye, Nebula! But thou didst not comprehend the hidden meaning of Captain America's words!' Thor calls out, continuing to spin Mjolnir, he informs Nebula that Captain America's action was but to distract her, so that he can do this – he then releases a powerful surge from the spinning Mjolnir, which slams into Nebula and knocks her backwards against a wall.
'Curse me for an untried fool!' Nebula snarls as the force of the winds of Thor's hammer continues to slam her into the wall. But Nebula boasts that a warrior of the line of Thanos is never vanquished, realizing that the blasts of wind come in waves, she plans to move at the exact instant of the momentary lull between each front, she does so, and turning around, renews her assault on the heroes, firing a blast at the floor beneath Thor and Cap, who leaps back just in time. 'She tears the floor asunder!' Thor exclaims as he was not so lucky in escaping the blast, which throws him aside, he loses his precarious balance. 'Learn now the hopelessness of your situation, humans!' Nebula snarls, boasting that she has spent her life in space. 'This gravity void is no more unnatural to me than -' Nebula begins, before her blasters on her wrists suddenly stop working – thanks to two shots of webbing fired by Spider-Man.
Spider-Man then leaps towards Nebula, telling her that he doesn't know if his webbing will really block her rays for long, but she doesn't look to him like she is up to hand-to-hand combat with a guy who has the proportionate strength of a spider. 'Does the idiocy never end?' Nebula mutters as she grabs Spider-Man and easily throws him aside. 'Begone, little insect! And be grateful I do not rip you limb from limb for your effrontery!' she tells him. 'Oops! So much for plan A!' Spider-Man calls out. Nebula fires blasts which rip through the webbing, before looking around the room to try and find Captain America – who has positioned himself on the far side of the energy effect that radiates from the center of the lab, wanting to get a good look at it without Nebula seeing him – but he doesn't know what to do about it. Scientists can be seen nearby clinging to whatever equipment they can grab a hold of, before Cap calls out to Thor, asking him if there is anything he can use his mastery of the elements to control. 'If you could even damp it down a little...' Cap suggests, but Thor tells his friend that he does not know, as he has never seen anything like this.
But Thor announces that he will try, for without the trying, nothing can be achieved. He raises his hammer overhead, and begins to swing it around and around. 'Beard of my father! My mighty uru hammer hath indeed tapped the flow of these mysterious energies!' Thor calls out as he takes control of the strange energies, but the strain is incredible, and he admits that the energies are far beyond the greatest forces even he has sought to dominate. Thor announces that he feels the forces welling up within him, and realizes that unless he breaks his hold on them, he fears he shall explode as would a mighty oak struck low by lightning. Thor turns to Captain America and tells him that he has failed, as the energies within the matrix were too much. But Cap tells Thor not to even think it, and that he did his best, and no one could ask for more. 'But if this thing was too much for a god to handle...' Cap's thoughts trail off.
Nearby, the elderly scientist, Professor Harker, crawls towards Spider-Man while informing him that he has to get to his teammates and tell them that they are going about this all wrong. 'Well, teammates they're not...' Spider-Man replies, before asking the old-timer if he has an answer to this lunacy. Professor Harker reveals that he built the compressor, and that Nebula provided him with certain alien knowledge without which he might never have made the mechanism fully functional, but it is basically his invention, and as such, he knows the way to deactivate it. 'Deactivate? Do I hear right, old man?' Captain America calls out, turning his attention to Spider-Man and Professor Harker, who tells Captain America that he must hurry, as there is only a tiny amount of time before the genesis pulse reaches one hundred percent efficiency. 'And that is something you will never live to see, traitor!' Nebula shouts as she fires a powerful blast that tears through Professor Harker, evaporating him.
'Witch! Foul murderess!' Thor shouts as he leaps towards the cosmic villainess. 'Now shall the Thunder God see thee -' Thor begins, preparing to strike Nebula with his hammer, but she dodges him. 'No!' Nebula snaps. 'This is no good!' Cap mutters, before dropping down towards one of the other scientists, 'The old man said there was still a way to deactivate this mechanism. You there!' Cap exclaims. 'Me?' the scientist responds, nervously. 'Yes, you!' Cap declares, grabbing the scientist by his shoulder, Cap asks him if he is attached to this project in some official capacity, and whether he has any idea what the old man was talking about. 'Do you know how we can shut this thing off?' Cap asks. The scientist looks at Captain America and tells him that there is a chance. As the energy continues to crackle from the large device in the center of the lab, Cap and the scientist find themselves thrown back up into the air, as the scientist explains that the compressor is still drawing its primary power from the generators in the sub-basement. 'When it achieves one hundred percent efficiency, it will be self-sustaining. But until then...' his voice trails off.
The scientist continues: 'If you can somehow disrupt the power flow...' he begins, before exclaiming 'No! That's crazy! I don't know why I even said it!' and tells Captain America that when the power is on the inductor is surrounded by an intense electromagnetic field – there is no force on Earth that could break that connection. 'Maybe not...but we're not on Earth anymore! And unless you've got another suggestion... that's the best chance we have!' Captain America declares as he drops away from the scientist, down towards the compressor. 'Good luck!' the scientist calls out. 'You're gonna need it' he thinks to himself. 'Hey! Look! What's Cap doing?' Spider-Man calls out as he looks down to Captain America, but Thor tells him not to distract him, blocking one of Nebula's blasts with his hammer as he announces that this battle doth draw nigh its dark conclusion.
Moving closer to the compressor, Cap is surrounded by energy. He doesn't know what he might be doing to himself, as the energy crawls through him like a legion of soldier ants – but he knows that if the scientist is right, then he dare not falter. Cap has no idea how much more time there is before this mechanism reaches its full capacity – he doesn't even want to think about it. 'If it's done all this and it's not even operating properly yet...!' Cap's thoughts trail off. He continues on, closer to the compressor, despite the magnetic field so powerful that it begins to affect his human tissue. He thinks that the Super-Soldier serum in his system should protect him from the worst of it, but supposes that he will be lucky if he doesn't come out of this with something seriously wrong inside – if he comes out of this! He reaches out for the cable connected to the compressor, but no matter how hard he pushes, he can't get close enough to grab the power lead.
'Cap! What in blazes are you trying to do!' Spider-Man calls out as he drops down near Cap. 'Don't ask questions!' Cap calls back, informing Spider-Man that he has to pull out the power inductor – and soon. 'Well, why didn't you say so?' Spider-Man asks. He golds onto some equipment as he admits that he has not been doing so well in this zero-g environment – until now, and with that, he releases a webbing which sticks to the power cable. He starts to pull back on the webbing, trying to use it to disconnect the cable as he informs Captain America that his web-lines are non-organic and non-conductive – battling Electro a few times taught him the wisdom of that. He continues to pull on the cable, and wonders if he can do six other impossible things before breakfast. 'But if this is the only way to save the day...put everything back... save the world... MJ...' Spider-Man thinks to himself, before shouting 'Then I'm gonna do it!' as he yanks on his web-lines, which pulls back the cable, disconnecting it from the compressor.
And, as that happens the asteroid that Polydyne floats on, surrounded by nothingness, is suddenly surrounded by other buildings, roads, trees, cars and people, reality is restored. 'Zounds! Gravity hath restored itself! Yon mechanism pulses no longer with the consuming energies!' Thor declares, as he stands upright with ease. Cap and Spider-Man join him, and the other scientists gather around. 'Looks like it worked just as predicted' Cap points out, before congratulating Spider-Man and telling him that he saved them all. 'You mean...that's it? All we had to do was...pull the plug?' Spider-Man asks. 'Yes' Cap replies, explaining that apparently the “genesis pulse” had only thrown the universe into a state of complete neutrality, and it needed maximum power to completely annihilate everything. Thor smiles as he points out that it would seem the universe shall survive – at least for another day.
Sersi and Jarvis step into the lab from the communications' room, which is still connected, and Sersi announces that she has used her telepathy to scan all the inhabitants of the world, and reports that not only is everything restored, but the actual elapsed time was virtually nonexistent. 'Aw, no! You don't mean – I just saved the whole blamed universe, and... nobody will ever know?' Spider-Man asks. 'Well, for what it's worth, Master Spider-Man... we'll know!' Jarvis replies, before Sersi asks where Nebula is. Thor reports that she is gone, that she must have used the moment of their jubilation to make good her escape. Captain America smiles as he tells Thor not to be so sure of that, and reminds him that Sersi said virtually no time elapsed while they were in the neutralized universe – and since Iron Man and the Vision were on their way to Nebula's ship when everything blinked out – he thinks Nebula may have a rather rude surprise awaiting her when she gets home!
Captain America, Sersi, Thor (all Avengers)
in Jarvis' memories:
Captain America, Iron Man, Sersi, Thor, Vision (all Avengers)
Loki conspired with other heroes to destroy the Avengers in Avengers (1st series) #311-313 – and almost every other Marvel Comic released during that period, as part of the “Acts of Vengeance” event.
Sersi probed the Negative Zone in Avengers (1st series) #309.
Spider-Man mistakes Nebula for the Atlantean known as Andromeda, who also has blue skin and wears a similar costume to Nebula.
Nebula and Dr Druid fell into the vortex in Avengers (1st series) #298.