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Bob Harras (writer), Kevin West ( guest penciler), Bud Larosa (guest inker), Gina Going (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer), Pat Garrahy (assistant editor), Ralph Maccio (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
Crystal clutches the motionless body of the Black Knight, while Hercules prepares to destroy Raza of the Starjammers. The other Avengers and Starjammers, as well as Cyclops, Quicksilver, Val Cooper and Professor X, are present, and a brief battle between the two groups ensues, resulting in Raza and Ch’od escaping into the night. Hepzibah lies when the Professor asks her if she can shed any light on what has transpired, while Crystal points out that the Black Knight is dying. Lockjaw teleports in with an Inhuman doctor to tend to the Black Knight, along with the Starjammers’s Sikorsky. The Black Widow sends Hercules, Sersi, the Vision and the new Thor to locate the missing Starjammers. Corsair joins them, while Hepzibah offers to remain at Avengers HQ as a hostage. Surprisingly, Binary, only just recovered from her injuries, wants to join them, as she was a member of both teams in time gone by. In Lower Manhattan, Raza and Ch’od trudge through the rain, and Raza almost reveals to Ch’od why he did what he did - when Sersi, Hercules, the new Thor and the Vision attack, and a battle begins. Corsair and Binary eventually arrive on scene, with Binary demanding to talk to Raza. She tries to speak with him, but Raza tells her not to bother herself with him. Corsair and the Avengers talk about what has transpired this evening, and the Vision realizes that he is starting to get some emotions back, after seeing the Black Knight near death. Raza then reveals to Binary that he did what he did to the Black Knight so that he could be reunited with his son, surprising his teammates. Raza shows Binary the medallion that the Kree gave him, which belonged to his son. Binary destroys the medallion, informing Raza that it is a Kree memory implant device, used by the Empire to make their subjects more pliable to their will. Binary explains to Raza that he is as much a victim of the Kree as the Knight, and Raza drops his weapon. Binary tries to comfort him, revealing that she would do anything for both of her former teams - Avengers and Starjammers - she would die - even lie. Back at Avengers HQ, Hepzibah suggests to the Black Widow that the Avengers prepare themselves for the Knight’s death. The physicians have done what they can to assist the Black Knight, with Sikorsky determining that Raza did not intend to kill the Avenger. The Black Widow still has her suspicions, and suggests to Crystal that they keep an eye on Hepzibah. Later, Hepzibah goes to the infirmary, and tells the Black Knight that he must die on this night, so she can her vengeance against the Shi’ar Empire, for keeping her in the slave pits. But before Hepzibah can strike, Crystal and the Black Widow walk in on her. And, the other Avengers, Binary and Starjammers return. Later still, the Black Knight wakes, and Raza speaks with him. The two groups meet, and the Starjammers invite Binary to re-join them, while Black Widow makes her the same offer from the Avengers. Binary declines both offers, choosing instead to rediscover her roots. The Avengers watch the Starjammers depart, and Raza reveals that there was no Kree memory inducer, that Binary lied for him so he would be free to find his son - he then tells Hepzibah that he has seen her true soul, twisted by greed and hate, but he knows not what to do about it.
‘Did’st thou hear me, Raza Longknife?’ the Mighty Hercules, now clean-shaven, of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers, asks as he holds the intergalactic Starjammer called Raza up by his throat. ‘For thy heinous crime, thou shalt most surely die!’ Hercules booms, as his friend and teammate Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, lies motionless on the hangar bay floor.
Holding her infant daughter, Luna, the Inhuman Avenger called Crystal tends to the man she cares about, while her estranged husband, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff of X-Factor stands over her. Scott “Cyclops” Summers, currently visiting the Avengers, as is Quicksilver, rushes into the hangar bay accompanied by the Eternal called Sersi and Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow, leader of the Avengers. The new Thor, Eric Masterson, is with them, when suddenly, ‘Excuse me, terrans…but I will not stand idly by and see one of my fellow Starjammers threatened!’ the reptilian alien called Ch’od declares as he pushes past his own leader, Corsair.
Ch’od instructs Hercules to release Raza, and points out that none of them know what has happened here between Raza and the Black Knight, so Hercules is no judge and jury. ‘I would think you Avengers have had enough of acting like executioners’ Ch’od adds, referencing recent events. ‘That’s a low blow, pal -’ the new Thor begins, grabbing Ch’od by his arm. He tells him to step back and let them take care of this. ‘Unhand me, mammal!’ Ch’od replies. Spinning, he slams Thor into the hangar bay wall. ‘Dad!’ Cyclops gasps when he sees his father, Corsair, pull out a gun. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Major Summers, please -’ Professor Xavier begins, as Corsair tells them that he is sorry, but that Ch’od is right - the Starjammers are not going to be anyone’s victims.
Before Corsair can act, however, the Vision appears behind him, and phases a hand through Corsair’s body, causing him to drop his gun. ‘Considering it is our teammate who lies bleeding, Corsair… I would suggest it is the Avengers who have been victimized this evening’ the Vision points out, before apologizing for the pain that his intangibility is causing him. Ch’od calls out to his captain, and declares that he has had enough of this. ‘I gave you fair warning, Olympian… now Raza comes with me!’ Ch’od declares, punching Hercules in the face, knocking the hero backwards through the outer wall. The Black Widow and Thor follow Ch’od, and Natasha expresses her disbelief at the fact Ch’od has charged through the Mansion’s reinforced walls as if they were paper. ‘If that reject from the Lost Lagoon’s hurt Herc, I swear I’ll -’ Thor begins, as he and Natsha arrive outside on a balcony, rain pouring down on them. Hercules tells his new friend that his concern honors him, but that he is uninjured. Hercules then points out that the two base assassins have escaped into the night.
They look back up at the gaping hole in the hangar bay, and Hercules asks Corsair where his teammates have gone, and why they repaid the Avengers’ hospitality with such betrayal. Corsair swears to the Avengers that he has no idea what has happened here. Dr Valerie Cooper of X-Factor stands alongside Professor X who reports that the Starjammers have always been the most stalwart of the X-Men’s allies, and that such behavior is mystifying. He turns to the Starjammer called Hepzibah and asks her if she can shed any light on tonight’s events. ‘Why ask me? Nothing I know. Nothing’ Hepzibah responds. Crystal has given Luna over to Quicksilver and continues to hold Dane’s body. ‘Please… that’s not important now’ she tells everyone, pointing out that Dane is dying, she tells them they have to do something - anything.
Later, after a dimensional jump to the moon, Quicksilver returns with the teleporting Inhuman dog called Lockjaw, and a somewhat wide-eyed elderly Inhuman. ‘We have returned’ Quicksilver declares. He adds that it is a mark of the high regard Black Bolt holds the Avengers, and his wife, Crystal, that Black Bolt has sent the physician of the royal family itself to help them. Luna’s Inhuman nanny, Marilla, rushes over, ‘Physic Galen!’ she exclaims, taking her old friend’s arm, she tells him that her heart bursts with joy to see him. ‘Ye must save the Knight! Wounded he was saving my sweet Luna! Such bravery must not be punished!’ Marilla declares. Quickislver leads Galen down the corridor, while Hepzibah remarks that she doesn’t understand this, as the Starjammers’ Sikorsky is with the Knight. ‘Enough that is’ she points out. ‘Hepzibah! This is a human life we’re talking about’ Corsair tells his partner.
‘Indeed it is, Corsair. And I think it’s time to find out what happened tonight that almost ended it’ the Black Widow announces. She turns to Hercules, Sersi, the new Thor and the Vision and informs them that Cyclops and Professor X have returned home to see if they can help from that end, but she wants the four of them to scour the city and find Raza before the night ends. Corsair informs the Black Widow that he would like to go as well. ‘No way, Natasha!’ the new Thor shouts, and Hercules agrees, pointing out that they have no reason to trust the space pirates. Hepzibah offers to remain at the Avengers HQ as a hostage. ‘Satisfied are you, Avenger?’ she asks Hercules.
Suddenly, Carol “Binary” Danvers, a former Avenger and Starjammer both, and currently a guest in the Mansion appears and announces that she thinks that is a suitable arrangement - because she is joining this little hunting expedition. ‘Binary!’ Corsair gasps, while Natasha reminds Carol that she has just recovered from serious injuries. ‘I’m not sure you’re up to -’ Natasha begins, but Carol interrupts, declaring that she is sure, and thanks Natasha for her concern. ‘But I am equally an Avenger and Starjammer…I think I have a duty to go’. Carol adds that she wants it understood that she feels a responsibility to both teams.
And in the infirmary, the Black Knight has been stripped of his costume and lies on an examination table. Crystal stands at his side, with Marilla consoling her. Quicksilver stands at the end of the table, while the Starjammers’ robotic teammate Sikorsky hovers over him, and Physic Galen and the Avengers’ physician, Dr Keith Kincaid check Dane’s vitals. Crystal remarks that she cannot stop shaking thinking about what could have happened to Luna, and Quicksilver suggests to her that they leave and let the doctors do what they can. ‘What can they do, Pietro?’ Crystal asks. Marilla tells Crystal that she must not fret like this, and Quicksilver frowns as Crystal exclaims ‘Oh, sweet Agon, Marilla, he can’t die!’
In Lower Manhattan, ‘Really, Raza, aren’t you going to say anything?’ Ch’od asks his teammate as they trudge ddown an alleyway, rain continuing to pour down on them. Ch’od has a torn blanket wrapped over his body to disguise his appearance. Ch’od remarks that he made a fool of himself back at the Mansion with that most inappropriate display of anger, but that he believes Raza to be innocent. ‘But this silence is most disquieting’ Ch’od points out. Raza replies that he never asked for Ch’od’s help, and that he never made claims of innocence. ‘Raza! But why -?’ Ch’od begins, as Raza holds a medallion in his hand, explaining that he let a madness overtake him, a desperate selfishness that destroyed all sense of reason within his soul. Solemnly, Raza explains to Ch’od that something was taken from him long ago, something he loved most dearly - and he thought he would do anything to get it back. ‘I was wrong’ Raza admits, before his attention to drawn upwards, ‘Look sharp - they’ve found us!’ Raza declares as a Quinjet hovers in the sky overhead, and from it, Hercules, Sersi, the new Thor and the Vision drop. ‘Give it up, Raza - ‘cause you’re not getting away again!’ Thor declares.
‘Oh no, Starjammer - you won’t be using that!’ Sersi exclaims as she fires a beam of energy from her eyes, knocking Raza’s gun from his grasp. Sersi then slams Raza into a building wall, and starts to punch him, asking him how it feels to be on the receiving end. Sersi declares that she should kill Raza here for what he has done. Ch’od holds a slab of rubble overhead and moves towards Hercules, telling him to stay back, as he does not wish for any further antagonism between them. ‘Isn’t it a little late for that, Ch’od?’ Thor asks as he and Hercules smash the slab of rubble when Ch’od throws it at them. ‘Aye, alien. Thou will find the Avengers - do not forgive easily!’ Hercules exclaims as he smashes Ch’od backwards. ‘By Zuras!’ Sersi gasps. ‘Ch’od - no!’ Raza calls out, when suddenly, Sersi asks Raza what is happening to his hand, as she notices it start to transform into a long blade.
Raza explains that he is a cyborg, a cursed mingling of machine and flesh, a living weapon. He turns to Hercules and announces that hr will destroy him if Ch’od has been injured. ‘I think not, Raza’ the Vision states as he drops down besides Hercules. ‘I saw what thy deviltry did to Corsair, android - but thy intangibility is nothing against -’ he starts to say as he lunges at the Vision, only he screams in agony as his blade shatters against the Vision, who explains that he can also will his body to become as hard as a diamond, which should prove a sufficient deterrent. Ch’od re-appears and shouts ‘Enough’ as he tells everyone that this has to end. ‘We didn’t start this - remember?’ the new Thor replies, firing energy from his hammer, which slams Ch’od back through the air. ‘Excellent, Thunderer - take the creature down!’ Sersi grins. ‘What? Sersi… I just wanted to stun him, not kill him’ Eric explains, adding, crazy as it sounds, he kind of likes the big green guy.
‘That’s good, Thor. Because there’s a lot to like about Ch’od’ Corsair remarks as he and Binary run into the alleyway after landing the Quinjet. Corsair asks if they can stop this madness before there is any further tragedy. Binary agrees and remarks that the fighting is pointless, and that it is time they got to the bottom of all of this. She asks the Avengers to let her go to Raza so she can talk to him. ‘That may not be wise, Binary’ the Vision points out, and Binary gasps when she sees Raza clutching his broken hand. She goes over to him and kneels down beside him. ‘Raza, it’s me, Carol’ she calls out, while telling him not to pull the silent act on her. ‘We could always talk to each other…remember when everyone else on the ‘Jammer was asleep, we -’ Carol begins, but Raza scowls art her: ‘Do not seek to help me, Carol Danvers! I be not worth thy trouble’ he exclaims.
Back at the infirmary, Dane has been moved to a stasis table and Galen decides that his sings are most erratic, although he believes the stasis table should stabilize things a bit. ‘But if we’re to save this man, we must operate now!’ Galen announces. Resembling a child’s remote control helicopter, Sikorsky flies up to Galen and reports that hre agrees. He carries a small piece of equipment which he explains Waldo has transported here, so the procedure can commence. ‘Excuse me… eh… doctor… but are you quite sure you can handle this?’ Galen enquires. Sikorsky replies that he is insulted, and reveals that his people have made an art of medical science. ‘Wish you to debate and let patient die…or let me get to work?’ he asks.
And outside, Hepzibah strides down a corridor towards the Black Widow, informing her that she must be prepared for the Knight’s death, as Raza’s killing stroke is second to none. ‘Why thank you, Hepzibah…your concern touches me’ the Black Widow replies, before informing Hepzibah that Dane Whitman is a fighter, so she wouldn’t count him out just yet. ‘Not by a long shot’. The Black Widow tells Hepzibah that she doesn’t want to be rude, and reminds her that she is their “hostage” so suggests that she starts acting like one, and stays in her room.
Back downtown, the rain continues to beat down, as Thor tells everyone that he doesn’t like this. ‘How do we know Raza won’t attack Binary?’ he asks. ‘He won’t! If anyone can reach him, it’s Carol’ Corsair assure the Avengers, revealing that while Carol was with the Starjammers she and Raza formed a type of bond - a trust he had never shown them before. ‘You don’t know us, Avengers. But we Starjammers have been through Hades and back together. Raza is alien…in more than the obvious sense. But he’s also my friend’. Thor points at Corsair and declares that the Black Knight is theirs. ‘I’m sure you’ve all had it tough…but how does that excuse attempted murder?’ he asks. ‘To humans like you and me, it doesn’t, Thor’ Corsair replies, explaining that Raza lives by a different code and that he must have had a reason. The Vision states that emotions have been running quite high tonight, and suggest that the Avengers could have prevented events from escalating. ‘Vision?’ Hercules asks, confused. The Vision replies that he includes himself in that observation, for when he saw the Knight lying there, he felt something in him that he can only classify as rage - or grief. ‘When I attacked Corsair, I only added to a chaotic situation’ he admits. Hercules puts an arm around the Vision’s shoulders and tells him to be at peace, and suggests that from this tragic night, something wondrous has been born.
Nearby, Raza is still in agony, and shouts at the Avengers, telling them that they should have killed him. ‘Why couldn’t you have shown me mercy… and ended my pathetic life?’ he asks them. Raza turns to Binary and tells her that she has seen sides of him no other has. ‘So thou know I do not beg - but, Carol. I beg thee. Do not pity me. Go!’ he exclaims. ‘You know me better than that, Raza. I don’t leave friends… I won’t abandon you. But the Knight is a friend as well’ Carol replies, before asking Raza why he did what he did. Raza asks if he must speak his disgrace, before telling Carol to listen and learn what a coward he, in truth, is. ‘How unworthy I am to live! In return for the Knight’s life, the Kree promised my son’s deliverance!’ Raza finally reveals.
‘A son?’ Corsair asks, surprised. He turns to Ch’od and tells him that Raza never mentioned a son to him. ‘Nor me. I must say, this night has been full of surprises’ Ch’od replies.The rain still beats down, and Raza speaks softly now as he announces ‘For only to thee have I ever kept hidden within the depths of my soul. Of my wife and her death I spoke. Aye, though that was painful enough for one lifetime… but of little Rion, of my son, my little child… how he screamed when they took him from my bosom into the abyss. His cries echo cross the years, Carol… and pierce my heart even now’.Carol tells Raza that she knows, that when she held him, when he wept, she felt his pain. She then asks him how he can be sure the Kree know where Rion is. Raza holds up the medallion and informs her that the blueling gave it to him, that it is the medallion he gave Rion on his birthing day, and that he wore it every day of his life.
‘Oh, Raza…’ gasps Carol. ‘They dangled your son’s life before you… like a prize. The Kree were always vicious, but this!’ Carol then asks to hold the medallion, just for a moment. ‘But… why not? After this evil night, I almost pray Rion hath died, so that he may never learn of my treachery’ Raza responds. Carol takes the medallion and tells Raza that what he did tonight was wrong, horribly wrong, but that he was put into an impossibly cruel situation, and in his place, she might have done the same thing. ‘I don’t have the right to judge you… nor does anyone else…forgive me for what I am about to do…but it’s the only way out’. Carol then starts to destroy the medallion with a small burst of power. ‘By Sharra’s eyes!’ Raza gasps, before shoving Carol up against a wall, he asks her what she has done. ‘What had to be done’ Carol replies as Raza puts a knife to Carol’s throat.
Carol asks Raza to listen to her and announces that she recognizes the medallion from her Kree memories, and reveals that it is a memory implant device, used by the Empire to make subjects more pliable to their will. ‘Do you understand? That’s what I’m going to tell the Avengers’ Carol informs Raza, who asks her not to do this. Carol tells Raza to put the knife down and put aside his stupid manly pride. ‘You know this is the only way! You are a victim of the Kree, as much as the Knight’. Raza drops his knife to the ground, and Caol thanks him. She puts one hand on his shoulders and another on his damaged arm. Carol tells Raza that the Shi’ar slave pits were horrifying atrocious places meant to break the soul and the spirit. ‘But you always fought the memories and the pain. You tried to put it behind you and go on with your life’. Carol tells Raza that what the Kree did was evil, that they took that pain and warped him. ‘And they had no right’.
Raza drops to his knees and Carol kneels down beside him, explaining to him that it was a memory inducer. ‘Do you understand what I’m saying? The Kree are responsible for what happened tonight… not you’. Carol reminds Raza that they are friends and she knows the anguish he feels over what has happened and assures him the Avengers will listen to her. ‘I’ve been a member of both teams, and I’d do anything for both… I’d die… dear Lord, I’d even lie’ Carol whispers to Raza.
Back at the Mansion, Galen and Sikorsky exit the infirmary and Galen announces that they have done what they can. He then admits that Dr Sikorsky was remarkable. Galen informs Crystal, the Black Widow and Hepzibah that the Knight is strong, with a remarkable constitution and with enough rest, should recover fully. Sikorsky agrees with the diagnosis, and makes the observation that Raza is a master swordsman, but that the Knight’s wounds, although serious, were not fatal. ‘Sikorsky concludes that Raza did not want the Avenger dead’ Sikorsky adds, as Hepzibah watches him, and announces that she is very glad. ‘Leave then we will, when the Starjammers return’ she adds. ‘Us gone, the Knight well… ending happy for all’. But the Black Widow declares that she has her doubts. Quietly, Crystal asks Natasha what’s going on. ‘Call it an ex-spy’s ingrained cynicism, Crystal…but I suggest we keep a close eye on Dane until our guests leave’ Natasha replies.
Later: ‘Asleep they all. Danger they think is passed’ Hepzibah thinks to herself as she enters the infirmary, where Dane’s motionless body is still hooked up to some medical equipment. ‘Raza, Raza, poor fool you. In the end hatred failed’ Hepzibah tells herself, before leaning into the handsome Dane, she tells him ‘Your pardon, Knight, but die must you!’ Hepzibah reminds herself how her life was destroyed in the slave pits, with horrors and outrages, too many to remember. She was a child - but that child died long ago. Hepzibah knows that more of her people are imprisoned by Lilandra. ‘So “gentle and good”. Shi’ar not so pure themselves, I think no one is!’ Hepzibah decides that it is time her suffering was paid back - two hundred million credits will make her very happy. She holds up a small vial, ‘And for your crime, this poison kill you quick - no pain’ Hepzibah thinks, when suddenly, the room is engulfed in light as the Black Widow and Crystal enter. ‘Hepzibah, what are you doing in here?’ Natasha asks. ‘Who-?’ Hepzibah begins, when suddenly, ‘Ho, Avengers!’ a voice calls out.
The Avengers and Starjammers enter, and Hercules embraces both Crystal and the Black Widow, informing them that Jarvis has told them the news, that the Knight shall live. ‘My heart swells with joy’ Hercules confesses.
Later still, Dane has woken and Raza, his injuries tended to, sits at Dane’s side. ‘Carol told me everything, Raza. About the memory implant creating a lost son…they really manipulated you, huh?’ Dane remarks, as Raza replies that there is much he wishes to say, but his time is short. ‘Know ye, the Avengers are in danger! This was but the first foray. Though the bluelings are greatly reduced, they still never forgive, never forget’ Raza reveals. Dane thanks Raza, and adds that he wishes he could say he blames them.
Soon, Hercules, Sersi, Crystal, the new Thor, the Vision, the Black Widow and Binary have gathered with the Starjammers, as Corsair remarks that it is an understatement that this wasn’t the most pleasant of visits, before apologizing again to the Avengers. He then asks Carol what she is going to do, assuring her that the Starjammers are always ready to welcome her back. ‘As are the Avengers. We could use your knowledge of the Kree, Carol’ the Black Widow smiles. ‘If not for you, who knows how tonight would have ended?’ she adds. ‘Who indeed’ Carol remarks quietly, before thanking both Natsha and Corsair, before announcing that she thinks it is time she gave up the stars and went home to visit her parents and rediscover her roots.
Later again, the Starjammers are preparing to depart, as Raza calls out to them: ‘Again, Avengers. A warning. The Supreme Intelligence and its demise will not be forgotten… his followers shall not rest till the last of you art dead’. ‘Gee, that’s a comforting thought’ the new Thor remarks.
And, as the massive Starjammer vessel enters hyperspace, two of the Starjammers gather in the lower decks. ‘Controlled you the Kree did? Hepzibah used as well then’ Hepzibah remarks to Raza, who replies that there is no salve for her conscience, or his - as it was all deception. ‘There is no Kree memory inducer, woman. Carol Danvers lied for me… so that I wouldst be free to find my son’. Raza turns from Hepzibah and declares that he shall never be free from the knowledge of the crime he committed, nor from the fact that he has seen Hepzibah’s true soul, twisted by greed and warped by hate. Hepzibah smiles as Raza muses that he doesn’t know what to do about it - Sharra help him.
Black Knight IV, Black Widow, Crystal, Hercules, Sersi, Thor II, Vision (all Avengers)
Cyclops & Professor X (both X-Men)Dr Valerie Cooper & Quicksilver (both X-Factor)
BinaryLunaDr Keith KincaidMarilla
Lockjaw & Physic Galen
Ch’od, Corsair, Hepzibah, Raza, Sikorsky (all Starjammers)
Binary next appears in the “Starblast” crossover.