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Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub (writers), Paco Medina (penciler), Juan Vlasco (inker), Jesus Aburtov (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Mark Brooks (cover artist), Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (variant cover artists), Carlos Lao (graphic designer), Alanna Smith (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (president), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Avengers created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
The Grandmaster and the Challenger watch as Black Swan uses Earth's own rotation to speed herself and Proxima Midnight across the planet, and the Challenger thinks he has won this game, unaware that the Grandmaster is trying to communicate with his daughter, Voyager, who has locked herself in the vault at Avengers Auxiliary HQ, and tells him that she is not his puppet. Toni Ho tries to get a message to all Avengers, reporting that they are under attack, as the Hulk has taken out Quicksilver, Cannonball, Lightning and Enigma, and is currently battling Red Hulk, who is wearing Toni's Iron Patrior armor – until Hulk absorbs the gamma radiation from Red Hulk, de-powering him. Several other Avengers are in a Quinjet en route back to the Auxiliary HQ, but Wonder Man thinks he can get their faster, and switches to his ionic form and flies away, while the Scarlet Witch casts a hex that puts Doctor Voodoo into suspended animation, but frees the Vision back at Auxiliary HQ. The Vision engages the Hulk in battle, while a badly injured Quicksilver gets the others to the infirmary, and notices a strange blue beacon steaking through the air. As the Hulk and Vision continue to fight, Voyager observes the battle and begins to understand the courage of Terrans. The Vision tries to stop Hulk by phasing into his brain – but the Hulk smashes the Vision's head open first. Doctor Voodoo is freed from stasis, and the Scarlet Witch wonders what happened. Proxima Midnight and Black Swan make it to the Auxiliary HQ and confront Cannonball and Lightning. Using the remains of the Enigma armor, Toni and Aikku join in the battle, while the Hulk pounds on the vault door in an attempt to get to Voyager and the final pyramoid – until Wonder Man arrives, and tells the Hulk that he wants to talk.
The Grandmaster's games room, where the Challenger refers to a monitor depicting two of his remaining warriors from the Black Order – Proxima Midnight and Black Swan. The Challenger tells the Grandmaster to observe as Black Swan uses the planet's own rotation to speed up her travel to their target. 'Such ingenuity...I'm sure your Lethal Legion would be impressed... if they weren't on the verge of being eliminated' the Challenger declares, adding that scoring against the Grandmaster at this time feels most dishonorable. 'Nonetheless. Victory is victory...yes?' the Challenger asks. The Grandmaster remains silent, while his thoughts reach out across the cosmos, as he tells his daughter – Voyager – that he needs her to re-enter the game. He points out that sshe has the final pyramoid and so the winning point is within his grasp. 'Daughter, can you hear me?' he asks when he gets no response 'Yes' Voyager, locked into the Avengers Auxiliary HQ vault, eventually replies. 'But I am not your puppet' she utters.
Elsewhere within the Avengers Auxiliary HQ, Toni Ho is on the communicator: 'Calling all Quinjets – all AIM units – all Avengers! We're doing what we can – but we need help now! We can't hold him off any longer! The Hulk is here – and he can't be stopped!' she exclaims, while Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver, Sam Guthrie a.k.a. Cannonball, Miguel Santos a.k.a. Lightning and Aikku Jokinen a.k.a. Enigma lay strewn about the floor, unmoving. The Immortal Hulk pounds his fist into the face of General Robert L Maverick a.k.a. the Red Hulk, who is wearing the Iron Patriot armor. Hulk slams the Red Hulk into another room within the Auxiliary HQ. 'That... that all you got?' Red Hulk asks, looking up at trhe Hulk, who leaps into Red Hulk and slams him into a pool of water. Red Hulk then recovers, and fires a blast of energy at the Hulk, knocking him backwards. 'My turn!' Red Hulk exclaims as he uses the armor to propel himself through the air, and slam his armored fist into the Hulk, knocking him back again.
The Hulk appears unconcerned, though, and brushes the punch off, wiping his face. Suddenly, He raises his arm to block his eyes from a blinding light that Red Hulk projects with the armor. 'Got your attention, monster? Got your -' Red Hulk begins, before the Hulk cracks the armor on the Red Hulk's arm, then picks Red Hulk up by his hair. 'What – what're you -' Red Hulk utters, before the armor informs him that the gamma energy is being drained from his body. 'Not – not like this -' Red Hulk utters as he reverts to his human form, the Hulk still holding him up by his head.
'He's killing us! He's killing us all -' Toni's voice can be heard on the Quinjet containing a team of Avengers returning to the Auxilary HQ. 'Oh my God...' Jan van Dyne a.k.a. Wasp utters. Emily Guererro a.k.a. Synapse says nothing, as Roberto DaCosta a.k.a. Citizen V asks Wonder Man what he is doing. Energy darts around Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man who reports that he is not as fast as Lightning, but he bets he can get to the Auxiliary HQ faster than the Quinjet if he is in his ionic energy form. 'Simon, don't! What if you can't re-form your body?' Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch asks her dear friend, who tells her that she won't have to worry about him getting in her way anymore. Jericho Drumm a.k.a. Doctor Voodoo and Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon stand nearby. Synapse suddenly tells Wanda not to try and stop Wonder Man, but Wanda replies that she won't, and that she has a better idea, as Wonder Man flies away.
Wanda explains that last time she lifted the stasis on Vision with hex magic, Pietro was locked in place, so she is bettering she can do it again in erverse, but she needs a volunteer. Doctor Voodoo steps forward, and Wanda begins to cast the hex. Falcon asks Wanda if she is sure this will work, and Wanda replies that she isn't – but she has to try. 'I'm sorry, Jericho!' Wanda calls out as the hex continues. 'Don't be. I trust -' Doctor Voodoo utters, before he is frozen in stasis.
And back at the Avengers Auxiliary HQ:
'Release General Maverick, Hulk!' the Vision calls out, before he phases through the Hulk, causing the green giant to roar in pain. 'Your rampage ends here' the Vision declares as he turns back to the Hulk, hovers before him and asks 'Well? Do I have your full attention?' The Hulk lets go of General Maverick, and the Vision calls out 'Now, Quicksilver', at which point a very pained-looking Quicksilver speeds past the Hulk, grabbing General Maverick and the armor-less Enigma. The Vision tells the Hulk to stay focused on him, that he is his opponent, and he fires energy beams at the Hulk.
'What the -' Dr Toni Ho gasps as Quicksilver speeds past her, and into the makeshift infirmary, where he places General Maverick and Aikku on tables. Toni rushes in after them, 'Aikku!' she calls out when she sees her injured lover. Quicksilver rubs his face and tells Toni that he got them out, but he couldn't sustain the speed. 'My head...the blue dots...I can see it now...' he utters as blue dots of energy dart aorund him. He falls to the floor, and nearby, Doreen Green a.k.a. Squirrel Girl is still in stasis, the blue dots dart around her as well. 'It's an object...moving faster than the eye... can... see' Quicksilver gasps as he passes out.
Toni checks the General's vitals, as Aikku sits up, 'Toni? Is that the General?' she asks. Toni reports that he is alive, and his heart beat is steady – which she would call a miracle. Toni asks Aikku if she is okay, and tells her that she heard her scream. 'It was like he tore out part of me' Aikku explains, adding that the Enigma suit feels dead – like Pod died. Toni tells Aikku that she is sorry, and adds that they will need to strip it for parts.
Back in the other part of Auxiliary HQ, the Hulk slams a fist into the Vision, but the Vision is not moved by the force of the Hulk. 'I don't know if Bruce Banner's psyche still resides... within you. But I will do what is required to contain your destructive nature' the Vision announces as he slams his own fist back into the Hulk, knocking the behemoth backwards into a pool of water. The Vision boasts that the Hulk's mindless rage cannot comprehend the way he shifts his density at will – or the energy that is unleashed by his thermoscopic eye beam, as he fires the beam towards the Hulk, who lumbers forward and suddenly smacks the Vision aside.
Back in the vault, Voyager watches the battle on small portals that she has created. She recalls how her father took her to the planet Xerces, a world that had fallen so close to its sun that it was in a perpetual state of violent groundquake, but the Hulk's attack feels worse. Voyager decides that her father never took her to any planet where the indigenous creatures fought so hard against certain death. She knows that terrans are legendary for their courage. 'But to experience it firsthand...' she thinks to herself.
In the hangar bay, Lightning tries to wake Cannonball as some fiery energy rages nearby. 'We need to do something! The heat pouring out of there – I can barely breathe, and it's only getting hotter!' Miguel exclaims. Sam coughs as he comes to, and they look into the room where the intense energy pours from, they see the Vision has fires his heat beams. Fire rages around the Hulk, who lumbers towards the Vision. Cannonball tells Lightning that he thinks the Vision is switching tactics. Sam adds that he has seen the Vision play his ghost card before, and they watch as the Vision slides his fingers into the Hulk's head to scramble his brain. 'Watch...he'll turn solid and...' Cannonball begins – but the Vision's plan doesn't work, as the Hulk suddenly slams a fist into the Vision's head, shattering part of his android skull, and causing the Vision to scream!
Voyager, Cannonball and Lightning are all in shock at what they have just witnessed. The Vision falls to the floor, water pooling around him as he mumbles the binary code over and over.
At that moment, aboard the Quinjet, '- you always' Brother Voodoo utters, completing the sentence he was saying when Wanda's hex cast him into stasis. Wanda looks surprised, 'Oh, no! You should still be in stasis! What just happened?' she wonders.
'Hnn. “Mindless”' the Hulk quotes the Vision as he lumbers out of the room. Lightning readies a charge of electricity and utters that this is a nightmare, as Hulk is heading for the vault. 'We can't let him get to Voyager and the pyramoid!' Lightning exclaims. Cannonball tells Lightning that if he has an idea about stopping him, he is all ears. 'Ah just hope Voyager can – aw, hell' Cannonball mutters as he and Lightning turn and see Proxima Midnight and Black Swan have found them. 'It seems the battle is already finished. The Challenger's monstrosity has cleared the way...save for a pair of fools' Black Swan declares.
Lightning switches to full electrical form and tells Cannonball that it looks like Black Swan has got them pegged. 'Yup. Fools 'til the end' Cannonball agrees. 'I've slain thousands across the galaxy!' Proxima Midnight boasts as she leaps towards Cannonball, who replies 'Big deal, lady! Ah ate seventeen hot dogs at the Kentucky State Fair!' Black Swan fires energy beams from her eyes, but they pass through Lightning's electrical form as she declares that they will not be stopped. 'Yeah, that's what the rest of your crew said before we kicked their asses!' Lightning responds. Proxima knocks Cannonball aside and tells the Avengers to joke as they wish, but death will still come for them. Cannonball lands on the floor, while Black Swan asks Lightning how he can defeat her when his electricity can't even penetrate her force field.
'Well, to start – I guess we'd need weapons grown by Earth itself as a plantery defense!' Toni calls out as she and Aikku start blasting Black Swan's force field with the remains of the Enigma armor. 'Her name was Pod. She was my friend. This is for her!' Aikku exclaims as Black Swan's force field falls, and Lightning knocks her out with a blast of electrical energy, 'You're both angels, you know that?' Miguel tells Toni and Aikku. Proxima turns to Toni and Aikku. Toni tells Aikku to fire until Proxima drops. But Proxima stands her ground and remarks that their efforts are impressive, but that it changes nothing – the Hulk will take the final pyramoid, as the Hulk continues to bash against the vault door. 'Victory is innocent!' Proxima exclaims. And inside the vault, Voyager looks worried.
'She's right, damn it -' Toni begins as she continues to fire the Enigma armor at Proxima. 'We cannot fight the Black Order and the Hulk! You must think of something!' Aikku tells Toni. 'Yeah? Like – what?' Toni replies as a blast of ionic energy ripples past them, and past the Vision, before slamming into the Hulk. The Hulk is forced to stop pounding the door as he turns, 'Bruce. Long time no see. Listen, have you got a moment?' Wonder Man asks, as he hovers over the Hulk, and tells him that he would really like to talk.
Falcon, Vision (both Avengers)
Doctor Voodoo, Scarlet Witch, Synapse II, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers Unity Division)
Cannonball, Citizen V VII, Enigma, Iron Patriot II, Red Hulk II, Squirrel Girl (all US Avengers)
Black Swan II, Proxima Midnight (both Black Order)
Unlike previous issues, this issue does not have a narrator throughout the story.