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Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (penciler), Al Vey (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Wes Abbott (letterers), Tom Smith (colorist), Tom Breevort (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)
The Black Panther arrives at the Wakanda Design Group Plant in Long Island, which is under attack by a robotic enemy. Firestar and Justice move into Avengers Mansion, where Captain America, Iron Man and Thor are holding a press conference to deal with recent issues that the media have been focusing on. The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man are not present because the Scarlet Witch is dancing at Cafe Transia, much to the delight of the patrons, and Wonder Man. The Vision is not at the press conference either because in his human form of Victor Shade he visits Cafe Transia as well and watch his ex-wife dance. When Wanda thinks she sees him there, she asks the cafe owner about him, and he informs her that he has been coming here for years. Wonder Man and Wanda also discuss the disappearance of Wonder Man's brother, the Grim Reaper. The Avengers are accused of discriminating against the Triune Understanding, and are the media all but calls them racists when querying how few African-American members they have had. Another reporter queries the inclusion of Justice, a convicted murderer, on the team. Thor starts to get angry, when suddenly the Wasp, in a state of urgency, bursts through a window, calling for help. She reveals that Hank Pym has been kidnapped, and Cap calls the press conference off. The Wasp tells her teammates that she went to Hank's lab at Nugent Technologies, only to find it devastated, and Alice Nugent explains that robots with jack-o'-lantern faces took Hank. The Vision arrives at the meeting, when Jarvis informs the Avengers that there is a situation at the Wakanda Design Group Plant, where metallurgical sensors have revealed an intruder composed of adamantium. The Avengers assemble and depart in a Quinjet, where the Wasp, Vision and Iron Man give a brief overview of Ultron's history. Arriving at the facility, they find Black Panther the prisoner of Alkhema, Ultron's second bride. Alkhema battles the Avengers and informs them that Ultron is back and looking forward to tormenting the Avengers. The Avengers believe Alkhema is working with Ultron, but she reminds them that she does not like Ultron very much and assures them she is not with him. Each of the Avengers attempts to take Alkhema out, with no success, until the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man arrive and join the battle. The Scarlet Witch is able to defeat Alkhema by having her chaos magic enter Alkhema's body. Alkhema informs the Avengers that if they want to know where Ultron is, they need only turn on CNN. Back at Avengers Mansion, the heroes do so, and witness Ultron's forces destroying the nation of Slorenia, and Ultron stands amidst the devastation.
The Wakanda Design Group Plant, near Centerbeach, Long Island. The large factory is a relatively new facility, built after Stark Enterprises became Stark-Fujikawa, and gave up the license to manufacture Quinjets. The plant exists for one reason and one reason only – to supply the distinctive aircraft used by the world-famous Avengers. In recent weeks, three such aircraft have been destroyed, and the plant has been working 'round the clock to replace them. But today, the whine of the hydraulic machinery and the crump of rivets is stilled and replaced instead with the tortured shriek of rending metal, and the screams of dying men. Amid the carnage and slaughter a figure moves, silently, swiftly, purposefully, and though he betrays no sign of emotion and the horrific sights going on below, inwardly, his soul seethes. His name is T'Challa, the son of T'Chaka, hereditary chieftan of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda. He is a longtime Avenger, designer of the original Quinjet and in his role as the Black Panther, the anointed protector of the men dying around him.
T'Challa should have been home, in Wakanda. He had come to New York for a brief conference with some of the embassy staff and should have been on his way back within hours. But that was before the alarm came in, the silent, tertiary alarm that transmitted to the Wakanda Embassy alone. And now, the turmoil in his homeland must wait once more, wait while he avenges those who have traveled across an ocean to die in a foreign land. He sneaks around a corner, where machines are blowing apart areas of the factory. He drops down from a platform above, to the lower level, wishing he had time to reconnoiter, to be sore of what he faces before he attacks – but he cannot afford that luxury, not while there are lives that still might be saved by swift action. He has kept to his shadows, for all his speed, he has made no sound, no untoward motion to call attention to himself, and thus should be able to take the invader by surprise.
But a blast knocks the Black Panther aside, 'Eh- ?' he shouts, the expostulation bursts from his lips, unintended. The Black Panther is not a man given to unnecessary speech. But rare though it is, he can be surprised. And as he recovers gracefully near one of the newly constructed Quinjets, wondering what sort of creature could have seen him, could have known he was attacking, it happens again. 'YOU!' the Black Panther gasps in shock. A robotic voice from an obscured figure with green energy glowing from its eye sockets responds 'Yes. Me. I'm back'.
At that moment, thirty miles to the west, at the luxurious Fifth Avenue Mansion of the mighty Avengers, a Haul-It van is parked out front, as Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar carries a box labeled “Angel's CDs' / Tapes” towards the entrance, she asks Edwin Jarvis to hold the door. 'Of course, Miss Firestar. Would you like any assistance with your belongings?' Jarvis replies. Angelica assures Jarvis that they can handle it all. 'Isn't that right, Vance?' she calls out to Vance Astrovik a.k.a. Justice, who hobbles along behind her on crutches, one of his legs in a cast, while using his telekinesis to psionically carry several other boxes. 'Sure, no problem. But I've got to say – all those years I dreamed of moving into Avengers Mansion someday – I never imagined doing it in a full leg cast!' Justice remarks. Firestar asks her fiancé if he is okay, and suggests that maybe he should be taking it easier with his leg, adding that he might not be fully over his concussion. But Justice scowls and declares that he is fine. He admits that he might have been dumb enough to go into battle against orders, get himself beaten up by the Doomsday Man, on top of getting cracked in the head with the Black Knight's sword, and maybe he can't go on missions until he is off the injured list, but he can still handle boxes of books!
Firestar tells Vance not to snap at her, 'You know I love you' she adds as she kisses Vance on his cheek. 'And the Avengers really do have your best interests at heart, Sir' Jarvis assures Justice. As they move into a corridor, Vance replies that he knows, and that he doesn't have to be talked off any ledges. 'It's just, well, I thought I was turning a corner, and now -' Vance's voice trails off. He has been trying to deal with a case of stage fright – of near-paralyzing awe at finally working with his boyhood idols – with legendary heroes like Captain America. Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America steps out from a doorway and greets the newest Avengers, admitting that he forgot they were moving in today. 'I'd offer to help, but -' Cap begins, to which Justice tells him that it doesn't matter, and asks him what is up. Cap points into the room and tells the young heroes that it is a press conference that was scheduled a week ago, and he hadn't realized there would be a conflict. He suggests they come down and join in when they have a chance.
Cap moves back into the other room where Tony “Iron Man” Stark and Thor are stnding before a group of reporters and camera crews. Cap thinks that it will be good for Vance to get some of the spotlight, maybe settle him down a little. Cap is glad Iron Man suggested this, as things have been getting a bit tense with the media reccently, and he is looking forward to getting everything back to normal. 'So, ladies and gentlemen – where were we?' Cap asks. One of the reporters tells Cap that he means no offense, and surres him that he, Iron Man and Thor make for good copy, but that he had hoped to talk to Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch as well. Cap addresses the reporter as Mr Amberson, and explains that they are at lunch, but will be back soon. 'And the Vision...?' the reporter asks. 'The Vision? That's funny – I could have sworn he was at the Mansion today...' Cap replies, while Iron Man looks away from him.
Meanwhile, at Cafe Transia:'Welcome, people! Welcome, welcome!' someone calls out to the patrons, announcing that they have a special addition to the entertainment today. He adds that at long last, they have convinced the world's most famous Transian to dance one dance with the cafe's regulars, doing one of the traditional dances of her childhood.
The music starts then, soft at first, but building, and the lights come up, as the cafe owner introduces Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch! Wanda dances gracefully amongst the other dancers, to the applause of the patrons. She is nervous at first, wishing she could battle Chthon himself, rather than dance before strangers, but the music takes her back – to the gypsy encampments of her youth, to happy times, and the rhythm fills her mind, the tambourines, the clapping, and soon she is unaware that there is an audience at all. She is simply dancing, letting the joy within her bubble up, letting it loose, and she turns, twirls and leaps, unconscious of anything but the music and the movement, unheeding that every eye in the restaurant is on her.
Then, without planning it, Wanda's eyes snap open, she meets their gaze, and in that moment, they are hers, drawn into her joy, into her heart, and the music swells, her dance grows wilder, more passionate until there is a fury to it, a wild abandon that builds with the music, builds and builds, until the audience finds itself, holding its breath, and then between one moment and the next – the music cuts off, short and sharp, it is over – and the crows erupts in applause. The cheers wash over her like a wave, and though it is in her nature to be reserved, private, she finds herself exhilarated, drained, and happier than she can remember being in a long, long time.
'Woo-hooo! Go, Wanda! Encore, encore!' Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man calls out to the woman he loves. The cafe owner kisses Wanda's hand as she stands with the other dancers, and tells her that he has never seen such beauty, not since he left the Transian Alps so many years ago. He tells her that she is welcome to dance here any day – every day! Wanda thanks Stavros and tells him that he is very kind and generous, but that she doesn't think he wants to risk the cafe being attacked by the Toad or Necrodamus, before excusing herself so that she can get back to her date, while at the bar, a figure obscured in the shadows, watches her.
The crowd continues to clap as Wanda goes over to Wonder Man, and they kiss as he tells her she was wonderful. 'It was good, wasn't it?' Wanda replies. She starts to fan herself to help cool down, and informs Simon that she thought she would freeze up, that she would stumble over her own feet and embarrass herself, but she didn't and she thinks she knows why. 'It's you Simon – your outgoing nature, encouraging me to be more open, less introverted'. Simon tells her that is great, and he is glad for her. 'But something's bothering you, Simon. Is it your brother?' Wanda asks.
They hold hands, and Simon tells Wanda that he broke out of the sanitarium, he had a plan already arranged to spring him there. 'I thought he really had a chance this time, a clean break from his past as the Grim Reaper, a way to start again. But now -' Simon's voice trails off, to which Wanda points out that Simon doesn't know Eric escaped, as the hospital staff told them they were attacked by robots and he was taken. 'Maybe he was kidnapped' Wanda suggests. 'That's really not much of a -' Simon begins, to which Wanda tells him that she knows, and assures Simon that he can't blame himself for this, that he gave Eric every chance, tried to help him turn around.
'And the Avengers will find him, you know we won't stop looking till -' Wanda begins, when suddenly, a motion catches her eye – a customer by the bar, leaving. He had been watching her intently during the dance. Then he sees her, catches her eye, and with a guilty look, he ducks behind a tray of alcohol, and then vanishes. 'The Vision!' Wanda exclaims, standing up after seeing the man with brown hair, greying at the temples.
Stavros goes over to Wanda and asks her if there is some trouble. Wanda points to the back of the bar, 'That customer -' she asks Stavros, 'When did he come in?' 'Mr Shade?' Stavros asks. 'He – I think he came in well before you did. He's a regular customer – he just recently started coming in again after being gone for months, but before that he was one out steadiest customer. Why?' Stavros explains. “Victor Shade” Wanda remarks, knowing that is her ex-husband's holographic disguise. She is surprised that he has been a regular here. Simon asks Wanda if something is wrong, and Wanda tells him that she doesn't know.
Back at Avengers Mansion, regular Avengers reporter Megan McLaren tells Captain America that both he and Iron Man have publicly disparaged the Triune Understanding after they were attacked by that Pagan creature, and after the Avengers failed to stop him. 'Why blame the victim?' she asks. Captain America tells Megan McLaren that the Avengers blame no one, and explains that they tracked Lord Templar to the Triune temple, and they refused to let the Avengers investigate. 'That's their right, of course – but I'd like to know why' Cap adds. Another reporter declares 'I'm sure religious intolerance had nothing to do with it – you'd have acted the same if it was the Chase Manhattan Bank, hm?' she asks. 'Religious intolerance? Lady, that's crazy. Cap just told you -' Iron Man begins, to which another points out that the Avengers have a history of preferential treatment. 'How many African American members have you had over the years? How many do you have right now, for that matter?' he asks. 'What hath the color of a man's skin to do with the content of his heart?' Thor enquires. Mr Amberson tells Thor that it is not about the heart, but about trust. 'Why should we trust you? Wiyt this so-called “Justice” - a convicted murderer on the team – not to mention other mutants and that debacle with the Sandman -' he begins, but Thor interrupts him, telling him to have a care. 'The God of Thunder is not spoken to in such a -' Thor starts to say, when suddenly, the window above the Avengers shatters into hundreds of pieces, as Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp bursts through, screaming for the Avengers to help her.
'Wasp?' Cap calls out as Jan crashes to the ground. The reporters gather around her, 'Thank Heaven I made it – I flew all the way from New Jersey -' Jan reveals. Iron Man stands over her and asks her what is going on. She looks at him and reveals that Hank has been kidnapped. Cap points at the reporters and their camera crews and informs them that the press conference is over. He adds that they will try to reschedule another time for all of them, but they all need to leave now. 'What? What kind of cheap diversion -' Mr Amberson protests. 'Those wings on your head don't give you the right to duck our questions, Avenger! And if something's going on, the public has a right to -' he adds, but Thor leans down to him, 'Methinks thou didst not hear the Captain clearly, sirrah. He did ask thee – to leave' Thor reminds him.
At that moment, Firestar and Justice enter the room as the reporters and the camera crews are being ushered out. '- regret this, you -' Mr Amberson shouts. '- can't push around the press -' another declares. '- public will hear -' Megan McLaren remarks. Firestar tells Justice that she is just harzarding a guess, that that is not how most Avengers press conferences wrap up. 'I...wouldn't think so. I hope this isn't how things'll be from now on' Justice adds, before suggesting to Firestar that they get inside. Cap, Thor and Iron Man stand around Jan, as Cap asks her to fill them in, adding that she must know that if Hank has been taken, they will move Heaven and Earth to get him back. Jan rubs her head and tells Steve that she knows, and that she just keeps hoping it is not what it appears to be – that there is some other explanation. Jan reveals that she drove up to Old Tappan this morning, as she and Hank had a lunch date, but when she got to his lab at Nugent Technologies, it was devastated, but she was met by Alice Nugent, the owner, who told her:
Flashback:'Robots, Ms van Dyne. They were unstoppable – and implacable. They burst in, trashed the lab, grabbed Hank and flew off. They were hideous – with faces like some awful jack-o-lantern' Alice reveals. 'Like a jack-o-lantern? Oh, no. No, no, no...' Jan replies. 'What is it?' Alice asks amongst the rubble.
Present:Jan tells the others that she tried to contact them on her Communicard, but something about the attack, some sort of electro-magnetic residue, had shorted it out, so she flew here as quickly as she could, and although the automatic defenses recognized her, she was too frantic to reach the door, which is why she just blasted her way through the glass. Firestar and Justice rush into the room at that moment, followed by the Vision, who materializes through a bookcase, and reports that he overheard their conversation via the Mansion's computers as he returned from... outside. He tells Janet not to worry and assures her they will find Hank. Jan thanks the Vision. Suddenly, Jarivs re-appears and tells the men, Madame Wasp and Miss Firestar that he hates to intrude, but that he has more news. He informs the Avengers that there seems to be a situation at the Wakanda Design Group Plant, where the Black Panther is in combat with an intruder, but alarms have been disabled, as have visual sensors. Jarvis states that metallurgical sensors reveal the intruder to be robotic, humanoid – and composed of adamantium. 'Ada-mantium?' the Wasp gasps. Cap springs into action, declaring that he wants all active Avengers in the Quinjet Bay, and invites the Wasp along, too, announcing that they are headed for Long island. Cap instructs Justice to man the comm-board, and to alert Wanda and Wonder Man, to tell them where they are going and where to meet the team.
Moments later, the Avengers are streaking eastward in a cold, uncomfortable silence and it is not until long minutes have passed that the Wasp gives voice to what everyone is thinking. 'Ultron' she utters. Firestar, sitting next to the Wasp, points out that she doesn't know that yet, and that there is not enough evidence. 'I know it. You've read the files, Firestar, but you – you haven't lived it' the Wasp replies. She remarks that it was just an experiment – an attempt by Hank to create an artificial intelligence -' Jan begins, until the Vision, interrupts her, offering to continue the narrative for Angelica's benefit, pointing out that the Wasp is distraught, as can only be expected.
Flashback images, narrated by the Vision in the present:The Vision explains that the primitive Ultron-1 turned on its creator, attacking and defeating him, whereupon it fled, but not before bathingin him in a hypnotic ray, commanding him to forget he'd ever begun such an experiment. This bought Ultron time, time to rebuild and improve himself, and though he first battled the team as Ultron-5, it was as Ultron-6 that he gained his greatest advantage, rebuilding himself out of indestructible adamantium.
Present:The Vision concludes, but announcing that in many incarnations since, he has become one of the deadliest and most persistent enemies the Avengers have ever faced. Iron Man tells the Vision that he is leaving out a thing or two, and points out that it is not just his power that has made him such a threat to the Avengers, but what he has done over the years – creating both allies in adversaries in that time, not just in the Vision, but in Ultron's “bride” Jocasta as well, and after she turned against him, too, he tried again with the twisted Alkhema, and he has equipped and funded the Grim Reaper. The Wasp shakes her fist and declares that in the end, it always comes back to Hank – half the time Ultron is trying to kill him, out of some freakish obsession with his “father”, when he isn't trying to use Hank, to dupe him or enlist him somehow in his perverse schemes. 'Heads up, Avengers – we're here!' Cap reports as the Quinjet descends at a docking bay near the plant. He adds that he sees no need to advertise their presence, so he is bringing them down into the underground approach bay so they can continue from there into the plant.
The six Avengers exit the Quinjet and race along the corridor, 'I am attempting to interface with the plant computers, but they are badly damaged. I cannot tell where the -' the Vision begins, but the Wasp, who is in the lead, tells the Vision that it doesn't matter, that they will just do what they always do and follow the sounds of breaking metal. 'Now come on – we may not have much time!' the Wasp calls out. Firestar remarks to the Vision that she knows the Wasp was one of the Avengers' best leaders in the past, but she has never seen her this driven. 'Can you blame her, Firestar?' the Vision asks. He states that Ultron consistently seeks to destroy all biological life on Earth, so that alone would be enough reason to oppose him vigorously, but given his complex history with the team, as well as his fixation on Henry Pym, it is an underestimation to say that for the Wasp, and indeed all of them, that this is personal. The Wasp flits into another room, but Iron Man tells her to take it easy, that they need to proceed carefully and stay together. 'We can't be sure what we're going to -' he begins, but the Wasp interrupts him, 'Of course we know what we're going to find, Iron Man. We're going to find that sick metal mockery called – huh?' the Wasp stops herself, and her jaw drops as she sees the robotic form before her. 'ALKHEMA!?' the Wasp gasps.
'Actually, Wasp, it's Alkhema-2 now' the female robot announces as she stands amongst the destroyed plant, holding the Black Panther by his throat. Alkhema asks the Avengers to come on, and tells them that she is glad they could make it so quickly, as she was getting bored with no one but the Panther to play with. Angrily, Cap orders Alkhema to put the Panther down and tell them where Hank Pym is. 'Or well make you wish you had!' Cap threatens her. 'Oooh, Cap! Such fire, such steel! I've positively got chills!' she jokes. 'So, you've mislaid an Avenger, eh? I call that carelessness! But here – let me give you a replacement!' Alkema jokes as she throws the Black Panther into the Avengers, knocking them all backwards. She tells the Avengers that she expected better. 'Where's your skill, your drive, your gumpton?' she asks them, before enquiring as to the whereabouts of Hawkeye. 'He was always so much fun to damage!' Alkhema jokes.
The Wasp, in her smaller form, flies towards Alkhema and starts blasting at her face, while recalling that Alkhema's mind was based on the brain-patterns of Mockingbird, Hawkeye's late wife, just like Jocasta's were based on her own. Jan tells herself that she can't let that rattle her and think of Alkhema as Mockingbird. 'You never cared about Hank, witch – so you must be in league with Ultron again! Tell us where he is, or -!' the Wasp demands, but Alkhema interrupts her. 'Me? In League with Ultron? Don't be ridiculous, dear heart! Ultron and I – we never did see eye-to-eye, remember? But I'll tell you this: Ultron is back – and I know he's looking forward to tormenting you Avengers!' Alkhema reveals as she knocks the Wasp back with a blast of energy from her eyes. Iron Man fires a blast from behind, striking Alkhema in the back, he asks her what her part in this is. 'You don't listen very well, Iron Man, do you?' Alkhema replies, announcing that she doesn't like Ultron, that she wouldn't help him change a light bulb. She informs the Avengers that she came here to spoil his fun, by killing them all off before Ultron could get around to it! Alkhema knocks Iron Man backwards with a return blast of energy.
Of the Avengers here, only Iron Man and the Wasp have faced Alkhema before, but the others know her by reputation, and know that she is viscious, sadistic and brutal, and that her only fundamental disagreement with Ultron is that he wants to kill all of humanity at once, while she wants to enjoy herself, doing it one at a time. Unfortunately, she too is made of adamantium, which makes her every bit as impervious to their attacks as her creator would be. But still, they do their best, after all, they have no choice. Thor's hammer slams into Alkhema, knocking her to one side, as Captain America comes in for an attacking, using his shield which he turns into an energy rod, striking at Alkhema's neck. 'Oh, look – the energy-shield morphs into an offensive weapon! You must be so proud, Captain! Now, let's see how fast you can revert it to a shield again – before my concussion-blast splatters you all over the walls!' Cap brings the shield up just in time, as Alkhema's energy strikes him. Thor's hammer comes round for another blow at Alkhema, while the Vision hovers overhead and notes that the battle goes poorly. He decides that he cannot hope to damage Alkhema's outer shell, but supposes that he might be able to shift to maximum density directly above her, and the impact might cracks something within.
The Vision slams down on Alkhema in his fullest density, slamming the villainess to the ground. 'Well struck, friend Vision! Surely thou hast disabled her!' Thor calls out. But the Vision replies that he has not, but in this state, he weighs over ninety tons, his fists hit with immense impact. 'Join me in battering her – and perhaps together we can triumphs!' the Vision tells his teammate, who raises his hammer, while Alkhema calls out 'Did you say.. ninety tons?' The Vision is taken by surprise: 'Eh? What are you d- ?' he begins, as Alkhema grabs his ankle, 'Well, it's not much – but it'll have to do!' she tells him as her servomotors complain audibly, but her joins hold, and her adamantium musculature contracts – and in one smooth motions, she slams the Vision into Thor, knocking them both into a nearby wall.
From above, Firestar hovers over the battle, and sees what Alkhema did to her teammates. 'She tossed them aside as easily as – as -' Angelica thinks to herself, before Alkhema declares that she is bored again and asks 'Who's next?' Firestar suddenly releases a surge of microwave energy, 'I am, you psychotic thing!' she shouts. 'I AM!' To which Alkhema looks up, 'How nice. The new girl, right?' she comments. Grittng her teeth, Firestar admits that she might not be able to beat Alkhema, but boasts that she is going to try. She explains that her powers are microwave based, and that means they will pass right through Alkhema's armor, heat her up from the inside out. 'All I have to do is keep it up – and eventually I'll melt a wire, or the right circuit – and you'll fall!' Firestar declares. Alkhema grins as she is doused in the energy, 'Oh, really? Would you care to bet your life on that, new girl?' she enquires.
'Firestar – no!' Iron Man shouts. 'Pull back! You can't -' Captain America calls out, but Firestar continues to pour on the energy. She knows that someone has to stop Alkhema, so she boosts her power output, raising it higher and higher, and she sees Alkhema's eyes spark, but one more second, five seconds more – might be all it takes. She pours it on, and she braces herself for what is coming, and she wishes Vance was her. Angelica goes wide-eyed, but before Alkhema's energy can strike her, the Black Panther leaps upwards and pulls her to safety. 'You – you – I was going to -' Firestar utters. The Black Panther tells her that she is a very brave young woman, but that they need live Avengers, not sacrifice plays. 'Next?' Alkhema calls out. Cap and Iron Man move forward, and Cap tells Iron Man to try and get around her right rear quarter. 'If we can flank her – hit her from two sides at once -' he begins, until a voice calls out 'No, Cap – stand back! I'll handle this!' Cap and the Wasp look up, and they see the Scarlet Witch standing on a platform overhead, with Wonder Man hovering behind her.
'I'm sure you remember me, Alkhema – and you remember what I can do! The only thing that keeps your adamantium innards from freezing up is your internal molecular rearranger! Surrender now – or I use my hex power to disrupt it – and twist you inside out!' Wanda threatens Alkhema, who finds pink glowing energy flowing around her. 'Nice try, Scarlet Witch – but you're bluffing! If this pretty pink fluff really could affect me – you'd have already done it!' Alkhema responds. At that moment, Thor and the Vision return to the battle, 'By my father's beard! Thou hast insulted a son of Asgard, creature – and I shall teach thee the error of thy -' Thor begins, but Cap tells he and the Vision to let Wanda play this out. Alkhema reminds the Scarlet Witch that on the last time they met, she and Ultron shielded their rearrangers with a field that her hexes couldn't penetrate, and announces that since then, she has improved it. 'You had your chance, Alkhema. You see – I've improved, too!' Wanda replies. She bears down, letting her senses flow through the chaos-energy that she wields – feeling her way around the surface of the force-field within Alkhema. 'What – what are you -?' Alkhema utters, as Wanda feels around the field some more, then slowly, gently, through it.
Alkhema screams, and the Avengers look on in awe. 'Oh!' Firestar gasps. 'By my troth!' Thor utters. 'Good Lord!' Iron Man exclaims. 'Holy -' Wonder Man declares, before flying Wanda down to the ground, where Alkhema has toppled over. 'She won't be any more trouble. Will you, Alkhema?' Wanda asks. 'No more – no more' Alkhema responds. Wasp hovers over Alkhema and asks her to tell them where Hank is. 'Maybe you're not working with Ultron, but you said you knew he was after us' the Wasp points out, asking what Ultron is up to and where he is. 'Have you tried the Yellow Pages?' comes Alkhema's response. 'Wrong answer, Alkhema' Wanda declares. She twitches a finger, and Alkhema screams as more chaos energy intertwines within her. 'All right! All right! If you really want to know where Ultron is – turn on CNN – right about now' she reveals.
A reporter appears on the television, scenes of destruction playing out behind him as he reveals that, in breaking news, the tiny Baltic nation of Slorenia came under devestating attack today by unknown forces. The reporter announces that they are trasferring to their German bureau, where a different reporter's voice can be heard, stating that fire rained down from the sky over the Slorenian capital of Tblunka today, bringing death without warning, as seen in chilling video footage, approximately ninety minutes ago, beams of searing energy lanced from the clouds, killing hundreds and throwing a country into panic and ruthlessly, methodically, destroying entire villages. The reporter continues, revealing that an hour later, flying constructs responsible for the carnage descended low enough to be spotted in Slorenian skies, but even then, there were few alive to see them. The reporter states that they have a cameraman on scene, who has been broadcasting the horrific images. He asks the cameraman if he is there, and another voice can be heard. 'What you're looking at is the remains of Krasni Square in downtown Tblunka. The death toll has been – wait! Over by the old parliament – I see a figure! Everyone in that area is dead, or thought to be – so I'm going to see if I can get a little closer'.
The cameraman zooms in on the lone figure, 'Maybe there's some clue as to what caused this brutal, senseless massacre – what anyone could possibly hope to gain from – oh. Oh dear Lord, I think he's seen me...' the camera man utters, as the robotic form turns to him: 'Hm? What's this? A cameraman? How utterly...human'. The screen goes static, as a hand can be seen come up, followed by the first flare of energy.
At Avengers Mansion, the heroic Avengers stand gathered around a large television. Wonder Man, Wanda, Firestar and Justice, Iron Man, the Panther, Cap, Thor, Wasp and the Vision... none of the Avengers can bring themselves to say anything. Not for a long time....
Captain America, Firestar, Iron Man, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wonder Man (all Avengers)Wasp (reserve Avenger)Black Panther (inactive Avenger)Edwin Jarvis
Wakanda Design Group employeesMr Amberson and other reportersCamera crewsStavrosDancersPatrons and staff at Cafe TransiaReporter and cameraman
In FlashbackWaspDr Alice Nugent
In Flashback ImagesDr Hank PymGoliath II, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)
In Illustrative ImageAlkhema, Grim Reaper, Joasta, Vision
This story continues from Avengers (3rd series) #0.
The Grim Reaper went missing in Avengers (3rd series) #0.
The Avengers failed to defeat Pagan in Avengers (3rd series) #15.
Alkhema a.k.a. War Toy, debuted in Avengers West Coast #90, and is based on the brain patterns of Mockingbird. She subsequently appeared in Avengers West Coast #91 and Avengers West Coast Annual #8.
The fictional nation of Slorenia debuted in Force Works #4, and subsequently appeared in Force Works #5, 11-12.