Across the heavens I made my way
I've seen empires rise and blown away
I have arrived... my destiny
But after all, there's just emptiness in me
Out in the darkness - I've been going mad
Where are the others - there's silence in my head
'Cause I'm a watcher in the sky
I've seen universes die
Out in the cold my systems overload
I'm here and lost in time
Watcher in the sky
Iron Savior - "Watcher in the sky"
Nick Fury: Sue! Vision! You made it! Now, let's…
Vision: In a moment, General Fury. First, there is something I must do without delay. (she approaches the Falcon and kisses him). I love you, Samuel Wilson. I realized it in the void of space after I left. I thought that I felt nothing. But, in fact, it turns out, I felt everything. Sam, you wanted to make me more human, and I resisted. Saw it as foolish. I tricked myself, or perhaps my programming did it for me, into thinking I could be apart from the world I tried to save. But they lived on inside me. Otherwise, the futility of my mission would've destroyed me. I've felt things, Sam. I've felt things, Sam. For eons, I've felt fear and sadness, and I never understood them. Until I felt a different emotion. One I couldn't parse. Love. I love you, Sam Wilson.
Sam Wilson: Wow. I don't know what to say.
Vision: Very well. Take your time to figure out your emotions. In the meantime, please explain why you brought me here. It has to be a really important thing, to break the laws of time for it.
Nick Fury: You can bet it, lady. There are some events, called "incursions" that seem to have been destroying whole dimensions, and may destroy this one as well. We need to know what is this all about.
Vision: I understand. Give me some minutes, so I synchronize myself with the multiverse and download all the relevant historical data related to your query.
Two hours later
Nick Fury: Sam, is this normal? She has been frozen that way a long time.
Sam Wilson: I don't know. She once stayed that way while she absorbed all the knowledge generated by our planet, seeking if we had something that may stop the Gah Lak Tus swarm. But it only lasted for a brief time, like 20 seconds or so. I don't know why it is taking…
Vision: Watching the m0unta1ns… watching the se7… watching th6 cre8tu7res… you'l1 never… I am ready. I have downloaded all the required information about the incursions, both from other realities and from what has been happening here.
Nick Fury: Tell us what's going on, then. What are those incursions? What can we do to stop them? What are we up against?
Vision: It's… it's complicated.
Nick Fury: Start by the beginning, then.
Vision: First, there was nothing, followed by everything…
Sue: No, not that beginning. We know the Big Bang. Jump to the info relevant to the incursions.
Vision: Have in mind that I will talk about people from an alternate dimension, the one you had previously designated as "Earth-2". Many of them may exist in our world but having radically different backgrounds or motivations from the people we knew. Try not to confuse them or get offended by the divergences.
Storm: I'll try my best.
Vision: There are two alien races, the Kree and the Skrull, that have been enemies since millennia. Many years ago Earth was caught in the crossfire of their war, as both of them tried to get a hold on the planet. The Avengers, the Earth-2 Ultimates, managed to drive them away. Many of the leaders of the superhuman community met in a secret conclave to discuss this. They were T'Challa, the Black Panther; Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic; Tony Stark, Iron Man; Stephen Strange, Dr. Strange; Charles Xavier, Professor X; Blackagar Boltagon, Black Bolt; and Namor. They figured out that they all knew some information about the aliens, but none of them the full picture of their threat. With the exception of the Black Panther, they agreed to have secret meetings to share information and deal with potential threats before they arise.
Nick Fury: Let's make a pause there. I recognize some of those names, others I don't. I understand that none of them are the people we know, but then, who are them? Not their full biographies, just their basic significance and the divergences that we should be aware of to understand from now on.
Vision: A reasonable question. T'Challa is the king of Wakanda, a highly advanced African country; he's a great fighter and scientist. Reed Richards is an adult, he never became the Maker and he's still with the Fantastic Four. Tony Stark has no noteworthy divergences with our own one. Stephen Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-2. He's not similar to the novice you knew, but to his father, who worked in secrecy and never met any of you. Charles Xavier is the leader of the X-Men, and a leading figure in the mutant community. Mutants of Earth-2 are not the result of super soldier experiments, but an actual new step of human evolution. Black Bolt is the king of the Inhumans, a secret race of super powered beings. They are similar, but our Inhumans left the planet years ago when the Fantastic Four discovered them and they feared that their lifestyle was under threat. Namor is the King of Atlantis, the underwater kingdom of the Homo Mermanus, who are still alive.
Sue Storm: Homo Mermanus? You mean a hominidae of the genus Homo, adapted to live underwater? That's amazing!
Nick Fury: Perhaps, but let's not get distracted. We must save our worlds first; we can leave tourism for later.
Vision: This group had some membership changes along the way. Captain America, also with no noteworthy divergences, joined them, and Charles Xavier was killed by Scott Summers, who was possessed by the Phoenix force at the time.
Jean Grey: NO! NOOOOOOO!
Kitty Pryde: Easy, Jean…
Jean Grey: Yes, I know, they are alternate dimension duplicates, like that other me, but still… I mourn the deaths of Scott and the Professor every day, and to hear this… it is too much!
Vision: I understand that divergences may have this effect, but as I said Scott Summers was under the influence of an alien force. He did not kill Charles Xavier out of malice. As I was saying, Xavier left a secret will for Henry McCoy, the Beast, who replaced him among the Illuminati. T'Challa also ceased to be the king of Wakanda, and his sister Shuri was his successor.
Vision: So, the Incursions. Black Panther discovered by chance an incursion zone in Wakanda, where a Black Swan arrived from the other earth and destroyed it. He captured her and kept her prisoner, and summoned the Illuminati for aid. They used the Infinity Stones to drive away the next planet, but they were all shattered, except for the Time Stone, which was lost. Captain America insisted that they had to keep seeking ways to save both planets, but Dr. Strange mind wiped him and made him forget about them.
Hawkeye: So, those Infinity Stones can solve the whole problem. Sounds like the solution we need.
Vision: No. The Infinity Stones of this universe are also shattered, after the Maker tried to make use of them. And they only work in their home universe; the stones of another dimension would be useless for us.
Kitty Pryde: But we have already used time travel to bring you back. We can bring back the stones from the past as well. We can make a big "time heist"!
Vision: I strongly advise against doing so, or from using time travel at all, ever again. Wait until I finish, and my reasons will be clear.
Vision: Captain America continued serving in the Avengers with Iron Man, ignoring the mind wipe. The team was expanded, with both a core team for day-to-day operations and a larger one for times of crisis. They defended earth from an attack of Ex Nihilo and Abyss, alien creatures who sought to alter evolution to their own vision and recreate the biosphere from scratch. They released bombs from Mars that altered the local biosphere into new forms. Abyss and Ex Nihilo were created by an Aleph, a herald of an alien race, the Builders, who roam the universe judging planets for their potential for evolution. They ceased their attack when Captain Universe, an agent of Eternity, the living embodiment of the universe, ordered them to stop. They agreed to stay in Mars, and to let their manufactured human, Adam, be taken to earth, where he announced the coming of the White event…
Tony Stark: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there. Hold the door. Hit the brakes. Cut. An agent of the living embodiment of the universe? Are you saying that their universe is... alive?
Vision: Yes, and ours too. You have never seen the abstracts, explaining them would be too long and deviate us from the problem at hand. But, in short, do not expect a divine intervention. Eternity works in mysterious ways, and has often rejected aid requests, even in times when the universe at large was in peril.
Vision: So, without the Infinity stones, the Illuminati sought other solutions to the incursions. Most of them involved the destruction of the other world. They reverse-engineered the bomb used by the Black Swan, in case of need. They moved to the next world, and found that the dreaded Galaktus had intervened. He destroyed that world before the incursion completed its cycle, saving that universe. But, in the process, they captured his herald, Terrax the Truly Enlightened, and kept him prisoner as well. The Black Swan told them about the other Black Swans, a whole order of women like her, and the Library of the Ivory Kings. She proposed a simple way to end the incursions: evacuate earth and destroy the planet. Of course, that's not an option here; your technology is barely capable of taking small numbers of astronauts to the Moon for a limited time. The next incursion took place in Latveria, the kingdom of Dr. Doom. This one was an attack from the mapmakers, aliens who go from earth to earth, destroying all life in those they left behind. However, that allowed Black Panther to blow up that world without feeling guilt.
Doctor Doom: Great. If my doppelganger from that dimension got involved, they surely found a swift solution.
Vision: We'll see. However, something else happened by that time as well, unrelated to the events I'm narrating, but important for our reality. Many years in the past, Henry Pym built Ultron, the first AI of his world, which soon evolved into a homicidal creature bent on destroying all life. In an alternate future he achieved this, so Wolverine used a time machine to kill Pym in the past before he could create Ultron, and then returned. He found that the world fell into a magic vs. technology war, leading to another extinction event. He jumped to the past again, to stop himself from killing Pym. Instead, they created a code that would destroy Ultron, made Pym forget it, and remember it in the present. The first two timelines were replaced by the current one, where Ultron was destroyed before he could carry out his plan. However, this abuse of time travel disrupted time itself and caused several anomalies in their universe… such as displacing their Galactus to our universe.
Sam: What? That's why Galactus attacked us?
Jean Grey: So, all those deaths… it was all because of Wolverine!
Jimmy Hudson: Actually, it was all because of that Pym…
Kitty Pryde: And that's why you opposed using time travel before?
Vision: Exactly. I suspected it before coming here, but now I know: time travel is dangerous, and it can have terrible consequences. And my arrival here is not the first case of time travel in this universe: there were the ones by the Tomorrow Men, Cable and Bishop, the Fantastic Four and Kang. But let's go back to the White Event. The Superflow was destroyed, the universe was broken, and so the White Event did not take place as it should. The Starbrand was selected at random, could not manage his newfound power, and the explosion killed 3,203 people caught in the blast. Adam, who had become a Nightmask, took the Starbrand to Mars. They found out that Ex Nihilo's secret goal was to make Earth sentient, but Starbrand killed its brain by accident, and agreed to be taken out of the planet.
Hawkeye: White event? Superflow? Starbrand? Nightmask? I'm getting a bit lost here...
Tony Stark: Please, tell me that our own Earth is not alive as well.
Vision: No, it isn't. The Builders and Ex-Nihilo do not exist in this universe. One of Ex-Nihilo's bombs attacked Canada, and the area was contained. As the local creatures became more dangerous, Liaison Porter asked the Avengers for help to get inside, and insisted in going with them. They found his daughter, Validator; he committed suicide when he left and the Avengers did not remember most of their time inside. The Savage Land gave birth to children that did not need to eat, drink or breathe, and the Avengers tried to raise them with human values. The High Evolutionary tried to experiment with them, but the Avengers stopped him. Incursions briefly ceased to take place, and hostilities between Wakanda and Atlantis rose, as Namor had flowed Wakanda some months before. Reed Richards mass produced the world-destroyer bombs, in case of need.
Sue Storm: So much for the popular theory of their Reed being much better than ours. It had to be said, and it was said.
Vision: Whatever. The conflicts in the bombed areas worsened, so the Avengers added Ex-Nihilo, Abyss, Starbrand and Nightmask to their ranks. The Builders became a threat for most galactic empires, and razed the Skrull world of Hy'Lt minor, so the Avengers took the fight to them. At the same time, the galactic conqueror Thanos discovered that one of his sons was on Earth, at the Inhuman city of Attilan, so he crossed the universe with his Black Order to execute him. The Black Order are Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight and Supergiant.
Sue Storm: Kill his own son? I see that he's not any better than our own Thanos.
Ben Grimm: Please, don't call him that.
Bombshell: Black Order? Forget the "All-New Ultimates" name guys; "Black Order" sounds cool as hell! Let's use it! And I will rename myself as "Proxima Midnight"!
Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Kitty Pryde, Cloak, Dagger: (face palm)
Vision: The Avengers joined a Council of space empires that united against the Builders: the Shi'Ar, Spartax, the Kree, Annihilus, the Skrulls and the Brood. They attacked a small Builder ship, but it was a trap that concealed a larger fleet and caught them unawares, decimating two thirds of their forces in minutes and capturing some Avengers, including Abyss, Nightmask and Starbrand. J'Son, king of Spartax, tried to negotiate a truce, but by doing so the Builders located and attacked the council. Most empires surrendered, but the Avengers managed to seize two star-killers and turn them against the rest of the Builder fleet. Starbrand dispatched the rest, and the builders escaped. Pretending to surrender, Thor killed the Builder that stayed in Hala. Then, Captain Universe woke up and destroyed all the Builders.
Tony Stark: Just that easy? She simply snaps her fingers and a whole race of destructive aliens is decimated, ending the whole conflict? If I saw that in a film, I would ask for a refund.
Vision: In another universe, you did a similar thing yourself. And in yet another one, you are a fictional character, and do that in a film… the highest grossing film of all time.
Tony Stark: (Mind-blown)
Vision: But you are right, she killed most of the builders but not all of them, so the Council armada marched across several invaded worlds doing cleanup of the last builders and Alephs. Back on Earth, Wakanda attacked Atlantis first and razed it. Then, Thanos sent the Black Order to each one of the Illuminati, to retrieve the time gem. None of them had it, but Namor said that it was in Wakanda, so that the Black Order destroyed it for him. Corvus Glaive asked a tribute from the Inhumans, the death of all young Inhumans, but he only really wanted the death of Thane, who was actually hiding at an Inhuman village. Thanos arrives himself at Attilan, but the city had been evacuated and Black Bolt destroyed it with his voice. This destruction activated a bomb that caused worldwide terrigenesis, activating the powers of all latent Inhumans in the world, including Thane, who was captured by Ebony Maw. Thanos and the Black Order razed Wakanda, and found the anti-matter bombs. Meanwhile, the Illuminati faced another incursion, and found Builders who intended to stop them by destroying all earths in the multiverse. They returned in time to rescue Black Bolt and deactivate the bomb that Thanos intended to leave behind, while the Avengers returned from space with the Council armada. They dispatched the Black Order, and Thane himself trapped Thanos and Proxima Midnight inside a cube, ending the war.
Nick Fury: All this is really interesting, and I would like to hear more details about many things. But let's try to keep the focus on the incursions. That's the immediate danger for us.
Vision: Very well. The presence of Namor at the Necropolis became known in Wakanda, so Black Panther was casted out. Tony Stark's granddaughter arrived from the future and helped to phase another planet with earth, which provided a better world destroyer weapon than the bombs.
Tony Stark: Wow! So I… I mean, him… have a granddaughter? Finally some good news from this Earth 2.
Vision: They also built a machine to observe alternate realities, so they could observe incursions taking place elsewhere, hoping that some alternate universe could have come up with a solution for them. They only saw, time and again, that everything dies. Dr. Strange left to other planes, seeking the power to destroy worlds. He did not hesitate to sell his soul for it. But the Illuminati were not the only ones aware of the problem: the scientist conclave of Advanced Idea Mechanics also noticed the death of the multiverse. While probing the multiverse they accidentally teleported evil Avengers from a world that was in an incursion: Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp. They managed to retrieve them and send them to another world, but the local Hulk had killed his doppelganger and infiltrated them, and learned about the ongoing crisis. Stark confirmed it, and he joined the Illuminati. Nick Fury killed Uatu, an alien who had been watching the human race since centuries, and the villain Orb activated one of his stolen eyes, causing all sorts of secrets to become known. This included Dr. Strange's mind wipe, and Captain America remembered again the actions of the Illuminati.
Sue Storm: Uatu? Wasn't that one of the Watchers of the Universe?
Vision: Yes, he is. When Captain America faced Tony Stark the time gem reappeared and sent him to the end of time. He was received by the time traveler Kang the Conqueror, who was trapped in a time loop. They had previously been in that scenario and sent Captain America back, to find other solutions for the incursions. They tried recreating the Counter-Earth and altering the planetary orbit, but none of them worked. So Kang tried keeping Captain America trapped there. He escaped, and warned all the Avengers that the Illuminati were planning to destroy worlds.
Nick Fury: ...so he outed them, intending them to submit to oversight by their peers. I think I understand…
Hawkeye: Well, I'm glad you understand it, boss! Alla this divergent stuff… it's just givin' me a migraine!
Vision: Of course, the byzantine schemes of Jonathan Hickman are not for everyone to understand…
Nick Fury: Jonathan Hickman? Who is that?
Vision: That's… a long story, for another time. In the meantime, Black Panther and Namor found a world that survived three incursions. They had a superhero group, the Great Society. They were Sun God, Norn, Jovian, Rider, Dr. Spectrum and Boundless.
Nick Fury: Fine. That's what I want to hear: how to survive an incursion.
Vision: The first time they used a Wishing Box, a device that grants infinite power. It moved the other earth away, but it got destroyed in the process. And no, we do not have a Wishing Box in this universe.
Hawkeye: So, it's the same no-solution problem as with the Infinity Gauntlets.
Vision: There was another incursion that I have been unable to see. And a third one was a blue incursion. They defeated the mapmakers, and Norn destroyed the empty world with a word of power. Of course, the last incursion we'll face will not be an empty world. Then there was an incursion between the worlds of the Great Society and Earth 2. The Great Society was defeated, and the Illuminati crossed their moral frontier by blowing up an inhabitated world
(General jaw dropping)
Sue Storm: I understand that they were a group, but I have to know it: who pulled the trigger? Was it Reed?
Storm: Was it their Hank?
Nick Fury: Was it T'Challa?
Tony Stark: I really hope it was not the other me.
Vision: It was Namor. This led to an immediate backlash against him by all the others, who casted him out of the team. Even more, he confessed to Black Panther that he had lured the Black Order to Wakanda, which infuriated him even more. And right then and there, there was another incursion coming. The Illuminati gave up and did nothing to stop it, but Namor released Thanos, the Black Order, the Black Swan and Maximus, Black Bolt's brother, and recruited their help. Under the name of the Cabal, they protected their planet by destroying all earths that got in an incursion with it.
Sam: Not so different to what the Maker was doing before we caught him.
Vision: Namor soon finds out that he can't work with the Cabal. He only killed worlds as a necessary evil, but they relished on the genocide. They killed the Supreme Power, that you met some time ago. He asked Dr. Doom for help instead, but Doom refused. Doom, in fact, had plans of his own. Captain America, who had returned to the present, started to pursue the Illuminati. As Nick Fury died and became the Unseen, Captain America was appointed director of S.H.I.E.L.D., using their resources for it.
Nick Fury: The what? Oh, never mind, please continue.
Vision: The Illuminati allowed S.H.I.E.L.D. to detect them in Cadiz, Spain, counting that a blue incursion would take place soon after the fight started. Namor gave himself in, and lured the Cabal to a mapmaker world, while the Avengers set a machine that would keep them in that world. Namor was supposed to flee before the trap was closed, but he found the Black Panther. T'Challa put the king's blade where it belongs, and Black Bolt made him fall to the mapmaker planet again, and then close the trap. He gave them some spare minutes, expecting him to wake up and realize that he was about to die. However, a second incursion took place, and Namor and the Cabal managed to escape the doomed world before it exploded. That incursion was the one that led them here, where they met the Maker. The FF…
Sue Storm: Thanks, but we already know what happened here since that point.
Vision: Reed detailed other alternatives that he had tried, all to no avail. As Earth is the focal point of the incursions, they tried to use a cosmic cube to create a new planet and migrate all of earth to it, but the creation blew up and the cube was lost. They asked the abstracts of the universe for help, but they simply vanished. Franklin Richards, son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, is a powerful reality warper. His father asked him to create a new universe and move all of Eath-2 to it, but the task was beyond his powers. Even more, he noticed that the number of alternate universes had suddenly decreased to just two dozens. And to make things worse, the Council realized the problem and united forces again, in order to save the universe by destroying earth.
Nick Fury: Sue? Do you think that any of those measures would work here?
Sue Storm: We still have the blueprints of the Cosmic Cube, and we may build a third one, but it would take at least six months. There is just no way we can do it in mere days. And I had no sons with Reed…
Ben Grimm: Wait a moment. Is this the reason that strange pig creature was saying that you had to have a son with Reed? We could have saved the universe that way?
Sue Storm: I know, I know… but it was the Maker! How can someone ask me to have a son with him?
Vision: Perhaps I should remind you that Earth-2 Franklin Richards could not do what was expected of him. Even if we had our own Franklin, there is no guarantee that he could have done it. Or that the same problem would not manifest on that other universe, or that such a universe could survive the destruction of the one that gave it birth.
Vision: A team composed by Starbrand, Nightmask, Thor, Hyperion and several Ex-Nihilos was sent to the other side of the multiverse, to attack the source of the incursions. They found the seat of power of the Black Priests, which was led by Dr. Strange. He explained that the Black Priests had been destroying alternate earths to save their respective universes, hoping that in the long run this would heal the whole multiverse. He pointed that the whole crisis was caused by Rabum Alal and the Ivory Kings, and that they need to take down both. Henry Pym returned to Earth at that point, after retrieving information about the Ivory Kings. Many heroes and villains had once met a child unit, who reshaped the universe to force them to fight a secret war. The Ivory Kings, with absolute and infinite power, destroyed the superstation of pan-universal Builders and Alephs, the Captain Britain Corps, and even the abstracts of the universe in their multiversal forms. Even the Living Tribunal fell before them. The multiversal Avengers arrived to their dimension and the Beyonders killed them all. And Dr. Strange made his way into the Library, and finally met the great destroyer, Rabum Alal. However, that plane is so far removed that I can't see anything from it. So, all this is the problem. This is what the incursions are.
Nick Fury asked some final clarifications, and a shadow of despair soon clouded the room. The hope they got by retrieving Vision from the past dissipated. She could offer no solution. The problem was bleaker than they had suspected, and from anything else they have ever faced before, including the Ultimatum wave, the coming of Gah Lak Tus, and the coming of Galactus himself. The FF pondered the available information time and again, trying to find a solution, some new angle, some overlooked detail, anything. Tony Stark made some phone calls, with his usual humor and snark completely exhausted, and the others had little else to say.
Nick Fury collapsed in a corner, completely incapable to come up with a solution or strategy. This was bigger than anything he faced before, bigger that anything he ever dreamed. Even Gah Lak Tus seemed like a child's play in comparison. He remembered that he once boasted that when he died God would have to give him the seat, and for a moment thought that he was paying the price of his blasphemy. He dismissed the notion and kept thinking: this was not about him, but about the universe. But what could possibly be done? The greatest mind of both universes found no solution, what could he possibly do that they had not thought before? Even blowing up the other world, an idea that he promised not to entertain, would be useless: that was the mechanic of the incursions, right, but if those all-powerful Ivory Kings were destroying the multiverse, who was to say that they wouldn't simply show up and destroy the last standing universe anyway? And no point trying to fight them: Earth-2 had already sent their biggest guns against them, and they were obliterated in minutes. The others started to despair. Kitty Pryde proposed that, if the destruction of the universe was unavoidable, perhaps they should try to at least save some last humans and mutants, to save the human race somehow. Not even this idea was accepted: where would those last people live, if the multiverse was destroyed? Some thought the idea made no sense, others thought that it was worth a try, and Miles insisted that they should save both worlds somehow.
Spider-Man: But we're going to do something… right?
Tony Stark: Survive.
Spider-Man: Mr. Stark, survive is not something…
Nick Fury (standing up): No, it's not. But that's because we didn't have a plan. Until now.
You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people's heads a'roll
A'roll, a' roll
Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Megadeth - "Symphony of Destruction"