Valaar the Accuser walked into the building with a surprising amount of grace for a creature of his build. The building was filled with Ruul performing various tasks as they worked busily to rebuild the devastated planet, and nearly all of them stopped what they were doing and watched in quiet awe as Valaar passed by.
He stopped before an elevator and pressed the control button that would bring it its box to him. He turned to look at the Ruul, which still stared at him intently and smiled, bearing the needle-sharp teeth that were a standard part of the Ruul form. The elevator box finally arrived, and the doors swung open, allowing Valaar to enter.
There were no other Ruul inside the elevator – but there was a woman. The woman that shared the elevator was a blue-skinned humanoid, but she was not Kree. She lacked the pointed ears that identified members of the species and possessed startlingly feline-like features. She smiled as Valaar entered the elevator and pressed the button to take him to the top floor of the building.
“I told you to stay aboard the worldship,” he snarled.
“I have business here,” the woman said without facing him. “And you have no authority over me.”
“What is your ‘business’?” Valaar asked.
“That is for me to know,” the woman said, smiling. The elevator arrived at the top floor, and its large metal doors slid open. Valaar stepped forward, preparing to exit, when it dawned on him that he should ask where the woman was going. He turned to face her again, but she was gone.
“I will find out,” he muttered. He walked down the corridor that led away from the elevator. There were far fewer Ruul on the upper levels than there were on the lower, and those that Valaar did pass, paid him no heed. The Ruul on the building’s top level reported directly to the Supremor himself – they had no interest in the affairs of the public Accuser.
Valaar walked the length of the corridor, stopping at an apparent dead end. Striking the metal wall three times caused it to slide back, and Valaar stepped into a dark room in which two Ruul warriors flanked a computer terminal. As the wall slid back into place, Valaar approached the terminal and, after pressing a few buttons, stood before it.
A moment later, the large head of the Kree Intelligence Supreme appeared on the screen of the computer terminal. Valaar could not see past him to determine where his master was, but the Supremor’s location was irrelevant. He answered his summons, and that meant that he was willing to speak.
“What, Accuser?” the Supreme Intelligence asked in a booming voice.
“I apologise for the interruption, Supremor,” Valaar said, bowing, “but I’ve just returned from an exhausting mission to destroy the Kree scum that escaped from Hala. I destroyed four of their seven ships, but a vessel that our sensors determined was the Captain America III prevented us from destroying the remaining three.”
The Intelligence stared at Valaar long and hard. “I will handle it from here. You will, of course, be punished.”
“Of course,” Valaar replied.
“While you await your punishment, prepare my worldship and the battlecruiser Pama for action. You are dismissed.”
Without another word, Valaar turned and left the same way that he had arrived. No sooner had he left than the Ruul warriors inexplicably collapsed to the ground and a figure, its features obscured in the dim light, began to use the private computer terminal.
Chamber-World, headquarters of the New Intergalactic Council
The Captain America III arrived in orbit around Chamber-World several minutes before the three Kree refugee ships. The Council chambers were on the south side of the planet, and Captain-27 and Martinex had intentionally navigated the ship to the planet’s north pole, using the planet’s gravity to pull them around as they waited for the Kree ships to arrive.
As soon as the ship’s sensors detected the Kree craft in the distance, Captain-27 directed the Captain America III to the landing bay on the planet’s south end. The blue-skinned Centaurian Yondu, the flame-haired Mercurian Nicholette, and the silver-skinned Zenn-Lavian Keeper emerged from the back of the ship to stand in the cockpit behind Captain-27 and Martinex.
“Listen up, Guardians,” Captain-27 began, “someone is going to have to stay here, to liaise with the Kree refugees in orbit.” He looked at the Pluvian Martinex T’Naga, who was still seated in the co-pilot’s seat. “We also need the ship checked out and the weapons repaired. Martinex?”
Martinex nodded. “I’ll do what I can about the weapons, which probably won’t be much. The Ruul fighter ships did a lot of damage to the weapons themselves. I’m sure I can get the weapons systems operational again, but they won’t be linked to any physical – ”
“Sounds like a plan. Keeper, perhaps you should lead the way. Judging by our last visit,* you’re more welcome here than we are,” Captain-27 said.
[ * – shown in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #82 – Adrian ]
I’m starting to see why Giraud got so annoyed, Martinex thought. If Charlie doesn’t pull his act together, this team might lose another one of its members…
The Keeper led the three Guardians out of the ship and down onto the planet’s surface. No sooner had their feet touched the ground, though, than a dozen Ruul warriors surrounded the ship, each carrying a long black rifle. One of the Ruul took a step toward the Keeper and said “By order of the Intelligence Supreme, the Guardians of the Galaxy and their allies are not welcome on Chamber-World.”
They raised their weapons, aiming them and the Keeper and his companions. “They’re going to fire,” the Keeper whispered. The Guardians moved quickly – Captain-27 dived and pushed Nikki back against the Captain America III. The Keeper let loose with several bolts of the Power Cosmic, but thanks to the Ruuls’ energy-nullifying armour, they were useless as anything other than a momentary distraction as the flash from his blasts dazzled their senses. Yondu nocked and fired one of his whistle guided yaka arrows, but they too failed to penetrate the Ruul armour.
Captain-27 pressed the small red, white and blue star on his chest, allowing him to communicate with Martinex aboard the Captain America III. “Martinex,” he said quickly. “Close up the ship and start preparing her for take off. The Ruul have taken the council chambers. We’ll try to rescue as many ambassadors as we can…”
“Are you crazy?” Nicholette cried. “We can’t fight our way in there!”
“You saw what the Ruul did to the Kree, Nikki,” Captain-27 remarked. “Do you think Kay-Den and Tor-Quin are safe in there?”
“But we can’t – ”
“I cannot protect you any longer, Guardians,” the Keeper interrupted. “Make your decision.”
“Nikki, we have to go in.”
“I… okay, Chunky.” Nicholette pulled back the bodysuit that she wore, revealing two wrist-mounted lasers concealed beneath her uniform. She aimed them at the Ruul as she, Yondu, Captain-27 and the Keeper suddenly charged at the Ruul warriors. She ran behind Captain-27 as the Jovian barreled into a Ruul, knocking it to the ground. Nicholette had no doubt that if the Ruul had been prepared he would not have fallen so easily; this method would not get them back out. Their only hope was to find a weapon inside the council chambers that would allow them to make their escape.
“What is to stop them destroying the ship?” Yondu asked as he ran alongside Captain-27.
“Me.” The Keeper raised his hand, and his silver surfboard came hurtling toward him, seeming to materialise out of thin air. The Ruul deftly and easily dodged it as it passed, and when it reached the Keeper he jumped on top of it and rode it back out to the Guardians’ craft. He repeatedly fired blasts of the Power Cosmic, in an attempt to keep the Ruul away from the ship.
They should be able to walk right through my blasts, but they do not, the Keeper thought. They must be acting. The Guardians are walking into a trap.
Inside the council chambers, the Intelligence Supreme addressed the council. Around him, ambassadors from hundreds of worlds sat and listened to his words, as heavily armed Ruul warriors patrolled the area behind them and flanked each exit.
“… hours after Hala’s destruction, one of my scout ships recorded this.” The Supreme Intelligence nodded to one of his aides, who activated a screen in the center of the chambers. Scenes of the Captain America III approaching Kree refugee ships as they exploded were played for the entire room to see. The presence of the Kri-Ree was carefully edited out. “Clearly, your much-vaunted Guardians of the Galaxy are conspiring with Kree terrorists to destroy the Kree race. My forces have already secured Hala and are rebuilding it even as we speak. I ask that the Ruul be allowed to capture any Kree they encounter, for their own safety, and that they are allowed to terminate the Guardians of the Galaxy on sight.”
A very short, green-skinned humanoid raised his hand.
“The council recognises Ambassador Ralp of the Beir,” one of the Supremor’s aides announced.
“The Guardians of the Galaxy have helped this council in the past, most notably in their recent battle with the monster Rylax*,” Ralp remarked. “I recommend that we wait for more clear evidence before we make any rash decisions.”
[ * – as depicted in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #81 – Adrian ]
The Supreme Intelligence smiled, a gesture universally considered to be quite repulsive. “Look around you, ambassador. Do you see any support for your recommendation?”
Ralp turned around and came face-to-face with a Ruul warrior pointing its long black rifle in the small ambassador’s face. Ralp swallowed loudly and turned back. “I withdraw my recommendation.”
“A wise decision,” the Supremor said. “Does anybody else have an objection to my proposal? No? Good.”
As the Supremor finished speaking, there was a ruckus at one end of the council chambers. A loud, inconsistent thumping could be heard against one of the doors, and the four Ruul warriors assigned to guard it tensed. The two of them applied their considerable weight to it, but were no match for the door as it collapsed inward. Through the opening ran Captain-27, Yondu, and Nicholette, with Yondu nocking another yaka arrow as they entered.
“What?!” the Intelligence cried. “Guards – ”
The Supreme Intelligence did not need to finish speaking. Ruul warriors were already moving between the ambassadors, to “protect” them, as others charged at the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yondu fired a yaka arrow, which whirled through the air and hit a Ruul square in the chest. He did not move. Nicholette fired her wrist-lasers at another, but the armoured Ruul – they were all armoured – did not even acknowledge the attack as he kept approaching. As they got closer, Captain-27 let loose a haymaker, but the Ruul that he hit merely grabbed his hand and cast him aside.
“I don’t get it!” Captain-27 shouted as he barely managed to roll away from an approaching Ruul. “The Ruul outside went down easily!”
The many ambassadors watched as the Guardians valiantly tried to defend themselves. They all knew that the assembled Guardians were no match for a single Ruul, let alone the hundreds that were spread throughout the chamber. Kay-Den and Tor-Quin looked grim as half a dozen Ruul approached Nicholette.
“We must try to help them,” Kay-Den said solemnly.
“I agree. Let’s make a break for it,” Tor-Quin agreed. The two Kree rose from their seats and ran. They pushed through the mass of dignitaries of various species, reaching the threshold that, once crossed, would throw them into the fray. Before they climb down to the floor of the chamber, two Ruul warriors tried to grab them. Tor-Quin was grasped roughly around his upper arm. Kay-Den, who was agiler than his companion, was grabbed by the foot. Shaking off his thick black boot, the Kree pushed forward and fell away from his would-be captor, landing on the ground only feet away from Yondu.
The Centaurian deftly made his way to the Kree’s side, and saw more than a little blood on the unmoving diplomat’s face and leg. He looked up again to see a Ruul approaching, and after sliding down onto his back he brought his leg around to kick the Ruul behind the knees. It felt like kicking an adamantium wall and was just as effective. The Ruul did not move but paused to laugh at the Centaurian’s ineffective effort.
As the slow-moving battle continued, High Snark Rommel and Ralp of the Beir moved ever closer to the action. The Ruul that had been by their sides had been too enraptured by what was going on to pay them any attention, and it was not long before they had joined the fight.
Above the anarchy, the Supreme Intelligence frowned. “Stop,” he said powerfully. “This battle is unnecessary. Guardians of the Galaxy, why have you attacked this world?”
The Ruul that had been fighting the Guardians relaxed and several of them smiled at one another. No-one had wondered why they had not fired their weapons. If they had wanted to, they could have ended the battle in an instant. After speaking with Valaar the Accuser, the Supremor had choreographed the entire battle, with the goal of making himself seem sympathetic in the eyes of the council’s member races.
Captain-27 got to his feet and stared up at the Supremor. He looked somewhat bewildered. He’d never seen the Intelligence before, so the identity of the floating green head that looked down at him was unknown to him. “Why should we do what you say? Why isn’t Kay-Den in your position?”
“You should do what I say,” the Intelligence replied, “because I, the Supreme Intelligence, ruler of the Ruul, am the chair of this council.”
Captain-27 looked shocked. He looked around at the ambassadors, as a look of sorrow adorned his face. “You all chose him to chair the council? His Ruul devastated the Kree homeworld and tried to kill the few Kree that escaped. He’s a monster.”
The Rigellian Recorder, an ambassador for all the races that inhabited the Rigel system, said: “Fact: It was the Kree Anti-Evolution Party that destroyed Hala. Observation: The Captain America III fired its weapons moments before the Kree refugee ships were destroyed.”
“We were there, Recorder!” Nicholette yelled. “It was the Ruul that attacked Hala!”
“Query: Do you have any evidence of this?”
“I was captured by the Ruul and taken aboard their ship*,” Yondu said. “I – ”
[ * – in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #82 – Adrian ]
“Query: Do you have any proof of this? Observation: Your capture by the Ruul does not prove that they attacked Hala. Hypothesis: The Ruul captured the Centaurian to prevent Hala’s devastation at the hands of the Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“That isn’t true!” Nikki shouted. “We – ”
“Without proof to the contrary,” the Supreme Intelligence interrupted, “we have no alternative but to agree with the Recorder.”
Ralp looked into the mass of ambassadors and knew that many of them were truly on the side of the Guardians. He could see it in their eyes, but the Ruul warriors that surrounded the ambassadors prevented them from speaking, as they had prevented him earlier.
“The Guardians of the Galaxy are to be tried for their crimes. Guards, take them prisoner.”
Rommel moved. Snarks were incredibly agile; even before the Supremor had finished speaking, Rommel had leaped to Kay-Den’s side and picked up the injured Kree. His action surprised the Ruul and caused them a moment’s hesitation, giving the Guardians a chance to run. They turned and headed for the exit. As they ran, Captain-27 pressed the red, white and blue star that was on the left side of his chest.
“Martinex!” he shouted. “We’re coming out now. Give Gan-Vell the coordinates for Haven and have him get the Kree there. Keep the access ramp lowered and fly toward the entrance to the chambers – we’re being pursued by dozens of Ruul!”
The Guardians continued to run, but neither Captain-27 nor Nicholette had seen Yondu injure his foot. They did not notice that the Centaurian was not beside them. He was hobbling along, many feet behind them and with the Ruul quickly gaining on him. As they reached the exit, they found themselves face to face with another hundred Ruul warriors. It was then that they turned and saw that Yondu was not with them.
“Yondu!” Nicholette shouted as the Ruul finally reached him.
Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, the Keeper flashed by on his silver surfboard. He flew straight at Yondu and pulled him off the ground just as one Ruul warrior tried to grab him. The attention of everyone in the chamber was on the Keeper, and this allowed Rommel, with Kay-Den over his shoulder and Ralp in his arms, and Captain-27 and Nicholette to push through the Ruul that blocked their path.
“Open fire!” the Supremor shouted.
The Ruul grasped their rifles firmly, and instinctively aimed at the most prominent target. They all fired at the Keeper, who managed to repel their blasts with the Power Cosmic. The Guardians kept running, and soon found themselves before the open access ramp of the Captain America III. They scrambled aboard and began to close the access ramp. The Keeper, carrying Yondu, managed to get through just as the ramp closed. The ship accelerated and flew away from the planet as dozens of Ruul fired at its already damaged hull.
“It has begun,” Kay-Den whispered as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Giraud had watched the battle from nearby. He had assumed that the Guardians were in the right and that they had been trying to liberate the ambassadors from the Supreme Intelligence’s unlawful rule. It wasn’t until he entered the council chambers that he realised how wrong he was.
“Phoenix-IX,” the Supremor said as the mutant arrived. “I am the new chair of this council, and as its employee you are to obey my instructions. The council has unanimously decided that the Guardians of the Galaxy are criminals. You are to capture them and bring them here, dead or alive. They are on their way to Haven. The Ruul will assist you in any way they can.”
Giraud thought about it for a moment. He had always considered the Guardians of the Galaxy to be the good guys – and he had seen what the Ruul did to Hala and the Kree refugees. But he knew that the Guardians of the Galaxy had betrayed Firelord and the Spirit of Vengeance, and they were responsible for him being the host to the Phoenix Force, and having to wage constantly an inner battle with the malevolent force of nature that lived inside him.
“Very well, sir,” he said finally.
“Not Sir, Phoenix. Master.”
Two days later, it was time for the Council to adjourn. The Council met only four times a year, although its charter allowed for many reasons for which a special meeting could be convened. The ambassadors had been gathered to speak any final thoughts that they may have had, but with so many Ruul warriors around only the Rigellian Recorder was willing to speak his mind.
“Fact: With the Supreme Intelligence guiding us, this region of the universe will be safe.”
“Of course,” the Supremor said. “Assuming that no-one would disagree, I have already dispatched messengers to every civilised planet in the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. All planets within the Snark Empire and Beryl star systems are to be considered rogue planets. Any of their citizens are to be apprehended on sight. The Ruul are willing to pay rewards to any bounty hunters of military force that captures Snarks, Beirs, or humans.”
The Supremor turned his massive head to his left, where Tor-Quin stood surrounded by a dozen Ruul warriors. “I have also authorised the arrest of Tor-Quin, assistant ambassador for the Kree, on suspicion of treason. Reliable sources have revealed to me that moments before the slaughter of dozens of Kree refugees by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Tor-Quin had sent a message to the Guardians that contained the location of the refugee ships. Guards – take him away.”
Tor-Quin did not resist as four massive Ruul warriors lifted him off the ground and took him out of the council chambers.
NEXT ISSUE: The Intergalactic Council has placed an execution order on the Guardians of the Galaxy and all surviving Kree, and Phoenix-IX seems all too willing to obey the council’s mandate. What else can go wrong? Find out in Guardians of the Galaxy #85, as we begin a storyline that will change the Guardians’ lives forever!
Written by Adrian J. Watt’s of SoftPixels