The Kree refugee ships slowly settled onto the lush surface of the planet Avyos. One-by-one, the few surviving Kree disembarked from their vessels and were met by the large, broad-shouldered, heavy-winged Avyan population. It took only a handful of hours for each Kree to be treated for whatever minor injuries they had sustained; to be given food; for shelter to be organised.

All the while, Gan-Vell – the young Kree warrior possessed of the incredibly powerful nega-bands – hovered in orbit, keeping an eye out for any sign of danger: specifically, the approach of the Ruul and their tyrannical battle master, Valaar.

I know they’re coming! But what can I do? he wondered. That Starhawk guy –

Yes, Captain Marvel?

Gan-Vell shuddered as he heard Starhawk’s voice in his head. Somehow, the man had established and maintained a psionic link with him as he travelled through space. The Kree had no idea how such a thing was possible – but it had happened. It was happening.

The Kree are safe, Gan-Vell thought. What should I do now?

Remain where you are. The Kree should be safe where they are, and Valaar should not prove to be of any further concern – but you must remain to safeguard the Kree just in case.

And where are you?

Somewhere I truly do not wish to be…


Stakar Ogord materialised aboard the Guardians’ ship, the Captain America III, with no light or sound to mark his arrival. For a moment, everything around the man’s blue-and-yellow-garbed form seemed to stand still; like he was the sole figure aboard the ship able to actively interact with reality.

Eventually, time caught up with him, and his arrival was noticed – by the person he hoped would be the last to see him.


Charlie-27’s voice boomed loudly from the ship’s cockpit, booming with such force that it seemed to rattle the very foundations of the starship. Despite his massive power, Starhawk could not help but feel uncomfortable; he was hardly welcome among the Guardians of the Galaxy anymore, and while he did not agree with their reasons for disliking and distrusting him, he certainly understood them.

“Calm yourself, Captain-27,” he said. “I did not come here to fight.”

“There are two sides to a fight, pal, and just ’cause you didn’t come asking – ” Charlie-27 began to reply as he stomped his way out of the cockpit.

“Shut up, Charlie,” Martinex snapped. “What are you doing here, Starhawk?”

Starhawk turned to the crystalline Guardian.

“I have come to report that the Kree Gan-Vell has managed to ferry the last Kree refugees to safety,” Starhawk said. “You no longer need to concern yourselves with them… or the Ruul.”

Kay-Den, the former Kree ambassador to the Galactic Council, could not remain silent.

“W-what do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, Councillor Kay-Den, that, by the time the Ruul find the Kree and carry out your master’s wishes, we will be long gone – and hopefully, the Kree will be with us,” Starhawk replied.

Martinex and Charlie-27 looked at Kay-Den.

“Your… master?” Martinex asked.

“D-don’t listen to – ” Kay-Den stammered.

“Guardians,” Starhawk easily brought the attention back to himself. “Do not concern yourself with him. The Snark Rommel can fly this vessel; we, however, must travel to Earth.”

Charlie-27 laughed.

“What makes you think we would go anywhere with you?”

When Charlie-27 began to speak, he and his fellow Guardians – Martinex, Nikki, Yondu – were safely aboard the Captain America III. When he finished, he found himself standing in the heart of Latveria; in Castle Doom, just outside the nation’s capital of Doomstadt.

“Because you had no choice, Jovian buffoon.”

Charlie-27 whirled at the sound of Doctor Doom’s voice. There was something… off… about it. Something that made him uneasy, something he definitely did not appreciate.

“You’re not Vernard,” he said.

“Of course not. That insolent whelp – ” Doom took a deep breath. “Kristoff Vernard is no longer among us. I am the true Doom.”

Martinex frowned.

“What is this, Starhawk?” he asked. “Now you are teaming up with one of Earth’s most diabolical villains?”

“Doctor Doom now rules the Earth, Martinex,” Starhawk explained. “Not that this should concern any of us for it is not the Earth of our universe.”

Nikki laughed.

“Come on, Starhawk – out with it already.”

Starhawk nodded at the flame-haired Mercurian.

“Very well,” Starhawk said. “I have tried to determine the most delicate way of telling you all of this, but it seems I must be more direct than I would have liked.” He took a long, deep breath. “This world, this universe, is not ours.”

“Again?” Martinex asked. “Who caused the trouble this time?”

“The Sphinx – and, in a way, the Sphinx will help us undo the damage our presence here has wrought on the multiverse,” Starhawk explained.

Nikki scratched her head.

“The Sphinx? You mean that whacky woman we followed to the twentieth century? When we fought the New Warriors?*”

[ * – in NEW WARRIORS #68 – Adrian ]

“I do,” Starhawk replied. “When we were cast back out of that time period, the Sphinx’s own time manipulation brought us into another world that was not ours**. We left that world to arrive here – and although none of you have noticed, things have been askew ever since.”

[ ** – in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #63 – Adrian ]

“What do you mean?” Yondu asked.

“It is doubtful that any of you will recall this, but before you went back through time to thwart the Martian invasion of Earth my mother, Kismet, and I were undertaking our own explorations of the galaxy – suddenly, my mother had vanished,” Starhawk offered.

“But that was because it was the other you… the one from the fake-Sphinx-reality, right?” Nikki asked.

“No. I suspected the same and doubted my own memories, but a detailed investigation into the myriad timelines over which we have crossed shows that this form was indeed the one who encountered Kismet and determined his father’s identity, just as the other Starhawk did.

“In any event, that is only one instance of mistaken actuality.”

Martinex rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“I understand,” he said. “Somehow, the combination of the Sphinx knocking us off the mark and our own cross-time capering has confused things… messed up the continuity of reality.”

“Yes,” Starhawk confirmed.

“So what are we gonna do about it?” Charlie-27 asked.

“I told you – the Sphinx will assist us in returning to our rightful place in the multiverse.”

“You trust her?” Nikki asked.

Starhawk smirked.

“That is not the Sphinx I meant.”

Doctor Doom laughed loudly.

“Starhawk refers to the Egyptian megalith, which I have restored within the sprawling metropolis that is now Cairea, in Africa,” Doom explained. “The Sphinx will be built some twenty years from now by Kang the Conqueror, as a time machine, which he will use to travel back in time and rule Egypt as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut; the Sphinx will be left behind, for me to restore and offer to you now.”

“I have determined, with the assistance of Mainframe and Doctor Doom, that three realities have been twisted,” Starhawk said. “With the Sphinx, we can enter the space between worlds, something I am currently unable to do. There, I can effortlessly undo the damage that has been done; this world, however, will remain largely unchanged.

“We will return to our proper reality; the Ruul and the Kree to theirs.”

Nikki’s jaw dropped.

“You want us to abandon the Kree?” she asked.

“Their universe has its own defenders,” Starhawk replied. “Gan-Vell, Valaar, Cat-Lass and others.”

“What about Vance?” Martinex asked.

“And Giraud? Autolycus? Mainframe? Hollywood? Yellowjacket? Aleta? Talon?” Nikki added.

Starhawk looked at the ground for a moment.

“Everything that we have endured these past years has happened, despite our fragile temporal balance,” he said. “I believe that if given the chance to unravel the twisted timelines, I can undo all that was done to our fallen friends; however Vance, whose latest trials took place in yet another reality, will be unaffected.

“Vance and Yellowjacket will remain in the twentieth century.” And Aleta will continue on her own adventures, with my guidance***.

[ *** – was that just a major EXILES spoiler? Yes, it was. – Adrian ]

“I do not like this,” Yondu said. “You are asking us to place a lot of trust in you. Trust you have not proved worthy of in the past.”

Starhawk nodded gravely.

“I appreciate your concern, Yondu,” he said, “but, unfortunately… you have no choice.”

For the briefest of moments, Starhawk closed his eyes and concentrated with the full force of his will. He could feel the universe bending, warping and twisting around him; he could feel his presence, and that of the other four Guardians, inside the sandstone Sphinx; he could feel the time machine’s delicate controls; and he could feel the will of Doctor Doom, guiding his hands as he manipulated those controls.

“Yondu! Martinex!” Charlie-27 shouted. “Stop – ”

He was too late.

Space and time folded around the Sphinx and, in less than an instant, the Guardians of the Galaxy no longer existed in any true reality. For several moments, Starhawk felt relieved; he knew that no matter what happened next, the Guardians’ erring manipulation of the timestream would be over – even if they prevented him from completing his mission, they could never return to the world they had just left, or any other; not even Martinex had the ability to control the Sphinx.

Starhawk blinked and found himself floating calmly outside the time machine. He let the chronal energy that surrounded him flow through him as he moved his hands, symbolically depicting the rearrangement of reality itself, a process taking place on a plane far beyond that which could be perceived by the other Guardians.

Suddenly, something was wrong.

Starhawk felt pain; awful, agonising, terrible pain – but it was not any sort of physical pain he had experience. It seemed as if his soul itself was being ripped in half. He did what he could to hold himself together; he looked back at the Sphinx, desperately seeking aid, but just as desperately hoping the Guardians did not see his weakness.

No! I cannot be defeated now!

He gestured at the Sphinx, which immediately became surrounded by a heavy purple mist.

It is done.

The Sphinx slowly faded from existence, as did Starhawk’s rapidly-weakening form.

I do not know what is to become of me now, he thought, but the Guardians will have no memory of this or anything else they have experienced since our encounter with the Sphinx.
I do not know what is to become of me now, he thought, but the Guardians will have no memory of this or anything else they have experienced since our encounter with the Sphinx.

The timestream has been saved. The Guardians have been saved. All is as it should be.
The timestream has been saved. The Guardians have been saved. All is as it should be.

Now I am free to destroy Aleta.


NEXT ISSUE: It is a brand new beginning for the Guardians of the Galaxy! Starhawk, Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu, Hollywood and Nicholette finally find their way home, free of the knowledge of their torturous encounters in the anomalous timestream. Be here, for the beginning of a brand new era in GotG history!

AND: To learn the fate of Gan-Vell, Valaar and Cat-Lass be sure to read future issues of Exiles, also here at the Epic Branch!

Written by Adrian J. Watt’s of SoftPixels


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