Summoned to their headquarters beneath Atlas Plaza in Manhattan, the newest members of the Infinity Legion – Oathkeeper the paladin, Emi Surikabe the ninja schoolgirl, and Winged Victory the caped wonder – are briefed by Tabitha Armitage about a developing situation: some time the night before, the experimental physics lab at Columbia University was broken into and an advanced device – a polyphasic solid-state brane condenser – was stolen. The same night, a similar theft occurred at a research facility in the remains of the old Superconducting Super Collider facility in Texas. The catch: the perpetrators in both cases were a pair of gun-wielding great apes in track suits!
Hailing a cab, Oathkeeper and Winged Victory head to the Columbia campus to investigate the break-in. The NYPD officers are initially reluctant, but the two heroes manage to convince the sardonic, unorthodox detective on the scene of their worth. From security footage and witness testimony they learn that the thieves, quite apart from being startlingly intelligent for apes, were superpowered; the larger male sported visible cybernetic enhancements, while the female wielded some kind of telekinesis.
Finally, from one of the researchers, the heroes learn that the solid-state brane condenser is an important component of research into transdimensional physics, and could potentially be used to force open a door between neighboring universes!
Boarding an Infinijet bound for central Texas, Oathkeeper, Winged Victory and Emi arrive some time later at the slightly unkempt research facility just outside of Waxahachie, Texas, a southern suburb of Dallas. Twenty years after its cancellation, the supercollider lab has become home to an eclectic group of academic and private researchers, although as the overgrown grass in the parking area attests, funding is clearly hard to come by. The heroes land the jet on a disused stretch of parking lot and continue their investigation, speaking to a handful of scientists and dedicated if low-rent security guards, as well as a lizard-like biologist with superpowers much like their own, the fledgling hero Doctor Varanus. It comes to light that while the apes’ robbery was successful, the object stolen – a powerful laser focusing lens – was flawed and unusable. A second, working lens remains at the facility under heavy guard.
Suddenly, a shout from the guard in the front office attracts the attention of the heroes, who burst into the room just in time to see something landing in the parking lot that looks for all the world like a compact version of the 1950s art deco conception of a UFO! The roughly bus-sized saucer’s landing gear extends and a pair of muscular apes stride down it, clearly intent on rectifying their earlier mistake. The heroes rush to meet them and the battle is joined.
The male ape’s cybernetic weaponry proves ineffective against Winged Victory’s tough skin and Oathkeeper’s armor, and he is unable to hit the nimble lizard, but it quickly becomes clear that the truly fearsome combatant is the female, as her psychic attacks nearly incapacitate both heroes with agonizing bolts of pure mental force. The UFO itself joins the fray, firing powerful plasma blasts from flanged, chrome-plated cannon that melt perfectly semispherical craters into the concrete of the parking lot. Emi Surikabe, meanwhile, opts for discretion and nimbly sneaks past both apes and cannon to get aboard the strange flying disc and investigate its cramped control room.
Fighting through the mental pain, Winged Victory and Oathkeeper deliver punishing blows to the mentalist monkey, while Doctor Varanus’ teeth and claws take their toll on her cyborg partner in crime. The apes begin to realize that they have been overmatched, and make a fighting retreat up the ramp of their ship, setting it to take off – with Emi still aboard!
Rising into the air on a column of green and dangerously radioactive flame, the UFO nimbly takes off in a south-by-southeasterly direction, with the remaining heroes and their new companion piling into the Infinijet to give pursuit, following a tracker signal set by Emi. Rather than attacking it, the heroes opt to match its speed from a safe distance and hopefully let the apes unwittingly lead the way to their lair. While they wait, the heroes contact Tabitha and ask her to begin researching anything that might be known about the simian malefactors.
Meanwhile, from her vantage point curled up underneath a dashboard console, Emi Surikabe carefully watches the movements of her unwitting captors, who seem to express, in their body language and noises, both rage and profound sadness at their failure to steal the working lens. It also seems from the navigation computer – a retro piece of solid-state machinery, with a green screen and toggle switches – that the UFO is bound for somewhere in South America.
It gradually becomes clear that the apes are in fact “Kerchak” and “Kala,” named for the male and female gorillas who raised the young Tarzan in Rice Burroughs’ famous story, and erstwhile sidekicks of the 1950s and 60s safari-themed villain Doctor Killingstone, who disappeared without a trace sometime nearly forty years ago. The two apes were never captured, but had not been seen for decades and have been considered dead by the authorities. How they have lived this long is unclear, but there were always rumors that Killingstone had discovered the Fountain of Youth…
The heroes aren’t given much time to reflect on this, though, as the UFO angles for the Parque Nacional Canaima, a remote wildlife area on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. The craft finally stops and lands near a decrepit but expertly-concealed building on the lee side of a high jungle mountain – an abandoned bunker of the Nazi villain group the Iron Axis. As the apes disembark down the gangplank, Kala turns around and suddenly blasts Emi with a powerful bolt of mental force! Apparently the ninja had not at all been concealed from the ape’s heightened senses, but they had cunningly allowed her to think she was safe until they were on their home turf.
Of course, deception cuts both ways, and the apes soon realize to their dismay that they are not alone as the Infinijet thunders into view! The UFO scorches the exterior of the heroes’ plane with near-misses from its deadly plasma cannon, but Winged Victory soon punches the cannon into a ruined wreck, while the other heroes charge the criminals en masse!
But the heroes are stopped in their tracks by the most unexpected sight of all: the apes raising their arms in the universal sign of surrender. Presenting the heroes with their unconscious but unhurt friend, the apes use grunts, gestures, and a limited vocabulary of telepathic “words” to lead the heroes into the bunker, where a startling sight awaits the newcomers – an entire research lab, carefully assembled from refurbished, repurposed, junked, and stolen components, all centered around a high-tech dais bearing an enormous, glittering red diamond the size of a man’s head – the legendary Coeur d’Afrique gem, long thought lost to the world!
Kala raises her arms and the heroes find themselves experiencing a shared vision – a rickety jungle bridge over a river of searing lava, and two men in torn khaki clothing locked in life-or-death struggle over the selfsame red gem. One, wearing a battered fedora and leather jacket, is clearly the adventurer and archaeologist Jack Dakota, the other, sporting a thin mustache and pith helmet, the heroes recognize as the villain Doctor Killingstone. Knocking Dakota to his knees, the villain holds the giant glittering stone aloft while his loyal trained apes watch with approval from the safety of a nearby cliffside.
“It’s mine at last! The ancient texts say the Coeur d’Afrique grants the fondest wish of its wielder – and my wish is for your utter destruction! Goodbye, Jack Dakota!”
But with a lightning-fast flick of the wrist, the archaeologist tears loose a hanging jungle vine and snags Killingstone’s feet with it like a whip, sending villain and jewel plummeting off the bridge toward the waiting, roiling lava below!
“Nooooooooo – " and then silence, as the villain’s cry ends with a startling abruptness, like a radio being turned off. The Coeur d’Afrique lands perched the lava stream, completely unharmed by the searing heat, but Killingstone is nowhere to be seen. Rather than landing in the lava, it’s as if he has vanished into thin air. The archaeologist Dakota scrambles off the bridge toward the jungle and safety from the apes’ weaponry, but his haste is unnecessary – they have dropped their guns and the rock face echoes with their keening, bereft cries of grief.
As abruptly as it began, the vision ends, and the Infinity Legionnaires find themselves back in the apes’ strange, homemade research lab. Through grunts and gestures the truth becomes clear – Killingstone did not die, but the force of his wish for life trapped him in the heart of the Coeur d’Afrique, which Doctor Varanus’s cursory instrumental readings confirm is not a jewel at all but some sort of lattice crystal containing a portal to a source of extradimensional energy. The apes had hoped to free their beloved master, but now, shoulders slumped, they resign themselves to their fate.
After conferring among themselves, the heroes emerge from their huddle with a promise – if Kerchak and Kala surrender to the authorities, AEGIS will take the crystal and study it in hopes of someday freeing Killingstone and whoever else may be trapped within. The apes look at each other for a long, long moment and then nod, suddenly looking every year of their unnaturally protracted ages. And later, after the planes from AEGIS and the power-armored Lictors have arrived to take over the scene, after all the exhausting normality of questions and report-making and bureaucratic procedure, the heroes witness the last and most unusual sight of the day – two singular beings striding proudly into the waiting containment cell hand in hand, their future uncertain but their strange debt, at last, repaid.