Fortress X, where several mutants are currently defending their home from the invading army. ‘Sam, you there? It’s Legacy’ Legacy calls out over the communicator. ‘Little busy here, Reaper’ Cannonball replies as he blasts towards a soldier, while Basilisk, Colossus and Storm are also engaging the enemy in combat. As she stares out over the ground surrounding Fortress X, Legacy informs Cannonball that they are shelling the barrier up high, trying to sneak through a bomber, is what she suspects, and asks Cannonball if he has any flyers available. ‘Uh’ Cannonball replies. ‘Didn’t think so’ Legacy replies, before asking ‘What if I said I got it, Sam? I got one of Forge’s railshots right here…’ ‘I’d have to say that’s a negative, Reaper. And take cover’ Cannonball replies.
Cannonball reminds Legacy that she has the memories of more dead mutants soaked up in her brain than he has had hot dinners, and tells her that she knows Magneto would say she is too important to be playing hero. ’You gotta stay alive to -’ Cannonball begins, but Legacy interrupts him, declaring that she knows. ’I gotta do the remembering’ she remarks, before ending the communication. “Playing hero” she mutters.
1000 days ago:
‘For the security of the many, the few must sometimes suffer control’ a man thinks to himself, adding that he has understood that from the beginning. ‘Since the intermarriage laws passed and mutants marched outside Congress. Since one riot cop raised his baton and a hundred died in unearthly retaliation. Since the sterilizations and deportations bred only disaster. Since every attempt to purify or pacify the mutants was met with disproportionate defense. Since the Phoenix snubbed surrender and razed Albany in an instant of cosmic rage…and took with her two thousand of my fellow soldiers. Since I can remember, I’ve been fighting the mutants. Alone’ Captain America thinks to himself, deciding that it all end here in Arizona, as he leads five others down into the Grand Canyon Genetic Exclusion Zone.
A battle rages, between the mutant prisoners, and these heroes who have arrived. Captain America smacks his shield into the back of the mutant called Maggott, holding him down. Mammomax and other mutants have escaped, but Iron Man and Redback are ready to bring them down. Captain America thinks to himself that, with hindsight, the suits he has been waiting to consolidate their “specialists” since the Alcatraz breakout. A riot a Camp Gorge, plays like a repeat performance - and half the inmates are San Fran recaptures, so this fit’s the bill their field test.
As he holds his foot against Maggott’s neck, Captain America thinks that he and his colleagues have been fighting the war for years, in their own ways, hunting mutants, staving off the chaos that comes with them. ‘Stay down’ Captain America tells Maggott. But he tells himself that they have never fought together - just as Iron Man vaporizes Maggott with a plasma burst. ‘Subject was reaching for a firearm, colleague. Saved your ass, spangles’ Iron Man claims as Captain America turns to him, deciding that getting accustomed to each other was always going to take some work. ‘But he doesn’t have a gun’ Captain America points out.
‘Initiate humorless laugh’ Iron Man states, before muttering ‘Heh heh’. Captain America just looks at his “teammate” and thinks that although Tony Stark is officially code-named “Iron Man”, he has been calling himself the “Steel Corpse” for a decade, and that it suits him. Stark’s human appearance has become indeed corpse-like. Captain America reminds himself that the records say some sort of virus - mutant-derived, naturally - and Stark has been fused in the armor ever since, slowly digested by the machine. It is now hard to say how much of a human is left in there, but there is precious little stability.
Iron Man stares up at his next opponent, and calls out ‘Opening file: obesity jokes…’, but his opponent, the Blob, shouts ‘HEY! No foul-stinking robo-zombie’s gonna move the Bl-’ he doesn’t get to finish his sentence, as the Hulk appears and knocks the Blob aside. The Hulk races after the Blob and wraps his hands around the Blob’s flabby neck. Captain America watches, and tells himself that Bruce is in deep with the military - his file is classified - but Captain America knows one thing about him - he really, really hates mutants. The Hulk watches more mutants trying to escape. Captain America decides that they have all got their reasons, their rationales “for the security of the many”, but that with Bruce, it goes deeper than that. ‘Stinking. Pestilent. Vermin!’ the Hulk shouts as he throws the Blob into several other mutants.
Suddenly, Redback drops down on the mutant Marrow. Captain America knows that her case is simplier - her name is Jessica Drew - although she has never used the name, or spoken any word at all. She has been this free country’s top killer for the past eight years, and can count Mr Sinister amongst her victims. Captain America is not going to pretend that Redback does not make him uneasy. ‘But then…desperate times, right?’ he tells himself. For Redback, it is a matter of duty, nothing more just doing what she is told, providing that includes killing.
‘Wait -’ Captain America calls out as Redback is about to shove a spike though Maarrow’s neck. Redback hisses, and suddenly, the Invisible Woman materializes beside Redback and grabs her wrist. ‘These people need to be controlled, Redback. For their safety as much as the world’s’ Invisible Woman explains. ‘Not murdered’ she declares as she throws Redback from Marrow. ‘Sue. She may be trouble’ Captain America tells himself. ‘You need to manage your team, Captain America’ Susan declares as she suddenly places the Hulk, Redback and Iron Man in a large invisible bubble. Captain America looks at her and reminds himself that he has read the file, that she knows what she has been through.
Captain America looks at the force bubble and tells himself that Susan’s powers are as tough as they come but her heart…. “Desperate times”, like he said, you do what you have to do, but he is not sure Susan understands that. ‘Please, mutants! Return to your cells!’ the Invisible Woman calls out, while Captain America thinks that you do the best you can. ‘Screw you, fascist!’ Marrow shouts as she smacks the Invisible Woman in the back of the head with a piece of bone. Suddenly, ‘Non-lethal, yes? Ha, yes. I’ll handle this’ a voice calls out, and in a flaming blaze, a skull-faced being on a motorcycle appears, and wraps his chain around Marrow’s neck. ‘Gaze into the face of Vengeance, sinner!’ he calls out.
Captain America tells himself that he has no idea where they found Johnny. Marrow stares into Vengeance, unable to speak, when suddenly, ‘Oi, mate. Gaze into the face of “$%&# you”!’ Chamber declares as he comes up behind Vengeance, and unleashes a massive burst of power, seemingly destroying Vengeance. ‘Go! Go!’ Chamber calls out to the other mutants as he grabs Marrow and claims Vengeance’s motorcycle as his own, he speeds away, with the other mutants in tow. The “heroes” are left in the smoke, as Captain America hangs his head: ‘And that’s how it begins…with defeat and discord and death. Like someone’s telling us to start as we mean to continue’ he tells himself.
‘Avengers?’ a voice booms.
“Assemble” Legacy utters, as she looks frustrated.
In a secure facility, the Avengers have assembled in front of General Castle, a man more decorated than a Christmas tree, and intense like a caffeine cluster bomb. General Castle is the Chief, and he does not look very happy. ‘Explain’ he booms. ‘Teething problems, Sir’ Captain America replies. ‘Logistical function error: We suck’ Iron Man states. ‘Unreliable personnel’ Bruce Banner suggestions, while the Invisible Woman declares that there has been a breakdown in cooperation. Redback remains silent. General Castle tells Susan to continue, to Susan announces that teamwork has to be the key. ‘When I was with the Four we made it a priority to -’ Susan begins, but Bruce shouts ‘Ha! That’s your shinning example? A dysfunctional dynasty of confirmed traitors?’ he asks. ‘That’ll do, Doc’ Captain America tells Bruce, while Susan frowns and tells Bruce not to call them traitors.
Captain America thinks to himself that no one wants to say it, but that it is in the air: Banner has a point. Everyone remembers where they were the day the Four went down - America’s favourite family, caught harbouring mutants, but there is a lot fewer folk who know the truth behind who shopped them. Captain America recalls that one of the Four’s houseguests - Wolfsbane - had an accident. But it was nothing personal - Susan’s testimony was real clear on that - there was no blame attached, but it cuts to the heart of the problem: all too often mutants cannot even control themselves. Susan figured that meant someone has to do it for them - but her husband didn’t agree, and he was taken away.
‘You…you don’t ever mention them again’ Susan utters. Captain America puts an arm on her back and tells her that it is okay, before informing General Castle that Sue is correct. ‘We failed to operate as a unit. We’ll try harder’ he assures General Castle. ‘You’ll have to’ Castle replies as he clicks on a remote, which turns on the monitor behind him, depicting several buildings levitated into the air above New York City. The General informs the heroes that at 1900 hundred hours, a siege scenario ended when twenty-two buildings - bricks, mortar, terrorist occupants and all - were forcible levitated from New York City. The General announces that it goes without saying such a demonstration of power represents an escalation in the mutant crisis. ‘It also goes without saying it can’t be left unanswered’ he adds.
General Castle informs Captain America and the others that as of nightfall, satellite trackers lost the stolen architecture, and intelligence posts the mutants may for a defensible sanctuary around it. ‘Your mission is very simple: Stop them’ General Castle announces, before declaring that as for the building’s location, they have some “specialist” equipment to aid them in their search.
A short time later, Iron Man flies through a clearing in a forest, the others alongside him, all standing on an invisible force field, courtesy of the Invisible Woman. Bruce Banner holds onto a leash - and at the other end of the leash, down on the ground is the mutant named Weapon-S, who trudges through the swampland. His lower jaw and mouth is gone - instead two sharp tusks protrude from his face. ‘It’s repugnant. It’s intolerable. It’s - Bruce begins, but Captain America interrupts, telling Sue that it is turning south. Bruce remarks that it is degrading enough that they must concern themselves with mutants at all. ‘But to employ them…?’ he asks. ‘It volunteered, Banner. We should be grateful’ Captain America replies, while Sue asks ‘And who knows what the poor man’s endured in captivity…?’ Captain America suggests that freedom in exchange for his help is the least they can do.
‘Smell you, bub. Taste yer stink…’ Weapon-S utters. ‘So you take pity on the scum that betrays its kind? How apt. From a woman who sold her family’ Banner tells the Invisible Woman. ‘I warned you -!’ Sue shouts, but Captain America calls her back, and tells Banner that he is out of line and informs him that Weapon-S was given a choice, and he chose to do the right thing, tough as it is. ‘Do did Sue’ Captain America adds, telling Banner that his hate has no place here. Banner pauses, before uttering ‘A choice. Let me tell you about mutants and “choices”, Captain’ he begins.
Banner continues, explaining that his choice was to devote himself to science in service of his country, and ten years ago, that mean constructing a device - a pulse array - to sterilize dangerous mutant. ‘They had a choice too. They volunteered’ Banner claims. He tells his companions that moments before initiating the pulse array, he was still calibrating the emitters - and a young mutant with sonic powers panicked. Banner tugs hard on Weapon-S’s leash as he declares that panic breeds terror where monsters like mutants are concerned, before he continues, revealing that the device misfired in the gamma spectrum, and it changed him in ways the military still do no understand. He adds that for three minutes, blinded by pain, he was just like these mutants - beyond control.
‘In that short time I slaughtered my best friend. My colleagues and commanders. And my fiancée’ Banner announces. Susan tells him that he is awful, but that he cannot blame the child for his pain. ‘Oh, that’s not the awful, part, Storm. You see…the blast shredded those volunteers. Scattered their flesh and bone…drove their atoms beneath my skin like shrapnel’ Banner reveals, as he angrily declares that there is something in these mutants - something coiled like a worm in their genes which mere science cannot unravel. ‘It’s name is “evil”, Sue Storm, and it infects out world like a disease’ Banner declares, before gritting his teeth, and eyes-wide, announces that he will never be clean again.
Suddenly, ‘Tactful interruption protocol: Hey! Tense people! Eyes front…’ Iron Man calls out, announcing that he thinks “Fido” found it. Everyone stares up at a massive citadel, concrete and vehicles scattered like a wasteland around it. Weapon-S announces that there are many mutants, many smells - weak, hiding, not like him, before he asks if he is free and can go now. The Invisible Woman gazes at the fortress and declares that it is so big. ‘That rather depends on your perspective’ Banner calls out as he transforms into the Hulk. Captain America tells Banner to stand down, adding that there is no action until they get a sit-rep command. ‘Filth! We go in! We crush now!’ the Hulk booms. ‘Negative. “Beyond control”, remember? That’s not us. We wait for orders’ Captain America declares.
Iron Man raises his face-plate as he looks at Captain America, informing him that the General’s commands are “Code Omega”. ‘What’s that mean, Spangles?’ Iron Man asks. Captain America looks anxious: ‘Omega? It…’ his voice trails off, and he reminds himself that it means impunity. It means they are sanctioned to use lethal force. The Hulk begins to laugh - he knows what it means. ‘Means they say kill! Kill mutants!’ he shouts. ‘I free yes?’ Weapon-S asks, tugging at the leash. Susan looks horrified - ‘Wait a minute. I didn’t agree - which mutants? She calls out. The Hulk tugs on the leash, and Weapon-S is flung over to him. ‘All of them!’ the Hulk booms as he claps his hands together - squashing Weapon-S’s head in between them….