‘WHAT THE HECK?’ Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight gasps. ‘Oh… my…’ Crystal declares as the two wide-eyed members of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the Avengers enter a room, to see their teammate, the Vision, locked in a passionate embrace with his ex-wife, the Scarlet Witch. A voice from above calls down to the Avengers, ‘Forgive me - I did not expect visitors to this chamber, my experiment was not meant to shock’ the real Vision explains. ‘Vision? What’s going on, guy?’ Dane asks. ‘The image is fading! For a moment, I thought they were real!’ Crystal remarks as the holographic image vanishes. The Vision drops down to the ground and tells his teammates that, for that, they must thank the genius of Reed Richards. ‘Come again?’ Dane enquires.
The Vision removes a device from his head and calls it the encephalo-helmet, which is Reed’s creation that he has borrowed. The Vision informs Dane and Crystal that it is designed to retrieve memories from an individual and project those specific brainwaves into a three-dimensional hologram. Dane asks the Vision why he would want an image of himself with the Scarlet Witch. ‘I mean, you don’t have any feelings for her anymore’ Dane reminds him. ‘Precisely’ the Vision replies, explaining that he is currently seeking to find some remnant of his former capacity for human feeling in his programming. The Vision reminds his teammates that he was once deeply in love with Wanda, so he theorized that if he projected memories from that time, there might be some response from his emotion emulation feature.
‘And?’ Crystal asks. ‘Nothing’ the Vision reveals. He states that he remembers the event in the most minute detail, and could even mimic every action if need be - but that is all. The nuances and emotional responses of that particular encounter elude him. ‘I find that…disturbing’ he admits. Crystal tells the Vision that she knows this is difficult for him, and puts her hands on his shoulders, telling him that if he needs a friend to talk about it, to remember that she is here. Crystal turns to leave the chamber, announcing that right now she has to visit Carol Danvers.
Dane stares after Crystal, before turning to the Vision and telling him that this is none of his business, but that Crystal is going through a bad time right now. ‘Be careful around her, okay?’ he asks. ‘I am afraid I do not understand’ the Vision replies, before asking if he has caused Crystal any offense. ‘I value her as a fellow Avengers, I surely do not -’ he begins, but Dane interrupts. ‘It’s not that’ he replies, explaining that Crystal is looking for someone to be her support, her pillar of strength, and that the Vision fits the bill. ‘I just don’t want her to get hurt like Wanda did’ Dane explains.
‘I see’ the Vision replies, before asking Dane if he detects more than concern in his voice. ‘Of course not’ Dane replies quickly. ‘She’s just a friend, that’s all. Sheesh!’ he exclaims, before turning and leaving the chamber. ‘Fascinating’ the Vision remarks. Folding his arms, he realizes that he has much to relearn about the inter-relationships of human beings.
He turns from the door, when suddenly a voice harumphes, ‘Ahemm!’. ‘Yes?’ the Vision replies, turning to the door, where the Inhuman nanny called Marilla is standing, arms folded and looking less than happy. ‘Not that it be my job, mind ye - but someone has to see to this hovel when that scarecrow of a butler, Jamison, has his day off - although why he feels the need is beyond me! I never took one day off in my entire service to the Royal House of Attilan, thank ye very much - a servant’s place is at his master’s side! It’s my maxim, don’t ye know - but each to his own, I always say. If Jeoshaphat needs his rest, who am I to say nay?’ Marilla rants.
‘I take it you wanted to see me, Marilla?’ the Vision replies, ignoring her chatter. ‘Me?’ Marilla grumbles. ‘Perish the very thought!’ she retorts, before informing the Vision that there is a lady in the outer hall for him, and that she is very insistent on seeing him.
The Vision goes into the hall, where a woman is seated, reading a magazine profile on the Vision. ‘Madame, I understand you wish to see me?’ the Vision calls out, asking her to forgive his delay, explaining that he doesn’t often expect visitors. ‘You’re the Vision?’ the woman asks, standing up, before questioning whether she looks familiar to him. ‘You are Laura Lipton’ the Vision replies. ‘You do remember. That’s good’ Laura remarks, adding ‘After all, I guess you could say I was once your wife’.
A short time later, at a popular watering hole on New York’s Upper East Side, Hercules and Dane are dressed in civilian clothing and sit at a table inside the pub. ‘Thou art too dour, friend Knight…what ails thee?’ Hercules asks his friend. Dane explains that it is Cap, that his taking a leave of absence bothers him. ‘What if he never accepts what we did on Hala? What happens to the Avengers if he decides not to come back?’ Dane asks. Hercules assures him that they would endure, for the sum of the Avengers has ever outweighed its parts - that is their strength. He tells Dane to fear not, assuring him that Captain America would surely return and the wounds between their fellowship shall be healed. ‘Mayhap there is something else on thy mind, Dane?’ Hercules enquires.
‘That obvious, huh?’ Dane asks, holding up his mug of beer, he reveals that something the Vision said earlier tonight hit a nerve. ‘Made me realize that maybe I’ve been denying something…’ Dane begins, when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Hercules sees someone. ‘By Zeus’s amber beard!’ he gasps, before leaping to his feet, knocking the table over in the process, he bellows ‘MAGDALENE?’ as a woman with long dark hair wearing a purple jacket walks on by.
Back at Avengers HQ, in the infirmary, Crystal sits on the edge of the bed where Carol Danvers a.k.a. Binary, and formerly the Avenger known as Ms Marvel is resting. The Black Widow a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff stands nearby. ‘He seems so lonely, Carol. What can it be like… to have been fully human at long last and then have it all ripped away?’ Crystal asks, referring of course to the Vision. She wonders if he can even know what he has lost. Crystal apologizes to Carol, telling her that she is being rude, going on about the Vision when she hasn’t even asked her how she is feeling. Carol tells Crystal that she is fine, and asks her not to worry. Carol admits that she is surprised to find that she ad the Vision have something in common, explaining that since the X-Man called Rogue stole her powers and persona, she has had no emotional connection with her past.
Carol continues, explaining that she remembers her mother and father, her childhood friends, but none of the joy, none of the love. ‘My memories are empty ones, Crystal, and it is a loss I’ll never get over’ Carol reveals. ‘I - I didn’t know. I feel like a fool for bringing this all up’ Crystal replies. ‘Nonsense’ the Black Widow remarks. As she walks closer, she tells Crystal to never denigrate her concern for her friends, as it is quite special. Natasha suggests to Crystal that she go get Luna and bring her in here for a visit.
Crystal leaves the room, while Binary tells the Black Widow that Crystal is very sweet, but asks if she has what it takes to be an Avenger. Natasha smiles and replies that Crystal might not be from the cold, tough world of espionage like the two of them are, but that she and Captain America have total faith in her. ‘Well, that’s good enough for me’ Carol replies.
The Vision leads Laura Lipton down the corridor, and tells her that he fears she is misinformed. He adds that although his mind has been programmed utilizing engrams based on recordings of her late husband’s brain patterns, he is not the same. ‘I assure you, my persona is quite different’. ‘O-of course’ Laura replies nervously, before apologizing and explaining that she only learned this recently. ‘It was a lot to take in. About you…about Alex being a part of you’ she remarks. The Vision assumes that Laura’s father-in-law told her, and asks if Professor Lipton is well. Tears in her eyes, Laura replies that he isn’t, and reveals that Miles is dying of cancer. ‘That’s why I’ve come, it’s very important to him that you see him tonight’ Laura explains. The Vision tells Laura that is impossible, as Captain America has taken a leave of absence and there are certain duties he must attend to in his place.
‘My responsibility as an Avenger takes precedence…’ his voice trails off as Laura spins around and raises a hand, before quickly turning back and covering her eyes. ‘Mr Vision… I’m sorry. I told myself I wouldn’t lose control’ she utters, explaining that the last year has been very difficult - losing Alex and now Miles. Crystal walks around the corner holding her baby, Luna, while Laura tells the Vision that Miles is so frail and in so much pain that it breaks her heart. ‘All he wants is just to see you. He saved your life… is that really too much to ask?’ she enquires. Laura tells the Vision that she doesn’t know about his “responsibility as an Avenger”, and suggests that perhaps the drudgery of everyday life doesn’t seem important to “heroes” like him. ‘But believe me when you see someone you live in pain, nothing else matters’ she declares, before asking the Vision ‘Don’t you have any feelings?’ The Vision tells Mrs Lipton that he doesn’t mean to be cold - but he is afraid he does not. Suddenly, Crystal approaches the Vision and Laura. She apologizes for interrupting, and tells the Vision that he has to go, as there are more important things that monitoring duty. ‘You knew that once. You’ve got to go because it’s the human thing to do’ Crystal adds.
Across town, ‘Herc, buddy - calm down!’ Dane calls out as Hercules pushes past him, knocking Dane to the floor. ‘How canst thou say such a thing, good Knight? For we are in grave danger! Hast thou forgotten how Magdalene and the Swordsman didst ambush our fellowship like cowardly blackguards?’ he asks. Hercules rushes out of the bar and onto the sidewalk, declaring that Magdalene escaped their righteous anger that time and declares that by sacred Mount Olympus, it shall not happen again. Hercules runs down the street, ‘I say thee halt, Magdalene!’ he calls out, telling her that her change in clothing may fool others, but that he knows her for the witch she is. ‘Didst thou think you would escape me wrath?’ he enquires. ‘Are you nuts?’ the woman asks him as she spins around. ‘My name’s Marisa Darrow, my muscle-bound friend…and if you’ve mixed me up for some bimbo who’s dumped you, then I’m sorry because you’re certainly not my type!’ Marissa declares, shaking a finger at Hercules.
‘And if you continue to follow me, I swear I’ll sue you for harassment! Do I make myself clear?’ Marissa asks. ‘Perfectly, Ms Darrow. Really, we understand, don’t we, Herc?’ Dane replies as he steps between them. Dane tells Marissa that he wants to apologize for his friend, and explains to Marissa that they are Avengers - believe it or not - and she looks awfully like a super villain whom they fought recently. Marissa stares at them, before turning and continuing on, ‘Avengers? Now I’ve heard everything. Good night, gentlemen!’ she calls back. Dane looks at Herc and tells him to not do something like that again, but Hercules tells Dane that his suspicions have not been allayed. ‘You’re not going to be easy about this, are you?’ Dane asks.
Some time later, on the eastern tip of Long Island, a Quinjet descends near a house on the beach. The Vision and Crystal follow Laura Lipton to the house, as the Vision tells Crystal that she has conveyed the impression that he is obligated to visit Professor Lipton most adequately, but that there was no need for her to accompany him. Crystal reminds the Vision that the Black Widow felt it was best she come along. ‘And you wouldn’t question our acting chairman, would you?’ she asks. Crystal looks around the house and tells Laura that the house is lovely. Laura thanks Crystal and explains that she and Alex lived here, that he loved the ocean. She adds that some mornings she would find him on the beach, watching the sun come up, that he would be filled with such joy, and so many plans for the future.
‘It used to make me laugh. I’d tell him to slow down, we’d have time for it all. Of course I was wrong’ Laura utters. The Vision asks her if Professor Lipton lives here with her now, and opening a door, Laura confirms that he does - in the lab. Professor Miles Lipton sits in his wheelchair, various monitors displaying video recordings of his son before him. ‘Hey pops!’ ‘Throw the ball this way!’ ‘Happy Birthday, Alex!’ the recordings say. Laura informs the Vision and Crystal that Miles has been like this ever since his health failed, that they dug out every tape and bit of film they had of Alex. ‘He watches them night and day…almost as if he were wishing Alex alive again’ Laura explains. ‘This must be hard on you’ Crystal observes, to which Laura tells her that Alex and Miles are all the family she has, so it is hard.
The Vision observes the various recordings of Alex Lipton, as does Crystal, who turns to the Vision and asks ‘That young man is a part of you, Vision?’ before commenting that he seemed very nice, so he should be proud. Laura goes over to Miles, ‘Dad? Dad…he’s here’ she calls out. ‘What?’ Professor Lipton replies, before turning around and seeing the Vision. He tells him that it is good to see him again. He coughs, and remarks ‘As you can see, I’ve seen better days. I thought I’d have more time…but nature seems to have other ideas’. He adds that he can’t complain, as he has had his share of heartache, but that it has been a good life, on the whole. ‘But it’s all we get, Vision. I don’t believe in an afterlife. No pearly fates for me’. he reveals, explaining that he is too much of a cynic for that, but that there is one thing he needs to do - ‘I want to see my son again…his murderers took him away from me and Laura. Now all I want is a chance to tell him…good-bye’ Miles reveals.
Professor Lipton tells everyone not to look at him as if he were crazy, assuring them that he has given this a lot of thought. ‘Alex’s essence is locked up in that synthetic mind of yours, Vision. His brain patterns saved your life and I’m proud of that. Alex would be too’ Professor Lipton declares, before coughing again. He taps away at a computer console and reveals that he has been theorizing on a way to unlock those engrams and retrieve what is inside. He adds that he has been developing a program that would enable Alex’s personality to access the Vision’s higher brain functions. Professor Lipton continues, telling the Vision that instead of serving as only the template for the Vision’s operating systems, Alex’s persona would superimpose itself over his. He states that the program is limited in duration - no more than a few hours, and the Vision’s own personality would suffer no permanent damage.
Professor Lipton explains that if his theory is correct, he will be able to speak to his son again, to hear his voice. ‘Before…well, before it’s too late’. He tells the Vision that he knows it is a lot to ask - giving up of self. The Vision strokes his chin and tells Professor Lipton that what he suggests is beyond technology’s current capabilities. ‘At best, one could hope to access a recording of a memory, but it’s doubtful engram recordings can duplicate personality’ the Vision tells him. He adds that he would hypothesize that Professor Lipton’s understandable emotional desire to see his son again has clouded his scientific judgment. ‘I regretfully -’ he begins, before Crystal interrupts, asking the Vision to speak with him.
They turn away from Laura and the Professor, as Crystal quietly tells the Vision that she knows this is not her place, but tells the Vision that the man is dying, frightened. ‘He helped you once - dear Agon, why can’t you help him now?’ Crystal asks. Crystal suggests to the Vision that he gives this progam a chance. ‘If it successful for an hour, a minute, or even a second…or you’re right and it doesn’t work at all…what harm is there in just reaching out to him? Can you answer me that?’ The Vision walks back over to Professor Lipton and announces that he has re-evaluated his position. ‘I would be most curious to undergo this process’ he states. ‘Bless you, Vision - bless you!’ Professor Lipton replies, while Laura smiles.
In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Marissa arrives at her apartment, ‘I can’t believe what those two guys tried to pull off! Avengers, my eye!’ she thinks to herself, contemplating calling the police and registering a complaint, but she tells herself to calm down, and reminds herself that being accosted on the street by a pair of nuts is just one of the joys of living in New York. ‘Yeah, right’ she adds, before switching the light on - and turning around, gets a surprise - as two people in silver and blue costumes stand before her - ‘Wha - WHO?’ she gasps, unaware that they are Proctor - and the woman called Magdalene. ‘Good evening, Ms Darrow. We’ve been looking for you for a very long time. It took some doing, but in the end, I found you. I find you all’ he tells her. ‘Proctor, it is me!’ Magdalene exclaims, looking at her counterpart. ‘Of course it is, Magdalene’ Proctor replies.
‘M-Magdalene?’ Marissa utters, recalling the name. ‘Not as predatory, perhaps, but just as beautiful. Just as breathtaking’ Proctor declares as he touches Marissa’s face. ‘How sad… how utterly tragic… that there can only be one of you’ Proctor declares.
At the same time, outside in the hallway, Dane and Hercules stand behind a corner and peer around at the door to Marissa’s apartment. ‘I really cannot believe you convinced me to follow that poor girl home like two pathetic private eyes’ Dane mutters, adding that they frown on this kind of thing in the Avengers, that it is bad for the image. ‘Jest all you wish, Dane Whitman…but prithee, keep thy tone down or our presence shall be made known’ Hercules asks. Dane tells Herc that he is right, that they oculd be in real danger. ‘She could leap out at any moment and attack us with her make-up case’ Dane jokes.
Dane assures Hercules that the woman is not Magdalene, when suddenly, there is a scream, and a humming noise. Herc and Dane leap into action, as Hercules smashes Marissa’s door down, ‘Dost thou believe me now, Black Knight? There was deviltry about the woman!’ Hercules declares, before shouting ‘Beware, Magdalene - the Avengers are here?’ but he finds the inside of the apartment deserted, scorched. Dane tells Herc that it looks like the place was hit by an intense plasma blast of energy. He announces that he will contact the mansion so they can scan the place. ‘I owe you an apology, Herc’ Dane admits, while Hercules wonders, if the woman was Magdalene, then why she screamed out in such terror.
Back at Eastern Long Island, the Vision is placed inside a large tube, all sorts of equipment surrounding it, while Crystal and Laura stand nearby, and Professor Lipton sits at a control panel. He announces that he is overriding the neurosomatic self-programming mode in order to reconfigure the Vision’s transcendental meta-programming. He adds that now he will enter the self-motivating command for Alex’s engrams which should allow access to the Vision’s basic drive system. ‘Everything seems on line’ he states, before pressing a button and confessing that he has never felt quite so nervous in his entire life - or so frightened. Laura leaves the room, telling her father-in-law that she can’t stay for this, as she doesn’t think she can handle it. Crystal tells Laura that it may work, and watches as energy darts around the Vision. ‘I know, Crystal. That’s what I’m afraid of’ Laura replies.
Shortly, the tube opens, and the Vision starts to walk out of it. ‘Vision…?’ Crystal calls out. ‘Oh Lord…I failed’ Professor Lipton laments. But, the Vision leans forward enthusiastically, wide-eyed and smiling. ‘C’mon, Pop…you know you never fail!’ the Vision - or, rather, Alex - grins. ‘Your voice! Oh, Lord. Lord…I’m shaking like a leaf…is it you, Alex?’ Professor Lipton asks, reaching out. ‘Can it really be you?’ he enquires. ‘In the flesh…synthetic though it may be’ Alex replies, looking at his hands. Crystal smiles, while Alex / the Vision kneels down beside his father, and states that he knows what has happened, as the Vision’s memory banks are open to him. ‘It’s all kind of bizarre, I have to admit’ he points out. ‘Alex! My Alex! You never took anything seriously’ Professor Lipton remarks as he and his “son” holds hands. Professor Lipton starts to cry, ‘Hey, what’s this? No tears, Pop. Not now. I’m home at least for a little while. I’m home’ Alex tells his father as they hug. ‘Alex…my son… I never dared hope…I…thank God!’ he exclaims.
Near dawn, ‘Pop, you have to rest now. You need your sleep’ Alex states as he holds his father’s hand, while Professor Lipton lies back in bed. The Professor tells his son that he has had enough sleep, enough of everything. ‘The thought of seeing you again kept me going these past few months…but I’m not one to out-stay my welcome’ he remarks. Professor Lipton tells his son that there was so much more he wanted to say to him - but that it all comes down to one thing - ‘The only thing that really matters… I love you, Alex…’ he utters, before passing away. ‘I love you, Pop’ Alex replies, standing up. He gazes out the window, and sees Laura sitting on a rock down by the water. ‘He’s gone, isn’t he? I’m sorry’ Crystal announces as she enters the room. ‘Can I ask -’ she begins, while Alex / the Vision turns to her and replies that he died happy. ‘He did so much for me. More than I could ever repay. I was glad to be there for him. He needed me. Alex / the Vision then excuses himself, stating that there is someone he has to see. ‘But -’ Crystal calls out, however she gets no response.
Outside, ‘Laurie?’ Alex asks. Laura doesn’t turn around, she continues to look out over the water and replies that she told herself she would never hear his voice again. She tells him that she would ache at night for the sound of his voice, for the touch of a hand - but she knew it was impossible. ‘I bargained with God to make your death a bad dream. I would pray you were going to walk through the door at any minute and I knew it would never happen’ she calls out. Tears in her eyes, Laura turns her head slightly, ‘But now you’re here…and Dad’s gone…and Alex, I don’t know what’s real anymore’ she explains. She stands up, and they embrace. ‘We’re real, Laurie. My love for you is real’ Alex assures her. ‘Just hold me! Because miracles like this don’t happen!’ Laura utters. ‘They do… every day’ Alex smiles. He holds Laura by her face and tells her that she is so beautiful, before asking her why she ever picked a jerk like him.
‘Just kiss me, Alex -’ Laura replies, and Alex / the Vision does so. Tears continue to fall from Laura’s eyes, while Crystal stands at the window, watching, she smiles. Suddenly, the kissing ends. Laura opens her eyes, surprised, and backs away. ‘You’re…not him any more…are you?’ she asks. The Vision’s cold face stares back. ‘No. It’s back. When I met you this evening, I never thought this face could be tender or kind or loving. I was wrong’. Laura touches the Vision’s face and tells him that his mask - his cold mask is back. ‘And it breaks my heart’ she confesses. The Vision states that Professor Lipton’s program has run its course. ‘My self-awareness has regained control of all higher brain functions’ he explains, adding that Alex is gone.
Laura turns away from him and wipes her tears. ‘I know. He’s been gone for a year…’ she replies. The Vision tells Mrs Lipton that he is sorry for her loss - for Alex and the Professor. The sun starts to rise over the ocean, as Laura thanks the Vision - for his words now and for what he did tonight.3 ‘You gave yourself and it meant everything to Miles. He felt very close to you. Because of you, a part of Alex never really died’ she explains, telling the Vision that he was his legacy - his hope - his future. ‘He loved you. I thought you should know’ she explains, before walking away, leaving the Vision on the beach.
Crystal steps down onto the sand. ‘Vision? I have something to ask you…’ she calls out. ‘When you came out of that tube, I saw your face. It was you. No one else’ she tells him, asking if the Professor’s program failed. The Vision remains silent, while Crystal tells him that he studied those images on the screens, storing ever nuance his mind could absorb - and then, he impersonated Alex. ‘You didn’t want a lonely, frightened man to die disappointed and lone without his son. You cared for him…and for Laura. You felt for their pain…and reached out to them’ Crystal tells the Vision. She gets no response, ‘You’re never going to tell me, are you?’ she enquires, not seeing the tears roll down the Vision’s face. The Vision stares out over the water, and tells Crystal that the sun is rising, a new, crisp dawn, and that it is time they were home.